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  1. 19 Jul '06 17:43 / 2 edits
    "The essence of chess is thinking about what chess is." - David Bronstein

    "Chess books should be used as we use glasses -- to assist the sight, although some players make use of them as if they thought they conferred sight." - Jose Capablanca

    "Chess is the gymnasium of the mind." - Blaise Pascal


    I think that many players limit their chess development because they don’t adjust their learning methods, especially with respect to how they use books. If books effectively explained pins, forks, how to mate with a rook, and how to play the first 6 moves of the Sicilian, then why change the approach? Because chess has different learning requirements as we progress to higher levels. We have to adjust our training methods.

    Specifically, I think some players:

    - rely too much on books. If they have a weakness in their play, their first question is “what book should I read?”. I’m not saying this is always wrong; I’m saying it’s not always best

    - sometimes when a book is a good remedy for a weakness, a player may have incorrectly identified their weaknesses. How often has someone reached for an opening book because their tactical play was weak during the opening phase? etc.

    - they use books incorrectly in the sense that they read too much and think too little. i.e. most of the time is spent with their eyes scanning words, etc. on a page, and not with the book put down while they ponder on what has been written

    - over-estimate the benefit of what a book tells them. i.e. they feel good about gaining chess knowledge, with little reflection on what that actually means for their play in a typical game

    - and related to the last point, they under-estimate the process of how difficult it often is to apply new knowledge. It takes seconds to read “after opposite side castling, attack on opposite wings” but endless hours to actually improve one’s technique in such positions, spot the exceptions, etc.


    If those are the issues, are there improvements? I think so.

    - don’t under-estimate your ability to figure out some things for yourself. E.g. a book that explains rook endings is good, but so is mucking around with such positions yourself. Your conclusions may not always be correct, but don’t dismiss the benefit to your problem solving skills and the development of your subconscious “feel” for such positions. Concrete knowledge isn’t everything – being able to think for yourself is an important skill. But this often gets skewed because knowledge is more tangible and gives more of an impression of progress and learning, i.e. I can tick the box labelled “Lucena position” easier than I can assess how much my calculation, imagination or intuition has improved

    - view books more often as “food for thought”, i.e. training material to get your thought processes working hard. Reduce the amount of reading that involves passively telling you how it is, or showing an example theme, which you observe; mentally nod in agreement; and then turn the page to see what’s next. Read more critically.

    - consider using a good coach. Ok, they often cost too much. But if that’s not an issue, their ability to address personal needs/weaknesses is very significant. I for one can’t always afford this approach but when I have done so I have seen a lot of benefit. Maybe finding the right coach is an issue - I’ve not encountered this as an issue. I’ve always used titled players online and offline too.


    This post is not saying books are bad. Like others, I own 100+ books. I’ve read plenty and will continue to do so. This post is just an attempt to help keep the benefit of books in perspective.
  2. 19 Jul '06 21:01
    Originally posted by Varenka
    This post is just an attempt to help keep the benefit of books in perspective.
    I think everyones experiance will vary. Different strokes for different folks. I am sure the persons level of play will make a big difference too.

    For me, books have been the biggest help so far. I never had someone to teach me the basics, or explain how to play. The first time I read about some of the basic concepts was a real eye opener. I agree that moving to the next level would require much more then books though, but since I really don't have the time I guess I will just have to cope with being an average player

    Nice post though
  3. 19 Jul '06 21:19
    I'm going to agree with you that books are not everything. Look at me, I haven't even picked up 1 book... EVER! And although i just began on this site my rating is already in the 1400s and still going up (hoping to get to 1500 soon hopefully).

    I haven't even spent that much time in chess. I just got serious about it my 2nd semester of my junior year when i joined chess club (I am now a senior).

    So i can honostly say book aren't everything to becoming a master at chess.
  4. 19 Jul '06 21:35
    Correct me if I'm wrong but I think in all of chess history there hasn't been a single top player who read many chessbooks (magazines excluded).They learn by going over mastergames and then just play a ton of games.
    So basically all you need is a few gamecollections.
    But hey,those masters who write all those books have to make a living too
  5. 19 Jul '06 21:37
    Just to be clear on this... my point is that the use of books needs to change as a player progresses. It could well be that the most efficient way for a beginner to get up to speed on fundamentals is to read a lot of books. I wouldn't disagree with that.

    But issues may arise when the same player expects the same benefit from books once they reach a higher level. Then their approach may become more inefficient and less productive. How high a level? Probably varies, but a turning point will exist somewhere along the progress line and probably close to where many players find their progress coming to a halt.
  6. 19 Jul '06 21:47
    Originally posted by Gorgar
    Correct me if I'm wrong but I think in all of chess history there hasn't been a single top player who read many chessbooks (magazines excluded).They learn by going over mastergames and then just play a ton of games.
    Interesting point.

    On Chess Cafe's "Misha Interviews..." series, it often touches upon how the IM/GM got to where they are. It appears most, if not all, had coaching. And many of them don't appear to have read many books. But I do think there are exceptions, including GM Lev Aronian who studied a lot of books (before the age of 12!).

    I guess it's hard to compare with some of these players who had such a strong coaching aspect and strong players to help them. What would they have done if they didn't have a coach?
  7. 19 Jul '06 22:08
    Originally posted by Varenka
    Interesting point.

    On Chess Cafe's "Misha Interviews..." series, it often touches upon how the IM/GM got to where they are. It appears most, if not all, had coaching. And many of them don't appear to have read many books. But I do think there are exceptions, including GM Lev Aronian who studied a lot of books (before the age of 12!).

    I guess it's ...[text shortened]... t and strong players to help them. What would they have done if they didn't have a coach?
    They probably would have bought a lot of books and never gotten anywhere LOL
    But seriously,I also own over 100 chessbooks and I think they hamper your progress more than they help,mainly because most people use them in the wrong way.To me the books are just a hobby,the only ones I use are gamecollections and now the chess exam and sometimes I'll look up a line in a book on openings.I think it's the way to go about it,learn from the masters and play a ton of games trying to apply what you learned.
    Though I do assume you'll reach a certain level you cannot conquer on your own and you'll need to get a coach to help you.
  8. Standard member wormwood
    If Theres Hell Below
    19 Jul '06 22:17
    Originally posted by Varenka
    Interesting point.

    On Chess Cafe's "Misha Interviews..." series, it often touches upon how the IM/GM got to where they are. It appears most, if not all, had coaching. And many of them don't appear to have read many books. But I do think there are exceptions, including GM Lev Aronian who studied a lot of books (before the age of 12!).

    I guess it's ...[text shortened]... t and strong players to help them. What would they have done if they didn't have a coach?
    they probably got from their coaches what others got from books. so it's not like they were somehow entirely 'outside' of the book knowledge. obviously you'd get the info from a master in a more relevant form and much better targeted at your current needs. a coach can teach, where as a book can only tell.

    I'm also a bit sceptical when somebody tells me they didn't read any books. in further discussion, it often turns out they've read quite a lot. it's just human nature to give the appearance of 'ease' or a flair of genius in accomplishing things.
  9. 19 Jul '06 22:48
    Originally posted by wormwood
    they probably got from their coaches what others got from books. so it's not like they were somehow entirely 'outside' of the book knowledge. obviously you'd get the info from a master in a more relevant form and much better targeted at your current needs. a coach can teach, where as a book can only tell.

    I'm also a bit sceptical when somebody tells me t ...[text shortened]... nature to give the appearance of 'ease' or a flair of genius in accomplishing things.
    Well,I was thinking of players like Tal,Botvinnik,Smyslov when they were young players.I doubt they read many books for the simple reason they didn't have the money to buy them.At least I think so.If you go further back in time those players couldn"'t have read many books because there weren't that many.For modern time players it's probably a bit different though I still doubt they read many.
    But you're right,they can make it look any way they like.
  10. 19 Jul '06 23:09 / 1 edit
    This post is not saying books are bad. Like others, I own 100+ books. I’ve read plenty and will continue to do so. This post is just an attempt to help keep the benefit of books in perspective.[/b]
    I find your post very informative as my opinion of the value of books is changing and the advice you give has really got me thinking about how I use chess books. If I'm honest I'm often seduuced by the cover and title as I desire to have the "perfect repertoire for black" or "master the scicilian" or whatever it is - but the work required to really go through a book, study all the variations etc. involves more time than I have available for chess study. But with a good author I also get a sense of passion for chess and the excitement generated by imaginative play and some pointers on which masters to study and why - all of this is a benefit in itself even if it doesn't improve my play immediately it contributes to my enjoyment of chess.

    Chess books also give me an idea of what I need to understand next. For example a few of my books have talked about "colour complex": being active predominately on either the black or the white squares (that's how what I understand it to mean). Now this is something I'm not at the moment aware of in my normal play - but I'm starting to look out for it, to try to get to understand it after being encoraged by the books.

    Sometimes I think buying books is addictive: "I'll just buy one more, work through it really carefully, then not buy any more"!.

    Although I personally don't begrudge the authors a chance to make some small income from all the work they've put into chess.

    I love the saying: "It's not how many chess book you have - it's how many you read" I have 49.
  11. 20 Jul '06 01:40
    Got to be careful with books. I believe more books have been written about chess than any other intellectual game: checkers, bridge, poker, Scrabble, etc. There is a marketing issue involved. Watch out for books that have "easy" in their title. Not that they're all bad. But a book called the "easy way to the najdorf" might be misleading because masters have studied the Najdorf all their lives and still don't consider themselves experts (Shirov for example). Here's another word "secret." Like Secret Strategies of Soviet Chess. I'd like someone to write a book called, "The Difficult Road to Mastering the Najdorf." Fischer was a great student of chess, read everything--even in foreign languages. Capablanca claims not to have studied much at all. Some say he didn't even own a chess set. I've got lots of books--two bookcases worth. The best player at our club owns about a dozen or so, really old Botvinnik, etc. I guess in essence what i'm trying to say after reading any one of the books in my collection, i don't think my expertise in chess improved any at all. The problem is most of the upper level masters have to make the case of reading books because they're the ones selling them and making a living off them. But there's always that Holy Grail of that one book that will teach you a variation in the Scandinavian that will blow all of your opponents away...
  12. Standard member HomerJSimpson
    Renouned Grob Killer
    20 Jul '06 02:22
    Me thinks Akizy has 4000 chess books for a reason
  13. Standard member Grandmouster
    ChessObsessed
    20 Jul '06 02:33 / 1 edit
    A chess book should be easy to read.

    Meaning you get something from it, and retain that knowledge.

    If one is weak in pawn endings, say, then the "right book" should improve that weakness. If not, find one that will.
    I recently got into using my database more, and just going over games.
    This helped me get to new rating highs on ICC.
    Having someone point out errors in your game, and recomending the right books, will save tremendous $$ in buying those impulse type books.
    I know because i spend lots of money on books, and lessons.
    Using discipline, and lay off the blitz, would help my game much more...
    Playing slow OTB games, and getting adivce from stronger players is the best way to get better.
    I see players who wheres avarage ratings climb to expert and master level by just playing lots of OTB chess in rated tourneys.
    This is my next try at getting to the next level.
    But i wont sell all my chess books yet..
  14. 20 Jul '06 05:38
    i found the use of books to launch my rating through the roof. i bought 5 books and studied 3 other books that were from the library and in a year my rating went up 500 points and each time i read something from some of my books it seems to help me that much more. i think books can get you to a high level and combined with higher rated players and advice from them can help you achieve very high ratings.
  15. 20 Jul '06 23:50
    I believe there's a leveling off of the learning curve as you get a higher rating. For example, when i was a beginner i read a book by fred reinfeld and found i could beat everyone else at school (including the sponsor teacher of the chess club). Now, as an adult, i belong to a club. I go on vacation with my set, read three books, come back to the club and the same people beat me, i beat the same people. If you want to talk ratings. If you're rated 1100 uscf and you read a few books you can easily climb to 1200 or 1400. If you're rated 1800, it's going to take a lot more than reading a few books. Also, remember all your opponents are reading too, so your chasing a running train.