John Watson Book Review (74)
Books of 2006
IM John Watson - Tuesday 30th January 2007
Given the length of time between review columns, I thought that I'd devote this one to simply listing some of my favourite previously-unreviewed books from the last year (and a couple that I didn't review from 2005). Specific reviews will follow in the next columns; they will naturally cover some of the books from my list. I'll also add a number of others that I find particularly good and/or interesting, and perhaps one or two that I feel could do with some criticism for a particular reason. Even then, I am painfully aware of how much time that it takes to write a chess book, and with what little reward. Therefore I prefer to place criticisms within generally positive reviews.
All of the books listed below are strongly recommended and should please most chess fans. I've put an asterisk next to those that I feel are best or most important, with a requirement that they be pleasantly readable and thus accessible to players on various levels. When I fail to put a star on a book, that doesn't necessarily mean that it isn't of the very highest quality, but that I'm not sure how large a group readers will find the book appealing. For example, Donaldson & Minev's Rubinstein classic is one of the best games collection/biography projects in existence, but may not grab the average reader.
Remember that I very seldom review beginner's books, training books, or 'how to' books on this site. My apologies to the publishers who send them to me, but assessing such books is not the major role of this column. I hope to make some exceptions. Note also that I've included only three endgame works, even though others may be deserving. One of them I don't have a copy of and have never even seen! That's Harold van der Heijden 's Endgame Study Database III ; from earlier editions I think the odds are somewhere around 99% that this revised classic is indispensable to fans of compositions; it should also be a strong candidate for everyone else.
Opening books and discs pose a particular challenge in that once you mention a couple, you feel that you should mention more in the interest of fairness. Worse, inevitably, I haven't read in depth as many opening works as I would like, so there's a certain amount of guesswork involved. A book may have the misfortune of intersecting with my knowledge of an opening (or my students' repertoires) at just the wrong juncture, thus giving a poor impression. In the listed books, however, I've read enough material to recommend them with high confidence. A number books not listed here are discussed in the next several columns. Obviously, other opening works may be equally good, and regardless of their quality, fans of a particular opening or variation will undoubtedly benefit from a specialty book on it. Having used a number of books from Everyman's extensive 'Starting Out' series as research tools, for example, my impression is that a handful of them are top-notch, others less so, but all useful. Unfortunately I'm not able to assess them fairly until I've read more thoroughly. Gambit's 'Explained' series is off to a hot start, but the same problem applies.
On a pessimistic note, an increasing mass of opening books are rushed out by the same authors, not evincing much work or thought on their part. Sadly, there are even more writers than before who rely far too heavily on databases. And some recent books are penned by players who have never played the opening in question! Of course, there are still plenty of gems out there, of which mine are only a selection from personal experience.
Books on Openings
*Secrets of Opening Surprises, #4-5; Jeroen Bosch; New in Chess 2006
* *Dangerous Weapons: The Nimzo-Indian; John Emms, Chris Ward & Richard Palliser, 272 pages; Everyman 2006
Dangerous Weapons: The Sicilian; John Emms & Richard Palliser; 304 pages; Everyman 2006
Creative Chess Opening Preparation; Viacheslav Eingorn; 159 pages; Gambit 2006
Knight on the Left: 1 .Nc3; Harald Keilhack, 383 pages; Kania 2006
Chess Explained: The Taimanov Sicilian; James Rizzitano; 111 pages; Gambit 2006
Opening for White According to Anand 1 e4, Vol 6 (346 pages) & Vol 7 (280 pages); Alexander Khalifman; Chess Stars 2006
Chess Explained: The Classical Sicilian; Alex Yermolinsky; 112 pages; Gambit 2006
* Understanding the King’s Indian; Mikhail Golubev, 208 pages; Gambit 2006
Play the Nimzo-Indian; Edward Dearing; 224 pages; Everyman 2005
Starting Out: 1 d4!; John Cox; 240 pages; Everyman 2006
CDs and DVDs on Openings
As I'll explain over the next columns, I'm personally more inclined to like the ChessBase CDs than their newer DVDs, because the former include extensive written notes and links to annotated games. I doubt that will generally be the case for the average chess fan, who may prefer a 'live' lecture by an accomplished player to something dryer. I certainly enjoy the personal touch provided on the DVDs, whose material is by no means superficial; in fact, you can see that you get four hours and up of uninterrupted lectures (with no advertisements!). But I'm not sure why ChessBase didn't compile notes based upon the actual variations and commentary given by the lecturers, including them in a small database of games. This was partially done in the Ziegler CD, clinching my strong recommendation. Otherwise one has to replay frequently to absorb the details of what's being propounded.
* Fritz Trainer Opening; The French Defence; Ari Ziegler; 6 hr, 48 min; ChessBase DVD 2006
Classical Sicilian, 2nd Edition; Anthony Kosten; ChessBase CD 2006
Fritz Trainer Opening - The Scandinavian The Easy Way; Andrew Martin; 4 hr,13 min; ChessBase DVD 2005
Alexei Shirov: My Best Games in the Spanish ; Alexei Shirov; more than 4.5 hours; ChessBase DVD 2006
Classical Nimzo-Indian – 4.Qc2; Kurt Neven; ChessBase CD 2005
History, Biography, and Games Collections
This is potentially a large category and I will not necessarily draw all my examples from this list.
Smart Chip from St. Petersburg; Genna Sosonko; 197 pages; New In Chess 2006
* The King (2nd English Edition); Jan Heine Donner; New in Chess 2006
Akiba Rubinstein: Volume 1: Uncrowned King (2nd Edition); John Donaldson & Nikolay Minev; Russell Enterprises 2006
*Grandmaster Chess Move by Move; John Nunn; 286 pages; Gambit 2005
*Garry Kasparov on My Great Predecessors, Part V; Garry Kasparov & Dmitri Plisetsky; 480 pages; Everyman 2006
Why Lasker Matters; Andrew Soltis; 320 pages; Batsford 2005
Fritztrainer Endgames 1-3 (3 DVDs: Basic Knowledge for Beginners, Rook Endgames, Major Piece Endgames); Karsten Müller; ChessBase 2006
Van Perlo’s Endgame Tactics; G. C. Van Perlo; 479 pages; New in Chess 2006
Endgame Study Database III; Harold van der Heijden; CD; ChessBase 2006
The Day Kasparov Quit and other chess interviews; Dirk Jan ten Geuzendam; 344 pages; New in Chess 2006
Corr Database 2006; DVD; ChessBase 2006
Megabase 2007; DVD; ChessBase 2006
* Fritz 10; Playing Program/Database/Analytical Engine; ChessBase 2006
*Chess For Zebras; Jonathan Rowson; 256 pages; Gambit 2005
And the usual suspects:
*ChessBase Magazines - All (on DVD)
*Chess Informants - All
* New In Chess Yearbooks - All
Of course there are a lot of other books, CDs, and DVDs still to be discussed. Many of my favourites have already been reviewed in previous columns. Don't forget to take a look there if you haven't already done so.