An Open Letter to the Four-Time US Chess Champion GM Yasser Seirawan
art by ©Betty Ollier-Perez, Les Penseurs

An Open Letter to the Four-Time US Chess Champion GM Yasser Seirawan

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GM Seirawan,


I am a great fan of yours. You have deep knowledge of our game and a rare ability to present things in simple terms (the ultimate sophistication!) so everybody can learn a lot from it. I have really enjoyed your lectures and videos on YouTube. You are also a great author, and right now I am taking special pleasure in your live commentaries, together with IM Anna Rudolf, accompanying the Fischer random world championship match between GMs Nakamura and Carlsen.

I am writing this open letter to you because of a comment that you made on Day Three of the match, in which you stated that "Nimzovich's ideas were all rubbish." The entire chess world would like to hear your arguments behind this statement expressed so bluntly, yet without any supporting arguments.


In any domain, ideas have always been the engine of progress. Ideas constitute the core mindset from which we judge the world and operate in it. The ideas by Steinitz, Lasker, and Nimzovich, have defined the way of how we look at the game to date, as no new ground-breaking ideas have seemed to appear since the time of these great chess thinkers.

Hereby I would like to present three ideas that Nimzovich has brought up that are now the essential part of mental toolbox of every modern chess Master:


1. Blockade

The main concept of all chess is activity of men. All we do all the time is to increase the activity of our troops and reduce and limit that of other army. The idea of blockade helps us curb activity of the opponent's pieces by restricting their mobility, which, by a secondary effect, diminishes the firing power of other pieces in the opponent's camp as well.


2. Prophylaxis

Nimzovich has brought into chess this old idea originating from Sun Tzu way back, some twenty-five centuries ago, "The best strategy is to fight the enemy's strategy." By using this idea we put delay, stall, or completely neutralize the opponent's intents and actions before they become too far advanced to control. As the old saying goes, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.


3. Overprotection

Another idea by Nimzovich is to provide additional troop support at important strategic points. This is reminiscence of Carl von Clausewitz's concept of the Center of Gravity. CoG is the main characteristic, capability or locality in the position that enables our forces to accomplish the set objectives. For the pieces “overprotectors” that establish a contact with it, CoG serves as a source of strength and latent energy to be released, while at the same time provides security against possible enemy attacks. Our play should organically flow from CoG, and focus on maintaining its strength, while at the same time undermining the CoG in the opponent's camp. Interestingly enough, it took the US military strategists twenty years to grasp the essence of CoG concept which is now the central part of the US armed forces strategic thinking (see the US Army Field Manuals available online). Nimzovich introduced this, if you allow me to say so, big idea into chess hundred years ago.


We live in an era dominated by huge advances in technology. Yet, technology cannot produce any new ideas. It is a realm that still firmly belongs exclusively to us, humans. Discussing ideas is therefore an important thing to do.

I hope the entire chess community deserves and will, of course, appreciate immensely your valuable thoughts on the ideas Nimzovich has left to the posterity (including the three stated above) and why you believe they may be flawed and of no use for a chess player. Perhaps we have overrated Nimzovich and should reevaluate his contribution to the game. Before we do so, we all would like to hear arguments from your side.


Cordially, with Gens Una Sumus,


Momir Radovic

Atlanta, Georgia
February 12, 2018



Further Reading:


1. GM Yasser Seirawan's open reply to the open letter

2. Momir Radovic's open reply to GM Seirawan's open reply