Mikhail Botvinnik (Sixth World Chess Champion) Bio

Mar 14, 2015, 3:23 PM |

Mikhail Botvinnik

Sixth World Chess Champion



Mikhail Botvinnik was the sixth World Chess Champion. He lived from August 17, 1911 to May 5, 1995. Botvinnik was a Soviet and Russian world chess champion. He became the sixth world chess champion when he won the 1948 World Chess Championship and prevailed until 1963 when Tigran Petrosian defeated him in Moscow.


Botvinnik generally searched for tense positions with chances for both sides; consequently his results were often better with the Black pieces as he could avoid lines that were likely to deliver draws. He had a strong comprehension of long-term strategy, and was often willing to accept weaknesses that his opponent could not utilize in exchange for some edge that Botvinnik could exploit.He confessed that he was relatively inadequate in tactical computation, yet many of his games feature sacrifices – often long-term positional sacrifices whose purpose was not to force an instant win, but to improve his position and weaken his opponent's. Botvinnik was also capable of all-out sacrificial attacks when he thought the position gave grounds for it.


            Working as an electrical engineer and computer scientist at the same time, he was one of the very few professional chess players who attained distinction in another career while playing top-class competitive chess. Mikhail Botvinnik was also an innovator of computer chess. Engineering was as much of a passion for Botvinnik as chess – at Nottingham in 1936, where he had his first major tournament win outside the USSR, he said "I wish I could do what he's done in electrical engineering" (referring to Milan Vidmar, another grandmaster). He was awarded the Order of the Badge of Honor for his work on power stations in the Urals during World War II (while he was also establishing himself as the world's strongest chess player). Botvinnik earned his doctorate in electrical engineering in 1951. In 1956 Mikhail  joined the Research Institute for Electrical Energy as a senior research scientist.


In the 1950s he became involved in computers, at first mainly for playing chess but he later also co-authored reports on the possible use of artificial intelligence in managing the Soviet wealth. Botvinnik's research on chess-playing programs concentrated on "selective searches", which used universal chess principles to decide which moves were worth bearing in mind. This was the only feasible approach for the simple computers available in the Soviet Union in the early 1960s, whichwere only capable of searching three or four half-moves deep (i.e. A's move, B's move, A's move, B's innovator) if they tried to examine every variation. Botvinnik eventually developed an algorithm that was decent at finding the right move in difficult positions, but it often missed the right move in plain positions, e.g. where it was possible to checkmate in two moves. This "selective" approach turned out to be a dead end, as computers were powerful enough by the mid-1970s to perform a brute-force search (checking all possible moves) several moves deep and today's vastly more powerful computers do this well enough to compete against human world champions. However, his PIONEER program contained a generalized technique of decision-making that, with a few adjustments, enabled it to plan maintenance of power stations all over the USSR. On September 7, 1991 Botvinnik was awarded an honorary degree in mathematics of the University of Ferrara (Italy) for his work on computer chess.


Botvinnik versus a Grandmaster in the Soviet World Chess Championship, 1948


1. d4Nf6 2. c4e6 3. Nc3Bb4 4. Qc2d5 5. cd5ed5 6. Bg5h6 7. Bh4c5 8. O-O-OBc3 9. Qc3g5 10. Bg3cd4 11. Qd4Nc6 12. Qa4Bf5 13. e3Rc8 14. Bd3Qd7 15. Kb1Bd3 16. Rd3Qf5 17. e4Ne4 18. Ka1O-O 19. Rd1b5 20. Qb5Nd4 21. Qd3Nc2 22. Kb1Nb4