Bronstein, Staunton, Graf-Stevenson Make Hall Of Fame

Bronstein, Staunton, Graf-Stevenson Make Hall Of Fame

MikeKlein
FM MikeKlein
Feb 27, 2016, 12:30 PM |
19 | Chess Players

Three chess legends will join the elite list of players inducted into the World Chess Hall of Fame. On April 13, GM David Bronstein, Howard Staunton, and WIM Sonja Graf-Stevenson will have their names added to the 24 others already enshrined since the honorofic began in 2001.

The nominees were selected by FIDE.

"This year's inductees into the World Chess Hall of Fame are recognized for their level of play as well as their overall contributions to the game," said FIDE Vice President Beatriz Marinello.

The three will enter at the same time that GMs Maurice Ashley and Gata Kamsky will enter the U.S. Chess Hall of Fame, housed in the same building in St. Louis.

GM David Ionovich Bronstein (1924-2006) was a creative player, a world championship challenger and a famous chess writer.

Born near Kiev, in modern-day Ukraine, he won the 1948 Interzonal in Saltsjöbaden, Sweden. He went on to win the 1950 Candidates' Tournament, narrowly defeating GM Isaac Boleslavsky in a 14-game playoff (and later married his daughter!).

GM David Bronstein (all images courtesy World Chess Hall of Fame)

This allowed him to challenge World Champion GM Mikhail Botvinnik in one of the most controversial title matches ever. The lead changed hands several times, until Bronstein won two in a row late in the match.

His effort in Game 22 has been fodder for my personal teaching for years:


Botwinnik won game 23 and held on to the crown by tying the match. Up until his death Bronstein remained mum on whether there was explicit pressure to lose the match. He wrote about the experience in "The Sorcerer's Apprentice." Later he admitted that becoming the world champion may have muted his style, and he didn't care to be part of the chess bureaucracy.

He also won the Soviet Chess Championship in 1948 and 1949 and many other major chess tournaments, including another Interzonal (Gothenburg, 1955).

Bronstein has several variations named after him (one in the Caro-Kann and one in the Scandinavian), but he also furthered the use of the King's Gambit and King's Indian Defense. He also helped invent this famous queen sacrifice, one of my personal favorites against the Saemisch Variation, though it doesn't often bear his name.

More than three decades later, GM Yasser Seirawan still used it as Black to draw GM Garry Kasparov.

In later years he remained active, winning tournaments even into his 70s. Bronstein also invented a clock time increment that still uses his name -- the "Bronstein delay" allows time added back to the clock after a move, but without the ability to gain time if you moved faster than the increment. 

He wrote many books, but his most famous work was "Zurich International Chess Tournament, 1953," an exhaustive tome which features 210 analyzed games.

Howard Staunton (1810-1874) was an English chess player who was regarded as the best player of the 1840s after defeating Pierre Saint-Amant in a match.

Howard Staunton

The first international chess tournament (London, 1851) came about largely through his efforts.

He gave up chess a few years later after undertaking another career as a Shakespearean scholar. Efforts to pair him with Paul Morphy for an unofficial world championship match never materialized.

Like Bronstein, he has an opening named after him. The Staunton Gambit begins 1. d4 f5 2. e4 but it belies its namesake's advancements in positional play. Staunton has another opening indirectly named after him -- 1. c4 was used to beat Saint-Amant and therefore became the English Opening.

Also like Bronstein, he was an accomplished author, writing several books and hosting a weekly column in "Illustrated London News" for nearly 30 years.

He is best-known by modern chess players for the style of pieces bearing his name. A "Staunton chess set" is still the industry standard, and represents the most enduring chess endorsement in history. First sold to the public in 1849, FIDE adopted the Staunton chess set in 1924, the first year of the governing body's existence.

WIM Sonja Graf-Stevenson (1908-1965) was a German chess player who moved to Argentina during World War II and later to the United States. She studied with the legendary player Siegbert Tarrasch.

WIM Sonja Graf-Stevenson

Like Bronstein, she lost a World Championship match. Hers was to Vera Menchik in 1937 (she lost another to Menchik in an unofficial match three years earlier). Later in 1937, she played in a mostly-male tournament in Prague and drew Paul Keres.

1939 was a seminal year for Graf-Stevenson. She played in the Women's World Championship, which was held concurrently with the Olympiad in Buenos Aires. When Germany invaded Poland, she refused to return home and switched to play under the "libre" ("liberty") flag. She scored a huge result: 16 wins, three losses and no draws, but still took second to Menchik's 18/19.

Graf-Stevenson remained in Argentina and published several books, one about her chess career and one about her abusive upbringing.

Eight years later Graf married Vernon Stevenson, and they relocated to California. Graf-Stevenson would win the U.S. Women's Championship in 1957 and again in 1964, just one year before her death.

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