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I have the book "Logical Chess Move by Move" by Irving Chernev and personally I find it to be a great book especially for beginners, but I heard that GM John Nunn has really criticized the book. This makes me read the book with caution and slight paranoia. Does Nunn have valid points?

Here is a link from one of Dan Heisman's Novice Nook articles discussing Nunn's criticisms of Chernev's book.

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Do you have a source for Nunn's criticism, so that we can know exactly what his points are? (My guess is that Nunn might reference Chernev in his book Understanding Chess Move by Move, given the obvious parallel between the titles, but I've never looked at the book.) – ETD May 24 '12 at 15:50
I will update my post with a link. Nunn's book "Grandmaster Chess move by move" harshly critizes chernev's. – xaisoft May 24 '12 at 15:52
up vote 24 down vote accepted

It seems that Nunn (who is undoubtedly a stronger player than Chernev was) is correct in his criticisms of certain instances of analysis in Chernev's book, and also correct in pointing out that Chernev is sometimes too quick to dogmatically conclude an overarching general principle that doesn't properly allow for exceptions. But I don't believe this should cause you to read Chernev's book with caution (at least no more caution or skepticism than one should have when reading anything), and certainly not with paranoia.

The criticisms Nunn directs Chernev's way in Grandmaster Chess Move by Move are worthwhile things to hear for a player who is at an appropriate level to be reading Nunn's book, but the intended audience for that book is quite a bit more advanced than is Chernev's. The fact that Chernev makes certain oversimplifications (and yes, out-and-out mistakes in some places) is a good thing to be discovered at some point in a player's chess development, but this doesn't necessarily mean that Chernev's book, warts and all, cannot be (very!) useful to a beginner. [Consider: an absolute beginner reading Nunn's criticisms of Chernev that you cited wouldn't be able to appreciate the points being made at all: they would sail right over his or her head.]

The saying "One has to know the rules to break them" is applicable here. If you were to try and take every word in Chernev's book as gospel for the rest of your chess career, you would indeed be leading yourself astray. The same would be true if you tried to dogmatically follow, say, "knights should be developed before bishops" or similar overly general advice which is routinely thrown at novices. That doesn't mean that that kind of advice doesn't serve a useful purpose by giving newcomers to the game some first, rough guidelines to start learning from. I think the same can be said for Chernev's work; after all, it's not for nothing that this instructional book from 1957 is still topical today.

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+1 Ed. Great Response. – xaisoft May 24 '12 at 17:36
@xaisoft Thanks for the vote of confidence; I must say, you're doing a great job helping the site grow with your questions. (I haven't thought of a single good one yet myself, not for lack of trying.) I have an idea for you and others who are asking a lot of questions to consider, for which see this post on chess.meta:… – ETD May 24 '12 at 18:26
+2 @Ed Dean: I agree, it's very hard to post "great" questions, and xaisoft really is doing a super job posting questions. Your responses are great too. Cheers! – blunders May 24 '12 at 18:34
+1 for pointing at "One has to know the rules to break them" – Ray May 25 '12 at 6:36

Chernev is one of the best chess writers out there. I started learning chess very late in life in my 30's. If am even still trying to learn and play this game, it is because of Chernev's writings. I own about 200 chess books. Some of the grandmaster writings soon become esoteric for a beginner trying to get enough of the basics to continue developing and learning. Anyone who has read Chernev's work can't fail to see the joyful enthusiasm with which he brings out his ideas. While they may not be for all those who end up being grandmasters like Nunn, I think they are worthwhile to thousands like me who have continued learning this game because of their influence. Besides, I will not take Nunn's ideas at face value because he has a similar book published and I have never heard a competitor review the competitive product amicably. His ideas may be right but I think they should be delivered with respect for a man who is a very great writer and teacher of chess.

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I learned how to play chess by reading Chernev's books; some of his books were meant for beginner-casual players anyway. I think people like Nunn take things too seriously at times, he should chill out! Chernev's books have great instruction, and are very easy to read, while Nunn's books can be too difficult for the average player.

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Chill out about Chernev? Not at all. Dad beat me every game we played from 6 years old to the ninth grade. I read Chernov, discovered the queen side openings - he never beat me again. When I ended up on the Czech border with the Cav in the early 70's, the king's pawn was the universal opening. When I left 2 years later, Queen's pawn was all anybody played. Blame it on Chernov, Dad, and I was no slouch. But I've read games between Grand Masters like Fischer - I had no idea what was going on. And I had no desire to spend thousands of hours learning to play at that level. Chess can be a pleasant diversion, a powerful device for education, or an impressive display of mental ability. I have bought copies of Chernov's book for friends and family, but I'm certain Nunn is correct. Learn arithmetic before you tackle algebra.

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At the time Chernev wrote his book there was no powerful chess engines and computer analysis, unlike Nunn which likely uses a lot of these tools to support the accuracy of his analysis. It's generally easy now to find mistakes in old books, but they still have valuable lessons and insights.

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I went from being a 1400 player to 2100 using Logical Chess Move by Move by Irving Chernev! Great book, it is simply not in the same league as Nunn's book, it's like comparing the books "Old Yeller" and "A tale of Two Cities" The prose of the first is considered inferior to that in the latter, but few who have read both books would disagree that they both have something to offer the reader. You would benefit from reading them both, simply start with Chernev then finish with Nunn in that way any corrections that are required to the way you reason about chess theory can be correct by the modern theory in Nunn's book. Why not just read Nunn, because Chernev is a good read and easy to understand and implement it's a good place to start as either a chess student, or as a primer used by a chess teacher.

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