Book Review: Art Of Attack In Chess

Book Review: Art Of Attack In Chess

menofsticks
Jan 28, 2009, 12:00 AM |
15 | For Beginners

The title of the the book under review at the moment is somewhat deceptive.  While Art Of Attack In Chess is, indeed, about attacking play in chess, it is specifically about attacking the opponent's castled King.  That's it.  Almost the entire 350 pages of it!

At first this may seem a bit improbable.  However, as I progressed through the book, it was clear that the author, Vladimir Vukovic, was drawing me into to a treatise of precision and depth, the likes of which I have not previously read, at least as far as chess literature is concerned.  That may sound daunting, but Art Of Attack is actually an amazing work to read.  The chapters elucidate the minutiae of the attack on the King, leaving no stone unturned, and yet each follows logically from the previous, slowly binding all the concepts into a cohesive whole.  It is sometimes the case that Vukovic leaves issues incomplete when they are only tangential to the current chapter, but he returns to them in later chapters when the previously hanging topic is more relevant, and then all questions are answered.

The signal to noise ratio in Art Of Attack is very high, and therefore the information is very densely packed.  Occasionally Vukovic will comment that he has eliminated some variations from his examples for brevity or clarity, but with how intensely he covers each example with myriad variations, it is hard to believe he left anything out.

Admittedly, Vukovic drew on the analyses of those that came before him, but the author has clearly toiled long and hard to add his own analyses and interpretations of games.  And in the copy that I own, John Nunn adds his own commentary and corrections to the original Vukovic text.  Nunn clearly did not just mechanically convert the old text to algebraic form.  He has devoted considerable energy into giving this book the attention to detail and respect that it deserves.

Great.  So, it's intense but readable, but what's in it?

A large part of Art Of Attack is devoted to what Vukovic considers to be the preconditions necessary for an attack against the castled king to proceed.  Among these are the attacker's control of the center, prevention of counterplay on the side of the board opposite the opponent's castled king, proper posting of the attacker's pieces, and a weakening of the castled King's defenses.  It is also important that the would-be attacker not commit to the attack until all the preconditions are met, and Vukovic writes at some length, with examples, about what happens when the attack begins too early or too late.  Too early and the attack will fizzle, while if the attack begins to late, the attacker may have missed his window of opportunity.

Along the way, the author touches on subjects that are related to the attack on the castled King, but are useful bits of knowledge in their own right.  There is a substantial discussion about castling itself: the correct time to castle, on which side of the board to castle, and under what conditions it is appropriate not to castle.  The comparison between kingside castling and queenside castling is very instructive.

On my first read through any chess book, I sit in front of a chess board and play through all the main lines, and occasionally play through variations when they seem particularly interesting.  That's what I did with Art Of Attack In Chess, however I played through many more variations than I would with most books and yet I left many enticing variants for later reads - otherwise I'd never get to write this review!  In truth, I generally learn most effectively buy working my way through a book from front to back, understanding the main points of the text, and then returning to the book a few months later to absorb the details.  This book will definitely warrant fine comb treatment in the near future.

I normally study books while at a proper wooden chess board, but I suggest that a digital chess board may be more appropriate.  Trying to keep track of all the variations, even in a single example, is a lot of work.  Let your computer help you out for a change!

Now we come to the question of who should read this book.  Art Of Attack In Chess is certainly readable by anyone of reasonable intelligence, but there is a certain amount of experience required to understand the information well enough for it to be useful.  If you are still working on basic tactics and haven't yet learned a reasonable amount of positional play, this book isn't for you.  If, on the other hand, you meet those two requirements, I think you should be able to gain a considerable amount of useful information from Vukovic, and with concerted effort applied to each topic in this book you will be repaid with improvement in your game for a long, long time.

So, there you have it: a very dense book, but far from impervious to best efforts.  I'm putting it into rotation as one of my go-to books for study.

As always, I'm Stick, your resident wordslinger, and I'll see y'all out there on the gridiron!

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