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Wednesday, December 5, 2012

More Worst Book Candidates

After posting Geoff Chandler’s review of the worst chess book ever I thought it would be fun to consider some other candidates for the title so here are some nominations I discovered around the web.

My candidate is How Not to Play Chess by Znosko-Borovsky. Best advice in the whole book: “Avoid mistakes.”
How to Think Ahead in Chess by Horowitz and Reinfeld. Comments: This book was a complete piece of junk…But really the worst of it was that it gave no clue as to how to approach the game as white if black didn't fall into the extremely passive setup that the book showed as blacks only option against the stonewall. Really pathetic. The person making those comments had many other bad things to say about this book and I agreed with all of them. After reading the book I actually tried the Stonewall and lost a bunch of games; it seemed my opponents would not cooperate by playing the passive and weak defenses like the book showed.

I don't have one particular worst book but anything by Gufeld is junkyou can use his pulp to start a fire.
How to Cheat at Chess by William Hartston. Kids can learn vulgar language in some other activity…but why would any intelligent author post a book containing cursing and other gutter language for kids who want to learn chess? Just flip it open and read five pages, anywhere in it, and you will likely just put it down again, unless vulgarity is your favorite for reading enjoyment. Anything by Bill Wallnothing to read in Wall's books. No words. Just stupid algebraic notation and a few diagrams.
Chess Course for Beginner's by Batsford. The book has several problems that are cooked …They tried to explain this as an exercise to see if students could pick out the cooked problems.
Raymond Keene must be considered among the top for king of worst books…Keene once was an outstanding author…Eventually, Keene realized there was not much money in producing quality, so he settled for quantity…And Keene is (as always) so overbearing as to be insufferable. Sounds like Keene took the same route as Fred Reinfeld who, early on, wrote some outstanding books.
A First Book of Morphy by Frisco Del Rosario. A LOT of people love this book but it almost made me quit chess.
This Crazy World of Chess by Larry Evans. I bought it because the cover said, "After reading this controversial book, you'll never look at chess the same way again." And from the introduction, "Hang on tight, you're in for a wild romp through the back door of chess." I was expecting some interesting insider stuff but instead got a collection of Evan's crappy newspaper articles. Evans had a strong dislike of FIDE and an ongoing dispute with historian Edward Winter who took aim at Evan’s repeated publishing of facts that weren’t facts at all. As Evan’s once replied to Winter, so what if the facts were wrong…it made a good story.
The Final Theory of Chess by Gary Danielson…several hundred page repertoire in languageless encyclopedic format, produced by a 1700ish player with Fritz.
The Grand Tactics of Chess by Franklin K. Young published in 1897. Young tried to apply military terms (now antiquated) like "Oblique Right" and the "Crochet" to chess. It was gibberish unless you were an army officer who fought in the Civil War.
Chess (Basics, Laws and Terms) by B.K. Chaturvedi. His Preface includes the observation ‘this book starts with the presumption that the reader is totally uninitiated’, but the reader ends with the presumption that it is the author who merits that description.

Any other nominations?


  1. Subjectivity!
    Refers to the title or the book?

    The book is simply brilliant and my friend Kevin Spraggettt considers it one of his favorite books. Alex Dunne in his beautiful book "Great Chess Book" considers it a classic. Even Watson came to praise the book. In the former USSR was almost compulsory reading book.

    What is the basis for asserting such a thing?
    About Gufeld we agree: taking his "Mona Lisa", his books are scary!
    But curiously no mention to the worst writer in the world of chess and maybe of all time: Eric Schiller! Why?
    Dear Friend: Lev Polugayevsky wrote that everything that is published in chess, 90% should never have been written because it serves no purpose! I Could spend time explaining to you why the chapter on Yermolinsky Classics and Janovsky-Capablanca game comments is a real fraud - "Yermo Termo" lies with all the teeth! but the book was hailed as a giant!
    I respect your opinion, but i desagree about the book of Borovsky!
    From Portugal
    Arlindo Vieira
    Portuguese NM , Staunton chess sets collector, and a library of thousands of chess books.
    Best Regards

  2. At times even authors who get a lot of negative press put out some decent material. I only have Schiller's book The Blackmar Diemer Gambit. At the time it was an easy to read intro to learn the opening and although not the best on the opening, it was well worth the price. The key is to be able to get the points out of a book and APPLY them. Iknow people with tons of books but are weak, low rated players.

    But, the Final Theory of Chess was a bad book in opinion, too.

  3. The noted chess historian Edward Winter is a good source for finding out which mediocre, inaccurate and/or plagarizing chess writers to avoid. From what I've read, GM Keene and Eric Schiller seem to be "must avoid" writers unless you're willing to do your homework very carefully before buying anything they've written