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

  • GM BryanSmith
  • | Jan 3, 2013

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 chess.com 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.


  • 3 years ago


    I like the introduction by Keres which shows Richter in action on the board.

  • 4 years ago


    These reviews of older books are great!Usually you just see reviews of new books that have come out.

  • 4 years ago


    I need this book is there somewhere were it is cheaper.

  • 4 years ago


    I want this book now.  Shame on you for selling me more stuff.  

  • 4 years ago


    Thanks for the review, I hope I can find a kindle version of it tho.

  • 4 years ago


    Very nice review.

  • 4 years ago


    Nice book; thank you.

  • 4 years ago


    I miss Gingersnap cookies.  The Suta vs. Sutey game was memorable.  Great article.  

  • 4 years ago


    We know you are coming to the end of your chess ambitions, but it is a sorrow for us, your loyal readers!  Your stories of travel and tournaments are really fantastic, and, even if you are down on your Long Term Chess Goals, we wonder if you can find a place to play at a high level for just enjoyment?  

    Of course, Chess takes time...

  • 4 years ago


    Thanks :-)

  • 4 years ago

    NM linlaoda

    I wish you would still analyze your own games. Your analysis is missed!

  • 4 years ago


    Okay Gingersnap cookies. :D

  • 4 years ago


    I'll definitetly look for it.  Thanks for the review :)

  • 4 years ago


    Nice review.  Another book to add to my library.

    But when, oh when are you going to travel again?  I REALLY enjoyed your tales of chess on the road in Europe.  You should make a book out of those tales.

  • 4 years ago


    The best chess book I ever read was the Kurzgeschichten um Schachfiguren: Ein Bilder- und Unterhaltungsbuch des Schachspiels für alle Schachfreunde (Short stories about chess: A picture and entertainment book of chess for all chess lovers) by Kurt Richter.

    I didn't learn too much from it but it made me love chess more than anything else with all its obscure positions and bizarre anecdotes Laughing

    Just the reward of being able to read this book is worth the effort of learning german by itself Wink (but luckily for me, there's a Swedish translation)

  • 4 years ago


    The first position is also one of the three hundred in Lev Alburt's "Chess Training Pocket Book"

  • 4 years ago


    You really ought to post your gingersnap recipe.

  • 4 years ago


    Good review hope to get it soon!!

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