Move First, Think Later

By Willy Hendriks

Rating:

Media type: book

Why

I came across this book in a pretty random way. Its author, international master Willy Hendriks has recently published a book and someone on twitter was enthusiastically waiting for it because of how much they had loved “Move First, Think Later”. It got me interested, the title may be a little too catchy for me but I was hooked as soon as I got to read the preface. Hendriks has a fun and irreverent writing style and I wanted to know more.

What

This book is a little hard to classify as it’s not structured as a typical Chess improvement book. The books does not provide you with a list of rules to follow or a way to structure your thinking. It’s more a philosophical discussion of what’s wrong with some of the mainstream advice Chess trainers provide.

The way the book is structured is also interesting. Each chapter starts with a set of positions. You’re provided with no context about them (after all that’s the closest you can get to in a real game isn’t it?). Then each position shows up in the chapter as a way to enrich the discussion. This format is lovely and I wish more books would look that way (if you know of any endgame book that looks like that, please do share!).

To give you a taste of the content, here is quote I find very representative:

So my claim is that there is actually no ‘order’ in the way we look at the board - we see everything at the same time. It is as if you ask a soccer player what he saw first: the keeper standing too far outside his goal, or, in his mind’s eye, the ball curling over the keeper’s head, into the net.

The argument, which the author expands from different angles in each chapter, is that most advice you get is too pedantic and kind of meaningless because it can always be reduced to “play good moves!” If this hits close to home, you’ll greatly enjoy the book.

How

I believe this book may not be for everyone because its style is very irreverent. Especially in the first part, the author critics other authors with heavy words and I understand that not everyone is comfortable with that. I absolutely loved the book and it changed my view of Chess improvement dramatically.

My takeaway from the book is going to stay with me for ever: ** When looking at a position, you see (recognize) what you know**. I have been thinking about this for a while now and I’m reasonably convinced that deliberate practice and cyclic tactic training (as presented in the woodpecker method) are the core ingredients of Chess improvements, especially for adults.

I suggest you read this book with an open mind, knowing this isn’t going to be your average experience with a Chess book.