Review: Zurich 1953 - Bronstein

Guest review by Russell Gooding

 David Bronstein. His classic book Zurich International Chess Tournament 1953,and the average club player.

 In 1953 David Bronstein was already a proven world class chess player. Only two years previously - following a candidate's playoff against his lifelong friend Isaac Boleslavski - he had drawn a most dramatic match for the world title.

 Bronstein's result against Mikhail Botvinnik (having been a point ahead with two games to play) proved beyond doubt that the new dynamism of the younger generation of Soviet players was at least the equal of the scientific and precision methods typified by the play of the then world champion.

 Throughout his career Bronstein has graced the game with many magnificent ideas and innumerable wonderful games. If you have yet to see the 1955 Gothenburg Interzonal game against the eternal Candidates runner up (Paul Keres) you have truly missed an opportunity to expand your chess horizons. That game was played near to the peak of David's creative talent. Some 20 years later aged over 50 he was still capable of producing a beautiful finale against the then world junior champion Kaplan at Hastings 1975/6 (seek this game out also *).


 * Incidentally both marvellous games are given in Bronstein's hugely entertaining biography 'The Sorcerer's Apprentice'.


 Notwithstanding the above though. The greatest debt owed by the chess community to this most remarkable and imaginative of competitors will probably be reserved for his incredible annotations following the 1953 double round robin Candidates tournament. Bronstein himself played and shared second play in the event tied with Keres and Reshevski behind Vassily Smyslov - who went on to challenge Botvinnik for the world title.

 Though the event produced many brilliant games. It is most memorable for the revolutionary style Bronstein chose to adopt in his tournament book of the event.

 David made a conscious decision to 'explain' chess to the average player. Certainly his annotations contain variations, alternatives and even much tactical depth. Most important of all though it was clear that he set out to ensure that a raft of high quality Grandmaster games became at least partly comprehensible to all standards of players. His efforts have been rightly acknowledged as equally applicable for club players right up to the GM level. Boris Spassky once commented 'The author is present in its pages'. This is clearly apparent in the warmth, generosity and wonder at the creative achievements of his peers.

 This period (1950's) was a rich one in terms of chess development. The new wave of players post war had begun a revolution in the way the game was played. Indeed this style was to evolve onward and be further refined some years later by messrs M Tal, R Fischer and G Kasparov. It was however to Bronstein and his ilk that initial credit must justly be attributed.


 Bronstein (along with others such as Taimanov, Boleslavski and Najdorf) was largely responsibly for a re-evaluation of various set-ups (most notable the Kings Indian, Nimzo-Indian and Sicilian) during this time. The transformation in these systems from opening to middle game had previously been underestimated.

 It was during and just after this tournament that these ideas were to be shaped into the formidable systems they have become. Do not however assume that Bronstein was simply a super openings analyst. It is for his clarity of thought and creative handling of the intricacies of the next phase of the game (the middle game) that this book has become justly famed for.

 Favourite Games/Annotations Taimanov-Najdorf, Keres-Reshevski and Averbakh-Kotov - sensational stand outs amongst tens of great games.

 In conclusion.

 The average player who reads and digests the comments in this book and in doing so learns naught would do well to give up chess and try another game say Mah Jong - with sincere apologies to C.S Howell and his comments on the classic game Reti-Alekhin Baden Baden 1924.

 Available in English translation from Dover books at #10.95.

 Russell Gooding.