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The Grand Slam

If you are like me, you often get “we don’t like to brag…” emails from our friends at New in Chess, where of course they revel in their recent achievements. I have nothing against this, only I am not sure how well it works with a sophisticated audience like the people who buy chess books. This is the main reason we are not doing something similar with out blog or newsletter.

Obviously we like the fact that people occasionally buy our books when they visit the blog, but we are actually more focused on the positive debates and ideas we get from it. Do not forget that the Grandmaster Preparation series (including the name!) is based on a suggestion here.

It is the same way with the books we produce. We try to focus on the product and then let sales work out for themselves. This is not because we do not like bestsellers; we like them a lot. They keep the lights on and allow us to take a salary (which in John’s and my case has only been for the last three of the soon ten years we have been going that this has been happening).

We did at some point try to make “commercial” books. Easy, quick and profitable. I think 2-3 books were aimed at this. We are talking 2005-8 maybe. No one really bought these books and we hated the process and the product. So we decided not to think like this anymore.

At times there are books where we think will only do limited sales, but they become runaway successes. I remember joking that PUMP UP YOUR RATING was the new version of Excelling at Chess. But I did not believe many would buy it (John did the final edit and was far more optimistic, based on quality). Actually it has already sold 500 copies more than we expected from 10 years sale. Still, when Axel came to me and said he had wanted to write this book for years, had worked towards it and only wanted to do it with us; I became both flattered and interested. So I personally worked over some chapters with him, to help him communicate his ideas better. Once he got the hang of it, he did not need my help anymore and wrote the rest of the book with great confidence and skill. He very deservedly won the ChessCafe 2013 Book of the Year award.

One day I will maybe give the general writing advice; if John will let me!

Oh yes; the title is all me. I know it is corny, but we were trying to get people to read this gem of a book.

Another big surprise was the success of Grandmaster Preparation – Calculation. This was based on an idea Dvoretsky told me about back in 2002; to sort the exercises by thinking method and not chess theme. It was just a way for me to use training material I had around and was supposed to be a slow, low burner. Rather surprisingly it looks like it will become my biggest seller for Quality Chess and won the ACP book of the Year award. We did not think this was the best book of the year, but who are we to argue with the public.

The book we loved most (of our own) is Judit Polgar’s How I Beat Fischer’s Record. Luckily the critiques have their high-brow award as well, where quality beat popularity. Judit won the ECF book of the Year award 2013, after missing out on the ACP award by only ONE vote. The book has not been as fully successful as we hoped, but then we were very optimistic.

Finally, we regained the lock on the ChessPublishing Opening Book of the Year vote with The King’s Gambit. This has very little promotional value; it translates to just about no sales. And this year it was an unpleasant experience altogether.

Still, it is nice to see that John’s five years of agonizing, procrastination and finally immense work effort is rewarded with not only good sales, but also praise from the opening theory fanatics. We are very grateful for the support and very proud winners. The book will be reprinted soon and the cover will show how proud we are.

Previous winners have been Marin (2009), Avrukh (2010, 2011), Sherbakov (Everyman, 2012).

So, we do not like to brag, but… Quality Chess has for the first time won the Grand Slam. The four awards all chess authors can compete for. The only one that got away from us this time around was FIDE’s Boleslavsky award (where only FIDE trainers are eligible): quite fittingly it went to Jeroen Bosch as a sort of lifetime award for the SOS series and various other writings. Congratulation to him, it is very well deserved!

It will be interesting to see how Pump will do in the other awards this year…

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  1. LE BRUIT QUI COURT
    March 8th, 2014 at 11:56 | #1

    For me personally things changed when Quality Chess saw the day light. Especially the GM Repertoire series with high standards of analysis and paramount layout! Outstanding.

    Since then I’m measuring all books I have or buy according to Quality Chess Standard.

    Congratulations to all Quality Chess Team!

    One very important point of my which went unnoticed by creative director is a book dealing with strategy/positional play for club and master class players, similar to Chess Tactics from Scratch.

    I do own GM Prep Positional & Strategic play, but they are advanced and exercise books.But we need also a manual! Please write on with all those trumps like bishop pair, weak pawn etc.

    Thanks

  2. Jacob Aagaard
    March 8th, 2014 at 12:15 | #2

    @LE BRUIT QUI COURT
    Yes, I know. It is in the medium to long term plans.

  3. LE BRUIT QUI COURT
    March 8th, 2014 at 13:50 | #3

    Jacob,

    Is there any chance that you launch new series of pure training/exercise books named MASTER PREPARATION 🙂 which could cover cca 600 top positions in following themes:

    Book 1: tactics

    Book 2: calculation

    Book 3: attack & defence

    Book 5: strategy & positional play

    Book 6: endgame

    Competitive titles:

    – Richard Palliser: THE COMPLETE CHESS WORKOUT 1 & 2;
    – Balogh Csaba: Greatest 365 Puzzles & Greatest 501 Puzzles;
    – Cheng Ray: Practical Chess Exercises

  4. Jacob Aagaard
    March 8th, 2014 at 14:13 | #4

    @LE BRUIT QUI COURT
    Nope. This is off the mark. I have planned it and it will be different from what you are thinking.

  5. LE BRUIT QUI COURT
    March 8th, 2014 at 14:22 | #5

    @Jacob Aagaard
    Can hardly wait! Besides, what you have in mind with GM Prep Move to move, the cover of the book which was subjected to readers voting?

  6. Jacob Aagaard
    March 8th, 2014 at 15:00 | #6

    @LE BRUIT QUI COURT
    I do not really want to discuss things outside of the publishing schedule. But this was just a cover idea our designer had and wanted our feedback on. I thought it was nice to put it on the blog to get a wider feedback.

  7. LE BRUIT QUI COURT
    March 8th, 2014 at 17:17 | #7

    ### 🙂 “Playing the French” 🙂 ###

    Nikos, this one is for you!!!

    A-Meise (2370) – Me [C00]
    3 min, Main Playing Hall 2014

    1.e4 e6 2.b3 🙁 d5 3.Bb2 dxe4 4.Nc3 Nf6 5.Qe2 Bb4 6.0-0-0 Qe7 7.Kb1 Bxc3 8.dxc3 Nc6 9.g4 h6 10.h4 Bd7 11.Bg2 0-0-0 12.g5 hxg5 13.hxg5 Nd5 14.Rxh8 Rxh8 15.Bxe4 Qxg5 16.Nf3 Qh5 17.c4 Nf6 18.Qe3 Nxe4 19.Qxe4 f6 20.a3 e5 21.Rd2 Bf5 22.Qe3 Qg6 23.Ka2 Bxc2 24.Ne1 Bf5 25.f4 Rh3 26.Qf2 Bb1+ 27.Ka1 Rxb3 28.fxe5 Nxe5 29.Qd4 b6 30.Rg2 Qe4 31.Qxe4 Bxe4 32.Rxg7 Nxc4 33.Rg8+ Kb7 34.Bc1 f5 0-1

  8. Nikos Ntirlis
    March 8th, 2014 at 22:13 | #8

    Nice solid play. This is what Black is looking for in this line as White is usually an attacker in practice. Without looking at an engine, probably 27…Na5 was a real killer? But maybe i am missing something. I can recall a couple of online games of mine where i played …Ne8-Nd6 in this kind of positions when g4-g5 came by the way…

  9. Ray
    March 8th, 2014 at 22:42 | #9

    Congratulations with the grand slam, well deserved! And what a QC line-up in the line graph :-). One question regarding Punp up your Rating: do you have advice on which book best to use for the Woodpecker Method? Maybe this question has already been asked on this blog, but I couldn’t find it. Chess tactics from scratch is very good, but it’s arranged according to tactical motive (the ame goes more or less for Quality Chess Puzzle book), and Axel Smith recommends a random order. Maybe there is room on the market for a ‘Woodpecker puzzle book’? Garanteed to pump up your rating by at least 200 points 🙂

  10. James
    March 8th, 2014 at 23:02 | #10

    I would love to see Aagaard & Ntirlist write a Play the King’s Indian defence book. I think I might have suggested this a couple months ago, but I would like to suggest it again. I managed to get a question answered by Nakamura about the King’s Indian during his reddit Q and A session last week: http://www.reddit.com/r/IAmA/comments/1z09nu/im_gm_hikaru_nakamura_1_us_chess_player_and_top/cfpbnwj?context=3

  11. Jacob Aagaard
    March 9th, 2014 at 09:11 | #11

    @Ray
    Maybe a Woodpecker puzzle book. Why not :-). Andrew is using Chess Tactics from Scratch at the moment. He says it works fine.

  12. Jacob Aagaard
    March 9th, 2014 at 09:11 | #12

    @James
    I am not interested in doing that. I cannot speak for Nikos.

  13. Nikos Ntirlis
    March 9th, 2014 at 09:27 | #13

    @James

    James, there are much better qualified people than me to do that kind of book and i think that Jacob has already said that there will be (or there is an idea to be) a KID book at some point from QC which will not be so theory-heavy as Kotronias’ tomes and will be based on ideas and complete games etc (i am really sorry if my memory fails me on this and Jacob has said something totally different!).

  14. Ray
    March 9th, 2014 at 10:18 | #14

    @Jacob Aagaard
    I’m also using that book at the moment, but I do believe random positions would be preferable. Anyway, it’s not such a big deal I guess.

  15. Jacob Aagaard
    March 9th, 2014 at 11:56 | #15

    @Ray
    It is a bit like looking for the perfect weight loss method, when all you need is a big nasty guy shouting “run!”.

  16. Jacob Aagaard
    March 9th, 2014 at 11:57 | #16

    @Nikos Ntirlis
    Yes, we have a deal with a very strong KID specialist on a book based on his own (crazy!) games. But it will take a while before he completes it for sure.

  17. greenlacoste
    March 9th, 2014 at 15:53 | #17

    exist a chess book dedicated on intuition? I want to suggest Jacob to write a book for intuition because it is a important skill on grandmaster play! What about this idea? It would be very nice ,,Grandmaster Intuition,,!

  18. Ray
    March 9th, 2014 at 18:08 | #18

    @Jacob Aagaard
    🙂 We need somthing to blame bad results on 🙂

  19. Jacob Aagaard
    March 9th, 2014 at 21:01 | #19

    @greenlacoste
    Grandmaster Preparation – Positional Play is more or less as good as it gets on intuition, I think.

  20. rooster85
    March 9th, 2014 at 23:33 | #20

    Ray :
    Congratulations with the grand slam, well deserved! And what a QC line-up in the line graph :-). One question regarding Punp up your Rating: do you have advice on which book best to use for the Woodpecker Method? Maybe this question has already been asked on this blog, but I couldn’t find it. Chess tactics from scratch is very good, but it’s arranged according to tactical motive (the ame goes more or less for Quality Chess Puzzle book), and Axel Smith recommends a random order. Maybe there is room on the market for a ‘Woodpecker puzzle book’? Garanteed to pump up your rating by at least 200 points

    Hi Ray,

    I’ve asked this on Axel’s blog, before I noticed that he says in the book that the book choice does not really matter for the woodpecker 🙂
    He replied that he and mr. Hagen used “The Times Winning Moves” by R. Keene, among others… so that’s one recommendation for you 🙂 I’ve skimmed through the book and the themes seemed to be in a pretty random order…

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