Monday, November 05, 2007

Why?

We each have many questions of why when it comes to chess.

Why, I ask myself at 3am each night suddenly springing awake in a cold sweat, did I play 35...Re3 in that game from a decade ago, not noticing the none-too-subtle capture in reply 36.Rf3xe3? Why am I here in this cold empty hall in the middle of nowhere on a Saturday night, a pawn down in a lost endgame opposite an 80ECF ten year old with an IM norm to his name who's still in theory, when I could be in a pub? - or in my old lounge with the TV talking nonsense from the wall? - or in a restaurant glancing over a bottle of wine at a certain someone? - or in fact, at any other spot at all on the entire planet? Why have I spent six hours kibitzing on the ICC and now it's four in the morning and I have a job interview tomorrow? Why do I torture myself with this impossible game again and again? Why does anyone play the Colle?

But amongst all this bafflement, a new question why has arisen at which I dare not even attempt an answer. In 1999, John Nunn and Joe Gallagher wrote "The Complete Najdorf: Modern Lines - Definitive Coverage of Fischer and Kasparov's Favourite Chess Opening". The book is now out-of-print, and no matter how well it is written, one suspects that is not a terrible loss. Najdorf theory from eight years ago is no match for contemporary knowledge, whether from Kasparov's DVDs, the nuggets hidden in the latest database, or a few hours spent with Rybka and some clever ideas.

So. Why then is the cheapest version of this book available from Amazon at the exorbitant price of £100? (Note to American readers: at today's exchange rather, that's about a million dollars.) Not only that, it's a second-hand used copy for that £100, too. The cheapest new copy available - as you can see - will cost you £169.11. But to top it off, another used copy of this book is available for more than that: at the stratospheric cost of £349.02. I'm pretty sure you could hire a Grandmaster or two for several hours of one-on-one Najdorf tutelage for less than that.

Please someone tell me, why. Why, why, why?

13 comments:

Anonymous said...

I noticed a similar phenomenon for an engineering text book a few weeks back - apparently out of print and you couldn't get a copy anywhere (Amazon or abebooks) for less than £100. So I didn't bother but when I tried last week I found a new one for a sensible price (about £20). Perhaps some piece of software somewhere (ignorant of chess or engineering) is inflating prices based on supposed scarcity value?

The latest edition (3rd?) of the Search for Chess Perfection (edited Cecil Purdy articles) claims on the back that it is one of the few chess books that has been resold on the internet for more than its original cover price. Harding Simpole (?) are reprinting some old books and they are charging higher prices than you would pay for new ones currently. I did wonder whether this is because of (i) small print runs or (ii) money grabbing - does anyone know?

Mike G.

Anonymous said...

Just today Chessbase have announced the third volume of Kasparov's video course on the Najdorf

Angus

Tom Chivers said...

* reaches for credit card *

Mike G, thanks for your very interesting addition to the post. I'm afraid I don't know the answers, however...

Jonathan B said...

Alot of those Harding and Simpole books are total cack too - both now and even when they were first published


By astonishing coincidence (or not) the initials RDK are involved on occasion.

Anonymous said...

Yes, the Harding and Simpole list is a strange mixture of classics and (to me) unknown books. I daresay Harry Golembek may have done a reasonable job on "Modern Chess Opening Strategy" back in the 50s or 60s but what would merit its reprinting now? And Ray Keene seems to have published a series of tomes called "Modern Chess Theory" which I have no recollection of ever seeing in a bookshop over the last thirty years or so.

And why pay £24-95 for a reprint of Nimzowitsch's "My System" or "Praxis" when you can still buy the Hays editions from BCM for £12-99?

Mike G.

Anonymous said...

Correction: £11-99. The Hays editions cost less than half of the Harding and Simpole ones!

Mike G.

Tom Chivers said...

Mm, chess booking pricing is even battier than I thought it seems!

Why etc!

ejh said...

I have a first edition of Chess Praxis, y'know...

joe s said...

Including "Fischer" in the title is quite clever as it enhances the value esp in the US.
Likewise "Kasparov". People will use search engines for both these in Amazon if not elsewhere. I suspect both parties will be expecting royalties though!

ejh said...

Not off a secondhand book they won't (an author writes). Or off one out-of-print, as far as I'm aware.

Anonymous said...

Wasn't My System updated as well as printed?

Anonymous said...

Well I think "The Complete Najdorf: Modern Lines - Definitive Coverage of Fischer and Kasparov's Favourite Chess Opening" is a very very good book. It might not contain the latest cutting edge theory but if you are serious about learning the opening it's important to know how it had developed up to the late 90's. I'm willing to part with my copy for the knockdown price of £50...

Anonymous said...

What an interesting post !

I too am amazed at the price of chess books, esepcially the out-of-print ones. Ever since I became captivated by some of Smyslov's games, I wanted to get hold of the out-of-print 125 Best Games of.

In the various book websites you can pay upto 80 quid for this, but I've no idea why that should be the case. Have people actually held on to the book because its so good ? Were fewer originally printed ?

No idea, but I was very upset to lolse my bid on one in ebay in the last 5 seconds...

Anyway, I also know that Moravian Chess House have re-published the original with additional notes for only EUR 35, so if I'm really desperate, I know where to go.

I also think that there is value in the older book.

At my level, I don't think that knowing the latest/sharpest moves in the Taimanov or Najdorf is necessary in a book, especially if its just published and is going to be GBP 20. Why not pick up an older one second-hand by a 'classical' author which will give you more than the main thrust of the opening, and you can pick up the lastest from the web ?

How much more will I gain from the latest Pirc volume compared to John Nunn's original Pirc Defence ? ( and how do I find out apart from either buying both ! or depending on reviews )

Although, as is suggested, it may well be more useful to pick up a DVD ( Nigel Davies on the Pirc maybe, to keep to the same topic). Never used a DVD as a training aid as yet, but...