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View Diary: Books That Changed My Life--Which book was so far over your head you almost didn’t come up? (254 comments)

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  •  Rubenstein's Chess Masterpieces. (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Diana in NoVa, RiveroftheWest, Brecht

    I read it when I was in high school.  I lost many years of my life to chess because of that book.  I encountered many other eye opening chess books, but that was the first one that hooked me and made me appreciate it as profound art.

    Rubenstein was a Polish chess player who from about 1910-1930 was in the very top ranks but never made it to a world championship, although he is historically ranked at that level.  What was different about his games and which appealed to me at that age was how simple they were.  I could see and understand how he was able to press very small advantages into larger advantages and then at the moment of greatest tension create a brilliant final combination.  

    The other chess book that blew me away, but I can't give it as much priority because it came later, was My System, by Aron Nimzovich.  Nimzovich had a particular witty and arrogant style of writing which I've encountered other places, most notably in Nietzsche, so I think Nietzsche's writings might have been an influence on Nimzovich.  He was contemporary with Rubenstein.  Rubenstein was the better player, but Nimzovich was the greater THINKER, and he was able to express his novel (for the time) ideas of chess strategy.  A couple of those ideas seem a little silly some 90 years later, but the way he tried to formulate his ideas and the way he tried to methodically press his kooky strategies to a victory stayed with me.  Where Rubenstein had been the clarity of Mozart, Nimzovich was Strauss's Ein Heldenlieben.  

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