This is the first of what will be many posts considering the history of chess clubs in Richmond, Twickenham and surrounding areas.
If you’re good, I’ll tell you another story as well.
The first chess club in Richmond dates back to the year 1853.
Here’s the Illustrated London News from 26 March.
In fact the meeting eventually took place at Richmond Town Hall, which would, about 120 years later, host a different Richmond Chess Club. Howard Staunton and Johann Jacob Löwenthal were present, and Staunton delivered, at some length, an address pointing out ‘the advantages arising from the cultivation of an elegant and thoughtful recreation like chess’.
The Illustrated London News reported on 23 April:
The club seemed to be going well: in November Staunton advised T.R.D. of Twickenham that the game he played at Richmond Chess Club would have attention. If you have any idea of the identity of T.R.D., please get in touch.
In January 1854, Staunton replied to ‘Gustavus’, of Eton: ‘You should join the Richmond Chess-club, which is rapidly increasing in members, and is likely, in a year or two, to be one of the most influential chess societies out of London. The secretary is Mr. Harris, chemist and druggist, of Richmond, and from him you must procure the information required.’ In March, always eager to oblige, he advised ‘Query’ to ‘join the Chess-club at Richmond, which is immediately in your neighbourhood, and rapidly rising into note’. In May, he instructed ‘Albert’ of Surbiton to ‘join the Richmond Chess club and you can then have the practice you require’. In September he informed ‘Wolsey’ of Hampton Court that ‘the Richmond Chess-club meets at Etherington’s-rooms every Monday and Friday evening’. F.R.S., of Twickenham, was given the same information in November.
The Etheringtons were a prominent musical family in Richmond and Twickenham for much of the 19th century, and in the latter half occupied various premises in Hill Street.
Things then went quiet for a year, until, in November 1855, when Staunton told J.T.W., of Kingston that there was a very good chess club in Richmond, and that he should apply to Mr Harris.
In 1856, Löwenthal, in The Era, joined in. In March he told F.C., of Kew: ‘You should join the Richmond Chess Club, the Hon. Sec., W. Harris Esq., will provide you with the requisite information.’
On 18 May, he published a letter from Mr Harris.
After that, we hear no more. It looks like the club folded very soon afterwards.
To speculate on what happened, we need to find out more about W Harris.
We can pick him up in the 1851 census where we find William Harris and his family at 2 Hill Street, Richmond. This seems to have been on the corner of Red Lion Street, where Waterstone’s will now sell you some chess books.
William was born in about 1813 in Shelton, Bedfordshire, and, in 1841, married Ann Walker in Wollaston, Northamptonshire, a few miles south of Wellingborough. Ann had been born in Little Harrowden, the other side of Wellingborough, in 1816. (Paradoxically, Little Harrowden is much larger than its neighbour Great Harrowden.) Ann’s parents had died when she was young and she was adopted by family members in Wollaston.
In 1851 their children were Eliza Sophia, Anne Agnes, Louisa Amelia, William Alfred Philidor and baby Helen Hectorina. Only a real chess addict would name his son Philidor! Another son, Arthur Edward was born in 1853, but by 1857, when their youngest daughter, Emmeline Julia, was born, they’d moved. They were no longer in Richmond, but back in Wollaston, the village where they had married. And Will had changed his job: he was no longer a chemist and druggist, but a farmer.
What was the reason for the move? Perhaps his business had failed. Perhaps the farm was an inheritance. Perhaps they needed to return to Ann’s family. Who knows.
Anyway, it seems that, when they moved, in late 1856 or early 1857, the first Richmond Chess Club folded. Staunton’s prediction that it would become one of the most influential chess societies out of London, didn’t come to pass. It’s the same old story, isn’t it? A club is only as good as its organisers, and, when the club secretary departs there’s no one there to keep it going. It would be a long time before there was another chess club in Richmond.
In April 1858 an old friend paid him a visit. Here’s Löwenthal in The Era (18 April 1858):
There’s much of interest here. It’s good to know that Löwenthal played with several ladies, finding that two of them had ‘great aptitude for the game’.
It’s also good to know that Mr Harris ‘has often engaged with players like Brian (sic: presumably Brien was intended), Fonblanque, Medley and Löwenthal, and produced some fine games’ and that ‘were opportunity afforded him for practice with antagonists of superior force he would certainly rise to eminence among the amateurs of country clubs.
It sounds, then, that William Harris was a pretty good player, but that opportunity was never offered him. He continued farming for the rest of his life, dying in Wollaston in 1881. But back in the 1850s he was clearly a significant figure in the chess world. I haven’t been able to find any games or results, though. If you have any information, do let me know.
What happened to his children? His two sons followed in his footsteps, both becoming farmers. Of his daughters, Sophia seems to have died young, but no death record has been found, Helen died in infancy, and Emmeline at the age of 12. Anne and Louisa both married and emigrated to North America.
I decided to look into some of his Northamptonshire friends. The Reverend Alexander William Griesbach, Curate of Wollaston, is particularly interesting. (Note that ‘curate’ was a much more significant title within the church then than it is today: Alex was a parish priest rather than an assistant.) He was born in Windsor, but his family, of German ancestry, were from Bath where they were good friends of the very important Herschel family. William, when he wasn’t busy discovering Uranus, was a composer whose music is still sometimes played today, and his sister Caroline, a pioneer female scientist, was also a significant astronomer. If you’re not familiar with their story, do check it out.
I also decided to look up B Dulley Esq. It turns out he was Benjamin Dulley, a doctor and general practitioner. We can pick him up in the 1851 census, aged 44, living with his wife Fanny and two daughters, Mary Elizabeth and Helen. He employs two house servants, Sarah Saddington and Elizabeth Earle, and a groom, George Stock. The rather unusual toponymic surname Saddington was very familiar to me, as was Sarah’s birthplace, Great Bowden, Leicestershire.
I promised you another story if you were good, and here it is.
Georgie Porgie pudding and pie
Kissed the girls and made them cry.
Sarah lived a long life, dying a spinster in her late 80s. She spent most of her life, apart from a short time in service to Ben Dulley (was he perhaps known as Dull Benny?) in her home village of Great Bowden, very close to Market Harborough, and not far from the village of Saddington from where she gained her surname. She had a niece named Elizabeth Saddington.
The Leicester Chronicle 25 October 1862 reported: “George Smith, of Great Bowden, charged with neglecting to pay 19s. 6d., that amount being due towards the support of the illegitimate child of Elizabeth Saddington for thirteen weeks, was ordered to pay the same and 3s. 6d. costs.”
That child was Fanny Smith Saddington, who had been born in 1855. Elizabeth would sadly die of chlorosis, a form of anaemia, the following year. At the time he kissed Liz and made her cry George was a widower, his wife, Alice Lois Flint, having died in 1853. They had had two daughters, Eliza, who died at the age of 6, and Sophia, who later emigrated to America. But Fanny wasn’t Georgie’s only illegitimate child. He had previously had a relationship with a slightly older girl named Eliza Carter. They had had two children, Elizabeth Smith Carter (1841) and Henry Smith Carter (1842). Quite a lad was our Georgie, by the sound of it. Henry died in infancy, but Elizabeth had a very long life and a very large family. How do I know all this? Elizabeth Smith Carter was my great grandmother. Perhaps I’ll tell you more another time.
There you have it. If Georgie Smith hadn’t kissed Eliza Carter I wouldn’t be here to tell the story of how his future squeeze Elizabeth’s Aunt Sarah had worked for a friend of the secretary of the first Richmond Chess Club.
“A crucial decision spared chess Grandmaster David Bronstein almost certain death at the hands of the Nazis—one fateful move cost him the world championship.
Russian champion Mark Taimanov was a touted as a hero of the Soviet state until his loss to Bobby Fischer all but ruined his life.
Yefim Geller’s dream of becoming world champion was crushed by a bad move against Fischer, his hated rival.
Yuri Averbakh had no explanation how he became the world’s oldest grandmaster, other than the quixotic nature of fate.
Vasily Smyslov, the only one of the five to become world champion, would reign for just one year—fortune, he said, gave him pneumonia at the worst possible time. This book explores how fate played a capricious role in the lives of five of the greatest players in chess history.”
“Grandmaster Andy Soltis, eight times champion of the Marshall Chess Club, New York Post editor and Chess Life columnist, is the author of dozens of chess books. He lives in New York City. He is the author of many books, including Pawn Structure Chess, 365 Chess Master Lessons and What it Takes to Become a Chess Master”
From the author’s preface:
In this book I explored the interlocking careers of five men with a focus on the prime years when they might have become champion. Only one succeeded. But they represented an extraordinary class. All five men were ranked among the world’s top 11 players when Vasily Smyslov became champion. All five players were ranked in the world’s top 20 players for the next decade.
This book is a companion to my Tal, Petrosian, Spassky and Korchnoi and, like it, it pays tribute to the remarkable personal lives of great players during a remarkable era. They were not only competing with one another for the highest reward chess can offer. They were trying to survive in a brutal Soviet system. They lived through the Great Terror – which directly touched the lives of David Bronstein, Yuri Averbakh, Vasily Smyslov and Mark Taimanov – and World War II, which deeply affected them all.
Here, then, we have a group biography of five leading Soviet grandmasters, all born between 1921 and 1926. As Soltis explains, this was both a good time and place, and a bad time and place to be born. They grew up within a strong chess culture, where their talents were, albeit with deprivations during World War II and many restrictions in the brutal Soviet regime, allowed to flourish.
Smyslov became world champion, and Bronstein came very close. The other three were all world championship candidates, and, had things worked out slightly differently, Taimanov and Geller might have come closer to the title than they did.
Perhaps Smyslov, whose father was a strong player, would always have discovered chess, although, had his life turned out differently, he could have had a career as an opera singer. Taimanov, as is well known, did in fact have a parallel career as a pianist, performing with his first wife, Lyubov Bruk.
In another life, Bronstein would have been a mathematician and Averbakh a scientist. Geller was, in several ways, the outlier of the group. Unlike the others, he was a late developer, so only joins the story after several years and chapters have passed. Unlike the others, also, he seems to have had, apart from sports, no interests outside chess, even though he worked as an aircraft engineer and studied political economy at university.
As you’d expect, there’s a lot of high quality and instructive chess within these pages. Here are a few, fairly random, examples.
Taimanov and Bronstein adjourned this position, with White to move, in a 1946 Soviet Championship Semi-Final. Bronstein and Averbakh were staying at the same hotel, and set up the position on a board.
Soltis takes up the story.
Taimanov was so sure of victory that he told Bronstein he had sealed 1. Ra7+ and showed him how he would win after 1… Kh6 2. Rb7!. That looked convincing: 2… Ng3 3. Rb3 Nh5 (3… Nf5 4. Kf6) 4. Rh3! and then 4… Kg7 5. f5 Kf7 6. f6! wins. “But what if I retreat the king to f8?” Bronstein asked Averbakh.
The next day was free from play so they analyzed 1… Kf8 during it. They realized that if White traded pawns too quickly the result would be a position know to be drawable since an ancient game Neumann – Steinitz, Baden-Baden 1870. White did not seem to have a forcing win after 1… Kf8. But 2. Rd7! was a good waiting move. Then 2… Ke8 3. Rh7 Kf8 4. f5 would lose. So would 2… Ng7 3. Kf6 Nh5+ 4. Kg5! or 2… Ng3 3. Kf6.
This was discouraging. Bronstein and Averbakh looked at 2… Kg8 and unfortunately found 3. Ke6! Nf4+ 4. Kf6!. The clever king triangulation wins after 4… Nh5+ 5. Kxg6 Nf4+ 6. Kg5 Ne6+ 7. Kf6! Nf4 8. Rd4 Nh5+ 9. Kg6. Or 8… Ne2 9. Rg4+ Kf8 10 .Ra4 Kg8 11. Kg6 Kf8 12. Rc4 Ng3 13. Rc3 and so on. They kept analyzing and found that 3… Kf8 was no better than 3… Nxf4+ because of 4. Rf7+! Ke8 5. Rf6! or 4… Kg8 5. Ke7.
It was all so elegant and, simultaneously, depressing. “David didn’t know what to do, to be happy or sad,” Averbakh remembered. “Of course, it’s painful to know you have a forced loss. But what an interesting path to victory!” And, besides, they were both proud to have solved such a mysterious endgame.”
When the game was resumed, Taimanov played 1. Ra7+ Kf8! 2. f5? gxf5 and drew along the lines of the Neumann – Steinitz game.
As a result of this experience, Averbakh decided that he could combine his interests in science and chess by conducting research into technical endings such as this – and he would later become known as perhaps the world’s leading authority on endgames.
The games are expertly chosen, for their excellence, excitement, historical or sporting significance, and annotated in Soltis’s signature narrative style.
Some of them will be familiar to readers with a prior knowledge of games of the period, but others will be unfamiliar to most.
Look, for instance, at a couple of games from a secret training tournament held in the Georgian town of Gagra in 1953.
This is the game between Geller and Smyslov. Geller had outplayed the future world champion in the opening and early middle game, but his last move was an oversight. The last moves had been 25. Bb2-e5? Qc7-b6 26. Nf3xg5?.
This would have won after 25… Qa5? because of Qh5; e.g., 25… Qa5? 26. Nxg5! Nxd5 27. Qh5! and mates. In the diagram Geller must have expected to win after, for example, 26… Bxg5 27. Qh5! Bh6 28. Rg3!. Or 27… Re7 28. Be4! g6 29. Bxg6 Rxg2 30. Bf7+ Kf8 31. Bg7+!. 26… Nxd5! 27. cxd5 But he had overlooked 27. Qh5 Qb1+ 28. Kg2 Qg6!. No recovery is possible.
I have a couple of small issues with this. I find the back-referencing – something Soltis often does – slightly confusing. I’d have preferred the variation given in the first sentence here as a note to Black’s 25th move. He also fails to mention that Geller would still have been better in the game after 26. Rb2!, when a nice variation is 26… h6 27. Nh4! gxh4 28. Qh5!, with a winning attack.
Smyslov went on to win a few moves later.
Here, from the same tournament, is a position from the exciting game between Taimanov and Averbakh, with Black to make his 38th move.
Now 38… b1Q would make a draw likely, after 39. Rxb1 Rxa4 (40. Rh1?? Ra2+ and 39. Qxb1 c2!). 38… f5?? 39. d7! c2 40. d8Q+! (The final shift would have been 40. dxc8Q+? Rxc8 41. Qxf5 c1Q and Black wins. 40… Qxd8 41. Qxd8+ Kg7 42. Qg5+ Black resigns
(Taimanov, in his notes to this game, claimed White was winning the diagrammed position, failing to mention the draw after b1Q or to query 38… f5.)
Soltis, as so often, has an anecdote at hand to add colour and context.
The secrecy surrounding these training tournaments was deeply felt. Alexey Suetin recalled how one of the Gagra players showed him a remarkable game but “outright refused to give the names of the players” or the tournament results. “Such was the Stalist regime,” he said. Even when he wrote this, in 1993, Suetin refused to say who showed him the game. It was too dangerous.
In 1957 Bronstein was invited to a major tournament in Dallas, with the highest prize fund of any US tournament since New York 1927, but, according to Soltis, the State Department refused him a visa, apparently in retaliation for Soviet treatment of U.S. citizens seeking to travel in the USSR.
Instead, he had to make to with a weaker tournament in East Germany, where he reached this position with white against Bilek.
Bronstein has a deliciously subtle threat: 34. a4 would force the b6-rook to make a choice. Then 34… Rc6 would allow 35. Bf4 and Rb1-b8+. And 34… Rb3 would weaken f6 so that 35. Bh6! threatens 36. Qh7+ (35… Kf8 36. Qxf6+). 33… Kf8 34. g3 Re2 35. Bc1 Qe7 36. Kg2! There is no defence to 37. Rh1, 38. Rh7 and Bh6. The game could also end with 36… Re1 37. Rxe1 Qxe1 38. Ba3+. 36… Rc6 37. Rh1 Rxc3 38. Bf4 Ra3 39. Rc1! Black resigns.
(Bronstein has other threats in the diagrammed position: g3, Kg2 and Rh1 as happened later in the game, and also Bc1-a3. It takes older engines some time to realise White has anything more than a slight advantage, but Stockfish 14 immediately tells you almost any reasonable move is crushing.)
The narrative stops rather suddenly at the end of 1973, at which point our protagonists were in middle age and starting an inexorable decline. Unexpectedly, though, Smyslov would make another challenge for the world championship in his sixties. The remainder of their lives is chronicled relatively briefly.
What we have here is, as anyone familiar with this publisher will expect, a handsome hardback which will look good on any bookshelf. It covers an important and endlessly fascinating period of chess history, and is full of interesting (for all sorts of reasons) games, well researched and sourced history, entertaining and enlightening anecdotes and evocative photographs.
At the end of the book we have some useful appendices and other material. First, a chronology taking us through almost a century from Smyslov’s birth in 1921 through to Averbakh (still alive as I write this at the age of 99) playing a 4-year-old in 2017. Then, the rankings (from Chessmetrics) of the players between January 1939 and January 1979. We have chapter notes and a bibliography: everything is fully sourced, using Russian and English language periodicals and a wide range of books. There are frequent contradictions between sources, and the players also contradicted themselves from time to time: all this is explained in the text. Finally indexes of opponents and openings, and a general index.
It would have been ideal if the games had been presented more spaciously and with a lot more diagrams to enable readers to follow them from the page. It would also have been preferable to print the photographs on glossy rather than matt paper. Of course, given the nature of the book, such luxuries are inevitably out of the question. It would, however, have benefitted from another run through to pick up typos, of which there are more than should be expected in a scholarly work of this nature. I suspect, for example, that Keres told Taimanov he was playing like Liszt rather than List.
Nevertheless, this is an outstanding book which can be highly recommended to anyone interested in this period of chess history. If you’ve read Soltis’s earlier book on Tal, Petrosian, Spassky and Korchnoi you’ll need no hesitation to add this title as well. Likewise, once you’ve read this book, you’ll want to read the earlier work if you haven’t already done so.
In my opinion, Andrew Soltis is a very much underrated author. It’s understandable that we all tend to be suspicious of the quality of books produced by prolific authors, and in many cases these suspicions are justified. In the case of Soltis, though, even his more popular works are well written and, for their target audience, worth reading. His more serious and scholarly works such as this one are uniformly excellent. Soltis, with many years journalistic experience, knows how to write, and, most importantly, knows how to tell a story. Whether annotating a game or writing about chess history, he keeps his readers on the edge of their seats, eager to turn the page and find out what happens next. This book, like everything he writes, is extremely readable as well as rigorously sourced.
It’s not the last word on the subject. There is without doubt a wealth of interesting information lurking within currently sealed Soviet archives. Although this book might not be flawless, it will more than suffice for the moment. There’s nobody better qualified than Andrew Soltis to write on this subject.
This book doesn’t come cheap, but, if you can afford it, it will be money well spent. I see it has just made the shortlist for the English Chess Federation book of the year, and rightly so as well.
“The Modern Benoni is one of the most controversial but also dynamic answers to 1.d4. This opening remained the favourite of famous attacking players as Tal, Kasparov, Gashimov and Topalov. From the outset, Black creates a new pawn structure and deploying his active piece play against White’s central majority.
In his book Alexey Kovalchuk focuses on a set of new ideas and deep analyses supported by his silicon friends. His book supplies all Black needs to know to fight for the initiative from move two!”
“Alexey Kovalchuk was born in 1994 in Russia and learned to play chess at the “late” age of 12. In November of 2017 he reached his highest Elo yet of 2445 and is considered an IM without the norms. Alexey has never had a coach having studied with the aid of books and other materials.
His tournament successes include winning the Rostov Championship in both classical and rapid. He is a three-time winner of the Taganrog Championship and has won prizes in many events including Taganrog, Togliatti, Astrakhan, Lipetsk, Kharkov and Donetsk. His reputation as a theoretician is well known and he has previously published a book on the Grünfeld Defense. Currently Alexey serves as a second for several grandmasters as well as coach for several aspiring students.”
End of blurb.
As with every recent Thinkers Publishing publication high quality paper is used and the printing is clear. We were hoping that the excellent glossy paper of previous titles would be used for this one but never mind.
Each diagram is clear and the instructional text is typeset in two column format, which, we find, enables the reader to maintain their place easily. Figurine algebraic notation is used throughout and the diagrams are placed adjacent to the relevant text and each diagram has a “to move” indicator and a “position after: x move” type caption.
There is no Index or Index of Variations but, despite that, content navigation is relatively straightforward as the Table of Contents is clear enough.
This is the author’s second book, we reviewed Playing the Grünfeld : A Combative Repertoire previously.
Here is the detailed Table of Contents:
Classical Main Line
Knight’s Tour Variation
Modern Main Line
Bg5 & Bb5 Systems
Before we continue we will declare an interest. We only play a couple of these positions from the White side and none from the Black side.
The Preface provides a couple of tremendous Tal games in which White is crushed in short order. The Introduction nicely provides an overview of the coverage of each of the main chapters.
Chapter 1 kicks-off with the so-called “Classical Main Line” which is initially reached via:
ending up at
as the tabiya position for this chapter. The author looks at various move 11 alternatives for White concluding that 11. Bf4 is the most troublesome for Black which scores 56.4% for White and features in 260 MegaBase 2020 games.
The approach is typically that of working through the moves of a variation in detail making reference to played games which is a Thinker’s Publishing “house style”.
Chapter 2 examines a favourite idea of Vladimir Kramnik for White namely the, at one time, incredibly popular 7.Nd2 i.e.
ending up at
which is discussed in detail.
The third chapter is dubbed the Modern Main Line (as labelled by Richard Palliser in his excellent Modern Benoni tome) and has White playing h3 instead of Be2 and placing the f1 bishop on d3 instead leading to
which may be arrived at in several different ways at which point Kovalchuk strong advocates the immediate 9…b5!? instead of the more familiar and less violent 9…a6.
Clearly this is a critical line for the Benoni and is given much detailed analysis. 9…b5!? has featured in 2123 MegaBase 2020 games and of these 727 are designated as “Top Games”.
Chapter Four brings the joys of the Kapengut Variation which was analysed in detail by Albert Kapengut in 1996:
and appears 1037 times in MegaBase 2020 with a white success rate of 57%.
After 7…Bg7 various ideas for White are examined.
As the Chapter Five’s title suggests various move orders are covered in which develops the King’s knight to e2 rather than f3 without playing f3 quickly.
Chapter 6 covers ideas for white involving an early pin with Bg5 or an early check with Bb5+ (but without f4) . The author considers neither of these to be dangerous for Black and provides analysis of his antidotes.
However, much more exacting is the daunting Taimanov Attack (dubbed by David Norwood as the Flick-Knife Attack such was its ferocity) which is examined in Chapter 7.
This famous line made popular in the 1980s begins
and there are 38 pages on this line alone. 9.a4 is given detailed treatment with the main line reaching:
which is then analysed thoroughly.
In the same chapter is the more modern treatment of 9.Nf3 (omitting a4) continuing to
where both 14.f5 and 14.Qe1 are looked at in considerable detail with the latter having the highest database hit rate.
Chapter 8 explores the somewhat innocuous Fianchetto Variation of 7.g3:
and this is given 19 pages of discussion.
The somewhat rare 7.Bf4 system is covered in Chapter 9 with 15 pages of text.
Chapter 10 “tidies up” with coverage of some rarer third and fourth move sidelines which as 3.dxc5 and 4.dxe6 whilst the final Chapter (11) looks at some White Anti-Benoni systems including where c4 is omitted or delayed.
All in all the author provides comprehensive coverage of all of White’s reasonable tries focusing on the critical main lines such as the fearsome Flick-Knife and Modern Main Lines.
This book surely is a must for any player of the Modern Benoni with the black pieces and will be invaluable for the White player who wishes to take Black on in the main lines.
It might have been helpful to sequence the chapters in some kind of order of precedence with perhaps the least significant ones first and then build-up to the most important ones. It is not clear to us that the sequence chosen has any significance since Chapters 1, 3 and 7 perhaps are the most critical variations and 8, 10 and 11 the least.
Any tournament player that either plays the Benoni or who faces it will benefit from this modernised approach.
John Upham recently chanced upon a 1947 game in which an otherwise unknown English player, C Bridle, defeated former World Championship challenger Bogoljubov in a 1947 tournament in Flensburg, Germany.
I’d come across the game myself many years ago, in Fred Reinfeld’s 1950 anthology A Treasury of British Chess Masterpieces, and wondered about C Bridle, a name I hadn’t encountered elsewhere. At some point, perhaps from a magazine article somewhere, I’d seen his first name given as Cliff. A few years ago, now with access to online genealogy records and newspaper archives, I decided to do some research.
We all know who Efim Bogoljubov (1889-1952) was, though. He’s in so many inter-war tournament photographs: the corpulent, beer-swilling figure in the front row, genial and self-confident. “When I’m white I win because I’m white”, he said, “when I’m black I win because I’m Bogoljubov.” It’s easy to forget that, throughout the 1920s and early 1930s he was one of the world’s strongest players, although no match for the mighty Alekhine in two world championship matches. Even in the final years of his career, after World War 2, he was still a formidable opponent. So how come he lost to an otherwise unknown adversary?
It’s well worth looking at the game. I also asked my silicon chum Stockfish 14 to comment on Reinfeld’s annotations. Needless to say, he(?) wasn’t impressed. Stocky v Freddy: let battle commence.
1. d4 e6
2. c4 f5
Stocky, who, sadly for me as a long standing devotee of that opening, doesn’t think much of the Dutch Defence, would aware this a ?!.
3. Nf3 Nf6
4. g3 b6?!
A ? from Freddy, another ?! from Stocky.
5. Bg2 Bb7
6. O-O Be7
Stocky suggests that White can, and should, play the immediate d5 here: 7. d5! exd5 8. Nd4 g6 9. cxd5 Bxd5 (9… Nxd5 10. Bh6) 10. Bxd5 Nxd5 11. Nxf5)
8. d5 Nxc3
Freddy correctly opines that Black has chosen a bad opening, but adds that the fianchetto of the queen’s bishop is generally avoid because of the possibility of d5. A strange comment, as the Queen’s Indian Defence is, and was back in 1950, perfectly respectable. The idea of d5 in this sort of position would, I think, have been considered fairly advanced knowledge at the time. I guess the ever optimistic Bogo was gambling on his inexperienced opponent not knowing this. If White just plays developing moves, it’s very easy for Black to play move like Ne4, g5, g4, Qh4 and get an automatic attack.
Threatening d6 as well as dxe6.
Freddy and Stocky agree that this deserves a question mark. Freddy suggests that Black should play 10… e5 when White should retreat his knight with advantage because of the poorly placed bishop on b7. Stocky continues this with 11. Nb3 d6 12. c5 (a thematic tactic: 12… bxc5 13. Nxc5 dxc5 14. Qb3 regaining the piece) 12… a5 13. c6 Bc8 with only a slight advantage for White. He also thinks Black could consider the pawn sacrifice 10… Bd6 11. dxe6 Bxg2 12. Kxg2 Qe7 13. exd7 Nxd7 with some compensation.
11. e4 c5
12. Ne2 Bf6
13. Qd3 Na6
14. exf5 exf5
Freddy gives this a shriek mark: ‘instinctive and strong’. Stocky is not so convinced, meeting it with 15… Nb4! to drive the queen away. White might then consider the exchange sacrifice 16. cxb4!? Bxa1 17. Bf4 Bb2 18. Rb1 Bf6 19. g5 Be7 20. Ng3 d6. He thinks White could have maintained a winning advantage by playing a move like Bf4 or h4 rather than trying to force the issue.
16. Be4 g6
Freddy claims 17. Bxg6 is premature. Again, Stocky begs to differ, analysing 17. Bxg6! hxg6 18. Qxg6+ Bg7 19. Bh6 Rf7 20. Ng3 Qf8 21. Nh5 Rf6 22. Qxg7+ Qxg7 23. Bxg7 Rf3 24. Rae1 Rh3 25. Re5 Rxh5 26. Rxh5 Kxg7 27. f3 with a winning advantage because Black’s queen side pieces are still out of play)
No comment from Freddy, but a question mark from Stocky, who thinks Qe8 was Black’s only defence.
18. Bf4 Nc7
19. Rae1 Ne8
Double shriek mark from Freddy. This time Stocky agrees. Stocky is happy with Freddy’s analysis of 20… gxh5 21. Bh6+!!, but points out that the more prosaic 21. Bxh7! is equally good. Some variations:
Stocky tells me this throws away most of White’s advantage: he should be opening the position rather than closing it, so 23. f3 was called for, when Black has nothing better than g3 in reply.
24. Rxe4 Rxe4
25. Qxe4 Qe8
26. Qd3 Qg8?
Moving the queen off the critical e-file. 26… Kg8 was the most tenacious defence, but Freddy didn’t notice.
27. f5 g5
Pushing the passed pawn too soon, giving the black queen access to g6. White has two winning ideas here, according to Stocky. He wants to capture on g4 before Black has time to start counterplay with h5. Perhaps the simpler option is:
28. Qe4! Qe8 (28… Re8 29. Qxg4 and Black’s kingside will soon collapse) 29. Be5 Rd8 (now the e-file is sealed White can continue in similar fashion to the game) 30. f6 Qg8 31. Bd6 Re8 32. Qe7+ Rxe7 33. fxe7+ Kg6 34. Rf8 and wins.
The second path to victory is:
28. Qg3! h5 (28… Ba6 29. Qxg4 Re8 30. Qh5+ Kf6 31. h4 Bxc4 32. Qh6+ Kf7 33. hxg5) when White has the spectacularly beautiful 29. Be7!! with elements of both interference (on the e-file) and clearance (on the diagonal). Play might continue 29… Kxe7 (29… Re8 30. Qd6 Rxe7 31. f6 Re3 32. Qxd7+ Kg6 33. f7 Qf8 34. Qf5+ Kh6 35. Qf6+ Kh7 36. Qxg5 Rf3 37. Qxh5+ Qh6 38. Qxh6+ Kxh6 39. Rxf3 gxf3 40. f8=Q+) 30. Qc7 Ba6 (30… Qf7 31. f6+ Kf8 32. Rf5 Re8 33. Qd6+ Kg8 34. Rxg5+ Kh8 35. Rg7 Qf8 36. Qf4) (30… Bc8 31. Re1+ Kf7 32. Qd6 Qg7 33. Re7+ Kf8 34. Rxg7+ Kxg7 35. Qe7+ Kh6 36. Qf7 h4 37. Qg6#) 31. Re1+ Kf8 32. Qd6+ Kg7 33. Re7+
A Bogo booboo, missing Cliff’s 30th move. Instead, he could have equalised by occupying the e-file first. After 28… Re8, with Qg6 to follow, everything, according to Stocky, is about equal. (28… Re8 29. Qf5 (29. Be7 Qg6 30. Qg3) 29… Bc8 30. Qxg4 Qg6)
But Freddy was asleep and let both players’ 28th moves pass without comment.
‘A very attractive game’, according to Freddy. An interesting but inaccurate game according to Stocky. You might, I suppose, see it as a classic example of bishops of opposite colours favouring the attacker in the middlegame, and note that Black’s queenside pieces were offside.
You should also look at some of the tactics, especially 29. Be7!! in the note to White’s 28th move.
It’s still mightily impressive for an unknown amateur to beat a top grandmaster with a brilliant queen sacrifice.
But who was Mr Bridle, anyway, and what was he doing in Flensburg? Perhaps he was just enjoying a summer holiday. It seems that Cliff spent most of his life in the shadows. Let’s have a look and see what we can find out.
Clifford Bridle was born in Weymouth, Dorset on 11 February 1914. His father was George Bridle, originally from Wareham, who had divorced his first wife in 1910 and married Susan Jane Smith in 1912. Cliff had an older sister, Greta, and two younger brothers, Jack and Victor, as well as a half sister, Sarah Bessie. The 1911 census reveals that George was a house decorator. Not the sort of comfortable upper middle-class background you’d expect from a strong chess player, but the world was changing. Before World War 1, chess had been, at least at higher levels, very much associated with the comfortably off, but in the inter-war years the game was broadening its demographics, and players from working class backgrounds could sometimes be found playing at higher levels.
We pick Cliff up for the first time as a chess player in 1932, where he was playing correspondence chess for his home county. He also started playing over the board, and, in April 1933, the Western Morning News pointed out that he’d won every game he played for Dorset, while lamenting the lack of an inter-club competition in his county. There was an individual county championship, though, and Cliff, one of the young ones, reached the final, where he lost to Swanage schoolmaster Bennett William Wood. The Western Gazette (23 June 1933) reported that “Mr. Bridle, who is only 18 years of age, is to be congratulated on the excellent fight he made for the championship. Congratulations again, Cliff. In those days the county champion got to play top board the following season, so Cliff didn’t quite make Number One.
He continued to play county chess, usually on about board 9 or 10, throughout the 1930s. The 1939 Register found him, a bachelor boy, living with his mother and brothers at 13 Milton Road, Weymouth. He was following in his father’s footsteps, working, like his brother Jack, as a house decorator and glazier, while young Victor seemed to be moving up in the world, having found clerical work with an estate agent. Cliff’s date of birth is given incorrectly as 11 July 1914. And then the trail goes dead, until 1947, when he turned up in Flensburg.
Here’s Wikipedia on Flensburg:
Flensburg is an independent town in the north of the German state of Schleswig-Holstein. Flensburg is the centre of the region of Southern Schleswig. After Kiel and Lübeck, it is the third largest town in Schleswig-Holstein.
In May 1945, Flensburg was the seat of the last government of Nazi Germany, the so-called Flensburg government led by Karl Dönitz, which was in power from 1 May, the announcement of Hitler’s death, for one week, until German armies surrendered and the town was occupied by Allied troops. The regime was effectively dissolved on 23 May when the British Army arrested Dönitz and his ministers – the dissolution was formalized by the Berlin Declaration which was progmulated on 5 June.
The nearest larger towns are Kiel (86 kilometres (53 miles) south) and Odense in Denmark (92 km (57 mi) northeast). Flensburg’s city centre lies about 7 km (4 mi) from the Danish border.
The 3rd Royal Tank Regiment was based there on behalf of the British Army of the Rhine (BAOR) between 1945 and 1948, and CHESS, reporting the tournament, described Bridle as being of the BAOR. I can find nothing in online Forces records, so perhaps he was working for them in a civilian capacity. Maybe they needed a glazier to replace the broken windows. Not a summer holiday for Cliff, then.
The tournament was led by three prominent masters, while locally based players finished lower down. The final scores, according to BCM, were: Bogoljubov, 8.5; Enevoldsen (Copenhagen) and F. Sämisch 8; Nürnberg (Augsburg), 7; Sepp (Estonia), 5.5; H. Gomoluch (Flensburg), 5; Clausen (Denmark), 4; P. Gomoluch (Flensburg), 3.5; C. Bridle (England) and Kornbeck (Denmark), 2.5; Borgaa (Denmark), 0.5.
Cliff Bridle was 33 at the time, no longer a young one, so hardly, at least by today’s standards, the ‘youthful unknown’ described by Reinfeld. His win against Bogo attracted some attention and was published by ME Goldstein in the Chess Review, Sydney. This was in turn picked up by the Hastings and St Leonards Observer, who copied it on 28 August 1948.
Did he take up tournament chess on returning to England? Seemingly not very much. However, he ended up not all that far from my part of the world.
In 1954, the BCF published its second national grading list, and there, in category 4b, which would later become 185-192, or about 2100 in today’s money, is C Bridle of Wimbledon. So he must have been playing some competitive chess in the early 1950s. No sign of him in 1955, though.
In 1964 he suddenly appeared on the electoral roll, living, apparently on his own, at 147 Worple Road, Wimbledon, a road I know very well. It runs parallel with the railway line between Raynes Park and Wimbledon, therefore taking me to Wimbledon Chess Club for Thames Valley League matches. Was he still a bachelor boy? Perhaps not, in 1965, the last year for which London electoral rolls are currently available online, he’s been joined by Karen Bridle. Who was Karen? His wife? His daughter? Karen, originally a Danish name, only became popular in the English speaking world in the 1940s. I can’t find a marriage record for Cliff or a birth record for Karen, so, as we know he spent time in Flensburg, near the Danish-German border, perhaps he married there. I found an online tree with a Karen Bridle from Wimbledon, born in 1925, who married John Anthony Williams, who died at sea in 1970. The same person? No idea.
There’s one further record. The Middlesex County Times, which often reported Ealing Chess Club’s results, is available online. In 1968 Cliff Bridle was playing on board 3 for Wimbledon against Ealing in a Thames Valley League match (he won with the white pieces against E (Francis Edwin) Weninger), so he was still occasionally active into his mid 50s.
At some point he returned to his native Dorset, dying there in February 2001 at the age of 87.
Here, again, is the game on which his fame rests.
Update (27 Aug 21)
Thanks to everyone for their interest in this article.
Particular thanks to Jon D’Souza-Eva, who has discovered that Cliff Bridle’s wife seems to have been Katharina Cäcilia Martha Lauer, born 2 January 1927, died 6 April 1989: her address was given as Flat 1, Steeple Court, 36, St Marys Road, SW19, just round the corner from the All England Lawn Tennis Club. I presume she was born in Germany and married Cliff somewhere in the Flensburg area round about 1947. They later divorced and in 1970 she married John Anthony Williams, also a divorcee, who had been born in Ludlow in 1921. Sadly, John died on 6 August 1972: his probate record shows his address was also Steeple Court. (An online tree incorrectly gives his death year as 1970, not 1972, and claims he had died at sea, off the coast of Somerset, while working.)
Particular thanks also to Brian Denman, who has contributed another Cliff Bridle game.
Source: Sussex Daily News (21 Apr 1955), which gives neither the date nor the occasion.
In this game, Cliff is hardly recognisable as the same player who beat Bogo, is he? A pretty poor effort. Black could even have won a pawn with the Stock Tactic 5… Nxd5 with Bg7 to follow if White captures either way. I guess we all have bad days.
Bruce Hayden, or, if you prefer, Hendry Ellenband, was himself an interesting character, who, because of his local connections, might be worth a future Minor Piece.
Martin Luther (10 November 1483 – 18 February 1546) was a German professor of theology, priest, author, composer, Augustinian monk, and a seminal figure in the Reformation. Luther was ordained to the priesthood in 1507. He came to reject several teachings and practices of the Roman Catholic Church; in particular, he disputed the view on indulgences. Luther proposed an academic discussion of the practice and efficacy of indulgences in his Ninety-five Theses of 1517. His refusal to renounce all of his writings at the demand of Pope Leo X in 1520 and the Holy Roman Emperor Charles V at the Diet of Worms in 1521 resulted in his excommunication by the pope and condemnation as an outlaw by the Holy Roman Emperor.
Luther taught that salvation and, consequently, eternal life are not earned by good deeds but are received only as the free gift of God’s grace through the believer’s faith in Jesus Christ as redeemer from sin. His theology challenged the authority and office of the pope by teaching that the Bible is the only source of divinely revealed knowledge, and opposed sacerdotalism by considering all baptized Christians to be a holy priesthood. Those who identify with these, and all of Luther’s wider teachings, are called Lutherans, though Luther insisted on Christian or Evangelical as the only acceptable names for individuals who professed Christ.
His translation of the Bible into the German vernacular (instead of Latin) made it more accessible to the laity, an event that had a tremendous impact on both the church and German culture. It fostered the development of a standard version of the German language, added several principles to the art of translation, and influenced the writing of an English translation, the Tyndale Bible. His hymns influenced the development of singing in Protestant churches. His marriage to Katharina von Bora, a former nun, set a model for the practice of clerical marriage, allowing Protestant clergy to marry.
His translation of the Bible into the German vernacular (instead of Latin) made it more accessible to the laity, an event that had a tremendous impact on both the church and German culture. It fostered the development of a standard version of the German language, added several principles to the art of translation, and influenced the writing of an English translation, the Tyndale Bible. His hymns influenced the development of singing in Protestant churches. His marriage to Katharina von Bora, a former nun, set a model for the practice of clerical marriage, allowing Protestant clergy to marry.
Yes, Martin Luther was one of the most important figures in European history: he had an enormous impact on the development of Christianity, leading, for example to the foundation of the Church of England, which enabled Henry VIII to divorce Catherine of Aragon, marry Anne Boleyn and dissolve the monasteries.
He also had an enormous impact on the development of Western music. Out went complex polyphony sung in Latin, to be replaced by simple hymn tunes sung in the vernacular, which in turn would underpin the sacred music of one of my heroes, Johann Sebastian Bach.
Over the years, admirers of Martin Luther have sometimes chosen those names for their sons.
Take, for example, American Baptist preacher Michael King. While on a trip to Germany for the annual meeting of the World Baptist Alliance in 1934, where they issued a resolution condemning antisemitism, he was inspired by what he learned about Martin Luther to change both his Christian name, and that of his eldest son from Michael to Martin Luther. It was ironic that the original Martin Luther himself expressed violently antisemitic views in his later works.
An earlier Baptist minister on the other side of the Atlantic also named his son Martin Luther. Here’s his entry in the Dictionary of National Biography.
LEWIS, WILLIAM GARRETT (1821–1885), baptist minister, eldestson of William Garrett Lewis, was born at Margate 5 Aug. 1821. His father, who was in business at Margate, moved to Chatham, where he was ordained and became minister of the Zion Chapel in 1824; he was the author of ‘Original Hymns and Poems on Spiritual Subjects,’ London, 1827. The son was educated at Gillingham, Margate, and Uxbridge, and from 1837 to 1840 was articled to Dr. Gray, a Brixton schoolmaster. In 1840 he obtained a clerkship in the post office, went to live at Hackney, and became an active baptist. Being chosen a minister, he worked from September 1847 at the chapel in Silver Street, Kensington Gravel Pits. On 6 April 1853 the new chapel built by his congregation in Leding Road, Westbourne Grove, was opened, and there he continued to preach with great success till the end of 1880. On 3 Jan. 1881 his congregation presented him with four hundred guineas, and he removed to the chapel in Dagnal Street, St. Albans. Lewis was one of the founders of the London Baptist Association, of which he was secretary from 1865 to 1869 and president in 1870. For nearly twenty years he was editor of the ‘Baptist Magazine.’ He died 16 Jan. 1885 at his house in Victoria Street, St. Albans, and was buried in Kensal Green cemetery. He married, in December 1847, the youngest daughter of Daniel Katterns of the East India Company. His wife predeceased him, leaving a son and a daughter. Lewis was an excellent preacher and lecturer, and a man of great piety. His chief works were: 1. ‘The Religion of Rome examined,’ London, 1851, 16mo. 2. ‘Westbourne Grove Sermons,’ London, 1872. 3. ‘The Trades and Occupations of the Bible,’ London, 1875; a translation (with alterations) of this work appeared in Welsh, London, 1876.
The church he founded in Notting Hill is still active today. If you’re really interested, you can buy a book of his sermons here.
But it’s his son, Martin Luther Lewis, who interests us in this, the third and final article about Arthur Towle Marriott’s Leicester chess opponents.
Our Martin Luther was born in Kensington in 1851 and read Classics at Downing College, Cambridge. He then chose to go into teaching rather than following his father into the ministry, and obtained a post teaching Classics at Bradford Grammar School.
We first encounter him as a chess player in 1877 and 1878, taking part in a blindfold simul given, inevitably, by Joseph Henry Blackburne. The game was unfinished and Blackburne consented to a draw ‘owing to the pieces being very evenly balanced, and it being necessary to exchange off the pieces and play it out as a pawn game, which would have been very protracted’, according to the Bradford Daily Telegraph (30 Nov 1877). During the same period he played in matches against other clubs, gradually moving up the board order until he found himself on top board.
In 1880, Martin Luther Lewis was on the move. The Leicester Journal (12 Nov 1880) reported: ‘The Rev. Edward Atkins, B.Sc., has been appointed to the second mastership of Wyggeston Boys’ School, vacant by the promotion of Mr. G. H. Nelson, M.A., to the headmastership of the Canterbury Middle School. Mr. M.L. Lewis, M.A., LL.M., late scholar of Downing College Cambridge, Classical Master in the Bradford Grammar School, and Mr. Alfred Barker, B.A., of the University of London, one of the Masters in the City of London School, Cowper-Street, have been appointed to Assistant Masterships in the School.’. At about the same time the school launched a new chess club: Lewis was no doubt involved in this venture.
Wyggeston Grammar School for Boys was the most prestigious boys’ school in Leicester at the time. Its many distinguished alumni include the Attenborough brothers (the Attenborough Building at Orleans Park School in Twickenham host tournaments run by Richmond Junior Chess Club), former RJCC parent Simon Hoggart, and author, publisher and chess player James Essinger.
The 1881 census found Lewis boarding with a widow, Ann Woodruffe (Hyde) Burrows, whose teenage son Edward was, I would imagine, a Wyggeston pupil.
He soon joined Leicester Chess Club and it wasn’t very long before he graduated to top board, playing regularly for them against other clubs in the Midlands between 1882 and 1888. His first over the board encounter with Arthur Towle Marriott came on Friday 31st March 1882. The match was not a success, according to the Leicester Chronicle of 8 April. Unfortunately, the Leicester players had to return too early to allow of any satisfactory conclusion being arrived at, the only games concluded at the time the contest was finished being those between Messrs. T. Marriott and A.F. Atkins, and Mr. H.R. Hatherley and Rev. J.C. Elgood. Of those, each team had one win to their credit. The other games were not far enough advanced to allow of adjudication. a fact which, after nearly three hours’ play, shows they were very stubbornly contested. No chess clocks in those days, of course. (Note that AF Atkins was no relation to the aforementioned Edward.)
The two clubs met again on Thursday 26 October in Leicester, with Lewis and Marriott now in opposition on top board. According to the Nottingham Evening Post on 28 October: Play commenced at seven o’clock at the New Town Hall, and was continued until 10.30, when unfinished games were adjudicated by Messrs. A. Marriott and M.L. Lewis (their own game being among that number). The result was an easy victory for the Nottingham team, who won nine games, lost two and six were drawn. One of the draws was indeed their own encounter.
They met again in Nottingham on 23 February 1883, the result of their top board game, and also the match, being a draw. At round about the same time, in the first quarter of 1883, Martin Luther Lewis married his landlady.
His results over his years of activity between 1877 and 1888 suggest that Lewis was one of the strongest players in the country outside London. Usually playing on top board, it seems he lost very few games. The comparatively high proportion of draws, along with the lack of published games, suggest that he was a solid and cautious player. EdoChess gives him a highest rating of 2250. However, he preferred to concentrate on his teaching and pastoral work rather than seek chess fame further afield. He was, apart from teaching Classics at Wyggeston, involved in preaching, teaching in Sunday Schools, and with the Leicester YMCA, where he started a chess club, drawing with William John Withers in a match against Granby.
Martin and Ann, who was thirteen years his senior, continued to live together for the rest of their lives. His stepson Edward himself went on to study theology, was appointed to a curacy in Bath, but sadly died at the age of only 33.
Although Martin Luther Lewis’s chess career was relatively short and uneventful, he played a highly influential role in the story of English chess. You’ll remember Edward Atkins, who joined Wyggeston at the same time as him. A very interesting man was Edward. His father, Timothy, was a humble framework knitter from Hinckley, but, like Thomas Marriott senior, was ambitious to improve himself. Even up to his mid 50s he was still knitting stockings, but later opened a shop, and, later still, became a hosiery manufacturer. He was clearly ambitious for his children, as well. Edward, in spite of his modest origins, had a highly successful career in the Church of England as well as teaching, becoming a Canon and continuing to officiate at the Church of St Nicholas, Leicester, into his nineties. His science lessons led to the formation of Leicester College of Technology, which would very much later (while I was there) become the City of Leicester Polytechnic, and is now, as De Montfort University, the home of the ECF Library.
The two men must have been good friends, and when Edward’s young son Henry Ernest Atkins showed an interest in chess, Martin was on hand to provide both tuition and encouragement. Perhaps he also influenced his pupil’s style of play. Atkins junior, of course, became one of England’s strongest ever players. Certainly a Major Piece, not a Minor Piece. You can read much more about him in excellent articles here and here.
Martin Luther Lewis died on 23 October 1919, just 15 months after his wife.
Here’s an appreciation from ‘one who knew him’ from the Leicester Daily Post of 27 October.
Three weeks earlier, on 6 October, about a mile a half away, Tom Harry James had welcomed his 18th and last child into the world. But that’s another story.
This, then, was the life of Martin Luther Lewis, classics teacher, preacher and strong chess player.
It’s a well-known trope, isn’t it? You’ll probably be familiar with the 1939 movie Goodbye Mr Chips, based on James Hilton’s 1934 novella. You may also know the Terence Rattigan play The Browning Version. Hilton’s Mr Chips and Rattigan’s Crocker-Harris were both, like Lewis, classics teachers. Perhaps we might consider him to have been cut from the same cloth as these two fictional counterparts.
His sister Ruth never married, becoming a hospital matron in Chipping Barnet, and then working for the YWCA in Exeter. She later moved to Leicester, perhaps to care for her older brother in his final illness, and is buried with him in Welford Road Cemetery.
“Larry Kaufman can safely be called an exceptional chess grandmaster
Larry Kaufman started out as a prodigy, however not in chess but as a whizz kid in science and math. He excels at shogi (Japanese chess) and Go, and is also a world-famous computer programmer and a highly successful option trader. Remarkably, as a chess player he only peaked at the weirdly late age of fifty.
Yet his victories in the chess arena are considerable. Over a career span of nearly sixty years Kaufman won the state championships of Massachusetts, Maryland, Florida, Virginia, D.C. and Pennsylvania. He was an American Open Champion and won the U.S. Senior Championship as well as the World Senior Championship.
‘Never a great chess player’ himself (his words), he met or played chess greats such as Bobby Fischer, Bent Larsen, Walter Browne, Boris Spassky, Viktor Kortchnoi and many others. He worked as a second to legendary grandmaster Roman Dzindzichashvili, and coached three talented youngsters to become International Master, one of them his son Raymond.
This engrossing memoir is rife with stories and anecdotes about dozens of famous and not-so-famous chess players. In one of the most remarkable chapters Larry Kaufman reveals that the American woman chess player that inspired Walter Tevis to create the Beth Harmon character of Netflix’s The Queen’s Gambit fame, is his former girlfriend. You will learn about neural networks, material values and how being a chess master helps when trading options. And find lots of memorable but little-known annotated games.
Larry Kaufman is an American Grandmaster. He has been involved in computer chess since 1967, when he worked on ‘MacHack’, the first computer that competed in tournaments with human players. More recently he has been working on the programs Rybka and Komodo.
Praise for the best-selling opening manual Kaufman’s New Repertoire for Black and White:
“Kaufman’s book is a pleasure to read.” — Miguel Ararat, Florida Chess Magazine
“Kaufman does an outstanding job.” — IM Gary Lane, Chess Moves Magazine”
The memoirs of a relatively obscure grandmaster might not be at the top of your wish list, I guess.
The title might be considered slightly odd as well, referring in part to his career as an options trader, with perhaps also some reflections on options for the further development of chess.
Nevertheless, Larry Kaufman has some interesting stories to tell, and much to say about the future of our favourite game. You’ll also find, appropriately enough, 64 games, some played by the author, some by players he knew, and some by computers against grandmasters, all with brief but pertinent annotations. I’d urge you to stop and take a look inside rather than just pass it by.
The introduction provides some background biographical information concerning his 60 year chess career.
Here’s an early game: the book provides annotations as far as move 20.
In Part 1, Kaufman introduces us to some of the 20th century champions he has known, with plenty of anecdotes and a few games along the way. We meet Fischer, Spassky and Kasparov, Korchnoi, Larsen, Gligoric and others. For me, though, the most interesting chapters here are about the lesser known players. We go all the way back to Harold Phillips (1874-1967), a family friend, who had played Steinitz in simuls back in 1894. I guess this must make Kaufman one of the youngest players to have a shared opponent with Steinitz. In 1961 or 1962 there was a kindly old man who ‘gave generous and valuable free chess lessons to the kids’. This was the notorious Norman Whitaker: of course they knew nothing of his background at the time.
Then there was Steve Brandwein (1942-2015), a new name to me. ‘Although he retired from tournament play at only 22 years of age, … he … was a very strong player … and probably taught me more about the finer points of chess than any other individual.’ Kaufman compares him to Bernie Sanders, and describes him as ‘perhaps the best-liked chess master I’ve ever known’, who could, if he’d wanted have become a grandmaster, or perhaps, had he been prepared to compromise, a US President.
Even more interesting (although readers of New in Chess might have read about this before), is Diana Lanni, who, according to Kaufman, may have been the major inspiration behind the character of Beth Harmon in The Queens Gambit. He also sees himself as the closest match to Harry Beltik, and Walter Browne as Benny Watts.
Part 2 looks at Larry Kaufman’s life outside chess: his time as an options trader and his interest in Shogi, Go and other games.
In Part 3, he shows us some of his most memorable games and talks about his chess students, including his son Ray.
This was his first win against a grandmaster, and helped him towards his first IM norm.
This game helped propel him to a shared first place and the grandmaster title in the 2008 World Seniors.
Part 4 is about computer chess. Kaufman has been involved in this since 1967, when, as a student at MIT, he had a part-time job working on MacHack. Today, he’s part of the Komodo team. After a brief résumé of his career in computer chess, we see some recent games between engines and grandmasters. These days, the engines give the GMs considerable odds.
Particularly interesting here is a 2020 16-game match (15’+10″) between Komodo and GM Alex Lenderman. In every game, Komodo played White without a knight. In half the games, Lenderman played without a pawn, in four games he had all his pieces but without castling rights, and four games were played using Fischerrandom rules, but with kings and rooks on their usual squares. On the first day, using its standard version, Komodo lost three games, with just one draw. It then switched to the Monte Carlo Tree Search version, which seeks the best practical chances rather than the objectively best moves. In the remaining twelve games, all of which are published here, Komodo scored three wins, seven draws and only two losses.
Here’s a Komodo win. Kaufman’s brief annotations don’t mention a significant improvement for Komodo pointed out by Stockfish 14.
Part 5 comprises short essays on various topics such as: ratings, openings and piece values, along with suggestions for the reform of competitive chess and thoughts about the future.
Kaufman is perhaps best known, at least in the USA, for a 1999 Chess Life article about the values of the pieces. As someone involved in teaching beginners, this is of considerable interest to me. I’d really like to stop my pupils trading BN for RP on f7 and thinking they have an advantage because points are equal and they’ve exposed the enemy king. He suggests that, while the traditional values (1, 3, 3+, 5) are reasonable for positions without queens, in the presence of queens we should teach 1, 4, 4+, 6, 11. That will resolve my problem: the trade on f7 will now win 7 points but lose 8+ points.
I found this book a riveting read, especially parts 4 and 5, but then it covers a number of topics which are of particular interest to me. If the topics appeal to you too, or if you have a general love of chess culture, I’d give it a very strong recommendation. Fascinating, well written, and, as usual with New in Chess, well produced.
The Daunting Domain of Queen Endgames Explained! Knowing the abilities and limitations of the powerful queen is very valuable for mastering the secrets of the royal game, and this can be studied best in the endgame.
Queen endgames are very difficult, if only for purely mathematical reasons the queen is the most mobile piece in chess, and the amount of possible options is incomparably higher than in any other type of endgames.
This book follows a dual philosophy as in the three previous works by the same authors: Understanding Rook Endgames, Understanding Minor Piece Endgames and Understanding Rook vs. Minor Piece Endgames. The 7-piece endings are dealt with in great detail. They are often so complex that pre-tablebase analysis almost always contains errors. Many new discoveries are revealed here. But to really understand the fight of a queen against a queen or minor pieces with rooks, these theoretical positions are of course not enough. So subchapters on the principles of each material configuration have been added.
All in all, this fantastic book is already on my (very short) “must study” list for chessplayers of different levels, including the top ten! I want to thank the authors for the courage which is required just to start working on such a complex topic, as well as for the very high quality of their work, which will endure for decades to come and will be very useful for many future generations of chessplayers. The foreword is by Vladimir Kramnik,14th World Chess Champion”
This titanic technical endgame tome is a Magnum Opus with a forward by former World Champion Vladimir Kramnik. The complexity of queen endings is obvious as the queen is the most mobile piece and the number of variations becomes vast after only a few ply. This is probably the reason that this is the first work to cover queen endings in great depth. The complexity of these endgames is shown by a famous game from Vladimir Kramnik’s World Championship match versus Peter Leko in 2004. The first game of that match reached this position:
White played 44.Qf4?? which loses as demonstrated by Kramnik in the game and is covered in this book 44…g5! 45.Qf6 h6! winning, the point being that 46.Qxh6 loses the queen to 46…R8a6! After 45…h6 White cannot prevent Black from manoeuvring his rooks to win the kingside pawns. The natural move is 44.hxg6 exchanging pawns to reduce material which was thought, at the time, to draw. In fact Black stills retains winning chances. As the position has eight men the result is still not known definitively – this shows the richness of such endgames.
This publication also covers endgames that have had little coverage in the past such as Two Rooks + Pawn v Queen.
Most first quick skim of the book did concern me slightly as I noticed some diagrams followed by 100+ moves with no annotations. On a deeper perusal, I realised that these examples are included as “longest wins” for certain material combinations. This emulates John Nunn’s longest wins in “Secrets of Pawnless Endings”. There is plenty of well annotated material within practical games to bring out key ideas, for example the techniques to break down fortresses are examined in detail.
The book has ten main chapters traditionally based on piece configuration:
Chapter 1 Queen vs. Pawn
Chapter 2 Queen vs. Queen
Chapter 3 Queen vs. Rook
Chapter 4 Queen vs. Rook and Knight
Chapter 5 Queen vs. Rook and Bishop
Chapter 6 Queen vs. Two Rooks
Chapter 7 Queen vs. Rook and Two Minor Pieces
Chapter 8 Queen and Minor Piece vs. Queen (and Minor Piece)
Chapter 9 Queen and Rook vs. Queen and Rook
Chapter 10 Queen vs. Minor Pieces
Each chapter ends with some fruitful exercises to check if you were paying attention. The solutions are given near the end of the book.
Chapter 1 Queen vs. Pawn
This chapter obviously concentrates on the cases where the pawn is on the seventh rank. Here is the end of a Troitzky study:
1.Ke6!! and whichever way Black’s king goes, White moves into his shadow drawing: 1…Kf4+ 2.Kf7! draws or 1…Kd4+ 2.Kd7 draws
This next position looks arcane but the reviewer has has this position twice in blitz, once as the attacking side and once as the defending side: in both cases the defence was accurate to hold the draw.
White cannot win despite the proximity of his king. White can try 1.Qd5+ 1…Ke1!! is the only move to draw, 1…Ke2 loses to 2.Qa2! Kd1 3.Kd4! c1Q 4.Kd3 mating. White can also try 1.Qa2 Kc3!! is the only move to draw, 1…Kd1 2.Kd4! c1=Q 3.Kd3 mating.
This chapter goes on to cover many types of position with far advanced pawns against a queen.
Chapter 2 Queen versus Queen
Naturally the authors start with the notoriously difficult ending Queen and Pawn vs. Queen: their comment is “This can be very deep and tricky if the defending king can’t get in front of the pawn.” Certainly an understatement as many strong GMs have gone down in drawn endings. A whole volume could be dedicated to this fascinating endgame.
The authors systematically cover the rook’s pawn, knight’s pawn, bishop’s pawn and centre pawns. Some useful general rules are given for each pawn:
“Rook Pawn – In this case, the drawing zone for the defending king is usually quite large when the pawn is not far advanced, as the rook pawn does not provide good shelter. But the zone gets smaller as the pawn advances, and the main drawing zone is in the corner farthest from the queening square.”
A didactic example from Carlsen-Gashimov Monaco 2011 is given:
Black’s king is badly placed restricting his own queen, so he should run to the a1-corner as fast as he can. 59…Kc5!? 60.h5 Qe8+ 61.Kh6 Kd5?! 61…Kb4 going closer to the drawing zone is more logical 62.Kg5 Qg8+ 63.Kf4 Qb8+ 64.Kg4
64…Qb4+! An excellent move preserving the draw., 64…Qa7? loses to 65.Qf4!! cutting the Black king off from the a1-drawing zone and winning in the long run. It looks as though Black’s king might get near the pawn, but that is an illusion: he just restricts his own queen’s movements. 65.Kg5 Qd2+ 66.Kg6 Kc4 67.h6 Qg2+ 68.Kf7 Qb7+ 69.Kg8 Qb8+ 70.Qf8 Qg3+ 71.Kh8 Qe5+ 72.Qg7 Qe4 73.h7
This a typical position from this ending, white has pushed the pawn to the seventh rank with his king hiding in the corner in front of the pawn. This is a tablebase draw but this has been known for many decades before the advent of tablebases.
73…Kd3?? loses, a bad mistake from a 2700 GM. 73…Kb3! draws but accuracy is still required. 74.Qf7+ (74.Kg8 Qe8+ 75. Qf8 Qg6+ 76.Kh8 Kc2=) 74…Kb2
This is the type of position that Black is aiming for. The authors explain why it is drawn with a pithy comment: “and White can’t win as the king must move too far from the pawn to move into a countercheck position.” For example: 75.Kg7 Qg4+ 76.Qg6 Qd7+ 77.Kh6 Qd2+ 78.Qg5 Qd6+ 79.Kh5
Another excellent explanation from the authors: “White’s king wants to go to h1 or h2 to make counterchecks possible, but the pieces are then too far apart” (and un-coordinated) e.g. 79…Qd1+ 80.Qg4 Qh1+ 81.Kg6 Qc6+ 82.Kg5 Qd5+ 83.Qf5 Qg2+ 84.Kh4
74.Qd7+ Ke2?! (74…Kc2 lasts longer but does not save the game anymore: buy the book to find out how White wins) 75.Kg8 White is going to shuffle his king along to the adjacent file to Black’s king to setup a crosscheck: 75…Qg6+ 76.Kf8 Qh6+ 77.Qg7 Qf4+ 78.Qf7
78…Qh6+ Notice how Black’s choice of checks are severely restricted because of his king’s placement 79.Ke7 Qh4+ 80.Ke8 Qa4+ 81.Kf8! Now we can see again why Black’s king is badly placed: Black has no good checks.
A very important ending to study and learn from a World Champion.
Muller & Konoval give an example of good defence with the king in the drawing zone where the defending side does not let the draw slip at any point:
Piket played 57.Qe8+ and drew: buy the book to see the excellent defensive effort.
Here is an old game where modern tablebases really show how difficult these endgames are:
White played 80.Qc1? The amazing 80.Qh1!! is the only move to draw, for example 80…Qd7 81.Qf3+ Ke8 82.Qa8+ Ke7 83.Qh8! Qd6+ 84.Ka7!
Drawing, a beautiful geometric display of the queen’s power with the white queen moving around all the corners in a few moves. 80…Qe5! 81. Qb1
81…Qf6+? (A mistake improving White’s king for free particularly as White’s checks are restricted because of potential cross checks, the natural 81…h2! wins, e.g.: 82.Qb7+ Kf6 83.Qf3+ Ke7 84.Qb7+ Kd8 85.Qa8+ Kd7 86.Qb7+? Qc7 and white has no good check, so he loses) 82.Ka7! and white drew with excellent defence 82…Kg7 83.Qg1+ Kh7 84.Qe3 Qa1+ 85.Kb8 Qb2+ 86.Ka7 Qg2 87.Qd3+ 87…Kh8 Although White’s king is in the drawing zone, Black’s king is on a neighbouring rank making counterchecks possible, so white played 88.Ka6! (88.Qe3 also draws)
88…h2 89.Qd8+ Kh7 90.Qc7+! Staying on the h2-pawn so Black cannot interpose the queen, and White drew 14 moves later by repetition.
If the defending king can get in front or very near the pawn, it should do so:
63.Kd3! h5 64.Ke2! now the draw is easy as white does not fear a queen exchange.
Sometimes the defending king has to keep both options open: here is a brilliant example:
Black looks to be in trouble as his king is a long way from the drawing zone and will interfere with his queen. However Nakamura found 60…Ke5!! 61.Kg7 Qc6! Keeping Black’s options open 62.h6
After 62.Qg6 Qb7+ 63.Kh8 Qa8+ 64.Qg8 Qc6 65.Qg5+ Black changes plans and runs to the drawing zone as White’s king is badly placed in front of the pawn, he just has time to do this 65…Kd4!! 66.Qg7+ Kc4 67.h6 Kb3 68.h7 Ka2=
67.Qg6 (67.h7 Qh5 68.Qg7+ Ke6! draws as Black’s king cramps White’s pieces.) 67…Qf8+ 68.Kh7 Qf3 69.Qg7+ Ke6 70.Kg8 Qh5 71.h7 Qe8+ 72.Qf8 Qg6+ 73.Kh8 Qf7 drawn
Knight Pawn – “With a knight pawn, play is similar to a rook pawn, but the winning chances are better as the pawn provides better shelter. There is still a drawing zone in the far corner.”
The play is complex and there are many subtleties with slight differences being crucial as we shall see below.
Here is a superb example of drawing technique from Negi-Postny Helsingor 2009:
Where does Black put his king? 63…Kf1! (63…Kd2? loses in 91 moves as the king is cut off from the drawing zone!) 64.b5 Qc7+ 65.Kd5 Qb7+ 66.Qc6 Qf7+ 67.Kd6 Qf4+ 68.Kd7 Qf7+ 69.Kc8 Qf8+ 70.Kb7 Qe7+ 71.Qc7 Qe4+ 72.Ka6 Qa4+ 73.Qa5 Qc4 74.Qa1+ Kg2
Black’s king has reached the drawing zone. It is still very easy to go wrong.
75.Qb2+ Kh1 76.Qh8+ Kg1 77.Qg7+ Kh1 78.Qb7+ Kh2 79.Qc6 Qa2+ 80.Kb7 Kg1 81.Qc1+ Kf2 82.Qc5+ Kf1 83.b6 Postny comments :The pawn has reached the 6th rank already, although it is still a draw theoretically. For the defensive side it’s very easy to go astray, but, somehow I managed to give the right checks. 83…Qg2+ 84.Ka6 Qa8+ 85.Kb5 A crucial position, Black’s king is temporarily out of the drawing zone and cannot go back immediately.
85…Qe8+! The only move to draw 86.Ka5 Qe1+ 87.Ka6 Qa1+ 88.Qa5
Postny comments again: For a moment I thought that I was losing. The queen covered the a3 square, and Kb7-a7 followed by the pawn advance just one move before the fifty move rule seems inevitable. But… 129…Kh1! 130.Ka7 Qf2!! This stalemate trick saves the game. 131.Qe4+ Kg1 132.Kb7 Qf7+ 133.Kc6 Draw due to the fifty move rule. ½-½
The next example shows how difficult this ending really is:
Black’s king is not yet in the drawing zone. Black played the obvious check 77…Qe7+? which loses 77…Qe3! (77..Qc5? loses to 78.Qd3!) does draw, e.g. 78.Ka8 Kh3 79.b7 Qe4 80.Ka7 Qd4+ 81.Qb6 Qa1+ 82.Qa6 Qd4+ 83.Ka8 Qe4
This is drawn despite Black’s king not being in the drawing zone but it is close enough! 84.Qa2!? cutting the Black king off from the drawing zone (by analogy with the line below) does not win here.
Back to the game 78.b7 Qe3+ 79.Ka8 Qe4
80.Qb5? 80.Qa3!! cutting the king off from the drawing zone wins, followed by moving White’s king down to the same rank as Black’s king which is similar to the line below 80…Qf3? (80…Kg3! draws) 81.Qb4+ Kh3 82.Qc5?! Qe4
83.Qc3+? Sloppy, improving Black’s king for free and the queen is much better placed on c5; it was time to move the White king down to the rank that Black’s king is on: 83.Ka7! wins, e.g. 83…Qa4+ 84.Kb6 Qb3+ 85.Ka6 Qa4+ 86.Qa5 Qc4+ 87.Qb5 Qe6+ 88.Ka5 Qa2+ 89.Kb6 Qf2+ 90.Qc5 Qb2+ 91.Ka6 Qe2+ 92.Ka5 Qa2+ 93.Kb5 Qe2+ 94.Qc4 Qb2+ 95.Qb4 Qe5+ 96.Ka4 Qe8+ 97.Ka3
A key position and a common problem for the defending side, which check should I make? Black choose the wrong check and lost. 89…Qg6+? The authors offer some general advice here: “As Black’s king is on a light square, it was better to operate on dark squares”: 89…Qf6+! Drawing 90.Qd6 Qc3+ 91.Kd7 Qg7+ 92.Qe7 Qd4+ 93.Ke8 White is trying to bring his king across to the same file as Black’s king. Qh8+ 94.Qf8 Qe5+
95.Kf7 loses the pawn to a fork 95…Qd5+ drawing instantly
Back to the game, after 89…Qg6+? 90.Qd6 Qe8+?!
91.Qd7?! (91. Kb6! Qe3+ 92. Kc7 Qa7 Kc8 wins quickly, now we see why Black’s queen should operate on the dark squares) 91…Qg6+
92. Kd5? White could have centralised the queen and effected a memorable manoeuvre to win 92.Qd6! Qc2+ 93.Kd7 Qh7+ 94.Qe7 Qd3+ 95.Ke8 Qg6+ 96. Kf8 Qf5+ 97.Kg8 Qd5+ 98.Kh8 Qh5+ 99.Qh7 winning
Notice that this winning motif is effectively the same idea as the king manoeuvre down the a-file and b-files rotated ninety degrees!
In the game: 92…Qd3+ 93.Ke6 Qg6+ 94.Ke5 Qg5+ 95.Ke4 Qg6+! 96.Ke5 Qg5+ 97.Kd6
97…Qf6+? The final mistake allowing White to improve his queen. 97…Qf4+ 98.Kc6 Qa4+ 99.Kc7 Qa5+ 100.Kc8 Qc5+ draws 98.Qe6! 98…Qd8+?! 99.Kc6 Qh8 100.Qa2+ Kf1 101.Qb1+ and queens the pawn, White won 4 moves later.
Here is a pretty study showing a neat idea:
How does White break the pin to get his pawn home?
Amazingly this idea occurred in a game and White missed the neat win, but won anyway.
This is completely different. If the defending king can’t get in front of the pawn or at least very near the pawn, the attacker usually wins as there is no drawing zone in the far corner. This is best pawn for the superior side.
White played 65.Qe5+? (A bad mistake from a 2500 player, 65.Qc3+ draws as Black’s queen is poorly placed.) 65…Qe4! Black gives up his h-pawn to centralise his queen and get his f-pawn going 66.Qxh5 f5 White has restored material equality but is now lost as the centralised Black queen is dominant and the f-pawn is much more dangerous than White’s a-pawn. 67.Qh3+ Kd2 68.Qh2+ Kc3 69.Kb5 f4 70.Qh8+ Kb3 71.Qf8 f3 72.Qf7+ Kxa3 Black has eliminated the a-pawn which wasn’t strictly necessary. The win is simple from here as Black’s queen is so well placed.
73.Qf8+ Kb2 74.Qf6+ Kc2 75.Ka6?! Accelerating the loss. When the kings are close to each other on files or ranks, the stronger side should always be on the look out for a sequence to exchange queens.
75…Qd5?! (Black could have exchanged queens with 75…Qd3+! 76.Kb7 Qb3+ 77.Ka8 Qa3+ 78.Kb7 Qb2+) 76,Qf4 Kd3 77.Qg3 Qc4+ 78.Ka7 Qc5+ 79.Ka8 Qd5+ 80.Ka7 Ke2 81.Qg4 Kd3 82.Qg3
89.Kb7 Qg7+ 0-1 in view of 90.Kb8 Qf8+ 91.Kb7 Qf7+ 92.Kb6 f1Q
A central pawn
This is similar to the bishop’s pawn, but the winning chances are slightly less. There is no drawing zone for the defending king in the far corner:
There is no chance for a draw here with the central pawn as Black cannot be prevented from advancing the pawn to the queening square: it just requires patience, care and a lot of moves.
Black played 68…Qa1+ (the natural 68…Qf5 unpinning the pawn is better.)
Black played well, not letting the win slip at any point until this position at move 110:
Black played 110…Kf4?? which throws the win away as white has a brilliant draw utilising the fact that the pawn is unprotected by the queen and the star cross perpetual check. Better was 110…Qb3 protecting the pawn and preparing cover for the king on the queenside viz.: 111.Qh2+ Ke4 112.Qg2+ Kd3 113.Qg6+ Kd2 114.Qg5 Qc4 115.Ka8 Qd4 116.Kb7 Kc3 117.Qg3 Qd3 winning
The reviewer makes this observation:
Notice how Black’s king has migrated over to the file adjacent to White’s king ready to setup cross checks in a few moves. This cannot be prevented wherever White’s king is on the board with two exceptions:
The weaker side can draw if the defending king gets in front of the pawn
or reaches a small drawing zone on the short side of the pawn.
The only other drawing mechanism is to setup the star cross perpetual check or a variant of it which is shown below.
111.Qh2+! Reaching a very important position as White can draw
111…Kg4 112.Qg1+Kf4 113.Qh2+ Ke4
114.Qg2+?? [114.Qh1+!! Kd4 115.Qa1+ Kd3 116.Qd1+ Ke4 117.Qh1+ Ke5 118.Qh5+ Kf5 (118…Kd6 or Ke6 loses the pawn to 119.Qh6+) 119.Qh5+ drawing] 114…Kd4 115.Qb2+ Kd3 Black breaks the perpetual sequence and wins as White’s queen has lost her checking distance
125.Qh2+? (Centralising with 125.Qe5 was a tougher defence) 125…Kf1 126.Qc2 e2 127.Qc4 Kg2 128.Qg8+ Qg3 129.Qd5+Kg1
Exploiting White king position 0-1
The central pawn does have a small drawing zone for the defending side which is on the short side of the pawn:
This is a theoretical draw as White’s king restricts Black’s king manoeuvres, but White must defend perfectly:
91.Kb3? losing as White’s king can be kicked out of the drawing zone. 91,Qc4 holds for example 91…Qb6+ 92.Ka2 Qa5+ 93.Kb2 Qe5+ 94.Kb1 Qa1+ 95.Kb2 Qe3 96.Qc1+ Ke2 97.Qc4=
White’s king covers the queenside and the White queen can hassle Black on the kingside. If Black’s king strays too far on the kingside, Black cannot block a queen check as White will simply exchange queens drawing owing to the proximity of his king to the pawn.
The game continued 91…Qb6+ 92.Kc4 Qa6+ (92…Qc7+ is better 93.Kb3 Qc3+ 94.Ka2 Qa5+ 95.Kb2 Qb5+ 96.Ka3 Kc3 wins) 93.Kb3?! Qb5+ 94.Ka2 Kc3 95.Qe1+ Kc2 0-1 (96.Qf2 d2)
The book covers numerous positions with more pawns.
Here is a celebrated game Kasparov v The World Internet 1999.
Although Black is a pawn up, White is playing for the win as his g-pawn is the most advanced pawn. The seven piece tablebase confirms this position is a draw but Black is on the edge of losing and most defend perfectly. The game continued 51…b5?! (51,,,Ka1! holds) 52.Kf6+ Kb2? (The final mistake 52…Ka1 was necessary) 53.Qh2+ Ka1 54.Qf4! b4 55.Qxb4 Black is lost as the d-pawn is a hindrance as it obstructs Black’s queen and offers cover to White’s king. Without the d-pawn the position is drawn as show earlier in this review.
The ROW did not last much longer and resigned on move 62.
Chapter 3 Queen v Rook
The basic Queen v Rook endgame is covered sufficiently. The authors show how to break the third rank defence:
The authors observe: “The third rank defence is very difficult to break down if you do not know how, because it requires at least one counter-intuitive move to achieve that. John Nunn suggests the following method:”
1.Qf4! (1.Qg7 does not make progress because of 1…Ke8 2.Qc7 Rh6 3.Ke5 Rg6 and the starting position has been mirrored) 1…Kd7 2.Qa4+! Kc7 3.Qa7+ Forcing Black into the third rank defence 3…Rb7 4.Qc5+ Kb8 5.Kd6 Rg7 6.Qb4+ Rb7 7.Qe4 Rb6+ 8.Kc5 Ka7 9.Qd4 Rb7 10.Kc6+ Ka8 11.Qd5 Kb8 12.Qa5 and Philidor’s position is reached.
The book covers a multitude of Queen vs Rook + Pawn(s) positions where there are many fortresses worth knowing and even in the situations where the queen wins, many wins are quite long and complicated. Here is an example of a simple draw.
Here White can simply move his rook back and forth between two safe squares e3 & g3.
An additional pawn for Black on g4 makes no difference viz:
This is clearly drawn as well. However, make a subtle change to the position and place White’s king on e2, then the queen wins:
White played the incomprehensible 89.g6? allowing the simple 89…Rxg6 drawing 89.Qh1! wins as follows: 89…Rg6 90.Qa8 Re6 91.Qa3+ Ke8 92.Kg4 Rg6 93.Kh5 Re6 94.Qb4 zugzwang
Black has no good move. One key point is 94…Rg6 95.Qe4+ Kf8 (95…Re6 96.Qxe6 fxe6 97.Kh6 winning) 96.Qxg6 winning
With a further advanced bishop’s pawn, it is no longer a fortress as the attacking king can encircle the weaker side’s position:
The winning process falls into three phases and zugzwang is the main weapon to achieve these steps:
First the king has to cross the e-file
1.Kf2 Qc7 2.Kg2 Qc2+ 3.Kg1 (3.Kg3 Qd2 4.Rg4 Ke5 5.Re4+ Kd5 and the first phase is complete) 3…Qd2 4.Kf1 Qh2 5.Re2Qg3 6.Rg2 Qh3 7.Kf2 Ke5 8.Rg4 Kd5
Here the rook and knight have a temporary blockade of two passed pawns. A pawn sacrifice disrupts the coordination of Black’s pieces: 69.g5!? Nxg5?! (69…Rg6 is tougher) 70.Qg4? (A rare mistake from the former World Champion 70.Qg3! breaks the blockade 70…Rg6 71.Qe5+ Kf7 72.d6 wins; 70…Kh6 71.Qh4+ Kg6 72.d6 wins) 70…Rg6 71.Kb4 Nf7 72,Qd4+ drawn
Here a blockade could have been broken by clever manoeuvring:
This looks desperate for white who looks to be close to zugzwang. Black continued 52…Kg4? allowing White to escape
53.Re3! Qd2 54.Rg3+! Kh4 55.Rf3 mutual zugzwang and white held on for a draw
Queen vs Rook + Knight + Pawn
It is hard to believe that White can lose to here. White played 110.Qe2? which does lose and he lost quickly missing a draw when Black erred. (110.Qb7 holds along with 4 other moves) 110…Rf6+ does win for Black. Buy the book to find out how.
Chapter 5 Queen versus Rook and Bishop
It is hard to believe that White can win this position as the f7 square is covered by both rook and bishop and all Black’s pieces are safe and coordinated. White failed to win this game in practice; he tried for 16 moves and gave up. However, White can force the pawn through or win a piece in 43 moves. This is a good example where computer generation of tablebases has really enhanced the understanding of the endgame and found sophisticated winning manoeuvres in positions like these. The key piece in this type of position is the attacker’s king.
Chapter 6 Queen vs Two Rooks
The authors summarise this material imbalance thus “The rooks are slightly superior materially speaking, but this does not make them favourites automatically. It is very important, if they can get static control and their king can hide. The queen on the other hand often wants to start dynamics to overload the rooks and destroy their coordination and harmony.”
The ending of two Rooks + P v Q is covered in some depth, the theory of which is completely new to the reviewer and probably new to the reader.
The most important factor is whether the attacking king can find hiding places. This often depends on where the defending king is. It has some similarities with queen and pawn vs queen endings:
With a rook’s pawn, generally if White’s king is away from the action (near the pawn), the game is drawn, but it is not so easy to give a main drawing zone which was possible in the queen and rook’s pawn or knight’s pawn versus queen case, but d7 seems to be a a good square but it does not always draw.
Matters are very complex and the wins are often very long as this game shows:
If the reader has played through this ending, it was remarkably simple to win.
With a central pawn, there is no fortress on the short side for the defending king:
This is winning after 1.Kd7 Qg7+ 2.e7
In general, the queen can draw when the defending king is well placed and the attacker cannot coordinate and safeguard the king. This can be very complicated and not easy to calculate:
White’s king is trapped on the edge but White can just hold: 71.Qb6+ Kf7 72.Kg4 R5f4+ 73.Kg5 Rf6 74.Qb1 Rg3+ 75.Kh4 Rg2 75.Kh4 Rg2
76.Qb3+ and lost quickly 76.Qh7+! draws 76…Kf8 77.Qh8+ Rg8 78.Qh5 e5 79.Kh3 Rg7 80.Qh4 Kf7 81.Qc4+ Re6 82.Qc7+ Re7 83.Qc4+ Kf6 84.Qc6+ Re6 85.Qf3+ =
Here is a game from the early Fischer. His opponent played 90..Kd6? and Fischer defended perfectly to draw.
Black could have hunted down the White king as follows: 90…Rc3 91.Kg4 Ra4+ 92.Kh5 Rc5+ 93.Kh6 Rh4+ 94.Kg6 Rg4+ 95.Kh6 Rgg5
96.Qa2 Ke8 97.Qa8+ Kf7 98.Qa2+ Rcd5
After 99.Qf2+ Rgf5 winning as 100…Rh5+ follows
General case with more pawns
In general the rooks want static control and the queen dynamic. It is extremely important for the rooks to coordinate. Examples of positions where the two rooks are better are shown below.
The reviewer gives some typical positions with a quick assessment: buy the book to go through the analysis.
In this position below the rooks have full board control. White wins easily.
In the position below the rooks are coordinated and white’s weak isolated pawns are easy pickings for the rooks. Black won quickly.
In the next position, white has just played 43.Re1 threatening Ree7, Black has to weaken his pawns to prevent the immediate loss of the f7-pawn. This is enough for white to win.
The queen needs targets to start dynamic play. Good for the queen are weak pawns, an exposed king, uncoordinated rooks and of course dangerous friendly passed pawns.
Queen + two connected passed pawns usually beat two rooks. The defensive setup with the rooks doubled up against the more advanced pawn can be difficult to break down. The position below is winning but takes nearly 50 moves against best defence!
The position below is winning for the queen as the rooks are uncoordinated and the queen has a dangerous passed c-pawn.
In this position the passed pawn dominates the rooks but Black is still holding out. The key to winning this game is to open a second front on the queenside to widen the bridgehead for the queen. Hence 48.c4!
In the next position Black has a small material advantage with two connected passed pawns. The easiest way to win is to open a second front on the queenside and create fresh White pawn weaknesses, hence 35…a5!
In the next example, there is rough material equality but the queen is winning here as White’s rooks are uncoordinated, his king is exposed and he has lots of weak pawns.
Chapter 7 – Queen versus Rook and Two Minor Pieces
Surprisingly the author does not cover the endgame with no pawns as R+B+N v Q is drawn but is difficult to hold.
The pieces seek static control. In the position below, Black is winning but needs squares for his pieces, hence 34…g5!? After 35.fxg5 Bxg5 Black is winning as White’s pawns are going to drop off in the long run.
In the next example, the position is static with the pieces controlling everything. The queen has no targets and White’s king is safe. White will slowly and surely improve his pieces and pick off Black’s pawns.
In the next example, the queen has passed pawns, but they are all separated and effectively isolated, so Black’s well coordinated pieces can just collect the apple harvest after 34…Rb4!
The queen loves dynamic play with an exposed enemy king.
A good example is below where queen and 3 pawns fight a rook and two bishops with an exposed king. After 24.Qe6 Black is struggling to coordinate and finish development. Black put up stiff resistance but the defensive task proved too much and White won.
In the next game, a queen and two connected passed pawns supported by the king face an uncoordinated rook, bishop and knight. The queen wins effortlessly.
Chapter 8 Queen an Minor Piece vs Queen (and Minor Piece)
This topic is covered well with sections on:
Queen + Knight v Queen
Queen + Knight + Pawns v Queen + Pawns
Queen + Bishop v queen
Queen + Bishop + Pawns v Queen + pawns
Queen + Knight endings
Queen + Bishop (same colour) endings
Queen + Bishop (opposite colour) endings
Queen + Knight v Queen + bishop endings
This is particularly good chapter.
Chapter 9 Queen + Rook v Queen + Rook
This piece combination is a really a mixture of middlegame and endgame themes. King safety is paramount. In this game White’s king is safe whereas Black’s king is looking potentially vulnerable.
Fischer played the incisive 33.a4!! to open up files for his rook. If 33…b4 34.Rh5!
There is another Fischer game below. White had to play 35.Rf3. However after 35.Qf8+? Kh5 Black’s king entered the fray with decisive effect. After 36.g4+ Kh4 37.Qxf6+ Kxh3 it was all over.
Chapter 10 Queen vs. Minor pieces
The interesting endgames of queen v 2 minor pieces with no pawns are covered.
The endgame of queen v two knights with pawns is covered showing typical winning methods:
Overloading the knights which can only defend a limited front
Some successful fortresses are also demonstrated.
The endgame of queen v two bishops with pawns is also covered. Positions with mutual passed pawns are shown demonstrating the power of the queen. Some fortresses are shown of course.
The endgame of queen v knight and bishop with pawns is also covered. Positions with fortresses are covered with methods of breaching them covered.
Queen versus three minor pieces is by far the most interesting endgame covered with this rough material equality.
In this sort of position where the pieces are uncoordinated, the queen wins:
If the pieces are coordinated and their king is safe, they have good winning chances.
White misfired with 53.b5? (53.Qxb7 holds a draw) 53…Nd4! wins as the pieces gain static control. Eventually all the queenside pawns were exchanged and Black won on the kingside.
If the minor pieces have control even with a pawn apiece, the pieces have winning chances:
Black played 50…Qc1+? and lost the pawn and the game. 50…Qg1 just holds!
The next position is one of dynamic equality:
30…Bc6! 31.Qxa7 Nc5=
Chapter 11 is a pot pourri of fascinating positions that do not belong elsewhere in the book.
Chapter 12 covers some endgame studies. Every endgame book should include some studies to enhance the readers’ imaginations.
The book ends with comprehensive solutions to the exercises set in each chapter.
In summary, this is an excellent book which requires a lot of time to absorb. Some sections are much easier to absorb than others, for example the sections on two rooks v queen in the general case with many pawns is excellent and would be useful for club players and above. The chapter on queen and minor piece v queen and minor piece with many pawns is also superb. The more difficult sections such as queen and pawn v queen are definitely worth studying and are fascinating in themselves.
FM Richard Webb, Basingstoke, Hampshire, 11th August 2021
Continuing my series about Arthur Towle Marriott’s Leicester opponents, we reach W Withers, almost certainly William. Apologies to those of you who’ve been eagerly awaiting this article, but I’ve been busy on other projects. You’ll find out more later.
Great song, and I hope you all have a lovely day, but this wasn’t William Harrison Withers Jr.
W Withers, sometimes WJ Withers (or were they two different people?), first appeared in Leicester chess records in 1874, when he was elected Club Secretary, and continued his involvement, representing Leicester, and the smaller club, Granby, in matches against other Midlands towns and cities, until 1900. But who was he?
Withers is a surprisingly common name in the East Midlands. One of James Towle’s fellow Luddites bore the name William Withers, but his family were from Nottingham rather than Leicester and seem not to have been related to the chess player.
There were several gentlemen named William Withers in Leicester at the time. We can assume, because, as a young man he was the club secretary, that he came from an educated background. The only W Withers who fits the bill is William John Withers, who lived most of his life in Leicester, although his birth was registered in the St Pancras district of London in the second quarter of 1853, and who died in the Harrow/Hendon area on 23 December 1934.
William’s father, George Henry Withers, was the son of John Withers, born in the chess town of Hastings. John had a varied career. Originally a lace maker, he joined the police, rising to the rank of inspector. He then went to work on the railways, first as a station master, and then as a railroad contractor, before becoming a commission agent, and, finally, a clerk at a coal wharf. Was there any job he couldn’t turn his hand to? In between times, he found time to father eight children: seven sons and a daughter. Not for the first time in Minor Pieces, his seventh son was named Septimus.
George Henry Withers was John’s eldest son. Born in about 1830, he followed his father into the railways, a very common occupation at the time. When he married Mary Ann Caunt in 1849, he was a railway clerk, living in the Leicestershire town of Melton Mowbray, famous for its pork pies. He was described as being ‘of full age’: it’s not certain that this was true. By the 1851 census he was a station master living in Orston, Nottinghamshire.
This was presumably Elton Station, now called Elton and Orston, half way between those two villages, which had only opened to passenger traffic the previous year. In 2019/20, it was the second least used station in the country.
He didn’t stay there long. By 1853, when our man William was born, he was in the St Pancras area of London, perhaps working at one of the London railway termini: St Pancras itself, Kings Cross next door, or nearby Euston.
Just a few months later he’d moved again. Sadly, the death of his oldest child, Albert, was recorded in Grantham, and he was buried in the nearby village of Great Gonerby, whose inhabitants are known as ‘Clockpelters’, from their habit of trying to strike the face of the church clock with stones or snowballs.
We pick him up again in 1857, when, now working as a bailiff, he was appointed a Freeman of the City of Leicester. Later census records see him working as a commission agent, an accountant, a bookkeeper and a gardener. Like his father, a many of many skills and occupations.
It’s more than time to find out more about William John Withers. His first job was as a clerk in a coal office, and when he married in 1873, he was still in the same job. His wife, Annie Clarke, was the daughter of a house painter, the same occupation that was followed by my grandfather Tom Harry James. Their first child, Horace, was born the following year, when William was also elected to the post of Secretary of Leicester Chess Club. It seems that he didn’t stay in that post long, though.
On 29 October 1880, he represented Leicester in a match against a visiting team from Nottingham Chess Club, where he faced Minor Pieces hero Arthur Towle Marriott.
The Leicester Chronicle (6 November 1880) reported what sounds like a convivial affair. Half way through, they all stopped playing to witness a presentation to Mr Sharland, the Leicester Club Secretary, who, in less than five years, had increased the club membership from 18 to 61. Various speeches were made before the gentlemen of Leicester and Nottingham resumed their games.
It seems that only one game was played on top board, while the other boards played two games each. Arthur Towle Marriott, the only Nottingham player to win both his games, seems to have been playing on too low a board.
Here’s his game with White.
The game followed well known (at the time) Evans Gambit theory for some way. Black’s 7th move is brave: 7… Nge7 and 7… d6 are most often played, but the engines like 7… Nf6 8. e5 d5. 10… b5 was also a bold choice: again 10… Nge7 would have been more circumspect. Marriott had stronger, but difficult, options on move 13, but his choice proved successful when the Leicester man blundered horribly in reply.
Three weeks later the Leicester chessers visited Nottingham for the return match, this time with a much weaker team. Mr Bingham’s restaurant provided an excellent supper, with speeches and toasts, before play started. Arthur Marriott, after his success in the earlier match, had been promoted to board 3, and again found himself facing William Withers.
The Nottingham Journal (27 November 1880) reported on an overwhelming victory for the home team. 11½-2½ was very different from the earlier 5-8 defeat.
These matches appear to have been social events rather than the competitive inter-club matches with which we’re all familiar. Although there was considerable interest in the result, the eating and drinking seemed just as important. Perhaps that’s how club matches should be.
Again, we have the game where Marriott played White against Withers.
This time, Withers chose to avoid the Evans Gambit, but playing 3… Nf6 without knowing the theory isn’t a good idea. Even then, it was known that 5… Nxd5 wasn’t best, giving White a choice of two strong options, 6. d4 and that primary school favourite, 6. Nxf7, the Fried Liver Attack.
Engines now confirm that 8… Ne7 in the Fried Liver is losing, but 8… Nb4 might just keep Black in the game. Marriott missed a couple of better moves, but Withers panicked on move 13, losing even more quickly and horribly than three weeks earlier.
By today’s standards, the chess of William John Withers makes a poor impression: a player with a patchy knowledge of opening theory along with tactical vulnerability.
Note that A F Atkins, who played for Leicester in these matches, was Arthur Frederick Atkins, originally from Coventry, and no relation to the great Henry Ernest Atkins, about whom more next time.
By now William had a new job: the 1881 census told us he was a bookseller in Loseby Lane, Leicester, only a few yards away from where a later and stronger Leicester chess player would, several decades later, also run a bookshop. You may well meet him in a future article. He was also just a short walk from what is now De Montfort University, the new home of the English Chess Federation library and also, as it happens, my alma mater.
An announcement in the Leicester Journal (5 January 1884) suggests that his bookselling business hit a problem.
It was time for him to turn over a new leaf. By 1891 he was an antiques dealer, having moved just round the corner to Silver Street, and doing well enough to employ a servant. The 1901 and 1911 censuses told the same story: in the latter year he styled himself a ‘dealer in genuine antiques’.
At some point after that, perhaps after the death of his father in 1913, he moved to London. The 1921 census, due for release next January, will reveal more.
We can pick William up again in 1932, when he made his last will and testament, granting generous bequests to his children and grandchildren. Still working as an antique dealer, his address was given as 48 George Street, Manchester Square, WC1, only a few minutes’ stroll from 44 Baker Street, where, had he been able to travel through time, he’d have been able to stock up on the latest chess books.
His antique dealing had clearly been very successful. He died in 1934, and probate records reveal that he left effects to the value of £15,240 17s 9d, which, depending on how you calculate it, amounts to anywhere between one and seven million pounds in today’s money.
So there you have it. While his chess playing didn’t impress, he played an important role in chess life in Leicester. Away from the board, in both business and family life, he seems to have done very well for himself. Well played, William John Withers!
“Initially things looked gloomy for Bobby Fischer. Because he had refused to participate in the 1969 US Championship, he had missed his chance to qualify for the 1970 Interzonal Tournament in Palma de Mallorca. Only when another American, Pal Benko, withdrew in his favour, and after the officials were willing to bend the rules, could Bobby enter the contest and begin his phenomenal run that would end with the Match of the Century in Reykjavik against World Champion Boris Spassky.
Fischer started out by sweeping the field at the 23-round Palma Interzonal to qualify for the next stage of the cycle. In the Candidates Matches he first faced Mark Taimanov, in Vancouver. Fischer trounced the Soviet ace, effectively ending Taimanov’s career. Then, a few months later in Denver, he was up against Bent Larsen, the Great Dane. Fischer annihilated him, too. The surreal score in those two matches, twice 6-0, flabbergasted chess fans all over the world. In the ensuing Candidates Final in Buenos Aires, Fischer also made short shrift of former World Champion Tigran Petrosian, beating the hyper-solid “Armenian Tiger” 6½-2½.
Altogether, Fischer had scored an incredible 36 points from 43 games against many of the world’s best players, including a streak of 19 consecutive wins. Bobby Fischer had become not just a national hero in the US, but a household name with pop-star status all over the world. Jan Timman chronicles the full story of Fischer’s sensational run and takes a fresh look at the games. The annotations are in the author’s trademark lucid style, that happy mix of colourful background information and sharp, crystal-clear explanations.”
Where does history start? I’ve always thought history is what happened before you were born. For those of us, like Jan Timman and myself, who learnt our chess in the 1960s, perhaps chess history is what happened before World War 2. The events of the late forties were full of names familiar to us from tournaments of our time.
This book covers Bobby Fischer’s career in the years 1970 and 1971. More like current affairs than history for our generation. We all remember it well: we were around at the time and some of us will be familiar with many of the games. But, for younger readers, Fischer’s games from half a century ago will be ancient history. If we turn the clock back another five decades we reach 1921 and the Lasker – Capablanca World Championship match. Now that really does feel like ancient history, even to me.
Fifty years on, it seems like a good time to revisit the games with the aid of today’s powerful engines and greater knowledge. Jan Timman is ideally qualified to do just that.
Readers of Timman’s other recent books will know what to expect: clear annotations based on explanations rather than variations, along with entertaining anecdotes and background colour to put the games into context.
We have all 43 games (44 if you include a win by default) from the 1970 Interzonal and 1971 candidates matches, along with a selection of 19 games from earlier in 1970.
After withdrawing from the 1967 Interzonal, Fischer played in two relatively minor tournaments the following year, and, in 1969, played only one serious game, in a New York league match. The chess world was uncertain whether or not he’d ever play again, let alone fulfil what appeared to be his destiny and become world champion. Exciting, but also worrying times.
After an 18 month absence, Bobby agreed to take part in the 1970 match between the USSR and the Rest of the World, even ceding top board to Larsen. Chapter 1 takes us from this event, via Rovinj/Zagreb, the Herceg Novi blitz and Buenos Aires, to the Siegen Olympiad.
In round 7 of Rovinj-Zagreb, Fischer was black against one of the tournament’s lesser lights, the Romanian master Ghitescu.
Timman informs us: It has never been brought up before, but Fischer was demonstrably lost in this game, after having taken too much risk.
Here’s the critical position with Ghitescu to play his 23rd move. Where would you move your rook?
The exchange sacrifice 23. Rf4! would have been very strong. Black cannot accept the sacrifice, because he would have been strategically losing. Also after 23… Rg8 24. Re4 Rae8 25. Rf1, White is winning.
I may be wrong but I would have thought Rf4 would be automatic for master strength players today. Wouldn’t it also have been automatic for, say, Petrosian, back in 1970?
Instead, the game continued 23. Rd3 Rad8 24. Ng3 (24. b3 would have maintained the advantage) 24… Ba6, when Fischer took control of the game, eventually bringing home the full point. If he’d lost that game, perhaps chess history would have been very different.
Here’s the complete game.
The strategic insights Timman brings to positions like this are, for me, what makes this book so instructive. Here’s another example: Gligoric – Fischer from Siegen, with Gligoric to make his 39th move.
It’s not dissimilar to the previous example, and indeed both positions arose from King’s Indian Defences. Here, a white knight is fighting against a dark-squared bishop outside the pawn chain.
White could have obtained a winning position with 39. Nb1!. The strategic plan is simple: White is going to bring his knight to c4 and install his king on g4. Black has nothing to offer in exchange; his doubled c-pawn will be blocked, and his pieces are barely able to display any activity.
Again, the complete game:
Chapter 2 covers the 1970 Interzonal at Palma, Mallorca. You won’t find very many brilliant miniatures in this book, but Fischer’s win against Rubinetti is an exception.
Chapters 3-5 offer Fischer’s 6-0 shutouts against Taimanov and Larsen, and the final match against former champion Tigran Petrosian.
This position interested me. Any well-read player from my generation will recognise this as coming from the 7th Fischer – Petrosian game, where Bobby played 22. Nxd7+, a move garlanded with various numbers of exclamation marks by many commentators both at the time and later.
Here’s what Timman has to say.
The praise with which this move has been showered is unbelievable. Byrne commented: ‘This exchange, which wins the game, was completely overlooked by the press room group of grandmasteranalysis. Najdorf, in fact, criticized it(!), suggesting the incomparably weaker 22. a4.’
Kasparov, too, was full of praise. ‘A brilliant decision, masterfully transforming one advantage into another (…) Petrosian was obviously hoping for the “obvious” 22. a4 Bc6 23. Rc1 Nd7 24. Nxd7+ Bxd7 with possibilities of a defence.
In Chess Informant 12, Petrosian himself and Suetin give two ‘!’s to the text move.
True, not all commentators were so pronounced in their praise. Spassky and Polugaevsky limited themselves to the conclusion that White exchanged one advantage for another and didn’t give an ‘!’ to the move.
However, the general drift was that Fischer had done something highly instructive, adding a new facet to strategic thinking in chess. I was very impressed at the time, but I also had doubts. There were no computers yet, and young players looked to the great players on the world stage as their examples. So, Fischer must have understood it better than I did.
Yet, I am almost certain that in this position, or a similar one, I would have opted for Najdorf’s move. And almost half a century after the event, it turned out that the Argentinian had simply been right!
Timman goes on to demonstrate that, indeed, 22. a4 is clearly winning, whereas Fischer’s 22. Nxd7+ Rxd7 23. Rc1 would have given Petrosian defensive chances if he’d chosen 23… d4 rather than the passive Rd6.
See for yourself:
What comes across from this book is the remorseless power and logic of Fischer’s play in this period, as well as his determination to play for a win in every game. Short draws were never on his agenda.
In the past, there was a tendency to annotate by result or reputation, and this seems to have been what happened here. These days, we can all switch on Stockfish and annotate by computer, while neglecting the human, the practical element.
Timman’s annotations, both here and in his previous books, strike me as getting the balance just about right. Call me old-fashioned, but I’d rather have verbal explanations than long engine-generated variations.
Older readers will enjoy reliving memories of the golden days of the Fischer era, while younger readers will learn a lot of chess history. Players of all levels will benefit from the annotations, which, because of their lucidity, are accessible to anyone from, say, 1500 upwards.
The many anecdotes add much to the book, although serious historians might feel frustrated that they’re not always sourced. There are also several pages of photographs: while their quality, as they’re printed on matt paper, isn’t perfect, they’re still more than welcome.
There are a few typos and mistakes regarding match scores and tournament crosstables which more careful proofing might have picked up, and the English, in one or two places (you may have noticed this from the extracts I quoted), might have been more idiomatic. Slightly annoying, perhaps, but this won’t really impede your enjoyment of the book.
In spite of these slight reservations, this is an excellent book which is warmly recommended for players of all strengths. Next year will see the 50th anniversary of Fischer – Spassky. Might we hope that Timman will cover this match in a future volume?
One last thought: I wrote at the beginning of this review about how people of different ages have different perspectives of history. If Capablanca and Alekhine had been granted long lives, they would have lived to see these games. What would they have made of them? What would they have made of Bobby Fischer?
Gawain Jones is an English grandmaster, twice British Champion and winner of the 2020 European Blitz Championship.
From the publisher:
“Coffeehouse Repertoire is a 1.e4 player’s dream: an arsenal of ideas from a world-class grandmaster to surprise and confound your opponents, combining coffeehouse trickery with complete theoretical soundness.
In Volume 1, GM Gawain Jones shows how to put pressure on the Sicilian, Caro-Kann, Scandinavian and Alekhine’s Defences, using lines which feature a potent combination of surprise value, objective soundness and practical effectiveness.
The Coffeehouse 1.e4 Repertoire will be completed in Volume 2, which covers 1…e5, plus the French, Pirc, Modern, Philidor and other miscellaneous Defences.
Gawain Jones is an English grandmaster, twice British Champion and winner of the 2020 European Blitz Championship. He has defeated some of the world’s best players using the ideas recommended in this book.”
End of blurb…
Quality Chess live up to their name by being one of the few publishers who offer a hardback as well as softback version of all of their titles.
The production values are superb with a “McFarland-like” feel. Of course, you could save a few pence and go for the paperback version but we would definitely treat ourselves with an early Christmas present and savour the hardback. In addition, high quality paper is used and the printing is clear: excellent glossy paper has been used. The weight of this paper gives the book an even better feel to it!
The book can easily be laid flat next to the board and does not require weights to prevent it from “self-closing” (a particular bugbear of ours). Each diagram is clear and the instructional text is typeset in two column format, which, we find, enables the reader to maintain their place easily. Figurine algebraic notation is used throughout and the diagrams are placed adjacent to the relevant text.
A small (but insignificant) quibble: the diagrams do not have a “to move” indicator (but they do have coordinates). There is an Index of the Main Games section which is most welcome.
Before we take our first sip of coffee Quality Chess have provided a pdf excerpt.
As before, we are examining Volume 1 which provides a repertoire for White starting 1.e4 against the Sicilian, Caro-Kann, Scandinavian and Alekhine defences. Volume 2 is expected in September 2021 and will cover other replies to 1.e4
Gawain is a consistent 1.e4 player and has scored 67.1% according to MegaBase 2020. Having said that he has scored even more convincingly with other first moves!
This is his fifth book having written four previous volumes on the Sicilian Dragon and Grand Prix Attack.
The books main content is divided into two main sections, Sicilian Defence and Other Defences and these sections are further divided into eight chapters viz:
Carlsen Variation (of the Sicilian)
Move 2 Alternatives
followed by a useful Index of Variations.
Before we continue further we have a warning. If, for you, the book title suggests a feast of dodgy gambits, tricks and cheapos to take to the chess club and online platforms then look away now. You will be disappointed.
Most space in Volume 1 is dedicated to ideas for White versus the Sicilian Defence and no doubt most would predict a Grand Prix Attack based repertoire from the author. Well, not quite.
and against 2…d6 we have the interesting
as favoured by Magnus Carlsen and Chapter 1 examines the less common positions that arise from this.
Here is an example:
Should Black prefer 2…Nc6 then the author provides both the Rossolimo Variation, 3.Bb5 (also examined by IM Ravi Haria) and the clever move-order Chameleon, 3.Nge2:
3.Nge2 is also an annoying move order nuance against Najdorf and Dragon experts.
Against 2…e6 Gawain advocates the flexible 3.Nf3 followed by f1 bishop development to either b5 or g2 dependant on what Black plays. For example:
For completeness Gawain devotes Chapter 5 to second move alternatives such as 2…a6, 2…g6 and even 2…b6.
Moving on to the Caro-Kann Gawain recommends the Exchange Variation but in really quite a novel way with an early jump of the f3 knight to e5. This is quite unusual and tricky to meet and CK players almost certainly will be quite surprised. He presents two related move orders:
and the more (according to GCBJ) outlandish:
breaking the “not moving the same piece twice in the opening guideline”.
An example game presented in the book is:
Next up is the Scandinavian Defence which quickly branches into 2…Qxd5 and 2…Nf6.
Against the former the author proposes the line in which White plays 3.Nf3 instead of 3.Nc3 and, at the right time, plays c4.
Here is a tough game in this variation:
For some time Scandinavian experts have realised that the c4 idea is tough to meet and probably therefore fear 3.Nf3 more than the routine 3.Nc3 getting in the way of the c-pawn.
Against 2…Nf6 Gawain recommends the “Modern Treatment” as dubbed by 2…Nf6 expert David Smerdon in his Smerdon’s Scandinavian from 2015 and the detailed analysis commences after:
Finally, we turn to the hyper-modern Alekhine Defence in which a more conventional approach based on the Four Pawns Attack is discussed.
Here is a significant stem game that Jones considers:
For each of Black’s move one replies Gawain presents an overview of the ideas including a “What We’re Hoping for” section. This is the followed by detailed theory with a few illustrative games sprinkled in. The discussion and explanations are friendly, clear and pragmatic talking about the responses one is likely to face rather than a torrent of engine analysis and “best move” labelling.
It is not clear who chose to use the word “Coffeehouse” in the book’s title. The repertoire choices are most definitely not speculative or bordering on unsound. This is a extremely playable set of recommendations and most are used by elite players in the current decade.
Our overall impression can perhaps be best conveyed by likening the repertoire to a collection of choices from the well-known “Dangerous Weapons” series from Everyman brought together under one roof.
We are convinced that, despite the title, this book will be found to be extremely useful by the strongest and club players alike. If you are a Blackmar-Diemer or Latvian Gambit fan then this, perhaps, it not the book for you.
We look forward to Volume 2 in September 2021 when Gawain gets to grips with 1…e5, 1…e6, 1…d6, 1…g6 amongst the remainders.
We focus on the British Chess Scene Past & Present !
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