Pawn Pawn

Book Review: How to Crush Your Chess Opponents by Simon Williams

Ideal Audience: Players below 2200 ELO.

Pros: Entertaining games, ideal light chess reading.

Cons: Organization seems a little arbitrary

"The most fun that I get from a game is when I crush my opponent quickly."

One of England's rising Grandmasters, Simon Williams has authored the popular books Play the Classical Dutch and Improve Your Attacking Chess. In his latest work, How to Crush Your Chess Opponents, Williams again focuses on attacking chess with an impressive collection of tactical slug-fests. Nearly all of the games feature the kind of kitchen-sink attacks that end with spectators crowded around the board. Surprisingly, however, the book has a lot to say about defensive play as well. After all, a defensive inaccuracy is the seed of every tactical firework. As a cautious player, I found it especially satisfying that after twenty-nine games of merciless attacking chess, a player best known for his defensive prowess gets the last laugh. The book closes with a win by Ulf Andersson, one of the game's all-time best defenders.

How to Crush Your Chess Opponents' subject material makes the book ideal on-the-go chess reading. The games are short and juicy. Many of the games deserve careful study, but the lazier reader will find gratification as well. There are plenty of diagrams to showcase the knock-outs. I especially enjoyed Polgar - Berkes, Gormally - Sutovksy, Ivanchuk - Shirov, Wells - Habu, Cordoba - Andersson, and the classic Short - Timman (this one has been analyzed extensively elsewhere, but white's epic king march should earn the game a place in any book on attacking chess). Beyond these massacres, Williams provides a final section on "Playing to Your Strengths." He again presents sharp, attacking games, but here the analysis is especially enjoyable. Beyond the lengthy variations, Williams discusses the psychological aspects of the games. Game 27, Plaskett - Murshed, 1997, is my favorite. Playing to one's strengths is a subject I hope Williams writes about in future works.

My only gripe about the book is the way it's arbitrarily divided into chapters. There is a chapter entitled "Keeping the Initiative," for example, but all the games in the book involve with this struggle. Furthermore, I didn't see much difference between the games in chapters like "All-in!", "Harmonizing the Army," and "Keeping the Initiative." Fortunately, the collection is unified around a strong central theme: walloping your opponent. Thankfully for Williams, that's a theme all chess players find appealing.