A review of Jon Speelman’s Chess Puzzle Book

Reviewed by P.P.O. Kane

Jon Speelman’s Chess Puzzle Book
By Jon Speelman
Gambit Publications
2008, ISBN: 9781904600961

In his introductory remarks Jon Speelman points out that tactical skill involves both vision (seeing the idea or pattern to start with) and calculation (verifying that the idea works, and that against every possible defence) and, furthermore, that in calculation it is also important to accurately evaluate the final position at the end of each sequence of moves or ‘variation’. He then presents 300 or so positions where your task is to find the winning (or, more rarely, the saving) tactic.

The positions are set out in two parts. Part 1, ‘The Elements’, has ten thematic chapters (on the Knight Fork, the Pin, the Skewer, Mating Attacks and so on) so you more or less know what to expect in each puzzle. The positions start out very simple and become progressively more difficult, though none is really tough. ‘Tactics in Practice’, our Part 2, has three chapters. The first, ‘Finger Exercises’, has positions where the calculations required are not very deep; combinational vision is the skill they ask of you. Still, the idea is often well hidden. ‘Mixed Bag’ has a wide variety of positions, some quite challenging. The final chapter, entitled ‘Tougher Examples’, contains tougher examples. Speelman’s fine chess intelligence is evident in the comprehensive ‘Solutions’ section of the book, which runs to fifty or so pages. His personality and love of the game shines through at times. He cannot resist pointing out interesting, albeit sub-optimal moves…

It is an excellent package overall and would make an ideal complement to an elementary textbook on tactics. You could think of it as being a kind of missing workbook. By diligently attempting to solve each position you will undoubtedly increase your tactical skill.

While I would have liked to have seen more of Speelman’s personality in the book as a whole – his best games collection is highly recommended – I cannot really complain. This is a fine book, enjoyable to use, entertaining and instructive in equal measure.

About the reviewer: P.P.O. Kane lives and works in Manchester, England. He welcomes responses to his reviews and you can reach him at ludic@europe.com He blogs at: