Publisher: Everyman Chess 330 pages ★ ★ ★ ★☆
Chess improvers often find themselves looking to absorb new knowledge about the game in an effort to get better results when they might benefit more from becoming more skilful, especially in terms of calculation. To achieve this, improvers should be training by completing exercises instead of only reading/playing over games, although that has its place of course.
This recent book from Everyman Chess aims to fill a gap in the field of tactics training by offering an innovative format. If you consider other books of tactical puzzles you might have seen, they will almost invariably be in the same format: they present a diagram of a position and ask you to find a winning/saving tactic. However, our games are not like that. No-one appears at the critical moment telling us that there is a winning move to be found. Consequently we do not know to spend as much time as possible in finding it.
“The Chess Tactics Detection Workbook” emulates this experience by presenting a game in algebraic notation which you then play through. After every pair of moves you examine the position and discover whether either side has missed a tactic or has made an error and allowed a tactic to be played against them. The tactics are rarely actually played so you’re looking for the missed opportunities and the mistakes that permitted them.
The games have been carefully selected in that they:
- are taken from real games by players up to 1700 rating
- have tactics for you to discover
- incorporate various tactical themes
Once you have played through a game and written down your findings, you can check them against the answers at the end of the section. Here you will be awarded a number of points depending on how much you have found. Once all the exercises have been completed, you can total up your score to get an overall grade.
There are 3 sections. The first features games played between players rated 1100-1300, the second between players in the 1301-1500 Elo bracket and the last between players rated 1501-1700. Each contains 40 games so there are 120 games in total for you to work through.
The game notation is given from the first move up until such point as the rest of the moves aren’t required for the exercise. Of course, opening gambits such as 1. e4 e5 2. f4 are not considered tactical errors! Some games only give the first 15 moves for both sides, others go to move 40.
What is interesting is you don’t know in advance how much or little there is to find in the games. You have to be alert as you play through them. I found this when I played through game 20 – I found the error and the right move after which there were a couple of pawn moves played. The last of these was also an error, allowing a fairly obvious fork – however, I’d not looked for a tactic here, making the dangerous assumption that all the tactics had been found!
The solutions are clear and well written and diagrams are included at this point.
What I like about this format is that in some situations there seems to be potential for tactics but, upon analysis, there isn’t anything concrete. However, you must check – just as you would in a real game. On one exercise I spent most of my time checking variations that didn’t work. The book trains you to look for tactical possibilities at every step, something that standard puzzles don’t do.
As mentioned above, games are played by people in the 1100-1700 bracket and I would recommend this book for players in that range. You will be finding tactical possibilities that similar rated players are missing and this will give you an advantage when you face them in the future.
The book itself is a large paperback, reassuringly weighty, with strong binding and a glossy cover. A glossary of tactical themes (such as discovered check, overloaded piece, mate threat…) is included at the back of the book for reference.
A free sample of the book can be downloaded from the Everyman Chess website here.