Thursday, January 31, 2013

Zurich 1953 by Najdorf

      This book came highly recommended by one of my Blog readers. Russell Enterprises has done chess players everywhere a favor in printing Najdorf’s book on this great tournament, originally available only in two volumes in Spanish.  Why another copy of a great tournament of long ago when we already had Bronstein’s monumental work on the tournament?  Good question.
       Bronstein noted that he was responsible for the analysis in his book but the text was mostly by Boris Vainstein. In the book “Secret Notes", by Bronstein and Sergey Voronkov which Bronstein wanted published only after his death, he talked about how Zurich 1953 was fixed. He said that it was the most embarrassing moment of his chess career and the KGB monitored the event and instructed the players to arrange "rest draws" or even losses against the "chosen winner,” who was Smyslov as long as Reshevsky had the lead.

       In my Blog I gave the game Keres vs. Boleslavsky where it looked like Boleslavsky threw the game to Keres.  Nobody, not even Najdorf, was able to explain Boleslavsky’s play.  That game was played in the sixth round and as a result Keres and Smyslov moved to within a half point of the leader, Reshevsky.  According to Bronstein a KGB agent even asked him, "Do you really think you've come here to play chess". As a result of this tournament Bronstein confessed that he never did forget the shame that he felt. "We were all puppets"...
        This English translation of Najdorf’s book includes all 210 games with his notes, all the original introductory material, biographical sketches of the players, lots of diagrams, and pictures.  There is an introduction by Yuri Averbakh, who along with Mark Taimanov are the last surviving participants, and a foreword by GM Andrew Soltis.
       What makes this book so great is Najdorf’s vivid prose and his firsthand account of this great event.  Najdorf had a rare combination of skills; not only was he a great player, but he had the ability to explain things in a clear and entertaining way.
       One thing about this translation that is greatly appreciated is the work of the translator, Taylor Kingston.  He didn’t mess with the original but made a translation that is faithful to the original and  managed to capture Najdorf’s wit and style.
      So, why do we really need this new translation of a tournament played in 1953?  Forget about the fact that the tournament had the greatest players of the day or it may have been fixed or that Najdorf was a great writer and that the games were instructive, etc., etc.  It’s fun just to watch them play and read Najdorf’s notes!  Read sample
       This book is also available for the Nook and Kindle.

1 comment:

  1. Hello. I am a uscf life master and attribute much of the increase in my playing strength to playing over games by alekhine, tartakower, botvinnik, tarrasch, reshevsky, tahl, et al plus my library contained all the tournament books i could lay my hands on...bronsteins book on this event included. Most coaches ignore this excellent training tool because telling a student to buy a book and play over lots of games seems too simple and wont put any cash in their pocket! Timmans book on Curacao is another good one.