Your Chess Battle Plan

Your Chess Battle Plan
Your Chess Battle Plan

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.

In 2019 we reviewed “Coach Yourself

GM Neil McDonald
GM Neil McDonald

From the book’s rear cover we have :

“One of the most challenging tasks in a chess game is to find the correct strategy. It is far easy to attack too randomly, to miss a vital opportunity, or even choose the wrong plan altogether. These are all mistakes frequently seen by even quite strong players.

Your Chess Battle Plan focuses on how Magnus Carlsen and other great masters decide on the best strategy in a position and then find the right ways to implement it. Clear advice shows you how to hone in on the most relevant features of a position in order to decide what your general plan needs to be. Factors that are addressed include when to exchange pieces, when to make long-range manoeuvres, when to offer sacrifices and how to identify and focus on key squares. Your Chess Battle Plan will get you thinking along the right strategic lines and using your pieces and pawns in a much more efficient and skilful manner.

  • A complete self-improvement programme.
  • Advice to evaluate the current level of planning in your own games.
  • Utilizes a structured approach, making the most of your study time.”
  • The content is divided into ten chapters as follows :

    1. Improving the Activity of your Pieces
    2. Stopping the Opponent Playing Good Moves
    3. Full Grovel Mode
    4. Punishing Faulty Freeing Moves
    5. Exploiting a Hole
    6. Manoeuvring Against Pawns
    7. Promoting a Pawn
    8. Using a Pawn as a Battering Ram
    9. Sacrificing to Gain the Initiative
    10. Deciding the Character of the Game in the Opening

    For each of these themes the author selects a dozen or so games between high quality opponents. He fast forwards to the key moment, sets the scene and then analyses the play from this moment onwards.

    To get a flavour for yourself here is an excerpt from the books’s Kindle version.

    Each of the game fragments is analysed with a friendly and candid style emphasizing the key elements not only in the position but, more importantly, in the tactics and strategy implied by the chosen plan. To get most benefit from the authors text it would be best to set-up the start position of the fragment on the board and cover the following text. Spend some time getting “into the zone” of the position and try and decide the best plan for yourself. Having done that then reveal the authors notes and see how much you have predicted. Do this time and time again in a give chapter / theme then the ideas should start occurring to yourself with less prompting.

    For a little context here is the full game (up to White 46th) that is discussed below :

    From the Promoting a Pawn chapter there is the game (49) Demchenko – Gukesh, 2019 that reached this position after white’s 46th move :

    and this is the instructional text from the author :

    “Question : Can you see killer blow White had missed?

    it looks as if Black is going to have to resign in view of the unstoppable mate, but :

    Answer : 46…Qxf5+!

    A horrible surprise for White. If he takes the queen it is mate on h1.

    47 Kh2 Qc2+ 0-1

    It will be mate on g2.

    It feels as white was somewhat unlucky in that the logical course of his plan required him to find the ‘only’ move 45.Rf3!, without which he was lost. When the opponent queens first, the stakes on he accuracy of your moves become very high. Meanwhile, Black had to find the tricky 44…Qb7+! and hope that White would overlook the deadly idea behind it. Gukesh was a 12-year old Grandmaster at the time of this game, and not likely to miss such a tactical chance!”

    In total 76 games are examined either in full or partly. This book provides a rich pot pourri of well selected examples that demonstrate the ideas of the chapter / theme.

    We think this that book will get the student thinking about his or her own potential plans for a position hopefully adding dimensions that would not normally have been considered. The rewards from studying this book are likely to be much greater confidence in middle game positions and perhaps even less fear of murky or unclear positions. Many previous middle game books examine superb examples of play from Capablanca and others where perhaps the positions are less “messy” and not as “lifelike”. These 76 examples from the author are very down to earth and will benefit the student from study.

    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 !

    In conclusion we like this book a great deal and hope to find the time to study all of it in depth : highly recommended !

    John Upham, Cove, Hampshire, 21st February, 2020

    John Upham
    John Upham

    Book Details :

    • Paperback : 318 pages
    • Publisher: Everyman Chess (15 Feb. 2020)
    • Language: English
    • ISBN-10: 1781945284
    • ISBN-13: 978-1781945285
    • Product Dimensions: 17.8 x 22.9 cm

    Official web site of Everyman Chess

    Your Chess Battle Plan
    Your Chess Battle Plan

Keep it Simple 1.d4

Keep it Simple 1.d4 : Christof Sielecki

Keep it Simple 1.d4 by Christor Sielecki
Keep it Simple 1.d4 by Christor Sielecki

“Half the variations which are calculated in a tournament game turn out to be completely superfluous. Unfortunately, no one knows in advance which half..” – Jan Timman

The value for any practising chess player of a coherent opening repertoire when playing with the white pieces is key to success, enjoyment and efficient use of study time.  Books with “Opening Repertoire” in the title are many and varied and we were intrigued to what the emphasis in this latest book from New in Chess would be.

From the books rear cover :

After the success of his award-winning book ‘Keep it Simple 1.e4’ International Master Christof Sielecki is back. His new repertoire based on 1.d4 has a similar profile: variations that are straightforward and easy to remember, and require little or no maintenance.

Sielecki has created a reliable set of opening lines for chess players of almost all levels. The major objective is to dominate Black from the opening, by simple means. You don’t need to sacrifice anything or memorize long tactical lines.

His main concept is for White to play 1.d4, 2.Nf3, 3.g3, 4.Bg2, 5.0-0 and in most cases 6.c4. Sielecki developed this repertoire while working with students who were looking for something that was easy to understand and easy to learn.

This new 1.d4 repertoire may be even easier to master than his 1.e4 recommendations, because it is such a coherent system. Sielecki always clearly explains the plans and counterplans and keeps you focused on what the position requires. Ambitious players rated 1500 or higher will get great value out of studying this extremely accessible book.

International Master Christof Sielecki
International Master Christof Sielecki

So, what is Keep it Simple 1.d4  about ?

This is a weighty (427 pages) tome advocating a repertoire for  white based on a “delayed Catalan” development approach against almost any line that black chooses.

Originally the content was provided on the popular training site Chessable. Its popularity caused New in Chess to publish in paper format.  See Chessable version

From the successful series by Boris Avrukh (and many others) we know that the conventional Catalan System (1.d4, 2.c4, 3.g3) is a highly respected opening system played at the very highest levels by the worlds top players. So, a normal Catalan would see

appear fairly promptly allowing Black various options that White might like to avoid.

By delaying c4 to say move 6 then White is denying Black some of these sharper continuations and maybe allowing White to focus more on middlegame plans rather than engaging in theoretical skirmishes at move 2, 3, 4, 5 or even.

This is the kind of opening philosophy that has encouraged the London System (and the Colle System before that) “pandemic” to dominate club chess : “We show a system that allows you to get your pieces onto sensible squares without allowing your opponent to distract you”. Of course this is a gross over simplification but many club players want an easy life !

So, something typical might be :

where White’s last move was 6.c4

which is covered in chapter 8 and 9 depending if Black captures on c4.

There is one major difference with the approach Sielecki suggests in that we get to a principled set-up via a slower move order.

The book is divided into four main parts as follows :

  1. Black’s classical / symmetrical set-ups : 1.d4 d5 2. Nf3
  2. Black’s …g7-g6 based set-ups : 1.d4 Nf6 2.Nf5 g6 3.g3
  3. Black’s flexible set-ups : 1.d4 Nf6 2.Nf3 e6 3.g3
  4. Black’s sharp and offbeat defences

The author states he has three “KIS” guidelines :

  • The chosen lines are simple to learn;
  • It must be possible to find your way if you forget your lines;
  • Choose lines that may not be most critical, but uncomfortable for the opponent

All the usual (and many unusual) structures from Black are given a detailed treatment :

Chigorin, Tarrasch, Grunfeld, King’s Indian, various forms of Benoni, Modern, Queen’s Indian, Benko b5 ideas, Dutch, Old Indian, Wade Defence and other odds and ends.

An interesting comment we noted elsewhere was from IM John Donaldson : “A worthy follow-up with the author achieving the near impossible in carving out a cohesive repertoire based on 1.d4 2.Nf3 and 3.g3 against all but a handful of Black replies. The most amazing magic trick is how the author makes the Slav and Queens Gambit Accepted disappear – namely by adopting the sequence 1.d4 d5 2.Nf3 Nf6 3.g3. This reviewer gives two thumbs up for for Keep It Simple 1.d4. It is full of interesting variations and ideas for players rated 2200 on up who are looking for a positionally oriented repertoire that is not overly theoretical.”

and “As promised, the repertoire is simple, but not so simple that it is not of practical value. IM Sielecki has taken great pains to research the material carefully and package it into a repertoire that is relatively consistent throughout.”–Carsten Hansen “American Chess Magazine ”

and “I like this particular repertoire very much as it’s one which could probably hold the reader in good stead for many years to come. His introductions, conclusions and textual explanations are instructive and ones that a human can readily appreciate, learn from and understand. As I think that I should keep my advice ‘simple’, then I would say ‘just get it’!”–Glenn Flear, Grandmaster “Yearbook 134”

So, who what is the most suitable audience for this book ? We would say that a club player of 2000 plus who wishes to upgrade their white opening into a Queen’s Gambit style structure would enjoy the content. Maybe they have been playing the London, Colle, Stonewall or Veresov systems and want to progress their chess : this book is ideal for that upgrade. It is also good for those who play a conventional move order looking for a more positional repertoire.

As a bonus for the observant, this book provides material for those wishing to kick-off with 1.Nf3 although you will need to deal with 1.Nf3 c5 of course !

As with every recent New in Chess 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 (mostly !) 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.

At the rear is the customary detailed Index of Variations and following that there is an Index of Players where the numbers refer to pages.

In summary this book provides a pragmatic and positional repertoire for White against most of the all the commonly encountered responses to 1.d4 and 2.Nf3, 3.g3 and an eventual c4.  There is a host of interesting new and dangerous ideas that help you fight for the whole point with the white pieces : recommended !

John Upham, Cove, Hampshire, February 19th 2020

John Upham
John Upham

Book Details :

  • Hardcover : 432 pages
  • Publisher: New In Chess (1 Dec. 2019)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 9056918672
  • ISBN-13: 978-9056918675
  • Product Dimensions: 17.6 x 2.7 x 23.1 cm

Official web site of New in Chess

Keep it Simple 1.d4 by Christof Sielecki
Keep it Simple 1.d4 by Christof Sielecki

Remembering John Frederick Keeble (27-viii-1855 19-ii-1939)

John Frederick Keeble
John Frederick Keeble

We remember John Frederick Keeble who passed away on February 19th 1939

From The Oxford Companion to Chess by Hooper & Whyld :

Problemist and chronicler who lived in Norwich all his life. He edited the chess column of the Norwich Mercury from 1902 lo 1912, contributed many significant articles elsewhere, investigated a number of chess questions, and established the burial place of several great players and arranged the tending of their graves. He lived at only two addresses for 73 years, worked for the railway company for 53 years, and was a member of the Norfolk and Norwich chess dub for 61 consecutive years. Winner of the club championship in 1884, he did not compete again until 1933 and then won it three years in succession.

John Frederick Keeble
John Frederick Keeble

Here is his (italian) Wikipedia entry

John Frederick Keeble
John Frederick Keeble
An English Bohemian
An English Bohemian

Kings of the Chessboard

Kings of the Chessboard
Kings of the Chessboard

“Grandmaster Paul van der Sterren (1956 ), was one of the strongest chess players of the Netherlands. He became twice national champion and represented his country eight times during the Chess Olympiads. In 2001 he retired from being an active player and focused on writing books drawn from his rich chess experience. This is his first English chess book written for Thinkers Publishing.”

Paul van der Sterren
Paul van der Sterren

Many chess players are strikingly ignorant of their game’s heritage, so there’s always a place for a new book offering readers a quick spin through chess history.

There are, broadly speaking, several ways this could be approached: a selection of Famous Games for those who haven’t seen them before, a history of the world championship itself, or an essay on the development of chess style and opening theory over the centuries.

Van der Sterren’s book seems to combine all three approaches. How does it fare?

As I have a particular interest in pre-20th century chess history I decided to dive in at the beginning.

We start, not unreasonably, with Philidor. After some biographical information we might be looking forward to seeing how he played.

Alas, not. The author makes the extraordinary claim that “It is true that some fragments of his games have made it into today’s databases, but their authenticity is doubtful and it is likely that these are mostly fictitious games invented by him for the purpose of teaching or demonstrating a particular point he wanted to make.”.

Really? Is van der Sterren confusing Philidor with Greco, perhaps? While it’s true that the games in his books, and there were only a few, were fictitious, my database has one piece of analysis from 1749 along with 60 complete and 5 partial games against named and known opponents from between 1780 and 1795, all but the first played in London. They were collected by Philidor’s friend George Atwood and many of them were published by George Walker in 1835. There is no doubt at all of their authenticity.

We then move onto the match(es) between La Bourdonnais and McDonnell in 1834.  A complete game would have been good but all we get is the Famous Position where the Frenchman forced resignation with three pawns on the seventh rank, without any explanation as to how the position arose.

Then comes the first international tournament: London 1851. We meet Staunton and Anderssen, and, guess what, we see the finales of the Evergreen and Immortal Games. Again, if you really want to publish them because your readers might not have seen them before, why not give the complete games?

According to van der Sterren, “Now Black has to play the defensive move 20… Na6.”. Historians disagree about whether or not Kieseritzky resigned before playing this move (he claimed he did), or whether he played the move and Anderssen announced mate, but why not mention the much better, but still insufficient, defence 20… Ba6?

Come to think of it, why not mention that both the Immortal and Evergreen games were casual encounters in which Anderssen could afford to take risks?

Moving on, inevitably, to Morphy, by this point I started to play a game with myself, guessing what I’d find in each chapter.  Opera House game? Tick! Queen sac v Paulsen? Surprisingly not.

On to Steinitz. Bardeleben at Hastings? Tick! Van der Sterren talks about Steinitz’s advocacy of positional chess, and then aims to justify the inclusion of this tactical game atypical of his late style by incorporating some callout boxes labelled ‘Misunderstandings’ in a rather ugly childish font: something not repeated elsewhere in the book.

Lasker? Exchange Lopez ending v Capa? Tick! Then, on p49, in a moment of carelessness, we meet ‘Dawid Janowksi’,

On the same page we see a Famous Pawn Ending between Lasker and Tarrasch:

We’re told that “By looking at the position in a concrete way instead of relying on general considerations, it is possible to find a concrete path to salvation for Black.”. It’s White, not Black, who finds a concrete path to salvation by playing, after 40. h4 Kg4, 41. Kg6  rather than the losing Kf6. Although the annotations throughout the book are mostly verbal we do get a variation which demonstrates why Kf6 loses.

Capablanca? Qb2 v Bernstein? Tick! Rook ending v Tartakower? Tick! But not full games.

Alekhine? v Réti in 1925? Tick!  Bogo in 1922? Tick! Again, only the closing stages so we don’t get to see how he reached those positions.

To be fair, the book improves as it approaches the 21st century, and we start meeting players the author knew or knows well.

Here, for instance, is a position from a game I must have seen at the time, but had forgotten about.

This is Anand-Karpov Las Palmas 1996. Here, Vishy played Bxh7+!.

“Anand must have felt there is bigger game to be hunted than just a pawn. Still, to forego a perfectly reasonable option with an extra pawn and a draw in the bag, in favour of a piece sacrifice with unpredictable consequences, is not a decision many players would have made. It is a sign of self-confidence, great powers of calculation and bravery; in other words the hallmark of the most pure, sparkling talent.”

This is typical of van der Sterren’s style of annotation: words rather than variations and a tendency towards hero-worship.

Anand himself is, typically, more modest: “Here, I spent a few seconds checking 21. Rxd5 which leaves White with an extra pawn, but as I mentioned earlier I couldn’t be bothered. I saw Bxh7+ and didn’t waste any more time on Rxd5. I then spent some time analysing Bxh7+, and didn’t see a defence for Black. I then realized that I was too excited to analyse and decided to get it over with. He had hardly any time left already and I was sure that he wouldn’t find a defence.”

Does the book succeed? Although I don’t like being negative in my reviews, I’m afraid not. It suffers from trying to do too much in too short a space, and from a lack of historical knowledge and awareness. If you know anything at all about the history of our beautiful games you’ll have seen almost everything before, and you’ll be frustrated by the broad brushstrokes.

Back in 1987, Mike Fox and I were criticised by some reviewers for including a chapter of Greatest Games in The Complete Chess Addict, but they failed to understand that our target market was social players who wouldn’t have seen them before. By the same token, there may still be a market for a collection of Famous Games, Famous Combinations and Famous Endgame Studies. There are several other histories of the world championship, and treatises on the development of chess style and opening theory, but books that are up to date and whose authors have something new to say are always welcome. This book doesn’t really do any of these things very well, and there is very little original content or thought. If you try to be everything to everyone you end up being nothing to nobody.

However, the book is, for the most part, nicely produced, with a lot of attractive photographs. For someone just starting out in competitive chess who would like to know more about the game’s history, this could be just what they want to pique their interest and encourage them to study this fascinating aspect of chess in more detail.

Richard James, Twickenham, 18th February 2020

Richard James
Richard James

Book Details :

  • Paperback : 264 pages
  • Publisher: Thinkers Publishing; 1 edition (20 May 2019)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 9492510537
  • ISBN-13:  978-9492510532
  • Product Dimensions: 17.1 x 1.9 x 23.5 cm

Official web site of Thinkers Publishing

Kings of the Chessboard
Kings of the Chessboard

Remembering Conel Hugh O’Donel Alexander CMG CBE (15-ii-1974)

Conel Hugh O'Donel Alexander
Conel Hugh O’Donel Alexander

We remember Conel Hugh O’Donel Alexander CMG CBE who passed away on 15-ii-1974

Here is his detailed Wikipedia entry

Conel Hugh O'Donel Alexander
Conel Hugh O’Donel Alexander

From Chessgames.com :

“Conel Hugh O’Donel Alexander was born in Cork, Ireland. Awarded the IM title in 1950 at its inception and the IMC title in 1970, he was British Champion in 1938 and 1956. During the Second World War, he worked at Bletchley Park with Harry Golombek and Sir Philip Stuart Milner-Barry, deciphering German Enigma codes and later for the Foreign Office. Alexander finished 2nd= at Hastings (1937/38) tied with Paul Keres after Samuel Reshevsky and ahead of Salomon Flohr and Reuben Fine. He held Mikhail Botvinnik to an equal score (+1, -1) in the 1946 Anglo-Soviet Radio Match, and won Hastings (1946/47) while finishing equal first at Hastings (1953/54). He represented England on six Olympiad teams. Alexander was also an author of note. He passed away in Cheltenham in 1974.”

Conel Hugh O'Donel Alexander
Conel Hugh O’Donel Alexander

From The Oxford Companion to Chess by Hooper & Whyld :

International Master (1950), International Correspondence Chess Master (1970). Born in Cork, he settled in England as a boy. In spite or because of his intense application at the board his tournament performances were erratic. From about 1937 to the mid 1950s he was regarded as the strongest player in Great Britain, although he won only two (1938, 1956) of the 13 British Chess Federation Championships in which he competed; he played for the BCF in six Olympiads from 1933 to 1958. Holding a senior post at the Foreign Office, he was not permitted to play in countries under Soviet control or influence; but when he did compete abroad he achieved only moderate results. His best tournament achievement was at Hastings 1937-8 when he was second (+4=5) equal with Keres after Reshevsky ahead of Fine and Flohr; but he is better remembered for his tie with Bronstein for first prize at Hastings 1953-4. He won his game against Bronstein in 120 moves after several adjournments, and the outcome became a kind of serial in the press, arousing great national interest in the game. Alexander was the author of several books on chess, notably Alekhine’s Best Games of Chess 1938-1945 (1949) and A Book of Chess (1973).

Golombek and Hartston, The Best Games of C.H.O’D. Alexander (1976).

Conel Hugh O'Donel Alexander and Sir Stuart Milner-Barry
Conel Hugh O’Donel Alexander and Sir Stuart Milner-Barry

From The Encyclopedia of Chess by Anne Sunnucks :

For many years the chess correspondent of The Sunday Times, The Spectator and the Evening News. There was probably no “chess name that was better known to the non-chess-playing element of the British public than that of Hugh Alexander. His victory over Russian Grandmaster David Bronstein at Hastings in 1953, after a struggle which lasted for 120 moves and took 13 hours, made chess front page news in the British press.

David Bronstein vs Conel Hugh O'Donel Alexander
David Bronstein vs Conel Hugh O’Donel Alexander

Born in Cork on 19th April 1909, Alexander picked up the game at prep school at the age of 8. In 1926 he won the Boy’s Championship, later to be recognised as the British Boy’s Championship, at Hastings. After coming down from Cambridge University, where he won the university championship four times, Alexander taught mathematics at Winchester College from 1932 to 1938. He later joined the Foreign Office.

One of the few British players who might have reached World Championship class if he had chosen to devote sufficient time to the game, Alexander was at his best when he faced a top class opponent. During his chess career, he scored victories over two World Champions Botvinnik and Euwe, and he beat a number of other Grandmasters, international tournaments were all at Hastings where he came =2nd in 1938 with Keres, half a point behind Reshevsky and ahead of Fine and Flohr; 1st in 1947 and =1st with Bronstein in 1953. In 1951 tournament he came =5th.

Conel Hugh O'Donel Alexander playing Alberic O'Kelly de Galway in a publicity shot before the start of the Hastings Premier., probably Hastings 1953-54, the year Alexander tied first with Bronstein : thanks to Leonard Barden
Conel Hugh O’Donel Alexander playing Alberic O’Kelly de Galway in a publicity shot before the start of the Hastings Premier., probably Hastings 1953-54, the year Alexander tied first with Bronstein : thanks to Leonard Barden

His other hobbies included bridge, croquet and philately, He was the Author of Alekhine’s Best Games of Chess 1938-1945 (Bell), Chess (Pitman) and joint author with T.J. Beach of Learn Chess; A New Way for All (Pergamon Press); Fischer v. Spassky: Reykjavik 1972 (Penguin); A Book of Chess (Hutchinson) 1973; The Penguin Book of Chess Positions (Penguin) 1973. He died on 15th February 1974.

The British Team at Amsterdam. Left to right : Barden, Clarke, Penrose, Wade, Golombek and Alexander
The British Team at Amsterdam. Left to right : Barden, Clarke, Penrose, Wade, Golombek and Alexander
The Penguin Book of Chess Positions
The Penguin Book of Chess Positions
Fischer v. Spassky : Reykjavik 1972
Fischer v. Spassky : Reykjavik 1972
Alekhine's Best Games of Chess : 1938-45
Alekhine’s Best Games of Chess : 1938-45

Remembering Cecil Valentine De Vere (14-ii-1846 09-ii-1875)

Cecil Valentine De Vere (14-ii-1846 09-ii-1875)
Cecil Valentine De Vere (14-ii-1846 09-ii-1875)

We remember Cecil Valentine De Vere (14-ii-1846 09-ii-1875)

From The Oxford Companion to Chess by Hooper & Whyld :

Cecil Valentine De Vere, pseudonym of Valentine Brown, winner of the first official British Championship tournament organized by the British Chess Association in 1866. He learned the game in London before 1858 and practised with Boden and the Irish player Francis Burden (1830-82). De Vere played with unusual ease and rapidity, never bothering to study the books. His features were handsome (an Adonis says MacDonnell), his manner pleasant, his conduct polite. He “handled the pieces gracefully, never “hovered” over them, nor fiercely stamped them down upon the board … nor exulted when he gained a victory…in short, he was a highly chivalrous player.’ So wrote Steinitz who conceded odds in a match against De Vere and was soundly beaten, (See pawn and move.) De Vere’s charm brought him many friends.

At about the time that he won the national championship his mother died, a loss he felt deeply, “The only person who ever cared for me”.

Receiving a small legacy he gave up his job. which Burden had obtained for him at Lloyds the underwriters, and never took another. He entered some strong tournaments but always trailed just behind the greatest half-dozen players of his time. His exceptional talent was accompanied by idleness and lack of enthusiasm for a hard task. On the occasion of the Dundee tournament of 1867 he took long walks in the Scottish countryside with G. A. MacDonnell, who writes that a ‘black cloud’ descended on De Vere. It may have been the discovery that he had tuberculosis; more probably he revealed to the older man a deep-rooted despair, the cause perhaps of his later addiction to alcohol.

In 1872 Boden handed over the chess column of The Field to provide him with a small income; but in 1873 the column was given to Steinitz on account of De Vere’s indolence and drunkenness. At the end of Nov, 1874 his illness took a turn for the worse, he could hardly walk and ate little. His friends paid to send him to Torquay for the sea air, and there he died ten weeks later. He had failed to nourish a natural genius in respect of which, according to Steinitz, De Vere was “second to no man, living or dead*.

Cecil Valentine De Vere (14-ii-1846 09-ii-1875)
Cecil Valentine De Vere (14-ii-1846 09-ii-1875)

From The Encyclopedia of Chess by Anne Sunnucks :

First official British Chess Champion, Cecil de Vere was born on 14th February 1845 (in Montrose, Angus, Scotland : Ed.) and was taught to play chess when he was 12 by a strong London player, Francis Burden. By the time he was 15, he was a regular visitor to “The Divan” on a Saturday afternoon.

At the age of 19 De Vere played a number of games against MacDonnell winning the majority of them. So great was his promise that the City of London Chess Club raised a purse for a match between him an Steinitz, Steinitz giving the odds of a Pawn and a move. De Vere won.

In 1866 the first British Championship, organised by the British Chess Association was held. De Vere won, ahead of MacDonnell and Bird, and so became the first British Champion at the age of 21.

The following year in the Paris 1867 tournament, he was 5th out of a field of 13, and he tied for 3rd prize in the Dundee Congress, ahead of Blackburne, having beaten Steinitz in their individual game.

While he was in Dundee, De Vere learned that he was suffering from Tuberculosis. The news changed his whole life. Having recently inherited a few hundred pounds, he gave up his job at Lloyd’s and started living on his capital, determined to enjoy the few years he had left. He continued to play chess, but his performances were marred by his newly acquired addiction to the bottle.

De Vere was once described as “A Morphy without book knowledge”. His talent was great enough for him to be able to take on the leading masters of the day without any study or preparation, but more than that is needed to reach the top. De Vere lacked the strength of character and health to fulfill his early promise. He died a few days before his thirtieth birthday.

From The Encyclopedia of Chess by Harry Golombek :

The first official British Champion and a player of great promise who might well have attained world fame had he not be carried off by that nineteenth-century British scourge, tuberculosis, before he attained the age of thirty.

Most of the details of his life are to be found in the writings of G.A. MacDonnell, who met him when De Vere was fourteen and was so struck by his good looks as to refer to him as “Adonis”.

His first tournament success came in 1866 at the London Congress organised at the St. George’s Club in the first few days and then in other venues by the British Chess Association. De Vere played in two events, a Handicap tournament and a Challenge Cup event which was in fact the first British Championship tournament.

The Handicap tournament was run on the same lines as London 1851, i.e. it was a knock-out event with matches of three games, draws not counting. De Vere met Steinitz in roudn 1 and lost by 2-1.

The first British championship tournament was an all-play-all event in which the ties were decided by the first player to win three games and in which the championship went to the winner of the biggest number of games. De Vere was en easy winner with 12 wins, followed by MacDonnell and J.I. Minchin 6, H.E Bird 3 and Sir John Trelawney 0.

Thus De Vere was the first British Champion and at that age of twenty-one. A photograph of him about this time shows that he bore a remarkable likeness to the international master John Nunn, who won the European Junior championship a hundred years after De Vere’s death.

De Vere confirmed his position as a leading British player by coming first in another tournament in 1866 at Redcar in North Yorkshire. This was an event open to all British amateurs and among his opponents were Owen, Thorold and Wisker.

It was in the following year that he commenced his career in international chess. In the important double-round tournament at Paris he occupied an honourable fifth place out of 13 players. At Dundee (the third congress of the British Chess Association) he finished equal 3rd with MacDonnell, below Steinitz but beating him in their individual game and coming ahead of Blackburne.

It was during his visit to Scotland (he went to stay with relatives after the tournament) that he learnt he was afflicted with consumption. This knowledge, together with the death of his mother, drove him to drink which was to accelerate his end.

inheriting a few hundred pounds, presumably from his mother, he gave up his post at Lloyd’s and decided to live on his capital together with such additional sums as he could earn from chess.

In this respect his addiction to drink proved a handicap. For example, he held the post of chess editor of The Field in 1872 but lost it after some eighteen months through inattention to work.

Meanwhile he continued to show his great talent for the game. Defending the title of British Champion in a very strong field at the next British Chess Association congress (1868/9) he cam equal first with Blackburne but lost the play-off at the London Club in March 1869.

In 1870 at the very strong Baden-Baden double-round tournament, he came equal sixth with Winawer but was much outdistanced by Blackburne who came third with 3.5 more pints than De Vere. But already his illness was taking a strong hold on him. At his next and last appearance in a tournament of note. London 1872, he tied with Zukertort and MacDonnell =3rd out of 8 players. In the play-off for third and fourth prizes he lost to MacDonnell and scratched to Zukertort, Later in the year he did tie for first place with Wisker in a weaker British championship tournament and, with De Vere now clearly ill, Wisker had an easy victory in the play-off.

At his last appearance at a chess event, a match at the City of London Club between that Club and Bermondsey, he looked a dying man. A subscription was made to send him to Torquay but it was too late and he died within five days of his thirtieth birthday.

Here are some of his games at chessgames.com

Here is his Wikipedia entry

The English Morphy?: The Life and Games of Cecil De Vere, First British Chess Champion by Owen Hindle & Robert H. Jones
The English Morphy?: The Life and Games of Cecil De Vere, First British Chess Champion by Owen Hindle & Robert H. Jones

Happy Birthday Michael Lipton (13-ii-1937)

Michael Lipton
Michael Lipton

Happy Birthday Michael Lipton (13-ii-1937)

From The Encyclopedia of Chess by Anne Sunnucks :

Michael Lipton is a British problem composer. Born on 13th February 1937, Lipton is a Fellow of All Souls, Oxford and an economist at The University of Sussex.

His 350 problems consist mainly of modern two-movers. His British Chess Problem Society lecture in 1956, The German Two-Mover, led to so great an interest in modern trends that Great Britain was transformed from one of the most backward to one of the most forward countries for the composition of modern two-movers. Lipton, Rice and Barnes were chiefly responsible for this revolution.

Lipton had edited problem sections of Correspondence Chess and the Sunday Citizen. He is co-author with R.C.O. Matthews and J.M.Rice of Chess Problems : Introduction to an Art and co-author with J.M.Rice and B.P.Barnes of The Two Move Chess Problem : Tradition and Development.

The Two Move Chess Problem : Tradition and Development
The Two Move Chess Problem : Tradition and Development
Chess Problems : Introduction to an Art
Chess Problems : Introduction to an Art

Happy Birthday GM Glenn Flear (12-ii-1959)

Glenn Curtis Flear
Glenn Curtis Flear

Birthday of GM Glenn Flear (12-ii-1959)

From Chessgames.com :

“Glenn Curtis Flear was born in Leicester, England. He was awarded the IM title in 1983 and GM title in 1987. While still an IM, he shocked the chess world by winning the GLC Chess Challenge (1986) ahead of a field that included Short, Chandler, Nunn, Portisch, Polugaevsky, Spassky and Larsen. He married Christine Flear during that tournament. He represented England at the Dubai Olympiad in 1986.”

Here is his Wikipedia entry

GM Glenn Curtis Flear
GM Glenn Curtis Flear

GM Glenn Curtis Flear
GM Glenn Curtis Flear

Happy Birthday IM Simon Ansell (11-ii-1975)

IM Simon Ansell
IM Simon Ansell

Happy Birthday IM Simon Ansell (11-ii-1975)

Simon Ansell
Simon Ansell

IM Simon Ansell
IM Simon Ansell

Opening Repertoire : The Ruy Lopez

Opening Repertoire : The Ruy Lopez
Opening Repertoire : The Ruy Lopez

Joshua Doknjas is a FIDE Master from Canada who has enjoyed success competing internationally. He has won seven national titles for his age and tied for 1st in the 2019 U18 North American Youth Chess Championship. This is his second book for Everyman Chess.

From the book’s rear cover we have :

“The Ruy Lopez is perhaps the most classical of all chess openings. It dates back to the 16th century and has featured in the opening repertoire of every modern world champion. It is a highly flexible variation: Bobby Fischer used it to create numerous powerful strategic masterpieces. In the hands of Anatoly Karpov it led to many of his trademark positional squeezes, whereas Garry Kasparov often used it as a springboard for his typically powerful attacks.

Opening Repertoire: The Ruy Lopez is a modern examination of this perennial favourite. Joshua Doknjas has put together a repertoire for White based firmly around contemporary trends in the Lopez. He examines all aspects of this highly complex opening and provides the reader with well-researched, fresh, and innovative analysis. Each annotated game has valuable lessons on how to play the opening and contains instructive commentary on typical middlegame plans.

  • A complete repertoire for White in the Ruy Lopez
  • A question and answer approach provides an excellent study method

Everyman Chess have already produced several books of high quality on chess openings and have now added another one.

Here is a sample pdf

The book is divided into ten main chapters as follows :

  1. The Zaitsev : 9…Bb7 and Sidelines
  2. The Chigorin : 9…Na5
  3. The Breyer : 9…Nb8
  4. The Anti-Berlin : 4.d3
  5. The Open Variation
  6. The Anti-Marshall : 8.a4
  7. Systems with 5…b5 and 5…Bc5
  8. Systems with …g6 and …Nge7
  9. The Schliemann
  10. Rare Lines

The Ruy Lopez has been called the mother of chess openings and is undoubtedly the most challenging for anyone who plays the open game with the black pieces.

The book is divided into 3 parts. Part 1 is solely dedicated to the closed Lopez : a great favourite of Lev Aronian. Three main variations are looked at after 5…Be7 6.d4 b5 7.Bb3 d6 8.c3 00 9.h3 when 9…Bb7; the Zaitzev 9…Na5 the Chigorin; a great favourite of Paul Keres and 9…Nb8 favoured by Anatoly Karpov are each considered in detail.

The lines are investigated by examining games played by those of at least 2500 Elo with lots of discussion of other possibilities and questions giving the reader the chance to see if they can work out the correct path.

A Grischuk win against the Ziatzev is analysed, Alexei Shirov shows us how to face the Chigorin with nice wins by Ray Robson with Grischuk and Maxime Vachier-Legarve dismanting the Breyer Variation.

Part2 starts by looking at the notorious Berlin Defence and recommends that White plays 4.d3 which has been the move favoured By Magnus Carlsen and Fabiano Caruana in recent years.
Both 4…d6 and 4…Bc5 are studied the latter in some depth.

The Open variation with 5…Nxe4 by black is analysed in Chapter 5.

The main line 6.d4 b5 7.Bb3 d5 8.d4xe5 Be6 9.c3 is chosen as surprise recommendation as I have played the Open Variation for about 30 years and always thought 9.Nbd2 chosen by Karpov in many games to be the strongest continuation. After 9…Bc5 10 Qd3 is Doknjas suggestion probably chosen to avoid the dangerous Dilworth Attack.
The top game here is a rapid game between heavyweight giants Anish Giri and Vishy Anand and, as usual, White wins.

There is no analysis of the Marshall Defence as 8.a4 avoiding it is the repertoire recommendation.

This was Kasparov’s choice in game 1 of his 1993 PCA world championship match versus Nigel Short. Again, games by Giri and Vachier-Legarve are given as examples for White players. Unusually there is a draw for Black when Ding Liren defends the black side : unusual for this book which has a heavy white bias.

The Arkhangelsk with both 6…Bb7 and the very modern 6…Bc5 often favoured by Shirov is discussed with 7.d3 recommended against the former and 7.c3 against the latter.

The closing chapters in Part 3 look at the rarer moves 3…Nge7 3…g6 3…Nd4 and 3..d6 lines are covered next.

For completeness, there is a chapter on the 3…f5 Schliemann and 4.d3 is the recommended way forward when white intends to snatch a pawn and challenge black to prove he has compensation.

This book is aimed at players from about 120 ECF and upwards though promising juniors who play 1.e4 and are wondering what to choose against the open game are likely to benefit.

The book is nicely presented with good clear print and many diagrams as well as lots of good games.

Colin Lyne, Farnborough, Hampshire, 8th February, 2020

Colin Lyne
Colin Lyne

Book Details :

  • Paperback : 288 pages
  • Publisher: Everyman Chess (30 Nov. 2019)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1781945411
  • ISBN-13: 978-1781945414
  • Product Dimensions: 17.1 x 1.8 x 23.8 cm

Official web site of Everyman Chess

Opening Repertoire : The Ruy Lopez
Opening Repertoire : The Ruy Lopez

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