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Monday, May 25, 2015

Point Count Chess by Horowitz and Mott-Smith

     This probably should go on my book review Blog, but I decided to put it here because it does have some interesting insights on the value of different positional factors you should consider when playing a game.
      I first read the book so far back I can't remember when it was, so when I ran across it in the library I couldn't resist taking a look at it. Then I discovered it was available as a free download on Google Drive HERE. I'd do that before I would pay anywhere from $26 to $121 on Amazon. If you find it in a used book store or a flea market and pay more than $2 for it you are robbed. You can also take a gander inside the book on Amazon HERE.
     Everybody knows Horowitz, but who was Geoffrey Mott-Smith?! He was a writer and cryptographer and the Mott-Smith trophy is awarded to the player who wins the most masterpoints at the American Contract Bridge League North American Bridge Championship. Mott-Smith (1902–1960) was co-chairman of the ACBL Laws Commission, editor of the ACBL Bridge Bulletin 1935–36, a contributor to The Bridge World, a writer and cryptographer. During World War II, Mott-Smith served as chief instructor for the OSS in the training of cryptographers and analysts. He wrote or co-wrote more than 29 books on games and served as games consultant for the Association of American Playing Card Manufacturers...now you know. 
     To begin with there is a foreword by Reshevsky in which he praises the system advocated in the book. It's just my opinion, but I doubt Reshevsky wrote the foreword; I think they paid him a $100 to use his name and wrote the foreword themselves...that's the way Reshevky operated. Chess Review magazine (published by Horowitz) called the book “a completely original concept in chess instruction.” 
     The authors purpose is to give a numerical value of different positional features that will help in determining the course of action. The claim is that by recognizing the points you can get an indication of the proper strategic plan.  You try to capitalize on plus points and eliminate or neutralize minus points and by totaling up the “net value” you can get some idea of how to continue. You can't evaluate a position by adding and subtracting points then comparing the totals to see which side stands better. OK, maybe in some ways that's the way engines operate, but we humans don't think like engines do. But, as I mentioned, there is some value in the book because it will teach you some valuable strategic concepts to look for.
     At the end are 14 annotated games with brief notes. It's rather weird that in the entire book in the diagrams the Knights are printed backwards. i.e. they are facing right instead of left. 
     Still, I don't think the book is a total bust. By calling your attention to the different positional factors it will help you recognize the strengths and weaknesses of the position. 

Here are the positional factors they used in applying the point count method:

Plus Points
Control of the center
Pawn on fourth v. pawn on third
Mobile pawn wing
Strong outpost station
Superior development
Greater space
Bishop v. knight
Half-open file
Control of useful open file
Rook(s) on the seventh rank
Passed pawn
Outside passed pawn
Protected passed pawn
Advanced pawn
Qualitative pawn majority
Advanced chain
Advanced salient
Better king position
Offside pawn majority

Minus Points

Backward pawn
Doubled pawn
Isolated pawn Hanging pawns
Hanging phalanx
Crippled majority wing

Weak-square complex
Compromised king-side
King held in center
Cramped position
Bad bishop


  1. Thanks for the link to the free download of Point Count! So nice for people to share info for the sake of knowledge, rather than trying to monetize everything.