Tuesday, October 25, 2016

The Power of Pawns: Chess Structure Fundamentals for Post-beginners by Jorg Hickl

     If you want to improve at chess, you must know the characteristics of typical P-formations and understanding them is the focus of GM Jorg Hickl's latest (published this year) book. 
     Better than Hans Kmoch's masterpiece, Pawn Power in Chess, Hickl's book is targets the average player and gives examples of hanging pawns, isolated pawns, backward pawns, passed pawns, doubled pawns, weak squares and pawn chains. Like Pachman's classic, Modern Chess Strategy, Hickl also includes three chapters showing the strengths and weakness of Rooks, Knights and Bishops. Unlike Pachman though, he does not include the Queen and King. 
     This book is good for players in the 1500 to 1800 range. Or, it could also be used by those under 1500 if they are willing to put in some effort and those over 1800 if they want to review what they should already know.

Saturday, October 22, 2016

Chess Developments: The Sicilian Dragon by IM David Vigorito

     Vigorito gives good, but limited coverage of Dragon theory and as with all books that present the 'latest' theory they are soon outdated and this book was published back in 2011. In order to stay current you will need additional resources...at least if you are rated 2000 or better. For players below that a good over view of the most popular lines should suffice, so it has value for players below 2000 in that it will give them a place to start whether they might face the Dragon or play it as black. At least the 'theory' is not twenty or thirty years old.
     Because there's so much theory on the Dragon, this book only covers 9. Bc4 and 9. 0-0-0 with g4, but it does so very thoroughly. No Levenfish (6.f4), Classical (6.Be2) or Fianchetto variations (6.g3) and no ...Qa5 lines by black against the Yugoslav Attack, for example.
     Instead he has concentrated on the Soltis Variation, the Modern Variation, the Topalov Variation, the Chinese Variation and the Accelerated Variation when white plays 9.Bc4. If white plays 9.0-0-0 he covers black replies 9...d5 and 9...Nxd4.
     The book is nicely laid out...major variations are in bold-face and evaluations and plans explain why certain moves are good or bad, sort of in the style of the Dummy books. 

Download a pdf sample

Friday, October 14, 2016

Alekhine: Move by Move


Another book on Alekhine's games? What's the need for one?  This one is different. FM Steve Giddins looks at his favorite Alekhine games and challenges the reader to answer questions designed to keep you involved and allow you to monitor your progress. Giddins points out that while studying the classics may not be fashionable with modern day GMs, doing so is both enjoyable and instructional for us ordinary players. 
     Giddens analyzed 35 of Alekhine’s games and twenty positions. He uses mostly words and not a lot of concrete analysis in explaining Alekhine’s moves which makes it great for the lower-rated player. He relied on an old engine (Fritz 12) to check his lines, but because he is explaining plans and ideas in words for average players, a correction here or there that a stronger engine may have found is not a big issue as far as I am concerned. If I want a lot of analytical lines I will do the same as always...play over the games with my own engine. 
     One reviewer didn't like the book because he thought that because Giddins is only an FM he is not capable of explaining Alekhine's games.  That's just plain asinine. As an FM Giddins is 1) strong enough to understand what went on in the games, even if it's only AFTER the fact because he has seen the outcome and knows what Alekhine had in mind, 2) he has access to engines which point out tactical flaws, 3) he has access to tablebases for aid in researching endings and 4) he has access to the notes of many other, stronger players. If you went by this fellow's criteria a lot of great chess books would have to get thrown out and we'd be left with only a handful of books written by world class GMs. 
     Giddins has used a minimum number of Alekhine's best known games, but of course there are some that just had to be included in this collection. And, of those that are included, thanks to the use of a chess engine, he has been able to shed new light on them. He also did not include any games against Capablanca because Kasparov included some of them in My Great Predecessors. Also, there's no autobiographical material, but like his games, a lot has been written about Alekhine and apparently Giddens saw no reason to repeat it and drive up the price of the book.