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Book Review: Learn from Michal Krasenkow

Learn from Michal Krasenkow

Paperback, 408 pages, Thinkers Publishing, RRP £29.99

Thinkers Publishing are, just like Elk and Ruby (see below), an innovative publisher working hard to bring fresh new titles to the chess public. They have several titles by players we do not often see in print. Books by Kamsky and Tukmakov are in the pipeline, but first there is this very interesting volume by the Polish Grandmaster, trainer and writer.

The book is in three main parts. The first (and smallest) provides a relatively brief overview of the author’s life and chess career. The second offers 54 annotated games, all of which are instructive. They are arranged by theme rather than chronology. The third part presents 12 interesting endgames from the author’s games.

Krasenkow is a talented player, but makes no secret of the fact that progress was not always smooth – “My path to the top was by no means a speedy ascent”, despite having several sessions in his younger years with luminaries such Smyslov, Dvoretsky, Zlotnik and Razuvaev. He writes of the struggle to “overcome the symbolic barrier of a 2600 rating!” – a feat achieved only in 1996 after numerous near misses in the region of 2595.

This is a very honest and refreshing appraisal of his struggle to reach the top of his game and it will make a good connection with the vast majority of readers who also find chess improvement to be very hard work. The theme continues when Krasenkow admits his failings: “Unfortunately, throughout my life, I could not bring myself to work on chess regularly enough” and: “Poor memory was also a big disadvantage. Yes, such a player can sometimes achieve success, but does he have a chance to reach the world’s top?”

Nevertheless, despite – or because of – the struggle to makes significant progress – he reached one of the summits when he played in the 1997 FIDE World Championship, progressing well until being knocked out by Nigel Short, but still earning $60,000 – his biggest-ever pay packet. “Never before, or later in my career, did I earn close to that amount in a single tournament.”

One very positive aspect of the book is that the games will be very fresh to most readers. This became apparent when I looked at the section on ‘Various and Memorable’ games and found the encounter with Korchnoi was new to me, and a very interesting one it is too.

Essentially a ‘best games’ collection, this is a book showing the gritty side of chess battles at a level just below the absolute top. As such, club players will be able to relate to the struggles and will derive comfort from understanding that even strong grandmasters have their faults and their games are not always as smooth as others would have you believe.

Sean Marsh

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