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Mikhail Botvinnik vs David Bronstein
"Zugzwang!" (game of the day Feb-10-2022)
Botvinnik - Bronstein World Championship Match (1951), Moscow URS, rd 23, May-08
King's Indian Defense: Fianchetto Variation. Immediate Fianchetto (E60)  ·  1-0



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Kibitzer's Corner
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Jun-06-14  Candy Man: In their match for the World championship, Botvinnik didn't win a single game during the first 5 hours of play; 4 of his 5 victories were in fact achieved after adjournment. Bronstein, OTOH won 4 games from Botvinnik before the first time control! Forgive me for holding Bronstein to be at least equal to Botvinnik.
Jun-06-14  Petrosianic: Or at least equal to Botvinnik in 1951. But if the result of the match didn't prove that to someone, I can't imagine that counting who won the most games before Move 40 would do the job either.
Premium Chessgames Member
  offramp: We all must have had episodes of hypnosis/self-hypnosis; where you totally believe you have a won position, that your opponent has no chance, that he is an idiot for even continuing - and soon he resigns.

But when you examine the game later you had nothing! You had deluded yourself. Your opponent had picked up on your vibe and thought his position was worse. Soon he had made it really worse and given up.

Something like that might have happened here.

Jun-16-14  ughaibu: Corndog2's post provokes the complimentary question: who were the least great players who should have probably become world champion?
Premium Chessgames Member
  offramp: <ughaibu: Corndog2's post provokes the complimentary question: who were the least great players who should have probably become world champion?>

As much as I like him personally - and he is a very good player - Michael Adams was one move away from being World Champion... I am sorry Michael, it just would not have been right.

Nov-05-14  erniecohen: <offramp> When was Michael Adams one move away from being World Champion?
Premium Chessgames Member
  MissScarlett: He means Kasimdzhanov vs Adams, 2004 where Mickey missed 42...Qe4, winning the game, the FIDE crown and a big money reunification match with Kasparov. Tragedy is too small a word.
Premium Chessgames Member
  keypusher: < The only thing that I am prepared to say about all this <<<controversy>>> is that I was subjected to strong psychological pressure from various origins and it was entirely up to me to yield to that pressure or not...>

What a weasel Bronstein was. Typical of him to make an accusation that cannot be falsified or even denied.

Nov-05-14  TheFocus: <keypusher> <What a weasel Bronstein was. Typical of him to make an accusation that cannot be falsified or even denied.>

I agree. Most of his comments sound like sour grapes.

He was never able to get a second chance now, did he?

I think he played some nice games, but I am not a Bronstein fan.

Apr-20-15  makinavaja: It is interesting and strange too... Nobody, even Botvinnik, mentions the "lesson" that Flohr - by the way, one of his "seconds"- taught him in 1933 to play such endings. The game is Flohr-Botvinnik 1933. You can find it easily here.
Apr-24-17  Toribio3: The power of two bishops in the endgame can not be ignored!
Sep-02-17  andrea volponi: 52...Ne7!=
Premium Chessgames Member
  plang: While 5..c6 seemed logical given that a draw would help Bronstein he was critical afterwards that he did not play something more active more in keeping with his style. 7 Nh3 avoided theory and invited Bronstein to give up the 2 bishops which he did with 7..Bxh3!?. 19..Rc2 20 Nb4..Rxb2? 21 Bxe4..dxe 22 Bc3..Re2 23 Rfc1..Rc8 24 Kf1..Rxc3 25 Kxe2..Rxb2 would have cost Black the exchange. 22..Nf5 looks like an improvement forcing White to play f4 (ur even better a move later 23..Nf5). 26 b3? created weaknesses on the queenside; 26 Bh4 was an alternative.

Bronstein on 33..Rxc1:
"Pointless. After 33..Rc6 White would have had to solve the problem of his b-pawn in a less favorable situation. But I captured on c1 not so as to win a pawn, no, I merely wanted to tie down White's pieces by occupying a3,b4 and a5 with my minor pieces."

He referred to 35..Bxc1? as his worst mistake of the match giving White practical winning chances.

39..f5? further opening the position made little sense. Timman and Muller each considered 52..Nc8?! to be the losing move saying that 52..Ne7 would likely have drawn. Timman pointed out that in the final position had the knight been on a7 rather than e7 that Black would have had no problems.

Although Bronstein had many chances to draw the game he made a number of decisions earlier in the game that gave Botvinnink exactly the type of position he needed with practical chances to win.

Premium Chessgames Member
  kingscrusher: RandomVisitor: You need to use an engine which doesn't have a null move pruning optimisation. Otherwise it is difficult to analyse a lot of endgames or chess problems where the power of zugzwang is a major factor.

The way to win is shown in my PGN analysis:

[Event "Botvinnik - Bronstein World Championship"] [Site "Moscow URS"]
[Date "1951.05.08"]
[Round "23"]
[White "Mikhail Botvinnik"]
[Black "David Bronstein"]
[Result "1-0"]
[ECO "D71"]
[Annotator "Gavriel,Tryfon"]
[PlyCount "129"]
[EventDate "1951.??.??"]

1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 g6 3. g3 c6 (3... Bg7 4. Nf3 O-O 5. Bg2 d6 6. O-O) 4. Bg2 d5 5. cxd5 cxd5 6. Nc3 Bg7 7. Nh3 Bxh3 (7... O-O 8. Nf4 e6 9. h4 Nc6 10. h5 b6 11. Kf1 Re8 12. hxg6 hxg6 13. Kg1 Bb7 14. e3 $11) 8. Bxh3 Nc6 9. Bg2 e6 10. e3 O-O 11. Bd2 Rc8 12. O-O Nd7 13. Ne2 Qb6 14. Bc3 Rfd8 15. Nf4 Nf6 16. Qb3 Ne4 17. Qxb6 axb6 18. Be1 Na5 19. Nd3 Bf8 (19... Rc2 20. f3 Nd6 21. Rf2 $14) 20. f3 Nd6 21. Bf2 Bh6 (21... Rc2 22. Rfc1 Rdc8 23. Rxc2 Rxc2 24. Rc1 Rd2 (24... Rxc1+ 25. Nxc1 $14) 25. Bf1) 22. Rac1 Nac4 23. Rfe1 Na5 24. Kf1 Bg7 25. g4 Nc6 26. b3 Nb5 27. Ke2 Bf8 28. a4 Nc7 (28... Na3 29. f4 b5 30. f5 bxa4 31. bxa4 Ra8 32. fxe6 fxe6 33. Nf4 Kf7 34. e4 $11) 29. Bg3 Na6 30. Bf1 f6 31. Red1 Na5 32. Rxc8 Rxc8 33. Rc1 Rxc1 34. Nxc1 Ba3 35. Kd1 Bxc1 36. Kxc1 Nxb3+ 37. Kc2 Na5 38. Kc3 Kf7 39. e4 f5 (39... Nc6 $11 40. exd5 exd5 41. Bb5 Ke6 42. Bd3 Kd7 43. Bh4 Ke6) 40. gxf5 gxf5 41. Bd3 Kg6 42. Bd6 (42. Bc2 Kh5 43. exd5 exd5 44. Bxf5) 42... Nc6 43. Bb1 Kf6 44. Bg3 fxe4 45. fxe4 h6 46. Bf4 h5 47. exd5 exd5 48. h4 Nab8 49. Bg5+ Kf7 50. Bf5 Na7 51. Bf4 Nbc6 52. Bd3 Nc8 53. Be2 Kg6 54. Bd3+ Kf6 55. Be2 Kg6 56. Bf3 N6e7 57. Bg5 Game ended here Ng8 (57... b5 58. axb5 b6 59. Kd3 Ng8 60. Bxd5 Nf6 61. Bc6 (61. Be4+ ♘ot sure this wins Kf7 62. Bg2 Nd6 63. Bf4 Nxb5 64. Kc4 Na7 65. Bb7 Nd7 66. Bd6 Ke6 67. Bc7 Kf7 68. Bd5+ Ke8 69. Bf3 Nf6 70. d5 Nc8 71. Be5 Ke7 72. Kb5 Kf7) 61... Kf5 62. Kc4 Nd6+ 63. Kb4 Nc8 64. Bf3 Nd6 65. d5 (65. Be3 Nc8 66. Kb3 Nd6 67. Bc6 Ke6 68. Bf4 Nf5 69. Kc4 Ne7 $11) 65... Ke5 (65... Nc8 66. Bxf6 Kxf6 67. Bxh5 Ke5 68. Bg4 Kd6 69. Bxc8) (65... Kg6 66. Bxf6 Kxf6 67. Bxh5) (65... Nde8 66. Be3) 66. Bxf6+ Kxf6 67. Bxh5 Kf5 ( 67... Ke5 68. Bf3 Nf5 69. h5 Kf6 70. Kc3 Ke5 71. Kd3 Kf6 72. Be2 Nd6 73. Kd4 Nf5+ 74. Ke4 Nd6+ 75. Kf4 Nf7) 68. Bf3 Ke5 69. h5 Nf7 70. Kc3 Kf4 71. Be2 Ke5 72. Bf1 Nh6 73. Bg2 Nf7 74. Kd3 Nh6 75. Ke3 Nf7 76. Bh3 Kxd5 77. Kf4 Kc5 78. Be6 Nd8 79. Kf5 Nxe6 80. Kxe6) (57... Kf5 58. Bxh5 Ng8 59. Kb4 Nd6 60. Bf3 Ne4 61. Kb5 Nc3+ 62. Kxb6 Nxa4+ 63. Kxb7 Nc3 64. Kc6 Nf6 65. Bc1 Kg6 66. Be3 $16) 58. Kb4 Nge7 59. Bxe7 Nxe7 60. Kb5 Nf5 61. Bxd5 Nxd4+ 62. Kxb6 Kf6 63. a5 Ke7 64. Bxb7 Ne6 65. a6 1-0

Cheers, K

Premium Chessgames Member
  kingscrusher: Basically, let me try and type out the relevant bit:

58 axb5 b6
59 Kd3 Ng8
60 Bxd5 Nf6
61 Bc6 Kf5
62 Kc4 Nd6+
63 Kb4 Nc8
64 Bf3 Nd6
65 d5!! {BOOM! - this is where you need a "REAL ENGINE" like Houdini, which doesn't do a Null move pruning optimisation). Rybka will be content to keep an advantage and forever more not increasing it here.

65 ... Ke5
66 Bxf6 Kxf6

White is winning clearly from this position.

Cheers, K

Premium Chessgames Member
  kingscrusher: Actually checking with the latest Houdini, on what I showed there, 63.. Ke6 seems stable for black:

3: Mikhail Botvinnik - David Bronstein, Botvinnik - Bronstein World Championship 1951

click for larger view

Analysis by Houdini 6.02 x64-pext:

1. ± (1.34): 64.Bf4 Nf5 65.Kc4 Ne7 66.Bc1 Ned5 67.Bb7 Kd6 68.Bg5 Ke6 69.Bc8+ Kd6 70.Bc1 Ke7 71.Bd2 Kd6 72.Bf5 Ke7 73.Bh3 Kd6 74.Bc8 Ke7 75.Bb7 Ke6 76.Ba8 Ne7 77.Bf4 Ned5 78.Bg5 Kd6 79.Bh6 Ke6 80.Bb7 Kd6 81.Bc8 Ke7 82.Bc1 2. ⩲ (0.62): 64.Kb3 Nf5 65.Bg2 Nxd4+ 66.Kc4 Nf5 67.Bh3 Ng4 68.Bd8 Nd6+ 69.Kb4 Nc8 70.Bc7 Kd5 71.Ka4 Ke6 72.Kb3 Kd7 73.Bh2 Nd6 74.Kb4 Ke6 75.Bg1 Nc8 76.Bg2 Nf6 77.Ka4 Ng4 78.Bd4 Ne5 79.Bf2 Ng4 80.Bg1 Ne5 81.Bh3+ Ng4 82.Kb4 Ke7 83.Bd4 Ke6 84.Bg2 Ne5 85.Bh1 Nd3+ 86.Ka4 Ne5 87.Ba8 Nd7 88.Bf3 Nf6 89.Be2 3. ⩲ (0.62): 64.Bf3 Nf5 65.Bg2 Nxd4 66.Kc4 Nf5 67.Bh3 Ng4 68.Bd8 Nd6+ 69.Kb4 Nc8 70.Bc7 Kd5 71.Ka4 Ke6 72.Kb3 Kd7 73.Bh2 Nd6 74.Kb4 Ke6 75.Bg1 Nc8 76.Bg2 Nf6 77.Ka4 Kf5 78.Bd4 Ke6 79.Bf3 Ng4 80.Bb7 Nd6 81.Bc6 Nc8 82.Kb4 Ne5 83.Bh1 Nd3+ 84.Ka4 Ne5 85.Ba8 White is clearly better

(Gavriel, 26.10.2017)

Maybe it was a kind of fortress draw after all.

May-29-18  Toribio3: Two bishops have devastating effects against two knights during end game; especially in open positions!
Sep-22-18  The Kings Domain: Slow-going but interesting, nice zugzwang at the end.
Nov-05-18  Howard: According to Fishbein in the latest issue of American Chess Magazine, 53...N8e7! would have drawn.

First time I've ever read that !

Feb-10-22  nalinw: An interesting and historic game .... but the pun?
Feb-10-22  newzild: <nalinw> It's not a pun - but it's a very apt title for the game.
Feb-10-22  Brenin: One of the most dramatic and controversial resignations in chess history. It is hard to understand what pressures Bronstein was under, but if I was captaining a team, and one of them resigned in that final position, I would be disappointed, to put it mildly.
Premium Chessgames Member
  Teyss: <nalinw> <newzild> It is indeed a pun because of the exclamation mark, else it would just be a description of the game. Also the "n" of "zugzwang" refers to the 4 n's in the players' names.

OK, I'll be serious for once. The title is actually a reference to Botvinnik's comment about the game, even though with the exclamation mark it refers to the position after 44.Bg3 (at his level it is a zugzwang, at patzer level it's difficult to see). He also mentions the final position is zugzwang but without "!"

His analysis is provided here as well as interesting comments about the fact Bronstein was pressured to lose the WC or not (apparently the latter). Thanks to <Autoreparaturwerkbau> for the link:

Regardless, of all the great players who could have become WC (along with Korchnoi and Keres), Bronstein is arguably the one who came closest.

In the final position I let SF run for an hour and it gives +3.2 at 43 ply. Black's best move is 57...b5 58.axb5 b6 but the B pair dominates the board. For info the 57...Nc6 58.Bxd5 Nd6 line mentioned in above kibitz is given +7.4.

Jul-07-22  cehertan: Not the right opening choice giving Botvinnik the 2 bishops in the ending. In my view it is MB who comes off as whining and arrogant based on his match notes. He underestimated DB and it almost cost him the title. That being said his greatness is undeniable.
Premium Chessgames Member
  GrahamClayton: In <The Greatest Ever chess endgames> (<sic>), by Giddins, Steve, Everyman Chess ©2012, at p. 108, Botvinnik sealed 42.Bd6 as the game was adjourned overnight. His second, Salo Flohr analysed that 42.Bb1! was a better move. Botvinnik allegedly feared a "leak" from his team alerting Bronstein, so he analysed 42.Bd6. It wasn't until play was about to begin the next day that Botvinnik admitted to Flohr that he had sealed 42.Bd6 instead of 42.Bb1.
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