New for your chess bookshelf …

by admin on February 8, 2010

Coincidentally, two books that I contributed to (in a very very small way) have either just appeared or are about to appear. The first of them is Improve Your Chess at Any Age by Andy Hortillosa, published by Everyman Chess, which is an elaboration of the anti-blundering system that he wrote about in his column at As Andy reminded me in a comment here a few days ago, the title of the book was actually my suggestion! I want to congratulate him on seeing the book through to completion and getting it published. Lots of people say they want to write books (me included), but saying and doing are two completely different things.

I haven’t read Andy’s book yet, so there’s not that much more I can say about it at present, but I look forward to getting it.

The other forthcoming book is Daniel Naroditsky’s Mastering Positional Chess, published by New in Chess. The publication date is March 2010, but of course you can pre-order it at I cannot give an objective review of Daniel’s book in this blog, because I was invited to read and comment on it when it was in the manuscript stage. I do not know how many of my edits and comments made it into the final draft, but I do know that Daniel listened to them carefully. What I can tell you, for certain, is that if you read it you will be blown away by the fact that a 13-year-old could write such a book.

Andy Soltis has a great article in the February issue of Chess Life, which I received just today, called “The Ups and Downs of Annotating.” He says that there are two main styles of annotation, which he calls “writing up” and “writing down.” The first style is to put in lots of technical analysis. The author is writing up to an audience of very strong players — probably the peers that he wants to impress. The second style is to distill things down to basics, at the risk of possibly making them seem simpler than they really are.

Soltis makes this interesting comment: “Up and coming players tend to write… well, up — often at least 100 rating points above their playing strength.” This comment is particularly relevant to Danya’s book. My contribution to the book (if I made any contribution at all) was to try to persuade Daniel to ease up on the throttle and make his annotations a little bit simpler. It will be interesting to see if he took my advice. But whether he did or not, I guarantee that his book will be worthy of study.

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{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

Rob February 9, 2010 at 8:08 am

Hi Dana…I am sitting here at my desk and across the room from me are at least 50(or more)books on chess.

As I have followed your blog for some time now, and as well watched a number of your chess lecture videos. I find you to project a certain level of integrity that I can relate to.

I appreciate your not advocating buying either of the books you mention in your blog, for not having read them…in the final edition (so to speak).

I find it more and more difficult to find honest reviews of chess books. Certainly at Chesscafe you can go a whole year without one of their reviewers not having met a book they didn’t like. Carsten Hansen’s column being an exception.

I, for one. would like to read your take on this young man’s book once you have read it…I am a bit skeptical as he may be a talented young chess player…but how could he have the vocabulary to properly explain his ideas and/or concepts?


PS…I expect to be in Santa Cruz in March-my wife wants to hike in the Redwoods…any suggestions?


admin February 9, 2010 at 9:01 am


It’s pretty hard to play the Simon Cowell, tell-it-like-it-is role when you’re reviewing a book by someone you know. It’s even hard when you review an author you don’t know (cf. the long debate we had in this blog over J.C. Hallman’s “The Chess Artist”). Chess is a pretty small world, so I guess we shouldn’t be surprised that a lot of book reviews are less than objective.

That being said, I appreciate your vote of confidence in my candor!

In any case, I’m not likely to get into the book-review business any time soon. My approach to chess improvement is almost the exact opposite of yours: I almost never buy books! I’m a big believer in learning from practical competition, and I have very seldom been able to translate book knowledge into practical results. I’m not proud of this — I consider it a personal weakness that I am not conversant with all the “Great Books” of chess — but there you have it. It would be pretty inconsistent for me to say, “You must buy this book,” when I myself buy less than one chess book a year.

For your visit to the redwoods, Big Basin State Park is well-maintained, has lots of trails and is a very safe bet. For a less well-known hike, you might want to try the Fall Creek Unit of Cowell Redwoods State Park, which I think is even prettier. You’re making me want to go out for a hike myself. It’s been a long time!


Chris Harrington February 13, 2010 at 9:02 pm

In regards to the comment on the young author’s vocabulary.

Several points to make here. First he has read many a chess book and obviously understands their vocab.

You don’t need to have a very good vocab. to write a great chess book. I’ve read chess books and listened to lectures by GMs whom know english as a second language and learned quite a bit.


Rob February 15, 2010 at 5:12 am

Sorry Chris, but I certainly disagree with you.
I too have read a lot of chess books by authors who were not native speakers, and without sound editing they make many mistakes in english language usage, which makes for much misunderstanding.
I have also sat in on chess lectures by non-native speakers, and the difference when attending such lectures, is that you can usually ask “what do you mean by that?” Of course when they stand in front of a chess demo board – they move the pieces – so you can visually make sense of what they are saying even if they articulate poorly.
By your reasoning, I guess if I read as a 12 or 13 year old boy all the books of Tolstoy I could write another “War and Peace.”


henry March 16, 2010 at 10:18 am

I just got the Naroditsky book and I find it a very good book but can someone explain why he would write e.g. 1. e2 -e4 and not just 1. e4?
Some lecturers at chesslecture do the same thing. I understand when either Knight or Rook can move to the same square. But when it is clear that only one piece can do so, why the verbiage?


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