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Mikhail Botvinnik vs Mikhail Tal
Tal - Botvinnik World Championship Rematch (1961), Moscow URS, rd 15, Apr-21
King's Indian Defense: Saemisch Variation. Normal Defense (E81)  ·  1-0


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Given 4 times; par: 93 [what's this?]

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Kibitzer's Corner
Aug-18-06  talisman: ...9.C5 is this where tal goes wrong?
Dec-05-06  ToTheDeath: c5 gives Black a totally lifeless position with major structural weaknesses to look after. Very nice technique by Botvinnik.
Aug-02-08  nimh: Black's position after 9...c5 is fine. The main reason for the loss was subsequent imprecise play by Tal.
Apr-19-10  DrGridlock: Problem is not in the opening. In fact, it’s “Tal-style” where an opening innovation gets him into the tactical type of middle game he likes best. In “Transpo Tricks in Chess,” Andrew Soltis writes,

“ECO considered 8 o-o-o and 8 Bh6 b5 to be equal – and among the few Byrne Variation lines that don’t favor White.

A similar idea was used by Tal in the 1961 world championship when he was trailing badly. He wanted to play an …e5/…c6 line but was afraid of 5 … o-o 6 Be3 7 dxe5! dxe5 8 Qxd8! When Black has the worst of a likely draw.

Tal refined the order with 6 … c6 feinting in the direction of … a6/…b5. But after Botfinnik replied 7 Bd3, he continued 7 … e5! and got the opening he wanted.”

Looking for Black’s error, one might start with the position after White’s 25 Kg2.

Rybka scores Black’s best continuations as 25 … b5 or 25 … Bc3.

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1. = (0.13): 25...b5 26.cxb5 axb5 27.Rd1 Bd4 28.Ne3 Nf6 29.f5 gxf5 30.gxf5 R6e7 31.Bh4 Rd7 32.Bd3

2. = (0.14): 25...Bc3 26.Rd1 Nd4 27.Re3 Bb2 28.Nd2 Nb8 29.Rde1 Nbc6 30.f5 R6e7 31.e5 dxe5 32.Ne4

3. = (0.19): 25...Bd4 26.Bh4 Kg7 27.Rd1 b5 28.cxb5 axb5 29.Bd3 Rb8 30.Nd2 Nf6 31.Nf3 h6 32.a3

4. = (0.22): 25...h6 26.Rd1 Nd4 27.Ree1 g5 28.f5 R6e7 29.Ne3 Nf6 30.Bg3 Rd8 31.Bd3 Ree8 32.Nd5

5. = (0.25): 25...Nd4 26.Rd2 b5 27.Rc1 bxc4 28.Rxc4 Nb6 29.Rc1 a5 30.Ng3 R6e7 31.Bd3 Re6 32.g5

Instead Black continues to shuffle his rooks on the e-file with R6e7. Rybka sees White’s best option at move 26 as Ne3:

1. ² (0.34): 26.Ne3 Nd4 27.Nd5 Nxe2 28.Nxe7+ Rxe7 29.Rxe2 Nf8 30.f5 Nd7 31.Rd2 Be5 32.Rd1 Kg7

but it seems that Botvinnik wants out of sharp lines almost as much as Tal wants into them, and continues instead Nh2.

By move 43, Botvinnik’s positional advantage with White had increased to the stage where Black really has nothing better than the exchange sacrifice in order to try for some counter-play.

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1. ± (1.15): 43...Nb4 44.Rd2 Nc6 45.Rfd1 Nd4+ 46.Bxd4 cxd4 47.Bxh5 gxh5 48.Rxd4 Rb2 49.e5 Rxa2 50.Rg1

2. ± (1.22): 43...Rb4 44.Bxb4 Nxb4 45.Rd2 Nxf6 46.Rfd1

There’s really not a much wrong with Tal’s play in this game. It’s just really hard to:

(i) Play the Black pieces

(ii) Against Botvinnik

(iii) When you’re down 7 wins to 3 (with 4 draws) after 14 games.

Premium Chessgames Member
  offramp: This game was played 50 years ago yesterday (on 21st April 1961). A puzzling move by Tal at move 33:

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He played 33...Ng7, but 33...Ned4 34.Rd2 Re6 35.Bg5 b5 seems to give more counterplay. A few moves later I think Botvinnik missed a very good move.

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Instead of 40.f6, 40.Rdf2 looks a killer! But it was move 40 so playing a safe move was probably the best option.

Premium Chessgames Member
  Garech: Great game from Botvinnik - his play in the whole match was perfecly suited to demoralise the excitement-addicted Tal. His choice of slow openings and favourable endgames etc was a great conception - I was reminded of how Kramnik beat Kasparov. I.e. choose the correct openings to psychologically weaken your opponent. I wonder what Gelfand and Vishy are cooking up at this very moment...


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