Botvinnik Move by Move

Cyrus Lakdawala

Reviewer: John Donaldson
Everyman Chess
398 pages

Few World Champions have annotated their games as thoroughly as Mikhail Botvinnik so one might question the need for another book on him, but Cyrus Lakdawala has taken a new approach with his BOTVINNIK MOVE BY MOVE. The San Diego IM, and six-time Southern California Champion, has organized his material thematically (attack, defense, endings, etc.) and more importantly utilizes a question and answer that engages the reader in a way traditional games collections don’t.

Some might find it a minor sacrilege that an International Master dares to not only annotate the games of the great Botvinnik but also questions some of the moves and evaluations of the Patriarch. He even questions some of Kasparov’s notes to Botvinnik’s games as well. Here is what Lakdawala has to say about this in his notes to Benko-Botvinnik, Monte Carlo 1968, as he queries the former World Champions’ 19…h5?!, a move Botvinnik and Kasparov both give an exclamation mark.

“Well, it does appear a bit presumptuous on your writer’s part, but in my defense, there are mitigating factors: Botvinnik didn’t have access to a computer. Kasparov did but he wrote his annotations around 2002/03, using computers much weaker than today’s models. The Houdini and Fritz programs of 2013 are several levels stronger and apparently found a hole in Botvinnik’s move order.

“Believe me, ten years from now if you put this analysis in the top program of 2023, you will unearth a million improvements as well. This is why (I believe, at least) actual analysis in a chess book isn’t all that important (!), since the ‘best’ move or line is in constant flux, due to the increasing strength of chess programs. Only the prose, assessments, opinions, and verbal explanations of the thought process will be of real use in a few years to come.”

Wise words from I.M. Lakdawala.