Bronstein- Creator of the Chess Classic

Bronstein- Creator of the Chess Classic‎

WIM energia
13 | Middlegame


More than a half of a century has passed since David Bronstein wrote probably one of the best chess books that have ever been written: “ Zurich International Chess Tournament, 1953.” The book is about the tournament that gathered fifteen of the best players in the world at that time, including three World Champions. There is no question about the quality of the games played. What made the book so famous is the style in which Bronstein wrote it. You can read it as a piece of literature: it does not have many long chess variations, it has concepts and ideas explained in words. One can mention many chess books nowadays that have words instead of chess lines; I am not generally a big fan of chess books written in this style. I prefer concepts being proven by specific lines. Nevertheless, Bronstein’s book is my favorite book. He was an extremely strong player, World Championship challenger, there is no cause to question his chess understanding. The explanation of the flow of the chess game that he gives is truly profound, one can see the chess strength through it, his passion for the game, the dedication and the beautiful writing style. I chose a few examples that deal with piece exchanges from this book.

In the first example let us give a word to Bronstein: “All the commentators agreed this move was a mistake, since it allowed White to carry out the pretty breakthrough that follows, with its lively play leading to a win for White, some thirty moves hence… We should like to go a little more deeply into the concept of ‘mistake’ as it is applied to chess. To begin with, the mistakenness of 13... Na5 was only demonstrated as a result of White’s clever and by no means obvious continuation. His advantage finally boiled down to his possession of a strong bishop against Black’s knight in an endgame: certainly not all that simple, nor all that much! Secondly, it’s not clear how the battle might have gone after 13... Nd5… Had the game in fact taken such a course, then 13... Nd5 would have been labeled the mistake, and 13... Na5 recommended instead, since it does not appear to be too dangerous. Black’s difficulties appear to have another cause entirely. Compared with Black’s pieces, White’s have made three extra moves! – both rooks to central files, and the bishop to an attacking diagonal. It is a grandmaster’s task to demonstrate White’s advantage, and in this case the proof was of the complicated combinative sort.”

Bronstein looks at the overall piece placement which gives white advantage; thus only central moves like Nd5- blocking the d4-pawn and exchanging dark-squared bishops can give black chances for equality.


Black is up a pawn. What does white have for it? Let’s hear Bronstein’s thoughts about this position. He says that pushing pawns on the kingside was a rather double-edged decision. “What conclusion may we draw from all of this? That when one is well developed, one can afford to spend a few moves to capture an important enemy pawn; but bear in mind that one must also evaluate the position correctly, and calculate accurately…” Then he adds: “Black breaks both of the rules laid down in the previous note, in his distracted determination to exploit the position of the white knight on a4. The obvious 22…b5 would have forced White to trade off his best piece, the bishop on c3.”


Black is already castled in the following position. He has to get the knight and the bishop into the game to complete the development. White is still not castled, the bishop on c1 does not have much prospects. The knight on d4 and the bishop on g2 are the two most active pieces. Black decides to exchange one of them, while finishing the development. The following exchange is connected to a pawn sacrifice.


The end of this article should quote the first paragraph from the preface to the first edition. Bronstein, when he started working on his first book is “recalling the excitement with which I used to open each new chess book, hoping to find vital thinking there, clear words, and a wondrous tale of the art of chess. I absorbed a great deal from books, and to this day I cherish the memory of the best of them.”

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