Category Archives: Training

Rewire Your Chess Brain : Endgame studies and mating problems to enhance your tactical ability

Rewire Your Chess Brain: Endgame studies and mating problems to enhance your tactical ability, Cyrus Lakdawala, Everyman Chess, August 2020
Rewire Your Chess Brain: Endgame studies and mating problems to enhance your tactical ability, Cyrus Lakdawala, Everyman Chess, August 2020

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 ever prolific Cyrus Lakdawala’s latest book offers a collection of endgame studies and problems aimed primarily at players who are not all that familiar with the world of chess compositions.

Much of the material is taken from the Facebook group Chess Endgame Studies and Compositions which Lakdawala runs with Australian GM Max Illingworth. I should declare an interest here as I’m a member of, and a very occasional contributor to, this group.

The first half of the book introduces the reader to the world of endgame studies. After a brief preliminary chapter taking us on a journey of almost a thousand years up to 1750 (though I’m not sure how Al Adli was composing in both 800 and 900), we move onto a collection of studies with the stipulation ‘White to play and draw’. Like this one (the solutions are at the end of the review).

Frédéric Lazard L’Échiquier de Paris 1949

(Lazard’s first name is anglicized to Frederick in the book. He died in 1948: perhaps this was first published in a posthumous tribute.)

The next, and longest, chapter is, you won’t be surprised to hear, devoted to ‘White to play and win’ studies.

Another short example:

Mikhail Platov Shakhmaty 1925

Then we move on from studies to problems. After a brief excursion to Mates in 1 in Chapter 4, Chapter 5 deals with mates in 2, like this one from the ever popular Fritz Giegold.

Fritz Emil Giegold Kölnische Rundschau 1967

(The first word of the newspaper is given as Kolner, without an umlaut: Wikipedia tells me the correct name.)

Another composer to feature heavily in this book is the great Puzzle King himself: Sam Loyd. Here’s an example from Chapter 6: Mates in Three Moves.

Sam Loyd Cleveland Voice 1879

Chapter 7 brings us some mates in four or more moves. Chapter 8 looks at some eccentric problems, Chapter 9 looks at study like themes in real games (yes, Topalov-Shirov, as you probably guessed, is there), and finally Chapter 10 presents us with some studies composed by young American IM Christopher Yoo.

On a personal level, I’d have liked some helpmates, which are often very attractive to practical players, and perhaps also problems with other stipulations: serieshelpmates or selfmates, for example. A short introduction to fairy pieces and conditions would also have been interesting. Something for a sequel, perhaps?

Cyrus Lakdawala has a large and devoted following, and his fans will certainly want this book. Those who don’t like his style will stay well clear. As for me, I find Everyman Cyrus a far more congenial companion than NiC Cyrus: do I detect a firmer editorial hand in removing some of the author’s more fanciful analogies? Given the nature of the book I think it works quite well: entertaining positions can take ‘entertaining’ writing but more serious material demands more serious writing.

The studies and problems are well chosen to be attractive to the keen over the board player who is not very familiar with the world of chess compositions. If you don’t know a lot about this aspect of chess and, perhaps enjoying the examples in this review, would like to investigate further, this book would be a good place to start.

The current Zeitgeist seems to demand that chess books are marketed as being good for you rather than just enjoyable and entertaining, and here it’s claimed that solving the puzzles in this book will ‘without question, undoubtedly improve the ‘real world’ tactical ability of anyone attempting to do so. Well, possibly. Solving endgame studies has been considered by many, Dvoretsky for one, to be beneficial for stronger players, and I quite understand why. I’m less convinced, though, that solving problems is the most effective way to improve your tactical skills, but it may well give you an increased appreciation of the beauty that is possible over 64 squares, and inspire you to find beautiful moves yourself.

My issue with the book concerns lack of accuracy, particularly in the problem sources. Puzzle 190 was composed by (the fairly well known) Henry D’Oyly Bernard, not by (the totally unknown) Bernard D’Oily. Frustratingly for me, I seem to remember pointing this out to the author on Facebook. Puzzle 242, a much anthologised #3 by Kipping, is given as ‘Unknown source 1911’. It took me 30 seconds (I know where to look) to ascertain that it was first published in the Manchester City News. As Fritz Giegold was born in 1903, it seems unlikely that he was precocious enough to compose Puzzle 237 in 1880.  Again, a quick check tells me it was actually published in 1961. And so it goes on.

It’s not just the sources: the final position of puzzle 203 has three, not four pins. Someone with more knowledge of chess problems might have pointed out that in Puzzle 164 Sam Loyd displays an early example of the Organ Pipes Theme.

Even the back cover, which you can see below, is remiss, in claiming that ‘In a chess puzzle, White has to force mate in a stipulated number of moves’. No – you mean ‘chess problem’, not ‘chess puzzle’.

Chess problem and study enthusiasts are, by their nature, very much concerned with accuracy. It’s unfortunate that this book doesn’t meet the high standards they’d expect.

To summarise, then: this is a highly entertaining book which will appeal to many players of all levels, especially those who’d like to find out more about studies and problems. It’s somewhat marred by the unacceptable number of mistakes, which might have been avoided with a bit of fact checking and a thorough run through by an expert in the field of chess composition.


(Apologies for the repeated diagrams in the solutions: it’s a function of the plug-in used by British Chess News.)

Richard James, Twickenham 7th January 2021

Richard James
Richard James

Book Details :

  • Paperback : 530 pages
  • Publisher:Everyman Chess (31 August. 2020)
  • Language:English
  • ISBN-10:1781945691
  • ISBN-13:978-1781945698
  • Product Dimensions: 17.45 x 2.97 x 24.08 cm

Official web site of Everyman Chess

Rewire Your Chess Brain: Endgame studies and mating problems to enhance your tactical ability, Cyrus Lakdawala, Everyman Chess, August 2020
Rewire Your Chess Brain: Endgame studies and mating problems to enhance your tactical ability, Cyrus Lakdawala, Everyman Chess, August 2020
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Practical Chess Puzzles

Practical Chess Puzzles
Practical Chess Puzzles

Here is the publishers blurb from the rear cover :

Chess puzzle books are undoubtedly popular – and with good reason. Solving chess puzzles helps to sharpen a player’s tactical and combinational skills. This ability is absolutely fundamental for chess development. You won’t get better at tennis until you can consistently hit the ball with accuracy and you won’t get better at chess until you improve your ability to calculate. It is that simple and there are no shortcuts.

Many puzzle books take a far too simplistic approach and offer endless positions where the solution is nearly always along the lines of: queen takes something check, king takes queen, check, check and a pretty mate. Aesthetically pleasing perhaps but of minimal use for actual improvement as the patterns are so familiar. Practical Chess Puzzles avoids this pitfall. The positions chosen are far more like those that actually appear on the board during the vast majority of games. Furthermore, at all stages, the puzzles are ranked, enabling the student to gauge progress and identify and correct weaknesses.

  • 600 puzzles featuring instructive, typically “game-like” positions
  • A ranking system to assess progress.

and about the authors :

Guannan Song is a FIDE Master with one International Master norm from Canada. He won the 2010 Canadian Youth Chess Championship and scored bronze at the 2015 North American Junior Chess Championships. He also played for Team Canada at the 2010 World Youth Chess Championship and the 2014 World Youth U16 Chess Olympiad. He represents Western University on board 1 of its Championship team and led his team to 2nd place at the 2019 Canadian University Chess Championship.

Dachey Lin is a FIDE Master from the United States, having achieved the title in 2016. He is a seven-time All American Team member and participated in three World Youth Chess Championship events, tying for ninth place in 2009. Though he is not as active as some of the other chess players, he enjoys following and helping other chess players and watching them grow and succeed.

Edward Song is an International Master from the United States. He won the 2014 US Cadet Championship, the 2017 Supernationals (tie), and the 2017 Denker Tournament of High School Champions (tie). He is also a four-time All American Team member and played two World Youth Chess Championships, achieving top ten both times. He is looking forward to making further progress towards grandmaster.

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.

The book consists of five chapters :

  1. Model Games : six games
  2. Combinations : 250 positions
  3. Evaluation : 100 positions
  4. Tests : 250 positions
  5. Solutions

The first aspect that leaps out is that material is largely based on real games from the last ten years. Secondly, those games have largely not found themselves into databases such as MegaBase 2020. Thirdly, many of the games are from North American tournaments and a good number featured are from the authors own practise.

The model games are entirely practical : real games played by strong but not super strong players with flaws and blunders that human beings make. They set the scene for the main course.

The Combinations chapters provides 250 unthemed positions which range from simple tactics of all types to deep combinations of tactics. The variety is excellent and, much like the Carsten Hansen book we reviewed earlier the positions are real and “messy”. Therefore very much for the tournament player rather than sanitised positions for teaching children and beginners.

Here is an example (#25) from M. Kernighan-J.Lipoka, Winnipeg, 2010.

Potentially the most interesting is the Evaluation section. The student is asked to study and pick apart the positions inorder to assess the correct outcome. Part of that assessment includes finding the best continuation. The solutions to these exercises focus on the latter it has to be said : We would like to have seen more of the assessment angle !

Here is an example (#343) from A.Jayakumar-G.Garcia, Philadelphia, 2012 :

Finally (the solutions do not count !), combining all of the previous elements, is the Tests section. If you were only to work on one section (but why would you do that ?) then this would be the most rewarding.

Here is an example (#435) from R.Ulrich-A.Wang, St Louis, 2017

In summary, the content lives up to the title and any tournament player from say 1200 Elo to perhaps 2200 will derive much benefit from working through the content. It is good to find a whole tranche of new material and ideas from real games played by mostly amateur players.

A small gripe (but not important) with the production is : Some (so why not this one) Everyman books 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 !

John Upham, Cove, Hampshire, 28th April, 2020

John Upham
John Upham

Book Details :

  • Paperback : 288 pages
  • Publisher: Everyman Chess (1 Jan. 2020)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1781945616
  • ISBN-13: 978-1781945612
  • Product Dimensions: 17.3 x 1.7 x 23.8 cm

Official web site of Everyman Chess

Practical Chess Puzzles
Practical Chess Puzzles
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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.

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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


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+ 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
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