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Mikhail Botvinnik vs Mikhail Tal
Tal - Botvinnik World Championship Rematch (1961), Moscow URS, rd 13, Apr-17
King's Indian Defense: Saemisch. Orthodox Variation (E85)  ·  1-0



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Kibitzer's Corner
Dec-08-05  sleighmaster: It is interesting that white's passed pawn advanced while black's did not. I expected the black queenside majority to pose somekind of threat to the white king! However Botvinnik blocked them beautifully. I would like to see how the game would continue with the black knight at d6, as i've been told black would then have had the better game.
Apr-14-06  IMDONE4: Botvinnik was one of the greatest positional players ever to dominate the game. he saw black's advance would get nowhere due to his own passed pawn rolling down the center.
May-30-08  apexin: if i remembered correcctly nowadays the position after 9.Nd5 is considered completele winning for white.
May-31-08  KingG: <apexin> <if i remembered correcctly nowadays the position after 9.Nd5 is considered completele winning for white.> I doubt that somehow, as it would completely put one of the main lines, 6...e5, out of business. In general, I can't think of many positions in the KID that aren't equal for Black after the exchange on e5. It's usually completely harmless from the objective point of view.
Premium Chessgames Member
  keypusher: A really amazing game when you look at it with an engine.

After 13….c5?! it seems clear that White has won the opening battle, but victory is another thing entirely. Tal reorganizes to defend d6 and organize counterplay on the kingside after 14.Bc2 Nd7 15.Ne2 Bf8 16.Nc3 a6. After 17.b3?! Shredder thinks black is a little better after the immediate …c4. Instead the engine thinks that White can keep some advantage by playing on the kingside with 17.h4.

After 17….Rac8 18.Bd3 Nb6 19.Be2 Rd6 20.Kb2 f5?! 21.Rc1 Rf6? Botvinnik hits out with 22.a4! bxa4 23.bxa4 setting up play on the b-file. 23….a5 looks awful but is Shredder's first choice. 23….Rc7 24.Bg5 Rd6 25.a5 Nd7 26.exf5 gxf5 27.Bd3 is very strong for White. But in the game, after 23….a5 24.Kc2 Tal completely ruins his position with 24….c4? Now 25.Rb1 Bb4! (25….Bc5? 26.Bxc5 Rxc5 27.f4! ) 26.Na2! Bc5 27.Bxc5 Rxc5 28.Nc3? (very natural, but instead 28.f4! wins immediately. The tactical underpinning is simple: The N on b6 and the bishop behind it are under fire, so white can launch his pawns forward to chase the defending rook on f6 away. Eg. 28.f4 exf4 29.fxe5 Rf2 30.Rhe1 Nxd5 31.Rxb7 ).

28.Nc3 Bc8 29.Rb2 Bd7? 30.Rhb1 (again f3-f4 is crushing: 30…..Bxa4+ 31.Nxa4 Nxa4 32.Ra2 Nb6 33.fxe5 , but the text move is good enough) 30….Bxa4+ (30….Nxa4 31.Rb7 Nxc3 32.Kxc3 Rf7 33.f4! (again!) is also losing) 31.Nxa4 Nxa4 32.Rb8+ Kg7 (32….Rf8 33.d6 is no better) 33.R1b7+ Rf7 34.d6! Rxb7 35.Rxb7+ Kf6 36.Rxh7 Rc8 37.d7 Rd8 38.Bxc4 Nc5 39.Rf7+ (driving the Black king out of play, after which White's rook, bishop and pawn overpower Black's rook and knight) 39….Kg5 40.Bb5 fxe4 41.fxe4 1-0. Presumably Botvinnik's 41st was the sealed move. Black's position is quite hopeless, e.g. 41….Nxe4 42.Re7 Nd6 43.Rxe5+ Kf6 44.Re8 Nb7 45.Bc6.

There was a lot more going on in this game than I realized. Powerful (though certainly not flawless!) play from Botvinnik.

Premium Chessgames Member
  keypusher: Part I of II

Here are some excerpts from Botvinnik's own notes, which are an interesting to compare to the computer lines. Botvinnik saw 28.f4, but decided not to play it for practical reasons. Many of Tal's moves that the computer scores as errors Botvinnik passes over in silence, probably in part because they seemed natural in light of the plans Tal had chosen.

After 6....e5:

<Whereas after the 10th game my opponent was definitely aiming for a draw, after his victory in the 12th game he was in an aggressive mood, as indicated by his choice of opening. Taking this into account, White takes a psychologically correct decision: first of all, he exchanges the queens.>

After 11.Bc4

<Inviting Black to choose the variation 11....cxd5 12.Bxd5 Nc6, which was known from the game Boleslavsky vs Najdorf, 1953. Alas, such a prosaic decision does not suit Tal, and he plays for complications, i.e. for the worsening of his own position.>

click for larger view

13.0-0-0 <If 13.Rc1, according to analysis by Boleslavsky, Black gets the better game by 13....a5 (avoiding traps such as 13....cxd5 14.Rc7 Rd7 15.Rxb7, or 13....Rd7 14.Ne2 cxd5 15.Bxd5 Bxd5 16.Rc8+ Bf8 17.exd5). Therefore White sets a more substantial threat -- a positional one.>


<To my surprise, Tal makes the position a closed one, which is not in keeping with his style. Of course he should not have left White with a protected passed pawn and restricted the possibilities of his queen's bishop.

After 13....a5! 14.dxc6 Nxc6 15.Rxd8+ Rxd8 a roughly equal position would have been reached.>


<White's plan was not difficult to find. It was successfully implemented in a similar position in a training game Boleslavsky-Botvinnik (Voronovo 1952), and consisted in the preparation of an attack on the black pawn chain by b2-b3 and a2-a4. It is surprising that, although White does not conceal his intentions, my opponent essentially does not even attempt to counter them.>

Botvinnik apparently means this game Boleslavsky vs Botvinnik, 1952, which is a Semi-Slav, but winds up with essentially the same pawn formation. Botvinnik always thought in terms of structures and systems, not openings.

After 16....a6.

<Perhaps the losing move. The bishop at b7 is shut out of play for a long time, and more importantly, White is able to carry out his idea without hindrance. Black should have played 16....b4 17.Na4 c4 followed by ...Ba6, leading to unclear complications. >

After 19....Rd6

<This move creates the concrete threat of 20....b4 21.Nb1 c4 (the knight on b6 is defended) but the rook on d6 is no ornament to Black's position.>

click for larger view


<Now the threat is parried: if 20....b4 21.Nb1 c4 22.bxc4 Nxc4+ 23.Bxc4 Rxc4 24.Rc1 White breaks through on the c-file.>

After 22....bxa4

<Since after 22....b4 23.Nb1 Black is left with numerous weaknesses, he takes another decision, also, however, a painful one: he opens the b-file, which soon will be occupied by White.>

Premium Chessgames Member
  keypusher: Part II of II


<White, of course, does not exchange knights (23.Nxa4 Nxa4+ 24.bxa4), since the Black knight is badly placed.>


<23....c4 24.Kc2 Bb4 25.Rb1 Bxc3 would not have changed anything, since both 26.Bxb6 and 26.Kxc3 Nxa4+ 27.Kc2 are good for White.>

In the first line 26....Bd4 27.Bxd4 exd4 28.Rxb7 d3+ 29.Bxd3 cxd3+ 30.Kxd3 is indeed crushing. In the second line Botvinnik missed 27.Kb4! Nb6 28.Ka5! winning on the spot.

After 27....Rxc5

click for larger view

<I saw that by 28.f4 I could gain a material advantage, since it is hard for Black to defend his minor pieces (28....fxe4 29.fxe5 Rf2 30.Kd2 Rxd5+ 31.Ke3 etc.). But at this tense moment, in the fifth hour of play, I did not want to allow my opponent even the slightest counter-chance.>

After 29....Bd7

<Slightly more tenacious was 29....fxe4 30.fxe4 (30.Nxe4 Bf5) 30....Bd7 31.Rhb1 Bxa4+ 32.Nxa4 Nxa4 33.Rb8+ Rf8 (in the game on the 32nd move this could not be played because of 33.f4). Even so, after 34.d6 Rcc8 35.Rxc8 Rxc8 36.Rb7, there is no doubt White is winning.>

After 30....Bxa4+

<If 30....Nc8 there would have followed 31.f4 -- a possibility that would have been excluded by the preparatory exchange 29....fxe4 30.fxe4.>

After 32.Rb8+

click for larger view

<It is already known that 32....Rf8 there would have followed 33.f4>

After 36....Rc8

<Or 36....Rc6 37.d7 Rd6 38.Bxc4 Nb6 39.Rf7+ Kg5 40.Bb5.>

Incidentally, there are some neat tactical tricks for both sides in the final position, apart from the one given in the previous kibitz. If Black "passes" with something like 41....a4, White has 42.Re7 Kf6 43.Re8 Rxd7 44.Rc8! winning a clear piece. But Black has the stronger 41....Ne6 threatening a fork on d4. Then after 42.Kd2, Black can play 42....Rb8 43.Re7 Kf6 44.Re8 Nd8 trying to keep the pawn at bay. But he has no answer to 45.Ba6 with the threat of Bc8.

Aug-18-16  AlicesKnight: Thanks <keypusher> for the comments - most interesting. I wonder what it says about Botvinnik that he was prepared to use the KI Saemisch five times in the 1961 match against someone with a certain reputation for wild combinative play.

It was the d-pawn which applied the coup-de-grace in the final game Botvinnik vs Tal, 1961 (another Saemisch) of the match.

Apr-21-21  tbontb: As noted, 29....Bd7 is the final error which loses quickly. Instead, 29....fxe4 30.fxe4 Nd7 is rather more stubborn, though still very difficult.

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