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ECF Book of the Year 2006

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There was a rather surprising winner of the book of the year award given out by the English (formerly British) Chess Federation. There aren't many chess book awards, and for good reason. There aren't all that many chess books to begin with and there are precious few good ones. (It would get embarrassing if you had to keep saying, "we just decided to skip it again this year.") But the ECF/BCF award has good standards and a good tradition so we'll make it an exception to our normally award-averse sentiments.

The finalists were Rowson's "Chess for Zebras" and "Endgame Tactics" by a certain first-time author named van Perlo. (According to the award site Kasparov's latest Predecessors book was left out because the judges wanted it to include the Kasparov-Karpov matches, which are going to be in a future volume.) That's van Perlo above, and I can reveal here that he does indeed have a first name, although you don't see it anywhere. It's Ger van Perlo. While no spring chicken (and the photo is four years old), the 73-year-old Dutch correspondence GM has youthful enthusiasm about his endgames and has written a very entertaining book. You can check out a sample chapter at the official book site here.

From the judges' comments: "Collections of game positions for solving or instruction are not uncommon. Unfortunately many are computer generated with cursory instruction or comment added. This is emphatically not the case here. Van Perlo is a Dutch correspondence grandmaster who collected over a period of 30 years tactical end games that appealed to him. He cast his net wide and most of the 1105(!) positions were unknown to the judges. Van Perlo had a good chess eye for attractive situations and wrote about them in a humorous and entertaining manner. Above all he writes with wicked glee about the changes in fortune that lie in wait on the board for all players.

The New in Chess team has edited and organised the material so that there is considerable instructional content in the book. But the winning factor for the judges was the sheer entertainment value - a rare commodity in the chess world these days."

Always nice to see someone writing with some flavor and effort. Dutch news article on van Perlo and the award. What are your favorite recent books? All-time endgame books? Read this one yet?


Reading the linked snippets of van Perlo and Ronan Bennett: I never knew rook endings to be so interesting or political assassinations so boring.

I like this thread, Mig!
Endgames are so important! I'm learning more and more that nearly every game can be decided in the endgame. Even in the games of the very best a better mastering of the endgame decides the matter.
Many players I know are able to develop sharp attacks but fail to play the endgame rightly. Often they are playing it poorly. And besides this this part of the game has it's own richness and beauty. Always every endgane position has also rich possibilities to turm an even game to a won game. You don't need sharp tactics if you are able to play the endgame with subtlety.
I first met the beauty of endgames in Rubinstein's games. He was able to win dead drawn endgames. Some of his games were endgames from the very beginning. Amazing.
It was a book "Rubinstein gewinnt" from Hans Kmoch. I think you can regard it as an endgamebook.
Sorry for my bad english.

It's exactly what it says; 1,000 tactical endgame positions and well chosen; an experienced player (me, say), might know 25 or so. Reasonably entertaining, certainly, although personally I found the wicked humour not quite to my taste, ('arch' would be nearer the mark) and quite a lot of the examples are just sharp battles rather than having a particular point.

I had the impression from the blurb van Perlo had died and the book had been published posthumously, but I'd be glad to learn I was wrong about that, as you seem to suggest.

The BCF people have made some fairly absurd choices in their time - after all wasn't The King on the shortlist this year, or have I misremembered? If it was then obviously it should have won.

Since you've asked, I'm about 2/3 of the way through Learn from the Legends by Mihail Marin and it is superb! I'm already looking forward to re-reading it. Also, The Art of Planning in Chess by Neil McDonald and 50 Essential Chess Lessons by Steve Giddins I found instructive and enjoyable, but not in the same class as Marin's book.

"All time endgame books": Benko's Endgame Lessons Vol's 1&2 are great. Fundamental Chess Endings is excellent but I still like the new revised Basic Chess Endings better. An endgame book that doesn't get much press but is excellent in it's explanations is Essential Chess Endings by James Howell.

Can I mention my favorite used book? I am reading "Chess tactics for advanced players", by Yury Averbakh, and I sincerely consider it the best chess book ever. It is the only book I ever saw that presents an "unifying theory" of tactics, beyond grouping positions by theme. If you can find this book, buy it.

Oh, yes - my favorite recent book is "How to calculate chess tactics", by Valery Beim - excellent and original analysis in difficult positions, highly recommended.

From the sample pages online, this appears to be one of those books where each problem is presented (only) next to its solution - takes the joy out of problem-solving.

Haven't you thought of covering the games' moves, setting up the positions, and checking the text after your analysis?

For pure entertainment value, seamlessly intertwined with great instruction, I find Dunnington without peer. Soltis comes close.

I base this on "Blunders and How to Avoid Them," which has numerous truly hilarious passages. One sample that I plan to quote in a future article: "A cruel irony on the subject of the sense of danger is that when we fail to hear the alarm bells ringing there is a good chance the opponent is alert, and for him they might be about to produce sweet, sweet music."

Another passage in the same book, in a chapter urging defenders to stay awake even after the draw is "in the bag," has a go at looking inside the private thoughts of a defender who has reached that point. The accompanying diagram and moves were taken from an actual game in the 2002 European Team Championship in Batumi. "So -- which restaurant tonight? Chinese? Indian? Italian?" After two more moves, Black's internal dialogue continues: "Italian. Pasta? Pizza?" But the defender's next move is a none-too-obvious blunder...he doesn't realize it yet, and thinks: "...Black's job is done. No reason to actually offer a draw after all this. In fact White can be the one to lower himself and admit that the last fifteen moves or so have merely been wasted time. Pizza." By this time I was on the floor. Then, after White answers with a decisive shot: "Make that a large helping of humble pie."

I'm well into this book, and it's great fun. I've always loved tactics books, and this is the first endgame book I've ever encountered with this approach. Middlegame tactics books like this helped me reach master level; I wonder how far an endgame tactics book could have helped me go? I never found endgames as much fun to study (til now). :-)

Probably one of the 25 best chess books I've seen in over 30 years.

Oops...left most of my name off my recommendation. :-)

New In Chess have a nice habit of publishing books in Dutch, then republishing them in English with expanded and revised content. This is one example. Back in early 2002, I was in Amsterdam for a few days and picked up a book I hadn't seen before: "Spelen mit eindspelen 1". The author was unfamiliar, but it was published by NiC, so how bad could it really be? Turned out to be very interesting. It was the original Dutch version of van Perlo's book, but they were publishing it in a few volumes, so part 1 was pawn endings and queen endings. His writing style, which has been commented on favourably, had me reaching for the dictionary a few times (it was in Dutch, remember), but the exercises were great.

The English edition, all in one volume, is very enjoyable. I've been through it once and am going through it again now. My only slight criticism as a training book is that some of the diagrams are of the form "White to play and blunder" or "quiet, unforced lead up to the critical moment", but you don't know this without reading the solution. However, they are in the minority, so you can still look at the diagrams and work them out, with the non-forcing positions acting as a nice restraint on thinking that every position is a forced win.

There's a few snippets of theory in th ebook, too: general approaches for playing with various piece combinations that you don't see in many other places. Makes it a nice companion to something like Dvoretsky's endgame manual (don't get me started on the crappy second edition printing) or Mueller and Lamprechts' pair of books.

Van Perlo's books were released in Dutch in a series of volumes over the last five years or so, and have been quite popular in Holland. He's been collecting interesting end-game positions like these for thirty years or so. Apparently he finished just in time, as he had a brain haemorrhage soon after finishing it.

Best wishes to him, at any rate.

I thought all of this years nominees were very strong (It is the first year that I have chosen to buy all the nominees- before they were nominated. I usually buy the winning book - the exceptions were the bizarre choice of Sadler's QGD in 2000 and MGP 4 - I'm all Fischered out. You can see the nominations and winners since 2000 here http://www.bcf.org.uk/events/bcfawards/index.htm

Like rdh, I thought that The King should win hands down. The only reason I could think why not was that it was a reprint (albeit expanded).

Kasparov has won it twice before, so they were probably relieved to choose someone else. However Mig doesn't quite explain in full the reason (entirely valid) that they didn't choose it:

"Garry Kasparov’s My Great Predecessors V which covered Korchnoi and Karpov was excluded as the title matches between Kasparov and Karpov had been omitted – surely of the essence in assessing Karpov’s career - since these epic contests will be covered in a later volume."

"surely of the essence in assessing Karpov’s career" is the key phrase here. I think it would be like assessing Tal or Smyslov without their matches vs Botvinnik, or Fischer without including Reykjavik 1972. Still makes a great story, but not the reason for many to buy the book. I am thouroughly enjoying the book and think it is Kasparov's best so far (Not that I've read the Fischer book!)

I had Van Perlo's wife on the phone, the evening after she had just told her husband the good news. The touching story, and a bigger list of former ECF/BCF winners, can be found at http://www.doggers-schaak.nl/?p=548&lp_lang_view=en

The price seems adequate and the subject is very useful for players over a strength.
From the sample pages I guess it mainly focuses on endgame tricks. If one combines tricks with normal theory then he is ready to be a good endgame player if he also plays many games, of course..

Mig can you put a theme with Fischer ?
Chessbase.com has an interesting interview..

With so much to be gained by dedicated lifetime patzers from reading chess books what is then left from grandmanster Ostap Bender [in"The 12 chairs" 1929 by I&E Petroff] observation :

"What do we see, comrades? We see that the blond-haired man plays well and that the brown-haired man plays poorly. And no lecture will ever change this balance of power.."



I am reading "Chess tactics for advanced players", by Yury Averbakh, and I sincerely consider it the best chess book ever. It is the only book I ever saw that presents an "unifying theory" of tactics

I read some of this book, and the theory seemed to me to be basically useless. I can't remember once thinking about his 'theory' during a game. The book is still OK, because its basically just a bunch of tactics when you strip it down.

Beim's "How to Calculate Chess Tactics" is indeed excellent.

Paata Gaprindashvili's "Imagination in Chess" is a wonderful followup to Beim, though I confess I find much of this book beyond my ability... I suspect it's good for juniors above 2000.

Yes, I agree with the above poster: Gaprindashvili's is the best tactics quiz book I've seen.

I thought the chap above who was praising Dunnington and Soltis was going to turn out to be sarcastic, since both these two have reputations only very marginally above the Lanes and Schillers of the world, but I see was wrong. Nice to know someone likes this stuff.

The explanation for excluding Gazza's book makes no sense whatever to me - had they said that it was poorly researched journalistic hackwork which contributed nothing to the literature of the game, that would have been one thing, but ruling it out because it wasn't a different book seems a bit harsh. Bit like saying that Sadler's QGD book is all very well but it doesn't give much insight into the QGA.

So The King was on the short list. Presumably they weren't ruling it out then as a reprint (after all van Perlo is a reprint), so they must in some way have thought van Perlo's book superior. Amazing - I mean, it's nice enough, but frankly I could knock something very similar off myself, whereas Donner's book is one of the very best ever written about the game. And very well translated too (as far as one can ever tell) - I wonder who did it?

Great link, Ovidiu, thank you. I've never read that before.

Curious, I've seen the famous line you mention translated before in some English book (I wonder which one it was?), as 'The blonde plays well and the brunette plays badly.', which doesn't give quite the right impression.


Think you are a bit harsh on Soltis- I have to say that I really enjoyed his Soviet Chess book. But agreed- a lot of his opening works are trash.

I think that a lot of top authors probably need to get some potboilers out to keep bread on the table. We can blame the authors for having lower standards (who doesn't cut corners where possible in their own job?), but the chess book buyer must take responsibility for the larger print runs of this trash.

A Macfarland-type book is beautifully produced after a lot more effort than your average book, but is more likely to have a high level of scholarship, but is going to sell in the hundreds rather than thousands and therefore not sustainable as a sole source of income (I guess that's what journalism is for :-).

It still doesn't explain Keene and Schiller who don't get any quality books out at all.

I disagree with you on the Kasparov book judgement- you can't cover the entire careers of all preceding world champions and then leave out the key part of the last one - it doesn't add up. I understand why Kasparov did it, but it diminishes the project as a whole. As far as I know (Mig can correct me), the Karpov Matches are part of a new project on Kasparov's games.

As for reprint, you are right, but I guess that the King was a 2nd edition in the English language (maybe it was the "new" material, which got it nominated, or maybe it was new to the judges), whereas van Perlo was a first. I don't think that The King should have been nominated, but as it was nominated, there is no doubt that it should have won. It would be my Desert Island Chess book, just ahead of Edward Winter's book on Capablanca.

I didn’t know EW had written a book on Capablanca. This I must search out.

Maybe I’ve misunderstood the Kasparov book. If he’s going to cover the K-K matches only as part of his own great legacy, then that would be a bit naughty. But just because this particular book isn’t about them wouldn’t be a criticism.

Keene, to be fair, wrote some great books before he lapsed into potboilers and self-parody. Nimzovich, A Reappraisal, Flank Openings, his Pirc and Modern books with Botterill, and that strange little green book possibly called The Chess Openings, were all very, very good. But anything by him after about 1980 can safely be filed immediately in the fireplace: apart from anything else he probably didn’t actually write it himself.

I also agree that Soltis wrote some decent stuff among the trash: unlike Keene he has interspersed them. And actually Dunnington’s books are not so bad at all, but personally I find his humour distinctly run-off-the-mill.

Take your point about The King, but once nominated one has to put concerns about eligibility behind one, I’d have thought. I’d have predicted it not winning, though (in fact I did) – the BCF judges know what they like, and this isn’t it.


You have to put the Karpov-Kasparov matches somewhere, and it certainly makes more sense to include them in volumes covering the winner's career, "My Great Self" (or whatever). Thus MGS would cover the Karpov, Short and Anand matches (and Kasparov's tournament successes).

Kasparov-bashers will doubtless criticize him if he omits the Kasparov-Kramnik match from MGS. But they would be wrong; discussion of the London match would properly be reserved for the My Great Successors series.

who are these great successors ?
Khalifman, Ponomariov, Kasimdzhanov ?

You wanted to say
"My great successor V.Kramnik (aka as Fritz-10)"

In the Tal Memorial Shirov just played against Mamedyarov the same Luy-Ropez-Breyer Nxg5 sacrifice that Polgar did and lost to Shaka!
What a heck is going on with Shirov ? Dare devil ?


In general, McFarland books are well worth the money, though the book on the Turk was a lemon- thankfully I read reviews before making a purchase.


I agree the Karpov games should be in the MGS book - I like this acronym :-) However, if you are assessing Karpov the player, his playing style and in particular want to illustrate Karpov at his best (which I think was in the K-K matches even though he lost), excluding those matches does Karpov a disservice.

My arguments are based on MGP the project. My thoughts on the project were that Kasparov was going to give a stand-alone evaluation of the games, playing style and career of numbers 1-12.

You can't give a full account of nos 1-11 and then say, I'm going to ignore the most significant part of No 12's career, because I want to keep that for a new project.

Then MGS could be exactly that- the Kasparov wins and interesting draws. I just think that MGP, the project will be left incomplete.

This is not to say that the book is unworthy, just that I agree with the judges that this is a valid reason not to choose the Karpov book as Book of the Year. Just my opinion.

Shirov evntually moved after more than 1 h of thinking ! now it is Shirov 34'-- Shaka 1h 49'

can anyone explain this going into a theoretical sharp variation well known your opponent hoping to find a novelty OTB ? has Shirov lost his mind ?

well, Shirov-Shaka draw by repetition.
strange game, what did Shirov try to achieve by playing this variation ? He played alone against Shaka home preparation.

The story in that SovLit link Ovidiu gave is great! I can think of someone we all know who must have read it...perhaps in his boyhood, herding goats on the steppe:

"The rotten walls of the stud farm building fell away, and in its place arose a glass, 33-story palace of chess thought, towering into the blue sky. In each of its halls, in every room, even in the elevators, speeding by like bullets, people, deep in thought, sat playing chess on instructional gameboards made of malachite....

"....Chess thought, turning a provincial town into the capital of the planet, shall turn into applied science and create the methods of interplanetary communication. From Vasiuki signals will be sent to Mars, Jupiter, and Neptune. Communication with Venus will become as simple as a trip from Rybinsk to Yaroslav."

(Also worth noting, albeit perhaps redundant, that the character voicing the prognostications in the last paragraph is a con-man.)

On another subject, Shirov's opening follies: wasn't it also Shirov who lost a game in something like 15 moves to Peter Wells -- falling into a Trompovsky trap with Black, a trap that had been featured in a game in Wells' previously published book on the Trompovsky? (I think I saw this on Monokroussos' recently discontinued blog. Dennis wryly observed that if you're a super-GM and are going to play into a newly popular opening line that your opponent wrote a book about, you ought to at least make the effort to read the book first.)

JJ - yes, correct, about Shirov, except that I don't think Wells-Shirov made move 15.

I suppose the answer is that super-GMs know less than we think. When Anand got stuffed by Kasim in San Luis Sakaev wrote on chesspro that he couldn't believe Anand hadn't seen his, Sakaev's notes in Russian to Dolmatov-Sakaev, Somewhere in Russia, 2001, in which Sakaev had proposed the novelty Kasim played. I could believe it, especially having read Kasim's notes in NiC where he recounts how it took him two days to find it.

Thx for the reply, now Shirov's play makes (some) sense.

about Wells-Shirov, 2006.01.24 Gibraltar Masters,
Round6 ECO-A45..thx for pointing it, I looked at the chessbase.com and yes that was quick indeed, no rook endgames.

1.d4 Nf6 2.Bg5 c5 3.Bxf6 gxf6 4.d5 Qb6 5.Qc1 f5
6.c4 Bh6 7.e3 f4 8.exf4 Bxf4 9.Qxf4 Qxb2 10.Ne2 Qxa1 11.Nec3 Qb2 12.d6 Qc2 13.Qe3 1-0

Aronian-Morozevich is awesome, 25.Bxf7+ turned the table.

One of my favorite and under-appreciated Endgame books is "A Guide to Chess Endings" by Hooper and Euwe.

It's an inexpensive book (used ~$4 on amazon for paperback) that is loaded with clear examples and some great memory triggers for remembering endgame axioms and principles.

Spend the $4. It's worth it.


When it comes to no-nonsense tactics training, I prefer Blokh. I also really love Dvoretsky's manual on strategic play.

Shirov is famous for playing positions he knows zero about. Unless we are talking about the Botvinnik variation and then we have a different story all together

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