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The Art of the Endgame: My Journeys in the Magical World of Endgame Studies

The Art of the Endgame
My Journeys in the Magical World of Endgame Studies
Revised Edition – with 14 New Studies
by Jan Timman

From the publisher, New in Chess:

“All through his career Jan Timman has been captivated by the mystery and splendour of endgame studies. Even during his most successful and busy years as a world-class player, Timman continued to compose studies and admire those of others. For him, there has never been any doubt that his journeys in this magical world helped him to grow as a player.

In this fascinating book, first published in 2011, Timman has collected studies by other composers and explains in his lucid style how they inspired him to create dozens of brand-new studies.

Timman has revised the book for this new edition. With the help of engines, Timman discovered that a few studies needed to be corrected or had alternative solutions. He removed six studies and replaced another six with better versions. And fourteen new studies have been added, two of which are published here for the first time.”

About the Author, Jan Timman:

“Jan Timman is a former world championship candidate who rose to number two on the FIDE world rankings. He is the author of several highly acclaimed bestsellers, such as Timman’s Titans and Max Euwe’s Best Games. He was awarded the title of FIDE Master of Composition in 2022.”

GM Jan Timman
GM Jan Timman

This book is a gem and I do remember perusing the first edition at a bookstall a while back, now I have a copy of the second edition.

There is no doubt that familiarity with ideas from endgame studies improves a player’s overall chess ability and imagination.

The reviewer was introduced to endgame studies at a tournament in London when he was junior: I was having lunch in the analysis room, when an older gentlemen showed some Harold Lommer studies involving knight promotions which got me hooked. The acquisition of Test Tube Chess by John Roycroft soon followed.

Jan Timman’s book has a variety of positions some of which are really “game like” whilst others are artistic beauties involving for example multiple promotions.

The book is divided into fourteen themed chapters viz:

Chapter 1: Miniature studies
Chapter 2: Rook versus bishop
Chapter 3: Preventing pawn promotion
Chapter 4: Various promotion combinations
Chapter 5: Knight promotions
Chapter 6: Bishop promotions
Chapter 7: Mating patterns
Chapter 8: Stalemate patterns
Chapter 9: Mutual zugzwang
Chapter 10: Building a fortress
Chapter 11: Systematic manoeuvres
Chapter 12: The disappearing trick
Chapter 13: Three themes
Chapter 14: Various endgame studies

The reviewer will show a variety of positions from various subsections.

Chapter 1: Miniature studies

These are positions with no more than seven pieces. This one is particularly beautiful with a mutual zugzwang.

Position 1

Liburkin
Liburkin, ’64’ 1933 White to play and win

White is a pawn up with black’s king close to the passed pawn, so white needs something special here.
1.Kd1 pins the knight forcing  1…Kf5 2.Ke2 threatening to win the knight. Black bishop’s impedes his king, so he goes after the h-pawn with 2…Bf6 3.Kf3 Bxh4

Liburkin 1934 After 3...Bxh4
Liburkin 1934 After 3…Bxh4

If white takes the bishop 4.Nxh4+ Kg5 attacking the knight saves black. So 4.Bxe4+ Kg5 5.Bd5!Kh5 6.Bf7+ Kg5 7.Be8

Liburkin 1934 After 7.Be8
Liburkin 1934 After 7.Be8

Black is zugzwang and loses the bishop and the game. Note this is a position of mutual zugzwang as white has no good waiting move and cannot win with the move! Very pretty.

Chapter 2: Rook versus bishop

This is the most practical chapter with studies in the complex endgame of R+P v B+P.

Position 18

Reshevsky-Fischer, Los Angeles match (11) Position after 52...Ra2+
Reshevsky-Fischer, Los Angeles match (11) Position after 52…Ra2+

This is a celebrated position where Reshevsky played 53.Kf3? with Fischer missing a clear win by exchanging rooks and occupying g4 with his king. Instead Fischer kept the rooks on. White draws with 53.Kh3!

This study was created to show this:

Position 19

Study based on Reshevsky-Fischer game White to play and draw
Study based on Reshevsky-Fischer game White to play and draw

1.Kg2! Kf5 2.Kh3 Rc4 3.Be7! the only move 3…Rc1 4.Bf8! (The bishop hides itself to prevent a rook check followed by attacking the bishop to allow black to get in Kg4) 4…Rb1 5. Bg7 or 5.Bh6 draws

Chapter 3: Preventing pawn promotion

This is a famous promotion combination from a game which resembles the elegance of a study:

Position 44

Ortueta-Sanz Madrid 1933 Position after 30.h3
Ortueta-Sanz Madrid 1933 Position after 30.h3

Black played 30…Rd2 31.Na4 (31.a4 was better) 31…Rxb2! 32.Nxb2 c3 33.Rxb6 c4!! 34.Rb4 a5!! winning

Ortueta-Sanz Madrid 1933 Position after 34...a5
Ortueta-Sanz Madrid 1933 Position after 34…a5

White cannot prevent the coronation of a new  queen.

The great composer, Pogosyants composed a study with a very similar theme:

Position 46

Pogosyants 1977 White to play and win
Pogosyants, ‘Themes-64’ 1977 White to play and win

The solution is 1.Bg3 dxc4 2.Rxg7! Nxg7 3.f6 Rxg3 4.f5!! Rg5 5.f4! Nxf5 6.f7 wins

Chapter 4: Various promotion combinations

Position 69

Wotawa Schach Magazin 1951 White to play and win
Wotawa Schach Magazin 1951 White to play and win

A game like position. 1.d6 Be5 2.Bb8 threatening d7 winning the bishop, so 2…Bf6 3.d7 Bd8 apparently saving the bishop, but 4.Bg3! a4 5.Bh4! Bxh4 6.g4+ and wins

Chapter 5: Knight promotions

Here is a superb Harold Lommer study with multiple promotions:

Position 96

Lommer 1933 White to play and win
Lommer, ‘Feuille d’Avis de Lausanne’ 1933 White to play and win

White is threatened with a brutal discovered mate by the black monarch. So 1.d8N Bd5 2.g8B!! (2.g8Q allows black a brilliant defence  2…Ke3+ 3.Qxd5 stalemate!) 2… Be4 3.e8R!! (3.e8Q allows another fantastic defence 3…Kg3+ 4.Qxe4 stalemate!) and wins

A brilliant study has with stunning counterplay.

Position 97 shows a famous Lommer involving 5 knight promotions, but unfortunately after the fourth promotion, there is alternative prosaic win promoting to a queen.

Chapter 6: Bishop promotions

Position 112

Rusinek 1971 White to
Rusinek ‘New Statesman’ 1971 White to play and draw

White has an army of far advanced pawns against 3 minor pieces and a well placed black king.

1.a7 Ba6+ 2.b7 Ne4 threatening  Nd6# 3.g8N+ Ke8 4.Nf6+

Rusinek 1971 after 4.Nf6+
Rusinek 1971 after 4.Nf6+

If black plays 4…Ndxf6 5.Kb8 gets the king out of the mating trap, so 4…Nexf6 5.a8B!! (5.a8=Q? Nd5 followed by Ne7#)

Rusinek 1971 after 5.a8B
Rusinek 1971 after 5.a8B

White is attempting a self stalemate, so black must release this and rearrange his pieces. 5…Ne5 (5…Bf1 6.b8N! draws) 6.Kb8 Nc6+ 7.Kc8 Bf1 threatening Bh3# 8.b8R!! (8.b8Q? Ba6+ 9.Qb7 Ne4 10.Qxa6 Nd6#, or 8.b8N? Ne7+ 9.Kb7 Bg2+ 10.Ka7 Nc8+ wins the bishop on a8 and the game)

Rusinek 1971 after 8.b8R
Rusinek 1971 after 8.b8R

8…Ba6+ 9.Rb7! with a draw

Scintillating promotion play.

Position 124

This is a creation of genius and very amusing.

Troitsky, Korolkov 1938-1939 White to play and win
Troitzky, Korolkov 1938-1939 White to play and win

The great Troitzky is involved here. Black threatens a brutal Ng3 mate. 1.Qc3!! (Threatening the key g7 pawn, 1.Qa3? is met by f1N reinforcing the threat on g3 winning for black) 1…Nxc3 2.d8B!! (Not 2.d8Q? Nde4 3.Qxc7 f1N 4.Bf4 Ne2 followed by sacrificing all the knights ending with Qxg3 stalemate) 2…Ne2 3.Bxc7 f1N 4.b8B!! (4.b8Q allows black to sacrifice all the knights on g3 ending with Qg3 stalemate) 4…Ne4 5.B1f4 winning as the three white bishops control the three knights.

Troitzky, Korolkov 1938-1939 Position after 5.B1f4
Troitzky, Korolkov 1938-1939 Position after 5.B1f4

Who says there is no humour in chess?

Chapter 7: Mating patterns

Here is an elegant study by the author, Jan Timman:

Position 163

Timman 2010 White to play and win
Timman 2010 White to play and win

1.h5 preventing Bxa2 as Rd7+ would win easily 1…Kh6 2.Rd8! Bxa2 3.Rh8! Bg8! great counterplay

Timman 2010 Position after 3...Bg8
Timman 2010 Position after 3…Bg8

4.Kc3 a2 5.Kb2 a3+ 6.Ka1 Kg7 7.h6+

Timman 2010 Position after 7.h6+
Timman 2010 Position after 7.h6+

7…Kxh8 8.g7 mate

Chapter 8: Stalemate patterns

Position 167

Rusinek 1973 white to play and draw
Rusinek 1973 White to play and draw

Stalemate looks unlikely here. 1.b6 must be played as white is two pieces down 1…Rf5 2.b7! Rf7+ 3.Kd6 Nc4+ 4.Ke6 Bxb7 5.Rh3+ Kg7 6.Rf3+ Kf8

Rusinek 1973 position after 6...Kf8
Rusinek 1973 position after 6…Kf8

7.Rg8+! Kxg8 stalemate!

Chapter 9: Mutual Zugzwang

Position 189

Here is an entertaining position:

Kliatskin 1924 White to play and win
Kliatskin 1924 White to play and win

1.Rc8+ Kxc8 2.b7+ Kb8 3.d5 Kc7

Kliatskin 1924 Position after 3...Kc7
Kliatskin 1924 Position after 3…Kc7

Now only 4.bxa8B! Kb8 5.Bb7 wins with a position of mutual zugzwang

Chapter 10: Building a fortress

Position 203

Smyslov 2005 White to play and draw
Smyslov 2005 White to play and draw

The elderly former World Champion, Smyslov, composed this amusing study in his eighties. 1.Nb8 Rd6 2.Nd7+! Rxd7 3.Rxg7! Kxg7 4.h4

Smyslov 2005 Position after 4.h4
Smyslov 2005 Position after 4.h4

After 4…Rd6 5.Kg2 Rg6+ 6.Kh3! black has to move the rook off the g-file to avoid stalemate, so white draws!

Chapter 11: Systematic manoeuvres

Kotov, Mitrofanov 1976 White to play and draw
Kotov, Mitrofanov 1976 White to play and draw

The reviewer assumes this is the Mitrofanov of Qg5!! fame.

White plays 1.Rf8+ Bf2 2.g8Q Rxf8 3.c5! 

Kotov, Mitrofanov 1976 Position after 3.c5
Kotov, Mitrofanov 1976 Position after 3.c5

3…Rf7 4.Qg7! Rf6 5.Qg6! Rf5 7.Qg5! Rf4 8.Qg4! Rxf4 stalemate

Chapter 12: The disappearing trick

The disappearing trick is a kind of systematic manoeuvre whereby white plays to achieve a particular position without a certain white piece. This is demonstrated below with a neat study.

Position 260

Sochniev, Gurgenidze JT 2004 White to play and win
Sochniev, Gurgenidze JT 2004 White to play and win

1.Nd6+ (to create two dangerous passed pawns) cxd6 2.Kh6 Rf6+ 3.Kh5 Rf5+ 4.Kg4 Rf4+ 5.Kh3! Rxf3+

Sochniev, Gurgenidze JT 2004 Position after 5...Rxf3+
Sochniev, Gurgenidze JT 2004 Position after 5…Rxf3+

Now the king sneaks back minus the f-pawn.

6.Kg4 Rf4+ 7.Kh5 Rf5+ 8.Kh6 Rf6+ 9.Kh7 Rf5

Sochniev, Gurgenidze JT 2004 Position after 11...Rf5
Sochniev, Gurgenidze JT 2004 Position after 9…Rf5

10.Rf1! (The point of removing the f-pawn) Rxf1 11.c7 Rf5 12.d8N+ Rxd8 13.cxd8N+

Sochniev, Gurgenidze JT 2004 Position after cxd8N+
Sochniev, Gurgenidze JT 2004 Position after cxd8N+

13…Kf6 (otherwise white promotes to a queen) 14.g8N mate Brilliant!

The last two chapters are short with some pretty positions.

I heartily recommend this labour of love to the endgame study which will give the reader many pleasurable hours.

FM Richard Webb

FM Richard Webb, Basingstoke, Hampshire, 15th June 2024

Book Details :

  • Hardcover : 248 pages
  • Publisher:New in Chess (31 Aug. 2023)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10:9083328414
  • ISBN-13: 978-9083328416
  • Product Dimensions: ‎7.3 x 2 x 23.7 cm

Official web site of New in Chess

GM Jan Timman
GM Jan Timman
The Art of the Endgame: My Journeys in the Magical World of Endgame Studies, Jan Timman, New in Chess, ISBN-13: 978-9083328416
The Art of the Endgame: My Journeys in the Magical World of Endgame Studies, Jan Timman, New in Chess, ISBN-13: 978-9083328416
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Understanding Pawn Endgames

Understanding Pawn Endgames: Valentin Bogdanov

From the publisher, Gambit Publications “Understanding the endgame is fundamental to playing good chess, and at its heart lie positions where just kings and pawns remain on the board.

Even when a pawn ending is not actually reached, the players must often assess ones that could arise from an exchange of pieces. And an error calculating a pawn ending is normally fatal. Questions of pawn-structure, and thus decisions made early in the game, can be fully understood only when we appreciate how they impact the possible pawn endings.

This book takes a practical angle, so is the perfect complement to Secrets of Pawn Endings, which examines their theory in detail. Experienced trainer Bogdanov examines a wealth of pawn endings where strong players made significant errors, and draws lessons and rules of thumb from them.

While we are enjoying the entertaining material in this book, we are painlessly absorbing endgame principles and improving our intuitive decision-making skills. We learn how to calculate and identify key positional elements, and appreciate the beautiful tactics and paradoxical ideas that are unique to the world of pawns.

The Nunn Convention is used throughout the book, and all the material has been checked in detail with modern NNUE-based engines with access to seven-man tablebases.”

International Master Valentin Bogdanov has vast experience as a chess trainer, and is from Ukraine. His pupils include grandmasters Moskalenko, Savchenko and Drozdovsky, and he has acted as a second for the well-known grandmaster and theoretician Viacheslav Eingorn since the late 1970s.

For 50 years he has been a teacher at the chess school in Odesa (Ukraine), and in 2016 won the European Over-65 Championship. In the same year he also qualified as an International Arbiter and has since then officiated over a great many chess events in his country.

This is his fourth book for Gambit.

IM Valentin Bogdanov (UKR)
IM Valentin Bogdanov (UKR)

Before we start our review it is worth watching this video preview from John Nunn and Gambit Publications:

This is a excellent book that has an emphasis on practical king and pawn endgames. All the examples are taken from 1981 onwards which means that the reader will see novel positions rather than a rehash of old favourites. The other fresh approach is the structure of the ten chapters based on themes rather than the number of pawns. This book is not for beginners or very inexperienced club players as it assumes a basic knowledge of elementary pawn endgames. It is aimed at 1750+ chess enthusiasts but ambitious lower rated readers will benefit from some of the easier examples. The more difficult positions will tax GMs. This book would be ideal material for a coach for training purposes to give the students a toolkit of ideas.

The chapter structure is as follows:

Chapter 1: Obvious Errors
Chapter 2: Breakthrough
Chapter 3: Zugzwang
Chapter 4: Opposition and Corresponding Squares
Chapter 5:Spare Tempi
Chapter 6: The Fight To Promote
Chapter 7: Changing the Pawn-Structure
Chapter 8: Calculation
Chapter 9: Evaluating the Resulting Queen Endings
Chapter 10: Positional Play

The reviewer will  show examples distributed from all the chapters to give the reader a flavour of this instructional idyll.

Chapter 1: Obvious Errors

Position 21

Movsesian-Sadvakasov Calvia Olympiad 2004
Movsesian-Sadvakasov Calvia Olympiad 2004              White to play

White, Movsesian, a 2600+ GM played the dreadful blunder 59.Kc6? (throwing away a totally winning pawn endgame. 59.Kc5! wins as the threat is to play Kb4 which will preserve white’s remaining pawn as a b-pawn with the king in front and a reserve tempo move of b3, if 59…a3 60.bxa3! Ke7 61. Kc6 Kd8 62.Kb7! and the a-pawn promotes) 59…Ke6 60.Kb5 reaching this position:

Movsesian-Sadvakasov Move 60 Calvia Olympiad 2004
Movsesian-Sadvakasov Calvia Olympiad 2004 Move 60 Black to play

Now, black drew with a common, but nevertheless neat idea:
60…a3! (transforming white’s pawn into a now useless a-pawn, as black’s king is just close enough to draw) 61.bxa3! Kd7! 62.Kb6 Kc8! reaching c8 with an elementary draw

Position 22

Forcen Esteban - Lagarde
Forcen Esteban – Lagarde Internet rapid 2019 Move 83 Black to play

This position is simpler than the last one.
Both players are rated well over 2500!
Black is to play here and after the obvious 83..b3, it is crystal clear to a novice player that both sides are going to promote with a draw, even though white promotes first. If 83…Kb7 trying to impede the advance of the d-pawn, white can play 84.Kf6 making sure that the d-pawn does promote with a stone cold draw.
Black played 83…Kb8? (Placing the king on the back rank presumably in the mistaken belief that he could stop the white pawn from promoting. 84.Kf6! b3 85.d7! followed by promoting with check, winning the game, thanks to black’s foolish Kb8 move!

Chapter 2: Breakthrough

This is a key topic in pawn endings and there are many beautiful examples. Sometimes, the threat of a breakthrough can limit the opponent’s king manoeuvres, thus winning the game indirectly.
Once a player has seen some pretty examples of this theme, they are never forgotten.

Position 33

Nikolic-Lautier Reykjavik rapid 2004
Nikolic-Lautier Reykjavik rapid 2004                                   White to play

White missed a chance for a standard breakthrough against black’s mangled pawns viz: 35.h5 Kd7 36.g5 reaching this key position:

Nikolic-Lautier Reykjavik rapid 2005 Move 36
Nikolic-Lautier Reykjavik rapid 2005 Move 36                 Black to move

Now there are two main variations:

A) 36…Ke8 37.gxh6! Kf8 38.Kc2 Kg8 39.Kb3

Nikolic-Lautier Reykjavik rapid 2005 variation A
Nikolic-Lautier Reykjavik rapid 2005 variation A

and white wins the race to get a new queen for example: 39… Kh7 (39…a5 40.a4 breaks through) 40.Kb4 Kxh6 41.Kc5 Kxh5 42.Kxd5 Kg4 43.Kc6 Kxf4 44.d5 wins easily

B) 36…fxg5 37.fxg5! Ke8 38.gxh6! Kf8 39.Ke3

Nikolic-Lautier Reykjavik rapid 2005 variation B
Nikolic-Lautier Reykjavik rapid 2005 variation B

39…Kg8 40.Kf4 Kh7 41.Kg5 winning

Back to the original position: white played 35.Kc2? f5! 36.g5 h5! 37. Kb3 draw agreed

Position 36

Gashimov-Anastasian Dubai 2003 Move 53
Gashimov-Anastasian Dubai 2003 Move 53                     White to play

White has an outside passed a-pawn and was probably dreaming of swapping his a-pawn for black’s c-pawn, leaving black to deal with an outside passed b-pawn, while white’s king mops up the king side pawns winning the game, hence his next move 53.Kc3?

A more alert white player would have spotted the danger of black’s advanced kingside pawns. It might look as though black can only create a passed e-pawn as his extra kingside pawn is on the e-file, but this an illusion: black can now breakthrough creating a pawn configuration that ties down the white king permanently, thus allowing black to win on the queenside. Once seen never forgotten!
53…e4! would have won threatening e3 or f3 winning, if 54.Kd2 f3! 55.gxf3 exf3 reaching a position similar to the game

53…Kd5? 54.a4? Pursing his faulty plan, 54.Kd2! would have drawn 54…e4! 55.Kd2 (55.gxf4 allows an immediate breakthrough 55…e3! 56.fxe3 h4! and the h-pawn queens) 55…f3! 56.gxf3 exf3! reaching this position:

Gashimov-Anastasian Dubai 2003 Move 56
Gashimov-Anastasian Dubai 2003 Move 56                    White to play

White’s king is tied down and cannot cross to the c-file as this allows a decisive breakthrough of h4! Therefore black’s king can invade on the queenside with decisive gains viz: 57.Ke3 Kc5 58.Ke4 Kb4 59.Kd4 Kxa4 60.Kxc4 h4 61.b3+ Ka3 62.gxh4 g3! 63.Kd4 0-1

Position 38

Mamedyarov-Sokolov Hoogeveen 2006
Mamedyarov-Sokolov Hoogeveen 2006                             White to play

White missed the elegant 59.f5! b3 60.Kc3! Kd5 61.e6 fxe6 62.f6 62…gxf6 63.h5! and the h-pawn queens.

White played 59.Kc4? and still won after black missed a draw.

Chapter 3: Zugzwang

Here is a subtle example, but nevertheless didactic:

Position 56

Grabarczyk - Rustemov
Grabarczyk – Rustemov Koszalin 1997                                 Black to play

This ending looks like an easy win for black with a extra passed pawn. But be careful!
Black played the natural 52…Kg5? which throws away the win. This won’t become clear for a few moves. 52…Kg6! wins
53.f4+ exf3 54.Kxf3! h5 55.Kg3! reaching a position of mutual zugzwang:

Grabarczyk-Rustemov Mutual Zugzwang
Grabarczyk-Rustemov Mutual Zugzwang

If black had played 52…Kg6, white would be on move here and would be lost as 56.Kh3 or 56.Kf3 would be met by 56…h4 and any other king move would allow 56…Kg4 winning easily.

The game continued 55…h4+ 56.Kf3! Kh5 57.Kf4! Kh6 58.e4! h3 59.Kg3 drawn

Chapter 4: Opposition and Corresponding Squares

The introduction to this chapter is excellent explaining the concept of the opposition, the distant opposition, corresponding squares and triangulation.

Here is a simple example from a game between players rated in the 2400s:

Position 70

Heim - Helmers Reykjavik 1981
Heim – Helmers Reykjavik 1981                                               White to play

White played the “active” 55.Ke4? (55.Kf2! maintaining the distant opposition draws a textbook ending) 55…Ke6! winning the opposition 56. Kf3 Kd5 bypassing 57.Ke3 Ke5! 58.Kf3 Kd4 (another bypass) 59.Kf2 Kd3 60.Kf3 g4+ and white threw in the towel

Chapter 5: Spare Tempi

Position 105

Siugirov - Lupulescu Jerusalem 2015
Siugirov – Lupulescu Jerusalem 2015                                     Black to Play

The author’s explanation of black’s defensive plan here is pithy and pedagogical:

“Black’s defensive plan is to let White  take the a7-pawn and then block the king in permanently in front of his own a-pawn. For this idea to work, Black needs a spare tempo on the kingside, as otherwise he will be forced to release the white king from its a-file prison. Immediately fixing the kingside pawns by 43…g5!? secures two such tempi and is the simplest path to a draw viz: 44.Kc6 Ke5 45.Kb7 Kd6! 46.Kxa7 Kc7! 47.h3 h6 48.a6 h5!”

Siugirov - Lupulescu Jerusalem 2016 Trapped king
Siugirov – Lupulescu Jerusalem 2016 Trapped king

White does not enough tempi to release his imprisoned king.

In practice Black played 43…Kd7 which retains the draw but mis-defended on the next move and lost.

Interestingly, I had a similar position in a game many decades ago with reversed flanks. I won the game and proudly showed the endgame to a friend, who promptly demonstrated a drawing plan for my opponent identical to this game.

Chapter 6: The Fight To Promote

Mchedlishvili - Jankovic
Mchedlishvili – Jankovic Dubai 2009                                     White to move

White totally mis-assessed the resulting king and pawn endgame after the exchange of queens here. He probably thought that his connected passed pawns on the kingside were at least a match for black’s queenside majority. 

34.Qxf7+? Kxf7 35.g4 a5 36.Kf2 c5 37.Ke3 d5 38.Kd3 a5 reaching this position:

Mchedlishvili - Jankovic Winning queenside majority
Mchedlishvili – Jankovic Winning queenside majority

What white missed was that black can create a passed a-pawn and a passed d-pawn (separated by two files) and these pawns can reach the fifth rank safely which means they are unstoppable.

White played the desperate 39.c4 dxc4+ (39…bxc4+ also wins) 40.Kc3 a3 41.h4 Kg6 42.g5 h5 43.Kd2 b4 44.Kc2 c3 white resigned

7: Changing the Pawn-Structure

This is one of the most complex chapters and the hardest to evaluate in practice.

The reviewer will show an excellent example to show a typical idea:

Position 153

Kasparov - Azmaiparashvili Geropotamos rapid 2003
Kasparov – Azmaiparashvili Geropotamos rapid 2003  Black to play

Black played the automatic 46…Kc6? White won with a well known technique exploiting the fact that his king is one move ahead in the race to the kingside 47.h4! f5 48.g3! Kc5 (48…Kc7 49.Ka7 Kc6 50.Kb8 wins) 49.Kb7! and black resigned because of this variation: 49…b5 50.axb5 Kxb5 51.Kc7 Kc4 52.Kd6 Kd3 53.Ke6 Ke3 54.Kf6 Kf3 55.Kxg6! Kxg3

Kasparov - Azmaiparashvili Geropotamos rapid 2004 possible continuation
Kasparov – Azmaiparashvili Geropotamos rapid 2004 possible continuation White to play

56.Kg5! winning

Going back to the original position:

Kasparov - Azmaiparashvili Geropotamos rapid 2003
Kasparov – Azmaiparashvili Geropotamos rapid 2003  Black to play

Instead of the passive 46…Kc6? black can actively rearrange the kingside pawn structure to draw as follows:

46…h4! 47.Ka7 f5 48.h3

Kasparov - Azmaiparashvili Geropotamos rapid 2004 variation in missed draw
Kasparov – Azmaiparashvili Geropotamos rapid 2004 variation in missed draw Black to play

48…Kc6! 49.Kb8 Kc5 50.Kc7 Kb4 51.Kxb6 Kxa4 52.Kc5 Kb3! 53.Kd4 Kc2! 54. Ke5 Kd3 55.Kf6 Ke4 56.Kxg6 Kxf4! 57.Kf6!

Kasparov - Azmaiparashvili Geropotamos rapid 2004 variation in missed move 57
Kasparov – Azmaiparashvili Geropotamos rapid 2004 variation in missed draw move 57 Black to play

Black draws here with 57…Ke4! 58.Kg5 Ke5! 59.Kxh4 Kf4! 60.g4 (60.g3 Ke3 draws) 60…Ke5! 61.g5 f4! 62.Kg4 Ke4! leads to a drawn Q + h-pawn v Q endgame

Kasparov - Azmaiparashvili Geropotamos rapid 2004 variation in missed move 62
Kasparov – Azmaiparashvili Geropotamos rapid 2004 variation in missed draw move 62 White to play

Position 158

The reviewer loves this endgame.

Gelfand-Jobava (Move 50)
Gelfand-Jobava (Move 50)

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

Gelfand-Jobava (Move 53)
Gelfand-Jobava (Move 53)

Now white played 53. e5! which had been completed missed by black (automatic recapture syndrome) 53… fxe5 54.Kxe5! Kd7 55.Kxf5! Kd6 56.Kg5 Ke5 57.Kxh5! Kf4

Gelfand-Jobava (Move 57)
Gelfand-Jobava (Move 57)

Now white can enter a winning queen endgame with 58.Kg6! e5 59.h5! e4 60.h6! e3 61.h7! e2! 62.h8Q e1Q 

Gelfand - Jobava Dortmund 2006 Queen Ending
Gelfand – Jobava Dortmund 2006 Queen Ending            White to play

This looks drawn as the white g-pawn is only on the second rank and the black king is close to it. However, white has a series of checks to exploit the poor position of the black pieces viz:

63. Qb8+ Kg4 64. Qc8+ Kf4 (64…Kg3 65.Qh3! is the same as the game) 65. Qf5+ Kg3 66.Qh3+ Ke5 67.g4!

Gelfand - Jobava Dortmund 2006 Queen Ending Tablebase win
Gelfand – Jobava Dortmund 2006 Queen Ending Tablebase win

Surprisingly this is a tablebase win even though the g-pawn is only on the fourth rank. Looking more closely at the position, black’s pieces are badly placed with the king interfering with the queen. If the black king was in the south west corner, he would draw.

Gelfand did win this game about 50 moves later after mistakes by both sides.

Chapter 8: Calculation

Clearly this is absolutely critical in king and pawn endings.
Here is a relatively simple example:

Position 172

Ikonnikov - Liogky Paris 1998
Ikonnikov – Liogky Paris 1998 Black to play

Black played the obvious exchange 47…hxg5? which loses trivially 48.hxg5! Kf1 49.Kf3! Kg1 50.Kg3 (50.g6 Kh2 51.Kg4! also wins) 50…Kg1 51.g6! Black resigned as white’s king travels to f7 and black’s cannot get to h6 in time.

Ikonnikov - Liogky Paris 1999 End
Ikonnikov – Liogky Paris 1999 Final Position Black to play

Going back to the start:

Ikonnikov - Liogky Paris 1998
Ikonnikov – Liogky Paris 1998

Black can draw with 47…h5! After 48.g6 viz:

Ikonnikov - Liogky Paris 1999 Drawing Line
Ikonnikov – Liogky Paris 1999 Drawing Line

As soon as white plays Kxh5, black will answer Kf4 stalemate!
If white goes after the g-pawn, black draws by going after the h-pawn, for example 48…Kf1 49.Kf4 Kg2 50.Ke5 Kh3 51.Ke6 Kxh4 52.Kf7 Kg3 53.Kg7 h4 54.Kf6 h3 55.g7 h2 56.g8Q+ Kf2 drawing

Chapter 9: Evaluating the Resulting Queen Endings

The introduction to this chapter by the author is a superb summary of the intricacies of these transitions. The reviewer has already given an example from Chapter 7 (position 158), so I will leave the reader to buy the book to sample this chapter.

Chapter 10: Positional Play

Position 259

Radjabov - Ding Liren Internet rapid 2021
Radjabov – Ding Liren Internet rapid 2021 Black to play

This looks very difficult for black as not only does white have a potential outside passed pawn but also a better king. He played 52…Kc6? and lost. Buy the book to find out how black can draw or work it for yourself!

In summary, this is a really good book and close study will reap rewards.  The book is very well laid out and is easy to read with lots of diagrams. Thoroughly recommended.

FM Richard Webb, Chineham, Hampshire, 30th May 2021

FM Richard Webb
FM Richard Webb

Here is a pdf extract from Everyman

Book Details :

  • Hardcover : 192 pages
  • Publisher: Gambit Publications Ltd (16 Sept. 2020)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1911465597
  • ISBN-13: 978-1911465591
  • Product Dimensions: 17.15 x 1.52 x 24.77 cm

Official web site of Gambit Publications Ltd.

Understanding Pawn Endgames, Valentin Bogdanov, Gambit Publications, ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-1915328854
Understanding Pawn Endgames, Valentin Bogdanov, Gambit Publications, ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-1915328854
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Thinkers Chess Academy Volume 3 – Test your chess knowledge – Crucial exercises to sharpen your understanding

Grandmaster Thomas Luther, born in 1969, is the first player with a disability to have entered the FIDE Top 100 rating list. In 2001 he was ranked 80th in the world. He has won the German Championship three times and is well known as an experienced and successful coach. In 2014 his achievements were recognised by being granted the title of FIDE Senior Trainer. In his career to-date he has published several books and DVDs. This is his fourth book for Thinkers’ Publishing, after a co-production with Jugend Schach Verlag entitled ‘Chess Coaching for Kids – the U10 Project‘ and the current series

GM Thomas Luther
GM Thomas Luther

This is the third volume in Thinkers’ Chess Academy (TCA), an ever-growing series written by Grandmaster and FIDE Senior Trainer Thomas Luther intended for beginners through to club standard players.

John Upham has previously reviewed the first volume, First Steps in Tactics, although I note a negative review on Amazon which considered the examples were too hard for the target market. Volume 2, From Tactics to Strategy – Winning Knowledge, which, I believe, hasn’t been submitted for review by BCN, covers more advanced tactics along with an introduction to strategy.

Volume 3 is designed as a workbook for readers of the two previous volumes, while also providing more challenging exercises for ambitious students.

From the author’s introduction (it’s also on the publisher’s website):

Not every reader is ambitious enough or has enough time to work very hard on his chess. That’s quite understandable and nothing to be ashamed of. You can enjoy chess very well without being a strong tournament player. You could just entertain yourself by playing through interesting combinations. In this case don’t try too hard to solve the Advanced Lessons or Master Class exercises. Have a look to make yourself familiar with the position, than look at the solution and enjoy the surprising combinations. You won’t learn as much as you would by racking your brain to crack the hard nuts. But some knowledge and experience will certainly rub off and increase your understanding of chess. I hope this book will help you to work towards your goals and let have you fun with chess.

The book has an unusual structure. We have 20 chapters alternately easier and harder, with the answers at the end of each chapter. Less experienced players are advised to work through the odd numbered chapters first before tackling the odd numbered chapters, while stronger players could work through the book in order, using the odd numbered chapters as ward-up exercises.

An interesting concept, but does it work? Let’s take a look inside. All the odd numbered chapters are billed simply as ‘Quick Test’, although their specific themes are discussed in the chapter introductions.  The first Quick Test, which corresponds to Chapter 7 of TCA1, features mates in up to 2 moves. Other tests involve winning material in various ways. There is a gradual increase in length and complexity, until, by Chapter 19 you’ll be able to find wins (material or mate) in up to 5 moves.

I enjoyed Chapter 9 (Quick Test 5): From The Good Old Times!

Can you find this mate in 3 (Napier – Amateur 1904)?

Ng5+ is only a mate in 4: it’s quicker and more spectacular to play 1. Qg6+ Bxg6 2. Ng5+ hxg5 3. hxg6#

This, for example is Q12 in Chapter 19.

If you can solve this within a few seconds you’re a pretty good tactician: quite a jump forward from the simple positions in Chapter 1.

In case you haven’t spotted it yet: 1. Bxf6 Bxf6 2. Qxe6+ Kg7 3. Qxf6+ Kxf6 4. Nxd5+ followed by 5. Nxb6.

The even numbered chapters, apart from Chapter 2, have more specific titles, Chapters 4-12 being Advanced Lessons and Chapters 14-20 being Master Classes. We have (from 4 in steps of 2): Easy Tactics in the Endgame, Chess History, Checkmate in Up to 5 Moves, Advantage or Mate in Up to 5 Moves, All Kinds of Draws, Advantage in 5 or More Moves, The Classics, Studies and finally The Long Way to Checkmate. Yes, of course some two move combinations can be much harder to spot than some five move combinations, but the author has been very careful in his choice of material.

This is from Chapter 10: Mohammad Fahad – Vatsal Mumbai 2018.

White won by continuing 17. fxe6 fxe6 18. Nxe5 dxe5 19. Nxe6 Bxe6 20. Bb5+ Kf7 21. Qf2+ Bf6 22. Rxd8. A nice example of a clearance; very difficult to see, according to Luther.

Like many leading chess teachers these days, Thomas Luther is very keen on endgame studies. “Don’t be frightened or repulsed by the studies”, he says in the introduction to Chapter 4. “They are not like problem chess but very practical and instructive. You can learn a lot by trying to solve them.”

Here, from Chapter 18, is an 1851 study by Horwitz and Kling.

The solution runs like this: 1. Ra4+ Ke5 2. Ra5 c5 3. Rxc5 Qxc5 4. d4+ Qxd4 5. Nc6+ Kd5 6. Nxd4 Kxd4 7. Kf3

Instructive, I think, because you need to know basic KP v K theory as well as being able to spot knight forks.

The book is beautifully produced and the author has clearly put a lot of thought into both the selection of the puzzles and the structure of the chapters.

If you’re following the Thinkers’ Chess Academy series you’ll definitely want this book. If you’re looking for a book, with puzzles you probably haven’t seen before, this book would also be an excellent choice. I would place this volume high up in my list of recommended puzzle books for club standard players.

Of course many players these days prefer to solve puzzles online, but there’s also much to be said for the old-fashioned method of using a book. Although I’d guess the main target market would be roughly 1250-1750 rated players, anyone between, say, 1000 and 2000 strength would find this book both instructive and enjoyable. Lower rated players should work through the odd numbered chapters first, while higher rated players will prefer to start at the beginning and work through sequentially.

If you want to make sure the book’s for you, you can read the first three chapters here.

Richard James, Twickenham 3rd June 2024

Richard James
. Richard James

Book Details:

  • Softcover : 362 pages
  • Publisher: Thinkers Publishing; 1st edition (20 Dec. 2022)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 9464201673
  • ISBN-13: 978-9464201673
  • Product Dimensions: 17.02 x 2.54 x 23.37 cm

Official web site of Thinkers Publishing

Thinkers Chess Academy Volume 3 – Test your chess knowledge – Crucial exercises to sharpen your understanding, Thomas Luther, Thinker's Publishing, Thinkers Publishing; 1st edition (20 Dec. 2022)
Thinkers Chess Academy Volume 3 – Test your chess knowledge – Crucial exercises to sharpen your understanding, Thomas Luther, Thinker’s Publishing, Thinkers Publishing; 1st edition (20 Dec. 2022)

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R. P. Michell – A Master of British Chess

I have a parochial interest in any book on Reginald Pryce Michell because he ended his playing career as a member of Kingston Chess Club of which I have the privilege to be President. His main career was in the first third of the twentieth century.  Other notable contemporary club members from the 1930s include the legendary Pakistani player Mir Sultan Khan, the chess author Edward Guthlac Sergeant and Joseph Henry Blake against whom we show some Michell games below.

Updated and Expanded Edition

This new book from Carsten Hansen is a welcome addition to the coverage of an important player who represented England. It is an update and expansion of the book originally published in 1947 by Pitman, London and compiled by Julius du Mont, the former editor of British Chess Magazine.

Julius du Mont, Editor of British Chess Magazine from 1940 to 1949
Julius du Mont, Editor of British Chess Magazine from 1940 to 1949

The original book has long been out of print so the new book allows players to familiarise themselves with an almost-forgotten former luminary of English chess.

R.P. Michell: A Master of British Chess by J. du Mont, Pitman, 1947
R.P. Michell: A Master of British Chess by J. du Mont, Pitman, 1947

Reginald Pryce Michell

I share some background on R. P. Michell from my article on the history of Kingston Chess Club.

Reginald Pryce Michell, British Chess Magazine, Volume XLV1, April, 1926, photographer: Theo J. Gidden, Southport
Reginald Pryce Michell, British Chess Magazine, Volume XLV1, April, 1926, photographer: Theo J. Gidden, Southport

Michell (1873-1938) was the British amateur chess champion in 1902 and played for Great Britain in the inaugural 1927 Olympiad in London and the 1933 Olympiad in Folkestone. He played in eight England v USA cable matches between 1901 and 1911. He participated in the Hastings Premier over 20 years, defeating both Sultan Khan and Vera Menchik in 1932/33. He finished second, third and fourth in the British championship (officially constituted in 1904), beating the multiple champion H.E. Atkins on several occasions. Modern estimates have placed him at the level of a strong international master.

Michell’s track record is all the more remarkable because he worked in a senior position at the Admiralty throughout his career which left him little time to study chess theory or enter competitions. He had a “wide knowledge of English and French literature, and a book of essays in either language was his standby for any unoccupied moment.” He died aged 65 which was the official retirement age at that time.

Michell excelled in the middle game and could hold his own in the endgame as attested by his draws against endgame maestros Capablanca and Rubinstein. In the only article he ever wrote about chess, he singled out books on the endgame as the most useful for practical purposes.

Portrait of R.P. Michell
Portrait of R.P. Michell

E.G. Sergeant wrote of him: “Michell’s courtesy as a chess opponent was proverbial, and on the rare occasions when he lost he always took as much interest in playing the game over afterwards as when he had won, and never made excuses for losing. Of all my opponents, surely he was the most imperturbable. Onlookers might chatter, whisper, fall off chairs, make a noise of any kind, and it seemed not to disturb him; even when short of time, he just sat with his hands between his knees, thinking, thinking.”

Michell’s wife Edith (maiden name Edith Mary Ann Tapsell) was British women’s champion in 1931 (jointly), 1932 and 1935, and played alongside him for Kingston & Thames Valley chess club.

Edith Mary Ann Michell (née Tapsell)
Edith Mary Ann Michell (née Tapsell)

A Master of British Chess – what’s new?

The original book covered 36 games; the new book has been expanded considerably to 67 games. Moreover, the additional games are against some of the most notable players of the era including several world champions. Chess historians should be grateful for the revival of the original game selection, which du Mont described as “characteristic games”, by the addition of another 31 “notable games”.

Self-published books are a labour of love because the subject lacks the mileage to justify the attention of a conventional publisher. The author lacks the quality assurance tasks typically carried out by a publisher such as proofreading and fact-checking. This is apparent in the first part of the book which reproduces the text from the original,  presumably using a scanner which hiccoughed over some obscure passages. The spelling has been converted to American which grates for a book on a quintessentially English player.

A frustrating omission in the new book is a list of games to navigate the collection; the original book contained a list showing game numbers, players, event locations and dates. In mitigation, the new book does have a useful index of openings and ECO codes as well as an index of opponents.  Hansen claims that the first book had 37 games whereas it had 36. Perhaps we can take comfort that later Amazon printings will correct these infelicities.

The new book has some significant improvements over the original. As one might expect, the moves are now in algebraic rather than the descriptive format with which most players under 50 are now unfamiliar. In the text, whilst d-pawn is the modern equivalent of the queen’s pawn, I still hanker after naming the pawn according to the name of the file; it would be a comforting continuity with descriptive notation.  The openings are given their modern names with ECO classifications. Casual readers will appreciate the increased number of diagrams accompanying each game. For example, for the game Blake v Michell, Caterham 1926, the original book only had one diagram compared to a generous five for the new book. Many of the original games did not appear in any commercial database. No doubt this situation will be remedied in short order.

The most frequent opponents listed in the revised book include his strong English contemporaries: Sir George Thomas, William Winter and Fred Yates with four games apiece. Hansen added notable opponents who should have been included in the first book on account of their elevated status in the chess world including five world champions: Alekhine, Botvinnik, Capablanca (two games), Euwe, Menchik (woman world champion) as well as Maroczy, Marshall, Rubinstein and Sultan Khan who were posthumously recognised as grandmasters.

The Edited First Part

The first part of the book carries the concise game summaries of the original which were proofread by the precocious Leonard Barden whilst still at Whitgift School who lived a short cycle ride from du Mont in Thornton Heath. The book came out a year later in 1947 when Barden started his National Service.

The editor of Chess Magazine, Baruch Wood, was scathing in his book review:

“Britain is far from the top of the chess tree and there must be a hundred British players with better justification for the publication of a book of their games than Michell. Mr du Mont’s graceful pen has made the most of his subject. The price of the book (10/6 for 108pp, 36 games) is so extraordinarily high that one feels some appeal is being made to sentiment.”

No doubt the fact that du Mont was the editor of a rival magazine may have diluted Wood’s objectivity. England did not have a surfeit of players and Michell would have been in the first rank.

Hansen has added his comments as italicised notes in the text in the contemporary rather dry style redolent of engine and database analysis. Inevitably, he has identified some improvements and errors which were not noticed in the original. These include not only outright blunders but also the missed opportunities. The logic of this approach is harsh and sits somewhat uncomfortably with the convention that the chess public is more forgiving of a failure to play the best move than of making a blunder. Treating both these types of inaccuracy symmetrically makes the world feel less tolerant.

Misattribution

The most significant discovery by Hansen is that one of the games (game 27) had been misattributed regarding who played White. du Mont had Michell defeating Max Euwe (World Champion 1935-1937) at Hastings 1931 whereas Michell had lost.

Hansen surmises that the game intended for the collection was the game they played in the following year’s Hastings tournament when Michell had Euwe on the ropes but the game ended in a draw. We don’t know exactly how this error occurred but confusion sometimes arises when quoting games at Hastings. This famous long-running annual tournament traditionally takes place in the period between Christmas and the New Year and is described according to the year it starts and the year it ends. Michell lost the game played in 1930/31 but drew the game they played in 1931/32.

Biography Untouched

Carsten Hansen is a chess analyst rather than a professional biographer so it is perhaps wise that he has not attempted to update the biographical sketch provided by du Mont. When the chess analyst Daniel King wrote a book on Sultan Khan, he got into hot water regarding his contested account of the life of the grandmaster.

Modern Analysis Compared

We may compare annotations between the original and the revised version of the book regarding the above-mentioned game. Here we have (courtesy of CH) an excerpt of the new book on the game Blake v Michell, Caterham, 1926. Blake, although half a generation older than Michell, was described by du Mont as “one of the brilliant band of British amateurs of which R. P. Michell was one.”

Excerpt of Game 22
Excerpt of Game 22

and

Excerpt of Game 22
Excerpt of Game 22

and

Excerpt of Game 22
Excerpt of Game 22

and finally

Excerpt of Game 22
Excerpt of Game 22

We may briefly examine the new analysis. The original text by du Mont / Barden criticises Blake’s choice of opening: “This method of development in the Queen’s Pawn game has its disadvantages in that the dark squares on White’s queenside become temporarily weak, and White will have to spend some time on remedying this defect (e.g., 6.a3). That is why the Colle system has come into favour, the basic idea of which is the quiet development of all the white forces with pawns at c3, d4, and e3, starting an attack at the proper time with the move characteristic of the system: e3-e4.”

Hansen gives short shrift to this perspective:

“There is nothing wrong with the text move; in fact, it is a popular set-up for White, played by countless strong grandmasters.”  

This blunt contradiction is based upon a century of games played thereafter. However, the original comment may have seemed plausible in the era in which Colle popularised the system and it had yet to be fully proven.

After black’s 18th move (diagram above), the original annotation prefers an alternative to the move played 19. Bxc4: “Undoubtedly, White should play 19. bxc4. His game will now deteriorate due to this weak centre and the backward d-pawn.”

Hansen is again blunt:

“Indeed, the text move is a blunder, whereas after 19. bxc4, White would have had the upper hand.”

According to Deep Hiarcs (running for one minute), the difference in evaluation between 19. bxc4 and 19. Bxc4 is the difference between +0.2 and -0.3. So at worst, this “blunder” puts Blake a third of a pawn behind instead of being a fifth of a pawn ahead.  Whilst masters thrive on small measures, it seems an exaggeration to describe capture by the bishop as a blunder. The original narrative merely says that the pawn capture would have been preferable without overstating the difference. Perhaps there is a tendency when aided by an engine to lose sight of the natural uncertainties felt by chess players when ruminating on which piece to recapture with.

Drama at Hastings 1934-35

The foreword on the original book noted that the most dramatic moment of Michell’s career occurred at the annual Hastings Premier 1934-35. He was pitted in the last round against Sir George Thomas, who was then half a point ahead of Dr Euwe, having beaten Capablanca and Botvinnik. Some observers felt that the decent and patriotic course of action was to give Sir George an easy game.

As one later commentator remarked, “In almost any other country, at any other time, the result would have been foreordained: a friendly draw and Thomas finishes no worse than a tie for first. Indeed, many players had to be rooting for the universally beloved Thomas to win and come in sole first.” [1]

There had not been a home winner since Henry Ernest Atkins in 1921, the first year the annual tournament was held. Thomas and Michell were England teammates. However, Thomas slipped up and Michell pressed home his advantage. Thomas lost the game but tied for first place with Euwe and Flohr. Curiously, the original book did not include this crucial game. Hansen includes the game and praises Michell for his principled stance: “But there was a happy ending; Max Euwe, in a better position against tail-ender Norman, made a sporting gesture of his own by offering a draw unnecessarily and settling for a first-place tie with Thomas and Flohr.” [1]

The Second Part

Hansen annotates the games in the new second part of the book in a readable style and does not let Stockfish intrude too much. He even offers his thoughts on some moves rather than taking the engine recommendations. The prose is functional: the game introductions lack the charm of the original game summaries. Whilst sometimes providing some background information on the opponent, there is little attempt in the header to identify the key points from each game.

Hansen is consistent with the narrative style in the first part by avoiding long algebraic variations. Even if his move criticisms are sometimes anachronistic, he has been considerate in generally referring to older games when citing continuations. It must have been tempting to have referred to games played in the database era.

The original book held to the hagiographic compiler’s conceit of not showing any losses save for the aforementioned misattribution. The reader would perhaps have gained more of an understanding of the subject’s character if presented with some games in which he struggled or indeed blundered. For example, Michell was crushed in 21 moves by Atkins at Blackpool in 1937 when he was still in his prime, even if he died a year later.

Hansen does not resist presenting Michell’s loss to the great Capablanca at Hastings in the Victory Congress 1919. It was clear even then that Capablanca would be one of the next holders of the World Championship. The game’s introductory text is misleading: “You don’t often get chances to play the best players in the world, let alone take points from them, even if it is ‘just’ a draw.” The implication is that this game (No. 41) is drawn whereas it is a win for Capablanca.  In total the book contains two losses, 14 draws and 51 wins for Michell.

In the majority of the games in the second part, Hansen focuses on blunders by Michell or his opponent.  There is no doubt that the top players from a century ago were not as strong as the top players of today but it seems churlish to show so many games with blunders. Comparatively few moves have been awarded an exclamation mark. Perhaps the book should have been shorter with higher-quality games.   However, on closer inspection, the “blunders” are treated in the modern sense as discussed above.  They are not the traditional blunders, bad moves losing the game, that would have been described by a contemporary annotator. Rather, they are blunders in which the game evaluation has switched by a certain margin.

Michell, a follower of Nimzovich, focused on positional advantages; tactical skirmishes and sacrifices were few and far between. A slight exception to this style was found in the game Blake v Michell, Hastings, 29 December 1923:

Conclusion

R. P. Michell should be an inspiration to amateur players with a full-time career. He made a mark in the chess world using solid play, eschewing theoretical or sharp lines. He held his own against the strongest players in the world. Carsten Hansen has brought welcome attention to this forgotten English master. The new book nearly doubles the number of games covered and introduces modern engine analysis. The reader will find many examples of successful middle-game strategies. Above all, we learn that chess is a struggle: one should keep trying to improve the position and make things difficult for the opponent. I recommend this book, especially to club players looking for new chess ideas.

John Foley, Kingston-upon-Thames, 27th May 2024

John Foley with the Alexander Cup
John Foley with the Alexander Cup won by Kingston in 2021/22 and 2022/23

Kingston won the Alexander Cup, the Surrey team knockout tournament, in 1931/32 with Michell.

Book Details :

  • Hardcover : 318 pages
  • Publisher:  CarstenChess (16 Mar. 2024)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10:8793812884
  • ISBN-13:978-8793812888
  • Product Dimensions: 15.24 x 1.83 x 22.86 cm

FM Carsten Hansen
FM Carsten Hansen

“Carsten Hansen, a Danish FIDE Master at Chess, was born in 1971. At age 14, he became the youngest master player at chess in Denmark at the time. In 1995, Carsten was contacted by Peter Heine Nielsen to co-author a chess book on the “Sicilian Accelerated Dragon”. Peter had been offered a contract but felt that he wouldn’t be able to write the book on his own and since Hansen had played the opening his entire life, it was a natural fit. The book was released in 1998 to high acclaim and near universal positive reviews. From 1999 to 2013, Hansen was a columnist for the very popular website, ChessCafe.com. He has been a contributor to Skakbladet, Chess Life, and New In Chess”. Hansen is based in New Jersey, and still enjoys playing and writing about chess. He has now authored over 40 chess books. He has made a speciality of reviving old books.

Official web site of Carsten Chess

R. P. Michell - A Master of British Chess: A forgotten chess master, Carsten Hansen and Julius du Mont, Publisher ‏ : ‎ CarstenChess (16 Mar. 2024), ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-8793812888
R. P. Michell – A Master of British Chess: A forgotten chess master, Carsten Hansen and Julius du Mont, Publisher ‏ : ‎ CarstenChess (16 Mar. 2024), ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-8793812888

[1] According to David Moody’s account in ChessGames.

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Unknown Weapons in the Grünfeld: Second revised and extended edition

From the Publisher, Thinkers Publishing:

“The Grunfeld Defence is one of the most dynamic openings for Black.

The opening was developed by two famous World Champions, namely Bobby Fischer and Garry Kasparov.

While theory is far from being exhausted and still developing, our author Grandmaster Milos Pavlovic made a strange case and found new alternatives to battle White’s setups. On top this book cuts through the dense theory that surrounds this opening and establishes a total new repertoire based around consistent strategies, concepts and novelties.

This is a fully revised and seriously extended edition of the original book published in 2017.”

About the Author:

“Grandmaster Milos Pavlovic was born in Belgrade in 1964. He has won many chess tournaments worldwide including becoming Yugoslav Champion in 1992. A well-known theoretician, he has published many well-received chess books and numerous articles in a variety of chess magazines. This is his 14th book for Thinkers Publishing.”

GM Milos Pavlovic
GM Milos Pavlovic

This is the fifth title from Milos Pavlovic that we have reviewed. Previously we have examined: The Modernized Marshall Attack, The Modernized Scotch Game: A Complete Repertoire for White and Black, The Modernized Stonewall Defence and The Modernized Colle-Zukertort Attack

This heavy theoretical book has 14 chapters:

Chapter 1 – Exchange Variation 7.Bc4 – with 11.Rc1
Chapter 2 – Exchange Variation 7.Bc4 – Sidelines
Chapter 3 – Modern Exchange Variation – 8.Rb1
Chapter 4 – Modern Exchange Variation – 7.Be3
Chapter 5 – Modern Exchange Variation – 7.Nf3 c5 – Sidelines
Chapter 6 – Exchange Variation – Alternatives on  move 7
Chapter 7 – Alternatives after 4.cxd5 Nxd5
Chapter 8 – 5.Qb3 – The Russian System
Chapter 9 – Early Qa4+
Chapter 10 – 4.Bf4
Chapter 11 – 5.Bg5 lines
Chapter 12 – 4.Nf3 Bg7 5.h4
Chapter 13 – 4.e3
Chapter 14 – Anti-Gruenfeld 3.f3

This theoretical tome is certainly a comprehensive guide to the contemporary opening theory of the Gruenfeld Defence from black’s point of view . It is certainly a repertoire book for black. There are pithy paragraphs that explain the ideas behind the moves but these are few and far between the dense variations. In my opinion, it is aimed at active 2000+ tournament players. This is in no way a criticism, but an inexperienced player wanting to learn the opening with just this book may be lost in a sea of variations without a mentor and/or a Gruenfeld primer book to explain the ideas.

In terms of layout, the book is easy to read, has sufficient accompanying text and plenty of diagrams  to be able to get a good grasp of the lines. The chapter structure is  logical with a strong bias toward the contemporary lines played at the top. This slant is perfectly reasonable as trendy lines trickle down to all levels.

This review will briefly summarise the suggested repertoire and highlight a few interesting variation choices from the author.

Chapter 1 covers the “old” Exchange after these moves:

1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 g6 3.Nc3 d5 4.cxd5 Nxd5 5.e4 Nxc3 6.bxc3 Bg7 7. Bc4 c5 8.Ne2 Nc6 9.Be3 0-0 10.0-0 b6 11.Rc1

Old Exchange 10...b6 11.Rc1
Diagram 1: Old Exchange Variation after10…b6 11.Rc1

The author has recommended the modern 10…b6 which is the key line now. This supersedes the old 10…Qc7 of Fischer-Spassky days.

The last line covered in this chapter is 11…Bb7 12.Bb3!?

Old Exchange After 12.Bb3
Diagram 2: Old Exchange after 10…b6 11.Rc1 Bb7 12.Bb3

The main move here is 12…cxd4 but the author suggests 12…Na5!? as an improvement. 13.d5 e6 14.c4 exd5 15.exd5 Re8

Old Exchange Suggestion
Diagram 3: After 15…Re8

The author gives 16.h3 (Stockfish suggests the irritating 16.Ba4 when 16…Re5 17.Qd3 17…a6 looks to equalise) 16…Bc8 a neat manoeuvre to rearrange black’s minor pieces to better posts 17.Ng3 Nb7 18.Qd2 Nd6 =
Back to the main line after 12…cxd4 13.cxd4 Na5 14.d5 reaching this position:

After 14.d5
Diagram 4: After 14.d5

I like the author’s didactic comment on this position, explaining white’s positional idea with 14.d5:
“That’s the idea. White doesn’t care about his bishop on b3; he wants to trade the dark-squared bishops on d4 and play a middlegame with a strong knight against a poor bishop on b7”
14…Qd6 15.Re1!?N (15.Bd4 Ba6! ridding black of his poor bishop by exploiting the pin on white’s e2 knight which equalises as played by Gruenfeld expert Grischuk)

After 15.Re1
Diagram 5: After 15.Re1

15…Rac8 16.Rxc8 (16.Qd2 Nxb3 17.axb3 f5! striking in the centre to equalise) 16…Rxc8 17.Bd4 Ba6 activating the prelate 18.Bxg7 Kxg7 19.Nd4!

After 19.Nd4
Diagram 6: After 19.Nd4

White has achieved his goal of centralising his horse although black has activated his bishop and rook. White’s plan is now to advance the h-pawn: black must not faff about. Hence 19…Qb4 20.h4 Qc3! 21.h5 Bd3 with equality.

Chapter 2 covers the “sidelines” other than 11.Rc1 from Diagram 1 above. Sidelines is a slight misnomer as these lines are all important.
The three moves covered are the solid 11.Qd2, the greedy 11.bxc5 and the aggressive 11.h4.

After 11.Qd2 a main line continuation with typical Gruenfeld moves is: 11…Bb7 12.Rad1 cxd4 13.cxd4 Rc8 14.Bh6 Na5! 15. Bxg7 Kxg7 16.Bd3 Nc4 17.Bxc4 Rxc4 reaching a balanced tabiya position where both sides have their trumps:

Navara - Ding Liren
Navara – Ding Prague 2019 after 17…Rxc4

The greedy 11.bxc5 is obviously critical as it wins a pawn but black has good positional compensation.

Old Exchange after 11.bxc5
Old Exchange after 10…b6 11.bxc5

After 11…Qc7! the obvious 12.cxb6 axb6 winning a pawn is dismissed briefly with a couple of variations. I do not disagree with the author that this line gives white no advantage, but black players should study this line in more detail, as it is common response from white players.

After 11…Qc7 12.Nd4  Ne5 13.Nb5 Qb8! reaches a key position:

11.bxc5 main line
11.bxc5 main line

There are two critical lines, the greedy 14.Bd5 and the more popular, solid 14.Be2
Both lines are covered in detail showing adequate play for black to equalise.

11.h4 is extremely interesting and in the author’s opinion, the critical test of 10…b6.

11.h4
Old Exchange Variation 10…b6 11.h4

Black should respond 11..e6 12.h5 Qh4

After 12...Qh4
After 12…Qh4

White has two main moves here, the reviewer will show a pretty line after the natural 13.hxg6 hxg6 14.f3 cxd4 15.cxd4 Rd8 16.Qd2

After 16.Qd2
After 16.Qd2

Black looks to be in trouble with 17.Bg5 threatened, however black calmly develops with 16…Bb7 offering a poisoned exchange, after 17.Bg5 17…Qh5 18.Bxd8 loses, after 18…Rxd8, the two bishops and white’s gapping black squares lead to defeat, for example 19.d5 Ne5 20.Rac1 Nxc4 21.Rxc4 Ba6 22.Ra4 Bh6 wins

13.Qc1 is much more dangerous, buy the book to find out how black neutralises this enterprising continuation.

Chapter 3 is all about the Modern Exchange variation with 8.Rb1.

As the author points out, this is a well-known weapon, and for a while, a few decades ago, created massive problems for the Gruenfeld opening.  Its fangs have now been drawn; at the moment there are at least two decent variations that equalise for black. Several recent Gruenfeld books such as those by Delchev and Kovalchuk recommend 8…0-0 9.Be2 Nc6 (with 13…Bc7!) which has been known for a while to be perfectly viable for equality. The reviewer thinks that line is perhaps simpler for black, but both that line and the author’s suggestion require a significant amount of theoretical knowledge.

After 1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 g6 3.Nc3 d5 4.cxd5 Nxd5 5.e4 Nxc3 6.bxc3 Bg7 7.Nf3 c5 8.Rb1 0-0 9.Be2 cxd4 10.cxd4 Qa5+

Pavlovic recommends the “old fashioned” Qa5+ taking the a2 pawn.

Modern Exchange after 10...Qa5
Modern Exchange after 10…Qa5+

11.Qd2 is rather anaemic, leading to an equal ending.

After 11.Bd2!? Qxa2 12.0-0 Bg4! Quick development to put pressure on the d4 pawn, not worrying about the b7 pawn.
13.Rxb7 leads to equality although black has to be careful.

Modern Exchange after 13.Rxb7
Modern Exchange after 13.Rxb7

Now 13…Bxf3 14.Bxf3 Bxd4 15.e5 Na6! 16.Rxe7 Rad8 is ok for black, the pressure on the d-file makes it hard for white to generate a serious initiative.

The last two sub-variations in this chapter are in a very sharp line:

Modern Exchange after 14.Bh4
Modern Exchange after 14.Bh4

The author gives two lines for black to achieve equality: 14..g5! and 14…a5! The fact there are two good lines indicates that the line is clearly satisfactory for black.

Chapter 4 covers 1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 g6 3.Nc3 d5 4.cxd5 Nxd5 5.e4 Nxc3 6.bxc3 Bg7 7.Be3 c5

This is a large chapter and one of the major white systems. There are many subtleties in  the placing of white’s rook on c1 or b1. The author has 15 principal lines.

This is the position in the 10.Rb1 line viz:

Modern Exchange after 10.Rb1
Modern Exchange after 10.Rb1

Pavlovic recommends two different variations for black here:

  • 10…cxd4 going into the queenless  middlegame
  • 10…a6 waiting and preventing Rb5

After 10…a6 white’s main move is 11.Rc1: white argues that 10…a6 has weakened black’s queenside.

Black again has two alternatives:

  • 11…cxd4 going into the queenless  middlegame
  • 11…Bg4 keeping the queens on

If instead of 10.Rb1 white plays 10.Rc1, Pavlovic unequivocally recommends 10…cxd4 11.cxd4 Qxd2+ as this ending is definitely ok for black.

White can play Be3 and Qd2 before Nf3:

Modern Exchange after 9.Rc1
Modern Exchange after 9.Rc1

In this, the recommended line is to exchange queens with 10…cxd4 11.cxd4 Qxd2+ which lead to an interesting ending where black is holding his own.

Chapter 5 covers 7.Nf3 c5 sidelines

These variations include:

  • 8.h3
  • 8.Be2
  • 8.Bb5+

I have never faced 8.h3 and have rarely met 8.Bb5+.
On the other hand, I have faced 8.Be2.

There is an exciting exchange sacrifice in this line viz:
1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 g6 3.Nc3 d5 4.cxd5 Nxd5 5.e4 Nxc3 6.bxc3 Bg7 7.Nf3 c5 8.Be2 Nc6 9.d5 (9.Be3 is inept 9…Bg4! and black is at least equal) 9…Bxc3+ 10.Bd2 Bxa1 11.Qxa1 Nd4 12.Nxd4 cxd4 13.Qxd4

Exchange Variation 8.Be2 after 13.Qxd4
Exchange Variation 8.Be2: main line after 13.Qxd4

Black has two moves, the obvious 13…f6 preserving the material advantage and the probably safer 13…0-0

After 13…f6, the author is of the opinion that 14.Bc4! is exciting and dangerous

After 13…0-0 white can regain the exchange with the obvious 14.Bh6 but loses time and forfeits castling rights after 14…Qa5+ 15.Kf1 f6 16.Bxf8 Rxf8 – this is equal

14.0-0 is more ambitious when 14…Qb6! 15.Qa1!? Bd7 16.Bh6 f6 17.Bxf8 Rxf8 18.Rb1 (18.Qb1 leads to a drawn bishop endgame) 18…Qc7 leads to approximate equality

Chapter 6 covers alternatives on move 7 in the Exchange Variation:

Exchange after 6...Bg7
Exchange after 6…Bg7

The book shows the following four alternatives:

  • 7.Ba3
  • 7. Bg5
  • 7.Bb5+
  • 7.Qa4+

These moves are rare: in full length games, the reviewer only recalls facing 7.Ba3 once, 7.Bg5 once and has never faced the other two.

Pavlovic handles these lines  well. It is interesting that his recommendation against Bb5+ is to play 7…c6 and then play for e5. Many books have suggested rapid queenside expansion for black.

Chapter 7 covers alternatives after 1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 g6 3.Nc3 d5 4.cxd5 Nxd5

The two lines covered are:

  • The exotic 5.Na4
  • The super trendy 5.Bd2 which is played at all levels

After 5.Na4

After 5.Na4 e5
After 5.Na4

Pavlovic recommends the dynamic 5…e5 striking in the centre which is the top engine suggestion. This draws the teeth of this extravagant knight move. (5…Nf6 6.Nc3 Nd5 7.Na4 has been played as a silly repetition draw).

5.Bd2 is a different kettle of fish, the idea is to recapture the knight on c3 with the bishop:

After 5.Bd2
After 5.Bd2

The author recommends a straightforward approach from black viz:
5…Bg7 6.e4 Bxc3 7.Bxc3 0-0 maintaining flexibility & waiting to see which setup white adopts.

After 7...0-0
After 7…0-0

The two main lines here are 8.Bc4 and 8.Qd2 which the author covers in great detail. Shirov’s idea of 8.h4!? is covered very briefly with a variation given that is far from best play for white.

In the reviewer’s opinion this is a very important chapter, as this variation is so popular to avoid main line theory. Ironically, this setup now has a large body of practice.

Chapter 8 covers the Russian System.  Pavlovic recommends the Prins Variation which is 7..Na6.

Prins Variation
Prins Variation

As the author points out, black can play this variation against many of white’s tricky move orders involving Qb3. The Prins Variation was often used by Garry Kasparov, so has an excellent pedigree. The reviewer loves this part of the repertoire as black avoids the Hungarian 7…a6 and 7…Nc6 which are both decent systems but very topical. Avoiding the most popular lines does have its advantages.

Chapter 9 covers Qa4+ ideas which is a short chapter. Qa4+ ideas are usually used as a move order trick to get black out of main line theory.

There are two really important positions in this chapter.

After 1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 g6 3.Nc3 d5 4.Nf3 Bg7 5.Qa4+ Bd7 6.Qb3 dxc4 7.Qxc4 0-0 8.Bf4

Early Qa4 with Bf4
Early Qa4 with Bf4

and after 1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 g6 3.Nc3 d5 4.Nf3 Bg7 5.Qa4+ Bd7 6.Qb3 dxc4 7.Qxc4 0-0 8.e4

Early Qa4 with e4
Early Qa4 with e4

White has played a move order to disrupt black’s development by giving him an extra move of Bd7. However, black can exploit the bishop on d7, to play 8…b5! in both positions gaining good play with this energic pawn sacrifice.

Chapter 10 covers the 4.Bf4 line which is very popular at club level and was played by Karpov against Kasparov.

The author gives three major sub-variations in the main line:

4.Bf4 main line
4.Bf4 main line

  • 14.g4
  • 14.Nxe4
  • 14.Nd5

All these lines are well known and black has equality with care.

Pavlovic suggests a really interesting idea early in one of the main lines which I had not seen before:

1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 g6 3.Nc3 d5 4.Bf4 Bg7 5.e3 c5 6.dxc5 Qa5 7.Rc1 Nbd7!?

4.Bf4 new move 7...Nbd7
4.Bf4 new move 7…Nbd7

Buy the book to find out about this excellent idea.

The idea is allied to another line:

1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 g6 3.Nc3 d5 4.Nf3 Bg7 5.Bf4 0-0 6.e3 c5 7.dxc5 Ne4! 8.Rc1 Nd7!

4.Bf4 another Nbd7 line
4.Bf4 an allied Nd7 line

Chapter 11 is all about Bg5 ideas which occur on move 4 or 5.

Against 1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 g6 3.Nc3 d5 4.Nf3 Bg7 5.Bg5, Pavlovic suggests the traditional 5…Ne4  and against 4.Bg5 he also approves of the knight move to e4.

The solid repertoire here is pretty well known and respectable.

Chapter 12 is a brief chapter on 1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 g6 3.Nc3 d5 4.Nf3 Bg7 5.h4!?

After 5.h4
After 5.h4

The author recommends 5…c6 which is solid and sensible. The author states this is an important new line: it has been around for decades.

After these sensible developing moves 6.cxd5 cxd5 7.Bf4 0-0 8.e3 Nc6 9.Be2 Bg4 resembles a Slav Defence.

Morozevich-Nepomniachtchi 2014
Morozevich-Nepomniachtchi 2014

White has absolutely nothing here. A draw was soon agreed.

Chapter 13 is about 4.e3 which is a solid continuation, not generally played by the top players. It covers a topical line:

1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 g6 3.Nc3 d5 4.e3 Bg7 5.cxd5 Nxd5

Quiet 4.e3
Quiet 4.e3

Now white draws the black queen into the centre with 6.Nxd5 Qxd5 only to manoeuvre his other knight to gain time 7.Ne2 0-0 8.Nc3 8…Qd6

After 8...Qd6
After 8…Qd6

But it’s all too slow really. After 9.Be2 black can play 9…c5! sacrificing a pawn for loads of play 10.Nxe4 (10.d5 is the main line but leads to nothing for white) 10…Qc7 11.Nxc5 e5 12.0-0 Rd8 13,Nb3 Nc6 reaching this position:

After 13...Nc6
After 13…Nc6

White can retain his extra pawn with 14.d5, but 14…e4! gains space and after 15.Qc2 Rxd5 16.Qe4 Be6 black has excellent play for a pawn.

The author fails to cover 6.Be2:

After 6.Be2
After 6.Be2

This is a solid line that can lead to a reversed Queen’s Gambit, Tarrasch after 6…c5 7.0-0 cxd4. I have faced this as black, against an an IM, so perhaps it should have been covered. Of course, the author has to make a decision on what to include: as this is not a fashionable line, I can understand why the line was omitted.

The final chapter covers 3.f3, a popular anti-Gruenfeld system.
The author recommends the “old” main line with 3…d5 which some authors have eschewed in favour of other systems such as 3…c5 transposing into a kind of Benoni or simply going into a King’s Indian Defence.

The key tabiya is this:

Ding-Gelfand Wenzhou 2015
Ding-Gelfand Wenzhou 2015

The analysis given by the author is an excellent coverage of all the critical lines from this position and happens to very largely agree with my own investigations.

Here is one fascinating endgame that results after 16.d6 e4! 17.fxe4 Ng4 18.Bg5 Qe8 19.Nf3 Rf7! 20.Qe1 Bxc3! 21.bxc3 Na4 22.Rc1 Nc5 23.Bc4 Be6 24.Bxe6 Qxe6 25.Be7 Nd3 26.Qd2 Nxc1 27.Ng5 Qxa2+ 28. Qxa2 Nxa2 29.Nxf7 Nxc3+ 30.Ka1  Kxf7 31.d7 Ra8 32.d8Q Rxd8 33.Bxd8 Nxe4 34.Rxb7 Ne3 35.Rb2 Kd5

3.f3 crazy forced line after 36...Kd5
3.f3 crazy forced line to 35…Kd5

This is a draw as white’s rook and king are passive. This occurred in a correspondence game and the reviewer has had it in an on-line blitz game: white allowed a perpetual with the two knights in a few moves.

The only major variation that has been missed from the book is the Fianchetto Variation which is pretty popular as a solid, positional line. In the reviewer’s last game with the Gruenfeld, he did indeed face a Fianchetto Variation. This is a significant omission but does not spoil an excellent publication on the Gruenfeld Defence.

The reviewer notes a fair few typos in the book.

FM Richard Webb, Basingstoke, Hampshire, 12th May 2024

FM Richard Webb
FM Richard Webb

Book Details :

  • Hardcover : 404 pages
  • Publisher:Thinkers Publishing; 2nd edition (2 May 2024)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 9464201967
  • ISBN-13:  978-9464201963
  • Product Dimensions: 17.78 x 3.81 x 24.77 cm

Official web site of Thinkers Publishing

Unknown Weapons in the Grünfeld: Second revised and extended edition, Thinkers Publishing, 978-9464201963, Milos Pavlovic
Unknown Weapons in the Grünfeld: Second revised and extended edition, Thinkers Publishing, 978-9464201963, Milos Pavlovic

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The Exchange Sacrifice Unleashed: Power of Middlegame Knowledge

From the Publisher, Thinkers Publishing:

“The book you have just started reading is about a very interesting and difficult concept: the exchange sacrifice. This is the moment in chess when basic mathematics breaks down, the moment when 3 counts equal to or even more than 5. So let us leave the mathematics aside and try to figure out why this simple calculation is so difficult to understand.

The answer is largely hidden in psychology, as the ninth World Champion, Tigran Petrosian, has often told us, as the man who brought this strategic-tactical chess concept to its first peak. Chess beginners were taught the value of pieces by their teachers (parents, grandparents, perhaps at school or even later in the beginners’ sections of chess clubs).

We explain the difference between piece values to children in the simplest way possible, with the help of a unit of measurement, and in chess those units are the pawns. They tell us that a rook is worth five pawns (units) and a knight and a bishop are worth about three each. They also tell us to always be careful, especially during exchanges, to ensure we take at least as much from our opponent as he or she took from us. So, one rook at a time, perhaps for a bishop and a knight next to two pawns. This “chess thinking” is done quickly and very strongly subconsciously in most, one could even say all. Therefore, when choosing moves, we will automatically reject unfavourable exchanges. But who trades a queen for a knight, a bishop for a pawn, and the like? We know from our own life experience that it is better to have ten coins in our pocket than three, and I prefer three to one!

This psychological barrier is the most difficult step in making the decision to sacrifice. And so it is with the sacrifice of an exchange. Five for three, that is! Even five for four, if we get a pawn for the rook along with the knight or the bishop. “I am not stupid,” you think. The Exchange Sacrifice Unleashed brings different games or coaches try to explain this and that to us, we see that a material advantage is not always something to celebrate about.”

About the Author:

“Georg Mohr was born in Maribor, Slovenia in 1965 becoming a Grandmaster in 1997. He joined as a member of the FIDE Trainers Commission from 2002, becoming a FIDE Senior Trainer in 2004 and a FIDE International Organizer in 2011. Georg has been a professional chess trainer for many years. He was coach and captain of Slovenian national team from 2003 – 2010 and since 2011 he has been Turkish national youth trainer. He is a chess writer and was editor of Slovenian chess magazine Šahovska Misel from 1999 and editor of Fide Trainers Commission trainers’ surveys. He is also an organiser of chess events acting as tournament director of the European Club Cup (Rogaška Slatina 2011), the World Youth Championship (Maribor 2012) and the World Senior Championship (Bled 2018). This is his third book for ‘Thinkers Publishing’.”

FIDE Senior Trainer Georg Mohr
FIDE Senior Trainer Georg Mohr

This is the third title from Georg Mohr that we have reviewed. Previously we have examined: Understanding Maroczy Structures and Forgotten Genius – The Life and Games of Grandmaster Albin Planinc.

This interesting book has seven chapters:

Chapter 1 – The Exchange Sacrifice for the Attack
Chapter 2 – Defence!
Chapter 3 – Ending
Chapter 4 – Exchange Sacrifice in the Opening
Chapter 5 – Critical Squares
Chapter 6 – The Positional Exchange Sacrifice
Chapter 7 – World Champions and the Exchange Sacrifice

Chapter 1 is divided into seven themed subsections, each with plenty of entertaining and didactic examples of exchange sacrifices for the attack.

Here is a splendid finish from the “King in the centre” segment:

Geller-Karpov Moscow 1976
Geller-Karpov Moscow 1976

Karpov, who was crowned World Champion, in 1975, had played a rather inept French Defence, Winawer variation. The great theoretician, Efim Geller finished him off neatly with a exchange sacrifice removing a key defender:

21.Rxb8+!  Qxb8 (21…Bxb8?? 22.Qxc6+ wins quickly) 22.Qxc6+ Kf8 23.Nf4  Ra7 24.Nh4 (The knights close in to stomp on Black) 24… Qe8?! (Allowing a lovely combination)

Geller-Karpov Moscow 1977
Geller-Karpov Moscow 1977

25.Qxe6! (winning) fxe6 26. Nhg6+ Qxg6 27.Nxg6+ Ke8 28.Nxh8 Ra4 29.Rd1 Ne7 30.Bxe7 Kxe7 31.Ng6+ Kf7 32.Nf4 Bxe5 33.dxe5 Rf4 34.Rc1! (getting the rook behind the passed pawn and Karpov soon resigned)

Here is a very famous defensive exchange sacrifice from Chapter 2.

Reshevsky-Petrosian Zurich 1953
Reshevsky – Petrosian Zurich 1953

Black, Petrosian is some trouble as White dominates the centre, has more space and good attacking chances on the kingside with h4, h5 etc.

Black played 25…Re6! If White takes the exchange straightaway with 26.Bxe6 fxe6, he cannot prevent Black’s knight moving to d5, a possible continuation is 27.Rf3 Ne7 28.Bc1 Nd5 29.Qg3 Rc8 30.Bd2 b4! reaching this position:

Reshevsky-Petrosian Zurich 1953 Variation
Reshevsky-Petrosian Zurich 1953 Variation

Black has plenty of play with very active pieces and White’s rooks defensively placed. This is a Petrosian blockade at its best. Modern analysis suggests 26.h4! as best.

The game continued 26.a4 Ne7! 27.Bxe6 fxe6 reaching this celebrated position:

Reshevsky-Petrosian Zurich 1953 after move 27
Reshevsky-Petrosian Zurich 1953 after move 27

Black is almost equal, Reshevsky bailed out with a draw on move 41.

Chapter 3 is an excellent chapter about exchange sacrifices in the ending.

Here is an instructive position with a pawn up in a rook and opposite colour bishop ending:

Isgandarova - Zimina Riga 2017
Isgandarova – Zimina Riga 2017

White has just played 79.Kh3 and at first glance appears to be holding. Black played 79…Rxc5! 80.bxc5 Kd5 winning another pawn: the passive rook dooms White and Black won by pushing the b-pawn supported by the king.

A famous Fischer finish is very instructive:

Lombardy-Fischer New York 1960
Lombardy-Fischer New York 1960

White has just played 30.Re1? which Fischer ruthlessly exploited with a neat simplification:

30…Rxc3+! 31.bxc3 Rxe5+ 32.Kd2 Rxe1 33.Kxe1 Kd5 34.Kd2 Kc4 35.h5 b6! creating an outside passed pawn which won easily:

Lombardy-Fischer New York 1961 after move 35
Lombardy-Fischer New York 1961 after move 35

Chapter 4 covers some exchange sacrifices in the opening. I shall give two examples, one of which I fell into as a junior player:

Dieks - Van der Sterren After 13.Qf3
Dieks – Van der Sterren After 13.Qf3?

White has just played 13.Qf3? winning material which was met with the excellent 13…Nd4! 14.Nc7+ Qxc7 15.Qxa8+ Ke7 with a nasty threat of b4! 16.c3 b4! 17cxb4 Qb6 18.Bxa6 Qb4 19.Kf1

Dieks - Van der Sterren After 19.Kf1
Dieks – Van der Sterren After 19.Kf1

Now, the engine gives 19…Bh6! which wins prettily. The game continued with the tempting 19…Qd2 20.h3 (20.h4! limits White disadvantage, 20.Re1?? is a gross blunder as played by the reviewer, losing to 20…Bd3+ followed by a smothered mate) 20…Bd3+ 21.Bxd3 Qxd3+ 22. Kg1 Bh6! 23. Qb7 (23.Qxh8 Ne2+ 24.Kf1 Ng3+ 25.Kg1 Bf4! winning)23…Kf6 and Black won

There is a special section on some Gruenfeld exchange sacrifices:

Gruenfeld Bronsteins Exchange Sacrifice
Gruenfeld Bronstein’s Exchange Sacrifice

Gruenfeld Modern Exchange
Gruenfeld Modern Exchange Sacrifice

Buy the book to see a couple of exciting Gruenfeld games.

There are of course, plenty of Sicilian Rxc3 examples which is the most famous and important exchange sacrifice. Here is an example from the Dragon Variation in an old variation which is rare nowadays:

Kasparov-Piket Tilburg 1989
Kasparov-Piket Tilburg 1989 After 16.Bh6!?

White’s attack looks powerful, but the well-known sequence starting with 16…Nxe4! leads to equality which modern engines confirm. 17.Qe3! Rxc3! removing the key attacker 18.bxc3  Nf6! Although Kasparov won, Black’s opening was a success.

A pretty example from a Sicilian Paulsen is given  showing an offering for black square domination:

Giri-Vitiugov Reggio Emilia 2012
Giri-Vitiugov Reggio Emilia 2012

Black has just played the risky 6…Bb4 against one of the best theoreticians

Gipslis-Simagin Sverdlovsk 1957
Gipslis-Simagin Sverdlovsk 1957

which is ruthlessly punished: 7.e5! Nd5 8.0-0! Nxc3 9.bxc3 Bxc3 10.Ba3!

Giri-Vitiugov Reggio Emilia 2012 10.Ba3

Throwing in an exchange as well, Black is now in real trouble as his king is trapped in the with a weak colour complex on the black squares.

Chapter 5 Critical Squares has plenty of traditional Sicilian exchange sacrifices on c3.

Here is an example from the Sicilian Defence, Sozin Variation:

Gipslis-Simagin Sverdlovsk 1957
Gipslis – Simagin Sverdlovsk 1957 After 16.Rad1

Black played the natural 16…Rxc3! and won a nice game. The reviewer has played Rxc3 is a very similar position and also won a good game.

Chapter 6 – The Positional Exchange Sacrifice is really the heart of the book with 22 themes.

Here is a good example from the Exchange sacrifice to dominate the black squares section:

Adams – Khalifman Las Palmas 1993

Adams has played a rather insipid Classical Variation against the Dragon. Black played 17…Rxd4! 18.Rxd4 Rb8! (activating the black rook, also preventing white from playing Rb4) 19.f4?!  (19.Rb1 with equality according to the engines, but black is having all the fun) 19…exf3 20.Bxf3 Bxe5 and Black won a lovely game.

The final chapter shows many didactic examples from the World Champions.

I would suggest that the book is aimed at 1750+ players. The book is well produced in an easy to read style with plenty of diagrams and themes to learn from.

However, there are more than a few typographical errors/grammatical errors and the reviewer has spotted an incorrect diagram at the top of page 31. Although this does not detract from the many merits of the book, perhaps future publications should address this.

FM Richard Webb, Basingstoke, Hampshire, 10th May 2024

FM Richard Webb
FM Richard Webb

Book Details :

  • Hardcover : 496 pages
  • Publisher:Thinkers Publishing; 1st edition (20 Jun. 2023)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 946420186X
  • ISBN-13:  978-9464201864
  • Product Dimensions: 17.78 x 3.81 x 24.77 cm

Official web site of Thinkers Publishing

The Exchange Sacrifice Unleashed: Power of Middlegame Knowledge, Georg Mohr, Thinker's Publishing, ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-9464201864
The Exchange Sacrifice Unleashed: Power of Middlegame Knowledge, Georg Mohr, Thinker’s Publishing, ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-9464201864

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Grind Like a Grandmaster: How to Keep Pressing until Your Opponent Cracks

From the publisher:

“It is amazing how much play you can create in a seemingly equal chess position – if you persevere. In this book, the greatest chess player of all time, Magnus Carlsen, and his friend, Grandmaster David Howell, explain how to win these kinds of chess games.

Carlsen and Howell show how you can keep a game alive, how you can keep posing problems to your opponent, how you can recognize the first small mistakes, and how you can grind your opponent down until he cracks.

New In Chess has converted this book from a popular Chessable video and MoveTrainer ® course with the help of Carlsen and Howell. The lively conversations of the two friends translate very well into a highly instructive chess manual. It is top-level chess, using grandmaster games as examples, but the insights are accessible to players of all levels.

Magnus Carlsen won the World Chess Championship in 2013 and gave up his title in 2023. He is regarded as the greatest player of all time and holds the #1 spot in the world ranking. He has read dozens of books published by New In Chess, but this is the first book with Carlsen as an author. Carlsen (1990) lives in Oslo, Norway.

David Howell is an elite chess Grandmaster with a 2700+ peak rating and an individual gold medal winner at the Olympiad. He is a well-known and popular commentator on live chess streams. Howell (1990) is two weeks older than Carlsen, was born in Eastbourne, United Kingdom, and lives in Oslo, Norway.”

David Howell, London Chess Classic, 2013, courtesy of John Upham Photography

David Howell, London Chess Classic, 2013, courtesy of John Upham Photography. For more about David Howell see here

 

This book is essentially a transcript of a Chessable course which you can find here. If you prefer book learning, or you just like the idea of having something written by Magnus Carlsen on your bookshelf you’ll be interested in this title.

David has written a two page preface:

A quick swashbuckling attack full of sacrifices may appeal to some, but a long endgame grind can lead to the same result. Arguably, while one approach is more spectacular and may ensure that games end quicker, the other approach comes with less risk attached.

Magnus provides a shorter preface:

Nothing quite compares to the thrill of pressing a minute advantage and converting it into victory. The excitement of outmanoeuvring and outlasting your opponent. The realisation that – although your first punch may not have landed – there is no need to despair. Try, try and try again. You will very often succeed.

Which are you? A hacker or a grinder? A sprinter or a marathon runner? To become a strong player, of course, you have to master both styles of play, but many will have a preference for either hacking or grinding.

Grinders require qualities such as patience and stamina as well as an outstanding knowledge of both technical and practical endings. If you’d like to become a better grinder, or even if you’d like to be better at defending against grinders, this course is for you.

It’s standard practice these days to have two commentators working together in live broadcasts, sharing ideas, asking each other questions. It’s something that usually works very well, making the broadcast more interactive, more friendly, more accessible, and, for me at least, it’s also effective in book form.

There could be no one better to demonstrate by example how to become a grinder than Magnus Carlsen, not only the highest rated human player of all time, but also a leading exponent of grinding. David Howell, also a strong grandmaster who enjoys grinding, as well as being an excellent commentator, is Magnus’s ideal partner. They are also good friends, and this is something that comes across well, adding to the enjoyment of the book.

Having said that, the contents themselves seem rather slight. Apart from the introductory material to each of the eight chapters you only get twelve games, seven played by Magnus and six played by David. If you’re good at maths you might have noticed that 7+6 is 13: one of the games is between the two authors, played in the final round of the 2002 World Under 12 Championship. It resulted, since you asked, in a draw.

This is one of Magnus’s lesser known games. He admits that it was an ‘awful game’ but still managed to grind down his lower rated opponent. Click on any move for a pop-up window.

The book is beautifully produced, although I guess the, er, colourful cover might not be to everyone’s taste. If this sort of thing bothers you, you might also think that, while a wide sans serif font is best for screens, a narrower serif font might be preferable for books.

The quality of the annotations, if you like the conversational style, is, of course, of the highest quality. At one level the games are more suited to players of, say, 2000+ strength, but some of the more general insights into the nature of grinding will be of interest and value to all players.

If you like the idea of grinding and you’d rather study the material from a book than from an interactive course or videos (or perhaps you’d like the book as well as the interactive course) it can be highly recommended.

Daniel King interviews David Howell about the book here, and if you can’t afford an hour to watch this, Daniel also provides a summary here.

You can read some sample pages from the book, which will enable you to decide whether or not it’s  for you, here.

Richard James, Twickenham 14th May 2024

Richard James
. Richard James

Book Details:

  • Hardcover: 208 pages
  • Publisher: New in Chess; 1st edition (31 Aug. 2023)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10:9083328465
  • ISBN-13:978-9083328461
  • Product Dimensions: 17.6 x 2 x 24.2 cm

Official web site of New in Chess.

Grind Like a Grandmaster: How to Keep Pressing until Your Opponent Cracks, David Howell and Magnus Carlsen, New in Chess; 1st edition (31 Aug. 2023), 978-9083328461
Grind Like a Grandmaster: How to Keep Pressing until Your Opponent Cracks, David Howell and Magnus Carlsen, New in Chess; 1st edition (31 Aug. 2023), 978-9083328461

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Re-Engineering The Chess Classics: A Silicon Reappraisal of Thirty-Five Classic Games

From the publisher:

“Matthew Sadler is the world’s greatest expert in computer chess – and what it brings to us humans in new insights. In this book, the authors have unleashed the collective power of Leela, Komodo and Stockfish to look at 35 classic games played by fan favourites such as Boris Spassky, Mikhail Tal, Bent Larsen and Bobby Fischer. The authors have re-engineered a wonderful collection of classic games. Their findings illustrate the richness and beauty of chess. But they have also generated dozens of positional chess lessons that will help every club player and expert to improve their game.”

From the back cover:

“Are you ready for new strategic insights about thirty-five of the most fascinating and complex chess games ever played by World Champions and other top grandmasters? Grandmaster Matthew Sadler and renowned chess writer Steve Giddins take a fresh look at some classic games ranging from Anderssen-Dufresne, played in 1852, to Botvinnik-Bronstein (1951) and Geller-Euwe (1953). They unleashed the collective power of Leela, Komodo and Stockfish to help us humans understand what happened in games of fan favourites such as Boris Spassky, Mikhail Tal, Bent Larsen and Bobby Fischer.

“The first chess engines improved our appreciation of the classic games by pointing out the tactical mistakes in the original, contemporary game notes, But the expertise of Matthew Sadler is to uncover the positional course of a game with the help of the second generation of chess engines that emerged after 2018.

“This book will change your perception of these games’ strategic and technical patterns. You will, for example, learn to appreciate and understand a classic Capablanca endgame. And a classic Petrosian exchange sacrifice. And a winning, and then losing, king-hunt endgame between Spassky and Tal. You will see how Larsen already understood the strength of the h-pawn march far before AlphaZero’s revelation. The engines offer new strategic ideas and plans that human players have yet to consider. Even ‘the best even anti-King’s Indian player’, Viktor Korchnoi, would be amazed by the engine’s unique ideas about White’s breakthroughs on the queenside.

The most instructive games are often those which are more strategic and technical. Using modern engines, the authors have re-engineered a wonderful collection of classic games, generating dozens of positional chess lessons that will help every club player and expert improve their game.”

About the authors:
Matthew Sadler (1974) is a Grandmaster and a former British Champion. He has been writing the famous Sadler on Books column for New In Chess magazine for many years. With his co-author Natasha Regan, Sadler twice won the prestigious English Chess Federation Book of the Year Award. In 2016 for Chess for Life and in 2019 for their worldwide bestseller Game Changer: AlphaZero’s Groundbreaking Chess Strategies and the Promise of AI.

GM Matthew Sadler
GM Matthew Sadler

Steve Giddins is a FIDE Master from England, and a highly experienced chess writer and journalist. He compiled and edited The New In Chess Book of Chess Improvement, the bestselling anthology of master classes from New In Chess magazine.

FM Steve Giddins
FM Steve Giddins

What we have here is a collection of 35 games annotated in depth using the latest technology. In their introduction the authors mention 40 games, and Matthew, in his technical note, refers to Korchnoi – Van Wely (Game 34) as Game 39. It seems, then, that five games were removed at the last minute to save space and keep the cost of the book down.

The games all predate the modern computer age, dating from Anderssen – Dufresne (the Evergreen Game) in 1852 to Portisch – Chiburdanidze in 1998. All the World Champions up to Karpov with the exception of Smyslov are featured. It’s noticeable that five of the games feature at least one female player.

It’s a lovely (to use Matthew’s favourite word) collection as well. We have some wild tactical games as well as strategic and technical masterpieces, and many games with both elements. While some will be perhaps over-familiar there will be others you probably haven’t seen before.

What the authors have done is subjected their chosen games to extensive computer analysis, playing engine v engine matches (mostly involving versions of Stockfish, Leela and Komodo) from critical positions in an attempt to discover the objective truth about at what point the winner reached a decisive advantage. Some of these games have been included in the notes, indicated by a vertical line to the left of the column, so that you can easily skip them if you don’t want to play them through. You can see how this works by referring to the sample pages here.

One game that interested me was Znosko-Borovsky – Alekhine (Paris 1933).

Ever since the days of Capablanca, there has been a tendency to assume that a small advantage somehow automatically leads to a win, in the hands of a great technical master such as Capablanca or Karpov.

If you’re familiar (as you should be) with Alekhine’s best games collections, you may recall that in this position he formed a six-point plan which would by force lead to a winning position.

By this point Alekhine had completed his plan, reaching a position where his king is more active and his rook can infiltrate via the open a-file. Znosko-Borovsky erred here by playing 33. c4?, after which he was definitely losing, but the engine games where White remained passive with something like Be1 were all drawn.

Of course you have to factor in the human element as well. The position was easier for Black to play, and the black pieces were handled by a player of extraordinary ability, but one of the lessons you learn from this book is how many positions that appear bad can be defended successfully.

A game I really enjoyed was that between two future World Champions, Spassky and Tal, from the final round of the 1958 Soviet Championship. Spassky, playing white, had to win to guarantee qualification for the Interzonal later that year. A rook ending was reached in which both players promoted. Spassky started chasing Tal’s king round the board, but, tragically for him, blundered away first the win and then the draw, and found himself out of the world championship cycle. As you know, Tal went on to win first the Interzonal, and then the Candidates before taking the title off Botvinnik (the 6th game from this match also features here).

The analysis of the queen and rook ending provided by the authors here is some of the most extraordinary I’ve seen. If, like me, you find positions with major pieces on the board and both kings in danger extremely scary you’ll want to see this.

Here’s the complete game, without annotations. Click on any move to play it through.

The Korchnoi-Van Wely game mentioned above (Antwerp 1997) reached this typical Mar del Plata King’s Indian position.

Korchnoi played 17. a6, and suggested that, instead of the game continuation of bxa6, 17… b6 18. cxb6 cxb6 should have been played.

The engines disagree, thinking that White is a lot better in that variation, and continuing 19. Nb4, Nc6, Na4, with Nxa7 and Nxb6 to follow.

“So many things about this game were new, unexpected and instructive for me, and so many things are now memorable for me too”,  says Matthew in his technical note.

It’s a fascinating book, I think you’ll appreciate, which will be of interest to most chess players. Stronger players in particular will find a lot to learn from the games demonstrated here as well. The names of the authors, along with that of the publisher, are a guarantee of excellence, and the production is up to their customary high standards.

If, like one prominent UK chess book reviewer, you think pre-computer games should be left as they are rather than taken apart like this, you should perhaps turn away. I’m also not sure how many readers will actually play through the engine v engine games. I certainly haven’t done so, and, from a purely personal perspective, would have preferred rather fewer of them in the book, with perhaps a download available so that I could play through them on my computer at my leisure. This might have made room for the mysteriously missing five games.

I do have one other problem, which probably won’t matter to you, but does to me, but the authors fail the Yates test. His first name was plain Fred, not Frederick as given in the book.

The short final chapter sums up what you can learn from the engines:

1. Avoid passive pieces!
2. Grab space!
3. Use your rook’s pawns!
4. Small advantages don’t always win!
5. Use the whole board!
6. Be an absolute tactical genius, who never misses anything!!

Read this book, learn these lessons, and perhaps you too will be able to play as well as Stockfish!

Highly recommended if you like the concept of the book (I’d suggest you look at the sample page first). I’d be more than happy to see a second volume.

Richard James, Twickenham 2nd May 2024

Richard James
. Richard James

Book Details:

  • Paperback: 440 pages
  • Publisher: New In Chess (31 May 2023)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10:9083311260
  • ISBN-13:978-9083311265
  • Product Dimensions: 17.12 x 2.64 x 22.83 cm

Official web site of New in Chess.

Re-Engineering The Chess Classics: A Silicon Reappraisal of Thirty-Five Classic Games, FM Steve Giddins, New in Chess (31 May 2023), ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-9083311265.
Re-Engineering The Chess Classics: A Silicon Reappraisal of Thirty-Five Classic Games, FM Steve Giddins, New in Chess (31 May 2023), ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-9083311265.

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The Modernized Trojan Knight 1.Nc3: A Complete Repertoire for White

From the Publisher, Thinkers Publishing:

The idea of the move 1. Nc3 is to confuse the second player, as White plays a supposedly unambitious move to mislead Black. This is why we found the name “Trojan Horse” very appropriate for the move 1. Nc3, just as the gift from Ulysses to the Trojans appeared to be a tricky and poisoned gift. The appropriate term for chess will, therefore, be the Trojan Knight to refer to the Trojan Horse.

1. Nc3 became popular among professional players, and many grandmasters have added it to their repertoire or played it occasionally in official games: Nakamura, Morozevich, Rapport, Bauer, Vallejo Pons… However, it is especially in rapid games that it has reached the world elite, and the very best players in the world have tried it: Carlsen, Mamedyarov, Andreikin and Firouzja for example. I truly hope that seeing the very best players in the world playing it will convince even the most sceptical critics.

About the Author:

The author Bruno Dieu is a FIDE Master and became French Correspondence Chess Champion in 2000. He has a rich experience in chess, having participated in various chess tournaments, both over the board and in correspondence. It’s fascinating that he has competed with notable experts and writers on the 1 Nc3, such as Dick Van Geet, Anker Aasum, and Harald Keilhack. The mention of a book being a token of his experience suggests that he has documented his insights and knowledge about this opening.

FM Bruno Dieu
FM Bruno Dieu

This absorbing and well-thought tome is a delight and covers a wealth of material after White’s opening salvo with 1.Nc3.

First encounters

As a junior, the reviewer knew this opening as the Dunst opening. I first met the Dunst on 18 January 1975 in a simul in London against the late and great Tony Miles, a year before he became the first UK-born, over-the-board chess GM.  The game transposed into the Four Knights opening  and I was inevitably steadily outplayed by Miles, who won a pawn with a neat back rank combination in a major piece middlegame. Unexpectedly, Miles faltered in a winning rook and pawn endgame at move 47, wasting a vital tempo, allowing an excited junior to escape with a draw. My next encounter with the Dunst was a few months later against another strong Birmingham player. This time, booked up, I played the so called refutation with 1…d5 reaching this position:

Ball-Webb10.Nh4
Ball-Webb After10.Nh4

The inexperienced junior, as Black, came up with the positional howler 10…f5? but managed to draw again when my opponent blundered by opting to exchange into an optically good, but drawn king and pawn endgame. This line is covered in the book, 10…f6 is certainly a better move, although the author prefers 10.Nd2 for White.

A callow player as Black may regard the Trojan Knight as just another unusual opening move which aims to avoid main line theory. On the contrary, as the author points out, 1.Nc3 is a cunning move full of transpositional possibilities whereby the second player can end up in an unfamiliar opening.

I have faced the Trojan Knight on 15 occasions replying 1…e5 in my first game, 1…d5 in my second outing and 1…c5 in subsequent encounters.

The reviewer has opted for the Trojan Knight as White in a total of 15 games; the transposition statistics are of interest:

  • Sicilian (4 games)
  • French (2 games)
  • Caro-Kann (1 game)
  • Vienna (1 game)
  • Czech Pirc  (1 game)
  • Irregular queen’s pawn (1 game)
  • 1…b6 1 (game)
  • Trojan Knight main line 1…d5 2.e4 d4 (1 game)
  • Trojan Knight main line 1…e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.d4 (3 games)

This small sample  shows the variety of branches available.

The book is logically divided into 6 parts:

PART I – 1…e5

PART II – 1…d5 2.e4 d4

PART III – 1…d5 2.e4 dxe4

PART IV – 1…d5 – Caro-Kann, French & Alekhine Style

PART V – 1…c5 – Sicilian Style

PART VI – Other First Moves

PART I – 1…e5

This is the natural response which was the move played by the reviewer on first meeting 1.Nc3.

After the following natural moves 1.Nc3 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.d4 exd4 4.Nxd4 this position is reached:

1...e5 Main Line
1…e 5 Main Line

This position obviously has affinities with the Scotch Game and of course can transpose if both players acquiesce. Black can can get into difficulties very quickly here with a sloppy move. A few examples given are:

4…Qf6? (played in some lines of the Scotch) 5. Ndb5! winning as c7 collapses.

4… Qh4? 5.Ndb5! (winning)

4…g6? (looks natural to fianchetto, akin to Larsen’s fianchetto variation of the Philidor Defence) 5.Nd5! a6 (5…Bg7 6. Nb5  Be5 7.f4 wins) 6.Bg5! (6.Bf4 is also excellent) 6…f6 7.Bf4 d6 8.e4 Bg7 9.h4 with a clear advantage

4…d5?! (looks natural) 5.Bf4! a6 (5…Bb4 6.Nxc6 Bxc3+ 7.bxc3 bxc6 8.Qd4! with a big plus) 6. e4 with a definite edge

4…Bb4!? is interesting, White can gain an edge with the Scotch like move 5.Nxc6! bxc6 (5…dxc6 is obviously weaker) 6. Qd4! winning the bishop pair or forcing the horrid 6…Bf8?!

Black should interject the capture on c3 in the last line, after 4…Bb4!? 5.Nxc6 Bxc3+ 6. bxc3 bxc6 7.Qd4! Nf6 8.Bg5

PositionAfter8.Qd4
PositionAfter8.Qd4

White has a small edge. A typical continuation could be 8…h6 9.Bxf6 Qxf6 10.Qxf6 gxf6 11. g3 Rb8 12.Bg2 Ke7 13.Kd2 Ba6

Larsen-Christiansen Denmark 2000
Larsen-Christiansen Denmark 2000

Now 14.Rhb1! with a slight edge to White in a complex endgame.

4…Bc5 is the best move along with 4…Nf6.

4...Bc5
4…Bc5

The author offers three decent alternatives for white:

  • 5.Be3
  • 5.Nxc6
  • 5.Nf5

5.Nb3 Bb6 6.e4 transposes a Scotch Game main line.

After 5.Nf5 Qf6, the author offers two interesting alternatives 6.g4 and 6.e4. He claims that 6.g4 is very strong, but the author’s analysis has a significant hole.  After 6.g4 Bb4 7.Bd2 Nge7 8.e4:

8.e4
8.e4

The author offers the anaemic 8…Nxf5 for Black, after 9.gxf5 Qh4 10.Qf3 Black is in real trouble. The reviewer smelt a rat here as Nxf5 looks too compliant: a quick check with Stockfish reveals 8…d5! equalising. This is a rare significant oversight by the author. Clearly the reviewer has not checked 450+ pages of dense variations but intuition has to be used to choose the positions to use the engine.

6.e4! is better as the author points out leading to Scotch positions where White has a space advantage and although the position is only fractionally better for White, it is easier to play for the first player.

4…Nf6 seems to be the most natural developing move. 5.Bg5! keeps the game in lesser known channels and is better than 5.e4.

5.Bg5
5.Bg5

Black has to be careful here, not to slip into an inferior position.

The passive 5…Be7 allows 6.Nf5! and White has a definite advantage.

The natural 5…d5? allows 6.Bxf6! and White has a distinct edge.

The natural 5…Bc5! is ok setting up veiled threats against f2. 6.e3! Nxd4 (6…0-0 7.Nd5! and white is a little better) 7.exd4 Be7 Now 8.Qd2 is an improvement on the author’s 8.Qf3 leading to a small advantage to White.

The pin 5…Bb4 is certainly playable, 6.Nxc6 leads to a small White edge.

PART II – 1…d5 2.e4 d4

If there is a problem with 1.Nc3, it is definitely this variation which is critical as Black gains space and time.  One of the crucial lines is 1.Nc3 d5 2.e4 d4 3. Nce2 (3.Nb1 Nf6!)  3…e5 4.Ng3 (4.f4 Nc6! 5.Nf3 Bg4!) Be6! 5.Nf3 (5.c3 Nc6!) 5…f6!

Best 5...f6
Best 5…f6

This line is the reason that the reviewer gave up on 1.Nc3.
White can try 6.Bb5+ c6 7.Be2!? (7.Ba4 Na6! 8.Bb3 Bxb3! 9.axb3 d3! 10.0-0 Nb4 11.cxd3 Nxb4 12.Ne1 Nh6 and Black has an edge.) 7…g6 (keeping the knight out of f5) 8.0-0 Qd7 9.b4!? Nh6 (9…Bxb4 10.c3! dxc3 11.d4 is better for White as Black’s development is lacking.) and Black is slightly better.

I hope that this short review gives the reader a glimpse into the complexities of this opening. My only small criticism of the book is that the author sometimes puts the best moves in an editorial side line but I realise this is to keep the featured game as the main line.

In summary, this is an excellent book.

FM Richard Webb, Basingstoke, Hampshire, 28th April 2024

FM Richard Webb
FM Richard Webb

Book Details :

  • Hardcover : 475 pages
  • Publisher:Thinkers Publishing; 1st edition (1 Mar. 2024)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 9464787546
  • ISBN-13:  978-9464787542
  • Product Dimensions: 16.61 x 3.4 x 23.6 cm

Official web site of Thinkers Publishing

The Modernized Trojan Knight 1.Nc3: A Complete Repertoire for White, Bruno Dieu, Thinkers Publishing, 1st March 2024, ISBN-10 ‏ : ‎ 9464787546
The Modernized Trojan Knight 1.Nc3: A Complete Repertoire for White, Bruno Dieu, Thinkers Publishing, 1st March 2024, ISBN-10 ‏ : ‎ 9464787546

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The Caro-Kann the Easy Way

From the Batsford web site:

“An informative guide to understanding and implementing the fundamentals of the Caro-Kann, the easy way.

The Caro-Kann defence, named after the German chess players Horatio Caro and Marcus Kann, is notorious for its simple solidity and is a popular chess opening that players of all levels benefit from having in their arsenal. It is a firm favourite of grand masters past and present, including Karpov, Petrosian, Capablanca and Anand.

This is the fifth book from International Master Thomas Engqvist, and it avoids overcomplicated details and endless computer variations, focusing instead on key variations of the Caro-Kann that can be committed to memory. Examining classic games to demonstrate key moves in action, Engqvist brings the defence to life and provides you with the knowledge you need to put strategy into practice.”

International Master Thomas Engqvist has travelled the world teaching and coaching chess to a very high level for decades – and with this book, he can be your coach too.”

About the Author (from the publisher’s website):

“Thomas Engqvist is an International Master from Sweden. He has over 30 years’ experience as a chess coach and teacher. He has worked with players at world championship level in both junior and correspondence chess. He is the author of 300 Most Important Chess Positions and 300 Most Important Tactical Chess Positions, both published by Batsford.”

IM Thomas Engqvist (SWE)
IM Thomas Engqvist (SWE)

Previously we have reviewed 300 Most Important Chess Exercises and Chess Lessons from a Champion Coach making this November 2023 title the first of the authors opening books examined in this place. We were keen to take a look especially as our reviewer has a fondness for c6 & d5 structures.

Material is divided into an Introduction and eight chapters covering all of White’s possible options.

The author kicks-off with a contemporary look at four historically instructive games putting anyone new to the CK at ease straight away. “The Easy Way” is a repertoire book from Black’s perspective rather than an encyclopaedic academic tome about the entire CK defence. Each chapter also contains model games examined in detail of which there are 43 in total.

Thomas commences his “theoretical” material with the Classical Variation from White selecting Capablanca’s 4…Bf5 for Black as the first significant repertoire suggestion.

Engqvist makes zero assumptions about the reader’s knowledge of the CK apart from wanting to learn the defence from scratch. Explanations are clear without getting bogged down in reams of variations making the text easy to follow.

For each of his suggestions there is discussion of statistics in term of what move options get played, their order of significance, order of success and what standards of players employ them. These details are quite a novel approach and long way from the lists of variations of older publications TE goes on to write:

There are five variations the second player should know about, even though strictly speaking some of them are not so good and you will probably never encounter them, at least not in a serious game.

This perspective gives one confidence that plausible opponent choices are considered rather than the rather boring modern approach  (of some other authors) to only consider “top engine choices”.  This helps to reinforce our suggestion (to students) to study the so-called side-lines first and then progress to the main dish afterwards.

For example, 5.Bd3!?

is considered but experienced CK players might turn their nose up at even reading about this. The student new to the CK will meet this try many times online and Over-the-Board (OTB). Not only that but 5.Bd3!? was suggested by no less than Siegbert Tarrasch (the “Jolly Doctor”).

Another feature that endears one to the authors approach is his liberal sprinkling of significant and interesting quotations from yesteryear. For example, after

TE quotes renowned theoretician Max Euwe as follows:

Many masters of the opinion that the 6 h4 move merely denotes a weakening and would be better left out

There are a number of novel suggestions throughout the text and many spring from the authors long time experience with the Caro-Kann.

In summary, The Caro-Kann the Easy Way is an excellent primer for any second player starting out or refreshing their knowledge of this venerable and reliable defence to the King’s pawn.

Highly recommended!

John Upham, Cove, Hampshire 25th April 2024

Book Details :

  • Paperback: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Batsford; 1st edition (9 Nov. 2023)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10:184994816X
  • ISBN-13:978-1849948166
  • Product Dimensions: 15.29 x 2.54 x 23.37 cm

Official web site of Batsford Chess

The Caro-Kann the Easy Way, Thomas Engqvist, Batsford Chess, Batsford; 1st edition (9 Nov. 2023), ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-1849948166
The Caro-Kann the Easy Way, Thomas Engqvist, Batsford Chess, Batsford; 1st edition (9 Nov. 2023), ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-1849948166

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