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 Post subject: SonOfPearl's Chess Reviews
PostPosted: Sat Oct 07, 2006 3:08 pm 
Capablanca’s Best Chess Endings
Author: Irving Chernev
Publisher: Dover
Paperback. 288 pages


"In order to improve your game, you must study the endgame before everything else, for whereas the endings can be studied and mastered by themselves, the middle game and the opening must be studied in relation to the endgame." – Jose Raul Capablanca

Jose Raul Capablanca was unquestionably one of the greatest chess players of all time. World Chess Champion from 1921-27, he dominated his contemporaries with such ease that he earned the nickname ‘The Chess Machine”.

Capablanca’s reputation rests mainly on his flawless endgame technique. He reportedly disdained study of the openings and relied on his superior technique to win games. Therefore, if you want play through some endings from the games of one of best players, this book is as good place as any to start.

However, this book does not purport to be instructional – it is first and foremost a games collection. As such, it has excellent entertainment value. Irving Chernev was a prolific and popular author of chess books for beginners and intermediate players. What his books sometimes lack in quality of analysis, they usually make up for with infectious enthusiasm and a quality of writing which is regrettably rare from chess authors.

Capablanca’s Best Chess Endings contains 60 complete games from the Cuban Champion, with the emphasis firmly on the endings. It is hard to fault this book as entertainment, and along the way it also has some good advice on improving your own endgame skills. However, if you want a methodical endgame textbook try Fundamental Chess Endings by Karsten Muller and Frank Lamprecht.

4/5 Recommended


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PostPosted: Sat Oct 07, 2006 3:09 pm 
1001 Winning Chess Sacrifices and Combinations
Author: Fred Reinfeld
Publisher: Wilshire Book Company
Paperback. 252 pages.


"The pleasure of a chess combination lies in the feeling that a human mind is behind the game, dominating the inanimate pieces with which the game is carried on, and giving them the breath of life." – Richard Reti

Tactics, Tactics, Tactics. It is a truism that improving your tactical play is the quickest way to improve your results, so books like Reinfeld’s ‘1001 Winning Chess Sacrifices and Combinations’ are essential reading.

The format of this book is incredibly simple. Each page has six chess diagrams showing a position for you to find the sacrifice/combination that is present. The book is divided up into themes, so the first 108 positions involve pins, positions 109-180 involve forks and so on through every tactic there is. 1001 problems is a lot for your money and answers are given at the back of the book.

Negatives? Well, those looking for instruction will be sorely disappointed. Apart from a single page introduction to each section, there is no text in the book. The idea is that you learn by spotting repeating patterns in the solutions. This is fine if you already have a basic idea of the different tactical motifs described, but novices may find themselves all at sea.

Intermediate players should benefit most from this book.

4/5 Recommended


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PostPosted: Sat Oct 07, 2006 3:11 pm 
The Art of the Checkmate
Authors: Georges Renaud & Victor Kahn
Publisher: Dover
Paperback. 208 pages


“A thorough understanding of the typical mating combinations makes the most complicated sacrificial combinations leading up to them not only not difficult, but almost a matter of course” - Siegbert Tarrasch

Have you ever heard of Anastasia’s Mate? What about the Epaulettes Mate? No? Neither had I, but the ideas behind these sometimes fanciful names are clearly explained in this worthwhile book.

This Dover reprint was first published in 1953 and is itself a translation of the French original, which may explain the rather awkwardly worded title. However, the translation is generally excellent and easy to read.

The authors, French Champions in 1923 and 1934 respectively, attempt to classify and describe different mating patterns, starting with a schematic position illustrating each basic mating idea and then giving practical examples from real games.

This methodical approach should be extremely useful to those new to the game, but also will probably helpful to the majority of intermediate players who may have encountered many of the mating patterns described before, but never thought about them in a systematic way.

Usefully, there are also quizzes throughout the book to test what you have learnt with answers provided at the end. The idea is that once you are familiar with the 23 mating patterns described, you will find them easier to engineer in your own games!

This book makes a good companion for any collection of checkmate puzzles e.g. 1001 Brilliant Ways to Checkmate by Fred Reinfeld.

3/5 Recommended


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PostPosted: Sat Oct 07, 2006 3:12 pm 
Understanding Chess Move By Move
Author: John Nunn
Publisher: Gambit
Paperback. 239 pages


“The basic intention of this book is to explain some of the most important chess themes in a modern context…many of the old established principles are now recognized to be at best half-truths.” – John Nunn

The title of this book leads one to expect a modern update of Chernev’s classic “Logical Chess Move by Move”. In terms of layout the books are similar, but whereas Chernev’s book was aimed at beginners and perhaps some inexperienced intermediate players, Nunn’s book is pitched to a much more sophisticated chess audience.

The book analyses 30 complete games in detail, with each game chosen to illustrate a theme e.g. opposite side castling, space advantage, bad bishop etc.

As with Chernev’s book, Nunn attempts to comment on virtually every move, although after a while he understandably starts to strain to achieve this, and instead refers back to earlier games for comments on popular opening moves.

The book is most suitable for advanced players, but higher rated intermediate players should also benefit.

4/5 Recommended


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PostPosted: Sat Oct 07, 2006 3:13 pm 
An Attacking Repertoire for White
Author: Sam Collins
Publisher: Batsford
Paperback. 192 pages.


“You must take your opponent into a deep dark forest where 2+2=5, and the path leading out is only wide enough for one” - Mikhail Tal

This book recommends 1.e4 and provides a complete repertoire against all the popular Black responses. Briefly, these are:

The Alapin (2.c3) versus the Sicilian, (37 pages)
The Advance variation of the French, (33 pages)
The Scotch Opening, (33 pages)
The Panov attack against the Caro Kann. (19 pages)

Responses to the Petroff, Philidor, Pirc/Modern, Scandinavian and Alekhine’s Defence also get a chapter each and a final chapter derisively entitled ‘Garbage’ completes the book by looking at Owen’s Defence (1…b6), the Nimzowitsch Defence (1…Nc6) and the Latvian Gambit (1.e4 e5 2. Nf3 f5).

The author gives lots of interesting ideas and chooses sharp but sound variations which provide opportunities for White to attack, whilst avoiding overanalysed main lines.

This should be a useful book for intermediate players, particularly those that already play 1.e4 and would like some new opening ideas against the popular defences.

4/5 Recommended


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PostPosted: Wed Oct 18, 2006 10:55 am 
AWESOME list! Many thanks for taking the time to share your review with us!


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PostPosted: Mon Oct 23, 2006 6:39 pm 
Caissa wrote:
AWESOME list! Many thanks for taking the time to share your review with us!


Thanks. I hope people find them useful. I'm working my way through my chess book collection, so there's more to come! :)


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PostPosted: Mon Oct 23, 2006 6:40 pm 
Complete Defense to King Pawn Openings
Author: Eric Schiller
Publisher: Cardoza Publishing
Paperback. 276 pages.


"Like us as Black", beg the chess pieces," and you will anyway like us as White" – Isaac Boleslavsky.

This book provides the reader with a complete repertoire with the Black pieces against 1.e4 . The defence recommended is the Caro-Kann defence which is a very solid option for Black.

The book begins with some very useful introductory chapters, especially one on the strategic goals of the Caro-Kann which describes in detail the typical pawn structures and piece placements that normally arise. Typical strategy and tactics are also examined.

Most of the repertoire suggestions seem reasonable, although Schiller’s decision to champion the rare Kavalek defence against the Advance variation (1.e4 c6 2. d4 d5 3.e5 Na6) is arguably an unwise one.

Eric Schiller’s books often attract a great deal of criticism from reviewers and readers alike for their poor quality. This criticism may be justified in some cases, but this book, and its companion volume, “A Complete Defense to Queen Pawn Openings” are worthwhile purchases for the intermediate player.

3/5 Recommended


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PostPosted: Mon Oct 23, 2006 6:42 pm 
Complete Defense to Queen Pawn Openings
Author: Eric Schiller
Publisher: Cardoza Publishing
Paperback. 276 pages.

“At the amateur level, all openings are playable”- William Lombardy

This book provides the reader with a complete repertoire with the Black pieces against 1.d4. The defence recommended is the Tarrasch Defence to the Queen’s Gambit.

The book is structured along similar lines to its companion volume “Complete Defense to King Pawn Openings”, with introductory chapters on the strategic goals and typical tactics of the Tarrasch. Also useful, is a chapter examining transpositional possibilities showing how the defence can be arrived at through many different move orders, including games starting with 1.c4 or 1.Nf3.

The author plays the Tarrasch defence himself and his enthusiasm is obvious and contagious. At the top levels of chess, the Tarrasch rarely makes an appearance – it seems that the isolated d-pawn that Black is often saddled with is too much of a weakness for elite players. However, for those of us below that exalted level, the Tarrasch is a dynamic and playable choice.

3/5 Recommended


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PostPosted: Mon Oct 23, 2006 6:52 pm 
How To Reassess Your Chess (Expanded 3rd Edition)
Author: Jeremy Silman
Publisher: Siles Press
Softback, 406 pages

“Could we look into the head of a Chess player, we should see there a whole world of feelings, images, ideas, emotion and passion”(Alfred Binet)

Jeremy Silman is an International Chess Master better known for his coaching exploits than his chessplaying achievements. His reputation as an author rests mainly upon this book and ‘The Amateurs Mind’.

How To Reassess Your Chess begins with a brief section on endgames before moving on to the book’s main selling point – the ‘Silman Thinking Technique’. This involves identifying ‘imbalances’, deciding which side of the board to play on, dreaming up a fantasy position you want to achieve and only then starting to consider candidate moves.

The ‘imbalances’ are simply advantages/disadvantages that exist in the position e.g. superior piece activity, better pawn structure, lead in development etc. The rest of the book examines different types of ‘imbalances’ in detail and sets related problems for the reader to solve.

This book seems to be extremely popular and has mostly received very positive reviews. I’m not so sure it deserves such lavish praise. It is a good book, and intermediate players should benefit from reading it. However, it is not a revolutionary new way of looking at chess and the features of chess positions described have been explained, sometimes more effectively in my opinion, by other authors before.

On the plus side, the problems posed and answers given are excellent, and it is worth buying the book for these alone. Readers seeking an alternative could consider instead Modern Chess Strategy by Ludek Pachman.

3/5 Recommended


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PostPosted: Sun Nov 05, 2006 5:36 pm 
Bobby Fischer Goes To War
Author: David Edmonds & John Eidinow
Publisher: Faber & Faber, 2004
Hardback. 302 pages.


“No Chess Grandmaster is normal; they only differ in the extent of their madness” - Viktor Korchnoi

The Soviet domination of chess following the Second World War was an important propaganda success for the country. From Botvinnik in 1948 to Spassky in 1969 all world chess champions were from the Soviet Union and therefore (according to the Soviets) symbolised the superiority of the communist ideal over the corrupt capitalist world.

Enter Bobby Fischer, the loner genius from Brooklyn, USA…

The 1972 match between Fischer and Spassky for the World Chess Championship was the most high-profile chess event in history, having as it did obvious cold war overtones. There have been countless books written about the match and most quite naturally concentrate on the games. However, the authors of Bobby Fischer Goes To War focus on the characters of Fischer and Spassky and the off-the-board events before and during the contest. The game scores are not given in this book and the games themselves are only mentioned when relevant to the story.

The authors are journalists, not chess players, and write with a literary flair and confidence that one doesn’t normally expect from a book about chess. The story is told as if it were a drama unfolding on a stage (there is even a list of characters at the start of the book!).

The narrative alternates in successive chapters between Fischer’s and Spassky’s stories. Although Fischer’s tale is interesting it is a well trodden path that most chess fans are reasonably familiar with. Unexpectedly, it is Spassky’s story that grips more than his American adversary. With unprecedented access to Soviet records, the view from the other side of the contest is revealed as never before in fascinating detail. The Soviet authorities’ exasperation with Spassky’s laid-back approach to the match and their disquiet over his ‘Un-Soviet’ leanings and lifestyle are a revelation.

This book is an excellently written account of the behind-the-scenes events of the Fischer-Spassky match and is strongly recommended for any reader (chessplaying or not) who would like to know more about the most famous chess contest of all time.

4/5 recommended


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PostPosted: Tue Nov 21, 2006 6:52 pm 
The Immortal Game
Author: David Shenk
Publisher: Doubleday
Hardback. 327 pages.


"The Game of Chess is not merely an idle amusement. Several very valuable qualities of the mind, useful in the course of human life, are to be acquired or strengthened by it, so as to become habits, ready on all occasions." - Benjamin Franklin

Relatively few chess books attempt to place the game in a social or cultural context that can reveal it's significance to the world beyond the confines of it's 64 squares. This book is an exception and is so fulsome in it's praise of the virtues of chess that it is almost hagiographical in tone.

David Shenk is a bestselling author (of non-chess books) and was drawn to write about chess partly by a family connection - his great great grandfather was the 19th century master Samuel Rosenthal. The scope of the book is wide-ranging, taking in the origins of chess, it's status in various cultures through history, theories on the origin of chess mastery, the dangers of over-absorption in the game, it's use as a propaganda tool by totalitarian governments, the impact of computers and it's use as a teaching tool.

If this sounds like a lot to cover; it is. However, the author has done his research thoroughly and the result is a highly readable book, full of interesting facts and historical titbits that should appeal to both chess players and non-chessplayers alike.

There is more about the book at The Immortal Game, including an excerpt. There is also an excellent and very detailed review at The Kenilworthian.

4/5 Recommended


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PostPosted: Sat Dec 02, 2006 3:59 pm 
Chess Bitch
Author: Jennifer Shahade
Publisher: Siles Press
Hardback, 320 pages


“My father wasn’t too much help at first. In one ugly incident he told me that I was improving quite slowly. I got so angry that I cursed at him and fled…Recalling that incident years later, my dad laughed and said, ‘After that afternoon, she got good really fast.’”- Jennifer Shahade.


The subject of this book is better explained by its subtitle, “Women in the Ultimate Intellectual Sport” than it’s flashy and unnecessary title. Jennifer Shahade writes engagingly about the history of women in chess, paints fascinating portraits of famous (and not so famous) female chess players and discusses the current status of women in the chess world.

Shahade uses her own experiences to help tell the story and the book is filled with interesting quotes from interviews with women chessplayers and her own honest and forthright opinions.

The book starts with a chapter discussing the differences between female players and their male counterparts and continues with two chapters covering historical players from Vera Menchik to the many great Georgian players including Nona Gaprindashvilli. The bulk of the book is then devoted to pen portraits of women chessplayers from all around the world, including China, Europe and the US.

Of course, no book about women and chess would be complete without including the Polgar siblings and Shahade discusses their emergence and influence on the chess world.

This book is a very readable and entertaining look at women’s chess and the challenges that the supposedly weaker sex faces in the chess world. It is highly recommended for anyone with an interest in chess, be they male or female.

4/5 Recommended


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PostPosted: Sun Feb 11, 2007 2:19 pm 
The Development of Chess Style
Authors: Max Euwe & John Nunn
Publisher: Batsford
Paperback, 220 pages


“It was night. I went home and put my old house clothes on and set the chessmen out and mixed a drink and played over another Capablanca. It went fifty-nine moves. Beautiful, cold, remorseless chess, almost creepy in its silent implacability..." - from The High Window by Raymond Chandler.


Many chess authors have noted how chess style has developed through the ages as successive generations have learned from their predecessors and built on their achievements. It is also said that before a student of chess attempts to follow modern openings and styles, he/she must first understand the stages that chess knowledge has gone through to get where we are today.

This book follows the development of chess style from the earliest recorded games by Greco in the 17th Century, though Philidor's appreciation of the importance of pawns, the romanticism of Anderssen and Morphy, the strategic play of Steinitz, the technical virtuosity of Capablanca, the Hypermodern movement, the Soviet 'School' of chess, Fischer, Karpov and Kasparov.

There are 61 annotated games showing how these and other great players have added to our understanding of chess and taken it to new heights. The developments are easier to understand in the earlier chapters (written by Euwe) then in the later chapters (written by Nunn, who updated the book), but this is probably due to the more advanced concepts introduced during the last 50 years.

Instructive and entertaining, this book also works equally well as a games collection and even as a brief history of chess.

4/5 Recommended


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PostPosted: Mon Jan 03, 2011 4:41 pm 
SonOfPearl wrote:
How To Reassess Your Chess (Expanded 3rd Edition)
Author: Jeremy Silman
Publisher: Siles Press
Softback, 406 pages

“Could we look into the head of a Chess player, we should see there a whole world of feelings, images, ideas, emotion and passion”(Alfred Binet)

Jeremy Silman is an International Chess Master better known for his coaching exploits than his chessplaying achievements. His reputation as an author rests mainly upon this book and ‘The Amateurs Mind’.

How To Reassess Your Chess begins with a brief section on endgames before moving on to the book’s main selling point – the ‘Silman Thinking Technique’. This involves identifying ‘imbalances’, deciding which side of the board to play on, dreaming up a fantasy position you want to achieve and only then starting to consider candidate moves.

The ‘imbalances’ are simply advantages/disadvantages that exist in the position e.g. superior piece activity, better pawn structure, lead in development etc. The rest of the book examines different types of ‘imbalances’ in detail and sets related problems for the reader to solve.

This book seems to be extremely popular and has mostly received very positive reviews. I’m not so sure it deserves such lavish praise. It is a good book, and intermediate players should benefit from reading it. However, it is not a revolutionary new way of looking at chess and the features of chess positions described have been explained, sometimes more effectively in my opinion, by other authors before.

On the plus side, the problems posed and answers given are excellent, and it is worth buying the book for these alone. Readers seeking an alternative could consider instead Modern Chess Strategy by Ludek Pachman.

3/5 Recommended



I haven't read this book BUT I am in the middle of reading and working through 'The Amateur's Mind" and I have to say it is great for someone at my (lower) level of play. The only other strategy book I have gone through is Simple Chess by Michael Stean. And "Amateur's Mind" is helping to clarify a lot of the concepts from that book. I agree that I don't think Silman is revolutionary in concept but his explanations are great and make it easy for the reader to quickly implement the concepts into his or her playing and practice.


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