22 March 2010

The Investigatory Tendency

Coming to the end of this series on World Championship Opening Preparation, it's appropriate to quote Botvinnik, the first of the World Champions to document his own method of preparation. The following is from his preface to his book on Karpov's three 1974 candidate matches, 'Anatoly Karpov: His Road to the World Championship' (p.vii, my excerpt is abridged).

In 1938 I suggested that a chess player's strength could be determined by four factors. The first of these is chess talent. Without a specific chess talent one cannot become a strong player.

The second factor is character. And not only competitive character, which is usually identified with will to win, tenacity in defense, resourcefulness, and penetration into the psychology of the opponent. Of no less importance is how a player behaves when he is not at the chess board, when he is not taking part in a chess event.

The third factor is health. Although chess is an intellectual exercise, it involves nervous strain, and a player is called on to bear a heavy work load.

And, finally, the fourth factor -- special preparation. It is useful for every master to have his own theory of openings, which only he knows, and which is closely linked with plans in the middlegame. It is very useful, but -- alas! -- it is by no means everyone who is capable of doing this, and many players do not attempt such work.

In order to operate successfully in this field, one should have not only a capacity for hard work, but also a talent for searching, for investigation. When such a major talent appears, he indirectly influences the play of other grandmasters; in studying his games, other masters discover the aspects of chess theory on which it is then necessary to work, and the investigatory tendency in chess triumphs. If there is no such leading investigator, then it is the pragmatic approach that triumphs.

But if in recent years it is pragmatism that has prevailed, this does not mean that grandmasters may rest content -- there is still work to be done, and special preparation is still necessary.

That last paragraph diminishes the effort made by Fischer, who worked just as hard as any of the Soviet champions, if not harder. The rest of Botvinnik's preface is generally critical of Fischer's importance to the development of chess. Was this Botvinnik's real opinion or was he expressing ideas expected by the Soviet chess establishment?

I wonder if Fischer ever prepared for the aborted 1975 title match with Karpov.

1 comment:

Temposchlucker said...

He reveals a continuous need to adapt among grandmasters. Since there seems no physical or mental cause to get worse in chess before you are, say, 65 or so,there must be another reason why grandmasters deteriorate in chess when aging. The failure to adapt can be such reason.

When a grandmaster writes himself off due to aging , he forgets to make efforts adapt. Korchoi shows that it is possible to adapt at hijgh age, when you realize that that is the work to be done.