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Move First, Think Later: Sense and Nonsense in Improving Your Chess Paperback

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 240 pages
  • Publisher: New In Chess,Csi (August 16, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 9056913980
  • ISBN-13: 978-9056913984
  • Product Dimensions: 9.3 x 6.7 x 0.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (11 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #650,119 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews


One of the most original chess books the judges have seen for a number of years. Both serious and highly entertaining at the same time.
(Judges of English Chess Federation)

What a fantastic book! I have not enjoyed reading an instructional book so much in years. I was laughing out loud throughout, because it is very witty, but it is also a really important instructional volume.

(Steve Giddins)

Hendriks uses many new examples to make his point. A very entertaining and provocative read. I'm sure readers will improve their chess.
(International Master Arthur van de Oudeweetering ChessVibes)

I can't really express just how much I enjoyed Move First Think Later by Willy Hendriks.

(Mark Crowther The Week In Chess)

For anyone interested in chess in a broader context, I highly recommend reading Move First, Think Later by Willy Hendriks. (Grandmaster Hikaru Nakamura)

Really a fantastic book, loaded with fresh ideas and excellent examples. After reading this book you will feel like Neo in the film The Matrix, when he discovers that his life so far was an illusion and that his real life will start only now.

(Martin Rieger Rochade Europa Magazine)

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Customer Reviews

For the typical club player rated USCF 1200-1800, there's not much here.
The evolution of chess engines over the decades has been towards more such rules, not less, which refutes the author's hypothesis.
I knew before ordering that I might not like the book (I don't, really), but it serves a purpose.

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

45 of 50 people found the following review helpful By Christopher J. Falter on August 20, 2012
Format: Paperback
In this collection of miniature essays, International Master Willy Hendriks presents the implications of recent advances in cognitive science for chess players and trainers. Hendriks is the little boy who, observing the parade of standard chess pedagogy, cries out that the king is in fact naked. While he is not afraid to name names, this is no diatribe; his playful wit and pithy phrases make this book a fun and instructive journey. (I don't think his cat really got to expert level after a year of chess lessons, but it was a fun way to talk about how talent might prevail over deliberate practice!)

Hendriks aims his empirical fire at several deeply cherished notions in the chess community:

* The right thinking process over the board will make you strong.
* Develop a good long-range plan before you think about specific moves.
* Follow adages, such as "respond to a flank attack with a central counterattack."
* Trainers know the right methods of chess improvement.
* Anyone can become an international master with 10,000 hours of deliberate practice.
* Pay attention to your recent results to figure out where you are and what's working.

Citing the research that shows grandmasters don't analyze more deeply than experts, but use their memories much more intensively during a game, Hendriks concludes that our subconscious engages in matching candidate maneuvers to a reservoir of patterns to find a good move. This is why a chess player does not really engage in rational thought, or long-range planning, before looking around for good moves. After the game he might provide a narrative for what happened, but the ensuing narrative does not necessarily reflect his actual thinking during the game.
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26 of 28 people found the following review helpful By Igelfeld VINE VOICE on September 19, 2012
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
It's not very often that an entire book is summarized by the title, but this is such a book. The outrageous title is the author's way of making a point that is actually quite old or namely if you expose your brain to good moves in a given position, your brain will assimilate this into it's inner processing and help you choose the best move.

The book is filled with psychology, philosophy, and quite frankly opinion. The basic idea really is that many of the conventional approaches to chess improvement simply are contrived and hard to implement into a clear and coherent method for OTB play. I can't argue with him on that having read many (hundreds) of chess books. The author argues that making a plan is close to non-sensical because very few people can see how a game might morph too far in advance. He also is highly critical of "advice" given by authors who are trying to shape the thinking of their book-reading students. Jeremy Silman is heavy target of Hendriks because of his "advice-like" style of chess instruction. But to be fair, the author rejects almost all chess advice given in books and instead himself just advises "pick a good move".

He spends most of the book trying to justify this approach and it relies heavily on his work on the theory of mind. I tend to think he's on to something here and it really is based on force feeding the brain with well-annotated games. The idea being that if you see a good example of an idea that is tactically possible, you'll consider it yourself and hopefully calculate correctly if it works in your position. So, this is good for young developing brains, but not so great for aging chess brains (probably over 25), and if true, means that you can't expect to really advance much as an aging chess player (again, anyone over 25).
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32 of 40 people found the following review helpful By Joe on August 26, 2012
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I purchased this book with much enthusiasm, but ultimately it was somewhat dissapointing. For the typical club player rated USCF 1200-1800, there's not much here. Allow me to provide specifics in no particular order:

PROSE and WRITING STYLE: The prose - oh the prose! It's a very choppy writing style that I found cumbersome.

OVERALL MESSAGE IS VAGUE: In a nutshell, Hendriks' point is that traditional thinking methods are either incorrect or overrated. He is particularly critical of the popular Jeremy Silman, stating that his system of assesing the position first and THEN looking at moves in bad advice. He bashes Silman's The Amateur's Mind, but does not provide any real, concrete alternative.

ORGANIZATION: The book is basically "all over the place" and reads like a collection of separate articles.

Basically, this work is more philosophy and "chess entertainment" than practical advice that can be brought to the tournament hall. His challenge of traditional thinking/coaching methods is interesting but I really didn't pick up anything new. Some good tidbits, but ultimately it's just "okay." If you want excellent, pragmatic advice about the mental game and the thinking process, pick up Chess for Tigers by Webb, The Seven Deadly Chess Sins by Rowson or The Survival Guide to Competitive Chess by Emms. They're much better reads.
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10 of 12 people found the following review helpful By John on October 16, 2012
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I read Move First, Think Later after it won the English Chess Federation book of the year award 2012, ahead of, among others, Garry Kasparov on Garry Kasparov. No small feat, and no buyer's remorse on my part. Dare I say, mandatory reading for all chess players, and especially chess teachers (!).

Move First, Think Later is a compilation of the author's refreshing and unorthodox views on chess in relation to didactic practices, philosophy, psychology, neurology, statistics and so on.

Hendriks spares none, including himself, resulting in a pleasant reading experience on some serious topics. Can't say I always agree, but it sure made me re-evaluate many of the opinions and 'beliefs' I hold, having taught chess as a profession for over ten years.

An example of Hendriks' writing style on a lighter, but very familiar topic, a chess player's habitual time trouble:

"Regarding 'real-life' addictions, like drinking or gambling, you could say that the attempts to deal with them are not always a complete success (to put it very mildly). Are chess players more successful in fighting their addiction?
Books with advice on this matter offer no research results to prove their effectiveness. As noted before, in chess literature, deriving claims from empirical tests is not priority number one.
I am curious what a study on 'kicking the habit of exorbitant use of thinking time' would reveal. I wouldn't be surprised if it showed little or no success. When I look around me in the tournament hall, I see the same guys struggling with the clock as twenty years ago. And if I speak to them about it, they tell me that they 'really should do something about this time pressure' just as they told me twenty years ago. I'm not laughing at them; unfortunately, I'm a member of this club!"
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