Once upon a time there were very few endgame books in English. The legendary Fred Reinfeld, once again showing that he was ahead of his time, published a nifty little hardcover tome titled PRACTICAL END-GAME PLAY in 1940 (176 pages), but nobody seemed to notice. Along came Reuben Fine, who (in 1941) put together THE classic everything-in-one-endgame-book with his BASIC CHESS ENDINGS. This masterpiece dominated the endgame landscape for decades, and it was only in 1974 that the mind-bending PAWN ENDINGS by Averbakh and Maizelis was translated into English (from Russian), shaking the foundation of Fines endgame hegemony.
More books appeared in this Russian to English series (Queen Endings, Minor Piece Endings, etc.), and these quickly became the in books among very strong players. With Fines vulnerability suddenly out in the open for all to see, other writers slowly tried to carve their piece out of the endgame pie. Irving Chernev realized that readers might enjoy a bit more human interest in their endgame-read, and so he whipped out CAPABLANCAS BEST CHESS ENDINGS in 1978, which has since become a classic (This is one of those books that really does deserve to be in every players library). Yugoslavias Informator leapt into the English/American market with their no-language THE BEST ENDINGS OF CAPABLANCA AND FISCHER.
After that, the trickle of new endgame books became a solid flow, which picked up even more steam and transformed into mini-geyser (Shereshevskys ENDGAME STRATEGY was the best of this crop, the English translation appearing to much fanfare in 1985), which grew again into a small flood. Finally, in the last few years, all hell has broken loose and a virtual avalanche of endgame books has seemingly saturated the market. This avalanche featured such books as VASILY SMYSLOV: ENDGAME VIRTUOSO (by Smyslov, appearing in English in 1997), Korchnois PRACTICAL ROOK ENDINGS in 1999 (very advanced and superb), John Emms dashed off THE SURVIVAL GUIDE TO ROOK ENDINGS to universal adoration, FUNDAMENTAL CHESS ENDINGS by Muller & Lamprecht (2001) which was christened the new and improved BASIC CHESS ENDINGS, and DVORETSKYS ENDGAME MANUAL, which fell from the heavens in 2003 (which many insisted was the end all and be all of endgame books).
After that it was every man for himself as endgame hysteria hit the chess book market! Everyman, as part of their excellent STARTING OUT series, published a multi-volume endgame course where each book covered a different endgame umbrella. There followed CHESS ENDGAME TRAINING (Rosen), CHESS ENDINGS MADE SIMPLE (Snape), SECRETS OF CHESS ENDGAME STRATEGY (Lars Bo Hansen), 101 CHESS ENDGAME TIPS (Giddins), VAN PERLOSS ENDGAME TACTICS, and many, many more.
Some years ago I had decided to write an endgame book, but when I saw the endgame locusts lining the bookstores I almost decided against it. However, some serious thought convinced me that endgame books were divided into categories:
1) Encyclopedic (BASIC CHESS ENDINGS, FUNDAMENTAL CHESS ENDINGS, and even DVORETSKYS ENDGAME MANUAL were part of this group).
2) Entertaining (VAN PERLOS ENDGAME TACTICS covers this genre).
3) Scientific (FINAL COUNTDOWN).
4) Instructive (ENDGAME STRATEGY, SILMANS COMPLETE ENDGAME COURSE, the STARTING OUT series, etc.).
5) Hero Worship (VASILY SMYSLOV: ENDGAME VIRTUOSO, CAPABLANCAS BEST CHESS ENDINGS, and ENDGAME VIRTUOSO ANATOLY KAPPOV).
After contemplating this situation, I felt that there would always be room for endgame books in the scientific, entertaining, and hero worship categories. It seemed to me that, for the moment, the three mighty tomes listed above have given us all we need in the encyclopedic category. And, there were just too many books for anyones good in the instruction category!
This posed another question: Why were these instructive endgame books selling if so many had been written? The answer seemed clear: none of them gave the student the guidance he needed and wanted, and none of them made the chess hopeful feel that there would be light at the end of the tunnel. So another book was written, another book was bought, nobody learned much, and the cycle repeated endlessly. This explains my decision to write SILMANS COMPLETE ENDGAME COURSE: FROM BEGINNER TO MASTER (I would like to say it has closed the lid on the instructive category, but thats just a pipedream. Many more will be tossed out in the years to come!).
And so, we finally come to the real topic of this review: ENDGAME VIRTUOSO ANATOLY KARPOV: THE EXCEPTIONAL ENDGAME SKILLS OF THE 12TH WORLD CHAMPION by the amazing Tibor Karolyi (How is it possible for this well known chess trainer to write so many excellent books so quickly?). This hero worship endgame book wisely stands in the evergreen category. People will always have heroes, and they will always want to see proof of their heroes specific skills.
I realize that Mr. Karolyi will argue that this is also an instructive book, and in a sense hes right. You can only get better by looking over Karpovs handling of seemingly quiet positions, and a Master will find his endgame basics greatly expanded if he carefully goes through a book like this. Lower rated players, though, will enjoy the bright light given off by their hero, and they will even subconsciously pick up concepts and patterns that will lead to a strengthening of their endgame skills. But overall, the thick reams of analysis will prove too daunting to non-masters. This is not to say that the non-master shouldnt buy it! The book does offer Karpov fans more bang for their worship, many lessons will be learned, and you dont have to go over every bit of analysis to enjoy Karpovs endgame acumen.
Karolyi showed good sense with his design. He places the examples in four chapters: The Early Years, Rise to the Top, World Champion, and Later Years. This allows the reader to see Karpovs ever-deepening skills, and to get more and more involved with the whole process on an emotional level. To make this reaction come to pass, Karolyi gives biographical material at key junctures and adds lots of interesting prose to the notes.
All this is great stuff, but the author goes beyond the call of duty when he analyzes each and every game with unparalleled depth. As I said before, this can be quite daunting to the chess amateur, but its of great interest to titled players who want to improve their endgame skills by going through analysis of this quality. Thus, ENDGAME VIRTUOSO ANATOLY KARPOV should appeal to a fairly large audience.
A real treat to Karpov fans and those that enjoy high quality endgames, ENDGAME VIRTUOSO ANATOLY KARPOV is highly recommended to players from 1600 right up to grandmaster.