Lessons from Steinitz

"This little man," said Adolf Schwarz, "taught us all to play chess".

Steinitz started as a dashing attacking player, in the style common at the time, and claimed the World Championship after defeating Anderssen in a match (although the official beginning of the lineal championship began with his match with Zukertort many years later). By the time he played Zukertort, he was playing in a completely different style, and in the development of Steinitz' style we can see the beginnings of modern chess.

Lessons from Judit Polgar

I don't entirely like the parade of endless men in the 'Lessons from...' series, so here's one from the other half of humanity, and a fine Appendix to the list of guys that ever joined the 'Vera Menchik Club'.

Judit Polgar was strongest woman chess player ever. She never became World Champion, and was never interested in becoming World Women’s World Chess Champion ( a title held by her two sisters, Susan and Sofia). She was in the world top ten and improving when she retired.


[Event "Buenos Aires Sicilian"]

Safe and solid?

From a recent email
"The most important single feature of a chess position is the activity of the pieces... (opening, middle, and especially endgame)... The primary constraint on pieces' activity is the pawn structure."
-- Michael STEAN
[Event "Merseyside League"]
[Site "?"]
[Date "2019.10.15"]
[Round "?"]
[White "Blades, Tony"]
[Black "Webb, Tom"]
[Result "1-0"]
[ECO "A45"]
[PlyCount "49"]
[EventDate "2019.??.??"]

Lessons from Anand

Anand's easy manner sits on top of a breathtaking attacking verve and capacity for creative counterplay.


The imaginative attacking finish seems to belong to an earlier era, while the opening play is all modern. The Scandinavian leads to an early release of central tension, and, if Black can develop smoothly, will have no problems. This line is an attempt to prevent Black from developing smoothly, and no end of rule-breaking goes on to that end.

[Event "Biel"]
[Site "Biel"]

Lessons from Carlsen

Carlsen often seems to win without doing anything in particular, but doing it very well. Commentators have tried to explain his peculiar gift by appealing to 'nettlesome' moves, moves that have no obvious dangers, but perhaps are surprisingly awkward to meet.


Carlsen, particularly when younger, has been noted more for his avoidance of sharp and theoretical lines, than having signature opening systems. He often seems content to aim for a 'normal' White plus in the opening, hoping to build on it later on, particularly in blitz.

Lessons from Kramnik

We have entered an era where it is not always obvious what the best players are doing. They are better than previous generations, they play all positions well, and they are fighting against players who also do everything well, and what makes the difference is not apparent to me.

But while Kramnik's play is subtle and deep, there are games which makes it look as though what he is doing is as simple as it looks.


Kramnik brought to several apparently settled opening systems a new clarity in pursuing White's main plans. In the Grunfeld, it was White's

Lessons from Kasparov

What can we learn from the play of the strongest player of the last century? His dynamism, industry, memory and willpower are all hugely impressive, but can they be imitated successfully at all? I guess each aspect of his game might inspire us, but there are instructive moments.


Kasparov had that restless drive for the initiative that we previously saw with Alekhin. I was horrified when he destroyed Hubner as Black in a line that I had seen as a fine way to suppress any Black initiative. I expect that, at bottom, this is a case of falling behind in development,


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