Sunday 21 May 1995
Mikhail Botvinnik died two weeks ago at the age of 83. World champion from 1948 until 1963 (apart from two brief periods when he "lent" the title to Vassily Smyslov and Mikhail Tal). He dominated world chess with a style characterised by strategic complexity and iron discipline. More than anyone else, Botvinnik was the man who invented modern chess.
White: Arnold Denker
Black: Mikhail Botvinnik
USA v USSR (by radio), 1945
1.d4 d5 2.c4 e6 3.Nc3 c6 4.Nf3 Nf6 5.Bg5 dxc4
The start of the "Botvinnik System", a counter-attack de-signed to avoid the sterile lines of the Queen's Gambit after 5...Nbd7 or 5...h6 6.Bxf6, which leave Black with a sound but lifeless game.
6.e4 b5 7.e5 h6 8.Bh4 g5 9.Nxg5 hxg5 10.Bxg5
White's temporary sacrifice appears to have wrecked any hopes Black's king might have had of a safe refuge, but Botvinnik's research had delved deeper.
10...Nbd7 11.exf6 Bb7 12.Be2 Qb6 13.0-0 0-0-0 14.a4 b4!
Declining a chance to win the queen with 14...Ne5 15.dxe5! Rxd1 16.Rxd1, when the threat of Ne4 and Nd6+ makes life pleasant for White.
15.Ne4 c5! 16.Qb1
Botvinnik praised this move as superior to 16.Qc2 c3! 17.bxc3 Qc7! 18.Ng3 cxd4.
16...Qc7 17.Ng3 cxd4 18.Bxc4
Taking advantage of the open c-file to destroy Black's pawn phalanx.
18...Qc6! 19.f3 (see diagram)
White is a pawn ahead, his king is safely tucked away, and he seems to have good attacking prospects on the c-file. Yet after Black's reply he is totally lost. Botvinnik's great strength was his ability to suspect such possibilities.
Defending the bishop against the threat of Qc5+, while also planning to meet 20...Bc5+ 21.Kh1 Rxh2+ 22.Kxh2 Rh8+ with 23.Bh6.
20...Bc5+ 21.Kh1 Qd6!
Now 22.Bf4 loses to 22...Rxh2+! 23.Kxh2 Rh8+ 24.Nh5 Rxh5+ 25.Kg3 e5 with a murderous attack.
22.Qf4 Rxh2+! 23.Kxh2 Rh8+ 24.Qh4 Rxh4+ 25.Bxh4 Qf4!
A neat final touch. The bishop is lost.
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