There is always a dearth of quality chess material for training once you climb up the ELO ladder. When my students join they are raw beginners but later I find it difficult to set them challenging tasks as they slowly master the techniques. And therefore I keep looking out for new avenues for training them with. Today I have a reason to be thrilled. I have seen Dvoretsky’s latest book on the art of prophylaxis that seems to have come after a long hiatus. Dvoretsky’s latest book on the art of prophylaxis is something that most of chess books have been lacking and that is Recognizing Your Opponent’s Resources: Developing Preventive Thinking which is by the way the title of Dvoretsky’s new book.
Victor Kortchnoi once said with great insight – If you do not check what your opponent is doing, you will end up complaining about bad luck after every game.
So understanding your opponent’s next move could be or what agenda he is trying to accomplish, is one of the most important core skills required climb up the ELO ladder. It is what makes a difference between a good chess player and a strong chess master.
The reason why many students stagnate is because they are aware of most of the direct methods of attack and will thrive in many a tactical melee, but give them a position where they are at the receiving end of the opponents’ blows, or where the tactics are not yet present on the board, they will be all at sea.
What is special about Dvoretsky’s latest book on the art of prophylaxis ?
What is prophylaxis in chess?
I have a 1200 player who attacks ferociously with tactical claws that will tear any ripe position apart. One day when we played a game that was steered into positional waters, he was stuck for 2 hours in getting the best move! I had to reset the clock many times as he was floundering for a move and in exasperation he asked me (after having reset the clock for the 4th time) – “What is the move I must play here, Master?” – to which all I could say was “I think your best move is to resign as I myself do not know how you are going to disentangle from your mess”.
That is the power of prophylactic thinking for you.*
Dvoretsky is known for advocating the art of prophylaxis as a key to mastery in the higher levels of chess playing arena. To put it in his own words (Secrets of positional play), Prophylaxis or prophylactic thinking is “the habit of constantly asking yourself what the opponent wants to do, what he would play if it were him to move, the ability to find an answer to this question and to take account of it in the process of coming to a decision.”
Coming to the book under review – Recognizing Your Opponent’s Resources is a collection of problems with underlying theme of prophylaxis.
Dvoretsky is very famous for his classical books that are considered as must-read for those beyond 2000 ELO upto 2400 ELO. In this book, Dvoretsky embarks on a classical but neglected training on this theme, with high-quality training material for independent analysis.
Contents of the book – on the subtle art of prophylaxis
Each chapter has a introductory theoretical section followed by plenty of exercises, from easy to difficult. Each chapter begins with a small explanation on the chapter’s theme, and this is followed by positions for solving with their solutions.
This book consists of four chapters, all dealing with identifying what your opponent’s next move or moves could be. They are:
- Pay Attention to Your Opponent’s Resources (180 problems).
- The Process of Elimination (106 problems).
- Traps (36 problems)
- Prophylactic Thinking (154 problems)
To summarize –
The best part is that among the approximately 500 exercises, there are opening, middlegame and endgame positions. This provides you with challenges in searching for a move and calculating variations as per the given pointers, that will help you at any stage of the game, be it the opening or the middlegame or the Endgame scenario.
The crux of the book is the solutions offered for the training position which are very detailed, as is typically expected of Dvoretsky’s work. Throughout the book, the author guides us by leading us through the schematic thinking for a solution in each position, to show how a player can come to the right choice of move at the board.
Recognizing Your Opponent’s Resources is a must buy as it comes from the master himself. I suggest going through this book with your student if you are a Coach or Trainer – this will open up a few hidden insights in his/her chess brain.
*I keep harping on positional play many times and prophylaxis is my main forte while playing with some upstart students, as it is a complex concept. And whenever they start watering in the mouth with an upcoming tactical warfare and an impending win over me, I pull the plug, and play positionally to get the grip back. That way I enjoy the looks on their face when they hit a wall. This actually makes them understand that tactics has to coupled with positional concepts for chess mastery.
Order Dvoretsky’s latest book on the art of prophylaxis from the Bookdepository if you are in the UK.
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