The Marketing of Chess Books?

Recently one of our employees fell out online with a chess writer for a competing chess publisher. The said writer fell for a hoax and our employee teased him a bit, while telling him. Said writer took offence. Things go wrong in written language all the time. No story.

The writer clearly had a bigger think and posted this comment on his thread:

One by one I have had to remove ‘Quality Chess’ people from my ‘friends’ list. I guess in a way it has been inevitable, every atom of my being is opposed to their approach to publishing and the marketing of highly sophisticated openings books. The ‘market’ is way too weak for these books but it’s easy to convince people that they need them.

I am all for good old-time mud-wrestling, but somehow it is less interesting to watch when it is performed by slightly bulky middle-aged men. So therefore I would prefer to turn it into a debate with our readers, you guys. Do you think that there is some truth in what this guy says? I will give my own view first.

First of all: I am not sure we really do any marketing! We print a leaflet, we have this blog and once in a while we put a few things on Facebook and Twitter. We also have a monthly newsletter, which sometimes comes out once a year! And we have a full page ad in CHESS magazine. Is this effective marketing? I seriously doubt it. I constantly look up things online, because I am marketed. They are usually highly sophisticated things that will not tell me the price and will keep something about the product hidden. We generally just tell people what we do and hope someone will like it. There is really no big strategy behind what we do.

The second thing is that we apparently convince people that they need our books. In this day and age there are loads of people who try to say that chess books are irrelevant and everything should be databases and engines. ChessBase have full page ads all over the place, as well as a daily news website.

But maybe it is the level of our books. I am not sure what the issue here is. How did sophisticated become an insult? Would it be better if our analysis were less thorough? Would it be better if we recommended more “fun” (read risky/bad) lines?

We do books that interest us. We have tried once or twice to do books with an eye on commercialism and they justly failed. We gave up that strategy long ago, as we hated doing it. This of course does not mean that everything in all the books is for everyone. What we are hoping is that there will be enough for all customers to justify the price tag.

There is one thing we do not do. We do not try to manipulate the truth. If the position is equal, we call it equal. If it is worse, we call it worse. This is perhaps our most core marketing trick. We respect the readers. Sure, we make mistakes. Chess is hard. But we have a policy of honesty. For the same reason we do not send books to reviewers who only offer positive reviews. One of our partners does this for us (in his name), but we do not use these reviews. We find them worthless.

Well, to round off on the marketing stuff. The World Cup is nearly finished and we had a small competition with 182 participants. We have two shared winners. Danny has written to them and they will both receive their books within a week. Hopefully we will be back with more on this later…

Any opinions are welcome. Not on other people’s writing, but on the books published by Quality Chess, please.

75 thoughts on “The Marketing of Chess Books?”

  1. I love QC opening books and I don’t think I would buy now openings books which would not hold to the same standards as QC does. My biggest complain for Marin series in 1.c4 is that is less rigorous than other titles.

    I see the point in making it simple and/or advocating for less sound lines, but those books don’t point out that the move they are advocating is inferior. For me making an opening book to a wider audience would be to mix some QC lines (with tons of pruning) with some Flores Ríos structure analysis, maybe in the style of ‘Mayhem in the morra’ but with a more structured theory part.

    As I see it, QC theory books aim for a very wide range of people. You do not need 500 pages of Negi’s analysis in Caro and French, but you can just read the bold moves and read the text and afterwards try to remember only to the point that makes sense at your level, while a GM will study carefully every line…

  2. I will be clear. Since Avrukh’s first d4 series, I haven’t bought any chess books from anyone else (with two exceptions: Dvoretsky’s Endgame Manual, and some Nimzoindian book for black), and I’ve bought so many. QC is just the best chess publisher by far.

    PD: By the way, a Grandmaster Repertoire with the Nimzo for black would be awesome, I encourage you to do it. Thanks!

  3. Oh, and I even bought QC books for openings which I don’t play and probably will never do, just for the joy of having them. I am a QC addict and sometimes I really have the feeling to “need” a book, even if you don’t have a marketing strategy or something. This need comes from the fact that I know a priori that it will be a good book and I will enjoy it

  4. I am not a GM, and I’ll never be one. So why am I buying books called “GM-Rep” oder “Grandmaster Preparation” or other books from QC ? The simple reason: Because I love chess. And those are the best books around. And they are honest. They do not promise me to win every game, they do not promise me to improve effortlessly. They promise to help me if I work hard. That’s all. And that’s very fine to me.
    There are many chess books around where I feel cheated after having read them. This was never the case for me with QC books. So I prefer to pay 30 Euros for a book I like to 20 Euros for a book that I put aside after the first chapter.
    Carry on, QC. It’s lonely at the top. But who wouldn’t want to be there?

  5. My opinions on this one, in the same general order that you stated/asked them:

    – Your level of professionalism is both admirable and disappointing. I spent 20 minutes guessing at the culprits on Facebook, to no avail. 😉

    – Basically all chess marketing is close to the same – most publishers have short/sparse ads, a website, not-so-frequently updated Twitter/Facebook accounts, and a rough schedule. But your blog is a cut above, and I think one of things that’s been instrumental to QC’s success. If you think about it, most other chess publishers are complete black boxes. There’s basically no contact or communication between them and their readers, and random books come out at random times for purchase. But is that an entity you want to give your money to? Or would you rather give your money to an entity who’s constantly providing extra information, more content, more communication, and just a generally friendly way to talk more chess!? Whether you consider that marketing is simply semantics, but one thing is obvious: the blog is GREAT!

    – I don’t see any evidence that you’ve ever tried to “trick” (or whatever) your readers into thinking they need your books. What QC does have is a proven track record of printing the best book on subject “A”, which generally compels players who are interested in subject “A” to buy your books. But that’s not in any way disingenuous, that’s just being good at your jobs. A side-note: there are definitely books that could…

  6. …basically be replaced with database/engine dumps, which lends some weight to that old argument. But even then, to pay something around $20-30 to save yourself the time of doing that is, a lot of times, worth it in and of itself. And I know firsthand that the level of insight I had about the Kalashnikov was quite a bit higher when I was done with my book than when I started, and so to gain that insight while not having to put in all the work is worth the money as well. That topic would be a worthwhile side-discussion – I’d like to hear other people’s thoughts on that. I know that my own work is veering in that direction, even if I still buy/own a massive number of chess books.

    – I don’t care if you advocate (I think that’s a poor word – you can publish a work on something without advocating it) riskier/more fun lines as long as your guys are honest about the objective merit of said line. I think somehow this author in question sees the level of sophistication as a put-down on the rest of the chess publishing industry, or as a measure of condescension, but I don’t really see it that way. I think QC has been pretty consistent in their message that they’re just a group of guys who want to publish chess books their own way, and to a high standard.

    – I do think that in some way, your reputation as a publisher and your packaging of the GM Repertoire series has elevated their status in the community. And by that I mean that if you took the manuscript for a very well…

  7. …well written opening book from another publisher (as an example, “The Triangle System” by Sherbakov) and shoehorned it into the GM Rep framework, that it would sell better. I obviously have zero empirical evidence for this, it’s just my opinion and perception. But I don’t find it to be a marketing trick or a sleight of any kind, just a well thought out concept by a good publisher.

    I do think it would also be a very interesting side-discussion to chat about what an “optimal” opening book looks like for all rating levels. There are clearly some easy to understand upper and lower bounds, i.e. you’d probably never hand a 1200 Avrukh, nor a 2700 my book let’s say, but what’s best for everyone in between. Is more analysis always better (I don’t think so btw)? Is the now-nearly-ubiquitous tree format always the best? I have long enjoyed a slight mix, as I think both formats do something better than the other. But that’s just me. And of course, there’s the topic of what subjects are appropriate at each rating level to begin with.

  8. Is there any truth in what this guy says? If there is, it certainly has nothing to do with marketing. Do more people buy QC books, such as GM repertoires, than “need” them? Certainly. Do they think they need them? I doubt it. I buy QC books because I enjoy them, find them intellectually stimulating and might use some ideas from them in my games or preparation (almost never the complete repertoire).
    To me, the only interesting question is what kind of openings books weaker players players can benefit most from. There are many books along the lines of Beginners Guide to Some Opening. These can be very instructional, but I can think of only a tiny number I have read which are. More often, though certainly not always, the general and chapter introductions in advanced books are much more useful, even if I only read 5% of the book in detail.
    So, please, keep up the good work.

  9. @Gollum
    Not to take it to a fight on this forum, but the Marin-series GM Rep 3+4+5 are probably the BEST chess books I’ve ever read and learned from. It boosted my playing strength enourmously and I will never agree with you that they are worse than any other book published by QC 😀

    @Everyone else:
    I love QC and at least buy around 60-70% of their published titles. I have never felt disappointed in those books, and believe in books written by people who put a lot of effort into explaining carefully why the material presented is “the right way” to play.

    I simply can’t find any better publisher out there, and though I own books from quite a few other chess publishers, it doesn’t even come close to the same experience I have when I sit down at my kitchen table with board and pieces and gnaw/chew myself through a 300-400 page volume of a QC book. Surely I don’t expect to be able to remember everything I read, but I have concluded on my own, that my understanding of the resulting positions has grown tremendously – to the point where I would dare say “anyone else would benefit from doing the same excersize”. I’ve also found that it usually takes a few months for the knowledge to settle on my backbone, and I have revisited many of the books again after having read them the first time, to confirm or reassure myself whether or not I chose the right plan/path/variation in some given line.

    To put it short and blunt:
    QC books has never come close to being a waste…

  10. Chess players buy too many opening books in general, and everybody knows it.

    Everybody hears that opening preparation is so important to GMs, and everybody wants to play like GMs, and the easiest way to feel like you know how to play like a GM is reading opening books. You can play like a GM for a few moves, then horribly mistreat your position later. That obviously means the opening “doesn’t fit your attacking style”, so you buy one on another opening, and that one there is outdated now because a new book on that opening came out, and it’s full of important novelties…

    That was already the case before QC existed, of course. Now they’re just even shinier and are called “GM Repertoire”. They’re written by and fit for GMs but you wouldn’t be able to have a business if it was only the 2300+ crowd buying them, I think.

    But I don’t blame any publisher for publishing more of the kind of book that sells well, you’ve always raved a lot about the excellent middlegame titles too.

  11. @Alexander

    Don’t misunderstand me. I think the Marin books are very good middlegame books, but they lack the rigor to be an opening book from QC standards.

    To put it plainly: I followed a line recommended by Marin to move 18 or something. I got a great position and was in the driving seat, accomplishing all the positional ideas in it. However, it turned out that I could have simply won a pawn around move 13. So yes, the explanations are great and very insightful, but you have to have your engine running, because you never know if there is a chance for any side that has lost its way to the book, and sadly it does occur almost everywhere, especially for the black side.

  12. To support all the other opinions…
    I have the databases and state-of-the-art chess engines (Komodo 9.2, latest dev Stockfish) and I know how to use them. So I have no need for the vast majority of chess books, especially those touted by this “other” person.
    I buy a lot of QC books because I can depend on their quality and thoroughness, and thus I can save a great deal of time I don’t really have. Yes, I could probably figure out most of those lines myself with the aid of databases and engines, but it would take a massive amount of time. I don’t have that time.
    I am just happy that somebody is willing to publish these kinds of books, and I hope that it continues to be sufficiently commercially successful so QC continues. If they continue publishing I will continue buying!

  13. Whilst not able to comment on how well or otherwise QC market their publications I do think that they have changed the dynamics of the chess book market. The days of a quickly thrown together 150 page book on the Queens Gambit etc are pretty much gone. It seems other publishers and authors have recognised this and lifted their games to compete with QC which can only be a good thing for us as players and purchasers of chess books.

    I have played chess reasonably seriously for around 50 years and I think it is important to buy opening books that suit your style. There are books in the QC opening stable that I have struggled with simply because I haven’t played the opening enough to understand it sufficiently well. This is my failing not the authors and it sadness me to see some of the QC author criticism that goes on in these blogs.

    Having played the French, Kings Indian and English type openings for pretty much all my chess playing life I think I understand these openings fairly well. When reading through the GM series on these three openings all I can say is I wish I had had access to these books 40 years ago my understanding of these openings would have developed far quicker than it has. Marin, Berg and Kotronias have done a wonderful job in passing on their experiences not just in providing variations and analysis but in particular their position and strategic explanations. They all play the openings they have written about and the passion and confidence they…

  14. have in these openings is infectious for the series reader.

    Thank you to the QC team and authors for all your hard work, long may there be a market for your books.

  15. In my honest opinion, (ie I have seen no actual research on this subject), I doubt if the *average* club player would get more than 1% of the material in a QC openings book.

    Still, 1% of something is better than 1% of nothing.

    QC books are good. But I don’t think the *average*, and I stress average chess player should play sophisticated openings,and certainly not try to memorize lines.

    And they shouldn’t think that preparation will given them easy wins.

    Negi had some great words on this subject in a recent New in Chess. They are well worth reading.

  16. So far the comments, from JA and others, have been mostly about opening books. But, as I read it, the pudgy critic’s comments were not only about opening books, but also, more generally, “their approach to publishing”.

    QC’s “approach to publishing” has also produced the three volumes of Judit Polgar Teaches Chess, and the 3rd edition (revised and updated) of Learn From the Legends.

    I played through every game and variation in the Polgar series, and have just started doing the same with LftL. I think the Polgar series ranks with Tal’s Life and Games as a best ever games collection, and would not be surprised if LftL is as good an advanced instruction book as any.

    I think those excellent books say enough about your “approach to publishing”.

    there’s a typo on LftL p.310 and 311, where it says “Black would play the unexpected …Be2”.
    Very unexpected, since only White’s B could go to e2.

    Not perfect, but QC fixes their mistakes — as the many upgrades in LftL show — and when they fix this small mistake, the paperback LftL3 will be even better. 🙂

  17. Isn’t it less to do with marketing, and more you’ve developed a strong brand? Weak QC books are as rare as hen’s teeth, and standards breed quality and quality breeds reputation.

    To reinforce TonyRo’s point- compare Everyman’s Gulko books with the Gelfand book. I think Everyman did a good job on the former, but the Gelfand book shows if QC had done it it would have been on another level. I often wondered how TonyRo’s wonderful book would have been if QC had produced – as an aside Tony’s book shows you don’t need a title to write a great book (hopefully Nikos book will be in same league).

  18. QC has created the new standard for chess publishing excellence. The books are enjoyable, have high quality material and should have a long life. How a person studies chess is a personal preference. The books are meant to be a guide. They are not the end all.

    My only quibble is that some of the paper back books do not hold up. The pages should be stitched in to avoid this problem. I have started buying the hard back books to avoid this issue.

  19. I like QC books because I can learn a lot from them. Specially middlegame books and auto/biographies as Karpov, Petrosian, Gelfand, Polgar, Talj,….hope You will also cover Aljehin, because books about him and his playing style arent so quality chess as Tibor could write it :).

    Your books are a great tool for us amateurs which help us to understand game better. Thats the only true. And for me, a man who is very busy in his everyday life its very important that my free time I spend on chess is on quality chess books.

  20. QC books are like an 8000m mountain, not everybody can reach the top but everybody can enjoy a part of the climbing. Lowering the mountain doesn’t increase the joy in the climbing. I prefer to climb a little part of a great mountain (a great book) instead of reaching the top of a little hill (a bad book).

    Beyond the example, QC books are BY FAR the best books in the chess market. I don’t remember the last time I bought a book of another publisher.

  21. @garryk

    There are books in other publishing houses worth buying. Recent books might be Liquidation on the board (or something like that) and Dvoretsky’s last book.

    I think QC not only has rised the level on the material exposed on the opening books (and keep a very high standard in improvement books), but also has a better layout of the books edited. For example I like a lot more the layout in QC problem books than that of Dvoretsky’s last book, even if they are practically the same.

  22. First of all I have nothing to add to the praise above, I have at least 95 % of all qc books and was never disappointed so I basicly now buy every Book QC publishes as I simply love Chess books, and especially good ones ?
    I don’ t think QC does marketing in order to trick customers. Of course there is this Blog for uns Chess fanatics, sometimes books are announced soon to be published and then postponed but I personnaly have no Problem with this as I prefer to know what is in the Pipeline . And if you buy a GM Repertoire you get one

  23. You are transparent and publish excerpts about your books. You are fair and you are doing it well.
    If I were you, I’d be proud of this kind of comments coming from my competitors! 🙂

  24. I don’t think anyone may accuse you of being unfair; however, I think the fellow-writer main point was that your opening-books are a mile above the capabilities of average players (say up to 1900) and it won’t really help them to learn openings to such depth.
    Looking at the excerpts on your site, I believe he has a point.
    By the way, if you want realistic feedback on this specific point, the blog is hardly the place to conduct a survey, as people here are mostly QC fanatics and will – as they frankly admit – buy your books, regardless.

  25. The criticism as I read it:
    There are a lot of players, who buy the GM rep books, believing that they will be helpful, but find them too complex to be of use.

    Should QC indicate “This GM rep book is suitable for players rated so and so and up”? And are they deliberately not doing this, in order to increase sales?

    I am not sure “We’re are not doing any marketing” is a valid defense! 🙂 Not saying anything is still communication.

    But …

    I have not seen any marketing of the “GM rep” geared towards the big middle level field of players, promissing that we will become GM’s. So in that sense, I think the criticism is unfair.

    I do not feel that QC is trying to “oversell” their books.

    I am very happy with the QC books I have bought. They have not disappointed me. I think they are of a very high quality.

    I think there are a lot of other publishers, who should be slightly more ashamed of the way they present and sell their books., in terms of what is promised and what is delivered.

    Kind regards,

  26. Thanks a lot for the support. I feel a little bit as if I am asking my family and friends if I am a good person, rather than polling the World…

    I never really thought of the blog as marketing. To me the contact to the readers is a vital way to stay encouraged. Whenever a book does well and we make a bit of money I am happy, of course, but it really is not enough to keep on going. To make people a bit happier for a little bit is as big a reward as anyone can ask for in this life. And I accept it gladly.

    Are the Grandmaster Repertoire books too difficult? I think some authors could give more explanations for my preference, but we do not want to impose a certain style on our authors. We want to be able to publish different types of books by people who think differently, as the audience for sure have different needs. But I generally do not believe that people do not understand these books. At least not among the ones that buy them. Are there some things they do not understand? Yes, of course. There are things I do not understand. Can the readers remember everything that is in the books. Of course not. Neither can the writers! But when we prepare we look at a section and try to remember as much as possible. Little pockets here and there. I do in general recommend making little chessbase files with only the main lines (the bolded moves) and try to remember them. If you manage to do this, your preparation is already at GM level.

    At some point there were people who claimed that no GMs read chess books and especially not opening books. Luckily very few believe this anymore.

    In 2005 I talked to Peter Svidler at the European Team Championship. We were discussing newly published QC books and he said that it is a pity that they were already out of date on publication. I knew that there was a small benchmark for success – to wait for the day when Peter referred to our books. Years later I got the chance to quote a game he annotated, with the words: “Here I stupidly tried to improve on Avrukh”…

    There are other great books published. I do not recall having ever said that Quality Chess did the only good books out there. Scherbakov’s book won the Chess Publishing opening book of the year and rightly so. Dvoretsky, Timman, Rotella, Gulko, Nunn and so on will write great books no matter the publisher. The same goes for Marin, Avrukh, Schandorff and most of the people we are blessed to be able to work with. We do try to improve the manuscripts we get through the door and in a few instances we have had to save a book from being down right awful. But most of the time we just try to be easy to work with and not to screw the book up once it comes to us!

    Yes, we do a lot of editing and we carefully check for missing lines and sources, we check lines we are not sure about and help with formatting and structuring. But who have ever truly done anything great all on their own in their lives? I certainly could not have written my best books without the support of other people (not that I am saying they are great; they are simply as good as I could write them) and the same is the case for a lot of the books we have published that have done well. But I did write a few bad books all by myself, with editing that made them worse, before Quality Chess. I also wrote a few decent ones it should be said.

    There are a few books that are too difficult for the majority and not surprisingly they have not done that well. Practical Chess Defence is one of these books (mentioning one of my own, to criticise no one). The exercises are too difficult. What is worse, it sort of pissed Mark off. He called it the “most difficult chess book ever written – until I publish my next one!” Then came the DVORETSKY ANALYTICAL MANUAL, which some 2700+ people say they find way too difficult… Blame me!

    Finally, I should admit that we do not mind if on occasion someone buy a book that is too difficult for them. We need the money. But I too cannot see that we have ever misled anyone or made them feel that they “had to have” our books, when they didn’t. One of the best pieces of advice I ever got in publishing came from this blog: people who buy chess books like chess books… Another piece of advice led to the Grandmaster Preparation series. A third piece of advice could be to finish it…

  27. @Gollum
    Interesting. So what made you still prefer to follow Marin’s line until move 18, when you so obviously sound like you’d be happier with winning the pawn after move 13 ? I am just curious. Is that because you think Marin may have known better (or just plain prefered) and NOT taken the pawn after all ?

    I don’t think of these books as if they should help me win the entire game. Of course I need to play the resulting positions from where the author leaves the analysis, but I DO prefer this approach rather than inventing something which might be unhealthy after all – such as for instance grabbing a pawn against someone who thought about how to use that against me 😉

    True you still have to steer clear from the position handed over, but most of the time – which is why I really LIKE QC books – the author at least gives you some general guidelines on how to play on in the position from a positional point of view (e.g. “White now wants to double rooks on the half open c-file”, or “the long term plan is to play this, this and this move and put pressure on that square/piece” etc.). These guidelines are what is usually missing in almost ANY other chessbook I’ve bought from other publishers, because they expect YOU to know these general guidelines, or figure them out on your own (which can demand a LOT of time or playing a LOT of similar positions). Most of the time you’re left with some rather dull =/+ or +/= (slightly better or worse) evaluation, which doesn’t…

  28. @Jacob Aagaard
    The statement of ‘Mr X.’ that QC marketing methods have forced him to skip one by one QC people from his friends seems to suggest that QC are doing something unethical. In my view nothing could be farther from the truth. QC is by far the most transparent chess publisher around – this blog being one prime example. Of course one can debate if the level of the GM Rep books is to high for the ‘the market’, but to suggest that QC is somehow ‘tricking’ weak players into buying these books seems simply ridiculous to me, and is grossly underestimating the customers of QC. To give myself as an example: I own almost all QC books, including the entire GM Rep series – even if I don’t play all the openings myself. But I don’t see what’s wrong with collecting great chess books. Besides, the books on the openings I do play (e.g. French and KID) are simply superb and woth buying for the explanations alone. Yes, they can seem a bit daunting at first, but if you just stick to the advice of just focusing on the bold lines and explanations (I shorten it even more by deleting rare lines and truncaing the bold lines), iI’m convinced they are useful for lower rated players as well. Besides, there is some great chess in these books – just flicking through the pages of the Mar del Plata books is already a pleasure in itself. So, Jacob, if you’re hinting at stopping with the series: PLEAS DON’T, there are plenty of great openings still…

  29. @Alexander

    I didn’t win a pawn because I was not aware it was possible. Later, when analyzing with stockfish I found about it.

    Of course Marin in that position gave White a great plan which I followed to a great position, but my point is that when reading the book you never know if there is a hidden chance for black that Marin just miss. In some lines stockfish thinks it is just equal, and then black just plays a ?! move which brings the advantage to +0.8, but no mention is made that this move might be not the strongest, and at the end of the line, it turns out White is winning as if my magic.

  30. On the other hand, Avrukh is not a verbose author. His books are very high quality, but for my taste they lack some commentaries. Negi however I think does a great job, combining great analysis with enlightening commentaries.

  31. I would be interested to know who it is who criticised QC to get an idea about what the issue is.
    QC give a lot of information about what their books alike before one chooses to buy them.
    There are many great non opening books from QC too.
    I am sure many purchasers understand that QC opening books are beyond the level of preparation they benefit from in absolute ratingterms but simply enjoy the in depth treatments of their favourite opening.

  32. My two cents:

    ‘every atom of my being is opposed to their approach’ – really, would have thought there are more important issues to worry about. Also seems a bit superficial that someone defriends others for business practices which whilst you might not like are hardly lacking in integrity.

    ‘highly sophisticated openings books. The ‘market’ is way too weak for these books ‘ – My view is that chess stars used to produce the most sophisticated books, and there was also Gambit too, adjusting for information inflation I think they are on a par with Quality . Now unfortunately we have lost Gambit, and Chess Stars are doing very little, so of the 3 ‘good’ publishers we only have one now.

    On the other hand I’m unimpressed with the way the Cardigan/ Everyman line has progressed – it seems to be they have seriously dumbed down their line up of books, with the only books of any interest to me being the Kasparov books.

  33. On the Marin Book Topic: love that books, really well written and explained, but a lot of his main lines are busted by now ( c4 e5 reversed dragon, c4 e5 botvinnik, c4, c5 fischer line and so on). Check with an engine and tread with care.

  34. I’d also just like to point out that Mr. “X” has a poor understanding of the “market” if he says it’s too weak to support such books (since they’re flourishing). The market is what it is, and if people are buying the books, the market is obviously supporting such books! Yes, I understand what he was saying, but he phrased it in the worst possible way. I also reject the notion of his original intent, which is to say that chess players below rating X should not be buying those books. I’m sure his X is higher than mine!

  35. One man’s opinion does not worry me. I really wanted to know if people felt there was a problem and I am happy to see that the main criticism is that we in a few places have not done our work well enough. This will always happen of course, but it is the least painful to be criticised for, as all we can do is continue trying to make the best books possible.

  36. I think collecting chess books is a hobby in and of itself akin to collecting baseball cards. Folks derive pleasure in different ways and I am in no position to tell others whether to buy chess books if they think it will bring them personal enjoyment (or even whether to play chess at all). Personally, I am not in the target audience for the GM Repertoire series and I own zero of them as I prefer “complete games” over the tree format anywya. But I rank Schandorff’s 1.d4 volumes among the best opening books ever.

    I recently bought Python Strategy which fills a void in the chess book market. I have high hopes for the forthcoming “Spassky Move by Move” by Zenon Franco. I would love to see either QualityChess or Russell re-publish the old Dover edition of “From My Games” by Max Euwe.

  37. I have to digress from the common standpoint here, as I DO find some of the QC’s opening books to be too sophisticated for me (rated 1900-2000). For example Grandmaster Repertoire 1A and GMR 10.

    It’s not that I don’t understand the specific moves, but I’m at a loss of what both sides are aiming for, how to play the ensuing positions and why a final position is evaluated as it is. No doubt this is down to my own lack of understanding. So when I buy a book like this, I need to complement it with an “easier” book like Everyman’s Move by move, or perhaps better yet Rios Chess Structures.

    On the other hand authors like Marin, Schandorff and to some extent Tiger explains the positions better – and I’m sure providing complete games help me a great deal to understand the nature of the struggle as well.

  38. @Jimmy
    If you looked at GM1A then you don’t start with 1.e4, but if you do, take a look at Negi, it is undoubtedly less arid than Avrukh.

    katar :
    I am not in the target audience for the GM Repertoire series and I own zero of them as I prefer “complete games” over the tree format anywya. But I rank Schandorff’s 1.d4 volumes among the best opening books ever.

    It is funny you say that because I feel exactly the opposite. I do not like Schandorff repertoire for White because it is not in tree format (admittedly I just browsed through it), but I like his work on the Caro which I have studied extensively.

    It goes to show that everybody has his own taste and there is a market for almost everything, although maybe too small. My taste is definitively high quality analysis supported with some commentaries explaining the ideas, and for me Negi does the trick. Marin, on the other hand, is great for some other players, and Avrukh is the choice of yet another group…

  39. As a correspondence player (kind of ICCF IM slowly heading to SIM) I mostly buy and use your GM Rep books (but I also buy other of your books which I think are interesting for me) and there I do a lot of extra work- checking lines, looking for more sources, etc etc. Although they are great from practical point of view they are a bit outdated/non-useful from correspondence chess point of view. What I mean is that authors (do not want to mention concrete names) at the end of line say White has a good initiative, white is slightly better, endgame is difficult for Black. So here we are. What I do – simply do a CBF game file and start looking mainly on corr. databases and whoop. That position appeared in say 20-30 corr. games (some mentioned inside the notes, some totally missing) and they all are drawn and with easy. So I am starting to wonder, where is White’s small advantage?! Any GM can do the same and easily realize that it is a stupid draw (yeah, I know you cannot cover every game on the earth). From my most recent experience I see a tendency that your authors simply skip correspondence games, or if they use some of them – they are looking only for those which were played with 2450+ players. But… corr databases are with worse quality and there are a lot of places when games are published and no ratings are added to player names, but still the game quality is more than 2600+. In some rare cases I saw that book author claims that move X is his novelty, but come on, simple…

  40. I like QC books, like Gelfand’s, Jacob’s “Positionnal Play”, “Chess Structure” from Flores or Marin’s “Learn from the Legends”, and most of the games collections.
    I am not fond of openings books(QC’s or others). Avrukh in 2012 did a reference work (according to many specialist) with his catalan repertoire. If he has to do another one in 2015, there is something rotten in the state of modern openings.

  41. In some rare cases I saw that book author claims that move X is his novelty, but come on, simple check on corr databases uncovers a few games played years and years ago (in one of the cases there was a game played in 197-ish). Ok, enough with criticism 🙂 I really think you do a very good work and I am like a baby waiting for his meal when I see a new GM Rep book is coming out, especially when it is of my openings spectrum. About the marketing – as I am involved in this area (mostly as a techy person, but still helping a lot to marketing gurus), I would say that chess books market is very limited. It is not like to approach 1-3-5M people and to wait to collect money from 10% of them. You can only rely on chess players, chess lovers and chess book collectors, which is too far less than the real market opportunity. Kind of trying to sell a Lamborghini to people over 60 years old – only 1 of 1000 can have it :). Based on my past experience only thing I could suggest to improve is to stimulate your readers – kind of introduce loyalty program, kind of send some small (or not too small) discounts, kind of look at your customers database (unfortunately as you sell with re-sellers you cannot approach them) and try to contact those which did not ordered in last X months/year, etc etc.
    Your blog is one of the good ways to get back info about what your readers are looking for.
    I hope you will not consider it as too critical and against you 🙂
    P.S. Waiting for your next GM Reps and…

  42. My pennyworth: QC books are a reliable statement of theory at the time they are published but almost a victim of their own success. Reading Avrukh’s new book on the Catalan illustrates how the success of his book made black players dig deeper to find a line in the book that the evaluation wasn’t quite accurate (no criticism- there will never be a perfect book) and allowed them to equalise as they knew that they would be starting from a major disadvantage straight out of the opening if they didn’t and that plenty of players as white would follow the book because of that. There are lots of changes to lines in the new book because of that and playing the first book would now be a mistake as it has been targeted unlike following a less well known book where errors lie dormant as the spotlight isn’t on them.
    In other words you need to buy the latest QC update! At least QC are very honest and they are quite upfront and not afraid to attack each others’ suggestions and don’t stipulate that future books avoid the repertoire a previous QC author outlined which must be tempting to do- nothing is sacred.
    My only criticism is the lack of chat about pawn structures/general themes/tactical ideas- though I love the QC books the best opening books I have seen was Bologan’s recent tome on 1…e5 for the chapter on themes and strategies which helps a weak player like me understand what to play once we leave established theory. Danny King and Robert Bellin’s older ‘Mastering the…

  43. ‘Mastering the…’ series was great for this too but did not include the actual moves of a repertoire. I think QC would be wise to have a look at Bologan’s model- perhaps taking a leaf from Flores Rios’ book which is great on structures too…

  44. I am a bit odd but I use your opening books as all around training. I enter the lines in chessbase and when we get to a novelty I study the old game and then use stockfish and play out the novelty until I see how the game may progress. In the process I have found some interesting ‘equal’ novelties that I will use in my games. (Gelfand has really changed my outlook on that.)

    In the end you can use the ‘Grandmaster Repertoire’ as specific training in your opening of choice. And the training works. I’ve added around 200 rating points by studying QC books and taking lessons. (And it was not 600-900. Is was 1613 – 1815)

    Don’t. Change. A. Thing.
    Love your books!

  45. @neiman
    If no one had followed the book, it would probably still be mainly valid. This is what happened to GM10, which is a rehabilitation of a rare line. That book still works and the Forward Chess version is even updated by the author.

  46. As a thought from the other side… My favorite author is Kotronias. I love the level of detail and extended analysis he puts in. I just wish he would do openings I like! I buy his books and study them for the intrinsic value, not because I want to play those openings.

  47. I am not a bit fan of the GM Preparation books, but that is because I currently do not study opening play. I was under the impression that they are so highly praised because people who wanted a high quality opening book found the best quality opening book on the market. That said, you can’t have it all, a book which appeals to the experts probably will be unable to convince someone who didn’t want the book in the first place. It really seems that this is what the critic had a problem with: the books are not simple enough to compete with “Starting out” for example, but they weren’t meant to be in the first place (why would a GM read a Starting out book???)

    My view of Quality Chess is based mostly on the non-opening books, which are amazing. Thus claiming that Quality Chess is poor due to their opening books is a puzzling statement – one wonders if the critic reads a book for the prose or reads a book for the improvement.

  48. This is a little off-topic. I never comment on this blog because of my habit of writing embarrassing things on the internet. I like to avoid saying anything which might be embarrassing for people I happen to respect. Enthusiasm is often misunderstood.

    I have QC publications which are too difficult for me, but I keep them anyway because they are a source of inspiration to me. Chess publications have a reputation of being chock full of half-truths and outright lies, so it makes sense if a chess publishing house wants to base its reputation on high-caliber, authoritative publications. Also, I enjoy reading the QC blog because it reminds me that a willingness to give back to one’s community and a deep-seated belief in quality work often go hand-in-hand with professional success.

    However, on the internet, one should always assume that anything one types could become public, so being kind and generating goodwill seemingly at personal expense to oneself goes a long way.

  49. I would like to ask a slightly disturbing question – it seemed like the comment section of this post is the most suitable place for it on this site.

    What do you think about getting chess books, magazines, engines or other stuff free? Should file sharing be considered harmless like many do, especially about getting softwares? Personally I’m not totally against downloading some softwares or books free, however chess publishing doesn’t seem like a big-profit business and the authors are getting money from producing content for a publisher, unlike the case for scientific articles. Also, big companies are not their customers, etc.

  50. An Ordinary Chessplayer

    “Should file sharing be considered harmless like many do … ?”

    It’s mostly the ones doing the harming who consider it harmless.

  51. A.Kara :
    Personally I’m not totally against downloading some softwares or books free…

    “Personally I’m not totally against theft…”

    You can justify however you want, but you’re still stealing.

  52. @A.Kara
    It is illegal. It is not harmless, it is depleting us of customers and leading to writers not being paid and chess books going extinct. I know a lot of people do it with movies, music and software, but it is just theft and it has already caused immense harm to the music industry. Not to the brainless stuff that keeps coming no matter what, but to more challenging music.

    Don’t do it. Pay for what you want, you will enjoy it more as well.

  53. well, i think A.Kara is from Turkey prolly, yes getting materials here like that way is not punished seriously (no ,i dont know anyone punished for illegal sharing or downloading files) although it is illegal.
    i usually buy books, especially the ones that will i use for a long time. i had negis, shaws, kid, gelfands book and more else like bogo nimzo from everyman (and more) as a original printed books. but if you are asking me 1.playing d4 book, no , i ll never get it. may be some1 give me it as a pdf, but i even didnot look at them too.
    but, fortunately, i want to have averbach’s endgame books even as pdf, because i cant find them as a printed book. (well i trust on to get books, but they didnot get the books as i understood, i hope the given site name donot disturb anyone)
    i dont know how the things were going for coprighted materials,

  54. It is clear that the activity is illegal and morally wrong, but that it destroys the industry is something more debatable. I would buy some books no matter what, because I want to have them physically. For instance I would love to have ‘Chess Structures’ not only on ForwardChess, but in physical format (and this discussion has already taken place and it seems that selling both in a bundle is impossible), but I cannot justify spending 20€ more in a book I already own.

    So yes, when you downlaod a pdf, a movie or music, you are stealing the intellectual property of someone, but if you spend the same money you would do otherwise, then you are not harming the industry, because you have spent the same amount of money.

    On the other hand, maybe you have the content and don’t plan to spend the same amount of money, then you are harming the industry.

    But! Maybe now that you have access to all this things, your interest in this hobby increases your money spent, as you know a lot more things that you would love to have. For me being in contact with this blog made me spend more money on chess, because I came to know more books that I would like to own…

    But in this discussion it is often too easy to disregard any point of view that is contrary of what you believe and rarely bares anything fruitful…

  55. Apart from Mr.Aagaard’s and my countrymate’s, I think the replies suffer from a narrow mindness. Did the free software movement brought a catastrophe to all? Some years ago there was that Napster lawsuit thing everywhere, now all the world gets his music from YouTube or Mp3 download. Do you think you’re making “theft” because you don’t buy tons of albums and listening your music online? Are you sure that this massive change caused musicians to get poor? (By the way, Mr.Aagaard, I think it’s the opposite way – many kinds of more challenging art are prevented by the producers, and many artists can reach much more people today) Similar case for book industry. Industries adapted to this kind of thing, the business model is changed, and while now intellectual “property” is mostly public, companies, producers and artists still make profit. By the way, intellectual product isn’t totally a thing of patent-and-sell product, but that’s a long discussion.

    I already said above that I think chess publishing is different for some reasons, and should be considered differently.

    Anyway, I don’t want to discuss too much here, dabbling with my not-so-advanced English. I already said I’m reconsidering and evaluating this act for every kind of product, and you guys also need to think and read, before defending some clichés blindly and talking about “theft”. Go figure out yourself.

  56. Unfortunately for you, your opinions don’t form the law. I really like driving 80 mph on the highway, but I’m pretty sure the office who pulls me over doesn’t a rat’s you-know-what about what I think the speed limits should be. Don’t steal things.

  57. I fully agree. Whether or not you need the stuff you’re stealing and whether or not the artists are harmed by stealing are beside the point – stealing = stealing. I could also rob a bank and say they need to look for a different business model.

  58. I buy quite a lot of QC books, which obviously are far too advanced for my modest playing strength (2100 approximately). I don’t play competitive chess, so it is clearly useless to buy such books. But i do so because i enjoy reading them. I have no real interest in getting really good at chess ; however, I have a keen interest on reading books I enjoy and make me think. And QC books do that for me. I am not fooled into thinking that I will become a GM because I read, half an hour every day, a GM preparation book. But I’m not losing this half an hour, just as I’m not losing my time when I read a novel or listen to music.

  59. @gollum
    “[quote]For me being in contact with this blog made me spend more money on chess, because I came to know more books that I would like to own…[ /quote]”

    And we want to own them because they are real quality stuff.

  60. @k.r.

    Yes, I want to own good books. I stop spending money on chess because:

    a) There are not enough reviews out there to be in touch with what is out there (that’s why I have a blog about it now!
    b) Of the few reviews that were available, I followed an advice that went south, and bought two books that I disliked.

    Fortunately (or not, because this year I’m calculating I will be spending more than 200€ on chess books) I discovered this blog and things changed, now I have a real place to go where I know quality is a guarantee, and I have excerpts to peak into a book and make a more solid decision.

  61. @A.Kara
    Trust me, if putting free PDFs out there was a great marketing strategy, we would do it. A lot of chess publishing across Europe has suffered this past decade and some publishers have stopped putting out new books. Thanks to illegal downloads. So no, it is not acceptable and it is damaging.
    Software is different, as big companies pay for their software, mainly because the penalties would be wildly damaging. We pay for everything, because we are honest. But even if we were not, it would be wise.

  62. @Jacob Aagaard

    Big companies do not pay for games, and the game industry has budgets bigger than those of movies with development cycles of 5 years.

    On the other hand, some people do offer their product for whatever you want to pay them (Radiohead, for example in 2007, but here is a more exhaustive list:

    I do not think that would make sense for a publisher like you, but maybe small books by unknown authors can take this route.

    Lastly, piracy is something that exists and will continue to exist. Maybe publishers need to take that into account as it is already happening in some other industries (music with spotify, tv shows with netflix, games with steam). Simply stating that piracy is bad won’t solve any problem.

  63. @Gollum
    Who said this was all we did? But I am not going to miss the chance to say here that piracy actually creates damage and is not a victimless crime. Many chess authors make less than the people that copy their books. It is theft, pure an simple.

  64. An Ordinary Chessplayer

    @Sinclair – since 2 dollars does not cover the cost of the paper, they must also be ripping off their employer for the copy service.

  65. Shurlock Ventriloquist

    These are the best chess books ever published.

    Some people trick themselves into thinking they need them. I know I do.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Scroll to Top