The Most Difficult Book

We have just uploaded Grandmaster Preparation – Strategic Play to the printer. Excerpts and so on will follow next week. They have told us that they should be in time for the books to be available in our warehouse on the 14th of March.

This is by far the most difficult book I have written, both for the reader and the author. I am so empty right now that I have no feeling if this is a good book or not. I just hope you guys will like it.

I want to thank Sabino, Marina, Boris, Surya, John, Colin and Andrew for their help with this book. I did not put this inside the book, but I am truly very grateful. Especially to Surya, who annotated five games for the foreword, showing that he does understand chess to a much higher level than could have been misconstrued from the game we played in Politiken Cup 2010, annotated in Positional Play.


38 thoughts on “The Most Difficult Book”

  1. This is not about the subject of the article here but now we have GM13 on the Open Spanish I guess it should be good, as for 1. d4, to have another GM Repertoire for Black about all the other White choices after 1. e4 e5 except the Spanish, but with the Spanish Exchange not covered in GM13 (Scotch, Four Knight, King’s Gambit, Vienna, Bischop Opening, Ponziani, Italian or Two Knights etc etc)

    Thank you very much by advance, and for your answer to… 😉

  2. I am looking forward to this book. Would you reccommend players to go through the exercises in Positional Play before we start on Strategic Play or can we do say a chapter of one and then a chapter of another?
    Many Thanks

  3. Sorry

    What is the difference between Strategic Play and Positional Play? Do not talk about the same?

    No speak both positional and strategic aspects of the game?

    1. I am sure that Colin will be wise enough to include the answer to this question in the excerpt going up today. My short answer is that positional is the goal and strategy is the planning of how to get there. They are definitely not the same in the dictionary and to say they are the same is odd to me, even if some theorists have made no distinction in their work.


    Jacob, keep up with hard work and God will reward you endlessly!!!

    To my mind Quality Chess books are of the highest level in chess publishing. No one can approach you, but do not live on laurels, it can vanish just like that.

    No matter how you’re looking at us, bloggers and enthusiastic chess amateurs, we are supporting you heartily! With our comments, annoying questions and suggestions, you’re hopefully even better in perception of chess literature from the layman side.

    One wise man said that when you have put all your energy to fulfill a ceartain goal, you’re empty and exhausted. Taking this as a measure, I’m asured that you gave all best while writing Strategic Play. Hopefully I will be able to keep up with your writing pace 🙂

    Head up!

    Remember: for a weakling an obstacle is end of story, but for the strong one it’s just a stepping stone!


    # Grandmaster Repertoire 13 – The Open Spanish by Victor Mikhalevski

    Please publish till summer also a GM Repertoire companion volume dealing with:

    1. e4 e5 – everything except Spanish

    2. Spanish Exchange: 1e4 e5 2Nf3 Nc6 3Bb5 a6 4.Bxc6

    It’s eagerly awaited! Marin’s book šublished several years ago needs more venom!

  6. I have a question, sorry.

    I’m reading your book, Positional play. But, really, I think I have problems with the calculation and, sometimes, with the simple tactic. Can I combine your book with another calculus book, such as yours of Calculation or another? Is it a little weird to combine two books?


    1. Saw your questions the wrong way around. Not weird at all; to practice to “look” rather than to calculate is maybe a part of your problem. Also, these books are not simple. The training method can be used with great benefit by all levels, but the exercises are not easy; even if the solutions are at times simple…

  7. Riaan du Plessis

    I agree with “Le Briut Qui Court”. Marin’s book on the open games is nice, but a bit too tame. I like the books of John Emms and Nigel Davies. They have more “venom”, but a bit outdated now. And get Stephan Kinderman to update and expand his book (The Spanish Exchange Variation) in the same vane as “The Berlin Wall” (which I received the other day and found very good). Just a sugestion.

  8. In case you want to do another edition of ‘Playing the Queen’s gambit’, I’m just saying that the line 1.d4 d5 2.c4 c6 3.Nf3 Nf6 4.Nc3 e6 5.Bg5 h6 6.Bh4 dxc4 7.e4 g5 8.Bg3 b5 9.Be2 b4 10.Na4 Nxe4 11.Be5 Nf6 12.Nc5 c3!? is missing, which is a recommendation of Dreev in his book on the (anti-)Moscow

  9. What do these replies have to do with Jacob’s update? Nada.

    What I would like to know is when the sample PDF will be available? All in due time I am sure; but those have been responsible for my getting a couple of Quality books I would [probably have never purchased otherwise.

  10. Jacob, do not know if it was my post or did not understand it, sorry.

    Is it a good idea to combine your book Positional play with another calculation book?
    What book?

    Thanks Aagaard.

    1. Yes, the three questions can be used on all books with positional exercises. They are also relevant in tactical positions, but might not feel as helpful there.

  11. @Riaan du Plessis
    I greatly disliked Emms’ book when it came out. Basically it had not been computer checked and it was easy to do at the time. His lines all fell apart. He learned his lesson from this experience and his books have been great ever since.

    I did not fully trust Davies’ lines either, but certainly this is one of his best books. The fact that I never really trust anything is irrelevant. Still, he also gave 2…Bc5 against the King’s Gambit, which is of course playable, but certainly in the tame end!

  12. @leavenfish
    Colin should put it up today.

    Friday we sent the book to the printer and collapsed at the pub. Well, John and I. Andrew and Colin were going to the 4NCL, at least officially. Andrew had asked Colin if he wanted to travel together, but Colin said he would go on an earlier flight. Their teams were playing on the Saturday and Colin did not want to say that he was off to defend his British Championship in chess problem solving!

  13. Aagaard, being Spanish, maybe not quite understand your answer, I’m really sorry.

    You said my problem may not be the calculation but I do not know “look” position?

    And I think you did not answer the question I said, although I’m not sure, is it good to combine positional play with another calculation books? Or is it better that before the end of Positional play and read later Calculation?

    Thanks 🙂

  14. Hello Jacob, and thx for the work you put in for the readers 🙂

    Is there a particular order in which these books should be read ?

  15. @Charly
    No worries. To LOOK is a pre-calculation stage. Most people skip it and don’t train it.

    we all see some options automatically when we look at a chess position. But we never see all the relevant options; not without looking. To learn to look before you calculate (and note here that I mean forced calculation, where you are directing your brain, not the short lines it fires at you without effort) is very important.

    But yes, please use Calculation or another book on calculation at the same time. Basically, you cannot do this wrong no matter how hard you try.

  16. @Pierre
    Sort of. The order of publication, with the only exception that THINKING INSIDE THE BOX should probably be read first. But like the introduction to any book, it does not make sense to write it before I have finished the other books. The good news is that I have done a lot of work already on both Endgame Play and Attacking & Defence. Both books will be much easier to write than Strategic Play. Actually, more or less anything will be easier to write than that. Ever. (Next off I will write novels and phone books no doubt!).

  17. One thing, when you look at the position mean, you mean the moves look forced? Is that concept is not in the book Forcing Chess Moves?

    And, on the other hand, if I am studying the books and Calculation Positional play at once, how do I do? That is, I devote equal time to the two books?

    Thank you!

  18. @ Jacob Aagaard

    > Yes, it would. We are on it.

    Oh great! 🙂 And you already know who will be the author? Victor Mikhalevski too? And do you know about a date of release? Thank you very much by advance for your answers.

    About the Emms book, it is not so bad. By the way, it was quite praised by the reviewers when it was out. The Davies book is interesting too, but for everyone here, there is a much more recent work about the open games for Black (except the Spanish) than these and it’s:

    The Open Games For Black, A complete black repertoire with 1.e4 e5 against everything except the Ruy Lopez by Igor Lysyj and Roman Ovetchkin by Chess Stars.

    It’s a quite good (great?) work, I guess. Maybe still better than the Emms and Davies works. 😉 But it doesn’t talk about the Exchange Spanish…

  19. @Charly
    Forcing Chess Moves (the book) is not a favourite of mine; though the column in NIC by Hertan is excellent. His theoretical ideas are, well, let us say dubious.

    Chapter 1 of Excelling at Chess Calculation is called “Before you can learn to think, you need to learn to see”. This describes what I am talking about. It is close to the idea of candidate moves, but not a 1:1.

  20. @The Lurker
    Open Games with Black. The e4 book did not have these problems. We have all made mistakes and then chosen not to repeat them (with the exception of announcing the King’s Gambit that is…). Emms is a good author, only this very popular book is one of his weakest books in my opinion.

  21. @Blue Knight
    Yes, no, no.

    I don’t think it is good and I will give my honest opinion here and stick with it, despite it being a minority opinion. About the reviews, well, Hertan’s book was Book of the Year and I still don’t think there is a bit too much nonsense in it :-).

    The Chess Stars book is indeed a decent book. I do think it has the same problem as Marin’s book – too many boring lines seeking to equalise, where more interesting lines could have been chosen.

  22. @Jacob Aagaard

    >The Chess Stars book is indeed a decent book. I do think it has the same problem as Marin’s book – too many boring lines seeking to equalise, where more interesting lines could have been chosen.

    So, hurry up to publish one! 😉 Thanks for us. 🙂

  23. Oh I forgot also the last Kaufman Repertoire for Black and White. In the Black part he chooses the Breyer and so he gives also a complete repertoire against all the others White choices after 1. e4 e5. Of course, obviously he even talks about the Exchange Spanish.

    What do you think about his lines? They seem to me quite interesting, no?

  24. One thing to remember is that you will not be able to cover everything on a Grandmaster Repertoire level in a single book. Kaufman had to take many liberties on the way to push everything into one single book.

  25. @Blue Knight
    You’re right, of course. I was just pointing out that the Lysyj book was intended as part of a two volume repertoire, and in that repertoire they chose the Berlin, so there is no reason why the Exchange would be covered.

    Speaking of other books, what is the received opinion on Panczyk and Ilczuk’s Exchange book? Other than that it’s a bit dated…

  26. @The Lurker

    Yes but I talk about Quality Chess books and so you must have something about the Exchange Spanish as GM13 only begins after 4 Ba4 Nf6…

    I have the Panczyk and Ilczuk’s 2005 Exchange book. It seems quite good to me and I guess it was good reviews. It is a little outdated, maybe yes, but it’s the Exchange Spanish not the Breyer for instance, it probably changes less, right?

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