What Happened To Elite Chess?
Magnus Carlsen. Photo: Maria Emelianova /

What Happened To Elite Chess?

| 70 | Endgames

In the end of 1984, the leading Soviet magazine Chess In The USSR published a big article about the first game of the world championship match Capablanca-Alekhine, Buenos Aires 1927.

The author, master V. Goldin (no relation the U.S. grandmaster Alex Goldin) questioned many decisions by two legendary champions. Many chess players and analysts, including the famous coach Mark Dvoretsky, participated in the lengthy discussion.

It is difficult to imagine such an "analysts battle" today. Don't people have pretty much the same chess engine in their computers? An amazing point is that this game, which was played almost 60 years ago, is still interesting and relevant for the chess community. Actually, close analysis and discussion was quite common in that bygone era. There were only a couple of super-tournaments each year, and every game played by elite players was something special.

Such games were analyzed and re-analyzed for decades. It is quite different these days. When you have two super-tournaments per month, it is very difficult to follow them, let alone deeply analyze the games. One of the sad consequences of this situation is many very instructive games and positions simply vanish from our memory, being pushed away by the avalanche of new games that arrive every week.

Chess players make the same mistakes and fall into the same traps.

I am not concerned about the obvious fact that nobody in the year 2079 will be seriously analyzing the games played by today's best players, since computers will have completely changed our game by that time. The real pity is that today, chess players simply have no time to seriously analyze games, and consequently they make the same mistakes over and over again.

Here is a simple example. Any serious chess player of my generation knows the following game:

Black has lost the game because he committed the cardinal sin of bishop endgames: He put his pawns on squares the same color as his bishop.

The harsh comment by Dvoretsky for the move 30...g6 only emphasizes the point: 

Funny to see a grandmaster play like this! He sees that 30...Ne6 is met by 31.Nf5, and without any hesitation places one more pawn on the same color squares as his bishop.

Now compare it to modern examples:

How could a super-GM like Teimour Radjabov put his pawn on a4, where it was later lost? Isn't it a basic positional mistake? Oddly, we could witness a very similar mistake in the last super-tournament:

Hikaru Nakamura. Photo: Maria Emelianova /
Hikaru Nakamura. Photo: Maria Emelianova /

By the way, we already discussed a similar mistake in Hikaru Nakamura's game in this article:

It is not only the endgame play that suffers due to the endless stream of tournaments. Chess players make the same mistakes and fall into the same traps.

Here is an example from my old article:

Last week, Levon Aronian fell for the same trap again:

From one side, it is great that top players have so many tournaments to play. Many chess giants from the past suffered financially at the end of their lives, so it is nice that the current chess elite makes a very good living from chess. But from the other side, looking at those guys playing each other again and again— day in, day out—I cannot help but think of the classic movie They Shoot Horses, Don't They?

More from GM Gserper
Patterns, Patterns Everywhere!

Patterns, Patterns Everywhere!

How To Play Decisive Games

How To Play Decisive Games