Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Nimzowitsch-Systemsson, 1927

Anderssen started the sacrificial style, Morphy and Gruenfeld the pure attacking style, Steinitz the positional style, Tarrasch the scientific style, Lasker the style of styles, Capablanca the mechanical style, Alekhine a style as brilliant as sunlight. But it is a generally known fact that originality and modernism were introduced by me as my own personal inventions and enthusiastically imitated (without being fully understood) by the whole world of chess. Before my time, chess was so naive and undistinguished! One or two brutal opening moves, each one involving a vulgar, obvious threat, a common, banal sacrifice, a painfully elementary, bestially raw checkmate such, more or less, was the course of chess games before my heyday set in. Then I appeared on the scene and the chess world paid heed. The hegemony of matter was shattered at a stroke and the era of the spiritual began. Under my creative guidance, the chessmen, hitherto nothing but highwaymen, pirates and butcher boys, became sensitive artists and subtle instruments of immeasurable profundity. But why waste words? Accompany me, dear reader to the dizzy heights of the following game.

French Defense, Copenhagen, 1927

1 e4 e6 2 h4!
My very oldest and latest thought in this opening. To the chess addict nurtured on spineless convention, this move comes like a slap in the face--but calm down, dear reader; after all, you cannot be expected to understand such moves. (Forgive me - it is not your fault, until now no one has opened your eyes and ears.) Wait just a little while, and there will pass before you a miracle of overprotection of more than earthly beauty. (I assume that I rightly surmise that you are quite familiar with my great theory of overprotection.)
Black of course has no suspicion of what is coming and continues serenely in classical style.
3 e5!
A move of elemental delicacy. (We detest, as a matter of principle, such words as "power" and "strength"; in the first place, such banal expressions make us uncomfortable; and, in the second place, we like even less the brutalizing tendency which such words imply.) Wherein lies the beauty of 3 e5? Why is this move so strong? The answer is as simple as it is astonishing. The move is strong because it is weak! Weak, that is, only in the traditional sense! In reality, that is to say, it is not the move but the Pawn on K5 that is weak--a tremendous difference! In former times, it is true, it was customary to reject any move which created a weakness. Today, thanks to me, this view is obsolete. For, look, my dear reader, the fact that the Pawn on e5 is weak obliges White to protect the Pawn more and more until at last the state of overprotection arises as it were of itself. But, as we have seen (cf. My System), overprotection is practically equivalent to victory. Hence it follows automatically that the "weak" move, 3 e5, is a certain road to triumph. The rest is more or less a matter of technique.
All according to a famous precedent.
4 d4
Here it is quite clear that it is more profitable for White first to provoke c5 and then play d4, rather than the other way round, which is the customary course. For, if White first plays d4, there follows c5 and White's d-pawn is under attack. But my clever transposition of moves changes the situation completely. For now Black's c-pawn is suddenly attacked by White's d-pawn!
What else can Black do?
5 h5!
All very clever, original and decisive! Of course the ordinary run of people who envy my every spark of genius but cannot follow my line of reasoning for even three paces, outdo themselves in sneering at me with the poison-dripping epithet, "bizarre." The text move creates confusion in the whole Black army and prepares for the annihilating invasion by the Queen 18 moves later.
Naturally not 5...Nc6 6 Bb5! etc. Why should Black play the French Defense only to allow the Ruy Lopez Bishop move after all?!
6 h6!
An avaricious dullard would never hit on this deeply conceived Pawn sacrifice.
After 6...gxh6, White has an even more comfortable game.
7 Qh5!!
The reason for this becomes clear after next move.
Black threatens to begin a successful siege of the weakling at e5 with Bg7. But White forestalls this.
8 Qh2!!
To every fair-minded observer, this move must come as a revelation! All the previous maneuvers now become clear! White has completed his development brilliantly and proceeds to overprotect e5. Against this, Black is helpless.
8...Nf5 9 Bd3
Note the splendid cooperation of White's forces: while the e-pawn and the King Bishop completely blockade Black's position, the development of the overprotective forces takes place behind the broad backs of these sturdy blockaders.
9...Nc6 10 Nf3
As a rule this is a routine move. But here it is strikingly original and as such occupies a place in the treasury of my intellectual property.
Old stuff!
11 b4!
A deep trap, as will soon become apparent!
How Black must have rejoiced when he anticipated his formidable opponent in the occupation of the long diagonal. But...
12 Bf4!!
...how bitterly disappointed he must have been to realize that 11 b4 had only been a trap. The position of Black's Bishop at g7 is now quite pointless. 11...Be7 would have been relatively better.
12...Bd7 13 Nbd2 Rc8
Black no longer has any good moves!
14 Ke2!!
Again, an extraordinarily deep move. White sees through Black's plans, and in addition he prepares a particularly powerful continuation of his strategy of overprotection.
Just what White was waiting for.
15 Ne1!!
This was the point of his previous move! Black is now forced to exchange off the attacking Bishop at d3. But, with that, even White's King Knight enters the fray with fearful effect at d3, while the square f3 becomes available to the Queen Knight. Surely a grandiose piece of strategy. The fact is that I'm a marvelous player, even if the whole chess world bursts with envy.
15...Nxd3 16 Nxd3!
Naturally not 16 cxd3? which would have been quite inconsistent. The Pawn on c2 is unimportant, and Black only wastes precious time by capturing it.
16...Rxc2 17 Rae1!!
White continues his overprotection without much ado.
This counterattack has no punch. Black would naturally like to get a passed Pawn plus a Rook on the seventh, but it is too late for that.
18 Kd1!
Now the menaced Rook must scurry back, for capture on R7 would be much too dangerous.
At last, Black gets the right idea: overprotecting his Pawn at e6. But it is already too late.
19 Re2 Ke7
Introduced into tournament play by myself. See note to White's 14th move. The King overprotects e6.
20 Rhe1 Re8! 21 Nf3!
Completing the overprotection of e5 and thus deciding the fate of the game. Black has no defense. Note the esthetic effect created by White's position.
Now Black threatens to complete the overprotection of e6 by playing Ng7. But White has prepared a brilliant combination.
22 g4!
Much stronger than the obvious Bg5+ etc.
22...hxg4 23 Qh7!!
Now one clearly realizes the masterly understanding of position which went into White's eighth move (Qh2!!).
Had Black continued overprotecting by 23...Ng7 there would have followed 24 Bg5+ f6 25 Bxf6+ Kf7 26 Ng5#. Black's basic error was that he started overprotecting much too late.
24 Bg5#
One of my best games! I am proud of it if only because Systemsson is one of the strongest Scandinavian players. The game made an overwhelming impression on the players and spectators as well as on my opponent. The game has become famous in Denmark as "the immortal game of overprotection."

(Published by Hans Kmoch in the February, 1928, issue of Wiener Schachzeitung)

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