18th Chess Olympiad: Lugano 1968

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Basic data

18th Chess Olympiad
(see all-time tournament summary)
Date: 17th October - 7th November 1968
City: Lugano, Switzerland
Venue: Padiglione Conza
Head of Organizing Committee: Mr. Alois Nagler (SUI)
Chief Arbiter: IA Jaroslav Šajtar (CSR)
Teams participating: 53
Players participating: 314 (incl. 41 GMs and 55 IMs)
Games played: 1912 (6 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
Time control: 40 moves in 2 hours 30 minutes, then 1 hour for each next 16 moves
Official logo: LUGANO 1968
Downloadable game file: 68olm.zip

Tournament review

After six years the great event was once again held on European soil. A small country opened its gates to chessplayers from all quarters of the globe. The advance entries indicated a further rise in the number of participants, and, though several countries eventually backed out, the total of 53 teams that took part did indeed constitute a new record for the series. Some of these were newcomers, for Andorra, Costa Rica, Singapore and the Virgin Islands were making their first appearance in an Olympiad. The Virgin team came to Lugano being yet outside FIDE and with violation of the official regulations they were immediately accepted. A new arrangement was also introduced, whereby teams that qualified for the same final section did not repeat the match they had played against each other in the preliminaries, i. e. the results of these matches were carried over to the Finals.

USSR came without major changes in their team while for the first time we have seen both Fischer and Reshevsky in American team. FIDE imposed highly controversial regulation allowing both players to have a rest on Jewish Sabbath and no games were scheduled on Friday evening and Saturday morning. This was commonly criticized by the rest of the players since it brought unnecessary chaos into tournament regime. Unfortunately for USA Bobby Fischer withdrew from their team because he was not happy with the lighting in the tournament hall. Fischer wanted to play his games in a private room. The Olympiad organizers refused to meet his request, and so Fischer withdrew from the tournament trashing American hopes. Czechoslovakia who were invaded by the Soviets were missing Kavalek and Pachman (this obviously had some political background, read here). Yugoslavia had 6 GMs in the squad and Hungary had 5. Argentina were missing Najdorf and West Germany were back in the pool after Havana break.

In group 1 USSR scored another sky high record partly mobilized with a consciousness that one of their results shall be carried on to the final. England, Israel and surprisingly Philippines were contenders for second place. Israel beat Philippines modestly in round 3 but suffered some losses vs Italy and Portugal in first two rounds. In round four Israel lost 0-4 to USSR and they were long way behind England and Philippines which outscored all minor nations with outstanding margin. In 5th round Philippines did not earn a single draw vs USSR but Israel drew against England in their last chance match. The English tore valuable ½ point out of Soviet side in penultimate round and were holding one point advantage over the Asians whom they were to play on the next day. Unfortunately for them both Lee and Czech expatriate Kottnauer lost with black pieces and Philippines most unexpectedly reached the final group. In group 2 USA and Denmark, once again with Larsen on top board, were the big shots. With two days to go Denmark beat the Americans and suddenly Mongolia saw their chance. Unfortunately for them they lost badly to Austria 1-3 in penultimate round and had to beat USA 3½-½ in the last round in order to squeeze them out of final A. Although they lost, they were not as far as one might have thought. France came last, behind Australia and Venezuela and were relegated to the bottom final section. In group 3 Poland and Spain fought for second spot behind Yugoslav shoulders. Poland narrowly lost to Yugoslavia in 2nd round while Spain suffered respectable losses vs poor Scotland (their future star Levy beat Visier Segovia). In fourth round Poland achieved well-deserved victory over Spain virtually sealing their championship final place. Spain faced Yugoslavia in penultimate round and lost 1-3 since the Yugoslavs could not allow for four quick draws because of "carry on" regulation. Poland easily overtook Spain in the last round. Holland suffered painful defeat once again and were eliminated by Canada and Hungary in group 4. They started with promising 3½-½ over Belgium but then were beaten by Hungary (although a gain of 1½ point was not bad) and suffered heavy losses vs Parguay and Monaco (3 points overall!). In 5th round Canada beat them in decisive match of the group and came second despite of 1-3 loss vs Hungary and Holland's good speed at the finish (8/8). Belgium easily qualified for second highest final section. Romania and West Germany were bigwigs of group 5. West Germany dropped 1½ point vs Brazil in the beginning (Mecking neatly beat Unzicker) but hammered Switzerland on the next day. A tie between Romania and Germany let the Brazilians to take over the lead but they lost it very quickly after Swiss debacle in round 4. The Swiss had to overcome Romania by a wide margin in penultimate round if they dreamt yet about taking the championship final spot but they lost with no doubts and it were Romania and West Germany, as expected, who came through. Switzerland and Brazil easily retained final B positions at a cost of Norway. Group 6 was no doubt easy to predict. Finland and Sweden were plunged in deep crisis and Argentina and East Germany had clear field to go on straight to top final section. Indeed, first days of the combat straightened out the situation. East Germany easily overcame Finland on the first day and Argentina beat Sweden on the second day of the games. East Germany-Sweden 3½-½ clarified the situation completely. Finland and Sweden went info final B and Greece were relegated into final C. Virgin Islands, the ebullient newcomers finished last despite of Hook's decent performance (solid master level) at board 1. In group 7 Cuba were far from their Havana form and did not compete for top places being satisfied with their final B qualification ahead of Tunesia and Turkey who earned tickets for final C. Iceland was then sole team to threaten Czechoslovakia and Bulgaria, the paper favourites. Iceland started promising with two wins and valuable 2-2 vs Czechoslovakia (Hort was defeated by Icelandic IM Jóhannsson) but other candidates for top places were no worse. Iceland-Bulgaria 1-3 in fourth round was end of dreams for brave Islanders. Andorra scored 0/28, an all-time negative record, that has never been beaten so far.

USSR took early lead in the main Olympic final thanks to their 4-0 record carried out from preliminary group. USA modestly beat West Germany on the next day and Poland gave huge sensation hammering Czechoslovakia 3½-½. In third round Hungary lost unexpectedly to Bulgaria while West Germany smashed Argentina and USSR comfortably went over Czechoslovakia. The Soviets beat Hungary 3-1 in round 4, Bulgaria wiped out Romania by 3½-½ and West Germany-Yugoslavia ended up in a lackluster, brisk two-all draw. USSR definitely answered the question about is anyone able to threaten them and the answer was obviously negative as they first went over USA by 3½-½ and then sealed their position beating Argentina. Yugoslavia retained their runner-up position despite of unexpected loss vs Bulgaria. Poland were surprisingly seen up in third place after beating Canada and Philippines. USSR confirmed their supremacy winning against Yugoslavia on the next day and Bulgaria took over third place after beating Poland 2½-1½. A quick 0-4 debacle vs USSR pushed Poland much down the table. USSR were in clear lead ahead of Yugoslavia, Bulgaria and USA. The Americans took over third place after 10th round beating Argentina (Najdorf blundered in a dead-drawn ending vs Reshevsky) and watching Bulgaria halving with Denmark. Romania surprisingly outplayed Yugoslavia but stayed down in 12th place. West Germany drew quickly against Soviet Union in penultimate round and Bulgaria missed nice chance to earn some extra advantage and barely drew against Canada while USA beat demoralised Poland 3-1. With last round to be played Yugoslavia were in second position with 28½ a fraction ahead of USA with Germany and Bulgaria in the back row. Yugoslavia won 2½-1½ and came second and USA lost to East Germany who played their best this day as if out of spite. Ebullient Bulgarians did not miss the chance of their life and hammered Philippines by 3½-½. This desperate, final spurt gave them bronze medals at a cost of shocked Americans. West Germany easily retained 5th place, Hungary came 6th. Netherlands won final B ahead of England, Austria and Israel who were the only team to avoid a loss in the final section. After unsuccessful preliminaries the Spaniards wrung their hands and finished down in 19th. Mongolia were classified as low as in penultimate place, meaning 27th overall. Scotland were extremely lucky to qualify into final B for the third time in a row, and once again they came last meaning they were once again 28th, like in 1964 and 1966. Australia won final C convincingly and Norway came second (they were probably the only team in the history of the final section not to end up any match with a fractional score!). Singapore won bottom section ahead of resigned Frenchmen who were classified in humiliating 44th place. Andorra came last but not only earned some points but even won a match versus Virgin Island, another chess giant.

USSR were perhaps never more dominant than this time. Their outstanding overall record of 82.2% is by just a fraction inferior to their all-time peak from Leipzig, 1960. None of the Soviets suffered defeat and they indisputably won all matches but last two, which they could afford to end up in quick draws since with two rounds to go they had an advantage of 8½ making them mathematically unreachable for the chasers. Smyslov at 2nd reserve board scored nine consecutive wins and his record 11/12 was best among all players. Petrosian's 10½/12 may be a little bit misleading since he avoided couple of top players. Yugoslavia were back in the medal zone after Havana slip up. All of them scored in 60-70% area and without weak points in their squad this proved enough for silver. Gligorić at board 1 went good and his only loss was against Romania. Bulgaria were sensational winners of bronze medals. Starting from scratch in late 40's they quickly made up for a lost time and reinforced with Varna Olympiad experience and its influence on chess life in Bulgaria did immense jump ahead. Bobotsov was in excellent form and suffered his only defeat vs World Champion Petrosian. Tringov and Radulov were another players to contribute greatly to their outstanding success. USA demoralised with Fischer's absence have seen Donald Byrne as their top player, a little embarrassing fact given that he substituted Fischer in the very last moment and was not planned to be in the squad before. All their players did decently but no one was true leader of the team. West Germany might be ever better if only Unzicker was in better form. He was not in a fighting mood and did not seem creative at all. Kazanski from Hong Kong and Balinas from Philippines were his only victims. Apart from that he had 12 draws and 3 losses in his record. Schmid and Darga (#2 and #3) stayed undefeated and all bottom boards scored more than 60% as well. Hungary could not finish better than in 6th having such awfully shaped players as Szabó and Bilek in their squad. They both failed to win a game in the Olympic final and Szabó's only victory happened on a day of Hungary-Monaco match. Portisch and Barcza, both with +70% record were not able to level up overall score sufficiently. Argentina were missing Najdorf primarily but he came late to Lugano after Panno had dared unrefined joke calling Najdorf with bleak news that Argentina are losing to Morrocco on day 1 of the preliminaries. Veteran Najdorf was only able to hold on to a draw on each day apart from memorable win over Larsen and a loss vs Reshevsky. Most of Panno's games ended up in a draw too. Sanguinetti's record let them finish as high as in 7th place. Romania were lying in 8th and Gheorghiu was definitely too much prone to avoid a loss at any cost. Although he stayed undefeated a record of +3=14 cannot be a reason for pride. Czechoslovakia were missing Kavalek and Pachman and were happy to lie in 9th whereas Poland, 11th overall, might be disappointed since with six rounds to go they were yet in the medal area. Larsen for Denmark was much disappointing in the finals (+3=4-5). Canada and Philippines were happy just to qualify for main Olympic final. Holland lead by Donner and England with excellent Penrose (+10=5) at top boards were once again suffering deep disappointment failing to reach final A. Young Mecking from Brazil gave solid performance as well as Shaw from Australia. Badilles from Hong Kong made best use of his team's poor opposition and won special prize for best individual score at 1st reserve board. For the first time the prizes were generously awarded to top three players at each board (with a minimum of 12 games required to enter the contest).

Best board results

1st Board
no. name flag code fin. pts gms %
1. GM Petrosian, Tigran Soviet Union URS A 10½ 12 87.5
2. IM Penrose, Jonathan England ENG B 12½ 15 83.3
3. IM Johannessen, Svein Norway NOR C 10 13 76.9

2nd Board
no. name flag code fin. pts gms %
1. GM Tringov, Georgi Bulgaria BUL A 11 14 78.6
2. GM Schmid, Lothar Germany GER A 9 12 75.0
3. GM Spassky, Boris Soviet Union URS A 10 14 71.4

3rd Board
no. name flag code fin. pts gms %
1. GM Korchnoi, Viktor Soviet Union URS A 11 13 84.6
2. IM Kraidman, Yair Israel ISR B 11 14 78.6
3. Huguet, Bernard France FRA D 10 13 76.9

4th Board
no. name flag code fin. pts gms %
1. Kagan, Shimon Israel ISR B 10½ 13 80.8
2. GM Geller, Efim Soviet Union URS A 12 79.2
3. Keene, Raymond Dennis England ENG B 13 17 76.5

1st Reserve Board
no. name flag code fin. pts gms %
1. Badilles, Glicerio Hong Kong HKG D 11½ 14 82.1
2. GM Polugaevsky, Lev Soviet Union URS A 10½ 13 80.8
3. GM Barcza, Gedeon Hungary HUN A 10½ 14 75.0
3. IM Liebert, Heinz East Germany GDR A 9 12 75.0
3. IM Radulov, Ivan Bulgaria BUL A 10½ 14 75.0

2nd Reserve Board
no. name flag code fin. pts gms %
1. GM Smyslov, Vassily Soviet Union URS A 11 12 91.7
2. Shaw, Terrey Ian Australia AUS C 12 14 85.7
3. IM Byrne, Donald United States USA A 9 12 75.0
3. IM Prins, Lodewijk Netherlands NED B 9 12 75.0

Interesting games

Interesting and stiff battle with both players showing good technique.
Spassky, Boris (URS) - Portisch, Lajos (HUN) ½ - ½

Neat, subtle win of young Brazilian star.
Mecking, Henrique (BRA) - Unzicker, Wolfgang (GER) 1 - 0

Seemingly Black were pushy but White threats were by far more dangerous.
Penrose, Jonathan (ENG) - Ujtumen, Tudev (MGL) 1 - 0

White carried on Kingside attack in most inventive and unusual way.
Keller, Dieter (SUI) - Pomar Salamanca, Arturo (ESP) 1 - 0

Huge sensation and excellent sense of tactics by White.
Littleton, Michael Flannan (IRL) - Yanofsky, Daniel Abraham (CAN) 1 - 0

Very vivid game with plenty of small, tactical tricks.
Belkadi, Ridha (TUN) - Friedgood, David (RSA) 0 - 1

Larsen's penchant for risky opening lines
was not enough for Hort's excellent strategy.
Hort, Vlastimil (CSR) - Larsen, Bent (DEN) 1 - 0

Petrosian's mastery to put any piece at best square is close to magic.
Bobotsov, Milko (BUL) - Petrosian, Tigran (URS) 0 - 1

Gligorić strangled black pieces in highly respectable way.
Gligorić, Svetozar (YUG) - Portisch, Lajos (HUN) 1 - 0

Sensational and excellent win of Casa.
Langeweg, Christian (NED) - Casa, Alexander (MNC) 0 - 1

Unbelievably this outstanding game was Najdorf's only win in Lugano!
Larsen, Bent (DEN) - Najdorf, Miguel (ARG) 0 - 1

Spassky had unique ability to exploit his pieces virtually from void.
Spassky, Boris (URS) - Porath, Yosef (ISR) 1 - 0

A horse! A horse! A kingdom for (pair of) horses!
İbrahimoğlu, İsmet (TUR) - Bouaziz, Slim (TUN) 1 - 0

Ultimate abundance of fighting spirit on both sides.
Ciocâltea, Victor (ROM) - Tringov, Georgi (BUL) 0 - 1

Szabó took the Queen and Korchnoi took the rest.
Szabó, László (HUN) - Korchnoi, Viktor (URS) 0 - 1

Activity of black pieces did not balance four passed white pawns on Kingside.
Heyns, Anthony (RSA) - Bouaziz, Slim (TUN) 1 - 0

Heidenfeld wrote a book entitled Große Remispartien
and this game is a memorable draw indeed!
Bilek, István (HUN) - Heidenfeld, Wolfgang (IRL) ½ - ½

Junior World Champion executed his endgame plan without trouble.
Kupper, Josef (SUI) - Kaplan, Julio (PUR) 0 - 1

Even those who do not know were the Virgin Islands must not disregard them.
Siaperas, Triantafyllos (GRE) - Hook, William (VIR) 0 - 1

Black's position looked totally cramped but they quickly exploded.
Black's 42nd move is sort of nigthmare for every chessplayer.
Byrne, Robert (USA) - De Castro, Edgar (PHI) 0 - 1

Obviously Holm's preparations were superficial
since he missed Geller's game played two days before...
Adamski, Jan (POL) - Geller, Efim (URS) 0 - 1
Holm, Sejer (DEN) - Geller, Efim (URS) 0 - 1

Smyslov's endgame maestry.
Janata, Michal (CSR) - Smyslov, Vassily (URS) 0 - 1

Could Black choose better endgame plan?
Matulović, Milan (YUG) - Malich, Burkhard (GDR) 1 - 0

Black thought they are attacking side but White's response was lethal.
Calvo Mínguez, Ricardo (ESP) - Glauser, Hansruedi (SUI) 1 - 0

White Queen's manoeuvres in the beginning seemed dubious
but they proved effective.
Darga, Klaus (GER) - German, Eugênio Maciel (BRA) 1 - 0

Shortest decisive game of the Olympiad.
Gibbs, Grantel (HKG) - Schmid, Lothar (GER) 0 - 1


Once again the sole woman among 300 men proved worst player of the Olympiad. Mrs. Cababe's record of 0/7 was inferior to anyone else's.


Dris Benabud from Morocco was the only player to play less than three games (he played one). This is unique in the history of the Olympiads.