USSR vs Rest of the World: Belgrade 1970
"The Match of the Century"

[ Basic data | Match results | Match review | Individual results ]

Basic data

USSR-World friendly match
Date: 29th March - 6th April 1970
City: Belgrade, Yugoslavia
Venue: Dom Sindikata
Head of HonoraryCommittee: H.E. Mitja Ribičić (Yugoslavia's Prime Minister)
Head of Organizing Committee: N/A
Chief Arbiter: IA Božidar Kažič (YUG)
Players participating: 24 (all GMs!)
Games played: 40
Competition format: Ten board four round match.
Time control: 40 moves in 2 hours 30 minutes, then 1 hour for each next 16 moves
Instresting Websites:
By Tryfon Gavriel
By Glenn Giffen
By Tim Hartley
Downloadable game file:

Match results

Belgrade (Yugoslavia), 29th March - 5th April 1970
URS Soviet Union Soviet flag 20½ : 19½ FIDE flag Rest of the World FIDE
Captain (acting): Lev Abramov 5½ : 4½ 6 : 4 4 : 6 5 : 5 Captain: Max Euwe
GM Spassky
GM Stein (St)
½ - ½ 0 - 1 GM Larsen Flag
1 - 0 St 0 - 1
GM Petrosian 0 - 1 ½ - ½ GM Fischer Flag
0 - 1 ½ - ½
GM Korchnoi ½ - ½ 0 - 1 GM Portisch Flag
½ - ½ ½ - ½
GM Polugaevsky 0 - 1 ½ - ½ GM Hort Flag
½ - ½ ½ - ½
GM Geller 1 - 0 ½ - ½ GM Gligorić Flag
½ - ½ ½ - ½
GM Smyslov ½ - ½ 0 - 1 GM Reshevsky Flag
GM Ólafsson (Ol) Flag
1 - 0 1 - 0 Ol
GM Taimanov 1 - 0 ½ - ½ GM Uhlmann Flag
1 - 0 0 - 1
GM Botvinnik 1 - 0 ½ - ½ GM Matulović Flag
½ - ½ ½ - ½
GM Tal ½ - ½ 1 - 0 GM Najdorf Flag
0 - 1 ½ - ½
GM Keres ½ - ½ ½ - ½ GM Ivkov Flag
1 - 0 1 - 0

Match review

On paper the Soviet team looked monumental. Five world champions and Keres on board 10! A fantastic display of power. They might take on an all time list of greats like Lasker, Capablanca, Alekhine, Rubinstein, Pillsbury, Maroczy, Tarrasch, Morphy, Steinitz and Chigorin. They should have no difficulty disposing of Dr. Euwe's double quintet which contained several old veterans (Najdorf, Reshevsky) and several tired veterans (Gligorić, Ivkov). The names were great but the fire proved to be going out. The first fact was that the USSR had not produced youngsters to replace the aging greats like Botvinnik, Smyslov, Keres. Tal was ill. Taimanov, and Geller had been around for a long time. And the big three of Spassky, Petrosian and Korchnoi did not have the iron discipline and will that Botvinnik, Smyslov and Keres had 25 years earlier.

Players before the start of the match The USSR—Rest of the World match got underway with the Prime Minister of Yugoslavia Mitja Ribičić making the first move on the top board. About 3,000 people filled the Trade Union Hall for the opening ceremonies, while hundreds more watched the moves on screens erected outside the hall on Marx-Engels Square. For some unknown reason, Robert Fischer, USA, conceded his place on the top board to Bent Larsen of Denmark, thus pairing himself against Tigran Petrosian instead of against world champion Boris Spassky. Fischer also stipulated that his opponent make his move before writing it down on the score sheet, a condition to which Petrosian agreed, even though it puzzled him. Fischer regretted playing on Board 2, saying, "I ought to have my head examined!"

Round 1: On the first board, Spassky and Larsen drew in 39 moves; although the world champion had a good position, he was happy to draw because he was down the exchange. On Board 2, Fischer outplayed Petrosian in a game described as spectacular. He won in 39 moves and was awarded 1,500 dinars (approximately $120), for the best game of the first round. In a complicated position of the third board, Lajos Portisch of Hungary was two pawns up on Victor Korchnoi and was confident of wining. However, he inadvertently repeated a position for the second time, thus allowing his opponent to claim a draw by repetition. The game lasted 62 moves. Vlastimil Hort of Czechoslovakia beat Lev Polugaevsky after 60 moves. However, Efim Geller offset this USSR loss by winning against Svetozar Gligorić of Yugoslavia on Board 5 in 39 moves. The first game to finish was a 30-move draw on the sixth board between Samuel Reshevsky, USA and Vasily Smyslov. Mark Taimanov defeated Wolfgang Uhlmann of East Germany in 58 moves on Board 7; and when Milan Matulović of Yugoslavia lost to Mikhail Botvinnik in 46 moves, that put the USSR into the lead. Games on the last boards, Mikhail Tal vs Miguel Najdorf of Argentina, and Boris Ivkov of Yugoslavia against Paul Keres, ended as draws. At the end of the first round, therefore, the USSR was leading 5½-4½. In all the results given, the first named player in each case had the white pieces.

Round 2: The second round started poorly for the world team when Larsen, playing the white pieces lost to Spassky in 18 moves. Larsen, in an attempt to take his opponent "out of the book", tried an irregular opening which Spassky took in his stride. However, the Champion contrived such a complicated manoeuvre on his 12th move, when he offered his opponent a knight, that Larsen spent 45 minutes studying the position before coming to a decision. He took the knight; then Spassky gave him a rook, and three moves later, forced him to resign! The brilliancy prize for the second round went to Spassky for this game. On the second board, Petrosian tried an English Opening against Fischer but the latter slowly got the upper hand and, at adjournment time, was up a pawn. He nursed his advantage and, 21 moves after play was resumed, he scored his second win against the former world champion. The next three boards, Korchnoi-Portisch, Hort-Polugaevsky and Geller-Gligorić, were drawn games, as was the game on Table 8 between Matulović of Yugoslavia and Botvinnik. On Board 7, Uhlmann lost to Taimanov for the second time; however, Najdorf scored for the world team when he defeated Tal on Board 9 in 50 moves. The USSR team won the two adjourned games, Smyslov-Reshevsky on Board 6 and Keres-Ivkov on Board 10.

Round 3: Who says chess enthusiasts do not have a sixth sense? Now when they thought there were no more surprises, they filled the large hall to its capacity in the quickest time ever — less than half an hour. Fischer worried his fans a bit with his treatment of a Caro-Kann line that was made unorthodox by Petrosian this time, for a change. But here as well a King's manoeuvre was the solution. With his point divided, Fischer already got a car (as a special prize), which happened to be the newest type of "Moskvich". Before that, Hort and Polugaevsky had made the only "grandmasters' draw" in the whole match — one in 40 games, a unique fact indeed! They needed only 11 moves for it. The Geller-Gligorić draw was the consequence of an almost complete blockade. When not less than six games were adjourned, nothing seemed to indicate a surprise. Fischer, Larsen and Hort had a good look at the positions, forecast the round's outcome as very satisfying 5-5. Fisher and Reshevsky were seen together, engaged in analysis of Sammy's adjourned game. The game was resumed next morning because of Reshevsky's religious habits: it was Friday. He exploited to the whole his better Queen's ending against Smyslov who vainly made repeated draw offers, while Tal, on the other hand, made Najdorf pay for his win in the previous round. Two draws followed: Taimanov-Uhlmann, and Ivkov-Keres. Then Portisch managed to defeat Korchnoi at last out of a less favourable position! There remained Matulović-Botvinnik game only. The Yugoslav grandmaster was a Pawn down — with only his "Botvinnik complex" as compensation. While many wondered why he had not been replaced earlier with Ólafsson or Darga, he fought desperately in an ending very alike to those deeply explored by Botvinnik in his theoretical analyses. After an unprecise move or two, however, the former World Champion came to a dead end. The World's team thus reduced the Soviet lead in the general score to the minimum 15½-14½. The distance of one point only was covered, in a way, by highly flown morals of World's grandmasters. The Soviets had all reasons to start fearing the worst: their mostly silent faces were eloquent enough.

Round 4: A surprise move by the captain of the USSR team before the last round added to its tension. He replaced no one else than the World Champion, Boris Spassky, whose loss in the previous round was his first defeat after he won the title last summer. He was replaced with Stein, three times USSR Champion. On the other hand, Dr. Euwe substituted Reshevsky with Ólafsson from Iceland. Both reserve players lost. But first Najdorf drew with Tal, as did Hort with Polugaevsky. Gligorić had the upper hand against Geller all along, except in the last two or three moves, when he let Geller equalise, and force the draw. Portisch for the third time in this match mysteriously allowed Korchnoi a draw in a worse position, blowing away the World's sudden chances for a final triumph. Striving for a revenge Ivkov made quite a few unhealthy moves against Keres and lost. Fischer appeared ten minutes late, took his last game somewhat too lightly, and adjourned it without a Pawn, only to use all his resources in exemplary manner the next day and save half a point. On the top board, Larsen felt himself obliged to play for the public. He triumphed again in an exciting game with Stein, thus winning the Best Game of the Round Award (which went to Reshevsky the day before), and a car for himself, too.

/ Taken from /


One of the most impressive chess tournaments of recent times was the so-called 'match of the century' held in Belgrade, Yugoslavia in March and April, 1970. Since the USSR had first joined the FIDE Olympiads in 1952, they had won every one of these biennial team tournaments. The president of the FIDE, former champion Max Euwe, suggested that a team made up of the world's best non-Soviet players would provide a sterner challenge, and finally in 1970, the Soviet Chess Federation agreed to field a team against the world's best.

Euwe decided to use Arpad Elo's recent released rating list to decide the order of boards in which the players would compete. Bobby Fischer, who had the highest rating, agreed to come out of retirement to play, but when he showed up in Belgrade, the Yugoslavian organizers found Bent Larsen insisting that his recent tournament record (8 straight tournament victories in 1967-8 including a first at Winnipeg ahead of Soviet top board Spassky) justified his placement on top board ahead of Fischer (who had won only his last five tournaments). The organizers even asked Petrosian to try to help convince Larsen. Petrosian said "I like you. Let's play." but Larsen refused to give in. Suddenly, Fischer surprised everyone by agreeing to play second board, and the match was on.

The press started buzzing on the first day when Fischer took out Petrosian, while Spassky with white could only manage a draw vs. Larsen. Spassky pulled out all stops on day two, and managed to crush Larsen with black in a mere seventeen moves, but Fischer, not to be outdone, managed to hold on in the ending against Petrosian to force his second point home. Overall, at the end of the first two rounds, the Soviets established a slight lead, but lost the third round as Spassky, Korchnoi and Smyslov all went down. Spassky was evidently so upset that he took a rest day for the fourth day, and reservist Leonid Stein was called in. The final result hung upon the outcome of the last game, but Smyslov managed to press home a mating attack in a queen and knight vs. queen ending against Ólafsson thus assuring the Soviets a narrow victory.

Somewhat unexpectedly, the Soviet team faired poorly on the top four boards, but made up for this in depth. Fischer proved to be in excellent form, while for the Soviets, Keres showed that he had not lost his touch despite his advancing years. Shortly after this tournament, the World Blitz championship was held at nearby Herceg Novi with Fischer taking first prize ahead of Tal, Korchnoi and Petrosian.

/ By Glenn Giffen /

Individual results

Soviet flag Soviet Union (URS)
Round: 1st 2nd 3rd 4th pts gms + = - %
Opponent: W O R L D
Score: 6 4 5 20½ 40 10 21 9 51.3
1. GM Spassky, Boris Soviet Union ½ 1 0 3 1 1 1 50.0
2. GM Petrosian, Tigran Soviet Union 0 0 ½ ½ 1 4 0 2 2 25.0
3. GM Korchnoi, Viktor Soviet Union ½ ½ 0 ½ 4 0 3 1 37.5
4. GM Polugaevsky, Lev Soviet Union 0 ½ ½ ½ 4 0 3 1 37.5
5. GM Geller, Efim Soviet Union 1 ½ ½ ½ 4 1 3 0 62.5
6. GM Smyslov, Vassily Soviet Union ½ 1 0 1 4 2 1 1 62.5
7. GM Taimanov, Mark Soviet Union 1 1 ½ 0 4 2 1 1 62.5
8. GM Botvinnik, Mikhail Soviet Union 1 ½ ½ ½ 4 1 3 0 62.5
9. GM Tal, Mikhail Soviet Union ½ 0 1 ½ 2 4 1 2 1 50.0
10. GM Keres, Paul Soviet Union ½ 1 ½ 1 3 4 2 2 0 75.0
res. GM Stein, Leonid Soviet Union 0 0 1 0 0 1 0.0

FIDE flag The Rest of the World (FIDE)
Round: 1st 2nd 3rd 4th pts gms + = - %
Opponent: U S S R
Score: 4 6 5 19½ 40 9 21 10 48.8
1. GM Larsen, Bent USA ½ 0 1 1 4 2 1 1 62.5
2. GM Fischer, Robert James United States 1 1 ½ ½ 3 4 2 2 0 75.0
3. GM Portisch, Lajos Hungary ½ ½ 1 ½ 4 1 3 0 62.5
4. GM Hort, Vlastimil Czechoslovakia 1 ½ ½ ½ 4 1 3 0 62.5
5. GM Gligorić, Svetozar Yugoslavia 0 ½ ½ ½ 4 0 3 1 37.5
6. GM Reshevsky, Samuel United States ½ 0 1 3 1 1 1 50.0
7. GM Uhlmann, Wolfgang East Germany 0 0 ½ 1 4 1 1 2 37.5
8. GM Matulović, Milan Yugoslavia 0 ½ ½ ½ 4 0 3 1 37.5
9. GM Najdorf, Miguel Argentina ½ 1 0 ½ 2 4 1 2 1 50.0
10. GM Ivkov, Borislav Yugoslavia ½ 0 ½ 0 1 3 0 2 2 25.0
res. GM Ólafsson, Friðrik Iceland 0 0 1 0 0 1 0.0