This book makes for a fine collection of tactical puzzles.
In his introductory remarks Jon Speelman points out that tactical skill involves both vision (seeing the tactical idea or pattern to start with) and calculation (verifying that the idea works against every possible defence) and, furthermore, that in calculation it is as important to accurately evaluate the final position at the end of each sequence of moves or variation. He then presents 300 or so positions where your task is to find the winning (or, more rarely, the saving) tactic.
The positions are set out in two parts. Part 1, ‘The Elements’, has ten thematic chapters (covering the Knight Fork, the Pin, the Skewer, Mating Attacks and so on), so you more or less know what to expect in each puzzle. The positions are very simple to start with and become progressively more difficult, though none is really tough. ‘Tactics in Practice’, Speelman’s Part 2, has three chapters. The first, ‘Finger Exercises’, has positions where the calculations required are not very deep; combinational vision is the skill they mainly ask of you. Still, the idea is often well hidden. ‘Mixed Bag’ has a wide variety of positions, some quite challenging. The final chapter, entitled ‘Tougher Examples’, contains tougher examples.
Speelman’s fine chess intelligence is evident in the comprehensive ‘Solutions’ section of the book, which runs to fifty or so pages. His personality and love of the game shines
through and at times he cannot resist pointing out interesting, albeit sub-optimal moves…
Jon Speelman’s Chess Puzzle Book is an excellent package overall and would make an ideal complement to an elementary textbook on tactics. You could think of it as being sort of a missing workbook. By diligently attempting to solve each position you will undoubtedly increase your tactical skill.
If you want to read more from Jon Speelman, and you should, his Agony Column at ChessBase is a good place to start. They are listed here.
By Jon Speelman
Gambit Publications, 2008
The publisher’s description of Jon Speelman’s Chess Puzzle Book can be read here.