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Monthly Archives: December 2022
The Match of All Time: The Inside Story of the legendary 1972 Fischer-Spassky World Chess Championship in Reykjavik
From the publisher:
“When the Icelandic Chess Federation made a bid to host the 1972 world title match between Soviet icon Boris Spassky and American challenger Bobby Fischer, many Icelanders were rightly shaking their heads in disbelief. How could their small island country in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean with a population of less than 300 thousand people stage such a prestigious event in the first place?
“Undeterred and naively optimistic, the young President of the Icelandic Chess Federation, Gudmundur Thorarinsson, set to work and to everyone’s astonishment theirs was the winning bid. But that was only the beginning of one of the most amazing stories in chess history… Bobby Fischer’s demands and whims constantly jeopardised the match. First the American chose not to board his plane in New York, and then he came late for the first game. That game he lost after a silly blunder and the second game he lost because he didn’t turn up in a fight about noisy cameras. But next he won the third game, that was played in a back room, and the rest…. is history.
“Fifty years on, Gudmundur Thorarinsson has written a tell-all book about ‘The Match of the Century’, crammed with behind-the-scenes stories and improbable twists and turns. Reading his gripping account of probably the most iconic sports contest during the Cold War, you will understand why he prefers to call it ‘The Match of All Time’. And why reliving this most unlikely adventure he comes to the conclusion: ‘It was not possible to organise this match, nor was it possible to rescue it…but still it was done!'”
“Gudmundur Thorarinsson is a chess organizer and businessman from Iceland. In 1972, as the chairman of the Icelandic Chess Federation he organized the Match of All Time, the World Championship Match between the Russian incumbent champion Boris Spassky and the American challenger Bobby Fischer.”
Half a century on from the legendary Fischer – Spassky World Championship match, and still the books keep on coming.
From Chapter 1 (Prologue):
Why write another book about the World Chess Championship match in 1972? Approximately 140 books have been published about the match already, plus films, TV and radio programs, newspapers and magazine articles. To add another book to this list seemed too much to me. But many people have been encouraging me to write about the match, people working for radio and television, chess players and friends. But many have simply said: ‘We still do not have a book written by someone who was working behind the scenes, where the bombs were falling.
One thing is certain: a long time ago this match acquired a life of its own. Nowadays people tend to look at the course of events from a different perspective. Looking at the match from afar enables the observer to put the whole saga into another context, broadening the horizon, so to speak. It may be true that the viewpoint and experiences of those of us who were on the frontline during the planning and execution of the event have not been widely documented. Those who wrote about the match in the following months, or even years after it happened, did so mostly by annotating the games, explaining the battle from the perspective of the chess players or the audience.
If you’re looking for the games of the match you’ll be disappointed: but of course they are readily available elsewhere.
What you have instead is a source document telling the story of what was going on in the background, written by someone who was there and very closely involved at the time.
The book is designed to be interesting to the general reader as well as the chess specialist. Chapter 2, therefore, looks at the origins of chess, including a contribution from GM Fridrik Olafsson, an expert in this field, and, specifically, the early history of chess in Iceland.
Chapter 3 relates the history of the world chess championship prior to Spassky, starting with Stamma and Philidor, and taking us as far as Petrosian. There is little here that will be new to readers familiar with chess history.
Chapter 4, on the prelude to the 1972 match, is where things start getting interesting. We read about Fischer’s wins in his Candidates Matches against Taimanov, Larsen and Petrosian before being introduced to the two protagonists, with background information about their family, upbringing and chess career. Then the bidding process for the match venue is discussed, with Iceland, a small country in the Atlantic Ocean, but with a proud chess history, unexpectedly being selected.
The author of this book had, as a young man, been appointed President of the Icelandic Chess Federation in 1969. He had been proposed in his absence by his brother and not wanting to cause embarrassment, felt he had no choice but to accept. As a result, he found himself in the middle of negotiations which would have a dramatic effect on the history of chess.
Chapter 5, the longest in the book, covers the match itself in fascinating and engrossing detail. Everyone who was interested in chess at the time will have vivid memories of Fischer’s demands and conditions, and of the problems and arguments these caused. Thorarinsson was at the heart of everything that was happening, and it was to no small extent due to his diplomatic skills, often described here in a self-deprecating way, that the match eventually started and, more or less successfully, concluded with Bobby as the new World Champion. There’s a lot of documentary material here which will be new to many readers.
Chapter 6 describes the aftermath of the match. Fischer’s life over the next three and a half decades is related, including his return match with Spassky in 1992. Bobby spent the last few years of his life in Iceland, and Thorarinsson was again very much involved with expediting his journey from a Japanese detention centre, and with helping him settle in for what would be his rather sad endgame.
This and the final section, the author’s tribute to his friend, which he delivered at Fischer’s memorial service, are both intensely moving.
If you’re looking for chess moves, this won’t be the book for you. But if you want to know more about Fischer, and about the background to the 1972 match, it will be an essential purchase.
The book is, like everything from this publisher, beautifully produced and copiously illustrated with photographs and cartoons. There are many entertaining and enlightening anecdotes to keep you amused as well. It’s a great story, reminiscent of a Greek tragedy, and well told here from the author’s unique perspective. Whether or not you’re familiar with what happened half a century ago, you’ll find it a gripping read.
Do bear in mind, though, that while it may be an important source document for future historians (and we really need a fully sourced and referenced biography of Fischer) it’s a memoir with its fair share of uncertainty and speculation. You read that ‘Harry Golombek states in one of his books…’: yes, but which one? Or, to take another example, ‘According to some sources…’. Which ones?
I have a few other issues, just as I do with many New in Chess books, essentially coming down to the fact that it could have benefitted from a firmer editorial hand and a final read-through from a native English speaker. There are odd words and sentences that are not quite idiomatic. There’s also a certain amount of repetition (Fischer’s parentage is discussed on page 82, and again on pages 90-92) and one or two places where I felt continuity might have been improved.
Nevertheless, this book is essential reading for anyone with an interest in Fischer as a person, or in the 1972 Fischer – Spassky match. If the subject matter appeals to you, and, if you have any interest at all in chess culture and history, it undoubtedly will, don’t hesitate.
You’ll find pricing and other details here and sample pages here.
Richard James, Twickenham 26th December 2022
- Softcover: 224 pages
- Publisher: New In Chess (30 Jun. 2022)
- Language: English
- Product Dimensions: 17.22 x 1.52 x 23.65 cm
Official web site of New in Chess
Merry Chessmas from the BCN Team!
The Exchange Sacrifice according to Tigran Petrosian
From the rear cover :
“Tigran Petrosian, the ninth world chess champion, was one of the deepest thinkers the chess world has ever seen. His handling of complex positions was legendary.
With his rare strategic feeling and exceptional vision, Petrosian gradually became one of the top exponents of the art of the exchange sacrifice, and perhaps the leading protagonist for the positional exchange sacrifice.
Acclaimed author Vassilios Kotronias has assembled a splendid collection of Petrosian’s games, exemplifying the artist at work. The Greek grandmaster presents 36 games – all deeply annotated – in which he puts the Tiger’s signature sacrifice under the analytical microscope. And each game has an exceptional introduction putting it into historical perspective.
As noted by American grandmaster Alex Fishbein in the Foreword:
You will find your share of positional exchange sacrifices here. But you will also see exchanges sacrificed in the midst of a crushing attack. You will see sacrifices born of desperation, to save a bad ending. You will see correct and incorrect sacrifices. In fact, Tigran Petrosian will lose some games here. This is real life; there are mistakes, and the author explains it all to you.
Vassilios Kotronias has brought you the material in a way that will enhance your appreciation of chess as an art form. He has also offered you practical lessons you can use in your own chess endeavours.
You are already familiar with the exchange sacrifice as an art form. Now enjoy the brilliant games of its greatest artist, Tigran Petrosian.”
About the Book
This is a very interesting and enjoyable book.
It is also a very unusual, or rather original, book in that it focuses on a specific facet of one great player’s handling of chess positions. Certainly there are books dedicated, say, to Tal’s attacks or Karpov’s endgame play, but it is difficult to think of other books with such a specific subject based on a single player. All of which makes Kotronias’ book all the more enticing to look at. Plus, of course, it is a facet of the game for which Petrosian was justly famous.
As stated in the blurb above, the bulk of the book (257 of the 304 pages) is devoted to 36 annotated games, presented in chronological order spanning the years 1947-1980. Many of the games feature the strongest possible opponents from those times, eg Spassky, Botvinnik, Smyslov, Tal, Gligoric, Fischer, Hubner, Korchnoi amongst others. The book also gives the unannotated scores of a further 88 games. Kotronias does this for three reasons:
1 completeness ;
2 to give the reader food for thought (he invites readers to analyse the games without initially using computer assistance) ;
3 aesthetics! As Kotronias puts it: “Many of the examples which follow are true gems of sacrificial play and a treat for the eye”.
A nice touch is that these games, although unannotated, have a diagram near the point where the exchange sac occurs, so that readers who are too lazy for reason 2 can at least appreciate reason 3!
The book also includes:
– an Introduction by the author, which adds another annotated game (less deeply than the others) – the famous Reshevsky-Petrosian exchange sac (…Re6!)
– a nice foreword by GM Alex Fishbein ;
– an index of players ;
– an index of openings (ECO codes, not names).
Kotronias’ Style of Annotation
The annotated games, to a greater or lesser extent, follow a pattern:
– an introduction, of varying length, which puts the game into its sporting and historical context and provides an overview of the game;
– the whole game itself is analysed, especially the middlegames and most deeply around and after the exchange sac;
– a short epilogue where the author sums up the game, and often draws conclusions that can be applied more widely.
Despite his evident admiration for Petrosian, Kotronias’ annotations are objective. Indeed, some of the annotated games are losses for Petrosian, and in other games the author points out when the exchange sac was unsound (or a second-rate choice) even when Tigran prevailed.
As befits a player of Kotronias’ strength (he was regularly in the world’s top 100 players in the 2000’s, with a 2600+ rating) his analysis is sometimes very deep, but he favours explanations over lengthy variations, reserving the heavy analysis for the most complex positions. Indeed, he is a very readable annotator.
Example Game Annotation
Anyway, here is an excerpt, taken from the famous Petrosian-Spassky 1966 match, game 10:
Other quotes from the book
In the intros and epilogues to the games, Kotronias makes a number of observations, some of them quite repeatable, for example:
“Choosing the right way to attack requires perhaps a greater sense of danger than the one required to choose the best way of defence.”
“We should never forget that we are only human beings and not machines, and thus, as long as players of approximately the same level compete, psychology and energy will always play a small or bigger role for the final outcome. A trivial thought, but the exceptional depends on a number of trivial factors, do you not think?”
“I sincerely hope that you will find the games presented in this book not only enjoyable, but instructive.” writes the author in his introduction.
Well, this reviewer always enjoys well-annotated game collections of great players which are written by an engaging writer, and this book hits the mark in all these respects.
The theme is an interesting one (in both parts, Petrosian and the exchange sac) and the selected games are fascinating. The book isn’t a formal study of when/why exchange sacrifices work and when they don’t (perhaps the point is that knowing this comes from accumulated experience, calculation and judgement) but it is easy to believe that study of these games will help players improve their judgement in this area.
There is something in this book for a wide range of playing strengths and is highly recommended.
Colin Purdon, December 23rd 2022
Book Details :
- Flexicover : 304 pages
- Publisher:Russell Enterprises (15 Sept. 2022)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 1949859487
- ISBN-13: 978-1949859485
- Product Dimensions: 15.24 x 1.91 x 22.86 cm
Official web site of Quality Chess
The Dragon Sicilian: A Take-No-Prisoners Repertoire Versus 1.e4
From the publisher:
“The Dragon Sicilian is the perfect choice for club players searching for chaotic and imbalanced positions. This opening manual shows how Black can turn up the heat against 1.e4, and enjoy dynamic winning chances game after game. Top-10 player Anish Giri is the best tutor to bring this complicated opening across to ‘everyday’ club players. Anish serves up his super-GM lines and clearly explains the ideas and strategies behind the moves. So when game time comes, you know exactly which moves to play, at what moment, and how to deliver the knockout blow. Make no mistake: This repertoire’s take-no-prisoners-strategy means you will sometimes reach razor-sharp positions, where both sides must play ‘only moves’. But that’s why you’ll love having Anish Giri as your opening coach. Giri delivers just the right mix of cutting-edge analysis and practical guidance for players of all levels with his trademark witty and down-to-earth teaching style. The Dragon Sicilian also covers all other major systems Black could face, including what to play against Anti-Sicilians such as the Rossolimo, the 2.c3 Alapin, and the Grand-Prix Attack.”
“Anish Giri became a chess Grandmaster at the age of 14 years, 7 months and 2 days. At the time, in 2009, that meant he was the youngest grandmaster in the World. Starting from the January 2013 list, the Dutch grandmaster was the leading junior player in the FIDE World Rankings. In June 2014 he turned twenty, which ended his junior years. Giri is a top-GM with a 2700-plus ELO rating.”
I am impressed with this colourful book, which is an accessible, lucid introduction to the Sicilian Dragon. The repertoire guide is a well- produced hardback book with an attractive vibrant front cover, good quality paper and many large diagrams, typically two per page and sometimes three making the work pleasant to browse and study.
The back cover blurb on the volume states that the opening manual work is aimed as an introduction for everyday club players, and it succeeds admirably in this respect. This title does not purport to be a major theoretical treatise or a “latest developments” style of publication, however, there is some cutting-edge theory and new ideas, some of which are new to the reviewer, who is a life-long Dragon addict.
The reviewer is not going to do a detailed theoretical critique the lines chosen by Giri for several reasons: time; my knowledge of some of the lines recommended is not sufficiently well-developed yet and thirdly these surveys can often come down to a thicket of engine analysis which can be off putting for less experienced players and does not always enhance understanding: it is important to understand the typical ideas, so when your opponent deviates from the book main lines/engine main lines, you can work out a solution at the board.
Despite my comments above, it is important for any reader of an opening tome, to not blindly follow the lines and take everything as gospel: check with an engine and use other sources.
The book has a short, didactic introduction to the Sicilian Dragon introducing the ideas, and nineteen chapters.
The book is effectively divided into four sections:
- Yugoslav Attack main lines (five chapters)
- Sixth move alternatives; non-Yugoslav Attack (five chapters)
- Move orders, Accelerated Dragon and Drago(n)Dorf (two chapters)
- Anti-Sicilians (seven chapters)
Yugoslav Attack Section
The first chapter gives a useful overview of the Yugoslav Attack main line 9.Bc4 variation.
This introductory part briefly surveys the other main systems, other than the recommended repertoire, that occur such as the Chinese Dragon, Soltis Variation, Modern Variation, Topalov Variation. This is a useful pointer for the reader to the myriad of Dragon systems.
Chapter 2 Yugoslav Attack 9.Bc4 Nxd4
This part covers the book’s suggestion against 9.Bc4 which is the rare system 9…Nxd4.
This system was popular in the late 1950s/early 1960s but fell into disuse after some high-profile white victories, such as Fischer-Larsen Portoroz 1958 and Tal-Portisch European Team Championship 1961.
The idea of the line is to reduce white’s attacking potential by exchanging some pieces. I can see the logic of recommending this line as it is a straightforward system which is not popular, so many white players won’t know how to meet it: white must be accurate to even get a small advantage. The disadvantage is that it could be regarded as passive as black defends a slightly inferior, but defensive ending in the main line.
Black’s move order in this variation is critical as Giri points out: black has just played 12…b5!
Giri offers a new twist on this ancient line with an intriguing positional pawn sacrifice in a main line, which has been played successfully in a correspondence game. Buy the book to find out.
Chapter 3 Dragon Main Line Konstantinov’s pawn sacrifice sidelines
This chapter covers the sidelines in the main line after 9.0-0-0 d5
White has a fair number of alternatives to the main line of 10.exd5 which are:
The last two are definitely the most important with Giri covering these with main-line recommendations which are well known and fine for black.
After 10.Kb1 Nxd4 11.e5! Nf5 12.exf6 exf6 13.Bc5 d4! 14.Bxf8 Qxf8, this position is reached:
Black has sacrificed the exchange for active play: Magnus Carlsen has played this way; a host of games has vindicated black’s approach including Short-Carlsen London 2009 which was drawn after a serious of adventures.
Chapter 4 Dragon main line 9.0-0-0 d5 10.exd5
This chapter is divided into two sections covering the greedy pawn grab and what is probably the main line of the entire Dragon at top level.
The (in)famous pawn grab leads to this position:
This position has been well known since the 1950s, black now plays 13…Qc7! with equality. White has to be accurate to hold on: as a youngster, I won many quick games in this line with black. The author covers this line well with respected well-known variations for black.
The main, main line occurs after 12.Bd4:
Here Giri offers the old main line 12…e5 which has been under pressure in recent years. He offers an interesting, rare approach which if it holds up is very important for Dragon theory. Buy the book to find out.
Chapter 5 The early 9.g4
The idea behind this line is to prevent 9…d5 whilst avoiding one of the main lines 9.Bc4. the author recommends the well-rehearsed response 9…Be6 which is fine for black.
The second section of the book, chapters 6 to 10 cover the following variations:
- Classical 6.Be2
- Fianchetto System 6.g3
- Levenfish 6.f4
- 6.Bc4 system
- Sixth move sidelines
These lines are perfectly respectable but do not threaten to extinguish the Dragon’s breath. Giri covers these with well-known antidotes. For example, in the Levenfish Variation:
Black has just played 6…Nc6! which neutralises white’s main idea to get in e5 to disrupt black’s development.
The third section has a couple of short chapters on the Accelerated Dragon and the Drago(n)dorf. These are really supplementary chapters which are interesting but do not detract from the main book.
The fourth section has seven chapters on the Anti-Sicilians and covers over half the book which is excellent. These systems are very popular at all levels particularly at club level with the obvious intention to avoid reams of theory: we have all got stuffed on the white side of the Sicilian facing an opponent bristling with theoretical barbs. This part is divided as follows:
- The Prins system 5.f3
- The Hungarian system 4.Qxd4
- Moscow Variation 3.Bb5+
- Various 3rd moves
- Closed Sicilian
- Alapin 2.c3
- Other second moves
I particularly like the chapter on the Moscow Variation, which introduced the reviewer to some new lines. As well as that, the author covers some excellent points about the importance of move order in the Maroczy system.
FM Richard Webb, Basingstoke, Hampshire, 27th November 2022
Book Details :
- Hardcover : 248 pages
- Publisher:ChessAble / New in Chess (27 Sept. 2022)
- Language: English
- ISBN-13: 978-9493257351
- Product Dimensions: 17.73 x 1.91 x 23.85 cm
Official web site of New in Chess
Improve Your Chess Calculation: The Ramesh Chess Course – Volume 1
From the publisher:
“Calculation is key to winning chess games. Converting your chess knowledge into concrete moves requires calculation and precise visualisation. The bad news: calculation is hard work. You cannot rely on feeling or intuition — you will have to turn on your brainpower.
The good news: you can improve your calculation skills by training. Set up a position on a chessboard and try to solve exercises without moving the pieces! Grandmaster Ramesh RB is the perfect coach to awaken your chess brain and feed you precisely the right exercises. ‘After only a month of intensive training with Ramesh, I could sense a seismic shift in both the precision of my calculation as well as my general level of sharpness’, says GM Daniel Naroditsky.
“GM Ramesh is one of the world’s most successful coaches. He has trained many of India’s top talents at all stages of their development on their journey to become International Masters and Grandmasters. Ramesh understands what mistakes players can make while calculating. He knows that the best move in a specific position may be the opposite of what your intuition is urging you to play. And he serves you the exercises to correct these misconceptions and start finding the right solutions. Every chess player will benefit from the hundreds of exercises in this book. Coach Ramesh will take your calculation skills from a club players level to grandmaster level.”
This is the first of what promises to be a multi-volume series of coaching books under the title of The Ramesh Chess Course. As Ramesh is perhaps the world’s most successful chess coach this promises to be a treat for all ambitious players. As calculation is the single most important skill in chess, there’s no better place to start.
Ramesh starts off by telling us how to use the book. Here are his first two paragraphs.
- Have a good look at every position and try to understand what is going on behind the scenes. Compare the king positions, piece placements, pawn structure, material parity, etc., before beginning your analysis.
- Before we start analysing any move, we should make a list of reasonable looking moves and only then begin analysing them.
Good advice, although 2. is Kotov’s Candidate Moves idea, which not everyone finds useful in every position. Always useful when tackling the tasks set in this book, though.
The most important paragraph here is the final one, number 10.
I have divided the material into five categories:
Level 1 = Elo Rating 1200-1600
Level 2 = Elo Rating 1600-2000
Level 3 = Elo Rating 2000-2400
Level 4 = Elo Rating 2400-2600
Level 5 = Elo Rating 2600 & above
It’s always a problem for authors and publishers of multi-volume coaching courses whether to structure the material horizontally (by topic) or vertically (by difficulty of material). Ramesh and New in Chess have chosen the former rather than the latter route.
If you’re anywhere between 1200 and 2800 strength, then, you’ll find exercises pitched at the right level for you, but you’ll also find much which is either too hard or too easy. If you’re a coach working with students anywhere between 1200 and 2800 strength, likewise you’ll find plenty of great coaching material.
As you’ll see, quite a lot of the book is taken up with Level 5 exercises, which, by their nature, often involve several pages of detailed analysis.
Each exercise is labelled with the appropriate level, with the more complex exercises comprising a number of ‘tasks’. In each case we are told the amount of time the student should be allowed.
The first chapter considers the difference between dynamic and static positions: it’s the former which are the subject of this book. There are two critical areas to study: Calculation and Attack.
The first task is set at Level 1: you have 2 minutes to solve it.
This is Carlsen – Vachier-Lagrave, from a 2021 speed game. Magnus played 34. Bd4+ Rxd4 35. cxd4 Bxd4, which really should have been a draw, but he later managed to win it.
He missed the move I hope you found, 34. Rc8!, which would have forced immediate resignation as after 34… Rxc8 there’s 35. Bd4#. Ramesh points out the 34… Ra8 35. Rxa8 Rxa8 36. Bd4#. I don’t know about you, but I’d have preferred the immediate 35. Bd4# here. A slightly unfortunate start, but I guess it doesn’t really matter.
In Chapter 2 Ramesh shares with us some games and positions he’s used to train his students, aiming to recreate his training sessions and demonstrate typical mistakes. He expects you to look deeply into each position, calculate multiple variations without making mistakes and evaluate the position correctly at the end. I hope readers will find this instructive and exciting.
The first example is an endgame study (there are a lot of studies in this book) composed by Alexandr Grin in 1989.
His student gave the solution as 1. Nb5 a2 2. Na7+? Kc7 3. c6 a1Q with stalemate, overlooking that Black could win in this variation by playing 3… Kb6 instead.
As Ramesh explains over 2½ columns, it’s very easy to get over-excited when you see a beautiful idea and fail to check it through thoroughly.
The correct solution to the study is 2. c6! a1Q+ 3. Na7+ Kd8 4. c7+ Kxc7, again with stalemate. His student had the right idea but failed to execute it correctly.
Chapter 3, The Analytical Process, is the heart of the book. Ramesh explains in detail how to calculate and how to analyse, taking into account psychological as well as purely chess factors.
The advice in this chapter will be of great interest and benefit both to chess coaches and to ambitious players at all levels.
Most of the examples here are extremely complex positions, usually Level 5 (suitable for 2600+ players).
Take, for example, this complex position (Smyslov – Rubinetti Palma de Mallorca Interzonal 1970).
Here, we have 16 pages of detailed analysis, broken down into 27 tasks, with nested variations given labels such as B3113242). You may well, like me, find it hard to follow, even with the copious diagrams provided.
Ramesh comments at the end:
In my training with young players for over a decade, I have seen that analysing very complicated positions without the help of moving pieces on the board is not only possible, but even essential for quicker and long-lasting improvement in a player’s analytical capabilities. This will require the coach to be patient and believe in the capabilities of his student in the long run. From the players’ part, they must put in a genuine effort to try to analyse the positions without giving in to self-defeating doubts. In my academy, even 1800-level players can follow all the analysis like this with some effort and without a chessboard. It is simply a question of patience and perseverance.
If you’re interested in the complete game, here it is. Click on any move for a pop-up window. Black’s last move was a losing blunder: the only way to draw was 44. a1Q.
It’s clear from this book that chess tuition has changed a lot in the past 20 years or so. (60 years ago, when I was learning chess, if you wanted to improve you had no choice but to read a book.) Visualisation exercises and solving endgame studies (recommended by Judit Polgar as well as Ramesh) are now common.
Later in the chapter, Ramesh has this to say.
Even though humans can probably never analyse at the level of engines anymore, it is possible to take the help and inspiration from engines to further our capabilities to previously unknown levels. I have personally trained players with ratings in the range of 1400-1800 to analyse variations that players of previous generations with a rating range of 2200-2400 were unable to do. This is one of the reasons my students in the 9 to 14 age group can quickly become International Masters or grandmasters.
Chapter 4 provides more examples of Forcing Moves. Judit Polgar, like me, uses the acronym CCTV: in her case Checks, Captures, Threats and Variations. Ramesh adds pawn breaks into his definition of Forcing Moves. If you still want to use CCTV you might try Checks, Captures, Threats and pawn leVers perhaps.
Here’s a Level 3 question (Henrichs – Fontaine Bremen (Bundesliga) 2012).
Black won this game by using a series of forcing moves: captures and threats: 20… f3 21. Nxf3 Rxf3 22. Bxf3 Nxb4 23. Bxb7 Nxc2 24. Be4 Nxa3 25. Rb3 Qa4 0-1
Ramesh mentions that 20… f3 wasn’t Black’s only strong move here: 20… Nd4 was another way to play for the win.
In Chapter 5 we learn about typical mistakes made while calculating variations.
Ramesh lists 14 types of mistake, starting with not being able to visualise the position in the mind, not seeing forcing moves and not making a list of candidate moves, giving examples and possible solutions.
In this world championship game from 2008 Kramnik, playing White, made a fatal error.
29. Nd4? was a blunder, missing 29… Qxd4 30. Rd1 Nf6! 31. Rxd4 Nxg4 32. Rd7+ Kf6 33. Rxb7 Rc1+ 34. Bf1 Ne3!, when Anand had a winning advantage.
I guess it’s debatable whether Kramnik’s error was one of calculation or evaluation, and whether he’d missed Anand’s 30th or 34th move.
Chapter 6 is devoted entirely to endgame studies.
Whenever I feel my student’s calculation skills are not up to the mark, I will make them solve studies for three to four hours a day for around three to five days in a row. Usually, the students will show significant improvement in their calculation skills.
You might like to try your hand at solving this Level 2 study, composed by the great Leonid Kubbel and published in 1911. It’s White to play and draw.
The solution runs like this:
1. Rc1+ Bb1 2. Kb3 g2 3. Ka3 h2 4. Rc2 g1=Q (4… Bxc2) (4… Ba2 5. Rxg2 h1=Q 6. Rg1+ Qxg1) 5. Ra2+ Bxa2 *
Finally, Chapter 7 offers some more general suggestions for chess improvement. As with the suggestions throughout the book, these cover many aspects of chess psychology as well as practical advice which will be beneficial for all players and teachers.
While there’s an enormous amount of helpful advice both here and elsewhere in the book, there’s also some repetition which might have been better avoided.
For instance, returning for a moment to Chapter 6, we’re told on both p258 and p260 that solving a study might take anywhere between 5 and 40 minutes. I think this might have been picked up by the publishers at editing or proofing stage.
How to summarise?
This is an important book, and, by the look of it, part of an important series. The author is arguably the most successful high level chess teacher in the world, and, reading the book, you can understand why. The positions are all well chosen and the explanations throughout the book display profound insight into the minds of chess players. Although you might think it’s aimed at stronger or at least more ambitious players, it will, for the general advice, in particular that of a psychological nature, be a great read for many players of all levels. Even though not everyone will find the book’s structure particularly helpful, it’s also esssential reading for anyone who teaches chess to students rated 1200+.
Speaking as a retired 1900-2000 strength player, the Level 4 and Level 5 examples, which take up a lot of the book, were way beyond me and not always easy to follow. At one level, it was interesting to see how deeply highly complex positions can be analysed, and how talented young players who are prepared to put in the necessary time and effort can learn to perform these tasks, but at another level I found it rather disspiriting to work through so many pages of dense analysis. To be fair, though, I’m not really part of the target market for this book.
At the same time, the market for books aimed at 2400-2600 strength players must be very limited. What I’d like to see would be a book taking a more structured approach, with, for example, 100 pages each of exercises at Levels 1, 2 and 3 (which is anyone from 1200 to 2400 strength), along with some general advice at either the beginning or the end of the book.
Instead, what we have is a book which is more about how to teach calculation and how to improve your calculation rather than one where you can start at page 1 and work your way through in sequential fashion. Ramesh also expects his students to have seriousness of purpose and a strong work ethic, as well as plenty of time to spend on chess improvement. If you’re just a hobby player looking to have fun and make a bit of progress, you might well find this rather scary.
The approach recommended here certainly isn’t for everyone, but even so, any reader who is prepared to work hard will gain a lot from this book.
I couldn’t really imagine Ramesh exclaiming ‘Awesome move!!’ and ‘Kaboom!!’ like Judit Polgar. If you’d prefer something that also covers calculation skills, but is an easier read taking a more ‘fun’ approach I’d recommend this book instead. They certainly have points in common: teaching you to look for Checks, Captures and Threats, and using endgame studies.
You can find more details here and read some sample pages here.
I’d also, by the way, recommend reading an excellent interview with Ramesh which appeared in New in Chess 2022#3, which puts his methods into context.
I look forward very much to seeing future volumes in this series.
Richard James, Twickenham 5th December 2022
- Softcover: 336 pages
- Publisher: New In Chess (31 May 2022)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 9056919970
- Product Dimensions: 17.25 x 2.64 x 23.67 cm
Official web site of New in Chess
Minor Pieces 50: Walter Charles Bodycoat
You might remember this from the last Minor Piece. This is a match between Richmond and Barnes Village from 1948. You saw Beatrix Hooke on Board 4 for Barnes, and this time I want to introduce you to Richmond’s Board 5: B Bodycoat.
Way back in 1967, 55 years ago, I won my first chess trophy: the BC Bodycoat Cup. This was the second division of the Richmond & Twickenham Chess Club Championship, for weaker and less experienced players, and continued until sometime in the mid 1970s.
I can’t see that I deserved to win. I played five games, four against weaker opponents, winning two and drawing three. My only strong opponent was Ken Norman, then, as now, a better player than me. It looks from my scorebook as if I won a couple of games by default, one of which may have been against Keith Southan, who’ll be introduced later.
This game wasn’t very distinguished. I won a pawn in the opening, and, instead of capturing another pawn I chickened out by trading queens into a level ending. I then made a horrendous blunder which should have lost a piece, but fortunately for me Ken didn’t notice. Click on any move in any game in this article for a pop-up window.
I had no idea who BC Bodycoat was. Was he Benjamin or Bernard? Brian or Barry? Bertram or Basil? Once I started getting interested in genealogical research I determined to find out. I could never have imagined what a strange story it would turn out to be. Strange in more ways than one.
In fact Mr Bodycoat, during a sadly short life, used three or four different first names and two different surnames. I’ve been waiting some years to tell his story, and the online appearance of the Richmond Herald up to 1950 gives me the opportunity.
It has nothing at all to do with chess, though, so please bear with me as we embark on a journey that will take us around the world.
Our story starts, for want of a better time and place, in the Leicestershire village of Tur Langton in the year 1844.
A few miles north of the town of Market Harborough you’ll find a group of villages collective known as the Langtons. Tur Langton is the furthest north. A mile to the south is Church Langton, and, just a bit further down the road are its associated hamlets, West Langton and East Langton. You’ll then find Thorpe Langton a mile or so to the east of East Langton.
We’re going to meet William Bodycoat and his family. William, like most villagers at the time, was an illiterate agricultural labourer. Born in 1811, he married Elizabeth Gibbins in 1833. They had two sons, Thomas and Joseph. Elizabeth died in 1840, and on Christmas Day 1841 William married her sister Mary, taking on her illegitimate daughter Charlotte.
In 1844 they made a decision that would change their lives (and perhaps my life as well). They emigrated to Australia on an assisted immigration scheme, along with Mary’s sister Lucy, her husband William Bamford, and their children.
Here they are, on board a ship named the Abberton.
They may not have been the first of their family to emigrate to Australia. In 1830, Thomas Bodycoat, who, I suspect, was William’s brother, was transported there for stealing a rabbit, receiving his freedom in 1849. I haven’t yet been able to find out what happened to him.
William Bodycoat and his family, in spite of their humble origins, did very well for themselves. They settled first in Collingwood, Melbourne, before moving out to Wollert (it means, delightfully, ‘where possums abound’). You’ll find Bodycoats Road there today.
When you’re researching family history you often come across stories like this of families who prospered in Australasia or North America. On the one hand, you admire their courage and hard work, and how emigration enabled them to achieve success they could never have dreamt of back at home. On the other hand, you realise that this happened at the expense of the indigenous populations of those continents.
William lived on until 1892, and, 40 years after his death, a local paper published some family reminiscences, which are not necessarily accurate.
And here he is, a fine looking fellow he was as well.
However, it’s William’s youngest son, Walter, known to the family as Walt, born in 1858, to whom we must now turn our attention.
In 1851 gold was discovered in Victoria, and mines were established in places like Ballarat and Bendigo. A gold rush ensued. Melbourne and the surrounding areas became extremely prosperous as a result. You saw above that Thomas was working as a carter to the goldfields for a time. Perhaps his brother Walter was also involved.
In 1893, three Irish prospectors discovered gold in Kalgoorlie, Western Australia. There were fortunes to be made there as well. Perhaps this was the reason why, in 1897, Walter and his family made the trek to the other side of the continent.
He might possibly have settled in Perth at first, where his younger children were born, but later moved to Kalgoorlie, working there as a labourer.
You can read more about Walt here.
Walt’s eldest son, born in 1886 shared his name, but was known as Wally. He must have been a bright boy, as he studied at the School of Mines in Kalgoorlie in 1909, training as a gold assayer, testing minerals to determine the amount of gold in them.
He led an adventurous life, travelling to Uruguay before settling in London, where, I suppose, he must have been working for some sort of mining company. This involved a trip to Peru, and then four trips to West Africa, Ghana (it was the Gold Coast then), Cameroon and, in 1913, two more visits to Ghana. These must have been exciting times for young Wally, but he wanted something else in his life. While in London he formed a relationship with a young widow named Ada Eliza Strange (née Hawkins), and, in the short gap between his two 1913 stints in Ghana, a son was conceived.
Ada had a daughter, Lucy Gertrude (usually known by her middle name) from her marriage to William John Strange, whose death had been registered in the 4th quarter of 1912. Gertrude seems to have been what would then have been called a showgirl, and had what might best be described as a very colourful life. If you’d like to find out more, as I’m sure you do, you should read this paper from the Epsom & Ewell History Explorer.
Anyway, moving very swiftly on, Walter and Ada’s son’s birth was registered in Paddington in the 3rd quarter of 1914. He was given the names Walter Charles Bodycoat Strange. Named, you will see, after both his father and grandfather.
This, then, was our man, after whom the Bodycoat Cup was named. But where did the B come from?
The relationship between Wally and Ada didn’t last. Wally returned England on 23 July 1914, perhaps in time to witness the birth of his son, and sailed back to Australia on 12 February the following year. In 1916 he joined the Australian Imperial Force and returned to England, serving in France, where he was wounded in action and awarded the Military Medal.
He was discharged in 1919 and returned to mining, again travelling backwards and forwards to Ghana. In 1920 he married Katie Burt, from Cornwall (perhaps he’d also been involved in mining there) and they eventually returned to Australia, where he bought a farm they named Trevose after a Cornish headland, where they brought up their children Kenneth, Gordon and Barbara. You can read a lot more about Wally (with links to Katie and Ken) here.
The Bodycoats were a sporting family, playing cricket, tennis and golf, but I can’t find any mention of them playing chess. Judging from online family trees, Wally’s children may not have been aware of his guilty secret. They probably are now.
While we’re discussing Cornwall it’s time for another game, this time against Cornwall born Fred Daymond, captain of Richmond & Twickenham’s London League 2nd team for many years. He soon lost a lot of material here.
Now we need to continue the story of the third Walter Bodycoat.
At present I haven’t been able to find him, his mother or his half-sister in the 1921 census. Nothing under Bodycoat and also nothing obvious under Strange.
He only reappeared, or rather disappeared, in 1930, where he made the local and national papers.
Walter? Boyder? Boyden? Sidney? Aged 15 or 16? Who knows? By this time he was using his father’s surname rather than his mother’s surname. Had they fallen out? Perhaps he didn’t want to be thought of as strange.
Boyder is not otherwise known as a name, and Boyden is very rare. Boyd, yes, but not Boyder and hardly ever Boyden. I suppose Boyder might have been a contraction of ‘Boy Walter’ to distinguish him from his father Wally and grandfather Walt. I’d speculate that he preferred to be known as Boyder, and appearances of ‘Boyden’ were due to misreading someone’s handwriting.
Prebend Mansions is a block of mansion flats on Chiswick High Road, near Stamford Brook Station. If you walk in an easterly direction, you’ll eventually reach Hammersmith Broadway, and then Olympia, a part of the world very familiar to the Hooke family.
I presume he returned home at some point: at least nothing else appeared in the press. Sadly, six months later, his mother died, leaving him alone, his father in Australia and his sister in a rather dodgy relationship.
Although Ada and Wally only had a brief affair and never married, she sometimes used his surname. The 1930 electoral roll lists no one at 17 Prebend Mansions: seemingly she hadn’t registered to vote. That’s her daughter who was granted probate.
Nottingham Place is in London’s medical district, not far from Harley Street (and also not far from 44 Baker Street), and was used by members of the London School of Medicine for Women. I presume number 1, Treborough House on the corner of Paddington Street, was a private clinic at the time: it’s now converted into very expensive flats.
Young Boyder (or whatever) was clearly a ladies’ man, and it was in 1937 that he married Hilda Lilian Simmonds in Finsbury. Hilda wasn’t from Brighton, but from Mile End. Her father was a Russian Jew who had anglicised his name and seemingly converted to the Church of England. The marriage was recorded twice, with his name as Walter CB Strange and Walter C Bodycoat. A daughter, Diane Bodycoat, was born a year later.
Here are the happy (at the time) couple.
It looks like the marriage didn’t last long. The 1939 Register found Hilda and Diane in St Albans, while Boyder was nowhere to be seen. It’s possible their marriage had already broken up, but it’s also possible his wife and daughter had moved to St Albans to avoid possible future aerial attacks on London. My mother moved from Teddington to nearby Harpenden for that reason.
Hilda and Diane later moved to Cornwall, while, in 1944, Boyder married again, to Bernice Gloria Holmes. This marriage was registered in Surrey North-East, which would have been Richmond or thereabouts. This time he was only Walter C Bodycoat.
I’ve no idea where and when he learnt to play chess. Very often sons learn from their fathers, but this wouldn’t have been the case for Boyder. Anyway, when Richmond Chess Club reopened its doors in 1947 after a break for the war, he would have been one of its first members. As he often played on a fairly high board he must have been a decent club standard player.
His first appearance, though, wasn’t so successful. Playing against a weaker Barnes Village team he lost his game on Board 9.
He wasn’t the only player with an incorrect initial. On Board 11, defeating girl champion Phyllis Prosser, would have been Harold Augustus Tyler. The first time my father took me to Richmond & Twickenham Chess Club, Harold was the first person we saw. My father knew him from work but didn’t realise he was a chess player.
Here’s our Bodycoat Cup game. Harold didn’t put up much resistance, losing a lot of material in the opening.
Boyder must have been really keen as he also joined the new Shene (or Sheen if you prefer) Chess Club, but he was again unsuccessful in this match.
At least he was granted his preferred initial on this occasion, unlike Dr John David Solomon on top board. There was a considerable overlap in membership between Richmond and Shene, and the former subsumed the latter a few years later.
The following month the two clubs met, with Boyder playing for Richmond and winning his game.
It’s interesting to note that Shene, unlike Richmond was attracting younger players at the time. By the 1960s there would be a lot of teenagers in what was by then Richmond & Twickenham Chess Club.
In February he scored another win in a Thames Valley League match against Staines.
Richmond had Walter Veitch (about whom more, perhaps, another time) on top board for this match. He and JD Solomon were two of the strongest London amateurs in the late 1940s. It’s interesting to note that this was a 7-board match. Harold Tyler was this time allotted his correct initial. His opponent, John Hamill, would, some 30 years later, run a chess club at Richmond Community Centre. Percy Moon, the Staines board 4, played twice against me in 1968 and 1972. All this, again, even though I was yet to be born, is my history as well as Boyder Bodycoat’s history.
There were two draws for him in these two matches, one against another of my future opponents, Edwin Sutherland, plus news of the foundation of Surbiton Chess Club and a forthcoming simul.
I played Edwin Sutherland on 20 December 1966, and it was on 15 June 1967 that I played my first Bodycoat Cup game. It resulted in a draw, but I had a winning advantage at various times. Curiously, all three of my black games in this competition featured the same opening variation.
March 1949 witnessed two local derbies, with Shene playing Barnes Village and Richmond playing Twickenham.
More names from my past: George Hogg moved from Barnes Village to Richmond in the 1960s, while John (Jock) Lee and Keith Southan, both in the Twickenham team here, would play for Richmond & Twickenham into the 1970s. Keith was a classics master at Tiffin School, and would often give me lifts to away matches when I first joined the club.
The promised simul duly took place, and Boyder managed to draw his game, also scoring a draw against Barnes Village.
At this point it seems that Barnes were stronger than Richmond, but the roles would soon be reversed.
Chess was very popular amongst the London Bus community (they even had their own magazine for some years), and, in days when works chess teams were very common, it wasn’t surprising to see Fulwell (Bus) Depot in the Thames Valley League, with prominent chess author Bruce Hayden (not Haydn: he was a composer) on top board.
By the autumn of 1949 it was time for another season to start, and here Twickenham and Richmond were in friendly opposition. In the absence of some of the big names, Boyder Bodycoat found himself on top board.
I never met Robert Mark, who must have left Richmond & Twickenham at about the time I joined, but I seem to recall that he was still the club auditor. On the other hand, I did know Ted Fairbrother, Keith Southan, George Seaford and, vaguely, FG (Griff) Griffiths.
In 1950 Richmond and Shene shared the points, but unfortunately what would have been an interesting top board encounter between Veitch and Solomon didn’t materialise
This suggests, though, that, after a shaky start to his chess career, Boyder Bodycoat, now in his mid 30s, was a decent club standard player, I’d guess around 1800 in new money or 150 in old money. He could hope to make further progress with more experience.
But the world was changing. The Richmond Herald was less consistent in reporting chess results. And, in July that year, Howard and Betty James welcomed their first son into the world.
As he was about to enjoy his first Christmas there was some more news.
We see that Mr Bodycoat was unbeaten playing for the first team, as was the otherwise unknown Miss Lanspeary (she, like all of us, had her story: you’ll meet her next time).
Surbiton, losing here to Shene, were still getting going, but at least two of their players had long careers at the club. I beat Donald Chisholm in 1973 and drew with Russell Tailford in 1980.
It’s good to see Richmond with female representation in their first team. For many years our most prominent lady player was Hella Kaufmann, who translated Leonard Barden’s book on the Ruy Lopez into German. Hella lived in Barnes, and had also been a member of Barnes Village: I guess she joined shortly after 1950.
Here’s our Bodycoat Cup game from 1967. Her translation work for Leonard must have been the reason for choosing the Marshall Gambit here. If I’d been aware of this I’d no doubt have chosen a different opening. As it was I held onto the pawn but lost it back by playing too passively, ending up in a level ending.
In Spring 1951 Boyder and Gloria decided to take a holiday in Bermuda. They sailed from London on 14 April on the Loch Garth, a ship of the Royal Mail Lines which also had some cabin space, arriving back in Plymouth travelling third class on the Reina del Pacifico, a ship belonging to the Pacific Steam Navigation Company, on 15 June. Their address was given as 3 Sheen Court, Richmond, and they were both hairdressers (as was, I seem to remember, Boyder’s clubmate George Seaford: there may be some connection there). Sheen Court is a prominent block of mansion flats on the Lower Richmond Road near North Sheen Station.
Former Prime Minister Ramsay MacDonald had died on board the Reina del Pacifico in 1937, and Boyder very nearly joined him. They probably travelled back from Plymouth to Richmond by train, and, back at home the very next day, he sadly died at the age of only 36.
The cause of death is given as Morbus Cordis & Coronary Thrombosis: heart disease, specifically a blood clot leading to a heart attack.
The death notice in the Daily Telegraph mentions his wife and sister, but not his first wife or their daughter.
The probate record tells is he left almost £700, a small amount of which would have gone, either directly or indirectly. to Richmond Chess Club. They decided to commemorate their member by purchasing a trophy in his name: the trophy I would win in 1967.
Bernice wasted little time in remarrying: her second husband was a Greek Cypriot communist and freedom fighter named Michael Economides. You can find out more about him, and again I’d advise you to do so, here. Yet another colourful character in a story full of them.
To return to my story, my father, Howard James, had been born in Leicester in 1919, but his grandfather, John James, had been born in 1841 in Thorpe Langton, just a mile and a half or so across the fields from Tur Langton, from where, three years later, William Bodycoat would emigrate to Australia. His family were all from various villages in the area and I’ve managed to put together a family tree with a possible link between the two families.
It’s another golden chain. The ancestors of the man whose trophy I won would have been tilling the same fields, drinking in the same pubs (perhaps not in William’s case as he was a Rechabite) and worshipping in the same churches as my ancestors back in the 18th and 19th centuries. The story that links our lives takes us round the world to Australia and back again, visiting South America and Africa along the way. We’re all connected, and chess is the wonderful game that brings some of us together.
The Bodycoat Cup continued to take place until round about the late 1970s: by that time, with so many opportunities for league and tournament chess, there was less appetite for internal competitions in most chess clubs in the London area.
There’s one more Bodycoat Cup game in my files.
In this appropriately strange game Mike Fox lost in only 14 moves by doing exactly what he told Richmond Junior Club members not to do every Saturday morning: bringing out his queen too soon and going pawn hunting.
I’ve no idea what happened to the trophy, or indeed the club championship trophy. If you have information, do please get in touch.
Thanks to Walter/Boyder/Boyden/Sidney for being, posthumously an influence on my chess career. Thanks to Wally and Ada for having an affair. Thanks to Walt for deciding to move to Western Australia. Thanks to William and his family for emigrating to Melbourne.
And thanks to you for reading this. You, too, are part of that golden chain.
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