Friday, January 8, 2010


Since 1971 I have seen a lot books, and every so often an author comes forth with a book designed for beginners or young people. I know that most of these authors will disagree with me, but usually the buyers don't. Most of these books do not manage to engage their intended reader (I won't go into the reasons now).

How and why do fathers and mothers teach their kids' chess? Then there are brothers and sisters, friends, and video games which "train" too.

But, it seems publishers don't give up. I aim to give only facts, not cast aspersions. I would like to know what readers of this Blog think (I'm sure that surprises some of you). All the following titles will be produced by New in Chess from February through May of this year. I do not intend to stock these books unless my customers want them... so here is your chance to vote.

First: Mastering Positional Chess by 14 year old Junior World Champion, Daniel Naroditsky (a USA kid). NIC is going all out to promote this. The parents get involved in the Introduction and it is claimed that Daniel is a "born writer." It's designed for "club players." Book will retail at $23.95. My question: are there enough aspiring chess prodigies (and their parents) out there to support this publication by buying it? And what about the rest of you?This is supposed to be a "practical lessons" book. It's mentioned that he is the youngest chess author ever (I am not sure what that means to the rest of us. Maybe when he gets older it will matter. What does one do with a room full of prodigies?)

Second: Bobby Fischer for beginners by Renzo Verwer. Apparently the focus is that it is "for everyone interested in human drama." Many of us are. Points are: youth in Brooklyn, his career, his conflicts, his girlfriends, and his "tragic" death in Iceland in 2008. The $16.95 paperback will have photos and illustrative moments with an extra emphasis on some of his chess moves (does this mean that the "game of the century" will be wheeled out again? Because of the "taste" for Fischer news it's my contention that if you can write reasonably well about a subject such as Fischer, there should be more authors getting published. Myself I have no current intentions to publish anything on Fischer. I did it once and lost money.

Third: Checkmate for Children by Kevin Stark. Having taught elementary school children with another instructor some years back (early 90s), like the author, I do believe that getting kids/beginners to understand how important the subject of checkmate is -- is huge. It's a high hurdle... the concept that you "don't take the King." This book has as a selling point: the big market of children's chess books ! Really? Why isn't everyone working on that?

I am fascinated by the "marketing copy" being written for these books. Not the way I would write it, but I would also like to know and see how successful these books will be. Some years ago Murray Chandler did a couple books for Gambit which turned out to be very popular. They were a cut above the average, especially How to Beat Your Dad at Chess.

I am sure many of you who read this Blog have many other important things to do, but just take a couple minutes and tell me what you personally think. Maybe I've been barking up the wrong tree.


  1. My reactions: 1) With due respect to young Mr. Naroditsky, what is in this book that cannot be found in one of the (many) books on positional chess? 2) I have a library of Fischer-related books that numbers near 30. What will I find in Mr. Verwer's book that I don't have or cannot search for at 3) The subject of Mr. Stark's book is currently relevant for my granddaughter (who will be 7 in March), so depending on how appropriate it would be for her, I might consider buying it - especially if it is superior to "Bobby Fischer Teaches Chess."

  2. Naroditsky's book is based on how he thought current books did not address positional ideas well. he started studying and making a notebook to improve his own understanding and this became the book. I think it will be an interesting read. He is a very well-spoken and nice young maan

  3. I suppose it is easier to become the youngest chess author than the youngest chess grandmaster. I can imagine expecting mothers filling their womb with chess and writing instruction until the manuscript is born with the baby.

  4. I think the whole idea of "books" for children these ludricous and sad. Children do not read "books" these unless they are electronic in nature.

    However the idea of a book for children is a total failure if the idea of the book is for the parents to read it and work interactively with their children. Children enjoy the interaction as much if not more than the chess itself (at least initially).

    Of the above I can agree that the third would fill the role well that I mentioned.

    The second book on Fischer is so misguided, other than the greed factor by the author and publisher. Who in their right mind would want to have their child use Bobby Fischer as a role model? Yes, he was the best at it, but at what cost. Better role models are Kasparov or even Spassky who have been able to balance their life outside of chess as well as being icons within the chess world.

    The first book may be more interesting to psychology students than kids his own age. But then again it may not be bad if it turns out to be a good book in general instead of the micro-category of books by prodigies who voice has not changed.

  5. Again from Howard Goldowsky...
    Naroditsky's book will be interesting. Dana Mackenzie has seen a draft of the book and gives it only glowing remarks. . What the book does seem to have going for it is that the author has taken care to organize this large project, and reference other books and ideas. In theory, we get to see inside the improvement lab of a nascent chess master -- prodigy or not -- and what could have more potential upside than this reading experience? As a student of the game and as a chess book collector, I'm curious to see what is inside this lab, whether the author is 14 or 44. The big downside is that even though Naroditsky may know a thing or two about chess, he probably still punctuates like a 14-year-old, and given NIC's poor track record in the area of copy editing, I fear the worst. Maybe the parents have had the sense to proof the copy. Certainly NIC's editors will not do it. If you look closely at the NIC "Book Publishing Program" page you'll see that the title of the book (Mastering Positional Chess) is different than the title on the link (Mastering Chess Pieces). They didn't even get that right, not an auspicious start.

    NIC is not the only chess book publisher too stingy to hire a copy editor. They all skimp. Even though the quality of the material may be getting better, on average, then, say, 20 years ago, the quality of the copy editing has plummeted.

    The Fischer book looks like a piece of junk. How much meat can they stuff into 128 pages? Now, I'd love to read a book like this if the prose is excellent; however, the chances of this happening are slim, so I probably will not buy this one. There was another book about Fischer put out a few years ago -- it was called The Wandering King -- full of interviews and antidotes, etc. The punctuation and grammar were so bad I almost threw up while I read it in the bookstore. I never bought it, and I suppose this book will be similar.

    The kids books live and die on their marketing potential: How well can you convince the neophyte teachers and the 1500-rated volunteer chess coach that this book needs to be part of their curriculum? If you can do that, then you can sell many copies. But the concept in the book has been covered many times: Renauld-Kahn, etc. The top of Amazon's chess book list has quite a number of beginners' books. It's a great market. But you have to find an "in" to the classes and the teachers to hit the jackpot.