A Pleasure Cruise
We all love pleasure. Some of us live for pleasure. Some have even died for pleasure. At times it's the motivation, the reward, the goal, while at other times, it's the process, the act of getting there. Pleasure can take many shapes - the physical sensations of taste or sex; the enjoyable experience such as music and art provide; as well as the feelings one derives from a game of chess.
| "In August 1991 in Brussels, after concluding an interview a journalist asked him: 'It is understandable that you can not now contend for the world championship, but why don't you sometimes play blitz or play chess just like that, for pleasure?'
'Young man,' replied Botvinnik, not looking at him. 'Remember this: I never played chess for pleasure.'"
[The Summing Up, Sosonko NIC 2000]
"I never played chess for pleasure" are cruel, cold words to my ears. I don't doubt Botvinnik for a second, but I don't believe he meant that chess never gave him pleasure. For Mikhail Moiseyevich, 3 time chess world champion, born in 1911 and raised as a fully indoctrinated Soviet, chess was his duty - to himself and to his country. Any pleasure he might have allowed himself was possibly the pleasure of achievement.
Botvinnik - Lasker 1936
Contrast Botvinnik to his contemporary and adversary, Mikhal Tal
Quite often Misha's permanent trainer Alexander Koblenz, 'Maestro' to his friends, would arrive. This is also what Misha invariably called him. Behind their distinctive joking-ironic manner of conversing lay a sincere attatchment that went back many years. 'That's enough for today. ' Misha would say, 'Blitz, blitz.' Sacrificing pieces against each of us in turn, for the most part, incorrectly, he would repeat: 'Never mind, now I'll make his flag fall.' Or in very sharp situations, when he himself had only a few seconds left, his favorite: 'Calmness is my sweetheart.' I do not recall an occasion when he played blitz without any evident pleasure. Whether it was a game from the championships of Moscow or Leningrad, most of which were won by him, the world championship in Saint John in 1988, or simply a five-minute game with an amateur who had cornered him in a hotel foyer.
[My Misha, Sosonko NIC 1992]
Tal and his daughter Zhanna
Botvinnik died fully secure in the correctness of his philosophy. Just before entering the hopital where he died, Tal played in a blitz tournament in Moscow, taking third place behind Kasparov and Bareev, but beating Kasparov in their individual game.
Oh, the pleasure of it all.