Pawn Pawn

Book Review: Transpo Tricks in Chess by Andrew Soltis

Ideal audience: Advanced intermediate players and stronger, 1700 ELO+
Pros: unique focus; amazing as a reference for transpositional finesses in various opening lines and should be part of any developed chess library.
Cons: overall instructional value is low, it's mostly useful as a reference book.
Rating: 3.5 out of 5 pawns.
"Beware those words 'it just transposes.' There is usually a plus, a minus, an extra option to consider."

Grandmaster Andrew Soltis is a prolific chess writer, having written books on a number of middlegame topics as well as a variety of opening variations. Several of his books, like Pawn Structure Chess and The Inner Game of Chess, played critical roles in my development as a player. As a result, I was excited when I discovered that Batsford had sent me a review copy of his newest book, Transpo Tricks in Chess: Finesse Your Chess Moves and Win. Soltis' newest work discusses transpositions: move order finesses that can lead out of one opening variation and into a position usually reached via a different move order. Soltis' book, like the dictionary, isn't the kind of work one reads from start to finish. Transpo Tricks in Chess is a reference, inside which the reader will find transpositional quirks that can confuse, annoy, or provoke opponents. Soltis' work is the first of its kind I've seen, and as a a reference tool, it belongs on any competitive player's bookshelf.

Soltis has organized the book into chapters divided by the overall opening scheme. There's a section on the Sicilian, one on the Ruy Lopez, and a discussion of every major opening, as well as a number of relatively obscure flank openings. Within each chapter, Soltis discusses dozens of variations. In his analysis, Soltis presents each opening move-by-move, presenting transpositional finesses along the way. What I found especially entertaining was the way in which his discussion amounts to an arms race within opening theory: Soltis reveals a finesse early in a variation before moving on to a rejoinder that nullifies the original trick. The section on the Panov attack in the Caro-Kann, for example, presents an idea on move four that gives black a favorable position. Soltis, however, reveals that white has an energetic reply that transposes into a favorable line of the Alapin Sicilian. Having shown that black's original move is problematic, Soltis moves on to a later idea. This processes is repeated throughout the book, and it allows the reader to develop a thorough understanding of the complexity and subtlety of opening play.

Soltis' book is a practical text. It won't improve your overall play dramatically, but you will find dozens of opening tricks that will confound opponents and improve your results. I know I did.

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