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Find the Right Plan with Anatoly Karpov

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Find the Right Plan with Anatoly Karpov

By Anatoly Karpov and Anatoly Matsukevich

Translated by Sarah Hurst

Batsford, 2010

ISBN: 9781906388683

Find the Right Plan with Anatoly Karpov

In this well-structured book, the authors address two related questions: ‘How should you evaluate a position?’ and ‘How should you form and implement a plan?’

The first chapter surveys the development of thinking on chess strategy and planning up until the contribution of Steinitz, yet no further. Quite an abrupt end, because although Steinitz’s games and writings were clearly an important juncture, they were hardly the terminus.

Chapter two then gives seven ‘reference points’ crucial to evaluating any chess position, these factors being things like pawn structure and open lines, the centre and space, etc. As illustration, the authors apply these ‘reference points’ to about 10 positions, with the two most recent taken from the Kramnik-Leko world championship match in 2004. This makes for some instructive examples of strategic thinking in action.

Later chapters examine each ‘reference point’ in turn and in more detail, with the seventh and last chapter, ‘The most important law of chess’, being by far the most substantial (111 pages!) and the best. The law in question is an imperative: Restrict the mobility of your opponent’s pieces! There are 72 studies for solving in this chapter, all based around the notions of domination and restriction: a demanding but rewarding training programme.

Though lacking the depth of Dvoretsky’s various works, or indeed John Watson’s Secrets of Chess Strategy, this book does achieve pretty much what it says on the cover: it will show you how to evaluate a position correctly and help you to decide on the right plan to follow. It is an enjoyable and instructive read, if sometimes a little superficial.

Amazon’s description of the book can be read here.

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Techniken des Positionsspiels im Schach

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Techniken des Positionsspiels im Schach

By Valeri Bronznik and Anatoli Terekhin

Schachverlag Kania, 2007

ISBN: 9783931192303

Techniken des Positionsspiels im Schach

One of the best books on positional play you’re ever likely to read.

There are 10 chapters covering a diverse range of topics, including domination, the open file, the bad bishop and (an unusual topic) play with the king. A final eleventh chapter has 40 exercises, followed by very full and detailed solutions.

What’s special about the book is that it goes into the nitty-gritty of positional play, focusing on 45 techniques (you might also call them stratagems or devices) which have been deployed successfully in past games. To illustrate by way of example: the chapter on the king looks at situations where one side castles by hand or voluntarily gives up the right to castle, because it is in their best interests to do so. (The classic game Matulovic-Fischer, Vinkovci 1968 would have fitted in here well, though the authors choose other examples.) Also, it looks at those situations where the king departs from a castled position, either for defensive purposes (the opposing forces are about to smash in the door and so the king does a runner) or as a preparation for attack (both players have castled on the kingside and one player marches their king out of harm’s way, before undertaking action on that side).

Topics covered in other sections include the principle of two weaknesses; restriction of the minor pieces; positional pawn sacrifices; prophylaxis; diverse exchanging (liquidation) operations; Reti’s battery of Qa1 and Bb2, as introduced in his game against Yates at New York 1924; the question of the wrong (or right rook). And, yes, Fischer’s famous game against Robert Byrne from the 1963 USA Championship is discussed in this latter section.

Techniken des Positionsspiels im Schach is a richly rewarding book that looks in depth at certain specific aspects of positional play, and I wholly recommend it.

Lessons with a Grandmaster 2

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Lessons with a Grandmaster 2

By Boris Gulko and Dr. Joel R. Sneed

Everyman Chess, 2012

ISBN: 9781857446975

Lessons with a Grandmaster 2

This book is as good as it gets.

Well-annotated, high quality games provide the richest source of educational material in chess, a fund of instruction and insight. When they are set in a question and answer format as here, with Joel Sneed, psychology professor and keen amateur, asking the questions and Boris Gulko, an acutely insightful, artistic grandmaster answering them, then the instructional value (not to mention the sheer entertainment) is enhanced tenfold.

Picturesque pyrotechnics can be seen in many games, notably in the draws with Shirov and Vaganian and the two titanic encounters (resulting in a draw and a win for Gulko) with Bronstein. There are also two wonderful miniatures where Renet and Lputian (strong grandmasters both) succumb quickly, the games clocking in at just 19 and 20 moves apiece.

This second volume (there are three in the series so far) places the emphasis squarely on dynamic chess. The topics covered are all about attack: sharp play and risk-taking (e.g. in the form of a speculative sacrifice), the importance of the initiative, how to acquire combinational vision and accuracy in calculation.

Develop your chess intuition and trust it, don’t rely solely on brute calculation – that’s the main message Gulko seems to be seeking to get across. Computers can crunch chess moves to their engine’s content, and may one day ‘see everything’, but human beings cannot and shouldn’t be asked to. Our cognitive strengths lie elsewhere, in intuition and judgement, and in using our sense of pattern, proportion and beauty. That’s what works for us. This must, however, be allied wherever possible with accurate calculation.

A study of these 30 games of exceptional depth and beauty cannot fail to improve your chess.

The publisher’s description of the book can be read here.

Written by P.P.O. Kane

December 20, 2017 at 2:25 pm

Zaubern wie Schachweltmeister Michail Tal

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Zaubern wie Schachweltmeister Michail Tal

By Karsten Müller and Raymund Stolze

Edition Olms, 2010

ISBN: 9783283010072

Zaubern wie Schachweltmeister Michail Tal

Tal, a unique figure in the history of chess, presents an interesting contrast to the current World Champion.

If Magnus Carlsen is the ‘hero of the computer era’ (see the review of Fighting Chess with Magnus Carlsen elsewhere at this site), then Tal was the absolute antithesis, especially in his early career. His speculative sacrifices, many of which were later found to be objectively dubious, would hardly stand scrutiny by a modern-day computer. Yet they won him the world championship because he was more courageous and could see farther and deeper than his contemporaries. For Tal, chess was a medium to test his own and others’ vision. His was a psychological approach, and a computer would, of course, be impervious to it.

There are two aspects to this wonderful book, an ebullient celebration of the magician from Riga. The first consists of individual contributions from Tal’s widow Engelina and from several players – among them Spassky, Uhlmann and Kramnik – who knew Tal as a friend and/or opponent. Of these, my picks would be the wide-ranging interview with Yusupov and a fine piece of analysis by Hubner. Yusupov perceptively remarks that Tal’s style maximised his strengths. As a player he was an amalgam of artist and psychologist, risk-taker and competitor, and his strengths lay primarily in his imagination, his combinational vision and a rare ability to calculate deeply and accurately. He used these strengths to challenge and unsettle his opponents, creating situations where they felt under constant threat. Only a handful of players – Yusupov singles out three: Spassky, Petrosian and Korchnoi – were able to resist this approach. Hubner, as a tribute to Tal’s genius, analyses the game he played against Keller at Zurich 1959. It takes all of 44 pages. The German grandmaster doesn’t do superficial or sloppy.

The second aspect of the book is that it serves as an advanced textbook on tactics, the gen here being 100 challenging exercises with detailed solutions. Some 10 exercises are concerned with speculative (unclear and sometimes not entirely correct) sacrifices, while 28 exercises are about ‘Defending or Warding off Magic’ – that is, finding the defensive or counter-attacking possibility that Tal’s opponent had missed. So it’s not your typical set of tactical puzzles.

For another personal view of Tal, I’d recommend above all Sosonko’s memoir ‘My Misha’; it is one of the pieces collected in his Russian Silhouettes and is wonderful. However, admirers of Tal’s magical chess will feast on this splendid book. Note that you’ll likely need a good grasp of German to get the most out of it.

The publisher’s description of the book can be read here.

Capablanca: A Primer of Checkmate

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Capablanca: A Primer of Checkmate

By Frisco Del Rosario

Mongoose Press, 2010

ISBN: 9781936277025

Capablanca: A Primer of Checkmate

Capablanca, renowned for his endgame technique, positional understanding and skill in playing ‘simple positions’, could also be a fearsome attacker. Furthermore, he had a sharp eye for tactical opportunities, as Fischer himself observed.

Frisco Del Rosario outlines a number of typical checkmates or checkmating patterns (e.g. the smothered mate, the back-rank mate) and tactical devices (e.g. the double check, the Bxh7+ sacrifice), illustrating them with, in the main, Capablanca’s games. There are 58 complete games altogether, 48 of them games by Capablanca, although one should add that often his opponents are weak or play poorly. And this diminishes somewhat the instructional value of the games, it has to be said.

The book follows the same sequence of checkmates as set out in Renaud and Kahn’s classic The Art of the Checkmate (1953); indeed, Del Rosario will more often than not stick with the same chapter titles and nomenclature as given in Renaud and Kahn’s book (one notable exception: Del Rosario plumbs for the more common ‘back-rank mate’ rather than their rather idiosyncratic ‘corridor mate’). It is a well-known, straightforward and widely accepted taxonomy, of course, so why reinvent the wheel?

On the whole, this is an engaging and very readable introduction to checkmating patterns and tactics that beginners and intermediate-level players will get a lot out of. Stronger players will enjoy the book as a refresher course, but may be irritated by the occasionally imprecise and superficial annotations. One serious error occurs in the score of game 38, a win against Raubitschek played at New York in 1906. In the actual game, Capablanca announced mate in three after Black’s 31st move (which could occur by 32.Rxa7+ Qxa7 33.Ra5 Rb7 34.Qxb7#, for example, or 33…Qxa6 34.Rxa6#). For some reason, Del Rosario gives a game score which continues past Black’s 31st move and allows a draw by perpetual check (after 33…Qf2+ 34.Kh1 Qf1+ 35.Kh2 Qf4+, etc.), a possibility which Black missed and the author fails to notice. Where did these additional moves come from? Who knows? Incidentally, the Raubitschek game is number 169 in The Unknown Capablanca by Hooper and Brandreth.

The publisher’s description of Capablanca: A Primer of Checkmate can be read here.

Written by P.P.O. Kane

October 4, 2017 at 1:24 pm