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Review by GeneM of Updated "1001 WCSaC" Reinfeld book, 2014-06-27

I love Fred Reinfeld's shot puzzle book "1001 Winning Chess Sacrifices and Combinations". Even though the original pre-Fritz book has a then-forgivable error rate approaching 10%, the quality of its 900 good puzzles is still exceptional by any standard old or modern.

I would have liked to update the book myself. Instead I must content myself with assessing the job done by Mr. Reinfeld's descendents and the author they chose Bruce Alberston.

Smiley Good:
The larger page size means larger diagrams (I assume?), and likely clearer diagrams, all very good. This is probably the best change brought by the updated book.
OLD page size: 8.3 X 5.2 X 0.5 (inches. 8 4/16 X 5 3/16). NEW page size: 9.2 X 6.4 X 0.5.
OLD diagram size: 1.6 (1 7/16; 40mm). NEW diagram size approximately 45mm.

The positions are still grouped in thematic chapters, but you can now open the book to a random page without seeing what the theme is. That's a good improvement. (A quote from Amazon reviewer HPaul, and I agree.)

On the diagram pages, the numeric identifier of each puzzle diagram is now centered above row-8. In the original the identifiers were under square a1 or h1, which was not the natural place for the eye to look.

Spot checks found no copy errors in the answers or the diagrams.

Sad Disappointing:
Broken Puzzles Unfixed: Some of Reinfeld's original puzzles were simply mistaken (Fred did not have Fritz). It seems like a waste of the students' and customers' time to leave those puzzles in unmarked in the updated book. Yes do honor the "classic" original book, but do not take that principle to harmful extremes.

** For instance, Alberston makes no change to Reinfeld's incorrect answer for puzzle 32. After giving the correct first two moves 1. NxP! NxN, Reinfeld's continuation with 2. Q-N4! is very wrong, and instead 2. BxN!! (Bxe6+!!) is best. Even 2. Qe2-g2 is much stronger than Q-N4.

** There are perhaps 99 flawed puzzles in Reinfeld's book, and all 99 would benefit from some kind of change. Some flawed puzzles are tolerable anyway because Reinfeld erred only by missing the strongest successful attack. But other puzzles are a waste of the customer's time because Reinfeld missed the proper defensive moves, and therefore these puzzles they contain no shot for the customer to find: puzzle 78 is an example (4... Bd3xd5/B solves White's problem). Perhaps Alberston should announce that he wanted the updated book to contain some unmarked fake shot puzzles because some reviewers have been fooled into thinking Ray Cheng had the right idea when he purposely included some (Cheng's book is excellent despite that over-hyped and dubious feature).

In the other "1001 Brilliant Ways to Checkmate" book that Alberston has also updated, in his preface he openly states that he did not use Fritz to check Reinfeld's answers; and I presume Reinfeld's answers were not Fritz checked in this updated book either, because it shows. Boo. I now believe the Amazon reviewers of the Alberston & Wilson "303" puzzle books that complained the solutions had errors and were obviously never Fritz verified.

Answers Still on Far Away Pages: Readers still must trudge to the back of the updated book to look up the answers. Presenting the answers on a nearby page is known by everyone to be superior. Ray Cheng's book "Practical Chess Exercises" is among those who have conclusively demonstrated this point.

Answer Moves No Longer in Columns: Whereas Reinfeld's original book neatly lined up the solution moves in *columns*, this update compresses the moves and variations together, and reformats the answer presentation into plain *paragraph* form. The old column format made the moves easier to read; and it enabled the variations to stand out separately. The new paragraph format should enable Alberston to fit more answers on each page to reduce the page count a little, but somehow no more answers fit on a page in the updated book than fit in the original. Without saving a nickel on page count, all that the new paragraph format accomplished is making Alberston's typing task easier, and the cost to customers of making the answers more difficult to read than they would have been. Or am I mistaken?

The paragraph format for answers is so inferior to the original column format that people who know Descriptive notation might prefer the original book overall. After all, aside from the larger sizes for pages (and diagrams?), the answer pages are 96% of what is changed in this new edition.

The verbiage in the updated answers section contains perhaps twice as many words that are split between the end of one line and the beginning of the next, with a hyphen. Hyphenation is an archaic practice that should have been killed decades ago (IMHOpinion). Hyphenation at the end of a line, to split apart a word, makes reading and highlighting slightly harder.

Alberston added the word "Introduction" to Reinfeld's header "Sacrifices and Combinations". In the Intro, Alberston kept almost all of Reinfeld's writing unchanged. Yet as throughout the book, Alberston decided to reassess all of Reinfeld's commas, capitalizations, annotative marks on moves (such as changing "1. RxB!" to "1. Rxe7" in answer 62), and optional hypenations. Whether petty or trivial, these minor changes unfortunately leech historical context information from the classic. They would have stirred Bobby Fischer to rant.

And a minor point I mention to satisfy the stickler Edward Winter that I am competent, I see in the second paragraph that the updated book replaces Reinfeld's correct plural word "thrills" with the ungrammatical "thrill".

The new cover design is as dull and uninteresting as possible, and makes no effort to honor the classic.

Shocked Other:
The switch from Description notation to SAN is an improvement. SAN shines best as a notation syntax for use during tournament chess games when the clocks are ticking, and when the moves must fit in the small boxes provided by score sheets. Yet the customer is less burdened by flipping back-forth-back-forth between diagram and distant solution when a notation richer than SAN is used.

LAN is richer than SAN because LAN adds the origin square information. But LAN still does not tell you the type of piece taken (a nice datum that Descriptive does provide). Also, LAN suffers from being a bit hard to read because it puts both physical distance and other contents between the two most important pieces of information; namely the piece type that is moving and the destination square.

In theory a notation better than SAN or LAN could have been ideal, especially if the answers are stuck in the back of the book. Maybe a notation like XSAN could be helpful here. XSAN starts as SAN, then appends richer info. For example, any of the standard notations --- 33. QxR or Q:e7 or Qe2:e7 --- becomes Q:e7~2/r (where ~ means "from", and lowercase "/r" means a black rook was captured).

Same Linares font is used for the diagrams, as in the original book.

Had I updated this book, I wanted to add notes that some puzzles are from games for which we have the whole game score of moves. For instance, puzzle 452 is Denker-Avram 1939; and 475 is Euwe-Kramer 1940. I have no information that Alberston has added this information.

In the answers like #80, Reinfeld wrote like: "If now 2 BxQ, BxP mate!". Alberston changed that to: "(If now 2.Bxd8, 2...Bxf2 mate.)"; adding a repetition of the move-pair number, "2...", to cumbersomely encode that the move is by Black. Also noteworthy is that Alberston consistently uses the word "mate" and does not use the hashtag symbol that is commonly used to signify mate; as in "Bxf2#".

I wonder whether the copyright holder considered having the contents re-published in the interactive ebook format that has recently emerged and that will likely dominate chess publishing by 2020?

GeneM, 2014/June/26


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Updated: 2014-07-26