Botvinnik vs. Tal | World Chess Championship 1961 Rematch

Botvinnik vs. Tal | World Chess Championship 1961 Rematch

BryanSmith
GM BryanSmith
Sep 11, 2014, 12:00 AM |
22 | Endgames

Throughout the second half of 1960 and the first few months of 1961, the world had an unusual sort of champion. Throughout most of the history of chess, its world champions have been -- at least to a large extent -- pragmatic and balanced players.

Thus it was strange that Mikhail Tal was the champion, with a style so full of fantasy and an approach which seemed to put practical results somewhat second to creative output.

As was the rule in those times, Mikhail Botvinnik got an automatic rematch a year after losing the title. This was the last time that such a rule was in effect -- after this match, the rematch rule ended.

Tal had kidney problems prior to the match -- part of a lifetime of health problems -- and has said that his greatest regret was not postponing the rematch. Before agreeing to a postponement, Botvinnik asked for certification from a Moscow doctor that Tal was ill, and in defiance Tal decided simply not to postpone.

But the result of the match cannot be explained by Tal's health problems, and indeed he himself has never made such an excuse.

In fact, it was simply a completely different Botvinnik compared to the 1960 match.

Botvinnik was a determined man, and carefully studied his opponent's style, personality, and opening repertoire in order to regain his title. He had done it against Smyslov, and he did it again against Tal. He succeeded in steering the game towards the type of positions which favored him, while being willing to fight on Tal's territory if it favored himself. Most of all, he succeeded in imposing his style on the struggle.

Botvinnik via Wikipedia

Thus, from this match I have a pleasant choice of nicely played endgames that fit my topic. Botvinnik played quite a few artistic games in this match. I will cover an interesting complex endgame which arose from an innocuous form of the exchange variation in the King's Indian, in the 13th game of the match.

After this game, Botvinnik stood at +4, practically an insurmountable lead. Throughout the rest of the match, the players traded wins, but each point brought Botvinnik closer to the title.

In the end, the 13-8 score was a rather one-sided match. Again Botvinnik held the championship and awaited his next challenger.


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