Chess For Dummies

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Proven tactical tips to strengthen your game

Your quick and easy guide to the rules, strategies, and etiquette of chess

Kings, queens, knights - does chess seem like a royal pain to grasp? This friendly guide helps you make the right moves. From using the correct terms to engaging in the art of attack, you'll get step-by-step explanations ...

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Proven tactical tips to strengthen your game

Your quick and easy guide to the rules, strategies, and etiquette of chess

Kings, queens, knights - does chess seem like a royal pain to grasp? This friendly guide helps you make the right moves. From using the correct terms to engaging in the art of attack, you'll get step-by-step explanations that demystify the game. You'll also find updated information on tournaments and top players, as well as computer chess games and playing chess online!

Discover how to:

  • Set up your chessboard
  • Understand the pieces and their powers
  • Recognize the game's patterns
  • Decipher chess notation
  • Employ tactics to gain an advantage
  • Find tournaments and clubs
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780764584046
  • Publisher: Wiley
  • Publication date: 8/29/2005
  • Series: For Dummies Series
  • Edition description: REV
  • Edition number: 2
  • Pages: 384
  • Product dimensions: 7.50 (w) x 9.24 (h) x 0.86 (d)

Meet the Author

James Eade, a United States Chess Federation Chess Master since 1981, devotes his time to chess writing, organizing, and teaching.

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Table of Contents


Part I: Laying the Groundwork.

Chapter 1: Tackling the Chess Basics.

Chapter 2: Greeting the Pieces and Their Powers.

Chapter 3: Getting to Know the Elements of Chess.

Chapter 4: Looking Out for the King: Check, Stalemate, and Checkmate.

Part II: Gaining Chess Know-How.

Chapter 5: Tactics and Combinations in Hand-to-Hand Combat.

Chapter 6: Sacrifices: When It’s Better to Give than to Receive.

Chapter 7: Mastering Mating Patterns.

Chapter 8: Building Pattern Recognition.

Chapter 9: Recognizing Pawn Formations.

Chapter 10: Making Special Moves.

Part III: Game Time: Putting Your Chess Foot Forward.

Chapter 11: Selecting Your Strategy: The Principles of Play.

Chapter 12: Coming on Strong in the Opening.

Chapter 13: Making Headway during the Middlegame.

Chapter 14: Exiting with Style in the Endgame.

Part IV: Getting Into Advanced Action.

Chapter 15: Competition Play and Necessary Etiquette.

Chapter 16: Hitting the Net with Computer Chess.

Chapter 17: Got Notation? Reading and Writing about Chess.

Part V: The Part of Tens.

Chapter 18: The Ten Most Famous Chess Games.

Chapter 19: The Ten Best Players of All Time.

Part VI: Appendixes.

Appendix A: A Glossary of Chess.

Appendix B: Other Chess Resources.


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First Chapter

Chapter 13
Chess Etiquette (Why Was He So Mad at Me?)

In This Chapter

  • Knowing when and how to resign
  • Offering a draw
  • Respecting the touch move rule
  • Hovering your hand
  • Adjusting a pawn or a piece

Chess is supposed to be fun, but quite often people take it very seriously. When you play someone like that, you should know the do's and don'ts of chess etiquette. Chess etiquette is especially important in tournament chess.

In a serious encounter, both players are staring at the board for hours at a time. A raised eyebrow will be noticed by your hypersensitive opponent, and a sneeze may cause someone to go into shock. Heaven forbid that you would have a nervous tic or a habit of drumming your fingers or humming (mostly) to yourself. Chess players have complained about all of these things and more.

You may properly address your opponent during the game only to offer a draw or to say check or checkmate. If you have a complaint, the safest course of action is to bring it up to the tournament director. If the game is only for fun, use common sense -- but above all, avoid distracting an opponent who is thinking about a move.

There is a famous story about one grandmaster complaining about another who kept an unlit cigar next to the chessboard. "It's a no-smoking tournament," the former complained to the tournament director. The director, quite rightly, pointed out that the cigar was unlit. The grandmaster insisted, however, claiming that his opponent was threatening to smoke! There is at least some basis in the chess world for this absurdity, because we have a saying that the threat is stronger than the execution!

Chess at these levels is an incredibly tense activity, and there is no physical release. Even otherwise placid individuals have been known to lose their cool over a real or imagined infraction. The best thing to do is just play for the fun of it, but even then it's important to know the basics.


Beginners are coached never to give up and to always play the game out to checkmate. "No one ever won by resigning," they are often told. Although this may be true, a few other considerations are important to bear in mind.

When to resign

If you are hopelessly behind in material, you may as well start another game (see Chapter 3 for a discussion of material). Over the course of your lifetime you may spend hours hoping to save one or two completely lost positions when instead you can be spending that time starting over from scratch. Moreover, you rarely -- if ever -- learn anything from these types of positions. It is much better to spend your time figuring out where you went wrong and then trying not to get into that mess again.

It's possible that your opponents enjoy seeing you squirm and that you are merely playing into their hands by continuing on. More likely, they will get annoyed that you don't know when to resign and they may refuse to play with you anymore.

I quit going to one club in particular because the players there kept playing on in hopeless positions. I would find myself driving home well after midnight week after week. If the members knew when to resign, I might still be playing there.

The bottom line, however, is that resignation is a personal decision. You never resign just because your opponent wants you to, but you should resign when you objectively decide that there is no way to save the game. After the conclusion is inevitable, you may as well shake your opponent's hand.

How to resign

Just as important as when to resign is how to resign. The formal method is to tip your king over on its side. This is a universally recognized surrender. It is then important to extend your hand to congratulate your opponent. This show of sportsmanship is a valued ritual in chess. It demonstrates that you have at least a touch of class.

Many players will shake hands after the game but then undo the goodwill gesture by complaining that they should've, by all rights, won the game themselves. "If I'd just done this, instead of that, it was curtains for you," they might say. This talk is just childishness. Far more effective is to ask, "What would you have done if I'd played this instead of that?"

This approach accomplishes a couple of things. First, it acknowledges that your opponent's opinion, by virtue of the victory, might have some validity. Secondly, it allows you to listen to your opponent's ideas. It's much better to pick your opponent's brain in this manner than to try to explain away why you lost the game.

Sometimes both you and your opponent will spend considerable time discussing the game. Chess players call these post mortem sessions. Try to be respectful during these sessions and concentrate on learning -- not proving a point. You will make many chess friends if you follow this advice.

Offering a Draw

If you have determined that you can't checkmate your opponent, you may wish to offer a draw (see Chapter 6 for details on a draw). Under tournament conditions, you may make a draw offer only after you have made a move and before you have started your opponent's clock. Never offer a draw to your opponents on their time. That behavior is a breach of etiquette, and repeated offenses may cause you to lose the game by forfeit.

Offering a draw under any other circumstances may be considered annoying, and your opponent may report you to the tournament director. What's worse is that the draw offer may be accepted or rejected and you may still get scolded. In other words, if you make an improper draw offer, your opponent has the right to accept it and complain about it.

If you make a draw offer without making a move, your opponent has the right to ask to see your move and then decide whether to accept or reject your offer. Repeated draw offers may be considered annoying, so wait until the position has changed substantially before making another offer.

If the position is about to be repeated for the third time, a draw may be claimed. You must do so before making the move that would repeat the position for the third time.

Food and drink . . . and chess

Generally it is considered improper to eat or drink anything at the chessboard except for water or coffee. Of course, if you're playing in your own living room, all bets are off. The ground rules are determined by the home team in that case.

My worst experience with food at the chessboard came in my very first big tournament in New York. It was the last-round game and whoever won the game would clinch a sizable prize. My opponent came to the board with a sloppy meatball sandwich and proceeded to get the sauce all over his hands. He then decided to adjust all of my pieces covering them with the sauce.

I was too inexperienced to complain and too young to shrug it off. Instead, I let it affect my play, which is what my opponent had hoped would happen, and managed to lose rather badly. Needless to say, this was a severe breach of chess etiquette, and I should have complained to an official at once.

Touch Move

One of the most touchy subjects in chess is the touch move rule. This rule simply means that, if you touch a piece, you must move it -- if it is legal to do so. If you touch a piece that has no legal move, you are free to move any other piece. The move is considered complete when your hand is removed from
the piece.

Sometimes one player claims that the other touched a piece and the second player denies doing so. If there are witnesses, the director may be able to make an informed decision. In the absence of witnesses, the claim is generally not upheld on the first complaint.

Did Kasparov cheat?

During one tournament game against Judit Polgar, Kasparov made his move and seemed to take his hand away from the piece for a split second. He then moved the piece to another square. The shocked Polgar did not make a claim, but later indicated that she thought the champion had indeed taken his hand off of the piece. Kasparov denied doing so.

However, the game was being videotaped, and a careful review of the tape showed that Kasparov did in fact let go of the piece. Unfortunately, there is no instant replay in chess, and no protest was possible after the game was concluded. If even world champions break the rules, what hope do the rest of us have?

The Hand Hover

A frequent cause of complaints involving the touch move rule is the hand hover. The hand hover occurs when a player positions his or her hand over a piece and leaves it there. The hand hover is a distraction and should not be practiced. Don't reach for a piece until you've decided to move it.

No less a player than Capablanca (see Chapter 19) warned against the danger of using the hand hover. He claimed that it interfered with your thought processes and that it was to be discouraged.

J'adoube and Such

Sometimes a pawn or a piece may not be resting completely on one square or another. It's permissible to adjust that pawn or piece or even a whole bunch of them -- if it is on your time and if you warn your opponent first. The French phrase J'adoube is considered to be the proper warning. This means "I adjust" in English, but it is also proper to use the English translation.

As long as you have issued the warning, the touch move rule is temporarily waved. Keep in mind that you cannot say "J'adoube" or "I adjust" after you have touched a piece!

The worst losers in chess history

Mike Fox and Richard James, in their delightful The Even More Complete Chess Addict, nominate the following three candidates for the title of worst loser in chess history. In their own words:

In third place, former World Champion Alexander Alekhine, a notorious temperamental loser. At Vienna in 1922, Alekhine resigned spectacularly against Grünfeld by hurling his king across the room.

In the silver medal position, another famous loser, Aaron Nimzovich. At a lightning chess tournament in Berlin, he said out loud what all of us have at one time felt. Instead of quietly turning over his king, Nimzo leapt onto his chair and bellowed across the tournament hall: "Why must I lose to this idiot?" Not nice, but one knows the feeling.

But the gold medal, plus the John McEnroe Award for bad behavior at a tournament, goes to the lesser-known Danish player (reported in the Chess Scene) who lost as a result of a fingerslip involving his queen. Unable to contain his despair, he snuck back into the tournament hall at dead of night, and cut the heads off all the queens.

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Customer Reviews

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( 37 )
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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 37 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted December 3, 2008

    I Also Recommend:

    Not the best book to begin with

    Even though it wouldn't be at the top of my list of recommend introductory chess books, "The Complete Idiot's Guide to Chess" is clearly better (if you must have one of the major series books). The format of "Chess for Dummies" is not in a very logical order in certain places and suddenly you are confronted with material that has nothing to do with what needs to be covered at that point. Consider getting either "Chess for Everyone" (my first choice) or "Learn Chess" by Alexander and Beach (my second choice) as excellent introductory chess books for many reasons.

    11 out of 11 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted October 20, 2008

    Difficult to follow format yet comprehensive

    This book is certainly not as good as the competition ("Complete Idiot's Guide to Chess" or "Chess for Everyone; A complete guide for the Beginner) in that the format is difficult to follow. It jumps around to much and just when you are following a segment something out of the blue is tossed in that just doesn't fit in! But then why a decent rating of 3 stars? Well, it has a lot of instructional material and if you can manage to follow the material then there is a lot of information provided.

    6 out of 6 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 9, 2009

    I Also Recommend:

    Why The Negative Reviews Are Wrong

    I have read all of the negative reviews here and they all seem to make the same complaints: it isn't comprehensive enough, it doesn't cover everything, it doesn't say everything that could be said, the layout is confusing etc etc etc

    What all these critics seemed to miss is that the book is called 'Chess FOR DUMMIES', it is not intended to be comprehensive, or even close to it, it is intended to teach you that basic terminology and introduce the basic ideas, and then direct the more serious student towards more mature resources, which it does, in Appendix B.

    The book introduces one to the basic rules of chess, including the more obscure rules which are unknown to most beginners, such as 'en passant', it introduces one to the history of chess, it introduces one to the basic principles of chess, the opening, the middlegame, and the endgame, it introduces one to some very basic terminology, it tells one where to find the best chess web sites and places to find an opponent, and it has a good glossary of basic terms, it introduces one to basic chess notation, and introduces famous players and games, and offers encouragement to beginning by assuring them that the idea that one needs to be a 'supergenius' to play good chess is a total myth, that chess does not require exceptional intelligence. And in addition to all of this, it is very easy to read and understand.

    Exactly what more can one expect from book called 'Chess for Dummies'?

    Now, the complaint 'it doesn't go into depth describing the openings, sometimes offering only the first 3 moves'.

    The person making this complaint apparently missed the 'for dummies' part of the title.

    I am at a near total loss to understand how an in depth exploration of various openings, beyond the first 3-4 moves, is helpful to a beginner.

    The fact of the matter is that most people, in the real world, who are not chess experts, do not play according to whatever theory or model you might have in mind.

    Knowing what the first 30 book line moves for the Sicilian defense are will not help most beginners because most of the opponents they face will not make the moves the opening theory expects them to make. And cluttering up the book by considering umpteen variations does not exactly help matters.

    The only people likely to play an opening down to the first 10,20,30 moves are experts, and if you one is beginner, than one shouldn't be playing against experts anyway because one will not learn anything. A beginner should be playing against other beginners. The way to learn how to play better chess is playing against opponents with a similar skill level.

    Much better than listing all of the 10,20,30 book moves for every opening is to introduce the first few moves of some of the more popular openings, introduce the basic principles of openings so that beginners will know what they are supposed to be accomplishing in the opening, introduce the basic terminology, and then direct the readers elsewhere for more information.

    And what do you know, that is precisely what this book does.

    So the complaint that the book 'doesn't go into much depth about various openings' is just silly.

    This is a very good basic introduction to chess, the complaint that it not comprehensive is ridiculous. It is not intended to be comprehensive, it's for dummies.

    5 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 20, 2013


    Many people complain that it is not comprehensive enough, but remember, its for beginners. If your a beginner at chess get this book.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 7, 2006

    Lots of Material but lacks organization and clarity

    This is a book just loaded with information on chess. The problem I feel is that it is poorly organized and as such it can be confusing for a beginner - certainly not a book for young readers (would recommend 'Chess for Juniors' for kids in a flash or adults). Chess is a game that needs to be taught in a logical progressive order. You will find 'Chess for Dummies' jumps from one thing to another in a chaotic manner with some of the material coming off the wall.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 11, 2003

    An Excellelent everything you need to know book

    This book may not be the first book you want to read if you've never played before, but definently the second. This book tells the reader good books, and sites to chek out along with basic principles of the game

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 26, 2002

    Total ly new to chess don't know how this will teach you.

    This book is for someone who knows nothing of chess. This is a total beginner's book. Which is all it is supposed to be. Now for a parent that knows nothing of chess and that has a child that wants to learn, this is also a good book for both or just a child alone if he has friends that play or a computer program, to play against. It will not help them beat the computer but what it does do is give the aspiring player a good foundation to start down the road to playing the game. I would suggest this book as a first for children or an aldult because if their interest does not go past this book. They will not need any other to get them playing. It is a good investment for beginner's. But if the chess bug bites the will have the first book of a chess library. Then you can look at the list of books that someone else left.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted August 23, 2014

    I do not understand why this book is getting negative reviews.  

    I do not understand why this book is getting negative reviews.  I read it many years ago and learned quite a bit from it.  Some of the principles in this book have stuck with me all this time.  I no longer have the book.  But I am just now getting into chess pretty seriously once again and am thinking about repurchasing it.  If you are a beginning chess player, this book will at least get you to the amateur level if not the novice.  

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted October 13, 2011

    Gr im mad!


    0 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 25, 2008

    Seems to be a popular choice but not the best choice

    The 'For Dummie' series seems to be a popular choice for most subjects when coming to getting a 'first book'. The 'Complete Idiot's Guides' are also a popular choice. Though when it comes to their books on 'Chess' in particular, the 'format' in which they are written is restrictive and doesn't allow the material to flow in a smooth and consistent manner. There is lots of content - it is just the layout that makes for 'difficult' reading in spots 'like a road that is well paved in parts and has major pot holes in others!'. When it comes to 'chess' I suggest looking at one of the several good books that introduce chess without a restrictive format.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 15, 2008

    Contains a lot of info but not well presented

    In CFD you will find almost everything you need in a beginning chess book to learn how to play. The book contains a lot of unecessary filler in spots inserted where it does not flow well. Instead of helping you learn more useful material these inserts make the learning process more difficult. It you could easily filter these out then the book would be better.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 26, 2005

    Not that great

    Book does not go too deep into chess strategies or tactics. Openings only show 1-3 moves in. There are better books out there to learn the great game of chess.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 4, 2005

    Leaves out so much basic material

    Ugg!!! I don't really like the entire 'Dummy Series' as a whole which only a real 'dummy' would buy. This really applies to this book. It covers the very basic rules in a very skippy way. Then jumps from here to there is formatted 'mini' chapters that really leaves out so much material that any beginning student would be lost. This is one of the worst beginning books ever written, but has sales only because of it being part of the 'dummy' series. Spend your time really looking at reviews of good beginning chess books.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 26, 2005

    Poorly Organized Beginning Chess Book

    The entire way this book is organized is sad. Because it does cover 'some' decent material to introduce a total 'dummy' to the game I have refrained form giving it just one star. It doesn't compare to THE IDIOT'S GUIDE TO CHESS or if you are a child or an adult wanting to to have the greatest simplicity then a great book is CHESS FOR JUNIORS. Consider looking into these books first and you will thank me for mentioning this.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 1, 2004

    Leaves out Material - poorly organized

    Simply put this book leaves out essential material that is important in teaching chess to a beginner. The book doesn't present material in a good order that allows the student to build on earlier material. I teach chess in elementary schools, running several after school programs each week. I therefore have looked into and investigated over a dozen beginners books. This one is at the bottom of the list for anyone of any age.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 15, 2004

    A Good beginners guide

    The sectons on the Middlegame and Endgame are especially good

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 31, 2004

    Chess For Dummies

    This book is simply awful. It falls into that category of 'Series' books that want to formulize everything. The 'Dummy Series' is a bad series on all counts. Chess, like math, builds on itself. If you don't get a solid foundation you're in for a lot of trouble. The thing about Chess For Dummies is it leaves out a lot of basic material. As you're progressing along you find you have to go right back to the start to learn a basic concept that Chess For Dummies left out. Also, for a beginner's book there is way too much extraneous material. Simply put, this is a really bad book.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 19, 2003

    Chess For Dummies

    When my nine year old son started learning to play chess at his school I bought this book so I could learn enough to help him along. Things started out bad with this book from the start. It seems chess teachers don't use this book to teach beginners. I went to my son's school and asked the chess teacher why Chess For Dummies wasn't a good beginner's book. He explained to me that the book left out many key fundamentals that a beginner needs. So I asked what books did have all that and was told that the first two volumns of Lev Albert's Comprehensive Chess Course covered it all, but that Yasser Seirawan's Play Winning Chess series was also good and if I wanted something a little less heavy that Bruce Pandolfini's Square one was a good book to get you playing fairly fast. He went on to say that all these titles were used in his chess classes. I asked him if Chess For Dummies was okay somewhere down the line. He told me I might as well donate it to the public library as it was practically of no use. I felt kind of silly about running out and buying Chess For Dummies. I only kept the book long enough to see why it didn't make the grade while the others did. After I learned how to play it soon became obvious why it didn't make the grade. Too many things weren't in Chess For Dummies but were in the other books. Fortunately, Barnes & was kind enough to let me return the book for a refund. So, my advice to anyone who is about to buy this book is, don't.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 4, 2003

    Bad Choice For Beginners.

    I've been teaching chess in the public schools for 23 years. I've seen a lot of beginner's books. Chess For Dummies is one of the worst efforts I've seen. Yes, this book will teach you to play chess but it leaves out many basic concepts beginners need. A better choice are several chess books aimed at beginners by Bruce Pandolfini. Panddolfini's books (all available on Barnes and get a beginner up to playing speed in a short time. Time isn't wasted on areas of chess a beginner isn't ready for right at the start. But Pandolfini sacrifices some critical basic principles in the interest of leaarning to play fast. So, with this in mind, you have to look at Lev Albert's Complete Chess Course (again, all available right here on Barnes & Alburt uses an improved version of the old Soviet system that taught such luminaries as Botvinnik, Bronstein, Keres, Smyslov, Tal, Petrosian,Spassky,Karpov, Kasparov, and Krammik. Some think even Bobby Fischer had access to it but that's beyond the scope of this review. Albert's course uses about 26 weeks to bring the absolute beginner up to advanced novice. He is very big on learning the board just as one would learn the multiplication tables and the alphabet. The first two volumns in Albert's course rigorously cover evrything the beginner should know, including memorizing the board. Chess For Dummies leaves this out as do Pandolfini's books. Chess For Dummies also give the beginner some false ideas about chess being easy. Chess, at any level, is a difficult and exacting game. It also implies that one chess book is all you need.To reach chess mastery you need well over 100 books. If you're really serious about learning to play chess srart with Albert's Comprehensive Chess Course, Vol. 1 and 2, instead of Chess For Dummies. You'll be glad you did!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 2, 2002

    Chess For Dummies

    Chess For Dummies is a bad choice for those new to the game. I have been teaching chess for over forty years and have seen many beginner's books. This book leaves too many basic concepts and how to learn and use them out and pads itself with too many Top Ten Lists. This isn't even a good book for the casual beginner. A far better choice is IGM Lev Albert's Comprehensive Chess Course, Vol. 1 and 2. (available on Barnes & These are based on the Russian system (formerly the Soviet System which produced all the world champions from 1948 until 1972 then regained it in 1975)which is a rigorous program for the beginner. A key part of chess is vigorously stressed in Albert's books. The Board and Board Dynamics. Upon completion of CCC Vol. I and II, the successful student can then complete the course by studying Vols. 2 - 7 (although there is a better option for Volumn 7; Ruben Fine's Basic Chess Endings. A good supplemental course for the absolute beginner and novice is IGM Yasser Seirawan's six book set although I recommend substituting Basic Chess Endings for volumn 6 in this series. A third option for the more casual beginner is Square One by National Master Bruce Pandolfini. This one will get you playing faster but without the deeper fundamental basics. I recommend it as supplemental reading. All of these books are appropriate for children and adult beginners and novices and all can be found on Barnes and Noble. I have to disagree with the reviewer who gave Chess For Dummies five stars and was, apparently, not aware of the intention of the reviewer who gave it one star and recommended My System. My System by Aron Nimzovitch is an essential work for the advanced Novice. I agree with the reviewer who gave it one star. If you tell someone they need a book for dummies then you set up a low self esteem image for that person. The title of Chess For Dummies is as bad as the contents. Top Ten lists reflect only the opinion of the author. Not a consensus opinion of the world's top 100 grandmasters, who are the only players with the expertise to evaluate such lists and even then it's still an opinion. Other material covered in Chess For Dummies can be found in numerous other chess books, many available on Barnes and Noble. If you really want to learn to play chess stay away from Chess For Dummies.

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