11 March 2015

Hitting the Books


A distinctive element of GM-RAM: Essential Grandmaster Knowledge (2000) draws in some readers and pushes many others away. Rashid Ziyatdinov's book contains diagrams without analysis. The author explains that the book is more of an exam than an instructional book. As such, it is an open book exam that can be taken and retaken until the desired score is achieved. Co-author Peter Dyson suggests that GM-RAM, "can be thought of as both a study outline and as an evaluation tool" (9).

Fifty-nine "classic games" are the source for 120 middlegame positions. Ziyatdinov addresses the definition of "classic". Games are not classic merely because they were played a long time ago. The games in GM-RAM:
...have been analyzed in great detail by many strong players from different periods, different schools of chess, and different ages and generations. It is only after a game has withstood these many different perspectives--these "tests of time"--that it can be considered a classic. (77)
Ziyatdinov directs his readers to analysis of these games by other writers. Alternately, he writes, "a chess trainer can help teach the necessary knowledge" (13). He provides a list of references. This list offers a secondary curriculum. Most, if not all, of the the endgame positions in GM-RAM can be found in Yuri Averbakh's Comprehensive Chess Endings, which comprises the bulk of the texts listed for endgame study.

The middlegame books listed are another matter. Most of the games are from the nineteenth century, but the recommended middlegame books include the two volumes of My Best Games of Chess by Alexander Alekhine; and Bobby Fischer, My 60 Memorable Games. Also listed are Averbakh, Chess Middlegames: Essential Knowledge; Paul Keres, and Alexander Kotov, The Art of the Middle Game; and Hans Kmoch, Pawn Power in Chess. There is minimal analysis of the games of Adolf Anderssen and Paul Morphy in these books.


For the past few months, I have been systematically working through Ziyatdinov's fifty-nine games at the rate of one each week. This past week, my game has been Bird -- Morphy, London 1858 (chessgames.com link). I have not done well on my study of this game. The week has been filled with activities that interfere with personal study, and an exciting new book arrived as well, Encyclopedia of Chess Combinations, 5th ed. (2014), putting my chess study time on another course. Hence, my study of this game will carry over another week. I will press on, though, adding this week's game: Morphy's Opera Game.

I have print editions of three good books on Paul Morphy: Philip W. Sergeant, Morphy's Games of Chess (1957); Macon Shibut, Paul Morphy and the Evolution of Chess Theory (2004); and Valeri Beim, Paul Morphy: A Modern Perspective (2005). In addition, I have the Kindle edition of David Lawson, Paul Morphy: The Pride and Sorrow of Chess, new. ed. (2010) and access to older books, such as Frederick M. Edge's 1859 Paul Morphy: The Chess Champion, via GoogleBooks. Other books that contain analysis of Bird -- Morphy include Garry Kasparov, My Great Predecessors, part I (2003); and Max Euwe, The Development of Chess Style (1968).

Kasparov's book offers a good entry point to the most important historical analysis and sometimes modern computer evaluation of this analysis. It behooves me to invest the time to work through the analysis of this week's and last week's games in all of these books.


Ziyatdinov's GM-RAM contains two essential middlegame positions from Bird -- Morphy. These are separated by a single move. The positions are before 17...Rxf2 and after 17...Rxf2 18.Bxf2. Studying Kasparov's analysis last night focused my attention much earlier in the game.

White to move
After 5...d5
Kasparov credits Johannes Zukertort with having pointed out the improvement from this position that refutes Morphy's dubious opening choice. Bird could have gained an advantage had he properly applied knowledge from the ancient work of Pedro Damiano.

Euwe does not offer a source, but notes, "Nowadays it is known that the answer to Black's chosen variation is 6.Nxe5! dxe4 7.Qh5+, White getting an irresistable attack in return for the sacrificed piece" (29).

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