Wednesday, February 10, 2010


Exciting times here at the S&BC Blog – we’ve been sent stuff. Courtesy of Jacob Aagaard and Quality Chess we are two chess books better off than we once were, the newly released Attacking Manual 1 and Attacking Manual 2 having just dropped through our collective letter box. This is the closest thing to an income that I've had since last August.

I should admit that I start off predisposed to like my new goodies. I’m a big fan of Quality Chess' books and long standing S&BC blog readers may recall that I've previously a whole series of posts inspired by Mr. A’s older book Excelling at Chess [e.g. A Bad Move V, Why Study the Endgame? II, Why study the endgame?, Aagaard Revisited, Tick Tick Tick VI, Scorched Earth, Dirk Gently, Excelling at Chess - Again Again, Excelling at Chess - Again, Knowing What to Look For, What Might Have Been]. It only took the opening lines of ATM1’s introduction

My aim with this book and its companion volume is to teach you everything there is to know about attacking chess. Not a small aim and already by its very definition it is clear that failure in this project is guaranteed.

and I was enjoying his newest work too.

Aagaard wants his target audience (players in the elo 1700 to 2500 range which I suppose is pretty much anybody who'll be reading this) to learn the “general rules” of attacking play. If every decision we take at the board should be based on concrete analysis then which lines should we be calculating? ATM1 suggests, if I understand the argument correctly, that if we can grasp the principles of attacking chess we’ll have a much better chance of getting this question right. The rules are important, Aagaard claims,

not so much because they are relevant in all positions, but because they are relevant in all kinds of positions.

(emphasis in the original)

Well maybe, although I fancy I can hear the low rumbling of dissent beginning to emerge, not least from the EJH residence in Huesca, even as I type. Even Aagaard acknowledges his point of view is "unfashionable" to say the least.

Can ATM1 actually deliver? Enjoyable read or not, is Aagaard convincing when he claims these rules of attacking play exist? Does the book improve our understanding of the dynamic aspects of chess as he hopes? After reading it will our intuition guide our ability to select the right moves to analyse more effectively when we attack the enemy king?

How should I know? I haven’t read it yet. I suspect, however, that I'll be spending some time with it in the months to come.

Here's the first game Aagaard gives in the Introduction to ATM1. By pleasing coincidence it begins 1. b4 which was a favourite of the teenaged EJH as we discovered last Friday - the very day the books arrived.

You can download a PDF of ATM1's Introduction, including Aagaard's annotations to this game, here. While you do that I'd better get busy with the job application form I have in front of me. After all, man cannot live by chess books alone.

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