Escape Artist


Positional, Aggressive, Calculating, Emotional

Escape Artists like quiet, positional play, but somehow seem to end up in tense, nerve-wrecking, and sharp struggles. Why does this happen? Because the Escape Artist, by threatening to grind his opponent down in quiet, positional ways, forces his opponent to counter-attack, sacrifice, and take risks. The Escape Artist often doesn’t prevent his opponent’s attack, but actually welcomes it and entices it. Then the complications and danger begin, and the Escape Artist’s phenomenal calculating power comes to the forefront.

“It seems that to me that in order to stay active your primary motive should be enjoyment.” – Jan Timman

Viktor Korchnoi (born 1931), seen by many as the best player never to become a World Champion, is the quintessential Escape Artist on the chess board. Playing quiet openings such as the French defence and English opening, he tends to increase the tension in subtle ways, often forcing his opponent to sacrifice. Korchnoi is foremost a calculating player, often looking for exceptions from the rules of positional harmony and always willing to call his opponent’s bluff. A player with enormous fighting ability, a large part of his success can be attributed to his great will to win. In other ways Korchnoi is an Escape Artist as well: in 1976 he defected from the Soviet Union, and in recent times he seems to have escaped old age as well, being rated in the top 100 of the world until the age of 75.

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Champion


Attacking, Solid, Calculating, Emotional

Champions are great fighters who play for the attack but don’t like to take undue risks. They are emotional players who use those emotions to increase the intensity of the game for themselves and for their opponents. Deep, profound calculations that get at the heart of the position are their forte. Champions are universal players, and they won’t go wild looking for a win if its just not there. They are quite willing to play a quiet endgame if that is what the position demands.

“I’m sorry for you, Garry, because the happiest day of your life is already over.” – Rhona Petrosian (to Kasparov immediately following his victory in the World Championship on November 10, 1985)

Garry Kasparov (born 1963), thirteenth World Champion, typifies the chess style of a true Champion. A tireless worker, he brought opening preparation to a new level, often deeply analyzing openings far into the middlegame. Kasparov had unique understanding of dynamics and often showed that seemingly-surprising positional sacrifices were correct. From 1986 until his retirement in 2005 he was almost constantly the highest-rated player in the world, and he held the world championship title from 1985 until 2000 – so it is not surprising that his style was that of a Champion.

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Assassin


Attacking, Aggressive, Calculating, Calm

Assassins are all about controlled aggression. They tend to play sharp openings (especially 1.e4 as white) and look to attack the opponent’s King. But their attacks are not wild or careless – everything is still governed by the objective demands of the position and exact calculation. Assassins tend to play “against the pieces” rather than “against the opponent”. They won’t alter their own play to try to take advantage of the opponent’s psychology.

“All I ever want to do is just play chess.” – Bobby Fischer

Bobby Fischer (1943-2008), the eleventh World Chess Champion, was one deadly Assassin. One of the most dominant players of all time, the American became a grandmaster at the age of only fifteen and eventually took the world championship in a 1972 match with Boris Spassky. Fischer’s perfect composure, along with accurate calculation and great will to win, caused his opponents to crumble. Fischer’s opening repertoire was very limited, but also very sharp and very well prepared. All in all, Bobby Fischer was a chess machine long before actual chess engines could play at anywhere near that level.

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Barbarian


Attacking, Aggressive, Calculating, Emotional

Barbarians do not mess around. They hunt the opponent’s king from the beginning to the end of the game. They are attacking players who are willing to accept lots of risk, calculating complications and dangers that make their opponents squirm. Barbarians put their heart into the game – a typical Barbarian might get upset if something goes wrong in a tournament and have a disaster, or, on the other hand, ride an unstoppable wave of success when things go right. Barbarians aren’t usually the type to offer draws, and their main goal is to create unusual and complicated situations on the board in which they can out-calculate their opponent.

“From fanaticism to barbarism is only one step.”
― Denis Diderot, Essai sur le mérite et la vertu

Hikaru Nakamura (born 1987), the American grandmaster, exemplifies the typical Barbarian. Constantly seeking complications and fighting to win in every game, the former child prodigy has ranked as high as #3 in the world rankings. Nakamura is a very emotional player, as can be seen just by watching his facial expressions as he plays. He takes losses very hard, but this doesn’t prevent him from taking risks to go for the win in any position. A player with lightning-quick calculating ability and a very wide opening repertoire, his previous use of the extremely brash 1.e4 e5 2.Qh5?! solidifies his position as a chess Barbarian.

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Anaconda


Positional, Aggressive, Intuitive, Emotional

Anacondas may seem peaceful on the exterior, but the Anaconda is always preparing something menacing – a deep positional squeeze, typical of the big snake. Anacondas usually reject obvious and direct play, and instead prefer to build up positional pressure. They tend to be very attached to their own ideas, almost to the point of seeming like the result of the game is secondary. But don’t be fooled: once an Anaconda has you in his grip, you will be very lucky to escape.

“First restrain, next blockade, lastly destroy.” – Aron Nimzowitsch

Aron Nimzowitsch (1886-1935) was one of the best players never to become world champion and was among the leading players in the world for several decades. His legacy, however, is mostly as a theoretician of chess strategy. In his writing (which is still very influential today) he laid out his “system” of chess strategy which emphasizes preventing your opponent’s plans through such concepts as blockade, overprotection, and prophylaxis. In his own play he showed his “Anaconda” style – a positional, indirect aggression, which seeks to further his plans by preventing those of his opponent.

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Technician


Positional, Solid, Intuitive, Calm

Technicians are the quietest and calmest chess players. Strategists who rarely attack directly and prefer to quietly exploit positional advantages, Technicians utilize their exceptional intuition to guide their positional play. Rarely losing control, the Technician exploits almost invisible positional weaknesses to win in the endgame. Technicians do not like to take many risks, and therefore rarely lose – but also win less than more aggressive players.

“Every month I look through some ten thousand games, so not as to miss any new ideas and trends.” – Vladimir Kramnik

Vladimir Kramnik (born 1975) of Russia, the fourteenth world champion, is the ultimate Technician. Known for his great endgame skills and excellent opening knowledge, Kramnik became the world champion by defeating Garry Kasparov, who had reigned for fifteen years. Despite being seen as unstoppable, Kasparov was unable to win a single game against Kramnik’s iron play in their London 2000 match, while Kramnik exploited small mistakes to win two games.

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4/xii mmxiv


The December 2013 FIDE rating list recorded 1441 chess players holding the Grandmaster title, out of those 31 were women.

The Latin haedus means both ‘child’ and ‘young goat’.

Bonnie Prince Charles had a Polish mother, princess Maria Klementyna Sobieska, and spoke English with a Polish accent.

The phrase ‘OMG’ meaning ‘Oh my God’ dates back to 1917.

According to research conducted by the Daily Mail, British women spend 474 days putting on their make-up; this translates as three hours, 19 minutes each week in front of the mirror. The power of make-up is so strong that 27 per cent admit feeling ‘vulnerable’ without it. It also found losing expensive cosmetics now costs the typical British woman £248 a year. In fact, women mislay so much make-up they spend a staggering £15,872 replacing it during their lifetime.

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Surgeon


Positional, Aggressive, Calculating, Calm

Surgeons are tricky, practical players who use positional play to fight for a win in all positions. They don’t usually gain big advantages early in the game, and sometimes even get worse positions; but the Surgeon is clever and knows how to fight. With great nerves and calculating ability, a Surgeon will uncover every hidden resource available to bring the game to a favourable conclusion.

“Without error there can be no brilliancy.” – Emanuel Lasker

Emanuel Lasker (1868-1941), the second world champion, was one of the most successful Surgeons. The longest reigning world champion (27 years), Lasker’s style was mysterious to his contemporaries. He was described as having a “psychological” style of play, which confused his opponents. But in fact he was simply ahead of them in his understanding of the dynamics of chess. Lasker understood how to create counterplay, how to change the theatre of battle when one part of the board was weak, and how to transform advantages. His defensive and endgame technique were the key to his great results.

See other: Chess Personalities