Botvinnik's Winning Chess Method

Botvinnik's Winning Chess Method

| 25 | Strategy

The Botvinnik-Kasparov school that I had privilege to attend was an unbelievable experience. The sheer fact that two legends were sitting just about five feet from you was very exciting! One of the strongest memories from the school was the way Botvinnik analyzed our games. He would look at the position, silently listening to our comments, and say something like, "A similar position happened in the Trade Union championship of 1931 in the game Chekhover vs Budo. Look at the game, and you'll see how to play this kind of the position!" 

It strongly reminded me of the following famous quote by Mikhail Tal about his postmortem with the Patriarch after the 9th game of their World Championship match in 1960.

One of the great matches and tournament books of all time!

"When I, in rapid-fire succession, began to show Botvinnik the different variations in which Black gets a good game, he said, 'At first, I thought that this position was better for White, but later I found the correct plan: I had to exchange rooks and keep the queens on the board.' At first, such an evaluation of the position seemed to me rather abstract, but when I began to go over the numerous variations, I came to the conclusion that Botvinnik was absolutely correct: In an ending without queens, White's well-shaped pawn chain with the support of the active bishop guarantees him a definite edge. With the queens on the board, Black can count on a strong attack in view of the weakness of g4."

Just like Tal, I had numerous opportunities to see that in most of the cases Botvinnik was absolutely right in applying general principles to even sharpest positions! Let's try to apply Botvinnik's method to a recent game from the Olympiad in Baku.

It is easy to see that GM Evgeny Tomashevsky had the upper hand the whole game, but he was unable to convert his advantage into a win.

GM Evgeny Tomashevsky

Where could he play better? In order to understand how you should play this kind of a position, take a look at the following game of GM Vladimir Simagin

White convincingly demonstrated how dangerous the attack on the b1-h7 diagonal can be. Many years later, World Champion Anatoly Karpov created a masterpiece in his world championship match game versus Garry Kasparov. There he did some outstanding positional work before he could use the same diagonal to the maximum.

Kasparov and Karpov preparing for battle in 1985.

Now compare this position to Tomashevsky's game.

Since the strategic picture in all three games is identical, let's see how we can use the knowledge from the old games. 

At first the move 26.b3 looks anti-positional since it creates a weakness on c3, but as Kasparov explained in his annotations to the game, it is much more important to prevent a5-a4 which would fix White's weakness: the pawn on b2. It would probably make sense for Tomashevsky to follow in Karpov's footsteps and do the same. For example:

By the way, later GM Tomashevsky played an awkward move, 25.Rb1, in order to protect the pawn, but was he really forced to do it?

In his masterpiece, Karpov played 32.e4! and Kasparov highly praised this timely move which further exposed the weakness of Black's position.

Instead of 25.Rb1, Tomashevsky could follow Karpov's recipe.

The final moment to execute Karpov's idea e3-e4 came a couple of moves before White swapped the last pair of rooks.

GM Viorel Iordachescu deserves full credit for his stubborn defense in a very difficult situation, but as you can see, if White followed the classical examples, Black would have faced very serious problems.
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