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Grigory Levenfish vs Mikhail Botvinnik
Botvinnik - Levenfish (1937)  ·  Gruenfeld Defense: Brinckmann Attack. Grünfeld Gambit (D83)  ·  1-0
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Kibitzer's Corner
Dec-14-11  Resignation Trap: Leningrad, November 9, 1937
At this stage of the match, Botvinnik was ahead 5-4 with 3 draws. The winner of the match was to be the first player to win 6 games, and in case of a 5-5 tie, the match was to be declared drawn, with Levenfish retaining the title of Champion of the USSR.
Dec-14-11  Resignation Trap: Tensions were high. On move 6, Botvinnik sacrificed a pawn. The opening may also be classified as B14, a Panov-Botvinnik(!)Caro-Kann. See P Bobras vs R Wojtaszek, 2007 for a more recent game.
Dec-14-11  Resignation Trap: Levenfish played to hold on to the gambit pawn, and it ultimately provided the winning edge to this well-played game. It is difficult to see where Botvinnik went wrong in this game. He tried 14...exf6 in an effort to give his Bishop more scope and a blockading square on d6. However, 14...Bxf6 may be better: Gulko vs V Tukmakov, 1978 .
Dec-14-11  Resignation Trap: In spite of Levenfish's excellent result, it was the young Botvinnik and <NOT> Levenfish who participated at AVRO 1938. The veteran Levenfish considered this decision to be a "moral knockout".
Dec-14-11  King Death: < Resignation Trap: In spite of Levenfish's excellent result, it was the young Botvinnik and <NOT> Levenfish who participated at AVRO 1938...>

This sounds like a typical decision by the Soviet bureaucracy. Levenfish was well past his prime and Botvinnik was their great hope. From a practical standpoint, it's easy to see why they went this route, but Levenfish got shafted because of it.

Premium Chessgames Member
  FSR: The explanation for the match is kind of weird. Game Collection: Botvinnik-Levenfish Match 1937 Reminds me of the "Absolute Championship" that Botvinnik requested and got (and won decisively) after he did horribly in the "normal" Soviet Championship, which Lilienthal and Bondarevsky won in a big upset. Lilienthal wrote that he was only notified of the "Absolute Championship" shortly before it happened - while Botvinnik had been preparing for months.
Dec-14-11  King Death: <FSR> The article claims that Nottingham was held in the winter of 1936. It was held in August that year. Was England in the Southern Hemisphere back then?

All of that background on the circumstances of the match is news to me and it makes me wonder what the truth really was. I'd always thought that Botvinnik was the poster boy for Soviet chess and it's hard to believe Krylenko would be frosted at him. On the other hand, Krylenko didn't have much more time in power and might have been feeling the heat already:

That 1940 "failure" for Botvinnik was something. How do you figure Krylenko would have reacted if he'd still been around to tell the tale?

Dec-12-12  tjipa: Anyway, it's amazing how Botvinnik didn't even get out of the opening in this game. I got an impulse to look at a Levenfish-Botvinnik game while reading a relatively recent (2010) book on Salo Flohr, by Vladimir Moschenko (in Russian). Loads of insights there about the chess of 1930s, 40s and on. (Title is Lyubov and shakhmaty [Love and Chess], actually 2 books in 1 volume - the second being a memoir of Salli Landau, Tal's first wife. Though not a literary chef-d'oeuvre, a very valuable volume indeed!

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