Review: The Seven Deadly Chess Sins by Jonathan Rowson

The Seven Deadly Chess SinsThe Seven Deadly Chess Sins by Jonathan Rowson

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A fascinating analysis of the seven “most common causes of disaster in chess”, Grandmaster Jonathan Rowson’s book, “The Seven Deadly Chess Sins” provides virtually inexhaustible material to provoke thought and study for the serious player.

As a beginner/improver whose ratings bumble around the 1000 mark and who rarely has the patience to play through worked examples, 50% of this book was beyond me. However, it will be returned to over and again in the future and there is enough to fascinate and provoke at any level. Rowson analyses both the psychological and practical outworking of each of the “sins”.

The book is divided into seven sections dealing with problems that are loosely tied to the traditional “Seven Deadly Sins” (Pride, Envy, Gluttony, Lust, Anger, Greed, and Sloth).

Thinking – sometimes there is too much of this.

Blinking – lapses of attention that cost too dearly.

Wanting – being too focused on the result.

Materialism – thinking too much in terms of material.

Egoism – missing your opponent’s point of view.

Perfectionism – taking too much time.

Looseness – failing to maintain a grip on the game in front of you.

Each chapter begins with a discussion of the more conceptual and psychological aspects of the game. How does your personality affect your play? What do you see when you look at the board? Is it possible to be objective? How does the Chess Mind work? Are you too attached to certain lines? What is really going on? The discussion is delightfully buoyed up by quotes from Grandmasters and diverse sources such as Kierkegaard, Sartre, De Bono, and the I-Ching. There is a wonderful sense here that Chess is about life and who you are that has much wider implications. This is what really excites me about the game and it blew my mind open to new possibilities and taught me a lot about myself.

The second part of each chapter is given to the worked examples drawn from historic and lesser known matches of over 60 different players. Here Rowson’s encyclopedic breadth of detail guides the reader through the trips and turns that demonstrate each “sin” on the board.

Every chapter is worthy of at least a year’s study and application and it is small wonder it took me a few months to plough through it all. The reader never feels patronised or dictated to as the author has a way of presenting ideas in a way that encourages them to mature and stand on their own feet; to explore and develop through shedding the kind of formulaic mantras that all of us tend to have absorbed. It’s like coming under the tutelage of a Zen master.

This book will remain close to hand, a challenging resource for a lifetime of learning.

View all my reviews

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2 Responses

  1. Do you also play Go?

    • I should – a few people have recommended it to me and I read about it on your blog. I’m certainly curious but have yet to meet a Go player in my social circle.

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