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Lars Bo Hansen: How Chess Games Are Won and Lost

I already have far too many books like How Chess Games Are Won and Lost, holistic tomes that attempt to somehow improve your chess game across the board by dispensing a couple hundred pages of advice. But this one has gotten a bunch of great reviews, so I gave in.

It’s actually a very good book, although the title is misleading. It’s not so much a manual as it is a collection of stuff Hansen has learned over the course of his career, supplemented with examples from his games (and some other games that he learned from). So don’t go in expecting to see a theory of chess improvement presented and supported, as you might with Silman or Rowson.

That said, this is a very entertaining book. I hesitate to grade the instructional value of any book, since I have read dozens of books in the last 15 years but my 1800-ish rating has not budged, so clearly they’re all useless. But Hansen does say a lot of interesting things, and his annotations are excellent, at exactly the right level of detail for my class A brain. (For the non-chess-players, that’s class A as in “one level below expert, which is one level below master, which is still way below grandmaster”, not class A as in top-notch.) I think it would be useful for players down to the 1600 level or so, with the caveat that some of the things he’s saying are really aimed at a higher level of player than you or me, and I wouldn’t be surprised if even a 2200 learned something, although what do I know.

I read the whole thing (and if you read chess books, you know that actually reading a book cover to cover is high praise indeed), and was sufficiently impressed by his writing and analysis to consider reading his other two books as well.