Monday, February 28, 2005

 

Silman!?

Inspired by PMD, I decided to take on Silman. Wham. :-).

First, he talks as if everyone visualizes and calculates deeply and accurately. No problemo! ;-)

Second, re: "Rules of Combination Recognition":

Lastly, re The Amateur's Mind:
He has organized and collected many important chess principles, but it comes across to me like he invented nearly all of it. He seems unrealistic about how fast chess principals translate into know how. Lacking all the "nuts and bolts", beginners are expected to go from positional observations to putting together a plan. Then he is insensitive and critical when his students get it wrong, which unfortunately reflects on him as a teacher. Taking one of the problems in the back as an example, this problem's answer is to make a prophylactic move to prevent a center pawn advance. The mistake done in the game (instead of that prophylactic move) was to castle. His advice of "castle early" is clear earlier in the book, and it's easy to imagine that castling makes sense there. No mathematical system to weigh decisions like these is presented, but practically expected. It's all about how obvious it is to him, like 1 + 1 = 2.

Anyway, strong players have been around for decades, long before Silman wrote anything. I guess it's a case of taking what you want, and leaving the rest behind.

Comments:
I have muddled over the "Silman Question" for some time. On the one hand, his books were the first to explain chess principles in a manner in which I could understand. He was actually entertaining to read. On the other hand, not everything he says helps. In fact it can give you a downright false sense of security.

Using Silman's way of chess you want to 'create imbalances' and exploitt them. I've come to question the utility of squaring off against an 1100 opponent and worrying about the giving up my bishop or weakening a square etc. when he will most likely fall if you develop your pieces and look for tactics and avoid tactical traps.

In Silman's entire book, I think he probably shows one or two actual tactical moves in his games. Everything else is a positional strangle until a pawn can get queened. They are fun games to watch but in reality when I sit at the board something like this rarely happens.
 
Yeah, Silman's approach usually doesn't appeal to me. You can probably tell by my blog that I am a Seirawan fan. If you read his whole series you can get a good grasp of all of the basic to intermediate principles (Basics, Openings, Endings, Tactics, Strategy, and I believe he even has a book on Master games). All very well explained and the info is given in stages.

IMO a rank beginner would best make use of his/her time with the whole series for their first two to three years of chess before moving on to other books. I still haven't mastered his Tactics book and I've been working on it for a mininum of one hour every single day for the last month or so.

PS
 
I spent about 18 months working with that "The Amateur's Mind" and I certainly have improved using it, but 90% of the time losing to tactics was enough to switch me over to other methods. One book that seems to have helped me get beyond the rating achieved with "The Amateur's Mind" alone is "Looking for Trouble". It does have the "nuts and bolts" as a beginner I needed, and it blends tactics and position via threat assessment. I still haven't worked through the advanced problems in it, but it easily could help someone improve 75 points in my estimation.

Ultimately I switched to what I am doing now-tactics, tactics, tactics...
 
"No mathematical system to weigh decisions like these is presented, but practically expected. It's all about how obvious it is to him, like 1 + 1 = 2."

Unfortunately, there is no reliable mathematical system. One of the big differances between strong and weak players, is the quality of their judgement. Judgement is the key, and that comes with experience.
 
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