All posts by James D Pratt

Based in Hampshire, TCP has been going since the K v K match at Baguio over thirty years ago. Publications include 'The Modest Master of Morwenstow', the chess biog of PH Clarke, 'Loss of Time & Space', a study of 2 ... Ng8 in the Alekhine and 'Check Press for Details: Thirty Years of Chess Book Reviews' in which I give musings about the great world of chess literature scattered almost back to my schooldays. I have been variously columnist for The Basingstoke Gazette and also The Surrey and Hants Border Times & News. In 1980 I was Britain's youngest columnist. I have been editor of Basman "Audio Chess News" and contributed to various periodicals over the years such as Newsflash!, Correspondence Chess, 'Chess Circuit', Chess Moves. I played in congresses 1974-1999 including twenty-three British Championships. My best results were at about BCF 150, I suppose 1800 Elo, nothing special. TCP library is approaching a thousand titles. My chatboard at Yahoo! has over 135 members. Started in July 2003, I work on it daily. Well supported, even in the US, we even have a Grandmaster member. Well, he's a nice chap. JAMES PRATT was born in 1959 and has been interested in chess since he was eight, the flames being fanned by the Spassky v Fischer match. Currently a Laundry Technician, he was worked for several charities here in the UK. Humour and history are his things with English politics also featuring strongly!

Opening Repertoire : The French Defence

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

IM Cyrus Lakdawala
IM Cyrus Lakdawala

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

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

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

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

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

James Pratt
James Pratt

James Pratt, Basingstoke, June, 2019

Book Details :

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

Official web site of Everyman Chess

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

Chess Gamer, Volume 1 : The Awakening 1989-1996

Chess Gamer, Volume 1 : The Awakening 1989-1996
Chess Gamer, Volume 1 : The Awakening 1989-1996

Gata Kamsky was born in 1974 in Siberia. When moved to Leningrad he became a student of the renowned veteran trainer, who  had coached since about 1945, witness Spassky and Korchnoi ! and author (‘Improve Your Chess Results’ and ‘The King’s Gambit’ with Viktor K), Vladimir Zak. At 12 he won the USSR Junior Championship. However, early journeys into the top game were not always successful and his fast track was criticised even by Botvinnik himself.

Gata Kamsky with Father
Gata Kamsky with Father

His father brought Gata up alone and loomed large in the prodigy’s life, Kamsky Senior even stopping Short in his tracks (“Where is your father?”). He was moved to the USA in 1989 but, sadly, has recently stated that he was never fully accepted. He became GM shortly afterwards.

GM Gata Kamsky
GM Gata Kamsky

Although a  1996 FIDE World Championship challenger, he lost a well contested match versus Karpov, whereupon Kamsky Senior announced Gata intention to pursue a career in medicine. He had withdrawn from the game, was seeking a teenage bride, and by order!

This book deals with the first part of an incredible career up to  1996. It centres on 22 games, all against fellow grandmasters, all with very deep notes. The text lacks an index. No attempt is made to list his tournament record, or give family photos or reminiscence. It is the first of two volumes, the second yet to appear.

The Two K's
The Two K’s

A recent interview on ‘Perpetual Chess Podcast’ saw Gata labeling himself an advocate of the Lasker School. He emerges from an era when preparation might even be considered cheating. a big fan of endgame studies. Further, he is revealed as almost humble, of great depth who, the introduction to his book states, as author, seems to want to be compared with Fischer. I don’t agree but, BCN, as ever, welcomes correspondence here.

GM Gata Kamsky
GM Gata Kamsky

Potential buyers of this book, which is subtitled ‘Awakening’ should definitely listen in to his interview and please let us know what you think.

James Pratt
James Pratt

James Pratt, Basingstoke, April 2019

Book Details:

  • Paperback : 315 pages
  • Publisher : Thinkers Publishing 28th April 2019
  • Language : English
  • ISBN-10 : 9492510286
  • ISBN-13 : 978-9492510280
  • Product Dimensions : 17.1 x 1.9 x 23.5 cm/li>

Official web site of  http://www.thinkerspublishing.com

Chess Gamer, Volume 1 : The Awakening 1989-1996
Chess Gamer, Volume 1 : The Awakening 1989-1996

My Magic Years With Topalov

My Magic Years with Topalov
My Magic Years with Topalov

After four years, ending in 2014, of  working with the Bulgarian Grandmaster, Veselin Topalov, the second (“a Second generally has to work at night, often all night”) to the former FIDE World Champion speaks of his duties, preparation and with colour (“He fought like a lion for 71 moves”). It is a tale of dedication and loyalty to a seemingly fearsome character. (Presumably this could not have been written whilst the author, who is also the Managing Editor of Thinkers series, was under contract?!)

Chapters: A World Apart. The Start of Our Co-operation. Learning the Job. Zug More Success! Tough Times in Thessalonika. Rollercoaster in Beijing! Preparing for the Candidates. The Candidates Tournament. A Few Novelties More. Exercises 24 positions and Solutions.

Many annotated games, mostly recent, no Rabars but ratings quoted. Use of smaller diagrams in notes (good!). A few cartoons and 7 crosstables. Very artistic colour cover. No index.

Digestible and thorough and, happily, honest. The author has been a French grandmaster for the last decade.

James Pratt
James Pratt

James Pratt, Basingstoke, April 2019

Book Details:

  • Paperback: 310 pages
  • Publisher: Thinkers Publishing 28th April 2019
  • Language: English
  • ISBN: 9492510448
  • ISBN-13: 978-9492510440
  • Product Dimensions: 17 x 2 x 23.4 cm
  • 31 black and white photographs

Official web site of  http://www.thinkerspublishing.com

My Magic Years with Topalov
My Magic Years with Topalov

Together with the Candidates : Budapest 1950 to Berlin 2018

Together with the Candidates
Together with the Candidates

This is a relaxed and almost carefree publication written by a grandmaster little known to me, though I imagine readers of BCN will not confuse him with Gennady Kuzmin (b.1946). Alexey was, in fact, born in 1963 and is sensibly introduced on the back of this weighty paperback, a recent arrival from Thinkers Publishing who are, in turn, a new publisher in the realm of the Royal Game.

GM Alexey Kuzmin
GM Alexey Kuzmin

The subject matter is the Candidates tournaments and matches – almost all staged within FIDE – and bears the sub-title ‘Budapest 1950 to Berlin 2018’.

Certainly the book, which features test positions, crosstables, black and white photos, no index, a very artistic aqua marine cover, six chapters, a key to symbols and, of course, well annotated games, should be of interest to many players. Not all the games are from candidates matches or tournaments but this surely doesn’t matter. And I did say it has relaxed in approach.

Younger readers will, I hope, enjoy a bit of history as the qualification history is relived and the old names, so many champions from the time of Botvinnik onwards, are resurrected respectfully and with relish.

I spotted a few mistakes. The numbering of the Tests, which surely might have been sequential, is the same in each chapter. Jussupow called himself Yusupov as long ago as 1986 and some of the photos are so dark that they are hardly worthwhile.

I would like to like this book but it is a bit of a mix, a hotch-potch, at least in my opinion. Certainly it is pleasantly free from misprints and original in concept.

James Pratt
James Pratt

James Pratt, Basingstoke, April 2019

Book Details :

  • Papercover : 280 pages
  • Publisher: Thinkers Publishing, (1st January 2019)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 9492510359
  • ISBN-13: 978-9492510358
  • Product Dimensions: 17.8 x 2.5 x 24.1 cm

Official web site of  http://www.thinkerspublishing.com

Together with the Candidates : Budapest 1950 to Berlin 2018
Together with the Candidates : Budapest 1950 to Berlin 2018