What ? No Nimzo ?

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Upon reviewing Kevin's list of books, I (Tony Boron) was struck by the omission of 'My System' by Nimzovich. Many GMs have stated in that this was one of the most influential books during their chess development. I asked GM Spraggett if leaving 'My System' off the list was a mistake of omission or deliberate.

GM Spraggett replied:

No, not an omission...yes deliberate !

I am very hard on Nimzovich ! He doesn't live up to his 'self-promotion'...

His works are very famous, but, in my humble opinion, over-rated. I've read everything he has written (and spent a great deal of time thinking about what he said--I now regret having wasted my time), it is all very interesting and entertaining, but I think that, self-promotion apart, he almost never achieved in his tournament practice (i.e. his games) what he makes you believe he did in his books. It is really hard to find a game played from move 1 to the end where he even followed his own 'system' ! On top of this, his books are filled with many tactical oversights, and simply bad judgement. And a lot of the other stuff he wrote about is just pure 'technique'...and he did not 'invent' it, but he did try to make his readers believe he did...

Nimzovich was a great player ! No doubt about this...but his advice given in his books never even worked in his own time...not many players realize that his strength was due primarily due to his ability to play white ! With black he was a pigeon by comparison...and far too much of what he wrote was from the black side (again, he was trying to 'promote' the Nimzo-Indian -type systems). In fact, most of it is pure fantasy..

Had he stuck to the 'Reti' systems (i.e. the white side) in his books, then that might be another story..but then Reti's name didn't sound as satisfying to him as 'Nimzo-'.

There are some famous players who will swear by his books, this I acknowledge, but take my word for it, there are many, many more famous players who believe his stuff is second rate 'schillerism'!

His name will always be associated with 'hypermodernism' and deservingly. But even most of the variations of the Nimzo-Indian defence that he played are known (and have been known as such for more than 50 years) to be simply bad.  There is a famous game of his where he tried to provoke d5 by playing his rook to e6...just garbage ! The truth is that his position was already desparate, and he was willing to try anything...

This is not to say that he didn't win some nice games in the Nimzo... in fact he did play two or three really nice games (he was definitely a 2600+ player)...but they had very little to do with his 'system'... and most modern masters can do the same if they get the help that he got from his opponents !

I think that you will find it very difficult to find former 'Soviet' GMs to say anything nice about Nimzo's books; I think they mostly didn't like the very 'commercial' aspect of his books. And I think that maybe 'lack' of objectivity on Nimzovich's part played a role also..

Keene's book 'Nimzovich: A Reappraisal' is a very well written book, and amusing also. I recommend it.

But for most players I don't 'push' Nimzovich books...


ps  but remember, Nimzovich fans, this is ONLY an opinion


IM Lawrence Day also commented'

"I don't like Nimzo either.

Many of the ideas are ripped off from Tchigorin.

In those days, when he wrote, the idea was to raise fan money for a world championship purse.

Hence 'his' system, but the Soviets (knowing their Tchigorin) see thru the scam, imo"




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