My CG.com moniker comes from a Spotlight on Openings (Chess Review, 1969) written by GM Bill Lombardy. He analyzed several games with a system involving g3, f4, Nh3->f2 and called it the Paris Attack.
I learned to play chess during the Christmas holiday, 1966. I had $2.00 left over from shopping for gifts and used it to buy a chess set. I was quickly hooked! I read Koltanowski's weekly column like some people read the bible. My mother found a copy of Smyslov's Games of Chess at her work library. WHOA! Chess books...
Chess literature has been an enduring passion. My first buy was from the famous bookseller, Al Buschke. I bought Sokolsky's 1. b4, Trifunovic's Grunfelda, Bogolyubov's 1.d4 and a lovely early edition of Bilguer's Handbuch all for the princely sum of $26.00. I have approximately 5000 books in my collection. Although I continue to purchase selected newly published volumes, my intention is to pare down to 2000 or so. The stark reality is I will almost certainly never read nor use many of them and the market for chess books is in a slow but inevitable collapse.
Hardcopy media is going the way of the Dodo. Once everything is on the ‘cloud’ history can either be deleted or rewritten by the .0001 percenters. It will be panem et circenses for the rest of us.
I play rated tournament chess for seven years. My highest rating was just north of 2000 though I quickly fell back to the low 1900s. That was 1973 and I haven't played competitively since. I've always suspected that my affection for hypermodern openings kept me from attaining master level strength. Still, my local chess hero Master Bob Wendling, once said to me, "You play the opening like Botvinnik. Too bad you play the middle game and the endgame like <ParisAttack>!" But, I had fun!
The high points of my chess life: Beating a Senior Master (as white, Closed Sicilian), drawing with a Senior Master after having a forced mate-in-five (as black, Najdorf Bobotsov-Browne variation), beating a former Wyoming champion with 1. e4, e5; 2. Nf3, Nc6; 3. Bd3?!, beating a three time Colorado champion with the Gurgenidze Robatsch, meeting Bobby Fischer for all of five minutes when he borrowed three of my books for his match with Larsen, a wonderful telephone conversation with Hans Kmoch, interviewing Lajos Portisch and of course the visits in New York with the delightful and knowledgeable Al Buschke. I suppose the low points were losing the state junior championship twice and accepting I would never get very good at the game. Fortunately, I was able to turn my energies to a career trading commodities and currencies. I’ve written several books on the latter subject.
The chess openings have also always been of interest, with emphasis on hypermodern sorties. Lessor used defenses I consider with untapped potential: Franco-Benoni, Polish Defense, Symmetrical Defense, Dory Defense. As White I’ve had good success with the Sokolsky on RedHotPawn. My ‘specialty’ for many years has been the Robatsch, especially the Gurgenidze varietals. Of course I am also fond of 1. g3 though there is not much literature on that move save for the Gerzadowicz trio and a ChessBase video.
I also enjoy studying and identifying styles of the top players of today and yesterday. I feel I've learned the most from Botvinnik (find a target early and drill), Keres (bring your pieces to better and better squares) and Gligoric (it’s the center, stupid!). Other favorite players: Morphy, Pillsbury, Nimzovitch, Flohr, Boleslavsky, Stein, Petrosian, Fischer, Lombardy, Tal, Karpov, Mamedyarov and Ding Liren. There are many paradigms for organizing the great players’ styles. I begin by sorting them into two groups of either ‘tactical geometers’ such as Tal and Kasparov or ‘strategic geometers’ such as Fischer and Capablanca.
Generally, I think new players learn the most from the 'transparent' and 'aggressive' GMs - Morphy, Pillsbury, Tarrasch, Alekhine, Keres, Gligoric, Spassky and are wise to initially avoid Nimzovitch, Capablanca and Fischer (deceptive simplicity), Tal (otherworldly although I believe the key to his combination-rich middle games is in how he gains tempi and open lines in the openings), Petrosian and Kasparov (unless you also have a thousand eyes). But when I taught chess years ago, no one played a game - theirs or anyone else's - until they could demonstrate up to an efficient K + B + B v K mate. The endgame has all the basic chess skills and ingredients in digestible form – visualization, calculation, pattern recognition, planning, strategy and ‘chess thinking.’
I am also interested in considering the skills necessary to be a superior (>2400) chess player. I believe the core native skill/ability is how the chess geometry is visualized and manipulated in the brain - and that to a very large degree 'you either have it, or you don't.' Obviously, I don't. My best guess is the information is processed as a language; perhaps accounting for chess, music and mathematics prodigies. Somewhere I recall reading that Capablanca’s autopsy showed very deep convolutions (folds) in his brain.
The native ability requirement might explain why hundreds of books written on 'tactics' have done so little for so many. Pattern recognition is dependent upon the core 'visualization' skill. While such efforts as classifying patterns and tactical motifs may be interesting - they are descriptive not predictive. This is also the problem with most chess annotations. Solving tactical problems (lots of them!) is a constructive exercise, but the value of same will be limited by the native visualization abilities of the solver. Practical Chess Analysis by Buckley is one of the few books offering 'train your brain' ideas for the core visualization skill.
I rank the Best of All Time: 1) Fischer, 2) Lasker, 3) Capablanca, 4) Karpov, 5) Kasparov, 6) Alekhine, 7) Botvinnik, 8) Tal, 9) Rubinstein, 10) Petrosian. My rankings can change quickly. If I go over Petrosian's games, for example, he'll move up a couple of notches! Of course such lists are extremely subjective; fun, but somewhere between silly and meaningless - "Who is the poorest billionaire?" What are the criteria, how do you quantify the criteria and matrix of relationships between them? Soon we will have engines emulating historic players with current book knowledge and the problem will be solved…or, will it?
My nine Game Collections:
1) "Through the Years" - 200 games I have found most interesting and/or instructive.
2) "Triumphe die Hypermodern Schachpartie" - 150 games showing the six 'themes' representing what I call the tapestry of hypermodernism. I've also cataloged variations and noted hybrid motifs in my favorite defense, the Robatsch, with illustrative games.
3) The Spassky Battery – A ‘motif’ I identified some years ago while playing over the games of Boris Spassky.
4) The English According to... How different masters have played the English Opening.
5) The French According to ... How different masters have played the French Defense.
6) The Sicilian-Najdorf According to... How different masters have played the Najdorf.
7) The Caro-Kann According to... How different masters have played the Caro-Kann.
8) The Ruy Lopez According to... How different masters handled the white side of the Closed Ruy Lopez.
9) The Sicilian Scheveningen According to...How different masters handled the black side of the Sicilian Scheveningen.
I've concluded classical chess is in its winter years though at 66 I am also; it won't matter much to me what the game's status is in 20 years. I do not think 960 or other varietals - even were they accepted - could stay Moore's Law and increasingly sophisticated heuristic algorithms such as Monte Carlo sampling. Google’s AlphaGo beat Go champion Lee Sedol 3:1 using a combination of neural networks/machine learning and Monte Carlo sampling. Most observers hadn’t expected such an outcome in Go – with a computational space much larger than chess – for five to ten years.
At least Go could buy some time going to a 21/23 or 25 line board. Sadly, no such 'quick fix' is available for chess. I've played on a 10 x 8 board with an extra piece between the B & N. The 'Underdog' as it was named by Eugene Salome is similar to the older 'Boatman' which moves two squares diagonally and can jump as a N. While the super-battery of Q-B-U can be potent - it really doesn't increase the computational space enough to matter. With the experimental freezing of light, true quantum computing cannot be far away..."It’s new day, it’s a new way" - Grace Slick at Woodstock.
Professor Salome and I had the distinction of publishing the first book on the Fischer-Spassky 1972 match; it was in bookstores the day after the match ended.
I am very happy I was around for the game B.C. - before computers! With them I feel we’ve lost more than we have gained.
My ‘chess projects’ are 1) Completing the Fischer-Spassky 1972 games with annotations from the 35 sources I have available and, 2) A multi-volume work on the Robatsch. The former may evolve into 'Chess En Masse' - a website with the capability of analyzing and simultaneously displaying game variations/sub-variations/sub-sub-variations based on a chess program, Chessalyzer, I wrote some years ago. The latter a project I had planned with the late opening guru, Jim Bickford for the fourth Syzygy chess book series. Alas, only the North Sea Defense was published and the Milner-Barry Gambit finished but never published.
All in all, Chess has been a wonderful lifelong friend. The $2.00 I spent that late December back in '66 was a great investment, indeed!