24 September 2013

Fischer's Middlegame

After posting The Evolution of Soviet Chess Organization, based on 'Soviet Chess' by D.J. Richards, I started to look for other resources on the topic. One that came to mind was 'Russians Versus Fischer' by Plisetsky and Voronkov (I have the 1994 edition), which I referenced previously in Convergence of Two Themes and Soviet GMs on Fischer's Style. While I did find a few odds and ends relevant to Soviet chess organization, I'll save those for another time.

More interesting was the rediscovery of a chapter (p.234) titled 'Fischer's play: An analysis (The Conclusions of a Special Methodological Meeting)', signed Boleslavsky, Polugaevsky, Shamkovich, and Vasyukov [Vasiukov]. Based on the chapter's position in the book, it appears to have been written between the quarterfinal candidate match vs. Taimanov and the final candidate match vs. Petrosian, both played in 1971.

The analysis gave some valuable insights into Fischer's style together with examples from his play. Here, for example, are extracts from the section on the 'The Middle Game' together with links to Chessgames.com for the referenced games.

'1. He is highly skilled at playing with his pieces.' '2. Fischer calculates swiftly' [no game references]

'3. Fischer has a very good eye for combinations.' '4. Fischer does not seek complications for the mere sake of complications, nor beauty for beauty's sake.' '5. Fischer's attacks, as a rule, have sound positional justification.' '6. When on the defensive, Fischer is very resourceful and ingenious...' '7. Typical of Fischer is a flair for isolating his opponent's pieces from the battlefield. [ala Capablanca]' '8. Fischer displays a distinctive attitude to the balance of material on the board. In the opening stage of the game he fairly often resorts to a Pawn sacrifice' 'At the same time Fischer readily picks up Pawns in the opening and the mid-game even at the price of considerable risk.' '9. Fischer willingly exchanges one type of advantage for another'

The Soviet GMs also detected some weak spots: 'Fischer's mid-game play, like that of any other player, is not devoid of certain faults:'

'1. In some games he accepts too big a risk' '2. In mutually hazardous positions [...] Fischer feels less confident than usually' '3. Fischer is not always at his best when the situation on the board changes dramatically' '4. His playing is sometimes affected by his excessive leaning toward simple and clear continuations'

I find this analysis useful on several levels. First, it catalogs the attributes that top grandmasters look at when they examine the play of their main competitors. Second, it shows how Fischer measured according to those attributes. Third, and perhaps most important, it provides some specific examples of those attributes from real play. Note that most of the examples were from Fischer's most recent games at the time.

I intend to examine in more detail a few of these attributes and examples. One can always learn from the play of top GMs.

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