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Mikhail Botvinnik vs Mikhail Tal
Tal - Botvinnik World Championship Rematch (1961), Moscow URS, rd 11, Apr-12
Slav Defense: Exchange Variation. Symmetrical Line (D14)  ·  1-0



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Kibitzer's Corner
Premium Chessgames Member
  Sneaky: Here we see how the dangers of symmetrical play can lure even a World Champion into a bad position.

8...Bb4? was taking the symmetry too far. Botvinnik's recommendation 8...Nd7 remains favored by theory. For a good example of that line, see Valcarcel vs Pomar-Salamanca, 1972

White punishes White's mirror-strategy by playing a move which, due to tactical considerations, cannot be mimicked. After 9.Ne5! you can see quickly that 9...Ne4? is impossible, thus Black must seek alternate methods of addressing the threat. The books say that after 9.Ne5 Black is forced to make at least a small concession, and if that's true we may assume that Black should have broken the symmetry earlier.

Pomar tried to improve upon Tal's play in this line here Botvinnik vs Pomar-Salamanca, 1966 with 12...Rc8 but after 13.c4! Botvinnik put Pomar into a horrible bind.

One attempt to break the symmetry earlier is Eugene Torre's quirky but interesting 6...Bg4, inviting sharp tactical continuations.

Feb-07-03  drukenknight: "The books say that after 9.Ne5 Black is forced to make at least a small concession, and if that's true we may assume that Black should have broken the symmetry earlier.

Why would you make that assumption? Doesnt black always have to make a small concession? In nearly every good line we see the annotator comment, that "it is somewhat cramped but black has done well considering he is black", etc.

The only question is how much of a concession is too much? To say that black has made a small concession is nothing, really. After all you just got done saying that black cannot continue the symmetry forever.

IF what you say (that black must break symm) is true then he must make a concession in all games, since in no game does he continue the symmetry forever.

Feb-07-03  drukenknight: It doesnt seem that Tal is doing to bad w symmetry what about: 19...Nc4? Can that hold a draw?
Premium Chessgames Member
  Sneaky: <The only question is how much of a concession is too much?> True enough. When Black makes a concession, e.g. accepting a doubled pawn, or gambiting a whole pawn, one hopes he receives something in return for his concession. Here he must make a concession simply in respect of White's dominating position without much to look forward to other than putting up a heroic defense in the endgame.

In retrospect I was too mealy mouthed when I wrote "Black must make a small concession." Perhaps more to the point: Black must degrade his position to the point where he seriously risks losing the game. I'm not enough of a theorist to defend that position--but if this game is a good example then it might very well be the case.

<It doesnt seem that Tal is doing to bad> He rarely does "bad" !! I wouldn't be surprised if it can be shown that he missed a draw somewhere in this game, but the point is that White got a very superior position due to Black's over-indulgence in mirror-moves.

<19...Nc4? Can that hold a draw?> I think it's strongly met with 20.e4.

Feb-12-03  drukenknight: on the 20 e4 line I am looking to sack the N for a few pawns. Haven't really studied it, but it may work.

Sneaky I dont think you are being "fair" to black in this case. After all it was black that attempted to break the symmetry with his first two moves.

YOu can't very well blame black if the position became symmetrical later, can you? After all he broke the symmetry initially, shouldn't that satisfy blacks' "burden?"

Jan-29-04  ughaibu: I wonder what a collection of Botvinnik's least interesting games would be like?
Dec-04-05  who: <drukenknight> no one is "blaming" black. It's not as if this is a game of chivalry and black was chivalrous by attempting to break symmetry and white was cowardly by enforcing it. Black has a disadvantage if the symmetry is taken too far (independant on how that symmetry was created) and Botvinnik exploits it.
Dec-04-05  KingG: <no one is "blaming" black. It's not as if this is a game of chivalry and black was chivalrous by attempting to break symmetry and white was cowardly by enforcing it.> Speak for yourself. :-) This is actually the way i feel when people play these kind of lines against me.
Premium Chessgames Member
  keypusher: Tal seems to have reproached himself with cowardice, or at least defeatism, for choosing this defense:

<In the eleventh game came the opposite extreme. It is difficult to explain by anything but demoralisation my decision to play the Slav Defense, for almost the first time in my life, almost imploring my opponent to exchange on d5 and, with a lead of three points, let me off with a draw. Botvinnik fulfilled the first part of this program, but for some reason he considered his lead to be insufficient, and he adopted a continuation for White which he had prepared some 15 years before our game. Black was unable to find the correct rejoinder, and soon after the opening the game transposed into an ending highly favorable for White.>

My Life and Games, p. 172.

Premium Chessgames Member
  offramp: If this match had been the first to 6 wins, like in the WC matches 0f 1927, 1978, 1981 and 1984, this, the 11th game, would have been the last: +6 -2 =3 to Botvinnik.
Jul-16-11  Shams: Andrew Martin comments this game:
Apr-13-12  King Death: < Sneaky: ...One attempt to break the symmetry earlier is Eugene Torre's quirky but interesting 6...Bg4, inviting sharp tactical continuations.>

Here's a game from the man himself and there was plenty of action.

J Schroer vs E Torre, 1985

Mar-30-18  Sally Simpson: Why am I on this page...Oh I remember:

Chess Trivia No. 327.

'Significant Moments in World History that have affected Chess.

This game was played on same day as Yuri Gagarin's first manned flight into space.

Harry Golombek relates in his book on the Fischer-Spassky match (an excellent book BTW) that a later game in the Botvinnik-Tal match started 10 minutes late because he and fellow arbiter Gideon Stahlberg were held up in traffic due to the crowds flocking to see a Gagarin celebration parade in Moscow.

Apparently this was the first time that a World Title Match had ever failed to start on time.

(next lull in the conversation when out with your new girlfriend drop this pearl in her lap. She will find you irresistible.)


Chess Trivia No. 328. (staying with Harry Golombek)

In Reinfeld's 'The Treasury of Chess Lore.' we read:

'Recollections of Alekhine’ by Harry Golombek.'

" I was the editor of the book Alekhine wrote on his return match against Dr Euwe in 1937. He sent me the manuscript by airmail from South America, but an accident happened to the mail and the manuscript eventually reached me with six sheets missing.

The publishers were anxious to send the copy to press as soon as possible so as not to lose the topical value of the book, and Alekhine was on tour in South America with no fixed address.

Had I written to him for the missing annotations it might be anything up to six months before I heard from him.

So I set to, and, imitating his style as best I could, annotated a game and a half myself. Alekhine never discovered what had happened and in fact reproduced my notes as his own in his second collection of games, My Best Games of Chess.

Needless to say, I am quite proud of this assimilation of my work with Alekhine’s and, looking back now, it is clear to me that I learned a great deal when editing the match book in question."


From this I have deduced that Golombek also wrote the infamous Nazis Alekhine articles.

Mar-30-18  Paint My Dragon: <Sally Simpson: Chess Trivia No. 328> Great story Geoff. Thanks for taking the trouble to reproduce it. It's been a long while since I read 'The Treasury Of Chess Lore' and this had completely slipped my mind.

Harry was quite the master at losing manuscripts. He first wrote his book on <Reti> in 1944, while fighting in WW2, only to see it completely destroyed by enemy fire. It would be another 10 years before he finally got round to writing it again from scratch!

Okay, a little out of place here, but mention of Reti has in turn reminded me of a brilliant passage in Tartakower's book, recounted by Harry in his Reti appreciation article of 1982;

"When in 1908 I was asked about the future prospects of my then 17-year-old chess pupil Reti, I replied: 'Reti studies mathematics without being an arid mathematician, represents Vienna without being Viennese, is by birth an old Hungarian without speaking Hungarian, speaks uncommonly fast whilst behaving all the more prudently, and may yet become the world's greatest chess player without being world champion.'"

Mar-30-18  Sally Simpson: Hi Paint My Dragon:

The Reti story I like is about him being very absent minded and was always leaving his briefcase behind.

The tale goes wherever you saw the briefcase you would never find Reti.

Mar-21-20  Inocencio: Passed pawn is COVID 19. Without that a7 pawn, Black will be stubborn to surrender by perpetual check on his rival king.
Apr-18-21  tbontb: A difficult game to analyse. The ending is advantageous for White as his B can participate directly in the attack while the Black B is something of an onlooker. After 20.Nxa7 engines believe White is just winning but can it be so simple when Tal entered this line as his best chance of a draw? Botvinnik makes the most of his edge and 36....Bb3 then 37....Bc4 allowing the a pawn to advance for free is equivalent to resignation. Alternatives like 36....Ba6 or 36....Ra8 are more stubborn, while in the game even 37....Rc1 38.Kc1 Rc8+ 39.Kb2 Bd1 still poses some problems.

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