Thursday, 25 June 2015

My Great Predecessors by Garry Kasparov

I read this book as a HISTORY book. I read it without touching a chessboard even once (neither a real chessboard nor a computer one).

Gary Kasparov is considered as one of the best chess players ever. Some people claim that most of the book was probably written not by him, but by a chess journalist Dmitry Plisetsky. I have no problem with that because a chess player (any chess player) would not be able to write all those history parts as well as a chess journalist. Moreover I think that Kasparov must have approved and checked everything Plisetsky had written. If these claims are true at all.

My rating: 9/10

What’s good:
1. Historical data is interesting and fun, without being too detailed.
Not too much, but not too little either.
2. The descriptions of world championship matches are quite detailed, focusing on crucial, mostly decisive games. Draws are described from time to time, but usually because one side wasted a chance to win.
3. The book starts with brief descriptions of unofficial world chess champions from XVII, XVIII and XIX century. They were all ahead of their time.
4. The book describes in detail the first 4 official world chess champions: Wilhelm Steinitz (1886-1894), Emanuel Lasker (1894-1921), Jose Raul Capablanca (1921-1927) and Alexander Alekhine (1927-1935, 1937-1946).
5. By the way the book describes also other great players who were very close behind the champions, among others Akiba Rubinstein whose planned match against Lasker never materialised.
6. It’s fun to read about old times that were so different from our modern world. All those players seem like legends to me.
7. The chronology of events is not convoluted.
The book describes every world champion (official and unofficial) separately, but most of them had held the chess crown for so long that
the chronology of events is quite clear. I’ve read also the second book in this series and it was much worse in this regard (both because Botvinnik lost and regained his title a couple of times AND because the narration was less clear overall). I want to re-read only the first one (the one I am reviewing), because it’s a more enjoyable book from the history point of view. After the World War II chess became too much connected with politics.
8. The book uses algebraic (modern) notation, even though in those older times a much more convoluted notation was used.

What’s bad:
1. It’s not a pure history book because it is full of annotated games. It’s not really that bad because there are many diagrams of crucial positions and you can see what great (or terrible) moves were played by chess champions.
2. The history parts are focused on chess champions as players, not as people. There are some biographical non-chess information, but not too much.
3. Some people claim that there are some historical inaccuracies, but I’ve read also an opinion that those are very minor inaccuracies.

This book made me interested in chess history even more. I must admit that I was amazed especially by the person of Emanuel Lasker – a great player with strong personality and all-around interests, especially in mathematics (he had a doctorate in this field), game psychology, philosophy and card games (especially bridge). He wrote many books and articles on these topics. He was also a good friend of Albert Einstein.

(Saturday, 5 October 2013)

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