Karsten Mueller and Alex Markgraf, The Chess Puzzle Book 4: Mastering the Positional Principles. Foreword by Mark Dvoretsky. (Russell Enterprises, 2012.) 184 pp., $19.95. Reviewed by Dennis Monokroussos.
There are many puzzle books where the aim is to solve tactical problems, and there are plenty of positional manuals where little-to-nothing is asked of the reader except to watch attentively. This book is thus an attempt to apply the puzzle book approach to an area that could use it, and as usual with Karsten Mueller's work, it hits the mark - he is an effective pedagogue.
The book has six regular chapters (with exercises), followed by twelve tests with eight questions apiece. Between the exercises and the tests, there are 127 positions to chew on, most of them substantial. There is plenty of instructional material in the chapters too, prior to the exercises, so Mueller & Markgraf aren't just throwing you into the water and seeing if you'll swim; they teach you first.
The chapter topics will be familiar to those who have steeped themselves in good books on positional chess and endgame works like Shereshevsky's classic Endgame Strategy. Chapter 1 is on that Nimzowitschian favorite, prophylaxis, which is one of Dvoretsky's favorite topics as well. Chapter 2 addresses the principle of two weaknesses, which is crucial especially when it comes to winning favorable endgames. Chapter 3 is a topic that doesn't get enough play, and that's "the right exchange". Chapter 4, Domination, covers a topic that's well known to endgame composers but is often ignored in "normal" chess literature, except in such stock cases as a bishop on d5 dominating a knight on d8 or a5. Chapter 5, Do Not Rush (usually I've seen the principle labeled "do not hurry"), is another bit of wisdom that most generally applies to the endgame, but can be used in any circumstance when the opponent has no (or no real) counterplay. Finally, chapter 6 is on converting an advantage, subdividing this into material and positional advantages.
That Mark Dvoretsky himself, trainer extraordinaire, has written that ""I cannot think of any books with high-quality exercises regarding such topics as domination, the "do not hurry” principle, the principle of two weaknesses, etc., all of which are discussed by Müller and his co-author Alexander Markgraf" is high praise - at least given that he thinks they do so in a useful way! I second his remark, and think that this is potentially a very useful book for players rated, say, 1900-2000 and up - both for the instruction but especially for the exercises. Highly recommended.
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