Beatdowns by the 22nd Honey Badger
Part of the cover of the book

Beatdowns by the 22nd Honey Badger

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Over the many years I have played chess, I have frequently been asked some form of the question “What is a good book to read to improve my chess?” It is a question I have asked other chess players myself, and a question that I am sure many of you are familiar with. For myself, answering this question has always been a bit tricky because I have never been the biggest reader. Sort of ironic as I am currently writing something that I hope others read. But despite my enjoyment of writing, I would rather learn by doing a mix of hands-on work while listening, rather than simply reading. I, of course, still read some chess books growing up, but often, if given a choice, I would much rather be studying a book full of tactics to solve rather than one that covers in-depth teaching on a particular subject. 


Now let’s jump back to many months ago. Months ago I got a message from the author of a book called Chess Beatdowns. Their name on is Honeybadger22 and they kept that name as the author's name since it goes through ideas from games they played right here on They asked if I would be willing to read it and write a review on it if they sent it to me. It wasn’t something I had done before so I figured I would give it a try and agreed to it. It has been long enough since that point that I thought he might have given up on me, but I said I would write the review so here I am. As to why it has taken me so long, I started reading it and then finished it as a few big things were going on in my life. I won’t get into the details of it all, but my attention was far from writing blogs, and it hit a point where I put a pause on any writing or social media posting I was doing. Now that things have calmed down this is the first thing I wanted to do. So with that, let’s jump into it!


My First Impressions

I was told by the author that this book was intended more for beginner and intermediate players. As such, I definitely went into this book thinking more about what players I would recommend this to. The introduction covers some good basics and concepts that I read a lot more intently despite being familiar with them already, and I did quite like how it was put together. 


With that, this may feel like a side thought, but it is important so stay with me . Working with many different students over the years one thing that I have learned is you have to be careful about assuming what people know. It is easy to assume based on someone's rating that they have a good understanding of a particular middlegame concept or endgame technique. However, chess is such an expansive game that even good players can be missing what many consider to be a basic idea/technique. Because of that, often when I am talking to players that have a rating around or below 1200 a big suggestion of mine is for them to dive into the world of chess. Reading blogs, watching videos, playing games online, doing training exercises, and anything like this that allows them to increase their knowledge of chess. I have witnessed great success from this exposure to many different ideas. The reason I think it works is because when you have a better understanding of a lot of basics it becomes easier to understand more complex ideas. This book, by the time I was 10 pages in, had already given me the right impression since that idea of training is exactly what I felt this book was. It isn’t the type of book that is throwing lines at you or giving 5 pages worth of information on one pawn push. The positive side of this book is the simplicity in showing you different ideas/concepts from the author’s own games, with easy-to-understand explanations within. This was my first impression and was by all means positive. 


Content Highlights

When it comes to the actual content in the author’s own words: “This book is a curated collection of 50 games (in chronological order) that I’ve played versus competitors from 34 different countries on over several years’ time.”


My first impression stayed true throughout this entire book and as far as content I could reiterate a lot of what I just said there. But to give more of an example, this is my own game that was very similar to one from this book:



The last blog I wrote was on some of the worst moves I have ever played–games that stayed with me because of something bad I did. This game on the flip side has always stayed with me as a success being my quickest victory in a classical game against a strong player. So when game 8 in this book highlighted a game with this exact checkmate, it was a very quick connection for me. This once again is what I like about this book. The more ideas you have been exposed to the easier it will be to find in your own games. This idea here I have particularly seen and used in blitz games since it can be easier for my opponents to miss. To put it into words, a Queen coming to b3-a4 or b6-a5 (for Black) can be a great utilization of the Queen to not only hit the opponent’s a-pawn or b-pawn but also hit these diagonals which in the best case scenario (or worst if you are the opposing side) can lead to a sneaky checkmate like this. An idea that may not be mind-blowing, but was the key to victory in this game and many others for me. 


The other thing I enjoyed about this book is it's relaxed nature. While I have greatly learned from and absolutely needed the intense studying I have done on games considered to be classics, my one dislike about the emphasis on studying classic games is that I often feel that people quickly lose sight of the fact that great lessons can be learned from just about anywhere or any level when it comes to chess. While nothing can replace the study of the classics–something that is still very important to say–any chess player who wants to improve should keep their mind open. This is something I could dive into a lot more, but won’t here on this blog. However, the reason I bring it up in talking about this book is that I like that it is a collection of games played right here on With the number of games played here on, I have little doubt there are many masterpieces that will never come to public attention, and I enjoy that someone is highlighting some of their own favorite moments from games they played.


Also, along the lines of this being more relaxed reading. I already mentioned above that this isn’t the type of book that throws lines at you, but to add to that, through most of the book visual diagrams took up more space on the pages than the words. This was a nice change of pace since in most other chess books I have read it can be very easy to get lost in the many variations and explanations.


Things I Didn’t Like

I went into this book knowing full well what level of chess player it was intended for, and in talking about the positives I fully take that into consideration. However, in talking about what I personally didn’t like, I can’t ignore it, as it was definitely not written for my level and most of the time it was too basic for my own enjoyment. 


The other thing I didn’t like had less to do with anything chess-related. To me, it just felt impersonal many times. On the cover and in the very first sentence the author stands by their identity of Honeybadger22, which I have no issue with, I think being a games collection it makes a lot of sense and only adds to what the book is. What felt impersonal to me is that when going through the actual games the phrasing is more that of a spectator who witnessed these games rather than from the perspective of the person who played them. For example, the author refers to both players as the side they were playing “White” or “Black”. This is in no way a strange thing for chess, but to me, it was strange when you are one of those players.


Recommendation and Final Thoughts

I hope by this point you already have a feeling as to if this book is for you. By all means, I like the concept of this book, and the overall content, and would recommend it based on the level of who I was talking to. As I mentioned in “My First Impressions” this book reminded me of a training suggestion I have given to players around 1200 and below. For recommending this book I would stick with that rating range. I think it is a good book for exposing less experienced players to different ideas with real-life examples. Outside of talking about that rating range, I think the most important thing is for you to ask yourself “how well do I know chess?” If you feel you don’t have a good understanding of what different concepts and tactics there are out there, then try this book out! 

You can buy it on Amazon! 




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