Wednesday, September 02, 2009

Chess and the Greatest

Emanuel Lasker (world champ 18941921) is my favorite chess player.

Lasker and Pillsbury in 1895

Lasker played the opponent, had no weakness in his game, and had a chameleon like quality where he would try and put his opponent thru a torture test during a match. Bobby Fischer took after Lasker in 1972 when he played non e4 vs Spassky thus throwing out all Soviet preparation with white. A choice which implies Fischer decided that while e4 is the best, it is not as good as d4 or c4 against an unprepared opponent.

In fact Fischer was sure to face Spassky's Queen's Gambit Declined Tartakower variation, a line Spassky never lost with until game 6. For those who possess The Art of Positional Play by Samuel Reshevsky, there is a chapter about the Tartakower variation which is the best analysis of the defense I have ever read. Whereas in Ruben Fine's Bobby Fischer's Conquest of the World's Chess Championship Tartakower analysis pales when compared to Reshevsky.


Unequivocally Gary Kasparov is the greatest but I like to re-evoke the discussion about how strong would a Lasker or Capablanca be in world class chess today. My feeling is any top world player of the past would be world class today if given the same opportunities that today's players have had. It's interesting to note that some local masters regard the likes of Frank Marshall as being "expert strength" when compared to today's masters, while other local masters show them more respect. Still there have been computer studies of games and players of the past that show that there were many tactical flaws in games of the past that were overlooked by these old timers. My feeling is that computers have done a good job in training contemporary player's minds to a much higher tactical skill level. And there are so many games e-published every day, visible almost immediately around the world, so variations are tested more quickly and the current chess junkies can keep a finger on the pulse of the bleeding edge. Whereas before WWII players had to be part of the European tour to be on the bleeding edge. And like Kasparov, we can take our ideas and beat on a stronger than human computer to harden our ideas. Feedback was never so good, pushback never so quick. Just like everything in today's world the cycles accelerate. With more room for improvement. What I think this means is that the greatest chess player is yet to arrive.
How would the old timers rank today?
Please Comment
Thank You
Mike Griffin 09/02/2009

No comments: