Playing the Modern Defense with any regularity is a sign that you truly love chess. From the very first
move, you are indicating to your opponent (and to the jury deciding on the brilliancy prizes!) that you
would like to play an unbalanced position. Then the thrill of the fight courses through your veins and you
simply must trust yourself to handle developments better than the other player. For a very long time this
truly was the absolute frontier, the Wild West of opening theory: if it went well you looked like a genius,
if it goes badly you got mated in 20 moves, and most likely neither of you ever really made the analysis
which you so badly needed to remember at the board.
A certain air of reckless abandon, of pure devil-may-care mischief, was needed to play it successfully,
and to some extent still is. Something of this passion was conveyed into printed form by Swedish GM
Tiger Hillarp Persson when he wrote his Tiger’s Modern. Even within the Modern, the crème de-la-
crème of the opening, when I learned it from his book almost a decade ago was the famous Hippo setup
the epitome of the adventurer’s spirit.
While White goes about stationing his pieces aggressively, controls the centre, etc., Black nonchalantly
places nearly all his pawns on the third rank and shuffles his pieces behind them! For some reason this
appealed to the 15-year-old me: the idea that I could take the game to my opponent in a way that I chose,
rather than by preparing endlessly for some subtlety on move 27 of the Poisoned Pawn Najdorf.