Home >> Chess Reviews >> Complete Book of Chess Strategy: Grandmaster Techniques from A to Z
IM Jeremy Silman's Complete Book of Chess Strategy: Grandmaster Techniques from A to Z was one of the first chess books I've ever bought and I'm glad to be finally reviewing it. Mr Silman is an International Master from USA rated 2383 (FIDE ratings January 2009, as I am too lazy to check his 1998 rating). This book was an expanded project of an "extremely practical notebook" that one of Silman's students was writing, so that he could find "instant facts and strategies waiting at his fingertips".
This book is broken into four parts, which includes the three phases of chess, the opening, middlegame and endgame, as well as a chapter on "practical matters". In part one, Silman talks about basic opening strategy and moves onto the basic ideas of certain opening systems. It has been known for a while that remembering typical opening plans is more effective than simply memorising realms of variations, and Silman displays this concept excellently by clearing explaining the typical plans, piece manoeuvres and pawn structures of openings such as the Caro-Kann Defence or King's Indian. This section was, to me, the most interesting part of the book. In some games, I have played openings without any further study, only from Silman's one or two-page notes on a particular opening. One thing that must be mentioned, is that not every opening can be covered in such a small book (the opening phase of the game is looked at in 108 pages), e.g. the Portuguese Variation of the Scandinavian Defence (1...d5), which is popular with some juniors, is left out. However, the majority of openings are covered and are looked at quite efficiently. I would like to see the openings section expanded to reflect the current opening preferences in 2009 (as the information hasn't been updated for 11 years).
Part two deals with the middlegame, looking at topics such as castling on opposite sides, the classic bishop sacrifice, zwizchenzug (in-between move), attack against g7 (kingside focal points), mating patterns, blockade, candidate moves and imbalances (which GM Kotov wrote extensively about in Think Like a Grandmaster), centralisation, defensive strategy, initiative, minority attack, the two bishops, overprotection, pawn structure (backward pawns, isolated pawns, etc.), perpetual check, planning, the principle of two weaknesses (although I have always related that to the endgame), support points and trading pieces. This is by far the largest part of the book with 174 pages devoted to it (you must have seen it coming from that list I just gave). Silman typically first talks about the topic in plain English, then goes on to present an example before moving on to the next topic.
Silman then moves onto an crucial part of the game, part three is the endgame (didn't see that one coming!), taking about 50 pages. Silman analyses many essential endgames and endgame techniques, e.g. rook endgames (Philidor's position, Lucena's position, etc.), king and pawn endgames (including a discussion of 'the opposition') and triangulation. King, bishop and knight vs. king may have been a bit advanced for this type of book, so it isn't discussed. I found Silman's writing in this section to be especially absorbable and easy-to-understand.
Now comes a very interesting section of the book, entitled "Practical Matters". Silman takes a look at the basic building blocks of psychology in chess, and other miscellaneous bits and pieces which don't fit under opening, middlegame or endgame. Topics include blunders, draw offers and time pressure. This section is about 16 pages and includes some little-discussed subjects in relation to general chess.
The Complete Book of Chess Strategy: Grandmaster Techniques from A to Z is a very informative instructional book. Recommended for amateurs, but it can be useful for players up to FIDE master strength (2300 FIDE).
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For chess opening training and repertoire maintenance, I highly recommend the software I use, Chess Openings Wizard. This software was approved by Grandmaster Peter Svidler (FIDE rating 2744 as of January 2010) many years ago.
Posted by Proabffmm on Thursday, January 22, 2009.
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