Reviews | April 02, 2010 6:30

Review: Mastering Positional Chess

Mastering Positional ChessA 14-year old writing a book on positional chess?! How can that be? This was my first reaction when I received Mastering Positional Chess by Daniel Naroditsky. Sure, he's a World Junior Champion and obviously is a talented youngster, but how could such a young boy write a coherent, let alone instructive chess manual on so 'mature' a subject as positional chess? Well, I don't know - but he did it anyway.

Actually, the idea to write a book grew within the young author at an even younger age. As John Donaldson writes in the foreword,

Started in 2006, when the author was only ten (!) years old, Mastering Positional Chess: Practical Lessons of a Junior World Champion was written, for a very specific reason. Young Daniel realized his lack of positional understanding was causing him to lose many games. He set out to correct this deficiency in a most ambitious way by collecting classic examples on a variety of positional themes and subjecting them to extensive analysis. Having done this Daniel then clarified things in his own mind by putting into words what he had learned not only from the classics but from his own games.

I must admit I was a bit skeptical when I read this, together with Naroditsky's introduction and the first pages of the actual book. Did you use words like 'verbosity', 'armada' and 'multitude' when you were 10, or even 15 years old? Well, who knows - perhaps young Daniel did get some stylistic advice from his parents here and there - or from John Donaldson or the editors, New in Chess. It hardly matters once you start reading the truly impressive and highly enjoyable book Daniel Naroditsky has produced. I think it may well be one of the best books ever written on positional chess.

There are several reasons for this. One is Naroditsky's down-to-earth language and his approach to chess problems. This enables him to make everything look easy without ever sounding shallow. Another is the almost perfect length of his examples - he spends exactly enough space on his explanations, the examples have diagrams at precisely the right moments and the selection of fragments and games is a good mix of personal experiences and well-known historic encounters from the world's greatest chess players. Most impressively, Naroditsky shows he totally understands the nuances and subtleties, however complex they sometimes are, of the positional concepts he is explaining. This is how he explains prophylaxis in the first chapter:

This book starts with prophylaxis because I'm convinced that in order to master positional thinking, one needs to first master prophylactic thinking. Let me define what exactly I mean by prophylaxis.
Prophylaxis can mean stopping a possible plan or a future threat by the opponent. For instance, evacuating the king from a danger zone is an example of prophylaxis - the king might be subject to an attack, and removing the king completely nullifies the effectiveness of the attack.
Another example of prophylaxis is when you take away an important square from your opponent, thus rendering a certain plan or idea useless. The first person that touched upon the subject of prophylaxis was Latvian-born Danish Maestro Aron Nimzowitsch. He formulated the idea itself and emphasized the importance of prophylactic thinking. Although today's definition of prophylactic thinking might differ from Nimzowitsch's, he certainly deserves full credit for 'inventing' prophylactic thinking.
Another important point: prophylaxis is completely different from defense. In defense, you're almost always trying to parry threats that are already present, while prophylaxis is all about rooting out the source of problems. For example, if one side has a bishop that can potentially cause problems, trading the bishop for another piece or even giving up an exchange to eliminate it is an example of prophylaxis.

I don't want to sound too lyrical, but I find this an almost perfect piece of chess prose. Let me explain why in some detail:

  • Right from the start, the author shows he has in mind a clear arrangement of priorities in positional themes.
  • In very simple terms, the concept is explained. There follow several simple examples, readily understandable to players of all levels
  • The author not only introduces a relevant bit of history but he even explains that chess has evolved while at the same time still using traditional concepts (something that took John Watson two whole books - very good ones, by the way - to explain)
  • The author also defines what's not within the scope of his definition, something that's often forgotten by even the best chess instructors.

What about a concrete example? Here's one from the same chapter:

Montreal 1979

1.e4 d6 2.d4 Nf6 3.Nc3 g6 4.g3Although this move was never very popular, it is still completely viable and gives White an easy game. White's idea is to set up a Closed Sicilian type formation, and slowly start to push Black off the board. The objective evaluation of this variation is a slight edge for White.

4...Bg7 5.Bg2 0-0 6.Nge2 e5 7.0-0

diagram 1

7...Na6 This move is a bit awkward. The evaluation doesn't really change, but the alternatives, 7...Nc6 and 7...c6, are better. The problem with 7...Na6 is that the knight doesn't really do anything - Black will play with a piece less until the position opens up. Interestingly, the knight will be one of the causes of Black's trouble later on.

8.Re1 c6 9.h3 Re8 10.Bg5

diagram 2

10...h6?! It's hard to believe this completely natural move is a mistake. The problem is that after Be3, it will be very difficult for Black to achieve any kind of counterplay. White will simply play g3-g4 and Ng3, and Black will find himself totally cramped. In order to get somewhere, Black needed to act quickly. (...) After 10...exd4! White is forced to play 11.Nxd4, and only now does Black play 11...h6. Although the position after 12.Bf4 g5 13.Be3 is slightly better for White, Black has good dynamic counterchances after 13...g4!?.

11.Be3 Qc7 12.Qd2 Kh7 13.Rad1 Bd7 14.g4

diagram 3

Karpov plays this part of the game with immense precision. Timman, understanding he will lose if he doesn't do anything, attempts to find counterchances in dynamic play.

14...Rad8 15.Ng3 Bc8 16.f4 b5 If White allows Black to play ...b4, his position will suddenly become a bit shaky. Therefore:

17.a3! b4 18.axb4 Nxb4 19.Nce2 exd4 20.Nxd4 a5 21.c3 Na6

diagram 4

An important position has arisen on the board. White's pieces are located ideally, or so it seems. He is centralized, and Black's pieces are somewhat uncoordinated. However, things are not as one-sided as they appear. Black wants to play ...Nc5, and possibly ...d5, when White's e4-f4-g4 armada will be subject to pressure.
Karpov, after determining the threat, looked for ways to defend against it. The next step was to decide which pieces could be improved. He quickly saw that the d8 rook x-rays White's queen. He then asked himself where the queen would be better placed. Obviously, the answer is c2, from where it will x-ray the king and, mainly, defend the e4-pawn.

22.Qc2!! Once you see this move, it may seem pretty obvious. Understanding that the queen isn't placed well on d2 is not easy, however. Despite the pin, the queen was facing no danger, and it is very difficult to make a move such as 22.Qc2. Now, Black's counterplay is parried (22...Nc5 is met by 23.b4, when the e4-pawn is defended), and he has to wait passively until White will crush him.

22...Bd7 23.Nf3!

diagram 5

White plans Bf2, when he will be ready for the decisive assault. Black is completely helpless.

23...Re7 24.Bf2 Be8 25.Qd3 White is threatening 26.e5.

25...Qb7 26.Ra1! And Timman resigned after 12 more moves. A brilliant display of prophylaxis by Karpov - by means of one awkward-looking move, he totally demolished Black's plan.

Why did I quote this example in its entirety (apart from a small digression on move 10)? There are several reasons for this. The first is one is purely graphical: in my opinion all diagrams are placed exactly at the right places in the text, namely at all critical moments of the game. (Update: see the comments below this article, where readers draw attention to striking similarities between Naroditsky's analysis of this game and analysis done by Dvoretsky&Yusupov and Karpov himself.) Most chess books, even very good ones, contain superfluous diagrams, or - more often - not enough to follow the logic of the text without setting up a board (and I admit I'm often too lazy to do that.)

Secondly, I like the fact that Naroditsky takes his time to explain the prelude to the actual 'theme' of the game (move 22), by explaining just enough about the opening and the early middlegame to understand what's going on (in fact I even learned something I didn't know about this particular line), but doesn't elaborate too much, not on every move, and isn't too wordy in his prose. In fact his explanations are just right: always relevant, always clear, always wanting to explain what exactly is going on.

I also found it a relief to note that after his well-written, easily accessible explanation of the prohylaxis theme, the author doesn't shy away from extremely high-quality chess (in 1979, you couldn't do much better than Karpov and Timman!). This is something I noticed time and again in the book: top level super-GM games next to well-selected games between unknown (to me) players, next to instructive games (both wins and losses) of Naroditsky himself. It's almost impossible to imagine the material was selected by such a young player instead of a mature veteran, but there you are.

Mainly, I chose to show one lengthy example rather than a few short fragments because I really think this is one of the book's strengths: extremely well-written, carefully selected examples, showing the 'whole range' of positional aspects of a particular theme. The above one is in this respect not an exception, but very representative of Naroditsky's style.

In between the examples, Naroditsky often makes valuable and sharp points, such as his observation that "tactical players have one main weakness: they aren't patient." Another great aspect of the book is that the author doesn't want to show too many different themes: apart from prophylaxis, he studies the defense in worse positions, fortresses, positional sacrifes, paralysis (a rather refreshing theme!), and various aspects of manoeuvring. There also useful excercises, a preface by Daniel's parents and a formidable epilogue, in which the young author writes:

After reading a book on positional chess, I have always thought that I would not get outplayed in a single game. That, unfortunately, is quite untrue. From my own experience, I have found that the ideas which one has learned simply blend into the rest, and when you analyze a game, you might not see any visible signs that you have comprehended many more ideas. Therefore, you should certainly not be alarmed if you get badly outplayed. After all, positional mastery comes not only with immediate understanding, but also with experience.

Wise words. Here is an author who, despite his young age, shows remarkable maturity not only in his play but also in the way he perceives the game in all its aspects. A self-conscious and modest, realistic and reasonable author with an amazing talent for explaining what's going on during a game of chess. I hope this review doesn't make him spoiled, because I am already eagerly awaiting his next book, which I hope is just as refreshing as Mastering Positional Chess.


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Arne Moll's picture
Author: Arne Moll


Arne Moll's picture

Pawel, unfortunately, I lost my copy of the Yusupov&Dvoretsky book some time ago so I can't compare it. Perhaps you can enlighten us?

Pawel's picture

Karpov-Timman Montreal 1979 - compare with the amazing annotations from the book: Dvoretsky & Yusupov, Secrets of Positional Play.
What you say?

Arne Moll's picture

Hah, that would be a good one, although unfortunately it wasn't intended. Actually Peter often reminds me that I'm sloppy with names, so I was trying to make sure I wrote Naroditsky correctly all the time - completely forgetting about his first name! :-) Corrected.

antichrist's picture

You missed it, it's an April Fool's Joke lol

Felix's picture

David?? Daniel!! :)

Pawel's picture

I can not say anything about the whole book but your example is not too promising. This is just a very very poor copy Dvoretsky annotations without any indication of the original analysis (this is not faire) - please compare it !
Karpov-Timman Montreal 1979 is Dvoretsky's example from the chapter on prophylaxis (sic!) in this book: Dvoretsky & Yusupov, Secrets of Positional Play .
Perhaps the whole Naroditsky’s book is very good. I do not know. But this example rather discourages me.

Arne Moll's picture

Are you saying Naroditsky copied material from Dvoretsky, or is he just using an example Dvoretsky uses too? With the last I have no problems as it still depends on how the author explains what's going on. (Karpov-Timman, Montreal 1979 is a famous game, after all, so I see nothing wrong with using it as an example even if others already did the same.)

Pawel's picture

Naroditsky uses the same example, in the same context (propylaxis), give the same evaluation (17.a3!, 22.Qc2!!, 23.Nf3!, 26.Ra1!), show the same key moments and explain it in the same way ! (only less detail)... :)
You can judge it yourself!

Pawel's picture

Please compare, if you can.
This is just one example, maybe not a very good and the whole book is good.

Igor's picture

Another example in the same chapter is Karpov-Yusupov (1983), excellently annotated by Yusupov in "Secrets of Chess Training", here reproduced by Daniel in just 3 pages...

Thomas's picture

Hmmm, what is the most recent game covered by Naroditsky - unlikely to be shown elsewhere before? [I haven't read or even looked at the book yet ...]

Daan's picture

I just checked the game in Dvoretsky's book and I completely agree with Pawel. The same game, the same theme, the same focus on the same key moments and even the same number of exclamation marks. However, it must be said that a large part of the comments is not Dvoretsky's, but are notes of Karpov himself! In his comments Dvoretsky makes this distinction by writing Karpov's notes in italic.

For example on 22. Qc2 Dvoretsky starts with Karpov's notes:

22. Qc2!!
"A fine move, which in the first place does not allow the a6-knight to jump to c5 (in view of the reply b2-b4), and in the second place continues on the primary strategic course - strengthening the e4-pawn." (Karpov)

and than elaborates a bit more himself:

"As you can see, it combines both of Nimzowitsch's observation on phophylaxis - hindering your opponent's plan and overprotection." (Dvoretsky)

The above is IMHO very similar to Naroditsky's notes. One difference is that Dvoretsky elaborates a bit more extensive on some moves such as 24. Bf2, where he writes:

24. Bf2!
"One of the final prophylactic moves. Before the decisive attacking operation White has arranged his forces more harmoniously, and once again strengthened his central fortress by defending the e-pawn with another piece. 24. Qd3 is premature in view of 24...Bc8." (Karpov)

and than:

"For me this is perhaps the most informative of Karpov's. I will try, by using it, to reconstruct his train of thought: ..." (Dvoretsky)

In this lastcomment Dvoretsky elaborates a bit more on specific moves, but ends with:

"As you can see, prophylactic thinking is in no way synonymous with passivity, rather it is linked with a simultaneous estimation of both your enemy's resources, and with precise calculation of short variations...." (Dvoretsky)

In this last quote Dvoretsky emphasises on the fact that prophylactics is not defense, which is also what Naroditsky writes.

Finally we should note that in his prelude to the game Dvoretsky writes:

"... It must be said that when I saw it for the first time it did not create much of an impression, since black lost without a fight. It was only later, when I became familiar with Karpov's notes, that I understood the true nature and depth of what is hidden beneath the 'simplicity'."

This last sentence shows that even for an experienced trainer such as Dvoretsky, games with a strong educational character are not always immediately obvious. I therefore think that the choice for showing this game as an example of prophylactic thinking, is Dvoretsky's intellectual property. IMHO Naroditsky's writing violates this in the above example.


S's picture

I think this game is covered in OMGP as well, with the same emphasis on prophylaxis.
Naroditsky is probably not the only one to borrow from Dvoretsky.

Arne Moll's picture

@Thomas: Looks like it's Nijboer-Braun, Wijk aan Zee 2008.

@others: Hmm interesting, especially since neither Dvoretsky nor Karpov's book is mentioned in the bibliography. Even if the author intended no harm, this is at least sloppy editing.
Now I'm also curious if Dvoretsky somewhere analyses the game Podgaets-Dvoretsky, Odessa 1974 (from the chapter on paralysis) and whether the analysis is similar to what Naroditsky writes.
Seems the author and/or the publisher have something to explain.

Pawel's picture

Of course you're right Daan!
Dvoretsky based on Karpov comments (e. g. 22. Qc2!! ) but not always (e. g. 17.a3! or 23.Nf3! or 26. Ra1!). The latters Naroditsky also repeats...

Pawel's picture

Podgaets-Dvoretsky, Odessa 1974 (position before 29...Rf3!) - used as an exercise in the book 'Strategic Play: School of Chess Excellence 3' at the end of chapter about profilaxis. :) However, dvoretsky's comments are very very short.

Igor's picture

I checked Podgaets-Dovertsky and I found only a diagram (after move 29.) as excercise (E6-19) in SOE 3 Strategic Play

Daan's picture

I did not read Kasparov's book on Karpov, but when he simply copied Dvoretsky's comments without referring to them and without providing additional discussion, its also wrong. However, I would be very surprised if Dvoretsky's book wasnt at least mentioned in the bibliography. Copying work of others seems just very unlike Kasparov.
Moreover, when Kasparov writes similar stuff as Dvoretsky, I think this would still be less wrong. This because Kasparov restricts himself to discussing Karpov's games. Most of Karpov's games have been analyzed before, so whatever Karpov game you choose to discuss, it's unavoidable that parts of the analyses are similar to existing work. For instance, in the above game it would be weird not to emphasize on prophylaxis, especially because Karpov himself does this in his notes as well.

When you are not restricted to Karpov's games and you want to discuss prophylaxis, picking exactly the same game as Dvoretsky is not fair. Moreover, when its not even mentioned that the analysis is simply a shorter version of Dvoretsky's work on the game, I think its simply wrong.

This said, I do not agree with Pawel that the book does not look promising. I think it looks very promising from an educational point of view! I mean, Dvoretsky's books are simply excellent, so the more you copy from them, the better the book gets. Better a good copy than bad work ey :).

Thanks for mentioning this all together. When I read the article I also thought... "I know this game from somewhere". But I thought it was from a Dutch book written by Timman. So I checked the book but didnt find it, so I reckoned I was probably wrong.


jmws's picture

It's worse people, much worse...
I won't say it's a bad book, but:
- the first gamefragment discussed is from Fischer-Donner, Varna 1962. See for this one: The magic of chess tactics by Karsten Muller
- the second game is Botvinnik-Keres. See also Dvoretsky&Yusupov: Positional Play
- the third game is the above mentioned Karpov-Timman
- the fourth is Reshevsky-Petrosian. Zurich 1953. This is so wel known, a bit embarrasing to publish again about it.
- the seventh game is Karpov-Yusupov, 1983. Commented by the latter in Der selbastandige weg zum Schachprofi.

The question is was New in Chess familiar with these examples, if not, that's bad.
But I am rather disappointed Arne didn't recognise them.

Still, maybe this is a good book...

S's picture

Daan, OMGP refers to both Dvoretsky and Karpov commentary. He copied alright, but indeed with notes referring to the other books. Something Naroditsky may have forgotten;)
Mastering positional chess is probably a very nice book, if you don't have the ones of e.g., Dvoretsky, Karpov, Kasparov.

Arne Moll's picture

@jmws: Well perhaps you're right but where should I start? Of course I knew the games you mention but should I check my entire library or something? In fact I did check one game (the 24th match game of the 1985 Karpov-Kasparov match) against the original analysis (by Kasparov) but didn't find anything 'funny'. Besides, as a reviewer, of course I trust that the text I'm reading is original! I am open to suggestions how to improve my reviews in this respect so if you have any ideas let me know.

@S: Of course Naroditsky's book also contains many original analysis, including many of his own games. And the games quoted from other books are given in a nice compact version. I think it's mainly an editorial thing, some editor should have noted this.

Tony's picture

Very intersting review and conversation but there is some degree of confusion of what plagiarism is so here is an article from the web. Please read it all before continuing

Plagiarize \'pla-je-,riz also j - -\ vb -rized; -riz·ing vt [plagiary] : to steal and pass off (the ideas or words of another) as one's own : use (a created production) without crediting the source vi: to commit literary theft: present as new and original an idea or product derived from an existing source - pla·gia·riz·er n
FROM: Webster's New Collegiate Dictionary 9th ed, (Springfield, Ma: Merriam 1981, p. 870).
The above examples may seem obvious. If you use something word for word it MUST be acknowledged. Things start to get a bit gray when you paraphrase. There is one simple solution to this dilemma. DO NOT PARAPHRASE! Only use someone else's writing when it serves a purpose. Only use someone else's writing when you want to quote precisely what they wrote. If this is not your goal, USE YOUR OWN WORDS.
This avoids any ambiguity about who wrote it. After all, you do not want someone to accuse you of plagiarism.

You need to learn how to write in your own style. You may be influenced by authors that you find clear and easy to understand, but your writing needs to be YOUR writing. Mimicking someone else is not a productive exercise. You just learn to cut and paste.

An instructor who is reading or grading your work is interested in YOUR understanding of an idea. I am not interested in your ability to copy explanations from the textbook. I know that the author of the book understands it, which is why I picked the textbook. I need to know if YOU understand it.

Understanding and learning is more than just replaying something you have heard. Writing is a valuable exercise that tests your ability to explain a topic. I often think I understand something, until I try to write it out. This is an important part of learning.
(full site)
thanks to Scott Van Bramer , Widener University

Pawel's picture

I agree with you Daan so I do not agree with me :)
"Dvoretsky’s books are simply excellent, so the more you copy from them, the better the book gets. Better a good copy than bad work ey" - absolutely !!

jmws: I can not say anything about your other examples but Karpov-Timman, Montreal 1979 and Dvoretsky's commentary - I think it is evident.

jmws's picture

With respect to profylaxis Dvorestsky's books are the classics. So, If someone writes about that subject I think you should have done some research. I bought the book, and i immediately saw the examples and knew that Dvoretsky had written about them. I wish to let you know that I really like your reviews, although i think that some alarm bells should have been ringing in this case. We're talking about Dvoretsky, I think nowadays every reviewer of chess books, ought to be familiar with his works.

Uddipan's picture

Seems Anand has just now withdrawn from the title clash citing that he felt unsafe in Bulgaria.

Pawel's picture

Arne: I think that there's no universal advice. I drew my attention to this example because I know very well the corresponding chapter of the Dvoretsky's book so for me it was evident.
Anyway, I always like yours rewievs so I read them carefully :) Well done!
Greetings !

Gerando's picture

The Karpov-Timman game is a very well known example. Dvoretsky's chapter on prophylaxis is a master piece, and I'm surprised that the editors from New in Chess did not notice the obvious similarity. It's not a good advertisement for the book.

Thomas's picture

I don't think we can expect reviewers to find plagiarism, at least not all the time - of course if Dvoretsky had reviewed Naroditsky's book he may have noticed very quickly "something funny".

The next question would be: How do Naroditsky's original analyses compare with those "borrowed" or copied from previous sources? If there are no (immediately obvious) differences in quality, he still did a tremendous job of learning from the giants on whose shoulders he stands!!?

@Arne: While your present review is fine (based on what you knew when you wrote it), maybe you can do another one now? :) I assume that you didn't look at every single game/chapter in the same detail - beyond the casual, obvious and perfectly normal observation that some are better than others .... .

Thomas's picture

@Uddipan: Did you click on Dennis Monokroussos' link at the end of the story ("More information here")? That was yesterday.

Peter Doggers's picture

Hm, interesting. In fact I knew the game from another source - its very first source, the tournament book (which is a gem in itself). I've probably seen it in Positional Play as well as I had the feeling I saw the game more than once. It's a problem I think I've mentioned before here: there's just too much recycling of material these days. It's probably an economical reason that drives publishers to come with a certain number of books each month, and it might well be that they've become less critical than, say, ten years ago. I guess it's the Donaldson quote that explains the matter to some extent for this book: "...collecting classic examples on a variety of positional themes and subjecting them to extensive analysis (...) putting into words what he had learned..." It would be an excellent reason to recycle classical examples if the prose of a 14-year-old would explain it more clearly than that of, say, Dvoretsky, but if the prose is very similar, it doesn't add any value.

antichrist's picture

To master positional chess, read 'Secrets of Positional Play'. The School of Future Champions, an explicit reference to Daniel, shows that if you can't beat them, join them

lol, and my articles are brilliant without stealing Dvoretsky's information

Daan's picture

lol, an antichrist saying "if you can't beat, them join them."
Makes me wonder....

Arne Moll's picture

Although I agree with most of the commenters, I think we shouldn't take this issue out of proportion, either.
The Dvoretsky/Yuspupov books are fantastic, of course, but IMO 'Mastering Postional Play' is really a totally different kind of book. Also, despite their obvious quality, the D/Y books have flaws in their own right, some of which Naroditsky manages to avoid.
For instance, I've always thought that the D/Y books have a very 'high threshold', meaning it's not so easy to 'just read them'. You really need to put a LOT of work in it - and money, since there are so many volumes in their series.
One of the attractive aspects (also mentioned in my review) of Naroditsky's book is that it's very easy to read even if you don't have a board at hand. This is because Naroditsky's explanations - unlike those by D/Y - are usually just the right length - not too elaborate, not too brief.
I think D/Y are really much more 'scientific' in their approach, which is good for very serious students, but perhaps less attractive to players (like me) who don't have that much time to invest in chess. And then there's the stylistic aspect: Naroditsky writes in a very fashionable, easy-going English while D/Y sound much more 'formal' and the smell of translated prose never quite leaves their pages.
Also, we shouldn't over-praise the D/Y books in my opinion. They are still extremely useful, but many of the things they describe in their book have kind of lost their relevance. For example, the chapters on adjourned positions, and their emphasis on making your own notebooks with drawn diagrams, etc. look pretty old-fashioned to me (although that doesn't mean they don't have educational value, of course.) Some of the D/Y books are more than 15 years old and it shows. There are no examples from recent tournament practice and modern developments such as chess computers and databases.

In conclusion, I'd say we shouldn't focus too much on a few examples where Naroditsky perhaps copied too optimistically from their or other sources. His book stands as an excellent resource for learning positional chess - a kind of modernized Dvoretsky 'light', you could say. That said, the editors should be more attentive to possible copying and so should the reviewer. In this respect, I think this thread is a very welcome lesson for all parties involved.

Pawel's picture

Arne: I do not understand you.
D/Y books are old and have flaws in their own right so we can copy them without giving the names of author's original analysis? Sorry! You didn't convince me! But ok .

Arne Moll's picture

Of course this is not right, Pawel, and I said so already. I wasn't talking about this specific example but about the suggestion that Naroditsky's book is just an inferior version of Dvoretsky's books. This is not a fair comparison. To be honest I didn't even think of Dvoretsky's books when I was reading 'Mastering Positional Chess', so different are they in my view.

Pawel's picture

Arne: Ok I understand. Here we agree with each other.

noyb's picture

I don't have a copy of this book, but I do have copies of all of the others mentioned. From reading these comments, those other books, and the review, it would seem there was some plagarism that took place (?).

Thomas's picture

In the light of this discussion, the advertisements in NewInChess 1/2010 are quite funny:

On one page (opposite the cover) the 5-volume series "School of Future Champions" by Dvoretsky/Yusupov (which includes "Secrets of Positional Play"), "fully updated and new translation" - prize is 5* 24.95 Euros.

On the facing page, Naroditsky's book introduced as "A refreshingly original book [hmmm] by the world's youngest chess writer in history", also quoting IM John Donaldson: "In some ways a book from earlier times, in that it offers the reader a significant amount of explanatory prose. Yes, analysis is given, but only what is needed, not more." Prize 19.95 Euros

DennisM's picture

That the book ripped off D&Y seemed obvious to me within milliseconds of reading the excerpt. However, it's possible that N got it not from the book itself, but from his trainers, who might themselves not have mentioned the source. So N takes a lesson from whomever on prophylaxis, and they use D&Y without mentioning it. The examples make a big impression on N, and so he ends up reusing them.

At least this way of looking at it gets him off the hook - it could be innocent regurgitation. But anyone who thinks that N's use of Fischer-Donner and Karpov-Timman is purely coincidental will probably give bank account information to a generous Nigerian prince.

Daan's picture

I find it hard to believe that N wrote his comments without having D&Y's work at hand. For instance, to remember the exact number of exclamation marks from a training session seems unlikely
I guess it went like this:
Editor asks N to compile the material he learned from, and to write some comments on it.
N does this, without knowing it is normal to give credit to his sources, which is understandable for a 14 year old.
Editor looks at the stuff, and doesnt notice that some games and comments are not original. Probably also because many games are original. This is slightly sloppy editing, but could happen once in a while.
And there you have it.
I such a case I guess it would be fair for the publisher to offer some slight compensation to the legal owners of the copied material. More fuss would IMO be to harsh.

Igor's picture

In the Acknowledgments are cited 2 GM, 3 IM, 1 FM e 2 NM! Anyone noticed Dvorestky's material?
Probably NIC considers us idiots, so it's not a big deal if we pay again and again the same recycled stuff

antichrist's picture

What's up? Has ChessVibes died or something?

Well dudes I can always buy the site if you can't keep up the good yarns on tournament reports, books and deceased players

antichrist's picture

Thanks for the new article - A/C was just jokin' as always

Tony's picture


The issue I see is that in this book there was a lot of paraphrasing which is a grey area. You can copy word for word or you can copy ideas. In chess this is a HUGE grey area.
Games or postitions can not be copyrighted.(this has been dealt with in the courts). If one feels differently then even Dvorestky and Yusupov could get into trouble for plagiarism of the ideas presented by the players in the games. Would you like to pay sveshnikov or kasparov everytime you play an opening based on their lines or ideas?
Short analysis is also difficult to claim as ones own. The importance of a specific move based on a short variations are easy to "see" when the idea (ie move) is given.
So I do not feel a 2-4 move line to justify a move is plagarism. [Using a dark and stormy night can not be considered copying)

Are the ideas presented in this book a breakthrough in chess understanding? Clearly the answer would be no.
The purpose of the book seems to be lost in the title of the book which comes across to me that Daniel Naroditsky as him teaching us something new about positional chess. When in reality the book seems to be the lessons Daniel learned about positional chess that lead him to becoming World Junior Champion.
This I find much more appealing. What games made an impression on him? What lessons did he learn from the classical games and how did he apply or misapply them in his own games.

One of the problems with many current books is that they seem to be written at a very high level. Masters writing about ideas for Masters is a whole different thing than wirting a book that is on conceptual level than for amateur players. As one of the later this can be very frustrating , Someone I know once talked to Dvorestky about training beginning players (sub master) and his response was that he knows little about training beginning players because most players are master level by the time they reach him.

The core of the discussion is the analysis a paraphrase or a direct copy.
it seems to me that it is a paraphrasing of the ideas and information in the games.
Are the positions 'recycled"? Sure!
Have we as readers learned the same lessons that Daniel Naroditsky did from them? Clearly not or we too would be at his level.

Maybe a better title would have been :
Daniel Naroditsky: How he was led to the World Championship
[and learned something about positional chess.]

Pawel's picture

Tony: Very beautiful essay :) ... but I have two questions: 1) you compared or not Karpov-Timman Montreal 1979 example in the book Dvoretsky's and Naroditsky's ? 2) really you want to say everything is ok ?

palooka's picture

I have no comment on the copying - I don't even have the book. But the constant criticisms I read about books using "the same old classical games", here and elsewhere, is tiring. If you are experienced enough to notice that and to find that annoying then you are not in the target market for most of these books IMO. If a game beautifully illustrates a point I couldn't care less what century it came from or how well known it is - the point is instruction, not novelty. If you want novelty, buy NIC.

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