Book Review: Learn Chess From The Greats

Learn Chess From The Greats, by Peter J. Tamburro, Jr.

This book feels like reading a compilation of a newspaper’s chess column.  This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, for someone who enjoys chess tactics [1], but it did put me in the position of reading this book and wanting more.  To want more from a book is far better than to want less from it, as is sometimes the case, but all the same it means that this book was not quite what I was expecting from it.  I was expecting more systematic lessons, and what this book provided was a partial discussion of various games, some of which may have been imaginary, and also a very brief look at the movies made, some of which were left as examples to be solved by the reader without the answer given in the book itself.  I viewed this is a copout, since the author clearly is not aiming this book at chess masters or experts and seems a bit too sanguine in his expectations for novice players such as are likely to pick up this book and others like it.  Even so, this book is certainly amusing and that is worth more than a little in its favor.

This book is divided into seven chapters that explain the author’s intents and is about 150 pages in total.  The first section of the book looks at games that serve as exercises for students and coaches (1) in such aspects as the scholar’s mate, the mating net, and the kingside attack, basic aspects that need to be known to succeed in chess at the amateur level.  After that there is a chapter about various attacks (2) including the need to look at the color of the squares as well as some unjustly ignored classic games from great romantic chess players.  After this comes a discussion of endgames (3) that encourages the reader to avoid making decisions that forfeit advantages.   The author spends a short chapter looking at various artists of chess (4) before a longer chapter that provides some exciting miniatures (5), namely games that last 25 moves or less, which make for worthwhile and quick studies.  The author then closes the book with some games by some greats, including some more obscure greats (although names like Taimanov, Kramnik, Tal, and Najdorf appear here as well) (6).  The author then closes this book with a selection of chess puzzles and games that are ostensibly for the fun of it (7).

Are these games any fun?  Yes, they are.  The author skillfully chooses among various chessmasters and their games, and does a good job at presenting their wins and draws and losses as being worth studying, in the hope that it will inspire practice or that it will be remembered in the heat of a chess battle to give one a bit of an advantage in having seen the position and worked through it before.  That is not to say that this is a perfect book.  It is more than a little bit superficial, somewhat glib even, and misses the opportunity to be deeper or more extensive in its coverage of games.  One wonders whether this book was simply a compilation of smaller articles with a strict word limit–as all of the games take up one small page with minimal diagrams.  This would certainly account for the way that the book is constructed as involving a lot of humor and generalization and very little discussion of alternate lines.  Even so, if you like a good laugh and solving various problems faced by great chess players of the past, this book is certainly an interesting one that is worth checking out.

[1] See, for example:

https://edgeinducedcohesion.blog/2011/06/24/a-game-of-chess/

https://edgeinducedcohesion.blog/2018/08/28/zugzwang/

https://edgeinducedcohesion.blog/2018/05/11/book-review-invitation-to-a-beheading/

https://edgeinducedcohesion.blog/2016/07/04/book-review-queen-of-katwe/

About nathanalbright

I'm a person with diverse interests who loves to read. If you want to know something about me, just ask.
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