Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Using reviews for deceiving book titles

Walking trough a bookstore I noticed a special discount on Plaskett's Could You Be A Tactical Genius? I flipped trough the book a bit but put it back. I don't really need other chess books at this moment [1] and I sure don't need chess books that I might not be able to use in the next six months.

As I found out with Nunn's Learn Chess Tactics, titles of chess books can be most deceiving. Dan Heisman suggests this book after his Back to Basics: Tactics as one of the last books in the intermediate section on his site.[2] Also the many books that refer to "kid" in the title can be of various levels and most are very instructive to the adult beginner or improver.

Six months ago I bought Fischer's My 60 Memorable Games, of course in descriptive notation; the only genuine version at the time. I won't be needing this book soon, but today I found out that in a couple of weeks Batsford will be publishing an algebraic edition of this book, but this time round they promise only to change the notation from descriptive to algebraic instead of the rape of the text that was committed earlier.

What I did do when I got home was consulting some reviews. In my opinion a good review (perhaps even a good chess book) should very clearly state who could use this book and even narrow it down to who would benefit most from it.

This is what I found:
Chessville (Leopold Lacrimosa): "Overall, I liked this book and would recommend it to students rated 700 - 1500 ELO"

Silman (Randy Bauer): "The author provides plenty of extras to make the book workable, but the exercises themselves will provide a challenge for just about every level of player."

Seagaard: "I would say the main readership is for intermediate players up to people with ELO 2000."

ChessCafé (Bill Kaleher): "GM Plaskett's book appears to be aimed more towards the intermediate player. AND In my opinion it is most suited to players rated below 2200 FIDE, although the more difficult problems would challenge even the most advanced players."

Most out of the mean seems the first one, but even the rest of them aren't very clear.

Now I can understand that it is hard for a chess writer, often a NM, FM, IM or GM to determine what level of student can understand material that is so far below there own level. Being in chess teaching an/or working with lower level players can obviously help here, but there might not be a universal agreement on what goes best with what level.

Also, on every aspect of the game (tactics, strategy, endgame, opening) there is a certain barrier that needs to be crossed before one can continue to the next level. On all levels these differences can be huge. Someone with a lot of opening knowledge might be less strong in tactics or endgame, otherwise he may be on a different level.

Thankfully with the Internet it is always possible to find more than one review and there are always articles on chess improvement where there are hints to be found on the book levels.

Also asking around to people who are also into chess, say chess bloggers, who are not as advanced as writers and reviewers and who may have a good view on the book searchers need can be of great help and motivation. They might even advice a better one!
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[1] At this moment the Steps Method books, TCT and Gillam's books are enough, after that there is LC and I'm also still doing CTS.

[2] http://danheisman.home.comcast.net/~danheisman/Events_Books/General_Book_Guide.htm

2 comments:

chesstiger said...

Hmmmm, either the title is chosen wrong or the book can never deliver what it promiseses. Because nobody can be a genius tactician. But that again is my opinion.

BTW, do you know why Tommy G of drumsandchess blog has deleted his blog?

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