If you’re comfortable reading books on a screen (web or downloadable app), ForwardChess will save you a lot of time:
No need to use a board and pieces, resetting again and again to play through variations.
No need to enter games or entire books into ChessBase.
No need to add more “stuff” to your physical chess library which, if you’re like me, could have hundreds of books in it already!
Try Before You Buy
If you walked into a real bookstore, you could peruse the books you were thinking of buying. Forward chess allows you to read samples, often including a chapter or two to see if the title is what you expect.
The 670+ books currently available on ForwardChess are usually cheaper than their print alternatives, and comparable to Amazon prices. And whether you get a physical book or a Kindle version, you can’t play through the moves without a board …
Most major publishers are represented, including Chess Stars, Everyman Chess, Quality Chess, and New in Chess. The notable exception is Gambit Publications.
Chessable has a lot of fans; I’ve used it some and I think it’s ok … but it doesn’t let me study the way I grew up doing with “regular” books. At least, I don’t know how to use it in this way.
ForwardChess books are intended to be read like physical books. It is a blessing for chess players. If you’re lazy, like me, and don’t want to take out a board and pieces any longer, there is no longer any excuse to not study!
With my posts on Mark Dvoretsky and Mihail Marin, it was only a matter of time before I devoted a post to another prolific superclass author.
Jacob Aagaard (1973 – ) was born in Horsholm, Denmark but for many years has represented Scotland. He earned his grandmaster title in 2007.
Aagaard’s most notable achievement as a player was his clear first place in the 2007 British Championship. He has also won the Championship of Scotland.
Not only does Aagaard have a great legacy as an author in his own right, he co-founded Quality Chess after writing a dozen books for Everyman Chess.
Quality Chess recruits top authors, including Marin, Boris Avrukh, Vasilios Kotronias, Artur Yusupov, and more.
A chess fanatic could safely buy a Quality Chess book sight unseen. I would not make this claim about any other chess publisher. Quality Chess also prints hardcover editions of their books: they have proven conclusively that players will pay for high quality work.
Anyway, this post is about Jacob Aagaard the author, so let’s get started, shall we? After all, he has won several Book of the Year awards from various entities.
From 1998 through 2004, Aagaard produced “typical” opening guides for improving players. I haven’t read any of these, because they didn’t cover subject matter that interested me at the time.
Excelling at Positional Chess was in my wheelhouse, and I enjoyed it even more than the original Excelling at Chess! Aagaard’s presentation of examples is sublime. I have not read Excelling at Technical Chess, but have been wanting to do so for years! So much for willpower.
Aagaard helped launch Quality Chess with Practical Chess Defence (2006). While interesting, it was perhaps slightly disappointing. I would think writing about defense is harder than writing about attacking.
Still, one must admire Aagaard for never shying away from taking risks and expressing his chess ideas.
In 2008, the new Grandmaster kept firing with The Attacking Manual 1: Basic Principles and The Attacking Manual 2: Technique and Praxis. In my opinion, these works raised Aagaard from popular writer and chess thinker to elite trainer. I didn’t get through much of these two books, but I did work through a handful of chapters — Dvoretsky-esque in many ways, but also more straightforward. This is no accident: Aagaard has been very open about his admiration for Mark Dvoretsky over the years.
As attacking-challenged as I am, these works did help. I imagine serious study would reap huge rewards. This pair of books won English Chess Federation Book of the Year for 2010.
What a way to cap off a successful career! Surely Aagaard would now focus on running Quality Chess and not write too much more, right?
Well … Aagaard is more of a field general, it seems!
Starting in 2012, he produced a series of training manuals for improving players — even up to GM level and beyond. I think there’s even a reference to Boris Gelfand using some of Aagaard’s material to help prepare for his 2012 World Championship match with Viswanathan Anand…
I bought Grandmaster Preparation: Calculation (2012) in hardcover, and it was so worth it. A beautiful book worth the $40 or whatever I paid for it. The little bit I worked through stretched me and restructured some of my thinking processes! Wow!
I’m not exaggerating: I think serious worth with this book could take an Expert like me and raise him or her to 2200-2300. All ambitious players should get it, say, 1800 and above.
That it won the 2013 Association of Chess Professionals Book of the Year award is almost an afterthought.
I haven’t bought any other books in the series, because I hardly work on chess any longer, but they are:
Today I want to discuss a very popular and highly-regarded chess figure who also happens to be the first currently-living author in the series. Serious work for serious people, yes, but more approachable than most Dvoretsky volumes.
Mihail Marin (1965 – ) was born in Bucharest, Romania. A three-time Champion of Romania (1988, 1994, 1999), he competed in the 1987 Szirak Interzonal.
Marin has represented Romania in ten Olympiads, winning a bronze medal on Board 3 at Thessaloniki 1988. He earned the Grandmaster title in 1993 and was ranked one of the World’s Top 100 Players in 2001.
These are certainly impressive accomplishments, but Marin was destined for greatness in another realm of chess.
Starting at the Top
In 2003, Gambit Publications issued Mihail Marin’s first book, Secrets of Chess Defence, which was nominated for the 2003 ChessCafe Book of the Year Award.
Gambit also published Marin’s Secrets of Attacking Chess in 2005, which was also well-received. If you can even get one of these books, you’ll pay a pretty penny! Well, there’s always Kindle…
A Critical Building Block
New publisher Quality Chess lived up to their name by bringing Mihail Marin into the fold early on. He has produced a string of hits for them — behold:
This book won Marin the 2005 ChessCafe.com Book of the Year Award, and was so highly-acclaimed that it has been revised and reprinted multiple times.
Each chapter examines a distinctive feature of a great player of the past: Akiba Rubinstein‘s Rook Endings, Mikhail Tal‘s Super Rooks vs. Two Minor Pieces, Tigran Petrosian‘s Exchange Sacrifices, Bobby Fischer‘s Pet Bishop, and more.
A book that definitely lives up to its hype: pleasant and instructive.
In response to the Ruy Lopez (1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5), Marin recommends the Chigorin Defense (3…a6 4.Ba4 Nf6 5.0-0 Be7 6.Re1 b5 7.Bb3 d6 8.c3 0-0 9.h3 Na5) to his readers.
He gets into some of the history, maneuvers, and reasoning for why lines developed as they did. This is not a waste of your time: such insights come to the rescue when you find yourself facing a move you have not studied. Marin’s discussion of the “Spanish Knight” is worth the cover price alone.
This book should be used with Beating the Open Games, above.
This book celebrated the 50th edition of the Reggio Emilia tournament held in the Italian city bearing the same name. It contains plenty of photographs, crosstables, and stories — as every tournament book should.
These three books ushered in unprecedented popularity of the English Opening at all levels!
From club players to super-GMs.
I have not read them myself, actually. But I have no doubt about their influence, as I recently alluded to. It could be decades before someone creates a more authoritative series of books on a major opening system.
Volume One covers 1.c4 e5, Volume Three covers 1.c4 c5, and Volume Two covers everything else after 1.c4.