I am going to start a regular reading of Nimzowitsch’s My System (21st Century Edition, Hays Pub 1991) [original title: Mein System, 1925], hoping to involve passionate patzers and graduated chessplayers as well.
I’ve heard of a lot of people having their play significantly improved after a careful study of such a revolutionary classic. I’m a bit skeptical about it, but let’s have a try.
First Part: The Elements, Chapter 1: On the Centre and Development.
Nimzowitsch systematically lists the eights elements of chess strategy (p.1):
1. The centre
2. Play in open files
3. Play in the 7th and 8th ranks.
4. The passed pawn.
5. The pin.
6. Discovered check.
8. The pawn chain.
Then he starts with the first subject: “centre” and “development.”
I think we can pass over a couple of obvious definitions (p.2):
(1) By development we mean the strategic advance of the troops to the frontier line.
(2) A pawn move must not in itself be regarded as a developing move, but merely as an aid to development (in fact, a pawnless development is not possible).
The first thing to do is to install a pawn in the centre (i.e. in the four squares e4, e5, d4, d5). Other pawn moves have to be related to the issue “occupying the centre.” Thus Nimzowitsch suggests as correct moves – after 1.e4 e5 – 2. d3 or 2.d4 (but I haven’t found a single game by Nimzowitsch with the ECO codes C20-C21). Moves of the flank pawns (the Anderssen Opening 1.a3 or the Desprez/Kadas 1.h4), doing very little for development, must be considered a loss of time.
Another truism: “To be ahead in development is the ideal to be aimed at.” (p.3) With this ideal in mind, Nimzowitsch does not hesitate to brand the Scandinavian as a wasting time opening.
So we come to the final point of our first introductory instalment: Exchange with resulting gain of tempo. Two examples, annotated by Nimzowitsch himself:
Now Houdini or Critter would recommend 8...Nxd2, but Nimzowitsch has a keen remark to do (pp. 4-5): “The exchange of the time devouring Ne4 for the new-born Nd2 means loss of tempo for Black, since with the disappearance of the Knight there will vanish also the tempi consumed by him – there will be nothing on the board to show for them. When a farmer loses a sucking pig through illness, he mourns not only the little pig, but also the good food he has gambled on it”.