01 August 2007

Tactics -> Positional Advantage -> Tactics

After three weeks of digressions, I'd like to move on with Smyslov's Sparklers. The last game I looked at -- The Alternative Winawer -- revolved around an opening inaccuracy by Botvinnik. Isn't there anything to say about Smyslov's play?

It turns out that his play in the game is a good example of tactical precision mixed with sound positional judgement. The reasons for the moves are well explained in his notes. Since Kasparov used them almost verbatim, I'll do the same. In the diagrammed position, White played 15.Nd4! (the '!' is Smyslov's). He noted:

Now the Knight is centralized; the threatened 15...Rc4 is met easily by 16.Qe3 Ra4 (16...Nf5 17.Nxf5 Re4 18.Nd6#) 17.Rb1 Rxa3 18.Nb5.

At first I wondered what was so bad about 18...Bxb5 19.Bxb5+ Nc6, but then saw 20.Bxc6+ bxc6 21.Rb8+ Kd7 22.O-O. Black is helpless on the dark squares.

Moscow 1954 (Game 9)
Botvinnik, Mikhail

Smyslov, Vasily
(After 14...Ra8-c8)
[FEN "2r1knr1/pp1bnp2/4p3/q2pP1B1/7P/P1pQ1N2/2P2PP1/R3KB1R w KQ - 0 15"]

After 15...Nf5, Smyslov played 16.Rb1!.

Black does not want to exchange 16.Nxf5 unnecessarily, as then Black's pieces would become more active: 16...exf5 and 17...Ne6. The text move prevents the exchange of the light squared Bishops, which would be to Black's advantage, and forces him to look to the defense of the b-Pawn.


Black embarks upon a variation involving an exchange sacrifice, which though attractive is not completely sound. He ought to content himself with 16...b6 17.g4 Nxd4 18.Qxd4 Qxa3 19.Bd3, when White has the better prospects though Black is not without his.

17.Nxf5 exf5

Not 17...Re4+ 18.Qxe4 Rxg5 (18...dxe4 19.Nd6#) 19.Nd6+

18.Rxb7 Re4+

An inadvertent transposition of moves which loses immediately. Botvinnik had intended to play 18...Rxg5 19.hxg5 Re4+, but even then White should be able to ward off the attack.For example: 20.Be2 Ng6 21.Kf1 [...]

After 19.Qxe4!, the game continued 19...dxe4 20.Rb8+ Bc8 21.Bb5+ Qxb5 22.Rxb5. Black resigned a few moves later. With three '!' moves out of five, this is the sort of play we expect from World Champions.

To play through the complete game see...

Vasily Smyslov vs Mikhail Botvinnik, World Championship Match 1954

...on Chessgames.com.

1 comment:

Wahrheit said...

Your series prompted me to look at some of the games in Smyslov's "Best Games" book (covering up to the 1957 WC Match) and he really was one of the great all-around players, playing a big variety of openings, a great strategist and attacker and a marvelous endgame player. I think his overall accomplishments in chess were at least the equal of Botvinnik's.

Thanks for the look at this great player.