Click to follow
The Independent Online
After churning our far too many pot-boilers in recent years, B.T. Batsford, the publishers with the world's largest chess list, are showing encouraging signs of aiming for quality as well as quantity. This month's new titles include two outstanding works.

Planning, by Neil McDonald (£7.99), offers advice on constructing and carrying out plans in all phases of the game. Unlike most books with similar ambitions, it is written with a deep understanding not only of chess but, more importantly, of the way an ordinary club player's mind works. As a result, the advice it offers is patient, logically explained and genuinely helpful. Anyone of below master strength will profit from reading this book, which is one of the best strategic primers to have appeared in recent years.

If you just want to enjoy your chess rather than improve your results, then I can recommend Secrets of Spectacular Chess, by Jonathan Levitt and David Friedgood (£14.99), a collection of paradoxical problems, game positions and even a few complete games, designed to appeal to the aesthetic sensibilities of a player rather than specialist problemist.

After some pretentious remarks on the cultural, educational and practical value of the material, and some deeper thoughts on the nature of chess aesthetics, they launch into a set of positions, each, in its own way, exemplifying an idea that is difficult to believe at first sight. Take, for example, the diagram position, a mate-in-five problem by Stefan Schneider.

Black (moving down the board as always) can move only his pawns without allowing immediate mate, but how can White create a threat without losing his strong grip on the position?

, , , ,

,A,G, ,

hn , n ,

, , , ,

n , Vh,

, , X ,

,hnhv b

, xdzgc

1.Rh7 would be fine, meeting Rxh7 with Ng2 mate, if only Rxh7 were not check. That helps to explain the opening move, 1.Ka8!! making real the threat of Rh7. Black replies 1...Ra8+, and now comes the beautiful point: 2.Qe8!! when 2...Rxe8+ 3.Ka7! (not 3.Kb7? Rb8+! 4.Kxb8 Bh2! pinning the knight - that variation, incidentally, is why the king could not go to c8 on move one) Ra8+ 4.Kxa8 and nothing can stop Ng2 mate. Finally, 2...Rh2 is met by 3.Re7! when 4.Rxe2+ and 5.Qxe2 mate can only be stopped by allowing a quicker mate.

William Hartston