Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Sidney Bernstein Plays 1...Nc6

Combat by Sidney Bernstein
I recently posted an article titled "Sidney Bernstein Plays 1...Nc6," where I examine two of Bernstein's more interesting games with the 1...Nc6 defense, to which I have lately returned after a long absence--more on that in future posts.

I had been looking through Bernstein's collected games in a rather remarkable little volume titled Combat: My Fifty Years at the Chessboard (1977 - reissued by Ishi Press in 2009), where I was very impressed by the large number of interesting and unusual opening ideas that Bernstein tried out during his long career. He is among the first modern players I know of, for instance, to take up the English Defense (1...b6). He is also the first to try an early ...h5 advance in a line of the English Opening that often begins 1. c4 e5 2. Nc3 Nc6 3. g3 g6 4. Bg2 Bg7 5. e3 d6 6. Nge2 h5! (as I mention in Chess and Evolution: An Example of Lateral Transfer that accompanied my article on Chess and Evolutionary Theory). And in one game on the Black side of the Yugoslav Attack in the Sicilian Dragon, he played an early ...h5! to slow down White's pawn advance. That would not be so remarkable, except that his opponent was a young Andy Soltis--whose name would later become attached to that idea!

His many other games show him constantly innovating -- as in his relatively early use of the Barry Attack in the game Bernstein - Fischer, Montreal 1956, where he over-reaches with a Rook sacrifice that nonetheless forces Fischer into some active defense to demonstrate his error.

What interested me most, however, were Bernstein's games with 1...Nc6, where his novelties have yet to be absorbed by theory.... I hope, if nothing else, these games make a nice remembrance of a real fighter at the chessboard.

Sidney Norman Bernstein Sidney Norman Bernstein (1911-1992)

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