Botvinnik, Mikhail

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BOTVINNIK, MIKHAIL (1911–1995), Soviet chess master. Born in Repnik, Saint Petersburg (Leningrad) district, Botvinnik was world champion in the years 1948–57, 1958–60, and 1961–63. He received the Soviet title of Grand Master in 1935 and International Grand Master in 1945. He graduated as a doctor of technical sciences in the field of electricity, distinguished himself in this field, and was decorated by the Soviet government at the end of World War ii. In 1931, 1933, 1939, 1944, 1945, and 1952 he was champion of the Soviet Union. Botvinik created the so-called scientific school of preparation for chess tournaments and brought the method to perfection. This laid the basis of the Soviet school of chess school, boasting a great many Grand Masters, including Gary *Kasparov. According to some chess specialists the best game in history belongs to Botvinnik, his victory over Capablanca in Amsterdam in 1938. From the 1960s he tried to use the achievements of chess theory to develop artificial intelligence and chess computers. Botvinnik grew up in an assimilated family, but encountered antisemitism in daily life. He displayed courage in the dark years of Stalin and after, and published warm words about Israel, Pinḥas *Rutenberg, and the kibbutz, defending the right of the Jews to live in their ancient homeland. In contrast to other Jewish cultural activists, he never signed letters condemning Israel. His autobiography appeared in English translation in 1981 as Achieving the Aim.

[Shmuel Spector (2nd ed.)]