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Mikhail Botvinnik vs Mikhail Tal
Tal - Botvinnik World Championship Rematch (1961), Moscow URS, rd 21, May-12
King's Indian Defense: Saemisch Variation (E80)  ·  1-0


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Kibitzer's Corner
Dec-14-04  Chessmaster 9000: Slightly better is 15... Bd7. Leading to 16. Rde1 Qf7 17. Bg5 Nh 18. Ne2 Nf6 19. Bc2 Qg6 20. Nc3 (Time=0:17, Depth=1/9)

Slightly better is 16. dxc6ep. Leading to 16... bxc6 17. Bc2 Qg6 18. g4 e4 19. gxf5 Bxf5 20. g4 Nxg4 21. fxg4 Bxg4 (Time=0:29, Depth=1/10)

Slightly better is 31... Rb8. Leading to 32. Nxe5 Bxd7 33. d6 Be8 34. Bf5 Rb6 35. d7 Bxd7 36. Bd7 Nxd7 37. Rxd7+ Kc8 38. Rg7 (Time=0:55, Depth=4/11)

33. d6+ leads to 33... Kb8 34. Rxf8+ Ka7 35. Rf7 Rd8 36. Nxe5 Kb6 37. Rxd7 Rf8 38. Bxe4 Ka5 39. Rc7 Rf1+ Kc2, which loses a bishop, a knight, and a pawn. Better is 33. Rc8, leading to 33. d6 Ne6 34. Nxe5 Be8 35. Re7 Rb8 36. Rxe6 Rb6 37. Rxe8+ Kxe8 38. Ba4+ Rb5 39. Bxb5+ axb5 40. Kc2, which wins a rook and a bishop for a rook, a bishop a knight and a bishop.

Premium Chessgames Member
  meloncio: If 28... ♘xe4 29.♗a4+!

Last game of the match. A sad day for Tahl, giving the crown back to Botvinnik.

Jul-27-07  noiselesion: <meloncio> If 28... xe4 29.a4+! where is the check here. yeah, btw, botvinnik deserved it as he was the better player and theoritician.
Jul-28-07  RookFile: How exactly was Botvinnik the better player? By playing Tal dead even throughout his career? (12 wins each). By losing the most world championship matches in history?
Jul-29-07  ganstaman: <RookFile: How exactly was Botvinnik the better player? By playing Tal dead even throughout his career? (12 wins each). By losing the most world championship matches in history?>

Did he win the most matches as well? Best challenger, worst WC, by record?

But yeah, either way, that's hardly criteria for saying one is better than the other. Their record together I think is more important.

Premium Chessgames Member
  plang: <How exactly was Botvinnik the better player? By playing Tal dead even throughout his career? (12 wins each). By losing the most world championship matches in history?> Botvinnik held the WC for a period of 15 years (48-63 with 2 one year interruptions). That is an impressive accomplishment. His peak period was probably the decade prior to his becoming WC when he was probably the strongest player in the world. Tal never played Botvinnik when he was at his peak. Tal's run to the WC was over a relatively short period (58-60). After that health issues always affected his reults though every few years he would have a "comeback" and play brilliantly for a period of time until he got sick again. But he never came close to the WC again. Tal was a more exciting player but it is hard to argue that his career was more impressive than Botvinniks.
Jul-30-07  inthestepsofTal: Tal was never close to the WC again? Isn't it close being barely knocked out in the Candidates final? Besides I think it was Botvinniks homepreparation rather than his strenght that kept him on the throne for so long... Many sources consider for instance Bronstein to have been the worlds strongest player in the beginning of the 50'ies, Smyslov in the mid 50'es and Tal at the 58-60...
Jul-30-07  talisman: don't forget...if you keep the candidates tournament tal wins in 65 and 68.this is one pt. i think both sides will agree on.when it came to a tournament tal was hard to beat. remember 62 was the last tournament and tal of course was very ill.match play well...there was korchnoi and spassky that would have to be dealt with in a match situation which was very different than a tournament.
Premium Chessgames Member
  keypusher: <Isn't it close being barely knocked out in the Candidates final?>

Spassky beat him +4-1 in 1965 in the final.

<don't forget...if you keep the candidates tournament tal wins in 65 and 68.this is one pt. i think both sides will agree on.>

I don't. In 1968 Tal's health was in decline. The favorites in a Candidates' tournament would have been Korchnoi (who finished way ahead of Tal at Wijk aan Zee and beat Tal in a match that year) Larsen (who beat Tal in a match the following year), Geller and Spassky.

In 1965 Tal was in better shape, but I would rate his chances no higher than Spassky's, Geller's, or Larsen's. Spassky and Larsen, among others, tied Tal for first in the 1964 Amsterdam Interzonal.

I have Tal's autobiography, which contains an exhaustive summary of his tournament and match results. He was a successful tournament player in the 1960s, of course, but no more successful than others, and less successful than, e.g., Stein, Korchnoi and Larsen. So I don't agree that he would have been the favorite in a hypothetical Candidates tournament held at any time between, say, 1961 and 1972.

During the 1950s it's very hard to say Botvinnik was the best, but it's also quite hard to say he wasn't -- which is why he called himself primus inter pares -- first among equals. As plang pointed out, his real peak was the decade before he won the title, when he was (IMO) as dominant as anyone who ever played the game.

Jul-31-07  talisman: i think losing the candidates tournament format hurt tal more than anyone.the reason being, is that tal would typically wipe the bottom half and hold his own with the top half.spassky and korchnoi were strong match players as well as tournament players.both had tal's number during this time although tal would close the gap on spassky in the 70's and 80's
Jan-10-10  noiselesion: Yeah, after playing through more of Tal's games, I retract my comment. They were pretty close. Obviously their styles were miles apart.
Mar-29-18  Petrosianic: This is an unusual game because White needs only a draw to win the title, but ends up winning it.

In this kind of situation in 1963, Botvinnik not only agreed to a quick draw in the last game, but in the last THREE games, when he knew the situation was hopeless. Tal, however is out for blood (or to go down fighting), and he loses so quickly that there was never much of a chance for this game to be drawn.

White seems to be clearly better as early as move 15, but it's hard to tell (all King's Indian positions look bad for Black). Probably if Tal had offered a draw any time up to Move 15, Botvinnik would have taken it.

15...c5 seems to be where Tal starts to go off the rails. What's the point? To prevent c5? White never plays on the Queenside the entire game. But White is probing all through his Kingside a few moves later, so maybe some kind of developing move (Bd7?).

Or, since White gets in g4 with good effect a few moves later, maybe 15...h5. Or 15...b5 to try to rustle up counterplay on the Queenside. 15...e4 is another good candidate move to react in the center to the Kingside push that's coming.

After 15...c5 16. Bh6 Qg6 17. g4!, hitting the pinned f pawn, Black is already on thin ice. From then on, Black's Kingside is relentlessly invaded. The Rook makes it to the 7th rank, and Black is soon pinned to his first rank.

By winning this game, Botvinnik raised his lifetime record in World Championship MATCHES to 50%. So the real questions for me are:

1) When did Tal know he was in trouble?

2) When is the last moment that Botvinnik would have accepted a title-winning draw offer?

Premium Chessgames Member
  keypusher: I checked Botvinnik's notes to this game. As he points out, Tal was depressed after having failed to win the preceding three-day marathon, and also Tal's only hope was to win the last four games -- <a draw was of no interest to him at all>.

Tal vs Botvinnik, 1961

After 5....Nbd7: <In avoiding simplification, Tal chooses a not very successful variation.>

After 8.d5: <White accepts the challenge and goes in for a complicated game. However, there was no particular risk in this, since Tal did not like closed positions. >

After 13.Ng3: <Now Black does not have a great choice. If 13....f4 14.Nxh5 fxe3 15.Nxf6+ Qxf6, then White emphasizes his positional advantage with 16.Qc2, avoiding the double-edged play after 16.Qxe3 e4! 17.fxe4 [citing Botvinnik vs A Medina Garcia, 1964 ]. The exchange of knights on g3 leads to the opening of the h-file, and that says everything.>

Last note I'll copy, after 14.Bd3<!> Nxg3:

<In the spirit of the position was the pawn sacrifice 14....e4 (15.Nxh5 followed by fxe4), although it could hardly give sufficient compensation, as Black's pieces are not mobilized. 14....f4 would still not have achieved anything, while after 14....Qg6 15.Nxh5 Qxh5 16.h3 the unpleasant g2-g4 cannot be avoided. Even so, it is hard to agree with Black's decision. In the game White's attack becomes virtually irresistible. >

He doesn't say anything about whether or up to what point he would have accepted a draw offer, but I'd guess he never expected to hear one.

Another example of winning the final game of a match when only a draw was needed: Kasparov vs Korchnoi, 1983

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