Reviews part II – The other side of the story

Thank you all for the debate on the reviews. As is normal, most people supported my point of view (which is why they read this blog in general, I assume), so I want to especially want to thank those that disagreed. A debate is more interesting if you have more than one point of view represented. I still disagree, but I appreciate you for making your opinion present, especially when immediately a few people will jump up and say we should not listen to you. On the contrary, we should, but use our sound judgement of course.

Today I spotted another review of one of our books: Chess Evolution 1 – The Fundamentals. It is generally favourable (5/6), but has some quite fair complaints about the book:

Given the confusing structure of this nine-volume series of instructional books, it seems as if the publisher took a page from the George Lucas handbook. The course is made-up of three series, each with three levels: The Fundamentals, Beyond the Basics, and Mastery.

This is the start and the reviewer returns to the point a few times. Yes, the series is not well structured in the way we have done it. We did it to ourselves, of course. What happened was that we took on volume 1 of each of Artur’s three serieses and then later on changed our minds and took all three. Suddenly we were trapped.

The other criticism we recognise extremely well is that the volume is meant to be easy (the German title actually translates pretty closely into “how to reach 1500 in elo”). We killed this German title and all connection to it in the marketing (but had to keep it in the book) because we found it entirely bonkers. As an example, I had three of my students solve exercises from Boost your Chess 3. Of 56 points they scored 55 (rated 2650), 52 (rated 2560) and 38 (rated 2250 – with one IM-norm). So this is what is needed to get to 2100? No, clearly you are much better than that if you know all the stuff in these books! My guess is beyond 2400, if you have the practical experience as well.

Michael McGuerty writes it like this:

Yusupov writes that the material targets three groups according to rating strength: under Elo 1500, under Elo 1800, and under Elo 2100. Even so, the lessons are at a very high level. Consider that the following two examples are the from the first lesson, “Combinations involving bishops,” in Chess Evolution 1: The Fundamentals, which is the third book of the Fundamentals Series (given here without the accompanying deep analysis):

Then he goes on to give a few examples of how difficult the exercises actually are. And they are quite challenging indeed.

An excellent review, which seems entirely flawless to me. Maybe he rates the book too highly? This is probably the only place where anyone would seriously disagree with him!


20 thoughts on “Reviews part II – The other side of the story”

  1. It is a real shame about the confusing structure of the series. I recommend the series to the skies every chance I get, but every time I do I have to clarify what the “real” order of the books is because the titles seem to imply the opposite.

    I do not think that 5/6 is too high a rating at all! If the user (I will not call him a “reader” in the case of these books since he has to do so much more than read) utilizes these books as they were intended, I don’t really know of any better way to study.

    I am 1900 USCF and find series 1 a “comfortable challenge” (the one-star problems are easy, the three-star problems are often hard but always solvable) and series 2 a stretch. We’ll see if I am able to ever reach series 3…

  2. I jsut wanted to say my copy of Positional Chess Sacrifices just came; and after a very cursory glance and look at the first game and some of the analysis; I think you have another Book of the Year candidate. It is very fine now you should get Suba to do a revised hedgehog to have something to compare with Shipov’s magnum opus. Well done!

  3. It has been two years since I started wondering why, why you chose to “Transpose the Matrix” with respect to the german edition.

    Now I finally have an answer! 😉

  4. @Paolo Violini
    Yes, this was odd. When we do the last book, we will try to finally get around to do the promised hardcover box sets. With them on the market, people will be less confused I believe.

    Maybe we will also do softcover box set with all 9 books, again colour coded!

    But we really wanted to get away from this 1500 nonsense…

  5. @dfan
    I am happy you like the books. Obviously my main point was that there are also criticism I entirely agree with, even when it makes us look like clowns…

  6. I understand exactly what you mean Jacob; the Hedgehog books go beyond being a chess series. I don’t do Russian but the translator must have done an awesome job. I still think Suba did a very credible job; the intro may be the most coherent explanation of sacrifices extant.

  7. Jacob, while my main “non-opening” study has been the My Great Predecessors series right now, I’ve been looking at going thru the Yusupov Series, especially when the box sets come out, but I have a few questions:

    1) Even has it confused, as they are selling sets of 3 as well as indivudally, which those sets of 3 are the Boost series, the Build Up series, and the Fundamentals series, clearly going in both directions like this were Tic Tac Toe. So should this be read by color or by title? In other words, Orange then Blue then Green, or Build Up then Boost then Evolution?

    2) So I see the rating recommendations are hogwash, so where should someone with a FIDE rating of 2053 start? Level 1 (orange)? Level 2 (blue)? Level 3 (green)? Build Up series? Boost series? Or Evolution series? My other ratings are around the same vicinty (USCF rating is also in the mid-2000s, Correspondence rating is 2037)

    3) Is there a significant difference between the Yusupov Series, and the one you have coming out in the Summer or Fall? Are they basically the same thing formatted differently? Is one intended more for Experts trying to reach Master vs those that truly are 1500?

  8. Orange, then Blue, then Green. At each level, read Build Up, then Boost, then Evolution. You can see the entire series laid out in the intended order at (the original German edition).

    I would guess that the level 2 (Blue) books are the best fit for you. If you start with the level 1s you will mostly find the tactics smooth sailing but you will pick up interesting things in the strategic and positional chapters. Personally I like starting a little below my level with “courses” like this so I can make sure that I have a firm foundation, but not everyone has the patience or money to do that.

  9. “So I see the rating recommendations are hogwash, so where should someone with a FIDE rating of 2053 start? Level 1 (orange)? Level 2 (blue)? Level 3 (green)? Build Up series? Boost series? Or Evolution series? My other ratings are around the same vicinty (USCF rating is also in the mid-2000s, Correspondence rating is 2037)”

    Patrick, why so complicated? Just grab one of the books, start with the first or some interesting chapter – and you’ll see. Too easy, take another chapter. Too easy again, try a higher volume…
    You get the principle?

  10. @dfan

    Thanks for the info. Maybe if the booksellers at the National Open in Las Vegas have them in stock, I can see whether the orange would be too simple for me or not.

    For some people, it’s not that simple. Some people don’t possess the “principal” to apply your “principle”. I would rather only spend money on 9 books if I am going to get use out of 9 books. If only the Blue and Green would be of use, last time I looked, 6 books are cheaper than 9. If I would get genuine use out of all 9, I don’t object to buying 9 books.

    You get the principle? 🙂

  11. @Patrick
    1) You are right – you need to go by colours.

    2) I would start at the beginning. You will find a bit of it quite easy, but there is enough to haunt you.

    3) My series starts where Artur’s books end. The one book I will recommend widely from my series will be the positional one.

  12. @werner
    I should maybe add that I made Marina (2250) start at the lowest level. She went through it fast, but definitely learned a few things.

  13. @Patrick

    I’m mid 19’s USCF and you could always do what I’m doing. I started with Blue, setting up the positions on the board and not moving the men. I’ve worked through 2 of them, scoring about 60-70% and I’m ready for the last one now.

    However, I decided to do the Orange ones about 2 months ago, simultaneously with the Blue.

    For the Orange ones I’m doing them blindfold (not setting the positions up on the board, but fixing them in my mind from the diagrams, closing the book and solving). I’m about sixty percent through book1 and have been scoring about 70% this way.

    At first, I though this would be really impossible, and the first few lessons were really an effort,but then suddenly, I started to get the hang of it, and its coming easier. It has really helped to build my visualization skills.

  14. @Alberto
    It is not “important”. All the books contain 24 sections on various topics. Some expand on each other, but not to a degree where you will understand it greatly diffirently.

    It is the “correct” order, but really it is just 206 brilliant articles on chess of varying difficulty that combined create a big picture…

  15. I’ve found the chapter ending exercises in the orange and blue books, haven’t worked with the green ones, wildly complicated IF I didn’t first work through every nook and cranny of the lesson.

    One has the tendency to skip over simpler chapters, for example Queen vs Pawn on the 7th. I’d suggest one not skip. There’s unexpected knowledge to be had in the ‘I already know THAT’ chapters.

  16. ah…and I suggest starting at the first book of a given color because later books make references to previously written chapters – which often are from the first book in the series.

    One of the local players who is just around 2300 fide has borrowed and worked through all of the books I have from the series – all but the last green and last blue.

  17. Jacob Aagaard

    My suggestion for those that find the orange books a bit simple is to read them in the toilet or in bed. If you get bored you can always go to sleep or just leave (if you are on the can).

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