Secrets of Queen Endgames

Secrets of Queen Endgames: Ferenc Berkes and Tibor Karolyi

From the publisher:

A revolutionary new work on a notoriously challenging type of chess endgame

Queen endgames can seem unfathomably complicated. Computers have provided complete information for some of the basic queen and pawn endings, but human understanding has proved elusive.

In this ground-breaking work, two Hungarian authors have gone to extraordinary lengths to explain strategies and methods in queen endgames. Rather than a random series of checks, we can now understand king and queen triangulations that gradually bring the pieces to the squares they need to be to engineer the killer tactic that completes the process. Berkes and Karolyi have devised guidelines that help us judge what we need to aim for, and provided a broad set of tools to help us achieve these goals.

Going beyond previous texts, the authors have used not just seven-man tablebases and modern engines, but the specialized program FinalGen to delve with the same certainty into endgames with many more pawns. But most of all, they have spent thousands of hours seeking to present the whole truth about queen endings in human terms. Their wide-ranging discussion of shelters is especially instructive.”

  • A definitive guide to a fundamental class of endgames
  • Explains all types of endings with queens and pawns
  • A wealth of guidelines for handling positions with many pawns
  • Spectacular and previously unpublished endgame studies
  • Thoroughly up to date, with more than 1000 chess diagrams

Ferenc Berkes is a grandmaster from Hungary. A former World Under-18 Champion, he was won the championship of his country on eight occasions. He plays team chess in several European leagues. IM Tibor Karolyi is also from Hungary. His many pupils have included super-GMs Peter Leko and Judit Polgar, and he is a highly experienced chess writer.

To get some idea of the book Gambit (via Amazon) provide a “Look Inside” at their Kindle edition. As you would expect with Gambit, the notation is English short form algebraic using figurines for pieces. A previous criticism (ibid) has been addressed in that each diagram has a W or B “whose move it is” indicator.

The book is divided into 9 chapters as follows :

  1. Extreme Tactics in Queen Endings
  2. Tools in Queen Endings
    Technical Queen Endgames
  3. Queen and Pawn vs Queen
  4. All the Pawns on the Same Side
  5. Extra Outside Passed Pawn
    Practical and Strategic Queen Endgames
  6. The Pawn
  7. The Queen
  8. The King
  9. Complex Queen Endgames

Here on YouTube John Nunn gives the reader an introduction to the book :

This book is a superb tour de force covering a complex subject that has not been covered so extensively before. My short review cannot really do justice to this magnus opus.

The book is aimed at expert players, probably 2200 and above. The vast majority of GMs would learn a lot from this book. Despite  these comments, it is the reviewer’s opinion that any aspiring, improving player would benefit from reading the more general chapters 1, 2, 5, 6, 7, 8. The pure technical chapters 3 and 4 are certainly more abstruse but very instructive: the authors don’t just give long variations but intersperse these with pithy, useful comments.

The short first chapter really introduces the power of the queen with a mixture of studies and over the board positions.

Chapter 1: Extreme Tactics in Queen Endings

Here is an amazing and stunning study by Rusz:

Rusz 2022 White to play and win
Rusz 2022 White to play and win

Black is threatening to mate with Qa1+, so white plays 1.Qf6!!

Rusz 2022 Position after 1.Qf6 mutual zugzwang
Rusz 2022 Position after 1.Qf6 mutual zugzwang Black to move

Amazingly, this is a position of mutual zugzwang as White to play only draws, whereas Black to play loses. It is hard to believe that in an open position with three queens each, having the move is a disadvantage!
Black can try 1…Qad8_ 2.Qaxd8 Qxd8+ 3.Qxd8 Qf1+ 4.Kc2 Qf2+

Rusz 2022 Position after 4...Qf2+
Rusz 2022 Position after 4…Qf2+ White to move

5.Qd2 (The careless 5.Kb3? allows a standard trick 5…Qg3+ 6.Qxg3 stalemate, always watch out for this type of idea in queen endings) 5…Qc5+ 6.Kd1 Qc2+

Rusz 2022 Position after 6...Qc2+
Rusz 2022 Position after 6…Qc2+ White to move

7.Ke2! Black has run out of useful checks, so white wins

Here is a practical example showing many important principles in queen and pawn endings:

Percivaldi - Thybo Danish League 2021-2 Position after 42.Qd5+
Percivaldi – Thybo Danish League 2021-2 Position after 42.Qd5+ Black to move

White has three pawns for a bishop, but the most important feature of the position is black’s far advanced passed a-pawn. In queen endgames, it’s the degree of advancement of passed pawns that is all important, not the number of pawns. Black correctly shed the bishop with his next move:

42…Kc7! 43.Qf7+ Kb6 44. Qxf8 Kb5!

Percivaldi-Thybo Danish League 2021-2 Position after 44...Kb5
Percivaldi-Thybo Danish League 2021-2 Position after 44…Kb5 White to move

White is three pawns up but is totally lost. White’s only potentially useful pawn is the d-pawn as it’s closest to queening, but white is just too far behind in the race. Black’s king will shelter behind the white’s pawns, there is no chance of a perpetual check.

45.Qe8+ Kb4 46.Qb8+ Ka4 47.Qg8 Trying to bar the king’s progress, but to no avail. 47…Qc2! (47…Qb3 also wins) 48.Qe8+ Kb4 49.Qb8+ Kc3 50.Kg2 a2 51.d5 Using a little tactic to prevent queening and putting black under a little pressure

Percivaldi-Thybo Danish League 2021-2 Position after 51.d5
Percivaldi-Thybo Danish League 2021-2 Position after 51.d5 Black to move

51…Qb2? A poor move deactivating the queen allowing white an amazing draw which he misses, the obvious 51…Qe4+ 52.Kh3  Qxd5 eliminating white’s counterplay, followed by putting the king behind white’s pawns wins easily, 51…Qd1! also wins watching White’s d-pawn and preparing to promote, after 52.Qe5+ Kc2 53.Qe4+ Kb3 54.d6 a1=Q wins as does 54…Qxd6

White missed a clever draw and black won after a slugfest in a four queen ending. Buy the book to see this entertainment.

Chapter 2: Tools in Queen Endings

This is an excellent toolbox chapter that covers the follows topics:

The Queen Triangulates
Cutting Off the King
Batteries and Discovered Checks
Pinning Down a Piece
Exploiting the Opponent’s Harmful Pawn

These ideas are absolutely key themes in queen endings. This section is definitely worthy of examination.

The reviewer will show  examples from many of the themes in turn:

The Queen Triangulates
The author  explains the concept concisely:
“In queen endings, there are more zugzwangs than most players would assume. We shall see many examples where the attacker’s king manoeuvres to give up the right to move – a familiar theme from pawn endings, but more surprising with queens on the board. But the queen itself can also lose a tempo by a form of triangulation. It usually happens when the defender’s king is in danger.”

Here is another Rusz study showing this idea:

Rusz 2022 Queen Triangulation
Rusz 2022 Queen Triangulation White to play and win

This positions look ok for black as he has White’s passed pawn under control. 1.Qg5+ Ke8 2.Qc5! 2…a3! 3.Qe3+! Kd8 4.Qg5+ Ke8 5.Qc5! completing the first triangulation

Rusz 2022 Queen Triangulation Position after 5.Qc5
Rusz 2022 Queen Triangulation Position after 5.Qc5 Black to play

5…a6 forced 6.Qe3+ Kd8 7.Qg5+ Ke8 8.Qc5! another triangulation completed 8…a5 9.Qe3+ Kd8 10.Qg5+ Ke8 11.Qc5! a4 12. Qe3+ Kd8 13.Qg5+ Ke8 14.Qc5! zugzwang wins

Rusz 2022 Queen Triangulation Position after 14.Qc5
Rusz 2022 Queen Triangulation Position after 14.Qc5 Black to play

14…Qc8+ (14…Kd8 15.Qf8# ends the suffering) 15.Ka7 Qc7+ 16.Ka6 wins black’s pawns and the game

Cutting Off the King

This principle can be used by the stronger side or the weaker side to prevent the opposing king getting to a desirable area.  For example, the stronger side can use this technique in Q+P v Q to cut off the defender’s king from a drawing zone.  The example below shows the defending side successfully using this theme in an over the board game:

Lupulescu - Sarakauskas After move 46.Qxg5
Lupulescu – Sarakauskas After move 46.Qxg5 Black to play

White has just taken the pawn on g5, black can now draw with an accurate sequence of checks: 46…Qb1+ 47.Kh2 Qb8+ 48.Kg1 Qb1+ 49.Kh2 Qb8+ 50.Kg1 Qb1+ 51.Kf2 Qc2+ 52.Kf3

Lupulescu - Sarakauskas After move 52.Kf3
Lupulescu – Sarakauskas After move 52.Kf3 Black to play

Black must choose the right check here to draw: 52…Qd1+! (the sloppy 52…Qd3+ 53.Kg4! allows white to approach the h-pawn and win the game) 53.Ke4 Qa4+! not allowing the king to cross the fifth rank 54.Ke3 Qb3+ 55.Kd2 Qb2+ 56.Ke1 Qb1+ 57.Ke2 Qe4+ 58.Qe3 Qxg2+ Black has regained his pawn and drew comfortably

In this famous ending, Black is winning with an extra pawn and centralised queen. He played 62..f5? mobilising the pawn majority

Pillsbury - Burn Vienna 1898 Position after 62.Qe2
Pillsbury – Burn Vienna 1898 Position after 62.Qe2 Black to move

Better was 62…Kd6! activating the king trying to cross over to white’s queenside pawns: white cannot defend against the twin threats of the king invasion and the advance of the kingside pawn majority. After 62…f5? white took the opportunity to make Black’s life very difficult 63.Qb5! cutting the king off from white’s queenside. White missed a probable difficult draw and black eventually won.

Batteries and Discovered Checks

From the author: “Powerful ideas in queen endings include forcing an exchange of queens and launching an attack on the enemy king. Usually the queen harasses the enemy ling by giving checks, but sometimes setting up a battery is stronger than the immediate check. Players often miss such an opportunity, or the potential to play for it. The attacker typically uses a battery to attack the opponent’s king or to win a tempo and stop the opponent’s queen from continuously checking by stepping out the check with a cross check.”

This practical example is instructive:

Ni Hua - Berkes Taiyuan 2006 Position after 56...Kh6
Ni Hua – Berkes Taiyuan 2006 Position after 56…Kh6 White to move

White played 57.Qxd5 winning a pawn, 57… Qe3+ (black can also draw with the flashy 57…Qf6+ or 57…Qg4+ or 57…Qa4+) 58.Kf6 Qf2+ (58…Qf3!+ draws easily, 59.Qxf3 is stalemate, and 59.Kf6 Qc3+ draws) 59. Qf5 Qh4+ 60.Ke6 Qc4+ 61. Qd5 This position is getting difficult for black,  but there are still six drawing moves, Black choose a terrible check 61…Qa6??+ 62.Qd6! setting up a deadly battery 62…Qe2+ 63.Kd5+ 1-0 as white exchanges queens

Ni Hua - Berkes Taiyuan 2006 Position after 61.Qd5
Ni Hua – Berkes Taiyuan 2006 Position after 61.Qd5 Black to move

Pinning Down a Piece

Portisch - Morovic Dubai Olympiad 1986 Position after 103...Qe6
Portisch – Morovic Dubai Olympiad 1986 Position after 103…Qe6 White to move

White played 104.Kc2? and lost . Portisch missed a brilliant move here 104.Qd4!! which amazingly draws, after 104…b3 105.Qd3! attacks the pawn and paralyses the Black queen.

Exploiting the Opponent’s Harmful Pawn

There are many example in the ending Q+P v Q+P where the defending side (player with the pawn that’s least advanced) loses because the extra pawn is harmful blocking defender’s queen checks and/or providing shelter to the stronger side’s king. An example is given below:

Boleslavsky - Taimanov Zurich Candidates 1953 Position after 42...c1Q
Boleslavsky – Taimanov Zurich Candidates 1953 Position after 42…c1Q White to move

White played 43.Qb8+ which wins but Boleslavsky messed up later on. In some ways 43.h4 is simpler. A possible line is 43.h4 Qc2+ 44. Qg6 Qxa4 45.h5 Qxa2 reaching this position:

Boleslavsky - Taimanov Zurich Candidates 1953 Variation position after 45...Qxa2
Boleslavsky – Taimanov Zurich Candidates 1953 Variation position after 45…Qxa2 White to move

Without Black’s b-pawn this is a tablebase draw but not easy in practice. With the b-pawn, Black is losing after 46.Kg7!! The pawn blocks the g1-a7 diagonal.

The next huge section of the book is all about Technical Endgames.

Chapter 3: Queen and Pawn vs Queen

This is in some ways the core of the book with 65 pages devoted to this basic ending. But it is anything but basic!

Each pawn is covered in turn starting with the rook’s pawn working towards the centre pawn. Within each pawn’s section, positions are covered from the second rank to the seventh rank. It is certainly a systematic approach.

It is clear that the least favourable pawn is the rook’s pawn, followed by the knight’s pawn. It may surprise some readers to know that the bishop’s pawn is the most favourable.

Rook’s Pawn
These are the authors’ conclusions:
“The closer the pawn get to promotion, the harder it becomes to hold.
In the case of a white a7-pawn:
Black’s safest option is to get really close to the pawn, at least to the d-file.
The h1-corner is a draw for black’s king, but in practice the defence will require a lot of concentration.
The a1-corner is the second least difficult location for the defender’s king.
In case the black king gets trapped in the h8-corner, there is only one mutual zugzwang position that might save the defender.”

The reviewer will show a few positions:

Honfi - Toth Budapest Ch 1966 Position after 89...Qd1+
Honfi – Toth Budapest Ch 1966 Position after 89…Qd1+ White to play

This position is a tablebase draw  particularly as black’s king is fairly close to the h1 corner.
White played 90.Kb4
The author adds a didactic comment: “Ever since the famous Minev -Botvinnik game in 1954, we know the player with the extra pawn should look to put his king on the same or neighbouring file or rank as the opponent’s king. This creates chances for a cross check or to set up a battery.”

The game continued for another 61 moves until this position was reached:

Honfi - Toth Budapest Ch 1966 Position after 151.Kc7
Honfi – Toth Budapest Ch 1966 Position after 151.Kc7 Black to play

Black’s king is not ideally placed, but he can draw with the correct check. Black played 151…Qe7+? (151…Qf7+ draws as 152.Kc8 is met by 152…Qf5+ drawing, Gelfand has made an observation, if in doubt check on the opposite colour square to your king, obviously this not a hard and fast rule) 152.Kc8! Black has run out of checks because of the king on h4. White now plays superbly to bring home the full point fully exploiting the badly placed black king 152…Qe4 153.Qc5!

Honfi - Toth Budapest Ch 1966 Position after 153.Qc5
Honfi – Toth Budapest Ch 1966 Position after 153.Qc5

153…Qe6+ 154.Kc7 Qf7+ 155.Kb6 Qb3+ 156.Ka5!

Honfi - Toth Budapest Ch 1966 Position after 156.Ka5
Honfi – Toth Budapest Ch 1966 Position after 156.Ka5

A standard winning technique in Q+P v Q The author comments thus: “White approaches the rank of Black’s king. Now 156…Qa2+ would be the last check, as it is met by 157.Kb5. from this point, the win is easy, as White can promote after some checks.”

156…Qf3 157.Qc4+ Kh5 158.Kb6 Qf6+ 159.Qc6 Qd8+ 160.Kb7 Qe7+ 161.Ka6 Qa3+ 162.Kb6 exploiting black’s king position again, there are no more checks, so 1-0

Honfi - Toth Budapest Ch 1966 Position after 162.Kb6
Honfi – Toth Budapest Ch 1966 Position after 162.Kb6

The reviewer adds an observation: when the black king is in or near the h1-corner, it is much harder for White to manoeuvre his king to an adjoining rank/file and keep his pieces coordinated as well as the pawn safe.

Gligoric - Timman Bugojno 1980 Position after 60...g1Q
Gligoric – Timman Bugojno 1980 Position after 60…g1Q White to play

This is a tablebase draw as white’s king is close to the best corner (a8) but an experienced top GM still lost this position thirty moves later. This shows how hard it is in practice. The book has some excellent coverage of this endgame viz:

Honfi - Toth Budapest Ch 1966 Position after 84...Kc3
Gligoric – Timman Bugojno 1980 Position after 84…Kc3 White to move

This position is still a draw.
“White should also wait with 85.Ke5, or he could move closer to the corner with 85.Kf7 or 85.Kf6”

White played the obvious centralising check 85.Qe5+? which loses, black replied with the 85…Kc2? (85…Kd2! wins: the analysis is worth looking at just to see the process as Black uses triangulation and White’s poorly placed king to escape the checks, get the book to find out)

Honfi - Toth Budapest Ch 1966 Position after 85...Kc2
Gligoric – Timman Bugojno 1980 Position after  85…Kc2 White to play

In this position White can draw. Over to the authors: “86.Qf4!! is the right move. But why? If it Black’s turn to move in the diagram, Qf3 would cut off the white king and win. The queen on f4 stops that. If 86…Kd1 87.Kf7!= (87.Kf6 also draws)  87…Qe2 88.Qd4+ only move 88…Kc2 89.Qa4+ holds or 89.Qc5+ or 89.Qf4! h2 90.Qa4+ draws”

This subtle, underlying battle of the cut off is amazing. The game continued with 86.Qh2+? Kd1!  Once again the king approaches the neighbouring file of the enemy king 87.Qh1+ Kd2 88.Kf6 (the authors note that if white’s king could move to the c-file he would draw, the win after 88.Ke7 is very instructive as black triangulates again, get the book to find out how)

Gligoric - Timman Bugojno 1980 Position after 88.Kf6
Gligoric – Timman Bugojno 1980 Position after 88.Kf6 Black to move

Timman misses a fairly simple idea to win quickly here 88…Qg3! He played 88…Qe3? This throws away all the hard work. White can draw with 89.Qh2+ and then run with the king towards the h8 corner. White blundered with 89.Kf5? A fatigue blunder allowing 89…Qf2+ 90.Ke5 Qe1+ exchanging queens 0-1

Knight’s Pawn

This is the authors’ observations:
“This situation occurs more often in practice than Q+P v Q with other pawns. This type of pawn has some unique features. for example, the attacker’s king has more scope for hiding near the pawn then it does behind a rook’s pawn, but less room compared to a bishop’s pawn. There is a drawing zone that often exists for the defender’s king in the far corner from the promotion square.”
The reviewer adds the proviso: but even this depends on the exact position of the queens of course.

Lenart position
Lenart position after 19…Qxh3

This is position from an unknown composer/player. Surprisingly White wins here even with the black king so close. White plays 20.Qc6! which is a standard cut off move. The winning process here takes 75 moves with perfect defence. There are some mind boggling triangulations with white’s king to wrong foot the black queen. Buy the book to find out how.

Here is a position with a knight’s pawn on the fifth rank.

Zurakhov - Boleslavsky Riga 1955 Position after 73...e1Q
Zurakhov – Boleslavsky Riga 1955 Position after 73…e1Q White to play

White wins here with the brilliant 74.Qf8+ Kg4 75.Qa3!! cutting black’s king off from the drawing zone. Zurakhov played 74.Qc8? throwing away the win but he won anyway on move 119.

Once the knight’s pawn reaches the seventh rank, the defender’s king has to stay in the opposite corner. This is the type of position the attacking side should aim for:

Cheron 1968
Cheron 1968 Black to play loses

Apparently with a g-pawn on g7, the d4 is vitally important for the stronger side’s queen.

Bishop’s Pawn

There is no drawing zone for the defender’s king (unless of course the king can get in front of the pawn).

Velimirovic - Uhlmann Arandjelovac Zonal play-off 1976 Position after 55.Kxa6
Velimirovic – Uhlmann Arandjelovac Zonal play-off 1976 Position after 55.Kxa6

This is a technical win for Black: 55…Qg4! is an excellent cut-off preparing to activate the king. Uhlmann played this ending well not letting the win slip at any point. This ending is worth close study.

Centre Pawn

Jevtic - Vujacic (analysis) Belgrade 2008
Jevtic – Vujacic (analysis) Belgrade 2008

1.Qxf7+ Ke3! the only winning move.

If white’s king was on h1, he would draw as his king would be in the small drawing zone on the short side of the pawn. 2.Qg8 Qd5+ (a series of queen checks to force white’s king to the unfavourable long side of the pawn) 3. Kc1 Qh1+ 4.Kb2 Qe4!

Jevtic - Vujacic (analysis) Belgrade 2008 Position after 4...Qe4
Jevtic – Vujacic (analysis) Belgrade 2008 Position after 4…Qe4 White to move

5. Qg1+ Ke2 6.Qh2+ Kc3 7.Qg3+ Qe3! 8.Qg6+ Kd2 9.Qc2 Ke1 10.Qb1+ Kf2 stopping the checks, notice how white’s own king impedes his own queen 11.Qh7 e5

Jevtic – Vujacic (analysis) Belgrade 2008 Position after 11…e5 White to move

Nunn comments: “The general theory of queen and pawn against queen tells us that this position is probably winning, because with the centre pawn there is no drawing zone for the white king in a remote corner, and if the defender’s king cannot move in front of the pawn then his chances are grim.”

Chapter 4: All the Pawns on the Same Side

This is a systematic analysis of all the different pawn configurations and is a really technical. For mortals like me, this will take many months to take in, but is nonetheless really interesting.

One surprising conclusion is that a two pawn advantage Q and rook’s pawn + knight’s pawn [gh-0] v Q is drawn in many positions if the defender’s queen and king are actively placed.

Here is a practical example:

Atanasov - Spiridonov Ruse 1978 Position after 68...Kg8
Atanasov – Spiridonov Ruse 1978 Position after 68…Kg8 White to move

How should White capture the Black pawn? On general principles, it looks better to capture with the queen retaining two connected passed pawns. Here both captures win, but generally Q+f+h pawns v Q is a win unless there is an immediate perpetual. Q+g+h pawns v Q is drawn in many cases. After 69.Qxf4?! Qc5+ 70.Kg4? White has thrown the win away:

Atanasov - Spiridonov Ruse 1978 Position after 70.Kg4
Atanasov – Spiridonov Ruse 1978 Position after 70.Kg4

Black played 70…Qc8+ which draws as does 70…Qa7, 70…Qc3, 70…Qc6
The game was drawn after both sides made mistakes.  Instead of 70.Kg4?, 70.Kg6! wins.
This ending is truly complex and worthy of study. Buy the book to find out more.

Chapter 5: Extra Outside Passed Pawn
This is divided into four natural subsections:
Passed Rook’s Pawn
Passed Knight’s Pawn
Passed Bishop’s Pawn
Passed Centre Pawn

The author concentrates on the passed rook’s pawn:
“Firstly, they occur more often than other passed pawns, as is also the case in rook endings. Secondly, the defender has much better drawing chances compared to positions with a c-pawn for example, because the stronger side’s king can’t find shelter around the rook’s pawn. If the attacker’s queen is busy defending the king from checks, there is little capacity left to help the rook’s pawn advance. On the opposite wing from the passed rook’s pawn, exchange of pawns tend to favour the defending side for several reasons:
1) They increase the chance of perpetual check.
2) Less frequently, it may even be possible to simplify to a queen and pawn versus queen endgame by exchanging off all the kingside pawns.”

Here is an excellent demonstration by the strongest player in the world:

Carlsen - Vachier-Lagrave Karlsruhe/Baden-Baden 2019 Position after 32...Kg7
Carlsen – Vachier-Lagrave Karlsruhe/Baden-Baden 2019 Position after 32…Kg7 White to play

Carlsen played the neat 33.Bd5! (33.Qb2+ Kg8 34.a3 Qd3 black is very active and white cannot make progress) 33…Bxd5 34. Qe5+ f6? A serious mistake from a top player as it weakens the king’s shelter. Chapter 8 gives lots of advice and examples about shelters. Much better was 34…Kg8 35.Qxd5 Qa3 36.Qb3 Qc1+ 37.Kg2 h5 38.gxh5 Qg5+ 39.Kh2 Qxh5 and black can hold. 35.Qxd5 h5 (Trying to weaken White’s kingside) 36.gxh5 gxh5 37.Qd7+ Kg6 38.a4

Carlsen - Vachier-Lagrave Karlsruhe/Baden-Baden 2019 Position after 38.a4
Carlsen – Vachier-Lagrave Karlsruhe/Baden-Baden 2019 Position after 38.a4 Black to play

Although both Kings’ shelters have been partially wrecked, Black’s exposed king is more significant as the game continuation shows. 38…Qe2 39.Qd5! Centralisation 39…f5 Black is trying to block in the White king, but this move exposes his own king even more 40.a5 f4 41.Kg2! Kh6 42.Qf5

Carlsen - Vachier-Lagrave Karlsruhe/Baden-Baden 2019 Position after 42.Qf5
Carlsen – Vachier-Lagrave Karlsruhe/Baden-Baden 2019 Position after 42.Qf5 Black to play

42…Qc4 43.Kf3 winning another pawn, so 1-0
Notice how Black’s pawn advances brought down his downfall.

The last four chapters are in a section of the book on
Practical and Strategic Queen Endgames

Chapter 6: The Pawn

The following ideas are discussed:

Promoting With Check
Reducing the Number of Pawns in Order to Hold the Draw
Pushing a Pawn to Force an Exchange of Queens
Connected Passed Pawns
Gaining Space
Races when Both Sides Have Only One Pawn
Quality vs Quantity
Doubled Pawns

An example from the Quality vs Quantity subsection is given below.
The author states “It’s a well-known and common saying that in queen endgames, ‘it’s not the number of pawns that counts, but their quantity!’ In other types of endgames, the principle of strength in numbers map apply more often, but less so in queen endings.”

This ending has been quoted often:

Stahlberg - Euwe Stockholm Olympiad 1937 Position after 41.Kh2
Stahlberg – Euwe Stockholm Olympiad 1937 Position after 41.Kh2 Black to play

Euwe played the natural centralising move 41…Qd4? which is multi functional, but surprisingly throws away the win.  The h4-pawn is not important here. There is a win with a very subtle move 41…Qd6!!+ which looks like a superfluous check, but forces white to weaken his position.

Stahlberg - Euwe Stockholm Olympiad 1937 Position after 41...Qd6+
Stahlberg – Euwe Stockholm Olympiad 1937 Position after 41…Qd6+ White to play

White now has an invidious choice on how to spoil his position, g3 weakens the king’s shelter and both king moves have their disadvantages. Let’s look at each alternative.
a) 42. g3? Qd4! Now this move gains in strength as white would like to take the f2 pawn exposing White’s king fatally 43.Qb5 Qxf2+ 44.Kh3

Stahlberg - Euwe Stockholm Olympiad 1937 Variation 1 Position after 44.Kh3
Stahlberg – Euwe Stockholm Olympiad 1937 Variation A Position after 44.Kh3 Black to play

Black has two different wins here 44…Qf3! (44…Qf5+ also wins) 45.Kh2 (45.Qxb4? Qh1+ 46.Kg4 Qf1! forcing mate or win of queen) 45…b3 46.a5 Qf2+ 47.Kh3 Qg1! winning

Stahlberg - Euwe Stockholm Olympiad 1937 Variation 1 Position after 47...Qg1
Stahlberg – Euwe Stockholm Olympiad 1937 Variation A Position after 47…Qg1 White to play

48.Qxb3 Qh1+ 49.Kg4 f5+ 50.Kf4 Qe4#

b) 42.Kh3 b3 43.Qb5 (43.Qc3 Qd7+ exploits White’s wins exposed king, winning the a-pawn) Qa3!! This is unconventional move, putting the queen on the side, but it exploits the exposed White king: the threat of a discovered check is fatal for white.

Stahlberg - Euwe Stockholm Olympiad 1937 Variation B Position after 43...Qa3
Stahlberg – Euwe Stockholm Olympiad 1937 Variation B Position after 43…Qa3 White to play

If 44.Qb7 a2+ 45.Kh2 Qa2 wins
If 44.a5 b2+ 45. g3 Qa2 wins as well as 45…Qf3
If 44.h5 b2+ 45.f3 g5 46.Qf5+ Kg7 47.Qe5+ Kg8 48.Qb8+ Kh7 49.Qb7 Qa2 wins

c) 42.Kg1 b3 43.Qb5 Qa3 44.Qc4! b2!!

Stahlberg - Euwe Stockholm Olympiad 1937 Variation C Position after 44...b2
Stahlberg – Euwe Stockholm Olympiad 1937 Variation C Position after 44…b2 White to play

Black gives up three pawns to get his king out of the checks. This is a brilliant example of quality over quantity. 45. Qxf7+ Kh8 46.Qf6+ Kg8 47.Qxg6+ Kf8 48.Qxh6+ Ke7 49.Qg7+ Ke6 50.Qg8+ Kd5 51.Qg7+ Kd5 52.Qf7+ Kg4 53.Qg7+ Kc4 54.Qf7+ Kc3 55.Qf3+! Kb4 56.Qb7+ Kxa4 57.Qa6+ Kb3 58.Qe6+ Kc2

Stahlberg - Euwe Stockholm Olympiad 1937 Variation C Position after 58...Kc2
Stahlberg – Euwe Stockholm Olympiad 1937 Variation C Position after 58…Kc2 White to play

Now after the obvious 59.Qe2+ black plays 59…Kb1!!
The author explains why this wins: “Although Black is two pawns down and apparently has no shelter, he can win. The white king has to give up the back rank due to threats of crosschecks, after which the black king can find shelter on f1! For this reason, sacrificing the f2-pawn is inevitable. Then, in marvellous variations, White, can be forced into zugzwang where he either loses his h-pawn or is force to play Kh3, which means that the black king can find a shelter on g1, which decides the battle.”

Back to the game continuation, after 41…Qd4? 42.Kg3? White defends a pawn with little value and exposes his king fatally. 42.Qb5! draws easily viz: 42…Qxh4+ 43.Kg1 Qe4 44.a5 Qb1+ 45.Kh2 b3 46.Qb7 Kg7 47.a6 Qa2 48.a7 b2= The best Black can achieve here is Q+3 v Q+2 all on one side which is a draw.

Stahlberg - Euwe Stockholm Olympiad 1937 Missed draw in game
Stahlberg – Euwe Stockholm Olympiad 1937 Missed draw in game Position after 48…b2 White to play

After 42.Kg3? this is the position:

Stahlberg - Euwe Stockholm Olympiad 1937 After fatal mistake 42.Kg3
Stahlberg – Euwe Stockholm Olympiad 1937 After fatal mistake 42.Kg3 Black to play

Black exploited the exposed white king as follows: 42…b3 43.Qb5 b2 44.Qb3 Kg7! winning 45.f4 (Other moves lose as well, for example 45.a5 Qe5+ 46.Kf3 Qf5+) 45… Qd2 0-1

A really instructive game.

Chapter 7: The Queen

The following ideas are discussed:

Exchanging Queens
Passive and Active Queens
Neutralizing Queens
The Queen has Multiple Tasks
Restraining an Enemy Passed Pawn from Behind
Superfluous Checks

The reviewer will show an example on the topic of superfluous checks. The author explains: “In many positions there is no clear plan to implement, and in this case having the move in an over-the-board game creates tension. Rather than finding something constructive to do, or at least find a move that doesn’t compromise their position, players often insert an exchange or a pointless check. Either can harm their position.”

Miron - Lupulescu Romanian Team Ch Sovata 2018 Position after 36...Qf6
Miron – Lupulescu Romanian Team Ch Sovata 2018 Position after 36…Qf6 White to play

This position is objectively equal, although Black’s position looks slightly superior as his pawn majority has been mobilised. White’s pieces are well placed. 37.b4 is equal, but simpler is probably 37.exf5 Qxf5+ 38.Ke2 Qc2+ 39.Qd2 Qe4+ 40.Qe3 is equal, Black has no realistic winning chances.

White played 37.Ke2?! So Black responded with the obvious 37..f4 gaining space and creating a passed pawn 38.Qa7+? The superfluous check that loses. The author quotes John Nunn here: “Nunn pinpoints the basic truth that many people think they must keep giving checks in queen endings. this is one of the most common conceptual mistakes.” 38.Qd3! holds 38…Kg6 39.b4! getting the queen side pawns going draws 38…Kh6

Miron - Lupulescu Romanian Team Ch Sovata 2018 Position after 38...Kh6
Miron – Lupulescu Romanian Team Ch Sovata 2018 Position after 38…Kh6 White to play

After two poor strategic moves, White is totally lost. After 39.Qd7? (39.Qf2 is more resilient but still loses after 39…Kg5)  39…fxg3! won easily as Black’s king can shelter near his passed pawn.

Chapter 8: The King

These topics are covered:

Attacking The King
Avoiding Stalemate
Perpetual Check

The section on Shelters is really important and is broken down into 9 further sub-sections:
The Importance of a Good Shelter
Weakening Our Own Shelter
Failing To Reach a Shelter
Invading and Destroying Shelters
Unusual Shelters
Leaving The Shelter to Support Pawns on the Other Wing
Leaving the Shelter to Exchange Queens
Leaving The Shelter to Win a Pawn
Breaking Open The Shelter with Pawn Sacrifices

Here is an example from the Weakening Our Own Shelter section.

Tal - Tseshkovsky Riga 1981 Position after 39...Qg4
Tal – Tseshkovsky Riga 1981 Position after 39…Qg4 White to play

The great Tal made a serious mistake here in a winning queen endgame 40.f3? Voluntarily weakening his king’s shelter: a poor move from a great player. 40.Qd5 centralising the queen wins easily 40…Qc8 41.Qd2 b5 42.Qb4 wins or 40…b5 41.a4 wins 40…Qd7 41.Qd5 Qc7 42.Qd2 b5 43.a3 (43.a4 bxa4 44.bxa4 Qc4 45.a5 Kg6 holding) Qc5 44.Qa2 Qc1 draw agreed

Chapter 9 Complex Queen Endgames rounds off the book with the study of some intricate endings.

This is a great book and is thoroughly recommended. Be prepared to put in some hard work.

FM Richard Webb, Chineham, Hampshire, 17th June 2024

FM Richard Webb
FM Richard Webb

Book Details :

  • Hardcover : 384 pages
  • Publisher: Gambit Publications (27 Nov. 2023)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1805040634
  • ISBN-13: 978-1805040637
  • Product Dimensions: 15.6 x 2.69 x 23.39 cm

Official web site of Gambit Publications Ltd.

Secrets of Queen Endgames, Ferenc Berkes and Tibor Karolyi , Gambit Publications, ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-1805040637
Secrets of Queen Endgames, Ferenc Berkes and Tibor Karolyi , Gambit Publications, ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-1805040637
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The Art of the Endgame: My Journeys in the Magical World of Endgame Studies

The Art of the Endgame
My Journeys in the Magical World of Endgame Studies
Revised Edition – with 14 New Studies
by Jan Timman

From the publisher, New in Chess:

“All through his career Jan Timman has been captivated by the mystery and splendour of endgame studies. Even during his most successful and busy years as a world-class player, Timman continued to compose studies and admire those of others. For him, there has never been any doubt that his journeys in this magical world helped him to grow as a player.

In this fascinating book, first published in 2011, Timman has collected studies by other composers and explains in his lucid style how they inspired him to create dozens of brand-new studies.

Timman has revised the book for this new edition. With the help of engines, Timman discovered that a few studies needed to be corrected or had alternative solutions. He removed six studies and replaced another six with better versions. And fourteen new studies have been added, two of which are published here for the first time.”

About the Author, Jan Timman:

“Jan Timman is a former world championship candidate who rose to number two on the FIDE world rankings. He is the author of several highly acclaimed bestsellers, such as Timman’s Titans and Max Euwe’s Best Games. He was awarded the title of FIDE Master of Composition in 2022.”

GM Jan Timman
GM Jan Timman

This book is a gem and I do remember perusing the first edition at a bookstall a while back, now I have a copy of the second edition.

There is no doubt that familiarity with ideas from endgame studies improves a player’s overall chess ability and imagination.

The reviewer was introduced to endgame studies at a tournament in London when he was junior: I was having lunch in the analysis room, when an older gentlemen showed some Harold Lommer studies involving knight promotions which got me hooked. The acquisition of Test Tube Chess by John Roycroft soon followed.

Jan Timman’s book has a variety of positions some of which are really “game like” whilst others are artistic beauties involving for example multiple promotions.

The book is divided into fourteen themed chapters viz:

Chapter 1: Miniature studies
Chapter 2: Rook versus bishop
Chapter 3: Preventing pawn promotion
Chapter 4: Various promotion combinations
Chapter 5: Knight promotions
Chapter 6: Bishop promotions
Chapter 7: Mating patterns
Chapter 8: Stalemate patterns
Chapter 9: Mutual zugzwang
Chapter 10: Building a fortress
Chapter 11: Systematic manoeuvres
Chapter 12: The disappearing trick
Chapter 13: Three themes
Chapter 14: Various endgame studies

The reviewer will show a variety of positions from various subsections.

Chapter 1: Miniature studies

These are positions with no more than seven pieces. This one is particularly beautiful with a mutual zugzwang.

Position 1

Liburkin, ’64’ 1933 White to play and win

White is a pawn up with black’s king close to the passed pawn, so white needs something special here.
1.Kd1 pins the knight forcing  1…Kf5 2.Ke2 threatening to win the knight. Black bishop’s impedes his king, so he goes after the h-pawn with 2…Bf6 3.Kf3 Bxh4

Liburkin 1934 After 3...Bxh4
Liburkin 1934 After 3…Bxh4

If white takes the bishop 4.Nxh4+ Kg5 attacking the knight saves black. So 4.Bxe4+ Kg5 5.Bd5!Kh5 6.Bf7+ Kg5 7.Be8

Liburkin 1934 After 7.Be8
Liburkin 1934 After 7.Be8

Black is zugzwang and loses the bishop and the game. Note this is a position of mutual zugzwang as white has no good waiting move and cannot win with the move! Very pretty.

Chapter 2: Rook versus bishop

This is the most practical chapter with studies in the complex endgame of R+P v B+P.

Position 18

Reshevsky-Fischer, Los Angeles match (11) Position after 52...Ra2+
Reshevsky-Fischer, Los Angeles match (11) Position after 52…Ra2+

This is a celebrated position where Reshevsky played 53.Kf3? with Fischer missing a clear win by exchanging rooks and occupying g4 with his king. Instead Fischer kept the rooks on. White draws with 53.Kh3!

This study was created to show this:

Position 19

Study based on Reshevsky-Fischer game White to play and draw
Study based on Reshevsky-Fischer game White to play and draw

1.Kg2! Kf5 2.Kh3 Rc4 3.Be7! the only move 3…Rc1 4.Bf8! (The bishop hides itself to prevent a rook check followed by attacking the bishop to allow black to get in Kg4) 4…Rb1 5. Bg7 or 5.Bh6 draws

Chapter 3: Preventing pawn promotion

This is a famous promotion combination from a game which resembles the elegance of a study:

Position 44

Ortueta-Sanz Madrid 1933 Position after 30.h3
Ortueta-Sanz Madrid 1933 Position after 30.h3

Black played 30…Rd2 31.Na4 (31.a4 was better) 31…Rxb2! 32.Nxb2 c3 33.Rxb6 c4!! 34.Rb4 a5!! winning

Ortueta-Sanz Madrid 1933 Position after 34...a5
Ortueta-Sanz Madrid 1933 Position after 34…a5

White cannot prevent the coronation of a new  queen.

The great composer, Pogosyants composed a study with a very similar theme:

Position 46

Pogosyants 1977 White to play and win
Pogosyants, ‘Themes-64’ 1977 White to play and win

The solution is 1.Bg3 dxc4 2.Rxg7! Nxg7 3.f6 Rxg3 4.f5!! Rg5 5.f4! Nxf5 6.f7 wins

Chapter 4: Various promotion combinations

Position 69

Wotawa Schach Magazin 1951 White to play and win
Wotawa Schach Magazin 1951 White to play and win

A game like position. 1.d6 Be5 2.Bb8 threatening d7 winning the bishop, so 2…Bf6 3.d7 Bd8 apparently saving the bishop, but 4.Bg3! a4 5.Bh4! Bxh4 6.g4+ and wins

Chapter 5: Knight promotions

Here is a superb Harold Lommer study with multiple promotions:

Position 96

Lommer 1933 White to play and win
Lommer, ‘Feuille d’Avis de Lausanne’ 1933 White to play and win

White is threatened with a brutal discovered mate by the black monarch. So 1.d8N Bd5 2.g8B!! (2.g8Q allows black a brilliant defence  2…Ke3+ 3.Qxd5 stalemate!) 2… Be4 3.e8R!! (3.e8Q allows another fantastic defence 3…Kg3+ 4.Qxe4 stalemate!) and wins

A brilliant study has with stunning counterplay.

Position 97 shows a famous Lommer involving 5 knight promotions, but unfortunately after the fourth promotion, there is alternative prosaic win promoting to a queen.

Chapter 6: Bishop promotions

Position 112

Rusinek 1971 White to
Rusinek ‘New Statesman’ 1971 White to play and draw

White has an army of far advanced pawns against 3 minor pieces and a well placed black king.

1.a7 Ba6+ 2.b7 Ne4 threatening  Nd6# 3.g8N+ Ke8 4.Nf6+

Rusinek 1971 after 4.Nf6+
Rusinek 1971 after 4.Nf6+

If black plays 4…Ndxf6 5.Kb8 gets the king out of the mating trap, so 4…Nexf6 5.a8B!! (5.a8=Q? Nd5 followed by Ne7#)

Rusinek 1971 after 5.a8B
Rusinek 1971 after 5.a8B

White is attempting a self stalemate, so black must release this and rearrange his pieces. 5…Ne5 (5…Bf1 6.b8N! draws) 6.Kb8 Nc6+ 7.Kc8 Bf1 threatening Bh3# 8.b8R!! (8.b8Q? Ba6+ 9.Qb7 Ne4 10.Qxa6 Nd6#, or 8.b8N? Ne7+ 9.Kb7 Bg2+ 10.Ka7 Nc8+ wins the bishop on a8 and the game)

Rusinek 1971 after 8.b8R
Rusinek 1971 after 8.b8R

8…Ba6+ 9.Rb7! with a draw

Scintillating promotion play.

Position 124

This is a creation of genius and very amusing.

Troitsky, Korolkov 1938-1939 White to play and win
Troitzky, Korolkov 1938-1939 White to play and win

The great Troitzky is involved here. Black threatens a brutal Ng3 mate. 1.Qc3!! (Threatening the key g7 pawn, 1.Qa3? is met by f1N reinforcing the threat on g3 winning for black) 1…Nxc3 2.d8B!! (Not 2.d8Q? Nde4 3.Qxc7 f1N 4.Bf4 Ne2 followed by sacrificing all the knights ending with Qxg3 stalemate) 2…Ne2 3.Bxc7 f1N 4.b8B!! (4.b8Q allows black to sacrifice all the knights on g3 ending with Qg3 stalemate) 4…Ne4 5.B1f4 winning as the three white bishops control the three knights.

Troitzky, Korolkov 1938-1939 Position after 5.B1f4
Troitzky, Korolkov 1938-1939 Position after 5.B1f4

Who says there is no humour in chess?

Chapter 7: Mating patterns

Here is an elegant study by the author, Jan Timman:

Position 163

Timman 2010 White to play and win
Timman 2010 White to play and win

1.h5 preventing Bxa2 as Rd7+ would win easily 1…Kh6 2.Rd8! Bxa2 3.Rh8! Bg8! great counterplay

Timman 2010 Position after 3...Bg8
Timman 2010 Position after 3…Bg8

4.Kc3 a2 5.Kb2 a3+ 6.Ka1 Kg7 7.h6+

Timman 2010 Position after 7.h6+
Timman 2010 Position after 7.h6+

7…Kxh8 8.g7 mate

Chapter 8: Stalemate patterns

Position 167

Rusinek 1973 white to play and draw
Rusinek 1973 White to play and draw

Stalemate looks unlikely here. 1.b6 must be played as white is two pieces down 1…Rf5 2.b7! Rf7+ 3.Kd6 Nc4+ 4.Ke6 Bxb7 5.Rh3+ Kg7 6.Rf3+ Kf8

Rusinek 1973 position after 6...Kf8
Rusinek 1973 position after 6…Kf8

7.Rg8+! Kxg8 stalemate!

Chapter 9: Mutual Zugzwang

Position 189

Here is an entertaining position:

Kliatskin 1924 White to play and win
Kliatskin 1924 White to play and win

1.Rc8+ Kxc8 2.b7+ Kb8 3.d5 Kc7

Kliatskin 1924 Position after 3...Kc7
Kliatskin 1924 Position after 3…Kc7

Now only 4.bxa8B! Kb8 5.Bb7 wins with a position of mutual zugzwang

Chapter 10: Building a fortress

Position 203

Smyslov 2005 White to play and draw
Smyslov 2005 White to play and draw

The elderly former World Champion, Smyslov, composed this amusing study in his eighties. 1.Nb8 Rd6 2.Nd7+! Rxd7 3.Rxg7! Kxg7 4.h4

Smyslov 2005 Position after 4.h4
Smyslov 2005 Position after 4.h4

After 4…Rd6 5.Kg2 Rg6+ 6.Kh3! black has to move the rook off the g-file to avoid stalemate, so white draws!

Chapter 11: Systematic manoeuvres

Kotov, Mitrofanov 1976 White to play and draw
Kotov, Mitrofanov 1976 White to play and draw

The reviewer assumes this is the Mitrofanov of Qg5!! fame.

White plays 1.Rf8+ Bf2 2.g8Q Rxf8 3.c5! 

Kotov, Mitrofanov 1976 Position after 3.c5
Kotov, Mitrofanov 1976 Position after 3.c5

3…Rf7 4.Qg7! Rf6 5.Qg6! Rf5 7.Qg5! Rf4 8.Qg4! Rxf4 stalemate

Chapter 12: The disappearing trick

The disappearing trick is a kind of systematic manoeuvre whereby white plays to achieve a particular position without a certain white piece. This is demonstrated below with a neat study.

Position 260

Sochniev, Gurgenidze JT 2004 White to play and win
Sochniev, Gurgenidze JT 2004 White to play and win

1.Nd6+ (to create two dangerous passed pawns) cxd6 2.Kh6 Rf6+ 3.Kh5 Rf5+ 4.Kg4 Rf4+ 5.Kh3! Rxf3+

Sochniev, Gurgenidze JT 2004 Position after 5...Rxf3+
Sochniev, Gurgenidze JT 2004 Position after 5…Rxf3+

Now the king sneaks back minus the f-pawn.

6.Kg4 Rf4+ 7.Kh5 Rf5+ 8.Kh6 Rf6+ 9.Kh7 Rf5

Sochniev, Gurgenidze JT 2004 Position after 11...Rf5
Sochniev, Gurgenidze JT 2004 Position after 9…Rf5

10.Rf1! (The point of removing the f-pawn) Rxf1 11.c7 Rf5 12.d8N+ Rxd8 13.cxd8N+

Sochniev, Gurgenidze JT 2004 Position after cxd8N+
Sochniev, Gurgenidze JT 2004 Position after cxd8N+

13…Kf6 (otherwise white promotes to a queen) 14.g8N mate Brilliant!

The last two chapters are short with some pretty positions.

I heartily recommend this labour of love to the endgame study which will give the reader many pleasurable hours.

FM Richard Webb

FM Richard Webb, Basingstoke, Hampshire, 15th June 2024

Book Details :

  • Hardcover : 248 pages
  • Publisher:New in Chess (31 Aug. 2023)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10:9083328414
  • ISBN-13: 978-9083328416
  • Product Dimensions: ‎7.3 x 2 x 23.7 cm

Official web site of New in Chess

GM Jan Timman
GM Jan Timman
The Art of the Endgame: My Journeys in the Magical World of Endgame Studies, Jan Timman, New in Chess, ISBN-13: 978-9083328416
The Art of the Endgame: My Journeys in the Magical World of Endgame Studies, Jan Timman, New in Chess, ISBN-13: 978-9083328416
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King’s Indian Killer: The Harry Attack

King’s Indian Killer: The Harry Attack by Richard Palliser & Simon Williams

From the publisher, Everyman Chess:

“Do you want a simple and practical method to counter Black’s kingside fianchetto defences after 1 d4? A line that takes the initiative from a very early stage and creates difficult practical problems? If so, then The Harry Attack (1 d4 Nf6 2 c4 g6 3 h4!) is for you.

At first this looks like some sort of joke or, at the very least, a weird outlandish line. Aren’t we all taught to focus on development and control of the centre in the early stages? What’s 3 h4 got to do with that? Perhaps surprisingly, this is a very difficult line for Black to counter effectively. This applies not just in practical play but also theoretically, where it is far from straightforward for Black even to find a route to equality. And when Black gets it wrong they are often on the receiving end of a very unpleasant miniature.

You may be thinking that surely the best chess engines can show how to counter this line? No! One of the unexpected features of leading engine play is their enthusiasm for shoving the h-pawn up the board and they fully concur that 3 h4! is a very decent move for White.

Many leading players have taken the hint and 3 h4 is frequently seen at elite level. Richard Palliser and Simon Williams (the GingerGM) provide a thorough guide to this fascinating line. They show how to adapt when Black chooses a King’s Indian set-up, a Grunfeld set-up, a Benoni set-up or even plays in Benko style.

The Harry Attack is easy to learn and is perfect for unsettling players steeped in the theory of their favourite Indian defences.”

Simon Williams is a Grandmaster, a well-known presenter and a widely-followed streamer, as well as a popular writer whose previous books have received great praise. He is much admired for his dynamic and spontaneous attacking style.


GM Simon Williams
GM Simon Williams

Richard Palliser is an International Master and the editor of CHESS Magazine. In 2006 he became Joint British Rapidplay Champion and in 2019 finished third in the British Championship. He has established a reputation as a skilled chess writer and written many works for Everyman, including the bestselling The Complete Chess Workout.

IM Richard Palliser
IM Richard Palliser

Harry is a nickname for the h-pawn. The Harry Attack is 1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 g6 3.h4!?

Although this book is titled as an anti-King’s Indian system, it is also aimed at the Gruenfeld Defence as the book explains.

The reviewer likes the book and despite his initial scepticism about the Harry Attack (based on his ignorance), has come to realise that this is a serious system that cannot be refuted: in fact it has been adopted at the highest levels. It is not just a one trick pony with the crude idea of hacking down the h-file, it is a sophisticated scheme with many facets including space gain. After just one or two careless moves, black can easily find himself/herself being suffocated, devoid of counterplay.

Of course, it is an “anti-book/theory” system aimed at getting the opponent out of their familiar territory. As ever, these fresh systems soon acquire a fair body of theory!

This book is suitable for club players and above. Chapter 2 gives a pertinent precis of the whole system which would be perfectly adequate for a less experienced player to play the variation with confidence.

The book is divided into seven main chapters:

Chapter 1: Model Games
Chapter 2: The Basic Repertoire
Chapter 3:  Gruenfeldesque Lines
Chapter 4:  Black Obstructs Harry
Chapter 5: Other Third Move Alternatives to 3…Bg7
Chapter 6: King’s Indian Style 3…Bg7
Chapter 7: The Main Line: 3…Bg7 and 6…c5

Chapter 1: Model Games

This is a really good section that shows many of the key ideas of the Harry Attack.  There are six model games that are definitely worth studying. A summary of these games is:

  • Games 1, 2 & 3 show typical continuations if black replies with the Gruenfeld move d5 on moves 3 or 4
    Chapter 3 covers this in more depth
  • Game 4 showcases black blocking Harry with 3…h5
    Chapter 4 gives further coverage when black blocks Harry
  • Game 5 introduces the second player responding in a Modern Benoni fashion
    Chapter 7 gives good guidance on this main line
  • Game 6 demonstrates Peter Svidler responding in Benko Gambit style
    Chapter 7 also presents this important system in more detail

The first two games show black’s difficulties if he insists on playing a Gruenfeld setup. viz: 1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 g6 3.h4!? Bg7 4.Nc3 d5?!

Basman - Grinberg Ramat Hasharon 1980
Basman – Grinberg Ramat Hasharon 1980 White to move

Game 1 is a superb model game from the late and great Mike Basman.

After 5.h5! Nxh5 6.cxd5 c6 (6…e6 is a more modern try but white has powerful riposte with an excellent pawn sacrifice covered in Chapter 3. Buy the book to find out.) 7.e4! cxd5 8.e5! A well judged pawn sac’ from the creative Basman viz:

Excellent pawn sac 8.e5
Basman – Grinberg 1980 Excellent pawn sac 8.e5 Black to move

White has a simple threat of 9.g4 winning the stranded knight, after 8…Bf8 9.Nf3 Nc6 (9…Bg4 10.Qb3! is awkward) 10.Qb3! white has a clear advantage:

Basman - Grinberg After 10.Qb3
Basman – Grinberg After 10.Qb3 Black to move

The next few moves showed what a pickle black is in 10…e6 11.g4! Ng7 12.Bh6! reaching this horror show for black:

Basman - Grinberg After 12.Bh6
Basman – Grinberg After 12.Bh6 Black to move

The knight on g7 is particularly awkward. Basman went on to win a fine game.

The second illustrative game shows one of the authors, Simon Williams, in scintillating form beating Katarzyna Toma following the Mike Basman game until move 9, where black varied with 9…Ng7, white responded with the natural 10.Qb3!

Williams - Toma 10.Qb3
Williams – Toma 10.Qb3 Black to move

Stockfish gives this as a clear plus to white. Simon went on to win a fine game.

Chapter 2: The Basic Repertoire

This section gives the reader a quick overview of the repertoire against black’s main tries. It is a useful introduction to all the subsequent chapters. As I stated above, this chapter is adequate coverage for a less experienced player to play this system.

Chapter 3:  Gruenfeldesque Lines

As already mentioned, this covers black’s attempt at an early d5.

Stockfish does not like 4…d5 and  gives 5.h5! with an edge for white already!

4...d5 5.h5
4…d5 5.h5 Black to move

Black’s best move, according to the engine, appears to be the nonchalant 5…0-0 completely ignoring white’s attack! 6.hxg6 hxg6 7.cxd5 Nxd5 8.Bh6!

4...d5 early h-file attack
Basman – Grinberg 1980 4…d5 early h-file attack Black to move

This is looks scary for black, but he can defend with 8…Bxh6! 9.Rxh6 Kg7! Nevertheless, white is still for choice here owing to his extra space, central control and the initiative. This is covered in some detail in Chapter 3.
Beware Gruenfeld players!

Chapter 4:  Black Obstructs Harry

Black can block the h-pawn with 3…h6 or 3…h5 which is committal.
The obstructive 3…h5 can lead to either KID or Gruenfeld lines with the extra h4 and h5 moves thrown in. Who does this favour? White can profitably occupy g5 with a bishop or knight that cannot be kicked with h6. Buy the book to find out.

Chapter 5: Other Third Move Alternatives to 3…Bg7

This chapter important alternatives such as the super solid 3…c6 and the more aggressive 3…c5 which can lead to Benoni or Benko Gambit type positions.

The solid 3…c6 cannot be a bad move. White responds by going into a Schlechter Slav viz: 4.Nc3 d5 5.cxd5 cxd5 6.Bf4 Nc6 7.e3 Bg7 8.Be2 h5 9.Nf3 0-0 10.Qb3

Exchange Slav type position 10.Qb3
Exchange Slav type position 10.Qb3 Black to play

White has a pull here and his position is easier to play. The line given in the book involves black playing a5 a few moves later which is a little compliant creating weaknesses.

After the Benko Gambit type response viz: 1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 g6 3.h4  c5 4.d5 b5!? 5.cxb5 a6 6.e3!

Benko Response 6.e3
Benko Response 6.e3 Black to play

White plays solidly and intends to use b5 as an outpost to slow black’s counterplay. Clearly black has some compensation here but not a full pawn’s worth. A critical line here may be 6…Bg7 7.Nc3  0-0 8.a4! e6!? This is covered in the book.

Chapter 6: King’s Indian Style 3…Bg7

This and the final chapter are probably the key chapters for more experienced players who want to get to the meaty main lines.

Chapter 7: The Main Line: 3…Bg7 and 6…c5

After these natural moves 1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 g6 3.h4 Bg7 4.Nc3 d6 5.e4 0-0 6.Be2 c5 7.d5 e6 8.h5 exd5 9.exd5! Re8 10.h6! Bh8  11.Bg5, this tabiya is reached:

Main tabiya
Main tabiya after 11.Bg5 Black to move

This is a hot position played quite a bit at the top level. The open e-file may look scary for white, but the king can slide to f1. White’s space advantage is significant and black can have difficulties finding counterplay. Stockfish gives white about a small advantage. More important than that is understanding the ideas in this interesting position. Get the book to further your knowledge.

For those competitors fed up with meeting reams of KID or Gruenfeld theory, I recommend giving The Harry Attack a go!

FM Richard Webb, Chineham, Hampshire, 9th June 2024

FM Richard Webb
FM Richard Webb

Book Details :

  • Paperback: 400 pages
  • Publisher:  Everyman Chess (12 Jun. 2023)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1781947066
  • ISBN-13: 978-1781947067
  • Product Dimensions: 17.17 x 1.4 x 23.39 cm

Official web site of Everyman Chess

King's Indian Killer: The Harry Attack, Simon Williams and Richard Palliser, Everyman Chess, ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-1781947067
King’s Indian Killer: The Harry Attack, Simon Williams and Richard Palliser, Everyman Chess, ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-1781947067
 Save as PDF

Understanding Pawn Endgames

Understanding Pawn Endgames: Valentin Bogdanov

From the publisher, Gambit Publications “Understanding the endgame is fundamental to playing good chess, and at its heart lie positions where just kings and pawns remain on the board.

Even when a pawn ending is not actually reached, the players must often assess ones that could arise from an exchange of pieces. And an error calculating a pawn ending is normally fatal. Questions of pawn-structure, and thus decisions made early in the game, can be fully understood only when we appreciate how they impact the possible pawn endings.

This book takes a practical angle, so is the perfect complement to Secrets of Pawn Endings, which examines their theory in detail. Experienced trainer Bogdanov examines a wealth of pawn endings where strong players made significant errors, and draws lessons and rules of thumb from them.

While we are enjoying the entertaining material in this book, we are painlessly absorbing endgame principles and improving our intuitive decision-making skills. We learn how to calculate and identify key positional elements, and appreciate the beautiful tactics and paradoxical ideas that are unique to the world of pawns.

The Nunn Convention is used throughout the book, and all the material has been checked in detail with modern NNUE-based engines with access to seven-man tablebases.”

International Master Valentin Bogdanov has vast experience as a chess trainer, and is from Ukraine. His pupils include grandmasters Moskalenko, Savchenko and Drozdovsky, and he has acted as a second for the well-known grandmaster and theoretician Viacheslav Eingorn since the late 1970s.

For 50 years he has been a teacher at the chess school in Odesa (Ukraine), and in 2016 won the European Over-65 Championship. In the same year he also qualified as an International Arbiter and has since then officiated over a great many chess events in his country.

This is his fourth book for Gambit.

IM Valentin Bogdanov (UKR)
IM Valentin Bogdanov (UKR)

Before we start our review it is worth watching this video preview from John Nunn and Gambit Publications:

This is a excellent book that has an emphasis on practical king and pawn endgames. All the examples are taken from 1981 onwards which means that the reader will see novel positions rather than a rehash of old favourites. The other fresh approach is the structure of the ten chapters based on themes rather than the number of pawns. This book is not for beginners or very inexperienced club players as it assumes a basic knowledge of elementary pawn endgames. It is aimed at 1750+ chess enthusiasts but ambitious lower rated readers will benefit from some of the easier examples. The more difficult positions will tax GMs. This book would be ideal material for a coach for training purposes to give the students a toolkit of ideas.

The chapter structure is as follows:

Chapter 1: Obvious Errors
Chapter 2: Breakthrough
Chapter 3: Zugzwang
Chapter 4: Opposition and Corresponding Squares
Chapter 5:Spare Tempi
Chapter 6: The Fight To Promote
Chapter 7: Changing the Pawn-Structure
Chapter 8: Calculation
Chapter 9: Evaluating the Resulting Queen Endings
Chapter 10: Positional Play

The reviewer will  show examples distributed from all the chapters to give the reader a flavour of this instructional idyll.

Chapter 1: Obvious Errors

Position 21

Movsesian-Sadvakasov Calvia Olympiad 2004
Movsesian-Sadvakasov Calvia Olympiad 2004              White to play

White, Movsesian, a 2600+ GM played the dreadful blunder 59.Kc6? (throwing away a totally winning pawn endgame. 59.Kc5! wins as the threat is to play Kb4 which will preserve white’s remaining pawn as a b-pawn with the king in front and a reserve tempo move of b3, if 59…a3 60.bxa3! Ke7 61. Kc6 Kd8 62.Kb7! and the a-pawn promotes) 59…Ke6 60.Kb5 reaching this position:

Movsesian-Sadvakasov Move 60 Calvia Olympiad 2004
Movsesian-Sadvakasov Calvia Olympiad 2004 Move 60 Black to play

Now, black drew with a common, but nevertheless neat idea:
60…a3! (transforming white’s pawn into a now useless a-pawn, as black’s king is just close enough to draw) 61.bxa3! Kd7! 62.Kb6 Kc8! reaching c8 with an elementary draw

Position 22

Forcen Esteban - Lagarde
Forcen Esteban – Lagarde Internet rapid 2019 Move 83 Black to play

This position is simpler than the last one.
Both players are rated well over 2500!
Black is to play here and after the obvious 83..b3, it is crystal clear to a novice player that both sides are going to promote with a draw, even though white promotes first. If 83…Kb7 trying to impede the advance of the d-pawn, white can play 84.Kf6 making sure that the d-pawn does promote with a stone cold draw.
Black played 83…Kb8? (Placing the king on the back rank presumably in the mistaken belief that he could stop the white pawn from promoting. 84.Kf6! b3 85.d7! followed by promoting with check, winning the game, thanks to black’s foolish Kb8 move!

Chapter 2: Breakthrough

This is a key topic in pawn endings and there are many beautiful examples. Sometimes, the threat of a breakthrough can limit the opponent’s king manoeuvres, thus winning the game indirectly.
Once a player has seen some pretty examples of this theme, they are never forgotten.

Position 33

Nikolic-Lautier Reykjavik rapid 2004
Nikolic-Lautier Reykjavik rapid 2004                                   White to play

White missed a chance for a standard breakthrough against black’s mangled pawns viz: 35.h5 Kd7 36.g5 reaching this key position:

Nikolic-Lautier Reykjavik rapid 2005 Move 36
Nikolic-Lautier Reykjavik rapid 2005 Move 36                 Black to move

Now there are two main variations:

A) 36…Ke8 37.gxh6! Kf8 38.Kc2 Kg8 39.Kb3

Nikolic-Lautier Reykjavik rapid 2005 variation A
Nikolic-Lautier Reykjavik rapid 2005 variation A

and white wins the race to get a new queen for example: 39… Kh7 (39…a5 40.a4 breaks through) 40.Kb4 Kxh6 41.Kc5 Kxh5 42.Kxd5 Kg4 43.Kc6 Kxf4 44.d5 wins easily

B) 36…fxg5 37.fxg5! Ke8 38.gxh6! Kf8 39.Ke3

Nikolic-Lautier Reykjavik rapid 2005 variation B
Nikolic-Lautier Reykjavik rapid 2005 variation B

39…Kg8 40.Kf4 Kh7 41.Kg5 winning

Back to the original position: white played 35.Kc2? f5! 36.g5 h5! 37. Kb3 draw agreed

Position 36

Gashimov-Anastasian Dubai 2003 Move 53
Gashimov-Anastasian Dubai 2003 Move 53                     White to play

White has an outside passed a-pawn and was probably dreaming of swapping his a-pawn for black’s c-pawn, leaving black to deal with an outside passed b-pawn, while white’s king mops up the king side pawns winning the game, hence his next move 53.Kc3?

A more alert white player would have spotted the danger of black’s advanced kingside pawns. It might look as though black can only create a passed e-pawn as his extra kingside pawn is on the e-file, but this an illusion: black can now breakthrough creating a pawn configuration that ties down the white king permanently, thus allowing black to win on the queenside. Once seen never forgotten!
53…e4! would have won threatening e3 or f3 winning, if 54.Kd2 f3! 55.gxf3 exf3 reaching a position similar to the game

53…Kd5? 54.a4? Pursing his faulty plan, 54.Kd2! would have drawn 54…e4! 55.Kd2 (55.gxf4 allows an immediate breakthrough 55…e3! 56.fxe3 h4! and the h-pawn queens) 55…f3! 56.gxf3 exf3! reaching this position:

Gashimov-Anastasian Dubai 2003 Move 56
Gashimov-Anastasian Dubai 2003 Move 56                    White to play

White’s king is tied down and cannot cross to the c-file as this allows a decisive breakthrough of h4! Therefore black’s king can invade on the queenside with decisive gains viz: 57.Ke3 Kc5 58.Ke4 Kb4 59.Kd4 Kxa4 60.Kxc4 h4 61.b3+ Ka3 62.gxh4 g3! 63.Kd4 0-1

Position 38

Mamedyarov-Sokolov Hoogeveen 2006
Mamedyarov-Sokolov Hoogeveen 2006                             White to play

White missed the elegant 59.f5! b3 60.Kc3! Kd5 61.e6 fxe6 62.f6 62…gxf6 63.h5! and the h-pawn queens.

White played 59.Kc4? and still won after black missed a draw.

Chapter 3: Zugzwang

Here is a subtle example, but nevertheless didactic:

Position 56

Grabarczyk - Rustemov
Grabarczyk – Rustemov Koszalin 1997                                 Black to play

This ending looks like an easy win for black with a extra passed pawn. But be careful!
Black played the natural 52…Kg5? which throws away the win. This won’t become clear for a few moves. 52…Kg6! wins
53.f4+ exf3 54.Kxf3! h5 55.Kg3! reaching a position of mutual zugzwang:

Grabarczyk-Rustemov Mutual Zugzwang
Grabarczyk-Rustemov Mutual Zugzwang

If black had played 52…Kg6, white would be on move here and would be lost as 56.Kh3 or 56.Kf3 would be met by 56…h4 and any other king move would allow 56…Kg4 winning easily.

The game continued 55…h4+ 56.Kf3! Kh5 57.Kf4! Kh6 58.e4! h3 59.Kg3 drawn

Chapter 4: Opposition and Corresponding Squares

The introduction to this chapter is excellent explaining the concept of the opposition, the distant opposition, corresponding squares and triangulation.

Here is a simple example from a game between players rated in the 2400s:

Position 70

Heim - Helmers Reykjavik 1981
Heim – Helmers Reykjavik 1981                                               White to play

White played the “active” 55.Ke4? (55.Kf2! maintaining the distant opposition draws a textbook ending) 55…Ke6! winning the opposition 56. Kf3 Kd5 bypassing 57.Ke3 Ke5! 58.Kf3 Kd4 (another bypass) 59.Kf2 Kd3 60.Kf3 g4+ and white threw in the towel

Chapter 5: Spare Tempi

Position 105

Siugirov - Lupulescu Jerusalem 2015
Siugirov – Lupulescu Jerusalem 2015                                     Black to Play

The author’s explanation of black’s defensive plan here is pithy and pedagogical:

“Black’s defensive plan is to let White  take the a7-pawn and then block the king in permanently in front of his own a-pawn. For this idea to work, Black needs a spare tempo on the kingside, as otherwise he will be forced to release the white king from its a-file prison. Immediately fixing the kingside pawns by 43…g5!? secures two such tempi and is the simplest path to a draw viz: 44.Kc6 Ke5 45.Kb7 Kd6! 46.Kxa7 Kc7! 47.h3 h6 48.a6 h5!”

Siugirov - Lupulescu Jerusalem 2016 Trapped king
Siugirov – Lupulescu Jerusalem 2016 Trapped king

White does not enough tempi to release his imprisoned king.

In practice Black played 43…Kd7 which retains the draw but mis-defended on the next move and lost.

Interestingly, I had a similar position in a game many decades ago with reversed flanks. I won the game and proudly showed the endgame to a friend, who promptly demonstrated a drawing plan for my opponent identical to this game.

Chapter 6: The Fight To Promote

Mchedlishvili - Jankovic
Mchedlishvili – Jankovic Dubai 2009                                     White to move

White totally mis-assessed the resulting king and pawn endgame after the exchange of queens here. He probably thought that his connected passed pawns on the kingside were at least a match for black’s queenside majority. 

34.Qxf7+? Kxf7 35.g4 a5 36.Kf2 c5 37.Ke3 d5 38.Kd3 a5 reaching this position:

Mchedlishvili - Jankovic Winning queenside majority
Mchedlishvili – Jankovic Winning queenside majority

What white missed was that black can create a passed a-pawn and a passed d-pawn (separated by two files) and these pawns can reach the fifth rank safely which means they are unstoppable.

White played the desperate 39.c4 dxc4+ (39…bxc4+ also wins) 40.Kc3 a3 41.h4 Kg6 42.g5 h5 43.Kd2 b4 44.Kc2 c3 white resigned

7: Changing the Pawn-Structure

This is one of the most complex chapters and the hardest to evaluate in practice.

The reviewer will show an excellent example to show a typical idea:

Position 153

Kasparov - Azmaiparashvili Geropotamos rapid 2003
Kasparov – Azmaiparashvili Geropotamos rapid 2003  Black to play

Black played the automatic 46…Kc6? White won with a well known technique exploiting the fact that his king is one move ahead in the race to the kingside 47.h4! f5 48.g3! Kc5 (48…Kc7 49.Ka7 Kc6 50.Kb8 wins) 49.Kb7! and black resigned because of this variation: 49…b5 50.axb5 Kxb5 51.Kc7 Kc4 52.Kd6 Kd3 53.Ke6 Ke3 54.Kf6 Kf3 55.Kxg6! Kxg3

Kasparov - Azmaiparashvili Geropotamos rapid 2004 possible continuation
Kasparov – Azmaiparashvili Geropotamos rapid 2004 possible continuation White to play

56.Kg5! winning

Going back to the original position:

Kasparov - Azmaiparashvili Geropotamos rapid 2003
Kasparov – Azmaiparashvili Geropotamos rapid 2003  Black to play

Instead of the passive 46…Kc6? black can actively rearrange the kingside pawn structure to draw as follows:

46…h4! 47.Ka7 f5 48.h3

Kasparov - Azmaiparashvili Geropotamos rapid 2004 variation in missed draw
Kasparov – Azmaiparashvili Geropotamos rapid 2004 variation in missed draw Black to play

48…Kc6! 49.Kb8 Kc5 50.Kc7 Kb4 51.Kxb6 Kxa4 52.Kc5 Kb3! 53.Kd4 Kc2! 54. Ke5 Kd3 55.Kf6 Ke4 56.Kxg6 Kxf4! 57.Kf6!

Kasparov - Azmaiparashvili Geropotamos rapid 2004 variation in missed move 57
Kasparov – Azmaiparashvili Geropotamos rapid 2004 variation in missed draw move 57 Black to play

Black draws here with 57…Ke4! 58.Kg5 Ke5! 59.Kxh4 Kf4! 60.g4 (60.g3 Ke3 draws) 60…Ke5! 61.g5 f4! 62.Kg4 Ke4! leads to a drawn Q + h-pawn v Q endgame

Kasparov - Azmaiparashvili Geropotamos rapid 2004 variation in missed move 62
Kasparov – Azmaiparashvili Geropotamos rapid 2004 variation in missed draw move 62 White to play

Position 158

The reviewer loves this endgame.

Gelfand-Jobava (Move 50)
Gelfand-Jobava (Move 50)

This king and pawn ending is clearly drawn but white is pressing with a more advanced king. White played 50.h4 setting a subtle trap. 50…h5? losing, incredible to believe but it is true. 50…Kd7 draws, for example 51.g4 f6+ 52.Kd5 e6+ 53.Kc5 h6 54. e5 fxe5 55.fxe5 Kc7 seizing the opposition and drawing 51.f5! f6+ 52.Ke6! gxf5

Gelfand-Jobava (Move 53)
Gelfand-Jobava (Move 53)

Now white played 53. e5! which had been completed missed by black (automatic recapture syndrome) 53… fxe5 54.Kxe5! Kd7 55.Kxf5! Kd6 56.Kg5 Ke5 57.Kxh5! Kf4

Gelfand-Jobava (Move 57)
Gelfand-Jobava (Move 57)

Now white can enter a winning queen endgame with 58.Kg6! e5 59.h5! e4 60.h6! e3 61.h7! e2! 62.h8Q e1Q 

Gelfand - Jobava Dortmund 2006 Queen Ending
Gelfand – Jobava Dortmund 2006 Queen Ending            White to play

This looks drawn as the white g-pawn is only on the second rank and the black king is close to it. However, white has a series of checks to exploit the poor position of the black pieces viz:

63. Qb8+ Kg4 64. Qc8+ Kf4 (64…Kg3 65.Qh3! is the same as the game) 65. Qf5+ Kg3 66.Qh3+ Ke5 67.g4!

Gelfand - Jobava Dortmund 2006 Queen Ending Tablebase win
Gelfand – Jobava Dortmund 2006 Queen Ending Tablebase win

Surprisingly this is a tablebase win even though the g-pawn is only on the fourth rank. Looking more closely at the position, black’s pieces are badly placed with the king interfering with the queen. If the black king was in the south west corner, he would draw.

Gelfand did win this game about 50 moves later after mistakes by both sides.

Chapter 8: Calculation

Clearly this is absolutely critical in king and pawn endings.
Here is a relatively simple example:

Position 172

Ikonnikov - Liogky Paris 1998
Ikonnikov – Liogky Paris 1998 Black to play

Black played the obvious exchange 47…hxg5? which loses trivially 48.hxg5! Kf1 49.Kf3! Kg1 50.Kg3 (50.g6 Kh2 51.Kg4! also wins) 50…Kg1 51.g6! Black resigned as white’s king travels to f7 and black’s cannot get to h6 in time.

Ikonnikov - Liogky Paris 1999 End
Ikonnikov – Liogky Paris 1999 Final Position Black to play

Going back to the start:

Ikonnikov - Liogky Paris 1998
Ikonnikov – Liogky Paris 1998

Black can draw with 47…h5! After 48.g6 viz:

Ikonnikov - Liogky Paris 1999 Drawing Line
Ikonnikov – Liogky Paris 1999 Drawing Line

As soon as white plays Kxh5, black will answer Kf4 stalemate!
If white goes after the g-pawn, black draws by going after the h-pawn, for example 48…Kf1 49.Kf4 Kg2 50.Ke5 Kh3 51.Ke6 Kxh4 52.Kf7 Kg3 53.Kg7 h4 54.Kf6 h3 55.g7 h2 56.g8Q+ Kf2 drawing

Chapter 9: Evaluating the Resulting Queen Endings

The introduction to this chapter by the author is a superb summary of the intricacies of these transitions. The reviewer has already given an example from Chapter 7 (position 158), so I will leave the reader to buy the book to sample this chapter.

Chapter 10: Positional Play

Position 259

Radjabov - Ding Liren Internet rapid 2021
Radjabov – Ding Liren Internet rapid 2021 Black to play

This looks very difficult for black as not only does white have a potential outside passed pawn but also a better king. He played 52…Kc6? and lost. Buy the book to find out how black can draw or work it for yourself!

In summary, this is a really good book and close study will reap rewards.  The book is very well laid out and is easy to read with lots of diagrams. Thoroughly recommended.

FM Richard Webb, Chineham, Hampshire, 30th May 2021

FM Richard Webb
FM Richard Webb

Here is a pdf extract from Everyman

Book Details :

  • Hardcover : 192 pages
  • Publisher: Gambit Publications Ltd (16 Sept. 2020)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1911465597
  • ISBN-13: 978-1911465591
  • Product Dimensions: 17.15 x 1.52 x 24.77 cm

Official web site of Gambit Publications Ltd.

Understanding Pawn Endgames, Valentin Bogdanov, Gambit Publications, ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-1915328854
Understanding Pawn Endgames, Valentin Bogdanov, Gambit Publications, ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-1915328854
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Thinkers Chess Academy Volume 3 – Test your chess knowledge – Crucial exercises to sharpen your understanding

Grandmaster Thomas Luther, born in 1969, is the first player with a disability to have entered the FIDE Top 100 rating list. In 2001 he was ranked 80th in the world. He has won the German Championship three times and is well known as an experienced and successful coach. In 2014 his achievements were recognised by being granted the title of FIDE Senior Trainer. In his career to-date he has published several books and DVDs. This is his fourth book for Thinkers’ Publishing, after a co-production with Jugend Schach Verlag entitled ‘Chess Coaching for Kids – the U10 Project‘ and the current series

GM Thomas Luther
GM Thomas Luther

This is the third volume in Thinkers’ Chess Academy (TCA), an ever-growing series written by Grandmaster and FIDE Senior Trainer Thomas Luther intended for beginners through to club standard players.

John Upham has previously reviewed the first volume, First Steps in Tactics, although I note a negative review on Amazon which considered the examples were too hard for the target market. Volume 2, From Tactics to Strategy – Winning Knowledge, which, I believe, hasn’t been submitted for review by BCN, covers more advanced tactics along with an introduction to strategy.

Volume 3 is designed as a workbook for readers of the two previous volumes, while also providing more challenging exercises for ambitious students.

From the author’s introduction (it’s also on the publisher’s website):

Not every reader is ambitious enough or has enough time to work very hard on his chess. That’s quite understandable and nothing to be ashamed of. You can enjoy chess very well without being a strong tournament player. You could just entertain yourself by playing through interesting combinations. In this case don’t try too hard to solve the Advanced Lessons or Master Class exercises. Have a look to make yourself familiar with the position, than look at the solution and enjoy the surprising combinations. You won’t learn as much as you would by racking your brain to crack the hard nuts. But some knowledge and experience will certainly rub off and increase your understanding of chess. I hope this book will help you to work towards your goals and let have you fun with chess.

The book has an unusual structure. We have 20 chapters alternately easier and harder, with the answers at the end of each chapter. Less experienced players are advised to work through the odd numbered chapters first before tackling the odd numbered chapters, while stronger players could work through the book in order, using the odd numbered chapters as ward-up exercises.

An interesting concept, but does it work? Let’s take a look inside. All the odd numbered chapters are billed simply as ‘Quick Test’, although their specific themes are discussed in the chapter introductions.  The first Quick Test, which corresponds to Chapter 7 of TCA1, features mates in up to 2 moves. Other tests involve winning material in various ways. There is a gradual increase in length and complexity, until, by Chapter 19 you’ll be able to find wins (material or mate) in up to 5 moves.

I enjoyed Chapter 9 (Quick Test 5): From The Good Old Times!

Can you find this mate in 3 (Napier – Amateur 1904)?

Ng5+ is only a mate in 4: it’s quicker and more spectacular to play 1. Qg6+ Bxg6 2. Ng5+ hxg5 3. hxg6#

This, for example is Q12 in Chapter 19.

If you can solve this within a few seconds you’re a pretty good tactician: quite a jump forward from the simple positions in Chapter 1.

In case you haven’t spotted it yet: 1. Bxf6 Bxf6 2. Qxe6+ Kg7 3. Qxf6+ Kxf6 4. Nxd5+ followed by 5. Nxb6.

The even numbered chapters, apart from Chapter 2, have more specific titles, Chapters 4-12 being Advanced Lessons and Chapters 14-20 being Master Classes. We have (from 4 in steps of 2): Easy Tactics in the Endgame, Chess History, Checkmate in Up to 5 Moves, Advantage or Mate in Up to 5 Moves, All Kinds of Draws, Advantage in 5 or More Moves, The Classics, Studies and finally The Long Way to Checkmate. Yes, of course some two move combinations can be much harder to spot than some five move combinations, but the author has been very careful in his choice of material.

This is from Chapter 10: Mohammad Fahad – Vatsal Mumbai 2018.

White won by continuing 17. fxe6 fxe6 18. Nxe5 dxe5 19. Nxe6 Bxe6 20. Bb5+ Kf7 21. Qf2+ Bf6 22. Rxd8. A nice example of a clearance; very difficult to see, according to Luther.

Like many leading chess teachers these days, Thomas Luther is very keen on endgame studies. “Don’t be frightened or repulsed by the studies”, he says in the introduction to Chapter 4. “They are not like problem chess but very practical and instructive. You can learn a lot by trying to solve them.”

Here, from Chapter 18, is an 1851 study by Horwitz and Kling.

The solution runs like this: 1. Ra4+ Ke5 2. Ra5 c5 3. Rxc5 Qxc5 4. d4+ Qxd4 5. Nc6+ Kd5 6. Nxd4 Kxd4 7. Kf3

Instructive, I think, because you need to know basic KP v K theory as well as being able to spot knight forks.

The book is beautifully produced and the author has clearly put a lot of thought into both the selection of the puzzles and the structure of the chapters.

If you’re following the Thinkers’ Chess Academy series you’ll definitely want this book. If you’re looking for a book, with puzzles you probably haven’t seen before, this book would also be an excellent choice. I would place this volume high up in my list of recommended puzzle books for club standard players.

Of course many players these days prefer to solve puzzles online, but there’s also much to be said for the old-fashioned method of using a book. Although I’d guess the main target market would be roughly 1250-1750 rated players, anyone between, say, 1000 and 2000 strength would find this book both instructive and enjoyable. Lower rated players should work through the odd numbered chapters first, while higher rated players will prefer to start at the beginning and work through sequentially.

If you want to make sure the book’s for you, you can read the first three chapters here.

Richard James, Twickenham 3rd June 2024

Richard James
. Richard James

Book Details:

  • Softcover : 362 pages
  • Publisher: Thinkers Publishing; 1st edition (20 Dec. 2022)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 9464201673
  • ISBN-13: 978-9464201673
  • Product Dimensions: 17.02 x 2.54 x 23.37 cm

Official web site of Thinkers Publishing

Thinkers Chess Academy Volume 3 – Test your chess knowledge – Crucial exercises to sharpen your understanding, Thomas Luther, Thinker's Publishing, Thinkers Publishing; 1st edition (20 Dec. 2022)
Thinkers Chess Academy Volume 3 – Test your chess knowledge – Crucial exercises to sharpen your understanding, Thomas Luther, Thinker’s Publishing, Thinkers Publishing; 1st edition (20 Dec. 2022)

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Minor Pieces 74: Charles Dealtry Locock (1)

Sir Charles Locock (1799-1875) was an interesting chap. Queen Victoria’s obstretician, he also pioneered potassium bromide as a treatment for epilepsy and conducted the autopsy in the notorious Eastbourne Manslaughter Case, establishing that an unfortunate 15-year-old boy had died as a result of corporal punishment.

Locock had five sons, four of whom had distinguished careers. Charles junior became a barrister, Alfred a clergyman, Sidney a diplomat and Herbert an army officer. The middle son, Frederick, though, was the black sheep of the family. He married the illegitimate daughter of a labourer and brought up a son who claimed he was the illegitimate child of Princess Louise. There’s little evidence that this might be true, so we’ll move swiftly on to the Reverend Alfred Henry Locock.

Alfred married Anna Maria Dealtry: their four children were Ella, Charles Dealtry, Henry and Mabel.

Charles Dealtry Locock, born in Brighton on 27 September 1862, was a lifelong chess addict. He started playing chess at his prep school, Cheam, which is now in Hampshire, but really was in Cheam in those days, delivering a back rank mate at the age of 6 or 7, and later winning a tournament there. I would have thought chess tournaments at prep schools were quite unusual in those days. Moving to Winchester at the age of 13, and playing chess on his first evening there, he could find no one to beat him, instead immersing himself in the world of chess problems.

In Autumn 1881 Locock went up to University College Oxford, where he takes up the story.

Wainwright (see here, here and here) was sufficiently impressed to select his adversary for matches against the Oxford city club, Birmingham and the City of London club. At first he was placed on bottom board, but rapidly worked his way up the board order.

In those days the standard of play in the universities wasn’t strong, and their teams would take on the Knight’s Class players of the City of London Club (who would receive knight odds from the top players). Here, he describes a game was one of those matches.

I’m not sure how reliable Locock’s memoir is. We do have a game against Staniforth with a bishop on b2, but otherwise it doesn’t match this description. As with all the games in this article, just click on any move for a pop-up window.

By the 1882 Varsity Match Locock had reached Board 3, where he scored a draw and a win against Edward Lancelot Raymond. He already had quite a reputation as a tactician, the BCM describing him as ‘perhaps the most brilliant and attacking player now at either University’. Unfortunately, the score of his second game, decided ‘by an uncommonly happy series of finishing strokes’, does not appear to have survived.

The 1883 Varsity Match found Locock on top board against Frank Morley. The first game was a solid draw, but the second was more exciting. Zukertort adjudicated the game a draw, but today’s engines give Morley (Black, to play) a winning advantage after h5 (or h6) followed by Ng4.

That summer he played his first tournament, the Second Class section of the Counties Chess Association meeting in Birmingham, scoring 10/14 for second place, a point behind Pollock.

In October that year he took part in a Living Chess exhibition in his home town of Brighton. It all sounded rather splendid.

The Graphic 27 October 1883

Playing against auctioneer and estate agent Walter Mead, early exchanges led to Locock being a pawn down. Exchanges in living chess games are always fun, but didn’t really play to his strengths. (The game had actually been played the previous day: they re-created the moves for the exhibition.)

Round about this point we have a mystery. Several correspondence games between Locock and FA Vincent were published, dated 1884. Locock’s memoirs suggest they were actually played much earlier, when he was still at school. They also state that his opponent was Mrs Vincent, while newspaper columns of the time refer to this player as Mr Vincent. We can identify Francis Arthur Frederick Vincent, a retired Indian Civil Servant who had been born in Singapore, living in Cam, Gloucestershire (not far from Slimbridge Wetland Centre) with his wife, born, rather strangely, Sutherland Rebecca Sutherland. It’s not clear which of them was the chess player, or whether they might have collaborated on their games. If you know more than I do, don’t hesitate to get in touch.

In the 1884 Varsity Match Locock again faced Frank Morley on top board. This time they only had time for one game, and, more than compensating for the previous year’s incorrect adjudication, he was awarded a win in a lost position, even though Bird, the adjudicator, spent 15 minutes determining what the result should be.

In summer 1884 Locock was promoted to Division 2 of the First Class tournament in the Counties Chess Association gathering, held that year in Bath, finishing on 4½/10. First place was divided between Fedden, Loman and Pollock.

However, his game against Blake, where, after getting the worst of the opening, he successfully ventured a positional queen sacrifice for two minor pieces, demonstrated exactly why his creativity, imagination and tactical ability were so highly regarded. He must have seen at move 18 that his queen was being trapped.

Here’s a position from a game against Colonel Duncan of the St George’s Club (whom I suspect was this rather interesting fellow) he sacrificed four pawns for nebulous attacking chances against his opponent’s Benoni formation.

He was rewarded when the Colonel overlooked his threat, playing 31… b3?? (there were plenty of good defences available), allowing 32. Qxh6!! Kg8 33. Rxg6 with a winning attack.

In the 1885 Varsity Match Locock was again on top board, this time facing a former prodigy, John Drew Roberts. This game suggested that, although he excelled at attacking play, he was less comfortable in endings.

Here, Locock (Black, to move), would have been slightly better after a move like d4 or a5, but misguidedly played 32… b5?, allowing 33. b4!, fixing some pawns on the same colour square as his bishop.

A few moves later he erred again: Bd7, for example, should hold, but after 35… Rf8? 36. Rxf8+ Kxf8 37. b4! he was saddled with a bad bishop against a good knight. Roberts converted his advantage efficiently.

From these examples, we can see that Locock was a player with very specific strengths and weaknesses.

The 1885 Counties Chess Association meeting was held in Hereford, and, in the Class 1A tournament he shared first place with another old friend of ours, George Archer Hooke.

The game between the two winners was a very exciting affair which Locock really should have won, but positions with queens flying round an open board are never easy to calculate.

Locock’s fifth and last Varsity Match appearance in 1886 was another defeat, when he misdefended against Herman George Gwinner’s kingside attack. That year he finally graduated with honours in Classics.

In the Counties Chess Association meeting in Nottingham he encountered two members of the Marriott family in the Minor Tournament Division 1. John Owen took first place, ahead of Edwin Marriott, with Locock, Thomas Marriott and George MacDonnell sharing third place. Although he lost to both Marriotts he managed to beat Owen, who blundered in what should have been a drawn ending.

Locock then took a job as an assistant master at Worcester Cathedral School, whose headmaster, William Ernest Bolland, was a chess acquaintance of his.

In August 1887, placed in a stronger section, he disappointed in the Counties Chess Association meeting in Stamford. Blake won with 5/6, and Locock’s solitary point left him in last place.

Later in the year (I’m not sure how he managed to get the time off his teaching job) he took part in the Amateur Championship in the 3rd British Chess Association Congress. He won his qualifying group, shared 1st place in the final group, where he encountered his old University friend Wainwright, and won the play-off against Frederick Anger, making him the British Amateur Chess Champion.

August 1888 gave Locock his first taste of international chess. The British Chess Association held a tournament in Bradford, and Locock was invited to take part. His score was respectable given the strength of the opposition.

It could have been so much better, though. He certainly should have beaten MacKenzie in the first round.

He lost in ridiculous fashion against the tournament winner in a game which he might later have confused with the Staniforth game.

Either Nxg7 or the simple Rxe1 would have given him a very large advantage, but instead he played the absurd Qh6??, simply overlooking that Black could block the discovered check with f6.

His game against Mortimer again demonstrated his prowess in the Ruy Lopez.

On 12 February 1889, at St George’s Hanover Square, Charles Dealtry Locock married his first cousin, Ida Gertrude Locock, a daughter of Charles’s army officer Uncle Herbert. They can’t have had much time for a honeymoon as he was soon in action again over the board.

In a March 1889 match between Oxford Past and Cambridge Past (the first of what would become an annual event) he faced an interesting opponent in economist John Neville Keynes, the father of John Maynard Keynes.

Again he attacked strongly in the opening, but missed the best continuation, allowing his opponent to equalise, and then blundered in what should have been a drawn ending.

They met again in the same fixture two years later, the game resulting in a draw.

At the end of 1889 Locock resigned his position at Worcester Cathedral School, briefly taking a post at Hereford Grammar School before moving to London.

The BCA ran another strong international tournament in 1890, this time in Manchester. This time Locock was less successful, although he did score 50% against the top four.

Unlike two years before, he made no mistake against MacKenzie.

In 1891 Locock’s first daughter was born in Hawkhurst, Kent, although his location was still being given as London at the time. He was also still playing at the British Chess Club, winning this brilliant miniature against a strong opponent in their handicap tournament.

In 1892 the BCA ran another international tournament, this time in London, with the participation of the young Emanuel Lasker. Locock did well to score 6½/11.

Unfortunately, his draw against Lasker doesn’t appear to have been published, but we do have this game.

This would be his last tournament, although he continued playing in matches for several more years.

Soon afterwards Charles Dealtry Locock and his family moved out of London and back to his county of birth, settling in the village of Burwash, not all that far from Hawkhurst. Although it was 15 miles away, he wasn’t deterred from joining the Hastings and St Leonards Chess Club.

Hastings and St Leonards Observer 17 December 1892

It was in Burwash that his second daughter was born in 1894. Meanwhile, he was taking part in county and other matches, and playing consultation games with other leading players, a popular feature of Hastings chess at the time.

Here’s an exciting example in which he had a very strong partner.

One of the opposing team would late meet a tragic end, as described in Edward Winter’s excellent and thorough article here.

The same year a cable match took place between the British and Manhattan Chess Clubs, which was the predecessor of the official Anglo-American Cable Matches starting the following year. Locock was matched against Albert Beauregard Hodges: their game was drawn in 28 moves.

As a gentleman amateur he was just the sort of chap the selectors were looking for, and, although he was no longer an active tournament player he was selected for the Great Britain team for the first four matches. In 1896 he drew a fairly long ending against Edward Hynes, but in 1897 he was well beaten by Jackson Whipps Showalter.

Locock, playing Black, had misplayed the opening, and now Showalter replied to 14… Bxg5 with 15. Rxd7! Kxd7 16. Qg4+ Qe6 17. Qd4+ Kc8 18. Bxg5, having no problem converting his advantage.

This very short consultation game is (or at least was) perhaps his best known game, although it’s not clear whether the game lasted 9 or 18 moves. Unsurprisingly, it involves a queen sacrifice.

This position, from an 1897 match between North London and Hastings & St Leonards, is another demonstration of how Locock’s predilection for sacrifices could end up looking foolish.

He was Black here against Joseph William Hunt.

Locock being Locock, he couldn’t resist the Greek Gift sacrifice here. 11… Bxh2? 12. Kxh2 Ng4+. Here, Hunt played 13. Kg3?, which was unclear, the game eventually resulting in a draw, but 13. Kg1! Qh4 14. Bf4! would have left Black with very little for the piece. These sacrifices usually don’t work if your opponent has a diagonal defence of this nature: there are one or two examples of this in Chess Heroes: Puzzles Book 1. Curiously, the notes in the Pall Mall Gazette (Gunsberg?) claim that 13. Kg1 ‘was obviously impossible owing to Qh4 by Black’. Obviously not, but newspaper annotations, without Stockfish to assist and probably written overnight, were very poor in those days.

In the 1898 Cable Match Locock drew with David Graham Baird, this time missing an early tactical opportunity.

15… Bf3! 16. gxf3 Qh3 was winning, but instead he played 15… g5 and after 16. f3 White was safe, the game eventually resulted in a draw after a long double rook ending.

Locock’s opponent in the 1899 Cable Match was Sidney Paine Johnston.

Here’s the game.

Locock missed a win: 28. Qxe6+ Kh8 29. Rd8!, while Johnston in turn missed 29… Qh6!

There was quite a lot of comment in the press about Locock’s miss. Here’s the Morning Post (Antony Guest):

Morning Post 13 March 1899

Stung by this criticism, he decided it was time to give up competitive over-the-board chess. He kept his word, too. In 1901 it was announced that he’d compete in the Kent Congress, but he changed his mind. This was indeed the end of that part of his chess career.


Many years later he recalled:

Charles Dealtry Locock (27-ix-1872 13-v-1946)

What, then, should we make of Charles Dealtry Locock (pictured above) as a chess player? He was clearly a very creative and imaginative tactician, who, at his best, was of master standard for his day (EdoChess rates him as 2346 in 1892), but his constant quest for brilliancy led him to play the occasional silly move, and he sometimes missed tactical opportunities, particularly if they involved more unusual ideas. He also seemed to find endings rather boring. But perhaps, judging from the quote above, he wasn’t temperamentally suited to competitive chess, finding the pressure of the ticking clock too stressful. I can empathise. Fortunately for him, there were other ways to fuel his chess addiction.

You’ll find out more in my next two Minor Pieces.

Sources and Acknowledgements

Many thanks, first of all, to Brian Denman for kindly sending me his extensive file of Locock games.

Locock’s memoirs, quoted in several places above, and written with a combination of arrogance, false modesty and facetiousness, were published in the January 1933 issue of the British Chess Magazine.

Other sources: Newspaper Library
BritBase (John Saunders)
Chess Notes (Edward Winter)
ChessBase 17/MegaBase 2023/Stockfish 16.1 (Locock here)
EdoChess (Rod Edwards: Locock here)
Correspondence Chess in Britain and Ireland 1824-1987 and British Chess Literature to 1914, both written by Tim Harding and published by McFarland & Company Inc.

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R. P. Michell – A Master of British Chess

I have a parochial interest in any book on Reginald Pryce Michell because he ended his playing career as a member of Kingston Chess Club of which I have the privilege to be President. His main career was in the first third of the twentieth century.  Other notable contemporary club members from the 1930s include the legendary Pakistani player Mir Sultan Khan, the chess author Edward Guthlac Sergeant and Joseph Henry Blake against whom we show some Michell games below.

Updated and Expanded Edition

This new book from Carsten Hansen is a welcome addition to the coverage of an important player who represented England. It is an update and expansion of the book originally published in 1947 by Pitman, London and compiled by Julius du Mont, the former editor of British Chess Magazine.

Julius du Mont, Editor of British Chess Magazine from 1940 to 1949
Julius du Mont, Editor of British Chess Magazine from 1940 to 1949

The original book has long been out of print so the new book allows players to familiarise themselves with an almost-forgotten former luminary of English chess.

R.P. Michell: A Master of British Chess by J. du Mont, Pitman, 1947
R.P. Michell: A Master of British Chess by J. du Mont, Pitman, 1947

Reginald Pryce Michell

I share some background on R. P. Michell from my article on the history of Kingston Chess Club.

Reginald Pryce Michell, British Chess Magazine, Volume XLV1, April, 1926, photographer: Theo J. Gidden, Southport
Reginald Pryce Michell, British Chess Magazine, Volume XLV1, April, 1926, photographer: Theo J. Gidden, Southport

Michell (1873-1938) was the British amateur chess champion in 1902 and played for Great Britain in the inaugural 1927 Olympiad in London and the 1933 Olympiad in Folkestone. He played in eight England v USA cable matches between 1901 and 1911. He participated in the Hastings Premier over 20 years, defeating both Sultan Khan and Vera Menchik in 1932/33. He finished second, third and fourth in the British championship (officially constituted in 1904), beating the multiple champion H.E. Atkins on several occasions. Modern estimates have placed him at the level of a strong international master.

Michell’s track record is all the more remarkable because he worked in a senior position at the Admiralty throughout his career which left him little time to study chess theory or enter competitions. He had a “wide knowledge of English and French literature, and a book of essays in either language was his standby for any unoccupied moment.” He died aged 65 which was the official retirement age at that time.

Michell excelled in the middle game and could hold his own in the endgame as attested by his draws against endgame maestros Capablanca and Rubinstein. In the only article he ever wrote about chess, he singled out books on the endgame as the most useful for practical purposes.

Portrait of R.P. Michell
Portrait of R.P. Michell

E.G. Sergeant wrote of him: “Michell’s courtesy as a chess opponent was proverbial, and on the rare occasions when he lost he always took as much interest in playing the game over afterwards as when he had won, and never made excuses for losing. Of all my opponents, surely he was the most imperturbable. Onlookers might chatter, whisper, fall off chairs, make a noise of any kind, and it seemed not to disturb him; even when short of time, he just sat with his hands between his knees, thinking, thinking.”

Michell’s wife Edith (maiden name Edith Mary Ann Tapsell) was British women’s champion in 1931 (jointly), 1932 and 1935, and played alongside him for Kingston & Thames Valley chess club.

Edith Mary Ann Michell (née Tapsell)
Edith Mary Ann Michell (née Tapsell)

A Master of British Chess – what’s new?

The original book covered 36 games; the new book has been expanded considerably to 67 games. Moreover, the additional games are against some of the most notable players of the era including several world champions. Chess historians should be grateful for the revival of the original game selection, which du Mont described as “characteristic games”, by the addition of another 31 “notable games”.

Self-published books are a labour of love because the subject lacks the mileage to justify the attention of a conventional publisher. The author lacks the quality assurance tasks typically carried out by a publisher such as proofreading and fact-checking. This is apparent in the first part of the book which reproduces the text from the original,  presumably using a scanner which hiccoughed over some obscure passages. The spelling has been converted to American which grates for a book on a quintessentially English player.

A frustrating omission in the new book is a list of games to navigate the collection; the original book contained a list showing game numbers, players, event locations and dates. In mitigation, the new book does have a useful index of openings and ECO codes as well as an index of opponents.  Hansen claims that the first book had 37 games whereas it had 36. Perhaps we can take comfort that later Amazon printings will correct these infelicities.

The new book has some significant improvements over the original. As one might expect, the moves are now in algebraic rather than the descriptive format with which most players under 50 are now unfamiliar. In the text, whilst d-pawn is the modern equivalent of the queen’s pawn, I still hanker after naming the pawn according to the name of the file; it would be a comforting continuity with descriptive notation.  The openings are given their modern names with ECO classifications. Casual readers will appreciate the increased number of diagrams accompanying each game. For example, for the game Blake v Michell, Caterham 1926, the original book only had one diagram compared to a generous five for the new book. Many of the original games did not appear in any commercial database. No doubt this situation will be remedied in short order.

The most frequent opponents listed in the revised book include his strong English contemporaries: Sir George Thomas, William Winter and Fred Yates with four games apiece. Hansen added notable opponents who should have been included in the first book on account of their elevated status in the chess world including five world champions: Alekhine, Botvinnik, Capablanca (two games), Euwe, Menchik (woman world champion) as well as Maroczy, Marshall, Rubinstein and Sultan Khan who were posthumously recognised as grandmasters.

The Edited First Part

The first part of the book carries the concise game summaries of the original which were proofread by the precocious Leonard Barden whilst still at Whitgift School who lived a short cycle ride from du Mont in Thornton Heath. The book came out a year later in 1947 when Barden started his National Service.

The editor of Chess Magazine, Baruch Wood, was scathing in his book review:

“Britain is far from the top of the chess tree and there must be a hundred British players with better justification for the publication of a book of their games than Michell. Mr du Mont’s graceful pen has made the most of his subject. The price of the book (10/6 for 108pp, 36 games) is so extraordinarily high that one feels some appeal is being made to sentiment.”

No doubt the fact that du Mont was the editor of a rival magazine may have diluted Wood’s objectivity. England did not have a surfeit of players and Michell would have been in the first rank.

Hansen has added his comments as italicised notes in the text in the contemporary rather dry style redolent of engine and database analysis. Inevitably, he has identified some improvements and errors which were not noticed in the original. These include not only outright blunders but also the missed opportunities. The logic of this approach is harsh and sits somewhat uncomfortably with the convention that the chess public is more forgiving of a failure to play the best move than of making a blunder. Treating both these types of inaccuracy symmetrically makes the world feel less tolerant.


The most significant discovery by Hansen is that one of the games (game 27) had been misattributed regarding who played White. du Mont had Michell defeating Max Euwe (World Champion 1935-1937) at Hastings 1931 whereas Michell had lost.

Hansen surmises that the game intended for the collection was the game they played in the following year’s Hastings tournament when Michell had Euwe on the ropes but the game ended in a draw. We don’t know exactly how this error occurred but confusion sometimes arises when quoting games at Hastings. This famous long-running annual tournament traditionally takes place in the period between Christmas and the New Year and is described according to the year it starts and the year it ends. Michell lost the game played in 1930/31 but drew the game they played in 1931/32.

Biography Untouched

Carsten Hansen is a chess analyst rather than a professional biographer so it is perhaps wise that he has not attempted to update the biographical sketch provided by du Mont. When the chess analyst Daniel King wrote a book on Sultan Khan, he got into hot water regarding his contested account of the life of the grandmaster.

Modern Analysis Compared

We may compare annotations between the original and the revised version of the book regarding the above-mentioned game. Here we have (courtesy of CH) an excerpt of the new book on the game Blake v Michell, Caterham, 1926. Blake, although half a generation older than Michell, was described by du Mont as “one of the brilliant band of British amateurs of which R. P. Michell was one.”

Excerpt of Game 22
Excerpt of Game 22


Excerpt of Game 22
Excerpt of Game 22


Excerpt of Game 22
Excerpt of Game 22

and finally

Excerpt of Game 22
Excerpt of Game 22

We may briefly examine the new analysis. The original text by du Mont / Barden criticises Blake’s choice of opening: “This method of development in the Queen’s Pawn game has its disadvantages in that the dark squares on White’s queenside become temporarily weak, and White will have to spend some time on remedying this defect (e.g., 6.a3). That is why the Colle system has come into favour, the basic idea of which is the quiet development of all the white forces with pawns at c3, d4, and e3, starting an attack at the proper time with the move characteristic of the system: e3-e4.”

Hansen gives short shrift to this perspective:

“There is nothing wrong with the text move; in fact, it is a popular set-up for White, played by countless strong grandmasters.”  

This blunt contradiction is based upon a century of games played thereafter. However, the original comment may have seemed plausible in the era in which Colle popularised the system and it had yet to be fully proven.

After black’s 18th move (diagram above), the original annotation prefers an alternative to the move played 19. Bxc4: “Undoubtedly, White should play 19. bxc4. His game will now deteriorate due to this weak centre and the backward d-pawn.”

Hansen is again blunt:

“Indeed, the text move is a blunder, whereas after 19. bxc4, White would have had the upper hand.”

According to Deep Hiarcs (running for one minute), the difference in evaluation between 19. bxc4 and 19. Bxc4 is the difference between +0.2 and -0.3. So at worst, this “blunder” puts Blake a third of a pawn behind instead of being a fifth of a pawn ahead.  Whilst masters thrive on small measures, it seems an exaggeration to describe capture by the bishop as a blunder. The original narrative merely says that the pawn capture would have been preferable without overstating the difference. Perhaps there is a tendency when aided by an engine to lose sight of the natural uncertainties felt by chess players when ruminating on which piece to recapture with.

Drama at Hastings 1934-35

The foreword on the original book noted that the most dramatic moment of Michell’s career occurred at the annual Hastings Premier 1934-35. He was pitted in the last round against Sir George Thomas, who was then half a point ahead of Dr Euwe, having beaten Capablanca and Botvinnik. Some observers felt that the decent and patriotic course of action was to give Sir George an easy game.

As one later commentator remarked, “In almost any other country, at any other time, the result would have been foreordained: a friendly draw and Thomas finishes no worse than a tie for first. Indeed, many players had to be rooting for the universally beloved Thomas to win and come in sole first.” [1]

There had not been a home winner since Henry Ernest Atkins in 1921, the first year the annual tournament was held. Thomas and Michell were England teammates. However, Thomas slipped up and Michell pressed home his advantage. Thomas lost the game but tied for first place with Euwe and Flohr. Curiously, the original book did not include this crucial game. Hansen includes the game and praises Michell for his principled stance: “But there was a happy ending; Max Euwe, in a better position against tail-ender Norman, made a sporting gesture of his own by offering a draw unnecessarily and settling for a first-place tie with Thomas and Flohr.” [1]

The Second Part

Hansen annotates the games in the new second part of the book in a readable style and does not let Stockfish intrude too much. He even offers his thoughts on some moves rather than taking the engine recommendations. The prose is functional: the game introductions lack the charm of the original game summaries. Whilst sometimes providing some background information on the opponent, there is little attempt in the header to identify the key points from each game.

Hansen is consistent with the narrative style in the first part by avoiding long algebraic variations. Even if his move criticisms are sometimes anachronistic, he has been considerate in generally referring to older games when citing continuations. It must have been tempting to have referred to games played in the database era.

The original book held to the hagiographic compiler’s conceit of not showing any losses save for the aforementioned misattribution. The reader would perhaps have gained more of an understanding of the subject’s character if presented with some games in which he struggled or indeed blundered. For example, Michell was crushed in 21 moves by Atkins at Blackpool in 1937 when he was still in his prime, even if he died a year later.

Hansen does not resist presenting Michell’s loss to the great Capablanca at Hastings in the Victory Congress 1919. It was clear even then that Capablanca would be one of the next holders of the World Championship. The game’s introductory text is misleading: “You don’t often get chances to play the best players in the world, let alone take points from them, even if it is ‘just’ a draw.” The implication is that this game (No. 41) is drawn whereas it is a win for Capablanca.  In total the book contains two losses, 14 draws and 51 wins for Michell.

In the majority of the games in the second part, Hansen focuses on blunders by Michell or his opponent.  There is no doubt that the top players from a century ago were not as strong as the top players of today but it seems churlish to show so many games with blunders. Comparatively few moves have been awarded an exclamation mark. Perhaps the book should have been shorter with higher-quality games.   However, on closer inspection, the “blunders” are treated in the modern sense as discussed above.  They are not the traditional blunders, bad moves losing the game, that would have been described by a contemporary annotator. Rather, they are blunders in which the game evaluation has switched by a certain margin.

Michell, a follower of Nimzovich, focused on positional advantages; tactical skirmishes and sacrifices were few and far between. A slight exception to this style was found in the game Blake v Michell, Hastings, 29 December 1923:


R. P. Michell should be an inspiration to amateur players with a full-time career. He made a mark in the chess world using solid play, eschewing theoretical or sharp lines. He held his own against the strongest players in the world. Carsten Hansen has brought welcome attention to this forgotten English master. The new book nearly doubles the number of games covered and introduces modern engine analysis. The reader will find many examples of successful middle-game strategies. Above all, we learn that chess is a struggle: one should keep trying to improve the position and make things difficult for the opponent. I recommend this book, especially to club players looking for new chess ideas.

John Foley, Kingston-upon-Thames, 27th May 2024

John Foley with the Alexander Cup
John Foley with the Alexander Cup won by Kingston in 2021/22 and 2022/23

Kingston won the Alexander Cup, the Surrey team knockout tournament, in 1931/32 with Michell.

Book Details :

  • Hardcover : 318 pages
  • Publisher:  CarstenChess (16 Mar. 2024)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10:8793812884
  • ISBN-13:978-8793812888
  • Product Dimensions: 15.24 x 1.83 x 22.86 cm

FM Carsten Hansen
FM Carsten Hansen

“Carsten Hansen, a Danish FIDE Master at Chess, was born in 1971. At age 14, he became the youngest master player at chess in Denmark at the time. In 1995, Carsten was contacted by Peter Heine Nielsen to co-author a chess book on the “Sicilian Accelerated Dragon”. Peter had been offered a contract but felt that he wouldn’t be able to write the book on his own and since Hansen had played the opening his entire life, it was a natural fit. The book was released in 1998 to high acclaim and near universal positive reviews. From 1999 to 2013, Hansen was a columnist for the very popular website, He has been a contributor to Skakbladet, Chess Life, and New In Chess”. Hansen is based in New Jersey, and still enjoys playing and writing about chess. He has now authored over 40 chess books. He has made a speciality of reviving old books.

Official web site of Carsten Chess

R. P. Michell - A Master of British Chess: A forgotten chess master, Carsten Hansen and Julius du Mont, Publisher ‏ : ‎ CarstenChess (16 Mar. 2024), ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-8793812888
R. P. Michell – A Master of British Chess: A forgotten chess master, Carsten Hansen and Julius du Mont, Publisher ‏ : ‎ CarstenChess (16 Mar. 2024), ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-8793812888

[1] According to David Moody’s account in ChessGames.

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Unknown Weapons in the Grünfeld: Second revised and extended edition

From the Publisher, Thinkers Publishing:

“The Grunfeld Defence is one of the most dynamic openings for Black.

The opening was developed by two famous World Champions, namely Bobby Fischer and Garry Kasparov.

While theory is far from being exhausted and still developing, our author Grandmaster Milos Pavlovic made a strange case and found new alternatives to battle White’s setups. On top this book cuts through the dense theory that surrounds this opening and establishes a total new repertoire based around consistent strategies, concepts and novelties.

This is a fully revised and seriously extended edition of the original book published in 2017.”

About the Author:

“Grandmaster Milos Pavlovic was born in Belgrade in 1964. He has won many chess tournaments worldwide including becoming Yugoslav Champion in 1992. A well-known theoretician, he has published many well-received chess books and numerous articles in a variety of chess magazines. This is his 14th book for Thinkers Publishing.”

GM Milos Pavlovic
GM Milos Pavlovic

This is the fifth title from Milos Pavlovic that we have reviewed. Previously we have examined: The Modernized Marshall Attack, The Modernized Scotch Game: A Complete Repertoire for White and Black, The Modernized Stonewall Defence and The Modernized Colle-Zukertort Attack

This heavy theoretical book has 14 chapters:

Chapter 1 – Exchange Variation 7.Bc4 – with 11.Rc1
Chapter 2 – Exchange Variation 7.Bc4 – Sidelines
Chapter 3 – Modern Exchange Variation – 8.Rb1
Chapter 4 – Modern Exchange Variation – 7.Be3
Chapter 5 – Modern Exchange Variation – 7.Nf3 c5 – Sidelines
Chapter 6 – Exchange Variation – Alternatives on  move 7
Chapter 7 – Alternatives after 4.cxd5 Nxd5
Chapter 8 – 5.Qb3 – The Russian System
Chapter 9 – Early Qa4+
Chapter 10 – 4.Bf4
Chapter 11 – 5.Bg5 lines
Chapter 12 – 4.Nf3 Bg7 5.h4
Chapter 13 – 4.e3
Chapter 14 – Anti-Gruenfeld 3.f3

This theoretical tome is certainly a comprehensive guide to the contemporary opening theory of the Gruenfeld Defence from black’s point of view . It is certainly a repertoire book for black. There are pithy paragraphs that explain the ideas behind the moves but these are few and far between the dense variations. In my opinion, it is aimed at active 2000+ tournament players. This is in no way a criticism, but an inexperienced player wanting to learn the opening with just this book may be lost in a sea of variations without a mentor and/or a Gruenfeld primer book to explain the ideas.

In terms of layout, the book is easy to read, has sufficient accompanying text and plenty of diagrams  to be able to get a good grasp of the lines. The chapter structure is  logical with a strong bias toward the contemporary lines played at the top. This slant is perfectly reasonable as trendy lines trickle down to all levels.

This review will briefly summarise the suggested repertoire and highlight a few interesting variation choices from the author.

Chapter 1 covers the “old” Exchange after these moves:

1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 g6 3.Nc3 d5 4.cxd5 Nxd5 5.e4 Nxc3 6.bxc3 Bg7 7. Bc4 c5 8.Ne2 Nc6 9.Be3 0-0 10.0-0 b6 11.Rc1

Old Exchange 10...b6 11.Rc1
Diagram 1: Old Exchange Variation after10…b6 11.Rc1

The author has recommended the modern 10…b6 which is the key line now. This supersedes the old 10…Qc7 of Fischer-Spassky days.

The last line covered in this chapter is 11…Bb7 12.Bb3!?

Old Exchange After 12.Bb3
Diagram 2: Old Exchange after 10…b6 11.Rc1 Bb7 12.Bb3

The main move here is 12…cxd4 but the author suggests 12…Na5!? as an improvement. 13.d5 e6 14.c4 exd5 15.exd5 Re8

Old Exchange Suggestion
Diagram 3: After 15…Re8

The author gives 16.h3 (Stockfish suggests the irritating 16.Ba4 when 16…Re5 17.Qd3 17…a6 looks to equalise) 16…Bc8 a neat manoeuvre to rearrange black’s minor pieces to better posts 17.Ng3 Nb7 18.Qd2 Nd6 =
Back to the main line after 12…cxd4 13.cxd4 Na5 14.d5 reaching this position:

After 14.d5
Diagram 4: After 14.d5

I like the author’s didactic comment on this position, explaining white’s positional idea with 14.d5:
“That’s the idea. White doesn’t care about his bishop on b3; he wants to trade the dark-squared bishops on d4 and play a middlegame with a strong knight against a poor bishop on b7”
14…Qd6 15.Re1!?N (15.Bd4 Ba6! ridding black of his poor bishop by exploiting the pin on white’s e2 knight which equalises as played by Gruenfeld expert Grischuk)

After 15.Re1
Diagram 5: After 15.Re1

15…Rac8 16.Rxc8 (16.Qd2 Nxb3 17.axb3 f5! striking in the centre to equalise) 16…Rxc8 17.Bd4 Ba6 activating the prelate 18.Bxg7 Kxg7 19.Nd4!

After 19.Nd4
Diagram 6: After 19.Nd4

White has achieved his goal of centralising his horse although black has activated his bishop and rook. White’s plan is now to advance the h-pawn: black must not faff about. Hence 19…Qb4 20.h4 Qc3! 21.h5 Bd3 with equality.

Chapter 2 covers the “sidelines” other than 11.Rc1 from Diagram 1 above. Sidelines is a slight misnomer as these lines are all important.
The three moves covered are the solid 11.Qd2, the greedy 11.bxc5 and the aggressive 11.h4.

After 11.Qd2 a main line continuation with typical Gruenfeld moves is: 11…Bb7 12.Rad1 cxd4 13.cxd4 Rc8 14.Bh6 Na5! 15. Bxg7 Kxg7 16.Bd3 Nc4 17.Bxc4 Rxc4 reaching a balanced tabiya position where both sides have their trumps:

Navara - Ding Liren
Navara – Ding Prague 2019 after 17…Rxc4

The greedy 11.bxc5 is obviously critical as it wins a pawn but black has good positional compensation.

Old Exchange after 11.bxc5
Old Exchange after 10…b6 11.bxc5

After 11…Qc7! the obvious 12.cxb6 axb6 winning a pawn is dismissed briefly with a couple of variations. I do not disagree with the author that this line gives white no advantage, but black players should study this line in more detail, as it is common response from white players.

After 11…Qc7 12.Nd4  Ne5 13.Nb5 Qb8! reaches a key position:

11.bxc5 main line
11.bxc5 main line

There are two critical lines, the greedy 14.Bd5 and the more popular, solid 14.Be2
Both lines are covered in detail showing adequate play for black to equalise.

11.h4 is extremely interesting and in the author’s opinion, the critical test of 10…b6.

Old Exchange Variation 10…b6 11.h4

Black should respond 11..e6 12.h5 Qh4

After 12...Qh4
After 12…Qh4

White has two main moves here, the reviewer will show a pretty line after the natural 13.hxg6 hxg6 14.f3 cxd4 15.cxd4 Rd8 16.Qd2

After 16.Qd2
After 16.Qd2

Black looks to be in trouble with 17.Bg5 threatened, however black calmly develops with 16…Bb7 offering a poisoned exchange, after 17.Bg5 17…Qh5 18.Bxd8 loses, after 18…Rxd8, the two bishops and white’s gapping black squares lead to defeat, for example 19.d5 Ne5 20.Rac1 Nxc4 21.Rxc4 Ba6 22.Ra4 Bh6 wins

13.Qc1 is much more dangerous, buy the book to find out how black neutralises this enterprising continuation.

Chapter 3 is all about the Modern Exchange variation with 8.Rb1.

As the author points out, this is a well-known weapon, and for a while, a few decades ago, created massive problems for the Gruenfeld opening.  Its fangs have now been drawn; at the moment there are at least two decent variations that equalise for black. Several recent Gruenfeld books such as those by Delchev and Kovalchuk recommend 8…0-0 9.Be2 Nc6 (with 13…Bc7!) which has been known for a while to be perfectly viable for equality. The reviewer thinks that line is perhaps simpler for black, but both that line and the author’s suggestion require a significant amount of theoretical knowledge.

After 1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 g6 3.Nc3 d5 4.cxd5 Nxd5 5.e4 Nxc3 6.bxc3 Bg7 7.Nf3 c5 8.Rb1 0-0 9.Be2 cxd4 10.cxd4 Qa5+

Pavlovic recommends the “old fashioned” Qa5+ taking the a2 pawn.

Modern Exchange after 10...Qa5
Modern Exchange after 10…Qa5+

11.Qd2 is rather anaemic, leading to an equal ending.

After 11.Bd2!? Qxa2 12.0-0 Bg4! Quick development to put pressure on the d4 pawn, not worrying about the b7 pawn.
13.Rxb7 leads to equality although black has to be careful.

Modern Exchange after 13.Rxb7
Modern Exchange after 13.Rxb7

Now 13…Bxf3 14.Bxf3 Bxd4 15.e5 Na6! 16.Rxe7 Rad8 is ok for black, the pressure on the d-file makes it hard for white to generate a serious initiative.

The last two sub-variations in this chapter are in a very sharp line:

Modern Exchange after 14.Bh4
Modern Exchange after 14.Bh4

The author gives two lines for black to achieve equality: 14..g5! and 14…a5! The fact there are two good lines indicates that the line is clearly satisfactory for black.

Chapter 4 covers 1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 g6 3.Nc3 d5 4.cxd5 Nxd5 5.e4 Nxc3 6.bxc3 Bg7 7.Be3 c5

This is a large chapter and one of the major white systems. There are many subtleties in  the placing of white’s rook on c1 or b1. The author has 15 principal lines.

This is the position in the 10.Rb1 line viz:

Modern Exchange after 10.Rb1
Modern Exchange after 10.Rb1

Pavlovic recommends two different variations for black here:

  • 10…cxd4 going into the queenless  middlegame
  • 10…a6 waiting and preventing Rb5

After 10…a6 white’s main move is 11.Rc1: white argues that 10…a6 has weakened black’s queenside.

Black again has two alternatives:

  • 11…cxd4 going into the queenless  middlegame
  • 11…Bg4 keeping the queens on

If instead of 10.Rb1 white plays 10.Rc1, Pavlovic unequivocally recommends 10…cxd4 11.cxd4 Qxd2+ as this ending is definitely ok for black.

White can play Be3 and Qd2 before Nf3:

Modern Exchange after 9.Rc1
Modern Exchange after 9.Rc1

In this, the recommended line is to exchange queens with 10…cxd4 11.cxd4 Qxd2+ which lead to an interesting ending where black is holding his own.

Chapter 5 covers 7.Nf3 c5 sidelines

These variations include:

  • 8.h3
  • 8.Be2
  • 8.Bb5+

I have never faced 8.h3 and have rarely met 8.Bb5+.
On the other hand, I have faced 8.Be2.

There is an exciting exchange sacrifice in this line viz:
1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 g6 3.Nc3 d5 4.cxd5 Nxd5 5.e4 Nxc3 6.bxc3 Bg7 7.Nf3 c5 8.Be2 Nc6 9.d5 (9.Be3 is inept 9…Bg4! and black is at least equal) 9…Bxc3+ 10.Bd2 Bxa1 11.Qxa1 Nd4 12.Nxd4 cxd4 13.Qxd4

Exchange Variation 8.Be2 after 13.Qxd4
Exchange Variation 8.Be2: main line after 13.Qxd4

Black has two moves, the obvious 13…f6 preserving the material advantage and the probably safer 13…0-0

After 13…f6, the author is of the opinion that 14.Bc4! is exciting and dangerous

After 13…0-0 white can regain the exchange with the obvious 14.Bh6 but loses time and forfeits castling rights after 14…Qa5+ 15.Kf1 f6 16.Bxf8 Rxf8 – this is equal

14.0-0 is more ambitious when 14…Qb6! 15.Qa1!? Bd7 16.Bh6 f6 17.Bxf8 Rxf8 18.Rb1 (18.Qb1 leads to a drawn bishop endgame) 18…Qc7 leads to approximate equality

Chapter 6 covers alternatives on move 7 in the Exchange Variation:

Exchange after 6...Bg7
Exchange after 6…Bg7

The book shows the following four alternatives:

  • 7.Ba3
  • 7. Bg5
  • 7.Bb5+
  • 7.Qa4+

These moves are rare: in full length games, the reviewer only recalls facing 7.Ba3 once, 7.Bg5 once and has never faced the other two.

Pavlovic handles these lines  well. It is interesting that his recommendation against Bb5+ is to play 7…c6 and then play for e5. Many books have suggested rapid queenside expansion for black.

Chapter 7 covers alternatives after 1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 g6 3.Nc3 d5 4.cxd5 Nxd5

The two lines covered are:

  • The exotic 5.Na4
  • The super trendy 5.Bd2 which is played at all levels

After 5.Na4

After 5.Na4 e5
After 5.Na4

Pavlovic recommends the dynamic 5…e5 striking in the centre which is the top engine suggestion. This draws the teeth of this extravagant knight move. (5…Nf6 6.Nc3 Nd5 7.Na4 has been played as a silly repetition draw).

5.Bd2 is a different kettle of fish, the idea is to recapture the knight on c3 with the bishop:

After 5.Bd2
After 5.Bd2

The author recommends a straightforward approach from black viz:
5…Bg7 6.e4 Bxc3 7.Bxc3 0-0 maintaining flexibility & waiting to see which setup white adopts.

After 7...0-0
After 7…0-0

The two main lines here are 8.Bc4 and 8.Qd2 which the author covers in great detail. Shirov’s idea of 8.h4!? is covered very briefly with a variation given that is far from best play for white.

In the reviewer’s opinion this is a very important chapter, as this variation is so popular to avoid main line theory. Ironically, this setup now has a large body of practice.

Chapter 8 covers the Russian System.  Pavlovic recommends the Prins Variation which is 7..Na6.

Prins Variation
Prins Variation

As the author points out, black can play this variation against many of white’s tricky move orders involving Qb3. The Prins Variation was often used by Garry Kasparov, so has an excellent pedigree. The reviewer loves this part of the repertoire as black avoids the Hungarian 7…a6 and 7…Nc6 which are both decent systems but very topical. Avoiding the most popular lines does have its advantages.

Chapter 9 covers Qa4+ ideas which is a short chapter. Qa4+ ideas are usually used as a move order trick to get black out of main line theory.

There are two really important positions in this chapter.

After 1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 g6 3.Nc3 d5 4.Nf3 Bg7 5.Qa4+ Bd7 6.Qb3 dxc4 7.Qxc4 0-0 8.Bf4

Early Qa4 with Bf4
Early Qa4 with Bf4

and after 1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 g6 3.Nc3 d5 4.Nf3 Bg7 5.Qa4+ Bd7 6.Qb3 dxc4 7.Qxc4 0-0 8.e4

Early Qa4 with e4
Early Qa4 with e4

White has played a move order to disrupt black’s development by giving him an extra move of Bd7. However, black can exploit the bishop on d7, to play 8…b5! in both positions gaining good play with this energic pawn sacrifice.

Chapter 10 covers the 4.Bf4 line which is very popular at club level and was played by Karpov against Kasparov.

The author gives three major sub-variations in the main line:

4.Bf4 main line
4.Bf4 main line

  • 14.g4
  • 14.Nxe4
  • 14.Nd5

All these lines are well known and black has equality with care.

Pavlovic suggests a really interesting idea early in one of the main lines which I had not seen before:

1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 g6 3.Nc3 d5 4.Bf4 Bg7 5.e3 c5 6.dxc5 Qa5 7.Rc1 Nbd7!?

4.Bf4 new move 7...Nbd7
4.Bf4 new move 7…Nbd7

Buy the book to find out about this excellent idea.

The idea is allied to another line:

1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 g6 3.Nc3 d5 4.Nf3 Bg7 5.Bf4 0-0 6.e3 c5 7.dxc5 Ne4! 8.Rc1 Nd7!

4.Bf4 another Nbd7 line
4.Bf4 an allied Nd7 line

Chapter 11 is all about Bg5 ideas which occur on move 4 or 5.

Against 1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 g6 3.Nc3 d5 4.Nf3 Bg7 5.Bg5, Pavlovic suggests the traditional 5…Ne4  and against 4.Bg5 he also approves of the knight move to e4.

The solid repertoire here is pretty well known and respectable.

Chapter 12 is a brief chapter on 1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 g6 3.Nc3 d5 4.Nf3 Bg7 5.h4!?

After 5.h4
After 5.h4

The author recommends 5…c6 which is solid and sensible. The author states this is an important new line: it has been around for decades.

After these sensible developing moves 6.cxd5 cxd5 7.Bf4 0-0 8.e3 Nc6 9.Be2 Bg4 resembles a Slav Defence.

Morozevich-Nepomniachtchi 2014
Morozevich-Nepomniachtchi 2014

White has absolutely nothing here. A draw was soon agreed.

Chapter 13 is about 4.e3 which is a solid continuation, not generally played by the top players. It covers a topical line:

1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 g6 3.Nc3 d5 4.e3 Bg7 5.cxd5 Nxd5

Quiet 4.e3
Quiet 4.e3

Now white draws the black queen into the centre with 6.Nxd5 Qxd5 only to manoeuvre his other knight to gain time 7.Ne2 0-0 8.Nc3 8…Qd6

After 8...Qd6
After 8…Qd6

But it’s all too slow really. After 9.Be2 black can play 9…c5! sacrificing a pawn for loads of play 10.Nxe4 (10.d5 is the main line but leads to nothing for white) 10…Qc7 11.Nxc5 e5 12.0-0 Rd8 13,Nb3 Nc6 reaching this position:

After 13...Nc6
After 13…Nc6

White can retain his extra pawn with 14.d5, but 14…e4! gains space and after 15.Qc2 Rxd5 16.Qe4 Be6 black has excellent play for a pawn.

The author fails to cover 6.Be2:

After 6.Be2
After 6.Be2

This is a solid line that can lead to a reversed Queen’s Gambit, Tarrasch after 6…c5 7.0-0 cxd4. I have faced this as black, against an an IM, so perhaps it should have been covered. Of course, the author has to make a decision on what to include: as this is not a fashionable line, I can understand why the line was omitted.

The final chapter covers 3.f3, a popular anti-Gruenfeld system.
The author recommends the “old” main line with 3…d5 which some authors have eschewed in favour of other systems such as 3…c5 transposing into a kind of Benoni or simply going into a King’s Indian Defence.

The key tabiya is this:

Ding-Gelfand Wenzhou 2015
Ding-Gelfand Wenzhou 2015

The analysis given by the author is an excellent coverage of all the critical lines from this position and happens to very largely agree with my own investigations.

Here is one fascinating endgame that results after 16.d6 e4! 17.fxe4 Ng4 18.Bg5 Qe8 19.Nf3 Rf7! 20.Qe1 Bxc3! 21.bxc3 Na4 22.Rc1 Nc5 23.Bc4 Be6 24.Bxe6 Qxe6 25.Be7 Nd3 26.Qd2 Nxc1 27.Ng5 Qxa2+ 28. Qxa2 Nxa2 29.Nxf7 Nxc3+ 30.Ka1  Kxf7 31.d7 Ra8 32.d8Q Rxd8 33.Bxd8 Nxe4 34.Rxb7 Ne3 35.Rb2 Kd5

3.f3 crazy forced line after 36...Kd5
3.f3 crazy forced line to 35…Kd5

This is a draw as white’s rook and king are passive. This occurred in a correspondence game and the reviewer has had it in an on-line blitz game: white allowed a perpetual with the two knights in a few moves.

The only major variation that has been missed from the book is the Fianchetto Variation which is pretty popular as a solid, positional line. In the reviewer’s last game with the Gruenfeld, he did indeed face a Fianchetto Variation. This is a significant omission but does not spoil an excellent publication on the Gruenfeld Defence.

The reviewer notes a fair few typos in the book.

FM Richard Webb, Basingstoke, Hampshire, 12th May 2024

FM Richard Webb
FM Richard Webb

Book Details :

  • Hardcover : 404 pages
  • Publisher:Thinkers Publishing; 2nd edition (2 May 2024)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 9464201967
  • ISBN-13:  978-9464201963
  • Product Dimensions: 17.78 x 3.81 x 24.77 cm

Official web site of Thinkers Publishing

Unknown Weapons in the Grünfeld: Second revised and extended edition, Thinkers Publishing, 978-9464201963, Milos Pavlovic
Unknown Weapons in the Grünfeld: Second revised and extended edition, Thinkers Publishing, 978-9464201963, Milos Pavlovic

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The Exchange Sacrifice Unleashed: Power of Middlegame Knowledge

From the Publisher, Thinkers Publishing:

“The book you have just started reading is about a very interesting and difficult concept: the exchange sacrifice. This is the moment in chess when basic mathematics breaks down, the moment when 3 counts equal to or even more than 5. So let us leave the mathematics aside and try to figure out why this simple calculation is so difficult to understand.

The answer is largely hidden in psychology, as the ninth World Champion, Tigran Petrosian, has often told us, as the man who brought this strategic-tactical chess concept to its first peak. Chess beginners were taught the value of pieces by their teachers (parents, grandparents, perhaps at school or even later in the beginners’ sections of chess clubs).

We explain the difference between piece values to children in the simplest way possible, with the help of a unit of measurement, and in chess those units are the pawns. They tell us that a rook is worth five pawns (units) and a knight and a bishop are worth about three each. They also tell us to always be careful, especially during exchanges, to ensure we take at least as much from our opponent as he or she took from us. So, one rook at a time, perhaps for a bishop and a knight next to two pawns. This “chess thinking” is done quickly and very strongly subconsciously in most, one could even say all. Therefore, when choosing moves, we will automatically reject unfavourable exchanges. But who trades a queen for a knight, a bishop for a pawn, and the like? We know from our own life experience that it is better to have ten coins in our pocket than three, and I prefer three to one!

This psychological barrier is the most difficult step in making the decision to sacrifice. And so it is with the sacrifice of an exchange. Five for three, that is! Even five for four, if we get a pawn for the rook along with the knight or the bishop. “I am not stupid,” you think. The Exchange Sacrifice Unleashed brings different games or coaches try to explain this and that to us, we see that a material advantage is not always something to celebrate about.”

About the Author:

“Georg Mohr was born in Maribor, Slovenia in 1965 becoming a Grandmaster in 1997. He joined as a member of the FIDE Trainers Commission from 2002, becoming a FIDE Senior Trainer in 2004 and a FIDE International Organizer in 2011. Georg has been a professional chess trainer for many years. He was coach and captain of Slovenian national team from 2003 – 2010 and since 2011 he has been Turkish national youth trainer. He is a chess writer and was editor of Slovenian chess magazine Šahovska Misel from 1999 and editor of Fide Trainers Commission trainers’ surveys. He is also an organiser of chess events acting as tournament director of the European Club Cup (Rogaška Slatina 2011), the World Youth Championship (Maribor 2012) and the World Senior Championship (Bled 2018). This is his third book for ‘Thinkers Publishing’.”

FIDE Senior Trainer Georg Mohr
FIDE Senior Trainer Georg Mohr

This is the third title from Georg Mohr that we have reviewed. Previously we have examined: Understanding Maroczy Structures and Forgotten Genius – The Life and Games of Grandmaster Albin Planinc.

This interesting book has seven chapters:

Chapter 1 – The Exchange Sacrifice for the Attack
Chapter 2 – Defence!
Chapter 3 – Ending
Chapter 4 – Exchange Sacrifice in the Opening
Chapter 5 – Critical Squares
Chapter 6 – The Positional Exchange Sacrifice
Chapter 7 – World Champions and the Exchange Sacrifice

Chapter 1 is divided into seven themed subsections, each with plenty of entertaining and didactic examples of exchange sacrifices for the attack.

Here is a splendid finish from the “King in the centre” segment:

Geller-Karpov Moscow 1976
Geller-Karpov Moscow 1976

Karpov, who was crowned World Champion, in 1975, had played a rather inept French Defence, Winawer variation. The great theoretician, Efim Geller finished him off neatly with a exchange sacrifice removing a key defender:

21.Rxb8+!  Qxb8 (21…Bxb8?? 22.Qxc6+ wins quickly) 22.Qxc6+ Kf8 23.Nf4  Ra7 24.Nh4 (The knights close in to stomp on Black) 24… Qe8?! (Allowing a lovely combination)

Geller-Karpov Moscow 1977
Geller-Karpov Moscow 1977

25.Qxe6! (winning) fxe6 26. Nhg6+ Qxg6 27.Nxg6+ Ke8 28.Nxh8 Ra4 29.Rd1 Ne7 30.Bxe7 Kxe7 31.Ng6+ Kf7 32.Nf4 Bxe5 33.dxe5 Rf4 34.Rc1! (getting the rook behind the passed pawn and Karpov soon resigned)

Here is a very famous defensive exchange sacrifice from Chapter 2.

Reshevsky-Petrosian Zurich 1953
Reshevsky – Petrosian Zurich 1953

Black, Petrosian is some trouble as White dominates the centre, has more space and good attacking chances on the kingside with h4, h5 etc.

Black played 25…Re6! If White takes the exchange straightaway with 26.Bxe6 fxe6, he cannot prevent Black’s knight moving to d5, a possible continuation is 27.Rf3 Ne7 28.Bc1 Nd5 29.Qg3 Rc8 30.Bd2 b4! reaching this position:

Reshevsky-Petrosian Zurich 1953 Variation
Reshevsky-Petrosian Zurich 1953 Variation

Black has plenty of play with very active pieces and White’s rooks defensively placed. This is a Petrosian blockade at its best. Modern analysis suggests 26.h4! as best.

The game continued 26.a4 Ne7! 27.Bxe6 fxe6 reaching this celebrated position:

Reshevsky-Petrosian Zurich 1953 after move 27
Reshevsky-Petrosian Zurich 1953 after move 27

Black is almost equal, Reshevsky bailed out with a draw on move 41.

Chapter 3 is an excellent chapter about exchange sacrifices in the ending.

Here is an instructive position with a pawn up in a rook and opposite colour bishop ending:

Isgandarova - Zimina Riga 2017
Isgandarova – Zimina Riga 2017

White has just played 79.Kh3 and at first glance appears to be holding. Black played 79…Rxc5! 80.bxc5 Kd5 winning another pawn: the passive rook dooms White and Black won by pushing the b-pawn supported by the king.

A famous Fischer finish is very instructive:

Lombardy-Fischer New York 1960
Lombardy-Fischer New York 1960

White has just played 30.Re1? which Fischer ruthlessly exploited with a neat simplification:

30…Rxc3+! 31.bxc3 Rxe5+ 32.Kd2 Rxe1 33.Kxe1 Kd5 34.Kd2 Kc4 35.h5 b6! creating an outside passed pawn which won easily:

Lombardy-Fischer New York 1961 after move 35
Lombardy-Fischer New York 1961 after move 35

Chapter 4 covers some exchange sacrifices in the opening. I shall give two examples, one of which I fell into as a junior player:

Dieks - Van der Sterren After 13.Qf3
Dieks – Van der Sterren After 13.Qf3?

White has just played 13.Qf3? winning material which was met with the excellent 13…Nd4! 14.Nc7+ Qxc7 15.Qxa8+ Ke7 with a nasty threat of b4! 16.c3 b4! 17cxb4 Qb6 18.Bxa6 Qb4 19.Kf1

Dieks - Van der Sterren After 19.Kf1
Dieks – Van der Sterren After 19.Kf1

Now, the engine gives 19…Bh6! which wins prettily. The game continued with the tempting 19…Qd2 20.h3 (20.h4! limits White disadvantage, 20.Re1?? is a gross blunder as played by the reviewer, losing to 20…Bd3+ followed by a smothered mate) 20…Bd3+ 21.Bxd3 Qxd3+ 22. Kg1 Bh6! 23. Qb7 (23.Qxh8 Ne2+ 24.Kf1 Ng3+ 25.Kg1 Bf4! winning)23…Kf6 and Black won

There is a special section on some Gruenfeld exchange sacrifices:

Gruenfeld Bronsteins Exchange Sacrifice
Gruenfeld Bronstein’s Exchange Sacrifice

Gruenfeld Modern Exchange
Gruenfeld Modern Exchange Sacrifice

Buy the book to see a couple of exciting Gruenfeld games.

There are of course, plenty of Sicilian Rxc3 examples which is the most famous and important exchange sacrifice. Here is an example from the Dragon Variation in an old variation which is rare nowadays:

Kasparov-Piket Tilburg 1989
Kasparov-Piket Tilburg 1989 After 16.Bh6!?

White’s attack looks powerful, but the well-known sequence starting with 16…Nxe4! leads to equality which modern engines confirm. 17.Qe3! Rxc3! removing the key attacker 18.bxc3  Nf6! Although Kasparov won, Black’s opening was a success.

A pretty example from a Sicilian Paulsen is given  showing an offering for black square domination:

Giri-Vitiugov Reggio Emilia 2012
Giri-Vitiugov Reggio Emilia 2012

Black has just played the risky 6…Bb4 against one of the best theoreticians

Gipslis-Simagin Sverdlovsk 1957
Gipslis-Simagin Sverdlovsk 1957

which is ruthlessly punished: 7.e5! Nd5 8.0-0! Nxc3 9.bxc3 Bxc3 10.Ba3!

Giri-Vitiugov Reggio Emilia 2012 10.Ba3

Throwing in an exchange as well, Black is now in real trouble as his king is trapped in the with a weak colour complex on the black squares.

Chapter 5 Critical Squares has plenty of traditional Sicilian exchange sacrifices on c3.

Here is an example from the Sicilian Defence, Sozin Variation:

Gipslis-Simagin Sverdlovsk 1957
Gipslis – Simagin Sverdlovsk 1957 After 16.Rad1

Black played the natural 16…Rxc3! and won a nice game. The reviewer has played Rxc3 is a very similar position and also won a good game.

Chapter 6 – The Positional Exchange Sacrifice is really the heart of the book with 22 themes.

Here is a good example from the Exchange sacrifice to dominate the black squares section:

Adams – Khalifman Las Palmas 1993

Adams has played a rather insipid Classical Variation against the Dragon. Black played 17…Rxd4! 18.Rxd4 Rb8! (activating the black rook, also preventing white from playing Rb4) 19.f4?!  (19.Rb1 with equality according to the engines, but black is having all the fun) 19…exf3 20.Bxf3 Bxe5 and Black won a lovely game.

The final chapter shows many didactic examples from the World Champions.

I would suggest that the book is aimed at 1750+ players. The book is well produced in an easy to read style with plenty of diagrams and themes to learn from.

However, there are more than a few typographical errors/grammatical errors and the reviewer has spotted an incorrect diagram at the top of page 31. Although this does not detract from the many merits of the book, perhaps future publications should address this.

FM Richard Webb, Basingstoke, Hampshire, 10th May 2024

FM Richard Webb
FM Richard Webb

Book Details :

  • Hardcover : 496 pages
  • Publisher:Thinkers Publishing; 1st edition (20 Jun. 2023)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 946420186X
  • ISBN-13:  978-9464201864
  • Product Dimensions: 17.78 x 3.81 x 24.77 cm

Official web site of Thinkers Publishing

The Exchange Sacrifice Unleashed: Power of Middlegame Knowledge, Georg Mohr, Thinker's Publishing, ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-9464201864
The Exchange Sacrifice Unleashed: Power of Middlegame Knowledge, Georg Mohr, Thinker’s Publishing, ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-9464201864

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Minor Pieces 73: Alexander Spink Beaumont

The Surrey County Chess Association runs a bewildering number of competitions of various types, one reason being that they’ve chosen to commemorate some of their long-serving administrators through trophies in their memory.

The main league itself currently has five divisions. The first division is the Surrey Trophy, which dates all the way back to the 1883-84 season, while the second division, the Beaumont Cup, was instigated twelve years later, in the 1895-96 season.

I’m sure you’d like to know, as I did, more about Mr Beaumont. Well, he wasn’t Mr Beaumont at all, but Captain Alexander Spink Beaumont, Alex to his friends. It’s a long story.

He was born in Manchester on 24 June 1843 into a family with military connections. Beaumont was in fact his paternal grandmother’s surname but his father used his mother’s surname.  Spink was the surname of his Aunt Charlotte’s husband.

He served in the 23rd Foot Regiment of the Royal Welch Fusiliers, reaching the rank of Captain in 1871, when the census found him at Fort Hubberstone in Pembrokeshire. Perhaps it was there that he met Caroline Savage (née Griffies-Williams), a widow more than 20 years older than him, who came from a family of wealthy Welsh landowners, one of whose properties was in Tenby, not all that far from Milford Haven. She was born in 1822 but often claimed to be much younger.

The following year Alex and Caroline married in London, both giving an address in Inverness Terrace, north of Hyde Park, which was by now the Beaumont family residence. He then resigned his commission and, round about 1878, they settled at 2 Crescent Road, South Norwood, in South London. This is now Warminster Road, running by the railway line north of Norwood Junction Station. There are a few grand houses at what is now the high numbered end of the road, and I’d guess one of those was their residence.

As a gentleman of independent means, he had plenty of time to pursue his two passions in life: chess and music. He was a composer as well as a player in both fields, but was also a gifted organiser and promoter.  Beaumont wasted little time joining Croydon Chess Club, the first ‘modern’ chess club in Surrey. In 1880 he had a problem published in the local paper. You’ll find the solutions to all the problems at the end of this article.

Problem 1: #3 Croydon Guardian 28 August 1880

The 1881 census found Alex and Caroline living in South Norwood along with his unmarried brother Richard, a Major in the Royal Engineers, four domestic servants, one male and three female, and a nurse.

Later the same year he had some important news.

Croydon Guardian and Surrey County Gazette 19 November 1881

Beaumont was nothing if not ambitious for the new club.

Norwood News 17 December 1881

Zukertort and Blackburne were, according to EdoChess, the second and third strongest players in the world behind the inactive Steinitz at the time. Attracting them to visit a new club in a London suburb was quite a coup. Regular simultaneous displays, both blindfold and sighted, by professional players would become a regular feature of the South Norwood Chess Club.

it wasn’t long before Blackburne visited, and Zukertort was there as well, acting as teller.

Croydon Guardian and Surrey County Gazette 11 February 1882

You’ll also note the name of Leonard Percy Rees, the most influential English chess organiser of his day, involved with the establishment of everything we now know and love, from the Surrey County Chess Association through to FIDE. I really ought to write about him at some point.

During this period he was very active on the composing front. One of his problems even took first prize in a local competition.

Problem 2: #2 1st Prize Croydon Guardian 1882

He was now being published nationally as well as locally.

Problem 3: #3 The Chess Monthly June 1882

This three-mover shouldn’t be too challenging for you.

Problem 4: #3 The Field 19 August 1882

Meanwhile, South Norwood were playing friendly matches against their local rivals from Croydon. There was also talk of an international tournament in London the following year, and Beaumont was the first to make a financial contribution.

By the autumn of 1883 chess in Surrey was moving rapidly towards the thriving county association we see today, thanks to the likes of Joseph Steele, Leonard Rees and Alexander Beaumont, who was elected a vice-president.

Morning Post 17 September 1883

By now the President of the Surrey County Chess Association, the ‘genial and hospitable’ Captain Beaumont’s chess get-togethers were becoming grander by the year, in 1885 attracting about ‘150 gentlemen’.

Illustrated Sporting and Dramatic News 12 December 1885

At the same time, along with involvement in the British Chess Club, he was also organising musical events. Here, his two interests were reported in adjacent articles.

Norwood News 09 October 1886

The name of Walter Willson Cobbett, one of his regular musical collaborators, may not be familiar to you, but it certainly is to me.

Although he was not composing so many problems, he was becoming more involved in composing music, and, from 1890 onwards his compositions were being published by Charles Woolhouse in Regent Street.

The Graphic 22 March 1890

Look who else Woolhouse was publishing: our old friend (and my cousin’s father-in-law) W Noel Johnson, whom you might have met here. One online source suggests that Woolhouse was a pseudonym for Beaumont, but that doesn’t appear to be the case: there really was a music publisher of that name.

Percy Victor Sharman, the dedicatee of this work, was a young violinist living in Norwood.

The family doesn’t appear in the 1891 census: it looks like their side of the road might have been missed by mistake.

That year there was good news for South Norwood when they won the Surrey Trophy for the first time. They would go on to win it again in the following three seasons.

Norwood News 12 December 1891

Some of the guests are notable. Captain Lindesay Beaumont was Alex’s younger brother (his older brother Richard had died in 1884). Rudolf Loman was a Dutch chess master and organist. Edward Markwick was a lawyer whom you’ll meet again later in this article.

In December 1893 Beaumont’s portrait appeared in The Chess Monthly.

In January 1894 (or perhaps late December) South Norwood Chess Club ran another of their popular simuls, this time with Richard Teichmann as the guest. He played 18 games, losing one game and drawing two, one of them against Captain Beaumont. This was described in the local press as “a good example of (Beaumont)’s bold and energetic play. (As always, click on any move for a pop-up window.)

His counter-gambit worked well and he missed a simple opportunity to win a piece in the opening.

In 1895 he presented a trophy – yes, the Beaumont Cup – to be competed for by some of the smaller Surrey clubs further out from Central London. My great predecessors at Richmond won it in its second year. Beaumont’s old club, South Norwood, were among the five clubs taking part in the 2023-24 edition.

Captain and Mrs Beaumont were by no means always at home. They spent a lot of time on the continent, partly for health reasons, partly because they enjoyed travelling and partly because they owned property abroad, including an Italian villa.

At various times they visited, as well as Italy, France, Hungary and perhaps Malta. In 1896 the Captain turned up in Nuremberg to watch the international chess tournament there (his friends Blackburne and Teichmann were taking part, but no match for Lasker), and found himself taking part in a concert.

Westminster Gazette 10 August 1896

Adolph Brodsky was one of the leading violinists of his day, giving the first performance of Tchaikovsky’s Violin Concerto. There’s something about his chess career here, but my article about him is no longer available. I don’t think he’d have consented for any pianist who wasn’t extremely proficient to accompany him.

On 30 October 1897 he was back in Surrey, losing to his old friend Leonard Rees in a match between South Norwood and Redhill.

This time he chose a different variation of the Scandinavian Defence, but without success.

In January 1898 Beaumont was abroad again, this time in Florence. He was proud of the conclusion of this game, where his third move forced mate in 4.

He couldn’t have imagined that, a century and a quarter later, we’d have machines in our pockets telling us immediately that 1. Rf7 would have been mate in 5.

In March 1898 the Streatham News started a chess column, and Captain Beaumont provided the first problem.

Problem 5: #2 Streatham News 26 March 1898

A few weeks later he submitted a problem composed by his late brother Lieutenant-Colonel Richard Henry Beaumont Beaumont (yes, there were two Beaumonts). I haven’t been able to find any other problems composed by Richard, or any more information about his chess career. However, I have managed to find his sword, which was auctioned in 2012, here.

Problem 6: #3 Streatham News 7 May 1898

By that autumn there was talk of running another major international tournament in London the following year. Beaumont, of course, was quickly in with a donation and was appointed to the organising committee led by his friend Sir George Newnes. This was the tournament where Francis Lee might have played on the board later acquired by Leonard Grasty.

On 26 November there was a visit from the Ladies’ Chess Club. The ever genial Captain was on hand to host the event.

Illustrated Sporting and Dramatic News 03 December 1898

I’d imaging the top two boards were honorary encounters. Lady Thomas was the mother of Sir George. Prussian born coffee merchant Frank Gustavus Naumann, drawing with his wife in interests of marital harmony, would later become the first President of the British Chess Federation, and later still lose his life on the Lusitania.

Here’s the top board encounter: the protagonists had been friends for many years. Black stood little chance after losing material in the opening.

There was more on the music elsewhere.

Streatham News 03 December 1898

Coincidentally, as I write this I’ve just returned from a piano recital at which the Verdi-Liszt Rigoletto paraphrase was also played.

William Yeates Hurlstone is of considerable interest. A composer of exceptional talent, Beaumont supported him financially after the early death of his father, but he sadly died at the age of only 30. Much of his music has been recorded: there’s a YouTube playlist here.

Violinist William J Read would, in 1912, give the first performance of the violin concerto of another tragically short-lived South London composer, Samuel Coleridge-Taylor.

On 5th January 1901 Captain Beaumont organised an even bigger chess event at Crystal Palace. This merited a major feature in the following month’s British Chess Magazine (online here).

The 1901 census found him at home with his wife and four servants: a valet, a parlourmaid, a cook and a housemaid. But now his health was starting to fail and his wife was approaching her 80s. He was often unable to attend chess events, either because he was unwell or because he was travelling somewhere with a more agreeable climate. This seems, as we also saw with Francis Joseph Lee, to have been standard medical advice in those days.

A couple of years later a clergyman, Albert William Gibbs, who had been born in 1870, gave up his curacy to move in with them as a companion and carer.

Captain Beaumont had one last gift for British Chess. In 1904 the British Chess Federation was formed, with Frank Naumann as the first President and Leonard Rees as the first Secretary. Naumann presented the trophy for the British Championship itself, while Beaumont donated that for the British Ladies Championship. “A very elegant silver rose bowl on Elizabethan scroll-work, enriched with chess emblems”, made by Messrs Fattorini and Sons of Bradford, the first winner was Miss Kate Belinda Finn, with a commanding score of 10½/11.

Caroline Beaumont died in 1907, and in 1908 the Captain was advised by his doctor to move, as the London clay on which his house was built wasn’t good for his health. He soon found a new residence built on gravel three miles to the east, in Beckenham.

This rather splendid photograph shows his chauffeur Walter Goldsack at the steering wheel with Albert Gibbs in the passenger seat. The identity of the other passenger is unknown. It was posted on a family tree by Mark Beaumont, great great grandson of Alexander’s brother Lindesay. I’m advised by Dr Upham, an expert on the subject, that the car is undoubtedly American, so I guess it would have been quite expensive.

In the 1911 census, Alexander and Albert (described as a ‘visitor’) were living there, along with a cook-housekeeper, a parlourmaid and a housemaid. We’re additionally informed that the house had 14 rooms, including the kitchen but excluding the bathroom.

The following winter he travelled south in search of better weather.

Norwood News 02 March 1912

But that was to be his last journey. He died on 4 September 1913, at the age of 70.

The obituaries were effusive.

Beckenham Journal 06 September 1913

“A man of splendid disposition, a generous friend, and a great lover of animals and children.”

Norwood News 06 September 1913

One of the obituaries published this game as a sample of his play, without, unfortunately, giving any indication of when, where or against whom it was played.

Here’s his probate record.

This is round about £8.3 million today. Probate was granted to his nephew (and closest relation), his companion, to whom he bequeathed £400 plus an annuity of the same amount, and his solicitor.

Captain Alexander Spink Beaumont appears to have been, in every respect, an admirable fellow, much loved and respected by everyone who knew him, either through chess or through music.

It seems only right that his name should still be remembered by Surrey chess players today, more than a century after his death.

And yet, there was another side to him as well.

Let me take you back 40 years, to 11 September 1873. Alexander Spink Beaumont, recently retired from the army and recently married, is living in Norton House, one of his wife’s family properties, in the seaside resort of Tenby, Pembrokeshire. He invites a 14 year old local lad named George Lyons, the son of a boatman working in the coastguard service, to his house, and, if you believe George’s account, invites him upstairs. He asks the boy if he can keep a secret, attempts to perform an act so disgusting that it cannot be mentioned in the press, gives him three shillings and sixpence, and then takes him down to the garden. George, quite correctly and courageously, goes home and tells his mother. His parents summon the authorities and, the following evening, his father returns the money to Captain Beaumont in the presence of a witness. On 3 October the allegation goes before the magistrates. Beaumont’s domestic staff are called as witnesses and deny that anything untoward could possibly have happened. Nevertheless, the magistrates decide there is a case to answer (‘making an assault upon George Lyons, with intent to commit an abominable crime’) and send the captain to trial.

The following February Beaumont appeared before the Pembrokeshire Spring Assizes. The judge considered the evidence improbable and contradictory and instructed the jury to dismiss the case, which they duly did.

Well, I wasn’t there so I don’t know for certain, but young George’s account seems fairly convincing to me. I guess the judge felt that a gentleman couldn’t possibly have committed such an act. Then, as now, if you’re rich or famous you can get away with almost anything. Perhaps it served as a warning to him as there’s no evidence that he ever did anything of that nature again.

Let’s now move forward a few years, to 1881, the year in which an ambitious young publisher named George Newnes started a general interest weekly magazine called Tit-Bits. The magazine proved highly successful,  Newnes, a chess enthusiast, made a lot of money and went on to sponsor, amongst much else, the Anglo-American Cable Matches.

A few years later, a young journalist named Alfred Harmsworth submitted some articles to Newnes for publication, soon deciding that he could make more money by starting his own magazine. In 1888 he started a weekly called Answers, providing answers to a wide range of questions submitted by readers or just made up. A friend of his father, Edward Markwick (yes, you’ve met him earlier in this article), joined the venture, and he persuaded his friend – yes, Alexander Spink Beaumont, to provide financial support. Adrian Addison’s gossipy history of the Daily Mail, Mail Men, suggests that some thought Beaumont may have had ‘an unrequited homosexual motive in getting behind the pretty young journalist’.

At first, the Beaumonts and Harmsworth were the best of friends, but in 1891 a bitter argument between them ensued and eventually they sold their shares in his company. There’s much in Reginald Pound’s biography Northcliffe, which can be read online (although the OCR is poor) here. Caroline, who seems to have been the dominant partner, is described as ‘charmingly uncommon’. Meanwhile, in 1896 Alfred Harmsworth and his brother Harold launched the Daily Mail, becoming, as a result, rich and famous.

Years later, in 1905, the year of the establishment of Associated Newspapers, the case flared up again.

Cheltenham Chronicle 14 October 1905

It looks as if the Beaumonts, jealous of the success of the Daily Mail, were trying to get half a million pounds (about 76 million today) back from the shares they sold 14 years earlier. Harmsworth put in a counter suit accusing the papers who published this report of libel, and the whole affair was quietly dropped. Very strange.

What, then, should we make of Captain Alexander Spink Beaumont? it seems to me highly likely that he was gay at a time when same-sex relationships were illegal. Should we feel sorry for him, or, looking at the allegations of George Lyons, revile him? Or perhaps we should just remember his services to the game of chess, as a player and problemist, but most of all as an administrator, promotor and populariser of his – and our – favourite game.

One final thing, there’s a thread on a military badges forum here from a collector who has miniature portrait lockets, acquired separately, of Alexander and his older brother Richard. A rather wonderful thing to have.

He’s not the only Alexander to have given his name to a Surrey chess trophy, but that’s something for another time. I have other stories to tell first. Join me again soon for another Minor Piece.

Sources and Acknowedgements: Newspaper Library
Yet Another Chess Problem Database
MESON problem database (Brian Stephenson)
Internet Archive (
Movers and Takers, and various blog posts by Martin Smith
EdoChess (Rod Edwards)
Surrey County Chess Association website
Other online sources linked to in the text


Problem solutions (click on any move to play them through):

Problem 1:

Problem 2:

Problem 3:

Problem 4:

Problem 5:

Problem 6:

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