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Friday, December 23, 2011

Truth in Advertising

Ever see the ads on television for the latest medicines?  They make wild claims about how great the stuff is and how it will cure whatever ails you. Of course just to cover themselves they are required to mention the side effects even if they are trivialized.  You know, little things like hair loss, erectile dysfunction, rectal bleeding, heart attack, stroke, birth defects or worst case scenario…death. Then there is the fine print (which isn’t on the screen long enough to read…not that it matters because it’s also too small to read anyway) in which they deny every good thing they said.  We usually trust our doctors, but many doctors are paid to peddle this dangerous stuff and the result is, it’s very hard to get the truth.

Anyway, at least advertisers are required to state side effects even if they do downplay them.  Too bad publishers of chess books aren’t required to do the same thing.  Here’s a small random sampling of book “reviews” for some of the latest chess books:
Reading this book, aimed at juniors, will make you “one of the best chess players in your school…” because it “teaches the four basic tricks” by helping you “weed out silly moves…”   Really?  That’s all it takes to weed out silly moves?!  Four basic tricks.  I have to buy that one!

Then there is the guide that “makes winning at chess easy.”  Add that one to my cart, too.
“Your results…will improve dramatically…” Great! Most of my improved results came painfully slow.
Then there’s the book that promises the ”winning formula for a quick and easy way to play chess today.” Quick and easy!  Into the shopping cart.
Of one book it was said you can, “increase your skill and understanding of chess with the tactics that have produced unparalleled Russian grandmasters.”  Yeah! I want to be a GM, so this one is a must have.
“To achieve success in chess, a little talent is required.”  Well, “a little talent” describes me pretty good so this is another must have.
And finally I definitely need this one that offers “easy-to-follow advice on developing nifty tricks that will confound your opponent and help you win the game.”
All this makes me admire GM Alex Yermolinsky even more when he wrote, ”The Soviet School was strong in numbers.  There were many talented kids in our chess club, but only a handful of us made it to become grandmasters…I haven’t developed a new revolutionary theory or system, neither have I any dreadful secrets of the Soviet School of Chess to reveal…there are plenty of examples of bad teaching…another hot selling approach is to wide masses of rank and file chessplayers who are are being told that there are certain ‘secret’ openings that will allow them to handle the resulting positions with ease…there is no ‘chess made easy’ advice that would immediately improve your chess.  Widely disseminated promises to introduce ‘new methods’, to reveal ‘secrets of the Soviet School of Chess’, etc. are no more than smart advertising moves.”
Publishers ought to be required to put that in their reviews even if it is in fine print. At the very least they ought to have a disclaimer that informs us the people who wrote the blurbs are "not actual users" or "Results not typical. Your results may vary."


  1. The most overused word in advertising is "secrets". Chess Secrets? Like their is a chess cult hiding arcane knowledge lol. Or secrets your doctor will not tell you.

    Who are all these secret holders? :)

  2. It is "They" You cannot trust them.