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Mikhail Botvinnik vs Mikhail Tal
Tal - Botvinnik World Championship Rematch (1961), Moscow URS, rd 1, Mar-15
Nimzo-Indian Defense: Normal Variation. Bishop Attack Classical Defense (E48)  ·  1-0



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Premium Chessgames Member
  Richard Taylor: <Keypusher> Thanks, I looked at it again and found a win. It is worth analysing these positions. But these things are easier said than done.

Botvinnik played some subtle games in that match. He clearly outplayed Tal overall. If fact his results as a World Champion show that it possibly he rather than Kasparov or others who might be said to be "the greatest".

In the games I saw there weren't quite the complex tactical things Kasparov etc went in for but one can see in the book (Cafferty translated it and Botvinnik and he comment or give analysis) his clear abilities. If he finds a good plan he plays it but he also defends excellently and counter attacks from what seem bad or lost (difficult) positions. Nor was he 'soulless' as some one suggested earlier. He was a complex man and his school, or his way influenced many of the later players such as Spassky, Karpov, Kasparov and others.

Dec-06-20  Saul Goodman: Botvinnik played a total of seven world Championship matches against Bronstein, Smyslov, Tal and Petrosian. In those matches, with the whole Soviet apparatus backing him, his record was two wins, three losses and two draws. Botvinnik is the most overrated great player in chess history.
Premium Chessgames Member
  keypusher: <Saul Goodman>

<with the whole Soviet apparatus backing him>


Who's the oldest man to win a world championship match? Er...Steinitz. But Botvinnik is the second-oldest. Don't diss the Patriarch.

Dec-07-20  Retireborn: <keypusher> I'm a great fan of dear old Botty, but it must be admitted his match results (Flohr, Levenfish) weren't that convincing.

Still, I think he would certainly have beaten Alekhine, if that match had gone ahead, and it would have greatly enhanced his reputation.

Premium Chessgames Member
  keypusher: <Retireborn: <keypusher> I'm a great fan of dear old Botty, but it must be admitted his match results (Flohr, Levenfish) weren't that convincing.>

Levenfish, no argument. Flohr, I think you're viewing with the benefit of hindsight. In 1933 Flohr was probably top 3 or 4 in the world and Botvinnik was a relative unknown. Drawing that match was seen as a great accomplishment for him.

The only other match besides Levenfish where Botvinnik arguably underperformed was Bronstein, but Botvinnik hadn't played in three years going in. He was giving 10 years to Smyslov, eighteen to Petrosian, and 25 to Tal.

Premium Chessgames Member
  NM JRousselle: Did Botvinnik ever win a world championship match? I know he won some RE matches.
Premium Chessgames Member
  beatgiant: <NM JRousselle> All the events are well covered right here on In 1948, Botvinnik won a tournament of mini-matches, with a plus score against each opponent. All his other successes were retaining the title in a tied match, or regaining the title in a rematch.
Premium Chessgames Member
  keypusher: <NM JRousselle: Did Botvinnik ever win a world championship match? I know he won some RE matches.>

In 1961 there was a MATCH for the world championship. And 49-year-Botvinnik won. This isn’t difficult.

Premium Chessgames Member

<keypusher> I had to look at that for a second, but I see your point was worth making.

A world championship return match is indeed a <MATCH for the world championship>.

Premium Chessgames Member
  Sally Simpson: ***

Botvinnik lost the title twice and won it back twice. That is going to be a tough record to beat.

With the current two year cycles (covid permitting) Carlsen could equal it, he is young enough and won't have to qualify for the next candidates - the final loser gets a seat automatically.

Lose it in 2021, win it back in 2023, lose it in 2025 win it back in 2027 when he will 37 or 38. (his birthday is in November around about the time they hold the final.)

That is a big ask with all the young un's coming up, Maybe one of them will do it.


Dec-08-20  SChesshevsky: <...Botvinnik is the most overrated great player in chess history.>

Maybe. I have a hard time deciding on how good, relative to the other greats, he is. It's tough to say as Botvinnik was kind of erratic.

He could have some real positional clunkers. As he admits in his writing.

Smyslov vs Botvinnik, 1954

Smyslov vs Botvinnik, 1958

But then he could come up with some brilliant games. Even late in his career. Like when he seemed on fire at Hoogovens.

Botvinnik vs H Ree, 1969

Botvinnik vs Lombardy, 1969

Not shy about experimenting and certainly great. But among the top greatest? Hard to tell.

Premium Chessgames Member
  perfidious: <Saul....Botvinnik is the most overrated great player in chess history.>

Bollocks; while it has been great good sport for posters to slag Botvinnik's match record while holding the title, he lost much of his prime to the Great Patriotic War, and even then managed to be the greatest player of the 1940s. He was past his zenith when playing all those matches for the championship.

Premium Chessgames Member
  keypusher: I've tried to get away from ranking players, and (like Everett) thought more in terms of players I like. Well, I certainly like Botvinnik.

But I'm bemused trying to figure out what "most overrated great player" or "is he among the top greatest?" mean exactly. Where does Botvinnik rank? If we're saying he's not at the Kasparov-Karpov-Fischer level, that's not very controversial. If we're saying he's some kind of fraud who's in the top 10 or so just by courtesy, that's silly. He was one of the best in the world for 35 years, and had some of the most dominant performances in chess history. On the other hand there will always be a something of a shadow over the '48 championship and the '41 match-tournament. He seemed to lose more than his share of blowouts, as SChess says, though I think that's mostly because (i) he had a long career, playing lots of very dangerous opponents (ii) he took great positional risks (iii) he struggled (IMO) with bad nerves more than most greats. Even so, he won many more blowouts than he lost!

It feels like he didn't quite have the solidity and sense of the game that Capablanca or Smyslov or Fischer did...but then not many do. I think he was incredibly creative and he raised the level of what was expected from a top master away from the board.

PHN and Gustafsson have him #8 behind Kasparov, Carlsen, Fischer, Lasker, Alekhine, Karpov, and Capablanca. Feels about right.

Premium Chessgames Member
  Sally Simpson: ***

Maybe the lad who popped up with the 'overestimated' post about Botvinnik may recall a few months ago placed him second in his list of the best players up to 1964 ahead of Capablanca, Lasker, Fischer...

Capablanca vs Lasker, 1921 (kibitz #136)

Second best up to 1964, overestimated in 2020. (I blame rating inflation.)

'Half a Century of Chess' page 110. Botvinnik says: "I was always underestimated as a master of attack." Botvinnik.

If you want a truly underrated player then I'd say Rueben Fine. He never makes anyone's list of players never to be world champion but in the 1930's he was immense.

This site has Fine rated at 32nd ahead of Aronian, Tarrasch, Timman, Chigorin, Nimzovitch...

They should have stuck to the top 10, almost everyone agrees, with very few additions, submissions and order of merit who they are. I think after their top ten they pulled the names out of a hat.

Botvinnik comes in at 8th.


Premium Chessgames Member
  Check It Out: <JskaFshrKween: A world championship return match is indeed a <MATCH for the world championship>.>

Sure, but the difficulty level of <qualification process> carrys a lot of weight. Witness Anand's MATCH against Karpov.

Premium Chessgames Member
  Check It Out: <Bot>'s rematch clauses were notorious.
Dec-10-20  Petrosianic: <Bot's rematch clauses were notorious.>

For what?

Dec-10-20  Petrosianic: <If you want a truly underrated player then I'd say Rueben Fine. He never makes anyone's list of players never to be world champion but in the 1930's he was immense.>

He blew his own horn so much that it seemed superfluous for others to blow it for him. The height of absurdity was when Fine injected himself into the Fischer-Petrosian match. ("The Man Who Should Have Been Annotates The Match Between The Man Who Once Was And The Man Who Would Soon Be"). He even gave himself top billing!

I'm willing to grumble a little about the tiebreak at AVRO, but not much, because Keres didn't become official challenger either. (The "Official" Challenger was Flohr, who finished last at AVRO. Keres didn't seem to think any of the players at AVRO would have beaten Alekhine, including himself, so it's hard to see Fine as a lead pipe cinch. So, Fine is maybe underrated by the world, but overrated by himself. He really thought he should have been given the title flat out when Alekhine died.

Premium Chessgames Member
  Check It Out: <For what?> For making it a cakewalk for Botvinnik to be in the next title match.
Premium Chessgames Member
  keypusher: < Check It Out: <For what?> For making it a cakewalk for Botvinnik to be in the next title match>

Well, yes, that is what rematch clauses do. Rematch clauses are out of favor today, but I wonder how they were perceived at the time. Probably the more arduous it got to qualify, the less justifiable the rematch clause seemed.

Premium Chessgames Member
  Check It Out: <keypusher: Probably the more arduous it got to qualify, the less justifiable the rematch clause seemed>

Agreed. I suppose there is/was some time to recover from all of the qualifying matches, but the prolonged stress of battling for a chance at the title match, over a period of months, even years, must take its physical and psychological toll.

So, while Botvinnik's return matches were MATCHES, he didn't have the prolonged stress of getting there.

However, now that I think of it, the lazy champion sitting on his throne for years at a time waiting for a challenger could have their own set of physical and psychological weak points building. Carlsen beware.

Dec-10-20  Petrosianic: <Check It Out: <For what?> For making it a cakewalk for Botvinnik to be in the next title match.>

In other words, his rematches were notorious... for being rematches. Yep, it's pretty hard to argue with that.

Premium Chessgames Member
  Check It Out: <Petrosianic> That sound is my point going swoosh over your head.
Apr-10-21  tbontb: As pointed out above, following Black's early initiative the turning point was 22....R3d7 both missing ..c5 and allowing 23.Bxf6. After the double exchange of Rs, Botvinnik indicated 30....Bd5 as the losing move (with ..Bf5 more tenacious, if still difficult). However, 35....Bf1 36.Nxf6+ Kh8 37.g4 Bxh3 38.Ke2 c4 39.Nd5 Bg2 40. Nb4 c3 41. Nc2 Kg7 42. Nd4 h5 may allow Black to struggle on.
Apr-10-21  macer75: Never heard of these two people.
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