This years Short List contained four books of considerable merit. One however stood out for its original subject matter which was treated in a serious manner, but with good writing and a considerable sense of humour.
The subtitle explains the aim of the book: “How to save points from lost positions”.
Smerdon starts by looking at the psychology surrounding swindles. A swindler has to know both his own mind (Tal being the perfect example of optimistic resourcefulness) and that of his opponent
(are they anxious, want to get the game over quickly for whatever reason, or prefer a simple technical win to complicated but quicker victory)?
But the above does not work unless a player knows various ways that enable a potential swindler to escape his fate such as stalemate or perpetual check. The book contains many examples of the various positions and techniques that can be used.
Smerdon concludes with 110 exercises to develop the reader’s swindling skills of various degrees of difficulty.
What lifts the book above the ordinary is Smerdon’s quality of writing and his enthusiasm for chess, its players and the chess world. As an academic in behavioural economics he has a sharp eye for
human nature and enlivens the text with many quotes and pointed foot notes.
An outstanding Book of the Year 2020 which combines insightful discussion of a previously unexplored subject, with good writing and great entertainment throughout.