March 24, 1921 – March 27, 2010
As discussed before, there have been seven undisputed Jewish world chess champions. Six we've already profiled: Steinitz, Lasker, Botvinnik, Tal, Fischer (ugh), Kasparov. What about #7?
The seventh is Vasily Smyslov, who was champion for one year, beating Botvinnik in 1957, but losing to him in 1958. But unlike the other six, where the Jewishness is clear (even Fischer, ugh), Smyslov's is somewhat up in the air. Supposedly, his mother was Jewish. Or maybe just his grandmother. No one seems to know for sure.
Here's why we need to side on the Jewish side of the debate: when grandmaster Viktor Korchnoi defected from the Soviet Union, he leveled allegations of antisemitism. Not true, said the Soviet chess organization, replying with a list of great Soviet chess Jews. (These are our Jewish friends!) Smyslov was listed.
We are not gonna be the ones to argue with the Soviet chess establishment...
Verdict: Borderline Jew.
April 27, 2016