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Review: The Magic of Chess Tactics 2, By Claus Dieter Meyer and Karsten Müller

Russell Enterprises 2017
192 pages

By Davide Nastasio

I was trying to write a combined review of the DVD and this book, which is based on the Chessbase DVD with the same title, but the two mediums are quite different and they deserve their own space in order to better serve the readers. The authors of this book, who deserve our praise for giving us a modified version of the DVD, tailored the book to the needs of a chess player who prefers to read on paper.

Let’s be clear, the difference is huge, also in terms of visualization. For example when I watch a Chessbase DVD, I have the authors talking to me; the diagrams are huge, and generally with a simple click I turn the board from the right side.  With a book there is no such flexibility. The diagrams are from the White side, even when the side to move is Black, and even when the concept explained is from the Black side. It kind of obliges me to use a board, instead of my mind’s eyes.

However, let me tell you a practical reason for the 2 reviews.  The DVD was authored in 2013. In this book one can find positions from 2015 or even 2017, which means the authors worked hard into making a new original book, and not only a copy and paste of the material from the DVD.

The book is made up of 6 chapters, which have many sub-chapters inside.  The first Chapter was made to teach the power of the terrible duo: the Queen and Knight.

 

terrible_duo

 

To learn how these two pieces interact and how they successfully create mating attacks is a clear must for every chess player. As former World Champion Anand explained in the foreword to the book, one needs periodically to solve these kinds of exercises. In fact, one day of our training regimen should be dedicated to these exercises, which are clearly difficult and oblige us to go beyond our comfort zone.

The second chapter is dedicated to the knight on the attack! The subchapters treat how to exploit the dark squares weaknesses, octopus on D5 or F5.  For those who don’t know what the “octopus” is, here an example of the Octopus Knight from the game Efimenko vs. Fedorchuk.

 

octopus_knight

 

The game is well annotated at page 139 of the book, but for those who are curious to see the game, and eventually compare with the annotations of the authors, here it is:

 

 

The square F7, another very important tactical point, is treated well.  Chapter 3 is dedicated to the bishops, Chapter 4 on pins, and chapter 5 is quite interesting because it covers how we can learn from world champions. The champions used as examples are Carlsen, Kasparov, and Anand.

The last chapter of the book is for exchanges and transformations. I like the topic, and found it quite entertaining both for the examples used and for the creative ideas which are conveyed.  At the end of each chapter there are some exercises, for a total of more than 80 positions (I think 84 is the precise number if I counted well). Now one could think 80 positions are not much, far from it. These are top GM games, and the positions were chosen to make you learn the art of analysis. So just to work on them could take a year, but surely the benefits one reaps would be seen in tournament!

Impressions: While writing the review and working on the book, I had some feelings. For example, many positions were clearly above my head (I’m around 1900). So I had to devise a system to use a book which in some instances is beyond my chess understanding for discipline upon calculation, vision, etc. I got a notebook and set the timer for 10 minutes for each position, and after the 10 minutes I’d write down the lines I saw in my head. If the lines were decisive (let’s say the position asked to find a decisive advantage for Black) and I found it, I was happy, and then I’d check the solution. If I couldn’t find what the position asked, I would take another 10 minutes.  This time, however, I’d be allowed to move the pieces, write down the lines again, and then check the solution.

While some people classify the exercises as difficult, I found the exercises in the book typical of real games. In real games we must stretch our imagination and creativity, and of course we often stretch the limit of our calculation power, where precision plays an important role.
Often in chess we hear the term “learning patterns” or how a chess master has a certain number of patterns stored into memory. I believe this book is quite important for everyone on the road to mastery for acquiring those patterns master-level players know. The beauty of the book is partly for the patterns, but also the beauty of this book lies in obliging us to think, to find a way of connecting patterns to find the solution, like in the following position:

 

predke_solak

 

In this position one must answer the question of how to attack the enemy king, while at the same time tricking the opponent into believing we want something else, that we are attacking something else.  From such a trick, we create disharmony in the enemy territory.  From that disharmony we can finally create the attack on the kingside with queen and knight that we wanted in the beginning!

Another impression I had was regarding the length and difficulty of some of the lines I encountered.  Often during a tournament, while I’m thinking on some moves and calculating, I feel I should have done more homework, and more calculation exercises. This book can help us in such a situation, because most examples are from actual games, and they definitely require a lot of calculation power.

Pros and cons: as I’ve remarked to many publishers, I cannot stand when a position is Black to move, and I’m seeing it from White side.  I’m disappointed with publisher Russell Enterprises, because have I bought other books from them (Alexander Alekhine’s My best games of Chess 1908-1937 and Savielly Tartakower’s My best games of chess 1905-1954) and the diagrams were oriented from the Black side when needed. Hence I guess lately all the publishers must have adopted the same software, which independent from the needs of the reader shows the diagrams only from White side. Here is an example of diagrams oriented from the Black side for Alekhine’s book:

 

alekhine_example_diagrams

 

Here is an example from the book by Tartakower where we see one game was played with White and the diagram is oriented from White’s side, and the other with Black, and it is oriented from Black’s side:

 

tartakower_example_diagram

 

If you don’t own the two books I just mentioned, please buy them.  They are masterpieces which should stay in the library of every serious chess player!

 

my_best_games_Tartakower_cover

my_best_games_alekhine_cover

 

The diagrams don’t have coordinates on the sides of the board. I believe this is important for some players, but I also think this book is aimed at those above a rating of 1800, and they should definitely know the board without coordinates.

 

example_diagram_no_coordinates

 

In this sense we can compare the book to the DVD because with Chessbase I can choose if I want the coordinates or not, while with the book I don’t have such a choice.  The second diagram of the book, at page 9, has two Black kings: one in G1 and one in G8. I guess the White king didn’t want to get checkmated and camouflaged himself as the king of the Black army!

 

Black_king

 

This is the correct diagram taken by the DVD, and oriented from the correct side to move!

 

korobov_volokitin

 

Here is another comparison between chess books and Chessbase DVDs.  To explain the position in the diagram above, there are lines which go from 4 to 13 moves long.  On a board, we need to place the pieces back and start again. While on a computer it is easy to return to the beginning position. I think on a chessboard such a process takes away some focus. Obviously, before Chessbase chess players didn’t have any other way. But I believe if one really wants to see all the lines mentioned, then one needs to buy a smaller chessboard, like Fischer’s, and keep the beginning position on that one.

 

fischer_small_pocket_set

Fischer with his magnetic chess board.

 

The authors (or the publisher) made the “analysis” diagram the same size as the starting position diagram.  Maybe it would have been better to make the beginning position diagrams bigger, and the analysis diagrams a little smaller to differentiate between them.

Also on diagram 01.03, we see that a book is not the right medium for my taste, compared to Chessbase 14, for handling lot of variations and analyses.

 

diagram_01_03

 

For example at page 11 after the move 36…Nf4 we see in variant (I) the best defense as 37.Rf1, to which Black should answer 37…Nxg2! But if we want to know why White should or shouldn’t play 38.Kxg2, in the DVD it took me 1 second to locate the answer.  In the book I had to go through 2 pages of thick analysis and discover the line at page 13 under the sub-heading (e) 38.Kxg2 Qg4+! etc. Again some of the lines shown are 12 or more moves long, which in my opinion is too much, because in any case, as amateur/club player, I don’t have that kind of patience in a game.  I doubt I would see 12 moves and all the tree of variants.

On the other hand, this is what GM Alexander Kotov said that one should do to become a GM in his book Think like a GrandMaster.  So I guess The Magic Chess Tactics 2 is the perfect book for those who are on the road to mastery, because it will teach them the fine art of analysis.

 

kotov_think_like_a_GM

 

Final thoughts: Why do you need to buy this book? The answer is simple. As beginner players, we learn common patterns like a fork, or to recognize a back-rank weakness, but at a certain point in our development (around 1900) all players see those easy tactics, and it becomes impossible to win a game basing ourselves on tactics. Of course, blunders can happen.  They do happen to everyone even at GM level, because we are human. Maybe that day we had a quarrel with the wife, or a problem at work.  We play in the tournament, but our minds are not there, and we make an easy blunder. But in general it doesn’t happen, and when it doesn’t happen, we need a book like this one which helps us to see beyond the mere basic tactic and teaches us how to connect an attack on some weak points of the enemy army, to let our tactic actually happen over the board. However, this is a difficult process. Another analogy comes to mind: in the beginning of his training, a martial arts student learns some defensive or attacking moves, and then when he becomes a master he is able to flawlessly execute those maneuvers to defeat his opponent.

Is this book for everyone? Definitely not. I believe it is more suited for players who already know basic tactical themes, who have already a lot of tournament experience, maybe around 1800 and higher, and who aspire to go beyond their current level. Definitely this is a book every 2000-rated player needs to buy and study more than one time.

Botvinnik said, “Chess is the art of analysis.” This book is definitely for those who want to learn such an art.  Obviously it comes with a price: a lot of hard work.

 

 

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