Botvinnik 100th anniversary party at Suzdal, part 3

Sep 30, 2011, 10:26 AM |

Part 1: Yuri Averbakh, Olga Botvinnik, Mark Taimanov

Part 2: Viktor Korchnoi, Evgeny Vasiukov

N. Polyanskikh: The hero of this occasion is not only the icon of Russian chess, but of the world's chess as well. This can be proved by our foreign guests - Borislav Ivkov...

G. Dvorkovich: Borislav Ivkov (Serbia), Lajos Portisch (Hungary), Wolfgang Uhlmann (Germany).

Wolfgang Uhlmann: (speaks in German)

Interpreter (translates): Mr Uhlmann was very glad to take part in Alekhine Memorial in 1956.

W. Uhlmann: (speaks in German)

Interpreter  (translates): He repeats that he was very glad to meet Mikhail Botvinnik who was an example to him.

W. Uhlmann: (speaks in German)

Interpreter (translates): He had great opening skills and a very strong will to win.

W. Uhlmann: (speaks in German)

Interpreter (translates): And Mr Uhlmann learned from him during those tournaments.

W. Uhlmann: (speaks in German)

Interpreter (translates): He would often meet Botvinnik during Chess Olympiads and other competitions, for example, at Chess Olympiads in Leipzig and Varna.

W. Uhlmann: (speaks in German)

Interpreter (translates): Mr. Uhlmann noticed that during the tournaments, Mikhail Botvinnik would adjust his necktie frequently.

W. Uhlmann: (speaks in German)

Interpreter (translates): Mr Uhlmann tried to repead the moves made by Mikhail Botvinnik in French Defence.

W. Uhlmann: (speaks in German)

Interpreter (translates): Mr Uhlmann is very grateful for the opportunity to come here and play against the grandmasters that played together with Mikhail Moiseevich Botvinnik.

N. Polyanskikh: Sadly, but I don't know a single word in Hungarian, I didn't study it in the school, but still, we'd all be glad to hear the great Hungarian chess player and singer, known in all the world. By the way, when I was trying to arrange for a piano player - the piano was also brought here for that... well, I just said "Portisch", and heard an amazed reply, "Lajos?" He's very well known even here, in the Vladimir region, even among the musicians. Can you perform a capella?

Lajos Portisch (in Russian): I'll try. (To Taimanov) I know that you don't play anymore, but can you give me some entourage? (To everyone) You know, there was a plan that I would sing here today, but I'm not in the mood. We didn't rehearse, but still, I want to show you my voice.

N. Polyanskikh: Of course. (Applause)

L. Portisch: (sings a couple of lines from a song by P. Tchaikovsky) That's all (Laugh, applause) It's a song by Tchaikovsky, I don't remember the next line. Well, you know - I don't why I got the nickname "Hungarian Botvinnik". To be honest, nobody understands. I never played as precisely as him. Also, people here said that he didn't drink. I like wine, even vodka, Russian vodka (Laugh, applause), but when Robert Fischer was in Hungary, and, you know, he didn't like Russians, and people of any other nations, for that matter, when we set together and analyzed Botvinnik's games, he told me, "Lajos, do you see how precisely he plays up to the very last moment?" Sadly, I can't play so precisely. And we have to... (forgets Russian word) turn our attention that there's a big mistake with stats. We played four games, but I couldn't defeat him once. The score is given as +1-1=2, but actually I lost one game and drew three. Botvinnik was a great chess player. Thank you. (Applause)

G. Dvorkovich: Borislav Ivkov, please.

N. Polyanskikh: Add something to the speech of your Hungarian colleague.

Borislav Ivkov (in Russian): A month ago Politika, our most well-known newspaper, printed an article about Botvinnik. This article was written by an amateur chess player, but it was very good; I think he worked in Moscow and spoke good Russian, and he asked me to give this material in Russian to the organizers. I read one page, and then a catastrophe happened.

Half a century, more than half a century ago when we met our Soviet, our Russian friends, we spoke Russian. Nobody of us - Gligoric, Matanovic, Miljenko Lazarovic and others - ever studied Russian, but we thought that we needed that, and our colleagues spoke with us very patiently. Once they started to speak Serbian. If I remember correctly, Petrosian started that, then Tal and Bronstein. When I meet Korchnoi these days, he speaks Serbian with me.

Getting back to the catastrophe. Even today, I read many chess books in Russian, for instance, Averbakh, Taimanov, Sosonko, Bronstein and others, and I understand the chess terminology very well. But I have to apologize to you, my general knowledge of Russian language is a catastrophe. (Laughs)

I first heard about Botvinnik in 1942 or 1943, I was ten years old. My father liked chess, he would buy chess newspapers time to time, and I read there that the Nottingham tournament in 1936 was won by Capablanca and the young Botvinnik. Two years later I read that the AVRO tournament, perhaps the greatest tournament in the chess history, with all the champions playing, was won by Keres and Fine. And I started to root for Botvinnik and Keres because they were young, there were no political reasons. I liked Botvinnik and Keres, I also liked Reshevsky and Fine, also Euwe...

I know Botvinnik for a very long time, but I played him only three times. It was the 1960 Leipzig Olympiad, Palma de Mallorca (1968) and Belgrade (1969). I think was Botvinnik's next to last tournament. I'm a bit humble, so it's a bit uncomfortable to me to say the score, but I'm proud to draw all three games with Botvinnik. (Applause) There were many great chess players in chess history - Philidor, La Bourdonnais, Andersen, Morphy, then Steinitz and so on, and we can't compare them, I see no reason to do that - but I think that Botvinnik was the best player of our epoch. I think that all those who began playing after Botvinnik learned from him, even Fischer, even Karpov, even Kasparov.

Personally, Botvinnik was a serious and amicable man, no-one could tell that he was a World Champion if they didn't know that. He was a deep chess thinker and analyst, perhaps the deepest of all, and a very good psychologist. I don't know if I understood Taimanov correctly, but it was a curious story in 1952 when Botvinnik was a World Champion and had to play a match with Taimanov. In the last round of the USSR Championship, Taimanov was almost a champion, and Botvinnik played against Suetin. There was a drawish position with opposite-coloured Bishops, and when Taimanov came to the hall, he heard that Botvinnik, by some magical methods, checkmated Suetin in the middle of the chessboard. Botvinnik and Taimanov shared the first place and had to play a play-off match. Botvinnik, the World Champion, had to play a match with Taimanov for the USSR championship. I can't remember how many games they played, perhaps six... (Looks at Taimanov) How many games did you play?

M. Taimanov: Against Botvinnik?

B. Ivkov: In the match.

M. Taimanov: Six games, yes. Score 3.5-2.5...

B. Ivkov: I know that. Taimanov played very good, he was young in 1952, but he lost 2.5-3.5 to Botvinnik. But he learned how to play pawn endgames. There was a very interesting pawn endgame, Taimanov and his second Flohr thought it was drawn, but... (Smiles) I don't know what more to say, perhaps that's all. Sorry for my Russian, I've already said it was a catastrophe. (Applause)

G. Dvorkovich: It's very hard to nurture a champion. Chess players are special people, and there can be only one champion among them. I invite Alexander Sergeevich Nikitin to the microphone, the coach of 13th World Champion, who worked with Garry Kasparov for more than 15 years. (Applause)

Alexander Nikitin: I have never played Mikhail Moiseevich in tournaments. When he was playing on a high level, I came to those tournaments and watched the demonstration board. I was a first-grader or a candidate master then. And then I largely quit practical play, studied in the university, then worked in the space research institute, so our paths didn't cross at all. But in 1973, they offered me to quit radioelectronics and return to chess again as a coach of USSR national team - to provide informational support to the USSR team members. It was a very important task that had only started to develop recently then. Then again, I could have worked for the team, and that's all, but then a chain of lucky coincidences happened.

In 1973, when I started to work in the Sports Committee and visit the Central Chess Club frequently... in 1973, Mikhail Moiseevich Botvinnik suddenly decided to resume teaching in the Trud Society youth chess school, and the training session was to be held in Dubna. Well, there could be a session, and that's all, but they sent me, a young Sports Committee worker then, to the youth team sports event in Vilnius. It was done with some help from the USSR youth chess team coach, Bykhovsky: he was going to an international tournament, and he asked me to substitute for him in Vilnius. So I came to Vilnius... back then, we didn't distinguish between the 10 year-olds, 12 year-olds, 14 year-olds - everyone played together, and in the Azerbaijan team, I immediately noticed something: some tall kids (shows), then a sharp decrease in height, and again the tall kids. In the Azerbaijan team, there were 18 year-olds, 17 year-olds, and Garry Kasparov among them. First I saw this small boy, then I saw how he played, and it became clear to me that he was talented. And the Botvinnik school training session was due to take place soon; when I came back to Moscow, I offered Botvinnik to take this boy to the session, Botvinnik agreed, Garik arrived with his mother, and when he started to show his games, [GM] Yuri Sergeevich Razuvaev and Botvinnik looked at each other, declared a short break, for 15 or so minutes, then sat and said, "Yes, this boy is worthy to work with." Lev Psakhis was also present at that session, but Botvinnik didn't notice him and started to work with Kasparov. And I became Garik's mentor for the next three years, I would accompany him to all the training sessions, and it was an amazing coaching experience for me. Of course, I don't have any coaching degree from a sports university, I learned all I could from Botvinnik.

I have to say that Mikhail Moiseevich's system for working with children was unique... there weren't many books back then, only now some books started to appear... Botvinnik was a unique teacher, and he gave much to the kids. Many chess players consider themselves Botvinnik's pupils, and they're right to do so. My work with Kasparov continued, and I watched how Botvinnik helped Garik. I'd say that we had many talented kids, some of them became Grandmasters, and some have faded, failing to use their talents fully. Well, they didn't have enough help. If we compare the creative and sporting way of Psakhis and Kasparov, we'd see that Kasparov got his strong starting impulse from Mikhail Moiseevich Botvinnik's support, because the Sports Committee eyed Kasparov's successes and rapid progress very suspiciously; the head of chess section, GM Krogius, even said openly, "We have one champion - Anatoly Karpov, and we don't need a second one." So Kasparov was deprived of the opportunities to go abroad and play in strong tournaments, but the huge, enormous authority of Mikhail Moiseevich Botvinnik...

Well, it all began when [Kasparov was] a candidate master who played good chess, as Botvinnik thought, and Botvinnik persuaded the Belorussian chess federation to invite him to the Sokolsky Memorial. It was the first memorial, with all strongest Belorussian players participating, including GM Kupreichik (who, by the way, plays here currently), GM Lutikov... It was an all-master tournament, and the Belorussians protested furiously, "Why on earth would we need some boy from Azerbaijan?" Ultimately, the boy came to play, scored 7 points in the first 8 rounds, and after that, no-one else asked "why on earth do we need him?" His result was amazing, he was 3.5 points ahead of the second place, achieved thenorm... of course, he didn't receive the grandmaster's title, it was different back then - one couldn't get a title in a tournament like that... but people started to talk about him. The talks could have faded in a short while, but then Botvinnik said, "Garik, you need to play in a good international tournament." There was a tournament in Banja Luka, and the Yugoslavians also said, "Well, who's that? Yes, he did win the Sokolsky Memorial, and so what?" They weren't too eager to invite him, and Mikhail Moiseevich made some phone calls and finally managed to persuade their federation and even some high-ranking officials - respect for Botvinnik was very great.

And so, Garik was invited to that Banja Luka tournament. In the first round, he drew Tigran Vartanovich Petrosian, and then scored 9.5 in 10 games! He was on his way to some frightening record, no-one ever had similar results, and it was an all-GM tournament, except for two masters: Kasparov, who was given the National Master title in the last moment, and a local player, Sibarevic, if I'm not mistaken. Kasparov was on his way to the record, but he had one trait that prevented him from achieving maximum results: he made 5 draws at the finish, still getting the first place with a good margin, and received a GM title. Because of Mikhail Moiseevich's support, his career skyrocketed.

And then... there was work, in which I also participated actively, and we always felt that Mikhail Moiseevich watched us. All the working plans, all the ideas... We didn't talk much chess with Mikhail Moiseevich at the time, he was already deeply immersed into computers, but he forbade Garik to play in too many tournaments. There's the famous Botvinnik's formula known to every pupil of Botvinnik school: no more than 60 games a year. If someone played 70 games, they weren't invited to the next training session, because Botvinnik thought that a chess player, especially a young chess player, should analyze his games. If you play 100-120 games a year, as they do now, there's no time to analyze them, because there are always some other activities besides chess. So he imposed that norm, and for a long time... or, perhaps, all of the time, except for the Karpov matches... or even including the Karpov matches as well... Garry Kimovich adhered to that norm, and I have to say that his games were always very deep, because he came to each game like good actors came to stage. A good actor comes to the stage when he can say something new to the audience. If he says the same thing every day, he's not an artist, he's just a craftsman. So Garry came to each tournament with some new... well, new opening, or new playing style feature. Something would always change.

What more can I say? In 1976, Botvinnik again stopped the training sessions in his school for a while, and when Garik became a strong grandmaster, the school reopened as the "Botvinnik - Kasparov school". I, it seems, learned some self-teaching skills from Botvinnik, and so I organized the Spartak school together with Tigran Vartanovich Petrosian. Up to 1984, I worked both in Kasparov's team, helping him under Botvinnik's guidance, and in the Spartak chess school, helping Tigran Vartanovich.

I'm also grateful to Botvinnik for that in the hard times, when I was on bad terms with Anatoly Karpov, then the World Champion, and my destiny should have been decided in court, because after I refused to concede to him, they tried to sack me from my job, I took the matters into court, and two World Champions spoke in my defence: Mikhail Moiseevich Botvinnik and Tigran Vartanovich Petrosian. And it's obvious that I won the case.

I think that's all. I hope it was interesting to everyone. Thank you. (Applause)

N. Polyanskikh: Getting back to the topic of your pupil, the 13th champion... we have a material where Kasparov congratulates Botvinnik with his jubilee. And Anatoly Karpov does, as well. And Vladimir Kramnik.

A. Nikitin: Kasparov is now in (unclear, some city name) and will go back to Moscow on Sunday.


Nikitin was the last to speak.