Friday, April 20, 2007

The Path to Tactical Strength
Rustam Kasimdzhanov

If you are like me, you already have several books on the middlegame. And, if you are really like me, then you have only gone partway and left a bookmark where you were last. That was sometime ago! Don't all chess addicts have an extensive collection of chessbooks and chess pieces? Well, it looks like I am also building a similar cache of chess DVDs in my study and Kasimdzhanov's work on the middlegame is the latest addition. Unlike chessbooks, chess DVDs are easier to finish. What is it all about?

The most important thing I can tell you is that this is not about the middlegame. If you are expecting lessons on open files and diagonals, backward pawns and weak squares, flank attacks and the 7th rank, you will be disappointed. As I went through episode after episode, a famous book came into mind. The book is Kotov's Think Like a Grandmaster. In essence, these two works are the same although Kotov dealt extensively with planning while Kasimdzhanov does not. This is not to say that Kasimdzhanov is at fault. It might have been Chessbase's decision to categorize this work as " middlegame. " For all we know, Kasimdzhanov had no other intention but to elucidate the thought processes in assessing a position. This work is about analysis, and not the middlegame per se.

Kasimdzhanov draws from his collection of games to exemplify what I call the birth of tactics. Tactics is the straw that stirs this drink. Once, there were no tactics, then there was! How did that happen? Well, that's what Kasimdzhanov does very well. He explores a certain line of analysis, shows you the sub-variations, picks up an attacking theme and employs it for a winning combination. Kasimdzhanov shows us that not all lines lay a golden egg, but almost all lines bear fruit. It's just a matter of recognizing and building on the nuances of a position by means of logical deduction. Is this ground-breaking work? No. However, you do learn that organizing your analysis is essential to finding your way through the maze of possibilities. Kasindzhanov's examples go from the relatively simple to the complex.

You might wonder about the clarity of speech especially if you have not heard the author speak. I wondered, too. You will appreciate Kasimdzhanov's clear delivery coupled with a coldly logical demeanor that is more akin to a mathematics professor than a grandmaster. His voice does break at times which I, frankly, found comical.
Forgive me but I cannot resist making a personal comment about Kasimdzhanov's sartorial taste. Could someone in his circle please tell the good grandmaster not to wear a printed jacket with a printed tie on a printed shirt! Amen.


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