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Mark Moiseevich Stolberg vs Mikhail Botvinnik
"Center of Gravity" (game of the day Mar-10-2012)
USSR Championship (1940), Moscow URS, rd 7, Sep-13
Nimzo-Indian Defense: Normal Variation. Bishop Attack Classical Defense (E48)  ·  0-1


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Kibitzer's Corner
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Premium Chessgames Member
  patzer2: <KnightBlade> I'm happy to defer to your definition and call 41... d4 a quiet "clearance" move, without reference to it as an "in between move." It is a clearance move in that it clears d4 for the black queen to create a two-move mate threat which destroys white's position. I guess I initially referred to it as an "in between move," as black passed up playing the more obvious 40...Rxg2! for the more quiet and subtle but devastating continuation winding up with 41...d4!! However, after reading your comment, I now agree that 41...d4 is probably not an example of an "in between move," but rather just a good example of a strong "clearance move."
Premium Chessgames Member
  outplayer: This game is an example of classical strategy where with his superior play Botvinnik outplays the opponent who doesn't know what is happening at the board.
Premium Chessgames Member
  GrahamClayton: Isaac Lipnitsky analyses this game in some depth in his book "Questions of Modern Chess Theory". He says of the position after Black's 32nd move:

click for larger view

"Black did not succeed all at once in gaining such a colossal preponderance in the centre. It resulted from focusing attention on the centre from the very first moves, in contrast to his opponent who did not give the central terrain its due importance."

Lipnitsky singles out 11.h3:

"Contributing nothing to the fight for the centre. A better move was 11.♗f4, at once neutralizing the pressure from the black bishop."

Lipnitsky praises 15...♗f5:

Obviously the more weak points your opponent
has, the easier it is to break into his camp.
With a central pawn position of this type, the
centre squares adjacent to the pawns are usually
the weak ones. For White this means e4
and c4, and for Black, e5 and c5.
The natural defenders of these weak points
are the bishops of the corresponding colour.
Botvinnik deprives his opponent of the defender
in question, and gaping holes arise in
the middle of White’s position, on the squares
e4 and c4. Black’s manoeuvre is not fortuitous.
It was prepared by his foregoing play which was oriented to seizing the central ground, and which proved all the more effective since White did not give due attention to securing his own central points."

Jan-14-11  SoundWave: 40...d4 is equally good, though less spectatular than Rxh3.
Premium Chessgames Member
  perfidious: One thing has long intrigued me about this game: I wonder how many modern masters would play 15.f4, as it is obvious that Black is going to play on the light squares and cannot allow f4-f5.
Mar-10-12  sevenseaman: Enjoyed it. Black has played with a quiet feel of power, nonchalantly sacrificing a R.
Mar-10-12  King Death: < GrahamClayton: Isaac Lipnitsky analyses this game in some depth in his book "Questions of Modern Chess Theory"...>

<Lipnitsky singles out 11.h3:

"Contributing nothing to the fight for the centre. A better move was 11.Bf4, at once neutralizing the pressure from the black bishop.">

This looks stronger than 11.h3 in hindsight though maybe White was afraid of kingside play. He didn't have any reason to fear the idea 11...Bf4 12.Nf4 Nd4 13.Bh7+ Kh7 14. Qd4 which gives him a position with two sets of minor pieces traded and nice dark square play. This would have added up to a long term edge.

<Lipnitsky praises 15...Bf5...>

Why I'm not sure, like <perfidious> mentioned: what choice did Botvinnik have? The play leading up to this position is what deserves praise.

Mar-10-12  pawnofdeath: consider this more aesthetic combination than 41. ...d4:

41. ... Nf3
42. (any move white) Rh2#

Premium Chessgames Member
  piltdown man: "Any move White?" What about 42 Bf4 ?
Premium Chessgames Member
  Once: Makes it look much too easy. First you control the centre. Then you push your opponent back to the first two ranks. Plonk a rook on the seventh rank (from your end of the board).

.... BTW, "plonking" is a much underrated chess concept. One day I'll write a kibitz about it ....

Then you push your pawn centre over the equator so that your queen can step into the space you leave behind and threaten an unstoppable mate. Qd5-Qg2

If only it were that easy. Great game to play through. White despairingly attacks on both the queenside and the kingside but cannot overcome his weakness in the centre. Like a swordfish threshing against the line. No matter how hard he wriggles he cannot prise the hook out of his flesh.

Premium Chessgames Member
  Honza Cervenka: Domination by centralization, pure and simple. Nice though a little bit one-sided game.
Mar-10-12  SChesshevsky: <<King Death: This looks stronger than 11.h3 in hindsight though maybe White was afraid of kingside play.>>

I agree, though I don't see anything really wrong with 11. h3. I can see how White was worried about his wide-open Kside and Botvinnik returns the tempo anyway with 11...h6 that it looks like Lipnitsky passes on.

I thought maybe far more damaging was White's poor positioning with 13. Qb3 and 14. Bd2.

Maybe something like Qc2 & Bb2 which coordinates the pieces a little better, protects d4 and frees up the N's helps.

I remember the russians used to criticize poor one-shot types of moves as "obvious", that might apply to moves like White's 13. Qb3 & 15. f4.

Mar-10-12  Garech: Fantastic game from Botvinnik and a great choice and pun for GOTD.

19...Nc4 was very nice, offering the tempter 20.Nxd5!?

click for larger view

after which white gets into great difficulties, E.g. 20...Nxd5 21.Qxc4 Ne3! 22.Bxe3 Rxe3

click for larger view

and I'll give 100 chessbucks to anyone who can defend; the first problem being how to deal with the attack on the g3 knight.

Botvinnik truly played this like a machine; perhaps the only superior move he missed was 35...Qb5!

click for larger view

and again white is in all sorts of tactical trouble.

The final mating combination, too, was profound and superb! Exactly the kind of combination that Steinitz famously stated must lay within a positional advantage if one can see deep enough. Great stuff!



Premium Chessgames Member
  Penguincw: Botvinnik did a nice job of drawing all of white's pieces to the kingside.
Mar-10-12  rapidcitychess: This game looks like White started at a disadvantage.
Mar-10-12  Mudphudder: Bov def placed his knights & rooks on the most key attack points. Loved the slow positional advance he made towards the end.
Premium Chessgames Member
  kevin86: The door is now open for the queen to enter and mate-aided by the rook.
Mar-10-12  Brecker: 13. Qb3?! b3 is a slightly inactive square to place the queen, in this situation. Perhaps, Qc2 (where his queen will eventually end up in 3 moves anyway) was a better option. 15.f4!? Stolberg signals to Botvinnik he refuses to play passively by allowing a weakness to be opened up on his king's defences. 19...Nc4 is a powerful outpost for Botvinnik's knight.And 20... Rac8 solitifies the knight's position. 30. Bc1? I can understand maybe wanting your bishop in a better position but Bc1 is not it.Bf4 would've been better. 40... Rxh3!! ... Brilliance.
41... d4! At first glance this move may seem like Botvinnik is waiting for a resignation but it actually sets up as you guys have already discussed a mate in two: 42... Qd5+, 43. Kg1 43... Kg2# Interesting old game played without the chess theory we have today yet still has the following theme of all great chess players: brilliance.
Mar-10-12  bischopper: Where is the little ball?
Mar-10-12  LoveThatJoker: This is a a great game by Botvinnik for sure...a classic!

The position in the last few moves was featured as a puzzle in Yakov Neishtadt's phenomenal puzzle book "Test Your Tactical Ability" - Batsford (1992).


Mar-10-12  ephesians: White's c1 bishop was not useful in this game. It certainly appears that 11. Bf4, rather than moving a pawn, was the way to go. Hindsight is always 20-20, but maybe white should have swapped those bishops off rather than weaken his kingside.
Premium Chessgames Member
  offramp: Botvinnik said before the game, "Hey dude. I got the same middle name as you!"
Premium Chessgames Member
  Calli: <Offramp> It's a patronymic. Botvinnik might have said "Hey, your dad is named Moise too."
Premium Chessgames Member
  cro777: Botvinnik’s winning method.

GM Igor Smirnov used this game as an example of Botvinnik's winning method.

The starting position (after 15.f4) of Smirnov's analysis:

click for larger view

Mar-30-17  clement41: This gem is a must-see!
Black had a light-square strategy (eg trading LSBs in order to seize c4&e4) and this paid out fully as the game conclusion, ...d4!, is made possible thanks to the control black has over d5, a light square
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