BOOK REVIEW by CARL PORTMAN
600 Modern Chess Puzzles
1st edition (softcover, 192 Pages)
Also available as an e-book ($9.95) and an app-book ($11.99)
What is this book about?
Chess puzzles. 600 of them, many or all of which the author claims have never been seen before, because they are from recent (fairly recent) play. They range from very easy to very difficult so if you work through the book in sequence and keep solving, you will be improving.
There are two parts to the book.
Part 1: With hints, Questions and tasks
1. Warming Up
3. Your Choice
4. Getting Tricky
5. Endgame Exercises
6. Tough Nuts
7. Tough Choices
Part 2: No Clues!
1. Not Too Hard
2. Tricky Tasks
3. Endgame Challenges
Index of Themes
Naturally, there is an introduction to the book, followed by short pieces on basic tactical ideas, symbols and the difficulty ranges for each chapter.
I very much like the explanation of tactical ideas (such as Zugzwang, square vacation, interference, line opening, deflection and destroying the guard, among others) in the introduction. That’s very useful for the reader to prepare them for what is to come. Further I applaud the author for including the Index of themes at the end of the book. Here, you can see which positions relate to certain themes such as perpetual check, endgame technique, positional play, candidate moves and attacks on the king. This is very useful, especially for chess coaches.
What does (some of) the official Blurb say?
The easiest, quickest and most effective way to improve your overall game is to increase your tactical vision. Many good positions are lost because a key moment is passed by and a player misses the opportunity to win by a beautiful combination. This book is designed simply to help you improve your play by seeing tactics better.” – Martyn Kravtsiv
Written along similar lines to Gambit’s earlier Ultimate Chess Puzzle Book, this new work presents 600 puzzles, mostly from the last two years, that are chosen for instructive value and maximum training benefit. To ensure that few will be familiar to readers, Kravtsiv has deliberately chosen positions from obscure games or from analysis. If you find the right answers, it will be because you worked them out yourself!
Does the book achieve its aim?
What is the aim of any chess puzzle book? Presumably to entertain (surely?) and educate. It should also be a good reference resource as far as I am concerned. In fairness, it is a chess puzzle book so yes it does, especially with fresh material.
By way of an example from the book I offer the following:
The position below is taken from the game Seo Jung - Dhulipalla, Stockholm 2018/19. It is Black to play and the instruction given by the author is to choose between 36…Rxc8 and 36…Rxa2. My own view is that I don’t see the value in just trying to find the correct move, it is going to be really important to learn the reason why it is best and what the move is in context with any theme. That’s the way to progress.
Have a look at the position below and I will provide the answer at the foot of this review. So – are you playing 36…Rxc8 or 36…Rxa2
I was interested to note that so many of the games are taken from India, particularly Mumbai, with plenty from Stockholm, Chennai and Hastings as well as elsewhere. That’s just an observation, not a criticism. I am simply curious as to why a Ukrainian author should choose so many games from India.
The fact that these are recent positions makes it more interesting and the fact that the reader won’t have seen most (any?) of the positions brings new life into the puzzle studies. Books such as this are perfect for taking with you on a trip to read in a car, on a railway platform, in an aircraft or in my case waiting to see a doctor!
The layout is up to the usual GAMBIT standards with clear and precise diagrams on good quality paper. There are some very memorable moments from the positions in the book. With the dark evenings just about upon us I would certainly recommend this to keep you company, and with a lockdown Christmas on the horizon, you might want to get it sooner rather than later.
Thanks to the miracle of technology you can visit YouTube and watch a short video in which GM John Nunn presents a sample from this book. He comments that the positions are a good selection for training purposes. They are not artificially created, they are practical. Don’t argue with the Doctor.
Who is the author?
Martyn Kravtsiv is an experienced grandmaster from Lviv, Ukraine. His tournament results include tied first places at Cappelle in 2012 and the 2015 Ukrainian Championship, as well as being blitz champion of the 2008 World Mind Sports Games (at age 17). He represented his country at the 2017 World Team Championship and was a coach for the team that won silver medals at the 2016 Olympiad.
Note: The book has been translated by Graham Burgess who is an excellent author in his own right. That should instill confidence in the reader that a thorough job has been made of it.
Answer to the puzzle
1...Re8xc8! (1...Rd2xa2? 2.Rc8xe8+ Qe7xe8 3.Qc4xa2 Qe8–e1 (3...Bb4–d6 4.Qa2xf2 Qe8xa4 is not enough for Black to win.) 4.Qa2–e2 Bb4–d6 5.g2–g4! and White holds the position.) 2.Qc4xc8+ Rd2–d8.
Opposite-coloured bishops have a stronger drawing tendency the fewer pieces are on the board. Thus, to retain winning chances, Black should only allow the exchange of one pair of rooks. It’s a very good point and these fairly simple themes once inculcated could help to gain lots of game points for the hard-working chess student. Good hunting.