Book Review: The Best Chess Book in a Long Time: You vs. Fischer

17 03 2010

It has been said there are more books written about chess than all the other games in the world combined. I’ve heard before that there are over a billion chess books out there on the market right now. A simple Amazon search reveals it’s definitely in the 100 millions.

With all of this clutter, it’s a tough decision to decide what books to buy—especially in this economy. So we go on the search for “classics.” That’s why most of the current books are overlooked; the mass publishing is just too much. And instant classics are very rare.

However, I’ve found a gem; a book that is undoubtedly one of the best books to come out in years.

1900 to 2350

When I first started that book You vs. Fischer, the first fifth of the book pegged at a rating of around 1900 USCF.

My average performance rating after that was 2350.

I’m not saying that this book alone was accountable for so big an increase; I probably wasn’t in the groove the first part of the book, and I was in a slump when I first started that I broke out of (I think due in large part to reading the book).

However, I don’t think it’s a stretch to say the book improved my skills by at least 300 points. Just from a week or two, that’s more than most people gain in five years.

What’s the Deal with You vs. Fischer?

With all the chess books out, it is hard pressed these days to write a book completely different from all the others. However, that’s exactly what author IM Igor Khmelnitsky did with You vs. Fischer.

Inside the book, there are a total of sixty games, broken into five twelve game matches where you take the place of an opponent of possibly the greatest player of all time, Bobby Fischer, who requires no introduction.

You get a position, and you’re asked how you evaluate it. After answering that, you get four moves to choose from as the best move. You may want to change your answer to the first question after the second, and in fact I choose the move before making any decision on the position because to know that, you need to know what move is the best move, will be played, and what will happen.

Then you flip the page, and you’re given a score (0-10) on your selection, what result would’ve happened (used to track a match with Fischer and who would win the page), and analysis on each of the moves. The games are purposefully not categorized in order of difficulty or game type, as in a real game, you will never know what to expect.

With most chess books, I get bored after a while and have to take a break. But with this book, I rolled through it very quickly. It’s very enjoyable to play these games, and the time will go by fast.

What’s so Great About the Book?

The reason why this book is so good is because of multiple reasons. First is that you get sixty real game situations where you have to calculate the position and decide what move to make. Practice is some of the best learning, and surely that helps a lot.

Second is the analysis. Khmelnitsky gives his thought process and what he analyzed, so you’re able to correct your thought process, which is very important.

Third is that you get to beat Fischer! What could be a better confidence booster? You’ll probably get at least a draw with him, and if you do well, you should be able to win. The truth is that he made a lot of mistakes, but his opponents were so afraid of him they were afraid to capitalize.

My Chess Book of the Year Pick

I don’t say this lightly, but I strongly support this book as the chess book of the year in 2010.

I realize it came out in November, 2009, but I’m pretty sure it must be entered into 2010, because I read the book that won (Revolutionize Your Chess(fantastic book)), and I don’t think it really compares to You vs. Fischer when you look at the results and the novelty, which I think is more important than a theory on the game.

Highly Recommended

In case you hadn’t figured it out yet, I highly recommend this book to anyone over around 1200, because it is highly instructional, and the content shouldn’t be over many peoples (if anyone’s heads).

The convenience of this book is also amazing. The chess board is right there for you to analyze from, so you don’t need a board. This was extremely useful for me, and I did a lot of the book on the go.
So why don’t you get it?