16 November 2006


Trying to understand Nimzovich can be maddening. In 'Chess Praxis', he included a useful 'Register of Stratagems'. It is a glossary of terms like 'centralisation', 'prophylaxis', and 'blockade', with references to games in the book where the principle is explained or applied. At least that is what it appears to be.

One of the terms in the register is 'mummification', with references to six games. Unfortunately, none of those games explains what the term means, and it is not self-explanatory. Only three of the referenced games use the word, a fourth uses the equally vague word 'obstupefaction', as in 'the reply 13...b5 would only have led to obstupefaction after...' The two other games don't use the term or anything close.

The position given as an example of obstupefaction looks like an extreme example of a blocked position, where neither side is able to play for a Pawn break. The first use of mummification is in a note to the following position.

Dresden 1926
Nimzowitsch, Aron

Johner, Paul
(After 11.f2-f4)
[FEN "r1bq1rk1/p4ppp/1pnp1n2/2p1p3/2PP1P2/1NPBP3/P5PP/R1BQ1RK1 b - f3 0 11"]

Nimzovich played 11...e4. He noted, 'Had Black played 11...Qe7 and retired, after 12.fxe5 dxe5 13.d5 the Knight to 13...Nd8 (13...e4 is better), the sequel would be 14.e4 Ne8 with general mummification.'

The game was also included in 'My System' as no.35 of 'Illustrative Games'. There he wrote, '11...Qe7 was also possible, for if, say, 12.fxe5 dxe5 13.d5, then 13...Nd8 14.e4 Ne8, and Black by 15...Nd6 and 16...f6 gets a strong defensive position.'

Does this mean that mummification = a strong defensive position? I doubt it.

To play through the complete game see...

Paul F Johner vs Aron Nimzowitsch, Dresden 1926

...on Chessgames.com. BTW, I know I've used two different spellings for Nimzo's surname. That's another maddening aspect of researching his work. Web searches on his name are as cumbersome as can be.

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