This book has been quite useful since I began to take more of an interest in chess about a year ago, (and was a necessary weapon against my flatmate in the university halls who bought it before me; I probably would have lost to him more if I hadn't bought the book myself). It's an enjoyable book for any fairly amateurish chess player with sections covering not only the usual concepts of mating, combos, and openings, but also the other interesting aspects of chess such as computer chess, and chess statistics, such as the number of chess players per country and so on. I think that it's time for a new edition though because this book was written in 1996 and so is very dated as far as computer chess goes, and also the statistics would have changed a lot in the last eight years so it would be pointless not to just look on the internet for such statistics instead.
The bulk of the book is the important part though, and this consists of several things:
-An overview of techniques (tactics),
-An overview of mates, giving whether certain material is sufficient for mate and the strategy that it would entail, and then a few pages of easy and harder mating problems,
-A section on combos with examples taken from games and then some example problems.
-The vast majority of the book is taken up by openings. I felt to myself that this book might have been called 'The Mammoth Introduction to all Openings'. Every opening is covered I believe, (though there may be esoteric branches of families that aren't I expect). This has been a good aid to me if I have wanted to quickly look up a good response to 1 e4 c5 (Sicilian) for example. I must admit that not all of the openings are satisfyingly covered, such as Centre Game, which is just described as an old opening that leaves the Queen a little too exposed in the middle of the board. The one other thing that was written though was that the most interesting continuation to Nc6 is Qe3, and I have never forgotten this. It is this sort of very to the point introduction that gives an amateur a good foundation upon which to build. Some traps are covered also, and one of these I have learnt and have used successfully a few time in blitz games.
One thing that is not 'mammoth' about this book is that the number of exercises given is a little slim. Given that there are only something like 50 mating problems, and about the same combination problems, it is not sufficient for those areas to only have this book. I have 1001 Winning Chess Sacrifices and would recommend something like that to give a massive amount of practice in these areas.
As far as the examples of games go, I can't review them in depth because I haven't worked through them much, but I have gathered from what I have read that Burgess is good at explaining concepts and has a lighthearted and enthusiastic style of writing, (and also has a sense of humour, which is surely a good thing).
I haven't given the book five stars because I think that with an armoury of books such as a 1001 tactical problems book, a book like Logical Chess which explains entire games, and an openings tome like Batsford's, a much better foundation can be obtained. I think that the one great strength of the book is, (thankfully, seeing as they occupy a massive chunk of the book), the easy wholesale introduction to openings. I would recommend the book to anyone having played chess for a couple of years or less, though most of the material would still make good revision for stronger players.