Game Spotlight: Your Chess Hero

One of the more popular pieces of advice for improving players is to pick a chess “hero”, a professional player you play like, and study their games.  While this is good advice in general (studying a lot of games is definitely going to help improve your game), it has limitations.

First, if your favourite player is older, a lot of the way they played the opening is probably very out of date.  So you’ll have to do some extra work to compensate.

More importantly, professional players all say they don’t have a “style”.  If a player is good enough, they’re trying to make the best move for the position, whatever that might be.  That said, they do have inclinations.  In this way, Petrosian would make aggressive moves when the position called for it, but had a tendency to think defensively first.  So over hundreds of games, a pattern emerges in which most games show good defence, and a minority of games exhibit attacking chess.

Let’s look at one of the lesser-known inclinations.  World Champion Vasily Smyslov played thousands of games over a career that lasted decades.  In that time, many games were won in this way: make a slow attack, win 1 or 2 pawns worth of material, then trade down and win with great endgame technique.  Here it is in action:


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