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     Volume 4 Issue 46 | May 13, 2005 |

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Time Out

Mikhail Botvinnik Chess

When world champion Alexander Alekhine died in March 1946, there were quite a few contenders for the throne that fell vacant with his death. FIDE decided to invite the best eight players in the world to take part in a tournament to find out the new world champion. It was finally held in 1948, and won by Mikhail Botvinnik. It was a great triumph for the Soviet School. The Soviet players held the championship for decades, except for the three years (1972-75) when American Grandmaster Bobby Fischer reigned supreme.

Botvinnik is the only player in the history of the game to have lost and regained the title twice. He lost it to V. Smyslov in 1955 and regained it two years later. Then came the real challenge when Mikhail Tal was playing incredible chess. Tal fireworks added a new dimension to the game. He challenged the classical theories with his magnificent tactical play that even a player of Botvinnik's class found rather hard to handle. But Botvinnik prepared himself well for the return match in 1961 and blunted the force of Tal's attacks. He finally lost to Tigran Petrosian in 1963 when he was 52 years old.

The Botvinnik era saw the rise of many great players and the Soviet supremacy was established beyond any doubt, until the rise of Bobby Fischer. The Soviets viewed chess as a form of art and never welcomed the professionalism that Fischer preached with great zeal. In fact, Botvinnik once said that high prize money was a bane to the game!

It is no doubt an interesting debate. Today top players are all professionals having a high degree of motivation. The aesthetic aspect of the game often gets ignored as players have reduced themselves into somewhat "unimaginative fighting units", ready to score points only.

Botvinnik was not a professional player in the modern sense. In fact, he was an internationally known electrical engineer. That is another phenomenon quite inconceivable in modern times. A top level player today has to be a full time professional having little time for any other pursuit. Are we producing chess machines only?

Here is a game played by Botvinnik.

White-Mikhail Botvinnik
Black-Mikhail Tal [E24]
World Championship, Moscow 1961

1.c4 Nf6 2.Nc3 e6 3.d4 Bb4 4.a3 Bxc3+ 5.bxc3 b6 6.f3 Ba6 7.e4 d5 8.cxd5 Bxf1 9.Kxf1 exd5 10.Bg5 h6 11.Qa4+ c6 12.Bh4 dxe4 13.Re1 g5 14.Bf2 Qe7 15.Ne2 b5 16.Qc2 Qxa3 17.h4 gxh4 18.Bxh4 Nbd7 19.Ng3 000 20.Nxe4 Rhe8 21.Kf2 Nxe4+ 22.fxe4 f6 23.Ra1 Qe7 24.Rxa7 Qxe4 25.Qxe4 Rxe4 26.Ra8+ Nb8 27.Bg3 Kb7 28.Rha1 Rc8 29.R8a7+ Kb6 30.Bxb8 b4 31.Bd6 bxc3 32.Bc5+ Kb5 33.R1a4 1-0


Position after 17.h4


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