Thursday, August 2, 2012


One of my earliest game collections was Tarrasch’s Best Games of Chess by Fred Reinfeld and I loved it!  Reinfeld was a great writer when he wanted to be and this book of Tarrasch’s games was superb…positional masterpieces.  Unfortunately, nowadays the book is rather pricey if you buy it off Amazon, but if you find it in a book store at a good price, buy it and play over the games.

      Dr. Siegbert Tarrasch was the first to formulate and express the rule that “If one piece is badly placed, your whole game is bad.” Properly applied, it is a significant addition to Stenitz’s theory. On the basis of this single axiom, various types of positions can be studied where the difference in force between the two sides is defined only by the difference in location between corresponding pieces.
       Co-authors GM Sam Palatnik and Master Mark Ishee have produced a valuable instructional book for all levels of players in their book, The Tarrasch Formula. 
       In the forward, as the authors so colorfully put it, “In searching for meat, the lion does not attack the whole herd of enemy prey, but instead instinctively takes advantage of seeking one weak or sick animal that becomes badly placed, separated from the herd. And so it is with the player, who should seek out the sick or weak piece in the enemy camp and steadily reduce the power of that enemy piece to render it helpless.”  They then proceed to attempt to show how this is done.
       The book is divided into seven chapters, the first five show how this is done with individual pieces:  Knight, Bishop, Opposite-Colored Bishops, Heavy Pieces, and Zugzwang. I like this approach.  In his classic, Modern Chess Analysis, Ludek Pachman took a similar approach of showing examples of the individual pieces at their best as he discussed each one.  The last two chapters deal with opening analysis on Philidor's Defense Revisited and the Neo-Philidor Defense which I personally was not interested in.
       Each chapter, except the Neo-Philidor Defense, has a selection of heavily annotated games with a lot of diagrams. The first five chapters have useful exercises of moderate to difficult endgame studies and there is a total of 57 annotated games.
       Palatnik's annotations are rather colorful: "The white pieces lined up along the c1-h6 diagonal are like a 12-inch sub sandwich: the only problem is ... where to take the first bite?"  Personally I don't quite understand that one.  When I eat a sub I take a bite off one end or the other, always assuming they are pretty much the same on both ends.  Does anybody take a bite out of the middle of a foot long Subway sandwich?
       In addition to games by  Palatnik and Ishee there are games like Saemisch-Nimzovich, Copenhagen 1923; Nimzovich -Capablanca, New York 1927; Alekhine- Nimzovich, San Remo 1930.
      One thing I did notice was, beside the usual typographical errors that seem to infest a lot of books these days, were a few other errors. Right off the bat, Game 1 is given as Marshall-Ragozin which is incorrect.  It was not the Soviet GM Vlacheslav Ragozin but Hyman Ragosin, a NY Master of the period. Spelling of players names is not consistent and many are misspelled…but I nitpick.
       I also didn’t like the fact that for the openings they used ECO codes rather than opening names. How many players know, for example, that E7 is the Classical King’s Indian Main Line? Another obvious problem is that the diagrams are such that there is a lot of white space on the bottom or top of the page with the diagram on the following page…not to mention that the diagram size is inconsistent… but again, I nitpick.
       It’s not the layout from which you will learn anything (unless you are publishing a book), but the instructional value of the games and annotations.  They are excellent and anybody up to Expert will learn something

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