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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
< Earlier Kibitzing  · PAGE 2 OF 2 ·  Later Kibitzing>
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.

Dec-14-11
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: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nikola...

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
Premium Chessgames Member
  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!
Feb-10-16  ZonszeinP: Hello. Thank you for your interesting post

I wonder what Levenfish would have done in AVRO 1938
It would have been interesting

Feb-10-16
Premium Chessgames Member
  keypusher: < ZonszeinP: Hello. Thank you for your interesting post I wonder what Levenfish would have done in AVRO 1938 It would have been interesting>

Against the top 8 players in the world? He would have gotten his ass kicked.

What is it with you and Levenfish, anyway?

Feb-10-16
Premium Chessgames Member
  tamar: Flohr had a 3 to 1 record against Levinfish, and he finished last at AVRO. Levinfish was decent, but where would he get a win?
Feb-10-16
Premium Chessgames Member
  perfidious: Match and tournament play are two vastly different animals--facing seven top GMs in fourteen games, day after day, travelling all over Holland, given Levenfish's age, we may reasonably suppose that he would have had no picnic.
Feb-11-16  ZonszeinP: <..what is it with you and Levenfish anyway?> Longing for old and lost days and world

The times of our youth or our parents' no matter how terrible they were, leave us always with a nostalgic taste in our hearts

Mine
Anyway

Feb-12-16
Premium Chessgames Member
  tamar: Only drawing a match against Levinfish does give rise to questions about Botvinnik's strength in 1937.

Was Levinfish that good? Or did Botvinnik underperform badly?

Feb-13-16
Premium Chessgames Member
  Gypsy: < tamar: Flohr had a 3 to 1 record against Levinfish, and he finished last at AVRO. ...>

(1) <Flohr in AVRO>

During AVRO, Flohr's nerves were fried by this question: "How do we survive?" The Munich Accord fiasco was passed Sept. 30, 1938, a little over a month before AVRO commenced. Flohr needed to find a new country to settle in. (I vaguely remember reading that Flohr was hoping to land in Sweden, kind of like Rudolf Spielmann did. Wikipedia says this: <...he and his family fled, first to Sweden, and then to Moscow with the help of his friend Botvinnik>). It is thus understandable, that Flohr's result in AVRO was rather poor.

That Flohr was not completely washed out yet can be seen from the results of the Leningrad/Moscow, 1939 event: Leningrad/Moscow training (1939)

(2) <Levenfish, 1937>

The Leningrad/Moscow, 1939 event was the first time Flohr defeated Levenfish. Their standing score was something like +1, -0, =2 in favor of Levenfish in 1937.

Levenfish was simply a different player during the three years between 1935 and 1938 than he was before or after. After a promise of Cablanca to get him an invite to a tournament abroad, Levenfish devoted himself fully and intensively to chess preparations. Thus, when the invite came for 'Soviet Champion' to attend AVRO, Levenfish was ready to play and he was also the standing USSR champion ( http://chessmetrics.com/cm/CM2/Sing... ).

But, the Levenfish-Botvinnik match was then quickly arranged to give the latter a chance to earn right to represent USSR in AVRO instead of Levenfish. Because the match was tied, Levenfish retained his USSR Champion title, but Botvinnik was sent to AVRO. Dispirited Levenfish stopped his preparations and slowly faded, first to his previous level of play, then further. In March 1939, Levenfish turned 50 year old.

Feb-13-16  ZonszeinP: It was an intellectual pleasure to read this post.
Thank you
Feb-19-16
Premium Chessgames Member
  keypusher: <Gypsy> Sounds more than a bit overblown to me. I don't know of anyone who transformed into a different player in his mid-40s, and I don't see any sign that Levenfish was going to be the first. Here are his chessmetrics indivdiual events ratings 1935-37:

2626
2505
2608
2575
2651
2730

No points for guessing which one is the Botvinnik match. It's an outlier.

His best tournament rating, 2661, actually came at Lenigrad/Moscow in 1939. He finished +3, in a four-way tie for third-sixth.

Of course you can't put too much weight on chessmetrics scores because so many Soviet masters in the 1930s aren't rated. Probably his best tournament performances were the 1933 USSR championship (third behind Botvinnik and Alatortsev) 1934 (equal first in Botvinnik's absence) and 1937 (first in Botvinnik's absence). But again, two of these performances came before 1935.

He did get to play in two strong international events during this period: Moscow 1935 and Moscow 1936. At the 1935 event he finished plus two, in a tie for sixth-seventh. In the tougher double-round robin the following year, he finished minus-3 in a four-way tie for last place.

Feb-19-16
Premium Chessgames Member
  Gypsy: < ... I don't know of anyone who transformed into a different player in his mid-40s ...>

Korchnoi

Feb-19-16
Premium Chessgames Member
  keypusher: <Gypsy: < ... I don't know of anyone who transformed into a different player in his mid-40s ...> Korchnoi>

Nope. He got exactly as far in 1974 (that is, all the way to Karpov) as he did four years later. And he was already right near the apex by the late 60s. He had a monster 1968 until the Candidates final. At best, Korchnoi went from top-5 in the late 60s to top-2 in the mid-70s. What you appear to be positing is something much more extraordinary: Levenfish going from top-30 or 40 to top-5, or even top-10, in his mid-40s. That was never going to happen.

Feb-19-16
Premium Chessgames Member
  john barleycorn: <keypusher> Korchnoi got there in 74. 78 and 81. For sure, he must have done something right what the others did not. he had no patented recipe to stay ahead. Same with Anand. It must appear as a miracle to some that he made challenger last year. But he adapted much better than the others. That is the sign of a great player. imo.
Feb-19-16
Premium Chessgames Member
  Gypsy: <... And he was already right near the apex by the late 60s. >

I remember well what happened to Korchnoi; he did get on a higher plane of play (Pachman's opinion) in his 40's. Or did he just have a protracted spell of good form from 1974 onward? Before that, he was in the mix of strong players, such as Spassky, Petrosian, or Polugaevsky. Sometimes Korchnoi would win, sometimes not. Afterwards, those same guys would yield in their matches with Korchnoi over and over and over.

Feb-19-16
Premium Chessgames Member
  Gypsy: Robert Byrne is another example of player whose best chess results came when he turned ~45.
Feb-19-16
Premium Chessgames Member
  keypusher: <Gypsy> Byrne is actually a better example of what you're talking about than Korchnoi. Rather than go from top-five to top-2, he went from about top 40 to (briefly) top 20. But (as with Levenfish) it really comes down to one outlier. In his case, the Leningrad Interzonal.

http://www.chessmetrics.com/cm/CM2/...

Feb-20-16  Howard: Byrne actually ranked a bit higher than that---if you look at the FIDE rating list for July, 1973, you'll see that he was ranked in a three-way tie for 12-14th place.

Still vaguely remember the fact that at one point, his rating hit about 2600. Back in those days, that would almost guarantee a spot in the top-15.

Nowadays, of course, 2600 is a dime-a-dozen.

Feb-20-16
Premium Chessgames Member
  Honza Cervenka: <tamar: Only drawing a match against Levinfish does give rise to questions about Botvinnik's strength in 1937.

Was Levinfish that good? Or did Botvinnik underperform badly?>

Well, Levenfish was very good player, probably much better than his tournament record may suggest. His problem was that he was usually quite inconsistent player during a tournament but in face to face fight he was dangerous opponent to anybody. Not only he has beaten Botvinnik a few times but he managed to beat also Alekhine, Lasker, Flohr or Smyslov among others, and in Moscow 1925 he was very close to beating of Capablanca too.

Feb-21-16
Premium Chessgames Member
  keypusher: keypusher: <Howard: Byrne actually ranked a bit higher than that---if you look at the FIDE rating list for July, 1973, you'll see that he was ranked in a three-way tie for 12-14th place.>

That's what top-20 means.

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