Person of day - 19 FEBRUARY 2024
In 1944, the 20-year-old Bronstein- a pupil of the Kiev Pioneers’ Palace chess club- made his debut in the Soviet championship and won a humble 15th place, but he defeated Botvinnik himself in the process. Four years later, Bronstein became the national champion and the next year he won the championship again- this time with V. Smyslov. In 1949, Bronstein won the inter-zonal tournament and in 1950 he won the candidates’ tournament with Boleslavsky. The match between them finished with Bronstein’s victory and in 1951 he fought for the world crown against Mikhail Botvinnik.
It was one of the most dramatic matches in chess history. After 22 matches, Bronstein surged ahead- 11,5:10,5. He only had to win one point in two matches. In the decisive 23rd round, Bronstein was defeated after underestimating the difficulties of the resulting endgame. The last round finished as a draw and Botvinnik retained the title of world champion.
This defeat turned into a heavy emotional trauma for Bronstein. He never played for the world championship again. In 1953, he split 2nd-4th places with Keres and Reshevsky and in 1956 he only split 3rd-7th places is an analogous tournament. It seemed that the peak of Bronstein’s career, which nearly culminated in the world championship, was behind. In 1958 and 1964, he could not surmount the inter-zonal challenge after breaking at the finish. The impact of 1951 was clearly felt.
Despite his shortcomings in the qualifying rounds, Bronstein consistently played in and won various competitions, like tournaments in Hastings (twice), Belgrade, Berlin, Sarajevo, Jurmala and Budapest. He successfully participated in Olympiads and other international competitions for the Soviet national team.
Bronstein was a superb master of attack because he had an insatiable imagination. His style combined a thorough strategy with tactical innovation. Bronstein’s analyses enriched the theory and practice of debuts like the King’s Gambit and the Sicilian, French and Dutch Defences. But it was his contribution to the of the King’s Indian Defence that was especially valuable, since he was considered one of its foremost scholars.
Bronstein’s books, like 200 Open Games, Chess in the Eighties, Zurich International Chess Tournament and Modern Chess Self-Tutor, were written in a lively, engaging style which remains popular among chess fans to this day. Bronstein’s ideas defined their time. He was the first to invent clocks with additional time and Fischer’s Chess, he was the first to appreciate the role of speed chess and blitz and he was the first to compete against a computer.
David Ionovich lived a long and fascinating life which ended in December 2006 in Minsk.