Jan

18

The book, David Bronstein - Chess Improviser, depicts one of the most interesting battles in chess history - Bronstein's match against Botvinnik for the World Championship. During this match Bronstein was essentially improvising against an opponent known for preparation and systemization. But for losing three drawn endgames, Bronstein might have won 5-2.

Amongst Bronstein's tactics, he constantly changed the battlefield, using a variety of different openings. He also played Botvinnik's favorite openings against him, confronting his opponent with the problem of how to play against himself. It was the archetypal battle between fixed systems and a constantly moving, shapeshifting target.

I think there's also a deeper and more philosophical dimension to this. The improviser embraces the risk and adopts the position that the only certainty is change. Proponents of fixed systems, on the other hand, wish to gain control and remove uncertainty. They want to have a method with which to achieve their goal of power but without any risk. There seems to be a certain megalomania to it all, and this is how the bad guys are usually portrayed in the movies.

In From Russia with Love, the man formulating the SPECTRE plan was a chessplayer called Kronsteen, who in the first scene was pictured winning a game against McAdam. But what's interesting is that this game is in fact a real tournament game that Spassky won against Bronstein. I wonder if this was just because it was a good game or whether Kronsteen was being portrayed as someone who could beat improvisers. As an aside one should note that the director in his wisdom removed the d4 and c5 pawns from the board, which means that Kronsteen's combination doesn't actually work.

When one leaves the confines of the chessboard, there seem to be interesting parallels in life and markets. In markets, fixed systems seem to do much worse than in chess, and I suspect that Bronstein's rapid adaptation is a much more suitable method.


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