Home > Jacob Aagaard's training tips > The problem with failure

The problem with failure

Good judgement comes with experience. Experience comes from bad judgement.” – Tony Robbins

A lot of the people I know suffer a lot when they lose a chess game. Especially younger guys, though I once had the pleasure of being insulted by an old guy rated 600 points lower than I, after I surprisingly prevailed in 22 moves.

I used to be a poor loser myself. Not a poor loser like Korchnoi, who fantasizes throughout the game about insulting the opponent after it (despite the result), but the introvert unhappy loser to whom a loss is a sort of autoimmune disease.

But at some point along the way I realised what could be called the problem with failure: It had no beneficiary effect on me.

Actually I never looked at it like this before, I just reacted to the chemical reaction of emotions in my body, believing that it was real and that it was as important as it felt. It was only later, when I got seriously fed up with feeling awful about a game I love, that I started thinking about function.

But before we go there, we need to ask ourselves: what is failure actually. Is it a result below expectations? And if so, then who’s? Is it the feeling we get when we lose? And if so, then why do we get this feeling?

At first I did not have a clear answer to any of these questions. I just knew I had to rethink my reaction to “failure”. I also had no idea what the benefits of failure were supposed to be. Now I would probably talk about a wiring in the brain left over from the caveman, which has little to do with chess. But the cables are still there and we have not yet learned to produce new ones.

So, at some point I decided to change the rules. I wanted them to work in a way that made sense to me.

I decided that I would only be unhappy with my play if my effort at the board was not up to scratch. I would no longer be a victim to whether or not the opponent had a good day. I would not kick myself for not having done work that I had not done after last time I struggled with the same issue, because feeling bad about it the last time had not worked, in the sense that I had not done the work subsequently.

As a result, I did not mind when I missed winning two pawns in a blitz play-off for the Danish Championship 2006 (against Steffen Pedersen), even though losing this game left me 6th rather than 1st in the bizarre (but entertaining) gladiator system. Actually some guys were really shocked with the indifference I took the loss, but to me it was far from indifference. I was actually a happy loser!

Obviously I was not happy to lose and I had fought hard against it all the way. Actually I had recovered from a 0/3 start to play for the championship in the last round. There was no indication that approaching chess from a positive standpoint was damaging to my results. Actually, the following year was my best year in chess: I beat some great players, won a few nice events and surpassed 2500, the final need for the GM-title.

Later on when I worked with Sabino Brunello, we talked a lot about this. Sabino used to be devastated by defeats. Actually it was so bad that if he failed to solve an easy exercise, he would feel worthless.

I did not believe that it was working for him. Because the only possible function with feeling like this would be if it improved his game. It really did not.

Over the six years we worked together he transformed entirely as a person. Obviously he matured just by growing up, but I think our discussions about mental approach helped a lot too. These days he seems happy when he loses and even happier when he wins!

Is it working? Check out the C-group of Wijk Aan Zee this year and judge for yourself.

Conclusion:

If you beat yourself up when the results do not go in your direction and it does not motivate you to work harder, probably you will find what I had found: What you can do with anger and pain, you might be able to do at least as well with joy and harmony.

Personally I have the rule that if I feel I let myself down; then I am allowed to be angry. But after I started trusting myself to do my best, I often did. There have of course been times when I played below my level. But trusting that I am on my own side, I am no longer angry with myself or have other negative emotions. I just try to find out why I made the mistakes. Even when I lost in 12 moves (!) with White a few weeks ago I did not feel especially bad. I simply realised that I was not ready to play such a morning round and that I should not put any value to this game. Besides, I am retired 😎 .

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  1. LE BRUIT QUI COURT
    April 1st, 2013 at 15:36 | #1

    how can my problem be solved?

    Which is the optimal number or high quality books, divided in following categories:

    1) Tactics & Attacking Play
    2) Strategy & Positional Play
    3) Game Collections
    4) Endgame
    5) Training

    I have so many books that I’m terrified cause many of them I shall never read. This counts for game collections in which category I have more than 20 books.

    Any suggestions, hints, help? 🙂 thanks

  2. wok64
    April 1st, 2013 at 20:23 | #2

    @LE BRUIT QUI COURT
    Owning some 400+ chess books I believe the optimal number of books is 1: the one you’re working on at the moment. All others collecting dust on the shelf are just useless and in the worst case even distracting i.e. you don’t work on any of them because you can’t decide where to start.

    Back to the topic of Jacob’s training tips. I find it difficult to approach a game with fighting spirit and a serious attitude but then avoid suffering when I lose. I somehow get hooked up to the game and its outcome. It’s interesting to hear that you manage to avoid that. Up to now I thought it’s simply not possible. I stand corrected and have to look for a way to apply it.

  3. Remco G
    April 1st, 2013 at 20:25 | #3

    “But after I started trusting myself to do my best, I often did.”

    Let’s forget about chess for a moment, this is a great quote to apply to the rest of my life. Perhaps one day you can start Quality Self Help? The market is pretty large 🙂

  4. Leavenfish
    April 2nd, 2013 at 01:07 | #4

    I played in a tournament this weekend…but first….

    In January I played in a tournament. I had played well for the most part, happy with my game. An IM basically offered me a draw without much of a fight; and I gave up one other to a rather weak player after a tactical blunder. But the last game…I am playing for sole second place. In the middle of an attack, tornado siren(s) break out, announcements, general confusion…etc. Frazzled a bit, I spent half an hour on a critical move…and wimped out, not sacrificing a pawn to bring all my pieces into the attack and with hindsight, a sure win.

    I lost. I felt terrible. I was a failure. My old bug-a-boo of time pressure due to long thinks and muddled thinking was still at my side.

    Fast forward to this weekend.

    I put that behind me with a seady dose of study…largely GM Prep: Calculation and Positional Play. I simply FELT good and confident. I was consciously able to stare down the ticking clock and make good moves in good time. Only twice (and in the same game) did I get behind on the clock and take much time…but that I can forgive myself for: It was against the second highest rated player after a mistake on his part as I calculated hurling pieces at his king…then again as I calculated the follow up on the following moves – just to make sure I was not missing what I had seen. Mate followed on the 20th move and he withdrew from the tournament. Alternative play could have given him 12 half moves more in one line…but I had calculated a mate there as well. I was a calculating beast!

    Life can be sweet indeed when you do put in some effort and see the reward. I do not kid myself that a little study and one tournament make a trend and that failure due to time pressure and muddled thinking is forever a thing of the past…but it is that hope which keeps me moving forward.

  5. Daniel Tapia
    April 2nd, 2013 at 04:45 | #5

    Haha, good April Fool’s.

  6. Jacob Aagaard
    April 2nd, 2013 at 09:27 | #6

    @wok64
    I changed my internal rules. My feelings are not connected to my results, but to my effort. It is a long process, but awareness that you don’t have to feel this way is useful.

    I was at a quite strong tournament recently where a friend of mine had played a poor move in the opening. After the game he jokingly said: If I can play something like Bg4, it is surely time to give up chess. I did not bite, but seriously answered that rest before the next round seemed more prudent.

    You can do your best and not feel bad. Or let me put it another way: for most people feeling bad prevents them from doing their best!

    And I don’t

  7. Jacob Aagaard
    April 2nd, 2013 at 09:41 | #7

    @LE BRUIT QUI COURT
    The other guys are right: read one book at a time. Don’t strive for perfection, it is the opposite of what I recommend. It leads to paralysis.

  8. Jacob Aagaard
    April 2nd, 2013 at 09:42 | #8

    @Daniel Tapia
    If only…

  9. Jacob Aagaard
    April 2nd, 2013 at 09:44 | #9

    @Leavenfish
    Evidence needed! Otherwise that might be the April’s fool joke!

  10. Phille
    April 2nd, 2013 at 09:48 | #10

    I used to be devastated whenever I lost a tournament game.
    I wouldn’t say that I changed my internal rules, but I allow myself to feel good about the one neat idea I found in the game, even if I lost in the end. And losing against much stronger players doesn’t bug me much.
    But I do think, that the ultimate drive to win and the inability to take losses, are closely connected. At the beginning of my chess career I never even wasted a thought on drawing a game, I just wanted to smash my opponent’s position. Nowadays I’m much more laid back about draws, losses … and wins.

  11. wok64
    April 2nd, 2013 at 11:02 | #11

    Jacob Aagaard :@LE BRUIT QUI COURT The other guys are right: read one book at a time. Don’t strive for perfection, it is the opposite of what I recommend. It leads to paralysis.

    Been there, done that. Just like Buridan’s mule starving in front of two – or in my case hundreds – haystacks.

    In my opinion owning a lot of good books has three main drawbacks:
    – not knowing where to start
    – not assigning enough study time for a book because you ‘re eager reading the next one
    – being tempted to read multiple books in parallel, thereby losing focus

    Jacob, once again your advice is invaluable. Obviously each of us will have to find his/her own way, but to know that such a way exists helps a lot.

  12. Jonathan
    April 2nd, 2013 at 11:25 | #12

    Hi Jacob,
    I would really love to know your take on goal-setting.

    I’ve always been a goal-oriented person but with experience I’m starting to realise that focussing too much on the outcome (in my case reaching a certain rating) is actually counterproductive. The emphasis I put on my goal prevents me from enjoying the process of studying and playing chess. As a result I put too much pressure on myself and at times I feel I’m on the verge of giving up any attempt at improving…

    Lately I’ve been experimenting with two ideas. The first one is defining an area of focus instead of setting a goal (see more information in this very interesting article: http://blogs.hbr.org/bregman/2012/12/consider-not-setting-goals-in.html). The second one is replacing goals by wishes. My wish is to reach a 2300-rating. So it’s not an end in itself but something that I hope will from my daily dedicated training.

    I’m wondering if you could share your experience with us (based on your own career as a chess player or on your work as a trainer) with regards to goal-setting?

    Thanks!
    Jonathan

  13. Jacob Aagaard
    April 2nd, 2013 at 11:43 | #13

    @Phille
    I have an easy proof that this is not the case: Veselin Topalov. Go back 5-6 years when he was motivated and you will see that he took losing as a part of the game. The idea that paid motivates you more than pleasant feelings is very common in our culture and therefore feels right. But, as the Radiohead song accurately says: just because you feel it, doesn’t mean its there.

  14. Jacob Aagaard
    April 2nd, 2013 at 11:44 | #14

    @Jonathan
    I will do this next week then!

  15. Jonathan
    April 2nd, 2013 at 12:03 | #15

    That would be amazing!

  16. April 2nd, 2013 at 13:13 | #16

    @Jonathan
    I simply try to make my goals ones that I know I can achieve. So I ue ones like “play 50 tournament games this year” or “go through all the orange Yusupov books” rather than reach a specific rating.

  17. Jay
    April 2nd, 2013 at 18:07 | #17

    I think another important point about failure is how the fear of losing impacts the game you are playing. That is, you can get too conservative and not take the risks you need to go for a win if you are afraid to lose. I remember seeing an interview with Nakamura where he said that putting aside his fear of failure was a key to his improvement as a player.

  18. Jesse Gersenson
    April 2nd, 2013 at 18:26 | #18

    This is the most profound piece of writing I’ve seen from you Jacob. Nice one.

    I get angry when I lose – but it ‘fuels the fire’, so to speak, and compels me to work harder.

  19. Jacob Aagaard
    April 3rd, 2013 at 10:04 | #19

    @Jesse Gersenson
    Thank you. As I said, this happens with some. But for most it leads not to motivation but depression. And for those it is simply not working.

    I like Rowson’s quote: “Don’t forget that the opponent is also afraid.”

    Personally I feel fear when I am rusty. When I am not, I don’t. I really liked my attitude at the British 2007. It was not my peak, but basically it was just a blast: even if I lost two of the last four games.

  20. Remco G
    April 3rd, 2013 at 10:54 | #20

    I have a team match this weekend, and I just looked up the ratings of my possible opponents. But then I realized, why would I do that?

    It’s like a worse version of being angry at myself for losing — apparently I try to calibrate the result I want beforehand. If the opponent has a lower rating, I must win! If he’s slightly higher, I must do my best and a draw is OK. If I play someone over 400 points or so higher, I have no chance anyway, what’s the point.

    Note to self — *just play the best moves* and don’t think about results so much.

  21. Jacob Aagaard
    April 3rd, 2013 at 12:33 | #21

    @Remco G
    Actually, one of the posts I have written on in advance is about my main mantra: results will come! I think I have something simple and useful to say on the matter.

  22. Patrick
    April 3rd, 2013 at 16:01 | #22

    Great Article!

    Actually, there is a lot to be said about how you handle your losses. It can really be an emotional roller coaster. Take myself. I first hit 2000 in August of 2001. Of course, I’ve dipped below that milestone since then at times, but the feeling of hitting that milestone was an emotional highpoint.

    So what’s the next goal? 2100! For the next couple of years, I couldn’t get past the 2030 mark. Then come 2004, I hit 2050 for the first time. A couple more years go by, and I hit 2090 in 2008. A couple of times in the Summer of 2008, I end up being 1 win away from 2100, just to lose each time. The emotional let-downs were astronomical. So bad that I tumbled all the way down to about 2020 at an alarming rate, losing one game after another, mainly because I wasn’t focusing on my game then, I was so mentally messed up only thinking how on freaking earth I was going to hit 2100. I get back up towards that point, and tumble again, and tumble again, and again, and again!

    This went on for a while, thru 2012. Then 2013 rolls around, and by January, I’m back up to about 2080. Once again, I have about 4 or 5 opportunities in January and February to hit that milestone just to lose again. However, here’s the difference. Rather than letting the emotional roller-coaster get to me mentally, I take a different approach, and the lowest I ever fell to was 2068. I didn’t spend the next 2 weeks kicking myself for not winning, often times in won positions, just to blunder in time trouble.

    Then the day comes. March 30th, 2013 (this past Saturday). I’m sitting there with a 2084 rating, thanks to not having meltdowns in January and February. I face an 1870 round 1 and maul him in a miniature. Round 2, I face a 2325, and get a completely won position in the form of RBPP vs RP, but hang my Bishop in time trouble, and only achieve a draw. So round 3, I face a 2130, needing a win. We get into this really whacko game, and I win an exchange. Without much time on the clock, instead of consolidating (fearing another scramble would get me, and in this case, in a middlegame), I got a little too outlandish, and should have actually lost, but with limited time on my opponent’s clock also, I made certain I didn’t panic (i.e. allowing that stupid emotional roller-coaster to take over again) and what looked like an obvious win for him ends up a win for me as he allows a fairly obvious mate in 2, though one that could easily be missed in a time scramble.

    Post event rating of 2102. Mission Accomplished! Next up, 2200.

    And to add to all of that, you know what caused that light to turn on in my head in 2013 that caused the change in approach emotionally? Believe it or not, one of Quality Chess’s own books!

    Those of you that have suffered what I dealt with above from 2008 thru 2012 need to absolutely read Chapter 2 of “The Grandmaster Battle Manual” IMMEDIATELY!

  23. Jonathan
    April 3rd, 2013 at 16:17 | #23

    Congrats Patrick!

  24. boki
    April 3rd, 2013 at 19:49 | #24

    I am also suffering from this disease. Especially when I loose a game where I was winning I am completly destroyed and often looose the next games as well.
    It is very difficult to cope with such emotions, I still can list several games and it still hurts.
    But I try to cope with this better

  25. Gilchrist is a Legend
    April 3rd, 2013 at 19:50 | #25

    Somehow I play much worse when I think about rating. In 2005 I remember being 2299 FIDE and then had a series of very bad tournament performances in which I dropped to about 2215 by the end of year. Somehow playing 2100s made me more nervous than playing against a 2500, which may explain how several times I win or draw against a 2450 and then lose to a 2150 in the same tournament. In Saturday weekenders several years ago I used to win against the 2500 and then draw a 1900 hours later, because ironically I struggled against the 1900s, tried harder, and somehow the nervousness made me make errors. I am not sure if I am the only one afflicted with this phenomenon, but it is certainly annoying. I think the only way that I can play better is as said above, not to care about losing, especially to players of lower rating.

  26. Jerry Snitselaar
    April 3rd, 2013 at 21:30 | #26

    No, I think that is probably a very common feeling Gilchrist.

  27. leavenfish
    April 4th, 2013 at 04:35 | #27

    Jacob Aagaard :@Leavenfish Evidence needed! Otherwise that might be the April’s fool joke!

    April Fools jokes are for April 1. The post was on April 2…and the game was played on March 30.

    Anyway, not sure how to make this look good…so here is that particular game in plain text. As I said, I played confident in my calulating abilities thru the whole tournament, but this gave me the most pleasure given my recent history with the person across the board.

    Smith,Brian (2025) – Monir Tanas,Girgis (1868) [E61]
    NCC March (3), 30.03.2013

    G/45, 5 second delay. I have beaten this opponent several times but dropped the full point last time out while trying to win a drawn position…so I really wanted to exact some payback. 1.d4 Nf6 2.Nf3 g6 3.c4 Bg7 4.Nc3 d6 5.Bg5 Taken from the Quality Chess book: Build Up Your Chess 3 – Mastery by Yusupov. 5…h6 6.Bh4 g5 7.Bg3 Nh5 8.e3 Nxg3 9.hxg3 Bf5 10.Bd3 Bxd3 11.Qxd3 Nd7 12.0-0-0 c5 13.Kb1 cxd4 14.exd4 0-0? The rather obvious blunder I referred to. 15.Nxg5 Easy to see…but Ex. 16-5 in the afformentioned book, made it even easier to spot. 15…Nf6 [I thought he would try 15…Re8 but saw it could be dealt with in a manner similar to what what actually happened. 16.Rxh6 Nf8 17.Qf5 f6 18.Ne6 which was winning enough that I did not care to calculate further.;
    15…f5? 16.Ne6+-] 16.Nd5 Challanging the defender. My first real think – and by that I mean I spent about 6 minutes. Ideally I should just make the move; but seeing mates in the air, wanted to enjoy myself a bit. 16…Re8 [16…hxg5?? 17.Nxf6+ Bxf6 18.Qh7#] 17.Rxh6! This I wrote down instantly where my opponent could see it, then walked about to see how some of my friends were doing. I came back and spent a few more minutes before making the move – enjoying the momement more than anything as I had already worked out all the lines when making my last move. 17…Nxd5?? What’s the quote that goes something like “I spend most of my life worrying… about things that never happen”? I forget where I read that recently, but the same can be said of a lot of chess games. Anyway, after 4 minutes and in a bit of shock, he missed the simple mate idea…something I had easily spotted earlier. [Of course, after the game I had to demonstrate all the other mates I had found. 17…Bxh6 This is the line that caused me to pause on my 16th. Now it all was clear: 18.Nxf6+ Kf8 a) 18…Kg7 19.Qh7+ (I also saw 19.Nh5+ if I could not make the Qh7+ work. It is a hair faster, but I had calculated the Queen check led to mate as well. 19…Kf8 20.Qh7 Bxg5 21.Qg7#) 19…Kxf6 20.Qxf7+ Kxg5 21.f4+ Kg4 22.Qg6+ Bg5 23.Qxg5# The King is entombed. Even recently, I might have seen ghosts somewhere, but I had no trouble quickly seeing and calculating these mate lines before playing my 17th move.; b) 18…exf6 19.Qh7+ Kf8 20.Qxf7#; 19.Qh7 exf6 (19…Bxg5 20.Qg8#) 20.Qxf7#;
    Haveing dispatched those lines in my head, I was at work on 17…e6 when I was considering the perfectly good 18.Nxf6+ (But the computer spots the picturesque 18.Rxf6 which mates slightly quicker: 18…Re7 19.Qh7+ Kf8 20.Qg6 Ke8 21.Rxf7 Kd7 22.Qxe6+ Kc6 23.Qxe7 Qxe7 24.Rxe7 Rc8 25.Ne6 Bh6 26.Nd8+ Rxd8 27.Rc7#) 18…Qxf6 19.Rxf6 which wins easily.] 18.Rh8+ Oops! I had spotted this on my 16th move. He resigned here as 18…Bxh8 [18…Kxh8 19.Qh7#] 19.Qh7+ Kf8 20.Qxf7# [20.Qxh8#] 1-0

  28. John Shaw
    April 4th, 2013 at 11:00 | #28

    @leavenfish

    Nice game, but I am less keen on the bit about writing down a move in advance, where the opponent can see it, then going for a walk before playing it. Maybe it is different where you are, but that would normally be against the rules. A judgmental person might also say it shows a touch of sadism.

  29. Andre
    April 4th, 2013 at 15:27 | #29

    Writing down a move in advance is no longer allowed according to the Fide rules. It was changed a couple of years ago.

    This “write down … go for a walk” show doesn’t belong to what I consider fair play.

    Nice game though. 😉

  30. Joeri
    April 4th, 2013 at 18:29 | #30

    Maybe a “GM Prepration : Chess ethics” is needed too 😉

  31. Ray
    April 5th, 2013 at 07:51 | #31

    @John Shaw
    I’m a judgmental person and I think it shows more than a touch of sadism.

  32. LE BRUIT QUI COURT
    April 6th, 2013 at 11:15 | #32

    wok64 :
    @LE BRUIT QUI COURT
    Owning some 400+ chess books I believe the optimal number of books is 1: the one you’re working on at the moment. All others collecting dust on the shelf are just useless and in the worst case even distracting i.e. you don’t work on any of them because you can’t decide where to start.

    Dear friend,

    If you have spent only 15 euros per book, you have wasted cca 6000 euros! While I have spent half of your amount, I have decided to keep only top-notch books which are absolutely necessary to raise my and everyone’s else chess strength. Also I came to the conclusion that some books can dissipate your chess knowledge!

    I have been led by following principles:

    1st Principle: MULTUM, NON MULTA 🙂

    2nd Principle: WORK HARD OR DO NOT WASTE TIME & MONEY 🙂

    Regarding studying chess and playing actual games here you have valuable old Latin tips:

    1. Theoria sine praxis, sicut rota sine axis. – Theory without practice is like a wagon without wheels.

    2. Praxis sine theoria, sicut caecus in via. – Practice without theory is like a blind man on the road.

  33. Markku Siipola
    April 8th, 2013 at 12:58 | #33

    I have decided to keep only top-notch books which are absolutely necessary to raise my and everyone’s else chess strength.

    How do know which books?

    Every chess author says his books is the best, and there are lot of good reviews on almost every chess book written.

    How many authors are says “don’t buy my book, it will not help your game”?

  34. Gerando
    April 8th, 2013 at 13:18 | #34

    Wanting too much to win can be a problem. When I play in tournaments, I am sometimes too impatient and make hasty decisions. When I play in team competitions, I play in a more controlled way, and begin to press only if the situation of the team demands it, and I have better results with that approach.

  35. Patrick
    April 8th, 2013 at 16:32 | #35

    @Markku Siipola

    That’s one of those things where you kinda have to ask around, preferably higher rated players, about various books. If someone says that a book is bad, ask them why.

    Also, if you go to a site like Amazon, read the reviews. Don’t base it on the average number of stars. For example, if you take “The Grandmaster Battle Manual”, Amazon.com (The American site) has 4 reviews. 3 are 5-star. 1 is 2-star. If you read the 2-star review, it’s one of the worst BS Reviews I’ve ever seen. He’s in the 1900s and says the game selection and depth of annotations were bad. Because he thought the analysis was too long, he goes on a speel about how just because one is a lower grandmaster doesn’t make their books any good, blah blah blah.

    You have to be able to weave out this BS.

    Secondly, when it comes to more professional reviews, you have to understand why a review is lowered, and whether or not it would negatively impact you. Case in point. The first book in the “My Great Predecessors” series by Everyman got horrid reviews because a lot of the analysis was unoriginal and just copied from the older players. Ok, but if you don’t have their books from yesteryear, is that necesarily a bad thing? I’ve read the first one and while it’s not the best book ever written, it has helped in improving my game, which is what matters. If ratings were everything, nobody would watch a “B-Movie”, but even B-Movies have their fans.

    That said, I can tell you the books I’ve read that have made the biggest difference in my game. Some of them are non-Quality Chess books (basically, the simpler books, with Quality Chess providing the more advanced manuals), but I’m not trying to advertise, I’m merely trying to answer your Markku’s question. They are listed in the order I read them, and for the most part are of increasing difficulty, the first of which could be read by a 1200 player):

    1) The Inner Game of Chess (Soltis)
    2) Bishop v Knight: The Verdict (Mayer)
    3) Forcing Chess Moves (Hertan)
    4) Practical Chess Defense (Aagaard)
    5) Chess Lessons (Popov)
    6) Chapters 1-2 of “The Grandmaster Battle Manual” and Chapters 1-4 of “Grandmaster Preparation: Calcultion”

    And currently I’m reading both books listed in #6.

    The other thing to keep in mind is don’t be reading Opening books left and right. I have 5 books I’m in the process of reading. The 2 listed above in #6, Part 2 of a 5-book Games Collection series by another publisher, and 2 opening books by other publishers, specifically one as White (on the Nimzo) and one as Black (on 1…d6). Also note that I probably spend about 25% of my time on each of the 3 non-opening books, and the other 25% on the 2 opening books combined.

    Hope this helps, Markku.

  36. Ray
    April 8th, 2013 at 18:03 | #36

    @Markku Siipola
    I personally like the reviews on Chessvibes.com and Chesscafe.com. But it would be nice to have a list of ‘must-haves’, just like you have for e.g. literature.

  37. Ray
    April 8th, 2013 at 18:04 | #37
  38. Jacob Aagaard
    April 8th, 2013 at 21:07 | #38

    @Markku Siipola
    I think it is well known which authors are considered serious and which are not. Obviously there is no unity of mind on this, nor are all authors appropriate for all readers (depending on their level).

    There is a tendency for certain publishers to do certain types of books. If you like a book from a publisher and find it useful, there is a great chance that you will find other books from them that you like. It is not a guarantee, but in chess it is a pretty good shot.

  39. Jacob Aagaard
    April 8th, 2013 at 21:09 | #39

    @Gerando
    Again a topic I will return to in coming posts :-).

  40. leavenfish
    April 9th, 2013 at 00:17 | #40

    Ray :@John Shaw I’m a judgmental person and I think it shows more than a touch of sadism.

    This was not a FIDE tournament…

    As of last year (and it is still on their website, so I assume there is no change), USCF Rule 15A does say that one should make a move and only then write down the move. However, it does note the exception: when using a PAPER scoresheet, you may do otherwise. This really is to prevent people using electronic recording devices from gaining sight of the piece on its new square (second board) and fixing it in their mind better.

    In any case, old habits die hard…no sadistic ones…but I have always followed Kotov’s recommendation to write it down first!

  41. Jacob Aagaard
    April 9th, 2013 at 08:52 | #41

    @Ray
    A general canon: maybe I will put one in a future post…

  42. Ray
    April 9th, 2013 at 11:03 | #42

    @Jacob Aagaard
    That would be great!

  43. Andre
    April 9th, 2013 at 13:27 | #43

    @leavenfish:
    Then you are lucky to play in a country which doesn’t use Fide rules. Just be aware that if you play a tournament in Europe you’ll probably neither be allowed to write down your move before playing it (-> this is considered “taking notes”, which is forbidden) nor to use any electronic device at all.

    The thing the other posters, including me, were surprised about is that you tortured your opponent by taking a walk after letting him know what you wanted to play. If you had done this to me I would have called the referee to give you a lesson on sportman-like behaviour.

  44. Ray
    April 9th, 2013 at 14:14 | #44

    @Andre
    Indeed, that’s what I meant with ‘sadistic’ 🙂

  45. Jacob Aagaard
    April 9th, 2013 at 14:41 | #45

    @Ray
    I think a few people did not like this much. Personally I probably do not care much, but it seems unnecessary and is against the rules :-).

  46. Paul Brøndal
    April 9th, 2013 at 15:24 | #46

    @Patrick

    I found you have some very interesting points here, Patrick. Just like in any other area, it is a subjective matter what is good for you and what isn’t. For example, if you like to play solid positional chess and don’t want to change your style, it may be more relevant to read a book on the caro-cann instead of studying the Polugaevsky variation in the sicilian defence.

    It is excellent that a lot of the books have excerpts, so that you can see if it suits your demands/requirements.

    I really also enjoyed My Great Predecessors and was rather surprised to see the bad reviews the books got. Maybe the analyses aren’t the most original but the books contain a lot of interesting chess history I find.

    When I was young and played a lot of chess, my clear favourite books were:

    1. Think Like a Grandmaster, Kotov.
    2. Modern Chess Strategy, Pachmann
    3. My System, Nimzowitsch
    4. My 60 memorable games, Fischer

    Even though for example the Kotov book contains a lot of ideas that may be considered dubious now, the book made me aware of the necessity of calculating and analysing positions carefully.

    My new favourite books are definitely Aagaard’s Grandmaster Preparation books. To me, it was a joke that Positional Play only got 4 stars in Chesscafe.com.

  47. Jacob Aagaard
    April 9th, 2013 at 16:12 | #47

    @Paul Brøndal
    With Hawkins’ Amateur to IM being worthy of 5/6 easily, getting 3/6 from the same reviewer, I am starting to think I got top marks :-).

  48. Patrick
    April 9th, 2013 at 17:51 | #48

    @Jacob Aagaard

    I must say, if your book on Positional Play got 4 stars (which I haven’t read yet, still on Calculation, Chapter 5, but if it’s anything remotely like it, it should get 5 minimum, if not 6), and this other book you mention got 3 stars, do you think it’s possible to get a copy of “Standard Chess Openings” by Eric Schiller? Preferably the first edition with all the typos in the introduction, and the Double-Exclam for Shirov’s 23rd move in the Semi-Slav game he played against Ivanchuk in 1996 that Sadler also covers as Game 1 in his 1998 book on the Semi-Slav, and gives Shirov’s 23rd move the correct punctuation, Question marks! I’d love to see how many stars he gives the first edition of that book! Is a negative number out of 6 possible? 🙂

  49. Ray
    April 9th, 2013 at 18:09 | #49

    @Patrick
    Somehow I have a hunch you’re not particularly of Schiller’s books, call it a sixth sense :-). I hardly dare to admit it, but in the distant past I used to own a book by Schiller (long since thrown away), on “the Rat” (what’s in name?).

  50. Ray
    April 9th, 2013 at 18:10 | #50

    not particularly fond I meant above

  51. The Lurker
    April 9th, 2013 at 19:55 | #51

    What about books that don’t exist yet? What rating do they get? For instance, I notice that Nessie has been bumped back to May now. Quelle surprise!

  52. Patrick
    April 9th, 2013 at 20:31 | #52

    @Ray

    Your post leads to an interesting story.

    Let’s put it this way, there is only 1 thing chess related that I have seen worse than the many horrible books written by Eric Schiller by himself (a few that he co-wrote were “ok – not great”).

    I was at a chess tournament in North Carolina in the United States in August of 2004. A merchant well known to the east coast of the United States, from Macon Georgia, named Thad Rogers, showed me the worst piece of junk ever written. Oddly enough, this comes after the only tournament in my history where I played 5 games of chess and lost all 5 of them. I had a bye the 3rd round, so technically I got a point, but played a side game for rating that round against another player about 100 points below me that also had a bye, and I lost that one too. So I’m basically down in the dumps, and I still find the 90 minutes or so browsing this book amongst the funniest things that have ever happened in my life.

    Some background. A 1200 player moved into the upstate South Carolina area in the late 90s. He had many problems. Everything from invading chess clubs and trying to con players to disassociate themselves from the club, play with him at the same establishment on the same night of the week. He tried to claim he was such a good player. Offered “coaching” at some rate per hour. Etc. Once people realized what he was doing, everybody disassociated themselves with him. This was around 2001.

    He then started cyber-bullying. In 2002, I was in a tournament in Upstate South Carolina, and during the 2nd round, the player next to me got arrested and put in jail. Why? Because he sent a reply email to this fool tell him to “Leave me the f*** alone” (without the asterisks). Apparently that was enough to stick him in a jail cell for 5 hours. He also came very close to making me lose my job as back then, there was little security, and he posted to a state chess website a message with complete slurs and comments that could lead to termination of done on the job, and identified himself as me, which was easy to do then. Being the technical person that I was then, I had to fight and argue for an investigation based on IP address, and it was determined that it wasn’t me, but this ought to give you an idea what this guy was like.

    Well, then in 2004, he tries to write this book. It’s not bound or published by anybody. It’s basically like a looseleaf book. It was supposedly a book on endings. He was maybe 1300 to 1350 by then. In the index, he has all of these different “mate” positions, and gives each of them a name. For example, one that I remember was the Black King was on the edge of the board, I think h4, with the White Queen on g4 and White King on f4, and he has 3 lines drawn from the Queen to h5, h4, and h3, and has the caption underneath it as being a “Flashlight Mate”. This should give you the picture already. He had 2 copies, intending to use the 2nd one to send to a publishing company to get it bound. That surely never happened!

    He wanted Thad to sell the other copy of this piece of junk. Instead, all he did was show it to high rated players he knew, like myself, and it was shear comedy for almost 2 straight hours!

    Since then, this fool grew out his hair, and actually appeared on a Local Charlotte TV station as the “Chess Wizard”. It supposedly ran for a few years, and since then, nobody has any idea where he is now, or if he is even alive.

    If you ever had the opportunity to see this thing, you’d think Eric Schiller’s books were the best thing ever written. However, your hunch is correct. Barring this one catestrophic hoax publication, I know of nothing worse in the chess publishing industry than any one of the many Eric Schiller books.

  53. Gilchrist is a Legend
    April 9th, 2013 at 23:35 | #53

    @Ray
    Goedeavond, I have been reading GM12, and am reading the chapter on the …Bg4 Modern Main Line, and I shall say that I believe I shall play the Modern Benoni in turn with the Grünfeld with Avrukh’s books. I learnt much from GM12 that I had never seen before, and having played this opening when I was a teenager in 2005, I like this opening more than I did then. It reminds me somewhat of playing the Pirc against 1. d4; there is the line where White plays f4/Bb5+/a4, etc., Four Pawns which reminds me of the Austrian Attack in the Pirc. Then there also is the Classical, which is like the Classical Pirc, Bd3 lines slightly similar, etc., but that is just my feeling. From what I learnt in the book thus far, the opening requires much tactical effort but it is enjoyable. The idea of using multiple options for the opening in the repertoire also avoids the “narrow path” is favourable to me.

    Ik denk dat jij graag bestellen het. Tot de volgende keer na lees het ik..

  54. leavenfish
    April 10th, 2013 at 03:41 | #54

    Andre :@leavenfish:Then you are lucky to play in a country which doesn’t use Fide rules….

    …The thing the other posters, including me, were surprised about is that you tortured your opponent by taking a walk after letting him know what you wanted to play. If you had done this to me I would have called the referee to give you a lesson on sportman-like behaviour.

    Odds are long I’ll never even visit Europe in my lifetime, let alone play in a tourney there.

    “Unsportsmanlike behavior”? Maybe a tad. But “torture”????

    Please…and given the rules here you would somehow know my intentions…read my mind? I wrote my intended move, left the scoresheet in plain sight (I did not turn it towards him or anything like that – I hope I did not imply that). I could well have just got up to go to the bathroom, or to clear my thoughts and only then return to check things once again before playing my move. You know different now of course…but at the time you would have seriously gone to the referee to give me a ‘lesson’ in sportsmanship? Like…;a stern talking to’ or somesuch? I’ve been a Tournament Director (lower level, true) but given the rules I would have thought your blowing up at this rather…well…I would be bemused if anything.

    But…seriously, “torture”??? I don’t know about you, but I reserve such language for things like, oh, water-boarding, the Spanish Inquisition…Chick-flicks…that’s what I think of when I think of the word torture. I guess announcing ‘mate in 7’ like they did in the old days was ‘torture’? You aren’t just showing one move – you are implying a whole series that lead to mate.

    Anyway, your vitriol is noted. I’ll keep it in mind should I ever play in Europe.

  55. Ray
    April 10th, 2013 at 07:00 | #55

    @Patrick
    🙂 Funny story 🙂

  56. Ray
    April 10th, 2013 at 07:12 | #56

    @Gilchrist is a Legend
    Hi Gilchrist, as a matter of fact I already own GM Rep 12 :-). It is nice, but I do have the feeling (unsubstantiated to be honest) that Petrov is a bit optimistic. All his variations end in = or =/+, which can’t be true for an opening like the Modern Benoni in my opinion. Compare it to GM Rep 13, where a number of endings are evaluated as slightly better for white but playable for black. Another thing I find a bit confusing in the book is that it is hard to compare the variation with Ne2 with Schandorf’s reportoire. Petrov does’t explicitly state where he improves on Schandorf’s lines. E.g. Schandorf proposes Kh1 in one of his lines (without further moves), and Petrov doesn’t even mention it. He does mention a line given by Kaufman (in the variation with Bf4 and e3), but doesnt go into much detail there – he only claims that Kaufman’s evaluation is too optimistic for white and gives a few more moves. Maybe my level of chess is too low, but I would have like’d to see some more explanation and variations to understand why black is ok. I have briefly tried the Modern Benoni in the past but decided it’s not my cup of tea – it’s too narrow a road to travel for my taste; one mistake and you’re dead (bit similar to the Najdorf English Attach with …e6). I bought the book for my white reportoire, but like I said I was slightly disappointed. Anyway, other than that it seems a good book as far as I can tell, with which hardcore Benoni players will undoubtedly be happy.

  57. Jacob Aagaard
    April 10th, 2013 at 07:16 | #57

    @The Lurker
    But still it is happening. We are really down in the details and an extended wait for the printer to get enough paper!

  58. Jacob Aagaard
    April 10th, 2013 at 07:21 | #58

    @Patrick
    Once Graham Burgess told me of a book that was supposedly worse than Schiller’s at a dinner in 1997. So many comments were like: Nunn says white is better, but Black wins after Bg5!, which obviously just blunders mate in two… Unfortunately I do not remember the name.

    Rather than having books that are bad, it is more interesting to talk about books that are overrated. Obviously I could not possibly comment, but I have a few strong candidates for this award!

  59. Jacob Aagaard
    April 10th, 2013 at 07:24 | #59

    @leavenfish
    There is a more important point; should you play in a FIDE rated event. Besides the fact that you are not allowed to write down your move in advance, you are also not allowed to leave the board when it is your move. This makes much more sense, as you could frequent advice from other people and some are unsportsmanlike enough to do so.

    Torture and chick-flicks; agreed.

  60. Jacob Aagaard
    April 10th, 2013 at 07:27 | #60

    @Ray
    Please take one thing into consideration. This book was originally written before Schandorff and Kaufman were published and reactions to those books are on top of the first draft. I also think it is fair to base your book on GM practice just as much as competing books. After all, this is about chess and not book references.

  61. Gilchrist is a Legend
    April 10th, 2013 at 07:57 | #61

    @Ray
    Goedemorgen,

    Yes it seems similar to the Sicilian positions due to its heavy tactical nature, and regarding …e6 English Attack lines, I play the somewhat safer …e5 lines, however I have been studying the French more than Sicilian lately, and this will probably continue when Playing the French is published. Regarding the Nge2 line, I suppose the overlap would be somewhere on p. 163, but I am not sure. I am not familiar with most of the lines however.

    For the Kaufman line, I think you may be referring to p. 220. In the comment to move 18 I think what Petrov means is that the 18. Rab1 line basically leads to similar positions as 18. Rac1, since the b3-b4 push he thinks is not good. So I suppose if 18. Rab1, then follow the same plan as after 18. Rac1, and play for the kingside attack similar to the end of the main line in that chapter, also on p. 220. It seems as if since the queenside does not have much conflict there, then Black will do better on the kingside since the pieces are prepared to play there.

  62. Gilchrist is a Legend
    April 10th, 2013 at 08:35 | #62

    @Ray
    I am not completely sure, but I have both GM12 and Schandorff’s Indian Defences books in front of me now. Schandorff’s book p. 145-6 comment to move 15, I think this is a transposition into GM12 p. 163, with one move more, since in the latter there is the extra Bg5 and …h6 instead of the immediate Be3 in the former. In GM12 p. 163 Petrov has his opinion which begins with, “The critical continuation is 19. Rfe1N…”. So I suppose this is the overlap variation.

  63. Ray
    April 10th, 2013 at 13:00 | #63

    @Jacob Aagaard
    Aha, thanks for your explanation – I didn’t know that. Maybe I’m just getting lazy :-).

  64. Jerry Snitselaar
    April 11th, 2013 at 03:42 | #64

    Jerry Snitselaar :

    Jacob Aagaard :
    @leavenfish
    There is a more important point; should you play in a FIDE rated event. Besides the fact that you are not allowed to write down your move in advance, you are also not allowed to leave the board when it is your move. This makes much more sense, as you could frequent advice from other people and some are unsportsmanlike enough to do so.
    Torture and chick-flicks; agreed.

    Do FIDE rules allow writing clock times?

    Found it. The USCF rules are the same as FIDE. Moves, draw offers, and clock times may be recorded.

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