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.
They include: Easy Guide to the Panov-Botvinnik Attack, Easy Guide to the Sveshnikov Sicilian, Dutch Stonewall, Queen’s Indian Defence, Meeting 1.d4 (with Esben Lund), and Starting Out: The Grunfeld. He also co-authored Sicilian Kalashnikov with Jan Pinski.
An Excellent Author
Undoubtedly, Jacob Aagaard’s breakout title was Excelling at Chess (2001).
I really enjoyed this book, because Aagaard’s struggles as a non-descript IM battling both his opponents and himself hit close to home.
The book is also remembered for the author’s criticisms of John Watson’s books — and good for him, I think Watson is one of the most overrated chess authors.
Some people didn’t like the “philosophical” bent of this and similar books, but Excelling at Chess was named 2002 ChessCafe.com Book of the Year.
Aagaard produced other books in this series, including Excelling at Positional Chess (2003), Excelling at Chess Calculation (2004), Excelling at Combinational Play (2004), and Excelling at Technical Chess (2004).
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.
Inside the Chess Mind (2004) was Aagaard’s last book for Everyman. Options, options…
I’m Taking My Talents to Glasgow
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.
Aagaard found time for two more opening books with Nikolaos Ntirlis: Grandmaster Repertoire 10: The Tarrasch Defense (2011) and Playing the French (2014)
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:
Jacob Aagaard has established himself as one of the best and most influential chess authors of his generation. What do you think of his work? Comment on this post!