Greatest Enjoyment

If I had to choose one book that has given me the most enjoyment, I would have to think, but not for too long. Irving Chernev’s 1,000 Best Short Games of Chess wins hands down.

I have enjoyed this book immensely since I inherited a copy in 1973 from my grandfather, Charles K. Dickson, a guy who really knew how to be a grandfather.

For the last 33 years I have been replaying games from this book, and when I have visitors I show them the “bolt of lightning from a cloudless sky,” which illustrates the power of the double check: either one of the attacking pieces could be taken — both are “en prise” as the French say — but not both at once, so the king has to move, and if he can’t, it’s checkmate.

I also show them the shortest game ever played between tournament masters, and a “classic trap by Costics in the opening.” Then we play a game by Napoleon and one by Tolstoy when he was 81.

Chernev had an appreciation for the elegance of chess that you will not find in any other chess writer. I have read many and they are all boring and no fun at all. Chernev wrote a bunch of books and they’re all great. I don’t like long drawn-out pawn endings, and neither does he. These games are discussed in his works, but his goal is like mine — to have fun.

Chernev gives you games where players sacrifice the queen and mate with a pawn and you can choose from books with a lot of commentary to others with just a little. 1.000 Best Short Games of Chess has just a little, so I have old notes from 1983 asking “What about B-KB4?”

Has one third of a century of replaying these historic games improved my game?


I played my friend Kenny the other day and he forked two pieces with a pawn in the opening — I was trying the Colle. Then he did it again on the very next move! I was down two pieces. I fought on bravely but ultimately resigned.

I think you will enjoy chess if you like losing as much as you like winning. If someone beats you, they’re showing you a way to win, and I think you have to appreciate that. I know I do.

And if you want to replay a thousand beautiful games of chess — they’re all in this one book.