Round by Round Reports

Looking at each game in this World Chess Championship clash between World Champion Mikhail Botvinnik and Challenger Mikhail Tal.

Game 1: Tuesday 15th March 1960

Tal - Botvinnik, 1-0 (French Winawer)

Botvinnik's adoption of the French Winawer, albeit a risky choice, is an early sign of an unfolding uncompromising struggle. Botvinnik opts for an ultra-sharp line sacrificing two kingside pawns to gain a better share of the centre. Tal plays a provocatively enterprising idea from Euwe, following the Gligoric-Petrosian game from the 1959 Candidates Tournament (Round 21). Botvinnik deviates first with a cunning improvement. But Tal is in his element. In a complicated position with both kings stuck in the centre, Tal intricately combines attack and defence, developing his kingside rook laterally, outplays and inflicts a heavy defeat on the World Champion.

A majestic performance from Tal in his first over-the-board encounter with Botvinnik. An excellent sign that both players are prepared for an almighty battle.

This game is annotated in Tal - Botvinnik 1960, Selected Chess Games of Mikhail Tal, Mikhail Tal - Master of Sacrifice, The Life and Games of Mikhail Tal and Garry Kasparov on My Great Predecessors Part II.

Botvinnik 0 - 1 Tal

Game 2: Thursday 17th March 1960

Botvinnik - Tal, ½-½ (Modern Benoni)

Tal essays the Modern Benoni against Botvinnik's Queen's Pawn, a rarely seen opening at this elite level. Botvinnik opts for the positional pressure of the Knight's tour, and cautiously develops. Tal gains the dark central squares as Botvinnik mounts a queenside siege. Tal makes a slight error on the queenside an allows Botvinnik the upperhand in the opposite-coloured bishop endgame with both pairs of rooks. Botvinnik presses on with his better central control, but allows Tal to open the the kingside lines and free up his pieces. The ensuing activity is sufficient to convince Botvinnik to settle for a draw.

A game not without interest. Although a draw, Botvinnik showed a finer appreciation for the position than Tal, and came off the shade better. Tal had to engineer his way out, using his king to reactivate his pieces.

This game is annotated in Tal - Botvinnik 1960.

Botvinnik ½ - 1½ Tal

Game 3: Saturday 19th March 1960

Tal - Botvinnik, ½-½ (Caro Kann, Two Knights)

Botvinnik avoids a repetition of the tactical debacle of game 1 and opts for a more solid Caro-Kann. He takes over the initiative creating weak pawns across Tal's position. But nearing the first time control he lets his marked advantage slip as Tal gains counterplay against the Black king. Tal forces a perpetual through a piece sacrifice.

Another game controlled by Botvinnik, but Tal escapes through a perpetual.

This game is annotated in Tal - Botvinnik 1960.

Botvinnik 1 - 2 Tal

Game 4: Tuesday 22nd March 1960

Botvinnik - Tal, ½-½ (Nimzo-Indian Sämisch)

Botvinnik takes up the challenge of Tal's Nimzo-Indian with an f3-Samisch. Botvinnik gets a better handle of the centre but misses a good chance to gain a big advantage in the semi-endgame allowing Tal to neutralise Botvinnik's activity. Tal easily holds the resulting rook endgame.

For the third game running Botvinnik makes most of the play, but cannot convert the endgame.

This game is annotated in Tal - Botvinnik 1960.

Botvinnik 1½ - 2½ Tal

Game 5: Thursday 24th March 1960

Tal - Botvinnik, ½-½ (Classical Caro-Kann)

Tal switches to the Classical Caro-Kann as a reaction to being outplayed in Game 2's Two Knights variation of the same opening. Tal tries to seize the opportunity for a kingside attack, taking advantage of his natural space plus. But Botvinnik has the position firmly under control. Botvinnik presses in the knight and rook endgame and has a slight advantage thanks to his more active pieces. The white knight looks on forlornly until Botvinnik opens up the position allowing Tal to bring it back into play. Botvinnik is content to a draw.

Yet another game with Botvinnik firmly in control, but his advantage slips away in the resulting endgame.

This game is annotated in Tal - Botvinnik 1960.

Botvinnik 2 - 3 Tal

Game 6: Saturday 26th March 1960

Botvinnik - Tal, 0-1 (King's Indian Defence: Fianchetto)

Against Botvinnik's old-fashioned fianchetto Tal quickly mobilises his forces on the queenside. Botvinnik has the opening advantage thanks to his extra space, and consolidates it to a solid plus. But he wastes a tempo in securing his kingside. That gives Tal one chance to open lines and co-ordinate his pieces and he seizes it with all his ingenuity. Sacrificing a knight to expose Botvinnik's king to Tal's encroaching army. Tal handles the complications better, and Botvinnik's choice of exchanging queens is a grevious mistake as Tal's pieces take over the board. Tal mops up efficiently into a winning rook and pawns endgame.

For only the second time in the match does Tal stamp his authority on the game, and for the second time reaps the full point.

This game is annotated in Mikhail Tal - Master of Sacrifice, Selected Chess Games of Mikhail Tal, Garry Kasparov on My Great Predecessors Part II, The Life and Games of Mikhail Tal and Tal - Botvinnik 1960.

Botvinnik 2 - 4 Tal

Game 7: Tuesday 29th March 1960

Tal - Botvinnik, 1-0 (Classical Caro-Kann)

Botvinnik varies on move 6, opting for different system of development. The central pawns and queens disappear rapidly out of the opening, and Tal's artificial form of castling helps keep Botvinnik's rooks separated. Botvinnik manages to solve his opening difficulties to equalise the position, but immediately blunders into a combination that nets Tal two pieces for a rook. Tal heads into a winning pawn endgame with two knights against a rook. Botvinnik is forced to give up a rook when Tal forces a pawn through to its queening square.

A second win in a row from Tal leaves him three points up. An incredible start for the young challenger.

This game is annotated in Selected Chess Games of Mikhail Tal and Tal - Botvinnik 1960.

Botvinnik 2 - 5 Tal

Game 8: Thursday 31st March 1960

Botvinnik - Tal, 1-0 (Modern Benoni)

Playing the King's Indian against Botvinnik is a risky venture, but to attempt a Modern Benoni is far more daring, perhaps suicidal. Yet Tal spurns the safe course of action. Evenmoreso, Tal proceeds with a dangerous continuation involving a pawn sacrifice. Finding himself in serious danger Tal lashes out on the kingside as Botvinnik steadily consolidates his advantage. Botvinnik is a too hasty in exchanging queens, which gives Tal some activity as compensation. This is quickly followed by another blunder, but Tal fails to capitalise on it. Tal's casual play allows Botvinnik a clinical and decisive finish.

Tal's risky approach is adeptly but not perfectly handled by Botvinnik, and it takes the World Champion two goes to extract his first win in this match.

This game is annotated in Mikhail Botvinnik: Master of Strategy and Tal - Botvinnik 1960.

Botvinnik 3 - 5 Tal

Game 9: Saturday 2nd April 1960

Tal - Botvinnik, 0-1 (Classical Caro-Kann)

Tal goes in for a sacrificial line against Botvinnik's Caro-Kann to keep the Black king in the centre. A determined and reinvigourated Botvinnik wends his way through the complications with a few missteps, as Tal gains three pawns for the sacrificed piece. Tal manages to generate some activity in the semi-endgame thanks to his passed central pawn, but that allows Botvinnik to consolidate his advantage. Botvinnik lays seige to the pawn and wins it. And Botvinnik retains a solid grip on his winning endgame.

Two wins in a row from the World Champion brings him back to one point in arrears. Botvinnik is in a determined mood indeed.

This game is annotated in Tal - Botvinnik 1960.

Botvinnik 4 - 5 Tal

Copyright © 2009-2010 isolani