Vasily Smyslov started off the 1950's by making it on FIDE's inaugural list of International Grandmasters. He continued to finish consistently near the top in just about every tournament he competed in, and gained the reputation of the game's best endgame player of the day. He set his sights on becoming the world champion. By winning the Candidates Tournament in 1953, Smyslov earned the opportunity to do so. The World Championship Match against Mikhail Botvinnik was played in Moscow in 1954. The match was dead even throughout and resulted in a final 12 to 12 tie, which by FIDE rules meant that Botvinnik retained his title. In 1957, Smyslov would again challenge his rival Mikhail Botvinnik for the Championship. This time Smyslov would win 12 ½ to 9 ½ and fulfill his dream, and in doing so become the seventh world chess champion. Botvinnik was entitled to a rematch that took place one year later in 1958. In the rematch, Botvinnik would narrowly win and reclaim his crown. Smyslov would never again hold the title of world chess champion.
Despite being world champion for only a year, Vasily Smyslov was arguably the best player in the decade of the 1950's. His career will be forever linked to his rival and prolific world chess champion Mikhail Botvinnik. Botvinnik vs. Smyslov was the quintessential rivalry of the 1950's and along with Capablanca vs. Alekhine and Kasparov vs. Karpov one of the greatest rivalries in the chess history. Throughout the 1950's Smyslov and Botvinnik played three World Championship Matches. They each won a match, lost a match and tied a match. Smyslov actually had a better score than Botvinnik over the three matches 35 to 34.
Although Smyslov was never able to regain his world championship form, he lived a long life and continued to play competitive chess well into the 1990's. He eventually retired in 2001 and passed away on March 27, 2010. Although Smyslov is generally considered a positional player, he had a very versatile style. While he preferred quieter positions where he would simply outplay his opponents, he did not shy away from complications and tactical melees. He had deep convictions that chess was an art form. Because of his short reign as world champion, many of Smyslov's games are underappreciated and few realize how dominant he truly was throughout the 1950's.
Some famous Vasily Smyslov Quotes:
"I have frequently stated that I regard chess as an art form, where creativity prevails over other factors."
"In my opinion, the style of a player should not be formed under the influence of any single great master"
"In chess as in life, man is his own dangerous opponent"
"He is a universal player, who feels at home in any type of position" – Boris Spassky
"If a man be summed up by a single characteristic, then the most suitable one for Smyslov as a chess player would be – assurance" – Svetoszar Gilgoric