Yuri Averbakh. Training With Botvinnik.
Averbakh. Saltjobaden 1952 where he became a Grandmaster back when it meant something.

Yuri Averbakh. Training With Botvinnik.

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Morning everyone.

In the mass of comments last time round, the subject of Botvinnik's training matches came up, and I threw in the name of Yuri Averbakh, who was the first to write about Botvinnik's secret training matches.

There is now a book about the matches - two versions, I think, of which I have the first one.

Well, Averbakh is a fascinating figure in his own right. Apart from not actually playing in a World Title match, he has done pretty much everything in chess. Grandmaster, Author and Editor, Historian, Arbiter, Judge, Official, etc. Quite a man!

He is also a  fascinating writer - I really enjoy his stuff, although, at times, you have to read between the lines a little! So, this little article will give some of his memories of working with Botvinnik. As usual, you can find slightly differing versions of the same things by him in different sources.

The inimitable @Spektrowski  has posted a little of the story in an interview   

In the book 'Averbakh's Selected Games' - from which I have taken notes to the first two games that I will include - he says the following.

"In the Summer of 1955, before the USSR - USA match, Mikhail Botvinnik suggested to me that we play a couple of training games. I readily agreed; who would not be interested in doing battle with the champion of the world? Before this we had met only in official competitions ( with a score of +1 =2, not in my favour).

As a sparring partner, I evidently suited Botvinnik, and over the next two years we played about 25 training games. The time control was the standard one of two and a half hours for 40 moves. If a game remained unfinished, it was not normally resumed.

An exception to this occurred in two matches. One was played in August 1956, when the World Champion was preparing for the Olympiad in Moscow and for the Alekhine Memorial Tournament; and the second was in January 1957, at the concluding stage of Botvinnik's preparations for his second title match with Vasily Smyslov. In those matches the games were adjourned after 40 moves and then resumed.

In the first match we played five games with an overall score of +1 =4 in Botvinnik's favour. Three of these games were adjourned and played on right to the finish. In all of them I had an advantage, and was reckoning on picking up at least two points. Alas, I only managed to score one point. What happened?

Averbakh. Saltjobaden. 1952. Spraggettonchess.First of all one has to acknowledge the World Champion's analytical skill, and his resourcefulness and tenacity. My analysis, on the other hand, left much to be desired.

Not in self-justification, but for the sake of the truth, I should say that there were also a couple of objective reasons for this:  acouple of days before the ill-fated adjournment session, I received the proofs of my book 'How to Solve Chess Studies', and instead of 'polishing' the adjourned positions, I was obliged to work on the proofs, which had to be returned to the typesetter as quickly as possible.

When the adjournment session came to an end, Botvinnik did not conceal his joy, and smilingly remarked ' You know, Yura, out of three equal adjourned positions, I normally always win one!'.

''The concluding stage of Botvinnik's preparations for his second match for the World Championship with Smyslov was to be our match of twelve games, in which the world Champion intended to 'run in' the opening variations prepared for Smyslov.

We intended to begin playing immediately after the 1957 New Year, but I unexpectedly caught a cold and was ill for a week. This somewhat interfered with our plans: Botvinnik definitely wanted to finish the match in January.

As a result we restricted ourselves to ten games, and the adjourned ninth game was not in fact resumed. The match score was +3 -2 =4 in favour of Botvinnik, but in the unfinished game I was the exchange up, and hence had winning chances.'

Smyslov - Botvinnik. 1958.

This was an extremely tense match. I remember that we battled with a fierceness that was unusual for training games. In several games there was a severe time scramble, which often led to blunders.

Now, playing through these games, and experiencing as if anew all the changes of fortune in those encounters, I suddenly realized that such training games use up too much strength and nervous energy. It is quite possible that, when a month and a half later Botvinnik sat down at the board with Smyslov, he had not managed to recover fully after our battles, and to some extent this may have affected the outcome of the match''.

I have a fascinating, and, in many ways, extraordinary, book by Averbakh.

The chapter on Botvinnik is quite wonderful. Amongst many other observations, Averbakh points out that even Botvinnik - contrary to popular opinion - was not above censure and disciple at the hands of the Soviet chess authorities. He also adds a little to the story of their training encounters.

''We played the games at his dacha, outside Moscow. There we were, sitting at the board, thinking about our moves to the ticking of the clock, whilst from under the table a voice was announcing details of production volumes by Moscow factories, milk yields and potato crops!!

After five hours of playing in such conditions, I felt capable of anything. At first I thought that playing with the radio on was a pretty dubious idea, but later, as I came to know Botvinnik, I understood the point. This was a man who was capable like no other of self-programming, almost by self-hypnosis.

If the noise in the playing hall started to bother him, he would say to himself 'But I trained especially for such conditions, therefore the noise should not bother me!' And it wouldn't! Even before this, in order to get used to opponents who smoked, Botvinnik played training games with Ragozin, who was under instruction to blow smoke in his face''.

I had better finish with a Botvinnik win, from one of the early games - it is one of those tense battles Averbakh talks of - the strain shows right at the end, but I think it is a fascinating game.

Averbakh in 1954. Douglas Griffin on twitter.

Going to add this - provided by @Arady71  in the comments. Averbakh and Spassky.

Looks like Spassky is getting an endgame lesson from the master. Lovely picture. Thanks mate!