World – Inducted 2003
Chess was simply a hobby for young Vasily Smyslov until age 14, when appearances by Jose Capablanca and Emanuel Lasker in Moscow inspired a lifelong passion. From this point on, he improved rapidly, winning the All-Union Boys’ Championship and the Moscow City Championship in 1938. He would continue to perform strongly amidst intense competition, finishing third at both the 1940 USSR Championship and the 1941 Leningrad-Moscow match tournament, winning the 1942 Moscow City Championship, and placing second at the 1944 USSR Championship.
Smyslov first began to attract international attention when he defeated Samuel Reshevsky twice in the famous U.S.-USSR radio match of 1945. His first of eight Candidates Tournament appearances came in 1948, where he finished third. He would advance to and win the World Championship on his fourth attempt, in 1957. Though he held the title for only a year—losing to former champion Botvinnik in 1958—the success of his career both before and after this period testify to Smyslov’s greatness as a chess player. He would qualify as a Candidate on four more occasions, including the 1985 tournament at age 64, and his 17 Olympiad medals are an all-time record. Other impressive results include ten gold medals at five European Team Championships and the inaugural World Senior Chess Championship title in 1991. An opera singer, Smyslov also sought harmony in his chess game, ensuring that all his pieces moved in cooperation with one another.