Monday, December 11, 2006

Finished Pandolfini's book: Review

Russian Chess was a great read. Here is my mini-review.

I loved this book. One reason I like it so much is that it is the only 'move by move' analysis book I have that I can read without a board nearby, which made it great airplane and bedtime reading. He shows a board, on average, every four moves, which is easy to follow (at least if the picture is on the same page as the subsequent four moves). The six games are well annotated with lots of strategic gems. He asks a question (or two) and answers it after every move. The questions come in many varieties: some beginner-type queries (e.g., what about this move?), some are more didactic (who is doing better right now?). A really nice feature is that he peppers the book with sidebar quotes featuring chess wisdom-nuggets from the Russian masters. Get this out of print work while supplies last (they are available very cheap, used, at Amazon).

My criticisms of the book are minor. Only one game begins with 1. e4. I guess for a book on strategy this makes sense, but e4 is still played by GMs I think. Also, the book advertises itself as analyzing the chess of the 'Kasparov generation', but there isn't one game of Kasparov in there! Third, while strong on the opening and middle-game, there is little to no endgame analysis, so if you are looking for help finishing a game, you won't find it here. He can't really be faulted for this: authors have to make sacrifices in one area to focus on others. Finally, it's almost like he wanted to make it accessible only to people with a college-level vocabulary. Instead of 'cowardly,' he'll use 'pusillanimous'. Instead of 'knowledgeable,' he'll use 'erudite.' It reminded me of grading students' papers who had clearly used their computer's thesaurus function a few times too many. I found this kind of funny.

Finishing this book made me realize I have finished only a fraction of the chess books that I own. I need to dig in...

Circles Update: Finished minicircle 2.6 after a little break in Canada. I was doing 60 problems a day. Now I'm doing 80 a day in the seventh circle. I am typically getting one or two wrong out of 300 while my speed continues to increase. Soon I'll be doing all 300 every day until they are so easy I can do them while listening to talk radio.

# CirclesPercent Correct
Problem Set 11498-99-100-100-100-100-100
Problem Set 2690-93-96-99-99-99
Problem Set 30
Problem Set 40
Problem Set 50
NOTE: Circles done with CTB.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

> It reminded me of grading students' papers

Are you a university professor?

12/12/2006 02:23:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

i got a copy of this book and what i really liked as well.. my fav was those sidebar quotes you mention.. i like to play through the games twice, once from the "russian masters" view and then again from the opposite color.. i never really realized how the same game different the board looks from the other perspective..

12/12/2006 06:29:00 AM  
Blogger Blue Devil Knight said...

Nezha: no, but when I was a grad student I used to TA and grade a lot of papers. I am a postdoc.

At the other extreme is 'Unbeatable chess for juniors.' He purposely tries hard to sound conversational rather than scholarly. I think it is better to err on the side of using overly simple language, though. (Note I have only read through one game in Snyder's book so can't really comment yet).

12/12/2006 10:28:00 AM  
Blogger funkyfantom said...

I like Russian Chess, too.

Strange coincidence that irving Chernev also had an older book called "Russian Chess" with lots of diagrams.

("Not!" (;-) ) I recommend that, too.

12/13/2006 11:51:00 AM  

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