Remembering Henry Atkins (20-viii-1872 31-i-1955)

HE Atkins from Westminster Budget (18/09/1896) from the Yorkshire Chess History web site
HE Atkins from Westminster Budget (18/09/1896) from the Yorkshire Chess History web site

We remember Henry Atkins who passed away, Monday, January 31st, 1955.

Henry Ernest Atkins was born in Leicester on Tuesday, August 20th, 1872 to Edward (a schoolteacher) and Jane Atkins (née Threapland).

He was baptised on August 6th, 1872 in the Anglican Cathedral Church of St. Martin, Leicester. At the time of the baptism the Atkins family was living at 57, King Richard’s Road, Leicester. The address in 2021 appears to be occupied by an industrial premise for Sunco Knitwear Specialists. The signatory on the baptism record is that of DJ Vaughan.

Baptismal record for Henry Ernest Atkins
Baptismal record for Henry Ernest Atkins

Henry was admitted to Wyggeston Boys Grammar School, Leicester on March 30th 1880 when eight years old. He was expected to leave at the end of the Winter Term in 1890.

School admission record for Henry Ernest Atkins
School admission record for Henry Ernest Atkins

Curiously his school admission record includes the following addition (although we don’t know exactly when) :

Amendment to school admission record for HEA.
Amendment to school admission record for HEA.

Henry, aged 18, went up to Peterhouse College, Cambridge in 1890 to study mathematics. From his year of entry he was ranked as 9th “Wrangler” studying for the Mathematical Tripos. As part of his Part II examinations he did well enough to be “mentioned” for the Smith’s Prize for examination performance.

Nottingham Evening Post, 3rd June 1895
Nottingham Evening Post, 3rd June 1895

(Here is more on Kummer’s Proof of Fermat’s Last Theorem.)

Following University Henry became a teacher of mathematics at Northampton County Modern School and then returned to Wyggeston Boys Grammar School from 1902 – 1908. He then became the principal of Huddersfield College in 1909 and continued until 1915. Huddersfield College (founded in 1839) was merged with Hillhouse Technical School to form a new boys’ grammar school at a new campus at Salendine Nook with 950 boys.

According to Ranneforths Schach-Kalender (cited by C.N.), 1915, page 55, during the period at Huddersfield College Henry lived firstly at 49 New North Road, Huddersfield, Yorkshire :

49 New North Road, Huddersfield, Yorkshire, HD1 5NR
49 New North Road, Huddersfield, Yorkshire, HD1 5NR

and then

36 Gledholt Road, Huddersfield, Yorkshire, HD1 4HP :

36 Gledholt Road, Huddersfield, Yorkshire, HD1 4HP
36 Gledholt Road, Huddersfield, Yorkshire, HD1 4HP

On June 1st, 1915 (aged 43) Henry was registered as a teacher whilst at Huddersfield College for the fee of one guinea :

Teacher registration form for Henry Ernest Atkins
Teacher registration form for Henry Ernest Atkins

Henry retired from teaching in 1936.

In the 1939 register Henry (now a retired schoolmaster) was recorded as living with his wife, Elspeth Skene Atkins (née Wilson) at 29 East Avenue, Leicester, Leicestershire :

29 East Avenue, Leicester, Leicestershire, LE2 1TE
29 East Avenue, Leicester, Leicestershire, LE2 1TE

Elspeth was born on August 5th 1880 and was therefore roughly eight years his junior. She carried out “unpaid domestic duties” but as a member of the Women’s Voluntary Service (WVS) she was a surgical dresser. The WVS transformed into the RVS. It would seem that Henry and Elspeth did not have children. She outlived Henry passing away in 1973 in Southampton.

On Monday, January 31st 1955 passed away in The Fielding Johnson Private Hospital :

Probate notice from March 26th 1955
Probate notice from March 26th 1955
The Fielding Johnson Private Hospital
The Fielding Johnson Private Hospital

Henry was buried at Gilroes Cemetery and Crematorium, Groby Road, Leicester, Leicestershire, LE3 9QG.

In the October 1976 issue of Newsflash Badmaster (aka GH Diggle) wrote :

“… we well remember his giving a “simultaneous” at the Lincoln Chess Club in 1924, winning 17 and drawing two. One of his more elderly opponents (a notorious non-resigner) who for 30 moves had been wobbling along with a piece down until “time” had to be called, then proceeded to “demonstrate a draw” by concocting a continuation so optimistic that even clubmates with lifelong experience of his powers stood aghast. Atkins, with his greatcoat on ready to go home, made no attempt to refute this analytical masterpiece but merely remarked with great deference: “I don’t think we can play it quite like that!” and then beat a craven retreat “escorted by Club Officials”

From British Chess Magazine, Volume LXXV (75, 1955), Number 3 (March), pp.102-3 we have this obituary written by RN Coles :

“With the passing, on January 31st, at the age of eighty-two of Henry Ernest Atkins the chess world has lost a recognized international master, and British chess one of its strongest players of all time. Yet Atkins was the despair of chess enthusiasts because he played so little international chess and confined himself largely – and at that intermittently – to local affairs, where the strength of most of his opponents could hardly extend him. One leading player recently regretted that Atkins spent so much time “in the wilds,” but Atkins would have taken an opposite view and have considered that he was “in the wilds” if he had spent more of his time playing chess; teaching was his whole life, and the game of chess he insisted on treating as a game.

Consequently as a chess-player Atkins was almost always out of practice and playing below his true strength, yet in his five international events-Amsterdam, 1899; Hanover, 1902; London, 1922; London Team Tourney, 1927; and Warsaw Team Tourney, 1935-he scored 63.2 per cent, or if Amsterdam which was virtually a Hauptturnier is excluded, 53.5 per cent.

Full crosstable from Amsterdam 1899
Full crosstable from Amsterdam 1899

Sir George Thomas considered that only lack of opportunity prevented him from establishing himself in the world championship class. As it is, he will be remembered chiefly by chess-players as the man who played eleven times in the British Championship and won it nine times, failing only at the first attempt in 1904 after a tie for first place, and at the last in 1937, at the age of sixty-five, when he shared third place, a record which has never been remotely approached by any other player and is not likely to be. Atkins played in a clear-cut strategical style which makes his games ideal studies for the beginner, and he finished them with the elegance to enchant the artist; like the Etudes of Chopin, they provide technical exercises and works of art in one.

But I believe that if Atkins had his wish – and this wish I am sure he will have – he would wish to be remembered by his many pupils, whether they be pupils of the chess master or of the schoolmaster, not for any practical achievements but for being a true guide, philosopher, and friend to all who came under his tutelage.-R. N. C.”

From The Oxford Companion to Chess by Hooper & Whyld

English player, born in Leicester, International Master (1950), schoolmaster. Between 1895 and 1901 he played in seven minor tournaments, winning four, taking second place in three, and losing only three out of 70 games. In one of these events, Amsterdam 1899, he made a clean score against 15 opponents. In his first international tournament, Hanover 1902, he came third (+8=7-2) after Janowski and Pillsbury ahead of Mieses, Chigorin, and Marshall. Emanuel Lasker believed that Atkins would have joined the leading grandmasters had he continued his international career, but Atkins played in only one more big tournament (London 1922). He had a genuine concern for his profession, and preferred not to give more of his life to chess. He played in 12 of the Anglo-American cable matches, won the British Championship nine times (1905-11, 1924, 1925), and represented the British Chess Federation in the Olympiads of 1927 and 1935.

Henry Ernest Atkins
Henry Ernest Atkins

From The Encyclopedia of Chess by Anne Sunnucks :

International Master (1950) and nine times British Champion. Born in Leicester on 20th August 1872, Atkins learned the game at school in Leicester at the age of 12. When he was 15, he joined Leicester Chess Club and within two years was playing on top board. In 1890 he went up to Peterhouse, Cambridge, and played top board for the University. On leaving Cambridge he became a schoolmaster.

His first appearance in the British Championship was in 1904, when he came 2nd. The following year he won the championship and repeated his success every year up to and including 1911. He did not compete between 1912 and 1923, and on reappearing in the event in 1924, he regained his title and held it the following year. His final appearance in the British Championship was in 1937, when at the age of 65 he came =3rd.
In the five international events in which he played – Amsterdam 1899, Hanover 1902, London 1922 and the Chess Olympiads of 1927 and 1935 – he scored over 60 per cent.

His devotion to teaching and his insistence on treating chess as merely a game was all that prevented him from becoming one of the leading players in the world.

He died on 31st January, 1955.

H. E. Atkins Doyen of British Chess Champions by R. N. Coles
H. E. Atkins Doyen of British Chess Champions by R. N. Coles

In the above book RN Coles points out that Atkins regularly played f4 or …f5 early in the game and claims this was HEAs pet or signature move.

Henry Ernest Atkins
Henry Ernest Atkins

From The Encyclopaedia of Chess by Harry Golombek :

British international master and regarded by many as Britain’s more talented player in the history of the game. Born in Leicester and never very fond of leaving England. Atkins was a schoolmaster and devoted relatively little time to chess, and yet he became one of the strongest amateurs every known to chess. He was known on the Continent as “the little Steinitz“.

His record in British Championship is unique; out of eleven appearances he won the event nine times : 1905, 1906, 1907, 1908, 1909, 1910, 1911, 1924 and 1925. I t should be added that in 1904 (his first attempt) he finished 1st= and only lost to Napier after a play-off and in 1937 (his last championship) he finished =3rd at the age of 65!

The British Chess Championship Trophy
The British Chess Championship Trophy

His international career comprises only six events. In 1895 Atkins was placed =2nd behind Maróczy in the Hastings Minor Tournament and in 1899 he won the Amsterdam tournament, leading the field by 4 points. At Hanover 1902 he scored his most notable result : 3rd prize behind Janowski and Pillsbury but ahead of Chigorin and Marshall among others. At London 1922 he finished only 10th of 16 but still claimed Rubinstein and Tartakower among his victims. He represented the B.C.F. in the Olympiads of 1927 and 1935.

Atkins was retrospectively awarded the title of international master in 1950 on his pre-war record. (Ray Keene).

According to chessgames.com : “He graduated from Cambridge and taught mathematics at Northampton and Wyggeston. In 1909, he was appointed Principal of Huddersfield College.”

From The Encyclopaedia of Chess (Robert Hale, 1970 & 1976), Anne Sunnucks :

“International Master (1950) and nine times British Champion.

Born in Leicester on 20th August 1872, Atkins learned the game at school in Leicester at the age of 12. When he was 15, he joined Leicester Chess Club and within two years was playing on top board. In 1890 he went up to Peterhouse, Cambridge, and played on top board for the University. On leaving Cambridge he became a schoolmaster.

His first appearance in the British Championship was in 1904, when he came 2nd. The following year he won the championship and repeated his success every year up to and including 1911. He did not compete between 1912 and 1923, and on reappearing in the event in 1924, he regained his title and held it the following year. His final appearance in the British Championship was in 1937, when at the age of 65 he came =3rd.

In the five international events in which he played – Amsterdam 1899, Hanover 1902, London 1922, and the chess Olympiads of 1927 and 1935 – he scored over 60 per cent.

His devotion to teaching and his insistence on treating chess as merely a game was all that prevented him from becoming one of the leading players in the world.

He died on 31st January, 1955. ”

Here is an article from the Yorkshire Chess History site

and here is an obituary from the MCCU site

Here is his Wikipedia article

and here is an excellent article on chess.com

Happy Birthday GM Raymond Keene OBE (29-i-1948)

Raymond Denis Keene
Raymond Dennis Keene

We send birthday wishes to GM Raymond Keene OBE.

Raymond Dennis Keene was born on Thursday, January 29th 1948 in Wandsworth, London to Dennis Arthur and Doria Anita Keene (née Leat). Dennis and Doria were married in 1943 in Camberwell. Doria was born on May 27th, 1921 in Lambeth and was a shorthand and invoice typist.

Dennis and Doria also had a daughter Jackie Keene who later married chess historian, RG Eales. Jackie is Emeritus Professor at The University of Kent in the Faculty of Arts and Humanities. Jackie played in the Glorney Cup.

Raymond Keene
Raymond Keene

Ray was educated at Dulwich College between 1959 and 1966 thereby becoming an Old Alleynian. In 1967 Ray went up to Trinity College, Cambridge to study Modern Languages specialising in German and graduating with an MA. Amongst their Alumni are five spies including Blunt, Burgess and Philby. During the gap between Dulwich College and Cambridge Ray (aged 18) wrote his first (and arguably his best) book : Flank Openings :

Flank Openings, Raymond Keene, British Chess Magazine, 1967.
Flank Openings, Raymond Keene, British Chess Magazine, 1967.

Being published at the age of 19 this must be close to the earliest age an English player has had a chess book published that was not ghost written. (Leave a comment if you know differently!)

Following this legendary tome Ray collaborated with Leonard Barden and Bill Hartston with The King’s Indian Defence from BT Batsford Ltd:

The King's Indian Defence, Barden, Keene and Hartston, BT Batsford, 1969.
The King’s Indian Defence, Barden, Keene and Hartston, BT Batsford, 1969.

In July 1974 Ray married ex-ballerina (and now Dance Teacher) Annette Sara Goodman in Brighton, East Sussex. Annette became a director of World Memory Championships International Limited on January 17th 2008 and resigned on April 9th 2008. They have one son, Alex Phillip Simon Keene, born in 1991. Godfather to Alex is Scottish International, IM David Levy.

Alex is currently the Company Secretary of the aforementioned company, Julian (a retired teacher from Brighton) is another active director. Annette is the sister of IM David Simon Charles Goodman who now resides in New York.

In 1985 Ray became the sixth British chess player to be awarded the OBE when it was awarded in the Queen’s Birthday Honours List. The citation read “For Services to Chess”.

According to Companies House Ray has held a total of 30 directorships in various companies such as :

  • Brain Plan 2020
  • World Mind Mapping Championships
  • World Speed Reading Championships
  • Buzan International Technology
  • Buzan World
  • The World is My Oyster
  • World Memory Championships
  • Intelligent Resources and Services
  • Outside in Pathways
  • UK Primary Schools Memory Championships
  • UK Schools Memory Championships
  • The School Memory Championships
  • The Schools Memory Championship
  • Mental Literacy for All
  • Festival of the Mind
  • Festival of the Mind International
  • The Brain Trust
  • Impala (London)
  • Tony Buzan International
  • World Memory Championships International
  • World Peace and Prosperity Foundation
  • Zeticula
  • Mind Masters Management
  • Intellectual Leisure
  • Brain Sports Olympiad
  • Mind Sports Promotions

(Our particular favourite has to be the unpretentiously entitled “World Peace and Prosperity Foundation” although “The World is My Oyster” runs it a close second.)

Ray, Annette and Julian Simpole currently live at 86, Clapham Common North Side, London, England, SW4 9SE. A current estimate of the properties value from Zoopla is £2.31m – £2.83m.

86, Clapham Common North Side, London, England, SW4 9SE
86, Clapham Common North Side, London, England, SW4 9SE

In 1985 in the Queen’s Birthday Honours List, Civil Division, Ray was awarded the OBE. The citation read simply : “For services to Chess”

Raymond Denis Keene
Raymond Denis Keene

From The Oxford Companion to Chess by David Hooper and Ken Whyld :

English player and author, British champion 1971, From 1966 he played in several Olympiads and his performance in two of them, Nice 1974 ( + 7=6-2) and Haifa 1976 (+4=6), gained him the title of International Grandmaster (1976). His best tournament win was at Dortmund 1980 (category 8), He studied the games and teaching of Staunton and Nimzowitsch and revealed with unusual insight the strategy of the former and the stratagems of the latter in two books: Staunton : the English World Champion (1975) and Nimzowitsch: a Reappraisal (1974). He also wrote Flank Openings (3rd edn, 1979); these openings are the ones which he prefers to play, which he knows best, and which suit his solid positional style.

From The Encyclopedia of Chess by Anne Sunnucks :

International Master (1972), British Champion in 1971 and a regular member of the British team since 1966 playing on top board on a number of occasions.

Ray Keene
Ray Keene

Raymond Keene was born on 29th January 1948 in London and learned to play chess at the age of six. He began to play seriously when he was thirteen. While at Dulwich College from 1959 -1966 he played top bard for the school team which won the Sunday Times National Schools’ Chess Tournament in 1965 and 1966.

English chess player Raymond Keene, winner of the 1971 British Chess Championship, posed in London on 6th June 1972. Raymond Keene has been awarded the chess title International Master. (Photo by Harry Dempster/Daily Express/Hulton Archive/Getty Images)
English chess player Raymond Keene, winner of the 1971 British Chess Championship, posed in London on 6th June 1972. Raymond Keene has been awarded the chess title International Master. (Photo by Harry Dempster/Daily Express/Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

In 1964, he won the London and British Boys’ Under 18 Championship and the following year, at the age of seventeen, he became the youngest player to win the Surrey Championship. While at Cambridge he graduated in German Literature (B.A. Honours), he played top board for the university.

Brian Reilly, Ray Keene, George Botterill, Anatoly Karpov, Harry Golombek and Viktor Korchnoi
Brian Reilly, Ray Keene, George Botterill, Anatoly Karpov, Harry Golombek and Viktor Korchnoi

During his chess career, he has beaten both Botvinnik and Gligoric, In 1967, he came 2nd in the World Junior Championship and in 1968 he won the prize for the best score on board 4 in the Lugano Olympiad.

Raymond Denis Keene
Raymond Denis Keene

A difficult player to beat, Keene played in four British Championships without losing a game and also went through the Lugano and Siegen Olympiads unbeaten in 33 games.

At Oxford in 1973, Keene set up what he believes is an English speed record for simultaneous chess, scoring 100 wins, 5 draws and 1 loss in 4.5 hours.

Raymond Denis Keene
Raymond Denis Keene

From The Encyclopaedia of Chess by Harry Golombek :

“British Grandmaster, British Champion 1971, Keene was born in London and was both London Boy Champion and British Junior Champion in 1964.

Educated at Dulwich College and Trinity College, Cambridge, he soon became recognised, along ith Hartston, as one of the two leading younger players in England. His style of play was different from that of his rival, being more complicated and less direct; but, like Hartston, he became a most formidable opening theorist with a vast knowledge of opening theory.

His first Olympiad was at Havana 1966 where he was the youngest member of the side and scored 65% on board six. In 1968 at Lugano he obtained 76.5% on board four and in 1970 at Siegen, playing on board two in the preliminaries and board one in the finals he score 68.8%.

Raymond Denis Keene
Raymond Denis Keene

The year 1971 saw a double achievement, for in that year he won the British Championship at Blackpool and also secured the title of International Master.

Playing on top board in the 1972 Olympiad at Skopje, he scored 11.5 out of 20.

In 1974 he came 6th in a very strong Hastings tournament and then won first prize in the Capablanca Memorial Masters in Cuba. At the Nice Olympiad he scored 66.66% on 2nd board, attaining the first leg of the grandmaster norm. At Mannheim 1975 he was 3rd in the German Open championship and in that year he also came 2nd at Alicante. In 1976 he was 2nd at the Aarhus tournament in Denmark. He finished a most successful year in international chess by fulfilling the second grandmaster norm on 2nd board in the Haifa Olympiad, thereby becoming England’s second international grandmaster (after Tony Miles). (Harry Golombek)”

Ray was Southern Counties (SCCU) champion for the 1966-67 season.

Here is his extensive Wikipedia article

Noted historian John Hilbert writes on Alekhine versus Keene

and Edward Winter writes extensively about Ray’s journalistic activities

Ray & friend
Ray & friend
Murray Chandler, Ray Keene and Miguel Najdorf
Murray Chandler, Ray Keene and Miguel Najdorf
The Modern Defence, BT Batsford, 1972, GS Botterill and RD Keene
The Modern Defence, BT Batsford, 1972, GS Botterill and RD Keene
The Pirc Defence, BT Batsford, 1973, GS Botterill and RD Keene
The Pirc Defence, BT Batsford, 1973, GS Botterill and RD Keene
Flank Openings
Flank Openings

Best Wishes IM Richard Bates (27-i-1979)

IM Richard Bates
IM Richard Bates

Best Birthday wishes to IM Richard Adam Bates born on this day (January 27th) in 1979.

Richard has won the Southern Counties (SCCU) championship in the 2015-16, 2016-17 (with Nick Pert) and 2017-18 seasons.

IM Richard Adam Bates
IM Richard Adam Bates

Richard Bates
Richard Bates
IM Richard Bates
IM Richard Bates
Sheen Mount Under Eleven Chess Champion Richard Bates and Robin Laisby enjoying a game during time out from the Teachers Assurance National Primary Schools Chess Championships. Malaysian Elephant Leyang Leyang and her keeper Duncan McGinnie help them not to forget their chess moves.
Sheen Mount Under Eleven Chess Champion Richard Bates and Robin Laisby enjoying a game during time out from the Teachers Assurance National Primary Schools Chess Championships. Malaysian Elephant Leyang Leyang and her keeper Duncan McGinnie help them not to forget their chess moves.

Remembering Ian Wells (22-vi-1964 25-i-1982)

Ian Duncan Wells
Ian Duncan Wells

We remember Ian Duncan Wells who very sadly passed away on this day (January 25th) in 1982 aged seventeen years.

From Chessgames.com :

Ian Duncan Wells was born in Scarborough, England. He was awarded the FM title in 1982. At the Islington Open in December 1981 he finished 1st= with John Nunn and Tony Miles. Following a 5th= placing in the Golden Pawn of Brazil Junior tournament held in Rio de Janeiro he and other players went swimming outside their hotel. He got into difficulties and although he was brought ashore by lifesavers he died after six days in a coma.

Here is an excellent article from chess.com written by Neil Blackburn.

ID Wells (left) plays GM RD Keene
ID Wells (left) plays GM RD Keene
Ian Wells plays GM Alexander Kotov at the home of Mike Fox
Ian Wells plays GM Alexander Kotov at the home of Mike Fox

Ian Duncan Wells (standing, third from left)
Ian Duncan Wells (standing, third from left)
At the Lloyds Bank Masters : Front (l-r) : Joel Benjamin, Ian Wells, Rear : Peter Morrish, Stewart Reuben, Richard Beville, Gary Senior, Richard Webb, John Hawksworth, Andrew King, Nigel Short, Mark Ginsburg, Daniel King, David Cummings, Erik Teichmann, John Brandford and Micheal Pagden
At the Lloyds Bank Masters : Front (l-r) : Joel Benjamin, Ian Wells, Rear : Peter Morrish, Stewart Reuben, Richard Beville, Gary Senior, Richard Webb, John Hawksworth, Andrew King, Nigel Short, Mark Ginsburg, Daniel King, David Cummings, Erik Teichmann, John Brandford and Micheal Pagden

Happy Birthday IM Richard Pert (22-i-1981)

IM Richard Pert
IM Richard Pert

Happy Birthday IM Richard Pert (22-i-1981)

IM Richard Pert
IM Richard Pert

Nick and Richard Pert
Nick and Richard Pert
Nick and Richard Pert
Nick and Richard Pert

Happy Birthday GM Nick Pert (22-i-1981)

GM Nick Pert
GM Nick Pert

We send birthday wishes to GM Nick Pert born this day (January 22nd) in 1981.

Jeremy Morse, Adam Hunt, Nick Pert and Nigel Short at the Lloyds Bank Masters
Jeremy Morse, Adam Hunt, Nick Pert and Nigel Short at the Lloyds Bank Masters

Nick won the Southern Counties (SCCU) championship for the 2016-17 season sharing with Richard Bates.

Nick and Richard Pert
Nick and Richard Pert

Here is Nick’s Wikipedia entry

Nick and Richard Pert
Nick and Richard Pert

GM Nick Pert
GM Nick Pert
GM Nick Pert
GM Nick Pert

Planning : Move by Move

Planning : Move by Move
Planning : Move by Move

According to Wikipedia :

Zenón Franco Ocampos (American Spanish: [seˈnoɱ ˈfɾaŋko oˈkampos];[a] born 12 May 1956, Paraguay) is a chess grandmaster (GM) from Paraguay. In the 1982 Chess Olympiad at Lucerne, he won the gold medal at board one by scoring 11 of 13. In the 1990 Chess Olympiad at Novi Sad, he shared first place at board one with 9 points in 12 games. As of 2007, Ocampos is the top-ranked player and only GM in Paraguay (now, there are three GMs: Zenon Franco, Axel Bachmann and Jose Cubas). He has written several books on chess for Gambit Publications under the name Zenon Franco.

GM Zenon Franco
GM Zenon Franco

A few days ago my friend Paul Barasi asked me a question on Twitter: “Does planning play a distinctive & important role in deciding inter-club chess match games? I don’t hear players saying: I lost because I picked the wrong plan or failed to change plan, or won by having the better plan. Actually, they never even mention the subject.”

I replied: “It does for me. I usually lose because my opponent finds a better plan than me after the opening. But you’re right: nobody (except me) ever mentions this.”

I can usually succeed in putting my pieces on reasonable squares at the start of the game, but somewhere round about move 15 I have to decide what to do next. If I’m playing someone 150 or so Elo points above me (as I usually am at the moment), I’ll choose the wrong plan and find out, some 20 moves later I’m stuck with a pawn weakness I can’t defend and eventually lose the ending.

Perhaps Zenón Franco’s book Planning Move by Move will be the book to, as the blurb on the back suggests, take my game to the next level.

There are five chapters: Typical Structures, Space Advantage, The Manoeuvring Game, Simplification and Attack and Defence, with a total of 74 games or extracts. Although most of the games are from recent elite grandmaster practice, there are also some older games, dating back as far as Lasker-Capablanca from 1921. Three masters of strategy, Karpov, Carlsen and Caruana, make regular appearances.

Each game is interspersed with exercises (where the author is asking you to answer his question) and questions (which you might ask the author).

Compared to the Kislik book I reviewed last week which covers fairly similar territory, Franco’s book is more user friendly for this reason. It’s the difference, if you like, between a teacher and a lecturer. Kislik is talking to you from the demo board without giving you a chance to interact, while Franco is answering your questions and asking you questions in turn.

Let’s take as an example from the book Game 31, which is Caruana-Ponomariov Dortmund 2014

In this position, with Caruana, white, to play, you’re given an exercise.

“A decision must be taken. What would you play?”

White played 20. Rde1!

Answer: “Seeking the favourable exchange of dark-squared bishops and preventing 20… f6 for tactical reasons. Caruana didn’t see a favourable way of continuing after 20. h4 f6 and he commented that he wasn’t happy about allowing … h4, but he thought it was more important to prevent … f6.”

You might then ask the question: “But how did 20. Rde1 prevent 20… f6?”

Answer: “I’ll answer that with an ….”

Exercise: “How can 20… f6 be punished?”

Answer: “White can gain a positional advantage by exchanging the bishops with 21. Be5, but even better is 21. exf6 Bxf6 and now 22. Bxc7! Kxc7 23. Qf4+ wins a pawn.”

Taking you through to the end of the game, we reach this position with Caruana to play his 39th move.

“Exercise: Test position: ‘White to play and win’.”

You might want to solve this exercise yourself before reading on.

With any luck you’ll have spotted the lovely deflection 39. Re7!!

“Exercise: “What’s the key move now for solving the problem I set you?”

If you found the previous move you’ll have no problem finding the second deflection 40. Ba6 Kxa6 41. Qa8#

You’ll see from this example that the book is far from just a guide to chess strategy. At this level tactics and strategy are inseparable, and in order to solve Franco’s exercises you’ll have to calculate sharply and accurately both to justify your chosen plan and to finish your opponent off at the end of the game.

What we have, then, is a collection of top class games and extracts with annotations which are among the best I’ve seen. Copious use is made of other sources: the notes on the above game incorporate, with acknowledgement, Caruana’s own notes which can be found, amongst other places,  on MegaBase. Franco also refers to computer analysis, in places making interesting comparisons between modern (early 2019) and older engines, and frequently comments on the difference between human and computer moves.

Having said that, the games are not easy, and, although all readers will enjoy a collection of great games instructively analysed, I would suggest that, to gain full benefit from the book, you’d probably need to be about 1800+ strength and prepared to take the book seriously, reading it with a chessboard at your side, covering up the text and attempting to solve the exercises yourself.

We’ve all seen games where Capablanca, for example, wins without having to resort to complex tactics, because his opponents are far too late to catch onto what’s happening. I could well imagine a book written for players of, say, 1400-1800 strength featuring this type of game, perhaps with some more recent examples. There must be many games from Swiss tournaments where GMs beat amateurs in this way.

I have a few minor criticisms:

  • While I understand that publishers want to save paper, I’d have preferred each example to start on a new page
  • There is some inconsistency as to whether or not we’re shown the opening moves before the exercises start. I’d have preferred to see the complete game in all examples.
  • There are a few shorter examples, lasting only a few moves, in the final chapter which seem rather out of place and might have been omitted.
  • The games disproportionately favour White: I’d have preferred a more equal balance between white and black wins.
  • Some of the ‘exercises’, it seems to me, are mistakenly labelled as ‘questions’. The first question/exercise in Game 1 is an example.
  • Names of Chinese players are sometimes given incorrectly: for instance, Bu Xiangzhi appears both in the text and the index as B. Xiangzhi. Bu is his family name and Xiangzhi his given name, and Chinese names are customarily printed in full. Failure to do so (and the book is inconsistent in this) seems to me rather disrespectful.

In spite of these resservations I can recommend the book very highly as a collection of excellent and often beautiful top level games with first rate annotations. Stronger club standard players, in particular, will find it helpful in improving not just their planning skills but their tactical skills as well.

I really enjoyed reading it and I’m sure you will as well.

Richard James, Twickenham, 20th January, 2020

Richard James
Richard James

Book Details :

  • Paperback : 416 pages
  • Publisher: Everyman Chess (1 Sept. 2019)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1781945373
  • ISBN-13: 978-1781945377
  • Product Dimensions: 17.1 x 2.3 x 23.8 cm

Official web site of Everyman Chess

Planning : Move by Move
Planning : Move by Move

Happy Birthday GM Neil McDonald (21-i-1967)

GM Neil McDonald
GM Neil McDonald

We send birthday wishes to GM Neil McDonald born on this day (January 21st) in 1967.

Neil McDonald
Neil McDonald
Neil McDonald
Neil McDonald

From Wikipedia :

Neil McDonald (born 21 January 1967) is an English chess grandmaster and a player on the international chess circuit. He is an English Chess Federation coach,[1] who has trained many of the country’s strongest junior players. McDonald is a regular coach of the English junior team and was Head Coach of the English Chess Federation team at the Greece World Schools Championship in 2013.[2] He regularly escorts blind and partially sighted chess players to international World Championship events and is also a chess writer.

McDonald authored the French Defence monthly updates on chesspublishing.com from October 1999 until March 2009,[3] 1 e4 … updates from November 2009 until January 2010,[4] 1 e4 … from June 2014 until February 2015[5] and returned to 1 e4 … in March 2017 until January 2018.[6]

Neil shared first place in the 1986 GLC Masters with Jonathan Levitt, was outright first at the Elekes Memorial, 1995, first at The Leinster IM Tournament in Dublin, 1997, and other tournaments since. Neil plays for Wood Green in the Four Nations Chess League (4NCL).

He became an International Master in 1986 and was awarded the Grandmaster title in 1996.

McDonald obtained his FIDE Trainer qualification in 2016.[7]

Neil is a prolific and successful author, most recently with “Coach Yourself

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

but also thirty eight titles for Chess Press, BT Batsford Ltd. and Everyman Chess Books.

Modern Defence. Everyman, 2000
Modern Defence. Everyman, 2000
GM Neil McDonald
GM Neil McDonald

Yichen Breaks FM Record !

Yichen Han at the 2018 Terafinal
Yichen Han at the 2018 Terafinal

Newcastle Upon Tyne resident Yichen Han became the youngest Dutch holder of the FIDE Master (FM) title at the age of twelve years and two months.

Yichen was born in Eindhoven, Noord-Brabant, The Netherlands.

The games required to complete the FM title were played at the recent 4NCL Harrogate Congress . The final game was a win versus Robert Starley of Crowthorne Chess Club having started with a win versus CM Peter Ackley.

Yichen plays for Forest Hall and is a student at RGS Newcastle.

He currently has a FIDE rating of 2257 for standard play and an ECF grading of 215.

Yichen Han at the 2018 Terafinal
Yichen Han at the 2018 Terafinal