“Prevention is better than cure” – D. Erasmus
In Chess, quite often we forget to take into account our opponent’s intentions. As a result, we miss important moves in our calculation which completely changes the course of the game. I am sure we all can relate to such instances where our opponent’s move came as a surprise and decided matters in his favor.
Why does it happen?
The most common reason is – not paying enough attention to our opponent’s ideas.
Prophylaxis is originally a medical term that refers to the treatment given or action taken in order to prevent disease.
Similarly, in chess, prophylaxis would refer to the actions we take in order to prevent our opponent from implementing his plans. Nimzowitsch introduced this term in his famous book ‘My System’.
He stressed on two aspects which defined prophylaxis in Chess – Prevention and Overprotection.
One thing that makes elite players so strong is that they pay a lot of attention not only to what their opponent intends to do but also to what their opponent can do.
They are constantly searching for plans not only for themselves but also for their opponents.
Anatoly Karpov was one of the best players in this regard. Known for his exceptional prophylactic skills, he would constantly search for best plans for his opponent and fight against them while trying to implement his own ideas.
Not allowing even tiniest of counter-chances to his opponents, Karpov would happily venture into endgames with a very small advantage, if the position demanded.
A very small mistake committed against Karpov would frequently prove to be decisive since he was merciless once he got an advantage. We can learn a great deal about prophylaxis from Karpov’s game.
Let’s look at a game by Karpov which is rightly regarded as a master-class in prophylaxis.
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