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Botvinnik - Levenfish Match

Grigory Levenfish6.5/13(+5 -5 =3)[view games]
Mikhail Botvinnik6.5/13(+5 -5 =3)[view games] Historical Chess Event
Botvinnik - Levenfish (1937)
There is some dispute about how this match between Mikhail Botvinnik and Grigory Levenfish came about. Botvinnik had finished equal first in the very strong international tournament at Nottingham with Jose Capablanca in the summer of 1936. After returning to the Soviet Union and being awarded the Mark of Honor, by Stalin he devoted himself to his dissertation to earn his Candidates degree, which he achieved in short order. However, Botvinnik consequently missed the 1937 USSR Chess Championship, won by Levenfish. Botvinnik claimed that Nikolai Vasilyevich Krylenko was furious with him for missing the tournament and forced him into the match with the new Soviet champion. Levenfish claimed that Botvinnik challenged him personally without any persuasion. Either way, the two played a thirteen game match distributed between the Soviet cities of Moscow and Leningrad. It was a hard fought match with ten of the thirteen games ending decisively. Levenfish got off to an early lead in the first three games, but then Botvinnik fought back and acquired the lead for himself by the eighth game. It would ultimately be Levenfish's win in the final round that would draw the match.

The final standings and crosstable:

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 =1st Botvinnik 1 0 0 1 1 1 0 0 1 0 6/13 =1st Levenfish 0 1 1 0 0 0 1 1 0 1 6/13

Original collection: Game Collection: Botvinnik-Levenfish Match 1937, by User: suenteus po 147

 page 1 of 1; 13 games  PGN Download 
Game  ResultMoves Year Event/LocaleOpening
1. Levenfish vs Botvinnik  0-141 1937 Botvinnik - LevenfishA17 English
2. Botvinnik vs Levenfish 0-142 1937 Botvinnik - LevenfishD10 Queen's Gambit Declined Slav
3. Levenfish vs Botvinnik 1-067 1937 Botvinnik - LevenfishE34 Nimzo-Indian, Classical, Noa Variation
4. Botvinnik vs Levenfish  ½-½23 1937 Botvinnik - LevenfishD10 Queen's Gambit Declined Slav
5. Levenfish vs Botvinnik  ½-½34 1937 Botvinnik - LevenfishE34 Nimzo-Indian, Classical, Noa Variation
6. Botvinnik vs Levenfish 1-049 1937 Botvinnik - LevenfishA06 Reti Opening
7. Levenfish vs Botvinnik 0-141 1937 Botvinnik - LevenfishE34 Nimzo-Indian, Classical, Noa Variation
8. Botvinnik vs Levenfish 1-068 1937 Botvinnik - LevenfishD10 Queen's Gambit Declined Slav
9. Levenfish vs Botvinnik  ½-½58 1937 Botvinnik - LevenfishC02 French, Advance
10. Botvinnik vs Levenfish 0-140 1937 Botvinnik - LevenfishD10 Queen's Gambit Declined Slav
11. Levenfish vs Botvinnik 1-078 1937 Botvinnik - LevenfishD93 Grunfeld, with Bf4 & e3
12. Botvinnik vs Levenfish 1-040 1937 Botvinnik - LevenfishA25 English
13. Levenfish vs Botvinnik 1-041 1937 Botvinnik - LevenfishD83 Grunfeld, Grunfeld Gambit
  REFINE SEARCH:   White wins (1-0) | Black wins (0-1) | Draws (1/2-1/2)  

Kibitzer's Corner
Jul-26-14  1d410: This isn't bad considering Botvinnik had to spend a lot of time working on his dissertation...
Jul-26-14  1d410: For Botvinnik that is
Premium Chessgames Member
  visayanbraindoctor: Levenfish must have been 48 years old during this match. According to the account above, Botvinnik had already finished his dissertation, and I would assume he came to the match well prepared and motivated to reassert his supremacy among the Soviet players. His performances in the Moscow and Nottingham tournaments indicated that he was climbing to his peak. If this young and energetic 26 year old Botvinnik (on his quest for the World Title and just a bit older than present World Champion Carlsen) were active today, I would expect him to give present Challenger and former WC Anand a run for his money in any Candidates tournament.

So I find it surprising that Levenfish battled the upsurging Botvinnik to a standstill. Maybe it's a statistical phenomenon. In some events, a chess player gets into the zone and plays much better than he does in more 'normal' times. Like Kramnik in 2000, when he played almost like a computer and brought down GKK.

History has not been too kind to Levenfish. I believe that at his peak he was a Candidate level master. He began to rise in a time when the Russian Empire in general was rising in chess, and in his youth he had to contend with other strong masters such as Rubinstein, Alekhine, Nimzovich, and their games ended quite badly for him. After WW1, these masters had left Russia, but he had to face a rising new generation of Soviet masters. Nevertheless, he did make it to the top, winning two Soviet championships.

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