I have read a lot of chessbooks in my time, over a hundred _read_, not simply purchased. At one time I had around 120 books, I was reading them, then I would trade them in for more chess books when I was done. I’ve also read books cover-to-cover that I have simply checked out from a library.

I am reading this book by Lane, going over the games in the Alapin Sicilian. I really like this author, it’s more of a games collection even though he is thorough in regards to the opening. The games are fun and improving my positional and tactical play.

Another author I really liked was Mednis. The saying “anything by Mednis is good” still roughly applies.

S*ltis books really seemed to be driven by example, almost to where ‘the specific incident proves the rule’, which I find baffling, but he picked out nice interesting games regardless of whatever greater rule that he was trying to prove. If you could remember but also ignore the rule and just be amused by the games, then it was provocative and helpful. Actually, he does give multiple examples of how the rule works, but I don’t think great players are thinking “Man, that general rule in the blah-and-blah opening really kicked my @ss again.” They are aware of the general rule, but chess is much bigger than “tricks”.

I have had three of Minev’s book. Some authors seem to be in love with a certain number of games. My last two books by him both contain 200 games. The book on the Fantasy var. of the Caro-Kahn seemed like a rushed job. The biggest problem with this book, meager amount of annotations aside, was the game selections. I have no doubt that it was quite difficult when he wrote it to scrape up 200 games on this variation, but I feel as though over half of the games should never have seen the light of day in print because of their quality. You sort of forget that there are bad games out there when you read a lot of books because they always try to include the most impressive/instructive games played. Yes, even masters wake up on the wrong side of the bed sometimes and should burn their scoresheet after the game.

But this gets to my main point, the most important thing is an author’s reputation and game selection. Monographs seem needless in the day of the database, but their worth is really even more in the game selection than in the annotation – game selection is much, much more important than annotation, something I had never realized before. No offense meant by this, but annotations are much more necessary for the reader below 1900 rating strength. I still gain a lot from annotations and the author’s opinion of moves, often done only with words not necessarily with variations.


7 thoughts on “Books

  1. Hey LinuxGuy:

    One of my all time favorite chess books is “How To Make Good Opening Moves” by Mednis! He was a trued educator. I have an old copy of his endgame book that I will peruse from time to time as well.

    I agree that game selection is important but I do think good annotations can be very educational and can also make a games collection feel more like an exciting narrative.

    Without the narrative a database and an engine can give you the same thing as a monograph.

    That is why most opening books are not that good. The annotations are not happening.

    I am really digging Silman’s, “The Amateur’s Mind” right now!

  2. TommyG, hey!

    Yeah, some of what I said was baloney since I know an Expert who was enjoying if not addicted to the Kasparov ‘My Predecessors’ series, guess I got carried away there.

    “The Amateur’s Mind” – I should have bought that book back in the day, it was a fun series when he ran that games like that through a chess life column as well. I remember guys at a tournament trash-talking that book once “What’s up with these 1700 level games” that sort of thing. Of course, a book like that _would_ be useless without the annotations since one certainly does not want to learn bad chess but rather what the Master has to say about it. I don’t see how that could not be a good book, free lessons from Silman. That sort of book is great for anyone below Class A, Class A and above would probably only want to thumb through and look at some diagrams is my guess (too many bad moves ‘in a book’ could annoy them). I would read that book right now if it were in front of me. 🙂

  3. I definitely think The Amateur’s Mind is for lower rated players! Which is me! 🙂

    Silman does a good job of explaining important (but not over the top) positional ideas for planning. I think if I use the book wisely and try to do a lot of extraneous analysis of positions I find in Chessbase it can’t help me be a better player. It is has already shown some flaws in my calculation abilities, which I knew were there but I am gaining a greater idea of just how important those calculations can be. Heck just making sure to check for all possible replies is something I need to force myself to do.

  4. A book with weaker players might force the author to talk more like that, but a lot of times when I pay attention I notice they aren’t commenting overly much, it’s a doable job, putting out lots of chess books. Comment on a couple key middlegame moves, put in a few long lines/move-alternatives on move five that nobody really cares about, and when in doubt choose a miniature as those games are always exciting and instructive. The one thing a Master player can do is include positional battles since us weaker players are less likely able to evaluate them. This doesn’t necessarily improve the reader’s tactical strength a whole lot, but it probably helps.

    Tommy, yeah, calculation has to be picked up the hard way by doing it oneself mostly. I am going to include a game I played earlier today in moment. On the surface, it looks great but is actually quite horrible upon closer inspection. It does show however how important that tactical abilities are however in that the stronger player can usually out-bamboozle the weaker player even with tactic after tactic that doesn’t work.

    In the game that follows, I played tactics in the wrong order and didn’t implement some important other ones. A sloppy game, but a real ego boost immediately afterward. In an OTB game, one can’t play the ego/macho thing as well and we really do need to win the calculation battle. 😉 I’ve even gotten so used to 15/0 games on FICS that when I play 15/10 the other person will pick apart the right way and pull out the win with just seconds on the clock since with 10 seconds added it’s easy to put minutes back on the clock. I used to be good at that but now I think it’s a BS time-control for slow but certain calculators that would probably choke in real SD time-pressure.

    Tactics game

    People might wonder if there is any plan or final goal to my studies, and actually there is. At some point, and I will try starting on it after I put down the C3 Sicilian book that I have been studying, I will begin to go through the “Anthology of Chess Combinations” previously known as “Encyclopedia of the Middlegame”, both are old titles actually put out by the company that puts out the ECOs. It’s been sort of the “chess grail” to me for many years now, so really the “Knight’s Errant” tactics studies is more of a preliminary step in getting there.

    So this would qualify as my “ACIS plan”, but it’s a pretty advanced way of getting there. In any case, it’s nice to have a destination/game-plan even if one never gets there. If that book can push an Expert to a Master, then studying it seriously, not peeking at the answers, I would imagine get me easily to Expert, which has been the goal all along. It wasn’t the ultimate goal, but since there is so much G/90 and faster out there (AKA not quite “real chess”), that’s perhaps the best I can hope for and probably can attain.

    I’ve lost a lot of games needlessly at G/90 because the clock is such a giant factor, and if I don’t manage it and don’t have the right amount of energy and nerves then can lose to even a D level player. To me it’s “spectacle chess”, a lot of drama injected by time-pressure. At G/90 I almost have to fluff-off a lot in the opening and such and really focus on what goes on late. It’s not just me, I’ve noticed a lot of other 1700,1800,1900 players screw away their games on the clock. The clock is your toughest opponent.

  5. My favorite book is How to Beat Bobby Fischer. It taught me moves such as the fork trick. I bet you didn’t know that one.

  6. Hey Linuxguy!

    I looked over that game and you say that you played sloppy but the only real dubious move I saw was 9. Qa4+, (followed by the knight move that loses you some material) as it looks too aggressive, although in hindsight it ended up good because your opponent blundered later with …bxc6.

    But I don’t really see where the game was too sloppy on your end. Once you got the advantage it seemed that you took care of business.

    Oh and the Anthology of Chess Combinations rocks….so does a book called Chess Gems!

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