The 1954 match was remarkable as most of the games were decisive, including an astonishing stretch of eight consecutive games.

Editor’s Note: This is part of a series of articles that we began before the recent World Championship match in New York City. The earlier articles in this series can be found here and here and here and here.

It can seem sometimes that there are too many draws in chess, particularly in recent World Championship matches.

Take for example the match in New York City last month between Magnus Carlsen and Sergey Karjakin in which 10 of the 12 classical games were drawn. The same was true in the 2012 match between Viswanathan Anand and Boris Gelfand. And when Vladimir Kramnik upset Garry Kasparov in 2000 to take the title, 13 of the 15 games were drawn. This is not just a modern phenomenon – in the 1910 match between Emanuel Lasker and Carl Schlecter, eight of the 10 games were draws.

The reason for so many draws are understandable. The stakes are high, making the players risk averse, and their deep opening preparation tends to flatten the games – especially given the standard match strategy of trying to win with White and draw with Black.

All of this makes the 1954 title match between Mikhail Botvinnik and Vassily Smyslov, who were both Soviet citizens, a startling and exciting outlier. Of the 24 games, 14 were decisive, including 12 of the first 16 and a crazy stretch from Games 9 to 16, when all eight games had a winner.

Botvinnik started with a bang, winning Games 1, 2 and 4 to take a three-point lead. Here are the first two games in that stretch:

Smyslov, Vassily vs. Botvinnik, Mikhail
World Championship 20th | Moscow | Round 1 | 16 Mar 1954 | ECO: C18 | 0-1
1. e4 e6 2. d4 d5 3. Nc3 Bb4 4. e5 c5 5. a3 Ba5 6. b4 cxd4 7. Nb5 Bc7 8. f4 Ne7 9. Nf3 Nbc6 10. Bd3 Bb8 11. Nbxd4 a6 12. Be3 Ba7 13. O-O Nxd4 14. Bxd4 Bxd4+ 15. Nxd4 Qb6 16. Kh1 Bd7 17. c3 Rc8 18. Qe1 h6 19. a4 a5 20. Nb3 Qc7 21. Nc5 Bc6 22. Qf2 O-O 23. Nb3 Bd7 24. Qc5 Qxc5 25. Nxc5 Rc7 26. Nxd7 Rxd7 27. bxa5 Ra8 28. a6 bxa6 29. c4 dxc4 30. Bxc4 Rd4 31. Be2 Nd5 32. g3 Nc3 33. Bf3 Rb8 34. Ra3 Nb1 35. Ra2 Nd2 36. Rf2 Nc4 37. h4 g5 38. hxg5 hxg5 39. fxg5 Nxe5 40. Be2 Rb1+ 41. Kg2 a5 42. Rc2 Rb3 43. Rf4 Rd5 44. Re4 Kg7 45. Bh5 Ng6 46. Rg4 Re3 47. Bxg6 Kxg6 48. Rf2 Rf5 49. Rxf5 exf5 50. Rc4?!
50. Rh4! Kxg5 51. Kf2 Re4 52. Kf3! Rg4 53. Rh7 Rxa4 54. Rxf7 Ra3+ 55. Kf2 a4 56. Ra7  )
50... Re4 51. Rc7 Rxa4 52. Ra7?
52. Kf3! Ra1 53. Ra7 a4 54. Kf4! a3 55. Ra6+ f6!? 56. Rxf6+ Kg7 57. Ra6 a2 58. Ra7+ Kf8 59. Ra8+ Ke7 60. Ra7+ Kd6 61. Ra6+ Kc5 62. g6 Rf1+ 63. Kg5 a1=Q 64. Rxa1 Rxa1 65. g7 Ra8 66. Kxf5 Kd4 67. g4 Ke3 68. g5 Kf3 69. g6 Kg3 70. Kf6 Kg4 71. Kf7 Kg5 72. g8=Q Rxg8 73. Kxg8 Kxg6  )
52... Ra3! 53. Kh3
53. Kf2 a4 54. Kg2 Ra1 55. Kh2 a3 56. Kg2 a2 57. Kh2 Kxg5 58. Kg2 f6 59. Ra4 Kh5 60. Kh2 f4 61. gxf4 Kg4 62. Kg2 f5 63. Kh2 Kf3  )
53... f4 54. Kh4 fxg3 55. Ra6+ Kf5 56. Rf6+ Ke4 57. Kh3 Rf3 58. Ra6 Rf5
Botvinnik, Mikhail vs. Smyslov, Vassily
World Championship 20th | Moscow | Round 2 | 18 Mar 1954 | ECO: E45 | 1-0
1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 e6 3. Nc3 Bb4 4. e3 b6 5. Ne2 Ba6 6. a3 Be7 7. Nf4 d5 8. cxd5 Bxf1 9. Kxf1 exd5 10. g4! This is one of Botvinnik's many significant contributions to opening theory, and quite a few of them involved g2-g4.
10... c6 Fittingly, Black's best response may be
10... g5 - at least that's what current theory suggests, trying to out-Botvinnik Botvinnik!  )
11. g5 Nfd7
11... Ne4 is a better choice, though White keeps the advantage after
12. Nxe4 dxe4 13. h4  )
12. h4 Bd6? Trying to break up White's pawns with
12... h6? is a bad idea. After
13. Qh5 White threatens g6 as well as 14.e4 dxe4 15.Ng6. Nor can this be stopped by 13...g6, as White would sac the knight there in an instant.  )
12... O-O looks very dangerous, and White is better here too. But perhaps it's Black's best option, and in at least one reasonably high-level correspondence game Black held on to draw. But instead of the immediate e4 (or 13.f3 followed by 14.e4, as tried in another correspondence game) White can just sit on the position for a while, developing his pieces before deciding on a particular pawn break.
13. Qg4 followed by Bd2, Nce2-g3, Kg2, Rc1 and so on first makes excellent sense and is clearly better for White.  )
13. e4! dxe4
13... O-O!?  )
14. Nxe4 Bxf4?! 15. Bxf4 O-O 16. h5 Re8 17. Nd6 Re6 18. d5 Very natural, but
18. g6! was much better. The basic problem is that Black cannot take twice due to Rh8+ followed by Nf7+ and Nxd8. Black can do better than this, of course, but since he can't safely get rid of a White pawn on g6 his position is completely lost.
18... hxg6 19. hxg6 fxg6 20. Rh8+ Kxh8 21. Nf7+  )
18... Rxd6 19. Bxd6 Qxg5 20. Qf3
20. Rg1! Qf5 21. Qg4 Qxg4 22. Rxg4 cxd5 23. h6! g6 24. Rc1 Na6 25. b4  )
20... Qxd5 21. Qxd5 cxd5 22. Rc1
22. h6  )
22... Na6 23. b4! h6 24. Rh3! Kh7 25. Rd3
25. Re3  )
25. Rhc3  )
25... Nf6 26. b5 Nc5 27. Bxc5 bxc5 28. Rxc5 Rb8 29. a4 Rb7 30. Rdc3 Once White plays Rc7 it's only a matter of time before Black's a-pawn drops and White queens his a- or b-pawn. Black could play ...Ne8, but after 31.Rxd5 there's nothing to play for here, either. A fine game by Botvinnik.

After draws in Games 5 and 6, Smyslov finally got his first win in Game 7. Another draw ensued, and then began the series of eight consecutive victories. Smyslov won three straight (Games 9 to 11), rounding off a run of 4 ½ points out of five games. After starting in a desperate hole he suddenly led 6-5. The following was his victory from Game 9:

Smyslov, Vassily vs. Botvinnik, Mikhail
World Championship 20th | Moscow | Round 9 | 03 Apr 1954 | ECO: C18 | 1-0
1. e4 e6 2. d4 d5 3. Nc3 Bb4 4. e5
4. a3 was more common in this match, but the main move worked great in this game.  )
4... c5 5. a3 Ba5 This is still played every now and then, but
5... Bxc3+ is the main move by a mile.  )
6. b4 cxd4 7. Qg4
7. Nb5 is the principal alternative.  )
7... Ne7?! Overwhelmingly the main move, but it seems that Black is less likely to get enough compensation for his kingside pawns than he does in the Poisoned Pawn Winawer.
7... Kf8 has become popular recently, with very decent results. Play typically continues
8. Nb5 Bb6 9. Nf3 Nc6 10. Bb2 Nge7 11. Nbxd4 h5 , and now one common path is
12. Qf4 Ng6 13. Nxc6 Nxf4 14. Nxd8 Bxd8 15. g3 Ng6 16. h4 Bd7 , which has led to several draws.  )
8. bxa5 dxc3 9. Qxg7 Rg8 10. Qxh7 Nd7
10... Nbc6 11. Nf3 Qc7 12. Bf4 Bd7 is usual now, but after
13. a6 Black's results have been less than stellar after both 13...b6 and 13... 0-0-0.  )
11. Nf3
11. Nh3! may be even stronger, keeping f2-f4 options open to protect the e-pawn.  )
11... Nf8?!
11... Qc7 is Black's best try, and was chosen by Botvinnik himself in a training game three years earlier.
12. Bf4 Nf8 13. Bb5+ Bd7 14. Bxd7+ Qxd7 15. Qd3 Rg4 16. g3 Nfg6 17. Be3 Nc6 18. h3 Rc4 19. O-O Ncxe5 20. Nxe5 Nxe5 21. Qh7 O-O-O 22. Bxa7 Nf3+ 23. Kg2 Nd2 24. Rfe1 d4 25. f3 f5 26. Qxd7+ Kxd7 27. Re5 Ke7 28. Rae1 Rc6 29. Rb5 d3 30. Rc1 Nc4 31. Rxb7+ Kf6 32. cxd3 Rxd3 33. Rb3 Rd2+ 34. Bf2 c2 35. a6 Rxa6 36. Rc3 Nxa3 37. f4 Rd1 38. R1xc2 Nxc2 39. Rxc2 Ra4 40. Rb2 Rc4 41. Be3 Rd3 42. Kf2 Rcc3 43. Re2 Ke7 44. Kf3 Kd6 45. g4 Ke7 46. Re1 Kf7 47. Re2 Rb3 48. Re1 Rdc3 49. Re2 Rc4 50. gxf5 exf5 51. Ra2 Re4 52. Re2 Kg6 53. Re1 Kh5 54. h4 Ra4 55. Rg1 Raa3 56. Re1 Ra2 57. Rh1 Rc2 58. Rg1 Rh2 0-1 (58) Ragozin,V-Botvinnik,M Moscow 1951  )
12. Qd3 Qxa5 13. h4 Black is already in serious trouble, as his counterplay is far too slow to compensate for White's h-pawn.
13... Bd7 14. Bg5 Rc8
14... Nc6 15. g3! Nb4 16. Qd1 Na6 17. Be2 Nc5 18. Qb1! Qc7 19. Qb4  )
15. Nd4 Nf5 16. Rb1
16. Be2  )
16... Rc4? Black's position was already difficult, but now it's simply losing.
16... b6  )
17. Nxf5 exf5 18. Rxb7 Re4+ 19. Qxe4! The prosaic
19. Be2 is good enough, but Smyslov's queen sacrifice is both elegant and efficient.  )
19... dxe4 20. Rb8+ Bc8 21. Bb5+ Qxb5 22. Rxb5 Black has no compensation for the material deficit; in fact he's still in trouble - there isn't even a respite for him.
22... Ne6 23. Bf6 Rxg2 24. h5 Ba6 25. h6

Now it was Botvinnik’s turn to demonstrate his resilience, and he showed his mettle by winning the next two games. Game 12 was especially nice:

Botvinnik, Mikhail vs. Smyslov, Vassily
World Championship 20th | Moscow | Round 12 | 10 Apr 1954 | ECO: D18 | 1-0
1. d4 d5 2. c4 c6 3. Nf3 Nf6 4. Nc3 dxc4 5. a4 Bf5 6. e3 e6 7. Bxc4 Bb4 8. O-O Nbd7 9. Nh4
9. Qe2 is and has been the main move here, when White tries to find an edge in a variation like
9... Bg6 10. e4 O-O 11. Bd3 Bh5 12. e5 Nd5 13. Nxd5 cxd5 14. Qe3 Be7 15. Ng5 Bxg5 16. Qxg5 Qxg5 or
...  17. Bxg5 Nb8  )
9... O-O
9... Bg6  )
9... Bg4  )
10. f3
10. Nxf5  )
10. h3  )
10... Bg6 11. e4 e5 12. Nxg6 hxg6 13. Be3 Qe7
13... Qb6  )
13... exd4 14. Bxd4 Qa5 is a good and straightforward equalizer, intending ...Bc5 and ...Rad8.  )
14. Qe2
14. Ne2  )
14... exd4
14... Rfd8 15. Kh1 exd4 16. Bxd4 Bc5 17. Bxc5 Nxc5 18. Rad1 Rxd1 19. Rxd1 Rd8 20. Rxd8+ Qxd8 21. e5 Nd5 22. Qd2 1/2-1/2 (22) Gelfand,B (2692)-Anand,V (2769) Haifa 2000  )
15. Bxd4 Bc5 16. Bxc5 Qxc5+ 17. Kh1 g5 18. g3 Rad8 19. Ba2 Rfe8 20. Rad1 Nf8
20... a5 21. Rd3 Nf8 22. f4 gxf4 23. gxf4 Rxd3 24. Qxd3 Ne6 25. e5 Ng4 26. Qf3 Nh6 27. Ne4 Qd4 28. Ng5 Nc5 29. Qh5 Re7 30. e6 Nxe6 31. Bxe6 Rxe6 32. Nxe6 Qe4+ 33. Qf3 Qxe6 34. f5 Qe5 35. Rf2 Kh7 36. h3 Qd4 37. Qf4 Qd5+ 38. Kh2 Qc5 39. Kg2 Qd5+ 40. Kg1 Qc5 41. Qe4 Ng8 42. Qh4+ 1/2-1/2 (42) Ugge,A (2541)-Lanc,A (2465) ICCF email 2003  )
21. Rxd8 Rxd8 22. e5 Nd5 23. Nxd5 cxd5 24. Qd2 Ne6 25. f4 gxf4 26. gxf4 It looks as if White should be much better here. Despite Black's passed d-pawn, White's mobile e- and f-pawns seem to pose a grave existential danger to Black's king. We'll see the danger momentarily, but for the moment Black enjoys equality, and can maintain equality in more than one way.
26... Qc6?!
26... Kf8 27. Rc1 Qd4 28. Qxd4 Nxd4 29. Rc7 Ne6 30. Rxb7 Nxf4  )
27. f5 Nc5?! Oddly
27... Nc7! was better, putting the knight on a seemingly useless square.  )
28. Qg5 Rd7?
28... f6 had to be played.
29. Qg2 Nd3 30. e6  )
29. Rg1 Now it's over, if White finds the right 31st move.
29... f6 30. exf6 Ne4 31. f7+! The key move. Black's rook is overloaded, needing to cover g7, but also d8 and d5.
31... Rxf7 32. Qd8+ Kh7 33. Bxd5 Winning a piece and the game.
33... Nf2+ 34. Kg2 Qf6 35. Qxf6 Rxf6 36. Kxf2 Rxf5+ 37. Bf3 Rf4 38. Rg4

Smyslov bounced back, this time winning the best and most famous game of the match (Game 14) to level the score at 7-7.

Botvinnik, Mikhail vs. Smyslov, Vassily
World Championship 20th | Moscow | Round 14 | 15 Apr 1954 | ECO: E68 | 0-1
1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 g6 3. g3 Bg7 4. Bg2 O-O 5. Nc3 d6 6. Nf3 Nbd7 7. O-O e5 8. e4 c6 9. Be3 White generally plays
9. h3 to avoid what happens in the game. Indeed, Botvinnik himself went on to play this in game 24 of the match.  )
9... Ng4 10. Bg5 Qb6
10... f6 was almost automatic at the time. For a while it was supplanted by Smyslov's move, but it may be the more reliable option.  )
11. h3 exd4 12. Na4 Qa6 13. hxg4 b5 14. Nxd4 This was all uncharted territory at the time, and the next time this position arose was 16 years later, in 1970. The current consensus favors
14. Be7 , and after
14... Re8 15. Bxd6 bxa4 16. e5 c5 17. b4! cxb4 18. Rb1!  )
14... bxa4 15. Nxc6 Qxc6 16. e5 Qxc4 17. Bxa8 Nxe5 The series of forcing moves has come to an end, but without resolving the position. White is up the exchange for a pawn and threatens the d-pawn, while Black is attacking g4 and his bishops look extremely strong.
18. Rc1 Perhaps the prettiest line is the following:
18. Qxd6 Bxg4 19. Bd5 Nf3+ 20. Kg2 Qc8 21. Bxf3 Bxf3+ 22. Kxf3 Qb7+ 23. Kg4 Qc8+ 24. Kh4 h6 25. Bxh6 Bxh6 26. f4 Rd8 27. Rac1 g5+!! 28. fxg5 Bxg5+ 29. Kxg5 Qxc1+ 30. Rxc1 Rxd6  )
18. Bg2 Nd3 19. b3 Qxg4 20. Bh6! Nxf2! 21. Qxg4 Nxg4 22. Bxg7 Kxg7 23. bxa4 Bf5 24. Rac1 Rb8 25. Rc7 a6 26. Bb7 Re8 27. Rc3 Re2  )
18. Bf4 Nd3 19. b3 Qc3 20. Qf3 Nxf4 21. Qxf4 Ba6 22. Rac1 Qb2 23. Rfe1 Rxa8 24. Rc7 Rf8 25. Re8! Qa1+ 26. Kg2 f5 27. Rxf8+ Bxf8 28. gxf5 Bf1+ 29. Kh2 Qf6 30. fxg6 Qxg6 31. Rxa7 axb3 32. axb3 Qh5+ 33. Kg1 Bb5 34. Ra8 Qd1+ 35. Kh2 Qh5+ 36. Kg1  )
18... Qb4
18... Bxg4 19. Rxc4 Bxd1 20. Rf4 Be2 21. Bd5! Bxf1 22. Kxf1 Nd7 23. Rxa4 Nb6 24. Ra5 Nxd5 25. Rxd5 Bxb2 26. Rxd6 Ba3 27. Rd3 Bc5 gives Black an extra pawn, but after
28. Bh6 Ra8 29. Rd7 it's hard to see how he can make anything of it.  )
19. a3 Qxb2 Another fun variation:
19... Qb5 20. Qxd6 Bxg4 21. Bg2 Nf3+ 22. Bxf3 Bxf3 23. Rc5 Qxb2 24. Be7 Qxa3! 25. Rfc1 Bb7 26. Qd1! Re8 27. Qd7 Rxe7 28. Qxe7 Bf8 29. Qxb7 Bxc5 30. Qb8+ Bf8 31. Rc8 Qe7 32. Re8 Qc5 33. Rc8 Qe7  )
20. Qxa4 Not so much a matter of greed as fear: if Black takes on a3 the pawn on a4 becomes very strong.
20. Bg2 was sensible, and  )
20. Be4 was playable too. Retracting the bishop from its exposed location on a8 was a good idea.  )
20... Bb7 21. Rb1? White had to play
21. Bxb7 Qxb7 , and now the best move is
22. Rc3 . After
22... Nf3+ 23. Rxf3 Qxf3 24. Be7 Rc8 25. Bxd6 the game is headed for a safe draw, e.g.
25... Qc6 26. Qxc6 Rxc6 27. Bb4 and the players can call it a day.  )
21... Nf3+ 22. Kh1 Bxa8!! Perhaps Botvinnik expected
22... Nd2+ 23. Bxb7 Nxb1 24. Qxa7 Nxa3 25. Bg2 And perhaps he hoped for  )
22... Nxg5+? 23. Bxb7 Qd4 24. Qxd4 Bxd4 25. f4 , when White has excellent chances to grind out a win with his small but usable material advantage.  )
23. Rxb2 Nxg5+ 24. Kh2?
24. f3 Bxb2 25. Kh2 is more resilient.  )
24... Nf3+ 25. Kh3 Bxb2 26. Qxa7 Material is even from a textbook point of view. When assessing positions where the queen is taking on smaller pieces, they key factor is whether the queen has targets. Here, she does not - only the bishop on b2 is loose, and it won't be in another move or two. Everything else is covered. That generally spells trouble for the queen, and with White's king in a bad way the assessment is very clear: Black is winning. The smaller pieces can gang up on various targets that can't be properly protected by the queen.
26... Be4! 27. a4 Kg7 28. Rd1 Be5 29. Qe7 Rc8 30. a5 Rc2 White has nothing to attack, and in the meantime he's about to be mated.
31. Kg2 Nd4+ 32. Kf1 Bf3 33. Rb1 Nc6 Black not only threatens the queen and the a-pawn, but ...Bd4 as well. Botvinnik had seen enough, and the match was tied once again.

Now it was Botvinnik’s turn, and he concluded the run of eight straight decisive games with a pair of wins. Here is the first of those, from Game 15.

Smyslov, Vassily vs. Botvinnik, Mikhail
World Championship 20th | Moscow | Round 15 | 17 Apr 1954 | ECO: B25 | 0-1
1. e4 c5 2. Nc3 Nc6 3. g3 g6 4. Bg2 Bg7 5. d3 d6 Smyslov enjoyed great success in his career with the Closed Variation against the Sicilian, but in this game everything goes wrong.
6. Nge2
6. Be3 is the most popular choice, while  )
6. f4 and  )
6. Nh3 are also popular.  )
6... e5 Botvinnik was a fan of this pawn structure, and often employed it as White in the English.
7. Nd5 Aiming to rid himself of his superfluous knight and to clear c3 for either the second knight or a pawn.
7... Nge7 8. c3
8. Bg5  )
8. Nec3  )
8... Nxd5 9. exd5 Ne7 10. O-O O-O 11. f4?! The start of White's troubles.
11. a4  )
11. c4  )
11... Bd7 12. h3 Qc7 13. Be3 Rae8 14. Qd2 Nf5 Black could have played this on any of moves 11-13 as well. As we'll soon see, all the weaknesses created by 11.f4 will be exploited by Black.
15. Bf2 h5! 16. Rae1 Qd8 17. Kh2 Bh6 White has problems with e3, g3, the h6-d2 diagonal, and especially f4. All this is the fruit of one mistaken move.
18. h4?! Smyslov doesn't want to allow ...h4, but now there are two new weaknesses: the g4 square and the h4 pawn. The latter will soon drop, and White will be lost.
18... Qf6 19. Be4 exf4 20. Nxf4 Nxh4! White can already resign. From here Black exchanges his way to an easy victory.
21. Be3 Nf5 22. Bxf5 Qxf5 23. Qg2 Threatening Ne6.
23... Qg4 24. Qe2 Qxe2+ 25. Rxe2 Re5 26. Ree1 Rfe8 27. Bf2 h4 28. Rxe5 Rxe5 29. d4 hxg3+ 30. Kxg3 Rg5+ 31. Kh2 Rf5 32. Be3 cxd4 33. cxd4 Kh7 34. Rf2 g5 35. Ne2 Rxf2+ 36. Bxf2 f5 With the bishop pair and (for all practical purposes) two extra pawns, the win is elementary.

Botvinnik now led by two points, and after three further draws Smyslov faced the daunting task of needing to outscore Botvinnik by three points in the last five games to take the title. (As previously mentioned, scoring plus-two to equalize the score would not be enough because Botvinnik would keep his title in case of a tie.) Smyslov made inroads at once, winning Game 20 with Black, and then he won Game 23 with White.

Botvinnik, Mikhail vs. Smyslov, Vassily
World Championship 20th | Moscow | Round 20 | 04 May 1954 | ECO: E61 | 0-1
1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 g6 3. g3 Bg7 4. Bg2 O-O 5. Nc3 d6 6. e3 An uncharacteristically quiet and even unprincipled system by Botvinnik that he switched to in game 16 after his loss in game 14. He repeated it in game 18, but returned to e4 lines at the end of the match.
6... Nbd7 7. Nge2 e5 In game 18, Smyslov played
7... a6 and drew a hard-fought game.
8. b3 Rb8 9. a4 e5 10. Ba3 b6 11. O-O Bb7 12. d5 a5 13. e4 Nc5 14. Qc2 h5 15. Rae1 h4 16. Bc1 Bc8 17. Nb5 Bd7 18. Bg5 h3 19. Bh1 Bxb5 20. cxb5 Qd7 21. Bxf6 Bxf6 22. Nc1 Bg7 23. Nd3 f5 24. Nxc5 dxc5 25. Bf3 Qd6 26. g4 f4 27. g5 Kf7 28. Kh1 Ke7 29. Rg1 Rh8 30. Rd1 Rh4 31. Rd3 Qd7 32. Qe2 Rbh8 33. Bg4 Qd6 34. Qf1 Bf8 35. Rf3 Kd8 36. Qd3 Be7 37. Be6 R8h5 38. Rxh3 Rxh3 39. Bxh3 c4 40. bxc4 Qa3 41. Qxa3 Bxa3 42. Bf5 gxf5 43. g6 Bf8 44. exf5 Bg7 45. f6 Bxf6 46. g7 Bxg7 47. Rxg7 f3 48. Rg4 Rh3 49. Rg3 Rh4 50. Rxf3 Rxc4 51. Ra3 Kd7 52. Kg2 Kd6 53. Kg3 Kxd5 54. h3 Ke6 55. Kf3 Kf5 56. Kg3 Kg5 57. Kf3 Rf4+ 58. Kg3 1/2-1/2 (58) Botvinnik,M-Smyslov, V Moscow 1954  )
8. b3 Re8 9. Ba3 h5 The idea of this move, according to Botvinnik, is to play ...e4 without allowing g4 in reply. This explains White's next move.
9... Rb8 was seen in game 16, which Botvinnik won convincingly.
10. O-O a6 11. dxe5 Nxe5 12. c5 dxc5 13. Bxc5 b6 14. Qxd8 Rxd8 15. Bd4 Re8 16. e4 Bb7 17. f4 Neg4 18. h3 c5 19. Bxf6 Nxf6 20. e5 Bxg2 21. Kxg2 Nd7 22. Rad1 Nf8 23. Rd6 Ne6 24. Ne4 Red8 25. Rfd1 Bf8 26. Rxd8 Rxd8 27. Rxd8 Nxd8 28. Nf6+ Kg7 29. Nd5 b5 30. Nc7 g5 31. Kf3 gxf4 32. gxf4 c4 33. bxc4 bxc4 34. Nxa6 f6 35. Nc7 fxe5 36. fxe5 Kg6 37. Ke4 Kg5 38. a4 Kh4 39. a5 Nc6 40. a6 Kxh3 41. Nb5 c3 42. Nbxc3 Kg4 43. Nd4 Na7 44. Nd5 h5 45. Nf6+ 1-0 (45) Botvinnik,M-Smyslov,V Moscow 1954  )
10. h3 a6 11. dxe5 dxe5
11... Nxe5 was played in a similar position in move 16, and is the engine's preference as well. Botvinnik dislikes it, however, because he thinks a well-timed c4-c5 will prove effective against Black's structure.  )
12. e4?! Nh7 Logical, if a little long-winded. Black wants to maneuver the knight to e6 (and d4).
12... c6  )
12... b5  )
13. O-O h4 14. Bc1
14. Qd3  )
14... c6 15. Be3 hxg3 16. fxg3 Qe7! 17. Qd2 b5 18. Rad1 bxc4 19. bxc4 Qb4! White's position is strategically bankrupt, so he must find a way to drum up activity for his poorer pieces (e.g. the Bg2 and the Ne2) and/or some pressure against Black's king.
20. Rc1?! Indirectly protecting the c-pawn, at the cost of making the rook passive.
20. Rf2! Qxc4 21. Bf1 Qb4 22. Rb1 Qe7 23. Na4 looks like the way to go. White's pieces are starting to make sense: the Ne2 will go to c3, the bishop to c4, and White will have opportunities on both flanks.  )
20. Rb1 Qxc4 21. Rfc1 Qe6 22. Na4 (Botvinnik) also makes sense, again striving for activity.  )
20... Bf8! 21. Kh2 Nc5 22. Nb1?! a5 23. Qc2 Be6 24. Rfd1 Reb8 25. Bf1 a4 White's position is almost absurdly passive, and Smyslov increases the pressure over the next few moves.
26. Bd2 Qb6 27. Be3 a3 28. Nec3 Qa5 29. Qf2 Be7 30. Rc2 Nf6 31. Nd2 Rb2! So far Smyslov has played a great game, but in the lead-up to the time control most of his advantage slips away.
32. Rdc1 Rd8
32... Kg7! was a nice move pointed out by Alatortsev, introducing yet another problem for White - ...Rh8. This added strain on White's defensive resources would probably prove fatal.  )
33. Bxc5? Qxc5
33... Bxc5! 34. Qxf6 Rxd2+ 35. Rxd2 Rxd2+ 36. Bg2 Bd4 is completely winning (Botvinnik).  )
34. Qe2 Qb4?
34... Ng4+!! 35. hxg4 Bxg4 36. Qxg4 Qf2+ 37. Kh1 Rxd2 38. Rxd2 Qxd2 39. Ne2 Qh6+! 40. Bh3 Rxa2  )
35. Nb3 Rxc2 36. Rxc2 Ne8?
36... Kg7  )
37. Nb1
37. Nd1  )
37... Nd6
37... Kg7  )
38. N1d2 Nb7 39. h4 Nc5 40. Nxc5 Qxc5 The time control has been made, and Botvinnik sealed his next move.
41. Nb3 The position is no longer winning, but Black is still clearly better thanks to bishop pair and White's assorted dark squared weaknesses.
41... Qd6 42. Rd2
42. Bh3 was White's best bet, swapping off his bad bishop.  )
42... Qb4 43. Rc2 f6
43... Bc8 44. Bh3 Ba6 was another, possibly even stronger, way to avoid the exchange of bishops.  )
44. Bh3 Bf7 45. Bg4 Kg7 46. Kg2 Qd6 47. Rd2 Qb8 48. Rc2 Bb4 49. h5!? Risky.
49... Qd6! 50. hxg6 Bxg6 51. Bh5 Qd3 52. Bxg6 Qxe2+ 53. Rxe2 Kxg6 54. Rf2! White has hit upon a good setup, and it should hold the game.
54... Kf7 55. Rf1 Ke6 56. Rf3 Be7 57. Rf1
57. Rf2  )
57... Bb4 58. Rf3 Ke7 59. Rf1 Kf7 60. Rf3 Kg6 61. Rf2 Rd6 62. Rf5 Bd2 63. Rf3 Bg5 64. c5! Rd7 65. Rc3?! Not yet losing, but a step in the wrong direction.
65. Na5 Rd2+ 66. Rf2 Rb2 67. Kf3 Bh6 68. Nc4 Rb5 69. Nxa3 Rxc5 70. Rc2  )
65... f5 66. Kf3
66. Rc4  )
66... Kf6 67. exf5 Kxf5 68. g4+ Ke6 69. Ke2? A draw was still available:
69. Na5 Rd2 70. Nxc6 Rxa2 71. Nb4 Rh2 72. Rc2!  )
69... e4?!
69... Rh7!  )
70. Rc4? And this, finally, did lose.
70. Rh3  )
70... Ke5 71. Ra4 Rh7! 72. Rxa3
72. Kf1 Rh1+ 73. Kg2 Rd1 74. Rxa3 e3 75. Ra8 Rd2+! 76. Kh3 Ke4  )
72... Rh2+
72... Rh2+ 73. Kd1 e3 74. Nc1 Rh1+ 75. Kc2 Rxc1+! (Botvinnik) does the trick.  )
Smyslov, Vassily vs. Botvinnik, Mikhail
World Championship 20th | Moscow | Round 23 | 11 May 1954 | ECO: A04 | 1-0
1. e4 e6 2. d3 Avoiding a theoretical dispute in Botvinnik's beloved Winawer Variation (2.d4 d5 3.Nc3 Bb4).
2... c5 3. Nd2 Nc6 4. g3 g6 5. Bg2 Bg7 6. Ngf3 Nge7 7. O-O O-O Botvinnik is deliberately avoiding any sort of commitment with his d-pawn, waiting to see what setup White goes for. If White goes for a kingside buildup with Re1, intending to meet ...d5 with e5, Black will instead of play ...d6. On the other hand, if White plays c3 then Black can safely play ...d5, as the pawn on c3 makes it easier for Black to open lines on the queenside and in the center, making it hard for White to play single-mindedly for a kingside attack.
8. c3
8. Re1 d6  )
8... d6 9. a4 f5?! Not so bad, but at a minimum it's giving White the kind of freewheeling position he wants in a must-win situation.
9... b6 and Botvinnik's favorite  )
9... e5 were more stable and sound ways to handle the position.  )
10. Qb3
10. Re1  )
10. exf5  )
10... d5
10... h6  )
10... f4  )
11. exd5 exd5 12. Re1 If White can play Nf1 (or even Nb1, on the way to a3) Black will have no counterplay, only weaknesses, so his next move is forced.
12... f4 13. Nf1
13. a5!?  )
13. Qa3  )
13. d4  )
13... Bg4! 14. gxf4!
14. Bxf4? Bxf3 15. Bxf3 g5 wins a piece.  )
14... Bxf3 15. Bxf3 Kh8 Sidestepping possible checks on d5 in some variations.
16. Bd2 Preparing Re6, so that ...Qd7 can be answered by Rae1.
16... Bh6 17. Re6 Bxf4 18. Rae1 Bxd2
18... c4! 19. dxc4 dxc4 20. Qd1! Bxd2 21. Nxd2 Nd5 22. Nxc4 Qg5+ 23. Kh1 Nf4 24. Rd6 Nh3 25. Rd2 Qf6 26. Re3 Rae8 27. Rxe8 Rxe8 28. Kg2 Nf4+ 29. Kh1 Nh3  )
19. Nxd2 Nf5?!
19... c4 should still suffice for equality.  )
20. Bg2 Nh4
20... Ng7! 21. Qxb7 Nxe6 22. Rxe6 Na5 23. Qxd5 Qxd5 24. Bxd5 gives White good winning chances thanks to the brilliant bishop on d5.  )
21. Qxd5 Nxg2 22. Qxg2 Qxd3 23. Ne4 Rf5 24. Nd6
24. Qg3  )
24... Rf3?
24... Rf4! would have kept the game going.
25. Nxb7 Raf8! 26. Nxc5 Qf5 and now we see why the rook belongs on f4 - Black threatens ...Rg4. Here White is fortunate to be able to draw.
27. Nd7! Rxf2 28. Nxf8 Rxg2+ 29. Kxg2 Qg4+ 30. Kf2 Qf5+ 31. Kg1 Qg4+ 32. Kf2  )
25. Nxb7 Raf8 26. Nxc5 Qf5 27. Re8! The only move to win - and it's enough.
27... Kg8 28. Rxf8+

The score was tied, and while defeating Botvinnik with Black would not be easy, Smyslov had at least given himself a chance. But Botvinnik was very well prepared, and in the final position Botvinnik had a serious advantage with no real losing chances whatsoever.

Botvinnik, Mikhail vs. Smyslov, Vassily
World Championship 20th | Moscow | Round 24 | 13 May 1954 | ECO: E69 | 1/2-1/2
1. Nf3 Nf6 2. c4 g6 3. Nc3 Bg7 4. d4 d6 5. g3 O-O 6. Bg2 Nbd7 7. O-O c6 8. e4 Returning to the more principled approach he used in game 14.
8... e5 9. h3
9. Be3 was his choice in the aforementioned game, which finished unsuccessfully for him after a complicated tactical struggle.  )
9... a5 A typical idea in such structures, securing c5 for the knight after an eventual ...exd4. This move is far down the list of Black choices, however; more usual (and probably better) are
9... Qb6 and  )
9... Re8 , while  )
9... Qa5 is fairly common as well.  )
10. Be3 exd4
10... a4  )
11. Nxd4 Re8 12. Qc2 Nc5 13. Rad1 Nfd7?!
13... Qe7 is nearly automatic now, though still insufficient for equality.
14. Rfe1 keeps an edge, as Black cannot safely take the e-pawn.
14... Nfxe4? 15. Bxe4 Nxe4 16. Nxe4 Qxe4 17. Bd2 Qxe1+ 18. Bxe1 Bxd4 19. Rxd4 Rxe1+ 20. Kh2 gives White a winning advantage. Black's d-pawn will drop and White will exchange a pair of rooks, leaving Black without any hopes of counterplay.  )
14. Nb3 Playing it safe.
14. b3  )
14... Qe7 15. Nxc5 dxc5?!
15... Nxc5  )
16. f4! Now Black's position is simply bad, and most importantly, without any avenues for counterplay.
16... Nb6 17. b3 a4 18. Qf2! Bf8 19. e5 f5 20. Rd3 axb3 21. axb3 Be6 22. Rfd1 Ra6 Black's position is pretty miserable, and were the game to continue White would enjoy excellent winning chances.
22... Ra6 23. g4! fxg4? 24. Ne4  )

Finishing the match with a short draw may have been slightly anticlimactic, but for Smyslov fighting on would likely have resulted in a loss, while for Botvinnik a draw was as good as a win. The match as a whole reflected well on both players, and the chess world was treated to two further title matches between the two in 1957 and 1958 in what became the greatest World Championship rivalry until the epic five-match war between Anatoly Karpov and Kasparov in the 1980s and 1990.

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Dennis Monokroussos is a FIDE master who has written about chess on his blog “The Chess Mind,” since 2005. He has been teaching chess for almost 20 years and for the last 10 years has been making instructional chess videos, which can be found at ChessLecture.com. Between 1995 and 2006, he taught philosophy, including a four-year stint at the University of Notre Dame.