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  1. Subscriber Ragwort
    Ex Duris Gloria
    07 Sep '11 10:55 / 1 edit
    Formation Attacks - Joel Johnson (2007 US Senior Champion)
    Published 2010 - 500 pages - ISBN 978-0-557-52269-9

    This book is essentially a games collection of 435 lightly annotated games. In almost every case the games conclude with a sacrificial attack on the opponents King that ends in a forced checkmate. There is almost no comment on any of the openings, and the author states this is a deliberate policy, admitting in his introduction that one or two are unsound. The games come from all eras, and all levels. There are games here from Nezhmetdinov, Blackburne, Tal, as well as some of the author's 3 and 5 minute ICC games. There are some from his students too, and several modern grandmaster games. Most openings are represented, even some boring ones, and are listed in the index at the end.

    In a book where the author sets himself 400 plus games to comment on there is not much space for reverie and the book is pleasantly free from waffle. In the first 40 page section with 25 example games he explains the elements, techniques and process of attacks, with advice on candidate moves, weaknesses, pressure and so on.
    The next 30 or so pages are called "Attack info" and feature his preparations for one OTB match, notes on computer use, and some endgame mates, telling his readers not to forget mating attacks in the endgame.
    The rest of the book is devoted to the main theme. He classifies each king-side castled king and pawn position according to which if any pawns are advanced and suggests a tactical motif for breaking through with several example games in each subsection. In formation "open g file" however - with GP's recent blog in mind, there are no examples of Pillsbury's mate, but plenty of other ideas. So there is still a place for GP and Timmybx's blogs in chess literature - keep up the good work fellas 🙂

    There is a short section on queen-side castling without the detail of categorizing each possible pawn advance in front of the king. One feels at this stage he has realized how much work he had set himself, and has maybe backed off from his original idea, but may also feel that much of what he had already said about the king-side breakthrough sacrifices apply here. The next section looks at the uncastled king and some other ideas such as "overwhelming force at point of attack," a nod to his mates Brian Wall and Jack Young in a section on the "fishing pole" (was that called anything before they got hold of it, I mean 1...Bg4 2.h3 h5 has been known in the Exchange Lopez for years?) and a note on pawn storms.

    So what do I think? If you still enjoy playing through games using books and a board then you'll find this is a varied game collection with cold and hot blooded attacking chess at its heart. It will add to your armory of stock sacrifices against the enemy king, and go some way as to explaining the mechanisms for bringing some of them about. If you are engaged in teaching chess to juniors or improving adults this will provide an excellent resource of test positions for analysis. As I have already mentioned there is not much waffle in the book and a lot of his advice is contained in "one liners" spread throughout the book. Two that stood out to me were:-

    1) "Fear of losing is the first thing that must be eliminated from your system. If you lose, then you can determine how you lost and fix the problem, so it will not happen again."
    2) "Worrying and protecting your rating is the first step towards stunting your growth...focus on learning and ultimately the rating points will come." A boot up the backside to the risk averse.

    All in all I think it is a good book - aimed at the amateur market but I don't believe it is an attempted rip off. The advice seems clear, relevant and serviceable and doesn't fly in the face of good advice I've read elsewhere. You can argue there are some omissions as I've alluded to above but I don't think that really detracts from what the author is trying to do. His philosophy seems to me to be, "Here are some tools, here is how X used them, now go out there and play with them to learn how they work". His own love of the game and attack shines through and I would recommend it as part of a nutritionally balanced chess diet.

    Finally I better say that I bought this book about four weeks ago, I have neither connection with the author, of whom I had never heard prior to seeing his book, nor to the publisher. I'm an average strength OTB club player looking to gain a few more grading points before age gets to me completely.
  2. 07 Sep '11 13:58 / 2 edits
    Originally posted by Ragwort
    [b]Formation Attacks - Joel Johnson (2007 US Senior Champion)

    As I have already mentioned there is not much waffle in the book and a lot of his advice is contained in "one liners" spread throughout the book. Two that stood out to me were:-


    1) "Fear of losing is the first thing that must be eliminated from your system. If you lose, then you can determin ...[text shortened]... rning and ultimately the rating points will come." A boot up the backside to the risk averse.
    Sounds like a typical pot boiler to me, "one liners" are not much help to amateur's. The bit on psychology has been done to death by many writers, for eg Simon Webb in Chess For Tigers.

    It is hardly ground breaking advice to say you can determine how to fix the problem when you lose, if that was true then you rating would always go up.

    All chess writers give advice like the above, what most of them do not tell you is chess is actually a game of skill, and no matter how many books you read, if you have not got the ability, talent or skill, call it what you like, you will always struggle to improve.

    You can draw a parallel in this respect between other sports, we can all kick or hit a ball, but only so many get to make it to the superbowl, that's where skill and ability makes the difference. The best amateurs can do is buy a front row seat if they can afford it.
  3. Subscriber Ragwort
    Ex Duris Gloria
    07 Sep '11 16:20
    Originally posted by Crusty Jugglers
    Sounds like a typical pot boiler to me, "one liners" are not much help to amateur's. The bit on psychology has been done to death by many writers, for eg Simon Webb in Chess For Tigers.

    It is hardly ground breaking advice to say you can determine how to fix the problem when you lose, if that was true then you rating would always go up.

    All che ...[text shortened]... akes the difference. The best amateurs can do is buy a front row seat if they can afford it.
    You can read a games collection on many levels. Somewhere along the line the author has trawled the databases for what they consider to be perhaps the best efforts of human endeavour which they use their expertise to explain the games to their audience, much like a TV pundit might explain the tactics unfolding in a cycle race. Whilst I agree that watching cycle races will not improve you as a rider - you have to get on your bike to do that - it may expose you to ideas that might be helpful in your own riding, or simply to help you appreciate the sport if you are an armchair fan.
    I don't see chess commentary as fundamentally any different, even if it is done within a "teaching" context.

    I do not believe any chess book makes you a better player, not even Chess for Tigers, an enjoyable read though it is. I don't believe this book will make you a better player either. It simply explains the author's attacking principles, shows his stock sacrifices within example games. As always, if you want to improve your skills, you have to learn to handle the tools.
  4. 07 Sep '11 20:53
    "As always, if you want to improve your skills, you have to learn to handle the tools."


    So true, I have learnt more from that one quote than I would from reading an entire chess book.
  5. 07 Sep '11 21:31
    Another Review here by Rick Kennedy with a screen shot.

    I like Rick's reviews he is on our side. If it's naff he says so.

    http://www.chessville.com/reviews/FormationAttacks.htm

    My feeling is if you pick up even just one thing from a book and it has
    helped you win a game then it has been worth it.

    Sounds good. My only reservation is the price. $39.00
    That's a lot to pay for just one win, 😉
  6. Subscriber Paul Leggett
    Chess Librarian
    10 Sep '11 12:21
    Originally posted by Ragwort
    Formation Attacks - Joel Johnson (2007 US Senior Champion)
    Published 2010 - 500 pages - ISBN 978-0-557-52269-9

    This book is essentially a games collection of 435 lightly annotated games. In almost every case the games conclude with a sacrificial attack on the opponents King that ends in a forced checkmate. There is almost no comment on any of the opening ...[text shortened]... g to gain a few more grading points before age gets to me completely.
    I thumbed through this book while at the US Open, and read the introduction. Offhand, it struck me as the "attacking motif" equivalent of Hans Kmoch's Pawn Power in Chess without all the funky verbiage.

    Another way of expressing it is that it is workbook-like companion to Vukovich's Art of Attack book.

    A third way of describing it is as a great sourcebook of material for Greenpawn34 to use for blogs for the rest of our natural lives!

    It's real chess from real games, and I could see real value for someone who plays through it. It might also be a good reference for players in certain positions where there is no direct database matchup, but you know there is some kind of pattern present, and need some help with ideas on how to approach it.
  7. Standard member TimmyBx
    TacticsTime.com
    19 Oct '11 01:32
    I did a podcast today with Joel Johnson - you can listen to it here: http://tacticstime.com/?p=1277

    Joel talks about his book, what the idea behind it was, the best way to study the book, and lots of other chess related topics.

    I have looked at a lot of his games, and he is a really brilliant attacker!

    Cheers,
    Tim