Grandmaster Michael Stean pioneered the explication of the basic themes of chess strategy that other writers, such as John Emms, (Simple Chess), have found worthy of emulation. I bought the first edition of this book on June 9, 1983 and, aside from Nimzowitsch's My System, this is the most useful chess book I have ever purchased, word-for-word and dollar-for-dollar! I anticipated the second edition of Stean's book in my review of Dvoretsky's Strategic Play: School of Chess Excellence 3.
I expected the author himself, Michael Stean, to correct trivial errors and add a few nuggets of modern chess wisdom but it was Fred Wilson who edited the text to eliminate simple errors, rephrased British colloquialism into American English and translated descriptive notation into algebraic notation without adding any new chess ideas to the text. Nonetheless, as long as there is no substantial modification of the original text, I shall always award five stars to this book without worrying about the level of players it would serve well. (There are very well written books on many subjects for high school students that should not be downgraded because they are either over the heads of grade school kids or too simple for college students.)
Stean's brilliant introductory chapter whets ones appetite and piques ones interest so much that one wants to read through this slim volume in one sitting but please don't. I created a mnemonic from the titles of the remaining six chapters that I run through my mind in a few games where my plan must be revised. Appropriately, I use MOSCOW thus: M for minority attack, (half-open files); O for open files; S for space; C for color, (black squares and white squares); O for outposts and W for weak pawns.
This book not only raises the acquisition of space, combined with denying the opponent of same, to supreme consideration but it also demonstrates best the advice to attack where one has gained space so as to effect conversion to other advantages. One feels relieved somewhat when, on page 136, one is told, "When you have a spatial advantage, there need be no hurry to form an active plan, that will come in due course." The challenge is how to acquire more space when your opponent is trying to do precisely the same thing.
At the bottom of page 101, the explanation that Black develops the black-squared Bishop `passively' on e7, after playing e6, in order to deprive White of the use of an outpost on d5, in the Sicilian, was justification enough for not considering g6, followed by Bg7 at which point e6 will leave the d pawn quite weak. This is a great guide to the placement of the pieces and an encouragement to read all analyses and asides in a chess book that many readers skip. Try using two chess sets on the second pass through games or game segments. Speaking of game segments, this book demonstrates clearly, without saying so in as many words, that positional chess players see a game of chess as an organic whole while tacticians may solve "mate in three" problems ad infinitum with game segments.
I am as impressed with this edition of Stean's book as I was with the earlier edition and I could end my review here but, as a knowledge promoter, having taught graduate engineering courses several decades ago, I wish to share some `humorous' observations on the new edition with the reader.
Fred Wilson succeeded in his mission, though a few new errors were introduced. Most noteworthy is that the use of algebraic notation removed all ambiguities in the earlier descriptive notation. By this I mean that if it was possible for more than one pawn or either knight or either rook or the queen to have made a move described in the earlier edition, the algebraic notation unequivocally stated the specific square and, where necessary, piece involved. One of the things that amused me in the new edition was that an attempt at word-for-word translation confused both notations, for instance, on page 9, Fred wrote "White's c4 square" in place of "White's QB4 square." In algebraic notation, is c4 not the same for both players while QB4 was indeed different for each player in the descriptive notation?
As far as I could tell, Fred corrected almost every error in the first edition, for example: in the analysis of Karpov-Spassky on page 61, he inserted a `with' in the comment after move 9. Ng5! In the analysis on page 80, an earlier 3. ... R-B1 that should have been 3. ... R-B7 was corrected to 3. ... Rc2?? but should Fred have added his own `??' as he also added a `!' notation to move 11. e4(!) on page 158? Should we trust the assessment of a move by Fred where Grandmaster Stean declined to make one? Right after diagram 71, the analysis, 19. dxc6 e.p. corrected 19. PxP e.g.; in the last variation in the book, on page 160, 36. Rxf6+ redeemed an earlier mistake, 36. RxB+ when indeed it was a Black knight that was captured on move 36, as Black's last Bishop disappeared on move 25.
A few, inconsequential errors that Fred introduced are: on page 5, he wrote "a piece beyond the second rate" when he meant "a piece beyond the second rank" as Stean had written. Fred erred in the fifth line from the bottom of page 12 with `win again a ...' where `win against a ...' had been correct. On page 102, the second line should have started, "After g6 and Bg7" rather than "After g6 and Bb7." On page 107, Fred wrote "This is what we are talking about when we saw things like ..." when he meant "when we say things like." An earlier reviewer mentioned the misuse of the word `complication' in "successful complication" on page 121 when "successful completion" was written in the earlier edition. That reviewer then went on to rate the book low for poor editing. Do you think Stean's magnificent elucidation of basic chess strategy should suffer from minor oversights of an editor? The third line from the bottom of page 135 could have done without the `of' and the last-but-one line on page 137 should have included the word `starting' in place of `startling.'
Finally, those who do not mind British idiosyncrasies might have wanted the expression of delight and satisfaction -- "Very neat" - preserved as Stean wrote it in the previous edition but it was expunged by Fred just before "The double threat of Qxe7 ..." at the bottom of page 12. Except one is an unforgiving grammarian, Fred may be excused for substituting the word `unkept' for `unkempt' in the middle of page 58 as many Americans might neither have heard nor used the latter word before.