PfeilAaron Nimzowitsch

My System

Katalog englische Flagge

Aron Nimzowitsch was one of the greatest chess players of the 1920s and 1930s, ranked just behind the famous World Champions Alekhine and Capablanca. His reputation as an author is higher still.

My System is at the top of a very short list of chess classics. Nimzowitsch's ideas have had a profound influence on modern chess thinking. Most chess masters will at some point have studied Nimzowitsch's work, and not to have read My System is by many regarded as a shocking gap in a chess player's education.

The problem for an English-speaking audience has been that My System was written in German more than eighty years ago. The commonly-used contemporary translations have sounded dated for some time, and were always questionable: the translators frequently toned down many passages, fearing Nimzowitsch's biting wit would be too controversial.

This edition uses a brand-new translation that recreates the author's original intentions. For the first time an English-speaking audience can appreciate the true nature of a famous chess book.

  • A modern uncensored translation of a chess classic.

  • A famous chess book with a superb reputation.

  • The first new English translation in decades.

  • Previous translations have censored and diluted the author's writing.


It would be interesting to choose the best chess book from the 20 th century. My System by Aaron Nimzowitsch would certainly be my favourite, and I think this would be a common choice. According to Mikhail Tal, this book is "full of the elixir of chess youth". What are the secrets behind the powerful effect My System has on its readers?

I think that the magical power of this book can be found in the fact that the author managed to be ahead of his time. Already in 1925 he expressed still relevant modern ideas like prophylaxis, pawn activity, and the blockade. The impulse that originated from Nimzowitsch was so immense that the thinking of chess developed in his direction. If you look at the games of Petrosian and Karpov you immediately find the traces of Nimzowitsch's "system". These outstanding chess players developed to perfection the prophylactic style of preventing the opponent's possibilities.

Nimzowitsch's mark is recognisable to some extent in every top player. When I contemplate the later games of Kasparov, I am convinced that many of his decisions are based on purely prophylactic grounds.

Nimzowitsch did not write a simple handbook of opening lines, but a manual of chess. The opinions, ideas, and generalisations that he describes gave rise to a true revolution, whose consequences we can correctly evaluate today.

Artur Yusupov

From the publishers

When we decided to publish a new edition of My System our primary intention was to produce an updated translation. The second issue was which source we should use for this translation. We decided on the 2005 Rattman German edition, which contains a number of improvements from previous editions. We also decided to computer-check, within reason, the games in the book. The Rattman edition already had some interesting observations on the original text, which we decided to retain with their corrections in the text or as footnotes on the page (pages 15, 64, 74,76, 84,106, 126, 156) and their references to the editor.

We have also added two small essays at the end of the book. The first is a general discussion about the current relevance of My System; the second contains just over a dozen positions from the book where we think a new opinion might interest the reader. These positions have also been marked with superscript throughout the book.

We would like to thank Yuri Garrett of Caissa Italia for his superb efforts in researching Nimzowitsch's tournament and match results, which are included towards the end of this book as the article "The Chess Career of Aaron Nimzowitsch".

We hope that our new edition of My System will reveal this classic to a new generation of young chess players.

December 2006

I The Elements

015 Introduction

1 The centre and development

017 1 By development we mean the strategic march of the troops towards the border

017 2 A pawn move must not be considered in itself to be a developing move, but rather simply a move which helps development

019 3 A lead in development is an ideal

020 4 Exchanging followed by a gain of tempo

021 A possible intermezzo between exchanging and gaining a tempo

021 5 Liquidation followed by development or a bid for freedom

024 6 The centre and its urge to demobilise

026 6a Surrendering the centre

028 7 Pawn grabbing in the opening

030 7a Take any central pawn if it can be done without too great a danger!

2 The open file

031 1 Introduction * General comments and definition

032 2 How open files occur (or are born)

033 3 The ideal (purpose) behind all operations on a file

034 4 Possible obstacles to operations down a file

037 5 "Restricted" advance on a file in order give it up in favour of another file, or the indirect exploitation of a file - The file as a springboard

038 6 The outpost

042 Schematic illustration of the open file

3 The 7 th and 8 th ranks

043 1 Introduction and general comments

043 2 Convergent and revolutionary attacks on the 7 th rank

Seizing a square (or pawn) with an acoustic echo (a simultaneous check)

046 3 The five special cases on the 7 th rank

046 1 The 7 th rank "absolute" and passed pawns

046 2 Double rooks ensure perpetual check

047 3 The drawing mechanism of Rook + Knight

047 4 Marauding on the 7 th rank

047 5 Combining play on the 7 th and 8 th ranks (flanking from the corner)

052 Schematic illustration for the 7 th and 8 th ranks

052 Schematic illustration for the 5 special cases

053 Illustrative games for the first three chapters

4 The passed pawn

073 1 Getting our bearings

074 2 Blockading passed pawns

075 2a The first reason

079 2b The second reason

080 2c The third reason

080 3 The main and secondary functions of the blockading piece

081 The effect of the blockade

083 4 The struggle against the blockading piece

084 "Negotiations" or uprooting

086 5 Frontal attack by a king on an isolated pawn - an ideal!

089 6 Privileged passed pawns

092 7 When a passed pawn should advance

092 When can a passed pawn be considered ready to move?

095 Endgames and games illustrating passed pawns

101 Schematic representation for the passed pawn (question and answer session)

5 Exchanging

103 1 We exchange in order to occupy (or open) a line without loss of time

103 2 We destroy a defender by exchanging

104 3 We exchange in order not to lose time retreating

105 3a "He tries to sell his life as dearly as possible"

105 4 How and where exchanges usually take place

6 The elements of endgame strategy

109 Introduction and general comments - The typical disproportion

109 1 Centralisation

112 Shelters and bridge building

113 2 The aggressively posted rook as a typical endgame advantage

116 3 Welding together isolated troops and "General advance!"

117 4 The "materialisation" of the abstract concepts: file or rank

119 Schematic illustration of the "endgame" or "the 4 elements"

7 The pinned piece

125 1 Introduction and general remarks

126 2 The concept of the completely or partially pinned piece

128 The exchanging combination on the pinning square

130 3 The problem of unpinning

a) Challenging

133 b) Ignoring the threat or allowing our pawns to be broken up

133 c) The reserves rush up to unpin in a peaceful way

134 d) Tacking (manoeuvring) and keeping open the options a, b, c!

135 Games involving pins

141 Schematic representation to illustrate pinning

8 Discovered check

143 1 The degree of relationship between the "pin" and the "discovered check" is defined more closely - Where is the best place for the piece which is discovering the check?

144 2 The treadmill (windmill)

145 3 Double check

9 The pawn chain

1 General remarks and definitions - The base of the pawn chain

149 The idea of two separate battlefields

149 The idea of building a chain

150 Towards the kingside

150 Towards the centre

151 2 Attacking the pawn chain

153 3 Attacking the base as a strategic necessity

154 4 Transferring the rules of blockading to the pawn chain

156 5 The concept of a surprise attack compared to that of positional warfare, as applied to chains - The attacker at the parting of the ways!

158 5a The positional struggle, or put simply the slow siege of the unprotected base

161 6 Transferring the attack

164 Schematic representation of pawn chains

165 Games to illustrate pawn chains

II Positional Play

1 Prophylaxis and the centre

177 1 The reciprocal links between the treatment of the elements on one hand and positional play on the other

1772 Offences against sound positional play, which should be weeded out in every case as a sine qua non to the study of positional play

179 3 My novel conception of positional play as such

183 4 Next to prophylaxis, the idea of the "general mobility" of the pawn mass constitutes one of the main pillars of my teachings on positional play

184 5 The centre

189 6 What should be the leitmotiv behind true strategy

191 7 Giving up the centre

192 The "surrender of the centre" - a prejudice

200 Roads to the mastering of positional play (schematic representation of chapter 1)

2 Doubled pawns and restraint

201 1 The affinity between "doubled pawns" and "restraint"

203 1a The only true strength of doubled pawns

203 2 A review of the best-known doubled pawn structures

209 The doubled pawn complex in diagram 391 as an instrument of attack 211 3 Restraint - "Mysterious rook moves"

216 4 Clarification of the nucleus of a manoeuvre designed to restrain a pawn majority

216 5 The different forms of restraint are more clearly explained

217 a) The mobile central pawn

218 b) The struggle against a qualitative majority

219 c) Restraining doubled pawn complexes

220 d) My own special variation and its restraining tendencies

3 The isolated queen's pawn and its descendants

229 a) The isolated queen's pawn

230 1 The dynamic strength of the d4-pawn

230 2 The isolani as an endgame weakness

231 3 The isolani as an instrument of attack in the middlegame

232 4 Which cases are favourable to White and which to Black?

232 5 A few more words about the creation of a related weakness among White's queenside pawns

233 b) The "isolated pawn pair"

234 c) Hanging pawns

235 From the "isolani" to "hanging pawns"

238 d) The bishops

239 1 Horrwitz bishops

240 2 A pawn mass directed by bishops

241 3 Cramping the knights while at the same time fighting against a pawn majority

242 4 The two bishops in the endgame

4 Overprotection and weak pawns

247 How to systematically overprotect your own strong points and how to try to get rid of weak pawns or squares

249 a) Overprotection of the central squares

251 b) Overprotection of the centre as a protective measure for your own kingside

252 How to get rid of weak pawns


255 1 What are the logical elements on which manoeuvring against a weakness is based?

The concept of the "pivot", around which manoeuvring takes place.

255 2 The terrain - The rule for manoeuvring * Changing place

256 a) A pawn weakness, which is attacked in turn from the (7 th) rank and from the file

256 b) Two pawn weaknesses, in this case c3 and h3

257 c) The king as a weakness

258 3 Combining play on both wings, when for the moment the weaknesses either do not exist or are hidden

260 4 Manoeuvring when circumstances become difficult (your own centre is in need of protection)

Postscript: The history of the revolution in chess from 1911-1914

269 1 The general situation before 1911

270 Does "The modern game of chess" by Dr Tarrasch really correspond to the modern conception of the game?

276 2 The revolutionary ideas

277 3 Revolutionary theory put into revolutionary praxis

279 4 Other historical battles

282 5 Extension and development of the revolution in chess in the years 1914 to 1926

285 The chess career of Aaron Nimzowitsch

300 Index of players

303My System in the computer age (or footnotes)

313 Nimzowitsch for the 21 th Century

Als 1925/26 erstmals Nimzowitschs Werk "Mein System" in fünf Liefe­rungen beim Berliner Schachverleger Bernhard Kagan erschien, erregte das Werk Aufsehen in der Schachwelt, kratzte es doch an einigen starren Auffassungen des damaligen Schach­verständnisses. Bald war das Original vergriffen, so dass deutsche Schach­fans mit englische Übersetzungen Vorlieb nehmen mussten, etwa mit der 1930 bei Harcourt, Brace and Company erschienenen Übersetzung "My System" von Philip Hereford. Erst 1958 und 1962 gab es beim Schacharchiv deutschsprachige Neu­auflagen, die bislang letzte dann 2005 erneut bei Rattmann. Neuere englischsprachige Ausgaben gab es eben­falls, darunter die 1991 erschienene Ausgabe "My System - 21st Century Edition", herausgegeben von L. Hays. Dennoch entschied sich Quality Chess für eine weitere Neuauflage mit der Begründung, dass die bis­lang vorliegenden Übersetzungen ins Englische so manches Mal Nim­zowitschs Intentionen nur entschärft wiedergeben hätten. Zeit also, ein so berühmtes Buch in moderner Spra­che, aber möglichst "unzensiert" he­rausgegeben. Als Vorlage dienten dem Übersetzer Ian Adams und den Herausgebern Jacob Aagard und John Shaw die oben zitierte Ratt­mann-Ausgabe von 2005. Mir liegt zum Vergleich nur die Schach-Ar­chiv Ausgabe von 1962 (Rattmann) vor, aber schon der Vergleich mit dieser Ausgabe ergibt, dass die Au­toren der Quality-Chess-Ausgabe sich wirklich um eine nahe Überset­zung des Originals bemüht haben, denn auch diese 62er-Ausgabe woll­te der Erstausgabe, abgesehen von der Ausmerzung von Druckfehlern nahe kommen. Die neue englische Ausgabe enthält lediglich die 20-sei­tige Biographie von Hannak nicht, bietet dafür sämtliche Tabellen von den Turnierteilnahmen Nimzo­witschs, sowie zwei kleinere Artikel "My System in the Computer age" (Aagard/Shaw) und "Nimzowitsch for the 21 Century" (Aagard). Der erste deckt einige Fehlurteile Nim­zowitschs auf und korrigiert die Va­rianten, der letztere geht auf die Be­deutung von Nimzowitschs Buch für unser modernes Schach ein. Drei Vorworte (Yusupov und die Heraus­geber), ein Namensverzeichnis und vor allem reichlich 557 Diagramme runden diese sauber aufgemachte und dem Original verpflichtete Übersetzung ab!

Doch noch einige Sätze zum Autor Nimzowitsch und zum Inhalt des Buches, wenngleich der Bekanntheitsgrad beider allzu viele Worte überflüssig machen. Aaron Nimzowitsch, eigentlich Nemcovic (amt­lich slavisierte Form), wurde am 07.11.1886 in Riga geboren und be­trat 1904 in Coburg die Turniersze­ne, wo er Sechster im Hauptturnier hinter den Siegern Neumann und Vidmar wurde. Bis zum Ausbruch des ersten Weltkriegs 1914 nahm er an einer Reihe bekannter Turniere teil und erzielte gute Ergebnisse (Ostende 1907 3-4. Platz/Karlsbad 1907 4-5. Platz/Hamburg 1910 3. Platz/Karlsbad 1911 5-6. Platz/San Sebastian 1912 2-3. Platz/Russische Meisterschaft 1914 Sieg mit Aljechin). Die beste Zeit fiir Nimzowitsch folgte dann wohl zwischen 1923 und 1930, als er mehrere Tur­niere gewinnen konnte (vor allem Marienbad 1925, London 1927, Ber­lin 1928 und Karlsbad 1929), aber an der Qualifikation zu einem Welt­meisterschaftskampf gegen Capablanca scheiterte, als er 1927 in New York einen Punkt hinter Aljechin landete, der dann gegen den Turniersieger Capablanca spielte und be­kanntlich - damals überraschend - gewann. In den Zeiten der Weltwirt­schaftskrise machten sich bei dem Balten gesundheitliche Probleme zu­nehmend bemerkbar und am 16.März 1935 starb er in Kopenha­gen an einer Lungenentzündung.

Inhaltlich ist das Werk in zwei Teile aufgeteilt: Zunächst geht es um eini­ge Grundelemente des Schachspiels, wozu Begriffe wie das Zentrum, of­fene Linien, die siebte und achte Reihe, Freibauern, Abtauschbetrach­tungen, Endspielstrategie, die Fesse­lung, das Abzugsschach und diverse Bauernketten gehören. Im zweiten Teil wird das Positionsspiel vertieft. Wesentliche Begriffe sind die Pro­phylaxe, die Hemmung, isolierte Bauern, schwache und starke Punk­te, die Überdeckung und das Lavie­ren. Alles gut bekannte Themen - heute gut bekannt! Und daran hat Nimzowitsch eben seinen gewichti­gen Anteil. Das Herausarbeiten etwa der prophylaktischen Überdeckung zentraler Felder der Partieanlage, der Angriff auf die Basis einer Bau­ernkette oder die geschickte Hem­mung der gegnerischen Zentrums­formation, das sind nur drei Beispie­le für die Verdienste Nimzowitschs. Freilich sind manche Details, vor al­lem in der Eröffnung, sowie manche überspitzte, eigenwillige Formulie­rungen heute inzwischen überholt, aber erstens ist Nimzowitsch. nicht alt genug geworden, um sein Werk wirklich überarbeiten zu können, zweitens würde eine abgeschwächte und veränderte Fassung ganz im Sinne der Herausgeber aus schach­historischer Hinsicht tatsächlich eine erhebliche Wertminderung bedeuten, und drittens sind zentrale Begriffe dieses immerhin als Lehrbuch kon­zipierten Werkes nach wie vor sehr lehrreich und lesenswert. Spielen Sie also die Beispielpartien des Bu­ches durch, sie bleiben gewinnbrin­gend wie auch die Partien des Folge­bandes "Die Praxis meines Sys­tems", das im Original 1928 er­schien, also zu einem Zeitpunkt, als Nimzowitsch auf dem Höhepunkt seines schachlichen Schaffens war.

Mit freundlicher Genehmigung

Helmut Riedl, Rochade Europa 7/2007

17,0 cm
24,0 cm
0,550 kg
Aaron Nimzowitsch: My System
316 Seiten, 419 Diagramme, kartoniert, 2006.
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