Startling Correspondence Chess Miniatures


Startling Correspondence Chess Miniatures

CCIM Tim Harding
Chess Mail Ltd., 2000, 128 pp.

While miniature game collections are not new and often of marginal quality, Tim Harding finds a nice hook and carries it out capably.  Although I didn’t think I would like this book of games of 25 moves or less, I do.

What sets this book apart from other miniature collections is the fact that, as the title suggests, all the games are from correspondence play.  Since we usually think that the slower pace of correspondence play would reduce errors and quick tactical kills, it is interesting to find so many short games – even among very strong players.  This provides the author the opportunity to discuss some of the characteristics of short correspondence games, and Harding presents many useful insights that make the book enjoyable and even instructional.

Tim Harding is an experienced book author and editor of the correspondence chess magazine Chess Mail, and his deft touch does much pull off this project.     Harding provides tidy introductions that clue us in on exactly why this will be a short game, gives opening analysis when appropriate, and generally zeroes in on the root cause of the win (or loss).  As a result, the book balances general instruction with some that is more specific to correspondence chess, while not losing sight of the games themselves – there is much that is striking and fun in these 100 efforts.

The book’s organization also helps make the book work.  The ten chapters focus on specific types of miniatures, such as games that feature a startling conclusion (ten games in chapter one’s “A Bolt from the Blue”), premature resignation (chapter four’s 10 games are found in a chapter entitled “Resignation:   the surest way of losing), opening shocks (chapter five’s ten games), attacking games (chapter nines 14 games), and ultra minis (12 games ending in 12 or fewer moves).

There are also chapters focusing on the best of correspondence miniatures – one featuring classic games (from the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries) and another featuring the ten highest-class miniatures the author could find.  Coupled with chapters on tactical exercises and other themes, the book presents a variety of interesting material that should be of use to players of all strengths, whether over the board or correspondence players.

Some may wonder exactly what strength players are represented here.   While there are games featuring amateur players, there are also many examples from the highest echelon of correspondence play.  Most players will recognize the names of Hans Berliner, Paul Keres, Cecil Purdy, Gedeon Barcza, Vladimir Zagorovsky, Ulf Andersson, and Peter Leko (all contestants in the book), but they will also surely enjoy the performances of lesser known correspondence players.  Suffice to say that there is a lot of quality chess to be found here.

In conclusion, there are lots of interesting short chess games, and this book provides a nice sample of that sort of play.  Because the examples are all from correspondence play, there is often a tactical or strategic depth that might not be found in over the board miniatures.  The author does a nice job of identifying the key characteristics of this type of game with a light, lively touch.  This is a book to enjoy, but watch out — you might actually learn something along the way.

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