Monday, June 7, 2010

Review of "Starting Out: Open Games"

The Starting Out series by Everyman Chess is an obvious starting point for any flirt with a new opening. The series also contains titles on other topics than specific openings. One such example is Starting Out: Open Games by Glen Flear.

I have been brooding on this review for some time basically to figure out what I think about the book. The good thing with the book is the way GM Flear in a inspiring way presents the fine material. The downside is that it is unclear who will really benefit from reading the book.

"FCO: Fundamental Chess Openings" by Paul Van Der Sterren is in my opinion and excellent choice for a first introduction to opening theory. The book contains a few pieces of advice on almost all reasonable openings and the presentation is very readable. GM Flear's book "Starting Out: Open Games" is just as well written but more focused as it only deals with non-Ruy Lopez (non-spanish) double king pawn openings. A more narrow focus allows for a slightly deeper coverage of the openings discussed which of course can be a good think.

If I were to buy a single chess book (scary thought!) and the final choice was between "FCO: Fundamental Chess Openings" and "Starting Out: Open Games", then I would pick "FCO" for the wider coverage. However, for someone who whole heartily thinks that e5 is the proper way to defend to 1. e4, choosing GM Flear's book might be better. GM Flear is himself a devoted "e4 e5 player" and I think anyone planning to follow in his path will benefit from reading the book.

Ergo: The book is well written in all its parts but the parts doesn't somehow add up to an excellent book. As black, the book will help you improving your non-spanish double king's pawn defense. As white, I think it is a better strategy just to play through a lot of mastergames and then to find a slightly more specialized book on the openings you like to play.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Review of "Bobby Fischer for Beginners"

My biggest hang-ups with chess books would be bad titles and misleading target audiences. Two flaws that often goes hand in hand. "Fischer for Beginners" does not fall into any of these traps or does it? Well, if you want to help a beginning player you have to adjust. The book presents a few very nice Fischer games plus Fischer's shortest recorded loss but the annotations should have been more geared towards the intended audience. I think the annotations should have approached advanced chess terms a bit more carefully in order to help the intended reader.

For example: I assume that a Chess Beginner has a rather limited knowledge about concepts such as "weak pawns". I think the annotations are missing the point (i.e. in this case helping beginners) when they state that there are weak pawns in a position without identifying the weak pawns or without explaining what makes them weak.

Furthermore, the author should perhaps have said more about the final position in some of the games presented. What made the player resign? For example in the game Byrne - Fischer (1963) the author suggests a continuation which according to other sources Fischer was hoping for but a continuation that is probably not the best.

The biographical part is nicely written but adds little to what can be read about Fischer online. The annotations could have been more tailored for the intended target audience. Overall the book is a bit half cooked.