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Mikhail Botvinnik vs Nikolay Sorokin
USSR Championship (1931), Moscow URS, rd 2, Oct-25
Queen's Gambit Declined: Orthodox Defense. Botvinnik Variation (D60)  ·  1-0



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Kibitzer's Corner
Aug-23-05  Blazingfire: I think Botvinnik-Sorokin is the most logical, simple and most understandable chess game ever played. Botvinnik sticks to general chess principles. First he develops his pieces, then connects his rooks, then exchanges off black's most powerful and active piece(the Queen), then takes command of the d-file by doubling his rooks,forces black's pieces into passive positions and heads for 7th rank.(He also traps the black knight. You can virtually say that black is down a piece.) The game is already won by that time. The endgame is just a matter of technique!!!
Aug-23-05  Poulsen: Well, Botvinnik won - in his typical style. So I guess, that logical is a pretty good term for his win.

But understandable is quiet another matter. I for one don't understand, that black persist on placing his officers in position, where they can do nothing.

I don't understand 13.-,Be7 followed by 14.-,Nh5 (why not f.x. 13.-,Qa5) - and I don't understand 28.-,Nxa5, since it's very inconsistent with 27.-,Rab8 (why not 28.-,Rbd8).

Well, I'm not a GM, so what do I know ...

Not even a Botvinnik could win like this, unless his opponent made some grave errors.

Aug-23-05  euripides: It is a marvellous and strategically lucid game, as <Blazing> says (welcome, by the way !), though Botvinnik is prepared to violate some principles with 20 Qe3 !! allowing the shattering of his own pawns which he himself described as 'far from obvious'. I think this move would have looked pretty astonishing in 1931 and it is still very striking today; the arrival of a great player. 13...Qa5 may not solve the development problem Black faces. He cannot move his d7 knight without allowing his king-s side pawn structure to be shattered, and as a result it is very hard for him to get his pieces developed. E.g. 13...Qa5 14 Rad1 b6 15 Rd2 Bb7 16 Rfd1 and the knights are still a problem. I dont't think the combination of 27... Rab8 and then Rbd8 helps either.

Botvinnik identifies 10...c5 as the main error, suggesting 10...Nd5.

Aug-24-05  Poulsen: You are right - I think.

27.-,Rab8 and 28.-,Rbd8 has some tactical points, since white placed his king at f2 in move 28.

What do you think of 28.-,Rbd8 29.Rxb7,Rb8, f.x. 30.Rxb8,Rxb8 31.Bxf7+,Kxf7 32.Rxc6,Rxb2+ 33.Kg3,Rb3 - can black hold this?

Or what about 28.-,Rbd8 29.Rxb7,Nxa5 and now 30.Ra7,Rd2 and 31.Rxb2? or 30.Rb6,Rb8?

I haven't analyzed all this - it just seems natural for black to eliminate the white bishop and go for a pure rook endgame.

Premium Chessgames Member
  GrahamClayton: <Euripides>though Botvinnik is prepared to violate some principles with 20 Qe3 !! allowing the shattering of his own pawns which he himself described as 'far from obvious'

Botvinnik said that the doubling of the e-pawns does not have any great significance, compared with the pressure that Black faces due to the doubled White Rooks on the d-file and the need to defend the weak e5-pawn.

Jun-20-10  BobCrisp: Been reading an article, <The Art of Exchanging>, by Peter C Griffiths in the June 1985 <BCM>.

Griffiths gives this game as an example of enhancing the initiative by exchanging the opponent's most active piece. He gives 20.Qe3! and says of 25.Nd5, <Offering more exchanges to clear a way for his rooks. After 25...Nxd5 [sic] 26.Bxd5 Nxd5 27.Rxd5 Black's pawns would be fatally exposed.>

All well and good, except that, with the assistance of my German friend, I'm having difficulty confirming that White has a positionally won game after 25.Nd5. <Fritz11> prefers 27.ed5 to Rxd5 but, even there, White's weakened pawn structure seems to count against him after all.

How does <Botvinnik> address this in his book?

May-29-11  dull2vivid: 23…Bxf3 is a fatal positional error. The bishop is needed to check white’s bishop – Re8 was preferable.

White could have won more easily with a rook maneuver to a1 while black’s knight was trapped on the rim. Black messed up by allowing the tactic white did while his king was trapped in the corner. Maybe could have drawn with whites inaccurate endgame play. True 20.Qe3! was marvelous. White we see tries do tie black down.

May-29-11  DanielBryant: I'm still having a hard time visualizing specifically what Botvinnik had in mind with 20.Qe3. Yes, Botvinnik mentions Black's weak e pawn and the d file, but both of these were already problems for Black prior to this move. What about Qe3 helps clarify the situation for him?
Jan-23-12  Llawdogg: Wow! What a lucid and instructive game!
Sep-03-12  Naniwazu: <DanielBryant:> I think most kibitzers have already mentioned it. Silman in his book 'How to Reassess Your Chess' (Siles Press, p. 293) mentions that Black's Queen is the piece holding his position together. White might have a lead in development and control of the d-file but lacks targets. The a5-square and e5 pawn are defended by Black's Queen. So White exchanges off Black's most active defender. After this the e5-pawn is weak and to defend it Black has to exchange his Bishop for Knight leaving his light squares weak.
Jan-24-13  gudiny: Strange... Position was repeated 3 times(after 40 moves, after 43 moves, after 45 moves). Why not draw?
Premium Chessgames Member
  Phony Benoni: <gudiny> It wasn't a draw because neither player claimed it.

OK, Ok. There are a number of possiblities. The players themselves may not have known the rules. The rules may have been different in the Soviet Union in 1931 than they are today. The scoresheet might be incorrect.

Probably the best thing to do would be to check if Botvinnik annotated this game in one of his books and commented on the situation.

Mar-04-13  gudiny: I have found why it was not a draw. At that time a game ends in a draw not when position repeated 3 times but when moves repeated 3 times.
Premium Chessgames Member
  senojes: This game is in Kotov's "Play Like a Grandmaster" (1978), pages 44-46. I am using that book for coaching our Chess Club members.

>At that time a game ends in a draw not when position repeated 3 times but when moves repeated 3 times.

It is now that the *position* has to be about to be repeated three times and the player to move writes on his scoresheet his intended move which will bring about the three-fold repeated *position* or if the move is played, the other player can claim the draw:

FIDE "9.2 The game is drawn, upon a correct claim by a player having the move, when the same position for at least the third time (not necessarily by a repetition of moves):

a. is about to appear, if he first writes his move, which cannot be changed, on his scoresheet and declares to the arbiter his intention to make this move, or b. has just appeared, and the player claiming the draw has the move."

It does not appear to be the case that the rule at the time of this 1931 game was that the same 3 consecutive pairs of moves had to be made. Wikipedia under "Threefold repetition" cites a 1921 World Championship game between Capablanca and Lasker where the same position repeated itself but neither player claimed a draw.

If it was the case in 1931 that it was three-fold repetition of *position* then Black could have claimed a draw by, instead of playing 45...Rf6, writing on his scoresheet that move and claimed the draw. I copied the PGN into Houdini and inserted a position diagram after 40...Rf6, 43...Rf6 and 45...Rf6 and they are the same three identical positions.

Of course Wikipedia could be wrong. It is interesting that Kotov in 1978 commented after 45. Rc7, just where Black could have written 45...Rf6 and claimed a draw, "White has been repeating moves to win time ...", without saying anything about Sorokin could have claimed a draw here.

Interestingly my Chess for Android smartphone program declares it a draw after 26...Rf6 (= 45...Rf6): "3-fold rep. 1/2-1/2" and won't let any further moves be played.

But Houdini doesn't do that. And Houdini is right. According to FIDE 9.2 it isn't a draw unless a player validly claims it.

So if it was the same rule in 1931 then Botvinnik blundered by allowing the draw and Sorokin blundered by not claiming it. The game was played in the middle of the tournament so it was not an oblique offer of a draw by Botvinnik, who eventually won the tournament by 2 points.

It is a hard rule to apply during a game, requiring a photographic memory. Wikipedia mentions that in Fischer v Petrosian, Candidates, 1971, Petrosian, who had the better position, unintentionally allowed a three-fold repetition of position to occur and Fischer successfully claimed it.

If World Champions: Capablanca, Lasker, Botvinnik and Petrosian cannot remember that the same position is about to repeat itself three times, then the rule is too hard and it should be optional that the same three pairs of consecutive moves is also a draw.

Premium Chessgames Member
  keypusher: <Probably the best thing to do would be to check if Botvinnik annotated this game in one of his books and commented on the situation.>

In <Selected Games> he says after move 44: "Of course, White's repetition was in order to gain time for consideration. Now he puts his plan into effect." I suspect the rule was different in the USSR in 1931 than it is under FIDE now. In fact it may have been different in the USSR in 1931 than it was in England or the USA in 1931.

Aug-14-17  Toribio3: Botvinnik doubled his pawn early in the game for a strategic advantage in the middle game.
Premium Chessgames Member
  nizmo11: Checking classics with computer often leads to unexpected results. for example, here on move 20:

click for larger view

Stockfish sees 20.Qe3, but it thinks 21.Rd6 is still stronger:
If 20...Ne8 to dislodge the Rook, then 21.Rg6 Kh7 Rg3 ±., and to 20...Bg4 that must been the idea of 19...e5, there follows a spectacular variant: 21.Rxf6! gxf6 22.h3 Bh5 23. a5! (deflection) Qxa5 24.Qe3! (now without exchanging queens!) Bxf3 25.Rd6! and wins.

The decisive mistake was 25...Nc6?, after this, White is winning.

click for larger view

As the previous commentators show, 25...Nfxd5! was the correct defence. White is definitely better after 26.exd5 Rfc8, or 26.Bxd5 Rb8!? 27.b4 b6, but how Black has chances to hold.

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