Fred Reinfeld : The Man Who Taught America Chess, with 282 Games

Fred Reinfeld : The Man Who Taught America Chess, with 282 Games
Fred Reinfeld : The Man Who Taught America Chess, with 282 Games

Fred Reinfeld : The Man Who Taught America Chess, with 282 Games : Alex Dunne

FM Alex Dunne

FM Alex Dunne
FM Alex Dunne

How we all laughed, back in the day. How we all laughed whenever Fred Reinfeld’s name was mentioned. All those books written for patzers. How to Win When You’re Ahead. How to Win When You’re Behind. How to Win When You’re Equal. How to Win With the White Pieces. How to Win With the Black Pieces. How to Win with the Blue Pieces. How to Win with the Yellow Pieces. Well, perhaps we made up some of those titles, but you know what I mean. Endless books of basic, over-simplified instruction, not for the likes of us.

But now, half a century or so on, I’d say that Fred is one of my heroes. A man who brought a lot of pleasure to a lot of people, teaching them the basics so that they could move onto higher level instruction later on if they chose to do so. If they didn’t, no matter: they were still enjoying chess. And he wrote some excellent higher level books as well. A particular favourite of mine was his collection of Tarrasch’s best games: I guess Tarrasch’s logical style suited Reinfeld’s style of annotations.

There was much more to him than chess books, though. In the 1930s, when he was in his 20s, he was one of the strongest players in the USA, numbering Reshevsky (twice), Fine and Marshall among his victims.  At the start of 1942 he decided to give up competitive chess and concentrate on writing. It wasn’t just chess books that he wrote, either. His bibliography includes books on checkers, coin and stamp collecting, science, maths and history. He died relatively young, in 1964, at the age of 54. Granted another 20 or 30 years, who knows how many books he would have written.

It’s easy to mock, isn’t it? We can all name authors who decided it would be more lucrative to write bad books quickly than to write good books slowly. but Reinfeld’s books, although for the most part not written for stronger players, were by no means bad. He was an excellent writer and pioneering teacher who developed the ‘solitaire chess’ method of asking questions on a game and awarding points for good answers. It’s hard to disagree that he was one of the most influential figures in mid-20th century chess, and a biobibliography was long overdue.

Fred Reinfeld
Fred Reinfeld

Sadly, this volume doesn’t really do Reinfeld full justice. The author, Alex Dunne, is an enthusiast rather than an academic historian. It includes 282 games (actually 281, as one game appears with two sets of annotations), mostly played by him, some with notes, either by Reinfeld or by Dunne. You might possibly want more annotations, or you might think that, as Reinfeld was best known as a writer, this doesn’t matter too much.

Dunne also provides, as you might expect, details of Reinfeld’s books, although it’s not always easy to find what you’re looking for. There’s a discussion about whether or not Reinfeld ghostwrote Reshevsky on Chess and Marshall’s My Fifty Years of Chess, but Dunne adds nothing further to what is readily available online and leaves readers to draw their own conclusions. There’s also nothing about Edward Young, generally assumed to be a pen-name of Reinfeld, although the books published under this name are included in the bibliography. (Wikipedia and other online sources claim that Reinfeld also used the pseudonym Robert V Masters, but Dunne tells us, without providing sources, that Masters was actually Sterling Publishing Company President David Boehm.)

Reinfeld produced American editions of various British chess books. I’d have welcomed more information about what, if any, changes were made. To take just one example, he mentions Epic Battles of the Chessboard by ‘Richard Cole’. He might have mentioned that the original title was Battles Royal of the Chessboard,  and should certainly have given the author, Richard Nevil Coles, who, for some reason, was usually known by his middle name rather than his excellent first name, his correct surname. ‘R Nevil Coles’ would have been much better. Again, Morphy’s Games of Chess is incorrectly attributed to E Sergeant in the text, but the bibliography correctly identifies the author as Philip Sergeant.

Reverting to the games, some of Reinfeld’s opponents are identified by their first name and surname, others only by their initial and surname. I thought I knew that W Goldwater, for example, was Walter, and it took all of 5 seconds for Mr Google to confirm this.

All in all, then, something of a missed opportunity. A worthy book and a worthy subject, but lacking the rigorous historical research and accuracy we expect from this publisher. I’d like to suggest a group biography of Reinfeld and his occasional co-authors Chernev and Horowitz as a possible project for a US chess historian. Nevertheless, in the absence of anything else, if you’re interested in chess history of this period, chess literature or chess teaching you’ll still want to buy this book.

Here’s one of Reinfeld’s favourite games:

 

 

Richard James, Twickenham July 15th 2019

Richard James
Richard James

Book Details :

  • Hardcover : 194 pages
  • Publisher: McFarland (30 October 2018)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1476676542
  • ISBN-13: 978-1476676548
  • Product Dimensions: 17.8 x 1.3 x 25.4 cm

Official web site of McFarland Books

Fred Reinfeld : The Man Who Taught America Chess, with 282 Games
Fred Reinfeld : The Man Who Taught America Chess, with 282 Games

1001 Chess Exercises for Club Players : The Tactics Workbook that Also Explains All Key Concepts

1001 Chess Exercises for Club Players : Frank Erwich

1001 Chess Exercises for Club Players
1001 Chess Exercises for Club Players

“Tactics is knowing what to do when there is something to do; strategy is knowing what to do when there is nothing to do.” – Savielly Tartakower

Every chess player enjoys (or should !) solving and practising tactics and, let’s be pragmatic, most games at mortal level are decided by executing them if the conditions are right. Creating suitable conditions is, of course, another book or books and I’m confident New in Chess will publish such material in due course.

FIDE Master Frank Erwich is a a professional chess teacher for the Royal Dutch Chess Federations, coach and active player. In 2012 he established a teaching company and, from his own web site :

He works as an editor for New in Chess, he helps with the development of material for chess books and chess apps, he writes about chess (including author of 1001 Chess Exercises for Club Players and the e-book Basic Chess rules for Kids ), he makes online lessons for starting chess players and he is regularly active as a coach during a chess tournament (including during the European Youth Championship in 2014, 2015 and 2016).

FM Frank Erwich
FM Frank Erwich

So, what is 1001 Chess Exercises for Club Players about ?

The author has identified 1001(!) positions from recent tournament praxis the majority of which are from the last ten years. This, in itself, is a tour de force as many previous tactics books bring a strong sense of déjà vu. He has categorised them into ten groupings viz :

  1. Elimination of the Defence
  2. Double Attack
  3. Discovered Attack
  4. Skewer (or x-ray for our USA readers !)
  5. Pin
  6. Trapping a piece
  7. Promotion
  8. Draw
  9. Mate
  10. Defending

and then follows these with a chapter entitled “Mix” which combines many of the previous themes and of course, a Solutions to each exercise chapter.

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 mine !). Each diagram clearly shows who is to move and the instructional text is typeset in two column format, which, I 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.

You might have noticed that in the list of categories the author has inserted “Trapping a piece” and “Defending” which are welcome (not often discussed) themes among the more familiar ones.

Each chapter kicks-off with a description of the theme in question followed by high quality examples. All jargon and terms are explained in detail making each section self-contained eliminating the need to go elsewhere to cross-reference. Sometimes the author invents his own terminology (such as “away” and “chasing”) in cases where there is a need and all is carefully explained.

Following the instructional text and examples there are, on average 100 test positions given as groups of twelve per page. Each diagram clearly indicates who is to move and underneath most is a hint such as “magnet + double check”. I prefer to hide the hint but some will value these clues. Of course, after say a dozen in one section, one gets a feel for what is expected and this forms part of the training. Each solution provides useful analysis (which has been engine checked) plus contextual information about the source game, players and event.

To give you some idea of the content here is an excerpt from the training section on Elimination of the Defence :

“We conclude this chapter with a spectacular move:

Li Chao, 2746
Nigel Short, 2666
Baku ol 2016 (7) (analysis)

36. Qe6!
This is called a Novotny Interference! The queen is sacrificed on a square where it can be captured in four ways, but whichever black piece makes the capture, it interferes with the range of the other pieces:

36…Rxe6 (and Nxe6) interupts the a2-g8 diagonal and allows 37.Rg8#, while 36…Bxe6 closes off the sixth rank and runs into 37.Bxf6+ Rg7 38.Bxg7#.36…Rg7 prevents immediate mate, but after37.Bxf6 Black will also have to lay down his king before long.”

Here is one of the more challenging exercises :

The hint is “away + material”

and the solution is :

31…Qe5! 32.Qxe5 32.Qd2 Rxc1+ 33.Qxc1 Qxd4+ -+. 32…Rxc1+ 33.Kf2 Rxe5 34.Nxf6 Kxf6 35. Rxd7 Re7 -+ Jonkman Inza – K. Arnold, Assen ch-NED jr W 2019 (analysis).”

Finally, a detailed glossary in itself provides learning opportunities to improve one’s knowledge.

It was a pleasure to work through the exercises and they provided ideas for my student lessons and coaching. Possibly the most enjoyable section was Chapter 11 entitled “Mix”. This is the best test of what has gone before since there is no declared theme, and, more often than not, no visible hint. You are on your own and you might start a chess timer with each new position to provide motivation and test your speed and accuracy of solution.

In summary this is an excellent book that goes highly recommended. If I hadn’t had it to review then I would have purchased it anyway ! It it much than more than “just another tactics book”.

John Upham, Cove, Hampshire, June 20th 2019

John Upham
John Upham

Book Details :

  • Hardcover : 192 pages
  • Publisher: New In chess (3 April 2019)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 9056918192
  • ISBN-13: 978-9056918194
  • Product Dimensions: 16.9 x 1.2 x 24 cm

Official web site of New in Chess

1001 Chess Exercises for Club Players
1001 Chess Exercises for Club Players

Happy Birthday FM Terence PD Chapman (19-vi-1956)

FM Terence PD Chapman (19-vi-1956)
FM Terence PD Chapman (19-vi-1956)

BCN wishes Happy Birthday of FM Terence PD Chapman (19-vi-1956)

Terry became a FIDE Master in 2013. His peak rating was 2331 in October 2013.

The ever youthful Terry represents Barbican Youth in 4NCL.

FM Terence PD Chapman (19-vi-1956)
FM Terence PD Chapman (19-vi-1956)

Remembering Robin CO Matthews CBE, FBA (16-vi-1927 19-vi-2010)

Robin Charles Oliver Matthews
Robin Charles Oliver Matthews

BCN Remembers Robin CO Matthews CBE, FBA (16-vi-1927 19-vi-2010)

Brian Stephenson (BCPS) writes : “Probably the UK’s greatest composer of ‘mate in 3’ #ChessProblems . His chapters in the book you note were what got me hooked on chess composition. Nearly all of his output can be viewed at The Meson Database

From Wikipedia :

“Robert (Robin) Charles Oliver Matthews (16 June 1927 – 19 June 2010) was an economist and chess problemist.

RCO Matthews
RCO Matthews

Matthews was born in Edinburgh. He was educated at Edinburgh Academy and Corpus Christi College, Oxford, and was a Fellow of All Souls College, Oxford. He was the Drummond Professor of Political Economy at Oxford from 1965 to 1975 and the Professor of Political Economy at Cambridge from 1980 to 1991. He was also the Master of Clare College, Cambridge from 1975 to 1993.

From The Oxford Companion to Chess by Hooper & Whyld :

“British Composer, International Judge of Chess Compositions (1957), International Master for Chess Compositions (1965), economist, appointed Master of Clare College, Cambridge in 1975. He has specialised in orthodox three movers and is among the world’s leaders in this field.”

As a chess problemist he specialised in the composition of directmate three-movers, a field in which he was recognised as one of the world’s leading exponents.”

From The Encyclopedia of Chess by Anne Sunnucks :

International Master of the F.I.D.E. for chess compositions (1965) and International Judge of the F.I.D.E. for Chess Compositions (1957). President of the British Chess Problem Society for 1971 and 1972. Professor of Economics at Oxford University. Born on 16th June 1927. Professor Matthews has composed about 200 problems, about 40 of them 1st prize winners, mainly strategic three-movers, He is one of the world’s best three move composers. His best problems give clear-cut expression of complex themes, with proper attention given to key-moveand by-play in the best English tradition. The results are massive rather than elegant, but carefully constructed. Themes he has specialised in include overload White self-weakening and reciprocal change.”

R.C.O. Matthews
British Chess Magazine
1956

White to play and mate in three moves

Chess Problems : Introduction to an Art
Chess Problems : Introduction to an Art
Chess Problems : Introduction to an Art
Chess Problems : Introduction to an Art

Opening Repertoire : The French Defence

Opening Repertoire: The French Defence
Opening Repertoire: The French Defence

Contents : Bibliography, 8 Chapters, Indexes of Variations and 58 complete games including 3 by the author.

I was due to review this book about two months ago and had even made some notes, intending to return when the heat died-down at work. Never happened. Trouble is the French 1 e4 e6 is a favourite of mine and writing about it is like dancing naked in my own back garden.

Now – don’t say it – there is no exact parallel, for example my garden is quite small and unlikely to accommodate any dance routines, even if I could dance, which I can actually. Badly.

It was Korchnoi who, at an Olympiad long ago, was spotted, not dancing, but hastily hiding a book he’d just bought. It was, I believe, the Winawer by Moles, now a forgotten Batsford. Korchnoi loved the French and, as he got older, seemed to be playing it more and more. What he’d have thought of this book I don’t know but guess he’d have given it his time. Do the same and read on!

Areas covered include: the Anti Winawer, the Main Line Winawer 4 e5, the Tarrasch, the Advance 3 e5, the King’s Indian Attack and 2 Qe2, the Exchange Variation 3 exd5, the Two Knights Variation and finally, Second Move Alternatives such as 2 b3 and 2 f4.

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

IM Cyrus Lakdawala has been knocking around the chess world long enough to have developed, I hope, a thick skin. He writes with emotion, colour, humour, a broad brush but he does attract his critics. If you like your chess games dished-up in neat bundles with Informatorish symbols, names put backwards (“Talj, Mik (2600) Hail) then look elsewhere. Nor is this a book of reference so don’t go searching, necessarily, for an improvement on last night’s game. There are books which are essentially lists of games and these do help, like databases, but here we are far from that part of the forest. The author is an entertainer and so much else. Drops of philosophy creep in, good humour, lore and order.

Behold:
” When you love someone, it feels that you are with them even when they are far away” (p 85). Or ” A seasoned bazaar haggler makes a shrewd counter-offer” (p 134). We continue: ” Don’t follow principles blindly” (p 108). Also ” Open the position when you hold the bishop-pair.” (p 102) and finally “There are many mushrooms and berries in the forest that can kill us.” (p 121).

Well, that gives you a flavour. The Bibliography he lists is a bit dated, newer editions of some books are, I’m sure, available to him. As for the reader – easy to forget him (?) – questions throughout the text, nothing too complex,  are highlighted. Oh, in the Tarrasch 3 Nd2 he calls 4 … Qxd5 the most theoretically complicated line in the whole book. I can’t agree that the Petrosyan/Bronstein line in the Winawer with x … b6 and … Qd7 is better than a more conventional 4 … c5, as Uhlmann might have favoured, but readers will enjoy correcting me.

Finally, his 8 … Ne8! in the King’s Indian section is a joy.

For a cover price of £18.99 I think this good value. The author is an American IM and I promise not to mention my dancing ever again.

James Pratt
James Pratt

James Pratt, Basingstoke, June, 2019

Book Details :

  • Paperback : 366 pages
  • Publisher: Everyman Chess (15 Feb 2019)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1781945071
  • ISBN-13: 978-1781945070
  • Product Dimensions: 16.9 x 2 x 24.1 cm

Official web site of Everyman Chess

Opening Repertoire : The French Defence
Opening Repertoire : The French Defence

Neumann, Hirschfeld and Suhle : 19th Century Berlin Chess Biographies with 711 Games

Neumann, Hirschfeld and Suhle : 19th Century Berlin Chess Biographies with 711 Games
Neumann, Hirschfeld and Suhle : 19th Century Berlin Chess Biographies with 711 Games

Neumann, Hirschfeld and Suhle : 19th Century Berlin Chess Biographies with 711 Games : Hans Renette & Fabrizio Zavatarelli

Hans Renette

Hans Renette
Hans Renette

Neumann, Hirschfeld & Suhle. Sounds like a Berlin law firm, doesn’t it? In fact they were 19th century Prussian born chess players with Berlin connections, all active in the 1860s. You tell me you’ve never heard of them? One of them may well be the strongest (for his time) player you’ve never heard of.

Let me take you back to the year 1860. Morphy’s short career in competitive chess had already come to an end, and Steinitz (strange to think he was a year older than Morphy) was just a fairly promising youngster. Anderssen was still active, along with younger players such as Kolisch and Paulsen, but, if you remove Morphy from the equation, there was no clear number one player.

Among those just below the top was (Carl Friedrich) Berthold Suhle (1837-1904), the first of this book’s joint protagonists. Suhle had a very brief chess career spanning the late 1850s up to 1865, when he returned home from Berlin, choosing to focus instead on family life and his career as an academic specialising in Ancient Greek.

Enter Philipp Martin Hirschfeld (1840-96), who, when he arrived in Berlin in 1859, already had a reputation as a theoretician. He was as yet no match for Suhle, though: in a nine game match in 1860 he could only muster two draws. (Note that Jeff Sonas, on his Chessmetrics site, mistakenly dates this match to 1865, causing him to overstate both Hirschfeld’s rating in the early 1860s and Suhle’s rating in the late 1860s.) Like Suhle, Hirschfeld decided to concentrate on his career rather than become a chess professional. Joining his father’s business, he set up a tea company, travelled widely and lived in London through much of the 1870s and 80s. He maintained his interest in chess for the rest of his life but never took part in international tournaments.

The main part of the book is devoted to Gustav Richard Ludwig Neumann (1838-81), who, for a few years round about 1870 was one of the best three or four players in the world. Neumann was a real chess addict who decided to make a living through his favourite game. His first international tournament was Paris 1867, where he finished 4th behind Kolisch, Winawer and Steinitz. Later the same year he won a small but strong tournament in Dundee, this time ahead of Steinitz. It seemed like a new star had arrived, but at the end of 1869 he suffered a mental breakdown and was taken to an asylum. He recovered well enough to be released the following April and that summer resumed his tournament career at Baden-Baden, where he finished 3rd behind Anderssen and Steinitz, and level with Blackburne. Sadly, his mental illness returned at the end of 1872, putting an end to his chess career. Neumann was one of the great might-have-beens of chess, but you’ve probably never heard of him.

The two authors of this volume are both respected chess historians who have written other biographies for McFarland. Hans Renette has penned excellent books on Henry Bird and Louis Paulsen, while Fabrizio Zavatarelli has published a book on Ignaz Kolisch. In 2015 they discovered that Hans was researching Neumann while Fabrizio was studying Suhle and Hirschfeld. Given the overlap in time and place they decided it would make sense to pool their resources.

If you’re familiar with McFarland biographies you’ll know what to expect and won’t be disappointed. A sturdy, large format hardback which will sit impressively on your bookshelf, 711 games with annotations taken from contemporary sources and computer-aided updates from the authors, many atmospheric photographs and outstanding historical research, The English is not always entirely idiomatic, but no matter.

Although the book probably won’t do much to improve your rating, lovers of attacking chess will be delighted to see a lot of Evans Gambit and King’s Gambit games, with the Ruy Lopez in third place.  By today’s standards these players were not so strong, but all of us, from Magnus Carlsen down to the humblest patzer, are standing on the shoulders of giants. If you value the history and heritage of our wonderful game you’ll want to find out more about Suhle, Hirschfeld and Neumann, all of whom part of what makes us what we are.

Here’s a crazily complicated game from the book. You’ll have hours of fun spotting the missed opportunities for both players.

 

Richard James, Twickenham June 7 2019

Richard James
Richard James

Book Details :

  • Hardcover : 384 pages
  • Publisher: McFarland (30 July 2018)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1476673799
  • ISBN-13: 978-1476673790
  • Product Dimensions: 22.2 x 3.2 x 27.9 cm/li>

Official web site of McFarland Books

Neumann, Hirschfeld and Suhle : 19th Century Berlin Chess Biographies with 711 Games
Neumann, Hirschfeld and Suhle : 19th Century Berlin Chess Biographies with 711 Games

Opening Repertoire : 1 d4 with 2 c4

Opening Repertoire : 1 d4 with 2 c4
Opening Repertoire : 1 d4 with 2 c4

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

This book is a comprehensive review of all the main continuations after White has played d4 and c4 as his first two moves.  It covers the Nimzo-Indian Defence, King’s Indian Defence, Benko Gambit, Grunfeld Defence , Slav Defence , Semi-Slav Defence and so on.  The book is highly instructive and contains detailed reviews of 72 games including many modern examples from Carlsen, Kramnik and Mamedyarov as well as classics from the likes of Kasparov and Korchnoi.  It also includes a handful of the author’s games.

A notable feature of the book is the author’s writing style which is often effusive, sardonic and humorous.  The purists may find this annoying but I quite enjoyed it.  Take this example from the Introduction as he explains why he switched to d4, c4.   ‘… my openings lacked arable land in which to be creative. For decades my choices had been kissing simplicity’s butt, in a naked display of sycophancy, not seen in the world since Henry VIII’s wives.’

The book is clear and easy to read.  Despite its 448 pages, some of the lines are not covered in great depth.  The Dutch Defence gets four illustrative games and just 18 pages.  So there is probably not enough detail for the GM preparing for his or her next tournament.  However if you are a club player this book is an invaluable and enjoyable resource which will definitely improve your handling of all Black’s main responses to this opening.

Paul Sloane, Camberley, Surrey, May 30th, 2019

Paul Sloane
Paul Sloane

Book Details :

  • Paperback : 448 pages
  • Publisher: Everyman Chess (15 May 2019)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1781945098
  • ISBN-13: 978-1781945094
  • Product Dimensions: 17.8 x 22.9 cm

Official web site of Everyman Chess

Opening Repertoire : 1 d4 with 2 c4
Opening Repertoire : 1 d4 with 2 c4
Opening Repertoire : 1 d4 with 2 c4
Opening Repertoire : 1 d4 with 2 c4

We focus on the British Chess Scene Past & Present !