Efim Petrovich Geller

by Bill Wall

Efim Petrovich Geller was born on March 8, 1925 in Odessa. †He came from a Jewish family.

Geller learned chess during World War II.

In 1946 Geller played in his first chess tournament and took 4th place in the Ukrainian Championship in Kiev.

In 1947, he took 6th place in the Ukrainian Chess Championship, held in Kiev.

In 1948 he graduated from Odessa University with a degree in political economy, but made chess his career. ††He later earned a doctorate in physical education.

He took 3rd-4th place in the 17th USSR championship in 1949. He was only a candidate master at the time and the lowest rated player.

In 1950 he won the Ukrainian championship and took 7th in the USSR Championship.

He took 2nd-3rd in the 1951 USSR championship.

His first international tournament was in Budapest in 1952. He took 2nd place (won by Keres), ahead of Botvinnik and Smyslov. He obtained the Grandmaster title in 1952. He took 4th place in the Stockholm interzonal in 1952.

He took 3rd place in the 1952 USSR championship.

In 1953 he took 6th place in the Zurich Candidates tournament.

In 1954, Geller defeated I.A. Horowitz in the Russian vs. USA team match, held in New York.

He tied for first in 1955 USSR Championship with Smyslov, and then defeated Smyslov in the play-off. ††He would win the Soviet championship again 24 years later,

He took 5th place in the 1955 interzonal tournament in Goteborg.

He shared 3rd place in the 1956 Candidates tournament in Amsterdam.

In 1957 he won the Ukrainian championship.

In 1958 he won the Ukrainian championship.

In 1959 he won the Ukrainian championship.

In 1960 he took 2nd place in the USSR championship.

He tied for 2nd place in the 1962 Stockholm interzonal.

He tied for 2nd place with Keres in the 1962 Candidates tournament in Curacao. His peak Elo rating is estimated at 2655 from this event. He lost to Paul Keres in a match to qualify for the Candidates match.

From 1962 through 1963, Geller was ranked No. 3 in the world.

In 1965 he took 1st place at Beverwijk. He lost to Smyslov in the Candidates quarter-final (Geller had replace Botvinnik).

In 1966 he took 2nd place in the USSR championship. He lost a match with Larsen in a Candidates match.

He tied for 2nd place in the 1967 Sousse interzonal.

In 1968 he took 1st place at Goteborg. He lost to Spassky in the Candidates quarter-final.

In 1969 he took 1st place at Wijk aan Zee.

In 1969 the first official FIDE rating listed Geller as 2620. Only 6 other grandmasters were rated higher than him: Fischer, Spassky, Korchnoi, Botvinnik, Petrosian, and Larsen.

He tied for 2nd place in the 1970 Palma de Majorca interzonal.

In 1971 he lost to Korchnoi in the Candidates quarter-final.

In 1972, Geller was part of Spasskyís entourage in the Spassky-Fischer world chess championship match, held in Reykjavik, Iceland.† During the match, Geller made the statement that some electronic devices and chemical substances were in the playing hall and being used against Boris Spassky.† He wanted Fischerís chair and the lighting examined for bugs, devices, and chemical substances.

In 1973 he tied for 2nd in the Petropolis interzonal, but lost in a match-tournament with Portisch and Polugaevsky.

In 1975 he took 1st place at Teesside and at Moscow.

In 1976 he took 1st place at Las Palmas. ††His peak rating was 2620.

In 1976 he took 9th in the Biel interzonal. ††

In 1977 he took 1st place in the Hoogovens tournament in Wijk aan Zee.

In 1979 he won the USSR Championship at the age of 54. He won the USSR championship 24 years earlier.

In 1980 he tied for 1st at Las Palmas.

In 1982 he took 5th in the Moscow interzonal.


In 1991, he tied for 1st in the World Seniorsí Championship.† He lost on tie-break to Vasily Smyslov.

In 1992, he won the World Seniorsí Championship, held in Bad Worishofen, Germany.

In 1995, he played in his last major tournament, the 1995 Russian Championship at Elista.

He died of cancer on November 17, 1998 at the age of 73.

Geller was a Candidate for the World Championship on 6 occasions (1953, 1956, 1962, 1965, 1968, and 1971).

Geller won the Ukrainian championship 4 times (1950, 1957, 1958, and 1959).

During his career, he defeated eight world chess champions - Botvinnik, Smyslov, Tal, Petrosian, Fischer, Euwe, Spassky, and Karpov.

Geller - Hansen, 1978

1.c4 c5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Nc3 Nf6 4.d4 e6 5.d5 exd5 6.cxd5 Na5 7.e4 b6 8.e5 Ng8 9.d6 f6 (9...Bb7) 10.Nd5 Rb8?? (10...Bb7) 11.Nc7+ Kf7 12.Qd5+ Kg6 13.Nh4+ Kh5 14.Qf3+ (14...Kxh4 15.Qh3 mate)† 1-0