ECF Book of the Year 2019 – shortlist

This year’s selections include two types of books that have never reached the BOY Short List before: one featuring end game studies and the other no chess moves at all! The other two volumes are an in  depth study of one of the greatest (if not the greatest) world champions and the other is an important book discussing a radical step in chess learning and computers.

Checkmate! The Love Story of Mikhail Tal and Sally Landau
Sally Landau
Elk and Ruby Publishing House, paperback pp223, £19.99
Subtitled ‘The Love Story of Mikhail Tal and Sally Landau’ … Sally was Tal’s first wife from 1959 to 1970, the years of Tal’s greatest triumphs, and they remained fond of each other after their divorce. Sally describes Tal’s risk taking approach to chess was no different to every other aspect of his bohemian life. Above all Tal lived to play chess in his own way particularly enjoying moments of ‘illogical irrationality’.  Tal’s approach to life and chess (vividly described in this memoir) lives on, even in the computer age.

Emanuel Lasker
Forster, Negele, Tischbierek (editors)
Exzelsior Verlag, hardback pp450, £54.95
The editors combined with 10(!) high calibre contributors to produce an outstanding work on Lasker’s early years up to about 1909. All aspects of Lasker’s complex character are explored. Not all the many chapters can be mentioned here; two outstanding are the examination of the World Championship match with Tarrasch 1908 and Marin’s deep analysis of Lasker’s style. A beautifully printed book with contemporary photographs throughout. Expensive, but worth every penny. 

Game Changer
Matthew Sadler and Natasha Regan
New in Chess, paperback pp415, £19.95
The newly formed writing duo of Sadler and Regan has already had success with the 2016 BOY Chess for Life. Now this enthusiastic couple have come up with another original subject: the artificial intelligence system AlphaZero. Self taught, it plays chess differently from the standard computer programmes; so much so that Carlsen has stated that AlphaZero’s approach has influenced his own play! With contributions by Hassabis, Kasparov and others, the book examines AlphaZero’s thinking processes and is very readable even for non-computer enthusiasts.

Practical Chess Beauty
Yochanan Afek
Quality Chess, hardback pp464, £26.50
Solving composed end game studies is recommended by many of the worlds leading trainers as a good method of improving a deeper understanding of the resources of the chess pieces. In this book Afek invites the reader to learn by combining practical positions with a selection of his own compositions. Afek is one of the world’s best and most prolific end game study composers and it is possible simply to enjoy a remarkable collection of studies which feature truly astonishing play. As far as the judges are aware this is the first time that a book of end game studies has appeared in BOY. The volume is beautifully produced to Quality Chess’ usual high standards.

— Ray Edwards, Julian Farrand & Sean Marsh, August 31st 20019