9 January 2019

A Tireless and Omnipresent Titan

Peter Svidler’s foreword to Maxim Notkin’s book “My Queens’ Sweeping Exit”

While the book's content is detailed by the author himself in the preface, I would rather dwell on the man I have known for as long as a quarter of a century and whose friendship is so dear to me.

So much time has passed since that I would struggle to recall the moment we met. My life is divided into two distinct states – before Maxim Notkin, and the one which I like a lot more – after I met Maxim Notkin. Maxim’s role in my maturing as a person is immense. He was the first proper audiophile I encountered, being around him got me out of a bad habit of listening to the radio in favor of music not broadcasted on air. It was that period that shaped my musical taste –there were no influences since strong enough to shift it much – and I hope he is happy about his student in this respect. We were very close during those years, from mid to late 1990s, and our friendship was absolutely crucial and central for me. It is a pity the format of this missive does not allow for proper reminiscences of our wild youth, and even more sad that we get in touch much less often nowadays. Even if the modern means of communications keep people from losing each other once and for all, I see him nowhere near as often as I would like to. 

Foreword and book’s authors

I have always loved Max’s work – he has a rare combination of understanding and respect for chess, coupled with excellent command of the native language (and not just the native one – he is one of the few people I regularly consult on matters of translation from English). He is a true professional, and I am extremely happy about his work receiving its deserved due – the book you are holding in your hands being yet another testimony of that.

Max is tireless and omnipresent. You get a fresh issue of New in Chess – and here he is! Going over the magazine and opening the «Maximize Your Tactics!» page is always an occasion to doff my imaginary cap: “Dear Maxim Gennadievich! Have been looking forward to seeing you again!” I enjoy the nice puzzles he puts together in his selections. I no longer solve all 9 puzzles as laziness takes the better of me lately, but I try to solve at least a few.

Max does a great job of promoting the artistic side of chess. Diving for pearls into the piles of TWiCs will defy many a lesser person. There is a certain number of games in everybody's plain view in any given month, but Max will find more. He would often pull limelight on examples that would otherwise remain virtually unknown – if not for him. This process is extremely time-consuming, and, being a connoisseur of beauty in chess, I feel very grateful for this work, to my eyes it seems very important and beneficial to our game as a whole.

Max asked me to the vote on the "Game of the month" on many occasions. His efficiency and ability to motivate himself would once again amaze me, as I would invariably find this monstrous rebus nearly unmanageable. How do you go about forming a short list out of 20-25 preselected games and ranking them from one to ten afterwards? This is when the magnitude of the task would catch up with me – if I struggle so much with a mere 25 games, how much harder it must be for Max to pare it down to those 25?

This process caused me so much mental anguish that I eventually asked Max not to send me those selected games anymore. Reducing a stone boulder to a required shape is absolutely beyond me, but I am an avid consumer of the final product. 

The 1981 match tournament of the USSR teams. Salo Flohr, David Bronstein, and Boris Spassky. and a modest demonstrator in the background.

One of the book's sections is made up of Max’s articles written for the column Cabaret “Flying Pawn”, which came out in the “64” magazine in lieu of Anatoly Matsukevich’s Café 13. That transformed an ordinary page of the magazine into another source of smiles and happiness. This is not to say that I go directly to the Flying Pawn of the latest edition of “64”, but reading this section is always a pleasure. In all his many incarnations, Max is invariably associated with pleasant things in my life, a source of warmth and comfort.

I have always considered Max a titan of Russian chess journalism, and I felt his work was highly undervalued for a long time. I think he has gradually taken a position worthy of his merits, which makes me terribly happy. For years, he has been a quiet but relentless force for good in the chess world. Max has edited dozens of books authored by others, and here, at last, comes his own book. I am very happy this book has seen the light of day and hope the reading audience will see its true value! 

Maxim Notkin  “My Queens’ Sweeping Exit. Strokes of Revelations and Blackouts over the Chess Board.”  448 pages, hard cover

The first book by Maxim Notkin, a famous journalist, editor-in-chief of the “64” magazine and of the ChessPro website, is a collection of the author’s selected materials, published primarily in popular author’s columns Cabaret Flying Pawn (64) and Maximize Your Tactics (New in Chess).The reader is in for spectacular revelations and various noteworthy achievements, as well as odd mistakes and unbelievable blackouts over the chess board. 

350 beautiful and instructive positions from tournament practice are offered as drills for self-improvement. The drills are split into three levels in terms of difficulty and would be of equal interest for category players and masters/grandmasters.

The book is intended for a wide circle of chess fans.

For orders and sales please contact Vladimir Barsky: barsky@ruchess.ru