Please give us some more chess, true chess!

It’s a great time for the newly crowned chess monarch and it may also be coming better times for chess. I say maybe, because something got to change in the way the new crown head and his royalty at the top are acting. To be honest, the new sovereign got the crown with no winners hit at all. We saw three unforced errors by the former champion and a string of dull bloodless draws, then some anemic ones in between for a change…

But what if nothing had to change? What if that’s simply where the game of chess had gotten to? O tempora, o mores! If that’s the case (and there’s too many indications to lead us to think so), then it may be time to play a requiem for our beloved game.

C64 Grandmaster chess, alternative Box cover

Once upon a time in a Chess Kingdom… (Commodore64 Grandmaster chess box cover)

Unless the new ruler does something to reverse the disturbing trend of where chess has been going for some time. The time will soon tell whether the new King is just a product of a boring game chess has turned to, or he is here to revolutionize the game and spark new interest for chess around the world?

He can’t issue any decrees to change the situation, what he needs to do is to show by example how much fun it may be to watch him and his royalty play his Royal game. No, not the kind of games His Majesty played in the crown city of Chennai. Not like that, because, we the subjects to our supreme ruler may start feeling impatient…

To show our new King what his humble Royal subjects want to see to be happy and to listen to and respect him, here is a game of one of his grand predessessors, The Great Grande Grandissimo Master of all Masters, Mikhail Tal.

Your Majesty Magnus, please take advice from one of our most popular and worshiped chess rulers of the past. Please take seriously his words he has immortalized through his majestic moves at the chess board, the words we all, since back then, have been carrying in our hearts and minds.

Mikhail Tal – Mikhail Botvinnik

World Chess Championship match (Game 1), Moscow, 1960

The commentary is by Tal himself. I highlighted words for our HM Magnus conveying what we, his humble subjects feel, is the right attitude toward his game to be more respected (for all of you going over the game, please compare and contrast it with what we have seen in Chennai, see how much electricity produced in the two events, so you can make some conclusions on your own).

1.e4 e6 2.d4 d5 3.Nc3 Bb4 4.e5 c5 5.a3 Bxc3+ 6.bxc3 Qc7 7.Qg4

After 7.Nf3 the play would have been complicated enough, but insufficiently sharp.

7… f5 8.Qg3 Ne7 9.Qxg7

Smyslov avoided complications with 9.Bd2 in the Game 14 of his match with Botvinnik in 1957.

I’m convinced that, if White wants to gain an opening advantage, he should on no account reject this type of double-edged continuation, which is always he most critical and usually the strongest.

9…Rg8 10.Qxh7 cxd4 11.Kd1!?

Tal-Botvinnik 1960a

Twenty years ago, a chess commentator would cringe in horror at such a move. At the very beginning of the game, the white king starts out on a journey! . . . White prefers to mask his development plans for the white knight for the moment, keeping the possibility of either going to e2 or f3, and leaving the f1–a6 diagonal open. Losing the right to castle essentially had no meaning since, first of all, his opponent has not developed his pieces sufficiently and, second of all, black’s own king was uncomfortable on e8 too.

In Gligoric-Petrosian Black played straightforward 11…Nc6 12.Nf3 Nxe5 and after the very strong move 13.Bg5! he ended up in a difficult position (13…Nxf3 fails to 14.Bb5+!)

11…Bd7

A very cunning move, by which Black hopes to exploit the offensive power of the queen, in order to emphasise the vulnerable position of the white king. If White now plays 12.Nf3, then after 12…Ba4 13.Bd3 Qxc3 his position immediately becomes critical. If 12.Ne2 Black can again go with 12…Ba4, with an unpleasant threat 13…d3. The 11…Bd7 pursues two ends, a strategic one to complete development and Q-side castling, and a tactical one, a blow against c2. If White doesn’t want to come under a strong attack, he must play very actively. There is a basis for this as with 7…f5 Black rid himself of his f7-pawn weakening the h5-e8 diagonal, which exposes th eking and deprives any black pieces that end up on this diagonal of support. In addition, the white queen can now return home with gain of tempo.

12.Qh5+ Ng6

If 12…Kd8 to avoid pin, I was intending 13.Bg5 aiming for an attack. With the move played Black launches a ‘trial balloon,’ to see if White will be satisfied with a draw after 13.Qh7  Ne7 14.Qh5+.

13.Ne2

Tal-Botvinnik 1960b

Clearly, such an agreement to a draw would have been a humiliating creative defeat. It would have signified an admission that I was rattled after my opponent’s very first innovation.

With 13.Ne2 White strives to exploit the pin. For the moment, he is threatening 14.Nf4, and if 14…Kf7, then either the quiet 15.Bd3 or the sharper 15.g4. Now it is Black who is to worry about his king.

13…Qxe5 14.cxd4

13…dxc3 14.Nf4 Kf7 15.Bd3 with a number of unpleasant threats (e.g. 15…Nc6  16.Bxf5 exf5 17.e6+ Bxe6 18.Qh7+ Rg7 19.Qxg7+!) could not in any way satisfy Black.

13…Ba4 runs into the following refutation: 14.Nf4 Qxc3 15.Bd3 Qxa1 16.Nxg6 Nc6 17.Nf4+!

13…Nc6 14.cxd4 Rc8 15.Ra2 would lso not have solved Black’s problems.

Botvinnik choses the best continuation, giving up another pawn to break up the white king’s defenses.. Now the play becomes gambit-like.

13…d3! 14.cxd3 Ba4+

Strangely enough, this natural move turns out to be bad. Black takes the opportunity to restore with gain of tempo the connection of his queen with the kingside, but in so doing he drives the white king to e1, where it is considerably more secure.

Things would have been much more difficult for White after the simple 14…Nc6 followed by queenside castling. The white king, whose defenses on the queenside are very shaky, would have had to waste a tempo on moving to the opposite flank via e1. After 14…Nc6 I think that Black would have had very real compensation for the two sacrificed pawns.

15.Ke1

Tal-Botvinnik 1960c

15…Qxe5

It is quite understandable that Black should try to regain at least part of sacrificed material, but with this move he loses a great deal of time. 15…Nc6 would have been more in he spirit of the chosen plan. Here, it is true, this move is less strong, sice White can continue 16.f4 O-O-O 17.Bd2, and then gradually free his kingside pieces. Sooner or later Black would have to sacrifice a knight on e5. The subsequent events are difficult to anticipate, but at any event Black would have held the initiative.

16.Bg5

The main task now facing White is to keep the black king in he center. In this case the loss of the e5-pawn will be to his advantage, since he may be able to create dangerous threats on the open e-file. It is this factor that gives rise to White’s unusual plan, involving the lateral development of the rooks.

16…Nc6 17.d4 Qc7

Ater 17…Qe4 18.Rc1! the black queen in the center of the board would have been restricted. Going into an endgame by 17…Qh8 18.Nf4 also could not satisfied Black.

18.h4!

Not in order to try and realize the extra pawn (although this too plays its part), but with the aim of bringing the king’s rook into play as quickly as possible in anticipation of events coming to a head in the center. Slower continuations allow Black, by playing …Nce7 and preparing queenside castling, to obtain a dynamic position. Now, however there is no time for 18…Nce7, since White simply exchanges on e7 (19.Bxe7 Qxe7) and by contining 20.Qg5 takes the play along very prosaic lines. Therefore, Black is forced to meet the danger by opening lines.

18…e5

Tal-Botvinnik 1960d

19.Rh3

Bringing the reserves into play and at the same time parrying the threat of 19…exd4 20.cxd4 Nxd4.

19…Qf7 20.dxe5 Ncxe5

For the moment 20…Rh8 is not possible in view of 2.e6 Qxe6 22.Re3 Rxh5 23.Rxe6+ Kf7 24.Rxg6!

21.Re3 Kd7

Again 21…Rh8 does not work 22.Rxe5+ Kd7 23.Re7+ Qxe7 24.Qxg6

22.Rb1

Tal-Botvinnik 1960e

22…b6

It is hard to imagine that, with the white queen on h5, the weakening of the a6-square can play some part, but nevertheless this is so.

Things would have been more difficult for White after 22…Bc6. I was intending to sacrifice the exchange, transposing into a not unfavorable ending 23.Nd4 f4 24.Rxe! Nxe5 25.Qxf7+ Nxf7 26.Bxf4 Rae8 27.Kd2, but this would have been the lesser evil for Black. The move 22…b6 has another drawback – by exploiting the bishop’s position at a4, White gains an important tempo for the development of his rook.

23.Nf4

The white pieces uncoil like a compressed spring.

23…Rae8 24.Rb4!

Preparing the following move.

24…Bc6 25.Qd1!

Tal-Botvinnik 1960f

‘The queen has done her duty, she can go.’ Black didn’t in fact play …Rh8. A rather picturesque position has arisen: after lengthy wanderings White’s king and queen have returned to their appointed places, the light-squared bishop has not made a single move, and yet Black’s position is very difficult – White is not only a sound pawn to the good, but also his pieces are extremely active, in particular his rooks, which very effectively control the center. The imposing mass of black pieces in this part of the board turns out in fact to be harmless.

25…Nxf4

Also afer 25…Ng4 26.Re2 or 26.Rxe8 Rxe8+ 27.Be2 Black would be virtually lost.

26.Rxf4 Ng6 27.Rd4 Rxe3+

If 27…f4 then reply 28.Qg4+ is decisive.

28.fxe3

There is no reason to move the bishop from its active post at g5. If necessary, the pawn at e3 wil serve as a shield for he king.

28…Kc7 29.c4

Tal-Botvinnik 1960g

 

This leads by force to gain of material. If 29…Ne7 30.cxd5 Bxd5 (or 30…Nxd5 31.Bc4) 31.Bxe7 Qxe7 32.Qc1+ not giving Black any chances.

29…dxc4 30.Bxc4 Qg7 31.Bxg8

Not at all a bad route for the light-squared bishop, which has only just come into game.

31…Qxg8 32.h5

At last the passer has its say.

Tal-Botvinnik 1960h

Black king resigns 1-0

If you enjoyed this post, make sure you subscribe to my RSS feed!