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Mikhail Botvinnik vs Samuel Reshevsky
FIDE World Championship Tournament (1948), The Hague NED / Moscow URS, rd 4, Mar-09
Nimzo-Indian Defense: Normal Line (E40)  ·  1-0



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Kibitzer's Corner
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Premium Chessgames Member
  chancho: +3 -1 =1 in favor of Botvinnik.
He was clearly the better player in 1948.
Jul-11-13  zydeco: 28.....Ng5 would have been beautiful -- and if 29.Qd3 Nxf3+ 30.Qxf3 fxg4 when black's ahead.

I'm surprised by 10....Bd6. It seems like black should play ....a5 immediately and if b5, .....c5.

Both sides get stuck at about move 24. 24.Ra2 is interesting. 26.Nd5 feels incorrect....and would have been after 28.....Ng5!

Premium Chessgames Member
  perfidious: <MidnightDuffer: Black's move #28 should have been ...Ng5 and he has the advantage!>

This was mentioned in Botvinnik's Best Games, 1947-70, by the annotator of that game-may have been Keres.

<.....Officially, it is a forfeit, he must have run out of time.....>

Reshevsky indeed lost on time.

Premium Chessgames Member
  WCC Editing Project: <perifidious>

<Reshevsky indeed lost on time.>

Quite right:

<"As expected, both players ran short of time and after twenty-seven moves, their respective times were 2:17 [Botvinnik] and 2:26 [Reshevsky]. On this occasion <<<The U.S. speed whiz>>> faltered, blundered badly and then-- incredibly-- lost the game on time!">

D.A. Yanofsky and H.J. Slavekoorde, "Battle Royal... A Round by Round Account of the Thrilling Contest for the World's Chess Title."

"Chess Life and Review" (April 1948), pp. 13-14

Premium Chessgames Member
  keypusher: Not really incredible that Reshevsky lost on time, once he saw he was losing anyway. He let his flag fall against Bronstein in 1953 rather than resign. Probably did the same here.

Reshevsky vs Bronstein, 1953

Premium Chessgames Member
  WCC Editing Project:

<"Botvinnik take some sort of <<<pills>>> during the game. Can they be vitamins?">

D.A. Yanofsky and H.J. Slavekoorde, "Battle Royal... A Round by Round Account of the Thrilling Contest for the World's Chess Title."

"Chess Life and Review" (April 1948), p.16

Apr-10-15  A.T PhoneHome: Considering the amount and nature of theories formed regarding this 1948 Botvinnik triumph it doesn't come as a surprise, for it is definitely with a hint of deja-vu that "Botvinnik takes pills" argument was also made.
Apr-11-15  RookFile: White's g4 thrust is pretty brazen and shows the fighting qualities of Botvinnik. It's the sort of move that also shows up in Petrosian's games.
Apr-11-15  A.T PhoneHome: Botvinnik was a fighter for sure! And he really liked his pawn pushes.
Jul-17-17  Toribio3: Actually, the mighty king of Botvinnik was exposed in the end. Nevertheless, he is a master of defense; the attack of Reshevsky failed miserably!
Premium Chessgames Member
  KEG: A game Reshevsky should have won. His defeat here undoubtedly took much of the wind out of his sails, and put Botvinnik in first place after 4 rounds; a lead Botvinnik was to maintain--and relentlessly increase, during the balance of the tournament.

As <wwall> has pointed out, had Reshevsky won this game, and had everything else gone as it did, Reshevsky would have finished in 2nd place just 1.5 points behind Botvinnik instead of finishing tied for 3rd/4th with Keres 2.5 points back. While such counter-factuals are always questionable, I will venture to take this one step further. Had Reshevsky not blown the win here, he might not have been desperate in the 19th and 24th round games he lost to Botvinnik. Had Reshevsky drawn those games, he would have finished with 12.5 points to Botvinnik's 12 points (once again all the other game results remaining constant). Indeed, had Reshevsky won this game, he and not Botvinnik would have forged into the lead, and who knows what would have happened then.

While the above involves piling counter-factuals upon counter-factuals, I mention this because this game represented the single best chance Reshevsky ever had to win the World Championship. Of course, had Reshevsky won this game, it is possible that Stalin or others might have instructed Smyslov to lose another game to Botvinnik, and Keres might have lost his final round game to Botvinnik had the World Championship been at stake at that point.

Nonetheless, this game just before Reshevsky collapsed in time-trouble was the one glimmer of hope Reshevsky had of taking the title. He was never destined to have another such chance in his long and illustrious carerr.

Interestingly, the only games Botvinnik and Reshevsky ever played against each other after the 1948 World Championship Tournament were their four-encounters in the 1955 US-USSR match. In including those four games and the five played in this tournament, Botvinnik and Reshevsky only played each other 14 times in total (the final total leaving Botvinnik with 5 wins, 2 losses, and seven draws). A pity they didn't get to play on other occasions.

1. d4 Nf6
2. c4 e6
3. Nc3 Bb4
4. e3

Botvinnik favored the Rubinstein variation against the Nimzo-Indian.

4... d5

click for larger view

Reshevsky presumably knew what he was doing. This was the line played by Capablanca against Botvinnik in their famous game at AVRO 1938 in which Botvinnik won brilliantly. Botvinnik had also won against this defense in a game against Alexander. Notably, in the 10th round of this tournament Keres played 4...0-0 in this position against Botvinnik, and in the 14th round Reshevsky varied with 4...c5.

5. a3

Although Golombek said that "Botvinnik has made this system his own," and Kasparov called this a "favorite variation of Botvinnik," in fact Botvinnik had only played it twice before this game (in his games against Capablance and Alexander) and only played it two times subsequently. But I guess after Botvinnik's brilliancy against Capablanca and his dramatic escape here against Reshevsky, the line came to be associated with him.

In the instant contest, the a-pawn was destined to become a serious weakness for White, and almost cost Botvinnik the game.

5... Be7

Capablance and Alexander played the seemingly better (Golombeks' contrary views notwithstanding) 5...BxN+.

6. Nf3 0-0
7. b4

click for larger view

This move was a novelty at the time. Golombek called it "An ambitious attempt at preventing Black from obtaining his normal counter-attack by c5." Keres called it "premature" and said that it gave Reshevsky "a chance to obtain good counterplay."

While I doubt the move was all that bad, it certainly led to a crisis on the Queen-side in which Botvinnik got into trouble (though I doubt this move was the primary suspect). In any case, 7. Bd3 (recommended by Keres and Euwe) and 7. Be2 (Euwe's alternative suggestion) look like safer and more solid ways for White to play for a (conceededly small) edge.

Botvinnik was obviously looking for a rumble, and Reshevsky seemed eager to accept the invitation for a battle royale.

Premium Chessgames Member
  KEG: Post II

7... Nbd7

Keres contended that 7...c5 would have given Reshevsky "excellent counter-play." Probably true, but the text and 7...c6 were both good alternatives. The formation Reshevsky adopted (with his Knight on d7) is completely standard in QBD positions [and this is a QGD position with White's a3 thrown in].

8. Bd3 c6

8...c5 is still a possibility for Black though, as Keres pointed out, White would then be better after 9. c5.

9. Bd3

Golombek and Euwe gave 9. Qc2 as a good alternative, and Botvinnik himself played this move (as Kasparov has noted) in one of his 1955 games against Reshevsky.

Best, however, is probably 9. Qb3, a move championed only by Golombek.

After the text, the unbalanced position offered chances for both sides, and chances (the commentators and Stockfish notwithstanding) were roughly equal:

click for larger view

Those who suggest Reshevsky had any major edge at this point were perhaps influenced by the fact that Reshevsky eventually obtained a far better--and thereafter a clearly winning--position. The reasons for this, however, lay well in the future.

9... dxc4

Keres condemned this as "premature" and said that it gave White the "freer position." He claimed that Black 'had to play 9...Bd6." But White can then gain time and get the better position with 10. c5, or can just play 10. 0-0, once again with at least a small advantage. Indeed, Reshevsky played Bd6 on his next turn, and that hardly did him much good.

10. Bxc4 Bd6

And here Reshevsky should have played the much more dynamic 10...b5. After the text, his tangled Queen-side meant Botvinnik had emerged from the opening with a good and somewhat superior game:

click for larger view

But here, Botvinnik went somewhat astray:

11. Ne2



"So as to prevent e5, but the move wstes precious time and, as the sequel shows, White's Knight is better placed on the Q side." (Golombek)

"A serious mistake that completely turns the tide. The white knight should stay on the queenside to help avert any attacks on the formation a3-b4." (Euwe).

"The attempt to prevent Black's e5 grants Reshevsky an opportunity for a modicum of counterplay on the Queen's wing," (Horowitz)

"Am imprudent move. White is too worried about preventing the freeing advance 6..e5." (Kasparov).

"[This] stops 11...e5 but exposes White's queenside." (Soltis)

While the text was somewhat misguided for the reasons indicated above, it was hardly a disaster, and in no way seriously compromised Botvinnik's position. His problems came later.

But better, as pointed out by most of the commentators, was 11. 0-0 followed by 12. Qc2. (or maybe just 12. Bb3 or even Horowitz' 12. Ng5) would have left Botvinnik somewhat better placed.

12... a5


The commentators fall all over themselves praising this (admittedly strong) move. To give just a sample:

"...a vigorous Q side thrust which procures him the better game." (Golombek)

"Black grabs the initiative and gets the better game due to the weak light squares in White's position..." (Keres)

"Beginning a strategic plan to seize control of the c4-square." (Kasparov)

The position was now:

click for larger view

But let's not go overboard. Botvinnik pretty much has to play 12. b5, and this means that his a3 pawn would ultimately become a weakness. Botvinnik now clearly had to take care, but to suggest that he was in any real danger of losing at this early stage is simply nonsense. I know I'm repeating myself, but Botvinnik's serious problems arose from later errors on his part.

Dec-18-20  Granny O Doul: Re: just above, I presume you mean 7...a5 in your comment after 7...Nbd7.
Premium Chessgames Member
  KEG: <Granny O Doul>Yes. Thank you for catching this typo. Keres' suggestion was 7...a5, not 7...c5. So glad you spotted this! Apologies to anyone my typo misled.
Premium Chessgames Member
  KEG: Post III

12. b5

"There is no good way to maintain the Knight Pawn on its present square." (Horowitz)

True, but 12. bax5 Qxa5+ 13. Bc3 Qc7 14. Bb4 was about as good as the text. Both 12. b5 and 12. bxa5 suffer from the same problem, the resulting isolated White a-pawn. This was not the fatal weakness many of the commentaries on this game suggest, but it was a problem that would haunt Botvinnik for much of what followed.

12... Nb6

Both sides had used considerable time to reach this point [Botvinnik 1:02; Reshevsky 1;06 according to Horowitz].

13. Bd3 cxb5
14. Bxb5 Bd7

click for larger view

"Black's development proceeds apace with critical gain of tempi. If White now exchanges Bishops, Black's Knight will establish itself on c4." (Golombek)

"Thus Black has completed his development." (Horowitz)

"Black's position is clearly better. He has a lead in development and White has weaknesses on the queenside." (Euwe).

"White is vulnerable to...a4...Na4 or a later...Nc4." (Soltis)

15. Qb3


Most of the commentators agreed that the text loses time. Keres and Kasparov both claimed that an immediate 15. Qd3 (using one move rather than two to bring the Queen to this square) was best. Golombel and Euwe feared 15...Na4 in response. Keres and Kasparov responded that White would not be so bad after 15...Na4 16. Bc1. But 15...Rc8 is a stronger response to 15. Qd3, and after 15...Na4, 16. BxN BxB 17. Nc3 is a better line for White.

Only Horowitz defended the text, claiming that Botvinnik wanted to "tempt" Resheveky to play 15...a4 since this would preempt a later Qa4 by Black. But if this was indeed Botvinnik's plan, it was an unusually obtuse effort by this master strategist. The loss of time coupled with allowing Reshevsky to dominate the Queenside looks horrible.

Surprisingly, none of the commentators mention White's best move: the simple 15. Bd3. This avoids loss of time and gets the Bishop to a nice square both for defense and for some possible later King-side operations.

15... a4


Time was becoming a more serious issue, if Horowitz's figures were correct:

Botvinnik: 1:17
Resheveky 1:21

16. Qd3 Ra5

click for larger view

"A timely maneuver to compel White to abandon his hold on b5." (Horowitz)

"In addition to excellent development, Black has achieved a position where he had good prospects of utilizing the weak light squares on White's queenside." (Keres)

As with much of what has been written about this game, the above comments--though incisive--miss the forest for the trees. The best chance for Black to exploit his advantage lay in 16...BxB (17. QxB Nbd5 leaving White with an uphill defensive task on the Queen-side) or 16...Rc8

The text gave Botvinnik an opportunity to solve most of his problems.

17. Nc3

As Golombek and Horowitz aptly noted, this move was an implicit admission that White's 11th move was a lemon.

But what about 17. BxB?

Keres, Kasparov, and Moran all claimed that 17. BxB would run into trouble after 17...QxB 18. Bc3. But they all fail to mention 18. Rb1 which seems to avoid the problems that arise after 18. Bc3 and yields good counterplay--including on the Queen-side for White.

17... Qe8

"With this move Black finally conquers the b-5 square, although at the cost of tempo." (Keres)

Both Flohr and Euwe suggested 17...Nfd5, but Keres' 18. 0-0 then seems to get White out of trouble.

I had thought 17...Nbd5 (not mentioned by any of the commentators) was best, but after 18. BxB (pretty much forced) QxB 19. Rb1 Botvinnik would be nearly out of the woods.

In fact, Black has no way to make significant progress here. The text leaves Black with only a modest edge. I see nothing much better. Stockfish plays 17...Bb8 here, but White then seems fine awith 18. Rb1 BxB 19. NxB).

18. BxB QxB

click for larger view

Premium Chessgames Member
  KEG: Post IV

19. 0-0

As Keres and Kasparov point out, 19. e4 would be answered by 19...Rc8, at which point, as Kasparov further notes, 20. e5 loses a pawn to 20...Bxe5!

Botvinnik could, however, have played the slightly more accurate 19. Nd2 here.

19... Rc8

click for larger view

Somewhat overstating his case, Kasparov says that Black had now been outplayed in both the opening and the middlegame. The one compensating fact, he continues, was Botvinnik's lead on the clock which, according to Horowitz, showed:

Botvinnik: 1:32
Reshevsky: 1:44

20. e4



Opinion was hotly divided on the merits of this advance.

Golombek and Horowitz thought it the best chance:

"White's only counter-chance lies in this central thrust..." (Golombek)

"Conceding that Black has won out on the Queen-side, Botvinnik acts with dispatch on the other wing." (Horowitz)

Keres and Kasparov thought otherwise:

"...the action in the centre initiated by the text-move worsens the situation even more,since after the opening of the centre, Black's pieces gain an even broader field of action." (Keres)

"A pseudo-active move, which merely helps Black to widen his expansion on the queen-side, whereas White is not able to create anything real in the centre." (Kasparov)

Kasparov and Moran suggest 20. Rb1 Nc4 21. Bc1 as a better line for White. but after 21...e5 Black definitely seems better.

Keres (while also--mistakenly in my view--supporting the notion of 20. Rb1) presented what looks to me to be the best assessment:

"It was time to take up a long-term stubborn defense by 20. Nd2. It seems that this would have entailed White to defend his vulnerable position sufficiently."

For what it's worth, both Fritz and Stockfish are with Keres' above analysis here, and think that White's position is not all that bad.

20... Nc4

click for larger view

"A magnificent square for the Knight." (Euwe).

21. Bc1 e5


" order to destroy White's hold on the centre." (Golombek)

"Even here...Botvinnik has been crossed. The move he wished to prevent is now enforced." (Horowitz)

"Black opens up the whole center and coniderably increases the activity of his pieces." (Keres)

"A very strong move, forcing White to determine his pawn structure." (Kasparov)

The uniform acclaim bestowed on this move suggests even the esteemed commentators on this game were looking at prior published analysis, since none of them even mentions 21...b5, which seems most consistent with Black's Queen-side play (and is supported by my silicone friends).

After Reshevsky's 21...e5, the position was:

click for larger view

Premium Chessgames Member
  KEG: Post V

22. Rd1


Botvinnik here faced a difficult decision. Should he play the text or 22. d5.

Keres and Kasparov opt, on balance, for 22. d5, warts and all. Glombek and Horowitz preferred the text, fearing that by locking the center Black would have an easier time on the Queen-side, which would--in their view--more than compensate for White's protected passed D-pawn.

Keres said that 22. d5 was Bovinnik's "best practical chance," but thinks Botvinnik's position would still not be satisfactory.

Only Kasparov provided any variation to consider play after 22. d5. He says that locking the center was White's best choice, saying that despite Black's undoubted edge the win would still be "a long way off."

But Kasparov's line looks flawed:

22. d5 b5 (22...Rac5 is the crucial line and probably the only way for Black to create serious winning chances against best play. Kasparo'vs 22...b5 looks clearly inferior) 23. Nh4? (this makes trouble for White, who would likely have a defensible position with 23. Nd2, and probably also with 23. Re1 or 23. h3. After 23. Nh4?, Black is again definitely worse) 23...b4 (this is strong, but perhaps the simple 23...Nxa3 24. BxN BxB 25. RxB b4 26. Rxa4 RxR 27. NxR QxN is the best winning chance, Black's advanced passed b-pawn being here far stronger than White's passed d-pawn) 24. axb4 Bxb4 25. Na2 Bf8 (25...Bc5 is better) 26. Bg5? (Awful. White probably has a defensible, albeit still somewhat difficult, game with 26. Nf5 or 26. Nc3) Ne8 27. Nf5 Ned6 after which Black is indeed better, but he would be better still with 27...h6 or 27...f6.

In sum, not even Kasparov has demonstrated that 22. d5 was noticeably--or even at all--better than Botvinnik's Rd1 as a theoretical matter. Speaking practically, by keeping the center fluid, Botvinnik left more for Reshevsky to ponder. Given the latter's time crunch, on balance I think Botvinnik's move was the best practical chance, as indeed it proved to be.

In any case, after Botvinnik's 22. Rd1, the position was:

click for larger view

22... exd4
23. Qxd4?

This recapture has passed without comment in all the commentaries I have seen on this game. But it looks really bad, and 23. Nxd4 was the only move I even considered. Fritz and Stockfish also play the seemingly obvious 23. Nxd4 here. After Botvinnik's 23. Qxd4, the position was:

click for larger view

23... Qe6


Really? White appears to have a good retort to the text. I agree with Golombek's assesmemt of 23...Qe6, to a point:

"Good enough to maintain his advantage, but even stronger is 23...Qc7. threatening the deadly Ne5."

But even Golombek misses 23...Qe8, the most difficult move for White to meet here.

After 23...Qe6, the position was:

click for larger view

24. Ra2?

This move, like Kasparov's doubtful 23. Qxd4, has passed without criticism. The only comments I have found on 24. Ra2 are:

"It is necessary to protect the f-pawn since Black was threatening Bc5 followed by an eventual Ng4." (Golombek)

"White has no decent moves left to play." (Euwe)

But, in part thanks to Reshevsky's incorrect 23rd move, Botvinnik looks basically OK with 24. Qd3 (getting the Queen off the diagonal where Botvinnik put it one move ago, if now 24...Bc5 Botvinnik could just play 25. h3 or perhaps even better 25. Nd4). Even if Black played the stronger 24...Qe8, White can probably hold with 25. Nd2 (drawing the sting from th Black c4 Knight).

After 24. Ra2?, Botvinnik was now truly in trouble (on the board, even if not on the clock):

click for larger view

Premium Chessgames Member
  KEG: Post VI

24... h6!

"...deprives the white pieces of the g5-square..." (Keres)

This was also, as Keres went on to discuss, a useful type of move to be able to play when in time trouble.

25. h3

Somewhat weakening. 25. Re2 or maybe 25. Kf1 (to get the King off the vicious black-square diagonal) were probably better, but in any case Botvinnik was in trouble.

25... Ra6

"White supports his Bishop in order to play Ne5." (Golombek)

"To protect the Bishop at d6 and free the Knight at c4 for action." (Horowitz)

"Threatens 26...Ne5!" (Moran)

"It is here that the Rook is now needed most of all." (Kasparov)

The Bishop sacrifice beginning with 25...Ne5 loses, as demonstrated in the following line given by both Golombek and Soltis: 26. QxB NxN+ 27. gxN Qxh3? (this is terrible, but even the "better" 27...Qb3 is hopeless for Black after 28. e5) 28. Qg3 QxQ+ (28,,,Qh5 or 28...Qe6 are no real improvements) 29. fxQ RxN 30. RxR+ (the key to this line) Kh7 31. Bd2 with a winning Rook skewer,

Black also probably wins with 25...Rac5, but the text (25...Ra6 looks best).

According to Horowitz, the clocks now showed frightening time trouble:

Botvinnik- 2:14

The position was now (after 25...Ra6) was:

click for larger view

26. Nd5


"An incorrect pawn sacrifice which, however, wins the game! Any passive continuation allows Black to play Ne5 and win comfortably." (Golombek)

"Botvinnik takes a firm stand. Otherwise he must succumb to the weakness of the a-pawn." (Horowitz)

"White sacrifices a pawn, hoping to confuse his time-troubled opponent in the upcoming complications. In this position who could have believed that after the next seven moves it will be Black who is forced to resign." (Keres)

The position was now:

click for larger view

26... Nxe4

Euwe and Kasparov both claimed that Reshevsky could equally well have declined the offered pawn and won with 26...NxN 27. exN Qf5, but this seems to give Botvinnik new life with 28. Nh4.

27. Re2

A gallant effort by Botvinnik. As Kasparov has pointed out, 27. Nf4 was no better and would lose to either: (A) 27...BxN 28. BxB Qf5 (even better here is 28...Nf6); or (B) 27...Qf5 (strongest--KEG) 28. g4 (or 28. Nd5 Ra5 29. Rc2 Rac5) Ne5 (28...Ng5 is even better--KEG) 29. NxN (Kasparov's proposed 29. Ne1 here is very weak and gets crushed by 29...Nxg4! 30. hxN Qxg4+ 31. Nfg2 Bc5 32. Qd7 Bxf2+ [32...Nxf2 also wins--KEG] 33. RxB QxQ 34. RxQ NxR) QxN 30. QxQ BxQ and Black should win because of his extra pawn and White's still weak isolated a-pawn.

27... f5

click for larger view

Things now looked excellent for Reshevsky (and not just because of his extra pawn). But his clock was running down and, as will be discussed in my next post on this game, Botvinnik here posed dreadfully complex problems for Reshevsky to solve. Reshevsky's prowess in time trouble was legendary. But the opponent here was Botvinnik, who knew how to take advantage of Reshevsky's lack of time.

Premium Chessgames Member
  KEG: Post VII

28. g4


Theoretically, 28. Nh4 is best (as any computer will verify). Golombek's characterization of the text as "unsound" is correct in an ideal world. But 28. Nh4 would also lose in that ideal world. Botvinnik's move was designed to--and did--present complex problems for his time-troubled adversary.

Most of the commentators are agreed on this; it was "do or die" (quoting Horowitz) for Botvinnik, and passive/positional play would not save him. As Soltis notes, after the text, 29. gxf5 winning a piece was threatened. This is just the sort of threat one would rather not have to meet with the clock running down.

After 28. g4, the position was:

click for larger view

28... Bc5?



As everyone and his uncle has pointed out, 28...Ng5:

(A) 29. RxQ NxN+ 30. Kg2 NxQ 31. RxN fxg4 32. hxg4 (or 32. Rxg4 Kf7 33. Reg6 Ne5 34. Rxg7+ Ke6 35. Nf4+ Kf5 36. Ne2 NxR 37. hxN+ Ke4 38, Rxb7 Rc2 39. Kf1 Kd3 (even better than Kasparov's 39...Rac6) Kf7 33. Ree4 (if 33. Re1 b5) b5.

(B) 29. Qd3 NxN+ 30. QxN fxg4 31. hxg4 Ne5 32. Qf5 (everything else is worse--KEG) QxQ 33. gxQ Qac6 34. Bf4 Nf3+ 35. Kf1 BxB 36. NxB Rc1 37. Re8+ RxR(e8) 38. RxR Re4 with an easily won ending.

(C) 29. NxN (what Kasparov calls a "sudden attack" and the only move that "forces Black to be on the look-out--but which objectively is the worst of White's options) QxR 30. Nf6+ gxN 31. Qd5+ Kh8 (any other move leads to immediate check-mate) 32. Nf7+ Kh7 33. Qxf5+ Kg7 34. Bxh6+ KxN 35. Qd7+ Qe7 36. QxR Qe4 37. Rd4 Nb6 38. Qc3 Be5 after which, to quote Kasparov, "White's attack peters out" (and he is down a piece--KEG)

Golombek claimed a win here with 28...Ne5, but Kasparov has completely refuted this motion.

Euwe claimed a win with 28...Qf7, but after 29. gxf5 Nf6 30. NxN+ QxN 31. Qe4 Black's winning chances seem to be gone.

The only winning move other than 28...Ng5 is what Kasparov aptly calls the "computer move": 28...Ra5. All I can say for this move (which has been exhaustively analyzed by Kasparov) is that I sure didn't consider it but Fritz and Stockfish found it in a second. It seems to have little to do with chess played by humans, and could hardly have been found by Reshevsky operating with seconds left on his clock.

After Reshevsky's actual (and unfortunate) 28...Bc5?. the position was:

click for larger view

Even after 28...Bc5? Reshevsky had much and better chances--and perhaps even a theoretical win:

29. gxf5

click for larger view

Horowitz claimed that White much now win a piece. In actuality, however, Botvinnik's move still left--with best play--Black with Rook and two pawns for Knight and Bishop, and at the very least excellent theoretical winning chances.

But all that meant nothing because: (i) Reshevsky, as the sequel shows, was shocked by the turn of events; and (ii) Reshevsky was nearly out of time.

I will discuss how the above position was transformed into a loss for Black in just three awful moves by Reshevsky in my next post on this game.

A major opportunity had been lost for the US champion.

Premium Chessgames Member
  KEG: Post VIII

29... Qxf5?

As just about every commentator has pointed out, Reshevsky should have played 29...BxQ. Contrary to what Horowitz claimed, White does not win a piece. Rather, after: 30. fxQ Bxf2+ 31. RxB NxR 32. KxN Rxe6, the position would be:

click for larger view

Black here has Rook and two pawns for Bishop and Knight and has some chances to win. He is certainly better.

But after 29...Qxf5?, the position was:

click for larger view

Black now is sunk. Reshevsky's move did pose a small trap (as noted by Kasparov). Had Botvinnik here carelessly played 30. QxB?? then Black wins with 30...RxQ 31. Ne7+ Kh7 32. NxQ Nc3 and the Knight fork dooms White to defeat.

But Botvinnik was too wily to fall for that, and played the winning:

30. QxN(e4)

click for larger view

Reshevsky now had nothing better than 30...QxQ 31. RxQ Nxa3 (or 31...b5 32. Rd3) 32. Be3 Bd6 33. Nb6 leaving Botvinnik up a piece for a pawn in an ending he should easily have been able to convert.

Reshevsky, in terrible time trouble, however, played something even worse:

30... Qxh3

click for larger view

What happened now was truly bizarre, and so far as I can determine has only been spotted by <wwall> on this site.

Botvinnik had an easy win with 31. Nf4. Instead, he played (perhaps because he was also short of time):

31. Nh2?

click for larger view

Suddenly, Reshevsky had a chance to salvage the game with 31...Qh5! (e.g., 32. Rd3 Bf8 33. Rg3 Bf8 34. Rg3 Rd6 35. Ne7+ BxN 36. QxB and Black with two pawns for a Bishop in a complicated position might have at least practical chances. But:

31... Rcc6??

<wwall> calls this the "losing move." One can argue about whether Black had any real chance to save the game with 31...Qh5. But the text definitely was a loser:

32. Nf4!

click for larger view

With the Black Knight about to fall (if Black tries to defend the Knight with 32...Qc3 or 32...Qb3 he gets mated after 33. Rd8+), the game was over.

Reshevsky is said to have lost on time at this point. <keypushr> may well be right that Reshevsky, seeing all was lost, may have let his time run our (he was quite capable of making nine moves in well under a minute). But the game was lost in any event.


With this win, Botvinnik was off and running. After he beat Keres in the next round, he was a point ahead of the field after the first lap, and he never looked back on his way to the title.

As for Reshevsky, he never again had a real chance at the World Championship.

Premium Chessgames Member
  plang: 7 b4 was a new move; an ambitious alternative to the standard 7 Bd3 or 7 Qc2. Black could have played more actively with 7..a5 8 b5..c5. White's misguided 11 Ne2?! allowed Black to take the initiative on the queenside.

Botvinnik should be given some credit for posing difficult problems for Reshevsky when he was very short on time.

<KEG:Of course, had Reshevsky won this game, it is possible that Stalin or others might have instructed Smyslov to lose another game to Botvinnik, and Keres might have lost his final round game to Botvinnik had the World Championship been at stake at that point. >

This is really unnecessary. Not aware of any allegations ever being made against Smyslov. Have seen several articles regarding Keres-Botvinnik and have never been convinced. Have seen quotes by Fischer, Bronstein and Korchnoi but their motives seem questionable. Just don't think this type of negative speculation is good for chess.

Premium Chessgames Member
  KEG: <plang>

I am far from convinced that any of the games at the 1948 World Championship were thrown. But there has been a lot written about whether Keres was instructed to lose games to Botvinnik and some circumstantial evidence to support this.

While I have reader nothing specific about Smyslov, several sources--most notably Kasparov in Volume II of "My Great Predecessors" report that between the 2nd and 3rd laps of the tournament, Botvinnik was summoned to a meeting with the secretariat of the Communist Party Central Committee who were allegedly concerned that Reshevsky would overtake Botvinnik and win the title. Kasparov goes on (at p. 161) to quote Andrei Zhdanov as having asking Botvinnik: "How would you view it if the other Soviet players were to lose to you deliberately?" Kasparov says that according to Botvinnik, he initially rejected the offer, but then went on to say "Vry well, let's leave the question open--perhaps this won't be needed."

It is hard to know how seriously to take any of this. I was certainly not claiming that I believe there were any games thrown. But I was--in the language from my post you quote--playing "what if," and speculating about Reshevsky's chances of becoming World Champion had he won this 4th round game in the first lap against Botvinnik. Having stated that a win here would have given Reshevsky real chances, I thought it only fair to point out that my speculations would be meaningless if Smyslov or other Soviet players were ordered to lose to Botvinnik.

I agree with you that all of the accounts about cheating or proposed cheating at this tournament remain unproved, and I have tried in my commentary to focus on the chess and not the rumors. But, whatever my doubts, I cannot ignore the reports quell my doubts about what might have happened if Botvinnik had not pulled so far ahead of the field by the end of lap 3.

Jan-22-21  RookFile: Let's imagine you have the white pieces in this position.

click for larger view

It's your turn to move, and you have a choice.

You can either play 1. Rd5 with the idea of Ra5, attacking and defending at the same time.

Or you can go 1. Rd3 with the idea of Ra3, defending from a3, with the option of Ra1.

Which one do you choose?

Take no more than 10 seconds.

Premium Chessgames Member
  KEG: <RookFile>If I were in desperate time trouble as Keres apparently was in this 15th round game against Botvinnik, I might well have also played Rd3 and lost (as Keres did). If I had time to reflect, I would like to think I would play Rd5.

If you are citing this position as evidence that Keres was throwing games to Botvinnik, I should note that Hans Kmoch, with all the time in the world to analyze this position, said that Black's "threat forces White to retreat his Rook to a passive position" (i.e., play Rd3).

If so fine an analyst as Hans Kmoch could get this wrong when not under time pressure, I suppose even Paul Keres could get it wrong over the board if--as he later reported--he was in time trouble.

I am not saying that there aren't troubling bits of information that suggest something sinister was afoot at the 1948 World Championship Tournament, only that I have seen nothing which I consider remotely conclusive. I am, however, in the process of going through the games of this tournament and reading more about it. Perhaps I will change my mind when I examine the tournament further.

For now, I agree with <plang> that we must be cautious before engaging in the sorts of speculation for which he understandably called me out.

Mar-19-22  cehertan: A battle royale. 28´┐ŻNg5 would justify all blacks play to that point, but missing that shot cost everything. Probably a function of the disease of time pressure, even if Sammy was one of the best at managing it.
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