Yuri Lvovich Averbakh is one of the legendary personalities of Soviet chess history. He was born on February 8, 1922 in Kaluga, Russia. His father was German Jewish (the original family name was Auerbach), his mother Russian. His name is sometimes spelled Averbach.
Averbakh during the Saltsjobaden Interzonal in 1952
Averbakh's first major success was to take first place in the Moscow Championship of 1949, ahead of players such as Andor Lilienthal, Yakov Estrin and Vladimir Simagin.
Averbakh became a grandmaster in 1952 and in 1953 participated in the famous Candidates tournament in Zurich. In 1954 he won the USSR Chess Championship with 14½ out of 19, ahead of Mark Taimanov and Viktor Korchnoi (13 points), as well as Tigran Petrosian, Efim Geller and Salo Flohr, who scored less.
In the 1956 championship he came equal first with Taimanov and Boris Spassky, finishing second after the playoff. Incidentally Averbakh's daughter Jane later married Taimanov.
Averbakh's other major tournament victories included Vienna 1961, Moscow 1962 and qualification for the 1953 Candidates Tournament, where he finished joint tenth of the fifteen participants.
Averbakh's successes can be attributed to his solid style, which was difficult for many pure attackers to overcome. He explained it himself as follows: "If Nezhmetdinov had the attack he could kill anybody, including Tal. But my score against him was something like 8½–½ because I did not give him any possibility for an active game. In such cases he would immediately start to spoil his position because he was looking for complications."
If you consult Mega Database 2007 (Ctrl-F2 – "Averbakh" – "Dossier") you will find that Yuri Averbakh has a positive score against Tigran Petrosian (+1 in 19 games), Polugaevsky (+2 in 10 games) and the level scores against Smyslov, Keres and Geller.
In 1956 Averbakh became an International Judge of Chess Compositions and in 1969 an International Arbiter. In the late 1960s he played less competitive chess. He became the chief editor of several chess magazines Shakhmaty v SSSR and Shakhmaty biuletin, and wrote major works on the endgame (and a very popular book for beginners). He was President of the USSR Chess Federation from 1973 to 1978, and also ran a popular educational chess program on Soviet TV.
Averbakh also contributed to opening theory, giving us, for instance, the Averbakh System in the King's Indian: 1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 g6 3.Nc3 Bg7 4.e4 d6 5.Be2 0–0 6.Bg5.