Publisher: Batsford Chess Author: GM Andrew Soltis 384 pages ★★★★☆
An all too familiar problem facing chess players is the question of what to study. Most of us have jobs, families or other commitments leaving us precious little time for studying chess and, when we do manage to eke out an hour here or there, we spend most of it deciding between tactics, openings and the always postponed game analysis.
In his latest book, GM Andrew Soltis takes some of that difficulty away by presenting enough daily lessons for an entire year. No need to waste precious time deciding what to do, just pick up the book and make sure you actually learn something that day.
Each lesson illustrates a theme (such as attacking a pawn center and making assumptions about our opponent’s intentions) with a short game, usually under 20 moves. The great thing about the miniature is we get to see the concept without having to wade through an extra 40 moves that have little to do with the lesson. There is at least 1 question to test your ability each day (answers at the back of the book) and then a second game, sans commentary, is provided to reinforce the idea.
For instance, one of the lessons is called Thematic Suicide, and shows the danger of sticking to a strategy that no longer works for tactical reasons. In this game, Black, playing the Dutch Defence, makes a couple of not-obvious inaccuracies in the opening. Having prepared and now forced through the thematic …e5, Black finds himself in the terrifying position to the left… and White has a beautiful mate in 3!
The author recommends you set aside an hour for each lesson and many can be covered in considerably less time than that, giving you the option of squeezing in a quick 20 minute chess study or just covering more material. No need to beat yourself up about missing a day or 3 either.
I can see this book being of great help to anyone who recognises themselves in the opening paragraph: little study time and often doesn’t know where to start when they do get time. If that’s you, make this book part of your daily practice. It will keep you stocked up with fresh ideas and you’ll benefit from thinking about chess daily.
I have one criticism and that is the variability of the practical use of the lessons. Some seem to be less an important concept you can hope to apply, and more a description of what happened in that game. For instance, one game sees Black capture the b2 pawn with his rook, only to lose his piece to 0-0-0+! The lesson here seems to be that a castling move that delivers check might win you material. Maybe useful to some who haven’t seen such a situation before but I doubt that will include many readers.
Overall, a great book for those who want some kind of study plan or anyone who likes to build up their database of chess ideas.
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