Chess: The Art of Logical Thinking

July 31, 2006 at 12:01 am | Posted in Chess | Leave a comment


I finished reading Neil McDonald’s Chess: The Art of Logical Thinking (2004) last weekend. This is the first chess book I’ve EVER read from cover to cove. Hooray for me! What initially attracted me to this book were the numerous board diagrams — anywhere from 8 to 15 per game — and that each moved is annotated. Most of the annotations were complete sentences as opposed to standard fare of a list of variations.

From Adams-Salov:

5 . . . e5

The defining move of the Sveshnikov Variation. At first glance it makes a lot of sense as Black:

  • establishes his pawn centre and negates white’s space advantage
  • drives the enemy right from its strong base on d4
  • clears the way the development of his king’s biship with gain of time, as Nxc6 bxc6 would only strengthen black’s centre.

6 Ndb5

This, however, is a very testing reply. The downside of Black’s last move is that he left himself with a backward pawn on the d file.

For me, a beginner who has only been studying chess seriously for three-months or so, McDonald’s ability to enter a chess master’s mind was enlightening to a patzer like me.

From Kovacevic-Seirwan:

12 a4

Of the next few moves it becomes clear that white has run out of dynamic ideas and he is trying to achieve a draw by blocking everything up. His pawn structure loses all flexibility, he weakens the e5 square and he removes all obstacles (he would call them ‘targets’!) from teh sights of the black biship on g7. On the otherhand he hopes that the lack of open lines will prevent Black from making any winning breakthroughs — after all, it is White who controls the only open file on the board with his rook on h1.

Also, as a beginninger, my historical knowledge of the game is limited to the names of Fischer, Spassky, Kasparov and Karpov. McDonald’s book provided me with my first glance of Adams, Anand, Tal and others as well as the limited ability (on my part) to witness and try to udnerstand all 30 games from these variosu masters.

Of course there were silly annoatations such as these after 1 e4:

Just as Dracula would be helpless if he were unable to escape from his coffin, or a butterfly could never emerge unless it discarded its catepillar husk, so too the pieces cannot at all perform unless the pawns are first moved out of the way. (Huebner-Portish)

Just as a house needs to be constructed on a firm foundation, so too does every plan for White need a solid beginning. The first stone to be laid in this case is 1 e4. (Nunn-Sokolov)

But the greatest harm this type of annotation did was bring a slight smile to my face.

Most of the games are together at


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