Thursday, 12 September 2013

Chess Reviews: 221

Batsford are currently mounting a serious challenge to try and force their way back into the upper echelons of chess publishing. Some of us can still remember when they were the undisputed no.1 chess publisher.

They are not only producing brand new titles on a more regular basis than they have done for many years but they are also republishing many of their classic volumes, some of which have been significantly updated.

One of the most eagerly awaited reissues is the classic book co-authored by a very popular World Champion.
Study Chess with Tal
By GM Mikhail Tal and GM Alexander Koblencs
270 pages
How to does one study chess with Mikhail Tal? Alexander Koblencs, Tal's trainer, explains: ''The raw material for this book was gleaned from my training diaries, which contain the output from every training session with the ex-world champion Mikhail Tal [...] Aided by these full-bloodied games of Tal, I have tried to produce a book for the practising player in which I systematically outline the analytical/theoretical basis of Tal's ability to breathe life into the wooden pieces.''

The book presents a number of Tal's brilliant tactical games, complete with very fine notes (featuring a lot of prose and not a heavy reliance on pure variations, thankfully). At various points in each game, the reader is presented by a line of six asterisks; the cue to try and find the next move. These are usually very difficult to spot (they were not easy for Grandmasters to spot back when the original games were played) but the format is somewhat flawed by the reveal of the next move directly following the aforementioned asterisks. The book itself recommends using a bookmark to keep the pages ahead covered up as one reads, but that requires a discipline to which very few could adhere in this impatient world. I suppose it would work best with one person reading the moves out to a friend or pupil, eliminating the possibility of the latter spoiling the exercise by looking just a little too far down the page.

Well let's give it a try. I'll show you a couple of the easier positions from the book and you can try and work out what Tal played. I'm not going to provide the answers here though; you'll just have to buy the book if you want to see the full explanations of what he played and why.

Tal vs. Holmov
Black has just played 25 ...Bd7. What would you play for White?

Honfi - Tal
What should Black play now?

One of the great things about the book is the way complete games are used instead a series of test positions in which it would be obvious that Tal had a crushing sacrifice to hand. It makes for a much more rewarding study experience and give the reader a real insight into the ebb and flow of top-level games of chess.

The book's editor has updated the work by adding new questions at various junctures to aid the learning process.

This is a marvellous book and it will surely prove to be one of the more popular of Batsford's newly revived classic titles.

Pawn Structure Chess
By GM Andrew Soltis
286 pages
This reissue is of a book originally published in 1975. It has been substantially updated and now features examples of play from the 2000s.

The structures covered are split into the following categories, with each one enjoying its own chapter:

The Caro-Slav Family
The Slav Formation
The Open Sicilian/English
Chain Reactions
The e5 chain
The King's Indian Complex
The Queen's Gambit Family
The Panov Formation
Stonewalls And Other Prisons
The Nimzo-Gruenfeld Formation
The Lopez Formation
The Closed Sicilian/English

The material will have a familiar look to it when seen through the eyes of experienced players and the game annotations are too light and patchy to be helpful to players of that category. Club players and relative novices will find the basic explanations of use but this book should be seen as merely a starting point for further investigation.

No comments: