Tibor Karolyi, Mikhail Tal's Best Games 1: The Magic of Youth (Quality Chess, 2014). 447 pp. €24.99/$29.95. Reviewed by Dennis Monokroussos.
First, a disclaimer: I had a little involvement in the project, offering some old analysis, hunting down some source material and helping him find a contact or two, as I recall. Apparently I offered some helpful encouragement as well, as Tibor offered a very kind sentence in the book's acknowledgements:
I am also grateful to Dennis Monokroussos, whose love for Tal's magic reminded me that it was worth the effort to complete the project.
So be aware that I'm not a disinterested and dispassionated reviewer, nor will I pretend to be. Instead, I'll offer a brief overview of the book's contents, give some reasons why readers may wish to buy the book, and leave it at that.
The book is the first of three volumes by Karolyi on Mikhail Tal's chess career, and covers the period from his beginnings in the game through his victory in the 1959 Candidates' tournament, a success that gave him the right to face Mikhail Botvinnik for the world championship a year later. (Tal won, in case you were wondering.) Tal's early years featured his most energetic and daring chess, and even now his best games from that period have an entrancing effect on chess fans. The effect on his contemporaries was even more striking - they simply had no idea of what to do with him, and one after another they collapsed against him.
This is all well-known, and many of Tal's early games are well-chronicled classics. So why another book on Tal? First, because there are more games here than just the well-loved favorites. Karolyi presents 69 main games, and many more are incorporated within them.
Second, Karolyi is a deep and dedicated analyst, and in conjunction with the latest engines has made many new discoveries, some of which are genuinely beautiful. This is true even of the most explored games. The games are very well-annotated, but not to anything approaching distracting Huebnerian depths.
Third, Karolyi shows Tal as a complete player and not just someone who could successfully drag his opponents into the swamp of complications where 2 + 2 = 5; he could also play outstanding positional chess and construct technical masterpieces. The book therefore paints not only a more detailed picture of Tal, but a richer one too.
Fourth and relatedly, the positional and technical games are often instructive, so the book's value for training purposes isn't limited to tactics. (Of course, tactical training is available, and in abundance.)
Fifth, there's plenty of biographical material. Karolyi goes through Tal's career a year at a time tracing his development as a chess player, discussing the background of his life (family, progress through school, his relationship with his great and almost lifelong trainer Alexander Koblencs, new anecdotes, and more.
While not a reason in itself to buy the book, there are some other neat goodies besides, like summaries of Tal's play over each past year and a valuable classification index pointing the student or trainer to various motifs in his games. In all, the book constitutes a major contribution to the literature on Mikhail Tal, and I can recommend it to all chess fans (though I'd suggest that weaker club players not worry about going too deeply into the analysis, but only as far as they feel inclined to).