Mikhail Botvinnik has been World Champion for 12 years after winning the title convincingly in the 1948 Match Tournament. His defence of the World Title have been less than stellar, draws against Bronstein and Smyslov in 1951 and 1954 respectively; he ceded the crown to Smyslov in 1957, only to come back re-energised in the return match less than a year later.
Botvinnik is rightly regarded as the leading light, or patriarch of the Russian School of Chess. He has faced down many previous World Champions, including beautiful wins against Capablanca, and a scintillating draw against Alekhine.
In his youth Botvinnik's revelled in sharp play and theoretical variations, but since becoming World Champion his style has dried and become more strategic and deeper. He doesn't shy away from a confrontation, but his long term planning and iron-willed temperament make him a superbly formidable opponent.
The challenger, the 23 year-old Mikhail Tal, electrified the chess world with his breathtaking and swashbuckling approach to chess in his quest to challenge Mikhail Botvinnik. He is twice winner of the USSR Championship, and winner of the 1959 Candidates Tournament, brushing aside challenges from Smyslov, Keres and Petrosian.
Tal thrives in tactics, most notably his combinational abilities surface in complicated and razor-sharp positions. Also, he is superb in using the initiative to build up devastating attacks from quiet positions.
Against Botvinnik Tal's combinatorial strength faces a stern test. Are his intuitive sacrifices sound enough to topple the incumbent World Champion?
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