__________________________________________________________________________Boleslavski (far left), Smyslov, Petrosian, Tolusch and Spassky at Bucarest 1953
Isaac Yefremovich Boleslavsky was born on June 9, 1919 in Zolotonosha, Ukraine and died prematurely at age 57 on February 15, 1977 in Minsk as a result of slipping on an icy sidewalk and fracturing his hip –which soon became infected while hospitalized.
Boleslavsky taught himself chess at age 9. In 1933, Boleslavsky became schoolboy champion of Dnipropetrovsk. Three years later, he won third prize in the 1936 USSR All-Union Junior Championship, held in Leningrad.
After that his progress was quick. He won the Ukraine Championship at age 19 and at 20 he was already good enough to play in the USSR Championship. By 1941 Boleslavski was already recognized as one of the strongest players in the Soviet Union and by 1945 he was second only to Botvinnik in the USSR Championship of that year. In recognition of his enormous talent, he was awarded the title of Grandmaster of the USSR.
After the war Boleslavski was allowed to participate in international tournaments. In 1946 he played in the first really strong post-war tournament Graningen, where Canadian Abe Yanofsky was also participating.
Groningen was a great tournament! Boleslavski can be seen 2nd to the left in the 2nd row, beside Smyslov. Abe can be seen in the first row, far right. The tournament was the first set back of his life, where he found himself in 12th place after 12 rounds. Only a super-human effort in the second half of the tournament allowed him to tie for 7th place.
In the following years Boleslavski’s results became more consisent, and more often than not he finished amongst the top 3 or 4 places. 1950 saw the Ukrainian champion score the greatest success of his life, tieing for 1st place with Bronstein at the prestigious and incredibly difficult Budapest Candidates Tournament. A match was arranged between the two of them in Moscow to determine the challenger to Botvinnik for the World Championship of 1951.David Bronstein (1924-2006) would eventually marry Boleslavski’s daugher, Tatania
By this time Bronstein and Boleslavski were very close, perhaps too much so, for they secretly pre-arranged the match result to favour the younger Bronstein. According to Bronstein (whom I got to know quite well when he visited Lisbon in 1997), Boleslavski felt that he was unable to play against Botvinnik and he felt that he would most certainly lose against the World Champion in any match. (The previous tournament games between Botvinnik and Boleslavski were decisively in favour of the former. Boleslavski had never beaten him and had suffered 6 losses in a row with the Black pieces) The final match score between Boleslavski and Bronstein was +3−2=9 for Bronstein.
As a result of this victory, Bronstein played Botvinnik for the World Championship the following year (1951) , having Boleslavski as his second, and the match ended in a tie–Botvinnik therefore retaining his title. Bronstein never again got a chance to play for the world championship. After 1958 Bronstein was no longer considered amongst the very elite Soviet grandmasters.
1951 World Championship Match
Boleslavski played in the famous 1953 Zurich Candidates Tournament, finishing a disappointing 10th to 11th place, and this was to be his last appearance in such an important tournament. He never again qualified for subsequent world championship cycles. After a disappointing result in the 1961 USSR Championship, Boleslavski effectively ended his career as a tournament player and dedicated himself more to training ,teaching and writing. He became the chief trainer of the USSR chess federation, and in particular, he served as Tigran Petrosian’s second during the 1963-1969 period when the Armenian held the world title.
Tigran Petrosian. World Champion from 1963-1969
The picture features Boleslavsky’s son, Stanislaw, and his daughter, Tatiana (David Bronstein’s widow) standing beside their father’s grave. Bronstein’s grave is about ten paces away!
David Bronstein’s grave