Botvinnik vs Bronstein 1951
David Bronstein was born in Bila Tserkva, Ukraine in 1924. He showed early promise, debuting in the 1939 Ukrainian Championship at age 15. 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. He further progressed in smaller events with good results, such as winning two Moscow championships in a row. But his performance against the
best opposition was not yet strong enough to achieve the Soviet grandmaster title. FIDE still invited him with six other Soviets to the Saltsjöbaden Interzonal (1948). Bronstein won, and was immediately awarded the Soviet grandmaster title. 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.
| ||Tchaikovsky Concert Hall, Moscow 1951|
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. 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. Bronstein claimed that Botvinnik hadn't played since 1948 "because he did not want to reveal his opening secrets." Botvinnik finalized his preparation just days before the match with two secret training games against Viacheslav Ragozin. Bronstein also played two training games, against Semyon Abramovich Furman and Paul Keres.
Match conditions had been decided at the Paris 1949 FIDE congress. 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, but Andrew Soltis maintains that Botvinnik and Bronstein actually got considerably less than this. 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.
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." 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." 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. 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." 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." 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."
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."
FINAL SCORE: Botvinnik 12; Bronstein 12
Reference: game collection WCC Index [Botvinnik-Bronstein 1951]
NOTABLE GAMES [what is this?]
- David Bronstein and Tom Fürstenberg, The Sorcerer's Apprentice (Cadogan 1995), pp.263-264
- Alexey Popovsky, Rusbase 2
- Alexey Popovsky, Rusbase 3
- 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
- Alexey Popovsky, Rusbase 5a; Rusbase5b
- Tidskrift för Schack nr.8-9 (Aug-Sept 1948), pp.180-181 Tabanus transl.
- Kotov and Yudovich, Soviet Chess School (Raduga Publishers 1982), pp.77-78
- Mikhail Botvinnik, Match for the World Championship: Botvinnik Bronstein Moscow 1951 Igor Botvinnik ed. Ken Neat transl. (Edition Olms 2004), pp.103-113
- Botvinnik, Match for the World Championship: Botvinnik Bronstein Moscow 1951, pp.114-119
- Bronstein and Fürstenberg, pp.16-17
- Jan Timman, Secret Matches- the Unknown Training Games of Mikhail Botvinnik (Russell Enterprises, Inc., 2000), p.9
- Bronstein and Fürstenberg, p.300
- Tidskrift för schack nr. 7-8 (July-Aug 1949), pp.153-157 Tabanus transl.
- Chess Life (10 Feb 1951), p.1
- Andrew Soltis, Soviet Chess 1917-1991 (McFarland 2000), p.188
- 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
- Botvinnik, Match for the World Championship: Botvinnik Bronstein Moscow 1951, p.11
- Botvinnik, Match for the World Championship: Botvinnik Bronstein Moscow 1951, p.16
- Mikhail Botvinnik, Half a Century of Chess E. Strauss transl. (Cadogan 1996), pp.163-164
- Botvinnik, Match for the World Championship- Botvinnik Bronstein Moscow 1951, p.102
- Chess Review (Sept 1951), p.279
- Bronstein and Fürstenberg, p.17
- Genna Sosonko, Russian Silhouettes, 3d Edition (New in Chess 2001), p.39
- Revista Internacional de Ajedrez (Mar 1993), pp.38-42. In Edward Winter, Chess Note 4753 David Bronstein