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I'm thinking about getting one of these strategy books: The Secrets of Modern Chess Strategy by John Watson or The Secrets of the Giants of Strategy by Neil McDonald. Which is the better writer? Which book will help me more? Right now I am rated around 1600 on chess.com. Stwils
Both are very good authors and I have read books of both authors. I personally like the Winning Chess series by Yasser Seirawan and books by Jeremy Silman. I just finished reading "How to Reasses Your Chess" by Silman, and must say that it has helped me a lot. There is a strategy book in the Winning Chess series which is also highly rated on Amazon. Finally, between the two books you have given I would go for "The Secrets of Modern Chess Strategy" by John Watson because that book is easier for club players like us to understand. Also, McDonald's books are a bit hard to understand, as they have much more complex commentary. Hope this helps!
P.S. my correspondece Chess.com rating is 1718.
Watson's book is pretty advanced, I would say - probably above the head of a 1600-1900 or typical club player. That's not to say someone that level wouldn't get something out of it. It's certainly well-written.
Neil McDonald is a great author, imo. All his stuff is interesting and readable. The Secrets series are all collections of games of (usually) 5 champions/top GMs that illustrate themes related to the title - in this case strategy. Each game is a worthwhile lesson, but the subject matter is a random selection rather than a comprehensive list of topics one should know or a programmed course in strategic thinking.
I agree with fburton. Watson's book is supposed to be a discussion of how chess strategy has changed over the years and isn't really a textbook. And McDonald's book isn't a text on positional play either, although it's a great game collection focusing on strategy and McDonald always explains things really well.
I've read several books on positional play and imo by far the best in terms of clarity and brevity is Stean's Simple Chess.
I have both books and have read parts, but not all, of each. Both are excellent. I'd rate McDonald's "The Giants of Strategy" A+ and Watson's book A . McDonald's book is smaller, but there is more practical instruction per page than Watson's. His "Secrets of Modern Chess Strategy" is a scholarly book and contains loads of historical observations and data. There's lots of interesting stuff in there, but sometimes its a long run for a short slide. As mentioned in a previous post, it's not a textbook. Your club play will benefit more per page from McDonald's work. Some of McDonald's chapters are The Seventh Rank, The Outpost and the Open File, Planning on a Grand Scale, Understanding Pawn Majorities. I'm glad I have both books. But A++ and quite clear and a joy to read is the little book "Simple Chess" by Stean. It's my favorite. Stean must be the Thomas Carlyle of chess writers.
Agreed! Steans book is a gem!
I don't know whether you own the book, and by simply reading the title, you'd certainly think this was the case...
But McDonald's book serves as an instructional manual quite well. Although the format is annotated games, he progresses in a very slow and deliberate manner through several elements of strategy. He begins with the simple, moves to the more complex, and does not merely annotate the games, but also provides very wordy follow-up passages that explain what you've just seen, and how to apply it to your own games.
The writing and explanations are geared very much toward the club-level player, and I'd rate it as one of the finest positional textbooks on the market. If there's a drawback, it would be that it makes absolutely no attempt to be comprehensive. It takes a handful of concepts, shows how they're applied, and helps you integrate them into your game.
I agree that Watson's book is absolutely worthless to the improving player hoping to learn strategy. It's an awesome book, but has nothing to do with that audience.
Watson's book is great, but not a textbook. It also aims at a much higher audience. So I would recommend GM McDonald's book for you.
I agree, McDonald's book is one of my favorites.
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