How to make Modern Chess beautiful (again!)
The Beautiful chess of Nicolas Rossolimo
He died unexpectedly at age 65 before the manuscript of his best games could find a publisher. It soon gathered dust on his desk at home, forgotten, and was finally lost to history.
Worse still, years later, Nicolas Rossolimo’s wife Vera‘s own written account of Nicolas’ life and best games met a similar fate: the translator disappeared with the manuscript, never to be seen again.
And what a life Nicolas Rossolimo had! Born in the Soviet Union in 1910 (Kiev), he later held French and American nationality, playing at the Olympics for both at one time or the other. He died in New York City in 1975, just days after having taken 3rd place at the World Open!
A globe-trotting grandmaster (the FIDE title was official in 1953) at a time when this was a rarity, it was then not yet a respectable and paying profession, even though he won many international championships.
Rossolimo had to fight hard to make ends meet to sustain his young family, working as a bell hop, taxi driver, and elevator door man amongst other part time jobs. (His son, Alexander, eventually earned a Phd from Harvard.)
But the real passion of Rossolimo’s life was the game of chess, which he considered an art. (He even opened up a chess club in NYC.) Rossolimo believed that the problem with modern chess is that chess officials were putting too much emphasis on winning and not enough emphasis on playing beautiful chess.
Pal Benko wrote, in the October 1975 edition of Chess Life & Review:
” Always searching for beauty and brilliant combinations, he won numerous brilliancy prizes. Nick considered chess first of all an art. He once wrote : “What am I supposed to do? Trade in my romantic, combinative style for ‘loday’s style’ and become a hunter of points at any price? No, I will not do so. I will fight for the art of chess. I will not become a monster.”
He even suggested that points be awarded according to the artistic merit of a game, rather than for its result, so that the loser of a game may earn credit if his play was creative.”
Rossolimo’s criticism of modern chess is especially poignant today (2021), when virtually all of the important world titles are decided in blitz and armageddon. Quality chess has been sidelined. FIDE politicians, apparently, believe that dumbing-down chess, by deliberately encouraging blunders and oversights–the more spectacular the better– is a more marketable way to promote chess to the public.
3-beautiful miniatures by Rossolimo!
Rossolimo,N – Romanenko
Bad Gastein 1948
(Off hand game)
Rossolimo,N – O’Kelly,A
Crushing! For my younger readers, O’Kelly was no push over, despite appearances here! He would later became a grandmaster and as well as the 3rd World Correspondence Champion.
Rossolimo,N – Reissmann,P
Puerto Rico 1967
Unfortunately, I believe that there has not yet been written a book on this talented grandmaster. For those who are interested in reading a bit more about Rossolimo, I suggest a very well written article by grandmaster Hort from 2018.