Book of the Year 2015 – shortlist

The four books this year have individual identities, all of which feature different aspects of the game. Despite the difficulty of writing something original on the endgame, Benjamin has achieved just that. Two of the books complement each other very well – Rios has written an excellent middle game text book, while Gelfand reveals the difficulty even a world title challenger has in putting a text book into practise. Lastly, Kasparov’s third and final volume of his best games brings to an end a series of chess books which have set a new standard for chess writing.

Chess Structures – A Grandmaster Guide
Mauricio Flores Rios | Quality Chess pp464 £21.95

The book was ‘born out of my desire to guide players who, like me, struggle to apply their strategic knowledge to a practical game’. Rios shows exceptional clarity of organisation and selection of (nearly all contemporary) illustrative games. Each of the 140 games starts with ‘Learning Objective’ and concludes with ’Final Remarks’. In all, ‘28’ chess structures are covered and the book finishes with 50 exercises. It is hard to imagine any student not learning from this book; but the problems of using this knowledge over the board, even for a world-class player, are discussed in the Gelfand book below.

Garry Kasparov Part III: 1993 – 2000
Garry Kasparov | Everyman pp501 £30.00

This volume, the third and last in Kasparov’s best game series, brings to an end a sequence of books which started with My Great Predecessors, covered the matches with Karpov and concludes with Kasparov’s best games. This volume contains, like all its predecessors, great games with outstanding annotations, even though in the narrative parts of this volume, Kasparov comes over as somewhat disenchanted with the chess world. This series of books set new standards in chess writing and publishing for which Book of the Year seems inadequate; a Lifetime Achievement Award seems more appropriate.

Liquidation on the Chess Board
Joel Benjamin | New in Chess pp254 £16.95

The subtitle ‘Mastering the Transition into the Pawn Ending’ explains the subject matter of this attractive and entertaining book. As far as I know this is the first book covering the subject specifically (though it has been mentioned en passant in end game text books). Benjamin’s writing is entertaining and lively and shows his understanding of the practical issues of King and Pawn endings. Any one wondering about the merits of this volume should read the Prologue – The ABCs of Chess – which recounts Benjamin’s experiences in an ending with Viktor Korchnoi.

Positional Decision Making in Chess
Boris Gelfand | Quality Chess pp284 £23.99

This remarkable book, written in collaboration with Jacob Aagaard, is an attempt to show how a world-class player (there are few with Gelfand’s extensive top-level experience) thinks during the course of a game. As the title suggests, the games selected concentrate on aspects of positional play such as space advantage or the squeeze. Very interestingly, Gelfand admits to being strongly influenced by Akiba Rubinstein, a great player in the first half of the 20th century; a number of Rubinstein’s games are included. Throughout, Gelfand is very honest about his thoughts and recollections during the games presented. As a result the book is a fascinating insight into the mind of a great chess player at work.

Ray Edwards, Julian Farrand, Sean Marsh – 31st August 2015