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Monday, April 3, 2017

Botvinnik-Flohr Match 1933

Flohr vs Botvinnik, probably in 1935

The results:
Flohr         1 ½ ½ ½ ½ 1 ½ ½ 0 0 ½ ½ 6.0 
Botvinnik 0 ½ ½ ½ ½ 0 ½ ½ 1 1 ½ ½ 6.0 

     Shortly after the Soviet Championship in 1933 Botvinnik was informed that a match between him and Salo Flohr had been proposed.  This was big news because at the time Flohr was near his peak and according to Chessmetrics was rated only behind Alekhine and Kashdan. 
     Botvinnik needed to get approval for the match and that was going to be iffy. At the time, Flohr was a citizen of Czechoslovakia and for Botvinnik to lose a match to a foreigner would be disastrous. All the strong Moscow players were of the opinion that Botvinnik would lose the match and suggested a tournament instead. 
     Nikolai Krylenko, on the other hand, claimed that Botvinnik and the new generation of players needed to be tested and that he had faith in Botvinnik. Krylenko was able to convince authorities to release Botvinnik from his work as an electrical engineer and he immediately set about preparing. The authorities gave Botvinnik the use of a rest home for scientists. 
     He managed to find about 110 of Flohr's games from which he concluded that Flohr had originally preferred tactics and attacking play, but by about 1932 he was leaning more towards positional play, exchanges and endings, relying mostly on technique. He also came to the conclusion that psychologically Flohr was not very stable. 
     This psychological observation was probably based on the fact that Flohr, who was born in the Austro-Hungarian Empire, had his parents butchered during World War One. And, as a result, Flohr and his brother were orphans who ended up in Czechoslovakia in 1916. Flohr had trouble with school and problems finding a normal profession. At some point he ended up in Prague where the cafes filled with chess players allowed his talent for blitz to enable him to earn a living playing for stakes. 
House of Staunton's replica of set used in the match
     By the mid-1920s he began playing in tournaments with considerable success. At the outbreak of World War Two, fearing for his life at the hands of the Nazis, he and his family made their way to safety in Moscow where he remained for the rest of his life. 
     Botvinnik was satisfied with drawing the match and although it was not the result Krylenko had hoped for, it gave the Soviet players and authorities a lot of confidence with the result that they began meeting foreign competition more frequently. 
     The following game, the first game of the match, was won by Flohr who later stated that it was marred by nervousness on the part of both players and he won because or greater experience and tactical preparedness.

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