The wisest things ever said about chess

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Andrew Soltis

There are more books written about chess than any other activity, and one would expect that it is becoming increasingly more difficult to present an unusual title and unusual content.  However, Andrew Soltis has managed just this.  It would be hard to find another volume that follows the format of "The wisest things ever said about chess."  Indeed, it would be hard to find another title quite so long as this.

The basic format of the book is to exemplify many well-known chess aphorisms.  Soltis has managed to catalogue 288 such declarations and provide examples from actual play that qualify each quotation. His achievement is twofold.  Firstly he has had to discover the pithy statement and secondly find worthy examples of play to support the quotation. In itself this is no mean task, but in addition he has managed to find quite recent episodes of play to provide the illustration.  Each of the "wisest things ever said" has been allocated to the following chapters:

 1 Attack
2 Calculation
3 Defense
4 Endgame
5 Evaluation
6 Mistakes
7 Move Selection
8 Openings
9 Pawns
10 Pieces
11 Psychology
12 Sacrifice
13 Strategy
14 Studying
15 Tactics
16 Technique
17 Tournament Tactics

Not only do we find quotations from the works of Nimozovich, Tarrasch, Lasker, Capablanca, Steinitz and Tartakower but the more modern authors are also well represented.  It is particularly pleasing to note the many references made to the works of Cecil Purdy, who some regard as the king of writers and analysts.  In fact twenty-one of the examples are attributed to him alone.

In many cases the true originator of the aphorism can be doubted.  For instance the saying "The threat is stronger than the execution" has been attributed to many authors and to many circumstances.  However, such doubt does not detract from the truth of the statement.  In this particular case, Soltis states that the saying is misattributed to the "tobacco-phobe" Nimzovitch who stated this when he feared an opponent was about to light a cigarette during the New York tournament of 1927.  Soltis points out that the saying could have originated from an amalgam of chess theories written about long before the 1927 tournament but attributing it to Nimzovitch placed it in a rather amusing context..

This is not a book that needs to be read from start to finish in order to get the full benefit, it is rather a book that one can dip into time and time again over a long period.  That is not to say that it is not instructive.  Indeed the reader may find new ideas or even discover that some of his own thoughts are crystallised by particular examples.  One aspect of this book that contributes towards it being a "dipper" is the fact that nearly all the examples can be read rather than setting up a board.  This makes it an ideal bedside read.

Soltis is a very accomplished author and has a simple style that allows the narrative to flow quite effortlessly.  I have failed to discover how many books he has written, but it is true to say that I have derived great enjoyment from those that I have read, and this latest effort is no exception.

BATSFORD have maintained their high standard of publication.  Each example is given a page and this has been presented in a mixture of one and two column format.  Together with an introduction and indices there are 304 pages.  This volume must have been difficult to allocate into the normal Batsford system of identification but they have finally opted to slot it into the UNIVERSAL STRATEGY/TACTICS category.

Attached to this review, HERE you can play over some examples taken from the book.

The recommended price is 15:99

Bill Frost

July 2008.