MARK RUBERY CHESS
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)… Nh6 30.Ng4 Nxg4 31.hxg4 (A good exchange for White as the pawn moves towards the centre and the h file is opened)…Nc6 32.Kg2 Be7 33.Bd5 Nd4 (‘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)
34.Bxd4! (Exchanging one of the bishops to obtain a mobile pawn mass-notice that Black’s pawns on the queenside are easily blockaded)…exd4 35.Bc4 (Not 35 Rxd4? c6)…c5 36.b5 Bf6 37.f4 d3 (Giving up the pawn for some play, yet White’s pawn roller cannot be denied for long) 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