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Alexey Sokolsky vs Mikhail Botvinnik
11th USSR Championship Semifinal (1938), Leningrad URS, rd 1, May-20
Gruenfeld Defense: Three Knights. Burille Variation (D94)  ·  0-1



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Kibitzer's Corner
Apr-02-04  Checkmate123: White had no plan in this game. Some of his moves were pointless.
Premium Chessgames Member
  tpstar: Clue #1 = White essays a completely insipid line (5. e3/6. Be2) against the Grunfeld. Clue #2 = Sokolsky (Mr. b4 himself) chooses 9. b3 over 9. b4 which would control c5 and begin a (standard) minority attack. Clue #3 = White plays 10. Bb2 with no purpose versus 10. Ba3 where the QB would do something. Clues #4-6 = 14. Qb1, 15. Bf1, 22. Nh1. Clue #7 = 26. Re1? giving up any blockade of the passed Pawn (which a GM would never do, even in horrible time pressure) and allowing 26 ... d3 with tempo winning quickly. Call me a paranoid Yankee, but it's games like these where you suspect White was ordered to lose.
Apr-03-04  Benjamin Lau: Without necessarily agreeing or disagreeing with the conspiracy, the e3 Grunfeld was very popular in the earlier days of theory (and this is 1939). The exchange variation and the other more ambitious lines did not receive a lot of attention until later on.
Apr-03-04  ughaibu: Tpstar: All the opening moves were natural and in line with how, for example, Rubinstein might have played (on e2 the bishop neutralises any potential pin on the knight which would be consistent with Gruenfeld pressure on d5, on d3 the bishop would be facing a protected pawn thus "doing" nothing, b4 would loosen the queenside and there is no minority attack with the present pawn structure, the bishop on b2 discourages both c5 and e5 by black, Qb1 is a standard idea used by Rubinstein, Reshevsky, etc). How do you suggest the pawn be blockaded? Sokolsky (because Fischer was Mr.Bc4 do you think that every time he played his kings bishop to a different square he'd been ordered to lose?) tried to escape combinatively from a strategically lost position, the attempt failed, against Botvinnik the same thing happened to non-Soviets, who did they get their orders from?
Premium Chessgames Member
  tpstar: There is a huge difference between being outplayed by your opponent and letting your opponent outplay you. When one side consistently chooses the most passive candidates and the weakest defense, it makes me wonder. The original comment was correct = White had no plan here except sit around waiting for Black to come at him, and he did. I happen to believe these old school masters included distinct hints in their games that no layperson (or official) would notice, yet serious players would spot instantly (14. Qb1, 15. Bf1, 19. Qd3?!, 22. Nh1?!, 26. Re1?), signalling the chess world that the fix was on. This is 100% pure speculation; I won't hunt for proof because I'll never find it. But my advice to other students = when something is wrong with the game, maybe something was wrong with the game.

Here's a perfect project for computers. Enter the moves and rate the strength (or weakness) versus other choices for that position. If one player picks 3 or more questionable options during a game, consider outside influence. For more about the reality of GM collusion, find the Bronstein page with comments by Gypsy and ughaibu. I'd be very curious in that Game Collection = "Ordered to Lose." Start here and add this one: Ghizdavu vs Karpov, 1973.

Apr-18-04  Lawrence: <tpstar>, problem is, how "questionable" does the move have to be before you include it in your list, and how can you prove that the player was trying to throw the game? I load every game I study into Junior as a matter of course, and see dozens of questionable moves every day, including those made by the winner.
Apr-28-04  ughaibu: There was a quote of the day recently from Lasker to the effect that if both players play correct chess the game will be a boring draw, Bronstein expressed a similar sentiment with something like 'if a player's afraid of a few losses they'll never find anything new'. At club level it might be fine to follow a book opening line then potter along until one or other player blunders but at grandmaster level a player has to put something into the game and that something can be defensive just as much as it can be offensive. It's a question of style, which is expressed in plans composed of moves. It's easy to point to "incorrect" moves in the loser's play but such behaviour fails to appreciate the loser's contribution to the creative process. If you look at the game posted recently by Nikolaas on the Bronstein page or various games of Petrosian posted by Benjamin Lau you'll find far more eccentric moves and ideas than anything in this game, does that suggest that the winners were ordered to lose but the plan backfired?
Premium Chessgames Member
  keypusher: I think we've all seen games where the inferior player has white and tries to play for a draw from the very first move. Sometimes it works, but sometimes he finds himself in an increasingly passive position, forced into weaknesses and eccentricities like Nh1 in this game. Sokolsky's other loss to Botvinnik in the database is similar.

Sokolsky vs Botvinnik, 1947

Fischer was on the black side of many similar games in the US championships. Here's one.

Bisguier vs Fischer, 1966

Fixed? Of course not.

Beyond eccentric moves, I think one more thing is needed before you can start talking about fixed games -- some sort of external supporting evidence. If a Soviet player and a non-Soviet player are battling for first place, and another Soviet player goes down without a fight against the leading Soviet, then you have some evidence.

This game was apparently played in the 1938 USSR championship semi-final. (Sokolsky didn't qualify for the 1939 final, also played in Leningrad. I think this game is misdated by I can't find a crosstable. But if Botvinnik won the tournament by three points, then we can forget about fixes. Similarly, if the top half of the cross table qualified for the final, again we can forget about fixes.

Mar-12-05  euripides: <tpstar Clue #1 = White essays a completely insipid line (5. e3/6. Be2) against the Grunfeld>.

This line was used (admittedly provoking some scathing comments from Ficher) in one of the most famous games in all Soviet chess:

Petrosian vs Botvinnik, 1963

Now was Petrosian ordered to play an insipid line in order to beat Botvinnik ? my head is spinning ....

Premium Chessgames Member
  Calli: <keypusher> You have it right. There wasn't championship in 1938. This game is the semi-final held in 1938 for the 11th USSR Championship in Leningrad 15.04 to 16.05.1939. scores were:

1. M. Botvinnik - 12.5; 2. A. Kotov - 11.5; 3. S. Belavenets - 11; 4-5. V. Makogonov and V. Chekhover - 10.5; 6. I. Bondarevsky - 10; 7. G. Lisitsin - 9; 8-10. P. Dubinin, G. Levenfish and V. Ragozin - 8.5; 11-12. V. Panov and I. Rabinovich - 8; 13-14. I. Kan and M. Yudovich - 7.5; 15-16. I. Pogrebyssky and A. Tolush - 6.5; 17. A. Chistyakov - 5 from 17 scores; 18. P. Romanovsky - 3.5

Botvinnik beat Kotov in the last round to win.

Mar-04-06  notyetagm: You know your position has serious defects if you have to play a move like 22 ♘h1.
Jul-28-06  Runemaster: Same for 28.Qa1 - at that point, it looks as if White's playing Fischer Random chess.
Jan-28-07  morphyvsfischer: A good example that hanging pawns can not only mean a kside attack, but also a possible passed pawn. White needs to play 8 b4. 18 Nf4? d4 is good for black. 22 Rc2 Qh4 23 h3 Nxf2! wins a pawn. 24 Bxc5 Bf3!! has the idea 25 gxf3 d3! and 26 Rxd3, giving up the exchange, is forced. 27 Qxe5 Qxe5 28 Rxe5 d2 emphasizes White's weak back rank. 28 f3 Nxf3+ 29 gxf3 Bxf3 wins.
Feb-28-07  WarmasterKron: <notyetagm> Tell that to Nimzo! Nimzowitsch vs Rubinstein, 1926
Nov-30-07  SAINTAMANT: l am not an expert player. The heavy criticism of this engagement gives me food for thought (tpstar). "Told to lose"....
Nov-30-07  micartouse: haha poor Iron Mike doesn't get much respect as a person and sometimes even as a chess master. But make no mistake, this guy hit the scene crushing all takers for years. You can't fake being the best. I like Mike.

I think Sokolsky fully intended to play aggressively against c5 and d5 and just got totally outmaneuvered by a much stronger player.

Premium Chessgames Member
  keypusher: <Calli> Thanks for the scores from the championship -- looking at chessmetrics and Botvinnik's 1938 results on this site it appears that Botvinnik won the Leningrad qualifier with 14/17 (+12-1=4), 2 1/2 points ahead of Romanovsky. I think eight players from Leningrad qualified for the 11th USSR championship. I guess Botvinnik had to play a qualifier because he had failed to beat Levenfish in 1937.
Aug-16-08  PinnedPiece: Guess the move Score=92 Par 63
No idea where the par comes from. Average of previous guessers?
Sep-20-08  notyetagm: Black to play: 26 ... ?

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26 ... d4-d3!

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26 ... d4-d3! is a *beautiful* move by Botvinnik, combining the tactical theme <PASSED PAWN VERSUS ROOK TRICK> and <WEAK BACK RANK>.

White *cannot* capture the Black e5-knight with 27 ♕e2x♘e5?? ♕f6x♕e5 28 ♖e1x♕e5 as then 28 ... d3-d2 wins for Black.

(VAR) 27 ♕e2x♘e5?? ♕f6x♕e5 28 ♖e1x♕e5 d3-d2 <passed pawn versus rook trick>

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Then the only way to prevent the Black d2-passer from promoting is by 29 ♗f1-e2 but then Black simply <RELOADS> on the d1-square and mates White on the <BACK RANK> by 29 ... d2-d1=♕+ 30 ♗e2x♕d1 ♖d8x♗d1+ 31 ♖e5-e1 ♖d1x♖e1#, shown below.

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An *excellent* example of <TACTICS IN THE SERVICE OF STRATEGY>. With 26 ... d4-d3! the powerful passed Black d-pawn takes a *giant* step towards promotion, a move made possible only by the underlying tactical condiderations.

Premium Chessgames Member
  Phony Benoni: <keypusher: I guess Botvinnik had to play a qualifier because he had failed to beat Levenfish in 1937.>

In his "100 selected games", Botvinnik explained that he played in this tournament for training purposes. Due to academic work, he had been inactive in 1937 except for the Levenfish match, where he played poorly (by his own standard).

The result? "I ... was not entirely unsuccessful."

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