Do We Really Need Old Chess Books?

Do We Really Need Old Chess Books?‎

GM Gserper
24 | Tactics

I was going to continue my "Openings for Tactical Players" series and write about the Ragozin Defense but had to pause for a moment.  This is my main opening against 1.d4, the opening I've been playing for almost a quarter of a century already, the opening I used against the World's top grandmasters... Heck, I met my future wife by playing this opening (that's a long story).  "Oh memories, light the corners of my mind, misty watercolor memories of the way we were..."

So how did I start playing this wonderful opening? It all started with the Soviet classical book "Questions of Modern Chess Theory" by Isaac Lipnitsky. This is one of the most influential books ever written.  It is enough to mention that a certain Robert James Fischer (who learned Russian to be able to read Russian chess books and magazines!) quoted this book in his own classic "My 60 memorable games", and one of the World's best coaches, Mark Dvoretsky highly praised this book.  The book written in 1956 consisted of two parts.  In the first part Lipnitsky explained methods and philosophy of modern chess in simple and clear language, using very instructive examples.  The second part of the book was devoted to the Ragozin Defense.  Here the author showed how to apply the principles described in the first part of the book to a particular opening. I read the book and got hooked! Even though many lines recommended by Lipnitsky were already obsolete, he managed to share the spirit of the opening. It is almost like when you look at pictures of strangers, trying to not miss any single detail of their faces, sometimes you start thinking that you know them and probably even saw them somewhere.  I had the same feeling after I finished the Book. I felt like the Ragozin Defense was the opening I used to play a long time ago, but somehow forgot about it.  Many years later I was happy to learn that in 2008 Quality Chess decided to translate this classic into English and make it available to the huge English-speaking community . But when the book was actually published I was severely disappointed.  The second part of the book devoted to the Ragozin defense was simply thrown away! Apparently somebody decided that there was no point to print an opening analysis from 1956. I can only quote Julia Roberts from "Pretty Woman" : "Big mistake! Big! Huge!"  Leaving aside the ethical part (after all you don't throw away Mona Lisa from the Louvre because being 500 years old she is... well kinda outdated), I just think it was a huge disservice to the readers.

Today I want to show a game played by Lipnitsky (who was a very strong chessplayer. placed him #12 in the World in 1950 with a rating of 2700!) And of course he played his beloved Ragozin Defense! Try to learn as much as you can from the Master!


 Question #1: How Should Black use his advantage in the development?

Question #2: How should Black continue?
Question #3: Is 22...Qd2 a good move?
Question #4:  How should Black finish his attack?
In conclusion I would like to reiterate my deep belief that the best way to learn openings is to analyze good games played by great chessplayers. This way not only will you improve your general level of chess, but also learn specific opening ideas.  And this is something the publishers of the English translation of the "Questions of Modern Chess Theory" didn't take into account.  Some particular variations can become obsolete or get refuted, but the opening ideas are eternal!  GM Bent Larsen said it best in his book of selected games. Describing one of his biggest chess achievements (Amsterdam 1964), he mentioned that most of the participants were preparing for the tournament researching the latest novelties of GM Boleslavsky (who was one of the best theoreticians of that time), meanwhile Larsen himself was studying games of Greco and Philidor!
So, do we need old chess books?
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