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Saturday, March 17, 2012

Read Like a Grandmaster

What chess books do GM’s read?

"Can’t find a good book to move past the pre-war level of chess understanding? Listen to this. David Bronstein wrote a great book about the 1953 Zurich Candidates Tournament. What makes it great is absolute disregard to theorizing. He takes all the games from a super strong tournament – uses no selection criteria – so no bias towards the author’s agenda is there - and just invites you to watch ‘em play. If I had to name one single book that helped me with my problems, not once but many times throughout my chess career, I’d know which one it is.”

“Fischer and Larsen wrote two of the greatest books of the late 1960’s – the collection of their games. These two books gave me a picture of true greatness when I was struggling with my chess in the mid-1970’s, trying to establish my identity as a chessplayer for many years to come.” GM Alex Yermolinsky

In reviewing the 1953 Zurich Candidates Tournament IM Jeremy Silman wrote, “Recently I asked Yasser Seirawan to give me a list of his favorite few chess books. His top three appear to be: the 1960 Tal-Botvinnik match book by Tal, Fischer's 60 Memorable Games and Bronstein's book on the Zurich 1953 Tournament (mentioned with reverence)…I give my two-cent's worth about Bronstein's masterpiece also.

It seems that everyone and his uncle has conspired to write thousands of tournament books, so what makes this one stand out? Aside from the impressive list of players (in order of their final score: Smyslov, Bronstein, Keres, Reshevsky, Petrosian, Geller, Najdorf, Kotov, Taimanov, Averbakh, Boleslavsky, Szabo, Gligoric, Euwe, and Stahlberg), what makes this a book for the ages is, quite simply, the amazing notes. Bronstein's interesting prose, his highly instructive explanations of plans and ideas, his witty stories and his fantastic variations begin on page one and continue through all 210 games.

Deep strategic explanations of the King's Indian, Nimzo-Indian and Sicilian abound. The personalities of these chess legends are soaked into every page. Magical combinations take our breath away and profound endgames keep our attention glued to every move. If you combine all these things with an exciting battle for first place (it almost feels like you're at the tournament watching the event take place), you might begin to realize just how special this book really is.

I could go on and on, but it's best just to say this: if you don't buy and read this fantastic book you will be doing yourself a great injustice. Get it, hold it, sniff it, rub it on top of your head, place it under your pillow; this is simply the greatest tournament book ever written and it deserves to be in every self-respecting chess library.”
Partial preview  

Fischer needs no introduction but today’s players may not be fully aware of Larsen’s achievements. Larsen was known for his imaginative and unorthodox style of play and he was the first western player to pose a serious challenge to the Soviet Union's dominance of chess. Bent Larsen is one of the outstanding figures of post-war chess, with top-level tournament victories spanning five decades. His outstanding fighting qualities have made him a great favorite with the chess public and even in the latter stages of his career he remained capable of sweeping victories over world-class opposition. Larsen died Sept 11, 2010.

Starting in the mid-1960s, Larsen enjoyed a very successful run in major tournaments around the world, and he and Fischer became the two strongest players outside the Soviet Union. Larsen played in a lot of strong events, at least as many as any other top player, and repeatedly finished ahead of the top Soviet players. Somewhat unusual for the late 1960s, Larsen, as one of the world's top players, often entered large open tournaments run on the Swiss system, and had plenty of success.

1 comment:

  1. I am going through Masters of the Chessboard by Reti and finding it an enjoyable read. I might include it in my top 20!