Clash of Titans: 1929 WCC Match and the Birth of Modern Chess

Oct 7, 2013, 7:19 PM |

It is often understood that chess has evolved in a very linear progression since the beginning of its recorded history.  A plethora of books discuss the very clean advance from the era of the 'Romantics' (Morphy and the Andersson-Steinitz match come to mind for many of us), to the 'Classicists' and their positional approach and dogmas, and then a variety of later approaches that we deem Modern.   As these are all categorical approaches to chess history, they are bound to be ripe with generalizations that do not fit neatly for the chess players meant to be defined under them.  While Romantics would admire the pure energy and tactical flourishes available in a position without much care for quiet positional play, and Dogmatists such as Tarrasch would cringe in horror at allowing one's self to be saddled with a backward pawn or a 'bad bishop,' the Modern approach to chess is supposed to be a combination of the principled method and an acute sense for the initiative.  It is of course important that  I pin down exactly how 'Modern' shall be used in the context of this post.  I wish to infuse somewhat the concept of a Universal approach, one that touches on all phases of the game with careful treatment and is not overly dogmatic in favor of quiet or aggressive play.  This has some bearing on opening decisions and also an approach in psychology and preparation qua chess professionalism.  I do not mean to say 'Modern' in the sense of 21st Centutry chess with all of its silicon enhancement and rapid pace theoretical celerity.

In the sense of Chess Modernism contained to the concept attached to Fischer, Spassky, Kasparov, Smyslov, Euwe, Kortchnoi, Botvinnik, Bronstein, and many others in the previous century I wish to adventure backward through chess history in search of an origin.  As chess is partly a battle and partly a search for some truth about the nature of the game, characterizations of style often are connected to ideas of essential truths or the objectivity of positions.  What makes chess flow?  I mean Modernism in the way Bruce Pandolfini's character in "Searching for Bobby Fischer" highlights when he says of Fischer, "He found at its very core a heart."  When we envision such an abstract characterization of chess style, to whom may we give credit for experimenting with the game first in such a way.  While I think Capablanca even can be considered one of the first great Modern players of the game, the first World Championship match where one sees a consistent theoretical battle and a universal approach in the style of both players in most if not all of the games is the 1929 Alekhine-Bogo match.  The concept of the initiative and its value as a sort of exchangeable commodity with the other coins of the game is common throughout as well, and this is key in our understanding of Modernism.


Below is game 1 of the match, with my analysis.  It has not been computer checked because I wish to use this section of my blog as a training tool for myself.  All of these games are incredibly instructive.

Thanks for checking out this blog post! More games from this match will be coming as I have time to do analysis for them.