Book Reviews

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Russell Sherwood  Monday, July 19, 2021

Larry Kaufman

224 Pages

New in Chess


Larry Kaufman is a name very familiar in the computer chess community and by extension the correspondence chess community as well. 

Following on from his very useful opening books, Here we have an Autobiography of sorts, broken down broadly into sections around OTB and Chess Engines.  I found the book a really compelling read and probably enjoyed this most of any chess book I have gone through in the last few years. There is a nice section on where Larry believes Chess and Correspondence Chess in particular will develop. Whilst I dont agree with all his thoughts here, it is a fascinating insight into one of the longest serving members of the community! 

Rating: 91% - A really enjoyable read

Rakhmanov’s Secrets of Opening Preparation

Russell Sherwood  Monday, July 12, 2021

Aleksander Rakhmanov

360 Pages

Thinkers Publishing


Opening Preparation is a vital part of a Modern CC player's armoury, but it is an area which is not covered well in contemporary chess literature. There are many books covering specific openings and very good ones on developing an opening repertoire, but the area of opening preparation is one with a much less effective coverage.

This book is a very interesting take on how a 2650 FIDE GM approaches opening preparation. The text is almost engine free, but does provide a number of ideas relevant to CC to the diligent reader. - Chapter 10 "Personalizing your preparation to the Opponent" give some excellent ideas which can be easily modified to CC use.

Rating: 89% - A set of very interesting ideas for the aspiring player, held back slightly by the price.


Book ReviewCorrespondenceChessThinkersPress

Chess for Life - Matthew Sadler & Natasha Regan

Russell Sherwood  Monday, December 31, 2018

Chess for Life

Matthew Sadler & Natasha Regan

224 Pages

Gambit Publication

This is a book rather different than most other books I have reviewed, in it covers the development of skill and particular how this changes as we age. In terms of format, it is based on a number of interviews and articles from a number of chess luminaries. Whilst not directly related to CC a number of chapters, especially around Opening repertoire development will be of interest. Well worth a look

Rating: 90% (4th on my rating list!)


Book Review: The Chess Toolbox

Russell Sherwood  Monday, December 24, 2018

The Chess Toolbox: Practical Techniques Everyone Should Know

IM Thomas Willemze

New in Chess

400 Pages

What skills do you need to develop your chess? This book aims to develop the skills of the player in a number of specific areas:

  • Exchange your way to Victory
  • Unleash your Rooks
  • Attack and Defence

When the knowledge development in the first three sections is combined we then have Exploiting the IQP and Fighting the IQP.  This approach to knowledge development, via a layered syllabus style approach, is quite rare in chess and also quite refreshing! 

For the CC player, this is a very useful book as it will help in deciding the correct strategic decisions are being made..

Rating: 81%


Better Thinking, Better Chess: How a Grandmaster Finds his Moves - GM Joel Benjamin

Russell Sherwood  Tuesday, December 18, 2018

Better Thinking, Better Chess: How a Grandmaster Finds his Moves

GM  Joel Benjamin

New in Chess

224 Pages

The basic premise of this book is that is it not just what you know but how you apply it, which is supported further extolled by the title of "Better Thinking, Better Chess". Improvement in this area is sought by working through a number of example games and positions leading to challenges to the reader to consider the move they would make at key points. 

Through the explanation of typical errors at this point, potential improvement areas are identified and discussed.  The book is laid out in a number of chapters, which whilst including the predictable Openings, Endgames and the like, also includes sections on Swindling, Winning the won game and another interesting fare

So how does this book fare for the CC player? The majority of the content is transferable and in particular, the "Tips for Better Chess Thinking" provide some interesting food for thought when applied slightly differently.

Overall Rating: 83%


Correspondence Chess in Britain and Ireland, 1824-1987 - SIM Tim Harding

Russell Sherwood  Saturday, December 15, 2018

Correspondence Chess in Britain and Ireland, 1824-1987

Tim Harding

McFarland & Co

439 Pages


Here we have a fascinating book, detailing Correspondence Chess up to 1990 in Britain and Ireland. Here there is no mention of Engines and Databases but the exploits of British players in, what is considered by some, the Golden Era of CC in the UK.

The book is a little on the high side price wise, running as £30 - £40 on Amazon, although much of this is related to the depth of research carried out on the book (which in part was related to the award of Tim Harding's PhD).

If you want something different about CC, this is the book!

Rating 89% (It would be higher but for the price!)



e3 Poison : A 21st Century Opening Repotiore

Russell Sherwood  Sunday, August 5, 2018

E3 Poison

Axel Smith

Quality Chess

378 Pages


I must admit I am a fan of Axel Smith’s work. There got that out the way!

In many ways this book can be considered a follow up to Smith’s previous book: “Pump up your rating”.  So rather than being an opening treatise around 1.e3 this is rather an examination of a number of openings which transpose into a set up with e3,d4,c4 and Nf3. The book then discusses the plans, common themes and tactics which arise in this kind of position. This knowledge is Smith strongly credits towards his gaining of the GM (OTB) Title.

This in itself make the book highly interesting for the CC playe!. We now have a situation where opening databases and engines have made understanding the Opening and Middlegame positions which arise essential if we want to be able to fashion an advantage. In this regard, if the reader is willing to put in the required work, then the book will deliver!


Overall: If you like to play moves other than 1.e4 then this book can probably add something to your chess!


Scoring: 82% - One for non e4 players!


Applying Logic in Chess - Erick Kislik

Russell Sherwood  Sunday, July 8, 2018

Applying Logic in Chess

IM Erik Kislik

Gambit Chess

319 Pages



This book is weighty - in many ways. It will not be for everyone, as its very word heavy and not the contents not being lightweight either! That said for those willing to work through it the contents are excellent covering a very modern interpretation of Chess and how to get better at it

The structure of the book is interesting with 14 main chapters, going from the very beginning (Not trying to teach the reader the fundamentals but considering such things as the piece values in different phases of the game and different positions), through what to train at, how to train, How to evaluate , How to use engines and how to develop Meta Openings.

For the correspondence player, there are many gems within its pages (read the book yourself to find them!

There has been an excellent crop of new books in recent month's but Applying Logic in Chess, raises the bar (again!)

Book Score: 94% - Joist highest score to date (it would have been the highest if more diagrams had been included to break up the text)


Chess Structures

Russell Sherwood  Sunday, June 10, 2018

Chess Structures - A Grandmaster Guide

Mauricio Flores Ríos

Quality Chess

464 Pages

Modern Correspondence Chess has is a game where Strategic thinking and planning take the fore as engines handle tactics rather well!  This book aid the aspiring CC player well in reviewing all the major pawn structures seen in the modern game.

After a short introduction, the book leaps into identifying and reviewing 29 distinct structures. For each one the White and Black plans and piece placement as discussed. This then leads to a number of heavily annotated model games to help the student grasp the strategy in the structure.

The book is rounded off with a number of graded exercises.

The structure of the book is such that the reader can dip into the chapters they want or need rather than having to read the entire book

Overall Score 93% - Well worth adding to your collection!





World Champion at the Third Attempt

Russell Sherwood  Monday, May 28, 2018

World Champion at the Third Attempt

Grigory Sanakoev



256 Pages


Following on from the review of Mike Read’s 120 Games, we have a much older book but one covering the games of a former ICCF World Champion.

The book covers Sankoev’s CC career from the very start until winning the World Championship (at the third attempt).

Although the book comes from the pre-engine era is a rich source of valuable ideas for the aspiring CC player as Sanakoev presents a number of CC “rules” which he refines after each cycle of play.

A few minor negatives – as a translation the language can be a little obtuse and as the content covers the 1960 – 1980’s a few of the ideas are past their sell by date but as a positive, even in those cases, there is still a great idea which can be modified for modern play.

Want a glimpse into the processes of an ICCF World Champion, then this is the book for you. Better still, it currently is selling for only £5 in a number of outlets!



Value for Money: 10

Readability: 7

Originality: 9

Content: 38


Durability: 7

Would I buy this (again) 10


Total 91%

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