Hypermodernism (chess)

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The Queen's Indian Defence is a hypermodern opening.

Hypermodernism is a school of chess that emerged after World War I. It featured challenges on the chess ideologies presented by central European masters, such as on Wilhelm Steinitz's approach to the centre. It also challenged in particular the dogmatic rules set down by Siegbert Tarrasch. The Hypermoderns challenged the guidelines of the previous generation and demonstrated with concrete games and victories that these challenges could be done successfully. Aron Nimzowitsch for example showed how games could be won through indirect control of the center, challenging Tarrasch's dogmatic view that the center must be occupied by pawns. Nimzowitsch advocated controlling the center of the board with distant pieces rather than with pawns, thus inviting the opponent to occupy the center with pawns, which can then become targets of attack. However, this was only part of the hypermodern framework, which Nimzowitsch encapsulated in the seminal chess book My System, which greatly influenced many chess players. It introduced and formalized concepts of the pawn chain, overprotection, undermining, prophylaxis, restraint, rook on the seventh rank, knight outposts, the dynamics of the isolated queen's pawn, and other areas of chess.

Although none of the primary exponents of the Hypermodern School ever achieved the title of World Chess Champion, they were among the world's strongest players. World Champion Alexander Alekhine was associated with hypermodernism, but his style was more of a blend with the Classical School.

In practice, hypermodernism has not replaced the classical theory of Steinitz and Tarrasch. Instead, modern chess textbooks describe hypermodernism as an addition, or extension, to classical theory.

Hypermodern openings include the Réti Opening, King's Indian Defence, Queen's Indian Defence, Nimzo-Indian Defence, Grünfeld Defence, Bogo-Indian Defence, Old Indian Defence, Catalan Opening, King's Indian Attack, Alekhine's Defence, Modern Defence, Pirc Defence, Larsen's opening, Sokolsky Opening, and to a lesser degree the English Opening. Openings such as 1.a3 do not constitute hypermodern openings since, although they delay the occupation of the centre with pawns, they also delay piece development.

History[edit]

Howard Staunton and many of his contemporaries understood various of the ideas associated with hypermodernism.(Korn & de Firmian 1990:625) The Hypermodern School of chess theory came to prominence in the 1920s. Leading members were Aron Nimzowitsch, Richard Réti, Savielly Tartakower, Gyula Breyer, and Ernst Grünfeld, who all came from Central Europe (Averbakh 2012:81). They felt that chess was becoming boring, slow and unworthwhile. They also believed that chess could not be defined by a simple set of laws or principles, such as those laid out by the German Siegbert Tarrasch.

Their ideas were thus a challenge to the existing orthodoxy popularised by Tarrasch in the 1890s. This orthodoxy was a rather dogmatic distillation of the ideas worked out by chess pioneer Wilhelm Steinitz. Steinitz was the first player who in his play demonstrated a mastery of positional chess, and the ideas he developed came to be known as the "Classical" or "Modern" school of thought. This school of thought emphasized the importance of "static" advantages such as avoidance of pawn weaknesses, strong outposts for knights, and striving for "good" rather than "bad" bishops in positions with locked pawn structures. This school of thought was in turn a reaction to the earlier swashbuckling style of Adolf Anderssen, Henry Blackburne and others who represented the Romantic school.

In 1922, Richard Réti published Die neuen Ideen im Schachspiel (English: Modern Ideas in Chess), an examination of the evolution of chess thinking from the time of Paul Morphy through the beginning of the Hypermodern School. Tartakower's book Die hypermoderne Schachpartie (English: The Hypermodern Chess Game) was published in 1924. Nimzowitsch's book Mein System (English: My System) was published in 1925 through to 1927 in five installments. It discusses elements of hypermodernism, but focuses mainly on positional chess.

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