Botvinnik-Bronstein World Champion Opening Shell Game

Botvinnik-Bronstein World Champion Opening Shell Game

GreenLaser
NM GreenLaser
May 28, 2011, 12:00 AM |
7 | Opening Theory

In 1951, David Bronstein was the challenger seeking Mikhail Botvinnik's title as World Champion. The rules provided for a match of 24 games with the champion retaining the title with a score of 12-12 or better. In game 21, Bronstein had the black pieces and trailed 10.5-9.5 and needed to score three points out of four to win the match. The problem a player has is to get a position of familiarity and preference. in the recently concluded Candidates Matches, Boris Gelfand won the final against Alexander Grischuk in the sixth and last "classical" timed game. Gelfand said, "I was lucky I got a position which I knew and I liked in the opening." This tribute to luck was modest as Gelfand played a new move and conducted the game well. Bronstein got a position against Botvinnik in their 21st game that he liked. It is not just a matter of playing directly to get a particular position. Bronstein played an indirect move order that offered Botvinnik different choices than the most direct move order that is shown in opening manuals. In the opening, and in fact in the whole game, the players conduct a mutual shell game or a game of Three Card Monte. Each move a player makes gives information to the opponent while concealing the player's intentions. A normal or direct move order such as 1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 g6 3.Nc3 Bg7 4.e4 d6 would be a King's Indian Defense. White could then try to play the variation of this game or a different variation, for example, the Four Pawns (f4) or the Saemisch (f3). Varying the move order requires the opponent to spend more time thinking and planning. On move three, Bronstein played e5 giving Botvinnik the opportunity to think about exchanging queens with the idea of trying to get a draw to protect his lead in the match. Botvinnik refused to give up his advantage of the first move and allow Bronstein to get a simpler and safer position. The position Botvinnik reached was not uncomfortable in itself, but the process of getting there was less than usual. As Botvinnik ran into problems, it is possible he was distracted by thinking about his refusal to simplify earlier. Bronstein went on to win the game and tie the match. Any attribution of the result to luck would ignore the psychological and intellectual contribution of the winner. In the next game. Bronstein took the lead in the match by winning. He needed either a win or two draws in the last two games to win the title. Botvinnik needed a win and a draw to remain champion. Botvinnik won game 23 and got a draw in game 24 to retain the title. Notice, in this game Botvinnik sealed move 41 and the game was adjourned. The rest of the game was played the next day. This used to be done when there were no sudden death time controls. What is called "classical chess" today does not make use of the classical adjournments.

 

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