16 June 2008

The Meaning of !? and ?!

Continuing with Fischer - Keres, Zurich 1959, Keres played 38...f4 in the diagrammed position. Fischer gave the move a '!?' and noted,

A risky selection in time pressure, aimed against 39.Kd3?? Bf5+. On 38...Be6 39.Rc6 is strong. Best is simply 38...Kf6 39.Ra7 (not 39.f4 Be6 40.Rc6? Rg7 41.Kf2 Rxg2+!) 39...Bc8 40.Rxf7+ Kxf7=

Kasparov copied this analysis and added,

After missing a certain draw, Keres is not yet losing the game, but he simply loses a Pawn.

This is straightforward enough, except that Kasparov assigned '?!' to Keres' 38...f4.

Zurich 1959
Keres, Paul

Fischer, Robert
(After 38.Kf2-e2)
[FEN "8/2Rb1rkp/p2p4/1p3p2/3p4/5P1P/PP2K1P1/1B6 b - - 0 38"]

Informant defines '!?' as 'a move deserving attention' and '?!' as 'a dubious move'. This means that Fischer's use of '!?' does not conform to current practice. I like to think of '!?' as halfway between a neutral no comment and '!', while '?!' is between neutral and '?'.

This leads to two questions: Assuming that Fischer's use of notation is consistent, in what circumstances did he apply '!?' and '?!' to other moves in his book? When did Informant's definition become standard practice?

1 comment:

Tom Chivers said...

I alwasy thought !? meant 'interesting' and I suppose by definition interesting moves deserve attention :)

Maybe it was precisely interesting because it involved taking a risk in time-trouble!? And likewise, maybe there's no contradiction with Kasparov's notation if objectively the is move dubious as well?!