CHESS training in 5333 + 1 positions. By [Laszlo] Polgar. 1104 pages. Koln: Konemann Verlagsgesellschaft mbH, 1994. ISBN 3-89508-094-2 (hbk). Reissued by Black Dog & Leventhal Publishers as 'Chess : 5334 Problems, Combinations, and Games', with a new Introduction by Bruce Pandolfini. ISBN: 1884822312 (hbk).
Laszlo Polgar (1946- ), Hungarian Olympic champion, master coach, and father and trainer of the famous Polgar sisters, has here given us a training book to beat them all, one intended for beginners and amateurs from the basic level to master candidate (2,200 Elo). Since it includes the basic rules of chess and explains, with the help of large diagrams, how each piece moves, and since the foreword and all explanatory matter have been given in no less than ten languages - English, German, French, Spanish, Italian, Dutch, Swedish, Hungarian, Russian, and Japanese - it will appeal to chess lovers of almost any age, level, or nationality.
Basically the book consists of over 5000 problems, many taken from over-the-board play, and most of which can be solved within a few minutes - though if you're anything like me some will probably take you much longer! Polgar explains that there are "very few books containing chess problems, games and endgames which are not only easy to solve but elegant and instructive as well. And there are even fewer that offer a sufficient number for regular and intensive training over a relatively long period." His aim is to help us develop our tactics and powers of pattern recognition, and his book, which is great fun to work through and involves practically no reading at all, certainly does seem to improve one's ability to see the possibilities a position may hold.
After a brief Foreword, and a 'Key to symbols' which explains, simply and concisely and in a way that even a small child could understand, the basics of the game, how the pieces move, capture, and mate, and the algebraic notation used throughout the book, the diagrammed positions follow - Mate in one (1-306); Mate in two (307-3718); Mate in three (3719-4462); 600 miniature games (4463-5062); Simple endgames (5063-5206); Polgar sisters tournament-game combinations (5207-5333+1). The book concludes with the Solutions (which give the first move of the Mate in two problems, and complete solutions of all other problems), a Biography of Polgar, and a Bibliography.
The original edition of Polgar's huge book is without doubt one of the most useful and certainly the most impressive and sumptuously produced chess book I have ever seen. The book is of full quarto size (9 inches wide x 12 tall); beautifully printed on high-quality paper with each page holding just six (or later four) large and wonderfully clear diagrams; its spine stitched for durability; bound in thick boards with full cloth; and with gilt-embossed spine and front cover. In contrast to so many of the 'books' that are being inflicted on us today - trashy (though far from inexpensive) products on cheap and nasty paper with glued spines that will not open flat and which seem designed to self-destruct after a few hours handling - Polgar's is a magnificent piece of book production that will hold up for a lifetime, a rare treasure that belongs in the collection of all chess enthusiasts.
So if anyone out there has a bright kid they would like to be the next Bobby Fischer - or if you yourself would like to be the next Bobby Fischer! - don't pass this one up. It's a chess library in itself, and we don't often discover something that is not only so useful and beautiful, but is also an incredible bargain to boot. Keep it open on the coffee-table. Study a few pages a day. And feel your chess muscles grow!