Before I even start reviewing the book, let me comment on the sterling production quality: the paper and binding of this 382-page are superb. Handled carefully, the book will last a lifetime. And this is important because the book is of enduring value.
There are many good books that have been published recently -- for example, Hendrik's "Move First, Think Later" and Tukmakov's "Modern Chess Preparation." But Polgar's book is in a league of its own. The contribution of Mihail Marin to making this a book from which a player can learn can clearly be seen.
The notes are the right combination of insightful verbal commentary mixed with just enough concrete analysis to lend it credence. Often there is just a discussion of the ideas, plans, and themes because concrete moves and variational analysis would be redundant (like "Tal-Botvinnik 1960" by Tal, "Zurich 1953" by Bronstein or the books by C.J.S. Purdy). Nowhere will a reader get lost in a jungle of variations. The emphasis is on insight and understanding. This kind of book is the most difficult to write because what is being conveyed is chess *wisdom*. To give a stray example, take the position given on p.78 (Farago-Polgar 1986, 3r2k1/p1r1qpbp/1pnpp1p1/8/2P1PP2/1P3BP1/P5QP/3RR1BK); the notes are:
"Both sides have good development, but White has more space and the bishop pair. With his last move, Qd2-g2, my opponent created the threat of e4-e5, but failed to understand the importance of keeping the c3-square under control
"Black's main trump is the weakness of the d4-square, but unfortunately ...e6-e5 would leave my bishop passive. Therefore, I decided to take advantage of White's previous inaccuracy and place the bishop in front of my pawn chain before defining the structure in the centre."
And yet the verbal analysis, though aiming at objectivity, is not lifeless. It is infused with Judit's thoughts, Judit's opinions, Judit's feelings. It is honest and human.
The book is a collection of Judit's early games -- right up to when she became a grandmaster at fifteen. But it is not a chronological sequence of analysed games. Rather, the fifteen chapters are organised by theme: Tricks, Mating Net, Trapping the Queen, Zwischenzug, Tales with an Unexpected End, Improving Piece Placement, Pawn Play, Piece Domination, A Lead in Development, Attacking the Uncastled King, The Art of Simplifying and Elements of Endgame Technique, Attacking without Queens, Decisive Games, Memorable Games, and Amsterdam 1989 OHRA Tournament Diary.
There are 89 games altogether -- some are given in full but mostly they are fragments starting from a thematically pertinent position. I repeat that the analysis is penetrating and insightful rather than overwhelming -- Polgar and Marin have clearly worked hard and long on the notes.
Interspersed through the book are also photographs of Polgar, but not at the cost of content and not obtrusive in any way.
Were I to be banished to a desert isle, this is one of the books I would take with me. Any player rated over 1500 can and will benefit from this gem of a book.
I wait with bated breath for the second volume ("From GM to Top Ten").