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Mark Stolberg vs Mikhail Botvinnik
"Center of Gravity" (game of the day Mar-10-2012)
USSR Championship (1940), Moscow URS, rd 7, Sep-13
Nimzo-Indian Defense: Normal Variation. Bishop Attack Classical Defense (E48)  ·  0-1



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Kibitzer's Corner
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Mar-10-12  King Death: < GrahamClayton: Isaac Lipnitsky analyses this game in some depth in his book "Questions of Modern Chess Theory"...>

<Lipnitsky singles out 11.h3:

"Contributing nothing to the fight for the centre. A better move was 11.Bf4, at once neutralizing the pressure from the black bishop.">

This looks stronger than 11.h3 in hindsight though maybe White was afraid of kingside play. He didn't have any reason to fear the idea 11...Bf4 12.Nf4 Nd4 13.Bh7+ Kh7 14. Qd4 which gives him a position with two sets of minor pieces traded and nice dark square play. This would have added up to a long term edge.

<Lipnitsky praises 15...Bf5...>

Why I'm not sure, like <perfidious> mentioned: what choice did Botvinnik have? The play leading up to this position is what deserves praise.

Mar-10-12  pawnofdeath: consider this more aesthetic combination than 41. ...d4:

41. ... Nf3
42. (any move white) Rh2#

Mar-10-12  piltdown man: "Any move White?" What about 42 Bf4 ?
Premium Chessgames Member
  Once: Makes it look much too easy. First you control the centre. Then you push your opponent back to the first two ranks. Plonk a rook on the seventh rank (from your end of the board).

.... BTW, "plonking" is a much underrated chess concept. One day I'll write a kibitz about it ....

Then you push your pawn centre over the equator so that your queen can step into the space you leave behind and threaten an unstoppable mate. Qd5-Qg2

If only it were that easy. Great game to play through. White despairingly attacks on both the queenside and the kingside but cannot overcome his weakness in the centre. Like a swordfish threshing against the line. No matter how hard he wriggles he cannot prise the hook out of his flesh.

Premium Chessgames Member
  Honza Cervenka: Domination by centralization, pure and simple. Nice though a little bit one-sided game.
Mar-10-12  SChesshevsky: <<King Death: This looks stronger than 11.h3 in hindsight though maybe White was afraid of kingside play.>>

I agree, though I don't see anything really wrong with 11. h3. I can see how White was worried about his wide-open Kside and Botvinnik returns the tempo anyway with 11...h6 that it looks like Lipnitsky passes on.

I thought maybe far more damaging was White's poor positioning with 13. Qb3 and 14. Bd2.

Maybe something like Qc2 & Bb2 which coordinates the pieces a little better, protects d4 and frees up the N's helps.

I remember the russians used to criticize poor one-shot types of moves as "obvious", that might apply to moves like White's 13. Qb3 & 15. f4.

Mar-10-12  Garech: Fantastic game from Botvinnik and a great choice and pun for GOTD.

19...Nc4 was very nice, offering the tempter 20.Nxd5!?

click for larger view

after which white gets into great difficulties, E.g. 20...Nxd5 21.Qxc4 Ne3! 22.Bxe3 Rxe3

click for larger view

and I'll give 100 chessbucks to anyone who can defend; the first problem being how to deal with the attack on the g3 knight.

Botvinnik truly played this like a machine; perhaps the only superior move he missed was 35...Qb5!

click for larger view

and again white is in all sorts of tactical trouble.

The final mating combination, too, was profound and superb! Exactly the kind of combination that Steinitz famously stated must lay within a positional advantage if one can see deep enough. Great stuff!



Premium Chessgames Member
  Penguincw: Botvinnik did a nice job of drawing all of white's pieces to the kingside.
Mar-10-12  rapidcitychess: This game looks like White started at a disadvantage.
Mar-10-12  Mudphudder: Bov def placed his knights & rooks on the most key attack points. Loved the slow positional advance he made towards the end.
Mar-10-12  kevin86: The door is now open for the queen to enter and mate-aided by the rook.
Mar-10-12  Brecker: 13. Qb3?! b3 is a slightly inactive square to place the queen, in this situation. Perhaps, Qc2 (where his queen will eventually end up in 3 moves anyway) was a better option. 15.f4!? Stolberg signals to Botvinnik he refuses to play passively by allowing a weakness to be opened up on his king's defences. 19...Nc4 is a powerful outpost for Botvinnik's knight.And 20... Rac8 solitifies the knight's position. 30. Bc1? I can understand maybe wanting your bishop in a better position but Bc1 is not it.Bf4 would've been better. 40... Rxh3!! ... Brilliance.
41... d4! At first glance this move may seem like Botvinnik is waiting for a resignation but it actually sets up as you guys have already discussed a mate in two: 42... Qd5+, 43. Kg1 43... Kg2# Interesting old game played without the chess theory we have today yet still has the following theme of all great chess players: brilliance.
Mar-10-12  bischopper: Where is the little ball?
Mar-10-12  LoveThatJoker: This is a a great game by Botvinnik for sure...a classic!

The position in the last few moves was featured as a puzzle in Yakov Neishtadt's phenomenal puzzle book "Test Your Tactical Ability" - Batsford (1992).


Mar-10-12  ephesians: White's c1 bishop was not useful in this game. It certainly appears that 11. Bf4, rather than moving a pawn, was the way to go. Hindsight is always 20-20, but maybe white should have swapped those bishops off rather than weaken his kingside.
Premium Chessgames Member
  offramp: Botvinnik said before the game, "Hey dude. I got the same middle name as you!"
Apr-04-12  Calli: <Offramp> It's a patronymic. Botvinnik might have said "Hey, your dad is named Moise too."
Mar-25-15  cro777: Botvinnik‚Äôs winning method.

GM Igor Smirnov used this game as an example of Botvinnik's winning method.

The starting position (after 15.f4) of Smirnov's analysis:

click for larger view

Mar-30-17  clement41: This gem is a must-see!
Black had a light-square strategy (eg trading LSBs in order to seize c4&e4) and this paid out fully as the game conclusion, ...d4!, is made possible thanks to the control black has over d5, a light square
Premium Chessgames Member
  SpaceRunner: Yes the game is mentioned by Lipnitsky in a chess classic..

Today I bet most would play 15.. Lxh3!

Mar-29-18  whiteshark:

click for larger view

Black to move

1) -1.75 (23 ply) 15...Bxh3 16.Nxd5 Nxd5 17.Qxd5 Be6 18.Qf3 Bg4 19.Qf2 Bc7 20.b5 Ne7 21.a4 Bb6 22.Rae1 Nf5 23.a5 Rxe2 24.Bxf5 Qxf5 25.Rxe2 Bxe2 26.Re1 Bxb5 27.axb6 axb6 28.Be3 Re8 29.Qf3 Bd3 30.Qxb7

2) -0.89 (22 ply) 15...Ne7 16.Ng3 Nc6 17.Nce2 Qc7 18.Qb2 a6 19.Rfe1 Bd7 20.Nf5 Bxf5 21.Bxf5 Re7 22.Rac1 Rae8 23.Bd3 Qb6 24.g3 g6 25.Kg2 Kg7 26.g4 Ne4 27.Be3 Qd8 28.Ng1 Kg8

= = = =

click for larger view

White to move

1) -0.56 (23 ply) 16.Bxf5 Qxf5 17.Rf3 a5 18.b5 a4 19.Qa2 Na5 20.Ng3 Qd7 21.Nxd5 Nxd5 22.Qxd5 Nb3 23.Ra2 Qc7 24.Rc3 Qb6 25.Be3 Rad8 26.Qf5 Nxd4 27.Bf2 Bc7 28.Kh2 Nxf5 29.Bxb6 Bxf4 30.Bxd8

2) -0.72 (22 ply) 16.Qc2 Be4 17.Nxe4 dxe4 18.Bc4 Ne7 19.Qb3 Nf5 20.a4 Qe7 21.Rac1 Rac8 22.Rc2 Rc7 23.Rfc1 Rec8 24.a5 h5 25.Bb5 Rxc2 26.Rxc2 Rxc2 27.Qxc2 g6 28.Qc8+ Kg7

3) -0.86 (22 ply) 16.Rf3 Bxd3 17.Rxd3 Ne7 18.Re1 Rac8 19.Qa4 Qxa4 20.Nxa4 h5 21.Nec3 Nf5 22.Rxe8+ Rxe8 23.Nb2 g6 24.Nbd1 Kg7 25.Ne3 Nxe3 26.Rxe3 Rc8 27.Rd3 a6 28.g4 hxg4 29.hxg4

1.0 minute analysis by Stockfish 9 v010218

Apr-11-18  PhilFeeley: At move 15, Srokovsky gives this:

<[T]here was a move even stronger than the game continuation, namely 15...Bxh3!, after which Black has a clear advantage. For example: 16.gxh3 Qxh3 17.Nb5 (threatening both Bh7+ and Nd6; if 17.Qb1 instead of 17.Nb5, then 17...Qg4+ 18.Kf2 Qh4+ 19.Kg2 Ng4 20.Rg1 h5! (threatening Qf2 or Qh2 with mate) 21.Nd1 Qh2+ 22.Kf1 Qh3+ 23.Rg2 Nh2+ 24.Kf2 Qh4+ 25.Ng3 Bxf4 with a winning position) 17...Qg4+ 18.Kf2 Qh4+ 19.Kg2 Ng4 20.Ng3 Qh2+ 21.Kf3 Qxd2 22.Kxg4 Qg2!! 23.Rg1 h5+ 24.Kxh5 Qh3+ 25.Kg5 Be7#.>

However, we would have been deprived of all those great positions with knights and rooks hanging off the one central pawn, dominating white.

Apr-11-18  PhilFeeley: Why 41...d4? Why not 41...Nf3? It's always good to threaten mate, right?
Premium Chessgames Member
  perfidious: <PhilFeeley: Why 41...d4? Why not 41...Nf3?>

White can then defend--for the moment, anyway--with 42.Bf4.

Apr-13-18  paul1959: <SpaceRunner> Interesting comment. I am quite sure that Botvinnik saw 15 ... Bxh3 but probably rejected it because of 16 Nxd5 as in <whiteshark> first variation. It looks like a bad pawn exchange until you find that White loses d4.It is to be noted that while Lipnitsky and Kotov (Think like a GrandMaster) and others praised Botvinnik's play, he did not include this games in his "100 selected games".
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