Friday, January 16, 2009

Outside of a dog, a chess book is a tournament player's best friend.

Inside of a dog, it's too dark to read. (with a tip of the cigar to Groucho Marx)

Recently in the Harvard Coop bookstore (where, in 2008, in my last, desperate days before the final round of the club's Weaver Adams tournament, I bought Andrew Greet's excellent Play the Ruy Lopez as part of an unsuccessful bid to beat Jon Lee in order to advance to the club championship's next qualification stage), I noticed Glenn Flear's interesting 2007 book Practical Endgame Play - beyond the basics. This 544 page work contains a huge collection of endgame or "nuckie" (NQE -- "Not Quite an Endgame") positions.

Now, I probably love endgames more than the typical chess player, but when I saw this ginormous book, which I later found described as "a brick" by an reviewer, I couldn't help but think of two particular used books which I bought quite a number of years ago. One is a collection of Spassky's games, where a former owner had penciled in a check mark next to games that (s)he had presumably gone over. Total check marks? 3. One next to each of the first 3 out of 70 games. The second book is a collection of endgame positions, where a former owner had done the same kind of thing, placing a check mark next to each position diagram which (s)he had presumably gone over. Total check marks? 1. Right next to the first position diagram of 204. I laughed a bit to myself about the feeble efforts made by those previous owners, until I realized that to date I have probably only done about as well as they had. Not sure if I should punctuate that with :-( or ;-).

Anyway, with thoughts of spending many days primarily viewing the spine of Flear's book, I couldn't see paying the full price of $32.95, and I left the store.

My curiosity had been piqued, though. I looked for online reviews. In addition to some on Amazon, Jeremy Silman and John Donaldson felt "it would be best appreciated by players 2300 and above" (Silman's words, explicitly mentioning Donaldson's earlier review). Okay, from my 1700-ish rating, that was further disincentive to purchase.

But my curiosity was not yet dead (chess book curiosity can be like that). I found it selling on for $9.95 in "like new" or better condition from two sellers. One of those was the Strand Book Store, which was also selling it at the same price through their own website. I remember visiting their NYC store years ago, where I recall noticing some overstock copies of Joe Gallagher's excellent The Saemisch King's Indian -- ah, if I could only recall chess theory as well...).

Well, it wasn't much of a struggle to persuade myself that a good view of the spine was worth $9.95. :-)

Actually, so far it looks like a great book if you enjoy endgames. Plus it's so huge it would be great for a desert island, though you probably wouldn't need a doorstop there....

A tidbit about and Although the latter provides the count of how many copies of a book are in stock, within the Games subject they hadn't yet provided a way to search for just chess books. However, you can find that list through their shop on

No comments: