I believe it was Hans Kmoch who, in an article written for "Chess Review", parodied the annotating style adopted by Aaron Nimzowitch. At that time and still today the article was received with considerable amusement. Now we have an entire book written in a similar vein about Gary Kasparov. It is not such a vicious parody as perpetrated by Kmoch, but undoubtedly at times one could be duped into thinking that Kasparov himself was the author.
The authors, Tibor Károlyi and Nick Aplin, should know a lot about Kasparov's play as they also co-authored the Batsford series "Kasparov's Fighting Chess" in which practically every game that Kasparov played is catalogued. In the current volume they have chosen games that Kasparov lost and very cleverly linked the themes with games of all the past world champions. Tibor Károlyi is also the author of the award winning "Endgame Vituoso: Anatoly Karpov". He has been Hungarian Champion on many occasions and contributes to several British and European magazines.
Here are some of the themes that they have identified:
Karpov - pushing the a-or h-pawns all the way - and win.
Spassky - pressing in a symmetrical queenless opening.
Petrosian - positional exchange sacrifices.
Tal - symmetrical pawn islands of four kingside pawns and a-and c-pawns, whoever exerts greater pressure on the opponent's pawn structure should gain the upper hand.
Smyslov - Using White's queenside pawn majority, spearheaded by the pawn on c5, against Alekhine's Defence and the Panov Attack versus the Caro-Kann.
Botvinnik - Play on the edge of the board, especially the h-file.
To illustrate these themes, games won by world champions are given and annotated, followed by games of Kasparov using the same theme, that he lost!
Of course, one can make a case for Kasparov having his own unique style that would not have need of other players ideas. But chess is not that simple! To become a master of Kasparov's stature it is very necessary to have studied games and styles of past masters and to have drawn conclusions as to how they achieved success and why they lost. Having done so it is natural that some of this knowledge will leak through to one's own style. Indeed, it is very astute of the authors of this book to have recognised this and produce such an entertaining book.
Writing in the first person as Kasparov, their explanation for the purpose of the book appears in the preface:
"My series on the world champions is entering its final phase. In these books, I have covered the development of chess culture. Thank God they sold like hotcakes. I wrote nice things about all 12 champions, which is what they justly deserved, but I only showed the rosier side of their chess.
By now most of the books have been sold, so it is time to tell the rest of the story. Mu career has been the best a chessplayer has ever had and, all things considered, I am satisfied with how things went. On the other hand, I am convinced I did not achieve everything that I could have done: for example, I lost more games than was necessary. and in the present work I reveal for the first time how I came to lose quite a few important games simply because I copied the world champions."
In all the book contains seventy games by Kasparov and a further sixty by former champions. All are rather lightly annotated as compared with Kasparov's comments in "My Great Predecessors" but had the authors tried to follow this example the book would require more than double the 271 pages it now contains.
Kasparov's writing style is slightly condescending in that he is conscious of enlightening lesser mortals of his pre-eminence in the chess world. Károlyi and Alpin capture this style in a convincing manner with just a little satire in some passages.
Each former champion is allocated a chapter starting with Karpov and then moving back to Steinitz. In itself this is a trail of the development of chess throughout the last 150 years.
This is a book to have on the coffee table readily accessible to dip into when other interests begin to flag. It has some instructional value but this is not its prime purpose. Because of the liberal sprinkling of diagrams throughout the text and the light nature of the annotations it is a simple matter to read without the aid of a chess board. Although, having said this, I found myself with a plug-in board in hand at times, having been intrigued by some of the game comments. Above all, however, this is a book that provides light entertainment and is well worth the recommended price of £14.99.
Batsford's presentation of such books is almost impossible to fault and although having a very critical eye for misprints etc, I most confess to have been beaten to find an instance in this volume.
If you are looking for a rest from the rather intensive content of modern-day instructional chess books, this is worth the investment.
As an example of the content please click HERE.