Sergey Shipov was inspired to make that declaration after watching Peter Svidler play the move in the fourth round of the European Individual Chess Championship in Aix-les-Bains, France. Shipov, coaching at the event, is posting regular reports at Crestbook.
The following is actually Sergey Shipov’s fourth “letter from France”, and can be found here in Russian. Shipov was writing, as you’ll see, before the result of the game was known, but you can play through it at the end of this report. Perhaps this diagram is a fitting introduction:
On the offbeat
I’ve just returned to the hotel after watching the start of the fourth round. I’m in a state of shock. At the tables I said hello to the five-time Russian Champion Peter Svidler, then I had a look at his game – and was dumbfounded. The move 1. g3 had been made on the board, and his opponent – the Greek grandmaster Mastrovasilis – was spending a long time studying the position and, it seems, couldn’t believe his own eyes. No doubt he’d been preparing from yesterday evening to lunch today for the normal 1. e4, had unearthed a couple of deep saving resources – and then he gets an incredible surprise like that at the board. He sat there, trying hard to think, and simply wasn’t able to find a decent reply.
And I can understand Mastrovasilis. Svidler playing 1. g3 is like Kobzon singing chastushkas. (Translator’s note: Iosif Kobzon is a Soviet Sinatra-like crooner – in fact here he is singing “My Way” in Russian – while chastushkas are often humorous/vulgar Russian folk songs.) A player with wonderful schooling behind him, a powerful theoretician, a man of strong principles – and suddenly something so offbeat…
But on the other hand, why not?
The guy had the urge to simply play chess – to leave the beaten paths and recall his youth. After all, in our childhood all of us, out of ignorance, played mischievous setups in which you had to start thinking from the very first move. And everyone will confirm that was the happiest period of their life. So why not try to recover at least a fraction of that carefree past?
That truly is happiness – not to have to cram up on a ton of variations in the morning before the next round, not to have to study new games, not to have to sit at the computer expecting miracles from chess engines. It brings to mind the English grandmaster Matthew Sadler, who gave up chess with the words: “I got bored of each morning struggling with the dilemma – what should I play against the Grunfeld?” But there’s no need to suffer! You should go with your mood and make the move 1. g3 (or 1. a3, 1. b3, 1. e3, 1. Nc3 and so on), enjoy the astonished face of your opponent and simply play chess.
After all, none of us has made a life-long pact with the devil to play only the same openings.
Karpov, from his childhood on, played 1. e4 and couldn’t have known that in the second half of his career he’d only play closed openings. Kramnik, on the contrary, preferred 1. Nf3 and 1. d4, but then suddenly took on the role of a crusader knight of Sicilian attacks (true, not for long). Nowadays, the changing fate of openings forces many to seek refuge from theoretical impasses in completely unknown and unexpected openings.
In the end, the dominance of computer lines forces creative players to look for absolutely offbeat paths, where their apparently all-knowing opponents have to rack their brains right from the opening.
So Svidler’s right. The future belongs to 1. g3!
P.S. Peter won the game convincingly, once again proving that everyone has the right to be offbeat :)
Unfortunately the last joke doesn’t work in English. What I’ve translated as “offbeat” is literally something like “leftist”, while “right” also has two meanings in Russian. So Shipov says: “everyone has the right to go left”!
I hope to translate Sergey Shipov’s future letters from the event, and also catch up with the first three, but for now here’s the indisputably offbeat game, Peter Svidler – Athanasios Mastrovasilis. A quick computer check suggests it’s better to respond to the 7…e3 novelty with 8. fxe3, while in the game 9…Na6 might have given Black reasonable chances.
Game viewer by Chess Tempo