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  WCC Overview
Botvinnik vs Bronstein 1951

 Bronstein vs Botvinnik, 1951
 Tchaikovsky Concert Hall, Moscow 1951
David Bronstein was born in Bila Tserkva, Ukraine in 1924.[1] He showed early promise, debuting in the 1939 Ukrainian Championship at age 15.[2] A year later, his strong 2nd behind Isaac Boleslavsky in the 1940 Ukrainian Championship earned him the Soviet national master title.[1,3] Four years later he qualified for the USSR Championship (1944), where he finished 15th and notched his first career victory over Mikhail Botvinnik. He improved to 3rd in the USSR Championship (1945), which garnered him a spot on the lower boards in Soviet team events, where he performed well.[4] He further progressed in smaller events with good results, such as winning two Moscow championships in a row.[5] But his performance against the best opposition was not yet strong enough to achieve the Soviet grandmaster title.[6] FIDE still invited him with six other Soviets to the Saltsjöbaden Interzonal (1948).[7] Bronstein won, and was immediately awarded the Soviet grandmaster title.[6] He carried this excellent form forward, sharing 1st in both the USSR Championship (1948) and the USSR Championship (1949). He went on to tie Boleslavsky for 1st in the Budapest Candidates (1950), and won the subsequent playoff match. Bronstein had earned the right to face title holder Mikhail Botvinnik in a world championship match.

Botvinnik had played no chess in public since he had won the FIDE World Championship Tournament (1948), but he studied thoroughly by annotating every game Bronstein had played since the start of the Saltsjöbaden Interzonal.[8] Beginning in January 1951, Botvinnik also began compiling a notebook filled with his latest ideas in all the openings he thought might figure prominently in the match.[9] Bronstein claimed that Botvinnik hadn't played since 1948 "because he did not want to reveal his opening secrets."[10] Botvinnik finalized his preparation just days before the match with two secret training games against Viacheslav Ragozin.[11] Bronstein also played two training games, against Semyon Abramovich Furman and Paul Keres.[12]

Match conditions had been decided at the Paris 1949 FIDE congress.[13] The winner would be the first to score 12 1/2 points from a maximum of 24 games, with the champion enjoying draw odds. The time control was 40 moves in 2 1/2 hours, and 16 moves an hour thereafter, with an adjournment to the following day after five hours of play.[13,14] According to FIDE rules, the winner would receive $5,000 and the loser $3,000,[13] but Andrew Soltis maintains that Botvinnik and Bronstein actually got considerably less than this.[15] If the champion lost, he had the right to play the new champion and the winner of the next three year candidates cycle in a three player match tournament for the title. [13,16] The games were played in Moscow's Tchaikovsky Concert Hall under the direction of arbiter Karel Opocensky and controller Gideon Stahlberg. The seconds were Ragozin and Salomon Flohr for Botvinnik, and Alexander Konstantinopolsky for Bronstein.[17]

Bronstein opened the match with the Dutch Defense. Botvinnik considered himself an expert on both sides of the Dutch, and had not prepared for this system.[9,18] Botvinnik suspected that Bronstein meant to "force me to fight against my 'own' systems," a ploy he dismissed as "naive."[18] After scoring +0 -1 =2 in three attempts with the Dutch, Bronstein abandoned it after game 9. By game 22, Bronstein led by a point and needed only win once more, or draw twice in the last two games, in order to unseat the champion. Botvinnik responded with one of his best games of the match. He describes the final move of the 23rd game, 57. ♗g5: "Zugzwang...Bronstein needed forty minutes to convince himself of the inevitability of defeat."[19] Bronstein could still have become champion by winning the final game, but after pressing with the white pieces for 22 moves, he appeared to be without winning chances and accepted Botvinnik's draw offer.[20] By tying the match score 12-12, Botvinnik retained his title.

After the match, Botvinnik was complimentary to his opponent, noting that Bronstein "presses the attack with remarkable power, he has an excellent command of openings and is frequently able to wrest the initiative from the start."[21] Years later, Botvinnik and Bronstein spoke in less friendly terms about the match. Bronstein complained that "When the 24th game was finished, many journalists came to the stage and asked Botvinnik to hold a press conference. The Champion agreed but 'forgot' to invite me to attend."[22] Botvinnik accused Bronstein of "outrageous" behavior: "He would make a move and quickly go behind the stage, then... suddenly dart out and disappear again. In the auditorium there was laughter, and this hindered my playing."[23]

Bronstein has controversially hinted that there was government pressure on him to lose the match. In a 1993 interview he explained that "There was no direct pressure... But... there was the psychological pressure of the environment..." in part caused by his father's "several years in prison" and what he labeled "the marked preference for the institutional Botvinnik." Bronstein concluded that "it seemed to me that winning could seriously harm me, which does not mean that I deliberately lost."[24]

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FINAL SCORE:  Botvinnik 12;  Bronstein 12
Reference: game collection WCC Index [Botvinnik-Bronstein 1951]

NOTABLE GAMES   [what is this?]
    · Game #23     Botvinnik vs Bronstein, 1951     1-0
    · Game #22     Bronstein vs Botvinnik, 1951     1-0
    · Game #6     Bronstein vs Botvinnik, 1951     0-1


  1. David Bronstein and Tom Fürstenberg, The Sorcerer's Apprentice (Cadogan 1995), pp.263-264
  2. Alexey Popovsky, Rusbase 2
  3. Alexey Popovsky, Rusbase 3
  4. After his 3rd place at the USSR Championship (1945), Bronstein joined the Soviet team in the following international events: 10th board in the USSR-USA Radio Match (1945) Alexey Popovsky, Rusbase 4a; 1st board in the Prague-Moscow Match (1946) Olimpbase; 7th board in the USSR-Great Britain Radio Match (1946) Alexey Popovsky, Rusbase 4b; 10th board in the USSR-USA Match (1946) Alexey Popovsky, Rusbase 4c; and 9th board in the USSR-Great Britain Match (1947) Harry Golombek, Golombek's Encyclopedia of Chess (Crown Publishers, Inc. 1977), p.45
  5. Alexey Popovsky, Rusbase 5a; Rusbase5b
  6. Tidskrift för Schack nr.8-9 (Aug-Sept 1948), pp.180-181 Tabanus transl.
  7. Kotov and Yudovich, Soviet Chess School (Raduga Publishers 1982), pp.77-78
  8. Mikhail Botvinnik, Match for the World Championship: Botvinnik Bronstein Moscow 1951 Igor Botvinnik ed. Ken Neat transl. (Edition Olms 2004), pp.103-113
  9. Botvinnik, Match for the World Championship: Botvinnik Bronstein Moscow 1951, pp.114-119
  10. Bronstein and Fürstenberg, pp.16-17
  11. Jan Timman, Secret Matches- the Unknown Training Games of Mikhail Botvinnik (Russell Enterprises, Inc., 2000), p.9
  12. Bronstein and Fürstenberg, p.300
  13. Tidskrift för schack nr. 7-8 (July-Aug 1949), pp.153-157 Tabanus transl.
  14. Chess Life (10 Feb 1951), p.1
  15. Andrew Soltis, Soviet Chess 1917-1991 (McFarland 2000), p.188
  16. Yuri Averbakh, Centre-Stage and Behind The Scenes: The Personal Memoir of a Soviet Chess Legend Steve Giddins, transl. (New in Chess 2011), p.112
  17. Botvinnik, Match for the World Championship: Botvinnik Bronstein Moscow 1951, p.11
  18. Botvinnik, Match for the World Championship: Botvinnik Bronstein Moscow 1951, p.16
  19. Mikhail Botvinnik, Half a Century of Chess E. Strauss transl. (Cadogan 1996), pp.163-164
  20. Botvinnik, Match for the World Championship- Botvinnik Bronstein Moscow 1951, p.102
  21. Chess Review (Sept 1951), p.279
  22. Bronstein and Fürstenberg, p.17
  23. Genna Sosonko, Russian Silhouettes, 3d Edition (New in Chess 2001), p.39
  24. Revista Internacional de Ajedrez (Mar 1993), pp.38-42. In Edward Winter, Chess Note 4753 David Bronstein

 page 1 of 1; 24 games  PGN Download 
Game  ResultMoves YearEvent/LocaleOpening
1. Botvinnik vs Bronstein ½-½291951Botvinnik - Bronstein World Championship MatchA91 Dutch Defense
2. Bronstein vs Botvinnik ½-½491951Botvinnik - Bronstein World Championship MatchD87 Grunfeld, Exchange
3. Botvinnik vs Bronstein ½-½671951Botvinnik - Bronstein World Championship MatchC07 French, Tarrasch
4. Bronstein vs Botvinnik ½-½471951Botvinnik - Bronstein World Championship MatchD15 Queen's Gambit Declined Slav
5. Botvinnik vs Bronstein 0-1391951Botvinnik - Bronstein World Championship MatchE47 Nimzo-Indian, 4.e3 O-O 5.Bd3
6. Bronstein vs Botvinnik 0-1571951Botvinnik - Bronstein World Championship MatchB63 Sicilian, Richter-Rauzer Attack
7. Botvinnik vs Bronstein 1-0661951Botvinnik - Bronstein World Championship MatchA94 Dutch, Stonewall with Ba3
8. Bronstein vs Botvinnik ½-½411951Botvinnik - Bronstein World Championship MatchD49 Queen's Gambit Declined Semi-Slav, Meran
9. Botvinnik vs Bronstein ½-½411951Botvinnik - Bronstein World Championship MatchA91 Dutch Defense
10. Bronstein vs Botvinnik ½-½551951Botvinnik - Bronstein World Championship MatchA84 Dutch
11. Botvinnik vs Bronstein 0-1391951Botvinnik - Bronstein World Championship MatchE17 Queen's Indian
12. Bronstein vs Botvinnik 0-1401951Botvinnik - Bronstein World Championship MatchA84 Dutch
13. Botvinnik vs Bronstein ½-½561951Botvinnik - Bronstein World Championship MatchE44 Nimzo-Indian, Fischer Variation, 5.Ne2
14. Bronstein vs Botvinnik ½-½661951Botvinnik - Bronstein World Championship MatchA07 King's Indian Attack
15. Botvinnik vs Bronstein ½-½331951Botvinnik - Bronstein World Championship MatchC07 French, Tarrasch
16. Bronstein vs Botvinnik ½-½751951Botvinnik - Bronstein World Championship MatchA91 Dutch Defense
17. Botvinnik vs Bronstein 0-1351951Botvinnik - Bronstein World Championship MatchE45 Nimzo-Indian, 4.e3, Bronstein (Byrne) Variation
18. Bronstein vs Botvinnik ½-½581951Botvinnik - Bronstein World Championship MatchD45 Queen's Gambit Declined Semi-Slav
19. Botvinnik vs Bronstein 1-0601951Botvinnik - Bronstein World Championship MatchD74 Neo-Grunfeld, Nxd5, 7.O-O
20. Bronstein vs Botvinnik ½-½461951Botvinnik - Bronstein World Championship MatchA14 English
21. Botvinnik vs Bronstein 0-1641951Botvinnik - Bronstein World Championship MatchE69 King's Indian, Fianchetto, Classical Main line
22. Bronstein vs Botvinnik 1-0381951Botvinnik - Bronstein World Championship MatchA91 Dutch Defense
23. Botvinnik vs Bronstein 1-0571951Botvinnik - Bronstein World Championship MatchE60 King's Indian Defense
24. Bronstein vs Botvinnik ½-½221951Botvinnik - Bronstein World Championship MatchD44 Queen's Gambit Declined Semi-Slav
 page 1 of 1; 24 games  PGN Download 
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Kibitzer's Corner
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Premium Chessgames Member
  Everett: <<acirce>: <I play the Fred> Thanks. Of course also "rehabilitations" were very politicized at that time.>

Yet obtuseness seems to be bipartisan.

Apr-22-11  talisman: #7 against #1...Mmmmm...who's #1 in 51?
Apr-25-11  talisman: BRONSTEIN.
Premium Chessgames Member
  jessicafischerqueen: Here is some live film footage of this historic match:

Premium Chessgames Member
  WCC Editing Project:

This intro has been rewritten. If you wish to join us in re-writing other WCC intros, please drop by my forum.

Jun-28-14  offramp: Kramnik writes:

<"I have come to the conclusion that on the whole Botvinnik dominated. He played more strongly, even though he was in far from ideal form... At the end of the match Bronstein played at least no worse, deservedly winning the 21st and 22nd games. <It was perhaps only these two games that Bronstein conducted well from beginning to end...>>

Of course I would never argue with a great player like Kramnik. He seems to think that Bronstein hardly deserved to win the title. Personally I think David Ionovich deserved a one-year reign, like Tal and Smyslov.

Unlike those two players, though, Bronstein had not won the Interzonal (or the playoff)! And this match was full of errors. Probably it had more serious errors than any match right up to Fischer-Spassky 1972.

So if Bronstein had won it would have been more through luck than skill.

Jun-28-14  offramp: <offramp: ...Unlike those two players, though, Bronstein had not won the Interzonal (or the playoff)! 1972.>

I meant that he had not won Budapest Candidates (1950); and did not win the playoff in "normal time" (I believe).

Premium Chessgames Member
  WCC Editing Project:

What do you mean by "normal time"?

Jun-29-14  offramp: After the schedule 12 games the score was 6-6.
Premium Chessgames Member

What a relief!

I thought you might have been speaking of alternate dimensions or something like that.

Yes they had to play two extra innings:
Game Collection: WCC Index (Bronstein-Boleslavsky 1950)

Premium Chessgames Member
  HeMateMe: Looking at the above bio, it says that MB had not played any public chess from 1948 to 1950, Years in which he was champion. He was a young man, then. What was he doing for those two years?
Premium Chessgames Member
  WCC Editing Project:


During his three year hiatus from chess, <Mighty Mike> was working as an engineer in the Soviet Ministry of Power Stations. At the same time, he was finishing his doctoral degree in engineering.

He was also working closely with FIDE to iron out a standard set of rules for future world championship matches.

-Mikhail Botvinnik, "Achieving the Aim," pp.122-130

Jun-29-14  offramp: Mikhail Moiseevich Botvinnik never seemed very young.

He is like Alfred Hitchcock and Bill Haley. From the age of about 17 he looks like a 40-year-old and he looks like a 40-year-old until his death.

Premium Chessgames Member
  MissScarlett: Bob Willis said he was too old for discos when he was twelve.
Premium Chessgames Member
  Everett: I'm not surprised that Kramnik thinks Botvinnik "dominated," and that Kasparov thinks that Bronstein played better. Like prefers like as they say.
Jun-30-14  offramp: <MissScarlett: Bob Willis said he was too old for discos when he was twelve.>

By the time he was twenty, Bob Willis had set up that shoe shop with Alan Freeman and Oliver Hardy.

Jun-30-14  offramp: Botvinnik was playing very badly and Bronstein was a total loose cannon - so it is surprising that there were only 5 decisive games in the first 16.
Jun-03-15  Zonszein: I understand there were 5 draws in a row at the start (not 4)
Jun-03-15  Zonszein: I was wrong
Premium Chessgames Member
  Stonehenge: Russian film:

Nov-30-19  ZonszeinP: Thank you very much for posting the film
Jul-20-20  Ulhumbrus: The KGB forced Bronstein to throw the match by threatening to kill his father if he disobeyed. Bronstein gave details of this in a book published either towards the end of his life or after his death. He said something like this < Following the 22nd game, in the 23rd game I saw suddenly my father seated between two policemen ( or soldiers or militia or KGB people) and realised that if I drew the game my father would lose his life.> The KGB arranged this display for Bronstein's benefit and Bronstein got the message. He threw the match to Botvinnik and avoided getting his father killed.
Premium Chessgames Member
  MissScarlett: Bob Willis, RIP.
Jul-20-20  Absentee: <Ulhumbrus: The KGB forced Bronstein to throw the match by threatening to kill his father if he disobeyed. Bronstein gave details of this in a book published either towards the end of his life or after his death. He said something like this < Following the 22nd game, in the 23rd game I saw suddenly my father seated between two policemen ( or soldiers or militia or KGB people) and realised that if I drew the game my father would lose his life.> The KGB arranged this display for Bronstein's benefit and Bronstein got the message. He threw the match to Botvinnik and avoided getting his father killed.>

Please. PLEASE.

Aug-14-20  Wanda Nida: [Event "WCC 1910, match drawn 5:5, Lasker was lucky & had white last game, defanding champion that keeps the title if match is drawn should not have white the last game. Was Schlechter screwed, did Lasker demanded 2 points win to relinquish crown? Schlechter should be rightly named co-champion until 1921. Lasker didnt defand his title for 11 years, that's totally unacceptable!!!"]

[Event "wcc"]
[Site "Berlin"]
[Date "1910.??.??"]
[Round "10"]
[Comments "Strange loss, Schlechter had easy draw, nerves?"] [White "Lasker Em"]
[Black "Schlechter C"]
[Result "1-0"]

1. d4 d5 2. c4 c6 3. Nf3 Nf6 4. e3 g6 5. Nc3 Bg7 6. Bd3 O-O 7. Qc2 Na6 8. a3 dxc4 9. Bxc4 b5 10. Bd3 b4 11. Na4 bxa3 12. bxa3 Bb7 13. Rb1 Qc7 14. Ne5 Nh5 15. g4 Bxe5 16. gxh5 Bg7 17. hxg6 hxg6 18. Qc4 Bc8 19. Rg1 Qa5+ 20. Bd2 Qd5 21. Rc1 Bb7 22. Qc2 Qh5 23. Bxg6 Qxh2 24. Rf1 fxg6 25. Qb3+ Rf7 26. Qxb7 Raf8 27. Qb3 Kh8 28. f4 g5 29. Qd3 gxf4 30. exf4 Qh4+ 31. Ke2 Qh2+ 32. Rf2 Qh5+ 33. Rf3 Nc7 34. Rxc6 Nb5 35. Rc4 Rxf4 36. Bxf4 Rxf4 37. Rc8+ Bf8 38. Kf2 Qh2+ 39. Ke1 Qh1+ 40. Rf1 Qh4+ 41. Kd2 Rxf1 42. Qxf1 Qxd4+ 43. Qd3 Qf2+ 44. Kd1 Nd6 45. Rc5 Bh6 46. Rd5 Kg8 47. Nc5 Qg1+ 48. Kc2 Qf2+ 49. Kb3 Bg7 50. Ne6 Qb2+ 51. Ka4 Kf7 52. Nxg7 Qxg7 53. Qb3 Ke8 54. Qb8+ Kf7 55. Qxa7 Qg4+ 56. Qd4 Qd7+ 57. Kb3 Qb7+ 58. Ka2 Qc6 59. Qd3 Ke6 60. Rg5 Kd7 61. Re5 Qg2+ 62. Re2 Qg4 63. Rd2 Qa4 64. Qf5+ Kc7 65. Qc2+ Qxc2+ 66. Rxc2+ Kb7 67. Re2 Nc8 68. Kb3 Kc6 69. Rc2+ Kb7 70. Kb4 Na7 71. Kc5 Kc8 72. Kb6+ Kb8 73. Rc7 Nc8+ 74. Kc6 Na7+ 75. Kd7 Nb5 76. Rc8+ Kb7 77. a4 Na7 Schlechter could have won it all, he should have been proclaimed co-champion of the world, this was drawn, it was his match. There is enough proof Lasker demanded +2 winning score if Schlechter was to become champion, if it's true, how insane; duh, imagine if Schlechter won this game & thus the match, then questions will arise, how come he did not win it? 10 games match in 1910 1-0

[Event "World Championship 19th"]
[Site "Moscow R6"]
[Date "1951.03.26"]
[Round "24"]
[Comments "Weird game, Bronstein had easy draw, was it bad nerves cuz it was final game?"] [White "Bronstein, David I"]
[Black "Botvinnik, Mikhail"]
[Result "0-1"]
[ECO "B63"]

1. e4 c5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. d4 cxd4 4. Nxd4 Nf6 5. Nc3 d6 6. Bg5 e6 7. Qd2 h6 8. Bxf6 gxf6 9. O-O-O a6 10. f4 Bd7 11. Kb1 Be7 12. Be2 Nxd4 13. Qxd4 Qa5 14. Rhf1 h5 15. Rf3 Qc5 16. Qd2 Bc6 17. Re3 Qa5 18. Bf3 O-O-O 19. Qd3 Rd7 20. h4 Kb8 21. a3 Bd8 22. Ka2 Qc5 23. Re2 a5 24. a4 Bb6 25. b3 Rc8 26. Qc4 Qxc4 27. bxc4 Rh8 28. Kb3 Rdd8 29. Rd3 Bg1 30. Red2 Kc7 31. Ne2 Bf2 32. Rd1 Bc5 33. Ng3 Rdg8 34. Ne2 Rh7 35. f5 e5 36. Nc3 Bd4 37. Rxd4 exd4 38. Rxd4 Rhg7 39. Ne2 Rxg2 40. Bxg2 Rxg2 41. Nf4 Rg3+ 42. Kb2 Rg4 43. Nxh5 Rxh4 44. Nxf6 Kb6 45. Rxd6 Kc5 46. e5 Rd4 47. Rxd4 Kxd4 48. Ng4 Bxa4 49. e6 fxe6 50. f6 Be8 51. Kb3 e5 52. c3+ Ke4 53. Nh6 Kf4 54. f7 Bxf7 55. Nxf7 e4 56. Nd8 e3 57. Kc2 Kg3 58. Kd1 Kf2 Again, almost a champ. ♗otvinik kept the title he didn't deserve, this was luck and (communist) pressure on ♗ronstein was not small, ♗ronstein should have been named co-champ of the world because he drew the match. He was white in the final game, if the champ retains title if match is drawn, opponent should be allowed last game's color, at least here ♗otvinik was blak! 0-1

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