Here Yusupov played 8 ®h3. Watson writes: 'Don't put your knights on the rim! Well, knights are living on the edge these days, as we shall see in chapter 5. But the case before us is really simple. Neither side is about to make any dramatic pawn-breaks, so there is plenty of time to manoeuvre pieces to their best posts. In the case before us, that would involve the knight going to d3 via £2; where would it go from e2? As McDonald points out, ^f2-d3 could be followed by &d2-c4 and Jxl-d2-c3
with a three-way attack on the forward e-pawn.'
Now what is wrong with this? Most of it is nothing but correct. It is clear abstract thinking, and very sound. The problem is this thing about knights on the rim. In his chapter 5, where the knights live on the rim, they only do so as long as there is a concrete advantage. When the advantage disappears the knights race towards the centre. The same goes for this example. The knight in no way lives on the rim — it is going towards the centre. I am sure that Tar-rasch, who was not an idiot, would have no problems with this. He was one of the greatest chess players of his age, coming across as dogmatic. There is a story about a man who had put his rook behind a passed pawn, as prescribed by Tarrasch. His friends had then laughed at him. He mailed the position to Tarrasch and asked him whether or not he was right in following his advice. Tarrasch assured the man that the move played was good, and that in the future he would indeed do well to follow his advice. Only, in the given position, He8 checkmate was a stronger move!
I believe that John is mistaken in his view on Tarrasch and the others as dogmatic people who did not think. Evidence (their games) suggests otherwise... The above diagram is a clear-cut situation of a knight not living on the edge but manoeuvring towards the centre in the most flexible way. If you understand the rule as not being allowed to put your knight on the edge of the board under any circumstances, then you are truly dogmatic, as well as stupid. And Tarrasch was not stupid. If, instead, we choose to understand it in terms of knights generally having less influence on the edge and greater power in the centre (which, according to Aa-gaard the linguist, is actually the most obvious semantic interpretation) then the above manoeuvre makes a lot of sense.
We might have a different view on how to treat the past, but we try to solve positional questions in a somewhat similar fashion.
Modern Chess Strategy as a great piece of work which does treat the enormous evolution there has been in positional understanding since 1935. It would be strange if the period from 1876-1935
had greater leaps in understanding than
1935-2003. It would be strange if some of the observations made by the old masters were not mistaken. John provided an excellent analysis of many new concepts in positional chess, and has been rightfully praised for it. But to claim that the paradigm of thinking has completely changed is going too far. Still, this is only one conclusion in John's book. And if you make up your own mind and take from John and from Jacob what you find useful and relevant, I am sure that my two books and his book will be able to teach you something.
I mentioned earlier that the internet program had given my pupils and I some tools that proved useful in over-the-board play. Some of these can be seen in the different articles in the book, but I would like to give an example from my most recent game and from three games from Ivo Timmermans' most recent tournament.
Carsten Hoi is Denmark's latest Grandmaster. Despite the fact that he could have received the title back in 1993, he was awarded the title only recently. The positions where I felt the usefulness of the line of thinking currently under discussion began after 13 moves:
^egl, but his position does not make a positive impression. Carsten eventually came up with a strong move, defending the f4-square in return for conceding the initiative.
Again unable to find something useful, I make a slightly unusual move. I did not approve of 16...£k5 17 b41?
4 for the reasons given above (even though it does make more sense here), so I decided to simply harass his well placed queen. The knight still has c5 as an ideal square, but ..£>c5 with tempo, followed by ...a7-a5, is nicer. Therefore choose between the plans ...£>f6xe4 and after ...£k5xe4, in both cases to make way 17 Wb3
for my bishop on c8. I was emotionally dissatisfied. I had the feeling that it had to be possible to play something less forcing, as both white knights have nowhere else to go than e4. Why should I help my opponent by opening the king-side? Finally I used the ideal squares technique and came up with the following manoeuvre.
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