Monday, 26 November 2012

Chess Reviews: 205

The Russian Endgame Handbook
By Ilya Rabinovich
523 pages
Mongoose Press

The Mongoose has unearthed a real treasure here, with the first English version of a Soviet classic. 

Rabinovich's endgame book was first published back in 1927 and then updated in 1938. This new version has been translated (from the 1938 edition) by Jim Marfia and slightly revised 'to make the final result sound more natural to the mind's ear in our less formal times, yet without changing the meaning of any statement.'

The material 'constitutes a complete course on the endgame, assuming little about the reader's knowledge of the final phase of the game but taking the student to a high level of understanding.'

Things start off simply with The Simplest Mates, showing how to force checkmate against a lone king with king and rook, king and queen and then with king and bishops. Checkmate with king, bishop and knight is left until chapter five, after copious amounts of illuminating material on king and pawns, queen vs. pawns and kings and minor pieces.

Two chapters of particular interest  deal with Bishops of Opposite Colors and Exploiting the Advantage in Endings with a Large Number of Pieces.

The ghosts of chess past - Lasker, Capablanca, Alekhine et al - loom large in this book. Indeed, the reading experience is a little like stepping back in time, with author's thanks being offered to the likes of Levenfish, Troitzky and Botvinnik (in those days, Rabinovich would probably have been in trouble if he had omitted the mighty Mikhail from the list). Yet despite the age of the original book, the theory behind the material on offer has not changed (imagine an opening book given the same treatment; it would serve only as a museum piece).

The Russian Endgame Handbook is a high-class single volume course on the ultimate phase of the game, brought alive for the modern audience. Endgame enthusiasts and practical players will find plenty of interest here.

Winning Pawn Play
In The Indian Defenses
By Henrique Marinho
313 pages
Mongoose Press

The author, 'surprised by the mystery of why Nimzowitsch never developed a systematic treatment of the concept of qualitative majorities in the Indian pawn chains', attempts to plug the gap with Winning Pawn Play In The Indian Defenses.

First he looks at the possible reasons why Nimzowitsch neglected the area and presents the 'only ten games in any of the openings classified as Indian defenses' that he played. Then he speculates if Nimzowitsch was keeping back his thoughts on these lines as secret preparation for a potential world championship match, or whether he was somehow acting against Tarrasch, his great rival in chess thinking.

Moving on to the main content of the book, the author focuses mainly on various branches of the King's Indian and Benoni. However, neither defence is covered comprehensively and despite the all-embracing title there is nothing on the other Indian Defenses. To confuse matters further, the appendix gives some material (new to this edition) on Qualitative Majorities In The Ruy Lopez.

It's an unusual book, reminiscent more of Han's Kmoch's Pawn Power in Chess than of anything else I've ever read. It is deep and eccentric and will require serious study to obtain from it the maximum benefit. Fans of Kmoch's work who also play the King's Indian and Benoni will welcome it, but that probably represents a slim target audience.

This is translation of an original Portuguese book, published in 2004.

Thinking With Chess
Teaching Children Ages 5-14
By Alexey W. Root
81 pages (large format)
Mongoose Press

This is a book 'for teachers, chess coaches, counselors and parents. No prior knowledge of chess is required to read this book.'

Starting with the basic moves of the pieces, the material then becomes more advanced and present numerous original challenges, with each one bookended, science-lesson style, by a list of Objectives, MaterialsProcedure and Evaluation. The challenges are very suitable for use on whole chess classes.

The challenges all look like educational fun to me and I'm looking forward to setting some of my own students to work on them.

There's a useful chapter towards the end describing how to run various clubs, competitions and camps.

With plenty of original material and a general feeling of a very fresh approach, Thinking With Chess is definitely worth adding to the libraries of schools, teachers and chess coaches.

Chess is Child's Play
Teaching Techniques That Work
By Laura Sherman and Bill Kilpatrick
302 pages
Mongoose Press

Chess is Child's Play is a chess book for the junior world, only with a big difference to the rest.

'This isn't a children's book. That's why there aren't any colorful illustrations or cartoon characters. It's a book written for parents. It's written for you!' 

Written by parents for parents, this luxurious hardback aims to present 'a step-by-step method for teaching chess that parents of all skill levels can use to teach children of any age.'

There are 26 chapters, covering subjects from Why Chess? to Stalemate and Draw. The main lessons come with accompanying mini-games and are punctuated by a plethora of tidbits in the form of Coffee Talk (anecdotes) and Coach's Corner (extra bits and pieces relevant to the main lessons). There's also a number of Troubleshooting sections to keep parents on the right track and give them confidence in their teaching ability.

This is a very accessible book, beautifully presented and very easy on the eye. 

Further details about all of the books reviewed here can be found on the official Mongoose Press website.

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