Kindred’s Special: A Practical Study of Opening Theory (QGD)–Part IV

The molding of the Exchange Variation of the QGD was a good part of the Botvinnik legacy and he employed it when given the opportunity.  During the 1980s especially, players like Korchnoi, Karpov and Kasparov employed it, often adding to the theory and illustrated numerous ideas.  One might say that it was sort of a brainstorming session as it applied to world championship match play as it became more an evolution from individual study to one of team effort where the champions and challengers utilized every modern means available to wrest some advantage right in the opening. Still, chess is such a complex game that well troddened paths met during this period shadow-boxed in twists and turns.  This popular opening variation led to many attempts to find improvements for Black as well as to strengthen the dynamic play for White.  So, I turn to another adventure coming in the Botvinnik vs. Petrosian title match of 1963 inwhich the challenger was able to defeat Botvinnik for the title.  And it was a defeat for Botvinnik, not only in terms of the mechanics of rules previously laid down by FIDE but the evolution of thought to remove ‘the right of the champion to a rematch should he lose the title.’

White:  M. Botvinnik  vs.  Black: T. Petrosian   Opening: Queen’s Gambit Declined, the Exchange Variation, th 1963 World Championship Match Game 18. (Score: 8/9). Thus, Botvinnik needed a win here in this game with the worst prospect of dropping to a two-point deficit should Petrosian with black pull off a win.

1. d4  d5  2. c4  e6  3. Nc3  Be7  4. cxd5  exd5  5. Bf4  c6  6. e3  Bf5  7. g4  Be6  8. h3  Nf6  9. Nf3  Nbd7.  It is recorded that Petrosian spent about a half hour before playing this move deciding apparently to complete development of his forces before launching the standard counterattack in the center when confronted with a wing-demonstration.  Botvinnik refrained from the more aggressive 8. h4 attack, aiming for a more positional solution. As history points out, it was playing to the strength of Petrosian who was noted for his prowess in finding creative operations.  He comes up with a splendid concept of using his Knights most effectively.

10. Bd3  Nb6  11. Qc2  Nc4  12. Kf1.  This plan worked well once before so Botvinnik decides to employ it again but the difference of Black’s setup will soon be seen.  It takes imagination in chess and, for the studious, it provides a wonderful ‘playground for the mind.’

12. … Nd6  13. Nd2?!  I did not like this move when I first viewed it and it doesn’t fit into my idea about utilizing SqCt that suggests 13. Ne5. Of course a GM associate noted to me that he did not feel my theory was all that practical. Ho, hum! But I point here to the fact that White has a space edge and so why not increase it with the Knight finding such a nice outpost as e5. The text seems to be slow and in combination with his short range plan, seems counterproductive by giving Black time.

13. … Qc8.  This type of move is typical Petrosian.  What in the world is he thinking? To me, this was not a prepared plan but a creative idea at the board. I cannot imagine Botvinnik having considered this move by Petrosian.  In careful thought, it seems to me that Petrosian often came up with moves that were purely designed to improve the position of his forces without getting any noticeable weaknesses.

14. Kg2  Nd7  15. f3  g6  16. Rac1.  Hans Kmoch in CHESS REVIEW considered this likely the best as 16. e4 dxe4  17. fxe4  Nb6 with good play against the center.

16. … Nb6  17. b3.  Here again SqCt theory is seen as the Knight is blunted. Botvinnik often played moves like this to hinder infiltration especially by Knights.

17. … Qd7  18. Ne2!  Ndc8!   This whole dance of the two Knights is positional purity at it’s best.

19. a4  a5.  Botvinnik desires to settle affairs on the Q-wing and reduce possible counterplay in that sector as he prepares to launch an ambious plan in the center and kingside.  Petrosian blocks the a-pawn and now has a grip on b4.  Similar considerations in planning are found in many master games providing samples early on in Alekhine and Capablanca game play. Each adds one point to SqCt for each player.

20. Bg3  Bd6  21. Nf4  Ne7.  The dance of the Knights reminds me of shadow-boxing. Petrosian knows that he must try to deploy his pieces to their best defense of the position and pray that the world champion will falter.  Every chess battle contains a critical stage that leads to a critical moment wherein lays the fruits of victory or defeat.

22. Nf1  h5!  As both Q-sides have come to a temporary standstill, Petrosian now explodes on the K-side to neutralize SqCt and restore a space equilibrium so-to-speak.

23. Be2  h4  24. Bh2  g5.  Petrosian expands his space and his previous play (piece placement) now begins to uncover his deep strategic skill.

25. Nd3  Qc7  26. Qd2 Nd7  27. Bg1  Ng6. Mikhail Tal when annotating this game suggested 27. … f5 as also very strong.

  28. Bh2.  The wasted tempi seen in ‘no plan per se’ by White presents Petrosian a sharp assault starting with 28. … f5!  Whether he missed this opportunity or wanted to pursue his mentally planned operation has always been a trait of his personality.  For example, 29. Bxd6  Qxd6 30. Qc3  O-O with good play.

28. …  Ne7.  Petrosian is enticing Botvinnik to launch a central action with e3-e4 which he correctly visualizes as opening the door for his own central operations.

29. Bd1  b6  30. Kg1  f6.  Quietly defending the g-pawn and e5 square.

31. e4.  I am not a powerhouse myself but always wondered if perhaps Botvinnik could have played 31. b4 here with jump moves Bb3 > e4, and if Black captures the Bishop on h2, then recapture with the Rook so it can swing across to the half-open c-file. The Queen could also go to e1 backing up the Bishop on b3 with support of playing e3-e4.  Just a thought.

31. e4  Bxh2+  32. Qxh2.  White’s Rook is hemmed in with no real purpose so why not 32. Rxh2, retaining the Queens on the board; then move the Queen to e1 and swing the Rook to the most appropriate square that fits a short plan operation?

32. … Qxh2+  33. Rxh2  Rd8 34. Kf2?!  Why not 34. Rd2 first to activate the Rook?

34. …Kf7  35. Ke3?  Rhe8  36. Rd2  Kg7  37. Kf2 dxe4  38. fxe4  Nf8 39. Ne1!  Botvinnik correctly sizes up the position and realizes his Knight belongs on g2 to defend f4.

39. … Nfg6.  A good move but Petrosian misses the even stronger 39. … Bf7 > Bg6 > Ne6 jump move plan threat.  It was likely a timepressure situation which can blow your mind just to make a time control.  The chess clock for all it’s historic value have ruined beautifully played games at times.

40. Ng2  Rd7  41. Bc2.  This would have been the sealed move.

41. … Bf7  42. Nfe3? Better was 42. Rcd1 in order to defend the central pawn phalanx.

42. … c5!  43. d5  Ne5 44. Rf1 Bg6  45. Ke1  Nc8  46. Rdf2  Rf7  47. Kd2  Nd6.  Using the Knights in one of the principles of defense against a passed pawn.

48. Nf5+  Bxf5  49. exf5  c4  50. Rb1  b5!  Hitting upon the right idea to win.

51. b4  c3+!  Freeing the c4 square for his Knight.

52. Kxc3  Rc7+  53. Kd2  Nec4+  54. Kd1  Na3  55. Rb2  Nac4 56. Ra2  axb4   57. axb5  Nxb5  58. Ra6  Nc3+  59. Kc1  Nxd5.  Black is a pawn up and the end is near.

60. Ba4 Rec8  61. Ne1  Nf4.  White RESIGNS.  (0-1).

It seems to me that Botvinnik simply got worn in this struggle.  Chances existed for both sides and without doubt some of these moves on both sides are suspect as being second-rate so far as the plans employed go.  What is fascinating is the many Knight maneuvers employed; try counting up just the Knight moves for both sides!

Petrosian led now with 10-8 and took game 19 and then 3 draws to close out the match.

There was a public debate about a right for a rematch clause that was being wiped from the books.  Botvinnik never emerged as a challenger for the title, having won it in a tournament after Alekhine’s death.  He had defended the title successfully; lost it and then regained it against Smyslov and again against Tal. 


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