Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Book review by IM Anthony Saidy


THIS CRAZY WORLD OF CHESS
Author: Larry Evans
Cardoza Publishing (2007)
204 pages
pb$9.95

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
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10 comments:

Anonymous said...

Saidy, as usual, needs to get over himself. He doesn't seem to realize that it's not always about him.

Anonymous said...

thats why its 9.95

msikma said...

If you want to read interesting chess stories, you should try out the books of Jan Hein Donner ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jan_Hein_Donner ). I'm not sure if they translated his book "De Koning", which is a collection of his columns, but it's absolutely brilliant prose. In my very humble opinion, he was the most enjoyable chess writer.

Anonymous said...

"0?0?0"? is in fact a new kind of chess notation, the first part 0? is to show that its a bad idea to even pick up the king, the second 0? is for making matters worse by castling and the 3rd 0? is for choosing the Queens wing. Very simple really.

bobmutch said...

>>>the first part 0? is to show that its a bad idea to even pick up the king, the second 0? is for making matters worse by castling and the 3rd 0? is for choosing the Queens wing. Very simple really.

To funny.

Anonymous said...

Has there ever been a chess book that had not even one mistake in verbiage or notation or diagram etc? Maybe not.

Robin said...

I read it and I thought it was great!

chesscampeona said...

when people talk not nice things about a chess book makes me want to buy it. but 9.95 is alot of chores for me to do.

WCM Claudia Munoz
10 years old

womancandidatemaster.blogspot.com

Anonymous said...

My complaint isn't with the book (which I haven't seen) but with the review. Saidy just can't seem to write about any subject without making himself the focus.

Anonymous said...

Larry Evans is an entertaining writer, but don't trust anything he says. He has a long history of getting his facts wrong either through not double-checking his work, or from just making things up when he can't quite remember what happened (he doesn't like the facts to interfere with a good story). So, as I said, entertaining, but not trustworthy.

If you want to see what Edward Winters has to say about his work, see http://www.chesshistory.com/winter/extra/evans.html
Drew