Monday, 14 December 2009

Review: Palliser, The Complete Chess Workout

Richard Palliser has been for some time one of my favourite chess book authors. I have enjoyed many of his opening guides that are very useful for an ordinary club player like me. Palliser's The Complete Chess Workout (Everyman Chess 2007) is even more helpful for a woodpusher of my level.

Most if not all games played in the club level are decided by elementary tactical mistakes. Even more games could be decided by them as patzers like me cannot notice the mistakes by the opponent or they cannot find the right way to punish the other player for his or her weak moves. This was one of the ideas that gave rise to the movement of Knights Errant a couple of years ago.

There are two main difficulties in following the route proposed by Michael de la Maza. One of them is to find enough time and stamina to work through a huge collection of tactical puzzles. The other problem was to collect the puzzles needed for the exercise. The latter problem can be solved by using Richard Palliser's book which includes on more than 300 pages 1200 tactical chess puzzles with computer-checked solutions.

The first one hundred puzzles are solvable by even beginning players. For the more experienced players, these can function as warming up for the more difficult puzzles. The next chapters are organized on a rather wide theme. The second chapter of the Complete Chess Workout is dedicated to the attack and the puzzles in the chapter are certainly useful exercises for any chess player. As the chapter is probably most important in the book, it does not surprise that it has almost 100 pages.

The next chapters include tactical positions with opening tricks and traps, followed by fifteen pages of endgame positions. Endgame is probably the weakest part of any club players chess skills. It could well be argued, that the chapter should have considerably more pages than it has been given. Unfortunately, I believe that most of the readers of this book will not spend as much time with this part of the book as with the more sexy attacking puzzles. The last three chapters are about loose pieces and overloading and "fiendish calculation". Finally, the book ends with ten "test yourself" tests, each with sixteen tactical puzzles. And of course, the books last pages present the reader with solutions to each of the problems printed in the book.

One of the great things about this book is the fact that Richard Palliser has spent some time looking around the latest chess databases in his search for tactical positions. Most of the puzzles are from recent games, played all around the world. So the puzzles are mostly new ones even if some old classics are included in the collection as well.

I warmly recommend this book to any chess player under master level. It should be especially useful for patzers like me!

Rating: *****

Buy the book: The Complete Chess Workout: Train your brain with 1200 puzzles! (Everyman Chess)

Tuesday, 1 December 2009

Books for Chess Players

There are many kinds of books available for chess players. In this blog, I will not write about chess books written for those who are just learning to play the game, that is the rules of the game. I will rather concentrate on the books that should be useful for my level of playing. One reason for this is, that I'll have to buy the books I'll review and I don't plan to buy any chess books that I cannot consider useful for me. So  don't expect to find here any reviews of  books for newbies!

My collection of chess books grows constantly. Most of the  chess books I own are written either in English or German, so I intend to review mostly chess books written in these two languages.  Unfortunately, my Spanish is not yet fluent enough for being able to read any chess books. But maybe in the future not too far away...

The chess books I usually read can be divided in several categories according to the central theme of the book:
  • Opening books
  • Games collections
  • Tournament books
  • Endgames
  • Tactics and combinations
Like most of the chess enthusiast, I enjoy reading books about chess openings. It is probably not the most efficient way to become a better chess player - the time would be better spent studying any other kind of chess books, but it seems that reading about different chess openings provides more enjoyment than studying the intricacies of pawn and rook endgames. So it should not come as a big surprise to anyone, that my collection of chess books has all too many opening guides.

Some of the most enjoyable books I have read are games collections of certain master players. In fact, the first chess book I ever bought was a games collection of the then world champion Anatoly Karpov. Even now, twenty-five years later, I every now and then return to this collection of his games.

During the last years, I have tried to study chess endgames. Unfortunately, I never seem to have enough time for endgames. Now that I have a couple of great endgame books, there is no real excuse for not studying this interesting part of the game. Moreover, writing this blog might give me yet another incentive for at least trying to study some of the best endgame guides I have.