Wednesday, 8 December 2021

WELCOME


INTRODUCTION
 


Welcome to my Chess Book Reviews blog. 

I hope you enjoy it and that it proves useful if you are deciding to by chess books.

It has been said that books are the most loyal and trusted friends that you can ever have and in this world of iPads, kindles and other electronic formats I still want to be one of the people giving a 'shout-out' for hard copy chess books. In this technological age it has never been easier to access chess online, at the click of a mouse, and this has affected book consumption.  

Chess books are an important aspect of a chess players lives. They serve as an educational and developmental tool, as well as illustrating history and culture. Some people own one or several books, whereas others have large collections assembled over a lifetime. 

Truly then, I believe in the value of hard copy chess books. Unlike electronic books, they don't lose their charge, they can be read in the sunshine, they don't hurt your eyes from watching screens and even better - they can be autographed to add to their value as a treasured keepsake. 

I want to be clear about my objective for this blog site.

I am blogging simply as an amateur chess player. I am a club and county player, former County Chess Champion (Shropshire) and I have proudly represented and indeed been Captain of my country (UK) in the NATO Chess Championships, but I remain like many of us, just an ordinary player with a lifelong passion for the game.

My reviews are written for the people who are most likely to purchase chess books. That is to say beginners, intermediate and strong players up to county level, but I am sure that even stronger players might enjoy or in some way benefit from digesting my reviews. This is a not for profit blog but reviewing chess books is something that I enjoy.

Reviewing a chess book isn't as easy as one may think. It requires a certain skill-set and I am learning all the time. One has to be impartial and objective but also not be afraid to have a personal opinion and I will not shirk from criticizing if I feel it is warranted. There should be a standard process for the task of reviewing and it can take me a while - but that is because I will actually read the book. Too many people merely flick through and I have seen some truly woeful reviews consisting literally of a couple of lines. I want to try to get into the head of the author. I want to do the best I can to explain to the reader of this blog what each book is really about and the impact it had on me personally, so that they can make up their own mind about owning a copy. 

It is as subjective as art or music, but I hope my reviews are a good starting point for people. Naturally, individuals will have their own views and opinions about the same books. I am sanguine about that...but these views are mine and mine alone. Sometimes I may use humour to make a point (how dare I?) which is not everyone's style but there we are, that's life. It is not in the scope of this blog site to enter into debates. Feel free to make your own mind up. 

For the record I have several of my own favourite chess books from the past including 'The Sorcerer's Apprentice' by David Bronstein and Tom F├╝rstenberg. If you can still find it, then snap it up immediately. My most prized book is a signed copy of Anatoly Karpov's memoirs which he autographed when I played him in Chartres, France in a simul in 2019. 

As I say, you cannot autograph an iPad!

Without further ado then, let's put one foot forward and see where the journey takes us. Thanks for stopping by.

Carl

Carl Portman (Author: Chess Behind Bars and Chess Crusader)

 



 

 

 

 

 

 


Tuesday, 7 December 2021

The Berlin Defence

 

BOOK REVIEW by Carl Portman

THE BERLIN DEFENCE

by ANDY MACK


Andy Mack

Pages: 291

Published by: Elk and Ruby Publishing House   

2020 Softcover

From the Publisher

‘That afternoon, Lothar sat down opposite Lev Ivanov, and with a furrowed brow, determinedly pushed his King’s pawn forward two squares, punching down the clock as he did so. When Ivanov ventured a Sicilian Defence, Lothar sacrificed first a Knight and then a Rook for a raging attack.

Lothar Hartmann dreams of reaching the big time in chess. Overcoming the mind-games of his opponents at the chessboard is a challenge in itself, but how will he cope when he comes face to face with the political manipulation and oppression of his own corrupt government? A tale told with dark humour of love and loss, hopes dashed and regained, it is a window into a world of tactics, psychological warfare and the balance of fate and opportunity, while asking fundamental questions about life’s purpose and moral choices. As Lothar begins to realise that his world is not simply black and white, and that the chess players themselves are pieces, moved across a board to further the reach of East German propaganda, he hatches a plan that defies all expectations.’

 

Contents

 

·         Prologue – None is completely on your side

·         Part One – The Opening

·         Part Two – The Middlegame

·         Part Three – The Endgame

·         Epilogue – Ich Bin Ein Berliner

 

My thoughts and comments

The first chess novel I ever read was ‘The Queen’s Gambit’ by Walter Tevis. That was back in 1983 and of course it finally became a blockbuster on Netflix this year.  As a chess player, I am always keen to read a novel with chess as the central theme and I was looking forward very much to reading this one, especially at this time of year as the winter nights draw in.

 

It captured my interest immediately, focusing on East Berlin in 1967 and all that was happening with the Cold War and the Stasi (Ministry for State Security) in the German Democratic Republic. That organisation was formed in 1950 on the same date (not year) as my birthday on 8th February. Their methods were initially crude (physical torture) but later more sophisticated with the idea of ‘Zersetsung’ (Undermining and decomposition of a character) being employed. Having lived and worked in Germany myself, I am familiar with a good deal of its history and East v West tensions still bubble under the surface in some areas even today.

 

In the book, Lothar, the main character finds that chess is the guiding influence of his life in his formative and later years, despite all of the madness going on around him with people ‘disappearing’ and living in fear of the state, especially the dreaded knock on the door from the Stasi.

 

The novel takes us on the roller-coaster ride that is Lothar’s life both at and away from the chessboard. He not only has the social and political problems to deal with, but the battles at the chessboard and his constant desire to improve. How far can he go? How far does he want to go? If we throw love into the mix (as the author does) then we have a tale of joy and despair. Of hope, failure and success.

 

I thought I would be able to predict how this went chapter by chapter but I was delighted to be surprised at several turns including at the very end, which was the scenario that I had been mentally begging for throughout. The author finally put me out of my misery and it was bliss. Chess occasionally takes Lothar out of East Germany (for tournaments accompanied by his Stasi guards) and it introduces him to many people, but which ones are friends and who has the knife in their hand? Power, coercion and control - who can live under those conditions? Welcome to East Germany.

 

I found it easy when reading this to put myself in the position of the central character. What would I do? What choices would I make and why? There are plenty of twists and turns and moral dilemmas. It is also ineffably sad in some places, especially where love is concerned. How many of us have felt the pain of unrequited love? Mack introduces loving relationships in a very human way without ever being crude. As Lothar gets older, he can appreciate what he had, but also acknowledges the opportunities spurned. Is that not the case for us all?

 

The book is well presented with a clever art cover, nice page and text quality and I found it highly readable, but then I have an interest in the subject matter. I am certain that both chess players – and non-chess players – will enjoy it. I would give it to anyone as a gift and they wouldn’t be confused if they didn’t play the game. 

 

There is a nice play on character names, as they are clearly taken from actual chess players throughout history and changed to identify the people in this story. I had tremendous fun working out who was who and if you know your chess history, it will enhance the reading experience for sure. Clearly the author has taken his own knowledge and experience of the game and woven it into the story line in a very subtle way. Like all good writers, he always seems to leave you wanting a little bit more - therefore you feel duty bound to keep turning pages.

 

I was further intrigued about his knowledge of the East German culture. Did he live there? He says that his favourite European city is Berlin, and I am with him on that. It’s a remarkable place, totally cosmopolitan, soaked in history. It remains a city where a punk rocker with a rainbow Mohawk can stand next to a businessman in a sharp pin-striped suit and neither bats an eyelid. I wonder why Mack chose this part of the world at that time. What gave him the idea? I imagine living in those dark times, and thank my lucky stars that I don’t, but this book above all, illustrated the power of chess and what it can do to transform and influence lives in a positive way. I thoroughly enjoyed it. Well done Andy Mack, and to Elk and Ruby Publishing for supporting such a venture. Prost!

 

Who is the author?

Andy Mack was born in 1970, in Bromley, South-East England. A keen chess player from an early age, he has competed three times in the British Chess Championships and achieved the title of FIDE Master. He also plays poker to a high standard, and has written a book entitled Omaha 8 or Better – Winning at Hi-Low Poker. In his professional life, Andy qualified as a Chartered Accountant and is a Director in a large accounting firm. Andy continues to live in South-East England. His favourite European city is Berlin, and The Berlin Defence is his first novel.

Tuesday, 30 November 2021

Yakov Vilner. First Ukrainian Chess Champion and First USSR Chess Composition Champion.

 

Book Review by Carl Portman

YAKOV VILNER

FIRST UKRAINIAN CHESS CHAMPION AND FIRST USSR CHESS COMPOSITION CHAMPION

by SERGEI TKACHENKO

 


Sergei Tkachenko

Pages: 386

Published by: Elk and Ruby Publishing House   

2021 Softcover

 

From the Publisher

Yakov Vilner (1899-1931) was one of the leading Soviet chess masters in the 1920s. He won the Ukrainian championship three times (1924, 1925 and 1928), the Odessa championship five times (1918, 1923, 1925, 1926 and 1928) and competed in five USSR championships, his highest position being sixth equal in 1924. His attacking, combinational style delivered many memorable games and he regularly played against strong contemporaries such as Bogoljubov, Romanovsky, Bogatyrchuk, Verlinsky and an upcoming teenager called Botvinnik.

Vilner was also a leading chess composer. He won the USSR composition championship for three-move problems in 1929 and in total he won prizes at 30 chess composition competitions.


In this historical work illustrated with rare archival photos from the period, Sergei Tkachenko tells the story of a man who, despite suffering constantly from the respiratory illness that would eventually end his life at the age of just 31, was a leading chess organizer and journalist in Ukraine as well as a player and composer, against a background of major social and political upheaval that significantly impacted the chess world. It was Vilner who, in 1919 as a member of the Revolutionary Tribunal in Odessa, managed to save Alexander Alekhine from the firing squad, which Tkachenko wrote about in his book Alekhine's Odessa Secrets: Chess, War and Revolution. The latter work was short-listed for the 2018 English Chess Federation Book of the Year.

 

Tkachenko has selected 49 full games and another six fragments, annotated in detail by Vilner himself, Tkachenko, Romanovsky, Bogatyrchuk, and other leading players of the 1920s. The author has also included all 95 of Vilner’s known problems and studies, some of which are fairy problems, as well as many earlier versions and related compositions. Like in Tkachenko’s other collections, all 95 compositions are set on the right-hand side of the page with the solution overleaf.

This book will be of great interest to fans of Soviet chess history, exciting games collections and problem solving.

 

Contents

 

·         Part I – Life and Games (Thirteen sections)

·         Part II – Compositions and related works (Three sections)

·         Index of games and fragments (including openings)

·         Vilner’s key achievements

 

My thoughts and comments

First of all, and just one reason why these books from Elk and Ruby are so important, is that they bring to our attention characters from the past who might otherwise have passed us by. Yakov Vilner does not appear even in the Oxford Companion to Chess (Hooper and Whyld) which is a crying shame. Was nothing known of him at the time? Well anyway here he is, ‘Herz und Seele’ within a single book of dedication. I feel rather humbled to be one of the beneficiaries of such hard work. I admit to having a great interest in Russian/Soviet chess throughout history, so I was looking forward with great anticipation to opening the pages.

 

Here we have a man who like so many before him made significant contributions to chess and who died very young. He passed away at the criminally young age of thirty-one. They say it is not the years that you put in your life, but the life that you put in your years. Well, Yakov Vilner certainly packed a lot in, despite his poor health both with over the board play and chess compositions. The book is written in two parts, the first being an overview of his life and games, and the second containing those compositions and related works.

 

How did the book make me feel?

We tend to think about chess in a contemporary way, forgetting those who have gone before. We live and breathe in the time we are born, for sure. Today we have advanced medicines to keep us alive, especially for respiratory illness, but there was nothing like this for Vilner. Today we can enjoy excellent conditions for playing chess, and a support mechanism in terms of chess engines and a wealth of books and the Internet to aid and develop our game. There was nothing like this for Vilner. What he did, he did by dint of hard work and talent alone. I felt that this man, ill as he was for much of his life, had chess as his constant friend and spirit guide. Without it, his life would surely have been diminished, not so much in a physical, but intellectual sense. So many of us can relate to this.

 

Vilner was the first Ukrainian chess champion, and the games are interesting, because he clearly had a good feel for tactics. Tkachenko gently and skillfully helps the reader to comprehend what is happening. Personally, I enjoy looking through games from this epoch because they do contain errors (not the cold and compliant slavery of computer moves even if they are superior) and one can begin to grasp the style of chess played at that time and how for example openings were explored and developed.

 

Here he was White against Pogrebyssky at Odessa in 1928 and this position was arrived at after 1.d4 d5 2.Nc3 Nf6 3.Bg5 c6 4. Qd3



 

Vilner plays the Veresov. I wonder how many people would play move today? Well, Hikaru Nakamura for one, in a Blitz game in 2019. It is just good fun looking at these openings and occasionally little gems can be found to perhaps employ in your own games later.

 

Then there are the compositions. Some of these are remarkable in their inventiveness and I can only wonder how Vilner actually devised them. Did they come to mind in the bath? Did he do them exclusively at the board, or did they appear at random?  

 

Here is one little example which was published in the Odessa News in 1913. It is White to play and mate in three. I shall provide the answer at the end of this review.

 



 

I felt some of Vilner’s frustration that his illness deprived him of even better results and more opportunities to play chess. I appreciated the inclusion of the rare photographs and drawings which enabled me to ‘step into’ his age.

 

The layout of this book is very good, with plenty of diagrams, photographs and results tables on good quality paper. It is a busy cover, but quite rightly an image of the man himself sits front and centre.

 

Does the book achieve its aim?

The book tells the world about Yakov Vilner’s life and his chess. It has been compiled after many years of hard graft and I am full of admiration for the player, the author and the Publisher on this one. It must have been a labour of love.

 

What really made this book worth reading is the fact that before I picked it up, I knew absolutely nothing about Yakov Vilner. When I finished it, I felt culturally enriched in a personal and chess sense. Tkachenko has done all the work, all you have to do is read and enjoy it.

 

Who is the author?

Sergei Tkachenko, a member of the Ukrainian team that won the 5th World Chess Composition tournament in 1997.

 

Answer to chess composition.

 

1.Ba8! e2 (only move) 2.Rb7! Kxg2 (only move) 3.Rh7#

This is lovely. When the bishop goes to a8, it will lie behind the critical b7 square which the rook will occupy, blocking any stalemate from a bishop check on g1. It paves the way for the rook’s mating ploy. This effect is the essence of the ‘Indian Theme.’ I love compositions like this, they are just so clever.

 

 

Monday, 22 November 2021

From Chess Champion of Russia to Enemy of the People, the truth about my father.

 

BOOK REVIEW by Carl Portman

FROM CHESS CHAMPION OF RUSSIA TO ENEMY OF THE PEOPLE

THE TRUTH ABOUT MY FATHER

by NIKOLAI IZMAILOV

 



Nikolai Izmailov

Pages: 213

Published by: Elk and Ruby Publishing House   

2021 Hardcover, Softcover and Forward Chess

 

What is this book about?

 

The official cover text is as follows: ‘Petr Izmailov was considered to be one of the top four players of the Soviet Union in 1929 according to Yuri Averbakh, and he was ranked around number 50 in the world at the time based on chess metrics methodology. Izmailov won the 1928 Championship of Soviet Russia, reached the last four of the 1929 Soviet Championship, and had a 2/2 lifetime score against Botvinnik. He was a regular winner of Siberian regional and city championships as well as a pioneer in some openings, playing a line similar to the Makogonov Attack against the King’s Indian more than ten years before Makogonov himself.

 

Izmailov, like many players of his generation, fell victim to Stalin’s purges. He was arrested on spurious charges in 1936 and executed in 1937. His name was then mostly expunged from the Soviet chess press for over 50 years.

 

At the time of Petr’s arrest, his son Nikolai was less than two years’ old. Once the Soviet-era archives opened up, Nikolai set out to reconstruct the life and chess career of the father he never knew. This book is the result of his research over many years. It contains as complete a tournament record of Izmailov as could be found, as well as all 25 games and fragments that were reported in the contemporary press. At the time of this book’s publication in English Nikolai is a sprightly 86-year-old great-grandfather.

 

All games and fragments have been thoroughly analyzed in this book in move-by-move style by Romanian Grandmaster and leading chess author Mihail Marin. While his analysis is in itself highly instructional Marin has provided a comprehensive historical background to the chess openings deployed in these games, often showing their origin, contemporary treatment by such masters as Alexander Alekhine and Jose Capablanca, and how they have evolved to modern interpretation by today’s leading grandmasters, such as Magnus Carlsen and Anish Giri.  This book will hence be of interest both to practical players wishing to improve their play and fans of chess history.’

 

Contents

 

·         List of Games

·         Preface

·         Introduction – A book decades in the making

·         Introduction – to the chess of Petr Izmailov by Grandmaster Mihail Marin

·         Early Life

·         Games and Career

·         Izmailov’s Final Months

·         The Aftermath

·         Afterword

·         Appendix I – Tournament results

·         Appendix II – A brief biography of Nikolai Izmailov

·         Appendix III – Bullet chess in Tomsk

 

My thoughts and comments


There is precious little information out there about Petr Izmailov. I even consulted my chess ‘bible’ The Oxford Companion to Chess (Hooper & Whyld) and found that he was not listed. I have commented before, that books such as this are about much more than chess – they are history, and as such, provide information about people and events that we may not otherwise have known.  For the chess aficionado, this is extremely important.

 

Born in 1906 Petr Izmailov lived a tragically short life. He died on 28 April 1937, after execution by shooting. This was carried out by the NKVD, the so called ‘People's Commissariat for Internal Affairs’ of the USSR which undertook mass extrajudicial executions of untold numbers of citizens, and conceived, populated and administered the Gulag system of forced labour camps.

 

Izmailov’s ‘death warrant’ was signed by an NKVD Senior Lieutenant Shevelev, and hastily arranged in about 20 minutes with no hearing. He was accused of being a member of the ‘counter-revolutionary Trotskyist-fascist terror organisation.’ It seems ridiculous now but so many people were put to death under this charge.  

 

Let’s look at some chess. Clearly the man had chess talent and he was the champion of Siberia and indeed Soviet Russia. He could have done even more were it not for the remoteness of his residence and the fact that he had so many work commitments which cost him dear. His chess was of very high quality and he was not afraid to employ new ideas. This was the game Kosolapov-Izmailov from the Kazan Championship in January 1924.

 

White has just played 18.f4 threatening to fork the knight and bishop with …f5. Izmailov was too good a player to play the natural looking 18…f5 but why?

 

 


 

After 18…f5 White has the move 19.g4! winning a pawn. There really is much to learn about chess in this book if you play through the games with care. We can see how pawn structure is fundamental in chess and that it will inevitably be a key feature in a high number of endgames. This is also about how to play endgames without the major pieces. 

 

Here is another position that caught my eye. One of many, to be fair. This was a game that Izmailov lost but that matters not. What is important is the game itself. Here he is playing an opponent who was also executed in the Great Terror, Alexander Schtenger, who had the White pieces in the 3rd Siberian Championship in Novosibirsk in March 1926.

 

Izmailov had just played 26…Bd8 and the position looks complex to me. Both sides strive to attack. The question is, what did White play next?

 


 

Did you find 27.Rxf4! at all?

 

The book describes this as ‘a simple but elegant combination, winning material.’ Now it is all too easy to input games played decades ago into a chess engine. The simple fact is. Those players never had any of that technology and it was all done in their head. They used carbon, not silicon.

 

I did however, put this into my ‘Fat Fritz 2’ engine and to be fair it chose 27.Rh6 as the optimum move, giving a huge advantage, followed by moves such as 27.Bd2 or 27. Rf2.

 

When I put the text move in, the assessment halved, still giving White an advantage though. 1.Rxf4 gxf4 2.Bh7+ Kh8 3.Bg6+ Kg8 4.Bxf7+ Rfxf7 5.Qc8 Rd7 6.Bxf4 Ne6 7.Bh6 Rgf7 8.Rf3 Rfe7 9.Rf6 1-0

 

Does the book achieve its aim?


The book is about bringing Petr Izmailov’s short but rich life to the public and telling his story through the diligent research and pen of his son, Nikolai. It does just that.

 

What is ‘The Truth’ anyway? They say there are three versions. His version, her version and the truth. Well, the Truth here is that I feel enriched for having read the book. I felt stimulated intellectually, culturally and even spiritually. I feel lucky to be alive in these times and able to enjoy chess and life. Not so for the countless innocent people such as Petr Izmailov, killed in senseless purges. His light may have been snuffed out at the terribly young age of 30, but this book must surely do some justice to him and to what occurred. Can anyone even imagine what it would be like to have someone knock on your door one day – and lead you off to be shot? It’s man’s inhumanity to man. Pointless. Senseless. Cruel. However, Petr Izmailov left us with the legacy of his games, and for that we should remember him, and celebrate him.

 

Additional comments.


The book is well presented. In a quirky way the fact that some pages are in two column format (for chess commentary) and others single column (only text on the page) works well and breaks up the reading process. There are plenty of diagrams to accompany the text, which I found of great value because it was easier to follow without a physical board and pieces.

 

The analysis from GM Marin is light and easy to understand, so it can reach a wider audience. With plenty of Championship tables and some very rare photographs the book is sufficiently detailed to give the reader a feel for the times and more importantly for the man. It describes more than chess – it offers a view of the culture of the USSR at that time and it is quite frankly terrifying, as well as being unremittingly sad.

 

The time and effort taken to compile this work has been great but the result has justified the means. It is in my humble view, a worthy addition to any chess book collection.

 

Who is the author?


Nikolai Izmailov is the son of Petr Izmailov.

 

 


Tuesday, 12 October 2021

The Magnus Method - The Singular Skills of the World’s Strongest Chess Player Uncovered and Explained

 

BOOK REVIEW by Carl Portman

THE MAGNUS METHOD  

The singular skills of the world’s strongest chess player uncovered and explained

by Emmanuel Neiman



Emmanuel Neiman

Pages: 320

Published by: New In Chess  

2021 Softcover

 

What is this book about?

The official synopsis:

 

What is it that makes Magnus Carlsen the strongest chess player in the world? Why do Carlsen’s opponents, the best players around, fail to see his moves coming? Moves that, when you replay his games, look natural and self-evident?

 

Emmanuel Neiman has been studying Carlsen’s games and style of play for many years. His findings will surprise, delight and educate every player, regardless of their level. He explains a key element in the World Champion’s play: instead of the ‘absolute’ best move he often plays the move that is likely to give him the better chances.

 

Carlsen’s singular ability to win positions that are equal or only very slightly favourable comes down to this: he doesn’t let his opponents get what they hope for while offering them the maximum number of chances to go wrong. In areas such as pawn play, piece play, exchanges as a positional weapon and breaking the rules in endgames, Neiman shows that Magnus Carlsen has brought a new understanding to the game.

 

Neiman also looks at Carlsen’s key qualities that are not directly related to technique. Such as his unparalleled fighting spirit and his ability to objectively evaluate any kind of position and situation. Carlsen is extremely widely read and knows basically everything about chess. What’s more, as the most versatile player in the history of the game he is totally unpredictable.

 

The Magnus Method presents a complete analysis of the skills that make the difference. With lots of surprising and instructive examples and quizzes. Examining Carlsen’s abilities together with Emmanuel Neiman is a delightful way to unlock you own potential.

 

Contents

 

·         Foreword – by Emanuel Neiman

·         Introduction -

·         Thirteen chapters

·         Index of names

·         Bibliography

 

My thoughts and comments

This book has a very interesting layout. The chapters are divided into a specific approach by Carlsen to phases of the game, such as Calculation, planning, Attack, Defence, pawns, Endings, tactics and exchanges to name some. Chapter 12 is entitled ‘How to win against Magnus Carlsen: The hidden defects?

 

Well in one sense we are never going to need this, because we are never going to play against Magnus Carlsen but I wonder how many of the top players might have paused over this little chapter which is only four pages in length, two of which are diagrams.  

 

I enjoy endgames, so I visited that section of the book and attempted to ‘be’ Magnus and solve some of the puzzles. There really were fun. So many ‘easy to lose’ rook and pawn endgames. This gives an insight into how good Magnus really is.

 

I learned more about Magnus the chess player. I can see now how he does not mind to give up a pawn – sometimes even two – for activity in his quest to find a win. This occurs, where other players would be content with a draw.

 

He is excellent at finding ‘backward moves’ which is something that many chess players struggle with. Let’s look at an example. In this position, what would you play?

 


 

Be honest, you never considered 7.Ng1 did you? The computer actually recommends 7.Nc1 which seems more logical to me. We don’t really learn why Magnus played this, but it was a rapid Internet game so I am not going to get hung up about it. I wonder if he would have done similarly in a Classical game.

 

We look at the author’s view about positives and negatives and note that the strengths are not directly related to technique. He notes Carlsen’s strong points which come under six headings, and what about his ‘hidden defects?’ Well, this is covered in Chapter 12 but there are only a couple of pages of prose, followed by 9 diagrams as examples. Not much then in terms of defects, but then he is Magnus Carlsen. Perhaps his greatest defect is his optimism, which can lead to greater risk-taking. Well, I am sure that Ian Nepomniachtchi will be interested as he is soon to face MC in the World Championship finals.

 

Chess games

There are plenty of games, but not necessarily beginning from move one. We pick up positions part way through, depending upon the theme and the moment of truth, so to speak. The ‘games and solutions’ section takes up over half of the book and I suppose if the reader was lazy, they could turn directly there and enjoy the feast of fun in the answers but really this needs to be looked at as a whole and requires patience and time. A disciplined approach to study will reap rewards.

 

Does the book achieve its aim?

The author asks at the very beginning ‘Why another book on Magnus Carlsen?’ Well, this is different because of the layout of the book and it does zero in on fundamental aspects of his game in a clear and concise way. I have to say, the introduction is a long 21 pages but it does lay the foundation for what is to follow.

 

My chief question was ‘Can a club player really try to be Magnus in these puzzles?’ The answer is a resounding yes. Have a go, try to get into his head. I was surprised how many successful attempts I made. Whilst the aim of the book is of course to examine MC in all his glory we should not forget that by doing so, the club player should be able to raise their own level of chess understanding and subsequently their own playing strength.

 

Magnus says that he wants every chess game to be an event. This book is an event in itself and one could spend many hours over this coming winter enjoying the fruits of the author’s labour.

 

Just to note that the paper quality and text are excellent, as always with NIC. The diagrams are plentiful but I would like them to be a little bigger. I appreciate that this would increase the size of the book and may lead to increased cost to the consumer.

 

I wonder what Magnus would make of this book? Personally, I enjoyed it and I intend to spend more time studying it.

 

Who is the author?

Emmanuel Neiman is a FIDE Master who teaches chess in his home country France. He is the (co-) author of Invisible Chess Moves and Tune Your Chess Tactics Antenna, highly successful books on tactics and training.

 

Praise for Emmanuel Neiman:

 

“An enjoyable and challenging book that will make you redress your competitive play.”  Yasser Seirawan, four-time US Champion, on ‘Invisible Chess Moves’

 

 

 

 

WELCOME

INTRODUCTION   Welcome to my  Chess Book Reviews  blog.  I hope you enjoy it and that it proves useful if you are deciding to by chess...