I have a chess book which I find great in terms of tone, formatting, etc., but the computer does not agree with some variations I gave it.

How much has chess changed since 1977? I imagine the rise of the computers (and computer chess) the last couple of decades had quite some impact. Is my book (published in 1977) still worth reading?

I'd like to know before I buy the other books of the series.

The series in question is "praktische schaaklessen" (practical chess lessons) by Euwe. The book I have is on opening theory, but the other parts are on the other aspects and stages of the game (it's a six book series).

5 Answers 5


This depends on a lot of things, but most importantly: your playing level and the topic.

For example, if it is an opening book, it heavily depends on the opening. Some opening variations which are main stream today, didn't even exist in the seventies, or were rarely used (like the Berlin Wall in Ruy Lopez). Others haven't seen that much development (QGD, and offbeat openings like the King's Gambit).

Middlegame & strategy books usually last longer; Nimzowitsch' Mein System is 90 years old but still a useful read. The same is true for endgame books, with one notable exception (which doesn't appear that often in practice): endgame tablebases have completely changed the view on certain endgames like K+Q vs. K+B+B (thought to be a draw, now known to be a win for the Q) and K+Q vs. K+N+N (the other way around).

If you are a <2200 player (like me), you shouldn't worry too much about computer evaluations. Though it is a very good practice to analyse the lines given by the books, so kudos for that.

  • "If you are a <2200 player (like me), you shouldn't worry too much about computer evaluations." I agree, though they can still be useful. If you're sitting there with your book and board and you can't understand why the author a position or variation the way they do (especially if you think you have a move that busts it), checking with the computer is really helpful: authors do occasionally make mistakes. If author and computer agree, try harder to understand the position; if they disagree, probably don't worry about it too much. Commented Sep 26, 2015 at 10:14
  • @DavidRicherby sort of. It depends how deep the evaluation is. Usually at our level (yes, I've improved A LOT) we've got better "at a glance heuristics" than a machine, I actually have some old electronic chess boards and I actually rely on fooling them into thinking "yes that'll be good in 8 moves" not realising that the 10th is death.
    – Alec Teal
    Commented Sep 26, 2015 at 20:07
  • @AlecTeal OK but I was assuming the computer in question to be a reasonably modern program on a general-purpose computer, not an old electronic chess board. Commented Sep 26, 2015 at 20:28
  • @DavidRicherby in that case the likes of us should defer to them entirely. There is literally no way they are wrong.
    – Alec Teal
    Commented Sep 26, 2015 at 20:29

Well, Aaron Nimzowitsch wrote a book called "My System" in the late 1920's, and it's still worth reading today, so just because a book is old doesn't mean it's bad.

It's hard to say whether a book has stood the test of time just knowing what year it was published, but one thing is for sure: many lines can be faulty, as computers were not used to verify lines as they are today back in 1977.

If you find the book enjoyable, I would say it's worth reading. The given variations may contain some errors, but ultimately there might be some things to gain from reading it. The only exception is if it's a book on specific opening theory. Opening theory has changed quite a lot, and many main lines played in 1977 are not main lines anymore. In that case it's better to look for more up-to-date sources of information.

  • 1
    And how many modern IMs play that let alone GMs?
    – yobamamama
    Commented Jan 1, 2020 at 18:08
  • 1
    @yobamamama It is very unclear what your question is. Play what, exactly? This answer is a general answer to whether an old chess book can be worth reading or not. There is not any mention of any concrete lines, or even concrete openings for that matter.
    – Scounged
    Commented Jan 2, 2020 at 4:21
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    @yobamamama "My System" is a book about general chess principles worked out by Aaron Nimzowitsch about 100 years ago, outlining in a detailed way his ideas about positional play etc. Over this past century the top players have modified and refined some of his principles, but many of them still hold as true today as they did then. Most GMs agree that "My System" is a classic worth reading even if it is almost 100 years old, and if you can't see any GM playing by at least some of the principles outlined in "My System", then you may be going blind.
    – Scounged
    Commented Jan 2, 2020 at 15:39
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    @yobamamama It goes without saying that there are almost always different sources for specific information, and the useful information in "My System" is of course not an exception to this. Obviously there are other books on general positional play besides "My System", but that doesn't mean that "My System" is a bad source of information on this topic. Whatever SYSTEM you're referring to is not really relevant to the original question in this thread - or my original reply to it - and it still confuses me why you're so obsessed with it.
    – Scounged
    Commented Jan 2, 2020 at 16:34
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    @yobamamama It's not clear to me what other books you're referring to. I'm not saying that "My System" is the best chess book ever written, but personally I don't think it's worthless. If you have any specific books in mind that are more useful in your opinion than "My System" I'd be happy to learn more about them.
    – Scounged
    Commented Jan 2, 2020 at 19:45

Which book? Assuming a Grandmaster wrote it... Well, here are the names of some Grandmasters from the 1970s:

I think those men, and men like those men, still have the ability to impart lessons.

If you can stand descriptive notation, books from the 1970s can still teach. And chances are, there are addenda on the web that call out faulty variations.

So it depends on the price. If these are US$30 each, and you are interested only in chess value (not the look/feel of the old tome) then perhaps a modern book is more cost effective.

  • Thank you for your answer. The book in question is from the series "praktische schaaklessen" (Dutch for "practical chess lessons") by Euwe.
    – 11684
    Commented Sep 26, 2015 at 8:52
  • @11684 Well, Euwe was world chess champion at one point, so his chess skills were definitely not to be scoffed at. And he was well known for having an accessible writing style in general, so I don't see how you could go wrong with the books of his regarding general play (his opening books are outdated though).
    – Scounged
    Commented Jan 2, 2020 at 16:51
  • @Scounged Well it was the volume about openings. But good to know that the other books in the series are worth tracking down.
    – 11684
    Commented Jan 2, 2020 at 17:58
  • @11684 If the volume is about specific opening theory, then I believe that many lines in the book are outdated. But if it's more about general principles regarding opening play (fight for the center, piece development, king safety, etc.) then I'd expect the book to be useful for people who are new to these concepts. I haven't read the specific book series though, so I cannot be certain.
    – Scounged
    Commented Jan 2, 2020 at 19:49

The computer finding a better line does NOT mean the given line is bad.

If it was good enough for Euwe it's good enough for you :-)

For a kid whose realistic goal is to be a GM someday this might be bad advice. But I suspect that isn't you.

  • Not if you are playing Alekhine or any modern GM now.
    – yobamamama
    Commented Jan 1, 2020 at 18:09

It depends on the book and your needs/interests. Some are worthless some have value for a new player who can use that content to improve.

The good news is that old chess books are dirt cheap. The bad news is that sorting through all the books available from vaious sites like amazon, ABE, individual sellers, and annual sales at our local club is a real chore.

With all the free/cheap content online it is hard to see how a 40 year old book can compete other than on cheaper prices.

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