I feel we are living in amazing times for chess. We have top players playing online and over the board every single minute of the day. We have the chance to enjoy their encounters in real time, like for every major sport! Then we have a plethora of chess books on every possible topic. While I do believe chess improvement books are important, and of course even more important are opening books to sharpen our opening repertoires for weekend chess tournaments, I must admit I enjoy when titled players be they GMs or IMs bring me pieces of chess history analyzed under their understanding of the game.
This book is the story of the rivalry between Zukertort and Steinitz which culminated in the first World Championship. The book creates a complex portrait of these two personalities, and their rivalry through their writings, games, and fragments the author deems important.
Hendriks also created a series of exercises at the end of some chapters to give the reader a better understanding of the complexity of the games these giants of the past played.
Yes, when we watch a game thanks to an IM or GM annotations everything seems simple and clear, when we use an engine, we see how human are these players and faulty their analyses. But if the engines and annotations are taken away, we fall from our world of super-human chess understanding, to a low club player level, where many things are not so clear.
Before going further into describing the book, I’d like the readers of this article to discover few things which can make them salivate!
New in Chess already published a book on Zukertort, by Jimmy Adams, in which there are over 300 games played by Zukertort. Chessbase 17 with its new Megabase 2023 has about 492 games played by Zukertort.
Thanks to one of the latest Chessbase 17 features, I can ask the program to analyze all the games played by Zukertort and tell me which one are the most beautiful to see.
Here I collected a sample of Zukertort’s games which Chessbase 17 Beauty feature has given 3 stars which is the maximum, notice not all games are won, yes, there is beauty also in hard fought battles which don’t have a decisive result:
I did the same for Steinitz. Maybe many didn’t see his games, hence it’s difficult to understand who was the first world champion. A difference we see between these two champions is the number of games played throughout their careers. Zukertort had a little more than 490 games and Steinitz nearly 900. In chess we have discovered the number of tournament games played by young players can influence their development, and improvement.
Here a sample of Steinitz most beautiful games according to Chessbase 17:
Another formidable player from the past, who also had chess books written on him was Joseph Blackburne,
He had about 1100 games in Megabase 2023, But I also have another book on him with about 1000 games, in algebraic notation.
Here a sample of Blackburne’s most beautiful games, always using the new Chessbase 17 feature:
Returning to the book: Hendriks is inviting us into a journey through time, a peculiar thing we can do with chess, and thanks to the selection of writings, games, and fragments creates a vivid story which unfold in front of our eyes bringing us into a distant past which page after page becomes more alive and real.
Thanks to this book we witness the birth of modern chess.
Final thoughts: A lot of good books are coming out, giving us something more than chess improvement and opening repertoires. These books are making the past alive, and let us enjoy chess over the board at a new level. Watching these masterpieces from the past, played between gladiators trying to top each other in tournaments and matches is a fantastic experience. Books like this one help to understand and meet chess players of the past, relive their forgotten games, the drama, the tragedies, in a way that not many other sports can. In this sense the pleasure of watching a game, on a good board, with heavy pieces can give us a series of emotions we wouldn’t be able to feel on the screen of a computer. For this Christmas try to give yourself the true gift of chess through books like this one which make us experience chess over the board.
One last thought, I was able to create with few clicks of the mouse and include the games in this article, thanks to Megabase 2023! There are nearly 10 million games, and more than 100thousand annotated, it’s clearly the best resource and reference for those who are interested in chess improvement, but have life, work, and family… hence not much time left for chess!