09 November 2010

More Watson on Huebner

In Using Computers to Call into Question, I quoted a John Watson review of 'World Champion Fischer' by Robert Huebner (2003): 'The core of the CD is Robert Huebner's analysis of Fischer's play, which parallels that of Alekhine in his CD that I previously criticised.' Curious about Watson's review of Huebner's previous work, I found Book Reviews by John Watson : #42, subtitled, 'Chess CDs: Coming of Age?'.

ChessBase continues to be the leader in CD chess products. Here I look briefly at 5 new examples, 3 of which I like very much, one which depends entirely upon the audience, and one which has some redeeming features, but its most important segment is in my opinion a 'pile of crap' (with a nod towards Tony Miles).

This last is Robert Huebner's 'World Champion Alekhine'. The redeeming features have to do with its biographical and historical essays. These can be informative; the one that struck me as truly unique was a review of Alekhine's tournaments, including crosstables. The photographs in this section were the real treat; they are numerous and span his career, including looks at many well-known opponents.

Unfortunately, the CD features an 'analysis' of Alekhine's play and of his writings. All you have to do is read the 'Table of Contents' (a sort of summary of 23 Alekhine games) to see how harshly and negatively Huebner assesses both. For the record, I also looked carefully at several of the heavily-annotated games, which are in the same unimaginative spirit but more boring.

Anyway, in Huebner's view of the world, Alekhine had terrible weaknesses in every single aspect of the game, including technical and psychological ones. Here's his entire summary of Alekhine's play and annotation in Game#2: 'Ruining the pawn structure - materialism; underestimating the active counterplay of the opponent - strategic deficiencies in the opening; bad positional judgment - defensive possibilities of the opponent are not exhaustively scrutinized - lack of criticism towards the own conduct of the attack.' [...]

Then we have the usual Huebner analysis that drives everyone away from his work: it seems that he's always buried in some detail so many moves and subvariations away from the original game that Kasparov himself might have trouble remembering where he was; and remarkably, the simple moves are often neglected. I'm sure that Huebner gets some sort of personal satisfaction from using untold hours (and presumably his computer) to denigrate Alekhine's play. To me, however, all this huffing and puffing reeks of snobbery and narrow-mindedness. Perhaps if it weren't so easy to do this kind of analysis and criticism, I might at least admire the 'scholarly' aspects of this work. But I'm sure that I could write the same boring critique of Huebner's own games and character (duplicating the tone would be difficult) if I wouldn't feel cheap by doing so.

To conclude, someone else may find this a brilliant, objective criticism of a World Champion's play. I myself think that Huebner's work in 'World Champion Alekhine' is unimaginative and narrow-minded. Those interested in photographs and historical information might want to give it a try.

Ouch! Although the review isn't dated, the list of titles at the top of the review shows that they were all published in 2001. Has Chessbase dared to publish any of Huebner's work since the Fischer CD in 2003?

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