Sunday, November 14, 2010

The sheer fun of attacking chess

Jacob Aagaard's latest book is a blood-stirring celebration of the all-out assault
  • The Guardian
  • Berczes-Widmer, Biel 2005. White has just taken a bishop on f5. Should Black retake with the queen or the pawn? RB How many books has Jacob Aagaard written? I have five on my shelves – his Excelling at . . . series, plus a ChessBase DVD on the Nimzo-Indian, and I know of at least another five, all published in the last 10 years. In addition, the Danish-born, Glasgow-based grandmaster co-founded, in 2004, the Quality Chess press. Where does this man find time to play? Aagaard is not one of the super elite – his current rating is 2534 – and this, I think, helps him connect with ordinary club players and enthusiasts. He feels our pain. The misremembered opening move order, the positional debacle, the squandered advantage, the bungled attack – he approaches our weaknesses sympathetically, ever the understanding and encouraging teacher. He has an engaging curiosity, writes clearly and with dry humour, and he communicates well the adventure of chess. His latest book is Attacking Manual 2 (from his own Quality Chess), and it's my second nomination for book of the year. I really like this book, partly, of course, because attacking chess is all about fun. We admire strategic masterpieces but what really gets our blood going is all-out assault, and Aagaard provides hundreds of examples of these. The book is divided into attacking themes: deflection, overloading, vacating squares, outposts, the pin, pawn storms and so on. There is also an excellent chapter on king safety. The emphasis throughout is on pattern recognition. While every attack will have unique features, there are recurring motifs. Familiarising yourself with these will help you to prosecute your attack successfully, and might also help you avoid the kind of blunder that must have badly embarrassed Simon Widmer. He had to capture with the pawn but instead played 1...Qxf5. After 2 Nh3! Qh5 3 Ng5 Black resigned because 3...Qxh6 allows smothered mate with 4 Nxf7.

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