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M. Botvinnik; Former World Chess Champion

May 07, 1995| From Times Staff and Wire Reports

MOSCOW — Mikhail M. Botvinnik, a three-time world chess champion who held that title off and on through three decades, died Friday, the Russian Chess Federation said. He was 83.

Botvinnik, onetime instructor of Garry Kasparov, died at his Moscow home, according to a chess federation official who declined to be identified. The cause of death was not immediately known.

Botvinnik, an electrical engineer who was not afraid of differing with Soviet Central Committee policy, was a master strategist who applied his scientific approach to the game and devised new methods of chess strategy and training. He held the world title for 13 years (from 1948 to 1957, from 1958 to 1960 and won it for the final time at the age of 49 in 1961).

One of his pupils was Kasparov, who went on to become the highest-rated player of all time. When Kasparov was 11, Botvinnik wrote: "In the hands of this young man lies the future of chess."

Born near St. Petersburg, Botvinnik learned chess at the relatively late age of 12. Just two years later he beat world champion Jose Raul Capablanca in a group exhibition match.

Botvinnik became Soviet champion in 1931 and outpointed four grandmasters to become world champion in 1948, beginning a Soviet-Russian reign broken only by American Bobby Fischer from 1972 to 1975.

Highly disciplined, Botvinnik trained for major matches by walking several miles a day and practicing in a hot room with a radio playing loudly and a partner blowing smoke in his face.

Larry Parr, former editor of Chess Life, said Botvinnik was "the first of the Soviet Champions and came to represent in the public mind the Soviet School of Chess."

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