Comprehensive Chess Course Series

This series, written by Russian authors who are current or former Russian players and coaches, claims to present the once secret Russian training method which is partly responsible for the decades long Russian dominance of the chess world. The authors promise to take you from the beginner to the master level with this series. For those who are serious about chess and want to become strong tournament players, this series will give you a good training plan that lays out what you need to know, and the order in which you should learn it. Experienced and successful players and coaches have told me that the key to improving your chess is studying the right things at the right times. If you're not ready for a particular lesson, you will waste time, maybe even regress trying to employ knowledge you're not yet capable of understanding. There's an excellent article on this subject by Dan Heisman here, and he has his own set of recommended books by skill level here.

People have told me that Volume II has taken players to the 1600-1800 range, and the authors claim that Volume II will take you to Class A (1800) level if you completely master its contents. For a very strict interpretation of mastery, I can accept that claim, but I think 1400 is a more realistic expectation. Also, I think there is a very large jump in difficulty from Volume 3 (tactics) to Volume 4 (Attack and Defense), so I recommend doing several months of tactics training before moving on to Volume 4. Based on my experience with my own chess and coaching my kids, I have arrived at my owm recommended book reading list.


Comprehensive Chess Course: Learn Chess in 12 Lessons (Comprehensive Chess Course)

by Roman Pelts, Lev Alburt

This book contains much of the same content as the Nottingham book, but is more rigorous, more thorough, and is in a workbook format with space in the book to write answers to problems presented in each of the lessons. The lessons in the book are very pedagogical, with reviews of previous material, narrative sections, games for analysis, and carefully constructed problems which reinforce the material, including homework problems. This volume and volume II serve as a solid foundation for anyone who aspires to the higher levels of tournament chess.


Comprehensive Chess Course: From Beginner to Tournament Player in 12 Lessons (Comprehensive Chess Course)

by Roman Pelts, Lev Alburt

If you already know chess, you may be able to use this book as your starting point in the Comprehensive Chess Course (CCC) series. This book has 12 lessons arranged in a workbook format like the first volume. The goal of Volumes 1 and 2 of the CCC series is to give the chess student a solid base with no holes in their chess foundation. The lessons start with the very basics, such as a review of the rules, a study of the chess board, how to record moves on an official game scoresheet, basic opening principles, and planning principles, including how to plan for victory from start to finish (e.g., gain a material advantage, simplify, win the endgame). Then the lessons follow a pattern in which each lesson presents basic tactical and planning themes and basic endgames. Each chapter ends with dozens of well-crafted exercises and games for analysis which reinforce the material in the lesson. This pattern is repeated through the rest of the book, after which you will know all the basic tactics, how to create combinations, (lots of) mating patterns, heavy piece endgames, and even basic king-pawn endgames and subtler tactics like Zugzwang. What makes this book so ideal for personal study (and as a guide for coaching your kids) is the pedagogic features such as the hundreds of exercises, and the focus on teachig you how to play. For example, in Chess for Juniors, Robert Snyder frequently comments on a move by saying something like "with this move his knight is defended twice and attacked once," but doesn't explain what that means, i.e. how to use that fact in your analysis of a position. CCC Vol 2 thoroughly explains how to evaluate the defense of a piece relative to its attackers, reinforces this throughout the subsequent lessons, and provides dozens of problems in which to practice this kind of evaluation. A few caveats: (1) this book seem like "work" at times, so purely casual players may prefer a "lighter" book; (2) I think the lessons are too dense for younger children, with very conscise writing. I distill each lesson into its essential elements when I teach my chiildren.


Chess Tactics for the Tournament Player (Comprehensive Chess Course, Third Level)

by Sam Palatnik, Lev Alburt, Roman Pelts (Editor)

Brilliant! Nine chapters, eight of which have 12 exercises each at the end. I've done about 70% as of March 2005. More than your typical "here's what tactic X looks like" tactics book, this book teaches the role of tactics in combinations and the importance of making threats in your games. The book teaches combinational play, which is what tactics are all about. The writing is extremely concise and clear. Working through this book will improve your strength dramatically, especially your calculation ability. A few of the exercises are only modestly difficult, but most of them are quite challenging. My approach with the exercises in this book is spend to up to 30 minutes trying to calculate the correct variation. I spend 10 minutes trying to solve the exercise directly from the diagram. If I can't get it, I set the position up on the board. After 10 minutes trying to calculate the answer from the board, I look at the first move of the answer and give myself 5 more minutes to find the right answer. If I still don't get it after 25 minutes of trying, I look up the answer and make sure I fully understand it. This approach is really improving my calculation ability.


The King in Jeopardy: The Best Techniques for Attack and Defense

by Lev Alburt, Sam Palatnik Review to come.

Chess Strategy for the Tournament Player (Comprehensive Chess Course Series)

by Lev Alburt, Sam Gm Palatnik, Lev Gm Alburt, Sam Palatnik Review to come.

Chess Training Pocket Book: 300 Most Important Positions and Ideas, Second Edition

by Lev Alburt

This is a "pocket guide" (with a full size price, unfortunately) which succinctly presents 300 carefully chosen positions with concise analysis. Some of these positions are endgames, some are piece-winning or mating combinations employing various tactical themes. Alburt claims that these are the 300 most important positions, i.e. they contain patterns which occur frequently in real games and often make a critical difference in the outcome of the game. My favorite part of the book, however, is the introductory chapter which contains a wonderful discussion of chess training, including the Dvoretsky method of puzzle training, how to analyze a position during a game, how to develop chess intuition and balance it with concrete analysis over the board, how to analyze your own games and build a library of positions and ideas important to you, and how to develop a personal theory of chess. I keep a copy of this book in my car and study a position or two any time I'm stuck in the car - like in the car wash, while waiting for my wife at the store, or in a traffic jam. I cannot recommend this book highly enough.


Winning Chess Endgames: Just the Facts!, Second Edition

by Lev Albert, Nikolay Krogius Review to come.