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As a footnote to the obituary of Mikhail Botvinnik (above), here is one of his greatest endgames. Playing Black against Alexander Kotov in the 1955 USSR Championship, Botvinnik reached the diagram position a pawn ahead but with the presence of bishops of opposite colour making progress difficult. The white king prevents the b-pawn from advancing, and his bishop can defend e3 or h4.

, , , ,

, , , ,

, ,d,h,

, Ch, ,h

, , N N

,hZ Na,

, , , ,

, , , ,

It looks impossible for Black to find a plan, but Botvinnik conjured a win beginning with the extraordinary 1...g5!!

If White plays 2.hxg5, Black wins easily with 2...h4 3.Bd6 h3 4.f5 Bxf5 5.Kxb3 Kxe3. Kotov therefore played 2.fxg5; Botvinnik then threw another pawn on the fire with 2...d4+!!

Again there is a choice of captures: 3.Kxd4 loses to b2 and 3.Bxd4 Kg3 4.g6 Kxh4 leads to a Black win after 5.Kd2 Kh3 6.Bf6 h4 7.Ke2 Kg2! and one of the black pawns must get through.

The game continued 3.exd4 Kg3. Now a pawn behind, Black is winning! The final moves were 4.Ba3 Kxh4 5.Kd3 (5.g6 Kg4 is no better) 5...Kxg5 6.Ke4 h4 7.Kf3 (7.d5 is met by 7...Bxd5+ 8.Kxd5 h3 9.Bd6 b2) 7...Bd5+ and White resigned. After 8.Kf2 Kf4 his game is hopeless.

William Hartston