17 July 2011

Book completed - Logical Chess: Move by Move

Today I finished Logical Chess: Move by Move by Irving Chernev (Batsford's new algebraic edition from 2002).  This is a classic work, originally published in 1957.  I read it through without use of a chessboard, relying on the frequent diagrams to aid visualization of the moves and analysis variations.  For more heavy-duty books, this method would not be as productive, but for this one I could handle most of the commentary with the diagrams as reference points. Occasionally I was a bit lazy and didn't work through everything in my head, but I'm generally satisfied with the result.

While you can read a master-level review of the book at the above link, here are my own observations:
  • Formatting: frequent use of diagrams and clear explanatory text allowed for an enjoyable read-through without a chessboard (although requiring some concentration at times).
  • Openings: the greatest utility of the book is not as an openings manual, although you will learn something concrete about the opening ideas in each game. Opening popularity is subject to fashion and I increasingly find it useful when looking at annotated games to not limit myself to those that feature openings that I currently use.  For example, Randy Bauer's linked review (from 2003) noted that a plurality of the games featured the Queen's Gambit Declined, which at the time was out of fashion. Now (2011), the QGD is appearing all the time in top-level games.
  • Middlegame: the book really shines here, looking thematically at different types of middlegames.  For example, the first section is all about the kingside attack and similar attacking themes appear and are reinforced across the different games.  The last section, featuring higher-quality classic master games, is also quite valuable in showing how small errors and advantages can be exploited.
  • Endgame: mostly in the last section (games rarely reached the endgame in the first section) this is also a valuable resource on endings.  I found a couple of games to be particularly instructive, although this is not an endgame manual.
  • Typos: I found two move typos, which isn't too bad for a book of this length.  All the diagrams were correct.  While minor, the errors do help point up the fact that all chess books should be read in a critical way for understanding, rather than blindly following the text.
For Class-level (below Expert rating or ELO 2000) players such as myself, this type of work I find to be extremely valuable.  Annotated games in general are, I believe, one of the best ways to improve chess understanding and get new ideas which can then be applied to your own games.  The level of annotation is highly appropriate for Class players, while at the same time containing a number of observations and ideas that go beyond the basic, for example on certain position-types and the relative strength of pieces in different positions.  The latter especially is the mark of master-level games, which often feature material imbalances or sacrifices for positional advantages.

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