USCF Home Chess Life Online 2007 October Treasure Chess Review
|Treasure Chess Review|
|By WIM Alexey Root|
|October 30, 2007|
Five weeks ago I daydreamed about the next chess book that I might write. That book should include challenging bits and pieces of chess such as the knight’s tour, the eight-queens problem, anecdotes about chess people and chess history, and chess-themed fiction and quotes. Such a reference would provide me and other chess teachers with lots to share with our students. It would also appeal to chess aficionados of any age.
Daunted by the research that it would take to compile such a reference, I instead thought of some possible titles: Chess: Facts and Fiction or Fun Chess Facts or Unusual Chess. Then I checked Amazon.com to see if my potential book had already been written. When I spotted Treasure Chess: Trivia, Quotes, Puzzles, and Lore from the World’s Oldest Game , my search was over. Not only was Treasure Chess an awesome title, but the subtitle promised everything that I had hoped to cover.
The book lived up to my expectations, saving me the effort of writing such a tome. Here is one Sam Loyd problem that I will give to my chess students, from page 143 of Treasure Chess
The reader or student should figure out where to place the black king so that:
1. it is stalemated
2. it would already be mated
3. it could be mated in one move.
Since many of my middle school students are struggling with how to checkmate rather than stalemate when a queen ahead, this problem is perfect for them.
As an expert-rated player, I didn’t expect to find much in Treasure Chess that would help my tournament play. Surprisingly, many pages were applicable to my chess, including this gem from page 41, “If you have White, think before you play your first move.” I often go into a deep think on move one. And I have felt silly because the players around me are already on moves three or four before I play my first move. But Pandolfini wrote that it’s okay to take a couple of minutes to imagine the entire course of white’s opening development. Having read his tip, I may feel less self-conscious at my next tournament.
Though I recommend Treasure Chess, I have two criticisms and one warning about it. First, Pandolfini doesn’t include references. I think the book would have been much stronger with a “Sources and Notes” chapter, such as Shenk had in The Immortal Game. Second, Pandolfini repeats himself. For example, he gives the same quote from Gustave Flaubert (Chess is “too trivial to be a science”) on page 226 and 272. My warning is about Pandolfini’s sarcastic humor. I enjoyed it, but others might be put off as in this instance from page 20, “You might very well master the process of analyzing a chess position. If you don’t, there is always checkers.”
WIM Alexey Root is the author of Children and Chess: A Guide for Educators.