Engaging essays on chess and chess players by the Dutch grandmaster
In the 1920s, gloom-mongers predicted the death of chess – the players’ technique and knowledge would soon reach such heights that they would no longer be able to defeat each other. Every game would end as a bloodless draw. Bobby Fischer, the 1972 world champion, has also predicted the game’s decline, saying that studying seems to have become more important than playing. The top players’ technique has now improved enormously since the 1920s and the introduction of computers has led to great leaps forward in chess players’ theoretical and tactical insight. The result of these developments however has not been the predicted death by draws, but modern top level chess: lively, aggressive and exciting.
Developments in international chess organisations have been less pleasing but no less spectacular. The recent schism in the dictatorial world chess federation fide has led to a situation in which no fewer than three chess players currently lay claim to the title of world champion: Gary Kasparov (with his very own pca), Anatoly Karpov (fide) and Bobby Fischer, who never defended his fide title.
With Schitterend schaak, Hans Ree has chronicled chess in the 1990s, whom some consider its golden age. With a chess player’s passion and a journalist’s impartiality, he describes the struggle between Kasparov and Karpov, a struggle that has gone on for more than ten years, both on the chessboard and beyond. He details the exciting matches that led to Short supplanting Karpov as Kasparov’s challenger; the far-reaching influence the Soviet government and the kgb had on world chess until the late 1980s; and the bizarre decrees the fide has made in recent years through its current president Kirsan Iljumzhinov, who moonlights as president of the Russian republic of Kalmykia. The book also includes thoughtful pieces on the first professionals in the nineteenth century and the world champions who predated Kasparov.