In the period between 1955 und 1972 Fischer, more or less single-handedly, took on the might of the Soviet Chess Empire, and won. During this time Fischer scored astonishing successes the like of which had not been seen before. These included 11/11 in the 1963/64 US Championship and match victories (en route to the World Championship) by the score of 6-0 against two of the strongest players in the world, Mark Taimanov and Bent Larsen. The climax of Fischer's campaign was his unforgettable match win in Reykjavik in 1972 against Boris Spassky.
In this book, a must for all serious chesplayers, Kasparov analyses deeply Fischer's greatest games and assesses the legacy of this great American genius.
In Volume 1 of My Great Predecessors I talked about the chess kings of the distant past, about the first four official world champions - Steinirz, I.asker, Capablanca and Alckhine and their outstanding opponents. The second volume that you now have before you is devoted to the lives and games of the next four champions - Euwe, Botvinnik, Smyslov and Tal, and also Keres, Bronstein and Geller.
I should remind you that compiled in this book are not only the best games of the former stars, analysed anew with the help of a computer, but also the 'sore points' of chess history -the critical, turning points of matches for the world championship. In chess the champions changed for various reasons, but the primary one was usually historic: the continuous and rapid development of the game itself.
As my second Yuri Dokhoian wittily expressed it, with the years each world champion begins to 'calcify' - in other words, to become inflexible and be transformed into a living monument. That is, he gradually ceases to add something new to chess and to grasp the dominating tendency of its development. And sooner or later the inevitable retribution sets in, since the young challenger, on the contrary, usually makes a step forward.
This pattern can be traced in many matches for the world championship, beginning even with the unofficial Morphy-Andersscn match (1858), in which the American genius undoubtedly played the chess of the future. Later Steinitz accomplished a genuine revolution, creating a theory of positional play and putting opening play onto more or less serious, scientific lines. However, in his matches with Chigorin he 'calcified', not because of his advanced age, but on account of his terrible obstinacy, as he tried to uphold his principles in extremely dubious positions. His adherence to dogmas cost him many lost points, and he remained on the throne only thanks to his enormous practical strength; had Steinitz played in a more flexible manner, his superiority over his contemporaries would have been undisputed. But then a highly talented pupil appeared - the ultra-flexible and ultra-resourceful Lasker, and the now thoroughly inflexible Steinitz was unable to cope with him.
Lasker reigned for along, for the reason that he was completely omnivorous and universal, assimilating and making use of any new chess trends. It is a pity, of course, that in 1912-14 he did not play a match with either Rubinstein, or Capablanca. 1 don't know how these duels with the shining leaders of the new generation would have ended, but one thing is clear: at that time Lasker was still in excellent form and had retained his real practical strength.
The First World War significantly changed the balance of power in the chess arena, Lasker lived in poverty, Schlechter died, and Rubinstein became a pale shadow of his former self. Alekhifte'a progress was seriously delayed, as a result of which he matured much later than nature had intended; given normal development, without the War, imprisonment and the Revolution, Alekhine would already have been a quite worthy challenger by 1920.
Only Capablanca was not affected by the War, and he was able to develop as a player. Although, in fact I think that in those years he was no longer developing, but at least he lived comfortably, prepared little by little, played in American tournaments - and retained his former strength. In the 1921 match with the shaky Lasker he gained a confident victory, but chess lost much due to the fact that such a genius as Capa did not have to extend himself fully. The ease of his victories, especially in New York 1927 (where l.asker, Reti and Bogoljubow were absent, and Alekhine was thinking only of second place), lulled the Cuban, and he came to his senses only towards the end of his match with Alekhine, when the score was 2-4. However, he was no longer able to save his crown: he was let down by his being unaccustomed to hard work, and in addition the genie had escaped from the bottle!
Of course, in the 1927 match Capablanca had 'calcified', and this was observed by Lasker, who saw in Alckhine's victor}' 'a rejuvenation of the culture of the game itself, which has clearly become necessary, to avoid the stagnation threatening our art'. Yes, Capa was the last representative of the classical chess, stemming from Steinitz and Lasker, and in it he was invincible. He was the ideal player of that era! However, the Cuban overlooked the arrival of a new generation in chess and he was too late in adopting the ideas propagated by Nimzowitsch and Red, and brought to the fore by Alekhine. A classical wrestler encountered the unusual techniques of judo and karate...
These hypermodern revelations - the Nimzo-Indian and GrŁnfeld Defences etc. - swiftly conquered the chess world, as play now extended beyond the bounds of the Queen's Gambit, Tarrasch Defence, Ruy Lopez and Italian Game, and the late 1920s was marked by a flourishing of chess thinking. New people arrived - a new game began! Alekhine was the catalyst of this process (40 years later Fischer was a similar catalyst). The great Russian master, after absorbing and enriching the ideas of hypermodernism, played a different, more complicated form of chess and accomplished an unparalleled feat by succeeding, after all the adversity that had befallen him, in reaching the top.
Alas, Capablanca was unable to regain his former halo of invincibility; after his defeat at the hands of Alekhine the deference for the 'chess machine' disappeared, and even grandmasters who had been defeated many times by the Cuban began playing much more confidently against him. And as for the young players led by Botvinnik and Keres, he altogether could not keep pace with them. In short, in the new form of the game Capa was somewhat lost...
But what about Alekhine? After crushing Bogoljubow in the 1929 match and scoring brilliant victories in San Remo 1930 and Bled 1931, he too little by little began to 'calcify'! All the summits had been conquered and he had apparently lost his sense of purpose. He also won London and Bern 1932 'on autopilot' and then set off on an endless round-the-world trip with simultaneous displays: USA, Mexico, Cuba, Hawaii, Japan, Shanghai, Hong Kong, the Philippines and so on. Meanwhile, life was not standing still and a new era was beginning in chess.
The 1934 match with Bogoljubow already showed the onset of a crisis in Alekhine's play: the champion experienced colossal opening problems. He played in an audacious and bizarre manner, and often ended up in indifferent positions - but extricated himself thanks to his enormous practical strength! Bogoljubow lacked the consistency and accuracy to punish his opponent.
And then came Euwe - the leader of a new generation, born at the start of the 20th century, a player who was perhaps not so striking as Bogoljubow, but highly erudite and extremely consistent, rational and methodical. It was precisely this style that was the most unpleasant for Alekhine, and in the 1935 match, to everyone's surprise, there was a change of champion. A detailed account of how Euwe managed to wrest the title, and why he again conceded it in the 1937 return match, will be found in the chapter about the fifth world champion.
Whereas the first half of the 1930s was a period of stagnation as regards the emergence of new, young contenders to the throne (Euwe, Flohr and then complete quiet), in the second half of the decade the splendid next generation loudly announced itself - Botvinnik, Keres, Fine, Reshevsky... The declining, almost 50-year-old champion faced a difficult match for the crown, but a world war again interfered with the course of chess history. This was a pity, since a match between Alekhine and either Botvinnik or Keres would have been very interesting and important for chess.
The war again sharply changed the balance of power in the chess arena. Following Lasker and Capablanca, the exhausted but also undefeated Alekhine passed away- Keres came under the Soviet-Nazi machine, Reshevsky was out of practice, Fine gave up the game altogether, Euwe had fallen hopelessly behind, while the young Smyslov and Bronstein, by contrast, had not yet caught up... In short, by 1948 of the top-class fighters only Botvinnik remained. For him the Second World War played the same role as the First did for Capablanca: it cleared the way to the throne. The wars removed their main rivals: the First World War - Rubinstein, and the Second - Keres. It is probable that both Capa and Botvinnik would all the same have become champions, but with a natural course of events there would have been both a different configuration, and a different struggle.
In the Botvinnik era there occurred the second, after Steinitz, revolutionary change in approach to opening theory. Steinitz's ideas had an enormous influence on at least two generations of players. They all played the classical schemes (Queen's Gambit, Steinitz Defence to the Ruy Lopez etc.), and were guided by common sense: why seek 'disreputable', risky openings, if there was a simple way of obtaining a safe position?! The classical theory of the early 20th century developed at a rapid pace, and its prime mover was Rubinstein. A serious expansion of the range of openings began with Alekhine and the hypermodernists, and was continued by the energetic efforts of the great methodologist Euwe, but a genuinely revolutionary leap was accomplished by Botvinnik, who had carefully studied the experience of his predecessors, in particular Rubinstein, Alekhine and Euwe.
They all thought schematically and endeavoured to link the opening with a subsequent plan in the middlegame. But whereas earlier it was customary with Black to play strictly for equality, Botvinnik went further and created a system of opening preparation, with which Black plays to seize the initiative from the very first moves. He showed that this is possible! Botvinnik deliberately disrupted the positional balance, choosing sharp, committal variations, but ones that he had studied deeply - and he achieved excellent results. Botvinnik created some original opening systems, and in addition he reinterpreted a number of typical positions, forcing them to be looked at anew - for example, those with an isolated d4-pawn. And in general he had a different, far more global approach to the solving of opening problems.
The next four world champions - Smyslov, Tal, Petrosian and Spassky - did not achieve any radical progress in the opening and they developed theory along the lines of the Botvinnik era, which thus continued to the end of the 1960s. Finally, Fischer created the next revolutionary leap forward, for rhc first time demonstrating the entire power of opening preparation for both colours, sharply expanding the range of openings studied and, in effect, laying the foundations of present-day professional chess. Moreover, initially Fischer, like Steinitz in his time, was extremely obstinate in his choice of opening set-ups, but then he found in himself the strength to become more flexible and made himself almost unbeatable...
Note what an interesting line can be traced: Steinitz (1st champion) - Botvinnik (6th) - Fischer (11th), that is, a revolution was accomplished by every fifth champion!
Incidentally, in the second half of the 20th century too, the champions who became complacent and ceased to be the obvious leaders of chess thinking, also lost their title. It is always difficult to catch up with time, since the leaders of new generations introduce into chess their ideas and particular styles, and more easily solve those playing problems that were previously considered complicated.
Thus, whereas in the late 1940s Botvinnik was superior to everyone, in the early 1950s a very powerful new generation had emerged and its leader Bronstein almost took the title from the champion, who had not played for a long time (1951). Botvinnik realised that he was falling behind, and he again began working and threw himself into tournament play. In the next match, with Smyslov (1954) he had almost ceased to 'calcify' and he confidently remained on the throne.
Then Borvinnik twice conceded the crown - to Smyslov (1957) and to Tal (1960), but unfortunately for them they both had stopped moving forward and a year later they each lost to their mighty opponent, who had learned the lessons from his defeat and modified his play. Bur in the match with Petrosian (1963) Botvinnik no longer knew how to overcome his impregnable opponent, and it is doubtful whether anything would have changed, even if they had played a return match.
In turn, Petrosian logically conceded the throne to the dynamic Spassky (1969), and he to the irrepressible Fischer (1972). However, in the second half of the 1970s it would have been rather hard even for Fischer to combat the young Karpov. But in 1985, strangely enough, even Karpov began to 'calcify' very slightly. True, after losing the crown he as though came to his senses, and for a long time afterwards he demonstrated good results and excellent play (for which the author of these lines is also hoping, after slightly 'calcifying' before the 2000 match with Kramnik - but that is the topic of another book).
1 will talk in detail about the chess careers of Petrosian, Spassky, Fischer and Karpov in subsequent volumes, but in the present one I invite you to enjoy the games of their remarkable predecessors.
In conclusion, 1 wish to express my heartfelt thanks to USSR Honoured Trainers Alexander Nikitin and Mark Dvoretsky for their help in the concluding stage of preparation of this volume.
Garry Kasparov October 2003 , Introduction
List of Content
007 1 Tigran the Ninth
007 Not just a Defender
012 Favourite Sacrifice
022 Miracles of Prophylaxis
033 The Saga of Svetozar
049 A modest little Pawn Move
054 How to overcome Botvinnik?
064 The Challenger's Mistake
079 The Lion shows its Claws
108 The Tiger wakes up
122 The 'Hungarian Botvinnik'
165 Petrosian's Lessons
152 2 Boris the Tenth
183 Riga Catastrophe
198 In his Element
218 A burnt-out Star
265 The Hand of Bondarevsky
277 The Storming of Olympus
291 The first 'Oscar' Winner
299 'Forward, Kazimirych!'
313 Spassky's Lessons
329 Index of Players
331 Index of Openings