In 1971, the game of chess was getting attention. I’d already fallen in love with the game many years beforehand, triggered initially by my father’s love of the game, furthered by my admiration of my uncle’s magnificently hand-carved set, and cinched by a gift of my own board with large red and white plastic pieces and diagrams on the edge of the board indicating the legal moves of each piece. The game, then and now, was both intellectually intriguing, with its endless complications and discoveries, and those elegantly beautiful pieces of Staunton design. As the summer of 1971 approached, the name, Bobby Fischer, had gained traction in the media (newspapers and television–there was no internet at the time), as the young master that had dominated the United States chess scene for a decade rose to world class, poised to challenge the unbeatable Soviet chess machine.
By then, I was reading games in the newspapers, deducing the meaning of the cryptic lists of chess moves shown in descriptive notation (1. P-K4 P-QB4, 2. N-KB3 etc.), and enjoying the magic of the stunning power of reason and concentration demonstrated in the finite squares and relentlessly changing positions of the game.
With a showdown brewing between America’s genius and the Soviet’s institutional selection, dedication and training, the timing was perfect for the republication of a book that unlocked for novice players the thoughts and strategies of master players. I had some books already, and there were a number of choices out there. But the one that really slammed it all home for me was given to me by my parents at that time–Logical Chess, Move by Move by Irving Chernev, originally published in 1957, and republished in 1971 with a new cover. From the first game in the book to the last my mind opened to possibilities and ways of thinking that were, in some cases, brilliantly new, and in other cases, a deeper affirmation of strategies and tactics that I’d stumbled upon already or at least considered. There is nothing like that combination of sparkling new ideas and confirmation that many of your intuitions to date have not been entirely in vain.
What a great feeling. Thank you Mom and Dad. And thank you Mr. Chernev.
Irving Chernev (1900 – 1981) was a formidable, national-master-level chess player and prolific chess author. He wrote 20 chess books, among them, his two most popular were An Invitation to Chess (with Kenneth Harkness) and Logical Chess, Move by Move. I’ve read both. Logical Chess, Move by Move takes 33 classic games from 1889 to 1952, played by masters including Capablanca, Alekhine and Tarrasch and explains them in an instructive manner. It was republished in 1998 in the now popular algebraic notation. Chernev was a dedicated teacher and writer of chess and a list of his top quotes can be found HERE, among other places. Of Chernev’s works, I recall reading at least the following, all worth the time to read and study if you are interested in chess strategy and tactics:
- An Invitation to Chess (with Kenneth Harkness); Simon & Schuster 1945
- Winning Chess Traps; Chess Review 1946
- Winning Chess (with Fred Reinfeld); Simon & Schuster 1948
- The Fireside Book of Chess (with Fred Reinfeld); Simon & Schuster 1949
- 1000 Best Short Games of Chess; Simon & Schuster 1955
- Logical Chess: Move by Move; Simon & Schuster 1957
- The Most Instructive Games of Chess Ever Played; Simon & Schuster 1965
- Capablanca’s Best Chess Endings; Oxford 1978
There are many books available now, and even more sources online, for learning chess, including many works that follow the style of Logical Chess, Move by Move. I can’t possibly compare them all or advise which is best, if any. Such is the curse of the modern information age. But I am confident that epiphanies await us all. This is a tip of the hat to one of the epiphanies in my life. I still treasure it. As will you yours in whatever fields or endeavors capture your imagination. Nurture that spark.