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Understanding Chess Move by Move Paperback – May 1, 2001
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From the Publisher
Gambit Publications specialises in chess and has an unrivalled reputation for originality and editorial excellence. The company is owned and staffed entirely by leading chess masters and grandmasters.
About the Author
John Nunn is a grandmaster from England. He has won four individual gold medals and three team silver medals at Chess Olympiads. In the Chess World Cup of 1988/9, he finished sixth overall, ahead of several former World Champions. He is arguably the most highly acclaimed chess writer in the world, with two of his books receiving the prestigious British Chess Federation Book of the Year Award.
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Top Customer Reviews
John Nunn is very accurate in his detailed analysis. He does expect the reader to have basic knowledge so doesn't spend time going over the simple general rules, but focuses on what a good player needs to know to get getter. Sometimes, he does go off on a tangent with some of the variations and maybe could have spent a little more time explaining the plan instead of just the variation. This one of the top books of its type for the advanced chess player.
1) Chernev's is much more basic, even though Understanding Chess "avoids jargon" and "emphasizes general principles" Nunn still writes more in-depth textually and doesn't avoid long variations.
2) Nunn is less repetitive - he doesn't try to come up with a dozen different reasons for why 1 e4 or 1 d4 "is the best move on the board," he just refers you to game 1, and moves on.
3) Nunn's games reflect current theory and modern openings which are a bit more sophisticated (or at least not as readily comprehensible) and require more explanation than Chernev's.
I enjoyed Understanding Chess (the writing, variations, thematic ideas, summaries) but I think it is a bit too much for younger players or newcomers so if you haven't read Logical Chess or found it too hard (or **shudder** boring) you might do well to wait awhile before trying Understanding Chess. Understanding Chess is like a college textbook while Logical Chess' is a high school workbook.
Improvers should instead try books like McDonald's "The Art of Planning" or Giddins "50 Essential Chess Lessons". Beginners should try Chernev's "Logical Chess Move by Move"
Positional analysis and concrete tactical analysis are interwoven; often an accurate positional evaluation depends on a tactical finesse in a sub-line. In following Nunn's notes, we enter the subtle and complex mind of a modern GM. Earlier annotators writing similar books, such as Reinfeld and Chernev, would give sweeping general assessments based on superficial and static evaluations of a position and backed up by one or two unconvincing lines of play to corroborate them. Furthermore, Nunn strives for objectivity. Earlier annotators would give exclamation marks only to the winner and question marks only to the loser. Not only does Nunn point out the mistakes of the winners and the good moves of the losers but he makes clear the pyschological problems in coping with poor but tenable positions.
The games are taken from contemporary GM praxis, where both players are au fait with theory past and present. The games are not one-sided contests. Note particularly the four games devoted to defence. In each case we see a full-blooded fight between evenly matched opponents. These games receive minute analysis and not superficial and facetious comments.
New positional methods are discussed, such as for combating the isolated d-pawn (Kamsky-Karpov 1996), where instead of playing the N to d5 in front of the isolated d-pawn, Karpov plays it to f5. Another example is playing with or against the hedgehog (Karpov-Ribli 1986). Exceptions to the classical 'rules' occur often in the games; Nunn provides the raison d'etre. The rules are seen to be half-truths at best.
The book will likely appeal to players with ratings of at least 1600. Anyone who has been through such books as, say, "Logical Chess" and "The Most Instructive Games of Chess ever Played", both by Chernev. Class B players, who all too often have blinkered vision in that they concentrate exclusively on attack, or play on one part of the board, or one tactical theme, are likely to learn quite a bit as they see how the entire board has to be kept in mind, how attack has to be balanced with defence, and also how subtle and indirect methods can often be more effective than a crude and single-minded approach.