Isaac Boleslavsky, A Giant Among Chessplayers

Isaac Boleslavsky, A Giant Among Chessplayers

Nov 27, 2016, 10:10 AM |

Fame is a wayward mistress....some players are not written about enough, and therefore future generations might not know anything about them.

Isaac Boleslavsky was a pioneer and a real chess giant of the 20th Century!


    Isaac Boleslavsky


Isaac Yefremovich Boleslavsky (Ukrainian: ІсаакЄфремовичБолеславський, ИсаакЕфремовичБолеславский; Born on June 9, 1919 in Zolotonosha, Ukraine – Died on February 15, 1977 in Minsk) was a Soviet chess Grandmaster. He was also a chess writer.


Early Career


Boleslavsky taught himself chess at age nine. In 1933, Boleslavsky became schoolboy champion of Dnipropetrovsk. Three years later, he won third prize in the 1936 USSR All-Union Junior Championship, held in Leningrad.


In 1938, at nineteen, he won the Ukrainian Championship; the following year, he won the Ukraine SSR championship, qualified to play in the USSR Chess Championship at the age of 20, and gained his national chess master title. He earned a degree in philology at Sverdlovsk University.


In 1940, Boleslavsky played in the 12th USSR championship final in Moscow. He won eight of his last ten games and tied for fifth/sixth place. At the end of 1940 he won the Ukrainian Championship for the third consecutive year. In March 1941, he took part in the match-tournament for the title of Absolute Champion of the USSR, finishing fourth of six participants. On the eve of the match-tournament, he had to pass an examination at the University, and his preparation for the chess event proved to be inadequate.


In 1945 he took second place in the 14th USSR championship, behind Mikhail Botvinnik. He won nine games, drew six, and lost two. He was awarded the Grandmaster title in the USSR. He made his international debut on third board of the USSR–USA radio match. He drew his first game with Reuben Fine and defeated him in the second game, winning a prize for the best game of the match.[1] Boleslavsky secured a clear advantage in the opening thanks to his superior pawn structure and won without allowing Fine much counterplay. The Soviets regarded Fine as possibly the strongest American player, based on his international results in the pre-World War II era.


In 1946, his daughter Tatiana was born; she later married David Bronstein. Boleslavsky and Bronstein had become friends in the late 1930s, and remained so throughout their lives. In 1946, Boleslavsky played abroad in an international tournament for the first time in Groningen and tied for sixth/seventh place.


In 1950 Boleslavsky was one of the inaugural recipients of the International Grandmaster title from FIDE.


World Championship Candidate


Boleslavsky qualified from the first-ever Interzonal at Saltsjöbaden 1948 into the Candidates Tournament two years later in Budapest. In the Candidates tournament -- the winner of which would play a World Chess Championship match against Mikhail Botvinnik -- he was the only undefeated player, and led for most of the tournament, but in the last round he was caught by Bronstein, who later won a playoff in Moscow later that same year (+3 −2 =9).


This turned out to be Boleslavsky's last chance as a serious contender for the world championship. In 1953, he participated in the Candidates' tournament in Zürich, but finished in 10th–11th places, and never qualified for subsequent world championship cycles.


Later Career


In 1951, Boleslavsky was Bronstein's second during his match with Botvinnik for the world championship, which wound up drawn after 24 games. In 1952, he scored 7 out of 8 at the Helsinki Olympiad, helping the Soviet team to the gold medals. This was the only Olympiad he would play in his career, but he attended several others to provide support for the Soviet team.


He won the Belarusian Championship in 1952 (joint) and 1964.


In 1961, he played in his last USSR Championship final. He took first place at an international tournament in Debrecen. He was world champion Tigran Petrosian's assistant from 1963 to 1969.


In 1968 he captained the USSR students' team, which won the World Championship at Ybbs. His last tournament appearance was in Minsk in 1971, at age 52. Boleslavsky was the chief trainer of the USSR Chess Federation in the 1960s, and he remained until his death a very well respected analyst and chess writer, particularly in opening theory.


He died in Minsk on February 15, 1977, at the age of 57, after falling on an icy sidewalk, fracturing his hip and contracting a fatal infection while in hospital.




I will present some of his games here. Let me start with his win against Kotov in the 1953 Candidates' Tournament in Zurich.


In this game he plays Black and uses the King's Indian Defense. Boleslavsky, Bronstein and Geller are all from Ukraine, and in the 30's and 40's pioneered the development of the theory of that great system we call The King's Indian Defense.


In this game Boleslavsky plays very dynamically, using the ...c5 system, which would later be called the Yugoslavian System, because it was extensivley researched by Yugoslavian players, of whom the great Gligoric was one of its most famous practitioners.


Back to this game....soon the battle rages all over the board, and eventually Kotov is unable to contain the inexaustible energy of the Black pieces!



    Isaac Boleslavsky



Here is another brilliant game from Boleslavsky, this time against Viktor Korchnoi, at the 1958 USSR Championship!

          Viktor Korchnoi




In the next game, against the Trompowky (the same opening Carlsen used in game 1 of 2016  WC Match against Karjakin). Boleslavksy makes Kotov look like a kid! Take a look!


  Alexander Kotov



Boleslavksy was great as an attacking player, but his positional basis was rock solid! In the USA-USSR Radio Match in 1945, right after WWII, he played two games against Reuben Fine, who at that time was, along with Reshevsky, one of the strongest Grandmasters from the West.

In this game, Boleslavsky has a small advantage....look at the position after 33.b3! Material is even, but White has a better pawn structure. That is enough for Boleslavsky to bring the point home in another 8 moves!

                                         Reuben Fine



In the next game, Andre Lilienthal tries to experiment a little with Black against Boleslavksy. Bad idea! Boleslavkys' pieces swarm the board, and Lilienthal has to resign after only 17 moves!

                            Andre Lilienthal



In the following game, Boleslavsky completely dominates Smyslov in a Slav Defense. Smyslov opens up the position prematurely, and Bolelavsky gains an advantage, achieving an ideal placement for his pieces. Smyslov resigns after only 22 moves!


                        Vassily Smyslov



In the following game against Yakov Estrin, Boleslavsky uses the
variation that bears his name in the Sicilian with Black; the system with ....e5.

  Yakov Estrin


Yakov Borisovich Estrin (Russian: Яков Борисович Эстрин, April 21, 1923 – February 2, 1987) was a Russian chess International Master, International Correspondence Chess Grandmaster and world champion, chess theoretician, and writer.


Chess biography


After a brief foray into "over-the-board" play, he turned to correspondence chess in the early 1960s with immediate success (joint first place in the USSR Correspondence Championship in 1962.) He became an International Correspondence Chess Grandmaster in 1966, and would go on to compete in the final of the World Correspondence Championship five times. He is best known for being the seventh ICCF World Champion, 1972–76.


For over-the-board play, he was awarded the International Master title in 1975.[1][2]


Estrin wrote several chess books and was an authority on the Two Knights Defense. His game with Hans Berliner in which Berliner played the Two Knights Defense and defeated Estrin is one of the most famous and important games in correspondence chess.[3][4



 The following game was played when Boleslavsky was just 23 years old. This was the Moscow Championship in 1942, right in the middle of the Great War!  (The Germans invaded the Soviet Union on June, 1941)....

The game features a long, sacrificial line in the Open Ruy Lopez. This variation involves a piece sacrifice by Black to create threats around the White King, and a counter-sacrifice of the Queen by White, leading to a position where White has Rook and two Bishops against Queen and four pawns.

Steadily, Boleslavsky asserts his advantage, and at the end Black succumbs to a kingsiode attack, spearheaded by the White f-pawn.

     Viacheslav Ragozin


(born Oct-08-1908, died Mar-11-1962, 53 years old) Russia

Viacheslav Vasiliyevich Ragozin was born in St. Petersburg. Awarded the GM title in 1950 and the GMC title in 1959 when he won the 2nd World Correspondence Chess Championship (1956) - (1959), he also won the Leningrad Championship in 1936 [rusbase-1] and 1945 [rusbase-2]. He played board 8 (out of 10) against Herbert Seidman in the historic USA-USSR radio match in September 1945, beating Seidman 2-0. He was for many years the sparring partner of Mikhail Botvinnik and contributed significantly to his successes. He worked actively for FIDE (the World Chess Federation), edited Shakhmaty v SSSR magazine and wrote an excellent book on the 1st Botvinnik - Tal Match in 1960. He died in Moscow in 1962 whilst compiling Izbrannye Partii Ragozina, a collection of his own games. The book was completed by his friends under the editorship of M. Beilin and finally published in 1964.

Wikipedia article: Viacheslav Ragozin


In the following game from the USSR Championsgip Semi-Final in 1960, Boleslavsky, playing Black, essays a strategy that is uncommon in the King's Indian Saemisch with Black.

After playing the classical ....e5, Boleslavsky closes the centre with ...c5 on the next move! That means the c-file will NOT be available for Black in his attack against the White King.

Boleslavsky proceeds to essay ...f5, followed by a Benko-style pawn sacrifice on the queenside with ....b5. In the ensuing battle, his skill is superior to Liberzon's, and he earns a well-deserved victory!

       Vladimir Liberzon


In the following game from 1966 against Viktor Korchnoi, Boleslavsky is putting pressure on the White centre and Queenside, while Korchnoi is attacking on the Kingside. Just when it looks like Korchnoi's attack breaks through, Boleslavsky sacrifices the exchange with 25....Bd7! and gets a winning attack!

      Viktor Korchnoi