Problemist and chronicler who lived in Norwich all his life. He edited the chess column of the Norwich Mercury from 1902 lo 1912, contributed many significant articles elsewhere, investigated a number of chess questions, and established the burial place of several great players and arranged the tending of their graves. He lived at only two addresses for 73 years, worked for the railway company for 53 years, and was a member of the Norfolk and Norwich chess dub for 61 consecutive years. Winner of the club championship in 1884, he did not compete again until 1933 and then won it three years in succession.
“Grandmaster Paul van der Sterren (1956 ), was one of the strongest chess players of the Netherlands. He became twice national champion and represented his country eight times during the Chess Olympiads. In 2001 he retired from being an active player and focused on writing books drawn from his rich chess experience. This is his first English chess book written for Thinkers Publishing.”
Many chess players are strikingly ignorant of their game’s heritage, so there’s always a place for a new book offering readers a quick spin through chess history.
There are, broadly speaking, several ways this could be approached: a selection of Famous Games for those who haven’t seen them before, a history of the world championship itself, or an essay on the development of chess style and opening theory over the centuries.
Van der Sterren’s book seems to combine all three approaches. How does it fare?
As I have a particular interest in pre-20th century chess history I decided to dive in at the beginning.
We start, not unreasonably, with Philidor. After some biographical information we might be looking forward to seeing how he played.
Alas, not. The author makes the extraordinary claim that “It is true that some fragments of his games have made it into today’s databases, but their authenticity is doubtful and it is likely that these are mostly fictitious games invented by him for the purpose of teaching or demonstrating a particular point he wanted to make.”.
Really? Is van der Sterren confusing Philidor with Greco, perhaps? While it’s true that the games in his books, and there were only a few, were fictitious, my database has one piece of analysis from 1749 along with 60 complete and 5 partial games against named and known opponents from between 1780 and 1795, all but the first played in London. They were collected by Philidor’s friend George Atwood and many of them were published by George Walker in 1835. There is no doubt at all of their authenticity.
We then move onto the match(es) between La Bourdonnais and McDonnell in 1834. A complete game would have been good but all we get is the Famous Position where the Frenchman forced resignation with three pawns on the seventh rank, without any explanation as to how the position arose.
Then comes the first international tournament: London 1851. We meet Staunton and Anderssen, and, guess what, we see the finales of the Evergreen and Immortal Games. Again, if you really want to publish them because your readers might not have seen them before, why not give the complete games?
According to van der Sterren, “Now Black has to play the defensive move 20… Na6.”. Historians disagree about whether or not Kieseritzky resigned before playing this move (he claimed he did), or whether he played the move and Anderssen announced mate, but why not mention the much better, but still insufficient, defence 20… Ba6?
Come to think of it, why not mention that both the Immortal and Evergreen games were casual encounters in which Anderssen could afford to take risks?
Moving on, inevitably, to Morphy, by this point I started to play a game with myself, guessing what I’d find in each chapter. Opera House game? Tick! Queen sac v Paulsen? Surprisingly not.
On to Steinitz. Bardeleben at Hastings? Tick! Van der Sterren talks about Steinitz’s advocacy of positional chess, and then aims to justify the inclusion of this tactical game atypical of his late style by incorporating some callout boxes labelled ‘Misunderstandings’ in a rather ugly childish font: something not repeated elsewhere in the book.
Lasker? Exchange Lopez ending v Capa? Tick! Then, on p49, in a moment of carelessness, we meet ‘Dawid Janowksi’,
On the same page we see a Famous Pawn Ending between Lasker and Tarrasch:
We’re told that “By looking at the position in a concrete way instead of relying on general considerations, it is possible to find a concrete path to salvation for Black.”. It’s White, not Black, who finds a concrete path to salvation by playing, after 40. h4 Kg4, 41. Kg6 rather than the losing Kf6. Although the annotations throughout the book are mostly verbal we do get a variation which demonstrates why Kf6 loses.
Capablanca? Qb2 v Bernstein? Tick! Rook ending v Tartakower? Tick! But not full games.
Alekhine? v Réti in 1925? Tick! Bogo in 1922? Tick! Again, only the closing stages so we don’t get to see how he reached those positions.
To be fair, the book improves as it approaches the 21st century, and we start meeting players the author knew or knows well.
Here, for instance, is a position from a game I must have seen at the time, but had forgotten about.
This is Anand-Karpov Las Palmas 1996. Here, Vishy played Bxh7+!.
“Anand must have felt there is bigger game to be hunted than just a pawn. Still, to forego a perfectly reasonable option with an extra pawn and a draw in the bag, in favour of a piece sacrifice with unpredictable consequences, is not a decision many players would have made. It is a sign of self-confidence, great powers of calculation and bravery; in other words the hallmark of the most pure, sparkling talent.”
This is typical of van der Sterren’s style of annotation: words rather than variations and a tendency towards hero-worship.
Anand himself is, typically, more modest: “Here, I spent a few seconds checking 21. Rxd5 which leaves White with an extra pawn, but as I mentioned earlier I couldn’t be bothered. I saw Bxh7+ and didn’t waste any more time on Rxd5. I then spent some time analysing Bxh7+, and didn’t see a defence for Black. I then realized that I was too excited to analyse and decided to get it over with. He had hardly any time left already and I was sure that he wouldn’t find a defence.”
Does the book succeed? Although I don’t like being negative in my reviews, I’m afraid not. It suffers from trying to do too much in too short a space, and from a lack of historical knowledge and awareness. If you know anything at all about the history of our beautiful games you’ll have seen almost everything before, and you’ll be frustrated by the broad brushstrokes.
Back in 1987, Mike Fox and I were criticised by some reviewers for including a chapter of Greatest Games in The Complete Chess Addict, but they failed to understand that our target market was social players who wouldn’t have seen them before. By the same token, there may still be a market for a collection of Famous Games, Famous Combinations and Famous Endgame Studies. There are several other histories of the world championship, and treatises on the development of chess style and opening theory, but books that are up to date and whose authors have something new to say are always welcome. This book doesn’t really do any of these things very well, and there is very little original content or thought. If you try to be everything to everyone you end up being nothing to nobody.
However, the book is, for the most part, nicely produced, with a lot of attractive photographs. For someone just starting out in competitive chess who would like to know more about the game’s history, this could be just what they want to pique their interest and encourage them to study this fascinating aspect of chess in more detail.
Richard James, Twickenham, 18th February 2020
Book Details :
Paperback : 264 pages
Publisher: Thinkers Publishing; 1 edition (20 May 2019)
We remember Cecil Valentine De Vere (14-ii-1846 09-ii-1875)
From The Oxford Companion to Chess by Hooper & Whyld :
Cecil Valentine De Vere, pseudonym of Valentine Brown, winner of the first official British Championship tournament organized by the British Chess Association in 1866. He learned the game in London before 1858 and practised with Boden and the Irish player Francis Burden (1830-82). De Vere played with unusual ease and rapidity, never bothering to study the books. His features were handsome (an Adonis says MacDonnell), his manner pleasant, his conduct polite. He “handled the pieces gracefully, never “hovered” over them, nor fiercely stamped them down upon the board … nor exulted when he gained a victory…in short, he was a highly chivalrous player.’ So wrote Steinitz who conceded odds in a match against De Vere and was soundly beaten, (See pawn and move.) De Vere’s charm brought him many friends.
At about the time that he won the national championship his mother died, a loss he felt deeply, “The only person who ever cared for me”.
Receiving a small legacy he gave up his job. which Burden had obtained for him at Lloyds the underwriters, and never took another. He entered some strong tournaments but always trailed just behind the greatest half-dozen players of his time. His exceptional talent was accompanied by idleness and lack of enthusiasm for a hard task. On the occasion of the Dundee tournament of 1867 he took long walks in the Scottish countryside with G. A. MacDonnell, who writes that a ‘black cloud’ descended on De Vere. It may have been the discovery that he had tuberculosis; more probably he revealed to the older man a deep-rooted despair, the cause perhaps of his later addiction to alcohol.
In 1872 Boden handed over the chess column of The Field to provide him with a small income; but in 1873 the column was given to Steinitz on account of De Vere’s indolence and drunkenness. At the end of Nov, 1874 his illness took a turn for the worse, he could hardly walk and ate little. His friends paid to send him to Torquay for the sea air, and there he died ten weeks later. He had failed to nourish a natural genius in respect of which, according to Steinitz, De Vere was “second to no man, living or dead*.
From The Encyclopedia of Chess by Anne Sunnucks :
First official British Chess Champion, Cecil de Vere was born on 14th February 1845 (in Montrose, Angus, Scotland : Ed.) and was taught to play chess when he was 12 by a strong London player, Francis Burden. By the time he was 15, he was a regular visitor to “The Divan” on a Saturday afternoon.
At the age of 19 De Vere played a number of games against MacDonnell winning the majority of them. So great was his promise that the City of London Chess Club raised a purse for a match between him an Steinitz, Steinitz giving the odds of a Pawn and a move. De Vere won.
In 1866 the first British Championship, organised by the British Chess Association was held. De Vere won, ahead of MacDonnell and Bird, and so became the first British Champion at the age of 21.
The following year in the Paris 1867 tournament, he was 5th out of a field of 13, and he tied for 3rd prize in the Dundee Congress, ahead of Blackburne, having beaten Steinitz in their individual game.
While he was in Dundee, De Vere learned that he was suffering from Tuberculosis. The news changed his whole life. Having recently inherited a few hundred pounds, he gave up his job at Lloyd’s and started living on his capital, determined to enjoy the few years he had left. He continued to play chess, but his performances were marred by his newly acquired addiction to the bottle.
De Vere was once described as “A Morphy without book knowledge”. His talent was great enough for him to be able to take on the leading masters of the day without any study or preparation, but more than that is needed to reach the top. De Vere lacked the strength of character and health to fulfill his early promise. He died a few days before his thirtieth birthday.
From The Encyclopedia of Chess by Harry Golombek :
The first official British Champion and a player of great promise who might well have attained world fame had he not be carried off by that nineteenth-century British scourge, tuberculosis, before he attained the age of thirty.
Most of the details of his life are to be found in the writings of G.A. MacDonnell, who met him when De Vere was fourteen and was so struck by his good looks as to refer to him as “Adonis”.
His first tournament success came in 1866 at the London Congress organised at the St. George’s Club in the first few days and then in other venues by the British Chess Association. De Vere played in two events, a Handicap tournament and a Challenge Cup event which was in fact the first British Championship tournament.
The Handicap tournament was run on the same lines as London 1851, i.e. it was a knock-out event with matches of three games, draws not counting. De Vere met Steinitz in roudn 1 and lost by 2-1.
The first British championship tournament was an all-play-all event in which the ties were decided by the first player to win three games and in which the championship went to the winner of the biggest number of games. De Vere was en easy winner with 12 wins, followed by MacDonnell and J.I. Minchin 6, H.E Bird 3 and Sir John Trelawney 0.
Thus De Vere was the first British Champion and at that age of twenty-one. A photograph of him about this time shows that he bore a remarkable likeness to the international master John Nunn, who won the European Junior championship a hundred years after De Vere’s death.
De Vere confirmed his position as a leading British player by coming first in another tournament in 1866 at Redcar in North Yorkshire. This was an event open to all British amateurs and among his opponents were Owen, Thorold and Wisker.
It was in the following year that he commenced his career in international chess. In the important double-round tournament at Paris he occupied an honourable fifth place out of 13 players. At Dundee (the third congress of the British Chess Association) he finished equal 3rd with MacDonnell, below Steinitz but beating him in their individual game and coming ahead of Blackburne.
It was during his visit to Scotland (he went to stay with relatives after the tournament) that he learnt he was afflicted with consumption. This knowledge, together with the death of his mother, drove him to drink which was to accelerate his end.
inheriting a few hundred pounds, presumably from his mother, he gave up his post at Lloyd’s and decided to live on his capital together with such additional sums as he could earn from chess.
In this respect his addiction to drink proved a handicap. For example, he held the post of chess editor of The Field in 1872 but lost it after some eighteen months through inattention to work.
Meanwhile he continued to show his great talent for the game. Defending the title of British Champion in a very strong field at the next British Chess Association congress (1868/9) he cam equal first with Blackburne but lost the play-off at the London Club in March 1869.
In 1870 at the very strong Baden-Baden double-round tournament, he came equal sixth with Winawer but was much outdistanced by Blackburne who came third with 3.5 more pints than De Vere. But already his illness was taking a strong hold on him. At his next and last appearance in a tournament of note. London 1872, he tied with Zukertort and MacDonnell =3rd out of 8 players. In the play-off for third and fourth prizes he lost to MacDonnell and scratched to Zukertort, Later in the year he did tie for first place with Wisker in a weaker British championship tournament and, with De Vere now clearly ill, Wisker had an easy victory in the play-off.
At his last appearance at a chess event, a match at the City of London Club between that Club and Bermondsey, he looked a dying man. A subscription was made to send him to Torquay but it was too late and he died within five days of his thirtieth birthday.
Michael Lipton is a British problem composer. Born on 13th February 1937, Lipton is a Fellow of All Souls, Oxford and an economist at The University of Sussex.
His 350 problems consist mainly of modern two-movers. His British Chess Problem Society lecture in 1956, The German Two-Mover, led to so great an interest in modern trends that Great Britain was transformed from one of the most backward to one of the most forward countries for the composition of modern two-movers. Lipton, Rice and Barnes were chiefly responsible for this revolution.
Lipton had edited problem sections of Correspondence Chess and the Sunday Citizen. He is co-author with R.C.O. Matthews and J.M.Rice of Chess Problems : Introduction to an Art and co-author with J.M.Rice and B.P.Barnes of The Two Move Chess Problem : Tradition and Development.
“Glenn Curtis Flear was born in Leicester, England. He was awarded the IM title in 1983 and GM title in 1987. While still an IM, he shocked the chess world by winning the GLC Chess Challenge (1986) ahead of a field that included Short, Chandler, Nunn, Portisch, Polugaevsky, Spassky and Larsen. He married Christine Flear during that tournament. He represented England at the Dubai Olympiad in 1986.”
Joshua Doknjas is a FIDE Master from Canada who has enjoyed success competing internationally. He has won seven national titles for his age and tied for 1st in the 2019 U18 North American Youth Chess Championship. This is his second book for Everyman Chess.
From the book’s rear cover we have :
“The Ruy Lopez is perhaps the most classical of all chess openings. It dates back to the 16th century and has featured in the opening repertoire of every modern world champion. It is a highly flexible variation: Bobby Fischer used it to create numerous powerful strategic masterpieces. In the hands of Anatoly Karpov it led to many of his trademark positional squeezes, whereas Garry Kasparov often used it as a springboard for his typically powerful attacks.
Opening Repertoire: The Ruy Lopez is a modern examination of this perennial favourite. Joshua Doknjas has put together a repertoire for White based firmly around contemporary trends in the Lopez. He examines all aspects of this highly complex opening and provides the reader with well-researched, fresh, and innovative analysis. Each annotated game has valuable lessons on how to play the opening and contains instructive commentary on typical middlegame plans.
A complete repertoire for White in the Ruy Lopez
A question and answer approach provides an excellent study method
Everyman Chess have already produced several books of high quality on chess openings and have now added another one.
The book is divided into ten main chapters as follows :
The Zaitsev : 9…Bb7 and Sidelines
The Chigorin : 9…Na5
The Breyer : 9…Nb8
The Anti-Berlin : 4.d3
The Open Variation
The Anti-Marshall : 8.a4
Systems with 5…b5 and 5…Bc5
Systems with …g6 and …Nge7
The Ruy Lopez has been called the mother of chess openings and is undoubtedly the most challenging for anyone who plays the open game with the black pieces.
The book is divided into 3 parts. Part 1 is solely dedicated to the closed Lopez : a great favourite of Lev Aronian. Three main variations are looked at after 5…Be7 6.d4 b5 7.Bb3 d6 8.c3 00 9.h3 when 9…Bb7; the Zaitzev 9…Na5 the Chigorin; a great favourite of Paul Keres and 9…Nb8 favoured by Anatoly Karpov are each considered in detail.
The lines are investigated by examining games played by those of at least 2500 Elo with lots of discussion of other possibilities and questions giving the reader the chance to see if they can work out the correct path.
A Grischuk win against the Ziatzev is analysed, Alexei Shirov shows us how to face the Chigorin with nice wins by Ray Robson with Grischuk and Maxime Vachier-Legarve dismanting the Breyer Variation.
Part2 starts by looking at the notorious Berlin Defence and recommends that White plays 4.d3 which has been the move favoured By Magnus Carlsen and Fabiano Caruana in recent years.
Both 4…d6 and 4…Bc5 are studied the latter in some depth.
The Open variation with 5…Nxe4 by black is analysed in Chapter 5.
The main line 6.d4 b5 7.Bb3 d5 8.d4xe5 Be6 9.c3 is chosen as surprise recommendation as I have played the Open Variation for about 30 years and always thought 9.Nbd2 chosen by Karpov in many games to be the strongest continuation. After 9…Bc5 10 Qd3 is Doknjas suggestion probably chosen to avoid the dangerous Dilworth Attack.
The top game here is a rapid game between heavyweight giants Anish Giri and Vishy Anand and, as usual, White wins.
There is no analysis of the Marshall Defence as 8.a4 avoiding it is the repertoire recommendation.
This was Kasparov’s choice in game 1 of his 1993 PCA world championship match versus Nigel Short. Again, games by Giri and Vachier-Legarve are given as examples for White players. Unusually there is a draw for Black when Ding Liren defends the black side : unusual for this book which has a heavy white bias.
The Arkhangelsk with both 6…Bb7 and the very modern 6…Bc5 often favoured by Shirov is discussed with 7.d3 recommended against the former and 7.c3 against the latter.
The closing chapters in Part 3 look at the rarer moves 3…Nge7 3…g6 3…Nd4 and 3..d6 lines are covered next.
For completeness, there is a chapter on the 3…f5 Schliemann and 4.d3 is the recommended way forward when white intends to snatch a pawn and challenge black to prove he has compensation.
This book is aimed at players from about 120 ECF and upwards though promising juniors who play 1.e4 and are wondering what to choose against the open game are likely to benefit.
The book is nicely presented with good clear print and many diagrams as well as lots of good games.
Colin Lyne, Farnborough, Hampshire, 8th February, 2020
“FIDE Master (2015); International Master (2017). He scored six points after 11 rounds at the 2017 World Junior championship in Italy and 5.5 points at the 2017 WYCC U-18 group in Uruguay.
References / Sources
(1) http://chess-results.com/tnr297050…. (he finished with 5.5 points after the eleventh round at the Montevideo tournament in September at Uruguay in 2017), (2) World Junior Championship (2017) (he drew with white versus Martin Petrov in the final round).”
This is the Modern Defence, which has been described both as a fighting opening, based on counterattack and a masochistic paradise, where Black has to sit with less space for the whole game and then loses.
Having played the Modern for some 40 years now, I can testify that the truth is somewhere between the two views.
You either like the Modern or you don’t and you have to get into the right frame of mind in order to play it properly. Black has to suck up early pressure and time his counterattack to perfection to break up the enemy position. If this is your thing and you have an independent character, you will find what you want after 1…g6.
I think I have most of the Modern Defence books in my library, stretching back to Keene and Botterill, through Norwood and Tiger Hillarp Persson and now complimented by the latest work from Cyrus Lakdawala : ‘ Opening Repertoire’ The Modern Defence.
Lakdawala’s book is comprehensive, brimming with ideas and gives lines for Black after all sensible opening first moves, based on complete games.
His suggestions differ from Hillarp Persson, in that whereas the Swedish GM recommends that Black plays an early …-a7-a6 in most lines, Lakdawala goes back to the Norwood repertoire of old, where 1 e4 g6 2 d4 d6 3 Nc3 c6!? was one of the key pillars of the Black counterattacking reply.
It’s an approach which seems to stand up in the present day.
Let’s dive in and take a look at a few recent games that are not in the book, but which align with the recommendations therein.
I enjoyed the book and I think you will too. Focus on the ideas and the originality of Lakdawala’s thought and you will get a lot from it. I guess the book could have been shortened by 20/30 pages with a more economical writing style, but that is the way he does things and you like it or lump it.
Lakdawala’s book is an important addition to the available chess literature on the Modern. As such, it comes with my strong recommendation.
Andrew Martin, Bramley, Surrey, 6th February, 2020
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