By Alex Dunne



Understanding Your Chess

by James Rizzitano


In the late 1970’s and throughout the 80’s a very talented player from the Northeastern United States began to ascend through the chess ranks.  James Rizzitano showed great promise, eventually earning an International Master title and then…he disappeared for fourteen years to manage his software business.  Now he has returned with a new book,
Understanding Your Chess.


Gambit Publications Ltd., distributed in the US by BHB International, Inc., 302 West North 2nd Street, Seneca, SC 29678, or, has published Understanding Your Chess by James Rizzitano, ISBN 1 904600 07 7 at $24.95 for the soft cover edition.


First of all, this book should have been titled Rizzitano’s Best Games of Chess, but let’s face it – except for a few American players who remember the young phenom, who would buy such a book?  Very few.  So Rizzitano made a wise choice in giving the book a more saleable title.  Now the question is, does the title accurately reflect what is contained in the book.  Rizzitano presents his games, not in chronological order but in an attempt to lump similar themes in his games.  He begins by presenting games against some fairly big names – Benko, Alburt, Miles, Larsen…but these are not always good games.  Some are too flawed to tack a “best” on – they are there either for vanity or because the student can learn something from them.  Though each game is fairly well annotated, at the end of the game Rizzitano gives three “Game lessons,” practical advice derived from the game itself.  These lessons usually contain at least one platitude, but sometimes the lessons do point out critical points during the game, but these insights could just as easily have been contained in the notes to the game.

Many of the games are good games (Rizzitano was a fine player) and the notes are healthy.  But the games are twenty years old and obviously the openings are too.  There are, for some reason, a number of positions from games played by Spassky, Tal, Capablanca, Browne, Timman, and others, but exactly how some of those games by the greats apply to the game under consideration is a mystery to me.

So what does this book mean to the reader?  Once you get past the first chapter, the reader can learn from these games.  They generally are interesting struggles against interesting players.  The notes are insightful.   The openings are the openings of twenty to fifteen years ago, but as the book is designed for readers under 2300, this should not matter too much.  So, if it is entertaining chess, some instruction, and a flash from the past that you enjoy, this is book worth looking into.


50 Golden Chess Games

by Tim Harding


 Tim Harding has produced some absolutely top-flight correspondence books: Red Letters, 64 Great Chess Games, and now 50 Golden Chess Games, just to name a few.  What makes a chess book a good correspondence chess book?  It should reflect what correspondence chess is about, how it differs from OTB play.  It should contain games played by top flight correspondence players, and the games should be important contests.  I have to give 50 Golden Chess Games top marks in all categories.


Chess Mail, has published 50 Golden Chess Games by Tim Harding, ISBN 0-9538536-7-5 at around $25.00.


What makes correspondence chess different from OTB?  First, great accuracy in the opening, almost always the latest theory of the opening is evident.  At the top level a TN is more to be expected than not.  Second, the middlegame tactics need to be very accurate, relatively free from the blunders that occur OTB.  And third, opening and middlegame are sustained by analysis, analysis, analysis.  This is exactly what you will find, for the most part, in 50 Golden Chess Games.  Why for the most part?  There are some games given for their historical interest, games from the 1800’s, but 40% of the games are from the last ten years and fully half of the games are from the last thirty.  And the names are there – Umansky, Berliner, Rause, Sanakoev, Rittner, Timmerman, Elwert, Hamarat and many, many more.  This is the soul of correspondence chess.  Buy this book!



Winning Chess Brilliancies

by Yasser Seirawan


This is a republication of an earlier edition.  The idea has been seen before – notably by Irving Chernev -- every move of every game is annotated.  Twelve games, “the best chess games of the last 25 years,” are the meat of the book. This means the book is designed for the novice player, rated, let us say, under 1600.  To judge how good, or how bad, the book is, three standards need to be considered: the quality of the games selected, the analysis of those games, and how that analysis is presented for the novice player.


Everyman Chess, (formerly Cadogan Chess) Everyman Publishers plc, distributed in North America by the Globe Pequot Press, PO Box 480, 246 Goose Lane, Guilford, CT 06437-0480, has published Winning Chess Brilliancies by Yasser Seirawan, ISBN 1 85744 347 0 at $19.95 for the soft cover.


This was a good book the first time around.  I no longer have the original edition, but my memory doesn’t tell me there is much of a change.  The games are still great fights, monumental struggles, rich in the art of chess.  You could hardly ask for a better selection of games from the period 1972-1991.  These are, indeed, brilliant games.  The analysis is not deep in variations, rather Seirawan guides the reader with the ideas of what is going on and uses concrete variations only when necessary.  This emphasis on understanding  over calculation is beneficial to students rated under 1600 who need to comprehend the ideas behind the variations.  Seirawan explains all this in a slangy, breezy tone that would make a teenager feel comfortable – a teenager of the eighties or nineties.  Today it makes the book-Seirawan sound a little like the aging uncle who won’t settle down.  At least he doesn’t sound creepy.  This is a very good book even if it is slightly dated.  If you have a teenager rated under 1600 you’d like to buy a chess book for, you won’t go wrong buying this one for him.

Or her.



Survival Guide for Chess Parents

by Tanya Jones


Tanya Jones is a chess mom.  She is the mother of the former British prodigy Gawain Jones.  And like a loving mother, she has placed a number of Gawain’s games in the book at various intervals.  The book is, after all, a chess book and Gawain certainly plays chess.  At nine he beat an IM, but the addition of Gawain’s games is mostly either fluff or proof that she is, indeed, a chess parent.  The games are annotated, I suspect by Gawain as there are some pronoun slips in the notes.  The milieu of Tanya’s experience with chess tournaments for juniors is mainly England so the flavor of the advice given is English   Nevertheless, the experience can be easily generalized.  The experiences this parent has are the experiences of many chess moms and dads.  Her advice seems right on target, and the book is very readable.


Everyman Chess, Everyman Publishers plc, distributed in North America by the Globe Pequot Press, PO Box 480, 246 Goose Lane, Guilford, CT 06437-0480, has published Survival Guide for Chess Parents by Tanya Jones, ISBN 1 85744 340 3 at $18.95 for the soft cover.


What makes Survival Guide for Chess Parents a valuable book is the advice given by Jones.  She has had the opportunity to raise a prodigy and thus gained more exposure to the traps and foibles of being a chess parent.  Her advice makes sense to me, but I have never been a chess dad.  Nevertheless, it all seems to fit together.  I especially like the slangy, sharp tone of Jones’ language.  Unlike the Seirawan book reviewed above, Jones’ language has an edge to it.  She is sharp-tongued, witty, and modern.  A sample (Remember, this is tongue-in-cheek; she is not recommending you behave in this way): “You could, of course, try carrying out a complete demolition job on your child’s character before each tournament, reminding her that she is a mere worm in the compost heap of creation and that she would be lucky to defeat a small and academically challenged stick insect, never mind a hall full of over-educated eleven year olds.  On the other hand, if you prefer not to incur a lifetime of self-loathing and therapy bills, then you may have to accept that this is a lesson she must learn for herself, and make sure you are there to pick up the pieces.”

Sharp-witted, practical advice is the heft of this book.  I especially liked the advice to chess parents: Learn the moves, learn the game, and while your child is playing in his tournament, enter one of the parents’ events. 

This is a good guide for chess parents.  If you have a young’un and are faced with taking him or her to tournaments, buy this book.



Modern Chess Analysis

by Robin Smith


Amazing.  Astounding.  Excellent.  Extraordinary.  Marvelous.  Rewarding.  Staggering. Stunning.  Surprising.  That’s what my thesaurus says about Modern Chess Analysis.  Oh, yes, and I almost forgot – wicked, dangerous, difficult and troublesome. 

This is a book dedicated to the subject of using computers for analyzing chess games, especially correspondence games.  Robin Smith is a cc Grandmaster (or will be after the October meeting in Mumbai). It will open your eyes to the use and abuse of computers; what they can and can’t accomplish.  There are many misconceptions about computer analysis and Smith explores them in detail in this book. 


Gambit Publications Ltd., distributed in the US by BHB International, Inc., 302 West North 2nd Street, Seneca, SC 29678, has published Modern Chess Analysis by Robin Smith, ISBN 1 904600 08 5 at $24.95 for the soft cover edition.


Robin Smith has changed my thinking about top level correspondence play.  In the US domestic play forbids the use of computers, but at the international level, computer use is not forbidden. Thus knowing how to use computer analysis (and when not to use it) becomes an important part of the modern correspondence master’s technique.  Smith discusses in six chapters 1) the relative strength of computers versus humans including the exchange sacrifice, piece imbalances, weak Pawn structures and positional evaluation 2) Computer-aided analysis methods including engine tournaments, correspondence modes, blunderchecking, transpositions, and forced moves and the horizon effect (“box canyons”). 3) Opening analysis with emphasis on database statistics and Bookup 4) Middlegame analysis with emphasis on deep tactics, outposts, weak squares, King hunts, quiet maneuvering 5) endgame analysis with endgame database statistics, tablebase endings, the computers weaknesses regarding fortresses and perpetual check, and passed Pawns.  He puts it all together in a chapter entitled, well…6) Putting it all together.  He discusses the history and future of computer chess.  This is the only weak chapter in a book that is beyond a shadow the best book written yet on the use of computers to analyze chess positions.

If you plan on playing international correspondence chess at the higher class or above, buy this book!


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