Chess Gladiator by FM Asa Hoffmann

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Every city has its strong masters, but how many developed in the New York City chess milieu at the same time as Bobby Fischer? Asa Hoffmann had constant exposure to that rich heritage and played and analyzed with America’s chess elite. He has played over 3000 tournament games and includes here a small, carefully selected sample that is representative of his fighting and sometimes “coffeehouse” style.

The notes to the game are short but insightful. Hoffmann mentions his teacher Al Horowitz, learning opening tricks from Rossolimo, and playing blitz chess with Fischer and Zuckerman. Thus Hoffmann’s games are rife with many opening systems popular with that previous generation, but there are modern treatments from the last two decades as well.

Since opening selection in master chess has become more offbeat, Asa’s games and repertoire are contemporary. His middlegames often have unusual piece placements lending themselves to original tactics. His famous opponents often find themselves in time pressure. This is chess in the trenches – a gladiator’s game.

All told, there are 70 annotated games, grouped into chapters by openings, then listed chronologically within each chapter.

The chapter titles are Classical Play, Sicilian Brevities, The Czech Benoni, Fear No English, Sicilian Struggles, Hypermodern Defenses, Closed French and King’s Indian Attack, and Unusual Openings.

Though Hoffmann is a blitz specialist, there is only one blitz game included: a 1963 win vs Fischer in the Evans Gambit, never before published.

The book has an Introduction by GM Seirawan and a Foreword by GM Lombardy. The diagrams are clear but unfortunately, the small number of otherwise interesting photos included, are somewhat dark and did not reproduce well.

This collection of games will appeal to players with an interest in fighting chess, uncommon opening systems, and chess history of the Fischer era.

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