Sunday, November 20, 2005

chess: new gloss without the brilliancies

Levens, David. Basic Chess. Jan. 2006. Sterling Publishing. c192p. color illus. glossary. index. ISBN 0-600-60804-2. $7.95.

for Library Journal

David Levens’ latest book delivers exactly what it advertises: basic chess. Suitable only for novices, the work presents the fundamentals in the trademark bright tones that characterize the booming instructional book market. While his work proves somewhat thin on tactical practice opportunities, Levens lays out the game and its basic principles, moving into essential knowledge such as standard openings; piece strengths, weaknesses, and movement; pins, forks, and skewers; or common mating patterns. The surface gloss of chessic history, including the obligatory hat tip to famous players (Dickens, Nabakov, Duchamp, Amis, et al), adds little to the text. The pages would have been better allotted to more exercises, the key to improving any beginner’s games. Advanced beginners hoping for a new collection of tough puzzles or reviews of sophisticated lines of play would be better served by standbys like the lively Pandolfini’s Ultimate Guide to Chess or the lesser-known 303 Perplexing Chess Puzzles by Fred Wilson and Bruce Albertson. Additionally, nearly all the information in this book is available on the Internet. Not recommended.—Elizabeth Kennedy, Oakland, CA