Steve Giddins is an author acclaimed for his ability to write in down-to-earth style on fundamental chess topics. In this book he answers the questions that really matter to chess-players. His topics include many basic ideas, including some that have rarely been addressed so directly in chess literature, and thus are often misunderstood by club players. Where appropriate, the answers also address highly sophisticated concepts, providing insights gleaned from many years of experience and discussions with players and trainers of the highest level.
- Playing Chess in General
- The Opening
- Tactics and Combinations
- Planning and Strategy
- Positional Play
- The Endgame
- Competitive Play
- Training and Computers
Throughout, the ideas are backed up with examples from practical play and thought-provoking quotes from the great chess legends, thinkers and writers.
Steve Giddins is a FIDE Master from England who has frequently contributed to the British Chess Magazine and the ChessBase website. He has gained a reputation as a writer who provides useful, no-nonsense advice on topics of genuine practical importance, drawing especially upon his familiarity with Russian chess literature and training methods. This is his sixth book for Gambit.
This book covers a wide variety of aspects of chess, including tactics, strategy, openings, middlegame and endgame, chess history, computer chess and chess organization. It is aimed primarily at relative newcomers to the game, especially those who are familiar with the rules of chess, but have little or no experience of competitive play. Although the format of the book means that each topic can only be covered relatively briefly, I have done my best to select the most useful and instructive material I can find. I hope, as a result, that readers will find a great deal of valuable chess instruction in the book, and I believe that a player who studies this material thoroughly should obtain a good grounding in all the basics of chess.
Chess is one of the greatest of all games, and has survived and prospered for over 1500 years. At various times it has been embraced by states, and promoted and financed by them, whilst at other times, it has been outlawed and its practitioners persecuted. It has survived all those experiences, and remains an important part of Western culture. The development of chess-playing computers, and the Internet, has made the game much more accessible all round the world, and it is now possible to play chess online, against opponents from all corners of the world, at any time of day or night.
I have been playing chess for over 35 years, and remain as fond of the game as ever. One of the great things about chess is that the game can be enjoyed in many different ways. As my competitive drive has waned in recent years, so I have become more and more interested in chess composition and chess history. During 2007,I had a moving experience that brought home to me what chess can mean to people. At the Staunton Memorial tournament in London, I had occasion to see a chess set that had belonged to a remarkable man called Moses Sobkowski. During World War Two, Sobkowski had survived incarceration in no fewer than five Nazi concentration camps, including Auschwitz and Belsen. A passionate chess fan, his chess set never left his side throughout this appalling ordeal, and he remained a lifelong lover and supporter of the game. Looking at the set itself, an unremarkable wooden set, one could hardly begin to imagine the horrors that the little men had witnessed, but at the same time, one could not but feel proud to be involved with a game that had played a significant part in helping a man to survive the worst that his fellow man could inflict on him.
To those who read and enjoy this book, I hope that chess will become a source of pleasure and comfort to you too, in whatever trials life may hold for you.
Rochester, July 2008
Part 1: General
007 1: Currently, I only play against friends and my computer. Should I join a club?
008 2: How should I go about finding and choosing a club?
009 3: Where can I play chess on the Internet?
010 4: What is the best place to get chess news and information?
011 5: How is national and international chess organized?
012 6: Who is the current world champion and who were his predecessors?
014 7: What is chess composition?
Part 2: The Opening
016 8: What should I be aiming to do in the opening?
017 9: Why is it bad to neglect the centre in the opening?
018 10: Why is it bad to make too many pawn moves in the opening?
019 11: Why shouldn't the queen be developed early on?
020 12: What are the main king's pawn openings?
022 13: What are the main queen's pawn openings?
024 14: How much do I need to know about the openings I play?
025 15: Should I specialize in one or two openings, or develop a broad repertoire?
026 16: How should I go about choosing which openings to play?
028 17: What is the best way to introduce a new opening into my repertoire?
029 18: How can I keep my opening knowledge up to date?
030 19: Will playing offbeat lines and gambits give me more chances of winning quickly?
032 20: Aren't there some masters who play crazy, offbeat openings?
Part 3: Tactics and Combinations
034 21: What are the most important tactical themes?
036 22: OK, that is a pin. So what is a fork?
037 23: So what is the third device you mentioned, a skewer?
038 24: Are there other tactical devices, besides pins, forks and skewers?
040 25: What is the best way to improve my tactical skill?
042 26: How do you know if there is a tactical possibility available in the position?
043 27: How can I make my position less vulnerable to tactical strikes?
044 28: Are tactics important in the endgame?
045 29: What is a combination?
047 30: Are all combinations fully calculated?
048 31: Why would a player sacrifice material without being able to calculate a definite win?
049 32: Some players, such as Tal, were famous for making very speculative sacrifices. Why did they do this?
Part 4: Planning and Strategy
050 33: What sort of plans should I be trying to make?
051 34: How does one form a plan?
052 35: What if I can't see any plan?
053 36: How should I meet the opponent's plans?
055 37: How does the central pawn-structure affect the plan?
056 38: What happens if the central pawn-structure is blocked?
057 39: What is 'Hypermodern' strategy?
058 40: What is the value of a pawn-majority?
059 41: What is a 'minority attack'?
060 42: How does castling affect the choice of plan?
061 43: So what happens in positions where the players have castled on opposite sides?
062 44: Is there anything more to the strategy in opposite-castling positions?
Part 5: Positional Play
063 45: What is a positional advantage?
064 46: Which pawn-structures are weak?
065 47: Why exactly are weak pawns a disadvantage?
066 48: What is a space advantage, and why does it matter?
067 49: Which is better, bishop or knight?
068 50: So when are bishops better than knights?
069 51: What other weakness does the bishop have?
070 52: Why are two bishops so strong?
071 53: Are two bishops strong in the middlegame too?
072 54: How does a misplaced piece affect the position?
073 55: Are opposite-coloured bishops a drawish factor?
074 56: Which combinations of major and minor pieces work best?
075 57: Which minor piece works best with a rook?
076 58: When are pieces stronger than a queen?
077 59: Which is stronger, two pieces or a rook and pawn?
078 60: What are 'positional exchange sacrifices' and when should I play them?
079 61: How does one judge exchanges of pieces of equal value?
080 62: Is there a 'golden rule' about such exchanges?
081 63: What are the main principles of defence?
082 64: What are the typical plans in positions with an isolated queen's pawn (IQP)?
083 65: So what plan should the IQP holder adopt?
084 66: What are the two sides' plans with 'hanging pawns'?
085 67: So when are hanging pawns strong?
086 68: Can we see an example of the importance of open lines?
087 69: What other strategies are there?
Part 6: The Endgame
088 70: What are the most important endgame principles?
089 71: What is 'the opposition'?
090 72: What other geometrical motifs appear in king and pawn endings?
091 73: What is 'zugzwang'?
092 74: Which endings are most drawish?
093 75: So how does one win opposite-coloured bishop endings?
094 76: Which endings are the most important to know?
05 77: What are the most important rook ending positions?
096 78: What about more complicated rook endings?
097 79: Does the same rule apply to the defence?
098 80: What are the main principles of queen endings?
099 81: What is the role of pawns in the endgame?
100 82: What are the other principles of good endgame technique?
Part 7: Competitive Play
102 83: How does one deal with losses?
104 84: If I need to draw or win a particular game, what is the best approach?
105 85: How should I prepare for a tournament?
106 86: Should I vary my openings to catch out my opponent?
Part 8: Training and Computers et al.
107 87: What is the best way to train?
109 88: Where can I find good material for study?
110 89: How do I get to understand my strengths and weaknesses?
111 90: Is it worth buying a computer program?
112 91: Which program should I choose?
113 92: How can I use my computer to help me train?
114 93: What is the best game of chess ever played?
116 94: How has chess style changed over the years?
117 95: Is it true that there is no luck in chess?
118 96: Is there a link between chess and mathematics ability?
119 97: How did chess originate, and how similar are other variants of chess?
121 98: Can you recommend a small selection of the best chess books?
123 99: What is the current situation in the chess world?
124 100: Do computers mean the end of chess?
125 101: What is the future of chess?
126 Index of Players
127 Index of Composers and Analysts