James Derrick Slater was born on Wednesday, March 13th, 1929. On the same day “Leon Trotsky gave his first interview to the foreign press in his apartment in Turkey, saying he was writing a book tracing the history of his opposition to Joseph Stalin and expressing a desire to go to Germany because he preferred the care of German physicians.”
He was born in Heswall, Cheshire (Wirral, Merseyside was the registration district) to Hubert Slater and Jessica Alexandra Barton.
He arrived (aged 31) in Southampton on board the Pretoria Castle as a first class passenger whilst resident in 16, Stafford Terrace, Kensington and his occupation was given as Company Director.
He died on 18th November 2015 in Cranleigh, Surrey aged 86. He had four children one of which is Mark Slater.
Jim wrote his chess autobiography as follows :
(This text was retrieved using the Wayback machine via https://web.archive.org/web/20110909053137/http://www.jimslater.org.uk/views/chess/)
“As a boy Jim Slater enjoyed playing Monopoly and draughts but his main indoor hobby was chess. He stopped playing chess after leaving school as he found it took too much time and concentration while studying for accountancy.
It was not until a colleague asked Jim to teach him to improve his game in the late 1960s that his interest in chess was rekindled. For a short while Jim joined a London chess club (Richard James reveals that this is West London Chess Club as mentioned in their internal magazine) but found he preferred correspondence chess which he could play much more conveniently when he returned home in the evening. Jim did quite well in his correspondence club, going up a few grades, until he reached a level at which it became hard work.
Jim had maintained a link with Leonard Barden, who was a British Champion and a chess correspondent. With his help Jim began subsidising the annual Hastings Tournament with a view to expanding it so that leading players would have a chance to qualify as international masters. Other countries would not invite British players to play in their tournaments until they became international masters so they were in an impossible situation. The small amount of help Jim was able to give to Hastings was arranged in a very low-key way and attracted very little publicity. The World Chess Championship would prove to be a very different proposition.
For the previous two decades the Russians had dominated world chess and then the West produced two exceptional players – Bobby Fischer of the USA and Bent Larsen of Denmark. In particular, Fischer had fantastic potential but he was handicapped by being extremely temperamental.
In the final rounds of the World Chess Championship the players were playing the best of ten games. In the quarter finals Fischer won six games to nil. In the semi-final Fischer was paired with Larsen and also beat him six games to nil. This had never happened before in world chess, and for the first time it looked as if the Russians were going to get a run for their money.
In the last qualifier Fischer came up against Petrosian, a brilliant defensive player. Fischer won the first game but lost the second. The next three games were drawn. It was said by some that Fischer had a bad cold and everyone wondered if he could regain his earlier momentum. After this relapse he won the next four games. This made Fischer challenger to Spassky. Spassky too was a brilliant attacking player and had been a chess genius since early childhood, so it promised to be an exceptional match.
While preparations were being made for the World Championship in Iceland, Fischer started to complain about the prize money which he thought should be doubled.
‘I was driving into London early one Monday morning in mid-July feeling disappointed that after all this build-up Fischer might not be taking on Spassky, when it suddenly occurred to me that I could easily afford the extra prize money personally. As well as providing me with a fascinating spectacle for the next few weeks it would give chess players throughout the world enormous pleasure for the match to proceed.’
From The Complete Chess Addict (Faber&Faber, 1987) , Mike Fox & Richard James:
“Jim Slater, the financier and children’s author, was a strong schoolboy player. He gave up chess for finance. This turned out a very good thing for chess, since he was able to tempt Bobby Fischer (with a £50,000 increase in stake-money) into playing Boris Spassky for the world title in 1972. Here’s what the young Slater was capable of:”
From Bobby Fischer Goes to War , David Edmonds and John Eidinow, Faber & Faber, 2004 we have a fuller account as follows :
“Driving to work in London early on Monday morning, 3 July, Jim Slater was upset by a radio report on the challenger’s non-appearance in Reykjavik. Slater was a businessman who had set up his own company, Slater Walker Securities, in 1964, when he was in his mid-thirties. His partner, Peter Walker, had left the business to become a Conservative member of parliament and a government minister under Edward Heath and,later, Margaret Thatcher. At the time of the Fischer-Spassky match, the company reportedly had a controlling interest in 250 companies around the world. Supremely confident, decisive, ruthless in business, Slater had by then amassed a fortune of, in his own words,’£6 million and rising’. A gambler by nature, the one big luxury he allowed himself was to play bridge for thousands of pounds with stronger opponents.
He was also a chess fan and supporter of the game, subsidizing the annual Hastings tournament. In the years following Fischer-Spassky, he would, alongside the former British champion and journalist Leonard Barden (who provided the vision and organization), transform the state of British chess by channelling funds into junior competition. Now he decided that he could easily afford the money to send Fischer to Reykjavik – or expose the American as a coward. He would double the prize, putting an additional £50,000 ($125,000) into the pot. Arriving at his office that Monday morning, he passed on his offer through Barden, who then spoke to Marshall, giving the US attorney some background details about this championship angel. Marshall then talked to Fischer. Slater says he also telephoned his friend David Frost, who in turn rang his friend Henry Kissinger’ Kissinger then contacted Fischer. What motivated Slater?’As well as providing me with a fascinating spectacle for the next few weeks, I could give chess players throughout the world enormous pleasure’
Slater’s offer made headlines in London’s Evening Standard and his house was soon swarming with reporters. When he returned from work, he told his astonished wife,’I had a good idea on the way to the office.’The good idea was couched in challenging terms: ‘If he isn’t afraid of Spassky, then I have removed the element of money’
It is not altogether clear how the British offer finally persuaded Fischer. Paul Marshall certainly had a hand, initially pushing it as the answer to all Fischer’s financial demands.’But he wouldn’t accept it; he says.’His experiences with people promising things had taught him not to believe them, particularly with money. And he wanted proof. And he said no.’Marshall tried to change his mind. Phoning Barden, the attorney took his place in the gallery of callers that saved the match.’I said if I were them I would rephrase the offer. Slater should say he didn’t think his money was at risk, because Fischer was just making excuses. He should say that deep down Fischer was frightened. I said Bobby might be piqued by that challenge – and he was. I knew Bobby was very very competitive and combative and would not like to be thought of as a chicken.’ Slater denies this version of events. He maintains it was always his idea to express his offer as a taunt. He never spoke to Fischer and never received a word of gratitude from him.’Fischer is known to be rude, graceless, possibly insane,’he says.’I didn’t do it to be thanked. I did it because it would be good for chess.'”
The match between Fischer and Spassky was a most exciting one and fully up to everyone’s expectations. Fischer won the match.
A few months later, in an endeavour to help our young players, Jim Slater offered on behalf of The Slater Foundation to give a prize of £5,000 (about £75,000 in today’s money) to the first British grand master and £2,500 to the next four. Over the next few years Great Britain went from having no grand masters to twenty and became one of the strongest teams of young chess players in the world.”
and here is his entry from chessgames.com which lists one game from 1947 : “James Derrick Slater, better known as Jim Slater, was an English accountant, investor and business writer. Slater became a well-known chess patron in the 1970s, when he stepped in to double the prize fund of the Fischer-Spassky world championship match at a time when Fischer was threatening not to play, thereby enabling the match to go forward. Afterwards he provided significant financial backing for the development of young British players, many of whom later contributed to Britain becoming one of the world’s strongest chess countries in the 1980s.”
From The Oxford Companion to Chess (OUP, 1984) by Hooper and Whyld :
“British chess patron, financier, children’s author, Slater achieved wide fame in the chess world on the occasion of the Spassky-Fischer world championship match of 1972. Fischer showed reluctance to play and apparently decided to do so when Slater added £50,000 to the prize fund. Slater has also made contributions to many other chess causes and in 1973 set-up the Slater Foundation, a charitable trust which, among other activities, pays for the coaching of young players and provides help for their families if needed. Leonard Barden advises the trust on chess matters. In the 1970s, partly owing to this patronage, junior players in Britain became as strong as those in any other country.”
“An English financier, a great patron and benefactor of chess, both on a national and world level. Passionately devoted to chess from schooldays. He said that on leaving school he hesitated between the alternatives of become a chess master and of going into business, opting for the latter on the grounds that he was not sure of his chess-playing prowess.
It is perhaps a fortunate thing for chess that he did not become a chess-master, since he offer of a £50,000 increase to the stake at the match at Reykjavik in Iceland in 1972 may well have swayed Fischer into consenting to play. He established a Slater Foundation Fund which helps young English players to go and play abroad.”
The following article was originally published on November 7th 1980 in Education magazine. The author was George Low. George may be found on LinkedIn. Education magazine was a weekly publication that started in 1903 and in 1997 was absorbed into Education Journal.
George Low explains why our youngsters are doing so well
“Britain’s international chess team, with an average age of under 30, is now the most formidable and talented in the world. At this month’s tournament in Malta they will be breathing down the necks of the Russians for the championship and have a high chance of coming away with a medal.
Behind the national team there is an even more promising junior squad, who have won the European championships two years’ running. Among the up and coming youngsters who are beginning to give the Russians cause for anxiety are two potential world champions – Tony Miles, now a Grandmaster and serious contender for the world championship, and Nigel Short, who at 15 is already the youngest international master ever.
The remarkable upsurge of standards and interest is a phenomenon of some educational significance. The schools have been the seedbed. The nurturing of young talent (often from the age of six or even younger) has been a tangible proof of the dedication of teachers to supervision and support outside school
hours, and there are few extra-curricular activities more time-consuming than chess.
But alongside the school clubs a network of small informal clubs have sprung up and a series of tournaments for all ages and groups. City financier Jim Slater and Lloyds Bank can take the main credit for financial sponsorship of the junior squad, and newspapers like The Sunday Times and The Evening Standard have stimulated a great deal of competitive zeal through their school and individual tournaments.
Like many educational developments in this country, the chess phenomenon has completely by-passed the Department of Education and Science, who have turned down all approaches for financial and even moral support. Officials are wont to plead that there is no mention of chess in the 1944 Education Act or its successors, This is, of course, true, but the Department, nevertheless, manages to make all sorts of direct and indirect contributions to musical and sporting activities. When set beside the intense involvement of many other nations in the development of chess the official attitude appears all the more
How then has Britain managed to bound up the international league table from no. 26 to among the top three nations of the world? Mr. Leonard Barden, manager of the junior squad, traces the resurgence of interest to media coverage of the Spassky-Fischer duel eight years ago and its sequel between Korchnoi and Karpov five years later.
In about 1972-3, he recalls, the selectors started casting their nets much wider than the Home Counties grammar schools where the recruiting ground had
traditionally been. He and his colleagues looked through the results of a lot more tournaments all over the country. Those who had real talent were encouraged to go in for the National Junior Squad championships and to enter adult tournaments. They were also given the opportunity to play against Grandmaster in ‘simuls’ (simultaneous games involving 20 or 30 boards). Mr. Barden now has 500 young players on his books in whom he takes an active interest, following their tournament games and writing to suggest alternative strategies in their games. Beneath these there is a pool of 2000 to 3000 children who play in tournaments and are graded players whom the selectors have their eye on.
Nigel Short was an early find when he won the Merseyside championship under nines. By the age of 9.5 he was developing very rapidly under special tuition and was entering simuls with Grandmasters. He was one of the children who Leonard Barden put into his training schedule and persuaded him to aim for the highest league. ‘Between the ages of nine and fourteen they can develop very rapidly and are ready to play with adults. After that they fall foul of the English exam system and that slows them down having to memorise all that largely irrelevant mass of information,’Mr. Barden says.
There is no risk of force-feeding the children in his squad, he says, they are all naturally bright and do not suffer from the competition within their age group. They are as group a perfectly normal lot. He believes that besides the technical help promising youngsters can be given such as being introduced to chess magazines, motivation is all-important. The Department of Education should do more to foster chess, he thinks, achievement in chess and success in academic subjects.
Mr. Michael Sinclair, who runs the chess club at Hampton School and organises many school tournaments, see numerous educational and personal benefits from children playing chess in schools. The older boys (Ed: this was 1980!) can help the younger ones to develop their game and they in turn learn a lot from competing with adults in congresses.
The game teaches children to concentrate for long periods of time, to observe correct etiquette and to accept adjudication decisions (Ed: I suspect this means arbiting decisions!). It also gives them an understanding of a symbolic language that can be a useful grounding in such subjects as algebra or even computer programming. in later studies. Given its undoubted educational contribution, it is surprising that few books have been written on teaching chess in schools.”
According to the electoral register of 1939 they lived at 8 Ingledene Road, Liverpool, Liverpool C.B., Lancashire, England. (This is L18 3HJ in this day and age.)
According to Zoopla : “This 4 bed freehold semi-detached house is located at 8 Ingledene Road, Liverpool L18 3HJ and has an estimated current value of £581,000. Ingledene Road has 19 properties on it with an average current value of £492,220, compared to an average property value of £325,035 for L18. There have been 5 property sales on Ingledene Road, L18 over the last 5 years with an average house price paid of £474,900. There are currently 108 properties for sale in L18 with an average asking price of £372,163 and 59 properties to rent in L18 with an average asking rent of £408 pw.”
Jon D’Souza-Eva (Oxford) wrote to us on November 17th, 2021 to reveal:
“I always thought that Gordon Crown was an only child, but after a little searching I found that he had a younger brother, Rodney, who was born and died in 1938.
There’s also a rather mysterious redacted entry in the Crown household in the 1939 register. I can’t find evidence for any other siblings who might account for it.”
and we asked Leonard Barden about this replying:
“I can’t confirm the Rodney, but Gordon died the night after I visited him on a daily leave pass from RAF Padgate. I didn’t know about it for two weeks because of the lack of news facilities at my camp. But then when I heard I wrote to his mother and she sent back the Kotov photo with a very sad letter from which one phrase has remained in my memory:
“Our other son died nine years ago and Gordon was all we had”….”
Both Sunnucks and Hooper & Whyld are silent on GTC : surprising!
“Gordon Crown is one the sad might-have-beens of the world of chess. In his short life he had already shown himself to be of master strength and a potentially very great player when suddenly, at the age of eighteen, he died during an operation.
He learnt chess when aged nine and soon became one of the best players, first in Liverpool,, his home town, and then in Lancashire, of which county he won the Junior Championship three years in succession.
Crown first came into national prominence when he came second in the British Boys Championship in 1946. (Ed : the winner was John Fuller) In the Hastings Congress of 1946/7 he won first place in a strong Premier Reserves Section.
The last year of his life even saw him reaching out to international success, Playing on board 9 for Britain against The Netherlands he scored 1.5 out of 2 against L.J. Tummers. Then he won third prize in the British Championship at Harrogate. As a result of this success he was promoted to board 4 for Britain against Australia in a radio match when he beat Dr. M. Gellis.
In September 1947 he was hurried to hospital suffering from peritonitis and, being a diabetic, succumbed under the operation.
As a player he excelled in both the opening and endgame phases and possessed a style of play that stamped him as a future grandmaster. As a person he was modest, clever and a very agreeable companion. This was great loss for British and, almost certainly, world chess.”
We have reproduced his obituary from British Chess Magazine, Volume LXVII (1947), Number 12 (December), Page 387-8 and we assume that this was written by TJ Beach:
“The tragic death of Gordon on November 17th after an operation, will be felt keenly-by chess players throughout the country. Although only l8 years of age he had risen to a high place in British chess circles. Learning the elements of the game in 1938, he had won the Lancashire Junior Championship in three successive years, was champion of the Liverpool Chess Club and Merseyside champion with 100 per cent scores last season, headed his section of the Premier Tournament at the last Hastings Christmas Congress, and, filling the vacancy caused by the late withdrawal of R. F. Combe the 1946 champion, took third prize in the British Championship played at Harrogate in August of this year.
In three international team matches he scored l.5 points on Board 9 against Tummers, of Holland; was one of the two British players to score a full point against the visiting U.S.S.R. team, sharing honours with Kotov in two finely played games on Board 4; and followed this with a win over Dr. Gellis, of Victoria, in the recent radio match with Australia, despite the earlier loss of the exchange through an oversight. His full match record for the past twelve months in international, county, and club matches read: won 16, drawn 2, and lost l. (to Kotov).
His play was notable for his exceptional knowledge of opening and end-game strategy, but his prowess was not by any means confined to “book” knowledge. Possessing deep positional insight, real combinational ability, and chess experience beyond his years, his concentration, tenacity, and determination to win had already made him one of the most formidable match and tournament players in the country. Many of us felt that he would become a worthy British champion within the next few years, and possibly reach even greater heights in the international sphere, and it is, perhaps, not too much to say that many chess players were already looking forward to the day when Gordon Crown would lead British chess to a high place in international esteem: Now those dreams have been rudely shattered, and the loss to British chess is great indeed.
Gordon Crown was not merely a youthful chess prodigy. Although suffering for many years from the physical disability which has now caused his premature death, he had a distinguished record at the Holt High School, Liverpool, and had entered Liverpool University only a month ago to read for the degree of B.A. Unable to play football and cricket, in which latter he was deeply interested, he became a tennis and table-tennis player of well above average ability and was an excellent exponent of billiards and snooker. Among other interests were cycling, and military history and strategy, in which he had read and studied widely.
No study of Gordon Crown would be complete without reference to his personality quite apart from his ability. Possessed of a quiet assurance and confidence in matters pertaining to chess, he was modest in victory, generous in his rare defeats, and ever ready to help small clubs by means of a lecture or simultaneous display.
Never too busy to play the humblest novice, he gave untold pleasure and a new interest in life to many men who had suffered during the war by introducing them to the
fascination of chess, and by this means helped materially in the vital task of rehabilitation. With charm and dignity Gordon Crown won a warm place in the hearts and affections of those who were fortunate enough to be counted among his friends, and whilst our deepest sympathy goes out to his parents in their tragic loss, they may well ae proud that their son achieved so much that was really worth while within so few years, for we shall remember Gordon with affection long after his chess exploits are but a dim memory.-T. J. B.”
The following is one of the last games, if not the last; played by Crown in competitive chess. Score and notes from “The Field”
and here is the scan of the original article:
We are grateful to Leonard Barden on the identity of T.J.B. :
“Thomas John Beach, wartime RAF navigator with Distinguished Flying Cross, leading light of Liverpool chess, regular British championship player for many years, chairman of BCF junior selectors, father of a leading Midlands expert, a good and dedicated man” TJB was the father of Richard Beach who won the British Boys Under 18 title in 1961.
According to the British Chess Magazine, 1943, March, page 56 GTC lived at 8 Ingledene Road, Calderstones, Liverpool 18, England.
On 17 November 1947 he was admitted to hospital, complaining of a stomach upset. Diagnosed too late with appendicitis, complicated by his diabetes, he died in the operating theatre.
His friend (and former British champion) Leonard Barden speculates that had he lived, Crown would have become at least a strong Grandmaster, further noting that he was ” … open, friendly and modest as well as a clear and enthusiastic explainer of his chess ideas; I think he would have been like Keres or Gligoric in their countries, a model for our young players.”
Harry Golombek was similarly impressed with Crown’s play, stating that “In his short life, he had already shown himself to be of master strength and was potentially a very great player.”
We are grateful to be able to use comments from long time friend, Leonard Barden posted under the nom de plume of Roberts Partner on chessgames.com :
“As to the circumstances of Crown’s death. The finger of blame must be pointed at the family doctor for failing to make a timely correct diagnosis. On Sunday 16 November 1947 a chess friend visited the Crown home at Ingledene Road, Liverpool, and found Crown in bed. He explained that his doctor had diagnosed a stomach upset and had recommended rest. The friend and Crown played and analysed together for several hours, and Crown did not appear in any physical discomfort. But that night after the friend left his condition deteriorated and he was rushed to hospital where he died in the early morning hours of 17 November. There was also a belief among some Liverpool chess players that the hospital procedures could have been better.”
“On another thread some CG posters expressed surprise at the Ritson Morry v Crown game where Morry fell into a well-known opening trap.
The British championship at Harrogate in August 1947 was played in a spa building where the underfloor heating was still switched on. This coincided with one of the warmest summers on record (it was the year in which Compton and Edrich made their memorable cricket achievements for Middlesex). By the second week of the BCF congress older and overweight players (the latter group including Ritson Morry) were wilting. Ritson also had some long adjourned games, and by the time of his game with Crown in the final round was exhausted. The game finished in 15-20 minutes so by the time other players went to spectate after their opening moves there was just a reset board with no sign of the players and no indication of what had transpired. Other final round results went Crown’s way so that he finished third outright and thus got selected on a high board for the USSR match.”
and here is an article by ddtru (?) in chess.com : full article
We are grateful to renowned chess historian, Taylor Kingston for supplying these scans of an article from Chess Life in 1947 about Gordon Crown written by Reuben Fine :
“Gordon Thomas Crown (20 June 1929 – 17 November 1947) was a promising British chess player who died of appendicitis at the age of eighteen. He is best known for his win against the Russian Grandmaster Alexander Kotov shortly before his death.
Crown was born in Liverpool in 1929. He finished second in the British under 18 championship in 1946 and improved rapidly, winning the Premier Reserve section of the 1946/7 Hastings International Chess Congress. This led to his being placed on the reserve list for the 1947 British Chess Championship. Following the withdrawal of the defending champion Robert Forbes Combe, he was allowed to play in the championship, where he finished third (Harry Golombek won).
Consequently, he was selected to play for the British team in the 1947 Britain-USSR match, where he caused a sensation by defeating the Soviet Grandmaster Alexander Kotov, though he lost the return game. He also defeated Max Gellis in a Britain-Australia radio match.”
Interestingly, via the EC Forum, Geoff Chandler pointed out a note by Edward Winter in which Bill Hartston recounts advice from David Bronstein : “Look at the games of Gordon Crown. He really understood chess”. From NOW! magazine, (6-12 February 1981, page 80.): thanks Geoff !
Decision Making In Major Piece Endings : Boris Gelfand
From the Publisher’s Foreword:
“This is the fourth book in the Decision Making In Chess series. It was written over the last couple of years. A lot of work has gone into this book and the accompanying volume Technical Decision Making In Chess, which deals with a wider range of technical topics, whereas this book focuses on positions without minor pieces.
It has been four years since the publication of Dynamic Decision Making in Chess and certainly there will be one person out there wondering what happened to us and why the third volume was taking so long to complete. I hope that the content alone of these two books will answer that question.”
From the back cover:
“In Decision Making in Major Piece Endings former World Championship Challenger Boris Gelfand discusses his path to decision making in endgames involving rooks or queens, as well as the neglected “4th phase”. Countless games are decided by good or bad technique in such endgames, so readers are certain to benefit from the insights of a word-class Grandmaster on this vital topic.
Grandmaster Boris Gelfand has been an elite player for over 30 years, winning the World Cup, Olympiad Gold, the Candidates and many other top tournaments. Grandmaster Jacob Aagaard is the only chess writer to have won all the major awards for chess writing. ”
Reaction to previous volumes in the series:
In 2015 Positional Decision Making In Chess won the ECF Book of the Year award.
“The most interesting chess book I have read in the last quarter-century.” Mikhail Shereshevsky on Positional Decision Making in Chess.
This new Quality Chess publication Decision Making In Major Piece Endings uses high quality paper and the printing is clear. The book can easily be laid flat next to the board and does not require weights to prevent it from “self-closing” (a particular bugbear of ours !). Each diagram is clear and the instructional text is typeset in two column format, which, we find, enables the reader to maintain their place easily. Figurine algebraic notation is used throughout and the diagrams are placed adjacent to the relevant text and each major diagram has a “to move” indicator. Where a “to move” indicator is not present, it is obvious which colour is to move from the accompanying moves in a variation.
Each chapter is introduced with a contemporary photograph of a player or players or a tournament scene which launches each chapter in a engaging manner. This is followed by a Diagram Preview page which shows the critical analytical diagrams in the following chapter and invites the reader to practise their analysis and decision making! If you can work out most of the variations you are a world champion.
The introduction of this book makes it clear that this book is not an endgame primer or manual on basic major piece endgames as there are plenty of these theoretical works already in existence. Knowledge of very basic rook and pawn endgames such as the Lucena and Vancura positions is assumed. This book is “about decision making at the board and learning from your games – and those of others. In this book I will discuss topics that have arisen in some of the most interesting games without minor pieces during my career. We will encounter rook endings, queen endgames and games in what Romanovsky called the fourth phase, which is essentially later middlegames/early endings where only major pieces remain.”
The introduction also guides the reader on how to study the endgame: 1. knowledge of basic positions and their key variations and ideas must be known; 2. improving deep analytical skills; 3. development of intuition. This book concentrates on improving items 2 & 3 above. The author suggests how to best use the book by first analysing the endgames without a chess engine and/or tablebases to prevent lazy thinking by relying too heavily on engine assessments without understanding.
Despite the fact that the introduction claims that this book is not an endgame primer, there are a couple of excellent chapters on theoretical endgames. They are covered from a practical point of view and Gelfand draws out the key defensive ideas by concentrating on patterns and key positions. More on these chapters later. There are other basic endgame positions interspersed in other chapters which are reached from long variations but are nevertheless didactic as the theoretical endgames are shown in context within the whole endgame and the reader is clearly shown how these positions can be reached in practice.
Here is an critical position from the game Julian Hodgson – Boris Gelfand played at Groningen 1996. Both players misevaluated this ending as they both thought that black was easily winning. At the time, endgame theory agreed with them. Modern tablebases give this as a clear draw as black cannot hide his king from the checks with accurate defensive play from white.
The game continued 86.Qe8+? The losing mistake. The black king escapes the checks by stepping in front of the pawns. 86.Qe6!, the most natural waiting move was still drawing. (86.Qd7! also draws). 86…Qf8 87. Qe2+ g4 88. Qe5+ Kh6 89. Qe6+ Kg5 90. Qe5+ Qf5 91.Qg7+ Kf4 92. Qc7+ Qe5 93. Qf7+ with a draw. 86… Kg4 87. Qe6+ Qf5 88.Qc4+ Kg3 89. Qc7+ Qf4 0-1
The author makes the point that if white had known that the endgame was a draw, and knew a few general ideas, he would have probably drawn the game. But when you think it is lost, psychologically it is impossible to hold it, particularly in an increment finish. A lot of the top players do not think in terms of lost or not: they concentrate on looking for ideas (to make life difficult for the opponent).
Chapter 1 – The Importance of Analysis
The title of the chapter is self explanatory and Gelfand stresses the need to study complicated endgames in depth and understand all the nuances. There are some superb examples of brilliant analysis. Here is one such position where Gelfand did not discover the right idea until 2018:
It is black to play, clearly 60…d1=Q 61. Rxd1 Kxd1 62. Kf3 is not good enough to win. Black to play can win with 60…Rc4!! 61. Rb1 Rc1 62. Rb2 Rf1!! cutting the king off from the e-file (62…Ke3? 63. Rxd2 Kxd2 64.Kf4 draws shouldering the black king) 63. Kg4 Ke3 64. Rxd2 Kxd2 65. Kg5 Ke3 wins as black’s king is now available to hunt the pawns down.
Chapter 2 Do Not Hurry
The “Do not hurry” concept is a key concept that I first encountered in Shereshevsky’s classic Endgame Strategy. In the position below, this principle can be demonstrated aptly.
Converting this position is covered in detail with a key discussion on exchanges which is enlightening.
This rook ending could have occurred and black’s winning’s manoeuvre is instructive:
63…Rc5 64. Rc7 Rc3+ 65. Kf2 Rc4 66.Kg3 Now the black rook has been optimally placed, it is time to improve the king to the maximum, while keeping the best possible pawn structure, which is to keep the pawn on g7 and play …f6, so that White does not have Rc8 followed by c6-c7. If the pawn would be on g6 in that position, Rg8 would eventually come and save a draw. The best black would achieve is f- and h- pawns, but not in favourable circumstances. With the pawn on g7, …Rxc7 will always come as a response to Rg8 and black wins trivially. 66…Kf6 67.Kh3 Kg6 68.Kg3 f6 And black wins after either 69.Kh3 Kh6! followed by the advance of the g-pawn, or 69.Rc8 Kf5! and the advance of the king.
Chapter 3 – Three Surprisingly Complicated Rook Endgames
This is a variation from an interesting rook and pawn endgame Boris Gelfand – Lars Bo Hansen Wijk aan Zee 1993:
White wins with the instructive 64.Rc7!! preparing to cut black’s king off along the fifth rank 64…Rh1 65.Rc5! and if 65…Kd6 66.Rc6+, white can then simply queen the b pawn winning black’s rook whilst black’s king is unable to support his own pawn.
Here is another common type of position taken from a variation in the game Gelfand-Vladimir Kramnik Zurich 2017. White is clearly much better as his king supports his pawn and black’s king is not in the game. But how does white win?
The answer is simple once you see it. 48.Rc3!! Kf6 49. Rc2! and wins
Chapter 4 Two Defensive Methods in Rook Endings
This chapter is one of the theoretical chapters which covers rook and four against three all on one side and rook against three connected passed pawns. This section is well constructed with coverage of all the major positions and ideas in the 4 v 3 ending.
Some famous games are included which must be present in every treatise on rook endings. Here is one such ending from: Mikhail Botvinnik v Miguel Najdorf Moscow 1956:
White is winning here because he can create a passed e-pawn and he has fixed the pawn structure with h5 leaving an entry point for the king on g6. The game continued 61…Kf7 62. Ra5 Rc7 63. Rd5 Ra7 64. e5 fxe5 65. fxe5 Ke7 66.e6 Ra4 67. g5! providing cover for the king 67…hxg5 68.Rd7+ Kf8 69.Rf7+ Kg8 70.Kg6 g4 71.h6! gxh6 72.e7 Ra8 73.Rf6 There is no defence to Rd6 and Rd8 with mate.
The celebrated endgame Capablanca-Yates Hastings 1930 is of course covered in great detail. The analysis of the famous position is covered in great depth showing the defender’s best defence which is tricky to crack. It is revealing to note that even the great Cuban World Champion let the win slip at one point. I suggest that the reader buys the book to study this superb analysis.
The position below is the celebrated game Piket-Kasparov Internet 2000 because Kasparov misplayed a drawn endgame so badly. We must not be too hard on the former World Champion as it was a rapid game and Kasparov is a superb endgame player.
The game continued: 42.Kh3 Re3 43.Kh4 Kg7?! Black does not have to let the white king into g5. 43…Kh6! 44.Rc7 Re2! 45h3
Now, 45…Rxe5! 46.Rxf7 Re4 47.g4 Rxf4! forces a quick draw.
The game continued: 44.Kg5 Re1? (The final mistake: black can hold with 44…Ra3 45.Rc7 Ra5 and white is stymied) 45.Rc7 Re2 46.Re7 Ra2 The following variation is the key to why white is winning: 46…Re1
47.e6! Rxe6 48.Rxe6 fxe6 49.h3 Despite material equality, black is lost as he is in zugzwang. 49…Kf7 50.Kh6 Kf6 51.g4 h4 52.g5+ Kf5 53.Kg7 Kxf4 54.Kxg6 e5 55.Kf6 e4 56.g6 e3 57.g7 e2 58.g8=Q e1=Q 59.Qg4+ Ke3 60.Qe6+ exchanging queens and winning
In the game, black lost in a similar manner to Botvinnik-Najdorf:
47.f5! gxf5 48.e6 h4 49.Rxf7+ Kg8 50. Kf6 1-0
The final two positions in this chapter concern Rook v 3 connected passed pawns.
White to move wins with 1.Rf8, black to move draws only with 1…Kg7! preventing the rook from moving behind the base of the chain.
Similarly in the mirror position, white to move wins with 1.Rh8, black to move draws with 1…Kg7!
The core of the book (chapters 5 to 8) is a series of four chapters deeply analysing three rook and pawn endgames of Gelfand’s against world class opposition. The games are shown in their entirety which is the modern way to study endgames in relation to the opening and middlegame.
This position from a variation in the game Gelfand-Kasimdzhanov from Baku 2014 caught my eye. Black to play – what should he do? 59…Kf5!! The obvious move is to push the pawns with 59…g4. Let’s see what happens: 60.Rc6! f5 61.Rxa6 Kg5 62.Rb6 h3 63.Kg3 f4+ 64.Kh2 Kf4 65.Rh6+ Kg5
66.Rh8! Kf5 67. Rg8! Black is in zugzwang and loses all the pawns.
60.Rc6 a5 61. Rc5+ Kg6 62.Rxa5 f5 and black prevents the rook from reaching f8. This is obvious when one has knowledge of the basic endgame rook v 3 connected pawns shown above! The author has shown an excellent example of knowing your basics being applied to a real live game.
Chapter 9 Queen Endings with a g- or h- pawn
This is one of the reviewer’s favourite chapters as it combines endgame theory with practical examples showing that even strong GMs do not know how to defend these endings correctly. Even when players know where to put their defending king, choosing the correct check to draw is not obvious!
Here is a position from Gelfand-Jobava from Dortmund 2006.
The reviewer loves this endgame.
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
Now white played 53. e5!! which had been completed missed by black (automatic recapture syndrome) fxe5 54.Kxe5 Kd7 55.Kxf5 Kd6 56.Kg5 Ke5 57.Kxh5 Kf4
Now white can enter a winning queen endgame with 58.Kg6!
White did not play the endgame perfectly, and after many adventures this position was reached at move 87. Black is drawing here if he places his king in the drawing zone which is the far corner diagonally opposite where the g pawn is hoping to queen i.e. a1.
87… Ka5? was played which loses. I am surprised that a strong GM moved his king the wrong way. 87…Ka3 draws but the draw is not simple. 88.g7 and now black can draw with an accurate sequence of moves that are not obvious. 87… Qe5+ (the obvious 87… Qg3+ loses in 41 moves) 89.Kg6 Qe6+ 90.Kh7 reaching the drawn position below.
90…Qf5+ 91.Kg8 Qf4! (only move) draws, 90…Qh3+ 91.Kg8 Qf5! (91…Qe6+ loses) also draws
The game continued 88.g7 Qe5+ 89.Kg6 Qe6+ 90.Kh7 Qf5+ 91.Kg8 Ka4 92. Qh1 Qc8+ 93. Kh7 Qf5+ 94. Kh8 Qe5 reaching the position below:
Now 95.Qh3! wins cutting off he black king from the drawing zone. Gelfand won the game easily after another 18 moves. The best defence involves white winning by transitioning through the two diagrams below exploiting black’s king position to misplace the black queen. Absolutely fascinating stuff.
Chapter 10 – Multiple Queens
This section is entertaining with some really exciting and amusing positions. Here is one such position:
This looks like a fairly standard queen and pawn ending. Black is a pawn down but is to play and played the obvious capture 55…Qxb2? which is simply too slow. 55…b4! was the drawing move. White has two tries: 56.axb4 is the only real winning attempt but falls short: 56…Qxb2 57. Qh7+ Ke6 58. Qxh6 a3 59. Qg6 a2 60.h6 a1=Q 61.h7 Qe2! forcing white to take a perpetual. Or 56. Qh7+ Ke6 57. Qxh6 Qxe4+ 58. Kh2 Qe2 with sufficient counterplay against the white king to draw. The game continued: 56.Qh7+ Ke6 57. Qxh6 b4 58. Qg6 bxa3 59. h6 a2 60. h7 a1=Q reaching the position below.
61. Qf5+? Driving the king towards safety: 61.h8=Q wins instantly, with a quick mate.) Kd6 62. h8=Q Kc5! 63. Qf8+ Kc4 64. Qe6+ Kd3 65. Qfxf6 Qd4 66.Qf3+ Kd2 67. Qh6+ Kc2 68.Qc6+ (the computer prefers 68.Qe2+ Kc3 69.Qc6+ Kb4 70. Qb7+ Ka3 71. Qe7+ Kb3 72. Qf7+ Kb4 73.g4 and white is winning) Kb1 69. g4 Qab2 70.g5 a3 71. g6 a2 72. g7 a1=Q 73. g8=Q Qaa3 74. Qgg3 ? (74. Qcf6 keeps the advantage) reaching this position:
This is the beautiful but sad moment of the game. Black played 74…Qxf3+? and went on to lose quickly. 74…Qdxf2+!! draws by sacrificing all three queens for stalemate, for example 75. Qfxf2 Qxg3+ 76. Kxg3 Qc3+ 77. Qxc3 stalemate. Fantastic! Who says there is no humour in chess ?
Chapter 11 – Full Circle
This chapter covers the famous game Botvinnik-Minev Amsterdam 1954 which goes into a celebrated Q + g pawn v Q ending which Botvinnik won from a drawn position. As Boris Gelfand points out, once we know that an article written by Paul Keres in the 1947-1949 Soviet Yearbook recommended that black place the king on a4, black’s moves become completely understandable.
56.Qg4+ Ka5? This is still a draw but modern knowledge recommends Ka3 heading towards the opposite corner. 57.Qxe6 Qh8+ 58.Kg6 Qc3 59.g4 Qd2 60.g5 Qd4? Centralisation looks good, but in fact loses. 60…Ka4! was best, several other moves also draw.
Now 61. Qf5+? allowing black to draw. 61. Kh7! Qh4+ 62.Qh6 followed by g6, the black king is too far from the a1 corner 61…Ka4 62. Kh5 Qh8+ 63. Kg4 Qh1? The final mistake, after this Botvinnik wins with no slip-ups. Buy the book to find out how. 63…Ka3! was correct.
Chapter 12 – Conversion in the 4th Phase
This chapter covers a complex Q and double rook late middlegame which reveals the complexities of such positions. The game clearly shows that a sustained initiative is so potent.
This is a critical position from the game Gelfand-Edouard. Black is under the cosh but can defend with 35…Qxe5! 36. Qxa7 Rg6! 35.Qb7 Rxg3+! 36.fxg3 Qe3+! 37. Kh2 Qh6+ with a perpetual check.
The penultimate chapter is a series of studies which are elegant and instructive. There is a particularly beautiful study by Darko Hlebec. Buy the book to appreciate the beauty of chess.
The final chapter is a series of rook exercises which are extremely didactic. If you can solve all of these, you are a World Champion.
I heartily recommend this superb book on major piece endgames which is a labour of love and hard work. It combines practical examples with coverage of basic endgame positions.
FM Richard Webb, Chineham, Hampshire, 16th November 2020
We remember Edward Sergeant OBE (3-xii-1881 16-xi-1961)
Edward Guthlac Sergeant was born on Saturday, December 3rd 1881 : in the same year British Chess Magazine was founded by John Watkinson.
He was born in Crowland, South Holland, Lincolnshire. The registration district was Peterborough and the inferred county was Northamptonshire. His father was William R Sergeant (aged 27) and his mother was Frances E Sergeant (aged 25). He had a sister, Hilda who was one year older. William was a registered general medical practitioner.
He was named Guthlac after a monk who “came to what was then an island in the Fens to live the life of a hermit.”
According to the 1891 census EGS was aged 9 and living with his father, mother, sister and their domestic servant Margaret A George who was their general domestic servant who hailed from Scotland. They lived at 2, Gladstone Terrace, Gateshead, NE8 4DY. This was in the Ecclesiastical parish of Christchurch.
In the 1911 census aged 29 as nephew to the head of the household (5 St Peters Terrace, Cambridge) EGS is listed as a solicitor who is single. The size of the household in 1911 was relatively modest at 12. He was living with George Edward Wherry (59, surgeon university professor) and his wife Albinia Lucy Wherry (53). Albinia Lucy Wherry was a nurse and also writer. During WWI she was stationed in Paris at the Gare du Nord where she supported British forces from 1915-18. the sub-registration district was St Andrew the Great.
According to Edward Winter in Where did they live? in April 1916 EGS was living at 39 Chichele Road, Cricklewood, London NW2 3AN, England. EGWs source for this is : Chess Amateur, April 1916, page 202.
1918 was an important year for Edward when he married Dorothy Frances Carter (born 1887) in Gravesend. In the same year Dorothy and Edward had a son Richard who passed away in 2014
Two years later Dorothy and Edward had a son Lewis Carter Sergeant born on January 30th 1920. The birth was registered in Paddington. Lewis lived at 3 Woodhill Court, 175 Woodhill, London, SE18 5HSL and passed away in 2004 the death being registered in Greenwich.
On the 1920 Electoral Roll, EGS was now living with Dorothy Frances Sergeant at St. Stephen’s Mansions, 5, Monmouth Road, Edmonton.
In 1923 they upped sticks and moved to 27. King Edward’s Grove, Teddington.
Sadly Dorothy passed away in 1926 at the modest age of 39.
According to the 1939 census EGS was listed as a widowed, civil servant living at 24, Gloucester Road, Kingston Upon Thames, KT2 7DX. This would be the address that Edward saw out the rest of his life.
He shared this address with Edith Carter (born 4th May 1878) who is described as being of “Private Means” and Ada M Wenman (6th August 1881) who is described as being a “domestic”.
In 1949 he was awarded the OBE in the Birthday Honours in recognition of his 39 years’ service in the office of the Solicitor to the Board of Inland Revenue.
According to John Saunders : EGS died in the New Victoria Hospital, New Malden, Surrey, on 16 November 1961. His residence at death had been 24 Gloucester Road, Kingston Hill. Probate (26 Jan 1962) granted to Lewis Carter Sergeant, a Lieutenant-Colonel in HM Army. Effects £6,586.
A British master who had a long and solidly distinguished career in British chess but never quite succeeded in breaking through the barrier to international success. A civil servant by profession, he was awarded the OBE for his services in the Inland Revenue and Sergeant on Stamp Duties was regarded as an authoritative work.
Sergeant’s earliest performance in the British Championship, at the Crystal Palace in London 1907, was one of his best. He came =2nd with JH Blackburne. RP Michell and GE Wainwright with 6.5 points, a point below the winner of the title, HE Atkins.
He was 3rd at Edinburgh in 1920 and his best result in the competition came in Brighton 1938, where he came equal second with H. Golombek, a 1/2 point below the winner, CHO’D Alexander.
A stalwart supporter of the City of London Chess Club, he won its championship in two successive years, 1916 and 1917. He played for Britain against the USA in the 1908 and 1909 cable matches and also played on a high board for London against various American cities in the Insull Trophy matches in the years 1926-31.
As a player he was strongly influenced by the scientific principles of Siegbert Tarrasch and did well during the period when the Tarrasch school enjoyed its heyday. But he was at a loss when confronted with more modern methods.”
Both Sunnucks and Hooper & Whyld are silent on EGS : surprising!
We asked Leonard Barden of his memories of EGS and he was kind enough to reply :
“People have different ways of expressing satisfaction with their position. Botvinnik adjusted his tie, Kasparov put his watch back on, Sergeant rubbed his hands together….He liked to counter the Queen’s Gambit Declined in the classical way with a kind of Lasker Defence.”
From British Chess Magazine, Volume LXXXII, March, 1962, Number 3, pages 76 -80 we reproduce an obituary from Bruce Hayden entitled “E.G. Sergeant – An Appreciation” as follows :
(note the incorrect birth location presumably based on the 1891 census information)
Leonard Barden has asked us to point out :
“The 1948 game against Wallis was not in the British championship but in the Premier, a one-off 12-player selected group used to address the problem of too many good players for an all-play-all championship. In 1949 the two all-play-alls were replaced by a 32-player Swiss.
Chess in Art : History of Chess in Paintings 1100 – 1900 : Peter Herel Raabenstein
From the publisher :
“Chess has been very important skill of human mind, part of many intellectual arguments, and a vital part of social life, for more than 1000 years. It has also mesmerized Peter Herel Raabenstein, who around 2003 craved to immerse himself deep into the story of chess. On that occasion, he was looking for a gift for his uncle, who shared the same passion for chess, art and history. He was aiming to buy a special book focused on chess and art. Unfortunately, he found out there was no such book. He decided to create the gift himself. After collecting 12 paintings with chess theme, he used them to create a calendar.
Peter’s uncle was amazed by the gift and proposed making a whole book with chess as a main theme. Later whilst living in Amsterdam and studying at local art school to master painting skills, Peter kept his interest in chess. He regularly visited chess museums and cafes. He was persistent in pursuit of creation of his own book, all thanks to his dedication and passion for art and chess, and also his uncle’s excitement about the idea. The book that was also finished as a result of many coincidences.
He shared his idea with a friend during a chess tournament in Wijk aan Zee in 2009. Peter’s friend was so passionate about the idea that he immediately wrote a prologue for the book and motivated Peter even more. Soon after they parted their ways Peter sadly realized that he has not got his friends contact details. However, he continued writing and collecting materials remembering his uncle’s and his friend’s supportive words.
Now, after 10 long years, Peter can offer his collection of chess themed paintings by more than 700 artists during 1000 year long period, including 20th century. Peter hopes to meet his Greek friend again to thank him for motivation to finish the book. He would also like to thank everyone who supports his art projects and follows his work. ”
When Chess in Art arrived at the BCN office it was clear we needed one thing to go with it : a coffee table! Together with The Thinkers by David Llada this is not a book you would fail to notice or ignore. You are drawn to pick it up and leaf through the pages.
Weighing in at an impressive 1.8 pounds this is a beautiful volume. One thing we cannot possibly convey via this review is another (generally ignored) dimension : its olfactory qualities! The smell is absolutely wonderful, it lingers and combined with the additional high qualities of paper, production and printing it is a simply a gorgeous book. Eat your heart out Mr. Kindle or any pdf scan and upload merchants.
For your amusement you might like to guess how many chess books include the word “Art” in their title. As usual with this type of question the answer is larger than you might think…Try it! Apart from that books on the same subject as this one are few and far between so this title makes a welcome appearance.
For those interested in perusing this subject then
may be of interest. Prices are high for this volume.
Despite binge watching BBC One’s excellent Fake or Fortune? (our knowledge of art is superficial) we felt a strong degree of fear and trepidation in starting this review. We could not possibly review this book from an art perspective and so we settled on a chess player’s point of view.
The book is divided into eight main sections / chapters with five main sections covering eras from 1100 AD onwards :
1100 – 1500
38 colour plates
1500 – 1600
1600 – 1700
1700 – 1800
1800 – 1900
which is a total of around 300 plates most of which are in full colour. These five sections are followed by a listing of all of the artists with brief biographical details. Finally there is an index to all the artist’s works to be found in this book.
The prologue may well be (for chess enthusiasts) the most interesting section of the book. For example we have (page 9) “The lack of chess paintings in the beginning of the sixteenth century is attributed to the difficulty of establishing chess rules.” Quite how true this is we are not sure but it is worth considering. Maybe a more detailed study of HJR Murray is in order?
Here is an example of a double page layout from the 1100 – 1500 era section :
To whet your appetite further from page 55 we have this work by Caravaggio :
(By a strange coincidence in the BCN office we had recently watched Caravaggio via Amazon Prime!)
and there is this famous work depicting Faust on page 102 by Friedrich Moritz August Retzsch 1779-1857 :
and finally (but not least) this work from 1818 by Johann Erdmann Hummel :
We found ourselves becoming engrossed in the book wanting to know more about the individual art works. Indeed, this was the most frustrating and disappointing aspect. For almost all of the images we did not need the skills of Anthony Blunt (can we mention this name?) or Tom Keating to discover the chess background via Wikipedia or other online sources. So why not provide even a few lines of description for each or most of the images. These extras would have made reading this book even more of a joy. Perhaps space reasons provided a restriction? Surely both the art and chess lover would like to read more.
There were a couple of trivial typos : “editrorial” but nothing substantive. Almost certainly not caused by the author.
Finally we come to the price of €111. You might, at first, baulk at this: “I could buy five books on the Sveshnikov instead”.
However, this book is a real beauty, definitely a collectors item with a volume to cover 1900 to the present day in the pipeline. If you have a coffee table and want to cheer it up at Christmas then this book is for it and you!
We’d recommend you visit the Chess in Art web site If this review does not convince you then their web site just might.
BCN sends Birthday greetings to David Howell on this day.
David Wei Lang Howell was born in Eastbourne, East Sussex on Wednesday 14th of November 1990. His parents are Martin and Angeline Howell (née Choo).
An unknown jumble sale (Eastbourne?) provided the Howell family with a chess set.
David learnt the moves from Martin, his father and rapidly improved and he joined Sussex Junior Chess Association and he began representing his county in EPSCA matches and other competitions.
In Torquay in 1998 whilst Nigel Short and Susan Lalic were busy winning the main championships David made his mark by winning the British Under-8 Championship, an event that had started only ten years beforehand.
A trip to Scarborough in 1999 yielded both the Under-9 and Under-10 championships.
Sponsorship from now dissolved software company JEB (Hove) enabled David to be coached by Glenn Flear.
David became a FIDE Master at the age of ten years, nine months and 26 days. He became an International Master aged 13 years, 2 months and 22 days.
Finally the Grandmaster title came at 16 years, 1 month and 22 days.
David’s rise has been well documented both here and here and therefore we will not attempt to improve on these sources.
With the white pieces David is a firm believer in 1.e4 but he has played (and continues to do so) 1.Nf3, 1.c4 and 1.d4 and he has scored 89% over nineteen games with. 1.g3
Like Sheila Jackson and Susan Lalic David was a big fan of the Sicilian Alapin but nowadays the Moscow and Rossolimo variations.
As the second player David prefers open games and has played the closed Ruy Lopez and the Marshall Attack. David also employs the Berlin Defence.
Defending against the Queen’s pawn David is less varied and plumps for the Grünfeld defence most of the time. On critical occasions David will use the Caro-Kann as a winning weapon.
So, a wide repertoire with both the white and black pieces and therefore not easy to prepare for: a very modern player!
David started his 4NCL career with Invicta Knights with a FIDE rating of 1432 in May 1999. By 2001 he was playing for Nigel Johnson and his Slough team. In 2004 the inevitable occurred and David transferred (as is common) to either cash rich Wood Green or Guildford. In fact it was Guildford on this occasion. In 2009 David moved to Pride & Prejudice. 2012 saw David playing for Wood Green Hillsmark. In 2015 he switched to Cheddleton and remained with them until 2019 finally returning to Guildford in 2020.
In November 2021 David took part in the 108-player FIDE Grand Prix event in Riga and after nine round he lying equal third on 6.5 with with Alireza Firouja and Fabiano Caruana. He eventually finished on 7/11 with a TPR of 2764.
Here is a tough struggle from that event:
David regularly hosts chess24 commentary of major tournaments, such as the 2020/21 Candidates.
Mastering Positional Sacrifices : A Practical Guide to a Vital Skill in Chess : Merijn van Delft
From the publisher :
“Merijn van Delft is an International Master from the Netherlands. He has been a chess trainer for more than two decades and created instructional material both online and offline.”
From the book’s rear cover :
“Most chess games of beginners and post-beginners are decided by fairly straightforward tactics. Anyone who wants to progress beyond this level and become a strong club player or a candidate master, needs to understand that somewhat mysterious-looking resource, the positional sacrifice.
International Master Merijn van Delft has studied and loved positional sacrifices for as long as he can remember. This non-forcing tool is not just a surprising and highly effective way of creating a decisive advantage during a game. Positional sacrifices are also instruments of superior beauty.
Van Delft has created a unique thematic structure for all types of positional sacrifices. He shows the early historical examples, explains which long-term goals are typical for each fundamental theme and presents lots of instructive modern examples. He then concentrates on those sacrifices that have become standard features of positional play. Solving the exercises he has added will further enhance your skills.
Playing a positional sacrifice will always require courage. Merijn van Delft takes you by the hand and not only teaches the essential technical know-how, he also helps you to recognize the opportunities when to take the plunge. Mastering Positional Sacrifices is bound to become a modern-day classic.”
Dutch IM Merijn van Delft introduces readers to one of the most complex and fascinating aspects of chess: the positional sacrifice. He’s not the first author to tackle this subject: previous books by McDonald and Suba, which I haven’t read are discussed in the bibliography.
A few quotes from the introduction will give you some idea of what this book is about, and who the target readership is.
“I am trying to write for as broad a readership as possible, but let me give a mild warning to beginning chess players: this book may not be the best place to start for you. … Here is a mild warning for very experienced players as well: you may come across a fair amount of examples you already know. I considered it my job to combine the most impressive classical games with new material, and to find a nice balance there.
“A feel-good book is what this is meant to be. It should be fun to play through the games and the book can easily be used for entertainment purposes only. If you are simply seeking inspiration, feel free to open it at a random page and check the diagrams. The most exciting moments are always covered with a diagram and described in the text that follows.
“Having said that, my main intention has been to present the material as systematically as possible. My goal was to create a unique framework of positional sacrifices. The structure should have an inner logic and should help the reader to build up his knowledge systematically.”
Let’s look inside and see whether or not the author has achieved his aim. There are 115 complete games in the main body of the book, ranging from Morphy to Wijk aan Zee 2020, so it’s nothing if not up to date. All but the first two (in the introduction) feature positional sacrifices. All games are fully annotated, mostly verbally, with variations only given when necessary. It’s particularly good to see the complete games, so that readers can witness how the positional sacrifices arose from the opening.
The first part of the book deals with the four basic reasons for positional sacrifices: piece play, pawn structure, colour complexes and domination.
Chapter 1 teaches us how we can use positional sacrifices to create play for our pieces: by opening files, opening closed positions or opening diagonals.
Here, for example, is a position from Leko – Vachier-Lagrave (Batumi Ol 2018), with Black just about to use a positional sacrifice to open some files on the queen side.
“For now White seems to have everything under control, but what follows is a true thunderbolt.
Vachier-Lagrave’s handling of the opening stage may have been unfortunate, but now he displays very deep understanding of the position with a truly amazing piece sacrifice.”
The game continued 24. Bxa4 b5 25. Bxb5 a4 26. Nd4 a3 and Black won on move 71.
Chapter 2 looks at how we can use positional sacrifices to help our pawns. We can create a Perfect Pawn Centre, a Pawn Steamroller or a Mighty Pawn Chain.
This is Gemy Vargas – Fier Sao Paolo 2019. White’s f-pawn has just moved two squares, and van Delft points out the alternative 30… exf3, which is the engine recommendation. But instead…
“The artist is taking over. Black sacrifices a piece to increase the size of his pawn steamroller. As Alexandr said at the Masterclass he gave recently at Apeldoorn, during his early years as a chess player he was heavily influenced by Kasparyan’s book with endgame studies on the theme of domination.”
By move 41 he’d reached this position, where White resigned.
“A pretty picture, the ultimate pawn steamroller, minding a bit of the famous McDonnell – De la Bourdonnais finish with black pawns on d2, e2 and f2.”
Chapter 3 moves onto the idea of positional sacrifices to control colour complexes. As van Delft explains, because this is a more abstract concept than pieces and pawns, it’s harder to understand.
Chapter 4 then puts everything together: we can play a positional sacrifice to achieve domination of the entire board.
In Wojtaszek – Hracek (Aix-les-Bains 2011) White, who had already sacrificed a pawn, now gave up the exchange to dominate the board.
17. Rxc5! “The key move, a strong positional exchange sacrifice.”
Now we understand the reasons why we might want to play a positional sacrifice, we can move onto Part 2, where we can learn about typical sacrifices and store the ideas in our long-term memory. Many of them, though, will already be familiar to experienced players.
Chapter 5 concerns pawn sacrifices: as you might expect the Benko and Marshall Gambits are among the openings considered. Chapter 6, concluding Part 2, moves onto typical exchange sacrifices.
Part 3 goes way beyond this, to more difficult and dangerous ideas. Chapter 7, Extreme Sports, asks how much you can get away with sacrificing. You’ll find double exchange sacrifices, queen sacrifices for a couple of minor pieces, and even positional rook sacrifices.
In Firouzja – Karthikeyan (Xingtai Asian Championship 2019) Black sacrificed his queen on move 9:
9… Qxc3+! “A great positional queen sacrifice.”
10. bxc3 dxe3
“Black now has two minor pieces and a pawn for the queen. White has many weak pawns and squares, which makes Black’s position much easier to play.”
In Chapter 8, Heroes, van Delft introduces us to some of the games that have inspired him over the years, played by the likes of Shirov, Aronian and Carlsen.
Finally, Chapter 9 goes beyond human positional sacrifices to the Superhuman, including recent games by Leela Chess Zero and Stoofvlees.
Now it’s time to put your new found knowledge and skills into action with a final chapter of Exercises.
“In total there are 48 exercises, on four different levels, with 12 exercises each. Every reader should have a fair chance at Level 1, while at Level 2 things are already becoming more difficult. Level 3 is serious business, and at Level 4 most people will be running into a wall. Level 4 is mainly there to remind us how rich chess is, and that we will not easily be done learning.”
The answers always include the play up to the question, and in some cases the complete game as well.
As you’ll realise, there’s a lot of great chess in this book. The author has also achieved his aim of treating a difficult subject in a logical and well structured way. But what really appeals to me is van Delft’s style of writing. There are many strong players who excel at writing or talking about chess, but not all of them understand how their readers or viewers might learn. He is at pains to differentiate between material which provides specific lessons you can employ in your own games and more difficult material which might serve as an inspiration. Although the English isn’t always totally idiomatic, the meaning is never less than totally clear. Not for him the fanciful analogies and flowery language preferred by some authors to make their books fun: for van Delft the fun comes from the moves themselves. Although the intent is serious, his approach is warm, friendly and encouraging. Enjoy your chess and don’t be afraid to try out new ideas: this is how you improve. He comes across to me as, above all, an excellent teacher. I look forward to reading whatever he writes about in future.
Personally, I’d have liked a broader historical perspective. Those 19th century favourites the King’s Gambit and Evans Gambit are positional sacrifices for, amongst other things, an Ideal Pawn Centre, and many other 19th century gambits have aims relating to themes in the book. While there are a few 19th century games along with some discussion of the Steinitz Gambit and a brief mention of its context, a chapter on the history of positional sacrifices would have been interesting.
Nevertheless,, this is yet another outstanding book from New in Chess in what has been an exceptional year for chess literature. Very highly recommended: I’m sure you’ll find it both enjoyable and instructive, and, if you’re rated, say, 1800+, this book will add a new dimension to your chess.
“If one had to forecast at the start of the 1970s the British chess would have a player in the next decade who would win the World Junior Championship, make plus score against Soviet players in his first years of play against them, and beat such household names as Geller, Bronstein, Larsen, Gligoric, Smyslov, Spassky and Karpov…one would have been called a romantic dreamer.
If one had gone further and said that the same grandmaster X would become only the second British player this century to beat a reigning world champion, and that as Black in an irregular opening (1 e4 a6 2 d4 b5) then incredulity would indeed have been a fitting reaction.
Yet all this has come to pass; all the above is fact not fiction, reality not a day dream. Who is grandmaster X? Where did he develop?
Anthony John Miles was born on the 23rd April, 1955, in Birmingham (his birthplace is incorrectly marked (Ed: as London) on the map in Elo’s book on ratings.) He learned the moves at the age of five, became seriously interested in the game at the age of nine or ten, and almost straight away won the Birmingham Primary Schools Championship.
In 1965 he joined the Birmingham Chess club and the following year became a pupil at King Edward School (KES) (the alma mater of other strong British players, such as Hugh Alexander and Malcolm Barker, runner-up to Ivkov in the inaugural World Junior Championship held at Birmingham in 1951.)
At the Birmingham Club he met strong opposition (another grandmaster-to-be, the postal player Keith Richardson was a member there for a time) since the club’s four teams were all in the higher divisions of the local league. Yet Tony’s school work meant that he could not be called a frequent attender at the club – he turned up for league matches and the club championship, but rarely for skittles except in the summer.
Soon he was playing in the Second Division, by 1968 he was in the First Division, and in the 1969-70 season he was on top board for one of the Club’s three teams in the top Division.
Tony made his debut in the BCF Congress at Oxford, 1967, where he was equal 11th in the under-14 Boys Championship won by another rising star, John Nunn. Strangely enough when Tony won this title the following year at Bristol Nunn was 3rd equal!
The Edgbaston player was also a regular competitor in the annual Easter Congress held in the same suburb of Birmingham where he lived.
The breakthrough to national status came when he was a sixth-former at KES. At the BCF Congress, Blackpool,
1971, he won the under-2l Championship (with Nunn and Jon Speelman equal 2nd and the same year made his international debut in a junior tournament at Nice which he won ahead of various prominent players including the Swiss Hug who was to win the World Junior championship some 4 months later!
In the 1971-72 Birmingham and District League season he set up a scoring record, mainly on top board, that may never be equalled (9.5 out of 10).
During these school years Tony was a rather taciturn teenager (perhaps to be expected in an only child) but he never fitted in with the conventional image of chessplayer as weedy bookworm.
He always had a fine physique, played rugger at school and later became keen on squash and skiing as a means of keeping fit, though he is the first to admit that he can be rather lethargic (especially in the mornings!)
At the time I knew one of his teachers professionally, and heard the occasional report that he was not always up to the best academic standards of KES. My reaction must have seemed heresy at the time, but subsequent events in the post-Fischer era have confirmed that the ability to play chess to international standard may lead to a more worthwhile career than being a run-of-the-mill university graduate.
A sign of Tony’s growing understanding of the finer points of the game came when he strolled into the Birmingham Club the day after the first game of the Spassky-Fischer match and pointed out (correctly as was shown later) the reason why Fischer had made his famous Bxh2 sacrifice/oversight.
International recognition came in 1973 when he finished 2nd to Romanishin in the European Junior Championship at Groningen, and Second to Belyavsky in the World Junior at Teeside, as well as sharing 4-6th place in the British Championship at Eastbourne at only the second attempt. His first game to be published round the world was his victory over Bisguier in the Birmingham Easter tournament which he won ahead of Adorjan and Bisguier in the same year.
The main event of 1974, a break-through for British chess, was the World Junior Championship played in August in sub-tropical Manila. Here he played one of his finest games, against Kochiev, to take the title with a round to spare, thereby becoming lnternational Master.
Tony’s physical strength showed up to good effect here, not just lasting out the 4 weeks in the baking humidity but coping with the huge load of luggage (on the outward journey huge cases full of Chess Player, Informator and the like; on the return journey this load reinforced with prizes and souvenirs!).
Gaining the title brought regular invitations to tournaments which could not be fitted in well with the demands of his maths course at Sheffield University. In the summer of 1975 he gave up the course after two years, while the University authorities showed their recognition of his distinction at chess by the award of an honorary MA degree.
Once free to concentrate wholeheartedly on his true calling he took the grandmaster title in a rush. The first norm came with first prize, August, 1975, at the London Chess Fortnight ahead of Adorjan, Sax and Timman.
Hastings 1975-76 was not too good a result, but only a few weeks later he was on his way to a great triumph despite
forced late acceptance of the invitation to the USSR due to lack of finance. He got his visa just in time and went to snowy Dubna, a scientific centre near Moscow, to achieve that most difficult feat – a GM norm in a Soviet tournament ahead of eight GM’s and others
just as strong.
Thus Tony Miles became the first official British grandmaster (the title dates officially only from 1949, so excluding the likes of Staunton, Blackburne and Burn) and took the £5000 Slater prize for the first British GM to add to the £1000 prize for victory in the 1975 Cutty Sark series of weekend and other tournaments. The availability of sponsorship, it goes without saying, has done much to encourage Tony on his chosen path as a chess professional, a far from easy vocation that demands will-power and strong nerves to be successful.
1977 confirmed that here was a genuine grandmaster with first prizes at the Amsterdam IBM and Biel tournaments, and second prize behind Karpov
at the first of the new series of Super grandmaster tournaments (Tilburg, Holland.)
After his Promotion to the ranks of grandmaster Tony, with his usual directness, said that the only thing left to achieve was to have a crack at Karpov. (His fans might react by saying that there were other mountains to climb such as first place at Hastings and in the British Championship, but then Karpov has not achieved the first either, and only became Soviet Champion after he had taken the world title!)
The first chance for this ‘crack’ came with their meeting in the super tournaments at Tilburg and Bugojno, as well as in the 1977 BBC2 TV Master Game’ The
results went much in favour of the (slightly) older man. Tony had to wait till January, 1980 before he could celebrate a victory over Fischer’s successor.
By this time Tony had failed in his first bid to get to a title match with the Russian when he fell away after a good start in the 1979 Riga Interzonal (the
second stage of the three-part qualifying cycle). It is a pity that our leading professional in Britain still has to accept so many invitations merely to make a
decent living. As Botvinnik has commented, some properly directed study and training at home may be preferable to too frequent public appearances at the board.
What sort of person and player is Tony Miles? He has become a more outgoing person in recent years, and has even overcome his legitimate aversion to
media representatives who attempt to interview him without any background in the game.
His style has also gone through various changes. At first he was purely a 1 e4 player with a penchant for tricky Nc6 variations of the Four Knights. This repertoire brought him a string of wins, but once he began meeting masters regularly he had to change his repertoire to include the flank openings and 1 d4 as well as the Sicilian Defence. Some notable contributions to opening theory include Bf4 against the Oueen’s Indian, the defence 1…b6, perhaps now 1…a6.
Yet his real strength is not in the openings, and he rarely scores quick knockouts. His strength lies in the ability to play a wide variety of positions, to have the patience to play on when there is nothing special in the position and then to recognize the crisis (sometimes more psychological than positional). At this point his fitness and energy tell. It is significant that one of his best wins in the Dubna tournament came in a queen and pawn ending that demanded great patience and technical ability.
As readers of his weekly column will know he loves to analyse ever more deeply, and seems happier here than in taking intuitive decisions. In the play of the first British grandmaster we see a confirmation of the fact that modern competitive chess is more of a sport (Denksport as the Germans have it) than
an art, more a bitter struggle of strong personalities than an orthodox game. Bernard Cafferty
In British Chess Magazine, Volume CXXII (122, 2002), Number 1 (January) pp. 6-13 appeared this wonderful obituary from John Saunders with contributions from Bernard Cafferty, Colin Crouch, Jon Levitt and Malcolm Hunt :
From The Oxford Companion to Chess, (OUP, 1984 & 1994), Hooper & Whyld :
“English-born player, International Grandmaster (1976). While an undergraduate he entered and won by a margin of one and a half points the World Junior Championship, Manila 1974. The following year his university, Sheffield, awarded him an honorary MA degree for his chess achievements, and he left without completing his studies, to become a chess professional. The successes came quickly; London 1975, first (+6=3-1); Amsterdam 1976, first equal with Korchnoi; Amsterdam 1977, first (+7=7-1); Biel 1977, first (+ 8=6-l); Tilburg 1977, second (+5:4-2), after Karpov, ahead of Hort and Hübner; Tilburg 1978, third (+4=4-3) equal with Dzindzichashvili and Hübner, after Portisch and Timman; London 1980, first (+6=5-2) equal with Andersson and Korchnoi; Las Palmas 1980, first (+6=5) equal with Geller and Petrosian; Baden-Baden 1981, first (+6=7) equal with Ribli, ahead of Korchnoi; Porz Koln l98l-2, second (+8=l-2), behind Tal, ahead of Hort; Biel 1983, first (+5=6), shared with Nunn; Tilburg 1984, first (+5=6), ahead of Belyavsky, Ribli, and Hübner; Portoroz-Ljubljana 1985, first (+4=6-l) equal with Portisch and Ribli; and Tilburg 1985, first (+6=5-3) equal with Hübner and Korchnoi.
Around this time Miles began to feel the strain of ten years at the top. He was the first British player of modern times who could be seen as a possible challenger for the world title, and in the late 1970s he was well clear of his British rivals. However, largely inspired by Miles’s success, a new generation, led by Short, was in pursuit, and by the mid 1980s Miles was no longer top board in the Olympiad side. Successes became fewer, his marriage ended, and his confidence was weakened.
Determined to make a new start, he transferred his allegiance to the USA in 1987, and immediately shared first place with Gulko, who won the play-off, in the US Open Championship.
The move was not a lasting success. Miles had indifferent results and was not selected for the US Olympiad team in 1988. He had maintained a home in Germany and commuted to play in the Bundesliga and by 1990 he was spending an increasing proportion of his time in Europe. His confidence began to return, and with it more victories. He was first in two Swiss system events, Rome 1990, ahead of Barayev, Chernin, Smyslov etc, and Bad Worishofen 1990 (shared), and at Biel 1990 was equal
third (+3=9-2) alter Karpov and Andersson.”
From Wikipedia :
Miles was an only child, born 23 April 1955 in Edgbaston, a suburb of Birmingham, and attended King Edward’s School, Birmingham. He was married and divorced twice, and had no children. Miles’ first wife was Jana Hartston, who had previously been married to William Hartston.
Early achievements in chess
He learned the game of chess early in life and made good progress nationally, taking the titles of British under-14 Champion and under-21 Champion in 1968 and 1971, respectively.
In 1973, Miles won the silver medal at the World Junior Chess Championship at Teesside, his first important event against international competition. Both he and compatriot Michael Stean defeated the tournament winner Alexander Beliavsky, but were unable to match the Soviet player’s ruthlessness in dispatching lesser opponents. Miles went on to win this prestigious title the following year in Manila, while a mathematics undergraduate of the University of Sheffield.
Taking the decision to pursue the game professionally, Miles did not complete his studies, but, in 1975, was awarded an MA by the University in respect of his chess achievements.
Further career highlights
In 1976, Miles became the first UK-born, over-the-board chess grandmaster, narrowly beating Raymond Keene to the accolade. The naturalised, German-born Jacques Mieses was awarded the GM title in 1950, while Keith Bevan Richardson had been awarded the GM title for correspondence chess earlier in 1975. For his achievement, Miles won a £5,000 prize, put up by wealthy businessman and chess backer Jim Slater.
Miles had a string of good results in the late 1970s and 1980s. He matured into a world class player and won games against high calibre opponents, such as former World Chess Champions Vasily Smyslov, Mikhail Tal and Boris Spassky.
In 1980 at the European Team Championship in Skara, he beat reigning World Champion Anatoly Karpov with Black, using the extremely unorthodox opening 1. e4 a6!?, the St. George Defence. It is often said that Miles learned the line from offbeat openings enthusiast Michael Basman, but in his book Play the St. George, Basman asserts there is no truth to this. Miles beat Karpov again three years later in Bath in a game that was part of the BBC’s Master Game series, but it was shown only by the (co-producing) German television network, due to a BBC technicians’ strike at the time of broadcast.
Miles won the British Championship just once, in 1982 when the event was held in Torquay. His prime time as a chess player was the mid-1980s. On 20 May 1984 in Roetgen (Germany), Miles set a European record in blind simultaneous chess with 22 games (+10−2=10); this record was not broken until 2009. On the January 1984 Elo rating list, he ranked No. 18 in the world with a rating of 2599. One of his best results occurred at the Tilburg tournament in 1984, where, from a strong field, he emerged sole winner by a clear margin of one and one-half points. The following year, he tied for first at the same event with Robert Hübner and Viktor Korchnoi, playing several of his games while lying face down on a table, having injured his back.
The result was controversial, as many of Miles’ opponents felt they were distracted by the unusual circumstances. A string of good performances culminated in a good showing on the January 1986 Elo rating list, where he climbed to a best-ever position of World No. 9 with a rating of 2610. During this period, there was considerable rivalry with Nunn over who was the United Kingdom’s best player, the two protagonists regularly leapfrogging each other in the world rankings. Nigel Short and Speelman soon added to the competition, as the English national squad entered its strongest period.
Never able to qualify out of the Interzonal stages into the Candidates’ series, Miles eventually lost the race to become the first British Candidate when Short did so in 1985. However, he retained top board for England at the Thessaloniki and Dubai Olympiads of 1984 and 1986, helping the team to silver medals at each.
Against Garry Kasparov, Miles had little success, not winning a game against him, and losing a 1986 match in Basel by the score of 5½–½. Following this encounter, Miles commented “I thought I was playing the world champion, not a monster with a thousand eyes who sees everything” (some sources alternatively quote Miles as having the opinion that Kasparov had 22 or 27 eyes).
Miles on a stretcher with back pain, playing in Tilburg (1985)
After he was hospitalised because of a mental breakdown in late 1987, Miles moved to the United States. He finished last in the 1988 U.S. Championship, but continued to play there and had some good results. In 1991, he played in the Championship of Australia, but eventually moved back to England and began to represent his native country again. He was equal first at the very strong Cappelle-la-Grande Open in 1994, 1995, and 1997, and caused a shock at the PCA Intel Rapid Chess Grand Prix in London in 1995, when he knocked out Vladimir Kramnik in the first round and Loek van Wely in the second. His bid to win the event was finally halted in the semifinal by English teammate Michael Adams.
There were four notable victories at the Capablanca Memorial in Cuba (1994, 1995, 1996, and 1999). Miles also tied for first in the 1999 Continental Open in Los Angeles with Alexander Beliavsky, Ľubomír Ftáčnik and Suat Atalık. His last tournament victory was the 2001 Canadian Open Chess Championship in Sackville, New Brunswick.
Miles entered and played at the 2001 British Championship in Scarborough, but withdrew before the final round, apparently because of ill health. His final two games before his death were short draws in the Four Nations Chess League. Miles played in an extraordinary number of chess events during his career, including many arduous weekend tournaments.
The Miles Variation (1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 e6 3.Nf3 b6 4.Bf4) in the Queen’s Indian Defence is named after him.”
Tony started his chess writing career in around 1978 with a series of high quality annotated tournament bulletins of the top events of the period most of which he competed in himself. For example:
Of course there are numerous articles about Tony for example :
We focus on the British Chess Scene Past & Present !
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