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The difficulties of writing a chess book

Recently a reader wrote to me and mentioned that the same position was considered two different places in The Tarrasch Defence, with slightly different annotations. The suggestion was in both cases not to play like this, but it was still an interesting point. No matter how obsessively you work, you cannot avoid mistakes.

Similarly at some point in Delchev’s new book on the Reti he writes the following: “It is true that Mihail Marin has spent tons of ink on it in his The English Opening, Volume 2, but in fact his work has hardly advanced theory any further.” Harsh words, but apparently he did not like this lines in this specific variation. We have heard different feedback from 2700+ (sometimes ++) players about the Marin books, but maybe not all chapters were equally strong?

Or is this what happens when your editor is only 13 years old? (By the way, Happy Birthday Semko!)

No. Writing chess books is just damn hard. What you think might be interesting is routinely trashed by the readers. No matter how much work you put into your work and how obsessively you look for mistakes, they will always be there. Sometimes it is a harmless transposition to a note that is missed as above, but you are not always this lucky.

We all remember this blog post (?!).

Well, Vitiugov is back with a new edition of his book on the French, probably a combination of end of the line for the first print and a lot of serious work. I have been browsing in the book for the two days I have had it (thank you for the freebie Semko!) and find it a really interesting book worth the money several times over.

This does not mean that I am not going to get my “revenge” for the remark on the Marin book.

In the line starting with:

1. e4 e6 2. d4 d5 3. Nc3 Nf6 4. e5 Nfd7 5. f4 c5 6. Nf3 Nc6 7. Be3 Qb6 8. Na4 Qa5+ 9. c3 cxd4 10. b4 Nxb4 11. cxb4 Bxb4+ 12. Bd2 Bxd2+ 13. Nxd2 O-O 14. Bd3 b5 15. Nb2 Nb6 16. O-O Nc4 17. Nbxc4

17…dxc4

Vitiugov claims that the theoretical debates have recently centred around this move. I am not sure what went wrong for him. Maybe he wrote the moves down in Word and did not check the moves with a chess board or program. It only took me two seconds to see that this is completely wrong when looking at the diagram in the book and the variation he gave. But being not too overconfident, I checked with a computer (and database!) and confirmed that this is not playable.

More and more games are played (as well as becoming available) after:

17… bxc4 18. Bxh7+ Kxh7 19. Qh5+ Kg8 20.Nf3 g6 21. Qh6 Qc7 22. f5 f6

(22… exf5 23. Rae1 is totally toast, I think. 5-0 in the database. Most recently: 23…f6 24. exf6 Qh7 25. Qf4 Qf7 26. Re7 Qxf6 27. Rfe1 Rf7 28. Rxf7 Kxf7 29. Ng5+ Kg7 30. Qc7+ Kh6 31. Qh7+ Kxg5 32. g3 1-0 Zherebukh – Jaiswal, New Delhi 2011.)

23. fxg6 Qg7 24. Qh4, when I do not believe in the Black position at all. 24…Qh8 25. Qxd4 Ba6 26. Nh4

(26. Qc3 Rae8 27. Nd4 f5 28. Rae1 White has a big advantage. 28…f4 29. Rf3 Qh4 30. Qa5 c3 31. Qxc3 Bc4 32. Kh1 Re7 33. Qb4 1-0 Colin – Haraldsson, ICCF 2010)

26… f5

(26… fxe5 27. Qg4 Rfe8 28. Rf7 with a winning attack.)

27.Nxf5 led to a winning attack in Avotins – Hladecek, e-mail 2009.

18.Bxh7+ Kxh7 19. Qh5+ Kg8

Here Vitiugov only gives 20.Nf3, failing to spot the reason why White is eager to take on c4 on move 17.

20. Ne4! Rd8

20… f6 21. Nxf6+! 1-0 Secer – Gurcan, Konya 2010. White wins after: 21…Rxf6

(21…gxf6 22. Qg6+ Kh8 23. Rf3 is mate.)

22. exf6 Bb7 23. f7+ Kf8 24. Rae1 Bd5

(24… Qxa2 25. Rf2 Qa6 26. f5)

25. f5 Qxa2 26. Re2

21. Ng5 An obvious novelty.

21. Rf3 d3 22. Rh3 Kf8 23. Qg5 Qb6+ 24. Kh1 Ke8 25. Qxg7 Qd4 was not completely clear in Bulatov – Yuzhakov, Kurgan 2010, and Black escaped with a draw.

21… Qc7 22. f5 exf5 23. Qh7+ Kf8 24. Qh8+ Ke7 25. Qxg7 White is evidently winning.

25…Rf8

25… Re8 26. Qxf7+ Kd8 27. Qd5+ Qd7 28. Qxa8 with an extra rook and limited counterplay.

26. e6 Qc5 27. Rae1 d3+ 28. Kh1 d2 29. Re5

If this was a game, 1-0 would be the next text.

If you are at all interested in these two books, please get them from your nearest chess supplier. But don’t forget that Quality Chess gets the last word and the last laugh!

  1. Patrick M
    February 29th, 2012 at 18:02 | #1

    I think the biggest problem is that some people blow things out of proportion. Are there weaknesses in Marin’s English books? Yes. For example, I brought up the question to Nigel Davies on chesspublishing.com about a year or so ago on what to do after 4…a6 instead of 4…dxc4 in the Reti-Slav lines, and it’s a truly legitimate move, but completely omitted. However, there are weaknesses in every book ever written. Different GMs have different opinions about different lines. I no longer rely on a single book to solve all problems, and pick and choose from various books, like “Experts vs the Sicilian” vs “Dismantling the Sicilian”, or the Najdorf Chapter of “Dismantling the Sicilian” vs “The Cutting Edge 2″.

    In another post, I pointed out that there is an error in “Experts vs the Sicilian” in one of the game’s notes in the Polugaevsky Variation of the Najdorf. Does that make it a bad book that should be knocked and ridiculed? NO!

    If there is a flaw in one line on the French book mentioned above, so be it. If you are a French Expert, hopefully you have more than one book as your “reliable source”.

    If you really want to see a “bad” chess book, with either absolutely horiffic editing or horiffic organization, check out the following two books (Neither of which are by the two main chess publishing companies, Quality Chess or Everyman Chess):

    “Standard Chess Openings” – Specifically the FIRST EDITION – By Eric Schiller. First of all, just read the introduction to the book, and pay close attention to the Grammar (Eric is from the United States, not like we are talking about someone that should be speaking in broken English). Secondly, a lot of the analysis is horrible, like 23…d4 in the game Ivanchuk – Shirov, 1996 (Semi-Slav, Botvinnik Variation), he gives two exclams, no negative comments about subsequent moves by Black, and 1-0 after another 12 moves or so. Uhm, that move is a blunder, as indicated by Sadler in his 1998 book on the Semi-Slav Defense. Can’t speak for what improvements the 2nd edition might have.

    “King’s Indian Battle Plans” by Andrew Martin – While this book isn’t loaded with the grammar and spelling issues that Schiller’s book had, there is absolutely no organization to this book. For example (and this is extremely common), if you go to the chapter on the Bayonet Attack (9.b4), the first or second game (not sure which, don’t have the book on me at the time of writing), Andrew talks about this novel concept (it was new then) of 9…c6 against the Bayonet instead of the traditional 9…Nh5 or 9…a5. Ok, fine and dandy. Now go to game 12 of the same chapter. Once again, it introduces 9…c6 like an “Oh my god, look at this new novel concept!” It would be different if the same position came up twice via a different move order, and it wasn’t recognized, or if this happened once in the book, like the Tarrasch book mentioned above, but in this book, it’s a common occurrence. Also, if you are going to break down the chapters by variation, the subvariations should be sorted properly. For example, if you do a chapter on the Fianchetto King’s Indian, it doesn’t matter so much whether you put the Panno variation first, or the lines with …c6 first, or some other line first, but at least group them together. He’ll cover a couple of games of one line, then cover a few games of another line, and then go back to the first line again.

    On a 5-star system, like Amazon has, the majority of chess books out there should get a 4. There might be a rare few 5’s out there, but people need to quit making it sound like every book should get 1 star unless it truly is as bad as the 2 mentioned in this message.

  2. kostas
    February 29th, 2012 at 20:51 | #2

    Writing a bulletproof book is simply very expensive (in terms of time first of all).

    I am trying to create a “ultra bulletproof” benoni repertoire for black (well the task is more than hard i should say) and there is about 10% of the positions you reach, where move A is commonly played and you find that move B (for white) poses new great problems.

    There are 2 ways to deal with that. Hide it under the carpet, or spend countless hours in order to find a solid answer.

    Books are supposed to be tools. Starting bases. Guidelines. So every book has its flaws.
    Very few books though re-WRITE theory.

  3. Jacob Aagaard
    February 29th, 2012 at 20:59 | #3

    Quite a long reaction! Mainly I wanted to point out that the books were out. I clearly stated they were good, although I found this mistake in the book on the French…

  4. Gilchrist is a Legend
    March 1st, 2012 at 07:19 | #4

    I am reading the Réti book by Delchev, as about a few days ago I finished reading GM10 literally from cover to cover (Introduction all the way to Index of Variations). The Réti book is interesting and I have never seen most of these lines before, especially 1. Nf3 d5 2. c4 c6 3. e3, which if I remember correctly, is different from Marin’s approach in fianchettoing the bishop in most lines. Instead of the 6. b3 in the final chapters, I just play Avrukh’s Catalan lines instead.

  5. Jacob Aagaard
    March 1st, 2012 at 12:59 | #5

    @kostas
    I do not believe in bullet proof books or analysis. I do believe in trying.

  6. Nikos Ntirlis
    March 1st, 2012 at 14:36 | #6

    To be fair, Delchev’s concept against the Slav was presented in the book “Dangerous Weapons: Flank Openings” and in this book there was an article by Kosten called something like “Slave the Slav” if i am not mistaken, where this interesting line was recommended for White. So, it is not the first time this line is presented to the wide public through a publication. I have to read Delchev’s book to form an opinion on it, but judging from his previous ones, i am sure that it is going to be a serious read. If it is really better than Marin’s work is yet to be seen, but if this is so then it would be because (as Kostas said) Marin “started the discussion” with his excellent work!

  7. ray
    March 1st, 2012 at 17:04 | #7

    Seems like QC has taken it upto itself to promote the new CS books .Didnt know Delchevs book was out … Keep up the good work !

  8. Jacob Aagaard
    March 1st, 2012 at 18:18 | #8

    @ray
    We are not afraid of competition. We are afraid that too many people make bad chess books, ending in everyone hating chess and/or chess literature. This would be a disaster!

  9. Gilchrist is a Legend
    March 1st, 2012 at 23:48 | #9

    How much will be updated in Schandorff’s 2nd Edition of Playing the Queen’s Gambit? I still have my copy of the 1st Edition–should I wait for the 2nd Edition or should I just read the 1st Edition since I have it?

  10. Daniel
    March 2nd, 2012 at 09:03 | #10

    I ordered the book but haven’t received it yet. No more 7…a6 in the Steinitz French I take it? I hope he has 7…cd 8.Nd4 Bc5 as a backup to 7…Qb6.

  11. lesio
    March 2nd, 2012 at 14:59 | #11

    Hello
    1) I would like to know what is difference between your previous series Excelling at… (Excelling at Chess, Excelling at Chess Calculation, Excelling at Combinational Play, Excelling at Positional Chess, Excelling at Technical Chess) and this new series GM Training.
    2) Is GM Training series completely new or is it update, revisited, expanded etc.
    3)Should i buy both series, or only GM Training series

  12. John Shaw
    March 2nd, 2012 at 15:52 | #12

    @lesio

    Since Jacob has left the building, I will answer some of your questions about his series:

    1) Jacob is better placed to answer that one.

    2) The GM Preparation series is completely new.

    3) If you ask an author if you should buy his books, he will usually say yes. As a publisher I would suggest buying every Quality Chess book. In fact, buy two of each title just in case you lose one.

  13. Jacob Aagaard
    March 2nd, 2012 at 19:44 | #13

    @Daniel
    7…Qb6 is obviously still there, worse than ever :-(. There is also a bit of other stuff.

  14. Jacob Aagaard
    March 2nd, 2012 at 19:45 | #14

    @Gilchrist is a Legend
    I would read the first volume. We are talking maybe 20% updates, but before it is out you can make it 50 times through the first edition, which is still a good book.

  15. Jacob Aagaard
    March 2nd, 2012 at 19:52 | #15

    @lesio
    1) There are many differences. First of all the Excelling series was written by an IM developing his style. All of these books are good, but the calculation and the technique books are far above the others in quality. They are the two I would seriously recommend. They got the approval of Mark Dvoretsky – although they are by no means flawless.

    The new books are written with a higher level in sight and with the intention of making the reader work. All the theory will be in Thinking Inside the Box, while the exercises will be over four volumes. You can use those four without Thinking, but it will really make life easier – I hope (remember, I am still writing, frantically, trying to make the deadline).

    2) 100% new. Not even on recycled paper…

    3) I think very few authors of ability would say anything else but that you should buy his most recent books. But in this case I think Excelling at Calculation and Excelling at Technical Chess are still great books to be recommended to players from 1200 to 2600. They were the beginning of my career as a serious writer. All books after these are high class, if you ask me, as well as everyone they are intended for, it seems. I think I learned to work in a different and much more serious way. I am still learning and I am going to get there in the end…

  16. Raffie
    March 3rd, 2012 at 02:37 | #16

    I regret that there are some ‘second editions’ after a relatively short period. I will not buy the updated Vitiugov book because I don’t play the french with black (I had some plans in the past) and I only use the first edition occasionally for my white preparation.
    The reti book of Delchev made me very happy because it contains a lot of new ideas (for me) and inspirational stuff. It was relatively easy to read some chapters and play the stuff on internet. I played some very entertaining games. Especially in the variations with Rg1, g4 :-), but also some nice positional games against a6 slav players. It will be a nice addition on my catalan/d4 repoirtoire.
    I also noticed about 3 (not very positive) remarks on Marin’s books and while reading I had the feeling that there is some competition between the two publishers/writers?! I found that a pity because I like both books very much (actually Marin’s books on the english are some of my favorite openingsbooks) and I find it slightly disrespectful to such highly appreciated books.

  17. March 3rd, 2012 at 03:15 | #17

    Dear Jacob

    I would lile to ask about “GM Preparation series”.

    1) Do you really believe you be able to finish thes 5 volumes up to 1st of August this year? (or it is up to next year – sorry, I am confessed)?

    2) Are you planning to make the text and “clouds” visible clear? I mean: do the hints and other helping “clouds” are supposed to look like in Everyman Series “Starting out”? Or did you invent some other effective system of “whispearing” to your readears ears?

    3) Do the excersises would have had some comments (below the diagrams) or just “who is on the move”? I mean something like (a tiny guide) that: “you should look at very bad places knight in the edge of the board”, etc.

    4) Do you want to use recent examples or the older ones? (or do not even consider that?) What will be the ratio (in total) of theory to the excercises (some like 70-30 or another)?

    I do not want to imagine what (kind of) books you might plan to write when you are 2700 player. I would not even try to guess :). Anyway I am excited to see those books at the start of school year (I expect September or November to be able to buy them… or as a Christmas gift to myself).

    Thank you for answering to all the questions :). I am wondering if you are sleeping or just writing, editing, playing and analyzing ;). Keeping my fingers crossed!

  18. Gilchrist is a Legend
    March 3rd, 2012 at 03:43 | #18

    @Jacob Aagaard

    You mean read Schandorff’s book 50 times before the new edition is published? Given that it takes me about 2 months on average to finish QC opening books (it took me 4 months for GM8/9 and 2 months for GM10), I hope the publishing schedule is not extremely delayed…

  19. Jacob Aagaard
    March 3rd, 2012 at 04:23 | #19

    @Raffie
    I am not sure I like our blog. Hit the wrong key and you are losing all your text! I wrote this big piece about how Delchev is good, but his opinions were not shared by everybody. Anyway, we like his books in general, for the good as well as the bad. We like our books better, which is why we make them as we make them. Not surprisingly. Anyway, I have no regrets with the Marin books, even if time has shown that not all lines are a forced edge after 1.c4..

  20. Jacob Aagaard
    March 3rd, 2012 at 04:25 | #20

    @Tomasz Chessthinker
    31st July this year. My birthday. Honestly, I do not know. I am trying to do so. I have worked on this since forever, so now it is just focusing and getting on with it. I am not sure how long I will be in chess and this is my ultimate gift to the game and I want to do it well.

  21. Jacob Aagaard
    March 3rd, 2012 at 04:32 | #21

    @Tomasz Chessthinker
    2) I assume no suggestions. I am a bit undecided, but I think not. Please do not deserve me to Everyman books. Is this a payment for my sins?

    3) I change my mind all the time. At the moment I am against giving hints.

    4) In general I do not care if they are recent or older examples. What I care about is if the reader knows them or not. For promotional principles I have used new examples in other books, but really, the quality of the examples are in the main thing to me. And I do not trust other people’s selection nor do I copy indisreminently from other people’s work. I want to do my own job and find the best positions for the reader to work on. I want to create something quite unique. A training program for someone rather 2200+ to reach occasional GM level. If you are 2200 and you go through the whole system, you should be approaching GM level at times. I cannot say all the time – chess is very complex, but it will be the best bet on the market.

    After all, Sabino was over 2600 quite recently (although he is back to 2594 as far as I know).

  22. Jacob Aagaard
    March 3rd, 2012 at 04:32 | #22

    @Gilchrist is a Legend
    Not extremely delayed, just an easier read :-)

  23. Gilchrist is a Legend
    March 3rd, 2012 at 05:25 | #23

    @Jacob Aagaard

    I wonder what Schandorff will recommend for the Tarrasch after the publication of GM10. Perhaps that will be one of the most interesting to guess.

  24. Jacob Aagaard
    March 3rd, 2012 at 10:29 | #24

    @Gilchrist is a Legend
    I have only talked to him briefly, but my recommendation to him was the 6.dxc5 line – but I assume he will try to punch me up with some discovery :-).

  25. Grant
    March 4th, 2012 at 20:32 | #25

    Jacob

    Don’t know if you will be getting too much sleep this year given the current publishing schedule. I realise that very few chess books will make the bestseller list but I hope you can sell many books and make plenty of money from this venture. I do not begrudge success. I hope to buy the GM Preparation series and many other quality books.

    Two books which are difficult to find are Mikhail Shereshevsky’s mastering the endgame books which examine how to play the typical endings arising from different openings. Unfortunately these books are not easy to get hold of and I wondered if any thought has been given to publishing a book or series of books along these lines.

  26. March 5th, 2012 at 02:43 | #26

    I have an idea: if there is an agreement in QC editiorial board, than it might be good idea to write (publish) a book that covers the most necessery practical endings. I know that nowadays there are many really nice endgame manuals, but QC should consider that vision.

    1. The book should cover as little material as necessary
    2. After every chapter it should be mini-test that checks how explained material was absorbed.
    3. At the end of the book it should be a final test that covers all the ideas explained in the book.
    4. Every part of the book should have a short description about critical positions and main ideas (motifs).
    5. This book should be adressed to players that know fundamentals – I mean”: to those rated 1800-2200. BTW: If the second part (after the first succeded) is needed than, for it should be for players 2200-2400.
    6. It should not have more than 400 pages (together with all the tests and solutions).
    7. It should be explained “the onion way”: at the beginning the simplest ideas and at the end – the most difficult ones.
    8. It should be written by author(s) that knows how to explaind every (complex) concepcts clearly …and with some joy inside ;). Maybe Endgame specialist GM Karsten Muller might be considered as one (main) author of this kind of endgame manual.
    9. Before the book is written that should be a meeting and editiorial board should mutually agree of the shape of that book. I am thinking about “squeezing” (and using!) the most important ideas covered in most endgame books (manuals)
    10. Every line and position should be computer (tablebase+engine) checked to avoid obvious mistakes.

    And at the end of my dream: it should be added a chapter explaining how to practice this part of the game. Endings are notoriuosly tricky (especially to players that do not have many experience and time for training and reading many endgame manuals).

    I was wondering what is John and Jacob’s opinion on that matter ;). I have seen about 20 endgame books (manuals) and just only a few of them were really high quality. There are a few drawbacks in every one of them, but when compiling and reprocess them into one book… it might give us outstanding result (especially using the idea to make ONLY the most important positions that are of practical value, assessing the complexity of the positions and presenting them from the simplest and to any specified level of play, etc.).

    BTW: I have always dreamt about writing a chess book according to my (chess) vision. In the last few years I have noticed that my dreams (and expectations of the material covered in the book) was fullfilled by some authors. I know how hard is to publish really amazing (high quality) book, but If Jacob is going to write “GM Training series” than this taks (my vision) is not impossible. Nevertheless it is not easy to make this kind of book because there are many “competitors” on the market.

  27. Barry
    March 5th, 2012 at 06:43 | #27

    Wow Tomasz, that’s a really long post… I hope Jacob is spending as much time working on GM training books as he is on reading this stuff :)

  28. Jacob Aagaard
    March 5th, 2012 at 10:12 | #28

    @Grant
    I would love to re-publish these books. Last I heard the author is a business man in Bulgaria, running some hotels! I might look into who has the rights and see if they can be purchased at some point.

  29. Jacob Aagaard
    March 5th, 2012 at 10:13 | #29

    @Barry
    I am!

  30. Jacob Aagaard
    March 5th, 2012 at 10:17 | #30

    @Tomasz Chessthinker
    Obviously there have been three attempts to do exactly this type of book. There is the Dvoretsky Endgame Manual, which is glorious, but too high level for most people. There is the Silman book where he tries to introduce ideas based on your level, which I have no idea if it is working or not. And then there was a book of 100 positions published by New in Chess. Also there were those Everyman Starting Out books 6-7 years ago to take into account.

    I wanted to do something like this at some point, maybe one day I will. For the time being the Endgame book in the Grandmaster Preparation series will be quite high level and not a traditional endgame manual, but an exercise book with lots of nice positions.

  31. Alberto
    March 5th, 2012 at 10:27 | #31

    I’m writing, specially, to congratulate GM Aagaard concerning the way how he manages the Quality Chess Blog: giving advice, answering chess questions, variations, books editing… It’s a perfect way to stay in touch with the “Quality Chess readers”. It’s amazing.

    Also, I hope that you continue working with GM Yusupov after the ending of his training series.

    Finally, keep up the excellent work!

  32. Jacob Aagaard
    March 5th, 2012 at 11:09 | #32

    @Alberto
    Hi Alberto. Thank you for writing here. Please keep the questions coming. For every person who asks something, there are at least 10 who wants to know the answer.

    Artur speaks a lot about retirement from writing, being tired, being German and other excuses for not writing more books! But he has this amazing idea for an extra book and I am sure that he will slowly start to write it and then all we have to do is to finish it.

    But first of all we should all be grateful for the series he has produced. I am close to thinking that this is the finest thing we have done, especially in terms of impact on the game of chess itself. (Obviously I would have written it differently, but then Hemingway claimed he would have written War & Peace differently, or at least have it written by Turgenev!). This series will be a classic for years to come in a way we have had very few books in chess history…

  33. Andre
    March 5th, 2012 at 11:24 | #33

    @Jacob, @Tomasz:
    The New in Chess book is “100 Endgames You Must Know” by de la Villa. Pretty good book, I think. Of course there are space restrictions, etc. but anyway, the book has a lot of practical value.
    Nunn has also written a short endgame book with all the important stuff. I can’t say anything about it because I decided not to buy it. All of Nunn’s endgame books I’ve seen so far had too many variations for my taste. Personally I don’t believe in the educational value of a printed analysis tree for endgames.
    When I received my copy of Dvoretsky’s Endgame Manual I was surprised about two things: 1) He does follow a similar approach. What he considered of little practical value was thrown out or at least shrunk to the bare minimum. 2) The German edition is much better. If you can read both English and German, spend 10 bucks more to get the book in German.

  34. Jacob Aagaard
    March 5th, 2012 at 14:09 | #34

    @Andre
    I deliberately did not include the Nunn book here. I did not find it was what the previous guy was looking for. It was ok, but just not what he was looking for :-).

  35. Patrick M
    March 5th, 2012 at 16:09 | #35

    Andre :@Jacob, @Tomasz:The New in Chess book is “100 Endgames You Must Know” by de la Villa. Pretty good book, I think. Of course there are space restrictions, etc. but anyway, the book has a lot of practical value.Nunn has also written a short endgame book with all the important stuff. I can’t say anything about it because I decided not to buy it. All of Nunn’s endgame books I’ve seen so far had too many variations for my taste. Personally I don’t believe in the educational value of a printed analysis tree for endgames.When I received my copy of Dvoretsky’s Endgame Manual I was surprised about two things: 1) He does follow a similar approach. What he considered of little practical value was thrown out or at least shrunk to the bare minimum. 2) The German edition is much better. If you can read both English and German, spend 10 bucks more to get the book in German.

    That book reminds me of a really funny incident. I’m playing in the Continental Class Championship near Washington DC in October of 2010. It was nighttime after both my friend and I completed our 5th round (of 7), with 2 rounds to go the following day. He cracks open that book “100 Endings You Should Know”, and was looking at the drawing techniques of R vs R + P. Now both him and myself have known Lucena’s Position and Philidor’s Draw longer than you can possibly imagine, but we were looking at the “Short Side Defense” (against Bishop pawns predominantly) and the “Long Side Defense” (against Central pawns).

    The next morning, Round 6, I’ve got Black against a teenager, and it ends up an English Defense. I’m barely holding on in a pawn-down Rook and pawn ending, until I get it down to 1 on none and a Rook each. It’s his f-pawn that remains, and his Rook is specifically on the 6th Rank. Low and Behold, Philidor’s Draw is out of the question. What do I do? I end up using the Short Side Defense, and draw.

    To make matters even more ironic, it was around Christmas 1997, back when I was about 1400, that I first learned Philidor’s Draw and Lucena’s Position, and a week and a half later, what do I have, but Lucena’s position, which I’ve only had one or two more times since (a couple other instances I “would have” had it if my opponent didn’t resign prior), but have executed Philidor’s Draw a good 25 times or so.

    It is literally the only thing that every seems to come up when I study. R+P vs R endings. I study the Slav, my next Black game White plays 1.e4. I study the Caro-Kann, my next Black game White plays 1.d4. I study say, the Sicilian, and rest assured, after my 1.e4, Black will play anything but 1…c5. :-)

  36. Jacob Aagaard
    March 6th, 2012 at 11:20 | #36

    @Andre
    Btw. I have the first ever signed copy of the German edition, which of course pre-dated the English edition. There I had the second signed copy only :-(.

  37. Andre
    March 6th, 2012 at 20:53 | #37

    Nice! :)
    I think both versions have the same content now. The 3rd English edition should be identical to the 4th German.

  38. BabySnake
    May 4th, 2012 at 15:12 | #38

    Jacob Aagaard :
    @lesio
    1) There are many differences. First of all the Excelling series was written by an IM developing his style. All of these books are good, but the calculation and the technique books are far above the others in quality. They are the two I would seriously recommend. They got the approval of Mark Dvoretsky – although they are by no means flawless.
    The new books are written with a higher level in sight and with the intention of making the reader work. All the theory will be in Thinking Inside the Box, while the exercises will be over four volumes. You can use those four without Thinking, but it will really make life easier – I hope (remember, I am still writing, frantically, trying to make the deadline).
    2) 100% new. Not even on recycled paper…
    3) I think very few authors of ability would say anything else but that you should buy his most recent books. But in this case I think Excelling at Calculation and Excelling at Technical Chess are still great books to be recommended to players from 1200 to 2600. They were the beginning of my career as a serious writer. All books after these are high class, if you ask me, as well as everyone they are intended for, it seems. I think I learned to work in a different and much more serious way. I am still learning and I am going to get there in the end…

    The note here on “best of the series” is presumably Dan Heisman’s view?
    http://home.comcast.net/~danheisman/Events_Books/General_Book_Guide.htm#Aagaard
    Since it contradicts your view here on the blog.
    Or you changed your mind since 2006?

  39. Jacob Aagaard
    May 5th, 2012 at 11:07 | #39

    @BabySnake
    I am not sure if that is Dan’s opinions or if he misunderstood me. My views have never changed over what was my best books. It was so obvious.

  40. stevefraser
    March 6th, 2013 at 04:36 | #40

    For annotations of chess moves, check out the books of Erik Schiller. He gives the best level of detail for most chessplayers. Not a huge amount of detail, just perfect for the player below master level.

  41. Bad Player
    July 25th, 2013 at 20:01 | #41

    I am sick and tired of BAD chess books. I have quite a few of them. One of them lists 25 major, well-known openings and calls them ‘quick chess knockouts’. Quick knockouts they may be, if the opponent is very new to the game. But otherwise no use. Another has dozens of games (this is the typical format), in standard notation with a couple of graphical closing positions. Next to no analysis. The chess master’s penchant for picking famous games in which the 2 players were in a unique, unusual situation adds NOTHING to the average player’s game. Studying most high-level games in fact is useless and time-consuming. The holy grail is a chess book with a set of chess strategic principles enabling positional and tactical play to come together. And it hasn’t been written.

  42. June 20th, 2014 at 17:41 | #42

    (by jefk, ICCF rating 2140)
    it wouldn’t be an opening book (strategy + tactics+ positional play).
    But approaching such a book, i can write it in a few lines, like here:
    1.d4 is the best move, in a positional sense, but also often giving
    tactical opportunities if Black doesnt defend well; see further below.
    After 1.e4 Black can equalize with tactical play 1…c5
    For example 1. e4 c5 2. Nf3 d6 3. Bb5+ ( 3. d4 cxd4 4. Nxd4 Nf6 5. Nc3 a6 6. Be3 e5 7. Nb3 Be7 8. f3 Be6 9. Qd2 O-O 10. O-O-O Nbd7 11. g4 b5 12. g5 Nh5 13. Nd5 Bxd5 14. exd5 f6 15. gxf6 Bxf6 16. Bh3 Nf4 17. Be6+ Kh8 18. Bxf4 exf4 19. Bxd7 Qxd7 20. Nd4 Bxd4 21. Qxd4 Kg8 22. Rhe1 Rae8 23. b3 Qf5 24. Kb2 h6 25. Re6 Rxe6 26. dxe6 Qxe6 27. Qxd6 ) 3… Bd7 4. Bxd7+ Nxd7 5. O-O Ngf6 6. d3 e6 7. h3 Be7 8. Nc3 O-O 9. Qe2 =
    And Black can also equalize with 1…e6 French, more often with positional play.
    After 1.d4 Black can best equalize with the Slav for practical reasons (avoiding Catalan
    although then also equalizing is possible) when both sides play the best moves eg like this:
    1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 c6 3. Nf3 d5 4. Qc2! g6 5. e3 Bf5 6. Bd3 e6 7. Nbd2 Bg7 8. O-O O-O 9. b3 Re8 10. Bb2 Nbd7 11. h3 a5 12. a4 Rc8 13. Rfd1 Bxd3 14. Qxd3 Qb6 15. Rac1 Qc7 16. Rc2 Rcd8 17. Bc3 Bf8 18. Qe2 Bg7 19. Rb1 Positional play, and 4.Qc2 is mentioned in a Mongoose chess book
    as a ‘Wojo weapon’. Ah well, if Black defends properly he can keep a draw. Should
    White play the oldfashioned 4.Nc3 you can get something as 1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 c6 3. Nf3 d5 4. Nc3 e6 5. Bg5 h6 6. Bxf6 Qxf6 7. e3 Nd7 8. Bd3 dxc4 9. Bxc4 g6 10. Qe2 Bg7 11. a4 O-O 12. O-O a5 13. Rfd1 Qe7 14. e4 e5 15. d5 Qb4 16. Ne1 Nc5 17. h3 Bf6 18. Rab1 Nxa4 19. dxc6 Nxc3 20. bxc3 Qe7 21. cxb7 Bxb7 22. Rb6 Kh7 23. Nc2 Ra7 24. Bd5 the Moscow, and because Black has
    a bishop pair he can maintain a draw. Should one side prefer more tactical play it can backfire,
    for example when playing 6.Bh4, then anti-Moscow gambit, White achieves nothing more then eg
    1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 c6 3. Nf3 d5 4. Nc3 e6 5. Bg5 h6 6. Bh4 dxc4 7. e4 g5 8. Bg3 b5 9. Be2 Bb7 10. h4 g4 11. Ne5 Nbd7 12. Nxg4 b4 13. Nxf6+ Nxf6 14. Na4 Nxe4 15. Be5 Rg8 16. Bxc4 Bd6 17. Qh5 c5 18. Rd1 cxd4 19. Rxd4 Qa5 20. Bxe6 Ng5 21. Bd7+ Kxd7 22. Rxd6+ Ke8 23. hxg5 Qxe5+ 24. Qe2 Qxe2+ 25. Kxe2 hxg5 26. f3 Rc8 And should Black prefer 5…dxc4?! leading to the sharp
    Botvinnik anti-Meran gambit, White can get an advantage eg with a line such as
    1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 c6 3. Nf3 d5 4. Nc3 e6 5. Bg5 dxc4 6. e4 b5 7. e5 h6 8. Bh4 g5 9. Nxg5 hxg5 10. Bxg5 Nbd7 11. exf6 Bb7 12. g3 c5 13. d5 Qb6 14. Bg2 O-O-O 15. O-O b4 16. Na4 Qb5 17. a3 Nb8 18. axb4 cxb4 19. Qg4 Bxd5 20. Rfc1 Nc6 21. Bxd5 Rxd5 22. Rxc4 Rxg5 23. Qd4 Kb8 24. Rxc6 Rxg3+ 25. fxg3 Qxc6 26. Rd1 Qc7 27. Qd2 Bc5+ 28. Nxc5 Qxc5+ 29. Qd4 Rc8 30. Qxc5 Rxc5 31. Rd7 Rc7 32. Rd8+ Kb7 33. g4 a5 34. g5 So this is not really advised.
    Chess is a simple game; maybe the game of Go is more interesting.
    :)

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