The King and Queen Save the Day

Two more books have been published, The Queen Saves the Day: A World Champion’s Favorite Studies,

and The King Saves the Day: A World Champion’s Favorite Studies,

by Elk & Ruby. Having previously written a review (https://xpertchesslessons.wordpress.com/?s=one+pawn+saves+the+day) of the previously published books, I racked my addled brain in hopes of fostering an idea of what to add to what has already been written. After writing the earlier review the 2018/1 issue of the best Chess magazine being published, New In Chess,

arrived, which contains a review by GM Matthew Sadler

of the first two books published, One Pawn Saves the Day and One Knight Saves the Day. After reading the excellent review I sent an email to the publisher, Ilan Rubin, in which I wondered if it would be possible to publish GM Sadler’s full review on this blog, or would it infringe upon copyright law. Ilan suggested I write to the NIC folks, asking permission. Rather than do so I decided to publish an excerpt from GM Sadler’s review, which is allowed under copyright law. I also mentioned Matthew’s review was so good compared to my review that it was about as much better as the difference in our ratings. I am no Grandmaster Chess player; far from it, and I am not a GM writer, although I work hard in an attempt to be the best I can be. I strongly urge anyone reading this to obtain a copy of the magazine, or at least a copy of his review in NIC. From GM Matthew Sadler’s review, Be Prepared: The eternal question remains: how do I get myself in good shape before a tournament?

“The most fundamental requirement to playing a good tournament is to spot simple tactics. Continually missing easy tricks is terribly bad for your morale. The higher level you play, the more you need to concentrate on the difficult things – drawing up a plan, keeping up the purpose and drive in your play throughout a whole game. You need to assume that your sense of danger will pick up on the simple stuff: if you can’t, you’ll waste masses of time frantically checking and rechecking everything. Solving tactical puzzles is the obvious way, but it’s hard to find the right material. Ideally you would challenge yourself with spectacular positions ( which keep you interested) at a moderate level of difficulty (you want to give yourself a morale boost before and during the tournament, not destroy yourself!)

This time, I was extremely lucky to be able to turn to One Pawn Saves the Day and One Knight Saves the Day by Sergei Tkachenko, published by the new Elk and Ruby publishing house. These small-format books each contain 100 studies in which the hero is the piece in the title. The idea is very nice; in each of the studies, a pawn or knight will deliver the coup de grace in the final position. The author is a member of the very strong Ukrainian team which has scored consistently high placings in the World Chess Composition Tournaments (winning in 1997). Solving studies as training before a tournament was a recommendation of Mark Dvoretsky’s, but one that always filled me with trepidation. Everyone knows the feeling of staring at a fiendish study for 15 minutes and not finding any idea at all. Not the feeling I want before a tournament! These books are excellent in three ways. Firstly, the chosen studies are exceptionally beautiful. I was constantly oohing and aahing with satisfaction! Secondly, the examples are a good mix of the famous and the unfamiliar. I’ve solved a fair number of studies in the past, but about 75% of the studies in each book were unfamiliar to me, which is excellent. Thirdly, the level of the studies is very rewarding. Some are harder than others, but the knowledge that a pawn (in the first book)or a knight (in the second book) will deliver the final blow is a wonderful hint that always helps you in the right direction without revealing too much. I worked through all 200 before and during the tournament and I felt that it had helped immensely. Can’t wait until the next pieces!”

Sadler “…worked through all 200 before and during the tournament.” Imagine that, solving studies while playing in a tournament. Maybe that is part of the reason Matthew is a Grandmaster…Every day I go to Mark Crowther’s This Week In Chess (http://theweekinchess.com/), spending time attempting to solve the puzzle of the day before attempting to solve only one position from one of the two new Elk & Ruby books received recently as an attempt to keep my aged brain working. Use it or lose it! I read Sadler’s book, Chess for Life,

which deservedly won the ECF Book of the Year 2016 prize., and will recommend it wholeheartedly!

I never read any review of a book before reviewing it, unless I have read it before knowing I will review the book, because I want to keep an open mind, and think for myself. After writing the above I went to Amazon where I was surprised to find one review, by Paul Maginley, a rated Expert, as shown at the USCF website, already published for the book, The King Saves the Day: A World Champion’s Favorite Studies by Sergei Tkachenko, posted May 11, 2018. (https://www.amazon.com/King-Saves-Day-Champions-Favorite/dp/5604071013/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1528563249&sr=1-1&keywords=tkachenko)

“I retired from tournament play years ago, yet I still purchase chess books. How does one explain that? Chess remains an excellent avenue for mind exercise even if one has eschewed the rigors of competitive play. And what better way to exercise the mind than to work on endgame studies? Publisher Elk and Ruby have put out six related books on endgame studies favored by the Soviet composer Sergei Tkachenko.
The books are pocket sized and nicely produced with one puzzle per page and the solution printed on the next page thereby facilitating those who would prefer not to accidentally view the answer before attempting to solve the puzzles. There is a series of six books representing a 100 puzzles per book. The compositions represent multiple composers and one ends up with a lone king, queen, bishop, knight, rook, or pawn at the end of each puzzle. The books are pocket sized and the typeset and diagrams are large enough to rule out any eyestrain. The puzzles can be quite challenging, but the solutions frequently display a high degree of beauty and pleasure. English translations of Russian chess books are often stiff and unappealing but translator Ilan Rubin presents the material clearly and concisely.
We live in a culture dominated by the cell phone and people can be seen with their faces glued to their mobile devices whenever they find themselves in a situation involving any kind of waiting. What better way to overcome such dead time than to pull out one of these books and work out a beautiful endgame composition? The books are affordably priced at $11.99 each. I don’t know how many will ultimately be printed, but it would make sense to jump on these while they last.
If poetry represents the ultimate beauty of literature then I can argue that endgame studies represent the ultimate beauty of chess. If I were to find myself exiled on a small island and allowed only a handful of chess books, most of them would likely be books on endgame studies. These wonderfully diminutive volumes would be worthwhile selections for any kind of trip. I look forward to seeing more from this small publisher.”

I cannot add anything to that wonderful review, other than to say “Ditto!” This series of books will bring pleasure and enjoyment while sharpening your tactical awareness.

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