Daniel Gormally – Pandemic Shark – A Journey Through the World of Chess Improvement – 232 pages – ISBN 9789464201536.
Teaser [PDF] – Pandemic Shark – A Journey Through the World of Chess Improvement
I was once dismissive of the attempts by amateur players to improve. To me it seemed too obvious – you either had it or you hadn’t. Talent was ultimately all that mattered. All my writing on chess was really for myself. If amateur players couldn’t follow, tough.
I don’t think that this dismissive attitude towards amateurs by professional chess players is particularly unusual. There is plenty of talk about ‘fish’, and in professional circles a general level of contempt is always on display. Perhaps we too easily forget that we were once ‘fish’ and ‘patzers’ ourselves, and are probably still viewed as such by even higher-rated players. It is only recently that I have started to think more along the lines of how amateur players approach chess, and the typical mistakes they make.
Classic mistakes by amateur players include:
- Moving a piece too often in the opening. This is one of the mainstays which I think relates at least partly to the desire to create something in the opening, when we would be better advised to focus on simple development.
- Impatience. Sometimes amateur players are too eager to change something when there really is no need.
- Overgeneralising. One of the biggest differences I’ve noticed when comparing professional play to amateur play is that the former is much more about concrete calculation – you go there, I go here and so on – whereas an amateur player will have a tendency to overgeneralise when thinking about a position, perhaps because they are not used to the basic art of calculation.
- Cutting variations off too quickly. Amateur players do not extend their calculation far enough, and thus superficiality tends to kick in.
These and other mistakes I will try to explain in the book. Of course it should be noted that professional players also make these kinds of mistakes. I certainly do, all the time, so there is plenty of overlap and understanding of where these mistakes come from.
Gerard (verified owner) –
Original, very readable and … instructive
Neil Sullivan (verified owner) –
GM Danny Gormally is the author of 6 chess books. I have found all of them to be entertaining and often instructive. Probably the most infamous is 2016’s Insanity, Passion and Addiction – A Year Inside the Chess World. As the title suggests, it’s a frank and candid look at the life of a lower-level chess professional
In this book, Mr. Gormally talks a lot about the effect of covid on the chess world as he knows it. The title phrase Pandemic Shark refers to junior players who used their time away from OTB play to drastically improve their play while maintaining drastically low ratings as their playing strength increased by leaps and bounds.
The book presents 57 games and 9 test positions. The games are a mix of casual and serious with the author’s own play featuring in about a third. I found his teaching contests with students and friends to be the most instructive. He presents nuggets of knowledge that highlight the differences between a GM’s way of seeing the board as compared to that of weaker players.
There are also serious contests between top players. These are chosen to illustrate is chosen themes. There’s also a chapter on the scaled back 2021 British Championship; his prep and approach. There is an attempt to show all the book’s games as belonging to unified themes. This is only partially successful and the book comes across as somewhat disjointed. Nevertheless, there is undeniable instruction and entertainment value to be had. The author is most effective when presenting opinions and candour over strict analysis. His position of being far above amateur players while simultaneously way below the chess elite qualifies him to comment on the strengths, weaknesses and challenges of playing at his level.
This isn’t the first book to reach for to improve your play. Nevertheless, it has a great deal of instructional value. It also offers honest entertainment in a well-written manner. There are few GMs who write this honestly and well.
Tido Kruze –
Thank you for the kind words, Neil!
Tomasz Pintal (verified owner) –
A great book! The passion of the author shines through the pages! He has analysed the games and gives a bit of variations, but a lot of commentary about his ideas related to chess, improvement, engines, analysis, preparation, etc.
If you are interested in reading how chess master thinks and shows what is important and how he thinks chess progress is possible, this book may be really interesting one! There are not that many variations, but a lot of comments by the author related to “non-technical” side of chess.