Happy Birthday Robert !

IM Robert Cecil Bellin
IM Robert Cecil Bellin

BCN sends IM Robert Bellin best wishes on his birthday, this day (the 30th of June) in Great Yarmouth, Norfolk

Robert was awarded the IM title in 1977. He was outright British Champion in 1979 in Chester having tied first equal (with six others) in 1974 in Clacton. The play-off was won by George Botterill.

His best international success was in 1981 in Shanghai coming clear first overall.

Robert is married to WGM Dr. Jana Bellin and they have two sons.

The Classical Dutch by IM Robert Bellin
The Classical Dutch by IM Robert Bellin

Vera Menchik : A 75 Year Anniversary

Vera Menchik
Vera Menchik

BCN notes that on June 27th, 1944 (i.e. 75 years ago) Vera Menchik, “her sister Olga, and their mother were killed in a V-1 flying bomb attack which destroyed their home at 47 Gauden Road in the Clapham area of South London.[23] All three were cremated at the Streatham Park Crematorium on 4 July 1944.”

More from Wikipedia :

Vera Frantsevna Menchik (Russian: Вера Францевна Менчик; Czech: Věra Menčíková; 16 February 1906 – 27 June 1944) was a British-Czechoslovak-Russian chess player who became the world’s first women’s chess champion. She also competed in chess tournaments with some of the world’s leading male chess masters, with occasional successes including two wins over future world champion Max Euwe.

Her father, František Menčík, was born in Bystra nad Jizerou, Bohemia, while her mother, Olga Illingworth (c. 1885–1944[1]), was English. He was the manager of several estates owned by the nobility in Russia, and his wife was a governess of the children of the estate owner.

Vera Menchik was born in Moscow in 1906. Her sister Olga Menchik was born in 1907.

When she was nine years old her father gave her a chess set and taught her how to play. When she was 15 her school club organised a chess tournament and she came second.

After the Revolution her father lost a mill he owned and eventually also the big house where the family lived. The marriage broke down; her father returned to Bohemia, and in the autumn of 1921 Olga and her daughters went to Hastings, England, to live with Olga’s mother.

As Vera spoke only Russian she hesitated to go to the local chess club, but at last on 18 March 1923 she joined the Hastings Chess Club and began to take lessons from John Drewitt. Then she became a pupil of the grandmaster Géza Maróczy. During 1923 she played in several team matches.

In December 1923 she played in her first Hastings Congress and got a draw against Edith Price, the then British ladies’ champion.

In the next Hastings Christmas Chess Congress 1924/25 she played again in Group A, first class, and finished second with five points out of seven. She met Miss Price in the last round of the Group of the Winners and again drew.

In 1925 she contested two matches against Edith Price, winning both of them, and she was considered the strongest lady player in the country; as she was not British she could not enter the national competition.

In January 1926 she won the first Girls’ Open Championship at the Imperial Club in London with her sister Olga coming third. In 1927 she retained this title and Olga came second. Next year Vera was too old to play, and Olga again came second.

Vera Menchik
Vera Menchik

Happy Birthday Bernard !

FM Bernard Cafferty
FM Bernard Cafferty

BCN wishes FIDE Master Bernard Cafferty best wishes on his birthday, June 27th in 1934.

From Wikipedia :

Bernard Cafferty (born 27 June 1934 in Blackburn, Lancashire) is an English chess master, columnist, writer, magazine editor and translator.

Cafferty was one of the leading English chess players of the late 1950s and 1960s, ranking amongst the top ten players in 1959 and 1960 (2b on the old grading scale which is equivalent to 217-224 on the present English Chess Federation grading scale). He was British Boys’ Champion in 1952 (jointly) and British Junior Champion in 1954.[1] He was British Correspondence Chess Champion in 1959/60 and won the British Lightning Championship (ten-seconds-a-move) in 1964 (jointly), 1966, 1967, 1968 and 1969 and is the only player ever to have won this title on four successive occasions. He played on top board for Warwickshire in the English Counties Final of 1961 when his team beat Yorkshire. He played in every British Chess Championship between 1957 and 1971, beating Peter Clarke, Sir Stuart Milner-Barry and Gerald Abrahams on his debut. His best placing was in 1964 when he finished second equal with three other players behind Michael Haygarth. He reached a peak Elo rating of 2440 (in July 1971) and played internationally for England on several occasions, both at over the board and correspondence chess.

Originally from Blackburn in Lancashire, he went to Birmingham University in 1951 and was resident in the Midlands for many years as a student and later a school master, teaching Geography and, from 1964, Russian at St. Philip’s Grammar School in Birmingham. In 1981 he moved to Hastings to take up his post as general editor of British Chess Magazine. He stood down from the general editorship in 1991 but remained as associate editor of the magazine until 2011. He was chess columnist for the Sunday Times between 1983 and 1997, and for the Birmingham Evening Mail from 1967 to around 2002.

Cafferty has for many years been in demand in the chess world for his profound knowledge of (and passionate interest in) the Russian language and he has translated several books from Russian to English. He has produced translations of Botvinnik’s Best Games 1947-70 and the Soviet world champion’s autobiography (Achieving the Aim) as well as collections of the best games of Mikhail Tal and Boris Spassky. Perhaps the most notable of his translations was Alexander Kotov’s Think Like a Grandmaster (Batsford, 1971), a book which is sometimes associated with the major upsurge in the quality of competitive chess in the UK in the 1970s. For ‘The Chess Player’ publisher, he translated two books by Lisitsin (extracted from his 1958 work Strategiya i Taktika Shakhmat) (both 1976) and Sokolsky’s Pawns in Action (1976) and co-authored (with Tony Gillam) Chess with the Masters (1977).

He became less active as a player from the early 1970s but he acted as second to Tony Miles when Miles won the 1974 World Junior Chess Championship in Manila, Philippines. Miles remains the only British player to have won this title to date (2012).

He has for many years been a member of Hastings Chess Club and was president of the club from 1999 to 2009. He won the Hastings club championship in 1994 and 2001 and was joint winner in 1995 and 1996. He won the Sussex Chess Championship in 1996 and 2003.

Spassky's 100 Best Games
Spassky’s 100 Best Games
Bernard Cafferty
Bernard Cafferty

1001 Chess Exercises for Club Players : The Tactics Workbook that Also Explains All Key Concepts

1001 Chess Exercises for Club Players : Frank Erwich

1001 Chess Exercises for Club Players
1001 Chess Exercises for Club Players

“Tactics is knowing what to do when there is something to do; strategy is knowing what to do when there is nothing to do.” – Savielly Tartakower

Every chess player enjoys (or should !) solving and practising tactics and, let’s be pragmatic, most games at mortal level are decided by executing them if the conditions are right. Creating suitable conditions is, of course, another book or books and I’m confident New in Chess will publish such material in due course.

FIDE Master Frank Erwich is a a professional chess teacher for the Royal Dutch Chess Federations, coach and active player. In 2012 he established a teaching company and, from his own web site :

He works as an editor for New in Chess, he helps with the development of material for chess books and chess apps, he writes about chess (including author of 1001 Chess Exercises for Club Players and the e-book Basic Chess rules for Kids ), he makes online lessons for starting chess players and he is regularly active as a coach during a chess tournament (including during the European Youth Championship in 2014, 2015 and 2016).

FM Frank Erwich
FM Frank Erwich

So, what is 1001 Chess Exercises for Club Players about ?

The author has identified 1001(!) positions from recent tournament praxis the majority of which are from the last ten years. This, in itself, is a tour de force as many previous tactics books bring a strong sense of déjà vu. He has categorised them into ten groupings viz :

  1. Elimination of the Defence
  2. Double Attack
  3. Discovered Attack
  4. Skewer (or x-ray for our USA readers !)
  5. Pin
  6. Trapping a piece
  7. Promotion
  8. Draw
  9. Mate
  10. Defending

and then follows these with a chapter entitled “Mix” which combines many of the previous themes and of course, a Solutions to each exercise chapter.

As with every recent New in Chess publication high quality paper is used and the printing is clear. 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 mine !). Each diagram clearly shows who is to move and the instructional text is typeset in two column format, which, I 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.

You might have noticed that in the list of categories the author has inserted “Trapping a piece” and “Defending” which are welcome (not often discussed) themes among the more familiar ones.

Each chapter kicks-off with a description of the theme in question followed by high quality examples. All jargon and terms are explained in detail making each section self-contained eliminating the need to go elsewhere to cross-reference. Sometimes the author invents his own terminology (such as “away” and “chasing”) in cases where there is a need and all is carefully explained.

Following the instructional text and examples there are, on average 100 test positions given as groups of twelve per page. Each diagram clearly indicates who is to move and underneath most is a hint such as “magnet + double check”. I prefer to hide the hint but some will value these clues. Of course, after say a dozen in one section, one gets a feel for what is expected and this forms part of the training. Each solution provides useful analysis (which has been engine checked) plus contextual information about the source game, players and event.

To give you some idea of the content here is an excerpt from the training section on Elimination of the Defence :

“We conclude this chapter with a spectacular move:

Li Chao, 2746
Nigel Short, 2666
Baku ol 2016 (7) (analysis)

36. Qe6!
This is called a Novotny Interference! The queen is sacrificed on a square where it can be captured in four ways, but whichever black piece makes the capture, it interferes with the range of the other pieces:

36…Rxe6 (and Nxe6) interupts the a2-g8 diagonal and allows 37.Rg8#, while 36…Bxe6 closes off the sixth rank and runs into 37.Bxf6+ Rg7 38.Bxg7#.36…Rg7 prevents immediate mate, but after37.Bxf6 Black will also have to lay down his king before long.”

Here is one of the more challenging exercises :

The hint is “away + material”

and the solution is :

31…Qe5! 32.Qxe5 32.Qd2 Rxc1+ 33.Qxc1 Qxd4+ -+. 32…Rxc1+ 33.Kf2 Rxe5 34.Nxf6 Kxf6 35. Rxd7 Re7 -+ Jonkman Inza – K. Arnold, Assen ch-NED jr W 2019 (analysis).”

Finally, a detailed glossary in itself provides learning opportunities to improve one’s knowledge.

It was a pleasure to work through the exercises and they provided ideas for my student lessons and coaching. Possibly the most enjoyable section was Chapter 11 entitled “Mix”. This is the best test of what has gone before since there is no declared theme, and, more often than not, no visible hint. You are on your own and you might start a chess timer with each new position to provide motivation and test your speed and accuracy of solution.

In summary this is an excellent book that goes highly recommended. If I hadn’t had it to review then I would have purchased it anyway ! It it much than more than “just another tactics book”.

John Upham, Cove, Hampshire, June 20th 2019

John Upham
John Upham

Book Details :

  • Hardcover : 192 pages
  • Publisher: New In chess (3 April 2019)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 9056918192
  • ISBN-13: 978-9056918194
  • Product Dimensions: 16.9 x 1.2 x 24 cm

Official web site of New in Chess

1001 Chess Exercises for Club Players
1001 Chess Exercises for Club Players

Opening Repertoire : The French Defence

Opening Repertoire: The French Defence
Opening Repertoire: The French Defence

Contents : Bibliography, 8 Chapters, Indexes of Variations and 58 complete games including 3 by the author.

I was due to review this book about two months ago and had even made some notes, intending to return when the heat died-down at work. Never happened. Trouble is the French 1 e4 e6 is a favourite of mine and writing about it is like dancing naked in my own back garden.

Now – don’t say it – there is no exact parallel, for example my garden is quite small and unlikely to accommodate any dance routines, even if I could dance, which I can actually. Badly.

It was Korchnoi who, at an Olympiad long ago, was spotted, not dancing, but hastily hiding a book he’d just bought. It was, I believe, the Winawer by Moles, now a forgotten Batsford. Korchnoi loved the French and, as he got older, seemed to be playing it more and more. What he’d have thought of this book I don’t know but guess he’d have given it his time. Do the same and read on!

Areas covered include: the Anti Winawer, the Main Line Winawer 4 e5, the Tarrasch, the Advance 3 e5, the King’s Indian Attack and 2 Qe2, the Exchange Variation 3 exd5, the Two Knights Variation and finally, Second Move Alternatives such as 2 b3 and 2 f4.

Cyrus Lakdawala is an IM and former US Open Champion who teaches chess and has written over 25 books on chess openings.

IM Cyrus Lakdawala
IM Cyrus Lakdawala

IM Cyrus Lakdawala has been knocking around the chess world long enough to have developed, I hope, a thick skin. He writes with emotion, colour, humour, a broad brush but he does attract his critics. If you like your chess games dished-up in neat bundles with Informatorish symbols, names put backwards (“Talj, Mik (2600) Hail) then look elsewhere. Nor is this a book of reference so don’t go searching, necessarily, for an improvement on last night’s game. There are books which are essentially lists of games and these do help, like databases, but here we are far from that part of the forest. The author is an entertainer and so much else. Drops of philosophy creep in, good humour, lore and order.

” When you love someone, it feels that you are with them even when they are far away” (p 85). Or ” A seasoned bazaar haggler makes a shrewd counter-offer” (p 134). We continue: ” Don’t follow principles blindly” (p 108). Also ” Open the position when you hold the bishop-pair.” (p 102) and finally “There are many mushrooms and berries in the forest that can kill us.” (p 121).

Well, that gives you a flavour. The Bibliography he lists is a bit dated, newer editions of some books are, I’m sure, available to him. As for the reader – easy to forget him (?) – questions throughout the text, nothing too complex,  are highlighted. Oh, in the Tarrasch 3 Nd2 he calls 4 … Qxd5 the most theoretically complicated line in the whole book. I can’t agree that the Petrosyan/Bronstein line in the Winawer with x … b6 and … Qd7 is better than a more conventional 4 … c5, as Uhlmann might have favoured, but readers will enjoy correcting me.

Finally, his 8 … Ne8! in the King’s Indian section is a joy.

For a cover price of £18.99 I think this good value. The author is an American IM and I promise not to mention my dancing ever again.

James Pratt
James Pratt

James Pratt, Basingstoke, June, 2019

Book Details :

  • Paperback : 366 pages
  • Publisher: Everyman Chess (15 Feb 2019)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1781945071
  • ISBN-13: 978-1781945070
  • Product Dimensions: 16.9 x 2 x 24.1 cm

Official web site of Everyman Chess

Opening Repertoire : The French Defence
Opening Repertoire : The French Defence

Neumann, Hirschfeld and Suhle : 19th Century Berlin Chess Biographies with 711 Games

Neumann, Hirschfeld and Suhle : 19th Century Berlin Chess Biographies with 711 Games
Neumann, Hirschfeld and Suhle : 19th Century Berlin Chess Biographies with 711 Games

Neumann, Hirschfeld and Suhle : 19th Century Berlin Chess Biographies with 711 Games : Hans Renette & Fabrizio Zavatarelli

Hans Renette

Hans Renette
Hans Renette

Neumann, Hirschfeld & Suhle. Sounds like a Berlin law firm, doesn’t it? In fact they were 19th century Prussian born chess players with Berlin connections, all active in the 1860s. You tell me you’ve never heard of them? One of them may well be the strongest (for his time) player you’ve never heard of.

Let me take you back to the year 1860. Morphy’s short career in competitive chess had already come to an end, and Steinitz (strange to think he was a year older than Morphy) was just a fairly promising youngster. Anderssen was still active, along with younger players such as Kolisch and Paulsen, but, if you remove Morphy from the equation, there was no clear number one player.

Among those just below the top was (Carl Friedrich) Berthold Suhle (1837-1904), the first of this book’s joint protagonists. Suhle had a very brief chess career spanning the late 1850s up to 1865, when he returned home from Berlin, choosing to focus instead on family life and his career as an academic specialising in Ancient Greek.

Enter Philipp Martin Hirschfeld (1840-96), who, when he arrived in Berlin in 1859, already had a reputation as a theoretician. He was as yet no match for Suhle, though: in a nine game match in 1860 he could only muster two draws. (Note that Jeff Sonas, on his Chessmetrics site, mistakenly dates this match to 1865, causing him to overstate both Hirschfeld’s rating in the early 1860s and Suhle’s rating in the late 1860s.) Like Suhle, Hirschfeld decided to concentrate on his career rather than become a chess professional. Joining his father’s business, he set up a tea company, travelled widely and lived in London through much of the 1870s and 80s. He maintained his interest in chess for the rest of his life but never took part in international tournaments.

The main part of the book is devoted to Gustav Richard Ludwig Neumann (1838-81), who, for a few years round about 1870 was one of the best three or four players in the world. Neumann was a real chess addict who decided to make a living through his favourite game. His first international tournament was Paris 1867, where he finished 4th behind Kolisch, Winawer and Steinitz. Later the same year he won a small but strong tournament in Dundee, this time ahead of Steinitz. It seemed like a new star had arrived, but at the end of 1869 he suffered a mental breakdown and was taken to an asylum. He recovered well enough to be released the following April and that summer resumed his tournament career at Baden-Baden, where he finished 3rd behind Anderssen and Steinitz, and level with Blackburne. Sadly, his mental illness returned at the end of 1872, putting an end to his chess career. Neumann was one of the great might-have-beens of chess, but you’ve probably never heard of him.

The two authors of this volume are both respected chess historians who have written other biographies for McFarland. Hans Renette has penned excellent books on Henry Bird and Louis Paulsen, while Fabrizio Zavatarelli has published a book on Ignaz Kolisch. In 2015 they discovered that Hans was researching Neumann while Fabrizio was studying Suhle and Hirschfeld. Given the overlap in time and place they decided it would make sense to pool their resources.

If you’re familiar with McFarland biographies you’ll know what to expect and won’t be disappointed. A sturdy, large format hardback which will sit impressively on your bookshelf, 711 games with annotations taken from contemporary sources and computer-aided updates from the authors, many atmospheric photographs and outstanding historical research, The English is not always entirely idiomatic, but no matter.

Although the book probably won’t do much to improve your rating, lovers of attacking chess will be delighted to see a lot of Evans Gambit and King’s Gambit games, with the Ruy Lopez in third place.  By today’s standards these players were not so strong, but all of us, from Magnus Carlsen down to the humblest patzer, are standing on the shoulders of giants. If you value the history and heritage of our wonderful game you’ll want to find out more about Suhle, Hirschfeld and Neumann, all of whom part of what makes us what we are.

Here’s a crazily complicated game from the book. You’ll have hours of fun spotting the missed opportunities for both players.


Richard James, Twickenham June 7 2019

Richard James
Richard James

Book Details :

  • Hardcover : 384 pages
  • Publisher: McFarland (30 July 2018)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1476673799
  • ISBN-13: 978-1476673790
  • Product Dimensions: 22.2 x 3.2 x 27.9 cm/li>

Official web site of McFarland Books

Neumann, Hirschfeld and Suhle : 19th Century Berlin Chess Biographies with 711 Games
Neumann, Hirschfeld and Suhle : 19th Century Berlin Chess Biographies with 711 Games