Well, you know, Ilan is the publisher so he oughta feel that way about a book, but this was the first time he had written that lavishly about any book, so it was only natural I took it to be hyperbole. This was received at the end of January and I did not purchase a new laptop until April. Then there was the tooth problem…Although I had no deadline, all of the earlier books reviewed for Ilan had at least been timely. I may not have dropped the ball with this review, but I must admit it was fumbled…Then there was the trouble deciding on how to write the review, which was not the case with the Romanovsky book (https://xpertchesslessons.wordpress.com/2021/08/27/selected-games-of-peter-romanovsky-by-sergei-tkrachenko-a-review/), a book I obviously loved. With a little help from my friends
the review finally came together.
Nevertheless, I was disappointed with myself, feeling I had let Ilan down, as the book awards had all been handed out, or at least that is what I thought. Fortunately, I was WRONG!
From the excellent books on the shortlist, two stood out – Nigel Short’s WINNING and Voronkov’s Masterpieces and Dramas. The latter is winner of the Book of the Year 2021. However, Short’s book is so good that it merits a mention in the award.
Masterpieces and Dramas Sergey Voronkov Elk and Ruby pp 534 hardback £35.95 The full title, Soviet Championships Volume 1 (1920 – 1937), is the story of the first ten Soviet Championships. Potential readers might be discouraged by the apparently obscure subject, but they should not be! The book reads like a novel describing how the championships were organised and played in the appalling conditions of postrevolutionary Russia is an extraordinary story of keeping chess alive against very considerable odds. Voronkov states that ‘he is interested in the people’ and his approach is ‘closer to a documentary movie than a dry chronicler of events’. Thus the focus is on individual stories and twists of fate of the many characterful players such as Alekhine’s and Bogolubov’s exclusion from Russia, which vividly contrasts with Botvinnik’s early years. Many contemporary cartoons, photographs, press reports and gossip make you feel that you are there when reading the book. The chess is very good too. Gary Kasparov in his foreword praises ‘the great game selection … showing chess in the context of time’. Voronkov also has a great eye for the dramatic moments in the tournaments, positions of chess interest and historically valuable games. A most remarkable, absorbing and entertaining chess history which fully lives up to its title, Masterpieces and Dramas, on and off the board. A worthy winner of Book of the Year 2021 over strong competition. (https://www.englishchess.org.uk/ecf-book-of-the-year-2021/)
I will admit to unfortunately having had trouble getting it together for this book. Part of the reason was a bad tooth, and the delay caused by the pandemic in having the work done, but it was more than that, and I felt like I had let Ilan down with the long delay, something that had not happened with any other book I have had the pleasure and privilege to review. What follows is an excerpt from an email just fired to Ilan Rubin, publisher at Elk and Ruby Publishing:
“I was uncertain about including all of Kasparov’s Forward because that is usually not done…but every time I wrote something I kept returning to his excellent forward and realized that no matter what I said, Garry had said it better…I wanted to have that “Standing in a Bookstore feeling as you are holding the book for the first time and the first thing you’re gonna read is the Forward”, right? A friend said, “Look Mike, the best thing about your writing is that there are NO RULES! You write what you feel.” I took it to heart because he was right, and it felt right to print all of Garry’s wonderful Forward.
I was afraid that if I only concentrated on the first chapter it would be like one of the book reviews I wrote in school when Mrs. Jackson excoriated me in front of the class, saying, “It is more than a little obvious, Mr. Bacon, that you only read the first chapter of the book!” She sent me to the principal’s office after I returned fire with the salvo, “That is NOT TRUE, you old hateful woman, because I read every word of the CLIFF NOTES!!!” Boy was she IRATE!!! There was fire emanating from her eyes as she banished me from the room…
But then I knew I was very late with the review, and I REALLY felt badly about it, but what could I do? There was no other choice but to go ahead with it looking like I only read the first chapter, which is not true, because I read every word and replayed every game and let me tell you it was a labor of LOVE! It is a tremendous book, one of the best I have have the pleasure to read, so it was worth putting IMJD’s book of Bobby
on hold ( Lasker 2
was put on hold for IMJDs book) to read M&D and the Romanovsky book.”
I came to Facebook rather late in life and there were reasons for so doing. One of the reasons was to learn how the life of the love of my life developed after we parted. Initially I thought the book of faces was a good thing as I was in contact with many people involved with Chess from all over the world. People post pictures and write about their life and in some cases one feels as if he knows them better than when only knowing them from the old Atlanta Chess and Game Center or email. One example of this would be Professor Mark Taylor,
the best editor of the Georgia Chess News magazine during the half century of my involvement in Georgia Chess.
Because of the book of faces I was able to communicate with Grandmaster Danny Gormally in England
about his book, one of the most honest Chess books ever written,
and GM Keith Arkell, another Brit.
We had a lengthy discussion concerning the rising price of older Chess books. I was able to see the bread Helen Milligan
has baked in New Zealand. I saw many pictures of the publisher of Elk & Ruby, Ilan Rubin, in Moscow,
the man responsible for many of the books reviewed on this blog. I could go on and on…
Unfortunately, there is a dark side to the book of faces. I have recently been in touch with a gentleman I have only seen once, that at the twenty year reunion of my high school class of 1968. After mentioning Facebook Richard cut me off, saying, “I don’t do social media, especially Facebook, because it is only dividing America.” That particular conversation started the questioning of my decision to join the book of faces…
Then there were the negative posts appearing on my screen, many filled with vitriol. Some posts spewed venom like a snake. One such screed was by a fellow who was a regular at the House of Pain, Richard Staples. There were a few obviously strident right-wingers among the players at the ACC, and Richard was one of them. Fortunately, he was smart enough, unlike some others, to take care when and where he spewed his wrong-wing vitriol. Richard is a big and tall fellow and he was the only player who wore a knife, kept in a holster on his belt, while at the House of Pain. There was another fellow at the Center who carried a knife but no one knew because it was kept in an ankle holster. That person would be this writer. The House was not located in the best of areas and there were numerous vehicles broken into during the two decades the House was rockin’. Mr. Staples posted some ill chosen negative words about a certain segment of our society. I was so new to the book of faces that I did not know how to “unfriend” someone. After contacting my friend Mike Mulford he gave me the skinny on Facebook etiquette, or maybe ‘lack thereof’ would be more appropriate, infroming me he had previously “unfriended” Richard. I immediately “unfriended” the first of what would become “many” of what I thought of as “Forkbookers”.
I had met a gentleman, Davide Nastasio,
at the 2019 Castle Chess Grand Prix tournament at Emory University, the last Chess tournament in which Senior Master Brian McCarthy played, who is the editor of the online Georgia Chess Magazine, which is basically a place where books are reviewed. There was a pleasant conversation near the area where Thad Rogers was selling books. Davide was extremely knowledgeable about Chess books and the conversation is fondly recalled. After being appalled at some of what was directed at me on the book of faces, I eradicated him, too.
Then there was Rick Rothenberg, a gentleman befriended while living in Louisville, Kentucky. Rick was a few years younger than am I and a weak Chess player, but he was interesting enough that we would get together for lunch, and sometimes breakfast, in different parts of the city. He once asked me to go with him to Indiana, which was right over the Kentucky state line, and he showed me the house in which he had raised a family until being divorced. Another time I rode with Rick for a day trip to the US Open Chess tournament in Indianapolis. When I noticed his name on the book of faces I immediately clicked on the friend request and the next time I went to Facebook there were posts by Mr. Rothenberg. Unfortunately, what he had put on Facebook shocked and appalled me to such an extent I immediately unfriended him after sending a note which read, “If I had known you were splattering this kind of excrement all over Facebook I would not have become your friend.” I have, fortunately, forgotten most of what was read that day, but I do vividly recall that in response to something Rick had written about the Vice President of the United States, Kamala Harris,
some woman had used the pejorative, “Ho.” I had seen, and read, enough. Rick was eradicated.
I have surfed to the book of faces for the last time. Facebook is not the solution; it is the problem. Since Facebook owns YouTube I will no longer put anything having to do with the Tube of You on this blog. In my world Facebook has been eradicated. I have chosen this path because:
publisher of Elk and Ruby Publishing House sent an email after the last post in which he wrote, “Worse things are happening in Norway…” He provided a link to the Twitter account of Chess journalist Tarjei J. Svensen,
who writes (or is that ‘twits’?):
BREAKING; Norwegian Chess Federation offered a sponsorship deal of NOK 50 million (€5,1M) by online gambling operator Kindred Group, pending approval by the congress in July.
9:52 AM – 7 Jun 2019
Tarjei J. Svensen
Not a traditional sponsorship deal. The chess federation will not promote gambling or advertise for gambing sites in any way, but will work with the group to allow licenses in Norway.
Tarjei J. Svensen
For the record, revenues in the federation in 2018 was NOK 2,5M, (€2,55M)
Elk and Ruby
Replying to @TarjeiJS
This is fundamentally wrong. Let’s not turn our kids into gambling junkies.
This is followed by:
Replying to @TarjeiJS
The Isle of Man Chess tournament was sponsored by Pokerstars and is now funded by ex owner. But when Pokerstars sponsored this they were justva poker sight and did not have the other gambling income streams.
Replying to @TarjeiJS
Each and everyone reading this, and everyone who will not read this, gambles each and every day, and they gamble with their life. Most people usually do not consider the odds when making a short trip to the store, but the fact is that it is not 100% positive a person will return home safely. Read the book:
Everyone gambles in some form or another. Consider this headline:
The Gambling Nuns of Torrance, California
Thou shalt not steal…unless you’re one of the Vegas-loving nuns who allegedly took the Catholic school under their watch for every penny they could. A Southern California community reckons with an altogether new form of churchly hypocrisy.
Two more books have been published, The Queen Saves the Day: A World Champion’s Favorite Studies,
and The King Saves the Day: A World Champion’s Favorite Studies,
by Elk & Ruby. Having previously written a review (https://xpertchesslessons.wordpress.com/?s=one+pawn+saves+the+day) of the previously published books, I racked my addled brain in hopes of fostering an idea of what to add to what has already been written. After writing the earlier review the 2018/1 issue of the best Chess magazine being published, New In Chess,
arrived, which contains a review by GM Matthew Sadler
of the first two books published, One Pawn Saves the Day and One Knight Saves the Day. After reading the excellent review I sent an email to the publisher, Ilan Rubin, in which I wondered if it would be possible to publish GM Sadler’s full review on this blog, or would it infringe upon copyright law. Ilan suggested I write to the NIC folks, asking permission. Rather than do so I decided to publish an excerpt from GM Sadler’s review, which is allowed under copyright law. I also mentioned Matthew’s review was so good compared to my review that it was about as much better as the difference in our ratings. I am no Grandmaster Chess player; far from it, and I am not a GM writer, although I work hard in an attempt to be the best I can be. I strongly urge anyone reading this to obtain a copy of the magazine, or at least a copy of his review in NIC. From GM Matthew Sadler’s review, Be Prepared: The eternal question remains: how do I get myself in good shape before a tournament?
“The most fundamental requirement to playing a good tournament is to spot simple tactics. Continually missing easy tricks is terribly bad for your morale. The higher level you play, the more you need to concentrate on the difficult things – drawing up a plan, keeping up the purpose and drive in your play throughout a whole game. You need to assume that your sense of danger will pick up on the simple stuff: if you can’t, you’ll waste masses of time frantically checking and rechecking everything. Solving tactical puzzles is the obvious way, but it’s hard to find the right material. Ideally you would challenge yourself with spectacular positions ( which keep you interested) at a moderate level of difficulty (you want to give yourself a morale boost before and during the tournament, not destroy yourself!)
This time, I was extremely lucky to be able to turn to One Pawn Saves the Day and One Knight Saves the Day by Sergei Tkachenko, published by the new Elk and Ruby publishing house. These small-format books each contain 100 studies in which the hero is the piece in the title. The idea is very nice; in each of the studies, a pawn or knight will deliver the coup de grace in the final position. The author is a member of the very strong Ukrainian team which has scored consistently high placings in the World Chess Composition Tournaments (winning in 1997). Solving studies as training before a tournament was a recommendation of Mark Dvoretsky’s, but one that always filled me with trepidation. Everyone knows the feeling of staring at a fiendish study for 15 minutes and not finding any idea at all. Not the feeling I want before a tournament! These books are excellent in three ways. Firstly, the chosen studies are exceptionally beautiful. I was constantly oohing and aahing with satisfaction! Secondly, the examples are a good mix of the famous and the unfamiliar. I’ve solved a fair number of studies in the past, but about 75% of the studies in each book were unfamiliar to me, which is excellent. Thirdly, the level of the studies is very rewarding. Some are harder than others, but the knowledge that a pawn (in the first book)or a knight (in the second book) will deliver the final blow is a wonderful hint that always helps you in the right direction without revealing too much. I worked through all 200 before and during the tournament and I felt that it had helped immensely. Can’t wait until the next pieces!”
Sadler “…worked through all 200 before and during the tournament.” Imagine that, solving studies while playing in a tournament. Maybe that is part of the reason Matthew is a Grandmaster…Every day I go to Mark Crowther’s This Week In Chess (http://theweekinchess.com/), spending time attempting to solve the puzzle of the day before attempting to solve only one position from one of the two new Elk & Ruby books received recently as an attempt to keep my aged brain working. Use it or lose it! I read Sadler’s book, Chess for Life,
which deservedly won the ECF Book of the Year 2016 prize., and will recommend it wholeheartedly!
“I retired from tournament play years ago, yet I still purchase chess books. How does one explain that? Chess remains an excellent avenue for mind exercise even if one has eschewed the rigors of competitive play. And what better way to exercise the mind than to work on endgame studies? Publisher Elk and Ruby have put out six related books on endgame studies favored by the Soviet composer Sergei Tkachenko.
The books are pocket sized and nicely produced with one puzzle per page and the solution printed on the next page thereby facilitating those who would prefer not to accidentally view the answer before attempting to solve the puzzles. There is a series of six books representing a 100 puzzles per book. The compositions represent multiple composers and one ends up with a lone king, queen, bishop, knight, rook, or pawn at the end of each puzzle. The books are pocket sized and the typeset and diagrams are large enough to rule out any eyestrain. The puzzles can be quite challenging, but the solutions frequently display a high degree of beauty and pleasure. English translations of Russian chess books are often stiff and unappealing but translator Ilan Rubin presents the material clearly and concisely.
We live in a culture dominated by the cell phone and people can be seen with their faces glued to their mobile devices whenever they find themselves in a situation involving any kind of waiting. What better way to overcome such dead time than to pull out one of these books and work out a beautiful endgame composition? The books are affordably priced at $11.99 each. I don’t know how many will ultimately be printed, but it would make sense to jump on these while they last.
If poetry represents the ultimate beauty of literature then I can argue that endgame studies represent the ultimate beauty of chess. If I were to find myself exiled on a small island and allowed only a handful of chess books, most of them would likely be books on endgame studies. These wonderfully diminutive volumes would be worthwhile selections for any kind of trip. I look forward to seeing more from this small publisher.”
I cannot add anything to that wonderful review, other than to say “Ditto!” This series of books will bring pleasure and enjoyment while sharpening your tactical awareness.
then contacted me wanting to know if I would be interested in writing a book review. I answered in the affirmative and the book was on its way. I have recently purchased another book published by his company, Team Tal: An Inside Story,
by Valentin Kirillov
and Alexei Shirov,
which has arrived and is on top of a stack of books to be read. So many books, so little time…
gave a simul at the House of Pain which I have always regretted missing. The owner of the Atlanta Chess Center, Thad Rogers, had some awful things to say about the Bronstein visit. After reading the book I have a better understanding of why Mr. Rogers said those things.
The Rise and Fall of David Bronstein, by Genna Sosonko, is a extremely disquieting book. Yet I was riveted, reading all two hundred seventy one pages in only a few days. I have spent much more time thinking about the book than time spent reading it.
I have read all of the books by the author, and in addition, many articles. Genna is one of the best writers on the game of Chess. This book could be his best work. I write that knowing some may find the subject matter upsetting. The book concerns the aging of a Giant of the Chess world. “Colleague champion” was how former World Chess Champion Max Euwe
addressed David Bronstein in a telegram after the 1951 World Championship match between Bronstein and Mikhail Botvinnik,
the man who called himself, “First among peers,” which ended in a 12-12 tie. There can be no higher compliment.
Certainly there should have been a return match for the crown, but there was no match. When Botvinnik lost his crown, first to Mikhail Tal,
then to Vassily Smyslov,
there was a return match in which Botvinnik regained the title.
“You know, Botvinnik should have allowed me a return match; he was obliged to. In truth, though, I’m glad that I’m not hanging in the gallery at the chess club. Do you realize it was just half a point, half a point? And then, everything would have been completely different. Chess history and everything else. You see, Botvinnik and I had totally different outlooks on chess, and we were quite different people, too.”
The book left me wondering if Bronstein would have won a return match. Bronstein was afraid to win the match with Botvinnik for many of the same reasons Bobby Fischer
was afraid to play a match for the Chess championship of the world against any Russian. At the time of the 1951 match Bronstein’s father was being held in a Soviet gulag. How can one play his best while wondering what the “authorities” might do in reprisal if one wins? When living in a totalitarian system one tends to want to appease those who run the system, or at least not upset the Darth Vader’s in control.
One of the themes of the book considers the mental health of the Colleague champion. It caused me to consider a book read many years ago: Shadow Syndromes: The Mild Forms of Major Mental Disorders That Sabotage Us by John J. Ratey.
No human is perfect; we all have a certain percentage of different kinds of mental illness. The question is what percentage constitutes a full blown mental illness? Those who judge must determine if, for example, someone who has 49% of a particular mental illness, is considered mentally ill. What if that person rates in at 51%? Where is the line drawn? Who draws the line? While working at the Atlanta Chess & Game Center I had several people ask me if I thought this or that person was mentally ill. My answer was invariably the same. “I am not the one to ask that question.” When asked why, the reply would be, “On more than one occasion I have heard it said in the skittles room, “That guy Bacon is NUTS!”
“Botvinnik never took Bronstein seriously. His diary was full of negative and sarcastic commentary on his future opponent’s style: “neurotic and probably plagued by obsessive thoughts, but hard-working,” is one comment.
“Disregarding the fundamental truth that several different excuses always sound less convincing than one, Bronstein found a number of scapegoats and reasons for his loss: his hatred-filled opponent, the atmosphere of that time, fear for his father, his seconds, who neglected their duties, walks with a girlfriend who didn’t care about his career, and the hardships he had endured.”
“Psychologists say that you need to separate the ‘here and now’ from the ‘there and then’. They advise you to stop feeling regret about what was in the past and not to fool yourself. Bronstein didn’t want to come to terms with his past and nobody close to him dared to tell him that the match with Botvinnik was in the past, that life hadn’t stopped, and it was time to move on. Nobody dared to hit him over the head with the facts, to bring him back to reality. I admit to not knowing how such an attempt would have turned out, but nobody even attempted it, and everybody who regularly interacted with him shares responsibility for him remaining in such a state until the very end.”
“Bronstein the philosopher and Bronstein the talker had pushed aside Bronstein the chess player, and he increasingly seemed to be almost at odds with himself.”
“Ideas were bubbling in his head,” Yuri Averbakh
recalled. “He literally breathed them, couldn’t stop talking about everything that came to his mind. ‘How does your wife put up with your fountain of language?’ I once asked him. ‘She goes to visit the neighbours once she can’t put up with it any longer,’ David admitted with a guilty smile.”
Tom Furstenberg wrote: “David has so much to talk about he constantly ‘harasses’ organisers, sponsors, arbiters, and players with his ideas, even to the point of annoying them. This is why organisers occasionally do not want him in their tournaments and people sometimes do not take him seriously.”
“Furstenberg states that Bronstein also had other offers at the time, but none of them came to anything for the same reason. When Tom strongly recommended that he speak less, and especially stop repeating himself, Davy would answer, “I like people.” Of course, that wasn’t quite true. He liked people when they listened to him in admiration. Others, though, interested him only as an outlet to revisit Davy’s past.”
“It would probably have been useful for him to visit a therapist. The latter would have asked about something, and Davy would have talked for hours without even politely inquiring “how are you?” He never asked anybody that question. I can’t ever recall him asking me how things were or what plans I had. It was always about him, himself, and his chess. His place in chess was the meaning and substance of his entire life.”
“His listeners (including me) wouldn’t ask difficult questions out of respect for this great chess player and highly insecure person. As such, we strengthened his conceit and intoxication with his own uniqueness. If my opinion wasn’t the same as his, I would rarely disagree with him openly, although I could have argued frequently. I was constantly aware that I was talking with an outstanding chess player and, at the same time, a slightly unhinged person.”
“Psychotic symptoms are a normal part of human development, and everybody has a genetic inclination to experience them. Particular risk factors, though, are childhood traumas, and a psychotic state or neurosis may fuel or intensify genius.”
It got back to me that the owner of the Atlanta Chess & Game Center, Thad Rogers, said I was a “Small, insecure man.” I have probably been called worse. It made me wonder why someone would say that about me. I am, like Bronstein, a small man. Like most children who were bullied I have reason to be insecure. Bullies pick smaller boys as their targets because they are cowards. I learned boxing at a Boys Club and fought back against the cowards, and feel I have been fighting all my life. Reading this book caused empathetic feelings to be evoked.
invited Bronstein to Brussels in 1991 to his match with Jan Timman,
but he never engaged his services. “He talks so much that it gives me a headache,” Viktor explained to his seconds.
“He would trustingly take his ‘victim’ aside and he would start to fire off his ideas, thoughts, and views in a quiet, nearly toneless voice. Sometimes, they were interesting, sometimes amusing or moralizing, but always original, unexpected, and paradoxical, and Bronstein would experience genuine satisfaction if he sensed he had been able to ensnare his listener in a web of his monologue, filled with complicated twists and turns,” Mark Taimanov
"Among his repeat stories, the endless refrain was, of course, his match with Botvinnik, and he constantly talked about what had been and what might have been had what happened not happened. His other monologue subjects included: reforming the rules of chess, including allowing the pieces to be set up freely behind the row of pawns, reducing the time allowed for thinking, the compulsory use of charts showing how much time is spent on thinking, as well as the idea that young players who think that they are the first to comprehend the game's subtleties and who receive enormous prized for doing so, dance on living classics' graves."
I could not help but wonder if a better word would have been "soliloquy" in lieu of "monologue."
"Although conversing with Bronstein was a tough challenge, the reward, when the grandmaster was in the mood, came in the form of brilliant flashes of colorful comparisons, clever thoughts and unusual conclusions that his listeners would never forget."
"Bronstein didn't like the fact that computers brought the truth in chess closer, that memorization had replaced improvisation: "By inventing computers, they wiped the wonderful game of chess from the face of the Earth. Chess is in crisis because it has been analyzed to death. The sense of mystery has disappeared. Chess today has nothing to do with the chess that my generation played."
A friend who stopped playing Chess, turning to Poker, said much the same thing, "GMs used to be thought of as some kind of mysterious Gods. Now there are considered to be nothing more than mere mortals."
Botvinnik was Bronstein's bête noire.
"Moreover, just like in all of Bronstein's deliberations, there was no avoiding the main wrongdoer. He criticized the 'computer' way of Botvinnik's thinking, claiming that the latter "reacted painfully to another man's genius and wrote with pretend disdain about chess as an art. Let's quote Botvinnik here: "Sometimes (and maybe often!) the thinking of a chess player is surrounded by mystique: the workings of a player's brains are presented as some sort of wonder, a magical and totally inexplicable phenomenon. Further, it is claimed that not only is the thinking of chess 'geniuses' a mystery, but that advantage is gained at the board thanks to some magical laws of chess art. We need to accept that unidentified laws of the chess battle do indeed exist, but that they can and will be identified just like the as yet unidentified way a grandmaster thinks. Moreover, it's fair to assume that these laws and the ways of thinking are relatively elementary – after all, youngsters play chess, and fairly well?" Botvinnik wrote in 1960."
"When he began, yet again, to claim: Believe me, that champion's title was of no interest to me," I said, "do you know David, how Toulouse-Latrec's grandfather informed his wife, born a duchess, at the breakfast table just what they had lost in the revolution of 1789?"
Bronstein looked at me nonplussed. "When his wife replied that she didn't give a damn, the artist's grandfather smiled sarcastically and stated, 'you certainly do give a damn, Citizen Duchess, because you wouldn't have talked about it every day if you didn't give a damn.' "
"Let me assure you," said David pulling me by the arm, "that I really don't care at all about this. Do you really think that I missed Na7 in game 23? Such an obvious move? Do you really believe that?"
I realized that any criticism on this matter was pointless and never again interrupted him when he got going about his match with Botvinnik.
The fear embedded in the minds of Soviet citizens who had lived through that terrible era was one reason for his unfinished thoughts, his hints, and his reticence…
How can one express the atmosphere of 1951 – when he was already an adult and a public figure – in words? How much willpower and which subtle hints are required to recreate the darkness of the time?"
Another time, "What ideas did Botvinnik have, I ask? Do you really think I didn't see that I shouldn't have taken the pawn and given white the advantage of two bishops versus two knights in game 23? Do you really think I missed that?"
Still later, "How was I supposed to play chess anyway, when I had this constant feeling of terror? Not facing Botvinnik, although I overestimated him at the time, I thought he was better than he turned out to be. No, it was terror facing my personal situation, the country I lived in, everything together. You experienced something similar, even if it wasn't for long. So you must understand what I'm talking about."
Reading the book made me think of David Bronstein as the Don Quixote of Chess.
"The functionaries did indeed dislike this now professional troublemaker, but realizing he was an oddball, they allowed him to play the role of frondeur, dreamer, village idiot, and eccentric maverick waving a toy sword.”
“That was the case with David Bronstein, too. In the half-century that followed, his tournaments included some brilliant games, elegant moves and original ideas, but there were no consistently strong results, or continual flow of inspiration. The formidable, ingenious player left him long before his actual death.You could perceive his abilities of old here and there in the games, but most of them were lacking in both joy and vigour.”
“At the very end, he became even more irritable and complained about everything. About his life ruined by chess and lived in vain. And of course, Davy complained about this Sosonko dude, who was just waiting pen in hand for him to kick the bucket so that he could publish his memoirs about the near world champion. The interesting thing, though, is that all of Davy’s complaints, although frequently unfair and exaggerated, and sometimes even absurd, had a grain of truth to them.”
“The fate of those long in the tooth is loneliness. Besides illnesses and adversity, the loss of friends and relatives, the horror of living without witnesses was tougher for him to bear than perhaps for anybody else. After all, there is no soul more desolate than an idol whose name was once on everybody’s lips.”
“Once, however, after repeating for the umpteenth time that Botvinnik had been utterly right all along, he added with a childlike smile: “Though that was still one hell of an imagination I possessed.”
“My heart began to ache at those words, however, and a powerful thought pierced my mind: “why did I write all that stuff about this great chess player who suffered so much at the end of his life? Why? What was the point of all that philosophizing and those attempted explanations? Who was all that for?” You see, I knew deep own that I shouldn’t have tried to recall anything. I should have left the departed alone in their graves and should have allowed the living to keep their illusions.”
This “Sosonko dude” was obviously troubled and full of doubt. In deciding to publish the book he has done the Chess world a great service.
“When Vladimir Nabokov
died, his niece scolded his wife, Vera, for apparently allowing her husband to die. The writer’s wife responded: “Vladimir died exactly when he was supposed to die. He was no longer able to do what he enjoyed: thinking and writing.”
After reading those words I realized my life, too, will end when I am unable to do those things.
“Let’s repeat these harsh words here: David Bronstein died exactly when he was supposed to die. He was no longer able to do what he enjoyed most of all – to play, discuss, and think about chess.”
This is a magnificent book, written with love for the subject. I cannot recommend it highly enough. Purchase and read this stunning, thought provoking book.