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Saturday, July 30, 2011

Wilhelm Steinitz and the Classicists : Closed Game.

Pin It Wilhelm Steinitz (1836-1900) was a chess philosopher who hungered for

essences. He sought all his life for generl laws and loathed exceptions. When he finally revolted against Romantic doctrines, the break was sharp and irrevocable.


Steinitz doctrinaire spirit sought to rule out all human weakness. If he lost with a particular line, he would continue to try it agains and again. This peculiar tropism was due to the beilef that his failure to succeed with the line lay in his own human failure. Yet his very success was due to his passionate love of chess, his faith, his tenacity, not to his "system" It was typical of him to undertake the ungrateful task of a protracted defense for the sake of the most trifling, but permanent, positional advantage. He was the personification of the short term evil versus the long term good. Steinitz strove with might and main to impose order on the Irrational to which the Romantics wholeheartedly surrendered. he made the closed game his special domain because, unlike the open game, which is in constant flux, the
closed position is characterized by barricaded pawn structures and is thus more amenable to systematic approach.
Steinitz was the first to realize the necessity of evaluating a position - then acting on that evaluation. This objectivity forbade him from entering a speculative combination, and then trusting to luck It occured to him that the master should not seek winning demands of the position, Steiinitz felt morally impelled to to punish the demands of the position, Steinitz felt morally impelled to punish the crime. Steinitz himself made no attempt to win in the early stages of the game, as Morphy had done, because he was convincedthat this was possible only after his opponent had made an error and not before. So he sought out of the openings minute advantages which gradually added up to one of the big
winning combination. In an age where plyaing to win from the very start was considered the only honorable course, such a doctrine was assured of a sornful reception. Not surprisingly, all his victories were in fact begrudged.

In 1866 Steinitz wrested the world title from Anderssen, who promptly conceded that Steinitz was even better than Morphy. yet so bitter was the enmity against Steinitz's style of play that even after he had held the world championship for twenty years, a self appointed committee of three amateurs claimed that "Morphy could have given Stenitz Pawn and move." And a noted critic once wrote that Stenitz's two match victories over Zukertort were attributable to the fact that "Zukertort was not yet Zukertort in 1872 and was no longer Zukertort in 1886".

Steinitz held the world title from 1866 until 1894. During this period he was so anxious to vanquish those who scorned his "system" that his style became provocative. Stenitz often invited premature attacks. He made the most unusual moves in order to provoke his adversaries into playing for a win and thus overreaching themselves when the position did not really justify such an attempt. Quite characteristically, steinitz once wrote, "A win by an unsound combination, however showy, fills me with artistic horror."
A winning combination, he was the first to perceive, is possible only after one side has erred. Make no errors, therefore, and one should never lose!

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