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MACA Book Review
Botvinnik – Smyslov, Three World Chess Championship Matches: 1954, 1957, 1958 Botvinnik – Smyslov, Three World Chess Championship Matches: 1954, 1957, 1958
by: Mikhail Botvinnik

Price: $33.95
ISBN: 978-90-5691-271-0
Format: Book 288pp.
Publisher: New In Chess

Reviewed by: Chess Horizons Editor Mark Donlan
Recommendation: Highly Recommended

 Mikhail Botvinnik (1911 – 1995) was world champion 1948-57, 1958-60, and 1961-63.

He first won the world championship in 1948 in a tournament to determine a new world champion following the death of Alexander Alekhine. He finished three points ahead of the field, with Vasily Smyslov placing second. In 1951, he retained his title by drawing his first world championship match against David Bronstein. In 1954 he kept his title by drawing with Vasily Smyslov in Moscow, +7 =10 –7. In 1957, he lost to Smyslov by 9½-12½; however, the rules allowed him a rematch in 1958, which he then won 10½-12½. 

This book, edited and compiled by Botvinnik’s nephew Igor Botvinnik, is the story of his three matches with Smyslov. I. Botvinnik writes, “The majority of games are given with notes by Botvinnik, whilst in other cases ... the commentaries are by Smyslov or other well-known masters.” There are also footnotes provided by the editors at New In Chess as well as from translators Ken Neat and Steve Giddins. In addition, Botvinnik’s own original notebooks are included; these contain analysis of opening variations and “show just how diligently and systematically Botvinnik worked on chess.”

Botvinnik’s analyses and comments reveal his match strategy and his view on the strategic choices of his opponent. In the foreword, Smyslov writes, “we had differing views on certain aspects of chess, we both looked on the game not merely as sporting competition, but also as an art, and tried at the board to create finished works of art.” He further notes, “these matches gave the chess world many moments of great achievement. Of course these were accompanied by some serious mistakes, but these only serve to underline the extreme pressure of such matches.” 

To again quote from Smyslov, “this book will be of interest both to lovers of chess history, and to those who are seeking to improve their own play.” The only possible criticism to this title is, apart from the cover, the absence of historical photos. You owe it to yourself to take advantage of the opportunity to benefit from The Patriarch’s diligence, insight and wisdom.

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