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Wednesday, July 4, 2018

A Brilliant Positional Attack by Nimzovich

     From January 26 to April 19, 1931 Nimzovich was living in Switzerland as a guest of the Berne Chess Club thanks to the support of an anonymous member. During the three months he lived in Berne, Nimzovich taught two chess courses lasting 2 to 2-1/2 hours for 9 evenings, gave talks and played simuls. 
     In addition, he played seven matches against Swiss players. His stay culminated in by his winning a Swiss masters tournament with a score of 7.5-0.5. 
    Nimzovich described the course he taught as being for stronger players he he covered centralization or some other strategy. At the end of the lecture the players had to play a game against each other under his supervision and he pointed out their errors with special emphasis on applying whatever strategy he had just lectured about. 

Training Match Results: 
Defeated Zimmermann 1.5-0.5 
Defeated Voely 1.5-0.5 
Defeated Gygli 2.0-0.0 
Drew Johner 1.0-1.0 
Defeated Michel 2.0-0.0 
Lost Naegeli 0.5-1.5 
Defeated Grob 2.0-0.0 

     In 1931 Nizovich would have been coming off his second place finish behind Alekhine at the 1930 San Remo tournament. That was to be his last great result. He played in Zurich in 1934, but only managed to score +6 -3 =6 which was only good enough to tie for sixth place with Bernstein. He lost to Alekhine, who finished first ahead of Euwe and Flohr, but losses to Johner and Henneberger ruined his chances of a better showing. 
     Then in February of 1934, he played an eight game match against Stahlberg in Gothenburg, Sweden. After four games Nimzovich was leading 2.5-1.5, but then collapsed, losing three in a row and drawing the last game. There is a good account of the match at Chessgames.com HERE
     Although he had long history of heart trouble, at the end of the year (1934) he became ill and was bedridden for three months before dying of pneumonia at the young age of 49. 
     Out of the training matches he played in Berne, one of his games against Walter Michel (November 26, 1888 – September 30, 1969) was of special interest. Michel was Swiss Champion is 1926 and played for Switzerland in four Olympiads: 1927, 1931 and 1935., 1928.
     In the following game the boring looking position at move 15 turns out to be fascinating and is an exceptional display of Nimzo's positional skill. In How To Reassess Your Chess author IM Jeremy Silman stated it was one of his favorite positions.  By the way, I rate HTRYC very highly and only wish I had it 50 years ago. Generally I find Silman's advice first rate. 
     Silman is on record as saying that an engine is not the non-master's friend and most players would be better served trying to understand things themselves, in human terms. Ideas are what's important, not engine evaluations. His point is that players are so intent on watching engine evaluation numbers that they fail to notice the game’s beauty and instructional value and miss the chance to learn something. And, he is correct. Dennis Monokroussos' blog has an interesting discussion on this subject HERE

     The Michel-Nimzo game is a perfect example. Silman wrote How To Reassess Your Chess back in 1993 when engines were nowhere near as good as they are today, so it's not surprising that he missed some of the nuances of the game. Also, I suspect that authors are sometimes silent on moves that may upset the apple cart when they are trying to make a point, especially in opening books on risky gambits. In the final analysis though, Nimzovich's concept in this game was brilliant and is deserving of all the accolades it's been given. 

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