I Review "Art of Attack in Chess"

Aug 16, 2008, 11:32 AM |

I guess there are two questions to be asked in a review of this book. This first of which is, "Is this the greatest book ever written on the subject of attacking play?" and secondly, "Will it help my chess?"

As to the first question the answer is "yes, I think so"

The answer to the second question is "That depends"

The book is divided up into chapters based on theme. The chapters consist of short essays on the subject intertwined with instructive positions and the occasional complete game. All the games and positions are annotated fully with variations and explanations. The games he gives are old fashioned as this book was written in the 50s, but for the improving player that doesn't really matter. He delves into the history and develoment of attacking play in the later chapters (which were my favorite parts of the book) but for the most part sticks to analysis and instructive prose.

However, will any of this help your chess?

The complete annotated games are extremely instructive, and make up the core value of this book. I only wish he had included more of them instead of pages and pages of single positions and prose. I'm of the opinion that most people gain absolutely no chess strength from sitting and reading a book of essays, you need to play moves and go through games to assimilate anything. Nobody is going to sit down to play a game, get into a position and say "OK..on page 145 vukovic says I should have a pawn on e5, rook on e1, and active bishops and queen to maybe think about sacrificing my bishop on h7 etc etc etc.." That's just not going to happen. Chess is about subconscious pattern recognition which can only be improved by hammering things into your brain over the board.

Another thing to consider is the rating level required to understand and learn from this book. Most sources I've read say this book is most suitable for anyone between 1600-1800 OTB. I was around 1600 when I started reading this and I was already familiar with everything discussed in this book either consciously or intuitively. Of course going over some annotated attacking games will always be helpful, but does that really make this book any more useful than a collection of attacking games a la "Rocking the Ramparts" by Larry Christiansen?

Another issue is the use of long variations in an educational work. I'm of the opinion that long variations are more or less useless for anything other than researching novelties, proving a point, or advancing "chess truth". Looking at a billion lines many moves deep is almost always a complete waste of time as it teaches you nothing. If I want to learn how to calculate I'll do some tactics problems. Unfortunately this book is filled with pages upon pages of alternate variations and long computer lines, how does this help the improving player?

To conclude I would like to say that Art of Attack is good at explaining the themes of attack, however if you are already familiar with the classic bishop sacrifice or opening lines in the center (which I'm assuming all class B players are) then something else may be more beneficial. I'm going to have a look at some alternate sources of attacking inspiration including the previously mentioned "rocking the ramparts" and also Jacob Aagaard's Attacking DVDs from chessbase. I'll review those when I can and hopefully come up with a theory of attacking improvement!