My review of "Play Winning Chess" by GM Yasser Seirawan

Jul 29, 2012, 10:38 AM |

As part of my one-year goal of becoming a better chess player, I've bought a few books on chess.  I've now finished reading Yasser Seirawan's book "Play Winning Chess".

The book is relatively short, less than 200 pages if you don't count the photos chapters and glossary.  I felt that it was perhaps a little light on content and that the author didn't drill properly some concepts such as forks, pins, skewers, etc.  However, since this book is the first of a series of 7, I'll hold off judgement until I've read the other books.

Chapter 1 is the classical chess introduction; it explains the differents pieces, how they move on the board, special moves (castling, en passant), explains the algebraic notation, etc.  I guess that's pretty standard.  I skimmed quickly over that part since I already knew how to move the pieces.  The historical notes on the evolution of chess were interesting though.

Chapter 2, 3, 4, and 5 discuss Yasser's four principles: force, time, space, and pawn structure.  A few years back, I got IM Jeremy Silman's "The Amateur Mind" (but couldn't read it as I didn't have the basics of chess) where he discussed 7 imbalances.  Yasser's system looks very similar, and I guess it's no coincidence that Silman is a contributor to Yasser's series.  The advice in those chapters is pretty good, though short.  Again, this may just be that there is a lot more discussion of the four principles in the tactics and in the strategies books and how they relate to those ideas.  I'll hold off judging too hastily for now.

Chapter 6 is a series of annotated games.  That chapter was nice, but I felt that the four principles were not as rigorously applied to the positions as I would've liked.  In particular, I can't really recall a passage where the author said something like "by playing 6...cxd4, Black has created doubled pawns on the d-file; White's plan should now be to attack that weak pawn."  The principles were mentioned, but I felt that the comments were more of a "here's what White is doing", "this threatens that", "this is a bad move by Black", etc.

"Play Winning Chess" features quizzes throughout the book and tests at the end of the chapters.  I found the some quizzes were a little too easy (the "which statement is false" were particularily trivial), and perhaps there could have been more tests at the end of the chapters. 

I'll give "Play Winning Chess" a 3/5 rating.  It's good for learning chess and moving past the point of just thinking about individual moves and understanding what a position is about.  I just wish that it went deeper than it does.  Hopefully, this book served mostly as a primer for the other books in the series, where we go deeper into the thinking process.