Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Finally, a book I can recommend

Bent Larsen’s Best Games: Fighting Chess with the Great Dane

     Bent Larsen (1935-2010) was known for playing unusual openings and his fighting chess; he defeated all the World Champions from Botvinnik to Karpov and was a candidate for the World Championship four times. He also won a ton of tournaments. 
     In 1967-1968 he won five elite international tournaments in a row and even Bobby Fischer bowed to his accomplishments when in 1970, in the match Soviet Union vs. the World, Fischer agreed to take second board behind Larsen...an unprecedented concession of Fischer's part!! That's how good Larsen was. 
     This book has more than 120 of Larsen’s best games, all annotated by Larsen himself. When it came to openings his opponents never knew what to expect and you'll see various flank openings, including Larsen's Opening (1.b3), Sicilians, King's and Nimzo-Indians, the Vienna and the Bishops Opening, etc. I can't think of a player of his caliber who ever played just a wide variety of openings except Tartakower. 
    You don't get to be as successful as Larsen by being a one trick pony; he was a master of opening innovations, middlegame strategy and tactics and endgame play and, rare among many GMs, he was an excellent writer who was able to describe the what was happening in an understandable way. No engine variations, the didn't exist, and the variations are mixed with verbal explanations...great! He also gives autobiographical information and his opinion of other players. 
     As has been pointed out by others, there are some small errors: impossible moves, incorrectly named openings and flipped evaluations. But, it seems it's a rare chess book these days that doesn't have editing errors...a sign of the times. When compared to the content, these are minor distractions.
     Well worth the money.

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