Attacking Manual 1+2

Finally I have written the last chapter of Attacking Manual 2, plus annotated three extra games for Attacking Manual 1. The main reason for doing a second edition of AM1 is that some people disliked the layout. I am one of those people. Also, I am sad to admit that there were a number of typos that should not have been there.

However, now the books are done! The first edit/proofread has been done and a second one is coming up soon. We want to polish these books and make sure we get no complaints about our effort this second time around.

I am honestly completely unsure about the quality of AM2. When I was done with AM1 I was absolutely sure that this was my best book (out of way too many) and that it would be a hit. However, no one really took notice and sales were generally disappointing.

The book also got absolutely slated by Jeremy Silman, who wrote several things where he knew better. Most importantly he complained that I had not contacted Watson to discuss the topics in AM1, which ever so slightly relates to Watson’s work, something I recognised in the introduction. I had actually asked Watson, through Silman, if he wanted to veto anything I wrote in the book, as the last thing I wanted to do was to offend him. I was told that he did not want this power and that I should thus just write what I wanted.

In Silman’s review there is also a reference to a grandmaster’s limited understanding of a position. I am sure he means the game by Tiger-Hillarp Persson against Grooten, where he misses 22.Bc4!, which would just win. Actually I had a chance to talk to Tiger about this game not long after the book was out (I gave him a copy). Rather than being insulted about this passage, he was thinking a lot about it, not understanding why this “obvious” move did not occur to him during the game, and if there really were anything he needed to correct in his chess understanding.

Grandmasters do not know or understand everything and are not only assaulted by oversights and time trouble, as Silman said in his review. But it is easy to forgive Silman this mistake, as he has no first hand experience on this topic.

I have refused the temptation to include any of this rant in the books, as no one would care. However, now it is at least to be found on this obscure blog.

The two books are projected to be out in October.

42 thoughts on “Attacking Manual 1+2”

  1. Jacob, you shouldn’t be worried with Silman. He is good for players till 1900 Elo. And by the way he just shows off with his so called “chess knowledge”, and rather being poor IM with only 2400, and beating only “strong Americans” in the States.

    Let him come to us, Russians, the main chess powerhorse!

  2. Hi Jacob!

    I was pretty much satisfied with your Attacking Manual 1 (as much as I am with most books published by Quality Chess). Do you plan to offer an update online for those like me who purchased the first edition or do you think the changes you’ve made justify buying the second one? Thank you. All the best.

  3. haha great retort Jacob and I loved the putdown about Silman having no experience of how a Grandmaster thinks about chess!

    You are rapidly catching up Nigel Short as my most entertaining chess personality, and the true Grandmaster of sardonic wit.

    As for offending John Watson, I had the misfortune of reading through his most banal and anal review of your recently published new translation of ‘My System’, where he slated the new version to such a degree that I almost considered buying a second hand old descriptive notation version of the book on eBay.

    In the end I went ahead and bought the Quality Chess version against Watson advice and after reading the first couple chapters decided I would never bother reading a John Watson chess book review again!

    If he can dish it out (and he certainly can) then he should be able to take it.

    Finally, as chess is essentially a competition and clash of ideas how boring and unprogressive would it be if everybody agreed on everything.

  4. Nigel is the best, there is no competition, and I am not even trying.

    About the second edition of AM1. We are talking about fixing some typos, rewording the thing about American Chess Culture to something that cannot be misunderstood and adding three interesting annotated games. I don’t think we will put them online, but I also would not recommend to buy the second edition if you have the first. It is for those that looked at the typeset and chose not to read it.

    I prefer to write polite and instructional books, which AM1 and AM2 are. However, they do spring from a debate with Watson about 8 years ago, where I was half joking, but also said a lot of very positive things about his books (which I do not want to retract. I think they are ambitious and interesting). He called me stupid and variations of it and was generally nasty.

    Watson did dislike our version of MY SYSTEM for some reason I cannot really understand. He pointed to a limited few errors (any book has errors), but majority of his objections were laughable. He would say words were not in the dictionary, and I would look it up and there it was. We did react to this review in three ways. 1) We gave the book to friends that were German teachers, or German natives living in English speaking countries to check if Watson was right and we were wrong. No one could understand the review. 2) We corrected the few genuine mistakes he had pointed out for future editions. 3) We complained to TWIC over the review on two specific points. a) where Watson had said that other reviewers, who said they liked it, could not have read the book b) and that he said the book was translated by an East European and not Ian Adams.

    We did not complain about the fact that he did not like the book. This is his right and we prefer reviewers that don’t always like our books to those that love all books (and are quoted everywhere on our competitors websites :-).

    Watson did not retract this statement these statements in his reply, but was very respectful, as I think we had been. Never for one second did I think that Watson mixed his bad relations with me and the review. He just did not like the translation, why I do not know.

    In one of his radio shows on (definitely worth a listen. I like them a lot) Watson said that Quality Chess was attacking him constantly. In this instance he was talking about TRUE LIES IN CHESS. It was at this point I realised that there was no reasoning with him on this issue.

    The book was written in Spanish and translated into English. It was edited by John Shaw, not I. I typeset it and read it after it was out. So, the comments on Watson is the authors own. They are quirky and not easy to understand, which I think is why Watson misses the fact that they are very positive.

    In MY SYSTEM I wrote an afterword about Watson’s book, again very positive, as I think it is the natural continuation to My System. I know for sure that it made people buy his book, and that some of these were surprised that Watson and I had disagreements.

    That we do.

    I disagree with rule independence. I disagree that the point of rules is to save yourself a lot of calculation by relying on these generalisations. I disagree with his definition of intuition in his earlier works. However, these are some theoretical points to a largely historical work (Secrets of Chess Strategy). I have never been anything but respectful to him as a person. He has called me lots of things and taken personal offence to the fact that I took the liberty to debate chess theory publicly.

    I continue to think that I can disagree with the notion of rule independence and not personally attack John Watson at the same time. Whether or not he and Jeremy Silman can distinguish between the two, I don’t care about anymore.

  5. Watson’s review of your publishing house’s ‘My System’ was completely ridiculous. I mean he even quoted and highlighted paragraph’s where a comma was absent and then contrasted with another paragraph where there was one too many comma’s inserted!

    I’m sure that 99.9999% of people reading the book would not even notice but to him it was a deal breaker….

    I too greatly enjoy his chess radio show, where he generally seems a lot more agreeable to his guests and the few chesslecture videos he did were I thought excellent, there’s no doubt he can teach.

    But there is a definite air of narcissism and sanctimony about him. He is also accorded a peculiar level of respect within the chess community as well, to the point where people practically ‘doff the cap’ when they talk about him.

    Along with Silman you have to ask the question that if they know so much about the Royal Game how they never made it beyond national class.

    As merely an average club player I cannot give an assessment that’s worth much regarding rule independence, but it always seemed to my limited understanding that really all it involves is emphasing one rule over another, for example a grandmaster might put his knight on the edge of the board, violating that classical rule, in order to put permanent pressure on a pawn, thus tying a piece to its defence and making it harder to defend the other flank, which is really just saying that the rule of two weaknesses is more important at this moment.

    Maybe it’s more complicated than that but as chess is strictly a mathematical and logical game I don’t see how any move can be truly rule independent, every move must serve a specific purpose and every known purpose of a chess move is codified into some form of rule so I’m not really sure he’s saying such a great deal.

    I remember Silman making a big deal about the claim that your Attacking Manual was one of the first books to truly teach dynamics in chess, and he rejected that idea, although I expect if Mr Watson had written it, he would have lavished it with praise.

    Maybe it’s a kind of small man complex, without GM titles to demonstrate their lofty credentials they instead rely on their exalted status as authors.

    I have all of Silman’s books and in his preface to his Complete Guide to Chess Strategy he talks about how the vast majority of chess books ‘are so full of souless rhetoric that it would take a genius to sift through the all the glittering rocks to find one tiny bit of gold that may or may not be floating somewhere in its pages…’

    Harsh words indeed for his fellow chess authors. It also made me laugh just then when I realised he had made a typo with ‘sift through the all the glittering rocks….’, I guess John Watson didn’t notice that one and insist nobody buy the book on account of such sloppy editing!!

    But it’s quite rich that Silman can label every other chess author as writing books full of souless rhetoric (apart from Watson I presume) but then get so annoyed that you mentioned you disagreed with Watson’s idea of Rule Independence.

    Maybe you could challenge them both to a match, in the style of Morphy and the Opera Game you can allow them to collaborate and see how they get on with their ideas of rule indepence and imbalances against you!

    Let’s settle the truth on the board!

  6. I think maybe 464 pages in AM2, but really it is hard to see at the current.

    And no, I do not want to challenge Watson and Silman to a consultation game, nor did I find Watson anything but agreeable when I shared a hotel room with him in 1997 during the Berlin Open.

    It is dangerous to say something general about a whole type of books. In Charles Hertan’s award winner, FORCING CHESS MOVES (which I unfortunately do not rate highly) the author says that almost all other puzzle books have copied from each other and have too many famous examples. His own book is littered with the most famous examples…

  7. “But it is easy to forgive Silman this mistake, as he has no first hand experience on this topic.”

    LOL … I might not like it from a personal perspective, but I must admit that this is one of best literary chess-slaps I’ve ever seen! I tend to love this sort of thing (Nigel Short is a master of it), so I have no choice (in this particular case) but to applaud the eloquence and power of Jacob’s oh-so-sharp pen. Well done! Very, very funny.

    As for my review of his excellent book, I thought it was quite positive! I said many nice things about Jacob (and consistently praise Quality Chess), but also voiced a few things that annoyed me. Somehow, all praise was tossed in Aagaard’s garbage heap, while the mild smack-downs fester in Jacob’s (and his fans’) minds to this day.

    Anyway, keep up the great work, Jacob! And, if you come up with any new “pen slashes” against me (or anyone else … I actually collect that kind of thing), don’t hesitate to share them — I will always appreciate a nimble pen.

  8. Jeremy, you actually topped this one years ago, when you wrote that Excelling at Positional Chess parotted your own work. I never laughed as much as I did that day.

  9. Matthias Willems

    Dear all,
    I’m a too weak player to debate on chess philosophy. Rule independence or not: this does nt matter for me (ELO 2100) and i’m not interested in these debates, because these debates have no practical importance for me.
    I like the Quality Chess Books and also some books from Silman and Watson.
    I myself found some of Jacobs comments (in his books) on other books or other players irritating and I didn t like them. They decrease my fun reading these books.

  10. Gerard Snitselaar

    Kevin :
    Along with Silman you have to ask the question that if they know so much about the Royal Game how they never made it beyond national class.

    Unless I’m mistaken, both of them have the IM title.

    It is a shame that this thing continues to linger after 8 years. All 3 are well respected authors. Both Watson and Silman have repeatedly given praise to Aagaard’s work. Aagaard has said he respects Watson’s work, just that he takes issue with the notion of Rule Independence. I have not seen any comments from Aagaard about Silman’s work, so I don’t know how he feels about that. I myself didn’t understand why Watson disliked the new edition of My System.

    Congratulations on finishing AM2. I am looking forward to grabbing it when it is released.

  11. Matthias, is this because you find it irrelevant that I am discussing how chess is best learned, because I am mapping out that I disagree with another writer, or because you think that disagreeing with another writer in your books is incorrect?

  12. I am copying in a comment made by someone choosing the name “Anonymous Coward”. I don’t want to censor the debate, but I am not approving the comment directly because it had a fake e-mail address. “AC”, please register with a real e-mail address. Also, I think you misunderstood Jacob’s second comment, but no doubt Jacob will clear that up.

    John Shaw

    Anonymous Coward said:
    “Jacob – the second ‘slap’ to Silman is kind of classless, no? He takes your first remark in stride, compliments you on your wit, and you have to take another shot at him? (One which is lacking in wit, by the way.)

    I like your books, I buy them, but like Matthias, I think this back-and-forth is really kind of classless. Especially since, in the end, you don’t really disagree with Watson.”

  13. I think my comment could be read in two very different ways. I found Jeremy’s comments on that book to be wonderfully written – a glorious tour de force in slamming an author (and again, proudly, not the book). I disagreed with a lot of things in his review, but respects the sharp pen that wrote it. It is still highly entertaining, whether or not you know or care about the book. Find it here:

  14. Actually Jacob, I think you misunderstood my comment and took it for an attack. I wasn’t being snide, I honestly thought your comment, “But it is easy to forgive Silman this mistake, as he has no first hand experience on this topic”, was extremely funny. Just because the joke is about me doesn’t make it any less funny or clever.

    It’s gotten to the point where you feel everything I write about you is vindictive, and that’s sad (because it’s simply not true). Yes, I do sometimes take you to task (I do the same to other authors, to myself, and to all my closest friends — Watson and Donaldson included), but I also lavish you with a lot of praise (and because I can indeed be tough, when I praise someone, it’s sincere and means a lot). For example, here are some lines from my heavily reviled review of your book:

    “Aagaard, the newly minted British Champion (a tremendous performance by Jacob!), is one of those rare players that puts out a lot of good (sometimes excellent) books while simultaneously getting better in his over-the-board competitive results. His written work stands out for its thoughtful, copious prose and his obvious desire to actually teach the chess hopeful something of value.”

    Yep, pretty nasty! Again, I DO voice displeasure with you over some issues, but I never lose sight of your excellent work, as this (from the same review) demonstrates:

    “For all my complaints, ATTACKING MANUAL 1 is a very nice book that succeeds in both teaching and entertaining his audience about the ins and outs of attacking chess. It offers excellent examples, and every game is filled with instructive prose and just enough variations to prove a point without drowning the poor reader in streams of variations. Even his chapter titles are entertaining metaphors that help ram his content home: ‘Bring all your Toys to the Nursery!’ ‘Don’t lose your Breath!’ ‘Size Matters,’ ‘Hit ’em where it hurts!’ ‘Evolution/Revolution,’ etc.”

    Mean stuff by me, no doubt about it!

    Jacob, for a guy that constantly says that he doesn’t mind criticism, you appear to have very thin skin. I won’t write again, but all this seems very juvenile … something one would see in a teen chat-room. You’ve somehow decided that I’m your enemy, but I never was and never will be … though apparently I am in your own mind. As for all your fans raving about me being your inferior as a chess player, of course I am (I’m an IM and you’re a GM — seems clear to me)! Did I ever claim otherwise? Both you and your fans need to grow up!

    Here’s the final part of my review … for those with weak stomachs, you should NOT read it:

    “To be honest, every subject in chess has been explored by all those who have come before us. What most modern writers try to do is update some of the material with present day games. Others, who care more about non-masters, take existing ideas and make them more accessible and palatable to this huge group of chess lovers. Aagaard’s ATTACKING MANUAL 1 does both these things in style: he gives us many new attacking games that are bristling with energy, and he presents them with notes that make many complex situations something the non-master can both grasp and enjoy.

    “If you like dynamic, attacking chess, and if you appreciate an author that goes out of his way to explain the how’s and why’s of this exciting topic, then you’ll be happy to own this book.”

    Best of luck with your future books and with your company, which puts out lots of great stuff. As for me, I’m done with this whole affair. Feel free to carry it with you if you wish, but I won’t be paying attention.

  15. Jeremy. You misread my remark and probably have already noticed this. I was just pointing out that you are the master in banter (up there with Nigel). I was actually very pleased you made a comment here. I still do find parts of that review disagreeable and stand by my earlier comments.

  16. Let us carry on!

    Can you give us some hints about KING’S GAMBIT by Shaw?

    You’re talking pretty much about all other upcoming books, you even announced Alterman’s books, but you don’t even mention by single word a King’s Gambit!

  17. answer to Jacob:
    Matthias, is this because you find it irrelevant that I am discussing how chess is best learned ?
    answer: no
    because I am mapping out that I disagree with another writer?
    answer: no ,
    or because you think that disagreeing with another writer in your books is incorrect?
    answer: no
    Disagreeing is ok, but sometimes the comments sounded to me like not being respectfull to plaayers or authors. And sometimes it seemed to me that differences were overemphasized like trying to found something new where nothing really new was to be found.
    This is a subjective feeling and maybe others disagree.

  18. Alexei Lugovoi :
    Let us carry on!
    Can you give us some hints about KING’S GAMBIT by Shaw?
    You’re talking pretty much about all other upcoming books, you even announced Alterman’s books, but you don’t even mention by single word a King’s Gambit!


    We haven’t said anything about it because we have been concentrating on the other books first, and then The King’s Gambit will get the intensive treatment. I already have a lot of research and analysis, but there are a few lines where I want more new ideas (for example, to stop Black equalizing after 2…exf4 3.Nf3 g5). I have asked various friends and associates (GMs and IMs) for their help in analysing key positions. In a sense it may become a “team effort” at some points, but naturally all new ideas will be attributed to whoever found them.

  19. Well, the Review for Excelling in positional chess is, to put it mildly not favourable and looks like bashing the author who dares to critizise “Americas greatest chess writer on advanced chess concepts”…

    I liked most
    “In his EXCELLING AT CHESS (which won the book of the year award – one of its competitors was the awful RAPID CHESS IMPROVEMENT, which tells you a lot about the level of nominated books)”
    and had a good laugh

  20. And it is of course interesting that Mr Silman thinks it perfectly acceptable to bash De La Mazda’s book, in fact submit it to a verbal slaughter, yet when Jacob says he does not agree with John Watson’s idea of rule independence he is labelled as mean.

    Didn’t Silman refer to his Endgame Course as the ONLY instructive endgame manual ever made?

    It really is the pot calling the kettle black.

    There is no doubt that Jacob is incredibly opinionated, a good thing imo, we need characters in chess, but neither Jeremy Silman or John Watson are shrinking violets when it comes to dishing out criticism.

  21. Hello, I am not a titled player but this is certainly an interesting discussion, that I couldn’t help but comment on. Aagaard’s books have been my favorites for a while, but I don’t see the point of harping on rule independence and Watson again and again, one book after another. I always thought it was a little bit of a publicity ploy anyway, because Watson’s books have been considered modern classics, and it seemed that Aagaard was challenging him on some points more as a way of stirring up some attention than anything else. But also, I now see Watson hesitant to praise good work from Quality Chess (which just about everything they publish is). Anyway, I am looking forward to AM2 and will buy it regardless, but please no more rehash of the comments about Watson.

  22. Take my advice and lay off the debate with Silman. It’s demeaning to both parties, and it does not reflect well on Quality Chess.

  23. For whatever it’s worth, I thought Silman’s review of AM1 was basically positive and motivated me to buy the book.

    Chess players are certainly a sensitive bunch – at all levels. I’m getting the impression that the Aagaard/Silman/Watson imbroglio has gone much too far. Some of the shots taken seem a bit cheap. If we all can’t just get along, can we simply disagree without being disagreeable?

  24. I cannot believe I wasted the time to read all these petty comments but I actually do have some questions. Moreover, I agree with Silman that his review of AM1 was overall positive.

    Anyway, I’m interested in AM1 2nd ED and AM2. I’ve never read a chess book specifically for attacking chess but I have read many others. As a college student, I have only so much time and would like to have a few books that are the best in their class to cover each aspect of chess, if possible. To me, it’s basically a choice between the following:

    Secrets of Attacking Chess
    On The Attack: The Art of Attacking Chess According to the Modern Masters
    The Art of Sacrifice in Chess
    Storming the Barricades
    Attack with Mikhail Tal
    AM1 + AM2

    Now of course, if I had unlimited time, I’d love to read all the above – many are classics. In fact, I probably will go back and read some of them eventually. However, I need a practical book that will give me the most thorough understanding of this topic and help me improve (I’m Class A USCF). What should I get and do AM1 and AM2 discuss all the topics found in the other works?


  25. Kevin and others.

    I do not think that name calling is very constructive. Whether we use “mean”, “idiot”, “juvenile” or similar. If you can find one quote from me where I have described Silman or Watson as anything but competent professionals, you will surprise me.

    I do retain the right to have opinions about chess. I prefer to say where my inspirations and disagreements are, rather than do what Watson did in Chess “Strategy in Action”, which I found inappropriate.

    There are those that do not find this debate interesting. I can easily understand this, it is a bit nerdy.

    However, those who think that the disagreement on theoretical issues with, say Watson’s rule-independence, is in any way a personal attack, are in my opinion misguided.

    Someone said that this has been 8 years and that we should bury it. I am sorry? Because Watson mistakes a theoretical disagreement with personal persecution, I should stop being interested in how chess ability is acquired and writing about it?

    When I wrote AM1, I contacted Silman and offered that he and Watson could veto anything written there, as I did not want to offend. They declined. Then I had three different individuals read certain passages, and cut out things that could be misunderstood. Still I ended with things like this in Silman’s review:

    “His ATTACKING MANUAL 1 continues this instructive stance, while also stumbling here and there with habits I consider slightly annoying — stories that often seem to have nothing whatsoever to do with the subject matter, Dvoretsky worship, and a tendency to berate the ideas of other authors and players while often talking down to them in the process. This last critique is the most bothersome of the “negatives” since Mr. Aagaard isn’t giving his targets any chance to defend themselves. It would be far more interesting for him to contact these players and writers while the book is being written and allow them to share their counter-arguments with the reader. This creates fair play and also a dialogue that, while rare in books, would be useful to the reader and ultimately more fulfilling for all involved.”


    Let me repeat this:

    “It would be far more interesting for him to contact these players and writers while the book is being written and allow them to share their counter-arguments with the reader.”

    “In ATTACKING MANUAL 1, Aagaard goes after his favorite target, John Watson, in the very first sentence of his Preface: “I first started to work on this project back in 2001, when I was thinking about why I disagreed with one, and I stress one, of the ideas in John Watson’s monumental work SECRETS OF MODERN CHESS STRATEGY: ADVANCES SINCE NIMZOWITSCH. The idea I found a little hard to swallow was the notion of ‘Rule Independence.'”

    While it’s fine to discuss another writer’s ideas, Aagaard seems to disagree with Watson in almost every book he writes. Leave poor Mr. Watson alone already!

    In this case, you would think he would state his position against Watson’s concept of “rule independence” and move on. But no, he beats the idea into the dirt, repeating himself over and over.

    Before exploring the more pleasant aspects of Aagaard’s excellent new book, I’ll do some beating of my own. Aagaard’s propensity to talk down to various players and writers is really something he should learn to avoid. No other author that I can think of does this kind of thing in an instructive book. In his notes about a grandmaster’s mistake (in another of his books), he says that the GM didn’t understand the position. However, the position was something every grandmaster would understand. Instead of the GM not understanding something I (and certainly the countless players who are far superior to me) find obvious, the error was almost certainly caused by time trouble, him having a bad day, calculations that convinced him that his normal view of such a position didn’t have validity in that particular case, a simple miscalculation, or any number of other things. These are safe options when seeking an explanation for some poor decision. To latch onto the idea that an exceptionally strong player “doesn’t understand” something is pure hubris.”

    Favourite target???

    What originally lead me to work on this project, which I worked on for 8 years, was the debate in 2001. Rather than calling opposing views for “bizarre” or saying “I can’t decide if Aagard is really missing the point or just feigning ignorance” – and so on – (The Watson Defence, just google it), I have actually spent the time analysing chess and presenting an elaborate dynamic theory; something I could not find anywhere (no matter what Silman says in his review). I wrote a book on that and politely mentioned the origin of it in the introduction, and then not again. Watson’s name comes up on pages 7, 8 and 21-22. And never again. People reading Silman’s review could easily think otherwise.

    The other passage Silman greatly dislikes is about the game Tiger Hillarp Persson – Herman Grooten, Hoogeveen 2007, debating White’s 22nd move. My passage in the book is long, so I shall not give it here. Basically, the point is that calculation is one tool, but it is not well equipped to solve many of the problems we faced. Talking to Tiger after the book was published, he admitted that the way I was looking at the position in my notes was rather alien to him, which is far away from Silman’s comments above.

    And apparently I mention Watson in ALL my books??

    I debate his book in a jokey way in one chapter of Excelling at Chess 2001, then again I mention him for 1/2 a page in Excelling at Positional Chess in 2003. And finally a total of 4 pages in 2008.

    I have written way too many books (don’t read any book I have written before 2004, unless paid to do so). I have more than 6000 pages in print, and maybe 15 of these relate to Watson, most of them in a book than continuously praise his work.

    Where was this rule invented that you are not allowed to comment on other chess books? Watson is and wants to be a chess academic. In academia you have constant criticism of each others work. While at times a few people take this personally and take it to a low level, in general the readers find the criticism and debate natural, and the existence of different points of view stimulating, rather than offensive.

    Silman quoted in his entry on this blog about 1/3 of his review. Half of the comments he gives here can sound positive on their own, but with the first 2/3 some of them are quickly negated. The review is positive towards the book overall, but gives some misconception about the content. This book does not attack John Watson again and again, but rather, mentions in the introduction how it came into being and explains this in detail. Had I not been afraid of offending people, I would maybe have had more Watson quotes in the book, as I think his point of view is very common in Western Europe, but that the people we admire, come from a different chess upbringing than ourselves.

    But now I must restrain myself.

    The point is – it is about the chess, not the people…

  26. I’m quite intrigued by your comment “don’t read any book I have written before 2004, unless paid to do so” : and I must admit I’ve seen quite a difference in quality between your first books (that I quickly scanned in a bookshop) and your attacking manual, which was entertaining as well as instructive, and on the whole a pleasure to read…
    Could you explain (I’m just curious 🙂 )


  27. Im a 2135 fide, just an amateur. I own about 3000 chess books as a collector and my favorite “modern” writers are Dvoretsky, Marin, Aagaard, Rowson, Silman, Wells and Watson. 1 would buy any books from them without even thinking. Its interesting to see that behind those writers, for me symbols of wisdom and knowledge, there are people with feelings and ego, arguing with each others. I like it.

    Now, when I read Watson and its rule independance, I totally agree with him. When I read Aagaard a bit opposed to this rule, I also totally agree with him. Thats the beauty of being an amateur.

  28. Quick answers:

    2004 comment. Excelling at Technical Chess and Excelling at Chess Calculation are overall decent books. Earlier books are without true depth in the chess, with some exceptions. They are not bad as such, but I find that there are enough good books out there.

    List of attacking books. The Marin book is quite unique, but is not really about attacking chess. I helped Mihail a bit with this book and rate it highly. The Tal book is very nice too. I do cover all the things in these books, plus a lot more, which is one reason my books are so much longer.

    America comment: This came out wrong in the book and it is a pity it was not spotted at the editing stage. What I mean is that the US does not have an organised system of chess education. It is reliant on individuals finding their own way, which leads to a particular way of seeing chess. The organised structured, East European way works better. This includes working with concepts and guidelines.

    Dvoretsky said about Benjamin, that such a talented player could have been great, had he had more support and coaching. Here, 19 years later, someone still thinks this is talking down the US.

  29. GM Aagaard, sorry for not being more specific. If Dvoretsky made some comments about American Chess in reference to Joel Benjamin, then perhaps he has hit on the topic multiple times. My comments are in regards to an entire chapter he has dedicated to “American Observations” from his book “Secrets of Chess Training,: School of Future Champions 1.”

    In it he says that to his surprise many young American players dont want to play actively and think only about getting a draw when playing important games or games against more eminent players. Perhaps his comments are true (highly doubt it) or perhaps something in the translation came across too directly. Anyway, he specifies the players, naming 4 of them and providing some examples. He is speaking about Waitzkin and 3 other players, no reference to Benjamin in this instance anyway.
    In summary, I find the generalized comments about American players to be comical and they are the type of thing readers can filter out, because the remainder of the work is of high quality. Kind of like if you have a crazy genius professor, you expect him to say a few things out of left field, that may have little basis in reality. Meanwhile, you make every effort to absorb the wisdom from his more thoughtful comments.
    This from someone born in Ireland, so I am really not personally offended by any of the commentary. Certainly there may be differences in training methods, and pehaps some Russian or Western European training is more oriented in the classics – but classifying the play of a country as passive is obviously an outrageous statement. Let me see if I can find a database of Nakamura’s games and accumalate a file of all his losses and draws from overly passive play 🙂

  30. Jacob Aagaard,

    Like many others I’m getting a bit tired of this “debate” with Watson and Silman, mostly because I feel that it is not moving forward. Apparently you disagree with Watson over the apliccability of rules to top-level play, but I really find it hard to see why “rule-independence” and “rules holding true, all other things being equal” aren’t simply two different ways of describing the same thought process, kind of like a glass being half full or half empty? I think it was Rowson who made the point that chess thought becomes less verbal and more visual as you move up towards GM level, and if he is right any rules will be applied via intuition (that is, pattern recognition) anyway, not consciously verbalized.

    I just now read through Watson’s Introduction in Chess Strategy in Action, pp. 10-14. I agree it’s strange not to reference yourself and Silman when clearly those are the viewpoints referred to, but apart from that I must say the subsatnce of Watson’s arguments there sound reasonable to me, linked as they are to sicentific theories of how the brain processes chess information. Could you point out specifically where Watson is wrong in those pages?

    I’m asking this not to participate in any name-calling or taking sides, I just want to understand better what the disagreement is about.

  31. William, Dvoretsky and Waitzkin has it in for each other. In Waitzkin’s book Mark is faced with quite harsher criticism. I do not know the basis of it.

    Stig K: I totally agree that it is frustrating that there is this lack of want to discuss substance, and instead the shout of WOLF everytime I dare to discuss chess. If you actually read AM1, you will see that this is not really my fault.

    The question about rule-independence and all things being equal being harmonious. No, they are not in the way they are meant.

    Watson says: “The whole point of rules is that they allow the player to use them in the place of extremely lengthy calculations to confidently enter certain types of positions…” Secrets of Modern Chess Strategy, p. 54-55.

    His definition of chess intuition is something that comes from having seen many chess positions. I am not sure exactly where the quote is at this moment, but it early in his book.

    Seen in this way, there is no reason to ever study the rules (or generalisations, which is more accurate) of chess. However, if you do not think that rules is something you use instead of your independent mind, but something you use to build up intuition, you come from a completely different place.

    Rather than calling my names, I would want Watson to come with a better explanation of chess intuition. I now came with a quite elaborate one of dynamics, which is more than just mentioning dynamics, but explaining how they actually work.

  32. Thanks for that Jacob, nice to be discussing the substance of the matter.

    I think Watson agrees that up to a certain playing strength (IM maybe?) rules are useful, even necessary, since you will not have seen enough patterns (positions and typical plans/manouvres) to rely on intuiton and calculation alone. The disagreement seems to be on whether rulss are useful for and used by GMs explicitly at the board, or only during training, or not at all.

    Maybe part of the communication breakdown is that the rules most people think of automatically are the basic ones like “knights on the rim are dim”, “passed pawns must be pushed”, “rooks belong behind passed pawns” etc. As I read Watson he’s not saying that GMs don’t follow the rules, but that they have them so well internalized that they use them subconsciously and flexibly, and easily break them when the concrete position allows/demands it. Hence his term “rule-independence”.
    Maybe you could turn that around and say that exceptions lead to new rules, so that GMs just follow a larger, more nuanced set of generalizations than lesser mortals?

  33. Stig, it comes back to intuition again. Just to see patterns is not what helps, but to qualify them and make some sort of generalised knowledge. The issue as I see it is that there are players who have grown up with an education based on generalisations and there are those who have not. It is the East and the West, essentially. The gap in strength says it all, I think.

  34. In regards to Attacking Manual not achieving the same acclaim as your previous works, I cannot imagine it is the content – which seems first rate to me. I am throughly enjoying the book, the great annotations, the selection of games, and the themes of the lessons. The book is considerably bigger and longer than many of the previous Quality Chess publications, and from a physical standpoint, the writing seems to go to close to the binding, and the book itself is not as easy to open and lay flat as many of the other recent quality chess publications. Kind of reminds me of the first edition of Experts vs the Sicilian (which I have) with outstanding content. The updated second addition not only comes with new content, but a much nicer layout of pages, binding etc. Anyway, best of luck with great success of Attacking Manual 2. I will surely be still working through the many excellent lessons in attacking manual 1, when part two comes out.

    Regarding the rule independence topic – I really feel it is largely semantics, but perhaps I just don’t understand. Am I correct to conclude that your point is that chess “rules” exist and are very important, despite the fact that there are positions in which the rules don’t always apply…(such as for tactical reasons)? Conversely, Watson is trying to say that Rules are not so important because many times the rules don’t apply and strict calculation or analysis can prove the rules to be false? In the end, it seems that the rules, or ‘generalizations,’ are important regardles of the fact that we can find many exceptions to them. Regarding your above explanation I think and hope that I finally begining to grasp the nuances of the two explanations. That being that ideas such as intuition are developed through a sound understanding of rules, positional concepts, etc. Kasparov occasionally refers to this concept of chess culture, which I find vaguely humerous (it is funny to here him say certain GM’s lack chess culture) but also elusive in some respects. Being an adult chess learner (living in USA no less!), and only class player, surely I lack chess culture and hope I can acquire it soon.

  35. Final comment on this.

    Look at Nakamura. He is a fabulous player, fast, amazingly talented, creative as I don´t know what. In the last NIC mag he says that he could see himself as World Champion.

    Having analysed his games from Amsterdam I just cannot see that this is possible. Especially his endgame play was too unschooled for me.

    This is where the difference between Watson and I come into play. I think what Nakamura needs is training in the basics, while Watson would probably think that he should work even more on his openings or tactics?

    This is a typical of what I understood that Kasparov meant. A lack of chess culture – but an overflow of everything else, I would add.

    The reason why I feel I can say this about Nakamura, is that I simply do not believe that anyone can be worse than me at anything relating to chess, and still be a contender. There are people like Carlsen out there, who can do everything – and according to Nielsen, obvioisly know all the famous games.

    To me Carlsen does look like as big a player as Kasparov. He just have everything…

  36. Not quite sure if you’ll read this or not but I just want to take a moment to tell you how thankful I am over your work attacking manual.

    I was a 1200 player who always wanted to be a flashy attacking player, my way of being one was simple. I played unsound gambits (things like danish) and relied on all the ”traps” these gambits gave. Whenever I planned to launch an attack I just tried calculating it to the end, making some sort of error and failing. Needless to say it was frusterating.

    During a tournament where I lost all matches cept one where I had a drawn game I noticed your book, attacking manual one and picked it up. Whoopsy do, it changed quite a bit.

    Not only did your book teach me that I don’t have to play silly gambits in order to play dynamically (now playing the queen’s gambit as my main opening for white and sicilian sveshnikov for black), it made my rating jump from 1200 to 1800 in three months!

    I’ll be buying your book, attacking manual 2 this week. Looking forward to it.

    Oh and a funny side note, I know Johnny Hector in real life but I never knew what a formidible attacking player he was.

    Anyway, thanks again! I do hope you keep up the great work!

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