Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Chess: Skills - Tactics - Techniques by Jonathan Arnott

     Published October 1, 2014, the blurb says, "The perfect tool for anyone wanting to improve their performance, from beginners learning the basic skills to more experience players working on advanced techniques A practical, no-nonsense guide, Chess will help you give you that all-important advantage. Standard chess rules and basic notation are explained, as well as how to use each piece effectively, three phases of the game—openings, middle games, and endgame—and tactics and strategy for planning success. Advanced techniques are also offered, with advice on analyzing a situation, opening repertoires, when to sacrifice, and endgame principles, as well as hints and tips for developing chess even further. There is also a section on using computers for analysis and preparation."
    The book is only 96 pages long and Arnott begins with chess notation and then examines how the pieces move, including a brief summary on their characteristics. This is followed by examples of simple checkmates, draws and the starting position and special rules. He then has chapters on Counting, Pins, Forks, Skewers and Discovered Attacks, Temoving the Guard, Defection and Overloading, Pawn Structures, Outposts, Open Files and Space Advantage. He then discusses general opening principles, coming up with a middlegame plan and basic endgame technique.
     He rounds out the book with chapters on how to analyze, developing an opening repertoire, sacrifices and key endgame principles. He has also added a chapter with test positions and discusses the chess clock, tournaments, computer programs and other miscellaneous material.
     Arnott says this book is aimed at "the average person on the street." As such, the book is aimed at people who know the rules, but not much more and is designed to take them to the level where they will feel comfortable joining a chess club or entering a tournament at the lowest level. I would say it's good for anybody rated under, say 1000, or perhaps someone under 1200 who can skip over the material on how the pieces move and the rules and wants to gain some insight on the basic elements.
     Jonathan Arnott is a chess Candidate Master. He captained Yorkshire from 2002 to 2004, leading the county to two national rapid play titles. He has twice represented a top British side in the European Club Cup, and is an ECF-accredited coach.  You can take a peek inside the book at Google book reviews HERE.
     For more advanced players wanting to cover much of the same material on how to attack, then Vukovic's The Art of Attack is still a good book. Just be aware that the book was written in the pre-computer days, so there are errors because engines will find resources that Vukovic missed. For that reason, playing over the material using an engine is a good idea.  Even with errors in analysis, what's important is becoming aware of ideas and recognizing the existence of attacking possibilities. This book shows you what to look for.

A Kindle edition is also available:

Good books on strategy, an area not to be ignored, are:

And if you are looking for really cheap, Reuben Fine's old classic, The Middlegame in Chess, is still pretty good.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Improve Your Chess Pattern Recognition - Key Moves and Motifs in the Middlegame by Arthur Van de Oudeweetering

      I haven't done a review in quite awhile, mostly because I have not found anything worth reviewing...until now. This book is great!
     Strong players have long extolled the virtues of pattern recognition and you can find out more about it by going to my chess blog and in the Search This Blog box type in "pattern recognition." Pattern recognition is one of the most important aspects of improvement, but one of the most neglected as many players concentrate on tactics and openings.
     If you realize a position has similarities with something you have seen before, you are recognizing a pattern. This helps you to get to the essence of a position quickly and find the most promising continuation. To get better at recognizing chess patterns, knowing which positions are worth remembering will save lots of time and energy. Each chapter explains a theme or pattern classified by the type of position and then has examples to illustrate them.  Personally, what I would do is read the book to get an idea of what to look for and then use the technique of playing over a lot of master games and trying to guess the next move as described in my Blog posts, especially the Ken Smith Method.  For those that don't know, back in the 1960's Texas Senior Master Kenneth Smith sold chess books through his publishing house Chess Digest and taught a generation of players how to study chess. Admittedly, a lot of what he recommended was self-serving since he published the stuff he recommended, but his advice was classic. My article on Smith.
     My pet peeve is that Van de Oudeweetering only gives the portion of the game that's under discussion; I wish he would have given the whole game, especially the conclusion. It's one thing to know one side stands better and why, but it's quite another to know how to utilize the advantage and having the remainder of the game as an example is important.
     I like the way one reviewer expressed it: There are two types of positional decision processes...The first is coming up with a move based on analysis, e.g. looking at a position and determining weak squares, piece activity, center control, king safety,… and then conjuring up a move. The second, and more efficient way, is to recognize patterns to efficiently come up with a candidate move.
     Dennis Monokroussos liked the book, too.