26 October 2009

The 'Clear Head' Theory

Continuing with World Championship Opening Preparation, Karpov told the following story about preparations for the 1972 Spassky - Fischer match.

Suddenly - imagine - I received an invitation to attend the Spassky training session. This was an honor. True, my star too was rising swiftly, my name already carried considerable weight, and I had received my share of support. But all this was new to me, and the backstage preparations for a world title match seemed to me like a secret altar. To be there, to peer into this holy of holies was something I could not have imagined a mere year earlier. And so I went to the Spassky session.

Of course, I was not allowed anywhere near the holy of holies. I was considered a chance person and potentially dangerous. Therefore I was only occasionally invited to take part in some trite and non-essential analysis of one of Fischer's games.

I was amazed to see Spassky doing nothing.

Usually the morning would begin with him enthusiastically recounting, over breakfast, another episode from the Greek myths, which he dearly loved and read before going to bed. Then there would be tennis. Then something else. Anything except chess. At that time he was expounding the 'theory' of a clear head. With a clear head and refreshed, he would, with his talent, outplay anyone. This theory had been invented by his coach Bondarevsky so as somehow to justify the World Champion's pathological laziness.

Although I too consider myself lazy, Spassky's laziness astonished me. I was certainly not impressed by the fact that he had been able to win his match with Petrosian after such 'preparation'. With all due credit to Petrosian, I felt even then that the experience of the match with him could not be simply extrapolated to the coming match with Fischer. These were not just different people; Fischer symbolized the coming of an entirely new type of chess. Was this not obvious?

From Russians Versus Fischer by Plisetsky and Voronkov (p.287). I imagine this was the way players prepared in the pre-scientific (pre-Alekhine) age.

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