20th Chess Olympiad: Skopje 1972

<< [ Information || Final A | Final B | Final C | Final D || Group 1 | Group 2 | Group 3 | Group 4 | Group 5 | Group 6 | Group 7 | Group 8 || Statistics || Women's Olympiad ] >>


[ Basic data | Tournament review | Best board results | Best game prizes | Interesting games | Trivia | Books | Missing data ]

Basic data

20th Chess Olympiad
(see all-time tournament summary)
Date: 18th September - 13th October 1972
City: Skopje, Yugoslavia (today's FYR Macedonia)
Venue: Pavilion Halls
Head of Organizing Committee: Mr. Dragoljub Stavrev (YUG)
Tournament Director: Mr. Jordan Ivanovski (YUG)
Supervising Referee: Mr. Max Euwe (NED)
Chief Arbiter: IA Alexander Kotov (URS)
Teams participating: 63
Players participating: 373 (incl. 35 GMs and 68 IMs)
Games played: 2728 (Albania withdrew 5 rounds before the end and forfeited four games v Israel. Albania's 40 games in final "B" group were set as friendlies. Besides, 8 other games were forfeited. Total of 2660 games were actually played).
Competition format: Two stage four board round robin.
Top two from each of 8 preliminary groups qualified to the championship final.
Final order decided by: 1. Game points; 2. Match points; 3. Direct score; 4. Berger
Time control: 40 moves in 2 hours 30 minutes, then 1 hour for each next 16 moves
Official logo: SKOPJE 1972
Downloadable game file: 72olm.zip

Tournament review

The jubilee of 20th anniversary was celebrated in Skopje, today's capital of FYR Macedonia and part of communist Yugoslavia at the time of the event. Skopje was totally devastated by huge earthquake that descended upon the city in 1963. Rebuild from scratch the city was ready to held the Olympic contest. The newly build industrial pavilions were adapted for purposes of the Olympiad. The organization was very good despite of limited time available for preparations. For the first time extraordinary precautions were taken because of Munich tragedy when Palestinian terrorists shot nine Israeli sportsmen taking part in the Summer Olympic Games dead. The organizers fortunately dropped shady idea of limiting number of participants to 60 and three more teams arrived at Skopje with three newcomers in the pool: Wales, Malaysia and Iraq. Rhodesia and South Africa who were willing to take part were not given Yugoslav visas. The FIDE congress decided that no further Olympiad shall be granted to those who will not promise anyone may participate without problems.

Majority of top world's players came to Skopje, but there were many notable absentees. USSR were missing Spassky who lost the World Champion title some months ago and newly reigning King of chess Bobby Fischer did not feel like visiting Skopje as just one of many players. He demanded special conditions to be granted including separate game hall for himself and this had been refused. The USA were weakened even more since Reshevsky, Evans and Lombardy were missing too. Denmark played without Larsen and West Germany were missing Unzicker and Schmid. GM Rossolimo decided to go back to French team after many years spent in USA. Skopje Game Hall Argentina were missing all their top players and were likely to be far from where they used to be in the past. Mrs. S. Grumer for Virgin Islands was only woman in the pool and she was yet another woman to have failed to concede anything but series of losses... Unlike Siegen and Lugano there was no "carry on" rule and teams could meet twice along the event. For the very first time the ELO system was adopted and it was a basis for seeding the teams which were split into 8 qualifying groups and four final sections of 16 teams (with bottom section D having one team less).

In group 1 the Soviets had overwhelming advantage as usual but their 2nd reserve Savon lost on time to Estevez from Cuba who earned an extra point because of that. This didn't help them much since Denmark, even without Larsen, beat Belgium and Finland. Cuba lost badly to Belgium in penultimate round. With last round to go Cuba had to beat Denmark by 3-1 in order to reach the finals. Four draws made the job for the Danes and Cuba and Belgium could lengthen their dreams only about consolation cup. Finland were relegated to final C. In group 2 Yugoslavia, the hosts, were big favourites and England seemed most probable to be second qualifiers. In the first round summit they lost to Yugoslavia 1-3, not so bad given they beat dangerous Brazil on the next day. Unfortunately they suffered heavy losses vs Japan in 3rd round (Wade lost to Takahashi) and Switzerland barely drew against ebullient, young Peruvian team, a result of seemingly no importance. In round 4 England were thought to seal their qualification since they beat Switzerland after hard-fought battle. However in the next round they failed to deny Peru, an amateurish team with an average ELO of mere 2268 that outplayed most of their weakest opposition with firm 4-0. Peru were in 2 points lead over Switzerland but they played Yugoslavia on next day and were lucky to save mere ½ point while Switzerland beat Brazil 2½-1½ and went through by virtue of Berger record thanks to their 2-2 draw vs Yugoslavia. England beat Cyprus 4-0 but this was still ½ behind Switzerland and Peru. In group 3 Hungary and Poland were seeded teams. Norway was perhaps only team to threaten them. Hungary beat Norway in excellent match of round 3 while Poland were stepping from one win to another despite of some unexpected slip ups. A draw vs Hungary gave them some advantage over Norwegians who needed to beat the Poles in the last round in order to pass them by. Polish master Bednarski bravely sacrificed the Rook and finally won after complex play under mutual time pressure. Both seeded teams of group 4 came to Skopje without their top boards, but Argentina's weakness was thorough. In the very beginning they lost all four games vs West Germany! They were lucky to see Iceland, their most dangerous contender for second place, being hammered by the Germans by similar margin on the next day. In round 3 they dropped even more points vs Greece. But this hardly may be recognized as sensation since there were two unrated players in Argentinian squad with miserable team's average ELO of 2296 on that day. Round 4 brought even more confusion to Argentinian team as they barely halved vs disregarded sheep shearers from New Zealand. Argentina's sole GM Rossetto was beaten by IM Sarapu. Nevermind all those failures they managed to beat Iceland in a decisive struggle in round 5 and with dynamic finish sealed their championship final qualification. Iceland and Greece went into final B at a cost of New Zealand who lost firmly to Greece and West Germany in last two rounds. GM Rossolimo was in awful form and was an obstacle rather than help for French side. The Frenchmen were relegated to bottom final section meaning they would miss top 48, something unbelievable judging by their potential and history. Czechoslovakia were top seed of group 5 followed by Spain, Israel and Mongolia. The Spaniards, who qualified for main Olympic final in most of their last appearances did it once again. Mongolia were trashed by Czechoslovakia by the start but Spain had very unfortunate kick off as well as they sensationally lost to Ireland on day 2. Czechoslovakia were another victim of the doomsday as they barely halved vs Portugal and Smejkal suffered his only loss from Durão's side. In round three Czechoslovakia firmly beat Israel and Spain came over Mongolia by a small margin. Portugal drew against Israel in round 4 and retained their excellent outpost for final spurt. Spain beat Israel in an important match in round 5 virtually dropping them out of play. The penultimate round was decisive as Spain got rid of their last two contenders. Not only they beat Portugal 4-0 but Mongolia dropped 1½ vs unpredictable Ireland and easy ride over Hong Kong in the last round sealed Spanish triumph. Portugal were relegated to final C. In round 6 East Germany were the favourites together with Canada an Sweden. Sweden dropped two points vs Italy on day 2 but Canada did no much better and conceded three draws vs Turkey. The match for silver was held in third round and Sweden won 2½-1½ although Canada's average ELO was superior by about 70 points. On the next day Sweden lost to GDR but Canada failed to beat Italy by substantial margin. Canada's last chance was to beat East Germany in round 5 but it proved too hard for them and Sweden were in, mainly thanks to GM Andersson. Group 7 brought many unexpected turnabouts. Holland and Bulgaria were paper favourites ahead of Colombia and Australia led by GM Browne. Both Bulgaria and Holland beat Australia and Colombia respectively by 2½-1½ in the second round but Albania unexpectedly went into the nose beating Colombia on the next day while Holland beat Bulgaria in the group's summit on the same day. GM Browne lost piteous game vs Iraqi Taha and this cost Australia much in the final analysis. Bulgaria managed to stop Albania in round 4 and Holland defeated Australia. In round 5 Albania trashed Australia giving away just a single draw (Browne-Pustina) but a brisk 2-2 draw in Albania-Holland match proved they were satisfied with their final B place. In the last round Holland drew very quickly against Puerto Rico (why were they so lazy?!) and Bulgaria showed true lack of courtesy and sportsmanship drawing against Colombia in a match where a total number of moves did not exceed 50. This assured the Colombians final B qualification at a cost of Australia who were relegated down to final C. Group 8 brought unexpectedly much tension until the last day of the games. The USA and Romania were big favourites but Philippines kept pace with them. The Asians did not seem very dangerous at the start since they barely drew vs Iran (both IMs, Cardoso and Torre, lost) and then vs Austria. USA-Romania ended in a honourable draw. In 5th round Romania drew against Austria (we had seen many drawn matches in this group!). Philippines had yet to face USA and Romania in last two rounds and they drew both those matches. Their last round's sharp clash vs USA was dramatic, fierce battle and it was Kavalek who beat Torre and dispelled Philippine hopes for championship final in favour of Romania. Austria were another nation to go into consolation group. Top three teams did not suffer match defeat in the preliminaries.

According to ELO list the USSR were big favourites of the final group with average rating of 2626 followed by Yugoslavia 2528, Hungary 2509, Czechoslovakia 2481 and East Germany 2458. Hungary had excellent kick off beating the Soviets 2½-1½, second victory against USSR in their history this time earned thanks to Bilek who defeated Korchnoi. Yugoslavia lost to Czechoslovakia on the next day and although USSR beat West Germany we have seen first and only Petrosian's Olympic loss. GM Hübner was the conqueror. On the next day Hungary hammered East Germany and Czechoslovakia drew against USA team. Despite Padevsky's excellent win over Karpow in fourth round Bulgaria modestly lost to USSR (Tringov was forfeited under dubious circumstances as the scoresheet with his sealed move was lost) and Hungary were happy to beat Poland 3-1 (Sznapik blundered under heavy time pressure). Czechoslovakia sensationally lost to Spain. Yugoslavia were in the lead with 12 points ahead of Hungary 11½ and Czechoslovakia 9½. The Soviets finally accelerated their moderate pace and wiped out East Germany in round 5. Sweden lost badly to tailenders from Sweden after Portisch's famous debut-debacle vs Andersson. Spain unexpectedly leveled up to 3rd place but this was not very surprising since they didn't play any of top teams yet. Two days later Hungary earned important win over Czechoslovakia and Yugoslavia outplayed Argentina with ease. East Germany, considered to be decent squad with good prospects for final performance lost their 6th consecutive match and were down to penultimate place. West Germany beat Czechoslovakia in the halfway and on the next day Yugoslavia, the leaders lost to Hungary and were caught by USSR who drew against Czechoslovakia. Hungary were a point behind while West Germany, the leaders of chasing group dropped 2 points vs Denmark as were as far as 4 points behind. They needed to beat Yugoslavia in 10th round if they wanted to join in the battle for medals, but they only drew. The Soviet Union beat Yugoslavia in 11th round's summit thanks to veteran Smyslov who beat young start Ljubojević. Hungary hammered decreasing Spain by 3½-½ and then finished poor Argentinians off destroying them by humiliating 4-0 (not the first defeat of that kind for Argentina in Skopje!). Yugoslavia drew against Bulgaria and USSR beat USA. With three rounds to go Hungary and USSR were in joint lead, 3½ points ahead of Yugoslavia who were in safe third place. USSR earned 1 point advantage after 13th round because of their major win over Spain but then they barely halved with Argentina while Hungary defeated Holland. Last round was decisive about the gold, this happened for the first time with participation of the USSR. Hungary had superior tie-break but were ½ point behind the leaders and matched West Germany, considered stronger than Romania against whom the Soviets played. The Germans missed two top players in their squad. Hübner retired for last round with best individual score at board 1 in his pocket and Pfleger had to match and beat a GM if he wanted to obtain a GM-norm. After adjournment time USSR were in the lead with 41½ points and one game to be finished (where Tal was lost); Hungary had 40 points and yet 2 games in hand, both of them hard to save. Csom lost and Portish drew (denying Pfleger's GM-norm) and USSR won the title, after hardest combat they have ever fought. Yugoslavia easily retained bronze medal position. Czechoslovakia came 4th because of good speed at the finish ahead of East Germany and Bulgaria. USA were down in 9th place. England won section B over Israel but this was all overshadowed by political-based withdrawal of Albanian team caused by their opposition against foreign politics of Israel. Their scores were set as friendlies violating the rule that says, that once a team reaches halfway of the tournament they must be left in the table. Peru who did so neatly in the preliminary round came last. Australia, so unlucky to be relegated as low as to final C won that section comfortably with 13 wins and 2 draws ahead of Finland. France were the winners of bottom section but still this was horrible 49th overall. Singapore led by Tan Lian Ann and Giam Choo Kwee came second with huge distance ahead of Malta.

Soviet's 11th consecutive gold medal had been reached with utmost troubles. They did not reach the score expected on a basis of their ratings. Savon was out of form and lost 2 games while others did not enchant the public also. Young Karpov's debut was highly promising and Tal scored top result for them. They won three gold medals for individual performance. Hungary were in superb form this time. They overcame their initial rating of 2509 by 50 points with a performance at 2561 level. Although none of them won an individual medal they were very firm and even squad. All of them scored in 60-80% range (Sax scored even 85% but did not appear frequently enough to be given the prize). They lost only 5 games (2 of them in last two rounds...) and played lots of inventive, valuable games. Yugoslavia, the host nation, won the bronze medals without menace but this hardly may be called good job. They were certainly hoping for more at least after first rounds of the final group. Gligorić fell apart in late rounds of the final and this cost the hosts decisive points. Ivkov, Ljubojević (individual gold) and Matulović were their top scorers. That Czechoslovakia won 4th place was no major surprise but no huge achievement for them as well. Hort went throughout the Olympiad undefeated and all other players but out of form Přibyl did well. Germany lead by Dr. Hübner confirmed their stable position in world's top and Bulgaria who finished 6th were a little bit disappointed with Tringov's poor performance but it cannot be considered bad overall. Holland were lying in 8th and it could be better if not Donner who was in severe slump. USA hurt with absence of top players couldn't get more given they had two untitled, unknown players in reserve and Bisguier was in awful form. Argentina's result was pathetic but it simply couldn't had been better judging from their squad. Walter Browne for Australia once again gave brilliant performance but his bad loss vs Iraqi player in preliminaries cost his team final B qualification. Still a rating performance of 2572 is not bad. The jubilee Olympiad was over and we were heading towards sunny coast of Southern France where the next Olympiad was to be played.

Best board results

1st Board
no. name flag code fin. pts gms %
1. GM Hübner, Robert GER A 15 18 83.3
2. GM Hort, Vlastimil CSR A 14½ 18 80.6
3. GM Browne, Walter Shawn AUS C 17½ 22 79.5

2nd Board
no. name flag code fin. pts gms %
1. GM Korchnoi, Viktor URS A 11 15 73.3
2. GM Bilek, István HUN A 11½ 16 71.9
3. Hartston, William Roland ENG B 12 17 70.6

3rd Board
no. name flag code fin. pts gms %
1. GM Ljubojević, Ljubomir YUG A 15½ 19 81.6
2. GM Smyslov, Vassily URS A 11 14 78.6
3. Cuartas, Carlos Enrique COL B 13 18 72.2

4th Board
no. name flag code fin. pts gms %
1. GM Tal, Mikhail URS A 14 16 87.5
2. Kaldor, Avraham ISR B 12½ 16 78.1
3. IM Biyiasas, Peter CAN B 11½ 15 76.7

1st Reserve Board
no. name flag code fin. pts gms %
1. GM Karpov, Anatoly URS A 13 15 86.7
2. Balshan, Amikam ISR B 13 16 81.3
3. Sawadkuhi, Massoud Amir IRI C 12 15 80.0
3. Rantanen, Yrjö FIN C 12 15 80.0

2nd Reserve Board
no. name flag code fin. pts gms %
1. Haïk, Aldo FRA D 11 12 91.7
2. Shaw, Terrey Ian AUS C 11 15 73.3
3. Dueball, Jürgen GER A 9 13 69.2

Best game prizes

Best game prize:
Hug, Werner (SUI) - Hort, Vlastimil (CSR) 0 - 1

Interesting games

Apart from best game prize the following 5 games
were named as "best Olympic games" by Olympic Bulletin.
Tal, Mikhail (URS) - Jakobsen, Ole (DEN) 1 - 0
Karpov, Anatoly (URS) - Cobo Arteaga, Eldis (CUB) 1 - 0
Portisch, Lajos (HUN) - Bobotsov, Milko (BUL) 1 - 0
Ljubojević, Ljubomir (YUG) - Emma, Jaime (ARG) 1 - 0
Korchnoi, Viktor (URS) - Ciocâltea, Victor (ROM) 1 - 0

Unusual voyage of white King. Other pieces were completely passive.
Browne, Walter Shawn (AUS) - Taha, A. (IRI) 0 - 1

Petrosian lost on time though perhaps the clock was not adjusted correctly.
This was the only Petrosian's loss in his Olympic career.
Hübner, Robert (GER) - Petrosian, Tigran (URS) 1 - 0

GM Portisch did not lose much games as quickly as this one.
Andersson, Ulf (SWE) - Portisch, Lajos (HUN) 1 - 0

Torre strangled experienced Romanian with watchmaker precision.
Torre, Eugenio (PHI) - Gheorghiu, Florin (ROM) 1 - 0

Hard-fought struggle with many exciting turnarounds.
Gligorić, Svetozar (YUG) - Hort, Vlastimil (CSR) 0 - 1

Very precise and neat counter attack.
Donner, Jan (NED) - Portisch, Lajos (HUN) 0 - 1

Watch the g1-a7 diagonal tension.
Gligorić, Svetozar (YUG) - Portisch, Lajos (HUN) 0 - 1

Classical Hübner's win with far-sighted tactics and flawless tactical sense.
Hübner, Robert (GER) - Gheorghiu, Florin (ROM) 1 - 0

Great master of defence rarely played in such awkward, anti-positional style.
Andersson, Ulf (SWE) - Uhlmann, Wolfgang (GDR) 0 - 1

A brave, furious pawn attack on black King exposing white King too.
Medina García, Antonio Ángel (ESP) - Tringov, Georgi (BUL) 1 - 0

This game was decisive about who will reach the championship final.
One needs to have strong nerves to sacrifice the rook then!
Bednarski, Jacek (POL) - Wibe, Terje (NOR) 1 - 0

This brilliant win sealed Soviet's third all-time match defeat.
Bilek, István (HUN) - Korchnoi, Viktor (URS) 1 - 0

Are tripled pawns worth a piece?
Ljubojević, Ljubomir (YUG) - Ribli, Zoltán (HUN) ½ - ½

Latvian magician once again kills in action.
Tal, Mikhail (URS) - Timman, Jan (NED) 1 - 0

Without even development on both flanks
one cannot succeed; in particular at GM level.
Knaak, Rainer (GDR) - Forintos, Győző (HUN) 0 - 1

Bisguier claimed he had never suffered such quick debacle before.
Jansa, Vlastimil (CSR) - Bisguier, Arthur Bernard (USA) 1 - 0

A method to beat Karpov: do not move your pieces outside 4th rank!
Padevsky, Nikola (BUL) - Karpov, Anatoly (URS) 1 - 0

Once you fall into time trouble do not delude yourself every check wins a tempo.
Sznapik, Aleksander (POL) - Sax, Gyula (HUN) 0 - 1

This is *not* recommended way of development for White, to say the least.
Martz, William (USA) - Csom, István (HUN) 0 - 1

To be honest this game compromises the Black.
Wirthensohn, Heinz (SUI) - Rukavina, Josip (YUG) 1 - 0

You can always blunder a piece but once you match Syrian player
this looks bad in the final table...
Nashed, Mohamad Kamal (SYR) - Matanović, Aleksandar (YUG) 1 - 0

Black missed huge chance for chess immortality on 29th move. Will you find it?
Vogt, Lothar (GDR) - Přibyl, Josef (CSR) 1 - 0

Black's clumsy trial to block the Kingside failed
because of unexpected sacrifice of pair of Bishops.
Timman, Jan (NED) - Radulov, Ivan (BUL) 1 - 0

We have seen plenty of blood splashing all over the wooden board.
Malich, Burkhard (GDR) - Ciocâltea, Victor (ROM) ½ - ½

It is Andersson who is well-known maestro of endgames
but this time Uhlmann produced a true brilliancy.
Uhlmann, Wolfgang (GDR) - Andersson, Ulf (SWE) 1 - 0

Wild Rook raging across the board and no vaccine against it!
Toth, Peter (BRA) - Rukavina, Josip (YUG) ½ - ½


GM Rossolimo became first man in the history to represent back his home team, France, after he had appeared in US team. He played for France in 1950, then for USA in 1958, 1960 and 1966, then back for France in 1972.


IM Savon, Soviet's 2nd reserve was the first ever player without GM title to have appeared in Soviet Olympic team.


Jens Enevoldsen (Denmark) with his one game appearance at Skopje had earned the title of the player whose first Olympic appearance reaches back the furthest. He took part in Folkestone, 1933 which makes a gap of 39 years.


GM Walter Brown of Australia set unique and valuable triple record: he was the first man to score as much as 17½ points at one Olympiad; the first man to play as much as 22 games and the first man to win as much as 15 games.


Aldo Haïk for France was the man with best individual record (11/12=91.7%) but he lost his only game vs rated player. Thus, his performed rating is negatively undefined.


There was a very special set of problems composed by American GM Paul Benko to celebrate the Skopje games. Due to time shortages we only reproduce rough scan from the book:

Benko problems