16 August 2012

A Greater Degree of Risk

The chess of GM Svetozar Gligoric has been featured numerous times on this blog -- see, for example, BBC: The Master Game 1981, Three Fischer Games Uncensored, and, on my chess960 blog, Shall We Play Chess960?. It's only fitting that I followup a tribute to him on my World Championship blog, Fortunate with His Temperament, with a matching post here.

Gligoric was one of the early adopters of the King's Indian Defense, and the chapter on that opening in his game collection, I Play against Pieces, is one of the longest of the approximately 25 chapters, each treating a separate opening. He introduced the KID chapter with the following anecdote.

My achievements brought me the FIDE grandmaster title as early as 1951, but the real truth, lurking behind all the results, was that at that time I felt slight creative fatigue and was inwardly seeking to enrich my play because it seemed to me that it had become rather dull and insufficiently aggressive.

Among other things, at that time I was also attracted by the King's Indian Defence and the impressive victories of certain Soviet grandmasters in this system, but I hesitated for several years and didn't dare to change my calm, more 'classical' opening repertoire. I had secret doubts about the very correctness of such a double-edged opening, where Black is a 'bit late' in striking at White's mighty centre.

My creative indecisiveness was broken at the start of the Interzonal tournament in Saltsjobaden 1952. Unlike the first Interzonal tournament in 1948, I came to this one as a renowned grandmaster with higher ambitions, so one can imagine how disappointed I was with myself when in the first round, with Black against Stahlberg in a Queen's Gambit Orthodox Defence, I lost a passive, seemingly simple drawn position. It was then that I decided that in the future I would rather play with a greater degree of risk than lose another game like that.

My next game as Black, in the third round, was the start of my association with the King's Indian Defence which was to last for two and a half decades' In the game, given below, my victory [vs. Geller] in a sharp battle against one of the leading Soviet grandmasters (a success I hadn't achieved since defeating Smyslov in Warsaw 1947!), was all the encouragement I needed to make the drawbacks of my opening play fade away.

Along with the 20 complete games featured in that chapter, the book's last chapter 'My Theoretical Contributions to the Openings' offers even more material.

This defence was my principal and constant weapon as Black for a quarter of a century, during the best period of my chess career between 1952 and 1977, and so it is only natural that I contributed a good number of new ideas and theoretical novelties here.

Perhaps GM Gligoric's most important contributions were from the 25 years when he wrote his Game of the Month column. Have these ever been collected into a book?

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