Saturday, December 20, 2014
Kramnik on Smyslov
Smyslov is truth in chess! Smyslov plays correctly, truthfully and has a natural style. By the way, why do you think he lacks that aura of mystique like Tal or Capablanca? Because Smyslov is not an actor in chess, his play is neither artistic nor fascinating.
I would recommend a study of Smyslov’s games to children who want to know how to play chess because he plays the game how it should be played: his style is the closest to some sort of ‘virtual truth’ in chess. He always tried to make the strongest move in each position.
Smyslov has been underestimated. He mastered all elements of play. Smyslov was a brilliant endgame specialist, all in all his play resembled a smooth flow, like a song. When you look at his games, you have that light feeling as if his hand is making the moves all by itself while the man is making no effort at all – just like he was drinking coffee or reading a newspaper! This has the feel of Mozart’s light touch! No stress, no effort, everything is simple yet brilliant. I like this feature of Smyslov and I am fond of his games.
I feel a bit sorry that Smyslov did not hold the title for a longer period because, in my view, he really is an outstanding chessplayer. He played in the Challengers Final when he was 63! This indicates the highest class. Chess players who adopt an intensive approach normally can’t maintain their position at the highest level at that age. Smyslov could, and it was not because of his energy, drive or character – he had a deep understanding of chess. Smyslov played differently than his predecessors. He was a master of positional play and surpassed his predecessors in this area. He was also good at opening preparation and tactics but no more than that.
Smyslov did not have incredible conceptual ideas but he was very accurate and carried out his ideas ‘millimetre by millimetre’. Probably, he was the first chess player to reach the highest level of accuracy. To a certain extent, Smyslov was the pioneer of this style, which was later brilliantly developed by Karpov, i.e. the gradual mounting of positional pressure based on the most accurate calculation of short lines. Read the whole 2005 interview.