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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 the English master Joseph Henry Blake, a game with whom is shown 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. This 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 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 a teenage Leonard Barden in the gap between Whitgift and Balliol. 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.

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:

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 more 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 simple 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.

Hansen perseveres with the conceit of the original book in not showing any Michell losses. 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. He was still in his prime even if he died a year later.

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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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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Speed Demon: The Fascinating Games and Tragic Life of Alexey Vyzhmanavin

From the publisher:

“Almost as fascinating as chess is the community of chess players. In every major city in the world, you are guaranteed to meet interesting people when you walk into a local chess club or chess cafe. This book pays tribute to one of those characters who gave colour to the chess world, the Russian grandmaster Alexey Vyzhmanavin.

The best chance to bump into Vyzhmanavin in the 1980s and early 1990s was in Sokolniki park in Moscow, playing blitz. You could meet him at the 1992 Chess Olympiad as a member of the winning Russian team. Or in the finals of the PCA rapid events of the 1990s, frequently outplaying his illustrious opponents with his fluent and enterprising style. In Moscow in 1994, he reached the semi-final, narrowly losing out to Vladimir Kramnik, having already beaten Alexei Shirov and Viktor Korchnoi. Commentating at a PCA event, Maurice Ashley described Vyzhmanavin in predatory terms: ‘He’s a dangerous one, looking like a cat, ready to pounce’.

For this book, grandmaster Dmitry Kryakvin has talked to dozens of people, enabling him to give a complete picture of Vyzhmanavin’s life. The result is a mix of fascinating chess, wonderful anecdotes, and some heartbreaking episodes. The stories are complemented by the memories of Vyzmanavin’s ex-wife Lyudmila. They revive his successes but also reveal the dark side of this forgotten chess genius who battled with depression and the ‘green serpent’, a Russian euphemism for alcoholism. He died in January 2000 at the age of forty, in circumstances that remain unclear. The stories and games in this book are his legacy.

Dmitry Kryakvin is an International Grandmaster from Russia and an experienced chess trainer and author. For New In Chess he wrote Attacking with g2-g4: The Modern Way to Get the Upper Hand in Chess

————————————————————————————-

There’s always a demand for biographical works and games collections concerning lesser known players. Here we have a book about Alexey Vyzhmanavin, who, for a short time in the late 1980s and early 1990s, was one of the leading Soviet/Russian grandmasters.

Viorel Bologan provides the Foreword.

(Vyzhmanavin) was a very inventive and enterprising chess player, with deep and precise calculation skills. His best games featured in this book constitute great learning material. I must add that I rather liked the style of the book: it’s not a simple collection of best games – it’s a history of his life, bright and tragic. The narration of the author, Dmitry Kryakvin, is complemented by the memories of Vyzhmanavin’s ex-wife Lyudmila and stories from his friends.

Bright and tragic. This sums up Vyzhmanavin’s short life, with its highs and lows. A player of exceptional natural talent, particularly at speed chess, but his life blighted by his mental health problems and addictions to gambling and alcohol.

A fascinating book with an important story to tell – and some great chess along the way as well.

Right at the start, though, I should explain that I have one issue. Not, I suspect, to do with the book itself, but to do with what I assume was an editorial decision made by the publishers.

If I’m reading a Best Games collection I really want to see the complete games. Here, in the majority of cases, we don’t get all the moves, but only join the game after the opening, or, in some cases, at the start of the ending. This is something I find very frustrating: while it’s good to see how the winner exploited his advantage, I’d also like to know how he obtained that advantage in the first place, which might teach me something about the opening.

I appreciate that this is their house style, and that the decision was no doubt made for economic reasons, but for me it rather spoils what is otherwise an excellent book.

Vyzhmanavin had a difficult family background, with an alcoholic father. His mother was a kindergarten teacher, and he didn’t discover chess until his teens, when, accompanying his mother and her pupils to a summer camp, he chanced upon a chess book.

He had to start his playing career against much younger children, but, supported by Lyudmila Belavenets (daughter of pre-war Soviet master Sergey), he won books as prizes and rapidly became addicted to chess. As she later wrote: I am completely sure that it’s not necessary to start studying chess at the age of 4 or 6. When a teenager comes to the chess section, this means that it was his own choice.

I wholeheartedly agree with these sentiments.

Kryakvin writes:

We are all products of our childhood, and what we discuss here and now is very important in understanding what happened to Alexey Vyzhmanavin later. Alexey didn’t have any of the things that we love so much and sometimes value so little at home: warmth, loving and caring family members.

For him, much more than for most players, his childhood is the key to understanding both why and how he played chess.

He soon discovered the chess pavilion in Sokolniki Park in Moscow, where he honed his exceptional talent for blitz chess. By 1981, at the age of 20, he was beating players like Bronstein and Vaganian: you can see the games here.

By this time he had been conscripted into the armed forces. joining the sports unit, where he could pursue chess rather than military training. After his two year conscription period ended he signed up for another six years, winning the Armed Forces championship on seven occasions.

By 1985 he was approaching GM strength, winning this fine attacking game. Click on any move for a pop-up window.

By the late 1980s he was, like his father before him, experiencing problems with alcoholism and mental health, but in 1988 his life changed when he married a fellow chess player, Lyudmila Didenko, as she is now known. Soon after their marriage a daughter was born. Lyudmila’s moving recollections of Alexey play an important part in this book.

There was more good news in 1989 when Vyzhmanavin, now with a 2555 rating, finally attained the grandmaster title.

Here’s an example of his play from the following year.

He continued to progress, playing for the successful Russian Olympiad and European Championship teams in 1992, and reaching a peak rating of 2620 in 1993.

But, by the mid 1990s his problems with the ‘green serpent’ were getting worse. His results started to decline, and his marriage broke up, Lyudmila filing for divorce in 1996. He played little chess that year, and, despite sharing first place at Cappelle-la-Grande the following year, soon gave up completely.

By now his life had spiralled out of control, and, in January 2000, at the age of only 39, he was found dead in his Moscow flat.

A tragic story, then, of a talented but troubled man who was unable to control his demons.

As usual from this publisher, the book is well produced. The translation is excellent and the game annotations serve their purpose well. As is usual with New in Chess books, active learning is promoted by questions inviting readers to find the best continuation. Given that Vyzhmanavin excelled in positional chess, most of the questions involve planning rather than calculation. If you feel the purpose of this book is to inform rather than instruct,  they’re not necessary, but they don’t do any harm.

If you’re interested in the human side of chess you’ll certainly want to read this book. If you’re interested in chess life in the last days of the Soviet Union, this is also a book for you. If you enjoy powerful positional chess, particularly in queen’s pawn games, you’ll learn something from this book. I’d suspect you’d have learnt rather more, though, if you’d been able to see the complete games rather than, in the majority, just the conclusion.

Dmitry Kryakvin has done an outstanding job in producing a fine tribute to Alexey Vyzhmanavin, a man who deserves to be remembered for both his life and his games.

Before I leave you, I have one further question prompted by reading this book. Should international and national chess organisations do more to help members of their community suffering from problems in the areas of mental health and addictions? I consider this an important topic which isn’t being discussed enough. Of course it’s quite possible that Vyzhmanavin might have turned down offers of help anyway, but what do you think?

Richard James, Twickenham 30th November 2023

Richard James
. Richard James

Book Details:

  • Softcover: 224 pages
  • Publisher: New In Chess (31 January 2023)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10:9493257819
  • ISBN-13:978-9493257818
  • Product Dimensions: 17.15 x 1.19 x 23.09 cm

Official web site of New in Chess.

Speed Demon: The Fascinating Games and Tragic Life of Alexey Vyzhmanavin, Dmitry Kryakvin, New in Chess, ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-9493257818
Speed Demon: The Fascinating Games and Tragic Life of Alexey Vyzhmanavin, Dmitry Kryakvin, New in Chess, ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-9493257818
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Kingwalks: Paths of Glory

Blurb from the publisher, Russell Enterprises:

The Fearsome Fascination of Kingwalks!

Marching your king across the board – at times right through or into enemy lines – may be both exhilarating and terrifying. Nothing may be quite as satisfying as a majestic kingwalk across the board which brings you glorious victory. And nothing as tragicomic as a needless journey ending in epic failure.

Chessplayers are fascinated by kingwalks, perhaps because of their inherent contradiction and even implausibility. The most important – and vulnerable – chess piece does something other than trying to remain safe.

Topics include: Kingwalks to Prepare an Attack; Kingwalks in Anticipation of an Endgame; Kingwalks to Defend Key Points; Kingwalks to Attack Key Points or Pieces; Mating Attacks; Escaping to Safety Across the Board; Escaping to Safety Up the Board; Kingwalks in the Opening; Kingwalks in the Endgame; Double Kingwalks; and Unsuccessful Kingwalks.

For sheer entertainment as well as instructive value, the kingwalk is transcendent!

“Executing a successful kingwalk has the power to make a chessplayer happy and the same can be said about playing over the many beautiful examples in this book. Enjoy!” — From the Foreword by Hans Ree

About the Authors:

American grandmaster Yasser Seirawan is a four-time U.S. champion. He also won the World Junior Championship in 1979. He is one of the best-selling chess authors and is considered one of the top commentators for games broadcast on the web.

Yasser Seirawan and Jeremy Morse at the Lloyds Bank Masters
Yasser Seirawan and Jeremy Morse at the Lloyds Bank Masters

Canadian master Bruce Harper has been champion of British Columbia many times and has also participated in several Canadian championships. He is the co-author with Yasser Seirawan of the highly acclaimed three-volume series, Chess on the Edge, chronicling the career of Canadian grandmaster Duncan Suttles. He is also co-author, with American grandmaster Hikaru Nakamura, of Bullet Chess: One Minute to Mate.”

 

From the rather rambling introduction:

While our hope is that readers of all strengths will enjoy this book, there is also much to be learned from the study of kingwalks. They are a legitimate part of chess, and can transform the nature of the position to a great extent. given the difficulty people, including chess players, have in coping with change, the psychological effect of kingwalks cannot be overestimated.

and

In the pages that follow, we not only give examples of different types of kingwalks, but we try to explain the positional, tactical or psychological basis for each example. A legitimate kingwalk doesn’t come out of the blue, any more than a combination arises by chances. By exploring the preconditions for the different types of kingwalks, we hope the attentive reader will recognize positions from his or her own games where a kingwalk might be the path to victory. Equally, this type of analysis will help players in coping with opponent’s kingwalks.

Chapter 1 takes us straight into Kingwalks to Prepare an Attack. In a position where your opponent can do nothing, you want to break through to the enemy king, but first you move your king to the other side of the board to deprive your opponent of potential counterplay.

I was struck by the very first example: Kevitz & Pinkus v Alekhine in a 1929 consultation game.

Here’s the position after White’s 28th move.

Black has a potential pawn break with g6 followed by f5, but Alekhine decided to move his king to the other side of the board first.

The authors explain:

In  this position, Black has a clear advantage. White’s pieces are tied to the defense of his weak e4-pawn and the light-square weaknesses around White’s king are a constant source of concern. The engine of course recommends direct action, but Alekhine, who was no stranger to that type of play, first takes the time to reposition his king.

Black’s 42nd move completed the kingwalk, reaching this position.

You’ll observe that, while Alekhine has made considerable progress, the consultation partners’ position is exactly the same as it was in the previous diagram.

The game continued 43. Bf2 f5 and Black won a few moves later.

We then move on to other motivations for kingwalks, in Anticipation of an Ending (Chapter 2: the examples all taken from Petrosian’s games), to Defend Key Points (Chapter 3) and to Attack Key Points or Pieces (Chapter 4).

Chapter 5 ramps the excitement up a notch as we look at kingwalks as part of Mating Attacks.

Hillarp Persson – Laurusas (not, as in the book, Laurusus), from the 2018 Olympiad in Batumi, reached this position after White’s 24th move.

Seirawan and Harper take up the story.

White has some compensation for his pawn deficit, but that’s about all. It is difficult to see how, in only ten moves, this game will become the best in the 2018 Olympiad.

Since there really isn’t anything happening in this position, White’s motif brings to mind the theme song for the Mary Tyler Moore Show:

“Who can take a nothing day, and suddenly make it all seem worthwhile?”

Of course we’re referring to Joan Jett’s cover version, not the original…

White gets some help at this point. The engine recommends the supremely logical 24… Rfd8!, allowing 25. Rxh5 so that 25… Qg7 forces the exchange of queens, leaving Black with a favorable endgame. Black instead surrenders the wrong pawn.

Black played 24… Qg7?! instead, and soon started an attack on White’s king, forcing him up the board.

After mutual inaccuracies in what was, to be fair, a very difficult position, this position was reached.

The game concluded: 34. Qxg6+! Kh8 35. Kh6 and it’s mate next move.

A beautiful creative achievement by White, with some help from his opponent at the critical moment. The most remarkable aspect of this game is there wasn’t really anything to make one think that something like this was even possible ten moves ago.

We then move on from attacking kingwalks to defensive kingwalks: Escaping to Safety Across the Board in Chapter 6 and Up the Board in Chapter 7.

Even the greatest tacticians can end up confused when their opponent starts a kingwalk.

This is from Geller – Tal (Moscow 1975).

In a difficult position, Tal has just played 29… Bd4!?, hoping for complications in the impending time scramble.

30. Qe2?

As Kasparov points out, White should first drive Black’s queen off the first rank by offering an exchange of queens with 30. Qc1!, switching to the attack only after 30… Qxa2 31. Qe1! Then Black would have no play against White’s king.

30… Ne7! 31. Nb5

If White takes Black’s e7-knight, either before or after checking on e6 with his queen, Black wins: 31. Qxe7 Qg1+ 32. Kg3 Qf2+ 33. Kg4 Qxg2+ 34. Bg3 h5+ 35. Kh4 Qe4+! 36. Qxe4 Bf6#

31… Bg1+

31… Qg1+ is also sufficient to draw. Now White has no choice other than to begin a kingwalk, and the road to victory for White, and for a draw for Black lies along the White king’s path, which is wide enough only for one…

Short of time, Tal went wrong a couple of moves later and Geller’s king fled up the board to safety. Tal resigned on move 41 (perhaps at the adjournment), not waiting for 42. Kf8, which would have given this position.

Chapters 8, 9 and 10 consider, respectively, Kingwalks in the Opening (here’s Steinitz’s king boldly venturing into the centre of the board right at the start of the game, Kingwalks in the Ending (well, it’s what you do in the ending anyway, isn’t it?) and Double Kingwalks.

Seirawan and Harper are at pains to point out, throughout the book, that there’s often an element of danger in kingwalks, so Chapter 11 shows us some Unsuccessful Kingwalks.

Then, in Chapters 12-16, we have chapters devoted to players particularly associated with kingwalks: Steinitz (again), Nimzowitsch, Petrosian (again), and, less expectedly perhaps, the highly creative Canadian GM Duncan Suttles (the subject of a previous 3-volume series by the same authors), followed by Yasser Seirawan himself. You might or might not consider this slightly narcissistic.

Finally, Chapter 17 demonstrates some recent examples.

For my last example I offer you this 2019 game between Dubov and Giri.

After a very sharp opening, a complex position has arisen. Objectively White is slightly better, and the engine recommends 19. Nd2, with an edge. Instead Dubov shocks his opponent with a stunning move.

19. 0-0-0

Is there another example in chess history where a player castled on the side where there were no friendly pawns at all? We can’t term castling a “kingwalk”, but don’t worry. White’s king is just getting started.

White has unpinned his c3-knight, so he threatens 20. Nxb5, as well as 20. Qd8 mate. But Black has a logical reply that ruins White’s dream.

19… Qa5?!

After 19… Qb6!, Black defends against mate and forces a queen trade, because 20. Nb5? fails to 20… Qc6+! 21. Kb1 Na6.

White’s king went to b1 on move 22,  but by move 28 it was perfectly safe on f3.

You’ll have to read the book to discover how this happened.

This is an attractive and enjoyable book which will appeal to competitive players of all levels. It covers an aspect of chess which hasn’t been much written about so will have a unique place on your bookshelves. It’s a subject which leads itself naturally to creative and imaginative play, so you’ll find a feast of exciting chess within its pages.

Many readers will be re-acquainted with a host of old friends. There’s Short, marching his king up to h6 to mate Timman. And Botvinnik. with his king scuttling up the board to evade Capablanca’s checking queen. But there are also a lot of examples which will be probably be new to you. It’s good to have them all, both the familiar and unfamiliar, in the same place.

It’s  nicely produced, but, although there’s a short list of sources (four chess books/series and two Tolkien books), an index of players might have been helpful. You might also wish, for a number of reasons, that the authors had included initials as well as surnames for the players. I wonder whether or not it’s culturally insensitive only to give the family names of players of East Asian origin (Wei, Hou and so on) rather than their full names. The examples have all been analysed using Stockfish 10, so it’s safe to assume that there will be few, if any, significant tactical errors.

Given that kingwalks are relatively rare, at least before you get to the ending, I suppose this might not be the first choice of book to improve your rating. But taking a different approach, looking at chess, and in particular your king, in a different way, might well add another dimension to your play. Even if it does little to improve your rating, it will certainly provide you with a lot of entertainment and a wider appreciation of the beauty of your favourite game. If the subject matter appeals, and you like the style of writing typified by the examples in this review, this book can be highly recommended.

You can find an excerpt online here.

 

Richard James, Twickenham 11th April 2023

Richard James
Richard James

Book Details :

  • Hardcover : 288 pages
  • Publisher:  Russell Enterprises (15 July 2021)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10:194985938X
  • ISBN-13:978-1949859386
  • Product Dimensions: 15.24 x 2.54 x 22.86 cm

Official web site of Russell Enterprises

Kingwalks: Paths of Glory, Yasser Seirawan & Bruce Harper, Russell Enterprises, Inc. (20 Jun. 2021), ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-1949859386
Kingwalks: Paths of Glory, Yasser Seirawan & Bruce Harper, Russell Enterprises, Inc. (20 Jun. 2021), ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-1949859386
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Kupreichik: The Maestro From Minsk

From the London Chess Centre Publishing web site:

Kupreichik: The Maestro from Minsk features tributes to the legendary attacker from those who regularly faced him at the board, including Alexander Beliavsky, Oleg Romanishin, Evgeny Sveshnikov and Vladimir Tukmakov. Kupreichik also inspired the next generation, as the contributions of Boris Gelfand, Garry Kasparov, Andrey Kovalev and Rauf Mamedov reveal.

Our picture of Viktor Kupreichik is completed by a series of pen portraits from his family, which make clear the kind and principled man this hero of Belarusian chess was, as well as his love for the 64 squares.

Translated by Ken Neat, this work is also a collection of Kupreichik’s best games, many annotated by the man himself. His wins over Tal and Zilbershtein are legendary examples of the power of a knight sacrifice on d5 in the Open Sicilian. Inside you will learn not just about handling Kupreichik’s favourite Classical Sicilian, Slav and King’s Indian, but attacking and sacrificial chess in general. Readers even have the chance to solve 26 positions and so play like Kupreichik!

Viktor Kupreichik (1949-2017) was a leading Soviet Grandmaster in the 1970s and 1980s, famed for his attacking prowess. He twice won a staggering five games in a row at the super-strong USSR Championship. A former world student champion, Kupreichik won many tournaments, including the Masters section at Wijk aan Zee in 1977 and the Hastings Premier of 1981/82.

with forewords by Anastasia Sorkina and Genna Sosonko”

If I asked you to guess who played this game you’d be forgiven for thinking Tal. (Click on any move in any game in this review for a pop-up window)

You’d be partly right: Tal was playing – the black pieces. Spoilsport Stockfish will tell you he should have won, but it’s not easy, even for a genius, to defend against that sort of attack over the board. It was played in Sochi i n 1970, in a match tournament between a team of young  layers and a team of grandmasters.

On the white side was the hero of this book, Viktor Davydovich Kupreichik (1949-2017). This book, unusually without a credited author, was compiled by his family and friends after his death and published in Russian in 2019 to celebrate what would have been his 70th birthday. Here we have an English translation from London Chess Centre Publishing.

Genna Sosonko wrote the foreword to the English edition:

A master of attack, he demonstrated play that you rarely see nowadays. Even today when playing over games by Minsk’s favourite, an expression of Tal’s comes to mind – “tasty chess”.

Memories of him have been written by world champions, trainers, colleagues, friends and Viktor’s pupils. They all remember not only a wonderful chess player, but also an extraordinary personality. Even in the world of Soviet chess, Viktor was distinguished by his independence.

Mikhail Tal, Viktor’s idol, once said that his favourite squares on the chess board were d5 and f5. Viktor, who was similar to Tal not only in his constant striving for the initiative, but also the incredible boldness of his play, repeatedly placed his pieces en prise too on these very squares. And his most brilliant firework display began with a knight sacrifice on d5 in a game with Tal himself.

If you’re a fan of Tal’s games, then (and who isn’t?), you’ll enjoy Kupreichik’s games as well. You might put him in the same category as other chess mavericks such as Nezhmetdinov and Planinc: a player who valued creativity, beauty and excitement above results.

One of the contributors, Boris Gelfand, recalls, as an 11-year-old in 1979, being deeply impressed by this game.

Kupreichik’s niece, Anastasia Sorokina, is President of the Belarus Chess Federation and a FIDE Vice-President. She wrote the foreword to the Russian edition.

The publication of this book is timed to coincide with the 70th birthday of an outstanding chess-player, the first Belarusian Grandmaster, a true friend and a wonderful person, Viktor Davydovich Kupreichik. Vitek – that’s what his friends and the fans called him.

In the distant 1980s the name of Kuprechik resounded throughout the country. He was recognised in the street, fans would queue up to watch him play, and largely thanks to him a chess boom began in the Republic.

and

A sensitive and tactful person, he did not like boasting and bravado, so when the idea of this book emerged I wanted to make it modest, like him, but at the same time show all the power of his chess talent and the charm of his human character.

The first half of the book, then, comprises tributes to Kupreichik from friends and colleagues, including Kasparov and Karpov, very often with annotated games.

His friend Andrey Kovalev describes this encounter as ‘one of the best King’s Indian games in the history of chess’.

See what you think.

Throughout his long career, lasting 55 years or so, Kupreichik remained loyal to his favourite openings. He preferred 1. e4 with White, replying to 1. e4 with the Sicilian, and to 1. d4 with the King’s Indian or the Slav. If you enjoy these openings yourself you’ll find a lot of inspiration from the games in this book.

The second major section of the book is a collection of games annotated by Kupreichik himself. Those he annotated for Chess Informant have had verbal explanations added by the editorial team.

Here’s a quick win against Nigel Short.

By now you might be wondering why Kupreichik isn’t better known, or why he never reached the heights these games would suggest he deserved (his highest rating was 2575). I guess he was one of those players who loved chess too much, who valued beauty above success.

You might also think there are many higher rated players who deserve to be the subject of a games collection. You may well be right, up to a point, but were their games as entertaining as Kupreichik’s?

Here’s one final example: another spectacular miniature.

At the end of the book you’ll find a puzzle section: 26 tactical puzzles based on his games, spaciously laid out with only two diagrams per page. Finally, and charmingly, we have short memoirs from his closest family: his sister, niece and daughter.

There are also 16 pages of photographs, on glossy paper. Here you’ll see pictures of Kupreichik throughout his life, from the young boy with his parents to playing in tournaments at the end of his life: sadly he was denied the pleasures of old age. You’ll see him playing chess – and also playing football and volleyball.

All in all, it’s a delightful book: 85 games brimming with exciting tactics and sacrifices as well as reminiscences of someone who was a much loved human being as well as a highly creative player.

It’s beautifully produced as well: a handsome hardback which will look good on your bookshelf. It’s refreshingly free from typos and the translation is, as you’d expect from Ken Neat, outstanding. I very much hope that the London Chess Centre plan to publish more books of this quality.

The one thing that’s missing, for me, is a career summary. I’d have appreciated a full list of Kupreichik’s tournament results and perhaps also his ratings over the years. We do, however, have indexes of openings and opponents.

While it might not be an essential purchase, many readers will enjoy this book. If it appeals to you it comes with a strong recommendation.

If you enjoy games collections you’ll want this book. If you enjoy the games of players like Tal, Nezhmetdinov and Planinc, you certainly won’t be disappointed in this book. If you play the Sicilian (with either colour), the King’s Indian or the Slav, or you’re an e4 player looking for new ideas, you’ll find this book inspirational.

 

Here are some sample pages in pdf format.

Richard James, Twickenham 6th March 2023

Richard James
Richard James

Book Details :

  • Hardback: 344 pages
  • Publisher: London Chess Centre Publishing; New edition (10 Sept. 2021)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10:0948443960
  • ISBN-13:978-0948443961
  • Product Dimensions: 15.24 x 3.49 x 23.5 cm

Kupreichik: The Maestro From Minsk, Translated by Ken Neat, London Chess Centre Publishing; New edition (10 Sept. 2021), ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-0948443961

Kupreichik: The Maestro From Minsk, Translated by Ken Neat, London Chess Centre Publishing; New edition (10 Sept. 2021), ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-0948443961

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The Immortal Games of Capablanca

The Immortal Games of Capablanca: Fred Reinfeld

From the publisher:

“We are pleased to release another book in the Fred Reinfeld Chess Classics series. The Immortal Games of Capablanca was – and continues to be – one of Reinfeld’s most popular books. A detailed biography of the third world chess champion introduces the 113 games. They are presented chronologically, with clear and instructive annotations.

This 21st century edition has been revised and reformatted to meet the expectations of the modern chessplayer. This includes:

(a) The original English descriptive notation has been converted to modern figurine algebraic notation;
(b) Over 200(!) diagrams have added, along with more than a dozen archival photos; and
(c) The Index of Openings now has ECO codes.

Reinfeld’s annotations were also cross-checked by Stockfish 14, one of the most powerful engines available. When Stockfish had a different, meaningful evaluation from that of Reinfeld’s, the engine’s suggestion is indicated by “S14:” followed by the specific line.

As in our other “21st Century Editions,” and with the exception of the occasional supplement by Stockfish, Reinfeld’s original text has been preserved.

Follow the life and games of the brilliant Cuban world champion in Reinfelds’s timeless classic The Immortal Games of Capablanca.”

End of blurb…

Fred Reinfeld
Fred Reinfeld

According to Wikipedia:

“Fred Reinfeld (January 27, 1910 – May 29, 1964) was an American writer on chess and many other subjects. He was also a strong chess master, often among the top ten American players from the early 1930s to the early 1940s, as well as a college chess instructor.”

In July 2019 Richard James reviewed Fred Reinfeld: The Man Who Taught America Chess, with 282 Games and perhaps you might like to read this to get a better feel for FRs legacy.

Russell Enterprises (via New In Chess) with this new edition have, to date,  added a total of eight titles to their Fred Reinfeld Classic Series: the more the merrier!

Over the years many have looked down their noses at publications from Reinfeld, Chernev, Schiller and others but if we are completely honest then Reinfeld and Chernev have brought a huge amount to the chess buying public and many have found much benefit from their publications.

The Immortal Games of Capablanca by Russell Enterprises is (to use a modern phrase) a “re-imagining” of a timeless classic. Most of us reading this review would have almost certainly had one of the previous versions. The first edition dates from 1942 and, interestingly,  the copyright lies with Beatrice Reinfeld rather than Fred, himself. Published by Horowitz and Harkness, New York here is an original first edition copy from the collection of Jose Font:

The Immortal Games of Capablanca, Fred Reinfeld, Horowitz and Harkness, New York, 1942.
The Immortal Games of Capablanca, Fred Reinfeld, Horowitz and Harkness, New York, 1942.

Betts (Chess: An Annotated Bibliography of Works Published, 1850-1968) informs us that this very edition was re-issued in 1953 by the same publisher. In 1974, Collier Books (A Division of Macmillan Publishing Co., Inc. New York) brought out their own edition and added an Introduction by Robert Byrne, Chess Editor of The New York Times. This had the following appearance front and rear:

The Immortal Games of Capablanca, Fred Reinfeld, Collier Books, New York, 1974
The Immortal Games of Capablanca, Fred Reinfeld, Collier Books, New York, 1974
The Immortal Games of Capablanca, Fred Reinfeld, Collier Books, New York, 1974
The Immortal Games of Capablanca, Fred Reinfeld, Collier Books, New York, 1974

and, for the sake of completeness, and because it is worth reading, here is the Introduction from Robert Byrne:

Robert Byrne, Hastings 1971-72
Robert Byrne, Hastings 1971-72
Introduction

I joined the Manhattan Chess Club a year or so after Capablanca’s death, and the afterglow of the great Cuban’s presence still filled his favourite haunts. There was an old white-haired patzer, Richard Warburg, who would collar me, my brother Donald, and several other young high school players to tell us the “compliment” Capa had once paid him. What Capa had said was, “Warburg, nobody plays the Rinky-Dink the way you do!” So overcome with pride and delight was Warburg that the great man had deigned to remark on his play that he never stopped to think why Capa had dubbed his Accelerated Dragon Variation the “Rinky-Dink.” Needless to say, the ironic joshing of Capablanca’s remark was totally lost on him.

Moreover, it would not have mattered, for Capablanca was so idolized that it was deemed a privilege to breathe the same air he did. Not only did his fans feel that way about him, but the man from whom he won the world championship, Emanuel Lasker, said of him, “I have known many chess players, but only one chess genius.” Capablanca’s successor, Alexander Alekhine, also termed him “a very great genius whose like we shall never see again.”

What lent Capablanca the glamour that was denied to his fellow champions of the game was the incredible speed of his play. Hard work at the board, consuming the full two and one half hours for forty moves, was unknown to him at the peak of his career. Brilliant strategic plans, marvellous com binational possibilities, scintillating turns in the play came tumbling out of him in response to his extraordinarily quick sight of the configuration before him.

He did not consider what he achieved as coming under the head of thinking, scandalizing his colleagues by insisting that chess was not an intellectual game. For him it was nothing remotely resembling problem solving, but rather flashes of intuition in which he grasped the essential pattern governing each individual position. That is why he looked upon chess playing as an aesthetic activity.

Quite obviously, no greater natural player ever lived. At the age of four, Capablanca learned the moves by watching his father play and, years later, he declared that he had never bothered to study the game. Of course, growing up in the fertile chess climate of Havana and later New York, he honed himself on very strong opposition. Watching the games of his competitors could hardly have failed to serve as an education in itself.

In chess style, Capablanca was the master par excellence of reduction, stripping positions down to the bare backbone by exchanging off all irrelevant material. In what were for others
positions of unfathomable complexity, he could, with uncanny lucidity, expose the genuinely dominant but often hidden theme that dictated the strategy to be pursued.

It is this astonishing clarity in Capablanca’s conceptions that makes his games a gold mine for the aspiring student. The elements of chess strategy can all be seen here purged of the confusion introduced by side issues. The late Fred Reinfeld has made an excellent selection of 113 Capablanca games which give a rounded picture of the scope and invention of Cuba’s greatest genius. These are the wonderful performances that have so heavily shaped the play of current world champion Bobby Fischer, Capablanca’s spiritual descendant.

One of my favourites, which I have replayed many times, is game 6, from Capablanca’s match with Frank Marshall (see page 39 ). It is not too much to say that this is the indispensable stem game for the understanding of how White develops a kingside attack in the Ruy Lopez. Another lesson in the Ruy Lopez, this time in the exchange variation by transposition, is given by game 17 against David Janowski (see page 83). Capablanca’s handling of the pawn structure and his fine rook play in the ending beautifully illuminate a formation reintroduced into current practice by Bobby Fischer.

In the realm of bishops-of-opposite-colour play, the drawing chances of the defence can only be defeated by the kind of positional mastery Capablanca evinces in game 2L against Richard Teichmann (see page 97 ) and in game 25 against Aron Nimzovich (see page 111). Capablanca’s terrifically coolheaded defensive play shows up in his defeat of Frank Marshall’s anti-Ruy Lopez gambit in game 36 (see page 157), which the American champion kept under wraps for eight years to spring on him. I could go on and on, but, if I must limit myself to just one more, Capablanca’s best-played-prize-winning Caro-Kann Defense in game 63 against Aron Nimzovich (see page 276) would be my choice. It is a wonderfully instructive masterpiece of infiltration tactics to undermine a passive position and score with Zugzwang.

Fred Reinfeld’s annotations are clear and schematic and give a dramatic portrayal of these epic battles. Fred, the epitome of the hero-worshipper, is a little too harsh in fastening on the very human foibles that brought about Capablanca’s loss of the world championship to Alekhine. With the ease of success Capablanca enjoyed, it was all but impossible for him to have taken Alekhine’s challenge seriously, especially since Capablanca had a 6-O record against him going into the match. No one could have guessed the fanatic zeal that Alekhine put into his preparation for the struggle.

Moreover, the last word on Capablanca’s enormous capacity can be gleaned from Alekhine’s behaviour. He sought lesser opponents rather than give the awesome genius a return match.

-Robert Byrne”

In 1990 Dover did their usual “reprint” thing and re-issued the Horowitz and Harkness, New York, 1942 version with this cover:

The Immortal Games of Capablanca, Fred Reinfeld, Horowitz and Harkness, Dover Publishing, 1990 and then 2011 by Sam Sloan
The Immortal Games of Capablanca, Fred Reinfeld, Horowitz and Harkness, Dover Publishing, 1990 and then 2011 by Sam Sloan

and in 2011 Sam Sloan put on his anti-copyright Ye-Ha! cowboy spurs and re-issued his version with the original 1942 cover.

So, in 2022, what do we have that is new in this 21st century edition?

Firstly, we have FAN or figurine algebraic notation which should help to bring in those for whom English Descriptive is old hat (their words not ours).

Secondly, thirteen photographs of of Capa and his opponents liven up the pages that once contained a single image of Capa giving a simultaneous display at the Imperial Chess Club in London, 1911. Printing quality could have been improved but welcome they are nonetheless.

The format has transitioned from the old style single column with diagrams few and far between to a double column format with a liberal sprinkling of diagrams of greater printed clarity than the originals. Each game has been allocated an ECO code (or Rabar Index for our more mature readers). Indeed, the font is a little smaller than it was in 1942 but quite readable all the same.

The authors pithy annotation style has been retained for the modern student to enjoy and engine worshippers (“I cannot read a chess book that has not been engine checked”) are acknowledged using supplemental comments indicated by a Stockfish (S14) label.

We carried out a detailed edition comparison with the Collier edition and found some subtle differences. As noted previously the Robert Byrne Introduction  is not present but then again, it wasn’t in the original. Game 2a, Corzo-Capablanca is now Game 3 and the comment “This game discovered just as the book was going to press” is no longer present.

Capablanca-Voight, Philadelphia, 1910  is labelled as a Team Match between Manhattan CC and Franklin CC in 1942 and in 2022 as a simultaneous display game. Both Megabase 2023 and Chessgames.com concur with the recent verdict: any Capa scholars (EGW)  out there with definitive knowledge?

Game 15 is now identified as Capablanca – Bacu Arus from a blindfold simul whereas Black was listed simply as “Amateur” in the original.

Through out this fresh, new edition there are subtle additions of detail together with corrections to the original which are to be admired.

The Stockfish (S14) comments are sparse and unobtrusive but of value. For example, from Capablanca- Janowski we have reproduced the comments to Black’s 24th move only:

In summary it was an absolute pleasure to be re-united with this timeless classic and Russell Enterprises are to be congratulated on producing this fresh new edition with added value.

John Upham, Cove, Hampshire, 2nd March 2023

John Upham
John Upham

Book Details :

    • Softcover : 256 pages
    • Publisher:  Russell Enterprises (September 12, 2022)
    • Language: English
    • ISBN-10: 1949859274
    • ISBN-13: 978-1949859461
    • Product Dimensions: 15.24 x 1.27 x 22.86 cm

    Official web site of Russell Enterprises

    The Immortal Games of Capablanca Reinfeld, Fred Reinfeld, Russell Enterprises, Hanon Russell, September 12, 2022, ISBN: 9781949859461
    The Immortal Games of Capablanca Reinfeld, Fred Reinfeld, Russell Enterprises, Hanon Russell,
    September 12, 2022, ISBN:
    9781949859461
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The Greatest Attacker in Chess: The Enigmatic Rashid Nezhmetdinov

The Greatest Attacker in Chess: The Enigmatic Rashid Nezhmetdinov, Cyrus Lakdawala, New in Chess, ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-9071689000
The Greatest Attacker in Chess: The Enigmatic Rashid Nezhmetdinov, Cyrus Lakdawala, New in Chess, ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-9071689000

From the publisher:

“Rashid Nezhmetdinov (1912-1974) played fearless attacking chess. With his dazzling style, the Soviet master already was a legend during his lifetime, but international fame largely eluded him. Only once did he get permission to show his exceptional talent in a tournament abroad. Five times Nezhmetdinov was chess champion of the Russian Federation. In the 1961 Soviet Championship, he won the ‘Best Game’ prize for a spectacular win against Mikhail Tal who praised his opponent for his ‘amazing creativity.’ Other stars that ‘Nezh’ defeated in grand style included Spassky, Polugaevsky, Bronstein, and Geller.

His games, full of tactical pyrotechnics, are his legacy and have reached an ever-growing audience. Nezhmetdinov’s shocking strategic queen sacrifice, in 1962 against Chernikov, as shown on Agadmator’s YouTube channel, has become the best-watched chess video of all time with millions of views. In this book, Cyrus Lakdawala pays tribute to the genius of the enigmatic Nezhmetdinov, a Tatar who grew up as an orphan in the part of the Soviet Union that is now Kazakhstan.

In more than one hundred impressive and instructive games and positions, Lakdawala shows how Nezhmetdinov fought for the initiative, how he bluffed and sacrificed, and how he kept his cool to out-calculate his opponents. Lakdawala’s lucid writing perfectly matches the power of ‘Nezh’s’ moves. This wonderful collection celebrates Nezhmetdinov as the Greatest Attacker in Chess.”

Cyrus Lakdawala is an International Master who lives in San Diego, CA. He has been teaching chess for four decades and is a prolific and widely read author. Much acclaimed books of his are How Ulf Beats Black, Clinch It! and Winning Ugly in Chess. He twice won the Best Instructional Book Award of the Chess Journalists of America (CJA), in 2017 for Chess for Hawks and in 2020 for In the Zone: The Greatest Winning Streaks in Chess History.

IM Cyrus Lakdawala
IM Cyrus Lakdawala

We all know and love the games of the great world champions, but there are also a few players who, while not reaching the summit, have become cult figures amongst chess fans for their creativity, imagination and brilliance.

Albin Planinc is one, and another is Rashid Nezhmetdinov, the subject of this book. He has been the subject of several books over the years, and now the prolific Cyrus Lakdawala adds his name to the lists.

Here’s Lakdawala in his Preface:

If you asked the question ‘Who do you believe was the most tactically creative player of the 20th century?’ then I’m guessing that most chess players would pick either Alekhine, Bronstein, Tal or Kasparov.  Now we have a new potential entry for the top spot: Rashid Nezhmetdinov. Why are so many people irrestistibly drawn to Mikhail Tal’s chess games? The spirit of Nezhmetdinov the pirate lived on in his friend’s games. Tal was merely a more powerful extension of Nezhmetdinov. Nezhmetdinov was Tal’s trainer and muse in his successful 1960 bid to dethrone Botvinnik as World Champion. Tal explained that Nezhmetdinov taught him ‘paradox’, taking risk-taking to previously unheard-of levels. Then Tal, his stylistic offspring, displayed to the world the power of this radical new style, when in 1960 he defeated the great Mikhail Botvinnik in a match for the World Championship. If you love Tal’s games, then by default you will automatically love Nezhmetdinov’s.

Who doesn’t love Tal’s games? Book collectors who enjoy brilliant tactics and sacrifices will surely have several collections of Tal’s games on their shelves. They’ll really need a collection of Nezhmetdinov’s games as well. Is this the right one for you?

If you’ve read other books by Cyrus Lakdawala, you’ll know what to expect. His, shall we say, picturesque style of writing divides the critics. There are those who find his friendly approach and sometimes outrageous metaphors draw them in, and others who find this distracts them from the chess. You pay your money, or not, as the case may be, and take your choice.

The annotations, as is customary with this author, feature Moments of Contemplation, where you’re encouraged to think about the position, and Exercises, split into Planning, Combination Alert and Critical Decisions, inviting you to guess the next move. There are also Principles (in italics) offering you nuggets of general advice. All this will help less experienced readers navigate their way through the book and gain tangible benefits which they’ll be able to employ in their own games.

Here’s an early game. Click on any move for a pop-up window.

This is one of his most famous victories – against a formidable opponent. If you haven’t seen it before, do take a look.

The ChessBase score concludes here. Lakdawala adds the moves 34. Ka6 Ndb4#, commenting, in typical style: This is an overkill on par with Rasputin’s murder, where the unlucky monk was stabbed, shot, poisoned, bludgeoned, and then, for good measure, drowned.

Your opinion of the book will depend on how you react to this sort of thing. Here are another couple of examples.

Everyone knows that the Dragon, much the same as a Bond villain babe, is simultaneously beautiful and dangerous.

You are on trial for your life for a murder you committed in front of a police station and 30 witnesses, most of whom recorded you with their cell phone video cameras. Your victim fought back and your blood was found on her and on the knife you used to stab her. I just described Aronin’s position’s chance of being found Not Guilty by the jury. 

You might enjoy them. You might be prepared to live with them even though you think they’re both irrelevant and bordering on tasteless, and that the publisher might have made more use of the Delete key. Or you might decide there’s no way you’d buy a book written like that. Me, I’m in the middle camp, as I am with most things.

In this game from towards the end of his career he defeats a future world champion.

Even if you don’t care for Lakdawala’s prose, you should admire his hard work and enthusiasm. He knows his audience, knows exactly what he’s doing and has perfected his art over many years. You may well think that his colourful annotations are a perfect match for Nezhmetdinov’s colourful chess.

For many readers, this will be a hugely enjoyable read, and one which may also take their play to new levels of creativity. You’ll find 116 ‘games’ (about half complete games – not all won by Nezhmetdinov – and the others just conclusions) against many of the Soviet greats of the time: Bronstein, Tal, Korchnoi and others. As you’ve seen, the book is a cornucopia of daring attacks and sacrifices, not all of which are completely sound. The book is produced to New in Chess’s customary high standards and can be highly recommended to anyone not put off by the author’s writing style.

You can read some sample pages on the publisher’s website here.

 

Richard James, Twickenham 30th September 2022

Richard James
. Richard James

Book Details:

  • Softcover: 288 pages
  • Publisher: New In chess (25 Feb. 2022)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10:907168900X
  • ISBN-13:978-9071689000
  • Product Dimensions: ‎17.15 x 1.88 x 23.57 cm

Official web site of New in Chess

The Greatest Attacker in Chess: The Enigmatic Rashid Nezhmetdinov, Cyrus Lakdawala, New in Chess, ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-9071689000
The Greatest Attacker in Chess: The Enigmatic Rashid Nezhmetdinov, Cyrus Lakdawala, New in Chess, ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-9071689000
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Blind Faith

Blind Faith, Chris Ross, Steel City Press, 23rd May 2022, ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-1913047313
Blind Faith, Chris Ross, Steel City Press, 23rd May 2022, ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-1913047313

From the publisher:

“Chris Ross has come a long way from the back streets of Middlesbrough to a senior administrative role at Sheffield Hallam University, helping the education of those with a wide range of disabilities. A former teacher, Chris’s natural ability to educate has developed many of his colleagues in UK chess clubs – and not least, fellow members of the Braille Chess Association.

Join Britain’s strongest ever blind player and 2015 IBCA Olympiad silver-medallist Chris Ross on a journey through 80 of his most memorable games. Many years ago Chris elected to follow Botvinnik’s advice by writing deep analysis to his games: initially to better understand his own style, but later because his highly detailed annotations are also highly instructive for weaker players.

This collection charts his journey from turbulent days as a strong club player in 2006 to a more polished and rounded style by 2020. From smooth, positional wins, to bumpy, sharp encounters, we watch and learn with Chris as he develops into a 2250-strength player. The reader will pick up many handy tips to improve their own game: opening repertoire, middlegame and endgames strategies, and – crucially – appreciating how to plan.”

Chris Ross, Braille Chess Association, What chess did for me, courtesy John Upham Photography
Chris Ross, Braille Chess Association, What chess did for me, courtesy John Upham Photography

 

I’ve long thought that, while looking at top level games can be inspirational, you can learn much more either from studying games played at your level and looking at typical mistakes, or from studying games played by someone rated about 200-300 points above you and learning to do what they do.

Chris Ross is about 200-300 points stronger than me, so, at least in rating terms, I might be seen as the ideal reader for this book.

If I look at a Magnus Carlsen game I’d think “Wow! I could never conceive how I could play like that!”, but, looking at a Chris Ross game I might think “Yes! I could learn to play like that by studying his book!”.

I’ve always seen myself, by temperament rather than ability, as a positional rather than a tactical player, but when I played someone of about Chris’s strength I’d often find my opponent would latch onto a, to me, imperceptible weakness, win a pawn and grind me down in the ending. If I ever played Chris, I’m sure the same thing would happen.

Chris is a positional player as well, but, unlike me, he really knows what he’s doing.

Having been coached for many years by GM Neil McDonald has clearly helped.

Here’s Neil in the Foreword:

Many years ago Chris Ross made the excellent decision to follow Botvinnik’s advice by writing deep analysis to his games, and then sending it to his colleagues and friends in the chess world. Many players including myself regularly receive emails with his deep and interesting comments to his games. 

and

You can see the outcome of decades of exhaustive and objective analysis in this book. Although Chris has never been a full-time chess player, having pursued a successful career in academia, his approach has always been professional. He has developed an impressive opening repertoire, as well as worked on his endgames and middlegame planning. I hope the reader enjoys this fine collection, and is inspired to follow Chris’s example in studying their own games.

Chris provides the reader with 80 games played between 2006 and 2020, mostly, but not exclusively, games he won.

In his introduction he explains his method of annotating games.

I do not display lengthy variations of computer analysis. Indeed I deliberately avoid many annotated games that possess such streams of text. I find it baffling and unhelpful. So, I do not adopt that style in my own writings. My analysis is instead based on my way of thinking, how I am attempting to obtain something and the such like. Naturally, that may inevitably mean that the annotated game may have flaws in it, due to computer analysis finding a better way to play. This does not interest me either. My intention is to show how I’ve focussed myself mentally and how, through that elaborate dance of non-visualisation and figuring out a way to play the game of chess, I’ve gradually but inevitably improved. 

A very unusual approach to annotation, then, and something very different from anything I’ve seen in any other recent book. Another, perhaps, unique, feature of Chris’s annotations is that he provides the opening references at the end of each game rather than incorporating them at the appropriate points. You might think this is an excellent idea, not interrupting the flow of the text, or you might find it rather frustrating. I guess you could argue either way.

One of the things that immediately struck me when reading this book was that, on several occasions, he’d present a diagram of a position which looked to me about equal and claim that one player had a winning advantage. Well, perhaps. We’ll see.

Here’s a particularly interesting example which will give you a flavour of the style of Chris’s annotations, and, perhaps its weaknesses as well as its strengths.

This is from Peter Mercs – Chris Ross (4NCL 2014), with Black about to play his 15th move.

Some extracts from Chris’s annotations:

Ultimately, Black is positionally winning, despite the aggressive potential of the white attack. To fully appreciate the position in its entirety, the actual manoeuvrability of all the forces have to be considered and their fluidity. What is White immediately threatening, and is Black able to react immediately, or slowly against such a threat? 

A position deep with potential, but rich in understanding. Consider carefully and read on!

15… Nb8!

A remarkable retreat, which resolves all of Black’s difficulties and puts into place all his positional objectives. In doing so, Black also defends against all of White’s intentions. After this incredibly calm, slow move, White has no real play at all.

Now we have another five paragraphs of explanations and a few variations before:

16. g4

With very little left for White in the position, he pins all of his hopes on a last minute king-side hack, which is doomed to fail from the outset, due to the superiority of the black pieces.

Now, another paragraph and a half of comments.

16… d5

A flank attack is suitably countered by a central attack. Due to the superior positioning of the black forces, the tactics work themselves out.

17. g5 dxe4

After 17… Nxe4 18. Bxe4 dxe4 White can play around the blockading pawn on e4 with his kingside attack still rampaging. The text-move is the calm, simple way to eliminate all the tactics and reduce the white king to an exposed status.

18. gxf6

When we get this annotation:

Only the computer could come out with the variation 18. Bxb5 axb5 19. gxf6 Bxf6 20. Nc5 with seeming equality. No human would play 18. Bxb5 though!

I’m not entirely convinced that no human would play Bxb5. It looks like a fairly natural desperado try to me.

This extract raises all sorts of interesting questions about the nature and purpose of annotations. Chris claims that Black has a winning positional advantage: well, arguably he does, but sometimes tactics get in the way. Objectively, I suppose, the diagrammed position is level, but Black’s positional trumps, as long as he’s aware of what they are, give him excellent practical chances. Chris explains in the introduction that there may be analysis errors, but that’s not the point of the annotations or the book. The important thing is that he’s explaining the strategic ideas of the game and how he decided on his moves.

Different annotators take different approaches, and that is one thing which, in these days of approaching engine perfection, makes our game so fascinating. Should annotators search for the objective truth in any position, justifying their verdict with extensive computer analysis, or should they consider the human angle? Whose position is easier to play? Could you realistically expect players at their level, or at the readers’ level, to find the best moves?

There are some annotators, usually leading GMs, who take the former approach, but Chris, a strong amateur, prefers the latter approach. There’s plenty of room for both. As long as you’re happy to buy into the overall concept, you might find this book a refreshing change.

Chris is very proud of this game, which won a Best Game prize, where he beat an opponent rated almost 200 points above him. (Click on any move for a pop-up window.)

However, Chris comments on move 22 that Black could have tried Qxe2, ‘but this is pretty miserable for him and the white pieces will still swarm all over the black camp’. Stockfish just shrugs its shoulders and tells me it’s completely equal.

I was also impressed by this short game, where he’s merciless against his opponent’s dubious third move.

For some of us, playing a simple but beautiful positional game like this is at least as satisfying as a flashy queen sacrifice. There may not be a lot of tactics in most of the games, but without exception they’re anything but dull: Chris has chosen games of strategic complexity and interest to present to his readers. Contrary to what some people think, positional chess is not synonymous with boring chess. Chris also demonstrates in some of these games that he excels at playing tactical chess when the opportunity arises,

But once he’s reached a winning position, simplicity is the keyword to Chris’s approach. There are several examples in the book where he rejects a quick tactical win which requires calculation, preferring instead a simple positional route which will guarantee victory more slowly. Keep it simple, don’t rush, avoid unnecessary risks and tactics. There are important lessons here for many more impulsive players.

On a personal level, as a lover of words rather than variations, I enjoyed the book very much, although I realise that the annotations may not be to everyone’s taste. You have to accept that not everything will stand up to computer analysis, and that this isn’t really the point of the book. If you work at it, though, it will be well worth your while. I think anyone from, say 1600 to 2200 strength will find a lot of invaluable insight into positional chess within these pages. Perhaps it might even encourage you to start annotating your own games. The book will also appeal to those readers, and I know there are quite  a few around, who enjoy collections of games played by amateurs.

As many of the games are against strong English amateurs well known on the chess circuit, you’ll probably find games played by some of your friends included. Chris has moved round the country a lot over the years and played in a lot of different leagues.

Chris plays both 1. e4 and 1. d4 with White, choosing strategically rich variations such as Bb5 lines against the Sicilian, slow d3 lines in the Spanish and the QGD Exchange, and, with Black favours the Sicilian Taimanov/Kan complex and the King’s Indian. If these openings appeal, you’ll find a lot of useful study material in his games.

The book is impressively and refreshingly free from typos, although, if I were to be picky I might suggest that some editing for excessive verbosity and clumsy grammar might have been useful. You might also think, I suppose, that a more ‘chessy’ title would be preferable to the name of a short-lived 1969 supergroup.

But, for many reasons, this is an inspirational book. You may well, quite rightly, be inspired by how Chris has overcome his disability to become a formidably strong player. You might also be inspired to take his approach to chess improvement: to hire a GM coach, to annotate your games deeply (preferably without too much engine assistance) and send them to your friends and colleagues asking for their suggestions. You might be inspired to improve your positional play and strategic understanding, using Chris’s annotations as a starting point, or to take up the Sicilian Taimanov or another of his favourite openings.

Perhaps not a perfect book, and perhaps not to everyone’s taste, but if you’re happy with the style of annotations it’s highly recommended for readers looking for a very different approach to chess. You can find some sample pages, including a couple of complete games, on the publisher’s website here.

Richard James, Twickenham 24th August 2022

Richard James
. Richard James

Book Details:

  • Softcover: 421 pages
  • Publisher: Steel City Press (23 May 2022)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10:1913047318
  • ISBN-13: 978-1913047313
  • Product Dimensions: 250mm by 176mm

Official web site of Steel City Press

Blind Faith, Chris Ross, Steel City Press, 23rd May 2022, ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-1913047313
Blind Faith, Chris Ross, Steel City Press, 23rd May 2022, ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-1913047313
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From Ukraine with Love for Chess

From Ukraine with Love for Chess, Ruslan Ponomariov, New in Chess, 30 Jun. 2022, SBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-9493257573
From Ukraine with Love for Chess, Ruslan Ponomariov, New in Chess, 30 Jun. 2022, SBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-9493257573

From the publisher:

“The Ukrainian chess community is helping Ukraine in the war against Russia. The chess genius Vasyl Ivanchuk is giving online simuls to raise funds. European champion and Olympic gold medal winner Natalia Zhukova is working as a politician in Odessa. And FIDE World Champion Ruslan Ponomariov coordinated this wonderful collection of chess games from Ukrainian players, published by New In Chess. All games were nominated and annotated by the players themselves. The proceeds of this book will support Ukrainian charities. The book also covers the three legendary Olympic victories by Ukraine, in 2004 and 2010 for the men’s team and 2006 for the women’s team. Oleg Romanishin remembers his training match against Mikhail Tal. And Jan Timman has a look at his favourite Ukrainian study composers. With contributions by Vasyl Ivanchuk, Ruslan Ponomariov, Anna and Mariya Muzychuk, Anton Korobov, Vladimir Tukmakov, Pavel Eljanov, Andrei Volokitin, and many, many others.”

Ruslan Ponomariov (1983) is a Ukrainian chess grandmaster. He was FIDE World Chess Champion from 2002 to 2004 and he won the Ukrainian Chess Championship in 2011 with a performance rating of 2853. Ponomariov was born in Horlivka in Ukraine. He was taught to play chess by his father at the age of 5.

 

What we have here is a chess book written and published to support Ukrainian chess players and Ukrainian charities in general.

GM Ruslan Ponomariov in the preface:

All funds from the sales will be used to help the Ukrainian people. By doing something good, I hope you can also enjoy and share a passion for chess with us.

And:

In your hands is the work of many authors and contributors. It was not a simple task, as it would be in normal circumstances. Some of them had fled from their homes without knowing what would happen on the next day. Some were hiding in a bomb shelter, trying to survive. But we managed to do it!

The publisher, Remmelt Otten, writes in the Acknowledgements:

This book started with an email by Steve Giddins, chess author, translator, and contributor to New in Chess. He wanted to share his desire to help the Ukrainian chess community in the terrible times after the invasion of Ukraine by Russia. If New in Chess was planning to publish anything by Ukrainian chess players, Steve offered to translate their writings for free.

We embraced his idea and decided to publish a book to support Ukrainian chess and Ukrainians in need. All proceeds (all revenue minus costs such as printing and distribution) will go to Ukrainian charities.

It’s the chess book equivalent of a charity compilation album, then. It’s extraordinary, given the circumstances in which it was conceived, that the book could have been compiled and published within less than four months. If you want to support a great cause there’s no need to hesitate.

But it’s also a remarkably good and well produced book, so not only will you make a contribution to charity if you buy a copy, you’ll also get some great chess as well. There are 42 well annotated games as well as a chapter on endgame studies. Some of the material has previously appeared in New in Chess, so if you’re a subscriber you might have seen it before, but there will still be much that is new to you, and you may well find it convenient to have the best in Ukrainian chess all in one place.

The first chapter introduces us to the pioneers of Ukrainian chess: Stein, Savon, Kuzmin, Tukmakov and Beliavsky.

Here’s the game chosen to illustrate Gennady Kuzmin. Click on any move for a pop-up window.

The second chapter will be, for many readers, the most interesting of the book. Oleg Romanishin talks about his secret training matches against Tal in 1975 and 1976.

Here’s a sample game.

Chapter 3 contains pen pictures of some of the older generation of current Ukrainian players, headed by Ivanchuk and Ponomariov.

Ukrainian Olympiad successes feature in Chapters 4-6: the 2004 open team, the 2006 women’s team and the 2010 open team.

In Chapter 7 we meet the younger Ukrainian players, born in 1985 or later, including Anna Ushenina and the Muzychuk sisters.

Here’s another game:

Finally, Chapter 8 is an article by Jan Timman featuring endgame studies by Ukrainian composers.

This pawn ending (White to play and draw) was composed by Mikhail Zinar (2nd Pr Moscow ty 1983)

You’ll see that, as well as supporting a great cause you’ll get a lot of great chess for your money. The content will appeal to all serious players, from 1500 or so upwards. It may not be the last word on Ukrainian chess or a book that will add a few hundred points to your rating, but it’s a well structured, highly entertaining and enjoyable read. Considering the timescale and circumstances the publishers have done an outstanding job and our thanks are due to everyone involved in the project, not just for the quality of their work but for their generosity in doing it for free. You can find further details and sample pages here.

Should you buy this book? Certainly. If the content appeals (as it should to almost everyone) you won’t be disappointed, and you’ll also be helping both Ukrainian chess players and the wider Ukrainian community in that war-torn country.

Richard James, Twickenham 4th August 2022

Richard James
. Richard James

Book Details:

  • Softcover: 208 pages
  • Publisher: New In Chess (30 Jun 2022)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10:9493257576
  • ISBN-13:978-9493257573
  • Product Dimensions: ‎16.51 x 1.57 x 24.33 cm

Official web site of New in Chess

From Ukraine with Love for Chess, Ruslan Ponomariov, New in Chess, 30 Jun. 2022, SBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-9493257573
From Ukraine with Love for Chess, Ruslan Ponomariov, New in Chess, 30 Jun. 2022, SBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-9493257573
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110 Instructive Chess Annotations

From the back cover:

Senior International Master Mike Read competed 115 times for the England and Great Britain teams at correspondence chess, including playing on board one for England in the 13th Olympiad.

In this, his fourth book, he aims to instruct his readers by dissecting 110 games played by local players at all levels of chess. In doing so, he isolates typical mistakes and explains the methods of taking advantage of them.

Philidor wrote that pawns are the soul of chess. In one sense, yes, but in another sense  the soul of chess is the mass of club and tournament players, without whom the chess world wouldn’t function.  Yes, it might be inspirational to look at games played by top grandmasters, but it’s always been my view that club standard players will learn more from games played at their level than from GM games.

Mike Read shares my opinion. Here’s how he starts his introduction.

One of the surest ways for a club player to improve his playing ability is to study annotated games featuring players of similar strength to themselves. The mistakes, and the instructive methods of taking advantage of them, will be familiar to them from similar happenings in their own games. Meanwhile the notes to such moves will educate the aspiring player in both how to avoid typical errors, and also how to take advantage of them when it is his opponent who is unfortunate enough to err.

Mike was a strong junior in the 1970s who graduated to correspondence chess which he played with great success up to the year 2000, playing on top board for England and obtaining the title of Senior International Master. You don’t get to that level without being an excellent analyst.

He continues:

It is reasonable for the reader to enquire as to why my correspondence chess career ended at a time when I was still being reasonably successful. The truth is that, during the 1990s, I suffered three nervous breakdowns. I managed to continue to keep on competing during the first two of these and, in fact, had my most successful chess years during the second of them, even though I was barely capable of coping with even the simplest aspects of day to day life. However my third breakdown, which occurred in the period 1999 to 2000 was too much for me to deal with and I was forced to abruptly retire from the game that I love at the beginning of the new millennium.

I was in an absolutely desperate situation at this time, but chess was to prove to be a major factor in my eventual recovery. A number of local players, recognising the severity of the predicament that I was in, made a great effort to assist me and get me out of the house where I had been languishing alone for several months. I do not feel I would ever have recovered, had it not been for the support of the Norfolk chess community.

And again:

Contained within these pages are 110 games, played by Norfolk players of all strengths from superstars of local chess such as John Emms, Owen Hindle and Robert Bellin down to some of the county’s lower graded (but still very talented as you will see!) enthusiasts. All of the games I have included feature top quality opportunities for the aspiring player to learn a lot, and all also feature some very fine chess!

The book is published through Amazon: Mike Read is selling it as cost price as he has no interest in collecting royalties from its sales.

The games are presented, unusually, in ECO code order, so you get all the Sicilian Defence games, for example, together. The annotations, which were produced without computer assistance, are excellent, scoring highly for both clarity and accuracy as well as instructive value. Many readers will, like me, appreciate the human touch. If you look at the sample pages on Amazon you’ll get some idea of their flavour.

Most of them are tactical, often involving spectacular sacrifices, which will delight anyone (and that probably means all of us) who enjoys combinative play.

This was the first game Mike analysed. He witnessed it taking place and decided to annotate it to thank his friend Grant Turner, who had helped and supported him during his breakdown. (If you click on any move you’ll be able to play through the games in this review on a pop-up board.)

Another of Mike’s friends, Brian Cunningham, was responsible for the production of this book. In this game he demonstrates that the Stonewall Attack can be a potent weapon at lower club level.

At the other end of the spectrum, here’s a game played by Norfolk born GM John Emms.

I know many readers enjoy collections of games played at amateur level, finding them both more entertaining and more instructive than higher level encounters. If you’re one of these you’ll be entranced by this book.

There are also many readers who like to support authors who prefer to self-publish their books. An admirable sentiment, I think, and if you fall into this category, again you certainly won’t be disappointed.

The word that first comes to my mind when considering this book is ‘generous’. Mike Read generously offers this book at cost price. The size is generous, his tributes to his friends who saved his life after his third breakdown, scattered within the introductions to these games, are also generous. The annotations are also generous in every respect. Mike is generous in his comments about the winners’ play, and also, very often, about the losers’ play as well. You might think that a more critical approach might have made the annotations even more instructive, but this would have been out of place given that they were originally written for a local chess magazine.

Anyone rated between, say, 1000 and 2000 will certainly learn a lot from this book, but stronger players will also benefit. And anyone who just enjoys playing through entertaining games will, like me, fall in love with this book. Don’t be put off by the title, which makes it sound rather dull and didactic (didactic, perhaps, but certainly never dull), or the lack of an illustration on the front cover. It’s what’s inside the book that really matters.

At another level, the book is also a wonderful tribute to all Mike Read’s friends within the Norfolk chess community (a few of whom, sadly, are no longer with us), who helped him when he was going through a very difficult time. Many will find Mike’s story inspirational, and that, again, is a powerful reason why you should buy this book.

It’s my view, and I’m sure Mike, even though he was a chess champion himself, would agree, that, ultimately, chess is less about prodigies, champions and grandmasters, but about forging friendships and building communities of like-minded people who enjoy the excitement, beauty and cerebral challenge of chess.

I’d urge all readers of this review to do themselves a favour, and do Mike a favour as well, by buying a copy.  I really enjoyed this book, and I’m sure you will too. The Amazon link is here.

From https://mikereadsim.weebly.com/photos.html

 

 Richard James, Twickenham 11th May 2022

Richard James
. Richard James

Book Details:

  • ASIN ‏ : ‎ B09M791556
  • Publisher ‏ : ‎ Independently published (25 Nov. 2021)
  • Language ‏ : ‎ English
  • Paperback ‏ : ‎ 551 pages
  • ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 979-8466415964
  • Dimensions ‏ : ‎ 12.85 x 3.18 x 19.84 cm

Official web site of Amazon Publishing

110 Instructive Chess Annotations, SIM Mike Read, Independently published (25 Jan. 2020), ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-1708364748
110 Instructive Chess Annotations, SIM Mike Read, Independently published (25 Jan. 2020), ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-1708364748
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