Advent calendar: December 10

by Dagobert Kohlmeyer
12/10/2016 – From December 1 to December 24 we invite our readers every day to open a door in our advent calendar. Click and enjoy a little chess treat. Advent calendar, door 10.

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David Bronstein (February 19, 1924 – December 5, 2006)

According to Boris Spassky there were only four titans in Soviet chess: Mikhail Botvinnik, Vassily Smyslov, Paul Keres and David Bronstein. Everybody who has some knowledge of chess history will immediately think of Bronstein's dramatic World Championship match against Botvinnik in 1951 or remember Bronstein's unique combinations. The little man with the incredible imagination was one of the truly great of chess history. David Bronstein died on December 5, 2006, and he was one of the last romantics of modern chess. He was not only an original player with a lot of fighting spirit but also a bold, unorthodox and creative thinker.

The early years

David Bronstein was born on February 19, 1924 in Belaja Zerkow, Ukraine. His family later moved to Kiev where Bronstein started to play chess seriously. The young David was lucky: the excellent trainer Alexander Konstantinopolski noticed his great talent and supported him. 1940, when Bronstein was just 16 years old, he finished second behind Isaak Boleslavsky in the Ukranian Championship. In 1944 Bronstein created quite a stir when he won against Michail Botvinnik who was soon to become World Champion. The next year, in 1945, Bronstein finished third in the Soviet Championship.

In 1948 Bronstein won the Interzonal Tournament in Saltsjöbaden and 1948 and 1949 he shared first place in the Soviet Championship. In the Candidates Tournament 1950 in Budapest Bronstein shared first place with Isaak Boleslavsky and won the play-off to become 1951 challenger of World Champion Botvinnik. The duel for the highest title was a 24-game match and was played in Moscow. After 22 games Bronstein led 11.5-10.5 but then lost the 23rd game and when he drew the last game the match ended with a score of 12-12 and Botvinnik kept his title. There have always been rumors that officials pressured Bronstein to lose the match. He later spoke only evasively about this. At any rate, it was THE tragedy of his career and occupied him till the end of his life.


In the Candidates Tournament 1953 in Zurich Bronstein finished second behind Smyslov. He later wrote a book about this tournament which is regarded as a classic of chess literature. In 1955 Bronstein won the Interzonal Tournament in Amsterdam but in the Candidates Tournament one year later he failed to qualify for the World Championship match. But even though he could no longer entertain realistic hopes to become World Champion he still won international tournaments and was a dangerous opponent. Bronstein had a very dynamic style and liked to play complicated positions. He played romantic openings such as the King's Gambit and enriched modern systems such as the King's Indian Defense with a lot of ideas.

David Bronstein

He always wanted to make chess more attractive. A lot of his ideas and proposals are now reality. The very popular rapid chess for instance, goes back to an idea by Bronstein. He also had the idea that you can only offer a draw after you made your move.

Bronstein's love for chess lasted until the end of his life. After the end of the Sovietunion he could travel more freely and often played open tournaments in Western Europe. Bronstein died on December 5, in Minsk.

Here are two examples of Bronstein's art: one from an early and one from a later stage of his career.

Pachman – Bronstein, Prag 1946


Bronstein – Ljubojevic, Petropolis 1973



And here's the door for December 10. At Christmas a lot of DVDs are shipped.


Dagobert Kohlmeyer is one of the best known German chess journalists. For more than 25 years Kohlmeyer, who lives in Berlin, has been travelling all over the world to report about and to capture impressions of Chess Olympiads, World Championships, and top tournaments.


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