Friday, January 1, 2010


I suppose I would be different than others if I didn't start out with "Happy New Year" as my header... so be it.

But it will be "new chess times" in 2010. Lawrence Totaro asked me what I thought about Magnus Carlsen and my answer was that he would eclipse Kasparov if he can stand the strain. I think Norwegians are good at standing the strain so we should see some exciting play from him in 2010. I can't imagine him being a second on Anand's team for the match against Topalov because he's going to be vying for that same position, probably sooner rather than later.

GM Karsten Mueller has given me some inside info on the DVD format of his new ChessBase study of tactics over the book format (I have it in stock, check my catalog). I'll watch the DVD first and then share with you. Karsten has been a friend for a long time and his honesty in all chess matters means a great deal to me.

Speaking of which (honesty) this blog is no one's shill except my own. That is, I don't represent Batsford, Gambit, NIC, etc. It's not that I am against doing that, but the big guys want free publicity because I get review copies now and then. A real review takes a lot of time, much more than the cost of the item being reviewed (over the years my comments were responsible for big sales for them, but alas, they show no appreciation). There is no guarantee that would translate into sales dollars simply because many chess aficionados are watching their wallets these days and are looking for real and commensurate value in their purchases. So, even though I do believe chess literature is better than ever, that doesn't mean every one of them will be a sales winner.

Let me digress for a second and tell you of a potential winner, Gambit's FCO--Fundamental Chess Openings by Paul van der Sterren. When I originally mentioned this book in my now common "one sheeter" marketing pages, the results were nothing much. Big book, reasonable price. But now that time has set in (and probably some reviews from others), and the new year came, I am almost out of them!

During all that period the only commentary I had about van der Sterren's book was in the pages of The Chess Reports. Even there I couldn't go into much depth, the book is too large. However, I keep it in the bathroom (!) along with a pencil. I make checkmarks (oooh, I can hear the anti-defacer league in full body armor) of bits I find helpful; starting to accumulate a lot of checkmarks and notes. It is NOT a book loaded with variations, but it IS a book loaded with cautions, history, and what the current "forces" believe concerning main lines + sideline info. Not every opening is detailed, but all the biggies are: Sicilian, French, English, Slavs, King's Indian, and probably 20 others. (You won't see 1 g4 or 1 f3. Here is what Paul says about these where "White really tries to shoot himself in the foot": "Out of loyalty to those unfortunates who have occasionally indulged in these strange moves in their youth, I shall not even give you the names of these 'openings.' ") Reminds me of Kasparov in Batsford Chess Openings.

While most covers of Gambit books are pretty lame, the typography on their covers is even worse; it reeks of making ONE decision: Helvetica, and sticking with that. The name of the author is done in red with a thick black outline against an orange-ish backdrop (something like a museum, therefore, very appropriate for this blog). Double ouch. But the book itself, though possessing the same look as all other Gambit books, has some great material and that's really what I want... but the cover makes it harder for me to sell. Interestingly enough, while GM van der Sterren has been a great chess player and surveyor of all he saw, his name is not a household one. I hope that doesn't mean much to you. Club players often do not know the names of chess guys outside their purview... a shame really. (I conducted a pictorial survey of this "thought experiment" at the recent Chess Clinic #5, and some of the answers were scary!)

Eventually I will have more to say about this $29.95 (retail) book. In the meantime, if you have the G&L chess catalog and are looking for a great pathfinder (and extraordinary savings), contact me while I still have some. (Sure, I can reorder more, but there is always that lag time... remember, we all want to start 2010 off with a butt-kicking bang. Once in a while a book is popular enough it has to be reprinted and thus another time lag.)

A toast to you and a welcome to the next decade! Set up those pieces and start your engines.

1 comment:

  1. Bob,
    I couldn't agree with you more about Magnus Carlsen. People have been watching him since he was about 10 and always have had high expectations for him. But for someone his age to occupy the #1 spot in the world rankings is beyond belief. And now that he has been given a big push by someone who has experience coming out of his ears (Kasparov) Carlsen will be in a position to fight for the world championship within the next cycle—not in about 3-4 years as some have predicted.

    Steve L.