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Mikhail Botvinnik vs David Bronstein
Botvinnik - Bronstein World Championship Match (1951), Moscow URS, rd 11, Apr-08
Queen's Indian Defense: Euwe Variation (E17)  ·  0-1



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Kibitzer's Corner
Sep-20-06  delterp: 39...f6!, simple but not necessarily obvious.
White is quite nearly in zugzwang. 40...h5+ is looming and white can do nothing about either dropping the knight or hanging the rook.
Sep-21-06  Resignation Trap: April 8, 1951

Botvinnik's pre-game journal entry was very much like the preceding ones:

" 1) <time,>

2) deep calculation and technique,

3) malice and composure,

4) prolong!

Let's go! A good win is needed!"

Sep-21-06  Resignation Trap: After this bitter defeat, Botvinnik's note in his journal was short:

"It all turned out the wrong way round.
Stopped controlling myself and surrendered to the position. Meanwhile, must always remember the assessment of him."

Premium Chessgames Member
  keypusher: <malice and composure> Kasparov quotes this in OMGP II. What is the Russian word translated as <malice>? Do you agree with the translation?
Premium Chessgames Member
  technical draw: <keypusher> Malice would be better translated like cunning or evil cunning.
Mar-23-08  Knight13: That's a bit far-fetched, you know, Botvinnik giving away pawns like that.
May-21-08  mistreaver: 8cxd5 is that according to the theory it looks little odd to me as it releases the tension in the centre and locks white's DSB. 27 Ne7+ doesn't that win an exchange?
Premium Chessgames Member
  beatgiant: <mistreaver>
27. Ne7+ Rxe7 28. Bxa8 Qxa8+ winning for Black.
Aug-13-10  Ulhumbrus: The game looks like a triumph of centralization.

It seems worth tracing the paths taken by Black's pieces. Black's Queen goes to f8, and thence centralizes to d6. Black's QB goes to e6 and from there centralizes to d5. Black's King's Bishop goes from g7 to h6 and from there centralizes to e3. Black's Rooks are developed on d8 and e8 and following the move ...Bd5 the Rook on e8 offers itself on the central point e4 as an exchange sacrifice.

Sep-24-10  Ulhumbrus: After 15...gxf6 White's compensation for the first pawn sacrificed consists of a shattered Black King side. On the other hand Black has the bishop pair. This suggests playing the N to the central post d4 in order to maximise the value of the N.

If White waits, Black can play 16...c5 keeping White's N out of d4. This suggests playing 16 Nd4 first. Then on 16...c5 17 Nf5 the N has made use of the central square d4, using it as a springboard to the outpost f5.

One way for Black to gain the worse of it is 17...Re5 18 Qd3 Bc8 19 Ne3 Be6 20 Rfd1 Bh6 21 f4 Rh5 22 Bf3 Rh3 23 Nxd5.

Instead of this Botvinnik offers a second pawn by 16 e4?! and it is not obvious just exactly what Botvinnik gets in return for it. Perhaps Botvinnik expects mistakenly to create some eventual threats which will regain the lost material at the least, threats which Bronstein turne out however able to answer.

The move 18..Qf8!! is the first of a pair of moves with the Queen, of which the second 30..Qd6 will centralize the Queen, transferring her to the central d file a dozen moves later. However the Queen is not the only Black piece to get centralized in this way.

The remainder of the game looks like a triumph of centralization. Bronstein centralizes the whole of his officer corps, moving each and every one of his pieces to a square in the central files.

After 29...Bd5 Black threatens 30...Bxf3+ when the N on d4 will be pinned. 30 Re1 is one way to unpin the N. On 30 Rf1 Bronstein in his book "The sorceror's apprentice" quotes a variation given by Keres: 30 Rf1 Qd6 31 Nxf5 Bxf3+ (not 31...Qxc7?? 32 Qf6+ Kg8 33 Qg7 mate) 32 Rxf3 Qd1+ 33 Kg2 Rd2+ 34 Kh3 Rxh2+! 35 Kxh2 Qg1+ 36 Kh3 Qh1+ 37 Kg4 Rg8+ 38 Kh5 Rg5+ 39 Kh6 Rxg3+ !! displacing the R on f3 from its obstruction of the d1-h5 diagonal so as to be able to check with the Black Queen on the diagonal d1-h5 and so conclude the King hunt: 40 Rxe3 Rg6+ 41 Kh5 Qd1+ 42 Rf3 Qxf3+ 43 Qg4 Qxg4 mate

It seems worth tracing the paths taken by Black's pieces. Black's Queen goes to f8, and thence centralizes to d6. Black's QB goes to e6 and from there centralizes to d5. Black's King's Bishop goes from g7 to h6 and from there centralizes to e3. Black's Rooks are developed on d8 and e8 and following the move ...Bd5 the Rook on e8 offers itself on the central point e4 as an exchange sacrifice.

Premium Chessgames Member
  Domdaniel: <Ulhumbrus> The mating line after 30.Rf1 Qd6 31.Nxf5 is a real beauty. These days, anyone can get an engine to churn out a forced mate - it's precisely what the machines do best - and some people might even persuade themselves that the position is an 'easy' win for Black as a result. But it was an astonishing piece of brainpower by Bronstein, Keres, or both.

I'd already thought that 30.Rf1 was relatively best for White, and certainly better than the move played. The reasoning is simple: to bolster the f3 Bishop. After 30.Re1 in the game, only the Nd4 supports it, and a Knight move allows mate in one. But perhaps after 30.Rf1 White can do something useful with the Knight?

It seems not. Your Keres line convincingly refutes 31.Nxf5. And 31.Nb5 is even worse - the Black f5 pawn contributes to a quick mate after 31.Nb5 Bxf3+ 32.Rxf3 Qd1+ 33.Kg2 Rd2+ 34.Kh3 Rxh2+ 35.Kxh2 Qg1+ 36.Kh3 Qh1#.

It's essentially the same idea, without the final flourishes needed after Nxf5. I suspect this is how the Nxf5 line was found in the first place -- solve the more straightforward mating problem (with f-pawn) first, then dig deeper to see if the same method leads to a win without the pawn. Engines have killed the artistry of such processes.

Does White have any other tries after 30.Rf1 Qd6 ...? Not much. Perhaps exchanging Bishops with 31.Bxd5 Qxd5+ 32.Nf3 staves off immediate disaster, and is almost the only way to save the Knight. But White just loses mundanely after 32...Rc8 -- he never gets time to launch a counterattack on f7 or h7, and the pawn deficit makes the ending hopeless.

You mentioned centralization as a key component of Bronstein's win, which is true. But tempo and initiative were also crucial. Moves such as 30...Qd6 -- centralizing the Queen *and* gaining tempo by attacking the Rook -- prevented White from conjuring up the sort of attack he must have envisaged when playing 16.e4. Botvinnik was simply never given time to settle.

This is apparent right to the end. A 'normal' Queen-vs-Rook+Knight ending could have taken a long time to win, but Bronstein made it look easy with ultra-precise tempo-gaining moves such as 34...Qb4!, 38...Qf2! and the beautiful 39...f6. White never gets time to play Rxe4 -- at the end, if he tries, he either gets mated (40.Rxe4 h5+ 41.Kh4 Qxh2#) or loses both pieces.

Botvinnik got positional compensation for his pawn sacs, particularly the first. But he never quite got enough initiative to compensate, and Bronstein made the most of his chances. Great struggle, beautiful game - and invisible symphonies behind the scenes, in the notes. What more can we ask for?

Feb-22-11  mrsaturdaypants: My goodness. I just played through Keres's line (beginning with 30 Rf1 Qd6 31 Nxf5), mentioned by <Ulhumbrus> and retweeted by <Domdaniel>, and that was impressive enough. But then I wondered, what happens if white plays 40 Kh5 instead of Keres's 40 Rxe3. Does black have anything better than 40...Rg5+, simply repeating?

Yes, yes he does. And it made my head swim:

40 Kh5 Rg5+ 41 Kh6 Rxf5+ 42 Rf4 Bxf4#

Wow. Very pretty.

Premium Chessgames Member
  plang: 7 b3 is rarely played compared to the standard 7 Nc3. In the first game of a 1937 match with Botvinnik Levenfish had played 11 Rc1; Botvinnik had prepared 11 Ne5 for this match. Botvinnik's second pawn sacrifice 16 e4?! worked out poorly but Black appears to be doing OK after either 16 Nd4..Qd7 or 16 b4..a5. 18..Qc8? 19 Qf4 would have been bad for Black. Botvinnik probably should have recovered a pawn with 19 Nxc7 though his compensation for his pawn deficit would have been questionable; instead after 19 Nd4?! started to deteriorate.
Jul-06-22  cehertan: Did he still think Bronstein quote rather weak tactically unquote after this game? Kettle calling the pot black perhaps. Very impressive to beat MB twice as black in a match, too bad DB could not break through with white.
Jul-06-22  cehertan: Actually he beat him 4 times with black and finally once with white near the end. Is there any other WC match where black scored a higher percentage of wins?
Jul-06-22  Granny O Doul: @mrsaturdaypants: After 40. Kh5, Black also has the very effective 40...Qxf3+.
Premium Chessgames Member
  louispaulsen88888888: Black won 5 in the Lasker Steinitz WC 1894. 10 wins for white. 4 draws. 2 wins for black in Capablanca vs Lasker. The more time goes by the more draws there are. And the longer the games go. And yet machines such as AlphaZero come along and remind us there is still a lot of room for improvement. Not yet time for checkers like solutions such as specifying the first 3 moves.

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