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Chess Gems: 1,000

Combinations You
Should Know
by Igor Sukhin
(Author), Vladimir
Kramnik (Preface)
USA. Boston:
Mongoose Press,
2007. 336 p.

Vladimir Kramnik
Preface, May 2007

The book you have in your hands contains more than

1,000 combinations from games played over the last two
millennia. Many are classics, an important part of chess
education for beginners and intermediate players. Some
examples, like Anderssen-Kieseritsky, are so famous that
practically any chess player has seen them. Yet there are
many more. Huge chunks of chess history from the
nineteenth century are omitted from textbooks. This book
was designed to fill the gap. While it is hard to determine
which games are the most famous, let alone the best, Chess
Gems contains many beautiful combinations that have
amazed and delighted chess fans.

When amateurs talk about sharp combinative

play, they often refer to the greats of the past:
Anderssen, Morphy, Chigorin, etc. Others have
more contemporary heroes: Tal or Fischer. Many
people from my generation could be called Tals
children. I grew up on his games; in my
childhood I tried to copy his style. There is a
perception that today somehow professional chess
has become dry and boring.

The way chess is played at the top level has changed quite a
bit in the last few years. There are a lot more tactics involved,
and the positions are much more complicated thats not a
coincidence. Nowadays, thanks to computers, to get an
advantage out of the opening, one has to go for complicated
positions. It is much harder to win a game without taking risks;
one cannot just slowly grind down an opponent, playing for
two possible outcomes: win or draw. A lot of recent wins at
high-level tournaments are achieved through enormous
complications and tactics. In fact, in a future edition of this book
covering the twenty-first century, I am sure quite a few recent
games will be worth including.

No discussion of recent changes in chess can ignore the elephant

in the room: computers. Here I want to dispel a popular myth:
computers will make (or have already made) human chess less
Cars can go much faster than the 100-meter world record holder,
and farther than the best marathoner. Yet that hasnt diminished
interest in track and field. If anything, computers make chess more
accessible to a broad circle of chess fans. They allow amateurs to spot
errors of top professionals in real time, to explore all sorts of whatif scenarios, and to provide an instant (though imperfect) assessment
of the game being played. One cannot ignore the benefits of training
with a chess program at all levels. All in all, while computers make
the life of a chess professional harder, their overall contribution to the
game is positive.

I suppose one can distinguish between computer chess and

human chess. Playing computer chess (really the only way to play
against a computer nowadays) involves watching extremely carefully
for your own mistakes. There is no psychology involved, no tactics
based on intuition. One small error will bring your demise at the
hands of the silicon monster; whereas against a human opponent, a
mistake occasionally results in an interesting and entertaining twist.
To me, chess has always been about competition between two people,
with all their human emotions and blunders. Not surprisingly, only
human games bring about spectacular intuitive sacrifices and
memorable combinations.
One thing is clear: for as long as people play chess, for as long as
there is appreciation of art, beauty, and logic, this book will not
become obsolete.

Combinations have long been considered the most creative aspect of chess. It is
hardly surprising that many books have been devoted to them, and published in
Russia as well as abroad. Most of them, however, share the same drawbacks:
The combinations are classified by theme;
The majority of the examples are from the end of the twentieth century;
The enormous legacy of the great masters of the nineteenth century has been
In solutions to the problems, the authors do not supply sufficient variations, and
they often do not indicate other moves which are even more effective and
spectacular than those which were played in the games;
The same mistakes are repeated in every new edition.
In our book, the material is presented in chronological order. We begin with some
examples of the combinational skills of the masters of Shatranj and end with
illustrations of the tactical strikes by contemporary grandmasters. The basic material
in this book samples the tactical skills of the world's leading players from all eras,
rather than fragments of games between unknown amateurs. We have devoted
special attention to matches for the world championship. Combinations of twentiethcentury chess players comprise less than half of the combinations.

The book has 14 chapters with a consistent structure. First, we show several
outstanding combinations of the period, followed by the section, How would you
play? in which readers are challenged to solve several instructive positions with the
best moves.
The solutions to the problems are at the end of each chapter. In some cases we
indicate alternative combinations.
The level of difficulty of the problems in this book varies considerably. There are
some brilliant combinations with a checkmate in two, as well as complex
combinations requiring many moves and with numerous side variations. The reader
should be prepared for traps and surprises, since some would-be combinations have
refutations. Accordingly, even if a position is well-known, it would be advisable to
analyze carefully all possible variations, and not just try to remember what happened
in the game.
All the positions included in the book have been analyzed thoroughly. There are
many famous examples that are not a part of this book for various reasons: some
have been refuted; or the advantage after the best defense by the opponent
is insignificant; or a similar combination occurred earlier.

There are plenty of positions from the games of crowned and

unofficial world champions and candidates for that title (in particular
Anderssen, Morphy, Chigorin, Tarrasch and Alekhine.)
In the challenge sections, the reader is faced with a diagram that says
White to move or Black to move, without any additional
information unlike thematic collections of combinations. The idea is
to simulate competitive chess, when the player does not know the
theme of a combination, or even the exact problem (whether he is
looking for a win or a draw). The reader does have advantages
compared to the competitive player, in that he knows the position
requires a tactical solution, and his time for thinking is not
restricted. Still, if the reader finds a beautiful combination which
occurred in a game of Alekhine, Fischer or Kasparov, for example,
then he can consider himself to be almost a true champion.

Igor Sukhin

p. 5
Preface by World champion Kramnik
p. 7
p. 8
1. According to the Rules Shatranj (IX XV centuries)
p. 10
How Would You Play?
2. From Lucena to Greco (XV XVII centuries)
p. 15
How Would You Play?
3. From Stamma to Philidor (XVIII Century)
p. 26
How Would You Play?
4. From Napoleon to Staunton (the first half of XIX century) p. 38
How Would You Play?

5. Anderson and Murphy (1851 1860)

p. 65
How Would You Play?
6. First Unofficial World Championship Match (1861 1870) p. 90
How Would You Play?
7. Zukertort and Chigorin (1871 1880)
p. 105
How Would You Play?
8. Steinitz The First World Champion (1881 1890)
p. 123
How Would You Play?
9. Lasker and Pillsbury (1891 1900)
p. 150
How Would You Play?

10. Matces of the Second World Champion (1901 1920)

How Would You Play?
11. Capablanca, Alekhine, Euwe (1921 1940)
How Would You Play?
12. Botvinnik, Smyslov, Tal (1941 1960)
How Would You Play?
13. Petrosian, Spassky, Fischer (1961 1980)
How Would You Play?
14. The Great Opposition: Karpov Kasparov (1981 2000)
How Would You Play?
Index of Players

p. 191
p. 222
p. 255
p. 277
p. 305
p. 329

The joy of great inventions is in the

remote past. Now, thousands of tactical
ideas are recorded in the black list of
theory. All is known that is, almost all.
Naturally every chess player improvises
over the board in accordance with his
talent and imagination. But that which is
already known, must be known!
Mikhail Tal

We cannot

resist the fascination

of sacrifice, since a passion for
sacrifices is part of a
chessplayers nature
Rudolf Spielmann

I. According to the Rules of Shatranj

(ninth fifteenth centuries)
Our book with 1000 combinations starts with the exquisite tactical
operation found about 1000 years ago by the renowned master of Shatranj
Abu Naim Al-Khadim, a resident of central Asia in the ninth century .

White to move

1. Ng3 h5+! Rh7xh5

2. Rg1xg6+! Kf6xg6
3. Re1 e6#
This is a beautiful combination
which would make any present-day
chess player proud. White does not
have a single redundant piece in the
final position...

The Legend of Dilaram

Many centuries ago, somewhere in the East, Dilaram, whose name means Ease of
the soul in Arabic, was the favorite lovely wife of a nobleman. He liked to gamble,
and the game of shatranj was his passion. Once however, he had the mishap to be
opposed by a strong player and the game was played as usual for high stakes. Our
hero kept losing, but he was kept arranging the pieces for each new game in the
hope of recovering.
The stakes were increasing, and finally the nobleman had lost everything he
possessed. He insisted, Let us play one more game, the last one.
At what stakes?
Stakes? I pledge my loving wife, beautiful Dilaram, the man said. That exquisite
beauty came over to the players and stood humbly next to her husband. His
opponent said, I will bet everything I have won, if you will wager Dilaram. He
was overwhelmed with lust.
The battle started and it was tough and fierce. Still, the players abilities were
unequal, and the guest was already attacking. It looked like the nobleman was about
to surrender. He was losing hope, and his opponent was smiling triumphantly.
Suddenly the host heard his wife whisper Oh, my master! Sacrifice both your rooks
but do not surrender me, your Dilaram. So he kept his composure, and he saw
a beautiful combination, winning by force. He sacrificed two rooks and he
checkmated his opponents king...

Chess Gems Reviews


"My heart sank when this book arrived. Not another book on tactics! I feared the
worst... So I opened it up ... and ... fell in love with it!" Jeremy Silman (Read the
whole review
"While there are countless books on tactics, ... it is rare that a book of this type
breaks new ground. Typically, there are a large number of tactical problems
organized by theme and/or difficulty, with little or no commentary.
Chess Gems is an exception to this rule. Yes, it is a compilation of chess
combinations, but they are interwoven into the story of chess history, creating a
unique experience for the reader". Edward Scimia (Read More

Chess Gems Reviews


"Ask strong players what they do to improve and you will get many
answers, but at least one in common - keep your tactical eye sharp!
CHESS GEMS by Igor Sukhin passes all the requirements of a good
book on tactical exercises with flying colors and more". John
Donaldson (Full review
"Work through the entire book and assuredly your rating will go up a
hundred pointsthe rare gift that would suit players of all levels!"
Virginia Chess Newsletter (Read More

Chess Gems Reviews


"Seldom a chess book on combinations has impressed me so much as this work

from Igor Sukhin". John Elburg Chess Reviews (See the full review
option=com_content&view=article&id=12%3Aelburg-chessgems&catid=11&Itemid=111 )
"Chess Gems is instructive, engaging, and downright fun to work though" (from
''If you're looking for a relaxing book where you'll learn a good deal about the
history of chess and improve your tactical skills, don't hesitate to order Chess
Gems, one of the most refreshing books of it's kind that I've seen'' (from

Chess Gems Reviews


''A very fine book, for self-study or as a gift to a promising player''

''CHESS GEMS is attractively produced. It is features an attractive
cover, a clear two-column design, crisp diagrams and sturdy binding.
This book is an excellent first effort by the new American publisher
Mongoose Press'' (Jeremy Silman
''...a veritable treasure chest, crammed full of glittering combinations
and sparkling tactics'' (from The Compulsive Reader

Chess Gems Reviews


"Chess Gems is instructive, engaging, and downright fun to work

through" (from
''If you're looking for a relaxing book where you'll learn a good deal
about the history of chess and improve your tactical skills, don't
hesitate to order Chess Gems, one of the most refreshing books of it's
kind that I've seen'' (from
''A very fine book, for self-study or as a gift to a promising player''

2007 Igor Sukhin and Mongoose Press

Publisher: Mongoose Press
Interior Design: Semko Semkov
Editorial Consultant: Peter Sherwood
Translated by: GM Evgeny Ermenkov
Cover Design: Patricia Bickner

Presentation: Igor Sukhin 17.02.2013