Think Like a Grandmaster by Alexander Kotov

Alexander Kotov

Looking for a book related to the thought process of an elite player is difficult, however, this is where Think Like a Grandmaster by Alexander Kotov, a player from the USSR who managed to capture in his manuscripts different wonders for future chess players, stands out.

So in this review you will have what you need to know to decide if this book is what you really need and what you are looking for, besides you will be able to complement it with other books of this phenomenal writer.

Who is Alexander Kotov?

Alexander Kotov was a chess player born in Russia during the former Soviet Union.

Among his most outstanding achievements we can remember how in 1946 he managed to beat Botvinnik and Euwe. By 1948 Kotov shared 1st place in the Soviet Union Championship with David Bronstein. While in 1950 he took part in the Budapest Candidates Tournament.

Alexander Kotov, Think Like a Grandmaster.
Alexander Kotov.

Also in Stockholm 1952 he won the interzonal, and that year he won many prizes “for beauty” in different tournaments, as well as in Hastings, while he won the Olympic Games in 1952 and 1954.

What does Think Like a Grandmaster consist of?

Think Like a Grandmaster focuses on helping chess players to develop a system to improve their calculation of variations and understanding of positions, all this through theory or even discarding moves and taking into account moves that rarely any person could perform.

Alexander Kotov in his book manages to explain step by step in his games how a piece can be at the service of a player in the square where it is, while in others he explains how one of the sides manages to repel an attack and finally how to attack properly.

It is a book that does not focus specifically on endgames, opening or middlegame, it only has different very instructive examples where he demonstrates the system that the winning side used to obtain the victory.

Features of the book

Think like a grandmaster is a book, which helps chess players to work on a thinking process similar to that of the grandmasters in a game of chess, and it has the following characteristics:

  • Difficulty: Medium/difficult.
  • Notation: Descriptive.
  • Focus: Development of thinking.

IMPORTANT: The book was far ahead of its time, where only the Soviet school had managed to develop a thinking system for all its chess players, and that is why it dominated the chess world.

In this way, we can make our way into an interesting world of the East, who at the time were the strongest grandmasters.

Strengths of Think Like a Grandmaster

Think like a grandmaster is high level chess literature, and has many benefits, that is why we will mention the following, which would be the most important and easy to recognize:

Alexander Kotov playing Chess.
Alexander Kotov playing Chess.
  • Not everything is based on variations, Kotov devotes much of the book to stories and explains how he thought.
  • Think like a grandmaster helps to improve the calculation process.
  • The analysis tree that Kotov describes is a system that is still taught in elite chess schools today.

Disadvantages of Think Like a Grandmaster

Like other books, Think Like a Grandmaster is not perfect, however, objectively it should be treated as exactly what it is, a book that has helped thousands of chess players and has only sections that can be improved.

  • The descriptive notation makes the book difficult to read and understand.
  • It is difficult to differentiate the sub variants or alternate variants as the book has been structured.
  • The diagrams are not really clear unlike modern books.

IMPORTANT: Most of the disadvantages of this book are due to its antiquity, which is very detrimental to its readability today, however, for those who enjoy books with descriptive notation, this book should definitely be part of their study material.

Strategically or tactically is a book that will help you grow?

This is a perfect book for both sections, it can help either a tactically strong chess player or one who likes to play positionally, this is because Alexander Kotov was known for games of extreme beauty, but the book also delves into positional assessments, which always helps players who love to play slow positions and on the basis of plans or strategy.

Tactics can be found in different games that end violently, thanks to combinations that are effective because of the positional yoke that some side had achieved in previous moves, and that is why this book also helps to understand that tactical blows are only a consequence of having achieved a strategically superior position.

Old Alexander Kotov playing vs Wells.
Old Alexander Kotov playing vs Wells.

Another case that may be evident is when the opponent makes a serious mistake and the tactic becomes present through this imprecise move, however, in grandmaster games these mistakes happen very little. Therefore, it can be said that this is a book that can be read by any player regardless of his style of play.

Other books by Alexander Kotov

An extraordinary player who was part of the Soviet school was Alexander Kotov, who despite not having achieved a career as impressive as his peers of the time, managed to make a difference through his books, and among them the following stand out:

  • Play Like a Grandmaster
  • Train like a Grandmaster
  • The Soviet Chess School

In general, Think Like a Grandmaster does not have to be a compulsory book, however, it is a highly recommended book for anyone wishing to develop a thought process suitable for slow paces, what is known as classical or standard chess according to FIDE.

The personal opinion of many elite players is that it should be read at some point in one's chess career, as this is a classic that has not been forgotten and in combination with Kotov's other books, a good level can be reached. If you like this article, check all of our blog!

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