Monday, August 25, 2008

Daniel King's "Chess: From First Moves to Checkmate"-- Book Review.

Looking in my large public library for an introductory book to teach myself chess, I could not find any appropriate title on the adult shelf. Many sports and games sections tend to be ransacked by borrowers and often titles have been stolen or at least gone missing as far as I can tell! In the teen section, I was surprised to find only Daniel King's primer.

The alluring combination of computer-generated graphics and simple text attracted me. I cannot judge the accuracy of King's technical remarks, but as an absolute beginner, I can attest to the helpfulness of his presentation. The book's only about sixty pages, with lots of art and minimal text. Very little on the game's origins and evolution. But, the board's diagrammed in an easily discerned series of illustrations, taking you from how each piece moves quickly into notation (a very brisk presentation that may well need supplementing with other materials), check and checkmate, and en passant and castling. These latter two options are not always given much detail, however, and the same note as for the notation applies.

Part two enters into what to do once you know how the pieces move. After all, many primers devote much time to what can be memorized, frankly, in a few minutes. King's concerned about openings, whisking you into the charts for forks, pins and skewers before attacks, sacrifices, and draws. He then offers training exercises and test situations (with answers on another page) to hone your knowledge.

The latter part of the book surveys the world of championships, famous players, and fun facts. I'd have preferred that some of this content have been supplemented by more detail on developing a learner's understanding of beginning, middle and end-games, but it's a handsome picture book that lies (in hardcover at least) flat for easy reference (often a point overlooked when you want to prop open a smaller paperback) and can be easily seen at a short distance, enabling you to practice on a board while you read. This feature may prove its utility as well as display its beauty.

(Posted to Amazon US today.)

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