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David Bronstein vs Mikhail Botvinnik
USSR Championship (1944), Moscow URS, rd 4, May-25
Spanish Game: Closed. Kholmov Variation (C92)  ·  1-0



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Kibitzer's Corner
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Premium Chessgames Member
  An Englishman: Good Evening: It's called the Kholmov Variation in my antique Batsford edition of the Closed Ruy. White has two major decisions: first, does he play 10.Bxe6 or allow 10...Bxb3; second, does he recapture with the Queen or the pawn?

The game itself is fantastically complicated, esp. after all of the simplification. Perhaps Botvinnik made a misjudgment when he went into the R vs. Kn & B ending?

Premium Chessgames Member
  Resignation Trap: According to the most recent theory, White's best line is 10.d4 Bxb3 11.axb3!
Feb-16-05  aw1988: I would prefer Bc2.
Mar-28-05  Hinchliffe: < aw1988> The only problem with 10.Bc2 is that it seems to me to concede a tempi at least. Although I know why you selected the move and frankly it appealed to me too. The white bishop is such a natural predator for us Lopez players and with it's departure comes a great sense of loss. However, I think that Resignation Trap suggestion of 10.d4 is the way I will probably go in future. I like the action it generates and the feeling of gaining a workable central position despite lamenting the recent death of an old chum.
Dec-10-06  who: There's no way there isn't a draw for black somewhere in this endgame. He has a rook and two pawns against a bishop and knight at move 24, and white even has doubled isolated pawns.
Jan-16-07  ianD: Botvinik was seriously outplayed in this entertaining endgame
Premium Chessgames Member
  Ulhumbrus: Two things change the evaluation in White's favour. Firstly, Black's two extra pawns are divided between the Queen side and King side, and the extra pawn on the King side does nothing. Secondly, Black's King is out of play, with the result that White plays with an extra King against Black's passed pawns. According to Bronstein, who includes this game in his book "200 open games", the ending is drawn.
Premium Chessgames Member
  GrahamClayton: According to Bronstein's autobiography "The Sorceror's Apprentice", Botvinnil resigned this game while Bronstein was away from the board getting a cup of tea, which was considered a breach of chess etiquette.

Source: Bernard Cafferty and Mark Taimanov, "The Soviet Championships", Cadogan Books, 1998

Premium Chessgames Member
  Whitehat1963: What happens if 64...Rf7?
Premium Chessgames Member
  Benzol: 64...Rf7 65.Bd6 I would imagine.
Feb-02-10  Bronsteinmaniac: Bronstein is the greatest!!
Feb-02-10  Boomie: What I find funny about this game is the two Bc1 moves and the fact that white didn't move his QN until move 36. That has to be some kind of record.
May-06-11  LIFE Master AJ: This is Game # 19 (pg. # 45) in "The Golden Dozen," by I. Chernev.
Jun-26-11  JustAnotherPatzer: With 2 rooks and 5 pawns vs. a rook, two minor pieces and 3 pawns Botvinnik has a +1 material advantage - he's sitting pretty at move 23 - whereas look how undeveloped white's pieces are, languishing behind that solitary b pawn and with doubled pawns on the g file as compared to black's advanced coupling which is a pawn majority on the Q side and an even more impressive majority on the K. Botvinnik, quite simply, capitulates.

His first mistake was to allow - not just allow but actively encourage! -the rook exchange at move 28 giving him that isolated d pawn - and this was doubly bad to my mind -borderline disastrous in fact- given that his rook pair was surely superior to a singular rook vs. a N and a B - and especially so with two 'sets' of pawns each, on both sides of the board. 31...g5 is baffling as it's a defensive move nobbling his own pawn chain - as i've already said he should've retained both rooks -and then prepared the way to engage white on the K side looking to get himself a runner with both his king (ideally placed - it being both far away from white's pieces and behind a strong advancing pawn chain) and now one, now two, of his rooks in support! 33...h5 was a logical move considering his thinly veiled plan of attack but in practical terms much worse than his decision to lock up the kingside with 31...g5 -an appallingly ill thought out gambit - even allowing for the horrible facts of both 31..g5 and the earlier surrendering of what would've been a powerful rook pair he should've now instead involved his king in the fight, getting it into the centre of the board -that's certainly what i would've done (if i'd by this time atlast recovered control over my mind) b/c how does white make progress if instead of 33..h5 black plays (say) 33..Kf7 - ? (looks pretty equal to this bunny) but as it was black's king is rendered impotent, tied down to white's (now passed!) h pawn -ok so 33..h5 enables black to clear the way for a passed b pawn: Botvinnik's rather lame plan of attack (which, though lame it most assuredly is, nevertheless mitigates my criticism of his play at this stage in the game) - 'lame' b/c his b pawn is on the wrong side of the board and still miles off queening, isn't nearly sufficient compensation for the self-inflicted damage when his king's too distant to lend any support and is forced to remain so b/c he's needlessly, almost suicidally, given white a passed pawn of his own that's more advanced- a Pyrrhic victory if ever there was one! - and only a rook with other duties to perform to provide the escort - woeful considering what Botvinnik had...he turned a silken purse into a sow's ear...and then as we see, notwithstanding Bronstein's clinically accurate play, it just goes from bad to worse so i'll say no more

if that was my game as black vs. a player of similar strength to myself and white had offered me a draw at move 23 i'd've declined without much hesitation, strongly fancying myself to win.

Jun-27-11  SimonWebbsTiger: @JustAnotherPatzer

an entertaining run through of the game. Do you know Bronstein's <200 Open Games> (Batsford 1974)? It's a lovely book.

Cunning Davik wrote the book in precisely the style you use in your post.

This game (pp.174-175) has the title "the Move in the Envelope". Bronstein analysed 41...Rc3 to a draw at the adjournment; Botvinnik sealed the weaker 41...Ra5, of course.

Jun-27-11  I play the Fred: I <love> 200 Open Games.

In my patzer opinion, this book has so much going for it that it offers something for everyone from the world-class GM to the non-chessplayer. A great conversational style with good anecdotes and fine analyses.

It was this book - I read it before the 1953 Candidates book - that made me a Bronstein fan.

Premium Chessgames Member
  perfidious: <Simon>, <Fred>: This book is a fine read.
Jun-30-11  JustAnotherPatzer: @Simon hi Simon and big thanks for that, glad you enjoyed it -no, i;m not familiar with that book, only the Sorcerer's App (the only chess book i am familiar with - quite recently purchased). I'm going thru DBs games at the moment and just began making a short comment on this game but it spiraled into a mini-essay as y'can see - i was a bit fearful some expert /master'd tear it to shreds but re-visiting the page and rereading what i wrote i'm fairly confident i've called it right - but no i promise you i've not used any writer or style as a template -you've piqued my interest however so i'll def. check out a review or two of the book you cite altho i'm still buried in Sorcerer's App (my first chess book) best wishes
Premium Chessgames Member
  DrGridlock: Interesting endgame. In "Sorcerer's Apprentice" Bronstein comments,

(after white's move 29 Be3)
"Now that the black queenside pawns cannot make any progress they are not so strong, but still Black has the initiative. I guess that Botvinnik was very surprised by my accurate defensive moves. I wish I had played this quality of endgame after the adjournments during my match in 1951. Botvinnik repeated for many years that he saved his title only because I was very bad in simple endgames."

(after White's 41 Kd4)
"At this point the game was adjourned. What was Botvinnik's sealed move? There were two considerations: if Black plays Rc3 then it looks like a draw, but after Ra5 White has good chances. Even now, many years later, I am not certain whether Botvinnik was playing for a win or for a draw."

(after Black's 62 ... Ke4)
The black king neglects his task (to prevent the white pawn from making the journey h6-h7-h8). There was no need for him to be so active. After 62 ... Kg6,despite the fact that Black has lost three pawns, it is still not clear how White can win. After Botvinnik's mistake in this simple endgame, White wins in 2 moves with a short but nice combination."

Rybka analysis confirms Bronstein's assertion about options at Botvinnik's sealed move: Ra5 vs Rc3 is the difference between a likely draw and winning chances for White.

click for larger view

Analysis by Rybka 2.2n2 mp 32-bit :

1. = (0.09): 41...Rc3 42.Nc4 Rc2

2. ² (0.56): 41...Ra5 42.h6 Rf5 43.Kc4 Rxf4+ 44.gxf4 g3 45.Kxd3 g2 46.Nf3 b3

3. ± (0.78): 41...Ra2 42.Kc4 Rb2 43.Kxd3 Kg7 44.Kc4 Kh7 45.Ne4 Kg7 46.Nc5 Rb1 47.h6+

4. ± (0.85): 41...Ke6 42.Kc4 Ra5 43.h6 Ra2 44.Kxd3 Kf7 45.Kc4 Rb2 46.Nb3 Rf2 47.Kxb4 Rxf4+ 48.gxf4

Aug-25-14  davide2013: I watched this game really fast, so I'm not expressing wisdom with this comment, just sharing amazement at Bronstein! I do believe this game is magical. Bronstein as White is what every beginner's book describe as a bad position. Pieces undeveloped after 20 moves, and Black has a queenside majority which for Euwe's middlegame books should give him the win. Instead we see that magically the game changes from a win for Black to White winning! This is what I consider a masterpiece! And in my opinion shows how weak was Botvinnik...
Premium Chessgames Member
  Ulhumbrus: In the position after 22...Rad8 consider the following question: why is a rook and pawn stronger than a bishop and knight, when it is? One answer is: when that pawn is a dangerous distant passed pawn which compels the opponent to give up one of his minor pieces for it.

In the present position Botvinnik does not manage to gain a distant dangerous passed pawn so this reason for the strength of the rook does not apply. It is Bronstein who manages to play with a extra king on the queen side.

This suggests that the position after 22...Rad8 is not so good for Black and this suggests in turn that what Bronstein calls <the cold shower in the form of 18...Bh4> preparing what Bronstein calls <the combinative breakthrough> 19...Bf2+ is also not so good for Black.

Premium Chessgames Member
  sansenecoitz: He (Bronstein) demonstrated a definite weakness in the endgame... Botvinnik "half century of chess".
Aug-15-17  ughaibu: Why hasn't anyone played 13...d5?
Aug-15-17  Strelets: <sansenecoitz> Look at their 1951 match and you'll understand why Botvinnik wrote that.
Aug-15-17  sudoplatov: Note that the perpetual problem of Rook vs two Minors is the lack of possibility of piece exchange. Additionally, the two pieces can attack a Pawn simultaneously but only a single piece is available for defense (not that this threat need be carried out). Two Bishops cannot do this but control much more territory. In this case, the Black Pawns are dispersed and thus make it difficult for the Rook to defend.
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