Summary and Info
This is a wonderful book that every chessplayer should own. When I was a teenager, I read a comment by a chess bookseller who mentioned a master who had played through every game in this book in his youth, and had said what a great book it was. At first I snorted derisively, but I decided to look at the games myself. Over a period of several years, I played through, analyzed, and annotated the first 800 or so games in the book. I also became a master, and this book is a significant part of the reason why.
Chernev loved chess, and said that he had probably played over more chess games than anyone in history. (This book was published in 1954, long before the days of chess databases, or even Chess Informant; Chernev had to read through thousands of chess books and magazines, some quite obscure, to assemble these games.) The games Chernev has selected are very entertaining and some are quite beautiful. The games are very lightly annotated by Chernev, so for the most part it is up to the reader to figure out where the loser (and often both players) went wrong. Careful study of the games in the book will acquaint you with practically every tactical idea there is, and will help you avoid mistakes yourself, and exploit those of your opponent. I see tactical ideas very quickly, and I think this book is part of the reason why.
Several reviewers have stated that the book is a pricey collector's item these days. It is indeed possible to spend a lot of money for it, but several booksellers here are selling it for $13-14. New chess books today cost about twice that, and are usually a lot smaller than this tome, so this book is quite a bargain. I bought the paperback over 30 years ago when it was still in print. A couple of pages came loose over the years. I've since bought another paperback and a hardcover copy of the book, copied my original annotations into the paperback, and given away my original dog-eared paperback to a friend. I couldn't bear to throw out any copy of a book for which I have such affection!