Author: Yasser Seirawan
Grandmaster and expert chess writer Yasser Seirawan provides analysis of twelve of his favorite professional chess showdowns. Whereas his books normally focus on a particular aspect of the game - Tactics, Strategy, Openings, etc. - Brilliancies encompasses all, providing the full-game context his other volumes generally lack. Chess folklore runs deep and the author provides insights into several of the top players of the late 20th century. Included are the four most famous champions of the era: Fischer, Spassky, Karpov and Kasparov. There are plenty of other names new to me as well.
The book begs a question: is chess a sport? Seirawan refers to it as such several times but I'm not entirely convinced. And if chess is a sport, are all tabletop games? ESPN airs poker tournaments, after all. Where is the line between the two if there is one?
The International Olympic Committee (IOC) seems as authentic an authority on the distinction as any. The IOC recognizes both chess and bridge as "mind sports." Chess has been featured at the Asian Games twice this century. Chess was on the short list of new sports considered for the 2020 Olympics and is applying again for 2024. Interestingly, it is not rejected outright as the motor sports are, though the international auto racing and motorcycle racing associations are also both recognized by the IOC. Perhaps if the games are ever included in the Olympic lineup, I will feel differently but for now, I don't consider chess a sport.
More important to my reading habits and blogging purposes, GoodReads doesn't list chess books as sports books. Though, interestingly, I first learned the names Karpov and Kasparov from a Sports Illustrated article in the mid-'80s chronicling their first world championship match, an encounter also documented in Winning Chess Brilliancies. I can't deny that the sports fan in me enjoys a presentation of the game such as the one Seirawan offers here. We see contrasting styles between the classical and modern approaches. We have glimpses into the psychological battle within a tense match as well as the intense preparation grandmasters do ahead of time. Seirawan includes two of his own games which is a little vain but it does afford more personal insights.
I will not pretend I followed every alternate thread Seirawan suggested in his analyses. It's definitely the sort of book with which it's easy to get lost in the details. I'm not sure I learned anything new from the book. However, it is a worthy supplement to Seirawan's other Winning Chess volumes as he clearly documents how the players follow general principles, along with when they violate them and why. As with the others, I will keep Winning Chess Brilliancies around for reference as I seek to develop my own chess game.