Thursday, September 08, 2005

History Lessons

Still quiet on the sourcing front. So, I'll rant a bit.

The national hero of my beloved Philippines, Jose Rizal, once said that "he who does not look back at his past cannot reach his intended destination". At a basic level he was talking about the lessons of history. How true is that for many endeavours? Including, of course, chess!

Opening theory, for example, relies much on the battles of years gone by. Any serious chess player cannot really appreciate the Queen's Gambit without examining the games of Capablanca or Bronstein's on the King's Indian or Fischer's on the Najdorf. More than openings we also study middlegames and endgames. And here, too, the past masters have plenty to teach us. One of the oldest rook endgame maneouvres, for instance, the Lucena was discovered as far back as 1634.

Yet what we are talking about here is technique over the board. You know, the "how to's". All part and parcel of chess training. What about the study of the human history of chess: the personalities, the politics, all those stories that make up the vast canvass of our game? I always wondered if, among the quizzes on mates in 2 or 3, chess coachess actually take the time to ask, "who can tell me the name of the first Australian chess champion?" Or what made Daryl Johansen's GM title application "controversial"? And even to ask about how Paul Morphy died. Or whatever.

The point of all this is that there is really no reason why chess coaches should limit their curricula to only technique. By including some history lessons, students, I think, will appreciate chess more broadly. Or at the very least, observe a part of chess that is just as interesting and satisfying as merely playing a game. I mean, some of the best boooks I've read have hardly any games in them. "Linares! Linares!", by Dirk Jan ten Geuzendam, is one example. And who can forget Sosonko's historical series for New In Chess? Such are full of wonderful stories. They are sometimes inspiring, tragic, triumphant - tales worth paying attention to.

1 comment:

F.A. Buenaventura said...

hi there!
Inside Philippine Chess by Bobby Ang gives historical write ups too.... anyways, thanks for your TCG blog!