- Hardcover: 544 pages
- Publisher: Castle Books (November 29, 2009)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0785815163
- ISBN-13: 978-0785815167
- Product Dimensions: 8.8 x 5.8 x 1.7 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.7 pounds
- Average Customer Review: 12 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #824,028 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Chess: Tactics and Strategy Hardcover – November 29, 2009
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Top customer reviews
Burgess is an excellent chess writer, precise and elegant. It is always a pleasure to read his prose.
However for us, intermediate players in the US, the book reappears with a fresh new title "CHESS Tactics and Stragegy -- Great games, Test Positions, Openings, 900 Illustrations". No mention in this American title of the original British ambition to offer an encyclopedia of chess for the general public. And in fact this is not too important for the substance of the book.
The illustrations are very good and show up very well on the good paper of the hardback edition published by the American CASTLE BOOKS. This is not the case for the paperback edition still called "The Mammoth Book of Chess" published by Carroll & Graf, still on lousy cheapo greyish paper.
I own another Graham Burgess book "The World's Greatest Chess Games", also published by Carroll and Graf, unfortunately in its paperback edition, since no hardback edition is yet available, and this is a very unsatisfactory paperback for anybody who loves good books. For this collection of great games is fabulous and deserves a much better edition.
Interestingly, the quality of the paper does influence its usefulness: I can keep a clear mental image of the diagrams of the hardback edition, whereas I have been unable to remember distinctly the fuzzy diagrams of the paperback edition. The clarity and contrast of the drawings in the hardback edition are a great help for easily memorizing the positions.
So, whoever intends to buy this book should unhesitatingly prefer the much better hardback edition to the "cheapo" paperback edition.
"Part I: Mastering Chess"
This is the meat of the book, 330 pages out of 537, or 62%. All buyers of this book will use it essentially for the technical analysis of play and games presented in this Part I.
In this Part I, the book attempts to delivers the promise of its title: "CHESS -- Tactics and Strategy". Burgess analyzes about 350 games or key parts of games by top players. grouped by key thematic principles. Some of those games come straight from the collection of "The World's Greatest Chess Games".
Burgess's description and analysis are first-class. Compared to so many other chess books, the clarity and density of Burgess's analysis is truly exceptional, and this is why, on this feature alone, this book deserves five stars.
But it is a global overview of the game, which may satisfy the curiosity of a beginner/intermediate class. But this book is NOT a good way to really learn basic chess.
The chapter on "Tactics" should have been more widely expanded, with more examples and longer analyses. Right now it is skimpy and under-nourished, with only a measly 13 pages. After all, "Tactics" is one of the two key promises of the title on the cover, and one of the fundamental interests of all players.
"Combinations" (only 23 pages) are too sketchily presented as puzzles to solve, with barebones "Solutions to Combinations" (14 pages), also treated too schematically. The search for potential combinations on the board is closely linked to "strategy" and should have deserved a much more thorough presentation.
There are so many better books on "Tactics" for beginners/intermediates, which illustrate in comprehensive detail the basic tactics of Forks, Discovered Attacks, Pins, Skewers, Removing the Guard, Overloading, Interferences and about 20 Basic Mates which any aspiring chess player should be familiar with.
A first-class introduction can be found, for instance, in Dan Heisman's "Novice Nooks" column in ChessCafe, with excellent articles on all aspects of tactics and strategy, and a superb up-to-date bibliography in his list of "Recommended Chess Books", also on the Chess Cafe site, ranked according to the level of the student.
It is in the chapters on "Openings" (168 pages) and "Attack and Defense" (66 pages) that Burgess's book on "CHESS - Tactics & Strategy" really shines. Again this is the substance of the book, and it could easily be expanded. The level of analysis is too close to the advanced level to be serviceable to beginners/intermediates. But it will at least satisfy their curiosity.
"Part II: The World of Chess"
By "World", what Burgess meant in 1997 must have been the social aspects of tournament chess.
This Part II is a strange hodgepodge of items belonging to the sociology and the history of chess. The info is not without interest, but has no connection with Part I, the technical exposé of the game.
A lot of it is included only due to Graham Burgess's 1997 ambition to present an "encyclopedia of chess" for the non-connoisseurs, an intention obviously abandoned on the new cover of our American edition, but unfortunately the body of the book is exactly the same old text as in the original 1997 "Mammoth" edition.
Most of it is unnecessary and useless, a lot of it is very dated and obsolete, with material that might have been more appropriate in magazine articles written in 1997 than in a fundamental book on chess. For instance "Computer Chess" (this field has evolved considerably since 1997), "Online Chess and the Compuserve Chess Forum" (who remembers Compuserve Forum?).
Much more comprehensive and updated info can be easily found online on various chess sites, for instance the great articles on chess in Wikipedia, or up-to-date info on all aspects of the chess "world" in the "About Chess" site, or in Dan Heisman's articles in his column "Novice Nooks, all published and archived in the Chess Cafe site. Heisman's own books on tactics are an excellent demonstration of what instruction books from a professional coach should offer.
Then, surprisingly, in Part II, there's also a chapter on "Endgame Studies" which relates to technical game-playing and should be moved closer to the "Endgames" chapters in Part I. Again the treatment is too abridged to be more than a summary.
"Part III: Essential Chess Information"
This is the final Part, with many valuable chapters which make no sense at all at the back of the book. Those informative chapters should be moved to the beginning of the book.
"How to Play Chess" (Appendix A) is incongruously in this end Part, on p. 498! It should be instead at the beginning if the book is also aiming at beginners.
"Chess Notations" (Appendix B) could also be moved from the end to the front of the book.
"The Basic Mates" (Appendix C) are quite illogically also put at the end. They should be moved to the front to join "Delivering Mate" and "Solutions to Delivering Mate". Still, this section is very meager and calls for beefing up.
"Glossary of Chess Terms" (42 pages) is excellent and can be used as a handy reference on the language of chess.
However "Chess Demographics" (Appendix D) could have made for a good magazine article in 1997, but adds nothing to the book and pre-empts valuable space that could be devoted to the "Tactics and Strategy" of the Title.
"Bibliography and Suggested Further Reading" is dated and skimpy. Again, the current reader should use Dan Heisman's superlative and comprehensive list of "Recommended Chess Books". The best anywhere.
Then comes "Index of Games and Part Games" with the names of the great players whose real games have been used as examples in the book, an excellent feature, with the games listed twice in the index so that either white or black is searchable.
"Index of Openings" is also well done and highly serviceable.
To recapitulate, this book feels terribly dated. It wants to be a kind of general introduction to all the aspects of chess, delivering only limited information to readers without much knowledge of the subject. It does give you a wide overview of the complexities of chess, but is no help to the student seriously interested in improving.
The technical aspects of chess playing are covered in 409 pages out of 537, about 76% of the total.
However, even in the "technical" area, the information, always of top quality, is bizarrely organized, in a very disparate and infuriating way, as noted by other reviewers. And most of the analysis is an advanced discussion of lines of play that is not very useful to the average student.
And in the States, we would have preferred something flowing more organically and more tightly structured, along the lines of: Basics, Openings, Tactics and Strategy in the Middle Game, End Games, etc... But, truly, there's no way to cover so much in such a little book. Everything remains at the summary level.
The "encyclopedia" aspect, beyond the material concerning "play", with the little bits of sociology and history, is of little interest to most of us . And we can easily ignore obsolete and useless information, to focus only on the good, but advanced technical analysis offered in three quarters of the book, much more oriented toward strategy than tactics.
The concept of a global book touching on all the aspects of the game is still valid, but it should be focused on the play aspects, dropping all the magazine-article material on history, social environment, etc..which all can be found online. The book is still worth republishing, but modernized and focused in a completely restructured mold.
In conclusion, the English title was more honest. The American title is a deceptive marketing ploy. The book does not deliver what the title promises. Although an interesting book, in clear and elegant language, it can only satisfy curiosity and make the beginner/intermediate aware of the many aspects of the game.
For effective learning, you'll have to get more detailed instruction in other books, as found for instance in Dan Heisman's list of Recommended Chess Books in his Novice Nooks column on the Chess Cafe site, where most of the great classic coaching books are classified according to the rating of the student.
In particular, the "Winning Chess Series" by Yasser Seirawan, covering "Openings", "Tactics", "Strategies", "Play", "Endings" "Brilliancies", although not as well written as Graham Burgess's book, nonetheless offers a much more immediately serviceable instruction to beginner/intermediate players.
Therefore, go check out the reviews on that book - they apply equally to this book.
The reason I gave it 5 stars (besides the fact that it is great) is that this hardcopy edition is actually several dollars cheaper than the paper edition of TMBOC!
This book has it all; history, rules, basic mates, lessons in tactics and combinations, positional concepts, endgame principles, overview of virtually every opening, traps, classic games, use of computers, internet resources, etc. etc. etc.
I have a few pet peeves regarding the book, but at "such a good price" for such a spectacular book there is nothing else to say, but BUY IT!
P.S. just so you know what one of my pet peeves is- the book is somewhat unbalanced in it's coverage of the openings. For example, in the section dealing with the King's Indian Defense (a very popular opening, to be sure) he gives a number of really great illustrative games.
However, when discussing the Nimzo-Indian Defense (probably equally as popular), the illustrative games are rather sparse.