Bent Larsen, Bent Larsen's Best Games: Fighting Chess with the Great Dane. New in Chess, 2014. 350 pp. $34.95/€29.95. Reviewed by Dennis Monokroussos.
The 1970 book Larsen's Selected Games of Chess 1948-1969 is widely considered a classic, but it's also long out of print. Moreover, Bent Larsen's career didn't end in that year, and while his 6-0 shellacking by Bobby Fischer in the 1971 Candidates made it clear that he wasn't quite a future world champion he remained a top ten player for at least another decade and a very strong GM through the '80s. He was a player with an unusual and fighting style, in some ways a kind of forerunner of Alexander Morozevich, but more flamboyant and provocative as a personality and a writer. He was one of the greatest chess players of his era, from the late 1950s into the 1990s, and it's fitting that New in Chess publishing has released Bent Larsen's Best Games: Fighting Chess with the Great Dane, which is a combination of the 1970 book with some further material taking his career up through the 1970s.
With the exception of a short chapter at the beginning of the book, the editor's foreword and two short chapters at the end, the rest of the material is by Larsen himself. The first 50 games and the accompanying prose are from the earlier book (the one translated into English in 1969), and then another 10 came from a later German edition and 14 more from a Spanish edition. After that 50 more games were culled from Larsen's writing for various Spanish language magazines and newspapers, making a total of 124 games covering his career through the 1977 Spanish Team Championship in Alicante.
As was common to almost all players in the pre-computer era, the annotations are respectable and responsible but far from overwhelming, and there is lots of prose - both in the games and when he introduces the event in question. It's a book that can be read not only for instruction but for pleasure, too.
If you know who Larsen is, you already know you want the book; if you don't, you should get it and learn! Anyone who was a Candidate 4 times (in 1965, 1968, 1971 and 1977) has to be an enormously strong player, and his run of successes in the late 1960s was so impressive that even Bobby Fischer was willing to take board 2 behind him in the 1970 USSR vs. the Rest of the World match. Garry Kasparov includes a 58-page section on Larsen in his My Great Predecessors volume on Fischer, so enough said. Get the book!