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The Gijon International Chess Tournaments, 1944-1965

The Gijon International Chess Tournaments, 1944-1965
The Gijon International Chess Tournaments, 1944-1965

The Gijon International Chess Tournaments, 1944-1965 : Pedro Méndez Castedo & Luis Méndez Castedo

Pedro Méndez Castedo & Luis Méndez Castedo

Pedro Mendez Castedo is an amateur chess player, an elementary educational guidance counselor a member of the Asturias Chess History Commission, a bibliophile and a researcher of the history of Spanish and Asturian chess. He lives in San Martin del Rey Aurelio, Spain. Luis Mendez Castedo is an amateur chess player, a full teacher at a state school, a member of the Asturias Chess History Commission, a bibliophile and an investigator of the history of Spanish chess. He lives in Gijon, Spain.

 

When I mention Gijón, what’s the first thing that comes to mind? Mustard? No, that’s Dijon. Dijon’s in France, but Gijón’s on the north coast of Spain, on the Bay of Biscay.

Small international chess tournaments were held there between 1944 and 1951, then between 1954 and 1956, and, finally, in 1965. These were all play all events, with between 8 and 12 players: a mixture of visiting masters and local stars. A bit like Hastings, you might think, but these tournaments usually took place in July, not in the middle of winter.

The strength of the tournaments varied, but some famous names took part. Alekhine played in the first two events and Euwe in 1951. A young Larsen played in 1956, while other prominent masters such as Rossolimo, Darga, Donner, Prins, Pomar and O’Kelly also took part. The local player Antonio Rico played in every event, with fluctuating fortunes: winning in 1945 ahead of Alekhine and 1948, but also finishing last on several occasions. English interests were represented on three occasions by Mr CHESS, BH Wood.

A nice touch is the Foreword, written by Gene Salomon, a Gijón native who played in the 1947 event before emigrating first to Cuba and then to the United States.

The main part of the book comprises a chapter on each tournament. We get a crosstable and round by round individual scores (it would have been better if these didn’t spill over the page: you might also think that progressive scores would be more useful). We then have, another nice touch, a summary of what was happening in the world at large, and in the chess world, that year. Then we have a games selection, some with light annotations: words rather than variations, giving the impression that little if any use was made of engines.

The book concludes with a chapter on ‘Special Personages’: Félix Heras, the tournament organizer, and, perhaps to entice British readers, BH Wood. Appendices provide a table of tournament participation and biographical summaries of the players.

Returning to the main body of the book, let’s take the 1950 tournament as a not entirely random example. A year in which I have a particular interest.

We learn a little about the football World Cup, the Korean War and a Spanish radio programme, the first Candidates Tournament and the Dubrovnik chess olympiad.

The big news from Gijón was the participation of the French player Chantal Chaudé de Silans, the only female to take part in  these events, and rather unfairly deprived of her acute accent here. She scored a respectable 3½ points, beating Prins and Grob (yes, the 1. g4 chap).

Rossolimo won the event with 8½/11, just ahead of Dunkelblum and Pomar on 8. Prins and Torán, playing in his home city, finished on 7 points.

This game, between Arturo Pomar and Henri Grob, won the first brilliancy prize.

1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 g6 3. Nc3 d5 4. cxd5 Nxd5 5. g3 Bg7 6. Bg2 c6 7. e3 h5 8. Nge2 h4 9. Qb3 Nxc3 10. bxc3 Nd7 11. a4 Nb6 12. a5

12… Nd7 13. a6 Qc7 14. Qc4 Nb6 15. Qc5 Rh5 16. Qa3 bxa6 17. Nf4 Rh8 18. Qc5 Bb7 19. Ba3 e5 20. Nd3 exd4 21. cxd4 Rh5 22. Ne5 O-O-O 23. g4 Nd7 24. Qc2 Rxe5 25. dxe5 Nxe5 26. Rb1 h3 27. Be4 Nxg4 28. Ke2 a5 29. Rxb7 Kxb7 30. Rb1+ Kc8 31. Bxc6 Ne5 32. Bb7+ Kb8 33. Ba6+ Qb6 34. Bd6+ Ka8 35. Rxb6 1:0

The annotations – by result rather than analysis – neither convince nor stand up to computer scrutiny. We’re told at the start of the game that ‘Pomar takes the initiative from Black’s error in the opening and does not relinquish it until the final victory’, but the annotations refute this claim. After criticizing several of Grob’s moves but none of Pomar’s, we’re told, correctly, that Black could have gained an advantage by playing 25… Qa5+. However, Grob’s choice was second best, not a ‘serious mistake’: Stockfish 10 tells me 26… a5 was still better for Black, and 27… a5 (in both cases with the idea of Ba6) was equal, though I guess those moves might not be easy to find without assistance. It was his 27th move, and perhaps also his 26th, which deserved the question mark.

This game was played in the last round of the tournament, on 26 July 1950.  Two days later a boy would be born who would learn chess, develop an interest in the game’s history and literature, and be asked to review this book. What is his verdict?

An enjoyable read, a nice book, but not a great book. If you collect McFarland books you’ll want it. If you have a particular passion for Spanish chess history, you’ll want it. Otherwise, although the book is not without interest, it’s probably an optional extra.

The tournaments, apart perhaps from Alekhine’s participation in the first two events, are not, in the overall scheme of things, especially significant. The games, by and large, aren’t that exciting. The annotations are, by today’s standards, not really adequate. The translation and presentation could have been improved.

Just another thought: we could do with a similarly structured book about the Hastings tournaments. There was one published some years ago, but a genuine chess historian could do much better.

Richard James, Twickenham 20 November 2019

Richard James
Richard James

Book Details :

  • Softcover : 244 pages
  • Publisher: McFarland (30 July 2019)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1476676593
  • ISBN-13: 978-1476676593
  • Product Dimensions: 17.8 x 1.5 x 25.1 cm

Official web site of McFarland

The Gijon International Chess Tournaments, 1944-1965
The Gijon International Chess Tournaments, 1944-1965

Emanuel Lasker : A Reader : A Zeal to Understand

Emanuel Lasker: A Reader
Emanuel Lasker: A Reader

Emanuel Lasker: A Reader: A Zeal to Understand : Taylor Kingston

Taylor Kingston

Taylor Kingston has been a chess enthusiast since his teens. He holds a Class A over-the-board USCF rating, and was a correspondence master in the 1980s, but his greatest love is the game’s history. His historical articles have appeared in Chess Life, New In Chess, Inside Chess, Kingpin, and the Chess Café website. He has edited numerous books, including the 21st-century edition of Lasker’s Manual of Chess, and translations from Spanish of The Life and Games of Carlos Torre, Zurich 1953: 15 Contenders for the World Championship, and Najdorf x Najdorf. He considers the Lasker Reader to be the most challenging and interesting project he has undertaken to date.

 

Taylor Kingston
Taylor Kingston

When I’m asked who my favourite chess player is, I always answer ‘Emanuel Lasker’.

Why? Partly because he was a player who didn’t really have a style. Like Magnus Carlsen, with whom he has sometimes been compared, he just played chess. But more because he was such an interesting personality. Unlike most champions (Euwe and Botvinnik were exceptions) he had a life outside chess, on several occasions taking long breaks from the game. And what a life it was: mathematician, philosopher, writer, playwright, bridge player, and, lest we forget, chess player.

Chess historians are finally taking notice of this fascinating man. In 2009 a massive volume about him was published in German, edited by Richard Forster and others. Last year the first of three volumes of a greatly expanded edition of this work appeared in English. If you have any interest at all in chess history you should certainly possess this book, and, like me, you’ll be eagerly looking forward to volumes 2 and 3.

What we have here might best be seen as a companion to this work, and, if you’re a Lasker fan or have any interest in chess history you’ll want this as well.

Taylor Kingston has compiled and edited a collection of Lasker’s own writings, not just on chess but covering every aspect of his multi-faceted personality.

We start with the London Chess Fortnightly, which Lasker published for a year between 1892 and 1893, annotating his own games as he was trying to establish himself as a contender for Steinitz’s world title. Here and throughout the book, the editor adds the occasional contribution from Stockfish 8.

Lasker and Steinitz met in 1894, with our hero becoming the second official world champion as a result of winning the match. Both players annotated some of the games for newspaper columns. In 1906 Lasker published this in his chess magazine, which we’ll come to later, but in this book they appear in the correct chronological place.

The Hastings 1895 tournament book (if you don’t have a copy I’d like to know why) was unusual in that all the games were annotated by one of the other participants. The six games Lasker annotated feature here.

Lasker’s first book, Common Sense in Chess, was published the following year. We have here an extract from Chapter 9, the End Game.

We then jump forward to 1904. The longest and, for chess players, perhaps the most interesting section of the book covers Lasker’s Chess Magazine, which was published in New York between November 1904 and January 1909. The games themselves give the reader an overview of chess during those years, with amateurs as well as masters being represented. Lasker’s annotations and, in some cases, game introductions, were often colourful in nature and tell us a lot about the man himself.

Burn-Forgacs (Ostend 1906), for instance, ‘begins like a summer breeze and ends like a winter’s gale’.

1. d4 d5 2. c4 e6 3. Nc3 Nf6 4. Bg5 Nbd7 5. e3 c6 6. Nf3 Qa5 7. Nd2 Ne4 8. Ndxe4 dxe4 9. Bh4 e5 10. Be2 f5 11. O-O g6 12. c5

‘Here the red lantern flashes out; queen and bishop prepare to take the diagonal from b3 to e6 and f7, which are woefully weak, and the black king will be in grave peril.’

12… Bg7 13. Qb3 Nf8 14. Bc4 Qc7 15. d5 h6 16. d6 Qd7 17. Be7 Ne6 18. Nb5 cxb5 19. Bxb5 1-0

Another major chapter concerns the 1908 Lasker-Tarrasch world championship match. After some details of the background to the match (there was little love lost between the two players: Edward Lasker quoted Tarrasch as saying ‘the only words I will address to him are check and mate!). Taylor Kingston presents the games with annotations from Lasker’s Chess Magazine, Tarrasch’s book of the match and other contemporary sources, along with the usual computer interjections.

We then have a chapter on Lasker’s unsuccessful 1921 match against Capablanca, and another on his non-appearance at New York 1927. Lasker’s Manual of Chess was first published in German in 1926: here we have an excerpt in which he discusses the theory of Steinitz.

Lasker’s chess writings are completed by an article on Lasker and the Endgame by guest contributor Karsten Müller, and a short section on Lasker’s problems and endgame studies.

The last 75 pages of the book consider other aspects of Lasker’s life: his philsophy, his contributions to mathematics, and Lasca, a board game he invented.

Perhaps the most interesting section offers extracts from The Philosophy of the Unattainable, his most important philosophical work, published in 1919. As far as Taylor Kingston is aware, it has never been published in English.

Lasker’s last work, The Community of the Future, was published in 1940, five months before his death. Here, Lasker considers the problems faced by the world and proposes a ‘non-competitive community’ as his solution, with ‘self-hope co-operatives’ to deal with unemployment. Again, fascinating reading, and, you might think, his utopian ideas are still of some relevance today.

The book is a well-produced paperback. There are a few notation errors caused by translation from descriptive to algebraic, but this shouldn’t cause you too much bother. I hope I’ve convinced you that this book deserves a place on your shelves.

Richard James, Twickenham 20 November 2019

Richard James
Richard James

Book Details :

  • Softcover : 400 pages
  • Publisher: Russell Enterprises (19 April 2019)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1949859002
  • ISBN-13: 978-1949859003
  • Product Dimensions: 17.8 x 2.5 x 25.4 cm

Official web site of Russell Enterprises

Emanuel Lasker: A Reader: A Zeal to Understand
Emanuel Lasker: A Reader: A Zeal to Understand

The Modernized Colle-Zukertort Attack

The Modernized Colle-Zukertort Attack
The Modernized Colle-Zukertort Attack

Grandmaster Milos Pavlovic was born in Belgrade in 1964 and was Yugoslav Champion in 2002. He is a well known theoretician specialising in opening theory and has written many chess books and magazine articles.

GM Milos Pavlovic
GM Milos Pavlovic

This is his third title in the “Modernized” series from Thinkers Publishing with a fourth on the Scotch Game being published on November 17th. We first reviewed a title in this series with The Modernized Caro-Kann from GM Daniel Fernandez.

As with every recent Thinkers Publishing publication high quality paper is used and the printing is clear. The book can easily be laid flat next to the board and does not require weights to prevent it from “self-closing” (a particular bugbear of ours !). Each diagram is clear and the instructional text is typeset in two column format, which, we find, enables the reader to maintain their place easily. Figurine algebraic notation is used throughout and the diagrams are placed adjacent to the relevant text and each diagram has a “to move” indicator.

The main content is divided into ten chapters of which the first six concern lines in which Black plays an early d5 (usually 1.d4 d5) and the remainder where Black does not (usually playing 1.d4 Nf6).

There is no index which, unfortunately, is a standard feature of Thinkers Publishing books. Also missing is a bibliography.

This is a repertoire book for the White player utilizing the undeservedly less popular Zukertort flavour of the Colle System. In the “CZ” System the c1 (Queen’s for the more mature reader !) bishop is developed to b2 rather than the c1 – h6 diagonal as in the Koltanowski flavour of the Colle System. Typically therefore White attempts to establish a structure of the sort :

and play for ideas such as Ne5, f4 Rf3, Rg3 and checkmating attacks involving the bishop pair. These are often similar to the famous Lasker – Bauer game of 1889.

On the other hand we have the possibly more familiar Colle-Koltanowski structure of :

and the main idea of the latter is to advance e4, e5 and the launch a fairly clockwork attack against Black’s kingside.

Both of these approaches have been served by books, videos and instructional DVDs of the “Winning with the X” sort with the most well known players of the Colle-Zukertort being Aaron Summerscale, Artur Yusupow, Susan Polgar and Vladimir Kramnik.

We have no intention of “spilling the beans” on all of the many and varied ideas presented by Pavlovic : you should buy the book and find out for yourself. However, as past players of the CZ ourselves we noticed interesting advice on the move order advised. The traditional move order in possibly the most challenging main line has (more or less) been :

1.d4 d5 2.Nf3 Nf6 3.e3 e6 4.Bd3 c5 5.b3 Nc6 6.0-0 Bd6 7.Bb2 0-0 8.Nbd2 leading to the following well-known, traditional position :

and David Rudel in his various evangelistic style CZ books advocated 8.Ne5 instead. In The Modernized Colle-Zuckertort we have this new move order :

1.d4 d5 2.Nf3 Nf6 3.e3 e6 4.Bd3 c5 followed by the provocative 5.0-0 ! giving us this position

which appears (well, it does!) to allow 5…c4!? This early castles move order is, in itself, modernizing and advocated by none other than the fourteenth World Champion, Vladimir Kramnik ! Other adherents of this move order include Artemiev, Vaganian and Romain Edouard, Editor of Thinkers Publishing.

To give you a feel for the book here is a sample

One idea that caught our eye was a recommendation of how to meet the Classical Dutch when played via

1.d4 e6 2.Nf3 f5

and you might expect a line to of the CZ to be recommended but you’d be quite wrong. We won’t spoil the surprise by telling you here ! Suffice to say this is not a formulaic “Play the CZ against everything and win” style of approach. You’d be disappointed if it was !

This book contain a veritable potpourri of new ideas and material plus strategical concepts for the White player in the CZ System. It offers much more than one of the cheesy “Play this Opening and you will win” style books that we are all familiar with. Having owned all (English Language) books and DVDs we would suggest that this is the most academic and the most appealing to players wanting to make the CZ a serious weapon of theirs. In the “club player opening book wars” this book redresses the balance with the recent splurge of London System books and videos.

Get this book and you will learn about middlegame, plans of attack and a wealth of other themes : highly recommended !

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

John Upham
John Upham

Book Details :

  • Hardcover : 208 pages
  • Publisher:  Thinkers Publishing; 1 edition (July 29, 2019)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 9492510529
  • ISBN-13: 978-9492510525
  • Product Dimensions: 6.8 x 0.8 x 9.2 inches

Official web site of Thinkers Publishing

The Modernized Colle-Zukertort Attack
The Modernized Colle-Zukertort Attack

Opening Repertoire : the Queen’s Gambit

Opening Repertoire : the Queen's Gambit
Opening Repertoire : the Queen’s Gambit

GM Damian Lemos (FIDE : 2479) was born in 1990 and hails from Argentina. He is a former Pan-American Junior Champion and he achieved the FIDE Master title at 14 years old, International Master at 15, and Grandmaster at 18 and is well known on many chess web sites for providing recorded and real time instructional videos on all aspects (but mainly opening theory) of chess. This is his second book for Everyman Chess.

GM Damian Lemos
GM Damian Lemos

The book is divided into seven main chapters as follows :

  1. The Queen’s Gambit Declined (55 pages, 15 games)
  2. The Tarrasch Defence (24 pages, 6 games)
  3. The Slav Defence (45 pages, 9 games)
  4. The Queen’s Gambit Accepted (56 pages, 13 games)
  5. The Chigorin Defence (17 pages 3 games)
  6. The Albin Counter Gambit (19 pages, 4 games)
  7. Other Defences (17 pages, 4 games)

Damian Lemos presents a repertoire for White based around the best regarded flavour of the QGD, Exchange Variation or QGE : this is the version in which White delays Nf3 allowing the central push f3 followed by e4 and the typical resultant structure is :

The alternative version of the QGE in which White plays an early Nf3 and follows with a minority attack on the queenside is not treated in this book.

Strong grandmasters generally do not like being on the Black side of the QGE since counter-play is minimal so by selecting the QGE you should have a small edge that can be worked with.

White’s move order in most lines therefore is 1.d4 d5 2.c4 something and then 3.Nc3 so if you already play the Queen’s Gambit but with a 1.d4 d5 2.Nf3 something 3.c4 move order then this repertoire will be a substantial change for you.

Chapter 1 is presented via the now familiar and reliable method of a number (15) of high quality and recent instructive games analysed in depth.

Taking on the Tarrasch Defence Lemos goes down the road of the classical Rubinstein (fianchetto) approach showing how White can retain a nagging edge against the Black IQP.

The Slav Defence is approached using an active piece placement strategy based around the seemingly innocuous Exchange Variation : underestimate this line at your peril if you play the Slav !

The Queen’s Gambit Accepted is faced with the direct 3.e4 with in-depth coverage including all of Black ideas especially the most combative of 3…e5. The QGA receives the most comprehensive treatment in terms of pages (56) and with thirteen games analysed in detail.

The Chigorin Defence merits only three games reflecting its rarity at club and more exalted levels. Again, ignore the Chigorin at your peril !

Club players favourite, the Albin Counter-Gambit is examined via four games.

Rounding off in the “Other Defences” bargain basement section we find lines for White to deal with The (solid) Stonewall Variation of the Dutch, The somewhat discredited Marshall Defence, The (early) Tarrasch with 2…c5 and finally, The Baltic Defence which is common at club level.

A couple of small gripes with the production are : the diagrams do not have a “to move” indicator. secondly, some Everyman books (but not this one) have an extra folding part to the front and rear covers. These we find protect the book from damage and also can be used as an emergency book mark ! Also, chapters 3-5 all have the same page heading of the Chigorin Defence which confused us! We suspect that this error will be fixed.

Overall, this book provides a welcome repertoire based on exchanging on d5 that is fairly easy to learn and sound with decent winning chances for White. The QGE chapter is possibly the most interesting from the strategic perspective and gives White a clear plan to follow.

It is also fair to say that players of the Black pieces who employ the Chigorin, Tarrasch and particularly the QGA will also benefit from this book : they can see the authors suggested lines for the White and Black’s corresponding ideas.

John Upham, Cove, Hampshire, 12th November, 2019

John Upham
John Upham

Book Details :

  • Paperback : 256 pages
  • Publisher: Everyman Chess (1 Aug. 2019)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1781942609
  • ISBN-13: 978-1781942604
  • Product Dimensions: 16.9 x 1.5 x 23.9 cm

The book is available as a physical book and as a Kindle version.

Official web site of Everyman Chess

Opening Repertoire : the Queen's Gambit
Opening Repertoire : the Queen’s Gambit

Chess Tactics Workbook for Kids

Chess Tactics Workbook for Kids : John Nunn

Chess Tactics Workbook for Kids
Chess Tactics Workbook for Kids

John Nunn has written around thirty books on chess and many of these are some of the finest chess books published in any language : Secrets of Pawnless Endings (1994, Batsford) easily is a candidate for the all time list. John is a director of Gambit Publications Ltd. together with Murray Chandler and Graham Burgess.

GM John Nunn
GM John Nunn

Chess Tactics Workbook for Kids is the sixth (a seventh and eighth are scheduled for January 2020 publication) in a highly successful series of “for Kids” books. Indeed, we recently reviewed Chess Opening Traps for Kids. The Workbook theme is likely to be extended other “for Kids” style books from Gambit Publications.

This workbook is a follow-up to the original (2003) and much liked Chess Tactics for Kids by Murray Chandler :

Chess Tactics for Kids
Chess Tactics for Kids

Chess Tactics Workbook for Kids is robustly (!) hardbound in a convenient size such that weights are not need to keep it propped open (unlike some A5 paperbacks) meaning studying with this book is more convenient than with many books. The layout and printing is clear (as you would expect with Gambit) with numerous diagrams at key moments in each, relatively short, game. In essence, players under 18 (for whom this book is intended) will find it easy to dip in out of and it can be used without a board (although BCN and most chess teachers and coaches would always recommend following each game on a “proper” board).

As you would expect with Gambit, the notation is English short form algebraic using figurines for pieces. A previous criticism (ibid) has been addressed in that each diagram has a symbolic “whose move it is” indicator. Each diagram does have coordinates which are very welcome for the younger junior reader.

The book is divided into 13 chapters as follows :

  1. Fork
  2. Pin
  3. Skewer
  4. Deflection and Decoy
  5. Discovered Attack
  6. Discovered and Double Check
  7. Removing the Guard
  8. In-Between Moves
  9. Trapped Piece
  10. Pawn Promotion
  11. Opening and Closing Lines
  12. Forcing a Draw
  13. Test Papers

Chapters 1 – 12 each contain a description of the type of tactic that is subject of the chapter followed by 20 – 40 exercises for the reader followed by a set of more challenging “Tougher Positions” and then, interestingly, by a set of “Does the Tactic Work ?” exercises. We appreciated the latter especially since this appears to be a novel feature. These are excellent blunder prevention tests since they help to slow typical impetuous juniors down who often move first and then engage their brain.

It was clear when working through the easier set of exercises that the author had thought carefully about their sequence since the reader should (we did for sure !) notice the level of difficulty increasing slowly but surely. The solutions are remote from the puzzles nicely avoiding the “accidentally seeing the solution” issue one gets with lesser books. The solutions themselves are clear and concise and instructional in their own right.

Here is a particularly satisfying example (we thought so anyway !) from the Skewer chapter (Tougher Positions #23) *solution at bottom of this review

We particularly enjoyed the chapters on “Trapped Piece” and “Forcing a Draw” as these are less usual to find in books of this kind.

Here is a pleasing (well, we liked it here in the BCN editorial office) example (#30) from the “Does the Tactic Work?” section of the skewers chapter :

@and the solution is at the foot of this review

We enjoyed working through the chapters and emerged with a feeling of attending a mental gymnasium : exhausted but refreshed.

Chapter 13 (“Test Papers”) puts all of your newly learnt skills to a full and proper test since there are no themes, hints or clues of what to do : just like a real game !

One negative comment we would make concerns the cover. “Never judge a book by its cover” we are told and you might look at this book cover and think it was suitable for say primary aged children. We would say not but we would suggest it suitable from secondary aged children. We would say strong juniors from 12 upwards would read this book and enjoy it.

As we previously mentioned in our review of Chess Opening Traps for Kids, The title and cover might, perhaps, put off the adult club player market. However, the content is totally suitable for adult club players upto say 150 ECF or 1800 Elo.

In summary, we recommend this book to any junior or adult who wishes to improve their tactical vision and results. It makes an excellent stocking filler for young players and the young at heart !

John Upham, Cove, Hampshire, November 11th 2019

John Upham
John Upham

Book Details :

  • Hardcover : 128 pages
  • Publisher: Gambit Publications Ltd (22 July 2019)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1911465317
  • ISBN-13: 978-1911465317
  • Product Dimensions: 17.8 x 1.3 x 22.9 cm

Official web site of Gambit Publications Ltd.

Chess Tactics Workbook for Kids
Chess Tactics Workbook for Kids

*solution to Skewer exercise #23 : “Normally this material would lead to a draw, but White can win with a brilliant tactical idea : 1.Bd6!! (the only defence to the threat of 2.Qd3# is to take the bishop) 1…Qxd6 2. Qd3+ Kc5 (2…Ke5 3.Qg3+ is a mirror image) 3.Qa3+ and the queen falls.”

@solution to Skewer exercise #30 : “It seems impossible to save the game because after both side promote White has a skewer, but there is a miraculous defence : 1…g2 2.c8=Q g1=Q 3.Qc5+ Ke2! and further checks don’t help White, while after 4.Qxg1 Black is stalemated.”

Opening Repertoire : the Petroff Defence

Opening repertoire : the Petroff Defence
Opening repertoire : the Petroff Defence

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

IM Cyrus Lakdawala
IM Cyrus Lakdawala

The Petroff (or Petrov or Russian) Defence has long been regarded as one of the most solid replies to 1.e4. The most prolific player of the Petroff is Artur Yusupov, a Russian Grandmaster who had played it in around 200 games according to MegaBase 2019.
Vladimir Kramnik , Anatoly Karpov and Boris Gelfand have also used the Petroff many times whilst recently Fabiano Caruana has made it one of his most important and reliable defences.

Alexander Dmitrievich Petrov
Alexander Dmitrievich Petrov

This is a repertoire book from the Black perspective and therefore does not include all possible black variations but it does provide clear recommendations for dealing with the White variations.

Following the Introduction we have six in-depth chapters as follows :

  1. The Cochrane Gambit
  2. The Scotch Petroff
  3. The Main Line Petroff
  4. The Main Line Sidelines (!?)
  5. The New Main Line (2019)
  6. The Three Knights Petroff

Each and every chapter starts with a summary of the variation to put the reader into the right frame of mind.
The author kicks-off in detail by examining the somewhat swashbuckling Cochrane Gambit where, after the moves 1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nf6 3.Nxe5 d6 White boldly sacrifices a knight with 4 Nxf7?!. The author concludes that the Cochrane Gambit is dubious and Black has excellent winning chances (which you would expect no doubt).
He backs this up by showing how Black should play after 4…Kxf7 when White has three sensible moves 5.d4 5.Bc4+ and latterly 5.Nc3 (which was played in a rapid game by Vasily Ivanchuk) : all 3 games were won by Black who wins a piece for 2 pawns. According to MegaBase 2019, the gambit scores an amazing 58.8% for white over 910 games so in practise (as opposed to theory) it does pretty well !

Next, we turn to the Scotch Petroff in which White plays 3.d4 when 3…Nxe4 is recommended.
Two main lines are given, the first being 4.d4xe5 d5 5.Nbd2 where, in the game Vitiugov v Caruana 2018, Black played 5…Qd7 and excellent annotations are given as to why this move equalises fully.

The more popular 5 Nc5 is also examined in detail and,
more often than not, more than one playable line is given for the reader to choose from.

Following the examination of 3.d4 Nxe4 4.Bd3 d5 5.Nxe5 Nd7 Laznicka v Shirov 2006 is discussed in detail and this is an interesting game in which Black was able to win from a lost position.

The opening however was again fine for black.

In Chapter three the author pitches into, what most would consider as THE main line i.e. 3. Nxe5 which is played in 53% of games in MegaBase 2019.
Cyrus recommends 3…d6 4.Nf3 Nxe4 5 d4 d5 6 Bd3 Be7 7 00 Nc6 as most promising for Black.
The main line here is 8.c4 and ten games are annotated in detail. The most prominent players of the black pieces include Vishy Anand and Anatoly Karpov. The following game is annotated in detail :

Other popular moves (8. Re1 and 8.Nc3) are also considered in the same lengthy main chapter.

So called off-beat or side lines are covered in Chapter Four the most important of which is 3.Nxe5 d6 4.Nf3 Nxe4 5.Qe2 which the author labels “The Dull Variation” but, as Cyrus points out, it is a likely choice for the White player if he or she is greatly outgraded and happy to halve the point. However, as in the game Luke McShane v Ba Jobava, Black managed to out dull the dullness by winning!

The so-called “New Main Line” is considered in Chapter Five and this is 3.Nxe5 d6 4.Nf3 Nxe4 5.Nc3 which, somewhat famously, is the usual choice of Magnus Carlsen (and Alexei Shirov) when battling the Petroff. The usual consequence of adoption of a line by the World Champion is that the variation becomes popular at “club level”. (Editor : This also happened to the currently trendy new main line of the London System : 1.d4 d5 2.Bf4 Nf6 3.e3 c5 4.c3 Nc6 5.Nd2).
The chapter launches by detailing a recent (2018) Carlsen v Caruana game where again, black equalises and draws the game.

The final chapter covers the Three Knights Variation in which White essays 3.Nc3 and Black usually replies 3…Bb4 : of course, he or she could also try 3…Nc6 transposing to a Four Knights Game.

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

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

So, what do we think ?
This is an excellent book with 58 games often by world class players given lots of analysis and discussion of ideas.The author sets many exercises (tactical and strategic) for the reader to work through making the book more interactive than many.
Of course, it is mainly written from the Black perspective as most presented games are won by Black perhaps making the reader wonder why 2…Nf6 is not as popular as 2…Nc6 : maybe it soon will be !

Colin Lyne, Farnborough, Hampshire, October 22nd, 2019

Colin Lyne
Colin Lyne

Book Details :

  • Paperback : 322 pages
  • Publisher: Everyman Chess (1 June 2019)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 178194539X
  • ISBN-13: 978-1781945391
  • Product Dimensions: 17 x 1.9 x 24.2 cm

Official web site of Everyman Chess

Opening repertoire : the Petroff defence
Opening repertoire : the Petroff defence

Coach Yourself : A Complete Guide to Self Improvement at Chess

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

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

GM Neil McDonald
GM Neil McDonald

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Here is an extract of an example :

Above All, Look After Your Queen!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

John Upham
John Upham

Book Details :

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

Official web site of Everyman Chess

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

Chess Tactics : Volume 1

Chess Tactics : Volume 1
Chess Tactics : Volume 1

Cartsen Hansen is a Danish FIDE Master, FIDE Trainer and author of twenty-eight chess books on all phases of the game. He is a columnist for American Chess Magazine and Shakbladet.

FM Carsten Hansen
FM Carsten Hansen

Chess Tactics is a volume in the series Daily Chess Training the content for which is largely drawn from the authors spaces on various social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

The book is self-published and our copy was printed by Amazon Fulfillment which we believe is a low cost method to get books printed with lower volume print runs than you might associate with a so-called main stream publisher. Being a paperback that is fairly thick compared with its other dimensions, it means weights are required to keep the book open hands-free style, unless you want to break the spine. Maybe no other review will mention this but the convenience of reading the book makes a difference for us. It should be noted that a Kindle version is also marketed for those who prefer an eBook format. The printing is fairly clear on off-white paper. What stood out to us immediately was the murkiness / clarity of the diagrams. To be fair to the author we did report this and he has taken this up with his printers.

The main content is divided into seven chapters which have the same rough format of sixteen sets of exercises with four exercises (on average) per set.

For each individual exercise there is a diagram of the starting position, a rating in the forms of asterisk symbols from 1 – 5 where * is straightforward (but not trivial) and ***** means “industrial strength” difficulty. Under the rating is an indicator of who is to move and finally a hint such as

hint : Surprising Consequences to a simple plan.

It is possible to cover up the hint with something handy such as a beer mat (!) should you chose to avoid it.

Following each group of say four exercises there is a solution which usually includes in-depth analysis plus details of the provenance of the game itself.

We could be wrong but every one of the 404 exercises appears to be from 2018 tournament, league or match practice. The author deserves to be congratulated for this aspect alone and this means is it not likely you will have remembered any of the exercises from elsewhere : respect ! Of course, 2018 was an olympiad year which must have helped enormously especially in terms of large disparity in playing strength of the two players.

The overall ethos of the chosen exercises appears to be tactics / combinations that occur in typical games played by mortals leading to winning or large edge positions. In other words they are very pragmatic choices of “meat & potatoes” strong moves rather than jaw-dropping moves that feature in tactics books time and time again.

The author makes it clear that he values feedback and he provides various ways to make contact  via his email address and various social media locations.  We received an answer to a query within the same day.

Let us examine some examples :

Set 49
Exercises to Set 49
49.1)

**
White to move
Hint : Making room for the right strike

and the solution is :

13.d5!
This clever move takes aim at a surprising piece.
13…Bxd5 14.Nxd6+!
Of course, not 14.Qxd5?? Bb4+.
14…Qxd6 15. Qe3+!
Yes, It is the rook on a7 that’s the target !
15…Kd7 16.Qxa7
Black could have resigned here but dragged the game on to move 20 against her much lower rated opponent.
16…Nc6 17.Qe3 Re8 18.Qd2 Bxf3 19.gxf3 Nd4 20.Qxd4 1-0
A.Avramidhou (2260) – V. Gunina (2528)
Chess Olympiad (women) (Batumi) 2018

and here is a one star problem :

10.3)


*
White to move
Hint : Exploit the many weaknesses in Black’s camp.

and he solution is

16.Bxe6! Nd5
Or 16…fx6 17.Qxe6+ Qe7 18. Qxc6+ Kf7 19.Ne5+
17.Be5 Also 17.Ne5 wins. After 17.Be5 fxe6 18.Bxg7 Rh7 19.Qxe6+ Ne7 20.Qf6, Black is toast.
1-0
C. Bauer(2644) – M. Apicella (2501) Cannes (rapid) 2018.

and, finally an “industrial strength” exercise :

76.2)


*****
White to move
Hint : Pursuing your dreams often comes at the cost of squashing somebody else’s aspirations

and the solution is :

28.d5!
This threatens Bxg7 followed by Qe7+ and game over for Black.
28…Nc3 29.Ba2!!
Without this move White has nothing – did you see it?
29…Qxa2 30.Bxc3 e5
Or 30…Bxc3 31.Qh7+ Kf8 32. Qxb7 and White is winning.
31.Bxe5 Bxe5 32.Qh7+ Kf8 33.Nxe5 White is, of course, completely winning. 33…Bxd5+ 34.Kg1 Bf7 35.Qh8+ Ke7 36.Nc6+ 1-0
M. Parligras(2645) – S.Grigoriants (2543) Hungarian Team Ch. 2018.

There follows an Index of Players and two of these players (Stamy and Sindarov) have five games referenced each. The bulk of the players are not therefore super elite players but mortals.

In summary, this selection of 404 graded exercises covers all of the most common tactical themes plus some rarely encountered ones from modern practice.  The commentary for each exercise is detailed enough.  The exercises are not grouped according to any particular theme so you are not “expecting something” : you actually have to work it out from scratch in keeping with a real game.

We’d like to see clear diagrams but maybe our reviewer needs to visit Specsavers ! Overall this is good book, packed with original material delivered with a unique style. It will improve your chess ! We look forward to Volume 2….

John Upham, Cove, Hampshire, 29th August, 2019

John Upham
John Upham

Book Details :

  • paperback : 329 pages
  • Publisher: Carsten Chess (April 2019)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1790316308
  • ISBN-13: 978-1790316304
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.8 x 9 inches

Official web site of Carsten Chess

Chess Tactics : Volume 1
Chess Tactics : Volume 1
Chess Tactics : Volume 1
Chess Tactics : Volume 1

Understanding Before Moving 2 : Queen’s Gambit Structures

Understanding Before Moving 2 : Queen's Gambit Structures
Understanding Before Moving 2 : Queen’s Gambit Structures

Herman Grooten is an International master, a professional coach for over thirty-five years and has taught players such as Loek van Wely, Jan Werle and Benjamin Bok.

IM Herman Grooten (photograph : Harry Gielen)
IM Herman Grooten (photograph : Harry Gielen)

The is the author’s second volume in the Understanding Before Moving series previously having written Understanding before Moving 1 : Ruy Lopez – Italian Structures

As with every recent Thinkers Publishing publication high quality paper is used and the printing is clear. The book can easily be laid flat next to the board and does not require weights to prevent it from “self-closing” (a particular bugbear of ours !). Each diagram is clear and the instructional text is typeset in two column format, which, we find, enables the reader to maintain their place easily. Figurine algebraic notation is used throughout and the diagrams are placed adjacent to the relevant text and each diagram has a “to move” indicator.

The main content is divided into eight chapters :

  1. Studying of Openings
  2. Background of Openings
  3. Pawn Structures and Practical Examples
  4. Discussing the Variations
  5. Model Games
  6. Exercises
  7. Solutions
  8. Instructive Games

followed by a collection of 44 unannotated instructive games. There is no index but there is a liberal sprinkling of black & white photographs throughout the instructional text.

The books kicks off by providing the motivation to the reader of the purpose of taking on-board the approach that Grooten adopts. It is clear that he strongly believes studying the typical pawn structures that result from the variations of the Queen’s Gambit the student will gain greater understanding of the correct plans based on those structures. He goes to some trouble to warn students of the modern lazy tendency (younger players take careful note!) to read too much into assessments from modern engines (especially in the opening and transition to the middle game). He, quite correctly, wants the students to use their own eyes and brain to discover ideas and typical themes rather attempting to memorize so-called best moves which change anyway when the engine version is updated.

The advice continues with tips on preparation before and during a tournament which are entirely pragmatic and help the students confidence going into games against both weaker, similar and stronger opponents.

Chapter 3 is where the heavy action starts. We focus on the Carlsbad pawn structure, arising from many variations of the Queen’s Gambit :

and the author details three main plans implied by the above structure followed by twelve high quality instructive examples of these plans from the world’s best players.

For example :

Plan C : Opposite-side castling, 3.10 Pawn Storms on both sides


Position after 12…Rc8

In a position with opposite castling it’s of great importance to get one’s attack off the ground as soon as possible. It helps greatly if there is already some weakness in the enemy’s king position , and if it isn’t there – well, the first priority is to force its creation.

13.Ng5

For 13.g4 see the game Petrosian – Ilivitky, Moscow 1965.

13…b5?

In this case it was best to retreat to d7.

14.Be5!

Thus Timman forces Black to weaken himself.

The Pawn Structures chapter essentially provide the ethos of the book putting the student in the right frame of mind for the specific discussion of the variations of interest. As far as I can tell these variations are :

  1. The Tartakower Variation of the Queen’s Gambit Declined
  2. The Lasker Variation of the QGD
  3. The Tarrasch Variation (including the Hennig-Schara Gambit)
  4. The Noteboom (or Abrahams) Variation
  5. The Ragozin Variation
  6. The Cambridge Springs Variation
  7. The Exchange (Carlsbad) Variation
  8. The Rubinstein Variation
  9. The Vienna Variation

and all of these are treated via a 1.d4 d5 2.c4 e6 3.Nc3 move order.

Some of the above could (arguably if you enjoy this sort of thing!) be said to arise from a Semi-Slav Defence or even Triangle Variation move order (for example the Noteboom / Abrahams and Cambridge Springs variations) so there is more to this book than first meets the eye. The Vienna section is most welcome since it has not hitherto received much attention in the literature and can, of course, become sharp early on.

There is no coverage of the Queen’s Gambit Accepted (the Vienna Variation comes close of course) or of the lines (typically 5. Bf4) where White puts the c1 bishop on f4 rather than g5 : some (including myself) might dub this the Blackburne Variation. There is a brief treatment of the Alartortsev or Cahrousek Variation (3…Be7) included in the Carlsbad section.

For each of the above variations the author highlights the main ideas for white, and to give you some idea here is an example from the Ragozin section :


Position after 10…Kf8

in the Interpolistoernooi in Tilburg in 1981 :

11.dxc5!!

Behind this lies a brilliant concept,

11…Nxc3 12.bxc3 Bxc3+ 13.Ke2 Bxa1 14.Qxa1 f6

It’s time to take stock of the position. White has sacrificed the exchange, but has obtained an abundance of compensation in various forms :

  • Development and activity
  • Bishop pair in an open position
  • Unsafe Black king
  • Better pawn structure
  • Control over d6, which can be used as an outpost by several of White’s pieces
  • A position in which “diagonals are more important than files”

All of this then prepares the reader for Chapter 5 : Model Games. There are 15 model games of which 7 cover the Carlsbad, 4 the Tartakower and then one each for the rest except for the Lasker and Vienna Variations.

The reader is then encouraged to test their understanding with 16 exercises of the “White to play and find the best continuation” type. Each of these exercises is analysed in detail in the Solutions chapter.

In summary, this book will be invaluable to any serious student of the Queen’s Gambit, particularly the Exchange Variation and Carlsbad structures. Any player who plays d4 but does not play a quick c4 follow-up (for example, the currently trendy London System followers) may well be sufficiently enthused to “upgrade” their Queen’s Pawn opening to a Queen’s Gambit. The emphasis on understanding via pawn structure analysis will help any student of chess even if do not play 1.d4. Highly recommended !

John Upham, Cove, Hampshire, 22nd August, 2019

John Upham
John Upham

Book Details :

  • Hardcover : 238 pages
  • Publisher: Thinkers Publishing; 1 edition (15 Feb. 2019)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 9492510421
  • ISBN-13: 978-9492510426
  • Product Dimensions: 17 x 1.5 x 23.4 cm

Official web site of Thinkers Publishing

Understanding Before Moving 2 : Queen's Gambit Structures
Understanding Before Moving 2 : Queen’s Gambit Structures

First Steps : King’s Indian Defence

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

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

IM Andrew Martin
IM Andrew Martin

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

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

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

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

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

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

We have nine chapters :

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

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

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

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

Anyway, before I digress too far…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

John Upham
John Upham

Book Details :

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

Official web site of Everyman Chess

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