Two attacking manuals

| 0 | Chess Event Coverage
This month, two new attacking manuals were published by Gambit: The Art of Attacking in Chess by Zenon Franco and How to Crush Your Chess Opponents by Simon Williams. Let's have a look.

All chess players like to attack. But why? We could try to explain our aggressive intentions at the chess board by borrowing external theories, like from the field of biology. An evolutionary point of view would mention a natural need for a predator to attack prey, or the competition between males of the same species over access to resources such as females, dominance or status.

But it's probably enough to stay at home, safely behind the chess board and pieces, to learn more about the common desire to go for the opponent's king. Isn't a direct, succesful king's attack the ultimate way to show supremacy over the opponent? Don't we all, like Fischer, like to crush our opponent's ego? And by the way, the basic goal in the game of chess is to mate the opponent's king, so why not just start with it right away?

Of course we've all learnt, by trial and error or because a coach has told us, that you cannot simply ?¢‚ǨÀústart an attack'. A good game of chess starts with healthy development, some control of the centre and putting the king into a safer area. In general, there should be a reason to start an attack. This can be anything. A big lead in development, a weakened king's position in the opponent's camp, a majority of pieces on the kingside, et cetera. So far nothing new.

So perhaps we already have a feeling of when to start an attack, but that's just the beginning. Many factors play a role for an attack to be succesful, such as move-order, timing, persistance, but also patience. Alhough we've probably seen many great attacking games more than any other chess theme, there's still a lot to learn in this field. Two new Gambit publications answer the ever-existing demand among chess fans to read about "attacking chess".

Let's check the first one: The Art of Attacking Chess. This 256 pages thick publication is Zenon Franco's fifth book for Gambit ?¢‚Ǩ‚Äú previous books include Chess Self-Improvement and Winning Chess Explained. Franco is a grandmaster from Paraguay who lives in Spain, where he was Paco Vallejo's trainer between 1995 and 1999.

So what has Franco to offer? Well, "33 inspirational and instructive masterpieces" is what the book cover mentions, but it's actually a lot more. Many of these 33 games have ?¢‚ǨÀúsupplementary games' that contain examples of the same theme as shown in the main game. For example, with Game 3 (Rivera-Ghaem Maghami, Calvia open 2006), about the "king in, the center", the supplementary game Carlsen-Kamsky, FIDE World Cup, Khanty-Mansyisk 2005 is given, by the way also with text and variations.

And besides these approximately 50 recent annotated games, Franco also offers many exercises, for the serious chess student. Something we can expect from a trainer, of course! The book is devided into six chapters (The King in the Centre, Opposite-Side Castling, Attacking the Castled King, Exploiting Temporary Advantages, Horwitz Bishops and Miscellaneaous Themes - The Power of the f5-Knight, Manoeuvring with the Major Pieces and The Pawn-Centre) and every chapter finishes with about twelve diagrams.

Franco's book is a pleasant addition to the abundance of available material that focusses on attacking chess. Firstly, because the game examples are almost all taken from recent tournament practice: no less than 26 of the annotated games were played after the year 2000. The most recent examples include Carlsen-Radjabov, Biel 2007 and Karjakin-Van Wely, Foros 2007.

Secondly, Franco gives high-level analysis with lots of verbal explanation, even about small, positional details ?¢‚Ǩ‚Äú and such are the parts I always enjoy most in chess books. An example:

This isn't the thing you'd expect in an attacking manual, now would you? No, there's actually much more to learn from The Art of Attacking Chess. It's highly recommended for, I'd say, ambitious chess players between 1900-2300 Elo. Why? Because it's a book to study, a book that takes a lot of time to digest. It's not easy, but working your way through it will surely pay off.

The second book we'll be looking at today is How to Crush Your Chess Opponents. Now I know that the title is one of a book's major selling points, but isn't this one a bit too ambitious? Can't we just try to beat them? Well, we won't quote Fischer again but let's just assume there are many more chess players with his attitude!

So what do we have here? A 28-year-old grandmaster from England who's known for his dynamic and aggressive playing style, writing his third book for Gambit, after Improve Your Attacking Chess and Play the Classical Dutch. Williams sure knows how to crush weaker opponents, as I've experienced myself a few years ago!

His book happens to be the lighter version of The Art of Attacking Chess. It's just 112 pages and contains 30 annotated games, not as deep as Franco's, and without training exercises. The author's intention is simply more modest:

I had to main aims in mind when writing this book. One aim was to show you some fascinating games that I have enjoyed. The other aim was to help you play attacking chess like the winners in this book.

The book is devided into seven chapters: Opening to Middlegame, Keeping the Initiative, Harmonizing the Army, Locating the Weak Point, Changing the Tempo, All-In! and Playing to Your Strenghts. Every chapter starts with a short introduction which contains many true, but sometimes quite self-evident pieces of advice:

Do not just memorize lines straight from a book. Ask yourself: "Why is this the correct move? What is the idea behind this move?" By doing this, you will obtain a better understanding of the position and hopefully your results will improve as well.

Or this one:

To be succesful in chess, you need to coordinate your pieces and use them together. When starting an attack, make sure your pieces are on good squares. The attack will not work if they are placed badly.

Unfortunately the author doesn't get much deeper than this, so I get the impression these intros were added at a later stage, to structurize the book a bit more. How to harmonize the pieces apparently is something the reader has to learn by just replaying the analysed games.

It must be said that this is quite fun to do, because Williams has selected some very attractive games (like Franco, mostly from the 21st century), and his notes are both entertaining and instructive. Not on the same level as Franco's, but still. Here's a good example:

How to Crush Your Chess Opponents is recommended for chess fans players between 1700-2100 Elo, who just like to look at some nice attacking games, get inspired and learn perhaps learn a few things along the way.

Please note that the Dutch version of this article contains a review of the 4th issue of the Dutch literary chess magazine Matten, which is only published in... Dutch.
Peter Doggers

Peter Doggers joined a chess club a month before turning 15 and still plays for it. He used to be an active tournament player and holds two IM norms.

Peter has a Master of Arts degree in Dutch Language & Literature. He briefly worked at New in Chess, then as a Dutch teacher and then in a project for improving safety and security in Amsterdam schools.

Between 2007 and 2013 Peter was running ChessVibes, a major source for chess news and videos acquired by in October 2013.

As our Director News & Events, Peter writes many of our news reports. In the summer of 2022, The Guardian’s Leonard Barden described him as “widely regarded as the world’s best chess journalist.”

In October, Peter's first book The Chess Revolution will be published!

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