Botvinnik's Legacy

  • GM Gserper
  • | Mar 20, 2011

Bot2.pngThe 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.


  • 23 months ago


    Botvinnik... Gotta try that nimzo system

  • 3 years ago


    In chess, as in life, there is always the other side. While Botvinnik's school raised the game to a "higher scientific" level, it also "killed the game" in the words of David Bronstein, Botvinnik's competitor for the title in 1950.

    You can find out more from Bronstein's 2003 interview that is unknown to the Western readership and, for the first time in English, appeared  on iPlayoo! chess blog at

  • 5 years ago


    Botvinnik was a great chess player !  Cool

  • 6 years ago


    Well, I don't think politics matters here. I may have a problem with Fischer's personality for example, but his games are something else.

    I think some people are making the same mistakes I was when I was in my teens, a talented person is never identical with the craft he practises. He always puts the best of himself into his craft, not into "being nice."  You wouldn't believe how many writers of fiction disappointed me at first with their aproaches, so very different from their characters I learned to love:)

    I say, even if you guys feel angry for any reason about Botvinnik the person, you can still appreciate Botvinnik the player and the educator, and you can never truly know which one of them he was more. His games are astounding at any rate and are worthy of being judged on their own merit, independently of all else, and I think they are most educational. If I manage to remember and apply just some of the lesson, I will no doubt progress in my games.

  • 6 years ago


    Excellent article and choice of the games! Mikhail Botvinnik was one of the most notable chess champions, thought he was not such a "romantic" personality like, for example, Alekhine.

  • 6 years ago


    Ne mogu ostati bez reci,zahvalan sam svima koji nad pruzaju ove divne partije od velikih majstora,svaka cast !!!

  • 6 years ago


    Thank U GM Gserper...

  • 6 years ago


    Wow! That bishop sacrifice followed by the knight sacrifice was fantastic! Was that Botvinnik or Tal?  And against Capablanca?  Amazing. 

  • 6 years ago


    Botvinnic-chess patriarch!

  • 6 years ago


    M.TALL smashed BOTVINNIK,but he was very ill,BOTVINIK defeated him,because politicians were SUPPORTING Botvinik.botvinik was a COWARD.He defeated TALL,but TALL was SICK........ SICK

  • 6 years ago


    BOTVINNIK was the son of comunist machine,like KARPOV.Bronstein,Tall,V.KORCHNOI,WERE damaged by comunist machine.

  • 6 years ago


    Regardless of his politics, Botvinnik was a great chess player...Cool

  • 6 years ago


    When I was younger and Fischer was in his prime I thought that he was the only player that mattered. You know...Fischer, Fischer, Fischer! But I am thankful for finally taking a look back at those champions before him and I picked up game books of Botvinnik, Tal, Petrosian and others. I am better off for having done so, and I still find myself admiring his contributions as much as any player before or since. I think that despite the politics of his era that tends to tarnish his past accomplishments Botvinnik should really only be remembered for his logical, methodical and precise play that contributed a great deal to the game.

  • 6 years ago


    a very good teacher and chess player indeed  BUT you have to talk also about his political acts. he was a comunist and he was happy to have al he desired from the comunists. do not forget the way he became world champion when all the players from ussr helped him. he won to Paul keres 4-1 and the point that keres won was not important anymore because it was achived in the last game. You , GM Serper have wrote an articol where you talk about Fisher and his political ideas which are not so ,,nice,,. Anyway, i find your articles very interesant and instructive aand i read them all. But this time it wasnt such a big pleasure.even if he was a very talentated player and teacher he still remains a man who have helped such a ,,disease,, to resist over the years. Sad

  • 6 years ago


    Whoever annotated these games should know not every move made by Kasparov gets a !

  • 6 years ago


    He contributed so much to chess it's unreal.

    Because of his profound positional understanding and analytical thinking, he was always regarded by his contemporaries as a positional player.

    He was grossly underestimated as a tactical player, as his many chess "victims" got to find out.

    One of my all - time favs.

  • 6 years ago


     i solved Botvinniks problems because i often replayed mazing Mikhails games.thanx for upload an article.

  • 6 years ago


    my most favourite player.the great Mikhail Botvinnik

  • 6 years ago


    Yeah, after that game with Capablanca, Cap was never the same. He began to be an Elvis impersonator: 'I'm all shook-up'

    Forgive the joke and the anachronism, and... great article.

  • 6 years ago


    My fave!

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