ECF Book of the Year shortlist 2016

The choice this year is between four books, representing differing aspects of chess literature, but all excellent in their own way.  Three of these deal with subjects new to chess writing; the fourth covers a well treated area, but is an addictive read.

Chess for Life
Matthew Sadler, Natasha Regan pp222 Gambit £15.99

This book explores “understanding how chess skills develop and change with the passage of time”, a subject not previously covered in book form. The authors consider the experiences of a wide range of chess players from Capablanca to accomplished amateurs and how they coped with the passing of the years.  Fascinating discussions on various subjects, for example: opening choices over time and playing with a limited opening repertoire, feature throughout.  A well written, valuable and original book.

Ignaz Kolisch – The Life and Chess Career
Fabrizio Zavatarelli pp382 McFarland £

The judges received no less than four comprehensive chess biographies this year!  Despite strong competition, the Kolisch volume was easily the best, standing out for the quality of writing with many interesting vignettes of a distant era. Kolisch 1837-1889 is virtually unknown today despite being one of the best chess players in the world in the 1860s and 1870s. However, what lifts this book out of the ordinary is Kolisch’s rise from   professional chess player to multimillion(!) financier and eventually becoming a Baron(!!) of the Austrian Empire. A unique and amazing story.

Fundamental Checkmates 
Antonio Gude pp382 £19.99

Gude is an extremely experienced Spanish writer and teacher. This book, well translated from the Spanish by Phil Adams, is a comprehensive course on chess mates.  There are numerous books on chess tactics/mates, so what makes this book stand out? The writing is entertaining, the tuition excellent, the numerous examples (including all possible combinations of piece and pawn mates) are mostly unknown and above all illustrate the endless variety of chess. In consequence, once picked up the book is most difficult to put down – a good test!

Vladimir Tukmakov Risk and Bluff in Chess
pp224 New in Chess £

The subtitle describes the subject of the distinguished Russian player and trainer: “The Art of Taking Calculated Risks”.  Once again the subject has not been dealt with in book form before. As the author points out risk and bluff are formidable weapons; some of the greatest exponents used them to gain the extra points that win tournaments –  Tal, Larsen and Kasparov. They made the point of complicating the game by taking risks (even if proved wrong after the game) to pressurise the opponent. Tukmakov emphasises that risks can also be psychological and emotional as well as tactical. Tukmakov’s deep knowledge of contemporary chess is revealed as he explains players’ motivations during the course of the many exciting games used to illustrate the books themes.

— Ray Edwards, Julian Farrand, Sean Marsh – August 2016

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