Saturday, February 27, 2010
The big guys, "strong masters," Purdy calls them... they all think about chess pretty much the same way. They focus on isolated d-pawns rather than fear them, they think about King safety and the pawns in front of their King. They are always on the look out for combinations. They know that tactics take precedence over strategy (weak squares, hanging pawns, etc.)
I've been watching Nigel Davies (pronounced Davis) on French Defense Strategy, proofreading the manuscript for the next Purdy book, dipping into the Lars Bo Hansen books, etc., and more etc. They all think pretty much alike. Club players are all over the map.
As I say in the review of Davies DVD for The Chess Reports, when you know a lot of the basics, like the stronger players do, they have to risk more to beat you. In risk comes chances. When a 2100 has fallen to his floor of 1900 he sometimes forgets what propelled him to 2100. When he re-establishes that (by, for example, looking over his games when he was a 2100), his skill level once again starts to rise.
How can you be more focused? In my case, and I am sure many others, it happens when you force yourself to do something. Force yourself, self-discipline, goal setting. I've been doing more of that WITHOUT the New Year's Resolution bit because you can start NOW instead of tomorrow. Tomorrow means lack of focus. Jeremy Silman told me once the biggest weakness he has noticed in the performance of average players was "their lack of focus."
I'm amazed at what I am learning--stuff I should've already known. And if none of that helps you much, try one more thing (besides improving your health), "take your time" when thinking.
You can contact me at: firstname.lastname@example.org or leave a comment below.
Friday, February 26, 2010
In Davenport, IA where I live there is an intriguing building for the arts in what is known as Bucktown. By arts I mean music, paintings, sculpture, fabric, jewelry and unusual items.
Artists, being artists, some of them seem less than concerned about making money (and many of them don't and are gone when their lease is up) until it finally hits them, "I am paying $600 a month for rent and I've only sold $300 worth of beautiful art I made." No pay for themselves, this doesn't include utilities, etc. If they have someone help them, that is even more. Pretty soon, savings are gone. (BTW, a guy who sells photo prints of doors from around the world does okay, but he also has a highly paid government job in the day time.)
But on Final Friday, that is, the last Friday of the month, they are open into the evening with food, coupons, mini-shows, etc. Lots of people (often other artists) come, some with dates, others for something FREE to do during this damnably cold winter. It's not always easy to fork over dough when you think about walking outside into the cold to your car carrying some item you could've picked up earlier or later when it warms.
Borders (and Barnes & Noble) have their cafes where people, ostensibly, drink coffee, eat cookies or sandwiches, etc. while studying, playing cards, chatting etc. Not always. This one guy, an old hippie wearing professorial clothes (cargo pants, tweed jacket) comes in to read a guitar magazine and Rolling Stone, every so often. He buys nothing and is totally unconcerned about taking up a comfortable chair while there. I've never seen him meet anyone either.
Similarly, in my business, I get emails from people who never buy anything from me, but they want my advice on such and such (you know, I've been around!???), tell me stories about their late father and what he did for the chess world, etc. Borders has rules for their cafe (basically, don't throw the customer out, he may buy something 3 years down the road!) and I have rules too. I want to get to my real customers and get their merchandise out the door. Sure, I don't mind being pleasant, but I am paying for the daytime use of my cell phone and I have newsletters and journals to get out.
My grandfather (Gilbert of the G&L part) asked certain people to not come back to his restaurant when all they did was just get coffee. Back in the day he discovered a cup of coffee was costing him 7 cents when he was charging a nickel for it. (There are other horror stories.) He was running a business (just like the artists in Bucktown are trying to do.) There's a good ending to that story for my grand dad. He borrowed $20,000 (a lot of money in the fifties). The bank loaned it to him greedily setting their eyes on his property (the only building on the block they didn't own) when he failed. A year later he paid the complete loan off! A few years after that he sold his restaurant business, moved west, and started a farm and cattle ranch. That made him happy.
I was talking to an artist one night on Final Friday and she told me she had been there over a year and didn't have much luck selling her stuff. (I didn't like any of it, she seemed to think "shading" was only for real life, not on a canvas!) I suggested something to her which she took with equanimity but I am sure that inside when she went home she wanted to kill me.
I said, "Why don't you and some other artists band together in a parking lot and put out your pieces that aren't going any where--put them on an easel and sell tickets of $5 for the show?" She said, "What show?" I replied, "It's like when school principals sit on the dunking board to raise money for the school. Only in your artist's case each purchaser would be allowed to stand so far back and toss a small sealed bag of paint at the works until they are covered with a Jackson Pollock type of insanity!" Or perhaps use a Paint Ball gun from a greater distance.
This would be news for the newspapers who are always looking for something different. Others would come to watch. Some "might" buy the painting before it got destroyed but at a lesser price. Everyone has a good time and more money is raised than those paintings, unadorned, would ever bring. Ever.
Naturally I knew the chance of this idea's success was very low. Now she's gone from the premises. I was thinking out of the box and having a good time (and not necessarily at her expense), but she was klopping along because no one had the ability (including me) to tell her that her stuff was awful. I've seen Jackson Pollock stuff, up close, so don't write me that "You must've watched a movie or looked in a book!" He's dead and probably laughing himself silly.
Yesterday I had a sale of all my Quality Chess books. An insane sale. What sold? What I knew would sell: new books and expensively priced books. The older stuff? Nada. The opening stuff? Only two. There's a lesson for me here: start thinking about how to move opening books! Once upon a time they were the darling of the chess world, now, they aren't. One of these days we are going to hear about chess publishing companies going down the tubes for publishing weak books on the openings.
Contact: email@example.com or add a comment to this blog (preferable).
Thursday, February 25, 2010
"Churn 'em out" must be ChessBase's motto when it comes to DVDs. Fortunately, they are good ones.
Today and yesterday I got a stack of good stuff and from what I have seen my DVD prices are the best anywhere I have looked (there may be some guy in Karachi selling at a loss (and if you believe that, you do not understand piracy!!))
I own Deep Rybka for a multi-core processor CPU but I have also heard some good things about Deep Fritz 12. One thing that IS nice about the basic Fritz model is that it moves through plies much more quickly than Rybka and it's not unusual for them to arrive at a similar evaluation. It's Elo has been bumped a 100 points I've been told, but how can I prove it? I know a friend who is using Deep Shredder. If it's "Deep" it's probably way good enough for us (and I also saw someone using Deep Hiarcs).
Anyway, here is what I got from Fedex: I haven't worked up the prices yet, but you can bet they will beat Amazon.com -- the co-conspirator with Wal-Mart to eliminate competition whenever and however they can. So if you write and want to know the prices I will stop what I am doing and get on that and whip them out to you.
In the meantime, it's back to listening to Roy Orbison while working on some publishing projects.
Yasser Seirwan's "My Best Games" -- a very, very good DVD. Ret. $43
Nigel Davies' "Build a 1.d4 repertoire." While beginning with the London, Torre, and Colle he builds on these as he gets into 3. c4! Then he goes into middlegame structures. 5 hrs. Ret. $36
Deep Fritz 12. Ret. $124.95. Deeper, faster + 12 Hours of video + (this one is a monster) free access to LIVE events streamed by ChessBase!
Nigel Davies' "French Defence Strategy." 4 hours. Guess what I will be watching this weekend? Ret. $40. As he discusses all the motifs behind the French, this DVD, visually will be worth $300 worth of "training time," you can take that to the bank.
Lawrence Trent's "Two Knight's Defence." If you've never played the Two Knights when starting out you just didn't know what you were missing. I will be watching this one just for fun and maybe using in some blitz events. 4 hrs. 45 min. I'm excited already! Ret. $36.00.
By the way, thanks for reading this Blog which mixes business, chess, and commercial products and reviews. Recently I was directed to a chess blog by a fellow Iowan, Kurt Godden on chess.com -- excellent historical stuff. I decided to read some of the other blogs... wow. People are running to catch the clueless train aren't they? If I had THEIR extra time I would be taking a vacation! To me an essential blog must contain new stuff, not the recycling of something seen on ChessBase.com or worse, another blog post. Give me the vacation, I can spare the egoistic "me too."
You can contact me at: firstname.lastname@example.org
Wednesday, February 24, 2010
This three-part series by GM Artur Yusupov is terrific. I've been looking over its terrain and I think if CJS Purdy were alive today he would heartily endorse it because:
1. It's practical and useful;
2. It explains well and has great examples;
3. It's very encompassing without fluff.
Tonight I was looking at volume three (Mastery) and reading the section on the French Defense.
Yusupov, also a French player, has some great exercises to work on. Even the "simple" ones take time to think about. For example, what do you do when Black is attacking a pawn three times and White is protecting it three times? According to the Purdy book I am about to release (and others), it is important to remove one of the defenders (and it may be through an Exchange sac.)
But which move should be made first? Is the pawn on d4 the point of the whole series of moves? (I couldn't find in my quick search, anything else.) It is these questions you must answer if you are going to play the French well. He also gives some annotated games he and others have played to enlighten you about certain aspects of the French. This should make your search for better play easier.
What are simple tactics to Yusupov? I think they may be a little harder than simple but not aggravatingly hard. He's trying to encourage you.
Vol. 1 is like an Exercise refresher (and there are exercises in all three books). It includes topics on open files, the opposition in the endgame, centralizing the pieces, forced variations, and much more including, naturally, solutions and a scoring table. Don't dismiss this book on "Fundamentals" as trivial, all of us need this "wake up" prompting.
Vol. 2 is "Beyond the Basics." It's a step above fundamentals as it includes combinations, an opening repertoire, calculation of how to "find" a move (elimination), more endgame technique (Rook vs. Bishop), pawn play (hanging, doubled, etc.) and tons more. Each book is about 280 pages. It's like The Chess Reports but on steroids and delivered to you by a world class trainer. I find Yusupov, a student of Dvoretsky more engaging than D.
Vol. 3 is "Mastery." We hear a lot about the isolated-pawn but too many are afraid to really delve into the subject because of the "negative press." Yet in a recent study I made (to eventually come out as a paper) it is one of the MOST important arrows in a master's quiver. It is misunderstood but, properly applied, can net you many additional points, especially if you are inclined toward patient play. After all, you may be working your wiles against an opponent who is afraid of isolated pawns--see how that works? Evaluation of the position is another subject most of us need. Many, many topics are all designed to improve your skillset. In the end you not only can't help to be a much improved player, not by coincidence will you also score more wins.
This set is heartily recommended. One caveat: at least for the first time through. When you get to his annotated games, skips the long notes until a second time around. The idea is to get you used to where he is going and see if you are making progress. If you score below his "pass mark" he recommends you redo that particular chapter.
This is an amazing set of three books, $29.95 each. Of course I have them specially priced for you. The Gilbert&Lange price for each is $25.50 and the Gold Card price is $22.50. If you buy the whole set of three the G&L price will be $72 plus $6.50 for shipping (in the USA). The Gold Card price for all three is $60.00 plus $6.50 for shipping. If you don't have a Gold Card they are $50 through the end of March (2010) and you can use it all year long for many special promotions. This promotion is good through THIS weekend: February 28, 2010.
As usual, you can contact me (Bob Long) through: email@example.com -- if necessary to give me credit card info you can email or call me at: 563-271-6657.
Tuesday, February 23, 2010
Yesterday I sent out emails to get customers to purchase a Gold Card.
What is a Gold Card? To start it is $50 and it is good for one year, this year, 2010.
The idea is simple in theory but a lot of bookwork in execution (fortunately my new software does a decent job in keeping track of things). I want my good customers to be easily noticed by me so that I can send them special offers at bigger than usual savings.
For example, GM Danny King has a series of 12 powerplay DVDs which touch upon many aspects of the game (pawns, structure, mating attacks, etc.) They are $40 each but until this Sunday they are $28.95. The savings of $11.05 each is pretty much the best deal on the planet.
But, it's also a wake up call that this program exists and did all last year. As such it targets those who buy a lot of chess things and would like to get rewarded for doing so. Now it enters a new phase, international buyers. Lots of sales can be made to buyers overseas and if the price is attractive enough, it goes a long way to paying for the hefty postage rates which hit all of us, including eBay-ers, a few years back.
Right away I heard from a Swiss customer of long standing with me in the 'ole Chessco days. Thank you!
The best way for a seller to profit from a Gold Card is to produce your "own stuff." The reason for this is that there are many resellers out there who sell similar things to what I have (standard books, dvds, etc.). It's hard to become a standout and not always easy to get attention. Therefore, very soon I will be releasing a new set of DVDs called White Shockers, seven items from the mind of IM Andrew Martin designed to blow the hinges off the doors of your opponents... one is even called the Old Speckled Hen... you'll learn why when you see it. One of the seven shockers will most likely be uploaded to YouTube, or at least a portion of it (videos longer than 7 minutes on a computer often try the patience of the viewer unless it is very good music [which you only have to hear].)
People are starting to send me "book ideas" again. If I may make a request, tell me why your MS is compelling and why someone might want to buy it. The problem often is, "Why should someone spend money on a collection of popular blog articles if they got them originally for free?" Why make ME do all the work of selling it? The big question to answer is: "what's in it for them?"
I laud those who read this Blog but I have no intention of putting it into book form for chess fans (maybe business people though). People are in a hurry, unfortunately, and some of them take short cuts by reading blogs at work they wouldn't spend two minutes worth of time reading at home.
One other point. The Gold Card will be good for all this year but it will only be sold between now and March 31, 2010. Because of birthday anniversaries, special events, and the holidays coming up throughout 2010 I would recommend getting one. They will not be sold AFTER March 31, 2010. Most of us have NO idea what will be available in the coming months to save money on. As "cards" go, this exclusive "membership" is inexpensive (cheap). Complaining later always falls on deaf ears. I do take "cards" to pay for this card: Visa, MasterCard, and Discover (PayPal also).
You can always get in touch with me at: firstname.lastname@example.org
Monday, February 22, 2010
Lately I have been getting a lot of internal "press" from those who have told me how many TPi books they have, or how much they liked them. In fact, IM Walter Shipman wrote to say he loved the Richter-Veresov by Gufeld and Stetsko. He wrote:
"I just played this opening yesterday in the 38th Annual People's Tournament at Concord, CA. My opponent was a strong young expert who was befuddled by it!"
This is just one of many. My question is: "Do you think (and can you give reasons?) that TPi should be publishing books on chess by outsiders again?"
Economically I can't find a reason to say yes. Some publishers are taking more chances like I used to. But also economically, selling to Borders and Barnes & Noble is such a pain in the ass you wouldn't believe it. When all is said and done, there is no money there because they return at least half the books and not in the mint condition I sent them. Their coffee cafes are what's important.
Other resellers sell them when they come out but seldom reorder unless it is really HOT! So much stuff is coming out these days it's hard to keep up. And even the stronger players are writing, like Sokolov on his Winning Middlegame Structures (a fine book by the way).
If you leave your comments (you probably have to join first--not my idea, Google's) I will read them. Lots of people would love to be published but I need a compelling reason and most of the time, I don't see one! (Personal ego doesn't sway me.)
However, soon The Chess Gospel According to John* (by Purdy) will be coming out. It is a terrific expanded version (60 extra pages) of Guide to Good Chess. Additions are stuff like creating a system of winning, and avoiding as much as possible, blunders.
What surprised me is that while I was reproofing the book, even I, a former expert, saw stuff I could have used and missed the first time round. I would recommend this to anyone rated 700-2200.
Saturday, February 20, 2010
I have a lot of things to do this Saturday. I can't get them all started or completed. Where did I leave off last night?
Now another thought erupts... the TPi chess DVD White Shockers which IM Andrew Martin made at my house in October. I could get it started. I remember some great stuff he put on it--seven items I believe on opening methods for downing your opponent in such a way as to put a blank expression on his face.
My son Rob had once asked if I would put up something on YouTube. This time the answer will be "yes." Maybe a short ten minute clip if I have one. Should it be the BEST one or one that is not as great as the best? There's only one way to find out and that is to go through all of them! A stint like that can last 4-5 hours and leave me bleary-eyed when done.
Then it's time to go to Borders, or Steak 'n Shake or some place to let my head unwind... or even work on another project that requires less intensity--I have plenty of them staring me in the face. How do I decide which?
The answer is fairly simple. While long-term good results can keep on keeping on, those bills are always lying there waiting to be paid. So the short of it is to go for some quick sales. I advertise my cataloged products as the "best" of chess stuffs out there. A lesson I am learning the hard way is this isn't always what seems attractive to a potential buyer. Week after week I get chess notices about this and that, and most of that is short-term, plausibly okay, but not very enticing. In other words, because it appears on NIC's lengthy list of books and DVDs that doesn't make it good--after all, they are "feeding" the machine (their business and all their employees).
People say they want the best but they also say the don't want to pay "that much" for it. I thought about that and before going to bed last night it hits me like thunder. A book like Moskalenko's The Flexible French is $25 or so. Twenty-five bucks that is chock full of goodies worth $500 or more worth of time and research to me. It's right there waiting to be tapped. Don't look at it as $25, use it as if it is going to make you a better player of the French because someone else, stronger than yourself by a huge amount, has done a lot of the work (not all, you still have to apply it). But the important question is: if I get to the point of learning what's in this book or on a video don't I have to try it out in a real event to see the fruit of "my" labors? I think so.
Now to the shower and after that to working on the DVD, a short-term and long-term project.
Friday, February 19, 2010
McFarland and Company resides in a place in NW North Carolina. In Jefferson after a series of winding roads through the mountains you will find their long modern steel building with about 40 employees. They publish a lot of books every year, mostly in high class hardcover editions on acid free paper.
When it comes to chess books one of the main designers is Robby Franklin, president. Don't know how he has the time.
Most of their books are on chess history, usually involving Americans, but not always (Adolf Albin is an example: a Romanian who visited the USA for a few years). They have had authors such as Andrew Soltis, John Hilbert, Peter Lahde, Eliot Hearst, Leonard Skinner, Robert Verhoeven, Kurt Landesberger, Cary Utterberg. Jeremy Gaige, and internationals such as Edward Winter, Richard Forster, and Gino Di Felice.
Like all publishers they've had a few clunkers. But in the main, not one to waste review copies (I never get any), their work is excellent. Many of their books are sold to libraries.
The words of praise from some reviewers are annoying because often they say the same thing, the same words, and come from the same people/organizations. I don't see how these "expert reviewers" can have even read the book or even spent 30 minutes with it. "Four stars," what does that mean? McFarland doesn't even need reviewers.
I remember getting into a disagreement with the Prez over dust jackets, the lack thereof. They can be a pain, but now they are made of sterner stuff and you can get paper that doesn't tear. Color costs but it also advertises and saves the wonderful cloth covers from scratching. It also makes it easier to find these beautiful books on a shelve full of dark bindings.
Franklin prides himself on being stubborn. I asked if I could print up the covers myself for my own clients and he "preferred" that I not do that (it would make other buyers envious... which to me admits the mistake). Yes, it adds to the cost, what doesn't? If a book is $65 surely no one is going to object if it is $70! I wasn't persuasive except that I noticed there are color covers on the softcovers they produce!!
At times they take chances with fiction such as Soltis' Los Veraces 2019 and Yaffe's Alekhine's Anguish but their emphasis is on history. These books often include rare photographs or illustrations taken from older magazines (such as in the new Hodges book).
The late Ken Whyld was one of McFarland's historical editors; I don't know who occupies that position now.
Besides chess, they also publish on the Civil War, baseball, money, automotive and many other subjects (movie stars, general reference, etc.) The offices are packed with books and busy. I was there about 2003, across the street from their new warehouse.
If you are interested in such books on chess from McFarland, I have been selling their properties for many years and am one of the few regular chess sellers to do so as their books are not cheap, running from about $45-$125 (The high-end, fabulous Alexander Alekhine book!)
Thursday, February 18, 2010
Laz Munoz just told me this morning that Purdy's Chess Bits and Obits is selling on Amazon's Marketplace for $161 new and $141 used.
I would add the phrase, "attempting to sell," because only a fool would pay that.
It shows me there is something SERIOUSLY wrong with Amazon and that there is a SPY inside the company. This sounds worth reporting. Why? Because I told them a few days ago that I could no longer ship that ONE copy to them they wanted as I was out of that book and it was permanently unavailable. I pretty much doubt this was a coincidence.
Just as when I see books of mine that are advertised as being available when it has yet to be released... this kind of crap is unconscionable. If I had gotten this kind of "play" when the book was first released I would have reprinted it years ago.
I would love to see the order come in and who it was from for the bozo who shells out that kind of money for this $25 book.
One thing that is still being learned, there is NO end to greed. I wonder what will happen when The Chess Gospel According to John is released in a few weeks, another CJS Purdy book... ho hum?
Should I announce Ray Smullyan's Some Interesting Memories as no longer being available as I have boxes and boxes of them in a garage? I wonder if I have an extra box of Chess Bits around here somewhere?? No end to greed.
Wednesday, February 17, 2010
A friend started out his phone conversation to me last night with "I know you aren't going to wanna hear this, but I lost a won game" followed by "If I had..."
He then went on to talk (after his game was over) about how everyone said to him, afterwards, "You had him!" I asked him if they offered any moves as proof. He said, "No, I got a phone call from a friend and we didn't discuss it any further."
He came over this afternoon and we looked at the game.
1. He definitely had Black bound up, but there was no obvious win (I am not using ChessBase here). Black was out of moves, sort of. He could move his K back and forth.
2. The problem was, White confused this position with a "won" game. I didn't see a win. The onlookers were wrong.
3. He failed to investigate an innocuous-looking move. Then Black unleashed his B to attack White's B and at the same time Black had a Rook attacking White's Q. Depressed, White sacked his Q and B for a couple Rs. Not good enough but an interesting try. Before he showed me the move which "cowed" him he defied me to find the move (since if I didn't see it how could anyone expect him to?). I suggested ...Bb4 and slowly he nodded his head. Finally, he said, "That's what he played."
Where White really went wrong was that it didn't occur to him to retreat his attacked Q back to where she came from and protect the B which was attacked by Black's B. Black then has no advantage. None of the other guys saw this either. I call it "group blindness."
What happened was White "blinded" himself. How? He told himself he had a "win" though if he did it was some moves away and nothing clear. By having to retreat when it looked like he had a "win," which wasn't really there, his Big Edge would evaporate. I've seen a lot of people do this. Once they have made up their mind they have a win they can't let this idea go even if they should. Regroup, try something else. One doesn't have to give up, but his way led to defeat. So he didn't get 1-0 and he didn't get 1/2-1/2. He got a zero for over-the-top thinking. His emotions made his moves, not his head. He had played well enough most of the game. He was almost 400 points below the eventual winner. If he had won he would have been 3-0.
Harkening back to Purdy who said to look at each position anew, as if you are seeing it for the first time. I am not saying this is easy to do, because I am sure I have violated it myself. But if you want to win more games you have to cut down on the panic. Because White felt he had Black in a vise he went after a meaningless pawn, and that's exactly what Black was hoping for. Black was in trouble and invariably this makes the "weaker" player (in position, not Elo) more vigilant, more rascally, and more "mean." It paid off as it probably has other times.
My last comment was: "If you were playing me you would have seen the Queen retreat because you fear me more and the opponent you lost to you fear less because you used to beat him like a Persian rug." Treat these guys with respect whether you like them or not.
Tuesday, February 16, 2010
As stated before, Everyman Chess, is jacking up all their chess book prices. Kasparov's Predecessors books are not immune. Vols. 1, 4, and 5 will have price increases in late March as these books arrive from Britain. I still have them at the older prices (email@example.com in case you need a catalog). I very much doubt that I can reorder at the older prices.
It's weird actually, but some books quickly sell out when it is discovered they need to be reprinted soon. Do people wait until the last minute? Yes, and for all kinds of "it don't make no sense reasons." The usual one is, "I just haven't gotten around to it." Or in one case I witnessed, a player-reader was browsing the book in a comfortable chair at Borders. He told me he never bought chess books.
To go into the sordid printing history of anything done by Everyman (and it's predecessors) I would have to post an article in another chess publication I edit, Chess EXTRAS, where I can take the extra pages, as it were. In fact I am working on issue #4 and I think there will be some extremely different and great material contain therein. If you want a subscription to the six issues it is $65, or $50 if you own a 2010 Gold Card.
Everyman's other chess books are undergoing price boosts too including Watson's 3rd edition of the French. If you want to read more about Everyman's proofing of chess books, take in a subscription (at the moment, $19.95) for The Chess Reports where a review of Kingpin magazines reveals all.
Now to renew my driver's license this afternoon. I didn't know it had expired! I think the trip back from Georgia did me in. Time to retake the test (this is not a unique experience for me).
BTW, an aside, I've reviewed and watched the new Seirawan DVD. It is superb. A+ material. I've had to order more copies. I think I have one left and I hadn't even reviewed it in TCR until now.
Monday, February 15, 2010
This morning I read on the ChessBase website, as the lead article, that the new Yasser Seirawan My Best Games DVD was "the best." I will be listening to it this afternoon along with the rest of "1.e4 Repertoire..." by Sam Collins.
One purchasing client told me he thought the Sam Collins DVD was too monotonic. His ear. I played it and found it "even" which is different than monotonic. My ear. Even though Sam won the Irish Championship, he doesn't sound too Irish! Americans know what Irish sounds like since we can find it in all parts of many of our family trees.
Sam is even, again. And he says "aah" a lot (in the beginning--he cleans up well later; nerves perhaps). I don't necessarily fault him on that because I was watching a news show on the TV at the gym last Saturday and the transcriptionist for "close captioned" had to keep typing "You know." In one sentence the guy on the tube must've said "you know" at least 4-5 times. That person should have been hosed down and taught how to communicate before ever being allowed to speak nationally.
As to Mr. Collins, a little change in inflection would help (he's in the spirit at the end of the DVD). And, it would help even more if he seemed excited about his topic rather than sounding like he was just doing a job. Smiling more wouldn't hurt either. People love smiles--even Korchnoi (Viktor the Terrible) knows how to do this.
On the other hand (OTOH) he does a credible job. There is a lot of material to show how after 1. e4 White can handle what Black throws at him. As usual, they leave out those openings that "unreal opponents" will throw at you (Nimzovich Defense, for example). Why is that? Unless there is a part II, which I very much doubt, it HAS to be because they don't have something good against the stuff they left out or they would be dying to show you! Sam is not alone, it happened in FCO and other books too.
But, OTOH, I've seen books which DO give lines to use against the "lesser light openings." Sometimes they are quite interesting if brief. But, when thinking about it, how does someone reduce a book of 180-200 pages on a particular system with just one line or a pair of lines? There is little press on the Richter-Veresov except for a book by Gufeld which TPi published and a book written by Nigel Davies from Everyman. Yet last week I got a nice letter of testimony from IM Walter Shipman telling me how much he likes the work of TPi. He also wanted to know if I could round up a spare copy of Richter-Veresov, the Chameleon Chess Repertoire. He had a game in it where Dzindzichashvili had the advantage, but lost (Shipman was White). Life and chess are like that.
Hence, just because someone is dismissive (using the old, "I only have so much space" line) doesn't mean it can't work for you.
Sam covers 1. e4 c5 2. c3. (Alapin Sicilian). He then tackles 1. e4 e5, a very big job. There are five games with the Two Knights Defense (with 4. d3). I was surprised the Two Knights was this popular, but, there you are (he may use Bc4 to avoid tons of Ruy Lopez theory for Black). Then comes the Petroff and Philidor. Following that, there are five French Defense games (using the Tarrasch). Then the Caro-Kann (five games) followed by three Alekhine's Defenses. Then one Center Counter and two Pirc/Moderns (with one of them being played by Collins himself (2194 in 2001) against the Modern-Pirc whiz GM, Tiger Hillarp Persson (2438 same year obviously)). As Sam pronounces the Pirc as Pirk, you can ignore that mispronunciation as so many others blow this one too.
He says he pretty much has been playing these systems all of his chess life... that's worth something to the viewer. He has some nice setups AND there are 50 clips of presentation. A good workmanlike job to save you from too much study (if that is a problem for you).
The Seirawan review will be covered in this Friday's edition of The Chess Reports.
Saturday, February 13, 2010
I look at my desk and what do I see? Too much and seldom the time to organize. But a few salient points have popped up in the last few days.
I am working with a terrific fellow to bring a known chess magazine to the US as a distributor. More details when that is finalized. "Interesting" is an overused word, but in this case I will say, "more than interesting."
Next. I am promoting two coffee mugs for purchase. More on that later as I know prices, the artwork, and the timing. It will be a limited edition like most things I "make." (Remember the Lasker Bust? I remembered when many wanted one but just weren't willing to shell out the bread. I have one or two left but the price is $500 each. Happy are those who bought it originally. They might sell you theirs for $495!)
The three free issues (mini subscription) plot for The Chess Reports has gone well. The number of fine folks who have responded to this "no strings attached" offer by tomorrow has equaled the number of paid subscribers I have! Just drop me a line if you want to jump on board. Need your name (I do not have ESP and contrary to "popular" belief, neither does anyone else. I was in the magic business for years and these "scientists" make me roll on the floor and laugh.) I think you will find The Chess Reports unlike any other chess magazine. Despite the "reports" in the name, there is very little news. The "Reports" are more along the line of "chess information" designed for you to win more games.
Last but not least I am working with a fellow in Seattle on a chess book which attempts to put the Hammer to those Openings which keep popping up like those moles at Chuck-e-Cheese in the Whack-a-mole contest. The Latvian Gambit, and some other bizarre systems I had never heard of. Remember, it's MY job NOT to flinch!!
As Dean Martin repeatedly said, once a week on his show, "Keep those cards and letters coming in." I might add, "and orders too, it's what keeps my world afloat."
Friday, February 12, 2010
It's two days away from Valentine's Day and the expiration of the special offer I made of giving out FREE mini subscriptions to The Chess Reports. Bob Woodworth wrote the other day to take advantage of the no strings attached offer and said he has never gotten anything FREE in his life except from relatives (we always exclude relatives don't we?). So Bob W. has another new experience in his life.
I suppose some wonder why I would write about this more than once or twice in a one week period. It's a marketing thing and the answer is simple: it takes up to seven times (!) before the majority of people are even aware some kind of deal is going on -- that's why people keep advertising in the newspapers every week or every other week and so on. After a while their brain pops on and mutters "Hey, it seems like Department Store D has a sales of 'something' every Wednesday." Or there is a section in the newspaper every Thursday relating what is going on for the coming weekend. You get the idea.
So I will send another PDF reminder today. Not exactly seven times (or nine or eleven by the count of others) but three (in some form or another). Let's see what happens.
So far 21 people have responded out of 650! That's 3%. Remember when I wrote I had 13 and said .2 % ? That should have been 2%. I predicted it would be 20 who answered too and we have 21. Estimation has always been my bag as well as a study of human nature. I suspect with the emailing today I will pick up a few more.
Sometimes it takes a while to notice something OR we invoke that old rut-routine "I don't have time." I know a guy who couldn't wait for retirement; he was anticipating it like nothing I have ever seen. I heard, for years, how he didn't have the time to do this or that, but I noticed he always had time to spend on pursuits such as second hand stores, eating out, gambling, etc. Chess was "in his mind," but waaaaay down the list.
Now he is retired and when I talked with him last week, about some secular (i.e., non-chess) matter, the first phrase from his mouth was, "I don't have the time!" Now he doesn't have that job he hated, but the second hand stores, the gambling, the restaurant life, etc. is going stronger than ever... oh I forgot, he still spends a lot of time online playing chess (in bed, the car, and wherever). He did that before with no apparent success.
Is there an upside to this story? Certainly. He entered his first weekly chess tournament in some years. He has won two games in a row! Some people take time for the whole shootin' match to sink in. So I suspect some more will climb aboard the FREE subscription train for issues #99-100-101.
I've been diligently working on issue #100 but can send #99 to you today! Announcements of new products or new ideas are almost always made in The Chess Reports first because those readers are special to me (they paid!).
I know some of those people who signed up won't get a cheap ($19.95) subscription but several already have by-passed the free issues and gone straight to subscribing. I am aware of that from the getgo. Part of my job is to show them how subscribing will be MORE fun than not subscribing, and not that expensive either. The next issue will have, among other things, some great tips, a note from Laz Munoz on getting older chess programs to work on your machine, etc.
Years ago I had over 500 people who got my Chess Gazette. It was free and would run 4-12 pages! I had it printed and mailed out. It was expensive. 75% of these people never bought a thing... so I had to eventually terminate it (the jaded never think this will happen to them, but, it does). But the customers still remember it. That's why I am asking you to subscribe, it shows some initiative on your part.
Yes, I did pay for the "chess heart" on the chess board. It seemed so appropriate.
Tell your friends, if you have any (as some wag once said) about this offer. Thanks.
Thursday, February 11, 2010
Remember Yogi's comment: "It ain't over 'til it's over?" Some people forget that when they play chess (or watch baseball or football).
Yesterday I received an email while an internet game was in progress. It was from a friend so I read it then instead of waiting until later.
He described how he had sacked, or was down, two pieces and playing one of the 5 most fantastic games of his life, and that he was winning! He was pumped. The game notation was in PGN and he sent what he had to me, at that point of the game.
Before I got a chance to look at it (later) I got another message saying to "forget it." He had lost because of an intervening "pawn move." I asked him how he thought the winner of the contest would have felt about it had their roles been reversed. Funny, he gave me the right answers.
That wasn't all. Earlier in the day a chess shopper stopped by to pick up a couple items: a book and a DVD. He went on to describe his disastrous play at an out of town tournament from the past Saturday of the weekend. Invariably it was punctuated with stuff like: "I was up a Knight and a pawn, and I messed up just one time and I lost." And there were other versions of that in 2 other games. IT ONLY TAKES ONE MOVE while your opponent just keeps "plodding" along.
In all cases both tellers of tales were enthusiastic, but in neither cases were they realistic. There was some serious putting the cart before the horse.
My breakthrough in the psychology of the moment came just now: there were stories, already in their head, about how life was a little bit unfair (don't all of us already know that?). They were a better player than X (because I know I have it won), but he was "lucky." If that's the case, learn how to be LUCKY.
Since I don't believe in luck and wrote about that in my the Chess Assassin's Business Manual, I believe there will be a tough row to hoe in the Lucky Department.
When my chess showed serious improvement there were at least two factors in force:
1) Don't play fast, there's no reason to not use all your allotted time;
2) I stopped being so "aggressive" in the opening. I had felt I wouldn't win if I didn't have the initiative.
It worked. As to the initiative, hmmm.... Now sometimes my opponent grabs the initiative with a vengeance and HE loses; poor piece placement or no development.
The other day a customer told me he asked a player rated over 2000 "What is the best way to improve as a relatively new player?" I couldn't believe the answer from the expert. I'm sure he hadn't taken his own advice. He replied, "Learn opening theory!" Buzzer goes off.... wrongo. It's shoot-from-the-hip answers like this which make you take even longer to improve.
Here was my answer. "Get most or all of your pieces out to decent squares. Castle safely." This is methodical and may not be to everyone's liking but I had seen my own son win tons of games like this when he was starting out. When I asked him what was HIS secret he said, "I develop my pieces." He hadn't time to learn much opening theory and yet the guys who knew the Urusov Gambit, etc. had real problems on their hands. Success then breeds more success, studying opening and endgame theory, tactics, etc.
There is a LOT of bad verbal advice going on out there (especially at tournaments). And while you are at it, get your own "bad advice" out of your head.
Wednesday, February 10, 2010
Twelve months ago I restarted the many years old business Chessco and renamed it "G&L CHESS" or "Gilbert & Lange" Chess after my grandfathers' surnames. My original Chessco was bought and then everything was lapsed by the owner.
Today I published a new catalog, which will be sent to those who have been receiving my catalogs. There are lower DVD prices, quite good G&L prices, excellent Gold Card prices, stories about books, pictures, and a lot of other things.
I hope to hear from you (with an order perhaps?). If you read this Blog of G&L data as I publish it, but do not get one of these "cool" (colder than a well-digger's behind in the Midwest) catalogs, tell me : firstname.lastname@example.org and I will send you one.
My granite face has been replaced by someone (?) familiar.
Tuesday, February 9, 2010
The iPhone has an app for entering chess moves and offering help to those who seem to "need" help. PocketFritz 4 has just been released.
I have seen the iPhone in action at one of my recent Chess Clinics. Tell me, how can one sit there and enter moves and listen with attention to a workshop? I see little if no evidence. Given that some people must be busy every second of every day doing meaningless stuff how do they learn anything?
Then there is the "cheating" aspect. Whether innocent (stupid) or not (also stupid), I wouldn't advise carrying an "on" cell phone to a chess event (esp. a tournament or match). I can't believe how easy it is to create a new addiction. Just this morning I saw a guy walking down a sidewalk, about 1 mile per hour, texting. No hat on his head, or hood, snowing, coat open (and not a kid)... but he was sending a message or checking his phone for messages. How productive is that? How can everyone who pleads "I have no money" afford this?
What I am after today is commentary from readers on the use of cell phones or software devices as it pertains to chess. For example, I would get annoyed if I sat playing someone who after every move, had to leave and make a call, take a call, check messages, and horrors, use it against me. I have a cell phone, but no apps on it, and I don't call or receive calls during an event, of any kind. (The answer is simple: what did we do before we had a cell phone? Nothing. It wasn't important and still isn't. What I hear is, "I'm expecting a phone call from A." Well them them call back!)
What is your thinking on this? Chess is supposed to be a thinking game, what about the cheating aspects? How much thinking is going into that? Some people only want to be concerned about "battery life" because they want to keep their phone always on! That could be very detrimental at a chess tournament.
If you've had any experiences, please comment. If you have worries/concerns, please comment. Don't tell me you have no opinion because I've found when it comes to cell phones/cheating, EVERYONE has an opinion!
Monday, February 8, 2010
Recently someone told me they liked chess books better than chess DVDs because there is so much more in the books. Yep, that's true. And you can fan through the book instead of reaching for your remote or mouse to change videos.
And, I've pointed out before that you can take books anywhere (almost--I don't think skydiving and reading a chess book [or more weird, playing chess] would be that interesting, though I am sure some one has done it).
But DVDs have a couple REALLY good points too. For some reason, I've noticed some books don't exactly go out of their way to identify a critical opening variation that is currently hotter than a pistol. They talk around it, talk about its fashionability, and that a lot of games have been played, and so on... but one thing a DVD tends to do is FOCUS on critical stuff (unless it is a Best Games DVD).
For example, if you look at former world champion Rustam Kasimdzhanov's DVDs (three of them) on the French Defense, he gets right down to business. When he works on the Winawer, especially Botvinnik's Bishop retreat to a4 (Botvinnik probably did not originate this, but he did play it), Rustam shows the really critical variations and comes right out and says, in effect, Black will not survive while showing a game with the intrepid Artur Yusupov.
In fact, if DVD makers want to go one step further, they could put a couple of these video clips up front and tell you from the get-go, "there are problems here in the X-Y-Z." This could be done for the Sveshnikov Sicilian, the Gruenfeld Exchange, and doubtlessly, many other systems.
Then, when you get into that you can start seeing the value of previous tries, why some are rejected, and others reinstated. Today, and not later after a futile search of the internet to find more inaccurate reportings by weak players who have nothing else to do.
Kasparov quit playing the King's Indian. Occasionally one would read about this but many had figured he was having a harder time winning with it (in his style). Apparently the game that did it was in 1997 against Kramnik, which he lost. After that he didn't play it, and others were playing it less and less. Then Kasimdzhanov and Radjabov came along and began winning with it, and now it is ever more popular.
Most opening books don't tell stories. Instead, variations are pumped out like raw sewage in too many cases. When a DVD is made, there is always that chance a story may be told (some tell stories better than others--Korchnoi is one of the good ones). This makes certain points more easily retrieved.
Books and DVDs, they both have their innate value. I use both. DVDs generally cost more unless you have the G&L GOLD CARD ($50 for 2010). If you want to know more, send me an email and I will drop the February Update list in your email lap. Available now.
Saturday, February 6, 2010
In the olden days if one mentioned FREE in a classified ad, or in a magazine, and so on, the response was often large and somewhat predictable. This isn't, in my experience, true anymore. Yes, it may be true for neophytes, but not in general.
Yesterday I sent out an offer for a FREE mini-subscription (3 issues) to 350 people on my cultivated email list about The Chess Reports. All you had to do was tell me you wanted it and provide your name (in general I already have your name when I send the announcement, but occasionally I get queries with no name--and they want me to respond??) (Plug: If you are new to me, send me a request and I will send you three free copies as they are issued.)
There is no money expenditure, no first born child wanted, no ransom note... just 30 seconds of your time. So far I've gotten 13 responses within a 18 hour period. I'll add a few more between now and Valentine's Day (the cut off). Let's say, and be generous, 7 more. That's 20, or a little over a half-percent return... and this message went to CHESS people!! This was a free offer. I made nothing from this with but one exception.
Gary Barker subscribed at the $19.95 rate for the whole semester (which usually costs $50). Thanks Gary. Gary is one of those valuable customers who comes to my Chess Clinics.
Sure, I am trying to get new subscribers and therefore, in the end, some buyers for my wares, but this really was a free offer, no "strings attached" (that brought some out as they duly mentioned that message when replying).
To me that means one of two things:
1) Some people are afraid they might get hooked and actually spend money.
2) They already have no time in their life as it is and this would be one more thing to take away what little time they do have.
The problem is: waste. We all waste time somewhere. To wit: last night I had a dinner engagement with an acquaintance at 6 p.m. He never showed though he left a message which did not show on my phone. What happened? My guess is that when he made this dinner offer he thought there would be no "problems." Rather than crying in the beer I do not drink, I ordered lemon-peppered catfish, ate it, paid for it, and went home. Did I waste two hours? In terms of my original goal I did. In terms of having the time back to work on some cash-raising projects I also did. In terms of doing something for myself and finding out about a new, and great, restaurant, I didn't. Find the silver-lining.
I'm still learning and I'm still not standing still.
Sometimes FREE really is free. Don't be afraid to get your feet wet; where else are your surprises going to come from?
Friday, February 5, 2010
Seth Godin's re-release of All Marketers Are Liars recently had the title changed to All Marketers Tell Stories. He thinks the later title is better. I think it is weaker. His name will sell the book, but to newcomers it doesn't have the cachet or come on of the older title which showed him on the cover with a Pinocchio-like nose. That is what made ME buy the book even quicker. The book is about being "authentic." Being authentic is the better road to take though it may take longer to get there.
Well, good marketers do tell stories. You see lots of stories in my writings because I think it is a better way to engage the reader. It also takes some of the abstraction away.
For example, I just upgraded my copy of Adobe's InDesign from CS2 to CS4. While waiting in the doc's office yesterday I read of a feature that was in CS3 (I checked what I had missed by bypassing CS3) that I had thought about a long time ago, the ability to make "type," even one character, look 3-D, and also in color. I had thought of this idea with respect to emphasizing some important point on a typeset chessboard! I "know" it will be in the CS4 version! Hopefully, good for my customers--perhaps I will tell a story about that as I tried to imagine how Adobe could accomplish a feat such as that which had never been done before except on the screen.
The problem with some marketers is they really DO lie. An example: I can remember a couple years ago seeing a DVD title of mine on a web site showing their top 10 sellers. My item was #5. It would have been thrilling except for the fact that I received an e-mail from the guy responsible for that who had ALWAYS impressed me as phony AND a liar (he couldn't keep commitments). In his email he told me what a DOG my product was. (It wasn't really, I just hadn't silk-screen printed the DVDs!) So he was telling me one story and web viewers another. I can't believe he was so brain-dead to relate this. Fortunately, he's gone, and I predicted to him that would happen.
(I saved the screen shot in case he denied it. He was gone before he could.)
True stories are usually better than made up stories and if a rough edge is "rounded," that can make it even more appealing without ruining the drama. The movies do this all the time when they use the phrase "based on a true story." Yeah, right.
I'll get back to this subject next week when it comes to giving out Gift-Cards 6-8 weeks AFTER you have responded to something. Doesn't that show you how much they really care?
PS: The above picture of Seth's older book cover is also featured on page 230 of my book, The Chess Assassin's Business Manual (plug).
Thursday, February 4, 2010
On Monday I set the Tuesday column to show at 12:01 a.m. Didn't work; Google set it on Monday at 5:20 p.m.
Wednesday I was so busy that I forgot about writing a column as I was working on The Chess Reports. That is done, am busy creating some ads to help pay for this issue (#99!). TCR will go out tonight as I don't like waiting until the last minute. Always a good practice don't you think?
That's going to happen sometimes: I will be hard at work on one thing, and may forget the Blog. Believe me, there is NO shortage of material. So don't worry.
Here's an asinine business tip when dealing (don't!!!) with Worst Buy. I had received a $25 coupon to use on anything before March something. I was on that side of town and had the coupon with me. I found Seinfeld Season 9, which I didn't have, for $24.99. You know the rest don't you? I was so annoyed that I went back to look to see if there were other DVDs (at least two cheaper ones) totaling $25.98, but there was nothing I wanted. I wanted to head back home but that would waste gas unless the next time doubled as a trip for something else. I bit the bullet and bought a way overpriced candy bar--even though it was a Peter Paul Almond Joy I still felt screwed. When customers feel screwed they don't want to do business again anytime soon. I've already taken my computer business to a small shop run by 3-4 guys. $85/hr vs. $200/hr!
My point? At G&L CHESS I try hard to avoid terms like that (legalese B.S.). When the day comes that I have a web site, things get automated and it gets trickier. If I build the website I hope I can put in some kind of "fuzzy-logic" over ride, but I am not there yet and I wonder if anyone else is.
Monday, February 1, 2010
The author, David Rudel, and several others have told me that Dave's The Moment of Zuke is in the final 3 for winner's consideration for Book of the Year from ChessCafe.com ! You know that this could only happen with a new owner; meet Mark Donlan--who will start carrying Thinkers' Press, inc. books. Years ago Mark did some proofing for me.
While I am not much on fandom for Book of the Year, Movie of the Year, or anything like that, I do feel glad I had a hand in the design of a book which has brought David much sales, cheers, and notice. I applaud CC.com for giving him the opportunity. He is a hard worker and, in effect, put out three books last year (one was a revision of Zuke 'Em)-- a great achievement.
I still sell his books (though Dave handles everything else from Virginia). I remember the initial skepticism from some who thought he should be well known, a big rating, etc. Well, that all got swept away didn't it? (There may be another surprise later this year.)
If YOU have a book you want to see get published like this: you handle most sales (i.e., you get most of the dollars), the PR, a web site, etc. but you would like someone to design it (the book) for you (me), then contact me (email@example.com). You wouldn't believe the possibilities... and, Dave has found a way for someone else to handle most of the sales work too... he just makes trips to the bank.
Several people have already told me that my prices for making books are quite fair. Try me. I have slots open from April onward but if you want to get in now, and also save $250 off the top of your invoice, get hold of me soon.
Never listen to naysayers unless THEY have YOUR interests at heart. The problem with negative people is that they usually haven't done anything. Maybe they once started something, but they didn't finish it. If they really were as omniscient as they would have you believe, then they would know that they are not to be pitied losers.
When it comes to chess here's what you have to do as a publisher:
1. Find a subject that is popular with buyers (how you do this no one knows exactly).
2. Preferably, make it an opening book (or anything else that will sell).
3. The author needs impeccable credentials (or blemished credentials).
4. The publisher should have a decent track record (overall).
5. Make it late in getting into the hands of readers.
I have such a title, The Ruy Lopez Revisted by GM Ivan Sokolov.
The book was to appear in the Netherlands on December 15th. It looks like February 15th will be closer to it in the USA. So condition #5 is satisfied.
Not that much gets published on the Lopez these days--instead we are beat over the head with analytical "articles" on the Sicilian. See New in Chess publisher's Yearbooks. So #1-2-4 is satisfied. And as it was written by Sokolov, #3 is taken care of.
I have more pent up energy for purchasing this book than any other in a while; even back orders. If you want to join the bandwagon, contact me: firstname.lastname@example.org
What's it about? Similar in nature to The Flexible French by Moskalenko, it will have "bold, but very playable, off-beat weapons, as well as dynamic new ideas in many main variations."
That's what the brochure says; I don't yet have a review copy. Reasonably priced at a retail of $27.95, the book comes out in 240 pages, a little larger than 6x9, my standard size.
The reason I suspect it will be good is because Sokolov is a good writer and a strong player. His book on the middlegame: Winning Chess Middlegames is one of the best I've seen on using certain types of pawn structures to get the game you want to play and leave your opponent groping for words with, "How'd he do that?"
Most likely my copies won't be here until about the 3rd week of February, a week after Valentine's Day. Wish it could be sooner. Let me know.