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The Father of the Russian School

Mikhail Chigorin

The Creative Genius


By Jimmy Adams

Publisher: New In Chess,

Pages: 750

Price: $50

Let me start by defining 3 words (as appeared in the Oxford American Dictionary):

History: the study of past events, particularly in human affairs / the whole series of past events connected with someone or something

Biography: an account of someone’s like written by someone else / writing of such a type as a branch of literature / a human life in its course

Genius: Exceptional intellectual or creative power or other natural ability

The explanation is clear. Right? Well, after finishing reading (Johannes ZUKERTORT: Artist of the Chessboard, and Aron Nimzowitsch 1928-1935 (annotated games & Essays)) I was very curious and motivated to search for the common and different points between (History) and (Biography).

Of course, I already knew the difference. But what if a biographic book is focused, not only on the person himself, but also on the entourage of him? What if this same book doesn’t containing/copying events happened in the life of that person, but also historical ones that created and affected, positively or negatively, the creative mind, the behavior, and the decision-making of our hero? I will complicated a little more: with all the descriptions mentioned above, I will add the characters and behaviors of the personages existed around Chigorin, and replacing the (or) with (and) in the definition of (Genius). And the result will be: A fantastic biographic/ historical book of a genius with exceptional intellectual and creative power and other natural ability.

It was the first time I read a book of this size (750 pages) with a great joy, playing all the splendid games inside it without taking a break to look for other chess works and books that are pile up in my library. It is not about the games and entourage of the event that attracted your attention, but also the sincerity in which the author or the commentators (the genius included) talked to you and the reasoning of their mind.

The book is divided into 2 main parts: Part one: (Mikhail Chigorin, the Creative Chess Genius, written  by Alexander Nakevich, Alexander Nikitin and Evgeny Vasyukov), contains 63 main games of Mikhail Chigorin,as well as the historical and biographical events around it. Even Mikhail Botvinnik commented on some games of Chigorin, and expressed how much the endgame phase played by the later affected his play and increased his level. Part two: Mikhail Chaigorin: His Friends, Rivals and Enemies,  written by Vasily Panov), consists of 159 games, where you can find commentators like Romanov, Bogoljubow, Spielmann, Steinitz, Tarrasch, Schlekhter, and many many others who made the history of our noble game.

When reading the book, you will notice immediately that Chigorin hated the closed and stereotyped openings, and nearly always played the King’s Gambit, the Italian game and the Evans Gambit. And he was ahead of his contemporaries in the analysis of all the variations of these openings. But he had a certain problem: what to play (or refute) against 1.d4? It is his creative mind that generated the Semi-Slav, the Modern defence and the King’s Indian Defence (which was then indexed as : Irregular opening), and of course his Nc6/Bg4 setup , which is named: Chigorin Defence.

Against the Spanish, in addition to his cornerstone variation (Na5+c5+Qc7), his early Nf6-d7 was a revelation : the overprotection of the e5 square. Even his Qe2 on the second move vs e6 is still considered one of the main weapon vs the Sicilian and the French defence, as well as his King’s Indian Attack formation!!

Too much creativities for just one mind you are going to say. So we have to look for a deeper word than : Genius.

Some will say that he was fond on playing with knights (you will find a lot of knights jumps in his games), and underestimated the power of the bishops. Not a kind of sort. I will prove it to you. In his game vs Raphael Falk, after Black’s  move 27, the following position is reached:

What would you play?

Well, I don’t know what was your choice, but Chigorin played: 28 Qc1!!, then Qb2, c3 and then B from f3 to d1, transferring it to the a2-g8 diagonal, He knows how to listen to his pieces.

When I turned the last page of the book, I felt sad: I wanted more from this creativity. Then, full of emotions, I jumped to the laptop and wrote this review so share it with you. I wished I could put all the contents of the book here, but..

Jimmy Adams did a great job in producing this enlarged edition. Also he corrected (or updated) some misevaluations of certain variations when necessary. He assembled all the tournaments and Match data of the Genius, as well as some curiosities and vexing games.

All in all, a jewel.

A must have and read.



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