Book Reviews: Two More "100 Studies" Works by Tkachenko (Updated)
Thursday, October 11, 2018 at 10:30PM
Dennis Monokroussos in Mikhail Zinar, Nikolai Rezvov, Sergei Tkachenko

Sergei Tkachenko, Mikhail Zinar's Difficult Pawn Endings: A World Champion's Favorite Composers and Sergei Tkachenko, Nikolai Rezvov, from Child Burglar to Grandmaster: A World Champion's Favorite Composers. Both books published in 2018 by Elk and Ruby.

Some months back I reviewed a couple of neat, short, small books by Ukranian study composer Sergei Tkachenko. In each, Tkachenko presents 100 studies. In one book, it's a pawn that strikes the final blow; in the other, it's a knight delivering the coup de grace. (Or saving the draw, as the case may be.)

I liked the books on four levels: (1) the concept, (2) the convenience, (3) the level of difficulty, and (4) for the books' size. On (1), each book's thematic unity grabs the reader's attention and helps him learn by sometimes seeing recurring patterns. On (2), the setup with the puzzle on the right side of the page and the solution overleaf makes for a user-friendly experience - there no need to hold one's place going back and forth to the end of the book or trying desperately to avoid peeking at the solution on the opposite page. On (3), the puzzles were generally challenging but always felt manageable. Your mileage may vary, of course, but these studies were selected in such a way that strong club players (approximately 2000, give or take) will always have at least a chance of getting them right. The books may be a little too challenging overall for players rated 1600 and below, but it might be worth the effort anyway, and they're worth going through even just for the beauty of the solutions. And (4), the books will easily fit in one's jacket pocket - they're just a little bigger than a typical index card.

That's a recap of the previous books. The two books under review here are similar in some respects and different in others. The similarities are in the format and their size. The dimensions are the same, and there are again 100 studies in each book, with solutions given (starting) on the next page.

The differences, in a nutshell, are threefold: first, each book is dedicated to a particular composer, and all the studies are his. The books begin with a biography of the relevant composer, and then moves on to the studies. (Both biographies are interesting, too - they add to the value of the book and the reader's investment in the works.)

Second, there is no thematic unity in the Rezvov book: all sorts of material is present, and there's no particular unit that lands the final blow. In the Zinar book all the compositions are pawn endings, so this book does enjoy a closer thematic tie.

Third, and most important: these studies are difficult; in fact, that's part of the name of the Zinar book: Mikhail Zinar's Difficult Pawn Endings. So even though the book's friendly size and shape invites you to carry the book with you and solve some puzzles during your daily commute (if you're not driving, of course) or while waiting in line, there's almost no chance you'll succeed in solving the puzzles under those circumstances - at least not unless you're a lot stronger than I am, or a very experienced solver. You'll need to give these studies your full and sustained attention.

I'm happy to recommend the books, but caveat emptor: they're tough! Here are three examples, so you can see for yourself. The first of each pair gives the study, the second the solution. If you find them out of reach, you'll probably feel the same way about the books in their entirety. If not, pick them up. Either way, enjoy the studies and the workout.

**UPDATE** I had omitted the title of the Rezvov book; both titles and their publication information are now given at the top of the post.

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