Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Magnus, me, and electronic chess books

Perhaps the most important reason for my success is that I enjoy reading about chess theory and chess history - and I remember what I read.
- Magnus Carlsen, according to Chess Bee on Facebook (thanks to George Mirijanian)

Perhaps the most important reason for my LACK OF success is that I enjoy reading about chess theory and chess history - and I CAN BARELY remember what I read.
- Me

While I have not yet forgotten how the pieces move, for several years I have had very little time to enjoy reading about chess. Although I'm a Life Member of US Chess, eligible to receive all printed Chess Life magazine issues, I had US Chess stop mailing them, knowing that I'd never have time to read them.

My best chance to study chess is a few minutes here and there on my iPod touch (my smart device), such as while taking the bus, where I started composing this blog post. Partly to facilitate those meager study chances, several years ago I began buying a handful of electronic chess books (meaning ones that let you play through moves in an app). I started with the free apps e+ Chess Books and Forward Chess. Both apps also make (made?) one free book available.

In earlier times, I was, more so than now, concerned that if those app publishers ever closed up shop, and something bad happened to my iPod touch, I would never be able to recover such electronic chess books. Only the app can be restored from backups; the books must always be downloaded from the app publisher's servers. Buying real books didn't risk that very permanent uncertainty, although those are of course susceptible to losses such as theft (which I experienced) or fire (as one of our members experienced), although they could, at least in some cases, be purchased again from a vendor.

Having bought my share of vinyl records and VHS tapes, only to eventually buy digital versions of them, I wondered whether I would someday be driven to analogous, "repeat" buying of a printed chess book I already have, but in digital form.

Well, for better or worse, that day has arrived, after Forward Chess twisted my arm with a sale on Wojo's Weapons volume I (the sale seems to be only visible within the app, not on the website). According to their mailing list, the other two volumes are slated to go on sale later this month, and I expect to pick up volume 3 then as well (I had previously bought volume 2 from them, which I'd never had in printed form). Here's your chance to join me at discount prices and contribute to the electronic chess book economy, which might help both those app publishers, and, longer term, us as users, by demonstrating continuing demand which should help keep them in business.

One of the benefits of not being Magnus Carlsen is that you don't actually have to keep up on the latest chess theory, a huge task. When (If??) I come out of rated chess retirement in a decade or so, these electronic chess books should serve me pretty much as well as they would now. And these days, rightly or wrongly, I am more confident that these app publishers will continue to be around, at least until the sum of all chess knowledge becomes available in a red or blue pill.

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