Chess Lesson with FIDE Master Dennis Monokroussos
The World Chess Championship started this past Saturday, November 9, and it is the most eagerly awaited title match in many years. The challenger, 22-year-old Magnus Carlsen of Norway, has captured the imagination of the chess public in a way that no one has since perhaps the young Garry Kasparov, or maybe going even further back to the phenomenon that was Bobby Fischer. Carlsen’s charisma doesn’t come from the kind of dynamic, outspoken personality evidenced by Kasparov or Fischer, and his chess tends to be more technical than flashy. The cult of Carlsen comes instead from two things: his results and his will to win.
Carlsen became the highest-rated player in the world when he was just 19 years old, and he has already become the highest-rated player in the history of the game, breaking the record set by Kasparov in 1999, who in turn had been the first to break the rating record set by Fischer back in 1971. (Are you noticing a trend yet?)
With all this talk about Carlsen (and Kasparov and Fischer) one might not remember that he is not the world champion. That title still belongs to the Indian legend Viswanathan Anand, who has been the world champion since 2007 and among the world’s elite for nearly a quarter of a century. He became a grandmaster before Carlsen was even born, and while his results the last three years or so haven’t been up to his peak there can be little doubt that he will be extremely well-prepared for the match. If he plays his best chess, the match will be close. So let’s give the champion his due. Carlsen will have many more days in the sun, but for now let’s give the chess champion his proper respect, and see what he can do when he is well-prepared and playing great chess. The following game was played earlier this year against world #2 Levon Aronian, and is a masterpiece that can be appreciated by fans of all levels.
So what’s the lesson? Before we get to that, have a look at this very old game, played by the great Akiba Rubinstein, one of the very best players of the early 20th century.
Did you notice any similarities? I hope you did. While watching Anand’s game live on the internet, I was quickly reminded of this game, and many others were too. In fact, Anand himself pointed out the similarity in a post-game interview. I therefore propose two lessons from these games. First, chess is beautiful! All of us enjoy winning, but the reason we spend our time trying to win at chess rather than some other game is because we’re taken by its beauty. A great game is a work of art. Second, it’s good to know classic games – not only because they are beautiful, but because they can help us win. Seeing powerful patterns primes us to spot them when they are or can
become available in our games. If even a legend like Anand can benefit in this way, we can too!