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Andy Ansel’s Book Reviews

Learn From Your Chess Mistakes by Chris Baker, Pubisher: Batsford, 2002. 144 pages, List Price $21.95

I must admit that I am biased toward improvement books. I like books that provoke original thought and also shown some initiative. So I was quite interested to look at this work.

At first glance the book is divided into 3 (predictable) sections - openings, middlegame and endgames. What caught my attention was how each chapter was broken down and the practicality of each topic. Here is the books layout:

  1. Openings
    1. Poor opening preparation
    2. Being over-prepared and getting 'stale'
    3. Being caught by opponent's preparation
    4. Choice of openings/learning new lines and styles
    5. Understanding standard and re-occurring themes
    6. Being caught by move orders and transpositions
  2. Middlegame
    1. Losing the 'thread' of the position
    2. Miscalculation
    3. Confidence and playing against weaker/stronger opposition
    4. Middlegame judgement
    5. Losing the initiative
    6. Missing your shot
  3. Endgames
    1. Endgame technique
    2. Forming a plan
    3. Having too many choices and missing tricks
    4. Understanding 'good and bad pieces'
    5. Control
  4. Quiz
    1. Spot the mistake

In reading each section I caught myself saying "that sounds familiar" and noticing examples and thought processes that could have come straight from my games. One other major strength of this book is the author's choice of examples. Most are by players I have never heard of and from events that had not cropped into every database such as the Bristol League, Hanham open, Crawly Championship and such. I regard this is a strong positive since my play will more likely resemble club players than Garry Kasparov! (as a side note I also must admit that my favourite part of Chess Today is seeing readers games and comments (like editor Graham Brown's off-beat openings))

One example of something I learned has to do with the move order section in the openings chapter. The author plays 2 Nc3 against the Sicilian not to enter a Grand Prix attack but to transpose back into a main line Sicilian hopefully having limited Black's options as the usual reply to 2 Nc3 is either 2...Nc6 or g6, limiting a Najdorf player's options.

Overall I found this book had a very good instructive approach with lots of original examples and a very readable prose by the author. I would strongly recommend it, with players of 1600-2000 probably getting the most use from it. I would give it ****½

All text Copyright Alexander Baburin unless otherwise noted