Archive for the ‘Books’ Category

Not sure where to file this post, it’s probably most fitting to call it a completed 2011 new year’s resolution. In any case, the quest to finish the Dvoretsky endgame manual has finally come to a close. After close to 1,200 days I finally read the final page and reviewed the last exercise on December 30th.

Without a doubt, I’m sure that many a stronger player has read the book and digested the material much more quickly than I. The issue was that somewhere between 2008 and 2011, I lost the initial head of steam that propelled me through the early chapters.

At some point it became a test of my resolve to finish things that I have started. Since there was no way I was going to carry this into 2012, I brought the book with me on our family vacation to Aruba this year and finished just in time.

As noted in previous reviews of the book, the material is very good and thoroughly covers almost everything a person should know about endgames. That said, now that I have completed it, I would only recommend the book for players with ratings of 1650 and above.

Aruba in the Caribbean Sea.
Image via Wikipedia

Funnily enough, over the summer I received a gift of Silman’s Complete Endgame Course from a close relative! Though I haven’t the strength to start a new endgame book just yet, I can say that this work takes a different approach and organizes material based on player strength in order to help students get the most out of the material.


10,000 Hours

Posted: October 17, 2010 in Books, chess, Trivia
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Many of you may have heard of Malcolm Gladwell. He’s the author of a number of NY Times best sellers such as Blink and The Tipping Point. One of his recent books – Outliers, published in late 2008 contained an in-depth analysis of what it is that makes certain people successful.

One of the most quoted sections of the book notes that successful musicians, artists, businessman, and others who excel in their fields have one thing in common. They have spent 10,000 or more hours honing their craft. This can be confirmed by looking at the biographies of many of the world’s great chess players. While most of us are lucky to carve out an hour or two on a good day to do a little studying on the latest theory, avid players are working at it five or more hours each and every day.

In the world of music, it’s a little known fact that the Beatles were not a highly regarded band during their early days in Liverpool.

But, from 1960 – 1962, they were given the opportunity to go to Hamburg, Germany and play in various nightclubs. In 1960, they stayed in Hamburg for four months and played seven days a week. Their schedule at the Indra Club

required them to play four hours per night on weekdays and six hours per night on weekends.

So, ultimately, talent may be important, but without a lot of hard work, it’s almost impossible to improve and reach your true potential.

Happy Halloween

Posted: November 1, 2008 in Books
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As we celebrate another Halloween we can give a free plug to the coolest book cover that has nothing to do with chess!  In a recent Chess Life article they note that the book “Breaking Dawn” is actually the third book in a wildly popular vampire saga.  The over 700 page tome doesn’t even allude to strategy or have a single mention of the royal game.

I came across this book at the end of the summer while on a family vacation in Nantucket.  I was intrigued by the cover and was wondering what this new chess book was all about.  As I leafed through the pages, I realized that this wasn’t a chess book at all!

I’m not sure what the author Stephanie Meyer was thinking when she agreed to this design, but it is a really striking image and a cool cover.  So for all you vampire lovers out there – you might want to check this one out for yourself.

Over the 10 years or so that I have been playing chess in a club setting, I have found that the road to improvement is full of ups and downs, detours, and potholes! There are few quick fixes that will suddenly make your rating improve drastically.

One of the best methods to improve your game is to take time to do regular post-mortems on all of your matches. This can take many forms including: reviewing the game with your opponent, discussing the match with a chess-playing friend, or self-study combined with running the game through a chess engine.

Glowing Piece
Glowing Piece

Another helpful step is to put together your own chess library. A good library should be well rounded and include volumes on openings, middlegames, endings and tactics. I have found that general study of chess strategy and tactics was a good way to get started. Once you have a good grasp of these areas, you can move on to purchasing books on specific openings. After that it can be very helpful to purchase a beginning endgame book so you learn one of the hardest things – “how to win won games”.

That said, the following is a sampling of books that are in my collection.

Winning Chess Openings – Yasser Seirawan

This book is part of the “winning chess” series by Yasser Seirawan.  I highly recommend all of the books in the series, but I will say that this volume is one that I come back to again and again.  The strength of the book is that it covers just about every major opening that you are likely to come across during your matches and explains the basic principles in great detail.  I have experimented with a few ideas from this book and once I found a few that I liked, I purchased specific books that went into more detail on those openings.

Winning Chess Endings – Yasser Seirawan

Similar to Winning Chess Openings, this volume focuses on the basics of endgame play.  Common pawn and rook endings are major features as well as an explanation of key nuggets such as the “in the square” rule and the Luciena and Philador positions.

MCO-14 (Modern Chess Openings) – Nick deFirman

A comprehensive volume of all openings and key variations.  This book has since been updated with more recent material.  Of course, you can also buy many computer programs with the same information – but many times I have found this to be a useful dictionary to look up the decision trees (and counters against) openings and defences that I have not seen before.

Reassess Your Chess Workbook – Jeremy Silman

If you have a hard time seeing your own mistakes, this is the book for you.  It contains a number of exercises that are designed to enlighten students about common mistakes and how to overcome them.  Silman’s writing style can be somewhat sarcastic, but if you can get past the occasional insult against all of us “patzers”, you can pick up some great tips on strategic planning.

Dvoretsky’s Endgame Manual – Mark Dvoretsky

This one is for serious players who have already read a beginning endgame book.  The content is very dense and contains a pleathora of information on a number of endings.  I’ve been looking this one over for a few months now and have only gotten to page 35!  However, if you are willing to hang in there and plow through the material, it is sure to provide the information needed to turn “losses into draws” and “draws into victories”.