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Mikhail Botvinnik

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Born: August 17, 1911, in Kuokkala, Finland (now Repino, Russia)

Died: May 5, 1995, in Moscow, Russia

Playing Style and Legacy:

Mikhail Botvinnik was the first great player produced by the Soviet chess school. He exhibited a strong all-around game, but was particularly adept at strategy play. While he did not have as strong a tactical eye as most world-class players, his long-term plans often proved unbeatable.

Botvinnik left a lasting influence on chess in several ways. For one, his chess school produced future champions such as Karpov, Kasparov and Kramnik, making him one of the great chess teachers in history. Secondly, he helped develop the professional preparation methods that top players use to the day, including studying specific opponents and preparing physically as well as mentally. Botvinnik was also one of the first players to show an interest in computer chess.

World Championship Matches and Tournaments:

1948: Won World Championship Match-Tournament (14/20 score) to become World Chess Champion

1951: Drew David Bronstein 12-12 (+5 -5 =14) to retain World Chess Championship

1954: Drew Vasily Smyslov 12-12 (+7 -7 =10) to retain World Chess Championship

1957: Lost to Smyslov 12.5-9.5 (+3 -6 =13); Smyslov becomes World Chess Champion

1958: Defeated Smyslov 12.5-10.5 (+7 -5 =11) to regain World Chess Championship

1960: Lost to Mikhail Tal 12.5-8.5 (+2 -6 =13); Tal becomes World Chess Champion

1961: Defeated Tal 13-8 (+10 -5 =6) to regain World Chess Championship

1963: Lost to Tigran Petrosian 12.5-9.5 (+2 -5 =15); Petrosian becomes World Chess Champion

Notable Accomplishments:

  • Winner of six Soviet Chess Championships from 1931 to 1952
  • Shared first in Moscow 1935 tournament with Salo Flohr, each with 13/19 score
  • Shared first at Nottingham 1936 with Jose Raul Capablanca (10/14)
  • Finished first at Groningen 1946 (14.5/19)
  • Played on six gold medal winning Soviet Olympiad teams from 1954-1964
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