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London to Elista: Buy the Book

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The excellent "From London to Elista" by Evgeny Bareev and Ilya Levitov has won the only chess book award anybody knows or cares about, the English Chess Federation 2008 Book of the Year Award. Published by my buddies over at New In Chess, it is that rarest of things, an open accounting that wears its prejudices on its sleeve, making it insightful and revealing instead of the usual pap of false modesty and sarcastic pseudo-objectivity. The judges' report is here (pdf); its heading: "The judges this year had no difficulty choosing a book which gives a remarkable inside view of match play chess at the highest level."

Any other good recent chess books? I honestly don't bother with much beyond the occasional game collection by someone I know and/or like. We could start having guest reviews on occasion if there's interest.


Fantastic book. Better than Tal Botvinnik. For creating atmosphere its as good as Dominic LAwson's book on Gazza v Short

Curiously illiterate comments by the judges. They don't seem to understand what constitutes a sentence. I suppose that's no surprise, really. Predictable winner, though. It's an interesting book - you can't really miss talking to Bareev on this subject. Its comments on what Kramnik meant to play here or there differ surprisingly from Kramnik's own on his DVD. And in case anyone is wondering there's virtually nothing about the toilet stuff, which is probably a good thing, really.

"King's Gambit" by Paul Hoffman - http://www.amazon.com/Kings-Gambit-Father-Worlds-Dangerous/dp/1401300979/ref=si3_rdr_bb_product - sounds like a good read, though more just anecdotes and chess journalism (loosely disguised as biography) than serious chess. It's funny as I came across the book because I occasionally review novels for a publisher and they sent one by him. Then the next book I've been sent is also by someone who used to be a "chess journalist". There seem to be more out there than you'd think! :)

chesscafe.com does run another annual book award, decided by popular vote if I remember correctly. So, Mig, you might be right about the "anybody cares" part, but hardly on the "anybody knows"! ;-) Cheers. Charley

I'd recommend both "American Grandmaster" by Joel Benjamin and "The Art of Bisguier II" by Arthur Bisguier (both volumes, actually; but the 2nd came out this past year) as being good reads with interesting games and commentary, albeit not so much for those into "heavy" analysis or theory. Just good, enjoyable chess.

I am on public record as strongly recommending this same book, "From London to Elista", by Bareev & Levitov:


One aspect of chess book review that I feel is missing from too many reviews is the degree to which the given book enlarges or broadens the variety of areas covered in the body of accumulated chess literature. There are a lot of books that are good when considered individually; but are found to largely overlap existing material already published in other books.

"From London to Elista" excels at adding truly new material to the body of chess literature.

However, the book's title is an exaggeration -- in that it should be "From London to Brissago". Bareev was no longer Kramnik's second in Elista. The Elista section of the book cannot help but regress to average quality: annotations, mere general speculations, and an outsider's opinion about the game 5 forfeit mess.

Just a minute ago, on FoidosChess.tv during game 1 of Anand-Kramnik match, Miguel Illescas spoke about Elista 2006 Kramnik-Topalov. Illescas replaced Bareev as Kramnik's second for Elista 2006 (page 311).

Illescas visited Seirawan's English booth and said (approx) that being Kramnik's second was exhausting. Illescas echoed Bareev's accounts of how Kramnik operates with his seconds. Kramnik gives them a basic variation idea, and asks them to make it work. Illescas redirects Fritz and Rybka (computer runs almost constantly during the match). Sometimes the answer back is "Sorry Vlady, it just does not work."

Levitov or Bareev should have interviewed Illescas for the Elista section of their book.

IF two grandmasters and their seconds put this much effort into studying one randomly chosen FRC-chess960 setup, how much preparation time and live games would it take before they began to tangle with home prepared opening ideas?!
In contrast, as it is in Mainz FRC-chess960, we are not seeing any accumulation of opening ideas.

Bareev's bright, impish sense of humor is irresistible. For being a Kramnik second, he's remarkably even-handed in taking entertaining shots at GKK, PL, VT, and Kramnik himself.

Brief interviews with a Kasparov second provide insight into GKK's 2000 melt-down and the annotations show that he did have some chances in the last few games of that match.

Wonderful account of behind-the-scenes in Brissago. Kramnik falling very ill. Kramnik taking a sleeping before a game by mistake.

There's much less behind-the scenes material from Elista, of course, but the commentary and annotations are excellent nonetheless.

A highest-quality effort. Over the past six months I've played over every game and every note several times and have yet to find a typo.

Let's hope he brings out a revised edition to include the present match.

Agree with everyone who has praised this excellent book. The Kasparov and particularly the Leko sections are fantastic and Bareev is a hugely likeable character- similar it seems to Svidler, dry playing style but great to read or listen to.

The other recent book that made a big impression on me was Josh Waitzkin's 'The Art of Learning' - a gripping read.

While I enjoyed FLTE, I didn't think it was fantastic. It was a little difficult/boring to read at times, but it did contain some interesting information and stories.

Josh Waitzkin's TAOL is VERY good. Nice to see the writing talent passed from father to son without missing a beat!

Paul Hoffman's KG is also VERY good. I think it may be the best work on chess by an amatuer player that's ever been written.

Of course Garry's latest installment also came out recently and I enjoyed it. While much of it is a re-hash of Dva Matcha, it's well worth the investment to see his perspective and how it's changed over time. I also enjoyed the updated analysis of the first marathon match, although there are no real earth-shattering revelations. Most interesting to me was his "forgiveness" of Karpov for "all he had done previously" because Karpov showed the character to try and visit Kasparov in prison. Almost Shakespearean!

A good book overall but some of Levitov's interventions are quite stupid. Bareev would have been better off with a partner that actually knew chess, perhaps not at his level but a knowledgeable afficionado would have been OK.

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    This page contains a single entry by Mig published on October 14, 2008 1:14 AM.

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