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Mikhail Botvinnik vs Isaac Boleslavsky
USSR Championship (1945), Moscow URS, rd 11, Jun-??
Spanish Game: Morphy Defense. Steinitz Deferred (C79)  ·  1-0



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Given 9 times; par: 69 [what's this?]

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Kibitzer's Corner
Aug-13-05  DWINS: Botvinnik deftly avoids a nice trap that Boleslavsky sets for him. At first glance, 39.Ne5 looks killing as it threatens 40.Qxg6+ Kh8 41.Nxf7+ as well as 40.Rxf7+.

However, this would have been met by 39...Nf6! 40.Rxf7+ Qxf7 41.Nxf7 Ra1+ 42.Kh2 Ng4+ 43.Kh3 Nxf2+ 44.Kh2 Rh1#

Premium Chessgames Member
  offramp: An almost incredible resource. That was well-spotted by Botvinnik just before the time control.
Premium Chessgames Member
  plang: Bovinnik felt that 12 Kh1 would have been a better way of responding to the threatened 12..Nxd4 maintaining the pressure on the queenside. Still, White had the initiative due mostly to his control of the d-file. Botvinnik recommended 21..b5 as a better defence though White would still be better. 36 Ne5 would have won at once as 36..Qxe4 is answered by 37 Qf6..Qf5 38 Nd7+. 46..Rh8 could have been answered by 47 Qxh8+!
May-01-19  tigreton: Botvinnik makes great use of the open d-file, but I don't completely understand 22. b4, I find it a very difficult move. Did Botvinnik make any commentary about it?
Premium Chessgames Member
  keypusher: <tigreton> I checked <Selected Games>.

Botvinnik gives a question mark to 21....Nb6, gives a diagram of the position, and writes:

<Black evidently had no suspicion of the gathering danger. The text move entails an advance of the pawns on the queenside, and White's advantage becomes decisive. Black should have played 21....b5, though, truly, after 22.b4 followed by Bb3 and N-e1-d3-c5 White would still have the advantage.>

He then gives an exclamation point to 22.b4.

Does that help you understand 22.b4? It does nothing for me.

Premium Chessgames Member
  keypusher: <tigreton>

I plugged the position into SF10. It gave 0.00 evals for all of its top choices, which were 22.b4, 22.Qd3, 22.Qe1, 22.a4.

The 22.b4 line ran 22.b4 c5 23.Bb3 cxb4 24.cxb4 Bb5 25.Qe1 Rxd2 26.Qxd2, so White does wind up with the d-file.

A later note indicates that Botvinnik considers this key to the position; because the dark-square bishop has to defend the pawn on e5, Black can't contest the d-file. SF agrees with Botvinnik's determination, but disagrees with his evaluation of the consequences. As Matthew Sadler points out in <Game Changer>, an engine's 0.00 can conceal a great deal of complexity. To any human, controlling the d-file would seem very important.

So when/how <did> White get a big advantage? Here is the position after 24.Qxd2.

click for larger view

The game continued 24....Bxb3 25.axb3 Qe6 (preparing ...Bf6 and ...Rd8, but there isn't time) 26.c4 Bf6 27.c5 Nc8 (27....Rd8 28.Qxd8+) 28.Qd7 and White was winning. It appears that Black's 24th, 25th, and 26th moves -- none of which draw any comment from Botvinnik -- were all errors. In engine terms, at a shallow search depth the eval jumps to about +0.8 after 24....Bxb3, about +1.8 after 25....Qe6, and about +3 after 26....Bf6.

At move 24, the engine likes Ra8 followed by ...Bf8. If White does nothing, Black can then play actively with ...a5 or just sit on the position. Critically, after 24....Ra8 25.Qd3 Bf8, 26.Nxe5 loses to ...Bxb3.

After 24....Ra8 25.c4, Black can play 25....Nd7 (because, unlike in the game, the bishop defends the d7 square) 26.c5 Nf6 27.Bxe6 Qxe6 28.Qd3 a5=.

But after 24....Bxb3? 25.axb3, the advance of White's queenside pawns is much stronger, and impossible to stop. For example, 25....Re8 26.c4 c5? 27.bxc5 Qxc5 28.b4 Qe7 29.c5 Nc8 30.Nd5 +/. SF's favorite defense is the weird-looking 26....Bf8 27.c5 Na8!, to be followed by ...Nc7 and ...Nb5.

One other note: Botvinnik writes that 22....f5 would be bad because of 23.ef gf 24.Rxd7 Rxd7 25.Nxf5 <and White develops a strong attack>. But in fact 24.Rxd7 is just a blunder, and Black has near equality after Rxd1+ 25.Qxd1 Qd7. Instead 24.Nh4 is completely winning, given the twin threats of Nxf5 and Ng6. (For that reason, 23.Nh4 is more accurate than 23.exf5.) This is why it's good to use an engine to check even the most conscientious (and Botvinnik, compared to, say, Keres, wasn't always conscientious) human annotator.

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