Blunder of the century

Being a good number 2, isn't enough when it comes to playing for the World Championship. We all know how much effort Viktor "the terrible" Kortchnoi put into the struggle for the throne without reaching his ultimate goal. So did Paul Keres. Another eminent chessmaster to do the same was David Bronstein. (1924-2006) Born in Ukraine, he was a sovjet citizen, like most of the top players from his time.

He won his first international tournament in 1948, the Interzone tournament in Stockholm. This was his first international apperance at all. So in spring 1951, after some more rounds, he had qualified to meet the World Champion himself : Michail Botvinnik.

This was the first WC arranged under the new FIDE rules, and became a very exciting match. Botvinnik had not played any tournaments in 3 years and was maybe a bit rusty or he underestimted his 13 years younger opponent. Still, he was the nr. 1 in world, and it would be hard to kick him off the throne.

First 4 games were draws, but then Bronstein started to get the psycological upper hand. In 5th game he won and put even more pressure on Botvinnik. I am now going to focus on a move in game 6, by some called "the blunder of the century".. (obviously we are not talking about the 21th century here) Since the match ended 12-12 and Botvinnik kept his title with the smallest margin possible, we now know that Bronstein would have won by another 1/2 point somewhere in the match.

In the 6th game Botvinnik got into trouble again, due to timepressure. After 40 moves, he and his helper Ragozin found a small path to remis though, and after 56 moves they had reached this position, white to move.

Here, Bronstein (white) fell into deep thoughs for 45 minutes. He then made the famous blunder-move 57.Kc2??. Botvinnik answered 57... Kg3! (not Kf3?) and his e-pawn could reach e1. What was Bronstein thinking about, and what happend?
Later (in 1976) he told that he was very aware of the right move : 57. Ne6+ and the draw is no problem. But he started thinking about the opening of the game, his mind went astray, and suddenly he had touched his King by accident.... And he had to move it somewhere! So...There goes the game, the match and the title....
He had some other chances later in the match too, but didn't succeed. So, Bronstein lost and though he later was close, he never played a title mach again. Botvinnik won this match, and later lost and then regained the title against both Smyslov and Tal. At last (1963) he lost to Petrosjan, and the Botvinnik-period as WC was over.
Bronstein was a true chess-romantic, and re-vitalized the King Gambit and the modern form of King Indian.
Source : "Bogen om skak 2 - Politikens forlag 1981, Copenhagen"


  • 3 years ago


    i was very surprised, and amused, when i read about the foot kicking under the table, during the candidates matches in late 1970s.imagining it is funny but it was pretty serious matter i guess.

  • 3 years ago


    The history of Chess WC Matches one could expect was a history of gentlemanship, battle of minds (only) and fair play. But accusations of politics, fighting under the table (litterly in form of foot-kicking), reflective sunglasses, hypnosis/woodo, toiletscandals and so on have followed these matches for decades. Each one of us must make up his/hers own mind to determite what is true and what is untrue. I look foreward to Carlsen-Anand soon to be...

  • 3 years ago


    that's much better way to put it. But after reading all this on the match, i think a doubt will always remain on the issue.

  • 7 years ago


    Bronstein has always been one of my favorite players and chess personalities.  I appreciate reading about him, especially when the writing is as coherent as this.

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