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The Complete Chess Swindler

The Complete Chess Swindler : David Smerdon

The Complete Chess Swindler
The Complete Chess Swindler
GM David Smerdon
GM David Smerdon

David Smerdon is an Australian chess grandmaster and behavioural economist. In 2015 he published the highly successful chess opening book Smerdon’s Scandinavian.

From the book’s rear cover :

“Chess is a cruel game. We all know that feeling when your position has gone awry and everything seems hopeless. You feel like resigning. But don’t give up! This is precisely the moment to switch to swindle mode. Master the art of provoking errors and you will be able to turn the tables and escape with a draw – or sometimes even steal the full point!

Swindling is a skill that can be trained. In this book, David Smerdon shows how you can use tricks from psychology to marshal hidden resources and exploit your opponent’s biases. In a lost position, your best practical chance often lies not in what the computer recommends, but in playing your opponent.

With an abundance of eye-popping examples and training exercises, Smerdon identifies the four best friends of every chess swindler: your opponent’s impatience, their hubris, their fear, and their need to stay in control. You’ll also learn about such cunning swindling motifs as the Trojan Horse, the decoy trap, the berserk attack, and ‘window-ledging’.

So, come and join the Swindlers’ Club, become a great escape artist and dramatically improve your results. In this instructive and wildly entertaining guide, Smerdon shows you how.”

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.

 

Who doesn’t love a good swindle? Well, if you’ve just been swindled in the final of your online club championship I guess you might not, but, in truth, as long as we’re not the victim we all love a good swindle.

So it’s surprising, then, that it’s a subject which hasn’t been covered much in chess books. Australian GM David Smerdon’s new book promises to fill that gap in your library.

Here’s Smerdon’s description of a swindle:

1) The Swindler starts from an objectively lost position.

2) The Swindler consciously provokes the victim into blundering, usually by taking advantage of some psychological trait.

3) The victim squanders the advantage, allowing the swindler to escape with a draw or even the full point.

He also offers three questions to help you find swindles.

1) What does my opponent want?

2) How is he planning to do it?

3) What’s good about my position?

Let’s look at an example.

This is Shirov-Kramnik (Groningen 1993).  White launched a manic attack right from the opening, but Black defended calmly.

Now Shirov had to make a choice. He saw 18. Qh4 Nxg3 19. Bxe7 Nxf1 20. Bxd8 Qxe5 21. Bf1 Qe3+ 22. Kb1 Bc6 which he assessed as favourable to Black due to White’s uncoordinated forces.

Instead he went for the spectacular 18. Bxh6!?! when the game concluded 18… Nxf4 19. Bxg7+ Kh7 20. Rxf4 Rg8 21. Rfg4 Rxg7 22. Rxg7+ Kh6 23. Rg8 Kh7 24. R8g7+ with a draw.

However, as Smerdon points out, Kramnik could have won with the beautiful counter queen sacrifice  21… Qxc3!!, when 22, Rxc3 Rxg7 leaves Black a piece up, while 22. bxc3 Ba3+ is a pretty standard mate. (Smerdon’s ‘exquisite’ seems a bit hyperbolic to me.)

Smerdon might have mentioned that 20… Qxc3!! would also have worked, and that Black could equally well have played 19… Kg8 20. Rxf4 Qxc3!!.

All very interesting, but was it really a swindle?

It depends.  Did Shirov see Qxc3 at move 18. at move 21, or not until after the game? If he’d decided 18. Qh4 would lose, had seen the Qxc3 defence and played Bxh6 anyway, hoping Kramnik would miss it, then, yes, it was a swindle. But if he’d seen the game conclusion in advance and played it, thinking he was forcing a draw, then it was something arguably more interesting: a mutual blunder by two of the strongest players in the world.

Why, then, did Kramnik, a future world champion rated 2710 at the time of the game, miss, on two occasions, what was essentially a fairly simple two move tactic. A psychological flaw? A cognitive bias? Perhaps he was only looking at the king side, where all the action was, so missed a tactic on the other side of the board. You could say that looking at the wrong side of the board is a cognitive bias of sorts, but it’s not what Smerdon has in mind.

There are all sorts of reasons why we make the type of mistake we really shouldn’t make. Cognitive bias, yes, but also, for example, time trouble or fatigue. It’s always interesting to hear a great player explain how he made a simple oversight. Take this example.

This is Petrosian-Kortchnoi (1963) with Black to make his 32nd move. White has an overwhelming advantage in this rook ending, but he’s facing a resourceful defender.

Smerdon quotes Petrosian. “For a long time I had regarded my position as a winning one. Thus the whole opening phase of the struggle, when Kortchnoi was unable to get out of trouble, had psychologically attuned me to the idea that the ending would be favourable to me.”

Kortchnoi tried 32… Rf8 (sheer bluff: 33. Rxh6 or Re6 both win easily) 33. d6 Rh8 34. Kg4 Rf8 when the world champion fell straight into the cunning trap: 35. Rxh6?? f3!!.

Petrosian again. “I did not even see the threat f4-f3, possibly because it was in contrast to Black’s hopeless position. Personally, I am of the view that if a strong master does not see such a threat at one he will not notice it, even if he analyses the position for twenty or thirty minutes.”

This, then, unlike the Shirov-Kramnik position, is an excellent example of where Smerdon’s theory works. Petrosian was swindled because he was overconfident, convinced that nothing could possibly go wrong.

Smerdon identifies two pairs of psychological flaws which, in his view, are usually the cause of a player being swindled. Two, impatience and hubris, are caused by overconfidence, while two more, fear and kontrollzwang (the need to keep the position under control) are caused by lack of confidence.

He goes on to suggest that, if you know your opponent is impatient, you should look for a Trojan Horse: a move which seemingly offers your opponent a quicker or easier way to win, but instead sets a trap. If he’s overconfident, consider a Decoy Trap: a move which creates two threats: with any luck he’ll meet the minor threat while missing the major threat.

On the other hand, if your opponent is looking fearful, play a Berserk Attack, which will make him even more scared than he is already. If he’s a player who likes to keep control, adopt a window-ledging strategy: randomise the position so that neither player really knows what’s happening.

This is all very interesting, and great fun as well. Along the way, we meet characters such as Aussie swindling expert Junta Ikeda, and ever-optimistic German FM Olaf Steffens: in one game here we witness him window-ledging Richmond IM Gavin Wall.

But, I wonder how often you have a choice of swindles to set. In the real world, once we’re in swindling mode we’re just trying to find moves to stay in the game and pose problems for our opponent. We’re not really going to stop and take our opponent’s mindset into consideration before deciding which swindle to set up.

Understanding your cognitive biases is important, and, I’d suggest, this is rather more useful in helping to avoid being swindled yourself than in swindling your opponent. But is it really true that swindles usually exploit psychological flaws? I’m not entirely convinced.

By now we’ve reached Part IV, where the mood changes. We now look at the Core Skills swindlers need. The corollary is, of course, that if you want to avoid being swindled you also require these skills.

You can try to swindle your opponent by heading for an ending which might be difficult or impossible to win despite a large material advantage. For instance, KQ v KR is, generally speaking, a win, but notoriously difficult in practice. Knowing the defensive techniques to give your opponent the most trouble is helpful, as is knowing how to win against best defence. KRB v KR, on the other hand, is, generally speaking, a draw, but not so easy over the board (especially if you’re playing Keith Arkell). Knowing the correct technique is again useful – for both sides.

The next two chapters cover Fortresses and Stalemate, both familiar in the rarefied world of endgame studies but not often discussed in relation to competitive chess. We then continue with Perpetual Check, a very frequent guest in Swindleland.

We also look at Creativity. Here, for example, is the conclusion of the remarkable game between Detlev Birnbaum (2190) and Eloi Relange (2420) played at Cappelle-la-Grande in 1995. You’ll have to  buy the book to find out what was really happening here.

Part V demonstrates some complete games from both master and amateur chess, including Smerdon’s favourite swindle. Finally, Part VI presents 110 quiz questions, in which you have to find, or avoid, a swindle.

This is a unique book which covers a number of important topics not usually mentioned in text books, and does so in highly entertaining fashion. Smerdon’s writing style is lively, if sometimes loose, and he presents a lot of fascinating material. You’ll find a lot of creative and resourceful ideas here which should inspire all readers to look for ways to convert their potential losses into draws, or even wins. I would guess that, in terms of chess improvement, players in the 1800-2200 range would benefit most, but I really can’t imagine any reader not falling in love with this book. There is a lot of helpful advice – most importantly perhaps, not to give up in a lost position but to look for ways to provoke your opponent into making a mistake. Not only will it help you to find swindles in your own games: it will also help you to avoid being swindled yourself.

I do have a couple of reservations: as mentioned earlier I think Smerdon overstates the importance of cognitive bias in swindles when there are many other factors involved. What looks like a swindle might, on occasion, just be a mutual blunder: to be certain we need to know the swindler’s motive. As a behavioural economist by profession, he is naturally interested in why and how decisions are made, and this is something not very often mentioned in chess literature. Cognitive bias and psychological flaws undoubtedly affect how we study chess as well as our performance at all stages of the game. Given his academic background, Smerdon would, I think, be the ideal author for a book of this nature.

I would also have preferred a broader historical perspective, but then Smerdon, unlike some other authors, is sceptical about the value of studying the classics. Mention might also have been made of endgame studies, which frequently use many of the ideas discussed in this book: you might, at one level, see all endgame studies as the result of a swindle, and I suspect that solving studies, as recommended by a number of esteemed chess coaches, might be very beneficial in helping you to find, or avoid, swindles.

In spite of these reservations, I have no hesitation in recommending The Complete Chess Swindler to all readers. There have been some exceptionally interesting chess books published this year, and this is certainly one to add to the list.

Richard James, Twickenham 23rd September 2020

Richard James
. Richard James

Book Details :

  • Paperback : 368 pages
  • Publisher: New In chess (1 Jan. 2020)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 9056919113
  • ISBN-13: 978-9056919115
  • Product Dimensions: 17 x 2.3 x 23.6 cm

Official web site of New in Chess

The Complete Chess Swindler
The Complete Chess Swindler

‘The Rise and Fall of David Bronstein’ – Genna Sosonko

‘The Rise and Fall of David Bronstein’ – Genna Sosonko.

20 chapters, 17 black and white photos. Foreword by Garry Kasparov which states ‘Bronstein was the first player to propose changing the starting position of the pieces’. Now, is that really correct? But the former World No.1 gives the book the thumbs-up adding: ‘Soviet reality was so complicated’. Now, that I do agree with!

First published in 2014 in Russian, this is a more recent translation of rather a sad book. In what way ‘sad’? Well, Davy B (1924-2006) was obviously a top chesser but the stress of World Championship matches – he drew a match for the crown with Botvinnik in 1951 – meant that the remainder of his life was spent trying to explain, regroup and, above all, recover. None of the games of the match are given; in fact, no games are given at all.

It all began sadly. Dad was seven years in the Gulag. Davy narrowly escaped the Holocaust. The author is at some pains to explain his subject and I believe Sosonko has succeeded. Bronstein blamed his baldness (“I gave my hair” he told me) on the life he was obliged to live.

Chess.com on Twitter: "The great David Bronstein was born on this day in 1924 🗓️. Few have more narrowly missed the world championship title than Bronstein when he drew a match with

Ridiculously overpriced – the cover price is £24.15 – the book, one of a series, tells the tale of a gentleman sent mad by a board game whilst war raged. His writings are given generous praise but his riches lay in his games and wonderful annotations. Here we get none of this.

I met David a couple of times, in London and then Hastings, just after the second Fischer-Spassky match. We got on well. I had always dreamt of meeting the Soviet GM so this was a treat that nothing could spoil beyond everyday comparison. I wrote about it – twice, I think – so repeating much of it here about 30 years later is not going to happen.

The Sosonko text contains dozens of classical references to foreign authors chessers are not going to have heard of. Much is delivered verbatim. Bronstein, a born raconteur, told stories far into his old age when much of chess was lost to him. Having heard one or two, I can assert Sosonko has the patience, background and great love of the game; in short an excellent amanuensis. And you won’t get far into the book without encountering irrelevance heaped upon irrelevance.

The publishers website contains a 12 page PDF which I hope you’ll find revealing.  I did not like this book. I doubt David Bronstein would have liked it either.

The author is a Dutch, formerly Soviet, Grandmaster.

(Also see ‘American Chess Magazine’ No.7, p.122 and Richard James’s review of same penned on this site last May).
  • Paperback: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Limited Liability Company Elk and Ruby Publishing House (10 Aug. 2017)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 5950043316
  • ISBN-13: 978-5950043314
  • Product Dimensions: 12.9 x 1.6 x 19.8 cm.

chessparrot

James Pratt  (on the right!)

Basingstoke 09/20

Openings for Amateurs – Next Steps

Openings for Amateurs - Next Steps
Openings for Amateurs – Next Steps

‘Openings for Amateurs – Next Steps’ – Pete Tamburro (Mongoose Press 2020). 5 sections. Amusing cartoon cover. Rabars.

This is the sequel to Openings For Amateurs ~ see below ~ which was written by the same author and published by the same publisher in 2014.

Openings for Amateurs
Openings for Amateurs

Since that time British Chess Magazine has published many monthly columns by Pete Tamburro, a US writer of vast experience and understanding with, I might add, a reference library as large as any ocean. He is a brilliant teacher, respectful of his material, his many students and of the past, in which he revels. The book has been favourably reviewed on Amazon.

Pete Tamburro
Pete Tamburro

He divides his material according to openings:

Open Games, Semi-Open Games, Closed Games, Isolated Queen’s Pawn games and Queen’s Pawn Majority Openings. Some (random) examples: Smith-Morra Gambit, Missed opportunities to play … d5, the Two Knights Defense (“Let’s look at the Ng5 matter first”), Petroff’s (” .. equal positions do not mean drawn positions .. “), the Wormald and Worrall Attack with George Thomas at the controls and so on.

He asks ‘How many games have you played when you made the right move one or two turns too late?.’ So there is philosophy here too and humour is not forgotten: though never intrudes.

Sixty-nine games are presented featuring encounters from almost every available decade including several visitors from the Nineteenth Century: Blackburne, Anderssen, Steinitz, Paulsen, Kieseritzky prowl these pages along with, for example, Adams, McShane and Hawkins. Is anybody forgotten? Not that I spotted. Is it necessary to have studied the first (2014) volume beforehand? For the stronger – Elo 1850+ – player, I would think not. Clearly it wouldn’t hurt, especially for the inexperienced or junior player. A pleasant checklist, a mere closing page, offers 20 tips to improve your rating by 100 points. Useful, useful.

A closing chapter, ‘Final Thoughts’ sees the author lapsing into autobiography, his lessons from Gulko, his bucket list and colleagues and so on. In sum, a sympathetic book. I hope it sells well.

The author is a veteran American chess man like no other. And he has written for the Kasparov Chess Foundation.

James Pratt
James Pratt

James Pratt, Basingstoke, Hampshire, September 10th, 2020

  • Paperback 280 pages
  • Publisher Mongoose Press, 1005 Boylston St., Suite 324, Newton Highlands, MA 02461, USA. (04/20)
  • Language English
  • ISBN-10 1936277948
  • ISBN=13 978-1936277940
  • Product Dimensions: 15.24 x 1.91 x 22.86 cm
  • Kindle £11.35   Paper £18.89.
Openings for Amateurs - Next Steps
Openings for Amateurs – Next Steps

In the Zone : The Greatest Winning Streaks in Chess History

In the Zone: The Greatest Winning Streaks in Chess History
In the Zone: The Greatest Winning Streaks in Chess History

From the rear cover :

“A winning streak in chess, says Cyrus Lakdawala, is a lot more than just the sum of its games. In this book he examines what it means when everything clicks, when champions become unstoppable and demolish opponents. What does it mean to be “in the zone”? What causes these sweeps, what sparks them and what keeps them going? And why did they come to an end?

Lakdawala takes you on a trip through chess history looking at peak performances of some of the greatest players who ever lived: Morphy, Steinitz, Pillsbury, Lasker, Capablanca, Alekhine, Botvinnik, Fischer, Tal, Kasparov, Karpov, Caruana and Carlsen. They all had very different playing styles, yet at a certain point in their rich careers they all entered the zone and simply wiped out the best players in the world.

In the Zone explains the games of the greatest players during their greatest triumphs. As you study and enjoy these immortal performances you will improve your ability to overpower your opponents. You will understand how great moves originate and you will be inspired to become more productive and creative. In the Zone may bring you closer to that special place yourself: the zone.

“Cyrus Lakdawala is an International Master and a former American Open Champion. He has been teaching chess for four decades and is a prolific and widely read author. His Chess for Hawks won the Best Instructional Book Award of the Chess Journalists of America (CJA). Other much acclaimed books of his are How Ulf Beats Black, Clinch It! and Winning Ugly in Chess.”

IM Cyrus Lakdawala
IM Cyrus Lakdawala

Most of you will be aware of Cyrus Lakdawala’s style of writing. You’ll know that he polarises opinions: some love his books while others hate them. From what I’d read, I’d always thought his books weren’t for me: I’ve never bought one, although a friend gave me a copy of his recent book on the French Defence last year.

So I could write a very brief review. If you’re a Lakdawala fan, and there are many around, you’ll certainly want to read this book. If you’re not a fan you should stay well clear.

I guess you’re expecting me to say more, and there’s quite a lot to say.

This is an excellent and original idea for a book. We meet some of the greatest players from Morphy onwards and look at their peak performances. You get a broad view of chess history over the past 160 or so years, witness how chess knowledge has accumulated and how styles have changed over that time. You also get to see a lot of great chess, with some very (too?) familiar games being contextualised by their juxtaposition with less familiar games played by the same player in the same event. It might even inspire you to get ‘into the zone’ yourself in your next tournament, whenever that might be.

The chapters feature:

  1. Morphy 1st American Chess Congress 1857
  2. Steinitz match v Blackburne 1876
  3. Pillsbury Hastings 1895
  4. Lasker New York 1924
  5. Capablanca New York 1927
  6. Alekhine Bled 1931
  7. Botvinnik World Championship Tournament 1948
  8. Fischer 1963/4 US Championship
  9. Tal Riga 1979
  10. Kasparov Tilburg 1989
  11. Karpov Linares 1994
  12. Caruana Sinquefield Cup 2014
  13. Carlsen Grenke Chess Classic 2019

In total there are 120 games: some complete, some just the conclusion, almost always won by the heroes of each chapter, all annotated in Lakdawala’s trademark lively style. As a highly experienced author and teacher, he knows just how to get the balance right between words and variations, and has used a modern engine to check the analysis. You’ll find lots of Exercises (for you to solve), Principles (to help you improve) and Moments of Contemplation (to think about an interesting position).

This has always been one of the author’s favourite games, but you’ll have to buy the book to read the annotations.

Cyrus Lakdawala is clearly some sort of crazy (to use one of his favourite words) genius. I’m in awe of his productivity, his work ethic, his imagination, his general knowledge, his wide range of references. It’s well worth listening to this interview on Ben Johnson’s excellent Perpetual Chess Podcast in which he explains how and why his brain doesn’t work like anyone else’s.

But – and, for me, at any rate, it’s a very big but, he comes across as a writer who rushes to complete the book without double checking everything, and who lacks any awareness as to whether or not his light-hearted asides and fanciful analogies are helpful or appropriate. He’s also, by no means uniquely among chess authors, a lot stronger writing about contemporary players than about historical figures.

There are various mistakes which might not be important, but are unnecessary and, at least for this reader, annoying. Blackburne’s first names appear at various points as ‘Joseph Henry’, ‘Henry Joseph’ and ‘Henry’. In the heading of a game between Lasker and Marshall, Emanuel’s name becomes Edward, confusing because they both played at New York 1924. In Fischer’s Famous Game against Robert Byrne the heading is correct, but a few lines further down Robert turns into his brother Donald, who, again, was playing in the same event. These errors should really have been picked up by the editor or proofreader.

Then there’s the hyperbole. “Paulsen routinely took eight full hours to make his moves.” “Marshall’s normal temperament was that of a belching, gurgling volcano…” “Alekhine destroyed every stick of furniture in his hotel room, in a near psychotic rage.” Sentences like this would induce a near psychotic rage in several chess historians I could mention.

Most seriously, many of the more frivolous asides might be considered by some to be in poor taste. We have throwaway references to Jeffrey Epstein, Michael Jackson and, on several occasions, the British Royal Family. Then, what do you make of this? “Blunders like this one are a first-rate reason why no sane person should voluntarily take up chess as a hobby. It’s basically like marrying a spouse who beats you up on a daily basis.” Or this, after mentioning that Raymond Weinstein has been in a psychiatric hospital since 1964? “Thanks a lot, Ray! This does a lot to help eradicate the stereotype that we chess players are just a touch crazy!” You might think domestic abuse and mental illness are inappropriate subjects for levity in a book of this nature.

Now I don’t want to knock the author, any more than I’d knock Reinfeld and Chernev. I’m all in favour of people whose brains work in a different way. I’m all in favour of teachers and writers whose communication skills enable them to share their passion and enthusiasm for chess. There’s always a place within the chess world for authors who can bring our game to a wider audience, and Lakdawala’s colourful writing style, although not for chess and linguistic purists like me, offers a lot of pleasure to a lot of people.

On the other hand, he can easily go over the top, and perhaps it’s the responsibility of his publishers to be more proactive. With a pair of scissors to remove the pointless and sometimes tasteless analogies and a red pen to correct the mistakes and typos this could have been an excellent and – 50 pages shorter – addition to chess literature. Nevertheless, if you’ve enjoyed Lakdawala’s previous volumes and can live with the faults, you’ll like, and perhaps learn a lot from, this book.

Caveat Emptor.

Richard James, Twickenham ?th September 2020

Richard James
. Richard James

Book Details :

  • Paperback : 400 pages
  • Publisher: New in Chess (7 Aug. 2020)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 905691877X
  • ISBN-13: 978-9056918774
  • Product Dimensions: 17.15 x 1.91 x 23.5 cm

Official web site of New in Chess

In the Zone: The Greatest Winning Streaks in Chess History
In the Zone: The Greatest Winning Streaks in Chess History

An Idiot-Proof Chess Opening Repertoire

An Idiot-Proof Chess Opening Repertoire : Graham Burgess

An Idiot-Proof Chess Opening Repertoire
An Idiot-Proof Chess Opening Repertoire

FIDE Master Graham Burgess needs no introduction to readers of English language chess books ! Minnesota, USA based, Graham has authored more than twenty five books and edited at least 250 and is editorial director of Gambit Publications Ltd. In 1994 Graham set a world record for marathon blitz playing and has been champion of the Danish region of Funen !

We previously reviewed Chess Opening Traps for Kids also by Graham Burgess and, more recently we reviewed (and enjoyed) A Startling Chess Opening Repertoire (New Edition)

FM Graham Burgess
FM Graham Burgess

We searched the BCN office and, as the most obvious idiot, it was decided that John should evaluate the repertoire to test the title’s ambitious claim…

Burgess has provided a comprehensive repertoire aimed at the club player for both colours. Here are the chapters :

Repertoire for Black

  1. Scandinavian
  2. Queen’s Gambit Accepted
  3. Slav
  4. Queen’s Pawn
  5. Flank Openings (as Black)

Repertoire for White

  1. Closed English
  2. Other Reversed Sicilians
  3. Symmetrical English (as White)
  4. English : Other 1st Moves

So, Burgess recommends the Scandinavian (Centre Counter) Defence against 1.e4 and specifically the relatively modern Pytel-Wade Variation as championed by GM Sergei Tiviakov and others :

Of course this is a very reasonable alternative to the (arguably) more mainstream 3…Qa5 and is well supported in the literature and with DVD and online resources. In other words, if you adopt this line and want to delve deeper then the resources are out there.

As the second player versus 1.d4 Burgess offers an interesting hybrid of the Queen’s Gambit Accepted and the Slav Defence :

popularised by David Navara, Igor Khenkin, Christian Bauer and Matthew Sadler to name but a few : clearly a respectable line. The “idea” is that after 4. e3 Black will attempt to hang on to the pawn with 4…Be6 :

and an interesting struggle will ensue more or less on Black’s terms. If you had to name this line then The Khenkin Variation is most likely.

Against the various queen pawn openings (where White does not play an immediate c4) then Burgess champions concrete lines against the London System (Modern and with 2.Nf3), Torre Attack, Veresov Attack, Colle System, Pseudo-Trompovsky and even the amusing Blackmar-Diemar Gambit! Missing (for some reason) is the Stonewall Attack : not sure why?

Burgess provides recommendations for Black against the most common and sensible Flank openings.

For White we are offered the English Opening with a quick “Kosten style” g3 with most material covering 1…e5 but also good coverage of 1..c5, 1…Nf6 and others. In fact, you could buy this book simply to learn the English Opening as Burgess provides an excellent introduction and not worry about the Black repertoire.

For amusement we pitted the book’s white repertoire against its black repertoire and came up with this fabricated game :

which has been seen in just under 900 games in MegaBase 2020.

In summary, this is a coherent and well-thought out repertoire devoid of cheap tricks or dodgy gambits. I’m not entirely convinced that someone who enjoys the English Opening would also champion the Pytel-Wade Variation of the Scandinavian but who knows ! Clearly the first player opening is solid and “positional” (whatever that means). The second players lines are active and interesting and may even allow our player to dictate terms with The Khenkin Variation.

So, is the title accurate?

With careful study and practice (online for the time being!) you can learn this repertoire without fuss. So, the answer must be Yes!

As with every Gambit publication the typesetting is excellent and the use of diagrams generous. The book is available in physical form and, for around half the price, in Kindle format. In usual fashion you may “Look Inside” before purchasing. At $22.95 (physical) this is a lot of material for your money and represents good value.

As a bonus we decided to play a game where the “Idiot-Proof” repertoire plays the “Startling” repertoire. Here is what happened :

Gambit Publications have recently started their own YouTube channel to publicise their products. Here we have GM John Nunn introducing this book :

Enjoy and good luck !

John Upham, Cove, Hampshire, August 31st 2020

John Upham
John Upham

Book Details :

  • Hardcover : 192 pages
  • Publisher: Gambit Publications Ltd (11 Jun. 2020)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1911465422
  • ISBN-13: 978-1911465423
  • Product Dimensions: 17.15 x 1.52 x 24.77 cm

Official web site of Gambit Publications Ltd.

An Idiot-Proof Chess Opening Repertoire
An Idiot-Proof Chess Opening Repertoire

The Grandmaster Mindset

The Grandmaster Mindset
The Grandmaster Mindset

From the book’s rear cover :

“By going through the chapters, you will get acquainted with my way of grandmaster type thinking. I can assure you of one thing: there are better and weaker grandmasters, but you won’t find a GM who is playing without ideas or, let’s say, without his way of thinking! As you will find out, I am basically trying to detect the problem or goal of the position and then I am starting to scan factors which can lead to the solution. That process you will find in many examples in the book. GM Alojzije Jankovic, April 2020.”

“Alojzije Jankovic (1983) is a Grandmaster and FIDE trainer from Croatia. In 2010 he shared first place in the Croatian National Championship, was national champion in 2015, shared third place with Croatia in the European Team Championships 2017 and played for Croatia in the Chess Olympiad. He won several international tournaments and also hosts weekly the broadcast ‘Chess commentary’, Croatian national tv, third channel. This is his second book for Thinkers Publishing, after his successful co-edition with GM Zdenko Kozul on the ‘Richter Rauzer Reborn‘ updated version 2019.”

GM Alojzije Jankovic
GM Alojzije Jankovic

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.

A bibliography of sources along with suggestions for further reading would have been helpful.

 

I was rather confused when I first saw this book. The title, The Grandmaster Mindset, suggests a book for advanced players , while the subtitle A First Course in Chess Improvement suggests a book for novices.

Let’s take a look inside and find out.

The first chapter concerns pins. We start off with Légal’s Mate, which is important for novices but hardly necessary for advanced players.

En passant, we learn what Jankovic means by the Grandmaster Mindset. First, you assess the position, just as recommended by many other authors, such as Silman. Then you look for candidate moves: you consider all checks, captures and threats, as recommended by Kotov and many others, including me, over the past half century or so. Other authors, notably Willy Hendriks, will tell you to ignore protocols of this nature, to use your intuition and ‘move first, think later’.

We soon find ourselves in deeper waters, and by the end of the chapter we’re faced with a beautiful endgame study (M Matouš 1975) which is analysed in depth.

The second chapter, Candidate Moves, only seems to repeat the lessons from Chapter 1: if you assess the position and look for forcing moves you can find brilliant queen sacrifices.

Chapter 3, the longest in the book, brings with it a change of scenery. Useful endings: we have some pawn endings, rook against pawn, queen against rook, the bishop and knight checkmate explained in some detail, and finally rook against knight, again at length.

We’re back to tactics in Chapter 4, Knight Geometry.

This is Zvjaginsev-Schwarz (Novi Sad 2016).

White won with the aesthetically pleasing 44. Rxa6!! bxa6 45. b7 Qd8 46. Qxh6+!! Kxh6 47. Nxf7+. Beautiful, to be sure, with symmetrical major piece sacrifices on a6 and h6, but the queen sacrifice wasn’t necessary: 45. f4 Rg6 46. b7 was just as effective. (Note that 44. f4 also worked, but not, in the game, 46. f4? Qa5! and Black has a perpetual.) Perhaps this might have been mentioned.

The tactical ideas continue: Back Rank Mate (Chapter 5), Lure the King (Chapter 6: sacrificing a piece to expose the enemy king to danger), Unexpected Moves (Chapter 7: a collection of fairly random examples which you can discover by looking for Checks, Captures and Threats), Power of the Rooks (Chapter 8), Sudden Attack on the King (Chapter 9).

Chapter 10  is entitled Burying, which is a new one to me. The explanation, that it’s a very important tactical element when attacking the opponent’s king,  didn’t leave me much wiser. It seems to be something to do with taking away the king’s escape squares, but who knows?

In this position (Dizdarevic-Miles Biel 1985) Tony played a classic double bishop sacrifice: 13… Bxh2+! 14. Kxh2 Qh4+ 15. Kg1. Now after the immediate and obvious 15… Bxg2, 16. f3 defends. Instead, 15… Bf3!! (‘Burying!’) 16. Nd2 Bxg2!, and as the queen can no longer defend along the second rank, Black wins in short order.

There’s more to come: Underpromotion to a Knight in Chapter 11, and Different Tactical Motives in Chapter 12, but the whole book seems to me fairly random.

If you want to see some beautiful and spectacular chess, you’ll find a lot of great examples in this book: some hackneyed (the queen sac and knight fork from the 1966 Petrosian-Spassky match must have been in almost every tactics book for the past half century, and the Topalov-Shirov bishops of opposite colours ending for the past 20 years) but many unfamiliar.

Jankovic, by and large, explains his examples well and has an attractively friendly style of writing.

However, for this reviewer at least, the whole is rather less than the sum of its parts. With its mixture of elementary and advanced examples the book’s target market is not clear. The ‘Grandmaster Mindset’ advice (assess the position and consider candidate moves looking at checks, captures and threats) is far from original and, you might think, rather too simplistic. The contents seem fairly random (showy sacrifices, with some technical endings thrown in for good measure) but typical of what appears to pass for chess tuition in some circles. I’ll be writing a lot more about this at some point in the future.

It would require quite a lot of fleshing out, but there were potentially two much more useful books here. A book on finding tactical surprises, using the examples here but with the addition of exercises for the reader to solve. And then a much expanded version of Chapter 3 dealing with technical endings.

A qualified recommendation, then, but perhaps a missed opportunity which would have benefited from a more proactive approach from the publishers.

Richard James, Twickenham 13th August 2020

Richard James
. Richard James

Book Details :

  • Hardcover : 200 pages
  • Publisher:Thinkers Publishing; 1 edition (14 July 2020)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10:9492510774
  • ISBN-13:978-9492510778
  • Product Dimensions: 16.8 x 1.8 x 23.4 cm

Official web site of Thinkers Publishing

The Grandmaster Mindset
The Grandmaster Mindset

Opening Repertoire : The Sveshnikov

Opening Repertoire : The Sveshnikov
Opening Repertoire : The Sveshnikov

Cyrus Lakdawala is an IM and former US Open Champion who teaches chess and has written over 25 books on chess openings.

IM Cyrus Lakdawala
IM Cyrus Lakdawala

Writing a modern repertoire book on the Sveshnikov and keeping it below 500 pages is an achievement, but Cyrus Lakdawala has managed it.

One of his latest books, Opening Repertoire – the Sveshnikov, is only 320 pages long, retailing at £18.99 in the UK and published by Everyman Chess (2020).

I say one of his latest books, as Cyrus regularly manages to write 3/4 books a year, all of good quality and they come thick and fast off the press. I can honestly say that I don’t know how he does it. His output is staggering and clearly the product of incredible self-discipline. As a fellow author, nowhere near his league, I salute him.

The Sveshnikov is a current Magnus Carlsen favourite and so if the book is any good at all, it should sell well.

One of my first ports of call was to check out what Cyrus recommended against 7 Nd5, which featured in the Carlsen-Caruana World Championship match.

The problem with repertoire books is that they can become outdated very quickly under the gaze of the silicon genius. Having said that, the chapter on
7 Nd5 is very well written ,with a wealth of interesting suggestions.

I guess the biggest challenge that the Sveshnikov presents is the vast amount of theory that has accumulated. You have to know a lot to begin with and work very hard to keep up to date. This is not everyone’s cup of tea. For me, the Sveshnikov is great for strong players, but I am not so sure about club players. Some of the main line positions are very complex and tactical, where Black is relying on accurate move sequences to see him through. Having said that, when you do get this
opening right as Black, I imagine it can be very satisfying.

I enjoyed Lakdawala’s book and I think you will too. You will need time and energy to absorb it properly. There are extra chapters on the Anti-Sveshnikov, 3 Nc3 and an opening line Lakdawala calls ‘ the Mamba’, where Black substitutes 6…Bc5!? for 6 …d6.

I rate this book excellent, 4.5/5 stars.

Four and Half out of Five Stars
Four and Half out of Five Stars

Andrew Martin, Bramley, Surrey, 5th August, 2020

IM Andrew Martin
IM Andrew Martin

Book Details :

  • Paperback : 322 pages
  • Publisher:Everyman Chess (1 Mar. 2020)
  • Language:English
  • ISBN-10:1781945632
  • ISBN-13:978-1781945636
  • Product Dimensions: 17.3 x 1.8 x 24.2 cm

The book is available as a physical book and as a Kindle version.

Official web site of Everyman Chess

Opening Repertoire : The Sveshnikov
Opening Repertoire : The Sveshnikov

Fundamental Chess Strategy in 100 Games

Fundamental Chess Strategy in 100 Games
Fundamental Chess Strategy in 100 Games

Boroljub Zlatanovic was born in Cuprija, Serbia, 05 August 1977 • Meet chess in 4 years old watching father and his brother playing • Entered first club “Radnicki” Cuprija in 7 years • FM since 1994 ( however, it was recognized in 1998) • Serbian youth champion in 1995 • Champion of Belgrade University in 2001 and 2002 • Many times won Serbian team championship (in youth competition also) • IM since 2014 • FT since 2015 • Winner of many open, blitz and rapid and internet events • Professional coach for more than 15 years • Author and contributor in American chess magazine since 2019

FM Boroljub Zlatanovic
FM Boroljub Zlatanovic

From the rear cover :

“This book would bring something new into your chess library. In computer era focus is usually on openings. Watching broadcasts new generations rather choose games with favorite opening played seeking for some interesting idea or even brilliant novelty. I offer and recommend different concept, based on famous Soviet chess school. Focus should be on understanding strategy concepts, principles and inner logic. Fashionable opening lines will be forgotten (or re-evaluated) sooner or later, but understanding cannot be lost and can be only upgraded. It is sad to see some player well equipped with opening lines, unable to realize big positional advantage in deep endgame. So, our advice is to learn about Strategy and Logic. The book is highly recommended for club players, advanced players and masters, although even higher rated players can find a lot of useful things for themselves. There is no doubt lower rated players will learn a lot about thinking process and making decisions, while some logical principles can be good advice for strong players also.”

Another review :

“Zlatanovic uses a light touch of his notes, limiting the complexity of his analysis and working to clearly explain the logic of positional decisions and ideas. Using examples both well-known and less studied, class and club players are taught quite a bit about basic positional play. I certainly leaned a thing of two. Johh Hartmann – Chess Life – April 2020.”

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.

There is no index which, unfortunately, is a standard omission of Thinkers Publishing books. Also missing is a bibliography.

This is a massive book, over 500 pages and is a collection of classic games, with instructive notes. It is more or less designed for the club player. There is a bit of blurb on the back cover stating that the book will be useful to advanced players and masters, but I am not at all sure about that.

I cannot see advanced players buying this book.

Apparently, the book is based on the same principles as the famous Soviet school of chess. Strategy, logic and understanding should take pride of place, even in our computer era. I agree, but I don’t need the Soviet school of chess to tell me that. I can work that out for myself.

The book is beautifully produced and is very easy to read. It retails at a whopping £29.95 in the UK.

As there are so many books of the same type around, what I was looking for was a bit of originality. At the very least , all of the games should have been from the last 20 years, trying to unravel the complexity of the modern game.

What I found were games that I almost all seen before. There are only 15 games in the entire book that come from the period 2000-2020. None from Magnus Carlsen, for instance. This was disappointing.

Players under 1800 will get the most out of this book and trainers will have a ready source of lesson plans, if they are willing to make what is a hefty investment.

I give this book 3 out of 5 stars.

Three out of Five Stars

IM Andrew Martin, Bramley, Surrey 4th August 2020

IM Andrew Martin
IM Andrew Martin

Book Details :

  • Hardcover : 512 pages
  • Publisher:Thinkers Publishing; 1 edition (19 Mar. 2020)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10:9492510685
  • ISBN-13:978-9492510686
  • Product Dimensions: 7 x 3.6 x 23.4 cm

Official web site of Thinkers Publishing

Fundamental Chess Strategy in 100 Games
Fundamental Chess Strategy in 100 Games

The Modernized Delayed Benoni

The Modernized Delayed Benoni
The Modernized Delayed Benoni

Ivan Ivanisevic, born in 1977, started playing chess when he was 5 years old, while watching his grandfather and father play. At the age of 10 he started working with IM Petar Smederevac, the coach of the national team of former Yugoslavia, who is probably the real reason why he started playing professionally. Before he reached the age of 20 years old, he shared 1st place in the Championship of the former Yugoslavia. In 1999 he won the title of Grandmaster. Since 1998 he is a member of the national team, and since 2007 continually playing on the first board. Four times he was the Champion of Serbia. He won many tournaments, from which we remember mostly following: Saint Petersburg 2014, Skopje 2015, sharing 1-5 place in Dubai 2015, Vršac, the Bora Kostić Memorial, 2006, Nova Gorica 2007, Bergamo 2014, Kavala 2007, Podgorica, 2011 becoming the Balkan champion and Kozloduy, the rapid championship of Danube 2012. He was also participant of the World Cup in 2011. This this second book for Thinkers Published, after he co-authored the most acclaimed ‘Taimanov Bible’ from 2017.

GM Ivan Ivanisevic
GM Ivan Ivanisevic

From the rear cover :

“The Modernized Delayed Benoni is much more than the title makes you think! I like the author’s approach very much: it is a mixture of a personal journey and a theoretical manual. The author has been probably the main exponent of this line for the past ten years and he uses many of his games to illustrate the variations he has recommended. Although the book is again extremely detailed, there is careful attention to move orders and enough passages of explanations to make much of it understandable for non-experts. An excellent effort. GM Matthew Sadler, NIC Magazine 2020/4.

My aim in this book is to show that the Delayed Benoni is equally as attractive as its cousin, the Modern Benoni. For some reason – perhaps because “Modern” sounds more exciting than “Delayed”? – my favorite Benoni has been neglected for years, receiving scant coverage in chess publications.”

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.

There is no index which, unfortunately, is a standard omission of Thinkers Publishing books. Also missing is a bibliography.

The Modernized Delayed Benoni is written by Grandmaster Ivan Ivanisevic, with an important contribution by GM Ivan Sokolov. It is an excellent 240 page book, produced by Thinkers Publishing.

There is a lot of detailed analysis here, complimented by plenty of relevant text. The book revives a system in the Benoni which has not been given the respect it deserves over the years.

This is not a beginner’s manual and strong players will get the most out of it.

The book focuses on the move order 1 d4 Nf6 2 c4 c5 3 d5 g6!

as a way of getting to positions which are dynamic, relatively unexplored and suitable for playing for the win as Black.

Let’s take a look at some of these ideas…

Having digested a lot of this book, I’ve been trying the Black system online. Virtually all strong players meet it in the same way :

IM Andrew Martin, Bramley, Surrey 21st July 2020

IM Andrew Martin
IM Andrew Martin

Book Details :

  • Hardcover : 236 pages
  • Publisher:  Thinkers Publishing; 01 edition (30 Jan. 2020)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 9492510650
  • ISBN-13: 978-9492510655
  • Product Dimensions: 17 x 23.5 cm

Official web site of Thinkers Publishing

The Modernized Delayed Benoni
The Modernized Delayed Benoni

Your Jungle Guide to Rook Endings

Your Jungle Guide to Rook Endings
Your Jungle Guide to Rook Endings

Your Jungle Guide to Rook Endings : Efstratios Grivas

“After a bad opening, there is hope for the middle game. After a bad middle game, there is hope for the endgame. But once you are in the endgame, the moment of truth has arrived.” – Edmar Mednis

GM Efstratios Grivas
GM Efstratios Grivas

“Efstratios Grivas (30.03.1966) is a highly experienced chess trainer and chess author. He has been awarded by the International Chess Federation (FIDE) the titles of International Chess Grandmaster, FIDE Senior Trainer, International Chess Arbiter and International Chess Organiser.

His main successes over the board are the Silver Medal Olympiad 1998 (3rd Board), the Gold Medal European Team Championship 1989 (3rd Board) and the 4th Position World Junior Championship U.20 1985. He has also won 5 Balkan Medals (2 Gold – 1 Silver – 2 Bronze) and he was 3 times Winner of the International ‘Acropolis’ Tournament. He has also in his credit the 28 times first position in Greek Individual & Team Championships and he has won various international tournaments as well. He has been awarded five FIDE Medals in the Annual FIDE Awards (Winner of the FIDE Boleslavsky Medal 2009 & 2015 (best author) – Winner of the FIDE Euwe Medal 2011 & 2012 (best junior trainer) – Winner of the FIDE Razuvaev Medal 2014 (Trainers’ education) and has been a professional Lecturer at FIDE Seminars for Training & Certifying Trainers.

He has written more than 100 Books in Arabic, English, Greek, Italian, Spanish & Turkish. Since 2009 he is the Secretary of the FIDE Trainers’ Commission and since 2012 the Director of the FIDE Grivas Chess International Academy (Athens).”

From the rear cover :

“To learn and to play endgames well the chess player must love endgames’ – Lev Psakhis. Different kinds of endgames have specific characteristics and rules. Every serious player must know many typical positions and main principles of all types of endings. That knowledge should help us during the game, but it is not enough to become a good player, not yet. There just too many different endings, some of them with two or more pieces, some are very complex. To be comfortable and play well those complex endings require specific knowledge and specific ways of thinking. We will call it ‘endgame thinking’.

I chose to write a book on advanced rook endings as I simply did not wish to write another book that would be like the many already available. I have done my best to present analysis and articles I have written over the past 10-15 years. Th is work has been presented in my daily coaching sessions, seminars, workshops, etc. The material has helped a lot of trainees to develop into quite strong players gaining international titles and championships. Now, it is your turn to taste and enjoy it!”

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.

This is a superb book packed full of instructive examples which I cannot praise enough. The book has clearly been extensively researched with Efstratios Grivas showcasing his credentials as a world class trainer.

The book starts off with four well thought out introductory sections: 1. The Endgame which briefly discusses the historical literature and computer evolution of the endgames. In this section, the author introduces his useful boxed SOS Tips which remind the reader of the salient points of a particular lesson or section.

2. The Golden Rules Of the Endgame which every player should know.  I like the way that Grivas acknowledges other authors’ contributions to the evolution of our endgame understanding and this is clearly shown here and in Chapter 4 Extra Passed Pawn.

3. Rook Endgame Principles which lists the five main rules of rook endgames which is particularly useful for less experienced players.

4.Evaluation – Plan – Execution which discusses the role of planning followed by an excellent seven point SOS tip box.

Now we come to the meat of the book which is divided into nine chapters:

Chapter 1 – basic knowledge which covers the Lucena, Philidor and Vancura positions and their offshoots. If you only read one chapter of any book on rook endgames, I suggest this one.

Diagram 13 shows that even a future current world champion can blunder in a basic position:

Levon Aronian v Magnus Carlsen
Levon Aronian v Magnus Carlsen

This is a drawn ending as black’s king is on the short side and his rook has sufficient checking distance.

Aronian’s last move was the cunning waiting move 73.Rd7-d6!

The only drawing move here is 73… Kg6! for example, if 74.Rd7 Kg7 75.Kd6+ Kf6 76. e7 Kf7=

Carlsen replied with the “obvious” check 73… Ra7+ and resigned instantly after 74. Ke8. He resigned because of 74… Ra8+ 75.Rd8 Ra6 76.e7

The reviewer can say that he knew this trap from Levenfish & Smyslov and admits to feeling slightly smug!

Chapter 2 is entitled Extraordinary endings and covers three interesting and diverse areas:

  1. Rook and A + H pawns v Rook
  2. Rook vs 3 connected pawns
  3. 2 Rooks v R + 3 connected pawns

My preference would have been to restructure this chapter as Rook v Pawns and put the other two sections into later separate chapters. Nevertheless all the material is extremely useful. The ending of Rook v 3 pawns is fairly common and the diagram below shows a typical occurrence:

Colin Crouch - Luke McShane England 1999
Colin Crouch – Luke McShane England 1999

This is an “optimal drawn position” (Grivas). White must prevent the rook from getting behind the pawns which wins for black.

White played 68.Kb4? which loses, keeping the king on the second or third rank was fine. 68… Rh4+? (68…Rh3 or Rh1 wins) 69. Kb3 Kc5 70. Ka3! Kb6 71. Kb3 Kc5 72. Ka3! Rh3+ 73. Kb2 Kb6 74. Ka2! (only move) Ka5 75. Kb2 Rg3 76. Kc2? (76.Ka2! Kc4 77.c7 Ra3+ 78.Kb2 Rb3+ 79.Ka2 with a perpetual check) Rg4? (76…Kb4 wins 77.Kd2 Rg8! 78.Kd3 Kxa4 79. Kc4 Ka5 8-.Kc5 Rg5+ wins) 77. Kb3 Rb4+ 78. Kc3! Rb1 79. Kc2 Rf1 80. Kb3? (80.Kb2 draws) Ra1! winning

Colin Crouch - Luke McShane England 1999
Colin Crouch – Luke McShane England 1999

81.Kc4  Rxa4+ 82. Kc5 Ra1 83. c7 Rc1+ 84. Kd6 Kb6 0-1

Chapter 3 Same Side is one of the core chapters which deals with pawn up positions when all the pawns are on one side. These positions occur very frequently and are sometimes misplayed by world class players. I like the way the author systematically discusses the different structures with drawing and winning mechanisms and then shows pertintent examples from real games. Diagram 51 discusses the famous endgame Capablanca  – Yates Hastings 1930 in great depth which shows that even the great Cuban player made several mistakes after achieving a winning game from a drawn 4 v 3 endgame shown below. A quick flavour of the coverage is given below.

Capablanca - Yates Hastings 1930
Capablanca – Yates Hastings 1930

The game continued 38…Rb4, 39.Ra5 Rc4 (39…h5! is the standard move to ease the defence.) 40.g4! squeezing, but black can still hold 40… h6 41. Kg3 Rc1 42. Kg2 Rc4 43. Rd5 Ra4 44. f4 Ra2+ 45. Kg3 Re2 46.Re5 Re1 47. Kf2 Rh1 48. Kg2 Re1 49. h4 Kf6?! (49…f6 is more precise reaching a known drawn position) 50.h5 Re2+ 51. Kf3 Re1 Re1 52. Ra5 Kg7 53. hxg6 Kxg6! (53…fxg6? loses 54. Ra7+ Kg8 55. e4 Rf1+ 56.Ke3 Rg1 57.f5! Rxg4 58.f6 winning with two passed pawns) 54. e4 Rf1+ 55.Kg3 Rg1+ 56. Kh3 Rf1 57. Rf5 reaching the diagram below:

Capablanca Yates Hastings 1930
Capablanca Yates Hastings 1930

57… Re1? (black must play 57…f6 to draw) 58. e5! Re3+ 59.Kg2! Ra3 60.Rf6+ Kg7 reaching a well lnown won position 61. Rb6? (61.Rd6 wins protecting the king from side checks) Re3? 61…Ra4! leads to a complex draw 62. Rb4? (62. Rb1 still wins but Rb8 does not win) Rc3 reaching the position below:

Capablanca Yates Hastings 1930
Capablanca- Yates, Hastings, 1930

63. Kf2? (A shocking mistake, 63.Rb8 intending f5 wins) 62… Ra3 ? (63…h5! draws) 64. Rb7 Kg8 65. Rb8+! (now Capablanca wins efficiently) Kg7 66. f5 Ra2+ 67. Ke3 Ra3+ 68. Ke4 Ra4+ 69. Kd5! Ra4+ 69. Kd5! Ra5+ 70. Kd6 Ra6+ 71. Kc7 Kh7 72.Kd7 Ra7+ 73. Kd6 Kg7 74. Rd8! Ra5 75. f6+ Kh7 76. Rf8 Ra7 77. Kc6! Kg6 78. Rg8+ Kh7 79. Rg7+ Kh8 80.Kb6 Rd7 81. Kc5! Rc7+ 82. Kd6 Ra7 83.e6! Ra6+ 84. Ke7 Rxe6+ 85. Kxf7 Re5 86.g5! hxg5 77. Kg6 1-0

Chpater 4 Extra Passed Pawn is the second core chapter of the book and is easily the longest and most complex chapter. Despite this, detailed study of this section will reap rich rewards. The theory of these endings has evolved significantly since the books by Fine and Levenfish/Smyslov. Diagram 78 shows a typical position with a extra rook’s pawn with the stronger side having the rook in front of the pawn. This position looks to be an easy draw but beware: it is a draw but the position is complex and the drawing lines are complex! One slip and the game slips away.

Bacrot - Robson, Khanty-Mansiysk, 2011
Bacrot – Robson, Khanty-Mansiysk, 2011

Black played a waiting move which is fatal 59…Ke6? (59…Ra4! or 59…g5! draws) White blundered in turn playing 60.Ra8? ( White could have won with a beautiful and instructive variation starting with 60. Kd4! see diagram below):

Bacrot - Robson, Khanty-Mansiysk, 2011
Bacrot – Robson, Khanty-Mansiysk, 2011

60…Rxf2 (looks as though it draws, but it does not) 61. Rc7 Ra2 62. a7 Kf5 63. Kc4!! Kg4 64. Kb3! Ra6 65. Rc4+ Kxg3 66. Ra4 Rxa7 67. Rxa7 Kxh4  reaching a key position shown below:

Bacrot - Robson, Khanty-Mansiysk, 2011
Bacrot – Robson, Khanty-Mansiysk, 2011

White wins with the amazing 68. Kc3!! (68.Rxf7 only draws 68…Kg3 holds) 68…Kg3 (68…f5 69. Kd3 g5 70.Rf7 f4 71.Rf5!! Kg4 72. Ra5 h4 73. Ke2 wins) 69. Kd3 h4 70. Ke2! wins

After 60. Ra8 the game was eventually won by white after many errors by both  sides.

Chapter 5 Shattering covers endings where one side has a positional advantage consisting of the better pawn structure. A typical position is diagram 118 which is from the famous game Flohr – Vidmar Nottingham 1936.

Flohr- Vidmar, Nottingham, 1936
Flohr – Vidmar, Nottingham, 1936

Black rather injudiciously exchanged knights with 29…Nc6? 30. Nxc6 Rc8 31. Rc5? (better is 31.Ke2 bxc6 (31…Rxc6 loses the king and pawn ending after 32.Rxc6 bxc6 33.b4!) 32.Rc5) 31…bxc6? (31…Rxc6! 32. Rxd5 Rc2 probably draws) 32. Ke2! Ke7 33.Kd3 Kd6 34. Ra5! Ra8 35. Kd4 f5 36. b4  reaching the position below:

Flohr-Vidmar, Move36
Flohr-Vidmar, Nottingham, 1936

36…Rb8? and Flohr won a brilliant ending. However as Grivas shows, black could have drawn by executing a better plan on move 36 by defending his weak a6 pawn with his king 36…Kc7! 37. Kc5 Kb7 38. Kd6 Re8 39.Ra3 g5! for example 40.Rc3 f4! 41. exf4 gxf4 42. Rxc6 Rd8+ 43. Kc5 d4 44. Re6 d3 45. Re1 Rg8=

Chapter 6 Isolani covers the handling of rook endings playing against isolated central pawns. Diagram 132 covers the game Szabo Penrose from the European Team Championship in Bath 1973.

Szabo - Penrose, Bath, 1973
Szabo – Penrose, Bath, 1973

This is a superbly handled ending by Szabo who probes carefully and forces resignation within twenty moves – a textbook example with excellent notes by the author.

Chapter 7 Drawn Endings covers the reasons for losing drawn positions which happens to very strong players. An excellent example is diagram 140.

Topalov-Gelfand, Linares, 2010
Topalov-Gelfand, Linares, 2010

It is hard to believe that a world class player of Gelfand’s standard could lose such a position but Grivas shows how with his usual exemplary commentary.

Chapter 8 Four Rooks is one of the chapters that makes this book stand out – few authors have covered this topic in any depth although Fine in BCE does give some examples. Grivas starts the chapter with five sets of educational SOS tips which the reviewer really likes. Diagram 143 shows a example of good defence in a position that looks diffcult with black’s king trapped on the back rank:

Miljanic- Grivas, 1983
Miljanic – Grivas, 1983

The author conducts an almost flawless defence to hold this difficult position – buy the book to find out how.

The final chapter 9 Various Concepts discusses Lasker’s steps, trapped rooks and the Loman move. If you don’t know about Lasker’s steps or the Loman move – buy the book to learn more!

FM Richard Webb, Chineham, Hampshire, 20th July 2020

FM Richard Webb
FM Richard Webb

Book Details :

  • Paperback : 400 pages
  • Publisher: Thinkers Publishing; 01 edition (19 May 2020)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 949251074X
  • ISBN-13: 978-9492510747
  • Product Dimensions: 16.5 x 1.9 x 22.9 cm

Official web site of Thinkers Publishing

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Your Jungle Guide to Rook Endings