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Friday, December 30, 2011

Buying Chess Books

I read the year-end reviews looking for a chess book that may help me learn this fascinating and intricate game. The review for Chess Blueprints: Planning in the Middlegame by Nikolay Yakovlev seems interesting.

I download the sample pdf file and find the table of contents cover many of the subjects that are foreign to me ... areas were I do not play well in my games. I read the sample chapter and like the author’s style and think that maybe I could learn from him.

Next, I check the online reviews. Only one review on amazon.com. I did find two other reviews, both with praise. John Donaldson’s review on Jerry Silman’s site says “CHESS BLUEPRINTS is a solid middlegame book that will help players from 1800 to 2200 to learn the fundamentals.” ChessCafe.com has Steven B. Dow’s review says “For the player rated 1400-1800, it is the perfect book for learning strategy.” The Chess Mind, a blog by Dennis Monokroussos gave a range of “from around 1700-2000, give or take”.

Is the book beyond me? What do I do? It may help and is worth taking the chance. So I ordered it and hope it is one of the 10% that is helpful, readable and at an appropriate level. Not of the 90% that I try to read but does not ‘click’. These 90% gather dust in my bookshelves while waiting for my next attempt to fathom what the author is trying to say.

How do others decide?

P.S. Dan Heisman in his Novice Nook – The Most Common and Important Use of Tactics uses a model that says 800 rated players may make 16 material-losing tactical errors/game, 1200 rated players – 4/game, 1600 rated players 1/game and 2000 rated players 1/ 4 games. For a class C player, tactics are necessary but not sufficient.


  1. It sounds like you do your best to research books before purchase, I don't think there's much more that can be done beyond Googling to find the reviews. I don't fully trust any one site for reviews - even good reviewers can sometimes be lazy or biased - but if there are 3-4 sites out there with useful descriptions that match what you're looking for, that's usually enough of a critical mass for me.

    I'm careful about buying new books these days, although in the past few months I've augmented my collection a fair bit. I now largely limit myself to a few categories, including: classics that have stood the test of time (and are now in algebraic notation with perhaps some cleanup of editing and analysis); high-quality annotated game collections of prominent players that show insight into chess thinking; and well-reviewed books on chess principles (tactics and strategy) that have been around for a while. Opening books need to have extensive game annotations rather than only looking at theoretical lines.

    I'd take the assessed rating guidelines for books with a grain of salt, since a rating reflects a player's chess performance rather than their chess knowledge. If you're a serious Class C player who's read a fair amount in the literature and understands the fundamental positional concepts, I'd say anything with a minimum 1800 should in fact be comprehensible and applicable, assuming it's well-written. Whether it can then be successfully integrated into your play is another issue, but that's always the case with new study material.

  2. I will take a good look at ANY game collection. I LOVE them. Not everyone of them is a gem but I just love reading through a good game collection.

    As far as other book types:

    Openings: I ain't buying another opening book for a LONG time. It has been two years. I feel that I can learn openings better with analysis and comparison. (and a little help from the ChessOk Modern Chess Openings Software)

    Middlegame: I think here I tend to stick with a few authors. Silman, Silman and Silman. :) Again, I am relying on good annotated game collections for much of my strategy study. Only Silman seems to understand how to write a TEXT book! I have read "The Amateur's Mind", and loved it! And in a bit I will read his new Reassess Your Chess edition. I will also eventually read a book or two on attack.

    Endgames: Pandolfin, Nunn! Those are my guys! I don't need any new endgame books. And won't look at any for awhile. Pandolfini's Endgame Course and Nunn's, "Understanding Chess Endings" does it all for me (with a little Silman thrown in for good measure--especially his chess mentor endgame courses at Chess.com)

    So I guess what I am really saying is that I have gotten to a point where I am maximizing training and practicing the information I am gathering. My book splurge days are over. (which I must admit, makes me kind of sad!)

  3. Chess Blueprints arrived. It is slightly beyond me at my current stage. The remedy is to read a primer. Fortunately, my stash has an appropriate book for that; Reuben Fine's The Middle Game in Chess. I have the 1973 reprint, not the latest edition that is panned for being butchered on the amazon.com comments.

    A 'thank you' goes out to chesstiger in his 'My footsteps in chess' for showing the benefits of organizing my stash of chess books. I now have several books that I already own on my to-be-read list. I am sure my sagging bookshelves will appreciate not having more weight added to them.

    Sigh! So much to learn and so little time.