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Mikhail Botvinnik vs Vasily Smyslov
USSR Absolute Championship (1941), Leningrad- Moscow URS, rd 20, Apr-29
Russian Game: Cozio (Lasker) Attack (C42)  ·  1/2-1/2

ANALYSIS [x]

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Kibitzer's Corner
Feb-12-12  The Curious Emblem: 5. Qe2 -- White was certainly asking for a draw with this move, which leads to an early exchange of queens with a dead even game. It was a wise decision, as Botvinnik only needed a draw in this game to secure first place in the match-tournament.
Feb-12-12  RookFile: It's more like a "can't lose" move. Game will be a win or a draw, nothing worse than that for white - if he plays correctly. Certainly acceptable for Botvinnik. Lasker used to play this way.
Feb-12-12  The Curious Emblem: <RookFile> But a win will be very difficult for White to pull off in this line of play at this level of competition. Botvinnik knew it, and knew that, against Smyslov, it would only lead to a draw.
Feb-12-12  brankat: <..against Smyslov, it would only lead to a draw.>

Not necessarily. At the time (1941) Botvinnik was probably the strongest player in the world, while V.V.Smyslov was only twenty years old.

But, it is true that Botvinnik only needed a draw to clinch the first place.

Feb-12-12
Premium Chessgames Member
  Pawn and Two: Perhaps Botvinnik's opinion on this is best. After 9...Bg4, Botvinnik commented in his book, "Soviet Chess Championship, 1941", <"The variation is far from a drawn one, for White has won a tempo. But both opponents are trying to create a position which the referee will agree to register as drawn.>

Botvinnik won this tournament by a margin of 2 1/2 pts ahead of Keres, who finished a full point ahead of Smyslov. This game is from the final round, in which Keres also drew his game with Boleslavsky.

Feb-12-12  The Curious Emblem: <brankat> I mistakenly used the word "only;" I was going to change it to something less absolute but....

<Pawn and Two> Thanks for sharing the information. But I don't really see how it is "far from a drawn one" with the reason being, "for White has won a tempo." The position does not seem like one in which one tempo will make all the difference between "drawn position" and "far from a drawn one." Perhaps you know, or maybe Botvinnik elaborated on this point?

Feb-12-12  RookFile: It appears that this is the only time Botvinnik was on the white side of this defence in his entire career.
Feb-12-12  The Curious Emblem: <brankat> By the way, Smyslov finished ahead of Botvinnik in the 1940 USSR Championship the previous year. Saying that "At the time (1941) Botvinnik was probably the strongest player in the world, while V.V.Smyslov was only twenty years old" is a bit misleading in interpretation, as if age mattered that much at this point in Smyslov's career in the context we are talking about.

From http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Smyslov:

<In his first Soviet final, the 1940 USSR Chess Championship (Moscow, URS-ch12), he performed exceptionally well for 3rd place with 13/19, finishing ahead of the reigning champion Mikhail Botvinnik. This tournament was the strongest Soviet final up to that time, as it included several players, such as Paul Keres and Vladas Mik├źnas, from countries annexed by the USSR, as part of the Nazi-Soviet Pact of 1939.

The Soviet Federation held a further tournament of the top six from the 1940 event, and this was called the 1941 Absolute Championship of the USSR, one of the strongest tournaments ever organized. The format saw each player meet his opponents four times. The players were Botvinnik, Keres, Smyslov, Isaac Boleslavsky, Igor Bondarevsky, and Andor Lilienthal. Smyslov scored 10/20 for third place, behind Botvinnik and Keres. <This proved that Smyslov was of genuine world-class Grandmaster strength at age 20, a very rare achievement at that time.>>

Feb-12-12  The Curious Emblem: <RookFile: It appears that this is the only time Botvinnik was on the white side of this defence in his entire career.> It was very unusual for Botvinnik to choose this variation -- vast majority of GMs would play d4 instead. It was the main reason that I thought White was "certainly" going for a draw with the move 5. Qe2, though the word "certainly" was a little too absolute in this context (along with "only" that I've used as well).
Feb-12-12  The Curious Emblem: <<Pawn and Two> Thanks for sharing the information. But I don't really see how it is "far from a drawn one" with the reason being, "for White has won a tempo." The position does not seem like one in which one tempo will make all the difference between "drawn position" and "far from a drawn one." Perhaps you know, or maybe Botvinnik elaborated on this point?>

I think I figured out what Botvinnik meant. The position that results from this variation after 9... Bg4, although equal, is "far from a drawn one" because there is still a lot of play left that could end up being a double-edged sword. It's like in the Sicilian Opening variations where players castle on opposite sides: the position may be "equal" but they are "far from a drawn one." Am I right?

Feb-13-12
Premium Chessgames Member
  Pawn and Two: <The Curious Emblem> Botvinnik did not share any more of his opinions, regarding the drawishness, or the chances in this opening variation.

Our Chessgames database indicates this variation is drawish. The database has 233 games after 9.Nc3, with this small sample, 76.4% of the games were drawn.

Perhaps Botvinnik when making his annotations for the tournament book, was thinking of some possibilities for White, which he did not comment on.

After 23.Nc3, Fritz at 23 ply, indicates only a minimal edge for White after 9...h6, 9...Be6, 9...0-0, or 9...Nc6.

Botvinnik's comment was made after 9...Bg4. Here Fritz indicates White had choices that would have provided a little more advantage: (.48) (25 ply) 10.0-0-0 h6 11.Bf4 Be6 12.d4, or (.52) (25 ply) 10.d4 Nbd7 11.h3 Be6 12.0-0 0-0 13.Rfe1 c6. The move played by Botvinnik, 10.Nd4, was slightly less advantageous: (.33) (25 ply) 10.Nd4 Bd7 11.0-0 Nc6 12.Nxc6 bxc6.

Smyslov's reply 10...Bxe2, allowed the possibility of 11.Kxe2 (.41) (25 ply) 11...h6 12.Be3 Nc6 13.Nxc6 bxc6 14.Rhe1, but here too, as in the other variations, Black appears to have good drawing chances.

Feb-13-12  The Curious Emblem: <Pawn and Two> Thanks for your detailed reply; I appreciate it! I don't fully agree with Botvinnik, but, if I am right about what he meant, I do understand why he said that and find it at least reasonable. We're humans, after all, not computers.

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