Monday, April 28, 2014

Mastering the Chess Openings Vol. 1 by John Watson

In this volume 1 Watson explains the fundamentals and basic ideas of 1.e4. Openings covered: Giuoco Piano, Two Knights Defence, Philidor Defence, Ruy Lopez,King's Gambit, Silcilian Defence, Caro-Kann Defence, French Defence, and Pirc Defence.

Watson begins with fundamental ideas that apply to all openings then moves to concepts that one needs to improve, beginning with the correct conduct of the openings. Watson explains the ideas and strategies behind specific openings and, more importantly, he explains principles that enable one to play any type of open position. One of the best early opening books that was similar in structure was Fine’s Ideas Behind the Chess Openings, but Watson has expanded on Fine’s work. Extremely helpful is Watson’s lavish use of game fragments and complete annotated games to illustrate his points. In short Watson emphasizes understanding rather than memorization. Recommended for 1400 and up.

Friday, April 25, 2014

Chess Opening or Kids by John Watson

     John Watson writes some really good books, but this one isn’t one of them! It’s not just for kids either; it should be for any beginner, but I am afraid it won’t be any help at all. 
     Watson tries to give a simple guide on 50 common openings, allowing 2 pages per opening, and explain the basic ideas of each one.

     Some reviewers complained Watson’s language was too complicated for kids and that it might have been better had he used easier language and longer explanations. I am not sure I agree that it’s too difficult for kids to follow his prose because chessplaying kids are pretty smart but that aside, the basic explanations are not much help; in fact, for beginners, it’s pretty much useless.
     One reviewer said the book is very hard to follow and I agree that the layout is somewhat confusing for a beginner and that’s what this book essentially is…an introduction to the very basic ideas of each of the openings designed for beginners, adults or children.  If you are past the beginner stage you’ll likely not have any trouble following the layout, but if that’s the case, you are too advanced for this book. On the other hand, if you are a beginner you won’t understand why "black is in a dangerous situation" because Watson won’t tell you why. All-in-all, not a good buy for anybody.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Houdini 2 Aquarium

     As a long time user of Fritz my first experience with Aquarium was unfavorable because compared to Fritz, the GUI was way too complicated for my taste. The Aquarium interface has so many bells and whistles it takes a while to learn how to use it. I ended up setting up a practice database with a few games just so I could practice
     I used the download version from ChessOK and had some problems. With my first experience the serial number would not work. Their tech support got back to me quickly and advised that the problem was not with the program, but rather with the way Windows copied and pasted. All I had to do was type the serial number in and the download then went smoothly.
    The second experience also ran into download problems. The download hung up and after several tries I got a message that the limit on downloads had been reached. An e-mail to tech support (specifically,  fellow named Alexander Zhuravlev) got answered fairly quickly considering my inquiry was sent out on Thursday evening; I heard back on Saturday. I was given another link with unlimited downloads and things went quickly and smoothly.
     I have heard of some bugs in the program and a few complaints, apparently mostly from new users, about the complexity of the program and some bugs, but I have not run into any real bugs. This is probably because I have used the download version with the bug fixes included.  Buying a CD may have any bugs in the program included. 
     There are a several things that I find more complicated than Fritz, but I am slowly learning and Aquarium is growing on me. Like everybody, I am finding some things I like and some I don’t; no program is perfect, I guess.

     One thing I do not like are their chess publishing tools. Copying a game into HTML for a blog runs to 150 pages! I just use the Knight Vision site. All in all, I am finding this program does indeed have a lot of features that are absent in Fritz and Aquarium is slowly becoming my chess program of choice as I find myself using Fritz less and less.