Mikhail Botvinnik

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Mikhail Botvinnik

Mikhail Moiséyevich Botvínnik (Михаил Моисеевич Ботвинник) (August 17, 1911 – May 5, 1995) was a Soviet chess player, world champion several times between 1948 and 1963.

Mikhail Botvinnik’s Biography

He was born in Kuókkala (present Répino), near Saint Petersburg in the bosom of a Jewish family

In 1923, at the age of twelve, Mikhail Botvinnik learns to play chess taught by a friend from his older brother’s school, using a board and homemade pieces, and instantly fell in love with the game. He finished half board in the school championship, sought advice from another of his brother’s friends, and concluded that it was better for him to think “concrete concepts” and then derive the general principles of these. In 1924, Botvinnik won his school’s championship, and exaggerated his age by three years to become a member of the Petrograd Chess Assembly. Botvinnik won his first two tournaments organized by the Assembly. Shortly thereafter, Nikolai Krylenko, a devout chess player and prominent member of the Soviet legal system who later organized Joseph Stalin’s judicial farces, began building a huge national chess organization and the Assembly was replaced by a club in the Palace of Work in the city.

Botvinnik began to be known by defeating the world champion, José Raúl Capablanca, in an exhibition of simultaneous games held during a rest day of the 1925 Moscow International Tournament. Soon after he reached the final of the Leningrad Championship and, in 1927, he made his brilliant debut in the 5th USSR Championship, sharing fifth place, after which he focused on his engineering studies and did not play tournaments too often, although he progressed rapidly winning a Masters tournament in 1930 and the Leningrad Championship. At age 20, in 1931, he won his first USSR championship by defeating Riumin in the decisive game, after which he decided to rest for a while and dedicate himself to analytical work, one of Botvínnik’s strong points throughout his career. He would win another five USSR championships in 1933, 1939, 1941, 1945 and 1952.

Mikhail Botvinnik in 1927.

At 24 years old, Botvínnik was in the world elite of chess, winning the most important tournaments of the time. He was the winner (along with Salo Flohr) in Moscow in 1935, ahead of Emanuel Lasker and Capablanca. He also won (along with Capablanca) Nottingham 1936 and tied for third place (behind Reuben Fine and Paul Keres) in the prestigious AVRO tournament of 1938, where the 8 strongest players of the moment competed.

After the end of World War II, he held secret talks with Alexander Alekhine for the world title dispute, but his premature death prevented their confrontation.

Botvínnik continued with his successes and in 1948 he won the world title (which had become vacant after the death of Alexander Alekhine) in the tournament in The Hague /Moscow. He successfully defended his title in 1951 and 1954 against David Bronstein and Vasili Smyslov after tying both matches 12-12. He lost to Smyslov in 1957 for 12.5-10.5, but in the rematch match in 1958 he won by 12.5-11.5. Before Mikhail Tal the story was repeated: it fell in 1960 (12.5-8.5) only to recover in 1961 (13-8). He fell again in 1963, this time against Tigrán Petrosián, but this was the end of his reign, given that FIDE had abolished the right to a rematch match and Botvínnik gave up fighting for the title in the candidate tournament. p>

He was proclaimed six times champion of the USSR and was a member of the Soviet team that won all the chess Olympiads between 1954 and 1964, as well as the European chess championships of 1961 and 1965.

His style was eminently positional and to this he added an amazing dedication and study. All this contributed to his long stay at the highest level. It is surprising that Mikhail Botvinnik is not considered the best player of all time, as his achievements were impressive and his main rivals: Paul Keres, Bronstein, Smyslov, Tal and Petrosian were formidable players.

Since 1970, Mikhail Botvinnik has been retiring from the competitive game, devoting himself to the development of computer chess programs and to cooperate in the development of young players. World champions Anatoli Karpov and Gari Kasparov were two of the many students at his school.


Predecessor:
Alexander Alekhine
Chess World Champion
1948-1957
Successor:
Vasili Smyslov
Predecessor:
Vasili Smyslov
Chess World Champion
1958-1960
Successor:
Mikhail Tal
Predecessor:
Mikhail Tal
Chess World Champion
1961-1963
Successor:
Tigrán Petrosián

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