Neil McDonald is a popular and prolific
author of chess books and his forté is dealing with early middlegame
themes and making the best use of positions that occur after the opening.
Prior to "Chess Success" he produced "Chess: The Art of Logical
Thinking" and "The Art of Planning in Chess" (both
available from the Batsford catalogue). These had a common
theme and now he has teased out other new aspects of this stage of a chess
McDonald has an easy writing style and uses
apt phrasing and anecdotes that keep the readers interest from flagging
and at times these provide a more succinct explanation than masses of
academic language. For instance, consider the following paragraph as part
of the annotation to a game Bauer - Gelfand, Biel 2005:
"Note how powerful White's bishops would be
if Bauer succeeded in advancing d4-d5 in a favourable way: they would rain
down fire on the black king from their adjacent diagonals. The f7
square would be vulnerable to combinations from the white knight, bishop
on a2 and queen. Hence it is imperative that Black keeps up the
blockade on d5"
Another point to notice here. The
author does not assail us with reams of analysis that would require
setting up half a dozen boards to understand. The significant
features inherent in the position have been described in a succinct and
imaginative manner. This technique is common to the whole book and
with an ample number of diagrams sprinkled throughout the text, it is
possible to read the book without sight of a chess board.
Now to the contents. Here are the
chapter headings together with a brief description of the subjects chosen:
Chapter One -
The Smiting style
Here the author
discusses the use of tactics in open positions that quickly decide
the outcome of the game and then underlines the need to consider the
structure of the position and in particular the role played by pawns
in closed games..
Two - Delaying the moment of tactical truth.
Continuing the theme of closed
positions, this chapter acknowledges that some tactical methods are
normally used to bring about a decision but in closed positions this
has to be delayed and requires the groundwork to be established.
Chapter Three - Super symmetry
This chapter discusses methods of
continuing when the pawn positions are mirrored such as the position
opposite that arrives from the French exchange.
Chapter Four - The support point centre
The term "support-point" (initially
coined by Euwe and Kramer) refers to a a special type of square,
preferably a centre square, where a piece can be placed that is
immune from displacement by an opposing pawn. This is
demonstrated by the position on the right where d5 is support
point as is d4 in the diagram to the left. Both these
positions could arise from the Sicilian Defence.
Chapter Five - A prickly customer - the Hedgehog
subject requires little explanation - the diagram opposite says
it all. This can arise from many openings but will often
be found in a Sicilian.
Chapter Six - Dr Jekyll and Mr Steinitz
There is no need to provide a
diagram in explanation of this chapter title - quite simply
the subject is the isolated d-pawn. However, the title
itself requires explanation. The IQP can provide either
a winning or a losing theme. Dr Jekyll would thus be the
better side of the IQP, but why Steinitz instead of Mr. Hyde?
The reason - Kramnik described Steinitz' play against Lasker
in the 1894 World Championship as being no more than one would
expect froma simultaneous player. Lasker "almost tore
his opponent apart." In doing so Steinitz' handling of
the IQP contributed to the result.
Chapter Seven - The dilemma of d5
What dilemma? In the
position opposite White is thinking "When do I exchange on
d5?" and Black is thinking "When do I take with the
d5-pawn?" A dilemma for both players. Here the
author discusses the possibility of White maintaining the
central tension and fixing the the pawn structure with cxd5.
Chapter Eight - Roaring lion and crouching tiger
Here McDonald takes a look at various Indian positions and
likens the player of the white pieces the "Roaring lion"
and the black player as "The crouching tiger." Here
various pawn structures can emerge i.e. the King's Indian
will likely lead to interlocked pawn chains, whilst
the Gruenfeld and Benoni systems will produce fluid pawn
It would be easy to think that
these subjects have already been comprehensibly dealt with in
other works on chess strategy. But there is a slight
difference in this book - this picks up the game at the end of
the opening and describes how the game can then be shaped in
accordance with its specific features. What is just as important
is the manner in which the author describes these features.
The language chosen makes a lasting impression and one does not
put the book aside for another twelve months because of
voluminous analysis. Having respect for the subject matter
and the author's communication skills, this book can be
thoroughly recommended. It has been placed in Batsford's
"Club Player - Strategy/Tactics" category.
The recommended price £14:99 and
for this you get a volume that contains 267 pages of double
column text, ample diagrams and all bound in the imaginative
covers that Batsford do so well.
To provide an example of the
to play over the game Leko - Gurevich.