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Grand Strategy: 60 games by Boris Spassky by Van Jan Reek, Boris Spasky

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Grand Strategy: 60 games by Boris Spassky by Van Jan Reek, Boris Spasky  Empty Grand Strategy: 60 games by Boris Spassky by Van Jan Reek, Boris Spasky

Post  ChessCaissa on Fri Apr 05, 2019 4:24 am

PDF (6.4 mb):

Thanks to the original uploader! sunny

Spassky's games provide rich material for understanding methods of attack in the centre or on the flank, as well as prophylactic plans: restraint, consolidation and counterattack. Great educational value can be found in the relatively simple plans, wonderful combinations and stubborn defence. 2nd expanded edition, with an autobiographical appendix by Boris Spassky.

Product details
Paperback: 176 pages
Publisher: New In Chess,Csi (January 1, 2003)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 9074827411
ISBN-13: 978-9074827416

The great chess author, John Watson, did not like this book and wrote a very negative review, which you can find below.  Then, read the book and judge for yourself!

"It's hard to imagine a worse vehicle for the great Boris Spassky's games than 'Grand Strategy' by Jan van Reek. Jeremy Silman, writing on his extensive and very highly recommended website, gave a negative review of van Reek's earlier book 'Hypermodern Strategy' (the book is subtitled 'Revision of Nimzowitsch's "My System"). After quoting several confused passages in which van Reek reveals a thorough ignorance of basic concepts, Silman concluded 'Quite honestly, this is one of the worst chess books I've ever seen!' I shared that opinion, but didn't express it at the time, since I tend to avoid reviewing books that have few or no redeeming features. Now that I have seen van Reek's 'Grand Strategy' (subtitled '60 Games by Boris Spassky'), I feel equal distaste for this second book and would very much like to warn away any readers who don't yet have it. That Matthew Sadler calls this 'an exceptionally good book', is reason enough to set the record (as I see it) straight.

Before doing so, one might wonder who van Reek is. In a section entitled 'Preparation', an unnamed person (surely van Reek himself) explains that the author of 'Grand Strategy' has 'written 150 publications' about 'mortality, smoking behaviour and heart diseases'. But he doesn't use a doctor's title, and no indication is given that he's a medical researcher or even has a university degree. Given the quality of the two chess books mentioned above, one wonders if he makes a habit of writing about things that he knows nothing about. At any rate, we find that he is a three-time 'Dutch Champion in War Games' (?). And that 'Although chess is a mainly tactical game, it is useful when someone looks into its strategy seriously every 70 years,' that someone being van Reek himself.

Why write this review? Because I am particularly upset by arrogance in chess writing. When a player takes credit for new moves, that is natural and even historically enlightening. Gligoric's chess/autobiographical work (reviewed later) provides good examples of this. But when a writer purports to having a major role in the development of the whole of chess theory, one expects some sort of justification for that claim. As in 'Grand Strategy', however, van Reek's presentation of theory is confused, hopelessly vague, and unreadable (the English throughout this book is execrable, despite the claim that 'John Beasley greatly improved the English grammar'). van Reek's idea of chess history and the development of ideas also reflects his ignorance and egocentric view. Just for example:

'The Soviet School of chess did not start from fascination by the game itself, but it was founded as an instrument for Stalinist propaganda...An important purpose is to let the opponent play poorly. The trick is to lure him into an unfamiliar position of direct combat, which the professional has studied thoroughly during home analysis. Later Kasparov refined this technique through the use of computers. Although the method is rational, it lacks scientific depth. The understanding of hypermodern chess is limited. Only Boleslavsky differed.'

Okay, although not the tiniest bit of evidence is presented to support the claim, we are told that the entire set of Soviets from Botvinnik through Bronstein and Petrosian were defective in understanding, that their chess lacked scientific depth, etc. A near-exception is Smyslov, who 'is able to play hypermodern chess, although he cannot rationalize its principles.' But close only counts in horseshoes. So who did and does understand chess? The answer is 'Dutch science', as represented by Euwe and evidently the author himself. Here's the sequence he presents:

'Theory about chess strategy made a leap forward in 1927, when Euwe wrote sagacious articles about pawns in the center and the attack on the King, and Nimzovich published his system of prophylaxis. Van Reek completed, clarified and combined these approaches into a general theory for human and computer chess in 1997.'

[After this review was written, I noticed that Taylor Kingston attributed the following unsurprising quote to Mr. van Reek: 'In chess, Lasker, Botvinnik and Nunn are mentioned as scientists, although they never made an intellectual achievement of lasting value, like I did.' In fact, Kingston in his excellent review at Chess Cafe covers much of the same material that I have. I would normally find his sarcasm about 'Grand Strategy' a little too insistent, but here it is well deserved.]

Perhaps I need say no more about this pretentious nonsense. But let's just humour the reader and ask: What is this general theory? van Reek list a series of 'principles', none of which would be helpful to any player that I can think of. There is no room here to present them all, but it turns out that 'Strategy typifies how the two opposing lines move forward [emphasis his].' The key is this 'forward movement', although 'movement is indirectly forward in a flank attack', whatever that means, and 'both sides move forward during a counterattack.' For practical advice, van Reek offers the observation that 'A player needs Russian intuition at the board and Dutch science during the analysis. We cannot judge the quality of this approach, but we have no serious alternative.' More accurately, we have no more comical alternative.

On the positive side, the book includes 60 games by Spassky (presumably all available in databases) and some nice photographs. And there is an interesting but too short biographical section written by Spassky himself (incidentally revealing a great animosity towards Petrosian). But van Reek's annotations to Spassky's games are contradictory and often beyond comprehension, e.g., 'Fischer carries out an active consolidation with accordions.' When Tal is about to sacrifice, 'the pale Spassky waits'. What little I could bear of the game annotations immediately revealed some misjudgments and odd claims. With regard to theory, van Reek expands the scope of the word 'prophylaxis' until it becomes quite meaningless, e.g., a player with a disadvantage who counterattacks is acting 'prophylactically', and a move that consolidates the position is 'prophylactic'. Similarly, 'overprotection' includes more or less any defence of a pawn (even an advanced passed pawn that can't be exchanged) by several pieces. And so forth.

For example, van Reek attributes Fischer's 1972 win over Spassky to his application of 'Boleslavsky's strategic approach'. 'As Black, [Fischer] frequently applied prophylaxis by playing the Sicilian, Grunfeld, and King's Indian.' Here prophylaxis apparently means playing almost any opening, because for the match itself, 'Fischer applied a similar approach with different openings', namely 'the Benoni, Nimzo-Indian, Alekhine and Pirc'! Thus he scored '4 out of 5 for prophylaxis as Black.' Why games with these seven openings were examples of Fischer's prophylactic play is beyond my comprehension, since they were mostly played very actively and without special regard for preventing White's plans. van Reek also claims that the Russians made two great errors: (a) 'They did not recognize Fischer's knowledge of prophylaxis'; he adds that 'this 'Russian' blunder shows a great defect in the Soviet School: the abstract properties of prophylaxis are not understood'; and (b) 'They did not even notice the strong similarity between Boleslavsky's and Fischer's strategic approach.'

I get angry when I see a book like this. It's so bad that after a while I stopped laughing at its absurdity, and just felt sorry that Spassky allowed himself to be represented by such a charlatan. Let's hope that we see a more serious biography dealing with this great World Champion from a modern perspective; for now, older and better ones can still be found. In conclusion, please don't waste your discretionary chess budget on this book. I would encourage you to buy the books of legitimate, hard-working authors instead."


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