Kenilworth Kibitzer

A blog for members of the Kenilworth Chess Club.

Sunday, May 17, 2009


Summer reading list

I just got back from a week of vacation in Bonaire, a tiny desert island where there is little to do except snorkeling or diving, and as well catch up on some chess reading.  I read John Emms' partially useful guide on minor piece endgames (know how to blockade three pawns with a king and knight?  Do you want to?), and had time to finish Kasparov's Modern Chess Part Two talking about his first two matches with Karpov in 1984 and '85.  It was exhausting and exhilarating reading, with seventy-two world championship games worked in (and a few bonus games).  There's hanging pawn positions, isolated pawns, exchange sacrifices, and a master-level training in a number of major opening systems (both players played both 1. d4 and 1. e4 at different points).  I'm certain I'm not qualified to appreciate the subtleties, but the first-person perspective makes it much more gripping than some of his other books on world championships.  Now thanks to Mike Goeller I have a delightfully obscure book Hanging Pawns to read through, very apropos.  It seems like an incredibly rich topic, so I'll see if I can find a good game to post on it.  Kasparov, for one, successfully defended hanging pawn positions three times in the 84/85 matches as Black.
I am putting together a reading list for this summer, as part of my efforts to win my bet with lifetime class B player Don C.  (let's call him D. Carrelli) as to which one of us can become an expert first (side bets are open as to whether Greenland will melt before this happens, or maybe the Rapture).  On the list:

Pawn Structure Chess
Chess Praxis
The Survival Guide to Rook Endings
Winning Pawn Structures
Dvoretsky's Endgame Manual
Zurich 1953
Art of Attack in Chess
Forcing Chess Moves
My Great Predecessors III-V

If these don't make me a master then there's clearly something wrong with the way they're printed.  I can't think of any other explanation.

Zurich 1953 is great reading and should teach you a lot about how to handle a wide variety of middlegame situations. Pawn Structure Chess is also top notch. A little work on endings is always good too and I really like The Survival Guide to Rook Endings. Winning Pawn Structures is a brilliant book for anyone who plays isolated pawn positions, especially from the side with the isolani. And Art of Attack is simply brilliant. But where are the tactics and the openings?

Personally, I read a few of the books on your list when I was making my way to Expert, but I think what got me there was my study of tactics and openings. I devoured tactics books when I was a kid, even though there were hardly as many then as now (Znosko-Borovsky, The Art of Checkmate by Renaud and Kahn, and Reinfeld's tactics books stand out in memory). My favorite current one is Blokh's "Combinative Motifs" which I picked up recently as USATE and am almost finished making my way through. I also like Forcing Moves by Hertan and Imagination in Chess by Gaprindashvili. Even if you only do your tactical study just before bed or in the bathroom or while flossing your teeth (with a floss pick or Humingbird) or on the train, I think you are making progress. But the best thing is to come up with a study plan and do your best to work through a book like Blokh's TWICE to make sure you get it.

I also think the thing that helped me most was having a fully worked out opening repertoire so that I knew how to handle most openings I played into common middlegames. You don't need much study to get to a solid footing. I think your work on isolated pawns and hanging duos makes a lot of sense and you should build a repertoire around that. I have made a number of recommendations along these lines in various places, most recently at the NJSCF "Openings for Amateurs" forum thread on the "IQP."Honestly, tactics and openings will get you to Expert faster than positional themes, which are really more the key to making it to master.
Good point on the tactics, I'm trying to get a daily dose from and I picked up Forcing Moves, I'm trying to squeeze in 10 minutes a night before I fall asleep. I tried to do a comprehensive buildup of an opening repertoire last year - I read 15 or so openings books and took copious notes. Now I feel like getting a decent position out of the opening is a common occurrence, thus the focus on middlegame material. It's nice to be better at openings, but now I get hosed in the middlegame. Progress, I guess?

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