Tuesday, December 1, 2020

On the Coffee Table: Winning Chess Combinations

Title: Winning Chess Combinations
Author: Yasser Seirawan

via Amazon

Chess combinations are better known to those outside the chess world (self included) as sacrifices.  For example, you sacrifice your queen - the most powerful piece on the board - for a quick checkmate, winning the game.  According to Seirawan, combinations come up in every chess game, whether executed or merely pondered.  As such, learning to see them (for one's self), avoid them (in the case of one's opponents) and recognize favorable conditions for them is essential to chess mastery.  Sounds good to me.

By the author's own admission, this book targets a slightly higher skill level than the others in his Winning Chess series.  I readily acknowledge that most of it was over my head.  I grasped the general principles but merely skimmed most of his deep analysis.  Thank goodness for the final chapter which provided a succinct summary of the highlights of the previous eight.

So, now I am faced with a question: where do I go with chess from here?  There are no more chess books on my overflowing TBR shelves, nor do I have immediate plans to add any.  The truth is, as much as I admire the game, I don't play much.  I play tabletop games all the time - with my wife on weekends plus two groups of friends online during the week - but not chess.  There was an online chess tournament at school over the summer.  I play against a computer occasionally.  But it's been years since I actually sat down at a real chess board with a fellow human being.  

And yet, I truly would love to get better.  Seirawan's books are helpful but I know perfectly well as a musician that what I truly need is practice: regular, structured, rigorous practice.  I could make that happen, and really it wouldn't take much to be better than I currently am.  But there are so many other things I want to do, too.  So, what to do with chess?

For now, it's a rock solid I don't know.


  1. I used to love to play chess. When I was in Georgia, there was a man who's mind was very sharp, but he had lost ability to do most things. He loved chess and cribbage. Since I didn't play the later-I would go by every month or so for a few games of chess. It was my first serious play since high school.


    1. Oh my, I do love cribbage...

      That's a wonderful story. I could do with a friend like that these days. Tricky in the Age of COVID.

  2. My husband has been watching "The Queen's Gambit" and has since unearthed one of his million chess sets.

    1. Haven't watched it yet but, of course, I've heard good things. One thing I'm interested in: the title is a relatively passive opening choice in the game. I'm curious to know how/if that plays out in the story.

  3. My solution about chess, which I have probably indicated in the past, was that it was more time than I wanted to spend at something that I wouldn't actually get to play. It's not like music, because you can play music just for yourself and it's completely enjoyable so practice makes sense, but there comes a time with chess when you actually need the interaction of sitting with someone and playing for it be fun or enjoyable.

    I'm having the same sort of dilemma with Magic, right now. I've been playing Arena online, and it's fine, but it's not the same as actually playing with a live person, which isn't probably ever going to be part of my life again except for the occasional aberration.

    1. Except, I genuinely enjoy the mental exercise and certainly admire those who are good at it. In all honesty, I'm really not. I've gotten better but I have natural tendencies that get in my way. (I won't say what they are. That's revealing too much!)

      I'm sure it seems cliche but I truly have learned about myself through learning about chess. With both the game and myself, there is so much more to unlock.