Saturday, March 29, 2008

100 Chess Book Reviews: Part 6

Blah blah blah yadda yadda yadda. I accidentally cut off the end of my review of Rolf's 'Chess Master at any Age', so the beginning of this video is the end of that review.

I hope the modernized Vukovic is good if it ever comes out, as I put Art of Attack in my C pile.

Music is from the wonderful soundtrack to the great movie Snatch.


Blogger katar said...

Awesome reviews again. You definitely don't "suck" at chess, btw. I think you hit your stride when you discovered active piece play and picked up the Danish, Morra, and Skandinavian gambits. Lasker's QGD is an awesome choice: rather unknown and underestimated too. Although, most people annoyingly play 4.cxd5...

3/29/2008 07:28:00 AM  
Blogger Ryan said...

The last time I visited your blog you were about to end it. Now your reviewing your books and throwing a ton of them out. I hope you don't regret it! You could make a fortune if you flog them on eBay.

Great succinct reviews! Would you mind if I post them at

3/29/2008 08:03:00 AM  
Blogger Blue Devil Knight said...

Katar: I agree that was a turning point when I started playing those kooky gambits. I am really surprised more people don't play the Danish, especially the Nxc3 version which seems just more sound than the Bc4 version.

Ryan: I thought this would be a fun swan song. I'm glad I did that marathon review session, as it will be useful for me when I start easing back into chess more. Feel free to post them at

I'm still not sure how I'll sell them. It will hurt as they cost me so much and I know I'll get a pittance in return. But alas I need to do it. Maybe I'll end up doing the amazon sell.

3/29/2008 12:48:00 PM  
Blogger Blue Devil Knight said...

P.S. It was reading 'How to beat your dad at chess', coupled with this experience with blitz, and this realization, that pushed me toward a whole new way of looking at chess. Beginners, read those three things to see that tactics really aren't the be all end all (even though they are, they really aren't). Mating the opponent is.

Obvious, yes, but I lost sight of it during the Circles.

3/29/2008 12:52:00 PM  
Blogger SilverKing said...

I really enjoy these chess book reviews. Would you be willing to sell me the three nimzo-indian books covered in part 6?

3/29/2008 05:37:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Why is it that all the "knights" seem to play for a (very short) while, improve a tiny bit (700-1200), telling everyone they'll be a GM in a few months, then give up the game shortly thereafter?

Its sort of insulting when an amateur asks a GM something such as 'how can I become a GM'. Lets say you are a chemical engineer. Does a GM ask you 'how can I become a chemical engineer in the next 6 months?' Unless you work at Kmart, substitute your chosen field. How can I accomplish your life's work in the next 6 months? No, I'll give up now. I fail it.

3/29/2008 05:58:00 PM  
Blogger takchess said...


Cult Central here, I will say that Vukovics book is an extremely difficult read. I am not sure if this is the author's style, the translation or the depth of the covered material and variations. Perhaps my low rating has something to do with it.

On the plus side, the chapters and books are well organized and logically build from topic to topic. The representative games and positions are instructive and appropriate. There are parts of Vukovics analysis that doesn't bear the weight of todays computer analysis. Nunns editing has fixed alot of this. I think it a fairly accurate book for its age. There is material here on the theory of attacking play not found elsewhere so I press on.

I am looking forward to seeing the Aagaard books when they come out.

Jim Takchess
Lone member Art of Attack Book Club

3/29/2008 06:18:00 PM  
Blogger Blue Devil Knight said...

Silverking: Maybe. I'll post when I post the books (if I do) at Amazon.

Tak: glad you like the book. I know many who feel similarly. Whether it's out of my league, or dry Russian style, or both, I'm giving her up.

Anon: troll planting straw men for the unwary to pick at.

3/29/2008 06:31:00 PM  
Blogger Loomis said...

Stean's Simple Chess is an "A" book. I understand why you have given it a "B", but this is really a great little book. It is packed with terrific chess insight, written in a very impactful style with clear explanations.

I noticed that your Grand Prix book by Gary Lane has exactly the same cover (aside from text) as Bogdan Lalic's Grunfeld book. I guess they don't expect anybody to play both those openings.

3/29/2008 09:13:00 PM  
Blogger Blue Devil Knight said...

Loomis: If you give it a high mark I expect I'll either love it, or it will be over my head :)

Shere are a bunch of books like that that I know I want to keep but I haven't read, so I give it a B. I look forward to reading that one.

The A pile is fairly selective. I think maybe 5 books end up with As or better out of about 100 (I keep finding books in my house that I forgot to review...I'm not sure what I'll do about them....maybe an addendum).

3/29/2008 10:05:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

You amassed quite a nice collection in a short period of time. How much do you think you spent on your chess habit?


3/30/2008 11:54:00 AM  
Blogger Blue Devil Knight said...

I spent more than I care to think about...At least 1000 bucks. That's about 3 dollars per rating point I gained. :)

3/30/2008 01:24:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

whoever wrote that critical attack of the knights must be an aythor of one of the books you killed.

3/31/2008 05:05:00 PM  
Blogger Grandpatzer said...

This is an unfair generalization, but I've been sensing this sort of theme:

-You like non-mainline openings that get your opponent out of book so you can play "real chess"

-You don't like it when a repertoire book for your opening doesn't cover your average opponent's deviation

So getting your opponent out of book is like catching a tiger by the tail..."what do I do now?"

Sometimes an author overlooks serious lines, but often the unmentioned lines are either tactically refuted, or are bad on general principles that the target reader should know (e.g. White plays Bb5 in the French Advance). I think if your opponents' moves fall in the last category, congrats! You're now both out of book, and it's chess skill that determines the outcome instead of opening preparation.

4/01/2008 12:30:00 AM  
Blogger Chessaholic said...

Good stuff. I love the Neil McDonald book, he's got such an awesome style.

4/01/2008 01:10:00 AM  
Blogger Blue Devil Knight said...

GP you said:
often the unmentioned lines are either tactically refuted, or are bad on general principles that the target reader should know

That's what they like to say, but it is usually just not the case. The problem is that while I am out of book by move 5 because the book sucks, my opponent knows his little pet line N moves deep, where N>>5. I like it when we are both out of book! :) Perhaps one reason I've been enjoying Fischer Random lately.

There are great opening books out there that I've reviewed (Greet, for instance, provides a great example of how to write a book on the Ruy).

I also really like the books that discuss general strategy, the 'where you want your pieces and what types of attacks are possible' (like that Nimzo book I reviewed). But too often nowadays we have incomplete barely annotated game dumps that seem to indicate a laziness on the authors' part.

Plus, also bear in mind that these reviews are all from the perspective of a patzer. Someone much better than me, which is probably the majority of readers here, will have quite different needs in an opening book.

But in general, I have stopped studying the opening anyway. It just isn't all that helpful, which is why I'm getting rid of all but maybe four or five opening books (and two of those are general--Collins and Basman). I bought WAYYY to many specific opening books for my level.

4/01/2008 05:57:00 AM  
Blogger Chessaholic said...

BDK - I have to agree, I think you have way too many specific opening books. That's what really struck me the most in the reviews you've posted so far. And it's not only a bunch of books on a few openings - you have books on a gazillion different openings. I guess that might be helpful in trying to find something you like, but yeah - at our level, it's just overkill...

I was thinking to myself last night, maybe I need to sell off some books too. But then I just thought, what the heck, I'll get to each and every one of the books I own at some point in my life. I probably wouldn't get much money selling them, so why even bother - it's just not worth the time and effort. I'd rather just keep them until I am old and grey... maybe I'll have fun with them when I'm retired :)

4/01/2008 11:53:00 AM  
Blogger Grandpatzer said...

Greet vs. Marin is a great contrast. Partly, because of the "target audience" difference between the two, and partly because of the "omitting main lines" issue.

Greet even spends 8 pages covering the oddball 3rd-move alternatives like 3...Qe7, yet his offbeat mainline (the Worrall) is still covered thoroughly . He also has original analysis (the fork trick recommendation for the Classical Variation stands out).

Marin is assuming a higher level of readership. I like his books very much, and I think there's an amazing amount of chess knowledge packed in there. However, when it comes down to the actual moves, there are lots of holes the reader has to plug himself. The most annoying hole for me at the moment is in the Chigorin when White plays 12.d5 instead of 12.Nbd2. The latter is very much the #1 move, but the former has been played by very important players and is the #2 line.

Either I'm just missing coverage of this line in Marin's repertoire, or this is a major oversight (to me...perhaps not his target audience).

4/01/2008 12:33:00 PM  
Blogger Grandpatzer said...

ZOMG! I just checked Marin's publisher, and there's a 25 page addition to his Spanish repertoire book available for download. It includes 12.d5!

It sounds like his Open Games book is going to be reissued as a second addition. When I bought it, it came with a 4-page insert of coverage of two last-minute lines.

I'll add the links on my blog.

4/01/2008 12:44:00 PM  
Blogger Blue Devil Knight said...

The problem is, even though it was not the best use of my time, I went through a period where I just loved opening study. Searching, searching, searching for that perfect opening that matched my tastes, for which a decent book was available. I knew at the time it wasn't really a good idea, but it was so damned fun. And now I have openings I really like, most of which have very little written about them.

The Aasgaard book I trashed is another good example: it was advertised as something it was not, a general response to 1 d4. IN fact it was a fairly technical, high-level examination of the Tarrasch, with other stuff thrown in as an apparent afterthought.

4/01/2008 02:32:00 PM  
Blogger drunknknite said...

Art of Attack has a cult following? I would estimate 90% of strong players are familiar or have read this book. It is difficult I will agree.

On the topic of sidelines, I know that it feels like they know their 'pet' line, but if it's a line that is not covered in a book like Marin's it's no good. That doesn't mean you're going to have an easy time but by using the principles of the opening, which all these books do possess in detail, you should be able to obtain a good game.

5/08/2008 04:49:00 PM  
Blogger Blue Devil Knight said...

Drunk: yes, I know I am weird about Art of Attack. It is probably above my level: I just couldn't get into it. I tried it twice and just didn't like it. I even tried to like it but couldn't get myself to do it. It's not a good book for someone at the level the reviews are pitched. I think something more basic is probably better.

Yes, they always say the lines not covered are easy to refute. In practice I don't find this, even following principles. Greet's book on the Ruy is the one exception to this approach, and he set the bar IMO for opening books.

5/08/2008 06:14:00 PM  

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