Huffington: The Adventures of Mikhail Botvinnik (2)

3/22/2014 – The columnist of the Huffington Post, GM Lubomir Kavalek, has played against eight World Champions. He drew all his games against Botvinnik (as well as Petrosian and Fischer). To his surprise the see-saw battle against the Soviet patriarch was included in his collection "Botvinnik's Best Games 1947-1970." Kavalek found out why – when he discussed it with Botvinnik in 1972.

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Botvinnik and other World Champions

By GM Lubomir Kavalek

From the eight world champions I played in my career, I drew all games against Botvinnik, Tigran Petrosian and Bobby Fischer. I was undefeated against Vassily Smyslov, beating him twice. I lost one game to Mikhail Tal and Garry Kasparov. I won once against Anatoly Karpov, but lost four times with plenty of draws. My worst score was against Boris Spassky: in 21 games I lost six times and won twice.

Boris Spassky observing the duel Botvinnik-Donner, Leiden 1970

Some of the draws against the world champions were dramatic and had a powerful theoretical impact. For example, my game with Fischer "determined for a long time the main trend in one of the sharpest lines of the Najdorf Variation in the Sicilian Defense," according to Kasparov.

Still, it puzzled me why my drawn game against the Soviet patriarch was included in his collection "Botvinnik's Best Games 1947-1970." At the 1972 Chess Olympiad in Skopje, I was able to find out. I was playing the first board on the U.S. team, Botvinnik was there as an honorary guest.

"The game showed that my calculating power was not what it used to be," was his answer, and he added unexpectedly: "My playing strength was declining." Botvinnik always thought about his chess objectively.

Lubomir Kavalek in 1968

The see-saw battle was described in the daily tournament bulletin as chaotic after it took a sharp turn around move 15. The spectators and journalists were united in preferring the side of the former world champion, but they got lost in calculations. For every suggested win, there was some defense or escape. The Belgian GM Alberic O'Kelly found only one clear-cut win after analyzing it for two weeks. Suddenly, I threw my heavy pieces toward Botvinnik's king, leaving my monarch unprotected. The game had become tense and slippery. On move 37 Botvinnik had a choice of three moves: one would lose, one would win, and he picked up the drawing alternative. The tournament bulletin gave this advice: Highly recommended for further study! "Botvinnik missed an opportunity to win what would have been one of his finest games," Soltis concluded.

[Event "Wijk aan Zee"] [Site "Wijk aan Zee"] [Date "1969.01.27"] [Round "11"] [White "Botvinnik, Mikhail"] [Black "Kavalek, Lubomir"] [Result "1/2-1/2"] [ECO "E90"] [Annotator "GM Lubomir Kavalek/The Huffington Post"] [PlyCount "85"] [EventDate "1969.01.14"] [EventType "tourn"] [EventRounds "15"] [EventCountry "NED"] 1. c4 g6 2. d4 Bg7 3. Nc3 c5 4. d5 d6 5. e4 Nf6 6. Bd3 O-O 7. h3 e6 8. Nf3 exd5 9. exd5 $5 {Designed to extinguish any spark of counterplay, this variation also makes it difficult for black to develop. His light pieces may trip over each other, lacking space.} ({It is a safe choice, avoiding complications after } 9. cxd5 b5 $5 {but I thought it had a drawback.}) 9... Re8+ 10. Be3 { Botvinnik's key move, not being afraid to go into the pin and sacrifice a pawn. I knew he played it against Milan Matulovic at Palma de Mallorca in 1967, but I thought I could challenge it successfully with my next move. I didn't know how thoroughly he had analyzed it. After 45 years there is no final verdict on Botvinnik's idea.} Bh6 {Exchanging the dark bishops can help black to close the e-file, get some play on the dark squares and avoid massive exchanges of the heavy pieces. It is not easy to coordinate this strategy since white can shift the pressure to the f-file.} ({Fifteen years after the game, the exchange sacrifice} 10... Rxe3+ $5 {appeared, stressing that the dark bishop could be more effective than the rook, dominating the dark diagonals and lurking in White's camp. It was refined last year by the Moscow wizard Alexander Morozevich this way:} 11. fxe3 Qe7 12. e4 Nbd7 13. O-O Nh5 {with the idea 14...Nd7-e5.}) 11. O-O $1 Bxe3 12. fxe3 Qe7 ({Accepting the e-pawn} 12... Rxe3 {is a suicide. After} 13. Qd2 {all white pieces are ready to pounce, while Black's queenside is still in deep freeze.}) 13. e4 Nbd7 14. Qd2 a6 {Preventing any future knight leaps to the square b5.} 15. Rf2 Ne5 $6 { I thought the pawn sacrifice gave me good play on the dark squares. It was the only way to establish the square e5 for the knight, but it was a gamble. It was also messy and I liked that. But I miscalculated.} ({'A serious mistake,' said Botvinnik. 'Black follows through logically with his plan, but gets a lost position. He had to play} 15... Rf8 16. Raf1 Ne8 {followed by f7-f6 with a solid, but passive position.' Perhaps, but Botvinik was very good when he had you on your knees. He knew how to increase pressure and improve his position.}) 16. Nxe5 Qxe5 17. Raf1 Nd7 18. Rxf7 {It was not very pleasant to see Botvinnik's rook on the square f7. After all, Rxf7 was his coup d'etat in his brilliant victory against Lajos Portisch in Monte Carlo in 1968 (see game below). Surely, that game crossed my mind.} Qd4+ 19. Kh1 (19. R7f2 $6 Ne5 20. Rd1 $6 Bxh3 $1 {is in black's favor,} 21. gxh3 $4 Nf3+ $19) 19... Ne5 {My queen and knight are ideally placed. But I realized I was forcing Botvinnik to make good moves without giving him any choice to go wrong.} 20. Qf4 $1 { Threatening to finish black with 21.Rf8+.} Bxh3 $1 {Hanging by a thread.} ({ 'Kavalek overlooked that after} 20... Bf5 21. Rxb7 Nxd3 (21... Bc8 22. Re7 $1 $18) (21... Qxd3 22. exf5 Qxf5 23. Ne4 $18) 22. Qh6 {white wins,' Botvinnik explained.}) 21. Be2 $1 {'Material balance has been re-established, but White has a decisive attack,' Botvinnik wrote.} ({After} 21. Qf6 Nxf7 22. Qxf7+ Kh8 23. gxh3 Qxd3 24. Qf6+ {white has only a perpetual check.}) ({Black is fine after} 21. gxh3 Qxd3) 21... Bd7 ({After} 21... Bxg2+ 22. Kxg2 Nxf7 23. Qxf7+ Kh8 24. Qf6+ Qxf6 25. Rxf6 Rad8 26. Rf7 {white is in charge.}) 22. Qf6 $2 { After 20 minutes of thinking, Botvinnik did not play the best move.} ({He intended} 22. Rf6 $1 {but thought that after 22...} Kg7 23. Rd1 $6 Rf8 $1 24. Rxd4 Rxf6 {black has some chances of resisting.}) ({He also looked at} 22. Rf6 $1 Kg7 23. Rxd6 Rf8 {but didn't see} 24. Rf6 $1 {and white wins, for example 24...} Nd3 25. Rf7+ $1) 22... Nxf7 23. Qxf7+ Kh8 24. Qxd7 Rf8 25. Qxd6 ({'As Kavalek correctly stated after the game, after} 25. Rf7 Rxf7 26. Qxf7 {black is forced to enter an endgame with 26...} Qg7 {,' Botvinnik revealed. The point is that white can quickly create a passed pawn with} 27. Qxg7+ Kxg7 28. e5 $1 dxe5 29. Na4 {and should win.}) 25... Rxf1+ 26. Bxf1 Qf2 27. Qe5+ Kg8 28. Qe6+ Kh8 29. Qe5+ Kg8 30. Qe6+ {The famous Soviet move-repetition, no matter how practical it may be, it always spoils beautiful games.} Kh8 31. Be2 Rf8 { A critical position.} 32. Qe5+ ({The Belgian count Alberic O'Kelly de Galway, my teammate on the powerful Solingen team, suggested the winning move} 32. d6 $1 {It not only brings the d-pawn closer to promotion, but it also opens the square d5 for the knight or the queen, whichever piece is needed there. For example:} Rf4 (32... Qh4+ 33. Qh3 Qe1+ (33... Qg5 34. Nd5 $1 $18) 34. Kh2 Rf4 35. d7 $18) (32... h5 33. Nd5 $1 Qxe2 34. Qe5+ Kg8 35. Nf6+ Rxf6 36. Qxf6 $18) 33. Bg4 Qh4+ 34. Bh3 Rf1+ 35. Kh2 Qf4+ (35... Qe1 $2 36. Qe5+ Kg8 37. Be6+ Kf8 38. Qh8# {The pawn on d6 helps to close the mating net.}) 36. g3 Qf2+ ( 36... Rf2+ 37. Bg2 $18) 37. Bg2 Qg1+ 38. Kh3 Rf2 {and now white can protect against all threats with the following maneuver:} 39. Qe5+ Kg8 40. Qd5+ Kg7 41. e5 Qc1 42. Qxb7+ Rf7 43. Qe4 {winning.}) 32... Kg8 33. Bg4 Qh4+ ({An obvious check, but I could have freed my king with} 33... h5 $5 34. Be6+ (34. Bh3 Qe1+ 35. Kh2 Rf1 $19) 34... Kh7 35. Kh2 $1 Qd2 $1 36. d6 Rf2 37. Nd5 $5 (37. Qg3 Rf1 {and the threat 38...Qc1 is unpleasant.}) 37... Rxg2+ 38. Kh3 Rg1 $2 (38... Rf2 $1 39. Qg3 Qe1 $1 40. Bg8+ $1 Kxg8 (40... Kg7 41. Qc3+ $18) 41. Qxg6+ Kf8 42. Qh6+ Kf7 43. Qh7+ (43. Qxh5+ Kg7 44. Qe5+ Kh7 $11) 43... Kf8 44. Qe7+ Kg8 45. Nf6+ Rxf6 46. Qxf6 Qxe4 {and black has good drawing chances.}) 39. Bg8+ $1 Kxg8 (39... Kh6 $2 40. Qf4+ $1) 40. Nf6+ Kg7 41. Qe7+ Kh6 42. Ng8#) 34. Bh3 Qe1+ 35. Kh2 Rf1 $1 {Botvinnik didn't believe I could send the rook down, threatening 26...Rh1 mate. 'The black king astonishingly slips out of the ambush,' he said.} 36. Be6+ Kf8 {All three results were possible at this point. To win the game, Botvinnik had to march up with his king - a very dangerous proposition in time trouble, not being able to fully calculate the consequences. He plays it safe and checks, and that leads only to a draw. With a different check, he could even lose.} 37. Qh8+ $2 {Botvinnik's final mistake, but it is hard to blame him. He didn't have much time to think. And he could have made a fatal error.} ({When the game finished Pal Benko pointed out that after} 37. Qd6+ $2 {- a losing move -} Kg7 38. Qe7+ Kh8 {white has to give a perpetual check.} ({Benko dismissed} 38... Kh6 $1 {because he thought that} 39. Kh3 {should win, overlooking 39...} g5 {and black wins. The queen checks don't do the job: 37.Qh8+ only draws and 37.Qd6+ even loses. What else is there?})) ({Astonishingly, a quiet king-move} 37. Kh3 $1 {is the only winning try, but difficult to make when you are running out of time. It is not for the faint of heart. Botvinnik didn't even considered it in his analysis afterwards. The white king walks into a carousel of checks, but escapes the danger and white should win. For example:} Rh1+ (37... Qe3+ 38. g3 Rh1+ 39. Kg2 Rg1+ (39... Qg1+ 40. Kf3 Qf1+ 41. Ke3 Qc1+ 42. Kd3 Qf1+ 43. Kc2 Rh2+ 44. Kb3 Qf2 45. Qh8+ Ke7 46. Qg7+ Ke8 47. Ka4 $1 b6 $1 (47... Qc2+ 48. Ka5 $1) 48. Ne2 $1 {and black gets mated.} ({But not} 48. d6 $4 Qc2+ 49. b3 Qxa2+ 50. Nxa2 Rxa2#)) 40. Kh2 Qf2+ 41. Kh3 Qg2+ 42. Kg4 Rf1 43. Qh8+ Ke7 44. d6+ $1 Kxe6 45. Qe8+ Kxd6 46. e5+ Kc7 47. Nd5+ $18) 38. Kg4 Qh4+ (38... Rh4+ 39. Kf3 Qf1+ 40. Ke3 $18) 39. Kf3 Rf1+ 40. Ke3 Qf2+ 41. Kd3 Qxg2 (41... Re1 42. Qh8+ Ke7 43. Qxh7+ Kf8 44. Qh8+ Ke7 45. Qg7+ Ke8 46. Qxg6+ Kd8 47. Qg8+ Kc7 48. Qc8+ Kb6 49. Na4+ $18) 42. Qh8+ Ke7 43. Qxh7+ Kf8 44. Qg8+ Ke7 45. Qg7+ Ke8 46. Qd7+ Kf8 47. Bg4 {the bishop comes back to help defend the white king and the game is over.} ) 37... Ke7 38. Qxh7+ Kf6 39. Qh8+ Kg5 40. Qe5+ Kh6 41. Qh8+ ({It is now too late for the king to walk to victory. After} 41. Kh3 Rh1+ 42. Kg4 Qh4+ 43. Kf3 Rf1+ 44. Ke3 Qf2+ 45. Kd3 {black simply plays} Qxg2 $1 {and white is forced to give a perpetual check with 46.Qh8+ since he can't bring his bishop back to g4 anymore to protect the white king.}) 41... Kg5 42. Qd8+ Kh5 43. Qh8+ {Draw.} 1/2-1/2

Here is the game quoted on move 18 above:

[Event "Monte Carlo"] [Site "Monte Carlo"] [Date "1968.??.??"] [Round "7"] [White "Botvinnik, Mikhail"] [Black "Portisch, Lajos"] [Result "1-0"] [ECO "A29"] [Annotator "GM Lubomir Kavalek/The Huffington Post"] [SetUp "1"] [FEN "rn1qrbk1/1pR2ppp/2b5/p3p3/Q7/P2PBNP1/1P2PPBP/2R3K1 w - - 0 17"] [PlyCount "19"] [EventDate "1968.04.??"] [EventType "tourn"] [EventRounds "13"] [EventCountry "MNC"] {Portisch tried to win the exchange, but Botvinnik shocked him with one of his finest combinations - an incredible double-rook sacrifice.} 17. R1xc6 $1 bxc6 18. Rxf7 $3 {This position flew across my mind during my game with Botvinnik.} h6 {Basically, surrendering the game to white's attack on the light squares.} ( {Accepting the rook leads to a beautiful mating attack.} 18... Kxf7 19. Qc4+ Kg6 (19... Qd5 20. Ng5+ $18) (19... Ke7 20. Bg5+ $18) 20. Qg4+ Kf7 21. Ng5+ Kg8 22. Qc4+ Kh8 23. Nf7+ Kg8 24. Nh6+ Kh8 25. Qg8#) 19. Rb7 Qc8 20. Qc4+ Kh8 ( 20... Qe6 21. Nxe5 $18) 21. Nh4 $1 Qxb7 (21... Qe6 22. Qe4 $1 $18) 22. Ng6+ Kh7 23. Be4 Bd6 24. Nxe5+ g6 25. Bxg6+ Kg7 26. Bxh6+ (26. Bxh6+ Kxh6 27. Qh4+ Kg7 28. Qh7+ Kf8 29. Qxb7 $18) 1-0

Botvinnik was supposed to play Bobby Fischer in Leiden in 1970 and prepared for that match with Spassky. But the match collapsed and the Dutch organizers changed it to a four-player tournament. It was Botvinnik's last.

Images from Botvinnik's last tournament in Leiden in 1970 by Lubomir Kavalek

Original column hereCopyright Huffington Post


The Huffington Post is an American news website and aggregated blog founded by Arianna Huffington and others, featuring various news sources and columnists. The site was launched on May 9, 2005, as a commentary outlet and liberal/progressive alternative to conservative news websites. It offers coverage of politics, media, business, entertainment, living, style, the green movement, world news, and comedy. It is a top destination for news, blogs, and original content. The Huffington Post has an active community, with over over a quarter of a billion visits per month (according to Quantcast), making it the number 73 ranked web site in the world (Alexa, January 2014)..



Topics: Huffington, Kavalek
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