Russia (USSR) vs Rest of the World

Russia (USSR) vs Rest of the World

There have been three chess matches featuring Russia (USSR) vs Rest of the World. The matches have all been keenly contested and played with great sportsmanship.


As the 20th century entered its final third, it was already apparent to chess historians and enthusiasts that the USSR had raised standards to a level that other nations could only aspire to. Aside from the brief tenure of Max Euwe, they had produced an uninterrupted line of world champions stretching from 1927 to 1970. Similarly, since their earliest participation, they had completely dominated team chess events such as the Chess Olympiad and European Team Championship. So pronounced was the gulf between the Soviet national side and their closest competitors, a sterner challenge was required to gauge the full extent of their supremacy. Such a challenge presented itself in 1970, when Euwe (the president of FIDE at the time) announced a match to pitch the USSR's strength against the collective might of the Rest of the World.

If the Soviets saw it as an opportunity to crown their glory, then the World camp were equally determined to show that the emergence of Bobby Fischer as a prospective world champion was symptomatic of a more widespread shift in the power base.

As the Cold War dictated the political mood of the era, the headline writers predictably made much of the event's title. Sports are generally resistant to such outside pressures however and over the years, it has remained a good, clean, sporting contest, free from political interference.

First match, Belgrade 1970

The first match occurred in Belgrade, March 29 - April 5 1970 and was billed as "The Match of the Century - USSR versus the Rest of the World".

Ten team members played four games against their opposite number. Two reserves could be utilised to fill in on any board at the direction of the team captain.

Max Euwe was the captain of the "Rest of the World" team and he announced the order of the team's players. For the first time, Arpad Elo's rating system was used to determine seeding and board order, except in the case of Larsen and Fischer. Larsen could not accept that Fischer's rating made him the World's Board 1 when Fischer's recent period of inactivity was contrasted with Larsen's recent successes. After many negotiations, and just as the developing disagreement appeared to be endangering the match, Fischer surprisingly agreed to step down to Board 2. The lineup was announced by Euwe well in advance of the match.

At the time of the match, many people in Belgrade speculated that the order of the USSR players seemed as if it were arranged so that they would play against opponents with whom they had a history of beating. For instance, ex-world champion Mikhail Botvinnik was below Efim Geller and Mark Taimanov. The lineup matched Taimanov against Wolfgang Uhlmann, whom he "used to beat as he liked" and Botvinnik against Milan Matulović, who admitted to having a "Botvinnik complex", not playing well against him. People also questioned Paul Keres being on board 10, and wondered if his opponent being Borislav Ivkov had something to do with it. These suspicions were printed in Belgrade newspapers and the Russians replied with their reason for their team's selection: Current World Champion Boris Spassky must be first and his predecessor Tigran Petrosian must be second. Next comes Viktor Korchnoi, who played in the candidate's final match. Next came four players (Lev Polugaevsky, Geller, Vassily Smyslov, and Taimanov) who earned the right to play in the next Interzonal because of their place in the USSR Championship. The last three places were given to players of special merit - Botvinnik, Mikhail Tal, and Keres. The first reserve was Leonid Stein, who placed sixth in the USSR Championship, just behind the ones going to the Interzonal. The second reserve was David Bronstein, who once played in a world championship match harvcol|Andric|1970|p=298.

On paper, the match looked daunting for the World team as they were up against five world champions and a number of other players who had achieved good results in Candidates Tournaments. However, a terrific display of defiance from the World's top four boards almost tipped the balance and in the end, it was only the Soviets' strength in depth that won the day, by the narrowest of margins.

Lajos Portisch contributed a plus score for his side, but he incurred the wrath of Fischer when he conceded a draw to Korchnoi in a won position harvcol|Brady|1973|p=163. The game was regarded by many as crucial in determining the final match result, since the match would have been tied if Portisch had won the game. (See Threefold repetition#Korchnoi-Portisch, 1970.)

Fischer won a car for making the best result with the 'World' team.

"Board Results (USSR player named first):"

:Board 1 - Boris Spassky (Leonid Stein for one game scored 0) 1½ v 2½ Bent Larsen DEN :Board 2 - Tigran Petrosian 1 v 3 Bobby Fischer USA:Board 3 - Viktor Korchnoi 1½ v 2½ Lajos Portisch HUN:Board 4 - Lev Polugaevsky 1½ v 2½ Vlastimil Hort CSK:Board 5 - Efim Geller 2½ v 1½ Svetozar Gligoric YUG:Board 6 - Vassily Smyslov 2½ v 1½ Samuel Reshevsky USA (Friðrik Ólafsson ISL for one game scored 0):Board 7 - Mark Taimanov 2½ v 1½ Wolfgang Uhlmann GDR:Board 8 - Mikhail Botvinnik 2½ v 1½ Milan Matulović YUG:Board 9 - Mikhail Tal 2 v 2 Miguel Najdorf ARG :Board 10 - Paul Keres 3 v 1 Borislav Ivkov YUG

Final score - USSR 20½ versus 19½ Rest of the World

Two additional reserves, David Bronstein (USSR) and Klaus Darga GER (Rest of the World) were not required.

"Mikhail Tal's verdict in "64" (No. 17)" - “We won, but there are some reasons for concern: why are the foreign players making faster progress — at least in outward appearance? Why is the average age of our opponents lower than that of our national team? Why was there only one really strong chess tournament in the Soviet Union during the last years?”

econd match, London 1984

The second match occurred in London, June 24 - June 29 1984 and carried the same "Match of the Century" billing as the first encounter.

Played at the Isle of Dogs, the match only took place thanks to a last minute rescue package, when sponsors withdrew from the previously vaunted venues of Belgrade and then Rome. The London bid was made possible thanks to the efforts of Ray Keene, the London Docklands Corporation, the British Chess Federation and a wealthy co-sponsor, Indonesian businessman Mr H M Hasan, who wished to be named as captain of the Rest of the World side.

The format followed that of the previous 1970 Match. This time the teams looked closer to equal strength, with average Elo grades being almost identical. Korchnoi had by now swapped sides, following his defection to the west and this was just one conceivable reason why Moscow (the logical 'home and away' choice for a re-match) was not put forward as a venue (there was a great deal of antagonism between Korchnoi and the Soviet authorities).

Mr Hasan wisely handed over executive captaincy duties to Lubomir Kavalek whilst the Soviets employed grandmaster and psychologist Nikolai Krogius in the same role. The chief arbiter was Robert Wade.

For the World side, Portisch had been insulted by the offer of board 7 and refused to play. Spassky had only just left the USSR to move to France and felt it would be overly painful to line up as an opponent of his old friends. Hort simply had other commitments.

Meanwhile, USSR newcomers Karpov and Kasparov strengthened the top half of the USSR side, an area of weakness in the previous match. Amazingly, the veterans Tal, Smyslov and Polugaevsky participated once more and again turned in respectable performances. Petrosian was absent through illness but the solid Razuvayev deputised admirably. The World's Miles and Torre restored some pride on the bottom boards, but the real damage was done on board 6, where rampant former world junior champion Beliavsky could not be contained by the combined efforts of Seirawan and Larsen. Some observers believed that Seirawan had foolishly been preferred to the higher rated Walter Browne because he had a more 'glamorous image'.

"Board results (USSR player named first):"

:Board 1 - Anatoly Karpov 2½ v 1½ Ulf Andersson SWE :Board 2 - Garry Kasparov 2½ v 1½ Jan Timman NED:Board 3 - Lev Polugaevsky (Vladimir Tukmakov for one game scored ½) 1½ v 2½ Viktor Korchnoi SUI:Board 4 - Vassily Smyslov (Vladimir Tukmakov for two games scored 1½) 2 v 2 Ljubomir Ljubojević YUG:Board 5 - Rafael Vaganian 1½ v 2½ Zoltan Ribli HUN:Board 6 - Alexander Beliavsky 3½ v ½ Yasser Seirawan USA (Bent Larsen DEN for two games scored ½):Board 7 - Mikhail Tal (Oleg Romanishin for one game scored ½) 2½ v 1½ John Nunn ENG (Murray Chandler ENG for one game scored ½):Board 8 - Yuri Razuvaev 2 v 2 Robert Hübner GER:Board 9 - Artur Yusupov (Oleg Romanishin for one game scored 0) 1½ v 2½ Anthony Miles ENG:Board 10 - Andrei Sokolov (Oleg Romanishin for one game scored ½) 1½ v 2½ Eugenio Torre PHI

Final score - USSR 21 versus 19 Rest of the World

Third match, Moscow 2002

The third match occurred in Moscow, September 8 - September 11 2002 and was this time billed as the "Match of the New Century" or "Match of the 21st Century".

If the event were to be more media and sponsor-friendly, some drastic format changes were required. Out of favour was the idea that combatants paired up only with their opposite number and engaged in a lengthy, psychological war of attrition. This might have appealed to the chess purist but did nothing for the casual observer or thrills-and-spills-hungry journalist. Furthermore, in order to make chess a viable spectator sport, it was widely believed short time limits and spectacular, rapid finishes were necessary elements. Then there was the difficult task of getting most of the planet's elite players in the same place at the same time. A lengthy tournament might discourage some from attending at all.

The finalised arrangements appeared to successfully cover all of the bases. A ten player, 10-round Scheveningen system format, with a 25 minute (+10 second increment) time limit. This could be compressed into just four days with two or three rounds played each day.

In terms of team selection, the intervening break up of the Soviet Union had precipitated some significant changes. This time it was Russia versus the Rest of the World and players from the remainder of the Union fulfilled the eligibility criteria for the Rest of the World squad. It seemed at first that this would facilitate an unstoppable World team, but on closer inspection, it was not so clear. Russian world champions (and 1984 USSR team survivors) Kasparov and Karpov were to be joined by two more exclusive "K" club members - world champions Kramnik and Khalifman. With the further addition of three former champions of Russia (Morozevich, Svidler and Motylev) and two more players with Elo ratings in excess of 2700 (Bareev and Grischuk), things were looking decidedly brighter than might have been expected. Indeed, the average Elo ratings of the two sides were separated by only one point and so a close contest was in prospect. Kasparov in a pre-match press conference seemed quite buoyant, stating that chess was the only sport in which Russia could still contemplate victory in such circumstances.

The World team had most of their first choice players available, except for absentees Adams and Topalov who would have been automatic picks. The inclusion of ex-Soviets, Smirin, Ivanchuk, Gelfand, Shirov and Ponomariov however, appeared to compensate well for any losses.

Each side was allowed two substitutes, who could fill in anywhere, provided they didn't play anyone more than once. These were Rublevsky and Zvjaginsev for the Russians and Akopian ARM and Azmaiparashvili GEO for the Rest of the World.

"Round-by-round results - Russian team members shown bold"

"8th Sept 2002 - Round 1"::Khalifman, Alexander - Radjabov, Teimour AZE ½-½ ::Karpov, Anatoly - Smirin, Ilia ISR 0-1 ::Polgar, Judit HUN - Grischuk, Alexander 0-1 ::Short, Nigel ENG - Svidler, Peter ½-½ ::Bareev, Evgeny - Shirov, Alexei ESP ½-½ ::Morozevich, Alexander - Gelfand, Boris ISR ½-½ ::Ivanchuk, Vassily UKR - Kasparov, Garry 1-0 ::Leko, Peter HUN - Kramnik, Vladimir ½-½ ::Rublevsky, Sergei - Ponomariov, Ruslan UKR ½-½ ::Motylev, Alexander - Anand, Viswanathan IND 0-1::::Russia - World 4-6

"8th Sept 2002 - Round 2"::Radjabov, Teimour - Karpov, Anatoly 1-0 ::Smirin, Ilia - Khalifman, Alexander ½-½ ::Rublevsky, Sergei - Polgar, Judit 1-0 ::Grischuk, Alexander - Short, Nigel ½-½::Shirov, Alexei - Morozevich, Alexander 1-0::Gelfand, Boris - Bareev, Evgeny 0-1 ::Kramnik, Vladimir - Ivanchuk, Vassily ½-½::Kasparov, Garry - Leko, Peter ½-½ ::Ponomariov, Ruslan - Motylev, Alexander ½-½::Anand, Viswanathan - Zvjaginsev, Vadim 1-0::::Russia - World 4½-5½

"9th Sept 2002 - Round 3"::Gelfand, Boris - Kasparov, Garry ½-½ ::Shirov, Alexei - Kramnik, Vladimir 1-0 ::Morozevich, Alexander - Akopian, Vladimir 1-0 ::Bareev, Evgeny - Short, Nigel 1-0::Radjabov, Teimour - Svidler, Peter 0-1 ::Anand, Viswanathan - Khalifman, Alexander ½-½ ::Dreev, Alexey - Leko, Peter ½-½ ::Ponomariov, Ruslan - Zvjaginsev, Vadim 1-0::Motylev, Alexander - Ivanchuk, Vassily ½-½ ::Smirin, Ilia - Grischuk, Alexander ½-½::::Russia - World 5½-4½

"9th Sept 2002 - Round 4"::Karpov, Anatoly - Anand, Viswanathan ½-½ ::Leko, Peter - Motylev, Alexander 1-0 ::Khalifman, Alexander - Ponomariov, Ruslan 0-1 ::Short, Nigel - Morozevich, Alexander 0-1 ::Grischuk, Alexander - Radjabov, Teimour 1-0 ::Svidler, Peter - Smirin, Ilia ½-½ ::Kasparov, Garry - Shirov, Alexei 1-0 ::Kramnik, Vladimir - Gelfand, Boris ½-½::Ivanchuk, Vassily - Dreev, Alexey ½-½ ::Azmaiparashvili, Zurab - Bareev, Evgeny ½-½ ::::Russia - World 5½-4½

"9th Sept 2002 - Round 5"::Dreev, Alexey - Shirov, Alexei ½-½ ::Grischuk, Alexander - Ponomariov, Ruslan ½-½::Akopian, Vladimir - Kramnik, Vladimir 0-1 ::Svidler, Peter - Anand, Viswanathan 1-0 ::Motylev, Alexander - Gelfand, Boris 0-1 ::Morozevich, Alexander - Smirin, Ilia 1-0 ::Bareev, Evgeny - Radjabov, Teimour 0-1 ::Leko, Peter - Karpov, Anatoly 0-1 ::Polgar, Judit - Kasparov, Garry 1-0 ::Ivanchuk, Vassily - Rublevsky, Sergei 1-0 ::::Russia - World 5-5

"10th Sept 2002 - Round 6"::Gelfand, Boris - Dreev, Alexey 1-0::Smirin, Ilia - Bareev, Evgeny 0-1::Kramnik, Vladimir - Polgar, Judit ½-½::Kasparov, Garry - Short, Nigel ½-½::Ponomariov, Ruslan - Svidler, Peter ½-½::Radjabov, Teimour - Morozevich, Alexander 0-1::Shirov, Alexei - Motylev, Alexander 1-0::Karpov, Anatoly - Ivanchuk, Vassily ½-½::Khalifman, Alexander - Leko, Peter ½-½::Azmaiparashvili, Zurab - Grischuk, Alexander ½-½::::Russia - World 5-5

"10th Sept 2002 - Round 7"::Kasparov, Garry - Radjabov, Teimour ½-½::Leko, Peter - Svidler, Peter ½-½::Morozevich, Alexander - Anand, Viswanathan ½-½::Khalifman, Alexander - Shirov, Alexei ½-½::Bareev, Evgeny - Ponomariov, Ruslan ½-½::Kramnik, Vladimir - Smirin, Ilia 0-1::Ivanchuk, Vassily - Grischuk, Alexander ½-½ ::Karpov, Anatoly - Gelfand, Boris ½-½ ::Polgar, Judit - Dreev, Alexey 0-1::Short, Nigel - Rublevsky, Sergei ½-½ ::::Russia - World 5-5

"10th Sept 2002 - Round 8"::Radjabov, Teimour - Rublevsky, Sergey ½-½::Akopian, Vladimir - Kasparov, Garry 1-0::Zvjaginsev, Vadim - Polgar, Judit ½-½::Dreev, Alexey - Short, Nigel ½-½::Shirov, Alexei - Karpov, Anatoly ½-½::Gelfand, Boris - Khalifman, Alexander 1-0 ::Svidler, Peter - Ivanchuk, Vassily ½-½::Grischuk, Alexander - Leko, Peter ½-½::Ponomariov, Ruslan - Morozevich, Alexander ½-½ ::Anand, Viswanathan - Bareev, Evgeny ½-½::::Russia - World 4-6

"11th Sept 2002 - Round 9"::Dreev, Alexey - Radjabov, Teimour ½-½ ::Grischuk, Alexander - Shirov, Alexei 0-1::Leko, Peter - Morozevich, Alexander 1-0 ::Short, Nigel - Karpov, Anatoly 0-1::Rublevsky, Sergei - Smirin, Ilia ½-½ ::Ivanchuk, Vassily - Bareev, Evgeny ½-½::Kasparov, Garry - Ponomariov, Ruslan ½-½ ::Svidler, Peter - Gelfand, Boris ½-½ ::Azmaiparashvili, Zurab - Khalifman, Alexander ½-½::Kramnik, Vladimir - Anand, Viswanathan ½-½ ::::Russia - World 4½-5½

"11th Sept 2002 - Round 10"::Bareev, Evgeny - Leko, Peter ½-½ ::Gelfand, Boris - Grischuk, Alexander ½-½ ::Ponomariov, Ruslan - Kramnik, Vladimir ½-½ ::Shirov, Alexei - Svidler, Peter 1-0::Khalifman, Alexander - Short, Nigel ½-½::Anand, Viswanathan - Kasparov, Garry ½-½::Smirin, Ilia - Dreev, Alexey 0-1::Radjabov, Teimour - Zvjaginsev, Vadim 1-0 ::Karpov, Anatoly - Polgar, Judit 1-0::Morozevich, Alexander - Ivanchuk, Vassily ½-½::::Russia - World 5-5

Final Score - Russia 48 versus 52 Rest of the World

The outcome was finely balanced for most of the match, the Rest of the World side just pulling away for a comfortable win in the last three rounds.

In seeking to identify poor performances on the Russian side, it is noticeable that by the end of round 3, none of the four "K"s had scored a single win. Kasparov in particular, looked out of sorts, losing to Polgar for the first time in some 20 encounters. Motylev and Zvjaginsev looked out of their depth.

There were however some sterling performances from the Rest of the World team, none more so than Shirov who scored 7/10, for a performance rating of 2865. Radjabov too, the youngest and lowest rated of the contest, produced some sparkling chess and contributed a solid 5/10. Here is his comprehensive rout of Karpov's Queen's Indian Defence:

Radjabov-Karpov Russia vs Rest of the World "(2)", 2002, ECO E12, 1-0

1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 e6 3.Nf3 b6 4.a3 Bb7 5.Nc3 d5 6.cxd5 Nxd5 7.e3 g6 8.Bb5+ c6 9.Ba4 Bg7 10.0-0 0-0 11.e4 Nxc3 12.bxc3 c5 13.Bg5 Qd6 14.Re1 Nc6 15.e5 Qc7 16.Qd2 Na5 17.Rac1 Bd5 18.Qf4 Rfc8 19.h4 Qb7 20.Bf6 Bf8 21.Nh2 cxd4 22.cxd4 Rxc1 23.Rxc1 Bxg2 24.Ng4 h5 25.Ne3 Be4 26.Bd1 b5 27.d5 Bxd5 28.Nxd5 exd5 29.e6 Nc4 30.Qg5 Kh7 31.Bc2 Bg7 32.Re1 Re8 33.Qxh5+ Kg8 34.Bxg6 Kf8 35.e7+ 1-0


* [ FIDE website account of Belgrade match]
* [ Olimpbase account of London match]
* [ Report on all 3 matches from Moscow match sponsor, Alfa Bank]
*cite book | author=Kenneth Whyld | title=Guinness Chess, The Records | publisher=Guinness Publishing Ltd | year=1986 | id=ISBN 0-85112-455-0

* citation
surname1=Andric |given1=Dragoslav
year = 1970
month = June
title = The Match of the Century
journal = Chess Life
volume = 25
issue = 6
pages = 297-301
doi =
id =
url =
format =
accessdate =

* citation
last=Brady|first=Frank|authorlink= Frank Brady (writer)|Frank Brady
title=Bobby Fischer: Profile of a Prodigy
id=ISBN 0-486-25925-0

External links

* [ Chessbase review of Belgrade match and preview of Moscow match]
* [ Summary of Moscow match and link to games viewer (Java enabled)]

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