Many of us buy something on the recommendation of a friend, a review, and especially if the word is out because of a trusted person we’ve had valuable experience with. I can tell you for example that my Dad had never steered me wrong when he was recommending books. Great insight. Great acquaintance with enjoyment. I knew he read the Travis McGee novels from John D. MacDonald. I also had read 1,000 pages of Gary Halbert’s newsletter and it turns out he was a big fan of Travis McGee. Here was a guy who could be super busy, a multi-millionaire, and yet he had time for the Travis McGee novels, including Cinnamon Skin. It was a delight! And I kept all the MacDonald novels my Dad had after he passed away. (And… read them!)
But, it’s Hard to Stop!
On the way to my shower this morning I was looking for something to read while the water was getting hot and I found, lo and behold, a chess book by GM John Nunn. It was called New Ideas in the Pirc Defence. All of a sudden good memories came back! At our chess club and in many tournaments if I opened 1.d4 or even 1.e4, I would face 1…g6 or 1…d6, and even 1… Nf6 and the Bishop would be fianchettoed to g7. We would end up in a Pirc and I knew the reason why. Many of the weaker players wanted to have a higher rating but they wouldn’t spend their money for study materials. The Pirc, in a way, was like the Colle System, it was played on auto pilot, not because it was good or bad but because one could crank out opening moves. I remember one particular time when I had white twice in a row and ended up in identical Pirc Defenses! Both opponents went down fast. One in 11 moves and the other, a few moves more. I went to my room and got a few ZZZZs in.
The neat thing about Nunn’s book on the New Ideas thing is that he spends a couple pages in the introduction, a place some players do not bother with. He explains why THAT particular book does this or that. How he makes decisions about what is important and when it is a good idea to own a more complete and bigger book (which, as it happens, he also wrote). Nunn was like the guy who clubs baby seals. He, as White, punished Pirc players of the black pieces easily too. I used that book a lot to play the Byrne system, to punch a pawn through the center, to sac the b-pawn and so on. If you use them right they can be a big asset. My only issue with the New Ideas books were that they were mostly moves and not too much on words. But, if you played those systems frequently, you didn’t need the words, just the moves!
Now I move further into “scraps” from a lot I purchased from PW. They are all in good condition, mostly algebraic, and I will tip you as to the value of this lot. Here goes:
The Budapest for the Tournament Player by Tseitlin and Glaskov. This opening is attacked by those who repeat what they have heard that the Budapest is no good. So much so that Moskalenko wrote a book on how it wins games! My late friend Bill Sandbothe was rated at 2100 and he won a lot of games with it and he played it over and over. You had to know it better than he did to beat him. Few did.
The Leningrad Dutch by Jaan Ehlvest. A great guy and a great player. I met him in a bar in St. Louis when I was working on a book deal with another GM. A book was also published on Ehlvest and it described how incredibly talented he was. I knew at the time this book would become extremely scarce and it has because it was expensive and you know how that works. Ehlvest was a super expert with the Leningrad Dutch.
Winning with the Scotch by Gary Lane. Speaking of super experts the New Zealander Lane (now in Australia) knows the KP openings quite well, having written about them for years. And after Kasparov revived the Scotch it is still going strong. Kasparov burned Karpov and Short both with the Scotch and this is an excellent basics book to get your feet wet.
Spanish Gambits by Shamkovich and Schiller. Relying on other books and Shamkovich’s own analysis of the Marshall, the broad spectrum of Gambits makes this book enjoyable to read. I have played Schiller and he isn’t as dumb as some weaker players would have you believe. In all, some fascinating ways of giving up a pawn.
Beating the Sicilian 2 by John Nunn. The cover lamination is crackled and I have no idea why. This is a good book and it surpassed Nunn’s first attempts. There are some pages with some hi-liting and a page with pen notes. None of this hurts the copy or analysis.
The Albin Counter-Gambit by Paul Lamford. Do you know of any opening books in English on the Albin? Besides this one, I don’t though Thinkers’ Press did start one with assistance by Senior Master Charles Maddigan but somehow I just forgot about the project which is too bad because we had some interesting Spassky analysis.
The Complete Gruenfeld by Alexei Suetin. An excellent study. At our club we had an ego-laden Expert who always played the Gruenfeld. I played him several times, losing our first game when in a drawn endgame I forgot to claim a repetition of position and then lost on time. My one and only time I can recall doing that. Then he played a different line the next time and I lost. The thing was, I figured he would play the SAME line again, the next time. He did, but I “knew” he had used this book and I had my own copy. I found the flaw in his play. I wish I could report to you that I won, but indeed I found a different way of blowing it! For an opponent who was so sure he was superior to me he used up a lot of clock time, but I will admit, we had some knock down and dragged out battles. The Gruenfeld is a good system for Black, but also for White.
Beating the Flank Openings by Vassilios Kotronias. While I dislike the title because it implies you always can, Kotronias is a worthy opponent. Includes stuff on the English and Catalan. The author is known for his deep preparation. Be prepared to battle the Fianchetto Systems.
Queen’s Pawn: Veresov System by Robert Bellin. After years of being put down as inferior because the N/c3 blocks the movement of the c-pawn I can not only tell you I won quite a few games with the Veresov (and some draws against good players) at one time this was the only reliable book I had for this system. At one time IM Bellin was reputed to be the best known expert of this system which won many games for Gavril Veresov.
The Pirc Defence by Nunn. See previous remarks.
This basketful of joy clocks in at 10 books. But it has a bargain basement price for the right needful chess player at: $56.00. The S&H charges are $8.00. Or $62.00. Just this one set. Average book price is $5.60 each for books that new would go for $20-24 each! Fill that shelf with useful books. I used my own copies of these books to deal some mortal blows to my opponents. Perhaps the philosophy of my play will rub off on you. I hope so.
Bob & Jack