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Mikhail Botvinnik vs Max Euwe
FIDE World Championship Tournament (1948), The Hague NED, rd 2, Mar-04
Semi-Slav Defense: Romih Variation (D46)  ·  1-0



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Premium Chessgames Member
  KEG: Post II

6... Bb4

click for larger view

"One of the ways to sidestep the Meran. Van Scheltinga has often played this type of Half-Meran of late." (Euwe)

"...he branches off from the Meran to a line reintroduced by Romih at San Remo 1930...The idea (originally Tchigorin's) is to force an early e5 by Qe7 and an eventual retreat of the Bishop either to d6 or c7. This plan, if successfully carried out, would give Black excellent attacking chances on the King side, but its fundamental unsoundness lies in the fact that it prematurely and violently opens up the center..." (Golombek).

6...dxc4 does seen sounded and arguably better, but the text may have had some surprise value, is certainly playable, and Euwe perhaps was well armed for this variation.

Most of the contemporary commentators shared Golombek's distaste for the text:

"A strange move that has been played regularly by only two men: the Italian Romi about twenty years ago and the Dutchman van was once tried by Tchigorin and once by Alekhine (against Euwe, 1937 match, 3rd game). Recently Keres adopted the move unsuccessfully against Novotelnov in the Tchigorin Tournament at Moscow. It is one of three Semi-Meran variation Black has at his disposal if he wants to avoid the Meran...It looks inferior, but most of the examples available show Black coming out well." (Kmoch)

"This defense, which attracted broader attention after the Euwe-Alekhine match in 1937, is fully playable for Black, although not without certain risks. In my opinion, Euwe made the wrong decision here...Because more open and positionally clear positions suit his playing style better...I believe the most suitable continuation for Euwe's playing style was a transiation to the Meran Defense by 6...dxc4 7. Bxc4 b5 8. Bd3 a6..." (Keres)

7. a3

"Botvinnik's own move, and one that is as strong as it is simple..." (Golombek)

"7. 0-0 0-0 8. Ne5 [8...Qc2 or 8. Bd2 are better--KEG] has been much analyzed and repeatedly played in Holland..." (Kmoch).

"White has to make this move at once, since for example after 7.0-0 0-0 8. a3 Black could favorably transpose to the Tchigorin Defence with 8...Bd6 9. e4 dxc4 10. Bxc4 e5." (Keres)

In fact, the text and 8. 0-0 both have their points. The text goes back to Pillsbury-Albin 1894 and Vidmar--Marshall Karlsbad 1911 both games were won by White). Euwe himself had played the move.

7... Ba5

7...BxN+ and 7...Be7 look better. But commentators c. 1948 disagreed:

"It is clear that 7...BxN+ merely strengthens White's center, and gives him the advantage of two Bishops. This was demonstrated in the third match game between Dr, Euwe and Alekhine [which was drawn--KEG but in which, in Golombek's opinion, White obtained much the better position from the opening." (Golombek)

"7...BxN+ 8. bxB 0-0 9. 0-0 slightly but definitely better for White..." (Kmoch).

The position after 7...Ba5 was:

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8. Qc2

"The obvious 8. b4 is incorrect as it merely forces the Bishop to a better position..." (Golombek)

"It is important to realize that 8. b4 Bc7 9. e4 does not have the same effect as in the analogous continuation of Tchigorin's Semi-Meran." (Kmoch).

I agree that 8. Qc2 is probably better than 8. b4, but that move is also OK since after 8...Bc7 White need not play e4 but can get the better game with 9. 0-0 or 9. Bb2.

But not everyone loved 8. Qc2:

"It is difficult to justify this move, since White is not doing anything to prevent Black's strategical plan of dxc4 followed by e5. It was better 8. 0-0..."

Like it or not, the position after 8. Qc2 was:

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White is definitely better here, but the position is double-edged and I would have been on the edge of my seat had I been among the privileged spectators back in 1948.

Premium Chessgames Member
  KEG: <perfidious> <In the 1970s, Botvinnik admitted that Euwe's penchant for what he termed 'long moves' caused him some trouble in their early encounters>.

And, as I will try to show in my commentary, Euwe's long-range strategical ideas in this game gave Botvinnik problems until Euwe lost his way beginning on move 20.

Premium Chessgames Member
  KEG: Post III

8... Qe7.

8...0-0 (or maybe 8...Qc7) was better. Botvinnik thought 8...Qe7 was a mistake:

"A poor move. 8...0-0 as Taimanov played against me in the U.S.S.R. Championship playoff (1953) is better."

Golombek agreed:

"This move is a professed part of Black's system, but it would be better to abandon it and play instead 8...0-0 9. 0-0 Bc7 10. e4 dxc4 11. Bxc4 e5."

Keres, however, disagreed and thought that 8...Qe7 was part of Black's planned development:

"Now nothing can be done to stop the e5 advance..."

9. Bd2

"This seems to be stronger than the fianchetto which is usually played in this position (O'Kelly v. Scheltinga, Beverwijk 1946)." (Kmoch)

Botvinnik could also have played 9. 0-0 first, with Bd2 to follow.

The position was now:

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9... dxc4


"Black plans to free his Queen Bishop, but this is premature and should cause great difficulties. 9...Bc7 is better, notwithstanding that White that White can exchange that Bishop for a Knight: 9...Bc7 10. cxd5 exd5 11. Nb5 Qd8 (forced) [Not really--Black could also play 11...Bb8--KEG] 12. NxB QxN. Although certainly favorable for White (13. b4!) this variation offers Black better fighting chances than the move played." (Kmoch).

A comparison of Kmoch's final position with what occurs in the game suggests that 9...Bc7 would not have been any improvement over the text, which allows Black to retain his dark-square Bishop without burying it on b8.

Botvinnik agreed that 9...Bc7 was best, but gave no variations to support his claim.

Golombek had a different notion, but his analysis was flawed:

"Once again Black errs through too close an adherence to his original plan. He should play 9...0-0 10. 0-0 Bc7 (not 10...Re8 11. Nxd5 exN 12. BxB) 11. e4 [11. cxd5 is much better and gives White much the better game after 11...exd5 12. Nb5! Qd8 13. NxB+ QxN 14. b4--Keres] dxc4 12. Bxc4 e5."

But Golombek's reasoning is based on the poor 11. e4 rather than 11. cxd5.

The best analysis of this move was by Keres, who recognized that the text is necessary before White can play e4, and--as noted above--identified the error in the analysis supposedly supporting 9...0-0.

10. Bxc4 e5
11. 0-0 0-0

11...e4 was impossible because of 12. Nxe4." (Euwe)(and Golombek similarly).

After 11...0-0 the position was:

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"Black has been able to carry out his opening idea, but despite this, he has not been completely freed from the difficulties related to developing the bishop from c8. Thanks to the fact that his pawn still stands on e3, White can maintain the tension in the centre, and strengthen his position further. Black, on the other hand, is forced to be the one who releases the tension in the centre if he wants to develop his bishop from c8." (Keres)

White is indeed better here. But Euwe was not concerned. We know this because he repeated this variation three rounds later against Reshevsky, who--as I will discuss in my next post--had a surprise prepared for Euwe.

The question at hand is how White should try to capitalize on his undoubtedly superior position. Was Botvinnik's method best? Was Reshevsky's? Or was something else in order?

Premium Chessgames Member
  KEG: Post IV

12. Rae1

Botvinnik liked this move:

"A cunning move. Now Black finds it hard to find a satisfactory answer..."

But everyone else disagreed. The majority opinion was echoed by Kmoch, who described 12. Rae1 as follows:

"In order to start an attack by advancing the King Pawn and King Bishop Pawn at the right moment. This aggressive idea leads to nothing. The right line was shown in the 5th round by Reshevsky: 12. d5!"

As the further course of the game showed, Kmoch's doubts about Botvinnik's 12. Rae1 were well founded. But what about Reshevsky's move (12. d5). It would leave the position as:

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In his 5th round game against Reshevsky, when confronted with this move, Euwe played 12...c5? and lost. Euwe aptly called 12...c5? "the worst possible move." Golombek, Keres, and Wade--Whiteley Keene all gave Euwe's move a "?" Keres was most emphatic and called it "a decisive mistake...really bad, since later White's strong d-pawn prevents Black developing his pieces."

The merits of 12. d5 therefore cannot be judged by what happened after Euwe's 12...c5? against Reshevsky.

Keres stated that after 12. d5 Black had "several continuations at his disposal that could have given him an approximately equal game..."

He lists 12...BxN, 12...Nb6, and 12...Bc7 as among Black's best options. Wade-Whitely-Keene give the same three moves. Euwe adds a fourth (12...e4).

Since this post deals with Botvinnik-Euwe and not Reshevsky -Euwe, I shall confined myself to considering 12...BxN (which is what Fritz gave me when I fed this position to the beast).

12...BxN 13. BxB cxd5 14. Bb4 is where all of the analysis begins. Golombek and Keres then only consider 14...Nc5, after which White gets the better game with 15. Bxd5 NxB 16. BxN Qc7. Keres claims that "Black has nothing special to fear, even though White's position is somewhat freer." But after 17. Rfc1 White is clearly on top. Euwe is also correct that White would be better after 17. Rac1, but he (and Golombek in his commentary) only considers 17...Re8, while 17...Rd8 leaves Black in reasonable shape.

In any case, in the above line, with best play White is plainly better after 14...Nc5. But Keres and Golombek overlooked what Euwe found: the pretty exchange sacrifice via 14...Qe6! Then, Black winds up just fine after 15. BxR dxB 16. Bb4 a5 17. Bc3 b5 after which Euwe (correctly in my view) concludes that "Black has reasonable compensation for the exchange."

If Euwe's analysis is correct, it seems to follow that Reshevsky's 12. d5 is, to quite Keres: "...hardly sufficient to assure White of an edge.

So what should White play after 11...0-0?

Only Keres found the answer (and the move selected by Fritz and Stockfish): 12. Ba2! To quote Keres further:

"Now [after 12. Ba2] 12...Bc7 is no longer possible due to the reply 13. Nb5, and secondly Black has to consider the threat of 13. Nd5. If, for example, 12...Bb6 [best--KEG] then 13. Rae1 (or even better 13. Rfe1 or 13. Na3) and Black has run out of reasonable moves."

While. contra Keres, I do not think White has a won game after 13. Ba2!, there is no doubt that White is much better and that 13. Ba2 is the best choice for White.

Keres aptly summed up the situation:

"It seems that White could have maintained an opening advantage with 12. Ba2!, but the edge gradually vanishes after the hasty text move.

To return to the game, the position after Botvinnik's 12. Rae1 was:

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12... Bc7

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"Now Black is ready for e4." (Euwe)

"Now Black already threatens e4, which White has to prevent." (Keres)

"Black completes the first part of his mobilization. The two tempi he has lost with his Ling have no major importance." (Kmoch)

In sum, Euwe had nearly equalized. The battle loomed ahead.

Premium Chessgames Member
  KEG: Post V

13. Ne4


"This prevents the threatened 13...e5 (14. Ng5 Bxh2+ 15. KxB Ng4+ and 16...QxN) and simultaneously threatens 14. Bb4." (Botvinnik).

Botvinnik's praise of this move is a bit too much. It basically leads to equalizing exchanges.

"Instead of this exchange, which eases Black's position, 13. Bd3 came into consideration." (Keres)

13. Bd3 does indeed look like a better try, but Keres' analysis of this alternative was flawed:

"13...Re8 (13...a5 to keep an eye on b4 was better) 14. dxe5 (14. Ng5 and---since Black hasn't played a5--14. Ne4 were somewhat better) Nxe5 15. NxN QxN (better than Golombek's 15...BxN 16. f4 Bc7 17. e4 Ng4)."

But Keres acknowledges that gets a "tenable position" in his line after 16. f4 Qh5 ((16...Qc5 looks even better and seems to equalize).

So if neither Botvinnik's move nor that of Keres gives White anything, is there anything better?

13. e4?!, a move considered but rightly rejected by Golombek, gets White nowhere after 13...exd4 14. Ne2 Qxe4 15. Bd3 Qd5 16. Nexd4 Nc5. Even worse, and maybe even losing for White is Golombek's 14. Nxd4? Qd6 (much better than Golombek's 14...Bxh2+ 15. KxB Qe5+ [15...Qd6+ is better]16. Kg1 QxN 17. Be2]).

Golombek and Kmoch also considered and correctly rejected as of "doubtful value" trading via 13. dxe5 [or beginning with 13. Nxe5] Nxe5 14. NxN QxN in light of 15. f4 Qh5 [or perhaps 15...Qd6 or 16...Qe7--KEG] After which White gets into trouble after Golombek's 16. h3 Bf5 or Kmoch's 16. Ba2 Bf5 (he considers only 16...Re8) and can only equalize with the better 16. Ne4 or 16. Bd3.

If White wants to play for any semblance of an advantage, the best chance may be to make room for his Knight to retreat by playing the awkward 13. Bc1 or maybe even 13. Kh1.

Stockfish favors 13. Bd3, but as discussed above, this also fails to get Black any real edge.

So let's return to Botvinnik's 13. Ne4, the position now being:

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13... NxN
14. QxN

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14... a5


Like Rodney Dangerfield, this perfectly logical move (and probably Black's easiest way to equalize) gets no respect from the commentators:

"Weakening his Q-side and losing valuable time." (Botvinnik).

"A weak move at a critical point." (Golombek)

"An unnecessary loss of time..." (Keres)

The alternatives these critics mention, with one possible exception, are all .

A) Golombek's 14...Nf6 gives White a small edge after 15. Qh4 e4 16. Bb4 [Keres' 16. Ne5 would lose this edge after 16...a5 instead of his proposed 16...Be6)] Bd6 17. BxB QxB 18. Ng5 Bf5 [perhaps better is 18...b5] 19. f3.

B) Golombek's alternative of 14...Re8 is no better and again yields a small advantage to White after 15. Bb4 [all the alternatives to Euwe's move leave this available] Qd8 (better than Golombel's 15...Qf6 16. Rd1).

C) Keres' 14...Kh8 is quite bad for Black after 15. Bb4 c5 [Not 15...Bd6? 16. Ng5--KEG] 16. Bxc5 [better than Keres' 16. dxc5 a5) NxB 17. dxN.

The only true alternative to Euwe's 14...a5 is 14...Bd6 as suggested by Euwe, Botvinnik, and (according to Keres) Makogonov. This also seems to yield approximate equality after 15. Bb4 BxB 16. axB Nf6 17. Qxe5 Qxb4.

In sum, Euwe's 14...a5, far from being an error or blunder, was as good as anything, and left the position as follows:

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Premium Chessgames Member
  KEG: Post VI

15. Ba2


"A subtle move to prepare 16. Bc3." (Euwe)

"A necessary precaution." (Golombek)

If 15. Bc3 immediately, then--as discussed by Golombek, Euwe, and Keres-- 15...Nf6 16. Qh4 e4 17. Ne5 (Not 17. Nd2?? b5 which loses a piece--Golombek) Be6 and Black, if anyone, is better.

White also gets nowhere, as Kmoch showed, with 15. Nxe5 NxN 16. dxN (not 16. f4? Bf5--Kmoch) Qxe5 17. QxQ BxQ " he must lose a tempo to save his Queen Knight Pawn" (18. Bc3 BxB 19. bxB leads to a drawn ending at best for White).

Probably the best choice for White here was not discussed by any of the commentators: 15. b4. But this is also no great shakes, since Black is fine after 15...Nf6 16. Qc2 e4 17. Ne5 a4.

After 15. Ba2 the position was:

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15... Nf6

This fairly obvious move was criticized--unfairly--by Golombek and Euwe, who claimed that 15...Kh8 was better.

"Black does not foresee White's possibilities of attack by a Pawn sacrifice, otherwise he would play 15...Kh8 (threatening f5) 16. dxe5 Nxe5 and though White preserves his initiative by 17. Nd4 [17. NxN is just as good--KEG] Black's game is quite tenable." (Golombek).

"With 15...Kh8! Black retains reasonable play, since he then threatens 16...f5..." (Euwe).

Keres disagreed and argued that White is better in Golombek's line than in the game.

In fact, both moves seem OK for Black. The rush to condemn 15...Nf6 seems to stem from a mistaken belief that Botvinnik's coming 17th move pawn sac gave White a major if not winning advantage. As will be seen, this analysis was wrong.

16. Qh4

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16... e4

"He decides to win the pawn rather than submit to 16...exd4 17. dxe4 or 16...Be6 17. Bb1 when White threatens both Bxh7+ and dxe5." (Golombek).

White does indeed emerge with far the better game and excellent winning chances on either of Golombek's alternative moves. By any reckoning, the text was best. It left the position as follows:

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"With the Queen Bishop ready to go into action and White's plan of advancing his Pawns frustrated, Black has a fully satisfactory game. It even looks as if he had the advantage since the attacked Knight seems to lack a good flight square." (Kmoch)

The climax of the game had arrived, and Botvinnik's brilliant idea was about to be unveiled. As will be seen, however, Euwe would have been fine with best play. Over the board, however, handling Botvinnik's upcoming assault was by no means a simple task.

Jan-20-20  Cibator: Golombek annotated this game a second time a few years later in his well-regarded (in its day) “The Game Of Chess”. It was of course in far less depth, but even so some of the differences from his earlier effort make interesting reading (for a start, the name of the opening variation, which he renders as the “Half Slav Defence”).

References below, except where stated otherwise, are to TGOC, 1961 Penguin reprint. I’ve algebraicised the notation, which was originally in Descriptive.

At Black’s sixth move: “This pin does not achieve much; better is 6. … Bd6”. No mention of that …. dxc4 alternative, nor any explanation of why his suggested move is better.

At Black’s ninth: “Castles was still to be preferred.” And that’s it.

On White’s twelfth, he has this to say: “A far-sighted move. Botvinnik sees that Black will eventually play … e4, and therefore prepares to support the KP so as to be able to reply with f3. The KR is wanted on f1 where it can profit from the opening of that file.”

At Black’s fourteenth: we’re given the 14. … Nf6 line already cited by KEG, but after 19.f3 HG adds … Rae8 with the comment “ … and Black has good chances of holding the game”.

HG then rather inexplicably slides over the next few moves, giving no comment at all until White’s nineteenth. So I’ll stop there for now, and wait for KEG to carry the story forward again.

Premium Chessgames Member
  KEG: <Cibator>Thank you for this important addition. I was unaware of this second Golombek publication on the 1948 World Chess Championship, but I will try to hunt it down before I get to work on any other games from this tournament.
Jan-21-20  Cibator: <KEG>: "The Game Of Chess" wasn't about the 1948 World Championship event; it was a general textbook for intermediate-strength players. (Although there were a few introductory chapters as well, explaining the rules and other elementary matters, these were too rushed to be much use to complete beginners).

One of the later chapters was a survey of great players, with illustrative games by each. The Euwe game was the one chosen for Botvinnik. And as I've indicated, the annotations were pitched at a less sophisticated level of chess understanding, and were not of the same depth as in the 1948 book.

Premium Chessgames Member
  KEG: Post VII

Thus far, I have been citing older commentators and my own Beginning here, we also have the analysis of Garry Kasparov and some fine analysts on this site.

17. Ne5


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"The combination Botvinnik had in mind." (Kmoch)

"A natural pawn sacrifice which Black should certainly not have accepted." (Botvinnik)

"Takes advantage of Black's lack of development." (Knight13 on this site)

"A nice sac of [a] Pawn for activation of [his] dark square Bishop." (Honza Cervenka on this site).

"Forced because the alternative 17. Ng5 h6 18. Nh3 Qd6 19. Qg3 (or 19. Qf4--KEG) is weak." (babacova on this site).

As babcova has pointed out, 17. Ng5 would be poor. Golombek made a similar point, but (in babacova's line) Golombek gave the inferior 18...Nd5 which allows White to equalize with 19. QxQ. babcova's move is far better and gives Black a clear edge.

Keres found the same 18...Qd6 that babacova did. Perhaps even better would be 18...Be6.

What seems clear beyond doubt is that 17. Ne5 was best. But how strong was it? As I will attempt to show, Black was fine after 17. Ne5.

How should Black respond?

17... BxN


"It is hard to understand why Euwe takes this great risk without (as the continuation shows) having a clear idea how to meet the consequences. 17...Be6 is evidently indicated and leads to quite a good game for Black." (Kmoch)

"...Black should not have accepted [the] sacrifice." (Botvinnik)

'It is amazing that a player of Euwe's strength could asses the resulting position so inaccurately...Even if it would have been too brave to claim that Black's position is lost after accepting the sacrifice [and it is not--as Keres' own analysis eventually reflects--KEG] one can however certainly claim that from now until the end of the game he has to fight with difficulties and is unable to restore complete equality even with the best defense. Such a desperate attempt would have been justified only if Black lacked better defensive resources. But as a matter of fact, Black possessed A FULLY SATISFACTORY POSITION AND SIMPLY HAD TO COMPLETE THE DEVELOPMENT OF HIS QUEENSIDE WITH THE MOVES 17...Be6 18. Bb1 Bd5." (Keres)

While there has been much criticism of Botvinnik and others for considering the game lost for Black after accepting the sacrifice with 17...BxN. But in fairness to Keres, Kmoch, Euwe, and Botvinnik, they spotted the best move here: 17...Be6.

While, as will be seen, Black still had a tenable game after accepting the sacrifice, Keres and Botvinnik were correct that Black would have had a much easier time with 17...Be6.

After 17...Be6, Black has at least equality. e.g., 18. Bb1 (best, Black is clearly better after 18. BxB QxB) Bd5. ("Many commentators consider this position as favorable for White, but it is difficult to prove this in any concrete way"--Keres). 18...Rfe8 was also fine for Black.

After 18...Bd5 in the above line, the position would have been:

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Two main lines have been suggested by the commentators here for White, neither of which yield any edge for White:

A) If 19. Bc3 Black has "adequate defensive resources." (Botvinnik. Kasparov says that Black "has a good position" here. Based on Kasparov's commentary, in an earlier commentary Botvinnik said that White "retained the advantage" here. In any case, there is no dispute that Black's position is tenable at least. But all this may be beside the point, since after 19. Bc3 Black is better after 19...b5.

B) 19. f3 was considered by Golombek, Keres, and Euwe. It also gives White no advantage. As Keres stated, Black "can simply proceed with 19...Rfe8." Botvinnik similarly said that Black has "adequate defensive resources" with 19...Rfe8.

19...BxN (given as best by Euwe and Golombek) is not as good as 19...Rfe8, but, as Euwe has shown, Black is still OK.

The conclusion seems inescapable that Black would have been fine had he declined the sacrifice with 17...Be6.

But Euwe played 17...BxN. Play then continued:

18. dxB Qxe5
19. Bc3

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Is there a win here for White?

Premium Chessgames Member
  KEG: <Cibator> <"The Game Of Chess" wasn't about the 1948 World Championship event; it was a general textbook for intermediate-strength players>

Thank you for the clarification.

Premium Chessgames Member
  KEG: Post VIII

19... Qe7

Not 19...Qh5? 20.BxN (Golombek)(Kasparov)

20. f3


"The beautiful point." (Euwe)

"Of course not 20. BxN QxB 21. Qxe4 [This is awful. 21. QxQ gxQ 22. Rd1 or 22. f3 leaves White in decent shape--though not as good as what he got with 20. f3] Bf5 22. Qc4 b5 [a bad move from Golombek. The simple 22...Qxb2 leaves Black with a likely win Golombek seemed to think that the text wins the exchange for Black, but not after 23. Qe2 Rad8 24. e4! with approximate equality].

Whatever the flaws in some of Golombek's analysis,it is clear that 20. BxN is far inferior to 20. f3.

The position after 20. f3 was:

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This is the key position from which all of the arguments begin.

20... Nd5?


It is quite clear that Euwe was in deep trouble, if not outright lost, after this move. The question is whether Euwe could have achieved decent chances with 20...exf3 or 20...Be6.

Until recently, most commentators believed that 20...exf3 led to a hopeless position for Black. That analysis has been--as I will show--refuted. Black can almost certainly survive with best play after 20...exf3.

Much of the commentary on this site and elsewhere fault Keres, Botvinnik, and other for failing to see the superiority of 20...exf3 to Euwe's actual 20...Nd5? As I will attempt to show, while Keres and Botvinnik erred in their analysis of 20...exf3, they DID note what I think is Black's best move: 20...Be6, which also appears to save the day for Black.

On this post, I will show that 20...exf3 was indeed playable. In my next post, I will discuss 20...Be6 and show that this alternate was also playable and probably best.

So now as for 20...exf3. This would have left the position as follows:

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Best for White now is 21. Bb1 (21. Rxf3 leaves Black fine after 21...Nd5 22. QxQ NxQ).

After 21. Bb1, the position would have been:

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Botvinnik, Keres, and all of the earlier commentators here only considered the losing 21...h6? which gets crushed by 22. Rxf3 and now if 22...Nd5 (the heroic 22...Bf5 might hold on longer but is obviously no reason to play on) 22. Rg3!! (a gorgeous Queen sacrifice) QxQ (other moves avoid getting mated immediately but were obviously hopeless) 24. Rxg7+ Kh8 25. Rh7+ Kg8 26 Rh8 mate.

But, as Kasparov and others on this site have pointed out, Black can avoid all of this with 21...Re8! Now Black is OK after 22. BxN (not 22. Rxf3 Ne4--Kasparov) QxB 23. Qxh7+ Kf8 [thanks to 21...Re8 Black can now escape as noted by zanzibar on this site] 24. Rxf3 Qh6

The above line would leave the position as:

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White is perhaps a bit better here, but Black should be able to hold.

So how, asks tamar on this site, could Euwe, Keres, and Botvinnik all miss this? The answer, I think, lies in the fact that they: (i) recognized that 20...Nd5? was bad; and (ii) found what looks like a saving move in 20...Be6. For this reason, they did not look carefully at the merits of 20...exf3.

In my next post on this game, I will consider 20...Be6.

Premium Chessgames Member
  KEG: Post IX

Let us now consider the other main alternative to 20...Nd5, i.e., 20...Be6. This would have left the position as follows:

click for larger view

Golombek thought this was hopeless and that White could now win easily. Kmoch concluded after a lengthy analysis that [at the end of his proposed line: "...this situation leaves Black with little hope for White's attack is too strong." Euwe stated that 20...Be6 was "suspect" and gave a line that ended with Black getting mated. But Botvinnik and Keres disagreed:

"...he [Black] had to play 20...Be6." (Botvinnik)

"...20...Be6 came into serious consideration..." (Keres--who went on to say that it led to play "without any clear outcome" and that in his main line "...Black [is] able to create a sturdy defensive position."

So who was right? Let's consider the two main lines after 20...Be6, i.e., 21. Bb1 and 21. fxe4.

A) 21. Bb1

Euwe and Golombek didn't even consider this move. Botvinnik ONLY considered this move. Botvinnik, Keres, and Kmoch all agreed that 21. Bb1 gets White nowhere:

21. Bb1 Nd5

Even better is 21...Rfe8 which--though ignored by everyone--leads to equality. I will, however, confine my analysis here to 21...Nd5, since Black is also OK, albeit slightly inferior, after this move.

22. Qxe4

Only Kmoch considered 22. QxQ, which yields little to White after 22...NxQ 23. Bxe4 Bb3 after which "White has hardly any advantage" (Kmoch). So let's look at 22. Qxe4.

22... f5!
23. Qe5 NxB

"White has hardly any advantage." (Kmoch).

"Black has escaped from the worst." (Keres)

Indeed, the game seems quite balanced now (assuming White will recapture with 24. QxN:

click for larger view

So 21. Bb1 leaves Black OK. So let's consider the alternative that Golombek, Kmoch, and Euwe thought so crushing:

B) 21. fxe4


click for larger view

21... BxB
22. RxN


22... Rfe8

Euwe only considered the disastrous 22...gxR?? after which White cleans up after 23. BxN winning the Black Queen or mating.

Golombek only considered 22...Be6. Black can probably survive this inferior move after 23. Qg3 (best). But Golombek instead gives the flashy but flawed 23. Rg6?! and then has Black play 23...QxQ?? which of course gets crushed via 24. Rxg7+ Kh8 25. Rxf7+. But in fact Black is absolutely fine with 23...f6!

Let's return to 22...Rfe8

23. Qg3

This leaves:

click for larger view

Kmoch here states that: "...this situation leaves Black with little hope for White's attack is too strong."

But Keres had the answer to this:

23... Qf8!

"And Black has been able to create a sturdy defensive position, among other things threatening 23...Re6."

In sum, Black would have been fine after 20...Be6. Keres' analysis of this move was comprehensive (I have not quoted it in full--please see his book for the balance).

We can now return to the actual game to determine whether there was any hope for Black after 20...Nd5?

Premium Chessgames Member
  KEG: Post X

Returning from the various alternatives Euwe did not select, let's examine the actual position after 20...Nd5?

click for larger view

What followed was:

21. QxQ NxQ
22. fxe4

This left:

click for larger view

Is this position a win for White? While it's not entirely clear, it appears Black still has chances. But what should he play.

22... b6?


"The decisive mistake which leaves all open lines in White's hands, and makes Black's future defensive task hopeless." (Keres).

"This move was justly criticised by Makogonov in 'Shakhmaty v SSSR' 4/1948 and by Keres in his tournament Book..." (Botwinnik--who nonetheless concludes that Black is lost in any case, his fatal mistake having been made on his 20th move).

The nicest thing said about 22...b6? was Golombek's "The text move seems tame, but there is a dearth of good moves."

So what alternatives were there to 22...b6? The three moves discussed at length by the commentators were (i) 22...Be6; (ii) 22...Bg4; and (iii) Ng6. Let's examine all three:

(i) 22...Be6

click for larger view

This doesn't seem to work:

23. BxB fxB
24. RxR+ KxR

"Otherwise 25. Bxa5" (Kmoch) Euwe nonetheless prefers 24...RxR, but offers no hope for Black here.

25. Rf1+


Better than Golombek's 25. Rd1 (which probably also wins).

25... Kg8

If 25...Ke8 26. Bxg7 (Botvinnik)(Kasparov)

26. Rd1

click for larger view

"And after rook to the seventh it is all over." (Botvinnik)

"And White's rook penetrates the 7th rank." (Keres)

"With the inevitable invasion on d7." (Kasparov).

so 22...Be6 doesn't save Black. Let's move on.

In my next post on this game, I will consider 22...Bg4.

Premium Chessgames Member
  KEG: Post XI

If 22...Bg4, the position would be:

click for larger view

Kmoch called 22...Bg4 "vitally necessary." Let's see. There are three main lines here: 1) 23. Rf2; 23. Rf4; and 23. h3 Let's take these in turn.

1) 23. Rf2

This is the least promising line for White and the only one that clearly does not lead to a win.

23... b6 .

This seems to hold for Black but was not mentioned by any of the commentators. They all only look at 23...Bh5. That move loses to 24. g4 a move ignored by Golombek and Kasparov. Since 23...b6 seems to save Black in this variation, let's move on:

2) 23. Rf4

23...Bc8 is probably best for Black here, but it was not discussed by any of the commentators and it does not seem to save the game.

The only commentator who claimed Black could save the day here was Keres, so let's look at his move.

23... Bh5
24. g4

Much stronger than Golombek's 24. Rd2.

24... Bg6

24...g5 was bad in light of 25. gxB (and not Kasparov's awful 25. Rf3)

25. h4 h5
26. Kh2 Kh7
27. Rg1

Botvinnik and Keres debated whether White has a win here. But the issue is moot because White wins easily after 27. Red1

Thus, the only chance against 23. Rf4 is my suggested 23...Bc8, which might allow Black to hang on for a while but which does not look promising.

3) 23. h3 (Kmoch's move)

This also leaves Black in trouble after 23...Bh5 24. g4 Bg6 25. Rf4 though Kmoch's claim that "Black can still put up a fight" is probably correct.

All in all, 22...Bg4 does not quite seem to work.

So let's turn to the third main line instead of 22...b6:

22... Ng6

Kasparov (quoting something by Euwe I have not seen), this is "more tenacious and leads to "an unpleasant but tenable endgame. Let's see:

The position after 22...Ng6 would have been:

click for larger view

23. Rd1 Be6

23...Bg4 and 23...Nh8 don't seem to work)

24. BxB fxB
25. Rd7 RxR+
26. KxR Rf8+
27. Ke2 Rf7
28. Rd6 Nf8

28...a4 seems to fail to 29. Rxe6 Rc7 30. Re8+ Kf7 31. Ra8.

29. Rd8 Rd7

And here 30. Ra8 (better than Kasparov's 30. Rb8) seems to win.

In sum, while Euwe's 22...b6 left him poorly placed, there was nothing truly better.

So let's at last go back to the actual game after Euwe's 22....b6:

click for larger view

In my next post on this game, I will pick up the story from this point.

Premium Chessgames Member
  KEG: Post XII

Even after 22...b6, winning was proved a surprisingly easy task for Botvinnik. His handling of the balance of the game--and indeed his play throughout--was of a very high order.

23. Rd1

click for larger view

"With the forceful threat of 24. Rxf7 RxR 25. Rd8 mate. Botwinnik [Golombek's spelling] now makes short work of the game." (Golombek)

Threatening 24. Rxf7 as well as 24. Bxf7+. The main thing, however, is the command of the d-file. This secures the win for White. The rest is easy." (Kmoch) (see also Euwe, similarly)

23... Ng6

23...Be6 and 23...Bg4 might have made Botvinnik's task a bit harder, but the outcome with proper play by White was no longer in doubt.

Let's examine these two alternatives:

A) 23... Be6

23...Be6, although insufficient as well, would have been relatively better." (Euwe)

click for larger view

The line from here was given by Golombek in his 1949 book and later by Kasparov:

24. BxB fxB
25. Rd7 RxR+
26. KxR Rf8+
27. Ke2 Rf7
28. Rd6

This would leave:

click for larger view

"...and White takes off Pawns very much as he pleases." (Golombek)

"Black cannot hold the position." (Kasparov)

Since 23...Be6 wouldn't work, let's turn to the other alternative:

B) 23... Bg4

click for larger view

This move also would not have saved the day for Euwe. Unfortunately, the only detailed discussion of 23...Bg4 is the flawed analysis of Golombek and Kasparov:

24. Rd6 Rac8

[24...Rae8 would have offered somewhat stiffer resistance, but it would also have failed after 25. Rf4--KEG]

25. h3

[This wins, but 25. Rf4 was more forcing--KEG]

25... Bh5
26. g4

[26. Rd7 also does the trick--KEG]

26... Bg6

click for larger view

27. e5


But 27. e5? makes the win uncertain if Black responds 27...Be4 or 27...Nd5.

But 27. Rd7! (not mentioned by either Golombek or Kasparov) is lights out and shows that 23...Bg4 would have been insufficient.

Having disposed of 23...Be6 and 23...Bg4, let's return to the actual game after Euwe's 23...Ng6:

click for larger view

Premium Chessgames Member
  KEG: Post XIII

24. Rd6 Ba6
25. Rf2

click for larger view

25... Bb5


"The final error in a difficult position." (Kasparov)

Kasparov discusses two alternatives:

A) 25...Rac8

Kasparov correctly diagnosed that this move does not save Black:

26. Rd7 Nh8
27. e5 Rce8

Better were 27...Rcd8 and 27...c5, but the former loses to 28. Rfd2 RxR 29. RxR Bc8 30. Rc7; and the latter falls to 28. e6. After Kasparov's proposed 27...Rce8, Black gets crushed after:

28. e6

But Kasparov claimed that "slightly better" for Black was:

B) 25... Ne7.

But Kasparov only considers 26. e5 (which looks like a win to me). Even better for White, however, was:

26. h4

Black--with his Queen-side under vicious assault-- would now be helpless against the threatened advance of the h-pawn.

The best chance for Black here was probably:

C) 25...c5, which sacrifices a pawn or so for active counterplay, e.g.,

26. Rxb6 Bd4 27. Rf5 c4 28. Rxa5

But here too, Black is pretty clearly lost.

In sum, there was no sufficient alternative to Euwe' 25...Bb5

So let's return to the actual game after 25...Bb5

click for larger view

26. e5


click for larger view

"Deadly. He threatens 27. e6 fxe6 28. Rd7." (Golombek)

Kasparov echoed Golombek's comment.

"Now Black loses because of the weakness of the f7 square. White's doubled pawns get on the move controlling vital central squares and preparing a decisive opening of diagonals for White's bishops." (Botvinnik).

"The doubled pawns are now going to decide the game." (Kmoch)

26... Ne7

click for larger view

"So as to meet 27. Rd7 with Nd5." (Golombek)

"Black hopes to play Nd5 and close the a2..g8 diagonal at the cost of a pawn, but White's following move deprives him of this possibility." (Keres).

Was there anything better than 26...Ne7.

Euwe and later Kasparov disposed of 26...Ra7 via 27. e6 Nh8 28. Rf4 "with the threat of 29. Rg4." (Euwe).

A more interesting--but ultimately insufficient--alternative is 26...Rae8. This was analyzed by Golombek, Keres, and Kasparov. There then would follow:

27. e6


27... fex6
28. Bxe6+

This is much better than Keres' 28. Rd7 RxR 29. Rg7+? (29. Kf2 is a superior try--KEG] Kf8 30. KxR Re7 and Black is very much alive and kicking.

28... Kh8
29. Rd7

29. h4 is stronger, but Golombek's and Kasparov's 29. Rd7 is good enough.

29... RxB

Now, 30. Bxg7+ wins. But--inexplicably, Golombek--and Kasparov following him--give 30. Rxg7? after which Black can perhaps survive with 30...Ne5 31. Rg5 RxR 32. KxR Rf6+. By contrast, after 30. Bxg7+ Kg8 31. BxR the game is over.

Since nothing else saves the day, let's return to Euwe's 26...Ne7.

Premium Chessgames Member
  KEG: Post XIV

To recap, after Euwe's 26...Ne7, the position was:

click for larger view

27. e4


"To prevent Nd5 which would still allow Black to go for opposite color Bishops." (Euwe)

27. Rd7 was perhaps even more brutal, but after 27. e4 also White had the game in hand:

click for larger view

27... c5

"To prevent 28. Rd7." (Euwe)

27...Rae8 was likewise inadequate to save the game. But Kasparov's 28. Rd7, while OK, was not the best winning line here. Black would be crushed after 28. e6 or 28. g4.

28. e6


click for larger view

28. Rxb6 was even better. Keres said that Euwe was "hoping" for 28. Rxb6 Bc6, but Black then gets killed by 29. e6 ro 29. Rf4

28... f6

This looks wretched, but Euwe had nothing better.

As Golombek and Kasparov have pointed out, 28...fxe6 loses:

29. Rxe6

29...Bxe6+ was probably quicker, but the text gets the job done.

29... RxR
30. KxR Kf8
31. Bxg7+

31. Rxb6 was easier (KEG)

31... KxB
32. RxN+ Kh8
33. Rb7

33. Bd5 or 33. K3 are even more decisive.

In any case, 28...fxe6 would not have saved the day.

After Euwe' actual move, 28...f6, the position was:

click for larger view

29. Rxb6

click for larger view

29... Bc6

"?"--(Whiteley, Wade, Keene)

"This permits a beautiful finishing combination, but Black's position was of course lost in any case." (Keres) [See Kmoch's similar comment]

After 29...Bc6, the position was:

click for larger view

I will cover Botvinnik's finishing combination in my next post on this game.

Premium Chessgames Member
  KEG: Post XV

30. RxB

"!"--(Keres)(Kasparov)(Wade Whiteley-Keene)

click for larger view

"White is giving his opponent short shrift." (Euwe)

"White's last three moves are the moves of a genius! With both his Rooks under fire Black is left no illusion of the untenability of his position." (sevenseaman on this site).

30... NxR
31. e7+ Rf7
32. Bd5

click for larger view

32. e5 also wins.


As Golombek, Kmoch, and Keres all noted, if 32...Rc8 White wins at least a piece with 33. e8)Q)+ RxQ 34. BxN Rc8 35. Bd5 which would leave:

click for larger view

Magnificent closing play by Botvinnik.

Jan-23-20  Cibator: I've left it a bit late with the rest of my "Golombek Mark II" comments, but for completeness' sake, here goes.

At White’s 19th: “White’s pawn sacrifice has given him two strong bishops and possibilities of a K-side attack.” (No quarrel with that assessment.) HG dismisses the reply 19. … Qh5?? 20. Bxf6 same as everyone else.

After White’s 20th: “Reaching the position Botvinnik had envisaged when making his 12th move.” No further explanation of the power of this move.

After Black’s 20th: “The exchange of queens in no way diminishes White’s attack, but other lines are still worse, e.g. (a) 20. … Be6 21.fxe4 Bxa2 22.Rxf6 Be6 23.Rg6* Qxh4 24.Rxg7+ Kh8 25.Rxf7+ Kg8 26.Rg7+ Kh8 Rg5+, followed by mate, or (b) 20. … exf3 21.Bb1 h6 22.Rxf3 Nd5 23.Rg3 Qxh4 24.Rxg7+ Kh8 25.Rh7+ Kg8 26.Rh8#.”

[* The move KEG calls “flashy but flawed”. HG gives it an unmerited “!”.]

No comment at all on Black’s 22nd move!

At White’s 23rd: “Threatening 24.Rxf7 Rxf7 25.Rd8#.”

At White’s 26th: “And now he threatens 27.e6 fxe6 28.Rd7.”

At Black’s 26th: “Hoping for time to play … Nd5 and so check the force of White’s bishops.” (Not mentioning it would cost a pawn.)

At Black’s 28th: “If 28. … fxe6 29.Rxe6 Rxf2 30.Kxf2 Kf8 31.Rxb6 with an easy win for White.” (Agreeing with KEG’s suggestion for White’s 31st.)

And finally after Black’s resignation: “ … as he loses a piece after 32. … Rc8 33.e8(Q)+ Rxe8 34.Bxc6 Rc8 35.Bd5.”

HG in short seems to have rehashed his 1948/49 analysis without looking any further himself, or seeing what others made of the game in the meantime.

Premium Chessgames Member
  KEG: <Cibator>Thank you for providing this addition.

Your assessment of Golombek's later writing on this game is characteristic of some later sloppy analysis. As reflected in my notes, some commentators appear to have copied earlier analysis without checking (and sometimes unknowingly repeating earlier efforts).

Golombek's earlier commentary from which I have quoted liberally had some errors, but it was a diligent effort to analyze the game.

Premium Chessgames Member
  KEG: <Cibator>Lest there be any misunderstanding, the "sloppy analysis" to which I was referring was in Golombel's later writing and not to your helpful addition to the record of the history of analysis of this fascinating game.
Premium Chessgames Member
  plang: 6..Bb4 was a theoretical line at the time of this game but nowadays is rarely played as it leads to a "bad" Nimzo Indian; the Meran variation with 6..dxc is predominately played nowadays. 12 Rae1 was a new move; 12 Rfe1 had been played previously. 12 Ba2 was later preferred as the main line.

This was Botvinnik's first win against Euwe.

May-28-20  W Westerlund: Very good analyses by KEG here. Amazing. Put the position on the board and played it out. Thanks.
Premium Chessgames Member
  KEG: <W Westerlund>So glad you like my analysis, It was quite an interesting game. Notably, as <perfidious> and <plang>remind us, it was Botvinnik's first win against Euwe.
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