How I dismantled the Botvinnik System: an analysis of my last rd. at MCC focused on prophylaxis

How I dismantled the Botvinnik System: an analysis of my last rd. at MCC focused on prophylaxis

NM eltenedor
Dec 21, 2016, 12:16 AM |

This is an in-depth analysis of my critical 9th round win at the historic 100th Marshall Chess Club Championship in NYC. I love to play in the annual tournament and have played in the 98th, 99th, and now the 100th (congrats to GM Yaroslav Zherebukh for becoming the 100th champion). NYC is where my parents are from, and the MCC has special historic significance, so the whole thing just carries a lot of meaning for me.

A little more context: I finally pulled it all together in this one and corrected my play early enough to score 5.5/9 after an 0-2 start, tying for 4th overall behind GM Irina Krush (who got 6/9) and 1st in the U2300 category (based on FIDE ratings), picking up a prize. Note: I detail how I went from 0-3 to 5-4 in 2015 here. (This seems to be the story of my Marshall experience -- comebacks from sluggish starts!)

In this last round, I played against the Turkish player Baris Barutcu. The featured opening is the Botvinnik System, characterized by white placing his pawns to c4, d3, and e4, with a fianchettoed bishop on g2. In the Botvinnik System, white plays for control of d5 and has the flexibility to execute pawn breaks on either wing with f4 or b4, or even a well-timed central break with d4 in some cases, often leading to a Maroczy Bind type setup after an exchange of central pawns. The way I play against this opening here should demonstrate one way to play against this common system that I hope you will find helpful. I think this game provides the most instructive value, though, when it comes to prophylactic play. As described on Wikipedia:

"Prophylaxis is a term in chess, as well as being a general idea. It was introduced by the grandmaster Aaron Nimzovich in his book My system in the 1920s.[1] The term refers to actions taken by a player to anticipate and thwart the opponent's plans..."

I very, very strongly feel that prophylaxis is one of the best tools that a player can have to advance to a higher level in chess. (I feature a photo of former World Champion Anatoly Karpov here because he has proven to be extremely good at this, and a study of his games is time valuably spent.) Does that mean that one should play "defensively" all the time? Of course not. When you have the chance to attack, by all means, hack away! But in reality, most games feature a balance of attack and defense -- and ideally, you should not just be directly responding to an opponent's plans, but anticipating and preventing them before they even begin to materialize! (The satisfaction gained from opponent's subsequent frustration is quite amusing!) This clearly requires a very different type of mindset. It requires you to understand your opponent's capabilities as well as your own. It requires you to see the prevention of your opponent's plans as a sort of capital to be gained on the chessboard. Once you've acquired it, you can often continue with excecuting your own coveted plans scot-free. Pretty cool, right? Of course, on-the-spot judgment is so important to playing chess successfully, and so the question of when to use prophylaxis is a matter for your judgment over the board. My goal here is to describe my thinking process and how I utilized my judgment in this game in the hope that maybe you can apply some of these concepts for use in your own, unique games. 

So let's delve into it.

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