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Coach Yourself : A Complete Guide to Self Improvement at Chess

Coach Yourself : A Complete Guide to Self Improvement at Chess
Coach Yourself : A Complete Guide to Self Improvement at Chess

Neil McDonald is an English GM, an active player, a FIDE Trainer and a coach to the England junior teams. Neil has authored thirty-seven books for The Chess Press, Batsford and, most recently, Everyman Chess. One of his most recent works, The King’s Indian Attack : Move by Move, impressed considerably.

GM Neil McDonald
GM Neil McDonald

“Coach Yourself” is a new direction for the author whose previous titles have concentrated on specific openings and generic middlegame themes.

The Introduction reveals the book’s USP (Unique Selling Point) of enabling the reader to become their own personal coach in a wide range of sub-disciplines of the game. You might think “All chess books attempt to teach at least one aspect in detail surely?” So, does “Coach Yourself” achieve its ambitious aim ?

The author sets outs his course curriculum in thirteen precisely worded chapters as follows :

  1. Immunizing Yourself Against Blunders
  2. Training Your Tactical Imagination
  3. Teaching Yourself to Calculate
  4. Judging the Right Moment to Use a Combination
  5. Supercharging Your Feel for the Initiative
  6. Know Yourself : Diagnosing Positional Mistakes
  7. Learn How to Shut a Piece out of the Game
  8. Getting Full Value from Your King
  9. Wearing Down the Opponent’s Pawn Structure
  10. Practice Planning on a Grand Scale
  11. Mastering Pawn Breakthroughs in Endgames
  12. Understanding the Essentials of the Endgame
  13. Making Good Opening Choices

Of these, probably half of them at least could almost be titles for books in their own right. “Teaching Yourself to Calculate” probably could turn into a 300 page book without any problem : indeed, such titles do exist. Similarly “Making Good Opening Choices” must have appeared in chess publishing history at some point. The order in which the chapters are presented is, in itself, quite logical and correctly emphasizes perhaps the weight that students should attach to each section. For example, the subjects of these chapters do attempt to correct the balance of study away from openings and towards the more challenging and time consuming middlegame.

This review would be really rather unwieldy if we attempted to work through each chapter so we will select a couple of chapters to measure their coverage and style.

The author kicks-off logically with “Immunizing Yourself Against Blunders” suggesting that blunders tend to disappear once a serious study is started. Most of the instruction is centered around the study of example games in which common types of blunder occur. The student is invited to get into the habit of playing though the entire or part of eleven games on a board and learn the common patterns and themes that lead to oversights and blunders.

Here is an extract of an example :

Above All, Look After Your Queen!

VI. Fedoseev-A.Ledger
European Cup, Porto Carras 2018

1.e4 c6 2.d4 d5 3.e5 Bf5 4.Nd2 e6 5.Nb3 Nd7 6.Nf3 Ne7 7.c3 Ng6 8.Be3 Nh4 9.Nxh4 Qxh4 10.Be2 Qe4 11.h4 h6 12.h5

Here 12…Qxg2? would allow the queen to be trapped by 13.Bf3, so the best move might be 12…Qc2, forcing the exchange of queens, after which White would only have a small edge due to his space advantage. Instead, Black played the natural developing move 12…Be7?, when 13.Rc1! closed off the c2-square and left his queen suddenly trapped. The threat is 14.Nd2 Qxg2 15.Bf3, and 13…Bh7 14.Nd2 Qf5 15.g4! also does the business for White (what an ignominy for a queen to be trapped by a peasant!).
In the game Black good find nothing better than giving up the knight for two pawns with 13…Nxe5 14.dxe5 Qxe5. Fedoseev was remorseless in pressing home his advantage (one of the signs of a top player is that they don’t relax once they have gained material): 15.Qd4 Qxd4 16.cxd4 Bb4+ 17.Bd2 Bd6 18.g4 Bh7 19.Rh3 Kd7 20.Na5 Rab8 21.Rb3 Kc7

Question : Can you see the most precise finish for White?

The game concluded 22.Ba6! bxa6 23.Rxc6+ Kd7 24.Rxd6! 1-0, since 24…Kxd6 25.Bf4+ (skewering the black king against the b8-rook – there’s more on this theme in Chapter Two) 25..Kd7 26.Bxb8 is too much for Black to bear.
Fedoseev’s 22nd move, laying the foundations for the combination which followed, was inspired. Don’t worry if you didn’t see it. The purpose of the next chapter is to introduce you to various tactical themes so that you can start planning your own combinations.

So the 11 examples set one up for the more challenging content to follow.

Some chapter titles particularly intrigued us : “Getting Full Value from your King” was one example plus “Learn How to Shut a Piece Out of the Game”. For each and every chapter there is a consistent method of presenting the content : Many instructional examples each containing questions that the student is challenged to answer. Some are straightforward and many are tough. They will get you thinking in every case.

All the material is presented in a friendly style almost as if you are engaged in a coaching session with the author himself and he is asking the questions and you are answering (hopefully!). The examples span games from the last hundred years including losses by the author that presumably made their mark. One of the best aspects of this book is each chapter is more or less self contained and does not depend on previous ones or what comes afterwards. Just picking out the endgame chapters only would be highly beneficial (for example) and then pick out chapters from the rest when you have the time.

We particularly enjoyed the “Getting Full Value From Your King” and “Supercharging Your Feel for the Initiative” chapters as being novel. You will, no doubt, have your own favourites.

As with every recent Everyman Chess publication high quality paper is used and the printing is clear. Each diagram is clear as is the instructional text. Figurine algebraic notation is used throughout and the diagrams are placed adjacent to the relevant text.

A couple of small gripes with the production are : the diagrams do not have a “to move” indicator. secondly, some Everyman books (but not this one) have an extra folding part to the front and rear covers. These we find protect the book from damage and also can be used as an emergency book mark !

So, does the content bear out the title? The material includes novel and challenging content covered from new angles. However, the answer to this difficult question lies with the student and to their level of motivation. Neil has given the student much hard to obtain advice combined with a Q&A format that allow the student to measure their improvement in understanding.

There is no doubt that this book presents perhaps 100 hours of instruction and opportunities to improve: sadly, we have not had 100 hours available to spend on this review!
However, we very much enjoyed this book and if you are not afraid of the challenge then you will too!

John Upham, Cove, Hampshire, 31st August, 2019

John Upham
John Upham

Book Details :

  • Paperback : 336 pages
  • Publisher: Everyman Chess (1 April 2019)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1781945128
  • ISBN-13: 978-1781945124
  • Product Dimensions: 17.2 x 1.7 x 24.1 cm

Official web site of Everyman Chess

Coach Yourself : A Complete Guide to Self Improvement at Chess
Coach Yourself : A Complete Guide to Self Improvement at Chess

Chess Tactics : Volume 1

Chess Tactics : Volume 1
Chess Tactics : Volume 1

Cartsen Hansen is a Danish FIDE Master, FIDE Trainer and author of twenty-eight chess books on all phases of the game. He is a columnist for American Chess Magazine and Shakbladet.

FM Carsten Hansen
FM Carsten Hansen

Chess Tactics is a volume in the series Daily Chess Training the content for which is largely drawn from the authors spaces on various social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

The book is self-published and our copy was printed by Amazon Fulfillment which we believe is a low cost method to get books printed with lower volume print runs than you might associate with a so-called main stream publisher. Being a paperback that is fairly thick compared with its other dimensions, it means weights are required to keep the book open hands-free style, unless you want to break the spine. Maybe no other review will mention this but the convenience of reading the book makes a difference for us. It should be noted that a Kindle version is also marketed for those who prefer an eBook format. The printing is fairly clear on off-white paper. What stood out to us immediately was the murkiness / clarity of the diagrams. To be fair to the author we did report this and he has taken this up with his printers.

The main content is divided into seven chapters which have the same rough format of sixteen sets of exercises with four exercises (on average) per set.

For each individual exercise there is a diagram of the starting position, a rating in the forms of asterisk symbols from 1 – 5 where * is straightforward (but not trivial) and ***** means “industrial strength” difficulty. Under the rating is an indicator of who is to move and finally a hint such as

hint : Surprising Consequences to a simple plan.

It is possible to cover up the hint with something handy such as a beer mat (!) should you chose to avoid it.

Following each group of say four exercises there is a solution which usually includes in-depth analysis plus details of the provenance of the game itself.

We could be wrong but every one of the 404 exercises appears to be from 2018 tournament, league or match practice. The author deserves to be congratulated for this aspect alone and this means is it not likely you will have remembered any of the exercises from elsewhere : respect ! Of course, 2018 was an olympiad year which must have helped enormously especially in terms of large disparity in playing strength of the two players.

The overall ethos of the chosen exercises appears to be tactics / combinations that occur in typical games played by mortals leading to winning or large edge positions. In other words they are very pragmatic choices of “meat & potatoes” strong moves rather than jaw-dropping moves that feature in tactics books time and time again.

The author makes it clear that he values feedback and he provides various ways to make contact  via his email address and various social media locations.  We received an answer to a query within the same day.

Let us examine some examples :

Set 49
Exercises to Set 49
49.1)

**
White to move
Hint : Making room for the right strike

and the solution is :

13.d5!
This clever move takes aim at a surprising piece.
13…Bxd5 14.Nxd6+!
Of course, not 14.Qxd5?? Bb4+.
14…Qxd6 15. Qe3+!
Yes, It is the rook on a7 that’s the target !
15…Kd7 16.Qxa7
Black could have resigned here but dragged the game on to move 20 against her much lower rated opponent.
16…Nc6 17.Qe3 Re8 18.Qd2 Bxf3 19.gxf3 Nd4 20.Qxd4 1-0
A.Avramidhou (2260) – V. Gunina (2528)
Chess Olympiad (women) (Batumi) 2018

and here is a one star problem :

10.3)


*
White to move
Hint : Exploit the many weaknesses in Black’s camp.

and he solution is

16.Bxe6! Nd5
Or 16…fx6 17.Qxe6+ Qe7 18. Qxc6+ Kf7 19.Ne5+
17.Be5 Also 17.Ne5 wins. After 17.Be5 fxe6 18.Bxg7 Rh7 19.Qxe6+ Ne7 20.Qf6, Black is toast.
1-0
C. Bauer(2644) – M. Apicella (2501) Cannes (rapid) 2018.

and, finally an “industrial strength” exercise :

76.2)


*****
White to move
Hint : Pursuing your dreams often comes at the cost of squashing somebody else’s aspirations

and the solution is :

28.d5!
This threatens Bxg7 followed by Qe7+ and game over for Black.
28…Nc3 29.Ba2!!
Without this move White has nothing – did you see it?
29…Qxa2 30.Bxc3 e5
Or 30…Bxc3 31.Qh7+ Kf8 32. Qxb7 and White is winning.
31.Bxe5 Bxe5 32.Qh7+ Kf8 33.Nxe5 White is, of course, completely winning. 33…Bxd5+ 34.Kg1 Bf7 35.Qh8+ Ke7 36.Nc6+ 1-0
M. Parligras(2645) – S.Grigoriants (2543) Hungarian Team Ch. 2018.

There follows an Index of Players and two of these players (Stamy and Sindarov) have five games referenced each. The bulk of the players are not therefore super elite players but mortals.

In summary, this selection of 404 graded exercises covers all of the most common tactical themes plus some rarely encountered ones from modern practice.  The commentary for each exercise is detailed enough.  The exercises are not grouped according to any particular theme so you are not “expecting something” : you actually have to work it out from scratch in keeping with a real game.

We’d like to see clear diagrams but maybe our reviewer needs to visit Specsavers ! Overall this is good book, packed with original material delivered with a unique style. It will improve your chess ! We look forward to Volume 2….

John Upham, Cove, Hampshire, 29th August, 2019

John Upham
John Upham

Book Details :

  • paperback : 329 pages
  • Publisher: Carsten Chess (April 2019)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1790316308
  • ISBN-13: 978-1790316304
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.8 x 9 inches

Official web site of Carsten Chess

Chess Tactics : Volume 1
Chess Tactics : Volume 1
Chess Tactics : Volume 1
Chess Tactics : Volume 1

Understanding Before Moving 2 : Queen’s Gambit Structures

Understanding Before Moving 2 : Queen's Gambit Structures
Understanding Before Moving 2 : Queen’s Gambit Structures

Herman Grooten is an International master, a professional coach for over thirty-five years and has taught players such as Loek van Wely, Jan Werle and Benjamin Bok.

IM Herman Grooten (photograph : Harry Gielen)
IM Herman Grooten (photograph : Harry Gielen)

The is the author’s second volume in the Understanding Before Moving series previously having written Understanding before Moving 1 : Ruy Lopez – Italian Structures

As with every recent Thinkers Publishing publication high quality paper is used and the printing is clear. The book can easily be laid flat next to the board and does not require weights to prevent it from “self-closing” (a particular bugbear of ours !). Each diagram is clear and the instructional text is typeset in two column format, which, we find, enables the reader to maintain their place easily. Figurine algebraic notation is used throughout and the diagrams are placed adjacent to the relevant text and each diagram has a “to move” indicator.

The main content is divided into eight chapters :

  1. Studying of Openings
  2. Background of Openings
  3. Pawn Structures and Practical Examples
  4. Discussing the Variations
  5. Model Games
  6. Exercises
  7. Solutions
  8. Instructive Games

followed by a collection of 44 unannotated instructive games. There is no index but there is a liberal sprinkling of black & white photographs throughout the instructional text.

The books kicks off by providing the motivation to the reader of the purpose of taking on-board the approach that Grooten adopts. It is clear that he strongly believes studying the typical pawn structures that result from the variations of the Queen’s Gambit the student will gain greater understanding of the correct plans based on those structures. He goes to some trouble to warn students of the modern lazy tendency (younger players take careful note!) to read too much into assessments from modern engines (especially in the opening and transition to the middle game). He, quite correctly, wants the students to use their own eyes and brain to discover ideas and typical themes rather attempting to memorize so-called best moves which change anyway when the engine version is updated.

The advice continues with tips on preparation before and during a tournament which are entirely pragmatic and help the students confidence going into games against both weaker, similar and stronger opponents.

Chapter 3 is where the heavy action starts. We focus on the Carlsbad pawn structure, arising from many variations of the Queen’s Gambit :

and the author details three main plans implied by the above structure followed by twelve high quality instructive examples of these plans from the world’s best players.

For example :

Plan C : Opposite-side castling, 3.10 Pawn Storms on both sides


Position after 12…Rc8

In a position with opposite castling it’s of great importance to get one’s attack off the ground as soon as possible. It helps greatly if there is already some weakness in the enemy’s king position , and if it isn’t there – well, the first priority is to force its creation.

13.Ng5

For 13.g4 see the game Petrosian – Ilivitky, Moscow 1965.

13…b5?

In this case it was best to retreat to d7.

14.Be5!

Thus Timman forces Black to weaken himself.

The Pawn Structures chapter essentially provide the ethos of the book putting the student in the right frame of mind for the specific discussion of the variations of interest. As far as I can tell these variations are :

  1. The Tartakower Variation of the Queen’s Gambit Declined
  2. The Lasker Variation of the QGD
  3. The Tarrasch Variation (including the Hennig-Schara Gambit)
  4. The Noteboom (or Abrahams) Variation
  5. The Ragozin Variation
  6. The Cambridge Springs Variation
  7. The Exchange (Carlsbad) Variation
  8. The Rubinstein Variation
  9. The Vienna Variation

and all of these are treated via a 1.d4 d5 2.c4 e6 3.Nc3 move order.

Some of the above could (arguably if you enjoy this sort of thing!) be said to arise from a Semi-Slav Defence or even Triangle Variation move order (for example the Noteboom / Abrahams and Cambridge Springs variations) so there is more to this book than first meets the eye. The Vienna section is most welcome since it has not hitherto received much attention in the literature and can, of course, become sharp early on.

There is no coverage of the Queen’s Gambit Accepted (the Vienna Variation comes close of course) or of the lines (typically 5. Bf4) where White puts the c1 bishop on f4 rather than g5 : some (including myself) might dub this the Blackburne Variation. There is a brief treatment of the Alartortsev or Cahrousek Variation (3…Be7) included in the Carlsbad section.

For each of the above variations the author highlights the main ideas for white, and to give you some idea here is an example from the Ragozin section :


Position after 10…Kf8

in the Interpolistoernooi in Tilburg in 1981 :

11.dxc5!!

Behind this lies a brilliant concept,

11…Nxc3 12.bxc3 Bxc3+ 13.Ke2 Bxa1 14.Qxa1 f6

It’s time to take stock of the position. White has sacrificed the exchange, but has obtained an abundance of compensation in various forms :

  • Development and activity
  • Bishop pair in an open position
  • Unsafe Black king
  • Better pawn structure
  • Control over d6, which can be used as an outpost by several of White’s pieces
  • A position in which “diagonals are more important than files”

All of this then prepares the reader for Chapter 5 : Model Games. There are 15 model games of which 7 cover the Carlsbad, 4 the Tartakower and then one each for the rest except for the Lasker and Vienna Variations.

The reader is then encouraged to test their understanding with 16 exercises of the “White to play and find the best continuation” type. Each of these exercises is analysed in detail in the Solutions chapter.

In summary, this book will be invaluable to any serious student of the Queen’s Gambit, particularly the Exchange Variation and Carlsbad structures. Any player who plays d4 but does not play a quick c4 follow-up (for example, the currently trendy London System followers) may well be sufficiently enthused to “upgrade” their Queen’s Pawn opening to a Queen’s Gambit. The emphasis on understanding via pawn structure analysis will help any student of chess even if do not play 1.d4. Highly recommended !

John Upham, Cove, Hampshire, 22nd August, 2019

John Upham
John Upham

Book Details :

  • Hardcover : 238 pages
  • Publisher: Thinkers Publishing; 1 edition (15 Feb. 2019)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 9492510421
  • ISBN-13: 978-9492510426
  • Product Dimensions: 17 x 1.5 x 23.4 cm

Official web site of Thinkers Publishing

Understanding Before Moving 2 : Queen's Gambit Structures
Understanding Before Moving 2 : Queen’s Gambit Structures

First Steps : King’s Indian Defence

First Steps : King's Indian Defence
First Steps : King’s Indian Defence

Andrew Martin is an English IM, a Senior FIDE Trainer, the Head of the ECF Chess Academy, a teacher in numerous schools and a coach to many promising and upcoming players. Andrew has authored in excess of thirty books and DVDs and produced huge numbers of engaging videos on his sadly defunct YouTube Channel.

IM Andrew Martin
IM Andrew Martin

The author first wrote about the King’s Indian Defence (an opening for Black he himself plays) in 1989 (Winning with the King’s Indian) and followed this up with the widely acknowledged King’s Indian Battle Plans in 2004.

King's Indian Battle Plans
King’s Indian Battle Plans

The “First Steps” series from Everyman Chess is (according to Everyman Chess)

an opening series that is ideal for improving players who want simple and straightforward explanations. First Steps emphasizes

  • the basic principles
  • the basic strategies
  • the key tricks and traps

So, bearing the above in mind, does, in true “Ronseal Fashion”, this book do what it says on the tin ?

We have nine chapters :

  1. Inspiration
  2. Pawn Structures
  3. The Classical System
  4. The Fianchetto Variation
  5. Lines with Bg5
  6. The Sämisch Variation
  7. The Four Pawns Attack
  8. Less Common White Systems
  9. King’s Indian Byways

followed by an Index of Variations and Index of Complete Games (featuring a good number of the author’s own games with both colours).

Interestingly the “Byways” chapter introduces readers to the somewhat rare Dizdar-Indian, which may be new to many :

with around 1200 games in Megabase 2019, being played by Caruana, Mamedov and Fressinet to name drop but a few, this is perhaps a developing sideline should White play Nf3 before Nc3.

Anyway, before I digress too far…

The meat and potatoes of this books kicks off with six decisive (dubbed Inspirational) games which leave one with optimism about a decisive result one way or the other, when employing the King’s Indian Defence. In order to avoid accusations of bias, in game six, Black (Richard Britton), is crushed in 19 moves by Andrew himself :

White to play (and we leave the reader to enjoy finding White’s idea.

Moving on to Chapter Two, Pawn Structures, we find an in-depth discussion of typical themes and idea that arise from the variations to be discussed in subsequent chapters. If only all opening books included such an insightful chapter, players new to the opening would pick up the Good, the bad and the Ugly so much quicker !

The author is also to be thanked for including games where Black gets it very wrong and goes down in flames. Gone are the days of biased books such as “Winning with the Damiano” (OK, I picked an extreme example !) in which Black has somehow refuted 1.e4. This book therefore is much more politically chess correct and credible in what it recommends.

Having studied in detail the Pawn Structures chapter the reader should be in good shape to roll-up their sleeves, pour a glass of wine and get stuck in. For each of the remaining chapters we are introduced to the theory of the set-up selected by our opponent. The Classical System chapter (understandably the largest) features 30 games analysed in detail including emphasis on the ideas, criticism of flawed thinking by either player, top tips that milestone themes the student must understand with plenty of diagrams.

The authors style is friendly, engaging and informal, leaving the student with the feeling that they are having a lesson with the author rather than simply reading a book. This I find helps to make learning the KID a pleasure rather than a chore. You get the feeling you are learning about chess and not just another opening for Black.

To give you a feel here is an excerpt from Chapter Three :


I’m very doubtful whether action in the centre or on the kingside is going to get White anywhere, as he is playing right into Black’s hands. Smirin is now able to whip up an attack.

TIP : It is rarely a good idea to play on the side of the board where your opponent is stronger.

17…exf4! 18 Bxf4 Qh4 19 Rael Ng5 20 Kh2 Rae8 21 Qc1

You would think that 21 b64 would be high on the list of White’s priorities, but in this case 21…axb4 Na6 makes it awkward for him to defend his b4-pawn, as the natural 23 Qb3? is met by 23…Be5!

Are there any notable omissions ? A First Steps book is not intended to provide everything but I would have liked to see more detailed coverage of the increasingly popular Bagirov / Krasenkow Variation :

Games 53 & 54 in the section on the Classical Variation do provide coverage to some extent.

And, maybe also a small mention perhaps of the dangerous Barry Attack :

and the KID player (who may not play the Pirc) has to decide if he wishes to allow e4 or play a Grünfeld Defence.

As with every recent Everyman Chess publication high quality paper is used and the printing is clear. Each diagram is clear as is the instructional text. Figurine algebraic notation is used throughout and the diagrams are placed adjacent to the relevant text.

A couple of small gripes with the production are : the diagrams do not have a “to move” indicator. secondly, some Everyman books (but curiously not this one) have an extra folding part to the front and rear covers. These I find protect the book from damage and also can be used as an emergency book mark !

Although I do not play the King’s Indian Defence myself I would certainly be keen to use this book to introduce myself to its rich possibilities. I’m not keen on books written by an author who does not play the recommended system his or herself. In this case there can be no doubt that the advice comes from much experience, enthusiasm and passion for the KID. Please give it a go !

John Upham, Cove, Hampshire, 17th August, 2019

John Upham
John Upham

Book Details :

  • Paperback : 336 pages
  • Publisher: Everyman Chess (3 July 2019)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1781944288
  • ISBN-13: 978-1781944288
  • Product Dimensions: 16.9 x 1.9 x 23.8 cm

Official web site of Everyman Chess

First Steps : King's Indian Defence
First Steps : King’s Indian Defence

Happy Birthday to Peter Charles Griffiths

Peter Charles Griffiths
Peter Charles Griffiths

Happy birthday best wishes to Peter Charles Griffiths on this day, August 15th, in 1946.

Peter was a strong player active from the 1960s until 1989. He played in the British Championships more than once and was a professional coach. He wrote the column “Practical Chess Endings” which appeared in the British Chess Magazine. He wrote Exploring the Endgame

Exploring the Endgame
Exploring the Endgame

and co-authored Secrets of Grandmaster Play with John Nunn.

Secrets of Grandmaster Play
Secrets of Grandmaster Play

and wrote Improving Your Chess

Improving Your Chess
Improving Your Chess

and Better Chess for Club Players

Better Chess for Club Players
Better Chess for Club Players

Happy Birthday Peter !

Peter Griffiths (far left)
Peter Griffiths (far left)

An Attacking Repertoire for White with 1.d4

An Attacking Repertoire for White with 1.d4 : Viktor Moskalenko

An Attacking Repertoire for White with 1.d4
An Attacking Repertoire for White with 1.d4

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

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

From the books rear cover :

Viktor Moskalenko (1960) is an International Grandmaster and a FIDE Senior Trainer. The former Ukrainian champion’s recent books include The Even More Flexible French, The Wonderful Winawer, Training with Moska and The Fabulous Budapest Gambit.

GM Viktor Moskalenko
GM Viktor Moskalenko

So, what is An Attacking Repertoire for White with 1.d4 about ?

Up front one factor worth noting is that Moskalenko is advocating a repertoire based around the classical move order approach to playing the “Queen’s Gambit”, viz, 1 . d4, 2.c4 and 3. Nc3 rather than say 1. d4, 2.Nf3, 3.c4 which is, nonetheless, increasing in popularity.  Some lines simply do not transpose of course so please bear that in mind !

The author has identified 14 defences employed by Black and offers  lines for White against all of these.  The variations given attention (and the order in which they are presented ) are :

  1. King’s Indian Defence : Four Pawns Attack
  2. Modern Benoni Defence : Taimanov Attack
  3. Snake Benoni (a fairly rare beast at club level and good to see it discussed therefore)
  4. Indo-Benoni which includes the Schmid Benoni & Czech Benoni
  5. Benko & Volga Gambit
  6. Grünfeld Defence
  7. Nimzo Indian Defence
  8. Slav Defence : Exchange Variation
  9. Queen’s Gambit Accepted
  10. Queen’s Gambit Declined : Triangle Variation
  11. Queen’s Gambit Declined : Exchange Variation
  12. Baltic Defence
  13. Chigorin Defence
  14. Albin Counter Gambit

For each of these chapters there is a theory / instructional section containing the recommended line, analysis and variations followed by a separate section of illustrative games from modern practise. Many of these 106 games are the authors own with insightful, deep notes explaining his thought processes.

For all fourteen chapters the emphasis of the author’s recommendations is on “active play supported by a powerful pawn centre” and this bears out when exploring the various recommendations.

Ideas featuring an early f3 (hence our comment about the Nf3 move order earlier!) appear frequently with the exceptions of the slightly surprising Exchange Slav  and the Queen’s Gambit Accepted. recommendations. However, the latter pair do use active piece play lines (with an early Nf3 in the QGA).

The most interesting  bonus is when one investigates the games section that is associated with each of the chapters. There is generous use of six clear symbols designating something special about various lines as follows :

  • TRICK : hidden tactics and some tricky ideas, e.g. traps you can set and pitfalls you have to avoid.
  • PUZZLE : possible transpositions, move order subtleties, curiosities and rare lines.
  • WEAPON : the best lines to choose; strong or surprising options for both attack and defence, which deserve attention.
  • PLAN : the main ideas for one of the sides in the next phase of the game.
  • STATISTICS : winning percentages for a line for either side / player.
  • KEEP IN MIND : here, fundamental ideas for either side are given.

An example from game 66 in the Exchange Slav chapter :

Black has played 11…Na5

12. Kf2

KEEP IN MIND : The king’s move is included in White’s plan, but it is more accurate to play h2-h4 or Ng3 first :

WEAPON / TRICK : For instance , 12.h4!? Nc4 13. Qc2!? b5 14. b3!? (with initiative)  (14. Qb1 Khairullin-Kapnisis, Budva 2009) 14…b4? 15 Nxd5!+-;

WEAPON : Or 12. Ng3 !?

analysis diagram

12…Bc6 (12…h6 13 h4.!?) 13.g5!? Nd7 14.h4 Be7 15.Kf2! b5 (Moskalenko – Alono Rosell, Catalonia tt 2013) 16.Nce2!

Possibly the only disappointing  recommendation is that of the use of the  Exchange Slav to take on both the Slav and the Semi-Slav family.  Recommending more ambitious lines for White would have increased the size of the book substantially and also the learning workload for the student : sometimes a line in the sand has to be drawn !

Reviewers usually like to point out material that they believe has been omitted and we will not disappoint you ! Chapters (we believe) should have been included are treatments of :

  1. The Queen’s Indian Defence (the most surprising omission of all)
  2. The Old Indian Defence (quite a rare bird of course)
  3. The Dutch Defence (see below*)
  4. Queen’s Gambit : Tarrasch Defence (popular at club level)

*In fairness to Moskalenko he refers readers to his previously (2014) New in Chess published The Diamond Dutch treatment to handle the white side of 1.d4 f5

We can also forgive the absence of any treatment of the Englund Gambit and other such blitz and rapidplay oddities !

As with every recent New in Chess publication high quality paper is used and the printing is clear. The book can easily be laid flat next to the board and does not require weights to prevent it from “self-closing” (a particular bugbear of ours !). Each diagram is clear and the instructional text is (mostly !) typeset in two column format, which, we find, enables the reader to maintain their place easily. Figurine algebraic notation is used throughout and the diagrams are placed adjacent to the relevant text.

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

In summary this book provides a pragmatic and fighting repertoire for White against most of the all the commonly encountered responses to 1.d4 and the Queen’s Gambit. There is a host of interesting new and dangerous ideas that help you fight for the whole point with the white pieces : recommended !

John Upham, Cove, Hampshire, August 13th 2019

John Upham
John Upham

Book Details :

  • Hardcover : 320 pages
  • Publisher: New In chess (2nd July 2019)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 9056918303
  • ISBN-13: 978-9056918309
  • Product Dimensions: 17 x 23.1 cm

Official web site of New in Chess

An Attacking Repertoire for White with 1.d4
An Attacking Repertoire for White with 1.d4

Learn from Michal Krasenkow

Learn from Michal Krasenkow : Michal Krasenkow

Learn from Michal Krasenkow
Learn from Michal Krasenkow

In Learn from Michal Krasenkow the author annotates 54 of his complete games and, additionally, he analyses 12 of his endgames. Also, he provides just over 20 pages of interesting biographical information, which is mainly about his chess life although it includes personal details.

GM Michal Kransekow
GM Michal Kransekow

Michal Krasenkow is a top GM who has been in the worlds top 10, and in 2002 his rating was just over 2700 (which was even more impressive then than it is now). Currently 55 years years of age he has been on the chess scene for a long time, and indeed he entitles his biographical chapter “Five Decades in Chess”. As well as describing his own progress at chess, he also describes the difficulties he had making further progress within the (then) Soviet Union and he describes why he changed his name to Krasenkow, and how and why he later left the Soviet Union to become a Polish citizen. Interesting stuff…

The main body of this book contains his annotated games, which Krasenkow refers to as “Memorable Games”. Around 370 of the 408 pages are devoted to this, of which nearly 300 are for the complete games and the remainder for the endgames. The games are arranged into chapters with different themes, such as

  • “Combinations & Tactics”,
  • “Attack on the Uncastled King”,
  • “Flank attack on the King”,
  • “Positional Play”,
  • “Defence” and so on.

He also includes a “Various” chapter for games that can’t easily be categorised. Similarly, the endings are separated into chapters for Pawn, Rook and Bishop endings. I guess that this structure helps with the “Learn” part of the book’s title.

The book does have a flaw: the Index of Games is nothing other than a list of the games with numbers, players and tournament – there is no page number given ! To make it worse, the games themselves do not include the game number in the header. This means that to find a game from the index the reader has to leaf through the pages and look to see if a page has a game that is before or after the one being looked for. To be fair, the reader needs only search the relevant chapter, not the whole book, but it is still rather tedious. This is a shame, because the author uses the game numbers in his introduction and the production values of the book are otherwise excellent. It is also fair to say that an index is not so important in a games collection as it is in other types of chess book, so I will leave it there. (Ed: having reviewed several titles from Thinkers Publishing BCN is of the opinion that the publisher has a policy of no index.)

The compelling star feature of the book is the high quality of the annotations themselves. Krasenkow provides clear explanations of many of the moves, and supplements this with concrete (sometimes quite deep!) lines when the position requires it. In my opinion he gets the balance just right, and it is easy to see why Krasenkow is a top coach as well as a strong player. Players of widely differing strengths will be able to enjoy and benefit from the author’s annotations.

Here is an example of Krasenkow’s clarity of thought, when discussing a position from a game against Sveshnikov :

“16. Nxf6+?!
A) I didn’t want to play 16. f3, fearing 16… Nh5, but then White can keep an edge by means of 17. g3 [rather than 17. Nc2 Nf4! 18 Nxf4 exf4 followed by …Bg5-f6].
B) Besides, Qd3 was possible. After the exchange on f6 Black gets control of the d4-square.”

This sort of commentary is quite typical of his style, although he can and does give lengthy lines where he feels this is appropriate.

In summary: I highly recommend this book. It can be read for enjoyment by those who simply like going through well-annotated chess games, and there is little doubt that more serious study will benefit those looking to improve.

Colin Purdon, July 20th 2019

Colin Purdon
Colin Purdon

Book Details :

  • Hardcover : 408 pages
  • Publisher: Thinkers Publishing (28 April 2019)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 9492510464
  • ISBN-13: 978-9492510464
  • Product Dimensions: 17.1 x 2.5 x 24.1 cm

Official web site of Thinkers Publishing

Learn from Michal Krasenkow
Learn from Michal Krasenkow

Improve Your Practical Play in the Middlegame

Improve Your Practical Play in the Middlegame : Alexey Dreev

Improve Your Practical Play in the Middlegame
Improve Your Practical Play in the Middlegame

“Before the endgame the gods have placed the middlegame.” – Dr. Seigbert Tarrasch

GM Alexey Dreev
GM Alexey Dreev

From Wikipedia :

Alexey Sergeyevich Dreev (Russian: Алексей Сергеевич Дреев; born 30 January 1969[1]) is a Russian chess player. He was awarded the title Grandmaster by FIDE in 1989

This concise but dense book covers a range of middlegame ideas, but not the standard set you find in many other volumes. The backcover rubric says: “…Alexey…believes that through careful reading and study of his book, any player regardless of level will significantly improve their skills. Even if you are unable to solve some of his exercises, they will still be of great use for improving your understanding of chess.

Alexey considers that his book will be useful for both club and professional chess players.” Allowing for a little publisher’s rhetoric, this tells you that this isn’t an easy read and you’ll have to work hard to reap the benefits, which I think is an accurate assessment.

The book is split into six sections, the first five each containing an introduction, followed by examples from real games, including positions where the ideas don’t work (rigorous analysis is the watchword throughout), then exercises and solutions. In the final chapter seven games demonstrating ideas from the first five chapters are analysed in detail.

The ‘Practical Play’ aspect of the title are found in the example solutions, some of which to lead to a clear advantage, but many are far less prescriptive in their outcome (”with compensation for the exchange”, for example).

There are a few minor idiosyncrasies in the English, but nothing to trouble the scorers.

Here is an illustrative example from the Pawn Sacrifice chapter which gives a flavour of the book:-

From Ivanchuk-Kasparov, Linares 1991

This is a case where the knights are stronger than the bishops due to the specific nature of the pawn structure. Black’s problem is the absence of counterplay. As the further course of the game showed, White achieved a convincing victory.

But this is thebeauty of chess, that sometimes there are incredible defensive resources in a position which are hidden at first glance

15…Qc7

In the game Black played 15…a5, by means of which he gets a transfer point for his heavy pieces, the c5-square, but this does not bring relief.  16.b5 Qc7 17.Nd2 Qc5 18.Qd3 Rg8 19.Rae1±. White has many ways to enhance his position, e.g., by advancing the f-pawn. It is difficult to recommend anything for Black. 1-0 (38)

16.Nd2 d5!!

Only here and now, otherwise it will be too late!

17.exd5 Qe5!

I admit these moves do not lead to complete equality, but thanks to the pawn sacrifice, Black no longer feels besieged and doomed to a long defence. His bishops are gradually awakening from hibernation, and this gives him solid compensation for the sacrificed pawn.

18.Qxe5

18.Qd3 Bxb4 19.Rac1 Kf8∞

18…fxe5 !9.Rab1 f5!

Another important move!. Black limits the knights and prepares to connect his rooks with …Kf7, when his King will clearly be better placed than its counterpart and his pieces will gain in activity.

Black can expect compensation.

In summary, this is an excellent but difficult book, and you’ll require some pretty decent analytical chops to assess whether the ideas it covers may be sometimes applicable in your own games.

Mark Taylor, Windsor, Berkshire, July 2019

Mark Taylor
Mark Taylor

Book Details :

  • Paperback : 208 pages
  • Publisher: Thinkers Publishing (8 Sept. 2018)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 9492510316
  • ISBN-13: 978-9492510310
  • Product Dimensions: 16.5 x 1.9 x 22.9 cm

Official web site of Thinkers Publishing

Improve Your Practical Play in the Middlegame
Improve Your Practical Play in the Middlegame

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

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

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

FM Alex Dunne

FM Alex Dunne
FM Alex Dunne

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

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

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

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

Fred Reinfeld
Fred Reinfeld

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

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

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

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

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

Here’s one of Reinfeld’s favourite games:

 

 

Richard James, Twickenham July 15th 2019

Richard James
Richard James

Book Details :

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

Official web site of McFarland Books

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

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

1001 Chess Exercises for Club Players : Frank Erwich

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

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

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

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

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

FM Frank Erwich
FM Frank Erwich

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

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

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

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

As with every recent New in Chess publication high quality paper is used and the printing is clear. The book can easily be laid flat next to the board and does not require weights to prevent it from “self-closing” (a particular bugbear of mine !). Each diagram clearly shows who is to move and the instructional text is typeset in two column format, which, I find, enables the reader to maintain their place easily. Figurine algebraic notation is used throughout and the diagrams are placed adjacent to the relevant text.

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

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

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

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

“We conclude this chapter with a spectacular move:

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

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

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

Here is one of the more challenging exercises :

The hint is “away + material”

and the solution is :

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

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

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

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

John Upham, Cove, Hampshire, June 20th 2019

John Upham
John Upham

Book Details :

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

Official web site of New in Chess

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