Monday, June 29, 2015

World's Most Instructive Amateur Game Book by Dan Heisman

    I think he got the idea from Max Euwe's Chess Master vs. Chess Amateur, but that's OK because I Heisman has improved on the concept and you actually can learn from the games of amateurs. According to the publisher's description, Heisman "gives a blow-by-blow account and patiently dissects the players’ thinking process, offering tips for improving clock management and making better decisions at the board. Because the advantage can swing wildly back and forth, amateur games can be entertaining as well as instructive. Heisman gives a choice selection of cases of chess suicide, for the purpose of suggesting what the victim could have done to prevent disaster."
    Looking at this book, I find Heisman's comments on 30 amateur games very instructive and he covers stuff amateurs are likely to play. Openings like what he calls the High School Variation of the Sicilian (1.e4 c5 2. Bc4). The games are heavily annotated and grouped by theme...things like moving too fast, moving too slowly, endgame mishaps and there's advice on general principles, analysis, evaluation, etc. Probably best for players in the 1000 and up to Expert (2000) range.  For a ton of FREE material be sure and check out his Home Page!

Saturday, June 27, 2015

ChessOK Sale

Chessok Sale Save up to 50% with ChessOK 
From June 26 to July 2, the following special offers are available. All offers stack! 

Products of the Week: 
50% off all Products of the Week: ChessOK Aquarium 2015 (DVD, download) 
6 video DVD courses and 2 books: Theory and Practice of Chess Ending vol.1 and vol.2 

Special Offer 1: 
Buy Chess King Gold (DVD, download) or Chess King Silver (DVD, download) and receive ChessOK Aquarium 2015 (download) for free! 

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Buy Chess Assistant 15, Chess Assistant 15 PRO or Upgrade to Chess Assistant 15 from Chess Assistant 14 and receive three bonuses: 
Premium Game Service 2014-2015 (3000 new games weekly) 
online access to 7-man Lomonosov Tablebases until the end of 2015 and... 
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Special Offer 3: 
Buy 3 World Champion courses (Anand + Kasparov + Fischer) at 50% off in their Combo Packages section! 
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Complete Chess Strategy (Chess Strategy 3.0 + Chess Guide for Club Players + Chess Guide for Intermediate Players)
Complete Chess Opening (Opening Lab + Encyclopedia of Opening Blunders + How to Win Miniatures at Chess) 
Complete Attack on the King (Attack on the King I + Attack on the King II + Advanced Defense)! 

Special Offer 4: 
20% off all products in the Beginners (DVD, download), Club Players (DVD, download), Intermediate Players (DVD, download)
Modern Chess Opening (DVD, download) and Training Packages (DVD) sections. 

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If you order products for more than $120/€100, choose one download programs for up to $25/€20 each as a bonus! 

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Thursday, June 25, 2015

The Killer Sicilian: Fighting 1.e4 with the Kalashnikov by Tony Rotella


First, the Kalashnikov (1. e4 c5 2. Nf3 d6 3. d4 cxd4 4. Nxd4 e5) is actually an accelerated Sveshnikov (1. e4 c5 2. Nf3 d6 3. d4 cxd4 4. Nxd4 Nf6 5. Nc3 e5) making them close relatives. 
    This line (4...e5) is also sometimes known as the Neo-Sveshnikov. The move 4...e5 is not new. La Bourdonnais used it in matches against McDonnell back in 1834 and it was briefly popular in the 1940's. But in the late 1980's 4...e5 was revived with the intention of meeting 5.Nb5 with 5...d6: this is the Kalashnikov Variation. 
     Black accepts a backward pawn on d6 and weakens the d5-square but gains time by chasing the knight. The difference between playing 4..e5 and delaying it a move is that both sides have extra options since neither side has developed their N:  white on c3 and black on f6. 
     One advantage for black is that the variation is fairly easy to learn. Another is that the defense has clear strategic aims. Yet another advantage is that it can be used by both tacticians and positional players because black can chose between aggressive and positional options. 
     Another good thing about this book is, it answers the question, “What if white plays something else?” Like, say, the Rossolimo, Alapin, Closed, Grand Prix. Rotella also covers lines against those, obviously not as extensively, but well enough o get you by. 
     OK, so Rotella is untitled. It's still a very good book that will be useful for players rated from 1600 to 2200 that are looking for a good line in the Sicilian.


Monday, June 22, 2015

Botvinnik books

This guy was a fascinating character and you can learn a lot by studying his games!

Mikhail Botvinnik: The Life and Games of a World Chess Champion by Andy Soltis $40 is a lot to pay for a chess book, but this book is published by MacFarland and their books are expensive, but very well produced. Still, that's a stiff price for a book. 
     Anyway, Soltis begins his Preface with a question posed by his wife: Why would anyone want to read about such a cold personality? Her question forced Soltis ask the question, “Why did I want to write about him?” True, Botvinnik was a great player from the past, but this book covers more that just his chess career. It is also a window into the politics of Stalinist Russia and the Soviet players in the mid-twentieth century. As for the games themselves, this book, with 87 games, has lots of diagrams and the games are heavily annotated and at the end of the book includes career record against opponents, notes on sources, a bibliography, index of openings and opponents and a general index. 
     Botvinnik was a strange bird. He had to really hated his opponents before he could conquer them and he had a high opi ion of his importance to the cause of both communism and chess, especially Soviet chess. One thing Soltis was unable to satisfactorily report was whether or not other Soviet players were forced to lose matches to Botvinnik, but given to secrecy that was so prevalent during that era and the fear under which people lived, it's not surprising. I guess we will never know for sure.

As a cheaper alternative is Botvinnik: Move by Move by Cyrus Lakdawala is a viable choice. This book has 60 games divided into sections: Attack, Defense; Dynamic Elements, Exploiting Imbalances, Accumulating advantages and Endgames. One complaint is the author's writing's annoying. Look Inside at Amazon.

 And then there are books by Botvinnik himself. 

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Complete Book of Chess Strategy: Grandmaster Techniques from A to Z by Jeremy Silman

“An easy-to-understand guide to chess strategy...has always been the amateur's dream...This book makes that dream a reality.” That's part of the blurb and it is also not true.

    Silman has written some good stuff, but this book isn't one of them! It's neither well-written nor well-edited and the title is misleading. Besides that, most of the book covers very basic stuff that only an absolute beginner would need. 
    Even the layout is crappy. Lots of blank space on the pages and the diagrams and printing looks like it was designed just to increase the length of the book. About ¼ of the book covers openings. Further, each concept only gets about half a page which is hardly enough for giving the reader a complete guide to anything. 

   My dad had a saying which I never completely understood, but somehow it seems appropriate here. When something wasn't very good he used to say, “I wouldn't hit a dog in the (butt) with it!” Silman appears to be going the way of Fred Reinfeld. Reinfeld's early books were GREAT, but at some point he discovered that all the time and effort he put into writing good chess books didn't pay off so he turned to pumping out trash. One has to wonder if this is what happened to Silman!

Basic Chess Openings and More Basic Chess Openings by GM Gabor Kallai

    Generally I am not a fan of opening books, but these two are highly recommended to players in the, say, 1000 up to 1800 or 1900 range. Both books were originally published in 1997 making them, as opening books go, ancient, but that's OK because they are BASIC books.
     Both books are guides to the openings and cover popular modern openings. Many opening books have a bewildering array of variations, but in these two books Kallai concentrates on developing a solid understanding of the ideas of each opening with main thrust being that you need a to establish a sound and promising position out of the opening which will help in formulating a viable middlegame strategy. In this book Kallai teaches the basics of e4 openings. For 1 d4, 1 c4, and 1 Nf3 you need the companion book. 


     Also published in 1997, this book covers 1 d4, 1 c4, and 1 Nf3, as well as some of the lesser known alternatives to 1 e4. As in Basic Chess Openings Kallai describes what you are trying to achieve with each opening. 
     The books are published by Cadogan which has a reputation for poor bindings that allow the pages to fall out after moderate use, so just be aware of that.

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Bobby Fischer’s Conquest of the World Chess Championship by Reuben Fine

There was a time, long ago, that Fine was one of the best analysts in the world, but after he quit playing in 1952 he degenerated, apparently in frustration over his failing to have become world champion and, possibly, he had other psychological problems. 
     This book is proof of Fine's loss of the ability to objectively analyze games. In his analysis Fine even attempts to explain the psychological motivations behind the moves as if he had been inside the players' heads. 
     The first 92 pages are history where he writes about the world championship from 1938 to 1948 and the controversies with the death of Alekhine and several other top players of the day. The whole purpose is Fine's attempt to prove he should have been the World Champion. 
    One of his biggest errors is his claim that Spassky's preparation for the match was superior to Fischer's. Really?! Spassky was totally unprepared for Fischer's openings! When Fischer played the English as white and the Alekhine as black, Spassky was totally flummoxed. The fact that Fischer was better prepared was proven by his “surprising” choice of openings and his quick play. Spassky used a lot of time in the openings, got into time trouble and made mistakes. 
     Fine also claims that no really great games were played in the match which is absolutely wrong. 
     Jeremy Silman wrote that this is without doubt one of the worst chess books ever written, but then admitted that he loved it and advised that “if you see this book in a used bookstore, grab it and prepare for a lot of fun.” Dr. Anthony Saidy advised the publisher,“Do NOT even think of reprinting this terrible book.” I agree with Silman!