Aron Nimzowitsch 1928-1935: Annotated Games & Essays, ed. Rudolf Reinhardt (New In Chess 2013). 414 pp. $39.95/€34.95.
While opening books enjoy the lion's share of the chess publishing market they are mostly like newspapers and pop songs: interesting and valued for an evanescent moment, and soon gone, supplanted and forgotten. Other books aim for more, and if they succeed we return to them time and time again. In the realm of chess, one such classic is Aron Nimzowitsch's My System, in which he attempted to codify his then-revolutionary understanding of positional chess for the wider public. This served as a manual for many later generations, and is still considered an important and useful book even today, despite its limitations. (Nimzowitsch increased the chess world's understanding, but it isn't as if discovery ended in 1925, when that book was published.)
In 1929 Nimzowitsch published a companion volume called Chess Praxis: The Praxis of My System. This was a collection of 109 of his games, annotated by him to demonstrate the truth of the ideas put forth in My System. The first volume was the system, the theory or the hypothesis, while the latter was the (purported) proof.
Nimzowitsch was a very colorful writer, occasionally even bombastic. That wasn't terribly unusual in his day, but is in marked contrast to contemporary chess writing. That's part of the fun. He got some things wrong and overestimated the significance and applicability of some his ideas (most famously that of overprotection), and of course there were plenty of things he didn't know - and no one else at the time knew either. (Luckily we live in a time when everything is understood in chess! *Ahem*) All the same, he got a lot right, and conveyed it in a way that was entertaining and instructive.
Nimzowitsch lived until 1935 - only 1935, one should say, dying of pneumonia at the early age of 48. His career had really taken off in the late '20s and early '30s, to a degree that he was (at least?) as appropriate a candidate for the world championship as Alexander Alekhine's two-time victim Efim Bogoljubow. He never got that shot at the title, and even if he had Alekhine would likely have had his way with him, as their score in decisive games was +9 -3 in the champion's favor. Nevertheless it would have made for an intriguing match, and Nimzowitsch himself was certainly interested in such a match and confident too.
I note that Nimzowitsch's career was on an upswing at the time of and subsequent to the volumes mentioned, because it's a pity for those of us with an appreciation of chess history that Nimzowitsch's writings didn't cover the absolute prime of his career. Or did it...?
Enter, of course, the new book occasioning this post. It wasn't a monograph in the sense of My System and My Praxis, but the late Rudolf Reinhardt has compiled many of Nimzowitsch's games from 1928 through 1934 (Nimzowitsch entered the hospital shortly before Christmas of 1934, and died in March of the following year), many with the great man's own annotations. That comprises most of the book, which closes with a series of occasional articles by Nimzowitsch written for various chess publications on varying topics.
The tournaments covered include (but are not limited to) Bad Kissingen 1928 (5th, behind Bogoljubow, Capablanca, Euwe and Rubinstein), Berlin 1928 (2nd, behind Capablanca), Carlsbad 1929 (first, ahead of Capablanca, Spielmann, Rubinstein, Becker, Euwe, Bogoljubow etc.), San Remo 1930 (second, way behind Alekhine but ahead of Rubinstein, Bogoljubow, etc.), Bled 1931 (third, [way] behind Alekhine and a point behind Bogoljubow), and Zurich 1934 (a disappointing tie for 6th-7th behind Alekhine, Euwe, Flohr, Bogoljubow and Lasker - whom he defeated in their individual game).
Nimzowitsch thus faced the cream of the world's crop, repeatedly, and it is interesting to see his comments to his games and his reflections on the various tournaments. Nimzowitsch said what he thought, and that makes the collection especially entertaining and insightful.
If you have an interest in chess history, this is certainly a book to get. (Sample pages here.)