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Mikhail Botvinnik vs Paul Keres
FIDE World Championship Tournament (1948)  ·  Nimzo-Indian Defense: Saemisch Variation (E28)  ·  1-0
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Kibitzer's Corner
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Premium Chessgames Member
  maxi: Even assuming that Keres screwed up the position thru his omission of 14.e4!, it is still really strange that he would play moves like 15...Re7?, 16...Qc7? and 17...Qf4? Particularly this last one is suspicious, with the obvious and natural 17...Qd8 at his disposal. Perhaps he did not throw the game, but I don't know how else to explain this series of moves.
Premium Chessgames Member
  keypusher: <Maxi> You may want to look back at earlier kibitzing by <euripides> about this game which addresses the moves you mention. 18....Qd8 19. Qe3 doesn't look any better than the game continuation. 18....Qf4 & 19....Qb8 was probably attractive to Keres because at least pulls the White QB off the long diagonal. Of course he was aware his position was desperate by that time.

Obviously a very poor game by Keres' standards, but to say that only a fix can explain his play ignores a long history of bad games by good players. Looking at the current Mtel tournament, I can think of two games by Bu (against Ivanchuk and today's game against Topalov) that look worse than this.

May-12-08  RookFile: I take it that WoneJone has conceeded the point. Good.
Premium Chessgames Member
  maxi: <keypusher> After 18....Qd8 19. Qe3 White has advantage but it is not going to be a miniature anymore. What can be more natural than try exchanging Queens in a mating attack? In the 16th move Keres can move either Rook to the c file (and has just played 15...Re7 to enable the e Rook to do just that), and what does he do? He plays the Queen to the c file where it is going to be immediately attacked. Granted Alekhine left a Queen en prise, Capablanca a Bishop, etc. But that is for a move. They just didn't keep playing suicidal moves one after the other.

Unless info comes out from the secret police files of the USSR, we can go on arguing forever, but, to me, it is not clear at all what happened.

Premium Chessgames Member
  keypusher: <maxi><to me, it is not clear at all what happened.>

That's fine. Earlier, you said, <Perhaps he did not throw the game, but I don't know how else to explain this series of moves> implying that you <did> know what happened.

<Granted Alekhine left a Queen en prise, Capablanca a Bishop, etc. But that is for a move. They just didn't keep playing suicidal moves one after the other.>

Sure they did. Here Alekhine butchers the opening, wrecks his kingside pawns, undevelops his pieces, and then walks into a simple mate:

Keres vs Alekhine, 1937

Capablanca was less prone to this sort of thing, but here, in a sharp position, he plays ...a5 and shuffles his rook back and forth before incomprehensibly trying to open the center with his king still in the middle of the board. Any 1600 knows better, right?

Lilienthal vs Capablanca, 1935

Here's Bobby Fischer, in the middle of one of the greatest stretches of chess the world has ever seen, apparently forgetting that he's allowed to use his rooks:

Petrosian vs Fischer, 1971

But you know who played worse than Keres here?

Botvinnik vs Kotov, 1946

I can't improve on <aw1988>'s summary: <An absolutely horrible game by Botvinnik! He constricts himself to a space the size of a teacher's pay check and allows Kotov's bomb to shatter it.>

It's tough for a world-class GM to lose with White in 24 moves, but Botvinnik makes it look easy.

And here Keres tops that: he loses in 22.

Keres vs Botvinnik, 1941

May-13-08  nescio: <keypusher: It's tough for a world-class GM to lose with White in 24 moves, but Botvinnik makes it look easy>

Indeed, one of the lowest points in his career is this victory: Botvinnik vs O'Kelly, 1946

For Botvinnik it _was_ easy. Such catastrophes were in part caused by his style. He didn't like "easy" games and often selected difficult positions deliberately. Sometimes things went wrong terribly.

Keres, and Boleslavsky before him, were victims of another remarkable characteristic: Botvinnik in the 1940's was able to make his most dangerous rivals play badly.

Premium Chessgames Member
  keypusher: <nescio> Amazing! I'd never seen the O'Kelly game. Here, for the benefit of anyone who hasn't come across them before, are two more <autogolpes> by Botvinnik:

Botvinnik vs Pachman, 1947

Yanofsky vs Botvinnik, 1946

May-14-08  Wone Jone: Well now, I seem to have started quite the brouhaha. I'm a regular Pauly Walnuts around here. Sorry about that, but I was just trying to call them as I see them. As for you <Rookfile>, I really don't understand YOUR point. In the immortal words of Ric Flair, "To be the man, you gotta beat the man." In 1955 Reshevsky didn't even try.
May-14-08  RookFile: Well, it's official, Wone Jone. You don't understand. To you, beating the world champion in a 4 game set-to is a dime a dozen accomplishment. If Reshevsky was doing extremely well as an accountant in those days, he may have been making 10 thousand a year, and he felt more obligated to spend it on his family than blow it in tournaments that even guys like Bronstein said were rigged. None of this changes the fact that Reshevsky was considered the 'Champion of the Western World' in those days, and was 14 times rated the #1 player in the world, according to chessmetrics. Had Reshevsky had the kind of unlimited financial resourced that players backed by the USSR enjoyed, many experts figure he would have translated this into Champion of the World.
Premium Chessgames Member
  brankat: <RookFile> It is true that for years Reshewsky was considered >Champion of the Western World", but the "designation" didn't come even close to that of the WCC.

Although the financial independence can be very helpful in all sorts of pursuits, it by no means translates into a granted success. This applies to Reshevsky, too.

His win in a mini-match of 1955 doesn't necessarily mean Reshevsky would have won a title match. Botvinnik's overall record still remained better.

Besides, Reshevsky also had a minus score against another 1950s Champion, Smyslov. Up until mid-'50s, when Reshevsky was supposed to be at his peak, Smyslov had a +4 score.

Bronstein (a 1951 challanger) also had a plus result against Reshevsky. Bronstein beat him twice in Zurich 1953.

These are the facts, the rest is speculation.

May-15-08  Paraconti: The point is Reshevsky wasn't good enough to make a title match. He lacked preparation ability and steady temperament in an age when natural talent wasn't enough. He had a huge ego that merited a world champ, but no self-critical approach to realize he could only become one with lots of opening prep, time-management and calmness in the face of off-the-board obstacles thrown at him. Fischer overcame these, and made it all the way to the top.
May-16-08  Wone Jone: Well, it's official <Rookfile> YOU don't understand. When someone talks about "spending more time with my family", 99 times out of a 100 they're blowing smoke! Not only did Sam I Am pass up a shot at the world title, he passed up a possible trip to Amsterdam! (City Motto: A Friend With Weed is a Friend Indeed.) Put that in your bong and smoke it!
May-16-08  RookFile: Try to focus, Wone Jone. He needed to pay his own way. Unlike the Russian's he was not funded by the state. The question originally was one of chess strength in the year 1955, and you showed that you were completely unaware that Reshevsky had defeated the reigning world champion in a 4 game set to. That's all the qualifications Reshevsky needed from that year to show his strength. By the way, during that days, Reshevsky was an unbeatable match player, and defeated literally everybody in the western world worth defeating in match: Najdorf (twice), Gligoric, Horowitz, Benko, Lombdardy, and even Fischer if you count the forfeits. Throw in the Botvinnik victory, and that's an impressive resume.

What we were talking about was Reshevsky's strength, not his reasons for not playing. Try to focus on the topic at hand next time.

May-17-08  RookFile: <brankat: Besides, Reshevsky also had a minus score against another 1950s Champion, Smyslov. Up until mid-'50s, when Reshevsky was supposed to be at his peak, Smyslov had a +4 score. Bronstein (a 1951 challanger) also had a plus result against Reshevsky. Bronstein beat him twice in Zurich 1953. >

Bronstein was a strong player, but his +2 score basically came from a few games, and mainly as a result of winning both at Zurich 1953. If you read Bronstein's classic book on Zurich 1953, he makes it clear that Reshevsky could have had a draw for the asking in his games against Bronstein, but played all out for the win and lost. Later, Bronstein said before he died that Zurich 1953 was fixed, and he felt sorry for Reshevsky.

Smyslov is more interesting. They played enough games over their careers, and Smyslov emerged as a victor, 7 wins to 5, with 15 draws. How they would have done in a head to head match is only speculation. I should say the same about Botvinnik, of course: while it's my opinion that Reshevsky would have won in the 1950's, you have to give Botvinnik his due and say this is by no means certain.

Reshevsky did fine against other notable figure of the period, including for example Euwe, Keres, Geller, Stein, Tal, Capablanca. Reshevsky lost narrowly to Alekhine in his prime, but beat Lasker the only time they played. Of course, as already mentioned, Reshevsky was beating the likes of Gligoric and Najdorf as well. Just for fun, we'll mention that Reshevsky drew Karpov the only time they played.

Bottom line? Reshevsky was a member of the 'first among equals' club that Botvinnik talked about. If they held the world championship once a month, say, in 1955, you probably in fact would have Smyslov winning it one month, Botvinnik the next, Reshevsky the month after that, then Keres, etc.

Premium Chessgames Member
  brankat: <RookFile> Well said.

Although, IMO, Bronstein's claim about Zurich 1953 should be taken with more than just a grain of salt, I agree with the rest of Your post.

Frankly, I didn't know about the financial arrangements, other than the Russians (Soviets) being sponsored/funded by the state.

Actually, somehow I had always thought that in those days, the Interzonals and the Candidates were financed by FIDE. After all, the events were FIDE WC cycles.

May-17-08  Wone Jone: <Rook File> You can dance around the question all you want, but the fact is Sammy Reshevsky had a chance to take a shot at the title, and he didn't. If not for himself, how about doing it for his country? Did he think Art Bisguier was going to get the job done? And as for Reshevsky's 1955 match with Botvinnik; no I didn't know about it, but so what? When it really counted, SR was MIA. This, like it or not, makes him a quitter! And that's the bottom line, cause Wone Jone said so.
May-17-08  RookFile: We were talking about Reshevsky's strength, and you originally dismissed it. Lots of worthy candidates never got a shot, you can start with Pillsbury, Rubinstein, and move to Reshevsky and Keres. Thanks for admitting your ignorance of Reshevsky's victory over Botvinnik in their 4 game set to in 1955. The next step would be to play over the umpteen matches Reshevsky played and was victor. For example, I <didn't> even mention Reshevsky's match wins over Kashdan (rated #2 in the world in 1934 according to chessmetrics), Bisguier, and Byrne.
May-17-08  Wone Jone: <RookFile> First of all, I'd like to apologize for the tone of my last post. I realise it came off kind of harsh. But, <RookFile> I was angry with you because you keep missing my point. I may have made it with humor, but it should have been clear that what I doubt is not Reshevsky's skill, but his heart. Before you mentioned it I was not aware that he had skipped the 1955 Interzonal. When I looked at the list of those at Amsterdam 1956 and saw he wasn't on it, I assumed he had failed to make it. But what he actually did was much worse; he didn't even try.
May-17-08  RookFile: Believe it or not, I remember Reshevsky when I'm tempted to give up on something I'm trying to achieve in my career. It is my feeling that he went into semi-retirement at the height of his powers, and that if he had pressed on a little more, he could have been world champion. Fischer once said that Reshevsky had the opening knowledge of a class B player - think how he could have been if he studied more.
Premium Chessgames Member
  Chessical: Chessical: Reshevsky and Isaac Kashdan ("The little Capablanca") were both world class players with families to support during decades when chess in the USA simply could not provide financial security.

Kashdan is too often forgotten but according to Chesmetrics he was predominantly the number two graded player in the world between November 1932 and June 1934.

They exhibited a profound sense of responsibility and hard headiness in putting their families first over above any personal ambition and love of chess.

Premium Chessgames Member
  whiteshark: <...think how he could have been if he studied more.> Could have been true for a lot of other players. But that's all only hypothetical.
Jul-20-10  The Famous Chess Cat: I saw an article on mentioning this game as well as one other similiar to it. It's written by Eric Schiller, and the link is here:
Premium Chessgames Member
  Fusilli: Bulldozer Botvinnik!
Oct-20-13  JENTA: In 1949, Keres published a book

"Maailmameistri turniir Haag - Moskva 1948".

It was written in Estonian langauge.
(In parallel, that book or a similar book was published in Russian langauge.)

The 20. game Botvinnik - Keres was to Keres the last game to play in Hague before returning to the Soviet Union.

In his book (pp 140-141), Keres notes his following mistakes:

According to KERES:

<11... c5:d4?>
(better was 11... Nf8)

<12... Nd7-b6?>
(better was 12... Nf8 or 12... b6)

<15... Re8-e7?>
(better was 15... Rc8)

<16... Qd8-c7??>
(better was 16... Na4)

<18... Qc7-f4?>
(better was 18... Qd8)

"Without doubt, my weakest game in the tournament."

In his comments, Keres does not mention the zeitnot. However, ususally he says if this is the case.

Premium Chessgames Member
  WCC Editing Project:

Video analysis of this game by <Kingscrusher>:

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