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Secrets of Practical Chess
Titel: Secrets of Practical Chess
Auteur: Nunn J.
Uitgever: Gambit
Jaartal: 2007
Taal: Engels
Aantal pagina's:   255
Verkoopprijs:   Ä 20.00
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What is the best way to improve your chess results? Memorising an opening encyclopaedia, learning endgame theory, solving puzzle positions ... there must be an easier way. How about making the most of your existing talent?

In this book, John Nunn helps you to do precisely that. Drawing upon more than three decades of experience, he provides advice that will help players of all standards, playing styles and temperaments to achieve improved results. His methods take into account psychological factors and are firmly based on good common sense and the objectivity that ha made John Nunn one of the world's favourite writers in chess.

Topics include:

  • Defending difficult positions
  • How to study the openings
  • How to make decisions
  • Avoiding common mistakes
  • When to calculate
  • Avoiding time-trouble
  • Using chess books
  • Making the most of computers


This book is aimed at players who are primarily interested in improving their results. If you are prepared to lose nine games in order to score one brilliant victory, then it is probably not for you. However, most players are motivated at least partly by over-the-board success - the thrill of winning is one of the attractions of chess, and most players feel very satisfied when their rating improves.

The level at which one plays is governed by a number of vague and poorly understood factors. The first is what one might term 'natural talent'. By this I mean that combination of factors which sets an upper bound to the level one can achieve by training and practice. One cannot list precisely which factors are rele­vant, but one may divide the possible factors into two classes. The first class consists of non-chess-specific elements such as general intelligence and memory. The second class involves a mesh of interrelated chess factors such as the age at which one learnt the game, early chess education and so on.

By the time anyone gets around to reading this book, the 'natural talent' factor will probably be immutable, which brings us to other factors which are more under one's control. These determine how closely one approaches the ceiling imposed by one's 'natural talent'. It is my belief that most players never get anywhere near their natural ceiling, and that considerable improvement is possi­ble with appropriate education, training and practice. Most chess books aim to help readers improve their chess. An opening book, for example, will give gen­eral plans and concrete analysis, both to help the reader prepare his chosen openings and, after a game, to compare the course of the game with established theory. Clearly, concrete knowledge is an important factor in establishing chess strength; someone who has a detailed knowledge of rook and pawn endings will have an advantage over someone who does not. An assiduous program of self-training is bound to have a positive effect. In 1977, Jon Tisdall explained to me his plan for becoming a grandmaster. He had estimated how many hours of study were required to advance by one rating point. Multiplying this by the difference between his current rating and the grandmaster level gave the total number of hours of study required. I laughed, and pointed out that with each advance, the number of hours required to gain the next point would probably increase, and so he might never make it. However, his plan proved justified, because in 1995 he did indeed gain the grandmaster title.

There are few players who can conduct a training program stretching over decades, and indeed time limitations apply to virtually all players. In practice this restricts the amount of improvement possible on the 'chess knowledge' front. In this book I will give advice on how to use the time available for chess study most efficiently, for example by distinguishing essential knowledge from optional knowledge, and advising on the construction of an opening repertoire.

The third factor, which is the main focus of this book, is the efficiency with which one applies the first two factors while actually sitting at the board. A detailed knowledge of rook and pawn endings won't help a bit if one has an attack of blind panic; an encyclopaedic memory is valueless if one is regularly seized by an uncontrollable impulse to sacrifice a piece unsoundly. Chaotic and muddled calculation; misjudgements; oversights; lack of confidence (or overconfidence!); lack of determination - these and many other negative influences all serve to whittle away one's playing strength. Such problems are not at all easy to solve, firstly because players very often do not realize what they are doing wrong and secondly because they imagine that there is nothing they can do to improve matters.

This book includes a description of various common failings at the board. I think that many readers will reach a particular section and suddenly think "Yes, that's exactly the mistake I always make." Recognizing the problem is already the first step towards solving it. An awareness of when one is most likely to go wrong enables one to take special care in these 'danger situations'. Eventually, by concentrating on a particular weakness, it is often possible to eradicate it completely.

Since many of the matters dealt with in this book are psychological in nature, there will be quite a few examples from my own games - I can personally testify that muddled thinking occurs at grandmaster level! Where I have covered a fa­miliar topic, I have made an effort to replace, whenever possible, the standard time-worn examples with excerpts from contemporary play.

Of course, this book, while containing much useful advice and information, cannot hope to go into detail about every aspect of the game. My aim has been merely to start the reader along the upward path of self-improvement. I hope that Secrets of Practical Chess will help readers to improve their results and produce more satisfying games.

The original edition of Secrets ofPractical Chess was published in 1998. Several years passed, during which time the book was a considerable success. How-ever, the section on Computer chess gradually became dated and so I thought it was time to revise and expand this chapter. The influence of computers on chess has increased enormously and they can now be used for preparation, analysis and training to an extent inconceivable in 1998. My treatment of this subject is strictly focused on how computers can help the over-the-board player, with particular attention being paid to the area of opening preparation. I have ignored the use of computers in correspondence play (legal under international correspondence chess rules) since this has already been covered in considerable detail in Modern Chess Analysis by Robin Smith (Gambit, 2004). Two concrete examples of computer-assisted opening preparation show how the ideas developed in this chapter can be applied in practice.

A second new chapter deals with chess literature. Many players buy chess books in the hope of improving their play. This chapter gives advice on what to look for in a chess book and how to use chess books. Two sample book reviews give examples of the typical good and bad points one may find in chess books. The chapter concludes with a list of recommended reading.

John Nunn

Chertsey, December 2006

005 Introduction

008 1 At the Board

008 Decision-making

008 The Tree of Analysis revisited

015 Evaluation functions

019 When to analyse

022 DAUT

027 Safety-nets

029 When the tactics have to work

031 Implicit commitments

035 Positional thinking

045 The method of comparison

047 Making your opponent think

050 Oversights and blunders

052 Warning signals

056 'Hard-to-see' moves

060 Time-trouble

063 Laziness

064 Determination

068 2 The Opening

068 Building a repertoire

070 Using opening books

071 Books on offbeat openings

083 3 The Middlegame

083 Good positions

089 Bad positions

099 Attack

099 'Inviting everyone to the party'

104 Over-sacrificing

106 Defence

113 4 The Endgame

113 King and Pawn endings

113 Opposition

118 The Rťti manoeuvre

119 Triangulation

121 Expect the unexpected

123 Chess is more than counting

125 Rook endings

126 Rook and Pawn vs Rook

129 The extra Pawn

136 Positional advantage

139 Minor-piece endings

140 Knight endings

142 Bishop vs Knight endings

144 Bishop endings

148 Queen endings

148 Queen and Pawn vs Queen

153 The extra Pawn

156 Common endings without Pawns

156 Rook vs minor piece

159 Rook and minor piece vs Rook

165 Quick-play finishes

167 5 Using a Computer

169 Game databases

184 Playing engines

192 Limitations of Computer analysis

196 Case study 1: Poisoned Pawn

209 Case study 2: Rossolimo Sicilian with 3...g6

218 Online chess

220 6 Chess Literature

220 Choosing a book

222 Mistakes

244 Book review 1: Rapid Chess Improvement by Michael de la Maza

246 Book review 2: Basic Chess Endings by Reuben Fine

250 Recommended reading

253 Index of Names

255 Index of Openings

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