Aron Nimzowitsch: "How I became a Grandmaster", part 4

Jul 30, 2013, 3:24 PM |

Part 1, part 2, part 3

Games section

I wish to give the reader a more concrete idea of my chess evolution, so I offer you some games of mine, mostly played during the early period of my chess career (1902-1907).

In these games, I still chase the "firebird" of mating attack. But after a thorough analysis, we can also see the rudiments of the positional ideas that later revolutionized the history of chess, the rudiments of neo-romantism.

After the crisis of 1906, I don't chase after the mating attack so readily, and my positional tendencies that humbly hid in the far corner start to grow... And the deliberate slowness in playing out my strategical operations immediately appears (see the game against E. Cohn, #11).

About the 1907-1929 period, I wrote two books: My System and Chess Praxis, and so I don't touch upon it too much here; I devoted my attention to my early games, especially those that clearly manifest the shortcomings of my style in that time or those that illustrate the evolution of my style.


Chasing the "firebird" of a mating attack

 2 endgames of the 1902-1904 period


The "historical battle"
(see chapter V)
Some small successes between a crushing fiasco (Vienna, February/March 1905; the match with Spielmann)
In the beginning of 1905, I took part in a Vienna mixed double round-robin tournament with Schlechter, Wolf, Forgacs, Vidmar, Perlis and others. By the way, I drew both games against Wolf, won one game with Forgacs (sacrificing two pieces, no less) and utterly destroyed the altmeister Albin.
From Vienna, I went straight to Munich, when a match against Spielmann was organized for me. I won the first game of this match... without sacrificing anything (!), and this "remarkable" fact filled my heart with so much pride that I'd almost imagined myself as a fully fledged positional master!
In fact, my positional playing was still quite weak.
I remember one thing from Vienna: in a tournament game against Perlis I managed to win a pawn, but... the position was completely devoid of any combinational possibilities, and I didn't know what to do next. (The inability to realize the material advantage is very characteristic for combinators!)
To save myself from this awkward situation, I offered a draw, and I was glad that Perlis accepted it.
The match against Spielmann ended in a draw (+4-4=5). Sadly, I don't have the games from this match. (Three of them were printed in Bachmann's Schachjahrbuch in 1905.)
Here are two games from the Vienna tournament.
Black played the second part of the game in an anti-positional style (forgot to block the d6 pawn and weakened the base). White ingeniously used their partner's mistakes.
I can't deny myself the pleasure to publish one endgame played during the tournament. If you compare it to the games #1 and #2, you'll find that it's no less fantastic, but still more correct.
Notice how the triumphal advancement of the g-pawn gets blocked, in turn, by the Black pawn g6, White Rook g6, Black Queen g6, and how the combination makes all those pieces finally disappear (sometimes by capturing each other)!
The Barmen debacle
The study of the prime causes of this fiasco is the goal of this chapter.
Such a study, we think, might be useful both in biographical and pedagogical sense.
We have already discussed bad opening preparation as one of the main causes of this failure. 1. d4 d5 2. c4 Nc6 always gave me a bad game.
As White, I've been playing a bland variant of Scotch game.
We'll discuss other reasons later.
Forgacs played greatly. Considering my playing... I showed insufficient understanding of centralization and an inclination to play in a desperate style. Let's write this down.
In this subtly played game, we'll look at the opening and the ending; considering the middlegame, despite all the combinations, we'll study only the mistakes that were typical for a 19 years old Nimzowitsch.

So, the Barmen tournament ended with an utter fiasco for me, and a crushing victory against the 3rd-placed player was only a small consolation; here's this game. The sweeping style of this game has some neo-romantic vignettes here and there.
After my 1906 reformation
(see chapter V)
In this game, I showed high class and great playing maturity.
The following game was played in the same tournament as the previous one, but the style was more "energetic". But only at a cursory glance this can be similar to the style that caused my Barmen failure. A thorough analysis shows that the game was quite satisfactory (see, for instance, the commentary to Black's 4th move).
Some words about 1907-1929 period
In the annotation to the previous game, I stated that in 1906 I've already had a clear understanding of strategy of invasion a weak complex of same-coloured squares. Now I want to elaborate a bit.
The true, scientifically justified understanding of this very complex strategy, of course, hadn't come to me yet. Even when I did invade the light squares (like in the endgame against E. Cohn), my maneuvers were more of random and intuitive character.
At the end of 1906, the status quo was such: my newly-discovered stability and technique made it possible for me to boldly follow the revolutionary way of the chess strategy that seemed so enticing to me even back in 1904 (see game #3). When I completed my theory of elements and only then felt solid ground beneath my feet, I've started to build new understanding of: 1) theory of the center; 2) blockade; 3) centralization; 4) redundant defense and other revolutionary principles.
All those ideas are clearly stated in my new book Chess Praxis; the evolution of my chess views in 1907-1929 is also described there. I recommend this book to any readers who are interested in that, and here I'll publish just one game, the "Zugzwang Immortal" I've played in 1923.
Who could foresee in 1902 that a classical zugzwang game - a game full of patient waiting - would be played by me, who then was a seemingly incurable combinator with a completely anti-positional style!
But let's repeat this: combinational talent plus hard fundamental work can make anything possible, and so here's this advice again: "Combinators, try to gain understanding of the key positional motives and strategies, step by step! And those who don't like combinations, try to like them, try to learn them, because only by joining combinational and positional play together, you'll achieve those successes, those joys and thrills that fill chess experience!"