15th Chess Olympiad: Varna 1962

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Basic data

15th Chess Olympiad
(see all-time tournament summary)
Date: 15th September - 10th October 1962
City: Zlatni Piasaci (Golden Sands), near Varna , Bulgaria
Venue: Casino Restaurant
Tournament Director: N/A
Chief Arbiter: IA Salomon Flohr (URS)
Teams participating: 37 (Bulgaria "B" played outside the competition)
Players participating: 220 (incl. 31 GMs and 37 IMs)
Games played: 1452 (8 games were forfeited)
Competition format: Two stage four board round robin. Top three from each group qualified to the final.
Final "C" was the 11 round Swiss.
Final order decided by: 1. Game points; 2. Number of match wins (probably); 3. Match points; 4. Direct match
Time control: 40 moves in 2 hours 30 minutes, then 1 hour for each next 16 moves
Official logo: VARNA 1962
Downloadable game file: 62olm.zip

Tournament review

The 15th Olympiad was organised by Bulgaria, a small nation with a relatively short record in international chess. They played a modest part both in the unofficial Olympiad at Munich and at Buenos Aires, 1939, but after the war they quickly climbed to a position among the strongest countries in the world. The best proof of this is the fact that the Bulgarians have qualified for the Championship Final on every occasion since Amsterdam, the Olympiad at which they made their reappearance, and even the top sides have found them to be tough opponents. It looked as if Varna would see a new record entry, but withdrawals finally brought the number of teams competing down to 37. Ecuador and Indonesia finally did not arrive but were drawn in group 2 and because of this preliminary groups were of different size thus varying game burden for different teams. Newly imposed FIDE regulation forbidden to agree for a draw before 30th move. This had been a response to fast growing number of fast, mediocre draws. Unfortunately, as every rule violating free will of people, this did not work well. Most players either played couple of neutral moves in order to lengthen the game or headed towards threefold repetition idea. Another paradox was that main Olympic referee GM Salo Flohr, who was the person having power to confirm a draw before 30th move, was well-know King of Draws in the past.

Soviet Union were missing Smyslov, who was replaced by Geller. Reshevsky once again refused to be Fischer's shadow and was ready either to take board 1 or nothing. Of course nothing it was and Fischer led the team comprised of Benko, Evans, Mednis and Byrne brothers. Yugoslavia had four experienced GMs at top boards and two newcomers. Hungary had no newbies in the squad and seemed strong with 4 GMs on top four boards. Bulgaria, the home nation had no GMs but solid, firm team hoping for top 6, if not better. Another question was if Argentina are able to recover from the crisis.

Group 1 was easy to predict and those who bet the favourites weren't disappointed. Although USSR dropped a point or two in some rounds they came first with huge margin, as usual. Both German teams lost to USSR, drew against each other and beat all the rest, among whom Sweden, Belgium and Spain might be considered dangerous. Round 5 was decisive as Belgium, who had good start, lost to West Germany and East Germany beat Sweden. Group 2 was even more spread. Israel and Switzerland were far too weak to keep in touch with the top 3, namely USA, Bulgaria and Romania. An interesting trial round among top nations ended up in a draw, Bulgaria drew both against USA and Romania and the Americans beat Dracula's homeland by 2½-1½. Swiss chances virtually disappeared in the very beginning due to 0-4 Romanian slump and Israel lost two matches in a row by a huge margin, vs USA and Bulgaria respectively, wasting all the chances. Group 3 on the contrary brought one of most dramatic fights for championship final spots ever seen in the history. Yugoslavia and Czechoslovakia seemed clear favourites for top 3 places. The battle for third spot was to be held between Holland and Poland. Yugoslavia beat Poland modestly in round 1 white Holland dropped as much as a draw and a loss (!) against Luxembourg. On the next day Poland lost another match, but again just 1½-2½ against the Czechs and Holland lost to Finland. Yugoslavia beat Czechoslovakia in the summit meeting a few days after. Poland wiped out Luxembourg, Finland and Cyprus with a perfect 4-0 record and took over a lead together with Yugoslavia. It seemed it is all over for Holland since they were a point behind Poland and were yet to play Yugoslavia and Czechoslovakia on those days when Poland had easier run vs Uruguay and Iceland. Poland-Holland, a memorable match of round 6 have become an epitome of most overwhelming disaster possible in Polish chess world for many years. The Poles were aiming at quick draw and played passively and with much nonchalance. Balcerowski suffered quick, humiliating debacle and the rest were in no better shape, losing the match by incredibly wide margin 0-4, virtually only score leaving any hope to the Dutch. The huge advantage was wasted, but the game was still open. On the next day Poland made up for yet another extra point beating Uruguay 4-0. In penultimate round Poland won 2½-1½ and Holland enjoyed a brisk 2-2 draw vs the Yugoslavs, perhaps not very fair behaviour of the leaders with reference to Poland-Holland chase. Before the last round Yugoslavia were first, Czechoslovakia and Holland were in joint 2nd place 1½ point ahead of Poland. Holland were facing Czechoslovakia and Poland played against France. Holland had best tie-break record, then Czechoslovakia with Poland at the bottom. Holland needed a draw and Poland needed either 4-0 (in case of NED-CSR draw) or another impressive victory had they yet dreamt about final A. Poland started badly and it seemed they cannot recover. Czechoslovakia-Holland ended in a draw soon which gave the Dutch the qualification and Czechoslovakia counted on the French team, who needed to snatch just a fraction from Polish hands. Poland were very, very close but they missed the main Olympic final once again. They took a risk and won three games but the last one was adjourned in a Rook ending with clear advantage for Polish player Doda. The Czech team analyzed the position thoroughly during the night and gave the Frenchmen ready algorithm which he made use of. Well, lucky we who live in the times when no adjournments occur. In group 4 Argentina and Hungary firmly took top places and the battle for third place was held between Denmark, Austria, Cuba and England. Austria had GM Robatsch on #1 but Dückstein was late and missed preliminaries. GM Larsen was missing on Danish board 1. Cuba beat Denmark in round 1 but lost to Austria on next day while England lost to Denmark. Cuba beat England in round 3 and put up tough resistance vs Hungary on the next day. Austria drew against England. All the contenders were in 7½-8 points area after four days of the games. England dropped 2 points vs Albania soon, then lost ½-3½ to Argentina and were out. Austria retained small advantage over Denmark, whom they played in last round. Cuba barely drew against Iranian outsiders and lost a chance to take over both contenders. Austria beat Denmark thanks to Gragger, their #3 and went through.

The final stage began on 27th September. USSR were happy to beat the home nation by the smallest possible margin in first round. Yugoslavia earned valuable win over Hungary but lost to USSR on the next day. Soviet's first non 2½-1½ win was firth's round 3½-½ over the Czechs who were doing surprisingly bad. West Germany faced couple of bottom teams and were in the lead. USSR took over the lead after 6th round since they beat Austria 4-0. Bulgaria suffered unpleasant defeat vs Argentina in round 7 trashing their hopes for medals. USA and Yugoslavia seemed safe in the medal zone but Argentina's final spurt was as sensational as successful. First they wiped out Austria 4-0, then beat Romania 3-1 and watched USA being beaten by USSR. In the final round Argentina went over Holland, again by 3-1. USA played Yugoslavia. A 3-1 win would gave them silver medals, a score no worse than 2-2 meant bronze medals. After two quick draws and Byrne's loss USA were losing 1-2 and Fischer needed to beat Gligorić to save third place for USA. Unfortunately for them Bobby lost and Argentina surprisingly won another medal continuing their glorious ride finished, as one might have supposed, couple of years ago in Munich. Hungary came 5th and Bulgaria were in 6th place, very good, but perhaps a bit disappointing for them. Czechoslovakia, usually swinging around 5th place mark were these weeks badly shaped and lied down in 10th. Spain won final B thanks to superior tie-break over England, who beat them 3½-½. England, the only seeded team to have missed the finals recovered after first round defeat vs Belgium and missed top final B spot only because of unexpected loss vs Poland in last round. Israel came third, and 15th overall. Denmark deprived of Larsen were at the very bottom of the table. Norway won final C comfortably ahead of reserve Bulgarian team who played outside the competition in order to make even number of participants necessary to carry out Swiss system. Cyprus finished last and their overall record of 3/80 makes them perhaps one of weakest teams ever seen at the Olympiads.

Another Olympic gold for USSR was no surprise for anyone. The margin, however, diminished and Botvinnik on top board was a little bit disappointing. Soviet press accused the coaches that the preparations did not go well but this made little difference since the Soviets lost only two games and Geller's individual record was highest among all. This was Keres' fifth Olympiad without any single loss, an all-time record. Yugoslavia were back in second place after short break mainly because of GM Ivkov's excellent play and good performance of the rest including Gligorić at board 1. Argentina's bronze medals were sort of surprise. Although they had three GMs in the squad they were not favourites for top places. Veteran Najdorf did very well and Sanguineti's record gave him gold individual medal at 4th board. USA were a bit disappointing. Fischer lost 3 games in the finals and did not help a lot while only D. Byrne scored an impressive 79%. GM Portisch, the leader of team Hungary scored moderate 59%, far behind expectations. Bilek and Lengyel, both with 70% record lifted overall Hungarian performance. Bulgaria, the hosts, were very solid squad but without any hit. No one scored more than 66% and of only 5 games that they won in the finals Milev won 4, and the rest just one. Uhlmann for East Germany performed truly well but his teammates were disappointing and GDR did no better than in the past. After outstanding 84% performance in Leipzig GM Robatsch, Austrian leader was this time fairly disappointing. Penrose's record was second best at board 1 and leveled up English performance much. GM Ólafsson for Iceland was in brilliant form and won special prize for best individual record at top board with outstanding 14/18 performance. Young Brinck-Claussen for Denmark had very successful debut scoring 75% at 2nd reserve board. After Varna event the Chess Olympiads left Europe for as much as 6 years.

Best board results

1st Board
no. name code fin. pts gms %
1. GM Ólafsson, Friðrik ISL B 14 18 77.8
2. IM Penrose, Jonathan ENG B 12½ 17 73.5
2. GM Najdorf, Miguel ARG A 12½ 17 73.5

2nd Board
no. name code fin. pts gms %
1. GM Petrosian, Tigran URS A 10 12 83.3
2. GM Benko, Pal USA A 8 12 66.7
3. Díez del Corral, Jesús ESP B 10½ 16 65.6

3rd Board
no. name code fin. pts gms %
1. GM Spassky, Boris URS A 11 14 78.6
2. GM Bilek, István HUN A 10 14 71.4
3. IM Hort, Vlastimil CSR A 12 17 70.6

4th Board
no. name code fin. pts gms %
1. GM Ivkov, Borislav YUG A 13½ 16 84.4
1. IM Sanguineti, Raúl ARG A 13½ 16 84.4
3. GM Keres, Paul URS A 13 73.1

1st Reserve Board
no. name code fin. pts gms %
1. GM Geller, Efim URS A 10½ 12 87.5
2. IM Byrne, Donald USA A 12 79.2
3. IM Lengyel, Levente HUN A 12 70.8

2nd Reserve Board
no. name code fin. pts gms %
1. GM Tal, Mikhail URS A 10 13 76.9
2. Brinck-Claussen, Bjørn DEN B 9 12 75.0
3. IM Wade, Robert Graham ENG B 6 12 50.0

Interesting games

These two met only once. This game is essence of their temperament.
Botvinnik, Mikhail (URS) - Fischer, Robert James (USA) ½ - ½

Quick attack with far-sighted sacrifice.
Unzicker, Wolfgang (GER) - Uhlmann, Wolfgang (GDR) 0 - 1

Once you get forked you immediately need to re-fork.
Penrose, Jonathan (ENG) - Portisch, Lajos (HUN) 1 - 0

White were pushy all the time but Black smoothly penetrated their rear.
Fischer, Robert James (USA) - Gligorić, Svetozar (YUG) 0 - 1

One of Fischer's 60 memorable games. A true brilliance.
Fischer, Robert James (USA) - Najdorf, Miguel (ARG) 1 - 0

One of most dazzling and famous Olympic draws.
O'Kelly de Galway, Alberic (BEL) - Penrose, Jonathan (ENG) ½ - ½

Black were definitely too greedy.
Najdorf, Miguel (ARG) - Portisch, Lajos (HUN) 1 - 0

White precisely carried out their plan.
Please note final structure of white pawns.
Uhlmann, Wolfgang (GDR) - Botvinnik, Mikhail (URS) 1 - 0

Excellent, positional sacrifices exposed white King.
Portisch, Lajos (HUN) - Aaron, Manuel (IND) 0 - 1

White declined draw under heavy time pressure and regretted it soon thereafter.
Dückstein, Andreas (AUT) - Petrosian, Tigran (URS) 0 - 1

Neat trick based on passed pawn motive.
Pachman, Luděk (CSR) - Szabó, László (HUN) 1 - 0

Experienced Yugoslav player overrated his chances.
Balcerowski, Witold (POL) - Trifunović, Petar (YUG) 1 - 0

Black kept the Bishop en prise for too long.
Benko, Pal (USA) - Darga, Klaus (GER) 1 - 0

Very good plan about how to activate Ra1 as quickly as possible.
Soós, Bela (ROM) - Geller, Efim (URS) 1 - 0

Black wasted time for pawn grabbing whereas White mobilized their pieces.
Spassky, Boris (URS) - Evans, Lawrence Melvyn (USA) 1 - 0

Black were tapped for a cheap trick.
Mohrlok, Dieter (GER) - Kramer, Haije (NED) 1 - 0

Barcza fondly believed Black may carry on counter-attack.
Tal, Mikhail (URS) - Barcza, Gedeon (HUN) 1 - 0

Have you ever seen a castling exposed like that?
Noradounghian, Georges (FRA) - Schmidt, Włodzimierz (POL) 0 - 1

One of famous, classical Tal's games. A must for everyone.
Tal, Mikhail (URS) - Hecht, Hans (GER) 1 - 0

One of shortest games of the Olympiad.
Wade, Robert Graham (ENG) - Kinzel, Anton (AUT) 1 - 0

Incredible maestry in the endgame. Watch White's play starting from move 49.
Botvinnik, Mikhail (URS) - Robatsch, Karl (AUT) 1 - 0

Another classical ending by Botvinnik.
Unzicker, Wolfgang (GER) - Botvinnik, Mikhail (URS) 0 - 1

Nice try, but too brave.
Fischer, Robert James (USA) - Donner, Jan (NED) 0 - 1

White did not resist much but still Black's manoeuvre is worth a look.
Akakinci (TUR) - Papapostolou, Christos (GRE) 0 - 1

A good lesson on the problem of mobility.
Brinck-Claussen, Bjørn (DEN) - Veizaj, Mendim (ALB) 1 - 0


M. Ioannidis' record of +0=0-20 is worst ever achieved by a human in the history of the Olympiads.


Robatsch and Unzicker were only GMs to score less than 50%.