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Classical Games Everybody Should Know, Part 11

  • GM Gserper
  • | Nov 13, 2011
  • | 10219 views
  • | 16 comments

The so-called Steinitz variation in the French Defense arises after the next sequence of moves: 1.e4 e6 2. d4 d5 3. Nc3 Nf6 4. e5 Nfd7 5. f4 c5 where Black gives up space for an opportunity to attack White's center. When he succeeds, the results are usually fantastic.  Take a look for example at one of the games played in the most recent super-tournament:

Very impressive, isn't it?  But what really impresses me is the influence of chess fashion on the mind of chess players.  Today everyone and his brother automatically plays 6.Nf3 and then struggles to keep his center intact. But if you play the Steinitz variation, maybe, just maybe, you should check how this line was treated by the man the system was named after?
The next positional gem is given with annotations by Kasparov from his excellent book "My Great Predecessors" (which I highly recommend to every chess player regardless of his/her level).
What a beautiful game and very instructive annotations by one of the World's greatest chess players!  Even if you never play the French Defense with either color, please do yourself a favor and replay the game at least a couple of times trying to understand the depth of Steinitz's strategical concept. 
In last week's column I already expressed my opinion that the legendary Harry Nelson Pillsbury was thoroughly studying the games played by the best players of his time in order to use their ideas in his games (this is something every chess player should do!). The following game is just another example.  Pillsbury borrows the Steinitz idea to create his own attacking masterpiece. This is probably one of the most famous Pillsbury games!
(Just like in most of my articles I give you a chance to test your chess skills, so the games are given as a Quiz.  Please remember that you can always replay the whole game from the first move if you click "Solution" and then "Move list".)
Even less famous players were able to produce their own little attacking gems using Steinitz's idea:
You can ask "If this system is so great, why it is not played more frequently these days?" In my opinion this is just a matter of chess fashion. I won't be surprised if 20 years from now the situation changes and the old Steinitz line becomes the main variation again. But in my opinion such things as chess fashion shouldn't bother chess amateurs and average club players. So, let me borrow my own words from this article: http://www.chess.com/article/view/how-to-learn-an-opening-in-one-hour
"Now, will it be easy for your opponent (who probably studied the latest games from Super Tournaments but not the games played 50 years ago) to pass the opening unscathed? It depends. If you are playing a 2700+ Grandmaster, then your little opening trick will probably just amuse him.  But for an average club player (meaning under ELO 2300), this is a very dangerous weapon to meet."
Except here we are talking about games played almost 120 years ago! Actually, this approach can work even if you play against Grandmasters.  Just look at the next game where a very strong GM fell a victim of the classical Steinitz variation:
The conclusion is simple: before you buy a modern book on an opening and invest hundreds of hours memorizing all the variations, maybe you can find a solution in the old games of Morphy or SteinitzLaughing
Good luck!

Comments


  • 3 years ago

    IlfPetrov2

    Thank you for another great article in this series!  Remembering the origin and understanding the themes in these great classical games is extremely useful.  Please keep writing on this topic!

  • 3 years ago

    brianpatrickjones

    Best writer on chess.com

  • 3 years ago

    Lawdoginator

    Agreed! This classical games series is great. 

  • 3 years ago

    jason17

    In typical fashion, GM Serper delivers the best article of the week, just like he does every week Smile

  • 3 years ago

    dzindzifan

    Very nice indeed!  Steinitz ... world champion!!

  • 3 years ago

    iguna

    Great Article

  • 3 years ago

    johntailor2048

    good stuff

  • 3 years ago

    Dylan32

    nice article. playing the french as white has not been my strong suit. I will definately start using some of steinitz's ideas in my own games

  • 3 years ago

    ncmike2011

    ty for the increased knowledge

  • 3 years ago

    reyguapo

    great article. more article of this kind...

  • 3 years ago

    sryiwannadraw

    Thank you for your time! Great Advice

  • 3 years ago

    Junibus

    lineagotika, look at some French Games of the German Team at the Euro-Team CH 2011. They won them all from the black side.

  • 3 years ago

    lineagotika

    Very interesting. Now I'm waiting for something for the Black side of the French!!

  • 3 years ago

    kboyer309

    Booya!

  • 3 years ago

    Lawdoginator

    Long live Morphy and Steinitz!

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