Nimzowitsch vs Alapin, St. Petersburg 1914.

In a very one-sided game, the player who gave the chess world 'My System', demonstrates his strategic superiority and notches up a very fine and instructive miniature.

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Mention the name Aron Nimzowitsch and thoughts will most likely leap to his literary masterpiece, My System. Released in 1925, My System is one of the first books I read on chess strategy, when a friend of mine trusted me with his antique first edition copy. I read it cover to cover and it brought my appreciation of chess to another level.

I now have my own copy of the book, in both print and digital. That is how high I regard it and how well I feel that it has stood the test of time. Further illustration, is that My System very often comes up, when discussing chess books with players (of all ages and levels) around the circuit.

As well as being a very talented chess writer, Nimzowitsch, (who was born in Russia in 1886, but later took Danish citizenship and lived in Denmark until his death in 1935), was also a very fine player. While he tends to get overlooked in favour of some of the other players of his day, (Alekhine and Capablanca, for example), his games offer a wealth of learning material.

The one that we look at today is just one example. It was played in Saint Petersburg in 1914. His opponent was Lithuanian, Semion Alapin (1856-1923). It is perhaps true to say that Alapin is best known for the openings that have taken his name. He was, however, a strong player and once beat Siegbert Tarrasch in a training match (+4 -3 =2).

This game, unfortunately, is not one of Alapin’s best examples.


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Sometimes it is not easy to pinpoint exactly where a player loses their way or what they do wrong. That is not the case here. Quite frankly, Alapin makes glaring errors, that would cause many recreational players to hang their head in shame. He completely neglects his development, he grabs material, and all the while, his King sits in the centre of the board.

By contrast, Aron Nimzowitsch practices what he preaches in his writing. He develops rapidly, concentrating on getting his pieces to good squares. His priority is activity and his focus becomes fixed upon the enemy King. The game is an impressive (and deserved) miniature, fittingly featuring a Queen sacrifice and showcasing the power of the pin.

About John Lee Shaw 274 Articles
Total chess nut! I enjoy following the chess world and giving my two-penneth. I don't pretend to be an expert, I'm more a knowledgeable enthusiast. My chess writing can also be seen at www.chessimprover.com.

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