27 thoughts on “Praise for Gelfand’s book”

  1. I have to say, as a weak around 2100 player, it has been a wonderful read. I don’t know if I have read it seriously enough to really improve, but I have seldom read something as clever, articulate and fascinating.

  2. I haven’t read that one but I’m glad it’s good.

    Any news on the next volume of the 1.d4 series updates? It’s always a bit awkward to start a new repertoire and not have large segments of it.

  3. @Matt
    No, and I am not really interested as I recall a conversation 10 years ago where he was equally negative about Mark Dvoretsky, my greatest idol!

    Every book cannot speak to every person. I am OK with my other books being good enough to win all major awards there is for chess writing, even if it was not enough to impress Emil ;-).

    With this book I worked incredibly hard to make it as accessible as possible. (Yeah, that means commercial!). I wanted it to be readable for players at all levels at the same time. I think we achieved this. It took some debate with Boris and at times I had to force my will through.

    With this I mean the following: This is clearly going to be his major contribution to chess literature. And Boris loves chess books. He wants to imagine his books to be masterpieces like the books that heavily influenced him. But at the same time he is also a great player and has played amazing games. He wants to present his masterpieces to the readers. At times this is at odds. For example the Campora game. This is probably the most instructive in the book, but I had to force it in there. Boris felt Black played for passive for the game to be interesting. Well, of course it was one sided. But this was needed to show Boris’ thought process clearly. In my opinion this game is the highlight of the book, even if almost all the other games in the book are “better”.

    Stylistically this is my book, while the thinking and…

  4. the chess is 75% or more so Boris (I did quite some grunt work, like analysing the Malakhov ending with a tablebase generator). Boris had the final say on everything and he was very meticulous, down to debate about simple phrasings. The general philosophy is of course Boris, but a lot of it I had to squeeze out of him :-).

  5. Fortunately in this world there are different tastes! I have to say that I do not agree with Sutovksy. First, I believe Jacob’s series in QC to be really good (at least the book accessible at my level). On the other hand, while I appreciate Gelfand’s book, I’m not at all impressed by it. I have had it since launch (I think it reached my home before launch as a matter of fact) and I am yet to finish it. I may write a review nevertheless, as it seems opportune to have a dissonant voice once in a while.

  6. I also remember praise being heaped upon the Gelfand book by Peter Svidler during a broadcast on chess24 covering the tiebreaks of the London Chess Classic. He said the book ‘couldn’t be recommended highly enough’.

    I guess a lot of people are like me and always tune in whenever Svidler is commentating – his recommendation for the book must have been picked up by many.

  7. @SG
    I made a great move to send a copy to him then! Actually, there was something that could by some be seen as slightly unflattering about Svidler coming in volume 2, which we wanted to make sure he did not feel bad about. Peter is one of the greatest people in chess, as friendly and charming off the screen as on it, so we did not want to in any way have him feel that something was unpleasant. To cut a long story short, I had to eventually to apologise to him for thinking he was so thin skinned! In that connection I sent a copy of the first book. He received it before going to China (10 minutes before the taxi arrived) to watch Karjakin win all his games. With lots of time on his hand, he read it there and send me a very nice message when he returned, saying the same thing. It was one of my proudest moments.

    1. First of all thank you for your review and the work put into it. Also, thank you for putting the link here so others can read it and make up their own mind. We would never remove something like this. What we remove is things that are either a) self-serving and irrelevant and b) abusive, trolling or in other ways making life unbearable for others. This is not a fan club site. My view is in a minority here more often than not and I am quite comfortable with that.

      Now to move on to your review and answering some of the questions it raises. If you want, you are very welcome to add this to your review on your site. If you don’t want to, don’t. Our blog is an open forum; your website is promoting your views .

      There are some claims that are not true in my opinion, and as I structured the book, I feel my opinion counts.

      A big claim is that there is no overall structure to the book and that this is just loose conversations collected in some haphazard way.

      We spent quite a bit of time structuring the book at the beginning and to give a coherent look into Boris’ way of thinking and approach. We did not want this to be a manual in the sense that it had to cover all elements or in some way give a complete picture of the topic of positional chess. There are other books trying to do this, in different ways and they are more or less all valuable. What I wanted to do with this book was to explain how Boris, one of the greatest strategists of his generation if not of all time. I wanted to explain the basis of his decisions, which (besides calculation, which we will debate in the next book) are mainly surrounded around the five topics we discuss in the book.

      The overall idea for the book: Positional Decision Making in Chess. It is about decision making, looking into the brain of a top player. What is interesting is not only what he uses as a basis for his decisions, but also what he ignores. Looking through the book now, it seems perfectly nicely structured to me, as does the chapters. Each chapter brings in a topic of special relevance, shows the influence from Rubinstein (and others) and then moving into more and more complicated games from Boris.

      I am happy the book feels chatty. I wanted it to. It took a lot of work squeezing it out of Boris!

      Uneven analysis of the games you say. I assume you mean uneven in length. Yes, some things were more interesting than others. However, the way you have written it, it seems you are criticism the level of the analysis, which I do not think was your intention. In the same way you use the word “junks” instead of “chunks”, which is a bit unfortunate.

      Redundancies as a stylistic tool: Yes, we are consciously using this, with the intention of creating lasting improvement. Telling people something once and then moving one does not have that effect.

      Comparison with Marin. Which edition did you compare with? The new edition of Legends was heavily influenced by my deep analysis, which was done first and only then compared with Marin’s. Actually it took some effort to explain Marin where he was wrong in the first book .
      Yes, the explanations are different; the purpose of our annotations is to show what Boris took from it. I can understand why this is not a viewpoint that will interest everyone, but I certainly found it the most fascinating. I am interested in how strong players think and showing that. And this is what we did.

      Size of the book. There are a few elements that can make you feel the way you do: Our paper is of higher quality than for example the paper from all other publishers as far as I can tell. A 400 page book by QC will be slimmer than a 224 page book from a number of other publishers. In general books from Quality Chess are longer than those of most other publishers (MacFarland and Chess Informant are exceptions, but not direct comparisons). This is not by choice, but because we often employ authors who have a lot to say, rather than wanting to have the highest hourly rate. And yes, this is certainly by choice. (Obviously Boris had a lot to say and did say a lot, but there are less chess moves in the book, as you pointed out, and as such, also less diagrams).

      The final reason for you not liking the book is where we come down to opinion and disagreement the most. You say that the book does not lead to improvement. There are a number of areas where we can improve. Exercise books, opening books, encyclopedias like Chess Structures offer different ways. But famous trainers like Dvoretsky have always suggested that you should play through game collections with the annotations from strong players, to see how they think and see if it in any way can improve your own thinking. This book was meant to emphasize the thinking part of this, rather than the best games aspect. And the feedback we have had is that it indeed leads to improvement, as I expected it to.

      Having argued against all these points, there is one I definitely do not want to argue against. You clearly did not like the book. Of course I am sad that you were disappointed. But I have not yet seen a book that everyone liked, so I can live with it.

  8. An Ordinary Chessplayer

    @Gollum – I find your negative review makes me want to read the book more than the positive review by Sutovsky.

  9. @Gollum
    I have just read you review. It looks like you have done a good work! What is the most important to me is the explanations why you do not like this book and what is the reason you do not recommend it to others. It is an HONEST and CLEAR point of view and I really appreciate it. It is with no opposition to the publisher’s blurb. Probably you exptected the book which is much more “goal oriented” – I mean the book that helps you improve your chess (like for example: Axel Smith “Pump up your rating”).

  10. @Jacob Aagaard

    My guess is that since Sutovsky is as an imaginative, artistic and often chaotic player. He has a problem with the ‘structured thinking’ your and Dvoretsky’s books try to instil into players.

  11. @Gollum

    I had the same reaction on the “Pump up you rating” book which I disliked after having read some of the chapters. In contrast with public opinion. But today although I disagree with much of his opinions, for me it was a thought provoking read. And having thought about his training methods, has influenced how I study chess.
    So after all I’m happy about having purchased it.
    There is a recent chessbase article which credits Axel Smith coaching work in Norway. http://en.chessbase.com/post/magnus-a-new-book-on-the-world-champion

  12. Have spent a good part of the christmass holidays looking at this book, and have enjoyed it immensely. It has explained some Rubinstein games not too familar with in a very acessible way, linked nicely with Gelfand’s games. I used to play the a6 slav, and the games in this book have made me interested in it again, even though written from the other side in the most part.

    Everyone has different opinions but for example the fact that Gelfand is content to make a decision were improving his position rather than burning time trying to find the ultimate trueth is very illustrative.

  13. Gollum :
    I have finally come around to make a review of Gelfand’s book:
    I realize it is a shameless publicity and this may not be the best place, as it is more of a critical review, but I hope you don’t find it offensive, as I tried to be as honest as possible. On the other hand, if you do find it that way, feel free to delete this post, I will totally understand.

    I found your blog interesting.There are not many people on world wide web who share their detailed ideas about published chess books .
    On the other hand I think on some occasions you should give some examples from the books which you critisize on some aspects.For example you write that in his biography book Dvoretsky writes that he was always the right one.I have read quite a few Dvoretsky books, it is true that he has that authoritative style perhaps stemming from his huge experience and fame as being regarded the world’s top chess trainer.But I didn’t sense unjustified self righteousness in his writing style.
    I don’t say that your claims are wrong or right but I just say any examples can be helpful to better understand your claims.
    Anyway thanks for sharing your…

  14. Just ordered the Gelfand book so I have no opinion on it yet but my expectations are high. The books I enjoyed most in recent years was the Polgar-trilogy. I dont care if the annotations are uneven, if they are called educational or training manuals or what ever, I simply enjoy chess more after reading them, I find it more beautiful and fascinating and thrilling and hope to have the same experience after the Gelfand book.


  15. I’m part of the way through this book – just played through the Campora game last night actually. I absolutely love it. I think it’s rare for a book to be useful to players on such a variety of levels and I think that’s down to how cleanly written it is. Whether you’re Peter Svidler, a 2200 patzer, a 1900 patzer like me, or a 1300 patzer, I imagine you can enjoy it.
    That clean writing allows Boris’ wisdom to shine through. When the Rooks and Queens came off in the Campora game, I paused to try and assess the position myself before reading on. I understood easily that White is winning. But I also thought: “If I had this position in a tournament game, let’s say 15 minutes on my clock, I would start to panic about concrete ways to win.”
    I pick the book back up and Gelfand (I suspect coaxed by Aagaard) addresses this very feeling!
    It feels as if every page is bursting with such insights, so simple, so logical, so honest.
    I don’t know whether reading this book will make me a better player.
    I also don’t care.
    It is just fascinating to read.
    Congratulations to everyone involved in it.

  16. I’ve received a NiC email today:

    “Boris Gelfand’s bestseller, winner of the English Chess Federation 2015 Book of the Year Award, is now available in a paperback edition.

    Quality Chess did, at first, publish this book in a more expensive hardcover edition only. This is, of course, a well-known policy of clever publishers. I think this cheaper paperback will be quite welcome because the book is simply very good.

    Let me quote what GM David Smerdon, who recently published an excellent book (on the Scandinavian Defence) himself, had to say about it: “This is an outstanding book, probably the best I’ve read this year. I have to admit, from a personal perspective, that I found this book to be the most useful decision-making chess guide I have ever read. It’s jam-packed full of useful gems, little pieces of positional advice that probably just come naturally to Gelfand, but need to be dictated to and learned by the rest of us.”

    Please have a look at the paperback edition of Positional Decision Making in Chess.”

    Am I the only one who finds their balancing act a bit amusing? On the one hand they have to praise competitor’s work to sell it and on the other hand they have to make some digs. Or am I getting the whole picture of competition in chess publishing wrong?

  17. As for me: I’m very happy with my hardcover edition regarding improvement books. Regarding opening books it’s more ambivalent for me. The hardcover do count in weight when you want to take some of them to tournaments. On the other hand I’m trying to put the stuff into my database anyway. So, I’m inclined to hardcovers here too.

  18. Here is another nice example on “playing 1.e4e5″

    When our friends at Quality Chess publish another of their imposing repertoire books, it is always worthwhile to pay attention.

    The brand-new book by Nikolaos Ntirlis provides a complete repertoire for Black with 1.e4 e5. Maybe Quality Chess is somewhat unlucky in their timing of this title, because we at New In Chess very recently published Bologan’s 2-volume 1.e4 e5 repertoire for Black to immense critical and commercial success. Ntirlis also picks the Breyer for Black in the Ruy Lopez, which of course is also one of Bologan’s main Spanish roads.

    But such is the quality of Quality Chess, that serious tournament players should probably really pay attention to what Ntirlis has to say.

    Top GM Parimarjan Negi in his foreword characterizes Ntirlis’ work as follows: “The result is a bombproof repertoire which is solid enough never to be refuted, yet complex enough to offer plenty of winning chances.”

    So I recommend to take a good look at this book, at least at its Summary of Recommendations.”

  19. @Canoe
    This particular moment was my favourite in the whole process. When we are looking at the game, Boris said: “and here I decided to exchange all the heavy pieces” and was already on to the next thing, when I asked him to explain WHY????

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