viernes, 13 de octubre de 2017

Review: John Nunn's Chess Puzzle Book Enlarged Edition

Title: John Nunn's Chess Puzzle Book Enlarged Edition.
Author: John Nunn.
Publisher: Gambit Publications.
Year: 2009.
Pages: 336.
Price: 20.25€.

Last summer I bought Dvoretsky's Maneuvering: The art of piece play, Gabrinsky's Perfect your Chess and John Nunn's Chess Puzzle Book. The main desire was to get Dvoretsky's book but I took the chance and went to get two puzzle books to go along with it. Perfect your Chess was meant to be there waiting for my level to go up, as it is allegedly hard while I hopped John Nunn's puzzle book would be an accessible book to give me a break from the difficult Aagaard books.

Nunn is an accomplished author and I was at a loss as of which book would be interesting (now I have some better ideas, when I get to review Dynamic Decision Making I'll share what Gelfand recommends you) so I thought his book would do the trick as it was computer-checked and I thought the fact that I had not seen much praise about it would mean that its level would be quite accessible. I do not want to spoil the review, but I can advance that it is not.

The book features 300 tactical exercises in 336 pages. if you look at other reviews I've done that ratio is not really high for a tactics book. The format is unlike anything I've seen so far. It has the puzzles at the beginning and the solutions at the end of the book, but there is a middle section with hints for 252 of the problems. It also features 48 problems in a test format (without hint) where you can rate yourself.

The hint section gives you some advice as to how to solve the problem and gives you the difficulty of it. The hints vary in usefulness. Some spoil the problem completely while a lot more are not useful at all. When solving I only gave myself half the marks if I had to look at the hint to get the solution right even if the hint was obscure.

The edition of the book is poor and is something that shocks me to this day. As far as I understand it Nunn is one of the owners of Gambit Publications so one would think that he would want his book in the best quality available, specially if they are committed to a second edition (it is called enlarged because it features some more exercises, but it is a second edition after all).

However the book is paperback (well, everyone except for QC goes for paperback, but I can still complain as this is my blog!) and the quality of the paper is the worst I've seen in years. This is the problem when you buy in amazon, you won't have the book on your hands and you may end up buying something you dislike.

It seems that this edition not only has new exercises (which is good), but also a diagram at the beginning of the solution for each exercise to help you follow the solution. I cannot judge the usefulness of it as I did not study the previous edition but given how hard it is to navigate the book my guess is that it is a good addition.

The length of the book is excessive for only 300 exercises but the hints and the extra diagram in the solution take space too. The book is about the adequate thickness (thanks in part to the bad quality of the paper on it) so while it would be able to fit a lot more exercises with a better structure you have to think about the cost of each exercise (less than 0.07€) and stop complaining.

The solutions are thoroughly commented (unlike QC puzzle book, for instance), the solution normally takes around half a page per exercise and the comments are good.

The analysis is also adequate. I think I found only one flawed exercise (where the intended solution did not win). The exercises, though, are difficult. The exercises are rated with stars (with one star for the easiest puzzles to 5+ to the deadliest ones) and the 2-star problems were difficult but manageable for me, the 3-star problems were very difficult but I could solve them about half of the time and the 4-star problems were hell and took me quite a lot of time and even then I had poor success.

The average difficulty of the book is between 2 and 3 stars. Unlike the QC titles the problems are not ordered by difficulty so there is no obvious point were you can go to the next chapter, you have to suffer all the way to the end. However I cheated and looked the difficulty before trying to solve the exercise. I do not know if it gave me a big advantage, but at least it gave me solace when I would get stuck solving. You may as well skip the hardest problems if you like, although I wouldn't do that myself.

As I said earlier at the end of the book there are some tests. I loved that. As Nunn's point out, the elo you will get from there is not reliable but I was surprised that I got around the same marks for each test. The final mark was 2132 which is surprisingly close to my rating (and I was never good at tactics so it makes sense that my elo in tactics is lower). That elo is just the one you will get for having a level between 2 and 3 stars exercises (which is what I got in the rest of the book).

So all in all I do not regret having bought the book. The quality of the edition is terrible and I did not like a bit its structure. I like QC style of having the solutions of the problems just in the next page. That way you only need one marker to know where you are. Here not only you need two markers for the exercise and the solution, but a third one for the hints!  That is a pain to move across the book and it is easy that you see other hints or other solutions by mistake.

But the exercises are challenging and well commented, the test is a lot of fun (at least for me) and overall the difficulty assigned to the problems make sense.

I think a guy at 2000 should be around the 2 star mark and the book features enough 1 and 2 star exercises to make the purchase worthwhile, but maybe at 1800 it makes no sense as you will be struggling too much. On the other hand I think a 2300 will have a run for his money with the book.

That said, I do not recommend the book (even if I do not regret buying it myself). There are a lot of puzzle books out there. This is interesting but not the best one by a long shot. I have reviewed better puzzle books in this page and I plan to share with you Gelfand's recommendation on the subject. This book is not there.

2 comentarios:

  1. Than you for your excellent reviews. I read all of them carefully, as I believe you may be one of the only reviewers who actually goes through the book he reviews.

    I bought the Gambit Studio (Gambit app) version of this book and the format is easier to use (at least, there's absolutely no difficulty to navigate the book, as hints and solutions are directly linked for every puzzle).

    As for the difficulty, I agree it's very challenging : I'm rated 2000 and I suffer a lot every time I pick one of those puzzles, but at least, I knew this befoçre purchasing the book, so I'm not disappointed. I don't intend on going through it cover to cover in one go though.

  2. Then maybe you can explain us how is the electronic book for exercises. I have seen puzzle books in the Forward Chess application but I do not like the feel. You have a button to show you the solution (and hide it) but you have to scroll down to get them. I would have gone for a whole page for each exercise instead.

    I've ventured that 2-star problems are just at a 2000 level and you have such elo so you may enlighten us, how does a 2-star problem feel? Do you get it 50% of the time? Are 3-star problems a painful experience?