Wednesday, February 13, 2008
Book review by IM Anthony Saidy
THIS CRAZY WORLD OF CHESS
Author: Larry Evans
Cardoza Publishing (2007)
Reviewed by Anthony Saidy
Chess columnists in the mainstream press have for over a century been bulwarks of the game. If they are to attract new chess devotees, then besides the usual games and positions to solve, they ought to write well and supply human interest. I recall I. A. Horowitz' sprightly prose, with such an unusual word as "sockdolager." To him, a weak player was a "pusillanimous palooka." He annoyingly called the US Open the "USCF Open." He was succeeded at the N.Y. Times by Robert Byrne, who for three decades turned out a stereotyped product: one game per column with comments. Experts doted on it, but I doubt that he brought new players into the game.
In Los Angeles, Isaac Kashdan wrote plodding journalism. His successor Jack Peters does not shrink from occasionally inserting his opinions on chess politics, and omits championship titles that he does not recognize.
Who is a strong GM with a taste for intriguing chess, as well as a fine popularizing writer able to bridge the discourse to amateurs; experienced at the summit of US chess, with sharp opinions on chess politics and the ability continually to vary the content of his spicy, concise columns? Only five-time US Champ and Fischer co-author Larry Evans. His columns are syndicated, but in all my travels around the US, I have yet to see them in a local paper. Luckily they were collected in a very enjoyable previous book by this prolific chess author, THE CHESS BEAT.
Now we have THIS CRAZY WORLD OF CHESS, a new collection of about 100 columns, some augmented, plus an extended article or two, exploring the whole panorama of chess off-the-board conflict, elucidating the murky world of chess politics, with a few examples of actual chess. Suffice to say that no office-holder, whether FIDE crook Campomanes (who banned his critic R. Calvo from intl. chess with American help), the grandiose Ilyumzhinov or a mediocre USCF bumbler, manages to dodge Evans' barbs. Evans campaigned for one man one vote (OMOV) in the USCF and succeeded in modifying the cronyism at the top.
But before you buy it, a caveat. There are not many diagrams, but they are the worst ever seen in a chess book! They are a disgrace. You can barely identify the black pieces. On page 134 I mistook a white pawn for an expected black Bishop on g7. Evans or a decent editor should have monitored the production. Moreover the complete games are set on a needless and obscuring gray background. The number of typos is moderate, but since when is castling long noted as "0?0?0"? On pages 57 & 237 the wrong side is given as resigning.
Chess publishers are not to be trusted. Be vigilant! I learned the hard way from the total botching of six of the diagrams in my 1994 book THE MARCH OF CHESS IDEAS. (Alas, the venerable publisher, David McKay, has folded. If you own a copy lacking the errata list, e-mail me your address c/o this website and I shall snail-mail you the errata.) THIS CRAZY WORLD OF CHESS, billed as "the most controversial book on chess ever written," is a juicy, fascinating, low-priced but technically flawed book.
Copyright © 2008 Anthony Saidy