I'm not an IM or a GM. I'm a 50+ year-old player who was away from chess for nearly three decades and returned actively to the game about a year ago. I've used a professional coach off-and-on, which has helped. I own lots of ChessBase videos. They help a lot. So do the videos on sites like ChessLecture.com and Internet Chess Club. I also own lots of chess books.
Like many chess players, owning lots of books doesn't mean I've read them all. Most, I have read bits and pieces. Only a couple have I read cover-to-cover. Most of the opning books I own, I bought with the plan of understanding more, as my experience grew and the lessons I was learning finally congealed.
I own serveral books by Neil MacDonald. All are excellent. For my level of play, his new book, "The Ruy Lopez: Move by Move," is simply the best opening book I own. By far, too.
This book reaches the goldlocks region -- not too hard and not to simple for the improving player (somewhere between 1600 and 2000 ELO, I'd say). This is not a repertoire book aimed at chess professionals. This book aims squarely at helping the club player to really understand the Ruy Lopez in general an the major variations in particular. This is done with the new question and answer format in this new Everyman Chess series.
Let me give you an example:
MacDonald asks, "How does white create an escape hatch for the bishop on a4 in the Steinitz Defense (page 16)?" The answer most readers would give is 8.c3. MacDonald explains how this is not a bad reply, but he also describes the positional features in the position and explains Carlsen chose 8.a4! in his game against Topolov in Nanjing during 2010.
Another brief example:
After white makes the typical Ruy maneuver of the queen knight b1-d2-f1, MacDonald provides the best explanation I've ever read why Ng3 is preferable in the position on the board to Ne3. He patiently describes the virtues and weaknesses of e3 in a way that is crystal clear.
You get question and answers that you'd expect from a coach to help you understand what is going on in the opening.
One last brief example:
MacDonald asks, "When should I play d2-d3."
Again, the clarity of the answer is astounding. Of course, it depends. MacDonald walks the reader through those considerations. As he reminds the reader, the earlier you play d2-d3, the more information you give the opponent about the coming pawn structure. For example, with an early d3, black can consider a fianchetto on the kingside. Keep your intentions hidden for an extra move or two, and blacks practical options change. Nowhere, have I seen another writer on chess openings explain these matters, let alone do it so lucidly.
I would argue this new book is not for the complete beginner. You should already understand the basics of positional considerations. As long as you can understand positional considerations, when someone points them out to you, then you have the necessary foundation for "The Ruy Lopez: Move by Move." If you know the basic principles of positional chess but aren't yet especially good at seeing them over the board, this book will help you ALOT.
This book also does an excellent job of pointing out tactics. Again, MacDonald will point out the tactical opportunities and provide a brief analysis of a few moves.
There are plenty of diagrams in the book. Most two page spreads have at least two and sometimes three diagrams. This is not a book loaded with numerous and lengthy variations. I'd argue, MacDonald has found an ideal mix of prose and brief analysis to reinforce the points he's making in the text.
This is the second book in this new "Move by Move" series from Everyman. Lakdawala wrote the first, on the Slav. It's also excellent. Everyman Chess is to be applauded for this new series. I own dozens of their "Starting Out!" and "Play the" series. I find those series to be uneven. Some excellent works, some OK, and a few are disappointing. It's risky to generalize from two books, but so far, this new series is consistently the best for my level play.
I bought this book and Lakdawala's "The Slav: Move by Move" with the expectation that I'd "grow into" them. They fit me perfectly right now. Lest I forget, what really does fit me so well about these books is that they really help you to understand how opening considerations affect middlegame and endgame play. These books take you through a combination of high level, recent and classic games.
OK, this review is probably sounding like a paid advertisement. I'm not a professional review. Just an improving player who is really, really pleased with this new book by Neil MacDonald and this new series from Everyman.