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The Amateur's Mind, 2nd edition

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Title: The Amateur's Mind Author: Jeremy Silman
Language: English Pages: 443
Cover: Paperback Published: 1999
Publisher: Siles Press Homepage:
Price: $ 19,95 ISBN: 1-890085-02-2
Reviewed by: Arne Matthiesen Date: 16/9 2004

The Amateur's Mind, 2nd edition

The purpose of this book is to help amateurs improve their play. In other words: It is a training book. I think its intended audience ranges from 1000 to 1900. Absolute novices to the game will have problems following some of the variations and explanations.


Silman's Training System

Silmanís training system is laid out on the very first page:

"The heart of my system of training is based on an understanding of the dynamic and static differences (known as imbalances) that exist in every position. By recognizing the different imbalances in a given situation, a player of virtually any strength can understand what his responsibilities are towards that position with relative.

Note that I use the word 'responsibilities'. A player canít do anything he wishes to do. For example, if you love to attack, you canít go after the enemy King in any and all situations. Instead, you have to learn to read the board and obey its dictates. If the board wants you to attack the King, then attack it. If the board wants you to play in a quiet positional vein, then you must follow that advice to the letter."

In my opinion, Silmanís system is a very sound one. Even if a player isnít experienced enough to be able to "read the board" properly, the willingness to do so is a basis for improvement. Beginners at chess normally move their pieces aimlessly around or follow a scheme (for example: 1.e4, 2.Qh5 3.Bc4) without paying attention to the opponent.


Different Kinds of Imbalances

Most of the chapters illustrate different kinds of imbalances:

  • The Battle between bishops and Knights p.9
  • Acquisition of the Center, Territory, and Space p.61
  • The Confusing Subject of Pawn Structure p. 107
  • Material p. 145
  • Development and Initiative p.167
  • Many Imbalances, One Board p.203
  • How to Play the Opening p.229
  • Curse of the Mindless King Hunter p. 259
  • Which Side of the Board Should You Play On? p.277
  • Developing Mental Toughness p.299


The remaining chapters contain the additions to the second edition:

  • Tests p.315
  • Test Solutions p.329
  • Glossary p.427

Silman has written down the thoughts of his students while playing games against them. The students were asked to tell what they were thinking during the game. hatís the unique thing about this book. His method allows Silman (and the readers of his book) to find out why the students made the mistakes they made. In others words, we understand what kind of imbalances they donít understand.


Striking Problems for the Students

Reading through the examples of the book I find it striking that the students are often quite able to evaluate the starting position they are presented with. However, when the game starts, they often complete forget about the strengths and weaknesses of their position and start look for one-move threats and non-existing kingside attacks. It reminds me of golfers taking lessons. When the pro is watching they do everything right but in the heat of the battle, they forget everything they have learned.

Silman's explanations are clear and concise. Without resorting to long variations he manages to get his message through. The examples are well chosen. They illustrate the points they are supposed to and have suitable level for difficulty.

This book is strongly recommended for players up to ELO 1900. It is easy to read, but nevertheless full of useful material. Also strongly recommended for chess coaches: your students will benefit greatly from this book.

Stronger players may find some of the tips and recommendations overly simplistic Ė I did in some cases. But then again Ė simplistic tips can be very useful.



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