31 January 2024

Book completed: My Best Games by Victor Korchnoi (2011 edition)


I recently completed My Best Games (2011 edition) by Victor Korchnoi, which I originally started in late 2022. It took that long for me to go through the 110 games (half as White, half as Black) at a fairly regular pace, with around 20-30 minutes to review each with a physical board. As part of my training process, I normally have an annotated games collection in the study mix, ideally one that includes a player's own comments and considerations, which provides special firsthand insight into the thinking process.

This collection did not disappoint in that regard, as Korchnoi offers a number of valuable insights into chess thinking and performance, beyond specific game considerations and variations; you can see some of them in several previously posted training quotes of the day. I particularly have enjoyed going through Korchnoi's games here and in other collections, such as the My Life for Chess ChessBase video volumes, for several main reasons:

  • Korchnoi was never a chess prodigy and is an example of someone reaching the highest levels (#2 in the world) through "normal" training and hard work. Of course his career and abilities were far beyond average, but the main point is that it did not come automatically to him as a childhood gift.
  • Perhaps for that reason, he has perhaps unique observations and insights into chess performance, principles, and practical considerations - and can articulate them well.
  • While Korchnoi was extremely competitive - being known as "Victor the Terrible" at the height of his career - he also was candid about his mistakes and failings in annotations. He offers up a number of examples of where he passed up draws or played objectively weaker moves or opening setups out of curiosity, fighting spirit, and/or a simple desire for variety. This makes for more interesting chess.
  • Associated with that approach to chess, Korchnoi had one of the widest repertoires and knew how to play a large number of position types.
As with any games collection, when going over it a student needs to do work to understand it on a more personal level, and read it critically. Korchnoi is not particularly consistent in the level of his annotations, sometimes taking the time to give a short variation with a tactic as an explanation, other times simply noting a particular move would be tactically bad, meaning you have to figure out why for yourself. This of course is part of the learning process and why reviewing annotated games in an active way can be so helpful to advancing your chess, because you have to engage with the material and not just accept it.

There are the usual typos or incorrect information present in a few of the game scores and annotations, but I would say no more than around a half-dozen in the entire volume, which isn't bad; all the large game collections I've been through have them due to editorial oversight.

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