Members · Prefs · Laboratory · Collections · Openings · Endgames · Sacrifices · History · Search Kibitzing · Kibitzer's Café · Chessforums · Tournament Index · Players · Kibitzing

Botvinnik - Levenfish Match

Mikhail Botvinnik6.5/13(+5 -5 =3)[games]
Grigory Levenfish6.5/13(+5 -5 =3)[games] Chess Event Description
Botvinnik - Levenfish (1937)

There is some dispute about how this match between Mikhail Botvinnik and Grigory Levenfish came about. Botvinnik had tied for first with Jose Raul Capablanca in the very strong international tournament at Nottingham (1936). After returning to the Soviet Union and being awarded the Mark of Honor by Stalin, he devoted himself to his dissertation to earn his Candidates degree, which he achieved in short order. However, Botvinnik consequently missed the 1937 USSR Chess Championship, won by Levenfish. Botvinnik claimed that Nikolai Krylenko was furious with him for missing the tournament and forced him into the match with the new Soviet champion. Levenfish claimed that Botvinnik challenged him personally without any persuasion. In any case, the two played a thirteen game match held in the Soviet cities of Moscow and Leningrad. It was a hard fought match with ten of the thirteen games ending decisively. Levenfish got off to an early lead after the first three games, but then Botvinnik fought back and acquired the lead for himself after the eighth game. But Levenfish won three of the last four games and the match ended in a tie.

The final standings and crosstable:

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 0 1 2 3 Botvinnik 1 0 0 ½ ½ 1 1 1 ½ 0 0 1 0 6½ Levenfish 0 1 1 ½ ½ 0 0 0 ½ 1 1 0 1 6½

Original collection: Game Collection: Botvinnik-Levenfish Match 1937, by User: suenteus po 147.

 page 1 of 1; 13 games  PGN Download 
Game  ResultMoves YearEvent/LocaleOpening
1. Levenfish vs Botvinnik 0-1411937Botvinnik - LevenfishA17 English
2. Botvinnik vs Levenfish 0-1421937Botvinnik - LevenfishD10 Queen's Gambit Declined Slav
3. Levenfish vs Botvinnik 1-0671937Botvinnik - LevenfishE34 Nimzo-Indian, Classical, Noa Variation
4. Botvinnik vs Levenfish  ½-½231937Botvinnik - LevenfishD10 Queen's Gambit Declined Slav
5. Levenfish vs Botvinnik  ½-½341937Botvinnik - LevenfishE34 Nimzo-Indian, Classical, Noa Variation
6. Botvinnik vs Levenfish 1-0491937Botvinnik - LevenfishA06 Reti Opening
7. Levenfish vs Botvinnik 0-1411937Botvinnik - LevenfishE34 Nimzo-Indian, Classical, Noa Variation
8. Botvinnik vs Levenfish 1-0681937Botvinnik - LevenfishD10 Queen's Gambit Declined Slav
9. Levenfish vs Botvinnik ½-½581937Botvinnik - LevenfishC02 French, Advance
10. Botvinnik vs Levenfish 0-1401937Botvinnik - LevenfishD10 Queen's Gambit Declined Slav
11. Levenfish vs Botvinnik 1-0781937Botvinnik - LevenfishD93 Grunfeld, with Bf4 & e3
12. Botvinnik vs Levenfish 1-0401937Botvinnik - LevenfishA25 English
13. Levenfish vs Botvinnik 1-0411937Botvinnik - LevenfishD83 Grunfeld, Grunfeld Gambit
  REFINE SEARCH:   White wins (1-0) | Black wins (0-1) | Draws (1/2-1/2)  

Kibitzer's Corner
Jul-26-14  1d410: This isn't bad considering Botvinnik had to spend a lot of time working on his dissertation...
Jul-26-14  1d410: For Botvinnik that is
Jul-26-14  visayanbraindoctor: Levenfish must have been 48 years old during this match. According to the account above, Botvinnik had already finished his dissertation, and I would assume he came to the match well prepared and motivated to reassert his supremacy among the Soviet players. His performances in the Moscow and Nottingham tournaments indicated that he was climbing to his peak. If this young and energetic 26 year old Botvinnik (on his quest for the World Title and just a bit older than present World Champion Carlsen) were active today, I would expect him to give present Challenger and former WC Anand a run for his money in any Candidates tournament.

So I find it surprising that Levenfish battled the upsurging Botvinnik to a standstill. Maybe it's a statistical phenomenon. In some events, a chess player gets into the zone and plays much better than he does in more 'normal' times. Like Kramnik in 2000, when he played almost like a computer and brought down GKK.

History has not been too kind to Levenfish. I believe that at his peak he was a Candidate level master. He began to rise in a time when the Russian Empire in general was rising in chess, and in his youth he had to contend with other strong masters such as Rubinstein, Alekhine, Nimzovich, and their games ended quite badly for him. After WW1, these masters had left Russia, but he had to face a rising new generation of Soviet masters. Nevertheless, he did make it to the top, winning two Soviet championships.

Jun-06-15  ToTheDeath: Your post is nonsense. He was a strong GM. You don't win the USSR championship twice and draw a match with Botvinnik being a candidate master. He also scored a win over Alekhine (23 moves!) and over Lasker among other notables. Furthermore Kramnik's victory over Kasparov should not have been that shocking, he had beaten Garry in great style before and Garry played like a dead fish in the match. Plus he said many times Kramnik would be a likely successor.
Feb-10-16  ZonszeinP: Amazing performance by Levenfish who went on to win the last (!) game and tied the match Botvinnik couldn't demonstrate his superiority in his own country. And this, in spite of being the favourite of the system, and playing against an older (and not well seen by the dictator and his henchmen) player
Premium Chessgames Member
  keypusher: <
Feb-10-16 ZonszeinP: Amazing performance by Levenfish who went on to win the last (!) game and tied the match Botvinnik couldn't demonstrate his superiority in his own country. And this, in spite of being the favourite of the system, and playing against an older (and not well seen by the dictator and his henchmen) player>

Levenfish was an old Bolshevik who joined the party before the Revolution. What gives you the idea that he "wasn't well seen" by Stalin?

The truth is probably Stalin never gave Levenfish a moment's thought. Stalin was a lot less interested in chess than you are.

Feb-10-16  ZonszeinP: My comments are mainly based on Sosonko's series. Don't remember whether it was on Russian Silhouttes or its follow up I enjoy reading your comments, but I believe you're mistaken here. Stalin "cared" about everything!
Premium Chessgames Member
  perfidious: <ZonszeinP....I believe you're mistaken here. Stalin "cared" about everything!>

Such was his paranoia that, given the era during which this match was played, that is not so far-fetched as it may first sound.

Feb-10-16  ZonszeinP: I find the last game of this match, simply brilliant... And cannot help imagining the troll on the Kremlin thinking "No! How dare you!?"
Feb-11-16  ZonszeinP: I lost a terrible game last Sunday
A big blow
At my age, I should stop playing in tournaments and etc. My opponent was about 30 years (or more!) younger than me. I felt like an Indian with an arrow, facing a spaniard with a a gun.. Or a polish on a horse against a German in a tank...
Not a chance...
The worst is, it is when you arrive home, that you realise how stronger were all the moves that you rejected for weaker ones
Premium Chessgames Member
  woldsmandriffield: A match with an odd number of games ends in a draw. Were there special rules eg first to six wins but match tied if the score got to five wins each?
Feb-04-20  spingo: It seems that in every match between 1937 and 1960 Botvinnik was inconvenienced by having to swot up on one degree or another,

I imagine him as a kind of Rodney Dangerfield in <Back To School (1986)>, wise-cracking his way through rowdy classes of Biology 101.

Premium Chessgames Member
  Sally Simpson: ***

Correct woldsmandriffield, '...first to six wins but match tied if the score got to five wins each.'

Levenfish writes this was going to a tough test adding his previous results v Botvinnik were 3 draws and two losses.


Dec-31-20  RookFile: Botvinnik was a great tournament player but was only very good in matches.

NOTE: Create an account today to post replies and access other powerful features which are available only to registered users. Becoming a member is free, anonymous, and takes less than 1 minute! If you already have a username, then simply login login under your username now to join the discussion.

Please observe our posting guidelines:

  1. No obscene, racist, sexist, or profane language.
  2. No spamming, advertising, duplicate, or gibberish posts.
  3. No vitriolic or systematic personal attacks against other members.
  4. Nothing in violation of United States law.
  5. No cyberstalking or malicious posting of negative or private information (doxing/doxxing) of members.
  6. No trolling.
  7. The use of "sock puppet" accounts to circumvent disciplinary action taken by moderators, create a false impression of consensus or support, or stage conversations, is prohibited.
  8. Do not degrade Chessgames or any of it's staff/volunteers.

Please try to maintain a semblance of civility at all times.

Blow the Whistle

See something that violates our rules? Blow the whistle and inform a moderator.

NOTE: Please keep all discussion on-topic. This forum is for this specific tournament only. To discuss chess or this site in general, visit the Kibitzer's Café.

Messages posted by Chessgames members do not necessarily represent the views of, its employees, or sponsors.
All moderator actions taken are ultimately at the sole discretion of the administration.

Spot an error? Please suggest your correction and help us eliminate database mistakes!

Copyright 2001-2023, Chessgames Services LLC