03 January 2017

Book completed: Yearbook of Chess Wisdom

As is fitting for the end of one year and the start of a new one, I recently completed Peter Zhdanov's Yearbook of Chess Wisdom.  It is a unique format (for chess books, at least) offering one essay per day for a year (hence the "yearbook" part of the title).  There's no table or contents or index for themes, although the back cover offers the following examples of thematic topics:
  • IQ and chess skills
  • Talent vs. hard work
  • How many games to play per year?
  • Are women underrated or overrated as compared to men?
  • Rating inflation in chess
  • What does your chess tell about your personality?
  • Playing computers: dos and don'ts
  • Developing your chess memory and visualization
  • How does one prepare for an upcoming tournament?
  • Is 1. e4 really "best by test"?
The author has an entertaining writing style and deliberately chose the essay format (without a single chess diagram or variation given) to stand out from other books and, I would say, be more thought-provoking about the various topics.  As a relatively successful amateur (currently rated a little over 2000 FIDE) who also manages (and is married to) WGM Natalia Pogonina, Zhdanov offers a different and sometimes unique perspective on his subjects, the majority of which have direct relevance for improving players.  A couple of the most pointed essays have already been quoted from here, as Training quote of the day #9 and Training quote of the day #10.  

This is the type of book that can be enjoyed reading a few articles a day (my practice), or if you want to strictly do the one-a-day routine that also works.  In part because themes regularly recur, with somewhat different angles or emphasis from the author, I do believe the collection of essays is best enjoyed, absorbed and pondered a few at a time.  The book succeeds overall in making the reader think critically about a variety of different chess topics, while thoughtfully presenting its information, rather than trying to be a teaching manual.  It therefore fills a unique niche for training and general enjoyment purposes. 

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