Manny's Reviews > The Blue Book of Charts to Winning Chess

The Blue Book of Charts to Winning Chess by Arthur M. Stevens
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's review
Jan 11, 10

did not like it
bookshelves: games, mentions-twilight, parody-homage, the-tragedy-of-chess, the-goodreads-experience
Read in January, 1973


I'm sorry, but I thought I'd better get your attention, and reassure you that this isn't actually going to be about chess. Appearances to the contrary, it's got nothing to do with board games; what I'm going to do is take the methods of the late Mr. Stevens, and apply them to the problem of determining what makes people vote for Goodreads reviews.

Stevens, who published this thoroughly forgotten book in 1969, believed that the best way to find out whether a chess move was good was simply to calculate statistics on how well it scored in published games. So let's do the same here. Since I am most familiar with my own reviews, and know how I classified them, I'll use that as my dataset. When I wrote this, I had posted a total of 793 reviews, which between them had collected 2545 votes, an average of 4.5 votes per review. I have the reviews assigned to 19 different shelves (of course, many reviews end up on more than one shelf). Which categories of review score better than average, and which score worse? In the time-honored tradition of TV charts programs, let's start at the bottom and work our way up.

First: things that don't work. My distinguished colleague notgettingenough was speculating the other day that she should add more sex to her reviews, if she wanted to collect votes. Not, you can relax: the figures don't support that hypothesis. I have 39 reviews marked on my porn shelf, and they average a dismal 1.4 votes. (The most successful one is Emmanuelle , which collected 8 votes). Sex, interestingly enough, doesn't sell. There are a couple of obscure series which I've spent time plugging. The, to my warped mind, engagingly trashy Brigade Mondaine overlaps heavily with porn, and also gave me an average of 1.4 votes for my 15 reviews. At the other end of the scale, Alfons Åberg is a charming children's series that's very popular in Sweden, but it only did slightly better: an average of 1.8 votes for 16 reviews. So forget about reviewing series that no one's ever heard of.

On to the next group. I love books about games, and I've reviewed 59 of them. Alas, they only average 2.6 votes apiece. I also like reading books in foreign languages, but they aren't very successful either. I have 72 reviews for books in Swedish and Norwegian, which score a paltry 2.8 votes. My 100 French book reviews do a bit better, at 3.6. But, as we can see, reviewing specialised subjects isn't likely to help you much.

My frequently remarked-on category too-sexy-for-maiden-aunts basically covers everything which refers to sex at all. (I know I'm being too solicitous of those maiden aunts' tender sensibilities, but one just can't be too careful). I have 217 reviews in this category, but they only average 3.7 votes. As you can see, sex just doesn't help; though small amounts of sex are better than large ones, it's best to have no sex at all. I have 189 science-fiction reviews, averaging 3.8. Nothing to get excited about there. My 37 linguistics and philosophy reviews get 4.2 votes. And the 45 reviews of books I've labelled as trash score 4.4. Apparently, being trash is neither good nor bad in terms of getting votes.

Finally, we're up to categories which score better than average. My 23 history reviews get 4.8 votes each, and the 153 on the shelf marked well-i-think-its-funny average 5.0. People seems to have a slight preference for reviews of funny books, then. I have 48 reviews marked as science, averaging 5.4, and I score the same on the 64 books labelled why-not-call-it-poetry (I have a liberal interpretation of what constitutes poetry). My 87 children's books reviews pull in 5.5 votes each. But we still haven't seen anything worth getting excited about.

I have 67 reviews of books that I particularly like, which I've marked as strongly-recommended. These average 6.6 votes each. It makes sense that people are more likely to appreciate a review of a book that you think is good. But it's only when we get to the final group that we see any really interesting numbers.

I enjoy writing parodies, and I have 34 books on my parody-homage shelf. These average a healthy 15.4 votes each. A surprisingly successful tag is blame-jordan-if-you-like. My friend Jordan worked for several years at a bookstore (that's how I got to know her), and the 9 reviews which she's contributed to average 15.9 votes. So, if you also have a friend who's worked in the book business, you might want to get them to help you.

I bet you already guessed the top category. Yes, you were right. I have 15 reviews labelled as mentions-twilight, and they average a staggering 24.9 votes each. Four of them are reviews of actual Twilight books, and the rest refer to Twilight in some other way. It doesn't seem to matter much. Twilight is where it's at. All but one of my five top-scoring reviews belong to this category ( Dune is the honorable exception).

Summing up: to get votes, you should mention Twilight, write parodies, and try to enlist the help of someone who's worked in a bookstore. If you can't do any of those, at least pick books that you actually like. Avoid porn and obscure series. That's pretty much it.
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Comments (showing 1-31 of 31) (31 new)

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message 1: by Whitaker (new)

Whitaker In order to reduce the vote average for reviwes that mention Twilight, I feel obliged to not vote for this review, notwithstanding your excellent public service and statistical analysis, Manny.

You will note that I have just written two reviews, both semi-parodic, and to substantiate Manny's thesis, please do vote for them here and here.

message 2: by Ben (new)

Ben I only read the first line, but you got my vote.

Manny Whitaker wrote: "You will note that I have just written two reviews, both semi-parodic, and to substantiate Manny's thesis, please do vote for them here and here."

If you'll just add a couple of references to Twilight, they'll get my votes for sure. Oh, and please take out the sex. "I am feeling a little flushed and damp and in need of a little relief" looks way too smutty. Sorry, but I have my maiden aunts to think of.

message 4: by [deleted user] (new)

I'm a sucker for statistics. *votes*

message 5: by C. (new)

C. Nice, though from memory my own highest-voting reviews don't agree with your conclusions at all!

message 6: by Jessica (last edited Jan 11, 2010 01:27PM) (new)

Jessica yeah, I like your analysis, but i'm afraid this analysis reflects Manny's reviews and no one else's. if we analyzed David K's or Ben Harrison's or Choupette's reviews, we would come to somewhat different conclusions.

message 7: by Manny (last edited Jan 11, 2010 01:55PM) (new) - rated it 1 star

Manny Thank you guys!

Please bear in mind that this review is a parody of The Blue Book of Charts to Winning Chess. I have perhaps not adequately conveyed the author's insane conviction that chess can be entirely reduced to analysis of statistical patterns, and that intelligence, insight, creativity etc are all irrelevant.

Though, at the same time, I'm toying with the idea of implementing software to perform automatic analysis of the web-page source, so that I can also take into account things like length of review and number of comments. Did someone say "have your cake and eat it?"

message 8: by Paul (new)

Paul Bryant I'm determined to review something pornographic and get a big vote score now. It's an honourable aim. My review of The Gas was moderately popular but it was a shooting-fish-in-a-barrel review, which I argue should be a seperate category of reviews for which people should not be allowed to vote at all. That would also remove all votes for Twiglet parodies. Man, have you seen a few of them have got 1000 votes!!

message 9: by Whitaker (new)

Whitaker Manny wrote: "If you'll just add a couple of references to Twilight, they'll get my votes for sure. Oh, and please take out the sex. "I am feeling a little flushed and damp and in need of a little relief" looks way too smutty. Sorry, but I have my maiden aunts to think of."

Well, I did take out that line, but I'm afraid Twilight references are a bridge too far for me. ;-)

message 10: by Manny (new) - rated it 1 star

Manny OK, I'd just like to point out that this review is tagged as "games", "parody-homage" and "mentions-twilight". According to the figures I give here, games reviews average 2.6 votes each, parody-homage 15.4, and mentions-twilight, 24.9.

Now, (2.6 + 15.4 + 24.9) / 3 = 14.3. And how many votes has the review received? 14!

Scoff if you will...

message 11: by Paul (new)

Paul Bryant Quick, people, retract all your votes, this theory is too dangerous!

message 12: by Jessica (new)

Jessica instead, it's gained one vote...
wonder what that means?

message 13: by Manny (new) - rated it 1 star

Manny Brian, I wish you were right, but my Little Prince review contains several Twilight jokes.

I'm touched by your kind remarks about Karpov's Caro Kann: Panov's Attack! I had hoped for more votes there, but, unfortunately, it seems that only a small proportion of the Goodreads membership cares that the art of chess analysis has been destroyed by computers. I guess it's another example of compassion fatigue. Anyway, nice to see you're an exception.

message 14: by Manny (new) - rated it 1 star

Manny PS You inspired me to add a new shelf. Enjoy!

message 15: by Paul (last edited Jan 17, 2011 04:18AM) (new)

Paul Bryant Hold it - just reread this and I had overlooked this:

the 9 reviews which she's contributed

does that mean these 9 reviews were actually not written by you, Manny? If so, these votes should immediately be deducted from your score!

message 16: by Manny (new) - rated it 1 star

Manny The next word is "to"! I.e. "the reviews she's contributed to!" Talk about being quoted out of context. But if you still feel that anything untoward has happened, by all means feel free to go and donate a few votes to Jordan...

message 17: by Paul (new)

Paul Bryant Was this like a 50/50 Jordan/Manny thing then? Or 60/40?

notgettingenough Paul wrote: "Was this like a 50/50 Jordan/Manny thing then? Or 60/40?"

Relax, Paul. According to the review the critical factor is that she works in a book store. Well, I work in a book business. Unfortuantely I don't read the sort of books that get big scores, but it doesn't seem to make much difference to my votes. So, I'll write some reviews with you, okay?

message 19: by Manny (new) - rated it 1 star

Manny Paul, you can't put numbers on these things. And if you insist on continuing this line of questioning, I'll have to refer you to the joke I just posted.

message 20: by Mariel (new)

Mariel Go PB!

message 21: by Ian (new)

Ian GalaDali What is to be inferred from the fact that your collaborations are more popular than your own reviews?

message 22: by Manny (new) - rated it 1 star

Manny I don't know. I need to ask my co-author.

message 23: by Ian (new)

Ian GalaDali I wonder if I would be more popular if I wrote less reviews by myself?

I am not normally a competitive person (except in sport, culture, work, life and my imagination), but am currently frustrated that the person above me on the most popular list left GR several years ago and their old reviews keep outpolling all of mine.

message 24: by Manny (new) - rated it 1 star

Manny That sounds like it almost has to be adapted from a Shakespeare play, but I can't figure out which one...

message 25: by Ian (new)

Ian GalaDali We could write it, together, if you can't remember.

message 26: by Ted (new)

Ted God, these comments are so out-dated. Off with their heads!

message 27: by Ted (new)

Ted The review is so outdated too. An update is needed. Do you have all these numbers updated in a spreadsheet?

I reckon you do, you stats-guy. 8)

How does 1 N-KB3 chart out?

message 28: by Manny (new) - rated it 1 star

Manny I'm sorry, I never got around to writing the script that was going to compute all these numbers automatically. I think the advice about Twilight is still sound though.

If you want up-to-date chess stats, look at Chessbase online. 1. Nf3 gets 55%, and is marginally the best opening move.

message 29: by Ted (new)

Ted Manny wrote: "I'm sorry, I never got around to writing the script that was going to compute all these numbers automatically. I think the advice about Twilight is still sound though.

If you want up-to-date chess..."

Wow! Larry Evan's move. (The Chess Opening for You)

message 30: by Manny (new) - rated it 1 star

Manny Well, a lot of people's move... it's a popular way to start, though it often transposes to another opening.

message 31: by Ted (new)

Ted Right, I know he didn't invent the move, but he did play it a lot, more than most others in his day, and his book his the only one that advocates it in a major way for every-day players, as far as I know.

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