Friday, May 25, 2007

Re-reading My System and Surprisingly Enjoying It

I'm currently re-reading Nimzowitsch's My System, which I read maybe 12 years or so ago. I am amazed how often now, as I study other chess material, I keep getting hit by deja vu: "Hey, I was just reading about that in My System!". It's hard to put into words, but it's like flashbulbs going off in your head. The revelations aren't as concrete and mundane as "here's a good versus a bad bishop; here's a space advantage" but more abstract ideas about central control, exchanges and tempi, endgame coordination, etc. And I"m only a third the way through (I'm taking time to digest the material).

It's strange, since before re-reading it I thought that I was pretty much familiar with all his concepts. I was expecting more of a "yeah, yeah, rooks like open files and the 7th rank, the center is important, blah blah blah" eat-your-broccoli-it's-good-for-you experience the second time around, but instead it's been quite an eye-opener. I can see many weaknesses in my game addressed here. Also, since I've been playing main line, open games lately, a lot of the material is particularly relevant to 1.e4 e5 setups.

I think that the reason for the impact must be the selection of examples. A lot of them aren't clear cut, or seem unusual; others are superficially "boring" positions like Four Knights or Giuoco Pianissimo old-school stuff but are used to highlight fundamental concepts.

Some of the analysis no longer stands up to Fritz, but are still enlightening. I may point out some of these flaws in a future post. Sometimes the ugly truth gets in the way of a good narrative or instructive example....I've seen this with Chernev's books as well. One thing I found with Kasparov's Predecessors books is that, in the quest for chess truth, the books become dense to the point of being unreadable. It sort of reflects the modern trend of concrete analysis trumping generations of accepted wisdom.

If you're D-class and above, and either haven't read My System or haven't read it in a long time, I'd really encourage you to take another crack at it. I'll probably be doing the same with Kmoch's Pawn Power in Chess when I'm done with it... another old, less-readable book loaded with important, fundamental, revelatory material.

In other news, I'm also close to the end of Bronstein's Zurich 1953, which has been a long project of mine (I have a horrid tendency to bounce between books and not finish a whole one).

No comments: