Wolfgang Uhlmann (1935-2020) was eight-time champion of East Germany between 1955 and 1985, and an early International Grandmaster, earning his title in 1959. He reached the Candidates Quarter-Final in 1971, but was eliminated by Bent Larsen.
Uhlmann was arguably the greatest expert on the French Defense in the history of chess. He replied to 1.e4 with 1…e6 almost exclusively. This is exceedingly courageous in high-level play, when all of his opponents would have been expecting it! To this end, I still highly recommend Uhlmann’s 1995 book Winning with the French, as his insights are invaluable even if some of the theory has moved on.
Today we’ll look at Uhlmann’s sparkling victory with the Black pieces against Miguel Cuellar Gacharna (1916-1985) in the first round of the 1973Leningrad Interzonal. Cuellar Gacharna was an International Master (1957) and nine-time champion of Colombia between 1941 and 1971. During his career he scored several victories over top players including Efim Geller, Viktor Korschnoj, Miguel Najdorf, Oscar Panno, and Samuel Reshevsky.
Unless you are married to 1.e4 until death-do-you-part, opening with 1.Nf3 seems very appealing because of the flexibilty it allows in the closed openings. You can weave in and out of different systems based on your preferences or the opponent you are facing.
Prepare an opening repertoire based on main lines, then play it. Start with 1.e4, 1.d4, or 1.c4. Your rating will thank you. Don’t get cute. More often than not, you’ll confuse yourself or you’ll wind up in lines your opponents know better than you do!
There is one more move to seriously consider that doesn’t get mentioned nearly as often:
1.g3 — A reasonable choice!
Obviously, this move commits White to a kingside fianchetto; otherwise, I think it could be a good choice for the right player. Black cannot be sure what exactly he’s facing, or not facing: 1.Nf3 takes away the King’s English (1.c4 e5), the Benko, Albin, and Budapest…but it also creates limitations against the Queen’s Gambit, Grunfeld, and King’s Indian, for example.
Arthur Bisguier(1929-2017) was a grandmaster (1957) from New York. The 1954U.S. Champion won clear or shared first place at the U.S. Open five times between 1950 and 1969. He also represented the USA in five Olympiads between 1952 and 1972.
Bent Larsen (1935-2010) was a top player, and a famously combative one, often employing risky openings with both colors. This may have extracted more points than usual against relatively weaker opposition, but sometimes things went badly wrong, as here.
How to Get Better At Chesscontains answers from Grandmasters and International Masters about their thoughts on chess improvement, motivation, study methods, etc.
I can’t remember how I discovered this book, but I’m glad I did. It was hard to put this book down, and I read it all in a few sittings.
Because the interviews were collected in the late 1970s and 1980s, this book doesn’t talk about analysis engines or databases at all … I find this refreshing! The respondents also don’t give too much advice on openings.
You’ll find answers given by players like Nick DeFirmian, Larry Evans, Bent Larsen, Vladimir Liberzon, Viktor Kortschnoj, Yasser Seirawan, and lots more.
The players often have conflicting opinions, but that shows there isn’t just one recipe to success as a chess player. I find it inspiring that different approaches can be highly successful. Find what works for you.
The authors also includes a selection of games.
If you’re a fan of “thought-provoking” chess literature, I consider this book a must-buy!