Monday, May 14, 2007

Still Looking

Well over the weekend I have received both Max Euwe's (which I found out via the other book is pronounced "U-Vay". Eall-ray) Chess Master Vs. Chess Amateur.

I also received Patrick Wolff's The Complete Idiot's Guide to Chess. I purchased both of these on the recommendations and readings I have done the past few weeks. I had little hope for the first and high hopes for the second. The Knightlet and I are in desperate need for education. We are at a point in our expertise, where we aren't quite sure what we don't know (I have a better idea), but are sure that we are lacking. We have the time, money and desire to focus on the task over the summer to best improve our game.

I am taking the role of Knight/Chess-mom. He is my padawan, the knightlet of the realm. Unfortunately, he gets to play more chess than I, and I am relegated to sifting the information, removing wheat from chaff, giving him the good stuff and watching him soar. He is already playing much better.

Anyways. The first book. Mr. Euwe's book. I was terrified of this book, because doesn't this have to look and read like every chess book that I read as a child some 20-30 years ago? I mean he as the world champion, I don't know, did they even have airplanes back then? Most importantly, books were only for passing information from expert to expert. Those of in actual need of an education, could only look on. Does anyone remember that really geeky guy that had all the Informants?

It was everything that I feared. My wife put it best when she claimed it was like a parody of a chess book. I actually believe that it contains good information, and probably created with the best of intentions, and my wife and I agreed, it had a really good cover.

But it is a pedagogical disaster (like the linked definition). One apparent audience is the Chess Amateur, who is insulted at every turn, and you have to be an expert to understand the material, which is of course, doesn't follow. It seems to actually be for some audience of psychology experts who are trying to understand the mind through the use of chess. Which means, for us, so much gobbledygook.

Fortunately, I was able to buy the book used, so did not suffer tremendously on cost, I sort of expected it, but I wanted to give it a fair shake. I am torn on whether I should put it back on the market, because it will probably be purchased by some chess amateur, trying to get his education on.

I will talk about the other book tomorrow.

More Later...


Blue Devil Knight said...

I had a very different take on Master v Amateur. I am obviously not an expert, and I think you are probably more advanced than me in chess, so I am surprised that you said you think you need to be an expert to understand the material.

I liked the intro, but it is basically filler. The main body of the book, the annotated games, have been very helpful for me. His frequent criticisms of the amateur moves are concrete (e.g., this does nothing to control the center, does not open lines for any pieces, etc), as is the praise he heaps on the master (e.g., this frees up these squares, while allowing for this potential tactic). Rarely does he just wave at an evaluation with "and this is just worse for white." He tries to give reasons using principles and variations.

It is especially good on the openings (my main criticism is that he spends too much time on the opening, as I said here before, and he does this in all three of this trilogy).

That said, the book is clearly not for beginners. It assumes you are familiar with basic tactics, strategy, and the like. It is more of a second or third chess book than a first book (Wolff fits the bill for that).

I also found it helpful that I had to learn descriptive notation, as it improved my board visualization. :)

Well, too bad you didn't like it. It will be interesting to see what you think of Wolff.

hisbestfriend said...


As I said, I am pretty sure that it had good material, and that it was written in the best of intentions, so it doesn't suprise me that people will see it as being good.

But, the point of it being helpful to learn descriptive notation (for some of us remembering)has precisely the opposite effect on me as it apparently did on you.

I may be a really tough grader, I suppose. But I don't think so. It is important that the book speak to *my* skill level and needs. That is what *I* need.

This is not always easy, I know plenty of people that do this for a living. And I have seen the bad and good in a variety of different topics, and a little here in chess. Part of the proof is in the pudding. De la Maza'a 400 points thesis is a good example of that. Out of 400 years of education and training, here comes a viewpoint that speaks to our level. The same with real chess. The are other parts of the game, that need that same level of clarity and thinking at least, if not a further examination totally.

It is just interesting for chess, because it singularly, has the longest publishing history of nearly any topic. And yet you need to be a monk to understand the topic at hand. You shouldn't have to be a monk.

Thank you for your comment! The discourse is important to me, and hopefully for others. I enjoy your comments, and it was a part of what drove me to the book in the first place.

Temposchlucker said...

U-vay? Was it a Brazilian who explained the pronuncation?
The "Eu" sounds in between the "eu" in "heuristic" and "ea" in "early".
The "we" sounds like the "wu" in "wuss".