These quotes are intended to stimulate thought about the purpose of chess itself, and why chess960 is an attractive option for players (or not, as the case may be). As far as I can see, the greatest piece of wisdom comes from the second World Chess Champion: “Chess must not be memorized, simply because it is not important enough”:
Education in Chess has to be an education in independent thinking and judging. Chess must not be memorized, simply because it is not important enough. If you load your memory, you should know why. Memory is too valuable to be stocked with trifles. Of my fifty-seven years I have applied at least thirty to forgetting what I had learned or read, and since I succeeded in this I have acquired a certain ease and cheer which I should never again like to be without. If need be, I can increase my skill in Chess, if need be I can do that of which I have no idea at present. I have stored little in my memory, but I can apply that little, and it is of good use in many and varied emergencies. I keep it in order, but resist every attempt to increase its dead weight.
You should keep in mind no names, nor numbers, nor isolated incidents, but only methods. The method is plastic. It is applicable in every situation. The result, the isolated incident, is rigid, because it is bound to wholly individual conditions.
— Emanuel Lasker, Lasker’s Manual of Chess
Yes, I read a lot of the chess classics because our predecessors set the standards for the games we play today. It is important to learn from their tried and tested techniques and preparations. Now with most chess players in the world just memorizing computer analysis, it’s so interesting to see how the greatest players in history worked out the moves with their brains.
— Wesley So, from an interview with Sagar Shah.
Chess has ceased to be a struggle of personalities or a struggle of ideas and has instead been transformed into a purely technical and boring work of remembering a large number of prepared opening variations. The human element in play is lost completely. I’ve tried to fight against it, 10-12 years ago it seemed to me that ‘Fischer’s chess’ was a way out of the situation arisen. But I’ve understood then that it is difficult to change the way things are done.
In this sense chess is a reflection of that which takes place in other fields of human activities. The creative element is less and less present in the world! Chess reached this point 20 years ago. The best chess was produced long ago. Nowadays the computer dictates how chess preparation develops. Players have become spectators.
— Valery Salov, from a 2009 interview excerpt found on Kevin Spraggett’s blog.
That’s not so simple, you have to have done it like Kramnik – to be phenomenally prepared… in that case you really do get this so-called death. And that’s not even the main thing. For now we can discuss and debate about whether we’ve come to that yet or not. But it’s clear that the situation will get worse and worse, by the year, by the month. How is it all going to end? For me that’s obvious. For now it’s still possible to argue about whether we’ve come to that stage.
The escape is either reducing the time control, or Chess960, which I consider the ideal solution — simply ideal in all regards. That also allows you to play with a long time control. Moreover, at the moment we’ve got a situation where the control is quite artificially extended, because it was always two hours for forty moves (well, or two and a half), but that was for forty moves! Or for thirty. While now you often end up with two hours for fifteen moves. What on earth is two hours for fifteen moves? It’s idiotic. In Chess960, however, it really will be two hours for forty moves, without any forced draws… I simply don’t entirely understand why chess will lose anything from that.
— Alexander Grischuk, from chessintranslation.com
Fischer Random Chess is a great game! Creativity starts from the very first moves. If tournaments were held using it then I’d be happy to take part.
— Sergey Karjakin, from chessintranslation.com
Fischer Random Chess tournaments should be run — only not using all 960 possible positions that the computer can randomly choose, but excluding those which lead to overly absurd and disharmonious starting positions.
Vladimir Kramnik says, “That’s a different game”. I agree with him. But just look who becomes World Champion in that “different game”: Svidler, Aronian, Nakamura. Well-known faces! Those who play well in normal chess don’t feel so uncomfortable in Fischer Random Chess either!
— Ilya Levitov, from chessintranslation.com
SS: Suppose you were given an option to stop normal chess and start playing chess 960, what would be your reaction?
BJ: This idea of chess 960 is completely illogical. People call it very original, but I don’t like it.
SS: That’s surprising! I thought a creative player like you might love chess 960.
BJ: Ok, some of the starting positions are interesting, but not all. It’s just too random and that’s the reason why I don’t like it.
— Sagar Shah interviewing Badur Jobava for Chessbase
Chess960 is healthy and good for your chess. If you get into it and not just move the pieces to achieve known positions it really improves your chess vision.
— Levon Aronian
I like to play Chess960. […] I get bored from playing openings like the Slav over and over again. I think that in about 15 or 20 years we will only be playing Chess960.
— Shakhriyar Mamedyarov
I love chess, and I didn’t invent Fischerandom chess to destroy chess. I invented Fischerandom chess to keep chess going. Because I consider the old chess is dying, or really it’s dead. A lot of people have come up with other rules of chess-type games, with 10×8 boards, new pieces, and all kinds of things. I’m really not interested in that. I want to keep the old chess flavour. I want to keep the old chess game. But just making a change so the starting positions are mixed, so it’s not degenerated down to memorisation and prearrangement like it is today.
— Bobby Fischer
I don’t like to dwell on the past. I’m interested in Fischerandom now, I am working on a new clock, I’m trying to make chess a more exciting game today. I am not interested in sitting in my rocking chair thinking what I did 10, 20 or 30 years ago.
— Bobby Fischer
I have to say that I love Chess960!
— Alexandra Kosteniuk
TS: Do you see this as a possible revival of Chess960, something you would like to see more of?
HN: Absolutely. I think it was great that they held the event in Mainz every year. They were very popular events and I really liked it. I think there should be more Chess960 events. The thing is, a lot of people feel it’s just too fundamentally different from the start, but more often than not the positions are fairly similar to regular chess. The piece play is a little bit different, and it’s not as easy to simplify the positions as in classical chess. So yeah, I hope there will be a lot more 960 for sure.
— Tarjei J Svensen interviewing Hikaru Nakamura for his 2018 match against Magnus Carlsen
Fischer is a man ahead of his time and his ideas are road markings for the 21st century. Fischer’s proposal of changing the starting positions of the pieces, making more room for creativity, is the only way that the human race can retain its vitality in the face of inevitable technological progress. Like his chess clock, which is used more and more, his idea of a chess game will be accepted – whether in twenty or fifty years is immaterial.
— Ljubomir Ljubojevic
I would love to play Chess960 with Fischer. It is not necessary to spend ages preparing some opening variations, because there is just no theory. It is important to be in good shape and to have a clear mind. Than you can play a match with Fischer and you can even beat him.
— Anatoly Karpov, interviewed by Hartmut Metz.
Carlsen came with a line that was not very theoretical, trying to challenge the World Champion to play chess. […] But Anand proved that even this obscure line is something he has studied before, and it was Carlsen that was set back.
— Alejandro Ramirez, on round 1 of the World Chess Championship, 2013
Kramnik used almost no time at all in achieving his draw in today’s game.
— Chessbase, 2013
Kamsky played the first 25 moves effectively in negative time, as the 30-second increment for every move offered him five more minutes than he began. His sacrifice 22. Bxh6 was played automatically, and a stunned Seirawan ran low on time contemplating the combination. The superior preparation netted the defending champion Kamsky a pain-free win.
— Chessbase, 2012 (here is the game).
Nepomniachtchi said he came up with the novelty at the board, which Shipov called a ‘methodological mistake’ (especially in an opening as sharp as the Grunfeld!).
— Chessbase, 2011
Fischer Chess is very promising. It’s also named Chess960, after all, as there are 960 starting position. Well, some of those positions are a little absurd i.e. the pieces stand in absurd positions… Perhaps you don’t need to use all the 960 starting positions but, let’s say, 200 or 300? I don’t know the exact number. I think that really would get rid of all the forced draws, because it’s impossible to analyse 100 starting positions, never mind 900. I think the most promising option is Fischer Chess.
— Alexander Grischuk, from chessintranslation.com
It feels a little silly to annotate a game in which I didn’t make a single move on my own, just following my preparation all the way. […] A pretty finale. I was obviously hoping for the beauty prize sacrificing both my rooks and all, but OK, I’m afraid requirements are one makes a move of his own for that it seems. Something I could avoid doing in the last five rounds in Dresden. Silly game, this chess.
— Jan Gustafsson, writing for Chessbase, 2011 (here is the game).
19.Rxc7N. There comes the novelty! Actually, the impression I had is that both players had more or less analyzed the rest of the game.
— Romain Edouard, reporting for Chessbase on Bilbao, 2010 (referring to Anand – Kramnik).
World Championship games are expected to last four, perhaps even six hours. This one was over in little more than two. The Indian World Champion was destroyed; nay, humiliated. On Bulgarian television that night, Topalov explained that the entire game had been prepared by him and his team at home; he didn’t need to find a single original move to score a simple first game victory.
— Ian Rogers, on round 1 of the 2010 World Chess Championship.
The World Chess Championship between defending champion Viswanathan Anand and his Challenger Veselin Topalov got under way with a shocker. In just about an hour Anand was in a lost position. Both players powered down a very well known Gruenfeld line. Then Anand started to think, but he must still have been in preparation. And then he blundered with 23…Kf7?? which was almost certainly as a result of trying to remember his preparation rather than studying the position. He probably mixed up lines in his own mind. After 24.Nxf6 Anand didn’t put up a lot of resistance and resigned after 30 moves but there was little he could do after his blunder anyway.
— Chessbase, 2010
Kariakin-Shirov saw another theoretical battle in the 6…Bc5 Spanish, which has been one of the opening tabiyas of the event. […] The most remarkable feature of the game, and a testament to the depth of Kariakin’s preparation, is that when the draw was agreed at move 39, his clock showed 1.52 remaining, some twelve minutes more than he started the game with!
— Steve Giddins (Chessbase)
The Nanjing games are homework by Garry Kasparov and me, […] Today’s game was provided by Garry.
— Magnus Carlsen
Nowadays, a 13-year-old would probably know more than Bobby Fischer knew when he retired. They analyse all the moves and prepare themselves on their computers. But that doesn’t mean they are special.
— Garry Kasparov
Finally the novelty came. These days it seems to be normal to play novelties somewhere in the ending. Apart from just being the novelty, this move is also very strong. It is most probably that Radjabov found this natural improvement over the board, as he spend more than an hour, if I am not mistaken. But it could be that he was just trying to remember his own analysis (can you imagine how much he has to remember??).
— Mihail Marin (Chessbase)
If you want to compete successfully, you must know the current state of affairs: which variations are played and why some old ideas are just no good any more. In short, you need a database which is up-to-date, complete, reliable, and ready to get going at once. […] Remember: One step ahead yesterday may mean one step behind tomorrow – you always have to keep up.
— Chessbase (The future of all databases)
Titled players appeared to be trotting out game after game in which the same old hoary opening sequences, memorized out to fifteen, twenty, or even more moves, were repeated endlessly. True novelties were becoming scarcer, and sometimes these ‘opening’ novelties didn’t appear until well into the middlegame. (A master-level friend once proudly showed me a novelty he’d discovered at move twenty-seven of a very well-trodden chess opening, and it’s said that even as far back as the 1950’s Mikhail Botvinnik had some openings memorised past the thirtieth move).
— Steve Lopez (Chessbase)
For the first lesson, I want you to play over every column of Modern Chess Openings, including the footnotes. And for the next lesson, I want you to do it again.
— Bobby Fischer
I can answer in a single phrase. But I don’t think you will venture to print it…. ‘Dancing on our graves!’ Yes, the young ‘stars’ are dancing on our graves while we are still alive! They have taken our chess, appropriated our ideas. They are playing the same positions, which they have studied backwards and forwards, and all this pomp now looks rather foolish. Huge prizes, television, sponsors, publicity- and everyone is expected to believe their claims that it was, oh, so difficult to seize control of the c-file… As if they were seizing it with their bare hands or taking a bulldozer and dragging it with their hands to the c-file!
Thank you very much! At the bottom people will be playing the same chess—the millions will go to those at the top. Look at what’s happening now. They at the top of their Mt. Olympus, can refrain from playing for six months at a time, and meanwhile the other two hundred grandmasters do all the research spade-work for them. And when six months later they open their chess magazines or consult their databases, they see that the ‘galley slaves’ have already debugged all the new continuations and shown how they should be played. You understand? This is their free laboratory. In effect, the ‘stars’ sell other people’s knowledge for big money. But why, in that case, should they consider themselves more important than all the others?
In their annotations, they juggle a multitude of continuations but play only one. In any opening, there now arises a definite position in which all the continuations have been evaluated. Time and again you read in such annotations that this or that is an innovation, a new move. What of it? You are ‘superstars’! Can you not play without the crutches of theory? They have intimidated everyone with their ‘innovations’. Or take their standard comment somewhere on the 22nd move: ‘The usual continuation here is…’ In my day, there were no such comments. It simply never occurred to us to analyse an opening to the 20th move. That’s a problem for a computer, not a human being.”
— David Bronstein
In chess so much depends on opening theory, so the champions before the last century did not know nearly as much as I do and other players do about opening theory. So if you just brought them back from the dead they wouldn’t do well. They’d get bad openings. You cannot compare the playing strength, you can only talk about natural ability. Memorisation is enormously powerful. Some kid of fourteen today, or even younger, could get an opening advantage against Capablanca, and especially against the players of the previous century, like Morphy and Steinitz. Maybe they would still be able to outplay the young kid of today. Or maybe not, because nowadays when you get the opening advantage not only do you get the opening advantage, you know how to play, they have so many examples of what to do from this position. It is really deadly, and that is why I don’t like chess any more.
Morphy and Capablanca had enormous talent, Steinitz was very great too. Alekhine was great, but I am not a big fan of his. Maybe it’s just my taste. I’ve studied his games a lot, but I much prefer Capablanca and Morphy. Alekhine had a rather heavy style, Capablanca was much more brilliant and talented, he had a real light touch. Everybody I’ve ever spoken to who saw Capablanca play still speak of him with awe. If you showed him any position he would instantly tell you the right move. When I used to go to the Manhattan Chess Club back in the fifties, I met a lot of old-timers there who knew Capablanca, because he used to come around to the Manhattan club in the forties – before he died in the early forties. They spoke about Capablanca with awe. I have never seen people speak about any chess player like that, before or since.
Capablanca really was fantastic. But even he, if you study him objectively, had his weaknesses, especially when you play over his games with his notes he would make idiotic statements like ‘I played the rest of the game perfectly.’ But then you play through it and it is not true at all. But the thing that was so great about Capablanca was that he really spoke his mind, he said what he believed was the truth, he really said what he felt, which was wonderful. He wanted to change the rules [of chess] already, back in the twenties, because he said chess was getting played out. He was right. Now chess is completely dead. It’s a joke. It’s all just memorisation and prearrangement. It’s a terrible game now. Very uncreative.
— Bobby Fischer
I am always reminded of the case of a noted American journalist, an excellent fellow, well educated, and, at the time I have in mind, chess champion of the state in which he resided. My friend devoted a great deal of time and energy to the study of openings. Whenever I passed through his city he always came to the station for me and put me up at his house. We would have frequent conversations during which he would ask me about this or that variation; to his great surprise I would almost always answer, ‘I don’t know it.’ Then he would say: ‘What will you do when somebody plays it against you?’ And I would reply, ‘Ninety percent of the book variations have no great value, because they either contain mistakes or they are based on fallacious assumptions; just forget about the openings and spend all that time on the endings. In the long run you will get much better results that way.
— José Raúl Capablanca