Defending: Nimzowitsch on Defence

Defending: Nimzowitsch on Defence

Mar 18, 2018, 9:01 AM |

As I mentioned in the last post, defence is a neglected subject in chess, despite the benefits it can have on your ability. I then went on to talk about what Emanuel Lasker had to say about the matter and I provided some example games. Today, we'll have a look at defence from the point of view of another chess great: Aron Nimzowitsch.

Born in 1886, Nimzowitsch peaked at #2 in the world rankings and is notable for winning the Karlsbad tournament of 1929, finishing with 15/21, above the likes of Capablanca, Spielmann, Rubinstein, and Euwe. However, he will forever be best known for his book 'My System' (1925), which introduced (or popularised, depending on which side you're on) several new precepts that revolutionised chess, Among these ideas are "First restrain, then blockade, lastly destroy!" and "The passed pawn is like a criminal, who must be kept under lock and key". However, we'll be looking at something else today.


Overprotection is the defense of a strategically important point (usually a pawn) against future attacks. This point is given more protection than is seemingly needed, hence the name 'overprotection'. Why is this necessary? Well, Nimzowitsch says that it works "to the advantage of both parties: to that of 'the point' because the prophylaxis which is set in motion to defend it brings to it the greatest safety imaginable against possible attacks; but also to the overprotecting pieces, because the 'point' acts for them like a source of energy, from which they can constantly draw fresh strength". In short, overprotecting a strong point is a good deed and the reward for it is the activity the overprotecting pieces find in the future.


Overprotect your strong points and reap the rewards!

Now let's take a look at Overprotection being demonstrated in real games. The following game shows Bobby Fischer overprotecting an important pawn and eventually mating the opponent's King with a brilliant attack.

The next game is unique because it shows the overprotection of squares, not pieces:  
Although White focussed on squares instead of pieces, the strategy of overprotection was the same and the side that overprotected was eventually rewarded. The game I will show you now is similar to the previous one and it is played by Wilhelm Steinitz, 'The Father of Modern Chess'. It also includes the overprotection of a square instead of a piece and features a nice attack, too:
The past three games have shown how defence of a point can explode into an attack but, as this is a post on defence, after all, we'll take a look at overprotection as a purely defensive measure, too. 
Hopefully, these five examples of overprotection have provided you with a solid understanding of the concept and its many possibilities. To assess your learning, here are two puzzles which give you the opportunity to use overprotection. Identify the strongpoint and overprotect it! (Don't worry if you don't get some of the moves right because it's the overprotection strategy that we're focussing on here.)
Now you should hopefully feel comfortable with the concept of overprotection. It is a very interesting thing as, on the surface, it seems quiet and- to those who have never seen it before- maybe even pointless. However, if you have read this and tried to understand all of the examples you will understand that overprotection has the potential to be so much more. As always, take care and thanks for reading.