Friday, 8 October 2010

Chess Reviews: 157

Books from Quality Chess have been the most notable absentees from my long-running series of reviews.

I am delighted to report that the situation has now changed and Chess Reviews 157-159 will feature a round up of the most recent releases from Quality Chess.

There's a lot of ground to cover; I will return to some of the books later for more detailed reviews.

The first thing to notice about all Quality Chess books is that the word 'Quality' is quite appropriate. The paper is of a pleasing quality, the layout is crisp and clear and some even have extremely impressive colour photos. A number of their titles have been released in hardback as well as softcover editions.

Genius in the Background
By Tibor Karolyi and Nick Aplin
384 pages
Quality Chess

'Genius in the Background' focuses on a number of chess players, trainers and composers. In a nutshell: 'The common thread is beauty and brilliance that deserves to be better known.'

The chapter headings provide some clues as to those people are:

Topalov's Junior Trainer
A Gentleman - highly respected and fondly remembered
Kasparov's Junior Trainer
In Love with Chess until the End
Kasparov's 'Half-Brother'
The Endgame Expert
The Man whose Life was Saved by Chess
''When Garry played I was with him''
The Stars of a developing Chess Nation
The Moscow Magician

The chess personalities covered in the book are represented by a combination of biographical data, games, studies, interview snippets and testimonials from well-known figures (from Kasparov downwards).

There are no dull chapters but the three I most enjoyed reading were those on Gerardo Barbero, Karsten Mueller and Elmar Magerramov.

Barbero was a Grandmaster who tragically died before he even reached the age of 40. His name came up a couple of times earlier this year when I interviewed GM Seirawan, specifically in connection with Seirawan's route to contacting Bobby Fischer in the 1990s. Barbero's death cut the line of communication to Fischer.

GM Mueller is well known for his deep investigations into the world of endgame theory but he is certainly no slouch over the board either. It's good to be able to explore this rarely highlighted side of his chess life.

Magerramov shared some early chess experiences with a young Garry Kasparov. His section contains some interesting reminiscences as well as some hitherto unseen games between the two. Magerramov has four wins against the 13th World Champion to his name.

Magerramov - Kasparov
Baku 1979

This one had an interesting finish. White played 50 Ng5+! Nxg5 51 Kh5!! and 1-0 (53)

The word 'genius' has, of course, become overused; teenage pop stars and footballers who can kick a ball in a straight line are often recipients of the label. But chess books must have their titles...

There's so much fresh material to enjoy in this book. I think 'Genius in the Background' is the pick of the very good bunch featured in this review article.

Reggio Emilia 2007/2008
Mihail Marin and Yuri Garrett
288 pages
Quality Chess

Celebrating the 50th tournament in the series of Reggio Emilia events, this book contains all of the games - annotated - from the tournament which straddled the years 2007 and 2008.

The participants of the tournament were Almasi, Gashimov, Harakrishna, Ni Hua, Landa, Korchnoi, Navara, Marin, Tiviakov and Godena. Over half of the games are annotated by the players themselves. Mihail Marin provides notes to the others.

Korchnoi's notes are always entertaining. There's a rather pointed note in the annotations to his game in round 5.

Navara - Korchnoi

Black played 24...Kf8?! 1-0 (36) and Korchnoi comments:

'I am envious of people who have a friendly relationship with the iron box called ''a computer'' but just after this game, without any help from that cumbersome and nasty pal, I was pretty sure that 24...Qc4 was the equalizing move and 24...Kf8 the losing one'.

There are plenty of great photos, pen portraits of the players and a very good interview with Ni Hua.

Crosstables from all 50 Reggio Emilia tournaments from 1958/9 to 2007/8 are included at the end of the book.

It's a very attractive tournament book.

Champions of the New Millennium
By Lubomir Ftacnik, Danny Kopec and Walter Browne
456 pages
Quality Chess

Who deserves to be included in a book of 'Champions of the New Millennium'? It's not an easy choice to make.

The authors developed certain criteria which were required to whittle down a mass of very strong players to the final choice of 18. They should be '...below around age 30' and '...a rating of at least 2700 had to be a cut-off for a player to be considered for this book'.

The final 18 are:

Anand, Kramnik, Topalov, Morozevich, Svidler, Mamedyarov, Shirov, Leko, Ivanchuk, Aronian, Karjakin, Carlsen, Radjabov, Wang Yue, Ponomariov, Grischuk, Judit Polgar and Kamsky.

The list shows a couple of exceptions to the above, namely Anand and Ivanchuk, who keep on playing to an extremely high standard despite being oldies by today's standards.

Each player receives a chapter's worth of attention and is celebrated via a set of well-annotated games (72 in all) and an excellent selection of photographs. The use of colour - full page, in some cases - makes a great impression.

It's a celebratory book, showing the 18 selected players at their best. There is little room for the seedy side of personal, off-the-board battles; for instance, the shameful 'toiletgate' affair which marred the Kramnik - Topalov World Championship match is only mentioned very briefly.

The spotlight is rightly shone on the great games and achievements of these fantastic players. The annotations are excellent and the bumper page count gives them plenty of space to breathe.

The illustrative games generally the hero of the chapter destroying a player of a similarly high reputation.

Aronian - Karpov
Hoogeveen Essent Crown 2003

Here, for example, Aronian finishes off his demolition job in the 12th World Champion with a flourish: 32 Rd8! 1-0

Not all of the games are over so quickly. Particularly noteworthy is the inclusion of a high-class pawn ending.

Adams - Polgar
Wijk aan Zee 2008

The book's analysis of this delicate struggle is well worth playing through.

This is a big book, but the spine is strong enough not to bend when the book is opened. Production values on all three books featured this time are very high.

Chess Reviews 158 will follow soon and will feature Quality Chess books aimed at self-improvement.

For further details about Quality Chess books, please pop along to the Quality Chess website

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