What Shape is the Elephant? (Part I)

What Shape is the Elephant? (Part I)

Dec 3, 2018, 7:46 PM |

There is a famous story, which I believe originated in India. Five blind brothers were asking themselves, what is the shape of the elephant? So they decided to find out.

They went to the river and touched the elephant. One of the brothers touched a leg, and said, "The elephant is like the trunk of a tree, round and strong." Another touched the tail and said, "The elephant is long and skinny, like a rope!". Another brother touched the ear, and said, "The elephant is like a big leaf from a tree!" Another brother touched the trunk, and said, "The elephant is like a hose!" Another brother touched the tusks and said, "The elephant is like a long horn, shaped like a half-moon and with a sharp point!"

So, each brother had a different version of what the shape of the elephant is!  And I think the same thing happens with chess. Is it a game, an Art, a sport, or a science, or a combination of all?

Each one of us will have a different answer , and the most objective answer will be somewhere in the middle, but my point is this: it is all very subjective.

Each one of us has a different sensibility, a different soul. We all see life differently, so why not chess?

As Spektrowski brilliantly showed in his recent post, "Richard Reti on the Carlsen - Caruana match" , even in the 1920's chess fans were complaining about the technical, dry, safe style of the elite. So, as they say, nothing is new under the sun!

Some players have a technical, safe style. Petrosian, of course, comes to mind. For me, Karpov as well, and yes, Carlsen, and most of the "elite" players of today.

Yet there is another breed of players, who have a less "safe" approach to chess. They are often described as Romantics, or Artists.

I do not have the time at the moment to make a monumental post on this theme (hence the "Part I" in the title), but will give a few examples of the kind of style that these "Artists", or "Romantics", as they call them, produce.

My first example is Rashid Gibiatovitch Nezhmetdinov :


                                                            Rashid Nezhmetdinov

The following game, played in 1958 against Lev Polugaevsky, gives you an idea of why Tal chose Nezhmetdinov as one of his trainers for his 1960 WC match against Botvinnik!
The following game shows Nezhmetdinov's incredible spirit: He could not finish this tournament, for he was deadly ill, but he still managed to win the Brilliancy Prize!

Here is a very artistic game by Bronstein, one of my favorite Artists of the game!

Another gem by Bronstein:


One more example of Artistic, Romantic, exciting chess! Albin Paninc!

I must include the next game by one of the great Artists of modern chess, Vassily Ivanchuk!

The sacrifice of the Queen for a minor piece in the opening, against a player like Shirov, is an Artistic Masterstroke!

OK, one more game before I go.....Gufeld! Against Smyslov! With Black! Oh my God! This was a team event....When Gufeld sacrificed his second piece, Botvinnik took Geller aside and asked him: "Efim Petrovich, what sort of punk is playing on our team?"