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From Morphy to Rubinstein: move by move

From Morphy to Rubinstein: move by move


Before starting reading (Steinitz Move By Move – 288 pages), I expected the selected games to be outstanding ones, nearly error free from the hero of book. I also took into consideration the (weak) opening phase (after all, they are the Heroes that taught the following generation of players how to think in chess).
I was surprised by the quality of imprecise moves made byWilhelm  Steinitz in the presented games, not just by him but also by his opponents. Of course there are a lot of beautiful ideas that Steinitz applied over the board, especially the ones that reflect his philosophical and strategic approach.
His stamp (The king is a strong piece) is clear there, especially the concept of pawn structure, which is well noted in his second phase of his chess life. The first one is his romantic play, where the sacrifices dominated the play of that era. Year after year he started absorbing the deep concepts of Philodor, and step by step, year by year, his style developed to reach what most of the modern masters apply today.

The author, the Scottish International Master Craaig Pritchett,  analyzed the most important of Steinitz games, emphasizing on his style and moves selection, in chronological order, starting with (Early Years – chapter 1), passing by his (Achieving Supremacy – Chapter 2) and (Attaining the Unchallenged Crown – Chapter 3), reaching the (Remaining at the Pinnacle – Chapter 4), to end with (Gradual Decline – Chapter 5).

Pritchett did a nice job, especially on the biographical part of his book hero throughout the 5 chapters.

By the way, if you had the opportunity to read Jimmy Adams’ monumental work on Zukertort and Chigorin, you will get the feeling how the chess game was played in the 19th century, and how the correspondences and the analysis were done through newspapers as well as the importance of choosing the country of  the playing venues for the world championships, and how the conflict of each contender to the crown and their level of play was affected  by the heat of the atmosphere, not to mention the travelling expenses and its tiredness.

While I was reading chapter 4 of Pritchett’s book, I was glancing at (Morphy: move by move -344 pages), and was eager to finish Steinitz’ in order to start with the Paul Morphy’s (I usually never jump reading between biographical books, as I like to finish them one by one – exception: Jimmy Adams’ 2017 Gyula Breyer’s 870 pages).

Shall the Paraguayan Grand Master Zenon Franco astonish me with his Morphy’s collection of games as he did in his previous middle-game books? I didn’t wait too long before feeling relaxed, savoring each page of it, each move of Morphy, each plan and technique of attack. It is no wonder that Fischer placed Morphy at the top of his predecessors. With game after game, you can’t but agree with Fischer’s opinion, and how much those games and Morphy’s ahead of century time ideas and concepts had big impact on the legendary American champion, concepts that the 19th century players couldn’t understand till the late arrival of Chigorin, Steinitz and Zukertort to the chess scenes. Just one small regret: Morphy’s opponents’ level of play, and their defensive skills were much lower than Fischer’s hero. But it wasn’t their level of play that cause them to be smashed, but Morphy’s new then ahead of time approach to the game.

Now come the turn of (Capablanca Move by Move – 366 pages – by the International Master Cyrus Lakdawala). First of all, Lakdawala’ style of writing is so distinguished from the other writers, in a way that you feel that he is inside your head, asking the same questions, wondering with you about what is happening on the board, and let you feel relaxed and satisfied with the replies. His (move by move) books are really (move by move) ones, regardless of the books topics. In the Capalanca one, he sorted his hero’s games by themes, in 5 chapters (1- Capa on the Attack, 2- Capa on the defence, 3- Capa on exploiting imbalances, 4- Capa on accumulating advantages and 5-Capa on Endings). The Q&A technique, combined with the (live) exercises put a lot of flavors to the witty commentaries of the author. I like very much the conclusion that Lakdawala reached (and explained) about the relation between the queen side initiative and the a5-square! The smooth way the author explained to you the flow of Capa moves glues you to the board and put you in an isolation from what is happening around you outside the chess board. A fascinating read.

(Just for those who are wondering about any [Lasker: move by move] book, the publisher didn’t issue any, most probably due to the fantastic John Nunn’s Chess Course which is based on Lasker’s games [Publisher:Gambit] – see my previous review of it)

The latest games collection series of the Everyman publisher in 2017 was: Réti: move by move, 432 pages!- written by the Swedish International Master Thomas Engqvist, who also wrote earlier Petrossian’s and Stein’s move by move books (but their reading time didn’t arrive yetJ ). In this 430 pages book,Richard  Réti’ style of play and its development is explained chronologically through 4 chapters (1-early years, 2-The Route to the Top, 3-Strong Tournaments and 4-Final Years). It is outstanding how a master like Réti (as well as Breyer) produced those types of principles and concepts over the board, beating masters and world champions with these profound new thinking, leaving a legacy full of original ideas used even by contemporary grandmasters and champions. I am not talking just about the double fiachettos, or retaining the central d and e pawns at the initial squares, till the opportune moment of the game arrived in order to push one of them one or two squares. Not only these, but also the white queen maneuver from d1 to a1, or to h1, and her opposite one to a8 or f8, a concept that is now in every serious player’s arsenal.

I like what Engqvist mentioned about Réti’s delay of developing his c1 bishop or his c8 one. He noticed that while he developed all his remaining pieces, he was waiting the necessary pawn structure or disposition of the pieces in the middle of the board in order to develop that bishop to the appropriate square. A distinguished concept indeed.

What I like very much in this book is the ending phase of the games, where, not Réti’s opponents, but also Réti himself, played some imprecise or mistaken move, leading to fascinating endgame positions, that worth spending time and pages to analyze by every player. May be those mistakes (the war and his illness as well) that prevented Réti from being a contender to the big title. Another characteristic of this book is that the author’s biographic introduction of each of Réti’s opponent, a fascinating information that I couldn’t recall in any other book.

Before jumping to my laptop to write this article, the last page I turned was from the (Rubinstein: move by move – 400 pages!) book by GM Franco, and the least of what I can say is: What a book! The collection of the Akiba Rubinstein games, as well as the supplementary ones, and the commentaries of Kasparov, Kmoch, Euwe, and especially Gelfand, give you what Rubinstein made to the mind of the past as well as the present masters of our noble game: openings, variations, techniques in all the different phases, not to mention his jewel immortal ones. I can’t but to agree with the author’s decision to organize the games by themes (1-Positional play, 2-Playing for the initiative and Atatck, 3-Endgame Mastery, 4-Rook endgames, and 5-Linking the Opening and the Middlegame). You will discover, dear reader, the quantities of ideas that modern masters use today, all of them were originated by Rubinstein.

From the 5 move-by-move books above, I recommend for each new comer or computer-use player to read them, especially the Capablanca and Bronsein ones (don’t skip any word from them). I am sure their level will raise as well as their technique and will see the pieces and squares from a different angle. Each game of these 2 books are ideal for trainers as well, as they can serve as a basis of foundation for the young pupils chess education in planning process, being a positional or a tactical play as well.

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