Review of Chess: 5334 Problems, Combinations and Games by László Polgár 

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Table of Contents

The first time I came across this book by László Polgár, I was simply impressed by its robust nature. 

A single book containing thousands of puzzles to effectively improve your chess vision and strength…must have taken a lot of time and effort to put together.

I was further impressed when I found out that László was the father of the famous Polgár sisters – Zsuzsa, Zsofia, and Judith. 

László and his daughters 

For reference:

  • Zsuzsa/Susan was the Women’s World Champion from 1996 to 1999 and the third woman to be awarded the title of Grandmaster by FIDE. She once had a peak rating of 2577.
  • Zsofia/Sofia once ranked as the sixth-strongest female player in the world. She once had a peak rating of 2505.
  • Judith with a peak rating of 2735 in 2005 is regarded as the greatest female player of all time. 

So it’s obvious that László, who trained his daughters to be chess prodigies, has significant experience with preparing chess training materials and that’s what he did with this book.

This book with over 5000 positions and solutions contains chess problems, games, and endgames that not only test your chess skills but also help you appreciate the beauty of chess.

In László words: 

This book draws on my private collection of five thousand chess books, and my archives of periodicals going back 150 years. I have also used the experience gained in the training of my three daughters – Olympic gold medallists, Oscar-award winners, holders of several Guinness records, champions of the world, for many years first and second in the world ranking – and during my fifteen year activity as a chess tutor in extracurricular classes at various schools.”

Who is this Book For?

This is more of a chess training material that focuses exclusively on tactics. 

It can serve as a critical resource for beginners learning the game or parents and coaches putting their students through. 

Even club players and candidate masters will find this book valuable because it helps them calculate mating attacks more accurately. It’s a book for players of all ages.

How the Book is Designed 

The book throws more weight on visuals rather than text. 

That’s because the point is for you to find answers on your own rather than read passively. 

See it as a workbook that helps your critical thinking.

Some of the positions in this book were taken from real games while some others were composed for learning values. 

Here’s a breakdown of the positions:

  • 306 are mates in one move 
  • 3412 are mates in two moves (the attacker plays, the defender responds, the attacker mates)
  • 744 are mates in three moves (the attacker plays, the defender responds, the attacker plays a second move, the defender responds again and the attacker gives mate)
  • 600 are miniature games 
From f2(f7) combinations section
  • There’s a chapter on 144 basic endgame positions 
  • Lastly, a chapter shows 128 short tactical games played by the Polgár sisters and a single puzzle featured separately bringing the number to 5334.

For the miniature games, here is the idea behind it:

The moves of the games are given in algebraic notation so you can replay the moves on a chess board. 

The major moment is when you play out all the moves and you’re expected to find the next crushing move. There are clues, however. 

So if a game appears in the f3 (f6) section, it means that the winning move has to happen on f3 or f6 for either Black or White.

I replayed one of the miniature games (Game 4474) in the f3(f6) section and here is it on Analyze This App. 

Here is the full game: 1. e4 c5 2 Nf3 Nf6 3 e5 Nd5 4 d4 e6 5 c4 Nb6 6 d5 d6 7 Nc3 dxe5 8 Nxe5 Bd6 9 Bf4 O-O 10 dxe6 Qe7 11 Ne4 Bxe5 12 Bxe5 Qxe6 13 Qd6 Nxc4 14 Bxc4 Qxc4

We can see that the crushing tactic for White happens on f6 with 15. Nf6+ gxf6 16. Qxf6 threatening a queen and bishop mate on g7 or h8 

16…Qe4+ 16. Kf1 Qxe5 Black is forced to lose the exchange to keep the game going but it’s lost already and Black may just resign here.

There are other combinations aside f3 (f6). We also have g3 (g6), f2 (f7), g2 (g7) and h2 (h7) combinations.

At the end of some of the chapters are solutions to the chess problems.

Although, I would have preferred if the solutions were attached to the end of each chapter but I guess this also works.

Final Thoughts 

Nowadays, we have chess apps and software containing thousands, if not millions of positions that help you train and find tactical shots. 

This book does the same in a manual format but you get that thrill of going old school by studying with your chess board. 

You can also decide to ditch the chessboard and solve the exercises by analyzing the winning moves in your head if you want to give yourself a challenge.

Or you can time yourself to feel that added pressure and excitement.

Whatever method you adopt, your tactical skills will flourish as long as you study this book methodically and consistently.

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