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Review: Instructive Chess Miniatures, by Alper Efe Ataman

Gambit Publications, 128 pages, 2016

By Davide Nastasio

I was playing a bullet tournament online, and I saw the Fedex truck stopping near the mailbox.  I was winning a game against a player 200 points above me, so I didn’t want to leave the computer; luckily, however, my opponent resigned!  I ran to the door to catch the package with my new books, signed, and ran back to the computer–all before the next round began!  And they say that chess is not a sport!

When I browsed this book for the first time I found something which made me chuckle. The author included in the book 53 games, and then not happy with that, he added 4 more as supplementary games. I found it funny.  Often I’m criticized because I put too many games in my reviews and articles, but in reality the journey to chess mastery requires one to see a huge amount of patterns and ideas, and I was quite happy to find a similar thinker in the author of the book: a FIDE Master from Turkey, Mr. Ataman.

 

ataman_alper

Courtesy FM Ataman: a great writer and chess coach!

 

Mr Ataman is quite creative.  He has published a Turkish chess magazine.  On this site you can read the review.

Returning to the book: maybe this will not be your typical review, but I’d like to mention some points which are important to me as a player. In the beginning I just did some browsing through the book without the chessboard, and I noticed all the important features.  For example, I opened the book at page 25, game 10, and there was a game everyone should know: Rotlewi-Rubinstein, played in Lodz in 1907-08. I saw this game few times on my database and tried to study it.  Because I didn’t have annotations, I honestly found it quite difficult and completely over my head.

Consequently I was pleased to find such a classical game in this book, because I wanted to learn from the annotations of the author. But the surprises are not finished. FM Ataman tries to link this immortal game with a miniature from our times between Aronian and Anand, played in 2013. In the post mortem game, Anand admitted that he was inspired by the Rotlewi-Rubinstein game.

After the browsing phase, I began to read the book. The first point which hit me was when the author wrote in the introduction about immortal games: “In my humble opinion, every chess enthusiast should know them by heart.”

This is a deep truth.   Although I know many of the immortal games, and am able to recognize them if I see the critical positions, I do not know them by heart. The goal of the book is also stated in the introduction when the author writes: “I will be particularly happy if this book manages to attract youngsters to the fascinating world of chess.”

While I do enthusiastically support such a goal, I think the new generation reads on their ipads or tablets, and may focus more on videos than books, so I hope the author will not be disappointed because he chose the wrong media to create new chess aficionados!
But let’s now discuss the real content of the book: 53 miniatures, starting with likely the most famous of all: Anderssen-Drusfene, Berlin 1852. The book can show elementary content for some advanced players, but also in this case it can be a very useful exercise in visualization or guess-the-move, thanks to the diagrams wisely interspersed through each game, such as the following one:

 

1

 

Black just played 14…Bb7; can you guess what will White play?

Another way I use a book like this is trying to visualize the lines without moving the pieces, as I would in a real game:

 

visualize_variation

 

Here FM Ataman gives the following line: 17.Ng3!,Qh6; 18. Bc1,Qe6; 19.Bc4, now can you guess what White will play if Black continues with 19…Qg4?

 

black_cannot_avoid_losing_material

 

Another point raised from a chess friend was the following: “But who needs a book on miniatures when with just 3-4 clicks of a mouse, one can sort through hundreds of miniatures using Chessbase?”

This is a good point, to which only someone who read the book can answer, in this case me! The second miniature is Schulten – Morphy, New York 1857. I knew this game because I studied many of Morphy’s games using Chessbase, but I didn’t understand the “theme” of the game, what one should have learned.  The author wisely titled this game “Inescapable Pins.” Watching the game over a chessboard and following the annotations opened my eyes to a different understanding of the game. Yes, we can have 1000 miniatures at our fingertips with few clicks of the mouse, but they will not open our eyes to the meaning behind those miniatures if we don’t have a wise teacher like FM Ataman guiding us.

I find also the idea of teaching through miniatures quite exciting. I’m not a professional, and the time I can devote to study chess must be cut from family and work, so I must admit I don’t have a lot of time. But tomes like the one written by Kasparov (for example, his series My Great Predecessors), which show great and in-depth game analyses, are literally putting me to sleep. I tried, but just in order to read one game it took me 2-3 days.  The analyses were long, and often I didn’t understand the evaluations, or at least I was skeptical of them. Instead, in one evening I read about 3 of these miniatures.  I learned a couple of ideas, and I wasn’t tired or falling asleep like reading one of Kasparov’s books.

I transcribed one of the annotated miniatures so the reader of this review can decide about the quality of the annotations. Every mistake in the transcription is only mine.

 

 

 

By the way, I’d like to introduce another issue which is generally never spoken of when reviewing books: the paper. This book has nice, rough paper.  It’s not too white, but a kind of ivory, I’d say; thick enough to make one think of quality over quantity.

In conclusion, I like this book written by a FM (instead of the usual GMs), because I think a FM is more in tune with the reality of the amateur, and he can really help me in climbing the next step of this endless chess ladder! In this case, through the review of these games, I’ve noticed how many things I thought I knew and I didn’t, so I thank FM Ataman for writing a book which is really instructive!

 

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