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Vasily Smyslov vs Mikhail Botvinnik
Botvinnik - Smyslov World Championship Match (1954), Moscow URS, rd 13, Apr-13
Formation: King's Indian Attack (A07)  ·  0-1


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Kibitzer's Corner
Mar-17-08  Knight13: Black won!? Yeah right, you better tell me this is due to time.
Mar-18-08  Knight13: What the hell I didn't see that! Black's threatening mate!!
Aug-05-09  Artemi: What is black's move after 42. RXB5?
Aug-05-09  guaguanco: 42...Ne3 43. Kh4 g3 is hard to meet
Nov-07-09  nymsso: The ending is lost for Black.
42.Rxb5 is simply replied by 42...Ng7+!!.
And the rest is simple technique.
Premium Chessgames Member
  Peligroso Patzer: <Artemi: What is black's move after 42. RXB5?>

If 42. Rxb5, then 42. ... g3 43. hxg3 Ne3 would force mate. (This thematic mate is commented upon in Botvinnik's notes to this game in "Botvinnik-Smyslov: Three World Chess Championship Matches: 1954, 1957, 1958", New in Chess ©2009, pp. 52-55.)

Mar-05-12  screwdriver: Peligroso Patzer is right. I don't see any way to stop the checkmate. Unless Smyslov tries to push by the g pawn instead of capturing, but all Botvinik does is push the pawn 2 squares further for a queen and there is no compensation for Smyslov. The lesson learned is to not get your king pushed up against the edge of the board in the endgame.
Premium Chessgames Member
  WCC Editing Project:

According to <Andrew Soltis>, Botvinnik's <5...b6> was home preparation for this match.


"...Botvinnik revealed one of his new weapons, 5...b6, and it prompted Smyslov to launch an unsound attack (6.Nge2 d6 7.0-0 Bb7 8.f4 f5 9.g4?! fxg4 10.f5 Qd7) that lost in 41 moves."

Position after <5...b6>

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Position after <9.g4?!>

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Position after <10...Qd7>

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-Andrew Soltis, "Soviet Chess 1917-1991" (McFarland 1997),p.220

Jan-29-14  RookFile: Against something like ...b6, Spassky would have just ignored it. He had a standard setup, involving Be3, Qd2, a3, maybe double rooks on the f file or just put them on e1 and f1. It worked out well for him.
Premium Chessgames Member
  WCC Editing Project: <RookFile>

Interesting, thanks for that information about <Spassky's> habit in similar positions.

Why do you think <Smyslov> seems indeed to have been "tempted" into a premature Kingside attack from the <5...b6> position?

Did he think maybe that <Botvinnik's> novelty was just a wasted tempo or something, giving him license to crack open the Kingside?

Having gone through many <Smyslov> games recently, I can confirm what I'm sure all the rest of you already know- <Smyslov> wasn't always a "placid" chess player, though he may well have been a "placid" person.

If he thought he saw an opportunity for killer chess, it seems he wasn't shy to go for it.

For example, in this game here- Smyslov vs V Liberzon, 1968.

After aggressive play in general out of the opening, check out the sequence beginning from here, white to play-

click for larger view


click for larger view

...and the fireworks to follow.

Jan-29-14  SChesshevsky: <Why do you think <Smyslov> seems indeed to have been "tempted" into a premature Kingside attack from the <5...b6> position?>

It's not clear how innovative ...b6 was. Seems Smyslov's seen it before and didn't consider it an issue.

Smyslov vs G Ilivitsky, 1952
Smyslov vs Geller, 1952

Smyslov's general Closed plan seemed to be let Black extend on the Qside or center as he built up a Kside attack to open lines on the usually Kside castled Black King.

Botvinnik's home cooked idea seems to be, which was clever, build a solid non-commital postion and let White overextend on the Kside, which is usually vulnerable a bit anyway. No castle and a well timed ...f5 might've been far more strategic than ...b6. Though it's unclear how original they were.

Smyslov vs Boleslavsky, 1952
Smyslov vs C Kottnauer, 1952

I'm pretty sure Botvinnik did his homework.

Premium Chessgames Member
  WCC Editing Project: <SChesshevsky>

Thanks for posting that valuable information, especially about the provenance of the position, and also thanks for your analysis of what happened in this game.

Jan-29-14  thomastonk: <WCC Editing Project: according to <Andrew Soltis>> Is this the same A.Soltis who was condemned here Rhetorical question. ;-)

Does he give sources in "Soviet Chess 1917-1991"? I wonder if this was really home preparation. Botwinnik's notebooks are published and I didn't find this line. In his game comments he remarked that he intended to surprise Smyslow by plying 5.. b6, but that he found the correct plan for Black only in the 15th game.

Premium Chessgames Member
  WCC Editing Project: <thomastonk>

Yes it is the same <Soltis>. The Soviet volume is surely his best, but it's flawed by the lack of footnotes connecting his text to his sources. He gives a summarized list of all the sources he consulted for each chapter, but we're left guessing what came from where. The only way to find out is if you have access to the sources <Soltis> lists.

In the cases where I do have access to his sources, I've found him to be quite solid. For example, his information on <Nezhmetdinov> is taken from <Nezh's> autobiography and the <Alex Pishkin> biography, and he gets that straight.

I also have Botvinnik's notebooks, and I would certainly trust them over what <Soltis> says about <5...b6> in this game. However, having just reviewed Botvinnik's notebook entries for this game and also game 15, I don't really see the contradiction between what <Soltis> says and what you cite from the notebooks?

<Soltis>, writing about game 13: "...Botvinnik revealed one of his new weapons, 5...b6"

<Botvinnik>, writing about game 13: "5...b7-b6 - I wanted to surprise my opponent."

--Mikhail Botvinnik, "Three World Chess Championship Matches: 1954, 1957, 1958" I.Y. Botvinnik, ed., Steve Giddins transl. (New in Chess 2009), p.52


Now, here is the full text from <Botvinnik's> notebook concerning the move <5...b6> in game 13, also from p.52:


<<<I wanted to surprise my opponent>>>. Of course, he expected the continuation 5...e6, followed by ...Ng8-e7, which I played long ago as my game against Alexander at the Nottingham tournament of 1936. It later turned out that it was against this very system that Smyslov had prepared an unpleasant response: 5...e6 6.Be3 Nd4 7.Nce2!, although even here, theory now considers that Black can equalise by means of 7...b6 8.c3 Nxe2. However, as will become clear, the move 5...b6 cannot be considered very good. I found the correct plan for Black only in Game 15.">

So <Botvinnik> confirms what <Soltis> said about the move in this particular game. After using his "surprise" move 5...b6 in game 13 and winning, <Botvinnik> then says that according to his analysis 5...b6 was not the best continuation for black (even though black won this particular game). It seems that <Smyslov> failed to find the correct response to 5...b6 in this game.


And now, <Botvinnik's> notebook entry for Game 15:

<"1.e2-e4 c7 c5 2.Nb1-c3

Once again, the Closed Variation. <<<Smyslov had evidently come to the conclusion that the system with 5...b6 is not sufficient for equality, and quite rightly so.>>> However, a surprise awaited him...

2... Nb8-c6 3.g2-g3 g7-g6 4.Bf1-g2 Bf8-g7 6.d2-d3 d7-d6

Black prepares to implement a different plan.


6...e7-e5! Now the bishop on g2 is shut in, the advance d3-d4 becomes hard to achieve, and the advance f2-f4 can be met by ...f7-f5.">

-"Three World Chess Championship Matches" pp.57-58

Premium Chessgames Member
  WCC Editing Project:

Part 2


As you know, the first 5 moves of game 13 and game 15 are identical, except that in game 15, instead of playing <5...b6>, Botvinnik now plays the move his analysis suggests is superior, <5...d6>.

So you can see that nothing <Soltis> says about Botvinnik's 5th move in game 13 is contradicted by anything <Botvinnik> says in his notes for games 13 and 15.


That said, <Edward Winter> isn't wrong about the lack of academic rigor in most of <Soltis'> writing. I have several <Soltis> books and his history of Soviet chess I cited in my post is much the best. But even in this volume, as I said, the source are just listed in summary form at the end of each chapter.

So for example, in this case, we get no proper footnotes, just a cryptic sentence in his Chapter 11 source list: "Smyslov in <New in Chess>, No.4, 1993." Does this mean that everything <Soltis> writes about Smyslov in this chapter comes from this one article? There is no mention of any source from Botvinnik himself. So we are left guessing, and that's a mark of sloppy scholarship to be sure.

Jan-29-14  SChesshevsky: Playing over the game maybe White's got a chance to save the game after 26...Rb7.

I was thinking maybe 27. Ng5+ , then if the King goes to ...f8 or ...g7 White threatens perpetual check forcing Blacks King maybe to h6 weakening e7.

If the King goes to e8 or g8 then White's Ne4 threatens Knight exchange with check. If Black ...Nxe4 then dxe4 followed by d5 might give drawing chances.

Smyslov, who probably thought he had a good handle on the closed Sicilian, might have felt really busted by then and missed it but Botvinnik seemed to see the importance of g5 and covered it quickly.

Jan-29-14  thomastonk: <WCC Editing Project> You know that I need for 5 lines more time than you for 50?! :-)

My point is: Botvinnik said that he wanted to surprise Smyslov, but he didn't state that he had prepared it. And since the line is not in the notebook, it is definitely possible that he decided to play 5.. b6 at the board.

Jan-29-14  thomastonk: <WCC Editing Project> I just see that we could have a misunderstanding what notebook means. In the German edition of the three matches, there the notebooks (Notizbuch) mean Botvinnik's preparation, but not the game comments. So, in my postings above, notebook did not refer to the game comments.
Premium Chessgames Member
  WCC Editing Project: <thomastonk> aha thank you for the clarification.

<My point is: Botvinnik said that he wanted to surprise Smyslov, but he didn't state that he had prepared it.>

<And since the line is not in the notebook, it is definitely possible that he decided to play 5.. b6 at the board>

Yes I understand now. I agree that <Soltis> is assuming a fact not in evidence from <Botvinnik's> own writings.

lol I also have <Botvinnik's> notebooks but it didn't occur to me to look there because I thought you meant the notes to the games.

So we have the same book eh? Is yours in Dutch translation? The book edited by <Igor Botvinnik> about the three matches against <Smyslov>?

Jan-29-14  thomastonk: <WCC Editing Project: Is yours in Dutch translation?> No, it's the German edition of 2007. <Igor Botvinnik> put together the material, and <Alexey Botvinnik>, who lived then in Cologne, was the publisher. I think, the English edition appeared in 2009, but I don't know whether it has been derived from a Russian manuscript or the German version.

<Dutch> I cannot read this language as I have proved last Sunday in the bistro, and I never spoke a single sentence.

Jan-31-14  thomastonk: Yesterday I found the German edition of Botvinnik's match book for the WC match of 1954 (published in 1957). The original text of the game comments is the same as for the 2007 edition, I would say, but the translations differ.

The comment on 5.. b6, which is discussed above, does not use the German word for '(to) surprise' (Überraschung/überraschen), but the German word for 'change' or 'alternation' (Abwechslung). So, I had to consult the Russian original. The word Botvinnik used is 'разнообразие', and according to my dictonary the old translation is better.

This is is only a small detail, and in fact it would be necessary that a Russian speaker would read the whole paragraph, but maybe even this single word supports the possibilty that 5.. b6 was no home-preparation.

A book can win or lose in translation, the truth always loses. ;-)

Premium Chessgames Member
  WCC Editing Project: <thomastonk>

This is indeed important information, and I really appreciate you going to all the effort to get closer to the "bottom of this."

I'm going to put your latest finds into our Mirror draft for this event.

I want our new intros to be as factual as humanly possible, and as I've mentioned before, your diligence and attention to detail has already helped our project immeasurably.

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