Book Review: Winning Chess Tactics

Winning Chess Tactics, by Yasser Seirawan with Jeremy Silman

As someone who from time to time reads and reviews books on chess [1], I must say that this book was a particularly challenging volume to read, and likely would be for a variety of readers.   A large part of this is by design, as the author is not writing for chess novices but rather for people who are committed to some level of advancement through developing tactical skill into highly competitive levels.  The author even advises those who fail the tactical test at the end of the book to read the book again because they obviously didn’t get the lessons that the author was trying to teach from both his own experience as well as his awareness of chess history and particularly his interest in the great tactical masters of chess.  The author appears to have a particular interest in those whose greatness in chess was due to their tactical flair as opposed to their understanding of positional principles, and one might be correspondingly inclined to think that the author would be critical of the contemporary tendency to seek ultra-engine moves rather than seek opportunities to show tactical brilliance of a Tal or Morphy.

The material in this slightly more than 200 page book is divided into three parts and twenty-five chapters.  The first part of the book, which takes up more than half of the book’s length and thirteen of its chapters, examines various tactics and combinations, some of them going several moves in advance.  The authors open with definitions (1) and then move on to the double attack (2), pin (3), skewer (4), king tactics and combinations (5), deflection (6), and battery on an open file or diagonal (7).  They also opine on the power of pawns (8), and discuss the decoy (9), clearance sacrifices (10), x-rays and windmills (11), intermediate zwishenzug moves (12), and other kinds of draws (13).  The second part of the book examines great tacticians and some of their important games, dealing in a chronological order with such greats as Adolf Anderssen (14), Paul Morphy (15), Rudolf Spielmann (16), Frank Marshall (17), Alexander Alekhine (18), Mikhail Tal (19), and Garry Kasparov (20).  The author then concludes in the third part with more tests and solutions, with chapters on basic tactics (21), advanced combinations (22), professional combinations (23) and then chapters on the tests from parts one and two (24) as well as part three (25), which amounts to a test on the reader’s mastery of the material in the book as a whole.

Again, it should be noted that this book (and presumably the other books by these authors) are not aimed at the casual or occasional chess player, someone like myself, but rather for someone who actively intends on improving their chess game several levels to the point of aiming at mastery and tournament victory.  Now, it may be in the future that I may become involved in that sort of competitive chess world in the future, but at present it has not been easy for me to find the sort of face-to-face chess playing that I enjoyed a great deal in my youth.  That said, for those readers who do take their chess very seriously and who have ambitions of improving their FIDE ranking and perhaps even angling towards professionalizing their chess game, this book is definitely helpful and useful in that regard, and is part of a series that is aimed at that sort of progression as well, and so if you want to acquire norms like Fide Master or International Master or perhaps even Grandmaster, this book will definitely be of assistance in these goals and I highly recommend the author’s historical approach as well as his difficult combinations and challenging tests.

[1] See, for example:

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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