Tag Archives: David Bronstein

Chess Tactics: Boleslavsky — Böök, 1948

Isaac Boleslavsky: The Most Underrated Chess Theoretician?

Isaac Boleslavsky

Isaac Boleslavsky. Photo: chessgames.com

Isaac Boleslavsky (1919-1977) was born in present-day Ukraine. He was one of the best players in the world during the 1940s and 1950s.

Runner-up in back-to-back USSR Championships in 1945 and 1947, he narrowly missed a chance to face Mikhail Botvinnik in the 1951 World Championship match. He later assisted Tigran Petrosian in his title matches.

Despite this formidable résumé, Boleslavsky’s legacy can be most clearly seen in the Ruy Lopez, King’s Indian Defense, and Sicilian Defense. His ideas are everywhere in these systems. Unfortunately, I doubt most casual players have even heard of him!


Original Grandmaster

The Grand Hotel Saltsjöbaden, site of the 1948 interzonal.

The very first Interzonal was held in 1948 in Saltsjöbaden, Sweden. Up for grabs were places in the Budapest Candidates Tournament of 1950, the next step in the World Championship cycle. Boleslavsky qualified easily with a strong third place result in Saltsjöbaden behind David Bronstein and Laszlo Szabo. These three players were part of the first 27 awarded the new International Grandmaster title by FIDE.

In the first round of the interzonal, Boleslavsky won a miniature against Finnish master Eero Böök with an important new idea.


A Dangerous Queen Maneuver

Chess Tactics: Mikenas — Bronstein, 1965


The back-rank checkmate tactic that occurred in this game is my favorite, and I’ve shown it to students for years. It’s the greatest back rank tactic I’ve ever seen, and one of the greatest tactics of any kind.

Black to play. 24…?

What shocking move did David Bronstein, World Championship Challenger in 1951, find?

David Bronstein pulled off a stunning back rank checkmate tactic over Vladas Mikenas in 1965.

David Bronstein at the board, locked in battle


White’s king is stuck in the corner on h1, but it doesn’t seem to matter. Black is doubled on the e-file, but white can cover that. If 1…Qe1+, white cannot play 2.Rxe1??

Because of 2…Rxe1+ 3.Qf1 Rxf1#.

Instead of 2.Rxe1?? white has 2.Qf1!, and black has nothing.

So what should black do instead? The move will appear if he remembers how to choose a move and looks for checks, captures, and threats!

Clicking on the moves below will pop up diagrams to follow the analysis.

After 24…Rxa3!! Mikenas resigned at once, because he will either get checkmated or lose a ton of material. Sometimes you have to tip your cap to the opponent for a job well done!

Do agree with me that this is the greatest back rank checkmate tactic ever? Share your thoughts!