"The passed Pawn is a criminal, who should be kept under lock and key. Mild measures, such as police surveillance, are not sufficient. The passed Pawn has a lust to expand." -Niemzowitsch
Aron Niemzowitsch was a great chess player. His invention of the Hypermodern Chess Theory revolutionized chess. Shortly after, Reti, Breyer and Tartakover all joined in. His chess ideas changed forever how chess is played at the highest levels. Now, even the highest rated Chess Grandmasters in the world use Niemzowitsch's chess ideas found in his book, My System. My System is written in a poetic and dramatic style that can even be enjoyed by non-chess players.
The main strategies that Niemzowitsch came up with are (1) instead of occupying the critical center squares with pawns and/or pieces, to attack them from far away with knights or fianchettoed bishops, (2) to blockade isolated pawns with knights (3) Over-protection. These three ideas were so radical at the time that only a few chess players took them seriously. But after seeing Niemzowitsch win tournament after tournament, chess players took notice. I have included a few of his famous contributions, including the Nimzoindian Defense, the Nimzo-Larsen Attack and the Nimzovich Defense.
There were two people that hated Niemzowitsch most, however. Dr. Tarrasch hated him because Aron, who considered Tarrasch the leader of the Classical School of Chess, constantly berated him in his writings. In 1914 at St. Petersburg (where Tarrasch became one of the initial 5 Grandmasters), Tarrasch beat Niemzowitsch with a two-bishop sacrifice ala Lasker . The other that hated Niemzowitsch was Alekhine. Alekhine was a funny figure in that he was more than classical, maybe even hypermodern himself. But when they played, Alekhine ALWAYS won. There are books that I have read that state sadness that Niemzowitsch never got a World Champion Match with Alekhine before his death in 1934, but I tell you, he would have lost anyway.
As is true of most chess players, Niemzowitsch had his eccentricities. He would enter a tournament room, go to the corner and stand on his head until his game started. He even managed to break his leg while playing chess when his leg became entangled in the leg of his chair. His business card read: A. Niemzowitsch, Candidate for the World Championship of Chess and Crown Prince of the Chess World.
I want to quote from W. H Watts, November 1936:
"After the lamented death of the Master, Aron Niemzowitsch, I was almost persuaded to drop the idea of publishing an English translation of his Praxis (My System), but a well-known player of the highest rank assured me that a very great advance in the strength of English players would follow its publication here. This remark made such a great impression on my mind that eventually I resolved to make some investigation for myself. My knowledge of German was limited to a few words and phrases and just a smattering of chess terms, so that nothing short of a translation would be of much use. When this became available I examined the work carefully and was immediately convinced of the correctness of the prophecy: there is nothing like it in the whole of chess literature. No other author or player has so scientifically reduced chess playing to the application of a number of clearly defined principles and rules. Compared with this, chess playing has heretofore been without system --- just a haphazard exhibition of natural aptitude or skill or the want of it. Chess players were born, not made, but now that era is finished; Niemzowitsch has systematised chess play. "
Niemzowitsch's most famous game was against Samisch, and is called the Immortal Zugzwang Game. Zugzwang is when the opponent has to make a move, and every move loses. It is the greatest coup in chess. It is a German word and is pronounced "Tsutsvonk". Niemzowitsch's finest victory came in Karlsbad in 1929 ahead of Capablanca, Spielmann, Rubinstein, Vidmar and Euwe.