Modern Chess

Like it or not, the game has changed some. Going over the Zurich ’53 book, great positional games and wins. There’s only one problem, today’s game is much faster. Sure, there are the occasional 40/2 G/1 tournaments (which even by the standards of those days was fast – try 40/2.5 and addl. 20/1 OR slower!). Even in those tournaments, you will probably run into little Johnny the blitzer whose parents were probably not even born in [insert your country’s name here].

The premium now, I believe, is on knowing your openings well enough to play them QUICKLY (otherwise, it’s not necessarily doing you a whole lot of favors). But the real premium is on calculating swiftly, and being patient for your tactical chances. If you calculate slow or poorly, the clock will find you wanting. This implies that tactical study is probably going to pay the best dividends.

In Zurich ’53, my gosh, there were games where one person would move their knight back and forth to induce pawn weakness. In fact, there was a lot of this inducing pawn-weaknesses by force stuff, during this tournament. “Who on G*ds green earth” plays like this nowadays? You would NEED 40/2.5 20/1 to be able to play like this. These achievements wrought from near equal positions were remarkable, but not quite as likely in today’s game unless you can play them quickly.

Inducing a pawn weakness (for the doubters)

BTW, it’s not a perfect game. I like Bronstein’s idea of playing h3 and g4 to “attack the light squares” at the very end of the game. But, Black played into it beautifully (why not instead play Kh7, and leave the rook on the a-file to guard it?).

This book was valuable for me because most of the games were d4 or c4 games (mainly d4), and I play/see mainly e4. I can imagine what a turnaround it was when the e4 generation was ushered in (Fischer, Tal, and Karpov – who at least started out playing e4 as a GM); I can see how that would have helped them get their wins as White, although I have to give them credit for their successes with Black, as well, against d4 – of course, there they also tried to get into tactical channels.

The most popular opening at Zurich ’53 seemed to be the Nimzo-Indian, so if you play the Nimzo as Black and want to comb through that opening, this tournament had some instructive games. The second most popular opening was the King’s Indian Defense, but even here quite a few of them were dxc type variations, although Najdorf had a great win as Black, in a closed variation of it, against Taimanov in game 28 (round 4).


7 thoughts on “Modern Chess

  1. As you say, moving your knights back and forth to induce pawn weaknesses is still the cat’s meow…you just have to do it much more quickly than back in ’53! 🙂

    Seriously, I think your comments are very interesting on the differences with faster time controls, and I think playing with an increment is also a big difference. In Zurich there was no sudden death, but today in a G/90 SD, for example, you can have a great position but if the other player has 10 min. left and you have 1, better be a rook up! Whereas with a 5 second increment, nowadays I feel pretty good about holding an equal ending, for instance, or winning a clearly superior one (if it’s fairly simplified). And agreed, the shorter the time control the nicer it is to play 10-12 quick opening moves into a position you understand fairly well and know is okay. Also, as my hero Dr. Grandpatzer (Kenneth Mark Colby) pointed out, the savings in fatigue of playing some opening moves “without thinking” or calculating much can be very significant later.

  2. I agree about playing opening openings quickly – I just played 10 moves in 6 minutes in G/90 being prepared to that line. I finished the game having 4.5 minutes left and he had 2 minutes, what if I would spend more time in the opening or not calculating fast enough? And tactical study pays the most dividends, even in the endgame, you are right.

  3. Wahreit and Rollinpawns, I agree with all your comments. This falls into the domain of “game management”. Blitzing out an opening is becoming more of a must, and probably whether you know the opening or not(!)

    He who gets nailed on the clock first is in some trouble.

    Saving energy is important, and another is not being the first to go on a misadventure. For example, when I play Neal, he is basically waiting for me to self-destruct in some way, marking time, and why wouldn’t he? It might not seem like chess, but it is more like chess reflecting life.

    I just saw a Kasparov comment from a NIC issue: “Every now and then, Inv*nchuk goes f*ing nuts”. hehe. I like it, that’s what I did in my last game, people do have weaknesses, more so in faster games.

    Great point about time management, RollingPawns. I think you just have to sense that one moment to pounce. There should be some rule of thumb, no combo-hunting before move 15 (unless your opponent is simply truly screwing up the opening, which happens when they don’t know what the heck they are doing – you can usually tell when they are improvising badly, playing an opening they don’t know, just make sure it is a legit combo and not a speculative one like mine was).

    Here is an example of inducing a pawn-weakness from a game I just played. In some sense the game was over when he jettisoned his doubled-pawn for nothing. It’s ironic that I can play this at 15/0 but OTB, the 3-D ness of the board and pieces does seem to take some adjusting to in almost every game for some reason.
    Inducing Pawn Weaknesses
    Now, with the help of Crafty, here is a better way that Black could have tried to save the game:
    Inducing Pawn Weaknesses(technical)

    The thing to note in the second example is that there were many ways for White to go wrong. For example, the tempting and innocent looking 43.fxe would have lost by force to …Rd3 and 44…Rf8. This is where being tactically sharp can really help one’s rating.

    “In my opinion a model chess player is an Indian sage bending over the board in majestic silence, but definitely not a person who restlessly shifts the pieces about. 5-minute games are not creative, they are pure sport. Chess has already lost its wise image and moved rapidly towards a sport. Winning at all cost now matters most. The Rest of the World Team won against Russia in the Match of the Century and this event proved to be a clear evidence of the sporting priority above creativity. When we used to play we were not pressured by time constraints.”

    – Vasily Smyslov

    He must be referring to the 3rd match, where the Rest of the World team finally won.
    “A ten player, 10-round Scheveningen system format, with a 25 minute (+10 second increment) time limit. This could be compressed into just four days with two or three rounds played each day.”

    Just to think how that must have come across to someone who sat through endless matches where games could last the better part of two days…the heritage of chess eroded before his eyes.

    Here is the epitome of a worthless chess match:

    Here’s my favorite game, check out the end position:
    hahaha. Karpov loses on time in a winning position. I looked through some of these games, pointless. Even in the other one where Karpov loses, it looks like he lost on time as I still don’t see the win for White, and in a slow game White never even gets that passer to begin with.

  4. Them days are gone for now or even ever.
    Now players at all levels are more prepared in the openings than then.
    Players with excellent memories may have higher ratings than better skilled players,that have poorer memories.
    It seems now the thing is to get an advantage in the opening and carry it through to a winning endgame.
    where as in days gone by,players use to get the advantage in the middlegame or endgame not the opening.
    But the down side of all this is the opening theory lasts now through the middlegame.
    so opening study becomes middlegame study as well.

  5. “You would NEED 40/2.5 20/1 to be able to play like this. These achievements wrought from near equal positions were remarkable, but not quite as likely in today’s game unless you can play them quickly.”
    I think the real reason you don’t see games like these anymore is that the much better positional understanding of players today makes this kind of chess unlikely to succeed against them. I don’t think faster time controls are a factor. In fact I think faster time controls are a response to the overall rise in chess understanding. If today’s players have been studying model games like the one you gave, then they don’t have to burn time on the clock trying to reinvent the wheel, and so it seems reasonable to give them less time. On the other hand, I submit that the top players of the ’50s were not capable of the kind of chess Anand, Topalov, Kramnik and Carlsen play nowadays, even though they had the benefit of longer time controls.

  6. Hmmm, first of all i guess this 90 minutes for the entire game + 30 seconds increment isn’t the fixed timecontrol in all countries. Heck, most tournaments i am in are 2h for 40 moves + KO where can range from 15 minutes to an hour.

    “The premium now, I believe, is on knowing your openings well enough to play them QUICKLY ”

    I do not agree, even at GM level much time is spent in the opening. If you had used the word “QUICKER” then in other stages of the game the i could agree with your statement. But Quickly just implies to much that one just have to play what is book and i dont like that insinuation because book isn’t always right and not always the best to play against certain opponent. Sometimes going out of book throws an opponent out of his normal game more then quick responses to say that you also know what is in that certain opening book.

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