Person of day   -  9 JUNE 2020

ISAAC BOLESLAVSKY

ISAAC BOLESLAVSKY

When he was 21, Isaak Boleslavsky made his debut at the 1940 USSR championship and split 5th-6thplaces with Botvinnik. In the match-tournament of the 1941 Soviet championship, he came fourth. In 1944, he was third. The young player’s performance improved with every tournament. In 1945 and 1947, he came second in the Soviet championships, in which he played a total of 11 times. His play was attractive due to a deep, extensive imagination and a wonderful opening preparation. 

The apogee of Boleslavsky’s career came in the late 1940s. In the 1950 candidates’ tournament, he split 1st-2ndplaces with David Bronstein, despite leading him by one point with two rounds to go. Everything was decided by the additional match and the winner would play Botvinnik. This strange match between two friends was won by Bronstein. Boleslavsky never came so close to the chess throne. He played in another candidates’ tournament in 1953, but his performance was mediocre- he split 10th-11thplaces.  

Boleslavsky regularly played for the USSR team, in the famous radio-match against the US, where he beat Reuben Fine, and at the 1952 Olympiad, where he scored 7 points out of 8, alongside friendly matches against Argentina, Hungary and Yugoslavia…

In the 1960s, Boleslavsky was playing rarely. His most notable performances were his victory at Asztalos Memorial in Debrecen in 1961 and second place in Stockholm in 1964. But during these years, he cultivated his talent as a trainer. For 12 years, from 1958 to 1970, he trained the Soviet Olympic team. From 1959-1969, Isaac was Tigran Petrosian’s coach and second: he did a lot for his friend’s victories against Botvinnik in 1963 and Spassky in 1966. Petrosian always remembered Boleslavsky with gratitude and kindness and he valued his talent as a coach. 

Boleslavsky was a renowned theoretic. His analyses of openings in the Sicilian Defence- where one of the lines is bearing his name, the King’s Indian and the French Defences, the Ruy Lopez, the Caro-Kann and Gruenfeld Defences were widely used by the leading grandmasters of the world. Most of his ideas retain their relevance today.

Isaac Boleslavsky died in December 1977 in Minsk.