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  1. #1
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    Book/dvd reviews

    This thread is for people to review any books they've read in their collection or to request reviews/recommendations.

    The following should be included in later posts.

    1. In title - review: (book title)
    or request (topic/book)

    2. include your current rating for review or request

    3. At conclusion include the rating recommendations for the book and a score out of 10 for that rating

    10 - must buy
    8-9 - Great book
    6-7 - The book will be of some use
    4-5 - book has errors
    1-3 - axioms *** dribble will be of more use.

  2. #2
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    If it weren't for the fact that this thread was created in the 'Chess Training' forum, I would have thought that this thread is to review any books/dvds (not just chess related ones).
    Last edited by Zwischenzug; 29-06-2008 at 10:40 PM.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Zwischenzug
    If it weren't for the fact that this thread was created in the 'Chess Training' forum, I would have thought that this read is to review any books/dvds (not just chess related ones).
    Yes, chess only.

    No religious dribble
    No *** dribble
    No stupid arguments, idiots here cant help themselves

    Thanks

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    CC FIDE Master Southpaw Jim's Avatar
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    Funny, but I'd recently been thinking about starting a thread along exactly the same lines! Great (and small) minds...

    I'll kick off then!

    I've recently (ie last 4-5 weeks) bought 4 new books. I haven't completed any of them in that time, but I'll give my thoughts on them anyway...

    From the Middlegame into the Endgame - Edmar Mednis:
    I bought this after having heard good things about it, and it sounded like something that would be good to learn about. Transitions! This book I've delved into least, because the others looked more interesting. On a brief perusal, this book appears to be slightly above my level. The book was published in the late 80s, and the production values show. It uses game fragments, the diagrams are adequate, but not "great", and some of the spelling/grammar is SHOCKING. Ah the days before mass-market spellcheckers.. I'll give this one 6/10 as it will be of use to me later, but marked down for the production values.

    Alexander Alekhine's Best Games (edited by Nunn)
    Say no more! This book has, until recently, diverted my attention from all else. Over 100 games by one of the greatest World Champions of all time, all (bar about 10-20) are annotated by the man himself, and as we all know/have heard, he generates brutal attacks from seemingly nothing. A Batsford publication, the production values are workmanlike (ie good, but not great), and I've found nothing more entertaining over the last few weeks than to see the likes of Bogoljubow and Reti get pounded over the board. I'll give this 9/10, as IMHO this book would be better as a bigger book, with nicer quality of paper. The content, however, is 10/10.

    Tactics in the Opening 1: Sicilian Defence by Van der Tak and Nijboer
    Over 250 Sicilian games, well annotated, and organised by variation - selected because they demonstrate typical tactical opportunities that arise in those lines. No prose, just game after game. I've only played through a few, but I feel this will be of value to me as I improve - it's obviously pitched at club-level players, it's not a monograph on a particular variation, nor a repertoire book. The production is nice, although my only gripe is that the name of the variation/chapter is not printed at the top/bottom of each page. I'm giving this one 7/10 at this stage.

    Endgame Tactics: A Comprehensive Guide to the Sunny Side of Chess Endgames by G C van Perlo
    This book has the potential to knock Alekhine's Best Games off the top of the reading list. It has over 1000 endgame positions, devoted to ones of a tactical nature. The positions are drawn from actual play, not studies, and purports to be of great educational value. This book won Book of the Year from both the English Chess Federation, and ChessCafe.com. The production values are great (nice size, clear type and diagrams), but what makes this book is van Perlo's annotations. As noted by other, more august, reviewers than I is van Perlo's apparent enthusiasm for the tricks and traps that occur in the endgame. It's infectious!! The book drags me along, promising myself just one more position before bed... and then one more...

    I give this book 10 out of 10.
    Last edited by Southpaw Jim; 29-06-2008 at 11:52 PM.
    "the other lefty"

  6. #6
    CC Grandmaster Capablanca-Fan's Avatar
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    Secrets of Modern Chess Strategy by John Watson

    Excellent piece of research but not totally indisputable
    Very useful -- for those who have absorbed the “classics” 9.5/10

    Watson's book is the masterpiece everyone says it is, and the few things I disagree with don't detract from the 5-star rating. His main thesis is rule independence. The book is really for strong club players and beyond, who have a good knowledge of the strategies in the Euwe/Kramer and Pachman books. It's important to understand the rules, which apply to about 80% of the cases (according to the late GM Gufeld), before learning about the exceptions.

    Alex Yermolinsky in Road to Chess Improvement also acknowledges that the old instructional classics found it easier to instruct with clear strategical plans, while strong players know what to avoid and try to cross the plans, so necessitating flexibility.

    In general, Watson makes an excellent case, e.g. with the Ivanchuk-Anand game, I think Watson's right and Anand wrong that normal pawn structure and bad bishop rules would not have helped at all, because one active rook outweighed everything else. Watson also shows some shortcomings of Nimzovich's tempo counting, and refutes Nimzo's quaint advance French lines with the move ...f6, attacking the HEAD of the pawn chain.

    The sections on the minor pieces are superb. He astutely points out that opposition to "dogmatic" love of the bishop pair has itself become a dogma. E.g. Flesch claims that the bishop and knight have precisely equal value, but this is a dogmatic claim about two pieces with completely different moves (p. 148). It's also clear that the B-pair does constitute an advantage in very many cases, including one dismissed by Nimzo (p. 67).

    A definite advance on the conventional strategy books is the advice on BvN in the opening. Most players learn that Bs like open games and Ns like closed ones. But in the opening, the side with a Ns often has a development advantage, so the best strategy is for THAT side to open the game, make use of the tactical abilities of the N, and force pawn moves that create permanent outposts. So the side with the Bs should seek to stabilize the position, catch up in development, then open up the game when ready, so the bishops can display their strength (pp. 178–9).

    There is also good material on good v bad bishops. Beginners often prefer bad bishops because they can protect their pawns. More advanced players learn to reject them because of the weakness of the opposite colored squares. But as Watson shows, still more advanced players will sometimes revert to the beginner's attitude, where "bad bishops protect bad pawns for good reasons". For example I can think of is neutralising enemy rooks while one's own rooks attack undefended pawns and reduce the enemy rooks to passivity.

    Watson does overstate his case a bit though. For example, in his book, Tal relates a post mortem after Game 9 of his first match with Botvinnik. Tal rattled off some variations, while Botvinnik said he didn't dispute what Tal said, but just said he assessed the merits of exchanging queens. Tal first thought it was "too abstract", then came to appreciate this wisdom. Another example comes from Andy Soltis' fine book Soviet Chess. Petrosyan thought Gufeld had violated so many rules that there just had to be a way to punish him, which he found. In fact, Chernev's elementary book Logical Chess Move by Move" pointed out decades ago that a rule violation should often be punished by a rule violation.

    I also disagree Watson's treatment of the old masters. For example, he will excuse modern greats for annotating in ways that LOOK like they are applying rules, because otherwise too many trees would have to be killed to explain the caveats. But then the same allowance should be made for the older annotators too, which Watson fails to do, unlike Yermolinsky.

    I also wonder whether Watson actually read Tarrasch's Dreihundert Schachpartien, which to be fair may have been translated into English (300 Chess Games) after Watson wrote. For example, Watson claims (p. 41) about the Nimzo-Salwe 1911 game with 7. dxc5, "After this game, 6...cxd4 was considered better [than Bxd7]. But almost 20 years before, Tarrasch had played 6...cxd4 (against Paulsen) and given it an exclamation mark in 300 Chess Games because Bd7 would allow 7.dxc5 with a good game. Watson makes other less blatant errors, e.g. the usual "dogmatism" accusation (p. 95), and indeed there are a number of genuine examples. But there are many times when Tarrasch appeals to the specifics of the position, e.g. where he explains that the N goes to the edge because in that position it was important to drive the B off that diagonal. There is plenty of other concrete thinking that defies many of the stereotypes, and Tarrasch even advocates some ideas that sound Nimzovichian.

    Another reviewer noted the disrespect for Capablanca. For instance, on p. 94, Watson notes an example of Capa's alleged dogmatism, while Euwe and Kramer had noted Capa's NON-dogmatism. It's important to note that Capa never lived to see Last Lectures in print, and what he probably intended was Bogolyubov's line with O-O AND exd4. The book also has him recommending a line that falls into a trap, although his My Chess Career has the correct line. But I can see why Watson went just by what was written, and he does come down on Capa's side in his annotations of the famous loss to Lasker at St. Petersburg 1914.

    I mention these shortcomings, as I see them, because most reviewers on various websites have expended many keystrokes on praise. And I repeat, the praise is NOT overstated in the case of this high-quality book.
    Last edited by Capablanca-Fan; 03-07-2008 at 05:11 PM.
    “The history of the 20th century is full of examples of countries that set out to redistribute wealth and ended up redistributing poverty.”
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  7. #7
    CC Grandmaster Capablanca-Fan's Avatar
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    Averbakh’s Selected Games

    Averbakh’s Selected Games
    by Yuri Averbakh
    Cadogan Books
    Paperback — 224 pages
    (October 1998)
    9/10

    New Zealanders and Australians active in the 1960s should remember Yuri Averbakh (b. 1922) as one of the first Soviet grandmasters to visit our part of the world. Even though his best years were behind him, he totally dominated the tournaments in which he played Down Under.

    The author rightly says “this book should have been published at least a quarter of a century ago”. Averbakh was probably one of the world’s top dozen players in the 1950s. He qualified for the immensely strong Candidates tournament at Zürich, 1953 (10th), and convincingly won the USSR Championship the following year, and narrowly lost the playoff after a tie in 1956. As he points out, chess is a lot different now, but there were many fine players and great games from that era.

    But it’s not surprising that this book took so long in coming. Averbakh was involved in almost every aspect of chess, including Judge of Chess Compositions, leading endgame theoretician, President of the USSR Chess Federation (1972–7), editor of Shakhmaty, International Arbiter, author and trainer.

    I can confirm his skill as a trainer, as he was the chief lecturer at an training at a chess seminar in Sukhumi (then part of Soviet Georgia) in 1988 — see my report in NZ Chess, April 1989). His knowledge was vast, and he could communicate it effectively in fluent, albeit heavily accented, English. He was also humble enough to act as an interpreter when a Russian journalist wanted to interview the champion of exotic New Zealand, although his own chess achievements far eclipsed my own.

    It must be said that he was a product of the Soviet system to a large extent — in my report published in New Zealand Chess (April 1998), I commented on his equivocation about the meaning of chess “school” when discussing the so-called “Soviet School”. GM Andy Soltis’s fine book Soviet Chess 1917–1991 calls him a fatalist, who made the best of whatever situation in which he found himself. An interview with Dirk Jan ten Geuzendam confirmed this (see The Day Kasparov Quit).

    Averbakh, as he says, had a reputation as a ‘top technician’, probably because in 200 games against top GMs, he scored 13% wins, 18% losses and 69% draws (The Batsford Chess Encyclopedia by Nathan Divinski). But Averbakh hoped to show that he had a universal style by presenting games decided in other ways.

    Indeed, the technical skill shows up well in his white-square exploitation against Najdorf, and an endgame with a knight sacrifice against Euwe at Zürich, 1953; or blocking out an enemy knight against Bannik, which won him the Soviet Title in 1954. But there are also fierce battles with oppositely castled kings against Bronstein, Taimanov and Petrosyan (see game below); a devastating opening innovation against a World Correspondence Champion which Averbakh saved for 18 years (see game below); and some classic wins, such as against Panno, with his patented “Averbakh variation” against the King’s Indian, still a dangerous weapon. Other scalps include Botvinnik, Smyslov, Keres, Korchnoi and Polugayevski (see game below).

    It’s also nice to see a book where annotations are in clear and interesting prose rather than an overuse of Informator symbols and masses of variations. The publishers Cadogan are to be congratulated on an excellently produced book which does the contents justice.

    Games (notes by me, after Averbakh)

    Averbakh, Yuri — Polugayevsky, Lev [A42]
    25th USSR Champs, 1958

    PGN Viewer
     


    Averbakh, Yuri — Petrosyan, Tigran [E90]
    Moscow Team Championship, 1961

    PGN Viewer
     


    Averbakh, Yuri – Estrin, Yakov [D39]
    Moscow Champs, 1964

    PGN Viewer
     
    Last edited by Capablanca-Fan; 03-07-2008 at 05:10 PM.
    “The history of the 20th century is full of examples of countries that set out to redistribute wealth and ended up redistributing poverty.”
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  8. #8
    CC Grandmaster Capablanca-Fan's Avatar
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    The Road to Chess Improvement by Yermolinksy

    Very useful -- for those who have absorbed the “classics” 8/10

    This book is really for strong club players and beyond, who have a good knowledge of the strategies in the Euwe/Kramer and Pachman books on the middlegame and strategy. I think it's important to understand the rules, which apply to about 80% of the cases (according to GM Gufeld), before learning about the exceptions. Yermo's book goes beyond those, in noting various exceptions to the strategical “rules”, instead teaching the way children learn languages, by just seeing how people play (speak). He also has a lot of practical advice that he weaves into commentaries on his own games.

    There are comparatively few topics covered in depth, outlining various plans, e.g. the Grünfeld pawn center, a good line for White in the exchange QGD. He also discusses the role of a lead in development as crucial to the success of the Benko. Showing that the “Grand Prix” attack against the Sicilian is not to be feared will benefit many players.

    On the last, Yermo strongly recommends against mickey mouse openings, or trying to take a much stronger opponents “out of book”. Rather, he points out that the point of an opening is to gain a good middlegame, and if playing a “proper” opening is “standing on the shoulders of giants”. He says he has no problem against offbeat openings that give him a good position with plenty of pieces on: “I'll find a way to outplay anyone 300 rating points below me.”

    I agree though with critical comments about what Yermo says about Botvinnik and Tal. But he is more charitable than John Watson (see above) about the classical authors. He points out that they knew perfectly well that what they wrote was only a guide. And like himself, found games with a clear strategic theme the most instructive for their readers, while acknowledging that this is rare between evenly matched players.
    Last edited by Capablanca-Fan; 03-07-2008 at 05:10 PM.
    “The history of the 20th century is full of examples of countries that set out to redistribute wealth and ended up redistributing poverty.”
    “There’s no point blaming the tragedies of socialism on the flaws or corruption of particular leaders. Any system which allows some people to exercise unbridled power over others is an open invitation to abuse, whether that system is called slavery or socialism or something else.”—Thomas Sowell

  9. #9
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    Tigran Petrosian 's game against Averbakh was interesting. Does Tigran Petrosian have any good game collection books similar to what Alekhine has?

  10. #10
    CC Grandmaster Capablanca-Fan's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Zwischenzug
    Tigran Petrosian's game against Averbakh was interesting. Does Tigran Petrosian have any good game collection books similar to what Alekhine has?
    GM Raymond Keene recently wrote Petrosian vs the Elite: 71 Victories by the Master of Manoeuvre 1946–1983. The games and annotations are usually excellent, and I recommend it to people who want to see what a great player Petrosian was. Keene's flowery language can be overlooked, "like a pair of velociraptors", "filigree masterpiece". I'd give it 8.5/10.
    Last edited by Capablanca-Fan; 03-07-2008 at 05:12 PM.
    “The history of the 20th century is full of examples of countries that set out to redistribute wealth and ended up redistributing poverty.”
    “There’s no point blaming the tragedies of socialism on the flaws or corruption of particular leaders. Any system which allows some people to exercise unbridled power over others is an open invitation to abuse, whether that system is called slavery or socialism or something else.”—Thomas Sowell

  11. #11
    CC Grandmaster Garrett's Avatar
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    These comments are from a thread I started a couple of years ago but died.

    The Safest Sicilian - although I have only played through a couple of chapters (edit - most now), this book seems like a good starter for the Taimanov Sicilian. Each chapter is split into three sections, a quick repertoire, a step by step, and a complete games section. I like the format as you only have to read the first section to get started which is only a few pages. The grammatical errors are amusing too (authors are Bulgarian) Rating 9/10.

    Chess Strategy CD : I reckon this CD is excellent. I would rate it's sister CD Chess Tactics for the Intermediate Player good but this is even better. There are sections on isolated QP, hanging pawns etc. There is a training section where it explains how to play with (or against) the IQP or whatever and there are exercises. The nice point is that there are sometimes tactical moves to be found. This relates to real play, there is never anyone sitting over your shoulder saying -'there is a tactic there now - can you see it ?'. Overall I give this one 9.5/10.

    The day Kasparov Quit and other chess interviews. When I bought this I thought there would be a lot a recent interviews in it - there isn't. Old stuff - but interesting score 6/10.

    Cheers
    Garrett

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    Has anybody here read a book called "A contemporary approach to the middlegame" by Aleksei Suetin (was he Tigran's second for Fischer?) which is a Batsford book from around 1972. From what little I've read it is good if not just a bit lax in depth although I'm only in the early stages.
    And still, no one has satisfactorily proven, that it isn't opposite day.

  13. #13
    CC Grandmaster Denis_Jessop's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Saragossa
    Has anybody here read a book called "A contemporary approach to the middlegame" by Aleksei Suetin (was he Tigran's second for Fischer?) which is a Batsford book from around 1972. From what little I've read it is good if not just a bit lax in depth although I'm only in the early stages.
    Suetin was Petrosian's openings advisor for his World Title matches against Botvinnik and Spassky; Boleslavsky was his second for the latter. Averbakh and Suetin were his trainers for his candidates match against Fischer. (The terminology comes from Vasiliev's book on Petrosian.)

    I have Suetin's book (Batsford, 1976) but I don't remember ever having read it! I had previously tried to cope with his "Modern Chess Opening Theory" (Pergamon, 1965) but that proved a bit of a handful so I was probably discouraged from trying the next one but, as that was 30 years ago, I'm not sure.

    DJ
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  14. #14
    CC Grandmaster Capablanca-Fan's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jono
    I also disagree Watson's treatment of the old masters. For example, he will excuse modern greats for annotating in ways that LOOK like they are applying rules, because otherwise too many trees would have to be killed to explain the caveats. But then the same allowance should be made for the older annotators too, which Watson fails to do, unlike Yermolinsky.

    I also wonder whether Watson actually read Tarrasch's Dreihundert Schachpartien, which to be fair may have been translated into English (300 Chess Games) after Watson wrote. For example, Watson claims (p. 41) about the Nimzo-Salwe 1911 game with 7. dxc5, "After this game, 6...cxd4 was considered better [than Bxd7]. But almost 20 years before, Tarrasch had played 6...cxd4 (against Paulsen) and given it an exclamation mark in 300 Chess Games because Bd7 would allow 7.dxc5 with a good game. Watson makes other less blatant errors, e.g. the usual "dogmatism" accusation (p. 95), and indeed there are a number of genuine examples. But there are many times when Tarrasch appeals to the specifics of the position, e.g. where he explains that the N goes to the edge because in that position it was important to drive the B off that diagonal. There is plenty of other concrete thinking that defies many of the stereotypes, and Tarrasch even advocates some ideas that sound Nimzovichian.

    Another reviewer noted the disrespect for Capablanca. For instance, on p. 94, Watson notes an example of Capa's alleged dogmatism, while Euwe and Kramer had noted Capa's NON-dogmatism. It's important to note that Capa never lived to see Last Lectures in print, and what he probably intended was Bogolyubov's line with O-O AND exd4. The book also has him recommending a line that falls into a trap, although his My Chess Career has the correct line. But I can see why Watson went just by what was written, and he does come down on Capa's side in his annotations of the famous loss to Lasker at St. Petersburg 1914.
    Further to my points:

    Q: Who do you think made the following quasi-Watsonian comment about whom:

    He is inclined to rely too much on the general character of the position without making due allowances for the few peculiar factors which modify it.

    A: Capablanca about Nimzowitsch, in his concluding remarks about the NY 1927 tournament (and it was in the sports section of the NY Times, cited in Edward Winter's Capablanca: A Compendium …, 1989).
    “The history of the 20th century is full of examples of countries that set out to redistribute wealth and ended up redistributing poverty.”
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  15. #15
    CC Grandmaster Sir Cromulent Sparkles's Avatar
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    heres a brief rundown of recent books ive read in the last 6-12 months.......

    chess strategy : for the tournament player - alburt palatnik

    330-340 pages.
    i found this to be a nice book running over some of the themes that the john watson strategy book covered (although the watson book is the better option), in a slightly different perspective and at times identical. unfortunately, you get a lot less information than the page numbering would indicate due to how spread out the content is. this book is in the realm of "verbal instruction plus a sprinkling of variations" type offering. just a nice basic/intermediate book . it certainly doesnt take long to read. 2-3 days max.

    its probably not a bad stategical introduction if you can find a cheap copy. otherwise go buy the watson book,although it will take about a month on and off to get through (unless youre howard berg the speedreader).

    be warned
    - ive read a couple of alburt books and the tendency is to spread the information out. the information to page ratio of lev alburt books is quite poor. thats not to say the quality of information is poor, i think he writes good books. i just think it might be important to point out what the prospective customer should expect quantity wise as it may be a factor in book selection. i was a little surprised at the layout.

    its kind of like not knowing that the binding on "the middlegame - kramer / euwe" is complete shite. hays publishing should pay me for all the sticky tape i used to fix their halfarsed binding back up. all these factors count as well as the quality of the content when selecting titles.

    probably good for 1600-2000

    7.5/10

    winning chess brilliancies - seirawan

    i honestly thought this book was going be crap. i dont know if i was biased by the fact that the publisher is microsoft print and my lothing of bill gates reared its ugly head or because of the fact that id never heard anybody recommend it.........anyway i was totally wrong. its all good.

    i was given this book by my uncle who said he picked it up from st vincent de paul for $1. (why he bought it is anybodys business since neither he nor my cousins play chess).

    its got 12 games through 243 pages all heavily annotated in WORDS including the IDEAS of what each player is attempting to achieve. its a really good book.

    games include - qgd, sicilians, nid, kid, modern benoni etc.


    8.5/10


    chess tactics - paul littlewood


    standard tactical book. all the usual tactical finesse suspects are included in each chapter. intro type tactical book probably along the lines of the murray chandler book. my copy is green so its environmentally friendly. good starter tactics book.

    8/10

    reassess your chess - jeremy silman

    the book touches lightly on endgame material. with such a limited covering im surprised the subject was considered as part of the book in the first place. best be referring to endgame manuals such as - silmans own endgame manual, the alburt endgame manual, dvoretskys or fundamental chess endings.

    anyway the rest of the book is pretty good. basically everything in the strategic category of things is covered without going overboard with indepth variations. the beginner/intermediate players version of watsons secrets of modern chess strategy

    8/10

    secrets of modern chess strategy - watson

    this was the first book on strategy i read (jan 09). all the concepts were new to me so i took another read of the book to get a better understanding. the themes seem to appear in many of the annotated games i go over - eg opening the position when one side has a development advantage, the value of the intiative even at the expense of a pawn or the exchange to gain an attack etc etc.

    there were a few chapters i felt were a little weaker than the rest including the dynamism chapter and the chapter on "time" but watson certainly introduces more useful ideas than i could have expected.

    8.5/10

    improve your chess now - jonathan tisdall

    another book which overlaps previous books content but has some fine original concepts included as well.

    firstly tisdall constructs a jutified argument against kotovs tree of ananlysis which i agree with (tisdal that is), putting forth a more rational way for decision making.

    then he moves onto using blindfold chess and constructing a stepping stone method to build up powers of calculation. a nice training method.

    following that theres some pattern recognition hints 'n' tips both strategic and tactical included but this seems to be an overlap from other books ive read so it was less useful.

    interesting read.

    7.5/10
    ----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
    btw, is anybody waiting on the mihail marin english vol 2 book thats due to be released soon ?

    its the last openings book i think i need, unless anybody can recommend a good symmetrical english book.

    i was considering the carsten hansen book "symmetrical english" but it doesnt seem to have received glowing reviews.

    thoughts anyone ???????
    Last edited by Sir Cromulent Sparkles; 01-03-2010 at 09:23 PM.
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