Saturday, June 5, 2010

Review of "Bobby Fischer for Beginners"

My biggest hang-ups with chess books would be bad titles and misleading target audiences. Two flaws that often goes hand in hand. "Fischer for Beginners" does not fall into any of these traps or does it? Well, if you want to help a beginning player you have to adjust. The book presents a few very nice Fischer games plus Fischer's shortest recorded loss but the annotations should have been more geared towards the intended audience. I think the annotations should have approached advanced chess terms a bit more carefully in order to help the intended reader.

For example: I assume that a Chess Beginner has a rather limited knowledge about concepts such as "weak pawns". I think the annotations are missing the point (i.e. in this case helping beginners) when they state that there are weak pawns in a position without identifying the weak pawns or without explaining what makes them weak.

Furthermore, the author should perhaps have said more about the final position in some of the games presented. What made the player resign? For example in the game Byrne - Fischer (1963) the author suggests a continuation which according to other sources Fischer was hoping for but a continuation that is probably not the best.

The biographical part is nicely written but adds little to what can be read about Fischer online. The annotations could have been more tailored for the intended target audience. Overall the book is a bit half cooked.


  1. I both confused this book with another, and almost bought it when the author was signing copies in my local bookshop. Luckily for me, I had my sensible head on, and realised that reading it in Dutch (it's only published language at that point ) would not be profitable. Looks like I made the right choice. The author is more a journalist, I think, rather than a chess player. Not that that is bad, of course.

    The confusion ? I thought that this was the English version of "Schaken voor huisvrouwen". Not sure why....
    That book, by Karel van der Weide ( in English it's translated as 'Chess for Housewives") is quite frankly brilliant. Not if you want to learn about chess theory, variations, technicalities etc, but if you want a great read about his time as Chess coach for the Dutch Women's Team (among other things ) this is for you !
    Apologies to Dhr van der Weide (you never know he might be reading ) for mistaking his authorship !

  2. Thinking about it, as regards your observation on mis-leading titles, maybe the book is for beginners on Fischer, rather than beginners in chess. Having read it, would that be a better view of it ?

    I own Karpov's "Win with the Spanish" and its certainly misleading for me , since I never did, and gave up playing the Spanish (as White ) some years ago ! As Black against it I adopted the Cozio or Smyslov variation after picking up the much more correctly titled "Offbeat Spanish"by Glenn Flear. No promises in that title !!

    Incidently, I have only reached Fischer-level once, when my opponent resigned after I played 1.e4 :)

  3. Yes, The Biographical part clearly shows a writing skill seldom expressed in chess books. I think Karel van der Weide contributed to the annotations. My copy of the book is out of reach at the moment so I cannot check it up.

    The Cozio looks natural in a way and I have considered playing it should I dare into the double king's pawn wilderness

  4. Problem is Fischer remains one of the most recognizable and beloved characters in chess. People will be trying to capitalize on his name for years to come, so this kind of thing is going to happen.

  5. Indeed! happen and happen again!

  6. Interesting - I wonder how long people will associate Fischer to learning chess. The US needs another big name like him to come along and energize chess again.