Friday, April 23, 2010


If you can't you are doomed to have mediocre results which, in the end, will beget dissatisfaction with this great game.

Most books, unfortunately, are a collection of quizzes, asking you to do something. Sure, they may explain what a "skewer" is, or a "pin," so that the vocabulary of chess will not overwhelm you. There are something like 16 types of tactics. That's a lot of "stuff" to keep track of.

But it gets trickier when one gets to that chapter where the quizzes are all mixed in and you don't know which tactic you are looking for, in order to solve. That's the author's attempt to show a REAL chess position except for one thing, and it is a big "one thing:" in the book you are studying you ARE aware there is a problem to be solved, but at the board everything may look innocent and you have no clue that you might finish the game off sooner rather than later--if you just RECOGNIZED there was a tactic present.

In John Nunn's Learn Chess Tactics he offers as a subheading the phrase: Discover the secrets of how to win chess games. If you haven't played much chess (you probably wouldn't be reading this post) then these "things" ARE secrets (a most overused word in the GAMBIT lexicon). And, wouldn't you WANT to win MORE games rather than just "win chess games?" You may already be winning through trial and error, but actually we all want to win more games than we were winning before.

In spite of that criticism about Nunn's work his book is actually one of the best out there in my opinion.

Nunn offers a longer intro to each chapter than most books on tactics and he gives great examples. Then at the end of the chapter he offers exercises to see what you have learned. The good parts are the nice variational twists.

Let me explain. I went to solve the exercises of Chapter 9, "Back rank mates," I have no idea why I picked that chapter. There were 12 such items. After I came up with my solutions (I haven't yet checked my answers against the back of the book), I began reading the introductory material, which was excellent. I have, again, no idea why I decided to choose that "backward" approach. Maybe it was because I was already familiar with the concept of the back row mate.

Then, I really liked this book. Why? Because I believe I solved all the problems (I was wrong on one). None of them were impossibly hard. A few were tougher than others, but each one required that "weird" eye for noticing something. That eye which wasn't quite happy with the solution because it seemed too easy. That eye attached to its brain relooked at the problem to discover the "trick." Then that solution seemed much more satisfying and gave one hope. Nunn's books on the endgame are like that too (and he has two new ones coming out).

I strongly suspect the other chapters are like #9 and that requires well-chosen selections, something which I think Nunn is particularly adept at doing. In fact, when I mentioned "variational twists" what I mean is that not all positions end in a back row mate BUT if you don't play your cards right they could. More explanation: sometimes to stave off a back row mate your opponent will have to give up material, and after that you "go on to win." (And there are tricky little beasts in some of these positions. (Beast is also a "mathematical" term, and Nunn is a mathematician as well as a grandmaster.))

If you are having trouble with tactics I strongly recommend this book. Besides the quality of everything in the book (and the fact you know a "win" is lurking somewhere on the board), you will get a feeling of accomplishment and that you don't have to be a member of Mensa to get that feeling. It is often in the art of accomplishment that "passion" rises to the top.

That is, do this kind of study repeatedly and all of a sudden "inspiration" will begin to form in your brain when you see other quizzes OR something similar (such as a technique) in an actual game (such as your own). THAT to me offers GREAT value. It's like advanced show and tell.

For everyone up through 2100; it's only $19.95. If you are interested in purchasing one, let me know.

Finally, a good book on tactics for 95% of us.

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