Children and Chess A Guide for Educators
by Dr. Alexey W. Root
Libraries Unlimited/Teacher Ideas Press
122 pages, $25
I was asked to do a review of Children and Chess by its author 1989 U.S. Women’s Champion Alexey Root. I know Alexey from the 1991 US Women’s Championship that I organized in my home town of Highland Beach and know that because of her vast experience and knowledge of the subject, her attention to exactness and the enthusiasm she puts into all her work, that “Children and Chess” would be excellent.
However, “Children and Chess,” is primarily a book for professional chess teachers covering an area in which I have no experience and am unqualified to critique. So, instead of a review, I will simply quote some words from the book’s foreword, written by Dr. John McNeil, Professor Emeritus, Graduate School of Education & Information Studies UCLA: “Children and Chess, is a ground breaking resource guide for teachers . . . . Indeed both teachers and students will welcome the placement of chess as a different kind of learning opportunity, making the classroom environment more enjoyable and rewarding.”
International buyers or groups interested in quantity discounts should contact Greenwood customer service representative Kathy Barrett ([email protected]). Readers interested in single copies of the book can find it on Amazon.com, www.lu.com or other online booksellers.
The Chess Team
by James H. Sawaski
Published by iUniverse.com
136 pages, $11.95
Email Contact for Author: [email protected]
In early December, I received a complimentary copy of “The Chess Team”, a novel by James H. Sawaski, a USCF chess coach living on Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. The book is published by iUniverse, a POD (Print on Demand Publisher). Being occupied with chess activities and the holidays, I put the book aside and forgot about it. Several days ago I picked it up and planned to read a few lines but before I realized it, I was halfway through the book.
The book is a simple story about a chess player named Jim Berzchak whose blunder causes his team to lose a national high school chess championship, and the impact it has on the young man’s life. Fifteen years later, aided by the helpful advice of a friend, Jim returns to the world of competitive chess as the coach of five young boys representing a small high school.
The Chess Team draws you into the story with its realism and is very well written. Kudos to James Sawaski! I strongly recommend this book, especially for young readers. If you are part of the chess community, you will thoroughly enjoy The Chess Team. If you are a scholastic player or coach, it will hit home again and again.
CHESS BITCH: Women in the Intellectual Sport by two-time
US Women’s Champion WIM Jennifer Shahade; Silman Press,
hardcover; 320 pages; ISBN # 1-890085-09-X; $24
CHESS BITCH??? As a metaphor for an attacking chess queen, it aptly describes the feminist theme of the book. Unfortunately, the title is a marketing blunder and will substantially hurt sales. A major share of the market for this book are the parents of chess girls who take pride in their children’s chess abilities but who certainly don’t think of their children as bitches. They won’t buy this book BUT they should, it is very good. The book elucidates a revolution in female chess at the highest levels. The bitches/queens of chess are role models extraordinaire who for a variety of reasons explained in the book, are rising to the pinnacles of world class chess.
As if to get an unpleasant subject out of the way early, the book quickly goes to the negative impact of women’s menstruation on level of play. When chess trainer Michael Khodarkovsky brought this up at a training session of the 2004 US Women’s Olympiad team, Jennifer was shocked and wrote: “I thought I had entered the twilight zone, an impression that was furthered when Susan Polgar, one of my childhood heroines, joined forces with Michael.” Good reaction but why bring the subject up at all? Chess Bitch is not about excuses or reasons for under-performance; it is about success and a revolution in the quality of world class women’s chess. My first reaction in reading about the impact of women’s menstruation was to lay the book down. But I didn’t and was rewarded for my perserverance.
Beginning with Vera Menchik and continuing in time to the great women players of today, Chess Bitch captures their common love of the game of chess, their personalities and their feminist views. We see a bonding together of these ladies of the board and a common determination to stand up and say: “Chess men, watch out! When it comes to intellectual sports, women are your equal.”
There are a few errors and omissions. In reference to the World Youth Championship in Wisconsin, Jennifer says Judith Polgar won the Under-16 division; actually it was the Under-14 division. She added that the woman filming a documentary called Chess Kids was denied an interview with Judith – not exactly correct, Lazlo, the father of the Polgar girls, did hold tight reins on Judith during the tournament but once the actual play ended, Judith was available but Lynn Hamrick the producer/director of the film was not.
Missing from Chess Bitch is the 1982 two-game match in Paris between US Women’s Champion Diane Saveride and the Paris Champion Eric Prie, an IM at the time and now a GM. Dressed in a leather jacket, Eric arrived on a motorcycle. He played the first game at a fast pace and to his shock, Diane drew the game. Expecting an easy win in the second game when he would have white, he told Diane that she did not know how to play chess openings. When Diane crushed him in the second game, he was visibly upset and left without a word. A gratifying victory for feminism over male chauvinism.
Also noticed is the absence of WIM Alexey Root’s name and the need for more than just a passing statement on Nana Alexandria. I describe Alexey and Nana in my book Chessdon as “Two of a Kind.” Both were unrelenting and uncompromising in their battles to obtain more recognition for women in chess. Nana chaired FIDE’s Womens Chess Commission. Alexey chaired the USCF‘s Women’s Chess Committee. They kept the focus on women in the ultimate intellectual sport and passed the baton to the chess bitches/ladies of the 21st century.
Toward its end, the book shifted emphasis to some gossipy examples of gambling, drug usage, trans-sexuals and even prison time. Jennifer did describe true life experiences of ladies overcoming these hurdles yet they seem to be out of tune with the otherwise upbeat flow of Chess Bitch.
Despite having a questionable beginning and a somewhat depressing finish, the middle two-thirds of Chess Bitch were so interesting and so well done that I definitely recommend this book. It is a nice contribution to chess history and a good example of the phrase: “You can’t tell a book by its cover.”
“Amos Burn a Chess Biography” by Richard Forster
When I first received Amos Burn, a chess biography by Richard Forster, I was surprised to see such an extensive work about a player whom I knew virtually nothing about. I had occasionally seen his name show up on tournament charts or in stories about famous tournaments or about other great players of the past but nothing more.
Upon receiving it I put the book aside, never expecting to pick it up. Fortunately, I did glance at it a few times and each time I did, my interest was piqued a little more.
Aside from its size, the largest chess book I have ever seen, I was first impressed with the quality of presentation, the page layout and the illustrations and photos. It was obvious that an enormous effort went into this biography.
Then I noticed a forward by GM Victor Korchnoi and my interest rose further. Korchnoi states: “The spotlight is firmly on Burn, but the author also skillfully chronicles the broader picture of chess developments throughout the old master’s lifetime.”
I skimmed through some pages and saw that chess historian Edward Winter helped the author especially with contributing photos. With Winter involved, the book took on a new meaning. Winter’s meticulous devotion to absolute accuracy caused me to realize the amount of painstaking research, checking, double checking and triple checking facts that took place.
I believe the biography of Amos Burn may be special and look forward to reading it, playing through his games and doing a complete review of it..
Amos Burn, a chess biography is published by McFarland & Company (www.mcfarlandpub.com). It is available now and retails for $75. It can be ordered from McFarland directly by calling 800-253-2187.
Although Amos Burn was entered into the 2004/2005 Best Book Contest for a Cramer Award for Excellence in Chess Journalism by McFarland Books. Unfortunately, it is ineligible because the author is not an American.
However, when I placed it on a shelf with my other chess books I noticed many other McFarland published books of high quality and historical interest: Alexander Alekhine’s Chess Games, 1902-1946; Reuben Fine, A Comprehensive Record of an American Chess Career 1929 -1951; The Steinitz Papers; The United States Chess Championship 1845 – 1996; Correspondence Chess in America; William Penn Shipley – Philadelphia’ Friend of Chess and, Soviet Chess 1917-1991. It dawned upon me then what a great contribution to chess history McFarland Publishing is making.
Therefore, this year, I will recommend that the Cramer Awards Committee give a special award to: “McFarland & Company, Inc. for their unrivaled dedication in publishing outstanding books of great historical interest.”