Book Review #1 – 100 Chess Master Trade Secrets by Andrew Soltis

“100 Chess Master Trade Secrets: From Sacrifices to Endgames” (Batsford Chess) has been on my book shelf a while and is a book that I regularly dip back into, especially before big tournaments.  Ive always been a massive fan of the writing of GM Andrew Soltis, so who better to start with for the first official book review on the Bristol Chess Times? Lets take a closer look…

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I love the design of the Batsford Chess book covers

What is a Priyome? Pardon? Even the most ardent chess players may not have heard this expression before!  GM Soltis explains at the start of the book that a Priyome is a Russian word which is best translated as a strategic pattern or a theme that a player can learn and apply in many situations. He talks about how the Soviet Chess School believed that there were a set of top Priyomes that every master has to learn in order to progress.  For example, in the diagram below, a simple priyome in a pawn and rook endgame with a single open file would be 1. Rd1 and 2. Rd7 leading to advantage white.

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Priyomes and other strategic motifs are effectively the top trade secrets referred to in the title of the book.  GM Soltis believes that the 100 trade secrets described in the book are all known by masters and therefore essential for an ambitious amateur to learn. The book is effectively split into four chapters, each containing 25 examples of the patterns across four key categories:

  • 25 Key Priyomes
  • 25 Must-Know Endgame Techniques
  • 25 Crucial Sacrifices
  • 25 Exact Endings

Each trade secret has no more than a handful of pages dedicated to it in order keep each particular lesson light and simple, something that I enjoy and find easily accessible.  An essential need for the time poor club player with a busy life.  This choice of light touch lessons also has another advantage.  You don’t have to read the book in any particular order, or for any great length of time.  It reads more like a reference book that you can dip in and out of.  For example, with a big tournament coming up perhaps I will just refresh my memory on the top 25 priyomes (remember this means strategic device) to aid my planning and thinking.  Perhaps I will only feel the need to dive into five of these. Perhaps I will just remind myself of which openings in the Crucial Sacrifices chapters involve sacking the exchange on f3.

The great thing about this arrangement in the book is that I suspect most players pick up 100 Chess Master Trade Secrets and know a reasonable percentage of the content already. This leaves the reader reassured in their personal chess ability but also encouraged that they are also plugging valuable gaps to make them a better all round player.

To give you an example of trade secret that I suspect most club level players rarely think of (atleast below 1800 ELO), here is Crucial Sacrifice #5:The File Plugger

The File Plugger

GM Soltis writes:

This arises in several different pawn structures with an open file.  The sacrificer, White or Black, wants to close the file and secure positional benefits like a protected passed pawn.

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Epishin – Dolmatov. Russian Team Championship 1992. White to play

White can occupy c7 with his rook but it can be challenged by …Rc8.

Better is 1. Rc6! threatening the pawns on b6 and d6.  After the forced 1…Bxc6 2. dxc6 we can evaluate:

a) White created a protected passed pawn at c6.

b) He opened a splendid diagonal leading to f7 and threatens Bc4

c) He is virtually certain to win back atleast one pawn.

Of course, Black has an extra exchange. But rooks need files to prove they are superior to minor pieces. Since the c-file is now plugged up, a diagonal, a2-g8 counts much more. 

(p129-130 in 100 Chess Master Trade Secrets, Batsford Chess)

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The completed File Plugger

The author goes on to explore the idea of the “File Plugger” in more detail over the next handful of pages but again not to the extent of covering all known theory.  His intent is to provide the reader with a memorable principle (the names he chooses also help in this regard) that can be taken forward into your amateur games and hopefully spark an idea at the right time over the board.

Conclusion

In conclusion, I can thoroughly recommend this book to the amateur club player as I feel it just has so much to practically offer. For very experienced players I believe it still provides value as even if a player already knows 80 of GM Soltis’s 100 trade secrets, how much of a difference to their game could the remaining 20 make?  The structure of the book aids easy study, allowing the club player to focus on a number of key areas, specifically strategic themes, sacrifices, and endgame techniques without overwhelming the reader (like a lot of endgame manuals and tomes do).

Overall, a refreshingly different approach to learning key principles.

Here is a link to 100 Chess Master Trade Secrets.

Finally, I’ve been planning to write some book and DVD reviews for the Bristol Chess Times for a while now. If you are a regular reader and want to get involved in telling us about a particular favourite book or DVD then do get in touch at bristolchesstimes@gmail.com.  We always welcome contributions from new authors.


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Jon Fisher

Jon is the Editor of The Bristol Chess Times and Publicity and Recruitment Officer for The Bristol & District Chess League. He plays for Horfield Chess Club and has been known to play 1. b3 on occasion.

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