"Chess Combination as a Fine Art" edited by Golz and Keres

"Chess Combination as a Fine Art" edited by Golz and Keres

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This week we will be seeing a very entertaining book called Chess Combination as a Fine Art. This is a collection of articles by German master Kurt Richter from the magazine Schach. The subject of his column was "Lessons in Chess - Advanced School of Combination." The book also includes introductions by Harry Golombek, Werner Golz, and Paul Keres. Keres in particular wrote a long discussion of Richter's approach to chess and contributions to theory.

Richter was not a top-level player, but he was a fairly strong master. For the most part he is known as a writer and promoter of chess. You may know his name from the Richter-Veresov and Richter-Rauzer openings, both which he employed and - to some extent - originated. His style as a player was - well, you could say, coffeehouse. As Keres described him: "He was happy when poised between victory and defeat and his inventive ability generally brought him success."

The column he wrote followed his "coffeehouse" approach to chess - obscure positions highlighting pretty combinations, tricks, and blunders, with fanciful stories and riddles to go along with them. There is little emphasis on theory or logic.

Where I got it

I'm not sure. There is a sticker on it though, so I think it was from a used book store.

What's good about it

This book is about enjoyment of chess, which is about 95% of improvement. Obviously, by reading through the positions and solving the problems, you will learn plenty of tactical themes, which should be one of your first steps as a chess player.

This book would be best suited for lower-rated players, probably rated 1000-1800; of course stronger players could get some enjoyment out of it. The combinations range from really basic to somewhat more in-depth (while still very forcing and obvious).

How it impacted me

I got this book not long after I started playing chess, and I am sure I learned plenty about tactics here. The emphasis on pretty combinations which are actually blunders and are refuted by a counter-combination showed me that in tactically charged positions you cannot take anything for granted.

An Excerpt

Here is an excerpt from page 45 of the book:

The thin red line

The cramped position of the black king gave White the opportunity for a brilliant mating attack, typical of a smothered mate: 1.Rg5!! Qxf6. If 1...Qxg5 or 1...Qxe4 then 2.Nxf7 mate. 2.Qd4!! But not 2.Qe5? because then Black could effect the exchange with check. 2...Rg6 3.Rxg6 and Black resigned.

The thin red line in the combination was the knight mate on f7.

Blockade by the king?

...Too bad it is indeed!

Before White is aware

Black with threat and thrust is there-

            Now, what about it? (exercise 34)

            An effective pawn winning maneuver, based on a mating pattern.

Any Downsides?

This book is a simple and artistically-written book of combinations. If you are looking for deep analysis to spend hours studying, then look elsewhere. It is mostly about enjoyment, but can certainly improve your chess, especially if you are a lower-rated player.

I think that there are not so many of these books of combinations appearing nowadays. After all, if you want to see or solve combinations, you can go on the tactics trainer here on and do as many combinations as there are in the entire book in a few hours. However, there is something to be said for these books. Richter's narrations add a lot to the bare bones of the chess positions. So, if you want to see chess in a more human light, such books could be a good way to learn tactics, rather than just sitting in front of a computer and solving puzzles one by one.

What you should eat/drink while reading this book

Gingersnap cookies.

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