Smyslov was a candidate for the World Chess Championship on eight occasions (1948, 1950, 1953, 1956, 1959, 1965, 1983, and 1985). He was one of the five players selected to compete for the 1948 World Chess Championship tournament to determine who should succeed the late Alexander Alekhine as champion. His selection was questioned by some, but this criticism was silenced when he finished second behind Mikhail Botvinnik. His victories in the double-round Candidates tournaments of 1953 and 1956 were the greatest tournament wins of the 1950s. He played three 24-game world championship matches against the formidable Botvinnik, drawing the first in 1954, winning the second in 1957 but losing the return match in 1958. All three matches were held in Moscow.
Smyslov was twice equal first in the Soviet Championship (1949, 1955), and his total of 17 Chess Olympiad medals won is an all-time record. In five European Team Championships, Smyslov won ten gold medals (team and individual). He remained active and successful in competitive chess well into the 1960s and 1970s and he qualified for the finals of the World Championship Candidates' matches as late as 1983. Vasiliy won the first World Senior Chess Championship in 1991. He retired from competitive play in 2001.
A tribute from Anatoly Karpov:
- "What I remember most about [Smyslov] was his competitive spirit, but also his delicate sense of humour. It was always very tough playing against him, despite him being more than twice my age".
Books by Smyslov
- 2003: Smyslov's best games, Volume 1: 1935-1957 (Moravian Chess)
- 2003: Smyslov's best games, Volume 2: 1958-1995 (Moravian Chess)
- 1997: Endgame virtuoso (Cadogan)
- 1995: Smyslov's 125 selected games (Everyman Chess)
- 1972: Grigory Levenfish and Vasily Smyslov Rook endings (Batsford)
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