Understanding before Moving 159: Chess history in a nutshell (40)

by ChessBase
1/7/2024 – Herman Grooten is an International Master, a renowned trainer and the author of several highly acclaimed books on chess training and strategy. In the 159th episode of his ChessBase show "Understanding before moving" Herman continues his series "Chess history in a nutshell" and talks about the "Sorcerer's Apprentice", David Bronstein. | Photo: Pascal Simon

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David Bronstein (1)

In this episode we will talk about David Bronstein (1924 - 2006). It has already been mentioned that Botvinnik lost the World Championship title three times - against Vasily Smyslov (1957), Mihail Tal (1960) and Tigran Petrosian (1963) though Botvinnik managed to regain the title twice - against Smyslov in 1958 and against Tal in 1961.

But the World Championship match he played against David Bronstein in 1951 is remembered as the championship in which the world champion did not dominate. Three games before the end of the match, Bronstein led by one point, and only at the last moment did Botvinnik to tie the match by winning the penultimate game, though not without some luck. After a draw in the final game the match ended with a 12-12 tie, and Botvinnik as reigning champion could keep his title.

Afterwards Bronstein always dropped hints that the authorities had forbidden him to become world champion because Botvinnik held a powerful position in the Soviet system of the time. Tom Fürstenberg, Bronstein's biographer, whom Bronstein often visited, tried to get official statements from him on this matter, but the old master never formally commented on it.

I had the opportunity to meet Bronstein through Fürstenberg, who was the treasurer of the Anderlecht chess club in Brussels, and Bronstein sometimes played for my team. Later I also met Bronstein at the Aegon tournament in The Hague: the famous 'man versus machine' tournaments in which 50 invited players played against 50 different chess computers. This was in the early nineties, when humans still had a fair chance against computers. Bronstein showed some strong play in these events, employing somewhat extravagant play and piece sacrifices to defeat the computer.

Fürstenberg and Bronstein published a wonderful book about Bronstein's career and successes: The Sorcerer's Apprentice. The book documents Bronstein's wonderful feats on the chessboard. Bronstein was a player with a most original perspective on the game. In many games he had a penchant for adventurous chess. There is even an opening named after him, the so-called "Bronstein Gambit", which arises after the moves 1.d4 Nf6 2.g4!

It is truly tragic that this genius was never allowed (according to him, due to pressure from the authorities) to become world champion. Very famous is the tournament book of the Zurich Candidates Tournament in 1953, in which Bronstein analysed almost all the games of the tournament.

As virtually all the top players of the time took part in this tournament and engaged in high-level opening discussions, we can say that this tournament may have laid the foundations for modern opening theory. Bronstein made a significant contribution with his explanations and variations, shedding light on various themes in openings such as the Najdorf Sicilian or the King's Indian Defence.

IM Gert Ligterink once said that he became Dutch champion thanks to this book, fully inspired by the lessons he learned from Bronstein. One of the insights that the great man shared with us was his idea about the weak pawn on d6 in the Fianchetto Variation of the King's Indian.

In the position below, which Bronstein once brought onto the board from his beloved King-Indian Variation, he was able to indulge in beautiful combinatorial play to his heart's content. Can you guess which combination he used to win the game?

Master Class Vol.10: Mikhail Botvinnik

Our experts show, using the games of Botvinnik, how to employ specific openings successfully, which model strategies are present in specific structures, how to find tactical solutions and rules for how to bring endings to a successful conclusion

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