This aspect of Botvinnik's make-up was in part a reflection of the special strains under which Stalin's pet high achievers lived; they knew that if they failed, it was not just that they might lose all the state perks bestowed on them but that there could be a heavy political and personal price to pay. Yet, even after the fall of the USSR, Botvinnik — a Communist Party member since his teens — would not venture any second thoughts about it, let alone his own conduct during those brutal contests for Soviet chess supremacy. In his last years, Botvinnik conducted a series of interviews with Gennadi Sosonko, who recorded: "Any discussion about those times was ruled out. I ran into a wall; his opinion, formed once and for all, remained unshakeable. If I employed what seemed to be strong arguments...[he] simply hung up." Although in this respect Botvinnik's unbending nature was a human failing, it was his greatest asset as a chess analyst. Once he had decided what "the truth" was about a particular position, he never allowed himself to be side-tracked by aesthetics. His style of play was what we sometimes call "computer-like", remorselessly functional.
Indeed, Botvinnik was one of the first to spot the potential of computers to master a game that did not seem susceptible to mathematical analysis. With characteristic doggedness, he spent decades trying to design a computer program which would beat all rivals and thus demonstrate the superiority of his intellectual method to a chess world that had otherwise left him behind. He told Sosonko, in their last meeting: "I have only one desire, to complete the work on my program, but death — I am not afraid of death."
He never completed that program or produced a silicon world champion. Never mind; the rest of us would think that being the best in the carbon-based form of the game — as Botvinnik had been for so long — was achievement enough. Indeed, some of us would die happy if we had nothing to our name except this game, in which the then 57-year-old ex-world champion showed the top Hungarian Grandmaster Lajos Portisch that you never took liberties with Mikhail Botvinnik.
1.c4 (the English Opening, a Botvinnik favourite) e5 2. Nc3 Nf6 3.g3 d5 4.cxd5 Nxd5 5.Bg2 Be6 6.Nf3 Nc6 7.0-0 Nb6 8.d3 Be7 9.a3 a5 10.Be3 0-0 11.Na4 Nxa4 12.Qxa4 Bd5 13.Rfc1 Re8 14.Rc2 Bf8 15.Rac1 Nb8? (Botvinnik observes, in his usual dry manner: "Black's intention of playing 16...c6 completely cutting short White's activity on the half-open c-file is laudable, but the consequences of this tactical operation were not calculated with sufficient accuracy") 16.Rxc7! Bc6 17.R1xc6!! (remarkably, Botvinnik does not use the "trapped" rook on c7 to recapture) bxc6 18.Rxf7!! (This is why: if Portisch takes the second sacrificed rook with 18...Kxf7 then, as Botvinnik observes, "after 19.Qc4+ Kg6 20.Qg4+ Kf7 21.Ng5+ Black has to give up his Queen, since otherwise he is mated.") h6 19.Rb7 Qc8 20.Qc4+ Kh8 21.Nh4!! (Botvinnik absolutely insists Portisch takes his rook) Qxb7 22.Ng6+ Kh7 23.Be4! (Threatening 24.Ne7+ and 28.Qg8 mate) Bd6 24.Nxe5+ g6 25.Bxg6+ Kg7 26.Bxh6+!! and Portisch resigned, since after 26...Kxh6 27.Qh4+ Kg7 28.Qh7+ Kf6 29.Ng4+ Ke6 (if Kg5 30.Qh5 is checkmate) 30.Qxb7 is execution.