Botvinnik Explains His Greatest Masterpiece - Best of the 30s - Botvinnik vs. Capablanca, 1938

Botvinnik Explains His Greatest Masterpiece - Best of the 30s - Botvinnik vs. Capablanca, 1938

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 Mikhail Botvinnik and Jose Capablanca were two of the great world chess champions. Capablanca was gifted with possibly the most natural "feel" for the harmony and strategy of a chess games that has ever been seen, and Botvinnik was a master analyst and devotee of the game who became the Patriarch of the famed Soviet chess school. Their clash in AVRO 1938 became the most celebrated game of that tournament and one of the most famous games of all time. For Capablanca, AVRO was a struggle at the end of a long and illustrious career; it was, in fact, the only tournament in his entire life in which he lost more games than he won.

For Botvinnik, the AVRO tournament was a success, he finished as high as 3rd place and further established himself as one of the best players in the chess world, not just the Soviet chess world. When the AVRO format was recreated 10 years later to fill the World Champion sized void left by Alekhine's death, it would be Botvinnik who would emerge the victor.

Top 10 Games of the 1930s

The game is, like Capablanca's earlier loss to Lilienthal, a Nimzo-Indian. Whereas Capablanca had once been a great combatant against the Nimzo-Indian, he struggled against the new ideas brought forward in the 1930s. His approach against Botvinnik is famously greedy as he plays to win a pawn on a4, but while Capablanca pawn grabs, his center and kingside burn. Botvinnik pushed through and acquires a strong passed pawn on e6. Capablanca's efforts to blockade it are defeated by 30.Ba3!!, one of the great chess moves of all time.

Annotations to the game are below. I highly encourage you to check out Botvinnik's full notes, and his annotations to his other great games in his acclaimed collections [Amazon link supports the content ].

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NM Sam Copeland

I'm the VP of Chess and Community for I earned the National Master title in 2012, and in 2014, I returned to my home state of South Carolina to start Strategery: Chess and Games. In late 2014, I began working for and haven't looked back since.

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