Sacrifice and Initiative in Chess: Seize the Moment to Get the Advantage (Anglais) Broché – 7 octobre 2013
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A good theme, instructively developed (..) Contains quite a few rules of thumb. --Hans Bohm, De Telegraaf
Sokolov does an extremely remarkable job (..) His explanations are always convincing and instructive. --Klaus Kreuzer, Rochade Europa Magazine
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More typical positions with plans' ideas would have been a "plus"
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* In Karpov-Kasparov, Linares 1993 we see Garry offer a sacrifice on almost every move, but Tolya must keep refusing the offers. Soon Karpov has retreated all his pieces to the first rank, while Garry's army is well-coordinated for an irresistible onslaught.
* Tal ignores Lutikov's hanging queen (Tal-Lutikov, Tallinn 1964) in order to make a quiet rook move that targets black's king in the center. Lutikov gives up his queen in order to reach an exchange-up endgame, but Tal eschews draw by perpetual and keeps finding amazing resources to keep black's rooks tied down to defense. Lutikov tries to give up material to reach a defensible position, but Tal's piece activity and coordination garner the full point.
* In Anand's "Immortal Game" (Aronian-Anand, Wijk Aan Zee 2013) the world champ offers a bishop and ignores his hanging f8-rook in order to pry open the a7-g1 diagonal. Controlling the long diagonal from b7 and the important f2 and h2 squares with his wonderful g4-knight, Anand organizes a mating attack that Aronian cannot resist, in spite of his extra rook. Sokolov declares it "perhaps the best game on the theme of 'ignoring the threat and imposing your own (higher-degree) threat' I have ever seen!", and I have to concur.
* In Byrne-Fischer (Sousse Interzonal 1967) Bobby leaves his king uncastled in a Najdorf Sicilian and launches his h-pawn toward white's kingside. It undermines white's g3-knight, driving it eventually to the irrelevant g7 square. "Fischer's 13....h5! so uncoordinated the white pieces that a seemingly balanced position was turned into a lost one with one 'small' move," as Sokolov notes.
The material is nicely organized into 16 chapters on various aspects of dynamic play, such as pawn breaks, decoy sacrifices, and sacrifices for development. Sokolov averages about 2.5 pages of annotation per game, with a focus on middlegame play. He is very generous with diagrams, averaging over 7 per game. Best of all, Sokolov writes with wonderful clarity and insight; I experienced "that's interesting" and "how about that?" moments every game.
Sokolov seems to be writing for a target audience of stronger club players, as he not infrequently assumes the reader will see a tactic that is not so simple. For example, in Sokolov-Gheorgiu 1990 he states that white's play has been leading up to 24. Re6, and then moves on with the game. This puzzled me for a moment, because at first glance 24. Re6 just drops the exchange to 24....Bxe6. I had to figure out that the rook is poisoned because black will lose a piece if he touches it: 24....Bxe6 25. dxe6 Rff8 26. e7 Qxe7 27. Bxa8 Rxa8 and now the queen fork 28. Qd5+! garners the a8-rook, and with it the game. If the author had been careful to explain such tactics, I would be able to recommend the book down to an ELO of about 1400; with some work (which is not a bad thing!) a 1600 could figure out enough of the tactics to learn a lot of chess from this anthology.
This is easily the best anthology I have read on dynamic play, and I heartily recommend it to chess players rated 1600-2200.
The publisher provided a review copy of this book to me in exchange for my honest review. My ratings of the publisher's books have ranged from 3 stars to 5 stars.
Sokolov is candid enough to confess that this is just what he did.
As he mentions Spielmann and Vukovic as model for his enterprise, this is the point at which comparison becomes inevitable. His book has no theoretical background, nor a paedagogic thrust. A teacher points to features you must learn to assimilate, gives you hints and instructions on how to recognise, anticipate and handle them. The game annotations are intended to reinforce the doctrine. We might feel that too often chess is too chameleon-like to be captured in skeletal or piecemeal fashion, BUT FOR A LEARNER THERE IS NO OTHER WAY!
For example, Spielmann was way ahead of his time (or way behind?) when he stressed the intuitive aspects of sacrifice and initiative. Vukovic gives you detailed models of typical attacks and sacrifices, and adds two dozen combinational motifs for you to be alert to. This is teaching. Even a novice can learn something essential from these pages, even though they are pitched higher than novice level. In the same way, an average club player can learn an immense amount from the highly practical exposition of Averbakh in book on Tactics, although he is also addressing practised tournament players.
Sokolov, however, does not teach. He exhibits. This is excellent for students who are already fairly experienced – in this case I would say minimum Elo of about 2200. But you have to know how to teach yourself. For many chess players even in the ‘expert’ grades this book would not fill the bill, nor live up to its promise. Much as I hate to say this too, he despises the masters of the middle 20th century who, as he says, just didn’t know how to defend properly. When you play through his selected games and come up against one blunder after another, you wonder how he came by this opinion!
Final assessment is difficult. I can see many strong players welcoming this collection of games; but I can also see many of them (not to mention below-expert grades) despairing over the lack of an articulated methodology. Comparison with Vukovic or Averbakh is decidedly to his disadvantage. Even more so for those readers who wish an up-to-date text with a really well-handled explanatory scaffolding. For such readers the best recommendation is to get Marin’s two books, one each on attack and defence. This would be money better invested than for the present book.
Although Marin is still at the top of the chess author's charts (in my opinion), Sokolov has demonstrated with this book that he is not just a SuperGM (or former), but he also has that extra insight into what needs to be explained at the critical positions in a game. There were only a handful of games where I thought that he could have gone into a beneficial analytic tangent, but didn't. But overall, it clearly didn't reduce my overall assessment of the book. Once you're done with this book, you should start to anticipate in a game when a sacrifice is possible and in some sense required. It just takes good calculation and a bit of bravery. Sokolov emphasizes this quite often in the book. The other thing that I really liked about the book is the insertion of analysis diagrams in critical positions to explain good alternatives. Explaining good alternatives is one thing that I believe marks a quality book since in many positions, there are good alternatives that lead to an interesting and imbalanced game.
Imbalance is really what top flight chess is about now, since the top GMs all use computers to find previously "misunderstood" positions. Or simply positions that were poorly assessed based on superficial analysis. In many of these positions, the chess giants of the past simply wouldn't risk the complications. Now, complications are welcomed because they give the better player the best chance to win. I believe this is true at all levels. But there is one thing that cannot be overlooked, the ability to simplify into a won position (and recognize the won position). Perhaps this is really the big difference between the classes of players. GMs can recognize winning positions without much calculation.
This book is well worth the time spent, and based on my first Sokolov book, I look forward to the next (even if it's an older one).
I highly recommend reading this chess book for any non-Grandmaster player who has already grasped the classical & modern principles of chess. One of the main issues that I have discovered from playing against amateurs is that the vast majority of them are passive in their playing style. This book has 92 games played at the Grandmaster level that will demonstrate ways to seize the initiative & as the author states a few times in this book, the sacrifice is the natural culmination of the initiative, or words to that effect. The 92 games that are covered are split into two parts & 16 chapters that are themed. These games were played by World Champions, Grandmasters & by the author, himself. Some people may not like that the author has selected so many of his own games, however this is a huge plus because who would know better than the players themselves in regards to what variations & ideas were thought about during their own games? About 20% of these games I had already covered a number of times in other chess books, but that is the problem with classic/immortal games, it is hard to overlook them if you are writing a book in which they are prefect examples to illustrate your point(s). I found that in more or less the first half of this book, the author does not get too heavily involved in analysing variations & then in the second half he really gets into it, probably because the focus is on the sacrifice. The emphasis of all these games is on the middlegame, the author just annotates the first more or less 20 moves (most games) & then analyses the middlegame with explanations & variations. Any endgames are just glossed over.
I like the way that the author thinks. He reiterates throughout the book the general & key concepts to look out for such as co-ordination or unco-ordination of your own &/or your opponent's pieces, the attackers to defenders ratio, intuition, calculation, the pawns in front or your opponent's King, the change in valuation of the pieces as the character of the game changes, imposing a higher degree threat amongst others. The repetition of such concepts really drills into your memory what to look out for in your own games.
Thank you Mr Sokolov for your contribution to this niche topic in chess. As important as positional considerations are in chess, the vast majority of amateurs need to read this book so that they gain some knowledge & confidence to seize the initiative & actually play for a decisive win. Maybe, I am being a bit harsh on my fellow amateurs, but I find the vast majority of them are minimally into tactics & struggle to come up with a plan, afterall, it is a black & white jungle in the middlegame. This book can only be of assistance!!!