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Chess Book Collectors Book of the Year 2017

The Pulitzer Prize of chess is probably the English Chess Federations Chess Book of the Year award. It deserves this comparison because the committee have repeatedly chosen very good books as winners. They have also had an attitude of spreading the award a bit; their main objective is to promote chess literature. This year the judges unanimously agreed to give the award to Jan Timman for his book Timman’s Titans, which is absolutely deserved. Timman is a major chess writer and this is perhaps his most important book.

At Quality Chess we were ecstatic to be nominated for both our entries (each publisher can send only two books for consideration), which is great in a year where we published few books. Especially as one of them were an opening book. I think Thinking Inside the Box is my best book, but did not believe that such a technical book would win. It rarely does. For example, we could not even get the Yusupov series nominated! The last time a truly technical book won was when Nunn’s Chess Endings won in 2011.

I did have an outside hope that Smirin’s excellent book King’s Indian Warfare could be an outsider before I saw the shortlist. Once I realised what Timman was nominated for, I thought “it is his turn,” and got on with life. Because really, it was his turn and having had a chance to look at the book a bit, I can say that I personally look forward to getting my teeth deeper into it.

There used to be other Book of the Year awards. ChessCafe is gone, ACP only gave it out a few times and FIDE are caught in an endless loop of giving awards to the members of the trainers committee. This reflects badly on the books, doing the authors no favour at all. Are the books any good? I don’t know, but am less curious about the books after something like this. I think either you are part of the process or you are a possible contender. To be both devalues to award, but bizarrely increases its value when won by outsides, such as Yusupov and yours truly. And the trophy is beautiful!

Awards won by public votes have a serious downside. You can get all your friends to vote. Often publishers will make their readers aware of the vote, trying to get an upper hand. Luckily no one did this with the very informal Best Book of 2017 poll in the Facebook group Chess Books Collectors, which has more than 13,500 members. Only a few of these took part, once again underlining Timman’s quality. However, all through the process, Thinking Inside the Box was ahead. At one point with only one vote, unsportingly cast by yours truly.  If it was going to end in a tie, I would have informed Brian that Timman was the deserved winner. If I edged him out by my own vote, I would have been seriously morally conflicted. But I did not have the heart not to vote for my own best book after all the agony of writing it… Luckily I won with a few votes.

Timman’s Titans is the book of the year, no doubt about it, but I am happy that a number of fellow chess book enthusiasts liked my book. The fact that Timman’s book was published in September 2016 makes no difference to me. ECF run their award from start August to end July and people read Timman’s and my book in 2017.

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  1. An Ordinary Chessplayer
    January 10th, 2018 at 16:48 | #1

    I already bought TITB because I frequent your website and knew it would be an important work. But until now I had no knowledge of Timman’s book. I will have to get it, and the ECF can consider promoting literature as mission accomplished, at least in my case.

  2. January 10th, 2018 at 18:29 | #2

    I really like Sharp Endgames(Lund) and Chess Middlegame Strategies vol1(Sokolov). Thinking Inside the Box is very good too.

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