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Mikhail Botvinnik

Updated on December 1, 2016

Mikhail Moiseyevich Botvinnik (1911-1995) was a Russian chess grand master and world champion. He won the USSR tide seven times, beginning in 1931, and was world chess champion for most of the period from 1948 to 1963. (He lost to Vassili Smyslov of Moscow in 1957 and to Mikhail Tahl of Riga in 1960, but defeated each in return matches the following year.) He lost finally to Tigran Petrosian of Tiflis in 1963 and, afterward, was denied a re­turn match. In protest in 1965, he declined to take further part in the world championships.

Botvinnik was born in St. Petersburg (now Leningrad), Russia, on Aug. 17, 1911. Having won or tied for first in four great international tournaments, he was invited to the world chess championship tournament in 1948, sponsored by the Federation Internationale de fichecs (FIDE) after the death of the world champion Alexander Alekhine. He won the title, playing against some of the world's leading grand masters: Paul Keres and Smyslov (USSR), Samuel Reshevsky (United States), and Max Euwe (Netherlands).

Botvinnik graduated in 1932 from the Lenin­grad Industrial Polytechnic Institute and obtained a doctor of technical science degree in 1952. He emphasized the strategic aspect of chess play. He wrote Championship Chess (Eng. tr., 1951) and One Hundred Selected Games (Eng. tr., 1960).

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