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Mikhail Botvinnik vs Grigory Levenfish
Botvinnik - Levenfish (1937), Leningrad RUS, rd 10, Oct-28
Slav Defense: General (D10)  ·  0-1



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Kibitzer's Corner
Mar-23-07  Maynard5: Some very good tactical play by Levenfish, and surprisingly inaccurate play by Botvinnik: Black is able to win the exchange by move 19. Note how 9. dxc5? opens the diagonal for Black's dark-square bishop.
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  Calli: 9.dxc5 is fine because White had 10.Nxd5! Bxa1 11.Bxe4 with a winning game. Botvinnik, normally with great tactical vision, simply missed it.
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  beatgiant: <Calli>
Wouldn't Black play 10. Nxd5 <Nxc5> instead, perhaps followed by 11. Rb1 e6 12. Nf4 e5, etc.?

The two players had another game Botvinnik vs Levenfish, 1937 which varied with 8...Bb7. Maybe this is opening preparation by Levenfish.

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  Calli: <beat> You are right, Black would play 10.Nxd5 Nxc5 11.Rb1 e6 12.Nf4 e5, however, 13.Ba3! keeps the advantage because 13...exf4? 14.Bxc5 bxc5 15.Be4 (again!) Black would have to play 13...Nbd7 or Nba6 and then White has 14.Nd5.

You are also correct about the other game. It was the eighth game of the match and Levenfish or perhaps someone else must have suggested the more aggressive line in this, the 10th game. Apparently, it was quickly discarded because of 10.Nxd5. I say that because there are no other games seem to exist with the variation 9...Ne4.

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  beatgiant: <Calli>
It might go 10. Nxd5 Nxc5 11. Rb1 e6 12. Nf4 e5 13. Ba3 Nbd7 14. Nd5 e4 15. Bxe4 Nxe4 16. Bxf8 Nxf8, and White gets two pawns and a rook for two bishops - a slight material advantage.

I'm not sure if that's <a winning game>, and I'm also not sure we can say Botvinnik <simply missed it> since he may have seen some of this but feared a prepared line.

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  Calli: What about 10.Nxd5 Nxc5 11.Rb1 e6 12.Nf4 e5 13.Ba3 Nbd7 14.Nd5 e4 15.Bxe4 Nxe4 16.Ne7+ Kh8 17.Nxg6+ fxg6 18.Bxf8 Qxf8 19.Qd5 That darn rook is still loose!
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  Calli: A really nice line is the classic exchange sac for the 'long' bishop. After 10.Nxd5 Nxc5 11.Ba3! Bxa1 12.Qxa1 Bb7 13.Be4! Nc6 14.Rad1 Qc8 15.Bc2 with the threat of b4 and enduring pressure.
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  Pawn and Two: <Calli & beatgiant> Chess In The USSR, issue 3, 1989, featured this match, honoring the centenary of Levenfish's birth.

Analysis from several sources, including Botvinnik and Levenfish was included. For game ten of the match, the analysis was provided by Levenfish and Panov.

After 9.dxc5, the notes to the game indicate Black has a small advantage. Levenfish then indicates that Black would slightly increase this advantage after either, 10.Ne4 Bxa1 11.cxd5 Qxd5, or 10.Nxd5 Nxc5 11.Rb1 e6 12.Nf4 e5.

Your analysis and a check by Fritz indicates that Levenfish was mistaken. Fritz indicates that White has the advantage after 10.Nxd5 Nxc5 11.Rb1 e6 12.Nf4 e5 13.Ba3.

However, Fritz found a move that may allow Black to hold. After 10.Nxd5 Nxc5 11.Rb1 e6 12.Nf4 e5 13.Ba3, then 13...f5!. Now 14.Nd5 seems to be the best continuation for White. I will have Fritz do some further analysis and then we can compare analysis.

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  Calli: <Pawn and Two> Thanks for the info. I mistakenly assumed that Nxd5 was discovered in the post-mortem or shortly after and therefore the line was never played again.
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  beatgiant: <Pawn and Two>
After your proposed 10. Nxd5 Nxc5 11. Rb1 e6 12. Nf4 e5 13. Ba3 f5 14. Nd5, it looks like 14...e4 15. Be2 exf3 16. Bxf3 Nc6 17. b4 Ne4 18. b5 Ne5 19. Bxf8 Kxf8 is forced, and again White ends with the advantage of rook and two pawns for two minor pieces.
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  Pawn and Two: <beatgiant>
In the unbalanced position after 10.Nxd5 Nxc5 11.Rb1 e6 12.Nf4 e5 13.Ba3 f5 14.Nd5 e4 15.Be2 exf3 16.Bxf3 Nc6 17.b4 Ne4 18.b5 Ne5 19.Bxf8 Kxf8, Fritz 9 evaluates this position as slightly in favor of Black, (-.41) (17 ply) and gives the following continuation: 20.Bxe4 fxe4 21.f3 exf3 22.Rxf3+.

At this point, Black could play (-.39) (17 ply) 22...Kg8 23.Ne7+ Qxe7 24.Qd5+ Kh8 25.Qxa8 Nxf3+ 26.Qxf3 Bb7 27.Qf2 Be4.

Or Black could try, (-.32) (17 ply) 22...Nxf3+ 23.Qxf3+ Kg8 24.Nf6+ Bxf6 25.Qxa8 Be6 26.Qxd8+ Bxd8.

In both of these variations, Black seems to obtain slightly the better position.

To retain even a small amount of advantage, I think White needs to vary with, 10.Nxd5 Nxc5 11.Rb1 e6 12.Nf4 e5 13.Ba3 f5 14.Nd5 e4 15.Be2 exf3 16.Bxf3 Nc6 17.Nf4.

Fritz evaluates this position as (.57) (17 ply), and suggests the following continuation: 17...Qxd1 18.Rfxd1 Ne4 (.38) (17 ply) 19.Bxf8 Kxf8 20.Nd5 Kf7 21.Rbc1 Be6 (.30) (17 ply) 22.h3.

Black seems to obtain adequate counterplay in these variations. Therefore, I think Calli's suggested move 10.Nxd5 Nxc5 11.Ba3!, may be White's best chance to retain the advantage.

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  Pawn and Two: <Calli>
Your suggested exchange sac is very strong. After 10.Nxd5 Nxc5 11.Ba3!, Fritz 9 considered 11...Bxa1 to be a poor choice for Black.

Fritz's evaluation at 17 ply, considered the rook capture to be in White's favor by slightly more than a pawn.

However, even after Black's best reply, White retains a definite advantage after 11.Ba3.

Fritz provides an evaluation of (.65) (17 ply), and suggested the following as Black's best continuation: 10.Nxd5 Nxc5 11.Ba3 Bb7 12.Rac1 e6 13.Nf4.

After my analysis of 10.Nxd5 Nxc5 11.Rb1 indicated Black may have adequate counterplay, I believe your suggested move of 11.Ba3!, gives White a definite advantage no matter how Black replies.

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