By Alex Dunne




by Carsten Hansen


The subtitle of this work is “A practical guide to making positional decisions” and that seems to fit this book.  Hansen selects game positions from some of the best players and discusses how those players handle the position.  His selection is admirable, and his notes clear and to the point, but his generalizations are lacking.  That may be because Hansen takes an opposite tact to the prevailing current view that “chess is 90% tactics.”  Whether to support his book or because this is actually how he feels, Hansen has made the statement that “chess is at least 90% based on positional factors.”  This is a refreshing view (I say this because the quote more closely gels with my own view of chess) but in order to support this view, Hansen gives the position from which the winning player exploits those advantages, whereas if you really wanted to improve your positional chess, he should give the thinking leading to that positional edge.


Gambit Publications Ltd., distributed in the US by BHB International, Inc., 302 West North 2nd Street, Seneca, SC 29678, has published Improve Your Positional Chess by Carsten Hansen, ISBN 1 904600 00 X at $25.95 for the soft cover edition.


Nevertheless, the examples given by Hansen are so consistently top-level, that they make up a good book.  The reader can learn much in these 192 pages.   Hansen breaks down the positional struggle to ten factors – what constitutes imbalances, the initiative, weaknesses, Knights vs. Bishops, Rooks, the exchange, and material for the Queen, structural weaknesses, Pawn sacrifices, and the attack.  He rounds off the book with a quiz and answers. 

This book can benefit players rated from 1700 to 2400. 




by Chris Ward


Perhaps the most concrete of all endgames is the Rook and Pawn endgame.  There are certain techniques to be learned and some generalizations that can guide the student to the correct conclusion, but much calculation is needed otherwise.  This 128 page book is rich in instruction to the student who is taking his first forays into the realm of the Rook endgame.  Chris Ward takes nothing for granted, starting off with the battle between Kings and Pawns and then introducing the Rook.  He discussed the (unfair) battle between Rook and Pawn and then expands on that to battles of two Pawns versus a Rook and even five Pawns against the Rook.

All the basic positions are noted here – what I liked particularly was Ward’s discussion of why passive defense works in the battle of Rook versus Rook and h-Pawn, why passive defense works with Rook versus Rook and g-Pawn, but why passive defense fails in the fight of Rook versus Rook and f-Pawn.  When the student can see the Rook can use the h-file to drive the King away from defense, he can begin to understand some of the basics of Rook and Pawn endgames.  Then building bridges, Philidor positions, and even zugzwang become more meaningful to the student.


Everyman Chess, Everyman Publishers plc, distributed in North America by the Globe Pequot Press, PO Box 480, 246 Goose Lane, Guilford, CT 06437-0480, has published Starting Out: Rook Endgames by Chris Ward, ISBN 1 85744 374 8 at $18.95 for the soft cover.


The Starting Out series is mainly concerned with opening play, but this volume discussing endgames is worthy of inclusion in the series.  Very thorough, a digestion of this book will make you a stronger endgame player.  I can strongly recommend this book for junior players rated 500-1800.  Easy to read, pertinent, clear, and accurate, this is a good book to start out with in learning about Rook and Pawn endgames.  If you are rated below 1800 and want to learn about the most common endgame in chess, buy this book!





by Garry Kasparov


Buy this book, buy this book, buy this book.

Kasparov covers Reshevsky, Najdorf, and Larsen in the first half of this volume, Fischer makes up the second half.  This is a good book in the first half.  It is a great book in the second half.  Eminently readable, for an old fogey (pre-1972) like myself, it was like reliving the heady days of Fischer’s ascendancy.  The games of Fischer are presented with the usual help of Fritz, and what is remarkable is how much more accurate Fischer was than his contemporaries. 

Everything is here – Fischer’s youth, the Game of the Century, Portoroz at age 14, qualifying for the Candidates, Fischer’s tournament triumphs, his failures, his demands, his 6-0 shut outs, his winning the world title, Sveti-Stefan 1992. All that is missing is his incarceration in Japan.  But the games are here, well analyzed.  And they help make this volume great.


Everyman Chess, Everyman Publishers plc, distributed in North America by the Globe Pequot Press, PO Box 480, 246 Goose Lane, Guilford, CT 06437-0480, has published My Great Predecessors, Part IV by Garry Kasparov, ISBN 1 85744 395 0 at $35 for the hard cover.


I realize I sound too enthusiastic in reviewing Kasparov’s first four volumes, but as a long time bibliophile, I have to simply state that these four volumes are without equal in the history of chess.  Anyone who is interested in great games and the past of chess will bless these volumes.  Buy this book!




by Amatzia Avni


I am not certain whether this was an ambitious book that fell short of its goal, or a light- weight effort that fell short of its goal.  The format was clear: author Avni would present is (largely) Grandmaster friends with a chess position or game (or ask them about one of their games) and ask them to verbalize their thoughts.  That way, the reader would get an insight into the Grandmaster mind, a key to thinking like a Grandmaster.  This was first done in a systematic fashion by de Groot who interviewed some strong players in this fashion almost sixty years ago.  Unfortunately, too many of Avni’s GM friends are much stronger players than they are literate.

I suppose it is valuable, somehow, to have a GM tell us about his 14-move draw with Smyslov or that in chess, sometimes poetry is needed rather than calculation, or Wow! as a GM is shown a move in a game he is analyzing, a move that caught him by surprise.  Sometimes the G<M is at a loss to explain why he made the move he made, only that the move is the correct one for the position even if he can’t explain why.


Gambit Publications Ltd., distributed in the US by BHB International, Inc., 302 West North 2nd Street, Seneca, SC 29678, has published The Grandmaster’s Mind by Amatzia Avni, ISBN 1 904600 19 0 at $23.95 for the soft cover edition.


I don’t want to dwell on the negative aspects of this book.  There are positive insights.  Even the insight that some very strong players rely greatly on intuition is valuable to give confidence to those who rely on intuition.  But overall I found this book not very helpful to me, and I am not sure just who it would be helpful for.  I can say that the combinations and endgame positions are mostly interesting and instructive.  I know, too, that Avni has some interesting friends.  If you are interested in different patterns of thinking about thinking, this book may interest you.




by Alexander Raetsky & Maxim Chetverik


There are books on the market that are designed to improve your tactics.  For the most part, these books give you a position and ask you to find the tactical continuation.  These books will increase your tactical expertise by exposing the reader to different patterns of combinations.  For the most part these combination books lack personality.  Not so with this book.  


Everyman Chess, Everyman Publishers plc, distributed in North America by the Globe Pequot Press, PO Box 480, 246 Goose Lane, Guilford, CT 06437-0480, has published Alexander Alekhine Master of Attack by Alexander Raetsky & Maxim Chetverik, ISBN 1 85744 372 1 at $18.95 for the soft cover.


All the combinations in the book are by Alexander Alekhine, one of the great combinational geniuses.  Further, the entire game is given, though the moves leading up to the combination are not annotated.  Once the critical combinational moment is reached, then there are notes and variations given, if necessary.  This allows the reader to gain an appreciation of some of the brilliant chess of Alekhine.  Of course it would be a better book if the earlier moves were analyzed too, but it would also be a different kind of book.  As a combination book, I rather like the mixture of chess history and chess combination.  So, though the book is slight, Alekhine’s genius remains very much alive.  This book can help you improve your tactics if you are rated 1800-2400.  Perhaps the pages from 84-94, “Alekhine Tips” for solving the various positions could have been left out.  The “hints” are more of a distraction than a help.


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