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Vasily Smyslov (1921-2010) is widely regarded as one of the greatest chess geniuses of the 20th century and had another string to his bow in that he had a fine baritone voice. In 1950 Smyslov was among several hundred singers who entered a national contest for a position at the Bolshoi, failing only at the final shortlist stage.

He was World Chess Champion from 1957 to 1958 and a Candidate for the World Chess Championsh­ip on eight occasions (from 1948 to 1985!). Smyslov twice tied for first at the Soviet Championsh­ip (1949, 1955), and his total of 17 Chess Olympiad medals won is an all-time record.

While known for his controlled positional chess he did on occasion indulge in pyrotechni­cs.

Smyslov,vassily - Liberzon,vladimir M [A25]

URS-CHT Riga, 1968

1.c4 e5 2.Nc3 Nc6 3.g3 g6 4.Bg2 Bg7 5.Rb1 d6 6.b4 a6 7.e3 f5 8.Nge2 Nf6

9.d3 0–0 10.0–0 Bd7 11.a4 (White is essentiall­y playing the Black side of the Closed Sicilian with an extra tempo)… Rb8 12.b5 axb5 13.axb5 Ne7 14.Ba3 Be6 15.Qb3 b6 16.d4 e4 17.d5 Bf7 18.Nd4 Qd7 19.Bb2 g5 20.Nce2 Kh8 21.Ra1 Ng6 22.f4 exf3 23.Rxf3 Ne7 24.Nc6 Rbe8 25.Ned4 Nfxd5 26.cxd5 Bxd5 27.Nxf5! (This positional queen sacrifice while not decisive creates difficult problems for the later to be Israeli grandmaste­r)

… Rxf5 (27…Bxb3 28 Bxg7+ Kg8 29 Ncxe7+ Rxe7 30 Bxf8 Kxf8 31 Ra8+ Kf7 32 Bh3 is more than Black can stand) 28.Bxg7+ Kg8 29.Rxf5 Bxb3 30.Rxg5 Ng6 31.Bh6 Qe6 32.h4 Qxe3+ 33.Kh2 Qc3 34.Rf1 Bc4 35.Rf2 Qe1 36.Rgf5?! (36 Rf6!)…bxb5? (Instead 36…Be6 is fine for Black as now he gets ravaged down the long diagonals) 37.Bd2 Qb1 38.Bd5+ Kh8 39.Bc3+ Ne5 40.Nxe5 dxe5 41.Rxe5 1–0

At the board Smyslov usually sat immobile, clenched hands to his cheeks. Tall and auburn-haired, he would pace the arena with a leisurely, almost stately mien. He had an individual technique, too, when moving a piece, grasping it midway down its stem rather than near the top as most players do, then placing it on its new square with a slight screwing action. The overall effect was of controlled, assured power. (Leonard Barden)

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