The Budapest-Moscow Match-tournament, 1949.

A blog post featuring translations of annotations (by Smyslov, Bronstein, Keres, Kotov, Averbakh, Flohr, Simagin & Szabó) to the games of the 1949 Budapest-Moscow match-tournament, with some background information on the event.

Almost 70 years ago, during March and April of 1949, a match-tournament between teams representing the Soviet and Hungarian capitals took place.  The event was organised according to the Scheveningen System, whereby each team member faces all of the opposing team’s players in turn.

simagin averbakh benko

Vladimir Simagin, Yuri Averbakh and the Hungarian champion, Pál Benkő, at the 1949 match-tournament. (Source: Yuri Averbakh archive.)

Three years previously, in a similar – though significantly smaller-scale – event, a team from Moscow had convincingly defeated the representatives of the Czechoslovak capital, Prague.  The Hungarian chessplayers were expected to present a significant challenge.  As Aleksandr Kotov wrote in Shakhmaty v SSSR:

Soviet chessplayers have always held the sporting strength of Hungarian chessplayers in high regard.  Hungarian masters have recently managed to achieve significant international successes.  The triumph of grandmaster Szabó in a series of tournaments, the excellent results of master Barcza and the victory of master Benko in the championship of the republic are evidence of the fact that Hungary has its own chess school, and that the Hungarian chess organisation has produced a number of talented chessplayers.

The first half of the event was to be held in Budapest, from 5th-18th March.  Then, from 2nd-15th April, the players would face each other again in Moscow, with colours reversed from the first leg.

The teams lined up as follows:

MOSCOW: V. Smyslov, D. Bronstein, A. Kotov, A. Lilienthal, S. Flohr, V. Ragozin, Yu. Averbakh, V. Simagin.

BUDAPEST: L. Szabó, P. Benkő, G. Barcza, T. Flórián, L. Tipary, J. Szily, E. Gereben, L. Vadja / G. Füster.


The 1st-round game Smyslov-Tipary (photo: Shakhmaty v SSSR (No. 5, 1949)

The Budapest half of the event ended in the victory of the Moscow team by the score of 38:26, despite a good start by the home side.  The Moscow leg was a more one-sided affair, with the Soviets winning by 48½:15½. Thus, the overall score was a crushing 86½:31½ in favour of Moscow.

Vasily Smyslov started the event indifferently, with five draws and a loss to László Szabó in the second round.  However, he won his final two games in Budapest, and then, remarkably, scored a perfect eight wins out of eight in Moscow – although he was fortunate to avoid a second defeat against Szabó.  Together with Aleksandr Kotov, Smyslov finished with the best score in the event – 12½/16.  Top scorer among the Hungarians was Pál Benkő, with 7½.


Match-tournament cross-table

The Soviet Yearbook states that

The match-tournament took place in a warm, friendly atmosphere.  The creative exchange between of experience between Soviet and Hungarian chessplayers has undoubtedly furthered the progress of chess art in the world as a whole.

Indeed, László Szabó, in his book of best games, later recalled:

The team did not give its best in Moscow… Perhaps we would have returned with a better score, had we not let ourselves drown in the hospitality extended to us by our hosts.  But who could resist salmon, caviar, fruit puddings and other delicacies heaped up in front of him.  Every member of the Hungarian team put on 4-5 kilograms in Moscow!


The 12th-round game Simagin-Szabó in progress (photo: Shakhmaty v SSSR (No. 5, 1949)

Kotov summed up the event as follows:

Another interesting page has been written in the history of chess competitions.  In the friendly match the chessplayers from the USSR and Hungary learned from one another much that was useful, both in the area of chess creativity and in the matter of organisation of a chess movement.

Many games from the event appeared in contemporary Soviet periodicals and in later games collections.  I have translated the annotations to these; they can be downloaded at the links below; the annotator is indicated in parentheses. I have also taken the liberty of publishing Szabó‘s translated annotations to his win v. Smyslov from the Budapest half of the event.

Rounds 1-8 (Budapest)

Ragozin-Szabo, Budapest-Moscow Match-tournament, 1949 (Szabo)

Simagin-Szily, Budapest-Moscow Match-tournament, 1949 (Simagin)

Smyslov-Szabo, Budapest-Moscow Match-tournament, 1949 (Szabo)

Averbakh-Szabo, Budapest-Moscow Match-tournament, 1949 (Averbakh)

Bronstein-Szily, Budapest-Moscow Match-tournament, 1949 (Bronstein)

Flohr-Florian, Budapest-Moscow Match-tournament, 1949 (Flohr)

Gereben-Simagin, Budapest-Moscow Match-tournament, 1949 (Simagin)

Kotov-Szabo, Budapest-Moscow Match-tournament, 1949 (Kotov)

Rounds 9-16 (Moscow)

Averbakh-Barcza,Budapest-Moscow Match-tournament, 1949 (Averbakh)

Tipary-Smyslov, Budapest-Moscow Match-tournament, 1949 (Smyslov)

Fuester-Simagin, Budapest-Moscow Match-tournament, 1949 (Simagin)

Kotov-Barcza, Budapest-Moscow Match-tournament, 1949 (Kotov)

Flohr-Gereben, Budapest-Moscow Match-tournament, 1949 (Flohr)

Simagin-Benko, Budapest-Moscow Match-tournament, 1949 (Keres)

Smyslov-Florian, Budapest-Moscow Match-tournament, 1949 (Smyslov)

Barcza-Simagin, Budapest-Moscow Match-tournament, 1949 (Keres)

Benko-Smyslov, Budapest-Moscow Match-tournament, 1949 (Smyslov)

Flohr-Benko, Budapest-Moscow Match-tournament, 1949 (Flohr)

Averbakh-Szily, Budapest-Moscow Match-tournament, 1949 (Averbakh)

Gereben-Smyslov, Budapest-Moscow Match-tournament, 1949 (Smyslov)



Tournament information, and the crosstable for the event, are taken from the Soviet yearbook, Shakhmaty za 1947-49 gg. (Fizkultura i Sport, Moscow 1951, edited by L. Ya. Abramov), and from Aleksandr Kotov’s detailed report on the tournament in Shakhmaty v SSSR (No. 5, 1949).

The annotated translations were translated from Shakhmaty za 1947-49 gg., as well as from Shakhmaty v SSSR (№ 5, № 6 & №7, 1949), Smyslov’s Izbrannie Partii (Fizkultura i Sport, 1952), Simagin’s Luchshie Partii (Fizkultura i Sport, 1963) and Grossmeister Flor (Fizkultura i Sport, Moscow 1985).

The quote by Szabo, and his annotations to his win v. Smyslov, are from his book My Best Games of Chess (Pergamon Press, 1986).

The photo of Simagin, Averbakh and Benkő is from Averbakh’s autobiographical memoir Centre-Stage and Behind the Scenes (New in Chess, 2011).


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s