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wschmidt 53 ( +1 | -1 )
Novice Nook #6 It's the weekend, so time to head over to ChessCafe.com and look over a "new" archived Novice Nook article. This one's called "Chess Books and Prerequisites". Since a favorite topic around GK is "what books should I read" or "what should I study", this should be a good one. The link is:

-> www.chesscafe.com

I'm getting married this weekend, so you may have to do without my insightful, lucid commentary until later in the week. ws
wschmidt 125 ( +1 | -1 )
OK, I ended up reading the article... while I was waiting for a haircut so I'll make the following observations:

First, I'll acknowledge that Heisman mentioned his own books way too many times. Let's just put that down to starving chess author who would like a few more sales, a little hubris, and not realizing how it would come across to readers. It did take a little of the shine off for me though.

What did work for me in the article was the observation that you have to be able to walk before you can run. I am absolutely one of those adult players who has read advanced texts while still dropping pieces from elementary tactical oversights and who spent long hours memorizing opening lines instead of trying to think through opening positions.

I was interested to see that he thinks of Silman's "The Amateur's Mind" as somethign more advanced that "My System" though. Anybody have any thoughts one that. "My System" is one of the classics I haven't gotten to yet, so I can't opine. And I thought "The Amateur's Mind" was a good late beginner/intermediate text. He seemed to think it a little more advanced than I remember it. I absolutely agree with him that the "Reasses Your Chess" books are works that should wait until one is pretty far along in a basic chess understanding. ws
cascadejames 54 ( +1 | -1 )
Walter, Congratulations! Such a subtle understatement -- You are getting married this weekend and so we may have to do
without you for a week. OK, we understand.

Since you have been so generous with your advice on chess, I would like to provide a tidbit of
advice on marriage, based on the 35 excellent years I have spent with my wife. Both parties need
to make liberal use of the phrase, "Yes, dear." in response to virtually every request. It's not
self-sacrifice. It is mutual-reinforcement and support.

May you and your bride have many years of happiness.
cascadejames 134 ( +1 | -1 )
Thoughts on the article OK, it is easy to agree with everything Heisman said, but for the first time in this series I was a
little disappointed in the article. He recommends over 60 books and then at the end quite sensibly
says that he does not recommend reading them all.

I had hoped for his recommendation for the first two or three.

I learned to play chess as a boy in the 1950s, then learned the basics of strategy from Fred
Reinfelds book's in the 1960s when I was in high school. Then I put away the chess board when I
went to college and did not touched the game for 40 years. Then I stumbled across the
GameKnot site on the Internet last summer, and started up again. Since then I have looked at
some of Silman's books and a few others. After 6 months I am finally becoming comfortable with
algebraic notation <G>. At the moment, I am still making absurd errors where I simply leave a
piece unguarded or vulnerable to a two move trap. The frequency of those errors is comming
down, but they are still occuring. I don't think a book will help with them. They just mean I need
to pay more attention! But I do want to improve my overall play.

So does anyone want to recomend 1, 2, or 3 books for a person with that background and a
Gameknot rating of about 1550 based on 37 completed games?
mattdw 236 ( +1 | -1 )
cascadejames "The frequency of those errors is comming
down, but they are still occuring. I don't think a book will help with them."

I'm not so sure, maybe some focused tactics practice could be helpful. When I first started playing a few months ago I quickly found that almost all my material losses where due to the most absolute basic tactical errors e.g simply just hanging a piece that could be saved. Over the first couple of weeks as I gained experience it was possible to cut almost all of these mistakes out as it started to become obvious if a move was just simply suicidal.

Then I started reading Seirawan's Winning Chess Tactics which helped put the game in a whole new context. With practice the basic tactical motifs became as equally obvious as the 'would-be suicidal moves' that I was so fond of in my first few games. As the study progressed to combinations, I became more aware of the potential future dangers of a situation and some simple combinations became as obvious as the basic tactical motifs and suicide moves. I still have a *very* long way to go in this respect though! But my point is that in chess, I feel that when something becomes obvious, it takes most of the unneccessary effort out - it makes it much less likely that it will be overlooked. It is no longer just ploughing through variations to see which might be best - it is chess knowledge in action greatly improving the efficiency of the thought process.

I think it would be better if someone else suggested a specific book as I don't feel I am in a position to say, but I definitely advise using the Chess Tactics Server -> chess.emrald.net, if used correctly I think it can be a great benefit to most players since the difficulty of the problems presented is scaled depending on how well you are doing. It feel really helps cement the tactical/combinative motifs.


I'm always a bit apprehensive offering my (probably useless!) advice to those who have been playing a lot longer than me &/or have a higher rating as it is likely that they/you already know everything I have to say or even that what I have to say is just plain wrong. So I apologise if anything comes across as patronising, it's not meant to!
cascadejames 44 ( +1 | -1 )
tactics server Mattdw,
Thanks for the link. I signed up and did not pay any attention to how much time it was taking me
to solve the problems. As a result my "rating" dropped 500 points after 6 problems, even though I
solved each problem correctly. Now that I understand what is going on, I will see if I can do
better.

BTW, no need for an apology. I did not think your remarks were patronising, and after all, I asked
for advice.

Are you recommending Seirawan's Winning Chess Tactics?

Thanks.
mattdw 265 ( +1 | -1 )
I find that after a while the time limit on CTS isn't too much of a problem (up to the level I am at anyway). It seems that once a particular motif starts to become second nature it just jumps out within the first couple of seconds. If you change your settings so that it stops after any incorrect answer you can go back and see the solution or try it again unrated, this way you get to spend more time working on and remembering those types of problems which you find harder than the rest.

What sort of tactical knowledge do you have already? With your rating I would guess that you already have a good grasp of tactics (probably better than me anyway) have you ever read a book dedicated to the subject? Or has everything in that respect been gained from experience? I don't know what rating range or level of tactical ability Seirawans book would be most useful to, it covers all the major aspects of tactical play (the contents are: pins, skewers, king tactics & combinations, deflection, battery on an open file or diagonal, the power of pawns, the decoy, clearance sacrifice, x-rays & windmills, zwischenzug, other kinds of draws and finally there are about 15 master games with good examples of the tactics in followed by a few pages of tests.) The problems are presented with a reasonable amount of text which forces you to spend more time on one problem as he explains each move, I think many of the concepts may be a bit simple for you, though it's impossible to tell until we know how much experience you have in this area.

I definitely learnt a lot from the book, I feel much more confident playing people of a higher rating now. As many of the examples were from GMs games I know that if they can make tactical errors then pretty much anyone I play is going to also and with the knowledge gained I feel that I am in a much more capable position to take advantage of any opportunities they give me.

I'm currently reading Chernev & Reinfelds Winning Chess (which is all tactical) it has a different style to Seirawan's, it is more problem intensive with less text. I think it is probably more advanced too, but I haven't got far enough yet to really say for sure. It covers the same kind of stuff from a different perspective but with a couple of new things and a couple of ommisions. I have been recommended this book by various people (including wschmidt), I managed to get mine off ebay for ~5. Anyone who has read all of this able to give more insight?
wolstoncroft1 51 ( +1 | -1 )
Couldn't he have throuwn that in at the end of an actual article? I mean what a waste of time.

Any chess player that is into the game enough to follow a series of chess articles through #6 probably already has a good clue as what the value of reading chess books is. And furthermore if he wants to plug himself and his friends, I don't think it is alright to do that by baiting in chessplayers looking for an article that has something to do with the actual game of chess, not the books written about it.

More: Chess
wschmidt 146 ( +1 | -1 )
I'm not sure I follow... what you're objecting to, Wolstoncraft. Lots of beginning and intermediate players are interested in chess book recommendations because they have a sense that their game can improve by studying a good book. Heisman does several things in the article - he recommends a number of books, discusses the player level they're aimed at and makes the point that you should be careful to choose books that work at the level that you're at. I don't see any of that as a waste for novices.

You say, "Any chess player that is into the game enough to follow a series of chess articles through #6 probably already has a good clue as what the value of reading chess books is". Actually, one of the reasons I started this series of threads was because I don't think that's necessarily true. I think there are plenty of players on GK who have never read a chessbook. This series of articles might be their first exposure to "how to get better" literature. I know there are players reading these articles who have only read one or two books and might choose their next book from one he's recommended.

I've already said I think he went overboard on naming his own books. And as to your suggestion that he's plugging his friends, I have no basis for knowing which of the living writers he recommended are personally known to him, but close to 20 of the authors and players discussed are already dead, so I hardly thinks that's a fair critique. ws