Sunday, February 27, 2011

Book review: Improve Your Chess at any Age

Improve your Chess at any Age authored by Andres D. Hortillosa

I recently found this book at half-priced books for eight bucks and decided to give it a shot. The reviews on Amazon were split with either 5 stars or 1 star so it seems to be a love it or hate it type of book. I bought the book on February 17th and finished it on February 26th covering the 172 pages in 10 days which is fast for me. I found the author's style to be engaging and enjoyed the stories and the games. The major complaint in other reviews seemed to revolve around the fact that the author is merely a "club" player and that his system must not work because he himself has not shown significant ratings improvement over the last several years.

If I had bought the book based on the title and paid full price I might feel like it was a poor value especially if I expected a cure-all to my chess. Having plateaued at roughly 1700 give or take 100 points over the last 30 years I felt a certain sympatico for what the author was going through and trying to convey to the reader.  The system is nothing more then a multistep thought process (a reminder, if you will) to try to eliminate blunders and/or recognize opportunities. It really falls into the nothing new under the sun category for me with his steps laid out as follows:

1. Reconnaissance of the position to gather key data elements.
2. Search for specific threats.
3. Rank the severity of the threats.
4. Focus your responses against the threat with the highest degree of harm if ignored or not prevented.
5. Search for candidate moves.
6. Execute the move in your head.
7. Conduct a post reconnaissance of the position after the move is mentally executed.
8. If post-recon yields a problem repeat steps 5-7 until a safe/correct move is found.

He then covers a variety of his games or game fragements from recent events to call attention to specific examples of his system. I didn't necessarily find any of this convincing but enjoyed seeing someone who is a regular "Joe" discuss the day-to-day concerns of the amateur tournament player.

I certainly didn't feel it was a waste of time and probably picked up a few hints and tips along the way. Overall it was an enjoyable way to spend an hour or so a day going through book and the games. The games themselves are annotated mainly in prose with breezy analysis that is easy to work through. You won't get lost in the tree of having to play through three branches and six sub-branches of detailed analysis after every move. It was also nice to be able to correctly "pick" the upcoming moves of the games (even the mistakes!?)versus some of the grandmaster games where I don't have a clue as to why the move was chosen. If you can find this book in the bargain bin give it a whirl!