Andre Schulz, The Big Book fo World Chess Champoinships: 46 Title Fights - From Steinitz to Carlsen. New in Chess, 2016. 351 pp., $24.95/€22.95. Reviewed by Dennis Monokroussos.
Multi-volume series like Garry Kasparov's My Great Predecessors books are excellent surveys of chess history, both for their narrative and especially the analysis, but not every chess fan is ready for five large books with heavy-duty analysis. Besides, that series doesn't include Kasparov himself - one needs another six volumes for his career, including three dedicated just to his games vs. Anatoly Karpov. And then there are Kasparov's great successors - Vladimir Kramnik, Viswanathan Anand, and Magnus Carlsen - who aren't covered as such in any of Kasparov's books.
So as wonderful as those books are, and I have them all, they're both too much and too little for the casual fan who would enjoy a nice overview of the history of the world championship without breaking his back, his bookcase, or his bank account. Enter Andre Schulz's The Big Book of World Chess Championships. It isn't encyclopedic and it doesn't pretend to be. What it offers instead is the story of every world championship match (plus the 1948 match-tournament), with an annotated game from each event (except the non-event that was Fischer-Karpov in 1975).
One of the things I've appreciated from the book is that Schulz doesn't use the narrative space to dwell too much on the blow-by-blow of the match. Instead, he finds interesting and largely unknown tidbits that offer some insight into the match or background information about on one or both of the players. A few examples will have to suffice:
In chapter 1, on the Steinitz-Zukertort match, Schulz notes that when Steinitz went to Vienna as a young man he met Phillip Meitner, who was the father of the physicist Lise Meitner.
In chapter 16, he writes that Max Euwe was initially fascinated by communism, but after the second world war and especially after the Budapest uprising of 1956 lost his enthusiasm for the USSR and communism in general.
In chapter 26, on the second Petrosian-Spassky match, we learn that Petrosian fell apart in the first part of the match, first suffering a crisis of confidence and then quarreling with his seconds to the point that in game 9 he chose a different opening than what he had discussed with his seconds, and very nearly lost the game as a result.
One more: in chapter 31, on the first, unfinished Karpov-Kasparov match, Schulz lists the members of Karpov's enormous team, and then adds this: "Care was taken to ensure that it did not become known who all were working for Karpov. On the car trip to the venue the secret additional trainers always lay flat on the rear seats as soon as the car reached the House of the The Unions so as not to be seen with Karpov." We also learn that both Karpov and Kasparov included parapsychologists on their teams. That Karpov had the infamous Dr. Zukhar on his team in his 1978 match with Korchnoi is well known, but that he had one against Kasparov - and the reverse! - is not common knowledge.
This is a book I'd recommend as a Christmas present for the lover of chess history in your home or broader circle, and it would make a fine gift for a teenaged chess fan as well.