17th Chess Olympiad: Havana 1966

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Basic data

17th Chess Olympiad
(see all-time tournament summary)
Date: 23th October - 20th November 1966
City: Havana, Cuba
Venue: Havana Libre Hotel
Head of Organizing Committee: Mr. Fidel Castro (CUB)
Technical Director: Mr. José Luis Barreras (CUB)
Chief Arbiter: IA Jaroslav Šajtar (CSR)
Teams participating: 52
Players participating: 299 (incl. 38 GMs and 45 IMs)
Games played: 1944 (20 games were forfeited)
Competition format: Two stage four board round robin. Top two from each of 7 preliminary groups qualified to the championship final.
Final order decided by: 1. Game points; 2. Match points; 3. Direct match result; 4. Berger
As Hungary and Yugoslavia tied on both game and match points and drew with each other Berger had to be used as tie-break. The jury decided to award bronze medals to the Hungarians on a basis of unweighted Berger (only match win/draw/loss matters) and not weighted Berger (game point balance matters too), in which case Yugoslavia would come ahead. The Olympic handbook did not precise how Berger should be calculated.
Time control: 40 moves in 2 hours 30 minutes, then 1 hour for each next 16 moves
Official logo: HAVANA 1966
Downloadable game file: 66olm.zip

Tournament review

Those who observed the preparations for the 17th Olympiad from afar were well aware that Capablanca's homeland spared no efforts to fulfill its task as thoroughly and conscientiously as possible. "At this moment the whole country is one mighty chessboard" wrote a Cuban paper on the day the representatives of the 52 participating countries arrived on the island. According to many this was most dazzling, splendorous event held with unique flourish. A few million dollars were the budget and more than 1,000 of technical staff were at disposal of the players during the Olympiad. While a further increase in the number taking part was encouraging news, it was regrettable that the bronze-medallists of the preceding Olympiad could not be welcomed there. West Germany boycotted the Havana Olympiad from political reasons while USA, just couple of years after Cuban crisis did not hesitate to come to Havana. USSR brought new blood info their squad and left Botvinnik, Smyslov and Keres home. USA were missing Reshevsky this time but we have seen them with Fischer at top board together with Byrne, Benko and Evans constituting a team that might threaten the Soviets at least theoretically. Yugoslavia were only team - apart from USSR - to have six GMs at their disposal while Czechoslovakia and Hungary had four. Mrs. Carrasco of Chile was the third woman ever seen at the Olympiads. Apart from her almost 300 players from all continents took part. The jury did their usual job and split the teams into 7 qualifying groups. Top two teams of each preliminary section qualified for the championship final (comprised of 14 teams), the following were put in section B, C and D respectively.

The preliminaries began on 26th of October. USSR won group 1 comfortably despite last round Korchnoi's humiliating defeat. Spain easily took second place ahead of Switzerland, whom they beat 3-1 in first round, and Sweden, who were hammered 4-0 by the Swiss in the early part of the games and immediately dropped out of the competition. In group 2 Yugoslavia won all 6 matches easily and came first. Unexpectedly four teams, including Turkey and Indonesia, fought for second qualifying spot. Mongolia were much disappointing and were relegated to final C. Austria and Iceland seemed the strongest contenders and since Iceland won direct clash as high as 3½-½ in the early stage they were clear favourites. Unfortunately they were sensationally defeated by Turkey in 3rd round and the Turks missed perhaps biggest chance of their life losing to Austria on the next day. Austria lost then to Mongolia and Iceland took over runner-up position which they retained until the end. Turkey dropped 2 points against Mexico and were relegated to final C together with Mongolia. Games of group 3 ended up in somehow scandalous climate. Four teams were taken into consideration in this group: USA, clear favourites, Poland, seed no 2, Israel and Norway. Israel beat Norway and Poland lost full point vs Bolivia at the start. In second round Poland drew against Norway, same as USA vs Israel on the next day. Poland wasted all kinds of chances and USA were lucky to hold 3-1 win over them in round 5. In penultimate round Israel received a bye and all the rest won by 4-0. USA were in the lead with 16 points ahead of Israel 14½, Norway 14 and Poland 13½. Since Norway-USA and Israel-Poland were last round's pairings it was obvious the tension is immense. Poland needed minimal win over Israel to pass them by and they even exceeded the norm beating Israelis by 3-1. Unfortunately for them USA played surprisingly bad and lost 1½-2½. There were rumours USA wanted to deny the Poles on purpose. Well, you should take a look at the games by yourself to judge. Anyway, USA and Norway, who beat Poland on virtue of superior Berger, came through. Poland and Israel were relegated to final B. In group 4 Argentina and Denmark (Larsen was back after 8 years) easily took top two spots. England, their major contenders faced impossible task to beat the Danes in the last round by 4-0 if they wanted to pass them by. They were eliminated because of their early slip ups where they lost many points vs outsiders like Ireland or South Africa. Three teams were dominant in group 5: Czechoslovakia, East Germany and Canada. Czechoslovakia drew against GDR then beat Canada 3-1 and won all remaining matches by 4-0 taking top spot. East Germany beat Canada in round four and virtually secured their final A position despite dropping a point vs Scotland. Canada came third doubling Scotland's score, who were right behind them in 4th place, a fraction ahead of Italy who missed a chance to earn final B place. In group 6, behind Hungarian shoulders, a dramatic fight for second spot was held between Holland and fiercely supported home nation, Cuba. Cuba made impressive start leap hammering Tunisia 4-0 while Holland put up tough resistance and snatched three draws from Hungarian side. Cuba earned another clear victory on the next day this time over group minnows Lebanon. Holland hardly broke Belgian resistance but finally won 2½-1½. A direct clash ended up in a honourable draw 2-2 and both teams retained their chances. Round 4 brought third Cuban 4-0 victory, Forintos lost to a Tunisian player and Holland lost priceless half of a point vs Lebanon. In round 5 both teams won 3½-½. Cuba wanted to secure their final A spot in penultimate round but the crossbeam was put too high and they firmly lost to Hungary. Holland once again dropped half a point matching Panama, another group outsider. Cuba were 2 points ahead of Holland before the last round and Holland had superior tie-break. The Dutch easily beat Venezuela 4-0 and Cuba had to beat Belgium in one of most dramatic matches of the event. Three games ended up in a draw and Ortega managed to beat Boey in a Rook ending of a decisive game of the match. Cuba were in! The fiesta celebrating Cuban surprising success looked more like a national holiday since this was prestigious achievement for communist regime that wielded power over the island since 1959. Group 7 did not bring even a fraction of excitement caused by group 6 combat. Romania and Bulgaria were two big shots and dominated the pool easily. Colombia and Finland earned well-deserved final B positions.

The finals began on 4th November. American team's captain Donald Byrne asked to abandon any play of Robert Fischer on the Jewish Sabbath. Although Fischer was a Jew in origin he became a member of the Christian World Church of God (The Seventh Day Adventists), a fundamentalist faction of Christianity forbidding to perform any activity from Friday, 6PM until Saturday, 6PM. Unfortunately evening sessions on Saturdays were planned to begin at 4PM. This was somehow clumsy request given that in 1961 Fischer did not care about Reshevsky's religious beliefs of same kind during their match. The proposal was refused by Šajtar, head referee, and Danish team declined American offer to reschedule USA-Denmark clash from Friday 4PM to 12AM. This seemed not to be a problem because every team has more than four players in the squad. USA were missing Fischer in round 1 but won comfortably 3½-½ and it was Byrne who did his duty and beat Larsen. Team Cuba, the hosts, apparently thought they did what they were expected to do and were stepping from loss to loss. Hungary-Yugoslavia, an interesting battle of round 2 was eclipsed by a huge scandal, never seen at the Olympiads so far. The games were to start at Saturday, 4PM, two hours before Fischer could come back to reality from spiritual elation. USA claimed their match vs USSR to be rescheduled under threat of their withdrawal. The answer was: "no way". The Americans then simply did not appear at the game hall, but didn't leave Havana and came back on the next day. The games were set as defaults of course. A huge conflict with profound political background exploded soon. The Americans insisted on reply and FIDE president Mr. Folke Rogard proposed a 2-2 default. Perhaps under strong political pressure the Soviets agreed finally to repeat the match. It was to be played after 9th round. Meanwhile the pool of potential candidates for medal area diminished. Cuba and four West European teams were by far the weakest sides of the final. Hungary started with moderate pace halving against Yugoslavia and Argentina and losing to Czechoslovakia. Bulgaria started well but then lost three consecutive matches and fell down the table. USSR and USA were close to top still having match in hand. Yugoslavia were leading the chasing group although in 9th round they were lucky to narrowly beat Cuba. Argentina and Czechoslovakia significantly diminished their chances for medals both losing 1-3. An extra reply of USA-USSR match was held on a free day and this was perhaps most prestigious battle in the history of the Olympiads. USSR were missing Petrosian this time and it was Spassky who had to defend from Fischer's furious offensive. USSR won 2½-1½ thanks to Tal who beat Byrne but frankly speaking USA should be happy to avoid heavier loss. With three rounds to go USSR were in clear lead ahead of USA, rather safe about their silver medals. Yugoslavia and Hungary were contenders for bronze. USSR easily took a gold, USA retained runner-up position without menace and truly fierce battle was held for bronze. Hungary had an advantage of half of a point before last round. Yugoslavia beat Iceland 3-1 and Hungary managed to beat Romania by 2½-1½, the narrowest possible margin and both teams leveled on points. Who takes the bronze? Match Points? Both 20. Direct match result? A draw. Berger? Well.. it depends. If one takes every match won as 1, and every match drawn as ½ then it would be Hungary. If - and according to many this was better alternative - every match score is weighted, than Yugoslavia were in the lead. The jury finally chose first option and Hungary earned bronze. Most players and officials considered it fair to award both teams with bronze medals. Argentina came 5th ahead of Czechoslovakia and Bulgaria. Despite Larsen's bad form Denmark lied in excellent 10th ahead of Iceland who were not expected to finish that high. Holland won final B with huge margin over Poland and Austria. The Dutch won first 12 matches and could afford a loss in the final round. England were down in 21st, biggest slump in their history. Italy won section C long way ahead of Mongolia. Chile's performance was very poor. Luxembourg unexpectedly avoided lowest final section. Finally section D, comprised of truly amateur teams, was won by South Africa.

The Soviet team won the Championship for the eighth time, displaying convincing form throughout and conceding but one drawn match. Three of the Soviet players also made the best scores on their respective boards. The second place achieved by the United States was primarily due to Fischer, who gave a remarkable individual display. The Hungarians who tied on points with Yugoslavia were lead by Portisch who scored well but was overwhelmed by Bárczay's phenomenal result of 11/12. Szabó and Bilek went throughout the contest undefeated. Only Lengyel was fairly disappointing. Yugoslavia who were so unlucky to miss the medal zone had excellent Čirić in their squad (he scored a perfect 8/8 but did not play vs major teams). Their general rule was: the lower the player was seeded, the better his result was. Panno for Argentina was the strongest part of their team whereas Czechoslovak #4 Kaválek played same role in his team. Uhlmann's record at top board for East Germany is remarkable. Cuba made huge impression in the preliminaries but then were totally disappointing and won as little as 2 games in the final. Holland's result was contributed mainly by Bouwmeester and young Ree (both stayed undefeated). In fact their overall percentage score was inferior only to USSR (of course they played in final B vs lower ranked teams). İbrahimoğlu for Turkey was unhappy to lose his only game in the last round of the finals but still a 10/13 record and third best individual score at 2nd reserve board is not bad.

Those fortunate enough to be present at the Olympiad spoke only in the highest praise and appreciation of the hospitality of their hosts. Fully backed by the Government and Cuban people, the organisers, headed by José Luis Barreras, set a perfect example of their work, and none of the participants will ever forget their friendship and generosity. The 17th Olympiad is now just a memory - but on of the finest in the whole series of Chess Olympiads.

Best board results

1st Board
no. name flag code fin. pts gms %
1. GM Petrosian, Tigran Soviet Union URS A 11½ 13 88.5
2. GM Fischer, Robert James United States USA A 15 17 88.2
3. GM Uhlmann, Wolfgang East Germany GDR A 13 18 72.2
3. IM Ojanen, Kaarle Finland FIN B 13 18 72.2

2nd Board
no. name flag code fin. pts gms %
1. GM Panno, Oscar Argentina ARG A 14 18 77.8
2. GM Szabó, László Hungary HUN A 11 15 73.3
3. Westerinen, Heikki Finland FIN B 14½ 20 72.5

3rd Board
no. name flag code fin. pts gms %
1. GM Tal, Mikhail Soviet Union URS A 12 13 92.3
2. Balinas, Rosendo Carrean The Philippines PHI C 15½ 20 77.5
3. GM Bilek, István Hungary HUN A 11½ 15 76.7

4th Board
no. name flag code fin. pts gms %
1. IM Langeweg, Christian Netherlands NED B 12 15 80.0
2. GM Matanović, Aleksandar Yugoslavia YUG A 10½ 14 75.0
2. GM Stein, Leonid Soviet Union URS A 9 12 75.0

1st Reserve Board
no. name flag code fin. pts gms %
1. GM Korchnoi, Viktor Soviet Union URS A 10½ 13 80.8
2. GM Matulović, Milan Yugoslavia YUG A 12 15 80.0
3. Ree, Hans Netherlands NED B 11 15 73.3

2nd Reserve Board
no. name flag code fin. pts gms %
1. IM Bárczay, László Hungary HUN A 11 12 91.7
2. GM Polugaevsky, Lev Soviet Union URS A 11 14 78.6
3. İbrahimoğlu, İsmet Turkey TUR C 10 13 76.9

Interesting games

Most presigious game of the Olympiad.
Fischer, Robert James (USA) - Spassky, Boris (URS) ½ - ½

Famous Havana Triplets.
Fischer won three games in Exchange Variation of Ruy Lopez.
Fischer, Robert James (USA) - Portisch, Lajos (HUN) 1 - 0
Fischer, Robert James (USA) - Gligorić, Svetozar (YUG) 1 - 0
Fischer, Robert James (USA) - Jiménez Zerquera, Eleazar (CUB) 1 - 0

Greedy Queen in a mortal trap.
Ivkov, Borislav (YUG) - Byrne, Robert (USA) 1 - 0

Petrosian's favourite tactical motive:
positional pressure after sacrifying a Rook for minor piece.
Larsen, Bent (DEN) - Petrosian, Tigran (URS) 0 - 1

Blundering a Queen and mate in 1 is not what top GMs use to do every day.
Gheorghiu, Florin (ROM) - Najdorf, Miguel (ARG) 0 - 1

Anyone that meets Sicilian would love to see his pieces as mobile as here.
Bednarski, Jacek (POL) - Johansson, Martin (SWE) 1 - 0

Judging solelyon this game one would think the Mongolians are just woodpushers.
Gligorić, Svetozar (YUG) - Myagmarsuren, Lhamsuren (MGL) 1 - 0

Once Black lost control over f6 their King proved exposed to attack.
Portisch, Lajos (HUN) - Johannessen, Svein (NOR) 1 - 0

Larsen wasn't shaped well at Havana. He should really avoid such cheap tricks.
Larsen, Bent (DEN) - Portisch, Lajos (HUN) 0 - 1

Most celebrated game played at Havana
made surprisingly swift tour of the chess globe.
Pomar Salamanca, Arturo (ESP) - Johansson, Martin (SWE) 1 - 0

Fischer's only defeat. Excellent play by Gheorghiu!
Gheorghiu, Florin (ROM) - Fischer, Robert James (USA) 1 - 0

This game is sort of proof that once you play Grunfeld
you should not drop c7-c5 idea.
Pachman, Luděk (CSR) - Uhlmann, Wolfgang (GDR) 1 - 0

Tasteful strategy at top GM level.
Larsen, Bent (DEN) - Gheorghiu, Florin (ROM) 1 - 0

This time it went without sacrifice but still it was enough.
Tal, Mikhail (URS) - Byrne, Robert (USA) 1 - 0

Watch the power of white Knight fastened to e5.
Ivkov, Borislav (YUG) - Jóhannsson, Ingi Randver (ISL) 1 - 0

Tal enlivened brilliantly such boring dead-draw position.
Tal, Mikhail (URS) - Brinck-Claussen, Bjørn (DEN) 1 - 0

Unlike scattered white pieces black co-operated neatly.
Brinck-Claussen, Bjørn (DEN) - Panno, Oscar (ARG) 0 - 1

Shortest decisive game of the main Olympic final.
Kristiansen, Erling (NOR) - Kolarov, Atanas (BUL) 0 - 1

Perhaps this is the worst game that Korchnoi played in his entire life.
Calvo Mínguez, Ricardo (ESP) - Korchnoi, Viktor (URS) 1 - 0

Huge load of tension and honourable draw as a result.
Kaválek, Lubomír (CSR) - Polugaevsky, Lev (URS) ½ - ½

Variegated game full of unusual and acute turns.
Beyen, Roland (BEL) - Bárczay, László (HUN) 0 - 1

White King went under open fire and Black precisely carried out striking attack.
Westman, Jan Erik (SWE) - Walther, Edgar (SUI) 0 - 1

White pawn totally cramped Black's position.
Calvo Mínguez, Ricardo (ESP) - Campomanes, Florencio (PHI) 1 - 0

Furious ride of black Knights.
Cordovil, João Maria (POR) - De Castro, Edgar (PHI) 0 - 1

Annotated exclusively for OlimpBase by FM Acevedo.
Acevedo, Armando (MEX) - Ujtumen, Tudev (MGL) 1 - 0


Mrs. Berna Carrasco, the sole women among 300 men, was the only player to have finished without scoring a singe half of a point. Where were the gentlemen?


As much as four players finished with a perfect 100% record. Paradoxically two of them won just one game by default!


Ex-World Champion Mikhail Tal was hit in the head with a bottle in a bar soon before the beginning of the Olympiad in Havana and beaten up. He missed the first five rounds of the Olympics because of his injuries.