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David Bronstein vs Mikhail Botvinnik
"Brain Over Bron" (game of the day Jan-29-2011)
Botvinnik - Bronstein World Championship Match (1951), Moscow URS, rd 6, Mar-26
Sicilian Defense: Richter-Rauzer Variation. Traditional Vartiation (B63)  ·  0-1



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Kibitzer's Corner
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May-14-09  WhiteRook48: what was better than 57 Kc2?
Nov-13-09  Plato: Botvinnik and the Richter-Rauzer variation of the Sicilian:

Two years before this game, at the 1949 USSR championship, Bronstein (as White) defeated Ragozin in this opening. Ragozin played 7...a6 in that game, and Bronstein's win ( Bronstein vs Ragozin, 1949) made a real impression on Botvinnik, who later wrote about it in his red notebook:

<"Sicilian a la Rauzer (Bg5, Qd2, 0-0-0). With the energetic e4-e5 and Be4! forced a dark-square weakness at d4. After f7-f5 again captured en passant - meanwhile, the maneuver of the black knight to e4 was, evidently, nothing to be afraid of - gave the opponent probable chances. By skilfully maneuvering and exchanging queens (on the 26th move!) prevented e6-e5. Exploiting Ragozin's passive play, subtly won the endgame (without counter-chances!!) after a lengthy adjournment session. But he also schemed! In general played well! Very accurately!"> (thanks to Resignation Trap for posting this)

Brontein went to co-win the 1949 USSR Championship (with Smyslov) ahead of a strong field, and Botvinnik took note of him well before he was the official challenger for the title.

Fast forward to 1951, and Botvinnik played a training match with Ragozin just weeks before his World Championship match with Bronstein. He surely asked Ragozin to play this way with White against him, knowing that Bronstein would be confident with it after his impressive win vs Ragozin in 1949. In the training match Botvinnik tried out 7...h6 and was successful (Ragozin vs Botvinnik, 1951). He wished to avoid the main line (7...a6) against Bronstein, who had played so well against it. So here in this game he played 7...h6 and scored his first win of the match.

Fast forward again. In 1954, Petrosian decided to out 7...h6 for Black but was defeated by Ivkov (Ivkov vs Petrosian, 1954). Then in 1956, Keres beat Botvinnik in this line (Keres vs Botvinnik, 1956). Botvinnik decided to switch to the main line, 7...a6, for his World Championship match with Smyslov in 1957.

In preparation for the Smyslov match, Botvinnik played another training match -- this time against Averbakh (he was friends with Ragozin but I think he realized he needed a stronger opponent in his training matches) -- and probably asked Averbakh to play this way for White. Botvinnik played 7...a6 twice against Averbakh, winning both times (only one of those games is listed in the CG database (Averbakh vs Botvinnik, 1957), but there were two). So he used it in his match against Smyslov and this time scored his first win of the match with *that* line (Smyslov vs Botvinnik, 1957).

But in round 8 (Smyslov vs Botvinnik, 1957), Smyslov came up with the novelty 10.f4 and won the game convincingly (he had a strong position out of the opening and a winning position by move 20) and Botvinnik felt compelled to abandon what had clearly been his intended weapon (as Black), as evidenced from the earlier games in the match. He only played the Sicilian once more in the match, and deviated on move 2 (!) with 2...g6, losing that game as well (Smyslov vs Botvinnik, 1957). Thus, the round 8 loss was a big blow psychologically, and Botvinnik only managed to win once out of the remaining 14 games. Even in the return match a year later, Botvinnik avoided the whole line by playing 6...g6 instead of 6...e6.

Premium Chessgames Member
  maxi: Nice overview of the variation, <Plato>. Of course, if Bronstein actually spent 45 minutes daydreaming instead of thinking about the game in front of him, he didn't deserve to be world champion.
Premium Chessgames Member
  scormus: If I hadnt known that Botvinnik was going to win, I'd nver have guessed until, almost 0-1 in fact. Well OK, Im completely useless at endings.

I wasnt sure about 50 f6 but I had the feeling Bronstein was playing to win. But when 57 Kc2 came up I almost fell off my chair.

Thanks <SirChrislov> for clearing up the mystery, I've done that myself so I can just about beleive it. More disturngly, if anyone did it now they'd probably be suspended under allegations of match fixing

Jan-29-11  goodevans: An inappropriate pun that suggests Bronstein fell victim to a superior chess intellect. The truth is that Botvinnik just got lucky!
Premium Chessgames Member
  keypusher: <Soltis in his "Catalogue of Chess Mistakes" quotes Bronstein: "Now that time pressure was over and it was necessary only to give check 57. Ne6+, I began to recall...the opening of the game, smiling at the refinement of his eighth move for a whole 45 minutes, and then unexpected I took hold of the king. It had to move....">

Sounds like another Bronstein fairy tale.

<57.Ne6 followed by Nd4 was enough for a draw, but Bronstein forced the game with 57.Kc2 in order to reach black’s “e” pawn (he was one point ahead from Botvinnik up to this round, and a win would have enlarged the gap, with good prospects for the world title). Of course, he didn’t see the geometrical walk 57…Kg3! that reached the f2 spot in the same time that across f3 (if you pay attention, this is the “Reti maneuver” in a minimized scale).>

Much more plausible.

Premium Chessgames Member
  gezafan: <goodevans: An inappropriate pun that suggests Bronstein fell victim to a superior chess intellect. The truth is that Botvinnik just got lucky!>

Yes, Botvinnik was one who always took advantage of his luck.

Premium Chessgames Member
  kevin86: White ends a piece ahead,then finds to his horror that the pawn cannot be stopped.
Jan-29-11  chesschampion11: can someone explain me that botwinnik not played 8...Qxf6 ?
Premium Chessgames Member
  Phony Benoni: <chesschampion11: can someone explain me that botwinnik not played 8...Qxf6 ?>

click for larger view

It's not just Botvinnik. Of 63 games in our database with this variation, 8...gxf6 was played 61 times.

The basic reason is tactical. After 9.Ndb5!, Black is almost surely going to lose material. White's threats of 10.Nxd6+ and 10.Nc7+ can only be delayed by the time-wasting 9...Qd8, but then 10.0-0-0 piles on.

Black might be able to hang on for now with 9...Kd7 10.0-0-0 e5, but who would want to play that?

It's a good question, though, since 8...gxf6 gives Black doubled pawns and makes kingside castling hazardous. But there are compensations. Black's advantages in the Sicilian include a pawn superiority in the center, and 8...gxf6 strengthens this control. Also, with so much pawn shelfter in the center, Black can choose to go without castling completely. And every doubled pawn means a half-open file.

However, the whole line with 7...h6 seems to be out of favor now. Some of the earlier kibitzes to this game reveal that Botvinnik had been preparing the variation before the match, but eventually abandoned it.

Today, Black generally prefers to play 7...a6 first. Then, after 8.O-O-O, Black can play 8...h6 9.Bxf6 Qxf6, since White no longer has 10.Ndb5 available.

Jan-29-11  Lil Swine: a- ok.
Jan-29-11  rapidcitychess: <goodevans:An inappropriate pun that suggests Bronstein fell victim to a superior chess intellect. The truth is that Botvinnik just got lucky!> No, it's a great pun! :)
Apr-09-11  Tigranny: How does 57.Ne6+ draw?
Premium Chessgames Member
  perfidious: <Tigranny: How does 57.Ne6+ draw?>

White's next move is Nd4, after which he's able to sacrifice the knight for the e pawn, then play Ka4, and if Black plays ....b6, c5 will force off all the pawns.

Apr-11-11  Tigranny: Thanks perfidious.
Jul-29-11  koleos: Not only 57)...Kg3, but also the previous 53)..Kf4 (not Kf3?) was precisely played by Botvinik. I would failed to see both moves in a real game.
Jul-29-11  koleos: Phony Benoni, after 8.)...Qf6 follows 9.)Nc6,bc and than 10.)Qd6 after which the game is over. So, 8.) is still the only move.
Jul-29-11  koleos: In addition to previous line (gf), see the game Ragozin - Botvinik 1951. linked here by Plato.
Premium Chessgames Member
  Phony Benoni: <koleos: Phony Benoni, after 8.)...Qf6 follows 9.)Nc6,bc and than 10.)Qd6 after which the game is over.>

click for larger view

I agree completely.

Premium Chessgames Member
  plang: 7..h6 was a specialty of Botvinniks though it is rarely played anymore. 11..Be7 was new; 11..h5 and 11..Qb6 are more popular as well as more thematic. 15 Rf3 was played with the intention of meeting 15..0-0-0 with 16 b4!..Qc7 17 Nd5..exd 18 Rc3..Bc6 19 exd with a winning position. The complications after 34 Nxh5..Bxe4 35 Nxf6..Bxd3 36 Nxg8..Bg6 37 Ne7..Rxh4 38 Nxg6..fxg would have led to equality.

Bronsteins quote after 34..Rh7:
"We have here a typical position of dynamic equilibrium. Two other players would without doubt have gladly agreed to a draw. But in the 1951 match, on the initiative of Botvinnik and in my formulation, the rule of offering a draw only once was employed for the first time.And so neither of us wanted to suffer a moral defeat..."

Botvinnik selected the active 44..Kb6 during his adjournment analysis as the clearest path to the draw.

Premium Chessgames Member
  kingscrusher: crazy monk: <57…Kf3 58.Nf7! > even 58.Ne6 draw, so I don't think it so subtle. So the blunder really because his desire to win instead of just drawing. 57..Kg3! was not hard to find but it can be overlook easily.

The comment 58.Ne6 draw is completely wrong and also pointed out by Bronstein as previously noted.

This position as mentioned by Bronstein is winning for black:

click for larger view

Jul-17-17  Toribio3: Botvinnik is genius! When it comes to complicated situation, you can count on his creative winning skills.
Apr-04-20  joddon: inevitable as it seems, touch move wrecks everything!!!...cus the sac didn't seem trajectory to me. that pawn in the end can be destroyed baby!!
Mar-29-22  capabel68: Thanks SirChrislov for explain this ending. I had thought that this game will be draw.
Premium Chessgames Member
  RadioBoy: Why not 48. e6?
48... fxe6 49. fxe6 Ke5 50. Nd7+ Kd6... Black cannot capture on e6 without allowing white's ... Nc5+ & Nxb7 or a later Nxb6 drawing.
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