Von Johan Hellsten
489 Seiten, kartoniert, 1. Auflage 2010
Grandmaster Johan Hellsten is convinced that mastering chess strategy - just like chess tactics - requires practice, practice and yet more practice!
This book is a product of his many years' work as a full-time chess teacher, and is specifically designed as part of a structured training programme to improve strategic thinking. It focuses on a wide range of key subjects and provides a basic foundation for strategic play. Furthermore, in addition to the many examples there is an abundance of carefully selected exercises which allow readers to monitor their progress and put into practice what they have just learned. Following such a course is an ideal way for players of all standards to improve. Although designed mainly for students, this book is also an excellent resource for chess teachers and trainers.
- An essential course in chess strategy
- Contains over 450 pages of Grandmaster advice
- Includes more than 350 training exercises
Contents This book touches a wide range of subjects related to middlegame strategy. Each subject comes with some explanatory examples, and in the second half of the book you will find related exercises. I am a strong supporter of the intensive use of exercises in the learning process. In my opinion, the closer you can get to a game situation when you are training (or teaching) chess, the faster progress can be expected.
In his excellent work Logika Sovremennyh Shahmat (Modern Chess Logic), Belarusian writer and grandmaster Viacheslav Dydyshko mentions that one major problem faced by chess students is that the theoretical knowledge acquired from literature remains "alien" to us for a long time. In the heat of the battle we will probably rely on what our intuition tells us and, unfortunately, that doesn't always coincide with our knowledge.
Advancing his thoughts a little further, it is one thing to read through and understand a couple of Rubinstein's rook endgames, and quite another one to be able to play them like him! Naturally, any new chess knowledge has to be integrated in our mind with such depth that we are able to swiftly apply it in practice, even if a long time has passed since the learning moment. School kids often memorize a lot of facts before an exam, and forget most of it within a few weeks. (I, for one, would not like to repeat today my French or Maths exams from 1990.) In contrast, chess players need to store the information for a long time, and retrieve it without much delay. In this context I believe that exercises, alongside normal games and their posterior analysis, are one of the best tools. Compare the case of learning languages: few persons are able to speak a new language confidently after just reading through a few text and grammar books. What most of us need is practice, practice...
Style and level
I have tried to explain in the most didactical way possible what is actually happening on the board, without an excessive use of analysis, in order not to tire the reader. To experienced players some parts of the book will appear rather basic; and to others, more challenging. Club players will probably see a lot of things for the first time.
There have been many different sources involved in the writing of this book, the most significant ones being Chess Informant, ChessBase Megabase and Chess Today. I have used a lot of my own games and fragments, simply because these are the games that I know best
I used Chess Assistant 8.1 for the elaboration of this book, with Rybka 2.4 as the main analysis engine, and Megabase 2008 as a main reference database.
How to read this book?
It makes sense to start with the first, short chapter since it touches upon several concepts that will be present during the rest of the book. In contrast, the rest of the chapters are rather independent, although I often make references to earlier examples. Each chapter is divided into several sections, which can be treated in the following, simple way:
1. Go through the explanatory examples;
2. Solve the related exercises;
3. Compare your solutions with the ones in the book.
Advice for trainers
It is easy to use this book as training material. Choose the section(s) that you need, go through the explanatory examples with your students, and then let them work with the related exercises. In practical terms, I suggest you always have the exercise positions arranged on chessboards. The time needed oscillates roughly between 5 and 20 minutes, depending on the exercise (they are presented in ascending order of difficulty) and the level of the student. The solutions can be presented in written form, or played out against the trainer, which creates a closer feeling for them. Please note that the solutions given in the book are not absolute truths - the important thing is to grasp the general strategical idea in each exercise.
One additional piece of advice: many of the explanatory examples, as well as some of the longer exercises, can easily be used as "quiz" games, where the students should find the best move at determined (for example, five) moments during the game, with the trainer awarding the corresponding points and giving hints if necessary.