Suitable Chess Role Models

In my previous post I explored the danger of setting a bad example for my son by an excessive usage of fianchettos. But who are the best role models?

This varies quite a bit according to the strength of the those seeking a role model or models, but in all cases I would suggest they try to emulate a player with an essentially classical style (especially in the opening) rather than someone who plays their own brand of chess. Particularly brilliant tacticians, such as Alexei Shirov, should also be treated with caution as many players aspire to play this way without having the remarkable abilities required. Instead they should look for someone with a well rounded style who plays well in all stages of the game.

Are players from the past suitable? In many ways they are far more suitable than modern players, especially because their games often featured inferior opposition that would let them get their plans in. Yet there’s a potential problem here in that their openings can be truly archaic and not provide good models for building a reasonably modern repertoire. How should one find such players?

Overall I would suggest that the best choices for players under 1800 Elo were active at some time between 1920 to 1970 (an era that was neither too primitive nor too sophisticated), did not specialize in either gambit play or openings involving a kingside fianchetto and were at some point in the top 50 players in the World. For players below 1500 it’s also important that they specialized in 1.e4 and met 1.d4 with 1…d5 and 1.e4 with 1…e5.

Here is one such player who many readers will probably not have heard of, Herman Pilnik. You can read more about him here, I’ll just add that he had a very nice classical style plus the good sense to get out of Germany in 1930:

Nigel Davies


Author: NigelD

Nigel Davies is an International Chess Grandmaster living in St. Helens in the UK. The winner of 15 international tournaments he is also a former British U21 and British Open Quickplay Champion and has represented both England and Wales on several occasions. These days Nigel teaches chess through his chess training web site, Tiger Chess, which has articles, recommendations, a monthly clinic, videos and courses. His students include his 15 year old son Sam who is making rapid progress with his game. Nigel has written a number of chess books that are available at Amazon: