Carlsen, Capablanca And The Beatles

Carlsen, Capablanca And The Beatles

GM Gserper
Dec 20, 2015, 12:00 AM |
68 | Other

About a quarter of a century ago, I started playing in international tournaments on a regular basis. Just like thousands of other folks from the former Soviet Union I enjoyed the fall of the Iron Curtain and ability to freely travel abroad.

Pretty soon I realized that English was the international language of chess and even a regular postmortem after a game required a basic level of English. My experienced friends shared their knowledge on the subject. I still remember what was probably the most bizarre advice: "Get an English-speaking girlfriend and you'll start to speak English in a week!"

The most logical idea came from a guy who was a big fan of Beatles.  He said that since he knew most of the Beatles'songs by heart, it really helped him to learn English. I really liked this approach!

Indeed we tend to remember our favorite songs for a very long time. As a matter of fact, I still remember the chorus of Toto Cutugno's song:

"Lasciatemi cantare
con la chitarra in mano
lasciatemi cantare
una canzone piano piano"

...but I still don't know what it means. Don't be surprised dear readers, in the middle of the 1980s, the whole Soviet Union was obsessed with Italian music. We had daily reports from the annual Sanremo festivals and Soviet comedies featured made-up Italian songs (just ask any Russian who is 40 years old about the song "Uno, uno momento"). But I digress here...

I decided to start learning English using the big hit of 1993: "Informer" by Snow. What, you never heard this song? Here it is, enjoy!


I almost broke the pause button on my tape recorder and yet all I could understand was the word informer. I guess the fact that I was an avid reader of Chess Informant helped me to recognize the familiar word. Only much later did I learn that even for many native English speakers the lyrics of this song sound like gibberish.

Talk about a wrong song to learn English! Had I strictly followed the idea of learning English by Beatles songs, the result might have been totally different. Sometimes I think that Paul McCartney wrote and sang "Yesterday" for people who learn ESL (English as a Second Language) and that's why he enunciated each word so slowly!

Magnus Carlsen


If you are wondering what it has to do with chess, please be patient, I am getting to the point. Say you want to start learning chess and looking for great s̶o̶n̶g̶s̶  games. You cannot go wrong with the games of the current world champion Magnus Carlsen, right? Let's look at the decisive game of the whole Grand Chess Tour:

Try to explain to a beginner why the world champion played 6.Re1 only to move it back five moves later. Also don't be surprised when the above-mentioned beginner, inspired by Magnus' 5. Bd3, plays his openings like this:



Look at Carlsen's games and you'll see that he breaks the major opening rules on a regular basis. Here is another example:

And here is the game from our local tournament that I saw just yesterday:

Yes, the chess player who played Black is only USCF 600 (which means a total beginner), but maybe the poor kid saw Carlsen's 6.Be2 followed by 6.Bd3?

We probably should establish ratings for chess games similar to the MPAA ratings. Magnus Carlsen's games are definitely NC-17 and not suitable for players rated under 1500.  So, what games should beginners study then? Easy!

All Capablanca's games are rated G and are excellent to study chess. Take this one for example:


In just one game Capablanca will give you a master class about quick development, centralization, an open file, a "backward" pawn, an outpost and pins!

I am almost 100 percent sure that this article will ignite one of those pointless disputes: "Who is stronger, Carlsen or Capablanca?"

Jose Capablanca


I call these kind of arguments pointless because all of them fall into one of two categories:

1) The answer is obvious. It is like "Ginger or Mary Ann?"  Are you kidding me? It's Mary Ann, hands down!


2) There is no answer. For example, "Spiderman or Superman?"

To me, the question "Capablanca or Carlsen?" is a "Spiderman vs. Superman" kind of dilemma.

But the question "Who is more appropriate for beginners to study, Capablanca or Carlsen?" is more like "Ginger vs. Mary Ann" or "Yesterday" vs. "Informer"!

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