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Tuesday, October 5, 2021

Entering Unknown Territory With David Bronstein

     "It's 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 
     At the height of his powers there was no formal rating system, but between about 1945 to 1959, David Bronstein (February 19, 1924 - December 5, 2006) was undoubtedly one of the strongest players in the world. Chessmetrics puts him at number one in the world 19 different months between the June 1950 rating list and the December 1951 rating list. 
     His 12-12 score against Botvinnik in the 1951 world championship match confirms Bronstein's strength. He never again achieved that level of play, but he continued to be among the world's best players up until about the mid-1970s.
     During his career he was known for opening experiments and being a creative genius and master of tactics. Regarding his opening play, Bronstein wrote that he tried to vary his openings "as much as possible, to invent new plans of attack ans defense, to make experimental moves which are dangerous and exciting for both players and also for the audience."  

     He also wrote, "Probably if I were to play more safely I would make more points in every tournament, but then where is the joy in that?" What more could you ask for in a great player?! Few, if any, of the world's best play like that these days. 
     The following game was played in the Soviet Championship held in Tallinn, Estonia from November 21 to December 24, 1965. It featured twenty of the Soviet Union's strongest players, including reigning champion Viktor Korchnoi who performed well below expectation, ending up with a minus score. 

     Regarding this game, Bronstein noted that the Old Indian is not very popular because black's B on e7 does not seem to have a bright future. However, the defense is solid and very playable. 
     He explained black's idea as follows: "The advantage is that if white's P marches to h5, it will not encounter the g-Pawn as it would in the King's Indian Defense. If this h-Pawn comes to h6, black can play ...g6 and the h-file is still closed." 
     He described how in this game he tried to increase the activity of his dark squared B with the maneuver ...Be7-d8-b6. And, in order to accomplish that he had to retreat his Q to c8 and in order to do that, his B had to go to d7 first. 
     But, Bronstein added, there is more. This plan took away the usual square of d7 for his b8N. Consequently, the N had to temporarily be placed on a6 for where it later joined the attack from c5. 
     He offered all this as evidence that such a simple maneuver requires careful planning and coordination of several pieces. 
     Bronstein, unlike some annotators of this game, gave his opponent some credit by pointing out that the time lost by black in carrying out such a maneuver was cleverly used by Mikenas by organizing an attack using his f-Pawn. All in all, Bronstein packed a lot of instruction into 24 moves!

Vladas Mikenas - David Bronstein

Result: 0-1

Site: USSR Championship, Tallinn

Date: 1965

Old Indian Defense

[...] 1.d4 ♘f6 2.c4 d6 3.♘c3 c6 4.e4 e5 5.d5 ♗e7 6.♗e2 O-O 7.♘f3
7.h3 a6 8.♗e3 cxd5 9.cxd5 b5 10.a3 ♘bd7 11.♘f3 is about equal. Belik,D (2335)-Knazovcik,L (2300)/Czechia 1994
7...♘a6 8.O-O
8.♘d2 ♗d7 9.O-O c5 10.a3 ♘e8 11.♘f3 g6 12.♗h6 ♘g7 13.♘e1 f5 14.f4 in this sharp position white is only slightly better. Reshevsky,S-Garcia,R/Mar del Plata 1966
8...♗d7 9.♘e1 ♕c8 10.♘d3 ♗d8 11.f4 Mikenas is going all out for a K-side attack. 11...cxd5 12.cxd5
12.fxe5!? is sharp. After 12...♗b6+ 13.♔h1 ♘xe4 14.exd6 ♘xc3 15.bxc3 dxc4 16.♘f4 the position is unclear.
12...♘c5 13.fxe5 ♘fxe4 14.♘xe4 ♘xe4 15.♗e3 ♗b6 Brilliant! It doubles his Ps, but opens the a-file for the R and although there was no way of knowing it at this time, that is going to be a decisive factor.
15...dxe5 is the routine way of keeping the balance. 16.♘xe5 ♗c7 17.♕d4 ♘d6 18.♖ac1 ♕d8
16.♗xb6 axb6 17.♖f4 White threatens to win material: Rf4xe4 17...♘c5 The idea is to take control of the dark squares. How, you ask? Just watch! 18.exd6 ♘xd3 19.♕xd3 White has a new passed pawn: d6 19...♕c5+ With this move Bronstein seizes the dark squares. 20.♔h1 ♕xd6 It looks like with his active R white has a good possibility of attacking black's K. However, it's not going to be that easy and in the meantime black is putting pressure on white P on a2 which will have to move to free the R. Also, if white attempts to take control of either the c- or e-file with his R it will be pinned by black's B. Technically the position may be evaluated as equal by engines, but practically all the chances are with black. 21.♖h4 h6 22.a3 ♖fe8 23.♗f3 Technically the position is equal, but white has to be very careful because of the potential weakness of the first rank and, also, because of the lack of coordination of his pieces. 23...♕e5 Of the many possible moves at black's disposal, this sly move threatens ...Qxb2 winning a P and at the same time mate is threatened by . ..Qe1+ 24.♖b4 With this move Mikenas attempts to kill two birds with one stone...defend the P on b2 and attack black's doubled Ps. However, as Bronstein pointed out, after castling and the K has reached its hideout, players often don't bother to think about defending it because it is are surrounded by its own pieces and Ps. However, sometimes the need arises to defend your K and it is therefore a good idea to spend a move providing the K with an escape route which, in this case, black has already done by playing ... h6.. simply marches past the door to victory
24.♕d4 would have kept the chances about equal after 24...♕d6 25.♕b4 and black can't afford to exchange Qs so after, say, 25...♕c5 White won't want to trade Qs and straighten out black's Ps. As a result there is going to be a lot of maneuvering and Stockfish's top 10 (!) moves are evaluated as almost dead equal!
24...♖xa3 White resigned as there is no way to avoid mate.
24...♖xa3 25.♕f1 ♖xa1 26.♗d1 (26.♕xa1 ♕e1+) 26...♗b5 This is the quickest kill.
26...♖xd1 27.♖f4 ♕xf4 (27...♕e1 28.h3) 28.♕xd1 ♗g4 29.♕a1 ♗h3 30.gxh3 ♖e2 and mate follows.
27.♖xb5 ♖xd1 28.g4 ♖xf1+ 29.♔g2 ♕e2+ 30.♔h3 ♖f3+ mate next move.
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1 comment:

  1. That's why Bronstein is a chess immortal, and I never will be. "The maneuver ...Be7-d9-b6" is simply beyond the ability of ordinary players!

    But seriously, another excellent post!