Saturday, January 22, 2011

Book of the Year?

Three finalists have been chosen for The Chess Cafe ( book of the year contest. I did not vote this year and have never voted in any of these book contests for the simple reason that I have not read enough books to nominate one. The reason I will not vote for one of the final three is that I have only read one of the books, Yasser's exceptional book, Chess Duels. I was so looking forward to reading it that I stopped everything else to read it! The book is everything I want from a chess book. I read for enjoyment now and there is nothing better than a book containing great games and their stories! Certainly I can recommend this book to any and everyone. Yet I cannot vote for it because I have not read the others.
Diary of a Chess Queen by Alexandra Kosteniuk has the best cover by far. (Insert smiley face here) If one were judging only by the cover...The truth is that I will never read it because, there are so many books and so little time.
Then there is the book writen by a prepubescent NM, Mastering Positional Chess, by Daniel Naroditsky. Upon seeing this book I thought of what Viktor Korchnoi said when he learned Magnus Carlsen had become the highest rated chess player in the world. "There are millions of positions he has yet to see!" Then I thought of the review by GM Jonathan Rowson in the 2010/4 issue of the best chess magazine in the world, New in Chess. The title of his article is, Who Owns Chess Ideas? He gives an example in the Naroditsky book from the book from the Karpov-Timman game from Montreal, 1979, saying, "I immediately recognised this example from the Dvoretsky/Yusupov literature..."
He then writes: "If this example were a one-off, there would be no issue, but the young suthor takes several examples that look very much like they were taken from the Dvoretsky/Yusupov literature, without attributing the source either in the text of bibliography. The author's age certainly makes this behaviour more forgivable, and if you felt generous you might even say that his interpretation of these examples is more accessible than the sources from which they derive. Certainly Naroditsky's alacritous authorial voice is not the same as Dvoretsky's more analytical jtone, but these are nonetheless the same examples used to express the same ideas, and a different tone is not really sufficient justification for the extent of the replication." He calls IM John Donaldson's preface "thoughtful." Even though this book was published by New in Chess and GM Rowson is writing in New in Chess magazine, I cannot help but feel the GM has 'pulled his punches' because the author is so young. I feel he would have written differently if it had been IM John Donaldson's book that was being reviewed.
GM Rowson closes with, "I trust Naroditsky will be more careful with his sources in the future, and I look forward to his future work because he is likely to become a strong GM..." This would seem to indicate GM Rowson believes young Mr Naroditsky is guilty of plagiarism, but that he will be able to overcome it in the future in the same way others guilty of plagiarism, such as Vice President Joe Biden, prominent historian Doris Kearns Goodwin (noted for her hagiographies of the establishment devils Lincoln and LBJ), and Martin Luther King, were able to overcome.
It does, though, beg the question of why this book was even nominated. Why would anyone purchase this book when they could buy the original source material in the Dvoretsky/Yusupov book?


Anonymous said...

What other books would you recommend for enjoyment?

Anonymous said...

The imitator dooms himself to hopeless mediocrity.-Ralph Waldo Emerson, The Divinity College Adress (1838)