Chess Book Reviews

The Art of Chess Combination

"The Art of Chess Combination" paperback

This highly rated old chess book by Eugene Znosko-Borovsky is hardly a book for beginners. The best candidate for buying it or receiving it as a gift—that would be a tournament player. Be aware that this book uses the old descriptive notation, in contrast to almost all new chess books, which use algebraic notation.

The following is the cover of a copy of the 1959 paperback:

chess books on tactics and combinations

The 1959 paperback, with “$1.45” on the front

From page 15 of The Art of Chess Combination:

It is unjust, and sometimes very untrue, though it is a common theory, to hold that it is sacrifices which make the beauty of a combination, and that the combination is prettier by the magnitude of the sacrifices. In reality, when one* sacrifices a major piece, the risk is but apparent, for it is seldom that there is delay in the result [*surely referring to masters or grandmasters of chess]. One compels resignation, surely and precisely, with few variations possible. . . . It is possible to imagine a very beautiful combination which involves no sacrifice. But all must be subordinated to the essential principle of victory.

Now for the cover of the June-2010 reprinting of this Dover paperback:

"The Art of Chess Combination" paperback

How impressive that of the thirteen Amazon customer reviews none are 1-stars or 2-stars!

Now consider parts of two Amazon reviews for The Art of Chess Combination:

There are a lot of books on attacking chess. Start with this CLASSIC. (five stars out of five)

Znosko-Borovsky is a brilliant chess teacher; this and his How to Play the Chess Endings are his two best works. . . . a wonderful, concise introduction to important motifs in attacking (and in some cases, defensive) play. . . .

The author does a tremendous job of introducing important tactical ideas, such “Geometry of the Chessboard,” “The Knight’s Star,” and, what I consider to be the most important part of the book, the section on BxKRP+ sacrifices.

This is the most important work I have used to learn kingside attacking methods, and since reading it during my first year of playing tournament chess in 1996 have only supplemented it with some kingside attacking exercises, but not a tremendous amount. With this book, you learn what you need to do, and it sticks.

Useful book but buy Spielmann instead for a true classic (three stars)

This is a quite good minor classic. Znosko-Borovsky discusses several themes, such as the standard bishop sacrifice on h7 and combinations against the king in the center. A great number of examples are to the point and I was delighted by the examples from Alekhine and [Capablanca]. There is clearly something of value for most of us here. But, in some cases the connection between examples and examples and text are not very clear. There are also a some instances of “… and white/black wins” where the continuation is not too obvious.


Be aware that most chess books are purchased by experienced players, including tournament competitors, and this publication is not for beginners. But if you have considerable experience in a chess club or in tournament play, this could be useful.



Three New Chess Books

Only one of these is for the beginner who knows the rules but little else

Chess Book for the Early Beginner

This book uses a new method of chess instruction: nearly-identical positions (NIP). But you don’t really need to know anything about that method. It works for you under the surface, training your mind to see possibilities and tactics as they really are, in a given chess position.