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Garry Kasparov vs Mikhail Tal
16th Soviet Team Championship qual-1 (1983), Moscow URS, rd 2, Jul-16
Semi-Slav Defense: Botvinnik System. Lilienthal Variation (D44)  ·  1/2-1/2



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Kibitzer's Corner
Aug-09-03  refutor: this is a duplicate of Kasparov vs Tal, 1983
Premium Chessgames Member
  Benzol: <refutor> According to 'Fighting Chess' by Kasparov & Wade this is the correct score.
Jul-28-05  blingice: Is the reason this is a "good" game is because Kasparov is down a rook and draws?
Jul-28-05  offramp: It is part of the weird history of the Botvinnik Variation.
Sep-07-05  MUG: Two tactical geniuses do battle in what could arguably be called the most complex opening ever – The Semi Slav, Botvinnik Variation. Why this game is amazing is obvious, but many may not be aware that, behind the moves, an interesting theoretical duel was also taking place. It all started back in 1981.

The main line of the Botvinnik (as in this game) runs as follows: 1.d4 d5 2.c4 c6 3.Nc3 Nf6 4.Nf3 e6 5.Bg5 dxc4 <The Botvinnik variation> 6.e4 b5 7.e5 h6 8.Bh4 g5 9.Nxg5 hxg5 10.Bxg5 Nbd7 <10…Be7!?> 11.exf6 Bb7 12.g3 c5 13.d5 Qb6 14.Bg2 0-0-0 15.0-0 b4 16.Na4 Qb5 17.a3! … Although we are 17 moves in, this position has been reached in literally hundreds of games. Before the eighties, however, 17.a3 was practically unexplored. Refering to a game played by Dorfman in 1980, Kasparov writes at about that time: <confronted by this novelty, Dorfman did not react in the best way. He played 17…exd5, and after 18.axb4 cxb4 19.Be3! escaped disaster only through inaccurate play of his opponent.>

So it was clear that an improvement could be found, and in 1981 Sveshnikov and Timoshchenko together worked on the novel reply 17…Nb8. It was not long before it would receive its toughest test:

Kasparov vs G Timoshchenko, 1981

Not disheartened by its failure, Dorfman also gave the new move a try against the World Champion just a few days later:

Kasparov vs Dorfman, 1981

So it appeared that Kasparov had 17…Nb8 pretty much sussed and had practically refuted this novelty straight off the bat!

End of story? Of course not. Enter Tal, and our current game! The Latvian magician led Kasparov once again down the main lines, and once again into 17…Nb8. Of course Tal was well aware of Kasparovs crushing victories against this move, so what had he discovered? What cunning new novelty had he cooked up at home? One can imagine Kasparovs trepidation as he continued with the moves that had served him so well two years previous and had indeed now become approved by theory as best for White: 18.axb4 cxb4 19.Be3 Bxd5 20.Bxd5 Rxd5 21.Qe2 Nc6 22.Rfc1 … And now Tal uncorked 22…Ne5. To quote Kasparov: <Both Dorfman and Timoshchenko had continued 22…Na5 keeping the knight for defence of the queenside and hopeful of an opportunity for …Nb3. However, on a5 the knight turned out to be misplaced and it became a convenient target for Whites forces. On e5 it is actively placed, fulfilling attacking as well as defensive roles. – Kasparov in ‘Fighting Chess’ Batsford 1995> Kasparov admits to being a little perplexed by the new move, but decides to <set off along the beaten track (as in the other games) although I felt dangers radiating from the knight at e5.>. The result is the exciting, and mind-bogglingly complex game we see above which pulled the 17…Nb8 line back out of the doldrums.

Kasparov must also have been more then a little impressed as he even tried the 17…Nb8 line out for himself a few years later:

H J Cordes vs Kasparov, 1986

Perhaps hoping to play and improve upon Tals novelty? He never got the chance! Cordes unleashed a new move of his own (18.Qg4) and managed to beat the World Champ.

These days 18.Qg4 and 18.Qd4 are now considered to be a convincing way for White to keep the advantage, and so now 17…Nb8 has been superseded as the most critical line of the Botvinnik Variation by, guess what, 17…exd5!!, so perhaps Dorfman was right all along!!

Sep-07-05  hayton3: Not just a pretty <MUG> - many thanks for an entertaining theoretical tour of this mind-boggling opening.
Nov-08-05  alexandrovm: <MUG: Two tactical geniuses do battle in what could arguably be called the most complex opening ever – The Semi Slav, Botvinnik Variation. Why this game is amazing is obvious, but many may not be aware that, behind the moves, an interesting theoretical duel was also taking place. It all started back in 1981. > this is a great post, thanks for the information...
Aug-16-07  cheski: <MUG> Great! Just the sort of post I hoped to find. Well done!

If it were me playing the likes of Tal, I would have ignored the newfangled move 18.Qg4 for White, stuck with 18.axb cxb and played 19.Qd4, hoping for the likely 19...Nc6 and steering it into a rep.

Aug-16-07  cheski: I wonder if the write-up in the Tal volume of "My Predecessors" has anything to add to this.

Jul-02-11  czes12: Very, very beauty. This write I - Szczepan Friday
Oct-03-11  DrMAL: Position on move 17 was one known tabiya then but position after 22.Rfc1 was second known tabiya contested here.

Tal played 22...Ne5 instead of 22...Na5 in Kasparov vs G Timoshchenko, 1981 looks a better move to me but computer evaluates as same (at depth looked at).

Houdini_20_x64: 27/65 44:00 21,756,452,301
0.00 22. ... Ne5 23.Rc2 b3 24.Rc3 Kb7 25.Bf4
0.00 22. ... Na5 23.Bxa7 Kb7 24.Be3 Nb3 25.Nb6

Kasparov again played fabulous positional sac 24.Nxc3! he invented in other game, except now position is slightly different so here is computer eval.

Houdini_20_x64: 30/77 1:07:14 35,193,742,486
-0.36 24.Nxc3 bxc3 25.Rxc3+ Kb8 26.Qxb5+ Rxb5
-0.36 24.Qxb5 Rxb5 25.Nxc3 bxc3 26.Rxc3+ Kb8

Again, computer does not give sac enough credit, unable to find definite lines to prove it near this depth (maybe in a decade it will be possible for computer). 26.Qc2 is more optimistic than Q swap 26.Qxb5+ in line. With 27.Bxa7! white emerges 3P for N favorable imbalance in endgame so maybe Q swap was better.

With 28...Nc6 reply 29.Be3 was compulsory, leading to 30.Rxc6 another great positional sac. I think Tal gave white better chances here, although down R for 3P white has big initiative and full compensation, and 28...Ra8 was probably best instead.

36.Rxf7 got fourth P for R and with wide open K black has very little play. 39.Rxd7 evaluates as best (seems so) and equal, 39.Qa2+ combination got fifth P but 42...Kd8 shows some slight advantage for black. Either way, draw was warranted, unless a blunder occurs neither side can take advantage of material imbalance, very interesting wonderfully well played game.

Oct-03-11  AnalyzeThis: It's a good game. From a sporting point of view it's a success for Tal, it's always good to get a draw with Black against a top GM like Kasparov.
Jun-30-15  Howard: This game is annotated in on the Chessbase website---it was in either today or yesterday's articles.
Nov-13-20  fisayo123: Probably the most exciting game these two legends ever played despite the drawn result

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