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Excelling At Chess Paperback – 31 Oct 2001

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Product details

  • Paperback: 144 pages
  • Publisher: Everyman Chess (31 Oct. 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1857442733
  • ISBN-13: 978-1857442731
  • Product Dimensions: 1.3 x 15.9 x 23.5 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,238,951 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description

About the Author

Jacob Aagaard is an international master and studies languages, semiotics and communication at the University of Copenhagen and the University of Arhus in Denmark. He is gaining a reputation as a highly diligent author and his previous books for Everyman include The Dutch Stonewall and the Sicilian Kalashnikov (with Jan Pinski)."

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7 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Mark Stockwell on 16 Mar. 2003
Format: Paperback
This is an excellent book - with as much about chess psychology and attitude as there is about chess itself. In fact, the section entitled "attitude at the board" could be applied to any number of fields of human endeavour. It is almost a self-improvement manual as much as it is a chess book, and has genuinely made me re-examine my attitude both to chess and to other areas of my life. Aagaard is still a young man and he conveys the confidence and energy of youth with great conviction and assurance.
The "pure" chess sections are also very thought-provoking - although he praises Watson's "Secrets of Modern Chess Strategy" in his bibliography, Aagaard seems to be setting himself up at least partly in opposition to it. They are not that far apart, but Aagaard clearly believes more in principles and positional rules than Watson, whose emphasis is on the dynamic, the specific, the concrete in a given position.
Aagaard quotes Kasparov as saying that a 'real' chess player is someone "who knows where the pieces belong" and cites Mickey Adams as a player who doesn't calculate very much but sees what it is important to see. There is a lot of emphasis on intuition - which can be partly natural talent but can also be acquired through experience - effectively pattern recognition. I find this very persuasive, but that partly reflects my own playing style, which is very much based on 'feel'.
I am holding back from giving it five stars because it is rather scatter-gun in approach and does not seem a particularly coherent whole. I think in many ways Aagaard could have written two entirely different books - one on the pure chess side of things, and the other emphasising the psychological aspects.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: 9 reviews
26 of 33 people found the following review helpful
A bold, 21st century classic 23 Sept. 2003
By Alan DeNiro - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
This book sets itself apart from others of its ilk for a few reasons. First of all, Mr. Aagard has an engaging voice that comes across in the pages. He comes across as a real human being who has had ups and downs with chess. He has a lot of wit and warmth interspersed with very forthright analysis. A rare combination! This does not mean, however, that the book is somehow not serious. Far from it; he has a thesis regarding positional play and he defends it with rigor. He's not "my way or the highway" but at the same time makes a convincing case regarding what it takes to take a quantum leap in playing skill.
But wait, there's more: Mr. Aagard's background in neuropsychology takes this book to a new level. He integrates fascinating info about cognition and perception and how it relates to chess. This is stuff that is compelling in its own right. Ultimately, I wouldn't have changed much with this book. It accomplishes exactly what it wants to, and points towards a "humanist" perspective on chess: train hard, but also realize that (a) it's a game between 2 human beings who must respect each other during the course of play, and (b) it's important to have fun. I really think this book will have a long shelf life--it certainly had a deep impact on how I approach the game.
36 of 47 people found the following review helpful
Thank goodness someone would stand up to Watson! 26 Mar. 2002
By A Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
It has been a long four years in the world of philosphical discussion about chess, since John Watson came out with his epic Secrets of Modern Chess Strategy. Watson's book is a comprehensive look at the elements of chess, as they have evolved since the time of Nimzowitsch. His book is based on the premise that the old masters were incorrect in thinking that chess is based on rules, which more or less dictate the strategy and tactics to be applied in a game. I have always thought that Watson's book is a travesty in terms of its logical argument. It is a great chess book, due to the depth of its discussion, on both an historical and a substantive level, but his whole philosophical argument about the nature of chess is ridiculous. The whole argument that evaluation of a position must be based on concrete analysis rather than the application of rules is a truism in one sense, and false in another. In any field of knowledge, there are general rules or principles. For instance, when driving a car (in the USA), there is the rule that you should pass on the left. But if there is a snow plow traveling at 5 mph in the left lane, the "concrete analysis" dictates that you should pass on the right. Similar to this argument, Watson presents old rules such as "don't move a piece twice in the opening," and then presents specific examples to show that a player did the right thing by moving a piece twice in the opening. This is so Mickey-Mouse and simple an argument that it is amazing that Watson's book has received the acclaim it has. However, the present book, Excelling at Chess, is the first systematic attempt at refuting Watson's argument. Aagard likes Watson's book (as does everyone apparently), but he points out that general rules of positional understanding do often dicate the correct strategy to follow in a game, even though of course any ideas must be verified by concrete analysis. This is obviously true, and it is refreshing to hear someone say it. There is no question that Watson went way overboard with his arguments. The Aagard book is an excellent, entertaining read that is full of insights into chess, what makes a great player, the competitive aspect of playing chess and improving, and many other issues. It is everything I love in a chess book. If you like The Seven Deadly Chess Sins, Watson's book, The Road to Chess Improvement, and that type of book, you will like this one too. In summary, highly recommended: a refreshing and challenging book.
23 of 30 people found the following review helpful
Taste 20 April 2003
By Gary - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
I'd say the book is great, but as the title shows, that's a matter of taste. Some people like their books full of analysis, all filled with moves, and moves and... moves. Others like the books better when the moves are explained by letters, not by moves. That's what this book is about, it explains the moves in a nice way by telling what the thoughts are, and why some moves are so 'natural' to play. It makes you want to think that you can play just like the GM's in the book. Most of the time you're like 'I would have played all those moves as well, cos I understand the meaning of it, this must be a beginners-game', then you look at the names of the players and you see 'Karpov - Kasparov'.
For me this is a book which really helped. I think it is a good book for 1700 - 2100 rated players.
6 of 9 people found the following review helpful
not great 26 April 2010
By Mateinten - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I just finished the book. I have to say, I am very disappointed in the author. His books on various openings in the past have been beyond exceptional. In this book he spends the first few chapters criticizing Watson's SOMCS. He goes on to say what anyone that has played at even a laughable level would know, that all "rules" in chess are not set in stone and that chess is a dynamic game. He does talk about how he helps his students determine their positional plans...by having them ask themselves what they want for Xmas. This is the same thing that Silman describes in his books as the "dream" position. But, unlike silman, he does not go into how various ways to break down the positions in order to organize ones thoughts in order to determine that "dream" position. Planning for all class and amatuer players is the hardest thing to come up with....after reading this book, I cannot say that I am any better. The book is well written and easy to read. It is worth having if you simply enjoy chess books, but if you are seriously looking to improve, I would consider it after Silman's books.
19 of 31 people found the following review helpful
Not for beginners (perhaps not intermdediates, either) 8 July 2002
By Amazon Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I enjoy reading about chess at least as much as I enjoy playing it, and I look for books that will improve my play by (1) giving me something to practice (i.e. workbooks) or (2) correcting my thinking. This book purports to be in the second category, but I can tell you, as a beginner, I got nothing out of it.
There is very little English describing how to excel; rather the author gives you games to look at as examples and you, the reader, are supposed understand the brilliance behind the moves. For me, this is not enough: I need a tour guide to show me the sights, not just a taxi driver to take me to them. I'm guessing that very good players don't need such hand-holding, hence my title for this review.
One reviewer suggested that you will like this book if you like Rowson's "The Seven Deadly Chess Sins". Well, I'm only partway through TSDCS but I can tell you that I'm really enjoying it, but did not enjoy (or learn from) Excelling at Chess.
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