Combination as a soul of chess
Secret of Chess Informant part II
In the first part of the article Secret of Chess Informant, I mentioned that for each issue of Chess Informant a special jury chose the best - most beautiful game. Here, I would like to make readers familiar with the way of choosing games. Of course, we will have a look at a few of the most beautiful games. In fact, this is a story about beauty in chess.
Beauty in chess
Chess certainly has elements of beauty and many chess funs play this ubiquitous game just because of its beauty. Is there someone who has not heard about the “immortal game” or the “evergreen game” played by the great chess player Anderssen? On the tournaments played at the beginning of twentieth century, besides regular prizes there were also prizes for the most beautiful game and so players were motivated not only to play for win but also to play beautifully - the beauty was often even more important than the result.
Nowadays, in pragmatic age, unfortunately, in everything and so in chess as well most important is to win regardless of the winning way. David Bronstein considered Wilhelm Steinitz to be one of “culprits” for that. After his match against Zukertort in 1886, Steinitz named himself world chess champion and not laureate and since then win has been considered more important than beauty. This is, of course, debatable opinion but the fact is that the beauty of the game is not respected enough nowadays. Exceptions are true chess funs – they make their idols not only according to players’ results but also according to their way of playing. It is well-known that Tal is one of the most popular players ever just due to his explosive style of playing. Nowadays, very popular are, say, Shirov and Topalov not only due to their great results but also due to their styles of playing.
Chess Informant takes care about the quality, e.g. about the beauty of the game. After releasing each issue, the editorial board selects 30 games that could be declared the best games according to their quality and beauty – among these games, a special jury composed of eminent experts (7-9 experts) selects the best game. Each jury member selects 10 games and gives them points of one to ten – of course, 10 points is for the best game according to jury member’s opinion. Then, points of all jury members are summed up and the game with the highest number of points is declared the best game of the issue – the result is published in the next issue of Informant. This is certainly a fairly way of choosing the best game. Of course, beauty is a relative term (De gustibus non est disputandum – old Latin sentence “there is no disputing about tastes”) and everyone has his own standards of beauty.
After releasing the first 100 issues of Informant, Chess Informant publishing house published the book “The best of the best 1000”. In my opinion, the book title could also be “Beauty in chess 1966-2007”.
The most beautiful games
In this article, I will talk about the 100 most beautiful games (according to jury). Among the winners of these games there are All WCCs from Botvinnik to Anand. Yet, Garry Kasparov has the highest number of the most beautiful games – 15 games! What of his victories is most beautiful? It’s hard to say. Kasparov considers his combination from the game with Topalov to be his longest combination in his chess career, so I suggest to look at this game and enjoy the winner’s comments (Chess Informant 74/110)
It is interesting that Kasparov’s “eternal rival” Anatoly Karpov is the second player on the list of players – winners whose games were declared best games - with 14 games! So, it could be said that these two geniuses were also rivals in the battle for the title “the king of chess beauty”.
Let’s have a look at one of Karpov’s beautiful games:
Karpov played this game in the style that was not typical for him: he sacrificed the exchange and launched the attack on the king who had not castled. The game resembles on Tal’s most beautiful games and it deserved to be declared best game of Informant 35.
On the list of players – winners whose games were declared best games, current WCC Viswanathan Anand tied third with Vassily Ivanchuk (the man who was declared as a “killer of champions” - it’s the title of the book with his best games). Both players have 6 best games. Of course, we will look at one of their best games:
The fifth on this prestigious list is Vladimir Kramnik with 5 best games. It would be a pity not to look at one of these beautiful games:
Since this prestigious list is long I will mention only a few more players whose games were declared best games: WCCS: Tal (4), Fischer (3), Spassky (3), Smyslov (2), Petrosian (1) and Botvinnik (1).
According to the list, we can make a conclusion that all WCCs from Botvinnik to Anand not only won games but also made them very beautiful.
And now I would like to show you Botvinnik’s famous game that could be named as a story of a brave rook (not so brave as the one from the game Steinitz-Von Bardeleben, Hastings 1895, but in any case very brave)
At the end of this review, let’s have a look at one more game that become classic: Spassky’s game that could be named “story of a brave pawn” (by the way, this is the shortest game of all games that were declared best game).
When choosing the most beautiful games, it is very important the members of jury to be great experts and fair-minded. Of course, also important is to compose different jury for each issue of Informant – otherwise, the games declared best games would be of similar quality because of monotonous taste. And this was done by Informant. All members of all juries were well-known great players; let’s mention only a few of them: Anand, Beliavsky, Botvinnik, Bronstein, Euwe, Geller, Gligoric, Karpov, Kortschnoj, Petrosian, Polugaevsky, Smyslov, Tal… Here, we can see that WCCs were not only winners of best games but also were members of juries (exceptions are Fischer and Spassky).
It could be very interesting to chess funs to see what games were considered best games by, say Botvinnik or Euwe or Karpov… Such investigations also could be time travel and view of beauty in time and look at what we consider beautiful.
Also here, Latin sentence De gustibus non disputandum est shows its best: NEVER one game got all possible points!
It is interesting that, for instance the game Kasparov-Topalov that we watched at the beginning of the article got 10 points 8 times from jury of 9 members but… one member of jury (GM Gurevich M.) gave no point to this game!
The closest to the full success was Karpov: his game with Kortschnoi from Informant number 18 got 10 points 8 times and only Dr Max Euwe gave 9 points to this game. The game certainly deserves to be watched with comments of great M. Botvinnik:
Karpov is, of course, very proud of the fact that his game got 89 points of maximal 90 points and he emphasized this important detail in his book “Selected games”.
The closest to this game is Spassky’s game from Chess informant 7 which got 10 points 7 times and only one member of jury (Lotar Schmidt) gave 8 points to this game. Let’s look at this game (with Geller Efim’s comments)
This game is included in many chess books about the attack as a classic example of attack on king with opposite castling which proves that the jury was right when declaring it best game.
Book with best games and how to read it
Chess Informant publishing house published a book “The best of the best 1000” - all 1000 games from the first 100 issues. We can say that this book presents chronicle of beauty from 1966 to 2007. The games are sorted chronologically from 10 best games from the issue 1 to 10 best games from the issue 100. There are also tables with the games and how jury (each member individually) voted for them - for all 100 issues.
The book contains different indexes which help us manage with it easily: index - all jury members alphabetically, index - annotators, and, of course, index - players. Photos and caricature of winners give a special charm to this book.
It is not neccessary to read this book from the beginning to the end (like some textbooks) - charm of the book is that we can read what we like and we can enjoy the beauty. We can look for what games were declared best games, we can look for how jury voted, we can look for games played by certain players or annotators… We can simply watch positions on diagrams (and there is a large number of diagrams). Regardless of how we read the book we will always see the beauty. And every reader can choose his own way of reading.
It should be mentioned that this book was not published as CD – for my share this is not important because I prefer books.
Defeated players of the most beautiful games
One of the greatest masters ever Alekhine complained that his deep thoughts were often undiscovered because his opponents didn’t understand his ideas and didn’t play best moves. This means that for good game it is necessary opponent to be excellent player as well – to provide strong resistance.
On the 50th URS championship – Moscow 1983 price for the best game was given to both players – winner Karpov and defeated Jussupow because of the fact that “chess game is an art that is made by two authors which was excellently understood by those who gave this price” (Karpov, My 64 best games, Belgrade 1996). Just to mention that Jussupow liked this game though he lost it – he annotated it very deeply in his book about improvement in chess (written with Dvoretsky). This game was declared best game in Chess Informant as well. Let’s have a look at it:
Among defeated players of the best games the first place belongs to Karpov who was a co-author of best game 9 times. On this “list”, Kasparov tied second with Spassky -5 times! Anand tied fourth with Shirov – 4 times. Follow Larsen, Portisch, Huebner and Svidler -3 times.
Let’s mention only a few more great players from the list of defeated players: Fischer 1, Petrosian 1, Kramnik 1 Carsen Magnus 1, Adams 2, Topalov 2, Ivanchuk 2, Timman 2, Kortschnoj 2, Ljubojevic 2. The names say about the high quality of the games.
Combination as a soul of chess
This is Bronstein’s paraphrase of well-known Phillidor’s sentence “Pawns are soul of chess”. Great master in tactics (and, of course, deep chess thinker), David Bronstein considered combination to be a soul of chess (and this was not an unfounded opinion!). We all like to see a nice and deep combination with hidden and unexpected points because this gives us a great aesthetic pleasure. According to Lasker, no well played game can finish without at least a small combination – which speaks in favor of Bronstein’s thesis.
In the past, tactical skills were considered to be a gift from God. And so, it was considered that these skills cannot be developed by learning combinations. Nowadays, there are a number of chess books that teach us tactics.
Chess Informant publishing house published a book “ANTOLOGY OF CHESS COMBINATIONS”. (The third edition, Belgrade 2005, has 2709 combinations on 575 pages). The book is for all levels (except for beginners), so it can help us learn basic combinations as well as improve our tactical skills to the top level. Of course, we can simply enjoy the beauty of combinations – just by watching the solutions. In this comprehensive book, the material is discussed clearly, so everyone can manage with it easily regardless of their native languages.
The best way of learning combinations is to learn combination motifs. Among theorists of combinations, there are differences in opinion - how many combination motifs exist. According to the authors of this book, there are 10 combination motifs and each motif they mark with a letter: a – Annihilation of defence, b – Blockade, c – Clearance, d – Deflection, e – Discovered attack, f – Pinning, g – Demolition of pawn structure, h- Decoy, I – Interference, J Double attack.
Of course, not all combinations are of equal difficulty, so, the authors divided combinations in three groups: 1 – Warm-up, 2 Examples of intermediate difficulty, and 3 Challenging examples.
The authors use Botvinnik’s definition of combination: Chess combination is a forced variation with a sacrifice which leads to a positive result. And according to the definition, they divided combinations in three groups: (I) Combinations with matting attack, (II) Combinations to reach the draw, and (III) Other combinations.
The book is divided in two parts: 1. Educative examples and 2. Practical examples.
The first part of the book (Educative examples) is mainly for players who want to learn a technique of combinations. There, we can see 300 examples divided by themes (I – mating attack: 252 examples, II - draw: 12 examples, and III – other combinations: 36 examples) and each of the themes is divided by motifs.
Let’s see a few nice examples of this part of the book: