Friday, April 2, 2010


On the cover today of The Chess Reports #103 are two books from Gambit publishing in England.

A Course in Chess Tactics by Bojkov&Georgiev and
The Giant Chess Puzzle Book.

The first book is, of course, quite useful for those trying to ramp up their tactical prowess. Although I am not acquainted with the authors, grandmasters from Bulgaria, they do a good job. Theirs is a 191 page book, priced at $22.95 and not quite yet available in the USA.

The second book contains 1001 to be brand new (i.e., original) puzzles to "challenge and entertain players from novices to grandmasters." To grandmasters? Maybe. One nice feature is a rating conversion chart. For every so many you get right (no fudging) you can determine your Elo score though books that do this never tell us how they get that figure. Is it from a small sample of real players, a big sampling, or what? Weighing in at 287 pages it retails for $26.95. Full solutions are also offered and there are 8 "quizzes" per page. The author writes in an engaging style as he sets up each chapter.

Some time ago a very strong player approached me about the idea of publishing a book or DVD on chess "puzzles." Apparently they love "puzzles" in the UK. Do they in the USA? Tell me what you think. I asked WHY he thought I would be up to the task and he said, "I've seen the 6 puzzles to a page in The Right Move for the English Chess Federation Youth program every month and they are perfect!" (I don't think any of them have been published before either. As of now, I have setup about 230 some situations, maybe that is a much more manageable number!?)

I have a couple secrets for making my choices and I have kept them to myself. Almost all are solvable and the solutions are not overly complicated, but, if you don't look at them the right way, a few of them can wear you down. I don't break them down by themes.

My question, as if I don't have enough to do, what is your take on books like these? Do you buy them (please mention what country you are from)? If so, what makes you do so?

Personally, I think too many of these books are discouraging. They are like going to the gym or buying a treadmill, popular for a couple weeks or months and then summarily shelved.

Fred Reinfeld wrote two puzzle books, one on combinations and the other on checkmates. While Fred is often criticized for "cranking chess books out," even Purdy had to admit those were great books to improve your skill set with. I agree as I remember studying one of them when I was in the hospital a long time go.

Let me know your thoughts either through the box below or an email. Opinions in cases like these are just as valuable as "gut instinct."

1 comment:

  1. Puzzle books are fun - they serve a practical purpose of keeping a sharp tactical eye and most of all is one of the few types of chess book which can be picked up, read for a few moments and put down with little loss of purpose or continuity. It is about the only type of chess training which can be done in this way. I buy them specifically because I can use them while waiting in airports, hotels or at the end of the day. They don't require power, can be tossed into a bag and remain useful so long as there is light.

    I hope the trend in these books is to keep things practical and common place. Real mind benders can be fun to marvel at but practically doing a lot of basic 2 and 3 movers are more helpful.

    Endgame problems are another matter. They actually require getting out a board and pieces and thinking continuously for a long time. Probably good training but hard to do intermittently and impossible on the fly.

    Problems like those composed by problemists (sp?) (e.g. Helpmate in 3) seem to a niche hobby in chess. They usually don't relate to actual chess positions (usually but not always) which ironically is what interests many of their fans.

    Puzzle books seem to survive because thanks to improvements in game databases like Chessbase, it is possible to search out and rapidly compile large lists of combos by type (checkmate, promotion, forks) and setting (opening traps, middlegame, endgame). Surprisingly software hasn't really surpassed books completely. Blokh CT Art 3-0 and 4-0 are terrific, but there doesn't seem to be any major rivals.

    J Wan