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    Entries in Dvoretsky (6)

    Sunday
    Nov242013

    A Second Post On The Second Edition Of Dvoretsky's Analytical Manual

    Yesterday I wrote up a sort of micro-review of the second edition of Dvoretsky's Analytical Manual, noting that I had written a full review on a now-defunct version of my blog. Happily, Freddie Jones pointed me to my old review on the Internet Wayback Machine (many thanks!), and here it is:

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    Mark Dvoretsky, Dvoretsky's Analytical Manual (Russell Enterprises, 2008). 419 pp. $34.95. Reviewed by Dennis Monokroussos.

    Long-time readers of this blog will know that I'm a big fan of Mark Dvoretsky's work, and his latest book is no exception. This new work is not a unified monograph but a compilation of articles, some (but not all) of which have been published on the Chess Cafe - see his "The Instructor" columns. Not all of those columns are included, and those that have been have been re-checked and edited in some ways. Two useful features of the new edit: First, the positions to solve are awarded a certain number of stars to indicate the difficulty (1 star for the easiest positions, 5 for those that would cause Rybka to give up chess for something easy like nuclear physics). Second, the formatting of problems is better (though still not perfect). In the original Chess Cafe columns, it's often almost impossible to avoid seeing the answer, which is often given right alongside the diagram; here, it's below the diagram, making it possible to safely cover the answer in advance.

    Those columns will give you a very good taste for what you'll find here, but a few synthetic comments are in order. A major element of Dvoretsky's chess philosophy is that a chess improvement comes through the development of one's analytical skill. That's precisely what this book is good for: there are analysis exercises of tremendous depth for the serious, strong student. The book is designed to be used with a trainer or a sparring partner within 100 points of one's own rating, but in a pinch one can go through the exercises solitaire-chess style.

    That's what the book is; what it is not is a sort of middlegame companion piece to the earlier Dvoretsky's Endgame Manual. That work goes beyond the standard endgame textbook, but it is organized as a textbook and can be used in that way. Here, in the Analytical Manual, there isn't a corresponding principle of organization or unity.

    Part 1, "Immersion in the Position", focuses on exercises where accurate calculation of variations is the primary task.

    Part 2, "Analyzing the Endgame", is just what it sounds like. The reader doesn't get a discussion of topics like schematic thinking or the do-not-hurry principle, but is invited to calculate and analyze. (Example: there are 11 large, dense pages on the famous knight vs. bishop ending from game 9 of the first Karpov-Kasparov match.)

    Part 3, "Games for Training Purposes", doesn't really differ from the material in the first two parts, except that the analysis continues for a whole game rather than a fragment.

    In part 4, "Practical Psychology", the tone changes. Here there's an explicit acknowledgment of our inability to always get to the absolute bottom of things; sometimes our analyses must be supplemented by a psychologically informed intuition. Dvoretsky singles out three components of the psychological factor in chess, in descending order of importance: one's own psychology, the psychology of the "abstract opponent", and the character and playing style of our particular (non-abstract) opponent.

    Finally, there's part 5, "Lasker the Great", which celebrates Lasker not as some sort of psychologist who focused on and exploiting his opponent's concrete weaknesses - Dvoretsky consider this a myth - but as a powerful fighter. Dvoretsky takes a close look at seven Lasker games (including a whopping 28 pages on his famous draw with Edward Lasker from New York 1924); four of them wins, but a loss and two draws as well.

    In every game and fragment there are many places where Dvoretsky stops and challenges the reader to find the next move or moves. As you'll have gathered by now, these exercises are somewhere between challenging and impossible, so the question arises: who should buy this book? I like his answer, which I will now quote at length:


    The materials which in the course of my entire career as a trainer I have squirreled away and prepared for study (and later, used in books), have been aimed at youthful talents, who have already achieved a certain level of mastery, or else for young and ambitious grandmasters. A few reviewers have upbraided me for the excessive complexity of my books, and their inaccessibility to the common amateur. There is no more sense in such complaints than there would be in upbraiding the author of a beginners' primer for not making a book interesting for masters and grandmasters. Every book has its intended audience; it is not possible to make them interesting and useful for everybody at once.

    ...The book which lies before you is aimed first of all at helping strong players complete themselves. This ensures that it will overflow with exceptionally complex analyses and exercises which will be difficult for even the leading grandmasters to handle. But I suggest that even amateur players will find something of interest in it. How can it not be interesting to peek - perhaps not as an owner, but at least as a guest - into the world of high-level chess, to see with one's own eyes what sort of problems chess "pros" have to wrestle with (successfully or not), and how far from being complete even their play is? The many exercises presented in this book differ greatly from one another in their level of difficulty: some are fairly simple and accessible. It makes sense to take a stab at solving the tougher exercises, too; then later, once you have seen the answer, you will have a better grasp of your own abilities, strengths and weaknesses. And finally: the analyses presented in this book include a multitude of most impressive passages, unusual and spectacular moves and combinations - and chessplayers of almost any grade can certainly find enjoyment in beauty. [From the Introduction, page 7.]



    I agree with his reasoning, but fear that most buyers will look upon it as a holy book, and will take the equivalent of a sacred oath or a New Year's resolution to go through the work as their next step on the path to chess greatness. This "holy" book will then find its way to the blessed bookshelf, to be covered by sacramental dust.... The problem is that with such deep analysis, one doesn't want to look at the games superficially. But then to do it right takes hours, and for that one needs time and energy, and Hey - look at the cute bunny rabbit in the back yard! I wonder what's on TV tonight. See you tomorrow, Mr. Mark, when I've got more free time and am feeling perkier.

    Anyway, it's your money, and you'll be hard pressed to find a higher quality chess book than this one. Whether that means you should purchase this book is up to you. I hope that even if you're not part of the primary intended audience for the book, you'll give it a look anyway for the reasons he suggested. As long as you don't get caught up in the attitude described in the previous paragraph, I think you can enjoy the book quite a lot.

     

    Saturday
    Oct152011

    A Mini-Review of Dvoretsky's _Endgame Manual, 3rd Edition_

    Mark Dvoretsky, Dvoretsky's Endgame Manual, 3rd Edition (Russell Enterprises 2011). 405 pp. $34.95.

    I can make this review really quick: if you don't have an earlier edition, buy this one; if you do, then don't.

    There's no fundamentally new material here, just some tidying up of the earlier analysis here and there (but where in particular, neither the author nor the publisher gives us any advance clue*) and a slightly improved color scheme for the print. Otherwise, there's no difference between this edition and its predecessor. You might at first be fooled into thinking there are three more pages in the new edition, but that's because the page counted started two pages earlier, with the title page and its overleaf, plus the purely pro forma publisher's preface to this edition.

    So while there may not be much reason to get the "mini-upgrade", it's very much worth buying if you don't have an earlier version. This large and widely, rightly praised volume serves a dual function: it provides all the standard theory you'd expect in an endgame textbook, but has a strong practical component as well. Dvoretsky emphasizes typical techniques and mistakes, highlights and focuses in on what's foundational and builds from there, provides numerous exercises, and presents content not only by material but thematic elements as well. The reader isn't just given theory but loads of practical content as well.

    If you're around 1800-1900 and up, definitely get the book if you don't already have it. (Even an industrious 1600 could benefit considerably from the book.) There are other good endgame books (and videos) out there, but this is about as close to a must-have book as there is in chess, certainly for endgame play.

     

    * Maybe this silence has been done in the hopes of getting owners of the old editions to buy this one. After all, if they know where the changes are, they can just scan those pages (either figuratively or literally) and not bother buying the new book. Fine, but what about the people who actually buy it - do they really have to sit there with the two books side by side, poring over 400 pages in each, to see what the changes are and if they're significant? Not nice.

    Saturday
    Aug062011

    Dvoretsky's Tragicomedy in the Endgame: A Brief Review

    Mark Dvoretsky, Tragicomedy in the Endgame: Instructive Mistakes of the Masters (Russell Enterprises 2011). 264 pp. $29.95. Reviewed by Dennis Monokroussos.

    Those who have Dvoretsky's Endgame Manual (DEM) will probably recall that many sections conclude with a "tragicomedy" or two, examples where the players - often very strong ones - have gone terribly awry, usually in cases where they should have known better. Mark Dvoretsky has now expanded the tragicomedy concept into an entire book, still dedicated to endgames, calling this new book an "introduction" or "supplement" to DEM.

    While it may serve that function, the arrangement is different. DEM, like most endgame texts, divided the chapters by material: first pawn endings, then minor pieces, then rooks, etc. While the chess-related subject matter Tragicomedy is the ending (especially rook endings), its thematic focus is on errors, and therefore chapters are divided by the kinds of errors committed. The chapters, followed by a brief description of their contents, are as follows:

    1. "Swimming" in Theory: These are errors brought about by a deficient grasp of fundamental endings and/or motifs.

    2. The King in the Endgame: A grab bag of concepts are covered, from activating one's king and preventing the opponent from doing likewise, to motifs like "shouldering" and cutting off the enemy king.

    3. The Strength of the Pawns: The focus is on passed pawns: using them, stopping them, creating them and so on.

    4. Zugzwang: Self-explanatory.

    5. In Search of Salvation: Players (both on the strong side and the weak side) often overlook last ditch saves involving fortresses, stalemate, and different sorts of perpetual attack.

    6. Tactics: A relatively short, grab-bag chapter helpfully reminding us that the relative quiet of the endgame doesn't mean that middlegame-style tactics can't arise.

    7. Piece Play: The focus here is on maneuvers and exchanges, concepts more commonly associated with technique than with fundamental endgames. Which brings us to...

    8. Technique: Here the topics include prophylaxis, gaining/losing a tempo, move order and - turning to a more psychological theme - carelessness. Again, this offers a segue to...

    9. Premature End to the Struggle. Here we have examples where players resigned in a drawn position or agreed to a draw in a won position. (Ouch.)

    There's also a conclusion, offering some final tragicomedies from the ranks of world champions and near-champions (though there are plenty of other champions' gaffes earlier in the book as well).

    It isn't casual reading, but it's a good book that can help us reduce the number of fundamental errors we make in the endgame - if we put some in time and elbow grease. Here's one way of defining progress: if you first look at the book and think he's too hard on the players whose games he's examining, and then finish it and wonder how such greats could play so poorly, the book will have been a success.

    One critical remark: the book's editing isn't always as good as it should be - maybe it's not tragicomic, but it should be better, especially for a marquee author like Dvoretsky. Nevertheless, it's a book worth having and using if you're near 2000 (and up), and somewhat lower-rated players with a sturdy work ethic can benefit from it as well.

    Wednesday
    Dec012010

    Dvoretsky Interview, Part 3

    The third and final installment of ChessVibes' interview with the famous trainer and author, Mark Dvoretsky, is here.

    Thursday
    Nov252010

    Dvoretsky Interview, Part 2

    Here. Topics include trainers and computers, endgame play, and chess self-improvement.

    Monday
    Nov222010

    An Interview with Mark Dvoretsky, Part 1

    The famous trainer and author answers questions over at ChessVibes. Part 1 is here.