Endgame Riddle: Fischer vs Bronstein, Portoroz 1958

by Karsten Müller
7/7/2022 – At the Interzonal Tournament in Portoroz 1958, the then 15-year-old Bobby Fischer (pictured) finished in 6th place with 12.0/20, and narrowly qualified for the Candidates Tournament. Half a point behind, five players shared places seven to eleven with 11.5/20 each, which was not enough to qualify. One of these five players was David Bronstein, who failed to win a better endgame against Fischer in Round 6. Karsten Müller and Zoran Petronijevic took a closer look at this endgame and invite ChessBase readers to search for a win for Bronstein. | Photo: Tournament book

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Portoroz 1958 - Final standings

Rk. Name Country 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 Pts.
1 Mihail Tal
 
  ½ ½ 1 ½ ½ 0 1 ½ ½ ½ 1 1 ½ ½ 1 ½ 1 ½ 1 1 13.5 / 20
2 Svetozar Gligoric
 
½   ½ ½ ½ 0 ½ ½ ½ ½ 1 ½ 1 ½ 1 1 0 1 1 1 1 13.0 / 20
3 Tigran V Petrosian
 
½ ½   ½ ½ ½ 1 ½ ½ ½ 1 ½ ½ ½ ½ 0 1 1 1 ½ 1 12.5 / 20
4 Pal C Benko
 
0 ½ ½   1 ½ 1 ½ 1 ½ ½ ½ 0 1 ½ ½ ½ ½ 1 1 1 12.5 / 20
5 Robert James Fischer
 
½ ½ ½ 0   0 ½ ½ ½ ½ ½ ½ ½ 1 ½ 1 1 ½ 1 1 1 12.0 / 20
6 Fridrik Olafsson
 
½ 1 ½ ½ 1   ½ 1 1 0 ½ ½ ½ ½ 0 1 0 0 1 1 1 12.0 / 20
7 Aleksandar Matanovic
 
1 ½ 0 0 ½ ½   1 0 ½ ½ ½ ½ ½ ½ 1 1 ½ 1 ½ 1 11.5 / 20
8 Laszlo Szabo
 
0 ½ ½ ½ ½ 0 0   1 ½ ½ 1 ½ ½ 0 ½ 1 1 1 1 1 11.5 / 20
9 Yuri L Averbakh
 
½ ½ ½ 0 ½ 0 1 0   ½ ½ ½ ½ 1 1 1 ½ 1 ½ ½ 1 11.5 / 20
10 David Ionovich Bronstein
 
½ ½ ½ ½ ½ 1 ½ ½ ½   1 ½ ½ ½ ½ ½ 1 ½ 0 ½ 1 11.5 / 20
11 Ludek Pachman
 
½ 0 0 ½ ½ ½ ½ ½ ½ 0   ½ ½ ½ 1 1 1 ½ 1 1 1 11.5 / 20
12 Miroslav Filip
 
0 ½ ½ ½ ½ ½ ½ 0 ½ ½ ½   ½ ½ 1 ½ ½ ½ 1 1 1 11.0 / 20
13 Oscar Panno
 
0 0 ½ 1 ½ ½ ½ ½ ½ ½ ½ ½   1 ½ ½ 1 ½ 1 ½ ½ 11.0 / 20
14 Raul Sanguineti
 
½ ½ ½ 0 0 ½ ½ ½ 0 ½ ½ ½ 0   1 ½ 1 1 ½ 1 ½ 10.0 / 20
15 Oleg Neikirkh
 
½ 0 ½ ½ ½ 1 ½ 1 0 ½ 0 0 ½ 0   0 ½ 1 1 ½ 1 9.5 / 20
16 Bent Larsen
 
0 0 1 ½ 0 0 0 ½ 0 ½ 0 ½ ½ ½ 1   1 1 ½ 0 1 8.5 / 20
17 James T Sherwin
 
½ 1 0 ½ 0 1 0 0 ½ 0 0 ½ 0 0 ½ 0   1 0 1 1 7.5 / 20
18 Hector Rossetto
 
0 0 0 ½ ½ 1 ½ 0 0 ½ ½ ½ ½ 0 0 0 0   1 ½ 1 7.0 / 20
19 Radolfo Tan Cardoso
 
½ 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 ½ 1 0 0 0 ½ 0 ½ 1 0   1 1 6.0 / 20
20 Boris De Greif
 
0 0 ½ 0 0 0 ½ 0 ½ ½ 0 0 ½ 0 ½ 1 0 ½ 0   0 4.5 / 20
21 Geza Fuster
 
0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 ½ ½ 0 0 0 0 0 1   2.0 / 20

Bronstein lost only one game in the entire tournament: against underdog Radolfo Tan Cardoso in the last round. Had Bronstein won this game, he would have qualified for the 1959 Candidates Tournament.

But in round 6 Bronstein also missed a good opportunity to gain ground on Fischer. In a better endgame Bronstein couldn't find a win and allowed Fischer to save a draw.

 

But did Bronstein really miss a win or was the position indeed drawn? Zoran Petronijevic and Karsten Müller took a close look at the endgame and invite you to join them in the search for a win for Black.

Share your analyses, ideas and findings in the comments!

Links


Karsten Müller is considered to be one of the greatest endgame experts in the world. His books on the endgame - among them "Fundamentals of Chess Endings", co-authored with Frank Lamprecht, that helped to improve Magnus Carlsen's endgame knowledge - and his endgame columns for the ChessCafe website and the ChessBase Magazine helped to establish and to confirm this reputation. Karsten's Fritztrainer DVDs on the endgame are bestsellers. The mathematician with a PhD lives in Hamburg, and for more than 25 years he has been scoring points for the Hamburger Schachklub (HSK) in the Bundesliga.
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turok turok 8/1/2022 10:20
why do we do this? What is the real purpose other to say IF this IF that when you use a computer-the fact is when you go vs each other in stressful situations that counts-this is just not interesting when u can use a computer to say this person couldve won-we can do that in so many games in history but I have no interest in it because like I said its the computers finding the answers not MEN-
MickyMaus90 MickyMaus90 7/11/2022 11:18
@albitex
"regarding the Fischer-Brostein match according to the engines after 56...Rh5 57. g6 Rg5 58. Rd8 e4 59. Kf2 Rxg6 Black is in clear advantage. However, a long maneuver is required to win. From a human point of view, I believe that the draw is the most natural result."
I hope you don't mind, if I tend to disagree on your last point. Engines are stubborn defenders, tending to prolong resistance as long as possible. So a win might look more difficult than it is.
In the position after move 59 of your line, Black's advantage is already very big. Flexible majority vs fixed white majority, space advantage, rook on open file and total central domination. It would need a miracle to save White, which must be checked of course.
After 60.Rc8 besides 60...Kd6 or 60...Kd5 there is also the active temporary pawn sacrifice 60...Rg7 61.Bxa4 Rh7, proposed by mtakt and vinvin already, which I also like a lot.

I suppose Bronstein's basic mistake was, that he assumed, he can win quickly without pickung up the white g5. Likely overlooking Fischer's 58.Bd1!
At that stage of the game, 54...Rh5 (white king still on e3) or 53...Rg8 with the idea of preparing g6-g5 are alternative wins for Black. All based on the same theme.

Wolfram Schön
Karsten Müller Karsten Müller 7/10/2022 09:24
Continuation by Alberto Aliberti:
Analysis by Stockfish 070222 SF14.184:

1. -+ (-6.30): 60.Tc8 Rd6 61.Te8 Th6 62.Rg1 Ad5 63.Td8+ Rc6 64.Tc8+ Rd7 65.Tc5 Rd6 66.Txb5 e3 67.Tb6+ Ac6 68.Rf1 Th1+ 69.Re2 Th2+ 70.Rxe3 Txc2 71.Rf4 Tf2+ 72.Rg5 Tf1 73.Rf6 Tf3 74.Tb4 Ad7 75.b3 axb3 76.Txb3 Txg3 77.Tb4 Tg4 78.Tb6+ Rc7 79.Tb1 Tc4 80.Tf1 Txc3 81.a4 Tc6+ 82.Rg5 Ta6 83.Ta1 Ta5 84.Tc1+ Rd6 85.Td1+ Re6 86.Te1+ Te5 87.Tb1 Te4 88.Tb6+ Re5 89.a5 Tg4+ 90.Rh5 Ae6 91.a6 Ad5

2. -+ (-6.55): 60.Te8+ Rf6 61.Tc8 Th6 62.Tc6+ Ae6 63.Rg2 Th8 64.Td6 Re5 65.Tb6 Ac4 66.b3 Ad5 67.Txb5 e3+ 68.Rf1 Rd6 69.Tb4 Th1+ 70.Re2 Th2+ 71.Rxe3 Txc2 72.c4 Ae4 73.Tb6+ Rc7 74.Tb4 axb3 75.Txb3 Txc4 76.Tb2 Tc3+ 77.Rf4 Tf3+ 78.Re5 Txg3 79.Ta2 Rb6 80.Rd4 Td3+ 81.Re5 Ra5 82.a4 Td5+ 83.Rf4 Td4 84.Re3 Td3+ 85.Rf4 Tb3 86.Td2 Rxa4 87.Ta2+ Rb4 88.Ta7 Tf3+ 89.Re5 Ta3 90.Th7 Ta5+ 91.Rf4 Rc5 92.Tc7+ Rd6

3. -+ (-7.48): 60.Ad1 Th6 61.Rg2 Th7 62.Td4 Re5 63.Axa4 e3 64.Ad1 e2 65.Axe2 Axe2 66.Tb4 Td7 67.Rf2 Td2 68.b3 Tc2 69.Re3 Af1 70.c4 bxc4 71.Tb5+ Rf6 72.bxc4 Tc3+ 73.Rf2 Axc4 74.Tc5 Tc2+ 75.Re3 Rg5 76.Rd4 Ab3 77.Te5 Tc4+ 78.Rd3 Ta4 79.Rc3 Af7 80.Rb2 Te4 81.Tc5 Te2+ 82.Rc1 Tg2 83.a4 Txg3 84.Ta5 Tg1+ 85.Rc2 Tg2+ 86.Rc3 Rf6 87.Rd3 Ae6 88.Re3 Tg4 89.Rf3

4. -+ (-7.75): 60.Th8 Tg7 61.Th6+ Re5 62.Th1 Tg8 63.Th6 Td8 64.Re3 Ab3 65.Axe4 fxe4 66.Th5+ Re6 67.Txb5 Ad5 68.g4 Ac6 69.Tb6 Td3+ 70.Re2 Rd5 71.g5 Rc5 72.Tb4 Tg3 73.b3 axb3 74.Txb3 Txg5 75.Tb1 Tg3 76.c4 Rxc4 77.a4 Rd4 78.Td1+ Re5 79.Tc1 Ad5 80.Ta1 Tg8 81.Tc1 Tg2+ 82.Rf1
Karsten Müller Karsten Müller 7/10/2022 09:23
Alberto Aliberti:
Good morning Mr. Muller,
regarding the Fischer-Brostein match according to the engines after 56...Rh5 57. g6 Rg5 58. Rd8 e4 59. Kf2 Rxg6 Black is in clear advantage. However, a long maneuver is required to win.
From a human point of view, I believe that the draw is the most natural result.
Below I attaching an Stockfish analysis made by my friend, although I don't think it is very useful for a human player. The notation is in Italian so we have:
King = R
Queen = D
Rook = T
Bishop = A
Knight = C
Pawn = P
albitex albitex 7/8/2022 02:39
The engines say that after 56 ... Rh5 Black can win, but with a very long endgame and a complex maneuver. Theoretically Black can win, but for a human it is a very difficult task, one cannot commit the slightest inaccuracy.
I therefore believe that Brostein made the most humanly sensible choice to draw by repetition.
Karsten Müller Karsten Müller 7/8/2022 08:17
Vinvin: Yes indeed. Many thanks!
Karsten Müller Karsten Müller 7/8/2022 08:04
Many thanks for the many comments! My remarks follow:
brain8871: Yes well done! 57...e4? was the final mistake.
albitex: Yes 56...Rh5!? -+ is more precise.
KING57: I guess that you mean 52...Kf6, which wiuns indeed easier than the game move 52...Ke6.
]Vinvin[ ]Vinvin[ 7/8/2022 02:55
After 43.g3? the game seems lost :
-5,21 43. ... hxg3 44.fxg3 Be6 45.Rd1 Ke7 46.Bg2 Bc4 47.Bc6 Rb6

Some improvements for black :

56...Rh5!
-7,03 56. ... Rh5 57.g6 Rg5 58.Rd8 e4 59.Kf2 Rxg6 60.Rc8 Rg7 61.Bxa4 Rh7 62.Ke3 Rh3 63.Bd1 Rxg3+...

50... e4!
-9,07 50. ... e4 51.Kf4 Rd8 52.g4 Kf6 53.Rg2 Rh8 54.g5+ Ke6 55.Rh2 Rd8 56.Rf2 Bb3 57.Bxe4 fxe4 58.Kxe4 Bd5+ ...
mtakt mtakt 7/8/2022 12:48
"Aren't those the same thing? " No, they are not the same thing, could just show with Kf6 an easy win for Bronstein, but the weaker move he chosed didn't change the game theoretical result. Agree with you that it is 57... e4 that throws away the win, and also with your line 57...Rh2+ 58. Ke1 Rh5 59. g6 Rg5 60. Rd8 e4 61. Kf2 Rxg6 where it can follow 62. Rc8 Rg7 63. Bxa4 Rh7 -+
brian8871 brian8871 7/7/2022 09:41
However, the question of Chessbase was "to search for a win for Bronstein", not to show Bronstein's move that finally gave away the victory.

Aren't those the same thing? If you can show a better move for Bronstein than the one that gives away the win, then by definition, you've found a win for him.
Johannes Fischer Johannes Fischer 7/7/2022 07:55
@adbennet
Thanks for writing. This was an error - Bronstein was not a pawn up. The error was corrected.
adbennet adbennet 7/7/2022 07:42
In which position was Bronstein up a pawn?
Karsten Müller Karsten Müller 7/7/2022 07:31
By Michael Taktikos:
(52...Kf6 53. Be4 (53. Rd2 g5 54. Rh2 f4+ 55. Kf2 gxh4 56. gxf4 exf4 -+)
53... Ke6 54. Bc2 e4 55. Kf4 Rd8 56. g4 Kf6 -+) 53. Rd2 g5 54. hxg5 Rh3 55. Kf2
Rh2+ 56.Ke1 Rh1+ 57. Kf2 e4 58. Bd1 Rf1+ 59. Ke3 Re1+ 60. Kf2 Rf1+ 61. Ke3 Re1+
62. Kf2
1/2-1/2

After 52...Ke6, Bronstein's way to victory is much more difficult, but still it is a winning position.
However, the question of Chessbase was "to search for a win for Bronstein", not to show Bronstein's move that finally gave away the victory.
HurtU HurtU 7/7/2022 06:01
I let Stockfish ponder this for hours and hours. Nothing! This is a draw. Black's best move is 62...Rh1 but there's really not much after that.
KING57 KING57 7/7/2022 05:09
KING57
maybe if he played 50... Kf6 after 51. Kd2 Rg8 / Bb1 Ke6 could fight for the win,
albitex albitex 7/7/2022 03:55
Interestingly, Brostein took refuge in a draw by repetition, but maybe if he played 56 ... Rh5 (instead of 56 ... Rh1 +) after 57. g6 Tg5 could fight for the win, but it's difficult. A long and difficult maneuver is needed. I have to analyze.
brian8871 brian8871 7/7/2022 03:10
57...e4 throws away the win. 57...Rh2+ 58. Ke1 Rh5 59. g6 Rg5 60. Rd8 e4 61. Kf2 Rxg6 -/+ is a winning line.
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