The Appendix is just an add-on!

Those who have read Thinking Inside the Box may have noticed that there are a few pages in the end where I make the case for following a plant based diet. This is sometimes known as a vegan diet, but there is a substantial difference, as veganism is about ending animal cruelty, which I am all for, but which is not why I prefer a plant based diet.

I am convinced that following a plant based diet will improve your health and in turn your chess playing ability and make a brief case in the book. I am also convinced that working on your calculation is much more important. In 2012 we had a World Championship match between two slightly chubby men in their 40s. Athletic ability is not essential for playing good chess, even if extra energy will certainly be useful at times too.

What I want to draw your attention to here is the point of having appendixes. They are not chapters. They are not the main message of the book. However, in this case this appendix has received quite some attention.

The first feedback I received to the book was from a reader that disliked the appendix and the chapter on psychology. I asked what else he had read of the book and he said nothing. I suggested he should read the remaining 396 pages (of 408) before he made any comments, as although I think these two small sections are useful for many, they certainly have a hit and miss property. He subsequently read the rest of the book and found it useful.

Now there is a review by John Donaldson that also focuses 50%+ of the attention on the content on the psychology and main nutrition parts of the book.

I promise – this is a chess book! Those two small sections can be skipped if you are not interested in having your default cultural settings challenged. I am much more interested in debating the chess. But the book is about everything and for this reason. And for some, maybe not many, these sections will be very useful. For the rest, I think the chess content can be very challenging!

Incidentally, John finishes his review saying:

Thinking Inside the Box is an outstanding book that will prove most helpful for players from roughly 2000 on up. This is not to say that lower-rated players cannot benefit from parts of it, but they will likely be better served by first mastering the fundamentals – one option is working through Artur Yusupov’s outstanding nine volume course (also published by Quality Chess).

25 thoughts on “The Appendix is just an add-on!”

  1. Chris Wainscott

    I personally found the nutrition appendix useful. The truth is that when I eat healthier I feel better and I play better.

    Full disclosure, I’ve asked Jacob for some dietary advice over the past several months…

    I also didn’t find that it took away from the main message of the book.

  2. Fré Hoogendoorn

    I’m reading it at the moment, and have actually already read the appendices. I’m definitely not vegetarian or vegan myself, but I understand that Jacob is telling is what worked for him, and what might work for others.

    I’m very much enjoying it, and the only thing I would have like to have seen improved is the use of language, as there are a fair number of language and grammar errors in it. They don’t make any part unintelligible, but they do detract from an otherwise outstanding production.

  3. I just read my review again just to check what I said. I found that I myself focused mainly on the four types of decisions (and that it is supposed to be a book on how to improve your chess) and on the fact that the majority of games showcased are played by Jacob.

    I found John Hartmann’s review to focus on the four types of decisions (or at least that is what my review said, I did not reread that review). I think both reviews focus on the core of the book.

    I understand Jacob’s point that his book was not about nutrition (as it was not about using the computer to analyze, an appending I must confess I did not read). My guess is that he feels the reviewer did not read the whole book because otherwise he would not have reviewed this parts as the core of it.

    This may be totally true. Really reading a book before reviewing it is something that will cut down significantly on the books you can review. I know that from experience. On the other hand, I feel I can review a lot of books I have not read because reading 5% of them was enough to give me a feeling for them. Thinking inside the box would have been one of those I would have reviewed exactly the same after reading the first say three chapters. I like to read them entirely to have a complete opinion, but I do understand why some may not do this.

    On the other hand, if he had not read the entire thing, he should have warned his readers. There was a time when I stopped buying books after two reviews misled me to buy…

  4. … ‘Chess duels’ and ‘Grandmaster chess strategy’, which may be great books but did not have the content advertised in such reviews.

  5. @Gollum
    I presume John made himself familiar with the content of the book. I know he used other books in the serious as a trainer, because he told me. I must say that I think the most important chapters are 4-5 in the book, so making the same review after the first three chapters would be disappointing :-).

  6. Gollum I read your review. You recommend TITB, albeit, more as a best games book. Here is my perspective. I am 53, about to retire from work to spend a few years on chess. An FM with a declining rating I would like to reverse. I have read the book in its entirety 3 – 4 times. I have started a notebook of weaknesses I have by category. If I really want to improve, studying opening books won’t help me. Randomly studying puzzles will help some. Reading this book once is nice, but probably won’t make a huge difference. I am reading it again slowly and trying to be very honest with myself regarding where I think I am OK and where I need improvement. That is the strength, it provides a comprehensive road map of every area required to improve. But, absent critical self assessment and implementing an action plan, progress is likely 0. I am not really sure about my chess goals anymore. But, I think this book and the roadmap are part of what I need to achieve them.

  7. @Jacob Aagaard I was making a point, but of course you are right. It should have been ‘I would have made almost the same review having read only chapters 4 and 5’.

    @Doug Eckert Maybe I am quite pessimistic about my chess, but my feeling is that I am bad overall and specially bad in calculations (every tournament I drop a piece somewhere, which is kind of stupid when you have 2200). All in all I have to improve almost everything and the book taught me to be conscious of what I am using my time in and not to use it in simple decisions. It is a small point but really worth taking, I guess. Unfortunately up until now I have been unable to solve the problem.

  8. @Doug Eckert @Gollum
    Generally I want my authors to focus on narrower points and areas. The books I did with Gelfand show exactly how. Have a few key points to make and illustrate them as well as you can, explain them deeply and at the end of the process, the reader will understand them and have an emotional experience with them.

    But this is not the only way to write books. Box is a book about everything. If you find an area that sparks your interest, there are other books in the orbit of it that you can go to. It is not a standalone. It is an overview over the game of chess and how improvement is possible. Just reading the book will help you as much as reading a book about exercise will improve your fitness :-). Hopefully it will inspire and help people see in which direction they can work to improve.

    Doug, keep in touch on your progress. It was nice meeting you in SL last year.

  9. @Doug Eckert

    I understand your plan. Wish you good luck, you seems to have the right attitude.

    I am 44 and intend to spend more time on chess when my children will be adults (I will be around 55 then). I am an IM with an elo around 2400.

    I there a possiblity to be GM in the age 55-60? I guess a desire to learn, spend quality time on chess training, play tournaments with chanses for GM-norms and be healthy are important.

  10. @Bebbe
    I wish you the best in your GM title quest. Sounds like our lives have taken similar paths except you are a better player than I am. My kids are 19, 22 and 23. I have a very demanding job from which I am retiring at end of 2018. Then I can focus on chess and keeping spouse happy(?) Jacob would not take aging as an excuse for getting worse at chess. My ELO is down to 2125 which is a 30 year low. At the same time, I think my understanding is OK. Hopefully some kind of focus on time management, calculation and critical moments will help. It will be a tough process. Clearly some things like memory are worse and will not come back. Deeper understanding is going to be important among others. TITB set out a good road map of everything that goes into this. I do believe age is a huge handicap. Therefore, having a road map and being efficient are the only hope of over coming that. Also, overcoming my own deficiencies.

    Jacob, I understand you are supposed to be in St. Louis in early March to introduce Sam’s book and do a lecture. I hope to have time to come to your lecture and the book introduction. The timing in my schedule is really bad. But, I will do everything to try and be there.

  11. An Ordinary Chessplayer

    @Doug Eckert – I have a strong hunch your rating is falling so far because you live in St. Louis. It’s a stern test, but if you can turn things around the ferocious competition will be to your advantage, at least when you travel.

  12. @Doug Eckert

    Thanks for your encouragement. Our lives have taken similar paths but you are ahead of me! Since the memory gets worse with age our opening repertoires needs some adjustments. I have had the Najdorf in my repertoire since childhood but has now changed to the classical Sicilian due to the amount of theory and the time available to prepare. As you say you have to rely more on understanding. The areas that is only getting better with time is postional understanding and endgame knowledge.
    I play the Kozul in the classical which is very sharp and (this isthe reason I play it) and postional understanding is very important since there are many alternatives at each move. Kozul has played it his whole Life and constntly comes up with new moveorders to not be outprepered. I nice mix of attack, tactics and positional undertanding.

  13. @An Ordinary Chessplayer
    At the end of the day to keep the rating from falling you just have to play better. There was a big debate on here regarding rating inflation a while ago, which I do not wish to rekindle. Not sure if this is a big issue outside the U.S. But, inside the U.S., most events are not FIDE rated. There are many kids who only play a few FIDE rated games as they are improving. By the time they obtain a U.S. master rating of 2200 – 2300, there FIDE rating may only be in the 1900 – 2050 range. Playing those players is a statistically losing proposition. Unfortunately, I have not beaten the statistics.

    To avoid playing these players at the large FIDE swisses it requires beating or drawing my GM opponent in round 1 and 2. If I lose, I get paired “down” against one of these guys. Nothing like playing someone who has the same national ranking as you and if you draw 10 FIDE points go bye bye.

    There are a lot of strong tournaments in St. Louis. I have had the opportunity to play in some of the round robins and others. It has made me acutely aware my tactics are not good enough, critical moment issues are not good enough and I need to manage my time more efficiently. Positionally, I am OK. Statistically against the established players, I seem to be playing at around 2200 – 2250 FIDE.

    Once a month on Saturday including this Saturday, we have a 4 round rapid event with an OK prize fund. Usually about 50…

  14. Once a month on Saturday including this Saturday, we have a 4 round rapid event with an OK prize fund. Usually about 50 players show up with around 10 GMs. Caruana plays when he is in town. It is not FIDE rated. Since Caruana is at Tata Steel, now he won’t be there Saturday. I do much worse at the faster time controls. But a fun atmosphere to play these guys. Also humbling…Lots to work on.

  15. @Doug Eckert, Bebbe : I am 53 years old, elo 2298. I think that the only chance to progress at our ages is a full dedication+ playing a lot. It is difficult but not impossible:a pupil of mine, around 1750/1800 during his professionnal life, was able to reach a 2100 peak at 70. Good luck, and entertainement !

  16. Having read TITB for the 2nd time , i think that the book opens many many areas and i am pretty sure there ´ll be a successor , hopefully by Jacob himself . For example , new developments concerning the time management ( another dimension , according to Kasparov ) , and the GM vs amateur way of thinking ( correctly ) under pressure . ( T-CUP ) . Maybe in a Vlog ?

  17. Jacob Aagaard

    I will continue to write about chess of course. I have a number of books coming over the next few years; I have three small series’s to work on. One of them being Chess from Scratch, the other Grandmaster Training (workbooks) and the third Grandmaster Knowledge (essays). They will all be grounded in the same understanding of chess, of course.

  18. Only in the earlier chapters of this book so far, and really like the philosophy of it. As a software engineer wish there was a similar book in the IT field, i.e making the most of basic tools to solve real world problems. As someone who really struggled to use Gelfand’s “Dynamic decision making” as a training book, I think is highly likely not a dynamic type of player. Surprisingly though solved the puzzle from the Rowson game in about 5 secs, thought was winning a peice which actually is probably not wrong. Anyway even though that was lucky thought that counted as being intuitive, probably “Accountant” sub class, since developing a taste for studying endgames.

  19. … As a very small criticism since studying the GM preparation books in preferred order, in the introduction section wasn’t completely sure what the “three questions” were until the last example.

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