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on 4 August 2003
This book is a bargain. And will strengthen almost anyones positional play (advanced players included).
The basics of positional play are covered (good knight vs bad bishop, good bishop vs bad knight, play with opposite and same coloured bishops, realising the two bishop advantage) to the intermediate (rook vs two minor pieces, endgame transpositions, active king) to the advanced (key squares, strong points, inducing weaknesses, positional sacrifice) and many many more which I have not listed.
The way in which Israel Gelfer teaches proved very successful with me. He will dive straight into many examples, and talk you through them, he will do this again, and again, and again. The advantage to this method is that the understanding becomes second nature, you do not have to think about various concepts that you need to incorporate into your game.
One small drawback to this book (even though I do not feel that it qualifies as a drawback). You might need a chessboard in front of you. I know many readers will be put off by this, but if they are willing to invest the effort, the results will pay off.
This book not only did wonders to my positional understanding, but boosted endgame wins as well, as Gelfer uses many endgames to introduce his concepts.
When you take a look at the price, and all this book has to offer, I don't know how ANY chess enthusiast would deny this book a place in their library.
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on 29 July 2017
This is an unassuming-looking volume, but it packs in a lot of valuable content.

It is true that the diagrams are somewhat unclear and that the font could have been better, and there are occasional typos that make it difficult to know for sure what move was played.

It is also true that the text is quite terse, but that is not the point. The book is largely made up of portions of games and sometimes complete games, each illustrated by at least one diagram. These examples are divided into broad categories, such as "Cramped Positions, Restricted Pieces" or "Inducing Weakness", and further arranged by combinational or positional theme. The explanations, while short, help you to understand what is happening, and sufficient variations are given to see why alternative moves were not played. By playing over the examples, you begin to understand more deeply the various aspects of chess strategy and how to employ them. I found it helpful to set up a position and then to try and work out in my mind's eye what should happen, before going over the actual moves. The clever arrangement of the examples provides both contrast and repetition, and generally the level of difficulty increases as each chapter progresses.

In particular, I found the chapters about different piece confrontations, namely "Good Knight versus a Bad Bishop" and "Good Bishop versus a Bad Knight", very useful in that I came to appreciate that there are a number of factors that make a piece "good" or "bad" or somewhere in-between. In other words, the examples cause the reader to work out independently that the quality of a piece should be judged in a graded, rather than black-and-white, fashion. For similar reasons, I particularly enjoyed the final chapter, "Positional Sacrifices", which shows examples of pawn sacs, exchange sacs and various other kinds of sacrifice.

I would say that this is an advanced book, perhaps suitable for aspiring professionals or semi-professionals. It moves the reader away from the simplistic understanding of strategy that can be expressed in proverbs and principles towards a more concrete, case-by-case way of understanding positions that requires analysis and independent thought. As Hendriks puts it in "Move First, Think Later", the content is in the moves, not the words. And Gelfer has chosen good moves for the purpose!

I would recommend reading this after Nimzowitsch's "My System", and perhaps as a prelude to getting into the seriously hard books of Dvoretsky. It is not an easy book to read, and at times it can feel like a bit of a slog, but at least a rewarding one. I anticipate getting a lot of benefit from reviewing this book frequently.

If it could be brought out in a better edition with superior graphics and printing then it would definitely be a five-star work.
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on 11 March 2017
Excellent book
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VINE VOICEon 31 January 2012
I bought this book on the strength of reviews and wished to add my own two cents.

Fairly specific strategic themes based on both piece play as well as positional aspects are identified. Without much preamble, positions illustrating the themes are given. There are minimal sidelines, usually to point out a tactical feature that would otherwise be missed. The continuation is given, to highlight the theme and may be stopped if the rest of play exceeds the scope of the chapter's theme.

The annotations are concise to the point of brevity. You can see a clarity of thought in Mr Gelfer's approach.

For the player starting out: this book will give you understanding of most positions you will encounter. Combinations are not the point. This is a manual of technique and grasping this, you will be well equipped to progress. You may even find certain positions or even playing "positionally" appeal to you, then you can steer your choice of opening or moves accordingly. Certainly, it is the positional aspects that usually have far reaching influences up to the endgame. I dare say you will be improving that part of your game as well.

For the improving player. These games are dated mainly 50s-80s. Researching these games yourself will bring you back to when the openings were not as well defined, therefore no point in providing the actual opening stage. Upon rereading this book a few years later, I set myself the task of following the moves minus sight of board (much easier since I played through all of them within a year the first time I received it). I found my positional nuance immediately jumped in my speed games. I put this down to:-

1) pattern recognition
2) knowledge of technique.

I suddenly realised how Botvinnik felt when he was at the forefront of chess study when he realised he had come across a position whilst actually playing and played with accuracy born of experience while his opponent was more or less winging it. I will be honest and tell you calculating ability (which I was hoping to hone) actually didn't play such an important role.

In my own opinion, its all well and good to read about Dvoretsky's famous index of positions to work through with his pupils. Not many of us have the time or neatness to organise our collected games. I'd like to think this book was my equivalent. May I suggest another excellent positional book (put in a radically different layout) The Ultimate Chess Strategy Book: v. 1

Thank you Mr Gelfer.
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on 20 July 2016
This is one of my favorite chess books. The other positive reviews tell you what to expect. I'll just say that if you're graded about 1500 - 1800 it should help you a lot and higher graded players should also benefit. Be warned though, it's a challenging read and not for beginners. Most people will need to set up the positions on a chess board but if you're willing to make the effort you should become a stronger player, possibly quite a lot stronger for lower-graded players. There's no easy way to get better at chess but this book helped me a lot.
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on 20 November 2013
I'm an experienced player but found this book very disappointing. The chosen positions might well be highly instructive, but any lessons to be learnt are severely hampered by the paucity of actual commentary to aid the reader. There are reams of notation unbroken by any explanations and the reader is expected to already have the insights the book is designed to help you develop.

As for the book format - the diagrams are excessively small with a very odd font for the pieces.

All in all, not a great reading/learning experience made all the more frustrating for the strong sense that properly written, this could have been a great book!
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