Friday, March 21, 2008

100 Chess Book Reviews: Part 5

Rolling along casually dismissing books by people who would destroy me in an actual game. And continuing to dis' Takchess.

With a special appearance by my dog, Buddy, who steps in to help me rate the books. Music is from one of my favorite discs of all time, The Dresden Dolls (one of those rare CDs in which I like every song).


Blogger Polly said...

Did you dis Tak so much that youtube took it down? LOL. Damn I needed some chess book reviews to take my mind off how badly I played tonight.

3/21/2008 01:48:00 AM  
Blogger Blue Devil Knight said...

Fuggetaboutit. If you played me you would feel better instantly...

3/21/2008 01:50:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Part5 was interesting. I still fear you have something illegal in that bag! Did you ever check out any of the Bill Wall miniature game series. You like the openings and thats what they focus on.
Also,I recommend you study THE MOST INSTRUCTIVE GAMES OF CHESS EVER PLAYED BY CHERNEV. It gave me a much better understanding of the game. I give it an A+.

3/21/2008 11:47:00 AM  
Blogger BlunderProne said...

Dude... Rolf Rules! How dare you dis me! ( kidding)

Unlike Mr. Flash in the Pan MDLM... this guy made it to 2000 and still is there 10 years AFTER writing this rather dated rambling muse.

I distilled that you need to constantly keep up with reviewing your games. His flash card method was a little antiquated but seems to come up recently with Chessloser. The Tearing up dollars was a little too draconian for my taste. I beat myself up with my rating enough as it is...I don't need to make myself poorer.

3/21/2008 04:27:00 PM  
Blogger katar said...

great presentation as always. i agree with your streamlined and uncluttered approach.

fwiw: my chess librarry

3/21/2008 05:28:00 PM  
Blogger katar said...

let's try that again

3/21/2008 05:30:00 PM  
Blogger Blue Devil Knight said...

BP: I can't believe you like that book. It seems to be the kind of thing you would hate. I'm sure he is very good, but his book left me underwhelmed.

Katar: Cool library! I tried to get that 'How to think three moves ahead' but the seller at Amazon screwed me, never sent it, and said he did (or maybe he did, so USPS screwed him).

3/21/2008 05:50:00 PM  
Blogger Blue Devil Knight said...

Anon: I have one of his miniature books, but it seems he should re-release them on DVD. I can't stand books like that with just game dumps. Also, I need opening study less than any other type of study...

But for those who like miniatures, they might be great.

3/21/2008 06:01:00 PM  
Blogger Grandpatzer said...

You make me want to write a review of Watson's books :D How good a book is depends a lot on what the reader is looking for. So, at two extremes, we have "What do I play as White in the Smith-Morra when my opponent declines the gambit with 3...g6?" versus "what are the main themes in the Samisch Nimzo-Indian where Black plays an early ...d5?". The former may constitute a poor response to your opening that's common at your level, whereas the the latter may constitute a major response to a system that you're not likely to see over the board.

Watson's two books are more of a "teach a man to fish" sort rather than a "give a man a fish". If someone in, say, the 1600+ rating range wants to improve their opening play as a whole, I think they'd learn more by studying stuff like Watson than studying repertoire books. Also, I think Watson's books have more value if they're not treated like an encyclopedia (i.e. flip to the opening line in question and see what he says) but as an instructional book (i.e. read the material even on systems you don't play, to improve your feel for the opening in general).

Your rating is certainly valid when it comes to what's practical for the average player (I'm including myself), since opening play isn't our "weakest link" and spending weeks reading Watson will have minimal impact on our overall play. I'd rate them as an A either for stronger players that need to take their opening play to the next level, or for people like me that actually enjoy studying advanced material even when it's not that practical.

3/22/2008 01:07:00 PM  
Blogger Blue Devil Knight said...

GP: for general principles (i.e., learning how to fish) I prefer the Basman book. He's a better writer. But also, Basman is probably aimed at a lower level. However, the problem with Watson wasn't that I didn't understand what he was saying (I do see that as the case for many of the books), but that I wished he'd just be more succinct. As I said, it was a long walk for a small sip of water. It sems the editors gave him free reign with those two volumes (perhaps based on previous success?), and they should have pulled him in some. I was very disappointed in that book.

3/22/2008 01:33:00 PM  
Blogger katar said...

BDK, I agree with you 100% about Watson. Somehow Watson comes off to me like a pretentious student doing a book report on Nietsche. Watson's great efforts to appear "intellectual" obscure the fact that he is usually not saying very much at all. Just my opinion :)

3/22/2008 05:26:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"It sems the editors gave him free reign with those two volumes"

Just thought I would interject that a third volume on the flank openings is due this fall (figured GP would want to know, as I doubt bdk will be buying it).

Otherwise I can't add much, as I haven't read them.

3/22/2008 08:47:00 PM  
Blogger Polly said...

BDK; Not if I have to play black against your freaking SMG. I hate that damn opening.

3/22/2008 09:37:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

the miniature books are good for getting a taste of an opening you might be interested in.
can someone tell me the correct play for problem 178 in Fred Reinfeld's COMPLETE BOOK OF CHESS STRATAGEMS. It is incorrect.

3/22/2008 11:47:00 PM  
Blogger Blue Devil Knight said...

Anon: yes, good point. Minis are great for discovering cool tactics in the opening.

3/23/2008 12:37:00 AM  
Blogger takchess said...

It probably comes as no surprise to you that,like Blunderprone, I enjoyed Chess Master at any age as well. Yes parts of it are hokey the way de la Maza is hokey. Yes it has some psuedo science approach and I disagree with some of it.

What I found interesting is his explanation of the 5 components of chess skill. I do believe it is an acurate description of how he made strong gains in the precomputer age. That makes it interesting to me.

It sounds like you bought Watson's D4 book as well. Did you think his writing style got better between books?

We do agree on the Euwe book!

Katar's Librarything link is very nice. I am debating wheter to buy a subscription to catalog my books.

I look forward to you other reviews

3/23/2008 07:14:00 AM  
Blogger katar said...

Librarything is free, dude. (as far as i know)

Databases render unannotated game collections obsolete.

3/23/2008 07:41:00 AM  
Blogger Blue Devil Knight said...

Tak: Rolf's book was just too much crappy psychology for me, and simply needs an update. The comparison to MDLMs book is apt, and I wouldn't recommend buying that one either (partly b/c it is essentially available free online).

But at least MDLM doesn't waste the whole book generating a complicated psychological theory. His main assertion in the field of psychology of chess is simple: pattern recognition is crucial for chess mastery.

If memory serves, anything I found worthwhile in Wolf I found stated more clearly by Heisman, Soltis (How to choose), Tisdall, and Buckley (and that's saying a lot, since I don't think Buckley says things all that well and organized).

3/23/2008 10:44:00 AM  
Blogger Blue Devil Knight said...

Tak: thank goodness I stopped at Watson's e4 book.

3/23/2008 10:45:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

did you ever publish a final version of the move planner? Bill

3/23/2008 11:35:00 AM  
Blogger Blue Devil Knight said...

Bill: No. I worked on revising it, given all the comments I got. I will probably finish it at some point. The changes will be relatively minor. I think the document is down, so I need to put it up at my new hosting service.

3/23/2008 12:57:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Why did you buy a "for juniors" book?

3/23/2008 08:15:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Interesting in Katar's library that Tal was still writing books 3 years after he died.

3/23/2008 08:19:00 PM  
Blogger Blue Devil Knight said...

Anon: I read at a first-grade level, that's why. Thanks for bringing it up, I'm kind of sensitive about it.

3/24/2008 01:55:00 PM  
Blogger katar said...

Now you know why BDK's favorite chess primer is the Complete Idiot's Guide by Patrick Wolff.

(for those who dont know, BDK is a brilliant neuroscientist who experiments on lab rats for a living. Dont mess with him-- Monroi are you listening?)

3/24/2008 07:16:00 PM  
Blogger Chessaholic said...

Chess Master vs Chess Amateur is a real gem in my opinion, as is Silman's endgame course. Great little cameo by Buddy :)

3/25/2008 01:32:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Well let's just hope i'm going to like something about Rolf's book because i just ordered it and don't want to be too dissapointed.

3/26/2008 02:13:00 AM  
Blogger ChargingKing said...

John Watson's book "Play The French" 3rd edition is an excellent book that not only provides a solid Black system but explains so many of the mistakes your opponent can make and how you can take advantage that you feel really confident in your moves.

As opposed to a book of lines and random games, Watson's French Book(I can't speak for any others) is a great chess book!

3/26/2008 07:17:00 PM  
Blogger Blue Devil Knight said...

Yeah, that book made me think about playing the French. I'll review it at some point, but a non-review really (saying that it is supposed to be good, I didn't read it, I will never play the French, so C).

I think that is his masterpiece of the openings.

3/26/2008 10:48:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

How many books do you end up having left after your purge?
Do you think you'll ever buy any more books? Iam tempted to buy the Silman Endgame Book,although I already have the book EndgameChallenge .

3/27/2008 10:38:00 PM  
Blogger Blue Devil Knight said...

Anon: I kept about 35 books or so, and am getting rid of about 65. I emailed a book dealer to see if he was interested. I really, really, don't want to have to do the Amazon thing and package each one individually..I've done that before and it takes just too much time.

3/28/2008 12:41:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am interested in the Reinfeld book you said you got in an airport. Maybe we can do a trade.

3/28/2008 01:40:00 AM  
Blogger Blue Devil Knight said...

Anon: if you have anything you think I'd like, email me! (bluedevil -dot- knight -at- yahoo -dot- com.....

3/29/2008 12:52:00 AM  
Blogger Zweiblumen said...

The Dresden Dolls are great. They're from up here in the Boston area and are amazing live. I highly recommend them if they are ever in your area.

4/03/2008 03:39:00 PM  
Blogger drunknknite said...

Um... I'm really late on this, but I stopped reading this blog out of spite when you relegated one of my FAVORITE books to the D pile (Usborn's book of Chess Puzzles) and then I had to watch it knowing it would be tossed for the next few videos. It was just too much. Seriously, I knew how to place 8 queens on the board without any of them attacking each other before I knew any thing about chess. This was the key to all my future success. hehe.

The very first book you reviewed, I haven't really looked at it in depth, but I can tell you that 15 pages is absolutely enough to cover Black's responses to the odd second move alternatives. Equality is simple for Black in the case that White ignores main lines. My whole repertoire against 1.d4 comes from the Kaufman book, which you reviewed at some point, in which he includes only one game on each of the sidelines and it is exactly enough.

As far as Watson goes, he is an AMAZING writer. I did not purchase the overhyped opening books, but his two books on chess strategy are two of the best books for players around my strength. Watson's Secrets of Modern Chess Strategy is the best book on chess I ever read. Chess Strategy in Action, the follow up to this book, I think is just above my strength level right now, I'm probably going to try to read it again in July.

5/08/2008 04:30:00 PM  
Blogger Blue Devil Knight said...

drunknknite: That Aagaard book? Yuck! Perhaps it is better for the more advanced player, which is not me. Also, I had a pretty heavy filter against opening books, as they just aren't what I need. But the Aagaard book is exactly what I don't like in opening books. Promise of a full repertoire, covering a few deep lines, little explanation of thematic issues. That is probably my least favorite opening book other than those old game dumps from the 1970s.

I have heard Watson's Strategy book is amazing, and will read it one day I hope (Silman first, though, and his fourth edition of Reassess isn't due out for a while). This opening book of his, though, is just not as good for the low-level club player like me as the Basman and Collins books. He just seemed to use too many words to say very simple things, perhaps the success of his earlier books made the editors more flexible with page limits. Perhaps it is too advanced for me, and that's why I prefer Basman.

5/08/2008 04:47:00 PM  

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