Chess.com - Upcoming Book Reviews (introducing the Rexter scale)
Some of you might have read that I am now the official book reviewer for Chess.com and I have tentatively set the date for my first review to be on 30 June 2017. If you have any books that you are interested in, please feel free to comment below or PM me and I'll see if I can fit that in provided I have a copy of course. These days with the introduction of e-books and especially Forward Chess, it is hard to resist spending money on books that I know I can't finish reading anyways
Apart from books, I will also be looking at DVDs and magazines, websites, essentially anything chess-related that is interesting to me. The way I rate a book/magazine/DVD will vary which brings me nicely to the introduction of....
The Rexter Scale
Ok, that was a little cheesy and melodramatic. But why the T-Rex? It is a nickname that my close friends have chosen for me because of my hyper aggressive, glorified hacker style. I just wish I can be consistently chomping on my opponents in a proper tournament!
But coming back to the scale - I am not going to try and reinvent the wheel so what you see is gonna be pretty similar to, say, what Matthew Sadler is doing for NIC Magazine (if you are somehow reading this, thanks for the 5* btw, Matthew!!). However, I thought it makes sense to clarify just exactly which elements are more valuable to me here so that the overall rating makes sense.
I've managed to break these down into 3 most important aspects that I generally look at when it comes to chess study material:
1) Style (2 stars): This consists of many things, such as the command of the English language (I've read very badly edited books and it can be painful to read), or in the case of DVDs, the charisma of the presenter. When I watch a DVD on Chess, I want to find it interesting to follow and my opinion is that there is no such thing as substance over form when it comes to video presentations. Both substance and form are important when it comes to educational material. The content can be great but the way the material is presented has to be engaging just like how a school teacher must be able to teach. The format of the material is therefore also important.
2) Soundness (2 stars): Obviously the soundness of the analysis is the most critical aspect in any chess book or DVD. In the case of opening books (there will be a lot of these!), the lines have to be sound, be able to stand up to scrutiny, deeply analysed to an extent where the situation is more or less clarified, and more importantly, complete. If I pay hard-earned money for an opening book or video, I really expect to get what I pay for, especially if the word "complete" appears anywhere on the cover. Naturally, soundness and completeness becomes a lot more tricky to gauge for non-opening books which is why the weightage for these will be more skewed towards the next element which is....
3) Surprise value or novelty (2 stars): I don't mean that the books must literally include tons of novelties (althought that would certainly be a plus point) but what would they bring to the table? Is this a re-hash or expansion of published material? For example, in opening books, is the author recommending something a little different with the objective of getting fresh positions? In my last review, I noted that Mihail Marin scores excellently in this respect as he has chosen refreshing lines against the most critical variations. As such, the practicality of the suggested lines is extremely important for an active player like myself.
For non-opening books, the question is more or less the same although obviously the topics that can be discussed are a lot broader. For example, I received the currently ranked #1 and #2 on the NIC site, the New In Chess Book of Chess Improvement by Steve Giddins and Chess For Hawks by Cyrus Lakdawala. The former appears to be a compilation of master games dissected into various positional and tactical themes which is always useful although the concept is not particular unheard of. The latter, on the other hand, seems to be a manual or guide on how "solid players" or "doves" can eventually soar to the dizzing heights that only "hawks" can reach. This is something new to me and may score highly on the novelty aspect. I am really looking forward to reading and reviewing both of these books, along with the rest on this non-exhaustive list:
1) The Fashionable Caro-Kann Volumes 1 & 2 by G. Vidit, Chessbase;
2) The London System with 2.Bf4 by S. Williams, Chessbase;
3) American Chess Magazine (the new kid on the chess magazine block!);
4) Chess for Life by M. Sadler & N.Regan, Gambit;
5) The New In Chess Book of Chess Improvement by S. Giddins, New In Chess;
6) Chess for Hawks by C. Lakdawala, New In Chess
Watch out for my first review on 30 June!