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Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Simple Chess

I was looking through the book Simple Chess by British GM John Emms again and every time I do, I must admit I’m pretty impressed with it. In the introduction Emms writes, “This book is aimed as an introduction to positional chess; what to do when you reach a level where the phrase ‘chess is 99% tactics’ is no longer applicable; what to think about when your opponents see your traps even before you’ve set them; how to exploit a minute advantage such as a better P-structure or an opponent’s badly placed piece.”

Emms splits the book into three sections. Section 1 covers how and how not to take care of your pieces. This includes ‘good’ and ‘bad’ B’s, outposts and open files. Section 2 covers Pawns and P-structures including isolated, doubled, backward P’s, IQP’s and hanging P’s. Section 3 deals with such things as space, color complexes, opposite B’s and positional sacs.

Early on in the book where he is discussing outposts, he gives several sample games using the Najdorf Sicilian. Yes, he uses these games as examples and not some unusual, weird, offbeat or unsound opening. Using these games puts Emms in the same class as GM Alex Yermolinsky who advocates that aspiring players should not shun mainline openings played by GM’s. I would highly recommend this book to players who are stuck in the range of, say, 1400-1600, or maybe 1700, who have been devoting time to nothing but openings and tactics. The material contained in it should be enough to push them over 1800.

Speaking of the Najdorf Sicilian, he states, “this particular battle often revolves around the d5 square. If White can secure the d5 square as an outpost then his chances of success usually increase.” I found the following short game particularly instructive. You’ll notice that playing well positionally gave White enough of an edge that he can finish off the game tactically.


  1. What are your recommended books for someone rated around 1400?

  2. Everybody has a different opinion on this question! Personally I’ve always thought any book by CJS Purdy very helpful. His "Guide to Good Chess", while mostly a beginners book, highlights many of the strategic/tactical fundamentals. Jeremy Silman has pointed out that even though many average players think they are familiar with the fundamentals, they are, in fact, not, so a general review can never hurt. Purdy’s "Search for Chess Perfection" contains many great articles on how to think/analyze that were reprinted from his magazine. Purdy had the ability to communicate with average players in a simple, understandable manner. Jeremy Silman has highly praised his books. In fact Silman himself seems to have copied some of Purdy’s methods and I think Silman’s books are also excellent.

    Don’t forget the necessity of playing over master games. Even if you don’t understand everything you are learning pattern recognition. Pick a player you’re interested in, but I would advise it be one of the older, classical masters as their play was more clear cut than the eclectic play of today’s players. Also you might find my pdf booklet (which you can download from the link listed on the right) offesr some handy advice on improvement.