Leonid Verkhovsky, Draw! The Art of the Half-Point in Chess (Russell Enterprises, 2014). 132 pp. $14.95.
We'll get to the content of this book shortly, but first I must note a few oddities. Mikhail Tal wrote a foreword to the book that is dated to 1972, and the book's back jacket also suggests that the book was written in the early '70s. No problem. Russell Enterprises (RE) often releases new printings of older works, which frankly is a very good thing, as there are some treasures of chess literature that deserve a second lease on life.
So I start to work my way through the book: Capablanca-Fine, Amsterdam 1938; Capablanca-Nimzovitsch [sic], Kissingen [sic] 1928; O'Kelly-Penrose, Varna 1962; Kramnik-Kasparov, World Championship London (6) 2000...wait, what?
I started to look around for an explanation. The author's introduction is dated 2014, but there's nothing in there that indicates any modernization. (There's a brief reference to Profile of a Prodigy, dated 1973, but that's the only thing that suggests anything later than Tal's foreword.) There's nothing on the back jacket, no publisher's introduction, nothing. The majority of the book looks like it was written when it was said to be written, but there are a lot of post-1972 examples, some even from the 2000s. Is this a translation of a revised edition, or is this itself the revised edition? It's a surprisingly ahistorical presentation from RE, especially given their usual care about and love for chess history.
Anyway, let's turn to the book. There are 291 games and game fragments in the ten chapters (plus the introduction), and then the book concludes with 32 exercises and their solutions. The chapters investigate all sorts of draws both actual and merely possible: those achieved with a material disadvantage, draws that could have been had if a player hadn't resigned, draws that were taken when a win was available, counterattacking draws, traps, draws arising from mutual errors, paradoxical drawing ideas, draws (actual or missed) involving zwischenzugs, stalemates, and grandmaster draws in the real, full-blooded sense.
This slim volume is primarily a pleasure book, though of course one can benefit by trying to solve the positions beforehand. (Sometimes this is impossible, however, as the critical moment often arises after the diagrammed position.) The analysis is generally pretty light, and at least the parts I examined seemed to have been computer-checked, albeit imperfectly.
I enjoyed books like this a lot when I was a kid, and they were great for growing my enthusiasm for the game. I would recommend the book as a gift for kids whose ratings are north of 1000 or as a semi-gag, semi-serious gift for friends with an inordinate disdain for draws.