How about a book review section?

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stevencarr

How about a book review section?

Post by stevencarr » Fri Dec 27, 2013 8:27 pm

How about it?

Brendan O'Gorman
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Re: How about a book review section?

Post by Brendan O'Gorman » Fri Dec 27, 2013 11:34 pm

Good idea. Meanwhile, if you're interested in books on openings (and who isn't?), take a look at http://www.chesspub.com/cgi-bin/yabb2/YaBB.pl

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Joey Stewart
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Re: How about a book review section?

Post by Joey Stewart » Sat Dec 28, 2013 1:48 am

A great idea, I always thought it would be nice to know if any Chess books are worth buying anymore.
Lose one queen and it is a disaster, Lose 1000 queens and it is just a statistic.

Geoff Chandler
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Re: How about a book review section?

Post by Geoff Chandler » Sat Dec 28, 2013 3:36 pm

I've come to the conclusion that only retired GM's should do book reviews
and then only review the book they read 40-50 years ago.
Who better to tell you if a book did them any good or was a waste of money.

Maybe that would be a better idea for a thread.
Players over 60 who can name a book they read as a youngster that they know
inspired them over the past 40 odd years.

I think Ian Marks reviews on The Scottish Site are always worth reading and very good.
He is a book reviewer one can trust for an honest opinion.
(he also actually appears to have read the book he reviews and not just flicked through it.)

http://www.chessscotland.com/news/?p=255

Here is just sample of his style on an opening book which Ian, on the whole, gives a thumbs up.

THE FRENCH WINAWER by Steve Giddins, publ. 2013, 287 pp.

Another ‘move by move’ title, same format as other publications in the series:
a collection of games (25 in this instance) covering the nuts and bolts of the opening,
with lots of questions and answers.

Before I get on to the book, I wondered about the eponymous begetter of the opening (pr. Vee-náh-ver).
I’d have thought that a major criterion for bequeathing your name to an opening would be a solid back
catalogue of games, but a quick glance in ChessBase turned up a mere 10 Frenches with Winawer
on the black side, of which only four featured 3 Nc3 Bb4, three of them continuing 4 exd5 with a
solitary 4 e5 c5.

Winawer actually seems to have been a 1 …e5 man (96 of those). So how come he gets paternity rights?

Anyway, to the book. You might be wondering: Giddins isn’t a top GM, but an FM rated 2188, so what
can he tell us? Quite a lot, actually. Peers, or those closer to us, often make the best teachers, for the
simple reason that they better understand the problems and difficulties. Think Oxford don in front of a
1st year high school class and you get the idea. Also, on the assumption that the Move by Move series
is aimed primarily at less experienced players, Giddins is still way higher rated than, presumably, 90-
odd% of his target readership, plus he’s been playing the Winawer for 25 years, so presumably he’s
picked up a thing or two along the way. (Kasparov once wondered of Peter Wells’s book on the Semi-
Slav ‘how such a weak player could write such a good book’. Wells was a 2500 GM!)


The games. It would be unthinkable to study the Winawer without looking at the games of Uhlmann,
Botvinnik and Korchnoi, and nearly half – 11 of the 25 – are by them. Toss in the two by Petrosian and
that’s over half. (It crosses my mind that there will be newcomers nowadays for whom these giants are
just names. I must be getting old.)

The games span the period 1944-2011, a good blend of historical and contemporary.
The notes and variations are backed up with lots of prose, which is always welcome.
Giddins has a smooth, gently explanatory writing style well-suited to this sort of work.

Balance. Black wins 24 of the games, and the white win was a jammy escape by Karpov. OK,
I suppose the Winawer is a ‘black’ opening, and that’s what Giddins is trying to sell,
but White is the one who allows it and often the one who decides which path will be taken,
so a bit more parity would have been welcome. When White does well here, he tends to do so in the notes.

Sidelines? You spend ages mugging up on 1 e4 e6 2 d4 d5 3 Nc3 Bb4 4 e5 c5, and the other guy
plays 4 exd5, 4 Bd3 or some such. Giddins deals with some of these pesky sidelines in the context of
two illustrative games.
While I was checking up on these I noticed an unfortunate typo. The index runs 1 e4 e6 2 d4 d5 3 Nc3
Bb4 4 e5 Ne7 5 a3 Bxc3+ 6 bxc3 Ne7. Clearly that first …Ne7 should be …c5, but if you’re hunting for
the variation 4…Ne7 5 a3 Bxc3+ 6 bxc3 b6, it’s confusing. In fact that variation doesn’t appear. Also, if
memory serves, Uhlmann considered 4…Ne7 the more accurate move order (e.g. it cuts out the 4…c5 5
Bd2 stuff for a start). Giddins should really have discussed this on p.45 in game 5, Suetin-Uhlmann,
Berlin 1967 (the first time 4…Ne7 is played), but only gets round to it nearly 200 pages later on p.234,
and that in relation to 4…b6.
Normally it won’t matter much, but surely this was the ideal opportunity for a ‘question’?

Computers? Nobody writes chess books nowadays without the machine switched on, and Giddins is no
exception, although there’s a touch of good and evil about it. I’ll take game 10, Bogdanovic-Uhlmann,
Sarajevo 1965, as an example. In his note to move 14, Giddins suggests that Black’s move was not the
best and quotes three possible improvements from a previous work, adding (without further analysis!)
‘all of which may offer reasonable chances’. That’s a cop-out. In a book aimed at players less well-
versed in the French, a little elucidation would have been helpful. In the next line though he
says, ‘However, the computer’s suggestion 14…Qxd2! 15 Bxd2 e4 may be best of all’.

Now that’s a potentially decent use of the machine, so you have to wonder why he didn’t use it to put
some flesh on the other suggestions too.

Later in the same game though Giddins can’t resist the seemingly obligatory computer-inspired pot-shot
at great players of the past. Referring to one of Uhlmann’s original lines, he tells us that ‘the computer
shows his analysis to be full of holes’. First, this isn’t that relevant within the context of the opening
(it’s on move 22) and second, much of Giddins’s commentary is based on Uhlmann’s original analysis,
so it seems pretty low-level to use the guy’s material, then have a pop at him when the machine finds flaws.

Summary: Overall a well-produced, solid piece of work, worth a look if you’re interested in, or thinking of taking up, the French.

John Hickman
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Re: How about a book review section?

Post by John Hickman » Sat Dec 28, 2013 4:10 pm

Maybe we also need a 'book review' review section.

Chris Rice
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Re: How about a book review section?

Post by Chris Rice » Sun Dec 29, 2013 5:14 am

John Hickman wrote:Maybe we also need a 'book review' review section.
Well yes agreed. Let me have first crack, John. In the 'review' I noted:

1. Some inference that as a guy rated currently 2188 Giddins isn't fit to write a book. A very rich comment from a reviewer who has yet to breach the 2000 threshold. Steve used to be 2315 and at one point was the highest rated FM in the country. I have been present when he beat Plaskett at Hastings, Vaganian at Antwerp and Ernst in Gausdal. The last game was a French Winawer with Steve as Black which he had prepared months for with his Russian coach, Belov.

2. Too many Black wins and he would have liked a bit more parity. OK try selling a book recommending moves for Black which lead to White wins. No it was quite correct to put the devastating stuff for White in the notes as evidence as to what can happen if you don't play the recommended lines for Black.

3. Not enough coverage of sidelines? Does anyone really want to see more lines covering 4 exd5 and 4 Bd3? Not very exciting are they? These moves while ok are not the main ones that are going to trouble Black.

4. There is a typo in the index with ...Ne7 being duplicated. Can one blame the author for this?

5. Then there is the criticism that the move order with 4...Ne7 isn't mentioned soon enough. Really? That's a valid criticism is it? Just as an aside, the reason 4...Ne7 is a better idea is gone into in some depth by Simon Williams in his Killer French DVDs.

6. Then finally we have 'Giddins having a pot shot at Uhlmann'. This is another example of not reading the book properly. What the author was trying to convey is that Uhlmann worked out most of what Black should be doing a long time ago but obviously his games wouldn't stand up to modern day computer scrutiny.

No I'll stick to book reviews from New in Chess (Rowson, Sadler, McShane etc). Matthew Sadler did a review of this book in combination with Simon Williams DVDs and another book on the French simultaneously a couple of issues ago which was really enlightening as he of course is an undoubted expert.
Last edited by Chris Rice on Sun Dec 29, 2013 8:14 am, edited 1 time in total.

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JustinHorton
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Re: How about a book review section?

Post by JustinHorton » Sun Dec 29, 2013 7:48 am

Chris Rice wrote:Some inference that as a guy rated currently 2188 Giddins isn't fit to right a book. A very rich comment from a reviewer who has yet to breach the 2000 threshold.
Asuming you mean "write" rather than right, here's what that "inference" actually says:
Ian Marks, quoted by Geoff Chandler wrote:You might be wondering: Giddins isn’t a top GM, but an FM rated 2188, so what
can he tell us? Quite a lot, actually. Peers, or those closer to us, often make the best teachers, for the
simple reason that they better understand the problems and difficulties.
How hard was that to see?
"Do you play chess?"
"Yes, but I prefer a game with a better chance of cheating."

lostontime.blogspot.com

Chris Rice
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Re: How about a book review section?

Post by Chris Rice » Sun Dec 29, 2013 8:29 am

Ian Marks, quoted by Geoff Chandler wrote:You might be wondering: Giddins isn’t a top GM, but an FM rated 2188, so what
can he tell us? Quite a lot, actually. Peers, or those closer to us, often make the best teachers, for the
simple reason that they better understand the problems and difficulties.
How hard was that to see?[/quote]

I saw it but still thought the inference was wrong to begin with.

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JustinHorton
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Re: How about a book review section?

Post by JustinHorton » Sun Dec 29, 2013 8:44 am

That would be the inference that the reviewer directly proceeded to contradict, yeah?
"Do you play chess?"
"Yes, but I prefer a game with a better chance of cheating."

lostontime.blogspot.com

Chris Rice
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Re: How about a book review section?

Post by Chris Rice » Sun Dec 29, 2013 9:19 am

Happy to explain. The basis was that a 2188 can't tell us anything followed by an explanation of why they could. I can see that and the logic of what you are saying. However, its the initial premise to begin with that a 2188 isn't fit to write a book without some sort of mitigating factor or explanation that I objected to.

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Re: How about a book review section?

Post by JustinHorton » Sun Dec 29, 2013 9:25 am

When you're in a hole...
"Do you play chess?"
"Yes, but I prefer a game with a better chance of cheating."

lostontime.blogspot.com

Chris Rice
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Re: How about a book review section?

Post by Chris Rice » Sun Dec 29, 2013 9:43 am

Ok I'm putting the shovel down now. Let's move on.

Jonathan Bryant
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Re: How about a book review section?

Post by Jonathan Bryant » Sun Dec 29, 2013 11:24 am

Chris Rice wrote: 3. Not enough coverage of sidelines? Does anyone really want to see more lines covering 4 exd5 and 4 Bd3? Not very exciting are they? These moves while ok are not the main ones that are going to trouble Black.
Well I would agree with you that extensive coverage of sidelines (of any opening) is unlikely to attract a large number of buyers. And yet it's the sidelines that average players face the most. I've long thought that inadequate coverage of sidelines is one of the major problems of many openings books in terms of being genuine 'make a difference' teaching aids. It depends what you - as a customer/book buyer - are interested in, I suppose.

(FWIW, I thought one of the few less strong aspects of Williams' The Killer French - my review here - was relatively skimpy coverage of the sidelines).



I enjoyed the New in Chess book reviews when I used to subscribe too, btw. I was just saying to somebody the other day that proper reviews written by an authoritative source are one of the remaining reasons (there aren't many left as far is I can see) to buy print chess magazines these days.

That said, I do think there's a value in 'average' chessers writing reviews too. True, they (we) may not have sufficient expertise to know precisely what needs to be covered, but on the upside they may have more insight into the needs of the average chesser. Ironically this is exactly the argument the reviewer put forward to suggest Gidders shouldn't be dismissed as an author merely because of his elo rating.

Both kinds of review, assuming that they are well written in the first place, have value I think. That's the main problem, I think. Most reviews are just badly written and I suspect many are not even intended to be genuine reviews at all. There just product announcements and advertising disguised as reviews.

Barry Sandercock
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Re: How about a book review section?

Post by Barry Sandercock » Sun Dec 29, 2013 11:40 am

A book I found useful many years ago was "How to Think Ahead in Chess " by I.A. Horowitz and Fred Reinfeld. The explanations of the moves are very clear, particularly in the chapter on the Dragon Sicilian. I expect it is out of print now, but easy enough to find in the second hand sections of the chess book sellers.

Roger de Coverly
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Re: How about a book review section?

Post by Roger de Coverly » Sun Dec 29, 2013 11:45 am

Jonathan Bryant wrote: (FWIW, I thought one of the few less strong aspects of Williams' The Killer French - was relatively skimpy coverage of the sidelines).
The problem with any book or DVD advocating an opening, particularly an opening for Black, is that it's never going to say, "It's really not very good, play something else".

The French has currently few supporters at top twenty level, Nakamura springs to mind, any others? With the number of games played in the French, even sidelines have accumulated quite a few games. The positions arising after 1. e4 e6 2. d4 d5 3. Nc3 Bb4 4. exd5 look very suitable for the Carlsen treatment and indeed it was a Lasker preference.

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