Learning From Zürich 1953

A great deal of printer’s ink has been applied to paper advising novices and intermediate players to study the games of grandmasters. By looking at them, we improvers have the opportunity to see chess at its best.

One common approach is to read collections of games annotated by the greatest players, such as Alekhine, Botvinnik, Karpov, Kasparov, etc. Another approach is to study more general game collections, like The World’s Greatest Chess Games by Nunn, Burgess, and Emms.

I’ve been working lately with some books that record the games from important chess tournaments. For example, Bronstein’s Zurich International Chess Tournament 1953 is considered by many to be one of the finest chess books ever written. Miguel Najdorf also wrote an excellent collection of annotated games from this same tournament, Zürich 1953: 15 Contenders for the World Chess Championship.

One major advantage I find from studying a game collection from a famous tournament is the overall strength of the play. Let’s consider the Zürich 1953 tournament. Zürich 1953 was a 30-round event. Fifteen of the best players in the world plying a double round-robin tournament that lasted nearly two months. There were 210 games contested by Vassily Smyslov, Sammy Reshevsky, Paul Keres, David Bronstein, Tigran Petrosian, Efim Geller, Alexander Kotov, Mark Taimanov, Yuri Averbakh, Isaac Boleslavsky, Laszlo Szabo, Svetozar Gligoric, Max Euwe, Gideon Stahlberg, and Miguel Najdorf. Smyslov eventually won the tournament.

The Zürich 1953 tournament is uncommon in one respect. There are two excellent annotated game collections, one by David Bronstein and the other by Miguel Najdorf. I have both. Bronstein speaks in plain language rather than exploring lots of variations in great depth. I suspect this is what make’s Bronstein’s version so popular with us improvers. It’s a very accessible text for intermediate players. I’ll argue that Najdorf’s volume is just as accessible. Again, there are no lengthy variations. What’s missing from Bronstein’s version and present in Najdorf’s, however, is a feel for the tournament and the players.

Over the last year, a number of these classic tournament game collections have been released for the Amazon Kindle. Both Bronstein’s and Najdorf’s volumes on Zürich 1953, for example, are available in the Kindle format. Both can be profitably studied by my fellow chess improvers.

Glenn Mitchell