Saturday, 1 October 2011

Sergey Ivashchenko’s Chess School 1b

For my next experiment, I used Sergey Ivashchenko’s Chess School 1b, so I will give it a brief review.  This book turned out to be excellent for my purposes.  Ivashchenko wrote the first three books of the Chess School series:

Over 200,000 copies of the previous edition of this book were sold in the Soviet Union in the late 1980's.

Chess School 1a and 1b form the basis of the misleadingly titled Chess Tactics for Beginners training software; and Chess School 2 forms the basis of the Chess Tactics for Intermediate Players.

Chess School 1b book provides 580 problems at a good price.  I found the problems to be both interesting and instructive, with the level of difficulty in a reasonably tight range.  The solutions are not many moves deep, but I often found them difficult to see.  My statistics show that I was significantly slower at solving these problems than those in Susan Polgar’s Chess Tactics for Champions.  I recognised some of the problems from other books, but most of them were new to me.  The diagrams are large and clearly printed, but the font is a little non-standard.  I soon got used to the diagrams - but standard diagrams would have been better.  The book wastes no space on words.  The only words are titles and headings in four languages.  The book is very well bound with a hard (or fairly hard) cover.  It is much more durable than a Western paperback.

The book is split into two roughly equal sized sections: Stage 4 and Stage 5.  The problems in Stage 4 are further divided according to the type of problem, e.g. “Win a queen,” “Win a bishop” or “Draw.”  I found these clues to be less helpful than the traditional ones (which is good).  The title of section of Stage 4 is “How to proceed?,” which gives no clue at all (which is better).  There are no checkmates in Stage 4.  (More accurately, any checkmate in Stage 4 can be avoided at the cost of material, with the exception of an unintended mate in 2, see below.)  The problems in Stage 5 are all “How to proceed?,” and are mostly checkmates.  Both Stage 4 and Stage 5 conclude with endgame problems.  The endgame problems in Stage 4 are either simple tactics or tests of basic endgame knowledge; but the endgame problems in Stage 5 are more difficult, and I found some of the solutions hard to follow (the lack of words was a disadvantage here). The problems under each heading in both Stages appear to be in random order of difficulty.  My statistics show that I was significantly slower at solving the problems in Stage 5 than those in Stage 4.

There are some mistakes in the book.  Two of the problems at the end of a page should be under the heading of the next page:  929 “Gain a knight” should be “Draw”, and 959 “Draw” should be “How to proceed.”  The solution to 838 “Gain a rook” works, but 1.Bc6+ mates in 2.  The solution to 1240 is given as 1.Bf4 Qh5 2.Qc4+-, but 2... g5! stops the mate, see:

This link gives the better solution 1.Bxe7+ Rxe7 (Kg7 2.Bf8++ Kh8 3.Qg7#) 2.Rd8 Ne8 (Re8 3.Qf7#; Kg7 Qxe7+ +-) 3.Rxe8+ Kxe8 (Rxe8 4.Qf7#) 4.Qc8#.  None of these mistakes detract from the usefulness of the book, however.

Overall, this is an excellent book.  My only real criticism of this book (and by extension the other books in the series) is that there are not enough problems at each Stage to take you from one Stage to the next.

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