How to Reassess Your Chess Book Review
by Bill Wall
International Master Jeremy Silman’s modern classic How to Reassess Your Chess – Chess Mastery Through Chess Imbalances, 4th edition, was published in October, 2010 by Siles (Silman-James) Press. Previous editions have been a popular step-by-step course aimed at improving the game of players around the 1400 to 2100 rating range.
With 658 pages and over 400 chess diagrams, it is a major re-work from his other editions (his first edition was published over 20 years ago) and he literally wrote this 4th edition (which he says is his final edition) from scratch. The book contents are made up of the following parts: The Concept of Imbalances (learning the ABCs of chess imbalances) , Minor Pieces (Knights and Bishops), Rooks (controlling open files and ranks and looking for targets), Psychological Meanderings (fear of giving up or taking material), Target Consciousness (weak pawns and the sound of ripe fruit falling), Statics vs. Dynamics (a battle of opposing philosophies), Space (the great land grab and dueling spatial plusses), Passed Pawns, (baby Queens on the run) and Other Imbalances (integrating imbalances with your opening choices). Each section goes much more in depth from previous editions with new examples and has a summary and some test questions (with detailed answers in the back). Silman writes with a sense of humor and explains chess moves like drunken knights, passed bananas (another name for a passed pawn and a favorite among players in Denver), a posing Polly (a passed pawn that just sits there, looking good but doing nothing), and a nimble Louie (a fast-moving passed pawn).
Silman’s concepts about chess imbalances are the major theme of the book. An imbalance is any significant difference in the two respective positions. He tries to show the average player how to analyze a position. Silman shows that analysis of specific variations should be the last thing one does. He wants to ensure that every detail of all the imbalances are mastered with a strong positional foundation. He sums it up by saying, “If you want to be successful, you have to base your moves and plans on the specific imbalance-oriented criteria that exist in the given position, not on your mood, tastes, and/or fears!”
The following list of the imbalances that Silman discussed through the boos were the following: superior minor piece, pawn structure, space, material, control of a key file, control of a hole or weak square, lead in development, initiative (pushing your own agenda), king safety, and statics vs. dynamics. Whole sections are devoted to each imbalance that he listed.
The book is aimed at the expert player and below (Silman says from USCF rating of 1400 to 2100) and has plenty of examples, hundreds of games, and diagrams. The book is written by one of the best chess instructional writers around. You can read his chess articles at www.chess.com and some of his earlier articles appear in this new edition as part of the appendix. His articles include on how to offer a draw, the proper tournament diet, is chess a gentleman’s game, and teaching chess to children.
Silman also made it a point to putting every position in this book through a detailed analytical check with both Rybka 3 and Fritz 12 computer chess engines. This helped eliminate any flaws in his analysis of positions. He included some analysis from these computer engines because there were so bizarre or exciting.
Trivia question. What kind of eye is on the cover of his book? It’s an octopus eye.