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Tim Brennan, the Chess Amateur who Wrote a Best-Seller Print E-mail
By Alan Rodenstein   
March 6, 2014
Tim Brennan
When one thinks of the chess bestseller, it is usually a book by a well-established master who has written several, if not dozens of books with a deep understanding of the chess market.  What is unusual is when the best-selling book is written by a software engineer from Colorado Springs who is a Class A player that writes in his spare time. This is what Tim Brennan, along with his coauthor, Anthea Carson, in their first book achieved with a best-selling book on Amazon with their first effort, Tactics Time. 

Written, according to Tim, primarily for players rated between 1200 and 1400 who were looking to improve, Tactics Time is a puzzle book with 1001 problems.  The rationale for the book is that through fully internalizing the basic tactics covered in the Tactics Time puzzles, players will play more accurately, and will see rapid improvement in their game.

Tim did not start playing chess seriously until he was an adult and struggled to improve.  He found Fred Reinfeld’s 1001 Winning Sacrifices and Combinations as a valuable tool in learning tactics. Reinfeld’s book helped Tim improve rapidly.  However, while many of the tactics Reinfeld showed in 1001 Combinations were beautiful combinations, they were often of limited value to the amateur player.

While serving as editor of Colorado Chess Information in 2004, Tim started the Tactics Time column in the magazine.  Tactics Time was not a column in which the latest grandmaster brilliancies were shown.   Ordinary club players from Colorado, around the country (and later) around the world would submit their game with their tactical flourishes.  Often the tactics were quite basic – pins, forks, skewers, etc. executed over the board.  As Tim mentioned, most games are decided by basic tactics with respect to amateur players (especially below 1400). 

Tactics Time continued as a column for several years, but Tim moved on from Colorado Chess Information.   Tim started an internet newsletter based on Tactics Time where he continued to gather more and more tactics, now from all around the world.  Two Tactics Time problems are shown below.

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Following the internet newsletter, Tim started a blog with the same type of tactical problems.  As social media became more of a force on the internet, Tim published Tactics Time on twitter and facebook.  Through all of the iterations of Tactics Time, Tim continued to gather more and more submitted problems and games. Eventually, Tim had an impressive quantity of amateur player chess problems and games.   Given the popularity that Tim had seen with his column in its several versions, he decided to compile the best and most interesting of the problems into a book appropriately named, Tactics Time.

Publishing Tactics Time through the traditional book publishing route was not what Tim had in mind.  Tactics Time was to be self-published, which means it was to be published by the writer with the help of the appropriate specialists needed to create a book.  Hard copy books are now increasingly replaced by e-books.  Tactics Time became a self-published e-book (no hard copies).  The extensive network of followers from the column, newsletter, blog, and social media created a natural starting market for the book.  Tim tapped his extensive group of followers to create the book cover.  He held a contest to select the best cover among several finalists and allowed the winner to be selected by voting.

Once published, Tactics Time sold well in e-book form.  Its success was noticed by one of the traditional book publishers. New in Chess, expressed interest in publishing Tactics Time in book form.  Tim and New in Chess successfully negotiated an agreement, and the book version of Tactics Time was launched.  Both versions are among Amazon’s top selling chess books, and are also now available on USCF Sales.   While Tim has not quit his day job, Tactics Time 2 is on its way with a book and e-book version expected to both be released by 2015.

Tactics Time was not an overnight success. Tim’s success with Tactics Time is the result of years of hard work with his chess column, newsletter, blog and social media efforts.   All of the efforts were leveraged into a book that has obviously been popular with a wide range of chess players. 

Written by Alan Rodenstein – Alan, a 40 year tournament player, is currently researching a book on the state of chess in contemporary America.  Publication is expected in 2015.

Find Tactics Time on USCF Sales.