Book of the Year 2021 shortlist

The judges this year received a large number of high quality books to choose from. The shortlist was further complicated as many overlapped on subject matter which made selection more difficult and some good books did not make the cut. Unusually all four books are hardback and without exception beautifully produced, with many excellent photographs.

Masterpieces and Dramas
Sergey Voronkov
Elk and Ruby pp 534 £35.95
The full title, ‘ … of the Soviet Championship Volume 1 (1920-1937)’. Foreword by Gary Kasparov. The book fully lives up to its title: the daunting problems of organising anything in the chaotic times of the post Russian revolution. The tournaments were of high quality (Alekhine, Bogoljubov and Botvinnik were amongst the winners) and there are many historical, dramatic, and competitive games to enjoy. A book of considerable importance, but also an absorbing read.

Smyslov, Bronstein, Geller, Taimanov and Averbakh
Andrew Soltis
McFarland pp 379 £59.95
Subtitled ‘A Chess Multibiography with 220 games’, Soltis says he wanted to explore the lives of five exceptionally talented chess players but different men, who survived the horrors of the second world war and brutal Soviet regime and why only one of them, Smyslov, became world champion. The way their  lives entwined in the competitive, political, Russian chess world after the Second World War is fascinating. Soltis writes extremely well and the whole book is very readable.

The Chess Saga of Fridrik Olafsson
Oystein Brekke
Norske Sjakkforlag pp287 £32.95
A tribute to the Icelandic grandmaster who, besides being strong enough to play in the 1959 Candidates tournament, is an iconic figure in his native Iceland.  An elegant attacking player the book contains 118 games many annotated by Olafsson. The book is much more than a collection of games; many writers contribute to describe his long life (87 years) and varied career, not all in chess. A Saga indeed. An affectionate and beautiful book in every way.

Nigel Short
Quality Chess pp413 £29.50
Tournament books have been an important part of chess literature. Short has taken an unusual approach – this is a book giving ALL the games he played himself in eight tournament he won dating from 1987 to 2016. The games are thoroughly annotated and show the drama, the good play, the practical play and sometimes survival play required to win tournaments. This is Short’s first book; the personal approach, the lively style, create hopes that he will write another.

— Ray Edwards, Jovanka Houska, Sean Marsh | 31st August 2021