James Mason (1849 - 1905) was a master chess player. This book 'The Art of Chess' was originally written in 1895 near the end of his career. Mason was born in Ireland but immigrated to the United States in 1861. He learned chess while working in America and eventually settled in England in the late 1870s. He played in major tournaments in the United States and Europe never quite reaching the level of champion but always seen as a major competitor. There is a chess opening named in his honour (the Mason Variation); there is also another move (the Mason Gambit) named for him but ironically he lost the only game he played using it. This book is a classic of chess. The book is divided into four primary sections an introduction and three parts. In the introduction Mason discusses general method of chess. He addresses many major and minor points. 'A thorough understanding of the board is of the first importance as without it no progress in chess worth the labour is possible. It is in this matter that the young player most commonly errs at the very outset. Mistaking more or less familiar acquaintance for accurate knowledge he assigns the board a secondary place in chess economy.' This last statement could be taken as a general maxim for many chess players - they mistake acquaintance or familiarity with accurate knowledge. This was certainly the case in my situation. There are sections on openings (not so valuable as grandmaster strategies but rather interesting to see the breadth of possibilities) as well as endgame examples showing the power and variations possible with each particular piece. This is a 'classic' which means that many of the strategies and tactics have been superseded by later kinds of developments in chess play. However as a starting point this is a good text to follow. The charts and notation are simple to follow (particularly for the novice) and the insights into how chess is played is a good basis - more advanced ways of playing can then come later for the dedicated student of chess.
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