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Saturday, November 27, 2010

Interview with Yuri Averbakh

While browsing the excellent site, Chess Café, I came across an interview with Soviet GM Yuri Averbakh conducted in 2002. In Part 1 he touched on the rumor that Paul Keres had been forced to avoid challenging Botvinnik for the world championship. Since Keres lost his first four games against Botvinnik in the 1948 World Championship tournament, suspicions were raised that Keres was forced to throw games to allow Botvinnik to win the Championship. It was said Soviet chess officials gave Keres strong hints that he should not hinder Botvinnik's attempt to win the World Championship and Botvinnik discovered this about half-way through the tournamen. Botvinnikt said when he discovered this he protested so strongly that he angered Soviet officials. Most people believe Keres probably did not deliberately lose games to Botvinnik or anyone else in the tournament. Samuel Reshevsky once said he did not think Keres could have ever won the world championship because his play was too unsteady. Interesting reading.
Averbakh Interview Part 1                  


  1. For sure, this is a nice interview.

    Can I tell you something ? I'm building my personal chess study program based on your advice in How To Improve at Chess booklet.

    I was searching for a basic endgame book, and found an interesting one from Averbakh titled Endings Essential Knowledge. It seems to be a good starting point.

    I've seen many games in small tournaments at a chess club near home, and definitively I am convinced that one of the virtues that makes a good chess player is the endgame skills.

    I'm starting to seriously study chess in a reverse way, first studying the endgame, then I'll look for middlegame tactics and strategy, and at last the openings.

    There's a very long way to go, requiring a lot of effort, patience, discipline, hard work, but it will reward me with the pleasure of winning players I never thought I'm being capable to.

    Your comments are welcome !

    Thank you and have a nice day !

  2. Sounds like a good plan. The advice isn’t mine, but is a collection of advice culled from various sources like US Senior Master Ken Smith (Smith-Morra Gambit), CJS Purdy, a local veteran master I knew and gleanings from reading about masters’ thought processes. This latter makes for interesting reading and a lot can be found by Googling “how chess masters think.” I know the advice works because it got me from being a perennial 1600 to ~2100 before deciding to concentrate on correspondence chess.

    I remember Averbakh’s book and in fact may have owned it at one time. The endgame book that helped the most was one by the British player, Peter Griffiths, but it’s long out of print.

    In any case the goal is to become an all around player with at least a nodding acquaintance with openings, strategy, tactics and endings. This should get one to a level that is above average. After all, your average player these days concentrates mostly on openings and tactics. So, if you know something of them PLUS strategy and endings, you are going to be better than average!

  3. Yeah, you really wrote on the first lines of your booklet that "I did not discover the methods outlined here on my own". You're being honest and loyal to your readers, and I really appreciate this.

    I was confused while trying to build my personal study program... so many chess books, so many authors promising miracles and magical methods for chess improvement. Really annoying to see this tsunami of seemingly easy ways to be a better chess player.

    But I have to testify that becoming a bit better chess player is a matter of hard work. And I prefer to learn this science through layers of knowledge, experience, etc...

    So, this is the real thing : chess is hard work, but it can be very rewarding when you learn from well seasoned people, who share the knowledge only for the pleasure of teaching others to improve.

    This is the main reason I gifted a promising talented young boy here in my city with a complete chess set ( chessboard, pieces and clock ) plus a very good book on chess basics.

    I can't describe how good was to see his smiling so happy. That's the feeling of retribution, and it is one of the best things in life.

    Thank You !

  4. It’s important to know that the ideas presented here are not mine because my opinions carry no weight but if top level titled players are offering the advice, that’s different. The problem is that much of what these players say gets buried in all the noise about studying nothing but (often inferior) openings and tactics to the exclusion of everything else.

    Just look at all the 1400’s struggling to reach 1600, 1600’s struggling to reach 1800, etc. and see what it is they are studying. Most of them get frustrated because they never make it…something is missing. I watched one 1400 for over two years; he changed his openings (mostly unsound gambits) every couple of months and spent a ton of money on opening books in the process, and practiced tactics constantly. This approach got him to about 1700 briefly, but he slipped back to barely 1600. He could beat 1400-1500’s consistently but always, as he put it, “almost beat” 1700-1800’s. I gave him the same advice I’ve posted on this Blog but he made a lot of derogatory comments and said it wouldn’t work. He said he knew what he needed to do to reach the next level…change openings because he was losing with the ones he was playing and study more tactics. He finally quit playing in frustration. I know this advice works because it’s exactly what took me from 1600 to 2000. Now, reaching master is a different story, but reaching at least 1800 should not be that difficult.