Fedor Bohatirchuk

12/03/2008 20:27

It is not often that a player can boast of having a plus score against a World Champion, but how loud does one crow if your score against one of the most durable World Champions (M.M. Botvinnik) is +3 -0 =1?

Almost unbelievable, isn't it?  However, that was the record of the Ukranian player Fedor Bohatirchuk.  But he had to suffer for the privilege.

Prior to 1935, Bohatirchuk had met Botvinnik on three occasions, having beaten him twice and drawn once.  Their fourth and last game was played in the prestigious 1st. International Tournament in Moscow, 1935 in which Flohr, Emmanuel Lasker, Capablanca and Spielmann participated.  Botvinnik was to finish first equal with Flohr but he lost two games, one against Kan and the other against non other than Bohatirchuk.  Following this game, it is reported that a head of the Soviet Chess organisation, Minister of Justice Krylenko approached Bohatirchuk and said "You will never beat Botvinnik again!"  That was indeed the case as Bohatirchuk never played Botvinnik again!

The following year the second Moscow International Tournament was held, but Bohatirchuk was not invited. At the time he was having some problems in his native Kiev because some younger players published a scathing article in a main Ukrainian newspaper accusing Bohatirchuk of spending too much money building the city chess club when he should have been spending time "working with youth."

Bohatirchuk and Botvinnik were at opposite ends of the political spectrum.  Bohatirchuk hated Bolshevism and Stalinism, whereas Botvinnik was favoured by Krylenko and exploited from 1935 by Soviets as a strong trump in their propaganda. Following occupation of Kiev by the German army in September 1941, Bohatirchuk stayed in Kiev and served as a head of the Ukrainian Red Cross.  When the Soviet army pushed the Germans from Kiev, Bohatirchuk, together with his family migrated to Cracow and joined a Committee for Freedom of Peoples in Russia an anti-Stalin, semi-military organisation headed by the Russian general Vlasov.  As a result of these activities, Bohatirchuk was the number one "persona non grata" in Soviet Chess until the defection of Korchnoy.

Bohatirchuk emigrated to Canada and lived in Ottawa until his death in 1984.  He remained active in chess and in fact represented Canada at the FIDE Olympiad in Amsterdam in 1954.

Here are the key points of Bohatirchuk's life and career,

Born 27th. November 1892 in Kiev, Ukraine - Died 4th September 1984, Ottawa, Canada.

Work Career:
Radiologist, Dr.Med. (habilitation 1940, Kiev)
Head of Ukrainian Red Cross (Kiev, 1941/42)
Professor of Ottawa University (X-rays anatomy)
Barclay Medal and Award of the British Society of Radiology (1955)
Honorary Member of the Canadian Society of Radiology (since 1960)

Chess Career:
Multiple Champion of Kiev since 1911 (ahead of Bogoljubow, et al.)
Author of the 1st chess textbook Shahy in Ukrainian (1926)
Participant of 5 USSR Championships:
Tied 3rd places USSR Championships, 3 times (1923-1935)
Tied 1st place USSR Championship 1927 (with Romanovsky)
Wins in USSR Championships (1927, 1933)
Wins in 2nd Moscow International Tournament (1935)
Champion of Ukraine 1937 (2. Pogrebyssky 3. Konstantinopolsky)
1st in Klaus Junge Memorial, Regensburg 1946 (2. Zemgalis, 3. Unzicker)
2nd (1949) and 3rd (1951) in Canadian Championships
FIDE International Master 1954
Represented Canada at FIDE Olympiad (Amsterdam, 1954)
Canadian Correspondence Chess Champion (1963, 1964)
1st board Canada at Correspondence Chess Olympiad (1962-1965)
ICCF International Master 1967

The games that created this unique record against M.M. Botvinnik follow.


Bohatirchuk,F - Botvinnik,M [C49]
Moscow (15), 1935

1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Nc3 Nf6 4.Bb5
The old Four Knights opening which has a reputation for leading to drawish positions.

4...Bb4 5.0-0 0-0 6.d3 d6 7.Bg5 Bxc3
The symmetry has to be broken at some time and now is that time. If Black maintains symmetry with  7...Bg4 8.Nd5 leads to a won game for White.

As a result of this exchange, White has an inferior pawn position but in compensation he has the two bishops plus more freedom for his pieces. He now needs to work for d4.

8...Qe7 9.Re1 a6 10.Bc4 Na5 11.Nd2 h6 12.Bh4 Be6 13.Bb3 Nxb3 14.axb3 g5 15.Bg3 Ne8 16.d4
The thematic move which provides White's pieces with even more freedom.

16...f6 17.Nf1 Ng7 18.c4 Rad8 19.Ne3 Qf7
Black is transferring his queen to g6 in order to put pressure on the white d-pawn.

20.Re2 Qg6 21.f3 Rd7 22.Rd2 
White could now have closed down the centre and increased Black's discomfort by adding another piece to the log jam around his king with 22.d5 Bf7  

Black opens the centre in the hope that this will give his pieces some breathing space.

23.Rxd4 Re7 
Maybe another freeing move 23...f5 was in order, followed by 24.Bf2 fxe4 25.Rxe4 Nf5 Now, however, White transfers his bishop to a more active diagonal.

24.Be1 f5 25.Bc3 Rfe8 26.Qd3
There is now a build up of pressure against the square f5 that White can intensify with Ra5, following which all his pieces will be actively engaged.

26...Bc8 27.Rf1 fxe4
The start of a manoeuvre which nets Black a pawn but allows the more active White pieces a chance to become even more effective.

28.Rxe4 Rxe4 29.fxe4 Qxe4 30.Nd5 Qxd3 31.Nf6+ Kf7 32.cxd3
Now Black's king is exposed and his rook is going to be forced into a passive mode.

Any movement of the rook along the e-file will be punished. 32...Re6 33.Nh5+ ; 32...Re7 33.Nd5+ ; 32...Re2 33.Nh5+  

33.Nh5+ will not do because of 33...Nf5 34.g4 Kg6  

Black is going to lose a piece by force. 33...Kg6 34.Ne7+ Kh5 ( 34...Kh7 35.Rf7 and it is all over.) 35.Bxg7  

34.g4 Re8 35.gxf5 Re2 36.Rf3 Rc2 37.Be1 g4 38.Rf1 1-0