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Paul Keres vs Mikhail Botvinnik
FIDE World Championship Tournament (1948), The Hague NED / Moscow URS, rd 25, May-16
French Defense: Winawer. Fingerslip Variation Main Line (C15)  ·  1-0



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Kibitzer's Corner
Jan-03-05  iron maiden: This game, played in the final round when Botvinnik had already clinched first place, allowed Keres to tie Reshevsky for third. Thirty years later it was still being called suspicious. Probably the first game that the Soviets were ever accused of "fixing."
Premium Chessgames Member
  An Englishman: Good Evening: It's possible--as late as move 25, Black looks like he's still hanging on, but then falls apart completely, and very quickly. During the first 25 moves, Botvinnik doesn't play like he's throwing the game.
Jan-05-05  Frank Dixon: I think the truth of this game is much deeper than what the first two posters have written. GM Botvinnik had already clinched first place and the World title. GM Keres had lost to Botvinnik in the first four cycles of this event, and these games provided in large part the winning margin for Botvinnik. Keres got a variation that he liked -- tactical, offbeat theory -- which he probably had prepared in advance, and just outplayed Botvinnik in this game. It has been suggested by GM Larry Evans, writing in Chess Life in the 1990s, that Keres was ordered by Soviet chess authorities to lose on purpose against Botvinnik in this 1948 World Championship tournament. GM Evans analyzes the four other games between the two players to back up his viewpoint, with a fair degree of convincing done, I think. GM Evans' hypothesis is that Botvinnik helped Keres get out of trouble at the end of WWII, as Keres had played in several Nazi-controlled tournaments during the War. Keres, an Estonian, who became a Soviet citizen in 1939 following the infamous pact between Hitler and Stalin, then came under Nazi control when the Germans invaded the USSR in June, 1941. Keres would have had no choice but to play in the Nazi-sponsored events, as otherwise he could have been put to death by the Gestapo. Keres may have been imprisoned by the Soviets following the end of WWII; he certainly did not play outside the USSR for a while, for example, he didn't play in the big Groningen 1946 tournament, won by Botvinnik. We may never know for sure, since Botvinnik never said anything about this before he died in 1995. Keres died in 1975. Perhaps the truth will come out of the ever-liberating Eastern European regions at some point.
Mar-21-07  Marmot PFL: If this game was "fixed" (not saying it was) than it's absurd to think the others they played in the same event were not. Here Keres plays like a Tour de France racer who, having helped secure the Yellow Jersey for his teammate (Botvinnik), is now allowed to do his own breakaway and win a stage.
Nov-22-07  whiteshark: Wolfgang Unzicker was very impressed by Keres ("a chess genius, very cultured and adorable") and they also have been good friends.

Unzicker who spoke Russian fluently said that Keres spoke German substantial better than Russian. He could of course communicate in Russian very well, but all his lifelong not fully. Sometimes he used cusses (maternije slowa) without realising it.

Someday Keres narrated the following episode about this game:

<Botwinnik offered a draw after move five, which he didn't accept. Than after four more moves Botwinnik offered again draw. Keres refused, using a 'strong Russian term'. The surrounding people saw Botwinnik blushing like a peony.>

It could maybe that it was a bit immodest, Keres said to Unzicker in his typical way.

Many years later Unzicker told this story Vaganjan, quoting Keres's expression, when Rafael had screams of laughter and reported it immediately to Khalifman, who also smirked upon it.

I wonder which <maternije slowa> Keres used. Maybe someone could ask Vaganjan or Khalifman sometime or other.

Nov-22-07  Calli: <WS> Great story. Thanks!
Jan-26-08  Vollmer: There seems to be a missing French Defence game from 1948 ?!

Keres - Botvinnik Game 3 1948
1.d4 e6 2.e4 d5 3.Nd2 c5 4.ed5 ed5 5.Ngf3 a6 6.dc5 Bxc5 7.Nb3 Ba7 8.Bg5 Nf6 9.Nfd4 O-O 10.Be2 Qd6 11.O-O Ne4 12.Be3 Nc6 13.Nxc6 Bxe3 14.fe3 bc6 15.Bd3 Nf6 16.Qe1 Ng4 17.Qh4 f5 18.Rf4 Ne5 19.Qg3 Ra7 20.Raf1 Raf7 21.Nd4 Nxd3 22.cd3 c5 23.Nf3 Qb6 24.Rh4 h6 25.Ne5 Rf6 26.d4 cd4 27.Rxd4 Qxb2 28.Rxd5 Be6 29.Rd4 Kh7 30.Nd7 Bxd7 31.Rxd7 Rg6 32.Qf3 Qe5 33.Rd4 Rb8 34.Qf4 Qe6 35.Rd2 Rb5 36.h3 Re5 37.Kh2 Rf6 38.Rfd1 Re4 39.Qb8 Rxe3 40.Rd8 Qe5 41.Qxe5 Rxe5 42.R1d2 g5 43.g4 Rf7 44.R8d7 Kg7 45.gf5 Rxf5 46.a3 Rf2 47.Kg3 Rxd7 48.Rxd7 Rf7 49.Rd4 Rf6 50.a4 Kg6 51.h4 Kh5 52.hg5 hg5 53.Rd3 Rf4 54.Ra3 a5 55.Kh3 Rb4 56.Kg3 Rf4 57.Ra1 Rg4 58.Kh3 Re4 59.Ra3 Kg6 60.Kg3 Kf5 61.Kf3 Ke5 62.Kg3 Rd4 63.Ra1 Kd5 64.Rb1 Rb4 65.Rf1 Ke5 66.Re1 Kd4 67.Kh2 Rxa4 68.Rg1 Rc4 69.Rxg5 a4 70.Kg2 Kc3 71.Kf3 a3 72.Ra5 Kb3 0-1

Please examine the position after 52. ... hxg5 . Isn't this a type of drawing position we all study as a Class B player ? 53.Rd3 is worse than a blunder . It deserves 4 question marks .

Premium Chessgames Member
  keypusher: <Vollmer> The game is in the database and the ending (53. Rd3 in particular) is discussed in detail in the kibitzing on the game page.

Keres vs Botvinnik, 1948

Of course that ending has long been Exhibit A for the claim that Keres threw games to Botvinnik in the match-tournament. But Hans Kmoch, annotating in Chess Life in 1948, thought (wrongly) that 53. Rd3 was forced. (His notes are in the kibitzing, courtesy of <Resignation Trap>.) So, though 53. Rd3 is an error, it certainly does not deserve four question marks.

Aug-18-09  WhiteRook48: the Botvinnik upset
Nov-16-09  Xeroxx: Fingerslip Variation?

? :D?

Nov-28-10  soothsayer8: The "fixing" allegations are interesting, I don't know that I believe it, but I certainly wouldn't put it past the Soviets. I mean, even America faked a moon landing to try to prove intellectual superiority! ;) (just kidding of course). But whether or not the whole tournament was fixed, I could see Botvinnik letting Keres take this one to try to help his score against the American Reshevsky; some of his moves are very uncharacteristic.

Anyway, just analyzing the games, I don't see any evidence of match fixing, the mistakes that were made by Keres and Smyslov against Botvinnik were not moves I wouldn't expect to occasionally see even at this level; positional inaccuracies and tactical oversights that have happened to the best chess players from time to time. Euwe was trying his hardest, as far as I know, and he played significantly worse than any of the Soviets.

Jul-13-11  Poulsen: These suspiscions of a fix in this game - and others - are largely speculative. There is no real evidence, but it is know, that soviet officials put pressure on Keres during the tournament. When Botvinnik found that out he protested strongly.

A dutch newspaper at the time suggested the possibility of a fix before the tournament, since half the participants would be Soviets. That enraged Botvinnik so much, that he refused to play in Haag.

This is why the tournament ended up being split between Haag and Moscow.

Dec-06-11  King Death: < Xeroxx: Fingerslip Variation?

? :D?>

The name comes from this game: Alekhine vs Flohr, 1936, and here's a little background on the game itself.

Jan-06-12  DrGridlock: I played through this game with "guess the move" which is an interesting tool to start analyzing a game.

I selected 26 Bf3. Upon further analysis after the game, this was also Komodo's choice for White. 26 g3 is slightly inferior, but Botvinnik's 26 ... Rf5 instead of 26 ... Be4 is the move which gives the game to White.

click for larger view

Analysis by Komodo32 3 32bit:

1. ² (0.37): 26...Be4 27.Rc3 Nf5 28.g4 Rxg4 29.Bxg4 Nxg4 30.Nh5 Rd6 31.c5 Re6 32.h3 Nf2 33.Rcxe3 Nxe3 34.Rxe3 Kd7 35.Nf4 Re8 36.Bd4 Rg8 37.Kd2 Bc6 38.Re2 Ne4+ 39.Kc2 Ng3 40.Re5 Be4+ 41.Kb2

2. ± (1.11): 26...Rd7 27.Bf1 Rf5 28.Ba3 Kf8 29.Rxe3 Rd1+ 30.Kb2 Rxf1 31.Bxe7+ Kg7 32.Ree2 Nd1+ 33.Ka3 Ra5+ 34.Kb4 b6 35.Nd3 Bf3 36.Re1 Rxe1 37.Nxe1 Bg4 38.Nd3 Ne3 39.Rd2 Nf1 40.Rf2 Rf5 41.Nf4 Ne3 42.Bd6

3. ± (1.11): 26...Kf8 27.Bf1 Rf5 28.Ba3 Rd7 29.Rxe3 Rd1+ 30.Kb2 Rxf1 31.Bxe7+ Kg7 32.Ree2 Nd1+ 33.Ka3 Ra5+ 34.Kb4 b6 35.Nd3 Bf3 36.Re1 Rxe1 37.Nxe1 Bg4 38.Nd3 Ne3 39.Rd2 Nf1 40.Rf2 Rf5 41.Nf4 Ne3 42.Bd6

4. ± (1.11): 26...Rf5 27.Bf1 Rd7 28.Ba3 Kf8 29.Rxe3 Rd1+ 30.Kb2 Rxf1 31.Bxe7+ Kg7 32.Ree2 Nd1+ 33.Ka3 Ra5+ 34.Kb4 b6 35.Nd3 Bf3 36.Re1 Rxe1 37.Nxe1 Bg4 38.Nd3 Ne3 39.Rd2 Nf1 40.Rf2 Rf5 41.Nf4 Ne3 42.Bd6

Oct-20-13  JENTA: In 1949, Keres published the book

"Maailmameistri turniir Haag - Moskva 1948"

in Estonian language.
(In parallel, the same or a similar book was published in Russian language.)

Keres had lost 4 games to Botvinnik, and the present game was their last and Keres won that game.

At the end of that book (p 278) there is the section

"Avangute ülevaade"
(= Overview of the openings).

The present game is on the page 272 of the book. However, in the overview of the openings, a mistaken reference is given to the page 239 instead. At the beginning of that page, again a mistake appears:

<Vaba Potvinnik.>

= Potvinnik free.

Premium Chessgames Member
  Fusilli: <Poulsen: These suspiscions of a fix in this game - and others - are largely speculative. There is no real evidence, but it is know, that soviet officials put pressure on Keres during the tournament.>

Well... isn't that a way game fixing could have operated in the totalitarian USSR? Of course, a party official could tell Keres "the party wants you to lose your games against Botvinnik", but that's uncouth and unnecessary. A subtle but clear enough comment or two should do the job. What we would call "put pressure" on Keres.

Jun-11-15  JENTA: In his book "World Championship Tournament Hague-Moscow 1948" (1949 - in Estonian; 1950 - in Russian) Keres writes about the move <4. Bd2> that it is "Alekhine's ingenious invention".

Perhaps Keres kept in mind the game Alekhine - Flohr 1936:

Alekhine vs Flohr, 1936

However, Alekhine writes about his "ingenious invention" that actually he wanted to play <4. e5 c5 5. Bd2>, but by accident played immediately <4. Bd2> (Panov, "300 Hundred Selected Games by Alekhine", in Russian).

And, to be sure, Alekhine is not the introducer of the move <4. Bd2>, even not among strong chessplayers.

And Alekhine had seen that move on the board earlier.

Unfortunately, after the II World Wor, people did not have the internet and electronic chess databases...

Jun-11-15  JENTA: It is not true that Botvinnik did not ever say anything about fixing the games in Hague-Moscow 1948.

In 1991 Botvinnik gave an interview that was published in Nedherlands. Botvinnik celebrated his 80-th birthday.

His confession was not recognized among the historians until 1999, when it was partially translated into English and published in <10. December 1999> <SAYING NO TO STALIN>:

Accordin to Botvinnik, at the second half of the tournament in Moscow, Stalin personally proposed him that Keres and Smyslov would intentionally throw games to him.

Jun-11-15  Petrosianic: Stalin may have proposed, but someone disposed. In the last two cycles, Botvinnik broke even with both of them.
Premium Chessgames Member
  keypusher: <His confession was not recognized among the historians until 1999, when it was partially translated into English and published in <10. December 1999> <SAYING NO TO STALIN>:>

Confession? That's a strange word to use. Botvinnik sure as hell did not regard his 1991 remarks as a "confession." He discussed what he characterized as a plot to diminish him.

Admittedly, what he said didn't make a lot of sense.

Feb-27-16  whiteshark: <And Alekhine had seen that move on the board earlier.> True, A Speijer vs Alekhine, 1910

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