1.e4 e5 Botvinnik's favoured reply to the move 1.e4 in the early 1920s according to databases. In the later 1920s he added the French Defence, which he chose often thereafter, and became famous for his superb handling of this opening. However, he also eventually played many other defences to 1.e4 including several types of Sicilian, and the Caro-Kann. Later in life still he even ventured the Pirc/Modern set up. All openings were usually handling in excellent fashion. It is interesting to note, however, that he does not appear to have played the Scandinavian, the Alekhine, or the enigmatic move 1...b6.
2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bc4 Bc5 [3...Nf6 was chosen in the earlier game Perfiliev-Botvinnik, Leningrad 1st cat 1925, and entered a messy combinative labyrinth after 4.d4 exd4 5.0-0 Nxe4 6.Re1 d5 7.Bxd5 Qxd5 8.Nc3 Qd8 9.Rxe4+ Be7 10.Nxd4 f5 11.Bh6 . Nevertheless Botvinnik returned to this move later in several games against such strong players as Keres and Ragozin.]
4.b4 The Evans Gambit, devised by Captain W.D.Evans around 1826 according to Tartakower, and greatly favoured in the later part of that century by many of the World's strongest players. Even in recent years this opening has been ventured by the likes of Short, Nakamura and Grischuk against such strong players as Caruana, Anand and Kasparov.
4...Bb6 Declining the offer of a pawn. Instead [4...Bxb4 5.c3 with d4 to follow is the Evans Gambit Accepted where White obtains a strong pawn centre and rapid development in exchange for the pawn sacrificed.]
5.a4 Still the most popular option for White in current times, although there are several other lines that could be considered in this position such as [5.Bb2 developing and attacking e5,; 5.0-0 castling into safety faster than Black is able to,; 5.c3 securing the b4 pawn, and allowing for the attacking move Qb3 or, possibly the strongest of the alternatives; 5.b5 immediately attacking the knight.]
5...a6 [5...a5 is the other way to save the bishop and has been chosen by Carlsen albeit in a speed game. It was also played in Kasparov-Piket, Euwe Memorial Amsterdam 1995. Although Black didn't last long in that game this probably had more to do with the White player than the opening moves chosen.]
6.Nc3 [6.c3 now is also a valid option where many games have continued 6...Nf6 7.d3 d6 8.0-0 0-0 9.Nbd2 when both sides have chances as Black is solid and White has more space on the queens-side but a looser pawn structure.]
6...Nf6 7.Nd5 Nxe4 This pawn grab is actually Ok but a safer line is to exchange off the central knight with [7...Nxd5 8.exd5 Nd4 as occurred in, for instance, Morozevich-Kamsky, Moscow Tal Memorial Blitz 2008.]
8.0-0 [8.Qe2 is not so strong as after 8...Nd6 9.Nxe5 (or 9.Nxb6 cxb6 Bashkite-Piarnpuu, EST-ch (Women) Kilingi Nomme 2002.) 9...0-0 Leyva Proenza -Bezanilla, CUB-ch sf Villa Clara 1995, Black is more than comfortable in each case.]
8...0-0 9.d3 [Whilst 9.d4 meets one of the fundamental objectives of the Evans Gambit its not of much use here as after 9...Bxd4 10.Nxd4 exd4 11.Bb2 d6 Eklund-Lehti, FIN-T ch 2007 Black has few real problems.]
9...Nf6 This turns against Black so he had to try the move [9...Nxf2 and after 10.Rxf2 Bxf2+ 11.Kxf2 then 11...h6 , to prevent Bg5, when White is better but Black is still in the game. It's interesting to recall that Botvinnik did play, in the game Smyslov-Botvinnik, Moscow Ch 1943, the same type of sacrifice in a position with some similarities to the current one but eventually lost. The game was of high enough quality though to be included in the 1952 book "V.V.Smyslov My Best Games of Chess".]
10.Bg5 Now this pin is very awkward for Black.
10...d6 [Black can't resolve the pin with 10...h6 as White gains a significant advantage via either 11.Bxf6 (or 11.Nxf6+ gxf6 12.Bxh6 d5 13.Bxf8 Kxf8 ) 11...gxf6 12.Nh4 d6 13.Qh5 Kg7 14.Kh1 and f4 follows.]
11.Nd2 Threatening Ne4 with increasing pressure on f6. Another good option is [11.Qd2 which reduces Black's options when a recent game went 11...Kh8 12.Bxf6 gxf6 13.Qh6 Rg8 14.Nxf6 and White was well on top in Sevruk-Basson, SF-2011-00089 LSS E-mail 2011.]
11...Bg4 A surprising mistake from Botvinnik as the tactics simply don't work at all for Black [11...Bf5 instead is of no help as after 12.Ne4 (Instead 12.c3 with a small edge is less effective as in Garcia-Guitierrez, Volencia Autonimico Sur-A 2009.) 12...Bxe4 13.dxe4 and its very difficult to find a useful move for Black. For example, if 13...Re8 then 14.Ra3 and the rook can go to the king's side to aid a devastating attack.; 11...Nxb4 12.Nxb4 c6 offers a bit of hope as Black obtains two pawns for the piece and some control of the centre but really its not quite enough.]
12.Bxf6 Qc8 [If 12...Qxf6 then simply 13.Nxf6+ the check preventing Black playing Bxd1.]
13.Nxb6 cxb6 [13...Bxd1 now still leaves Black a piece down following 14.Nxc8 Raxc8 15.Raxd1 (but not 15.Bh4 Bxc2 with a touch of hope.) ]
14.f3 Safely retaining the extra piece, for which Black has only one pawn and prospect of another at best. But the main problem for Black is that in addition to a material deficiency his pawn structure is damaged.
14...Be6 15.Bh4 Simplest although White has other ways to win such as [15.Bxe6 Qxe6 16.Bh4 Nxb4 17.Qb1 Nd5 18.Nc4 and b6 will soon fall as White has Bf2 available.]
15...Nxb4 16.Be7 Qc5+ Safeguarding the d6-pawn with tempo but here the queen is also vulnerable and White soon recovers the lost tempo.
17.Kh1 Rfe8 18.Ne4 Qc6 19.Bxd6 [After 19.Bxd6 Black's game rapidly falls apart, for example, the material loss so far is not improved in the line 19...Bxc4 20.dxc4 Qxc4 21.Bxb4 Qxb4 22.c3 Qe7 23.Rb1 Red8 24.Qb3 Rac8 25.Qxb6 A rather drastic defeat for Botvinnik which probably explains why he lost his next encounter with Kan too. Although he then won a game against this opponent he then soon lost to Kan once more. The databases do, however, indicate Botvinnik did eventually resolve this problem and this perhaps should give hope to lesser players when faced with a similar situation in their games. Although losing once again to Kan some years later he had previosuly won game after game up to that point, and the large number of wins contined after that final loss.] 1-0