Saturday, February 12, 2011

Book Review - Studying Chess Made Easy by Andrew Soltis

Studying Chess Made Easy is made for the chess player's nightstand. It's an engrossing read that for the most part doesn't require a chessboard. I finished it myself in 3 or 4 sessions except for some parts that included positions with deeper analysis.

Soltis' writing is simply very readable. It's the first reason that so many of his books are so popular. I know that I was only able to kick and scratch my way into my first tournaments by carrying along a copy of his A Black Defensive System for the Rest of Your Chess Career. And what made that book so valuable was that it was written with the understanding that the new tournament player was petrified of sitting down at the board and meeting opening moves that he had no idea how to deal with. Soltis' book calmed your fears by showing that a couple of thematic ideas could essentially help you wade through any opening move White offered first without getting into too much trouble. Push your pawn to c6 and you'll be fine. (I'm not sellin' that book, so don't send me offers.) This newest book obviously comes from that same understanding of the concerns of club players, an empathy for those concerns, and some ideas that show promise of helping.

A particularly interesting chapter is the 3rd: The biggest study myth. I don't know where else you are going to find a discussion of thinking methods, pattern recognition, and priyomes that is so accessible to class players at all levels. I honestly thought it was worth my time to read the whole book just to discover Soltis' insights in this chapter.

Another example of truly revealing information for me was a segment in chapter 6: Overcoming endgame phobia where he discusses exact vs. inexact endgames and even relates the priyome concept to it. He makes it simple: exact endgames are ratings proof. Then he explains that claim. Beautiful! I understand that. Now let me at Silman's Complete Endgame Course, find me an A-player, and show me an exact endgame. I'm good to go now.

There are two things missing which I thought I'd find in the book. There is no discussion of the difference between studying and training (and both are covered to some degree, regardless of the book's title) and there is no helpful list to prod you along your way to developing a study plan. Aside from these omissions, I would heartily recommend this book to everyone.

You know, maybe I should pull that out and read it again.

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