21st Chess Olympiad: Nice 1974

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Basic data

21st Chess Olympiad
(see all-time tournament summary)
Date: 6th - 30th June 1974
City: Nice, France
Venue: Palais des Expositions
Head of Organizing Committee: Mr. Raoul Bartolo (FRA)
Chief Arbiter: IA Alexander Kotov (URS)
Teams participating: 75 (South Africa and Nicaragua withdrew;
Algeria came late and missed preliminaries)
Players participating: 445 (incl. 47 GMs and 66 IMs)
Games played: 3156 (only 3085 games were in fact played since due to South Africa's withdrawal 24 games were not played and 46 games were set as friendlies; besides 3 games were forfeited)
Competition format: Two stage four board round robin.
Top two from each of 8 preliminary groups qualified to the championship final. Results from preliminaries were carried over to the finals.
Final order decided by: 1. Game points; 2. Match points; 3. Direct match result
Time control: 40 moves in 2 hours 30 minutes, then 1 hour for each next 16 moves
Official logo: NICE 1974
Tournament book: 1974_nice.pdf (ca. 55 MB)
Downloadable game file: 74olm.zip
Special thanks to Kevin Flaherty for preparing the game file.

Tournament review

It is difficult to imagine a finer venue for a chess tournament than the South of France in June. Nice is an extremely pleasant city on the shores of the Mediterranean. It has an aristocratic air, some of the finest food in the world, the renowned Promenade des Anglais, where bikinis and Rolls Royces can be seen in profusion, and all the other trappings of a luxury holiday resort. Unfortunately, the organization of the 21st Chess Olympiad did not match up to these qualities.

Nice game hall The Palais des Expositions in Nice is of an ideal size for a chess extravaganza. More than twice the size of the magnificent Siegerlandhalle in Siegen, it would have been perfect but for the lack of air-conditioning and the poor lighting. The main playing sessions began at 3.00 pm, when there was sufficient sunlight to illuminate the boards, but near the end of the sessions, when games were reaching the critical stage and many players were in time trouble, disk was falling, and the artificial lighting in the hall was somewhat inadequate.

The players had reason for complaint on several accounts. The tournament bulletin, an essential service at every international event, almost collapsed after the first round. To be fair to the organizers, one should mention that under the regime of President Pompidou, they had been promised personnel by a high-ranking member of Pompidou's staff (a chess player). After his death, the new regime withdrew this offer of help, and the organization was severely under-staffed. The running of the tournament was made possible only by the volunteer help of many chess enthusiasts who had come to Nice for a vacation, and been roped into arbiting, typing, serving drinks, etc. The hotel system gave rise to some of the fiercest complaints. The players were woken at 7AM by the sound of pneumatic drills, as workmen hurried to complete their task. The quality of the food, the temperature at which it was served, and the lack of meat in the menus also brought severe criticism.

There were three notable absentees from the Olympiad. World Champion Bobby Fischer refused to play for the USA because the organizers refused to allow him to play his games in a separate building, away from the public and the press. The Danish GM Bent Larsen did not play because (presumably) there was no real incentive for him - the Danish Chess Federation could not hope to find enough money to make it worth his while. Lastly, there is the question of the East German team. They didn't play because they couldn't win! This sounds like a ridiculous argument, but it is absolutely true. However, if everyone who couldn't win didn't take part there would be no point in the Olympic idea.

Unlike in the past the seeding of the teams had been decided by calculating the average of the newly adopted ELO rating of the players in each team, and seeding them according to the ranking. This might seem fair and straightforward and indeed would be so if not many technical mistakes making whole idea dubious (like vague calculations, skipping some players etc.) .

Although Group 1 contained one certain qualifier (the USSR) the fight for the second place in the championship final was more aggressively contested than in any of the other preliminary groups. Brazil had been seeded to take the second qualifying place on the basis of the high ELO of their young start Mecking. In fact, it was through Mecking that Brazil eventually finished in group C. He did not arrive in time to play in the first three rounds (his departure from Brazil had been hindered by a technicality over his plane ticket). In round four, five and six he played (with a record of 2/3 including a draw against Spassky). On the morning of round seven, he telephoned his captain at 7AM to tell him that he was feeling unwell and did not wish to play against Scotland that afternoon. The Brazilian captain, R. Camara, tried without success to persuade Mecking to play, and finally ordered him to play. Mecking flatly refused. Camara put Mecking's name at the head of the team list that he handed to the arbiter later that morning, and when the Scotland-Brazil match began, Mecking's name card was to be seen next to the first board. But no grandmaster. Many players speculated that he was watching the Brazil-Yugoslavia soccer match on TV. After an hour, Scotland's first board, Pritchett, was awarded the game and Scotland won the match 2½-1½. Following this incident, the rift between Mecking and his team captain widened into an abyss. The volatile young GM was seen wandering around the playing arena on occasions, but he did not play any more games, and soon his very presence was banned. After a few days he left Nice and went home. By beating Brazil, Scotland had put themselves within reach of the championship final. In the last round of the preliminaries Scotland were playing Wales, and it seemed almost certain that one of them would qualify. If Scotland scored a 2-2 draw or better then they would qualify for certain. If Wales won 2½-1½ then they would go through unless Poland beat Puerto Rico 4-0, in which case the Welsh team needed a 3-1 win. As it happened, Poland were playing well below their normal form and they beat Puerto Rico only by the narrowest of margins. Wales won 2½-1½, tied with Scotland on game points and won the tie-break by virtue of their superior Match Point record. In group 2 the USA and England qualified with ease. England had not reached the main Olympic final since Leipzig 1960 and their seeding gave them little cause for comfort, since a 1-3 loss to Canada at Siegen had contributed to England's poor showing. But the English team at Nice played with more spirit and determination than in the past. Short draws were not to be seen; rather, the opposite was true, with 30 of their 32 games being played until there was no hope of changing the outcome on the board. The key match in group 2 was the round 5 encounter between England and Canada, which reversed the Siegen result in favour of England. The Canadian team was so shattered by this performance that the next day they lost to Denmark ½-3½, and only just managed to qualify for the final B. This result put England so far ahead of Canada and Denmark that the English celebration was assured with one round to go. The final round of the preliminaries paired England with the USA, and since both teams had already qualified, the match could be hard fought by both sides without fear of jeopardizing their places in the finals. in such situations, many matches at past Olympiads have ended with four draws after only a few minutes play, but at nice, in order to save a day, the organizing committee had ordained that matches played in the preliminaries would count again in the finals if they were played between two teams who qualified for the same final group. Thus round nine of the preliminaries was also round 1 of the finals. Stean won a fine game against Browne, but the other games went against England, and the score was 3-1 in favour of the USA. Group 3 witnessed a major upset. The vital young Cuban team, headed by G. Garcia, and backed by massive state support, just failed to qualify for the championship final, mainly due to their shedding two points against Iran. The inexperienced Finns bravely held their own against Yugoslavia and also swept the board against Iran, thus gaining a final A place for the first time in 22 years. We cannot leave this section without mentioning Farooqi of Pakistan, the main prop of his team. Not only did he defeat IM Tatai from Italy, but adjourned in a winning position against the internationally famous Westerinen, only to seal an ambiguous move and lose by forfeit. Group 4 started life with ten teams, but Nicaragua had arrived with only two players and after losing 0-4 to Chile in the first round, their duo withdrew and their score was cancelled. Hungary and Spain came through. West Germany and Sweden allowed no surprises in preliminary group 5. No other team was permitted to come within striking distance and the real struggle here was for consolation section B, with Iceland and Portugal eventually nosing ahead of the keen young South African side. Group 6 saw a flagrant breach of the rules go unpunished. Because of complaints made at previous Olympiads by teams who had suffered as a result of a "package deal" a rule was introduced to stamp out the practice. The rule stated quite simply that team found guilty of participating in such deals would be forfeited all four points - the package draw would still be valid, but it would be a 0-0 draw rather than a 2-2 one. In group five of the preliminaries Romania played Czechoslovakia. All four games were over very quickly and the total number of moves was not in excess of sixty. The team to suffer directly from this result was Norway, who would have had a chance of qualifying if the match had been won heavily by Czechoslovakia. The Norwegian captain protested to the arbitration committee, and after a meeting of the committee it was decided, not to forfeit both teams in accordance with the rules, as the unenlightened reader might expect, but to warn both teams not to repeat their action during the Nice Olympiad! Perhaps the rule was not made for strong teams. Possibly the most disappointed team in the preliminaries was Israel in group 7. Since the Skopje Olympiad they had acquired the services of two Soviet émigrés - GM Liberzon and Radashkovich. Liberzon played well below the level expected of a Soviet GM and although Radashkovich was on brilliant form at Nice the Israeli team was unable to overhaul the Philippines .Not quite a sensation in group 8. Holland kicked off with a disastrous 1-3 loss to Austria in the very first round, but gradually pulled back lost ground and ensured qualification in the last round with 3-1 over Argentina. The Swiss, even with Hug, the ex-junior World Champion, failed to repeat their Skopje success. Andrew Scherman of the US Virgin Islands was, at fifteen, the youngest player of the Olympiad, as he had been at Siegen in 1970.

"The era of Soviet domination in world chess has passed": that was the clear message of the previous two Olympiads and the 1972 World Championship match where the individual laurels passed from the USSR to the USA after 24 years. Admittedly, the USSR did carry off the gold medals both at Skopje and at Siegen (and it could hardly have been otherwise with a team filled with ex-World Champions but the margins were narrow - 1 point in 1970 and 1½ in 1972. At Nice however, as if stung by the setbacks of the last two years, the Russians reasserted their pre-eminence as top chess nation in no uncertain fashion. Not only did they take first prize in the final by a margin of 8½ points, but they achieved this without the loss of a single game. in fact only two matches were conceded as draws and this at a stage in the tournament where the Soviet victory was virtually assured, so who could blame them for such a brief relaxation of their efforts? Every member of the Soviet team put in an outstanding performance. That Yugoslavia should take second prize was somewhat of a surprise in view of the double silver medal successes of the Hungarians at Skopje and Siegen, but Portisch was lamentably out of form at Nice, and this gave the Yugoslavs their chance. The real tragedy of this Olympiad was the performance of the USA, playing without Fischer. That's the point. Would the inclusion of the World Champion have made up an extra 10 points? The outstanding scorers for the USA were R. Byrne and Tarjan, who actually received his IM title at the Nice FIDE Congress. Medal winners receive their prizes. Top: USSR, bottom: USA Another star of their team was ex-Australian GM Browne deprived of whom the Australians were back down in final C. The excellent showing of Bulgaria, who came 4th, deserves some explanation. It appears that a nabob in their national federation offered each member of their team a car should they gain a silver or bronze medal (gold being out of the question). Quite an inducement, as can be seen from the stock-take. Unfortunately, Bulgaria tied 3rd-4th, coming 4th on tie-break and missing bronze by a hair's breadth! Young Timman for Holland took top board for the first time ahead of the experienced Donner. The performance of Kuijpers, as second reserve, should be singled out for special attention, since he made one of the most impressive individual scores of the tournament. As you can see, the Dutch were the best West European nation, and this was their best performance ever in an Olympiad. Hungary were down in 6th, much disappointing comparing to their last successes. England was the highest placed team without a GM in the squad and 10th position was their best for 18 years. That the Welsh should have qualified for the final at all was a monumental achievement, and their showing at the chequered flag was no disgrace, including, as it did, a victory over the GM-studded team of Argentina. The struggle for first place in the final B was between Israel and Austria. With Israeli new additions to the team they were firm favourites to win. In fact Israel trailed Austria for many rounds but this was more because the Austrian team met its weakest opposition at the beginning of the finals. Had the Israeli board six Radashkovich not been hit by a stomach ailment, he would certainly have played many games more in the finals and the margin of Israeli's victory would have been more than two points. An interesting question was raised by the refusal of Tunisia to play against Israel. The Tunisia-Israel match was decided not by awarding all four games to Israel, but by predicting the result based on the average Elo rating of the players in each team. Italy finished in third place, possibly a little disappointing. But the Olympiad gave their country a pleasant bonus when their first board Segio Mariotti achieved the GM norm for the second time. With four rounds to go Mariotti needed to win his next game vs Robatsch and then he could retire for the remainder of the event with the GM title in his pocket. He did reach a winning position against the Austrian GM but threw away his advantage and lost. He then had one more chance of making the norm, but winning his last three games. He showed his great determination and won all three. Poland lied down in 23rd, their all-time negative record. France were happy to be members of final B after many years of serious depression and finished in 28th. Australia won section C ahead of Iran and Brazil. South Africa who were expelled from FIDE with a few days to finish withdrew while Rhodesia, another expelled team finished their ride and came first in final E. Pakistan won group D by a substantial margin with their second board, Farooqui, taking the board prize away from Korchnoi.

The events with political background that surrounded the exclusion of Rhodesia and South Africa from FIDE merits a place of its own. Many felt that the actions of the FIDE congress at nice and those of the chairman of FIDE Dr. Euwe in particular, represent the biggest scandal the chess world had seen since Staunton refused to play a match with Morphy. The Rhodesian team was beset with problems from the very start of the Olympiad. Their second board, Louis Fox, who had played at Siegen had met all sorts of problems while entering France on a Rhodesian passport. At the FIDE congress meeting in Helsinki, 1973, the decision had been made to investigate whether or not the treatment of coloured chess players in Rhodesia and South Africa was in violation of the principles of FIDE. Dr. Euwe went to both countries and prepared a report which was circulated at nice. Nowhere in his report does he offer any evidence of discrimination against coloured players in either country, neither does he even suggest that he feels either country should be excluded from FIDE. On the agenda of the Congress meetings at Nice was a proposal introduced by Moroccan Chess Federation to exclude both countries. Their proposal was signed by the representatives of Tunisia, Syria, Iraq, Jordan, USSR, Hungary, Bulgaria, Yugoslavia, Mongolia, Poland, Czechoslovakia, Argentina and Cuba. From reading Dr. Euwe's report one might have expected him to be completely opposed to this proposal and he is a powerful enough figure for his views to carry much weight with Congress. But there was another issue at stake. The office of president was open to re-election and opposing Dr. Euwe was vice-president R. Mendez from Puerto Rico. At the start of the Olympiad it was thought that Euwe was likely to lose the election as Mendez had the support of many of the smaller countries. But the Soviet Federation saw a way to use the situation to their advantage - they offered Euwe a deal whereby he would get the votes of the Eastern Bloc countries if he supported the exclusion of Rhodesia and South Africa. Euwe agreed. As soon as the exclusion was announced South Africa withdrew from the Olympiad. Under FIDE rules, if a team withdraws from a competition after having played at least half of its games its score is not expunged from the records. But in the case of South Africa the rule was not adhered to. South Africa's score was deleted from all further official records (but not OlimpBase!). The Rhodesian team decided to continue play but when they came to meet Algeria there was more trouble. A short while before the match was due to begin Dr. Euwe removed the players' name cards from the tables. The referees immediately replaced them. Euwe then tried to tell Kotov, the chief arbiter, that the Algerian team "cannot play" against Rhodesia. "You mean they will not play" said Kotov. Euwe then tried to argue that at Helsinki there had been a secret agreement made but the Central Committee to the effect that if countries who were at was with each other were unable to play the result of their match would be determined on the basis of the players' ELO ratings. This decision had not been made public, nor had it been intimated to the referees at Nice. In fact Kashdan was heard to protest most strongly that neither he nor any other arbiter that he knew of was aware of the "secret rule". One might also ask exactly when the war between Algeria do Rhodesia began. The conflagration seems to have escaped the notice of the world's press. The whole question of politics in chess had been very badly handled by FIDE those years. Algeria should never be allowed to compete at Nice, nor should Iraq who also refused to play against Israel. Even worse, the next Olympic summit in Haifa, 1976 was not only start of Swiss system based Olympiads era, but first of all it was boycotted by whole communist world lengthening political tension over chess world.

/ Taken from "The 1974 World Chess Olympiad" by R. Keene and D.Levy /

Individual medals

For some reasons board medals were calculated wrongly by the organizers.
Please find details below.

1st Board
no. name flag code fin. pts gms %
1. GM Karpov, Anatoly Soviet Union URS A 12 14 85.7
2. Delgado, Alberto Dominican Republic DOM D 16½ 22 75.0
3. GM Torre, Eugenio The Philippines PHI A 14 19 73.7
3. IM Mariotti, Sergio Italy ITA B 14 19 73.7
Official standings: 1. Karpov; =2. Torre; =2. Mariotti (Delgado ommitted)

2nd Board
no. name flag code fin. pts gms %
1. IM Dückstein, Andreas Austria AUT B 10 12 83.3
2. Farooqui, Zahiruddin Pakistan PAK D 16½ 21 78.6
3. GM Korchnoi, Viktor Soviet Union URS A 11½ 15 76.7
Official standings: 1. Farooqi; 2. Korchnoi; 3. R.Byrne (USA) 12/16 (Dückstein ommitted)

3rd Board
no. name flag code fin. pts gms %
1. Van Loon, Johan Netherlands Antilles AHO E 9 83.3
2. GM Spassky, Boris Soviet Union URS A 11 15 73.3
3. IM Pfleger, Helmut Germany GER A 9 72.2
Official standings: 1. Spassky; 2. Ivkov (YUG); 3. Donner (NED) ?! Donner played on board 2.

4th Board
no. name flag code fin. pts gms %
1. GM Petrosian, Tigran Soviet Union URS A 12½ 14 89.3
2. Woodhams, Michael Australia AUS C 15½ 18 86.1
3. IM Kagan, Shimon Israel ISR B 13 16 81.3
Official standings: 1. Petrosjan; 2. Woodhams; 3. Planinc (YUG)

1st Reserve Board
no. name flag code fin. pts gms %
1. GM Tal, Mikhail Soviet Union URS A 11½ 15 76.7
2. GM Velimirović, Dragoljub Yugoslavia YUG A 9 12 75.0
2. IM De Greiff, Boris Colombia COL B 9 12 75.0
Official standings: 1. Tal; 2. Lombardy (USA); =3. Velimirović; =3. De Greiff

2nd Reserve Board
no. name flag code fin. pts gms %
1. IM Tarjan, James Edward United States USA A 11 13 84.6
1. IM Kuijpers, Franciscus Netherlands NED A 11 13 84.6
3. GM Kuzmin, Gennady Soviet Union URS A 12½ 15 83.3

Best game prizes

Best game prize:
Stean, Michael (ENG) - Browne, Walter Shawn (USA) 1 - 0

The following 8 games were other candidats for best game prize of $1,000:
Sax, Gyula (HUN) - Kestler, Hans Günther (GER) 0 - 1
Padevsky, Nikola (BUL) - Whiteley, Andrew (ENG) 1 - 0
Korchnoi, Viktor (URS) - Quinteros, Miguel Ángel (ARG) 1 - 0
Rantanen, Yrjö (FIN) - Reshevsky, Samuel Herman (USA) 0 - 1
Uddenfeldt, Dan (SWE) - Reshevsky, Samuel Herman (USA) 0 - 1
Jones, Iolo (WLS) - Dueball, Jürgen (GER) 0 - 1
Portisch, Lajos (HUN) - Radulov, Ivan (BUL) 1 - 0
Petrosian, Tigran (URS) - Visier Segovia, Fernando (ESP) 1 - 0

Interesting games

"One is permitted to lose to Karpov with black" - Unzicker after the game.
Karpov, Anatoly (URS) - Unzicker, Wolfgang (GER) 1 - 0

White did not manage to prove Black's far-sighted sacrifice was incorrect.
Jansa, Vlastimil (CSR) - Gligorić, Svetozar (YUG) 0 - 1

White missed excellent chance for win under time pressure. Where?
Pomar Salamanca, Arturo (ESP) - Portisch, Lajos (HUN) ½ - ½

Greediness launches White's quick attack conducted very well.
Hartston, William Roland (ENG) - Portisch, Lajos (HUN) 1 - 0

Ex-Soviet GM was conclusively defeated in a good, strategical game.
Liberzon, Vladimir (ISR) - Hook, William (IVB) 0 - 1

White conducted very unpleasant pawn sacrifice.
Kavalek, Lubomir (USA) - Quinteros, Miguel Ángel (ARG) 1 - 0

White centralised their pieces but unexpectedly met simplifying ideas
on the flank that made them stand worse.
Kavalek, Lubomir (USA) - Suttles, Duncan (CAN) 0 - 1

Control over white squares and awkward positions of white pieces
were ample compensation for a pawn.
Williams, Arthur Howard (WLS) - Hort, Vlastimil (CSR) 0 - 1

For a dynamite, vivid play like that Mariotti was awarded a GM title as first Italian.
Schmidt, Włodzimierz (POL) - Mariotti, Sergio (ITA) 0 - 1

White's 9th move was the germ of an innovative strategic plan
that led Gligorić to a great win.
Gligorić, Svetozar (YUG) - Pomar Salamanca, Arturo (ESP) 1 - 0

A game between those two happened every two years in 60's and 70's.
Highest standard of chess and ultimate tension guaranteed.
Gligorić, Svetozar (YUG) - Portisch, Lajos (HUN) 0 - 1

Andersson's games never look much aggressive
but they are deeply thought out, harmonous and deftly executed.
Andersson, Ulf (SWE) - Radulov, Ivan (BUL) 1 - 0

Apparently Padevsky had no idea about how to deny unusual set up of white pieces.
Ljubojević, Ljubomir (YUG) - Padevsky, Nikola (BUL) 1 - 0

Black resigned at move 6 in a well-know position considered hardly better for White.
Midjord, Jóan Pætur (FAI) - Scharf, M. (MNC) 1 - 0

White's 9th move, giving away a Rook and a check, resembles a problem
and is extremely strong as the game proved.
Czerniak, Moshe (ISR) - Cordovil, João Maria (POR) 1 - 0

This is not a problem to find Tal's combinations,
but this *is* a problem to set up positions that allow them.
Tal, Mikhail (URS) - Myagmarsuren, Lhamsuren (MGL) 1 - 0

Time pressure + risk often means disaster. Always stay cool under zeitnot.
Radulov, Ivan (BUL) - Maclès, Jacques (FRA) 0 - 1

C4 seemed excellent outpost for black Knight.
Suddenly this became hanging, pinned piece.
Lhagva, Jambaldoo (MGL) - McGrillen, Hugh (IRL) 1 - 0

Ebullient Ljubo fell into mate trap.
Ljubojević, Ljubomir (YUG) - Westerinen, Heikki (FIN) 0 - 1

Nice try but far too superficial to outplay strong GM.
Garbett, Paul Anthony (NZL) - Jansa, Vlastimil (CSR) 0 - 1

Najdorf went on to a won ending but played badly and finally lost.
Najdorf, Miguel (ARG) - Pomar Salamanca, Arturo (ESP) 0 - 1

White's manoeuvre started on 13th move deserves all-time originality prize.
Heidenfeld, Wolfgang (IRL) - Hecht, Hans (GER) 0 - 1

Annotated exclusively for OlimpBase by Harri Hurme.
Hurme, Harri (FIN) - Tringov, Georgi (BUL) 1 - 0
Bellon Lopez, Juan Manuel (ESP) - Hurme, Harri (FIN) 0 - 1

Annotated exclusively for OlimpBase by Iolo Jones.
Jones, Iolo (WLS) - Portisch, Lajos (HUN) ½ - ½


This Olympiad in unique one in many, many fields like: the only case in the history that a team was expelled from FIDE during the games (and yet those teams were not forced to withdraw, thus Rhodesia finished the Olympiad being outside FIDE!), the only case that a team comprised of less than four players (at least formally) was allowed to enter, the only post-War Olympiad without the bulletin that covers all the games.


Reussner of US Virgin Islands was the man to lose as much as 19 games at one Olympiad making an all-time record (valid until today, since no more than 14 games are played now one year).