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Paul Keres vs Mikhail Botvinnik
Alekhine Memorial (1956), Moscow URS, rd 15, Nov-02
Sicilian Defense: Richter-Rauzer Variation. Traditional Vartiation (B63)  ·  1-0


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Kibitzer's Corner
Premium Chessgames Member
  Honza Cervenka: 20.Rxf6 looks like an unpleasant surprise for black. If 20...b5, then 21.Rf7 Be8 22.Rxe7 Qxe7 23.Nc5 with strong attack.
Aug-21-03  Jonber: A slight improvment for White on the line you suggest <Honza Cervenka> might be

20...b5 21.Rf7 Be8 22.Rg7!? bxa4 23.Qb4+ Ka8 24.e5 with even stronger attack.

20...b5 still seems better then the mainline though.

Premium Chessgames Member
  Honza Cervenka: <Jonber> It seems to be very good alternative. In my line the play can continue 23...Bc6 24.Nxa6+ Kb7 25.Qa5 Bxe4 26.Qxb5+ Ka7 27.Rd4

Your line can continue for example 24...axb3 25.exd6 bxc2+ 26.Kxc2 Rxd6 27.Bf3+ or 24...Rb8 25.Bf3+ d5 26.Qxe7 Rb7 27.Rxd5

Both lines don't look better for black than Botvinnik's text move. They are rather much worse, but maybe I am missing something.:-)

Aug-21-03  Jonber: You might be right, though I don't think the text move is that much stronger. I guess it's a matter of taste, I like 20...b5 because it's agressiv, rather then the passive 20...Rh7. But who am I to argue with Botvinnik, right?
Feb-20-04  karlzen: A great game showing that Keres could well have become a World Champ. 7...h6?! is one of Botvinnik's lesser experiments. Rh1-f3 is excellent and Petrovich deserved to find Rxf6!! On top of all that, he also played another beautiful maneouvre: 23.Na2.
Feb-20-04  karlzen: A great game showing that Keres could well have become a World Champ. 7...h6?! is one of Botvinnik's lesser experiments. Rh1-f3 is excellent and Petrovich deserved to find Rxf6!! On top of all that, he also played another beautiful maneouvre: 23.Na2-b4-d3-f4-g6.
Feb-20-04  karlzen: 7...h6 was more common back in the '50s, also tried by Nievergelt, Petrosian and Byrne. On the white side of the variation Paul Keres was the main character and he soon found the correct method of playing it, as he showed in this game. In some lines, black may find himself in a position from the Najdorf - however - with a tempo less. Black's idea is to gain the bishop-pair and hopefully exchange to a favourable endgame. The bishops are passive and with knowledge of Keres' games, white should acquire a clear advantage.

10...h5 (Black can not allow Bh5! when he is paralysed - see Bondarevsky-Botvinnik, Moscow 1951.)

17...Bxa4 18.bxa4 would open lines for the f3-rook; 17...Qc7 is bad due to 18.Qd4 according to Keres - although I wonder what he had in mind on 18...Bc6!?.

If 20...Bxf6 there follows 21.Qxd6 Ka8 22.Nb6+; 20...b5 21.Rf7! Be8 22.Rg7!! - Keres - 22...bxa4 23.Qb4+ Ka8 24.e5!! threatening Bf3+ 24...axb3 25.exd6 Rxd6 (<Honza> 25...bxc2+ 26.Kxc2 Rxd6 27.Rxe7!! even stronger - 27...Bc6 28.Bf3 leads to my main line below) and now Kasparov gives 26.Qxb3 or 26.Rxd6 as winning. I give 26.Rxe7!! Qxe7 27.Bf3+ Bc6 28.Rxd6 Rc8 29.Rxc6!! Qxb4 30.Rxc8+ Ka7 31.Ra8+ Kb6 32.Rb8+ and white wins the queen and comes out a piece up.

Premium Chessgames Member
  wwall: This game was played in the final round (15th round) of the 1956 Alekhine Memorial. It was Botvinnik's only loss. Botvinnik would have won the tournament if he only drew. As he lost, Botvinnik and Smyslov shared 1st place with 11 out of 15. Keres took 7th-8th with 8.5 points. It was a surprise that Botvinnik played this opening, as he did poorly with it against Bronstein and Larsen a few years earlier.
Premium Chessgames Member
  tamar: Botvinnik's decision to forego the complications after 20 Rxf6 b5?! is typical of him. He had the ability to focus and concentrate on the position at hand even after he had blundered. He in effect wiped the slate clean with 20...Rh7 and said now beat my two bishops with your extra pawn. Keres to his credit did not waver, and produced a classic.

Fischer experienced this aspect of Botvinnik later and his notes showed how devastating it is to outplay a World Champion only to let it the win get away. Botvinnik vs Fischer, 1962

Aug-07-09  WhiteRook48: Botvinnik kept seizing the title back...
Aug-07-09  InspiredByMorphy: 19. ...Bxe6 was better.
Nov-13-09  Plato: <karlzen> Good posts. Regarding 7...h6?! and Botvinnik's history with this line (as well as the main line 7...a6), see my comment on Bronstein vs Botvinnik, 1951
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