Category Archives: Tactics

Chess Opening Workbook for Kids

Chess Opening Workbook for Kids : Graham Burgess

Chess Opening Workbook for Kids
Chess Opening Workbook for Kids

FIDE Master Graham Burgess needs no introduction to readers of English language chess books ! Minnesota, USA based, Graham has authored more than twenty five books and edited at least 250 and is editorial director of Gambit Publications Ltd. In 1994 Graham set a world record for marathon blitz playing and has been champion of the Danish region of Funen !

FM Graham Burgess
FM Graham Burgess

Readers may remember “101 Chess Opening Surprises” published in 1998, also by Gambit Publications, was well received and added to GKBs reputation for originality, accuracy and encyclopedic knowledge of openings.

Chess Opening Traps for Kids is the ninth in a series of “for Kids” books and 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. 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 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. Each diagram has coordinates and a “whose move it is indicator” (thank-you Gambit !); welcome for the intended junior readership.

This book follows on from the highly regarded (2018) Chess Opening Traps for Kids from the same author and reviewed here

The author divides the material into 11 chapters titled as follows :

  1. Warm-Ups
  2. Mate
  3. Double Attack
  4. Trapped Pieces
  5. General Tactics
  6. Hunting the King
  7. Development and the Centre
  8. Castling
  9. Does Bxh7+ Work?
  10. Advanced Exercises
  11. Tests

This is not a book about openings per se. It focuses more on tactics and traps and tactical ideas that happen very early in many games. It is not organised on a per opening variation basis and neither is there an index of openings. If that is what you want then this is not the right book for you.

However, this is much, much more than a book about openings…

Chapters 2 – 9 each kick-off with an introduction to the chapter’s theme followed by (in some cases) 60 example test positions where the theme can be exploited by an accurate move sequence : the student is invited to work-out this sequence. The chapter ends with detailed solutions to each test position.

Chapter 10 are exercises using any of the themes in the previous chapters but randomised and without any clue as to what the theme is. In general these are more challenging and serve as a test of what should have been learnt so far !

Chapter 11 contains 40 test positions some according to theme and rest without a clue. Following the solutions the student is invited to assess their strength at these exercises using a simple score table.

Here is an example from Chapter 3, Double Attack :

Example #5


White has just played 6c4?? Why was that a blunder ?

See the foot of this review for the solution should you need to.

For further insight you may use the “Look Inside” feature from Amazon here. Of course there are many worthy book retailers to be your supplier !

In summary, this is an excellent book with much original material presented in a clear and friendly way and therefore to be recommended. It is an ideal follow-up to Chess Opening Traps for Kids and we would advise studying Chess Opening Traps for Kids first and then move on to this workbook.

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. I would say not but I would suggest it suitable from secondary aged children. I would say strong juniors from 12 upwards would read this book and enjoy it.

We would like to see an index of openings from which the theme examples were obtained.

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 180 ECF or 2000 Elo.

John Upham, Cove, Hampshire, March 30th 2020

John Upham
John Upham

Book Details :

  • Hardcover : 128 pages
  • Publisher: Gambit Publications Ltd. (15th November 2019)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1911465376
  • ISBN-13: 978-1911465379
  • Product Dimensions: 17.8 x 1.3 x 22.9 cm

Official web site of Gambit Publications Ltd.

Chess Opening Workbook for Kids
Chess Opening Workbook for Kids

Solution to Example#5
The problem is similar to the Cambridge Springs Trap : 6…dxc4! wins a piece. After 7 Bxc4 Qa5+ the queen check picks up the loose bishop. This has even cropped up at super grandmaster level. The other key point is that White can’t unload his bishop with 7 Bxf6 because 7…cxd3 leaves two white pieces attacked.

Chess Tests

Chess Tests
Chess Tests

Chess Tests : Mark Dvoretsky

From the rear cover :

“Mark Dvoretsky (1947-2016) is considered one of the greatest chess instructors in the modern era. He left behind a great legacy of many books and publications. At the time of his passing, there were two unpublished manuscripts he had finished (and one other co-authored with study composer Oleg Pervakov).”

IM Mark Izrailovich Dvoretsky
IM Mark Izrailovich Dvoretsky

And from the Foreword by Artur Yusupov :

“Chess Tests offers chess players material of very high quality for working on various themes, from training combinative vision to techniques of realizing advantages. I recommend using those materials for in-depth work in the directions mentioned in the book. If you follow this advice, then this volume will become a valuable addition to your chess studies and will help you reinforce skills and knowledge you have already obtained. “And here is probably the most important point. Dvoretsky wanted to write a book that would not only teach some intricacies of chess, but would also be simply a pleasure to read for aficionados of the game, so he tried to amass the ‘tastiest’ of examples here. I hope that this last book by him is going to achieve this, presenting its readers with many chess discoveries and joy of communication with the great coach and author.”

IM Mark Izrailovich Dvoretsky holding forth with Jonathan Speelman, Jonathan Manley., Mihai Suba and Bernard Cafferty. Photograph : Mark Huba
IM Mark Izrailovich Dvoretsky holding forth with Jonathan Speelman, Jonathan Manley., Mihai Suba and Bernard Cafferty. Photograph : Mark Huba

This book (also available as an eBook) is divided into seven chapters as follows :

  1. Training Combinational Vision, 32 tests
  2. Candidate Moves, 38 tests
  3. Calculating Variations, 18 tests
  4. Attack and Defense, 28 tests
  5. Positional Play, 52 tests
  6. Realizing an Advantage, 24 tests
  7. Endgame Tests, 35 tests

and each of these is further sub-divided. Above we have indicated a number of tests for each chapter. Each of these tests comprises a position diagram with a whose move it is indicator.

Unusually, the tests sections comprise the first 62 pages and pages 63 – 206 are the solutions. So, this book is a little unusual for a standard “tactics” book in that the bulk of the text is in form of solutions and explanations.

So, this is much, much more than a routine tactics book. As you might expect from Dvoretsky the bonuses come from the solutions. It is clear that Dvoretsky had gone to great lengths to collect the test positions, and, as we found (in the BCN office), they were an absolute delight to work on. To whet your appetite here is a pleasing example from “Tasty Tactics #2 :

And here is the solution that you may wish to cover up for now :

6. Stern-Sanakoev, corr wch 1994-99

51…Ra5-a1!!

A fine queen deflection that prepares a mating attack.

52.Qb1xa1 Qd6xh2+1 53.Rh3xh2 Nf5-g3+ 54.Kh1-g1 Bc7-b6+ 55.Re1-e3 Bb6xe3#

52.Qe4 does not help..

The same combination leads to a won endgame : 52…Qxh2+ 53.Rxh2 Ng3+ 54. Kg1 Bb6+ 55.Qd4 Bxd4+ 56.cd Rxe1+ 57.Kf2 Nf1 (57…Re3!?;57…Rh1!?), but a quicker way to finish the game is 52…Qf4! (there is a threat of both 53…Qxe4 and 53…Qf1+) 53.Qe8+ Kg7 54.Rxa1 Qxh2+! 55.Rxh2 Ng3+ 56.Kg1 Bb6+.

and here is a beautiful example from Tasty Tactics #4 :

but we won’t give the solution here : you will either have to solve this yourself or buy the book or both !

The general standard of these tests is high : even the tests labelled as “not very difficult” are challenging to say the least. Particularly instructive was the “Realizing an Advantage” section which includes subsections labelled “Technique”.  Here is an example :

and here is a particularly tricky example :

In summary, this is a wonderful book and a great testament to the legend that is Mark Dvoretsky. We cannot recommend this book highly enough and claim that is it one of the best chess books of 2019. Please get it and enjoy it !

John Upham, Cove, Hampshire 24th February 2020

John Upham
John Upham

Book Details :

  • Softcover : 208 pages
  • Publisher:  Russell Enterprises (15 Nov. 2019)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1949859061
  • ISBN-13: 978-1949859065
  • Product Dimensions: 15.2 x 0.6 x 22.9 cm

Official web site of Russell Enterprises

Chess Tests
Chess Tests

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.”