Long on talent but short on ambition

8/23/2005 – Isaac Boleslavsky was a Ukrainian grandmaster who came within a hair's breadth from challenging Botvinnik, losing narrowly in the Candidates Finals to his future son-in-law Bronstein. He lacked the ambition to make it to the pinnacle but remained a dangerous player and a fine analyst. In his Monday night Playchess lecturer Dennis Monokroussos shows us an instructive game.

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Dennis Monokroussos writes:

Isaac Boleslavsky (1919-1977) was a Ukrainian grandmaster long on talent but short on ambition. His career-defining moment came in the Candidates tournament in 1950, when he led by a game with just two rounds to go (that shows the talent); unfortunately, a pair of quick draws allowed his friend (and later son-in-law!) David Bronstein to catch him for first (that illustrates the lack of ambition). The subsequent playoff match was tied after the allotted 12 games, and only after two more games did Bronstein succeed in gaining the right to play world champion Mikhail Botvinnik – who, ironically, kept his title by drawing the match with Bronstein.

Boleslavsky’s appearance in the 1953 Candidates was in a way similar, as he would outplay his opponents on a regular basis, but slip up time after time. He could easily have contended for first; instead, he finished at –1, and never again made it even to the Interzonal stage of the world championship cycle. Nevertheless, despite his lack of ambition, he maintained his great strength for years. In a 1966 training tournament in the USSR, for instance, he exchanged a pair of wins with the world champion, Tigran Petrosian, while defeating Viktor Korchnoi 2-0 in their games!

In addition to his achievements as a player, he was a fine analyst (Bobby Fischer praised his book of best games for its quality and objectivity), theoretician (his contributions to the King’s Indian and especially the Sicilian Defense was of great significance), and he proved very helpful as a second during Petrosian’s matches for the world title.

Enough background; on to the game for the show. We'll take a look at his first game with Alexander Kotov from the 1953 Zurich Candidates tournament. Boleslavsky achieves an advantageous isolated queen pawn position on the White side of a Queen's Gambit Accepted, and the way he makes use of this advantage with a well-timed d4-d5 break is instructive to anyone who plays either side of a typical isolani position. Kotov labors his way to a pawn-down ending, but Boleslavsky's accurate and instructive technique left his opponent without a chance.

It's an excellent game, and we may even have some bonus coverage. Either way, it's worth tuning in, and I hope to see you this Monday night at 9 p.m. ET!

Dennis Monokroussos' Radio ChessBase lectures begin on Mondays at 9 p.m. EDT, which translates to 02:00h GMT, 03:00 Paris/Berlin, 13:00h Sydney (on Tuesday). Other time zones can be found at the bottom of this page. You can use Fritz or any Fritz-compatible program (Shredder, Junior, Tiger, Hiarcs) to follow the lectures, or download a free trial client.


Dennis Monokroussos is 38, lives in South Bend, IN, and is an adjunct professor of philosophy at the University of Notre Dame.

He is fairly inactive as a player right now, spending most of his non-philosophy time being a husband and teaching chess. At one time he was one of the strongest juniors in the U.S., but quit for about eight years starting in his early 20s. His highest rating was 2434 USCF, but he has now fallen to the low-mid 2300s – "too much blitz, too little tournament chess", he says.

Dennis has been working as a chess teacher for seven years now, giving lessons to adults and kids both in person and on the internet, worked for a number of years for New York’s Chess In The Schools program, where he was one of the coaches of the 1997-8 US K-8 championship team from the Bronx, and was very active in working with many of CITS’s most talented juniors.

When Dennis Monokroussos presents a game, there are usually two main areas of focus: the opening-to-middlegame transition and the key moments of the middlegame (or endgame, when applicable). With respect to the latter, he attempts to present some serious analysis culled from his best sources (both text and database), which he has checked with his own efforts and then double-checked with his chess software.

Here are the exact times for different locations in the world

Abu Dhabi Tue 05:00   Halifax * Mon 22:00   New Orleans * Mon 20:00
Addis Ababa Tue 04:00 Hanoi Tue 08:00 New York * Mon 21:00
Adelaide Tue 10:30 Harare Tue 03:00 Odesa * Tue 04:00
Aden Tue 04:00 Havana * Mon 21:00 Oslo * Tue 03:00
Aklavik * Mon 19:00 Helsinki * Tue 04:00 Ottawa * Mon 21:00
Algiers Tue 02:00 Hong Kong Tue 09:00 Paris * Tue 03:00
Amman * Tue 04:00 Honolulu Mon 15:00 Perth Tue 09:00
Amsterdam * Tue 03:00 Houston * Mon 20:00 Philadelphia * Mon 21:00
Anadyr * Tue 14:00 Indianapolis Mon 20:00 Phoenix Mon 18:00
Anchorage * Mon 17:00 Islamabad Tue 06:00 Prague * Tue 03:00
Ankara * Tue 04:00 Istanbul * Tue 04:00 Reykjavik Tue 01:00
Antananarivo Tue 04:00 Jakarta Tue 08:00 Rio de Janeiro Mon 22:00
Asuncion Mon 21:00 Jerusalem * Tue 04:00 Riyadh Tue 04:00
Athens * Tue 04:00 Johannesburg Tue 03:00 Rome * Tue 03:00
Atlanta * Mon 21:00 Kabul Tue 05:30 San Francisco * Mon 18:00
Baghdad * Tue 05:00 Kamchatka * Tue 14:00 San Juan Mon 21:00
Bangkok Tue 08:00 Karachi Tue 06:00 San Salvador Mon 19:00
Barcelona * Tue 03:00 Kathmandu Tue 06:45 Santiago Mon 21:00
Beijing Tue 09:00 Khartoum Tue 04:00 Santo Domingo Mon 21:00
Beirut * Tue 04:00 Kingston Mon 20:00 Sao Paulo Mon 22:00
Belgrade * Tue 03:00 Kiritimati Tue 15:00 Seattle * Mon 18:00
Berlin * Tue 03:00 Kolkata Tue 06:30 Seoul Tue 10:00
Bogota Mon 20:00 Kuala Lumpur Tue 09:00 Shanghai Tue 09:00
Boston * Mon 21:00 Kuwait City Tue 04:00 Singapore Tue 09:00
Brasilia Mon 22:00 Kyiv * Tue 04:00 Sofia * Tue 04:00
Brisbane Tue 11:00 La Paz Mon 21:00 St. John's * Mon 22:30
Brussels * Tue 03:00 Lagos Tue 02:00 St. Paul * Mon 20:00
Bucharest * Tue 04:00 Lahore Tue 06:00 Stockholm * Tue 03:00
Budapest * Tue 03:00 Lima Mon 20:00 Suva Tue 13:00
Buenos Aires Mon 22:00 Lisbon * Tue 02:00 Sydney Tue 11:00
Cairo Tue 03:00 London * Tue 02:00 Taipei Tue 09:00
Canberra Tue 11:00 Los Angeles * Mon 18:00 Tallinn * Tue 04:00
Cape Town Tue 03:00 Madrid * Tue 03:00 Tashkent Tue 06:00
Caracas Mon 21:00 Managua Mon 19:00 Tegucigalpa Mon 19:00
Casablanca Tue 01:00 Manila Tue 09:00 Tehran * Tue 05:30
Chatham Island Tue 13:45 Melbourne Tue 11:00 Tokyo Tue 10:00
Chicago * Mon 20:00 Mexico City * Mon 20:00 Toronto * Mon 21:00
Copenhagen * Tue 03:00 Minneapolis * Mon 20:00 Vancouver * Mon 18:00
Darwin Tue 10:30 Minsk * Tue 04:00 Vienna * Tue 03:00
Denver * Mon 19:00 Montevideo Mon 22:00 Vladivostok * Tue 12:00
Detroit * Mon 21:00 Montgomery * Mon 20:00 Warsaw * Tue 03:00
Dhaka Tue 07:00 Montreal * Mon 21:00 Washington DC * Mon 21:00
Dublin * Tue 02:00 Moscow * Tue 05:00 Wellington Tue 13:00
Edmonton * Mon 19:00 Mumbai Tue 06:30 Winnipeg * Mon 20:00
Frankfurt * Tue 03:00 Nairobi Tue 04:00 Yangon Tue 07:30
Geneva * Tue 03:00 Nassau * Mon 21:00 Zagreb * Tue 03:00
Guatemala Mon 19:00 New Delhi Tue 06:30 Zürich * Tue 03:00

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