“Robert Ris (1988) is an International Master from Amsterdam. He has represented The Netherlands in various international youth events, but lately his playing activities are limited to league games.
Nowadays he is a full-time chess professional, focusing on teaching in primary schools, coaching talented youngsters and giving online lessons to students all around the world. He has recorded several well received DVDs for ChessBase.
Since 2015 he has been the organizer of the Dutch Rapid Championships. This is his third book for Thinkers Publishing, his first two on general chess improvement ‘Crucial Chess Skills for the Club Player‘, being widely appraised by the press and his audience.”
From the publisher via Amazon we have this blurb:
“The Sveshnikov is undeniably one of the most dynamic and aggressive Sicilians available these days. Most recently, it was made popular again by World Champion Magnus Carlsen in his match against Fabiano Caruana at the end of 2018.
The main lines lead to complex positions, and a deep knowledge and understanding of the opening is a real necessity for any player who wishes to enter this battlefield. Our author, Robert Ris, focuses on all the current developments, highlighting the most important and instructive games from recent years, using his own over-the board experiences.
Ris is well known for his theoretical knowledge and overall opening expertise. And we are quite convinced that he provides Sicilian players with an up-to date arsenal for playing the Sveshnikov. ”
End of blurb…
The author has had considerable experience with 5…e5 and here is one of his wins:
The Sveshnikov variation is described as one of the most aggressive and dynamic openings in the Sicilian defence.
The traditional “Lasker-Pelikan” starting position is:
and it does not seem that long ago that
was published followed by
Of the modern, elite players both Peter Leko and Vladimir Kramnik (to name but a few) have played the black side.
One of the consistent themes of the Sveshnikov is that White often doubles black’s pawns on the f-file and then tries to control d5 and make use of his queenside pawn majority. Also, Black often pushes his pawn to e4 and then uses the e5 square for a minor piece.
Following substantial work by Evgenny Sveshnikov and Gennadi Timoschenko we start the bulk of the analysis from the usual tabiya position:
In Part 1, Chapter 1 the author examines the dynamic line 9.Bxf6 gxf6 10.Nd5 f5 11.Bd3 Be6 12.Qh5
and this is looked at via a series of games where the players are generally very highly rated. Ris suggests that the queen move is probably premature and after 12…Rg8! black has a comfortable enough game. This judgement is demonstrated in the example email game Kele vs Fritsche, 2011 where black eventually wins:
The stronger 12.00 (the move I play) is given in Chapter 2 where play centers on 12…Bxd5 which in recent times have proved more popular than 12…Bg7 after which 13.exd5 Ne7 14.Nxb5!? winning a pawn is given. I played this line in a game vs Nigel Povah in 2015 which ended in a draw. Black plays 14…Bg7! and in the game we had 15.Nc3 e4 16.Bc4 00 when black has sufficient compensation for the pawn.
On move 14.c4 was played against Michael Krasenkow in his 2004 game v Gilberto Milos:
Again, Black is willing to sacrifice a queenside pawn but obtained strong play on the kingside.
However, 14.c3 remains the most popular move and White choses a more positional approach where his queen goes to h5 and his knight comes to c2. Alex Shirov chose this method in a game with Alexander Grischuk from Wijk aan Zee, 2003.
Since this book is written from Black’s point of view Black again wins.
Currently 14.Re1 is gaining in popularity and this is examined in Chapter 3.
The idea is to drop the bishop back to f1 and take some of the sting out of Black’s attack.
Part 2 discusses lines where White does not play 11.Bd3.
The famous knight sacrifice 11.Nxb5 is given as dubious whilst in the alternative bishop sacrifice 11.Bxb5 Black can play 11…axb5 12.Nb5 Bb7 sacrificing the exchange. This line is not for the faint hearted and they may prefer the older Ra4 treatment.
In chapter 7 the calmer 11.g3 is discussed: an interesting idea that is worth exploring and yet another approach in Chapter 8 is 11.exf5 Bf5 12.c3 and the knight will escape via c2.
Part 2 investigates 9.Nd5 the move Gary Kasparov preferred liked. After 9…Be7 and Black does not end up with doubled pawns.
Chapter 9 looks at 9…Be7 10.Nxe7 and the next chapter gives 10.Bxf6 which was the move Gary selected.
After 10…gxf6 11.c3 then Ne7 can be played followed by either 12.Nc2 or 12.Nf6+.
Chapter 12 looks at the earlier alternatives and the move 7.Nd5 is examined which is a line that has been far less popular than 7.Bg5 but with recent outings from Fabiano Caruana playing it several times against Magnus Carlsen I expect it to gain in popularity.
In Van Foreest v Carlsen the aggressive line 7 Nd5 8 ed5 Ne7 9 c4 Ng6 10 Qa4 Bd7 11 Qb4 Qb8 12 h4 black played 12…h5 and eventually won:
The book ends with some White choice oddities such as 6.Nf5 when 6…d5 is a strong reply and also 7.a4 but these moves do not seem to be a serious test of 5…e5.
I expect the Sveshnikov to increase in popularity in the next few years and this book should be a serious read for both White and Black players of the interesting positions.
Colin Lyne, Farnborough, Hampshire, 29th July, 2021
“Goethe once wrote, “Everything is both simpler than we can imagine, and more complicated than we can conceive.” He could well have had chess endgames in mind. Endgames have fewer pieces on the board than middlegames but this does not necessarily make them “easier” to play or understand.
Tactical expertise is, understandably, generally associated with middlegame (and sometimes opening) positions. However, tactics are also crucial in endgames – a point that is sometimes overlooked. Even some quite simple looking pawn endgames can feature complex tactical ideas. Tactics in endgames also tend to be very different to middlegame tactics.
As well as the familiar themes of pins, skewers and forks, endgames also feature unique concepts that rarely occur in middlegames such as pawn breakthroughs, manoeuvring for zugzwang and active use of the king as an aggressive unit.
In this book the highly experienced chess author and coach Cyrus Lakdawala guides the reader through the complexities of endgame tactical play. Lakdawala assembles positions that are most effective to improve tactical ability. Work your way through this book and you will undoubtedly see the results in your own games.”
end of blurb…
“Cyrus Lakdawala is an International Master, a former National Open and American Open Champion, and a six-time State Champion. He has been teaching chess for over 30 years, and coaches some of the top junior players in the U.S.”
The reviewer is a fan of this type of book which is a really good endgame puzzle/training tome: this title does not disappoint. The examples are a pleasing mixture of endgames from high level games; composed studies and a final chapter consisting of composed mate in two problems.
In the introduction, the author addresses the common objection to studies and problems “they are artificial and also too difficult”. He recalls a piece of advice from GM Bill Lombardy: “You don’t have to solve them. Just try for a few minutes and then look up the answer.” This is the point, the act of attempting to solve the study/problem followed by a close study of the answer will improve your analytic ability and enlarge your toolbox of recognised patterns. A lot of studies have very memorable moves/themes which once seen are never forgotten.
The reviewer can recall a particular knight and pawn endgame where I jeopardised an easy draw by missing a study like move (lack of imagination in cruise mode) but redeemed myself by scrambling a study like draw (desperation but only found because my imagination had been improved by studying studies).
Cyrus goes on to discuss training techniques to improve students’ calculation skills, tactical awareness and tactical/strategic imagination: he and the vast majority of trainers regard studies as an essential tool to aid the development of endgame mastery.
In the main seven chapters, I like the way the author breaks down the more difficult studies to aid a student/reader to solve them: it’s almost like a brain dump of his assessment/analysis process as he goes about solving the problem.
The over the board endgames include many games from masters of the endgame such as Botvinnik, Capablanca, Karpov, Smyslov, and Tal. Tal may not be immediately recognised by some as a maestro of the endgame, but his calculation skills and imagination were second to none and this made him a superb endgame player.
The studies include giants such as Afek, Grigoriev, Mitrofanov, Pogosyants, Réti, Troitzky.
The book is divided into eight chapters, the first two sections are kind of introductory followed by five chapters with different piece combinations. The final section is a set of mate in two problems.
The reviewer will showcase three or four positions from each chapter to give the reader a taster.
Here are some interesting positions from Chapter One – Deadly Simplicity.
This position is from the game Chigorin v Tarrasch Ostend 1905. White looks to be in terrible trouble here as black’s king is going to outflank white’s king and win material.
White played the resigned 50.gxf6 and lost shortly. However, white does have a dastardly defence which once seen is always remembered. 50.Kg4!! Ke4 51.g6! Now white creates a stalemate defence or he can create a future passed pawn. 51…hxg6 (51…h6 52.Kh5! and the f-pawn cannot be captured as it is stalemate!)
52.fxg6 f5+ 53.Kg5 f4 54.h5 f3 55.h6
55…gxh6+ 56.Kh6 f2 57.g7 f1Q 58.g8Q drawn
Next I shall show a lovely study which looks deceptively simple!
White to play and win.
The obvious approach to black’s pawn such as 1.Kf4? or 1. Ke5? fails to 1…Kc4 2.Kg5 Kd3 3.Kxg6 Ke4 and black gobbles the f-pawn to draw. 1.Kd5? looks tempting to shoulder barge the black king, however 1…Kb4! draws 2.Ke5 (2.f4 Kc3! draws is a major point) Kc4 3.Kf6 Kd4 4.Kxg6 Ke4 draws.
1.Kd4!! is the only way preventing the side approach, now 1…Kb4 (1…Kc6 2.Ke5 Kd7 3.Kf6 wins) 2.f4! The key point 2..Kb3 3.Ke5 Kc4 4.Kf6 wins
A really instructive problem and very game like.
The next study is white to play and win. I remember being shown this study as a kid and solving it.
1.Re8+ !! (1…Kg7 2.f6+ wins black’s rook) 1…Kxe8 2.g7 Rg8 3.f6 Zugzwang 3…Rf8 4.exf8Q+ Kxf8 5.Kd7 Kg8 6.Ke7 and wins the f-pawn and the game.
Chapter 2 – Recognizing Patterns
What is happening here with white to play? White can draw easily with 1.Rxe7 or 1.gxf7. Can white do better?
1.f6 looks interesting with the idea of 1…Rxe8 2.gxf7
Surely white is winning with 3.fxg7 to follow after black moves his rook. But analyse further! 2…Rd8!! wins as after 3.fxg7 Ke7!+ wins both pawns and the game. Cyrus had set this position as an exercise for some students, most of whom complained bitterly when they fell into the trap. The author responded that he did not specify a “white to play and win” position, he just gave them a position to analyse, just like a game! A great learning experience.
Here is a didactic opposite coloured bishop endgame.
How does white make progress here? 51.Be7 allows Kc7 blocking the king’s path into black’s position. 51.Bb8! does the trick and black resigned 1-0. If 51…Kxb8 52.Kd6 Kc8 53.Kxe6! Kd8 54.Kf6 Kd7 55.Kg7 Ke7 56.Kxh7 Kf7 57.e6+ decoying the black king, winning after 58.Kg7 and 59.h7
Here is some Troitzky magic: white to play and draw.
White looks to be in desperate straits as the black’s outside passed h-pawn looks to be the decisive factor.
1.Kb6! threatening 2.a6 1…Kc8 2.a6 Kb8 3.a7+! Ka8 4.Kc7! h5 5.Kxd6 h4 6.Kxd7 h3 7.e5 h2 8.e6 h1Q 9.e7 Qd5+ This looks lost for white as an e-pawn on the seventh normally loses against a queen 10.Kc7! Qe6 11.Kd8 Qd6+ 12.Kc8! Qxe7 stalemate
Chapter 3 – King And Pawn Endgames
Here is an important idea that does occur in practice. Alexei Shirov lost a game to this idea.
This position looks to be drawn after a move like 1.Rg1 a1=Q as white wins both pawns but black’s king gets back in time to secure the draw. However white has an elegant idea to win: 1.Ra1! Kxa1 Forced as 1…Kb3 2.Kc1 Ka3 3.Kc2 wins the a-pawn and the game easily 2.Kc2 Zugzwang 2…g5 3.hxg5 h4 4.g6 h3 5.g7 h2 6.g8Q h1Q 7.Qg7#
Here is a famous finish to a game demonstrating the potential power of a breakthrough and Reti’s theme with king paths.
White looks to be lost as after 1.Kf6 c4 2.bxc4 bxc4 3.Ke5 c3! 4.bxc3 a4 the black pawn promotes. 1.Kg6!! threatening h5 forces 1…Kxh42. Kf5 Kg3 3.Ke4 Kf2 4.Kd5 Ke3!
5.Kxc5 Kd3 6.Kxb5 Kc2 7.Kxa5 Kxb3 draw (A really instructive endgame lesson – kings do not have to take the most obvious path.)
Some Vasily Smyslov magic next.
White had had a vastly superior (winning) rook ending and decided to enter this king and pawn ending which he assessed as easily winning for white as he has a potential passed outside h-pawn and his king can enter via c4. Smyslov shattered that illusion with 46…g4!! 47.h4 (47.hxg4 does not help as the potential passed pawn has disappeared and black’s king now can enter white’s position via g5 leading to a draw.) 47…c5 48.Ke2 Kh7! 49.Kd3 Kh6 waiting
50. c3 (white’s intended 50.Kc4 loses to the breakthrough move 50…f5! 51.exf5 e4! 52.c3 a5! zugzwang and the e-pawn promotes) 50…a5 51.cxb4 axb4 drawn (A brilliant escape for the endgame master)
Chapter 4 – Rook Endgames
A famous study but worth reproducing called Lasker’s manoeuvre/steps/ladder. This has occurred in practice in GM games.
Here is some more Troitzky magic which is very game like.
Black appears to be ok as his h-pawn should be enough to draw.
1.e5! fxe5+ (1…h3 2.exf6 wins as the black king will exposed to a decisive rook check) 2.Ke4! h3 3.Rh8! Rxa7 4.Rh6+ Ke7 5.Rh7+ securing the rook and the game. A very common idea in rook and pawn endgames.
Here is the end of a game Judit Polgar v Nigel Short Monte Carlo 1993.
This is instructive: 61.h6+! Kf7 (61…Kxh6 62.Kf6 wins threatening mate and the rook) 62.g5!! fxg5 63.Rd8! and black cannot stop the h-pawn without giving up the rook, 1-0 in a few moves after a few spite checks.
Chapter 5 – Queen Endgames
Queen endgames are notoriously tricky and complex.
Here is an entertaining study.
White looks to be in trouble as 1.Qe3!! is met by 1…f4 forcing promotion, but look further: 2.Qf2! d1=Q 3.Kc3!! zugzwang 3…f3 4.Qe3+ Kb1 5.Qb6+ Kc1 6.Qb2#
Here is an amusing study. How does white win here?
After 1.Qxg8+ Kxg8 white can play 2.h7+ which only leads to stalemate or 2.hxg7 and although white wins the a-pawn, black’s king reaches the a8 corner in time to draw.
Here is an amusing finish from a game Adams-Dimitrov.
Black played 68…e3?? no doubt looking forward to a win over his illustrious opponent. Adams reply soon disabused him: 69.Qh3+! 69…Qxh3 stalemate (Lesson: the queen is powerful, always be on the look-out for mating and stalemating ideas)
Chapter 6 – Minor Piece Endgames
Here is a study by the great Grigoriev which shows a bad bishop endgame, but how does white breakthrough?
1.g4 creating a passed h-pawn does not win as white has no entry point for his king. So the only idea to win must be Bxh5 but white must prepare this move without allowing black’s bishop to get out of its cage.
1.Bf3 Bb7 2.Ke3! (2.Ke4? would allow black’s bishop to improve its posting 2…Bc8 and draws) Ba8 3.Ke4! Bb7 4.Kf4 Ba8 5.Bxh5! (Now black’s bishop is on its worst possible square) Kxh5 6.g4+ Kxh4 (6…Kh6 7.g5Kg7 8.h5 Bb7 9.h6+ Kf7 10.gxf6 Kxf6 11.h7! Kg7 12.Ke5 Kxh7 13.Kd6 winning) 7.g5 fxg5+ 8. Ke4! (8.Ke5 also wins but takes much longer) Kh5 (8…g4 9.f6 g3 10.Kf3! Kh3 11.f7 g2 12.f8Q g1Q 13.Qh8#) 9.Ke5! g4 10.f6 g3 11.f7 g2 12.f8Q g1Q 13.Qh8+ Kg4 14.Qg7+ winning the queen
Here is more Smyslov magic:
How does white breakthrough? Black looks to have a fortress.
59…g5!! 60.fxg5 d4+! 61.exd4 Kg3 (The position below demonstrates the very important “one diagonal” principle in opposite coloured bishop endings. Black’s bishop fulfils two roles on one diagonal: protecting his own b3-pawn whilst simultaneously preventing the advance of white’s passed pawns.)
62.Ba3 Kxh4 63.Kd3 Kxg5 64.Ke4 h4 65.Kf3 Bd5+ 0-1 Black wins the bishop which has to give itself up for the h-pawn and then simply captures white’s pawns winning easily.
Chapter 7 All Other Piece Combinations
Tal – Trifunovic
Palma de Mallorca (5) 1966
Tal had to seal in this position and he played the best move beginning a ten move combination.
Here is a jointly composed study with one of the composers being Leopold Mitrofanov of Qg5!! fame. If the reader doesn’t know what I am on about, then look it up for a real treat – arguably one of the greatest studies ever.
1.Be4+ Kg3 2.Bf3! Kxf3 3.f7 Bd6+ 4.Kxd6 d1Q+ 5.Kc7!! Qxc2+ 6.Kd7 drawing (Black’s king is one square too far from the winning zone.)
Here is a superb study by Yochanan Afek.
1.b7 Qc6 2.Bd7! Qxd7 3.Rxe4+ (These checks avoid black’s stalemate defences, I will leave the reader to work them out) Ka5 4.Re5+ Kb6! (4…Ka6? 5.b8N+ wins) 5.b8Q+ Ka6
White is threatened with mate and has no checks. 6.Rb5!! Qxb5 7.Qa7#
Chapter 8 Composed Mates In Two
Here is a problem – white to play and mate in two moves.
1.Qf1! There are four different mates. I shall leave the reader to figure them out.
In summary, an excellent endgame coaching/training manual to improve your analytic powers with some instructive, beautiful and entertaining games, studies and problems.
FM Richard Webb, Chineham, Hampshire, 27th July 2021
“Every chess player wants to improve, but many, if not most, lack the tools or the discipline to study in a structured and effective way. With so much material on offer, the eternal question is: “”How can I study chess without wasting my time and energy?””
Davorin Kuljasevic provides the full and ultimate answer, as he presents a structured study approach that has long-term improvement value. He explains how to study and what to study, offers specific advice for the various stages of the game and points out how to integrate all elements in an actionable study plan. How do you optimize your learning process? How do you develop good study habits and get rid of useless ones? What study resources are appropriate for players of different levels? Many self-improvement guides are essentially little more than a collection of exercises.
Davorin Kuljasevic reflects on learning techniques and priorities in a fundamental way. And although this is not an exercise book, it is full of instructive examples looked at from unusual angles. To provide a solid self-study framework, Kuljasevic categorizes lots of important aspects of chess study in a guide that is rich in illustrative tables, figures and bullet points. Anyone, from casual player to chess professional, will take away a multitude of original learning methods and valuable practical improvement ideas.”
“Davorin Kuljasevic is an International Grandmaster born in Croatia. He graduated from Texas Tech University and played in USCL 2007 and 2008 for Dallas Destiny, the team that became US champion in both these years. He is an experienced coach and a winner of many tournaments.”
‘Study’ is the operative word here.
When I was learning chess in the 1960s and playing fairly seriously in the 1970s, chess wasn’t something you studied unless you were a top grandmaster. I’d play in club matches and tournaments. I’d read books and magazines because I enjoyed reading them, and, if I learnt something as well then so much the better. It wasn’t anything resembling serious study as you might study a subject at university. In those days, of course, you didn’t have a lot of opportunity to do much else.
In those days we couldn’t have imagined having a multi-million game database and a computer program capable of playing far better than any human on our desk, or being able to play a game at any time against opponents from anywhere in the world.
It’s not surprising, then, that ambitious players at any level are, if they have the time, keen to raise their rating by studying chess seriously.
We also know a lot more than we did, even 20 or 30 years ago, about the teaching and learning processes: lessons that can be applied to chess just as they can to other domains.
In the past, chess books told you what you should learn. Now, we’re seeing books, like this one, that teach you HOW you should learn. There’s a big difference.
Let’s start, controversially, at the end.
Chapter 9: Get organized – create a study plan
The author advises us to create a weekly timetable. Table 9.1 is based on the assumption that you’re at school in the morning, when you can spend 3 hours every afternoon and 2 hours every evening studying chess.
In my part of the world, if you’re an older teen you’re probably going to be at school in the afternoon as well as the morning, and have three hours of homework to do when you get home. Not to mention family commitments, other interests, hanging out with friends, eating, sleeping… I wonder how many chess players actually have time to study 4-5 hours a day, or even 1-2 hours a day, on a regular basis. On the other hand, 12-year-old Abhi Mishra, who has just become the youngest ever Grandmaster, spends at least 12 hours a day studying chess.
Returning to the Preface, the author anticipates your question: who will benefit the most from this book? “In my view, it would be self-motivated players of any level and age who are serious and disciplined about their chess study and have enough time to put the methods from the book into practice.”
If you fall into this category, read on. Even if you don’t: if you only have an hour or two a week to study, rather than 4-5 hours a day, you might still learn a lot.
What we have is 9 chapters looking at different aspects of studying chess, each concluding with a helpful list of bullet points. It’s not just a book of technical advise on how to study, though. There’s a lot of chess in there as well, mostly taken from games you probably won’t have seen before. The first eight chapters have, as is the case with many books from this publisher, some exercises for you to solve, based on the most interesting positions from the chapter. The tactics and middle-game chapters also have questions for you to answer: do they tally with the author’s solutions given in Chapter 10?
In Chapter 1, the author asks “Do you study with the right mindset?”. Now, he doesn’t mean mindset in this sense, although that will come in useful. Instead, he suggests that mastering chess requires both time and intelligent study. There’s no substitute for study time. He quotes the example of English GM Jonathan Hawkins, only an average club player at 18, but through hard work, much of which involved with studying endings, became a GM by the age of 31.
A proper chess study mindset means, in Alekhine’s words, ‘a higher goal than a one-moment satisfaction’. Four typical mistakes are: lack of objectivity, shallow study approach, short-run outlook and playing too much. Kuljasevic talks about the correct balance between playing and studying. He quotes Botvinnik as saying that chess cannot be taught, only learned, which he interprets as meaning that everyone learns in a different way, and that it’s you, rather than your coach, who will make yourself a stronger player.
Kuljasevic was shocked to read a well known GM’s coaching advert: “I have produced numerous top-level players”. “Excuse me, but chess players are not ‘produced’! Every chess player’s learning process is their unique experience that cannot be replicated on someone else.”
These days there are many study methods available, and Chapter 2 provides a guide to fifteen you might consider, and giving them all scores out of 5 for practical relevance, study intensity and long-term learning potential. The three methods which score a maximum of three fives are Deep Analysis, Simulation (pretending to play a real game by guessing the next move) and Sparring (playing a pre-arranged game or match with a training partner for a specific reason).
As an example of what is meant by Deep Analysis, this is Aronian – Anand (Zurich 2014) with Black to play. Anand played 58… Ke7 here, but Re1+ would have been a more stubborn defence. Kuljasevic wanted to prove that White can always win positions of this type, and here spends seven pages doing just that.
Of course such an approach won’t suit everyone, but this chapter will help all readers determine the most useful methods for them. The point is not so much the relevance or otherwise of this particular ending, but the process itself used to analyse it.
Chapter 3 is about identifying your study priorities. At this point the author divides his readership into five categories:
Intermediate player (1500-1800 Elo)
Advanced player (1800-2100 Elo)
Improving youngster (1900-2200 Elo)
Master-level player (2100-2400 Elo)
Strong titled player (2400+ Elo)
He suggests that, in general, you should spend 10% of your time on openings, 25% on tactics 25% on endgames, 20% on middlegames and 20% on general improvement. What proportion of your study time do you spend on openings? I thought so!
He then makes suggestions about how readers in each category might prioritise their studies.
If you’re an intermediate player you should concentrate on improving your tactical and endgame skills, while choosing a simple opening repertoire. Once you reach 1800 strength you can start working on more strategically complex openings. Club standard players should spend a large proportion of their time studying endings (Jonathan Hawkins would agree, as would Keith Arkell) and players of all levels would benefit from solving endgame studies on a regular basis.
Chapter 4 is about choosing the right resources for your study plan. Here we have a list of online resources: chess websites, the categories for which they are suitable, and, in each cases, the specific study opportunities they offer. Then we look at the best websites for each of the study methods from Chapter 2. An extensive list of recommended books for each of the five categories of player from Chapter 3 follows, arranged by subject matter. The books include classics by authors such as Alekhine, Spielmann and Chernev as well as more recent books. GM Grivas is quoted: “Reading the autobiographical games collections of great past players is like taking lessons with some of the greatest players in history”. Unlike Kuljasevic, I’m not convinced that Chernev’s Logical Chess, excellent though it is for novices, is suitable for anyone much over 1800, though. There’s also some very useful advice on the best way to use ChessBase and other database software.
Chapters 5 to 8 each focus on one specific aspect of chess: openings, tactics, endings and middlegames.
Chapter 5 tells you how to study your openings deeply. The author starts with a warning: “I have met many people, and I’m sure you have, too, who have fallen into the trap of spending too much time studying openings. If they were to study other aspects of the game as zealously as openings, I am sure that they would be more complete, creative, and, most likely, stronger chess players. Young players and their coaches should especially keep this in mind.” He quotes, with approval, Portisch’s opinion: “Your only task in the opening is to reach a playable middle game”, and advises simplicity and economy when deciding on your openings. The study material in this chapter, then, is more suited for master level players and above.
This, for example, is an example of a ‘static tabiya’: you may well recognise it as coming from the Breyer Variation of the Ruy Lopez.
“This is one of the most well-known opening tabiyas, not only in the Ruy Lopez, but in chess in general. Over 1000 tournament games have been played from this position, from the club to the super-GM level. There is something appealing about this static type of structure for both sides as it contains a lot of potential for creative strategic play. I would like to present my brief analysis of a fairly rare idea: 17. Be3!?”
17. Bg5 is usually played here, meeting 17… h6 with Be3, happy to spend a move weakening the black king’s defences. Be3 has a different attacking plan in mind: Nf3-h2-g4-h6+ and possibly also Qf3. This is discussed over 3½ pages: I think you have to be a very stong player with a lot of study time available to go into this sort of detail, though.
Chapter 6 advises you to ‘Dynamize’ your tactical training. We’re all used to solving puzzles where we play combinations to win material or checkmate the enemy king. We could do more than that, though, by studying dynamic positions, complicated, double-edged tactical positions and positional sacrifices. We can also improve our tactical imagination by solving endgame studies and problems.
At the end of this chapter we get the chance to take a tactics test: “20 exercises consisting of tactical puzzles, positions for analysis, endgame studies, and problems for the development of dynamics and imagination”.
It’s Black’s move in this tactical puzzle. Your challenge is to solve it blindfold.
This is taken from Xie Jun – Galliamova (Women’s World Championship 1999). Black played 30… Qc7 here and eventually lost. She should have preferred 30… Qc8! (Nd2+ also wins) 31. Rc1 Qg4!, an attractive geometric motif winning either rook or queen.
Here, by contrast, is an endgame study, composed by FK Amelung in 1907. It’s White to play and win. Again, you’re challenged to solve it without moving the pieces.
The solution is 1. Rd8+ Ke1 2. Re8+ Kd2 3. Nc3! c1Q+ 4. Nb1+ Kd1 5. Rd8+ Ke1 6. Rf8! and wins.
There’s a lot more to tactics training than sac, sac, mate!
Studying endings can seem rather dull, so it’s good to know that Chapter 7 tells you how to make your endgame study more enjoyable. Kuljasevic advises that, instead of reading books from beginning to end you look at practical examples, including your own games, and, (yes, again) endgame studies. He agrees with Capablanca that “Study of chess should commence with the third and final phase of a chess game, the endgame”.
Chapter 8 is all about strategy: how to systemize your middlegame knowledge. This is the hardest aspect of chess to study. The author looks at studying the pawn structures that might arise from your opening repertoire in a systematic way, and then goes on to discuss piece exchanges: understanding when exchanges might be favourable or unfavourable rather than just seeing them as a way to simplify towards an ending.
The chapter concludes with a short quiz on this subject. Here’s the first question: would you advise White to trade rooks, to give Black the option of trading, or to move his rook away?
This was Mamedyarov – Carlsen Baku 2008
White correctly moved his rook away, playing 25. Rf1, and later won after a Carlsen blunder. The coming kingside attack will be much stronger with the rook on the board, and Black can do nothing on the c-file.
Chapter 9, as we’ve seen, looks at how you might devise your own study plan – on the assumption that you have several hours a day to study, and Chapter 10 provides solutions to the quiz questions.
So, what to make of all this? I found it an extremely impressive book on an increasingly important aspect of chess: ‘how to learn’ as opposed to ‘what to learn’. Davorin Kuljasevic has clearly put an enormous amount of thought and hard work into writing it. If you’re within the target market – you want to improve your chess and have a lot of time available for that purpose – I’d give this book a very strong recommendation.
Even if you only have a few hours (or even less) a week, rather than a few hours a day to set aside for chess study, you’re sure to find much invaluable advice about how to make the most of your time.
There’s a lot of great – and highly instructive – chess in the book as well, so you might enjoy it for that alone. Much of it, though, I felt, was aimed more at the higher end of the rating scale. It would also be good to read a book on how to study chess written more for average players with limited study time.
Kuljasevic’s previous book (there’s an excellent review here) was shortlisted for FIDE’s 2020 Book of the Year, and I wouldn’t be surprised if this book was similarly honoured. He’s clearly an exceptional writer as well as an exceptional coach.
“Grandmaster Grivas presents the reader an unique and massive amount of amazing puzzles including their historical background. All the most famous and rare tactical themes are covered, promising the read of the year!”
“Efstratios Grivas (30.03.1966) is a highly experienced chess trainer and chess author. He has been awarded by the International Chess Federation (FIDE) the titles of International Chess Grandmaster, FIDE Senior Trainer, International Chess Arbiter and International Chess Organiser.
His main successes over the board are the Silver Medal Olympiad 1998 (3rd Board), the Gold Medal European Team Championship 1989 (3rd Board) and the 4th Position World Junior Championship U.20 1985. He has also won 5 Balkan Medals (2 Gold – 1 Silver – 2 Bronze) and he was 3 times Winner of the International ‘Acropolis’ Tournament. He has also in his credit the 28 times first position in Greek Individual & Team Championships and he has won various international tournaments as well.
He was also been awarded five FIDE Meals in the Annual FIDE Awards (Winner of the FIDE Boleslavsky Medal 2009 & 2015 (best author) – Winner of the FIDE Euwe Medal 2011 & 2012 (best junior trainer) – Winner of the FIDE Razuvaev Medal 2014 (Trainers’ education) and has been a professional Lecturer at FIDE Seminars for Training & Certifying Trainers.
He has written 95 Books in Arabic, English, Greek, Italian, Spanish & Turkish. Since 2009 he is the Secretary of the FIDE Trainers’ Commission and since 2012 the Director of the FIDE Grivas Chess International Academy (Athens).”
This large tactical tome is action packed full of great tactics and some exciting, instructive games. It is an ideal companion for trainers and players who seek to develop their recognition of dozens of mating patterns. All these mating motifs are shown in constructed cut down diagrams followed by many different examples from real games with the checkmating ideas demonstrated with both colours and rotated to aid practising recognising them in different forms thus helping to form a kind of brain muscle memory for these crucial motifs.
The tactics are taken from a mixture of old classics and modern games.
I expect that most older players can remember going through many tactics/ puzzle books on their road to learning the game and this book is another excellent addition to this genre.
The book is divided into five parts:
Part 1 A Tactical World
Part 2 Tactical Play
Part 3 Basic Mates
Part 4 Combinative Mates (Queen & Rook)
Part 5 Combinative Mates (Bishop, Knight and Pawn)
Part 1 A Tactical World is a thoughtful introduction into the world of tactics with thoughts on Tactical Education and a brief history of the development of chess schools of thought.
Four very famous and brilliant games are then presented with objective modern analysis which points out not only the exciting attacking opportunities but also the defensive possibilities. The author is mindful of the fact that tactical patterns help defensive prowess as well as attacking acumen.
The four games are a mixture of old and new:
The Immortal Game Adolf Anderssen v Lionel Kieseritzky London 1851 (Offhand game)
The EverGreen Game Adolf Anderssen v Jean Dufresne Berlin 1852 (Offhand game)
The Rainbow Game Gregory Serper v Ioannis Nikolaisis St Petersburg 1993
The Chess Game Garry Kasparov v Veselin Topalov Wijk aan Zee 1999
I can remember playing through the two Adolf Anderssen games as a novice and being really impressed by the beautiful combinations and of the course the queen sacrifices. They are a must for any book on tactics.
The two modern games are also superb and are obviously of a much higher defensive standard than the games played in the 1850s.
Garry Kasparov’s win over Veselin Topalov is regarded by many people as his finest game.
The reviewer will not showcase these well known games here as experienced players will be well aware of them and new players should buy the book for a treat. However, I will whet your appetite by showing one position from the Rainbow Game:
White has sacrificed two pieces for a long term attack and two dangerous passed pawns. Black has just played 29…Qe8. How does white continue the attack?
Part 2 Tactical Play
This chapter examines various aspects of attacking play by presenting examples from real play:
Attack Via The Edged Files
Blocking the F6-Square
King In The Box
The King Hunt
The Novotny Interference
Defence & Counter-Attack
The section Attack Via The Edged Files discusses the opening of lines around the opponent’s king, typically the rook file and tactics associated therein.
Here is a nice tactic that could easily be missed in practice.
33…Ra3+! 34.Kxa3 Qa7+ 0-1 35.Kb3 Qa4#
The Blocking The F6 section has some entertaining attacking finishes. Here is a vintage Kasparov finish against his old rival Karpov:
22.Nf6+! Opening up the king (22…Kh8 23.Rh5! mates quickly) 22…gxf6 23.Qxh6 f5 24.Qg5+ Kh8 25.Qf6+ Kg8 26.Rxf5 Ne4
The King Hunt section reminds me of one of my favourite books as a junior player: The King Hunt by W.H. Cozens. Some of the games from that book are included here. I shall show one example here from Lodewijk Prins v Lawrence Day Lugano 1968:
White played the greedy 23.Ne1?? The punishment was a humiliating long, lonely walk to the scaffold for the white king. (23. Kf2 gxf3 24. Bxf3 is about equal) Rh1+ 24.Kf2 g3+! 25.Kxg3 Rxe1! 26.Qxe1 Qxg2+ 27.Kf4 g5+ 28.Ke5 Qe4+ 29.Kf6 (29.Kd6 Rc8 30. b4 Rc6#) Qf5+ 30.Kg7 Qg6+ 31.Kh8 0-0-0# 0-1
A Novotny interference is when the attacking side sacrifices a piece on a square where it can be taken by two different opponent’s pieces – whichever piece captures interferes with the other. Here is a Novotony example that was new to me:
White resigned here as he could not see any defence to 30…Rc1+ 31.Ke2 and 31…d1Q+ winning easily. What did he miss?
He could have won with 30.Rd6!! Rxd6 (30…cxd6 32.f7 wins) 31.g8=Q+ Kd7 32.Qf7+ Kc6 33.Qe8+ Kb6 34.Qe3! pinning the dangerous rook followed by taking it and f7 winning.
The section on the counterattack is didactic and shows some good examples. Here is a game Fischer-Gligoric from Varna 1962.
White clearly has had an initiative with active pieces but his attack has been halted and white’s exposed king will become a factor. His knight is also not really contributing much.
27…h6! (Stockfish prefers 27…Bb4 but also likes the move played) 28.Re3 Bb4 29.gxh6 Qxc2 30.Rg1 Kh7
31.Qg3 (31.Rxg6 does not work because white’s king is too exposed: 31…Kxg6 32. Rg3+ Kh7 33. Rg7+ Rxg7 34.hxg7 Qc1+ 35. Kg2 Qd2+ 36.Kf1 Kg6! wins) Rg8 32.e5
Bxc3! (stopping the knight from getting to g5) 33.Rxc3 Qe4+ 34.Rg2 Rd8! (Very strong, the counterattack is rolling) 35.Re3 Rd1+ 36.Kh2 Qb1 37.Qg4 (37.Rg1 Qxa2+ 38. Kh3 Rxg1 39.Qxg1 a4) Rh1+ 38.Kg3
Qc1? (38…Rh5! is more murderous 39.Qe4 Qc1 40.Rf3 Rd7 activating the other rook kills white) 39.Re4? (39.Qd4 is better) Rd7! Bringing up the reserves 40.Qe2 Qg5+ (40…Qxh6 is even more accurate but the game line is good enough) 41.Qg4 Rd3+ 42.Kf2 Rd2+ 43.Kg3 Rxg2+ 44.Kxg2 Qc1 0-1
Part 3 Basic Mates
As the title suggests, it covers basic checkmates. The chapter is divided into two sections covering the fundamental endgame mates with the pieces and common checkmates occurring at the beginning of the game.
A more experienced reader may think this section is too basic but you would be wrong as the author covers some pretty complex stuff in the endgame such as two knights against a pawn.
Grivas has an excellent section on the Bishop & Knight mate which is not trivial by any means. GM Vladimir Epishin failed to win this ending! I will confess that I had never heard of Delétang’s triangles although I am aware of the techniques to confine the king using triangles. I take my hat off the author for explaining the bishop and knight mate so clearly.
This is a surprising stalemate trap not mentioned in endgame manuals:
1…Nb6+? 2.Kd8! Oops black can only save his bishop by inflicting stalemate on white! A quick win was to be had: 1…Na5 2.Kd8 Ba4 3.Kc8 Bd7+ 4.Kb8 Kc6 5.Ka7 Bc8 6.Kb8 Kd7 7.Ka8 Kc7 8.Ka7 Nc6+ 9.Ka8 Bb7#
Some basic mates at the beginning of the game are covered such as Fool’s Mate, Scholar’s Mate and similar ideas. Importantly, the author considers the defences to Scholar’s mate. Some GM games are included!
Here is an example from a Greco game which is an offshoot of a foolhardy variation of Owen’s Defence.
Greco – NN
1.e4 b6 2.d4 Bb7 3.Bd3 f5?
4.exf5! Bxg2 5.Qh5+ g6 6.fxg6 Nf6
6…Bg7 is better, but there are two busts to this silly line:
7.gxh7+ Kf8 8.Qg6 or even better 7.Qf5! Nf6 8.Bh6!! Bxh6 9.gxh7 Bxh1 10.Qg6+ Kf8 11.Qxh6+ Kf7 12.Nh3! Qf8 13.Qg6+ Ke6 14.Nc3 d5 15.0-0-0 with a winning position
7.gxh7+! Nxh5 8.Bg6#
Part 4 Combinative Mates (Queen & Rook)
Although the author states in the introduction that knowing the names of the mates does not matter, I tend to disagree as a name gives some poetry. There are about 24 different types of mates in this chapter. The reviewer will show a few positions to give the reader a taste:
Here is a famous opening trap with Anastasia’s Mate:
12.Qh5! d5 (12…g6 13.Qh4 is nasty) 13.Qxh7!+ 1-0 (13…Kxh7 14.Rxh5#
The Arabian mate is a common mating motif:
Black’s a pawn is unstoppable, but white has seen further.
37.Qxf7! a1=Q+ 38.Kh2 and black’s extra queen cannot prevent the inevitable mate on h7! 38…Qxf7 39.Rxf7 b6 40,Rh7#
The back row mate (aka corridor mate) is probably one of the commonest tactical themes in chess:
Capablanca muffed the coup de grâce by playing 29.Qa8?? and black resigned obviously believing the future world champion. Black could have saved the game with 29…Rxa2!
White could have won with 29.Rxe8 or even simpler 29.Qb5! Rxb8 (29…c6 30.Rxe8 Qxe8 31.Qb8 Rc1+ 32.Kf2) 30.Qxb8 Kg8 31.Qb3+ or 31.Qa7
Here is another beautiful example of a back rate coupled with a self block mate:
White played 21.Qf5! (with a double threat on the black queen and h7) 21…Re6 (21…Qxf5 22.Rxe8#;Qa4 23.b3! Rxe4 24,bxa4 Re1+ 25.Bf1 wins;21…Qd8 22.Re7!! capturing the rook allows 23.Qxh7+ Kf8 24.Qh8#) 22.d5! Nxd3 23.dxe6 fxe6 24.Qxe6+ Qxe6 25.Rxe6 (25…Nxb2 26.Re7 wins by harvesting the black pawns) Kf7 26.Re2 1-0
No anthology of tactics would be complete without the Opera Mate:
Probably one of the most famous finishes 16.Qb8!+ Nxb8 17.Rd8#
This is an instructive example of Cozio’s Mate:
White looks to be in trouble here. However after 1.Qe7+ Qg5 (1…g5 2.Qe1+ Qg3+ 3.Qxg3#) 2.Qe4+ Qg4 3.Qe3!! black is in zugzwang and will be mated.
Here is an example of Marshall’s mate from a modern game:
White played 36.Ne2?? (36.Qxd1 Rf2 37.Qf1 Rxf1 38.Rxf1 wins as a rook and three pieces will overcome a queen and 3 pawns) overlooking 36…Rf1+ 37.Kxf1 Qf2#
Part 5 Combinative Mates (Bishop, Knight & Pawn)
There are about 11 different types of mates in this chapter. The reviewer will show a few positions to give the reader a taste:
Here is the original Boden’s Mate:
13…d5! 14.Bxd5 Qxc3+ 15.bxc3 Ba3#
Here is an example of the Pony Express mate from Joseph Blackburne:
White appears to have plenty of pieces round his king, but 20…Qg2+! 21.Rxg2 Nh3# is a pretty mate
Here is a example of the Suffocation Mate deep in the ending:
White has just played 84.h7! and black resigned. After 84…Kg7 85.h8Q+! Kxh8 86.Bh6 the black king is trapped in the corner. White mates with the moves 87.Bf8 followed by 88.Kg5, 89.Kh6 and 90.Bg7#
In summary, I recommend this book as an excellent training manual for practising pattern recognition of common mating patterns.
To make the book even better, I would have added a short section on common tactical motifs such as forks, skewers & pins.
FM Richard Webb, Basingstoke, Hampshire, 20th July 2021
Book Details :
Hardcover : 450 pages
Publisher:Thinkers Publishing; 1st edition (1 Mar. 2019)
“Justin Tan is an International Grandmaster who has represented Australia in numerous international events. He is currently based in the UK and was previously British under-21 champion, British blitz champion and joint second runner-up at the British Championship. Justin has been a 1.e4 specialist throughout his playing career and is recognised for his deep opening preparation, especially in the open games. He is a monthly columnist for ChessPublishing’s section on 1.e4, where he publishes his analyses of key 1.e4 games and the latest trends.”
From the publisher via Amazon we have this blurb:
“‘1.e4! The Chess Bible’ (in three volumes) is a complete and authoritative repertoire for White based on sound main lines and the latest cutting-edge analysis. Existing theory is revisited and expanded with several fresh ideas, novelties and refutations which will appeal to dedicated 1.e4 players and theoreticians alike. However, each section is also carefully designed to be easily digested by players of all standards, with an opening overview, illustrated diagrams of key concepts, and instructive and annotated games.This book is an essential practical resource for any 1.e4 player and will greatly reward those who are looking to master their understanding of the open games.The openings covered in this volume are: The Scandinavian Defence, The Alekhine’s Defence, The Nimzowitsch Defence, The Pirc & Modern Defences and The Philidor Defence. ”
End of blurb…
and IM John Donaldson provided this review:
“Judging from the first volume of GM Justin Tan’s intended trilogy, there will be no such omissions in his 1.e4! The Chess Bible series. This massive 460-page volume covers the Alekhine, Nimzowitsch, Scandinavian, Pirc, Modern and Philidor in detail from White’s perspective.
While this is a big and detailed book there is plenty of prose to accompany the analysis, making this it accessible to players 2000 on up. Do note the suggested lines run the gamut from positional to aggressive, from the Classical variation versus the Pirc (1.e4 d6 2.d4 Nf6 3.Nc3 g6 4.Nf3 Bg7 5.Be2) to the Four Pawns Attack against the Alekhine (1.e4 Nf6 2.e5 Nd5 3.d4 d6 4.c4 Nb6 5.f4).
Tan has used all the existing tools to him, including strong engines, but his voice is always front and centre. This leads to advocacy for a number of previously unknown ideas. One example is his recommendation that 1.e4 Nc6 be met by 2.Nf3. One might think this purely a practical suggestion to sidestep learning extra theory, but they would be wrong. Tan believes 2.Nf3 to be the most principled to meet the Nimzowitsch as he is of the opinion that 1.e4 Nc6 2.d4 d5 3.e5 Bf5 4.c3 e6 5.f4 f6 6.Nd2 g5! leads to astounding complications not unfavourable for the second player.
The main line of the Classical Pirc (1.e4 d6 2.d4 Nf6 3.Nc3 g6 4.Nf3 Bg7 5.Be2 0-0 6.0-0 Bg4 7.Be3 Nc6 8.Qd2 e5) has always enjoyed a reputation as a solid equalizer after 9.d5 and 9.dxe5. Tan proposes to sidestep this variation with 7.h3 Bxf3 8.Bxf3 e5 9.d5 Nbd7 10.g3!? with his main line continuing 10…Ne8 11.Kg2 f5 12.h4 f4 13.h5 g5 14.Rh1 Bh6 15.g4 with a slight but very pleasant edge as White has long-term prospects on the queenside and Black limited counterplay.
1.e4! The Chess Bible is a first-rate effort that even titled players will find of interest and can be recommended without reservation for players of expert strength and above.”
end of JD review
Justin in an Australian Grandmaster who is an 1.e4 specialist and known for his deep opening preparation. In this large book he looks at six popular defences to 1.e4 viz:
with 1…e5, 1…c5, 1..c6 and 1…e6 all being deferred for (a) separate volume(s).
Each chapter starts with an overview which serves to give the reader some basic foundations and highlights the general concepts of each of the above.
We will examine his choices one at a time.
Against the Alekhine Defence the author prefers the dangerous Four pawns attack 1 e4 Nf6 2 e5 Nd5 3 d4 d6 4 c4 Nb6 5 f4
Several model games are given such as Kotronias v Short, Gibraltar, 2003. It is not often that Nigel has played the Alekhine as he usually plays 1…e5 or 1…e6 and here he is the runner-up.
Since this book is written from the White side the choice of these games is naturally designed to show how to play the White side.
The lines looked at in the Alekhine include the Fianchetto Variation 5…g6 The Alekhine Benoni 5…de5 6.fe5 c5 and the Main Line 6…Nc6.
Against the rarely played but interesting Nimzowitsch Defence 1…Nc6 Justin suggests 2.Nf3 when Black can go into the open game with 2…e5 (but, of course, this is not really in the spirit of this defence) which is not shown in this volume but will I expect to be covered in a subsequent volume.
Justin takes a look at the unusual move 2…f5 which has been played against myself on a few online occasions.
In Tony Miles favourite(!) openings book, author FM Eric Schiller dubs 2…f5 the Lean Variation or Colorado Counter: as Maurice Micklewhite famously never said: “And not many people know that!
The two main moves are, of course, 2…d5 which leads to a tricky line in the Scandinavian and the Main Line of 2…d6.
Moving to colder climes we examine The Scandinavian Defence and Justin kicks-off by looking at 1.e4 d5 2.ed5 Nf6 3.d4 Bg4 which is the interesting Portuguese Variation but 4.f3 is the suggested test of Black’s play.
Justin is not impressed with this line showing that White remains in command. He then looks at the main line 3…Nd5 but 4.c4 Nb6 5.Nf3 is good for White.
The more popular 2…Qd5 3.Nc3 has analysis on 3…Qd8 considered inferior by Justin and then the popular Pytel-Wade (3…Qd6) Variation often played by Magnus Carlsen in banter blitz. It seems that Black is worse after 5…Bg4 6.h3
or 5…g6 6.Nb5 Qb6 7.a4.
More common is 5…c6 or 5…a6 but 6.g3 is a tricky line where both players need to know their theory in detail.
Justin next considers the Mieses Variation (3…Qa5) and best after 4.d4 Nf6 is 5.Bd2 which is a move that will make Black players think as it is unusual.
If the game continues 5…c6 6.Bc4 Bf5 7.Nf3 e6 8.Nd5 which has been played by Shirov.
If 5…Bg4 White can play 6.f3 where we see why Nf3 has been delayed.
The Modern 1..g6 2.d4 Bg7 3.Nf3 here the Gurgenidze System is Black’s most interesting reply of 3…c6 4.Nc3 d5 5.h3.
David Navara shows how to play if 5 de4 is played.
The Pribyl or Czech System 1..d6 2.d4 Nf6 3.Nc3 c6 4.f4 Qa5 where 5.Bd3 the move I play leads to interesting play.
I once beat John Hickman in a game at Paignton in this line in 1998 and was surprised to win the best game prize.
In the Pirc 1…d6 2.d4 Nf6 3.Nc3 g6 4.Nf3 bg7 a move that was popular with Anatoly Karpov is given.
After 5.Be2 00 6.00
and now 6…c6 6…a6 6…bg4 and 6…Nc6 are all analysed but White has a space advantage making life more easy for him to play.
Finally, the modern Philidor is examined. I was surprised to note that Justin does not look at the “old” Philidor 1…e5 2.Nf3 d6 but I expect this will appear in a later volume when he considers 1…e5 lines. The Modern Philidor is 1…d6 2.d4 Nf6 3.Nc3 e5 when Black does not mind an exchange of pawns on e5 and a Queen exchange. It is now seen as better to try 4.Nf3 Nbd7 5.Bc4 when 5…Be7 is analysed. Now 6.a4 is regarded as best.
White is likely to follow-up with 00, h3 and Re1.
In summary, an interesting book for 1.e4 players with many original ideas. I’m looking to future volumes to learn what Justin recommends against Blacks two most popular moves 1…e5 and 1…c5 plus the Caro-Kann and the French.
Colin Lyne, Farnborough, Hampshire, 19th July, 2021
Book Details :
Paperback : 464 pages
Publisher: Thinkers Publishing; 1st edition (13 April 2021)
“For too long, Anti-Sicilian rhetoric has centred on the logic of simplicity, geared towards reaching playable positions with easy plans while simultaneously avoiding depths of theory. The danger of this logic is the ease with which we can fall into the trap of inactivity; of mindlessly playing an opening without striving to trouble Black; of solely playing an Anti-Sicilian to avoid theory. In contrast, throughout the volumes I will advocate an active approach – with continuous underlying themes of achieving rapid development, dynamic piece play and dominant central control, with an important focus on denying Black the counterplay that he seeks when choosing the Sicilian Defence.”
“Ravi Haria (born 1999) is one of England’s youngest International Masters, and the current holder of the British U21 title. Alongside his career as a chess player and trainer, Ravi reads History at University College London. This is his first book for Thinkers Publishing and his first book ever.”
As with every recent Thinkers Publishing publication high quality paper is used and the printing is clear. We were hoping that the excellent glossy paper of previous titles would be used for this one but never mind.
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 diagram has a “to move” indicator and a “position after: x move” type caption.
There is no Index or Index of Variations but, despite that, content navigation is relatively straightforward as the Table of Contents is detailed.
the main content is divided into five Parts viz:
In the BCN office we have on our shelves
from 1977 and to spend 77 pages covering a third move minor alternative to the Open Sicilian (3.d4) was unusual for this time.
In 2021 we have the first book from IM Ravi Hari impressively weighing in at just under 1 kg and covering 520 densely packed pages.
In 2021 3.Bb5 is easily the second most popular alternative to Morphy’s 3.d4 Open Sicilian. Megabase 2020 (with updates) records 67354 games as against 246585 games for the “main line” so the market for a comprehensive treatise is overwhelmingly compelling.
Before we delve into the meat and potatoes here is a game from the author himself in this very line:
This superb book is suitable for anyone wishing to play a sound, dynamic system against 2…Nc6 in the Sicilian. The author stresses that the aim of the publication is to provide active lines to make black’s life difficult and stifle the counterplay that Sicilian players crave. Many of the world’s top players play this system including the current world champion, Magnus Carlsen.
I wouldn’t describe the book as a pure narrow repertoire book of the type “white to play and win against a particular opening” as it’s coverage of the opening is extensive and suggests alternative white systems against all of the main lines. As the author points out, this variation of opening preparation is vital to avoid being too predictable. Nevertheless, the title is targeted more towards the white side.
It is perfectly suitable for any club player who wishes to learn this system from scratch or any old hand of the the Rossolimo who wishes to refresh their opening knowledge. Despite my comment above, the volume is also extremely useful for a black player preparing against the Rossolimo.
One of the great strengths of the tome is the textual clarification of the ideas and plans; there is some dense analysis where necessary but it is accompanied with erudite explanation.
Part 1 covers the sidelines.
In the Queen’s Gambit series, Beth Harmon plays 3…Qb6?! against Vassily Borgov at their first over the board encounter.
Borgov replies 4.a4 and wins a good game.
However, the author recommends the more natural 4.Nc3
4…e6 4…g6 5.d4!
4…Nf6 5.e5 Ng4 6. Bxc6
6…bxc6 (6…dxc6 7.0-0 g6 8.Re1 Bg7 9.h3 Nh6 10.Ne4 0-0 11.d3 with a huge edge) 7.h3 Nh6 8.0-0 Nf5 9.Na4 Qa5 10.b3 followed by 11.Ba3 with a massive advantage.
5.Bxc6! Qxc6 6.d4 cxd4 7.Nxd4
White has a significant lead in development which is definitely more important than the bishop pair.
7…Qc7 8.0-0 a6 9.Re1
White has a healthy lead in development. Now there are ideas of Nd5 and Nf5
10…e5 11.Nd5 Qd8
12.Be3 is the positional continuation which is also good, a possible continuation is 12…Nf6 (12…exd4? 13.Bxd4 followed by Bb6 and Nc7+ exploiting the weak dark squares) 13.Ne2 Nxd5 14.Qxd5
14…Qc7 15.Qd2 Be7 16.Nc3 Be6 17.Nd5! Bxd5 18.Qxd5 and white has a pleasant positional edge.
13…Ne7 (13…Nf6 14.Nb6 Be6 15.Nxa8 Qxa8 16.e5 dxe5 17.Qxe5 Rg8 18.Rad1 winning) 14.Nxg7+ (Stockfish prefers 14.Nf6+ gxf6 15.Nxd6+ Qxd6 16.Qxd6 Ng6 17.Qxf6 Be6 18.Rad1 Be7 19.Qg7 Rc8 White has a queen and 2 pawns for two bishops and knight but black is solid.)
14…Bxg7 15.Qxg7 Kd7 16.Qxf7 Qf8 17.Qxf8 Rxf8 18.Nb6+ Kc6 19.Nxa8 Be6 20.Rad1 Rxa8 21.Rd3 With a superior endgame but black can fight.
Part 2 covers 3…Nf6
After 4.Nc3 this position is reached:
Here we are going to cover 4…e5? which has been played by both Carlsen and Kramnik. The bust is shown by Ravi.
Here is one of the important positions in this line. Black has a key choice here about which pawn to push to challenge white’s pawn duo in the centre 9…e5 or 9…e5. The two moves lead to significantly different type of positions.
I shall show a variation from 9…d5 10.e5
Black has three knight moves here 10…Ne4, 10…Nd7 and 10…Ng8
After 10…Nd7 white has an interesting pawn sacrifice to disrupt black’s position. 11.e6!
Black can recapture with the bishop or the pawn, after 11…Bxe6 this short line shows the typical dangers for black 12.Nc3 Nf6? A natural move that leads to big problems for black. 13.Rxe6! fxe6 14.g3! How does black defend the e6 pawn and develop?
A typical line could be 14…g6 15.Bh3 Bg7 16.Ng5 0-0 17.Nxe6 Qc8 18.Kg2 with a big plus for white who can improve his position further before taking back the exchange.
12.Nc3 the game continued 12…e5?! A desperate freeing move, 12…g6 is much better
This is decisively refuted by 13.Nxd5 Qa5
A pretty line is 13…Nxd4 14.Nxd4! A lovely queen sacrifice, the horses trample over black
9…cxd4 (9…Nd5 has been tried 10.Bg5! The critical move 10…f6 11.Bc1! (11.c4!? is also slightly better for white) 10.Nxd4
10…Bd7 (10…Nxd4 11.Bxd4 Be7 12.a4!?)
With the idea of Na3 and Nc4 leading to a slight edge for white.
This is the idea. White has a bit more space and a queenside majority. Black of course has a healthy and solid position though. 11…Nxd4 (11…Be7 12.Nc3 0-0 13.Nf3!? White has been quite successful with this move, and this is an argument for Gelfand’s choice, securing relieving exchanges before it is too late.;
11…Bb4!? is simply wrong: 12.Nc3
Bxc3 13.bxc3 0-0 14.Nb3 White’s activity and powerful dark squared bishop more than compensates for the structural weaknesses. 12.Bxd4 Bc6 13.Nc3 Be7 14.a3!?
a5!? (14…0-0 15.b4 is what White wants, but as usual only a slight edge.) 15.Qd3 0-0 (15…a4?! is an ambitious attempt, but after 16.Rad1 0-0 17.Qg3 White’s initiative is powerful)
16.Rad1 The author likes 16.Nb5! exploiting the hole, after 16…Bxb5 17.cxb5 white has the bishop pair but black has d5 for the knight.
16…Qc7 16…a4 17. Qg3! Qb8 18.Nd5!
17.Be5 Qb6 18.Qg3 Rfd819.Rxd8+ Qxd8 20.Rd1
Qb6 [20…Qf8!? this defensive move is better, after 21.Bd3!? White remains comfortably placed.] 21.Bd4 Qb3 22.Rd3 22…Qc2 23.b4! axb4 24.axb4 Nh5 25.Qe5Bf6 26.Qxh5 Bxd4 27.Rxd4 Qxc3 28.Qa5! The point behind 23.b4, without this, White wouldn’t even be better. But now with this intermezzo, White just manages to coordinate in time, and thus his queenside majority secures a huge edge. 28…Rf8 29.Qb6 White went on to win a nice game.
Section 5 covers 3…g6 which is arguably the critical continuation. The author offers two different systems against this line: either capturing on c6 immediately or playing 4.0-0 and 5.c3.
Here is an instructive game using the first suggested system which is a superb win by Michael Adams over Vladimir Kramnik in 2000, which was played just before Kramnik defeated Garry Kasparov for the Classical World Chess Championship.
Michael Adams (2755) – Vladimir Kramnik (2770)
Dortmund Super GM (4), 10.07.2000
1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5 g6 4.Bxc6
Black’s has a major decision here on which way to recapture the bishop. The recapture with the b-pawn is more aggressive.
4…dxc6 5.d3 Bg7 6.h3 Nf6 7.Nc3
A key early position in this line. Black normally arranges to play e5 here to increase his share of the centre. There are essentially three different ways to do this. Kramnik chooses the direct route with a standard knight manoeuvre to d7 to support the e5 advance. This knight is then often routed round to d4 via f8 & e6.
7…Nd7 8.0-0 e5 Preventing d4 for the time being 9.Be3 0-0
A tabiya in this line.
Ravi accompanies this diagram with some typical erudite advice about white’s plans here:
“It’s worth taking a step back and understanding what we’re playing for. As Black has castled quickly, he’s signalled that he doesn’t mind us playing Be3, Qd2 and Bh6 – in an attempt to exchange off the dark-squared bishops. The resulting positions will always be slightly better for White, but Black will maintain that he’s very solid. As there are often a great deal of possibilities, I’ve elected to show some model games rather than analyse endless variations- but the model games are excellent in demonstrating key ideas in these lines. Our plan usually remains the same – exchange off dark-squared bishops, attempt to create a queenside weakness with a2-a4, and at the right moment push f2-f4, possibly entering into an endgame if circumstances are favourable.”
10.Qd2 Re8 11.Nh2
White’s position is harmonious and certainly easier to play. He has a lead in development as black has yet to activate his queenside. The bishop pair is not really an advantage in this type of position, but black is hoping that the bishop pair will be a long term factor. White has three minor pieces to exploit the weakened black squares on black’s kingside whereas black has only two to defend them.
11…Qe7 (11…b6 has been played in many correspondence games 12. Bh6 Bh8 13. Rae1 a5!? 14.Nd1!
An excellent repositioning suggested by the author to improve the horse, followed by Ne3 and f2-f4) 12.Bh6 Bh8
Black keeps this bishop, 12…Nf8 is an alternative but the author demonstrates with two example games how quickly black can succumb with his weakened kingside. The reviewer will showcase one of these games. 13. Bxg7 Kxg7
The obvious move 14.f4 is good here, as well as Robin Van Kampen’s 14.Ne2. Stockfish prefers 14.f4 and gives 14…gxf4 15.Rxf4 Ne6 16.Rff1! avoiding the queen exchange after 16…Qg5 17.Qf2! as pointed out by Ravi. After 14.Ne2 Ne6 15.Kh1 b6 16.a4! Classy play creating queenside weaknesses.
16…a5 17.b3 Ra7 18.f4! exf4 19.Nxf4 Nxf4 (19…Nd4 looks better retaining the good knight) 20.Rxf4
This position is much better for white as black’s dark squares are weak and his bishop is snuffed out by white’s superb pawn structure. White’s rooks will also be very active on the half open f-file. It’s not surprising that black collapsed quickly. 20…Qe5 (20…f6 21. Raf1 Rf8 22. Qc3 white is clearly better: 23. Nf3 followed by e5 looks good) 21.Raf1 Kg8 22.Rf6!Be6 23.Qh6 Qd6 24.Nf3 Qf8 25.Qf4 Rd7 26.Ne5 winning
Black’s position is crumbling on the dark squares.
14.Bg5! A typical probing move
14…f6 15.Nh6+ Kg7 16.Be3 Ne6
The author suggests 17.Rae1 as an improvement athough Stockfish likes 17.Kh1 as well.
18.Ng4 (18.f4! also leads to a white advantage 18…exf4 19.Bxf4 Kxh6 20,h4) 18…h5 (18…Bxg4? is a positional mistake, see Leko-Van Wely Monte Carlo 2003) 19.Nh2
Although white’s knight has been pushed back, black has had to weaken his kingside to do this. This is exploited neatly by Adams. As Arnie says, “I’ll be back”.
19…Rd8 20.Qc3 Ne6 (Finally completing the manoeuvre started on move 7) 21.f4 Nd4 22.Rae1 Kh7 23.Nf3 Be6 24.fxe5 fxe5 25.Ng5+ I’m back! White is more comfortable here but black can hold. His super knight on d4 is the pride of his position.
25…Kg8 26.Nxe6 removing the better bishop 26…Nxe6 White has a definite edge here, but black is solid. Adams went on to outplay Kramnik in this position.
In summary, this is an excellent book which will give any white player a very good grounding in the Rossolimo Variation. All the major variations are covered with a significant number of original suggestions and analysis. Buy this book !
The reviewer is looking forward with great interest to the next volumes in Ravi Haria’s Anti-Sicilian series. I am guessing that he will cover the Moscow Variation 3.Bb5+ against 2…d6. I am intrigued as to what the author will suggest against 2…e6.
FM Richard Webb, Basingstoke, Hampshire, 18th July 2021
“French Grandmaster Christian Bauer is one of his country’s leading players. He is a former national champion and has represented France in numerous international team events. He has written many articles and books for several publishing houses: ‘Play 1…b6’ and ‘The Philidor Files’ for Everyman Chess and ‘Play the Scandinavian’ for Quality Chess. Many of his books have been translated into other languages. This is his fourth book and his second book for Thinkers Publishing after his master piece ‘Move Candidates’.”
From the publisher via Amazon we have this blurb:
“There is no doubt that the Nimzowitsch Defence is one of Black’s most inspiring openings after 1.e4. Black strives to unbalance the position by creating new problems for White from move two, giving himself every opportunity to fight for the initiative from the outset. It is no surprise that 1…Nc6 appeals to ambitious players who relish a complicated battle.
In this book, GM Christian Bauer explains how to use this powerful weapon drawing from his own successful experiences. He is not shy to show you the fundamental ideas, the traps, the pitfalls and naturally the move order subtleties which play such an important role in our modern game of chess. We are convinced this book will give you plenty of confidence and make your opponent think more than twice.”
End of blurb…
Christian Bauer is a strong French Grandmaster with a current FIDE rating of 2639 and has won the French Championship three times and has already authored several books. Previously we reviewed Candidate Moves : A Grandmaster’s Method.
In this 2020 book he takes a look at the rarely played but respectable Nimzowitsch Defence (1…Nc6, B00) as a reply to 1.e4.
For those who do not want to retain large quantities of opening theory this move seems to be attractive choice and will set most White players thinking at a very early stage and therefore be a wise ploy for shorter time control games.
Bauer’s first Megabase 2020 recorded outing for 1…Nc6 was in 1992 in the World Under-16 Championship and since then he has played it seventy-six times. His score with it is a mightily impressive 63.5% so we can be confident that he knows what he is writing about.
The earliest game recorded in Megabase 2020 was from an 1846 Bristol Chess Club encounter between John Withers and Elijah Williams which black won.
In Chapter 1 the author examines unusual moves such as 2.f4 and 2. Bb5. 2.f4 is a move that King’s Gambit players might like to try but 2…d5 is a strong reply leaving black with easy equality from the outset. 2.Bb5 is also given but either 2…Nf6 or 2…d5 are replies often played by black and are both good. In many of these lines black fianchettos his dark squared bishop. In general, the author often gives more than one line for black.
Chapter 2 gives 2.Nc3 the move possibly preferred by lovers of the Vienna Game. This is the 3rd most commonly played move by White and Black may well consider 2…e5 having avoided the Ruy Lopez.
Recommended for Black is 2…Nf6 3.d4 and 3…d5 is deeply analysed however black can instead try 3…e5 transposing into a Four Knights Game.
One of the attractions of 1…Nc6 is that black can often go into open game (1.e4 e5) lines where he has avoided the Ruy Lopez.
The next part of the book moves on to the substantially more critical 2.d4 when black has two credible responses. The first is the thematic 2…e5 allowing White to answer with 3.Nf3 transposing into a Scotch Game. Black will therefore need to know the theory to that opening also.
More in line with achieving original Nimzowitsch style positions is 2…d5 which most engines give as the best move. Obviously, the assessment of an engine at move two can be taken with a large pinch of salt.
In my opinion if White replies 3.e5 the 3…Bf5 gives black an easy game.
3.e4xd5 leads to Centre Counter type positions but White’s d-pawn can come under early attack as black intends to castle queenside.
The most popular move is 3.Nc3 when the main line is 3…d5xe4 4.d5 when the Breyer-like 4…Nb8 planning c6 or e6 is recommended.
Christian also looks at 3…Nf6 when the main line is 4.e5 Nd7. The fact that White has played fifteen(!) different moves here shows that is it not clear what the “best” move is.
THE most popular reply to 1…Nc6 is by far 2.Nf3 when the Nimzowitsch move is 2…d6. Black often plays g6 and Bg7 in these lines with similar play to the Pirc Defence but having ruled out the dangerous Austrian attack option. Black can also try …Bg4 lines and these are also looked at in some detail. White can try c3 or Nc3 lines and must decide putting the light squared bishop on either e2 or b5.
In summary, if you are bored with opponents who hit you with loads of theory this may be the opening just for you and, reassuringly, it appears to be quite sound.
Finally, here is one of the author’s game with this defence:
Colin Lyne, Farnborough, Hampshire, 16th July, 2021
BCN remembers Dr. Julian Farrand who passed on Friday, July 17th, 2020. He was 84 years of age.
Julian Thomas Farrand was born August 13th, 1935 in Doncaster in the West Riding of Yorkshire.
Dr. Farrand QC(Hon), formerly the Insurance Ombudsman, became the Pensions Ombudsman, and he had been a Law Commissioner and a University Professor of Law at the University of Manchester where he was Dean of the faculty.
Most recently he lived in Morpeth, London, SW1.
His first recorded game in Megabase 2020 was white at the 1968 British Championships in Bristol against life-long friend CGM Keith Bevan Richardson. Together with Raymond Brunton Edwards, Julian and Keith were long-time trustees of the BCFs Permanent Invested Fund (PIF).
Julian played for Pimlico, Cavendish and Insurance in the London League and he maintained a standard play grading of 172A in 2020 as well as a FIDE rating of 1943 for standard play. He also played in the London Public Services League, the Central London League and the City Chess Association League. He made regular appearances in the Bronowski Trophy competition and the World Senior’s Team Tournament.
His (according to Megabase 2020) peak Elo rating was 2238 in April, 2004 aged 69. It is likely to have been higher than that if it was measured.
Julian joined Barbican following its merger with Perception Youth to become Barbican Youth in the Four Nations Chess League (4NCL).
His favourite openings with white were : The Richter-Veresov Opening in later years and the English/Barcza Opening in earlier times.
With Black he enjoyed the Czech System and the Lenningrad Dutch.
His son, Tom, is a strong player and a successful barrister with expertise in Intellectual Property Rights, Trademarks and Copyright law.
His wife (married in 1992), Baroness Hale of Richmond, served as President of the Supreme Court of the United Kingdom from 2017 to 2020, and serves as a member of the House of Lords as a Lord Temporal.
Memorial messages have been posted on the English Chess Forum and many will, no doubt, follow. Included are older games from John Saunders not found in the online databases.
In 2015 Julian (together with fellow trustees Keith Richardson and Ray Edwards) received the ECF President’s Award for services to the Permanent Invested Fund.
Here is the citation from the 2015 award :
“Julian is best known as the first-ever English ombudsman (in insurance). He is the husband of law lord Baroness Hale. I (SR) first met him at about the age of 12 year old when playing for my school. He is about four years older. Both Ray and Julian are members of the Book of the Year Committee and have been reviewing books for this purpose for many years. Both are quite strong chess players, indeed playing for England in the same team in the European 60+ Team Championship in Vienna 11-20 July 2015. Keith was to have been a member of the same team, but his wife’s ill-health forced him to withdraw.”
“Sethuraman Panayappan Sethuraman is an Indian born chess grandmaster. Among his many successes we remember him winning the national championship in 2014 and becoming Asian champion in 2016. For his country, he played in several team competitions achieving countless successes: Bronze Medal Chess Olympiad 2014, Gold Medal Asian Teams 2016, Gold Medal Asian Teams 2016 & Silver Medal Asian Teams 2018. He is currently one of the leading grandmasters of the new Indian chess generation and a very renowned opening specialist. This is his first book for Thinkers Publishing.”
From the publisher we have this brief blurb:
“The book you hold is the first work of GM Sethuraman and contains his efforts to find new paths and fresh perspectives on these two variations of these famous Sicilians. We hope you gain from information in this book as well as simply enjoy the games themselves.”
End of blurb…
The author is Indian Grandmaster S P Sethuraman who was born in 1993 and very much a child prodigy. In 2004 he won the under-12 Asian Championships and in 2009 the World under-16 Championship and in the same year he qualified for the Grandmaster title.
In his first book the authors starts-off by looking at the Sicilian Najdorf recommending that white should play the modest move 6.h3.
The earliest appearance for this move would appear to be in 1949 at the US Open played by Weaver Adams versus Max Pavey. 6.h3 was subsequently made popular in the 1960s by Bobby Fischer and features three times in his book My 60 Memorable Games in games 35, 40 and 43.
In 1962 Fischer used 6.h3 to first beat Julio Bolbochan at Stockholm then Miguel Najdorf at the Varna Olympiad and finally Samuel Reshevsky in the 1962 – 63 US championship.
It is worthy of note that the author has played 6.h3 himself on eleven occasions scoring an impressive 77.3%. Here is a swift example:
Amongst current elite players 6.h3 has been chosen by Hikaru Nakamura. Following 6.h3 White will put his dark square Bishop on e3 and castle Queen side. He also intends to play g4 and then g5.
Chapter 1 looks first at 6…Nc6 which was the move Bolbochan played and after 7.g4 h6 8.Be3 e6 9.f4! White intends to play Bg2, the most normal square for the bishop in this line, then Qf3 and OOO.
White will then start pushing black back with g5 when he will be very much on the offensive. Possibly a better try for black is to play 7…g6 where the GM admits that if black knows his theory then he should be able to achieve equality. 7…Qb6 (the most popular database move) is also considered but White will play Nb3 and at a later stage Be3 attacking the Queen.
In Fischer v Najdorf the move 6…b5 was played and the author suggests responding 7.a4 answering b4 with 8.Nd5 with best play White appears to retain an advantage.
7.Nd5 was played in the Fischer v Najdorf game and that also seems promising for White. Fischer reveals that Reshevsky’s choice of 6…g6, treating the game as if it were a type of dragon position, was a sensible one and since White generally follows up with Be3, Qd2 and 000 the American GM seems to make a fair point. However, there are some differences with a conventional Yugoslav Attack as white has not yet played his Bishop to c4 and in some lines he will play Bg2 followed by f4.
In Chapter 3 6…e6 is examined. After 7 g4 d5 the somewhat surprising 8.Nde2! may shock players of the black pieces.
Black can instead try 7…h6, a natural reaction to g4, but if he intends to castle king side this can be a dangerous weakening move to play. In the so-called main line of 7…Be7 we have 8.g5 and White will carry out the standard plan of Be3, Qd2, 000 and, at the right time, h4 when his attack seems more dangerous than blacks.
Interestingly, the favourite / thematic Najdorf move of 6…e5 is not as effective as it is against the English attack it would appear when
White plays Nb3, Be3 and then f4!
In summary, since 6.h3 is less often played than either 6.Be3 or 6.Bg5 it could well be a wise choice and therefore a good repertoire suggestion.
The second part of this book deals with the Sicilian Taimanov variation.
By far the most popular fifth move for white these days is 5.Nc3 which is in preference to Fischer’s 5.Nb5.
Again, the author practices what he preaches with 19 games and a hit rate of 68.4%. In this encounter from 2019 his hapless opponent tries the unpopular and offbeat 5…Be7 and gets things very wrong indeed:
After the more main stream 5…Qc7 6.Be3 a6 the author recommends 7.Qf3
and both Black responses of 7…Bb4 and 7…Nge7 are examined in detail. I was somewhat surprised that after 7…Bb4 8.000 is recommend daring black to play the “ruinous” 8…Bxc3 as White’s dark squared bishop tends to be very strong in these structures.
Black can also try 7…b5 but 8.Qg3 led to a pleasant end game for White in Motylev v Aravindh 2017 and the actual game result was not the fault of the opening:
If White prefers then 8.Nxc6 is also quite a promising line.
Black moves such as 7…Bd6 and the hedgehog-like 7…d6 where White will often respond to black castling King side with launching his g and h pawn up the board. Finally the knight moves 7…Ne5 and 7…Nf6 are analysed.
In summary, this is a new book from a new author with a generous quantity of analysis given but unlike many modern opening books it is not centered around illustrative games. It will appeal to players who are confident in their abilities to learn and recall more analysis than their opponent.
Colin Lyne, Farnborough, Hampshire, 14th July, 2021
Continuing from my last article about Arthur Towle Marriott, I promised a series of articles on his Leicester opponents.
This is an interesting period in chess history, witnessing the start of inter-club competitions as we used to know them before Covid-19.
The two matches between Leicester and Nottingham in January and February 1877 seem to have been Leicester’s first matches against another club. Nottingham, however, had previous form: the earliest match I can find was against Derby in 1872. Train services from Nottingham to Derby started in 1839, with trains to Leicester available the following year, but by now rail transport had become more frequent and more affordable. It was the 3.35 servicethat took the Nottingham chess players to Leicester on 25 January 1877.
The following week the Leicester Journal reported:
An interesting event in connection with this club, took place on Thursday week, in the Mayor’s Parlour of the old Town Hall, kindly lent for the occasion by the Mayor, W. Winterton Esq., when the majority of the members assembled to welcome six gentlemen of the Nottingham Chess Club, who arrived by the 3.35 train, to spend, by invitation, a few hours in friendly contest at Chess. The high reputation of the Nottingham Club, caused considerable interest to be felt in the visit, and it was thought that the home players would have but little chance of maintaining a creditable stand. When, therefore, at the close of the contest, it was found that Nottingham had won the match by only one in their favour, considerable gratification was experienced at so favourable a result. The following gentlemen represented the Nottingham Club: S. Hamel Esq., President, Messrs. Stevenson, Marriott, Glendenning, Brown, and Kirk, while Rev. W. L. Newham, Mr W. Stanyon (president), Dr. Nuttall, Herr Ptacek, Messrs. Atkins and Withers did battle for Leicester, winning eight games to their opponent’s nine. The play of the Nottingham gentlemen was much admired for the skill and ingenuity evinced, and, as a consequence of their visit to Leicester, it may be safely asserted that the impetus given to the study of this most intellectual of games among the members of the Home Club, will not soon pass away. The return match we are given to understand will be played at Nottingham on Tuesday next, February 6th, at the Club Room, Long-row. In connection with the Leicester Chess Club we are pleased to learn that its members during the present session have almost doubled, and that new life and energy seem to pervade all its movements.
Chess matches in those days were always described as ‘interesting’ (see also below). Or if not ‘interesting’, then ‘pleasant’.
(Note that the Mr Atkins active at that time was seemingly not related to the great Henry Ernest Atkins, about whom more later.)
It’s not clear from this report whether Nottingham’s Mr Marriott was Arthur or one of his brothers. Zavatarelli assumes it was Arthur: it’s possible that other reports not available online will confirm this.
The week after next, a Leicester team took the train north. Here’s the report from the Nottinghamshire Guardian:
On Tuesday evening a most interesting and spirited match at chess took place between the clubs of Nottingham and Leicester, at the rooms of the former, which are at Mr. Bingham’s restaurant, Long-row. Seven members of the Leicester club took part in the game against eight of Nottingham. About nine o’clock in the evening the members ofboth clubs adjourned, and sat down to supper, when Mr. Hamel, president of the Nottingham society, occupied the chair. After the usual loyal toasts had been honoured, that of “Continued success and prosperity to the Nottingham Chess Club” was proposed by the chairman and enthusiastically drunk. In the course of his remarks, the chairman referred in very feeling terms to the death of Mr. Thomas Hill, one of the oldest and most respected members of the club, and whose lost he (the chairman) was sure, must be deeply regretted and mourned by all. The president next referred to the Cambridge match, which had resulted so successfully, and to the honour of Nottingham – (hear, hear) – they having won both games, and having declared in one game a mate in ten moves, a point which the Cambridge University could not see. (Applause.) Dr. Worth, the vice-president, after alluding to his thirty years’ connection with the club, proposed, in a complimentary manner, the “Health of the Visitors”, which was responded to by the Rev. Mr. Newham, of Leicester, and Mr. Thompson, the celebrated problem composer of Derby, in very cordial terms. The health of the respected president (Mr. Hamel) having been proposed and drunk with due honours, the members left the supper table, and again proceeded with their games, which were carried on until a late hour. The following is a list of the players – Leicester, Messrs. Ptacek, Withers, Atkins, Latchmore, Stanyon, Nuttall, and the Rev. – Newham. Nottingham: Messrs. E. Marriott, T. Marriott, A. Marriott, Roe, Alderman W. G. Ward, Hugh Browne, T. A. Stevenson, and Mellors. At midnight, the contest was concluded, when it was announced that Nottingham had won six games, lost five, and drawn one. The match resulted in favour of Nottingham by one game.
We only have the names here, but, fortunately the Leicester Chronicle provided more details:
Here, we’re told that Arthur Towle Marriott played on board 4 against Herr Ptacek, winning both his games.
Nottingham’s chess star Sigismund Hamel was present, but, for some reason, didn’t play in the match. However, he annotated (rather inaccurately, according to Stockfish 14) Arthur’s two games for the Nottingham Daily Express (not available online).
In the first game, Arthur’s opponent put up little resistance. This is why I often recommend the Ruy Lopez to novices. If Black isn’t familiar with the opening he can end up in a lost position very quickly. This is just the sort of game I like to use when introducing my pupils to this opening.
But who was Herr Ptacek? What was someone with such an exotic name doing in Leicester?
It’s a very good question, with a very interesting answer.
I really need to introduce you to Robert Ralph Noel.
R R Noel (1802-1883) was born in Kirkby Mallory (as in Mallory Park race circuit), the son of a clergyman. He was very well connected: knowing, either directly or indirectly, almost everyone who was anyone in 19th century England: George Eliot, Charles Darwin, Lord Byron (Ada Lovelace, a distant relation, lived in Kirkby Mallory as a young girl). He married a German Baroness whose family had an estate in Bohemia, which gave him connections to the likes of Goethe right across Europe. He wrote a book on phrenology, which you can, if you so desire (but I wouldn’t bother if I were you), read today.
However, his day job involved running the Leicestershire Militia (the volunteer forces), and, like all forces in those days, they needed a good military band, with a good bandmaster to lead it. For much of the 19th century England was known as ‘the land without music’, so when a musician was required it was tempting to look abroad. Mrs Noel had heard good things about a young man from Prague called Franz Ptacek (he’d often be known as Francis in England), and, in 1854, he was engaged to run a military band in Leicester. It seems he was very successful and popular, but, after 12 years or so, following some sort of dispute, he felt obliged to resign his position.
He then set up a new orchestra and concert society, and resumed giving concerts in Leicester. He was also a composer, pianist and organist seemingly much in demand. Light classical music concerts (think the Strauss family: waltzes, polkas, marches, that sort of thing) were a very popular entertainment at the time. He was more ambitious than this, though, writing an opera and programming two of Handel’s great oratorios: Saul and Samson.
It’s time for some music. Ptacek was particularly renowned for his interpretation of the famous Dead March from Saul. I’d have liked to offer you the Leicester Militia playing this in 1860, but instead you’ll have to do with the next best thing: the Band of the Coldstream Guards recorded in 1910.
He also found time to indulge in his (and our) favourite hobby: chess. He was selected to represent his adopted city in what was perhaps their first competitive match, where he met our hero, Arthur Towle Marriott.
His play in the first game wasn’t at all impressive, but he conducted his troops rather better in the return game. Perhaps the supper provided by Bingham’s Restaurant had some effect. His Scotch Gambit led to a winning position, only for him to throw away the win with one careless mistake.
Chess matches in those days served a social rather than a competitive purpose. The result, while eagerly anticipated, didn’t really matter that much. It was more an excuse for players from neighbouring towns or cities to meet for some enjoyable games, with a supper in between. Over the next decade or so there would be many changes, as you’ll see in future Minor Pieces.
A few years later, though, something went wrong. For a second time he lost his orchestra and had to resort to teaching the pianoforte, taking private pupils as well as acting as a peripatetic teacher at Miss Lomas’s school.
At Christmas 1885, Ptacek travelled to Chatham to spend the holiday period with his friend Rudolf Sawerthal, another Czech born military musician. He was just about to return to Leicester when he suffered a fatal heart attack, at the age of only 52.
The Leicester Chronicle published a lengthy obituary:
It is with feelings of sincere regret that we announce the death of Herr Ptacek, which took place at Chatham on Thursday morning. The death of this eminent local musician was totally unexpected, and the intelligence of his sudden decease was received with great surprise amongst his intimate friends. About ten days ago Herr Ptacek proceeded to Chatham on a visit to Herr Sawerthal, the accomplished master of the band of the Royal Engineers, whose performance in the Floral Hall during Christmas week gave such exceptional satisfaction to everyone who heard them. He contemplated returning to Leicester on Thursday morning, and had made every preparation for his departure, when he was suddenly seized with pain at the heart. A medical man was immediately summoned, but before he could arrive Herr Ptacek had expired. A telegram was shortly afterwards despatched to Mr. J. Herbert Marshall, of the Rutland-Street music depot, one of the deceased’s most intimate friends, and that gentleman communicated the sad intelligence to his friends in Leicester, all of whom heard the occurrence with much regret. To many the name Herr Ptacek will be unknown, but his name will not be forgotten by those ardent lovers of music who twenty years ago were charmed with the brilliant company of artistes he gathered around him. The deceased came to Leicester a comparative stranger, but his abilities soon won favourable recognition, and he speedily became possessed of amerited reputation for musical accomplishments, which was not confined to the limits of the borough. In 1855 Herr Ptacek was introduced to Leicester by Major and Mrs Noel, who were convinced of his sterling worth as an organiser and conductor. He left Prague, where he had been brought up under cultivating influences, and took charge of the militia band, which was in want of complete and thorough organisation. So well did Herr Ptacek succeed at his appointed task that before long the band was selected to play before the Queen at Aldershot, and the fine playing of the men under his control elicited warm expressions of Royal approval. The band subsequently played several times before a distinguished company at Belvoir Castle. Some disagreement ultimately took place between him and the officers of the regiment, in consequence of which – in order to maintain his self-respect – he felt it necessary to resign. The resignation was accepted, and he renounced the position of bandmaster, amid many expressions of regret. His efforts to improve the musical taste of the town were not, however, forgotten. On December 16, 1867, he was presented by Mr. T. T. Paget, M.P., at a largely-attended meeting of influential inhabitants, with a purse containing 150 guineas, as some acknowledgement of the efforts he had put forth for twelve years to cultivate musical taste and provide for the public enjoyment. The purse was worked by Mrs Noel, and, in accepting the gift, Herr Ptacek made a humorous and appropriate speech. Some time after his severance of the connection with the militia band, Herr Ptacek organised a band of his own, which he trained to an exceptional point of perfection, and also became the conductor of the New Orpheus Society, a musical association partly, if not completely, antagonistic to the then Philharmonic Society. His charge of that society was marked by masterful activity, his abilities in controlling the resources of an orchestra being strikingly exhibited. Under the auspices of this society, Samson and Saul were given before large audiences in the chief hall of the town, and the magnificent way in which the “Dead March” was rendered has not yet faded from the recollection of those who heard it. Herr Ptacek also for about 14 years filled the position of organist at St. George’s Church, where his cultivated playing was greatly appreciated. He excelled more as a pianist than as an organist, although his skill in playing the more ponderous instrument was of no mean order. Upon his retirement from active musical life he was again the recipient of a testimonial subscribed for by his admiring friends. He lived in comparative retirement, and his name has not been connected with musical efforts in the town for many years past, although we believe he continued to take pupils who wished to e instructed in the mysteries of the pianoforte. From the commencement of his labours in Leicester his energies had been invariably directed towards the education of the inhabitants, and in this respect he has probably never been excelled, although it would be idle to say he has not been equalled. He was uniformly courteous, and his geniality endeared him to all who came in contact with him. His life was arduous and self-sacrificing, and the news of his death will not fall to awaken feelings of sorrow. He was about 52 years of age. We understand that instructions have been given to have the deceased interred in the Leicester Cemetery.
His memorial unfortunately misspells both his names, making him Frances rather than Francis (‘i’ for ‘im, ‘e’ for ‘er, as my mother taught me).
The inscription reads, in part:
An accomplished musician he was endeared to his many pupils and to all who knew him, not more by his varied attainments than by his honesty and frankness and by the warmth of his attainments. Those who now sorrow over his grave may well say he came among us as a stranger and he departed leaving many warm and devoted friends.
This site provides more information: his date of birth is given as 1831, but this may be wrong: other records suggest it was 2 December 1832. It’s also incorrect in stating that his wife was Czech.
Further information, including from a source about Masonic Music and Musicians in Leicestershire and Rutland, can be found here.
As far as I can tell, none of his music has survived, but I did find a polka written by his friend Rudolf Sawerthal, arranged for accordion:
There you have it: Arthur Towle Marriott’s opponent Francis Ptacek leads us on a tour of chess and musical life in Leicester in the 1870s and 1880s. Who will we discover next? You’ll find out here soon enough.
And, by the way, if you’re interested in the sociology of chess in the English Midlands in the 19th century, you can read Rob Ensor’s 2016 Masters Thesis on Nottingham chess here. My thanks to Rob for making this available, and also to John Swain for bringing it to my attention.
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