Are any members of your chess club rated below 1500?
Do you have any students rated below 1500?
If so, you’ll really want to take a look at my Chess Heroes books: a unique series of volumes taking players from learning the basics through to club standard and beyond. There’s nothing else like these books on the market. They’re based on 50 years experience teaching chess, using my private RJCC database of almost 17000 games played at this level. Every word and every position is there for a reason.
No gimmicks. No short cuts. No idle promises. Just simple no-nonsense instruction providing all the knowledge and skills you need, along with hard work and seriousness of purpose, to succeed at chess.
This is the starter book (0-500 range) explaining what a game of chess is really about. If you just want to learn the basics, this is for you.
If you want to take the game further, these four books, designed to be read in parallel, are what you require.
Written for players of about 500-1000 strength, if you’ve understood everything here you’ll be able to go along to your local chess club and play some social games without being totally outclassed. You might even be able to play lower level competitive chess if you want.
By now you may be eager to learn more. If you’re around 1000-1500 level, these books will help you make further progress. The Puzzles book is exactly what it says on the cover, while the Games book uses the ‘How Good is Your Chess’ format where you play through the games guessing the next move. I’ll soon be starting work on the second books for publication towards the end of 2024.
You can order them from Amazon here. You’ll see that I also have free downloads available if you want to have a look before you buy, or if, for instance, you want to print off some of the puzzle pages for your own or your students’ use.
I’d recommend you also read this blog post explaining some of the theory behind my teaching and writing.
Please do take a look, and if you like what you see, support me by purchases and 5* reviews!
“The easiest, quickest and most effective way to improve your overall game is to increase your tactical vision. Many good positions are lost because a key moment is passed by and a player misses the opportunity to win by a beautiful combination. This book is designed simply to help you improve your play by seeing tactics better.” – Martyn Kravtsiv
Written along similar lines to Gambit’s earlier Ultimate Chess Puzzle Book, this new work presents 600 puzzles, mostly from the last two years, that are chosen for instructive value and maximum training benefit. To ensure that few will be familiar to readers, Kravtsiv has deliberately chosen positions from obscure games or from analysis. If you find the right answers, it will be because you worked them out yourself!
The solutions feature plenty of verbal explanations of the key points, and cover most of the logical but incorrect answers. The book is completed with a set of ‘no clues’ tests, and an index of themes that will be useful to coaches and those looking to focus on specific aspects of tactics – or just seeking extra clues!”
From the rear cover:
“The author is an experienced grandmaster from Lviv, Ukraine. His tournament results include tied first places at Cappelle in 2012 and the 2015 Ukrainian Championship, as well as being blitz champion of the 2008 World Mind Sports Games (at age 17). He represented his country at the 2017 World Team Championship and was a coach for the team that won silver medals at the 2016 Olympiad.”
Just like “Snakes on a Plane” you might imagine, from the title, you know what this book is about without reading it: well let us see!
The first mystery to clear up is what does the author mean by “Puzzles”? Almost all 600 positions presented are taken from actual gameplay during 2018 and 2019 or from analysis derived from those games. Strangely, there is a tranche from 2012
mostly from the author’s own games.
If you do have a phobia of problems, fairies or endgame studies etc then have no fear here: there are none of these.
From the “Warming Up” Chapter we have position #36:
Theodor Kenneskog – Klavs Stabulnieks, 48th Rilton Cup, Stockholm, 2nd January 2019
Does Black have a way to get the upper hand?
*(We have added the previous move arrow and these are not shown in the book.)
71 warming up puzzles of multiple themes are followed by solutions with explanations which is the continuing pattern for each chapter.
Chapter 3 contains 29 forced mates and here is an example, #92:
Vahe Danielyan – Chinna Reddy Mehar, Novi Sad, 20th April 2019
Can you see White’s mating idea?
Chapter 3, Your Choice, asks the solver to select between two plausible options more reminiscent of one’s thinking in a practical game situation when the clock is ticking. Here is an example (#106):
Marc Narciso Dublan – Kratvtsiv, Olivier Gonzalez Memorial, Madrid, 8th September 2012
Choose between 74…Ke4 and 74…Kg5
Chapter 4 (“Getting Tricky”) ups the ante and the difficulty is raised followed by 58 endgame puzzles graded into four levels.
Here is example #283:
Anthony Fred Saidy – Thomas Kung, Bay Area Open, Burlingame, 3rd January 2019
The game ended in a draw. Show how Black could have done better.
Tough Nuts is the title of Chapter 6 containing 43 challenging positions for example #313:
Jonathan Hawkins – Bogdan Lalic, Hastings 2018/19, 5th January 2019 (Analysis)
Black has a beautiful path to victory. Can you find it?
Chapter 7 is a tougher version of Chapter 3.
In Part 2 the book changes tack slightly in that the clue or clues for each position are not present. You are placed in a much more game like situation thinking for yourself. The Part is broken down into sections of Not Too Hard, Tricky Tasks, Endgame Challenges and finally Chapter 11 entitled Nightmare! including #562 featuring Hastings once more:
Thomas Villiers – PU Midhun, 98th Hastings Masters, 4th January 2019
Unfortunately, White did not find the killer blow and went on to lose.
The exercises are followed by an Index of Themes which is a clever touch removing this “clue” from the position as posed.
As is to be expected from a Gambit publication the explanations are crystal clear and instructive and expertly translated and edited by Graham Burgess. Petra Nunn does an excellent job of typesetting.
To have found 600 instructive puzzles from 2018, 2019 and 2012 is a real achievement and then to organise them for a range of students makes this book both enjoyable and hard work!
The author has produced another reliable publication from the Gambit stable and we are sure he will be asked to produce another in due course. We particularly liked the puzzles that created a game-like feel to the task. Highly recommended.
The author has written what he believes to be an original book on the endgame, using a play on words for the title based on the historic battle of Hastings in 1066 which involved William the Conqueror. *****
Ray Cannon, a familiar frequenter of chess tournaments in London and elsewhere, has condensed his copious knowledge into an enjoyably instructive compendium of endgame positions. In tune with the Victorian notion of learning via fun, the reader cannot help but absorb the endgame stratagems that recur in the examples given and emerge as a better player without any conscious effort.
The endgame is a prime arena for the emergence of error through lack of practice, and even elite grandmasters can miss the unsuspected anti-intuitive resource that would have secured the rescue draw or shock win. I would go so far as to say this book would benefit master-standard players. Studying it has all the value of learning one’s times tables but without the repetitive drudgery! The end result is the same: increased knowledge.
My good friend Ray Cannon, who was, for many years, an invaluable part of the coaching team at Richmond Junior Club, has written a book which will be useful for all club standard players.
With faster time limits and online play now the norm, endings play a vital part in 21st century chess. A good knowledge of endgame theory and tactics is a fundamental requirement for all serious players.
From the author’s introduction:
Positions in this book have been taken from various sources including my collection of newspaper cuttings that go back to the 1970’s, books, magazines, websites and even from games I had witnessed personally at tournaments. Many have been modified for reasons of clarity and a few I have composed myself. Most of the positions have annotated solutions unless the moves are self-explanatory.
The 1066 diagram positions can be played out against a computer or an opponent but they are best solved using a chess set. You are invited to write down your choice of move for each position on the pages provided before looking up the answers. On the other hand, you may simply prefer to enjoy the instructive content of this book by dipping in and out of its pages.
Endgames may give the appearance of being easy but even the world’s best players misplay them from time to time and some of these missed opportunities from practical play are included among the 1066 stratagems.
The majority of the puzzles are elementary but there are a few that are quite difficult. When solving them, you will detect familiar methods of play. Knowledge of these is often referred to as pattern recognition and this is an important component of learning and improving at chess.
So what you get is 1066 endgame puzzles, or stratagems as Ray prefers to call them. It’s White’s move in positions 1 to 728, and Black’s move in positions 729 to 1066. In each position you’re told whether you’re trying to win or draw, and you know that there’s only one move to achieve your aim.
A few fairly random examples chosen simply by turning to a random page will show you what to expect. I’ll give the answers at the end of the review.
Q482 is a neat draw: White to play.
Q497 is of practical value. Endings with R + f&h pawns against R are very often drawn. How can White win here?
Q533, halfway through the book, has more pieces on the board (too many for an endgame?) and demonstrates the need to know your mating patterns. White to play and win again.
If you enjoyed these puzzles, you’ll certainly enjoy the rest of the book. If you think your students will enjoy these puzzles, you’ll also want to buy this book.
It’s self-published via Amazon so the production qualities are not quite up to the standard you’d expect from leading chess book publishers. However, the diagrams and text are both clear.
Ray has chosen to print the ‘Black to play’ puzzles with the 8th rank at the bottom of the board: not what I or most authors would have chosen but I can see why he did it. There’s a slight problem, though, in that the diagrams are without coordinates, which can make things slightly confusing in positions with few pawns on the board. (The diagrams in the answers to the ‘Black to play’ do have coordinates, though.) I understand the next edition will use diagrams with coordinates throughout.
You might also prefer to write your answers under the diagrams rather than in the pages provided for this purpose at the beginning of the book. I’d also have welcomed an index by material so that I could quickly locate, for example, pawn endings or rook endings.
These are just personal preferences, though. The quality of material is excellent (all positions have been thoroughly engine checked) and Ray Cannon should be congratulated for his efforts in producing a highly instructive puzzle book.
A basic knowledge of endgame theory is assumed, so I would consider the book ideal for anyone rated between about 1500 and 2000, although some of the puzzles will be challenging for stronger players.
Richard James, Twickenham, 17th September 2021
Q482: 1. f7+ Qxf7 2. Bb3 Qxb3 is stalemate. Or 1… Kxf7 2. Bh5+. In just two moves we have a fork, a skewer, a pin and a stalemate.
Q497: 1. Rg5+ Kxg5 (or 1… Kxh6 2. Rg8) 2. h7 Re1+ 3. Kd6 Rd1+ 4. Ke7 Rh1 5. f8Q wins (as long as you know how to win with queen against rook!)
Q533: 1. Re8+ Rxe8 2. Nf6 Ra7 3. Rxa7 Re7 4. Rxe7 a1Q 5. Rh7# – an Arabian Mate!
“If you had to choose a single luxury chess item to take to a desert island, then how about this: a superb selection of 400 puzzles to solve? Each author has carefully chosen 100 original positions, graded by difficulty and theme into four sections of 25. The emphasis throughout is on entertainment, instruction and inspiration. The solutions pinpoint lessons to be learnt and explain why plausible but incorrect solutions fail.”
“This book is written by an all-star team of authors. Wesley So is the reigning Fischer Random World Champion, the 2017 US Champion and the winner of the 2016 Grand Chess Tour. Michael Adams has been the top British player for the last quarter of a century and was a finalist in the 2004 FIDE World Championship. John Nunn is a three-time winner of both the World Solving Championship and the British Chess Federation Book of the Year Award. Graham Burgess is Gambit’s Editorial Director and the author of 30 books.”
Each author supplies 100 puzzles broken up into four chapters which progressively get harder. There are a few specialist chapters such as Graham Burgess’ Opening Themes which is one of my favourite parts.
The reviewer will kick-off by demonstrating some of the puzzle posers from Michael Adams’ section.
Black has just moved his to queen to h5 to offer the exchange of queens. What did he miss?
Solution: Black overlooked the stunning rejoinder: 14.Nd5! winning the bishop on e7. Black cannot move his queen to defend the bishop. If black tries 14…Qxd1, the intermezzo 15.Nxe7+ followed by recapturing the queen, wins a piece. Black cannot retreat the bishop with 14…Bd8 as 15.Nxf6+ followed by 16.Qxh5 wins black’s queen.
The next position reminds the reviewer of a game he won with this tactical idea in an early club match as a junior.
White has just played Ra5 going after the a-pawn. What did he overlook?
Adams unleashed the devastating 37…Ne3+ exploiting the seventh rook for his rook. After 38. fxe3 Rb2+ white resigned because of 39. Kh3 Qxf3 40. Qc8+ Kh7 followed by a quick massacre of the white king.
In the next position, white has a clear advantage with a big lead in development. White played 20.Qd7 and won easily. Can you spot a quicker and more elegant route to victory?
20. Re8+ Bxe8 21.Qg3+ kills black prettily on the diagonals 21…Qe5 22.Qxe5#
In the next position, black is threatening the brutal Rc1#. How does white get the knife in first?
White wins with a common mating pattern: 42.Rh7+ Kxh7 43.Nf6+ Kh8 44.Rg8#
This next position was from a marathon blitz game. White has slowly edged his pawns forward and has just played 215. Re4. What was black’s response to abruptly end the game?
Peter Leko found the incisive 215…Qf7+ 216.Kxf7 stalemate, ending the torture.
In the next puzzle, black has just played Rd8. What was white’s crisp response?
Nigel Short, a brilliant tactician, missed a golden opportunity here. What is white’s best move?
The rampant white knights stomp all over black with 19.Nd6! threatening 20.Nxc6+ and Nf7+ 19…Nd5 (19…Qxd6 20. Nf7+ wins the queen, or 19…cxd6 20.Nc6+ Kd7 21.Nxb8+ also captures the queen) 20.Nxc6+ Kd7 21.Nxb8+ Kxd6 22. Qa3+ c5 23. Bd2 white has a material advantage and a virulent attack.
The next position shows a classic over press in a drawn ending. White has just played his queen from b8 to b2. How did black punish this careless move?
Black used the power of his centralised steed to fork the queen with the knight 65…Re3+! 0-1 After 66.Qxe3 Nc4+ snares the lady, 66. Kd1 Re1+ also captures the queen, similarly 66.Kf1 Re1+ wins
Black has just played the active Rd2. How did white exploit this?
26. Rxe6! exploits the weak back rank. 1-0 as 26…Rxf2 27.Re8# & 26…fxe6 27.Qf8#
In this next position white baled out with a perpetual. How could white win with a beautiful geometrical sequence?
47.Qd7+ Kg6 48.f5+ Qxf5 black’s queen blocks his own king 49.Qg7+ Kh5 50.g4+ Qxg4 once again the queen gets in the way 51.Qh7# Very pretty
The next section is by John Nunn who is a brilliant problem solver having won the world problem solving championship three times. I shall show a couple of beautiful studies from his chapter on Advanced Tactics, Endings And Studies.
White to play and win.
1.Rc1+! The obvious 1.a8=Q+ loses to 1…Kg1 2.Rc1+ Qf1+! 3.Rxf1+ Kxf1 4.Qa6+ Kg1 5.Qg6+ Rg2 6.Qf6 otherwise the pawn queens 6…Rf2+ skewers the queen and wins
1…Qf1+!! (1…Kg2 2.a8=Q+ Qf3+ 3.Qxf3+ Kxf3 4.Rc3+ Ke2 5.Ra3 and white wins the rook ending) 2.Rxf1+ Kg2
3.Rh1!! (Deflecting either the black king or rook to an inferior square, 3.a8=Q+ loses as above) 3…Kxh1 (3…Rxh1 4. a8=Q+ Kh2 5. Qh8+ followed by Qg8+ winning the dangerous black pawn and the game) 4.a8=Q+ Kg1 (4…Rg2 5.Qh8+ Kg1 6.a6 wins) 5.Qg8+ Rg2 6. Qh8 stopping the pawn and white wins
Here is another brilliant problem. I could not solve this one, but just sit back and enjoy!
e7 cxb1=Q 2. e8=Q Nf3+! (To give access to h7 for a black queen) 3. Nxf3 Qh7+ 4. Kg3 b1=Q Black seems to have everything under control with the two queens poised to kill
5.Qe4!! Putting white’s queen en prise and forking the two queens. Black cannot take the queen because of a deadly rook check. 5…Qg1+ (5…Qg7+ 6.Ng5+ Qxe4 7.Rd1+ mates) 6.Nxg1 Qxe4 7.Nf3 black has no decent check to avoid mate. 7…Qxf3+ 8.Kxf3 with an easy RvN winning ending as black’s king is stuck in the corner, separated from the knight, for example 8…Nb7 9.Rd7 Nc5 10.Rd5 Ne6 11.Kg3 mating.
Section three is by Graham Burgess. The Opening Themes chapter is an instructive set of puzzles based on tactical possibilities in the opening. The reviewer had not seen these exact positions before, but a lot of the themes are common ideas and traps in the opening.
Black has just played the active and provactive Nb4. How should white deal with the threat to the d-pawn?
9.c3! Nbxd5 10. e4 and the knight is lost. 9.e4 is also good based on the same idea.
A typical position from the Sicilian. Black has just kicked the bishop with h6, before deciding how to complete his development. How does white cut across this plan?
10.Ndxb5! axb5 11.Nxb5 threatening Nd6# d5 12.Bf4! targeting the weak d6 and c7 squares 12…e5 13.exd5 exf4 14.dxc6 Nxc6 15.Re1+ Be7 16.Nd6+ Kf8 17.Nxb7 winning a couple of pawns
Black has just left his d-pawn en prise. Can white take it?
No. After 6.Nxd5?? Nxd5 7.Qxd5 c6! white cannot prevent Qa5+ picking up the bishop on g5. Strange error considering that this was a postal game!
This is a Modern Defence. Black has just unmasked his fianchettoed bishop with Nfd7. White can refute this outright. How?
Finally an old trap in the Slav Defence. White has just played 12.e4. What is black’s surprising reply?
12…Nc5!! 13.dxc5 dxe4 14.Qxd8 (14.Qe3 exf3 is bad for white as well) Rfxd8 white loses back the piece and will be a pawn down 15.Na4 (15.Nxe4 Nxe4 16.Be3 Nxc5 and 15.Be3 exf3 16.gxf3 Rd3 leave black in a superb position) 15…exf3 16.Rfd1 Rd3 with a huge plus.
Finally, I will show a complex king and pawn ending given by Wesley So. Black to play – how does he capitalise on his better pawn structure and better king?
The first few moves are obvious 31…Kg6 32.Ke2 Kg5 33.Kf3 f5 34.gxf5
Now what should black play?
Buy the book to find out.
In summary, this is a superb puzzle book with a varied pot-pourri of problems such as opening traps, pure tactics, attacking ideas, defensive ideas, endings, and studies with a varying degree of difficulty to suit all standards. An excellent book for not just junior training but for players of all standards to hone their tactical skills.
FM Richard Webb, Chineham, Hampshire, 30th April 2021
Book Details :
Hardcover :320 pages
Publisher: Gambit Publications Ltd (16 Dec. 2020)
Product Dimensions: 17.15 x 1.65 x 24.77 cm
This physical book is also available as an eBook and as an App book from Gambit.
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