Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Botvinnik-Petrosian Book Review

For readers who have been wondering where I have gone, I have been reading some of the books I bought the last 3 months. And I've just finished reading Botvinnik-Petrosian - The 1963 WCC Match by Mikhail Botvinnik.

I started reading the book 2 months ago and despite it being a somewhat thin book, it was hard because trying to find time to read the annotations and play the game (using a chessboard and its variations) is time-consuming!

If you've ever wanted to know about the old Soviet chess champions, this book is very insightful. It details the going-ons of the clash between 2 heavyweight chess personalities.

Note that this is a patzer's review so hang on to your seats!

Book quality:

This book is printed by New In Chess. The covers have a slight cardboardish glossy feel to it that is typical of many softcover chess books (slightly better than what softcover novels use). Inside, the pages are of pristine white paper and the quality of the paper makes it very easy to move between pages. The binding is glued based but considering how relatively thin this book is, it does the job decent enough in holding the pages together. The font is in Times New Roman using figurine algebraic notation. The font is just a shade bigger (about 1-2 points bigger) than most chess books which makes the annotations stand out very clearly and makes reading a joy. The typeset in combination with the white pages makes reading comfortable.... very comfortable. The book is presented in 2 columns on each page.


The presentation of the book is well thought out. A table of contents was accompanied with a foreword from Karpov, followed by notes from Igor Botvinnik, a simple overview of the match regulations and a match table containing the 22 games fought.

And with that, the game begins in earnest.

This is where things get a little uneven.

The annotations do not have a uniform feel to it. This is of course, no doubt in part due to the different annotators of each game. While we would all like to have all game annotations from Botvinnik or Petrosian, unfortunately, this is just not possible. So the book has to make do with annotations from other notable chess figures.

Annotations are as follows:-
Game 1 - Mikhail Botvinnik
Game 2 - Tigran Petrosian
Game 3 - Alexander Kotov
Game 4 - Mikhail Botvinnik
Game 5 - Tigran Petrosian
Game 6 - Vladimir Akopian
Game 7 - Vladimir Akopian
Game 8 - Mikhail Botvinnik
Game 9 - Vladimir Akopian
Game 10 - Mikhail Botvinnik
Game 11 - Mark Taimanov
Game 12 - Salo Flohr
Game 13 - Mikhail Botvinnik
Game 14 - Mikhail Botvinnik
Game 15 - Garry Kasparov (from My Great Predecessors)
Game 16 - Mikhail Botvinnik
Game 17 - Viktor Kortchnoi
Game 18 - Vladimir Akopian
Game 19 - Vladimir Akopian
Game 20 - Vladimir Bagirov
Game 21 - Vasily Panov
Game 22 - Vasily Panov

It must be noted that by game 20, Petrosian had an overwhelming 3 point lead. At this stage, Botvinnik knew the game was pretty much over. He tried making an effort in game 20 but when that quickly petered to a draw, games 21 and 22 were just signatory moves that only lasted 10 moves. I don't think anyone can really complain about the annotations of the last 2 games! :)

This is followed by what must be the highlight of the book. A valuable 10 page insight given by Petrosian about the match. In it, he explains the circumstances surrounding the match, his preparation, his psychology and state of mind.

Somewhat oddly included after is a symbolic game of Botvinnik's preparation in his game against Mark Taimanov. This is then succeeded by a 2 page excerpt taken from Chess World 1964 by Botvinnik on why he lost the match.

9 games of Botvinnik-Petrosian were then shown, of which only 2 were properly annotated while the others were simply shown with little or no annotation at all (what a pity!). This is followed by training games between Botvinnik and Furman (no annotations) and the book concluded with Botvinnik's final notebook on opening preparation.

I admit that I've not played through these games but I might possibly do so at a future date when time permits.


The unevenness of the annotated games makes one feel a tad disjointed. One moment, we are treated to Botvinnik's pedantic style, the next, Akopian's more modernish annotations (with some very extensive annotations by virtue of the length of some of the variations that run up to 20 ply moves!)

I think this is probably the only criticism I have of the book and indeed, it's very difficult to find fault with the book.


The book is littered with many pictures of the 2 players. This is a nice departure from the Botvinnik-Smyslov book where annotations and more annotations fill the book.

All of the annotations were superb and I find it hard to pick out the best game annotation of the whole book. If I were given a choice, I would nominate Game 5 annotated by Petrosian. What makes Game 5's annotations memorable was that Petrosian himself inserted some very interesting comments between moves (including the match environment).


This book is going to be one of my favourite books for many years to come. The nice thing is that due to its largely fewer pages (when you see the Botvinnnik-Smyslov tome, you would know what I mean), it is an extremely handy and great book to read along to fill in the time.

I would judge this book to be very educational for players who want to improve their game or for readers who simply want to know about the 1963 match.


A solid A+ effort!

I've done 1 book and 2 more to go.... I don't expect to finish reading the next 2 anytime soon. They are Botvinnik-Smyslov and San Luis 2005 *gulp*

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