Arthur van de Oudeweetering, Train Your Chess Pattern Recognition: More Key Moves and Motifs in the Middlegame. New in Chess, 2016. 283 pp., $24.95/€22.95. Reviewed by Dennis Monokroussos.
This book is a sequel of sorts of van de Oudeweetering's Improve Your Chess Pattern Recognition, which I reviewed here. The review was favorable, and as a result part of that review appears as a blurb on the back cover of the present book. My attitude towards the present work is likewise favorable, as it exhibits the same virtues as the earlier book and, before that, his column from the now-defunct e-periodical ChessVibes Training.
The modus operandi for all of these works is the same: take a theme - typically one that hasn't been beaten into the ground by 135 previous books on positional play - and illustrate it with a wide range of examples, including ones where the thematic idea doesn't force the opponent to applaud, bow, and then crumble. His examples tend to be very well chosen, and he's a good writer, too. My main suggestion for the book is that he double the number of exercises and presents them out of order: right now there is one exercise per theme, and they are given in chapter order.
There are 37 themes (or motifs) in this book, clustered into six parts: typical maneuvers, sacrificial patterns, pawn breaks, material imbalances, more material imbalances, and bad patterns. (Important note: I've slightly changed the names of some of the parts for the sake of clarity.)
The last part is a bit of an oddity, because it isn't always clear if the "bad patterns" really are bad or not. For instance, the bad pattern of chapter 34 is tripled pawns, and early on the examples show tripled pawns functioning beautifully for their possessor, or at a minimum not proving an impediment. (For the sake of realism, he concludes the chapter with several examples of more typically woeful triplets leading their possessor to defeat.) Chapter 35 shows knights performing heroically on corner squares. On the other hand, chapter 36 shows that knights on b3/b6/g3/g6 are often bad, just as Dr. Tarrasch famously said. (Perhaps if the knights had then moved into the corner?) Finally, in chapter 37, the book ends with "Buried Bishops": bishops stuck in the corner with the long diagonal permanently closed by the player's own pawns. Those cases are unreservedly bad in this chapter. To sum up, it seems that we should interpret "bad patterns" to mean something like "seemingly bad patterns", and to realize that some seemingly bad patterns are always or practically always bad, but in many other cases appearance and reality can diverge quite a lot.
The thematic unity of the other parts is more readily evident, and it should be added that the book makes for quite an easy read. Van de Oudeweetering has a pleasant conversational style, and the notes are useful but not overwhelming. The bottom line is that this is a good book for trainers and for players around 1600 and up looking to increase their stock of positional themes, tactical motifs, and their understanding of various particular imbalances. The value of this book is that much of what he covers isn't addressed in systematic middlegame texts, so a player could go for decades without ever learning about the ideas presented here. Recommended.