Recently I started to think about why the late chess coach Mark Dvoretsky, who passed away recently, was so well acclaimed as a teacher of the game. It struck me that the real reason was that Dvoretsky wasn’t afraid to talk about some of the most difficult themes that crop up in chess.
It would have been easy for him to grind out a living talking about the sort of subjects that most gravy-trainers tend to fall back on, like showing off some wonderful attacking game featuring a stonking combination at the end, while showering such games with the usual platitudes and cliches.
But no, Dvoretsky had a real love of chess which shone through in his writing, and loved to get down to the nitty-gritty, and try and uncover the engine room of chess and the process that players go through when they consider their moves.
“The unexamined life is not worth living”
is a typically profound quote from Socrates. And exactly the same logic can be applied to chess. Quite simply you must analyse your own games if you want to improve. Only that way will you be able to identify where you have been going wrong, what mistakes you have been making and what to do about them.
The Philidor defence is one of Black’s most solid defences to 1.e4. He aims to hunker down with as flexible position as possible and expand later. Recently this defence was given a boost by the “Black Lion” (I thought this might be something from one of David Attenboroughs programmes), a rather scary sub-variation that has been extolled by no less than the Ginger GM himself.
However, I wish to circumvent Black’s usual way of playing by recommending a system involving an early g4. This system is risky but it does have the benefit of immediately giving Black huge problems to solve. The whole idea of playing g4 in the Philidor I believe was first popularised by the ever inventive Latvian Alexey Shirov, who also created a similar idea against the Semi-Slav.
As we are on the eve of another world chess championship match, it seems like a pertinent time to talk about the oldest former world champion still alive, Boris Spassky, who was born in 1937. The reason I find Spassky interesting is because he’s the only world champion I’ve ever played. Before I played him I thought “yes, great player but nothing really more than that”.
Editors note: Danny sent us this article a long time ago, it’s my fault it wasn’t published earlier!
Spassky was always considered perhaps the first great “universal player”. During our analysis I got the distinct impression that his instincts lay in the area of attacking the opponents king, so really to be considered such an all-round talent was a great compliment.
In this article I want to look at some of the earliest games of Spassky, and try and explain how he was able to use these attacking skills at an early stage in the game.
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