03 January 2009

Soviet GMs on Fischer's Style

In Dragons and Concreteness, I started a summary of Fischer's playing style as presented in Predecessors IV, where, drawing from various sources, Kasparov quoted the opinions of top Soviet GMs. The first set of opinions (p.316) was taken from Russians Versus Fischer by Plisetsky and Voronkov. Plisetsky was also Kasparov's assistant on the Predecessors series; I'm gradually coming to the conclusion that he was responsible for writing many of the historical passages, the glue that holds the books together. These first opinions were originally collected as group preparation for the 1964 Amsterdam Interzonal, when the Soviets were not aware that Fischer had declined to participate. Excerpts:

Korchnoi: 'Fischer's main strength is his versatility. In his style a striving for the initiative and "respect for material" are harmoniously combined.'

Polugaevsky: 'When Fischer knows what he has to do, he plays very accurately. But if the position is of a non-concrete nature, Fischer often loses the thread and plays planlessly.'

Geller: 'Both in the opening and in the middlegame, Fischer's main strength is that he quickly and excellently solves simple functions. He does not devise deep plans, but leaps from position to position.'

These passages are not in my copy of Russians Versus Fischer (RVSF for the rest of this post), published by Chess World Ltd, 1994. The bibliography of Predecessors IV (MGP4) lists as source the Russian title, published Moscow 2004. Of the other English language editions -- Chess World Ltd, 1998; Thinkers' Press, 2002; Everyman Chess, 2005 -- it's not clear which editions are based on which version of the Russian editions.

MGP4 also mentions Fischer's desire to bypass the 1964-65 FIDE qualification cycle and play a direct match with the World Champion. 'The negotiations with the Soviet side (and, to all appearances, the financing of the match) were taken on by the businessman Alexander Bisno'.

The next opinion recorded by Kasparov was at the time of the 1967 Monte Carlo (Monaco) event, held seven months before the 1967 Sousse Interzonal. Fischer finished first at Monaco, 1/2 point ahead of Smyslov, who was 1/2 point ahead of Geller and Larsen.

Geller: 'Fischer's moves are rational and constantly pursue concrete aims. Even if the opponent is considerably weaker and it would appear that he can have a bit of "fun", the American operates like a splendudly programmed calculating machine, which is indifferent to who is sitting opposite it.' (MGP4 p.324)

The next recorded opinion followed the 1970 Palma de Mallorca Interzonal. Fischer finished first with 18.5 points, 3.5 ahead of the runners-up. Taimanov also qualified with 14.0 points.

Taimanov: 'Botvinnik says that Fischer's style reminds him most of the style of the young Smyslov. The same clarity, the same classical approach to the building up of the position. For this reason, when you are playing Fischer, you don't feel a great sense of danger. You can guess each of his moves. It is another matter that each of his moves may be slightly stronger than it appears, as used to happen with Smyslov. (MGP4 p.368)

After Fischer's success at the Interzonal, Taimanov was his first opponent for the Candidate Matches.

Realising what a difficult task he faced, Taimanov turned for help to Botvinnik, his first mentor and the 'world champion in preparing for competitions'. Mikhail Moiseevich, who a year before [MW : 1969?] had himself been intending to play Bobby, generously shared his conclusions with his pupil, and even presented him with a fairly detailed dossier on Fischer. (MGP4 p.370)

That 'dossier' can be found in RVSF • To be continued... (along with a closer look at the Bisno business)

No comments: