Sunday, May 08, 2005

Book Review: Chess Strategy for the Tournament Player

Like the previous two books in the Comprehensive Chess Course series, this book gives the impression of having been slapped together in a weekend.

The selection of ideas (good vs bad bishop, weak and strong squares, etc) is mundane. This book adds nothing in that area. Reshevsky's Art of Positional Play is much better.

The selection of games and positions to illustrate these ideas is also particularly uninspired. Pachman's Complete Chess Strategy does a much better job selecting material.

The lack of commentary and analysis borders on the obscene for a book that claims it will help one become a master. I've given games of speed chess more thorough analysis than this. Where the analysis seems particularly educational and/or thorough, you can be sure it is merely a recompilation of previously published analysis. As just a couple (of many) examples, the analysis of Botvinnik-Boleslavsky (p182) comes from Botvinnik's 100 Selected Games, and the analysis of Tarrasch-Lasker (p217) comes from Reti.

Worst of all, analysis from earlier sources is uncritically poached without the slightest attempt at verification. For example, the analysis of MilnerBarry-ZnoskoBorovsky is taken from Euwe's Judgment & Planning in Chess. In that book, Euwe ends with "if 24....fxe5, White plays 25.Qg6 Bf6 and the game is decided by the invasion of the rooks by means of 26. Rfc1 when nothing can be done about 27.Rc7." Alburt & Palatnik copy this sentence almost verbatim. What Euwe missed (and Alburt & Palatnik didn't even bother to look for) is that Black has 26....e4 27.Rc7 Qxd4+ as a perfectly good defense and White is down a bishop for nothing.

You will learn nothing from this book; save your money.

One parting thought: What are these "secret Russian training methods" of which they repeatedly speak? I found nothing particularly pedagogical about their approach and much to criticize.


CelticDeath said...

There are very few books on my wish list right now. I just bought Tisdall's Improve Your Chess Now, which has some good information in it. I think I also want Soltis' Pawn Structure Chess. Other than that, I'll pass.

I already own around 30 chess books. I'll bet that those 30 would get me to around master level if I fully learned everything inside them. However, finding the time to do just that is the trick. I took 6 months to read Pachman's Modern Chess Strategy last year. I actually memorized the games and wouldn't move onto a new game or point of instruction until I had the current game and its variations memorized. Now, I can't say that I still retain those games, but hopefully I retain the main ideas.

ALD said...

I would never have bought these three Alburt & Palatnik books, but they were given to me as a gift. As you can see, I was not impressed.

You mention Pawn Structure Chess. I own Kmoch's Pawn Power in Chess, which I started to read but really disliked and therefore never finished. I've been wondering about this book as an alternative. If you ever do pick it up, let me know what you think.