When I grew up it was common to see books by Fred Reinfeld (1910-1964), I.A. Horowitz (1907-1973), and Irving Chernev (1900-1981) in brick-and-mortar bookstores here in the U.S. While many of their works were aimed at near-beginners, some of their works are suitable for a broader audience, and this weekend I discovered one of them. Several used books were for sale at a local tournament, and a friend of mine suggested I spend a buck on Chernev's The Chess Companion.
It was good advice! The book, written in 1968, is 287 pages long - decent-sized pages - and ranges over the most diverse topics. There are 110 pages' worth of short stories (authors include E. B. White [of Strunk and White fame, not to mention Charlotte's Web] and A. A. Milne [the author of the Winnie-the-Pooh stories]), followed by an essay by Harry Golombek on "Writers Who Have Changed Chess History".
In the second part of the book pure chess content comes to the fore. There are several chapters comprising just over 20 pages on various sorts of problems. Many chess players are allergic to the genre, but the examples Chernev includes are all witty and bright.
The next chapter offers a series of "remarkable games", mostly featuring great players in their younger years. Next comes a chapter illustrating ideas that were ostensibly ahead of their time; that is, they demonstrated ideas that had not yet been expressed in didactic form. A chapter made up of games with picturesque finishes is next, followed by a chapter on "blindfold beauties".
On and on it goes, and as a fun bonus the book's penultimate section includes some chess trivia and a chapter with epigrams and advice. The last mini-chapter includes the author's candidate for the greatest game of all time, Alekhine's brilliant win over Bogoljubow from Hastings 1922.
The book is a real pleasure. Of course we can learn from it and try to convert its contents into training material, but that's mostly beside the point. Enjoy the book for yourself, and then give it to a young chessplayer in your life to help him or her fall in love with the game too.