Hur man spelar schack (How to play chess) - Fritz Wigforss

This was my first chess book, an inspirational work and a true masterpiece of its kind. It was the perfect aid to understanding the basic principles and to learn to appreciate the beauty of the game. I borrowed it from the public library not just once but dozens of times.

The first edition was published in 1923. Since "my time" in the early 1950s it has been revised and issued as "Tidens schackbok" in 1984. (Tiden is a Swedish publishing house.) I do not think it is available in book shops any longer, although it can still be found at the Stockholm public library.

Why should I mention a book that is in Swedish and out of print? No good reason; it is just that it is one of the few books that have had a big influence on one aspect of my life, along with Kurt Richter's "Schackkavalkad" ("Kurzgeschichten um Schachfiguren") and Hans Müller's "Schachgenie Aljechin".

The book starts from the basics: the rules of the game, how to mate an unprotected king with a queen or a rook or a pair of bishops etc, how to win or defend end king and pawn vs. king. It then moves on to the general principles, strengths and weaknesses in the pawn chain, weak and strong pieces, and combinations. It then deals with attacks on the king, end games, positional chess, and - finally - openings. There are lots and lots of diagrams to explain the concepts. No need to play everything in your head!

When I re-read the book today, I find the somewhat antiquated language used by Wigforss quite charming: "Spelet tillgår nu så, att en person övertar ledningen av de vita, en annan de svarta pjäserna", "Svart råkar i förlägenhet", "De vita pjäserna fördes av Aljechin", "Angreppsmöjligheter och deras rätta utnyttjande", etc.

Fritz Wigforss seems to have made a name for himself as a mathematics teacher and educationalist. Unless I am mistaken, the Swedish finance minister during the 1940s, Ernst Wigforss, was his brother.

Troitsky study.I would like to offer just one example of the kind of magical combination that I found attractive in Wigforss' book. When I play "bullet chess" on the Internet (in my case usually 60 seconds for the entire game plus 1 second per move), I find it particularly difficult to quickly calculate a series of moves by my opponent's knights in the end game. Here is a nice exercise (a study by Troitsky) that illustrates the problem:

White's position seems rather bleak: his rook is hanging, he has 3 pawns vs. 4, his pieces are uncoordinated and vulnerable to double attack from the opposing queen, his knight seems to be out of action on the rim, his king is open to attack. Yet, in this unpromising position, white has a winning move that exploits the ability of the knight to fork the king and queen: Rc8!

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    Last edited or checked October 13, 2006.  

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