07 March 2011

18 Memorable Games, Full Circle

The series that I started more than three years ago, 18 Memorable Games, a comparison of Fischer's and Kasparov's annotations, is finally over. What did I learn from this exercise, based on the published analysis of the two greatest players of all time? Probably more than I realize and certainly more than I can document in a single blog post.

Most importantly, I learned to what extent Kasparov's My Great Predecessors relies on computer analysis. Every improvement offered by Kasparov on Fischer's play and analysis is confirmed by the engines, which indicates that the engines were the start point for analysis. Kasparov's analytical predecessor, GM Huebner, also seems to have gone this route. Both players are known for their concrete approach to chess, where the calculation of variations takes precedence over all else, so their use of engines conforms to that approach.

If the Predecessor books offered nothing more than reams of computer analysis, a digital data dump, then they wouldn't be worth buying or studying. Fortunately, there is much more to them than that: the selection of games is first rate; the identification and evaluation of many monumentally unclear lines in those games will keep armchair analysts and their own chess engines busy for years to come; the narratives tying the games together offer a historical perspective that only a world class player can provide; and Kasparov's personal observations, whether you agree with what he says or not, add a human touch that is often missing in the dry compilations of professional chess historians.

As for Fischer, writing thirty years before chess computers attained super grandmaster strength, his positional intuition cut to the core of complicated positions. In contrast to Kasparov, who has a tendency to overanalyze, to analyze the unfathomable, Fischer often summarized an evaluation in a few words and he was usually right. Like Capablanca and Karpov, he just knew where to place his pieces to get the most out of them and it is a great tragedy of 20th century chess that Fischer and Karpov never met over the board.


For future ease of finding related ideas, I like to pull my posts together with links. The first half of the series ended with 18 Memorable Months, where nine games are linked, and the second half started with About Face to Fischer (and Larsen). The games covered in the second half were:-

Along the way I discovered a few more games that I had overlooked the first time, where Fischer drew or lost, documented in 18 -> 21 Memorable Games, and I covered one of those in Fischer - Geller, Skopje 1967, as a follow-on to Fischer - Geller, Bled 1961. Geller was, after all, one of Fischer's toughest opponents. All of their games are worthy of study, but I'll leave that as a future project.

1 comment:

BelfastChild said...

This is an astonishingly obvious thing to do - compare the (presumably) independent analyses of two of the greatest players - probably THE two greatest players - of all time. Why didn't I think of that?

Tell me, was it worth it? Kasparov's books are full of lines of such depth that they are far beyond my capabilities. Fischer's book is more approachable. But the combination of using both, and taking 3 years to do, must have improved your understanding no end. Can you tell me that I should do it too? And if I do, will I play better chess?