The Botvinnik Semi-Slav (Handle with care!)

The Botvinnik Variation is an absolutely mental opening which guarantees a tactically mad game which is very unlikely to end in a draw.

It starts after white plays the move Bg5 (instead the more popular e3). Now black has the option to play h6, going into the Moscow or the Anti-Moscow, or he can take on c4 immediately, entering the Botvinnik.

Black grabs a flank pawn, which means that his d pawn is not in the center anymore. The d5 pawn was preventing the move e4, which is a huge defensive role. And white now plays e4! Since the move Bg5 pins the f6 knight, white is now threatening to play e5, simply winning a piece. But… If black defends against that, the move e4 has also opened up the f1 bishop, and white would then be able to simply take on c4, regaining his pawn and have a huge lead in development.

So black leaves white the option of playing e5 and taking the knight by playing b5, holding on to his extra pawn. And the “sacrifice” is justified because black can counter attack the white bishop, and tactically ensure that he doesn’t lose a piece. Ironically, at the end of the line, black is the one a pawn down, and he has a ruined pawn structure.

The games resulting from that starting position are anything but easy to play. They are hard to understand, every move is crucial, and one mistake could mean a shift from being winning to being lost. But black has chances! If you know what you’re doing, the Botvinnik is a great sharp line to have up your sleeve!

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