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Logical Chess: Move By Move: Every Move Explained New Algebraic Edition Paperback – June 30, 2003
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About the Author
Irving Chernev (1900-1981) was a Russian-American chess author who wrote over 20 books, including the bestselling Invitation to Chess and Logical Chess: Move By Move (ISBN: 9780713484649).
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If most grandmaster games leave you bewildered regarding why chosen moves are made, then Logical Chess: Move by Move is an excellent start to your coverage of such games. Every move is explained so that you understand the strategy and tactics for both sides. Repetition of important ideas helps to drive home particular themes (e.g., making a simple threatening move just to elicit a weakening kingside pawn move).
Chernev's analysis is wrong in some instances; he didn't have the benefit of strong chess engines and powerful processors during his time. There were some games during which I thought, "What is wrong with the move I would have made?" only to see that Stockfish preferred my move in lieu of what was actually played or championed by Chernev. Further, the author plays favorites: he lauds the moves of the ultimate winner of each game and casts aspersions on the choices of loser. I'd prefer to see a more unbiased analysis of the game scores, irrespective of whether they're played by the winner or the loser.
Start with this book, but use a strong chess engine if you're ever questioning whether a line is correct. Then play through the games of Neil McDonald's Chess: The Art of Logical Thinking. Its structure is similar in that it covers every move. But McDonald's book has fewer errors and (more importantly) much more insightful commentary about the plans and tactics for both sides.
First, what is this book? This is a collection of grandmaster games with commentary given by Irving Chernev. The book is divided into three major sections: The Kingside attack, the Queen's pawn opening, and then a final section (The Master Explains His Ideas) of games illustrating all the techniques presented before. The book is best described as a "beginner's strategy" book. It does not focus on tactics, but rather the overarching principles of how games, and attacks, are conducted. Each game takes about half and hour to work through, which makes this book nice for adults with jobs and family obligations who cannot devote a substantial amount of time each day to chess.
The strengths of this book are manifold:
(1) It will get beginner players out of the habit of playing random moves. The beginner will enter a game with some idea of what they need to do to carry out a successful attack, and they will move pieces accordingly. This, right here, is reason enough why beginning chess players should read this book.
(2) The reader will get exposure to a handful of important openings: the Italian Game, the Ruy Lopez, the Colle, and the Queen's Gambit. All these openings are good for the beginning player to become familiar with, and each one has a general strategy attached to it. Chernev does a good job of explaining the ideas behind these openings with the one exception of the Ruy Lopez.
(3) This book will change your style of play, and ultimately improve it if you are a beginner. There will be a learning curve, where the reader tries to implement the material in this book, and don't quite do it successfully. That's fine. It will take time to integrate everything he teaches into your own style of play.
(4) The annotations scale upwards as the reader progresses (but not as much as they should, see my first negative comment). The beginning games are almost all wordy explanations of what is happening, and by the middle Chernev is having the reader compute a handful of variations, and integrating the results into their analysis of a position.
Now for the negatives,
(1) The annotations are at a uniformly low level. There are 32 (I think) games in this book, and the annotations don't scale up as much as I would like. I only need to be told a few times that 1. e4 or 1. d4 is a great move! because it frees two pieces and fights for the center. I don't need to be told every time. Use that paragraph to put in another small calculation.
(2) Chernev, and I hate to say this, is probably telling the reader a bunch of lies with his analysis. I don't mean that he's saying anything that's wrong, but grandmaster games aren't played on the basis of explanations that a sub-1200 USCF player would understand. The actual rationale for the moves is far more sophisticated. This doesn't mean that the book is bad for a beginner, it just means that they will quickly outgrow this book.
(3) This is a book on strategy, and so very few tactical considerations are addressed. That's fine, the book isn't a tactics book. But this cannot be the only book a beginner reads.
(4) This is going to be my biggest complaint. There simply isn't enough material here. This book does too little with the 250-ish page length. This book has two major themes, how to attack a castled kingside position by weakening the pawn structure, and how to exert pressure on the c file in the Queen's Gambit position. Ever game in the first two sections ends in the middle game with a mate or a resignation due to an overwhelming material advantage stemming from one of those two ideas. The reader will not learn basic endgame concepts like opposition of kings, how to win in basic rook+pawn ending, or even how to grind down your opponent with a material advantage (can you win when you're up a bishop and need to promote a pawn?). If the reader can't win in the middle game, they won't win according to this book.
All in all, I do think this book is worth reading. However, it can not be the only book a beginner reads, and it certainly isn't the best beginner book. If you're looking for a single book to take you to an intermediate playing ability, Tarrasch's *The Game of Chess* is much better than this. However, if you're willing to buy two books, this one will be a great compliment to Tarrasch.