Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Manual of Chinese School of Chess

I am thinking to start my own personal chess book review. So far I had enjoying countless book review, mainly from Chesscafe. After my stay in Singapore I had borrowed many chess books but the given borrowing time of course not adequate to finished reading most of it. So this review also served as reminder that I have read the book!

This week I come across a book “Chinese School of Chess”. The book was published in 2002 under Batsford Chess Book and written by Liu Wenzhe (刘文哲). A quick read revealed that Mr. Liu was the first Chinese titled player, Head Coach of Chinese National Team and more important he was the Founder of Chinese School of Chess. He also expert in Xiangqi (Chinese Chess) and Weiqi (Go).

This book quickly turns up very interesting. The main theme endorsed by the author is to proclaim a new approach or “school” in learning chess and interesting point is he said that indeed his School is the correct way to studied it compare to the other “schools”. Now, after being “brain washed” by many chess lessons around the world and internet from these “other schools”, reading this statement must be wakeup call. Or isn’t, yet?

The book started with a biography of Mr.Liu, again by a few paragraph quickly give an inspiration on how a 25 year age man can still become a chess master, in ’60 China. Few pages more the author tells more into the history of chess in China, you will found out that indeed chess and computer binary come from the same source that is the book of Changes or I-Ching.

And then come the main theme. Although Mr.Liu said in the book that he cannot reveal all the secret of his School, he is indeed given valuable information and “keywords” of his teaching. We will introduced to his new “stem” like the “three S” principles , Strategy, Structure and Space , superseding the “other schools” stem like “theory of centre”, “theory of piece development” and “theory of tempo”. The author then break down each stem into more intrigue sentence like in Principle of Strategy we will have a following ten standards apply (1) clarity of goal (2) aggressive activity (3) deployment of adequate material and so on, read it yourself. When reading this I imagine in original Chinese it must be presented in Chinese character or couplet similar to Jin Yong’s (Louis Cha) manual of the Nine Yin (Jiu Yin Zhen Jing) style, where the student need to remember the couplet and suddenly his brain has new a revelation and his skill increased.

By the way the “other schools” Liu Wenzhe mentioned are the :

1.The Italian School of Chess – Chess is Art, Favorite opening King Gambit
2.The Classical School of Chess – Chess is Science, usage of Queen Gambit Declined
3.The Hypermodern School of Chess – Chess is competition, switched to King Indian and Gruenfeld.
4.The Soviet School of Chess – Chess is art of competition, practiced the Sicilian Defence.

5.The Chinese School of Chess – Chess is art of Thinking, weapon is Benoni Defence.

By outlining these schools the author also give excellent comments on its contribution and importantly its weakness. I really enjoy reading his analysis of each opening associated with their respected schools and I bet you won’t find these in majority chess opening books.

Other strong stem coming from Mr.Liu is the Chinese School emphasis on middlegame. This is come from the influence of Chinese Chess or Xiangqi, where the pawns do little rule and piece play is the major theme of the game. He even wrote that it is a weak approach to learn the opening and endgame first prior to learning middle game, as in other school teaching. The argument supported strongly by many annotated game by himself and by the Women Chess Champion Xie Jun, showing understanding in middle game is the winning point.

Speaking of annotated game, this is also the part where I really enjoyed. The book contained many best games played by China master against the world. Mr.Liu deeply annotated each game to very details, hey it is very instructive for amateur reader,like me and can compared to Nunn’s Understanding Chess Move by Move. You’ll soon to know that Mr.Liu annotation is more than annotation by those grandmaster who only spend one hour with only pen and paper , for fifteen dollars per game (see page 75 to believe it).

Lastly the book revealed the way the school trained their champion and the way they prepared for competing in a chess match. I read in great enthusiast on the list of what Xie Jun had done to beat Maya Chiburdanidze. In 2008 Women World Chess Championship was done in a Knock out style. This maybe the reason why Hou Yifan lost to Alexandra Kosteniuk in final, should they put it in a match style we might see another great example of this Chinese School style.

I search internet for this book review, although Chesscafe give a positive review to this book, other criticized more. So I think this book is underestimated. Of course the provocative aspect of the book like “Chinese School of Chess” is the only power to challenge Soviet School of Chess must be taken as a proud wording from a former national head coach. By the fact in 2002 there are already many China grandmaster hanging around Topalov or Anand in mostly major tournament, so this is indeed a proud success from a country with only 30 years more into chess. And most recent tournament in Subic this month also confirms that Chinese keep sending new face down their sacred mountain. Of the ten top finisher in 8th Asian Continental Open five are Chinese and in Women all top three are all Chinese. Be reminded that some of the player is not title yet. Yu Yangyi, Xiu Deshun, Wan Yunguo all passed their 2400 rating without master title!

Last word, although published this in 2002, Elder Liu rarely mentioned the aspect of computer chess. Perhaps this will spare us a room to established new challenge to his School, that is the Computer Chess of School.

You can order this amazing book via Amazon, and please click my link :) :

See the “Chinese Immortal” chess game, the first international game won by chinaman IM Liu Wenzhe against grandmaster GM J Donner Olympiad 1978, after the Indonesian section below.

Belakangan saya membaca buku seru berjudul “Chinese School of Chess” alias PERGURUAN CATUR CHINA. Buku ini dikarang oleh sang tetua pendiri perguruan ini, tetua Liu Wenche. Beliau adalah seorang pemain catur cina (Xiangqi) and Go, lahir tahun 1940 and di era ’60 memutuskan untuk beralih cabang menjadi pecatur standar international sebelumnya adalah pecatur cina. Hayo siapa yang udah 25 tahun ke atas dan masih bercita-cita menjadi grandmaster ini sumber inspirasinya. Diceritakan kalau di era kegelapan di Cina tahun 1960 catur dilarang ama pemerintah, jadi tetua Liu hanya belajar catur melalui koleksi buku di perpustakaan nasional Beijing. Tiap hari dia mencatat dan menerjemahkan artikel catur Rusia dan ujung-ujungnya menjadi International Master pertama Cina dan akhirnya menjadi ketua pelatih tim nasional negeri ini.

Buku ini menjelaskan banyak hal seru yang mengubah pandangan pembelajaran catur yang diterima dari “perguruan lain”. Tetua Liu menjelaskan ada empat perguruan sebelum perguruannya, yaitu :

1.Perguruan Catur Italia, mottonya Catur adalah Seni, pembukaan favorit adalah Gambit Raja
2.Perguruan Catur Klasik, Catur adalah Eksak/Sain, hobinya Gambit Ratu Ditolak
3.Perguruan Catur Hypermodern, Catur adalah Kompetisi, senangnya Pembukaan Raja India dan Gruenfeld.
4.Perguruan Catur Rusia, Catur adalah Seni Berkompetisi, pendukung Pembukaan Sisilia...dan tentu saja….
5.Perguruan Catur Cina, Catur adalah Seni Berpikir, senjatanya Pembukaan Benoni.

Wuiiih, mantaaaap deh. Di buku ini selanjutnya dipaparkan kelemahan masing-masing perguruan beserta pembukaannya, wah, ini nih yang jarang bakal bisa ditemukan di buku-buku pembukaan komersial lainnya.
Yang paling menarik adalah, tetua Liu akhirnya memaparkan rahasia-rahasia perguruannya. Walaupun masih malu-malu dan mengaku nggak akan mengupas habis rahasianya, tetap beberapa “kalimat kunci” dapat ditemukan dibuku ini. Tetua Liu bercerita kalau ilmu nya adalah “Tiga S”, Strategi, Struktur dan Space (Ruang). Tiga S ini adalah ilmu lanjutan kalau kita udah belajar ilmu “dasar” perguruan lain seperti “teori pusat (center)” , “teori pengembangan perwira (piece development)” dan “teori tempo”. Selepas memberikan Tiga S, masih banyak kalimat kunci lainnya seperti dari Strategi ada sepuluh prinsip lainnya yang menerangkan Strategi itu yaitu (1) Tujuan yang jelas (2) aggressive activity (3) deployment of adequate material (4) economy of means (5) fleksibiliti (6) coherence dll… wah, menerjemahkan dari Bahasa Inggris ke Indonesia aja udah susah, bayangkan kalau semua ini dipaparkan dalam huruf mandarin. Bisa kebayang para murid perguruan ini setiap hari menghapal kalimat-kalimat ini mirip menghapal Kitab Sembilan Bulan nya Jinyong.

Tetua Liu kemudian menjelaskan kalau sebaiknya catur itu penting dipelajari di babak tengahnya. Justru perguruan lain yang menekankan babak pembukaan dan akhir adalah salah. Ini dipengaruhi oleh gaya catur pecatur Xiangqi, dimana di Xiangqi bidak lebih sedikit dan berperanan kecil, duelnya justru di perwira-perwira. Dengan pemikiran ini perguruan Cina mencoba memainkan pembukaan yang cepat membuat permainan beralih ke babak tengah, seperti pembukaan Benoni. Kuatnya pengetahuan di babak tengah adalah kunci kemenangan juara wanita Xie Jun katanya.

Buku ini juga mengupas banyak partai-partai terbaik yang dimenangkan pecatur Cina. Sangat seru dan instruktif mengingat komentar-komentar tetua Liu sangat mendalam dan dilandaskan pada pemikiran versi perguruannya.
Memang sekarang pecatur Cina adalah kekuatan besar di dunia percaturan dunia. Di Subic barusan aja lima dari sepuluh besar adalah murid perguruan Cina. Dan lebih penting lagi kebanyakan dari pecatur ini masih muda dan tak bergelar, seperti Yu Yangyi, Xiu Deshun dan Wang Yunguo. Indonesia adalah negeri dengan populasi terbesar ketiga di Asia setelah Cina dan India. Di SUBIC 2009 barusan di bagian putra Cina mengirim 17 pemain, India 12, Filipina 19 (tuan rumah), Vietnam 10. Indonesia mengirimkan 4 pemain sebanding dengan Bangladesh, Iran dan Uzbekistan. Wah seharusnya dibandingkan populasinya kita minimal mengirimkan sekitar 10 pemain dong. Di bagian puteri China mengirim 12 pemain, India 6 dan tuan rumah 10. Indonesia hanya mengirim Irene. Baiklah selain meningkatkan kualitas juga ditingkatkan kuantitasnya.

Akhir cerita mari kita saksikan partai pertama yang dimenangkan Tetua Liu melawan Grandmaster International. Partai ini dijuluki “the Immortal Chinese” dimana tetua Liu mengorbankan ratu untuk men-skak mat musuhnya dalam 20 langkah.

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