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Mikhail Botvinnik vs Mikhail Tal
"Seal the Deal" (game of the day Sep-27-2006)
Botvinnik - Tal World Championship Match (1960), Moscow URS, rd 8, Mar-31
Benoni Defense: Classical Variation. General (A70)  ·  1-0



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Oct-06-03  aulero: I agree that 34...♖ec8 is a strong move, perhaps winning, but I consider 38...♖cxe3 the fatal error.

After 38...♖d3 39.♘xd6 ♖b8 40.♘xf5 ♖xd5, White is certainly better, but it has to demonstrate how to win.

Also 36...♘xc3 is a doubt (if not weak) move. Probably 36...♖e7 is better.

A rare case where Tal was tactically outclassed (and by Botvinnik!). I suppose he was in time trouble.

Oct-07-03  thekleinbottle: I guess I should have quoted my source... I was reading from Tal's book on the 60 Championship in the bookstore (, but didn't actually pick it up. He said the analysis team discovered that 34...Rec8 wins. I just hadn't worked through the remaining moves very carefully. Assuming Tal is correct and you are correct, he goes from a winning position to a lost position in 5 moves. You may be right about the time pressure, but I also seem to recall Tal saying something to the effect that he didn't realize that he was in as grave danger as he was. (As a side note the book does include the time used after each move by both players.) Botvinnik apparently spent 30 minutes sealing 41. Nf7+, and it was only after analyzing after the initial session that Tal discovered Nf7+ would win. Apparently when the sealed move was revealed, Tal immediately resigned. It is very interesting tactically how this move wins...
Oct-07-03  AdrianP: <aulero> <benzol> <thekleinbottle> The Chessbase database has 40. ... Rd3. 40. ...Rb3 looks a lot better, so I suspect <aulero> is right that 40. ...Rd3 was the move played. Having said that, I have not yet worked out the winning sequence after 40 ...Rb3 41. Nf7+

I would imagine that the continuation starts e.g. 41. ...Kg7 42. b7 Rb3 43. Nd8 and one of the b or d pawns will eventually queen...? I'm slightly comforted by the fact that it was not obvious to Tal that he was hopelessly lost!

<It is very interesting tactically how this move wins...> ... perhaps <thekleinbottle> can elucidate.

Oct-07-03  thekleinbottle: Ouch! I really have been careless, twice now, in assuming all this works out. I think AdrianP and Aulero are right, and that the final position has the black rook on d3. I'll head to the bookstore (probably tomorrow night), take a look again at the book, and then post the correct gamescore. With the final position as posted here, black can capture the b-pawn. With the black rook on d3, the winning sequence indeed appears to be b7, followed by Nd8 as AdrianP mentions. I think h5 is next--this is what I just worked out at the board--but I'll check what the book says. If the black king tries to pick off the d-pawn, then the h-pawn queens. If the black king guards against the h-pawn, then white pushes the d-pawn to d7 and then plays Nc6. I think that is how Nf7+ actually wins... What I found interesting, tactically speaking, is how white must push the b, d, and h pawns to promote a pawn and win if the black king goes after the h-pawn. (If the black king goes straight for the white knight or d-pawn after Nd8, then continuing to push the h-pawn suffices). I'll post later if I see any significant comments by Tal concerning his 40th move. I do remember him saying that when he left the board, he was optimistic about a draw, and it was only after analyzing the adjourned position that he discovered that Nf7+ wins. Hopefully I haven't made any gross analysis errors this time. Apologies for my previous posts...
Premium Chessgames Member
  Benzol: <thekleinbottle><aulero><AdrianP> I have Botvinnik's Best Games 1947 - 1970 in my possession. It's in the old English descriptive notation, but at move 38 it says that Tal played 38...R(1)xP which in algebraic is R(8)xe3. This difference is probably only cosmetic and won't effect what follows. You are correct that Tal did play Rd3 and not Rb3. Adrian your right that Rb3 looks better and Nf7+ doesn't look like it will win, so I wonder why Tal didn't play it? In the final position with black rook at d3 Botvinnik's analysis runs:

41...Kg7 (41...Kh7;42.d6 and one of the pawns queen). 42.b7 Rb3;43.Nd8 a5; (43...Kf8;44.h5 Ke8;45.h6 Kxd8;46.h7 wins) 44.d6 a4;45.d7 a3;46.Ne6+ wins.

Hopefully I haven't made any slip ups in my conversion to algebraic since I don't have a board in front of me.

Oct-08-03  AdrianP: <thekleinbottle> <benzol> Thanks for the above. Botvinnik's analysis looks pretty convincing.
Jul-15-04  apple head: this is Kings Indain Defence
Feb-05-05  DP12: I am using an old Fritz 6 and it got confused but that was good because it forced me to find the key move myself. My preliminary line runs 40...Rb3 41.Nc4 Kg7 42.d6 Kf6 43.h5 Rb4 44.h6!(Fritz wants to play the humble Ne5 which does not win) Rxc4 44. b7 Rb8 45.d7 Ke7 46.h7 Can anyone Fritz 8 it and improve my analysis.
Premium Chessgames Member
  offramp: That line seems pretty convincing. Here is a similar one: 40...Rb3 41.Nc4 Kg8 42.d6 Kf7 43.h5 Rb1+ 44.Kf2 Rb4 45.d7 Ke7 46.h6 Rxc4 47.h7 Rxf4+ 48.Kg2
Sep-27-06  kevin86: This time,the great Tal made a wrong turn:( This battle of the "Mikes" went to Mr B.
Sep-27-06  diavol: I got a totaly different line with Rybka 2.1, which I actually like a bit better since I get to keep the knight: 41...Kg7 42.b7 Rb3 43.Nd8 Rb1+
44.Kf2 Rb2+ 45.Ke3 Kf8 46.h5 Rb3 47.Kd4 Rb2 48. h6 Rb6 49.Kc3 Kg8 50.d6 a5 51.d7 Kh7 52.Nf7 With a mate visible in 15
Premium Chessgames Member
  maxi: Talking about ways to go wrong in a chess game: after 40.Nxd6 Rb3 41.Nc4 White has a straightforward win. It would seem at first sight that 41.Nc8 (with the same idea of protecting both advanced pawns) should also win. Actually it loses for White after 41.Nc8 Rc3!!!
Mar-21-08  Knight13: 41. Nxf5 would've gotten messier.
Apr-01-08  Eyal: Tal wrote that he calculated 41.b7 Rb3 42.Nf7+ Kh7 43.Nd8 a5 44.d6 a4 45.d7 a3 46.Nc6 a2 and Black wins, since White is mated immediately after his pawn queens (it's important to play 42...Kh7 in this line, since Kg8 would allow White to queen with check and Kg7 would allow Ne6 with check). But then Tal noticed that it is White who is winning by a simple transposition of moves with 41.Nf7+! (41...Kh7 loses now to 42.d7), and this indeed was the move sealed by Botvinnik. Shortly later, while going over the game with Koblents, Tal became very upset when he realized that he could have won by playing the other rook to c8 on move 34 (in which case the b7 pawn remains protected).

Btw, Tal was going into this game - the 8th of the match - leading 5-2 (after winning games 1, 6 &7), so if he had won here as well Botvinnik's situation at the match would have become quite desperate at a very early stage. As it turned out, Botvinnik won the next game as well and set the score to 5-4.

Premium Chessgames Member
  plang: The move order that Botvinnik used discouraged him playing 8 e4 because of the strength of 8..Re8. The pawn sacrifice 14 e4..Nfxd5 15 exd..Bxc3 16 Qxc3..Rxe2 17 Bh6..Re5 is unclear and if 18 f4 then 18,,Nxd5. Tal spent almost half an hour on the dubious pawn sacrifice 14..c4?. He could not make 14..Re5 or 14..Nfxd5 work. However, he felt that 14..Bf5 15 e4..Bd7 would have been acceptable. Tal felt that the position of the White queen on a2 justified 19..f5? but after the game both he and Botvinnik were critical; Botvinnik recommending 19..b5 and Tal 19..Nf6. Botvinnik felt that 27 exd..Qxd4 28 Rf2..Rxe2 29 Qc3 would have been an elementary win for White. In addition, Tal offered 27 Rad1..Ba7..Ncb6 as stronger that Botvinnik's 27 Nab6?.
Jan-02-09  Rubenchik: Interesting game
Oct-10-09  gharigac: why resgined?
what is the problem after 41)....kg7 42)d6 kxn 43)b6 Rb3 44)d7 Kf2 & white loosing easly!!
Mar-20-10  blindside: what about 30....Qxh4? does that lead to a quick win for tal
Aug-25-12  Cemoblanca: 19...f5?! & 20...g5?! = Latvian Roulette


Joking aside: I guess it was really difficult for Misha to find something better in this unclear position! The White pawns on a5 & d5 have totally paralyzed the Black position! So in my opinion: If you play "Latvian Roulette", then please do it properly, for example he should immediately play 20...f4!?, because at any rate will follow 21.Nc4. Here is a possible continuation: 21...fxe3! 22.fxe3 b5!? 23.axb6 Nxb6 24.Nxe5 Rxe5 (a very bad thing would be 24...dxe5??, because of the passed pawn on the d-file). Nevertheless, a good game by "Mr. Coldplay"! ;0) >>>

Aug-25-12  SimonWebbsTiger: A few remarks to some comments:

19...f5? "The beginning of an unjustified plan. The idea which prompted it was the remote position of white's queen....19...Nf6!" (Tal)

"Botvinnik had examined 30...Qxh4 31. Qc3 followed by Qe1, but black does not have to lose any time capturing the h-pawn." (Tal)

From the classic book of the match by Tal.

Aug-27-12  Cemoblanca: <SimonWebbsTiger> Thanks Dude!
Jun-06-14  zydeco: From Tal's book on the match:

Tal planned 14.....Re5 15.Bf4 Rf5 with all kinds of ideas of sacrifices on the kingside but realized that instead of 16.g4 white can play positionally with 16.Nde4 when the rook on f5 is badly misplaced. "For some reason, I suddenly ceased liking black's position and with sorrow decided to sacrifice a pawn [i.e. 14....c4]," writes Tal but actually black is perfectly solid after 14.....Bf5 15.e4 Bd7 followed by ....Nc8.

Tal thinks that he would have had compensation for the pawn after 19....Nf6 with kingside piece play.

On move 23, black has crazy ideas of ....Bxh2+ followed by ....Rxe3 followed by ....Qh6+, ....g3, and ....Qxe3+ with at least a draw. Botvinnik shuts it down with 24.g3.

26....Rb8 is a kind of trap. Black wants to move his knight out of the way once white plays Nb6. Tal thinks white should have played sharply with 27.exd4 Qxd4+ 28.Rf2 Rxe2 29.Qxc3 or 27....Rxe2 28.Qd3 but Tal was fairly confident that Botvinnik wouldn't step into those kinds of complications.

Suddenly black has the initiative. White could have retained his advantage with 34.Rd4 Nxc3 35.Bd3. 35.Rc1 is a blunder which would have lost to 35.....Rec8.

Tal played very quickly (in Botvinnik's time trouble) over the last five moves of the first session, convinced that he was winning -- and passed up several chances to secure a draw (38....Rb8, 40....Kg8). As soon as he started home analysis, he found 41.Nf7+. "Koblentz and I began to play through the game and in the process of analysis we simultaneously discovered that black could have forced a win on his 34th move with 34....Rec8. There was nothing to say [actually, in his 'Life and Games,' Tal writes that 'various unprintable words were uttered'] and we didn't sleep a wink the whole night. It seemed as if my spirit had been hopelessly broken."

Mar-14-21  tessathedog: Perhaps the best sealed move in the history of world championship chess matches. Jusupov highlights this as an example of "the comparison method".
May-21-21  Johnnysaysthankyou: I’m pretty sure this game was a Russian forced resignation. For after 41.Kg7 b7 42. Rb3 Nd8 and then bringing the king in, black is winning. Tal was probably playing above the meter like he always was and was forced to resign to make the match “more fair”.
Premium Chessgames Member
  beatgiant: <Johnnysaysthankyou> Welcome back to the site!

The final position of course is winning for White.

For example 41... Kg7 42. b7 Rb3 43. Nd8 Kf8 <44. h5> and if Black's king approaches the queenside, White wins with the h-pawn.

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