Tuesday, 23 August 2011

Chess Reviews: 186

Following Sunday's examination of recent works on chess openings, here's a round up of chess products featuring different aspects of the game. There's a lot to look at, so it's a bumper review column this time.

The Joys of Chess
Christian Hesse
432 pages

Subtitled 'Heroes, Battles & Brilliances', this new book provides '...an unforgettable intellectual expedition to the remotest corners of the Royal Game.' Or, as observed by World Champion Anand in his foreword, 'The book bridges the gap between the world of chess and the rest of the world and makes numerous connections such as to literature. arts, philosophy and other areas.'

In short, this book can't guarantee to improve your handling of the latest theory of the Sicilian Dragon, but it can offer a cornucopia of chess fun.

The chapters are short (2-4 pages is typical) with titles as diverse as 'Legal loopholes', 'Ockham's razor and chess-chindogu' and 'The conqueror of the conqueror of Fischer'. Delights await the reader on every page and I don't just mean in terms of the chess positions presented for our enjoyment; there's an abundance of fine prose here too. It must have taken the author a long time to write this terrific feel-good book. The bibliography runs to eight pages and credits an incredible range of sources from Botvinnik to Lolita.

Here are a three delightful samples, selected by randomly thumbing the pages and stopping at various points.

Przepiorka - Ahues
Kecskemet 1927

After 1 ...Rxd2, White played 2 Rxb2, whereupon Black, 'without batting an eyelid', replied with 2 ...Rxa2. 'A bitter reckoning for White: losing 3 pieces in 1.5 moves has got to be a world record, surely. Of course the arbiter intervened at this point.'

Mohring - Kaikamdzozov
Zamardi 1978

White is a Queen up, but how can he avoid the perpetual check? 86 Qh3!! - a Mitrofanov Deflection!

Marshall - MacClure
New York 1923

Frank James Marshall provided plenty of entertainment over the course of his chess career. His games are tailor made for such a collection.

'Though White was being
forced into bankruptcy, Marshall was still able to make a payment with 1 Rh6!! and all of a sudden the encounter was taking place under a whole new set of conditions. 1 ...Rxh6 2 h8=Q+! Rxh8 3 b5 and it's practically impossible to avoid stalemate.'

I hope have whetted your appetite enough for you to be inspired to buy a copy of 'The Joys of Chess'. In my opinion, it is clearly one of the best books of 2011.

Invisible Chess Moves
By FM Emmanuel Neiman and IM Yochanan Afek
240 pages

This book aims to help the reader 'Discover your blind spots and stop overlooking simple wins' and to present thoughts on why easy moves are missed over the board (sometimes by both players).

We've all missed trivial things and felt very bad about it afterwards. Apart from pride, matches and titles are often lost due to failing to spot something a total novice would see from across the road.

The authors discuss the nature of their subject in the introduction. There is a distinction to be drawn between straightforward blunders and victims of invisible moves.

Petrosian - Bronstein
Candidates 1956

36 ...Nf5 37 Ng5?? Nxd6 0-1 Petrosian's famous blunder.

Zueger - Landenbergue

36 Qxg3?? Qh1 mate! A good example of an invisible move. Zueger failed to see the effect of at least one of the pins.

The study of this phenomenon is presented in four chapters, split into two parts.

Part 1 - Objective Invisibility
Chapter 1: Hard-to-see moves
Chapter 2: Geometrically invisible moves

Part 2 - Subjective Invisibility
Chapter 3: Invisible moves for positional reasons
Chapter 4: Invisible moves for psychological reasons

There's a test at the end of the book, featuring 53 positions.

This book can indeed be used to test your powers or (more likely) as a source of entertainment. There's always something reassuring about seeing top players fall for trivial things.

The following example of an invisible move has long been one of my favourites.

Flohr - Grob

Salo Flohr resigned here, not seeing a way to stop both ...Qf1+ and ...Qxd5. However, he had an 'invisible' option.

1 Kh1!! Qf1+ 2 Bg1

As the book explains...

'Why was 1 Kh1 an invisible move?

- As there is a mating threat, it is hard to visualize the king moving

- The possibility of moving the bishop backwards is also not easy to foresee

- When defending, such cold-blooded moves are difficult to conceive of.'

It's an entertaining book on an unusual subject and a good example of the diversity currently offered by New in Chess.

By GM Glenn Flear
264 pages

'Tactimania,' explains GM Flear, in his introduction, 'simply means passion for tactics.' And with this unusual title begins a book with other unusual features. The cover will not have escaped the attention of the reader. It is indicative of what can be found throughout the book, with humorous, full colour cartoons used to liven up the text. These are all by James Flear, eldest son of the Grandmaster. The cartoons are fun but they do give the misleading impression that this is a book at a junior audience.

All of the positions used to demonstrate the various tactics are taken from Glenn Flear's own games, apart from a smaller number taken from the games of...Christine Flear! So it can be observed that 'Tactimania' is a real family effort.

Essentially, of course, this a puzzle book, with readers invited to find the winning combinations over the course of 12 main chapters and then to have a go at the final test positions.

The chapters are arranged by theme, utilising alliterative titles such as 'Deviate to Dominate' 'Punishing Precariously Place Pieces'.

Test yourself, dear reader, using these examples.

Flear - Stork
Marseille 2006
White to move

An easy one from the chapter 'Pinching Pieces and Pawns'.

Lyell - Flear
Plymouth 1989

A trickier one, from 'Blunder-bashing'.

'How many of the following four moves are playable for White: 24 Qc2, 24 Bd3, 24 Bxc6 and 24 d5?'

The major selling point of the book is the freshness of the material. Not everyone will be particularly familiar with the games of GM Flear, so the vast majority of the positions should be new to readers. So instead of solving the same old positions time and again, readers will find their skills stretched more by this book than by various others.

Know the Terrain
Vol 2: The Capablanca Structure
By IM Sam Collins
4 hours and 30 minutes

The aim of this series is to encourage and develop within practical players '...a deep understanding of the pawn structures to which their openings lead.'

The Capablanca Structure is the name given by the presenter to positions in which White has pawns on c4 and d4 and Black has pawns on c6 and e6. Here is the basic skeleton.

The structure is certainly an important one, as it crops up in numerous openings (Queen's Gambit Declined, French Defence and Caro-Kann Defence to name but three). The ideas given are for both White and Black.

White's advantage in space is obvious, but Black remains solid and the first player must try and prove that the advantage is a lasting one.

The little snippets of advice are well presented and stick in the mind. As the video lectures are genrally short, not too much time is spent on the build up to the key ideas, so the viewer should be able to focus on the relevant material.

For example, this position shows '...the master at work'.

Rothschild - Capablanca
Casual Game, 1911

Capablanca defused some of White's central control with 19 ...b5! Trying to maintain full control with 20 b3? isn't advisable ( 20 ...Bxa3) so White has to push on with 20 c5, which grants Black the important d5 square for his pieces (the game was evenutally drawn after 53 moves).

The reason that this particular point jumped out at me is that I missed a simnilar opportunity some years ago in a local league match.

C. Walton - S. Marsh

In the game, I spent rather too long looking at my opponent's pawns without taking action and when d4-d5 eventually came, it put me in great trouble and I ended up two panws down in an endgame (despite that, the game was drawn after 50 moves). With hinsight, this would have been the correct moment to emulate the great Capablanca and play 19 ...b5, prodding and puncturing the proud pawns.

IM Collins talks through the 46 illustrative games (with nearly 40 of them from 2002-2010) to explain various strategical aspects of the Capablanca Stucture, ranging from 'Meeting e4 with e5' to 'Which pieces to trade?'.

I like the style of presentation. Sam Collins has a very calm approach which is well suited to this particular material. Club and tournament players will definitely be able to increase their understanding of the Capablanca Structure after a careful study of this DVD.

First Steps in Attack
By IM Andrew Martin

Another series makes it's debut from ChessBase! Officially aimed at players rated below 2200, this new series hopes to '...provide a basic grounding on a variety of subjects, which will assist general all-round improvement.'

The lessons are presented via 16 illustrative games, each one demonstrating a key attacking idea, such as 'superior force usually decides'. They last last around 20 minutes each, on average.

After the first two games, IM Martin makes the viewer work during the third game. Hiding the forthcoming moves, he encourages viewers to guess the contuniations at key moments.

Here's your chance to see how your attacking skill measures up.

Beliavsky - Larsen
Tilburg 1981

This is a terrific game. Larsen could have taken the Knight on the previous move, but White would have gained a massive attack. So he tried defending with 15 ...Nd5, leading to the position above. Whereupon Beliavsky played...what?

IM Martin is the ideal choice as a presenter to introduce lesser-experienced players to their'first steps in attack.' His forthright, no-nonense style repeatedly gets straight the heart of the matter.

The featured games are not trivial, one-sided smashes. So the viewer will still have to work hard to find the correct moves. Possibly, this makes the material slightly harder than one would expect for the 'first steps'. However, the stated target audience of sub-2200 looks accurate.

It will be interesting to see how this new series develops.

No comments: