Tolle Lege

I’ve still got many pages to read in Secrets of Rook Endings and it was in my backpack. Nonetheless, on the way to the airport, I stopped into the bookstore hoping for some more entertaining chess reading to enjoy in small doses in the cattle pen of modern jet airliner economy class.

I found what I was looking for in the form of My Best Games of Chess 1905-1954 by Savielly Tartakower, recently (November, 2014) reissued in a “21st Century Edition”. Aside from an introduction by Andy Soltis and an editor’s preface by Taylor Kingston, the enhancements to the out-of-print classic are described as follows:

— Combining and collating both volumes and indices into a coherent whole
— Conversion to figurine algebraic notation from English descriptive
— Modern opening nomenclature and ECO codes
— Additional diagrams
— American spelling and punctuation
— Explanations for Tartakower’s Latin sayings
— Correction of typographical errors in notation and text
— Modern annotation symbols

Additionally, there is a downloadable PDF of analytical notes prepared in computer-assisted fashion correcting Tartakower’s analysis. Tarakower spent 40 years in the world top 20 and opined that “a chess game is usually a fairy tale of 1001 mistakes”. The analytical notes are themselves supplemented by the editor’s interesting and revealing observations about Tartakower’s life, career, writings, and annotation style, the latter essentially consisting of constant frantic authorship in order to cover the gambling debts that devoured his livelihood.

This is certainly the book of the year for chessplayers who base their style on comprehensive familiarity with the panorama of chess development over the centuries. It is eminently readable, having been penned by the premier epigrammatist of the game. It is still useful: the games in Bird’s Opening (A03) and the grandmaster’s eponymous variation of the Queen’s Gambit Declined  (D58-D59) are alone worth the purchase for the student who cannot be satisfied with playing modern move orders without understanding at a combinatorial level the why of it all.

This masterpiece by Tartakower, who was, if not the heartbeat, certainly one of the arteries of hypermodern chess (he himself coined the term), is historically indispensable and highly recommended by this satisfied reader.

Jacques Delaguerre