Sunday, July 21, 2013

In Search of a Chess Hero

I think Nigel Davies blog is a must read for anyone interested in chess and chess improvement. A few days ago Nigel posted a very interesting and to the point article on the topic of "Suitable Chess Role Model". Many Chess scholars have suggested that it is wise for improvers to pick a Chess Hero to study but Nigel takes it a few steps further and offers a few criteria for the choice of a Chess Hero. Here is a bullets from Nigels selection criterias:

  • Active between 1920 - 1970
  • Did not specialize in gambits or king fiachettos
  • At some time point among the Top 50 in the world
  • Improvers < 1500 should pick a player who played e4/d4 and who responded  "1. e4 e5" or "1. d4 d5"
My first choice for a chess hero (Bent Larsen) did not qualify and my second choice (Ulf Andersson) also missed the mark. Since I am semi-patriotic when it comes to chess, I am in search for a Scandinavian Chess Role Model. I might be forced to include the Baltic states in my search sphere. I encourage all my readers to aid me in my search. My top candidate as I write would be Gösta Stoltz who (at least in the pre-Andersson era) was considered to be Swedens best chess talent ever.

There is a book available occasionally in used book store with a collection of Gösta's finest games. Bonus points are awarded for a suggested chess hero who is available in one or more books.


  1. I completely agree that The Chess Improver is a must-read blog, especially the articles by Nigel Davies himself : always the right length and to the point ( & often with a splash of humour to make the point ).

    I also liked the idea and gave it some thought for me, personally, but for you...

    Your last phrase is the killer "who is available in one or more books", and you probably have an advantage since most Swedish masters are not represented in English !

    My first thought was Gideon Stahlberg, but I don't think his openings meet the requirements. Ulf Andersson is a brilliant choice, especially for the older player, as he operates in the endgame, with steady opening play.

    How about Bengt Ekenberg...seems to be meet quite a few requirements ? No idea about published books though.

    Personally, I have always admired Richard Reti, but he fails in that he played the King's Gambit a lot in his earlier career, before he invented Nf3 !

    Frederick Yates, as an English player might do, or George Thomas, but the problems seems to be that the King's Indian crops up a lot ! Maybe choose two heroes :)

    Max Euwe might be useful one, but again the issue of Kings Indian.

    Problem could be that the search is more enjoyable that the actual study !

    Great idea though ;-)

  2. I am and has always been interested in thé great dane Bent Larsen. Bent was an amazing chess writer and his book on his selected games is a canonical chess book and still in print. A friend and a chess scholar advised against studying Stoltz. Stoltz was clearly a player with potential but perhaps a raw talent .

    Yes, book hunting and chess history might very well become distractions!

  3. Yes, I should add that I am also a Larsen fan..I tracked down his "Selected games of chess" in English descriptive notation on hardback on ebay, and picked up the seminal ZOOM book when it re-appeared a few years ago for the grand sum of about 15 euros. Now if I actually played through that ZOOM book, and understood it, I would be a force to reckon with.

    Larsen is also one of the reasons I picked up the Philidor. The Larsen variation of it, is tremendous, but having played it a couple of times, it really is a toughie for amateurs.

    A lot of the time, I am in awe of grandmasters and what they actually see and do in chess, but then again I could feel the same about any sportsmen/professional at the top of their game, be they footballer, horseman, politician or writer.

    Somehow, though, chess GMs seem to offer a more pure view of this ability, since they operate in full view of the public, are often humble, and give us the encouragement that we can be like them too.

    By the way Larsen's comments on his game against Petrosian, Santa Monica, 1964...

    "In fact I have always had a feeling that the King's Indian is an incorrect opening ! Because I also believe that all the leading Soviet Masters know more about the opening than I do, I feel I am embarking upon something very dangerous every time I play it against one of them. On the other hand, this may make me more watchful"

    Could possibly be applied to gambits, or any amateur facing what he/she thinks is a more prepared opponent !

  4. ZOOM is one strange bird. Speaking of birds, "Larsen Spiller Bird" is high up on my desiderata

  5. Another thing: Lars Bo Hansen tries to chess styles in his fine book on strategy (Foundations of Chess Strategy?)

  6. Looks like someone else thought of Max Euwe as a role model as well... else they've been reading the comments here !

    Just have to ignore his King's Indian games ;-)

    On the Hansen ideas of chess player styles, Jacob Agaard commented on this in his blog about chess improvement , which is also a good read these days.

    "Larsen spiller Bird " I have never heard of, and the Danish version wouldn't be overly useful to me ( unless I was just collecting, of course :)