Book Review: Winning Chess Strategies

Winning Chess Strategies, by Yasser Seirawan with Jeremy Silman

Humorously enough, I finished reading this book shortly after playing my first face-to-face chess game in a few years, which I lost (alas) in a tough endgame after a largely closed position on the board.  I suppose like many people I can read about chess [1] better than playing it.  As this is the third book by the authors I have read, I have to say that this is the first of those books that I felt spoke to where I am at as a chess player.  The first book I read from them was a bit too challenging as it was aimed at people who looked to become chess masters, something I have not decided to do.  The second book I read of theirs was a bit too basic and had a political angle I was not in favor of, and so it was even more disappointing of a read than the first volume.  This third book, though, I think gets the balance right.  The book is aimed at positional and strategic play and does so in a pleasant and enjoyable and worthwhile fashion, making this the first book by the authors I have read that I can wholeheartedly recommend for a reader like myself.

This book of a bit more than 200 pages is divided into twelve chapters after its acknowledgements and introduction and before its glossary and index.  The authors begin a discussion about the importance of strategy in building a long-term pattern of victory in chess (1).  After that the authors talk about how one makes the most of a material advantage (2) and stops enemy counterplay by giving the other person’s pieces nowhere to go and nothing to do (3).  There is then a lengthy discussion of understanding where the pieces go (4)–something that some readers might (mistakenly) think of as an obvious and trivial issue, before the author talks about superior minor pieces (5) and how to properly use pawns (6).  After this the authors discuss various positional matters such as the creation of targets (7) through moves and sacrifices as well as territorial domination that hems in positions (8).  After this the authors discuss how to attack the king (9) and some faulty strategies that readers should avoid (10) before closing the book with a historical discussion of some great masters of strategy throughout the last 150 years or so like Steinitz, Rubinstein, Capablanca, Nimzovich, Petrosian, and Karpov, with some apologies for not including Botvinnik and Fischer (11) and giving solutions to the book’s various problems (12).

It is clear that without attempting a detailed discussion of positional thinking that this book seeks to provide the authors with an entry into the overall celebration and encouragement of positional principles among chess players.  Properly speaking, there are several different ways that players can approach chess.  Some players are heroic and romantic tactical players that seek to win through grand attacks.  There are also players, especially nowadays, who seek to win scientifically through the pursuit of engine-like play.  In between these two approaches, though, there is room for those who pursue sound positional play without the calculation of every option, and who seek to pursue gradual elements of permanent advantage that can be turned into (eventual) victory.  As those who have played chess against me are well aware of, I tend to be a grinder when it comes to patient and gradual play that takes a lot out of people.  Perhaps with time and a lot more practice I will be back where I feel comfortable playing chess with other people face to face a lot more often, but in the meantime at least there are good books to provide thought-provoking material on the subject.

[1] See, for example:

About nathanalbright

I'm a person with diverse interests who loves to read. If you want to know something about me, just ask.
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