My review of "Winning Chess Tactics" by GM Yasser Seirawan


Last month, I reviewed Yasser Seirawan's "Play Winning Chess".  In that review, I expressed some reservations about the lack of depth of the book and mentioned that I would hold back judgement until I read the other books in the series.  Today, I bring to you my review of the second book in the "Winning Chess" series, "Winning Chess Tactics" (WCT).

The first thing I have to say about WCT is that it completely addresses my concern on the depth and the difficulty of the exercises of the previous book.  The book contains twelve chapters dedicated entirely to a specific tactical facet of the game, such as forks, pins, discovered attacks and sacrifices.  Each chapter ends with a series of not-so-tough to pretty-tough exercises that review the content of that chapter.  Since they serve to illustrate the concept of the chapter, solving them is usually just a matter of finding the concept (e.g. a pin) in the problem and go from there.  In spite of that, some exercises will cause some head scratching for beginner players such as myself!

An important thing that WCT does is to give names to the different tactics; a player could understand forks by himself, but having a word to describe the tactic implies that there's a definition, and if you know the definition of the tactic, you can look for it.  It also helps beginner players to read other chess books; I remember reading a part of "The Amateur's Mind" a few years ago, and not understanding what "skewer" meant.  Now I know what it is.

After the different types of tactics have been introduced, Seirawan has a few chapters of games by grandmasters where the different tactical themes are illustrated.  I went over this section quickly, but I intend to review the game in more depth in a future reading of the book (of which, there should be many).

The last three chapters are dedicated to various tests where the tactical theme is not explicitly mentioned; you need to figure out yourself if there's a backrank checkmate or a fork winning a single pawn.  The first of these chapters was pretty easy, I finished most of the exercises in a couple of hours with only one error.  The second chapter will require more thought and took me much longer to complete, and I got maybe 1/3 of the problems wrong.  My tactical vision could definitely be improved, which is another reason why I'll be reading this book again. The last chapter presents very tough tactical puzzles. I have not even attempted to solve them.

As with PWC, WCT is short, written in very easy-to-understand English (great for foreign players such as myself), has a few humorous sentences and jokes in to keep the subject matter fun.

I very much recommend that beginner players acquire this book (it's very cheap!) and work their way through the explanations and tests. I give it a 5/5 rating!

Next for me will be Yasser's "Winning Chess Strategies" book.  I figure that for the next few months, I'll be going between WCT and WCS until I feel that I've really absorbed all the wisdom that a grandmaster and excellent teacher has to offer.