Tigran Petrosian. Foreword to Aron Nimzowitsch's "Chess Praxis", 1979


This is Nimzowitsch!

Isn't it anachronistic to reissue a book that was first published exactly half a century ago in our times? The book that, as the author himself, A. Nimzowitsch - one of the strongest chess players of our century - promises to "teach the positional game".

I think that teaching positional game is tantamount to teaching chess as a whole.

It is considered an axiom that any chess player's tactical talents develop faster and more vividly and more prone to self-development than the natural predisposition to the so-called positional talent. The talent of familiarizing yourself with intricate piece tricks, with their lightning-fast attacks and ingenious defences, can be self-developed. We can say that tactics in the first period of a chess player's learning get ahead of other components, and only after learning a complex of tactical methods you can start learning the finer points of positional game.

This book can be invaluable for you. When you'll study it - and by "studying", I don't mean "reading this many pages or playing that many games in one sitting" - you'll surely spot some mistakes and errors in variants, recommended plans and evaluations. This shouldn't confuse you.

In his thrill of being able to convey "his" code of chess laws to the chess-playing readers, Nimzowitsch sometimes engages in wishful thinking. But how do we know? Perhaps this thrill was the thing that inspired him to give aphoristic forms to somewhat boring positional truths - which are much more comfortable and easy to remember this way.

Each time I leaf through the Chess Praxis, the book that I literally kept under my pillow and read in my childhood like fairytales, I rediscover A. Nimzowitsch's maxims that, as I understand now, had become the basis for my chess views a long time ago.

"The aesthetic perception of a chess game should be based on its internal contents, not on its form."

"This prophylactic combination that includes a 6-move maneuver involving the pieces' backtracking, shows how rich and diverse are the resources of prophylaxis. This is one of my favourite combinations."

Of course, such naming of the piece maneuvers contradicts the current generally-accepted definition of "combination", by which it should always include material sacrifice. But I think that this narrowed-down definition also narrows down the perception of chess beauty in general.

"The fearful concern about the absolute "rightness" of moves and timid avoidance of unusual ways, especially the fear before anything that may bring "colossal consequences" - how strongly this resembles the long-gone (and returning - T.P.) "pseudoclassical" era."

Those and similar thoughts of A. Nimzowitsch, addressed to the "lyricists" of chess, are comparatively rare compared to the various advices for the chess "physicists".

"Watching the central squares is a strategic necessity in all circumstances...

...An isolated Queen pawn is not only a pawn weakness - it's also a square weakness...

...Only very rarely the freeing move disappears from the game forever, much more often it remains as a threat."

"The usage of prophylaxis, blockade, centralization and overprotection should be very important for defense as well. There's a difference between when the attacked flank defends only with its own resources, and when the entire board radiates the "defensive energy". Centralization is, in essence, the aspiration of the entire board to take part in the struggle."

My advice to anyone who wants to increase their playing level with this book: compile a small list of Nimzowitsch's aphorisms similar to one above, and while analyzing the games of other strong players, consult it often. Then many grandmasters' moves, plans, ideas will be very clear for you. And this, in turn, will broaden your understanding of chess, or, simply put, will make you stronger over the board.

Admit that you didn't know that "two weaknesses, both defensible in and of themselves, are targeted in turns, and the attacker mainly uses his territorial advantage - the better state of their communication lines. The game is lost because the defender eventually fails to keep up with the speed of attacker's piece regrouping." Or: "You may maneuver even against one weakness: in this case, it's necessary that the diversity of the ways of attack (for instance: frontal attack, flank attack, attack from behind) compensated the lack of weaknesses."

This is Nimzowitsch!