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Small Steps to Giant Improvement – perfect as it is?

At some point in the next couple of months we will need to print more copies of Small Steps to Giant Improvement by Sam Shankland. We are delighted with the book, but what did you think of it? Did you see something we should change/correct?

As you will guess, after the blog readers’ suggestions on what we should correct when reprinting Playing 1.e4 e5 (thanks for that) we are once again asking for help.

On a wholly unrelated topic, my pre-World Cup prediction was that England would win the Cup (this is football not chess). I was half-joking to Jacob, but if it turns out be correct then I will claim full credit.

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  1. Leon Trotsky
    June 30th, 2018 at 05:23 | #1

    Even if you consider the group stage as the entire World Cup, England did not win 😀

  2. Ray
    June 30th, 2018 at 06:15 | #2

    For me it’s perfect as it is – this is the best book on pawn play (and strategy in general) I know. My only suggestion for an improvement is that there should be a volume, and volume being sold out so quickly, you can keep Shankland to his promise?

  3. Ray
    June 30th, 2018 at 06:16 | #3

    Sorry, typing to quicky – of course I meant volum2 and volume 1, respectively 🙂 .

  4. July 2nd, 2018 at 11:12 | #4

    Could use more exercises. 6 per chapter would be nice to mimic the Yusupov format. An appendix with all the guidelines in one place would be useful.
    -How about some post publication Shankland pawn play examples if he or any of you can manage it.
    Thanks in advance

  5. Andre
    July 2nd, 2018 at 19:01 | #5

    It’s a fine book. I agree with Michael though that more exercises would have been a welcome addition. This would have made it possible to mix up the solutions a bit. Now there’s always one ‘yes’ and one ‘no’ per chapter. At least it feels like that.
    A summary would also be helpful. I’m not sure it can be done without sounding boring. Listing 40 guidelines one after the other probably reads similar to a phone book.
    I’ve worked through the book with a student lately. After he had done all 32 exercises his comment was “What, this was it? 32 exercises and I’m through the whole book?!”. It’s mainly a text book, of course, but maybe 4 exercises per chapter on one page would have improved the product even more.

  6. Andrew Greet
    July 3rd, 2018 at 16:28 | #6

    Thanks for the comments guys. Regarding the suggestion about adding more exercises: while we take the point that additional exercises would have been welcome, we are reprinting as opposed to making a new edition. Adding exercises or other new content would mean changing the layout, adding pages and re-doing the contents/index (due to changes in page numbering) and therefore involves too many changes for a simple reprint. Listing the guidelines as an appendix is more feasible, but we will have to consider if it would enhance the book or if it would seem too bland.

    If anyone has spotted any spelling mistakes, typos, factual errors or any other things which can be corrected without changing the overall content, these are the things which we are especially keen to know about when reprinting.

  7. Jacob Aagaard
    July 4th, 2018 at 02:41 | #7

    I just want to add that Sam found the suggestions very helpful, while I was sueezing him on the need for a second volume (no guarantees).

  8. Andre
    July 4th, 2018 at 13:29 | #8

    Here’s a major error not caught by proofreading in TitB:
    Page 345 (Chapter cover) and later again in the text, the black player’s name is wrong. Just filter the game out of MegaDB and you’ll see.

  9. dvigorito
    July 4th, 2018 at 14:23 | #9

    page 52 note to Black’s 73…Rb3 it says “the natural square for the room”.

  10. John Shaw
    July 5th, 2018 at 09:30 | #10

    @Andre

    Thanks – I see we used the Black player’s first name instead of surname.

  11. John Shaw
    July 5th, 2018 at 09:32 | #11

    dvigorito :
    page 52 note to Black’s 73…Rb3 it says “the natural square for the room”.

    Thanks Dave. Seemingly ‘obvious’ typos like that are weirdly hard to spot. I have no doubt the editor and proofreader saw the word ‘rook’ in that sentence, even though it’s not there.

  12. CarlosB
    July 5th, 2018 at 21:18 | #12

    Thank you for this wonderful book.
    I’ve only found a small thing in the Name index page 331 the name of Sam Shankland its not included.
    I’m looking forward the volume!!

  13. Thomas
    July 7th, 2018 at 07:23 | #13

    On page 95 the book says “With Ng4 coming..”
    The knight has been on g4 all the time, it’s Nf2 or Ne3 that is coming.

  14. Jacob Aagaard
    July 7th, 2018 at 10:49 | #14

    @CarlosB
    Not a mistake. We do not include the name of the authors in the name indexes, as it makes no sense to know he is mentioned 150 times in the book…

  15. Timotheos Lirindzakis
    July 7th, 2018 at 11:21 | #15

    Is there any plan to publish a book on the Najdorf variation of the Sicilian Defence from Black`s point of view?

  16. Jacob Aagaard
    July 7th, 2018 at 12:06 | #16

    Hopes, dreams and progress. But no announcements yet.

    On the other hand, people keep asking about the Classical Sicilian and I would rather go for the Latvian, as it seems a more reliable opening ;-).

  17. Seth
    July 7th, 2018 at 14:00 | #17

    Jacob Aagaard :
    Hopes, dreams and progress. But no announcements yet.
    On the other hand, people keep asking about the Classical Sicilian and I would rather go for the Latvian, as it seems a more reliable opening ;-).

    As they say here in the States: “Ohhhhh, burn !!”

  18. John Shaw
    July 7th, 2018 at 16:01 | #18

    Thomas :
    On page 95 the book says “With Ng4 coming..”
    The knight has been on g4 all the time, it’s Nf2 or Ne3 that is coming.

    A reader emailed me about this error yesterday. It should say “With …Ng4-f2 coming”. In fact, it did say that originally, but at some point we accidentally deleted the end.

  19. Jacob Aagaard
    July 8th, 2018 at 06:54 | #19

    @Seth
    If you want to feel the burn, play the Classical…

  20. The Doctor
    July 8th, 2018 at 09:07 | #20

    @Jacob Aagaard

    I think you exaggerating a bit……it’s not that bad!
    Is it any worse than the Pirc? A book you did a GM Rep on?

    How come the Najdorf book is taking soooooooo long??

  21. Jacob Aagaard
    July 8th, 2018 at 09:25 | #21

    I checked it again a few days ago, because of this relentless pressure. And yes, I do think it is worse than the Pirc. Much worse.

  22. Frank
    July 8th, 2018 at 11:11 | #22

    You will probably already have someone lined up to do the Najdorf-book. Boris Gelfand probably does not want to waste his time writing an opening book, but he is a great Najdorf-expert. Daniel King did a (comparatively) great book on this opening in 1994, nowhere near as complex as a GM Rep book, but still very nice. It seems to me Dr. Nunn might have some spare time as well?@The Doctor

  23. John
    July 8th, 2018 at 11:48 | #23

    Maybe a Najdorf book with recommendations for lines that do not change by the minute, and summarize the topical lines with: “You, your time, your engine, and keep a close watch for everydays news on topical lines, have fun!”.

  24. The Doctor
    July 8th, 2018 at 11:50 | #24

    @Jacob Aagaard
    Really! I’m guessing it’s the RR that’s the problem, still seems many top players still employ it, including Carlsen and Ivanchuk.

    Not so fussed as I play the French these days, I am only waiting for the new Najdorf book to see if it can inspire me to revert back to my first love 😉

  25. Jacob Aagaard
    July 8th, 2018 at 12:02 | #25

    Of course we already tried to offer Boris a lot of money writing a book on the Najdorf. He seriously considered it, but eventually decided not to. So we have a good solid guy writing it instead. I am happy with that, but obviously would have loved to have Boris write something for us.

  26. Thomas
    July 8th, 2018 at 19:55 | #26

    On page 116 it says 11.-exd5 is based on the tactic 12. Bxa6 c4.
    Not the best move as white has 13. Bxc4. 12.-dxe4 seems much stronger

  27. Leon Trotsky
    July 9th, 2018 at 04:39 | #27

    @Jacob Aagaard
    But Kozul likes the Classical, no?

    Also, between combo Nimzo/QID and Nimzo/QGD, which you think is solidder?

  28. Jacob Aagaard
    July 9th, 2018 at 05:31 | #28

    @Leon Trotsky
    You can look at his games and see if you like his positions. I think he is just too old to change openings.

    Both are very solid.

  29. An Ordinary Chessplayer
    July 9th, 2018 at 15:52 | #29

    “I think he is just too old to change openings.” – This comment really spoke to me.

  30. The Doctor
    July 9th, 2018 at 18:01 | #30

    @Jacob Aagaard

    Could you ask your solid guy to speed up a bit 😉

  31. Leon Trotsky
    July 21st, 2018 at 01:42 | #31

    I feel like GM Rep QID would be out in September instead of Augusti, but hope comes earlier.

  32. Jacob Aagaard
    July 21st, 2018 at 09:45 | #32

    @Leon Trotsky
    September sounds right. Michael has had problems finishing the last few lines.

  33. The Doctor
    July 22nd, 2018 at 07:57 | #33

    @Jacob Aagaard
    Will the Taimanov book be out at about the same time??

  34. Jacob Aagaard
    July 22nd, 2018 at 09:46 | #34

    @The Doctor
    October more likely

  35. Frank
    July 28th, 2018 at 18:45 | #35

    it is a really nice book and I feel very much out of place to comment on it. Perhaps it might need some sequel on the power of pawns, indirectly this subject has been touched of course. Things like fixing a weakness, pawn rollers, dynamics of pawns, past pawns, using pawn chains or pawn against bishops, how they coordinate with other pieces or fight against enemy pieces, breaking moves and guidelines for those. Of course Nimzowitsch and others have covered such themes, but maybe Sam can do a better or more objective job in this era?

  36. Jacob Aagaard
    July 29th, 2018 at 10:32 | #36

    @Frank
    Thank you

  37. Leon Trotsky
    July 29th, 2018 at 22:57 | #37

    I am really wondering what Roïz recommend against Catalán in the QID book. Catalan is so strong because even with small +/= small inaccuracy in the opening can cause Black to have depressing positions. Any hints on what is planned for Catalán?! 😀

  38. Ray
    July 30th, 2018 at 06:38 | #38

    @ Leon Trotsky

    I think Nikos already gave a convincing line against the Catalan in his repertoire book on the Queen’s Gambit. The main line ends in a forced draw. I haven’t been able to find anything convincing for white in that line, so maybe white needs to find an alternative at an earlier move. I played this line in a league game last season and obtained a great position very quickly. Black”s plans are quite clear. So what’s the problem in your opinion with this variation?

  39. James2
    July 30th, 2018 at 06:49 | #39

    @Leon Trotsky
    The most popular line at a high level seems to be Bb4+ followed by Be7. This seems to have increased in popularity over the last couple of years too. I think Roiz will cover this line (I certainly hope he does) as I can’t think where this line is covered in literature from the black perspective in detail off the top of my head. I know Daniel King did a dvd on the line recently.

    Of course, there are other lines that could be covered (such as ..b6 in the closed Catalan) and I’m sure you could get some fresh position from a deviation in the Open Catalan somewhere, but I would like to see the main line covered.

    Lastly, I asked this question a couple of weeks ago and they have been tight lipped!

    James

  40. Andrew Greet
    July 30th, 2018 at 10:53 | #40

    Leon Trotsky :
    Any hints on what is planned for Catalán?!

    No.

  41. Leon Trotsky
    August 1st, 2018 at 18:35 | #41

    Andrew Greet :

    Leon Trotsky :
    Any hints on what is planned for Catalán?!

    No.

    Thanks for detailed answer.

  42. Leon Trotsky
    August 1st, 2018 at 18:38 | #42

    James2 :
    @Leon Trotsky
    The most popular line at a high level seems to be Bb4+ followed by Be7. This seems to have increased in popularity over the last couple of years too. I think Roiz will cover this line (I certainly hope he does) as I can’t think where this line is covered in literature from the black perspective in detail off the top of my head. I know Daniel King did a dvd on the line recently.
    Of course, there are other lines that could be covered (such as ..b6 in the closed Catalan) and I’m sure you could get some fresh position from a deviation in the Open Catalan somewhere, but I would like to see the main line covered.
    Lastly, I asked this question a couple of weeks ago and they have been tight lipped!
    James

    Which line is this? the Closed line with …Aa6 and …Cbd7 ¿

  43. Leon Trotsky
    August 2nd, 2018 at 00:41 | #43

    @James2
    Do you mean …b6/…Ab7 and the French structure ¿

  44. Hesse_Bub
    August 4th, 2018 at 08:36 | #44

    On the top of page 31 Sam writes in the third sentence how much nicer Black’s position would be if he could move his pawn back to e6! Well, I doubt it. Black could play e5-e6 only on move 15 or 16, but then Qg3 x Qc7 finishes the job immediatly! The basic explanation of this paragraph is correct and speaks for itself. So why don’t you just delete this sentence?

  45. Jacob Aagaard
    August 4th, 2018 at 08:42 | #45

    @Hesse_Bub
    It is you who is not getting it I am afraid. He is talking about the way the pawn structure allows White to use the d5- and f5-squares for his knights and how it would be great for Black if pawns could move backwards, to e6.

  46. GrizzlyGrisu
    August 30th, 2018 at 15:38 | #46

    Dear Mr. Aagard, thank you for publishing Small Steps to Giant improvement by Sam Shankland. It is an interesting topic and after the first look I feel this book in Combination with Chess Structures – A Grandmaster Guide by Mauricio Flores Rios will help to improve my pawn play.
    Regards

    Andreas

  47. Jacob Aagaard
    August 30th, 2018 at 20:35 | #47

    @GrizzlyGrisu
    You are welcome.

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