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Missed Opportunities

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Difficult problem

(This problem composed by Ed. Lasker  was labelled as very difficult. Perhaps you would like to solve it.)


On some webpages I have tried to find what other people think of  the following game. (Many years ago I got a book with Botvinnik notes to his games, a translation from the Russian original.) To my surprise not many people seemed interested and those I found showing some sort of interest did not know the real story or did not remember it … as Botvinnik left in writing.

W.: M. Botvinnik (1)

B.: B. Larsen (0)

Palma de Mallorca (1967)

In his notes to the game, Botvinnik said the game was published in the whole world. Most people liked the game, also said Botvinnik-, but the ex-World Champion wrote “it was a comedy of errors”. Botvinnik admitted to having foreseen winning lines on six clear occasions (!). We must remember that in those years Larsen had become one of the best players in the world. Let’s first have a look at the moves :

1.c4 , Nf6 /2. Nf3, e6 /3. g3, d5/ 4. Bg2, Be7/ 5. 0-0, 0-0 /6. b3, c5 /7. Bb2, Nc6/ 8. e3, b6/ 9. Nc3, Bb7/ 10. d3, Rc8/ 11. Rc1, Rc7/ 12. Qe2, Rd7/ 13. Rfd1, Re8/ 14. cxd5, Nxd5 / 15. Nxd5, Rxd5/ 16. d4, Qa8/ 17. dxc5, Rxd1/ 19. Ng5, h6 20. Ne4, Bf8/  (Diagram)  21. Rd7 *, f5/ 22. Nd6 **, Bxd6/ 23 ***. Rxd6, Nd4/ 24. Rxd4, Bxg2/ 25. Rd7, Bh3/ 26. f3, Rd8/ 27 ****. Rxg7, Kf8/ 28. Rh7, Qd5/ 29. Kf2, Qd1/ 30 *****. Rh8, Kf7/ 31. Rxd8, Qxd8/ 32. Qc2, Qd5/ 33. Qc7, Ke8/34. Qb8, Kd7/ 35. Qxa7, Kc8/ 36. Qa6, Kc7/ 37. Qc4, Qxc4/ 38. bxc4, Kc6/ 39. Bd4, h5/ 40. a4, Kc7/ 41. c5, bxc5/ 42. Bxc5, Kc6/ 43. Bb4, Kb6/ 44. g4, hxg4/ 45. Kg3, e5 46. e4, fxe4/ 47. fxg4, Black resigned.

The key position will be the following: After Black’s 20. …, Bf8)


From now on, Botvinnik admitted to having missed at least six opportunities to finish off the game in a combinative (tactical) way. These missed opportunities were found by himself, Kotov, ,Gligoric and Flhor. (Remember: no computers involved and I am going only to write what Botvinnik said)

 * Botvinnik said that in the diagrammed position Flohr pointed out that White would have won with 21. Nf6, gf6/ 22.Qg4, Kh7/ 23 Rd7!

**  The second missed opportunity appeared on the 22nd move: instead of 22. Nd6, Kotov pointed out 22. Nf6!! and Botvinnik added  (3rd missed opportunity) that even 22. Qh5 would have led to a winning position after: 22 … Re7/ 23. Rxe7, Nxe7/ 24. Nd6!, Bxg2/ 25. Qf7, Kh7/ 26. Bxg7!!

*** The fourth was pointed out by  Shamkovich  : 23. Rxg7!! (… Kf8/ 24. Rh7)

**** The fifth was noticed by Gligoric who said 27. Qd1! was winning.

***** And the sixth was pointed out by Botvinnik again : 30. Bc3  followed by 31. Rxh6. If 30…, Qh1/ 31. Rh8, Ke7/32 Bb4 and 33. Qd3.  

Botvinnik wondered how many more could  still be found…



Written by QChess

October 11, 2013 at 7:09 am

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