“The vast majority of chess games witness familiar strategies and well known tactical motifs. These are the games that you will find in the anthologies and opening repertoires. Sometimes however, games appear that seem to have been played on a different planet.
Conventional strategies go out of the window. Familiar tactical themes are nowhere to be seen. Chaos has broken out. The pieces appear to be in open rebellion and are steadfastly refusing to do the natural jobs that they were designed for.
Having to navigate a path in such a game can be a nightmare. Do you rely purely on calculation? Is it better to trust your instincts? Can you assess the position using “normal” criteria?
In order to answer these questions, prolific chess author and coach Cyrus Lakdawala has assembled a collection of brilliantly unconventional and irrational games. The positions in these games appear almost random. Kings have gone walkabout, pieces are on bizarre squares, huge pawn rollers are sweeping all before them.
Irrational chess is like nothing you’ve seen before. As well as being highly instructive this is a hugely entertaining book.
Do not adjust your set. It’s chess, Jim, but not as we know it.”
and about the author:
Cyrus Lakdawala is an International Master, a former National Open and American Open Champion, and a six-time State Champion. He has been teaching chess for over 30 years, and coaches some of the top junior players in the U.S.
As with every recent Everyman Chess publication high quality paper is used and the printing is clear. Each diagram is clear as is the instructional text. Figurine algebraic notation is used throughout and the diagrams are placed adjacent to the relevant text.
Here we have another title from the ever prolific keyboard of Cyrus Lakdawala. Irrational Chess seems like a good match for this author’s sometimes irrational writing style.
But my first question is: what makes a game irrational? If you watch two beginners playing, their moves will mostly be irrational because they have little or no idea what they’re doing. We’re really talking about games between strong players where no one really knows what’s going on. Games where pieces end up on unlikely squares, where there are unusual material imbalances, where one player has decided to take a risk, or to confuse his or her opponent.
As Mikhail Tal, the Patron Saint of Irrational Chess said, “You must take your opponent into a deep, dark forest where 2+2=5 and the path leading out is only wide enough for one.”
That, for the most part, is what you’ll find here. We all enjoy playing through and studying games of this nature. Some of us enjoy playing games like this ourselves as well.
In his rather rambling introduction, Lakdawala tells us how to identify positions of disorder/irrationality.
He offers 12 pointers, for example:
1. A lack ofcontinuity, in that one thing doesn’t necessarily logically lead to what we expected. In this book we try to decode the “without words” positions, which cannot be accessed logically/verbally broken town and explained easily. In such positions the logical mind tends to transform atavistically into a kind of animal consciousness, where nothing is fixed and we are engulfed in a deep realization of terrifying impermanence, where all which matters is our survival.
2. You are lost in the woods and hungry. Then you come upon a patch of unfamiliar berries and mushrooms which could be edible or could be poisonous. The question is: are you going to risk eating them? This book examines the mechanics of risk. Go too far and you overextend; play too safely with too strong a self-preservatory instinct and you may suppress opportunity.
10. While the Sesame Street Muppets taught us that learning can be fun, in this book we look at games so irrationally complex that it is actually difficult to learn from many of them. Nonetheless, in a position’s confusion, just because we lose our faculty of sight, doesn’t also mean we also lose our power of reason. The idea behind this book is: any position, no matter how complex, can still be broken down (at least to some degree!) into points of data, from which we hope to come up with the correct idea. So before most of the examples, I try my best to “explain” that which is often unexplainable. In such positions when we think: “I have a strong intuition on the matter”, it won’t be code for “I’m taking a wild guess!”
If you’re at all familiar with this author’s work you won’t be surprised by all this chattering about Muppets and mushrooms. Cyrus has a devoted fanbase who will lap this up, but it’s not to everyone’s taste.
Reading on, what we have here is eight chapters: four relatively long chapters, covering Attack, Defence and Counterattack, The Dynamic Element (I’m not sure how exactly this differs from Attack, but never mind) and Exploiting Imbalances, followed by four shorter chapters, on Irrational Endings, Opening Shockers, Crazy Draws and Promotion Races. We have 89 games or extracts, copiously illustrated with many diagrams.
Cyrus, quite rightly, is a devotee of active learning, sprinkling his annotations, as he always does, with exercises (Planning, Combination Alert or Critical Decision). You might like to cover up the page and try to solve them before reading on. The author is a highly experienced annotator who knows his market well. He’s always thorough, but without going over the top with long computer generated variations, and makes ample use of the latest engines to ensure accuracy. Once you get past the verbiage, he does an excellent job of explaining complex ideas and tactics in a way that is understandable to his readership.
You’ll find most of the greats featured within the 400 pages, from Morphy and earlier through to Carlsen and AlphaZero. You might consider the likes of Capablanca, Euwe and Smyslov to be supremely rational players, but they’re there as well. Tal, unsurprisingly, features on several occasions, but there’s no sign of Alekhine.
If you’re knowledgeable about chess history and literature you’ll encounter a lot of old friends, but they will always be new to some readers. There were quite a few games that were new to me – and I much enjoyed discovering them for the first time.
I wouldn’t dispute the irrationality of most of them, but there were one or two, especially in the first chapter, which you might consider were just very well played attacking games. How would you judge this much anthologised game? (Click on any move for a pop-up window.)
On the other hand, there’s no argument about the irrationality of games like this, described by Lakdawala as one of the most crazy, head-spinning games in the book.
My heart is thudding, as if watching a Quentin Tarantino movie while on the treadmill is how Lakdawala introduces the following encounter.
A small historical point – the game Van der Loo – Hesseling (Game 75 here) is known to be a fake, with White’s name usually given as Van de Loo, but the author is apparently unaware of this.
Irrational Chess is produced to this publisher’s customary high standards: well laid out with many large diagrams. This book will appeal to players of all standards, and will undoubtedly bring a lot of pleasure to a lot of readers, demonstrating, to anyone who might doubt it, the excitement and richness of chess. Lakdawala’s obvious enthusiasm and love of chess shine through everything he writes, but his eccentricities will always divide the critics.
If you’re easily offended you should perhaps steer clear. If you’re on the religious right you’ll find some of the words blasphemous, while elements of the woke left will consider other words to be mental health slurs.
Then you read something like this:
Black’s position pulls him down, like our demanding, emotional, high-maintenance college ex-girlfriend.
If Fischer’s pawns are an athlete’s body, then his rook represents the love handles.
Sexist? Inappropriate? It’s your decision. A sensitivity reader would have a field day with his/her red pen. You might think, and I might well agree with you, that a lot of people these days are over-sensitive, but we are where we are. The author’s many devoted admirers don’t seem to have a problem.
If you’re a Lakdawala fan, and there are many around, or if his writing style appeals to you, you’ll really enjoy this book, and the often extraordinary and thrilling games featured within. The games are certainly a lot of fun, especially if you haven’t seen them before. If you find Cyrus’s writing fun as well, there’s no reason to hesitate.
“Have you ever wondered why strong chess players immediately grasp what is happening in complex positions? The secret is pawn structures. The pawn structure dictates the game’s flow, and different structures require distinct approaches. You can improve your game by studying a large variety of pawn structures and the Hidden Laws of Chess.
IM Nick Maatman invented the Hidden Laws of Chess as an instructional tool to help his students bridge the gap between the basic understanding of a club player and the next level of knowledge of Masters and Grandmasters. A grandmaster knows from experience what pieces to exchange when facing an isolated pawn, while a club player wonders if he should keep his rooks on the board – or not.
The Hidden Laws go one level deeper than the basic laws on piece development, king safety or material balance. The Hidden Laws will uncover elements such as space, the quality of a pawn structure, and a doubled pawn’s strength or weakness. Maatman will answer questions like: Are backward pawns the worst in chess? What is the value of a space advantage? Could doubled pawns be an asset? How can I win symmetrical positions?
Using his coaching experience and writing with a touch of science and philosophy, Maatman will guide any ambitious chess player to the next level. His book contains dozens of actionable tips, instructive games and carefully selected exercises.
“Nick Maatman (1995) is an International Master, experienced chess coach, and training partner of Super-GM Jorden van Foreest. Maatman has won the Dutch U20 Championship and has beaten many strong grandmasters in tournament games. The Hidden Laws of Chess is his first book, but he expects many more to follow. He graduated from Groningen University in both Business and Philosophy.”
From the author’s introduction:
What is a Hidden Law in chess? With a ‘Hidden Law’, I refer to the deeper structures that spring from a mere contingency of the rules of chess. This might sound like a mouthful of gibberish to you. What I mean is that there are certain patterns that underlie good play. Had the rules of chess been different, these hidden structures would have been different as well. On a surface level, there are Laws that comprise the comparative value of the pieces. On a deeper level there are Hidden Laws that encompass elements such as the importance of space, the quality of a pawn structure, the strength or weakness of an isolated pawn, the importance of a key square, etc.
… and …
.. the Hidden Laws are context dependent. Good chess strategy may vary immensely in different types of positions. That’s why this book is divided into eight chapters featuring eight different types or aspects of pawn structures.
In this book, my objective is to explore these Hidden Laws of Chess. My goal is … to provide actionable tips and ideas that you can apply to elevate your game. Ideas that form the foundation for a solid positional understanding. A mastery of the Hidden Laws of Chess contributes to sound judgment – and sound judgment leads to good moves, which ultimately leads to better results.
So what we have here is, according to the author, essentially a positional book covering eight different types of pawn formation. He suggests that combining reading this book with tactics training will enable you to make progress with your chess.
The eight chapters cover in turn: space advantage, doubled pawns, backward pawn, isolani, hanging pawns, mobile pawn centre, locked pawn centre, symmetry.
Each chapter is, as with many books from this publisher, preceded by some puzzles (Preview Exercises) taken from games analysed within the chapter, and followed by a Quiz reinforcing the lessons learnt in the chapter. The difficulty of the puzzles is indicated using a star system: one star for the easiest through to five stars for the hardest. The solutions to the quiz questions are to be found at the end of the book. Helpfully, important sentences are highlighted throughout, and each chapter concludes with the author’s Hidden Laws concerning that particular pawn formation.
Of course it’s a lot harder to set meaningful position exercises than tactical exercises. I was interested to see how Maatman dealt with this.
As this is a relatively slim volume, the chapters themselves are fairly short, mostly 20-25 pages excluding the puzzles, although the chapter on isolani is slightly longer.
The main question I always have with instructional books such as this concerns the target market. There is, or should be, an enormous difference between books written for 1500s and books written for 2000s, and again between books written for 2000s and books written for 2500s. Books written for, say, 1750s or 2250s will, or again should be, rather different again. The danger for authors and publishers is that if your book is too specific you’ll limit your target market, while if you try to offer something for everyone you’ll and up pleasing nobody.
Again, I was interested to see how this book approached these issues. Neither the publisher’s blurb nor the author’s introduction give any indication as to the approximate rating range of the book.
I turned to Chapter 2, as my view for many years has been that doubled pawns are, by and large, not dealt with very well in chess literature. Have there been any books specifically devoted to this subject? If not, someone, perhaps Nick Maatman, should certainly write one.
Maatman does a good job, given that he only has twenty pages, in explaining the potential advantages, as well as the disadvantages of doubled pawns. We get a few classic examples, for example the 1938 Botvinnik – Chekover game, which made a big impression on me when I first came across it in about 1970. We also get some recent games, for example Caruana – Carlsen (Wijk aan Zee 2015), in which the doubled pawns were only on the board for a few moves. I can’t help thinking the game was selected for the fascinating tactical possibilities both in the game and in the notes, rather than because it was particularly instructive in helping the reader to understand the subject. I’m not sure how games like this fit it with the author’s claim that the book is more of a positional manual.
The Hidden Laws of Doubled Pawns at the end of the chapter include, amongst others:
Having fewer pawn islands is favourable
Isolated doubled pawns are particularly vulnerable
A doubled pawn can create a semi-open file.
Could these rules really be considered Hidden? While they’re all very useful, I’d have thought that most club standard players, even 1500 standard players, would be aware of them.
The pattern is repeated through all the chapters. You’ll find some classic games which will be very familiar to most 2000 strength players, but new to less experienced players, along with more complex contemporary games often featuring interesting tactics. Of course there’s a generational issue. While I’m very familiar with many of the older games and less familiar with the 21st century examples, younger readers may well have the opposite experience.
As well as questions at the beginning and end of the chapter, there are questions in the text as well.
Take this example from Chapter 3 (Backward Pawns), where the author’s friend Jorden van Foreest is facing Nigel Short at Malmo in 2021, about to play his 12th move.
Try to put yourself in White’s shoes for a moment. You have prepared the game all the way to move 10. Now, you realise that your opponent played a move that wasn’t in your notes, suggesting it may be inferior. How would you try to take advantage.
I was truly impressed when I witnessed this move. In Chapter 2, we learned about the weaknesses of doubled pawns and how they can be especially problematic if their presence creates multiple pawn islands. Furthermore, you probably knew something about the value of the bishop pair already. Here, Van Foreest throws all conventional wisdom out of the window. He voluntarily gives up a great bishop for a shabby-looking knight on b6, and on top of that he repairs the black pawn structure. What did Van Foreest notice that made him commit to this decision?
It’s all about the pawn that’s left behind on d7 and the gaping hole this creates on d6, Van Foreest accurately assesses that the creation of a backward pawn outweighs all other factors in this position.
Well, you might perhaps have guessed the answer given that the chapter features backward rather than doubled pawns, but active learning, forcing you to think for yourself, is always good.
It’s all about trading advantages, isn’t it? A complex and difficult topic which could do with a book to itself. Here, a vastly experienced former World Championship Candidate misjudged the position. If it was too hard for Nigel, what hope do the rest of us have?
There’s always a danger when you demonstrate advanced material to your students that they will fail to contextualise the information and go round randomly trading great bishops for shabby-looking knights or straightening out their opponents’ pawn structure. On the other hand, seeing how top GMs make decisions might inspire us to become better players. What do you think?
I think Maasman’s introduction to the chapter on Isolani will be instructive to many readers. He offers two positions, both with White to move, and asks which you’d prefer.
Which position would you prefer?
In fact, it’s the first position that offers White more winning chances: Rd4! gives a clear advantage. The second position is optically very good for White but Black can hold comfortably as long as he finds 1. Bd1 Bd7!.
Maatman proposes two Hidden Laws:
When playing against an isolated queen’s pawn, the preservation of major pieces increases winning chances
When playing against an isolated queen’s pawn, the exchange of minor pieces increases winning chances.
According to the author: These laws are very specific and there is a good chance that you haven’t heard them before.
Actually, I had heard them before, in a book written for children published in the 1980s (I prefer not to name the title and author), which demonstrated the 9th game of the 1981 Karpov – Korchnoi World Championship Match – the same game which, in this book, provides three of the quiz questions at the end of this chapter.
I’d guess, though, that this will be new to most players of, say, 1500 strength, but might well be known to many 2000 strength players.
If you play the King’s Indian Defence or anything similar with either colour, you’ll certainly enjoy Chapter 7 on Locked Pawn Centres, but if you prefer the French Defence, for example, you might be disappointed.
One of the games demonstrated here is a 2022 computer game between versions of Stockfish and Scorpio.
In this position Stockfish has to choose it’s 23rd move. What would your plan be here?
Stockfish found 23. c5!!, with the idea of meeting bxc5 with Nc1, with a later Bb5 to follow, trading off White’s bad bishop for Black’s good bishop.
Maatman comments after the game:
An enthralling concept by Stockfish. The move 23. c5!! is just so captivating. Extraordinary imagination is needed to even consider such an idea. White’s only path forward appears to be on the dark squares, but the machine completely forfeits the dark squares. Instead it contests the light squares at the cost of a pawn. Eventually, the black a-pawn was lost, and its White counterpart promoted. Outstanding foresight by the machine.
The famous evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins once remarked: ‘Personally, I rather look forward to a computer program winning the World Chess Championship. Humanity needs a lesson in humility.’ The times that humans were able to compete with computers have long gone, but the above game showcases that computers now have our number in any position.
I found the idea of puzzles both before and after each chapter rather confusing. Yes, like all good teachers, Maatman likes to offer his students a way of testing their understanding of the contents of the lesson. And yes, it’s this publisher’s house style to include preview puzzles at the start of each chapter to draw you in. I’m not convinced, though, that having both types of puzzle works. In an instructional book you’re assuming the reader isn’t very familiar with the study material, which makes me rather sceptical of the value of the preview puzzles here.
You also have to be careful that your quizzes at the end of the lesson are testing genuine understanding rather than just memory. To give you an example, one of the Hidden Laws in Chapter 1 states that, if you’re playing against a Hedgehog formation you should consider a2-a4-a5. (I don’t think I’ve ever played against a pure Hedgehog in my very long chess career, but that’s another issue.) In the quiz there’s a position from a Hedgehog in which White has a pawn on a4. It’s given four stars for difficulty, but once you’re read the chapter you’ll play the move automatically.
You’ll find a lot of useful instruction throughout this book, and I found the highlighted sentences an excellent way of getting the most important points across. Maatman is an engaging writer and a great communicator with a friendly style, occasionally digressing into football or philosophy, but never overdoing the jollity. He’s chosen an important and underestimated topic: many club players would do well to study pawn formations rather than just memorising openings. Players of all standards will enjoy and learn something here.
While I appreciate that publishers want to aim their books at as wide a readership as possible, I can’t help feeling that less experienced players would benefit from more concrete examples rather than games decided by complex tactics, while more experienced players would value more detail and depth, more pages and even more volumes, along with some less familiar examples.
As is to be expected from this publisher, the book is attractively produced. If you like the idea you won’t be disappointed, but while everyone will learn something, many would learn more from a book focussed on their specific needs.
Richard James, Twickenham 30th June 2023
Softcover: 256 pages
Publisher: New in Chess; 1st edition (31 Jan. 2023)
“The rivalry between William Steinitz and Johannes Zukertort, the world’s strongest chess players in the late nineteenth century, became so fierce that it was eventually named The Ink War. They fought their battle on the chessboard and in various chess magazines and columns. It was not only about who was the strongest player but also about who had the best ideas on how to play the game. In 1872, Johannes Zukertort moved from Berlin to London to continue his chess career.
Ten years earlier, William Steinitz had moved from Vienna to London for the same purpose; meanwhile, he had become the uncrowned champion of the chess world. Their verbal war culminated in the first match for the World Championship in 1886. Zukertort is certainly the tragic protagonist of this book, but is he also a romantic hero? He has often been depicted as a representative of romantic chess, solely focusing on attacking the king. Steinitz is said to have put an end to this lopsided chess style with his modern scientific school. This compelling story shakes up the traditional version of chess history and answers the question which of them can claim to be the captain of the modern school. With his first book, Move First, Think Later, International Master Willy Hendriks caused a minor revolution in the general view on chess improvement.
His second book, On the Origin of Good Moves, presented a refreshing new outlook on chess history. In The Ink War, Hendriks once again offers his unique perspective in a well-researched story that continues to captivate until the tragic outcome. It gives a wonderful impression of the 19th-century chess world and the birth of modern chess. Hendriks invites the reader to actively think along with the beautiful, instructive and entertaining chess fragments with many chess exercises.”
“Willy Hendriks (1966) is an International Master who has been working as a chess trainer for over thirty years. His bestseller Move First, Think Later won the English Chess Federation Book of the Year Award in 2012. In his much-acclaimed second book, On the Origin of Good Moves, he presented a provocative new view on chess history.”
There are always dichotomies, aren’t there? You only have to look at any news website or paper to see them playing out before your eyes. Passionate people on either side of an argument taking extreme views and unwilling to listen to the other side.
In the world of education, for example, there’s the dichotomy between ‘trad’ and ‘prog’, traditional or progressive values, which has been going on, in one form or another, since the days of Rousseau. (Sensible teachers, of course, know that you need some of both.) The same terms are also used in music: perhaps you’re a fan of prog rock, or a devotee of trad jazz.
Let me take you back now to the musical world of the 1850s and 1860s, specifically to central Europe and, in particular, Germany. There were two groups of composers in opposition in what would later become known as the War of the Romantics. Both groups, in very different ways, saw themselves as heirs to Beethoven. The conservative, traditionalist camp was led by the likes of Brahms and Clara Schumann, while, in the opposite corner, were the progressive modernists such as Wagner and Liszt. Nowadays we have no problems listening to the music of both groups with equal pleasure.
Moving forward a couple of decades we come to a very similar war, which, although the camps were led by Central Europeans, took place mostly in London. The Ink War: Romanticism and Modernity in Chess, the subject of Dutch IM Willy Hendriks’ latest book, features Johannes Zukertort flying the romantic flag while William Steinitz sports the colours of Modernity. Two men with, at least if you believe their writings, very different views about how chess should best be played.
This is a successor to the author’s previous book which I reviewed enthusiastically here. Whereas the previous book took a wide-ranging view of 19th century chess history, here we look in more detail at a period of fourteen years: between Zukertort’s arrival in London in 1872 and the first official world championship match, between Steinitz and Zukertort, in 1886.
In the course of 468 pages we meet not just our two protagonists, but a whole host of colourful characters who enlivened the 19th century London chess scene. While we’re given an in depth look at the games of Steinitz and Zukertort, there are many other games included to put their moves in context. A lot of fascinating history, and also a lot of fascinating chess.
At the time there were very few players making a living out of chess, and, if you wanted to be a professional player, the place to go was London. Steinitz had moved there in 1862, and, not the most likeable of men, soon made enemies. The British Chess Association wanted to put him in his place, and, invited Zukertort, who had just won a match against Anderssen, to London.
As Hendriks relates in his prologue:
This book tells the story of this struggle, which was fought on the chessboard, but also, to a significant extent, in chess magazines and in columns in newspapers. First and foremost, this battle was about who was the strongest, and who could eventually call himself the first World Champion. But there was more at stake. Chess and chess theory were in full development and the ideas about how the game should be played were quite divergent. Steinitz had a very outspoken position and saw himself as the foreman of a scientific modern school. For our story it would be nice if Zukertort represented the other pole, the romantic attacking school, but things are not that simple. The larger public, however, understood the rivalry between the two for the greater part along these lines. Thus, the struggle on and around the chessboard was closely linked to the societal developments of the time, such as the rise of science and technology and the romantic resistance to them.
After introductions to Steinitz and Zukertort, in Chapter 3 Hendriks tackles the question of chess style. This ‘primitive dichotomy’, between tactics and strategy, ‘plays a major role in (traditional) chess history writing.’ ‘The danger of this is that it can easily lead to caricatures’.
Of course these caricatures can be seen in later rivalries as well: Alekhine v Capablanca, Tal v Petrosian, Kasparov v Karpov. The tactician against the strategist.
But, in reality, we’re all just trying to find the best moves.
As you’ll know if you’ve read his previous book, Hendriks takes a different approach, looking at ‘the quantitative changes that led to an increase in chess knowledge and to a higher level of skill’. He’s contextualising the games he demonstrates by looking at what the players would have known from previous experience about the positions on the board.
Here, for example, is Zukertort, just having arrived in London in 1872, playing White against the archetypal tragic/romantic hero Cecil de Vere.
You’ll recognise this as a Sicilian Taimanov, which, almost a century later, would become very popular, but this would have been virgin territory to both players. It’s quite understandable, given what he would have known at the time, that de Vere now blundered with 7… Nge7? (you can play this in similar positions but not here), and likewise impressive that Zukertort found the refutation, Ndb5!, over the board.
In the same event Steinitz and Zukertort met for the first time. Steinitz, playing White, essayed his favourite gambit, based on his belief that the king was a strong piece which could take care of itself.
Here’s the game. Click on any move for a pop-up window.
A strong defensive performance by Steinitz, according to Hendriks, who, understandably, only gives us the first 24 moves. A triumph for materialism over romanticism, you might think. Or equally that Zukertort’s second piece sacrifice on move 12 was tempting but unsound.
Hendriks is at his best discussing the development of both positional and tactical ideas. His contextualisation is both informative and instructive.
In those days the French Defence was considered a dull and even cowardly opening, an opinion which continued well into the 20th century. The justification at the time was that the lines where White plays e5 were considered favourable for Black, so the first player usually chose the Exchange Variation.
In 1875 Zukertort played a match against (the very interesting) William Norwood Potter. In the 10th game they reached this position.
A stark contrast to the Steinitz game above. Zukertort, playing White, saw nothing wrong with winning a pawn: 9. Bxf6 Qxf6 10. Nxd5, but after 10… Qh6 11. h3? Nxd4! he was losing material. The Nxd4 idea is very familiar to most club players today, but back in 1875 it would have been unknown: they would have had to discover it for themselves.
Another idea in this sort of position was for one player to swing the queen’s knight over to the kingside, allowing doubled pawns after a trade on f6. In exchange you get the two bishops and a possible attack down the g-file.
It didn’t work in this game from Paris 1878.
You’ll observe that by no means all the games in this book feature Steinitz or Zukertort.
Chapter 11 is intriguingly titled The discovery of the queenside. In his 1880 match against Samuel Rosenthal, Zukertort switched from his usual Ruy Lopez to the Queen’s Gambit. This was by no means a new opening: it dates back to Greco and de Labourdonnais played it on many occasions against McDonnell. In those days the Queen’s Gambit, like the King’s Gambit was usually accepted: after all accepting gambits was the chivalrous thing to do. Rosenthal preferred to decline Zukertort’s gambit, and, in the 9th match game White was able to carry out his favourite plan of a queenside pawn roller, playing an early c5 followed by advancing his a- and b-pawns.
In the 9th game of the match he reached this position, with White to play.
Any strong player will start by considering Rb6, having seen the idea many times before in games played by the likes of Botvinnik and Petrosian. Stockfish agrees that it’s the best move here. Zukertort saw it but, not having had the advantages we have, mistakenly rejected it, eventually drawing a favourable ending. As Hendriks demonstrates, 12 years later, in a very similar position against Chigorin, Steinitz, who had learnt from this example, did indeed play Rb6 with success.
Again and again, throughout the book, we see examples of ideas which are familiar to us now, but would have been new at the time.
By 1881, as Hendriks relates, Steinitz and Zukertort were engaged in a war of words over the analysis of recent chess games: the Ink War. The war was not just about the rights and wrongs of particular moves, but about how games should be annotated: a debate which is still continuing today. Zukertort tended to publish long variations while Steinitz took a more scientific approach.
It was generally understood that Steinitz was, following Morphy’s retirement, the strongest player in the world (EdoChess ranks him top from 1868 onwards) but he hadn’t been active since his 1876 match against Blackburne, and his last tournament had been Vienna 1873. Questions were now being asked as to whether Zukertort was now stronger, so Steinitz decided to return to the fray in 1882, again in Vienna.
This was the strongest tournament yet held, and resulted in a very exciting finish. Steinitz and Winawer shared first place, a point ahead of Mason, with Zukertort and Mackenzie another half point behind, but Zukertort scored 1½/2 against his arch rival.
Another strong tournament took place in London in 1883, and again Steinitz and Zukertort took part.
Here’s Zukertort’s exciting Round 3 encounter with Mason.
White had the draw in hand before blundering on move 57. Curiously, Mason lost the return encounter with Zukertort through a very similar oversight.
Hendriks comments: Such small tactics were often missed in those days, as back then the possibilities for training your tactics were minimal. Today’s diligent student solves more tactical puzzles in a day than the old masters did in their entire lives.
This is one of the themes of both this and his previous book. We might assume that the 19th century greats didn’t have today’s opening knowledge but were equally good at tactics. Hendriks’ view, reinforced by many examples here, is that they weren’t – and unsurprisingly so, as they didn’t have the opportunities for practice and training. Zukertort himself was particularly prone to blunders which would have shamed your club’s third team players.
It was in Round 6 of this game when Zukertort played his Most Famous Game, to which Hendriks develops a whole chapter.
With three rounds to go, Zukertort had reached the extraordinary score of 22/23, losing only to Steinitz in the first cycle, but he then lost his last three games, two of them to the tournament tail-enders. Was this due to problems with his health, or with the medication he was using to treat his health problems, or just a random occurrence? Hendriks considers the evidence here.
Finally, we move onto the 1886 World Championship match. By that point Steinitz had moved to America, and Zukertort was also spending time there, so the contest took place in New York, St Louis and New Orleans. Most of the twenty games are full of interest, and Hendriks contextualises and analyses them in depth.
Ironically, the ‘modernist’ Steinitz opened with the king’s pawn in all his white games, while the ‘tactical’ Zukertort, in all but one of his white games, chose the supposedly more modern and positional Queen’s Gambit. This demonstrates, I suppose, that the dichotomy between them was more about a personality clash than anything else, although, by this point, the two men seemed to have been on tolerably friendly terms.
Several of Zukertort’s white games reached IQP positions, which were, at the time, very little understood, so are of some historical interest.
Here’s the 9th game.
Hendriks has some interesting things to say about the hanging pawns position after Black’s 22nd move, which will give you some idea of his annotation style.
The exchange of pieces in the past few moves did not help White, but Zukertort apparently had a lot of confidence in his attacking chances in this position. However the beautiful knight on e5 can be chased away, and White does not have that many pieces to strengthen his attack either, so he no longer has the better chances. Therefore, this was a good moment for the quiet move 23. h3. Many contemporary players would play this way, but in those days such a prophylactic move was not a matter of course. The idea of prophylaxis would only be introduced a quarter of a century later by Aron Nimzowitsch. This strategy consists of improving one’s position and protected potential weaknesses even before they are threatened.
Steinitz won the first game in brilliant style, but Zukertort then won four in a row. After that, with Zukertort’s health problems worsening, it was mostly one-way traffic, with Steinitz emerging a convincing winner by 12½ to 7½, becoming the first official world champion.
The end of the story is rather sad: Zukertort’s standard of play and health both declined rapidly, and he died in London two years later.
I thoroughly enjoyed this book, just as I did its predecessor. Willy Hendriks is a born storyteller: the book is grippingly written. You’ll always want to turn over the page to see what happens next. If you thought chess history was boring this book may persuade you to think again. It’s beautifully produced and copiously illustrated. I suppose more serious chess historians than me might regret that it’s not as fully referenced as you’d expect from an academic history book, but it’s quite understandable that the author and publisher would take the approach they chose. The English is fluent and highly readable, if not always totally idiomatic. I found one or two minor mistakes, but they didn’t interfere with my enjoyment. If you’re interested in improving your rating, the book is there to help you as well. As with many books from this publisher, most chapters are preceded by puzzles based on games discussed within: if you feel inclined you can attempt to solve them before reading on. If you love, as I do, 19th century chess history, you won’t want to miss this book. You don’t just get the games: there’s a lot of engrossing information about the leading personalities of the day and the way top level chess was organised as well.
You might want to start, if you haven’t read it already, with On the Origin of Good Moves, which is more general and wide-ranging, before continuing with this book. You may not agree with all the author’s opinions and conclusions, but you’ll find something thought-provoking on every page. This is the ideal chess book for me and goes straight into my list of all-time favourites. I can’t wait to see what Willy Hendriks writes about next.
Marching your king across the board – at times right through or into enemy lines – may be both exhilarating and terrifying. Nothing may be quite as satisfying as a majestic kingwalk across the board which brings you glorious victory. And nothing as tragicomic as a needless journey ending in epic failure.
Chessplayers are fascinated by kingwalks, perhaps because of their inherent contradiction and even implausibility. The most important – and vulnerable – chess piece does something other than trying to remain safe.
Topics include: Kingwalks to Prepare an Attack; Kingwalks in Anticipation of an Endgame; Kingwalks to Defend Key Points; Kingwalks to Attack Key Points or Pieces; Mating Attacks; Escaping to Safety Across the Board; Escaping to Safety Up the Board; Kingwalks in the Opening; Kingwalks in the Endgame; Double Kingwalks; and Unsuccessful Kingwalks.
For sheer entertainment as well as instructive value, the kingwalk is transcendent!
“Executing a successful kingwalk has the power to make a chessplayer happy and the same can be said about playing over the many beautiful examples in this book. Enjoy!” — From the Foreword by Hans Ree
About the Authors:
American grandmaster Yasser Seirawan is a four-time U.S. champion. He also won the World Junior Championship in 1979. He is one of the best-selling chess authors and is considered one of the top commentators for games broadcast on the web.
Canadian master Bruce Harper has been champion of British Columbia many times and has also participated in several Canadian championships. He is the co-author with Yasser Seirawan of the highly acclaimed three-volume series, Chess on the Edge, chronicling the career of Canadian grandmaster Duncan Suttles. He is also co-author, with American grandmaster Hikaru Nakamura, of Bullet Chess: One Minute to Mate.”
From the rather rambling introduction:
While our hope is that readers of all strengths will enjoy this book, there is also much to be learned from the study of kingwalks. They are a legitimate part of chess, and can transform the nature of the position to a great extent. given the difficulty people, including chess players, have in coping with change, the psychological effect of kingwalks cannot be overestimated.
In the pages that follow, we not only give examples of different types of kingwalks, but we try to explain the positional, tactical or psychological basis for each example. A legitimate kingwalk doesn’t come out of the blue, any more than a combination arises by chances. By exploring the preconditions for the different types of kingwalks, we hope the attentive reader will recognize positions from his or her own games where a kingwalk might be the path to victory. Equally, this type of analysis will help players in coping with opponent’s kingwalks.
Chapter 1 takes us straight into Kingwalks to Prepare an Attack. In a position where your opponent can do nothing, you want to break through to the enemy king, but first you move your king to the other side of the board to deprive your opponent of potential counterplay.
I was struck by the very first example: Kevitz & Pinkus v Alekhine in a 1929 consultation game.
Here’s the position after White’s 28th move.
Black has a potential pawn break with g6 followed by f5, but Alekhine decided to move his king to the other side of the board first.
The authors explain:
In this position, Black has a clear advantage. White’s pieces are tied to the defense of his weak e4-pawn and the light-square weaknesses around White’s king are a constant source of concern. The engine of course recommends direct action, but Alekhine, who was no stranger to that type of play, first takes the time to reposition his king.
Black’s 42nd move completed the kingwalk, reaching this position.
You’ll observe that, while Alekhine has made considerable progress, the consultation partners’ position is exactly the same as it was in the previous diagram.
The game continued 43. Bf2 f5 and Black won a few moves later.
We then move on to other motivations for kingwalks, in Anticipation of an Ending (Chapter 2: the examples all taken from Petrosian’s games), to Defend Key Points (Chapter 3) and to Attack Key Points or Pieces (Chapter 4).
Chapter 5 ramps the excitement up a notch as we look at kingwalks as part of Mating Attacks.
Hillarp Persson – Laurusas (not, as in the book, Laurusus), from the 2018 Olympiad in Batumi, reached this position after White’s 24th move.
Seirawan and Harper take up the story.
White has some compensation for his pawn deficit, but that’s about all. It is difficult to see how, in only ten moves, this game will become the best in the 2018 Olympiad.
Since there really isn’t anything happening in this position, White’s motif brings to mind the theme song for the Mary Tyler Moore Show:
“Who can take a nothing day, and suddenly make it all seem worthwhile?”
Of course we’re referring to Joan Jett’s cover version, not the original…
White gets some help at this point. The engine recommends the supremely logical 24… Rfd8!, allowing 25. Rxh5 so that 25… Qg7 forces the exchange of queens, leaving Black with a favorable endgame. Black instead surrenders the wrong pawn.
Black played 24… Qg7?! instead, and soon started an attack on White’s king, forcing him up the board.
After mutual inaccuracies in what was, to be fair, a very difficult position, this position was reached.
The game concluded: 34. Qxg6+! Kh8 35. Kh6 and it’s mate next move.
A beautiful creative achievement by White, with some help from his opponent at the critical moment. The most remarkable aspect of this game is there wasn’t really anything to make one think that something like this was even possible ten moves ago.
We then move on from attacking kingwalks to defensive kingwalks: Escaping to Safety Across the Board in Chapter 6 and Up the Board in Chapter 7.
Even the greatest tacticians can end up confused when their opponent starts a kingwalk.
This is from Geller – Tal (Moscow 1975).
In a difficult position, Tal has just played 29… Bd4!?, hoping for complications in the impending time scramble.
As Kasparov points out, White should first drive Black’s queen off the first rank by offering an exchange of queens with 30. Qc1!, switching to the attack only after 30… Qxa2 31. Qe1! Then Black would have no play against White’s king.
30… Ne7! 31. Nb5
If White takes Black’s e7-knight, either before or after checking on e6 with his queen, Black wins: 31. Qxe7 Qg1+ 32. Kg3 Qf2+ 33. Kg4 Qxg2+ 34. Bg3 h5+ 35. Kh4 Qe4+! 36. Qxe4 Bf6#
31… Qg1+ is also sufficient to draw. Now White has no choice other than to begin a kingwalk, and the road to victory for White, and for a draw for Black lies along the White king’s path, which is wide enough only for one…
Short of time, Tal went wrong a couple of moves later and Geller’s king fled up the board to safety. Tal resigned on move 41 (perhaps at the adjournment), not waiting for 42. Kf8, which would have given this position.
Chapters 8, 9 and 10 consider, respectively, Kingwalks in the Opening (here’s Steinitz’s king boldly venturing into the centre of the board right at the start of the game, Kingwalks in the Ending (well, it’s what you do in the ending anyway, isn’t it?) and Double Kingwalks.
Seirawan and Harper are at pains to point out, throughout the book, that there’s often an element of danger in kingwalks, so Chapter 11 shows us some Unsuccessful Kingwalks.
Then, in Chapters 12-16, we have chapters devoted to players particularly associated with kingwalks: Steinitz (again), Nimzowitsch, Petrosian (again), and, less expectedly perhaps, the highly creative Canadian GM Duncan Suttles (the subject of a previous 3-volume series by the same authors), followed by Yasser Seirawan himself. You might or might not consider this slightly narcissistic.
Finally, Chapter 17 demonstrates some recent examples.
For my last example I offer you this 2019 game between Dubov and Giri.
After a very sharp opening, a complex position has arisen. Objectively White is slightly better, and the engine recommends 19. Nd2, with an edge. Instead Dubov shocks his opponent with a stunning move.
Is there another example in chess history where a player castled on the side where there were no friendly pawns at all? We can’t term castling a “kingwalk”, but don’t worry. White’s king is just getting started.
White has unpinned his c3-knight, so he threatens 20. Nxb5, as well as 20. Qd8 mate. But Black has a logical reply that ruins White’s dream.
After 19… Qb6!, Black defends against mate and forces a queen trade, because 20. Nb5? fails to 20… Qc6+! 21. Kb1 Na6.
White’s king went to b1 on move 22, but by move 28 it was perfectly safe on f3.
You’ll have to read the book to discover how this happened.
This is an attractive and enjoyable book which will appeal to competitive players of all levels. It covers an aspect of chess which hasn’t been much written about so will have a unique place on your bookshelves. It’s a subject which leads itself naturally to creative and imaginative play, so you’ll find a feast of exciting chess within its pages.
Many readers will be re-acquainted with a host of old friends. There’s Short, marching his king up to h6 to mate Timman. And Botvinnik. with his king scuttling up the board to evade Capablanca’s checking queen. But there are also a lot of examples which will be probably be new to you. It’s good to have them all, both the familiar and unfamiliar, in the same place.
It’s nicely produced, but, although there’s a short list of sources (four chess books/series and two Tolkien books), an index of players might have been helpful. You might also wish, for a number of reasons, that the authors had included initials as well as surnames for the players. I wonder whether or not it’s culturally insensitive only to give the family names of players of East Asian origin (Wei, Hou and so on) rather than their full names. The examples have all been analysed using Stockfish 10, so it’s safe to assume that there will be few, if any, significant tactical errors.
Given that kingwalks are relatively rare, at least before you get to the ending, I suppose this might not be the first choice of book to improve your rating. But taking a different approach, looking at chess, and in particular your king, in a different way, might well add another dimension to your play. Even if it does little to improve your rating, it will certainly provide you with a lot of entertainment and a wider appreciation of the beauty of your favourite game. If the subject matter appeals, and you like the style of writing typified by the examples in this review, this book can be highly recommended.
“Kupreichik: The Maestro from Minsk features tributes to the legendary attacker from those who regularly faced him at the board, including Alexander Beliavsky, Oleg Romanishin, Evgeny Sveshnikov and Vladimir Tukmakov. Kupreichik also inspired the next generation, as the contributions of Boris Gelfand, Garry Kasparov, Andrey Kovalev and Rauf Mamedov reveal.
Our picture of Viktor Kupreichik is completed by a series of pen portraits from his family, which make clear the kind and principled man this hero of Belarusian chess was, as well as his love for the 64 squares.
Translated by Ken Neat, this work is also a collection of Kupreichik’s best games, many annotated by the man himself. His wins over Tal and Zilbershtein are legendary examples of the power of a knight sacrifice on d5 in the Open Sicilian. Inside you will learn not just about handling Kupreichik’s favourite Classical Sicilian, Slav and King’s Indian, but attacking and sacrificial chess in general. Readers even have the chance to solve 26 positions and so play like Kupreichik!
Viktor Kupreichik (1949-2017) was a leading Soviet Grandmaster in the 1970s and 1980s, famed for his attacking prowess. He twice won a staggering five games in a row at the super-strong USSR Championship. A former world student champion, Kupreichik won many tournaments, including the Masters section at Wijk aan Zee in 1977 and the Hastings Premier of 1981/82.
with forewords by Anastasia Sorkina and Genna Sosonko”
If I asked you to guess who played this game you’d be forgiven for thinking Tal. (Click on any move in any game in this review for a pop-up window)
You’d be partly right: Tal was playing – the black pieces. Spoilsport Stockfish will tell you he should have won, but it’s not easy, even for a genius, to defend against that sort of attack over the board. It was played in Sochi i n 1970, in a match tournament between a team of young layers and a team of grandmasters.
On the white side was the hero of this book, Viktor Davydovich Kupreichik (1949-2017). This book, unusually without a credited author, was compiled by his family and friends after his death and published in Russian in 2019 to celebrate what would have been his 70th birthday. Here we have an English translation from London Chess Centre Publishing.
Genna Sosonko wrote the foreword to the English edition:
A master of attack, he demonstrated play that you rarely see nowadays. Even today when playing over games by Minsk’s favourite, an expression of Tal’s comes to mind – “tasty chess”.
Memories of him have been written by world champions, trainers, colleagues, friends and Viktor’s pupils. They all remember not only a wonderful chess player, but also an extraordinary personality. Even in the world of Soviet chess, Viktor was distinguished by his independence.
Mikhail Tal, Viktor’s idol, once said that his favourite squares on the chess board were d5 and f5. Viktor, who was similar to Tal not only in his constant striving for the initiative, but also the incredible boldness of his play, repeatedly placed his pieces en prise too on these very squares. And his most brilliant firework display began with a knight sacrifice on d5 in a game with Tal himself.
If you’re a fan of Tal’s games, then (and who isn’t?), you’ll enjoy Kupreichik’s games as well. You might put him in the same category as other chess mavericks such as Nezhmetdinov and Planinc: a player who valued creativity, beauty and excitement above results.
One of the contributors, Boris Gelfand, recalls, as an 11-year-old in 1979, being deeply impressed by this game.
Kupreichik’s niece, Anastasia Sorokina, is President of the Belarus Chess Federation and a FIDE Vice-President. She wrote the foreword to the Russian edition.
The publication of this book is timed to coincide with the 70th birthday of an outstanding chess-player, the first Belarusian Grandmaster, a true friend and a wonderful person, Viktor Davydovich Kupreichik. Vitek – that’s what his friends and the fans called him.
In the distant 1980s the name of Kuprechik resounded throughout the country. He was recognised in the street, fans would queue up to watch him play, and largely thanks to him a chess boom began in the Republic.
A sensitive and tactful person, he did not like boasting and bravado, so when the idea of this book emerged I wanted to make it modest, like him, but at the same time show all the power of his chess talent and the charm of his human character.
The first half of the book, then, comprises tributes to Kupreichik from friends and colleagues, including Kasparov and Karpov, very often with annotated games.
His friend Andrey Kovalev describes this encounter as ‘one of the best King’s Indian games in the history of chess’.
See what you think.
Throughout his long career, lasting 55 years or so, Kupreichik remained loyal to his favourite openings. He preferred 1. e4 with White, replying to 1. e4 with the Sicilian, and to 1. d4 with the King’s Indian or the Slav. If you enjoy these openings yourself you’ll find a lot of inspiration from the games in this book.
The second major section of the book is a collection of games annotated by Kupreichik himself. Those he annotated for Chess Informant have had verbal explanations added by the editorial team.
Here’s a quick win against Nigel Short.
By now you might be wondering why Kupreichik isn’t better known, or why he never reached the heights these games would suggest he deserved (his highest rating was 2575). I guess he was one of those players who loved chess too much, who valued beauty above success.
You might also think there are many higher rated players who deserve to be the subject of a games collection. You may well be right, up to a point, but were their games as entertaining as Kupreichik’s?
Here’s one final example: another spectacular miniature.
At the end of the book you’ll find a puzzle section: 26 tactical puzzles based on his games, spaciously laid out with only two diagrams per page. Finally, and charmingly, we have short memoirs from his closest family: his sister, niece and daughter.
There are also 16 pages of photographs, on glossy paper. Here you’ll see pictures of Kupreichik throughout his life, from the young boy with his parents to playing in tournaments at the end of his life: sadly he was denied the pleasures of old age. You’ll see him playing chess – and also playing football and volleyball.
All in all, it’s a delightful book: 85 games brimming with exciting tactics and sacrifices as well as reminiscences of someone who was a much loved human being as well as a highly creative player.
It’s beautifully produced as well: a handsome hardback which will look good on your bookshelf. It’s refreshingly free from typos and the translation is, as you’d expect from Ken Neat, outstanding. I very much hope that the London Chess Centre plan to publish more books of this quality.
The one thing that’s missing, for me, is a career summary. I’d have appreciated a full list of Kupreichik’s tournament results and perhaps also his ratings over the years. We do, however, have indexes of openings and opponents.
While it might not be an essential purchase, many readers will enjoy this book. If it appeals to you it comes with a strong recommendation.
If you enjoy games collections you’ll want this book. If you enjoy the games of players like Tal, Nezhmetdinov and Planinc, you certainly won’t be disappointed in this book. If you play the Sicilian (with either colour), the King’s Indian or the Slav, or you’re an e4 player looking for new ideas, you’ll find this book inspirational.
“We are pleased to release another book in the Fred Reinfeld Chess Classics series. The Immortal Games of Capablanca was – and continues to be – one of Reinfeld’s most popular books. A detailed biography of the third world chess champion introduces the 113 games. They are presented chronologically, with clear and instructive annotations.
This 21st century edition has been revised and reformatted to meet the expectations of the modern chessplayer. This includes:
(a) The original English descriptive notation has been converted to modern figurine algebraic notation;
(b) Over 200(!) diagrams have added, along with more than a dozen archival photos; and
(c) The Index of Openings now has ECO codes.
Reinfeld’s annotations were also cross-checked by Stockfish 14, one of the most powerful engines available. When Stockfish had a different, meaningful evaluation from that of Reinfeld’s, the engine’s suggestion is indicated by “S14:” followed by the specific line.
As in our other “21st Century Editions,” and with the exception of the occasional supplement by Stockfish, Reinfeld’s original text has been preserved.
Follow the life and games of the brilliant Cuban world champion in Reinfelds’s timeless classic The Immortal Games of Capablanca.”
“Fred Reinfeld (January 27, 1910 – May 29, 1964) was an American writer on chess and many other subjects. He was also a strong chess master, often among the top ten American players from the early 1930s to the early 1940s, as well as a college chess instructor.”
In July 2019 Richard James reviewedFred Reinfeld: The Man Who Taught America Chess, with 282 Games and perhaps you might like to read this to get a better feel for FRs legacy.
Russell Enterprises (via New In Chess) with this new edition have, to date, added a total of eight titles to their Fred Reinfeld Classic Series: the more the merrier!
Over the years many have looked down their noses at publications from Reinfeld, Chernev, Schiller and others but if we are completely honest then Reinfeld and Chernev have brought a huge amount to the chess buying public and many have found much benefit from their publications.
The Immortal Games of Capablanca by Russell Enterprises is (to use a modern phrase) a “re-imagining” of a timeless classic. Most of us reading this review would have almost certainly had one of the previous versions. The first edition dates from 1942 and, interestingly, the copyright lies with Beatrice Reinfeld rather than Fred, himself. Published by Horowitz and Harkness, New York here is an original first edition copy from the collection of Jose Font:
Betts (Chess: An Annotated Bibliography of Works Published, 1850-1968) informs us that this very edition was re-issued in 1953 by the same publisher. In 1974, Collier Books (A Division of Macmillan Publishing Co., Inc. New York) brought out their own edition and added an Introduction by Robert Byrne, Chess Editor of The New York Times. This had the following appearance front and rear:
and, for the sake of completeness, and because it is worth reading, here is the Introduction from Robert Byrne:
I joined the Manhattan Chess Club a year or so after Capablanca’s death, and the afterglow of the great Cuban’s presence still filled his favourite haunts. There was an old white-haired patzer, Richard Warburg, who would collar me, my brother Donald, and several other young high school players to tell us the “compliment” Capa had once paid him. What Capa had said was, “Warburg, nobody plays the Rinky-Dink the way you do!” So overcome with pride and delight was Warburg that the great man had deigned to remark on his play that he never stopped to think why Capa had dubbed his Accelerated Dragon Variation the “Rinky-Dink.” Needless to say, the ironic joshing of Capablanca’s remark was totally lost on him.
Moreover, it would not have mattered, for Capablanca was so idolized that it was deemed a privilege to breathe the same air he did. Not only did his fans feel that way about him, but the man from whom he won the world championship, Emanuel Lasker, said of him, “I have known many chess players, but only one chess genius.” Capablanca’s successor, Alexander Alekhine, also termed him “a very great genius whose like we shall never see again.”
What lent Capablanca the glamour that was denied to his fellow champions of the game was the incredible speed of his play. Hard work at the board, consuming the full two and one half hours for forty moves, was unknown to him at the peak of his career. Brilliant strategic plans, marvellous com binational possibilities, scintillating turns in the play came tumbling out of him in response to his extraordinarily quick sight of the configuration before him.
He did not consider what he achieved as coming under the head of thinking, scandalizing his colleagues by insisting that chess was not an intellectual game. For him it was nothing remotely resembling problem solving, but rather flashes of intuition in which he grasped the essential pattern governing each individual position. That is why he looked upon chess playing as an aesthetic activity.
Quite obviously, no greater natural player ever lived. At the age of four, Capablanca learned the moves by watching his father play and, years later, he declared that he had never bothered to study the game. Of course, growing up in the fertile chess climate of Havana and later New York, he honed himself on very strong opposition. Watching the games of his competitors could hardly have failed to serve as an education in itself.
In chess style, Capablanca was the master par excellence of reduction, stripping positions down to the bare backbone by exchanging off all irrelevant material. In what were for others
positions of unfathomable complexity, he could, with uncanny lucidity, expose the genuinely dominant but often hidden theme that dictated the strategy to be pursued.
It is this astonishing clarity in Capablanca’s conceptions that makes his games a gold mine for the aspiring student. The elements of chess strategy can all be seen here purged of the confusion introduced by side issues. The late Fred Reinfeld has made an excellent selection of 113 Capablanca games which give a rounded picture of the scope and invention of Cuba’s greatest genius. These are the wonderful performances that have so heavily shaped the play of current world champion Bobby Fischer, Capablanca’s spiritual descendant.
One of my favourites, which I have replayed many times, is game 6, from Capablanca’s match with Frank Marshall (see page 39 ). It is not too much to say that this is the indispensable stem game for the understanding of how White develops a kingside attack in the Ruy Lopez. Another lesson in the Ruy Lopez, this time in the exchange variation by transposition, is given by game 17 against David Janowski (see page 83). Capablanca’s handling of the pawn structure and his fine rook play in the ending beautifully illuminate a formation reintroduced into current practice by Bobby Fischer.
In the realm of bishops-of-opposite-colour play, the drawing chances of the defence can only be defeated by the kind of positional mastery Capablanca evinces in game 2L against Richard Teichmann (see page 97 ) and in game 25 against Aron Nimzovich (see page 111). Capablanca’s terrifically coolheaded defensive play shows up in his defeat of Frank Marshall’s anti-Ruy Lopez gambit in game 36 (see page 157), which the American champion kept under wraps for eight years to spring on him. I could go on and on, but, if I must limit myself to just one more, Capablanca’s best-played-prize-winning Caro-Kann Defense in game 63 against Aron Nimzovich (see page 276) would be my choice. It is a wonderfully instructive masterpiece of infiltration tactics to undermine a passive position and score with Zugzwang.
Fred Reinfeld’s annotations are clear and schematic and give a dramatic portrayal of these epic battles. Fred, the epitome of the hero-worshipper, is a little too harsh in fastening on the very human foibles that brought about Capablanca’s loss of the world championship to Alekhine. With the ease of success Capablanca enjoyed, it was all but impossible for him to have taken Alekhine’s challenge seriously, especially since Capablanca had a 6-O record against him going into the match. No one could have guessed the fanatic zeal that Alekhine put into his preparation for the struggle.
Moreover, the last word on Capablanca’s enormous capacity can be gleaned from Alekhine’s behaviour. He sought lesser opponents rather than give the awesome genius a return match.
In 1990 Dover did their usual “reprint” thing and re-issued the Horowitz and Harkness, New York, 1942 version with this cover:
and in 2011 Sam Sloan put on his anti-copyright Ye-Ha! cowboy spurs and re-issued his version with the original 1942 cover.
So, in 2022, what do we have that is new in this 21st century edition?
Firstly, we have FAN or figurine algebraic notation which should help to bring in those for whom English Descriptive is old hat (their words not ours).
Secondly, thirteen photographs of of Capa and his opponents liven up the pages that once contained a single image of Capa giving a simultaneous display at the Imperial Chess Club in London, 1911. Printing quality could have been improved but welcome they are nonetheless.
The format has transitioned from the old style single column with diagrams few and far between to a double column format with a liberal sprinkling of diagrams of greater printed clarity than the originals. Each game has been allocated an ECO code (or Rabar Index for our more mature readers). Indeed, the font is a little smaller than it was in 1942 but quite readable all the same.
The authors pithy annotation style has been retained for the modern student to enjoy and engine worshippers (“I cannot read a chess book that has not been engine checked”) are acknowledged using supplemental comments indicated by a Stockfish (S14) label.
We carried out a detailed edition comparison with the Collier edition and found some subtle differences. As noted previously the Robert Byrne Introduction is not present but then again, it wasn’t in the original. Game 2a, Corzo-Capablanca is now Game 3 and the comment “This game discovered just as the book was going to press” is no longer present.
Capablanca-Voight, Philadelphia, 1910 is labelled as a Team Match between Manhattan CC and Franklin CC in 1942 and in 2022 as a simultaneous display game. Both Megabase 2023 and Chessgames.com concur with the recent verdict: any Capa scholars (EGW) out there with definitive knowledge?
Game 15 is now identified as Capablanca – Bacu Arus from a blindfold simul whereas Black was listed simply as “Amateur” in the original.
Through out this fresh, new edition there are subtle additions of detail together with corrections to the original which are to be admired.
The Stockfish (S14) comments are sparse and unobtrusive but of value. For example, from Capablanca- Janowski we have reproduced the comments to Black’s 24th move only:
In summary it was an absolute pleasure to be re-united with this timeless classic and Russell Enterprises are to be congratulated on producing this fresh new edition with added value.
John Upham, Cove, Hampshire, 2nd March 2023
Book Details :
Softcover : 256 pages
Publisher: Russell Enterprises (September 12, 2022)
“The Tarrasch Variation of the Queen’s Gambit Declined is a fierce counter-attacking line arising after 1 d4 d5 2 c4 e6 3 Nc3 c5. In this variation Black gains free and easy piece play but in return usually has to accept the structural weakness of an Isolated Queen’s Pawn (IQP).
In the early development of chess theory this line was somewhat frowned upon due to the vulnerability of the IQP. However, Siegbert Tarrasch, after whom the opening is named, famously declared that, “he who fears an Isolated Queen’s Pawn should give up chess”. The Tarrasch has had many powerful adherents over the years including the legendary Garry Kasparov who made much use of it in the early part of his career.
In this book Cyrus Lakdawala guides the reader through the complexities of the Tarrasch and carves out a repertoire for Black, based on a modern treatment popularised by the Russian grandmaster Daniil Dubov. He examines all aspects of this highly complex opening and provides the reader with well-researched, fresh, and innovative analysis.
Each annotated game has valuable lessons on how to play the opening and contains instructive commentary on typical middlegame plans. * A complete repertoire for Black to counter 1 d4. * The question and answer approach provides an excellent study method.”
About the author:
“Cyrus Lakdawala is an International Master, a former National Open and American Open Champion, and a six-time State Champion. He has been teaching chess for over 40 years, and coaches some of the top junior players in the U.S.”
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 and an Index of completed games.
The table of contents is:
Before we continue it is worth taking a look at the pdf extract which includes the Contents, Preface and pages 87 – 108.
Everyman (and Cyrus) kicks-off in Chapter 1, The Classics with its most welcome trait of laying out the historical development of an opening by detailing twelve significant games including this old favourite from 1969:
We very much like this feature of Everyman books and long may it continue!
In reviewing books from this author it is traditional to discuss his “Marmite” annotation style. In general, we are presented with a grammar and vocabulary rich narrative that gives you the impression that the author is coaching you one-to-one with a mixture of humour and superlatives. There is never a dull moment with his chatty style, of that we can be sure!
For example in discussing Larsen-Kasparov, Brussels, 1987
after Larsen’s 37 hxg7! Cyrus writes:
“Exercise (critical decision): Even the serpent from the Garden of Eden would be impressed by Larsen’s talent for manipulative deception. His last move a good practical try in an objectively lost position. Should Black play 37…Bxg7, 37…Be7. or 37…Qaa2?”
Indeed, some reviewers become so distracted by the authors idiosyncratic style that they forget to review the content of the book!
The USP (“Unique Selling Point” for our younger readers) of this foray into Tarrasch land is to promote an alternative and albeit more active deployment of Black’s King’s bishop to c5 instead of the traditional e7. This nuance was first campaigned with success by Carl Schlecter versus Milan Vidmar at Budapest 1912 a year after becoming a novelty / TN from Georg Salwe who first punted it at Karlovy Vary in 1911. Since Netanya 2019 Daniil Dubov has played this line with success along with other notables such as Nodirbek Abdusattorov, Dommaraju Gukesh and Dennis Wagner to name but a few.
We must be grateful to the author for choosing to name this variation after Dubov rather than say Abdusattorov (!) but we think we could all appreciate a Wagner Variation / Cycle or two!
So, the Dubov Variation is:
which is, in turn an offshoot of the highly popular and reliable anti-IQP Rubinstein Variation (6.g3).
Chapter Two dispenses (via Games 13 – 15) with Whites various ninth move alternatives before focussing in Chapter Three on 9 Nxc6 (seven games) followed by the more critical 9 Nb3 (nine games) in Chapter Four.
To complete Black’s Dubov-based Tarrasch repertoire there is a nine game treatment via Chapter Five of the so-called Symmetrical Variation:
followed by an examination of the popular 6 Bg5 line:
and then positions resulting from White capturing on c5. Lastly the author tidies up by discussing the usual move order issues caused by White delaying development of the Queen’s knight.
Looking at the increasing popularity of the Dubov Variation this book is about as topical as one can get and its likely there will a gradual shift from …Be7 to …Bc5 and eventually this will filter down from the top to less giddy heights.
A constant theme of the book is learning through reinforcement of ideas and the solving of multiple combinational, tactical and positional understanding exercises.
Is there a final verdict on this line? No, and even if there was I would encourage you to obtain this book to find out!
As a taster here is a very recent smooth performance from Dubov himself:
“Following on from the enduring success of one of the most important chess books ever written, Bobby Fischer: My 60 Memorable Games, and the recently released Magnus Carlsen: 60 Memorable Games, celebrated chess writer Andrew Soltis delivers a book on Fabiano Caruana, the Grandmaster set to rival current world champion Magnus Carlsen.
This book details Caruana’s remarkable rise from chess prodigy to one of the best chess player in the world, exploring how he acquired the skills of 21st-century grandmaster chess over such a short period of time.
This book dives into how he wins by analysing 60 of the games that made him who he is, describing the intricacies behind his and his opponent’s strategies, the tactical justification of moves and the psychological battle in each one.”
About the Author:
“International Grandmaster Andrew Soltis is chess correspondent for the New York Post and a very popular chess writer. He is the author of many books including What it Takes to Become a Chess Master, Studying Chess Made Easy and David Vs Goliath Chess.”
If you’ve read and enjoyed the companion volume on Carlsen, you’ll want this as well. Many readers collect games collections, and will be eager to add a book on one of today’s leading practitioners to their shelves. This isn’t the only book on Caruana available: there’s one, for example, by Lakdawala, a writer with a very different style. If you like Soltis’s annotations you may well not like Lakdawala’s, and vice versa. They’ve both been doing what they do for a long time and understand their readership.
Here, then, we have sixty of Caruana’s most interesting games, not all of them wins, mostly from the last decade, but a few earlier, starting with a game from 2002. Most are standardplay games, but there are also a few rapid, blitz and internet encounters.
In his introduction, Soltis looks at what makes Caruana different from other top players.
And if he had a celebrity personality – that of a Magnus Carlsen, a Bobby Fischer or a Garry Kasparov – his story would be known well beyond chess circles. But Caruana is Caruana. “He is shy and modest, like a conservatory student”, one of his teachers said. He is content to let his moves do most of the talking.
He identifies several traits in Caruana’s play.
He’s a concrete player, relying on calculation more than intuition.
He doesn’t only rely on computer analysis, using curiosity and self-discipline to investigate the secrets of a position.
He believes the board and the pieces, playing the way the pieces tell him to play regardless of the tournament situation.
He is able to manage his nerves and emotions.
He chooses moves that push his opponents out of their comfort zone.
He is very patient, often playing quiet ‘little moves’ which slightly improve his position.
He employs deep opening preparation, much more than, for example, Carlsen.
An occasional flaw in his play is that he sometimes fails to deliver the knockout blow.
He has emotional stamina: he can deal with his mistakes and knows how to react when things go wrong.
The introduction also tells about Caruana’s early life in New York, and about the influence of the Soviet Chess School on his studies there.
Then we have, yes, sixty memorable games, each prefaced with a catchy title and a brief introduction. Just like another book of 60 Memorable Games.
The best way to describe this book, is, perhaps, to show you a few examples of Soltis’s style of annotations.
This is from Caruana – Aronian (Sao Paulo 2012).
Members of Caruana’s generation grew up with computers and Kasparov games. Many of them had little interest in games played before 1990.
Hikaru Nakamura called the classic books “a waste of time” and complained to his father, “Why do I have to study dead people?”.
Caruana studied them. He understood how White can benefit from d4-d5 in this pawn structure, as Bobby Fischer had in a celebrated game against Viktor Korchnoi.
But in another textbook game (Tal – Panno Portoroz 1958) White scored with the alternative plan e4-e5. Here 16. e5! dxe5 17. dxe5 opens the b1-h7 diagonal. This does a better job than 16. d5 of exploiting the diversion of Black’s bishop to h5.
Black cannot protect his knight after 17… Nd5 18. Be4! with Be6.
Also unfavourable for him is 17… Nd7 18. axb5 axb5 19. Be4.
What do you think? Helpful? Informative? Instructional? Interesting?
This is from another Caruana – Aronian game, this time played in the Sinquefield Cup in 2014. Caruana has just played 13. Bd2.
The pawn structure created by 11. Bxe6 gave Black a choice of four basic policies:
(a) Leaving the pawn structure intact. He could pursue a kingside plan such as 13… Qe8 and … Qh5/… Ng6.
(b) Change it by trading knights with 13… Nd4. His pieces would be freed a bit by 13… Nd4 14. Nxd4 exd4 15. Ne2 c5. This would expose his queenside to greater pressure after 16. a4 and Qb1 – b3.
(c) Attack the queenside. Thanks to 13. Bd2, White can respond to 13… Qd7 14. Na2 a5 with 15. c3. Black can add 15… d5 into the mix, with uncertain prospects.
Aronian chooses (d), Gain space with this move, followed by … Qd6 or … Bd6 and potentially … d4/… a5.
The reader learns from this how to create plans based on the pawn formation, specifically with regard to this position, and perhaps also more generally.
Do you like this style of annotation, or would you prefer something rather less dry? Perhaps you’d go to the other extreme, hoping to sees long computer-generated variations to demonstrate these plans.
Finally, another Sinquefield Cup game, this time with Caruana playing white against Nakamura in 2018, and considering his 26th move.
It was time for long-range thinking:
White could try for e4-e5 after offering an exchange of queens: 25. Qf4.
But even after 25… Qe7 26. e5 Bd5 it is not clear he is making progress.
For instance, 27. Nxd5 exd5 28. Rxd5 c3 or 28… Qb4.
If e4-e5 isn’t a good plan, what about a kingside pawn march?
This would show promise after 25. g4 Be8 26. h4.
For example, 26… Bc6 27. g5! hxg5 28. hxg5 and Qh4/Rh1.
But the attack abruptly halts if Black swaps rooks, 26… Rd8! 27. g5 Rxd2 28. Rxd2 hxg5 29. hxg5 Rd8 30. Rxd8 Qxd8.
Then White’s knight has few good squares. But Black’s queen does (31. Qc5 Qd2 or 31. Qf4 Qd4).
Psychologically, the best move.
It gives Black a choice of playing an inferior endgame – which is likely to be drawn – or giving up a pawn he might lose anyway.
Nakamura mistakenly went for the inferior ending and eventually lost.
Did you find this clear and easy to follow, or confusing and hard to follow? Or just about right?
Whether you’ll enjoy this book, then, is very much about whether you like Soltis’s style of annotation. Me, I’ve been a long-term fan so I enjoyed the book very much, but it’s very much a matter of taste, isn’t it?
If you appreciate annotations of this nature, you won’t want to miss this. You can, of course, be sure that you’ll get 60 top class games from recent elite GM praxis, expertly selected and with commentary from one of the most experienced writers in the business.
Games collections such as this are popular with many readers, and all chess book collectors with an interest in contemporary grandmaster chess will want at least one book about Caruana on their shelves. If that describes you, you’ll certainly want to consider this book.
You might well ask how much a club standard player can learn from the games of someone 1000 or so points stronger. It’s a good question, but I think Soltis does a pretty good job of making the games both accessible and instructive.
The book is well produced to Batsford’s usual standards, although one or two diagram and notation errors escaped the proofing. I don’t care much for the title of this or the companion Carlsen book, which some might consider disrespectful to Fischer, but I guess the publishers choose the title they think will sell most copies.
If the extracts I’ve presented appeal, you won’t be disappointed. An excellent book from a highly respected author recommended for competitive players of all standards, for connoisseurs of fine chess, and for all interested in chess culture.
Here is the publishers blurb from the rear cover :
“The Black Lion is a thoroughly modern counterattacking system that is a nightmare to face. This wild and aggressive line attempts to take away White’s initiative from a very early stage and is guaranteed to throw your opponents off balance.
The Black Lion is essentially a contemporary and aggressive interpretation of the Philidor Defence (1 e4 e5 2 Nf3 d6). The Black Lion starts with a slightly different move order, 1 e4 d6 2 d4 Nf6 3 Nc3, and now the lion family splits into two different animals: the risky lion (3…Nbd7) or the tame lion (3…e5). Both treatments are thoroughly investigated in this book.
Simon Williams (the Ginger GM) is the ideal guide to explain how to whip up an extremely dangerous attack using either treatment. Williams is well known for his swashbuckling, attacking play and the Black Lion suits his style perfectly. His commentary and annotations are always instructive and entertaining. * The Black Lion is an unusual and dangerous system with little established theory. * White cannot rely on simple, safe moves as such a strategy is liable to be overrun. * The Black Lion is fun and exciting to play!”
About the author:
“Simon Williams is a Grandmaster, a well-known presenter and a widely-followed streamer, as well as a popular writer whose previous books have received great praise. He is much admired for his dynamic and spontaneous attacking style.”
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 and an Index of completed games.
The table of contents is:
Before we continue it is worth taking a look at the pdf extract which includes the Contents, Preface and pages 128 – 141.
(One thing to note is that despite being published in August 2022, the most recently played cited games are dated from 2019 and, essentially, we have a Chessable course migrated into physical book form. I can’t imagine that this task was straightforward for editor IM Richard Palliser.)
Overall, this book offers a repertoire for Black (against 1.e4 essentially but 1.d4 d6 2.e4 Nf6 could transpose of course) after White has played 3.Nc3 as follows:
and from here on in offering Black the choice of two main continuations which are closely related but which Black can make distinctly different.
which most would characterise as The Modern Philidor rather than a Black Lion (so named in the wonderful The Black Lion: The Chess Predator’s Choice Against Both 1.e4 and 1.d4 by Jerry Van Rekom and Leo Jansen (New in Chess, 2008).
Alternatively Black can essay the more provocative
which you could also term a Modern Philidor or a Lion Defence depending on Black’s subsequent handling of the position.
The Black Lion and Modern Philidor diverge based on what Black does with the Queen’s knight. If Black castles short and leaves the knight on d7 (initially) then we probably have a Modern Philidor. Deferring castling, re-routing the d7 knight to f8, playing h6 and g5 and then the knight goes to g6 and then f4 really is The Black Lion proper.
Anyway, enough of my pedantic nomenclature rambling…
As implied the transpositional possibilities are numerous so organising the material cannot have been easy. One thing to note is that the author advocates 5…Be7 in the main line which is a move order improvement over the older 5…h6 Lion move order. The Introduction lays out the ‘philosophy’ of the approach clearly differentiating the 3…e5 and 3…Nbd7 choices and together with early games provides background knowledge for those new to this …d6 dark square system.
Chapter One: Key Concepts and Lines essentially clothes the skeleton created by the Introduction and includes ideas such as the once feared Shirov Attack:
which is detailed in Chapter 11.
Chapter Two: Common Ideas is the first real exposé of the key Lion idea and spends pages 65 – 128 and 14 full games detailing the really quite profound idea of rerouting the d7 knight to f4. Anyone new to the Lion should study this chapter carefully before moving on.
Chapter Three: The Standard Set-up with Bc4 takes as its starting position
in which Black has deferred castling to allow the knight relocation manoeuvre.
Chapter Four: The Standard Set-up with 5.Be2 allocates twelve pages on a line that probably will never be seen by most second players but will be of interest nonetheless.
A consequence of the move order advocated in Chapter three is that White may attempt various ‘capturing on f7 type hacks’ and these are treated in detail in Chapters Five and Six.
Arguably the most obvious attempt to refute the 3…Nbd7 move order is the aggressive 4.f4 dealt with in Chapter Four: The Risky Lion: 3…Nbd7 4 f4
and then …e5
As indicated Black may chose to go down the “Modern Philidor” (although the author refers to this as “The Tame Lion) route as in Chapter Eight with
covering in detail the queenless middlegame variations. The more common White choice of 4.Nf3 is assumed to be covered elsewhere such as Chapters Three to Six, or is it…?
Coverage is completed with Chapters on various g4 ideas by White plus insipid ideas such as g3 and f3.
In summary, The Black Lion is a welcome take on an increasingly popular dark square defence to 1.e4 with the accent on the trademark knight manoeuvre and deferred castling providing many lessons learnt from the 2008 book which introduced the idea.
I would argue that a chapter is missing on the so-called Tame Lion / Modern Philidor move order making Qc7 less desirable and I am thinking of
arising from a typical move order such as 1.e4 d6 2.d4 Nf6 3.Nc3 e5 4. Nf3 Nbd7 5.Bc4 Be7 6.00 00 7.a4 c6 which has 3465 games in MegaBase 2023. No doubt the author will argue that this position where White has tried around 20 (!) different 8th moves deserves an entire book in its own right and I would agree with that.
As a consequence of the migration of the contents from Chessable course to book (which cannot have made life easy for the editor!) there is degree of repeated déjà vu as one reads the same comments. Presumably this is measure of the Chessable philosophy of learning through reinforcement and would not normally happen in a “normal” physical book.
Bearing in mind my earlier comments regarding 2019 this book is a valuable addition to opening literature. Enjoy!
“The Barry Attack is a highly aggressive system that arises after 1 d4 Nf6 2 Nf3 g6 3 Nc3 d5 4 Bf4. Although the concept of the Barry Attack has been known for a century or so, the modern interpretation (as with a number of other dynamic white systems) has mainly been developed by English grandmasters over the past couple of decades. This “modern interpretation” is often not very subtle.
If Black provides a target by castling early on the kingside, White will often let rip with moves such as Qd2, Bh6, 0-0-0 and h4-h5, playing very directly for a quick checkmate. If this strikes you as too crude to have a chance against a sophisticated and competent defender, then a quick glance through this book will undoubtedly change your mind. You will witness countless games where very strong players are destroyed on the black side in less than 30 moves. Sometimes a lot less.
This makes the Barry an ideal weapon for those who love to attack. Black’s defence has to be very accurate. If not, a quick annihilation is on the cards. Play the Barry Attack is the ideal guide to this fascinating opening. Anyone who reads this book carefully and studies all White’s attacking ideas will have a fearsome weapon in their armoury.”
About the author:
“Andrew Martin is a FIDE Senior Trainer and International Master. He teaches in twelve schools, is an experienced chess writer and has produced numerous chess DVDs.”
And now on with the review:
As with every recent Everyman Chess publication high quality paper is used and the printing is easy to read. 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 should be fairly obvious.
The cover of the paperback appears to be of thinner material than usual: We miss the versions with built-in book markers at each end.
There is a most helpful Index of Variations and an Index of completed games.
The table of contents is:
Before we continue it is worth taking a look at the pdf extract which includes the Contents, Preface and pages 118 – 137.
At this point we feel the need to make a couple of small confessions: we have played the Barry (and 150/1800) Attacks with the White pieces (but not the Black side) for some years and and share an emotional bond with the opening. We have been friends with the author since we were both members of the famous CentYMCA chess club in Tottenham Court Road, London between 1978 and 1983.
It is worth noting that this book follows-on from the publication (July 2021) of a ChessBase DVD entitledThe Barry Attack (by the same author) which (we don not have but) is likely to provide a useful compliment to this book. However, the book contains more recent content.
We were disappointed not to find a bibliography of sources since we have a particular interest in the development of this opening. For example, there was not a single mention of Aaron Summerscale’s superb A Killer Chess Opening Repertoire, 1998, Everyman Chess, which was one of the first (if not the first) books to discuss The Barry in detail: never mind! Aaron also recorded a superb DVD for Foxy Openings (#7, Anti King-Indian & Grunfeld System) which is still worth watching even in 2023.
Chapter 1, A Barry Timeline is an in-depth history lesson on how the Barry (what was it called before George Hodgson named it? We presume the usual “Queen’s Pawn Opening” type label) developed by examining thirty games spanning from Tartakower – Wahltuch, 1922 to Sadhwani-Jones from 2022, one hundred years later. Fascinating stuff! If only more opening books bothered to do this it would give them a USP over their rivals.
The first real foray in explicit theory is via Chapter Two and the unlikely named Tarzan Attack (whoever gave it this epithet? Mark Hebden or Julian Hodgson perhaps?)
The Tarzan (or Lord Greystoke) is as subtle as a brick (rather akin to the 150 / 1800 Attack) and forms the basis for Chapter Two. We remember for some years that the Barry Attack section of GM Tony Kosten’s ChessPublishing.com and its associated forum had many posters swooning over 5.Qd2 and it soon became the line de rigeur. Of course, adequate resources were found for Black and these are examined in detail. The author tries his best to make 5.Qd2 playable and, of course, at club level (where anything goes according to Lombardy) it is worth a punt. Nineteen games are analysed and the most plausible and critical lines covered so you should be well prepared with either colour.
Chapter three (The Modern 5. Nb5) must be one of the first serious studies of what first appears to be “a bit of a patzer” line with the ambitious
which in 2023 is “all the rage” amongst Barry experts. Thirty-two pages are used to examine eleven games in detail and 5.Nb5 would appear to be a most playable and intriguing line. Almost certainly the first player will be more up-to-date than the second so well worth a try!
For many Barry die-hards Chapter Four (The Original Barry Attack) will be their first port of call to refresh their knowledge. At Seventy-Five pages and thirty-four examined games this is the most substantial chapter covering the most interesting struggles starting with
The author provides a balanced approach showing reliable methods for Black’s defence. Conclusions: you will have to purchase the book to find out what these are!
Chapter Five (Other fifth moves for White) tidies things up with seventeen pages and seven games. This material will mainly be of interest to the second player but there are some idea based around early h4 attempts by White.
The sixth Chapter (4…c6 and Others) will be of interest to the first player since it contains arguably less critical tries for Black where an early …c5 is punted. All good for completeness of course.
Chapter Seven (Transposition to a Pirc) might at first glance be discussing the 150 / 1800 Attack that a Barry move order can become.
However, appearences are deceptive and it contains forty-six pages and twenty-one games where White continues with 5. Bf4 against a Pirc type structure.
(whereas the more common approach would be
which is subtly different)
This is likely to be a good choice against a King’s Indian / Pirc player who is likely not to be familiar with the set-up. I’m not sure these positions have been given a detailed treatment such as this in the literature previously. Interesting stuff!
All in all “Play the Barry Attack” is a welcome and fresh treatment with much original analysis from real games. The author has and continues to be a supporter of lines developed by British players such as the Barry.
We focus on the British Chess Scene Past & Present !
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