Category Archives: Everyman Chess

Coach Yourself : A Complete Guide to Self Improvement at Chess

Coach Yourself : A Complete Guide to Self Improvement at Chess
Coach Yourself : A Complete Guide to Self Improvement at Chess

Neil McDonald is an English GM, an active player, a FIDE Trainer and a coach to the England junior teams. Neil has authored thirty-seven books for The Chess Press, Batsford and, most recently, Everyman Chess. One of his most recent works, The King’s Indian Attack : Move by Move, impressed considerably.

GM Neil McDonald
GM Neil McDonald

“Coach Yourself” is a new direction for the author whose previous titles have concentrated on specific openings and generic middlegame themes.

The Introduction reveals the book’s USP (Unique Selling Point) of enabling the reader to become their own personal coach in a wide range of sub-disciplines of the game. You might think “All chess books attempt to teach at least one aspect in detail surely?” So, does “Coach Yourself” achieve its ambitious aim ?

The author sets outs his course curriculum in thirteen precisely worded chapters as follows :

  1. Immunizing Yourself Against Blunders
  2. Training Your Tactical Imagination
  3. Teaching Yourself to Calculate
  4. Judging the Right Moment to Use a Combination
  5. Supercharging Your Feel for the Initiative
  6. Know Yourself : Diagnosing Positional Mistakes
  7. Learn How to Shut a Piece out of the Game
  8. Getting Full Value from Your King
  9. Wearing Down the Opponent’s Pawn Structure
  10. Practice Planning on a Grand Scale
  11. Mastering Pawn Breakthroughs in Endgames
  12. Understanding the Essentials of the Endgame
  13. Making Good Opening Choices

Of these, probably half of them at least could almost be titles for books in their own right. “Teaching Yourself to Calculate” probably could turn into a 300 page book without any problem : indeed, such titles do exist. Similarly “Making Good Opening Choices” must have appeared in chess publishing history at some point. The order in which the chapters are presented is, in itself, quite logical and correctly emphasizes perhaps the weight that students should attach to each section. For example, the subjects of these chapters do attempt to correct the balance of study away from openings and towards the more challenging and time consuming middlegame.

This review would be really rather unwieldy if we attempted to work through each chapter so we will select a couple of chapters to measure their coverage and style.

The author kicks-off logically with “Immunizing Yourself Against Blunders” suggesting that blunders tend to disappear once a serious study is started. Most of the instruction is centered around the study of example games in which common types of blunder occur. The student is invited to get into the habit of playing though the entire or part of eleven games on a board and learn the common patterns and themes that lead to oversights and blunders.

Here is an extract of an example :

Above All, Look After Your Queen!

VI. Fedoseev-A.Ledger
European Cup, Porto Carras 2018

1.e4 c6 2.d4 d5 3.e5 Bf5 4.Nd2 e6 5.Nb3 Nd7 6.Nf3 Ne7 7.c3 Ng6 8.Be3 Nh4 9.Nxh4 Qxh4 10.Be2 Qe4 11.h4 h6 12.h5

Here 12…Qxg2? would allow the queen to be trapped by 13.Bf3, so the best move might be 12…Qc2, forcing the exchange of queens, after which White would only have a small edge due to his space advantage. Instead, Black played the natural developing move 12…Be7?, when 13.Rc1! closed off the c2-square and left his queen suddenly trapped. The threat is 14.Nd2 Qxg2 15.Bf3, and 13…Bh7 14.Nd2 Qf5 15.g4! also does the business for White (what an ignominy for a queen to be trapped by a peasant!).
In the game Black good find nothing better than giving up the knight for two pawns with 13…Nxe5 14.dxe5 Qxe5. Fedoseev was remorseless in pressing home his advantage (one of the signs of a top player is that they don’t relax once they have gained material): 15.Qd4 Qxd4 16.cxd4 Bb4+ 17.Bd2 Bd6 18.g4 Bh7 19.Rh3 Kd7 20.Na5 Rab8 21.Rb3 Kc7

Question : Can you see the most precise finish for White?

The game concluded 22.Ba6! bxa6 23.Rxc6+ Kd7 24.Rxd6! 1-0, since 24…Kxd6 25.Bf4+ (skewering the black king against the b8-rook – there’s more on this theme in Chapter Two) 25..Kd7 26.Bxb8 is too much for Black to bear.
Fedoseev’s 22nd move, laying the foundations for the combination which followed, was inspired. Don’t worry if you didn’t see it. The purpose of the next chapter is to introduce you to various tactical themes so that you can start planning your own combinations.

So the 11 examples set one up for the more challenging content to follow.

Some chapter titles particularly intrigued us : “Getting Full Value from your King” was one example plus “Learn How to Shut a Piece Out of the Game”. For each and every chapter there is a consistent method of presenting the content : Many instructional examples each containing questions that the student is challenged to answer. Some are straightforward and many are tough. They will get you thinking in every case.

All the material is presented in a friendly style almost as if you are engaged in a coaching session with the author himself and he is asking the questions and you are answering (hopefully!). The examples span games from the last hundred years including losses by the author that presumably made their mark. One of the best aspects of this book is each chapter is more or less self contained and does not depend on previous ones or what comes afterwards. Just picking out the endgame chapters only would be highly beneficial (for example) and then pick out chapters from the rest when you have the time.

We particularly enjoyed the “Getting Full Value From Your King” and “Supercharging Your Feel for the Initiative” chapters as being novel. You will, no doubt, have your own favourites.

As with every recent Everyman Chess publication high quality paper is used and the printing is clear. Each diagram is clear as is the instructional text. Figurine algebraic notation is used throughout and the diagrams are placed adjacent to the relevant text.

A couple of small gripes with the production are : the diagrams do not have a “to move” indicator. secondly, some Everyman books (but not this one) have an extra folding part to the front and rear covers. These we find protect the book from damage and also can be used as an emergency book mark !

So, does the content bear out the title? The material includes novel and challenging content covered from new angles. However, the answer to this difficult question lies with the student and to their level of motivation. Neil has given the student much hard to obtain advice combined with a Q&A format that allow the student to measure their improvement in understanding.

There is no doubt that this book presents perhaps 100 hours of instruction and opportunities to improve: sadly, we have not had 100 hours available to spend on this review!
However, we very much enjoyed this book and if you are not afraid of the challenge then you will too!

John Upham, Cove, Hampshire, 31st August, 2019

John Upham
John Upham

Book Details :

  • Paperback : 336 pages
  • Publisher: Everyman Chess (1 April 2019)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1781945128
  • ISBN-13: 978-1781945124
  • Product Dimensions: 17.2 x 1.7 x 24.1 cm

Official web site of Everyman Chess

Coach Yourself : A Complete Guide to Self Improvement at Chess
Coach Yourself : A Complete Guide to Self Improvement at Chess

First Steps : King’s Indian Defence

First Steps : King's Indian Defence
First Steps : King’s Indian Defence

Andrew Martin is an English IM, a Senior FIDE Trainer, the Head of the ECF Chess Academy, a teacher in numerous schools and a coach to many promising and upcoming players. Andrew has authored in excess of thirty books and DVDs and produced huge numbers of engaging videos on his sadly defunct YouTube Channel.

IM Andrew Martin
IM Andrew Martin

The author first wrote about the King’s Indian Defence (an opening for Black he himself plays) in 1989 (Winning with the King’s Indian) and followed this up with the widely acknowledged King’s Indian Battle Plans in 2004.

King's Indian Battle Plans
King’s Indian Battle Plans

The “First Steps” series from Everyman Chess is (according to Everyman Chess)

an opening series that is ideal for improving players who want simple and straightforward explanations. First Steps emphasizes

  • the basic principles
  • the basic strategies
  • the key tricks and traps

So, bearing the above in mind, does, in true “Ronseal Fashion”, this book do what it says on the tin ?

We have nine chapters :

  1. Inspiration
  2. Pawn Structures
  3. The Classical System
  4. The Fianchetto Variation
  5. Lines with Bg5
  6. The Sämisch Variation
  7. The Four Pawns Attack
  8. Less Common White Systems
  9. King’s Indian Byways

followed by an Index of Variations and Index of Complete Games (featuring a good number of the author’s own games with both colours).

Interestingly the “Byways” chapter introduces readers to the somewhat rare Dizdar-Indian, which may be new to many :

with around 1200 games in Megabase 2019, being played by Caruana, Mamedov and Fressinet to name drop but a few, this is perhaps a developing sideline should White play Nf3 before Nc3.

Anyway, before I digress too far…

The meat and potatoes of this books kicks off with six decisive (dubbed Inspirational) games which leave one with optimism about a decisive result one way or the other, when employing the King’s Indian Defence. In order to avoid accusations of bias, in game six, Black (Richard Britton), is crushed in 19 moves by Andrew himself :

White to play (and we leave the reader to enjoy finding White’s idea.

Moving on to Chapter Two, Pawn Structures, we find an in-depth discussion of typical themes and idea that arise from the variations to be discussed in subsequent chapters. If only all opening books included such an insightful chapter, players new to the opening would pick up the Good, the bad and the Ugly so much quicker !

The author is also to be thanked for including games where Black gets it very wrong and goes down in flames. Gone are the days of biased books such as “Winning with the Damiano” (OK, I picked an extreme example !) in which Black has somehow refuted 1.e4. This book therefore is much more politically chess correct and credible in what it recommends.

Having studied in detail the Pawn Structures chapter the reader should be in good shape to roll-up their sleeves, pour a glass of wine and get stuck in. For each of the remaining chapters we are introduced to the theory of the set-up selected by our opponent. The Classical System chapter (understandably the largest) features 30 games analysed in detail including emphasis on the ideas, criticism of flawed thinking by either player, top tips that milestone themes the student must understand with plenty of diagrams.

The authors style is friendly, engaging and informal, leaving the student with the feeling that they are having a lesson with the author rather than simply reading a book. This I find helps to make learning the KID a pleasure rather than a chore. You get the feeling you are learning about chess and not just another opening for Black.

To give you a feel here is an excerpt from Chapter Three :


I’m very doubtful whether action in the centre or on the kingside is going to get White anywhere, as he is playing right into Black’s hands. Smirin is now able to whip up an attack.

TIP : It is rarely a good idea to play on the side of the board where your opponent is stronger.

17…exf4! 18 Bxf4 Qh4 19 Rael Ng5 20 Kh2 Rae8 21 Qc1

You would think that 21 b64 would be high on the list of White’s priorities, but in this case 21…axb4 Na6 makes it awkward for him to defend his b4-pawn, as the natural 23 Qb3? is met by 23…Be5!

Are there any notable omissions ? A First Steps book is not intended to provide everything but I would have liked to see more detailed coverage of the increasingly popular Bagirov / Krasenkow Variation :

Games 53 & 54 in the section on the Classical Variation do provide coverage to some extent.

And, maybe also a small mention perhaps of the dangerous Barry Attack :

and the KID player (who may not play the Pirc) has to decide if he wishes to allow e4 or play a Grünfeld Defence.

As with every recent Everyman Chess publication high quality paper is used and the printing is clear. Each diagram is clear as is the instructional text. Figurine algebraic notation is used throughout and the diagrams are placed adjacent to the relevant text.

A couple of small gripes with the production are : the diagrams do not have a “to move” indicator. secondly, some Everyman books (but curiously not this one) have an extra folding part to the front and rear covers. These I find protect the book from damage and also can be used as an emergency book mark !

Although I do not play the King’s Indian Defence myself I would certainly be keen to use this book to introduce myself to its rich possibilities. I’m not keen on books written by an author who does not play the recommended system his or herself. In this case there can be no doubt that the advice comes from much experience, enthusiasm and passion for the KID. Please give it a go !

John Upham, Cove, Hampshire, 17th August, 2019

John Upham
John Upham

Book Details :

  • Paperback : 336 pages
  • Publisher: Everyman Chess (3 July 2019)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1781944288
  • ISBN-13: 978-1781944288
  • Product Dimensions: 16.9 x 1.9 x 23.8 cm

Official web site of Everyman Chess

First Steps : King's Indian Defence
First Steps : King’s Indian Defence

Opening Repertoire : The French Defence

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

IM Cyrus Lakdawala
IM Cyrus Lakdawala

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

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

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

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

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

James Pratt
James Pratt

James Pratt, Basingstoke, June, 2019

Book Details :

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

Official web site of Everyman Chess

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

Opening Repertoire : 1 d4 with 2 c4

Opening Repertoire : 1 d4 with 2 c4
Opening Repertoire : 1 d4 with 2 c4

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

IM Cyrus Lakdawala
IM Cyrus Lakdawala

This book is a comprehensive review of all the main continuations after White has played d4 and c4 as his first two moves.  It covers the Nimzo-Indian Defence, King’s Indian Defence, Benko Gambit, Grunfeld Defence , Slav Defence , Semi-Slav Defence and so on.  The book is highly instructive and contains detailed reviews of 72 games including many modern examples from Carlsen, Kramnik and Mamedyarov as well as classics from the likes of Kasparov and Korchnoi.  It also includes a handful of the author’s games.

A notable feature of the book is the author’s writing style which is often effusive, sardonic and humorous.  The purists may find this annoying but I quite enjoyed it.  Take this example from the Introduction as he explains why he switched to d4, c4.   ‘… my openings lacked arable land in which to be creative. For decades my choices had been kissing simplicity’s butt, in a naked display of sycophancy, not seen in the world since Henry VIII’s wives.’

The book is clear and easy to read.  Despite its 448 pages, some of the lines are not covered in great depth.  The Dutch Defence gets four illustrative games and just 18 pages.  So there is probably not enough detail for the GM preparing for his or her next tournament.  However if you are a club player this book is an invaluable and enjoyable resource which will definitely improve your handling of all Black’s main responses to this opening.

Paul Sloane, Camberley, Surrey, May 30th, 2019

Paul Sloane
Paul Sloane

Book Details :

  • Paperback : 448 pages
  • Publisher: Everyman Chess (15 May 2019)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1781945098
  • ISBN-13: 978-1781945094
  • Product Dimensions: 17.8 x 22.9 cm

Official web site of Everyman Chess

Opening Repertoire : 1 d4 with 2 c4
Opening Repertoire : 1 d4 with 2 c4
Opening Repertoire : 1 d4 with 2 c4
Opening Repertoire : 1 d4 with 2 c4