Anton Korobov (born 1985) is a Ukrainian Grandmaster (2003) and four-time Champion of his country (2002, 2012, 2018, 2020). His peak rating was 2723 in January 2014, and he has been ranked as high as World #25 on a couple of occasions.
He is a formidable player on the international circuit, having won such events as the Czech Open, Abu Dhabi Masters, and Poikovsky Karpov Tournament. In addition, he has collected individual gold medals at the Chess Olympiad and European Team Championship.
Anton Korobov is currently the top seed at the 2021 Sunway Chess Festval in Sitges, Spain — an event he won in 2019. In Round 3 he played a game that should make it into future textbooks: the isolated pawn couple that appears reminded me of Akiba Rubinstein‘s classic game against Georg Salwe in 1908.
Korobov’s opponent is Yosef Theolifus Taher (born 1999), International Master (2018) from Indonesia and winner of the 2018 Asian Universities Chess Championships (Men).
He gradually improved his level, competing in lower divisions of Coburg 1904, Barmen 1905, and Ostend 1907 — the latter event a 30-player round-robin lasting six weeks!
Nimzowitsch hit the big time in Karlsbad 1907, tying for fourth place behind Akiba Rubinstein. He continued to prove he was a top player and received an invite to St. Petersburg 1914, but did not reach the finals (won by World Champion Emanuel Lasker).
Nimzowitsch fled Latvia during the Russian Revolution in 1917, eventually settling in Denmark. In the 1920s he won several elite events, reaching his peak by winning Karlsbad 1929.
One of the five-best players in the world in the late 1920s and early 1930s, Nimzowitsch could not secure financial backing for a World Championship Match. It was instead Efim Bogoljubov who got two chances at the throne in 1929 and 1934 against Alexander Alekhine, before Max Euwe finally wrested away the title in 1935 — the same year Nimzowitsch breathed his last.
Leader of the Hypermoderns
The hack-and-slash Romantic Era (think Adolf Anderssen and Paul Morphy) was emblematic of 19th century chess. The reaction was the positional logic of the Classical Era led by Wilhelm Steinitz, Lasker, and Siegbert Tarrasch beginning in the last quarter of the 1800s.
By the 1920s, it was time for another sea-change. Nimzowitsch, Richard Réti (1889-1929), and Gyula Breyer (1893-1921) led the Hypermodern Era of the 1920s and 30s. Influence the center from afar with pieces, using plenty of fianchettos! Entirely new opening branches were explored, including Alekhine’s Defense (1.e4 Nf6), Nimzo-Indian Defense (1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 e6 3.Nc3 Bb4), and Grünfeld Defense (1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 g6 3.Nc3 d5).
It’s notable that the top players of the era including Alekhine, Rubinstein, and Jose Capablanca embraced Hypermodern concepts and incorporated them into their own play.
Literary Legacy of Aron Nimzowitsch
Nimzowitsch may be the only top player more remembered in chess history for his books than his games! I wonder how he would feel about that?
Before moving to NImzowitsch’s most famous works, I’ll mention Как Я Стал Гросмейстером (How I Became a Grandmaster) which contains some of his early games and suggestions for improvement, but has not been translated into English (as far as I know). I’m very interested in reading this book one day, though my Russian is poor.
This small (<50 pages) exploration of Nimzowitsch’s ideas on blockade is a great introduction to his theories and also contains some of his early articles. He is over-the-top as usual and, never one to shy away from a pissing contest, leaves ample room to attack Tarrasch and others.
The most influential chess book of the 20th century, and there isn’t a close second.
Nimzowitsch begins with what he calls The Elements. My System is considered a middlegame textbook, but in addition to strategic ideas like open files, passed pawns, and pawn chains, he includes tactical ideas like pins and discovered checks!
I’ll note that his remarks on endgame technique are very helpful as well, especially on “welding” your forces together and “general advance!” Keeping this in mind has helped me overcome my opposition more easily when I have a clear endgame edge.
The second part of the book is all about positional play, and here Nimzowitsch delves into the concepts that define him including prophylaxis, overprotection, and the isolani.
It’s time for me to pick up My System again! After I cure my laziness, of course…
NImzowitsch annotates over 100 of his own games. This was the first work I read by the great author, when I was rated roughly 1000. My advice…don’t read Nimzowitsch until you are at least 1600, and maybe higher! Start with Blockade because it is short and easy to get your teeth into, then My System. If you want even more, there is Chess Praxis as well. And finally…
This tournament book is disappointing! Nimzowitsch doesn’t cover all (or most) of the games, and the annotations are sparse. It seems the entire exercise was an effort to make a few bucks while attempting to secure a title match with Alekhine. Buy it if you love collecting chess books or are a Nimzowitsch diehard, but don’t expect great instructional value here.
Aron Nimzowitsch died in Copenhagen in 1935 at 48 years old.
His contributions to middlegame theory are second to none. Nimzowitsch also had a profound influence on openings, especially the Nimzo-Indian and Queen’s Indian Defenses, but also the French, Sicilian, and others.
This man left his fingerprints all over the chess world, and his influence is felt to this day.
What do you think of Nimzowitsch? Is he regarded appropriately, underrated or overrated?
Harry Nelson Pillsbury: A Top Player Gone Too Soon
Harry Nelson Pillsbury (1872-1906) was one of the world’s best players, but died at only 33 years old. U.S. Champion from 1897 until his death, he was the top American player between Paul Morphy and Frank Marshall.
Pillsbury won the celebrated Hastings 1895 tournament ahead of World Champion Emanuel Lasker and former Champion Wilhelm Steinitz. He also left behind several past and future Challengers: Mikhail Chigorin, Siegbert Tarrasch, Carl Schlechter, David Janowsky, and Isidor Gunsberg.
The Crowning Moment of his Crowning Moment
Pillsbury won the month-long round-robin at Hastings by defeating Gunsberg in the 21st and final round with an endgame breakthrough that will live forever in chess history.
White to play.
Passed Pawns: Hard to Contain in the Endgame!
Harry Nelson Pillsbury gave us a powerful display of protected passed pawns and connected passed pawns being a huge help in winning games! Besides purely “chess” factors, decision making becomes a lot easier for the side that possesses them, while the opponent needs to be very careful.