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     Volume 4 Issue 22 | November 26, 2004 |

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Time Out

Who is the best? Chess

Who is the strongest player in the history of the game? Pundits have different opinions on this question. Robert Fischer and Garry Kasparov are certainly very good candidates who will perhaps get more votes than other great players. JR Capablanca and Alexander Alekhine are also strong contenders.

Now, the question is what should be the criterion for judging a player's strength? After all, many of these great masters never played against each other. So how do we settle the matter? The depth of their positional play and great tactical prowess are things known to all. There is, however, one criterion that can serve our purpose. Yes, supremacy or domination over contemporary players is a very reliable indicator of a player's real strength.

A master has to face players of his times only. And we have to work out how effortlessly he defeated his rivals. That is perhaps the reason why British grandmaster Nigel Short once said that he considered Paul Morphy the best ever chess master. Sounds a bit surprising, doesn't it? Morphy played at a time when chess was still passing through the Romantic Age. Even the principles of Wilhem Steinitz were unknown to the mid-nineteenth century masters, let alone the modern universal style of play. So his games cannot be compared with the modern day masterpieces in terms of positional subtlety. And of course he was playing against much weaker opponents. That said, don't overlook the way he demolished them all . Morphy was almost invincible ! Even the great Fischer or Kasparov never quite enjoyed the same kind of supremacy over their opponents.

The comparison with contemporaries has its point. Here the strength of a player can be judged accurately as the playing ground is always even. For example, Morphy didn't have many good books to read and that was true about his adversaries as well !

It would have been interesting to see how a player of the distant past would fare if he were pitted against a modern master. Here is a game in which a challenger plays against a young player of the next generation . He outplays the young man with great ease.

Bogoljubow, E - Stahlberg,G [D15]
Gothenburg, 1930

1.d4 d5 2.c4 c6 3.Nf3 Nf6 4.Nc3 Bf5 5.cxd5 Nxd5 6.Qb3 Nxc3 7.bxc3 Qb6 8.Nd2 Bg6 9.e4 Nd7 10.f4 f6 11.f5 Bf7 12.Bc4 Qxb3 13.axb3 Nb6 14.Be6 g6 15.Nc4 Nxc4 16.bxc4 Bg7 17.00 00 18.Bf4 Bxe6 19.fxe6 f5 20.e5 Rfd8 21.Rfb1 b6 22.Ra6 Rdb8 23.Kf2 h6 24.h4 Kh7 25.Ke3 Rb7 26.Kd3 Rab8 27.Kc2 Rc8 28.c5 Rcb8 29.cxb6 axb6 30.Rba1 c5 31.Ra8 cxd4 32.cxd4 Rxa8 33.Rxa8 Rc7+ 34.Kd3 10

Position after 28.c5


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