Friday, 30 April 2010

Review: Gary Danelishen's The Final Theory of Chess

Gary M. Danelishen, The Final Theory of Chess. Phillidor Press 2008, Berea OH.

A week ago, I received the first chess book that has been sent to me for a review in this blog. I must confess it was a surprise for me to get a book to be reviewed, as my original idea was just to write about chess books I had already bought. But I certainly will review any book sent to be reviewed by any chess publisher!

Gary M. Danelishen has taken a huge task: he aims at a computer-generated analysis that should at some day be able to solve the game of puzzle. Even if the game of chess is extremely complicated, it is a finite game and thus it is solvable at least in theory. In practice it is of course impossible for humans to solve the game of chess. On the other hand, computers have already been able to solve many simpler games, for example the checkers.

The Final Theory of Chess should of course be seen only as an attempt to lay a foundation for the theoretical solution of chess. Most of the book contains analysis conducted between 2004 and 2008 using a network of six computers running different versions of the famous Fritz software. As both the hardware and software evolve continuously, it is more than probable that the latest 64-bit computers with terabytes of memory and either Rybka or FireBird could correct the analysis here and there. But as I don't own neither a modern multi-CPU computer or the latest chess software, I haven not tried to refute any of the published analysis.

Both the idea of trying to progress towards the solution of the chess and the heavy use of our dear friend Mr. Fritz has lead the book to concentrate on concrete variations. The published variations have been color coded to give the reader an idea about the robustness of the analysis. Unfortunately the book is printed in black and white which makes it at times rather difficult to decipher the color coding. Finally each published variation gives an evaluation of the variation as given by Fritz.

In addition, the variations are practically devoid of any verbal explanations. Thus the reader will not find here any help about strategic nuances of the opening. This makes the book very inpractical for anyone interested in just playing chess on the board during the club evening of in an weekend tournament. The book is, however, quite useful as an guide when analysing the games afterwards. This is especially true for those chess enthusiasts who don't have a computer to help in analysing the game. In addition, this book could be extremely useful for correspondence chess players who are looking for new ideas in their tactical pet openings.

The search for the solution of chess has lead the author to concentrate on forcing tactical openings. This explains the about 110 pages dedicated to Blackmar-Diemer-Gambit, an opening of debatable correctness. In addition to BDG, the book presents computer checked analysis in many other tactical off-beat variations. If you are interested in them, you might well like to order this book from Amazon.

In case you are not sure, whether this book is for you or not, you should take a look at the web site The Final Theory of Chess. You might even decide to contribute yourself to the work in progress!

Sunday, 4 April 2010

Review: Silman's Complete Endgame Course from Beginner to Master

If you are like me -- or like most of the chess players who buy books -- your bookshelves are full of chess opening books. The opening books seem to promise us a quick fix needed for the rapid improvement of the tournament results or for being able to get a higher chess rating. At least I have dozens of books that promise to teach me how to win with Sicilian Najdorf, closed Sicilian or some other opening.

Unfortunately, those chess books have not been able to get my rating to the level where I would like it to be. Most probably my opening repertoire is already good enough for my level. The improvement must be sought in two distinct areas of the game: middlegame tactics and endgames.

I have always felt overwhelmed by some of the greatest endgame books. I have tried to study the classic endgame manuals by Yuri Averbakh, but I never had enough time to grasp the nuances I thought to be necessary for understanding anything about the endgame. Karsten Müller's and Frank Lamprecht's Fundamental Chess Endings was equally demanding for a patzer like me.

Finally, I found Jeremy Silman's Complete Endgame Course from Beginner to Master. It really is the best endgame book written for ordinary club and weekend players like me and you. Finally a book that does not expect me to learn to win the endgame K+N+B vs K -- Silman concentrates on practical results and not on learning endgames one very rarely encounters in practice. In fact, I can't remember having ever had to play the aforementioned difficult endgame during the last three decades, be it in a club evening, in a tournament or on an internet chess server.

The material in this book is organized according to the level of the chess player. Silman understands that the beginner needs to grasp the basics and that is impossible to learn the more difficult pawn and rook endings if one has not learned to play the simple endgames first.

In this way, I was able to jump directly to the section written for my rating group, class B. After mastering this material I should know everything I need to know in order to reach a class A rating. Finally I have a book that not only explains me what a master level player should know about the endgames but what I should next learn. Thus this book gives me clear advice about the next action needed in my chess improvement plan. It seems my work should now be directed to the rook endgames for Class A.

If I can follow the guidance provided by Jeremy Silman I might finally reach my goal: to have a rating of Chess Expert.

Rating: *****

Jeremy Silman: Silman's Complete Endgame Course from Beginner to Master. Siles Press 2007.530 pages. Order the book from Amazon now!