Last year I posted a three-part guide to holiday gifts for the chess player or aficionado in your life. Most all of what was written there still stands, so before I mention a few newer items of note, I refer you to those three posts. I also encourage you to check out my complete list of reviews.
2013 Buying Guide #1: Clocks and Chess Interfaces (Note – ChessBase 13 is now available)
2013 Buying Guide #2: Databases and Engines (Note – the discussion of engines is slightly out of date; see this for updated information)
2013 Buying Guide #3: Chess books
Here are a few new thoughts on the swag you might buy for your beloved chess fan. Some (but not all) of what I mention has been reviewed here already; if it has been reviewed, I will link to the review in question.
For the serious player (or the player who wants to get serious):
ChessBase is indispensable. It is expensive, but it’s worth it, and your player will be over the moon upon receiving this. You can order from Amazon (available from Prime sellers) or download directly from chessbase.com if time is of the essence.
For the improving player:
Don’t let the length of Arthur van de Oudeweetering’s name trouble you. His new book from NIC, Improve Your Chess Pattern Recognition, is a great (and pronounceable) read on positional ‘priyomes’ or patterns. Most of the book started as columns in the defunct ChessVibes Magazine, and those columns were just brilliant. I expect the book (still waiting on a review copy) will be no different.
Pete Tamburro’s Openings for Amateurs is really good for young players and players rated below 1800. It is good with explaining ideas but also contains enough analysis to form a coherent repertoire.
The 4th edition of Dvoretsky’s Endgame Manual is out, and it’s the gold standard for one-volume endgame books. It’s a serious book for serious students, but I can’t think of a more useful book for someone who really wants to improve.
The Stappenmethode series of books is, in my opinion, the best training system available.
For the openings theoretician:
Two recent books from Quality Chess are stellar:
- Parimarjan Negi’s first book, GM Rep: 1.e4 vs the French, Caro-Kann and Philidor, is the opening book of the year, and among the best I’ve ever seen. Deep analysis, good explanation, and plenty of novelties… what more could you ask for, besides volume 2?
- Vassilios Kotronias’ new book on the Sicilian Sveshnikov meets and perhaps exceeds his usual high standards for quality. That’s no small task!
1.d4 players will appreciate any of Alexei Kornev’s three volumes on closed openings. I’ve spent some time with the third volume, devoted to the Nimzo-Indian and other lines, and I’ve found the analysis to be solid and understandable for non-masters.
Those with limited time for opening study and those looking for a very solid response to 1.e4 will like Hannes Langrock’s French Defense: the Solid Rubinstein Variation.
For the historian:
Andy Soltis has written a number of really important historical works, but for a long time they were only available in expensive hardcover format. Now McFarland has begun printing some of those titles in paperback. Two of them are worth consideration: Frank Marshall, United States Chess Champion, and Soviet Chess 1917-1991. I found the latter to be indispensible when I was reading and reviewing Soltis’ new book on Mikhail Botvinnik, which itself won the 2014 Chess Journalists of America Book of the Year award.
Jimmy Adams’ books have long been out of print and hard to find. His book on Johannes Zukertort, one of his best, has been reset and reprinted by New in Chess. There are lots of exciting attacking games in these pages.
For the chess fan:
Judit Polgar retired from competitive chess this year, but before she did, she left us with a gift. The three volumes of Judit Polgar Teaches Chess are luminous! They cover the entirety of her career, and while the books are structured by topic and theme instead of in a strictly linear fashion, there is a lot of color and personal reminiscence to complement the games and analysis. These are very personal works, and I think they’ll stand up against the best autobiographical works in the history of chess literature.
Bent Larsen’s Best Games makes the games of the Great Dane available once more to an English-speaking audience.
A ‘fan’ or a ‘historian’ would appreciate Mark Dvoretsky’s latest book, For Friends and Colleagues: Profession: Chess Coach. I reviewed this for the January 2015 issue of Chess Life, and while I can’t break the publishing embargo, let’s just say that the review was positive.
My best wishes to my readers for the holiday season!