Saturday, August 8, 2015

Mikhail Botvinnik (1911-95), USSR/Russia

The uncompromising patriarch
The sixth world chess champion - 1948-57,1958-60.1961-3. Born in Kuokkala, Russia. When Alexander Alekhine died in 1946, still holding the world championship title, a tournament of the world's best players was organized to establish the new champion. This 1948 event was dominated by Botvinnik, who thereby became the first in a long line of Soviet world champions. He was also a practising engineer, though chess was always his first priority. Along with his title as 'the patriarch of Soviet chess', Botvinnik could also be called the king of the rematch. Twice he was defeated in world championship matches only to come back a year later and demolish his victor. His ability to deeply investigate and prepare for the characteristics of his specific opponents established a new level of rigour and professionalism in chess. The ability to come back and win those rematches required more than tenacity. Botvinnik was able to objectively analyse his own play and repair the weaknesses his opponents had exploited the first time around.
His uncompromising nature persisted until the end of his life. In 1994 we asked him to honour us with his presence at a tournament of rapid chess in Moscow. Botvinnik, then eighty-three, declined, saying, 'Rapid chess is not serious!' We told him that rapid chess was the new fashion and that everyone was playing in this event, even his old rival Vassily Smyslov. He responded:
'I'm used to thinking with my own brain. Even should a hundred people think otherwise, I do not care!'
Botvinnik left professional chess in 1970 to concentrate on coaching : and the new field of computer chess. The Botvinnik school invited the | top junior chess talents from all over the country two or three times a | year and it went on to produce several generations of champions.In the first output, in the early 60s. was the young Anatoly Karpov. In 1973. one  of its students was the ten-year-old Garry Kasparov. By the time the  young Vladimir Kramnik arrived in 1987 it had become the joint ! Botvinnik-Kasparov school - quite an impressive record of champions.