My review of "100 selected games" by Mikhail Botvinnik
Recently I finished going through 100 selected games by Mikhail Botvinnik. It's a collection of his best games up until he won the world championship for the first time. All the games are annotated by him, and give various verbal explanations and anecdotes to go along with variations. The games are written in descriptive notation as this is a rather old book that hasn't yet been revised and reprinted. the book begins with an account of his early life and his opinions on chess in Russia at the time. The games are seperated by the year in which they were played. Each new year begins with an anecdote written by Botvinnik describing his chess activities, as well as various career and life changes. The book ends with a series of six studies, as well as his thesis on what a "combination" actually is.
The quality of the games shown are mostly very high, although not so high as today's grandmasters of course. I like older game collections like these because the positional errors his opponents make are easily percieved and understood by weaker players like myself. The annotations are generally very good, and are surprisingly informative. He gives his honest opinion on the openings his opponents play and even gives short histories of the opening's development. I was expecting a book like this to be mostly variations, with little to no verbal explanations of the moves and plans. Certainly most individual games collections I've seen are database dumps with variation trees after every move, making them next to useless for a class player like me who thrives on repeated verbal explanations. Of course the verbal explanations Botvinnik gives are not to the depth of something like "logical chess: move by move" or "the art of logical chess thinking" but they are helpful and do the job fine.
I like Botvinnik's style of play. I would say he is one of those universal players in that he can accumulate small advantages and crush his opponent positionally or he can sacrifice material and blow the guy out of the water with a flashy combination. I like his ability to gain and use a space advantage with pawns in the center. Also his endgame skills are something to be admired. There is a certain "forwardness" to his play that I really liked while going through his games. Of course his play was not perfect and he even gives examples of when he has gone astray, some of his battles with Smyslov are real back and forth affairs with errors on both sides.
Anyway, I highly recommend this book for intermediate players like myself. If you're over say....1400-1500 OTB I think you'll really get a lot out of this book and enjoy it too!