Heroes Of Classical Chess

Learn From Carlsen, Anand, Fischer, Smyslov, and Rubinstein

Craig Pritchett

Reviewer: John Donaldson
Everyman Chess
224 pages

Compared to more prolific authors, the output of the Scottish International Master Craig Pritchett might seem modest with only a half dozen titles over 30-odd years but they all happen to be excellent and well worth reading. His latest book, HEROES OF CLASSICAL CHESS will only add to his reputation.

Pritchett writes in the introduction:

This book celebrates the play of five great heroes of classical chess. In doing so it aims both to entertain and instruct the reader in the art of playing “classically direct” chess, as it has developed over the last hundred years or so.

“Style” is an elusive quality in chess. By “classically direct” chess I imply a kind of universality of play that embraces all styles, in a sense, and transcends narrow boundaries – a style that is based on such overarching attributes as clarity, energy, toughness, ambition and a fundamental sense of analytic “correctness”.

My heroes are all supreme in the art of divining and following the strategic and tactical threads of a game. They see chess primarily as an organic whole, not as a series of artificial phases. They don’t attack or defend for the sake of it, but only when the position demands it, and they are equally at home whether playing the opening, middlegame or endgame.

The choice of Rubinstein as the first player to be featured makes perfect sense. Though his last tournament game was almost 80 years ago there is no question that the great Akiva was a trailblazer – the first player to treat all phases of the game as closely connected. One of the featured games, Rubinstein-Tarrasch, Carlsbad 1923, is an especially fine example of his “holistic” approach.

The five-featured players (Carlsen, Anand, Fischer, Smyslov and Rubinstein) are each given seven games to illustrate their special abilities. These games are heavily annotated, primarily with prose but concrete variations are given when needed. Pritchett does a fine job of explaining the background behind the games as well.

HEROES OF CLASSICAL CHESS is a book that belongs in every chessplayer’s library, especially young ones who are apt to spend most of their time studying sharp openings with a computer and are in need of developing their chess culture.