The sixth World Champion Mikhail Moiseyevich Botvinnik was born on August 17, 1911, so this year the World Community will celebrate the 100th anniversary of his birth and FIDE has announced that 2011 will be the "Year of Botvinnik."
He was the founder of the famous Soviet School of Chess which explains his popular nickname "Patriarch of the Soviet Chess School" or simply "Patriarch." Many generations of chess players learned the game from his numerous books and articles. Personally I don't know any Soviet Grandmaster who wouldn't emulate Botvinnik to some degree. And of course his best student, Garry Kasparov, elevated his scientific approach to the game to a new level.
I was lucky enough to be a student of the famous Botvinnik-Kasparov school and therefore had an opportunity to appreciate Botvinnik's chess wisdom on many different occasions. Usually it went like this: we showed Patriarch our games and somewhere in the middle-game, when the position was getting extremely complicated, Kasparov would start shooting variations with machine gun speed. And then, after a moment of silence when everyone was still filled with awe, Botvinnik would say softly that a similar position actually happened in some forgotten game from a Moscow Championship before WWII, between so and so and this is what should be done here.
What strikes me most in Botvinnik's chess ideas is that practically all of them are monumental. And if you don't really understand what I am talking about, then get any book of Botvinnik's selected games with his annotations and replay one of them. You'll quickly establish the feeling that his opponents were already doomed somewhere between move 10 and 15! Here I want to discuss some of his most important ideas that you can use in your own games.
One of Botvinnik's most important inputs into Modern Chess Theory was his discovery of the next typical pawn formation that usually happens in the Nimzo-Indian Defense.
Looking at the position it is easy to see that Black has an excellent development, more space, and an open 'e' file. From the other side, White has a passive Bishop restricted by his own pawns. I have no doubt that Capablanca, a great master of positional chess (and the greatest natural chess talent according to Botvinnik himself) was very optimistic at this point.
The factor that great Cuban underestimated was White's center. Right now it doesn't look that strong, but after f2-f3, e3-e4 and e4-e5 White will start a strong attack against the Black King. Unfortunately for Black, this simple plan is almost impossible to stop. The game ended with one of the Botvinnik's most famous combinations. Try to find it on your own.
(Just like in most of my articles I give you a chance to test your attacking skills, so the game is given as a Quiz. Please remember that you can always replay the whole game from the first move if you click "Solution" and then "Move list".)
Here is another of Botvinnik's gems in the same system:
The next game shows that this simple but very venomous set-up claims as a victim another genius. Bobby Fischer was helpless to stop the White center in the next game. Play through the Quiz and not only will you improve your attacking skills, but also you will get a chance to beat the American legend!
The final game I want to present today is a fitting tribute by Kasparov to his teacher. This terrible massacre is another proof of how dangerous Botvinnik's set-up is!
Next week we will continue our analysis of the most important typical chess set-ups introduced by Botvinnik.