Soviet Cheating in FIDE competition: Zurich 1953


In his book, "Secret Notes," on page 14, Bronstein writes:

Baturinsky, the head of the Soviet chess administration, once informed me (soon after the defection of Korchnoi [in 1976], whom I had the audacity not to condemn) that ... personal [tournament] invitations that had arrived for me were of no significance to them.  He then pointed his finger upward and pompously stated, "Up there they are unhappy with you."


From Bronstein's obituary from the British newspaper, The Independent:

In 1976, Viktor Korchnoi defected from the Soviet Union during a tournament in Amsterdam and David Bronstein was one of the few top Soviet grandmasters who did not sign an official letter condemning him. For this sin, Bronstein was banned from travelling to tournaments in the West. The ban was only lifted with the advent of perestroika in the mid-Eighties.

Even before these restrictions were imposed, his international appearances had been limited, but Bronstein made two trips to Britain in 1975-76. Both his eccentricity and brilliance were in evidence in his very first game at Teesside against the English grandmaster Raymond Keene. Bronstein thought for some 15 minutes over his first move, then played 1.c4, the English opening, out of respect, as he later explained, to his hosts. He seemed to obtain no advantage whatsoever, but after another long think sacrificed a pawn. Some of the world's finest players, seeing this, shook their heads in sad disbelief, but Bronstein had seen more than any of them. A few moves later his attack crashed home and a new generation suddenly realised that the old man had lost none of his imaginative faculties.


The Stockholm Interzonal of 1952, and the Soviet "sporting tactics" in the prelude to Zurch, are covered in this topic:


Rest in peace, Victor Korchnoi - a REAL world champion!


"“So,” the KGB agent continued, “Before your game you will go to his room and agree how to make a draw. Is that clear?”

Poor Bronstein. He commented his game against Smyslov with very few words when compared with most of the games in his legendary book. They played the Exchange Variation in the Ruy Lopez, and he said that "this variation is seldom employed any more, and is considered drawish."  No more comments in the next moves, and the game ended at move 21. It is sad that the guy had to give up his changes to win this important event (he was second, two points behind Smyslov).



Bump to the top


Bump for Santero


For those of you who idolize Bronstein, you should read Sosonko's book about him. Bronstein was just as much a man of the Soviet system as any of the others. He had his protectors, just as others had theirs. Everyone was constantly jockying for position.

Some of comments quoted on here are quite simply ridiculous, for instance the one about Bronstein being a Jew. As if that explanation carries any weight when both his protector, Vainstain, and Botvinnik were Jews as well. And this is in the Soviet Union of the deeply paranoid Josef Stalin - remember he thought his Jewish doctors were trying to kill him.


Genna Sosonko was another of the ex-Soviets who have opened up and given us peek inside the Soviet chess machine.


Sosonko's last book on Smyslov on the Couch cited many others who spoke of who was helped and who was pressured in the 1950s.  Here's Spassky on Bucharest 1953, when he was just a young master. 
"It sounds funny, but the Soviet authorities helped me," he recalls. "The tournament began with a clash between Soviet players, as a result of which the Hungarian, Laszlo Szabo gained the lead. We then got a telegram from Moscow: 'Put an end to this nonsense and agree draws among yourselves!' Well it was convenient that I'd already scored a full point against Smyslov, but given my youth and inexperience I think it would have been difficult for me to achieve draws against Boleslavsky and Petrosian as well.  Yet here was everybody obeying the order from Moscow, and as a result I became an International Master."