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Paul Keres vs Mikhail Botvinnik
Moscow (1947), Moscow URS, rd 14, Dec-19
Dutch Defense: Classical. Stonewall Variation (A95)  ·  0-1



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Kibitzer's Corner
May-18-04  Whitehat1963: What's the finish?
Apr-09-05  aw1988: 80...e4 81. Rh5+ Kg4 82. Rc5 Nb2+ 83. Ka3 Nd3 84. Nxd3 exd3 85. Rd5 Kf3
Aug-21-07  SniperOnKN2: dam! Botvinnik is undefeatable in the stonewall.
Aug-21-07  newton296: 80 moves ! man, botvinnik can play the hek out of the dutch stone ! probably took keres 2 days just to recover from than this game.
Aug-21-07  laskereshevsky: the final tournament pairing:

1947 Nov.-Dec. Chigorin Memorial, Moscow

1.Botvinnik 11/15
2.Ragozin 10.5
=3-4.Boleslavsky 10
=3-4.Smyslov 10
5.Kotov 9.5
=6-7.Keres 9
=6-7.Novotelnov 9
8.Pachman 8.5
9.Trifunovic 8
10.Gligoric 7.5
11.Bondarevsky 6.5
12.Kholmov 5.5
13.Kottnauer 5
=14-15.Sokolsky 4
=14-15.Plater 4
16.Zvetkov 2

the round before (the XIII°), BOTVINNIK lost a game against a 23 years old young czech player...

Botvinnik vs Pachman, 1947

at the beginning of the last but one XIV° round
(the above game's one), the first positons pairing was:

1.Botvinnik 9.5
2.Keres 9 <(!)>
=3-6.Ragozin 8.5
=3-6.Boleslavsky 8.5
=3-6.Smyslov 8.5
=3-6.Kotov 8.5
=7-8.Novotelnov 7.5
=7-8.Pachman 7.5
9.Trifunovic 7

Its worth of mention that at the XI° ROUND the pairing was:

1.Botvinnik 9
=2-4.Boleslavsky 7.5
=2-4.Keres 7.5

SO, this basic match arrived at the KERES raising up's peak, and after an ugly BOT's rout.....

But After the XIV° ROUND's games, the pairing was:

1.Botvinnik 10.5
=2-3.Smyslov 9.5
=2-3.Ragozin 9.5
=4-6.Boleslavsky 9
=4-6.Kers 9
=4-6.Kotov 9
=7-8.Novotelnov 8
=7-8.Pachman 8
9.Trifunovic 7.5

And with a easy 13 moves last-round draw
Botvinnik vs P Trifunovic, 1947 BOTVINNIK ensured a solitary first place.

....IMO same BOT's notes about the pre-struggle are very interesting:...

<"My last inconter with KERES was about 7 years before, FLHOR adviced me, as i was black, to play for a draw, and then try to win the last game vs. TRIFUNOVIC by white. i decided otherwise> (!)<. On the eve of the AJA's competition, won this game was an important factor. in this way, My chances in the imminent World Championship-match were improved, as my principal competitor was awarded only like the SEMERINGEN-BADEN's 1937 and AVRO's 1938 great internationals tournaments winner....">

...TREMENDOUS!!!.... What an iron's will!...And what a TOTAL psychological war...

In the follow game against KERES, the first played in the 1948's WC tournament, BOT gave this comment: <"SO, finally we meet in Aja. After the 1948's Moscow game PAUL wasnt calm for shore.>(!)<..I decided for a complicate struggle..."> NO mention that BOTVINNIK won this game too.

Back to the Tchigorin memorial, After a demoralizating white-defeated (17.♖g5??) vs. PACHMAN, im shore the 99% players were planing for a draw against such a competitor like KERES....But BOT not!!... He (by Black) decided for a last-blood fight.... in the modern time i can think only KASPAROV could be considered so brave, not for nothing GAZZA was a MIKHAIL MOISEEVICH's pupile-disciple....

In other hands,We can see the caracterials difference between this two great players, considering the KERES reaction after this defeat... Novotelnov vs Keres, 1947
PAUL's play was very shy, the initiative was always in the NOVOTELNOV's hands...(a good, but not irrestible player...) and the last PAUL blunder (45...♕e8??) is sintomatic.

Thinking back to the (at that time) poor and depressed KERES, its understandable his terrific negative score vs. BOT. in those years....

BTW, To face a so implacable adversary OVER and OFF the board, wasnt so easy...

not only for PAUL PAVLOVIC!

Nov-22-14  Rhialto: A terribly weak game by Keres. This Qd3-f3-d3-d2-f4 and Bf4-g5-d2-f4 makes a terrible impression. It's true that you can't simply condemn a player for moving back and forth; chess is more complicated than that - and it's also true Botvinnik did a little back-and-forth with his knight at the same time. But between moves 12 and 21 White accomplished nothing, while Black improved the position of both bishops and started doubling on the c-file (which ended up being decisive). Furthermore it seems to me that in anticipation of 25...Bb5! White could have played 25.Na2 instead of the routine 25.e3. Black can still maneuver his bishop to c4, but not without trading a pair of rooks which makes the c-file pressure much less dangerous. For instance if Black sets up as in the game, his ...b4 push can be met by capturing and playing Ra1, whereas this would give Black far too much play with 4 rooks on. I think White would draw without too much trouble after 25.Na2. Overall a very limp and capitulatory performance throughout.

I don't know Keres's games very well, but given that this was immediately after the war, and the Soviet authorities probably viewed him as a borderline Nazi collaborator (not for any actual war-related activities, like writing propaganda a la Alekhine, but simply for insouciantly continuing his chess career while the Nazis were in charge of Estonia) I expect it was psychologically very hard for him to play certain games during this period. I doubt there was a particular "requirement" that he lose to Botvinnik but reviewing Keres-Botvinnik games before the war, they are about evenly matched with Botvinnik being slightly better; meanwhile after the 1948 championship tournament (played a year after this, and witnessing an absolutely slaughter of Keres by Botvinnik) their head-to-head record is even (though also scant). But in the immediate aftermath of the war Keres could hardly make a move against Botvinnik.

Premium Chessgames Member
  plang: In the draw Reshevsky-Botvinnik Nottingham 1936 Black had played 8..Qe8; 8..Kh8 was new. 9 cxd!? freed c6 for the queen knight making Black's development a bit easier. As mentioned earlier in this thread 25 Na2 would likely have been good enough for a draw; Kere's 25 e3? was careless allowing Black to exert maximum pressure on the c-file. 27 f3 was awkward looking but White probably didn't like 27 Bf1..Bxf1 28 Rxf1..Ne4 29 Ba2..Rc2. With 33 Na2!? White sacrificed a pawn for activity but passive defense would not have been any better.
Apr-08-21  Caissanist: In Joosep Grents' fine bio of Keres (, he quotes Botvinnik on his preparation for this game:

<For first place in the Chigorin Memorial a draw was probably good enough for me, whereas Keres had to go for a win. This was a handy situation. I had to aim for a prolonged positional closed struggle in which I could slowly hope for slips by my opponent, slips that are inevitable when one has to look for a win when it isn't there. (…)

As a player, Keres had failings which were well-known to me. The first was his slight uncertainty when he had to orientate himself in the opening schemes. He preferred, on the whole, obsolete opening systems. That was why he had a taste for open play. His second failing, a psychological one, was a tendency to fade somewhat at decisive moments in the struggle, while when his mood was spoiled he played below his capabilities. I decided that with the help of this game to rob my main rival in the forthcoming event (the World Championship tournament) of his confidence.>

Apr-08-21  Caissanist: Grents also quotes Spassky with this provocative opinion: <Being a descendant of Western culture, Keres was more a creative than a destructive spirit. It is not inconceivable that his collision with the methods of Botvinnik traumatized him for a long while.>
Premium Chessgames Member
  perfidious: Bit surprising really to see what I would take to be an anti-Soviet statement from Spassky.
Premium Chessgames Member
  HeMateMe: Spassky lived in Paris in the 1980s and eventually was playing for France in the Olympiad. Not sure if he also requested/received dual citizenship.

I don't think Boris Spassky has a lot of respect for the Soviet government of Russia. A Leningrader like Korchnoi, Spassky saw how the clumsy Soviet system led to obscene Russian deaths on the battlefield during WWII. That includes tens of thousands of Leningraders starving to death. I think the Soviets wised up enough to let Spassky live in France without harassment, so that he wouldn't defect as Korchnoi had done.

Apr-09-21  fabelhaft: <Bit surprising really to see what I would take to be an anti-Soviet statement from Spassky>

Spassky has quite often been critical of the Soviet system, some quotes from one single interview:

<I was the first to show how to fight against the Soviet bureaucrats and at the same time to continue professional life. Now everybody knows how to do it, but at that time I was the first, and, naturally, the Soviets could not forgive me>

<As for me, from the very start I took an independent stand and openly declared that I did not want anything from the Soviets>

<Bovinnik did a lot for chess. He won the World Championship, as he had promised, he gave a lot of good advice to chess players, especially mediocre players. But for me he has always remained a Bolshevik. Once I was reading his memoirs about the 1930s and I came across the following sentence: ‘Life was difficult, collective farms had not yet become strong…’. For many years after this I wanted to ask him, ‘Mikhail Moiseyevich, when did collective farms become strong? And how did they become strong?’>

<Keres was the Gulliver among the Lilliputians, he was a real giant. Botvinnik, I believe, was the leader of the Lilliputians>

<In 1965 I was giving a lecture in Novosibirsk and I was asked why Keres had not become World Champion. This is what I answered: ‘Just imagine a young man who is only 24, who is already a strong grandmaster and who loves his Estonia, his small country which within a short period of time changes hands – passing to Stalin, a bit later to Hitler and again to Stalin. What does he feel when all this is happening?’ After the lecture some comsomol leaders asked me why I was so anti-Soviet. ‘Did I tell you a lie?’ I reiterated>

<Fischer made short work of me. Tal was right when he said, ‘There was no Spassky in this match’. I had actually lost before the match. My nervous system was completely broken. The Soviets were bothering me>

Apr-17-21  jerseybob: <fabelhaft> Spassky has quite often been critical of the Soviet system> Great quotes! Even though I rooted for Bobby in '72, my heart went out to Boris.
Premium Chessgames Member
  keypusher: < Caissanist: Grents also quotes Spassky with this provocative opinion: <Being a descendant of Western culture, Keres was more a creative than a destructive spirit. It is not inconceivable that his collision with the methods of Botvinnik traumatized him for a long while.>>

<A descendent of Western culture? Creative, not destructive spirit?> Sounds like maybe Boris had been dipping into Alekhine's wartime articles about the Jews wrecking chess.

The sentiment is ludicrous on its face, much like Alburt complaining about unspecified Soviet methods being unleashed on the "sensitive American grandmaster" Bobby Fischer so he wouldn't play Karpov. As the fine link <cassianist> posted shows, both Keres and Botvinnik thought it was important to overcome their chief rival at the Chigorin Memorial to set the right tone for the upcoming world championship. Botvinnik got what he wanted -- first prize and a win head-to-head -- and Keres didn't.

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