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on June 25, 2000
I had read wonderful reviews about Silman's other book, "How to Reassess Your Chess" ("HTRYC"), so I purchased it. Within a week after that I was told that I should read "Inside the Amateur's Mind" ("ITAM") first. So I put HTRYC down and picked up ITAM. I was skeptical at first. After all, who cares what goes through a patzer's head in a game -- I want to learn from masters and grandmasters. However, it was scary to see how similarly I incorrectly analyzed a given position or manner of executing a plan with the amateurs. These mistakes are vividly pointed out and practical advice for analysis and planning is presented.
Silman's method is based on understanding the imbalances inherent in every position. He gives 7 elements to analyze: (1) material; (2) minor pieces; (3) pawn structure; (4) files and weak squares; (5) space; (6) development; and (7) initiative. I have started forcing myself to break down the elements of a position and develop a plan dictated by those elements. Silman demonstrates how even seemingly minor differences like the battle between a bishop and a knight can consume the entirety of a middlegame plan.
I have already seen the benfits of this thinking method. For instance, I recently annotated one of the test positions at the end of ITAM (an excellent feature of the book BTW) and compared it with Silman's notes and found that I was 70-80% accurate in making my assessments -- a big improvement for me. He also emphasizes an attacking mentality (seize the initiative! Make you opponent react to your threats!) which has helped my game already.
It is also very instructive to see the way Silman defeats amateurs who are given superior or winning positions. I don't play against GM's so it is instructive to see how to take apart a C through Expert player who misahandles a good position.
After completing the test positions, I am going to spend a month or two sharpening my tactics so they can catch up with my new-found positional understanding. After that, I will read ITAM again to see what jewels of wisdom I missed (or need re-emphasized). This book definitely deserves being re-read.
Two notes of criticism. It is one thing to get a strong positional advantage and develop the correct plan, it is another cash it in to a victory. There are several times throughout the book where Silman shows how an Amateur chose the incorrect plan but does not show the technique of carrying out the correct plan. In fairness, he usually does demonstrate the technique of the correct plan, but not always. It is frustrating to look at a position and say, "okay, I see what the incorrect plan is, but how do I impliment the correct one?" and then get no explanation. Also, there are a number of typographical errors. Although I understand the third edition is a vast improvement over earlier editions, they still creep up with regularity.
Despite these criticisms, I highly recommend this book. Much more accessible to the under-expert player than a number of other books. Once I feel I have truly mastered the lessens in ITAM, I will tackle HTRYC. However, there are a lot of lessens to tackle, so it might be a while.
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on July 13, 2000
Too often the aspiring amateur encounters serious and theoretically significant books that have a single failing: they are written by Grandmasters for Grandmasters.
This book by Jeremy Silman is a wonderful antidote to this syndrome. Unlike many other chess professionals, Silman seems to be genuinely fascinated with the thought processes of typical amateur tournament players, many of whom have some mixture of talent, knowledge, and experience, but can't put these elements together forcefully.
The format of the book is well described in other reviews here. Suffice it to say that this is the most valuable didactic about the real heart of chess- planning and execution in the middle game- I have encountered over 25 years of playing and teaching.
Although Silman's frequently amusing expressions of derision about the faulty analyses of his students might seem demeaning, there is a genuine love of the game and eagerness to help others gain mastery that consistently shines through.
This is a book that won't sit on your shelf if you have any affection and ambition in your chess playing, and genuinely merits the highest recommendation.
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on April 12, 2001
If your no good, you won't like it. If your too good, you won't like it. If you've been playing chess for at least two years and are struggling to get any better... you will find it absolutely amazing. Chess will begin to make sense. Silman focuses on one topic at a time... He then shows you a problem position. He shows these positions to some of his students of different strenghts and asks them to play against him but to think aloud as they play. He comments on what they are doing poorly and well. He teaches you how to think, not just how to play. At the end of the book there are 24 problem positions for you to tackle. He then provides you with a 3-5 page analysis of what his student did and why. This cements knowledge you learnt in the previous pages. I read this book slowly and meticulously and have improved in a big way. No book I have seen is similar to this one in style and usefulness.
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on August 28, 2001
Most chess books introduce a topic (e.g., weak pawns) and show some example games without really explaining the idea behind each move. Maybe this is adequate for a master, but I never got much out of that approach. Silman, on the other hand, explains what he terms an "imbalance", demonstrates how to take advantage of an imbalance, and then shows examples of how his students played the same position. He explains the thought behind each move as do his students when they play a position. This alone made this book one of the best. However, what I liked best about this book (even more than "Reassess Your Chess") is that when the students where given a position, Silman played the other side and demonstrated how to take advantage of inferior play. I think this aspect of the book most separates it from other chess books. Since I am not a master, my opponents don't play the best possible move each time. It's good to find a book that demonstrates how to take advantage of the moves that amatures make. That is, not blunders, but the positional mistakes that causes ones game to slowly fall apart and leave you wondering where you went wrong.
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on March 13, 1998
I have a modest chess library (60+ titles) of carefully selected books, and I can honestly say that this is the one that has done the most for my chess understanding; boosting me more than 500 rating points within the space of a year. I recommend it wholeheartedly to anyone serious about wishing to improve his/her game. The lessons and long annotations are exemplary, and the way we get to "see" inside amateur players' minds and follow their thoughts are most instructive.
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on November 8, 2001
Most chess books focus on concepts and then illustrate them through actual games or positions. In contrast, this book focuses on the thought process that puts all those concepts together. I have found it to be an excellent self-evaluation tool that allowed me to look at how do I think during a chess game.
I think one of the biggest problems I face when playing is that while I am very well familiar with the theory, I have a difficult time putting all the pieces together. I think you can share in the experience of looking at a position and thinking - OK what do I do now - do I play for positional advantages, do I attack the King, if only I could get that pawn out of the way, will he notice this fork threat, etc .... You can find numberous books that tell you how to do each of those things in isolation. At the end of the day, however, you have to find a way of utilizing all those concepts and designing your own strategy and implementing it. I think this book helped me to do so.
The book consists of the familiar concepts from Silman's book "Reassessing your chess" and once again goes through the list of imbalances. However, for each concept the author offers the thoughts and actions of his students who are trying to implement it. You can read what they are thinking and Silman's comments regarding what is going wrong with their thought process. Time and again I found myself thinking - OOPS I thought that too.
The only critisism towards this book is that it is somewhat boring - Silman's emphasis is on positional play and he openly states that he finds slow positional play just exciting as a mad attack at the king. There are none of the flashy Alekhine/Capablanca/Tal style of attacks.
Still, in terms of the effectiveness of this book- it was probably the one book that most improved my play.
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on April 12, 2003
In this book Silman describes the Psychological aspects of the game, teaching how to master your Strategy:
1. Learn to recognize weakness/strengths (yours and your's opponent).
2. Learn to do a plan based on these imbalances.
3. Make a plan and follow through it, while covering your weakness (the ones that really matters!).
The book is a set of several games that he played against ranked players from 1000 to 2000. While playing, his opponents are describing their plans (and the imbalances and threats they are actually visualizing).
Silmans shows the aspects of the Amateur's Mind:
1. Forgetting to make a plan, and doing a lot of calculations.
2. Leaving the plans behind, after a small threat of your opponent.
3. Being frightened by improbable threats... (and again forgetting your plan).
And so forth...
It is a real good book for those interested in the strategy the game has. After reading this book, playing chess has become a lot of easier (no such calculations! only the necessary ones), visualizing the board into sections to play (Center, Queenside, Kingside), the role of each piece (Knights, Rooks, Bishops etc), accessing weakness/strengths and finally making a reasonable plan based on what he says "What the board calls for , not what I want!!!".
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on September 20, 1999
This book is an example of Silman's popular "Reassess Your Chess" in action: amateurs evaluate and play a position and International Master Silman uses their comments as a springboard for his reassessments. Although I benefited from Silman's "Reassess," I almost passed this book by simply because I thought, "Interesting, but how much could I learn from a 1300 USCF player's comments?" Yet it is precisely their imprecise analysis that allows Silman to discuss imbalances and plans. Combined with nearly two dozen test positions that Silman exhausively explains, I felt I received a great bargain and a very efficient, effective, practical review. The cliche is "this book helped me gain (fill in the number) rating points." For me, "How to Reassess Your Chess" was that book. This book solidifies my progress (I am a 1950 rated player). Not for everyone, but many will benefit.
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on December 24, 2002
This book was very influential to my development as a chess player. When I first saw the title, I didn't want it because I thought I was no amateur. I eventually purchased this book and it was well worth it. Mr. Silman has gone a long way toward explaining how chess works and why some people win and other only win sometimes. After I first read this book, my computer and internet chess rating escalated several hundred points. Now, I follow Mr. Silman's website and I am still improving. There are times when I am in difficult games and I know that the next move is going to forge the course of the game for many moves to come and I ponder the position, searching for the correct move. Then I remember IM Silman's techniques and I usually find a good move. Of course I have to remember what it feels like to be strangled in a chess game to fully appreciate the gravity of the move I'll choose based on Jeremy Silman's move selection techniques.
I loved this book. It was very well done. I've even found reference to this book in books by other Grand Masters. The other Grand Masters look at positions in their books and explain them in their language, but every once and a while they will break the position down in using Mr. Silman's imbalances. What better recommendation is there? A Grand Master recommends a book written for people who are not yet a master then says how helpful it has been in his own Grand Master Level games!
International Master Jeremy Silman's books may be the only books a chess player will ever need to become an expert and master. Of course you have to follow his advice.
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on February 1, 2003
This book is amazing. Reading through it made me realise how much there is to understand about chess and furthered my desire for a better understanding of this great game. I believe this book should be read before Silman's other great book "How to reassess your chess" to help you understand it deeper and appreciate it's contents and help in developing your chess understanding.
As for the reviewer Alexander T. Winsberg, If you don't know how to move the piece's you're not an amateur, you're a patzer. Get "the idiot's guide to chess" (a good book, despite it's funny name) then come back to Silman and if you still don't understand Chess better than when you started after that book and this, then chess is not in your brain capacity. Reader's should ignore his remarks.
The reader should be aware this is for the "advanced beginner" and a "chess amateur" which is different from "amateur" in a strictly speaking sense. For a player to get full benefit from this book they should have already read a positional primer and have knowledge of basic tactical motifs and basic openings. This book helps correct your error's to help you play better more meaningful chess.
A must have for any serious chess student!.
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