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Mikhail Botvinnik vs Mikhail Tal
"Tricks are for KIDs" (game of the day Oct-25-08)
Tal - Botvinnik World Championship Match (1960)  ·  King's Indian Defense: Fianchetto Variation. Classical Main Line (E69)  ·  0-1
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sac: 21...Nf4 PGN: download | view | print Help: general | java-troubleshooting

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Kibitzer's Corner
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Oct-16-09  WhiteRook48: actually 21...Nf4 is really tactical
after 22 gxf4 exf4 if white does not hand a pawn back he falls into 23 Bxa7 b6! followed by 24...Qa5 all other moves beside 23 Bd2 and 23 Bxa7 (?) and white loses the B immediately
Nov-13-09  M.D. Wilson: <dTal: <<AAAAron>: I wonder how Tal, in his prime, would contend with someone of Kramnik's nature..?> Fairly easily I think. The difference in tactical ability alone would be overwhelming.>

What a strange statement. How does one measure the difference? You can't. You'd think, as chess players, kibitzers would be less speculative.

Dec-15-09  PKNJ: Kibitzers love to speculate. We kibitz!

I just wanted to say on this site, which has brought forth so much love and appreciation for Tal, that this is my favorite game of all time. The titanic nature of the clash, the audacity of Tal's play, the good humor and honesty of his annotations ... I can't add to the analysis here. All I can say is that the variations stemming just from moves 14 to 25 will keep you busy for years, while the game continuation itself will give you joy just as long.

Premium Chessgames Member
  DrGridlock: I love chess, and I love computers.

This game is one reason why. After 50 years, and tons on analysis, there are still new moves and variations to uncover.

Much analysis has been done on options to White's move 23 Bd2, with the concensus that a3 was a better option for Bottvinik. In response to a3, Tal wrote, "a critical position arises after the move 23 ... Qb3, 24 Bxa7. ... Here I intended to continue ... Be5 threatening ... f3+." This is also the line that Graham Burgess examines in "The World's Greatest Chess Games," "23 ... Qb3, 24 Bxa7 Be5 (threatening f3+) is a critical line for the evaluation of Black's knight sacrifice."

Analysis by Rybka reveals that Be5 is NOT Black's best continuation in this line at move 24.

click for larger view

Black's best continuation is Ra8. This is an option I have never before seen mentioned or analyzed. I'll post Rybka's analysis later, but leave as an open challenge to others to find White's best response in this line. Here are the ground rules - no computers. Try to find White's response "over the board." There is only one reply which maintains an advantage for White.

Jun-03-10  ughaibu: Nb5? at first glance.
Jan-31-11  ididitfortal: I do believe a4 is the correct response intending Ra3 next move.
Premium Chessgames Member
  Boomie: 19. Kh2 seemed strange to me. How about 19. a3 Qb3 20. Bxa7? Looks like a clear pawn without complications.
Aug-22-11  DrMAL: <ChessYouGood: 14...Rfc8 is the psychological move of the century given the later knight sac.> 14...Rfc8 computes to objectively the best move.

Houdini_15a_x64: 28/62 2:21:33 35,097,537,357
-0.22 14. ... Rfc8 15.Qe2 a6 16.Be3 Qd8
-0.24 14. ... Rfb8 15.Qe2 Qc7 16.Bg5 b5
-0.25 14. ... Rac8 15.Qe2 Qd8 16.Be3 a6

Yes, 23.a3 produces a solid advantage for white so objectively the sac was not sound. 23.Bd2 white's second best produced a slight advantage for black with 23...Be5 but instead he played 23...Qxb2?! giving white an advantage anyway. But then 25.Rxb2? instead of 25.Bxf3 blundered into losing position.

This is not unusual and actually expected in even the highest level of OTB play. With limited time in high pressure positions, as Tal created with his sac and ensuing play, blunders often occur. In this sense the sac was sound as the result also shows.

After 28...Bf4?! (instead of 28...Rxc3!) and later 39...d5?! (instead of 39...Kf7!) Botvinnik was able to prolong the agony before being defeated by his earlier mistakes. Regardless of outcome, the game remains very important in chess history but it also serves here as an illustration of Tal's brilliance!

Dec-30-11  material: Tal is the best
Premium Chessgames Member
  Honza Cervenka: Botvinnik should have played 25.Bxf3 instead of poor 25.Rxb2?, which gave Tal decisive advantage. For example, after 25.Bxf3 Bxb1 26.Rxb1 Qc2 27.Rc1 Qb2 28.Bg4 Be5+ 29.Kg2 R8c7 30.Be6+ Kh8 31.Nd1 Qd4 32.Qf3 Kg7 33.Rxc4 Qxc4 34.Qe3 it is white, who has excellent chances to win the game.
May-09-12  erniecohen: <Honda Cervenka> Your line shows that Tal's 23...♕xb2 was also a blunder; 23...♗e5 24. f3 ♕xb2 25. ♘d1 ♕xa1 26 ♖xa1 ♗xa1 leaves Black with a slight edge.
Premium Chessgames Member
  Honza Cervenka: <erniecohen> I would not call it a blunder but it was an inaccuracy in tactically complex and messy position, which could have got Tal into big troubles. Also Botvinnik's 23.Bd2 was inaccurate move and 23.a3 was much better as some kibitzers pointed out here. But despite of that this is a great game.
May-11-12  King Death: Inaccuracies mistakes and outright blunders come in just these kinds of positions, especially when you're facing a human being that was one of the best ever in complex positions. It's one thing to sit behind Fritz 4034 and analyze and a whole different ball game to face your 2700 type opponent when it's just you and him. They could give most of us a day and it wouldn't be enough!
May-15-12  erniecohen: <Honza> <King Death> Just to be clear, when we point out a mistake, it is not to denegrate the game, nor to insult the players, who are obviously far better at chess than we are. It is to get to the truth of a game, to understand what really happened.

It is quite unnecessary to point out that it is easier to analyze a game than to play it, or that it is easier to analyze a game with computers than without them.

I do, however, agree with <Honza> that we have a terminological problem. We use the word "blunder" ambiguusly to mean a move that was (or should have been) very costly, in addition to meaning "he should have known better", since at this level, the latter are very rare. I use the word to mean a move that is likely to cost half or a full point. By this measure, you would have to classify 23...♕xb2 as a blunder. I'm open up to alternative suggestions.

Innacuracy is more like something that is tangibly inferior to an alternative.

Premium Chessgames Member
  Honza Cervenka: <erniecohen> I am not a native English speaker and so I am hardly the most competent person to define terminology in English. But as I understand it, the term "blunder" is stronger and harsher expression than some of its synonyms like "mistake" or "error", not to say "inaccuracy". Thus for me "the blunder" is a poor move, which not only leads (or can lead) to dramatic negative change in overall evaluation of position but which is also wrong for some fairly obvious reason. Of course, at GM level such an obvious reason must not be limited only to something stupid like a piece left en prise, overlooked fork, missed back rank mate or some trivial two- or three-move tactics but it should not be very difficult to find and assess. I think that in this case all objectively inferior moves pointed out in previous comments don't fit to this category because their inferiority and drawbacks were far from obvious, at least for me. On the other hand, the "inaccuracy" for me is just an inferior (but not necessarily bad) move, whose inferiority is at first glance inconspicuous or deeply hidden, or whose consequences are not fatal for the overall evaluation of the position and outcome of the game.
May-16-12  King Death: <Honza Cervenka> Your understanding of the difference between "blunder" and the other terms is just fine. "Inaccuracy" is much more subtle.
May-16-12  erniecohen: <Honza>,<KingDeath>: Okay, I'm good with that. Let's use "error" to mean a move that loses at least half a point, and reserve "blunder" for an error that a player of the level has no excuse in making. (So 23...♕xb2 would probably be a borderline error.) "Inaccuracy" will mean an inferior move with less severe consequences. I don't know what term to use for a less than excusable inaccuracy though, maybe "careless"?
Jun-16-12  rjsolcruz: Castro vs Forcado in Meralco's Father's Day Cup 2012 opened with the same moves up to 6.Nc3.

Nov-08-12  marljivi: In the variation,pointed out by Honza Cervenka,eg.25.Bf3Bb1 26.Rb1Qc2 27.Rc1Qb2 28.Bg4Be5 29.Kg2,and isn't it now so,that 29...Rc3 is the correct move? (30.Rc3Rc3 31.Bc3Qe2 32.Be2Bc3 and black is a pawn up,although white should still draw this position.)
Nov-14-12  scorpion2a: OK, I made a deep search for an analysis to this move: Why not 24.Bxf3

It turns out that where some state that the Bxf3 line might have been OK for white I have to disagree. After 24.Bxf3 Bxb1 25.Rxb1 Qc2 26.Be4 black has the resource of 26...Be5+ by tempo and then 27...Rxe4 and winning the rook on b1 if 28.Nxe4.

If indeed Botvinnik went for 28.Nxe4 there is no 29.Nxd6 because the black dark-sqr bishop on e5 is now defending it and also blocking the queen of penetrating into the position of black. Also there is no f4 due the brilliant Bxf4+, winning the position completely. So black is better in that position.

This was just the Tal show!

Premium Chessgames Member
  AylerKupp: <scorpion2a> To summarize from Tal's book on the 1960 World Championship match (see the full quote by <dragon40> on p.1, Botvinnik vs Tal, 1960) Tal indicated that he thought that White had nothing better than 25.Bxf3 Bxb1 26.Rxb1 Qc2 27.Rc1 Qb2 28.Rb1 and a draw by repetition and that Botvinnik shared that opinion. At this point in the match Botvinnik was down a point and, with the White pieces and a piece up (for 3 pawns) in an unclear position probably felt that he could (and needed to) do better than a draw by repetition. As Tal said "The psychological aspect of this [the exchange of queens] is fully understandable: having an extra piece and being under attack, it is always more pleasant to get rid of your opponent's Queen."

And as <dragon40> indicated in his quote from the book, a few days after the game GM Salo Flohr showed that after 25.Bxf3 Bxb1 26.Rxb1 Qc2 instead of 27.Rc1 White has 27.Be4 so that if 27...Rxe4 28.Nxe4. If instead 27...Be5+ as you suggested (note: I corrected your move numbering, you were off by one move), then instead of 28.f4 Bxf4+ White has 28.Kg2. Houdini 1.5a then indicates that Black's best is 28...Rxe4 29.Nxe4 Qxb1 30.Nxd6 (this IS possible even though the DSB is "defending" the pawn) 30...Bxd6 31.Qe6+ Kg7 32.Qd7+ Kg8 33.Qxc8+ Bf8 34.Qe6+ Kg7 35.Bc3+ Kh6 36.d6 Qf5 (otherwise Black will have to give up his bishop even sooner to prevent the d-pawn from queening) 37.Qxf5 gxf5 38.Be5 Kg5 39.d7 Be7 40.Bc7, evaluating the resulting position at [+4.43], d=26 since Black will have to give up his bishop for White's new queen, with an easy win for White. And the entire continuation looks pretty much forced.

click for larger view

But, yes this game was just the Tal show since neither player likely saw this continuation.

Dec-14-12  fokers13: <AylerKupp> your first line(28.Nxe4) leads to an easily drawn fair game of DSB where white eventually attains an extra pawn he can make no use of.
Apr-05-13  adrboliveira: When we see matches masters of that time, the most refutable is the need of computers. Perhaps only to study but never disprove the talents, not even put in doubt his brilliant moves.
Jun-06-14  zydeco: Tal notes that he started to consider ideas for the knight sacrifice at about move 14 -- although at that point it was "still hazy."

If 23.a3 Qb3 24.Bxa7 Be5 25.Bf3 Tal planned to sacrifice his queen with 25.....b6 26.Qd1 Qxb2 27.Ra2 Rxc3 28.Rxb2 Rxc1 and if 29.Qd2 Be4! is killing while if 29.Qe2 R8c3 gives black a strong attack.

Tal thought that the game should have continued 23....Be5 24.f3 Qxb2 25.Nd1 Qd4 26.Rxc4 Rxc4 27.Rc1 Rxc1 28.Bxc1 Qxd5 29.Bf1 with a complicated game.

23....Qxb2 is basically a draw offer since after 24.Rab1 f3 25.Bxf3 Bxb1 26.Rxb1 Qc2 white can take a draw by repetition with 27.Rc1. Botvinnik didn't like it because he thought black had 27....Qf5 which doesn't work, and both players missed Flohr's idea of 27.Be4 Rxe4 28.Nxe4 Qxc1 29.Nxd6 Rf8 30.Qe6+ Kh8 31.Nf7+ when white's better in the endgame.

Tal says that his technique is a bit sloppy. He should have played 37....Kg7 and missed white's idea of 39.Ra3 and if 39....Bxe2 40.Re3+.

Sep-04-14  James Tal: Nice Game....
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