Arthur van de Oudeweetering, Improve Your Chess Pattern Recognition: Key Moves and Motifs in the Middlegame. New in Chess, 2014. 301 pp., $26.95/€22.95. Reviewed by Dennis Monokroussos.
If any of you subscribed to the now-defunct e-periodical ChessVibes Training, you will be familiar with IM Arthur van de Oudeweetering's work; if not, then probably not. I'll offer a spoiler here: I think his contributions were by far the best part of that periodical, and not because all the other material was of poor quality. The book under review consists of 40 of those columns, all revised to some degree or another, and if you didn't see them the first time around I'd recommend seriously considering picking them up in this version.
Each of the columns takes some theme - a piece on a (particular) strong square, an unusual exchange, certain typical sacrifices, some typical maneuvers, and so on - and illustrates them with a healthy number of well-chosen examples. There are also 40 exercises (the obvious guess is that there is one exercise per chapter theme, but I didn't check to see if there is a one-to-one correspondence between them) and a short epilogue.
He has divided the material into four almost equal parts. Part I, "Typical Piece Positions", has 11 chapters, and in each one there is one particular piece on one particular square that gets highlighted. (Or two pieces and two squares, if we count once each for White and Black.) For example, there is one chapter on the "octopus" (a well-known label invented, I think, by Ray Keene when commenting on Garry Kasparov's famous knight on d3 in the classic 16th game of the 1985 Karpov-Kasparov match), another about a knight on f5, another on the blockading Black knight on d6, still another about a White bishop on d6, and so on.
Part II, "No Automatic Pilot", has nine chapters, all of them involving something counter-intuitive: trading off a good knight (an octopus!) for a bad bishop on c8, full exchange sacrifices, voluntarily accepting doubled f-pawns, recapturing with a pawn away from the center, and so on.
Part III, "Typical Strategic Means: Sacrifices", looks at 10 different typical sacrifices. These include e5-e6 sacs to stuff up Black's kingside, the "impossible" h2-h4 (Black can take the pawn without receiving immediate punishment), Rx(B)e6 exchange sacs, Rx(N)f6 exchange sacs, and so on.
Part IV, "Typical Strategic Means: Typical Little Plans" finishes the book with 10 mini-plans, mini-maneuvers and other small themes. There's the "Nievergelt Manoeuvre", which is ...Kh8, ...Rg8 and ...g5 in a Hedgehog-type position, there's the queen maneuver ...Qd8-b8-a7, there's Bd3 blocking one's own d-pawn, making the decision about whether or not to exchange queens, and among other topics there's the one that closes the book: "The Runner and the Bulldozer". That is how he characterizes the race between a passed pawn on the one side and a wave of attacking pawns on the other, as in the practically deciding 9th game of the first Anand-Carlsen match back in 2013.
There are plenty of interesting chapters besides the ones I mentioned, and perhaps many of them are even more interesting, as many of the ones listed above are relatively conventional. I think it's an excellent book, and while it's not systematic in a way that would turn it into a primer on positional play, there is no question but that this will improve the positional understanding of many club players. I'd highly recommend this to players rated around 1400 to 2100, and I think even masters can (and will) learn something from this book as well.