A review of Zurich 1953: 15 Contenders for the World Chess Championship by Miguel Najdorf

Reviewed by P.P.O. Kane

Zurich 1953: 15 Contenders for the World Chess Championship
By Miguel Najdorf
Russell Enterprises, 2012
ISBN: 9781936490431

Up there right alongside Bronstein’s classic book on the same tournament, that is the best way I can think of to convey the quality of this work.

Just like Bronstein, Najdorf played at Zurich 1953. He finished in sixth place, sandwiched between seven Soviet players: five below and two above. It was Reshevsky in third place who spearheaded the Western challenge, though, ending two points behind the winner (and eventual world champion) Smyslov.

The crucial point about Zurich 1953 is that it was an elite tournament before such events became relatively common: 15 leading players participated, none of them weak or decidedly inferior to each other, over a period of about two months. Many of the 210 games played are now considered classics, and all except for a very few have moments of great interest. The spectacular queen sacrifice in Averbakh-Kotov; the powerful positional play of Reshevsky-Bronstein, a King’s Indian classic; and the concerted kingside attack that did for Taimanov and won Najdorf the Brilliancy Prize (another King’s Indian, incidentally). Those would be my top three.

As for Najdorf’s annotations, they are certainly as instructive and insightful as Bronstein’s; they are, though, more convivial and conversational.

This is a faithful translation of the tournament book that was originally published in two volumes in Argentina in 1954. A computer-assisted supplement, consisting of a number of important analytical corrections, is available as a free download here:


Zurich 1953 is a wonderful book and is highly recommended.

About the reviewer: P.P.O. Kane lives and works in Manchester, England. He welcomes responses to his reviews and you can reach him at ludic@europe.com