Thursday, February 8, 2007

Review of Rapid Chess Improvement by Michael de la Maza

Rapid Chess Improvement (Everyman Chess)

Michael de la Maza

Date: 2002-06-01 — Book

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Last week I bought and skimmed through this book on rapid chess improvement technique that Michael de la Maza introduced. The 3 messages that got reading this book are -

  • Develop Chess Vision. Its a less discussed topic in chess and Michael did a good job bringing it front. However, he over-emphasized it. I can never imagine finding time to go through the chess vision drills that the author was talking about, because that time can be better utilized in other areas of chess improvement. Well, may be I think so because I am already a strong Class B player. But for someone who has time and is a Class C or D level player (or lower), it may be of use. My opinion for class C or D level players would be to try a few hours with queen and knight and ignore the rest, certainly not 2 or 3 weeks. You better use that time studying end games.
  • Study and practice chess Tactics as much as possible. Tactics is the heart of chess. I can think of studying chess as learning tactics and learning strategy. Michael emphazied tactics over strategy until someone is an Expert level player. This emphasize is correct to some extent, however, not making someone completely ignorant about Strategy. I thank the author for emphasizing tactics and crticize the author for consdering learning strategy as waste of time. I can't imagine how I would be able to get a complete appreciation of chess without reading a book like Nimzowitch's My System.
  • Use CT-Art 3.0 to sharpen up your tactics and follow Seven Circles program. Any program that teaches you tactics, gives lot of tactical puzzles will do. In fact, I decided to buy Fritz 10 instead of it. However, as CT-Art is specially focused on this area, its really worth. Now whether you will follow author's unique invention of seven circles or you want to go your own way depending on your schedule, profession, life style is upto you. Seven circles is, no doubt, a good way to go if you dont want to create a schedule yourself. I used to solve chess puzzle books earlier that contained lot of combinations and that also worked well in my early chess endevours. Still, I give credit to Michael to make it straight forward by putting a calculated discipline in this process of learning tactics.
Now about the rest of part of book, its written in an inspirational way which may make bring you back to the chess board even if you gave up playing chess for a while. However, most of them are not fact, these are like opinions, guesses, hopes etc. The way he talks about only to look for next 3 or 5 move possibilities for traps, tactics etc makes me think that every move is a chess math and a player is a chess machine who doesn't know or see larger view of chess as a game. The authot constantly says you dont need to learn anything other than tactics, which is so wrong. About opening, we know that its true, we only need to understand a handful of opening ideas but I can't accept misguiding average chess players to hold them of learning end games and chess strategies. The claim of gaining 200 or more rating points are too much to guarantee follownig Michael's recipe of rapid chess improvement, although its not atypical of weak players gaining rating points quicky as they learn chess more. Studying tactics relligiously will make a player's rating improve a lot but a rate of improvement can't be guaranteed like what Michael is claiming. I think these portions of the book made Silman say in this critical review of this book at as criminal and ignorant.

Even though I disagree with Michael's vision to chess as a move by move mathematical puzzle only, I am happy that this book is around. I would give this book 3 stars unless the author would fill soem of the pages with unnecessary contents and some misleading messages other than the emphasize on chess. Its certainly not among the very good chess books, however, for weaker and busy palyers, the re-wording of practice tactics again and again will be really helpful. I can definitely say I didn't learn anything new reading this book accept knowing the name of CT-Art 3.0 as a good tactics trainer which inspired me to decidde that I will buy Fritz 10 soon. After playing around with Fritz for a while if I find Fritz can't be configured to give me tactical puzzles, I will purchase CT-Art 3.0 as well.

A few references for your own exploration.
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