Bronstein chess interview, Part 4 (Final)

STAKHOV: So the idea that Soviet chess is the best…

BRONSTEIN: …is a myth. Well, we simply didn’t want to see that foreign players had been winning most tournaments. We had written only about the tournaments where we had taken the first place. And there were some great chess players out there. Larsen, for example.

STAKHOV: But he wasn’t getting in the top three!

BRONSTEIN: What kind of nonsense is that?! Why one should be getting in the top three?

STAKHOV: You yourself were getting in the top three. That is why it is so easy for you to say.

BRONSTEIN: I too was praised for the results, and not for the beauty of my games. It is a shame! One is playing in tournaments and is invited all over the world, not only for points and victories; however, a principle has been established: you should play for win, the main thing is the points and victories. And there has been created an aura that chess players are geniuses. But what they really do? They are moving pawns from one square to another.

STAKHOV: But you too have been moving pawns!

David Bronstein before the demo board

Moving pawns,  the King’s way…

BRONSTEIN: But what I want is that they praise me for imagination, for original creations, and not for how I play openings or standard positions.

STAKHOV: If you want to become a pro in soccer, you have to practice, you have to shoot at the gate. In order to demonstrate the beauty of an attack, you need to know openings, that is, the basics.

BRONSTEIN: The majority of chess players today know only that and it stops there. They know how to set groups of pieces. They don’t think in a combinatorial way any more. Groups of pieces fight for some square on the board. And that’s all! That is what sponsors pay for, that is what is interesting to the public which has no idea of what is going on inside the inner world of chess. Chess players have known that since long time ago and they want to keep that perception up.

STAKHOV: In other words chess as art and culture turned to a sort of commercial show and the most important thing in the show is fooling the public that buys into what they don’t understand? Okay, but if you want to trick them, one has to do it professionally. If I read one book on openings I would still have no chance against Masters.

BRONSTEIN: You can! Let us form a team, find a sponsor and play. I will be coaching you. For free. What is more, I will play for your team. And I guarantee you, you can stand up to big-name players! I guarantee you, one could hold off even Kasparov. A Candidate Master playing white pieces will withstand against the World champion. I assure you! The main thing is to find a sponsor who will pay for your inadequate – no offense! — preparation. Then we will buy some players who play for several teams already and then – hold on. Think the German Bundes Liga. There are only five-six German players, the rest is legionaries. It’s all in the hands of sponsors. For example, Kasparov played computer for a million dollars. A million for what? Absolutely no justification for that. Kramnik got $700,000. Not for creativity, but for a grueling match in which there is no art at all. The chess player has turned into a racehorse that mustn’t stop running. He has coaches to whom he provides jobs. The horse is running, but there is no riddle in it anymore.

STAKHOV: How about we get back to the era of Sturm und Drang? [the era of Tal and Botvinnik, mr]

David Bronstein and Mikhail Tal

Devik and Misha, Who moved my chess?

BRONSTEIN: It is possible. I have made a suggestion on rapid chess – it is my contribution. It is an attempt to get back to the province of problem-solving in chess.

STAKHOV: So, the Big Chess is a – scam?

BRONSTEIN: Chess Masters are praised for highly intellectual work. In fact, it is only about calculation and memory abilities. And good health. And money. Chess doesn’t excite anyone anymore. The system does work without chess. They won’t let anyone into their world, but those who are welcome from a business perspective. Kasparov has once said he is generations apart from me, so he did not want to play me. What generations? I’m still alive and I understand a lot about the game. If they had invited me I would have gone and played. But I don’t have a rating! Therefore, I don’t exist anymore as a chess player. It is now all about rating which is calculated using the probability of winning. They stopped inviting me to tournaments when my rating was still good. (True, I had FIDE give players of my rank the right to play any tournament however strong, thus sidestepping rating.) Chess players are not interesting to anyone anymore, now it is about “who will beat whom.” Even the idea of the World Championship humiliates chess.

The points decide everything. Yet, creative tension cannot be simulated. The only way out is return to rapid chess.


No more a game, it is a Big Money now (the Bronstein’s Modern Chess Self-Tutor covers of the 1980 Russian edition)

STAKHOV: But your idea is not compatible with how much money is now spinning in chess. No one will give money for rapid chess. If you had played a rapid chess match with Botvinnik, then…

BRONSTEIN: In a way there was no reason to win the match against Botvinnik. My Father returned from prison, he was sitting in the audience, even though he wasn’t supposed to be in Moscow. In the audience was also Abakumov; although he was a great supporter of my Dynamo Club, the highest establishment wanted to see Botvinnik as a champion. He had an image of amateur, an engineer who is moving pieces only in his free time. As a matter of fact he killed Soviet chess. He looked his opponents with such hatred! It is an entire school of hatred stirrers: Lasker, Alekhine, Botvinnik, Fischer, Karpov, Kasparov. Kasparov, even if a computer beat him, he would lose anything now. Let us get intrigue back in chess. If you lose, give the money back. Only then will people come back to chess. And if both art of chess and results are there, it will then bring about chess revival. As long as there is only one outcome, chess is not interesting to anyone, except to those who are accepting and those who are making bets.

STAKHOV: Nabokov was a good chess player? He thought very highly of himself.

BRONSTEIN: I don’t think so. He had intellect, and it is harmful to chess. Intelligence actually opposes the primitive principles of chess such as winning a tempo and gaining space. Nabokov, however, believed that if he was composing chess problems, that he’s smarter than everyone else. Chess studies is just combinatorics. Chess creates an illusion of belonging to a high intellect. Just an illusion. Believe me, I know what I am talking about…

Part I of the interview

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