If I were to conduct an opinion poll of which World Champion was least liked by chess fans, I wouldn't be surprised to discover Botvinnik at the top of the list. His shouldering aside of other title hopefuls to arrange a match with Alekhine, the suspicions surrounding the Soviet treatment of Keres, the stacking of early FIDE title regulations in his favor, the contemptuous manner in which he often dismissed other top players -- all of this reinforces any negative impression one might have of the sixth World Champion.
In spite of this, there is no doubt that he was one of the best chess players ever; he was certainly in the top-10 of all time, maybe in the top-5. He handled all aspects of the game equally well, and I have known several strong players who claim to have attained mastery primarily through a study of his games and his writings. Unlike many other world class players, he left us a substantial body of written work.
Botvinnik has figured in a number of previous posts on this blog, the most notable being the following.
- The Birth of the Modern World Championship
- Notes on the World Championship 'Return Match'
- The Botvinnik - Keres Rivalry
- The World Championship Interregnum
- The Interregnum According to Fine
- Does 'Soviet School' Mean Botvinnik?
- More Botvinnik Appreciations; see also comment and link
- 1st: Botvinnik, 2nd: ???
The dark side of his personality is a recurring theme in those posts. The drawing I've copied, taken from the program of the 1960 Botvinnik - Tal title match, captures it well.