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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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Apr-16-10  whatthefat: <Marmot PFL>

This was actually recently discussed on the Smyslov page:

Vasily Smyslov

Apr-16-10  Marmot PFL: <whatthefat> As WC Petrosian also had some bad tournaments, but always played board 1 with excellent results. So I don't think it was quite fair to Botvinnik to demote hum like that. Tournaments and team events seem to have different psychology. (I noticed that Euwe didn't play for Holland either, wonder what that was about.)

A similar case was the 1970 USSR v. World match. Fischer had not played much while Larsen had won several tournaments in the last year, so he demanded bd 1. Fischer surprisingly agreed, probably so he wouldn't meet Spassky again before the 1972 match.

Apr-16-10  acirce: <I play the Fred> Thanks. Of course also "rehabilitations" were very politicized at that time.
Premium Chessgames Member
  kamalakanta: acirce, it was unjust because he was sent to the Gulag, not for something bad he did, but for complaining against a corrupt local official.
Premium Chessgames Member
  GrahamClayton: Here is a photo of the playing hall:

Dec-04-10  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.

Premium Chessgames Member
  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.

Premium Chessgames Member
  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"?

Premium Chessgames Member
  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

Premium Chessgames Member
  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.
Jun-29-14  Everett: I'm not surprised that Kramnik thinks Botvinnik "dominated," and that Kasparov thinks that Bronstein played better. Like prefers like as they say.
Premium Chessgames Member
  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.

Premium Chessgames Member
  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:

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