Tag Archives: 2022

From Ukraine with Love for Chess

From Ukraine with Love for Chess, Ruslan Ponomariov, New in Chess, 30 Jun. 2022, SBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-9493257573
From Ukraine with Love for Chess, Ruslan Ponomariov, New in Chess, 30 Jun. 2022, SBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-9493257573

From the publisher:

“The Ukrainian chess community is helping Ukraine in the war against Russia. The chess genius Vasyl Ivanchuk is giving online simuls to raise funds. European champion and Olympic gold medal winner Natalia Zhukova is working as a politician in Odessa. And FIDE World Champion Ruslan Ponomariov coordinated this wonderful collection of chess games from Ukrainian players, published by New In Chess. All games were nominated and annotated by the players themselves. The proceeds of this book will support Ukrainian charities. The book also covers the three legendary Olympic victories by Ukraine, in 2004 and 2010 for the men’s team and 2006 for the women’s team. Oleg Romanishin remembers his training match against Mikhail Tal. And Jan Timman has a look at his favourite Ukrainian study composers. With contributions by Vasyl Ivanchuk, Ruslan Ponomariov, Anna and Mariya Muzychuk, Anton Korobov, Vladimir Tukmakov, Pavel Eljanov, Andrei Volokitin, and many, many others.”

Ruslan Ponomariov (1983) is a Ukrainian chess grandmaster. He was FIDE World Chess Champion from 2002 to 2004 and he won the Ukrainian Chess Championship in 2011 with a performance rating of 2853. Ponomariov was born in Horlivka in Ukraine. He was taught to play chess by his father at the age of 5.

 

What we have here is a chess book written and published to support Ukrainian chess players and Ukrainian charities in general.

GM Ruslan Ponomariov in the preface:

All funds from the sales will be used to help the Ukrainian people. By doing something good, I hope you can also enjoy and share a passion for chess with us.

And:

In your hands is the work of many authors and contributors. It was not a simple task, as it would be in normal circumstances. Some of them had fled from their homes without knowing what would happen on the next day. Some were hiding in a bomb shelter, trying to survive. But we managed to do it!

The publisher, Remmelt Otten, writes in the Acknowledgements:

This book started with an email by Steve Giddins, chess author, translator, and contributor to New in Chess. He wanted to share his desire to help the Ukrainian chess community in the terrible times after the invasion of Ukraine by Russia. If New in Chess was planning to publish anything by Ukrainian chess players, Steve offered to translate their writings for free.

We embraced his idea and decided to publish a book to support Ukrainian chess and Ukrainians in need. All proceeds (all revenue minus costs such as printing and distribution) will go to Ukrainian charities.

It’s the chess book equivalent of a charity compilation album, then. It’s extraordinary, given the circumstances in which it was conceived, that the book could have been compiled and published within less than four months. If you want to support a great cause there’s no need to hesitate.

But it’s also a remarkably good and well produced book, so not only will you make a contribution to charity if you buy a copy, you’ll also get some great chess as well. There are 42 well annotated games as well as a chapter on endgame studies. Some of the material has previously appeared in New in Chess, so if you’re a subscriber you might have seen it before, but there will still be much that is new to you, and you may well find it convenient to have the best in Ukrainian chess all in one place.

The first chapter introduces us to the pioneers of Ukrainian chess: Stein, Savon, Kuzmin, Tukmakov and Beliavsky.

Here’s the game chosen to illustrate Gennady Kuzmin. Click on any move for a pop-up window.

The second chapter will be, for many readers, the most interesting of the book. Oleg Romanishin talks about his secret training matches against Tal in 1975 and 1976.

Here’s a sample game.

Chapter 3 contains pen pictures of some of the older generation of current Ukrainian players, headed by Ivanchuk and Ponomariov.

Ukrainian Olympiad successes feature in Chapters 4-6: the 2004 open team, the 2006 women’s team and the 2010 open team.

In Chapter 7 we meet the younger Ukrainian players, born in 1985 or later, including Anna Ushenina and the Muzychuk sisters.

Here’s another game:

Finally, Chapter 8 is an article by Jan Timman featuring endgame studies by Ukrainian composers.

This pawn ending (White to play and draw) was composed by Mikhail Zinar (2nd Pr Moscow ty 1983)

You’ll see that, as well as supporting a great cause you’ll get a lot of great chess for your money. The content will appeal to all serious players, from 1500 or so upwards. It may not be the last word on Ukrainian chess or a book that will add a few hundred points to your rating, but it’s a well structured, highly entertaining and enjoyable read. Considering the timescale and circumstances the publishers have done an outstanding job and our thanks are due to everyone involved in the project, not just for the quality of their work but for their generosity in doing it for free. You can find further details and sample pages here.

Should you buy this book? Certainly. If the content appeals (as it should to almost everyone) you won’t be disappointed, and you’ll also be helping both Ukrainian chess players and the wider Ukrainian community in that war-torn country.

Richard James, Twickenham 4th August 2022

Richard James
. Richard James

Book Details:

  • Softcover: 208 pages
  • Publisher: New In Chess (30 Jun 2022)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10:9493257576
  • ISBN-13:978-9493257573
  • Product Dimensions: ‎16.51 x 1.57 x 24.33 cm

Official web site of New in Chess

From Ukraine with Love for Chess, Ruslan Ponomariov, New in Chess, 30 Jun. 2022, SBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-9493257573
From Ukraine with Love for Chess, Ruslan Ponomariov, New in Chess, 30 Jun. 2022, SBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-9493257573

Across the Battlefield: A Pawn’s Journey

Across the Battlefield: A Pawn's Journey, Jonathan Perry, Chess Tales, LLC (17 Oct. 2022), ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 979-8986059211
Across the Battlefield: A Pawn’s Journey, Jonathan Ferry, Chess Tales, LLC (17 Oct. 2022), ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 979-8986059211

From the author and illustrator:

In our first book, Across the Battlefield: A Pawn’s Journey, we imagine what it might feel like to be a pawn in the game of chess. The rules of the game make it possible so that a mere pawn can one day become a queen, the strongest piece on the board. But the barriers to get there must seem overwhelming! Can you identify with a pawn who dreams of becoming a queen? Across the Battlefield aims to inspire children to pursue their goals no matter how impossible they may seem, all while teaching them key strategies to winning in chess and in life.

And:

Chess comes alive like never before as readers experience the game through the eyes of Prunella, a nervous little pawn who believes she must become a queen for her life to matter. Join her journey as she discovers not only strategies and tactics for mastering chess, but also lessons about teamwork and how every piece, including pawns, has value.

About the Author:

Jon first learned to play chess in the 4th grade, and he has carried a passion for the game ever since. Like Prunella, he grew up believing that he had to become someone famous or extraordinary, like the President, for example, to be worthwhile. In some small way, the story of Prunella reflects Jon’s journey to finding happiness and peace within. He is raising three daughters with his wife Ann-Marie. When playing chess with his girls, they love to pretend what the pieces might be thinking and experiencing and he enjoys using those exploratory imaginings to teach lessons about life, leadership and becoming a whole person.

Caroline Zina is a children’s book illustrator with an imaginative and whimsical art style. She has illustrated bestsellers such as The Great Unknown Monster and Melody’s Magical Flying Machine. You can view more of her artwork and contact her at CarolineZina.com.

 

The idea of using chess as a morality or an allegory dates back to The Game and Playe of the Chesse, published by William Caxton 450 or so years ago.

A number of authors, including your reviewer, have, over the years, used the concept of a story to introduce chess to children. It’s a very attractive idea as well: most children enjoy stories and the game offers a lot of possibilities for teachers and parents to use chess related stories both to introduce children to chess for the first time and to help children who already play.

Just as in any battle, the participants have to show courage, have to work together as a team, and sometimes have to make sacrifices to help bring their team victory. Stories based on chess can be used to teach children all sorts of positive qualities, and even to improve their mental health. (Indeed, this topic is covered in my forthcoming book Chess for Schools.)

Here, we follow Prunella, the black b-pawn, who is helped by Norry the knight and the rest of her team as she travels across the board.

It’s a lovely story, beautifully written and enchantingly illustrated, that will appeal to many children – especially, but not only, girls – aged from about 6 or 7 upwards. It might spark an interest in chess, or encourage them to play more chess. By talking to their parents and teachers about Prunella and the other characters in the story, children will learn to understand and regulate their emotions, deal with fear and apprehension and help make their dreams come true.

Having said that, I’m not certain the actual chess content is suitable for most young beginners. The view of many chess teachers, including myself, is that most children will gain more long-term benefit from starting by playing simpler games before moving onto ‘big chess’.  Here, we’re thrown straight into a fairly sophisticated Queen’s Gambit, with the story on the left-hand page and some general advice, mostly of a positional nature (which might be unhelpful or confusing to newcomers), on the right-hand page. It’s also not possible to follow through the complete game: we can play through the opening, but then jump quite a few moves ahead to see how the game concludes, without any clues to reconstruct the bit in the middle.

To summarise, then: great story with great illustrations: many children will, understandably, fall in love with the book, and, perhaps, be hooked on chess for life as a result. I’m not convinced about the value of the pedagogic material,  which is, for me, too general and too advanced for the young beginners who would be attracted by the story, but I suppose that’s not really the point. If you’re a chess teacher or parent and you know children who would like this story, especially, perhaps, children who have issues with low self-esteem and anxiety, then don’t hesitate.

 Richard James, Twickenham 18th July 2022

Richard James
. Richard James

Book Details:

  • ASIN ‏ : ‎ B0B6DJBTY9
  • Publisher ‏ : ‎ Chess Tales, LLC (17 Oct. 2022)
  • Language ‏ : ‎ English
  • Paperback ‏ : ‎ 50 pages
  • ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 979-8986059211
  • Dimensions ‏ : ‎ 17.78 x 0.64 x 25.4 cm

Official web site of Chess Tales

Across the Battlefield: A Pawn's Journey, Jonathan Perry, Chess Tales, LLC (17 Oct. 2022), ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 979-8986059211
Across the Battlefield: A Pawn’s Journey, Jonathan Perry, Chess Tales, LLC (17 Oct. 2022), ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 979-8986059211

Tata Steel Chess Tournament 2021

Tata Steel Chess Tournament 2021, Daniel Fernandez, Thinker's Publishing, 14 Feb. 2022, ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-9464201420
Tata Steel Chess Tournament 2021, Daniel Fernandez, Thinker’s Publishing, 14 Feb. 2022, ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-9464201420

From the publishers’ blurb:

“That such a fine achievement should be immortalized, is beyond dispute. But who will pick up the gauntlet? We live in a volatile world where the Internet is dominant and when a tournament is over, the next one is already at the door. No time for reflection and historical awareness? Yet there was someone who had followed the tournament with great interest. The English grandmaster Daniel Fernandez, who also publishes for ChessPublishing came up with the idea of thoroughly examining all the games from this tournament. He did not take any chances in doing so. In addition to the various sources he found on the Internet, he of course used the strongest engines available at the moment. He also had engines in the cloud patiently calculate various positions. Together with his source research and his own insights, he has created a unique compilation of chess-technical material that is unprecedented.

In doing so, Fernandez has painted a fantastic picture of the opening variants that were on the board in this tournament. He has done a thorough research of the ins and outs of the various variants and placed them in a broader perspective. And it must be said that the organization was kind to him by providing an interesting field of players who gave it their all every round. This resulted in many nice confrontations with extremely interesting opening theory! That Fernandez did not get away with the middle game and the many fascinating endgames was clear from a first estimate of the amount of material when it had to be converted to the format of this book. Initially, we ended up with almost 900 pages! That is far too much and therefore drastic cuts had to be made. Hundreds of (analysis) diagrams have been dropped, small side notes are no longer in the book and sometimes – pain in the heart – the trees of variations had to be cut back. That only happened, by the way, when the ingenious structure became so extensive that it would be hard to follow for “mere mortals”. It is being considered whether this can be made available digitally at a later date, and the moment that it is, we will of course put Fernandez’s entire analytical work on offer! IM Herman Grooten, December 2021 ”

 

GM Daniel Fernandez (born 1995) is an English grandmaster with a slightly unusual approach to chess: at once mischievous and hardworking, and equally comfortable in tactical positions or dry endgames. His style fits the Modern perfectly and he has played it with success for almost a decade. He is a past holder of the British under-18 and under-21 titles, and the winner (or joint winner) of many open tournaments, such as Paracin 2017, Pula 2018, Ghent 2019 and the New Zealand Open 2020. Daniel also writes and commentates frequently, and is a columnist of the 1.e4 section on ChessPublishing.com. This is his third book for Thinkers Publishing, the Modernized Caro-Kann and Modern Defense were his first two and world wide acclaimed as the best you can get.

GM Daniel Fernandez, 2019 British Championships, Torquay. Courtesy of John Upham Photography
GM Daniel Fernandez, 2019 British Championships, Torquay. Courtesy of John Upham Photography

Chess book collectors will look back with fondness on the days when competitions between leading players were often commemorated by tournament books. Hastings 1895. New York 1924. The 1953  Candidates’ Tournament. Everyone with a passion for chess literature will have books such as these on their shelves. From time to time they’ll open them again, not just to admire the games but to relive the excitement of the event. Like me, they’ll regret that this tradition seems to have gone out of fashion.

Is this book a worthy addition to an almost forgotten genre of chess literature?

With 750 pages, trimmed down from an original almost 900, one can only admire Daniel Fernandez’s industry in compiling the book, in producing several pages of detailed analysis, often focused on modern opening theory, for almost every one of the 91, invariably hard-fought games produced by some of today’s leading Grandmasters.

The author has made an unexpected and seemingly unexplained decision in ordering the games by the player of the white pieces. So we start with all the White games of Alexander Donchenko, who eventually brought up the rear, through to those of Jorden van Foreest, the rather unexpected tournament winner.

I guess this makes sense if the main reason you’re reading the book is to study you heroes’ opening repertoires, but  from my perspective as a humble club player it seems rather eccentric. Why not group the games by the player of the black pieces instead? Or, better still, why not group them by opening so that we can see all the Sicilian Defence, for example, games together? If, like me, you’re not especially interested in opening theory, you’d probably prefer a more conventional format, especially given that the book also includes the round summaries taken from a Dutch chess news website. So we get a Round 1 report, Donchenko’s white games, a Round 2 report, MVL’s white games and so on, which creates, at least for me, a rather disjoined effect.

The opening analysis is, for many games, extremely detailed. Take, for example, Esipenko’s win over Carlsen in round 8. We get five pages of notes about the latest trends in the Sicilian Najdorf, which I’m sure is deeply fascinating to anyone playing that opening with either colour at master level, but of only passing interest to someone like me who finds the opening far too difficult for comfort.

Esipenko sacrificed a pawn in the opening, reaching this position where he gained a winning advantage: 18. Ncxb5+ axb5 19. Nxc6 Qxc6 20. Qc3: a familiar enough sacrifice but with an unusual follow-up. The queen fork regains the piece and the World Champion eventually succumbed.

50 or more years ago, when I was young and innocent enough to look at opening theory, the Sicilian Najdorf was all the rage. It’s still popular now, although most of it looks very different from the days when we eagerly awaited the news of Bobby’s latest games. One line that’s still popular, and hasn’t changed all that much, is the Poisoned Pawn variation. To the best of my knowledge it’s still, in general, standing up well for Black, but it’s very easy to go wrong and lose quickly, as MVL found out against Caruana.

Black plumped for the wrong pawn capture on d5, and now White continued 14. e6!! A crushing breakthrough. After 14 moves Black is essentially lost against good play!, according to Fernandez, who provides some beautiful variations against various Black tries here.

As you’d expect, the tournament produced its fair share of fascinating endings. I found this position, from Wojtaszek – Anton Guijarro, particularly instructive.

Here Black played 58… Rg1!. Fernandez comments: Black shows alertness and does not allow the half-point to slip away. There are only a few dangers for Black in this position, and foremost among them would be allowing the enemy king into f6. Hence 58… Ra2?? loses, because Black now has to go very passive to prevent the infiltration.

He then goes on to give a lot of analysis demonstrating how White can always, at worst, reach the Lucena position.

The analysis of the remaining moves (59. Rb7 f6 60. e6 and so on) is also informative as to how this very typical position should be played.

At one level this is a magnificent, monumental book. You get 91 top level games, all deeply annotated, all hard fought, with profound opening play, often exciting middlegames and sometimes intricate endings. Fernandez has put in an enormous amount of work to ensure that readers are informed about the latest opening theory in lines currently popular at top GM level (although I guess it’s all 18 months out of date now!), and that all the analysis has been thoroughly checked for accuracy using the most powerful engines. The production values are high, with many excellent photographs and lots of interesting background material. I spotted a few typos, but not enough to spoil the book.

And yet, writing as a fairly strong club player, it’s sadly not a book for me. It’s just much too heavy, in more ways than one. Picking it up made my arms hurt and reading it made my brain hurt.

Give me a 250-300 page tournament book rather than 750 pages, and I’d be happy. I’d want the games in round order, annotated in a user-friendly (but not patronising) way, with opening theory and computer-generated variations only included where necessary, with helpful tips on how I could learn and improve my game and perhaps some reader interaction such as quiz questions. Indexes of openings and endings would also be welcome.

If you’re an ambitious 2200+ player, this book will, I’m sure, be ideal for you. If, like me, you’re an unambitious under 2000 player, you may well think it’s too much of a good thing.

I sometimes get the impression that there are a number of grandmasters who write books for themselves and their friends rather than considering the nature of their target market. For me this book, praiseworthy and outstanding though it undoubtedly is, falls into that category.

I’d advise you to make up your own mind whether this is a book for you. If you click here you’ll be able to download a teaser.

Richard James, Twickenham 28th June 2022

Richard James
. Richard James

Book Details :

  • Softcover: 750 pages
  • Publisher: Thinkers Publishing; 1st edition (14 Feb. 2022)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10:‎ 9464201428
  • ISBN-13:978-9464201420
  • Product Dimensions: 17.02 x 4.57 x 23.62 cm

Official web site of Thinkers Publishing

Tata Steel Chess Tournament 2021, Daniel Fernandez, Thinker's Publishing, 14 Feb. 2022, ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-9464201420
Tata Steel Chess Tournament 2021, Daniel Fernandez, Thinker’s Publishing, 14 Feb. 2022, ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-9464201420

Attacking Strategies for Club Players: How to Create a Deadly Attack on the Enemy King

Attacking Strategies for Club Players How to Create a Deadly Attack on the Enemy King, Michael Prusikin, New in Chess, 31-12-2021, ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-9056919740
Attacking Strategies for Club Players
How to Create a Deadly Attack on the Enemy King, Michael Prusikin, New in Chess, 31-12-2021, ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-9056919740

From the publisher:

“Attacking your opponent’s king is not just a shortcut to victory, it’s also one of the most enjoyable and gratifying experiences in chess. If you want to win more games you should become a better attacker. Studying typical attacking motifs and ideas easily brings dividends while you are having a good time. Michael Prusikin presents the prerequisites and the rules for a King attack in a lucid and attractive manner. In 15 thematic chapters he teaches you how to assess the nature of the position, identify the appropriate offensive patterns, find the preliminary moves and conduct your attack in a clear and effective way. Battering rams, obstructive sacrifices, pawn storms, striking at the castled position, sacrificing a knight on f5, Prusikin demonstrates the most important patterns of attack with lots of clear and well chosen examples. Next, Prusikin tests your newly acquired insights and your attacking intuition with exercises covering all the themes and motifs. You will find that studying Attacking Strategies for Club Players is both entertaining and rewarding.

Michael Prusikin is an International Grandmaster and a FIDE Senior Trainer from Germany. In 2009 he was the co-winner of the German Championship. Several times he has been voted German Chess Trainer of the Year. He writes the tactics column in the German magazine SCHACH.”

 

In his foreword to this book, GM Alexander Khalifman explains that the subject of attack on the enemy king has been the subject of many recent books, many of which suffer from a combination of defects: lack of originality, exaggerated sensationalism, complication and subjectivity. I wouldn’t disagree in principle, but who doesn’t love any book featuring ferocious attacks, brilliant combinations and beautiful sacrifices? Khalifman believes this book is different because it explains how to set up an attack.

Here’s what Prusikin has to say in his introduction:

… the theme of this book is not basic attacking motifs. I assume you are already familiar with these or I would recommend that, if so inclined, you read the classic The Art of Attack by Vladimir Vukovic or its modern counterpart Essential Chess Sacrifices by David LeMoir. In this book we shall address the strategic requirements for a successful attack on the king and some lesser-known attacking motifs, though no less relevant in practice. I hope this will be both interesting and useful for players with an Elo rating between 1500 and 2300.

Chapter 1 is just two pages long. We learn the prerequisites for successfully attacking the king: lead in development/uncastled opposing king, space advantage in the vicinity of the opposing king, few defensive pieces near the opposing king, and weakened pawn protection. Then we have some tips for carrying out a successful attack: use all your pieces, open lines, don’t be afraid to sacrifice and don’t waste time.

Chapters 2 to 16 each feature a different attacking idea, with some brief instructions and some examples from play.

Chapter 2: King in the centre.

Here’s an extract from a game which particularly impressed Prusikin, between a 17-year-old Egyptian and a higher-rated 16-year-old Iranian (Fawzy – Maghsoodloo Abu Dhabi 2017).

16. Nb5!!

An astonishing sacrifice, the idea of which doesn’t reveal itself until you have seen White’s 19th move.

16… axb5 17. axb5 Qb7 18. Rxa8+ Qxa8

And now what? Why has White actually given up the piece?

19. f5!!

The next hammer blow, a left-right combination in boxing parlance.

19… Nxe5

A) 19… gxf5 20. Qh5 +-

B) 19… exf5 20. e6! +-

C) 19… Bxe5 20. fxe6 fxe6 21. Nf7+-

20. fxe6 f6 21. Bxe5 fxe5 22. Rf7 Bf8 23. Nxh7

23. Qf1 Bc5+ 24. Kh1 Ne7 25. b6 Qc6 26. Qf6! Rg8 27. Rxe7+ Bxe7 28. Qf7+ Kd8 29. Qxg8+ Qe8 30. Nf7++– was the alternative solution.

23… Bc5+ 24. Kh1 Ne7

Fawzy would have had to demonstrate similar, perhaps even more beautiful motifs after the defensive move 24… Be7 25. b6! Kd8 (25… Nh6 26. Nf6+ Bxf6 27. b7 Qb8 28. Qxd5 Nxf7 29. Qd7+ Kf8 30. Qxf7#) 26. Qf1 Nh6 27. Qb5 Qb7 28. Rf1!! (Wonderful geometry: the rook swings to the a-file!) 28…Rxh7 29.Ra1 Bf8 30.Ra7 Nf5 31.Rxb7 Rxb7 32.Qxd5+ Nd6 33.Qc5 and White wins.

25. Qf1!!

Threatens 26. Rf8+ but at the same time ‘eyes up’ b5 – the queen in all her glory!

25… Nf5 26. b6!! Qc6 27. b7 Ba7 28. Qxf5+!

Not the only way to win, but certainly the most spectacular and at the same time the most convincing solution!#

28… gxf5 29. Nf6+ Kd8 30. e7+

Black resigned

What a game! The modern-day ‘Immortal’!

(A few comments on this extract: 1) I’ve omitted a couple of diagrams from the book 2) Prusikin doesn’t mention that Black could have held the position by playing 17… Rxa1, which he might have found had he foreseen 19. f5! and 3) if you have MegaBase you’ll find the same annotations (in German) there.)

Chapter 3: Obstructive sacrifice: a sacrifice to impede your opponent’s development: for instance White playing a pawn to e6.

Chapter 4: Attacking the king without the queen: attacks in queenless middlegames or even in endings.

Chapter 5: Pawn storm with opposite-side castling.

Chapter 6: Pawn storm with same-side castling.

Chapter 7: Using the h-pawn against a fianchetto.

I was very struck by this miniature: Gomez Sanchez – Otero Acosta (Santa Clara 2017). I’ll pick up the game with Black about to play his 9th move in this very typical Réti Opening.

8… h5!

The first game of this chapter, Steinitz – Mongredien, was probably the first time that the fianchetto, rather unusual at the time, had been attacked in such a daring way. Here too, the Steinitz attack seems to pose considerable problems for the Réti set-up.

9. d3

(There’s a long note here, concluding that 9. cxd5 is probably White’s best move here, which I’ll omit from this review.)

9… h4 10. Nxh4?

The beginning of the end. Once again, the only feasible defence was to open the centre: 10. cxd5! exd5 11. e4, although even here White would have had some difficult practical problems to solve, for example: 11… hxg3 12. hxg3 d4!? 13. Ne2 Qa5! with the idea of switching to h5. Black gets a dangerous attack.

10… Rxh4! 11. gxh4 Nh5 12. Qe1?

The final mistake. 12. f4 Nxf4 13. Qe1 would still have offered resistance, although Black would have had a clear advantage.

12… Bf3!!

Blocks the f-pawn; 12… Qh4? 13. f4.

13. Bc1 Qxh4 14. h3 Nf4 15. Bxf3 Qxh3 0-1

I suppose Prusikin might have mentioned that the idea behind Black’s 12th move is well known from, for example, a famous Fischer – Benko game.

Chapter 8: Using the g-pawn to destroy your opponent’s king protection.

Chapter 9: The nail in the coffin: a pawn on f6 or h6 in front of an opposing castled king.

Chapter 10: Doubled g-pawns, which can be used as an attacking weapon, or, on the other hand, can weaken the king’s defence.

Chapter 11: Using pieces to attack the castled position.

Chapter 12: The Grand Prix Attack: attacking a king behind a fianchettoed bishop with f4-f5, Qe1-h4, Bh6 etc.

Chapter 13: The knight on f5: sacrificing a knight on this square where it can be captured by a pawn on g6.

Chapter 14: Long bishop on b2: how a fianchettoed queen’s bishop can help your kingside attack.

This example is taken from Zsuzsa Polgar – Chiburdanidze (Calva Ol W 2004)

Here we join the game at its culmination: the dark-squared battery is already set up, the g-pawn has chased away the knight on f6 and with her last move … g7-g6 Black has carelessly weakened the long dark diagonal. In spite of all this, achieving the said culmination is anything but easy.

14. Nxe5!! Nxe2!

Was the Georgian former World Champion relying on this counter-attack?

A) 14… Qe7 15. Be4!! dxe5 16. 16. Bxb7 Nxe2! 17. Kxe2 Qxb7 18. Qxe5 f6 19. Qe6+ Qf7 20. Qxf7+ Rxf7 21. Bxf6+-

B) 14… dxe5 15. Qxe5 f6 16. Qxf4 gxf5 17. gxf6+ +-

15. Nxf7!!

If the first knight move was obvious, now comes the real ‘hammer blow’!

After 15. Kxe2? dxe5 16. Bc2 (16. Qxe5?? Re8) 16… Nc6 the advantage would have switched to Black.

15… Nxc3 16. Nh6+ Kg7 17. Bxc3+ Rf6 18. Bxf6+ Qxf6 19. gxf6+ Kxh6 20. Be6+-

Black could have resigned here but struggled on until move 39.

Chapter 15: Interference: specifically here playing a minor piece to the opponent’s back rank to block out an opposing rook.

Chapter 16: Breakthrough on the strong point: sacrificing on a square which appears to be very well defended.

At the end we have the seemingly obligatory quiz: 50 puzzles for you to solve. While some involve finishing off your attack, others require you to find a plan to put your attack in motion. You’re not told which is which.

You’ll see from the extracts above that, at one level, this is a lovely book crammed full of dashing attacks on the enemy king and beautiful sacrificial play. The expertly annotated examples are conveniently grouped by theme and with some helpful snippets of advice on how to identify when an attack of this nature would be appropriate, and how to carry it out.

As such it will, as the author suggests, appeal to anyone from, say, 1500 to 2300 strength. The themes won’t be new to stronger and more experienced players but they’ll still benefit from seeing them in action. While the author points out that the explanations at the start of each chapter are short to allow more space for games, they sometimes seemed rather perfunctory to me.

I’m also not sure that the book is entirely free from the flaws Khalifman has noted in other volumes of this nature. Yes, it’s a bit different from other books in the way it’s organised, and, while many of the games, including quite a few from Prusikin’s own games, were new to me, there were also some frequently anthologised chestnuts.

I’m also not convinced that the book is free from exaggerated sensationalism. The annotations, and sometimes the exclamation marks, perhaps tend towards the hyperbolic. As Khalifman rightly points out, ‘you don’t learn anything abut physics or chemistry by watching a fireworks display’, but the examples do tend to be firework displays rather than the more mundane attacks that are more likely to occur in your games.

It’s a large and complex subject, and, to do it full justice based on 21st century chess knowledge, you really need 400 or 500 pages rather than the 192 pages we have here.

The book was originally published in German and has been competently translated by Royce Parker, so the language problems sometimes apparent in books from this publisher don’t arise here. The production standards are high, and there’s a refreshing lack of typos.

It’s an entertaining and instructive book which will be enjoyed by a wide range of readers, but is it an essential purchase? Probably not.

Richard James, Twickenham 9th June 2022

Richard James
. Richard James

Book Details:

  • Softcover: 192 pages
  • Publisher: New In Chess (31 Dec 2021)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10:9056919741
  • ISBN-13:978-9056919740
  • Product Dimensions: ‎17.02 x 23.11 cm

Official web site of New in Chess

Attacking Strategies for Club Players How to Create a Deadly Attack on the Enemy King, Michael Prusikin, New in Chess, 31-12-2021, ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-9056919740
Attacking Strategies for Club Players
How to Create a Deadly Attack on the Enemy King, Michael Prusikin, New in Chess, 31-12-2021, ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-9056919740

Unbeatable!: The Art of Defense

Unbeatable!: The Art of Defense, Jan Werle, Thinkers Publishing, 11th January 2022, ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-9464201413
Unbeatable!: The Art of Defense, Jan Werle, Thinkers Publishing, 11th January 2022, ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-9464201413

From the publishers’ blurb:

“GM Jan Werle is a professional chess trainer, coach and author. In 2008 he became EU Champion in Liverpool and reached his peak rating of 2607. Afterwards he finished his law studies, obtaining Master’s degrees in Civil and Commercial Law, and embarked on a career as a lawyer. However his main passion, chess prevailed, and led to a comeback. He gives chess lessons to pupils worldwide, individually and in groups. He enjoys teaching and helping his students and watching them improve. He combines teaching with playing in tournaments, keeping up his own level. Jan likes to meet new people and see new places and has been travelling to tournaments across the globe since an early age. He has played in all age categories in the World and European Championships finishing 3rd in the U-16 Championship in 2000 and 2nd in the U-18 in 2001. In 2004 he beat FIDE World Champion Rustam Kasimdzhanov and has won several strong international opens such as the Essent Open in Hogeveen in 2007, the Oslo Open and 8th place in the Gibraltar Masters in 2020, the strongest open in the world, with a score of 7/10 and a tournament performance of 2743. ”

 

Defence is a difficult subject to write about. What do we mean by defence, anyway? We have to defend if we have the worse position, but we also have to defend if our opponent is creating threats. If our opponent has made an unsound sacrifice for an attack, we might have to defend when in a winning position.

For these reasons there have been relatively few books written about this important aspect of chess, so it’s good to be able to welcome this new volume. Let’s take a look inside.

Chapter 1 doubles as the Introduction.

In this book I try to shed light on how to put up tenacious resistance, as well as why most defenders aren’t able to do so. There are so many books written about the attack and the initiative, not to mention opening books. But isn’t the hardest discipline in chess the defense of a weak position?

Technically speaking, one of the reasons why defense is such a difficult discipline, is that the attacker has several good moves at his disposal to choose from, whereas the defender is bound to pick one single move which enables him to ‘survive’. 

Werle also discusses chess psychology, and, in general, sports psychology, subjects of particular interest to him, and with which he has personal experience.

There is an increasing understanding of the role psychology plays in chess, and, when your opponent is putting you under pressure, this is especially important. As you’ll see, this is discussed at length here.

Chapter 2 is again relatively short, looking at two forms of ‘inaccurate defence’: being too passive (and gradually getting crushed) and being too active in positions where you need to sit tight. It’s no coincidence that Werle’s examples of undue passivity come from older games: we know a lot more now about the virtues of active defence and the need to create counterplay, even at the cost of material.

Chapters 3, 4 and 5 constitute the heart of the book, each providing an in-depth look at defence in very different ways.

Chapter 3 offers The rise of defense in chess history, taking us all the way from Greco to Carlsen, with many instructive examples along the way.  The author is particularly interesting when writing about Steinitz and Lasker, both of whom had much to say on the subject as well as demonstrating defensive skills in many of their games.

He then moves onto Botvinnik and Smyslov, both also giants of defensive play. I was taken by this example from a fairly well known Botvinnik (black v Liublinsky Moscow 1943/44) game.

Here, Botvinnik played what has now become a stock exchange sacrifice.

25… Rd4!?

Botvinnik gives this move an exclamation mark, citing the advantages of the repaired pawn chain and the passed pawn, as the closed nature of the position deprives the white Rooks of any activity. However, in the ensuing lines there occur many concrete ‘computerish’ breaks which gives the Rooks a (perhaps better than) level playing field compared to the minor pieces.

26. Ne2

Lyubinsky (sic) prefers to take the Rook with his Knight and to retain his Bishop. A questionable decision, since the Knight would have been well placed on the blockading square d3, according to Botvinnik.

After 26… Bc8 27. Bxd4 cxd4 28. Nc1! he would have kept a large advantage, but for the same reason after keeping the Bishop instead of the Knight on the board. In essence, White has to open the files on the queenside.

26… Bc8 27. Nxd4 cxd4 28. Bf2?

When Botvinnik mentions that his opponent is saddled with a dark squared Bishop (instead of the Knight) and thus completely without counterplay, Botvinnik missed several potential interesting and dynamic ideas to open the queenside files, assuming White was just obliged to await further developments.

White could have refuted this notion by, for example, 28. Bd2! with the idea of b3-b4. 28… c5 29. Rab1 f5 30. a3 Be6 31. Rb2! Now there is no way to stop the b3-b4 pawn break, when the files and ranks are opened, and the Rooks become ‘monsters’. 31… f4 32. b4! axb4 33. axxb4 cxb4 24. Rdb1 when White has a winning advantage.

Chapter 4, Emotions in Chess, looks at defence through the lens of sports psychology. Comparisons are made with other sports, notably tennis, with players such as McEnroe, Agassi and Federer discussed. We learn about debilitating emotions: anxiety, anger, relief and pride, how emotions might be triggered and how to cope with them.

Examples demonstrate how our emotions might affect how we play: particularly being too cautious or not sufficiently decisive.

Then Werle explains how we can control emotions by relaxation or a variety of cognitive techniques.

Any serious competitive player will find this chapter, concerning an increasingly important aspect of chess, very helpful.

Chapter 5 takes us back to the chessboard, looking at Defensive Strategies. Sometimes we can use prophylaxis: preventing our opponents from carrying out their plans. Sometimes we just have to wait to see how our opponents are going to improve their position. On other occasions, though, we need to be proactive, looking for counter-attacking moves which will turn the tide.

Back in Chapter 3, Werle discussed Korchnoi’s massive plus score with the black pieces against Tal to demonstrate what can happen when a brilliant attacker comes up against a brilliant defender. There are several examples scattered throughout the book.

Here is a striking example, from Moscow 1971.

In this position Korchnoi played:

16… Kh8!!

Fantastic prophylaxis against h4-h5! Black can take now on e5 as the discovered check on h7 is out of the question. Not good was 16… Rfd8?, as after 17. h5 Nf8 18. h6 g6 19. Qxc4 Black would have been left with weakened black squares around the King and an isolated c-pawn.

Werle goes on to demonstrate the remainder of the game, which Korchnoi won on move 40.

(Checking this with Stockfish 15, though, the engine claims that 16… Rfd8 17. h5 Nf8 18. h6 Ng6 19. hxg7 Bc6 is fine for Black.)

Alekhine was a pioneer of risk-taking in defence, as Werle demonstrates in this example (Lasker – Alekhine Moscow 1914).

13… O-O-O!!

This unexpected, brutal move must have come as a shock to Lasker. White might have expected something like 13… Ne5 instead. White keeps an advantage with 14. Qc3 protecting f3. Black faces real issues completing his development. Or 13… Qe6 for the sake of bringing the Bishop out. 14. Re1! Bxc5 Who tricks who? 15. Qxd7+! Apparently, White tricks Black. Either way, there follows a Knight fork on f6 or c5.

14. Qa4

As storm clouds gather above Black’s position, Alekhine finds a creative solution for the problem of his king’s position. He could have played 14… Kb8 here to defend the pawn on a7, but then the game wouldn’t last for long after White plays simple developing moves: Bf4, Rd1-d3-b3/a3.

14… Ne5

This move is not approved by the commentators, but nonetheless it achieves its intended effect in the game. The point is that Alekhine places his knight as actively as possible, directed towards the enemy’s king.

15. Kg2 Qe6

16. Qa7?!

And here is the mistake: White is seduced into taking the pawn. Annotators, starting with the players’ contemporary Siegbert Tarrasch, indicated that a much safer move was 16. Bf4 initiating a strong positional idea. 16… Kb7 17. Bxe5 – after taking the strong knight on e5 White will develop a quick attack against black’s King with Re1 (threatening Nd6+) – Re3-Rb3, meanwhile Black has issues developing his bishop on f8.

16… Qf5!!

The ‘standard’ 16… Qg6+ fails without a fight after 17. Bg5! White will prevent the King’s escape via d7 on the next move. 17… f6 18. Rad1 And there is not much to do against the mating threat on a8.

 With this beautiful queen move, Alekhine is not only threatening to take on f3, but also at the same time vacating the escape route c8-d7-e6 for his King!

The game resulted in a draw by perpetual check a few moves later.

This extract (I’ve omitted another three diagrams) gives you some idea of the flavour of the annotations here.

Chapter 6 offers what is these days the almost obligatory quiz to test your defensive skills, with 22 questions where the defender has to make a critical decision.

All in all, this is an excellent book which will interest all serious competitive players. If you have an interest in sports psychology you may well consider it an essential read. The book is exceptionally well researched and the examples are well chosen, although, as they’re mostly taken from grandmaster practice you might consider them more suitable for stronger players. The book itself looks good. It’s illustrated with many photographs, some of only tangential relevance, and important sentences and quotes are highlighted in callout boxes.

My one problem – and this might not annoy you as it does me – is that, as with so many chess books, the proofreading is well below the standard I’d expect from books on other subjects. You can perhaps tell from some of the extracts above that the text isn’t always fluent and sometimes the meaning isn’t entirely clear at first reading. But beyond that there are many other minor issues: inconsistent spellings (Tal is Mikhail and Mihail on the same page), inconsistent use of capitalisation of names of chess pieces, even in the same sentence, and so on. I appreciate (in part from being on the other end at the moment) that this process takes time and costs money: perhaps omitting it is a necessary sacrifice to make books like this economically viable.

If you don’t find this an insurmountable problem, I’d recommend this book as a brave and original take on a complex and difficult aspect of chess.

Richard James, Twickenham 25th May 2022

Richard James
. Richard James

Book Details :

  • Softcover: 340 pages
  • Publisher: Thinkers Publishing; 1st edition (11 Jan. 2022)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10:946420141X
  • ISBN-13:978-9464201413
  • Product Dimensions: 16.76 x 2.03 x 23.37 cm

Official web site of Thinkers Publishing

Unbeatable!: The Art of Defense, Jan Werle, Thinkers Publishing, 11th January 2022, ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-9464201413
Unbeatable!: The Art of Defense, Jan Werle, Thinkers Publishing, 11th January 2022, ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-9464201413

110 Instructive Chess Annotations

From the back cover:

Senior International Master Mike Read competed 115 times for the England and Great Britain teams at correspondence chess, including playing on board one for England in the 13th Olympiad.

In this, his fourth book, he aims to instruct his readers by dissecting 110 games played by local players at all levels of chess. In doing so, he isolates typical mistakes and explains the methods of taking advantage of them.

Philidor wrote that pawns are the soul of chess. In one sense, yes, but in another sense  the soul of chess is the mass of club and tournament players, without whom the chess world wouldn’t function.  Yes, it might be inspirational to look at games played by top grandmasters, but it’s always been my view that club standard players will learn more from games played at their level than from GM games.

Mike Read shares my opinion. Here’s how he starts his introduction.

One of the surest ways for a club player to improve his playing ability is to study annotated games featuring players of similar strength to themselves. The mistakes, and the instructive methods of taking advantage of them, will be familiar to them from similar happenings in their own games. Meanwhile the notes to such moves will educate the aspiring player in both how to avoid typical errors, and also how to take advantage of them when it is his opponent who is unfortunate enough to err.

Mike was a strong junior in the 1970s who graduated to correspondence chess which he played with great success up to the year 2000, playing on top board for England and obtaining the title of Senior International Master. You don’t get to that level without being an excellent analyst.

He continues:

It is reasonable for the reader to enquire as to why my correspondence chess career ended at a time when I was still being reasonably successful. The truth is that, during the 1990s, I suffered three nervous breakdowns. I managed to continue to keep on competing during the first two of these and, in fact, had my most successful chess years during the second of them, even though I was barely capable of coping with even the simplest aspects of day to day life. However my third breakdown, which occurred in the period 1999 to 2000 was too much for me to deal with and I was forced to abruptly retire from the game that I love at the beginning of the new millennium.

I was in an absolutely desperate situation at this time, but chess was to prove to be a major factor in my eventual recovery. A number of local players, recognising the severity of the predicament that I was in, made a great effort to assist me and get me out of the house where I had been languishing alone for several months. I do not feel I would ever have recovered, had it not been for the support of the Norfolk chess community.

And again:

Contained within these pages are 110 games, played by Norfolk players of all strengths from superstars of local chess such as John Emms, Owen Hindle and Robert Bellin down to some of the county’s lower graded (but still very talented as you will see!) enthusiasts. All of the games I have included feature top quality opportunities for the aspiring player to learn a lot, and all also feature some very fine chess!

The book is published through Amazon: Mike Read is selling it as cost price as he has no interest in collecting royalties from its sales.

The games are presented, unusually, in ECO code order, so you get all the Sicilian Defence games, for example, together. The annotations, which were produced without computer assistance, are excellent, scoring highly for both clarity and accuracy as well as instructive value. Many readers will, like me, appreciate the human touch. If you look at the sample pages on Amazon you’ll get some idea of their flavour.

Most of them are tactical, often involving spectacular sacrifices, which will delight anyone (and that probably means all of us) who enjoys combinative play.

This was the first game Mike analysed. He witnessed it taking place and decided to annotate it to thank his friend Grant Turner, who had helped and supported him during his breakdown. (If you click on any move you’ll be able to play through the games in this review on a pop-up board.)

Another of Mike’s friends, Brian Cunningham, was responsible for the production of this book. In this game he demonstrates that the Stonewall Attack can be a potent weapon at lower club level.

At the other end of the spectrum, here’s a game played by Norfolk born GM John Emms.

I know many readers enjoy collections of games played at amateur level, finding them both more entertaining and more instructive than higher level encounters. If you’re one of these you’ll be entranced by this book.

There are also many readers who like to support authors who prefer to self-publish their books. An admirable sentiment, I think, and if you fall into this category, again you certainly won’t be disappointed.

The word that first comes to my mind when considering this book is ‘generous’. Mike Read generously offers this book at cost price. The size is generous, his tributes to his friends who saved his life after his third breakdown, scattered within the introductions to these games, are also generous. The annotations are also generous in every respect. Mike is generous in his comments about the winners’ play, and also, very often, about the losers’ play as well. You might think that a more critical approach might have made the annotations even more instructive, but this would have been out of place given that they were originally written for a local chess magazine.

Anyone rated between, say, 1000 and 2000 will certainly learn a lot from this book, but stronger players will also benefit. And anyone who just enjoys playing through entertaining games will, like me, fall in love with this book. Don’t be put off by the title, which makes it sound rather dull and didactic (didactic, perhaps, but certainly never dull), or the lack of an illustration on the front cover. It’s what’s inside the book that really matters.

At another level, the book is also a wonderful tribute to all Mike Read’s friends within the Norfolk chess community (a few of whom, sadly, are no longer with us), who helped him when he was going through a very difficult time. Many will find Mike’s story inspirational, and that, again, is a powerful reason why you should buy this book.

It’s my view, and I’m sure Mike, even though he was a chess champion himself, would agree, that, ultimately, chess is less about prodigies, champions and grandmasters, but about forging friendships and building communities of like-minded people who enjoy the excitement, beauty and cerebral challenge of chess.

I’d urge all readers of this review to do themselves a favour, and do Mike a favour as well, by buying a copy.  I really enjoyed this book, and I’m sure you will too. The Amazon link is here.

From https://mikereadsim.weebly.com/photos.html

 

 Richard James, Twickenham 11th May 2022

Richard James
. Richard James

Book Details:

  • ASIN ‏ : ‎ B09M791556
  • Publisher ‏ : ‎ Independently published (25 Nov. 2021)
  • Language ‏ : ‎ English
  • Paperback ‏ : ‎ 551 pages
  • ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 979-8466415964
  • Dimensions ‏ : ‎ 12.85 x 3.18 x 19.84 cm

Official web site of Amazon Publishing

110 Instructive Chess Annotations, SIM Mike Read, Independently published (25 Jan. 2020), ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-1708364748
110 Instructive Chess Annotations, SIM Mike Read, Independently published (25 Jan. 2020), ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-1708364748

Modern Chess– From Steinitz to the 21st Century

Modern Chess– From Steinitz to the 21st Century, Craig Pritchett, Thinker's Publishing, 15th February 2022, ISBN-10 ‏ : ‎ 9464201436
Modern Chess– From Steinitz to the 21st Century, Craig Pritchett, Thinker’s Publishing, 15th February 2022, ISBN-10 ‏ : ‎ 9464201436

From the publishers’ blurb:

“The revolutionary Wilhelm Steinitz (1836-1900) considered himself to be in the vanguard of an emerging, late-19th century ‘Modern’ school, which embraced a new, essentially scientific vitality in its methods of research, analysis, evaluation, planning, experiment and even belligerent fight. Steinitz, who dominated the chess world in the shadow of a more directly attacking, openly tactical and combinative, so-called ‘romantic’ age, established a much firmer positional basis to chess. A pivotal change! This book follows that story, both before and beyond Steinitz’s early ‘modern’ era, focusing closely on the subtly varied ways in which the world’s greatest players in the last two centuries have thought about and played the game, moving it forward. The author reflects on all sixteen ‘classical’ world champions and others, notably: C-L. M. de la Bourdonnais, Adolf Anderssen, Paul Morphy, Siegbert Tarrasch, Aron Nimzowitsch, Richard Réti, Judit Polgar and the contemporary Artificial Intelligence phenomenon, AlphaZero. Be inspired by this exploration of the ‘modern’ game’s roots and trajectory!”

IM Craig William Pritchett, Courtesy of John Upham Photography
IM Craig William Pritchett, Courtesy of John Upham Photography

Craig Pritchett (b 1949) is a former national champion and international master (1976), who represented Scotland in nine Chess Olympiads (1966-1990), including four times on top board (1974-1980). Gold medal winner on top board for Scotland at the European Seniors (60+) Team Championship in 2011, he continues to compete regularly at Senior and Open events. Chess Correspondent for the Scottish newspaper The Herald (1972-2006) and East Lothian Life (since 2005), he has taught and written widely on chess, specialising latterly on the historical development of chess thought and the fascinatingly wide differences in players’ chess styles. A University of Glasgow graduate in Modern History and Politics and a Chartered Public Finance Accountant, he also worked for many years in UK central government audit. President of his local Dunbar Chess Club, he has also long been associated with three major chess clubs: Edinburgh West, Barbican 4NCL and SK Berlin-Zehlendorf.”

From the author’s introduction:

This book takes the reader on a journey from early 19th century developments in the game up to the present-day. 

And:

Today’s top players still borrow from the best games and ideas of past generations. Do join them!

I wrote this book primarily to explore, confirm and convey my own understanding of this grand sweep of chess history. 

What we’re offered here, then is a brief history of top level chess from 1834 to the present day, looking at both the development of chess ideas and the world championship itself. As you’d expect, the text is illustrated with games, annotated in a refreshingly straightforward fashion, and there are also a few photographs of the book’s heroes. An ambitious project, following in the footsteps of many other authors from Réti onwards. Not the first book of this type I’ve reviewed here either: but I wasn’t particularly impressed with this offering from two years ago.

We start then with Bourdonnais and McDonnell from 1834. Pritchett is impressed with their ‘calculating powers and creative imaginations’, and you will be too.

Most readers will have seen the extraordinary 62nd game before. I decided to ask Stockfish 14 to have a look. The notoriously hard to please engine was also impressed, but had one issue.

Here, Bourdonnais played 25… Qe3+, when 26. Rf2 would have held, according to both Pritchett and Stockfish. Pritchett also mentions that 25… Ba6 27. Qxa6 favours White: Stockfish 14 thinks Black’s winning after 27… e4!. A remarkable position which you might want to look at yourself. Perhaps Craig was using an older engine.

The theme of tactical brilliance continues with Anderssen, and, inevitably, we see the Immortal and Evergreen Games. Of course most readers will have seen them many times before, but there will always be those new to chess history who will relish witnessing them for the first time.

We then move onto Morphy and Steinitz, which is where the story becomes more complex and therefore more interesting. Pritchett is good at outlining Steinitz’s professionalism, opening research and patience at accumulating small advantages.

Pritchett describes this game as an early ‘hypermodern’ masterpiece, created decades before the term itself even existed, of a most insightful and visionary kind. (Click on any move of any game in this review for a pop-up board. I’ve used Stockfish 14 to annotate the games: readers might like to compare them with the author’s annotations in the book.)

This takes us into what, for me, is the strongest part of the book, covering the last few decades of the 19th and the first few decades of the 20th century. It’s excellent that Pritchett includes sections on Tarrasch and the Hypermoderns along with Lasker and the other world champions. Readers of Ray Keene’s masterpiece Aron Nimzowitsch: A Reappraisal will be aware that he wrote insightfully about the feud between these two players who had very different views about how chess should be played.

Almost half a century on, Keene’s contemporary Pritchett, takes a rather different approach, seeking to find a synthesis between the two. He quite rightly praises Tarrasch’s books Dreihundert Schachpartien and Die Moderne Schachpartie, although accepting that he could at times be over-dogmatic.

If you’ve never studied the games of the 1893 Tarrasch – Chigorin match do yourself a favour and have a look. One of the greatest matches in chess history, in my opinion.

Pritchett offers us the 4th game, although his annotations fail to point out Chigorin’s missed wins at moves 29 and 32.

Moving on from Tarrasch, via Lasker, to Nimzowitsch, Pritchett is just as complimentary about My System and Chess Praxis as he is about Tarrasch’s books, telling us that together they offer a wealth of insightful exposition of the new paths that the game was beginning to take in a post-classical era.

The contrasting champions Capablanca and Alekhine then follow, as stylistically different as Tarrasch and Nimzowitsch were in terms of their ideas and both interpreting their teachings in different ways.

Euwe only merits a very short chapter, and, as you might expect, the Pearl of Zandvoort, the Dutch champion’s most famous game, is demonstrated.

Botvinnik then takes us beyond the Second World War and into the latter half of the 20th century, at which point the tone of the book seems to undergo a gradual change.

As FIDE took over the organising the World Championship (with a break between 1993 and 2006) Pritchett’s narrative becomes more a list of world championship matches than a study of the development of ideas. We meet Smyslov, Tal, Petrosian and Spassky, four players with very different styles. Then, of course, Fischer, Karpov, Kasparov, Kramnik, Anand and Carlsen.

The book ends with chapters on Judit Polgar, understandable in these days where representation is considered so important, and Alpha Zero, whose games add a totally new dimension to the development of chess ideas.

Pritchett quotes this Petrosian game, along with a 1966 interview from Sovetsky Sport, in which Petrosian, when asked what he valued most in chess, replied with the word Logic. I like only those games where I have played in accordance with the demands of the position … logical “correct” play. Botvinnik and Smyslov might both have agreed, but Tal? Probably not.

A different approach might have been to consider the period from 1948 onwards through looking at openings rather than players. You could discuss, for instance, the increasing popularity and development of dynamic openings such as the Sicilian and King’s Indian Defences in the post-war years, followed by the effects brought about by computer usage from, say, 1990 onwards. You’d be looking at the world champions, but also players such as Bronstein and Larsen who also, like Tarrasch and Nimzowitsch in their day, had an impact on the development of chess.

It strikes me that the history of the world championship and the development of chess ideas are two very different, but obviously interconnected subjects. From my perspective as a student of chess history, this book rather falls between two stools. The first half is written more from the latter perspective and the second half more from the former perspective. Inevitably so, perhaps, given the difficulty of telling a long and complex story within the confines of a relatively slim book.

If you’re knowledgeable about chess history, you’ll be familiar with the stories and have seen most of the games before. But if you’re new to the subject, this book, which will appeal to players of all strengths, would be a good place to start. It’s accessible, well researched and written, with well annotated games and well produced, although with a few typos and errors which might have been picked up at proof stage. Not all the analysis stands up to the scrutiny of Stockfish 14 but for most readers that won’t matter. Recommended for those unfamiliar with the subject matter, but perhaps superfluous for those who will have seen most of it before.

Richard James, Twickenham 31st March 2022

Richard James
. Richard James

Book Details :

  • Softcover: 328 pages
  • Publisher: Thinkers Publishing; 1st edition (15 Feb. 2022)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10:9464201436
  • ISBN-13: 978-9464201437
  • Product Dimensions: 17.02 x 2.29 x 23.37 cm

Official web site of Thinkers Publishing

Modern Chess– From Steinitz to the 21st Century, Craig Pritchett, Thinker's Publishing, 15th February 2022, ISBN-10 ‏ : ‎ 9464201436
Modern Chess– From Steinitz to the 21st Century, Craig Pritchett, Thinker’s Publishing, 15th February 2022, ISBN-10 ‏ : ‎ 9464201436

Remembering IMC Ken Messere OBE (16-iv-1928 31-iii-2005)

IMC Ken Messere OBE (16-iv-1928 31-iii-2005)
IMC Ken Messere OBE (16-iv-1928 31-iii-2005)

BCN remembers Ken Messere who passed away on Thursday, March 31st 2005 aged 76 in Paris-16E-Arrondissement, Paris, France.

Kenneth Charles Messere was born on Monday, April 16th, 1928 in Richmond-on-Thames, Surrey. His father was Charles (George) Messere (1901-1974) or Eisenberg and aged 26. His mother was Gertrude Marie Newman (1899-1978) and aged 29.

Ken had three siblings: Barbara Marie Messere (1930–2005), Hugh Martin Messere (1932–1985) and Derek R Messere (1934–2012)

Ken attended St. Peter’s College, Oxford from 1946 – 1951 to read philosophy and is reported in the 1951 St. Edmund Hall Magazine, as a member of the Trillick (debating) Society as follows:

‘ That this House would rather be a live Communist than
a dead Democrat.’ The proposer established to his own satisfaction that democracy was founded on ‘selfishness, capitalism and bourgeois hypocrisy.’ He did not satisfy J. F. R. Bonguard of St. Peter’s Hall who opposed, using arguments taken from Hindu philosophy. K. C. Messere of St. Peter’s Hall, spoke third and added some able arguments.

In June 1954 Ken married Mary Elizabeth Humphrey (1929-2003) in Ealing. They had a son Miles Jonathan Messere born in 1964 who passed away in 1965.

Prior the time of his passing his wife Mary was living at 142B, Herbert Road, Woolwich, London, SE18 3PU.

In 1991 he was awarded the OBE (Civil Division) in the Queen’s Birthday honours list. The citation reads: Kenneth Charles Messere, lately Head of Fiscal Affairs Division, OECD, Paris.

Ken appears each year from 1953 to 1967 in the noted publication Britain, Royal And Imperial Calendars the function of which is to list entries for those engaged in UK public service. He worked for HM Customs and Excise. Prompted by this we consulted the venerable A History of Chess in the English Civil Service by Kevin Thurlow (Conrad Press, 2021) on page 447 and found

“He played for Customs. In 1964, he went to work for the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development and was head of fiscal affairs from 1971 – 1991. In 1954 he began playing postal chess and became a leading player. He won a semi-final of the 5th World Correspondence Championship (1961 – 64) and became the first English player to compete in a World Championship Final.”

There are 31 games listed at his personal entry at chessgames.com starting with games from 1965.

Chessbase’s Correspondence Database 2020 records 69 games the earliest being from 1958 listing Ken’s federation as being France.

From British Chess (Pergamon Press, 1983) we have this lengthy contribution from Ken himself:

“Between the ages of 6, when I learnt to play and 23 (ed: 1951), when I ceased to be a student, chess had a relatively low priority among various time-competing interests and activities, so I never got around to studying theory. Things changed when I became a civil servant and needed a replacement for philosophy as an intellectually absorbing subject which could be argued about with friends over beers, and for the next 12 years chess became my main interest.

Since 1964 I have been working for the OECD in Paris, where my friends are not chess enthusiasts and, although chess remains a major pleasure, my commitment to it has lessened. Nowadays, out-side correspondence chess, I play only occasional blitz games.

Coming late to serious chess has probably had at least some influence on my deficiencies and stylistic preferences. The deficiencies include an inability to visualize ahead with sufficient clarity to support accurate analysis, slow sight of the board which leads to silly errors through time trouble or failing stamina and less familiarity with theory than my better opponents. As to chess style, I have had to play romantically and subjectively to get good results.

If a game takes the form of a clear-cut position, where strategical objectives are clear and superior technique prevails, then mine generally does not. Consequently I have tended to play either sharp gambits or counter-gambits or to try to render the position sufficiently obscure for imagination and intuition to assume maximum importance. In keeping, my chess heroes have been Alekhine, Bronstein and Tal who revel in fantasy, however much Alekhine may claim that it is logically based.

When I took up competitive chess seriously in 1952, I made some progress and won a few minor tournaments, but in view of the defects already mentioned, it soon became clear that my potential for improvement was limited and that nearly all my games were aesthetically flawed. Fortunately, these defects represent no great handicap at correspondence chess, where I found myself pleased with a reasonable proportion of the game I played, and in addition, capable on the day (or more accurately over the years) of winning against almost anyone. Thus, against world champions I have two wins and one loss, (see below). I also have 80 per cent from five games against Russian grandmasters, even if a meagre 28 per cent from my eighteen games against all correspondence grandmasters. In 1954 when I began playing postal chess competitively, I did sufficiently well in a few British Postal tournaments to be accepted at a reasonably high level in the official international tournaments.

Not without luck (see Diagram l), I secured the 75 per cent necessary in two seven-player tournaments to qualify for the fourteen player preliminaries, the winner of which was to qualify for the following world championship. In the 1961-64 preliminaries, I played the best chess of my life, including valid opening innovations, imaginative pawn and piece sacrifices and even a technically efficient win in a queen and pawn end-game. I won the tournament with eleven wins, one draw and one loss, 1.5 points ahead of Maly of Czechoslovakia and two points ahead of Masseev, the Russian favourite, thereby obtaining my first norm towards the International Master title. My first annotated game is the win against Maly (ed: to be inserted once we have tracked down the game score!) which was typical stylistically and also crucial, since if he had won it, he would have qualified for the World Championship instead of me: the second against Bartha of the United States is the most compulsive and difficult tactical game I have ever played, the last five moves alone requiring over 100 hours of analysis.

IMC Ken Messere OBE (16-iv-1928 31-iii-2005)
IMC Ken Messere OBE (16-iv-1928 31-iii-2005)

The quality of my chess in the 1965-68 World Championship was much inferior. The tournament began disastrously. I went in for three losing variations as Black and made a suicidal clerical error in the opening so that after 3 months I had four losses from four games. Later, there were compensations. I won against V. Zagarovsky, the reigning world champion (the third annotated game) and obtained just (but only just) the necessary 33.3% per cent to obtain the correspondence chess international master title. For this I needed a win and draw from my last two games which
after 3.5 years, had to be adjudicated.

Fortunately, the win and draw were relatively clear, though this would not have been so a few moves earlier. An an illustration of how the threat of adjudication breeds irrationality, Diagram II gives the closing stages of my win against J.Estrin of the USSR – a more recent correspondence chess world champion. My only other game against a world champion was against the winner of this tournament, Hans Berliner of the United States, with whom I collaborated on a book of the tournament. The collaboration was stimulating but not without friction, since I had to write 75 per cent of the book to see it ever finished. It took a year to complete, 3 years to appear (published by BCM) but in the end was well-reviewed, sold over 2000 copies and royalties are still (gently) drifting in.

The Fifth Correspondence Chess World Championship, Hans Berliner & Ken Messere, British Chess Magazine, BCM Quarterly Nunber 14, 5th December 1971, ISBN 978-0-900846-05-2.
The Fifth Correspondence Chess World Championship, Hans Berliner & Ken Messere, British Chess Magazine, BCM Quarterly Nunber 14, 5th December 1971, ISBN 978-0-900846-05-2.

 

In the early seventies, in order to reduce numbers of games, I retreated altogether from individual tournaments, just playing twice for England in the Olympiads. Whether team play did not suit my style, or whether my technique had improved but imagination withered, I drew nine of my seventeen games from the two tournaments, winning four and losing four. As England looked likely to aspire to medals for the first time ever, my 50 per cent would not help matters and I gladly retreated to first reserve, which to my dismay required taking over five unfinished games of Hugh Alexander, who died during the tournament, and who, for me, has always been England’s most attractive player and writer. My most uncomfortable decision in correspondence chess was a rejection of Hugh’s intended continuation in one of these games, {Diagram III). Of these five games, I lost one and drew four and England won a bronze medal.

In 1974 was invited to compete in the Potter Memorial Tournament of four postal grandmasters and nine international masters. After so many years of responsible’ team chess for England, I went beserk and sacrificed a pawn in ten of the twelve games, trying later to salvage inferior end-games. Result 33 % per cent. B. H. Wood invited me to write a book of the tournament, to which a number of the players contributed and this was published in 1979.

The Potter Memorial, Ken Messere, CHESS (Sutton Coldfield), 1975
The Potter Memorial, Ken Messere, CHESS (Sutton Coldfield), 1975

Also in 1979 I began to play in another invitation tournament of thirteen players organised by the Australian Correspondence Chess League, which became a memorial to CJS Purdy, its president and the first world postal champion, who died soon after the tournament began. At the time of writing, this tournament, comprising four grandmasters (including one former world champion and two runners-up) and eight international masters, is still in its early stages.”

From British Chess Magazine, Volume CXXV (125, 2005), Number 5 (May), page 226 we have this obituary:

“Kenneth Charles Messere (16 iv 1928, Richmond – 31 iii 2005, Paris) was one of Britain’s strongest correspondence players (he held the correspondence IM title) and well-known author of books on the subject. After graduating from Oxford University, Ken Messere went to HM Customs and Excise, and thence to the Organisation for Economic Development (OECD) where he became head of the fiscal affairs division and a world expert on fiscal law. He reached the final of 1965-8 world correspondence championship, beating world champions Zagorovsky and Estrin, and wrote the book of the tournament with Hans Berliner (published by BCM)”

From The Potter Memorial by Ken Messere, CHESS (Sutton Coldfield), “Chess for Modern Times” Series, 1975 we have this potted biography:

“Compiler of this book, took 3rd place in 1957 and 2nd in 1968 in the championship of the Postal Chess Club. Scores of 4.5 out of 6 in the ICCF Masters 1957-8 and 4/6 in the 1959-61 Championship took him to victory with 11/5 out of 13 in the 1961-3 semi-finals, securing him his first international master norm and qualifying him for the 5th World Championship 1964-7 in which he scored 5.5, just enough for the IM title, with wins over Zagorovsky, then world champion and Estrin, world champion now. Ken Messere collaborated with Berliner, who won it, in a book on the tournament.

He then switched to play exclusively as a member of the British Olympiad team, taking over 2nd board when Alexander died.

The switch back from rather cautious team play to enterprising individual games in 1974-7 provides some of the subject matter of this book.”

 

The Tax System in Industrialized Countries, Ken Messere, Oxford University Press, 1998, ISBN 10: 1982933135 / ISBN 13: 9781982933135
The Tax System in Industrialized Countries, Ken Messere, Oxford University Press, 1998, ISBN 10: 1982933135 / ISBN 13: 9781982933135

Yuri Averbakh: 100 Not Out!

Yuri Averbakh, courtesy of New in Chess
Yuri Averbakh, courtesy of New in Chess

He was born into a world that flowed along very differently from our own. Kaluga was his city, but don’t reach for that atlas, just follow the River Oka setting your clock to a time when, as Trotsky was to write, Lenin, despite the efforts of his medics, was a hopelessly sick man. Averbakh bore some little German and Jewish blood, grew to be a tall and scholarly man (headmasterly?) but played chess under the banner of hammer and sickle.

Yury (Yuri) Lvovich Averbakh was born one hundred years ago today and, as such, is the oldest holder of the International Grandmaster title ever, that chess title formalised after World War II. Already – he got the title of national master in 1943 – he was looking at chess not so much as life substitute, as a Tal or Fischer might have done, but more as a career from which possibilities would spring, in the manner (say) of his contemporary, Smyslov. He played in Soviet Championships 1948-70, winning the title in Kiev in 1954 and tying for first place at Leningrad, 1956.

5th= in the 1952 Interzonal and, a year later, just failed to finish on 50% in the celebrated Candidates of ’53. He drew a training match with Botvinnik himself in 1957. International success was obviously his too. Averbakh became known for his endgame books but he wrote on all aspects of the game, maybe twenty books flowing from his pen. Wade called him ‘prodding organiser’ and there is no doubt he touched so many areas of the game, as author, arbiter, diplomat, much in the manner of Euwe.

Though he was largely retired, here is a game to enjoy from his last playing years:

Happy Birthday Yury!

A Disreputable Opening Repertoire

A Disreputable Opening Repertoire, Jonathan Tait, Everyman Chess, 14 Jan. 2022, ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-1781946060
A Disreputable Opening Repertoire, Jonathan Tait, Everyman Chess, 14 Jan. 2022, ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-1781946060

Here is the publishers blurb from the rear cover :

“A highly adventurous repertoire designed to meet 1 e4 with 1…e5 and take the initiative! The main problem Black faces in answering 1 e4 with 1…e5 is the plethora of opening systems available to White: the Ruy Lopez, Giuoco Piano, Scotch, Ponziani, King’s Gambit, Vienna, Bishop’s Opening and so on.

Each is likely to be White’s pet line, which usually means conducting the chess battle on the opponent’s turf. One solution is to study the main lines of all these openings and hope to remember what to do if they appear on the board. Another, more enterprising approach is to turn the tables and make White fight on your territory.

Adopting the latter course, CC-SIM Jonathan Tait shares their investigations into a myriad of disregarded, “disreputable” responses, which can set White thinking as early as move three. These lines are greatly under-estimated by contemporary theory and include weird and wonderful variations such as the Calabrese Counter-Gambit (1 e4 e5 2 Bc4 f5), the Wagenbach Defence to the King’s Gambit (1 e4 e5 2 f4 exf4 3 Nf3 h5), the Romanishin Three Knights (1 e4 e5 2 Nf3 Nc6 3 Nc3 Bc5), the Two Knights Ulvestad Variation (1 e4 e5 2 Nf3 Nc6 3 Bc4 Nf6 4 Ng5 d5 5 exd5 b5) and ultra-sharp lines of the Jaenisch Gambit (1 e4 e5 2 Nf3 Nc6 3 Bb5 f5).

The theory of the variations in this book is generally poorly understood. This has made them successful at all forms of play, including against online computer-assisted assault.”

About the author :

An ancient image of SIM Jonathan Tait, courtesy of ChessBase
An ancient image of SIM Jonathan Tait, courtesy of ChessBase

“Jonathan Tait is a Senior International Correspondence Chess Master (2002) and editor for Everyman Chess. He has been investigating and writing about opening theory for over 30 years.”

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. The usual and reliable formatting from Brighton-based typesetter IM Byron Jacobs is employed.

The diagrams do not have a “to move” indicator or any kind of caption so you will need to work out for yourself how they relate to the text that they are embedded in. However, this is fairly obvious.

There is a helpful Index of Variations but no Index of completed games.

The table of contents is:

Table of Contents
Table of Contents

Before we continue it is worth taking a look at the pdf extract which includes the Contents, Preface and pages 242 – 259.

As the years have rolled by repertoire books have struggled to use attractive and eye-catching adjectives to entice readers. In the early days we have had

An Opening Repertoire for Black, for White, for Club Players and variations thereof.

Publishers became more adventurous, for example:

  1. A Startling Opening Repertoire
  2. An Attacking Repertoire
  3. A Surprising Repertoire
  4. A Killer Chess Opening Repertoire
  5. A Busy Person’s Opening Repertoire
  6. A Cunning Opening Repertoire
  7. An Idiot Proof Opening Repertoire
  8. A Simple Opening Repertoire
  9. A Gambit Opening Repertoire
  10. A Modern Opening Repertoire
  11. A Blitz Opening Repertoire
  12. An Explosive Opening Repertoire
  13. A Rock-Solid Opening Repertoire

but never a dull, tedious or boring or even totally unsound Opening repertoire which we’d say is a matter of regret(!)

Recently, in a search for uniqueness publishers have been venturing in the opposite direction with Coffeehouse Repertoire 1.e4, Volume 1, However, this was anything but coffeehouse and really rather excellent.

So, Everyman has gone all in with “A Disreputable Opening Repertoire” which cannot help but thinking it will stand out(!) at the tournament bookstall: so, what is not to like?

This is a repertoire for the player of Black pieces who wishes to play 1…e5 against the King’s pawn and wishes to allow White to chose their poison. Black is hoping to reply with something yet more toxic.

We kick-off with with the Centre Game (and miscellaneous second moves for White including Nakamura’s 2.Qh5) but it was Chapter Two which caught our eye since we like opening names hitherto unfamiliar. The Calabrese Counter Gambit (apparently named after Greco, “Il Calabrese”) is:

and this, optically at least, fits the description “disreputable” to a tee. Curiosity almost killed the cat and we consulted page 68 of Tony Miles’s favourite opening book by Eric Schiller, Unorthodox Chess Openings who recommends 3.d3! Sadly ES does not provide one of his animal or exotic names for 2..f5.

Scoring 50.6% for Black and being listed as Black’s 7th most popular move (2…Nf6 is the top choice) it has been endorsed by Ivanesivic and 7 “top games” (according to Megabase 2022) have adopted this line. We’d probably outght to ask Bishop’s Opening guru Gary Lane what he thinks of this. There is 22 pages of analysis should you need something unusual against the Bishop’s Opening.

Next up is the Vienna Game and Tait moves away from the “Disreputable” approach and goes Captain Sensible with

and then after 3.Bc4 returns to disreputable form with

which is at least consistent with the previous chapter. Statistically (based on only eight games) this line scores 62% for White OTB and has zero adherents more than once. 3…Nf6 is the reputable move of course.

Here is an unconvincing win by Black in a game when all of Black’s choices from move 4 onwards were the engine’s top choice. It was an ICCF event after all so don’t be surprised by that. There was a recent ICCF all-play-all event populated by ICCF GMs in which every single game was drawn. Of course, in reality, it was an engine vs engine tournament for the middle game onwards once the humans had selected the opening.

Moving on to Chapter Four and Five we reach the good old King’s Gambit, and, we think we know what you are thinking… Does the author recommend

as you might expect?

Well, not exactly..

Against the King’s Bishop’s Gambit the author punts

which makes 76 appearences in MegaBase 2022 versus the 1000 odd each of 3…Nf6 and 3…Qh4+. Quite unexpectedly we find that 3…f5?! has scored 62.5% for Black with two of the four “top” games coming from 1875 and 1876 between James Mason and Henry Bird. It has not been examined at exalted levels.

Chapter Five brings us up to the King’s Knights Gambit and possibly the most disreputable suggestion of the book via the Williams-esque and  wonderfully named Wagenbach Defence. If you were thinking of reaching for Korchnoi and Zak (well, mostly Zak) then we can save you the trouble of looking. The Wagenbach Defence is so-named after BBC featured Mansfield amateur player (JT team mate) János Wagenbach:

János Wagenbach, courtesy of the BBC.
János Wagenbach, courtesy of the BBC.

and we are treated to 47 pages of original analysis mostly based on online games from various servers. One of our favourite positions of this detailed work is:

which we hope you also will appreciate and enjoy.

Arriving at Chapter Six we enter territory after

and potentially more reputable lines in which Tait recommends 3…d5 versus the Ponziani, 4…d5 versus the Goring Gambit and 3…Bc5!? against the Three Knights Game. All very sensible.

The chapter on the Scotch game revolves around

with 29 pages of analysis.

Removing one knight we move on to the Two Knight’s Defence

for Black.

in Chapters eight and nine with 47 pages of analysis recommending the Ulvestad Variation in lieu of the Traxler Counter Attack which has apparently fallen on hard times in the exalted world of correspondence and engine chess.

For those unfamiliar with the Ulvestad this we have this position

which has had 1775 outings in Megabase 2022 compared with a whopping  12063 for 5…Na5. 5…b5 scores an encouraging 51.3% for Black whereas 5…Na5 scores 51.3% for White and has an army of highly rated exponents as you’d expect being the mainstream reply.

The books encore lies in Chapters 10 and 11 in which the author gives his recommended treatment of the Ruy Lopez by predictably promoting  the Schliemann Defence or Jaenisch Gambit as JT refers.

After examining White’s lesser four move alternatives in Chapter 10 we come to Chapter 11 and 4.Nc3 in which everything is really rather mainstream and, dare we say it, reputable. Tait recommends that Black steers by way of 5…d5 and 9.f4 to the following Tabiya for 3…f5 followers and fans:

in which White has tried many 16th move alternatives with varying degrees of success.

Jonathan has amassed a massive body of games to source the material for his book. The bulk of them it would seem are from the worlds of online chess and correspondence games and a huge number are of his own making under the handle of tsmenace. The analysis is thorough and makes much use of engine analysis as well as human.

JTs prose is chatty and amusing and certainly keeps the reader engaged. We learnt a fair bit about the history and development of these lines many of which has not found its way into the mainstream literature.

The repertoire is highly pragmatic and provocative and ideal for use against opponents who become “emotional” when their opponent plays something that they consider to be “unsound”, whatever that means.

In many ways the books title would have been more accurately titled “A Coffeehouse Opening Repertoire” as used by John Shaw for the books by Gawain Jones but they were published somewhat earlier.

If the second player studies the author’s recommendations well and is of the mindset that enjoys these kinds of positions then some amusing games will result and no doubt some unexpected scalps collected. After all, at club level chess must be fun and this book certainly encourages the second player to pump up the excitement levels. Most definitely a strong repertoire for blitz and rapid play time controls.

If you do play 1…e5 versus the King’s pawn then you could easily freshen up your repertoire with at least some of the books recommendations. Make it a late New Years resolution!

John Upham, Cove, Hampshire, 10th February, 2022

John Upham
John Upham

Book Details :

  • Paperback : 360 pages
  • Publisher:  Everyman Chess (14 Jan. 2022)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10:178194606X
  • ISBN-13:978-1781946060
  • Product Dimensions: 17.3 x 1.7 x 23.8 cm

Official web site of Everyman Chess

A Disreputable Opening Repertoire, Jonathan Tait, Everyman Chess, 14 Jan. 2022, ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-1781946060
A Disreputable Opening Repertoire, Jonathan Tait, Everyman Chess, 14 Jan. 2022, ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-1781946060