The Queen’s Gambit – Accepted!

The Queen’s Gambit – Accepted!: Jonathan Arnott & Rosie Irwin

The Queen’s Gambit – Accepted!, Jonathan Arnott & Rosie Irwin, Steel City Press (17 May 2021), ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-1913047245
The Queen’s Gambit – Accepted!, Jonathan Arnott & Rosie Irwin, Steel City Press (17 May 2021), ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-1913047245

From the publisher:

The game of chess has hundreds of child-friendly books, but what about the adult beginner inspired by The Queen’s Gambit Netflix series? Rosie Irwin is the perfect example: just like the title character, she’s had her own struggles with mental health and trauma. She accepted the challenge, and chess has developed the confidence. Coached by Jonathan Arnott – a former teacher, politician and chess Candidate Master – it’s been a steep learning curve. In January 2021, Rosie knew nothing about chess but the rules of the game. She’s now playing matches against opponents with 40+ years of experience.

This book is a must for any aspiring player. To go from reading Dostoyevsky to Dvoretsky would be a total culture shock. Whilst claiming to be neither, the authors’ conversational style offers a rare insight into the thought processes needed to move from beginner to tournament player. It is a ‘gateway’ book with stories and anecdotes mixed with chess learning, helping the reader to get to know Rosie whilst joining her on her chess journey. The title of this book (The Queen’s Gambit – Accepted!) illustrates Rosie’s acceptance of the challenge and the chess terminology that any gambit can be ‘accepted’. Don’t expect a dry chess book full of diagrams and notation without any story.

Rosie Irwin never considered playing chess until she saw The Queen’s Gambit and was inspired to take up the game, identifying with the lead character’s emotional struggles. Within a couple of months, she had learned enough from Jonathan to compete in league matches against experienced opponents.

Rosie Irwin
Rosie Irwin

Jonathan Arnott has decades of teaching and chess coaching experience. He has captained the Yorkshire county side, represented White Rose in the European Club Cup (the ‘Champions League’ of chess) and captained Chessable White Rose to victory in the inaugural online Four Nations Chess League.

Jonathan Arnott
Jonathan Arnott

A story I remember, a very long time ago now, concerned a young boy who was passionate about butterflies and moths. He saw a title in a bookshop which sounded like just what he wanted, but when he took it home he was disappointed with the contents. The book was called Instructions for Young Mothers.

Likewise, if you buy this book because you’re eager to find out what to play after 1. d4 d5 2. c4 dxc4, you’ll also be disappointed. You have to spot the dash, and perhaps also the exclamation mark.

This is a book for adult beginners, targeting in particular those who perhaps learnt the moves in childhood and developed an interest after watching The Queen’s Gambit on Netflix. It works on two levels. At one level it provides a lot of helpful advice for beginners, but at another level it tells Rosie’s story about how chess can help those who are struggling with some aspect of their lives.

At the start of the book, Rosie introduces herself.

Beth Harmon is messed up. So was I. I still am, in fact…

I’ve suffered some serious trauma and depression. I’ve battled with self-harm and all kinds of issues, just like Beth…

I have Aspergers. I can sometimes panic in social situations. Too many people, too much crowding, can be a problem. On 64 squares, nothing else matters. 

While spending time with her parents she happened to watch The Queen’s Gambit, got hooked on the game and contacted Jonathan, a chess playing friend, asking for help.

After an introduction offering 10 things you need to know before reading the book, we start at the end.

This is a very good place to start as well. There’s so much Rosie can learn from this position. In general, when you can and can’t win with king and pawn against king. The opposition. And, when you promote successfully, how to mate with king and queen against king.

Jonathan is clearly an excellent teacher. He understands that learning to do simple things well is more important than trying to do complicated things badly. His teaching style involves using Socratic questioning to lead Rosie to the correct answers, and to improve her play.

The next chapter takes a different approach: Impostor Syndrome. The feeling that you’re not good enough, that you don’t deserve what you’ve got. Although the chapter itself is, more generally, about lack of self-confidence, and Impostor Syndrome is only one of many reasons for lacking self-confidence.

Rosie, like many players at this level, loses a quick game against the Fried Liver Attack, which dents her self-confidence and exacerbates her already present anxiety. Jonathan invites her to play online against some junior beginners he’s also coaching, but she feels unable to do so.

Here’s Jonathan:

When you’re coaching chess, you never teach opening theory to beginners. The last thing you want is for a beginner to learn a few moves parrot-fashion without having the slightest clue what they mean. 

I agree with him, but, as he explains, there are exceptions, and this is one.

There’s no reason for a beginner who doesn’t know the position to play anything other than 5… Nxd5 here, but experienced players will be aware it’s a poor move. So Jonathan shows Rosie 5… b5, an excellent move at this level. Beginners are very unlikely to find 6. Bf1, the only move to pose Black any problems.

The book continues with a mixture of instructive tips from Jonathan, extracts from Rosie’s games, and psychological insights.

In this position Rosie has built up an impressive attack and now found the splendid 17… Ng4!, when capturing either piece leads to immediate mate so White had to give up material with Rf2. Jonathan adds that 1… Bxg3!! 18. hxg3 Qxg3+ 19. Kh1 and now the same idea, 19… Ng4, was even stronger. Some instructive attacking ideas there, I think.

Here’s Rosie, explaining how the chess pieces might help with her depression:

Take all the pieces off the board. Look at each one in turn and gain a deeper understanding of each of them. My family? The King.  My friendships? The Rook. My faith? The Bishop. My love life? The Knight. And many many pawns: my crafts, my hobbies…each of them contribute to the ‘position’ of my life.

And me, you ask? Well, obviously, I must be the Queen…

I suppose readers of a certain age might be reminded of this, but, coincidentally, I had occasion to write something similar about how I saw the pieces only the other day. It’s all about the power of chess to enable you to tell stories which can help explain and improve your life.

Here’s another snapshot from one of Rosie’s games.

She’d learnt about sacrifices on f7 and thought this position looked like an ideal opportunity.

The game continued 6. Bxf7+? Kxf7 7. Ng5+ Kf6?? 8. Qf3+ Nf5, when 9. Nd5 would have been a pretty checkmate. She missed that, but still won a couple of moves later. Jonathan correctly pointed out that if Black had preferred 7… Ke8 she’d have had very little for the sacrificed piece.

This sort of thing happens over and over again at this level. I remember, about 45 years ago, teaching Légal’s Mate at Richmond Junior Club. I knew that one of my pupils had a school match coming up that week and, next Saturday I asked him how he got on. “Mr James!”, he exclaimed. “You made me lose!” It transpired he’d tried the same thing in a slightly different position where there was no mate, so he just lost his queen. An important lesson for him, and for me as well. Rosie was fortunate to get away with her unsound sacrifice here.

It’s great that books are now being published which consider the psychological aspects of chess. Instruction in any skill-based discipline should include generic skills, of which these are a part, as well as domain-specific knowledge and skills.

The important subject of confidence – which, if you like, is one aspect of mindset – is covered in several places. We learn, as you’ve already seen, about the dangers of lacking self-confidence, and, later on, about over-confidence.

Rosie makes good progress, but then things become too easy, she starts playing too quickly on autopilot, and, by now playing stronger opponents, she made mistakes and lost game after game.

She describes this as the Dunning-Kruger Effect, but my understanding of D-K is something slightly different: overestimating your ability at the start rather than becoming over-confident as you improve.

While I’m no expert myself, just an interested layman, I’m not sure this book always uses the right terminology.

(On a slightly different point, because of recent allegations concerning Hans Asperger’s supposed Nazi sympathies – see here, for example – many people prefer not to use his name as it might cause offence. Perhaps Jonathan and Rosie are both unaware of this.)

Although it’s not a complete course for adult beginners (you’ll have to look elsewhere for that), it still contains a lot of chess wisdom. This book is to be welcomed for several reasons. It will be a great purchase – or a great present – for anyone who has been inspired to take up chess by watching The Queen’s Gambit, especially those who can empathise with Rosie in some way. If you’re a female who wants to play like Beth Harmon, if you’re struggling, or have struggled in the past, with depression, anxiety or other mental health issues, or if you’re on the autism spectrum, I’m sure you’ll find much of value here, for its psychological as well as its chess insights. Players above the beginner level may also find it helpful in many ways, as will anyone involved in coaching adult beginners.

For several decades now, the chess world has been unhealthily obsessed with young children, prodigies and champions. My view is that chess, in general, is much more suited to older children and adults, and, equally, that older children and adults are more suited to competitive chess than younger children.

Perhaps the world will come to its senses and we’ll see more books written for older beginners, novices and improvers. Perhaps we’ll also see a greater understanding that everyone, from beginners to grandmasters, can benefit from chess in all sorts of ways. Perhaps we’ll also realise that chess can be attractive to girls and women, not just to boys and men.


Richard James, Twickenham 22nd June 2021

Richard James
. Richard James

Book Details :

  • Softback : 224 (softback)  pages
  • Publisher:  Steel City Press (17 May 2021)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10:1913047245
  • ISBN-13:978-1913047245

Official web site of Steel City Press

The Queen’s Gambit – Accepted!, Jonathan Arnott & Rosie Irwin, Steel City Press (17 May 2021), ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-1913047245
The Queen’s Gambit – Accepted!, Jonathan Arnott & Rosie Irwin, Steel City Press (17 May 2021), ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-1913047245

Beat the French Defense with 3.Nc3

Beat the French Defense with 3.Nc3, Pentala Harikrishna, Thinker's Publishing, 2021, ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-9492510976
Beat the French Defense with 3.Nc3, Pentala Harikrishna, Thinker’s Publishing, 2021, ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-9492510976

“GM Pentala Harikrishna is an established elite player who has been in India’s Olympiad team for over two decades. Since November 2016 Harikrishna has often entered the top 10 of the world rankings, and has consistently stayed in the top 20.

His peak rating is 2770 and he is well known for his exceptional endgame skills as well as for the ability to convert positions with a slight or even no advantage. Harikrishna learned chess from his grandfather at the age of 4, and swiftly progressed up through age-group tournaments until he became a grandmaster at age 14.

He has been World Junior Champion (2004) and Asian Individual Champion (2011). As part of the Indian national team, he has won bronze medals at the World Team Chess Championship, gold and bronze at the Asian Games, and silver (twice) at the Asian Team Championship. He has also won many major open and invitational tournaments, including the Marx Gyorgy Memorial (2006), Tata Steel Group B (2012), Biel MTO (2013), Edmonton International (2015) and Poker Stars Isle of Man (2015).”

GM Pentala Harikrishna
GM Pentala Harikrishna

From the publisher  we have this extensive blurb:

“The French Defence was my main opening with Black while I was striving towards the GM title at the turn of the century. Quite often, I was able to use it to drag my opponent into a complicated maze of deep analysis, so I have intimate knowledge of the tricks used on the other side of the ‘barricades’. This helped me craft a solid base for our present repertoire, and many of the ideas presented in the book have brought me fine victories against some of the strongest French exponents as well.”

“At times, this means suggesting the 2nd or 3rd choice of the engine. He builds on the material from his earlier French course (Chessable, May 2019) and has expanded it with new analysis in all the lines, especially the 3…Nf6 4.e5 Nfd7 5.f4 variation. Harikrishna analyses both 5.Nce2 and 5.f4, so that the reader may make an informed choice about their personal preference. The driving force throughout is to keep the book clear-cut and practical. A good example of a practical weapon is the deceptively simple 3…Bb4 4.exd5 line. There are also fresh and interesting suggestions against the side lines you are likely to encounter, especially at shorter time controls. The entire Thinkers Publishing team joins with the author in wishing you enjoyment and success from this exceptional book”

End of blurb…

It is rare that one of the  World’s top ten players would write a book on opening theory but here Hari, as he is commonly called,  obliges. He has had a peak rating  of 2770 and has been a member of India’s very strong Olympiad team for around two decades .

So, the starting position of this rather large (456 pages) tome is

and this book is written from the perspective of the first player striving to take on the French Defence with 3.Nc3. Of course it will also be of considerable interest to the second player.

Chapter 1 is entitled “Odds and Ends” in which Hari examines  unusual Black 3rd moves .

He kicks off with 3…c5 which is a good move in a Tarrasch (3.Nd2) context  but a clear mistake against 3.Nc3 as White trivially wins a pawn after White takes on d5 and c5 ending up with a 4 to 2 queen side majority and the d4 square in his control  with the following position after 8.Ne4:

Next comes 3…a6 where both 4.Nf3 and 4.Bd3 are discussed . The most critical line here would appear to be 4.Nf3 Nf6; 5.e5 where in the main line Whites Q eventually comes to g4 putting black under pressure on the K side.

3…h6 is a curious third move alternative, but, as Hari points out it stops Black from getting in the Nimzowitschian style …f6 break as now g6 is horribly weakened.

Finally, 3…Be7 is covered but after 4.e5 c5; 5 Qg4 then puts black under pressure.

Both Chapters 2 and 3 look at the black reply 3…Nc6 (a idea of Aron Nimzowitsch) which has always seemed an illogical move to me in the French by blocking …c5.

After 3…Nc6 Hari first looks at 4.Nf3 then in the Chapter 3 4.e5 when 4…f6 is given as the black’s main line usually followed by 5.Nf3 Bd7; 6.Bd3 fxe5; 7.dxe5 Nb4; 8.Ng5 turns out to be good for white according to the author:

In this line black can play 5…fxe5 immediately but after 6.dxe5 Nh6 7.Bg5! again leaves White with advantage.

Chapter 4 brings the reader to the Rubinstein Variation (also ECO code C10) where black plays 3…dxe4 when after 4.Nxe4 options such as 4…Nf6 4…Qd5 and 4…Bd7 attract attention.

According to the author none of these achieve equality but 4…Bd7 is given the most analysis since it is not easy to show an advantage for white. Furthermore, 5.Nf3 Bc6; 6.Bd3 alternatives such as 6…Be4; 6…Nf6 and 6…Nd7 are all interesting tries. White usually plays ideas including c3 and Ne5 to maintain an edge.

Chapter 5 continues to look at the Rubinstein when 4…Nd7 is considered to be the main line. Hari recommends an usual approach for white which we will not reveal here: buy the book!

Chapter 6 progresses to more classical territory with the hugely popular 3…Nf6 (ECO C11 – C14) when 4.e5 Nfd7 and now 5.Nce2 is analysed in considerable depth through to the end of chapter 9.

Club French players will be expecting (and hoping for no doubt) 5.f4 or 5.Nf3 and therefore 5.Nce2 could well throw them off their stride. 5.Nce2 scores well at the highest levels (56%) and is in the armoury of Carlsen, Grischuk, Anand and Nepomniachtchi and consequently deserves much respect.

In this line White intends the usual c3 following …c5 and often will relocate his N from e2 to f4.

Having said all of that 5.f4, which Hari starts to look at in Chapter 10, seems (to me at least) to be the “best” move. Clearly it is the most popular continuation.

The “main line” continues 5…c5; 6.Nf3 where 6…Be7; 7.Be3 b6; 8.Qd2 00; 9.Nd1 is given.

Although this line leads to a white advantage the more aggressive “Williamsesque” 9.h4 which features in some of the other lines should be considered by white players, especially those who love to attack.

Chapter 11 consider 6…Nc6; 7.Be3 Be7; 8.Qd2 is looked at and Black can play …a6 and …b5 here but Whites plan here is Be2 and 00 as Q side castling is somewhat playing into blacks hand.

Instead Black can try 8…00 instead when White is best capturing on c5.

The older line 5.f4 c5; 6.Nf3 Nc6; 7.Be3 Qb6 has always been regarded as slightly suspect and Hari takes a look at this in Chapter 14.

Usually White plays b4 and black sacrifices a piece and although it leads to exciting chess the verdict remains the same. A well prepared white player should be delighted to see this line. The key word in all of this is, of course, “well”

Better perhaps is 7…cxd4 and Chapter 15 examines this: probably much tougher for white to crack. After 8.Nxd4 Qb6 the author provides a large quantity of analysis in this poisoned pawn style line where White sacrifices a pawn with 9.Qd2 and black rightly accepts the challenge with 9…Qxb2.

Finally(!) Hari leads us to the Winawer Variation but here he shocks the white player with his suggestion. To find out what this is you will need to buy the book!

I generally play the Tarrasch but my next bunch of email and postal games will definitely feature 3.Nc3 ! I’m keen to try out the authors suggestions and so should you be!

Colin Lyne, Farnborough, Hampshire, 19th June, 2021

Colin Lyne
Colin Lyne

Book Details :

  • Paperback : 456 pages
  • Publisher: Thinkers Publishing; 1st edition (28 Jan. 2021)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 9492510979
  • ISBN-13: 978-9492510976
  • Product Dimensions: 16.51 x 2.54 x 22.86 cm

Official web site of Thinkers Publishing

Beat the French Defense with 3.Nc3, Pentala Harikrishna, Thinker's Publishing, 2021, ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-9492510976
Beat the French Defense with 3.Nc3, Pentala Harikrishna, Thinker’s Publishing, 2021, ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-9492510976

Minor Pieces 4: The Marriott Family

It’s midnight on 28 June 1816. a group of saboteurs breaks into Heathcoat and Boden’s lace mill in Loughborough, Leicestershire, determined to smash their machinery.  John Heathcoat must have had advance warning: he’s ensured there are plenty of workers on hand to repel the invaders. Fights break out, gunshots are heard, and one of the watchmen, John Asher, is hit, blood pouring from a slug in back of his head. Asher’s companions are forced to the ground at gunpoint, and the saboteurs destroy all 55 of the lace making machines, steal some lace and make their escape.

These men are Luddites, taking their name from the perhaps mythical Ned Ludd. Campaigning against poor working conditions and grinding poverty they see no option but to use violence to pursue their aims.

The leader of the insurrection, James Towle, from Basford, near Nottingham, is identified and quickly arrested. Although he himself did not fire the shot that hit John Asher, he is convicted, sentenced to death and publicly hanged in Leicester on 20 November. The following year, six more members of Towle’s gang, including his younger brother William, are also hanged, and another two transported to Australia.

The last moments of James Towle, :who was executed at Leicester, Nov. 20, 1816 REPOSITORY: Harvard Law School Library, Harvard University

Were they heroes or villains? Terrorists or martyrs? You decide. There are always people on the wrong side of history. The Industrial Revolution brought destitution to many, but there were others who saw an opportunity to join the burgeoning middle classes, perhaps by starting up their own shop or factory. This is the story of one of them.

Time moves on. The clock ticks. The calendar pages are turned over.

It’s now 19 October 1818. James and William’s cousin Catherine, also in Basford, marries Richard Green. In 1820 Catherine gives birth to a daughter, who is named Sarah.

We spin forward to 1844, when Sarah marries Thomas Marriott, from nearby Bulwell. He is most likely the Thomas Marriott baptised there on 9 March 1817, whose parents are listed as Joseph, a Framework Knitter, and his wife Mary.

One thing we know about Thomas is that he’s a keen chess player, whose sons will also learn how to play. I’m not sure how common chess was amongst the framework knitting community at the time: perhaps Thomas saw a knowledge of the Royal Game as a way into the middle classes.

Here’s a game played by one of his sons, a devotee of gambit play. ‘Septimus Placid’ was probably top Nottingham player Sigismund Hamel.

By 1851 he’s already doing well. We pick him up in the census, where, remaining in the local lace-making industry, he’s left his humble origins behind. He’s a lace maker and tea dealer, trying out another line of business on the side, it seems. Sarah is there with him, along with their three sons, Edwin, Thomas and Henry, and he’s sufficiently well off to be able to employ a servant.

In 1861 he’s a lace manufacturer, suggesting perhaps a slightly higher status than a lace maker, which is what Edwin is doing. Sadly, Thomas junior had died in 1855, but the family is now completed by Henry, John, Sarah, another Thomas, Frederick and Arthur. John, Sarah and Arthur were all given the middle name Towle in honour, as was the fashion at the time, of their grandmother Catherine. (The census record has been transcribed as Maniott: thanks to Jon D’Souza-Eva for discovering this, which had eluded other historians, and pointing it out to us.) I wonder whether Thomas knew about his wife’s nefarious relatives, and, if so, what he thought of them.

The 1871 census (name transcribed incorrectly as Marrett) tells us Thomas is now employing 4 men and 5 boys. Edwin and John have left home, but Sarah and the other children are still there. No doubt chess is often played.

Here’s another game, played by Arthur at Simpson’s Divan, which we visited in an earlier Minor Piece, against George Alcock MacDonnell, one of the top English (but Irish born) players of the day.

Thomas’s business continues to prosper: by 1881 he’s employing 34 males and 4 females. I hope he treated his workers better than John Heathcoat and John Boden did. Sarah and their two youngest sons, Frederick and Arthur, are at home with him.

Let’s stop to look at what happened to his children. We know that his six sons who survived childhood all played chess, and we have playing records for most of them.

Thomas’s youngest son, Arthur Towle Marriott, was the strongest and also the shortest lived. He’s the subject of a recent book recounting his gloomy fate and romantic chess. EdoChess awards him a peak rating of 2376, and, had he lived, he could have been a world class player.

Here’s one of his last and most brilliant games: he was living in Bournemouth at the time, hoping the sea air would improve his health.

Two of Arthur’s brothers were also pretty decent players, taking high boards for Nottingham in matches against other Midlands towns. The oldest brother, Edwin, had a peak rating of 2275 and draws to his credit against Teddington resident and future British Championship contender George Edward Wainwright and, in his final recorded game, against the young Henry Ernest Atkins. Away from the chessboard he followed in his father’s footsteps as a lace manufacturer, possibly taking over his business interests when he retired.

Thomas Walter Marriott was of similar strength to Edwin, with a peak rating of 2244: again, by the standards of his day, a formidable player. Thomas Walter was, like many chess players, an accountant, and, also like many chess players, never married. At least up to 1911 he chose to live in boarding houses, even though he had inherited property after his father’s death.

John Towle Marriott’s life took a different course. He chose to train as a minister of religion, specifically the Unitarian movement, who believed in the unity of God, rather than the Trinity accepted by most Christians.  He settled near Salford, marrying the daughter of a celebrated reporter and antiquary, but died of typhoid fever in 1890. He didn’t seem to play club chess, but returned to Nottingham in 1886 to take part in the 3rd class tournament of the Counties Chess Association, which he won with 6½/9, a performance rated by EdoChess as 1780.

John Towle Marriott

Sarah Towle Marriott may well have played her brothers at home, but chess was, back in those days, considered an almost exclusively male activity. You might think we haven’t made much progress in that respect in the past century and a half. Her first husband, who died young, was a colliery agent who had business interests in London – the 1881 census found the family in Fulham, which, as far as I know, has never had very many coal mines. Their son Harry Marriott Burton was interesting: he was an artist who travelled the world – Canada, South Africa – painting wherever he went, ending his life in Queensland at the great age of 96. His paintings are now quite collectible.

Mount Sir Donald, Selkirk Mountains of British Columbia Harry Marriott Burton (1882–1979) Nottingham City Museums & Galleries

Thomas Marriott’s other two sons are mysterious, as you’ll find out.

The 1891 census finds him, now a retired widower, living with his daughter Sarah, herself widowed, and her two surviving children.

By 1901, now aged 84, he’s living with an otherwise unknown Francis Marriott, who appears to be his full time carer. My guess, as there’s no other Francis around, and because the age is right, this is really Frederick: either the enumerator made a mistake or he’s using a false name for some reason. He’s there with his wife Lizzie, from Derbyshire, and an 11-year-old daughter, Ethel, who, unexpectedly, was born in Vancouver, British Columbia. The last we heard of Frederick was in the 1881 census (he appears to have taken part in a consultation game the same year), and I haven’t been able to find any further sighting of Frederick or Francis in England, Canada or anywhere else. It’s all a mystery.

Thomas’s other son, Henry, is also elusive. He’s living at home in 1871, working as a clerk in a coal office, but then disappears from view.

Thomas lives on until 8 September 1906, dying in the Coppice Asylum, a private institution in Nottingham. I would guess that he was suffering from some kind of dementia in the last few years of his life.

His will makes interesting reading. He seems to have been fairly wealthy, owning several properties, which are shared between Sarah (who also received his personal effects), Thomas Walter and Frederick, with specific instructions that nothing should go to either Edwin or Henry. Perhaps Edwin, having inherited the family business, was well catered for anyway. Perhaps, though, there was a falling out with both Edwin and Henry. Perhaps he chose to reward Sarah and Frederick, who had both been caring for him in his old age, and Thomas Walter, who had been involved with the legal side of the will. Perhaps he had no idea wither or not Henry was still alive. The inheritance for Frederick seems to suggest again that he and Francis were one and the same person, but who knows?

Finally, let’s return to Edwin. He had nine children, several of whom are also remarkably difficult to track down. This is very unusual for the time: one is tempted to ask questions about the family dynamics. My particular interest is with the oldest of them, Arthur James, who married Frances Keywood, the possessor of a relatively unusual surname. (There used to be a lace manufacturing company in Nottingham called Cooper & Keywood.)

The Keywoods were one of several families in Nottingham who intermarried a lot, but Frances must have been related in some way to Doris Keywood, who married Louis James there in 1915. His great grandfather Thomas James (whom you’ll meet again another time) was also my 3x great grandfather. Wheels within wheels. There are always stories. There are always connections. And this is the story of how I’m connected to Arthur Towle Marriott and his chess-playing brothers. It’s also the story of how the game of chess has always been shaped by societal shifts: as we move now from the industrial to the post-industrial (and post-pandemic) age chess will change again. By learning lessons from history we can be proactive in deciding how chess should be promoted and organised in future.

Spurious Games

Spurious Games: David Jenkins

Spurious Games, David Jenkins, Matador, July 2020, ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-1838593520
Spurious Games, David Jenkins, Matador, July 2020, ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-1838593520

From the publisher:

When a local chess player is discovered dead, Detective Inspector John Logos of Cornwall s St Borstal Constabulary is called in to investigate what turns out to be a serial killer running amok in the sedate world of Cornish chess. The detectives quickly find themselves as pawns in the game of an arrogant mastermind calling himself The Turk who taunts them with chess-related clues. Baffled, they call in Caradoc Pritchard, an eccentric Welsh Professor, and together they must work against the clock to predict the killer’s next move.

David Jenkins
David Jenkins

While working at the University of the South Pacific, David played chess for Fiji as Board 4 in the 1994 Moscow Chess Olympiad, a memorable experience but one distinctly above his pay grade (think Eddy the Eagle). While in Fiji he also ran an experimental theatre group Stage Fright Aah!.

He was until 2016 captain of the Cornwall county chess team, hanging on to his place despite the ravages of old age. He is currently the President of the Cornwall Chess Association and teaches chess at Calstock Community Primary School. He has made a modest contribution to chess journalism, including the publication of a weekly chess cartoon, a brief selection of which can be found elsewhere on these web pages.

David has held chairs at a number of universities including Warwick and the University of the South Pacific. He is widely published in the field of qualitative evaluation, writing in a style of ‘curriculum criticism’ that offer readers a surrogate experience of educational programs, rendering them accessible to outside judgements.

In 2011, the American Evaluation Association awarded David’s study of a cross-European youth training initiative, A Tale Unfolded, the ‘Outstanding Evaluation of the Year’. The official citation noted that his report ‘deploys such literary devices as narrative vignettes, irony, metaphor and wit, seeing humour as a legitimate way of addressing ambivalences. The report pulls no punches, but does so with considerable grace and wit,’

Spurious Games is David’s first novel.


From the back cover:

“An extended riff on the theme of authenticity, Spurious Games is cast as a detective novel in which the St Borstal police, with outside help from a Welsh professor of plagiarism struggle to apprehend a serial killer calling himself ‘the Turk’, wo is running amok in the eccentric cloistered world of Cornish chess and taunting the detectives with chess-related clues.

“In a style that is wry, playful and allusive, the novel ranges widely across pop culture, magic shows and fortune telling, cyber espionage, pro-sex feminism, doppelgangers, the inanities of New Age spirituality , and whether the game of chess constitutes a mental health hazard.”


‘It seems his entire world for the last couple of years has revolved around his chess’, added Polgooth, ‘like a koala chewing legal highs in a eucalyptus tree’.

At the start of this novel, an overweight antisocial chess addict named Richard prematurely meets his maker as the result of eating a Poisoned Pawn from a chocolate chess set.

I was starting to get worried, but, at least to the best of my knowledge, I’ve never met David Jenkins, the author of this chess novel.

I’m not quite sure how I found myself as the chief fiction reviewer of British Chess News, but perhaps I’m the only member of their panel who ever reads fiction. Many chess players, I suspect, don’t, and that’s their loss.

So what we have here is a comic novel, a spoof on detective fiction if you like, set in the world of Cornish chess. Several of the characters have names redolent of prominent Cornish chess personalities. A serial killer is on the loose, and his victims are all chess players. The incompetent detectives working on the case receive mysterious emails from ‘The Turk’ offering chess-related clues.

The whole book is often hilariously funny. There’s a Chris Farlowe tribute band who posted online covers of their favourite 60s rock star, and were at one point known as the Farlowepian YouTubes. You’ll also meet a research fellow in Game Theory called Bernadette Madoff – and much more in the same vein. A knowledge of both popular and high culture (the Gospel of St John and the poetry of TS Eliot, for example ) will come in useful.

After four Cornish chess players meet untimely deaths the novel reaches its climax at the ICA, where a modern day replica of the Mechanical Turk is on display. Will the killer be unmasked before another victim (and GM Daniel King should be very careful) is checkmated? Chess journalist Stephen Moss has a walk-on part here, and other well known chessers (Andrew Greet, Michael Adams, Jack Rudd, Matthew Sadler) are mentioned en passant throughout the book.

I found the book very enjoyable and often extremely funny, even though we chess players don’t come out of it very well. Our Cornish colleagues, it seems, are either grossly overweight or unhealthily underweight, are unsociable loners, are often unable to drive a car, and are prone to believe in conspiracy theories such as the Nibiru Cataclysm and hang onto every word of David Icke. Not very different, then, from chess players in my part of the world. If you look in the mirror you might not like what you see.

The back cover quotes award-winning screenwriter Andrew Davies, who found echoes of Nabokov, Umberto Eco and Spike Milligan. Yes, I can see all of that, but for me it was as if the shades of Agatha Christie (The ABC Murders, a clear inspiration, is namechecked on several occasions), PG Wodehouse and Robertson Davies had collaborated on a novel about Cornish chess players.

The ‘whodunit’ part didn’t really work as, for me, the culprit was obvious from the start, but I rather suspect that was the whole point. The chess, as you’d expect from the President of the Cornish Chess Association, is mostly accurate, although the Fried Liver Attack is, rather strangely, described as an unsound tactical opening, and the participants play online on ICC at a time when most of the chess world had migrated elsewhere. The book does contain scenes of an adult nature, so it would be best not to leave it within sight of the likes of Cornish chess prodigy Barnaby Bude.

Apart from that, highly recommended for all chess players, even though you might not like the way you and your pawn-pushing brethren are presented. Although it’s extremely amusing, with laughs guaranteed on every page, there is also a serious undercurrent touching on a wide variety of issues both on and off the board. Well produced too, and, unusually for a work of fiction, beautifully illustrated. If you play chess and enjoy fiction, or even if you don’t, I’d urge you to give it a try. I’m sure the Netflix dramatisation won’t be far away.

Richard James, Twickenham 10th June 2021

Richard James
. Richard James

Book Details :

  • Softback : 324 (softback)  pages
  • Publisher:  Matador (28 July 2020)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10:1838593527
  • ISBN-13:978-1838593520

Official web site of Troubador / Matador

Spurious Games, David Jenkins, Matador, July 2020, ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-1838593520
Spurious Games, David Jenkins, Matador, July 2020, ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-1838593520

Carlsen’s Neo-Møller : A Complete and Surprising Repertoire Against the Ruy Lopez

Carlsen’s Neo-Møller : A Complete and Surprising Repertoire Against the Ruy Lopez : FM Ioannis Simeonidis

Carlsen's Neo-Møller, Ioannis Simeonidis, New In Chess, 2020, ISBN 9789056919375
Carlsen’s Neo-Møller, Ioannis Simeonidis, New In Chess, 2020, ISBN 9789056919375

From the book’s rear cover :

“White players will thoroughly dislike the Neo-Møller!

The Ruy Lopez is one of the most important chess openings, hugely popular with amateurs and masters alike. Black players allowing the Ruy Lopez main lines are usually condemned to passivity, defending a slightly worse (though solid) position for as long as White chooses this situation to continue.

World Champion Magnus Carlsen doesn’t like passivity. He likes unconventional and active systems that allow him to take command and put pressure on his opponent from early on.

That’s why Magnus Carlsen revolutionized the old Møller Attack, one of the sharpest and most uncompromising variations against the Ruy Lopez. As yet largely disregarded and unexplored by the majority of players, Carlsen’s new approach allows Black to break free early and start giving White a hard time.

FIDE Master Ioannis Simeonidis is the first to investigate this system, cover it in detail, and make it easy to grasp for club players. He has called it the Neo-Møller. Simeonidis has made lots of exciting discoveries, presents many new ideas and shows that it is a reliable and playable system.

Since the Neo-Møller is a very early deviation from the main lines, it’s easy for Black to actually get it on the board and take opponents out of their comfort zone. Simeonidis has created a compact, accessible and inspirational book. One thing looks certain: White players of the Ruy Lopez are going to thoroughly dislike the Neo-Møller!”

FM Ioannis Simeonidis, photo by Jovan Petronic
FM Ioannis Simeonidis, photo by Jovan Petronic

“Ioannis Simeonidis (1975) is a Greek FIDE Master and FIDE Trainer. He is a contributor to New In Chess Yearbook, the world’s leading publication on chess opening news. Simeonidis is the inventor of a recent new system in the Sicilian (the line 2.Nc3 d6 3.d4!?), also played by Magnus Carlsen.”

End of blurb…

FM Ioannis Simeonidis recommends meeting the venerable Ruy Lopez with 3…a6; 4.Ba4 Nf6; 5.00 Bc5

which is rather an unusual choice. In fact, it is the fifth most popular option and, according to an updated version of Megabase 2020, we have the following ranking of popularity:

  1. 5…Be7 : 83439 games
  2. 5…b5 : 27907 games
  3. 5…Nxe4 : 13462 games
  4. 5…d6 : 3378 games
  5. 5…Bc5 : 3248 games
  6. 5…Bd6 : 67 games

and therefore, it is the least popular of the decent alternatives to 5…Be7. For that reason players with the white pieces may be caught unawares facing a sound line.

Its adherents include a fairly reasonable (!) selection of players such as Caruana, Kramnik and Anand and the most frequent of these are Onischuk, Stefanova, Anand and Gareyev. They would certainly make at least our B team! In fact, Alexander Onischuk has played this line 55 times up to 2020.

Carlsen himself has played 5…Bc5 versus players such as Wesley So, Hikaru Nakamura, Maxime Vachier Lagrave, Francisco Vallejo Pons and Sergey Karjakin hence the title of the book rather than say, the more obvious, but less eye catching,  Onischuk’s Neo-Møller!

GM Alexander Onischuk, 5...Bc5's most popular adherent.
GM Alexander Onischuk, 5…Bc5’s most popular adherent.

The full list of Contents is

List of Contents of Carlsen's Neo-Møller
List of Contents of Carlsen’s Neo-Møller

and we recommend that you  inspect sample pages for yourself.

Although the bulk of the book analyses the above  position it also examines earlier deviations,  For example 4.Bxc6, the Exchange variation is considered.

This has been relatively rarely essayed by the top players in recent years but it retains its popularity at club level. I have played several 5th move options as black so I was interested to see what was the author recommended.

And, perhaps predictably, 5…Bg4 immediately pinning the knight and preparing to answer 6.h3 with 6…h5 !! is the preference.

is not an unsurprising choice recommendation as it is the choice of many chess engines and seems to equalise quite easily. A well-known pair of sisters have used this line to draw their tournament games several times.

After 4.0-0 Nf6 many 5th moves such as 5.d3, 5.Qe2, 5.Nc3, 5.d4 and 5.Bxc6 (The Delayed Exchange variation) are all examined.

Against the first three of these moves the recommendation is 5…Bc5 when play will sometimes transpose to main lines.

The Centre Attack (5.d4) is an interesting choice which may catch some black players out but 5…exd4; 6.e5 Ne4; 7.0-0 Nc5

or 6.0-0 Be7; 7.e5 Ne4; 8.Nd4 00; 9.Nf5 d5!

should allow black to equalise satisfactorily.

The rest of the book, as you would expect,  mainly concentrates on the main line starting 6.c3 but many other 6th moves are completely playable the most interesting being the knight sacrifice 6.Nxe5!? when 6…Nxe5 7.d4 b5; 8.Bb3 Bxd4; 9.Qxd4 d6

where black’s position is comfortable or 8.dxe5 Ne4 when black must know the theory after the tricky move 9.Qd5 which black can refute with 9…Bb7! when after 10.Qxb7 c6 trapping the Queen seems good for black .

The main line 6.c3

has 7 chapters of analysis with 6…0-0 ;7.d4 Ba7; when 8.Bg5 was originally thought to refute the Møller but the game Anton Smirnov v Tamir Nabaty in 2016 won by black seems to have changed the assessment:

Since black has not committed to …b5 he does not have to worry about a possible a4 by White but taking on c6 and Ne5 has to be watched for so black will sometimes play exd4 as in the line 6.c3 00; 7.d4 Ba7; 8 Bg5 exd4; 9.e5 h6; 10.Bh4 g5; 11.Bc6 dxc6 12.Nxg5!? with a scary looking position for both players where black seems to be doing well.

Far more popular has been 5…b5; 6.Bb3 Bc5 played by both Shirov and Kamsky but Carlsen’s line seems to stand up to computer analysis and will make a lot of White players think early in the game.

The Møller can lead to a variety of sharp and hairy positions which are not for the faint hearted but, will appeal to black players with a tactical mind that want to fight hard to win with the black peices.

It is already catching on with Shirov, Stefanova and Gustafsson giving it a go and this could hopefully spice up world chess that is already bored with the Berlin!

Colin Lyne, Farnborough, Hampshire, 7th June, 2021

Colin Lyne
Colin Lyne

Book Details :

  • Paperback : 160 pages
  • Publisher: New in Chess (15th December, 2020)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10:9056919377
  • ISBN-13:978-9056919375
  • Product Dimensions: 17.53 x 1.09 x 23.55 cm

Official web site of New in Chess

Carlsen's Neo-Møller, Ioannis Simeonidis, New In Chess, 2020, ISBN 9789056919375
Carlsen’s Neo-Møller, Ioannis Simeonidis, New In Chess, 2020, ISBN 9789056919375