Deadly Women (with Matt Fullerty)


Wednesday, October 07, 2009

Chess Book of the Year: Part 2

Ronan Bennett & Daniel King
Tuesday October 6 2009
The Guardian


Smyslov-Botvinnik, 5th game World championship 1958. Black's king is in check. Should it move up to c5 or back to c7?

DK Two books on world championship matches made it on to our shortlist for book of the year. Kasparov vs Karpov 1986-1987 (Everyman Chess, GBP 30) written by Garry Kasparov, is an automatic choice. This is the latest volume in the former world champion's monumental series, and this time he dissects the matches in London/Leningrad 1986 and Seville 1987.

Kasparov's detailed analysis of the games is admirable but I skimmed them and just read the story ? it's gripping. Gorbachev had just come to power and was implementing his policies of glasnost and perestroika in the face of conservative opposition. In that context the result of these matches had enormous significance: Kasparov was the outspoken outsider, Karpov the loyal communist. Which image would the Soviet Union be projecting to the world? Kasparov alleges - and backs up with strong evidence - that there were spies in his camp passing information to Karpov, backed by the KGB. Some of the episodes could have come straight from the pages of a le Carré novel.

Botvinnik-Smyslov, Three World Chess Championship Matches: 1954, 1957, 1958 (New In Chess, GBP 28.95) is another reminder of a great chess rivalry. The annotations are mainly by Botvinnik and are characterised by his typical "objectivity" (read harshness). These notes were, of course, written in the pre-computer era, which means fewer variations than many contemporary books. That's a relief. I'd rather have a few well-chosen words than blocks of indigestible moves.

In the position above, Botvinnik was short of time and played the reflex 1? Kc5, following the general rule that kings should be as active as possible in the endgame. But Smyslov replied with 2 Kd3, and checkmate with b4 was unavoidable. Black should have tried 1?Kc7, and he still had chances to save the game.

-- Copyright (c) Guardian News and Media Limited. 2009

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