Friday, April 13, 2007

Echo Echo

We've been thinking about chess books recently.

A few days ago I suggested that sometimes books leave out important lines on a somewhat arbitrary basis. Justin gave another example of this within a longer post discussing whether or not authors and certain publishers put as much effort into their work as we might expect.

Here's another case in point.

Again I'm looking at Nigel Davies' The Dynamic Reti (Everyman published 2004) although this time I'm comparing it with Ray Keene's Flank Openings (BCM - 4th edition published1988).

Both books give the game Smyslov - Ader Hausman, Tel Aviv Olympiad 1964 in full - although curiously Davies calls Black Hausman and Keene reckons it's Ader.

Anyhoo, here's the game.




The comments in red are those given by Keene. Those in blue are from Davies.

Moves 1 to 6:
It is not possible to compare the books this early because they give differing move orders. Keene quotes what acutally happened, Davies standardises the move order with the aim of easing the learning process.

7. Na3
!
“The best square for the N. On a3 it reinforces the Q-side build up and does not obstruct the path of the Bb2.”


!
“The best square for the knight. It supports White’s queenside pawns and doesn’t inhibit the dark-squared bishop.”



7. … a5
No comments

Suggests … Qb6 is better and gives analysis.

[This is a significant difference. Davies gives a total of 35 half-ply worth of moves covering a number of variations that follow from 7. ... Qb6]

White’s 8th
No comments

No comments


8. … dxc4
?
“Creating targets on the Q-side. Better is 8. … Bg4.”

?!
“This creates a target on the queenside. Black should prefer simple development with … Bg4.”


9. bxc6
!
No further comment.

!
No further comment.



Black's 9th and White’s 10th
No comments

No comments


10. … Be6
“A brief appraisal of the position reveals the following: Black is weak in the b-file and b6 may become an outpost for White’s pieces; White has a latent central pawn majority; White’s Bb2 is extremely powerful, yet should Black exchange it for the Bg7 then his K position will be seriously jeopardised.”

“The correct plan for Black in this position is to mobilise his queenside pawn majority. Even here Black could play 10. … b5 though I prefer White’s centre pawns and active pieces after 11. Nfe5 Nxe5 12. Nxe5 Ra6 13. o-o.”


White's 11th to White’s 15th
No comments

No comments


15. … Qa4
?
“Pointless. Black should employ his one remaining asset and play b5.”


?
“There’s not much point to this. Black should mobilise his queenside pawn majority with 15. …b5.”



White’s 16th to Black’s 18th
No comments

No comments


19. Qb2+
“A typical position for the Q in this line.”

“The queen often seems to end up on this square in this line!”


Black’s 19th and White’s 20th
No comments

No comments


20. … Rc7
No comment

“This may have been the last chance for 20. … b5 21. Nd4 b4.”


White and Black's 21st
No comments

No comments


22. d5
“White’s restrained pawns now conquer the centre and Black is crushed by a three pronged attack.”

“One of the things about the Reti is that when White finally gets a central pawn majority it can advance with terrific effect.”


Black’s 22nd to Black’s 28th (resign)
No comments

No comments



Davies lists the 1979 edition of Keene's book in his bibliography. Whether that version contains the analysis as listed above I cannot say but I'd be suprised if it didn't.

Around 20 years ago Nigel Davies wrote a series of articles on "Self-Improvement" for Chess Magazine. In the September 1988 issue (page 29) he wrote,

"Given that we have now created an environment conducive to study; what form should the work take? This is something I want to explore further in subsequent articles but what I want to stress now is active involvement, thinking for yourself." (Emphasis from the original)

Presumably Davies was referring to reading chess books rather than writing them.

19 comments:

Ryan Emmett said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Jonathan B said...

Hi Ryan,

Thanks for your comments.

I perhaps should have made clear in the original post that I'm not suggesting this game is representative of the book as a whole in terms of the analysis Davies provides (or indeed the games chosen).

However, as a point of fact, although Keene's book is referenced in the bibliography no specific link is made in terms of this game.

As for the question of whether Davies gave little effort to this particular book...

well I'll have more to say about that in later posts. For now, though I'll restrict my comments to:-

(a) I was not trying to say he didn't put ANY work into The Dynamic Reti - although I do think at times we could expect more from the book.

(b) I DID still find the book helpful in a number of different ways. As long as people are aware of various short comings I wouldn't necessarily recommend people not buy it. Indeed, I don't regret doing so.

(c)As Justin mentioned in his post, in many ways it's a little hard on Davies in that I chose this book to illustrate an issue when I'm sure there are any number of others that would equally fit the bill - it's just that it's Davies' work I happen to have been studying of late.

Ryan Emmett said...

I don't own any of Davies' books but I'm sure that you're right - you could apply the same analysis to many other authors and find similar results.

Anonymous said...

Laziness in chess writing can manfest itself in many ways. Unclear, with initiative, with compensation etc etc can indicate the author is cutting off too soon. Of course though you have to cut off at some point. Also I doubt chess writing is a particularly profitable enterprise and authors must be somewhat careful with how much time they spend. This does not excuse the worst excesses though.
Andrew

ejh said...

I was discussing this on another forum and I'll make the same point here that I did there. When, about a decade ago, I wrote a book on another subject than chess, it was reviewed in a number of newspapers and magazines.

Not one said "well, it's not a bad effort considering he was holding down a full-time job while he was writing it". They didn't take my personal circumstances (or the size of my advance) into account when judging the book and quite right too.

Jonathan B said...

Well yes Justin I'm sure you're right.

The problem is that while there may be any number of good books on, say, football, there isn't necessarily a similar choice for chess. Certainly not when it comes to opening books dedicated to the Reti.

Of course it also doesn't help that people - myself included - put up with buying cack and expecting little different.

I have got a fair amount out of Davies' book - despite the many negative points it has. I don't particularly regret buying it but then I haven't had a look a Dunnington's book as yet. If I were to see that and it was clear it was obviously better than Davies that would be a different story.

It goes back to the lack of decent reviews to enable comparisons to be made without buying both (which kind of negates the point of working out which is better I would say)

Jonathan B said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said...

It is possible that too many people are making a living in London (and the UK)from chess. I reckon there are about 50 part/full time coaches in London (I may have made this point before). Why aren't there a whole stream of juniors coming through like in the 70s and 80s? I am not sure of the answer but it may be that non-paid amateurs with a love for what they are doing do a much better job (and they have been replaced by professionals). My father and Graham Watts ran Pinner chess club without being paid for about 15 years and Pinner produced so many good players that current Streatham player Anthony would probably only make about board 30 in a team of former Pinner players. This website is another case in point- how much do you think Tom is getting for this (although maybe he is hoping for another internet bubble when he can float for £10m on the basis of projected advertising revenues/that the current readers will start paying $$$ for content). Would someone really really do a much better job if they were paid for it?
Andrew

Tom Chivers said...

Haha, thanks Andrew. I came off better in that than Antony. Of course if someone did pay me, I'd take it! I don't think I'd do it any worse...

On your theme though - Stan at Streatham Chess Club does unbelievably brilliant free chess training over at the Library there. True it's at the novice level - but it is so much better than I could ever do, for one at least. I certainly wish I'd have been taught by someone like that when I was a kid; I'm sure I'd have benefitted enormously.

Anonymous said...

Although you (and Anthony) may not believe it, I was showing the strength of the Pinner "production line" rather than having a go at Anthony! Anyway if I was so inclined , I would hold fire in having a go at Anthony's chess strength until I had played him in the Watford Club Championship.
Andrew

ejh said...

Is it possible that chess training isn't really very well directed? It may be (I don't know, I'm just speculating) that much of it involves people being paid to give individual training to kids who aren't actually either that promising or that interested but have parents who can afford to pay for tuition. (There are plenty of people making a living giving piano lessons, for instance, on much the same principle.)

Whereas in order to maximise your results you probably need to do two things: the first is to get as many kids playing as you can, so that the pool ot talent is much bigger in the first place. Then you have to identify the best players and try and develop programmes to bring them through.

Of course it's not remotely that simple!

Anonymous said...

I think most tuition is done in large groups, mainly at public schools. At Pinner we had next to no tuition(as I think did most people back then). What we did though was to play a lot- up to 30 weekends a year.
Andrew

Anonymous said...

Andrew,
Thanks for your kind comments re. my chess-playing ability. Hopefully I won't embarrass myself when we do meet in the Watford Club championship!
PS It's Antony, not Anthony

Anonymous said...

I should have known how to spell Antony by now. I have already recently apologised to you for adding an extra h.

Richard James said...

Hello Streatham people

Well, Andrew and Justin seem to have gone completely off topic, but in doing so they have raised some very important points.

I started teaching chess in the mid 1970s, running Richmond Junior Club, originally with Mike Fox, at the same time as Chris Stone and Graham Watts were running Pinner. At the time I was doing it for free, but now I am indeed one of the 50 or so professional chess teachers in the area. So I don't entirely agree with Andrew's point. In my case I think I'm better at what I do now than I was 30 years ago, but for various other factors it's no longer possible to get the same results.

Every year there is more and more chess teaching, and every year the standards are declining. My frustration with this is perhaps the main reason why I now have little involvement with Richmond Junior Club.

In my opinion the way we are promoting, organising and teaching chess for children at present is completely wrong. I agree with Justin when he says that most teaching is misdirected. Children do NOT learn to improve solely by receiving instruction from Grandmasters. They improve by playing lots and lots of games in serious competitions. If they have someone who can go through the games with them afterwards this will no doubt help. If you look at the juniors who are improving fast they are the ones who are playing regularly on the tournament circuit.

I have much more to say about this if anyone would like to contact me (richard@chesskids.com).

When I finally give up chess teaching I intend to write a book on this subject - well it's either that or a new edition of The Complete Chess Addict!


Richard

Jonathan B said...

10th May 2008

The first comment in this thread has been removed at the request of Nigel Davies.

I say 'request' - actually he's threatened us with legal action.

Jonathan B said...

11th May 2008

The 7th comment down has been removed. GM Nigel Davies did not ask us to do so but, as noted elsewhere, we very much want him to be happy.

Peter Grieve said...

Well Holy Toledo, they *are* both Grandmasters.
Reti positions have a middlegame character early on. It seemed to me that both authors were analysing natural responses to the natural moves, and Grandmasters see natural moves in the middlegame (I wish I could).
If one were listening to two football commentators commenting seperately on the same game, there would be amount the same amount of similarity. And it wouldn't mean that either was lazy.

Tom Chivers said...

Comments on this posting have now been closed.