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Vasily Smyslov vs Mikhail Botvinnik
Botvinnik - Smyslov World Championship Match (1954), Moscow URS, rd 1, Mar-16
French Defense: Winawer. Retreat Variation Armenian Line (C18)  ·  0-1



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Premium Chessgames Member
  AgentRgent: DK, I suspect that (the lack of) 50. Rf4 is a result of hindsight. We know that White eventually loses, so we're looking for ways to draw. At the time though, Smyslov may have still been looking for a way to win.
May-27-04  drukenknight: How does 50 Rc4 win?
Premium Chessgames Member
  AgentRgent: I said he was looking to win, I didn't say he found a way. 50. Rc4 looks to me to be the "losing" move as I think 50. Rf4 holds a draw.
May-27-04  drukenknight: No, I understand what you said, let me rephrase my question: What is there about Rc4 that would seem like it might win? I usually dont look for a win unless I have a reason to think the opponent has blundered, in this situation the position being so balanced I dont believe a blunder has been made. Therefore I am not looking for a win I am merely trying to balance out whatever is going on.

I dunno if Smyslov thinks like that, but I think most chess players are looking to draw unless they see something bad has happened. So question becomes:

1 WHy would Smyslov think there is a blunder?

2 How would Rc4 exploit this blunder?

Premium Chessgames Member
  AgentRgent: I don't agree that "most chess players are looking to draw unless they see something bad has happened". I think that actually most players expect to win when they have white (rating aside). I do agree that "most chess players" <should be> "looking to draw unless they see something bad has happened".

As for Smyslov's thinking I also have no idea why 50. Rc4 except that he's content to abandon the 4th rank and the c file is as good as any to use to reposition the rook.

May-27-04  drukenknight: What you "expect to happen" and how you think about the game are two different things.

If you start out the first move of the game w/ the idea that you can force a win, you are wasting your time. You have to assume the game is a draw on the first move, else you would be there forever looking at possibilities.

Agreed? So at least one pt in the game you have to assume the game is draw. Are there other times in the game when you have to assume this? The second move? The third move? WHen do you start calculating Agent?

if you're reasoning is "the c file is as good as any...." there is something wrong w/ that thinking already.

When there is some sort of imbalance in the board, there is usually only one move or maybe two. In this case he knows he's going to be down a pawn there probably should be one proper response, keeping the rook on f file would block the check no other moves do that.

If your reasoning is that there are lots of good files to use, c file, d file, f file and h file, that just cant be right, chess doesnt work like that.

Premium Chessgames Member
  AgentRgent: <You have to assume the game is a draw on the first move> Why does one have to assume that? No one knows for certain that the game is drawn with perfect play. And again, I wasn't referring to what I think, but what I think most players think.. that with the advantage of the first move, white should win. Perhaps most players don't think that and that the vast majority that I've met are simply aberrations.

<if you're reasoning is "the c file is as good as any...." there is something wrong w/ that thinking already> Perhaps I was a bit too general... If white plans to abandon the 4th rank, then Rc4 or Rd4 are equally useful for repositioning the rook (as Black only controls 1 square of each file).

<keeping the rook on f file would block the check no other moves do that> Obviously you and I put the rook on f4 for different reasons. There is no need to block any rook check as the king can simply shuffle between f3/g2. The purpose of the rook on f4 is to prevent the f pawn from advancing and also to prevent the Black king from "crossing the river". With the rook holding a4, and the g pawn holding the rook, and the king holding the g pawn there is little the black rook can do without the Kings aid. All black can hope for is to exchange rooks in favorable circumstances to allow the king to help the pawns win. White, by refusing to trade rooks except on h4, and only when the king can reach f4, maintains a fortress and draws.

May-27-04  Calli: According to the analysis that I have
After 50.Rc4?

50.Rf4 Kxg5 51.Rh4 f6! 52.Kf2 Re4 is still a win for Black

The right move is
50.Rh4! Kxg5 51.Kf2 Re4 52.Kf3! Rg4 53.Rh7! Rxa4 54.Rxf7 reaches a drawn position. A subtle move order gains a tempo and a pawn for white.

May-27-04  drukenknight: oh come's hard to believe it's that simple. it is curious that you have black doing the same thing on his move 51, it's curious for sure. Hmmm...
May-27-04  drukenknight: okay calli what do you get after:

50. Rf4! Kxg5
51. Rh4 f6!
52. Kf2 Re4!
53. Kf3!

May-28-04  Calli: Well, I said it was subtle! Just continue 53...Rg4. Now white has run out of moves. If he moves the rook, then Rxa4 and if moves the K, then Rxh4. That leaves only 54.Rxg4 fxg4 55.Ke4 Kg6! and black has the opposition.

If you compare Rh4 against Rf4, you will see that playing Rh7 while the pawn is on f7 saves the game.

May-28-04  brulla: Beginner question: what did prevent Botvinnik from playing 16...Qxd4?
Premium Chessgames Member
  Benzol: Examine all checks and captures - Purdy
May-28-04  drukenknight: yeah it looks like he is forced to move in this. If he really is messed up by move 50 then we have to go all the way back to move 39 or 43......
May-28-04  Calli: <DK> Don't know what you mean. Who is messed up? Smyslov can draw with 50.Rh4!

Also instead of 43.Rf4?

43.Rc5! Rd5 44.Rxd5 exd5 45.Rf5 Re3 46.Kf2 d4 47.Rf4 forces a draw according to Botvinnik

May-28-04  twitter: <brulla> if 16...Qxd4, than 17. Bb5 wins the queen
May-28-04  drukenknight: Calli: Yes it does look like 50 Rh4 will draw. It's a fascinating sequence and worthy of endgame study. How long did it take you to work that out?
May-28-04  Calli: Not mine, just in my DB. Some Russian analysis, I took form somewhere. There is also some long analysis of 53.Kf2! a4 54.Kg2 Ra1 55.Kf3 a3 56.Kf2 a2 57.Kg2 Kxg5 Apparently this is an important theoretical position. Takes about another 20 moves to win.
Mar-21-08  Knight13: 53. Kh3 is a blunder. Already analyzed by many kibitzers on that move. Me personally likes Kf2 better.
Jul-18-08  AAAAron: This is just simply a great endgame. I still think Smyslov should have traded off the last rook and gone for the pawn endgame, but I'm sure he saw something I couldn't see.
Dec-29-10  keithbc: move 29. what is the purpose if c4?? This achieves nothing as far asI can mae out; surely doubling rooks on b file is much much better - or am I missing something easy?
Apr-08-12  Ulhumbrus: 19 a4? begins a mistaken plan to appropriate prospects of attack on the queen side from Black. It does not succeed and after the queen side pawns are dissolved White is left with a position exposed to attack. Instead of this 19 Rf3 prepares simultaneously to defend the c3 pawn as well as to attack the King side.
Premium Chessgames Member
  plang: 10..Bb8, spending extra time to hold onto the bishop, was a new idea;10..a6 had been played previously. 13 c3 looks like an improvement allowing a recapture on d4 with the c-pawn. 21 Nxa5..b6 22 Nb3..Qxc3 23 Qxc3..Rxc3 24 Nc1..0-0 a5..bxa 26 bxa..Ra8 would have been good for Black as the a-pawn will fall. With 22 Qf2 Smyslov's plan was to try and draw an inferior endgame; the alternative was 22 f5 though White's attacking chances don't look promising. Smyslov could have tried 24 Rfc1 with the idea of c4. 28 a6?! worked out to Black's advantage as the resulting Black pawn on a6 covered the b5 square. 29 c4!? rid White of a weak pawn but activated Black's rooks; 29 Rab1 was suggested as an alternative. Botvinnik thought it would have been stronger just to take the pawn with 34..Nxa4 35 Rfa1..Rbb4 36 Bd1..Nc5 37 Rc3..Rbc4 38 Rxc4..Rxc4 39 Be2..Re4 40 Bxa6..g5.

Instructive endgame - very well played by Botvinnik.

Jan-02-19  MrCarciofo: 50 Rf4? Kxg5
Mar-21-21  tbontb: As played and noted above, 50. Rh4 is probably the last chance to draw, while later 53. Kh3 loses quickly and 53. Kf2 ultimately fares no better. However, earlier in the ending a promising alternative line is 48....Rxg5 49. Rxg5+ Kxg5 50. Rxf7 Re4 51. Rg7+ Kf6 52.Kf3 Rxa4 with a tablebase win.
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