Wednesday, February 27, 2008

100 Chess Book Reviews, Part 1

I promised a video swan song, and decided to review every one of my way too many chess books. The production values leave much to be desired (especially the sound editing), so you are getting BDK in the raw. I will publish the video in 10-20 installments that are each between two and three minutes. This thing is a monster. It ended up being almost 60 minutes long. I plan on publishing one to two a week over the coming ten weeks or so. It was fun making it, partly because it forced me to learn to use iMovie and YouTube and all that. It's all really easy, so if you have a video camera, do it up baby!

Note the "reviews" are very brief, some are very impressionistic, don't expect detailed reviews like the ones I often write up. This first video gets a lot of preliminaries out of the way, such as my grading system, a little cameo by Liquid Egg Product's mascot, and just a handful of reviews.

Part 1


Blogger Temposchlucker said...

I wonder if DLM's book will make it above e-level:)

2/27/2008 05:15:00 AM  
Blogger Pawned! said...

Great work! I'll be following along with your posts over at Pawned!...

I've been working toward some video blogging of my own, just not figured out the part how I get the video from my camcorder to youtube. But it's in work, as they say.

Would like to see what others have in their bookshelf...Rich

2/27/2008 09:34:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

ctlyxxcThat's pretty cool hearing the sound of your voice. It's funny but i expected you to sound defferently. Though i can't tell you how exactly. Way cool to be reviewing like this through video and your grading system and all. You're a great blogger.

2/27/2008 11:31:00 AM  
Blogger Blue Devil Knight said...

Tempo: Well, bear in mind the stated grading system is based on weather I plan on keeping the book (in addition to book quality). Some books are great but I don't plan on keeping them (e.g., Rizzatano), and some may not be so great, but I must keep them for sentimental value.

Pawned: Thanks for the shout-out, and it looks like your blog is great. I'll have to add you to my sidebar rotation.

Luckily my wife has a Mac so making the transition from video camera to Youtube was pretty effortless (this site was very helpful once the thing was done in iMovie).

tcoem: I expected a different voice too. I thought I would sound much cooler and British and masculine, like James Bond. But in fact I was shocked to discover I have an American accent, have a tendency to run together words as I get excited, and generally simply wouldn't be a very good DJ. Not like Liquid Egg Product's Mascot, who has a great voice.

Jim of J'adoube fame has an amazing radio voice (seriously he could be a professional).

2/27/2008 11:49:00 AM  
Blogger Chessaholic said...

Holy crap, it’s pretty uncanny how much your chess book collection as well as that room in general look like my own study room. My “chess shelf” looks pretty much exactly the same, with about the same number of books…. I’ve got stuff lying around everywhere in my study room – I call it organized, creative chaos.

This has got to be one of the coolest series of blog posts ever, great idea BDK. Looking forward to seeing which other books you have and what you think of them. Any sadness in parting with C and below?

2/27/2008 07:21:00 PM  
Blogger Blue Devil Knight said...

Chessaholic: Thanks for the note. Definitely many of the C books there is a marked twang of grief at giving them up. I think I usually mention it when I reach them. D and below I have been meaning to get rid of anyway.

This is a great opportunity to clean up that awful room, which is actually our dining room that I took over for chess. I think my wife will be happy once the mess is cleaned up, which should be soon (though now that I see how easy it is to edit movies in iMovie, and post on Youtube, I may even redo some reviews that I don't like, but hopefully not: it took a long time to even film that single hour of footage).

2/27/2008 07:25:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

To hear the term "swan song" is depressing.

Love the honesty; I can't wait to hear more of the D and below reviews. What's really impressive is that you must have actually read all those books to be able to review them. (cf. chessloser, who apparently does not read a lot of the books he buys).

You absolutely made the Mascot's day.

2/28/2008 03:16:00 AM  
Blogger Blue Devil Knight said...

LEP: Well, I only reviewed books that I had read enough of to feel qualified to review them. Some I read a chapter or two and hated, and they are in the D or F piles. Some (e.g., Practical Chess Exercises) I've only read 1/10 but realize they are amazing. I edited out those reviews that I realized, in the editing stage, that I didn't actually know enough about them to review them, even though I taped a little review during the marathon session Sunday night.

Many of the opening books I picked and choosed which chapters to use, but this still gave me a good sense for how much I liked the book as a whole.

One thing is clear, I spent way too much money and time on opening books that I should have spent on annotated games or playing. Now my philosophy is to play lines that lead to decent positions with natural move choices: no openings that involve memorizing sharp lines. The Smith Morra is nice, as you can go down sharp lines if you want, but also you get a good game by following a certain template in the opening. That's the perfect kind of opening to grow with one's skills.

It amazes me how much chess knowledge I gained in the past three years, and it also amazes me that my chess skills (i.e., ability to actually play) is so far behind my "book" knowledge. All the book knowledge in the world is useless if you still hang pieces or miss two move tactics. This gives me the utmost respect for those of you rated above 1600. It's just so much work to get that skill set, and it simply can't be done by reading books. (Which incidentally is why I did the circles, to avoid the curse of the chess scholar who knows everything about the game but is rated 300).

I wish I had done some of my negative reviews using the Mascot voice. That would be sweet. Maybe I'll do it for a certain F I gave, but I'll probably be too lazy.

2/28/2008 03:52:00 AM  
Blogger transformation said...

i love this. thank you. and you sound exactly the way i would have expected you to sound. cutting edge. bravo!!!

PS: i seem to recall hearing that Ritzitano is a mechanical engineering professor, was it, but whatever it is, like GM-Ram's Ziyatinov, has a penchant for lucidity, doubtlessly forged at the anvil of engineering academia where muddleness can be ill afforded..., not wholy unlike you in Psychology and Cognitive Science. :)

2/28/2008 03:08:00 PM  
Blogger Blue Devil Knight said...

Thanks DK, very interesting about Rizzy. I knew he left chess for a while, perhaps it was to focus on engineering.

2/28/2008 03:42:00 PM  
Blogger transformation said...

he doesnt play chess, which make it all the more impressive...

my PC is near my kitchenette, so get to hear virtually all the john watson icc chess talk shows, and he had james on. guy is methodical. i don't own this book, but heard about it, and need to get it. watson said that ritzitano was very clear, was a terror when he played, but is inactive now. he also said that it was rare for folks to be able to write so well on an opening that they DIDN'T ('hadnt') play (played).

so this is the second derivative: doesnt play chess actively. then writes a book in a line he didnt play!

2/28/2008 03:48:00 PM  
Blogger Blue Devil Knight said...

DK: he played in the World Open and a few other tournaments last year (rating history). If he doesn't play the QGA that is very surprising, given how good the book is! He also just wrote a book on the QGD I think.

2/28/2008 04:11:00 PM  
Blogger katar said...

Great style! Very no-nonsense, but funny and laid back too. LOL

The reviews are useful, even if they are "impressionistic "as you say.

ANyway, I really enjoyed it, and look forward to future episodes.

I felt some strange deja vu watching this-- just about a year ago i quit blogging and sold my books too.

2/28/2008 10:37:00 PM  
Blogger Blue Devil Knight said...

Katar: thanks for the note. Yes, I have sort of followed in your footsteps, in all but rating. Not that I know who you are. :O I think there are about 30 books that I will be holding on to. Still too many, but enough to fit on one bookshelf.

2/29/2008 01:06:00 AM  
Blogger takchess said...

Nicely done. I think it would be a benefit to trade the c-d-e-f for other reading material. I ended up bringing some of the books that I wasn't using to the Bow tournament and selling them for some pocket money. I sold about 7 of them.

2/29/2008 06:16:00 AM  
Blogger Blue Devil Knight said...

Tak: yes, my goal is to sell them, not trade them for other chess books. My A+ through B pile will contain more than enough to keep me occupied in the near and far future.

2/29/2008 10:58:00 AM  
Blogger Polly said...

Great video. Having met a few of our fellow bloggers live it's interesting to hear what others sound like. I hate listening to my voice on on tape. Especially when I'm letting out a lot of ums and ers.

You can always put your C and below books on ebay.

2/29/2008 12:59:00 PM  
Blogger Elizabeth Vicary said...

Fantastic! I love the sense of rush about the video, like you're racing to free yourself from the oppression of the books. I want to wait and then watch the remaining videos all at once after drinking multiple cups of coffee.

2/29/2008 05:46:00 PM  
Blogger Elizabeth Vicary said...

Oh, and if you are looking for safe logical openings that don't require memorizing sharp lines, maybe you should watch curtain's videos at
and copy his repertoire. That's what I'm doing and's it's pretty fun.

2/29/2008 05:49:00 PM  
Blogger Blue Devil Knight said...

Polly: I had the strongest urge to ask someone at work "Do I really sound like that?" Egads.

Elizabeth: I was wondering if that sense of urgency would come through. I had soooo many books it seemed, and wanted to do them all in one sitting. Thanks for the repertoire videos link I'll check it out.

2/29/2008 06:49:00 PM  

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