Chess Tactics for Champions

Nov 22, 2009, 4:27 PM |

"When we talk about tactics, we refer to a tool that helps us gain some kind of advantage. It can lead to mterial advantage or even checkmate."  - so writes Susan Polgar in the Preface to her 2006 book Chess Tactics for Champions. However, the book itself stretches her very own definition by including tactics not just for advantage or for winning but also for saving lost games through combinations, perpetual check and stalemates.


 Chess Tactics for Champions
by Susan Polgar and Paul Truong


   NM Paul Truong had always been a strong chess player, a prodigy by some measures and (according to wiki) even won the under-21 national tournament in his native South Vietnam four times. Despite a seemingly less than stellar financial history, Mr. Truong is the business manager for his wife, the fantastic Susan Polgar.  It also seems that his name appears on all her publications, including the topic of this article, the 2006 "Guide to using tactics and combinations the Polgar way."  While he is undoubtedly qualified to co-author such a book, I'm skeptical of how much he actually did contribute.  The book feels purely Polgar.

     In the Foreword, Anatoly Karpov calls the book "an important work," and claims that "Every player . . . will benefit greatly from the study of Susan Polgar's vital book."  I believe Mr. Karpov exaggerates for whatever reason. While I would in no way consider this a vital book or an important work,  it is a good and enjoyable book with many interesting, if only relatively mildly challenging, tactics. I agree with Mr. Karpov that many players will benefit from looking through the book (ISBN-13: 978-0-8129-3671-1  and ISBN-10: 0-8129-3671-X  -now at Amazon for merely $12.21)

The book covers standard tactical ideas (with examples, of course) such as discoveries, delfection/removing the guard, skewers, decoys, traping pieces, double-check, intermediate moves, pawn-promotion, back-rank, destroying the castled king position and the king hunt.  It also gives about 10 pages each of mate-in-two, mate-in-three and mate-in-four problems, all standard fare.  But the final two chapters are a bit more original wtih: Tactics to Save the Game (combinations, perpetual check and stalemate) and Other Ideas (traps and counter-traps, sibling positions and famous combinations).

So, in summary, the book, apparently a sister to Polgar's A World Champion's Guide to Chess, is a good one. While it's not as deep as some other books on tactics, it does cover some often neglected aspects of tactics. It's certainly not a vital or even an important work, but it is a worthwhile one. I noticed a few typos and outright blunders, such a solution mis-attributed to a problem and a couple instances where the wrong side was instructed to move first. I've noticed, but can't explain why, that these types of mistakes seem to have become more prevalent nowadays (Pandolini's books are filled with them) than in earlier works, so really the mis-steps in Polgar's book are comparatively minor.

A few examples from the book:

Game-saving combinations
Black to move
White is threatening Mate-in-one 



Traps and Counter-traps

Is Black winning a bisop after the skewer 1. ...Rc8?



Pawn Promotion