Monday, January 29, 2007

Some chess items, including a Jeremy Silman review

Minnesota native and IM, John Bartholomew, has just started a chess blog, Johnny B's Chess Connection. Please check it out.

Beep...plunk...scritch. On Saturday morning I heard the sounds of the chess clocks, chess pieces, and students quietly notating their games at a local scholastic tournament run by Alex Adams. This may be an event I run next Winter, so I got a good preview. The coaches and junior high students are serious, and they had many good games. I hope Alex posts a copy of one of the games which featured two players locked in duel checkmating attacks. I was quite impressed with that game!

Finally, it looks like quite a few people have found my blog through searching for Jeremy Silman's Silman's Complete Endgame Course. Since I have read through the first four sections, I'll give a review here.

First of all, I will state my perspective as a reviewer. I started reading Silman's Reassess Your Chess books a few years ago when I started playing rated chess. I found the pair of Reassess books helpful in orienting chess as a book about planning and imbalances. (When I started playing rated chess, I thought I would have to memorize many opening lines. Silman helped me appreciated what chess was really about.)

As I prepare for the Minnesota Open next month as a competitor in the Reserve (U1700) section, I think the Complete Endgame Course will be quite helpful for me. I just crossed back into class C territory. I started reading this book last week, and it is organized into sections of knowledge based on rating.

So far I covered Endgames for Beginner (Unrated-999) as well as Endgames for Classes E, D, and C. (I'll be rereading through the Class C material, as well as study the Class B material in preparation for my opponents at the 1600+ range.) What I found through this reading is indeed a guide of what material is helpful at each of these rating levels.

When I have run tournaments for some beginner students, I will often see one player overwhelming the other in material, but not know how to finish off the game simply and painlessly. I will see random moves by the materially-stronger player which lack direction and coordination. Any student who is at this level will find what they need to easily complete the checkmating tasks expected of them at the <1000 level.

The next two sections cover opposition first at the elementary level and then at a more sophisticated level. This is crucial to understanding how to flex the muscle of the King at the end of the game. This is combined with some King and Pawn endings and a few other elementary endings that are common and easy to understand.

Finally, I read all the material for the class C level. Much of this is new to me (such as the Bishop and Rook-Pawn endgame and the Queen vs King and Pawn.) I had some familiarity with the Lucena and Philidor Positions common in Rook vs Rook and Pawn endings, but rereading this material here helped solidify this knowledge. I plan to commit this to memory so that I do not have to struggle through well-known endgame problems.

I would highly recommend this book to anyone serious about improving their chess who needs to improve their endgame. Silman's writing is clear and witty. There are a sufficient number of examples and diagrams included to illustrate his points.

Tags: chess, chess blogs, endgames


Grandpatzer said...

I reviewed Silman's book on my blog as well. Although the material is good in its own right, I think it's unique aspect is the division of material by level. For me, it suggested that I'd already done a good job studying endgames (I actually enjoy endgame study),and need to focus on other aspects of my game in order to improve. For you, it showed where your endgame weaknesses were so you could plug the big holes. It's interesting that some of the "basic" endgames covered in a Pandolfini or Alburt-style endgame manual aren't mentioned till fairly high level in Silman's book, which backs up Dan Heisman's argument that thought process and tactical ability are more important until master-ish level.

However, I disagree with them in that, if an endgame principle or position can be mastered quickly and retained, there's no reason not to "jump ahead" in your reading. Especially general principles, such as those in Soltis' excellent "Grandmaster Secrets: Endgames". For example, I think Silman didn't cover "the principle of two weaknesses" until the A section (I'm going by memory here, so can't refer to the book as I write this). That's a dead-easy principle that Soltis' book drove home well. If you find yourself enjoying endgames, I can't recommend Soltis highly enough.

Joe Erjavec said...


Thanks for stopping by and commenting.

I will continue to read through the book and hopefully the higher level material will stick in this place between my two ears! I'm sure Silman based these endgames on what players at each level typically run into.

I guy I've played in some blitz is an alright opening and middlegame player, but he plays his endgame phenomenally well. (At least 400-500 points above his base rating.) I think he is someone who has benefited from understanding endgame principles really well.

I haven't checked out Soltis' book, but I may do that.

Btw, nice review of Silman's book on your blog.