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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
This is a fascinating book for the beginner in chess, and one that the more proficient in chess may find interesting, too. It not only covers the basics in chess, but also deals with some of the philosophical ideas that one might apply to chess playing. This is a creative synthesis by authors Michael Gelb and Raymond Keene of the teachings of Samurai warriors and the basic layout of chess - an intriguing idea, given the martial nature of chess playing.
Chess can be many things to different people. One legal scholar described chess as an exercise in petty larcency (taking or stealing pieces!); many military strategists have seen chess as a system whereby one sharpens skills for thinking ahead, well past the next move tactically. This would be more in the spirit of what Gelb and Keene are doing here.
As the authors state, 'We are not likely to wield a Samurai sword in a life-or-death situation. Samurai swordsmanship will always remain beyond our personal experience.' So, how does one get this kind of experience, if one wants it? For Gelb and Keene, this can come from chess. 'Chess offers the experience of real victory, without killing, and the parallel experience of real defeat, without having to die.' Thought and skill are key in both Samurai and chess practice.
Gelb and Keene develop the idea of martial arts mindset and the seven Samurai principles to be applied to chess, but this is in many ways designed for the beginning chess player (the more experienced player will be able to gloss over the second section, 'White Belt Chess', which develops basic movements and elementary middle-game and end-game ideas). The authors give a good brief synopsis of the history of the game of chess, from earliest history through to the tempestuous twentieth century, showing the transformation from a slow-moving game inspired by Indian and Islamic cultures to the rapid-fire pace of many master games today.
It is perhaps in the application of the Samurai principles that this book reaches its height. The Seven Samurai principles are really an extended analogy to the game, but one can see immediately, even as a chess novice, how the seven principles might be applied:
1) Take the Initiative: Attack
2) Follow Through: Go for the Knockout
3) Impenetrable Defense: No Openings
4) Timing: Control the Tempo
5) Distance: Control the Position
6) Master Surprise and Deception
7) Yield to Win: The Art of Sacrifice
There are many good insights, and this book is a fun one to read. If one is expecting a systematic tome on how to play better chess, this is not the book. However, if one loves the game of chess and is interested in a new perspective, this book is one that is fitting.
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4 of 8 people found the following review helpful
on 16 July 1998
I couldn't help but laugh when I saw the book's title... Once I started to read it, however, the laughter came to an end. Based loosely on the "Art of War" and "The Five Rings", this book applies the principles of martial artist to the mind of a chessplayer. How to think clearly, train better, and follow through on your plan. The book is peppered with stories from both the history of chess and the history of Japan's Samurai warriors. Fantastic reading. I must say, the chess examples in this book are a little sparse, but the overall concept is well presented. A definite read.
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2 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on 12 April 1999
No argument from me (ELO 2023) about the "7 Samurai Principles" - they seem sound enough. The problem remains: HOW do we translate them into effective chessplaying? Telling us to seize the initiative, follow through, sacrifice to win, etc., is fine - but the players need more help in the clinches. Fun to read but not especially likely to improve your chess.
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2 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on 29 September 1998
This is are very interesting book written in a different perspective then most chess books. If you have any backround in the martial arts or enjoy chess, you will enjoy this book, if for nothing else than the unique and interesting position that it endorses. Not only that, but it is a pleasant read as well.
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