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

Henry Ernest Atkins
Henry Ernest Atkins

We remember Henry Ernest Atkins who passed away, this day (January 31st) in 1955.

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 Pillsburv 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.

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

From The Encyclopedia 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 937 (his last championship) he finished =3rd at the age of 65!

His international career comprises only six events. In 1895 Atkins was placed =2nd behind Maróczy in the Mastings 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 Pillsbry 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.”

Here is an article from the Yorkshire Chess History site

and here is an obituary from the MCCU site

Here is his Wikipedia article

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

and here is an excellent article on chess.com

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

Raymond Denis Keene
Raymond Denis Keene

We send birthday wishes to GM Raymond Denis Keene OBE born on this day (January 29th) in 1948.

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.

Raymond Denis Keene
Raymond Denis Keene

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.

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.

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.

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 Encyclopedia of Chess by Harry Golombek :

“British Grandmaster, British Champion 1971, Keen 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%.

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 Skpoje, 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

Raymond Denis Keene
Raymond Denis Keene

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 Adam 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 Duncan 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

Best Wishes IM Adam C Taylor

IM Adam C Taylor
IM Adam C Taylor

We send best wishes to IM Adam C Taylor on his birthday, this day (January 23rd) in 1998.

Adam’s IM title was ratified in June of 2019 in Baku and currently (January 2020) holds a rating of 2361 and an ECF grading of 230A.

Adam plays for Bury St. Edmunds, Manningtree and Battersea in the London League and Wood Green in the Four Nations Chess League (4NCL) and has made many appearances in the UKCC Terafinal.

Adam C Taylor
Adam C Taylor

IM Adam C Taylor
IM Adam C Taylor

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

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.

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

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.

GM Neil McDonald
GM Neil McDonald