Alexander Panchenko, Mastering Chess Middlegames: Lectures from the All-Russian School of Grandmasters. New in Chess, 2015. 272 pp., $24.95/€22.95.
Alexander Panchenko (1953-2009) was a Russian grandmaster who achieved even greater heights as a trainer. In his late 20s he found himself switching from an ambitious player to an increasingly dedicated second career trying to help raise young Russians to the master level and beyond. He succeeded admirably, helping a significant number of his students go so far as to achieve the GM title (including perhaps most notably former Candidate Sergey Rublevsky, who has often been over 2700 and is currently rated 2692).
That there was more to his coaching than the material in his book goes without saying, but this is an excellent volume I can heartily recommend to players rated 2000 and up. (Ambitious and hard-working players a little lower could work well with this book too, but not much lower. Of course, it's also a great book for trainers.)
The material comprises 12 chapters, most of which focuses on various middlegame situations. (That's what the title would suggest, of course, but endgames do slip in every now and again. Not enough to make the title too misleading, but enough to deem it a slight exaggeration.) With the exception of chapter 12, "Sample games and endings", the other 11 chapters are broken into two parts: a didactic section followed by a set of positions falling under one of two categories: exercises and positions to play out. Most chapters have both exercises and positons to play, but some have just one or the other. There are 83 of the former and 90 of the latter, so going through this book properly will take some time and give readers a great workout!
The chapters are:
- The attack on the king
- Realising an advantage
- Equal positions
- The battle of the major pieces
- Two minor pieces against a rook
- Opposite-coloured bishops with many pieces on the board
- Same-coloured bishops
- Bishop versus knight
- Sample games and endings
Panchenko is nothing if not systematic. In the chapter on the attack, for instance, the examples are further subdivided: those with the king in the center, those where the opponent has a broken pawn cover, or where the attacker must eliminate defenders, or where he should attack the weakest point, or where he ought to look for weakened lines, or where he ought to create barriers for the opponent's defense (in particular with an obstructive sac on d5). Panchenko even offers helpful advice on how many exercises one ought to try, how long to take on them, and how much time each side should take for the playing positions as well.
In sum, Mastering Chess Middlegames is a fine textbook for the aspiring player, and a useful text for trainers. Recommended!
(More info and a downloadable sample, here.)