Dynamic Decision Making In Chess, by Boris Gelfand
One of the notable aspects of being a high-ranking chess player is always being able to revise one’s chess history. I once received some criticism for publishing my college essays, it being considered presumptuous to show how it is that my historical thinking and research was honed through dealing with various problems. But this book is full of such matters, as Gelfand writes about his chess education and shares his chess games from his youth, how he learned about various lines and how he was influenced by the great Russian chess players he grew up around and learned from and played against and the like. I found this to be appealing. If this book is not as fantastic a book as one would hope when it comes to mastering chess, there are certainly a lot of instructive moments to be found, and the author made it clear that he was going to include some games in future volumes in his series that are likely also worth reading as this book was. What really shines about this book, though, is the human touch that it provides the reader about the author and his approach to the game, and this is something that any reader can take away whether or not one is a masterful chess player.
This is a book that is divided into topical chapters that help to reveal something about the nature of the author’s career as a chess player. The book begins with a Russian tournament in Minsk in 1979 where the author was able to watch some high-quality chess within the Soviet system (1). This leads naturally into a discussion about the chess that the author learned through the guidance and example of Petrosian, one of the Soviet grandmasters of high ability and skill at the game (2). After that the author discusses tactics within chess at the highest level (3), where the author gets to share some of his own experiences and that of others at some of the notable invitational and masters tournaments around the world. Then comes a look at the nature of tactical mistakes at the top level (4). This is followed by chapters that look at specific aspects of chess tactics, like compensation (5) and time (6), both of which allow the reader to understand the nature of sacrifices as well as the tempo of the game. This is followed by two final stories on dynamic masterpieces (7) as well as dynamic defense (8), as well as an appendix that includes some discussion of recipes and food from the author’s wife (i), as well as a name, game, and opening index.
A book like this is particularly useful on several levels. For one, the author allows the reader to get a sense of who he is as a person, and not merely a chess player. The author discusses the ways that he did not always work his hardest and how it was that he was able to learn and grow as a chess player through playing in tournaments as well as in doing various homework assigned to him by chess masters who also served as teachers of the next generation of players. The author traces the influence of chess players, especially in the Soviet Union (but not only there) through mentors and chess clubs and tournaments and the like. The author also discusses the way that players can have a style and approach that works better against some players but not against others, and that understanding oneself can help one to be a better player given one’s own native inclination and approach to the game. There is a lot here to appreciate, including plenty of chess problems to work out at the beginning of every chapter and variations included in many of the games analyzed. The author’s criticism of chess engines is also moderately amusing, though he does note that they may have greatly helped players with their defensive game.