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Modern Ideas in Chess by Richard Rèti

29. The Hypermodern Style

Thus did Dr. Tartakower, the prominent chess master and writer on the game, describe the style of the youngest masters - Alekhin, Bogoljubow and Breyer. That designation is not to be deemed unlimited praise; but still less censure. For Tartakower himself in later years has approached that style.

As we younger masters learnt from Capablanca’s method of play, by which each move is to be regarded as an element of a scheme, that no move is to be made for itself alone (contrary sometimes to Morphy’s principle that every move should have its concomitant development), we began to see that moves formerly considered self-understood and made, as it were, automatically by every good player, had to be discarded.

As a special instance of the general ideas of the moderns I start by stating that a difference in principle exists between scientific rules as we know them in connection with Physics and Mathematics and the so-called chess laws. That difference becomes clear when we consider that Nature’s laws prevail under all conditions, while the universal strategical chess principles are maxims of treatment which may, perhaps, in the majority of instances, find a practical application, yet, in some cases, are better not resorted to. Just as in life no universal rules of conduct can obtain, and just the man who invariably acts in accordance with the most approved principles will not perforce become great, so it is with chess principles.

What is really a rule of chess? Surely not a rule arrived at with mathematical precision, but rather an attempt to formulate a method of winning in a given position or of reaching an ultimate object, and to apply that method to similar positions. As, however, no two positions are quite alike, the so called rule, if applied to an apparently similar position, may possibly be wrong, or at least as regards that particular position, there may exist a more suitable or effectual method of play. It is the aim of the modern school not to treat every position according to one general law, but according to the principle inherent in the position. An acquaintance with other positions and the rules applicable to the treatment thereof is of great use for the purpose of analysing and obtaining a grasp of the particular position under consideration. Chess principles as a whole can be viewed therefore as maxims which it is often, or perhaps mostly, but certainly not always advantageous to follow. Every problem composer, for instance, is able to compose a problem for every rule in which the key move leads to the quickest solution and is the best move and which yet may be opposed to that rule. In every game - indeed in the best of the earlier games - we come across moves that seem self-evident and which the master of routine made without reflexion, because such moves were founded on rules of such long standing as to have become part of that master’s flesh and blood. According to the modern school of players, extreme deliberation is called for when one plays independently of rules and on the lines of one’s own particular plan; and the source of the greatest errors is to be found in those moves that are made merely according to rule and not based on the individual plan or thought of the player. Games of the modern school seem to its critics to have the appearance of quaintness and inconsequence. The players if the modern school move quickly where others stop to think and they instinctively avoid making moves which have hitherto been considered as obvious. It is not my intention to lay down here that principles are superfluous (I have already demonstrated their usefulness), but I do want it to be made sufficiently clear, that chess rules must be subjected to careful consideration in each particular instance of their intended application.

The Hyper-moderns are the greatest opponents of routine play.