Practical Chess Exercises

600 Lessons from Tactics to Strategy

by Ray Cheng

Forward by IM John Watson

Reviewed by NM Bill McGeary

Chess is a complex game, I doubt there is much of an argument about that. I have less certainty as to whether we play because of that complexity or in spite of it. Progressing through chess is a tidal effect of emotion as we improve and find accomplishment, then run into barriers that cause us to feel failure. The complexity is more than just a puzzle that perplexes us until we find a solution that turns out to be fairly simple. Yes, we have all found those kinds of situations in chess, the solution seems simple once we know it. Yet, the maze of chess is not solved with a simple algorithm of any sort, at least not for humans.

In reality, it is a number of complexities that exist in chess. As improving players it seems that we have barely conquered one idea or concept and another appears. The number of terms used in chess spans generations or players and the languages they speak. Opening, middlegame, endgame, zugzwang, en passant, fianchetto, tabiya, prophylaxis, doubled pawns, passed pawns, strongpoint, bad bishop, good knight,… it seems endless. Still, in the end there we are sitting at the board with our heads in our hands trying to find the right move. Perhaps the right concept will give us some clue, but it doesn’t matter as the clock ticks away. How do we prepare for this setting?

“Practical Chess Exercises” aims to help us with such situations. The author, Ray Cheng, relates that he had been working at chess and found the problem solving books to have an inherent problem. Problem books start out telling the reader what to expect. If you get an endgame problem book, it is not likely to have rook sacrifices and conversely if you have a tactics book there isn’t much chance of solving a queen-and-pawn versus queen ending.

This book presents 600 “problems” that could potentially fall into any category. There aren’t any groupings or specific arrangement to the problems, endgames in with tactics in with defense and even opening positions. This is quite a good idea as it introduces the bite of uncertainty to solving the problems. In other words, the reader is deprived of the little bit of extra info that most of us lazy players lean on when we are going through problem books. Diminishing the complacency that can become standard for improving players is worth reading this book alone.

More here. The book can be purchased on Amazon.

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