Thursday, February 28, 2013

Oldies Can Be Goodies

One of the things I have not been able to figure out is the almost total aversion to any chess literature not published within the past five minutes.

It seems that unless the paper is still warm from the printing press that there is a huge movement within the chess community to avoid it like the plague.

Now, when it comes to top flight players, I understand that.  I can't imagine that a 2700 GM would get anything other than pleasure from reading a book about Morphy's best games.

Amazingly to me, though, are the views espoused by club players.  I hear things like "Yeah, but all those opening lines have been refuted." or "Have you looked at those games with Rybka?  The analysis has totally been invalidated." etc.

Again, for a titled player there are some absolute truths in those statements.  But for a club player?  How ridiculous!

I personally have read and enjoyed many books that fit in to the category of "those openings have been refuted and the analysis invalidated" and learned a lot.

Some of those books include:

500 Master Games of Chess by Tartakower
My Best Games of Chess by Alekhine
From my Games by Euwe

Many of the games in these books are true classics in every sense of the word.  So to see them written off by legions of chess fans is silly. 

Yes, I read tons of modern books as well.  I particularly enjoy Fighting Chess With Magnus Carlsen.  But my beef with books like those is that they are opening heavy.  Just getting through the first 15 moves of a game requires two pages of analysis due to the current state of opening theory.  While that in itself is not necessarily a bad thing it does lead to spending 30-40 minutes just plodding through an opening sometimes.  Not to mention that I just felt that there was something I couldn't quite put my finger on that made the older books valuable in a way that the modern books aren't.

Imagine how vindicated I felt when I was browsing through a copy of Modern Chess Preparation by Tukmakov and I saw that he mentions the idea of studying classic games.  Since I didn't buy that book I can't quote directly from it, but I will paraphrase Tukmakov.  He said that one issue facing players today who want to improve their game is that current games between super GM's essentially boil down to opening theory and petite combinations.  So when you study those games you can't learn how to plan properly because there really aren't too many top games these days that feature a clear plan throughout.

However, studying classical games will give you that ability since those games often featured a single plan that ran through a large portion of the game practically uninterrupted.

When I read that I realized that was the thing I couldn't quite put my finger out that separated the games of the early 20th century from the games of the early 21st.

What are your thoughts about the games of the old masters?

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