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Garry Kasparov is scheduled to sign copies of his "Great Predecessors Volume 2" in New York City on Wednesday, February 4. It's not at the same place as his Vol. 1 signing last summer. It's at Borders 461 Park Ave, Manhattan on February 4 at 6.30 pm. It's on the corner of 57th Street in a large complex. Many subway lines stop nearby, including the 4, 5, 6, N & R at 59th Street and Lexington.

As for the book, it is unlikely it, or any book, will attract the incredible attention that the first volume received, both positive and negative. I think it's great, but then again I try to look at it as a chess fan and not as a critic who owns over 500 other books. This remains the biggest point of contention I have with those who write things like, "And that is the main shortcoming in this book’s handling of history: too much recycled, standard, easy-to-find material, too little effort to go beyond."

That was penned by Taylor Kingston at ChessCafe.com regarding Volume 2, but it could have come from any number of reviewers about either book. He and others also talk about the "overly familiar" games in the books. Overly familiar to whom? Easy to find for whom? Talk about ivory tower! Taylor's is an informed and informative review, as are many of the others, but most seem to miss the point of the book.

I regularly cruise the chess book section at Barnes & Noble and it is not a bad one. As research I counted almost 150 titles on the shelf at the Union Square branch here in New York. Not a small number, I think you'll agree. Now then, in how many of them would you guess I would find the "easy-to-find" history and "familiar" games that appear in the Predecessors books? How many such books are even still in print and with distribution beyond chess shops and online purchase? (Offline purchasing of books is still 50-to-1 over online.)

The Kasparov books were the only ones at B&N you could consider history. No other book on the shelf would tell you about Steinitz or Botvinnik beyond a passing reference. "Developments of Chess Style" by Euwe/Nunn wasn't there. "The Guinness Book of Chess Grandmasters" by Hartston isn't available. The Oxford Companion is long out of print. Sometimes you see the great old algebraic "500 Master Games of Chess" by Tartakover and Dumont, but the analysis is very outdated and little historical data is included. (The common "Idiot's Guide.." and "Dummies" primer books actually do include some basic history, so that contradicts my point somewhat.)

So unless you spend a lot of time shopping around for new and used chess books online you are unlikely to be familiar with these classic games, let alone the old analysis and biographical information. Simply learning about the existence and chronology of the champions is no easy task. While I think the addition of Kasparov's analysis and perspective makes the Predecessors books essential for even the most seasoned collector, we need to recognize that the book is not exclusively for experts despite the complexity of Kasparov's analysis in some cases.

Not to say that "there isn't anything similar easily available" is an argument for the quality of a book, of course. But it should be kept in mind by those who have a rather broad definition of "easily available sources." I'll ask again: which famous/important/influential games do you leave out of a book like this so you can include lesser-known gems?

Many writers seem to define their role purely as critic and not reviewer. Few make mention of anything they enjoyed and instead catalog what they define as errors or flaws. Other than historical facts and analysis improvements, what makes for a flaw is quite subjective. Which is fine, but acting like you were aware of this would be nice.

Most are historically minded and are oblivious to how impossible it would be, and irresponsible in many cases, for Kasparov and Plisetsky to engage in the epic speculation that fills the days and nights of many chess writers and historians. Kasparov feels obliged to acknowledge speculation in a few cases, and gives his opinions, but for reasons of length and legitimacy it would be inappropriate to pursue these things too far in the Predecessors books.

As with any author, any person for that matter, some things attract Kasparov's eye more than others. Length is also an issue, so things have to be prioritized, some things given little space, some things left out entirely. It's fine to criticize when you feel something lesser has been included at the expense of something important, but at the end of the day this is preference and the only solution is to write your own book.

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    This page contains a single entry by Mig published on January 30, 2004 2:26 AM.

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