We wish Stephen Gordon all the best on his birthday, this day (September 4th) in 1986.
From Wikipedia :
Stephen J. Gordon (born 4 September 1986) is an English chess grandmaster.
In September 2004 he took a break from his A-level studies at The Blue Coat School, Oldham to compete in the thirteenth Monarch Assurance Isle of Man International.
In 2005, while still a FIDE Master, he finished 6th in the British Championships ahead of a Grandmaster and several International Masters.
At the EU Individual Open Chess Championship held at Liverpool in 2006, he led the tournament after eight rounds and finished a very creditable (joint) second, a half point behind winner Nigel Short and level with Luke McShane among others.
Probably his best result to date however, was second place in the 2007 British Championship, narrowly losing his share of the lead in the final round. In previous rounds, he defeated both tournament victor Jacob Aagaard and previous champion Jonathan Rowson.
By 2008, his rating had reached grandmaster level, although the title itself had not yet been secured. At the British Championship in Liverpool, he almost repeated his performance of the previous year, by taking a share of third place. He was the British under-21 Champion each consecutive year between 2005 and 2008. He became a grandmaster on 1 August 2009.
He has been one of the co-presenters of the chess podcast The Full English Breakfast since its inaugural show in October 2010.
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.
“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 :
Immunizing Yourself Against Blunders
Training Your Tactical Imagination
Teaching Yourself to Calculate
Judging the Right Moment to Use a Combination
Supercharging Your Feel for the Initiative
Know Yourself : Diagnosing Positional Mistakes
Learn How to Shut a Piece out of the Game
Getting Full Value from Your King
Wearing Down the Opponent’s Pawn Structure
Practice Planning on a Grand Scale
Mastering Pawn Breakthroughs in Endgames
Understanding the Essentials of the Endgame
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!
European Cup, Porto Carras 2018
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!
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.
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 :
Exercises to Set 49
White to move
Hint : Making room for the right strike
and the solution is :
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 !
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 :
White to move
Hint : Exploit the many weaknesses in Black’s camp.
and he solution is
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 :
White to move
Hint : Pursuing your dreams often comes at the cost of squashing somebody else’s aspirations
and the solution is :
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….
We offer best wishes to GM Daniel King on his birthday, this day (August 28th) in 1963.
From Wikipedia :
King achieved the International Master title in 1982 and the Grandmaster title in 1989. He won minor tournaments around the world and recorded promising results at some prestigious events, for example 4th= at Bern 1987, 4th= British Championship 1987, 1st= (with Boris Gelfand) at the Sydney Open 1988, 5th= London 1988, 2nd= Dortmund 1988 and 2nd (after Bent Larsen) London 1989. At the Geneva Young Masters in 1990, he shared first place with the Australian Ian Rogers.
King later pursued a media career as presenter, commentator, reporter and analyst, and this likely affected his playing career by limiting the opportunity for dedicated research and study. Nevertheless, he has played professionally for more than 20 years at a high level, including the top leagues of the Bundesliga and 4NCL. In 1996, he won the Bunratty Masters, an Irish tournament with an impressive list of previous winners, including John Nunn, Sergei Tiviakov and Peter Svidler.
King represented England at the European Team Chess Championship (Haifa 1989) and at the Reykjavik VISA Chess Summit of 1990, the latter being the scene of a victory over the strong Soviet team and a team silver medal.
King is known as ‘Dan’.
He coaches some of the UK’s brightest chess prospects. He has written more than 15 chess books on topics ranging from the preparatory Winning with the Najdorf to the self-tutoring How Good is your Chess and Test Your Chess.
We wish WFM Helen Milligan all the best of her birthday, this day (August 25th) in 1962.
From Wikipedia :
Helen Milligan (born Helen Scott; 25 August 1962) is a Scottish-New Zealand chess player holding the FIDE titles of Candidate Master (CM) and Woman FIDE Master (WFM), and three-time Asian senior women’s champion.
In 2004 Milligan co-authored the book “Chess for Children” with Grandmaster Murray Chandler. She is an officer of the New Zealand Chess Federation, and works as a coach at Murray Chandler’s National Chess Centre in Auckland.
Milligan has won or jointly won the Scottish women’s championship three times: in 1982, 1986 and 1988. In 1983 she was joint British ladies’ champion with Rani Hamid.
Milligan represented Scotland in eleven Women’s Chess Olympiads between 1982 and 2006. Since 2008 she has played for New Zealand in this competition, having transferred national federations in 2007.
Milligan became Oceania women’s champion at the Queenstown Chess Classic tournament in January 2012. She also competed in Women’s Zonal Chess Championships in Bath 1987, Blackpool 1990, Delden 1993, Saint Vincent 1999, and Gold Coast 2009.
She won the Asian senior women’s champion title in 2015 in Larestan, Iran, 2016 in Mandalay, Myanmar and 2017 in Auckland.
Helen co-authored Chess for Children with Murray Chandler in 2004 :
There have been so many headlines about Britain’s 12-year-old chess prodigy, David Howell, that it nice to turn our attention to someone at the other end of the spectrum. Perhaps few readers will have heard of 53-year-old Jeff Horner- unless, that is, you have played on the north of England chess circuit, where Jeff has been dominating events since before I was born. My first meeting with Jeff was at Bolton Chess Club at the age of six, but it was another ten years before I fancied my chances against him. And it wasn’t just me who feared him. Few indeed were the top players who traveled “Up North” and got the better of Horner.
I still remember Tony Miles, fresh from his historic victory against World Champion Anatoly Karpov, stopping off at the Blackpool Open. Miles had become a legend overnight but nobody bothered to tell Jeff, who calmly trounced him just as he would us. Two weeks ago David Howell had to play Jeff Horner in Blackpool. Both players needed two wins from their last two games to earn an international master (IM) result. Would it be Britain’s youngest new IM or our oldest new IM?
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 :
Studying of Openings
Background of Openings
Pawn Structures and Practical Examples
Discussing the Variations
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.
For 13.g4 see the game Petrosian – Ilivitky, Moscow 1965.
In this case it was best to retreat to d7.
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 :
The Tartakower Variation of the Queen’s Gambit Declined
The Lasker Variation of the QGD
The Tarrasch Variation (including the Hennig-Schara Gambit)
The Noteboom (or Abrahams) Variation
The Ragozin Variation
The Cambridge Springs Variation
The Exchange (Carlsbad) Variation
The Rubinstein Variation
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 :
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 !
We note the passing today (August 22nd) in 1870 of William Lewis of the Lewis Counter Gambit.
From Wikipedia :
William Lewis (1787–1870) was an English chess player and author, nowadays best known for the Lewis Countergambit and for being the first player ever to be described as a Grandmaster of the game.
Born in Birmingham, William Lewis moved as a young man to London where he worked for a merchant for a short period. He became a student of chess player Jacob Sarratt, but in later years he showed himself to be rather ungrateful towards his teacher. Although he considered Sarratt’s Treatise on the Game of Chess (1808) a “poorly written book”, in 1822 Lewis published a second edition of it three years after Sarratt’s death in direct competition with Sarratt’s own superior revision published posthumously in 1821 by Sarratt’s poverty-stricken widow. In 1843, many players contributed to a fund to help the old widow, but Lewis’ name is not on the list of subscribers.
Around 1819 Lewis was the hidden player inside the Turk (a famous automaton), meeting all-comers successfully. He suggested to Johann Maelzel that Peter Unger Williams, a fellow ex-student of Sarratt, should be the next person to operate inside the machine. When P. U. Williams played a game against the Turk, Lewis recognised the old friend from his style of play (the operator could not see his opponents) and convinced Maelzel to reveal to Williams the secret of the Turk. Later, P. U. Williams himself took Lewis’ place inside the machine.
Lewis visited Paris along with Scottish player John Cochrane in 1821, where they played with Alexandre Deschapelles, receiving the advantage of pawn and move. He won the short match (+1 =2).
Lewis’ career as an author began at this time, and included translations of the works of Greco and Carrera, published in 1819 and 1822 respectively.
He was the leading English player in the correspondence match between London and Edinburgh in 1824, won by the Scots (+2 = 2 -1). Later, he published a book on the match with analysis of the games. In the period of 1834–36 he was also part of the Committee of the Westminster Chess Club, who played and lost (−2) the match by correspondence with the Paris Chess Club. The other players were his students McDonnell and Walker, while the French line up included Boncourt, Alexandre, St. Amant and Chamouillet. When De La Bourdonnais visited England in 1825, Lewis played about 70 games with the French master. Seven of these games probably represented a match that Lewis lost (+2 -5).
Lewis enjoyed a considerable reputation as a chess player in his time. A correspondent writing to the weekly magazine Bell’s Life in 1838 called him “our past grandmaster”, the first known use of the term in chess. Starting from 1825 he preserved his reputation by the same means that Deschapelles used in France, by refusing to play anyone on even terms. In the same year Lewis founded a Chess Club where he gave lessons to, amongst others, Walker and McDonnell. He was declared bankrupt in 1827 due to bad investments on a patent for the construction of pianos and his chess club was forced to close. The next three years were quite difficult until in 1830 he got a job that assured him of solid financial security for the rest of his life. Thanks to this job, he could focus on writing his two major works: Series of Progressive Lessons (1831) and Second Series of Progressive Lessons (1832). The first series of the Lessons were more elementary in character, and designed for the use of beginners; the second series, on the other hand, went deeply into all the known openings. Here, for the first time we find the Evans Gambit, which is named after its inventor, Capt. Evans.
The works of Lewis (together with his teacher Sarratt) were oriented towards the rethinking of the strictly Philidorian principles of play in favour of the Modenese school of Del Rio, Lolli and Ponziani. When he realised that he could not give an advantage to the new generation of British players, Lewis withdrew gradually from active play (in the same way that Deschapelles did after his defeat against De La Bourdonnais).
After his retirement he wrote other chess treatises, but his isolation prevented him from assimilating the positional ideas of the new generation of chess-players. For this reason, Hooper and Whyld in their Oxford Chess Companion describe the last voluminous work of Lewis, A Treatise on Chess (1844), as already “out of date when published”.
Coming soon to your sixty four squares !
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