Book review: The Sorcerer's Apprentice - Bronstein-Furstenberg

[This review first appeared in Westward Ho!]

Book review: The Sorcerer's Apprentice

by David Bronstein and Tom Furstenburg (1995) Cadogan 1995 ([[sterling]]?.??) 304pp.

This compilation is subtitled

40 Recommendations for the Novice; 40 Combinations with Explanations; 50 Games with Comments; 60 Games with Diagrams; 70 Picturesque Games

  There are also reminiscences and celebrations of Bronstein and his chess by his wife, by Smyslov (written when DB was 50), by the editors of 64 and by Boris Vainstein (at 60), and by the 'apprentice' Tom Furstenburg (at 70).

  I'll skip over the recommendations for the novice, which are hard to quibble with but hard to see the use of. ("38. Only when a position with a mating finish can clearly be seen should you pluck up courage and fearlessly sacrifice a rook or even your queen.").

  The combinations are given one on a page annotated with a diagram and commentary explaining how it arose, with occasional reflections on the art of combining by DB. Some were familiar, but most not, and all, of course, were a delight.

  The meat in this multilayered sandwich is the set of 50 annotated games, 120 pages of the book. Each game has comments and variations as you might expect, but often also engaging reminiscences about the opponent, or the tournament and the encounter. For example, the eleventh of the fifty was against Tartakower, and bears a splendid tribute to the man in introduction, and a wry anecdote in reflection.

  Among the reminiscences are embedded occasional reflections on chess and computers, and clocks, and Botvinnik, and the 1951 Botvinnik match, and Soviet chess politics. The politics may intrude into the chess in this book as far as the enthusiast is concerned, but it should not be forgotten how far politics intruded into Bronstein's chess. His father was imprisoned for eight years, and while he was released and attended his son's match with Botvinnik, he attended without permission to be in Moscow, and David "glanced regularly into the audience in order to reassure himself that his father was still there."

  Bronstein also gives a couple of examples of his suggestion to record and reflect the time taken over each move, and muses on chess at faster limits for which he has been an advocate for some time.

  The book is a celebration and however partisan some of the commentary I was given to be indulgent.

  The 60 games with diagrams can be followed without too frequent recourse to a board, but I haven't yet bothered with a lot of the 70 'Picturesque' games given as bare scores. Perhaps a sentence or two of introduction might whetted my appetite - say, 'A back and forth positional struggle in the last round, decided when White errs with 43...O-O'. Still, too late for editing now, and I came to them gorged on the earlier feasts, and this apparently dry dessert may tempt me later.

  As an example, I picked this one, which I first saw in Barry Wood's CHESS in 1976 (along with a 19-move suckering of Smyslov). This is Bronstein the artist and wizard, and even if you don't know how he does it, it's easy to admire and enjoy.

Kaplan, J - Bronstein, D (Hastings) [C11], 1975
1. e4 e6 2. d4 d5 3. Nc3 Nf6 4. Bg5 dxe4 5. Nxe4 Be7 6. Bxf6 gxf6 7. Nf3 Nd7

[7... b6]

8. Qd2 c5 9. d5 f5 10. dxe6 fxe4 11. exd7+ Qxd7 12. Qc3 O-O 13. Nd2 Qf5 14. O-O-O Qxf2 15. Nxe4?

"White ties himself up regaining an unimportant Pawn" [15. Bc4]

15... Qf4+ 16. Nd2 Bg4 17. Re1 Bg5 18. Bd3 Rae8 19. Ref1 Qe3 20. h3 Be2 21. Rf5 Bh6 22. Bxe2 Qxc3

"...Kaplan had a minute (left). I think he saw what was coming but wanted it demonstrated."

23. bxc3 Rxe2 24. Rd5 Rxd2 25. Rxd2 Rd8 26. Rhd1 c4 0-1


Chess Quotes

"As Olafsson showed me, White can win... It's hard to believe. I stayed up all night analysing, finally convicing myself, and, incidentally, learning a lot about Rook and Pawn endings in the process."