Wednesday, February 15, 2017

My Book Review of "Active Pieces"

International master Jay Bonin and Greg Keener have co-authored Active Pieces (Mongoose Press, 2016, 254 pages).  The title of the book refers to the fact that Jay may very well be the most active chess player in the history of the planet!

On Monday, I picked up my copy at the post office on my way to give a private chess lesson.  I brought it along with me to my student's house where we spent the better part of two hours looking at Jay's games (including a win against me).

We were amazed at the brilliant tactical combinations that Jay played, many of these beginning with one of the "Bonin knights" (as players at the Marshall Chess Club call them).  

Maybe you will find the following anecdote as humorous as I do.  A few years ago, I went to a student's house on a Friday afternoon for his weekly lesson.  The conversation went like this.

Student: "Let me show a game that I played last night in the Thursday tournament against Jay Bonin."
Me: "Were you White or Black?"
Student: "I was White."
Me: "Is that the game where Bonin retreated his knight to b8?"
Student: "Oh, you've already seen the game."
Me: "No, I haven't seen the game."
Student: "Then how did you know that Bonin retreated his knight to b8?"
Me: "He always plays that move."

Okay, not always! It just seems that way.

The game that my Monday student and I liked the most was Jay's victory over Robert Byrne, one of three grandmasters that Jay defeated in the tournament (which I also participated in).  By coincidence, Jay and I generally arrived at the hotel around the same time and took the elevator up together.  Jokingly I would ask him: "Which grandmaster are you going to beat today?'  And he did!

From the Forward, written by chess legend FM Asa Hoffmann, I was surprised to learn that Jay claims never to have studied chess, other than playing through games from the Chess Informant!  

Asa fails to mention that Jay is an avid sports fan.  Like me, Jay lives and dies with the Mets and Jets. But unlike me, Jay also follows the Yankees and Giants.  A truly universal fan!

From Chapter 6 "The Endgame", this is my loss against Jay.  My h-pawn killed me!