Home > Reviews > Disappointment takes adequate planning – an essay about reviewing

Disappointment takes adequate planning – an essay about reviewing

I used to review for SKAKBLADET, the Danish Federation’s magazine, but was axed because I became a publisher. I then continued reviewing for Chess Today, where I had the principle of not reviewing books I could not recommend, because I was a publisher. Still other publishers complained and I was axed 8-). I reviewed only to advise people honestly and because I love books, but it seems that my opinions are not welcome. Ok, never mind. More time for writing now that I am no longer officially a reader!

More importantly, as a publisher we have had to consider what to do with reviewers and reviews. Very early on we worked out a few basic principles: 1) Not to send copies to reviewers that gave everyone a glorious review. 2) Not to argue with reviewers. 3) Not to care about bad reviews, although we want to take the points raised seriously.

We did violate 2&3 on one occasion, when a prominent reviewer butchered a book based on almost entirely wrong claims. We did so respectfully and have continued to send books to him.

Now I am about to break rule 2 again. Honestly I am not bothered about the likes and dislikes of these reviewers, for reasons that shall become apparent below. But I think there is an important point (see headline) that is worth raising about reviews of chess books in general. So, reading two recent reviews I could not help noticing how people can have some initial expectations and even after realising that the books are not what they expected, they continue to measure them against these expectations, directly or indirectly.

The first review I want to comment on can be found at Chessville and is of Experts on the Anti-Sicilian edited by John and myself.

The reviewer Bill McGeary is not known to us, but I have read a few of his other reviews in order to see if I can pinpoint his way of thinking. I am not sure I was successful, but I think it is fair to say that he is speaking generally from personal experience and in general finds chess books to be expensive…

The first quote from his review that caught my eye was this:

It seems that each co-author would delve into specific areas and work on them solely. The advantage to this is that the reader can get material that is more detailed, usually on a line the co-author uses, and can hear the ideas of a higher level player on those lines. The disadvantage is that the book buyer sometimes pays for material that is highly irrelevant to them. I guess it all depends on what the public is looking for?

The underlining is mine, because it shows a thinking we will see later on. However, it is faulty. At 440 pages Experts on the Anti-Sicilian is longer than most of our books, but prices the same as the others. This is of course intentional from our side, because we know that no one will be interested in everything in this book.

There are things I would want to question just about everywhere, but let us just take a few examples:

Back to the table of contents. I noticed chapter 12 “A Ten Minute Repertoire against the Closed Sicilian” by GM Pavlovic was eight pages. So off I went. It seems that the GM likes playing the Botvinnik setup as Black in the Closed Sicilian 1.e4 c5 2.Nc3 Nc6 3.g3 g6 4.Bg2 Bg7 5.d3 d6 and either 6.f4 e5 or 6.Be3 e5. This section seemed too rushed to me, the author throws sequences of moves out and then pronounces that Black is fine. This just didn’t set well with me.

Obviously the reviewer wanted the chapter to be something else. But reading his explanations, you cannot get around that Pavlovic has produced exactly what he said he had produced.

What really took me off guard was the eight chapters by GM Cornette on the “Tiviakov Grand Prix” 1.e4 c5 2.Nc3 Nc6 3.Bb5. It dawned on me that I had simply assumed from the title that this was a book aimed specifically for players of the Black pieces, now I was realizing that I had been mistaken.

The title is on not against or similar. But ok, others have made the misconception. Still, the first ever serious treatment of this interesting line with tons of new analysis is hardly making the book worse, or is it? Later on the review writes:

Aside from that misunderstanding I have to say that the book is disappointing anyway. Ten out of 25 chapters are dealing with the Black side and five of those chapters are 8 pages, 4 pages, 11 pages, 8 pages and 7 pages. The best material for the Black player are the two chapters by Hillarp-Persson I mentioned, and GM Aagaard’s look at the Classical 2.c3 Sicilain, a very complete chapter.

So, am I disappointed because there is so much material for White? To be honest, yes – a little. More than that is the amount of material that was poorly researched or written (read my comments above about the Kings Indian Attack chapter) and how much of is seemed redundant. There are eight chapters on 1.e4 c5 2.Nc3 Nc6 3.Bb5 and three of them are followed by chapters where the author suggest White’s play is better than the previous chapter.

Let us start with the out-right mistakes. First of all, as previously understood by the reviewer, this is not a repertoire book for Black. Actually, it is hardly a repertoire book at all. So why does he continue to write as if it should have been? Secondly, these eight chapters by Cornette are help up against the rest of the book as if they are massive. One of them is only 2 pages! My 2.c3-Chapter could have been four chapters and the balance in chapters would be different?! I cannot help but feel the reviewer is back at his main argument about “paying for what you do not need”.

But it is also completely incorrect to say that Bauer’s and Cornette’s chapters are only useful for white players. Both players look at various lines objectively and in all five lines Black comes out on the other side with equality. Bauer at some point clearly states that this line is nothing, unless people are not well prepared, with the point that people often are entirely unprepared for it.

This is not to say the reviewer did not have some interesting opinions. But he was not reviewing the book we published as much as the book he expected us to publish.

This is also the case with the second case I want to raise:

The review is of The Grandmaster Battle Manual by Kotronias and is written by Michael Goeller. It would be unfair to mark the reviwers, but I would like to say that I have no issues with Mr Goeller’s general effort (on the contrary, he did a great, but not flawless, job). I am not going to go on too much about this review (you need to get back to work and in all fairness – so do I), but  I do want to point to a section in the beginning of the review:

[The Grandmaster Battle Manual] sets a similar high standard, though perhaps a bit higher than most of us are able to reach. While it is ultimately a good collection of deeply annotated GM games, it does not provide the middlegame primer that it promises. The themes it covers seem idiosyncratic more than systematic in their selection, the games too often seem stretched to fit the chapter rather than specifically chosen to illustrate the theme, and the implied reader seems expected to know much more than the general chess readership.

You are probably on to me already. Indeed, nowhere does Kotronias or Quality Chess say that this is a middlegame primer. Actually, the title was meant to hint that the book is pretty advanced, which apparently has not reached everyone. We need to think about this, but for now let us just say that the book is very advanced, is not a primer, does not promise to give full coverage of the middlegame or anything of that sort.In the last decade half of all chess books published (more or less) have promised full understanding of a complex area in 128 pages (ok, occasionally more) and this seems to have become the expectation from a good part of the chess readers out there. Most recent we have 60 minute videos by ChessBase on various openings. Fine as a surprise weapon in the club championship, but insufficient for a game against a good player in an open tournament.

Quality Chess will of course publish primers from time to time and do so to the best of our ability. Most recently Chess Tactics from Scratch, which we think is an excellent book. But we will also publish books that aim higher and where not everyone can understand/follow everything. We will not apologise for this. Chess is difficult and requires an effort to understand. Just as anything else which is worth while spending your time on. We try to help, but we do not offer false promises.

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  1. Joeri
    April 23rd, 2012 at 12:24 | #1

    1) Not to send copies to reviewers that gave everyone a glorious review.

    What about Elburg? He still gets his Qualitybooks?

  2. Jörgen Olsson
    April 23rd, 2012 at 15:44 | #2

    Quality is when a product delivers what it promises. Its as simple as that, many reviewers misses this point and it doesnt help me as a consumer choosing the right books. I think the reviews are unfair above and quite unproffessional. Chess Cafe have written some good reviews but sometimes mixes things up. One example is the review of Killer chess opening repertoire. A book intended for the club player which has its good points but it isnt flawless. But in the review the book gets questioned about chosen lines, thats mad when the book is a repertoar. Check it out: http://www.chesscafe.com/text/hansen133.pdf

    This is a problem, when a serious writer spends hours writing a book a review should be about its quality and not about what the reviewer thinks is important. Jacob, keep up the good work! I think you have a high standard, sometimes to advanced for me but thats the nature of chess.

  3. Jacob Aagaard
    April 23rd, 2012 at 16:27 | #3

    @Joeri
    Obviously I cannot comment on individuel reviewers. I can only say that there are people we do not send to or quote and that we send some copies to a big chess distributor that have their own list of reviewers.

  4. Jacob Aagaard
    April 23rd, 2012 at 16:31 | #4

    @Jörgen Olsson
    As I said, I did not find the second review without flaws, but certainly not poor either. I think a point is that the reviewers are indeed unprofessional. They put in a lot of work for a free copy of the book and in general they are providing a great service. I had some problems with the Chessville review, starting with the general feeling that the guy did not find chess books a good investment :-). As someone who owns 1000s of books, runs a chess publishing house and drives a Skoda, I find it problematic to have a reviewer who generally think the products should be priced at a level where they could not be produced.

  5. Tom
    April 23rd, 2012 at 16:53 | #5

    I think it is limiting to assert that a review ought to be a dispassionate assessment of whether or not a book meets its stated or implicit goals. The best reviews to me mix objective assessment with subjective commentary. I find it very useful to know whether or not a book meets the reviewers expectations, for example because often they are mine too, however disconnected from the publisher’s intentions they might be, and it improves my purchasing decisions (we have precious little to go on remember). A review is for the benefit of the readers, not the publishers. If there are factual inaccuracies that is an issue to challenge, but as a review consumer I very much appreciate the kinds of comments you have highlighted. To use a specific example you gave, QC makes no advertising claim that I can see that Grandmaster Battle Manual is a middle game primer (what’s claimed in the book is irrelevant of course – you don’t get to see that until after you buy it in general) but that won’t stop some potential consumers misinterpreting the title. They have been spared disappointment. This is to QC’s benefit as much as the consumer’s.

  6. Patrick
    April 23rd, 2012 at 17:46 | #6

    I don’t care what the reviewer says, Experts on the Anti-Sicilians is an excellent book. I have it. I’ve been reading it (mostly the Cornette chapters as I play that line as White).

    On a separate note, while I may be referring to a book from a competitor publishing company, I have noticed the same problem about reviewers, both professional and Amazon.com customers.

    While the professional reviewers aren’t a complete disgrace like some amazon reviewers, who might say that the delivery person made 3 errors and it took 4 weeks to get it (maybe a similar street name exists in their city), which has NOTHING to do with the contents of the book itself, many professional reviewers do indeed seem to base it on what they expected instead of the actual contents.

    I often refer to Jeremy Silman’s site for reviews. Check this one out:

    http://www.jeremysilman.com/book_reviews_jd/jd_my_great_pred_pt1.html

    While this may very well be referring to a book by a competitor, the review is ludicrious. The picture that the reviewer paints, at least in my opinion, is that he expected Garry Kasparov to take every game he annotated from the basis of pulling unannotated games from the mega-database, and come up with 100% of his annotations by himself, like as if these games were completely foreign to him.

    There should be no surprise that some annotations would be those of the players from the past. There are many references that even say that it was Lasker, or Nimzovich, or Capablanca, that said such-and-such about their own moves, whether they were weak blunders or brilliant moves.

    Now he does acknowledge that it’s a decent book “if one lowers one’s expectations and views it as a very reasonably priced hardback game collection”. Uhm, why would I expect higher? If the customer believes in such self hype that “Oh, this book is written by the best player ever, it must be 100 times better than any other book ever written!”, then that’s the customer’s fault if they are disappointed in what they found.

    Why is it that when a “#1” writes something, the expectations are so dramatically higher than if the #2 or #3 person in the world wrote it? There can only be one “Number One!”, but that doesn’t separate that player from the #2 or #3 by miles.

    I have been reading the first book on the Predecessors Series since January (not exclusively, been reading other books as well). I am 65 games in (a little more than 200 pages). Lasker’s games do seem a little more “dry” than Steinitz’s, but that was his style of play. You can’t knock an author for his writing about “dry” chess games when the author isn’t the one who played them. I can’t speak beyond page 205 yet, but the first 205 pages have been excellent. Of course, certain games will interest people more than other games, and which ones interest one person most may be different than whichever ones interest another person the most.

    A book should be reviewed on it’s actual contents, not “perceived” contents based on what you think should be in it. “My Great Predecessors, Part I” is an excellent book. If you want a book that should truly get bad reviews to compare it to, look at the first edition of “Standard Chess Openings” by Eric Schiller for an example of a truly bad book.

  7. Jacob Aagaard
    April 23rd, 2012 at 20:55 | #7

    @Tom
    I would like to disagree a bit with your stance if I may. There are always 5-10 pages from our books available on our website and certainly anyone who can find a review online will be able to look our website up as well.

    I do think that a reviewer that says that AVATAR is a bad film because he does not like science fiction is an idiot. I have seen such reviews. Do they help my purchase decision? Yes, cancel the newspaper, if anything.

    I think it was fair to say that Kotronias’ book is very advanced, but to say that “it promises to be a middlegame primer” is not very fortunate. It does not. The title is almost directly saying this is a book for GMs (or anyone else who is interested) and the cover is clearly not main stream. There are parts of the book I find baffling, but when pushed I did get my head around them. We published the book joyfully, because there should be space for difficult chess books as well.

    The other review, which comes 1 inch away from saying that you should not buy a newspaper unless you want to read all the articles and besides finds that it is hard to understand that some specific undeveloped theme is given more space than something that has been gone over to death, is not how I ever did reviews. I always wanted to see if what the author wanted to do, to see if I found it interesting, to see if he had done it well and to whom the book would speak. I think this is the requirements for a high level review, of which I did not get a bulls-eye very often.

    I want to say that I do not think these reviews hurt us in any way and I do not mind them. What I really wanted to talk about was expectations. And then generally what I was thinking off that moment. Writing a blog is not always easy: “So the King’s Gambit is almost finished…bla…bla…bla… in its fifth year :-).” But kidding aside. We are maybe typesetting before I go to Moscow for the World Championship! Latest projections are that it could be as much as 600 pages…

  8. decredico
    April 23rd, 2012 at 21:43 | #8

    As a publisher i have learned that the only reviews worth sweating over are the reviews of the sales figures.

  9. Paul
    April 23rd, 2012 at 22:19 | #9

    Jacob- you are kidding about 600 pages on the King’s Gambit?
    I have to say I thought John’s sections of Grandmaster v Amateur were very good – looking forward to his 3 books over the next few months.
    On the reviewing section, I have to say the only person I tend to take notice of is Carsten Hansen at chesscafe.com…..I noticed Marsh Towers started reviewing your books belatedly (was it last summer?)…another site I’ve never seen say a bad word about any chess item ever published.

  10. April 24th, 2012 at 02:32 | #10

    [Quote some impulsiv GM ;)] We will not apologise for this. Chess is difficult and requires an effort to understand. Just as anything else which is worth while spending your time on. We try to help, but we do not offer false promises.

    Jacob.

    Sorry to notice, but you are really very simple man. You should at least understand that if any reviewer wants to see the book, it have to fullfill some criteria:
    1) It should be worth 100$ and cost no more than 10$.
    2) It should be exactly like the customer want and expect (do not ask me if all the customers want the same contents – just answer yourself if all the people are the same in general)
    3) It should contain the most advanced concepts, ideas, variations and many hours of human work (the more, the better)
    4) It should be pocket size (to read in a bus or train), but with bigger font (and diagrams), because “not all the people can read such a little symbols”.
    5) It should be about everything and nothing simultaneuosly. It has to cover all the important things as much as “some not so serious” words of advice.
    6) It should contain at least 300 pages and it cannot have any page that is not suitable for any customer (no matter if it is a cover or introduction or table of contents).

    Now you should know how to publish GOOD chess books (do not ask me what is required to publish GREAT books, please) and have a “friendly” reviews.

    If you will I might write some reviews of QC books even if I am chess books lover. Reviews will not containt some expectations, but rather “just the facts”. If the book shows its great value, the person who wants to see him as a “fair reviewer” should list what is good in the book and what is not, but not according to his (her?) expectations, but what it contains (or promise – only if an author writes: “with the help of this book, you…”).

    I am trying to encourage people to buy your (QC) books, because I am convinced you are trying to do your best and ALWAYS improve the present product (in this case – book). You can understand why you have sacrificed at least 10 years in your life to write some books by your own. The attacking manual (1&2 volume) was recognized as one of the best sources to learn an attacking skills (as Practical Chess Defence – I like them very much). Some time ago (maybe 1 or 2 years ago) the Polish publisher translated your books and I encourage people to buy your book (in Polish it is just one big book) blindfold. I do not need any recommendation if you have got an award (as I correctly noticed – from “unknown amateur”).

    If you need some more advice what is absolutely needed to publish (write) a good book, just let me know – it is free of charge – I can advise as best as you want. No more “cheap books”, that “you have paid for the pages you do not need”. I promise!

  11. April 24th, 2012 at 03:09 | #11

    BTW: If you want to see that I am not kidding, you can check my blog (last entry):
    http://beginnerchessimprovement.blogspot.com/2012/04/motywy-taktyczne-schematy-taktyka.html

    You should notice there is a basic info about the book in one of the box: if you think it is expensive book, I have to tell you that, 38 PLN is the same as (nowadays) 9,5 Euro. It is worth every your penny :D.

    PS. I will be promoting your books (especially on my blog) as long as you make your job properly. It does not matter if the reviewers make nice suggestions or not. I am sharpening my teeth to get your GM Preparation Series 😉 :). You were warned Jacob! 🙂

  12. kaimano
    April 24th, 2012 at 08:12 | #12

    Quality Chess produces the best books ever written about chess, period. Some books are excellent and other are “very” excellent…but none of them deserve a negative review.

  13. Andrew Brett
    April 24th, 2012 at 08:39 | #13

    I have bought quite a few quality books and have to say that they are generally excellent. Aren’t they setting the benchmark !?

  14. Jacob Aagaard
    April 24th, 2012 at 09:14 | #14

    @decredico
    They are certainly important, but we actually do what we do out of the love for it more than anything else. We have rejected books we knew would sell well, because no one felt inspired to work with them. Obviously things do not always go as planned, and not all books are perfect, but our main aim is still to contribute to chess culture.

  15. Jacob Aagaard
    April 24th, 2012 at 09:16 | #15

    @Paul
    Sean does a round-up of books in Chess Monthly once a year as well as occasional reviews. I am not always a fan, but we cannot ignore such a central publication. I did like it when John Watson reviewed there, he had a lot of bite. He was not always right in my opinion, but it was greatly entertaining to read.

  16. Jacob Aagaard
    April 24th, 2012 at 09:21 | #16

    @Tomasz Chessthinker
    Hehe. Thank you for the advice. We will up our standards to meet all the requirements :-).

    More seriously. The translator of the Polish edition of AM is a guy I have HUGE respect for. I know he found some small mistakes in the books and improved them. In general our experience with Poland and Polish people have been fantastic and we are very happy to have the physical part of our operation there. And note this: we have our warehouse in Poland not because it is cheaper, but because the people we work with are great. We could have saved some money going to the UK, but the quality of the service is too great to lose without losing high amounts of life quality at the same time.

  17. Jacob Aagaard
    April 24th, 2012 at 09:28 | #17
  18. Jacob Aagaard
    April 24th, 2012 at 09:29 | #18

    @kaimano @Andrew Brett
    We certainly do not get everything right. The most obvious recent failure was some missing lines in GM6. But we do try as hard as we can. It is just a very difficult business…

  19. Jacob Aagaard
    April 24th, 2012 at 09:31 | #19

    And I was being serious on the King’s Gambit maybe being a monster. 3…Be7 is 80 pages in draft form. We probably will cut a few things, but it will be a big book.

  20. Waldorf
    April 24th, 2012 at 14:08 | #20

    Quote from QC-url:
    “The Grandmaster Battle Manual explains how to be a more competitive chess player. Chess grandmaster Vassilios Kotronias has been a professional player for two decades and now he explains the secrets of his success. As a writer, Kotronias has the skill to explain in words what other top players can only express in long lists of chess moves. Improve your chess with a grandmaster guide.

    Vassilios Kotronias is a chess grandmaster and 9-time Greek Champion. He is a key member of the Greek team as both a player and coach. On the international tournament circuit he is a feared competitor who is particularly noted for his profound opening preparation.”

    @Jacob
    English is not my native language, so that may be the reason why I don`t understand all nuances.
    But when I read the above passage, I don`t get the impression that The Grandmaster Battle Manual by Vassilios Kotronias is a very advanced book.

    I know that QC chess books are not for beginners, but maybe it would be helpful for us getting more obvious hints to which audience (rating class) the book adresses.
    I generally think, that players rated 2000 is the minimum standard for QC books.

  21. Simone
    April 24th, 2012 at 15:25 | #21

    Jacob: non ragioniam di lor, ma guarda e passa (cit. Dante)

    Keep up the good work, hope to see you soon in Italy

  22. John Shaw
    April 24th, 2012 at 15:53 | #22

    For those of you without my beautifully fluent Italian (OK, Googling skills) the above quote means “Let us not speak of them: look and pass on.”

  23. kaimano
    April 24th, 2012 at 16:04 | #23

    Yes, probably GM6 has been the weakest among the GM series…but it’s anyway a very good book full of interesting ideas…I consider richness of ideas much more important than flawlessness…you can’t win with a tons of perfect computer variations…you have to rely on ideas even if perfectible!

  24. Nikos Ntirlis
    April 24th, 2012 at 17:21 | #24

    I know a lot of 1600s that enjoy QC books. So, the above about 2000s being the minimum standard is something i don’t see as true.

    As for the Attacking Manual i think i liked more the Spanish cover.

  25. Waldorf
    April 24th, 2012 at 17:48 | #25

    Nikos Ntirlis :
    I know a lot of 1600s that enjoy QC books. So, the above about 2000s being the minimum standard is something i don’t see as true.
    As for the Attacking Manual i think i liked more the Spanish cover.

    Is enjoying the same as understanding?
    In Avrukh`s books I read for example very often: White has bishop pair and enjoys a stable, long lasting slight plus.
    I claim that only really good players know how to really profit from bishop pair.

  26. John Pugh
    April 24th, 2012 at 17:53 | #26

    @kaimano
    I do not agree. I think GM6 was superb and has for me been by far the most useful of the GM series. It has stood the test of GM level correspondence chess. I look forward with anticipation to the revised edition.

  27. Patrick
    April 24th, 2012 at 20:27 | #27

    John Pugh :@kaimano I do not agree. I think GM6 was superb and has for me been by far the most useful of the GM series. It has stood the test of GM level correspondence chess. I look forward with anticipation to the revised edition.

    To each their own. I don’t think you can tie a rating to a book. I own GM1 thru GM7 and GM10 (I don’t posess, or ever intend to posess, GM 8 or 9). I’m rated about 2050. I own GM Rep 6. I own about 5 to 10 other Najdorf books, some as specific as the English Attack, and quite frankly, I still don’t get it!

    How your brain functions, and what makes sense to a player, plays just as much a role as rating. An 1800 player that has played the Najdorf all his life will get more out of GM6 than a 2050 player that has made the vast majority of his success on Open Games (i.e. Ruy Lopez) and Light-Square Defenses (i.e. Caro-Kann, French) as Black.

    So more accurate than “This book is for those over 2000” would be “This book is for EXPERIENCED Najdorf players over 1800”.

    While GM Rep 7 has been extremely useful for me, I wouldn’t encourage Sicilian fanatics to run out and buy this book without first getting some foundation of this FAR BETTER defense! 🙂

  28. WuvMuffin72
    April 24th, 2012 at 23:26 | #28

    @Waldorf

    Enjoying tends to give one motivation to understand through study. The GM Repertoire books for example, I would argue is good for amateurs because this gives them a chance to use the GM Rep books as conduits to improve other parts of their games like utilizing the Bishop pair, playing against a fractured structure, playing pawn up end games, etc…

    But it is also equally important that some amateurs should admit that they do not understand the book and choose not to use it as part of their central study course. Only a student knows how one wants to be taught… if they’re motivated of course.

  29. Jacob Aagaard
    April 25th, 2012 at 08:33 | #29

    @Waldorf
    I am not sure why this is so confusing. Kotronias is explaining the secrets of his success at 2600 level. I am not sure why this is not expected to be advanced? He does explain in words what you will find only in moves other places, but this does not mean that there are not a lot of moves in the book either.

    I honestly do not see the problem.

    The problem with giving a rating range is that this only applies to puzzles books. It cannot apply to books that are explaining things, as an intelligent person will be able to follow it, whether 1200 or 2200 rated, as long as it is well explained. This is the paradox of this hope for simplicity. Chess is not simple and those feeding you that lie are well… you work it out.

  30. Jacob Aagaard
    April 25th, 2012 at 08:34 | #30

    @kaimano
    These projects are very difficult to navigate. Both Lubo and we made mistakes with the first mistake, which is why we are redoing it now we have run out of books.

  31. Jacob Aagaard
    April 25th, 2012 at 08:38 | #31

    @Waldorf
    The idea that you have to understand everything in order to make use of a book is bonkers. Sorry, there is no other way to say it. Improvement lies at the end of your comfort zone, not within it.

    With the Avrukh books – two bishops and better pawn structure? I think the English Attack in the Sicilian is even more absurd in the hands of a 1600 rated player. Weaker players often struggle more with dynamics than they do with statics, so again I am not sure I agree with your point. Obviously a 1600 player does not need all the details in Avrukh, but neither is he likely to study them. Famously chess book authors forget their own analysis all the time!

  32. Jan Bunnik
    April 25th, 2012 at 12:51 | #32

    @ everyone

    All this talk on Kotronias’s battle manual got my attention. I’m usually just an opening kind of guy but the things he writes are gold for the practical player. He describes what most players only do unsubconciously when facing their opponents. Reading this will put your preperational work into practical perspective: what should I analyse, what are my opponents likely to do etc. In my opinion a must for every player who wants to get better results out of his weekend tourneys. In a world where everyone has an ulmost unlimited source of theory an explanation on how to fight for wins in equal positions using fear, preperation and tricks is a welcome change. 9/10!

  33. Jacob Aagaard
    April 25th, 2012 at 13:30 | #33

    @Jan Bunnik
    Thank you for contributing to everyone and not just those I agree with. I hope that no one will find it objectionable that I at times disagree with contributions. This does not mean that I am right, of course, but just that my opinion is different… (But I am right anyway).

  34. Jan Bunnik
    April 25th, 2012 at 14:22 | #34

    What I found to be so relevant is that no matter how much you study quality analysis from quality(chess) books you will always run into the very same people using the very same material. Those people will find out chess is equal and try something new, untill that gets covered as well. In the process people will always be complaining must-know material is missing from their source! After playing hundreds of Tarrasch games on ICC I must confess I felt the same way, but went ahead and did the work myself anyway obviously hoping Jacob will never update GM10.

    Kotronias had this figured out already and writes : ‘this is what the worlds top players have been doing all along’

    Going further he gives a pretty good insight what is needed to have practical succes. I myself always explained it to myself this way: it’s not about what you know, but how much you know more than your opponent. Then he goes on to say that being practical you are better of finding new uncharted paths in main lines already existing.

    Excellent stuff.

    And Jacob, you don’t really have to react to people who fail to understand chess in general and thus expect to much from the material 🙂

  35. Patrick
    April 25th, 2012 at 15:45 | #35

    Jan Bunnik :What I found to be so relevant is that no matter how much you study quality analysis from quality(chess) books you will always run into the very same people using the very same material. Those people will find out chess is equal and try something new, untill that gets covered as well. In the process people will always be complaining must-know material is missing from their source! After playing hundreds of Tarrasch games on ICC I must confess I felt the same way, but went ahead and did the work myself anyway obviously hoping Jacob will never update GM10.
    Kotronias had this figured out already and writes : ‘this is what the worlds top players have been doing all along’
    Going further he gives a pretty good insight what is needed to have practical succes. I myself always explained it to myself this way: it’s not about what you know, but how much you know more than your opponent. Then he goes on to say that being practical you are better of finding new uncharted paths in main lines already existing.
    Excellent stuff.
    And Jacob, you don’t really have to react to people who fail to understand chess in general and thus expect to much from the material

    Another thing that many seem to forget. Yes, chess may very well be equal, as amongst the 3 options at move 1, that being “White has a forced with with 1.(Fill in the Blank)”, “White is an Zugzwang”, “Chess is a Draw”, it is a known fact that one and only one of these 3 statements is true. Which statement? Theory has it that the last is true, but it hasn’t been proven and figured out, unlike Checkers.

    However, while the Tarrasch may have these “draw lines” due to spectacular discoveries that moves like 22…g5!! are better than 22…g6 because of a later desire for a g4 push by Black, how many players, when playing over the board, are actually going to reach that position? Let’s not forget, ALL of the following must be met for that to happen:

    1) White knows the line all the way to move 22
    2) Black knows the line all the way to move 22
    3) White decides to play that line, and not some other variation
    4) Black decides to stay in line with the Repertoire given in GM Rep 10

    What I am noticing in the last few years, with these Quality Chess books coming out that tend to, for the most part, be analyzed deeper than say, Everyman, is that I am seeing far more draws in Correspondence Chess, and actually far fewer draws over the board! I have gotten far better positions than my opponent as of late, but the downside is that I end up spending for ever on making moves, and so I’ll get a won position against equal opposition in 5 out of every 6 games, but only win 3 of them because I’ve got 2 minutes for the rest of the game to his or her 30 minutes.

    So what does it all boil down to? Quality Chess has vastly improved my game, but my time management skills have horribly gone south! 🙂

  36. Jacob Aagaard
    April 25th, 2012 at 15:50 | #36

    @Jan Bunnik
    I know, I was seeking a real debate and I am happy that people that disagree with me have entered the debate as well.

  37. decredico
    April 26th, 2012 at 02:14 | #37

    Jacob: I think the work done by QC is topnotch and has absolutely contributed to the betterment of chess culture. Snark aside, I support with purchases and praise your efforts. There will always those that do not ‘get it’.

  38. Jacob Aagaard
    April 26th, 2012 at 09:07 | #38

    @decredico
    I have to say that 75% of the time I am in a minority in opinions up for discussion here in the office. More than anyone else. I know how it is to be the one with the odd view. But of course, there are maybe 90+% of the time where we are in agreement or people just listen to what the others have to say with confidence in their competence, so we vote quite rarely on things.

    However, the point is the same: if you have a strong opinion, do not abandon it because others disagree, but also do not defend it like a religion. Be ready to question both yourself and others.

  39. Michael Yip
    April 27th, 2012 at 03:27 | #39

    Grandmaster Battle Manual-I thought it was excellent! It gave me some new ideas and the geometry chapter was quite illuminating.

    Experts on the Anti-Sicilian-I liked this book but not all of it. The depth in the deeply covered areas was quite illuminating. The Closed Sicilian ch was a bit dissapointing.

    Attack Manual 2 was super! 6/6 stars. Well this is no secret anymore.

    GMs vs Amateur-remains a mystery as the pdf goes into one ch in detail but I can’t get much of a feel of what’s in the rest of the book.

    Yusupov Series-I confess I can’t really figure it out which level to start with or which volume…so the buying decision gets put off.

    Usually Quality Chess books leave me quite satisfied for content. The Sicilian Defence-Ftacnik book had another problem in that it fell apart on the first reading.

  40. Jonas Löfling
    April 27th, 2012 at 05:33 | #40

    As Michael Yip said, my problem with GM6 was that it fell apart rather quickly after me starting to read it. But I got a new copy from my distributor with no discussion. However, the same thing happened with GM 5 as well, and not only to me. Maybe there were some problems with the binding that you have fixed, or was it just a coicidence? Further, I haven’t spent much time with GM8-GM10 yet, but GM7 is so far still ok, as is GM1-GM4.

    Back to the reviews:
    I don’t really agree with the Chessville review either, but maybe the expectations came from the title and book “Experts vs the Sicilian”, which is from White’s perspective, missing that the “Experts On the Anti-Sicilians” is ON, not VS the Anti-Sicilian?

  41. Jacob Aagaard
    April 27th, 2012 at 09:15 | #41

    @Michael Yip
    This is the first time I have heard about printing problems with GM6. So sorry. It happens maybe 1/1000 times or less. Unless something went wrong at the printer.

    With the Anti-Sicilians we took a different approach than usual; we allowed the authors to bring in their own style. The same with GM vs. Amateur, which I enjoyed a lot personally.

    This geometry chapter; some love it, some just don’t “get it”. In the office we are divided as well. I personally love it, while it was not John’s language at all!

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