Chess Secrets (The Times Little Books) Paperback – 7 Nov 2013
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Let's look at the copyright notice. Copyright "Raymond Keene OBE 2013", it says. Uh huh.
Well, the first position in the book is Alekhine-Bogoljubow, which as Ray says, was played in 1929. The notes, as Ray does not say, originally appeared in My Great Predecessors, part one, pages 411-412. This was published by Everyman in 2003. They were written by Garry Kasparov. They're not copyright Raymond Keene OBE at all.
The second position? Well, that's from the second part of the same series, also published by Everyman in 2003, pages 223-4, same author. Once again, Ray is claiming copyright on material which he has lifted from a previously published book.
Third position? Well, in this instance Ray's lifted them from a book he edited, called Learn from the Grandmasters, first published by Batsford in 1975. Although he edited the book, he didn't write the notes: as he does not say, they were written by Viktor Korchnoi, and appear on page 14 of the 1975 edition, copyright BT Batsford.
As it happens, all three examples have been lifted before - in the Times for 5, 6 and 3 June 2013 respectively. In each instance small changes were made from the originals and the work was presented as Ray's own. The original works were not credited, nor the original authors. Nor does the present book mention them, or the previous publications in the Times. It just gives a copyright claim of "Raymond Keene OBE 2013".
There are other examples in the book, but I just give those which the reader can see without purchasing it. Scandalous conduct, which the publisher should not accept.
It's well presented with a hardcover and a built-in elastic cord, presumably for place marking.
The bulk of the book is made up 101 positions each illustrating a different facet of chess play: weak back rank, dark square domination, pawn breakthrough and so on. Most positions are described on a page, a few of them in two. Examples can be seen through Amazon's 'Look Inside' facility.
Before the positions there are five pages of preamble consisting of an introduction, a short biography of the author, a list of "official" world champions, something on the relative values of the pieces and a description of algebraic notation.
All well and good for the format. What of the content?
It doesn't start auspiciously. The Introduction begins 'Chess in the most popular mind sport in the world'. OK. Then it says 'A 2012 YouGov survey revealed 600 million people worldwide regularly play chess'. I don't think that's correct. If you search the Internet you can find that YouGov produced stats for five countries; someone else - not YouGov - somehow extrapolated these to produce an implausible worldwide figure of 605 million.
The introduction ends 'Interspersed with the examples are informative notes on the history, culture and personality of chess'. Where are these notes? I couldn't find them!
On the next page, the list of "official" world champions omits those who gained the title under the auspices of FIDE, the world governing body, between 1993 and 2005.
Turning to the positions... The first of these - which is available through 'Look Inside' - illustrates 'zwischenzug' (German for intermediate move). It's from Alekhine vs.Read more ›
A friend of mine, who just finished The Amateur's Mind: Turning Chess Misconceptions into Chess Mastery by Jeremy Silman, recommended keeping this on one's desk and absorbing a position per day. It's nothing too taxing but is a great way of keeping your mind fresh with all of the relevant strategic (EG centralization) and tactical (EG pin) motifs in the wonderful game of chess.
If you are an intermediate player or above this book is unlikely to be much use. I would say club players will not get anything from it.
But for those beginning chess who don't have much time to study, this is a great book to use to keep one's chess-mind from going stale. It's simple, effective and reminds me a lot of Lev Albert's Chess Training Pocket Book: 300 Most Important Positions & Ideas (Comprehensive Chess Course Series), except it is smaller and much more suited for beginners.