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“I studied chess from books” is what Sergey Shipov writes in his book On Life and Chess. I can say the same.
When I say “book” I still have the mental image of a paper book. So back in the day I would sit on my bed, with the magnetic chess set in front of me, the book in my lap and I would read and execute the moves on the board, analysing, trying to understand the secrets of the game. A very pleasant process, I must say.
I wish I had the time to go over that process again sometimes. Even though I’ve gone a long way since those times, I still have a lot to learn. The last time I did this was back in 2013 when I sat with a chess board and went over all the games from the London-Leningrad 1986 Karpov-Kasparov match using Kasparov’s book and then scored a great result at the Paleochora tournament.
Everything is fast today. And everything is on the phone. So the people from Forward Chess came up with the idea to put the books in your phone and enable you to move the pieces as if on a physical board.
A logical idea, undoubtedly, but how convenient is that? There are many apps out there where you can play chess and move the pieces, how comfortable is to use it as a part of a reading process?
Initially I was skeptical. Maybe I’m old-fashioned, but I prefer a physical board in front of me! So reluctantly I downloaded the app and tested it.
I expected to feel frustrated by looking at the tiny pieces and trying to read at the same time, but imagine my surprise when I actually felt comfortable reading the free sample books provided in the app.
I am no expert, so I cannot explain technically what made that comfortable feeling, but I was aware of the clarity of the screen, the sharp letters and the pleasing, familiar (Chessbase-style) look of the chess board and pieces placed above the text.
That was the first surprise.
The second one was that the process of reading and following the moves on the board was very easy. Whenever there is a game or even a move in the text you can click on it and it would immediately appear on the board.
Immediately I wanted to see how this works for the most variation-dense books. Luckily there was a free sample from Avrukh’s Grandmaster Repertoire 2A – King’s Indian and Grunfeld – you don’t get more dense than that!
So I opened it and wanted to see if I can follow the lines without getting lost. And it worked! I could go deeply into the lines and go back, either by clicking the forward/backward arrows or simply on the move I wanted to see. Rather conveniently, on each fork in the variation, next to the board a box appears to show you the possible options in that positions, all clickable.
As a bonus to all this there is also an option to use an engine (Stockfish) while reading and going over the lines. Even more, you can try your own moves and analyse on your own with the engine, trying other moves than the ones given in the book. This last option is a crucial one in my opinion – I don’t think it happens only to me when I don’t really get it why a certain move is played and not another one. Then is the perfect moment to make the move on the chessboard and ask the engine about it!
There are many other customisable options which I didn’t need – taking notes, adding bookmarks, sync-ing between devices (it can be used both on a phone and a desktop machine), night mode, piece and board styles and sizes, different fonts etc. In short, you’re invited to make the app your own.
The choice of books on offer in the app is quite big (over 300) and is ever increasing. You can see a free sample from any book before purchasing. A few of my favourites are Dvoretsky’s Endgame Manual, which I think is ideal for endgame training and improving your play in theoretical endgames, the Avrukh books, Game Changer by Sadler and Regan, The Shereshevsky Method by Shereshevsky (a compilation of his books), the Aagaard books (the GM Preparation: Calculation I am still using for training), Edouard’s Magic Years with Topalov (which I would like to read when I have more time!), Gelfand’s Dynamic Decision Making in Chess, Shipov’s On Life and Chess mentioned at the beginning (which is completely free) to name but a few. There are so many and on every topic imaginable that you’d be better off to take a look yourself!
I am quite happy to recommend the Forward Chess app. I use it and I feel good when I do. Give it a try, you may find yourself spending more time reading, analysing an eventually improving!