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Mikhail Tal vs Mikhail Botvinnik
Tal - Botvinnik World Championship Rematch (1961), Moscow URS, rd 20, May-08
Caro-Kann Defense: Advance. Tal Variation (B12)  ·  1/2-1/2



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Kibitzer's Corner
< Earlier Kibitzing  · PAGE 1 OF 3 ·  Later Kibitzing>
Oct-20-04  mack: A mammoth endgame which for some reason has no kibitzing - could someone with a better endgame technique care to add their two cents worth on this one?
Jan-23-05  fgh: Nimzowitsch would have loved to see this game. This game is just one big blockade!
Jan-24-05  euripides: <mack> Thanks for drawing attention to this wonderful struggle. Tal was four points down and tries very hard to win. I can't elucidate the whole thing, but the final phase (from move 94) is an important and difficult kind of rook endgame.

Rook endgames where one side is up by an outside passed pawn are very tricky. If the attacking rook is in front of the pawn it should usually be drawn but Timman recently published an article with four different cases where grandmasters including Anand have lost it. Here Black has to be prepared to put his king on a7 or b7 if White plays f7; otherwise White will win either by moving the rook to check the king or (if the king is on c7) can play Ra8 Rxf7 Ra7+ winning the rook by the skewer. Black's alternative defensive strategy would be to bring the king towards the f pawn but this risks losing the c6 pawn after which White has a protected passed pawn and would probably win. Whether, as Black played, White could have found a way to exploit the weakness on c6 I don't know.

Premium Chessgames Member
  Benzol: This is the game that has lead me to comment earlier that Botvinnik was a sly old fox. Botvinnik had a sleepless night after the first adjournment.

"In the adjournment session it became clear that White had missed a winning line in his analysis, but I was not too clever either - I mixed up the variations I had prepared at home and once again came into a lost endgame" - Botvinnk.

A second sleepless night followed and he found a way to neutralised the main threat with a unexpected stalemate possibility. If he could let the enemy camp know that the position was hopeless for him then they wouldn't work hard on it and possibly over the stalemate.

"After two days of play and two sleepless nights I was thoroughly tired out, yet I did not take my usual thermos flask of coffee with me to the adjournment session - this would be the most weighty proof that I would make just a few more moves and then resign the game. It was during these few moves that Tal had to miss the stalemate". - Botvinnik.

Tal didn't notice the stalemate possibility in time and the game was drawn.

Jan-24-05  euripides: <Benzol> Extremely interesting. Is the line 95 Rf7+ Ka6 96 Rc7 Rb5+ ?
Premium Chessgames Member
  Benzol: <euripides> Yes I believe that is the stalemating line. Botvinnik was a cunning old sod and you have to respect him for it. :)
Jan-24-05  euripides: <benzol> I like to think he was a raging genius, but the two decriptions are not mutually exclusive.
Premium Chessgames Member
  Benzol: I think he understood that there are more factors that play a part in the struggle than just what transpires on the board. Don't get me wrong I think he's a great analyst, his opposite colour bishop win against Kotov is proof enough of that as is the win against Zuidema in 1966. However, I also think that Lasker whom he observed first hand taught him something about the value of psychology and human factors that also play a role.
Premium Chessgames Member
  beatgiant: Did Botvinnik state precisely where White missed a win, where Black later missed a draw, and how White should avoid the stalemate trap?

One possibility is 58. fxg5 instead of the game's hxg5, with the idea that White's king can help catch Black's f-pawn.

For example, 58. fxg5 f4 59. g6 f3 60. Kc3! Rxa3+ 61. Kd2 f2 62. Ke2 Rxd3 63. g7, and White appears to be winning (63...Rg3 64. Rxb7 Rg2 65. Kf1 Rg4 66. Kxf2, or 63...Kf7 64. Rxb7+ Kg8 65. Kxf2 Rxd4 66. e6 Re4 67. e7).

Premium Chessgames Member
  beatgiant: And a possibility for Black is 62...Rh8 63. Rh1 Rh3 64. Kb2 Ke7 65. Kc3 Kf8 66. e6 Kg7 67. e7 Re3, and it looks like Black stops White's passers without losing the b-pawn, for a much easier draw.
Premium Chessgames Member
  beatgiant: For White again, maybe the idea in the later part of the ending is to play for the king to break through via b6, even at the cost of the d- and f-pawns.

One possible approach is 75. Kb3 Re4 76. a6 Kc8 77. Kb4 Rxf4 78. Ka5 Rxd4 79. Kb6. This looks like the sort of position White should win, with the active pieces and advanced a- and c-pawns. An example of further play is 79...Rb4+ 71. Kxc6 Ra4 72. Kb5 Ra1 73. Rf7 d4 74. Kb6 Kd8 75. a7 Ke8 76. Rb7 d3 77. Rb8+ followed by 78. a8=Q, etc.

Premium Chessgames Member
  Benzol: <beatgiant> Sorry for not replying earlier to your post on the 13th of March 2005 but I missed it.

<Did Botvinnik state precisely where White missed a win, where Black later missed a draw, and how White should avoid the stalemate trap?>

89.♔a2 ♖b5 Here Tal played 90.a7.

"My analysis (taking the stalemate combination into account) showed that the strongest continuation was to get Black's rook to a6, as follows 90.♖f8 ♖a5+ 91.♔b3 ♖xa6 92.♖xf5 ♔d7 93.♖f6 ♖a1 94.f5 ♖d1 95.♔c3 ♖c1+ 96.♔d2 ♖f1 97.♖f7+ ♔d8 98.♔c3 ♖b1 (see diagram)

click for larger view

But even here Black appears to draw; for example, after 99.f6 ♖f1 100.♔b4 ♔e8, or 99.♔c2 ♖b4 100.♔d3 ♖b3+ 101.♔e2 ♖h3 102.f6 ♖h4 103.♔e3 ♖e4+ 104.♔d3 ♖f4." - Botvinnik.

Unfortunately he doesn't say where Tal could have won earlier nor how he should have drawn earlier. Anyway hope this helps clarify some points about this complex ending.

Feb-23-08  MostlyAverageJoe: I see no stalemate in the works and no win for the black, so I'd just play by the rule that rooks belong behind passed pawns.

And so: 94...Rb1, then Rf1, and if white pawn moves forward, shuttle R between f1 and f4. Or administer checks from the 1st rank. Just pay attention to the c7 pawn, and wait until the opponent keels over from boredom.

If Pf4 never moves forward, no big deal, still a draw :-)

No way I'm going to spend more than 2 minutes on this position. Time to peek.


Yup, Booooring.

Feb-23-08  wouldpusher: If you saw yesterday's puzzle, you would think of getting the Black ♖ on the f-file to produce a similar situation to that of yesterday's a-pawn.

From how I see these two games, I think I've learned something: putting a ♖ in front of your ♙ is like putting the carriage behind your horse.

Feb-23-08  dzechiel: Black to move. White is up a pawn. "Very Difficult."

Well, this sure smells a lot like the other positions we have seen this week, so the first thing to look for are stalemating possibilities.

Thus my first idea is to play something like


which keeps the white king trapped against the edge of the board and allows white to play

95 Rf7+ Ka6 96 Rc7

and now


If white plays

97 Kxb4

that's a stalemate. White's only other legal move here would be

97 Ka3

which would allow black to play

97...Rxd4 98 Rxc6+ Kb5

and with the rook under attack white will have to lose either the c- or f-pawn, with a drawn ending.

That's enough for tonight. I'm sure there are zillions of lines I haven't looked at, but too bad.

Time to check.

Feb-23-08  Madman99X: All rook endgames are drawn....
Premium Chessgames Member
  Benzol: I had an inkling this one was going to turn up.


Feb-23-08  MostlyAverageJoe: <myself: Just pay attention to the c7 pawn> c6, obviously.

I must be missing something profound in this puzzle. If so, someone please enlighten me, because honestly I don't see anything in the rest of the game that could not be handled with just paying attention to the next 2-3 moves.

Oh, well. For others who find themselves bored, here's a cute puzzle, probably Tue-Wed level, black to play and win:

click for larger view

No peeking at tablebases, this one is easy enough :-). For the solution, see the discussion here: Ljubojevic vs Browne, 1972

Premium Chessgames Member
  HeMateMe: botvinnik wins the rematch, against a much younger opponent, and by a wide margin. Very interesting. Tal attributed the lost match to MB's "home cooking", his supurb preparation. Reading between the lines, I think Tal relied too much on his natural talent, and not enough work was put in on preparing for specific opponents.

Outside of the Alekine--Euwe rematch, are there any important matches where the older player won a rematch?

Feb-23-08  dzechiel: <HeMateMe> Tal suffered health problems throughout much of his career. According to Wikipedia, Latvian doctors thought he was unfit to play the return match for the world championship, but Botvinnik would only agree to postpone the match if <Moscow> doctors came to that conclusion.

Premium Chessgames Member
  HeMateMe: You're right, I think this was the first sign of the diseased kidney problem.
Feb-23-08  jovack: the key lies in white's rook being in front of his pawn, after the pawn is pushed all the way to the 7th rank, white's rook is trapped and loses the pawn when black moves his king in this endgame took some thought to make sure it all worked out in the end
Feb-23-08  Cibator: "If Tal would learn to program himself properly then it would become impossible to play him." - M M Botvinnik, according to the Oxford Companion to Chess.

The poor health was certainly a factor, but another major one was undoubtedly Tal's inability to play matches in a suitably disciplined manner. This was what caused him to blow up at the end of the 1965 Candidates' final against Spassky, when he lost three on the bounce.

Premium Chessgames Member
  whiteshark: 94.Rb1 95.Rf7+ Ka6 96.Rc7 Rb4+ 97.Kxb4 stale#
Feb-23-08  JG27Pyth: I don't get it. It's a rook ending... where's the puzzle? As <MAJ> said, 'there must be something profound going on here, but I don't see it, someone please enlighten me.'

The moves that I think constitute the puzzle are perhaps around move 96. I don't understand Botvinnik's 96.Ra1+, it really looks like an unnecessary patzer-check played instead of winning the d4 pawn after Rd1...that must be the crucial move, not winning the d4 pawn, no doubt because it lets Tal get his rook behind his f pawn? And what exactly does Ra1+ accomplish... it just looks like a wasted tempo, but of course losing a tempo in an end game is often a key move...

I'm mystified as to what was supposed to be the 'very difficult' puzzle here.

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