Thursday, July 23, 2015

Anand: Move by Move by Zenon Franco

  Download a 16 page pdf sample HERE!

      Franco is a Paraguayan Grandmaster living in Spain who wrote a previous book on Anand in Spanish. Unlike a lot of hack writers it appears Franco has well researched his material because he always references multiple sources. This book, a paperback of 376 pages in figurine algebraic notation, starts out with a 25-page description of Anand's style. It seems his main strength can be summed up in one word...flexibility. Franco notes that Anand changed playing style to defeat Kramnik and Topalov in World Championship matches. He actually compares Anand’s universal style to Fischer's! 
     For some people comparing Anand to Fischer sounds like blasphemy, but even though I am no GM, I have to agree. Many players, when they think of all time greats think of Morphy, Capablanca, Alekhine or Fischer, but I am reminded of an interview with Samuel Reshevsky where he said he didn't think Capablanca's play fell off towards the end of his life, but that other players were playing at a much higher level than they did during Capa’s heyday so his results were not so good. 
     In his book, Fire On Board, Shirov commented about his meeting with Botvinnik and their discussion of the Botvinnik Variation. Shirov said the meeting was of no interest to him because the old man was stuck in the past insisting that certain moves were best when Shirov knew better. 
     I could quote many examples, but each succeeding generation of players has built on the knowledge of their predecessors and as a result, they have advanced their understanding of chess to the point that surpassed that of the previous generation. So it is my opinion that Anand is greater than all those players that belonged to bygone eras. His games may not be as flashy as those guys, but his play is of a higher level than the greats of yesteryear. 
     This book has 32 annotated games from 1991 to 2014 and they games are well annotated. One thing I really liked is that Franco adds a lot of color when he also explains Anand's situation in the tournament so we know the circumstances under which that particular game was played. 
     A good thing about the annotations is even though he surely used engines, the annotations have a human flavor, not just a lot of engine variations. Another great feature is at critical junctures Franco poses questions with answers designed to make you think and keep you involved. If one were to actually take time to think through the questions, one could actually learn something and improve their play. That would be a lot of work though and my guess is most player won't bother, but by putting in the effort, this book doubles not only as a games collection by one of the best players in history, but as an instruction manual. Another nice thing about the annotations is even though he surely used engines, the annotations have a human flavor, not just a lot of engine variations. 5-Stars!

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