'Mongoose Press' have been attracting very good reviews for their books and I'm delighted to welcome them to Marsh Towers.
The author's introduction nicely sets the scene for what to expect:
'This book recounts all of these stories - the woe of the aged master, the triumph of the prodigy, the sometime reversal of fortune in the other extreme’.
'You won’t find full biographies here. What you will find is the essence of players, the triumphs and tragedies that shaped their lives. You will get a fascinating look at chess players from a perspective you never may have considered before’.
The front cover is striking, with pictures of the featured players embedded in the squares of the chess board. The photos are excellent and very well chosen; they are used at the start of each players’ section. Only a small number of them were familiar to me. I particularly enjoyed seeing the pictures of Reshevsky, Junge and a very young Kamsky.
The selected players are taken from a very large period of time, all the way from As-Suli the Exile (880-946) to Magnus Carlsen (born 1990). Each subject is typically given several pages of biography and at least one illustrative game.
There’s been plenty of misery in the lives of chess players, that’s for sure. Lots of poverty, deaths at a young age and even cases of severe mental illness. Fortunately, and very noticeably, the geniuses born from the 1960s onwards have generally enjoyed much happier lives than their illustrious chess predecessors.
Two special sections are included, giving extra emphasis for the conditions of human misery, namely:
The Tragic Fate of the Gamblers
World War II and the chess players
I have always enjoyed reading about the lives of chess players and there are several subjects here which I formerly knew little about.
Here’s a couple of examples:
David Przepiorka should have been at the Buenos Aires Olympiad with the Polish team in 1939 when war broke out, but was delayed by illness. Players such as Najdorf stayed in Argentina and survived. Przepiorka died at Auschwitz.
There’s a very touching account by Vladislav Litmanovich, who visited Akiba Rubinstein in a mental hospital in 1957. The latter insisted on washing hands before shaking, as he had just had his lunch. He still had an interest in chess at that time but ‘…However, he had no idea that Tartakower had died, nor did he know about the recent match for the world title between Smyslov and Botvinnik’.
There are some controversial assertions, such as:
When describing the 1866 Steinitz - Anderssen match: ‘This would be remembered as the fiercest match in chess history’. It certainly was fierce, but the statement is rather too sweeping.
‘Confirming’ that Schlechter needed to beat Lasker by two clear points in their famous 1910 World Championship match; as I understand it, the truth is still very obscure and the version quoted here is still just a theory.
Claiming that Janowski played two title matches with Lasker.
However, little niggles aside, there is an abundance of fine material to enjoy. The purely chess bits are augmented by numerous colourful stories ad quotes. For instance, there’s page of Tartakower’s aphorisms (or ‘Tartakowerisms’).
‘They don’t give points for moral victories’
‘Only a strong player knows how badly he stands’
‘It’s always better to sacrifice your opponent’s men’
The choice of subjects - demonstrating genius, misery or both - will always be a controversial one. Here, for example, there is no place for Lasker or Tal but there is space for Donner and Short (billed as ‘England’s only chess prodigy).
The annotations are very light and some games are bare scores, but they serve the purpose of adding a little bit of chess to the prose and will hopefully whet the appetite enough to inspire independent research. Indeed, the book concludes with a list of ‘Suggested further reading’. Most are very recent and easily obtainable; some, such as Kotov’s biography of Alekhine, may take a little tracking down. Hopefully readers will make the effort to apply themselves and investigate the rich heritage of chess players and their personalities.
Production-wise, the book is very nicely presented and bound. The format is easy on the eye and the printing is of a very high standard. (There’s a little typo on the back cover, in which a letter is missing from the author’s name, but that’s the only one I spotted).
Here’s a couple of examples of play, with over a thousand years between them.
White to play and checkmate in three moves
Junge - Kottnauer
Duras Memorial 1942
17 Bxh7+! Kxh7 18 Qh5+ Kg8 19 Bxg7! F5 20 Be5! 1-0 (32)
The Colle-Zukertort Revolution!
By David Rudel
That there’s something a little bit different about this book is immediately apparent from the cover, on which a Bishop-shaped plane is busy parachuting players onto the chessboard while a tough looking soldier blasts away in the foreground with his machine gun.
The back blurb contains further indications of the unusual style, offering:
‘Introductory chapters for those who would not know the Zukertort from a Lemon Torte’
GM Aaron Summerscale is a good choice to provide the foreword. His 1996 book, ‘A Killer Chess Opening Repertoire’, advocated the Colle-Zukertort system and he effectively passes the C-Z baton to David Rudel.
The book is split into three distinct sections. The first three chapters present the reader with copious introductory material, highlighting the differences between the Colle-Zukertort and the Colle-Koltanowski variation.
One of the reasons for the appearance of another book on this opening is remarkably honest:
‘The Colle-Zukertort needs help!’
The problem lies in the existence of a number of recommended tries for Black. The author sets out to debunk some of the myths surrounding the typical Anti-Colle systems and their effectiveness.
There’s also a discussion on the correct placings for each piece, illustrative examples and a general round-up of ‘Zukertort Principles, Wisdom, and Guidelines’, such as:
‘Never allow Black to place anything on a3, f4 or e5’
‘It’s ok to let your opponent take your B/d3 with a Knight if you can immediately attack with Rf3’.
Chapters 4-11 contain the meat of the analysis of the various variations.
It’s refreshing to see the author tackling the main repertoire problems head on and not sweeping them under the carpet of a couple of minor notes. I was intrigued to see how the book would deal with two of the noted spanners Black players can throw into the works at their leisure, namely:
Black is limbering up for a choice of two spoiling plans. One is to play a quick …Nb4, to hassle the Bishop on d3. The other the oft-recommended idea of …Qe7 and …Ba3, trading the Bishop on b2. White struggles to avoid both Black plans. The book’s suggestion is to play 8 Ne5, leading into a key position.
The Bd3 cannot be preserved due to the pressure on c2. So the recommendation is: 11 Nc3 Nxd3 12 Qxd3.
As is the norm for this book, extensive prose explanations are given, rather than a thicket of confusing variations. The illustrative games show that Black has plenty of scope to go wrong against the automatic attacking plan of Rf3 and Ng4.
That seems to me to a very interesting way to play the position and one which could catch out opponents, even when they have done their homework.
Another annoying position for Colle players is this one:
Indeed, some sources either omit this possibility or dismiss it with 4 c4 c6 5 Qb3, aiming to exploit the tender Queenside. Unfortunately, Black can play simply 4 …dxc4 with a transposition to the Queen’s Gambit Accepted. It could be that players who use the Colle are less likely to have a full understanding of the nuances of a main line opening and they could even stumble into Black’s pet 1 d4 defence.
The recommended recipe here is 4 h3. Rudel points out that 4 …Bxf3 looks suspect and scores badly in practice. After 4 …Bh5, White is encouraged to chase the Bishop with 5 g4 Bg6 6 Ne5. The positional threat is 7 h4 h6 8 Nxg6 fxg6 9 Bd3 giving Black ‘…a salty cracker to chew’.
Black’s fianchetto is a tough nut to crack too.
'Zuke ‘Em' advocates 4 c4, with transpositions to Grunfeld and Slav defences possible. Grunfeld players will need to study the book to assess the subtle differences White has in store.
The remaining chapters cover ‘Extra Analysis’, (featuring a number of further investigations, thoughtfully given their own chapter so as not to complicate the teaching structure of the earlier chapters), ‘Training’, (seven pages of positions to fine-tune the reader’s skill) ‘New Ideas Index’ (four pages of positions demonstrating new ideas) the indices (utilising chapter number and section, but not page number, which would have been simpler) and a bibliography.
It’s a very interesting book and one that will definitely inspire readers and tempt them to give the Colle-Zukertort a try. It’s not a big hit in Grandmaster circles but can be a devastating weapon at club level.
David Rudel’s presentation and style could well have produced a cult book which - publisher willing - could result in updated editions in years to come (rather like John Watson’s famous books on the French Defence). Indeed, the book has a forum devoted it over at:
The author has written several updates, which can be found here:
For more information regarding Thinkers' Press, please go to: http://www.thinkerspressinc.com/
My 60 Memorable Games
By GM Bobby Fischer
The classic games collection of the 11th World Champion has long been described as one of the best chess books ever written. Yet the previous Batsford edition, with its unfortunate errors, left the world waiting for a proper, unadulterated algebraic version.
It’s good to see that Batsford have now made amends for their earlier, frankly poor, version.
Purists will be delighted to see a complete lack of tampering with the content, bar the upgrading to algebraic notation.
The format of the book works well. A short introduction precedes each game, written by GM Larry Evans. These set the scene very nicely for the games, covering, on average, five pages each.
The opponents cover a wide range of strengths of fame. It should be no surprise to see him battling with the likes of Botvinnik, Petrosian, Spassky and Tal within the pages, but the names of Celle, Letelier and Walther will be much less known to readers.
Indeed, that highlights part of the overall ethos of the book; the games are ‘Memorable’ rather than ‘Best’. This gives scope to present losses and draws alongside wins, indicating Fischer’s extreme sense of honesty.
It is striking that even though Fischer was often apparently intolerant of ‘patzers’, he was quite prepared to break down his explanations to a very simple level - including one move variations - when he thought it necessary to do so.
Naturally, some of the text has dated and further reading will be required to fill in the historical gaps. As things stand, it’s like a time capsule from one of the classic eras of chess. For example, game 31 is introduced as ‘…Fischer’s only win against Petrosian’ - how that situation would change in a few short years!
The openings are fairly typical for Fischer. There are numerous examples of the Ruy Lopez (including a detailed look at his resurrection of the Exchange Variation), King’s Indian Defence and Sicilian Defence (especially with his trademark Sozin Attack, 6 Bc4).
A couple of famous positions will surely stir more memories from those familiar with older editions of the book. It’s White to move in both cases and I’m sure the strongest moves are already springing into readers’ minds….
Fischer - Larsen
Fischer v Benko
USA Championship, 1963-4
The 60 games are replete with such memorable moments
Notes by other players are sometimes quoted to augment Fischer’s own. Korchnoi is ‘allowed’ to give extensive views on his side of their classic clash at Stockholm 1962 and Botvinnik is quoted even more as the most famous game of the 1962 Varna Olympiad is analysed.
Indeed, the reader should be able to sense Fischer’s deep frustration at letting the great champion escape with a draw. One gets the feeling that the game is a little too painful for Fischer to reveal all of his emotions; at times, it’s almost as if he’s hiding behind Botvinnik’s notes and that even though the game is obviously very memorable, he can’t quite bring himself to look at ‘the one that got away’.
The production is generally very good, with a high page count allowing plenty of space to make the layout very easy on the eye. Indeed, the format is very similar to the classic Faber edition. New games start on new pages and one doesn’t have to turn a page to match a diagram with the relevant text (two small points often neglected by space-conscious publishers).
The only production blip is that due to the size of the book, the spine of the book is prone to bending; a genuine problem, as the book is sure to be read many times. This could have been averted with more binding glue.
As usual with Fischer, one can easily end up with feelings of great frustration and a plethora of ‘what if?’ questions. Just imagine a sequel, covering his Candidates matches and 1972 match with Spassky. Did he ever think of writing it? ‘My 60 Memorable Games’ leaves the reader not merely hungry for more, but absolutely ravenous.
Just this once, let us refrain from detailing the darker side and deeds of Robert James Fischer and concentrate on the side all chess players admire. This book is an acknowledged classic, with no apparent dissenters.
Incidentally, despite Fischer’s inherent paranoia, it’s not so easy to spot any examples here and when they do appear they are extremely mild. Noting that Stein had surprised him with 1 e4 e5, he comments: ‘I suspect that the Russians ‘‘group think’’ before important games to decide which openings will upset their opponents psychologically’. That’s as strong as it gets; great respect for the opponent is the normal state of affairs.
If you’ve never owned any edition of ‘My 60 Memorable Games’ then the waiting time is over and there is a very big treat in store. Even those with a copy or two already in their libraries will welcome this new algebraic edition.
For full details of all available Batsford chess books, please go to:
The Return of The Lion
I've been enjoying reading the Chronicles of Narnia recently. There's a permanent expectation of The Lion appearing. The same is going to happen very soon in the world of chess. Here's a press release which should be of interest to all fans of 'The Lion'....
Reputable publisher New In Chess presents chess book ‘The Black Lion’
DRECHTSTREEK – The international chess book publishers New In Chess (NIC) are about to publish completely revised Dutch and English editions of the successful book on chess openings The Lion: The Black Weapon. While accessible to anyone who likes to play chess, the book also appeals to average and strong club chess players. The Lion helps players find their way in the opening stages of the game, enabling them to play according to a specific system.
The authors Jerry van Rekom and Leo Jansen are proud of the worldwide success of their book, which first appeared in early 1997 and has since been in consistent demand.
The English version of The Lion will be put on the market in November 2008. The Dutch version is scheduled for presentation on Saturday 10 January 2009, just a few days ahead of the opening of the Corus Chess tournament.
"This is going to be the fourth edition of the opening book. We had no choice because the earlier editions were sold out. But that is not the only reason. At the request of our new publisher, NIC, the book was rewritten to suit international standards and adapted in response to the latest developments in chess. It has in fact become a new book", says the author Jerry van Rekom.
The book, written in the small town of Sliedrecht, has had astounding success in the chess world. As a rule, only books authored by chess title holders enjoy good sales. Leo Jansen and Jerry van Rekom belong to the ranks of strong club chess players. They play, or played, in the national competition of the Dutch Chess Association (KNSB). Perhaps that is why they can also communicate in language that appeals to a broad public. On this point, Jerry van Rekom says that it proves that "it is possible for amateurs to write a popular book that can become a worldwide success."
Chess journalist Lex Jongsma had the privilege of presenting the first printing of the chess book De Leeuw, hét zwarte wapen on 22 February 1997. The book was the culmination of years of diligent work by Leo Jansen, Jerry van Rekom and a team of chess-playing friends. The book featuring this unique chess opening is more than 350 pages long and was an instant success.
Within a year the first printing was sold out and the second the year thereafter. The third printing came in 2000, followed the next year by an English translation. These editions also sold like hotcakes.
Calls for a new edition increased, and in 2007 the authors bowed to popular demand . They partnered with the famous international chess book publishers New In Chess (NIC) in Alkmaar. NIC also expressed the desire to publish the new edition in English.
Leo Jansen, now 80 years old, provided encouragement for the new edition as Van Rekom tackled the revisions.
The author: "Every chapter has been rewritten from the first letter to the last. Many new analyses by grand masters have been added along with many, many new games. We have done quite a lot to improve quality. And we will certainly surprise our fans as well as our adversaries with never-before-seen variants. What’s great about that is that we’ve used games and analyses our fans have sent us from all over the world. In particular, the chapter where white attacks black by an early g4 has undergone a metamorphosis. The Shirov attack is popular with ‘Lion-tamers’, but in the new edition we prove that this attack can also be repelled by the system."
A new feature of the book, in addition to the new analyses and games, is that every chapter is introduced by a prominent chess player that has been associated with the Lion in some way. For example, grand master Jan Timman and the international masters Johan van Mil and Gerard Welling give their comments on the Lion. The American master Keith Hayward also gives his views on the system. Club chess player and Lion promoter Hans van Steenis, son of the former chairman of the KNSB, offers his assessment of the system he so gladly employs.
The presentation of the new Dutch edition on Saturday, 10 January 2009 will be accompanied by a host of chess activities. The Sliedrecht Chess Club, which has garnered fame by organising several large chess events in recent years, will be in charge of the presentation. The Zwijndrecht chairman, Frank Stoute, and Hans Berrevoets of the Dordrecht chess club De Willige Dame have made an important contribution to the event, showing that this new edition of a chess book is important to promoting the game of chess on a wider scale.
Thus, a real celebration is in the works—not only for the Lion enthusiast but for every chess lover. We will ring in the new year at De Lockhorst conference centre, where the festive presentation will begin at 11:00 a.m. and feature the Lion in the leading role.
More news on the new editions can be found on the website of NIC, www.newinchess.nl, on the official The Lion website, www.thelion.nl, and on the website of Tom van Bokhoven, www.tomsschaakboeken.nl.
Jerry van Rekom
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