Botvinnik. Lucky To Be Such An Exceedingly Strong Player!

Botvinnik. Lucky To Be Such An Exceedingly Strong Player!

simaginfan
simaginfan
Nov 5, 2018, 8:40 AM |
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Nope, today's subject matter is not going to fire many of you up with enthusiasm (!) but I really enjoyed the hours spent putting it together. Such great battles and wonderful ideas. My kind of chess.

Botvinnik, saving difficult positions, and high level endgame play. Subjects that are not top of everyone's 'must read' lists when it comes to chess.

Whilst acknowledging that he was one of the all time greats, few players would have Botvinnik on their 'favorite players list'.

Nobody enjoys defending very much, and a lot of players consider endgames to be 'boring'. Well, what can you do? Popularist writing is not my thing, and I make no apologies for 'admitting' it! 

This article came about from my recent one on Michael Basman  where it was commented that Botvinnik was lucky to save their game. Well, Botvinnik got 'lucky' quite a lot!

Hannak relates a story in relation to the following game. 

'When after this game one of his friends remarked to Lasker: 'This fellow Botvinnik really was exceedingly lucky', Lasker answered; 'Yes, he is lucky to be such an exceedingly strong player'.

The notes that I have used, with a couple of indicated additions, are by Sergei Bielavienetz, ( other transliterations are available!) and come from a bibliophiles rarity -  The bulletins of  the tournament which came out whilst it was in progress.

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A photo of the two players during one their games at the next great Moscow tournament, in 1936 - with my thanks to my 'image consultant', the wonderful @RoaringPawn  

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Whilst I am here, it has been a weekend that has evoked a lot of memories for me. My late friend - I am proud to have been his friend - the inimitable Ritson, once described Lasker as he was at Nottingham in 1936. Despite my appalling memory, because of his astounding oratorial skills it  has remained with me for nearly 40 years. ' He stomped into the room with heavy feet - like someone wearing diving boots - with someone supporting his arm. Thick grey hair and a pale shrunken face like a white prune. He fell heavily into his chair. Then he took out his pen and some cigars and lined them up carefully next to the board'. 

A photograph of Lasker taken during the 1935 tournament during his beautiful win against Capablanca. Thanks to Douglas Griffin on Twitter for the online version.

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The next example of Botvinnik's 'luck' is from 11 years later, and the endgame - as he rightly predicted - is to be found in all the endgame textbooks. It was a crucial game in the tournament, and it has been speculated that had he lost it the history of the World Chess Championship may have taken a different course. Who knows on that score, but it is a magnificent battle! 

For this one I have used Botvinnik's notes from this wonderful book.

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My version is older than that one - it cost a whole $1-50 when it was published!!

A photograph taken during the game, that I have scanned from the original Dutch Tournament book.

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The lasker - Rubinstein game referred to.

I first came across the next game in a book by P.W.Sergeant - the writer who reignited the 'Staunton-Morphy' debate, called 'Championship Chess'.  I have taken some notes -  much abridged - from this wonderful book.

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Whist much of the analysis is not 100% correct - as I found to my cost in a c.c game once - it is a wonderful book. Tal was a brilliant writer, and incredibly honest. As I have said many times - 'you've gotta love Tal!' A photograph from this book - or rather series of four books 

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that I have consulted inummerable times in writing this article.

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And so on to the game that inspired this article. A former World Champion against this young student.

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Photograph adapted from one from the 'ChessScotland' site. With thanks.

It is a wonderful game, and Botvinnik's endgame 'save' is utterly brilliant. I have annotated it 'by hand' without computer assistance, so feel free to point out any improvements or errors. thanks!

A rare photograph from the above book of Botvinnik's. It was taken at a simultaneous exhibition during the tournament. I can recognize Bernhard Cafferty and Leonard Barden, but not the young players assembled from the universties of Nottingham, Oxford and Cambridge. Any help welcomed!
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And finally - I left this til last for a number of reasons.

I am Simaginfan. Nope, you have never seen this game before!

Simagin must have driven Botvinnik absolutely nuts!!On the one hand  you have Botvinnik doing battle with him and Simagin's theoretical investigations etc. in his matches with Smyslov, On the other you have their individual games.

Off the top of my head - so feel free to correct me - the two met four times. In all four Botvinnik had the White pieces, and all four ended in draws.

( Back then the Grandmaster title meant that you could stand up on equal terms with players of World Championship class, Black pieces or not! If I can speak frankly, there are players around today who put up the letters in front of their names as a mark of status. Like we should all bow down in front of the letters NCM,  CM .M, and GM. like they are gods. Get over yourselves guys, and come back and impress me when you can say that you have 4 draws with Black against one of the all - time greats )

the variations given in the notes to the following game are by Simagin, form this book that he was the editor of.

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Both players should have lost this game! The ending is, speaking as someone who loves endgames and has studied hundreds, one of the most complex, difficult, and downright mind-blowing in chess history.

In endings with Knights on you can't just play on principle. Every move has to be calculated. How many online blitz games could someone play in the time that these two guys spent on their adjournment analysis during this one game?? What a battle!! In playing over it not only am I awestruck with admiration, but I remember why I love this silly game of ours so much. 

But you have never seen it before! As Walter Browne used to say 'go figure'!! 

A wonderful picture of Vladimir Pavlovich Simagin sent to me by @RoaringPawn. Thanks mate!

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From the Botvinnik family archives. A wonderful picture.

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