Why is romance a waste of time

From romanticism to today: the eternal struggle for the center

The early chess masters at the beginning of the 19th century are now considered to be representatives of the "romantic school". At the time, chess was about throwing yourself at the opposing king with all your might, dragging him out into the open and killing him.

Wilhelm Steinitz (1836-1900), the first world champion, started out as a romantic, a child of his time. Later he cleaned up the romantic school properly. Steinitz was the first to understand and formulate basic strategic principles, for example that we should carry out attacks where the opponent reveals a weakness to us.

Steinitz met the fate of many great minds who were ahead of their time. He was laughed at, his ideas were not taken seriously. Only the second world champion Emanuel Lasker(1868-1941) and his long-term rival Siegbert Tarrasch (1862-1934) recognized and propagated the importance of Steinitz ‘basic research. Since then, Wilhelm Steinitz has been considered the founder of the “modern school”.

Among other things, Steinitz taught that at the beginning of the game we should occupy the center with one pawn, or even better with two pawns. This teaching was steadfast, until the 1920s, among other things, the Hungarian Richard Reti(1889-1929) claimed that the center didn't have to be occupied become. The main thing is that it will mastert.

Reti and his disciples who "Hypermodern“, Invited their opponents to build a powerful peasant center and then put it under pressure until it crumbled. But initially they felt like Wilhelm Steinitz 40 years earlier, nobody took their ideas seriously. “We have always done it this way” is still an effective pseudo-argument against change in 2018.

Whether romantic, modern or hyper-modern; today they are all considered that classicon whose shoulders we stand. All of the classics are united by the knowledge that the center is actually the central part of the chessboard. Every game, then as now, begins with a fight for the center. Whoever masters it (and it can actually be done from a distance) is in a better position.

When at the beginning of 2017 at the Tata Steel tournament in Wijk an Zee der Pole Radoslaw Wojtascek and the Indian Adhiban Baskaran sitting opposite, Adhiban provoked his opponent with an opening (the "English Defense"), which is considered dubious because it neglects the fight for the center.

Radoslaw Wojtaszek - Baskaran Adhiban, Wijk an Zee 2017

The Fianchetto … B7-b6 along with… Bc8-b7 makes sense in this and related positions especially when Black with his bishop on the long diagonals can prevent the white man from building a pawn phalanx in the center using e2-e4. But here the white man can move directly e2-e4. That is why a solid move like d7-d5 would have been better to mark out a bastion around the center and prevent e2-e4.

Nevertheless, Wojtaszek, a grandmaster with 2,750 Elo, moved 3.Nb1-c3. Of course, such a strong player knows that e2-e4 is the best move, but he also knows that the path to advantage is riddled with pitfalls. To 3.e2-e4 Bc8-b7 4.Bf1-d3 f7-f5the matter becomes very specific and rather complicated. Although Schwarz attacks the Steinitz center in the hypermodern sense, he has managed to find an unfavorable constellation. If white does everything right, he can keep his center stable.

Since the Pole had to assume that his opponent had been preoccupied with the complications after 4… f7-f5 for hours before the game, he still refused to accept it, although in theory the matter is considered favorable for White. A moral victory for Adhiban on the third move.

Three moves later the battle for e4 raged on. With 6… f7-f5 Adhiban finally (?) put a stop to White's center advance e2-e4.

A great opportunity for Wojtaszek to demonstrate to the audience what distinguishes a grand master from a minor master. Who wouldn't automatically develop a piece towards the center with 7.Ng1-f3? Only Ng1-f3 would be a mistake with which White would completely give up control of e4. Black would have at least an even game immediately.

For a top 20 player, such a position is like asking them the multiplication table. Developing the knight is right, but Wojtaszek pulled him to h3. The idea is to follow through with f2-f3 and Nh3-f2 and then push through e2-e4 and put Bb7 aside. In this way, White retains the prospect of advantage.

When the Überlingers competed with the Steißlingers the other day, a fight for e4 and the sphere of influence of Bb7 should have raged in one of the games.

Jürgen Lerner - Manfred Siems, Überlingen 2018

As with Wojtaszek-Adhiban, black… b7-b6 came at an unfortunate point in time. White can play e2-e4 directly and calmly look forward to what happens next. The thought process that led White to play 3.c2-c4 instead is probably less complex than the one that led Wojtaszek to 3.Nb1-c3. 3.c2-c4 is more of a move from the department “I've always done this.” And allowing change, deviating from the well-trodden path, we have known since Steinitz, is not easy for the chess player.

Three moves later, the black man could have enjoyed the fact that his misplaced fianchetto now makes sense after all.

He can effectively prevent White from e2-e4 by making the best and most obvious move 6… Ng8-f6 plays, develops a figure on its most natural, most active, most central field. Alternatively, he would have (like Adhiban) over 6… f7-f5 Thinking about it and being able to rub your hands because the white man (unlike Wojtaszek) has built in the f2-f3 option.

Unfortunately, we cannot explain the thought process that led Black to put the ugly move 6… Ng8-e7 on the board and allow 7.e2-e4. But in the end it was a good thing, because the opponents subsequently played a game with some instructive moments, which is worth examining more closely at this point.

Sequel follows.

Posted in Tasks, Opening Principles, Chess History, Center ControlBaskaran AdhibanEmanuel LaskerRadoslaw WojtaszekRichard RetiSiegbert TarraschWijk to ZeeWilhelm Steinitz