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Customer Reviews

4.6 out of 5 stars
4.6 out of 5 stars

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on 23 April 2008
The worst thing about this book is its title, which gives the impression it is for beginners and an experienced player can learn nothing from it. On the contrary, I had been playing for about 15 years when I read it and it gave a big and permanent boost to my game. It explained and clearly made sense of various strategic concepts that I'd seen in different books but hadn't understood as a coherent whole. The chapter titles say it all; outposts (strong squares), weak pawns, open files, half-open files and minority attacks, dark and light squares, and space. Numerous well-annotated games demonstrate how the ideas work in practice. The book majors more on structural aspects and chess as a science than on dynamic aspects and chess as an art or a fight, somewhat reflecting its author's playing style; but there are plenty of books on these other aspects. Short and to the point, it makes difficult concepts seem simple. Full marks to the publishers for reissuing it; opening theory may come and go, but this never goes out of date.
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on 23 June 2017
Thank you.
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on 20 February 2011
I had for many years heard people rave about Simple Chess: it was the book that made them understand things they never previously had; it wasn't just for simple players, etc. I once loaned it from a library when I had just become a newly minted old ECF 100 player, and being in descriptive, and my own chess ideas barely crystallising day by day, I found it too hard-going. Fast-forward ten years when I'm knocking on the new 160. I recently started reading Reassess Your Chess, and found it thoroughly confusing for one or other reason. While I'm sure the concepts will stick in (it could be simply the first few chapters are things I don't need or are what I need strongly to rebuild upon), when I then tried Stean's algebraic edition of SC, things began to click quite nicely!
Over seven chapters (Introduction, which is far more than you'd think), Outposts; Weak Pawns, Open Files; Halfopen Files/Minority Attack, Black/White Squares; and Space, Stean, one of Britain's top players in the 70s, takes us through technical chess using well-worked examples, but without any overly dogmatic waffle as one might see from a Silman or a Nimzowitsch. Open games, and closed games feature, and within its pages are hidden nuggets of advice from a top player which apply to any games you might have; including on development, the desire for material, and a general thread throughout which touches lightly upon planning as the means to the end, but without the overarching zealousness that can be so confusing in modern chess.
To this end, the book is entirely relevant today, showing positions with particular technical features and breaking down the victories in to manageable chunks and goals, but also giving tactical points throughout. For anyone above 1550 Elo or 110 ECF, I can thoroughly recommend this deep book, especially if you have ever struggled with praxis from Silman or Kotov to name but two. Try reading them together, and watch your play improve as you know it can!
While I have not fully read the book yet, I can only see minor typographical errors (with one move in 63 pages missing, viz. subvariation move 21...Ne5 in Fischer-Petrosian game 7, in chapter 2. This does not at all detract from the fluid prose of Stean, nor his many full-game examples. Fully recommended!
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on 19 October 2011
Simple Chess by GM Michael Stean is one of the best chess books I've come across in 25+ years as a chess player.I'm just a ordinary club standard player but I'd say that this book would be useful for players upto ELO 2000.

It is divided into seven chapters: Introduction, Outposts, Weak Pawns, Open Files, Half-open Files minority attack, Black squares and white Squares, Space.

As GM Stean says in the intro this book is not for beginners, you need to understand all the basics first (like forks, pins, double and discovered check, skewers, mates with queen and rook etc., and basic opening ideas). so if you have gone through the basics, played some games and began to understand how the pieces work together, then Simple Chess is for you. An important note, though, is this is a book on middle game strategy and does not show any tactical elements of the game.

Stean shows how, sometimes small, positional advantages may be enough for victory. He uses top level games (upto the 1970's when this book first came out) and he very carefully and clearly annotates them.

One disappointment with this new algebraic edition is many textual errors have crept in (to correct these see the reviews on Amazon.com USA).

If you think you need a easier general chess book first then try 'Better Chess for the Average Player' by Tim Harding.

When you've gone through Simple Chess and if you like it then good choices would be, Ludek pachman 'Modern Chess Strategy' and 'My System' by Nimzowitsch.
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on 4 April 2002
Although written using descriptive notation I strongly recommend this book to any chess player beginning to switch from tactical play to understanding strategy. The points are made directly and clearly using excellent example games. After reading and playing through this book you should have a better understanding of what is being fought for in master games. Not a lot of pages but they are full of dynamite information. Reading his comments on the Ruy Lopez had the same effect as the cartoon lightbulb - I SEE!
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on 6 June 2011
Why would a 116 page 'pop' chess title by a lesser-known English chess player still be available thirty-three years after its original publication? Stean's 'Simple Chess' was only his second work as a chess author and also his last. Published the year after he became only Britain's third grandmaster, it is a little gem. In a lively, uncomplicated writing style, Stean introduces the reader to the fundamental strategic elements: the significance of pawn structure, strong and weak squares, files, outposts, colour complexes and space. All of these are illustrated by grandmaster games, beautifully annotated by Stean, without any unnecessary and confusing clutter that is irrelevant to the theme, such as the masses of sub-variations that plague John Emms's modern revamp. SC was first published when I was nine and I wish somebody had slipped me a copy then instead of me stumbling across it twenty-five years later. Stean wrote this when he was twenty-five and retired from competitive chess just four years later, a turn reprised by another top English grandmaster, Matthew Sadler, a couple of decades on. Thankfully, they have both gifted us works like this, books that not only help you play better, but understand better and enjoy more.
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on 19 May 2009
This book is an absolute classic. It sets out to demystify positional chess by introducing key concepts, such as outposts, colour complexes and the minotity attack and then demonstrating these concepts in fully annotated games from masterplay. It succeeds one hundred percent. Stean manages to take some hefty concepts and present them in the simplest, most lucid and vivid way, without sacrifing one iota at the altar of simplicity. You will have to work it through though, and the tactics are often left to the reader. But this shouldn't stop beginners from reading, as they will still get all the positional knowledge. This is therefore a book to be read and re-read by players of varying levels, from beginner to advanced - I am currently on my second reading. And these are concepts that appear simple when explained by Stean but actually take some time to really absorb and consolidate and even more time to be applied in real life games, particularly whereas tactics most often forcibly take precedence. Finally, there is sheer beauty in the positional design of the key games chosen, and Stean is the wise druid who brings out this beauty for his reader's benefit. Buy.
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on 9 December 2007
I'd just like to add to the previous review by pointing out that this new edition of the book is in algebraic notation, so is ideal for juniors (and adults!) from around 100 ECF / 1400 Elo upwards.
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on 16 December 2012
If I was on a desert island for a year this is the chess book I would take with me. Practical, instructive and gets the message over.Moves you from a tactical view of the board to a strategic view (without forgetting the importance of tactics). Excellent.
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on 5 April 2014
I first heard people talking about this book at a chess match saying how good the book was. I got the book and read through it in 2 weeks I didn't seem to improve. since then ive read the book again and my understanding of outposts weak pawns space and all the other contents in the book have opened my chess thinking and playing to a new level of understanding. I just cannot understand why Michael stean didn't write any more books.
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