Review of Rock Solid Chess by Tiviakov

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Rock Solid Chess – Tiviakov’s Unbeatable Strategy: Pawn Structures by Sergei Tiviakov and Yulia Gokbulut. New in Chess 2023 264pp

It’s true that I haven’t been posting as much lately, but that’s not due to time away from chess. I actually have my highest rating in seven years at this point. Not bad for a guy who’ll be 50 in less than three months.

So what’s the “secret” that’s propelling me right now? Well, for one, I’ve been hitting the books pretty hard. One of those books is this latest offering by famed Dutch GM Sergei Tiviakov.

As far as I am aware, this is his first book, though he has produced many videos for ChessBase, including two which I am intimately familiar with, his videos on the …Qd6 Scandinavian and the Alapin Sicilian.

This book is the first in what will be a series of books on chess strategy by these co-authors, and I have to say I not only found it to be highly instructive, but I enjoyed it immensely.

The book is broken into seven chapters. They are

  1. Pawn majority on one flank
  2. Doubled pawns, part one
  3. Doubled pawns, part two
  4. Semi-open files in the centre
  5. One open file in the centre
  6. Two open files in the centre
  7. The double fianchetto

Preceding these chapters is one of the most interesting introductions I have ever read. It’s titled “Human chess versus computer chess”. It gives several games, some classics, some modern, where Tiviakov explains the difference in thought processes between humans and engines.

The games contained in the book are mostly lightly annotated in terms of variations, as the authors give most of the explanations in prose. The idea here is for the reader to understand the ideas rather than to get to the absolute analytical truth of a position.

This is something I would like to see a lot more in chess books. Yes, when you read certain books, like Ramesh’s recent book Improve Your Chess Calculation, it’s highly important to give line after line to ensure that the reader is thoroughly absorbing the most subtle details of each position. In a book such as Tiviakov’s, however, it’s far more important to ensure that the reader understands the concepts, which are best established with verbal explanations. Next year’s engines may give different lines than this year’s, but the ideas will remain the same.

Like many authors, Tiviakov knows his games best, so he often illustrates his ideas using them, but he also leans heavily on games from days gone by. Thus, you’ll see games from Botvinnik in the ’30s; Tal-Smyslov from the ’50s; Karpov from the ’90s, etc.

All in all, this book is quite well done, and I found it not only useful but enjoyable. Also, it seems that perhaps NiC’s “experiment” with paper of a lesser quality is over. This book is printed on high-quality paper for which NiC has historically been known.

Buy it today, and tell me about it tomorrow.

Til Next Time,

Chris Wainscott