We remember FM Peter Clarke who passed away on Thursday, December 11th, 2014 whilst living at Chapel House, Bude, Cornwall, EX23 9SQ
Peter Hugh Clarke was born on Saturday, March 18th 1933 in West Ham, London. Peter was born to Hugh Clarke (21st April 1905, West Ham – April 1961)and Gertrude Olive (née Ekblom) (7th May 1909, Bournemouth – October 2005, Stratton, Cornwall). Hugh and Gertrude married on June 4th 1932 in Forest Gate in Essex.
In July 1962 Peter married Margaret Eileen Elizabeth (Peggy) Wood, the daughter of BH Wood. Margaret passed away in 2018 in Bude, Cornwall.
From The Modest Master of Morwenstow by James Pratt (sadly, as yet, unpublished) :
“Peter Hugh Clarke was born in London on 18th March, 1933. At the age of eight or nine he taught himself the game from ‘The Book of Knowledge’ and played friendly games with his cousin, who was about a year older. Peter’s father supported his game for many years. PHC was a student at St. Bonaventures School and London University. World War II, and its even longer aftermath, robbed him of a number of playing opportunities. It is surprising that he had no childhood heroes, although later the play of Botvinnik, Keres and Smyslov impressed him.”
Chess correspondent of The Sunday Times, Clarke played for England in the Olympiads of 1954, 56, 58, 60, 62, 66 and 68. He has never won the British Championship but has come 2nd on 5 occasions.
A fine writer. His best books are Mikhail Tal’s Best Games of Chess
and Petrosian’s Best Games of Chess 1946-1963 both published by Bell.
The most remarkable thing about Clarke’s chess career was they way in which he became transformed, in about 1968-9, into the most drawish of players. In British tournaments he has become notorious for correct but dull solidity.”
“FIDE and British Master P.H. Clarke will be best remembered as biographer to Tal and to Petrosyan, but he was so much more. The young Clarke played for Ilford CC in the London League and for Essex at county level. Doing national service he was to learn the Russian that was to so shape his writings.
For a brief period in the late 1950s, and early sixties, he was the number two player in England, ahead of the vastly more experienced Alexander and Golombek. He played, of course, below Jonathan Penrose, a partnership that bore fruit when preparing openings; latterly they both became Correspondence Grandmasters.”
“At the British Championships itself he finished second on his first appearance; he was to tie for silver medal on no less than five occasions, appearing, almost without a break for thirty years, a run that ended in 1982. He represented the BCF – as it then was – in eight Olympiads, playing on top board in 1966.
The Clarke family moved to the West of England in the late Sixties. PHC played in thirteen WECU Championships, and lost only twice. As a player he could be cautious, agreeing too readily to draws. Accuracy and respect meant more to him than ambition. The biographer became a journalist as illness cut short his playing career. In his time he beat Larsen, Penrose and Szabo.
In 1962 he married BH Wood’s daughter, Peggy. They had three daughters. In 1975 my mother happened across Peter and Peggy on Morecambe prom. ‘Never’ she was later to tell me, ‘have I seen a couple more in love.'”
We are grateful to James Pratt to allow us to quote from the the sadly unpublished “Modest Master from Morwenstow” as follows :
“Peter had a relatively short career at the top and it is interesting to comment on his style. In essence, his great strength lay in positional understanding which backed-up his defensive skills rather than helped his ability to create wins; in other words, he won games in which his opponents over-pressed or opted for dubious positional moves.
After doing well in English chess, he was perhaps pushed into international chess too early for him to develop his own personal creative style. Playing for England and meeting strong players, he tended towards a rather negative approach that may have been necessary for the team but was not good for his own personal progress, as shown when he later met English opponents who outstripped him in their positive will-to-win. His friendship with Penrose (a far stronger player) led to far too many draws which did neither of them any good.
To be fair, Peter was not an easy player to beat but, on the other hand, he was not too hard to draw against if you felt so inclined. His forte lay in his knowledge of the game and his excellent writing skills, where he was at his happiest; there is hardly a book of his that I haven’t enjoyed.”
Writing in BCM 04/64, John Littlewood called PHC a self-style non-tactician and disagreed with Clarke’s belief in the inner logic (‘I have made no mistakes and therefore my position is OK.’) of positions where tactics are to the fore.
“Peter’s contribution to British Chess was important as a player and even more so as a writer. His best period was 1956-61. He, Penrose and myself used to stay in the same hotel during the British Championships and prepare and analyse together, although we played hard when actually paired. Peter was the solid man in the English team, gradually taking over the role of Golombek. It was important that we did reasonably well in this period which provided a bridge between the Alexander/Golombek era and the rise of Keene/Hartston.
Peter was always a good friend to me and his family gave me hospitality each year during the Ilford Congress. Peter’s books, especially the one about Tal, were real works of scholarship in an era where there were no computers to facilitate the job. He could have achieved more as a player if he had been able to concentrate fully on that, but the economic climate then was poor for professionals.”
“Right up to that point of his illness in the 1980’s he had worthily defended the reputation of the older generation in the British Championship, as the last survivor, still active at that level, from the Penrose era. I first saw Peter at the 1951 British Championship at Chester and first played him at the 1952 Bristol Universities individual contest.
He left the University of London before taking his degree (study of chess rather taking over his life), but then had the good fortune to go on to study Russian while doing his National Service, around 1954-55. Or was he still in the Army when the Moscow 1956 Olympiad took place? He certainly did well there, perhaps less affected than other Westerners by the strangeness of the place that was just recovering slightly from the depths of Stalin’s baleful influence.
I do recall that for a couple of years Peter changed his cautious style. This was around 1957-58 when he scored one of his two wins against Penrose. Was it at Ilford?* I remember that the game appeared with notes by B.H. Wood in ‘The Illustrated London News’ column.
(*Subsequent to this article being posted LWB was kind enough to clear up BCs above query :
I used to see Peter regularly at the Paignton and Hastings Congresses in the 1990’s but not in the last couple of years. His health seems restored.”
PHC by Ken Harman :
“I am very pleased to hear about your book about Peter Clarke; not sure I can contribute much as I wasn’t a friend of his so only knew him through seeing him and Margaret at chess tournaments. He was a quiet spoken gentleman who played such quiet positional chess that I would call it ‘monastic chess’. I think Clarke thought chess a search for spiritual truth, only to be found in the cloisters of spiritual truth, only to be found in the cloisters of contemplative life – ‘The Thomas Merton of Chess’, if you like. Of course, I have no idea if he was a spiritual man in real life but his chess always struck me as if he was reaching for heaven and found hell in a doubled pawn. He seemed like a nice man and I suspect his wife Margaret was the dominant one. I have his book on Mikhail Tal’s Best Games of Chess (Bell 1961) which is signed by him and may well have been his copy, because as you open the book – there is a small newspaper clipping and a photo of Clarke sellotaped which is rather unusual being that the book is about Tal, and not him. ”
PHC by Alan P. Borwell (ICCF Honorary President) :
“I first met Peter at the 1959 BCF Congress in York when I was a member of local organising committee and then at Paignton and when York played & won the National Club Championship in 1964/5.
In 1966 I played Peter in the British Chess Championship in last round in Sunderland.”
Peter Hugh Clarke (18 March 1933 – 11 December 2014) was an English chess player, who hold titles FIDE master (FM) and International Correspondence Chess Grandmaster (1980), FIDE International arbiter (1976), Chess Olympiad individual silver medal winner (1956).
Peter Clarke started playing chess at the age of six. He twice won the London Boys’ Chess Championship (1950, 1951). He was British Chess Championship multiplier participant where five times won silver medal.
Since 1959, Peter Hugh Clarke has been working as a chess journalist in the newspaper Sunday Times and magazine British Chess Magazine. He known as the biographical book’s author of Mikhail Tal (1961) and Tigran Petrosian (1964). Thanks to his good knowledge of Russian language, he translated the book about Vasily Smyslov in 1958. In 1963 he wrote a book 100 Soviet Chess Miniatures.
Peter Clarke played for England in the Chess Olympiads :
In 1954, at second reserve board in the 11th Chess Olympiad in Amsterdam (+2, =2, -3),
In 1956, at reserve board in the 12th Chess Olympiad in Moscow (+7, =5, -0) and won individual silver medal,
In 1958, at fourth board in the 13th Chess Olympiad in Munich (+2, =10, -3),
In 1960, at third board in the 14th Chess Olympiad in Leipzig (+4, =7, -3),
In 1962, at second board in the 15th Chess Olympiad in Varna (+3, =10, -2),
In 1964, at second board in the 16th Chess Olympiad in Tel Aviv (+2, =8, -2),
In 1966, at first board in the 17th Chess Olympiad in Havana (+2, =10, -1),
In 1968, at third board in the 18th Chess Olympiad in Lugano (+0, =7, -1).
Also he played for England in the World Student Team Chess Championship (1954, 1959)and in the Clare Benedict Chess Cup (1960-1961, 1963, 1965, 1967-1968) where won team silver medal (1960) and 4 bronze medals (1961, 1963, 1967, 1968).
In later years, Peter Clarke active participated in correspondence chess tournaments. In 1977, he won British Correspondence Chess Championship. In 1976, Peter Clarke was awarded the International Correspondence Chess Master (IMC) title and received the International Correspondence Chess Grandmaster (GMC) title four years later.
Luckily for all of us Scottish chess enthusiast Geoff Chandler is transcribing JMAs games from the players personal scorebooks. We hope to see these games appearing in Britbase and other locations in the near future.
From The Anglo-Soviet Radio Chess Match by Klein and Winter :
“JM Aitken was born in 1908 in Scotland, and learned chess at the age of eight. He played several times in the Scottish Championship, and won it in 1935. In the Stockholm international team tournament, 1937, he played for Scotland. His best performance in international chess was at Hastings, 1945, when he scored 6 points and did best among the British contingent.
He is a graduate of both Oxford and Edinburgh, and a Ph.D. At the beginning of the war he joined the Foreign Office. ”
The Aitken Variation is a line recommended in the British Chess Magazine of 1937 of the Giuocco Piano as follows :
From British Chess Magazine, Volume CIV (104, 1984), Number 1 (January), page 65 :
“Dr. James Macrae Aiken (27 October 1908 – 3 December 1983) died at his home in Cheltenham on the Saturday morning when he was due to turn out in a county match that afternoon. Sh he was active to the end, since he played in the veterans’ competition in both at the Southport BCF Congress and at the Guernsey tournament in October.
Ten times Scottish Champion, the worthy doctor represented Scotland at Olympiads both pre- and post-war. At the 1937 Stockholm Olympiad he beat Ståhlberg, while later on he also had the grandmaster scalps of Bogoljubow and Tartakower to his credit.
He retired from his work at the Foreign Office some ten years ago, and continued playing in West Country chess, always taking a high board for Gloucestershire. At the BCM we have a particular cause to remember him with gratitude since he was both a book reviewer and occasional annotator for two decades, and a life-long subscriber.
As a person he was always friendly and objective in his judgements both of chess positions and personalities. Your editor recalls many interesting conversations with him at BCF Congresses. The loss is greatest, of course. for Scottish Chess.
Perhaps we may close on a lighter note, since the following anecdote reminds one that Dr Aitken also turned out for Great Britain in matches just after the war. At an early FIDE Congress after the war the first official FIDE list of masters and grandmasters was being drawn up. The BCF made application for recognising the mastership of HE Atkins. The Soviet delegate, Kotov, objected since he thought he heard the name of Aitken, whom he knew had lost both games to Bondaresvky on board eight of the 1946 GB-USSR Radio Match. It was gently pointed out that the application concerned a player who had come ahead of no less than Chigorin at Hannover 1902. End of objection!
We take this game from the Bournemouth tournament played on the eve of the Second World War.
“Talented Scottish amateur who won the Scottish championship ten times, Dr. Aitken’s chief international activity was representing Scotland in the Olympiads.
At Stockholm 1937 he scored 32.4% on top board but he had the distinction of beating the Swedish grandmaster Ståhlberg. At Munich 1958 he scored 67.6% on 2nd board; at Tel Aviv 1964, 28.1% on 2nd board; at Skopje 1972, 38.9% on 6th board.”
Both Sunnucks and Hooper & Whyld are silent on Aitken.
“James Macrae Aitken (27 October 1908 – 3 December 1983) was a Scottish chess player. Aitken was born in Calderbank, Lanarkshire, Scotland. In 1938 he received a PhD from Edinburgh University on the topic of ‘The Trial of George Buchanan Before the Lisbon Inquisition’.
Aitken learned chess from his father at age 10. He was Scottish champion in 1935, 1952, 1953, 1955, 1956, 1957, 1958, 1960, 1961 and 1965, the latter jointly with PM Jamieson. He was also London Champion in 1950. In 1959 he had his best result in the British Championship, finishing tied for seventh place. Aitken represented Scotland in four Chess Olympiads. He played top board at Stockholm 1937, scoring only 32.4% but he did defeat Swedish GM Gideon Ståhlberg and draw with American GM Samuel Reshevsky. He played second board at Munich 1958 and Tel Aviv 1964, scoring 67.6% and 28.1% respectively. Aitken played sixth board at Skopje 1972, scoring 38.9%.”
“Aitken represented Great Britain in matches against the USSR and Yugoslavia. In the 1946 radio match between the United Kingdom and the USSR he lost his match with Igor Bondarevsky on board 8. Aitken defeated GM Savielly Tartakower at Southsea 1949 and GM Efim Bogoljubow at Bad Pyrmont 1951.
During World War II, Aitken worked in Hut 6 at Bletchley Park on solving German Enigma machines. On 2 December 1944 Bletchley Park played a 12-board team match against the Oxford University Chess Club. Bletchley Park won the match 8–4 with C.H.O’D. Alexander, Harry Golombek, and Aitken on the top three boards. Aitken wrote many book reviews for the British Chess Magazine. Aside from chess his hobbies included golf, philately, bridge, and watching cricket. He died in Cheltenham in 1983, aged 75.”
“his book is about the Marshall Attack and the lines which can be grouped together under the banner of the so-called Anti-Marshall. The theory has developed so much in the last decade that there is more than enough material to be going on with just in those areas, but I also decided to include a detailed look at an important line in the Exchange Variation. Black’s key concept in the Marshall is giving up a central pawn in return for activity, and I have tried to give as many lines as possible which adhere closely to this principle. Why is this so significant? Well, for starters, usually in the Ruy Lopez Black is looking for long, slow games in solid, closed positions. The Marshall flips this on its head and Black tries to accelerate the play and radically change the character of the game at an early stage. Let’s briefly discuss the material of the book itself and the lines that I have decided to give. First of all, I started off with the standard Marshall Attack, after the initial moves: 1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5 a6 4.Ba4 Nf6 5.0-0 Be7 6.Re1 b5 7.Bb3 0-0 8.c3 d5. I have given direct analysis wherever possible and I have tried to cover all the essential lines. Of course, with the passing of the years and the continual development of theory we can see how the popularity of some positions has shifted and, in some cases, how certain lines have simply been rendered obsolete. I also discovered, to my surprise, that there are still new, unexplored, and interesting paths for further analysis.”
As with every recent Thinkers Publishing publication high quality paper is used and the printing is clear. The book can easily be laid flat next to the board and does not require weights to prevent it from “self-closing” (a particular bugbear of ours !). Each diagram is clear and the instructional text is typeset in two column format, which, we find, enables the reader to maintain their place easily. Figurine algebraic notation is used throughout and the diagrams are placed adjacent to the relevant text and each diagram has a “to move” indicator.
After decades of incinerating opponents with the Sicilian Dragon, the reviewer’s addiction to the wyvern is waning after meeting many well primed, prepared, Saint Georges.
This good, action packed book on the modern Marshall attack is the answer to the reviewer’s quest for an aggressive new opening against 1.e4. The issue of well prepared adversaries will not go away with databases and engines and the Marshall is just as susceptible to deep preparation, but this guide will give the reader a very good grounding. The Marshall pawn sacrifice is clearly sound and the fact that the Anti-Marshall section of this book is the biggest part shows that the top players clearly agree that Frank Marshall’s concept is still alive and burning.
As the name of this volume suggests, it does not cover all variations of the Marshall; to do that would require a huge series of tomes. The publication concentrates on the topical lines although some important discarded variations are given for completeness and to show typical ideas. The book does not cover old lines such as the “Internet Refutation” and the “Pawn Push Variation”.
The book is definitely written from a black point of view. Although it is not a traditional black to play and win and/or neutralise white’s advantage repertoire. The publication does have some future proofing built in, because in certain key variations, multiple black alternatives are given. This not only reflects trendy theory but if a line is busted, there is a fallback.
There is plenty of original analysis given with some very long lines that the reader should check carefully with a strong engine. The same goes for any book of this type. The reviewer has not found any major analytic howlers yet, but I have only scratched the surface. Occasionally, the writer claims that a move is new when in actual fact, it has been known for over ten years.
The book is divided into three parts:
Part 1 – The Marshall Attack with d4 (traditional Marshall)
Part 2 – The Marshall Attack with d3
Part 3 – The Anti-Marshall
Each part is then divided into four to six chapters which are of an appropriate length for easy reading. Where necessary sub-chapters are introduced which are well structured and easy to find.
To whet the readers’ appetites, here are some exciting positions from Part 1:
Here is a famous scrap showing one of the great Marshall practitioners, Peter Leko, in action, which is given in the book:
Bg4 16. Qf1 Qh5 17. Nd2 f5 Probably best sharpening the game with a typical Marshall thrust (17… Rae8 is an alternative) 18. c4
18. f3 is the main line now. 18… f4 19. cxd5 c5! An excellent zwischenzug
20. Re4 This leads to a
complex draw with best play. 20. Re5 Is not advised and loses as follows: Bxe5 21. dxe5
fxg3 22. hxg3 Rae8 White’s lack of development costs him 23. e6 c4 24. Bc2
Qxd5 25. Be4 Qd4 26. Qg2 Rxe6 27. Bd5 Rxf2! A pretty finish, winning
Qh3 White has a pile of material for
the queen, but his lack of development prevents him from exploiting it. 25. Re3 Rf8 26. Bd2 Bf3 27. Rxf3 Rxf3 28. Be4 Rxg3+ 29. Nxg3 Qxg3+
30. Bg2? A suicidal winning attempt 30. Kf1 Qh3+ 31. Ke2 Qh2+ 32. Ke3 Qh3+ Is a draw by perpetual:
30… Qd3 Black is winning as the white pieces lack
coordination and the black queen is a perfect shepherdess for the passed pawns 31. Be1 Qxd4+ 32. Bf2 Qxb2 33. Rf1 Qd2 34. Bc5 g6 35. Rf8+ Kg7 36. Rf2 Qd1+ 37. Rf1 Qd2 38. Kh2 c3 39. Rf2 Qe1 40. Bd4+ Kh6 41. Bh3 c2 0-1
Some fascinating positions from Part 2 (Marshall accepted with d3) follow:
See another great Marshall player, Lev Aronian, in action in this game:
M. Vachier Lagrave – L. Aronian Sharjah Grand Prix 2017
(13… Qh4 14. g3 Qh3 15. Re4!? Testing black’s setup.}Nf6 16. Rh4 Qf5 17. Nd2 Is the critical line Ng4 18. f3 Ne3 19. Qe2 Nd5 20. c4 Is a crucial try)
14. Qf3 Qh4 (14… Qf6 Leads to an inferior endgame for
black. No one plays the Marshall for this! 15. Nd2 Qg6 16. Bd1 Bxd3 17. Ne4
Bxe4 18. Qxe4 Qxe4 19. Rxe4 Rae8 20. Rxe8 Rxe8 21. Kf1)
15. g3 Qh3
16. Be3 White gives back the pawn to develop and achieve a small edge but black is ok with accurate play. (16. Nd2 Leads by force to a well known endgame which is drawn if black is careful. Rae8 17. Ne4 Bg4 18. Qg2 Qxg2+ 19.
Kxg2 f5 20. h3 Bh5 21. Bf4 Bxf4 22. gxf4 fxe4 23. dxe4 Bf3+! 24. Kxf3 Rxf4+
25. Kg3 Rfxe4 26. Rxe4 Rxe4 27. f3)
16… Bxd3 17. Nd2 Qf5 18. Bd4 A modern Marshall tabiya, perhaps white has a very small edge)
We remember Amos Burn who passed away on November 25th, 1925.
Amos Burn was born in Kingston-Upon-Hull on Sunday, December 31st 1848 to Amos and Mary Burn (née Webster). His father is recorded as a merchant. Amos and Mary were residents of Bourne Street at the time of the birth.
On February 15th 1849 Amos was baptized in All Saints Anglican Church, Sculcoates, Kingston-Upon-Hull
Amos married Martha Ann Jäger in Birkenhead on Dec 27th 1879. They had two daughters Elsie Martha, born 24th Oct 1880 and Hilda Marian, born 26th Oct 1881.
For further detail of ABs family please consult the excellent Amos Burn : A Chess Biography by Richard Forster
From British Chess Magazine, Volume XLV (45, 1925), page 491 we have this brief obituary notice (presumably written by RC Griffiths:
“Chessplayers all over the world will regret to hear that the well-known chess editor of The Field died in his flat at Luexembourg Gardens, Hammersmith, on November 25th, after a stroke the previous day, at the age of seventy-seven.
From British Chess Magazine, Volume XLV (45, 1925), page 491 we have this brief obituary notice (presumably written by RC Griffith:
We regret that as our December magazine is already paged we must leave an obituary notice and an appreciation of all he has done for Chess till next month.”
From British Chess Magazine, Volume XLVI (46, 1926), page 9 we have this detailed obituary (written by JH Blake:
“We had only just time last month to announce the decease of this famous player and chess editor. On the afternoon of 24th November he was at the City of London Chess Club in to all appearances normal health; he took a fellow-member home with him, and after completing the annotation of a game for his paper, was chatting with his guest when the fatal seizure overtook him; he never fully recovered consciousness, and died the following afternoon. He was buried at Hammersmith Cemetery on the 27th November.
Amos Burn was born at Hull on the 31st December, 184B. By way of coincidence, no less than three of the band of English chess masters were sons of the Yorkshire port, the other two being Boden (over twenty-two years senior) and Wisker (very little older than Burn).
In his early teens he was apprenticed to a firm of Liverpool cotton brokers. Most of the year l870 was spent in London. At least once, and probably three times in his life, he made prolonged business visits to America; the occasion as to which there is most certainty was about 1893-5, when he was a year or two at Chicago; Liverpool information puts another visit about 1902-3 (which would account for his non-participation in the Monte Carlo tournaments); and hints dropped by himself point to such a visit in 1882-3 ; this would account for his not competing in either event at the London congress of 1833, and for the non-inclusion of his portrait in the large group picture painted by A. Rosenbaum about 1882, and now hanging in the City of London Chess Clubroom. Upon returning to England he always settled down again in business at Liverpool, where he
was occupied, for some time at any rate, in sea insurance. From which it will be seen that at no time of his life was he dependent upon chess-playing as a means of livelihood; although it is difficult to resist the impression that at some periods, particularly 1886, 1B89 and 189B, the claims of business sat very lightly upon him.
His initiation into chess was made at about sixteen years of age, and is to be credited to John Saul, of the Liverpool Chess Club, who took great pains with his pupil, and is believed to have had much influence in the early formation of a sound style. So apt was the pupil, so thorough the teacher, that when in 1867 he joined the Liverpool Chess Club, he was placed at once in the Pawn and move class, and one of his earliest club exploits was to win the club handicap tournament; a rise not much less phenomenal than that of Blackburne at Manchester a few years earlier.
During his stay in London in 1870 he joined the City of London Chess Club, playing for it in a match with the Westminster Chess Club, and joining in the winter handicap, where however, he was knocked out in an early round. He seized every opportunity of obtaining practice with the best players of the day, and no doubt it was during this period that he came under the influence of Steinitz, whose tuition he later in life gratefully acknowledged to have been invaluable to him, and whom he unhesitatingly ranked as the world’s greatest player. During this year (and not 1887 as most notices of his career have stated) the first British Chess Association (Lowenthal’s) held a challenge cup tournament; Burn was a competitor, and tied for first prize with his townsman, Wisker, but was defeated in the tie-game. His next public appearances were at the annual tournaments of the Counties Chess Association, a provincial body formed for the express purpose of holding annual tournaments for about three classes of players, at some provincial town, and lasting one week; its principal tournament was, in the middle of the seventies, for a cup, to be held a year by the winner.
In 1873 Burn tied with Skipworth for first place (no tie-game was played), in 1874 he was first, in 1875 second (8. W. Fisher, late of the Battersea Club first), and first in 1876, this last victory making the cup his own. He did not appear in public play again until 1BB3, when (perhaps out of practice after a business stay in America) he was much less successful, only taking fourth prize at the Counties Association meeting at Birmingham.
The year 1886 marked his (rather late) entry upon the international tournament arena. The resuscitated British Chess Association held a masters’ tournament in London, in which Burn tied with Blackburne for first place, but lost the tie-game. From 1886 to 1912 inclusive he competed in twenty-two international tournaments;
we append a tabular statement giving all necessary particulars.
The greatest success was beyond all question that obtained at Cologne in 1898, where he was first to such renowned rivals as Charousek (second), Tchigorin (fourth), Steinitz (fifth) and Schlechter (equal sixth). But no mean place in the order of merit must be assigned to the second prize at Breslau in 18B9, where Dr. Tarrasch achieved the first of his great Series of successes, and such players as Bardeleben, Blackburne, Gunsberg, Mason and Schallopp were amongst the less successful competitors. The book of that tournament, in recognition of so striking a success, following upon the New York tournament with the Amsterdam victory treading closely upon its heels described Burn as the “tournament hero of the year”
In 1898 the Cologne tournament followed hard upon the long struggle at Vienna; these events of these two years go to prove his remarkable power of endurance : he fared best in the most prolonged. efforts.
During this period of international activity Burn did not altogether eschew competitors of a national or sectional character. Early in 1889 he won first prize in an Irish Chess Association tournament at Dublin, Pollock and Mason taking the next two places. In 1897-8-9 and 1901 he competed at Llandudno for the Craigside challenge cup, which he won three times in the four tournaments. He also won a Midland counties tournament at Birmingham in 1899, with Atkins second.
Of individual match play there is not much to record. A match with Bird in 1886 (two more opposed styles of play could hardly be imagined) was begun as one of five up, with the score at four all was extended to ten up, and was finally drawn by agreement with the score at at nine all. In the same year a match of five up with Captain Mackenzie was drawn with as score of four all; the curiosity of this
match is that Mackenzie won the first four games and Burn the last four. A match is known to have been played in 1875 with the Rev. John Owen, the leading player of the Liverpool club until Burn’s rise ; this Burn won by 11 to 6. Mr. Owen, however, told the present writer (about 1895) that he had contested several matches with Burn, who had not always been the winner; no record remains of these encounters; but as neither player had any love for the practice of recording the moves of a game during its progress its absence is not surprising. Similarly, a short match was begun with the Rev. A. B. Skipworth at his Lincolnshire rectory, somewhere in the late eighties, but whether finished is doubtful; probably the record of this is buried in the files of a Horncastle or Louth newspaper in which Mr. Skipworth conducted a chess column at the time.
Burn took part in the matches by cable with America on four occasions. In 1896 and 1898 he lost to Showalter; in 1907 he drew with Marshall; and in 1911 he defeated Marshall (who was then in London) over the board.
His connection with the Liverpool Chess Club lasted from 1867 until his death. He served the offices of librarian in 1877, vice-president in 1880, president in 1881, 1888, 1890, 1891, 1892, 1908, 1909, 1910 and 1911. In 1887 he was elected an honorary member retaining that qualification until then end. In 1888 he was presented by the club with a handsome chessboard and set of chessmen, the box bearing an inscribed silver plate, in recognition of the tournament successes he had already achieved, and as a token of the high esteem in which he was held by his fellow members.
As a chess journalist Burn commenced in 1871 when he edited
a column in the Liverpool Weekly Albion, how long this continued we do not know. In 1911 he became chess editor of the Liverpool Courier. His annotation of games for this column attracted wjde-spread notice and was much quoted both at home and abroad. When therefore, on the death in 1913 of Leopold Hoffer, Burn was appointed to The Field, it was to the general satisfaction of British chessplayers everywhere. His treatment of the games published in that paper was of the most sound and reliable character, and no pains were ever spared to arrive at the inner secret of the most intricate position. The high standard set by Steinitz when editing the same column thirty to forty years before, was worthily maintained by his quondam pupil on becoming his successor.
Burn’s style of play was solid and prudent rather than aggressive; he has more than once mentioned with pardonable pride that amongst his peers of master rank he was chiefly famed for “stubborn defence.” A favourite aphorism was, “The player who combinates is lost !” Nevertheless it is to be at least suspected that this was
the result of his early chess education and a strong power of self-control rather than of his predilections. An oft-repeated saying, perhaps the one which will be in London longest remembered, was “toujours attaque” ; his preference for being first player was stronger than that of most players, strong as that often is; and when shown
a game or position he had very little hesitation in taking sides, almost always with the attack; only with the defence when his initial judgment told him that unsoundness was afoot. But “counterattack is the soul of defence,” and in that he could be terrible. A collection of, say, twenty of his best games would probably yield a large pre-
ponderance of Black as his side. Once interested in a game (or position) his concentration upon it was of the most intense kind, and could only with difficulty be diverted. Even in skittle play, a cup of coffee, ordered at the start, would stand at his elbow unnoticed; was the opponent at some point long in moving he would suddenly become aware of its presence, and lift the cup; but let the opponent at the same instant raise his hand to move, back went the cup to the table untasted, and the beverage would be eventually consumed quite cold. His pipe fared little better; badly loaded, it took innumerable matches to light, was laid down after a few puffs, went out, and was
re-lit with the same difficulty. Did a friendly onlooker hint that a difference in the loading of the pipe would save much trouble, he would, if he succeeded in gaining attention, be quietly and painlessly extinguished with “How long have you been a smoker ?” The same intensity of concentration was carried into his work for the Field, and it is known that he often sat through the small hours of the morning to complete an analysis rather than interrupt the current of his ideas. Had he but spared himself in this respect —!
Of short figure, slight frame, and abstemious in habit, he was remarkably ” wiry ” ; at 77 his head of hair was quite untouched by the hand of time, and but for the grizzling of the beard he would have passed for no more than sixty. Perhaps a little difficult of approach by strangers, when his attention and interest were once gained he was the soul of courtesy, and would take unstinted trouble to oblige his interlocutor, or to help a colleague.
At the chessboard his courtesy to his opponent was perfect; he “played the game” in the best sense of the words; and his tribute to Blackburne’s chivalry as an opponent was worth the more because it accorded with his practise. With him passes the last of the line of English great masters!
From The Oxford Companion to Chess (OUP, 1984), Hooper & Whyld :
“One of the world’s top ten players at the end of the 19th century. Born in Hull : he learned chess when 16, came to London at the age of 21, and rapidly established himself as a leading English player, A pupil of Steinitz, he developed a similar style; both he and his master were among the world’s best six defensive players, according to Nimzowitsch. Not wishing to become yet another impecunious professional. Burn decided to put his work (first a cotton broker then a sugar broker) before his chess, and he remained an amateur. He made several long visits to America, and was often out of practice when he played serious chess.
Until his thirty-eighth year he played infrequently and only in national events, always taking first or second prize. From 1886 to 1889 he played more often. In 1886 he drew matches with Bird (+9-9) and Mackenzie (+4=2-4); at London 1887 he achieved his best tournament result up to this time, first prize (+8—1) equal with Gunsberg (a play-off was drawn +1=3—1); and at Breslau 1889 he took second place after Tarrasch ahead of Gunsberg, After an isolated appearance at Hastings 1895 he entered another spell of chess activity, 1897-1901, The best achievement of his career was at Cologne 1898, first prize ( + 9=5-1) ahead of Charousek, Chigorin, Steinitz, Schlechter, and Janowski. At Munich 1900 he came fourth (+9=3—3). His Last seven international tournaments began with Ostend 1905 and ended with Breslau 1912. A comparative success, in view of his age. was his fourth prize shared with Bernstein and Teichmann after Schlechter, Maroczy, and Rubinstein at Ostend 1906; 36 players competed in this five-stage event, 30 games in all for those who completed the course.
Retired from both business and play he made his home in London and edited the chess column of The Field from 1913 until his death. A shy and retiring man, a loyal companion to those who came to know him, he freely gave advice to young and aspiring players.”
The front cover of the November 1975 issue of the British Chess Magazine featured Amos Burn :
From British Chess Magazine, 1975, November, pp. 481-483 :
Half a Century Back
Chess in 1925
by W.H. Cozens
Amos Burn was a very different figure and his career is poorly documented. He is overdue, not for a reappraisal but simply an appraisal, He was born (in Hull) in 1848 – an incredible 127 years ago. All the years that could have been his prime as a chessplayer he devoted to business. (Marine insurance was his speciality.) He was based in Liverpool but travelled considerably, including several crossings of the Atlantic – quite an undertaking in those days. He played some casual chess, soon overshadowing the Rev. John Owen to become Liverpool’s answer to Manchester’s Blackburne. He also played for the City of London Chess Club; but it was not until he was nearly 40, presumably with his financial position secured, that he entered the international chess arena. Between the ages of 38 and 64 he played in 22 international tournaments. At Breslau (1889) he was second to Tarrasch, above Louis Paulsen, Blackburne, Schallop … In Amsterdam the same year he was first, ahead of Emanuel Lasker. His finest achievement was first place at Cologne 1898, in front of Charousek, Chigorin, Steinitz, Schlechter et al., (16 in all) with a win against Steinitz. The lack of a book on Cologne 1898 is – since the publication of Mannheim 1914′: the biggest gap in tournament literature.
At Karlsbad 1911 he defeated not only the winner, as mentioned above, but also Alekhine, whom he steered into a knight versus bad bishop ending. His style was unashamedly modelled on that of Steinitz, and marked by extreme tenacity. To him is attributed the epigram ‘He who combinates is lost’. He could play a combination when in the mood but he much preferred to let the opponent break his own back by attacking too impetuously. Nimzowitsch wrote: ‘The number of really great defensive players is very small’, adding that he knew of only six: Steinitz, Emanuel Lasker, Burn, Bernstein, Duras and Louis Paulsen.
In the 1911 Cable Match between G.B. and the U.S.A. Marshall came from San Sebastian straight to London and asked permission for his top board game to be played over the board. When he found that his opponent was to be the 64-year-old Amos Burn he must have smiled, for he had twice defeated him resoundingly – at Paris 1900 (also having some fun at Burn’s expense in his annotations to the game) and again at Ostend 1905. This time he was in for a shock. Within twenty moves the old man had won his queen for two pieces. Marshall played on, probably with a red face, until move 37, rather than have his loss cabled home too early. Against Burn he might have spared himself the trouble.
Burn was a superb annotator. His work, notably in ‘The Field‘ from 1913 on, sets a standard to which one looks back nostalgically in these days of hieroglyphics. The day before he died, at the age of 77,he had been at work on analysis and annotation. Tournaments were now plentiful enough for it to be possible to pick out the band of regular professionals, and to assess their prowess. Tartakower was placed 2, 5, l, 5; Reti 5, 5’ 5,-11; Grunfeld 4,8,8,9; Nimzowitsch was erratic with 1,2,9; so was Rubinstein with 1, 2, 3, 12. Marshall was consistent with 3, 4, 5. Lasker, Capablanca and Alekhine appeared once each – with distinction, of course.”
The Burn Variation is a line in the french defence dating from the 1870s, played regularly by Burn at the tournaments of Hastings
1895, Cologne 1898, and Vienna 1898. More recently it has been favoured by Petrosyan.
From The Encyclopedia of Chess (Robert Hale, 1970 & 1976), Anne Sunnucks :
“A leading British player of his day, Amos Burn was born in Hull on 31st December 1848. He learned the game when he was 16 and an apprentice with a firm of Liverpool cotton-brokers, but it was not until 1886 that he achieved his first major tournament success by coming 2nd in the London tournament and 1st at Nottingham. These results gained him an invitation to Frankfurt 1887, which marked the beginning of his career as an international player.
Burn’s greatest successes were 1st at Amsterdam 1889, ahead of Lasker, 2nd at Breslau 1889, behind Tarrasch but ahead of Mieses, Von Bardeleben, Bauer, Gunsberg and Paulsen; and 1st at Cologne 1898, ahead of Charousek, Steiniitz, Tchigorin and Schlecter.
After the St. Petersburg 1909 tournament, Burn’s results began to deteriorate and he finally retired from tournament chess after the Breslau 1912 tournament.
From 1913 until his death, Burn was chess editor of The Field. He died on 25th November 1925.”
“British Grandmaster and second only to Blackburne in late nineteenth-century British chess. He was born in Hull and learned to play chess at sixteen, but devoted little time to the game at first, preferring to establish himself in a commercial career.
He returned to chess in his middle thirties, his first major national success being first prize at Nottingham 1886 and second prize at London 1886. Within three years he had gained an international reputation by winning at Amsterdam 1889, ahead of Lasker, and finishing 2nd to Tarrasch at Breslau 1889. Burn continued to appear in international tournaments until the age of sixty-four, his most notable triumph being first prize at Cologne 1898 in front of Charousek, Steinitz, Chigorin and Schlechter. He was chess editor of The Field from 1913 until his death in 1925.”
and from that game we have the move that made that game memorable :
Black to move : did you find it? (if not see the foot of this article)
William Winter wrote the following in the February issue of CHESS for 1963, (Volume 28, Number 426, pp.128-134):
“For my win over Niemtsovich I am partly indebted to Amos Burn. Before the tournament I happened to mention to him that Niemtsovich was playing a system, beginning with 1.P-QN3, the idea of which was to control the square at his K5 from the flank, and eventually occupy it with a knight. The old master told me that in his younger days he had played many games with the Rev. John Owen who regularly adopted this opening, and that he could make little headway against it, until he hit on the idea of at once occupying the key square with a pawn and defending it with everything he could pile on. This plan I adopted with complete success. After my third move I saw Niemtsovich shake his head, and in fact he was never comfortable.”
The Power of Defence and the Art of Counterattack in 64 Pictures : Nikola Nestorović and Dejan Nestorović
From Nikola’s web site :
“My name is Nikola Nestorović and I have been playing chess for more than 20 years. During that time I managed to accomplish most of my playing career goals. The most important fact is that I became a Grandmaster at the end of 2015 and officially I became FIDE Chess Trainer in 2018. As I was growing up I realized that I really enjoy teaching so I decided that I am going to pursue that kind of a profession. Whether at school or at home I was always in the mood for teaching others and that feeling was very important in my chess coaching career. The connection between teacher and student need to be professional but friendly because only with this trust student can improve in a special way. So first, I want to make a special connection with my student – and then, chess will be very easy to learn! For years I worked on my special chess materials, so I can adjust my lessons to any type of player! And one very important thing – your age is not important, you can ALWAYS improve your chess play! So, If you love chess and you want to learn and improve in this beautiful game – I am sure that together – we can achieve your (our) goals! I am waiting for you! Cheers! Nikola”
From the publisher’s website :
“A tale of 64 magical squares in 64 shrewdly created pictures. Many a book delved deep into the vast oceans of tactics, positional play and strategy, but very few dared to enter and master a notoriously elusive realm of defence in chess.
In this highly instructive tome the authors tried to accomplish several demanding goals. To uncover many of the secrets that remain hidden so very often, to tackle the most difficult area of chess skill – defence, and finally to teach a great number of ambitious chess-players helping them to improve their knowledge in this important area of chess expertise.
We present you the book by GM Nikola Nestorović, and his father IM Dejan Nestorović with firm belief that you will appreciate many hours of their hard work and devotion to this intriguing topic. The games presented in this tome are both recent and older ones, played by the chess elite and their lower rated peers, but without exception instructive, deeply and diligently analysed for your reading and learning pleasure.
You learned to attack – now it is time to sharpen your defensive tools!”
The first thing to notice is that this is a handsome hardback, complete with a bookmark, and enhanced by photographs of some of the players featured within. Unlike the previous book I reviewed from this publisher, it uses orthodox fonts for both text and diagrams.
When turning to the first game you’ll see a game from a tournament that is still, at the time of writing this review, unfinished. This is Grischuk – Alekseenko from the 2020 Candidates Tournament. The first section, Modern gladiators, features 19 games or positions from recent tournaments, working backwards from 2020 to 2017, featuring many of today’s leading players.
Knights of XXI century takes us back from 2016 to 2007 with another 19 examples. Then, Pearls don’t lose their luster offers ten more positions going back to Savon – Tal in 1971. A moment of glory gives us seven specimens from slightly less celebrated players, and finally, From the maker’s mind treats us to nine games from the authors themselves.
This is an advanced book covering a difficult topic, that of defence and counterattack, and probably most suitable for players above, say, 2200 strength. You’ll find a lot of exciting, double-edged games, demonstrating all that is best in contemporary chess. Many of the games feature positional sacrifices, so if you’ve read and enjoyed Merijn van Delft’s recent book, this might be a useful follow-up. But the analysis here is much denser: lots of presumably computer generated tactical variations for you to work your way through.
Let’s look at one of the shorter and simpler examples.
We join the game Kožul – Stević (Nova Gorica 2007) with White about to play his 31st move. (Informator’s house style is to omit capture and check signs: I’m following that here, but using letters for pieces instead of the book’s figurines.)
“Kožul is resigned to the fact that he has to wait for his opponent’s mistake in the realisation because Black’s extra pawn on b4 along with excellent placement of his pieces don’t bode well for White.”
“A mistake that wouldn’t have needed to drastically affect assessment and events in the game had the danger alarm made a sound in good time.
“31… Qd3!? After simple exchange of queens Black would have only minor technical problems in the realisation of his material advantage. 32. Qd3 Rd3 33. Rc6 Ba5 34. Rc8 Kh7 35. Kg2 g5 With further strengthening of the position.”
“The only way to create a chance, of course. White is still waiting for his opponent’s help.”
“After Rd3 one could surmise that Stević overlooked his opponent’s threat and that he only expected a passive defence. 32… Rd8! after the rook returned to the eighth rank, the chance for salvation disappeared, at least at this moment.”
“A nice tactical stroke which immediately changed the situation on the board. This was an absolute shock for Stević! All of a sudden he had to deal with concrete problems. And as it is usually the case, one mistake follows another.”
“33… hxg5?? 34. Qh5#”
“After Qe4 good defence is required in order not to lose the game.”
“Now a fatal error which brings White closer to victory. Black has two responses after which his opponent would be forced to draw.”
(Now there’s some analysis of Black’s drawing moves Kg5! and Kh5!, along with a diagram after Kh5, which I’ll omit here.)
35. ef6 Kg5 36. fg7!?
“36. Qe5! The safest path to victory. 36… Kg4 37. Qf4 Kh5 38. fg7+-”
“A good attempt to create a counter-chance. 36… Qb1! The best practical chance. 37. Kg2 Rg3! 38. hg3 Qe4 39. Kh2 Qh7 40. g8Q Qg8 41. Rg8 Kf6 42. f4 There would still be some play here, although it can be said that White only needs to resolve some technical problems in the realisation of his material advantage.”
(There’s another diagram here: rather redundant as we’re only two half moves away from the previous one.)
“The game can still be lost for White: 37. Kf2?? Rd2 38. Kf1 Qd1 39. Qe1 Qf3 40. Kg1 Qg2#”
37. Rg3 38. Kf2 1:0
“Dangerous checks have disappeared. Black resigns due to the simple capture of the rook followed by promotion of the pawn to queen. Certainly, the key moments happened in time-trouble which is the period of the game when the side experiencing problems in the position should be concentrated and should seek its chance carefully.
“Kožul seized his chance while for Stević it can be said that he first missed a huge opportunity to win and then when he had to calculate where to go with his king and how o do it, he made incorrigible mistakes and suffered defeat.”
Here’s one of the authors in action in a very recent game: Todorović – N Nestorović (Smederevska Palanka (rapid) 2020).
“The position on the board shows us the moment when White has the opportunity to prevent a counterattack with a simple bc3 or enter calculations by playing tactical Ne8 where, at first glance, he wins material and easily promotes the e-pawn to queen.”
“29. bc3! (I’ve omitted the diagram) The simplest move! Now White is threatening to capture the rook on e8 and create the best defensive setup. 29… Qc4! 30. R4e3! After two simple defensive moves, Black’s hope vanishes. 30… Rc7 (30… Re7 31. Qa8! Capturing material.) 31. Qc7 And Black doesn’t have any possibility to create threats. 31… Qa2 32. cd4 Qa1 33. Kd2 Qb2 34. Kd1 Qb1 35. Ke2+-
“The king goes to the part of the board where there are no more checks and so the last threats will disappear.”
(There’s another diagram here.) “The only way to create threats and shift the focus of play to the other side of the board.”
“The most logical way to defend the white castling.”
(There’s a long note here demonstrating that 30. Nd6!? and 30. Qa5!? both lead to perpetual check, and again there’s a diagram after each of these moves.)
30… cb2 31. Kb2 Qc2 32. Ka1 Qc3
“Our desire to win sometimes gets us off the right path. 33. Kb1=
33… Nc2 34. Kb1
(Surely this diagram should be after, rather than before Black’s next move.)
“A phenomenal way to end a counterattack!
“White resigns due to his inability to defend from checkmate!”
35. Qb6 Na3# 0:1
These extracts should give you some idea of the strengths and weaknesses of this book. There’s a lot of great chess here: exciting, creative and imaginative, as well as, as you’d expect in games of this nature, even at the highest level, a lot of mistakes as well. You certainly get a feeling of the inexhaustible riches of our beloved game. The subject of defence and counter-attack is not an easy one to teach, but the main point is well made. If you’re under attack you must meet immediate threats, but, beyond that, you should, if possible, avoid passive defence and look for opportunities to create active counterplay, even if this involves taking risks. Don’t be afraid to consider moves which may not be objectively best but will put your opponent under pressure.
The authors clearly have a keen eye for games of this nature and all readers will enjoy playing through and studying them.
However, you can probably also see some negatives. The translation, while mostly making sense, is a long way below professional standards. The layout of the book is poor and makes the games difficult to follow. You’d certainly need two boards and even then it wouldn’t be easy. There are lots of long tactical variations with embedded diagrams the same size as those in the main text. In some cases the game continuation is in the annotations while the book follows a more interesting line that wasn’t played. It all gets rather confusing, and the translation, along with the lack of capture and check signs, doesn’t help. It’s especially confusing when the actual game continuation is in the notes, while another variation, which would have led to a different result, is given as the main line.
Speaking as a 1900 strength player, I thought the book was pitched rather above me. I’d have preferred annotations with fewer computer generated variations and less verbose prose, and perhaps a puzzle section at the end to reinforce the lessons learnt from the examples, along with an improved layout and a better translation. The van Delft book mentioned above handles a similar subject in a much more appropriate way for players of my level, in terms of a more logical structure and more helpful annotations.
A qualified recommendation, then, for lovers of thrilling tactical games with vacillating fortunes played, mostly, at the highest level.
Richard James, Twickenham 22nd November 2020
Book Details :
Hardback : 352 pages
Publisher: Sahovski Chess (aka Chess Informant or Informator) 2020
The following article was originally published on November 7th 1980 in Education magazine. The author was George Low. George may be found on LinkedIn. Education magazine was a weekly publication that started in 1903 and in 1997 was absorbed into Education Journal.
George Low explains why our youngsters are doing so well
“Britain’s international chess team, with an average age of under 30, is now the most formidable and talented in the world. At this month’s tournament in Malta they will be breathing down the necks of the Russians for the championship and have a high chance of coming away with a medal.
Behind the national team there is an even more promising junior squad, who have won the European championships two years’ running. Among the up and coming youngsters who are beginning to give the Russians cause for anxiety are two potential world champions – Tony Miles, now a Grandmaster and serious contender for the world championship, and Nigel Short, who at 15 is already the youngest international master ever.
The remarkable upsurge of standards and interest is a phenomenon of some educational significance. The schools have been the seedbed. The nurturing of young talent (often from the age of six or even younger) has been a tangible proof of the dedication of teachers to supervision and support outside school
hours, and there are few extra-curricular activities more time-consuming than chess.
But alongside the school clubs a network of small informal clubs have sprung up and a series of tournaments for all ages and groups. City financier Jim Slater and Lloyds Bank can take the main credit for financial sponsorship of the junior squad, and newspapers like The Sunday Times and The Evening Standard have stimulated a great deal of competitive zeal through their school and individual tournaments.
Like many educational developments in this country, the chess phenomenon has completely by-passed the Department of Education and Science, who have turned down all approaches for financial and even moral support. Officials are wont to plead that there is no mention of chess in the 1944 Education Act or its successors, This is, of course, true, but the Department, nevertheless, manages to make all sorts of direct and indirect contributions to musical and sporting activities. When set beside the intense involvement of many other nations in the development of chess the official attitude appears all the more
How then has Britain managed to bound up the international league table from no. 26 to among the top three nations of the world? Mr. Leonard Barden, manager of the junior squad, traces the resurgence of interest to media coverage of the Spassky-Fischer duel eight years ago and its sequel between Korchnoi and Karpov five years later.
In about 1972-3, he recalls, the selectors started casting their nets much wider than the Home Counties grammar schools where the recruiting ground had
traditionally been. He and his colleagues looked through the results of a lot more tournaments all over the country. Those who had real talent were encouraged to go in for the National Junior Squad championships and to enter adult tournaments. They were also given the opportunity to play against Grandmaster in ‘simuls’ (simultaneous games involving 20 or 30 boards). Mr. Barden now has 500 young players on his books in whom he takes an active interest, following their tournament games and writing to suggest alternative strategies in their games. Beneath these there is a pool of 2000 to 3000 children who play in tournaments and are graded players whom the selectors have their eye on.
Nigel Short was an early find when he won the Merseyside championship under nines. By the age of 9.5 he was developing very rapidly under special tuition and was entering simuls with Grandmasters. He was one of the children who Leonard Barden put into his training schedule and persuaded him to aim for the highest league. ‘Between the ages of nine and fourteen they can develop very rapidly and are ready to play with adults. After that they fall foul of the English exam system and that slows them down having to memorise all that largely irrelevant mass of information,’Mr. Barden says.
There is no risk of force-feeding the children in his squad, he says, they are all naturally bright and do not suffer from the competition within their age group. They are as group a perfectly normal lot. He believes that besides the technical help promising youngsters can be given such as being introduced to chess magazines, motivation is all-important. The Department of Education should do more to foster chess, he thinks, achievement in chess and success in academic subjects.
Mr. Michael Sinclair, who runs the chess club at Hampton School and organises many school tournaments, see numerous educational and personal benefits from children playing chess in schools. The older boys (Ed: this was 1980!) can help the younger ones to develop their game and they in turn learn a lot from competing with adults in congresses.
The game teaches children to concentrate for long periods of time, to observe correct etiquette and to accept adjudication decisions (Ed: I suspect this means arbiting decisions!). It also gives them an understanding of a symbolic language that can be a useful grounding in such subjects as algebra or even computer programming. in later studies. Given its undoubted educational contribution, it is surprising that few books have been written on teaching chess in schools.”
Decision Making In Major Piece Endings : Boris Gelfand
From the Publisher’s Foreword:
“This is the fourth book in the Decision Making In Chess series. It was written over the last couple of years. A lot of work has gone into this book and the accompanying volume Technical Decision Making In Chess, which deals with a wider range of technical topics, whereas this book focuses on positions without minor pieces.
It has been four years since the publication of Dynamic Decision Making in Chess and certainly there will be one person out there wondering what happened to us and why the third volume was taking so long to complete. I hope that the content alone of these two books will answer that question.”
From the back cover:
“In Decision Making in Major Piece Endings former World Championship Challenger Boris Gelfand discusses his path to decision making in endgames involving rooks or queens, as well as the neglected “4th phase”. Countless games are decided by good or bad technique in such endgames, so readers are certain to benefit from the insights of a word-class Grandmaster on this vital topic.
Grandmaster Boris Gelfand has been an elite player for over 30 years, winning the World Cup, Olympiad Gold, the Candidates and many other top tournaments. Grandmaster Jacob Aagaard is the only chess writer to have won all the major awards for chess writing. ”
Reaction to previous volumes in the series:
In 2015 Positional Decision Making In Chess won the ECF Book of the Year award.
“The most interesting chess book I have read in the last quarter-century.” Mikhail Shereshevsky on Positional Decision Making in Chess.
This new Quality Chess publication Decision Making In Major Piece Endings uses high quality paper and the printing is clear. The book can easily be laid flat next to the board and does not require weights to prevent it from “self-closing” (a particular bugbear of ours !). Each diagram is clear and the instructional text is typeset in two column format, which, we find, enables the reader to maintain their place easily. Figurine algebraic notation is used throughout and the diagrams are placed adjacent to the relevant text and each major diagram has a “to move” indicator. Where a “to move” indicator is not present, it is obvious which colour is to move from the accompanying moves in a variation.
Each chapter is introduced with a contemporary photograph of a player or players or a tournament scene which launches each chapter in a engaging manner. This is followed by a Diagram Preview page which shows the critical analytical diagrams in the following chapter and invites the reader to practise their analysis and decision making! If you can work out most of the variations you are a world champion.
The introduction of this book makes it clear that this book is not an endgame primer or manual on basic major piece endgames as there are plenty of these theoretical works already in existence. Knowledge of very basic rook and pawn endgames such as the Lucena and Vancura positions is assumed. This book is “about decision making at the board and learning from your games – and those of others. In this book I will discuss topics that have arisen in some of the most interesting games without minor pieces during my career. We will encounter rook endings, queen endgames and games in what Romanovsky called the fourth phase, which is essentially later middlegames/early endings where only major pieces remain.”
The introduction also guides the reader on how to study the endgame: 1. knowledge of basic positions and their key variations and ideas must be known; 2. improving deep analytical skills; 3. development of intuition. This book concentrates on improving items 2 & 3 above. The author suggests how to best use the book by first analysing the endgames without a chess engine and/or tablebases to prevent lazy thinking by relying too heavily on engine assessments without understanding.
Despite the fact that the introduction claims that this book is not an endgame primer, there are a couple of excellent chapters on theoretical endgames. They are covered from a practical point of view and Gelfand draws out the key defensive ideas by concentrating on patterns and key positions. More on these chapters later. There are other basic endgame positions interspersed in other chapters which are reached from long variations but are nevertheless didactic as the theoretical endgames are shown in context within the whole endgame and the reader is clearly shown how these positions can be reached in practice.
Here is an critical position from the game Julian Hodgson – Boris Gelfand played at Groningen 1996. Both players misevaluated this ending as they both thought that black was easily winning. At the time, endgame theory agreed with them. Modern tablebases give this as a clear draw as black cannot hide his king from the checks with accurate defensive play from white.
The game continued 86.Qe8+? The losing mistake. The black king escapes the checks by stepping in front of the pawns. 86.Qe6!, the most natural waiting move was still drawing. (86.Qd7! also draws). 86…Qf8 87. Qe2+ g4 88. Qe5+ Kh6 89. Qe6+ Kg5 90. Qe5+ Qf5 91.Qg7+ Kf4 92. Qc7+ Qe5 93. Qf7+ with a draw. 86… Kg4 87. Qe6+ Qf5 88.Qc4+ Kg3 89. Qc7+ Qf4 0-1
The author makes the point that if white had known that the endgame was a draw, and knew a few general ideas, he would have probably drawn the game. But when you think it is lost, psychologically it is impossible to hold it, particularly in an increment finish. A lot of the top players do not think in terms of lost or not: they concentrate on looking for ideas (to make life difficult for the opponent).
Chapter 1 – The Importance of Analysis
The title of the chapter is self explanatory and Gelfand stresses the need to study complicated endgames in depth and understand all the nuances. There are some superb examples of brilliant analysis. Here is one such position where Gelfand did not discover the right idea until 2018:
It is black to play, clearly 60…d1=Q 61. Rxd1 Kxd1 62. Kf3 is not good enough to win. Black to play can win with 60…Rc4!! 61. Rb1 Rc1 62. Rb2 Rf1!! cutting the king off from the e-file (62…Ke3? 63. Rxd2 Kxd2 64.Kf4 draws shouldering the black king) 63. Kg4 Ke3 64. Rxd2 Kxd2 65. Kg5 Ke3 wins as black’s king is now available to hunt the pawns down.
Chapter 2 Do Not Hurry
The “Do not hurry” concept is a key concept that I first encountered in Shereshevsky’s classic Endgame Strategy. In the position below, this principle can be demonstrated aptly.
Converting this position is covered in detail with a key discussion on exchanges which is enlightening.
This rook ending could have occurred and black’s winning’s manoeuvre is instructive:
63…Rc5 64. Rc7 Rc3+ 65. Kf2 Rc4 66.Kg3 Now the black rook has been optimally placed, it is time to improve the king to the maximum, while keeping the best possible pawn structure, which is to keep the pawn on g7 and play …f6, so that White does not have Rc8 followed by c6-c7. If the pawn would be on g6 in that position, Rg8 would eventually come and save a draw. The best black would achieve is f- and h- pawns, but not in favourable circumstances. With the pawn on g7, …Rxc7 will always come as a response to Rg8 and black wins trivially. 66…Kf6 67.Kh3 Kg6 68.Kg3 f6 And black wins after either 69.Kh3 Kh6! followed by the advance of the g-pawn, or 69.Rc8 Kf5! and the advance of the king.
Chapter 3 – Three Surprisingly Complicated Rook Endgames
This is a variation from an interesting rook and pawn endgame Boris Gelfand – Lars Bo Hansen Wijk aan Zee 1993:
White wins with the instructive 64.Rc7!! preparing to cut black’s king off along the fifth rank 64…Rh1 65.Rc5! and if 65…Kd6 66.Rc6+, white can then simply queen the b pawn winning black’s rook whilst black’s king is unable to support his own pawn.
Here is another common type of position taken from a variation in the game Gelfand-Vladimir Kramnik Zurich 2017. White is clearly much better as his king supports his pawn and black’s king is not in the game. But how does white win?
The answer is simple once you see it. 48.Rc3!! Kf6 49. Rc2! and wins
Chapter 4 Two Defensive Methods in Rook Endings
This chapter is one of the theoretical chapters which covers rook and four against three all on one side and rook against three connected passed pawns. This section is well constructed with coverage of all the major positions and ideas in the 4 v 3 ending.
Some famous games are included which must be present in every treatise on rook endings. Here is one such ending from: Mikhail Botvinnik v Miguel Najdorf Moscow 1956:
White is winning here because he can create a passed e-pawn and he has fixed the pawn structure with h5 leaving an entry point for the king on g6. The game continued 61…Kf7 62. Ra5 Rc7 63. Rd5 Ra7 64. e5 fxe5 65. fxe5 Ke7 66.e6 Ra4 67. g5! providing cover for the king 67…hxg5 68.Rd7+ Kf8 69.Rf7+ Kg8 70.Kg6 g4 71.h6! gxh6 72.e7 Ra8 73.Rf6 There is no defence to Rd6 and Rd8 with mate.
The celebrated endgame Capablanca-Yates Hastings 1930 is of course covered in great detail. The analysis of the famous position is covered in great depth showing the defender’s best defence which is tricky to crack. It is revealing to note that even the great Cuban World Champion let the win slip at one point. I suggest that the reader buys the book to study this superb analysis.
The position below is the celebrated game Piket-Kasparov Internet 2000 because Kasparov misplayed a drawn endgame so badly. We must not be too hard on the former World Champion as it was a rapid game and Kasparov is a superb endgame player.
The game continued: 42.Kh3 Re3 43.Kh4 Kg7?! Black does not have to let the white king into g5. 43…Kh6! 44.Rc7 Re2! 45h3
Now, 45…Rxe5! 46.Rxf7 Re4 47.g4 Rxf4! forces a quick draw.
The game continued: 44.Kg5 Re1? (The final mistake: black can hold with 44…Ra3 45.Rc7 Ra5 and white is stymied) 45.Rc7 Re2 46.Re7 Ra2 The following variation is the key to why white is winning: 46…Re1
47.e6! Rxe6 48.Rxe6 fxe6 49.h3 Despite material equality, black is lost as he is in zugzwang. 49…Kf7 50.Kh6 Kf6 51.g4 h4 52.g5+ Kf5 53.Kg7 Kxf4 54.Kxg6 e5 55.Kf6 e4 56.g6 e3 57.g7 e2 58.g8=Q e1=Q 59.Qg4+ Ke3 60.Qe6+ exchanging queens and winning
In the game, black lost in a similar manner to Botvinnik-Najdorf:
47.f5! gxf5 48.e6 h4 49.Rxf7+ Kg8 50. Kf6 1-0
The final two positions in this chapter concern Rook v 3 connected passed pawns.
White to move wins with 1.Rf8, black to move draws only with 1…Kg7! preventing the rook from moving behind the base of the chain.
Similarly in the mirror position, white to move wins with 1.Rh8, black to move draws with 1…Kg7!
The core of the book (chapters 5 to 8) is a series of four chapters deeply analysing three rook and pawn endgames of Gelfand’s against world class opposition. The games are shown in their entirety which is the modern way to study endgames in relation to the opening and middlegame.
This position from a variation in the game Gelfand-Kasimdzhanov from Baku 2014 caught my eye. Black to play – what should he do? 59…Kf5!! The obvious move is to push the pawns with 59…g4. Let’s see what happens: 60.Rc6! f5 61.Rxa6 Kg5 62.Rb6 h3 63.Kg3 f4+ 64.Kh2 Kf4 65.Rh6+ Kg5
66.Rh8! Kf5 67. Rg8! Black is in zugzwang and loses all the pawns.
60.Rc6 a5 61. Rc5+ Kg6 62.Rxa5 f5 and black prevents the rook from reaching f8. This is obvious when one has knowledge of the basic endgame rook v 3 connected pawns shown above! The author has shown an excellent example of knowing your basics being applied to a real live game.
Chapter 9 Queen Endings with a g- or h- pawn
This is one of the reviewer’s favourite chapters as it combines endgame theory with practical examples showing that even strong GMs do not know how to defend these endings correctly. Even when players know where to put their defending king, choosing the correct check to draw is not obvious!
Here is a position from Gelfand-Jobava from Dortmund 2006.
The reviewer loves this endgame.
This king and pawn ending is clearly drawn but white is pressing with a more advanced king. White played 50.h4 setting a subtle trap. 50…h5?? losing, incredible to believe but it is true. 50…Kd7 draws, for example 51.g4 f6+ 52.Kd5 e6+ 53.Kc5 h6 54. e5 fxe5 55.fxe5 Kc7 seizing the opposition and drawing 51.f5! f6+ 52.Ke6 gxf5
Now white played 53. e5!! which had been completed missed by black (automatic recapture syndrome) fxe5 54.Kxe5 Kd7 55.Kxf5 Kd6 56.Kg5 Ke5 57.Kxh5 Kf4
Now white can enter a winning queen endgame with 58.Kg6!
White did not play the endgame perfectly, and after many adventures this position was reached at move 87. Black is drawing here if he places his king in the drawing zone which is the far corner diagonally opposite where the g pawn is hoping to queen i.e. a1.
87… Ka5? was played which loses. I am surprised that a strong GM moved his king the wrong way. 87…Ka3 draws but the draw is not simple. 88.g7 and now black can draw with an accurate sequence of moves that are not obvious. 87… Qe5+ (the obvious 87… Qg3+ loses in 41 moves) 89.Kg6 Qe6+ 90.Kh7 reaching the drawn position below.
90…Qf5+ 91.Kg8 Qf4! (only move) draws, 90…Qh3+ 91.Kg8 Qf5! (91…Qe6+ loses) also draws
The game continued 88.g7 Qe5+ 89.Kg6 Qe6+ 90.Kh7 Qf5+ 91.Kg8 Ka4 92. Qh1 Qc8+ 93. Kh7 Qf5+ 94. Kh8 Qe5 reaching the position below:
Now 95.Qh3! wins cutting off he black king from the drawing zone. Gelfand won the game easily after another 18 moves. The best defence involves white winning by transitioning through the two diagrams below exploiting black’s king position to misplace the black queen. Absolutely fascinating stuff.
Chapter 10 – Multiple Queens
This section is entertaining with some really exciting and amusing positions. Here is one such position:
This looks like a fairly standard queen and pawn ending. Black is a pawn down but is to play and played the obvious capture 55…Qxb2? which is simply too slow. 55…b4! was the drawing move. White has two tries: 56.axb4 is the only real winning attempt but falls short: 56…Qxb2 57. Qh7+ Ke6 58. Qxh6 a3 59. Qg6 a2 60.h6 a1=Q 61.h7 Qe2! forcing white to take a perpetual. Or 56. Qh7+ Ke6 57. Qxh6 Qxe4+ 58. Kh2 Qe2 with sufficient counterplay against the white king to draw. The game continued: 56.Qh7+ Ke6 57. Qxh6 b4 58. Qg6 bxa3 59. h6 a2 60. h7 a1=Q reaching the position below.
61. Qf5+? Driving the king towards safety: 61.h8=Q wins instantly, with a quick mate.) Kd6 62. h8=Q Kc5! 63. Qf8+ Kc4 64. Qe6+ Kd3 65. Qfxf6 Qd4 66.Qf3+ Kd2 67. Qh6+ Kc2 68.Qc6+ (the computer prefers 68.Qe2+ Kc3 69.Qc6+ Kb4 70. Qb7+ Ka3 71. Qe7+ Kb3 72. Qf7+ Kb4 73.g4 and white is winning) Kb1 69. g4 Qab2 70.g5 a3 71. g6 a2 72. g7 a1=Q 73. g8=Q Qaa3 74. Qgg3 ? (74. Qcf6 keeps the advantage) reaching this position:
This is the beautiful but sad moment of the game. Black played 74…Qxf3+? and went on to lose quickly. 74…Qdxf2+!! draws by sacrificing all three queens for stalemate, for example 75. Qfxf2 Qxg3+ 76. Kxg3 Qc3+ 77. Qxc3 stalemate. Fantastic! Who says there is no humour in chess ?
Chapter 11 – Full Circle
This chapter covers the famous game Botvinnik-Minev Amsterdam 1954 which goes into a celebrated Q + g pawn v Q ending which Botvinnik won from a drawn position. As Boris Gelfand points out, once we know that an article written by Paul Keres in the 1947-1949 Soviet Yearbook recommended that black place the king on a4, black’s moves become completely understandable.
56.Qg4+ Ka5? This is still a draw but modern knowledge recommends Ka3 heading towards the opposite corner. 57.Qxe6 Qh8+ 58.Kg6 Qc3 59.g4 Qd2 60.g5 Qd4? Centralisation looks good, but in fact loses. 60…Ka4! was best, several other moves also draw.
Now 61. Qf5+? allowing black to draw. 61. Kh7! Qh4+ 62.Qh6 followed by g6, the black king is too far from the a1 corner 61…Ka4 62. Kh5 Qh8+ 63. Kg4 Qh1? The final mistake, after this Botvinnik wins with no slip-ups. Buy the book to find out how. 63…Ka3! was correct.
Chapter 12 – Conversion in the 4th Phase
This chapter covers a complex Q and double rook late middlegame which reveals the complexities of such positions. The game clearly shows that a sustained initiative is so potent.
This is a critical position from the game Gelfand-Edouard. Black is under the cosh but can defend with 35…Qxe5! 36. Qxa7 Rg6! 35.Qb7 Rxg3+! 36.fxg3 Qe3+! 37. Kh2 Qh6+ with a perpetual check.
The penultimate chapter is a series of studies which are elegant and instructive. There is a particularly beautiful study by Darko Hlebec. Buy the book to appreciate the beauty of chess.
The final chapter is a series of rook exercises which are extremely didactic. If you can solve all of these, you are a World Champion.
I heartily recommend this superb book on major piece endgames which is a labour of love and hard work. It combines practical examples with coverage of basic endgame positions.
FM Richard Webb, Chineham, Hampshire, 16th November 2020
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