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Chess for Zebras: Thinking Differently about Black and White [Paperback]

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Item description for Chess for Zebras: Thinking Differently about Black and White by Jonathan Rowson...

Jonathan Rowson, author of the highly acclaimed Seven Deadly Chess Sins, investigates three questions important to all chess-players: 1) Why is it so difficult, especially for adult players, to improve? 2) What kinds of mental attitudes are needed to find good moves in different phases of the game? 3) Is White's alleged first-move advantage a myth, and does it make a difference whether you are playing Black or White? In a strikingly original work, Rowson makes use of his academic background in philosophy and psychology to answer these questions in an entertaining and instructive way. This book assists all players in their efforts to improve, and provides fresh insights into the opening and early middlegame. Rowson presents many new ideas on how Black should best combat White's early initiative, and make use of the extra information that he gains as a result of moving second. For instance, he shows that in some cases a situation he calls 'Zugzwang Lite' can arise, where White finds himself lacking any constructive moves. He also takes a close look at the theories of two players who, in differing styles, have specialized in championing Black's cause: Mihai Suba and Andras Adorjan. Readers are also equipped with a 'mental toolkit' that will enable them to handle many typical over-the-board situations with greater success, and avoid a variety of psychological pitfalls. Chess for Zebras offers fresh insights into human idiosyncrasies in all phases of the game. The depth and breadth of this book will therefore help players to appreciate chess at a more profound level, and make steps towards sustained and significant improvement.

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Item Specifications...

Pages   255
Est. Packaging Dimensions:   Length: 0.75" Width: 6.75" Height: 9.75"
Weight:   1 lbs.
Binding  Softcover
Release Date   Oct 30, 2005
Publisher   Gambit Publications
ISBN  1901983854  
ISBN13  9781901983852  

Availability  0 units.

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Product Categories

1Books > Subjects > Entertainment > Games > Board Games > Chess
2Books > Subjects > Entertainment > Games > General

Reviews - What do customers think about Chess for Zebras: Thinking Differently about Black and White?

Help for the improving adult  Dec 21, 2007
I have been a near master for the last 4-5 years. With a full time job, kids, etc. I have all the built in excuses necessary. Chess for Zebras, by Rowson, is one of the best books I have laid my hands on, and I have plenty. My issues are not in the strength of my play, my opening prepation, my physical preparation, or my lack of tactical ability. My shortcomings, and I venture to guess some of yours as well, come from my study methods. I work hard, know enough opening theory, but I do not play enough games. Consequently I am not in enough "real-life" situations to help me improve on my ability to concentrate. This book is helpful in that it opens up your mind to new possibilities, knew ideas on how you can make yourself concentrate better, enjoy the game, and just play Chess. Rowson's style is very captivating, and he has created a work that sheds a different light on the subject of Chess. I am determined to make master, (even in my mid to late 40's)and after reading this book and his other great work, The Seven Deadly Chess Sins, I have gained 36 points in my last two tournaments, with my only loss coming to a GM. With a 50 percent score against NM and FM's I have to believe that I am playing better. If I am playing stronger due to an illusion Rowson has helped me create, then I can summize that his book has had the intended result. I strongly urge anyone to pick up the book, but I would suggest that the target audience is more for players that have "hit the wall." Players with ratings north of 1800 will benefit the most from this original work.
Very Interesting  Dec 28, 2006
This thought provoking collection of essays spans many subjects,
including chess improvement, chess psychology at the board, and White's
advantage of the first move. There is decent practical advice, for
example, to emphasize training over knowledge, to adapt your frame of
mind to the type of position on the board, and to avoid what he calls
the "noble apprentice" syndrome. Rowson writes skillfully and
humorously, and his message is not without substance. Still, I have
doubts about many of Rowson's speculations (that is what they are), and
this was a bit of a missed opportunity in light of the growing body of
research into chess and cognitive science.
How to improve when you have hit a plateau for years!  Sep 12, 2006
If you have been playing chess for years and seem to have stopped improving for awhile then "Chess for Zebras" may be for you. Sometimes you have a set way of thinking and even with good books on games with analysis, tactics, chess traps and more you don't improve. Well, these may be great books (certainly I recommend all of them), but you may need to add to your collection a book that gives a a "different point of view". That is "Chess for Zebras". Okay, some of the ideas may be a little questionable, but you need to do what works for you! And, as with any book, you don't need to take everything as gospil. Use your own mind, and decide for yourself!
An Important Book That Can Make A Difference  Jun 2, 2006
I love chess books and have a large and growing collection, even though I'm a very lowly class player. Most "general" books are filled with conventional advice, repeated over and over; then there are the "specialist" books that concentrate on specific opening lines, endgames, etc.

There are two problems here for the class player. One is that the specialist books are, well, specialized, and especially for the books on opening theory, hard to apply by lowly class players (like me). The second problem is with the general books; they tend to say the same things over and over, and while the reinforcement is a good enough thing, there is again often a problem with specific application. When playing over the board, it's often hard for us "lower class" to see where the glittering generalities apply.

Rowson takes a completely different approach in this book. Like his previous book, Seven Deadly Chess Sins, he looks into why we do things. In the present book, he starts out by considering why chess is "hard" and "hard to learn" and most importantly, why beyond a certain point we have trouble improving. He draws on his background in psychology (most aptly) and philosophy (most entertainingly) to make his points.

And those points are well worth noting. I found an important insight into my own lack of progress in the first half hour of reading, one of those obvious but hard to realize things: I study too much! Rowson's discussion of how learning is applied, or more often not applied, is bound to help nearly anyone achieve a balance of study, and what I will call, based on the book, "applied play." Now, stop and reflect for just a moment how important this is, namely, learning how to balance study (and what you study) with actual play, so that your study can truly apply to your play. I have not seen such a good and useful treatment of this issue in any other book.

His further discussion of moods, approaches, and attitudes is equally revealing, especially his treatment of the "noble apprentice" syndrome --- the idea that it's fine to lose as long as you learn something. I have always believed this, and still do, but Rowson points out how this can fatally sap your will to win. This is but one of the many gems in the first half of the book.

The second half of the book looks at things like hard positions, and how you mentally approach them; there are then interesting chapters about white's advantages and black's advantages, expressed again in terms of how we approach them. The actual chess examples interspersed throughout are well annotated and apt, and contain discussion of thought process, approach, and attitude which reinforce the points made in the text.

This book is really different and really stands out. If you are a class player, lowly or not; or even a higher species of chess player, this book will matter and make a difference. Delay for a bit your purchase of "10,000 Terrific Tactical Tactics" or "Secrets of 20... Qa3 In The Przybylski Declined" and read this book first.... but only if you want to really see a difference in your play.
Gambit's First Bad Chess Book  May 30, 2006
If you're expecting another gem like Rowson's "Seven Deadly Sins" also by Gambit Publishing, forget it! Here Rowson gets lost in a lot of pop psychology, introspective musings and psuedoscience that passes itself off as philosophy. His reach into nonchess domains does NOT resolve confusion or produce insightful questions but creates confusion and misunderstanding.

I've the feeling that because of "Seven Deadly Sins" Gambit editors decided to let Rowson's intellect roam free in "Chess for Zebras". They made a terrible mistake. "Chess for Zebras" reads like a rotten first draft in extreme need of extensive editorial oversight. Don't waste your money on this conceptual trash heap.

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