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Af­ter Mikhail Tal had swept all be­fore him at the 1959 Can­di­dates tour­na­ment in Bled, the colour­ful Dutch GM, Jan Don­ner, made the fol­low­ing pre­scient com­ments in his weekly chess col­umn. “With re­gard to his forth­com­ing match with Botvin­nik, the odds are in Tal’s favour. Still, no one is pre­pared to haz­ard a prophecy. One though I will ven­ture to pre­dict: if Tal is to con­queror the world ti­tle, he will not keep it for long. He is too much of a gam­bler. Tal may win the world cham­pi­onship but he won’t be able to de­fend it.”

Tal did in­deed de­feat Botvin­nik to be­come world cham­pion, yet the fol­low­ing year he sur­pris­ingly lost the re­turn match, and never se­ri­ously chal­lenged for the chess throne again. Whilst Tal’s ill health might be a mit­i­gat­ing fac­tor, it was Botvin­nik’s metic­u­lous prepa­ra­tion that was the key to his re­turn to the chess throne. He im­posed a dour po­si­tional strug­gle on his op­po­nent, al­low­ing few op­por­tu­ni­ties for the tac­tics Tal so ex­celled in. The fol­low­ing game played early on in the re­turn match shows this strat­egy to ex­cel­lent ef­fect.

Botvin­nik,M - Tal,M [E51] World Cham­pi­onship 24th Moscow (3) 1961

1.c4 Nf6 2.Nc3 e6 3.d4 Bb4 4.e3 0–0 5.Bd3 d5 6.a3 dxc4 7.Bxc4 Bd6 8.Nf3 Nc6 9.b4 e5 10.Bb2 Bg4 11.d5 Ne7 12.h3 Bd7 13.Ng5 Ng6 14.Ne6

(A pe­tit com­bi­na­tion to ac­quire the two bish­ops)

…fxe6 15.dxe6 Kh8 16.exd7 Qxd7 17.0–0 Qf5 18.Nd5 Ng8 19.Qg4 Qc2 20.Qe2 Qf5 21.Qg4 Qc2 22.Qe2 Qf5 23.e4 Qd7 24.Rad1 Rad8 25.Qg4 Qe8 26.g3 Nh6 27.Qh5 Ng8 28.Qe2 N6e7 29.Ne3 (Botvin­nik has ob­tained the type of game

he was aim­ing for-Tal has few prospects of ac­tive play while White has the po­ten­tial to im­prove his po­si­tion)

(A good ex­change for White as the pawn moves to­wards the cen­tre and the h file is opened)

(‘While some are as loathe to trade a Bishop for a Knight as a Cadil­lac for a Chevro­let, oth­ers are pre­pared to do so with­out hes­i­ta­tion.’ - Larry Evans)

…Nh6 30.Ng4 Nxg4 31.hxg4 Be7 33.Bd5 Nd4 SEE DI­A­GRAM 34.Bxd4! …exd4 35.Bc4 37.f4 d3 …Nc6 32.Kg2

(Ex­chang­ing one of the bish­ops to ob­tain a mo­bile pawn mass-no­tice that Black’s pawns on the queen­side are eas­ily block­aded) (Not 35 Rxd4? c6) (Giv­ing up the pawn for some play, yet White’s pawn roller can­not be de­nied for long)

…c5 36.b5 Bf6 38.Rxd3 Rxd3 39.Bxd3 Bd4 40.e5 g6 41.Rh1 Kg7 42.Qe4 b6 43.Bc4 1–0

The weaker the player the more ter­ri­ble the Knight is to him, but as a player in­creases in strength the value of the Bishop be­comes more ev­i­dent to him, and of course there is, or should be, a cor­re­spond­ing de­crease in his es­ti­ma­tion of the value of the Knight as com­pared to the bishop. - Jose Ca­pablanca

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