A Completely Biased New Series!
I own several hundred chess books, and I’ve given several dozen books away over the years. I don’t buy books nearly as often as I used to, but even now I sometimes cannot help myself!
This is the first part in a new series of posts on writers I consider to be Great Chess Authors. I don’t yet know how long (or frequent) this series will be.
There will be obvious names, perhaps some surprising names, and controversial omissions! Everyone has a different taste in chess authors.
Today I begin with the author who makes up more of my chess library than any other.
Edmar Mednis (1937-2002)
Born in Latvia, Edmar Mednis emigrated to the United States during World War 2. A notable early result was second-place in the 1955 World Junior Championship. Future World Champion Boris Spassky won the event.
Few would proclaim Mednis a great player, but it’s incredible that the USCF refused to apply for his Grandmaster title. Puerto Rico did so in 1980. Mednis played on the 1962 Olympiad team and qualified for the 1979 Riga Interzonal. The first player to defeat Bobby Fischer in a U.S. Championship was not exactly a weakling!
A Tour of the Edmar Mednis Library
Mednis will be most remembered for his books (and columns in Chess Life magazine).
How To Guides
I don’t have one of his most famous titles, How to Beat Bobby Fischer, which includes his own victory plus 60 other defeats inflicted upon the 11th World Champion. A similarly-themed book is How to Beat the Russians, a collection of losses by Soviet Grandmasters to foreign players in 1973. I have the 1989 reprint How to Defeat a Superior Opponent.
Another, even more highly-acclaimed book is his How Karpov Wins, giving insight into the play of the 12th World Champion. I regret not finishing this one! Maybe someday…
Mednis game collections are an instructive, easy read for improving players.
Mednis wrote a series of three books, all of which I have read and whole-heartedly recommend: Practical Rook Endings, Practical Bishop Endings, and Practical Knight Endings. They teach you the ABCs of these endings and provide great tips and examples. I only wish he had written books on pawn endings or queen endings!
“Practical” appears in a lot of the great author’s works, and in many of the titles! Mednis did not drown his readers in variations, instead providing step-by-step winning (or drawing) methods in a given position type, and then proceeding to lightly annotated examples.
He wrote a “Practical” series in the late 90s: Practical Opening Tips, Practical Middlegame Tips, and Practical Endgame Tips. I don’t think I own any of these works, so I can’t really comment. I do abide by the general rule “anything Mednis is a safe buy,” however!
Endgames and Strategy
Other endgame books I enjoy include Rate Your Endgame and Questions and Answers on Endgame Play. Mednis also wrote Advanced Endgame Strategies which I don’t believe I have, though it may be hiding somewhere!
Strategic Chess: Mastering the Closed Game is a good introduction to games starting with 1.d4, 1.c4, or 1.Nf3 for club players. Strategic Themes in the Opening and Beyond covers the strategic ideas in certain lines of the French Tarrasch and English Opening in depth.
There is also From the Opening to the Endgame, which features a selection of opening lines that can reach endgames (or at least queenless middlegames) almost immediately. This may be the only Edmar Mednis book that shows its age.
I’m leaving out some other titles (he wrote more than 25 books in all) but I think you can see the affinity I have for Mr. Mednis!
The Apple of My Eye
One book in particular had the biggest influence on the way I saw chess for most of my career.
From the Middlegame to the Endgame gave me hope. It gave me a grasp of the nebulous space between the middlegame and the endgame where I harvested so many points in the early part of my chess career. I finally found something I was good at in chess: endgame transitions. And there is no way I would have reached 1800, let alone 2100+, without this weapon.
Pick up an Edmar Mednis book if you haven’t already. Beware: you might fill your chess library with them before long!