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Mikhail Botvinnik vs Vitaly Chekhover
"Chekhover That Position Again" (game of the day Aug-18-2004)
Moscow (1935), Moscow URS, rd 16, Mar-08
English Opening: Agincourt Defense. King's Knight (A13)  ·  1-0



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Kibitzer's Corner
< Earlier Kibitzing  · PAGE 6 OF 6 ·  Later Kibitzing>
Oct-23-11  stst: After 45 minutes and 22-ply, Houdini rates the top moves: 24.gxf6 (+6.71)
24.Nxd7 (+6.65)
24.Nxf7 (+6.55)
Thanks to Houdini!! we see the same thing (gxf6)
Premium Chessgames Member
  LIFE Master AJ: There IS some controversy about this game, several GM's have written about it.

<<Nov-27-04 offramp: On page 16 of the June 1999 Chess Life, Soltis wrote: "If you look through all the 1,069 serious games Mikhail Botvinnik played in his 47-year career, the most brilliant was probably against Vitaly Chekhover (Moscow 1935), in which he sacrified two knights, then the Exchange, and mated on the 43rd move. "Curiously, Botvinnik annotated seven of his games for the tournament book, but not this one. He didn't annotate it anywhere - until Chekhover was dead - and some of his fellow Soviet GMs were convinced the game was composed in advance, and he didn't dare write about it while Chekhover was alive to tell the truth.">>

I DO think the game was played at the tournament. However, if I had played such a game "straight up" ... I would be very proud of it. I find it weird that Botvinnik did not publish it until after the guy died.

And since Botvinnik is not here to ask, I guess we may never know for sure.

Oct-23-11  sevenseaman: <stst> Your line goes cold with 24...NxP which is an obvious defence instead of 24...BxP.
Premium Chessgames Member
  LIFE Master AJ: And here is an extremely reasoanble refutation:

<<Jun-28-11 Honza Cervenka: Andy Soltis' allegation is completely baseless. The game was played in a great international tournament with many of best players of the time participating and ahead of great crowd of spectators and chess journalists. Of course, it does not prove entirely, that the game could not have been pre-arranged, but with the same approach you can put in question any game played anytime in any tournament with the same reliability of such a accusation. Soltis' "evidence" of alleged in-genuineness of this game is quite vapid. Alleged opinions of some unnamed GMs (Soviet or not) are not even worth of serious comment. And Botvinnik's hesitation to include this game into his collection of best games is quite understandable if you know something about his personality. Botvinnik was no chess gambler and so he was definitely not much happy with spectacular but objectively inferior 24.Nxf7 when he found out that simple 24.Nxd7 would have won outright by force.>>

It could very well be that Botvinnik as embarrassed by his NxP/f7 move, for many years (before computers) ... it was assumed that this was an inferior move. (NxN/d7 was supposedly better, although this has never been proven beyond a shadow of a doubt.)

I would suggest - for any curious souls - that they read ALL the comments on these pages ... some VERY good stuff here. (And I did not write any of it.)

Premium Chessgames Member
  LIFE Master AJ: I also read something - it was from another GM, and he quoted Bronstein ... but after after many hours of going through books, I was unable to find it.

As for the people who think that Botvinnik was unable to play such a combination, this is simple nonsense. At the height of his powers ... he could have defeated anyone.

Premium Chessgames Member
  Benzol: For those who think Botvinnik and Chekhover composed this game read my post on page 2 of this game. In my opinion Botvinnik has answered his critics.
Oct-23-11  waustad: My first thought was the actual sac from the game. I then thought that Ng6 was better. It looks fine if black takes, but there may be better defenses.
Oct-23-11  Patriot: <LMAJ> I wonder if Botvinnik figured that 25.g6+? was actually the bad move. It's possible he discovered this to be a mistake. Black replied with a mistake, 25...Kg8 which is why he won. 25...Kf8 is a draw.
Premium Chessgames Member
  ajk68: Wow....Wow...
Oct-23-11  tacticalmonster: I have been thinking for about an hour and I only got the first fews moves. Nice combination! This is insanely insane!
Oct-23-11  M.Hassan: "Insane" White to play 24.?
White has a pawn for a Knight.

If I come across with such position, playing White, and being behind and not being a grand master, I take the Knight to break even!

24.gxf6 Nxf6
25.g4 Bd6
26.g5 Bxe5
<if black wants to save the knight: 27....Nd7 28.g6 Kf8 29.Rxf7+ Ke8 30.Qh5 Nf8 31.Qh8 and mate next move>

28.g6 Qc5+
29.Rf2 Qc6
White could be mate next move by Q to h1
30.gxf7+ Kxf7
31.Rxf6+ gxf6
32.Qh5+ Kf8
33.Qh6+ Ke7
34.Qg7+ Ke8
Time to check

Premium Chessgames Member
  LIFE Master AJ: <Benzol> I have to agree with you. Chekhover had the reputation of always being fair. He was modest, I don't think he ever joined the Communist Party.

As far as I can gather, Chekhover had the reputation of being a "straight shooter." Hard to imagine a guy like that agreeing to throw a game beforehand.

There is another problem with this theory. If - as some people have said - that many of the Soviet players routinely PRE-ARRANGE their games ... why hasn't one person ever come forward to expose such a plot?

In my mind, there have been too many people who left the (old) Soviet Union, many of them with an axe to grind. Seems like somebody would have spoke up about this matter before now.

Premium Chessgames Member
  LIFE Master AJ: <<Oct-23-11 Patriot: <LMAJ> I wonder if Botvinnik figured that 25.g6+? was actually the bad move. It's possible he discovered this to be a mistake. Black replied with a mistake, 25...Kg8 which is why he won. 25...Kf8 is a draw.>>

I did not go to chess club today, I got caught up in analyzing this game.

Its now almost 01:30 AM in the morning, (Monday / Oct. 24th); I have been working on this game since about 10:30 AM Sunday morning ... which is shortly after I got out of bed.

I know what others have said about this game, however, I have been working to look for the truth myself. Since many of the books that I have that reference this game are AT LEAST 10+ years old, it is quite obvious none of them have had the chance to check things with the latest chess engine.

Thus far I CAN tell you two things:

a.) The move 25.g6+ was NOT a mistake, but it was also NOT the best move. (Different sources have given 25.Qh5+ and 25.gxf6 as being best. Both are better than what was played in the game, but - so far - my analysis seems to indicate that they are NOT seperate tries, they transpose into each other.)

b.) Not sure if Black draws with 25...Kf8; but its an almost sure bet that this was the correct move and that 25...Kg8? was an error.

Premium Chessgames Member
  LIFE Master AJ: Another problem I have with the Soltis theory can be summed up briefly:

#1.) No offer of proof. No "smoking gun," or affadavit or even the name of the Soviet master that can corroborate his assertion that this game was pre-arranged.

#2.) I know a lot about A. Soltis, he is probably my favorite living author. And as far as I can tell, he never traveled extensively in the (old) USSR/Russia. If all of his research is simply second-hand gossip coming from expatriated Soviet citizens ...

Premium Chessgames Member
  LIFE Master AJ: This is part of my analysis ... after about 15 hours of work. BTW, I have the red book ... the one that is a copy of the tournament book, translated by Jimmy Adams and Sarah Hurst ... that was printed in 1998. ISBN: 0-939433-52-4

[ Probably the best move was:
>/= 25...Kf8!; 26.Qxe6 Ne5;
After hours of work, several strong
programs pick this as being best.

(The tournament book gives:
RR27.Rxf6+!? gxf6; 28.Qh3 Bc5!;

The tournament book gives 28...Bb4;
here, but that loses badly.

29.Qh8+ Ke7; 30.Qh7+ Ke6;
31.Qh3+ Ke7; 32.Qh7+, "=" )

Not just a mindless machine move,
if Black does not give back some of
the material, he will get badly mauled.

28.Rxf3 Bxf3; 29.Rf1!! Ke8;

This is probably forced.

(Or Black can try:
29...Qd6; but this seems to
just transpose back to the main
variation in one or two moves.)

30.Rxf3 Qd6; 31.Bf5, - Fritz 12.

White has two Bishops, three Pawns for the Rook, and many hours of analysis with a dozen different engines have not shown an easy way out for Black ... ]

Oct-24-11  JoergWalter: Botvinnik's own comments:
(translation by me)(15 minutes to get the book and type it)

"I had overlooked a simple way to win: 24.Nxd7 Nxd7 25.Rxf7 Kxf7 26. Qh5+ Kf8 27. Qh8+ Kf7 28.g6+ Kf6 29. Qh4#."

25.g6+ Kg8
"This facilitates the attack. Stronger was 25....Kf8 as Vukovic recommended in "Sahovski Glasnik". According to him white has to be contended with a perpetual. However, I found a win later:
26.Qxe6 Ne5 27.Rxf6 gxf6 28.Qh3 Bb4 29.Re1 Bc8 30.Qh6 Ke8 31.de5 Bxe1 32.Qh8+ Kd7 33. Qg7+ Kc6 34.Qxf6+ Kc7 35.e6"

"This game left such an impression that some "chess specialists" thought it was prearranged!"

Oct-24-11  JoergWalter: Botvinnik continues:

"I played very strong in the first rounds then I lost momentum as in the VIII. USSR Championship. Flohr picked up and we shared the first 2 places. Half of a point behind us was the 66 year old Lasker. [...] The tournament drew a lot more spectators than Moscow 1925. On the first day 5,000 tickets were sold, already. G.K. Ordschonikidse donated a car to me and after consultation with Lasker and Capablanca I was awarded the title "GM of the USSR""

<GM of USSR> is close but not quite the equivalent of <LIFE Master>.

Oct-24-11  JoergWalter: Just saw that <Benzol> had mentioned part of the above already on page 2.

just to add this:

Botvinnik in his comments of
Botvinnik vs Lilienthal, 1936

"This game was awarded the first brilliancy price. This time nobody suspected that this game was "prearranged" because it was typical for my play at that time." (my translation)

Premium Chessgames Member
  LIFE Master AJ: This is from GM Andrew Soltis's very fine book, "The 100 Best." (Page 12)

After MANY pages of discussion of the various methods that he used to evaluate the games for his book, he gives us the following paragraph: "One further criteria should be obvious: A game has to be real. Adams-Torre, New Orleans, 1920; with its multiple queen sacrifices and last-rank mating tactics, is one of the classics of chess literature. But it is almost certainly a fake."

Whoa! Let me stop you there, sir. Where's the documentation? (I have never seen it. And I cover this topic - in some depth - on my web page for Adams-Torre.)

He concludes his paragraph by writing:
"Alexander Alekhine's infamous five-queens game with Nikolai Grigoriev was debunked long ago. Enough doubts have been raised about the sacrifice-studded Botvinnik-Chekover, Moscow, 1935; to disqualify it."

I agree with Soltis about the Alekhine game, I remember writing an article (myself) about this long ago ... and Winter even thoroughly dissected this topic, as well. And I am aware that a few GM's have cast doubts on Botvinnik's masterpiece, one Soviet GM claimed to have seen those two rehearse this whole affair before hand. However - for me, anyway - its one thing to state/say that a game was a fake, it’s a whole different matter to prove it.

Aug-20-12  Ulhumbrus: The following comments in parentheses are by Max Euwe in his book <Meet the masters> (translated by L Prins and B H Wood from Euwe's book <Zoo schaken zij>)

Before the move 19 Nd1: < A very familiar type of position has been reached. White has <hanging> pawns at d4 and c4 and is more or less compelled to play for a King'a side attack, which has, however, under the circumstances,every chance of succeeding. White usually works for d4-d5 or f4-f5 in such positions. Botvinnik tackles the problem in an altogether different way: he brings his QKt over to the King's wing, where it decisively strengthens the attack. Each of his next few moves deserves an exclamation mark.>

On the move 22 Ng5: <The piano of the opening passed into a crescendo in the middle game and now becomes a fortissimo of attack. Throughout the next ten moves sacrificial combinations are always in the air; the black king's stronghold is smashed open with titanic power>

At the end of the game Euwe remarks < Though Botvinnik is primarily a position player, and though his construction of the game differs vastly from that of Alekhine, his play reveals, in his discernment of attacking chances, the greatest possible resemblance to the brilliant style of the world champion.>

An alternative to 19...Ra7 is the pawn sacrifice 19...b5! 20 cxb5 axb5 21 Bxb5 Ba3. There are three justifications for this:

1. White's a pawn and d4 pawn are both isolated and this gives Black at least partial compensation for the pawn.

2. White's 19th move Nd1 withdraws the knight to the back rank and disconnects the rooks, and this suggests Black's opening lines

3. This is at any rate preferable by far to having Black's King succumb to a mating attack including a king hunt as in the game.

Apr-20-15  Cactusjuice: I havent seen such a horrible finish
Nov-24-17  Toribio3: This is a masterpiece!
Nov-25-17  offramp: <Apr-20-15 Cactusjuice: I havent seen such a horrible finish>

<Nov-24-17 Toribio3: This is a masterpiece!>

Quite a difference of opinion in consecutive posts. I think Botvinnik realised that with 24. Nxf7 he had spoiled what could have been a good game.

Nov-25-17  john barleycorn: < offramp: ... I think Botvinnik realised that with 24. Nxf7 he had spoiled what could have been a good game.>

Botvinnik comments (freely translated) ib 24.Nxf7:

<Unfortunately I missed a more simple way to win:

24.Nxd7 Nxd7 25.Rxf7 Kxf7 26.Qh5+ Kf8 27.Qh8+ Kf7 28.g6+ Kf6 29.Qh4++.

The value of the game loses thus a little bit. However, in what follows is also very interesting>

Sep-01-18  1d410: great observation by Botvinnik!
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