ECF Book of the Year 2015

The judges this year had considerable difficulty in making their choice between three volumes. Liquidation on the Chess Board by Joel Benjamin, New in Chess, is a very entertaining book despite a technical title. The lively writing and application to practical chess playing made this an above average book. Gary Kasparov Part 111 : 1993- 2005 by Gary Kasparov, Everyman, is the last book of Kasparov’s best games and brings to an end a long sequence which raised the standards of chess writing (infused with Kasparov’s unique authority and insights into chess) to new levels. As books from Kasparov’s series have previously won the Book of the Year award, it seemed more appropriate to recognise Kasparov’s achievement with a Lifetime Achievement Award. Which brings us to the Book of the Year which is:

Positional Decision Making in Chess by Boris Gelfand, Quality Chess

gelfandThis book was written in a collaborative process by Gelfand, a world class player for the last 20 years, working with GM Jacob Aagaard, an award winning chess author. The idea was that Aagaard would “ask the right questions and obtain insights from Gelfand”. What was obvious to Gelfand “might not be apparent to many others”. The combination has worked very well.
The result is a fascinating insight into how the chess mind of a great player works, in this volume, of positional games. Much of Gelfand’s approach is intuitive and instinctive rather than hard calculation, though there is some of that too. He relies on maintaining his position and preventing opponent’s counter play.  To some extent the book’s title is misleading as the content is less about decisions in particular positions than the overall approach, which Gelfand first learned as a boy from the games of Akiba Rubinstein a legendary player in the first 30 years of the last century. The first chapter is titled “Playing in the style of Akiba Rubinstein”. Many of Rubinstein’s games are given and it is fascinating reading Gelfand’s contemporary comments on play at that time.

Gelfand comes over as modest but confident in his abilities, with tremendous ability, experience and knowledge. But despite all this, even he sometimes finds chess a difficult game, which gives comfort to us all.

Ray Edwards, Julian Farrand, Sean Marsh – 4th October 2015

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