David Bronstein

by Bill Wall


David Ionovich Bronstein was born on Feb 19, 1924 in Bila Tserkva (near Kiev), Ukraine.  Both of his parents were Jewish.  Bronstein’s father, Iohonon Baruch Bronstein, was injured by mustard gas while serving in the Russian army in World War I.  In 1919, he joined the Ukrainian Communist Party.


His family later moved to Kiev where his father was a flour mill manager.


Bronstein may have been a second cousin to Leon Trotsky (1879-1940), whose real name was Lev Davidovich Bronstein.  The rumor may have led to Bronstein’s father being arrested a few years later.


Bronstein learned chess at the age of 6 from his grandfather and joined the

Kiev Palace of Young Pioneers to play chess.


Bronstein was trained by International Master Alexander Konstantinopolsky (1910-1990).  Konstantinopolsky was Kiev champion from 1932 to 1936.


On New Year’s Eve 1937, David Bronstein's father went to prison and served seven years in the Gulag.  He was accused as being a dissident because he participated in a protest at his factory.  He was released in 1944 under condition that he never visit Moscow or Kiev.


In 1939, Bronstein finished 2nd in the Kiev Championship.


In 1940, Bronstein took 2nd in the Ukraine Championship (won by Isaac Boleslavsky) and became a Russian Master.


In the spring of 1941, he completed high school and planned on studying mathematics at Kiev University.


In the summer of 1941, he competed in the USSR championship qualifier at

Rostov-on-Don.  The tournament had to be abandoned when German panzers rolled across the steppes.


In 1941, he was ordered to leave Kiev as a conscript in the Red Army.

He avoided combat duty due to his poor eyesight (myopia).


He married his first of three wives, Olga Mikhailova Ignatieva (1920-1999), a Soviet woman International Master (1952) and later awarded the title of Woman Grandmaster (1978.  She participated in the Women’s Soviet Championship 17 times.


In 1943, Bronstein was working on some reconstruction of war-damaged buildings.


In 1944, he defeated Mikhail Botvinnik (1911-1995) in the 13th USSR championship.  Botvinnik won the event.



In 1944, Bronstein’s father was released from prison.  Bronstein bribed a local police chief with 100 pounds of flour to get an internal passport that did not identify his father as a former political prisoner.



In 1945, he finished 3rd in the 14th USSR Championship.  Botvinnik won the event.


Bronstein played Board 10 in the 1945 USSR vs. USA Radio Match.  He won both of his games against Anthony Santasiere (1904-1977).


In 1946, he attended Leningrad Polytechnical Institute.  He later moved to Moscow and lived several years in the Boris Vainshtein (1921-1996) home.


In 1948, he tied for 1st, with Alexander Kotov, in the 16th USSR Championship, held in Moscow.  Because of his results, Bronstein was automatically seeded into the 1948 Saltzjobaden Interzonal.


During the final round at the 1948 Saltsjobaden Interzonal, a Lithuanian man attacked Bronstein with a knife, shouting that his father had been sent to Siberia and wanted to kill all Russians. 


On August 15, 1948, he won the Saltsjobaden Interzonal (the first Interzonal) in Sweden with the score of 13.5-5.5, and qualified for the Candidates Tournament in Budapest.  First place for the Interzonal was $550.  The top 9 players in the Interzonal advanced to the 1950 Candidates Tournament.


In 1949, he tied for 1st, with Vasily Smyslov (1921-2010), in the 17th USSR Championship, held in Moscow.


In 1949, FIDE recognized Bronstein, age 26, as the youngest Grand Master.  FIDE recognized 17 Grand Masters that year.


On May 18, 1950, Bronstein tied for first with Isaac Boleslavsky (1919-1977) at the Candidates tournament in Budapest.  They shared $5,000 1st prize money and had to play a match to determine who would go on to challenge Botvinnik for the World Championship in 1951.


On August 28, 1950, Bronstein defeated Boleslavsky in the Candidates Tournament play-off, held in Moscow.  Bronstein won with the score of 7.5-6.5.


In 1950, he was awarded the International Grandmaster title by FIDE.


On May 11, 1951, he drew with Mikhail Botvinnik in the world championship match (first World Championship match under FIDE rules) with a 12-12 score, held at the Tchaikovsky Concert Hall in Moscow.  Bronstein's father was forbidden to enter Moscow, but he managed to watch some games incognito in the playing hall.  Bronstein's second was Isaac Boleslavsky.  There were 5 wins, 5 losses, and 14 draws in the match.


In November-December 1951, Bronstein took 6th-8th place in the 19th USSR championship, held in Moscow.  Paul Keres won the event.


In April 1952, he tied for 1st with Mark Taimanov at the World Students’ Championship, held in Liverpool.


In November-December 1952, Bronstein took 7th-9th in the 20th USSR championship, held in Moscow.  Botvinnik and Taimanov tied for 1st.


In 1952, his father died.


In October, 1953, he tied for 2nd (along with Reshevsky and Keres) in the 1953 Candidates Tournament in Neuhausen-Zurich, behind Vasily Smyslov.


In 1953/1954, he tied for 1st place, with Conel Hugh O’Donel Alexander (1909-1974), at the 29th Christmast Tournament at Hastings.


In 1954, he wrote "Zurich International Chess Tournament 1953," considered one of the greatest chess books ever written.  He was assisted by Boris Vainstein, President of the Soviet Chess Federation and a Colonel in the KGB.  There are 210 games in this book.


In September, 1955, he won the Goteborg (Gothenburg) Interzonal with an unbeaten score of 10 wins and 10 draws.


In 1956, Bronstein took 3rd-7th at the Candidates’ tournament in Amsterdam.  Smyslov took 1st place; Keres took 2nd place.


In 1957, he tied for 2nd with Paul Keres at the Soviet Chess Championship.  It was won by Mikhail Tal.


In 1957, he won the men’s Moscow City championship.  His wife, Olga Ignatieva, won the women’s Moscow City championship.


In 1958, Bronstein took 3rd at the USSR championship in Riga. Tal won the event.


In August-September 1958, he did not qualify in the Portoroz Interzonal, held in Slovenia.  He lost in the final round to Filipino Rudolfo Cardoso, who took 19th place out of 21 players.  During his game with Carduso, the power went out during a thunderstorm and Bronstein lost his concentration.  It was Bronstein's only loss.  Bronstein tied for 7th-11th place.  Only the top 6 places advanced to the Candidates Tournament.


In January-February 1960, he took 13th in the 27th USSR championship, held in Leningrad.


Bronstein's ending against Boris Spassky in the 1960 USSR Championship, held in Leningrad, was used in the opening sequence of the James Bond film, From Russia With Love, filmed in 1963.


In 1961, he was awarded the title of International Judge in Chess Competition.


In November-December 1961, he took 3rd in the 29th USSR championship.  The event was won by Spassky.


In 1962, Bronstein missed qualification at the Soviet Zonal stage.


In November-December 1963, he took 4th-6th in the 31st USSR championship.


In 1964, he took 6th in the Amsterdam Interzonal.  Normally, this would have been good enough to advance to the Candidates matches, but only 3 of the 5 Soviet players were allowed to be seeded into the Candidates tournament.  So Smylov, Spassky, and Tal advanced (they all tied for 1st, along with Larsen), but Bronstein and Stein (who took 5th place) did not.


In 1965, he tied for 2nd at the Soviet Championship.


In 1968, he took 2nd in the 8th IBM International Tournament, behind Kavalek.


In 1973, Bronstein finished in 6th place at the Petropolis Interzonal.


In 1973, Bronstein introduced the idea of adding a small time increment for each move made. 


In 1973, he wrote 200 Otkritkh Partii (200 Open Games).



In 1975, Bronstein used the computer KAISSA to analyze an adjourned endgame that he was playing in Vilnius.  When he adjourned the game, he telephoned the KAISSA programmers in Moscow to ask them to look up their program's library and find the best possible continuation for him.  He played according to the program's library and won.  Bronstein said that the solution was so beautiful, that he would have never thought of it himself.


In 1976, he refused to sign a letter condemning the defection of Viktor Korchnoi to Holland (along with Mikhail Botvinnik and Boris Gulko).  Because he refused, Bronstein was no longer allowed to leave the Soviet Union and his state-paid Master’s monthly stipend was suspended.


In 1977, Bronstein married Isaac Boleslavsky's daughter, Tatiana, a Minsk academic.  She was his 3rd wife.


In 1989, after the fall of the Soviet Union, Bronstein was allowed to travel abroad.


In 1990, he lost a computer match, held in the Netherlands, with HITECH.



In 1994-95, he tied for 1st at Hastings at the age of 70.


In 1995, he co-wrote, with Belgiun journalist Tom Furstenburg, "The Sorcerer's Apprentice."  It contains 222 games played by Bronstein from 1938 to 1995, 57 years.


In 1995, he wrote "The Modern Chess Self Tutor."


In 1999, he wrote “Bronstein on the King’s Indian.”


On December 5, 2006, he died of a stroke in Minsk, Belarus at the age of 82.


In 2007, his final book, Secret Notes, was published.


Bronstein took 1st place in the Moscow championship 6 times (1946, 1953, 1957, 1961, 1968, and 1982).


Bronstein represented the USSR in the chess Olympiads of 1952, 1954, 1956, and 1958, winning board prizes at each of them.  He won 4 Olympiad team gold medals.


Bronstein was one of the 10 strongest players in the world between 1945 and 1959.


Bronstein had a regular chess column in the Soviet newspaper Izvestia for many years.


“It is my style to take my opponent and myself onto unknown grounds.  A game of chess is not an examination of knowledge, it is a battle of nerves.”  - David Bronstein


“I still wonder why people in general have respect only for world champions and not for all chess players.  Is it not clear that we all play the same game of chess?”  - David Bronstein


Bronstein - Tomic, Vinkovci 1970

1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5 g6 4.c3 Qb6 5.Ba4 Bg7 6.O-O e5 7.Na3 Nge7 8.b4 cxb4 9.Nc4 Qc5 10.d3 bxc3 11.Rb1 c2 (11...Nd4) 12.Qxc2 Nd4? (12...a6) 13.Nxd4 (13...Qxd4 14.Be3; 13...exd4 14.Ba3 Qh5 15.Nd6+)  1-0

Bronstein – I. Zaitsev, USSR 1969

1.e4 e5 2.f4 exf4 3.Nf3 d5 4.exd5 Nf6 5.Bc4 Nxd5 6.O-O Be6 7.Bb3 Bd6 8.c4 Ne7 9.d4 Ng6 10.c5 Be7 11.Bxe6 fxe6 12.Re1 O-O 13.Rxe6 Bxc5? 14.Qb3 Bxd4+ 15.Nxd4 Qxd4+ 16.Be3!  1-0