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by Steve Goldberg
Tune Your Chess Tactics Antenna, by Emmanuel Neiman, 2012 New in Chess, Figurine Algebraic Notation, Paperback, 237pp. $28.95
Tune Your Chess Tactics Antenna is intended to help players better identify when conditions are ripe for tactical play. The author, winner of the 2011 ChessCafe.com Book of the Year Award for Invisible Chess Moves, co-written with Yochanan Afek, suggests being watchful for (or better yet, trying to create) one or more "signals," by which he means weaknesses in the position of your opponent.
He identifies seven categories of signals, as follows:
The organizational plan of the book somewhat eludes me, but I will try to explain it by first sharing the table of contents:
In Part I, author Neiman does a nice job of identifying his seven signals, providing multiple examples of each. For example, here is a position from the King Position chapter, with Black to move:
Neiman points out that Black has back-rank mating possibilities, in addition to a potential mating threat on g2, if he can get his queen aiming toward that square (his light-squared bishop on b7 is already in place).
"So," says Neiman, "the best move here is the charming 1...Qc6! Black threatens both to directly take the rook (2...Qxc1) and to give checkmate in two moves on the long diagonal (2...Rxe1+ followed by 3...Qxg2). There is no defence, apart from giving the queen."
If you check the table of contents for Part II, you will find that chapters eight to fourteen duplicate the chapter headings of chapters one to seven from Part I. Indeed, in each of these chapters in Part II, Neiman adds additional examples of the given topic. The difference seems to be that he divides the examples into various themes, such as discovered attack, elimination of the defender, etc. Most of the examples come from actual games, but he includes a number of interesting studies as well. Each chapter in Part II concludes with several test positions, with solutions provided at the end of this section of the book.
The first two chapters in Part III cover the selection of candidate moves and the importance of accurate calculation. These are short chapters, but do include interesting examples. Here is one from the "Changing the move order" section, with White to move:
"Here White would like to play e5-e6," says Neiman, "and if Black takes, Bxe6+, with mate threats. The problem with this variation is that after Bxe6 White has no rook lift, because he is himself threatened with a back-rank mate. Hence the idea of preparing the mate by a preliminary rook lift:"
25.Rf3! Bc5 26.e6 "And in order to survive, Black has to give up material." 26...Rxd5 27.Rxd5 "and White duly won."
The final chapter of Part III presents six positions. For each position, the reader is asked "is there a combination?" and is asked to determine the best game continuation. The solutions follow.
Part IV ("Final Test") is a compilation of fifty problems of varying difficulty, covering the previous material in the book. The reader is provided a brief hint for each problem, in the problem title, such as "Alignment," "Passed pawns," "Deflection," etc. But in most cases, the position is complex enough so that the hint is not sufficient to give away the solution.
I would suggest that Tune Your Chess Tactics Antenna is an excellent text for intermediate players or "advanced beginners." Some of the problems have simple one-move solutions, but most are quite challenging. There seem to be enough of both to allow readers to experience success while working to grow their tactical antennae.
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