Reports | February 15, 2010 17:43

GM Moskalenko responds to ChessVibes review of Revolutionize Your Chess

Revolutionize your chessOn January 28th we published a review of Viktor Moskalenko's latest book Revolutionize Your Chess, and it wasn't a positive one. Now we have received a reaction by Mr Moskalenko, which we're happy to publish as an open letter here at ChessVibes.

In his review of Revolutionize Your Chess our reviewer Arne Moll wrote that he didn't like the book. He used strong words, like 'amazingly silly', 'rather confusing', 'extremely simplistic' and 'hopelessly flawed'. Here's GM Moskalenko's reaction:

On January 28 ChessVibes posted a singularly negative review, written by Arne Moll, of my new book Revolutionize Your Chess. The way Mr Moll approached my book, the tone of his review, the many (in my view) unjustified points he makes, and the subsequent vitriolic reactions by quite a few ChessVibes readers (some of whom confessed they didn’t know my book at all) did shock me.

My initial reaction was quite emotional. I really could not understand what I did to deserve Mr Moll’s bashing. On a Spanish website I did question Mr Moll’s motives, an unjustified action for which I have apologized. Now, after I have had some time to reflect, I am very grateful that ChessVibes has allowed me to post this more considered reaction.

Mr Moll hits his review off by venting his irritation that there are appearing many “improve your chess” books on the market. He confesses that he is not really interested in those books, because improving is only of secondary interest to him. Could it be that this negative attitude towards this type of works has coloured what he writes on my book?

Because the sole purpose of Revolutionize Your Chess is indeed this: to give to aspiring club players a set of tools with which they can improve their chess. I cannot help that Mr Moll dislikes the genre, and I cannot help that there are other books that make the same claim. But I think my book deserves to be judged for what it is. Mr Moll does not do this. In his incredibly fierce attack on my book he uses hyperbole, sarcasm and condescension in an apparent effort to humiliate me. He calls a part of my book ‘amazingly silly’, ‘extremely simplistic’ and ‘hopelessly flawed’. He says somewhere that when I write about the basic concepts of chess I ‘didn’t have a clue’, and he calls me ‘a show-off’. But, strangely, he fails to do one important thing: he does not contend that my system isn’t working! He has not tested, or even probed, if a chess player who does what I recommend in my book and who uses the tools I hand to him, becomes a better player or not. I will explain, later on, why I maintain that my system works.

Mr Moll heavily focuses on the foreword and the first two chapters of my books, in which I describe the structure of my system. Indeed 70% of his review is on less than 10% of my book. Briefly: in this part I offer a comprehensive analysis of all aspects of the game: Chess Skills, Personal Skills, as well as my 5 so called “Touchstones”: tools to use for a dynamic understanding of all positions on the board. I also propose a test, which I jokingly call the Moskalenko Test, which my students use to rate their performance in a game. Obviously, Mr Moll does not like what he sees.

One of Mr Moll’s big problems is that I say my system is ‘revolutionary’, while he recognizes various elements in my system that other writers have mentioned before me. He seems to think that finding elements in my book that also feature in other chess writers’ books somehow falsifies my claim that my system could lead to a revolution. I think that the comprehensiveness of my system (Personal Skills, Chess Skills, Touchstones and Test) is indeed new, and that most club players who follow my advice will truly revolutionize their chess, and become a better player.

In the Foreword of my book I tried to find the reason why most chess players, once they have reached a certain level, fail to make real progress (of course a central problem in chess teaching). I made Mr Moll almost choke with anger by writing: “The answer is quite simple: the general rules of the game have not been discovered yet.” This is what Mr Moll calls ‘amazingly silly’. And why? Because there are, writes Mr Moll, ‘thousands of grandmasters and tens of thousands of IM’s’ (incidentally, Mr Moll is more than 500% wrong here about the actual numbers) who are pretty strong players. He suggests, no doubt sarcastically, that I think that strong players have still not grasped the right system.

What a strange thing to say! Maybe Mr Moll does not know that I am a strong player myself? Please allow me to explain: I am a Grandmaster and a former champion of Ukraine. I have won dozens of international tournaments, and I am still an active player. I have coached quite a few strong players, Vassily Ivanchuk is one of them. I think I am well qualified to judge what top-players know and how they think. I am not an idiot, of course I know that I don’t need to explain to them the basics of how they must think about chess. Obviously, my book is meant for club players. About elite players I explain that the reason they are almost invincible for any amateur is that they are so good in applying the Touchstones. Being aware of the process in their head is another matter; often top-players are thinking intuitively. This is also in the book.

My statement about the general rules that have not been discovered yet, is of course meant to provoke my readers. That is my style of writing, I always look for ways to keep them awake.

“I like to see myself as a philosopher” writes Arne Moll somewhere in his review. I think therein may lie one of the basic problems with his article. My concepts are not philosophical at all, they are very practical. Mr Moll looks for philosophical trouble behind many statements I make. He says concepts like ‘time’ and ‘material’ (which I use as ‘Touchstones’ to evaluate a position on the board) are ‘tricky philosophical ideas in the first place’. But in my book they are not tricky, and they are not philosophical. They are practical tools which every chess player can use to become better. And in my book I explain how they can do so.

I am not a philosopher. Apart from my own career as a player, I have been a chess trainer for many years. I have taught hundreds of club players. My classes have been recorded by the Catalan Chess Federation and are available online for thousands of players. I have written two successful books (which Mr Moll to my amazement says he liked) which sold thousands of copies all over the world. I get good feedback, literally daily, from my pupils, my viewers and my readers. I think I know quite well what beginning and more advanced chess players know and how they think. And what they should do to become better players.

I was amazed to see Mr Moll stating that “Moskalenko really didn’t have a clue when he wrote about these concepts”. This statement is, among other things, quite strange for someone who professes he liked my other books. How does Mr Moll think a Grandmaster who has written some good chess books (that’s me) reaches that level? By not having a clue? My friends have advised me not to use the word I will use now, but I strongly feel I have to do it: here I think Mr Moll is being disrespectful.

Somewhere at the end of his review Mr Moll calls me ‘a show-off’ because I use my own games or fragments of my games to illustrate specific chess instruction topics. I have thought about the merits of his reproach for quite a while. Let me just say that I think it is a strange thing to blame me for. An illustration of an instructional theme is either on or off the mark, at least that is my opinion. The show-off reproach, again, fits in the general condescending tone of his review. Strangely, Mr Moll says he likes my other books (The Fabulous Budapest Gambit, and The Flexible French) a lot; but in these books I use my own games as examples just as much as I did here! Does Mr Moll think that Nimzowitsch is a show-off because he uses his own games in his books? Besides, I use games from dozens of other players as well.

From my 340 pages book with hundreds of games, fragments, exercises and examples, Mr Moll cites just one practical example. In this position:

Revolutionize your chess

I discuss two possible moves for White: the good move Be3 and the dynamic move d5. I recommend d5. Mr Moll claims that I fail to give ‘any reasons’ why I think d5 is more dynamic. But he is simply wrong! I do explain that after Be3 Black plays ...e6, blocking the position and giving White some trouble to exploit his lead in development. On the move d5 I explain that I choose this advance ‘in order to fight for space, hindering the development of the black kingside at the same time’. I think the example is not a bad illustration of the theme: there is a good, solid positional move available. And yet I recommend another move, a dynamic move. Without the solid move my example would be less valuable, I think.

After treating this one example wrongly, Mr Moll says that ALL the examples I give in the book (and there are many hundreds of them) are deficient. ALL examples suffer in that I ‘focus on the Touchstones for the sake of the Touchstones only’. Again, I find this a puzzling swipe. Mr Moll may not like the concept, but does he really think I employ the Touchstones just for their own sake? That I select my examples just to prove my system? Doesn’t he think my pupils would have left me many years ago if I would be doing just that?

I am not claiming originality in every point I make in the book. It is a strange thing to ask from an author, even from an author who claims to aim for a revolution. My book is a real revolution in that it brings everything together. Naming other books or authors who have written about some elements of my system does not mean my approach would somehow not be fresh.

And judging from the many positive reactions I get from readers, I may very well have succeeded. Obviously, not with Mr Moll. Maybe he is too strong a player (and too much of a philosopher) to find my concepts good tools. It may be that Mr Moll dislikes my enthusiasm. But I am a passionate believer in my system, because I know, from experience, that it works. It works for players of 1600 ELO, as well as for players with 2200 ELO, and even higher.

Maybe next time a chess improvement book comes up for review at ChessVibes, it would a good idea to ask someone to review it who does not dislike the genre, who does not see himself primarily as a philosopher, and who is more interested in the effectiveness of the proposed method.

Once more I would like to thank for the opportunity to publish this reaction.

Sincerely,

GM Viktor Moskalenko
Barcelona, 12 February, 2010

Update 14:40 CET: meanwhile Arne Moll has responded in the comments - we'll give it here as well:

As it is a true honour for me to have such a respected Grandmaster and author respond to my reviews, let me just mention a few general points that Mr. Moskalenko seems to have misunderstood in my initial review, rather than addressing every single sentence of his letter point by point.

Mr. Moskalenko starts off his letter with the complaint that I am supposedly not interested in ‘Improve your chess’ books and am therefore biased against his book Revolutionize Your Chess (and hence unqualified to review it objectively). To me, this merely shows Moskalenko doesn’t read my reviews on a regular basis (and indeed I couldn’t possibly expect him to), for then he would have known that the very review before the one I wrote on Moskalenko’s book, is a highly positive and enthusiastic review of Lars Bo Hansen’s book called (ironically, if anything) Improve Your Chess.

In fact, I was also very positive about Herman Grooten’s Chess Strategy for Club Players, the book that recently beat Revolutionize Your Chess in the ChessCafe Book of the Year competition, and numerous other books that intend to improve the reader’s chess skills. My remark ‘What’s with all these improve your chess books recently’ was just a ‘by the way’, trying to make the related (but admittedly not terribly relevant) general point that lately, a lot of books focus on chess improvement while surely trying to make the reader enjoy chess is at least as important as that.

In any case, as I had already written in the comments underneath my review, a reviewer’s personal taste is not relevant as long as he’s 'not prejudiced, focuses on the book and not his own taste, and he knows his literature.' I would think my liking Moskalenko’s previous book sort of proves I’m not prejudiced against him, and apart from this one ‘by the way’ paragraph, I focus my entire review on the contents of the book itself. As for ‘knowing my literature’, I think I’ve shown this already sufficiently in the review itself.

I could mention several other points in Mr. Moskalenko’s letter where he misinterprets my intentions and words. For instance, he makes much of my sarcasm and hyperbole, but then without blinking an eye declares that he himself means to ‘provoke his readers’ and that this is simply his ‘style of writing, I always look for ways to keep them awake’. Well, Mr. Moskalenko, it seems we agree on something after all! Perhaps we should just drop this point?

Another small thing to note is that Mr. Moskalenko altogether ignores the positive things I have mentioned about his book in my review, instead claiming it is ‘singularly negative’. This is also why it’s simply untrue that the one example I picked from the book to illustrate a point is used by me to imply that 'ALL the examples I give in the book (and there are many hundreds of them) are deficient.'

But here’s what I actually wrote in my review: 'To be sure, there are better examples in the book, but they all suffer from the same illness.' I also wrote, 'The book does contains good stuff, but I liked the Viktor Moskalenko of The Flexible French much, much better.' Forgive me for thinking this small nuance is probably worth pointing out.

I suppose I should also say I’m surprised by Mr. Moskalenko’s statement that his concepts ‘aren’t philosophical at all’ and that he himself, unlike me, ‘isn’t a philosopher’. Well, fair enough, but Moskalenko himself claims that while authors like Suba and Beim discuss many interesting aspects of dynamic chess, they offer ‘no theoretical framework’ - surely implying Revolutionize Your Chess is different in this respect! A few sentences later, he even explicitly states that ‘in the present book, we will make an attempt to systematize this dynamic approach to our game’.

And in Chapter 2, just to take one example, Moskalenko writes that the factor Time ‘has thus far been neglected in theoretical works. This dynamic factor should be included in any chess system if we want to call it conclusive’.
To me all this sounds distinctly philosophical. In fact, capitalizing the t in Time is, if anything else, the generally acknowledged way of indicating a ‘Platonization’ of the object at hand. But perhaps I’m again being too, well, philosophical here.

There is, however, one point in Mr. Moskalenko’s reply that I would like to elaborate upon a bit in more detail. This is when he writes that I do not contend that the system described in Revolutionize Your Chess ‘isn’t working’: ‘He has not tested, or even probed, if a chess player who does what I recommend in my book and who uses the tools I hand to him, becomes a better player or not.’

Indeed I must confess that I haven’t fully tested the system (although Mr. Moskalenko couldn’t possibly know this himself), for the inexcusable reason that I am, apart from being a father and a full-time employee, just a reviewer whose task it is to read the book and write his conclusions down as accurately and conscientiously as possible. (I imagine Mr. Moskalenko also doesn’t accept positive reviews when the reviewer hasn’t fully tested the system?)

But suppose I would like to test Mr. Moskalenko’s system before writing anything at all about it. How would I do it? Surely applying the ‘Touchstone Tools’ in my own games is not nearly enough: a sample of just 1 player can’t possible say anything meaningful about a method, can it? I’d have to ask perhaps my entire chess team to study the book and apply it in their own games to the best of their ability.

But then there would still be the (in my view very likely) possibility that our game improved not because of the Touchstone Tools, but by us being suddenly occupied with chess for much more than we currently are. You see, this is what statisticians call the correlation is not causation maxim: the fact that we’re reading Moskalenko’s book and actively trying to apply the Touchstones doesn’t prove Moskalenko’s method works – not at all.

For all we know the very fact that we’re in an experiment might make us more conscious of our play during games, and we might improve our game even without studying anything at all. This is a variation of the well-known placebo effect. To avoid such confusion, we’d at least need some sort of control group with a bunch of players of the same average level who would also engage in active chess study, but specifically without using Moskalenko’s Touchstones – say, by studying Mark Dvoretsky’s books.

After some time – say, a year - we’d probably be able to say something about whether Moskalenko’s method works or not (calibrating for random rating fluctuations and such, of course), and whether it works any better than other current chess-improvement methods.

Now, this would be an extremely interesting experiment, and I would be more than willing to try it myself if given enough time and money, but what I’m really wondering is whether Mr. Moskalenko himself has ever done such an experiment.

After all, he accuses me of not having tested his method and very firmly claims that his method does work. My question is very simple: has Mr. Moskalenko systematically tested his method, and can we see the results? And perhaps I should mention another statisticians’ maxim, which is that the plural of anecdote is not data. It’s great to have many testimonies from players who are happy their money was well spent and they improved their chess by receiving chess training, but this doesn’t, of course, prove the training method itself works: it just proves they improved their game.

And this may have happened for numerous reasons – the most important one being what I also wrote in my initial review, which is that 'improving one’s chess can be achieved by studying any chess book seriously.' (Mr. Moskalenko seems to have overlooked this remark.)

Let me finish by what strikes me as an extremely important point, made by one of the commenters to this post. It’s this: 'Maybe [Moskalenko] is right in saying so, but he fails to address how his students got better using his advice.'

This is precisely my whole problem with the book. It’s not the Touchstone tools, it’s not the provocative language, not the lack of philosophical depth, not even the annoying -T1 and -T4 notation: it’s the lack of specificity; the lack of explaining how the touchstones work (and why), how students improve their game and how dynamic chess works; and how revolutionary Moskalenko’s book is, precisely.

Perhaps these questions are typical philosophical questions, but so be it. I’m just a an ordinary chess player trying to improve and be inspired by chess. Mr. Moskalenko claims he knows 'quite well what beginning and more advanced chess players know and how they think.' In other words, he knows exactly how I think. I can only hope he will some day understand my point of view in this matter after all.

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Peter Doggers's picture
Author: Peter Doggers

Founder and editor-in-chief of ChessVibes.com, Peter is responsible for most of the chess news and tournament reports. Often visiting top events, he also provides photos and videos for the site. He's a 1.e4 player himself, likes Thai food and the Stones.

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Comments

AK's picture

Just a marginal note on wannabe philosophers :
I have met quite a lot of people with a degree in philosophy and even some people that i would consider to be real philosophers (the two groups of people are overlapping, but not as much as one would think). Few of the first group and none of the second group would ever make a statement like "I like to see myself as a philosopher". Actually i think that saying this is the best way to make a joke of oneself (at least among educated people).
Whatever the merits of his book, Mr Moskalenkos statement "I m not a philosopher"
sounds much more sophisticated to me than the one mentioned first.

blueofnoon's picture

With due respect, I do not see much in his reaction other than boasting how a good player and coach he is.

Maybe he is right in saying so, but he fails to address how his students got better using his advice.

I am not against "how to become a better player" kind of books. In fact, "My System", "The Question of Modern Chess Theory" are my big favorites.

But judging from this debate, I am not too tempted to add this book to my library.

Kazzak's picture

Well - unfortunately, I believe the Chessvibes shoot-down of your book affected the Chesscafé voting for chess book of the year, and that's a shame.

I will be buying your book, Mr. Moskalenko.

octoberowl's picture

Very interesting to hear from the author here in reply. I also commented very negatively regarding this book and agreed with Arne Moll. I do not mean to show any 'disrespect' to the author, but I find a lot of the statements e makes in his defence as just plain silly. Like this one where he defends the idea that in his book he claims that ' the general rules of the game have have not been discovered yet.' :

'My statement about the general rules that have not been discovered yet, is of course meant to provoke my readers. That is my style of writing, I always look for ways to keep them awake.'

Ah! So you were just joking?

So now instead of actually defending the arguement he proposes he now tries to say that he was merely trying to keep me 'awake'?!

Sorry, but I am already awake, and if the author want me to spend my hard earned to buy his book, he damned well better come up with a better arguement that this!

And as a previous commenter noted, although he claims in his defence to be about to produce 'proof' that his system 'works'....we never hear that 'proof'... We do hear a lot of boasting about the fact he is a GM and even more about how he has trained 'hundreds' of players. But 'proof'?

Silence reigns there.

I do applaud chessvibes for their fairness in publishing the author's defence. Very well done. But I would also like to see a reply from Arne Moll! Any chance of that?

john's picture

I bought Revolutionise Your Chess in the hope that it would offer a clear cut new method for improvement...but it doesn't.

It is probably the MOST CONFUSING chess book I have ever read. Many of the examples in it I have seen elsewhere, only explained far better. About the only thing it does well is show off a few Moskalenko games, but forgive me if I am just not interested because that is not what I bought it for...

I completely agree with the ChessVibes review.

Steer clear and keep your sanity!!

Jo's picture

Okay so I googled it.

Heres' some other points of view.

Not that I guarantee their veracity.

British Chess Magazine: "A substantial work, rich in ideas for all three stages of the game."

Cor Jansen, Provinciaalse Zeeuwse Courant: "A wake-up call for chess players of all levels (..) The author has introduced something new: the Five Touchstones you should keep in mind when playing a game. If you do so consistently, you will not be disappointed."

Stephen Dann, Worcester Telegram: "Moskalenko does use human games and analysis going back to the 20th century, which are entertaining and give the volume great perspective (ways to mentally view things), sometimes lost today in America."

Richard Vedder, Schaaksite.nl: "I fail to see what the theoretical part adds to what the avarage player already knows. Fortunately, there is a lot to be learned in the practical part of the book (..) In the chapters on the middlegame my eyes have finally been opened."

Marshtower Chess Reviews: "I enjoyed this book. There is a lot to read, a lot to absorb. I know it's only January but, at the end of the year, when I compile my list of the top books I have reviewed in 2010, I'll be surprised if 'Revolutionize Your Chess' isn't included."

Out of interest Arnie did you take " The Moskalenko Test " it says you can measure your progress? (a rhetorical question)

Again,I have not read the book so I am not in a position to take sides - but the co-ordination of the comments at the top of this post seem somewhat suspect.

Time for me to exit this drama - stage left

Dude's picture

Wonderful to see this discussion here. Can such debating about different points of view be found anywhere else on English language chess sites?

@Jo It seems that you are copypasting this page from the publisher. No wonder only positive comments on the book can be found on that page.

Arne Moll's picture

@Jo: Not that it matters (I never said my review is anything more than my own opinion), but regarding the other reviews you mention (or rather copy/paste): not all of those are in fact that positive about Moskalenko's book. Don't just read the headlines selected by the publisher itself - read the entire reviews and you'll see what I mean.

Arne Moll's picture

@Ron Hoffman:

Thanks for knowing better than myself what I do not know 'enough' about!

By the way, I didn't say I was a philosopher (let alone 'primarily a philosopher', as Moskalenko writes), I wrote I liked to see myself as one. There's a difference, wouldn't you agree?

Macauley's picture

"Arne should be fired! Fired, I say!!!" ;)

OMG, that's adorable!

All I can say is, great fun to read this thread!

And...donate to Haiti relief. (www.theirc.org/)

Jo's picture

@ Britishfan. "If a book stands on it’s own merits, the author does not respond to reviews."

"That's like saying if you got a good product, you don't need to advertise"

Pure British bunk... ( I only call it British...because I remember us an up and coming businessman in London in my early 20's (1970's) hearing this line over and over again from supposed adults. I never did find a good line to respond to it in those days and it got so I half believed it for a while.

Looking back I realize that the people who thought this way were basically either comfortably numb with there status within the British class system, brainwashed by the British school system.. or just plainly ignorant and untraveled.

Please excuse the aggressive tone of this post - sometimes I still get aggravated by the twaddle I had to unlearn from my Pink Floyd schooldays.

Tom's picture

I really want to read this book now!

Tim's picture

OK, some people like the book (voted 2nd best book for 2009) and some people don't like the book.

Fair enough for both sides to state their preference and why, but no need to try and convert the other camp.
It's only an opinion (and matter of taste), so both sides can be valid. Let the egos rest.

Let it be (as someone once sang).

burnett's picture

Mr Arne Moll,
After someone feels insulted by your writing, an apology really won´t hurt you or your intellectuel "rightness". Why not give yourself the luxury of let´s say a reasonable 1% chance that you migt be wrong? (a litlle doubt never hurts filosophical aspirations).
From personal experience I can assure you that Victor Moskalenko is a very modest, kind and dedicated coach not a show off, you really got a wrong impression there. Give the man some air, if not for you the book migt be very beneficial for club players.
Your review struck me too as becoming rather personal and insulting, (though I take your word for it that this was not your intention). The book is clearly still in the fase of "draft" or "workbook / excercise book" and fails a good editor, no need to be a genius to see that.
For my chess class (age group 6-8) I formulated the "Baby version" of the five touchstones; Check before every move 1 Position of the king, 2. Direct threats 3. placement of pieces and pawns 4. Material balance. They all made a hudge leap forward in playing strenght. I seemed to me that being forced to do the "checklist" they got much less carried away by fantastic "variations". Maybe Moskalenko´s discovery can be simply that the players who got stuck at club level suffer from a failure of very basic dicipline (matrix) to organise all their more sophisticated thoughts, and that grandmasters may have (more ore less consciously) mastered a "simplistc" but very effective discipline. Maybe chess is less "intellectual" then we like to think, more a game of alertness and stamina, and maybe that is why so many kids are so strong (Trained by a non-intelligent machines)
I always wondered why many obviously intelligent people (e.g. easely mastering a university degree) fail to impress at chess, I would not be surprised that Moskalenko´s discovery is close to the truth and that he is capable of teaching this (somewhat shocking to the intellectual mind) "simplicity".
To put this discovery in a philosophical context is maybe somethng for you Mr Moll? That would be very elegant on your part.
Friendly greetings.

Nonationalism's picture

Sometimes the truth hurts, Paul.

burnett's picture

@GuidedBy Voices
Yes that is is wise remark, I think it might have been prudent by the chess vibes editorial staff to have an expert check the review of Mr Moll (who did not want to reveal his own playing strenght when I asked him, so maybe he is a GM, no idea, maybe he has also a very modest side) using derogatories like "amazingly silly" when judging the work of a GM (And very experienced coach). Maybe for a small Dutch incrowd Mr Moll is a well known figure, to larger public he remains unknown and I don´t see any introduction or presentation of the man on the site. He speaks of Mr Moskaleko´s opnion vs. his opinion, but to me the importance of his opinion is still a mystery. Maybe someone can enlighten me.
Friendly greetings.

Chiel Reemer's picture

I don't think the moderator should do anything with this thread. It's beautiful! A wonderful world of laughter and frightened ego's feeding on each others negativity, cloaked in reason.
Very entertaining! Keep it up!

Vasileios's picture

I think the dispute between A. Moll and V. Moskalenko is rather pointless. Grandmasters have been throughout the years trying to outline principles for the understanding of the game and develop what I would term as the strategic rules of the game. However it is very difficult, if not impossible for a human to fathom such a theme as essentially is the safety of one piece, the King, in conjunction with the other 31 remaining forces. Experience shows that chess might be a draw, but we are not even sure about that.
My main point is that, for the time being, above all is the chaotic and unfathomable for a human mind tactical nature of a game we have been unable so far to explore completely, despite computer capability and capacity standards increasing. There is indeed a strategy that rules all this chaos, but we have seen only some fluctuations of it, it is virtually non definable at this point.You can define rules and forms of strategy only in things you have mastered inside out.
In other words, first you prove something and only then you can give a strategic explanation; the rules of strategy depend on whether the proof is valid.
Someone might argue that there are parts of the game we have mastered completely such as several endings and specific recurring motifs in the middlegame or the opening. Agreed, but these are just particles in the whole system of chess. And they derive from one and only thing, the safety of the enemy monarch.But alone on this success you cannot form rules governing the strategy of the game as a whole.
it has for example, been funny for me to see strategic rules being made for such issues as to which Rook can be put to a certain square, about centralisation, about exchanges, about pawn structures. And when we try to apply them we might be successful in the majority of cases, but also we quite often fail.
My point is that real rules have no exceptions. Every exception gets incorporated to the Rule and becomes part of it.
You cannot form a Rule if you do not have an overview of the whole thing.
thus, the only way to revolutionise one's chess is probably to play like mr Carlsen, which is very close to calculation like a computer.
You might argue that Magnus dismisses several continuations on strategic grounds and so strategy plays a role after all, it cannot be only tactics that matter.
But in fact, what is human strategy? hasn't it been formulated by an accumulated mass of tactical experiences? Carlsen has already a huge experience as well as a stronger calculating powerstation than others, a natural gift.
The point I want to make here is that although these experiences are a guarantee of relative success, cannot be considered as strategic rules in the objective sense. We believe that these are the rules, and some of them might be indeed be so, but this will be proven once the game has been exhausted.
Only then the real rules might come to the fore;
For example: there is a strong inclination today among the majority of chessplayers to believe that the objectively best replies to 1.d4 and 1.e4 are the symettrical ones, and that these openings should lead to a draw.This is verified by the extensive use of the Petroff and Slav. This might be true, but still needs to be verified by an exhaustion of all possibilities. Only then we can formulate a rule, that symmetrical openings are the best, and some others might be losing.
Many years ago it was thought that the King's Gambit was the best way to open the game, Now this opinion would cause laughter.
Several years ago, people would put the pawns on different colour to that of their only bishop automatically, Today they have started understanding that this dogma can in several cases be destructive as then the pawns will lack protection.
there are numerous examples of human rules and strategies that are continuing to formulate. But this evolution will be superseded and improved once the comps reach their final verdict about chess.Till then, the one to have the better strategy, is the one who sees one move ahead.

Simmillion's picture

I was kind of surprised with the acid tone our Arne chose when doing the Moskalenko review (I own a copy of The Flexible French, which I find pretty close to a perfect openingbook) but in the end I liked it.

All the Arne reviews and colums are pretty personal (Showing off?). Thats why I like to read his pieces. And I find it smart not to review only 'personal favorites' but also well known books you dont like. Too bad for GM Moskalenko that his was the one.

I also like -and I see this as a compliment for Chessvibes and her reactors- that GM Moskalenko takes the time to react.

The fact the book got reviewed is in itself positive (how many books dont even make it to Arne Acid?) and the fact Moskalenko reacts is also pretty cool.

Because of Arne I thought: " I've got enough books' (start reading them silly!) and now because of the GM I think: " I know what I'll buy the next time I visit van Stockum

Arne Moll's picture

As it is a true honour for me to have such a respected Grandmaster and author respond to my reviews, let me just mention a few general points that Mr. Moskalenko seems to have misunderstood in my initial review, rather than addressing every single sentence of his letter point by point.

Mr. Moskalenko starts off his letter with the complaint that I am supposedly not interested in ‘Improve your chess’ books and am therefore biased against his book Revolutionize Your Chess (and hence unqualified to review it objectively). To me, this merely shows Moskalenko doesn’t read my reviews on a regular basis (and indeed I couldn’t possibly expect him to), for then he would have known that the very review before the one I wrote on Moskalenko’s book, is a highly positive and enthusiastic review of Lars Bo Hansen’s book called (ironically, if anything) Improve Your Chess.

In fact, I was also very positive about Herman Grooten’s Chess Strategy for Club Players, the book that recently beat Revolutionize Your Chess in the ChessCafe Book of the Year competition, and numerous other books that intend to improve the reader’s chess skills. My remark ‘What’s with all these improve your chess books recently’ was just a ‘by the way’, trying to make the related (but admittedly not terribly relevant) general point that lately, a lot of books focus on chess improvement while surely trying to make the reader enjoy chess is at least as important as that.

In any case, as I had already written in the comments underneath my review, a reviewer’s personal taste is not relevant as long as he’s 'not prejudiced, focuses on the book and not his own taste, and he knows his literature.' I would think my liking Moskalenko’s previous book sort of proves I’m not prejudiced against him, and apart from this one ‘by the way’ paragraph, I focus my entire review on the contents of the book itself. As for ‘knowing my literature’, I think I’ve shown this already sufficiently in the review itself.

I could mention several other points in Mr. Moskalenko’s letter where he misinterprets my intentions and words. For instance, he makes much of my sarcasm and hyperbole, but then without blinking an eye declares that he himself means to ‘provoke his readers’ and that this is simply his ‘style of writing, I always look for ways to keep them awake’. Well, Mr. Moskalenko, it seems we agree on something after all! Perhaps we should just drop this point?

Another small thing to note is that Mr. Moskalenko altogether ignores the positive things I have mentioned about his book in my review, instead claiming it is ‘singularly negative’. This is also why it’s simply untrue that the one example I picked from the book to illustrate a point is used by me to imply that 'ALL the examples I give in the book (and there are many hundreds of them) are deficient.'

But here’s what I actually wrote in my review: 'To be sure, there are better examples in the book, but they all suffer from the same illness.' I also wrote, 'The book does contains good stuff, but I liked the Viktor Moskalenko of The Flexible French much, much better.' Forgive me for thinking this small nuance is probably worth pointing out.

I suppose I should also say I’m surprised by Mr. Moskalenko’s statement that his concepts ‘aren’t philosophical at all’ and that he himself, unlike me, ‘isn’t a philosopher’. Well, fair enough, but Moskalenko himself claims that while authors like Suba and Beim discuss many interesting aspects of dynamic chess, they offer ‘no theoretical framework’ - surely implying Revolutionize Your Chess is different in this respect! A few sentences later, he even explicitly states that ‘in the present book, we will make an attempt to systematize this dynamic approach to our game’.

And in Chapter 2, just to take one example, Moskalenko writes that the factor Time ‘has thus far been neglected in theoretical works. This dynamic factor should be included in any chess system if we want to call it conclusive’.
To me all this sounds distinctly philosophical. In fact, capitalizing the t in Time is, if anything else, the generally acknowledged way of indicating a ‘Platonization’ of the object at hand. But perhaps I’m again being too, well, philosophical here.

There is, however, one point in Mr. Moskalenko’s reply that I would like to elaborate upon a bit in more detail. This is when he writes that I do not contend that the system described in Revolutionize Your Chess ‘isn’t working’: ‘He has not tested, or even probed, if a chess player who does what I recommend in my book and who uses the tools I hand to him, becomes a better player or not.’

Indeed I must confess that I haven’t fully tested the system (although Mr. Moskalenko couldn’t possibly know this himself), for the inexcusable reason that I am, apart from being a father and a full-time employee, just a reviewer whose task it is to read the book and write his conclusions down as accurately and conscientiously as possible. (I imagine Mr. Moskalenko also doesn’t accept positive reviews when the reviewer hasn’t fully tested the system?)

But suppose I would like to test Mr. Moskalenko’s system before writing anything at all about it. How would I do it? Surely applying the ‘Touchstone Tools’ in my own games is not nearly enough: a sample of just 1 player can’t possible say anything meaningful about a method, can it? I’d have to ask perhaps my entire chess team to study the book and apply it in their own games to the best of their ability.

But then there would still be the (in my view very likely) possibility that our game improved not because of the Touchstone Tools, but by us being suddenly occupied with chess for much more than we currently are. You see, this is what statisticians call the correlation is not causation maxim: the fact that we’re reading Moskalenko’s book and actively trying to apply the Touchstones doesn’t prove Moskalenko’s method works – not at all.

For all we know the very fact that we’re in an experiment might make us more conscious of our play during games, and we might improve our game even without studying anything at all. This is a variation of the well-known placebo effect. To avoid such confusion, we’d at least need some sort of control group with a bunch of players of the same average level who would also engage in active chess study, but specifically without using Moskalenko’s Touchstones – say, by studying Mark Dvoretsky’s books.

After some time – say, a year - we’d probably be able to say something about whether Moskalenko’s method works or not (calibrating for random rating fluctuations and such, of course), and whether it works any better than other current chess-improvement methods.

Now, this would be an extremely interesting experiment, and I would be more than willing to try it myself if given enough time and money, but what I’m really wondering is whether Mr. Moskalenko himself has ever done such an experiment.

After all, he accuses me of not having tested his method and very firmly claims that his method does work. My question is very simple: has Mr. Moskalenko systematically tested his method, and can we see the results? And perhaps I should mention another statisticians’ maxim, which is that the plural of anecdote is not data. It’s great to have many testimonies from players who are happy their money was well spent and they improved their chess by receiving chess training, but this doesn’t, of course, prove the training method itself works: it just proves they improved their game.

And this may have happened for numerous reasons – the most important one being what I also wrote in my initial review, which is that 'improving one’s chess can be achieved by studying any chess book seriously.' (Mr. Moskalenko seems to have overlooked this remark.)

Let me finish by what strikes me as an extremely important point, made by one of the commenters to this post. It’s this: 'Maybe [Moskalenko] is right in saying so, but he fails to address how his students got better using his advice.'

This is precisely my whole problem with the book. It’s not the Touchstone tools, it’s not the provocative language, not the lack of philosophical depth, not even the annoying -T1 and -T4 notation: it’s the lack of specificity; the lack of explaining how the touchstones work (and why), how students improve their game and how dynamic chess works; and how revolutionary Moskalenko’s book is, precisely.

Perhaps these questions are typical philosophical questions, but so be it. I’m just a an ordinary chess player trying to improve and be inspired by chess. Mr. Moskalenko claims he knows 'quite well what beginning and more advanced chess players know and how they think.' In other words, he knows exactly how I think. I can only hope he will some day understand my point of view in this matter after all.

Jo's picture

@blueofnoon Not sure where your pulling your "due respect" out of but it definitely stinks to suggest he is boasting,

He is in a position where he is defending his credibility in front of an audience that probably haven't read his book. So it is requisite that he informs us of his track record, before addressing criticisms of his system and illustrations therof.

As far as you not being tempted,,,you shouldn't be....he says quite specifically that the first couple of chapters are an introduction....and from the sounds of it your attention span runs a couple of paragraphs at most.

I have not read the book so I am not in a position to take sides...but his response sounded adequate to me.

Paul's picture

From Moll's post:

"Let me finish by what strikes me as an extremely important point, made by one of the commenters to this post. It’s this: ‘Maybe [Moskalenko] is right in saying so, but he fails to address how his students got better using his advice.’

This is precisely my whole problem with the book. It’s not the Touchstone tools, it’s not the provocative language, not the lack of philosophical depth, not even the annoying -T1 and -T4 notation: it’s the lack of specificity; the lack of explaining how the touchstones work (and why), how students improve their game and how dynamic chess works; and how revolutionary Moskalenko’s book is, precisely."

This I totally disagree with. People who spend their entire book telling you what they have done for you, how they are going to do it, and how it's made you stronger are nothing but self-help writers. If the book substitutes substance for telling me what it has done for me, then i'll definitely take the former.

Paul's picture

In general it was an incredibly harsh review. The book can't be that bad, and if I had worked as hard on something as Molashenko I would definitely be personally upset and affected by the hyperbole used in the review. I think it's pretty far from the truth and self serving to use rhetoric like that to make your article move flashy and get more reads. I certainly doubt it's accuracy.

Jo's picture

Arnies in the house with his blunderbus....take a chill pill.....You wrote your review - - he answered....An author has a right to get emotional to defend his work and livliehood...The reviewer if confident in his review..need add nothing further.

Jo's picture

@Dude - ok one encore... Not sure what your point is but it SEEMS like your interested in the link

http://shop.chesscafe.com/item.asp?PID=3048

and it seems you missed the caveat "Not that I guarantee their veracity"

Jarvis's picture

@Arne: A simple question; why do you use demeaning language to describe the work of Mr Moskalenko? Since you are a philosopher; in what way does that make this world a better place? I suggest you strive harder to uphold respect and dignity for your fellow human beings. Please withhold your sophistic excuses, just sincerely consider what I write.

JM's picture

@Jarvis:

Surely I must misunderstand you... Please tell me you're not really claiming that a review shouldn't judge its subject?!

bird's picture

I really like Arne´s reviews. I´ve read a lot of reviews of many chess sites and almost always the reviews are too good to believe them. I´ve read Arne´s reviews and he has positive and negative reviews for the books, and he is the only one that i ´ve found that do this.

I enjoy reading his opinion and i must admit that i´ve bought or stopped ordering books according to his advice, and until now i am not disappointed.

I think is normal that an autor can be upset if he receives a bad note for his book, and more if the author is a person who is so hot-blooded as Moskalenko, but I wish it won´t change the way Arne does his reviews.

Sven Bakker's picture

All publicity is good publicity, so all this hoopla probably only helps sell the book

I thought any claim of all encompassing systems in fields of science and philosophy have long been given up. We can only hope so gather as many useful different viewpoints as possible and synthesize everything into a good grasp of what needs to be done to get results

7 minute abs for everyone

Michael's picture

I haven't read the book but already its pretentious title annoys me. The book may contain useful material and those touchstone rules do sound reasonable (although they're not new at all and any half-decent player knows them anyway). But to suggest that a few simple tools alone can "revolutionize" your chess is simply a big fraud. If you really want to improve your chess, you have to play a lot, work very hard, keep good physical form and so on (which most of us don't have the time to do). No touchstone is going to change that.

luzin's picture

i like Moll's writing.
I have not read Moskalenko's book and i will not, if only for his silly title and bad taste cover :)
let me guess that those two alone were enough to make Moll angry!

Tom's picture

Arne Moll should probably get fired. I recognize his job is to review books, but that is such a ridiculous job to have. I don't know why a good chess website such as www.chessvibes.com feels like it needs to have a book reviewer on their staff.

Arne Moll obviously gets his kicks by disparaging the good work done by others. The man is a parasite. Let him go!

Tom

Marino Kuper's picture

I had bought the book before mr. Moll wrote his review. I can honestly say that mr. Molls review (as critical as it is) imho is almost too kind for the book. The touchstone tools that Mosalenko uses, may be an adequate system to analyze with hindsight (though I even doubt that it is), but it certainly doesn't help the average club player to chose a move during the game. And if it doesn't help here, it cannot help to improve your chess.

In fact Mosalenko did not write a middle game book, but a game collection of his own games selected around a few of his favorite openings systems.

Joeri's picture

Fully agree with Marino here.

As a 1950 player I am of course not someone who is knowledgeable about chess.
But having read works of Euwe, Watson, Silman, Franco, Marin, Yusupov, Tisdall and Dvoretsky of who'm I can say I like their work and I learned something from it. I can compare their work with that of Moskalenko. Mr. Moskalenko just falls incredibly short didactically.
His endgame section is way too superficial. He shows you some endgames with another theory called Properties of Pieces, Pawns and Squares.
The endgames he shows are ok but I just don't get the point which he wants to make. Maybe my chess skill is too low, but than for whom is this book intended?
You have to read it to believe it and I'm afraid you'll have to buy it 'cause of that ;-)

The worst thing is, is that the book is 350 pages long and 175 pages is filled with opening analysis (50 pages of these 175 in the section on the middlegame!!) That's 50 %!!

There is one thing that many chess teachers emphasize and that is the study of openings. You will not improve much by studying opening theory.
After the weak part of the touchstones and endgames this large openingssection which already starts in the middlegame part of the book was the reason for me to put it down.

@tom : Please read Arne's other reviews.

Tom's picture

@joeri: joeri...I recognize that you think Arne' is some sort of hero because he reads the books that are presented to him and then he writes his opinion on whether the book is good or bad. You - evidently being a fan of his - read his opinion and go along with what Arne tells you.

The thing here, joeri, is that Arne's opinions on other people's works are about as important as the gum stuck on the sole of your shoe.

The man gets his notoriety (and if Chessvibes is crazy enough to pay him, his money!) from criticizing the works of others!

This is parasitic. Arne should devote himself to improving his own chess instead of talking smack about the GOOD work of others.

Dig it.

Tom

Peter Doggers's picture

OK, so you're arguing that getting notoriety from criticizing the works of others is parasitic. So what exactly is the problem? That he's getting notoriety? Or that he criticizes the works of others? I can assure you that he doesn't care about the former, and about the latter, well, the word 'critic' comes from Greek. That's how long it already exists, that art of offering reasoned judgment or analysis, value judgment, interpretation, or observation.

Joeri's picture

@Tom you're a bit presumptuous on some parts...

I just said "read Arne's other reviews." If you do, you'll see that not much of them are negative. They are critical, but not negative. Most reviews are positive. Read the one on the flexible French I'd say.

As a critical reviewer it is your job to review books and give your opinion on books after reading them. Why else review books? Should publishers just bring it out and say this is the greatest book ever? A reviewer has the responsibility to bring out an honest review, and not just some positive bla-bla like John Elburg.
Of course you cannot also bring down a book if it is not justified. I do not think Arne did that having read the book myself...

Tom's picture

Peter: I'm not interested in getting into a Classical Debate on the ultimate meaning of words. Please get your head out of that ancient toilet!

I'm not saying that to incite you emotionally mind you. I'm saying that so that you may tap into resources that cannot be learned from books or from teachers, but from your own personal experience.

I don't know if this will answer your question or not, but I think critics - as a lot - are parasites. It is so easy to sit back, have a drink, half-heartedly (or even whole-heartedly) read a few pages, listen to a few tracks, watch a couple of scenes and then write what one thinks about the work. But what about actually creating a work...Who gives a donkey's ass whether Arne-boy, or Roger Ebert, or some well known music critic thinks about somebody else's work.

Put that turd of a human being to create something on their own and watch them regurgitate the stuff that they once had the audacity to call 'bad work.'

Parasites the lot of them!

Tom's picture

joeri: You obviously have no manhood of your own...keep hiding behind Arne!

lol...

IC's picture

I didn't delve much into the comment, but I know one thing for sure GM Moskalenko is a respected player/coach and maybe even a respected human being, but although I can understand his responses, based on his will to defend himself I just have to catagorize him under annoying people who just can't allow themselves to be critisized.

I belive it's no coinicidance that after so many reviews only GM Moskalenko sent a comment, and I am sure other writers over the course of some time also didnt agree with Arne Moll, but they just didnt!

Mr Moskalenko defended his books (on french and on the budapest) numerous times on NIC Yearbooks, each time claiming his work is so good and so amazing, while others just dotn understand as him... this means his comment on this site is not special at all, just part of his "repirtoare".

It's undignified for the author to respond in such way, and it's also very petty, maybe GM Moskalenko Writes very good chess books (I dont know yet, but I'm pretty sure thery're quite ok for some players) on the human context he just fails...

To sum things:
Arne moll didn't do anything special
Viktor Moskelanko being petty and acting like a child, also bragging about irrelavent achivements

p.s GM moskalenko might also comment on my comment if he'll ever read it and will politly say I'm a cimplete idiot, but I dont belive he'll have time to read all this.

Arne Moll's picture

Tom, it's funny: whenever I write a positive review, people complain I am not objective and only trying to please the author or the publisher. Now when I write a negative one (which happens quite rarely, by the way - it's not something I particularly like) you complain I'm just being parasitic and get my pleasure from bashing others.
My conclusion is I can never please everyone and therefore I just write what I want to, okay? Besides, if there's anyone 'hiding' (as you accuse joeri of doing), it's you by not publishing your full name here for everyone to see. Way to go!

Tom's picture

Arne: You're a parasite, man. You live off of the work of others. You're a parasite.

Enjoy!

TOM

British fan's picture

If a book stands on it's own merits, the author does not respond to reviews.

trollkiler's picture

I can't help but wonder, how u even bother to answer to such trolls that go around forums to get their daily fix of insulting others.

Why not simply block him.
This thing is crossing the line of freedom of speech. As in speaking his mind, he simply insults people without having something to add to the conversation.

Ron Hoffman's picture

At last someone who takes the trouble to respond intelligently to one of Arne's 'reviews'.

Just a simple request: Arne, you are not a 'philosopher' (even apart from the fact that you did not study it at university, you also do not know enough about it ok), do stop trying to pose as one.

Sligunner's picture

The review trashes the GM's book; the GM replies . . . that should be it. Then Chessvibes allows the reviewer the last work? Come on guys, that really is unfair.

Coco Loco's picture

Arne,
As a reader, I've been annoyed by your tone - opinionated, disrespectful, unbalanced, aggressive, call it what you will - on a few occasions and even bothered to write about it. Perhaps you also like to always look for ways to keep the readers awake, but it's a turnoff to a subset of those readers (mind you, the internet is not exactly a civilized place, as some posters often remind us, but why cater to that crowd?) I know it's hard to self analyze, but maybe the other cv editors can pitch in their views.

guitarspider's picture

Arne,
I want to take this opportunity to thank you for your critical reviews. It's very rare to find chess reviews on the internet which actually dare to say something negative about the reviewed products. Don't let the haters deter you. Mr. Moskalenkos reply, which does not address the points you criticized, only shows you were spot on.
cheers!

CAL|Daniel's picture

I would like to add... with great respect to GM Moskalenko that he seems to miss a key point. Your work does NEED to be fresh and add new ideas to the field to be qualified as "revolutionary" as well as to be deemed worth purchasing. Why should I - potential consumer - care about your work if it does not have something original in it? If I already own 10 books that collectively cover every single point you mention? This is what Arne's review hit on the most for me. Nothing you say is the slightest bit new or original.

"I am not claiming originality in every point I make in the book. It is a strange thing to ask from an author, even from an author who claims to aim for a revolution. My book is a real revolution in that it brings everything together. Naming other books or authors who have written about some elements of my system does not mean my approach would somehow not be fresh."

Gerando's picture

Mr Moll's uncompromising review has forced Mr Moskalenko to give additional explanations, and I thank both of them for giving us this extensive discussion. Maybe I will give another thought of buying this book now, because a book that creates such a discussion cannot be entirely bad.

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