Panov-Botvinnik Attack: Move by Move, The

Lorin D’Costa

Reviewer: John Donaldson
Everyman Chess
256 pages

Few opening variations have a more fearsome name than the Panov-Botvinnik Attack in the Caro Kann. Dating back to at least the early 1900s, the sequence 1.e4 c6 2.d4 d5 3.exd5 cxd5 4.c4 was first employed at the top level by Alexander Alekhine (who ironically lost on the black side of the line against Arthur Dake at Pasadena 1932), but it was the Soviet players Vasily Panov (1906-1973) and future World Champion Mikhail Botvinnik that first put it on the map. The latter used it to defeat Rudolf Spielmann in just 12 moves at Moscow 1935.

The Panov-Botvinnik is not well covered in the chess literature despite enjoying a reputation for lively play. This reviewer is only aware of three specialist works devoted exclusively to it – Jacob Aaagard’s book for Everyman in the late 1990s and a two volume series in the mid 2000s by Anatoly Karpov and his longtime second Mikhail Podgaets. The recent publication of The Panov-Botvinnik Attack: Move by Move by English IM Lorin D’Costa will help to fill this gap.

Like most books in the Move by Move series, this work by D’Costa is not so much a theoretical treatise as it is a teaching manual aimed at players from 1800 to 2300. Throughout this book the reader will find plenty of explanatory prose and questions and exercises to engage them. They will also find a marked emphasis on Isolated Queen Pawn positions.

The Panov-Botvinnik naturally produces a lot of IQP structures and D’Costa recommends them whenever appropriate.

A case in point occurs after 1.e4 c6 2.d4 d5 3.exd5 cxd5 4.c4 Nf6 5.Nc3 Nc6. Here the author recommends 6.Bg5, which receives 45 pages of coverage but he also offers 6.cxd5 Nxd5 7.Bc4 as a surprise weapon that avoids a lot of theory. He does not cover the long main lines after 6.Nf3 Bg4 7.cxd5 Nxd5 8.Qb3 Bxf3 9.gxf3 e6 10.Qxb7 Nxd4 11.Bb5 Nxb5 12.Qc6+ Ke7 13.Qxb5 Qd7 which can often lead to technical and rather dry play. All other variations of the Panov-Botvinnik are examined including lines with …g6, …e6 and ……Be7 and …e6 and …Bb4. The latter can transpose into the Nimzo-Indian in some instances and illustrates the transpositional nature of the Panov-Botvinnik.

The important position reached after 1.e4 c6 2.d4 d5 3.exd5 cxd5 4.c4 Nf6 5.Nc3 e6 6.Nf3 Be7 7.cxd5 Nxd5 8.Bd3 0-0 9.0-0 Nc6 10.Re1 not only offers a wide range of moves and plans (10…Nf6, 10…Bf6, 10…Ncb4 and 10…Qd6 to mention but a few tries) but can arise from the traditional Panov-Botvinnik move order, the Sicilian via 2.c3, Scandinavian with 2…Nf6, Symmetrical English, English after 1…c6, Queen’s Gambit Declined – Tarrasch, and the aforementioned Nimzo-Indian. It can even occur in the French! Try 1.e4 e6 2.e5 d5 3.exd6 cxd6 4.d4 Nf6 5.Nf3 Be7 6.c4 d5 7.cxd5 Nxd5 8.Bd3 Nc6 9.0-0 0-0 10.Re1.

This book is not devoted exclusively to the Panov-Botvinnik Attack as it also examines the closely related line 1.e4 c6 2.c4, dubbed “Panov’s little brother” by some sources. This variation can transpose into the Panov-Botvinnik but also has independent value when White holds back d2-d4. One example D’Costa gives is Carlsen – Smeets, Wijk aan Zee 2009, where after 1.c4 c6 2.e4 d5 3.exd5 cxd5 4.cxd5 Nf6 5.Nc3 Nxd5 6.Nf3 Nc6 7.Bb5 (the author mentions it’s better to play this straight away rather than offer Black the option of liberating his problem bishop after 7.Bc4 Nb6 8.Bb3 Bf5! 9.d4 e6 10.0-0 Be7 the advance 11.d5 doesn’t lead to anything) 7…e6 8.0-0 Be7 9.d4 he writes, “Only now does the d-pawn advance, but White has ruled out the lines with an early …Bb4 and has also gained an IQP without losing a tempo by moving the bishop from f1 to d3 and then recapturing on c4.”

The Panov-Botvinnik Attack: Move by Move will be useful for a wide audience of players not limited to those wanting a line to meet the Caro-Kann. Like other Everyman Chess titles it is available in both print and electronic formats.