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Bronstein - Boleslavsky Candidates Playoff Match

David Bronstein7.5/14(+3 -2 =9)[games]
Isaac Boleslavsky6.5/14(+2 -3 =9)[games] Chess Event Description
Bronstein - Boleslavsky Candidates Playoff (1950)

Isaac Boleslavsky was 31 and David Bronstein 26 years old. They were leading representatives of an extremely strong generation of Soviet talent that had emerged in the 1940's. They were pillars of "Kiev School" of Ukrainian chess, personal friends and were innovative and sharp players. Along with fellow Ukranian Efim Geller, they were particularly important in the development of the Kings Indian defence in the 1940's and 1950's. According to Chessbase's Big Database (2013), they had played each other seven times, the only decisive game being Bronstein vs Boleslavsky, 1947 0-1.

Bronstein wrote of his approach to the game: "When I play chess ... I always try to vary my openings as much as possible, to invent new plans in attack and defence, to make experimental moves which are dangerous and exciting ... I believe that my greatest quality in the chess world is that I have never played routine games ...” 1

Boleslavsky too had a well-defined credo: "In playing I did not strive for victory just for the sake of points, and considered that the only win of a consistently played game could give real satisfaction ... the game of chess is a struggle, but in the first place a struggle of ideas, and therefore the winner, if he wants to prove the value of his victory, ought to prove the correctness of his ideas." 2

In this match, they played consistently sharp and innovative chess. Both players were at the peak of their form. Bronstein had twice come joint first in the USSR Championship (1948) (with Alexander Kotov) and USSR Championship (1949) (with Vasily Smyslov). Boleslavsky had been Russian Federation Champion in 1946, was third in the extremely strong Moscow (1947), and shared 2nd place in the USSR Championship (1947). The two had been selected by FIDE as part of a cohort of the strongest Soviet players to participate in Saltsjöbaden Interzonal (1948), where Bronstein had come first and Boleslavsky third.

Background to the match

The match took place as David Bronstein and Isaac Boleslavsky had tied for first place at the Budapest Candidates (1950), two points clear of Vasily Smyslov in third place. With two rounds left to play, Boleslavsky was in undisputed first place a full point ahead of Bronstein. In his last two games, Boleslavsky took short draws, but Bronstein won both his games and thus finished equal first with Boleslavsky. Boleslavsky had not lost a single game in the tournament. It is stated in Bronstein and Furstenberg's book Sorcerer's Apprentice (Cadogan 1995) that Boleslavsky purposefully "slowed down" to facilitate the tie. The idea being was to then hold a three man tournament with the world champion Mikhail Botvinnik. Boleslavsky had a very poor record against Botvinnik and this seemed to be the best chance to dethrone him.

According to Chessbase's Big Database (2013), at the time Boleslavsky's record against Botvinnik was: 7 losses, 4 draws and no wins. Bronstein's score was better: a win and a draw in his favour. The proposal for a three-man match was not accepted by the Soviet federation. Instead, the joint winners of the Candidates tournament would play an elimination match to resolve the tie. The winner would be the next (1951) challenger to Botvinnik for the world championship.

The match was planned to be of 12 games, but if tied at the end of this, two further games were to be played. If still undecided, it would go to a sudden death with the first win being decisive. The match was played at a prestigious venue: Railwaymen's Central Hall of Culture, Komsomolskaya Square, Moscow, between July 31st 1950 and August 27th 1950. This grand building, built in 1927, had a 1,000 seat theatre. 3 The chief arbiter was Nikolay Zubarev, and FIDE's representative was its Vice-President Viacheslav Ragozin.

Moscow, Soviet Union (Russia), 31 July - 27 August 1950

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 0 1 2 3 4 IGM Bronstein 1 ½ ½ ½ ½ ½ 1 0 ½ ½ 0 ½ ½ 1 7½ IGM Boleslavsky 0 ½ ½ ½ ½ ½ 0 1 ½ ½ 1 ½ ½ 0 6½

Bronstein had White in the odd-numbered games.

Progress of the match

Game 1: Bronstein as White used a sharp sacrificial novelty which he had previously played against Boleslavsky in Round 7 of the Candidates tournament.

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Bronstein had studied the position and found an improvement on move 17. He gained two pieces for a rook and won powerfully in short order. This line, which is still topical, appears to have been originated in Ukrainian chess circles. In a slightly different variation, it was used in Sokolsky vs Tolush, 1944, Semi Finals 13th USSR Championship, Omsk. 4 "We were both playing extremely hard and showing the greatest respect for each other. It seems the only occasion in the history of chess contests when players have exchanged bouquets of bright flowers before the first move of the first game!" 5

Game 2: After some contemplation, Bronstein defended with Alekhine's Defence, which was not one of his usual defences. Boleslavsky achieved a spatial advantage but agreed to a draw on move 30.

Game 3: Boleslavsky avoided the Grünfeld and Bronstein's opening preparation. Instead, a carefully classically played game unfolded in which Boleslavsky equalized without much incident. After 11 moves, the game had transposed into a turn of the century QGA - Pillsbury vs Blackburne, 1896.

Game 4: Boleslavsky played the White side of the Ruy Lopez extremely proficiently to build up a strong K-side attack. In a sharp tactical contest, Boleslavsky ran short of time and Bronstein was rather fortunate to achieve a draw. "A perfect model for those studying the Ruy Lopez attack! ... Also deserving acknowledgement is Boleslavsky's courage, when in the endgame and still the exchange down, he nevertheless refused the draw that was offered him." 6

Game 5: Bronstein outplayed his opponent in the late middlegame and achieved an advantageous ending with active pieces, but on resumption after the adjournment Boleslavsky put up strong resistance. Later analysis found a win for Bronstein, but at the board he could not break through. This time it was Boleslavsky who was fortunate to secure a draw.

Game 6: Bronstein played aggressively against Boleslavsky's Ruy Lopez, using the Marshall Attack. Once again, Bronstein was following deep into a previous game of his opponent. Boleslavsky had to be alert against another dangerous theoretical improvement from his opponent. Up to move 16, the game followed Boleslavsky vs Szabo, 1950. Boleslavsky held the attack off but did not establish any advantage. Boleslavsky, however, had faith in this system of defence as he deployed it again in Boleslavsky vs V Saigin, 1951 and Boleslavsky vs Nezhmetdinov, 1955.

Game 7: Bronstein extended his lead to 2-0 lead with five games to go. Unlike Game 2, Boleslavsky chose a more complex variation, but Bronstein gained a clear spatial advantage and Boleslavsky was besieged. Bronstein maintained his advantage through to a win in a complex Rook ending despite Boleslavsky's tough defence.

Game 8: Bronstein as Black against the Ruy Lopez and ahead in the match, chose a very different defence to that of Game 6. He adopted a more solid but passive approach with an old-fashioned Berlin defence. Both players strove hard to win and ran short of time, but it was Boleslavsky who won, and won artistically, to pull up to a single point behind. "Note carefully the amazing manoeuvres by the white pawns in the middlegame and the sudden composition-study-like finale to the ending, where the heroes were no longer the pawns, but the knight and the rook." 7

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49.g6! Re6 50.g7!

Game 9: Boleslavsky (most probably unwittingly in view of his slow rate of play) followed a brilliancy of a great Ukranian forebear Efim Bogoljubov - Rotlewi vs Bogoljubov, 1910. Bronstein failed to achieve an advantage as White. He offered and Boleslavsky, who was short of time, accepted a draw on move 20. Boleslavsky's uncertainty in the opening gives the impression of an apparently impromptu manner in this game.

Game 10: Boleslavsky as White needed to win this game, as with only two games left of the regular match, Bronstein had a one point lead. Bronstein adopted a solid Caro-Kann defence. Boleslavsky opened the <f> file and had considerable pressure against Bronstein's <f> pawn. Bronstein defended well and managed to hold the draw.

Game 11: Boleslavsky had to win and he played a King's Indian system he had pioneered, It was a system to which both he ( and Bronstein ( had contributed significant developments and were regularly using. Bronstein played ambitiously and set up a broad centre, but then played inaccurately. Boleslavsky gained the initiative, but then allowed the ingenious Bronstein to fight his way back into the game. Boleslavsky then had to navigate his way to victory through a difficult Queen and Rook ending full of traps and snares to tie the match.

Game 12: Bronstein played a sharp variation of the French and sacrificed a pawn. Boleslavsky regarded the variation as incorrect, 8 but played slightly inaccurately and Bronstein was able to instigate a very imaginative King-side attack. Rather than have an uncertain fight through this onslaught, Boleslavsky took a perpetual check.

The match then went into its extra-time of two games.

Game 13: A very sharp game that either player could at one point could have won; Bronstein rejected a forced draw and later analysis showed that he could have lost if Boleslavsky had found a key move.

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Game 14: Bronstein repeated the same variation of French defence as in Game 12. Boleslavsky was out-prepared and outplayed in this game. Bronstein pocketed two pawns and then won efficiently. Boleslavsky shook his hand and wished him luck in his forthcoming battle with Botvinnik.


Bronstein advanced to the Botvinnik - Bronstein World Championship Match (1951). Boleslavsky played in the USSR Championship (1950) (November 11th to December 11th, 1950) where he came 7-10th, and then assisted his friend as his second in the world championship match.


1 Sorcerer's Apprentice, Bronstein and Furstenberg, Cadogan 1995, p. 18.
2 Selected Games, Isaac Boleslavsky, Caissa Books 1988, pp. 18-19.
3 http://xn--d1ael0c.xn--p1ai/index.php.
4 World Chess Championship Candidates' Tournament Budapest 1950, E. G. R. Cordingley, Hardinge Simpole, p. 65.
5 200 Open Games, David Bronstein, Courier Dover Publications 1991, p. 95.
6 200 Open Games, David Bronstein, Courier Dover Publications 1991, p. 96.
7 200 Open Games, David Bronstein, Courier Dover Publications 1991, p. 95.
8 Selected Games, Isaac Boleslavsky, Caissa Books 1988, p. 142.

Game dates are from Harry Golombek 's report in the British Chess Magazine as reproduced in World Chess Championship Candidates' Tournament Budapest 1950, E. G. R. Cordingley, Hardinge Simpole, p. 177.

This text by: User: Chessical. Original collection: Game Collection: WCC Index (Bronstein-Boleslavsky 1950) by User: Hesam7.

 page 1 of 1; 14 games  PGN Download 
Game  ResultMoves YearEvent/LocaleOpening
1. Bronstein vs Boleslavsky 1-0321950Bronstein - Boleslavsky Candidates PlayoffD87 Grunfeld, Exchange
2. Boleslavsky vs Bronstein ½-½301950Bronstein - Boleslavsky Candidates PlayoffB05 Alekhine's Defense, Modern
3. Bronstein vs Boleslavsky ½-½231950Bronstein - Boleslavsky Candidates PlayoffE56 Nimzo-Indian, 4.e3, Main line with 7...Nc6
4. Boleslavsky vs Bronstein ½-½361950Bronstein - Boleslavsky Candidates PlayoffC65 Ruy Lopez, Berlin Defense
5. Bronstein vs Boleslavsky ½-½601950Bronstein - Boleslavsky Candidates PlayoffE26 Nimzo-Indian, Samisch
6. Boleslavsky vs Bronstein ½-½251950Bronstein - Boleslavsky Candidates PlayoffC89 Ruy Lopez, Marshall
7. Bronstein vs Boleslavsky 1-0671950Bronstein - Boleslavsky Candidates PlayoffE21 Nimzo-Indian, Three Knights
8. Boleslavsky vs Bronstein 1-0551950Bronstein - Boleslavsky Candidates PlayoffC66 Ruy Lopez
9. Bronstein vs Boleslavsky ½-½201950Bronstein - Boleslavsky Candidates PlayoffA54 Old Indian, Ukrainian Variation, 4.Nf3
10. Boleslavsky vs Bronstein ½-½491950Bronstein - Boleslavsky Candidates PlayoffB11 Caro-Kann, Two Knights, 3...Bg4
11. Bronstein vs Boleslavsky 0-1651950Bronstein - Boleslavsky Candidates PlayoffE67 King's Indian, Fianchetto
12. Boleslavsky vs Bronstein ½-½301950Bronstein - Boleslavsky Candidates PlayoffC15 French, Winawer
13. Bronstein vs Boleslavsky ½-½581950Bronstein - Boleslavsky Candidates PlayoffE67 King's Indian, Fianchetto
14. Boleslavsky vs Bronstein 0-1291950Bronstein - Boleslavsky Candidates PlayoffC15 French, Winawer
  REFINE SEARCH:   White wins (1-0) | Black wins (0-1) | Draws (1/2-1/2)  

Kibitzer's Corner
May-19-17  offramp: User: Chessical and User: Hesam7 have made a very erudite and entertaining intro to this tremendous match. I am not aware of who did what, so I thank them both equally.
Premium Chessgames Member
  saffuna: Bronstein says his friend Boleslavsky allowed Bronstein to catch him at the end of the 1950 Candidates tournament. He thought the two could then play a World Championship tournament with Botvinnik.

Maybe that was a realistic hope at the time, but now it sounds ludicrous that Botvinnik or the Russian chess authorities would agree to that.

So Bronstein and Boleslavsky had to play a match to determine the challenger.

Premium Chessgames Member
  Gypsy: <saffuna> At that time, Botvinnik's own proposal for WC "Match-tournaments", put forth via Ragodzin at the head of Soviet FIDE delegation, envisioned 3-person affairs involving the standing champ, the most recent ex-champ, and the new challenger. Thus, three-person affairs tentatively in the works, and Alekhine still dead, it was conceivable that tho two challengers could face Botvinnik in a match-tournament.

Botvinnik nixed it.

Premium Chessgames Member
  saffuna: Thanks for that, I didn't know.

Still seems overly optimistic for (allegedly) allowing Bronstein to catch him in the Candidates tournament with the hope of the three-man WC.

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