A Really Beautiful Line

I just came across the well-regarded radio match, Denker-Botvinnik, played in1945. It’s really colossal and I only wish my ability as an annotator were up to snuff. One striking feature here is the extent to which Rybka agrees with Botvinnik’s choices. To have scored above eighty percent during a retrospective analysis, in an era when an engine itself could not be consulted, indicated an unusual instance of profundity – even for a world champion. We all know Botvinnik was capable of utilizing a brilliant imagination, but here we see through to the skeleton of his fundamentals.

I need to learn the Botvinnik System to the Anti-Meran Gambit for my preparation as both white and black. If you follow the link you’ll see the gambit begins with Bg5. Looking a bit down the line black will be a pawn better. Further, it’s much clear. The first eleven moves, the territory with which we’re concerned, are really a microcosm of all the known theory. We know what the moves are but neither man nor silicon can tell the true story of what’s happening.

5…h6 is fine but both sides lack winning chances if white gives up bishop for knight. It’s not that this is a bad line, but the Botvinnik system preserves chances for both sides to get the full point. To some extent you are in league with your opponent during the opening; you must guide each other toward positions where each player can prove himself.

Dismissing the callow h6, play proceeds with white challenging the center and black’s newly-minted c-pawn. High-level chess is about the weight of one advantage against another, here the center against a material advantage.

Next, look at how black can tactically justify the immediate b5. It’s mostly a forced sequence, deviations like 8.Bxf6 lead nowhere. Black’s many dark-squared weaknesses are hard to exploit without the corresponding bishop, not to mention the move loses material.

The e5 pawn is used to punish the knight and grant white material superiority.This imbalance also has a price tag attached; black’s light-square bishop, usually with more than a tinge of Howard Hughes to it, promises to be quite powerful after the c5 break. It will oppose white’s bishop which goes (though not in this game) to his long diagonal.

Can you pinpoint where white’s game falls apart? If you can’t, and if you can then there are blogs which will remind one far less of bicycle training wheels, then that probably means you’re at a tabiya worth playing. We have a rich position here, the merits of which are still hotly debated. I recommend playing this position for both sides and putting your imagination and technical still to the ultimate test. I know I will with the Botvinnik Variation to the Anti-Meran Gambit.

I would be remiss if I omitted the transpositional qualities of the opening. Black can steer white into a Cambridge Springs or Orthodox Queen’s Gambit with Nd7 or Be7 (vice dxc5). If you fear these lines as white, having learned them for black I am convinced they are excellent for the second player, then I hope you’ll find the preceding theory useful. You’ll find plenty more of it in the database to which I’ve provided a link. Happy hunting!

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