Book 1 of the Chess Visualization Course
is a unique work consisting of 800 visualization exercises. The problems start out simple, consisting of basic counting problems (when a bunch of material from both sides is pointed at one square). The problems escalate in complexity as the book progresses, eventually ending up with tactics that involve visualizing moves across most of the board. Also, within each chapter, the number of moves you have to visualize increases.
The problems are set up in an interesting way. Your job isn't to find a solution to a problem: the actual moves are already given. Your task is to visualize the board after those moves are made, and to evaluate the position at that point. The solutions are in the back of the book and consist of an image of the board after the moves are made (is it how you visualized it?), and a brief evaluation of the position. There are lots of examples at the web site above. The book provides an ingenious implementation of Soltis
' suggestion on how to improve at visualization in chess (as I discussed here
). Namely, look at a position in a book and follow along the moves without using a board, and then compare your image of the board to the actual board after those moves.
The number of moves in each problem varies from 4 ply up to 39 (!) ply. On average they are around 8 ply. I found the exercises fairly easy, and I think this book is appropriate for most levels of players. This is the first, most basic book in this Chess Visualization series put out by Gelvert
Publishing. The next three will focus on attacking, endings, and then 'deep visualization' problems, respectively.
Each chapter has a very useful introduction (again, you can find examples at their web site) that describes the essence of the problems in the chapter. For instance, the first chapter is on basic counting problems when there is the same number of attackers and defenders of material on a square. The introduction gives some useful general rules for such sequences of exchanges, and these rules are reinforced quite well by working through the problems.
There is a strange lack of counting problems
to be found in the voluminous chess literature, and this book provides a most welcome exception: the first five chapters
in some way or another involve visualizing sequences of exchanges at single squares! (See the table of contents of the book here
). For those just getting into chess, this book would be a great way to familiarize yourself with the general rules for exchanges.
The most important question is, "Does it work?" I found the book very helpful. In real games, after working through
the chapters on counting, I was able to much more quickly calculate whether a series of exchanges would be to my benefit. So, I recommend this book, with a couple of caveats given below, to those who wish to improve their visualization skills. As for difficulty level, things get pretty complex, so this book should be good for all skill levels, even if you find the early chapters too basic.
Reviews need criticisms of their subject, and this review is no exception.
First, the book is not very well put together. It is held together with a plastic spiral thing like you sometimes get for course readers in college. These things don't have the most longevity, and it is sort of a pain to turn pages. It was originally slated to be published by Everyman Chess, but for unknown reasons Everyman backed out of the original plan, so that probably explains the less-than-professional binding. That said, there were few typos and the diagrams are crisp and easy on the eyes, so the content seems well edited.
Second, the solutions are in the back of the book. For a book built like this, don't make us turn to the back to see an answer. Put them on the adjacent page, the bottom of the page, or the next page. It's just easier. This isn't that big a deal, but a minor annoyance.
Third, I would have preferred to see some real problems
in the book. Being given 9 moves to visualize, and comparing them to the picture in the back is pretty helpful. But it can get pretty tedious after awhile. To spice things up, they should have included problems that, after a sequence of moves, concluded with, "Now what would be the best move?" where the best move is a simple tactic or something that you would easily see if the position were in front of you. That's more like the visualization you need in real games, and frankly it's just harder to stay motivated when the problem is "Visualize these moves" and there really isn't much feedback other than the picture of the board after those moves. There are evaluations along with the solutions, but they are quite superficial, in the form of a material count in the end position. Yes, keeping track of the material during a sequence of forcing moves is a crucial, perhaps the most important skill in chess, but more detailed evaluations would have made this book much better.
These criticisms weren't deal-killers for me. I am happy to have this tool for visualization improvement on my bookshelf. Overall, if you want to work on visualization, and the method used in the book sounds like your cup of tea, then get the book. The problems seem well-chosen to help us patzers
improve at the elusive and important skill of accurately looking into the future on the chessboard. I look forward to future installments in this series. Let's hope the author, Ian Anderson, keeps at it.