- The Washington Times - Saturday, December 29, 2001

The news that two Ukrainians GMs Vassily Ivanchuk and Ruslan Ponomariov have made it to next month's finals of the FIDE world championships in Moscow brings to mind another Ukrainian great who fell just short of the crown in the same city 50 years ago this year.
Kiev-born David Bronstein came within a whisker of winning the first title match of the postwar era, holding a one-game lead over titleholder Mikhail Botvinnik with two games to go in the match. But Botvinnik pulled out an epic ending in Game 23 and retained his title on a 12-12 tie.
Of all the game's great players, Bronstein may have loved chess the best coffeehouse skittles, all-nighters at the club, top-flight tournament and match play, Bronstein was the first to arrive and the last to leave.
"There are men who make a religion of their profession," the great Yugoslav GM Svetozar Gligoric noted in this account of the match. "Chess is not everywhere recognized as a vocation but if this noble game has its priests, then Bronstein was a priest of the spirit of chess."
Pitting the incandescent Bronstein against the sturdy, logical Botvinnik made for some taut struggles. The 24-game format also allowed both players to roll out their entire arsenal, not like the truncated 8-game matches FIDE now uses to pick its champions.
Down 51/2-41/2 after 10 games, the challenger scored his most forceful win in Game 11, allowing his opponent a promising pawn sacrifice, holding a shaky position together, and then conducting a smashing counterattack.
Black's 11… Bf8!?, loading up on e5, invites White to go for active piece play at the cost of a pawn with 12. Rc1 Nxe5 13. dxe5 Rxe5 14. Nb5 Re7 15. Bxf6 gxf6 16. e4 (b4 c6 17. Nd4, aiming for an eventual b4-b5, is another way to proceed here). Black's position is awkward, but Botvinnik still must play actively to justify his material deficit.
Gligoric suggests 21. Bh3 as safer for White, with a draw in hand after 21… Bxd4 22. Rxd4 Be6 23. Rxc7! Qg7 (Rxc7 24. Qg5+ Qg7 25. Rd8+ Rxd8 26. Qxd8+ Qf8 27. Qxc7 and White has the edge) 24. Rxa7! Rexa7 25. Rd8+ Rxd8 26. Qxd8+ Qf8 27. Qg5+. Botvinnik's 21. Nc6 Re8 22. Bh3 allows Black a quicker counterattack with 22…Bh6 23. Rc2 e3!.
With the first time control looming, the play grows intense: 29. Rxc7 (Qf6+ Qg7 30. Qxg7+ Kxg7 31. Nxe6+ fxe6 32. Rxc7+ Kf6 33. Re1 Bd2 34. Re2 Re7 leaves Black a pawn to the good) Bd5 30. Re1? (Gligoric recommends 30. Rf1 Qd6 31. Bxd5! [Nxf5? Bxf3+ 32. Rxf3 Qd1+ 33. Kg2 Rd2+ 34. Kh3 Rxh2+!! 35. Kxh2 Qg1+ 36. Kh3 Qh1+ 37. Kg4 Rg8+ 38. Kh5 Rg5+ 39. Kh6 Rxg3+! 40. Rxe3 Rg6+ 41. Kh5 Qd1+ and Black mates] Qxd5+ [and not 31[…]Qxc7? 32. Qf6+ Kg8 33. Nxf5 Qe5 34. Nh6+ Bxh6 35. Bxf7+ Kf8 36. Qxh6+ Ke7 37. Qh4+ Kd7 38. Bxe8+ Rxe8 39. Qxh7 and White wins] 32. Nf3, and White's still in the game) Qd6! 31. Rc2 (see diagram).
Bronstein now finds a shot that fatally disrupts the White game: 31…Re4! 32. Bxe4 Bxe4+ 33. Qxe4 (the only way to stave off mate) fxe4. With 34. Nf5 Qb4 35. Rxe3, White gets some of his material back, but his disconnected pieces are no match for the marauding Black queen. At the end, 39. Kg4 f6! robs the White king of the g5 square and sets up the threat of 40…h5+ 41. Kxh5 Qxf5+. Botvinnik resigned.
In a match in which every half-point proved crucial, the titanic draw in Game 18 was a turning point. Again, Bronstein forces the pace with a stupendous piece sacrifice busting open a closed game, but Botvinnik (and his seconds) found an amazing drawing line during the adjournment after the challenger had thrown away the win.
White's early 9. c5! Be7 10. a3 a5 closes off the queenside and sets the tone for a positional affair. Both sides probe for a timely central break before Bronstein unexpectedly strikes on the wing: 26. Qb1 Qc8 27. Bxb5!! Nxe5 28. fxe5 Bh6 29. Bc1 cxb5 30. Nxb5. White gets two pawns for his piece and the lovely d6-outpost for his knight. If and when Black snaps off the knight, White will enjoy three connected passed pawns bearing down on Black's sorry bishop and knight.
But White falters this time just before the adjournment break: 38. e4 f4 (fxe4 39. Bxh6 is too dangerous, while 38…dxe4 39. d5! exd5 40. Qh8 is even worse) 39. e5 g5 40. Qe2 Kg7 41. Qd3?, the sealed move. Later, it was determined that White had a win with 41. c6! Bxc6 42. bxc6 Qxc6 43. Bxf4! gxf4 44. Qg4+ Kf7 (Kh7 45. Qxe6) 45. Qxf4+ Kg7 46. Qg4+ Kf7 47. Qh4 Nf8 48. Qxh6.
Black now finds a saving line beginning with 41…Nb8!! 42. h4 Qc4 43. Qh3 Qxb5! (Qxc1? 44. hxg5 hxg5 45. Qxe6 Qe3 46. Qf6+ Kh7 47. Qxg5 works out well for White) 44. hxg5 hxg5 45. Qxe6 Qd3!. Black can abandon his pieces to their fate because he threatens an instant perpetual beginning with …Qg3+.
Bronstein probes continually for an opening, even sacrificing his bishop in the search for a killer check, but succumbs to the inevitable after 56. Qf7+ Kh8 57. Qxb7 Qg3+ 58. Kh1. Despite the spilt point, this was an absorbing battle from start to finish.

World Championship Match, Game 11, Moscow, 1951
BotvinnikBronstein
1. d4e621. Nc6Re8
2. Nf3Nf622. Bh3Bh6
3. c4b623. Rc2e3
4. g3Bb724. fxe3Bxe3+
5. Bg2Be725. Kh1Be6
6. 0-00-026. Bg2a5
7. b3d527. Bf3Kh8
8. cxd5exd528. Nd4Rad8
9. Bb2Nbd729. Rxc7Bd5
10. Nc3Re830. Re1Qd6
11. Ne5Bf831. Rc2Re4
12. Rc1Nxe532. Bxe4Bxe4+
13. dxe5Rxe533. Qxe4fxe4
14. Nb5Re734. Nf5Qb4
15. Bxf6gxf635. Rxe3Rd1+
16. e4dxe436. Kg2Rd2+
17. Qg4+Bg737. Rxd2Qxd2+
18. Rfd1Qf838. Kh3Qf2
19. Nd4Bc839. Kg4f6
20. Qh4f5White resigns

World Championship Match, Game 18, Moscow, 1951
BronsteinBotvinnik
1. d4d530. Nxb5Nd7
2. c4c631. Nd6Rxa1
3. Nc3Nf632. Qxa1Qa8
4. Nf3e633. Qc3Bf8
5. e3a634. b5Bxd6
6. Bd3b535. exd6Qa4
7. b3Nbd736. Qb2Kf7
8. 0-0Bb737. Kh2h6
9. c5Be738. e4f4
10. a3a539. e5g5
11. Bb20-040. Qe2Kg7
12. Qc2g641. Qd3Nb8
13. b4axb442. h4Qc4
14. axb4Qc743. Qh3Qxb5
15. Rae1Rfe844. hxg5hxg5
16. Ne2Bf845. Qxe6Qd3
17. h3Bg746. Qf6+Kh7
18. Ne5Nf847. Qf7+Kh8
19. f3N6d748. Qf6+Kh7
20. f4f649. Bxf4gxf4
21. Nf3Re750. Qf7+Kh8
22. Nc3f551. Qe8+Kg7
23. Ra1Ree852. Qe7+Kh8
24. Ne5Rxa153. Qe8+Kg7
25. Rxa1Ra854. Qe7+Kh8
26. Qb1Qc855. Qf8+Kh7
27. Bxb5Nxe556. Qf7+Kh8
28. fxe5Bh657. Qxb7Qg3+
29. Bc1cxb558. Kh1Draw agreed

David R. Sands can be reached at 202/636-3178 or by e-mail at [email protected]

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