2 REALLY GOOD BOOKS TO HELP YOU IMPROVE
1.New Art of Defense in Chess by Andrew Soltis-(New Version of "The Art of Defense in Chess".
Grandmaster Andy Soltis is a popular Chess Life columnist, the chess correspondent for the New York Post, and the author of numerous classics of chess literature, including Pawn Structure Chess, The Inner Game of Chess, Rethinking the Chess Pieces, and many others. He was inducted into the U.S. Chess Hall of Fame in 2011.
The Art of Defense in Chess was first published by McKay in 1974 using descriptive notation. As Soltis explains in the introduction, he realized the need for an updated edition when leafing through the pages of the earlier work and saw that it was “drastically out of date” and needed to be completely rewritten.
The material in this new edition is divided as follows:
- What is Defense?
- The Spirit of Defense
- New Defense
- Weapons of Defense
- Risk Management
- You Against Tal
- Last Chance to Defend
Within each chapter are separate subsections on particular themes, with quizzes to test the reader at the end of each chapter. Overall, there are thirty-nine test positions and 280 diagrams throughout the book. Soltis notes that modern players think differently than the top players from thirty years ago and provides the following example:
In 1974, the year I wrote The Art of Defense in Chess, this would have been considered a favorable position for White, a plus-over-equals advantage, at least:
White has a substantial advantage in space. Black has failed to execute any of the freeing moves, such as ….b5 or …d5, that he needs to survive in this Maroczy Bind pawn structure. White will eventually find a winning plan, such as with Re3, Ng5, Rh3 and a breakthrough around h7.
And White’s attack would likely have succeeded if Black played in the manner that served so well for much of the 20th century, with cautious moves such as ….Nf8 to protect h7 and to avert 2 e5? because of 2…Bxf3 3 gxf3 dxe5 and …Qxd3.
But today most masters would prefer to play Black, particularly after 1…Qa8!.
Why? Because we realize now that White’s space advantage, in this and similar positions, is vastly overrated. And we see Black has a powerful plan of 2…Rfc8 and 3…Rxc4! 4 Bxc4 Rxc4. That trumps anything White is doing on the kingside.
But you can’t sacrifice in even positions, can you? That’s what 1974 would say if it could speak.
Yes, you can, we say today. Black would have one pawn for the Exchange and powerful pressure on the e4-pawn as compensation after 4…Rxc4.
In fact, White retreated 2 Qh3 (!) to anticipate threats along the a8-g2 diagonal. He was no longer acting as an attacker. He was beginning to think like a defender. Black continued to think like a counter-aggressor, with 2…Rec8.
Soltis then walks the reader through the rest of the game until White’s resignation after 39…Ne4! (or the sixteenth move according to his numbering). However, even though much of the material has been revised, many of the same examples are still presented. For instance, the very first example from the first chapter, “What is Defense?”:
When the first edition of this book appeared, readers told me how struck they were by the very first example. It wasn’t a famous game. Far from it. But there was something about the way it unfolded:
2.Move First Think Later by Willy Hendriks-
Now we have Move First, Think Later. The author will tell you the secret (yes, another “secret”) of how to just toss out a move and bash-bam-boom, it’s the right move! How cool is that?
The selling of the “chess is easy” mentality works quite well, but we all know it can’t be true (can it?), and it isn’t. What sets Willy Hendriks apart from de la Maza and his Rapid Chess Improvement is that Hendriks is a strong player (de la Maza barely made a 2000 rating and then retired from chess shortly thereafter), Hendriks is a good writer, Hendriks is a funny guy with lots of personality, and Hendriks has some serious teaching credentials. However, in his desire to shock the public and make a profit from the masses of “chess is easy” hopefuls, he obfuscates truth when it serves his purpose.
Don’t get me wrong. What Mr. Hendriks says is both very true and not true at all. How can that be, you may ask? Well, what’s true for an IM or GM is often not true for a 1400 player. For me to explain this, we’ll have to go right to the core of his “move first, think later” philosophy: PATTERNS.