International Master John Watson is one of the world's most respected writers on chess. In 1999, his Secrets of Modern Chess Strategy won 'Chess Book of the Year' awards in the USA and the UK. He reviews chess books for The Week in Chess and hosts a weekly radio show on the Internet Chess Club. As a trainer, he has worked with many talented pupils, including Tal Shaked.
Reviews - What do customers think about Secrets of Modern Chess Strategy?
Don't see the point Dec 29, 2007
I don't see the point of this book. Presents bunch of special cases to confirm that general rules are no good. But good players know when to deviate from rules anyway, and beginners need to know the rules first. So, who is this book for?
Also, this guy writes way too many books which always seems suspicious to me.
Very well written Jul 5, 2007
I liked this book: it can give you clear ideas about a set of topics about strategy. The first part is built upon the discussion of the ideas given in "My System", by Nimzowitsch, as seen from a modern master's point of view. Despite of this other-source-dependence, the book if self-sustaining: you do not need to read Nimzowitsch's book to understand J. Watson's. If you want to improve your strategic skills on chess, buy it (and read it!).
Interesting, but what's it for? May 10, 2007
Take my comments here with a grain of salt. I'm an intermediate player and no more than that. I will never know as much about chess as Mr Watson. But I have this book, and others like me will buy it (as we probably are the target audience), so I'll put in my two cents worth as to my impressions.
First of all, a lot of work has gone into this book. Mr Watson is very scholarly, and writes very well. My first impressions of this book were "amazing", just like many of the reviews here. But the more I read, and the more I think, the more I have some concerns. So I will try to list them now:
1. Who is this aimed at? As an intermediate player, I am looking for chess books that "teach me", that "help me to improve" or are just "fun to read". But this book purports from the outset to be more of a summary of what is going on in modern chess.
2. Is Mr Watson qualified to summarize modern chess strategy? As a 1700 odd player, I don't really understand a game that a 2000 player is playing. I have read and seen that the jump from IM to GM is enormous. I have serious doubts that anyone less than GM level can accurately describe how GM's are applying strategy, let alone describe all the strategic advances since Nimzovich. In fact, I doubt that Mr Watson, as an IM, could fully explain strategy up to Nimzovich.
3. Why the lack of humility? What's with an IM taking sides for and against ideas of GM's? I think unless you had played at GM level you have no business presenting yourself as an expert who can decide which GM's are right or wrong.
4. What's with "rule independence" the main thesis of the book? So, the position and analysis that has been done on it (probably with a computer today) is more important than strategic rules. Well I think the ability to understand a position beyond rule application has probably always been key at GM level - there's a reason why so few can get there. Does this help me, as an intermediate player, to learn though?
5. Is Nimzovich a decent starting point anyway? Some GM's are very dismissive of "My System" - have a look at Kevin Sraggett GM's book review on his web site.
While a ton of work has gone into this book, and I enjoy browsing from it, and can learn from it (as an intermediate player), I just don't like the way Mr Watson presents himself as the expert who can summarize and provide the word to date on chess strategy. I think IM's can and do write terrific books that teach us chess. But to summarize the state of all chess strategy knowledge? Come on! It would be like me writing a book on IM chess, which would be a total joke.
enjoyable and instructive Jan 3, 2007
We are lucky, thanks to this book we can learn chess strategy avoiding to study outdated books like the ones by Nimzowitch and Pachman. Watson tells us which of the old ideas are still good and which are wrong, and then he give us the modern brand new ideas. All in a enjoyable and instructive way, without thousand of boring and not useful variations in every position. Variations like the ones that make Pachman impossible to read.
History and practice Jul 14, 2006
I am about half way through Watson's book. It is very clearly written. I like it because it contributes to two areas. As a student of the game, I am interested in chess's history. It is intriguing to learn more about Nimzowitsch's contributions and to learn how chess theory has advanced in recent years. Second, I am already seeing Watson's lessons influence my play and understanding of the game. All in all Watson is a good teacher.