“The easiest, quickest and most effective way to improve your overall game is to increase your tactical vision. Many good positions are lost because a key moment is passed by and a player misses the opportunity to win by a beautiful combination. This book is designed simply to help you improve your play by seeing tactics better.” – Martyn Kravtsiv
Written along similar lines to Gambit’s earlier Ultimate Chess Puzzle Book, this new work presents 600 puzzles, mostly from the last two years, that are chosen for instructive value and maximum training benefit. To ensure that few will be familiar to readers, Kravtsiv has deliberately chosen positions from obscure games or from analysis. If you find the right answers, it will be because you worked them out yourself!
The solutions feature plenty of verbal explanations of the key points, and cover most of the logical but incorrect answers. The book is completed with a set of ‘no clues’ tests, and an index of themes that will be useful to coaches and those looking to focus on specific aspects of tactics – or just seeking extra clues!”
From the rear cover:
“The author is an experienced grandmaster from Lviv, Ukraine. His tournament results include tied first places at Cappelle in 2012 and the 2015 Ukrainian Championship, as well as being blitz champion of the 2008 World Mind Sports Games (at age 17). He represented his country at the 2017 World Team Championship and was a coach for the team that won silver medals at the 2016 Olympiad.”
Just like “Snakes on a Plane” you might imagine, from the title, you know what this book is about without reading it: well let us see!
The first mystery to clear up is what does the author mean by “Puzzles”? Almost all 600 positions presented are taken from actual gameplay during 2018 and 2019 or from analysis derived from those games. Strangely, there is a tranche from 2012
mostly from the author’s own games.
If you do have a phobia of problems, fairies or endgame studies etc then have no fear here: there are none of these.
From the “Warming Up” Chapter we have position #36:
Theodor Kenneskog – Klavs Stabulnieks, 48th Rilton Cup, Stockholm, 2nd January 2019
Does Black have a way to get the upper hand?
*(We have added the previous move arrow and these are not shown in the book.)
71 warming up puzzles of multiple themes are followed by solutions with explanations which is the continuing pattern for each chapter.
Chapter 3 contains 29 forced mates and here is an example, #92:
Vahe Danielyan – Chinna Reddy Mehar, Novi Sad, 20th April 2019
Can you see White’s mating idea?
Chapter 3, Your Choice, asks the solver to select between two plausible options more reminiscent of one’s thinking in a practical game situation when the clock is ticking. Here is an example (#106):
Marc Narciso Dublan – Kratvtsiv, Olivier Gonzalez Memorial, Madrid, 8th September 2012
Choose between 74…Ke4 and 74…Kg5
Chapter 4 (“Getting Tricky”) ups the ante and the difficulty is raised followed by 58 endgame puzzles graded into four levels.
Here is example #283:
Anthony Fred Saidy – Thomas Kung, Bay Area Open, Burlingame, 3rd January 2019
The game ended in a draw. Show how Black could have done better.
Tough Nuts is the title of Chapter 6 containing 43 challenging positions for example #313:
Jonathan Hawkins – Bogdan Lalic, Hastings 2018/19, 5th January 2019 (Analysis)
Black has a beautiful path to victory. Can you find it?
Chapter 7 is a tougher version of Chapter 3.
In Part 2 the book changes tack slightly in that the clue or clues for each position are not present. You are placed in a much more game like situation thinking for yourself. The Part is broken down into sections of Not Too Hard, Tricky Tasks, Endgame Challenges and finally Chapter 11 entitled Nightmare! including #562 featuring Hastings once more:
Thomas Villiers – PU Midhun, 98th Hastings Masters, 4th January 2019
Unfortunately, White did not find the killer blow and went on to lose.
The exercises are followed by an Index of Themes which is a clever touch removing this “clue” from the position as posed.
As is to be expected from a Gambit publication the explanations are crystal clear and instructive and expertly translated and edited by Graham Burgess. Petra Nunn does an excellent job of typesetting.
To have found 600 instructive puzzles from 2018, 2019 and 2012 is a real achievement and then to organise them for a range of students makes this book both enjoyable and hard work!
The author has produced another reliable publication from the Gambit stable and we are sure he will be asked to produce another in due course. We particularly liked the puzzles that created a game-like feel to the task. Highly recommended.
“In 1971 Robert James Fischer defeated Mark Taimanov by the sensational score of 6-0 in Vancouver, but the match games were far more competitive and tension-filled than the final score would suggest.
Twenty years later Taimanov put pen to paper, reflecting on the experience. Exactly 50 years after the match, this is the first English translation of Taimanov’s original Russian text. Taimanov provides a richly detailed, honest and emotional account of the drama on and off the board. Despite the catastrophic match score, his love for the game of chess is evident throughout.
Taimanov also discusses his early acquaintance with Fischer from 1960, including detailed annotations of both of their pre-1971 games, as well as the personal consequences of the match result. With fascinating additional archive material and analytical contributions from some of the brightest young stars of the American chess scene today, I was a Victim of Bobby Fischer is the ultimate insight into one of the most famous matches in chess history.”
End of blurb…
Quality Chess live up to their name by being one of the few publishers who offer a hardback as well as softback version of all of their titles.
The production values are superb. You could save a few pence and opt for the paperback version but we would definitely treat ourselves with a Christmas / New Year present and savour the hardback. In addition, high quality paper is used and the printing is clear. The weight of this paper gives the book an even better feel to it as the pages are turned.
The book can easily be laid flat next to the board and does not require weights to prevent it from “self-closing”. Each diagram is clear and the instructional text is typeset in two column format, which, we find, enables the reader to readily maintain their place. Figurine algebraic notation is used and the diagrams are placed adjacent to the relevant text.
A small (and insignificant) quibble: the diagrams (except for Chapter 19, Interesting Positions) do not have a “to move” indicator (but they do have coordinates).
Before we take our first look at this book Quality Chess have provided a pdf excerpt.
Over the years there have been numerous books with Taimanov somewhere in the title but almost all are concerned with his famous variation of the Sicilian Defence:
We are aware of two English language books covering Taimanov’s career. One is Taimanov’s Selected Games published in 1995 by Everyman Chess covering 60(!) games selected and annotated by MT. The second is Smyslov, Bronstein, Geller, Taimanov and Averbakh: A Chess Multibiography (McFarland, 2021) with 220 Games by Andrew Soltis reviewed here.
This Quality Chess title helps to address this surprising shortfall.
The title is perhaps the first worthy discussion point and we learn the interesting reason for it. Is it clear from the outset just how in regard MT held Fischer when he wrote this manuscript in 1993.
You might think that the events of 1971 had left a bitter taste with MT, and degree of resentment, especially when we read in Chapter 5 of his post match treatment by the Soviet authorities. The latter even restricted his career in music which was gratuitously cruel. There is no evidence of that here, in fact, quite the opposite. Taimanov stipulated in his will that should the book be published then “I Was a Victim of Bobby Fischer” must be its title.
Let us not forget that Taimanov jointly holds (and will always) a record with Efim Geller of twenty-three appearences in the Soviet Championships apart from his many other achievements on the chess board.
Taimanov played Fischer a total of eight times and their first meeting was on June 4th, 1960 in the good air of Buenos Aires.
This game was a monumental battle (drawn after eighty-seven moves) when Fischer was a mere seventeen and MT was a more plausible thirty-four.
Here is the game devoid of any notes simply because you really should treat yourself to the fourteen(!) pages of glorious annotations including 20 diagrams. What a struggle!
Much of the book is taken up with discussion of Fischer’s development and eventually his downfall (but nether MT nor Spike Milligan played any part) and this is particularly apposite on the eve of the Reykjavik match 50th anniversary.
Chapters 6-12 cover each game of the 1971 match (ten games were planned) in Vancouver. Each game is very much worthy of close study and a model of sporting attitude from the loser. It is painful to see how well Taimanov plays compared with the game results. At no point did he “do a Nepo” and collapse into a heap. His emotions and reactions to the match are rather revealing.
Chapter 13(!) discusses the causes of Fischer’s eventual reclusion comparing RJFs fate with players of the past with an update in Chapter 14 on more recent events.
You might predict “That must be the end of the book”. Well, not at all. Part IV contains the substantial Appendices which include additional deeply annotated games of Taimanov and of Fischer, a biography of MT and a fascinating interview of MT from 2016.
Almost last and by no means least we have Chapter 19 which presents a number of key positions from the previously discussed games and the reader is asked a pertinent question about each.
“We will look at three positions from this complicated game, all of them very interesting. In the first, Black has a difficult strategic decision to make”
Chapter 20 (titled “Thoughts and Solutions”) takes the Chapter 19 positions and analyses them in detail courtesy of a team of strong players (Shankland, Liang, Xiong and Aagaard) providing their individual opinions of each position. This is really rather innovative and most welcome. Note that these “thoughts” are not usurped by reams of unwelcome engine analysis.
In summary, this is a significant book quite unlike any other we have read. Beautifully produced it brings you into the mind of a great chessplayer and person who gave his all and was treated appallingly.
We commend to you this book without doubt: you will not be disappointed. One of our favourites of 2021.
“Funny and brutal. A big-hearted book, I enjoyed it.’ Stuart Conquest, Grandmaster
‘Carl is gifted as both a natural entertainer and storyteller. Although this memoir is primarily about chess, the tales in it are filled with a frank and refreshing honesty that will literally have your heart racing with adventure.’ Jovanka Houska, International Master
Chess Crusader is an absolutely fascinating memoir, and most emphatically not only a book for chess players.
It reveals how chess is a metaphor for life, and how skills honed at the chess board can be applied in many real-life situations. This compelling chronicle takes you from Birmingham to Moscow, and plunges you into the life of an author with a remarkable original mind, while also highlighting the hazards of stealing a half-cooked sausage from a deranged German.
It’s a lively, enthralling account of a colourful life dominated by the black and white squares of the chessboard, and their relation to the wider issues of a troubled childhood and the challenges of work, women, love and loss. It’s a tale of adversity, but also of achievement and new friendships and experiences.”
After 30 years working with the Ministry of Defence, Carl Portman took early retirement to concentrate on freelance photography, chess coaching, natural history travel, writing and lecturing. He is a keen arachnologist, owns a large collection of live tarantulas and scorpions, and has bred some of the rarest arachnids in the world. Married to his childhood friend Susan, they also have three border collie dogs. Born in Birmingham, (a proud Brummie) he now lives in Oxfordshire.
Carl Portman’s work promoting chess in prisons (if you haven’t read his previous book Chess Behind Bars you should certainly do so) makes him one of the most inspirational figures in British chess.
Now he offers us an autobiography in which his life in chess features prominently. Carl was born on a Birmingham council estate in 1964 and, when he was still very young, his father left home, never to return. When he was 12, his mother, an alcoholic, remarried. Her new husband was a psychopath who was physically, verbally and emotionally abusive to both Carl and his mother.
Carl didn’t come from a chess-playing background, and was introduced to chess by John Lenton, a teacher at his secondary school. He soon became obsessed with the game, as he tells us, eventually becoming school champion.
Chess would therefore be my mental opiate; the living embodiment of disappearing down the rabbit hole. I played it in class, on the bus, in exams, in the toilets, in the playground, the chess club and in my room at home.
It would be the one thing I could turn to when the horrors of home life [were] raging around me. What a gift this was, from nowhere. Chess would never let me down.
Carl takes us through his eventful life, from his abusive stepfather through two marriages, from his schooldays into his working life, most notably 30 years working in logistics for the Ministry of Defence, including several years in Germany. One of the highlighs of his chess career was captaining his country in the NATO team championships in 2017 and 2018. We learn about his other interests: football (he’s a passionate Aston Villa supporter), heavy metal music and nature. There are many hilarious anecdotes to entertain you. He also tells about his serious health problems and how he learnt to live with them.
One thing Carl enjoys is meeting his heroes: he relates stories of travelling to France to play in a simul against Karpov, and arranging tuition from Mickey Adams and Jovanka Houska, as well as playing chess against the astronomer Patrick Moore.
In his last chapter he sums up as follows:
In this book, I have openly shared my experiences about the wonder of finding chess in my formative years and how it has shaped and influenced my life. The people I have met and the places I have visited have been wonderfully life-enriching, and the mental nourishment that the game provides is so powerful that I cannot quantify it.
Carl’s determination to remain upbeat and optimistic, whatever life throws at him, can only be an example to us all.
If you want some chess, there’s a short games selection at the back. Carl is particularly proud of this game from the 2017 NATO championships. He had the worst of things for most of the game, but his opponent mistakenly transposed into a losing pawn ending. ‘Never give up’ is his motto both in chess and in life.
It may not be great literature but the book’s a great read which will be enjoyed by most chess players. As no knowledge of the game is necessary for most of it, it could also be an ideal last-minute Christmas present for that special non-player in your life who, you think, ought to learn more about the delights of your favourite game. Be warned, though, that it’s not really suitable for younger children, nor for your Great Aunt Edna who doesn’t like books with naughty words. Carl is never afraid to speak his mind, even if he makes enemies in the process, and if you’re, like me, a politically correct, woke liberal, you’ll find words and opinions which might make you uneasy. If they make you think as well it might not be a bad idea.
Personally, I could have done without pages 231 to 254, which describe various types of annoying chess player, a negative chapter, most of which we’ve all read many times before, in what is otherwise a positive book. Omitting that chapter would, for me, have made it an even stronger book than it is already.
Books of this nature should be supported, though, so, if you think you’ll enjoy it, do give it a try.
I also see this book as part of a trilogy comprising the other two books I’ve reviewed recently, all deeply and at times brutally personal and confessional books by English chess players who, just as I did, developed a chess obsession in their teens. David LeMoir is a master standard player born, like me, in 1950. Carl Portman is, like me, a fairly strong club player, born in 1964. Daniel Gormally is a grandmaster born in 1976. Three players very different players, with very different personalities and lives, born half a generation apart from each other, whose stories, when put together, tell you a lot about chess in England over the past half century. I, of course, have my story as well: a very different story again, but I haven’t as yet had the courage to tell it. Maybe one day.
I would also suggest that Carl has, over the years, both put more into chess and got more out of chess than many much higher rated players. Yet, with today’s obsession with prodigies and champions, young people, like Carl, and also, to an extent, like me, from non-academic, non-chess backgrounds are no longer attracted to the game. Promoting chess at secondary school level may not be an efficient way of finding grandmasters, but Carl is living proof that it can offer transformation, redemption and salvation. I’ll be writing much more about this over the next few months.
Edgard Colle: Caissa’s Wounded Warrior : Taylor Kingston
From the publisher:
“One of Caissa’s Brightest Stars!
Mention the name “Colle” and many if not most chessplayers think about an opening that is both easy to play as well as one with dynamic potential. Rarely is any thought given to the man himself.
Plug the word “Colle” into your favourite search engine, and, if you are lucky, you might find a reprint of the slim 1936 book by Fred Reinfeld, Colle’s Chess Masterpieces. Books on the Colle System – of which there are many – will be your main search results. However, Belgian master Edgard Colle is much more than a name connected to an opening system. He was one of the most dynamic and active chess players of the 1920s and early 1930s.
Though his international career lasted barely ten years, Colle played in more than 50 tournaments, as well as a dozen matches. Moreover, he played exciting and beautiful chess, full of life, vigour, imagination and creativity. As with such greats as Pillsbury and Charousek, it was a tragedy for the game that his life was cut short, at just age 34.
Author Taylor Kingston has examined hundreds of Colle’s games, in an effort to understand his skills and style, his strengths and weaknesses, and present an informed, balanced picture of him as a player.
Colle emerges as a courageous, audacious, and tenacious fighter, who transcended the limitations his frail body imposed, to battle the giants of his day and topple many of them. 110 of Colle’s best, most interesting, and representative games have been given deep and exacting computer analysis. This often revealed important aspects completely overlooked by earlier annotators, and overturned their analytical verdicts. But the computer’s iron logic is tempered always with a sympathetic understanding that Colle played, in the best sense, a very human kind of chess.
Though not intended as a tutorial on the Colle System, the book of course has many instructive examples of that opening. Additionally, there are several memorial tributes, biographical information about many of Colle’s opponents, his known tournament and match record, and all his available tournament crosstables. We invite the reader to get acquainted with this wounded but valiant warrior, whom Hans Kmoch called a “chess master with the body of a doomed man and the spirit of an immortal hero.” You are invited to explore the fascinating, fighting chess of one of the great tactical masters.”
“Taylor Kingston has been a chess enthusiast since his teens. His historical articles have appeared in many chess journals, including Chess Life, New In Chess, Inside Chess, and Kingpin. He is the editor of the recently released Emanuel Lasker: A Reader. In this book, he combines history and analysis in a new look at one of the early 20th century’s most variable but brightest stars.”
Edgard (not Edgar) Colle’s name is well known to most chess players through his highly popular opening (of two main variants), The Colle System. You might argue that this was the club player’s opening of choice possibly usurped, in recent times, by the unfortunately ubiquitous London System.
However, rather unfairly, Colle himself is almost certainly not as well known as he deserves to be. Players of all levels really ought to take time to study his games with both colours since his attacking style is rather attractive and instructive.
The biographies section of the BCN library somewhat disappointingly only had one other book about Colle and that was the not-so-easy to obtain “Colle Plays The Colle System” by Adam Harvey published by Chess Enterprises in 2002.
but the above tome spends very little text on the master himself and only covers games with the white pieces and the Colle System.
Taylor Kingston’s book (also available as a Kindle eBook) is divided into two main parts as follows :
Part I: Biographical Basics, Historical Background, Colleague’s Reminiscences and Memorial Tributes
Part II: Annotated Games
and each of these is further sub-divided.
To see the extensive Table of Contents you may Look Inside the Kindle edition.
The book kicks off with a rather insightful Foreword from GM Andrew Soltis suggesting ECs lack of eminence stems from his premature early demise aged 34.
Pages 12 – 28 present biographical material from varied sources, some fairly obscure. We like obscure sources!
Fairly quickly (page 29) we find ourselves at Part II and the Annotated Games and this part, in turn, is divided into eleven sections with the following titles:
An abundance of Brilliances
Colle Lucks Out
Follies, Failures, and Might-Have-Been
Colle and the Endgame
Colle and Positional Play
Colle’s Fighting Games
Salvaging the Draw
Colle and Yates
Each game is complete with historical background and context allowing one to learn more of Colle, his opponents and the tournaments they met at. The text is joyfully sprinkled with monochrome photographs of many opponents and potted biographies including that of Englishman George M. Norman (1880 – 1966) with whom we were unfamiliar until this book.
“Follies, Failures, and Might-Have-Been” is particularly unusual since the author selects games where our hero goes astray and does not win in crushing fashion but loses himself providing a healthy balance. The opposition here includes players such as Euwe, Capablanca, Nimzovitsch, Vidmar and Tartakower so nothing to be ashamed of.
“Colle and the Endgame” was another delightful chapter and perhaps not to be expected. Here is a game (here not annotated by TK but by Fred Reinfeld) from Budapest 1929 between Akiba Rubinstein and EC:
You will need to buy the book to appreciate the authors fuller annotations.
From the chapter “Colle’s Gem” we could not resist giving you this game but, again, without TKs superb annotations:
Wonderful stuff indeed but please enjoy the full author annotations.
In summary, this is a delightful book that all in the BCN office wanted to take home. In many ways this volume could of easily been a McFarland publication with a hard cover to be found in a library and all the gravitas that publisher brings. Hats off to Russell Enterprises for landing this one.
If you haven’t realised by now this one of our favourite books of 2021.
Currently living in Alnwick, Northumberland, England.
Daniel has been a chess professional for over twenty years, in which time he has played in many tournaments both in the U.K. and abroad. He has represented England in the European team championships and the Olympiad. Daniel has taken high placing in the British chess championships and on several occasions has placed in a tie for second. He is also the two times winner of the English rapid play championships.
In 2005 he scored his final Grandmaster norm in a tournament in Gibraltar, where he scored a 2693 performance. In that tournament he played against several world-class grandmasters, including Nakamura, Aronian, Sutovsky and Dreev, and only lost one game.
He is also the author of several well-received chess books, including A Year in the Chess World and Mating the Castled King, one of the few western chess books in recent years to be translated into Chinese.
As a writer he is known for his laid-back and humorous style.”
From the author’s introduction:
I’ve become increasingly convinced of this comfort zone theory to the degree where I’ve started to apply it to chess. To use the same logic, I believe a chess player is more comfortable in an opening that they have played since childhood. They’ll be less likely to make mistakes in that opening. You can also apply it to tournaments as well.
During the course of the book, I’ll talk about the tournaments that I felt comfortable in, and by the same token the opponents that I felt comfortable facing and the ones that I didn’t feel so happy to play.
Well, yes. I guess we’re all more comfortable in openings we know well than in openings we’ve never played before. I guess the Pope’s Catholic as well.
What Daniel Gormally offers his readers is twelve chapters covering different aspects of chess, with the concept of the Comfort Zone being discussed in the first chapter and, perhaps, a very loose connecting link with the rest of the book. His points are illustrated both by his own games and games from a wide range of other players.
If you’re familiar with his writings you won’t be surprised that he is at times brutally honest about his anxieties and phobias, and about the often tragi-comic life of a chess professional. You also won’t be surprised that the book is addictively readable, with nuggets of wisdom on almost every page which will benefit players of all levels.
In Chapter 1 Gormally introduces his theory, explaining that younger players are more likely than older players to be comfortable playing online because they’ve grown up with it.
He relates how he grew up solving Leonard Barden’s tactical puzzles in the Evening Standard, and, as a result is more comfortable in tactical situations.
I never had a chess coach who took me aside and taught the finer points of chess strategy. In fact, I never had any coaching full stop, and am probably the walking advert for the pointlessness of chess coaching. Or perhaps you could argue, I could have gone even further with the right sort of guidance.
White most authors are eager to demonstrate their best games, Gormally, typically, also likes to show us his worst games.
I found this position instructive.
In this position (Stevenage 2019) he was black against one of his regular opponents, Mark Hebden, and chose 19… Qb6?!. Let’s take it forward with some of the author’s notes.
In a practical sense this probably isn’t that bad – I step out of the threat of Nc6. The problem is I miss something much stronger.
When putting this game onto Stockfish 12 it suggested that 19… Bxd4! 20. exd4 Ne4 gave Black a huge advantage. I must admit I was quite surprised by this, probably because I hardly considered the capture on d4 at all during the game. I was fixated by the idea of hacking away on the kingside, so the idea of exchanging the dark-squared bishop didn’t really occur to me at all.
This is one of the greatest weapons that a chess player has available – the ability to change ships midstream, to transform the position with a strategic idea or exchange. Bobby Fischer was a master at this, for example. I think the main idea is that by taking on d4 and exchanging pieces, Black magnifies the poor position of the knight on a2. The more exchanges that take place – the more a poor piece will be exposed.
The game continued 20. Rfd1 Bg4 21. f3 Bh5?
And this is a serious mistake and betrays a lack of understanding. I leave the queenside to its own fate, and underestimate just how bad my position can become.
Now White takes over the initiative. I think I wasn’t helped by the fact that I’ve found Mark an awkward opponent recently, particularly with the black pieces. During the game he gave off this impression of being bored, like he was impatient when he was waiting for my moves. That fed into my anxiety and made me even more jumpy. I was beginning to regret those extra couple of pints I had sneaked in at the bar the night before.
White is now winning because he has a simple plan of pushing his pawns on the kingside, and it turns out the minor pieces on that side of the board are just targets for that strategy.
These notes typify Gormally’s combination of lucid verbal explanations and self-deprecating humour. If you like his style you’ll enjoy this book.
Chapter 2 is relatively brief, about how even the best players sometimes make superficial decisions.
In Chapter 3, Gormally talks about preparing for the 1999 British Championship. This seems to have been written partly as a tribute to his friend John Naylor, who died last year. He demonstrates one of John’s games from the tournament.
Chapter 4 introduces us to the concept of ‘competitive conditioning’: being mentally tough and confident like Magnus Carlsen, or the golfer Brooks Koepka. Here, we start off at the 2000 British before moving onto the 2020 Online British Championship and back to the 2017 British.
In Chapter 5, Gormally explains why computers are narrowing opening theory. This is certainly true at the top level, but is it true at club level? I suspect not – and perhaps the opposite is even the case.
He shows us this game, where his 7th move gave him something very close to a winning advantage. This was in part computer preparation, because he was expecting his opponent to play that line, but he’d already met it in an earlier game against Lawrence Trent, where, playing Black, he’d managed to scramble a draw.
Chapter 6 starts off with some banter blitz games between the Vietnamese player Le Quang Liem and Lawrence Trent before going off onto a different subject.
Hang on a minute: I’m not sure that I should bother to explain each chapter in this way. The book doesn’t really work like that. It’s more a stream of consciousness, jumping fairly randomly from one topic to another, which has been broken down into chapters because, well, that’s how books work.
This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, though. Because it covers a wide range of topics in a fairly general way, it’s suitable for a wide range of players: regardless of your rating you may well enjoy and benefit from this book.
Here’s an interesting position from a game Keith Arkell played against Aurelio Colmenares in a 2008 Swiss (in more ways than one) tournament. Keith was black, to move, in this position and continued with the natural Rc2. How would you assess it?
It was around about this time that Simon (Williams) and myself went to view the game. Simon thought that White was better, because of the a-pawn. When we told Keith about this conversation later, he was adamant that Black was better, because in his view the White a-pawn can be easily restrained and the black kingside has unlimited potential. So, if Black does have a winning strategy, it’s as follows; when White goes a4, put the rook on a2. Eventually White can put the rook on a8 and the pawn on a7, but he can’t make any progress after that. If he moves the rook, he loses the a-pawn.
So, with White’s trump card stymied, Black’s plan is to gradually advance on the kingside, suffocating White. Keith manages to carry out this strategic plan to perfection.
In Chapter 8, Gormally looks at his games from the online Hastings tournament last January, discussing how to play against specific types of opponent such as the Tactical Genius (Gawain Jones) and the Perfectionist (David Howell), while characterising himself as the Wimpy Draw Lover (that makes two of us, then).
Chapter 9 is about patience: Gormally quotes Garry Kasparov, over dinner with IM (and RJCC alumnus) Ali Mortazavi, saying that to be a super grandmaster you need to have the ability to play twelve strengthening moves in a row. IMs and weaker GMs will perhaps play six strengthening moves and then lose patience and go for an attack that isn’t there.
On the other hand, the following chapter discusses the Madman Theory. Play like Alireza Firouzja: randomise the position and then out-calculate your opponent. A very different approach: putting the two chapters together is certainly thought provoking.
If you’re looking for a logical, well-structured book on a specific aspect of chess, this isn’t it. I found the contents fairly arbitrary, often digressive, very personal and sometimes rather contradictory. Now I don’t think that’s a bad thing at all: many readers (including this reviewer) will enjoy it for precisely these reasons, and I’m sure there’s a market for books of this nature. What you do get is a lot of chess: games played by Gormally himself, his friends, colleagues and students, and top grandmasters from Tal through to Carlsen. The annotations are, I thought, excellent, with clear and insightful explanations rather than reams of improbable computer-generated tactics. You get a lot of very useful general advice about the nature of chess and how best to improve your play. You get a lot of stories and anecdotes about life on the tournament circuit, often concerning smoking, drinking and clubbing, which you might find highly entertaining, extremely depressing, or perhaps both. If you like the sound of this book, you won’t be disappointed.
There’s something for everyone here, and this compulsively readable book is recommended for anyone rated between about 1500 and 2500.
As usual with Thinkers Publishing, production standards are generally high, but the proofing is well below the standards you might expect from books on other subjects. Yes, I’m well aware this takes time and money, and requires a wide range of knowledge and skills, but there are some of us out there who care about this sort of thing.
Richard James, Twickenham 13th December 2021
Book Details :
Softcover: 264 pages
Publisher: Thinkers Publishing; 1st edition (19 July 2021)
1001 Chess Exercises for Advanced Club Players : Frank Erwich
“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
From the publishers blurb:
“In this follow-up to his acclaimed 1001 Chess Exercise for Club Players, FIDE Master Frank Erwich teaches you how to reach the next level of identifying weak spots in the position of your opponent, recognizing patterns of combinations, visualizing tricks and calculating effectively.
Erwich repeats the themes of his previous book, focusing on exercises in which the key move is less obvious. He also introduces new, more sophisticated tactical weapons. They are geared towards the reality of the advanced club player (Elo 1800 2300): it is not enough to spot simple combinations, at this level you must be able to resist your reflexes and look deeper. In variations that look forcing you will always search for that deadly Zwischenzug. Quiet moves in general should be your new best friends.
In short: an advanced club player should expect the unexpected. One of the celebrated elements of Erwichs previous book, which is neglected in other books on tactics, is back: defence! You will also learn how to defend against tactics, as well as how to use tactical weapons when you are under heavy pressure. This is a complete and structured course, and not just a collection of freewheeling puzzles. Erwich starts every chapter with an instructive explanation of the tactical concept at hand and has carefully selected the most didactically productive exercises.
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 holds a Masters degree in Psychology.
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).
Tactics books are, of course, part of the staple publishing diet of many chess specialists. What is the USP of this one?
Erwich has collected 1001 (no, this is nothing to do with carpet cleaning*) positions from recent tournament praxis the majority of which (just like the preceding volume) are from the last ten years.
They have been organised into ten groupings viz :
Surprises and traps
Diagonals, ranks and files
The walking King
Special threats and quiet moves
Calculation and move order
which are followed by 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 !). More or less each diagram clearly shows who is to move but for a curious reason the diagrams showing analysis are left without one. I’ve no idea of the reasoning for this decision.
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 “King hunt: series of checks”. 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 are some samples:
A fairly straightforward but pleasing example (#102) from “In-between moves”:
and from “Automatic moves” we have #193 which is rather lovely but not difficult:
and this pleasing example (#325) from “Surprises and traps”
Finally, as before, a detailed glossary in itself provides learning opportunities to improve one’s knowledge.
Once again It was a pleasure to work through some of the exercises and I’m confident the book will provide ideas for my student lessons and coaching.
The most enjoyable section (one again, as before) 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 follow-up book that goes highly recommended. If I hadn’t had it to review then I would have purchased it anyway! Most excellent and deserving of the accolades and a great stocking filler.
“In reviews of the author’s books, Grandmaster Matthew Sadler wrote in New In Chess about David LeMoir’s writing “… always either entertaining or instructive”, and Grandmaster Jonathan Rowson (in the English Chess Federation’s Newsletter) wrote “I like LeMoir’s writing style a lot!”.
David LeMoir has written three popular and highly acclaimed chess books: How to Be Lucky In Chess, which showed how to use psychology to lure your opponent into error; How To Become A Deadly Chess Tactician, a worldwide hit which helped thousands of players to see spotting and analysing tactics as their friends, not things to be feared or shied away from; and Essential Chess Sacrifices, which made learning each of the fifteen most common piece sacrifices as easy and effective as learning a chess opening variation.
He has also become one of the UK’s most popular chess feature writers, his work having appeared in a number of national and regional magazines. Much of his work helps his readers to understand tactics and combinations in new ways, making it easier for them to spot such opportunities in their own games. This book brings together all of his articles for national magazines, a selection of articles from regional magazines plus an excerpt from each of his three previous books. Interspersed throughout are comments by the author on the trials, tribulations and motivations of the chess author. Prepare to be instructed and entertained!
Praise for Chess Scribe: “He is one of those rare talents with the necessary skill to help his readers better understand their craft… Compelling reading … Because his writing is often very funny, LeMoir’s ideas tend to stick in the memory” – Ben Graff in CHESS Magazine. “Now… a new audience can read his witty, clever and instructional articles… a glorious collection of chess articles that will keep you entertained and help to improve your rating” – IM Gary Lane in the English Chess Federation’s Newsletter.”
Christmas 1964. In Twickenham 14-year-old Richard receives a year’s subscription to British Chess Magazine. And in Bristol, 14-year-old David receives a year’s subscription to CHESS.
We both got hooked on reading about chess, and in time both became chess writers ourselves. While I was attracted to DJ Morgan’s Quotes and Queries column, David LeMoir was attracted to brilliant attacks and sacrifices. So, while I wrote about chess trivia, David wrote about tactics.
While we have a lot in common, the main difference between us is that he’s always been a much better player than me.
This, he tells us, was his lockdown project. A collection of his chess writings over half a century. You’ll find extracts from his three books, articles from CHESS and British Chess Magazine (some of you will have read some of these before) along with articles from local publications, most notably En Passant, a magazine from Norfolk, where David has lived since 1997, all interspersed with snippets of chess autobiography.
The articles cover a wide range of topics: David’s own games, tactical and sacrificial ideas, match and tournament reports, pen-pictures of other Norfolk players and much else. There’s plenty of variety here.
What you won’t get is a lot of opening theory: David often prefers less orthodox openings. You won’t get a lot of endings either: the games David demonstrates, whether his own or played by others, are usually decided in the middle game.
You will get a lot of open, attacking play with clear and informative explanations, which will inspire you to improve your tactical skills. Rapid development and open lines are often the order of the day. Bear in mind, though, that many of the articles were written in the pre-engine age, or when engines were much weaker than they are now. The author has, sensibly, I think, chosen not to rewrite his articles to reflect this.
David must be particularly fond of this early effort, which appears several times in different guises. (Click on a move on any game in this review and a board will magically appear enabling you to play through the game.)
I particularly enjoyed this game from a Norfolk club match. White outmanoeuvred his opponent, who then, with admirable imagination and presence of mind decided to sacrifice two pieces, leading to unfathomable (at least to humans) complications.
White’s choice of 31. fxe5 lost, but David LeMoir analyses three alternatives, Nxg4, Qf1 and Nb2, all of which he claims, correctly, lead to a draw. My spoilsport computer tells me White had a clear win with 31. Rd1, and that the improbable 31. Ke2 would also have given White some advantage. A fascinating position – and just the sort of chess David likes. There are important lessons here as well about randomising the position when you’re in trouble and not being scared of complications.
Two of the sections that appealed to me most concerned the author’s Norfolk chess friends Owen Hindle and Mike Read.
Hindle is almost forgotten now, but for a short period in the mid sixties he was one of England’s strongest players before chess took a back seat to married life.
This game will be of interest to two of my online friends.
Mike Read overcame serious health problems to become a Senior International Master of correspondence chess. It’s well worth studying his games: you can find out more by visiting his website.
While we’re exact contemporaries, David and I have never met, although we may well have been in the same room at the same time on various occasions in the 1970s. I might possibly have witnessed this game from a Thames Valley League match against a Richmond & Twickenham team (possibly, given his opponent, Richmond B).
The same story as in so many games in this book: a sacrifice for open lines and rapid development. This book will teach you a lot about attacking chess.
One of David’s favourite openings is the Latvian Gambit: it’s amusing to learn that, paradoxically, it’s often a good way to score a quick draw as opponents will choose a safe and dull continuation to avoid theory. Again, perhaps a lesson there, although I’m not sure whether the lesson is ‘playing sharp but dubious openings can often pay off’ or ‘make sure you’re aware of the refutation of any sharp but dubious opening your opponent might play’.
Finally, a game which was both David’s best game and worst nightmare.
There’s a lot to enjoy, and a lot to inspire you in this book. David LeMoir is an excellent writer who values clarity of expression, and the tension and excitement of club and tournament chess really come across well. It’s a collection of articles rather than a coherent book so there’s a certain amount of repetition, and production values are not quite at the level you’d expect from a professional publishing house. There are some notation and spelling errors (he’s Graeme, not Graham Buckley, and it’s Middlesbrough, not Middlesborough, for example, but this is to be expected and won’t spoil your pleasure.
As David explains, self-publishing using Amazon is a free and easy way to get into print, although you may not sell many copies.
Books of this nature should, I think, be supported. If you buy it you won’t be disappointed.
“The Vibrant Exchange French – No Longer Your Dull Draw! In the first book ever exclusively devoted to the Exchange French Variation, American grandmaster Alex Fishbein recognizes that the Exchange French is an opening for a player who likes active piece play, fights for the initiative, excels in positions with possibilities on both sides of the board, and finds strategic and tactical nuances that arise out of almost nothing. And if you play the French as Black, then this book will help you deal with White’s 3.exd5.
Authors of French Defence books from the black perspective have recognized for a while that there is no draw here at all and have proposed lines where Black can create interesting play. Indeed, both sides can create complications. The author shows that playing “boring” moves is actually risky with both White and Black.
The Exchange French is a vibrant opening, just like any other, and yet there has been very little literature showing how to play it from the white side. That void is filled with this book. “While the main point of this book is to build a White repertoire, any player of the Black side of the French will benefit by reading it. A good number of the sample games end well for Black, whereas in the games in which White gains the upper hand, Fishbein is careful to note improvements for the second player. I have been playing and writing about the French Defense, including this variation, for many years, but I came across a lot that I hadn’t known in nearly every sub-variation.”
“Alex Fishbein is an American grandmaster. He has been competitive in each of his four U.S. Championship appearances, including in 2004 when he won the Bent Larsen prize for the most uncompromising chess. 2018, the year Alex turned 50, was perhaps his most successful year in chess so far. That year, Alex won the first Senior Tournament of Champions, modelled after the Denker tournament of which he was also the inaugural winner 33 years earlier. He also tied for second in the US Open and finished in the top 10 in the USCF Grand Prix for the first time.”
As a player of the Exchange French from the white side, I was interested to see what fresh ideas this book contains, especially given the paucity of books specifically covering this opening.
The first important point to note is that this book does not cover the entirety of the Exchange French opening, nor is that its intent. It provides a repertoire for white based on playing 4.Nf3. Currently I employ the Exchange French with 4.Bd3, so this was a good opportunity to revisit the latest 4.Nf3 theory to determine if I should incorporate it into my repertoire or learn new ideas relevant to other lines as well.
The book is well structured and easy to follow, in particular the focus early in the book (chapter 2) on the difference between the standard Isolated Queen Pawn position and the IQP position
arising from many lines of the Exchange French is excellent. This chapter is probably the most important and valuable for any player of the Exchange French, regardless of which specific line one plays, and warrants thorough study. The book covers, in detail, all reasonable plans that black could employ against 4.Nf3 and briefly discusses a
variety of rarer moves.
In particular there are up to date ideas against the Uhlmann Gambit with 6.c5 and then Be3 (see diagram)
and a new suggestion in the 5…c5 variation involving an exchange sacrifice (Rxe7 in the diagram position) that shows the Exchange French is not at all dull!
However, two chapters (9 and 10) appear to be inconsistent with the intent of the book, as they do not fit with the 4.Nf3 repertoire.
Overall, an enjoyable and informative book that achieves its aim of providing white with an Exchange French repertoire based on 4.Nf3. Will I be changing from 4.Bd3 to 4.Nf3, maybe, but
that is for my future opponents to find out.
Peter Tart, Farnborough, Hampshire, 26th November 2021
In 1930s British India, a humble servant learns the art of chaturanga, the ancient Eastern ancestor of chess. His natural talent soon catches the attention of the maharaja, who introduces him to the Western version of the game. Brought to England as the prince’s pawn, Malik becomes a chess legend, winning the world championship and humiliating the British colonialists. His skills as a refined strategist eventually drag him into a strange game of warfare with far-reaching consequences. Inspired by the unlikely true story of chess master Malik Mir Sultan Khan, Game of the Gods is a fascinating tale of karma and destiny, by the author of the multimillion-copy bestseller The Lüneburg Variation.
“Paolo Maurensig was born in Gorizo, and lives in Udine, Italy. A bestselling author, he debuted in 1993 with The Lüneburg Variation, translated into over twenty languages. His novels include Canone Inverso, The Guardian of Dreams, and The Archangel of Chess. For his novel Theory of Shadows, he won the Bagutta Prize. A Devil Comes to Town, previously published by World Editions, is a brilliant, satirical novella about literary publishing. Game of the Gods is his latest novel and was awarded the prestigious Premio Scanno 2019 Literary Award.”
I must start with a sad postscript to the blurb on the back cover: Paolo Maurensig died on 29 May 2021 at the age of 78. The game of chess provided the background to several of his novels, including this, his last published work.
The book opens in 1965: a Washington Post journalist is in the Punjab, reporting on the conflict between India and Pakistan. He had been a chess enthusiast as a boy, and had heard that his childhood hero, Sultan Khan was living in the area. They meet up and Sultan Khan narrates his life story, which takes up most of the book.
In real life, as we know, after a meteoric chess career, Sultan Khan returned to his homeland in 1933 and lived out the rest of his life quietly in what would later become Pakistan. Maurensig chooses to give his character a very different life after chess.
Here, he continues travelling with Sir Umar Hayat Khan for several years, and then is asked to take over the running of a stately home which is bombed during the war. He later finds himself in New York where he becomes a taxi driver, meeting a wealthy dowager who leaves him a fortune, causing an international scandal.
A fascinating, if improbable, story. If you want to find out how it all came about you’ll have to read the book.
Maurensig was a much respected novelist, and, as you’d expect, the book is well written and well translated.
From the chess perspective, one or two things are jarring. The continuous reference to Sir George Thomas and Frederick Yates as England’s two leading players at the time: yes, they were, but (a particular bugbear of mine) Yates was Fred, not Frederick, and would have been referred to simply as Yates. There’s also a bit about how his opponents did their best to distract him, which, to the best of my knowledge, never happened.
I suspect this novel will appeal more to non-players, who won’t be bothered by this, rather than players with some historical knowledge.
And yet, I have a major problem.
Exhibit A: here, Sultan Khan’s granddaughter, Dr Atiyab Sultan, criticises Daniel King’s otherwise excellent book, in part because of the words ‘Indian servant’. You might or might not agree with this, but here, on the back cover, the semi-fictional Sultan Khan is described as a ‘lowly servant’ and a ‘humble servant’. Author’s licence, perhaps, but in real life he certainly wasn’t ‘lowly’.
Exhibit B: here we have Nona Gaprindashvili suing Netflix for defamation and misrepresentation, in part for being described in The Queen’s Gambit as Russian rather than Georgian, but also because it was claimed she had, at that point, never played against men. You might or might not consider that she has a good case.
The real Sultan Khan was a proud Muslim, but the ‘Sultan Khan’ in this book appears to be portrayed as a Hindu. The concept of Karma, which is important in Hinduism and a number of other Indian religions, plays a significant part in the book (‘a fascinating tale of karma and destiny’, according to the back cover) but plays no part at all in Islam. Hindu deities are frequently invoked in our hero’s narration. He describes how his opponents would eat ham sandwiches, ‘perhaps imagining that I was Muslim and that the smell of pork would disturb my concentration’.
In a sense the title gives it away: Game of the Gods. Hinduism has many deities, but Islam is a monotheistic religion.
It seems to me grossly insensitive to change the religion of a historical figure in this way without any explanation, especially given the centuries-long religious tensions in the Punjab.
You might also want to question, given the continued use of monkey chants among football fans, whether it’s appropriate to use an illustration of two monkeys playing chess on the cover of a book about a brown skinned chess player.
I have no doubt that neither the author nor the publisher intended any offence, but in today’s climate we’re expected to be sensitive to the feelings of others.
In some respects this is an excellent novel, but it left me feeling uncomfortable. Perhaps it would have been better to have tweaked the story, avoiding references to any real chess players, with the protagonist coming from a Hindu background.
If you don’t have any knowledge of the subjects involved, you’ll probably enjoy this novel, but if you have any connection you may be frustrated and perhaps even offended. Caveat Emptor.
A collection of the classic games of British chess, including one or two which, though truly memorable, are by no means masterpieces; with a few more included by way of a little light relief. We shouldn’t be serious all the time, even at the chess board.
Neil is a retired county court judge who, after living in Bedford for over 40 years and playing for Bedford (and on Bedfordshire on occasions when they got desperate), now lives near Norwich and plays for Wymondham chess club.
Before going further please take this opportunity to Look Inside.
Despite being published in 2019 BCN was recently offered a copy of Memorable Games of British Chess and was unable to resist the chance to review this self-published Amazon book from Neil Hickman, a friend of Jim Plaskett.
The book is a paperback and of a size making it physically easy to read. Unlike some Amazon published efforts the paper is of decent quality (not yellowing) and the printing is clear. The diagrams are frequent and excellent of a decent size. Each diagram has a [Position after 24.0-0] type caption.
Many of you will be familiar with
which highlight successes by British chess players.
The authors book presents ninety OTB and correspondence games (which is a nice touch) covering the period 1788(!) to 2016 and selecting just this number must have been challenging to say the very least. Confidence in the book is derived early from a truly excellent List of Sources demonstrating an academic and studious attitude to the job in hand.
Each game is prefaced by background information on the game, venue, circumstances and details of the players all of which is most welcome. The book started well since the first game Bowdler-Conway, London, 1788 was unknown to myself. Instantly memorable however since Thomas Bowdler caused the creation of the verb “Bowdlerise” and the game was one of the very first recorded double rook sacrifices that is also discussed in the charming
To give you some idea of the annotations here we have game 66, Ligterink-Miles, Wijk aan Zee, 1984:
A wonderful finish to be sure.
and secondly we have Game 58 played in Luton in 1976 between Viktor Korchnoi and Peter Montgomery:
also delightful in its own modest way.
The other 88 games all have their own significance including games of historical significance covering many of the greats with detailed articles on this review web site.
The author clearly has done his homework and a nice touch is the listing for each game of where in the literature it had been previously annotated. The notes are chatty and friendly and not spoilt by reams of dull engine analysis. It was delightful to find mentions of British players who rarely get a mention such as Edward Jackson, Thomas Lawrence, Francis William Viney of the General Post Office, Herbert Francis Gook of HM Customs, Harold Saunders and Kenneth Charlesworth to name but a few.
Of course, the old favourites are given the treatment including Alekhine-Yates, Capablanca-Thomas, Bronstein-Alexander, Penrose-Tal etc plus our modern heroes such as Michael Adams, Luke McShane, Gawain Jones, David Howell, Julian Hodgson, Nigel Short and John Nunn.
I particularly like the annotations which include those from other notable authors and sources and in summary, this is a charming book that would make an excellent coffee table book for any chess enthusiast and you won’t be disappointed.
Publisher: Independently published (3 September 2019)
Paperback: 271 pages
ISBN-13 : 978-1794053564
Dimensions: 17.78 x 1.83 x 25.4 cm
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