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Review: Gyula Breyer – The Chess Revolutionary, by Jimmy Adams

New in Chess, 2017
876 pages

 

By  Davide Nastasio

Today the young player’s goal in their chess journey is the rating.  After a tournament, many just consult their smart phones incessantly to know if they gained 10-15 points, or if they reached master level (which in the US is 2200). This is their only chess understanding. They don’t see the artistic side, the creative process which makes each chess game unique, and which makes the human spirit something different from all the other animals living on this earth.

The author describes Breyer well on page 8 in the following passage: “But Breyer was not satisfied with merely scoring points and winning prizes, he wanted to explore the vast untapped potential of chess, to expand its horizons, to take it where no one had taken it before — to its outermost limits!”

This book on Breyer is amazing. By today’s standards he is an unknown player who died young. But with many other important names like Alekhine, Nimzowitsch, and Reti, Breyer has contributed to chess by bringing it to the next stage: the “hypermodern revolution.”

Adams points out that we may not know who Breyer was, but we all play his opening!
1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5 a6 4.Ba4 Nf6 5.0-0 Be7 6.Re1 b5 7.Bb3 0-0 8.c3 d6 9.h3 Nb8 10.d4 Nbd7

 

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Notice the retreat to the B8 square and the rerouting to D7.  This idea from Breyer was used quite successfully by Spassky many times in his career.

 

 

Chessbase, through the mastery of GM Pavel Eljanov, has made a DVD explaining how to play the Ruy Lopez Breyer!

 

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IM Nihal Sarin

 

A very young IM from India, Nihal Sarin (possibly one of the future chess giants), showed on a Facebook post how he played over 9000 Blitz games online, and this helped him a lot to improve.

 

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Breyer did the same.  The evidence for blitz being a keystone for chess improvement is becoming overwhelming.
At Page 8 we read, “A daily quota of 50 blitz games against strong club members enabled Breyer to quickly absorb all the essential of existing chess knowledge.”

Of course, by historic comparison we know of at least three other chess giants who were avid blitz players: Bronstein, Tal, and Fischer.

 

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Fischer playing Bronstein

 

When I got this book I thought I was just adding another biography to my shelf of chess biographies.  Instead I discovered, thanks to Adams’ meticulous work, a world of chess ideas I had ignored. Breyer was clearly a genius ahead of his time, and his early death did not help the popularization of his ideas. The funny thing is that we know his ideas under different names. For example, the Reti opening with double fianchetto development of the bishops is a product of Breyer, but was popularized by Reti!

I’d like to quote another passage from the book on page 10, because I consider such an idea of enormous importance: “One little-known issue Breyer raised was the mathematical value of squares…. Breyer contended that pieces could have no fixed value as their strength varied according to their position on the board at any given moment in the game. It was the value of the squares that mattered.”

Before Najdorf and the Blindfold King Timur Gareyev, Breyer was  a record holder of the blindfold simul, with 25 boards played. This book has a collection of blindfold games played by Breyer from page 621 to page 636.

 

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Breyer was the first to explain the mechanics of the queenside minority attack! And of course I could go on and on about all of Breyer’s amazing ideas that were ahead of his time, but I prefer to let the reader discover them when going through this amazing book!

This book is a work of research and a collage.  Adams has taken ancient magazines (likely nowadays impossible to find), books, and articles written by or about Breyer, and of course all the annotated games he could find, to create this masterpiece.

The book is made up of 41 chapters plus some great indexes which help to better frame the huge amount of information gathered in the book. The chapters go through Breyer’s life chronologically, giving historical context which we often miss when we read a game played 100 years ago. While the book is surely appealing to those interested in chess history, it will appeal also those keen on learning, because there are more than 280 annotated games!

The games are annotated by different master players, and Adams has checked the validity of the analysis and eventually provided some when necessary.

Breyer was also a composer, and there are more than 30 problems composed by him in this book.  I’d like to present the following checkmate in 2.  I will not give the solution, because I truly believe one grows as chess player through intense effort. However, I solved it and checked it with a computer to be 100% sure.

 

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White to move and mate in 2 moves.

 

For the above position, I found first a checkmate in 3 moves, which wasn’t what the solution required. So I had to go back and spend another 10 minutes to find the right solution!

Before concluding the review, I’d like to share one of Breyer’s brilliant games that I found which maybe will motivate you into wanting this great book. The game is fully annotated from page 719 to page 725:

 

 

In conclusion: I believe everyone should read this book, because it is a compilation of different sources in different languages and of materials that nowadays would be quite difficult, if not impossible, to find.   Having it all in one volume is clearly a miracle of our modern age. Inside we find articles from Tarrasch (and one should know German and find the original magazine in German which by now is a century old!) Rubinstein, Maroczy, Tartakower, but also more contemporary teachers like Dvoretsky, and a lot of other quite famous names. The book is clearly a treasure that opens our eyes to a remote past and into the thoughts of the giants before us.  It allows us to better understand chess evolution, because when we read the modern opening articles, we understand the history behind the moves which brought us to today’s opening theory. The book is an important resource for today’s coaches who can find material for their lectures.

What I like most about this book is the mix of historical information and annotated games. When we see a crosstable from a hundred years ago, we don’t understand what happened in that tournament, why a certain player performed badly, or totally outperformed the others. But thanks to works like this book, we can open our minds to something that happened a hundred years ago, and better understand the motivations of the players of that time.
Of course it is impossible to review a book of 800 plus pages and not forget something, so forgive the reviewer if some important parts of the book were left out.

I have two other books compiled by Jimmy Adams, one on Chigorin and the other on Zukertort. I love them too!

 

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