Wednesday, January 20, 2010

The Write Stuff

Want to start a chess library? You have a lot to choose from. It has been estimated that more books have been written about chess than about all other games combined.

A good place to start is Lasker's Manual of Chess, by Emanuel Lasker. Written by the philosopher-champion who held the title for 27 years, this old favorite gives a good basic introduction, chapters on combinations and planning, and some common-sense opening analysis. If the philosophizing gets too thick, skip to the games.

For opening study, multi-volume tomes can wait until you're a master. Ideas Behind the Chess Openings, by Reuben Fine, emphasizes understanding rather than memorization. Modern ideas about the middlegame are best learned from the source, My System by Aron Nimzovich. And the endgame need not be a mystery: try Chess Endings -- Essential Knowledge, by Yuri Averbakh.

Game collections should be the heart of any player's library. The best players are not always the best writers, but four world champions stand out -- My Best Games of Chess by Alexander Alekhine, 100 Selected Games by Mikhail Botvinnik, My 60 Memorable Games by Bobby Fischer, and, if you have the time and money, the multi-volume My Great Predecessors series by Gary Kasparov. (Some have suggested it be called My Predecessors Who Were Almost As Great As I Am, but that's another story.) Anthologies are legion, but two of the best are 500 Master Games by the witty and erudite Savielly Tartakover, and Masters of the Chessboard, from the great theoretician Richard Reti.

And for fun? Look up The Even More Complete Chess Addict by Mike Fox and Richard James. This collection of games and anecdotes, lists and lore, belongs on every true addict's bookshelf.

Diagram: White combines the motifs of discovered attack and the intermediate move to win a piece: 1. e6! Nxd4 (Much the same comes of 1. ... Bxd4, while 1. ... fxe6 or 1. ... Qxe6 2. Qxg7 wins easily) 2. exd7+! Kxd7 3. Nexd4. Zeller-van Parreren, Hastings 1979.

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