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A Rock-Solid Curriculum A useful and versatile teaching method by one of Chess Life’smost popular columnists By GM BEN FINEGOLD


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HESS FOR THE GIFTED & BUSY, by Lev Alburt and Al Lawrence, prom- ises to be a comprehensive chess


course taking even the most basic begin- ners, not even knowing how any piece moves, to expert level. But therein lies the question: can you get from absolute begin- ner to 2000 USCF after only 300 pages? Don’t get me wrong, Chess for the Gifted & Busy encourages you to play as much chess as possible (even dedicating two whole pages suggesting the reader join a chess club), but do you really only need this one book until you turn 2000 USCF? What really stands out about this book


is the format. It is divided conveniently into three levels—Level One: basic rules, Level Two: practical tournament ready, and Level Three: advanced concepts. These levels are divided into 24 digestible lessons each with, and this might be my favorite part, a small italicized summary starting with something like “In this les- son you will learn ...” What makes this so useful? Imagine if at the end of the les- son, you feel as if you haven’t learned the concept they promised, you can go back and read it again. However, if you’re not entirely sure what you were supposed to learn in the first place, how will you know if you have succeeded in learning it? Also, as with many comprehensive chess courses, there are small tests (they call “Memory Makers”) at the end to ensure that you not only understand the lesson, but also can put it to practical use. If I was to make a small change to the format it would be to put the endgame section earlier than it is in the book. As it stands, the book covers endgame concepts in les- sons 13 through 18, but I would consider moving this chunk of lessons to the begin- ning of level two (which would be lesson three). However this might only be a mat- ter of taste, I just remember José Raúl Capablanca saying something along the


10 Chess Life — July 2012


lines of “In order to improve your game, you must study the endgame before everything else, for whereas the endings can be studied and mastered by them- selves, the middlegame and the opening must be studied in relation to the endgame.”


out to me: “Don’t try to memorize the move. Remember the method.” It seems that these tidbits are not only very impor- tant, but also versatile and useful for all parts of chess. That last quote was taken from the section explaining king and rook against king checkmate, but could be applied to any part of the book. The book is also enjoyable to read. I remember read- ing a Neil McDonald book in which he started every chapter with a famous quote. I don’t know who exactly started this trend, as I’m sure it’s been done before, but it’s always enjoyable for me. I believe also that to become a great chess player you should be familiar with chess his- tory, and these quotes from Capablanca, Bobby Fischer, Savielly Tartakower, etc. instill a sort of chess culture within the reader that should not be taken for granted. All that being said I would consider it


Chess for the Gifted & Busy,


by Lev Alburt & Al Lawrence, Russell Enterprises, 2011, 304 pages, $19.95


from uscfsales.com (B0018LV)


The information in this 300 page cur- riculum is rock solid. I have taught my own students the same ideas and only hope I explained it as well as the authors in this book. I am also impressed with cer- tain sections in the book where there will be a shaded rectangle with an important bit of information in bold. Of the examples I could have chosen this one really sticks


impossible to write a 300-page book with all the information needed to becoming an expert. You would need to put a heavy weight on the “Gifted” part in Chess for the Gifted & Busy. It simply is not enough room to put down everything you need and this becomes rather apparent near the end of the book. Level Three concepts like “The Isolani” get a mere four pages as does “Compensation for Sacrificed Mate- rial” when whole books could be (and have been) written on such subjects. This is not as much the authors’ faults as much as the idea itself, and I believe Alburt and Lawrence did the best they could. I would recommend this book to anyone from just beginning to about 1800 USCF. If I had a student that was higher rated and particularly talented tactically, but not so much strategically, I could rec- ommend the lessons in Level Three as a start, but we would need to delve more deeply into them. This book gets 41


⁄2 out of 5 stars. . uschess.org


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