| David Bronstein 1924-2006 by Mark
Bronstein demonstrating the King's Gambit (Probably whilst coaching some UK juniors in the Sadlers Wells theatre in London at the time of the Candidates matches in the late 80s). Photo © Alan Phillips.
David Ionovich Bronstein was born in Bila Tserkva near Kiev, Ukraine February 19th 1924 and died in Minsk 5th December 2006.
David Bronstein emerged at the end of the second world war playing the kind of exciting and creative chess that was later to become the calling card of Soviet chess but at the time it was incredibly new. Bronstein's reputation as a creative genius was well deserved and he leaves a great legacy of fantastic games. But the label of creative also has negative connotations of impracticality which does a real disservice to his power as a player. The cult of the ELO rating is a relatively late phenomenon starting in 1970, before that the concept of the world number one in chess didn't really exist, just the world champion. According to some retrospetive analysis by Jeff Sonas on his chessmetrics site David Bronstein was in the top ten in the world between 1945 and 1959 and maintained a top twenty place until the early 1970s. He was barely out of the top five between 1948 and 1959 peaking in 1951 at the time of his match against Botvinnik at number one. In fact Bronstein had a really eclectic style. He could play dull chess, positional chess, attacking chess, crazy chess, exciting chess, sharp chess, complex strategic chess depending on his mood and the dictations of the situation.
Bronstein was a complex man born in complex times. He was a child of the Stalin era where just to survive you had to tread a very fine line all the time. All of this was complicated by the fact he was Jewish and that his father (said to be a relative of Leon Trotsky but Bronstein specifically says in his book that he knows of no such family relationship) was arrested in December 1937 during the Stalin purges and was only released in February 1944 from the camps due to ill health, and even on his emergence he was forbidden to live within 100km of Moscow or Kiev. Bronstein's mother got a document in 1955 admitting that there was "absence of any evidence" that he committed any crime but that was all way after the fact and three years after his death.
I will draw heavily upon his fantastic book "The Sorcerer's Apprentice" written with Tom Fürstenberg but the book only offers tantilising glimpses as to his real views and the reality of his life. We were promised a real autobiography at the time it was published in 1995 and hopefully he did write one. Indeed he's one player whose career became more controversial with each passing year not less so.
Bronstein was clearly marked out as a talented player from his earliest years. He was part of the Soviet School of Chess (an abused term but for me it means he was found and trained properly from being young) taught in the Palace of Pioneers by the trainer Alexander Konstantinopolsky a strong player who finished well (2nd=?) in the 10th Soviet Championships of 1937 and some subsquent championships. By the age of 14 Bronstein was starting to attract attention, in 1940 at 15 he was second behind Boleslavsky in the Ukrainian Championship. However the 2nd World War was to impinge strongly over the next years. In May 1941 he was awarded the title of Master of Chess at the age of 17 and he competed in the Semi-Finals of the 13th USSR Championship in Rostov on Don but this was halted due to the outbreak of war. He had to flee Kiev on foot in 1941 (losing everything including the records of most of his games up to then) but avoided going to the front in the spring of 1942 due to his bad eyesight. He eventually ended up in Tbilisi, Georgia and later, by 1944 he was in Stalingrad working on the reconstruction of a steel factory. It was then with the war almost won he was permitted to return to chess (but for a couple of minor events) reconvening to Baku in February 1944 to take up his place again in the 13th Soviet Championship semi-finals. He qualified for the finals in Moscow later in the year where he defeated Mikhail Botvinnik on the way to finishing a disappointing 15th of 17 (+4 -7 =5). But he was soon really on his way.
1945 was Bronstein's breakthrough year. 1st in the Semi-Finals of the Soviet Championships in Moscow he then went on to finish 3rd behind Botvinnik and Boleslavsky in the 14th Soviet Championships and scored his first GM norm (according to his book, although I'm not really sure they had them then). It was enough to get him into the 1945 USSR - USA Radio match (2-0 against Santasiere). 1st in the 1946 Moscow Championships (2nd GM norm). He spent the rest of 1946 representing Moscow and the USSR in various matches. It was in one of those he played his first couple of truly famous games both in the King's Indian, a not highly regarded opening up until then. Both were against Prague where he defeated Ludek Pachman and Frantisek Zita.
Zita,Frantisek - Bronstein,David I [E68]
Moscow-Prague Moscow (6), 1946
1.c4 e5 2.Nc3 Nf6 3.Nf3 d6 4.d4 Nbd7 5.g3 g6 6.Bg2 Bg7 7.0-0 0-0 8.b3 Re8 9.Bb2 c6 10.e4 exd4 11.Nxd4 Qb6 12.Qd2 Nc5 13.Rfe1 a5 14.Rab1 a4 15.Ba1 axb3 16.axb3 Ng4 17.h3
17... Rxa1 18.Rxa1 Nxf2 19.Re3 Nxh3+ 20.Kh2 Nf2 21.Rf3 Ncxe4 22.Qf4 Ng4+ 23.Kh1 f5 24.Nxe4 Rxe4 25.Qxd6 Rxd4 26.Qb8 Rd8 27.Ra8 Be5 28.Qa7 Qb4 29.Qa2 Qf8 30.Bh3 Qh6 0-1
1947 saw him stand still a little with 6th place in the 15th USSR Championship, and 2nd after a playoff in the Moscow Championship. Then in 1948 came two of his career highlights, first of all he took clear first place in the Salsjöbaden Interzonal +8 -0 =11 (awarded Soviet GM title) and shared first place with Alexander Kotov in the 16th USSR Championship in Moscow. He repeated the trick the following year sharing first place with Vassily Smyslov in the 17th USSR Championships Moscow again.
Then came the 1950 Candidates tournament in Budapest. Isaak Boleslavsky, David Bronstein and Paul Keres started with wins and in the early part of the event set the pace. Bronstein was defeated in round two by Smyslov who I imagine would have been the pre-event favourite. Then Smyslov lost to Stahlberg in the following round and Boleslavsky in the 6th and despite a brief rally in rounds 10 and 11 he was put out of it by a defeat to Bronstein. Keres picked up a couple of early wins but was bogged down by a lot of draws before finally Kotov defeated him in round 14 to virtually end his challenge. The man who should probably have won the event was Isaak Boleslavsky. A quiet and meek man he played some of the most enterprising and risky chess around this time. He went through the entire event undefeated and won in rounds 1, 6, 8, 10, 13 and 14 to set up a strong lead. David Bronstein had a more colourful route to staying in touch. He won against Szabo in round one, lost to Smyslov in round 2, won against Kotov in round three, beat Najdorf in round 5 but lost to Stahlberg in round 8. However that was the end of his losses. He came from the pack by winning against Smylov in round 11, Flohr in round 13 and Najdorf in 14. Boleslavsky had white against Bronstein in round 16 and they drew in 21 moves after some brief fireworks. This left Boleslavsky a point clear of Bronstein with two rounds to go with Keres a further point behind. Bronstein defeated Stahlberg with black in a very complex Dutch whilst Boleslavsky drew out against Kotov. Boleslavsky took a quick draw against Stahlberg in the final round leaving the stage open for Bronstein who had white against Keres. There are some strange stories about how Boleslavsky was told to slow down and allow Bronstein to catch up. Looking at the results and games I simply don't buy it at all. I think as Boleslavsky said later, he expected Keres to hold a draw against Bronstein. Indeed this final game was an incredibly tense affair.
Bronstein,David I - Keres,Paul [C91]
Candidates Tournament Budapest (18), 1950
1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5 a6 4.Ba4 Nf6 5.0-0 Be7 6.Re1 b5 7.Bb3 0-0 8.d4 d6 9.c3 Bg4 10.h3 Bxf3 11.Qxf3 exd4 12.Qd1 dxc3 13.Nxc3 Na5 14.Bc2 Re8 [14...c5 ½-½ Khairullin,I (2445)-Smirnov,P (2629)/Krasnoyarsk RUS 2003/The Week in Chess 462 (56); 14...c6 0-1 Khairullin,I (2329)-Obukhov,A (2444)/Samara RUS 2002/The Week in Chess 405 (40)] 15.f4 b4 16.Nd5 Nxd5 17.Qxd5 c6 18.Qd3 g6 19.Kh1 Bf8 20.Rf1 Bg7 21.Bd2 c5 22.Ba4 Rf8 23.Rab1 Qb6 24.f5 Bd4 25.Qg3 Nc4 26.Bh6 Bg7 [26...Nxb2 27.Rxb2 Bxb2 28.Bb3 was probably what was feared by Keres according to Bronstein.] 27.Bxg7 Kxg7 28.f6+ Kh8 29.Qg5! [29.Qh4 g5 was maybe the intended defence.] 29...b3
This is pretty desperate stuff but the black King is very weak. [29...Rg8 30.Rf4 Qd8 31.Rh4 Qf8 32.Rh6 intended Qh4.] 30.axb3! According to Bronstein this shows respect. He thinks it would have been childish to go for the flash [30.Rf4 bxa2 31.Qh6 axb1Q+ 32.Kh2 when the text is sufficient.] 30...Qb4 31.bxc4 Qxa4 32.Rf4 Qc2 33.Qh6 1-0
Candidates Tournament 1950 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 0 1 Bronstein,David I ** ½½ 01 ½1 11 1½ 01 ½½ 1½ ½1 12.0/18 103.00 2 Boleslavsky,Isaak ½½ ** 1½ ½½ ½½ 1½ ½½ ½1 ½1 11 12.0/18 101.25 3 Smyslov,Vassily 10 0½ ** ½½ 1½ ½1 01 ½1 ½½ ½½ 10.0/18 4 Keres,Paul ½0 ½½ ½½ ** ½½ 10 1½ ½½ ½1 ½½ 9.5/18 5 Najdorf,Miguel 00 ½½ 0½ ½½ ** ½½ ½½ 11 ½1 ½½ 9.0/18 6 Kotov,Alexander 0½ 0½ ½0 01 ½½ ** ½1 10 10 ½1 8.5/18 7 Stahlberg,Gideon 10 ½½ 10 0½ ½½ ½0 ** ½½ ½½ ½½ 8.0/18 8 Lilienthal,Andor ½½ ½0 ½0 ½½ 00 01 ½½ ** 10 ½½ 7.0/18 63.00 9 Szabo,Laszlo 0½ ½0 ½½ ½0 ½0 01 ½½ 01 ** 10 7.0/18 61.75 10 Flohr,Salo ½0 00 ½½ ½½ ½½ ½0 ½½ ½½ 01 ** 7.0/18 60.75
So at the end of the Candidates Bronstein and Boleslavsky tied with 12/18 two points clear of Smyslov. Bronstein claims he didn't prepare for the match but spent his time chasing after a girl. Whatever the truth Boleslavsky was at the height of his powers both theoretically (always his strength) and practically and an attritional match took place (famously Bronstein spent 50 minutes as black trying to work out what to play against 1.e4 in game two, he eventually opted to punt an Alekhine's Defence). Bronstein won the first and seventh games but then let Boleslavsky back in losing a 55 move grind in game eight. Boleslavsky then won with black in a King's Indian in game eleven to tie the match back up with one game to go. The match was drawn 6-6 and went into over time. Things got even sharper in game 13 where Boleslavsky as black ended up with two queens and Bronstein gave perpetual check. The fatal 14th game for Boleslavsky saw Bronstein hit him with a novelty on the black side of a French on move 8 from which Boleslavsky didn't really recover. Thus at the age of 27 David Bronstein would play the hero of Soviet Chess Mikhail Botvinnik. That same year FIDE started awarding GM titles, he was of course amongst the list of the top players who got the title.
Boleslavsky,Isaak - Bronstein,David I [C15]
1.e4 e6 2.d4 d5 3.Nc3 Bb4 4.Bd2 dxe4 5.Qg4 Qxd4 6.0-0-0 Nf6 7.Qxg7 Rg8 8.Qh6 Bf8!? This move, prepared by Bronstein and Konstantinopolsky, his second, for this crucial encounter, caught Boleslavsky by surprise. [8...Ng4; 8...Rg6] 9.Qh4 [9.Qh3; 9.Qe3?; 9.Qf4] 9...Rg4! 10.Qh3
[10.Bg5] 10...Qxf2! 11.Nb5? [11.Be2! Rg6 a) 11...Rh4? 12.Qxh4 Qxh4 13.g3 e3! (13...Qh6 14.Bxh6 Bxh6+ 15.Kb1 Bd7= (Gligoric 75)) 14.gxh4 exd2+ 15.Kxd2 Bh6+ 16.Ke1 Bd7=/+ (Boleslavsky); b) 11...Qxg2 12.Bxg4 Qxg4 13.Qxg4 Nxg4 14.Nxe4 (Pachman 75) 14...Nd7 15.Nf3+/= (Gligoric 75) 15...f5 16.Neg5; 12.g4 Qc5! (12...e5? 13.Be3) 13.Be3 (13.g5? Rxg5!) 13...Qe5 14.Bd4 Qf4+ 15.Be3= (Euwe); 11.Be3!? Qf5 (11...Qh4!? 12.Qxh4 Rxh4 13.Bg5 Bh6!) 12.Nb5 Na6] 11...Na6 12.Kb1 Bd7 13.Be3 [13.Bc3 Rh4! 14.Bd4 Rxh3 15.Bxf2 Rh5 (Pachman 75)] 13...Qf5-+ 14.Nd4 [14.Nxa7? Nd5 15.Bd4 (15.Nb5 Nxe3 16.Qxe3 Bxb5 ) 15...c5] 14...Qg6-/+ Black is winning. 15.Nb3 Nb4 16.Ne2 Nfd5 17.Nc3 Nxc3+ 18.bxc3 Nd5 19.Bd4 Rg5! 20.g4 e5 21.Bf2 Bxg4 White should resign but he needs a few moves just to collect his thoughts before doing so. 22.Rxd5 Bxh3 23.Bxh3 Rd8 24.Rxd8+ Kxd8 25.Rd1+ Bd6 26.Be3 f5 27.Nc5 f4 28.Ne6+ Ke7 29.Bxa7 Rh5 0-1
Candidates playoff 1pl 1950 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 0 1 2 3 4 1 Bronstein,David I 1 ½ ½ ½ ½ ½ 1 0 ½ ½ 0 ½ ½ 1 7.5/14 2 Boleslavsky,Isaak 0 ½ ½ ½ ½ ½ 0 1 ½ ½ 1 ½ ½ 0 6.5/14
It was probably for the best that Boleslavsky lost as he had a catastrophic record against Botvinnik whereas Bronstein was much more confident. Botvinnik for whatever reason (for some reason I've never been totally convinced by his explanation that he was studying engineering) hadn't played a single competitive game since taking the title in the 1948 match tournament. I would guess this was due to the strain of finally fulfilling the expectations of his Soviet masters and his own ambitions. Nevertheless Botvinnik was the master of preparation and would be a difficult opponent. For Bronstein he had different problems. He was comparatively inexperienced having played just the one match against Boleslavsky. That said he was obviously one of the best players in the world (probably would have been number one in the rating list with Botvinnik marked as inactive in modern times) and he seemed to have almost unlimited gifts.
Gm1 Botvinnik, Mikhail - Bronstein, David I 1/2 29 A91 Dutch Classical Gm2 Bronstein, David I - Botvinnik, Mikhail 1/2 49 D87 Gruenfeld Botvinnik Gm3 Botvinnik, Mikhail - Bronstein, David I 1/2 63 C08 French Tarrasch Gm4 Bronstein, David I - Botvinnik, Mikhail 1/2 47 D90 Gruenfeld Flohr Gm5 Botvinnik, Mikhail - Bronstein, David I 0-1 39 E43 Nimzo Indian Rubinstein Gm6 Bronstein, David I - Botvinnik, Mikhail 0-1 57 B63 Sicilian Rauzer Gm7 Botvinnik, Mikhail - Bronstein, David I 1-0 66 A93 Dutch Stonewall Gm8 Bronstein, David I - Botvinnik, Mikhail 1/2 41 D49 Queens Gambit Meran Gm9 Botvinnik, Mikhail - Bronstein, David I 1/2 41 A91 Dutch Classical Gm10 Bronstein, David I - Botvinnik, Mikhail 1/2 54 A85 Dutch Gm11 Botvinnik, Mikhail - Bronstein, David I 0-1 39 E17 Queens Indian Gm12 Bronstein, David I - Botvinnik, Mikhail 0-1 40 A85 Dutch Gm13 Botvinnik, Mikhail - Bronstein, David I 1/2 56 E44 Nimzo Indian Rubinstein Gm14 Bronstein, David I - Botvinnik, Mikhail 1/2 66 A08 Barcza System Gm15 Botvinnik, Mikhail - Bronstein, David I 1/2 33 C08 French Tarrasch Gm16 Bronstein, David I - Botvinnik, Mikhail 1/2 75 A91 Dutch Classical Gm17 Botvinnik, Mikhail - Bronstein, David I 0-1 35 E45 Nimzo Indian Rubinstein Gm18 Bronstein, David I - Botvinnik, Mikhail 1/2 58 D46 Semi-Slav Defence Gm19 Botvinnik, Mikhail - Bronstein, David I 1-0 60 D75 Gruenfeld 3.g3 Gm20 Bronstein, David I - Botvinnik, Mikhail 1/2 46 A14 Reti Opening Gm21 Botvinnik, Mikhail - Bronstein, David I 0-1 64 E69 King's Indian Fianchetto Gm22 Bronstein, David I - Botvinnik, Mikhail 1-0 38 A91 Dutch Classical Gm23 Botvinnik, Mikhail - Bronstein, David I 1-0 57 D71 Gruenfeld 3.g3 Gm24 Bronstein, David I - Botvinnik, Mikhail 1/2 22 D44 Anti-Meran Gambit 19th World Championship 1951 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 0 1 2 3 4 1 Botvinnik,Mikhail ½ ½ ½ ½ 0 1 1 ½ ½ ½ 0 1 ½ ½ ½ ½ 0 ½ 1 ½ 0 0 1 ½ 12.0/24 2 Bronstein,David I ½ ½ ½ ½ 1 0 0 ½ ½ ½ 1 0 ½ ½ ½ ½ 1 ½ 0 ½ 1 1 0 ½ 12.0/24
The match for the world title that defined David Bronstein's career took place 16th March - 11th May 1951 in Moscow, Russia. It was a match of extreme bitterness and wildly fluctuating standards. The players did not have normal professional relations for years afterwards.
The early games saw enterprising chess, Botvinnik missed a good chance running up to second time control in game three, Botvinnik was doing fine as white up to move 30 and if Fritz is to be believed just a couple of moves before then end of game five before totally collapsing and losing. Bronstein pressed hard with white in game 6 before committing probably one of the worst errors in world title history.
57.Kc2?? [57.Ne6+ Kf3 58.Nd4+ Kf2 59.Ka4 e2 60.Nc2 e1Q 61.Nxe1 Kxe1 62.Kxa5 Kd2 63.Kb4 b6=] 57...Kg3! 0-1
Bronstein then went on to lose game seven too he was the one to collapse from move 30 on the run up to first time control this time. Botvinnik effectively finished things off in the adjournment session. One of the things about the old classical 24 game matches is that none of these ups and downs mattered overly much, they were pretty much getting going at this point. Bronstein missed a good chance in game 9 and the session ended in controversy over the sealed move after time pressure, Botvinnik returned the favour in game 10. Again move 30 seemed to be the weakening point for Botvinnik in game 11 as he blundered his position away in only 9 moves to allow Bronstein back level. Bronstein was done in the opening in game 12 and was already practically lost by move 13, he resigned on move 40. Game 13 was drawn. Game 14 saw Bronstein write down a bad move but pull back at the last moment and play correctly. Botvinnik had the initiative but was blowing his chances this was true in game 15 and especially right at the end of game 16 when 72. Rxg3+ was an error. Game 17 saw Bronstein level the match up again after Botvinnik was gradually outplayed and then just blundered his entire position away. Game 18 was a tremendous struggle, one of the best of the match saw a manoevering game where Bronstein missed a chance with his sealed move. 41 c6 would have won.
41.Qd3?. Bronstein doesn't hurry to convert with his sealed move. Sadly it costs him.
[41.c6 Bxc6 42.bxc6 Qxc6 43.Bxf4 gxf4 (43...Qc4 44.Qxc4 dxc4 45.Bc1 Nb6 46.Kg3 which Bronstein assessed as better for black instead of winning for him.) 44.Qg4+ Kf7 45.Qxf4+ Kg7 46.Qg4+ Kf7 47.Qh4 Nf8 48.Qxh6]
41...Nb8!! Saves the day. 42.h4 Qc4 43.Qh3 Qxb5 44.hxg5 hxg5 45.Qxe6 Qd3 46.Qf6+ Kh7 47.Qf7+ Kh8 48.Qf6+ Kh7 49.Bxf4 gxf4 50.Qf7+ Kh8 51.Qe8+ Kg7 52.Qe7+ Kh8 53.Qe8+ Kg7 54.Qe7+ Kh8 55.Qf8+ Kh7 56.Qf7+ Kh8 57.Qxb7 Qg3+ 58.Kh1 ½-½
Botvinnik won game 19 after Bronstein blundered in his adjournment analysis rejecting the drawing idea after setting the position up incorrectly. Game 20 was drawn, game 21 brought the match back level after Bronstein completely outplayed Botvinnik on the black side of a Kings Indian. Bronstein was in the psychologically dominant position against a clearly tiring Botvinnik. There was a heavyweight struggle against Botvinnik's Dutch Defence and again Botvinnik collapsed in the run up to the first time control. Thus with two games to go Bronstein only had to draw out the match.
Bronstein,David I - Botvinnik,Mikhail
[A91] Moscow Moscow (22), 06.05.1951
1.d4 e6 2.c4 f5 3.g3 Nf6 4.Bg2 Be7 5.Nc3 0-0 6.e3 d5 7.Nge2 c6 8.b3 Ne4 9.0-0 Nd7 10.Bb2 Ndf6 11.Qd3 g5 12.cxd5 exd5 13.f3 Nxc3 14.Bxc3 g4 15.fxg4 Nxg4 16.Bh3 Nh6 17.Nf4 Bd6 18.b4 a6 19.a4 Qe7 20.Rab1 b5 21.Bg2 Ng4 22.Bd2 Nf6 23.Rb2 Bd7 24.Ra1 Ne4 25.Be1 Rfe8 26.Qb3 Kh8 27.Rba2 Qf8 28.Nd3 Rab8 29.axb5 axb5 30.Ra7 Re7 31.Ne5 Be8 32.g4 fxg4 33.Bxe4 dxe4 34.Bh4
34... Rxe5? 35.dxe5 Bxe5 36.Rf1 Qg8 37.Bg3 Bg7 38.Qxg8+ 1-0
Game 23 saw Botvinnik gradually obtain the advantage but then throw it away with an incorrect sealed move. However his adjournment analysis was to his usual standard, as was Bronstein's just two moves in Bronstein played a very bad move and collapsed within 14 moves. Thus Bronstein needed a win in the final game to win the title.
Botvinnik,Mikhail - Bronstein,David I [D71]
Moscow Moscow (23), 08.05.1951
1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 g6 3.g3 c6 4.Bg2 d5 5.cxd5 cxd5 6.Nc3 Bg7 7.Nh3 Bxh3 8.Bxh3 Nc6 9.Bg2 e6 10.e3 0-0 11.Bd2 Rc8 12.0-0 Nd7 13.Ne2 Qb6 14.Bc3 Rfd8 15.Nf4 Nf6 16.Qb3 Ne4 17.Qxb6 axb6 18.Be1 Na5 19.Nd3 Bf8 20.f3 Nd6 21.Bf2 Bh6 22.Rac1 Nac4 23.Rfe1 Na5 24.Kf1 Bg7 25.g4 Nc6 26.b3 Nb5 27.Ke2 Bf8 28.a4 Nc7 29.Bg3 Na6 30.Bf1 f6 31.Red1 Na5 32.Rxc8 Rxc8 33.Rc1 Rxc1 34.Nxc1 Ba3 35.Kd1 Bxc1 36.Kxc1 Nxb3+ 37.Kc2 Na5 38.Kc3 Kf7 39.e4 f5 40.gxf5 gxf5 41.Bd3 Kg6
42.Bd6?Sealed after a long thought and a mistake. [42.Bb1 Nc6 (42...fxe4 43.fxe4 dxe4 44.Bxe4+ Kg7 45.Bxb7 Nxb7 46.Kc4 Kf7 47.Kb5 Nac5 48.dxc5 Nxc5 49.a5) 43.exd5 exd5 44.Ba2 Nab4 (44...Ne7 45.Bh4) 45.Bb3]
42...Nc6 43.Bb1 Kf6? [43...Na7!] 44.Bg3!! fxe4? After this he just loses. [44...h6] 45.fxe4 h6 46.Bf4 h5 47.exd5 exd5 48.h4 Nab8 49.Bg5+ Kf7 50.Bf5 Na7 51.Bf4 Nbc6 52.Bd3 Nc8 53.Be2 Kg6 54.Bd3+ Kf6 55.Be2 Kg6 56.Bf3 N6e7 57.Bg5 1-0
So Bronstein was left needing a win with white in game 24 to take the title. He never came close and was much worse when the final game was agreed drawn.
Looking at the entire match it was clear that Botvinnik was rusty through inactivity and was struggling at the end of the first sessions. Bronstein was generally the better player but his complete inability to come to terms with adjournment analysis and play completely undid him. All of which must have been vexing, especially as his career unfolded. Then over the years stories came about that Bronstein was threatened or more specifically his father. He was told it wouldn't be good to win the match the story goes. Botvinnik said these rumours started with Bronstein's second Vainstein a man he called his "evil genius". Bronstein in his book seems to want to have it both ways. "A lot of nonesense has been written about this. The only thing that I am prepared to say about all this controversy is that I was subjected to a strong psychological pressure from various sources and it was entirely up to me to yield to that pressure or not. Let's leave it at that." Written in 1995 this seems to me a terrible cop out. (see also this ChessBase article http://www.chessbase.com/newsdetail.asp?newsid=946) I met David Bronstein at the Prestwich tournament in 1990 (or possibly Preston the year before, my memory sometimes fails me) where he was the guest of honour. I heard he was there and took my precious copy of his book on Zurich 1953 for signing, the chance to meet one of the real super stars of the golden age of chess was not to be missed. He was unfailingly polite despite the fact I was no doubt just one of many people over the years asking about the tournament and congratulating him on the book. I can confirm what he must have said to many, many people over the years, that the 1953 Candidates itself was not a happy one for him without elaborating on the details. It may not have been his intention but all this coyness actually is worse than making direct accusations. What could he possibly mean by all this? One's imagination can run riot.
Not surprisingly 1952 was not a particularly good year for Bronstein, he finished in a tie for 7th-9th in the Soviet Championship, scored +7-1=2 on board 3 for Russian in the Helsinki Olympiad and did win the Moscow Championship at the start of 1953. He was obviously qualified for the 1953 Candidates in Neuhausen and Zurich. This was Vassily Smyslov's event. He dominated throughout and finished a full two points clear of David Bronstein, Sammy Reshevsky and Paul Keres. It is this event that Bronstein is most fully identified with. Its due wholly to his classic book on the event. The book analyses every single game, verbally explaining the good, the bad and the indifferent game in an unvarnished manner. It was at first in Russian but when it was recommended by Kotov in his widely translated works a couple of translations appeared in English in the late 1970s which made this work much more widely available. The book was written in conjunction with Boris Vainstein with "much of the text" (see http://www.chesshistory.com/ article) coming from him. As I mentioned above there are rumours that Smyslov was the anointed one for the event and some games were thrown to him (Bronstein says in his that "Soviet Officials had determined Smyslov should win). I see no evidence of this, Smyslov clearly was the number one player in the world at this time and only a catastrophic start against Botvinnik cost him a world title victory. But again I repeat I heard it personally from Bronstein that there was something wrong about the tournament without actually directly coming out and saying in specific terms.
Bronstein continued on being one of the best players in the world. 1954 was another team year with the Russian team travelling the world playing matches and winning the Olympiad in Amsterdam where Bronstein scored +7-0=7.
1955s highlight was his 15/20 demolition of the Gothenberg Interzonal a point and a half clear of Keres. This was probably his last truly great result.
1956 was again a disappointment for him. He finished the Candidates tournament in Amsterdam on +1 tied 3rd-7th on +4-3=11 a long way behind the winner Vassily Smyslov. 1957 was quiet for him but he did finish 3rd in the 25th USSR Championship which doubled as a zonal event. I'm sure Bronstein went to the 1958 Portoroz Interzonal fully expecting to qualify in a calm and sensible fashion. Indeed he started out reasonably well, probably a few too many draws but it was fine. A couple of things derailed him. Firstly no-one expected Bobby Fischer to be a factor. He was much too young. But Fischer fought like a tiger and got into a share of the places. A nervous Bronstein had black in the final round against the young and inexperienced Radolfo Tan Cardoso of the Philippines and the youngster proceeded to hack up Bronstein for his first loss and with that he missed the candidate places by half a point. This effectively marked the end of Bronstein's ambitions to be world champion. He quickly slipped from the top 10 to being somewhere in the top 20 and new heroes such as Tal, Spassky Fischer and Larsen came along to take up his mantel.
Bronstein continued to pick up good results, he played his final Olympiad for the Soviet Union in Munich 1958 scoring +7-0=5. He was 1st= in the 1959 Alekhine Memorial Moscow Central Chess Club tournament with Smyslov and Spassky, 3rd in the Mar del Plata International behind Spassky and Fischer, 3rd in the 29th USSR Championships in Baku in 1961 behind Spassky and Polugaevsky but ahead of many strong players. Tied for 4th-6th 31st USSR Championship in Leningrad 1963, tied 2nd-3rd in the ridiculously strong Moscow Zonal which qualified him for the Interzonal in 1964.
Moscow zt 1964 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 1 Spassky,Boris V ** ½½ ½½ 01 1½ ½1 01 7.0/12 2 Stein,Leonid ½½ ** ½½ ½½ ½1 ½1 0½ 6.5/12 38.50 3 Bronstein,David I ½½ ½½ ** ½½ 1½ 10 ½½ 6.5/12 38.25 4 Kholmov,Ratmir D 10 ½½ ½½ ** 0½ 1½ ½½ 6.0/12 5 Suetin,Alexey S 0½ ½0 0½ 1½ ** ½½ 1½ 5.5/12 32.00 6 Kortschnoj,Viktor ½0 ½0 01 0½ ½½ ** 11 5.5/12 31.75 7 Geller,Efim P 10 1½ ½½ ½½ 0½ 00 ** 5.0/12
Bronstein was in 6th place in the Amsterdam 1964 Interzonal only a point away from qualification for the new Candidates Match series. Results started to trail away into mediocrity with a few peaks. 2nd in the 32nd USSR Championship 1964-5 in Kiev. In 1968 1st= in the Moscow Championship with Petrosian, 2nd in the 8th IBM tournament in Amsterdam, 1st= in the Lasker tournament in Berlin. In 1970 he beat Korchnoi in a friendly match and finished 2nd-4th at Vinkovci half a point behind Bent Larsen. He was awarded a position in the 1973 world series as 2nd reserve in the player of strength list, on the non-participation of Botvinnik and the death of Leonid Stein he got a place in the 1973 Petropolis Interzonal. This really seemed to motivate him, he played some great chess, and although one gets the feeling he got a bit fed up of talking about the game, he won a classic wild game against Ljubojevic in the Four Pawns variation of the Alekhine's Defence in round 11. In the end he finished a point off a share of qualification in 6th place. His last USSR Championship final was the 43rd in Yerevan in 1975 sharing 9th-10th.
Bronstein was not one of the Soviet authorities favourites and when he refused to sign a letter condemning Korchnoi for his defection in 1976 Bronstein was forbidden to travel abroad (or at least to the west) and this had the knock-on effect of depressing his rating which meant he didn't get prestigious home invitations either. Bronstein is probably correct in saying that they wouldn't have been able to do this if he had been an ex-world champion.
In 1979 he finished 4th in the Keres Memorial in Tallinn behind Petrosian, Tal and Vaganian. In 1983 he stopped playing for a while and 1984 was pensioned off by the Soviet Sports Committee (a point of bitterness in his book). He resumed playing in 1987 with a 2nd= at Pancevo, he played on with diminishing returns until 1999 finishing with a highly respectable 2432 rating.
Bronstein,David I (2585) - Ljubojevic,Ljubomir (2570)
1.e4 Nf6 2.e5 Nd5 3.d4 d6 4.c4 Nb6 5.f4 dxe5 6.fxe5 c5 7.d5 e6 8.Nc3 exd5 9.cxd5 c4 10.Nf3 Bg4 11.Qd4 Bxf3 12.gxf3 Bb4 13.Bxc4 0-0 14.Rg1 g6N Improving on a game he'd played against Honfi in 1971. 15.Bg5! Qc7
16.Bb3!! Sacrificing a whole rook without clear compensation. 16...Bc5 17.Qf4 Bxg1 18.d6 Qc8 19.Ke2?! [19.0-0-0 was later shown to be better but both players are on their own here and this is one of the most analysed games ever.] 19...Bc5? loses. [19...Qc5] 20.Ne4! N8d7 21.Rc1! Qc6 22.Rxc5 Nxc5 23.Nf6+ Kh8 24.Qh4 Qb5+ 25.Ke3!! White was in severe time pressure which is why the game continues. But having found this Bronstein wins. 25...h5 26.Nxh5 Qxb3+ 27.axb3 Nd5+ 28.Kd4 Ne6+ 29.Kxd5 Nxg5 30.Nf6+ Kg7 31.Qxg5 Rfd8 32.e6 fxe6+ 33.Kxe6 Rf8 34.d7 a5 35.Ng4 Ra6+ 36.Ke5 Rf5+ 37.Qxf5 gxf5 38.d8Q fxg4 39.Qd7+ Kh6 40.Qxb7 Rg6 41.f4 1-0
Bronstein in play against Brett Lund in 1995 at the Manchester Open.
In the year's I have been compiling TWIC there has only been one death of comparible stature, that of Mikhail Botvinnik in 1995. I have raked over his results and achievements without I think quite getting to the essence of why the man was so important and great. When he emerged he was to that generation as Tal and Fischer were to the next or the young Kasparov was to me. He brought something new and exciting to the game and he took that ability right to the very top and in doing so he actually influenced how a generation played. He has more great games than most, and wins against almost every player of importance (he did draw all his games against Fischer and Euwe and only had a -4=19 record against Spassky but had some great records against some of the other legends). The man won Soviet Championships, he won two interzonals alone, he finished 1st= in a Candidates and fought for the world title and drew. He was the top player in the world in the early 1950s. He was an important chess journalist in Russia and some of his writings have made it to the west. The key book is his Zurich 1953 book but his Soucerer's Apprentice is an almost equal delight and 200 Open games is worth having. In his long career and even lengthy decline he could shock and surprise. His influence on the openings, particularly the early development and popularisation of the King's Indian along with Boleslavsky was great. He pioneered Man-Machine matches (starting in the 1960s and including playing Deep Thought 2 in the early 1990s and the AEGON events) and pioneered different time rates including something close to the Fischer time rate with increments. He's also probably along with Tal the great player the ordinary joe chess player might have run into somewhere on his long and peripatetic journey round the world in his later years. He was a true great and should be remembered as such.