Book Notice: Vladimir Tukmakov's Profession: Chessplayer: Grandmaster at Work
Monday, April 2, 2012 at 12:44AM
Dennis Monokroussos in Book Reviews, Vladimir Tukmakov

Vladimir Tukmakov is not a household name among today's chess fans, but he was one of the strongest players of the late Soviet era. He came in second in the 1965 World Junior Championship, finished second in three Soviet championships, nearly qualified from the 1982 Interzonal in Las Palmas for the Candidates' matches, and participated in the 1984 USSR vs. the Rest of the World match. Maybe he's not well-known because of the "seconds", but if he is known today it's because he's a second - or rather, a coach - he has served in that capacity for the Ukrainian national team since 2004 or so.


The résumé above suggests that he was a very strong player at his peak, and he certainly was. But there are many other great players, so why should readers spend their time and money on this book? One reason is that it's a substantive autobiography: it's not just "I went here and won the following brilliant games". He talks about his childhood (in the third person!), candidly discusses both his successes and failures, and most interestingly discusses his big decision to really make a serious push for a big goal fairly late in his playing career. He comments on many other players whose careers overlapped, most especially including Anatoly Karpov but plenty of other, less well-known players, too.


The autobiographical section of the book takes about 107 of the book's 258 pages (pages with content), with most of the rest devoted to his careful analysis of 41 memorable games. His notes are thorough, honest and human, though checked with a computer. (What else would one expect from the book's title?) The games and annotations are excellent, and a nice bonus feature is that every diagram comes with a training question. The list of opponents has some big names, including single games with Kasparov, Tal and Petrosian and two apiece with Topalov, Smyslov and Korchnoi.


I left the autobiographical situation wishing for more, and look forward to going through all the annotated games very carefully. Another nice feature of the book is that there are lots of photos, though it would be nice if some of them were a bit clearer. I know it would raise the price of the book, but the paper used by Russell Enterprises just isn't good enough for many of the photographs. It would also be nice if they did a more careful job of copyediting, but these are quibbles, and I can heartily recommend the book.

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