Aron Nimzowitsch: "How I became a Grandmaster", part 2
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Of joys and sorrows of combination
The main mistake of my education was not, of course, that the first lessons weren't exactly up to the highest standards we've come to expect from modern chess education. I had big reserves of vivid fantasy, so the "formalistic" approach of the the first lessons couldn't kill my love towards chess. Significantly worse was that my father didn't pay all the necessary attention to the fact that I suffered from hypertrophied combinational play. Such a hypertrophy should be taken seriously, and countermeasures should be implemented. Naturally, those countermeasures should be ofpositional nature. But how can such positional influence be exercised? If you feed a novice with various positional ideas, you'll get this result: the novice's fragile system will not be able to assimilate this wisdom. He may remember some individual rules, but his positional feeling won't get any better - and only the presence of this feeling is the main symptom of the "hypercombinator's" curing.
We can solve this problem in the following manner: remember that some mineral salts that are quite hard for the human organism to assimilate can be easily assimilated if they are chemically tied to some other (organic) substances. We should do the same: find a way to "chemically" connect the dry positional wisdom with the vivid and comprehensible teaching of "elements". I have dedicated a whole book to these elements: the entire first part of My System (and a good chunk of the second part) is dedicated to them (the third part is dedicated to the chemically clean positional game). I'm not intending to promote my work here, but I think that I do have the right to recommend it: the chess tragedies I got through in my youth give me this right. I would like to show a combinator the ways to positional healing, and I think that nobody would reproach me for that. Ah, those tragedies! Those unending combinational impulses that were invariably broken by the dry positional play of a pragmatic and very often much less gifted player!..
But let's get back to the "elements". We assign this name to lines, 7th rank, passed pawn, discovered check, pinned piece, pawn chain etc. In the first part of My System, I analyze them thoroughly and formulate a series of laws for their systematic use. I see the gist of this pedagogic method in the very fact that these laws, unbeknownst to the pupil, contain a fair amount of positional wisdom. Let's look at an example.
The positional rule that, in essence, the entire game can be reduced to the struggle of two principles: the tendency of pawn advancement (expansiveness) and the tendency of blocking these pawns, isn't comprehensible for a beginner. On the other hand, if we present this rule under the guise of some fascinating feature of one of the elements (the passed pawn), the effect will be very different. In this form, our rule will be very simple, and its assimilation will help to develop the beginner's "blockade feeling" and, therefore, his positional feeling (later on, this rule should, of course, be expanded). Our simple law of blocking passed pawns says, "You need to block the opponent's passed pawn". That's why the studying of elements from My System may be beneficial for combinators.
But if the beginner is not of combinational type, he should learn to do combinations as quickly as possible. To these beginners, we recommend P. Romanovsky's book Middlegame.
The period between 1902 and 1906. - The anguish for the "elements". - I discover... no, not America yet, but my "mortal enemy". - The first serious encounter with him, and what he said during it
During my first year abroad, I've been playing chess extensively, to my father's clear annoyance; he demanded that I pass an additional exam and enroll into university. In the beginning of 1903, I moved from Koenigsberg to Berlin, where I got acquainted with, and later befriended, O.S. Bernstein and B.M. Blumenfeld. I've played a lot of games against Blumenfeld, also against Master von Scheve and D.G. Baird, an American. They were much stronger players than me, but often got bad positions, because I sometimes would find a combination nobody else would have thought about. Still, I've lost an overwhelming majority of these games, because without a combinational opportunity, I was completely in the dark. I had no positional directives - for instance, it never occurred to me to weaken the dark (or light) squares of my partner's position (with subsequent invasion), or prevent an opponent's breakthrough altogether, etc. I've been attacking a lot, advanced my pawns and set combinational traps. I saw such traps with exceptional quickness and played them very confidently, calculating 5-6 and even more moves ahead. I remember how in a game between Bardeleben and the student Nimzowitsch, it took me just half a minute to calculate this spectacular combination:
(Note from translator: this article seems to be the first ever publication of the game in PGN form. At least I couldn't unearth any Bardeleben/Nimzowitsch games with Google and chessgames.com searches).
In 1904, I took part in my first tournament (Haupt-tournament in Coburg) and won 6th prize. Inspired by this success, I went to Nuremberg to "play some games with Tarrasch".
Let me tell you about a small chess-psychological episode which played a tremendous role in the history of my development. In one of my games, I got a position with a pawn chain. The moves were along these lines: 1. e4 e6 2. d4 d5 3. Nc3 Nf6 4. Bg5 Be7 5. e5 Nfd7 6. Bxe7 Qxe7.