Thursday, June 2, 2016

Fischer

Garry Kasparov played a huge number of fantastic games in his active career but maybe the series he published about himself and the former worldchampions will become his most important heritage. It hits me how often contemporary literature refers to these books. It looks like every serious chessplayer read the books.

The most recent one of the series which I read covered, as the title already reveals, Fischer. However Kasparov doesn't only talk about the 11th worldchampion. Reshevsky, Larsen and Najdorf are also getting their chapter which I liked very much. Unfortunately this meant that only half of the book remained for Fischer. On top Kasparov spends a considerable amount of space on Fischers weird behavior off the board which further shrinks the technical part of chess. I counted in total only 59 games of Fischer (some of them only partly).

About maybe the greatest player ever, I expected much more stuff. Was it Kasparovs ego that forbids him to praise Fischer? He surely would never admit that Fischer was stronger. After having finished the book I felt that I didn't get the right picture about Fischers strength. Besides it is not the first time that I search a supplementary book of a former-woldchampion after reading My Great Predecessors. I have read about Tal also the excellent book The Life and Games of Mikhail Tal.

About Fischer many books appeared but which one is the most appropriate for me? Naturally it depends what you want to find in a book. The book The Career and Complete Games of Fischer by Karsten Muller is doubtless the most complete collection of Fischer's games with more than 700. However the analytical part isn't very appealing as I see little difference with a database. The book My 60 memorable games door Robert Fischer is technically much better but has a big disadvantage that it stops in 1967. We all know that his best years were just after. An addition or follow-up never happened. Fischer was not anymore interested.

Being slightly lost, I consulted the biggest Fischer-expert in Belgium: Robert Schuermans. I explained him that I was searching a book with a large collection of Fischers games spanning his career but also well analyzed. Old analysis supported by contemporary engines are considered a plus. Anecdotes and side information improve the readability so should neither be neglected. Robert thought for a while but had to disappoint me. The book I wanted, must still be written. A real pity so I asked him which book he liked the most about Fischer. This time Robert didn't hesitate as "My 60 memorable games" is the uncontested number 1 for him.

So I bought this book in de denksportkampioen. I wasn't disappointed. The book is not only very enjoyable to read but it also includes many excellent analysis of the worldchampion himself. This is rare as in that era there were no engines playing decent chess. As Fischer played almost exclusively 1.e4, I became curious of any overlaps with my repertoire. Besides I don't follow any fashion and often play some old lines.

In 5 a 6 games I was lucky to discover Fischer's opinion about openings I also play. The book discuss the game of 62 against Keres which was part of my article old wine in new skins. The most intriguing game from theoretical perspective was for me his Sicilian game of 61 against Reshevsky. The last time I played the classical Sicilian Dragon with Be3 already dates from 1999 when I suffered a scornful defeat against Marcel Van Herck.

I didn't find any improvements for white so I replaced Be3 by Bg5. Fischer however claims in his book that white can create chances without playing 0-0. His analysis looked very convincing so I became interested to find out what our current top-engines tell us about that idea. To revive an old opening, can be useful in practice.

It was no big surprise to discover the engines didn't approve Fischers idea. The score of white in the online openingbook already hinted this. Fischer neither repeated the idea.

Such excursions once again confirm the gigantic gap in openings between the past and modern chess of today. The large part of the openings which were popular decades ago, have been reduced to footnotes in the theory which can only be used as a surprise on masterlevel. So from pure theoretical perspective you better read new books. Anyway these books I read primarily for the historical aspect.

Till today Fischer is a recurring topic in debates. An ultimate collection of his best games well analyzed and bundled in a new book doesn't sound to me useless. For sure we need to start with the 60 memorable games which Fischer chose. Fischer died in 2008 in Reykjavik so likely it is today easier juridical to reuse his work as base. Who (preferable a very strong player) dares as this will be a very big job while there is no guarantee about the return? No Kasparov already had his chance.

Brabo

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