An unexamined life is not worth living.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

An overlooked counter attack from a Botvinnik game

In a classic, but underestimated training game Botvinnik – Ragozin, the following position arose after White’s 28. Re1-e3.

image Black to move. Can Black capture on c3?

The threat is to attack on the ‘h’ file, and in particular – to trap Black’s queen with Re3-h3-h7. In his notes, Botvinnik did not dwell too much on this position, but the capture on ‘c3’ is very thematic throughout this game, so I felt curious to check what happens if Black bravely ignores White’s idea, and carries on with his counter attack! Let me share some analysis.

Yes he can!! Yes he can take on c3. In fact, it would have led to a forced draw, and given that in the game Black went down after 28… Ng8 pretty fast, making a draw against the strongest player in the world was probably a great option (1947 was the only year in the twentieth century without a world chess champion). Play would continue:
29 . Rh3 Rxd4
Black carried out his plan of destroying the White center. Just two moves ago there were two White pawns on c3 and d4, now there are two Black rooks
30. Rh7 Rg4!!

When your opponent attacks your queen, you should hang your rook as well!! This is what you get when you analyse a game with a computer, but in reality this is a very harmonious development of Black’s ideas – he destroyed White's center so that his pieces could get some freedom, and now they have it - big time. White’s queen is guarding the knight, which is guarding the White rook, so if either one of them gets distracted, White’s whole plot falls through. He does have enough resources to get a draw though.
31. Nd7+ Ke8
32. Qxg4  Rc1+ 
(Bad was 32... Qxh7?? 33. Nf6+)
33. Bf1 Qa1!
34. Qe2 Nd5!
Black is down a full rook for only a couple of pawns!!
35. Ne5 Nc3
36. Rh8+ Ke7
now White has to scramble for a draw:
37. Nxg6+! fxg6
38. Rh7+ Kf8
39. Rh8+ Ke7
40. Rh7+
image draw by perpetual check

In the game Botvinnik won with a nice sacrifice, but I think this draw would have been a much more exciting finish to this game. This is probably one of the more interesting discoveries I ever made while analysing a grandmaster game from a book. Perhaps that’s because I had rarely analysed games from printed books with the help of a computer…

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