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For Thinkers and Analysts
on August 6, 2013
GM Bronstein once said "The essence of chess is thinking about chess."
Alexander Shashin has thought deeply about the essence of chess, and has analyzed it with the methodology of the nuclear physicist which he is.
This book presents a coherent and logical method for analyzing ANY chess position.
The problem is, the presentation of the material the book contains could have been better.
Much much better.
Instruction by practical game-analysis begins in the text on page 18, where we are introduced to a method of determining the material value, or "m", of the position on the board...count White's developed pieces, add "one" for having the move and subtract the counted number of Black's pieces (don't add one, as Black hasn't the move).
The numerical value obtained is referred to the simple Algorithmic Drift-Chart (which may be intuitive for a physicist to understand how to read, but equates to two days worth of daunting to a determined layperson/chessplayer to decipher. Clues as to how to read the Drift-Chart are buried in the text of the book, a bit here, a bit there, rather than having a page opposite it devoted to explaining it's methodology--annoying.)
But..wait...this methodology isn't to determine "m", but refers to "tempi"-(-not tempo, but tempi)...but..it's not how you determine parameter "t", Time...either--there's another methodology for that, counting all possible squares one's pieces can move to and dividing by all-possible-squares the opponent may move to, deriving a value from that to be compared to the Drift-Chart...the count of developed pieces ("tempi"/tempo) methodology is suddenly dropped without another useage until much later in the book, when it's suddenly resurrected with pronouncement regarding its crudity as compared to the Count All Squares method.
Delta K and Delta(move) are presented quite intelligibly, and "m" itself is presented intelligibly, once you realize that the tempi-thing ain't it--confused yet?
the parameter of "Safety"--which doesn't have any signifier (Greek letter, or otherwise) attached to it is deemed to be a matter of art and intuition (as it says in the text)
Yeah, this book will do that to you. No page listing all formulas--a simple addition SOMEONE should have thought of, eh? No glossary of terms.
The book reads very much as if it were cobbled together, and this analyst finds evidence supporting that hypothesis within the very structure of the book.
There's several online interviews/articles of A. Shashin's translated into English online. They bear evidence of his useage of the term "p" to signify Time, years ago. My guess is that his methodology has gone through a number of refinements and modellings over the years, and that this book isn't made of whole-cloth, but of a pastiche of previous writings.
The translation into English is superb.
It sounds like I'm ripping on this book--I'm not. It's a great book, an interesting book, Shashin is an amiable writer, and--as I said--the translation is impeccable.
The book has its structural flaws, which will confuse and bewilder the reader newly come to it. These are flaws in editing the substance of the book, not flaws in the material Shashin's presenting.
Most chess books are bought and left unread--we all know that. This book, because of its unfortunate structuring, will too-often suffer that fate.
It deserves a read; Shashin's a thinker. He's also played against some world-famous players, and was chosen by Korchnoi as a training-partner...certainly no light-weight chess-player!
Physically, Mongoose had an excellent job done of printing the book. Very nicely done, very readable type, nice paper, nice cover.
My paperback copy is now heavily annotated in the barely two weeks I've owned it--I intend to purchase a hardcover version, if that becomes possible.
Buy this book if you're interested in thinking about the ESSENCE of chess...don't buy it if you're only interested in increasing ratings--it'll take you too long to understand it's contents for it to be of use in that tournament coming up in three weeks.
I like the book. I recommend it with only the above caveats.