All posts by John Upham

John Upham is the founder of British Chess News, staff photographer and the IT Manager. John performed similar roles for British Chess Magazine from 2011 until 2015. John is an English Chess Federation accredited coach and has taught in schools and privately since 2009. John started chess relatively late(!) at the age of twelve following the huge interest in the Spassky-Fischer World Championship match in 1972. John is Membership Secretary of Camberley Chess Club and an ordinary member of Crowthorne and Guildford Chess Clubs. John plays for Hampshire and for 4NCL Crowthorne. John is Secretary of the Hampshire Junior Chess Association and the Berkshire Chess Association and manages the Chess for Schools partnership.

Play the Budapest Gambit

Play the Budapest Gambit, Andrew Martin, Everyman Chess, May 2021, ISBN-13 : 978-1781945889
Play the Budapest Gambit, Andrew Martin, Everyman Chess, May 2021, ISBN-13 : 978-1781945889

Here is the publishers blurb from the rear cover :

“The Budapest Gambit (1 d4 Nf6 2 c4 e5) is an aggressive, dynamic approach for meeting 1 d4 and is a great line for throwing opponents onto their own resources. It is certainly double-edged as Black moves the same piece twice early on and also sacrifices a pawn. This pawn is often quickly regained but one of the great advantages of the Budapest is that if White tries to hang on to the pawn (and many players do) Black can quickly whip up a ferocious attack.

A great number of materialistic but unprepared White players have found themselves swiftly demolished by Black’s tremendously active pieces. When White is more circumspect and allows Black to regain the pawn, play proceeds along more sedate strategic lines where Black enjoys free and easy development.

Experienced chess author and coach Andrew Martin examines all key variations of the Budapest. There is an emphasis on typical middlegame structures and the important plans and manoeuvres are demonstrated in numerous instructive games. * Includes complete repertoires for Black with both 3…Ng4 and 3…Ne4 * Comprehensive coverage featuring several new ideas * Take your opponents out of their comfort zone!”

About the author :

IM Andrew Martin
IM Andrew Martin

Andrew Martin is an English IM, a Senior FIDE Trainer, the Head of the ECF Chess Academy, a teacher in numerous schools and a coach to many promising and upcoming players. Andrew has authored in excess of thirty books and DVDs and produced huge numbers of engaging videos on his sadly defunct YouTube Channel.

We have reviewed titles from Andrew such as First Steps : King’s Indian Defence, also from Everyman Chess.

As with every recent Everyman Chess publication high quality paper is used and the printing is clear. Each diagram is clear as is the instructional text. Figurine algebraic notation is used throughout. The usual and reliable formatting from Brighton-based typesetter IM Byron Jacobs is employed.

The diagrams do not have a “to move” indicator or any kind of caption so you will need to work out for yourself how they relate to the text that they are embedded in. However, this is fairly obvious.

There is a helpful Index of Variations and an Index of the whopping 164 completed games the author provides ranging from 1896 until 2021.

For those who do not know the Budapest Gambit starts here:

and it has some overlaps with ideas from the Albin Counter Gambit:

and even the choice of many juniors and beginners, the Englund Gambit:

The book consists of fourteen chapters organised into two main parts:

The Budapest Gambit
  1. A Budapest Timeline
  2. Key Strategic Ideas after 3…Ng4
  3. The Rubinstein Variation after 4.Bf4
  4. Safe and Sound 4.Nf3
  5. The Aggressive 4.e4
  6. The Dark Horse 4.e3
  7. Budapest Oddities
  8. The Budapest Gambit Declined
The Fajarowicz Gambit
  1. Key Strategic Ideas after 3…Ne4
  2. The Natural 4.Nf3
  3. The Acid Test: 4.a3
  4. An Independent Line: 4.Nd2 Nc5
  5. Early White Queen Moves
  6. Other Fourth Moves

Before we continue it is worth taking a look at the pdf extract which includes the Contents, Preface and pages 166 – 184.

We were immediately struck by the author’s candour in the Preface:

This has been a tough book to write and I have agonised over the format for quite some time.

In the end I have settled for an approach by which I hope the reader will get to like the Budapest as an ingenious concept and then be willing to take the risks involved in playing the opening.

This statement is really rather refreshing. Most of us can recall the dubious days of highly ambitious (and some might say misleading) book titles such as “Winning with the Englund Gambit” or “Crushing Your Opponent with the Damiano“* or maybe something equally nonsensical but amusing. Chess publishing has mostly matured for the better in that respect and we can look forward to increasingly honest and objective tomes.

*These are fictionalised titles but hopefully the point is made clear.

The first chapter will be of interest both to both the chess historian and students of the Budapest as the author provides a welcome 64 page chronology of the gambit’s development from 1896 through 2020: interesting stuff! Indeed, this type of chapter would be a welcome addition to opening books in general and we should thank the author for being innovative in  this respect.

Here is a sample game from Chapter One:

The meat and potatoes theory chapters adopt a methodology of selecting a large number (135) of practical games which are each annotated with succinct explanations rather than tedious reams of variations and engine dumps.  The author’s coaching pedigree is evident throughout which will enhance the ambitious students understanding of this interesting gambit.

Not ever having played the Budapest and not allowing it with white (in the BCN office we are all extremely dull players and chose 1.d4 Nf6 2.Nf3) it would not be appropriate for us to comment on the merits of various lines and variations. However the author can hardly be accused of selecting only games where Black does well. In fact, the chapter (Two) outlining the Key Strategic Ideas after 3…Ng4 contains ten wins for White out of 18 games! So, again, applause for an objective approach.

So, how does Black fare in the recommended line?

Well, this is covered in Chapter Four: Safe and Sound: 4.Nf3 and game 72 is instructive:

It would certainly appear that the recommendation of 7…Ncxe5!? is a good one since out of 62 games in this line in MegaBase 2020 White scores a rather poor 44.3% whereas the more popular (411 games) 7…Re8 scores a little better for White at 47.1% and, as Andrew writes it is pleasing to see the Ra6 rook lift working well: a nice game!

Possibly the most angst is evident in the treatment of the Fajarowicz Gambit:

Andrew writes:

I think the Fajarowicz is an excellent surprise weapon, but perhaps not 100% sound.

So, again, how does Black fare in the recommended line? We turn to Chapter Ten to find out…

4.Nf3 is, by far, the most popular (but not necessarily most testing) choice and leads to the following game with the interesting idea of 7…Bf8!:

So, why the lack of enthusiasm for the Fajarowicz? The title of Chapter Eleven is the spoiler: The Acid Test: 4.a3

To find out more about this line and all the others you will need to buy the book which is published on May 24th 2021.

In summary, play the Budapest Gambit is a comprehensive look at the main line and the Fajarowicz Gambit in a refreshingly objective way. The wealth of annotated games is a joy in itself and these are combined with the author’s ideas in keeping this enterprising gambit afloat within the unfriendly world of examination by engines. One of the author’s best works.

John Upham, Cove, Hampshire, 22nd May, 2021

John Upham
John Upham

Book Details :

  • Paperback : 383 pages
  • Publisher: Everyman Chess (24th May 2021)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10:1781945888
  • ISBN-13:978-1781945889
  • Product Dimensions: 17.3 x 1.7 x 23.8 cm

Official web site of Everyman Chess

Play the Budapest Gambit, Andrew Martin, Everyman Chess, May 2021, ISBN-13 : 978-1781945889
Play the Budapest Gambit, Andrew Martin, Everyman Chess, May 2021, ISBN-13 : 978-1781945889

The Iron English

The Iron English, Richard Palliser & Simon Williams, Everyman Chess, 2020, ISBN-13 : 978-1781945803
The Iron English, Richard Palliser & Simon Williams, Everyman Chess, 2020, ISBN-13 : 978-1781945803

Here is the publishers blurb from the rear cover :

Grandmaster Simon Williams was taught the English Opening at the age of six and 1 c4 was his weapon of choice until long after he became an International Master. For this new work, he teamed up with acclaimed theoretician International Master Richard Palliser to explore his old favourite. 1 c4 remains an excellent choice for the club and tournament player. This book focuses on the set-up popularised by the sixth world champion, Mikhail Botvinnik, the so-called Botvinnik formation with 2 Nc3, 3 g3, 4 Bg2, 5 e4 and 6 Nge2.

This system is compact but still aggressive and rewards an understanding of plans and strategies rather than rote memorisation of moves. In Opening Repertoire: The Iron English leading chess authors Simon Williams and Richard Palliser guide the reader through the complexities of this dynamic variation and carves out a repertoire for White.

They examine all aspects of this highly complex opening and provide the reader with well-researched, fresh, and innovative analysis. Each annotated game has valuable lessons on how to play the opening and contains instructive commentary on typical middlegame plans.

and. from the publisher, about the authors :

IM Richard Palliser
IM Richard Palliser

Richard Palliser is an International Master and the editor of CHESS magazine. In 2006 he became joint British Rapidplay Champion and in 2019 finished 3rd in the British Championship. He has established a reputation as a skilled chess writer and written many works for Everyman, including the bestselling The Complete Chess Workout.”

GM Simon Williams
GM Simon Williams

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

As with every recent Everyman Chess publication high quality paper is used and the printing is clear. Each diagram is clear as is the instructional text. Figurine algebraic notation is used throughout.

The diagrams do not have a “to move” indicator or any kind of caption so you will need to work out for yourself how they relate to the text that they are embedded in. However, this is fairly obvious.

The book consists of nine chapters :

  1. Key Ideas for White
  2. Kickstarter: An Outline of the Iron English Repertoire
  3. English Versus King’s Indian
  4. The Modern: 1.c4 g6 and 1…d6
  5. Other Fianchetto Defences
  6. The Reversed Sicilian
  7. The Symmetrical English
  8. The Mikenas Attack
  9. Other Lines (1…c6/1…e6)

Opening books are becoming thicker and more imposing year on year and at 464 pages this recent offering from Everyman Chess is no exception. Any book with the involvement of Richard Palliser deserves, without doubt, to be paid special attention to and complimenting him is the h (and now f) pawns favourite advocate Grandmaster, Simon Williams.

Having two authors with contrasting playing styles (we felt) would lead to interesting recommendations rather in the vein of “Good cop, bad cop”. We will leave you to decide which might be which!

In essence this book (and the strongly associated Chessable course) is a complete repertoire for White based around the English Opening.

In the BCN office one of our favourite English Opening books is the 1999 classic “The Dynamic English” by Tony Kosten

The Dynamic English, Tony Kosten, Gambit Publications, 1999, ISBN 1 901983 14 5
The Dynamic English, Tony Kosten, Gambit Publications, 1999, ISBN 1 901983 14 5

which is of a mere 144 pages and of even smaller physical dimensions. A timeless classic in our opinion.

The Iron English is the first (we think) book (in the English language) to provide a complete repertoire around the Botvinnik flavour of the English in which White clamps or strongpoints the d5 square with an early e4 thus:

or even more simply

and this solid generic structure is advocated against almost all of Black’s reasonable and unreasonable defences.

Chapter One provides sample games (mainly from the authors) to give an idea of what White should be striving to achieve and Chapter Two outlines the repertoire.

In order to benefit from the chapters following these two  should probably be read more than once. One of the reasons for this is the huge complexity of the transpositional possibilities and move orders. The end-of-book Index of Variations helps the reader to navigate their way through the mire of variations and following that is an Index of Games bringing up the rear.

The style of presentation is friendly and very, very chatty (Alan Carr is nowhere to be seen you’ll be pleased to learn)  and presumably driven by the same material’s presentation as part of a Chessable course.

To get a feel of this style here are sample pages to whet your appetite and here is a example extracted game from Chapter One:

which provides for engaging instruction (if you like that sort of thing!).

Quite correctly, the content is dominated by the King’s Indian (73 pages), Reversed Sicilian (102 pages) and 100 pages on 1. c4 g6 and 1.c4 d6 lines. Clearly a wealth of material and probably most suited to someone who already plays the English but not the Botvinnik System. Taking up the English for the first time via this book (and/or the course) could well be somewhat daunting and not for the faint hearted.

Each of chapters Three – Nine adopts the now familiar Everyman format of example games delivering the theoretical discussion. Thirty-three games are dissected in detail including six of SKWs.

In the BCN office we always like to see how we would fair defending “against the book” and since we play the slightly offbeat 1.c4 c6 we turned to page 440 for Theory 9A (!).

where we won our internal wager that White would be advised to play 2.e4 and transpose into a Pseudo-Panov (called the Steiner Variation in Win with the Caro-Kann) rather than to a Slav. So, how did the “game” go?

1.c4 c6; 2. e4 d5; 3.cd: cd:; 4. ed: Nf6; 5.Nc3 Nxd5; 6.Bc4!?

which is a little off the beaten track (but easily met) with 6…Nb6; 7.Bb3 Nc6; 8.Nf3 Bf5; 9. d4 e6; 10 0-0, Be7; 11.a4 Na5 12. Ba2 0-0; 13.Qe2 and instead of the move suggested (13…Rc8) we played 13…Nc6! with a totally playable position.

The text suggests that someone who plays 1…c6 could be unfamiliar with a transposition to the Caro-Kann. Yes, they may well be but more likely this is a forlorn hope.

Anyway, this recreational digression is not really germane to the main thrust of the book…

In summary, this book is a major piece of work by Richard Palliser and Simon Williams that adds considerable material to the increasingly popular Botvinnik English.

In a sense the Botvinnik English is a kind of very grown-up London System and Colle Opening approach to playing with the White pieces (i.e. a system approach) and a welcome addition to White’s armoury.  Anyone wishing to take it up will find this book to be a reliable and friendly companion.

John Upham, Cove, Hampshire, 29th April, 2021

John Upham
John Upham

Book Details :

  • Paperback : 464 pages
  • Publisher: Everyman Chess (1 Oct. 2020)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1781945802
  • ISBN-13: 978-1781945803
  • Product Dimensions: 17.3 x 1.7 x 23.8 cm

Official web site of Everyman Chess

As is fairly common these days, the book has been migrated to the Chessable platform. Here are reviews of that course.

The Iron English, Richard Palliser & Simon Williams, Everyman Chess, 2020, ISBN-13 : 978-1781945803
The Iron English, Richard Palliser & Simon Williams, Everyman Chess, 2020, ISBN-13 : 978-1781945803

1.d4! : The Chess Bible : Understanding Queen’s Pawn Structures

1.d4! The Chess Bible, Armin Juhasz, Thinker's Publishing, 2021, ISBN-10 9464201118
1.d4! The Chess Bible, Armin Juhasz, Thinker’s Publishing, 2021, ISBN-10 9464201118

From the publisher:

“In his first book (we anticipate many more), the young Hungarian author makes a worthy attempt to walk his readers through a complete 1.d4 opening repertoire. Yet while he is taking you thru the opening he never forgets the other phases of the game. As a result, the subsequent middlegame and endgame elements are remarkably well organized benefiting both beginner and advanced players to acquire powerful skills with 1.d4!”

IM Armin Juhasz
IM Armin Juhasz

“Europe’s youngest FIDE accredited trainer, IM Armin Juhasz, is an active player and a successful coach living in Budapest, Hungary. Born in 1998 he is currently 22 years of age and earned the IM title when 17. In 2016 he achieved his highest Elo of 2424. Armin has twice won the Hungarian Youth Championship. He was a member of the Hungarian U18 team which won the silver medal at the European Youth Team Championship in 2016. In addition to being an active competitor he is also the owner and CEO of Center Chess School. This thriving start up effort in Budapest has seen outstanding results. Several of his students have won numerous medals on both the world and national stage. Included in this list of success are two Hungarian Championships, on in the U16 and the other in the U14 division. He has also coached a World U12 Champion from the United States.”

End of blurb.

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.

With a small amount of persuasion the book can be laid flat next to the board and does not require weights to prevent it from “self-closing” (a particular bugbear of ours !). Each diagram is clear and the instructional text is typeset in two column format, which, we find, enables the reader to maintain their place easily. Figurine algebraic notation is used throughout and the diagrams are placed adjacent to the relevant text and each 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.

The main content is divided into six chapters :

  1. The King’s Indian Defense
  2. The Grünfeld Defense
  3. The Benoni Defense
  4. The Slav Defense
  5. The Catalan Opening
  6. Frequent Endgame Types

Pedant warning: before we look at the important stuff you might have noticed above the above use of “defense” rather than “defence”. This is the spelling used throughout which we are surprised that the editor/proof readers/typesetter allowed through. We will shall not dwell further on this. The rear cover (but the not the preface) introduction by GM Horvath uses the horrible “thru” instead of “through”. Moving on…

Our first attempt at reviewing was to hit the buffers and this was caused by wording within the Preface (and rear cover text) from GM Horvath. He writes

the young Hungarian author makes a worthy attempt to talk his readers through a complete 1.d4 opening repertoire,

Complete? This did not fit with the above chapter listing (unless the definition of “complete” has recently been updated. Seeking clarification we consulted Thinker’s Publishing and they confirmed that the word “complete” was indeed employed erroneously by Horvath. In fact, the sub-title (which does not appear on the front or rear covers) of “Understanding Queen’s Pawn Structures” we were informed should have been given greater prominence. Moving on…

So what we actually have here is a partial repertoire for White against the five Black defences listed above plus an intriguing sixth  bonus chapter. Each of the five chapters selects a line for White and proceeds to help you understand that recommendation  using the same methodology (which appears to be both novel and sensible) as follows:

For each of chapters 1-5 we have sections:

  1. Introduction
  2. Model Games (I)
  3. Theoretical Section
  4. Model Games (II)
  5. Typical Tactics
  6. Homework
  7. Concluding Tips

Interestingly Model Games (I) provides annotated games that are not in the line for White suggested but important stem games for the Black defence providing extra background about the typical plans and structures for Black that you should be aware of.

Theoretical Section gets down to the nitty gritty of detailed variations and analysis. Model Games (II) is not more of the same of (I) but model games that are directly from the recommendations contained in the Theoretical Section.  Thinking back over the history of opening books for many of them this would have been the only style of content. Things have evolved for the better.

Typical Tactics is a collection often repeating tactical ideas and themes directly arising from these variations and therefore very relevant.

Homework sounded a little weird (to us at least) since surely all of the above are examples of homework? However the point of these sections is interesting. The book provides the reader / student  with half a dozen or so high quality games that are devoid of any notes or annotations. The student is invited to play through these games on a real chessboard (!), make notes, identify critical moments and find potential improvements for both sides. Finally, the student should check their work with an engine.

Finally, each chapter ends with Concluding Tips which is a series of bullet points that should be taken away.

We could end this review here and now but perhaps mention of some chess would be welcome?

Rather than tediously listing all of the recommendations of each chapter the BCN office staff chose the Slav chapter to dip into.

The author’s fourth move recommendation for White is perhaps not one you would have even considered. This is good since it means almost certainly neither will have your opponent!

Yes, 4.g3 which is an unpretentious little move but appears 4527 times in Megabase 2020 compared with 83884 times for the more familiar 4.Nc3.

4.g3 scores a decent 57.5% at all levels at 56.5% with the Top Games option enabled.

By comparison 4.Nc3 scores 57% and 58.6% respectively.

If you would like to see some sample pages from the book then click here.

If you would like to know all of the other recommendations then you will have to buy the book!

Possibly, the most interesting and novel chapter of all is the final one, Frequent Endgame Types. Nine games are provided starting as the middlegame ends and annotated in detail. Strong players will select openings based on a structure they like and understand and potentially because of the endgame it is likely to provide.

Here is an example of a provided game (the book annotations start at move 33):

In summary, if you play 1.d4 then this book will provide a unique insight into many typical structures and plans and if you play the King’s Indian, Grünfeld, Benoni, Slav or the black side of the Catalan then this book will be beneficial.

In many ways this book has provided a fresh approach to teaching openings and, tells us a great deal about the author in the process.

It is clear as daylight that IM Armin Juhasz is a talented trainer and author with a great passion for teaching. We are convinced that his time must be in high demand!

We think you will enjoy this book and derive benefit from it.

John Upham, Cove, Hampshire, 27th April, 2021

John Upham
John Upham

Book Details :

  • Hardcover : 280 pages
  • Publisher:Thinkers Publishing; 1st edition (12 April 2021)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 9464201118
  • ISBN-13: 978-9464201116
  • Product Dimensions: 17.02 x 23.5 cm

Official web site of Thinkers Publishing

1.d4! The Chess Bible, Armin Juhasz, Thinker's Publishing, 2021, ISBN-10 9464201118
1.d4! The Chess Bible, Armin Juhasz, Thinker’s Publishing, 2021, ISBN-10 9464201118

Basic Chess

Basic Chess, David Levens, Hamlyn, 2021, ISBN 978-0-600-63718-9
Basic Chess, David Levens, Hamlyn, 2021, ISBN 978-0-600-63718-9

From the publisher:

“Now anyone can play chess with this straightforward, jargon-free introduction. Written especially for beginners, it’s the most comprehensive manual available and includes everything from explanations of each piece to orchestrating endgames. In addition to expert advice, simple instructions, and more than 200 easy-to-follow diagrams, novices will find: basic tactical principles, aggressive openings, the top-ten traps and attacks, specimen games to learn and crib from, and a test your chess IQ section.

Basic Chess is the book you need to master the game.”

End of blurb.

The book provides no background about the well-known author  (and neither does the Hamlyn web site) The book’s Amazon entry claims that David is the BCFs Director of Marketing (which David was in 2004).

David Levens, British Championships, Torquay, 2013, Round 11
David Levens, British Championships, Torquay, 2013, Round 11

From David’s coaching web site we have

“David Levens is a successful chess coach and experienced player.

Accredited by the English Chess Federation, and an experienced player, once ranked in the top 50 players in Britain, now an England Junior selector!

I am also Head Coach to Notts. Primary Schools Chess Association, who were NATIONAL CHAMPIONS in 2009 and 2010, and also England coach and manager for Glorney and Faber Cup U-18 teams, plus U14 and U12 teams, Glamorgan 2010.”

It is not often we receive a new chess book of “Penguin Paperback” dimensions. In fact some of our favourite chess books are of these handy measurements such as

The Penguin Book of Chess Positions, CHO'D Alexander, Penguin, 1973, ISBN 0 14 046 199X
The Penguin Book of Chess Positions, CHO’D Alexander, Penguin, 1973, ISBN 0 14 046 199X

In many ways Basic Chess reminds us of this BH Wood classic

Easy Guide to Chess, BH Wood, CHESS, Sutton Coldfield, 1945
Easy Guide to Chess, BH Wood, CHESS, Sutton Coldfield, 1945

Basic Chess, published in 2021, was originally published by Hamlyn (now an imprint of Octopus Books) in 2005 and reprinted as Basic Chess and Chess Basics since.

The 2021 edition has the branding of The Daily Mail at the head of the front cover. You might be forgiven forgiven for thinking “I was not aware of The Daily Mail’s interest in matters cerebral and least of all their interest in chess.” Do they have a regular chess columnist / feature or perhaps more modestly a chess puzzle to solve alongside their crossword and Sudoko puzzles?

We did our research (thanks Stephen Wright of Vancouver and Leonard Barden of The Guardian and The Financial Times) and it turns out The Daily Mail had a chess column from 14/11/1906 until 1908 edited by James Mortimer.  From 08/10/1919 until 04/05/1920 the editor was R.C. Griffith and finally from 14/10/27 until 1935 it was edited by  W. Hatton-Ward. Possibly in the 1970s Bill Hartston had a column but this is to be confirmed.

If The Daily Mail was to revive a chess column then this, of course, would be most welcome.

Maybe noticing that the various lockdowns plus the acclaimed “Queen’s Gambit” from Netflix has generated an extraordinary increase in on-line playing and sales of chess equipment and books the title has decided to derive some benefit?

Basic Chess is divided into twelve main sections as follows:

  1. Introduction
  2. Before You Start
  3. Chess Tactics
  4. Openings
  5. The Middlegame
  6. Endgames
  7. Test Your Chess IQ
  8. The Way Forward
  9. Glossary
  10. Index
  11. Notes
  12. Acknowledgements

It would seem that Basic Chess is most suitable for adults and in 2021 we have adults who want to

  • Start chess for the first time,
  • Restart chess after playing at school,
  • Restart chess to help their son or daughter.

However, this book is also appropriate for older children (13+) to supplement their school chess club experience or perhaps those who are home schooled: they’ve learnt a little and want to know more and perhaps value a physical book over yet more screen time and Zoom meetings.

The text is excellent and clearly written and does (as it says on the lid) take the reader from zero knowledge to a reasonable starting level. There are no assumptions of prior knowledge and the first few pages are really quite evangelical in style helping to create motivation.

At this point I feel obliged to report a fairly major mis-giving and it is this:

Diagram 2, Basic Chess, David Levens, Hamlyn, 2021
Diagram 2, Basic Chess, David Levens, Hamlyn, 2021

The above is a typical diagram. I have enlarged it for this article in the hope it will make it clearer.  I really do not understand the need to use such terrible representations of the pieces, the king is particularly poor and Black pieces on dark squares are worse still.

In the book the King is described as having “a crown topped by a cross” Well, clearly the graphic designer did not read this text and neither were they a chessplayer. There are no crosses for the diagrammed kings.

The discussion on chess clocks could easily have included an image of a modern DGT timer and mentioned the older analogue models.

Since this book was published to ride on the back of lockdown chess I was looking forward to the advice on playing on-line. Surely this section would be slap-bang up-to-date listing many of the  most useful resources? Sadly, you will be disappointed.  The two best sites for online chess are, apparently,  The Internet Chess Club and Freechess.org The latter (which became known as FICS) has not been updated for years and gives the impression that tumbleweed is breezing past its offices.

What of chess engines?  well, the word “engine” does not get a mention (it did not exist in 2005 of course)  and apparently one has to purchase a separate piece of dedicated hardware to play against a chess playing program.  There is no installing software on a laptop, tablet or mobile telephone : these are not options whereas for some time they have been main stream.

I don’t want to be too harsh. The really important material is really rather good for a beginner or someone who has returned to chess after a long absence.

However, there was a golden opportunity with this book that was missed : sort out the appalling diagrams and update the content that was way past its use-by date. It really would not have been difficult to do these things had there been the will.

Since I knew David fairly well (he was the editor of the ill-fated Junior British Chess Magazine that he subsequently discovered he had “volunteered” to do) through British Chess Magazine during 2013 – 14 I made contact and asked him about the 2021 edition. He wanted  to update the elderly content pertaining to computer use and online chess and he also wanted to see the diagrams improved. Sadly, the opportunity did not arise.

In summary, this is a good little book for beginners that will undoubtedly be stocked on the shelves on WH Smiths, Waterstones, motorway service stations and airports. It has missed an opportunity for an update in the light of Queen’s Gambit and lockdowns.

It will sell and I wish it good luck! PLEASE improve the diagrams!

John Upham, Cove, Hampshire, 21st April, 2021

John Upham
John Upham

Book Details :

  • Hardcover : 240 pages
  • Publisher:Hamlyn (2021)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10:978-0-600-63718-9
  • Product Dimensions: 12.6 x 19.7 cm

Official web site of Octopus Books

Basic Chess, David Levens, Hamlyn, 2021, ISBN 978-0-600-63718-9
Basic Chess, David Levens, Hamlyn, 2021, ISBN 978-0-600-63718-9

ECF Official Chess Yearbook 2021

ECF Official Chess Yearbook 2021
ECF Official Chess Yearbook 2021

From the publisher:

“Thanks to the efforts of a dedicated team of people within the English Chess Federation, the ECF Yearbook 2021 is now available in PDF form via this link – https://www.englishchess.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2021/03/Yearbook-2021-complete-medres.pdf *

The printed version will follow in a little while; it will be free to Platinum members of the ECF and may be purchased (while stocks last) for £15.50 by ECF members in all other categories [online form to follow].

Special thanks go to IM Richard Palliser at CHESS Magazine, Dr John Upham at British Chess News, Director of Home Chess Nigel Towers, compiler Andrew Walker and to our determined team of proof readers – Dagne Ciuksyte, Roger Emerson, Stephen Greep, James Muir, Mike Truran and John Upham.”

End of blurb.

One thing I failed to predict for 2021 (amongst numerous others) was having a hardcopy of the ECF Yearbook to review. I was not sure there would be a yearbook of any kind based on a lack of material to report combined with an impending fear of the hardcopy version being deprecated.

At this juncture I feel it appropriate for the Yearbook to (correctly) quote (but often misquoted) Samuel Langhorne Clemens (aka Mark Twain if you didn’t know otherwise) that

Samuel Langhorne Clemens (aka Mark Twain)
Samuel Langhorne Clemens (aka Mark Twain)

The report of my death was an exaggeration

A Yearbook of English chess was “first published sometime between 1904 and 1913” but not by the BCF. The first BCF Yearbook may well have appeared in the 1930s but the jury remains unclear. BCF Yearbooks continued up until 2005 and then became the ECF Yearbook in 2006 which suggests at least 90 odd editions. The events (or rather the lack of events!) after March 2020 led myself to believe we would not see an ECF Yearbook until 2022 if at all!

Despite all this Private Frazer style doom and gloom

Private Frazer : We're doomed, Doomed!
Private Frazer : We’re doomed, Doomed!

and thanks to the good offices of Andrew Walker (ECF Webmaster) we not only have a Yearbook but, dare I say it,  we have an excellent one with more pages than the previous year! So, (as they frequently say on television) how did they do that?

The Contents are divided into 15 sections viz:

  1. Report of the Board to Council
  2. Strategy and Business Plan
  3. New Initiatives – GoMembership / Queen’s Gambit Scheme
  4. Chess in Prisons
  5. John Robinson Youth Chess Trust
  6. The Chess Trust
  7. The ECF Academy
  8. ECF and Other Awards
  9. Home News 2020 – from CHESS Magazine
  10. Events around England
  11. Nigel Tower’s Online Chess Report
  12. Off the Wall
  13. Mark Rivlin (and Tim Wall) – the interviews
  14. Remembering -from British Chess News
  15. Endgame Studies / Chess Problem News

Being a Yearbook the overall layout would normally include formal content that you might be forgiven for leaving for the ubiquitous “rainy day”. Perhaps we should update that and leave things for a “sunny day”?

ECF CEO, Mike Truran OBE kicks-off with the year’s positives and he immediately thanks those who carried largely unpaid work on behalf of English chess and the ECF.

Gone are the lengthy (dare I say tedious?) lists of officials, Title holders, Past Champions and all the other content which is largely unchanged year-on-year. Most of this information has been migrated on-line and may be found on the ECF’s satellite Resource web site. This makes complete sense since this location may be maintained throughout the year rather than being cast in stone (or rather paper).

This is followed by an itemised list of the ECFs Strategy and Business plan which contains many laudable and worthy statements of intent some of which, at least, will hopefully eventually be brought to fruition.

I won’t go through every section but I would like to pick out a few  highlights. It was gratifying to read of a small army of volunteers whose efforts were recognised with various awards including Bude Chess Club and the Hull International Congress.

Winner of ECF Book of the Year was no surprise whatsoever and justly deserved. It was a pleasure to read of those who had become FIDE Arbiters : we badly need such persons if we are to run sufficient FIDE rated events to cater for the increasing demand especially since England has recently abandoned the Clarke Grading system and replaced it with an Elo style rating system. I could always mention the Netflix phenomenon of Walter Tevis’s Queen’s Gambit but I won’t. I mentioned it once(?) and I think I got away with it.

So, we have covered 8 out of 15 sections as we turn to page 27. Its going to be a thin one for 2021 surely? Not so. Thanks to CHESS Magazine we have reports covering 43 pages of home news reported by the much loved magazine launched in 1935 for 1/- (a shilling which is 5 new pence for those born post February 15th 1971) by BH Wood. Within these pages we have 16 annotated games from the pages of the aforesaid publication. BHW would have been most proud that his magazine was doing its bit for 2020 as it did during the Second World War.

Events Around England runs to 32 pages of more familiar content such as reports of the Four Nations Chess League (4NCL), the ECF Counties Championship, Hastings International Congress and so on and so forth with that well-known “English” event, Gibraltar making a welcome appearance thanks to the reporting of John Saunders.

Now at page 101 (and less than half-way through) you might think what else can there be to report?

Indeed and at this point the ECF’s new Director of Home Chess, Nigel Towers, steps up to the plate and offers 15 pages reporting of the largest growth sector for the English chess scene, (no not discussions of ratings versus gradings) but, chess played on-line (as some might call it The InterWeb)  including the scores of eight games.

Tim Wall continues our journey adding a lighter and more humorous touch with a veritable potpourri of musings on various topics including absent minded cats, Vladimir Ilyich Ulyanov (aka Lenin), Arthur Ransome and a modern resurrection (with the joie de vivre) of Howard Staunton via HSs enjoyable Twitter feed. Who is the person behind the account? Answers on a postcard to….

Not to be outdone, the ECF’s Newsletter compiler and editor, Mark Rivlin conspired with the aforementioned young Timothy to bring us a gathering of lockdown interviews with the great and good including Danny Gormally, Shreyas Royal, Lorin D’Costa, James and Jake. If you want to know who James and Jake are (and I do now!) then purchase the Yearbook!

The largest (58 pages) section for 2020 could leave me facing charges of nepotism… British Chess News was delighted to be invited to provide content and twelve biographies of some of the most significant contributors to English chess. These names include Harry Golombek OBE, Hugh Alexander CBE, Vera Menchik, Tony Miles and Fred Yates. I won’t comment on the articles veracity but leave that for you to discover.

The final section, and one of my favourites, is that of the Studies Editor of British Chess Magazine, Kent based Ian Watson. Ian provides the best new studies of 2020 and reflects on the life of one of England’s foremost composers, Dr. Richard K Guy.

As a taster, here is Ian’s contribution.

At 209 pages we have reached the end. The English Chess Federation have done a splendid job in getting this Yearbook produced and published in challenging circumstances. Long may the tradition continue!

John Upham, Cove, Hampshire, 20th April, 2021

John Upham
John Upham

Book Details :

Official web site of English Chess Federation

ECF Official Chess Yearbook 2021
ECF Official Chess Yearbook 2021

Playing the Stonewall Dutch

Playing the Stonewall Dutch, Nikola Sedlak, Quality Chess, July 2020, ISBN-10 : 1784831093
Playing the Stonewall Dutch, Nikola Sedlak, Quality Chess, July 2020, ISBN-10 : 1784831093

GM Nikola Sedlak is a former Serbian Champion who has won both the EU Individual Open Championship and an Olympiad gold medal.

GM Nikola Sedlak in 2010 at the 16th Bora Kostic Memorial
GM Nikola Sedlak in 2010 at the 16th Bora Kostic Memorial

From the publisher:

“The Dutch Defense is one of Black’s most combative responses to 1.d4, and the Stonewall is the boldest version of this opening. Black immediately seizes space in the center and clamps down on the e4-square, laying the foundations for a complicated strategic battle. Many players believe the Stonewall to be a substandard opening, naively assuming that the e5-outpost and bad light-squared bishop must give White the advantage.

GM Nikola Sedlak disagrees, and in Playing the Stonewall Dutch he shares the insights that have helped him to rack up a healthy plus score from Black’s side. In addition to providing a complete repertoire in the main lines of the Stonewall, this book also offers useful guidance on dealing with Anti-Dutch variations and various move-order subtleties.”

End of blurb…

High quality paper is used and the printing is clear: excellent glossy paper has been used. The weight of this paper gives the book an even better feel to it!

The book can easily be laid flat next to the board and does not require weights to prevent it from “self-closing” (a particular bugbear of ours !). Each diagram is clear and the instructional text is typeset in two column format, which, we find, enables the reader to maintain their place easily. Figurine algebraic notation is used throughout and the diagrams are placed adjacent to the relevant text.

A small (but insignificant) quibble: the diagrams do not have a “to move” indicator (but they do have coordinates!). There is a full games index which is most welcome. This title is part of the Quality Chess Grandmaster Guide series.

The main content is divided into eleven chapters viz:

  1. Avoiding the Fianchetto
  2. Fianchetto with Bf4
  3. 7.Nbd2 & 7.Ne5
  4. 7.Nc3
  5. 7.b3
  6. 5.Nh3
  7. The Flexible Stonewall
  8. The Aggressive Stonewall
  9. Move Orders
  10. 1.c4 and 1.Nf3
  11. Exercises

Before we continue it is confession time…

Prior to reading this book I had little knowledge of the Stonewall Dutch from Black’s perspective although I did look at it briefly when studying the Triangle Variation and the Abrahams (Noteboom) Variation of the Semi-Slav. There are lines where Semi-Slav players have the option of transposing into a Stonewall Dutch and Gerald Abrahams did play this way on occasion. I am more familiar from White’s perspective but, nonetheless, to my chagrin, insufficiently so.

In a previous review I made the comment:

The Stonewall Dutch has not hitherto had many books published about it. Popularised by Botvinnik it has found most support by club players rather than by elite Grandmasters. The well known structure for Black is typically :

arrived at by numerous move orders.

and therefore comparison with this other book will be beneficial to the student.

The authors recommended move order of 1.d4 e6 clearly requires Black to be familiar with the French Defence (or the Franco-Sicilian  as a matter of taste.) and is a very common mechanism among practitioners of the Classic / Stonewall Dutch. Lenningrad Dutch players have less flexibility at their disposal. 1…e6 has the virtue of avoiding some of White’s pesky so-called Anti-Dutch ideas such as 2. Bg5, 2.Nc3 and the Staunton Gambit (2.e4).

However, for completeness, the author provides ideas for Black to combat the above (and more) white tries after 1.d4 f5 in Chapter 9. In fact, the coverage of these move two tries is more comprehensive than most books on any line of  the  Dutch Defence.

Consulting Megabase 2020 we find that the author, Nikola Sedlak has recorded 2102 games which ranks him as one of the most active players. We find that against 1. d4 nowadays he plays both 1…f5 and 1…e6 with the latter being the modern move order choice. The Stonewall features in many of these games.

Apart from the move two alternatives I was curious to see the recommendations for dealing with the overly ubiquitous London System. Indeed, against the Stonewall and Classical Dutch is one of the rare occasions where I would consider playing

and 3.Bf4 is only eclipsed (as you’d expect) by 3.c4 or 3.g3 in popularity. There is extensive coverage in Chapter 9 of this club player favourite.

Before delving deeper it is worth knowing that Quality Chess have provided a pdf excerpt of the Preface and and the first twenty or so pages of Chapter 5 on 7.b3. This will give you an excellent feel for the style of presentation so please take a look!

The Introduction chapter is 13 pages of invaluable discussion of the overall strategy of the Stonewall structure interspersed with plans, strategic ideas, themes and motifs. Re-reading until you fully understand these ideas will be time well spent.

Each main content chapter comprises of a schematic of variations followed by a detailed introduction to the ideas and then a number of high quality model games many of which have the author playing the black pieces.

The analysis and recommendations are generous with explanations  not spoilt by reams of tedious engine dumps. On average each page contains 3-4 diagrams giving the content a user friendly feel. It is clear that the author  does his best to keep the reader engaged and “on-side”: this is not always easy for opening books which are generally harder work to stay with than say games collections or tactics primers.

As I mentioned earlier, my knowledge of the “main” lines (those where white plays g3) is superficial so I decided to conduct a “gedanken”  experiment and use MegaBase 2020. Using the “most games” style of lookup I arrived at the following position to have been played the most up to 2020:

giving white a range of 7th move choices. Note that Black has opted for the more active …d6 development of the bishop as against the more conservative …e7. There is a considerable body of theory for both options.

By a considerably large margin the most popular move here is 7.b3:

and MegaBase 2020 has roughly 4,500 games between players of any strength and 1,000 games if you use the “Top Games” option. The author dedicates Chapter 5 and a full 40 pages to 7.b3. (The Pavlovic book also dedicates substantial space to this line.)

So having arrived here I asked Megabase 2020 to show me the most popular direction of travel from here :

7…Qe7; 8.Bb2, 0-0;9.Nbd2,b6;10.Ne5, Bb7;11.Rc1,a5; (various move orders are available as the saying goes) and then White is less clear about the next most popular move although 12.e3 is the standard recommendation.

Consulting the author we find ourselves in Chapter 5, variation B2), page 134 and the variation is considered over six pages in considerable depth. (Pavlovic also covers this position as you would expect.)

The first model game of this chapter to enjoy is this gem:

which is analysed in depth.

Unlike some reviewers I will not be revealing a list of spoilers of what the author recommends in positions x, y and z. Usually I like to point out important lines that have been missed out but I get the impression that coverage is comprehensive and devoid of such omissions.

The overall impression is of a superbly produced book suitable for someone considering adding the Stonewall Dutch to their repertoire as well as an excellent booster for someone who is experienced with it.

Highly recommended!

John Upham, Cove, Hampshire, 15th April, 2021

John Upham
John Upham

Book Details :

  • Paperback : 328 pages
  • Publisher: Quality Chess UK LLP (15 July 2020)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1784831093
  • ISBN-13: 978-1784831097
  • Product Dimensions: 17.17 x 1.6 x 24.28 cm

Official web site of Quality Chess

Playing the Stonewall Dutch, Nikola Sedlak, Quality Chess, July 2020, ISBN-10 : 1784831093
Playing the Stonewall Dutch, Nikola Sedlak, Quality Chess, July 2020, ISBN-10 : 1784831093

Chess Duels 1921 – 1924 : 127 Games Annotated by Alexander Alekhine

Chess Duels 1921 – 1924 : 127 Games Annotated by Alexander Alekhine

Chess Duels 1921 - 1924 : 127 Games Annotated by Alexander Alekhine, Vlastimil Fiala & Ken Neat, Moravian Chess, 2020, ISBN 978-80-7189-021-8
Chess Duels 1921 – 1924 : 127 Games Annotated by Alexander Alekhine, Vlastimil Fiala & Ken Neat, Moravian Chess, 2020, ISBN 978-80-7189-021-8

From the publisher:

The publication is a continuation of the project to publish all the available games annotated by the Fourth world chess champion Alexander Alekhine. These are not only his own games but also games played by other players for which he contributed notes in various publications. Covered here are several international tournaments in Europe from 1921-1923, as well as exhibition games in Britain and North America from 1923 and early 1924. An additional chapter gives a few early game annotations which were not included in the first volume. 312 pp. Researched by Vlastimil Fiala, translated and edited by Ken Neat.

Vlastimil Fiala is a professor of Political Science and distinguished academic and the main driving force behind the publishing house, Moravian Chess based in Olomouc in the Czech Republic. Fiala’s second love is chess history which he treats as a science. His publication portfolio is impressive : the web site of Moravian Chess provides a listing.

Vlastimil Fiala
Vlastimil Fiala

Durham based Dr. Kenneth P. Neat (an expert on cosmic rays which he studied whilst at Moscow State University between 1968 and 1970) is one of the most experienced chess translators with a back-catalogue extending to almost fifty years. His earliest work was for BT Batsford and, by a pleasurable coincidence, was “Alexander Alekhine” by Alexander Kotov published in 1973. Ken translated many titles for Batsford and then became the in-house translator for Robert Maxwell and Pergamon Publishing with many works to his credit. Since then Ken has translated further titles for Moravian Chess.

This is the second book in a series (“Chess Duels”) to collect together all games annotated by Alekhine regardless of who the players were. The first book by this team covered the period 1893 – 1920 and this book continues by covering the years 1921 – 1924.

Chess Duels 1893 - 1920, Moravian Press
Chess Duels 1893 – 1920, Moravian Press

The book is produced as a hardback of almost exactly A5 dimensions. The binding appears to be well executed and the cover hard wearing. There is a generous quantity of diagrams per game using figurine algebraic notation throughout. The book requires no weights to keep it open and the pages are printed in a double column format. The book even has a charming aroma and feel when flicking through the pages!

For each game we are given the original source of the annotations plus the details of the players, the event type and name and a basic modern description of the opening and its Rabar Index / ECO code.

The content of the book is divided into four parts, one for each year. Each Part is then further subdivided, for example:

  1. Part One : Games Played in Europe I (1921)
    • Games played in Germany
    • Budapest 1921
    • The Hague 1921
    • Two Knights Opening
    • Staunton Gambit
  2. Part Two : Games Played in Europe II (1922)
    • Bad Pistyan 1922
    • London 1922
    • Hastings 1922
    • Vienna 1922
    • Other Games 1922
  3. Part Three : Games Played in Europe III (1923)
    • Karlsbad 1923
    • Margate and Portsmouth
    • Other Games 1923
  4. Part Four : Games Played in Canada and USA (November 1923 – February 1924)
  5. Supplement to First Volume, Early Games (1861 – 1920)
  6. Appendices
    • Translator’s notes
    • Index of Sources
    • Index of Alekhine’s Opponents
    • Index of other Players
    • Index of Openings

So, the layout of material is clear and logical with a strong academic approach. One gets an impression of rigour and attention to detail. One detail missing that could have easily have been included was the exact date (where known) for each of the games. We found it interesting to compare the notes for games from a variety of sources and annotators and the date would have made these comparisons easier.

As stated, we have 127 complete games all with annotations from Alekhine himself. Of these 22 do not feature Alekhine but they are all top players of the period such such Rubinstein, Tarrasch, Yates, Thomas, Mieses etc.

One of the games that caught our eye was this lively encounter between Alekhine and Yates from Hastings in 1922:

The items titled “Two Knights Opening” and “Staunton Gambit” are theoretical articles written by Alekhine from the tournament book.

Of course, most (if not all) of the Alekhine games feature in previous games collections (nobody should be surprised by this). We compared the translation of the original annotations and the “feel” of the annotation has been retained. For example, from the well-known brilliancy prize winning game Tarrasch – Alekhine, Bad Pistyan, 1922, round one we have this translation by Julius du Mont and M. E. Goldstein (“My Best Games of Chess 1908 – 1923“, Alexander Alekhine, George Bell and Sons Ltd., London, 1927) of the note to after 1. d4 Nf6;2.Nf3 e6;3.c4 c5;

With the intention of investigating, on the next move, the gambit discovered by the Moscow amateur, Blumenfeld. Since then it has been shown that this Gambit is not favourable for Black if White should decline it

and our review book has

With the intention of introducing into international practise an interesting gambit, suggested by V.M. Blumenfeld. However it has now been shown that this continuation is more advantageous to White, if he does not accept the pawn sacrifice.

You might be worried that his book has been ruined with pages of modern analysis dumps from BabelFish XX (substitute the current, trendy engine of your choice). Have no fear : this book is choc full of pearls of wisdom from one of the greatest players to annotate games. No doubt there will be unfortunate souls who lives are brightened when “their engine” is able pick holes in analysis from a legend. Perhaps this is not the right book for them.

However…any serious student of chess will be delighted with this work and be able to relive these games through Alekhine’s eyes with much pleasure. The games annotated by Alekhine but not played by him are probably the icing on the cake.

We strongly recommend this and look forward to the next in the series.

John Upham, Cove, Hampshire, 7th April, 2021

John Upham
John Upham

Book Details :

  • Hardback : 312 pages
  • Publisher: Publishing House Moravian Chess; 1st edition (1 Jan. 2020)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 8071890219
  • ISBN-13: 978-8071890218
  • Product Mass : 1.5 pounds

Official web site of Moravian Chess

Chess Duels 1921 - 1924 : 127 Games Annotated by Alexander Alekhine, Vlastimil Fiala & Ken Neat, Moravian Chess, 2020, ISBN 978-80-7189-021-8
Chess Duels 1921 – 1924 : 127 Games Annotated by Alexander Alekhine, Vlastimil Fiala & Ken Neat, Moravian Chess, 2020, ISBN 978-80-7189-021-8

Win with the Caro-Kann

Win with the Caro-Kann : Sverre Johnsen and Torbjørn Ringdal Hansen

Win with the Caro-Kann, Sverre Johnsen and Torbjørn Ringdal Hansen, Gambit Publications, March 4th 2021, ISBN 1911465678
Win with the Caro-Kann, Sverre Johnsen and Torbjørn Ringdal Hansen, Gambit Publications, March 4th 2021, ISBN 1911465678

Sverre Johnsen is a chess analyst, researcher, organizer, trainer and writer from Norway. He is co-author of Win with the London System and Win with the Stonewall Dutch, two of the best-selling openings books of recent years.

Sverre Johnsen
Sverre Johnsen

Grandmaster Torbjørn Ringdal Hansen is from Norway. He is one of the founders of the chess retail business Sjakkhuset and works full-time as a chess trainer. He was the first coach of Magnus Carlsen (in 1999) and has worked with three other players who went on to become grandmasters.

Grandmaster Torbjørn Ringdal Hansen
Grandmaster Torbjørn Ringdal Hansen

Gambit Publications have their own YouTube channel to promote and publicise their products. Here we have GM John Nunn introducing this book :

The book is organised into the following  five chapters followed by a highly useful Index of Variations:

  1. Classical: Korchnoi Variation
  2. Classical: Capablanca Variation
  3. Advance Variation
  4. Exchange Variation
  5. Early Deviations

Hitherto books on the Caro-Kann extolling the virtues of the Korchnoi Variation are few and far between

However, in recent years we reviewed The Caro-Kann Revisited : A Complete Repertoire for Black, Francesco Rambaldi, Thinkers Publishing, 2020.

Our current review book from Gambit is fully self-contained and forms the basis of a complete repertoire for black against 1.e4 after

offering the Korchnoi Variation for those needing to win with black (whilst risking a potentially difficult endgame) plus in Chapter Two the reliable Capablanca Variation:

whose endgame prospects are more attractive.

These two alternatives form the beating heart of this repertoire with brand new ideas and analysis to give white players problems to solve and spend time on the clock.

Prior to these chapters is an excellent Introduction which sets out the layout of the book, the philosophy of the repertoire, many strategic ideas and other useful words of wisdom and encouragement.

Each and every chapter is broken down into a series of Lessons (there are thirty Lessons in total)  covering each variation in detail.

Consulting MegaBase it is clear that Torbjørn Ringdal Hansen favours the Caro-Kann and plays the Korchnoi Variation when permitted and as a past trainer of Magnus Carlsen he definitely knows what he is talking about!

Following on from the optional lines after

we have six lessons on how to face the Advance Variation. 3.e5 can cause more headaches for the Caro-Kann player than 3.Nc3 and the authors provide a repertoire based around the increasingly popular Arkell/Khenkin Variation:

Another six lessons then cover both the Exchange Variation and the Panov Attack:

and

and probably it is fair to say that the latter is the most common way of taking on the CK at club level.

Chapter 5 covers more or less everything else including the Fantasy Variation (which the authors call the Maróczy Variation)

followed by the Two Knights, the Pseudo-Panov (they call this the Steiner Variation, the King’s Indian Attack and the Hillbilly Attack plus some very rare beasts.

Curiously the Blackmar-Diemer Gambit

is not found in this chapter but in Chapter 1 as a fourth move alternative. All lines (including transpositions) are easily located via the Index of Variations.

It would be wrong to reveal all of the various innovations analysed in this book but to give a flavour I will mention that the twist the authors give to the Capablanca Variation is to to defer 7…Nd7 in favour of Dreev’s 7…e6!?

and the idea is for black to play a quick …c5 followed by …Nc6 at the right moment .

So, how is the material presented?

A quick way to find out is to use the “Look Inside” feature to be found on Amazon.

Each lesson comprises at least one model game plus what the authors term “Theory Magnifiers”. Essentially these are points in the model game where there are significant alternatives  for white that require detailed study.

Liberally sprinkled throughout the text are multiple “fourth wall” type Question and Answer exchanges which worked so well for Matthew Sadler in his Slav and Semi-Slav books for Chess Press and Everyman Chess.

Cleverly, the authors have organised the material so that preparation of the material is in the most logical sequence eliminating the need for the student to create a preparation plan for themselves.

As a long time player of the Caro-Kann I can say that the repertoire presented here is thorough and instructive based on modern games. There are things I might disagree with but I’ve never known that not to be the case!

I suppose I am obliged to comment on the “Win with the” title. I’m not a huge fan of this style but a title is all that is it. If you can put this to one side and  overcome it and focus on the content you will reap the rewards of not letting prejudice getting in the way.

So, in summary, this is an excellent repertoire trainer for black against 1.e4, which, after all, is the most important move of whites to prepare for.

Enjoy and good luck !

John Upham, Cove, Hampshire, March 23rd 2021

John Upham
John Upham

Book Details :

  • Hardcover :240 pages
  • Publisher: Gambit Publications Ltd (4 Mar. 2021)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10:1911465678
  • ISBN-13:978-1911465676
  • Product Dimensions: 17.15 x 1.65 x 24.77 cm

Official web site of Gambit Publications Ltd.

Win with the Caro-Kann, Sverre Johnsen and Torbjørn Ringdal Hansen, Gambit Publications, march 4th 2021, ISBN 1911465678
Win with the Caro-Kann, Sverre Johnsen and Torbjørn Ringdal Hansen, Gambit Publications, march 4th 2021, ISBN 1911465678

Happy Birthday GM Daniel Fernandez (05-iii-1995)

IM Daniel Fernandez at the 2014 British Championships in Aberystwyth. Courtesy of John Upham Photography.
IM Daniel Fernandez at the 2014 British Championships in Aberystwyth. Courtesy of John Upham Photography.

BCN wishes Happy Birthday to GM Daniel Fernandez who at 26 is currently England’s youngest Grandmaster. The previous GM title holder was Jonathan Hawkins in 2014 making two in seven years.

Daniel Howard Fernandez was born in Stockport, Manchester on Sunday, March 5th 1995.  “Think Twice” by Celine Dion was top of the UK hit parade.

Daniel started playing chess at the age of seven (after his father taught him the rules) and at this time attended King’s School, Harpenden.  His first chess club was Little Heath which became the ECF Small Club of the Year in 2015. They play in the Potter’s Bar area and include IM John Pigott in their membership.

At Little Heath Chess Club Daniel was coached by Mark Uniacke (who worked extensively on the early chess engine HIARCS).

Daniel went up to Queen’s College, Cambridge to read mathematics and left to become a Data Analyst at Mu Sigma Inc. He can speak several languages (including Serbian!) and works as a translator when opportunities arise.

He currently lives in Australia offering coaching and writing chess books (for Thinkers Publishing) and columns for Chessbase. In his spare time (!) Daniel is studying for The Master of Complex Systems degree at The University of Sydney.

Daniel’s first ECF graded game was rapidplay on July 5th 2003 in the SCCU Junior Under-14 Final.

His first standard play game was in August 2003 at the Edinburgh based British Under-8 Championship.

Daniel Fernandez
Daniel Fernandez

Daniels ECF grading profile demonstrated rapid improvement :

ECF grading profile for Daniel Fernandez
ECF grading profile for Daniel Fernandez

On August 13th 2004 in Scarborough Daniel became British Under-9 Champion sharing the title with Daniel Hunt & Saravanan Sathyanandha.

The Fernandez family relocated to Singapore in August, Daniel attending the Anglo-Chinese School in Singapore. He was swiftly recruited into the Singapore Chess Federation’s (SCF) National Junior Squad. Also in that squad were Danielle Ho and Howard Chiu (remember this for later!).

Barely three weeks after his Scarborough triumph on September 4th 2004 Daniel played his first FIDE rated game in the 5th Asian Under-10 Championship organised by the ASEAN Chess Confederation. His performance in this event was rewarded with a FIDE Master title in 2005. Because he was no longer active in English events the ECF had the unusual scenario of having a ten year old FIDE Master with a published grade of ~120!

In typically modest fashion Daniel confesses  that he did not “deserve” the FM title at this time and that it was the consequence of the strong position of the ASEAN and SCF organisations  within world chess. At the same event Wesley So gained his FM title in the Under-12 section.

FM Daniel Fernandez
FM Daniel Fernandez

Another interesting consequence of the relocation was that when Daniel returned to England in 2012 his last published grading went from ~ 120 to ~230!

One of the motivations of  returning to England was to obtain the necessary entrance requirement to study mathematics at Cambridge. This he did by studying for A-levels at Manchester Grammar School.

Daniel with IM Jovan Petronic during the 2010 world juniors in Chotowa, Poland | Photo: Diana Mihajlova
Daniel with IM Jovan Petronic during the 2010 world juniors in Chotowa, Poland | Photo: Diana Mihajlova

Consequently Daniel’s FIDE rating profile also showed a fast pace of development:

FIDE rating profile for Daniel Fernandez
FIDE rating profile for Daniel Fernandez

Sydney 2009 and Sydney 2010 both provided IM norms with the third one coming from Kuala Lumpar 2010 and with these Daniel became an International Master in 2010 the title being confirmed at the 3rd quarter Presidential Board Meeting 2010, 24-25 July 2010, Tromso in Norway.

IM Daniel Fernandez, 100th British Championships, Round 5, Torquay. Courtesy of John Upham Photography
IM Daniel Fernandez, 100th British Championships, Round 5, Torquay. Courtesy of John Upham Photography

He won the Budapest Sarkany Tournament in 2014 as follows:

Full Crosstable from Budapest Sarkany Tournament, 2014.
Full Crosstable from Budapest Sarkany Tournament, 2014.

earning his first GM norm in the process.

IM Daniel Fernandez, 101st British Championships, Aberystwyth. Courtesy of John Upham Photography
IM Daniel Fernandez, 101st British Championships, Aberystwyth. Courtesy of John Upham Photography

BCN asked Daniel for three of his favourite games. The first one is this Polish Defence game from 2015 played at the Visma Arena in Vaxjo, Sweden. First we have the crosstable showing that Daniel earnt his second GM norm from this event.

Full Crosstable for Vaxjo, Visma tournament in Sweden, 2015.
Full Crosstable for Vaxjo, Visma tournament in Sweden, 2015.

and here is the game:

and during the 2015/15 4NCL season Daniel obtained his final GM norm playing for Wood Green.

In March 2015 he made his first of three Varsity match appearences for Cambridge re-uniting with Danielle Ho and Howard Chiu (remember those names from earlier?).

Daniel won the 10th Jessie Gilbert Memorial in 2017:

Full Crosstable from the 2017 10th Jessie Gilbert Memorial
Full Crosstable from the 2017 10th Jessie Gilbert Memorial

and also in 2017 Daniel was awarded the Grandmaster title at the 88th FIDE Congress 2017, 7-15 October, Goynuk, Antalya, Turkey.

On March 11th Daniel represented Cambridge in the 135th Varsity Match at the RAC Club in Pall Mall.  According to chess24.com ‘IM Daniel Fernandez, playing board 2 for Cambridge, was awarded the Brilliancy Prize by GM Ray Keene in consultation with McShane and Speelman, for his “high-class swindle” after recovering from a bad blunder.’ See here for details.

GM Daniel Fernandez, 2019 British Championships, Torquay. Courtesy of John Upham Photography
GM Daniel Fernandez, 2019 British Championships, Torquay. Courtesy of John Upham Photography

In 2018 Daniel ventured into the world of book writing when Thinker’s Publishing released The Modernized Caro-Kann on September 8th 2018.  This was a repertoire book for Black based around the Smyslov Variation :

and was reviewed in this place favourably and quickly established Daniel as a significant author.

The Modernized Caro-Kann, Daniel Fernandez, Thinkers Publishing, 2018
The Modernized Caro-Kann, Daniel Fernandez, Thinkers Publishing, 2018

From the rear cover we have:

“GM Daniel Fernandez (born 1995) has been an active and accomplished player for several years. He represented his native Singapore twice at Olympiads (2010 and 2012) before transferring to the English chess federation. There, he won the national classical titles at U-18 and U-21 levels and worked to become a Grandmaster while simultaneously studying at Cambridge. The Caro-Kann was instrumental in his quest for that title. Currently, Daniel is known in the chess scene not only as a solid player, but also as a mentor figure to younger English players, as a producer of well-received commentary and analysis, and as a multilingual chess coach. This is his first book.”

From January 2019 we have this interesting encounter between Gawain Jones and Daniel from the annual 4NCL meeting of Guildford and Wood Green:

With the White pieces Daniel has played  a wide range of first moves but the majority move by far is 1.e4. His choice versus the Najdorf is some eclectic : sometime ago 6. Rg1 was the favourite and now 6.a4 is preferred.

Against 1…e5 Daniel offers a main line Ruy Lopez.

What does a Caro-Kann expert play against the Caro-Kann? Nowadays the Two Knights Variation is employed!

As the second player he plays the Sicilian Najdorf as well as the Caro-Kann plus an equal mixture of the Grünfeld and King’s Indian Defences.

In 2019 Daniel was interviewed by Edwin Lam on behalf of ChessBase : fascinating reading!

In the same year Daniel joined IM Adam Taylor’s venture Making Grandmasters.

Our final games is from July 2019 :

Daniel’s most recent publication is The Modernized Modern Defence from Thinker’s Publishing:

The Modernized Modern Defence, Daniel Fernandez, Thinker's Publishing, 2021
The Modernized Modern Defence, Daniel Fernandez, Thinker’s Publishing, 2021

and BCN has been told that Daniel has a book in the pipeline about the Tata Steel 2021 tournament at Wijk aan Zee.

Remembering Nancy Elder MBE (25-v-1915 04-iii-1981)

Nancy Elder MBE. Source : Milos Petronic
Nancy Elder MBE. Source : Milos Petronic

BCN remembers Nancy Elder MBE who passed away on Wednesday, March 4th 1981, i.e. forty years ago in Perth, Western Australia.

Nancy Conchar Gordon was born on Tuesday, May 25th 1915. On the same date was born Robin Day in High Wycombe who went on  to design the polypropylene stacking chair.

Nancy was born in Kirmabreck, Kirkcudbrightshire in the Dumfries and Galloway council area of Scotland.

In the 1939 register Nancy was living at 18 Thornton Avenue, Urmston, Manchester, M41 5DJ with a married couple, William Furnish (a railway time keeper) and Gertrude Furnish who performed unpaid domestic duties. Presumably Nancy was their lodger.

18 Thornton Avenue, Urmston, Manchester, M41 5DJ
18 Thornton Avenue, Urmston, Manchester, M41 5DJ

Her occupation was given as a teacher of music and physical training. At this time she was single at the age of twenty-four.

In the mid-1940s Nancy relocated from Manchester to Dundee where she continued her teaching career at Dundee High School. During that time she encouraged and coached a number of players some of whom represented Scotland.

In 1950 in Tealing, Angus, Scotland Nancy married David Livie Elder. They had a daughter Christine who played chess as a junior. Tealing has a strong connection with the Elder family.

According to Alan McGowan (Chess Scotland): “She was the main instigator in forming both the Schools’ and Primary League in Dundee, and she assisted in the organisation of the Dundee 1967 International Centenary Tournament.”

When she passed away Nancy was living at 39 Whitefauld Road, Dundee, DD2 1RJ :

39 Whitefauld Road, Dundee, DD2 1RJ
39 Whitefauld Road, Dundee, DD2 1RJ

Her passing was reported in the Dundee Courier and Advertiser  on March 6th 1981 as follows :

Nancy Elder dies after heart attack on flight

Mrs Nancy Elder 39 Whitefauld Road, Dundee, a former music teacher at Dundee High School and one of Scotland’s best known chess players, has died after taking ill on a flight to Australia.

She was off for a long holiday which she planned to spend with relatives and friends from the world of international chess, but, after suffering a heart attack on a plane from Singapore, had been in intensive care in Perth, Western Australia.

Her daughter Christine, a primary school teacher in Tighnabruaich, received daily telephone reports on her mother’s condition from a cousin and, at the weekend, heard that she was improving gradually.

The shock news of her mother’s death came late on Wednesday night.

Mrs. Elder, who went into semi-retirement recently, has been to the fore in chess for about 35 years at local, national and international levels.

Nancy Elder MBE. Source : Milos Petronic
Nancy Elder MBE. Source : Milos Petronic

She has represented her country five times, having taken part in the chess Olympiad in Yugoslavia in 1963 and 1973, in Israel in 1976, in Buenos Aires in 1978 and in Malta last year.

Buenos Aires Olympiad 1978. From left: Morag McGhee, Nancy Elder, Owen Hindle, Kathleen Hindle and Lynne Houston. Courtesy of Chess Scotland
Buenos Aires Olympiad 1978. From left: Morag McGhee, Nancy Elder, Owen Hindle, Kathleen Hindle and Lynne Houston. Courtesy of Chess Scotland

She turned down the chance to take part on three other occasions.

Haifa Olympiad 1976 - Scotland v Switzerland. From left: Nancy Elder, Kathleen Hindle, Lynne Houston. Courtesy of Chess Scotland
Haifa Olympiad 1976 – Scotland v Switzerland. From left: Nancy Elder, Kathleen Hindle, Lynne Houston. Courtesy of Chess Scotland

She was awarded the MBE for her services to chess in 1974.

She was President of Dundee Chess Club, chairman of the congress committee of the Scottish Chess Association and on the council of the Scottish Junior Chess Association.

Self-taught

She started playing chess during her school days with her brother and the two of them were more-or-less self taught.

It wasn’t until after the Second World War that she received any sort of coaching, by which time she had established her own style.

She retired on April 14th last year after 24 years in the music department of Dundee High School, where she specialised in teaching the oboe.

She continued to teach privately.

Dundee Courier and Advertiser, March 6th 1981
Dundee Courier and Advertiser, March 6th 1981

From British Chess Magazine, Volume CI (101, 1981), Number 6 (June), pp. 219-220 we have this obituary from Bernard Cafferty :

“Nancy C. Elder, MBE, died in Perth, Western Australia on March 4th 1981. Mrs. Elder had recently retired after a lifetime of teaching, her last post being in Dundee. I well remember her account of teaching under difficult conditions in World War 2 in Manchester. 15 Scottish Women’s Champion (the record for the event which she set-up at Troon in 1980).

Prizegiving at the 1966 Scottish Championships. From the left: Michael Fallone, Nancy Elder, W.P. McColl, President of Dundee Chess Club, Kathleen Patterson, Gerald Bonner. Courtesy of Chess Scotland
Prizegiving at the 1966 Scottish Championships. From the left: Michael Fallone, Nancy Elder, W.P. McColl, President of Dundee Chess Club, Kathleen Patterson, Gerald Bonner. Courtesy of Chess Scotland

Mrs Elder was a regular competitor in the British Women’s Championship (sometimes in rivalry with her daughter Christine) and showed her playing strength with a score of 5.5/12 on board two for Scotland at the Women’s Chess Olympiad, Malta, 1980.

Malta Olympiad 1980 Left-right: Kathleen, Rosie Giulian, Owen Hindle (Team Captain), Nancy Elder, Lynne Houston. Courtesy of Chess Scotland
Malta Olympiad 1980 Left-right: Kathleen, Rosie Giulian, Owen Hindle (Team Captain), Nancy Elder, Lynne Houston. Courtesy of Chess Scotland

I am sure she will be best remembered though for her decades of effort in the organising of chess in Scotland, particularly for juniors and in schools, in recognition of which she was awarded the MBE, the only such honour ever given for services to chess ‘north of the border’ as Alan Borwell puts it in his Newsflash obituary.”

Chess Scotland award the Nancy Elder Cup annually for an individual competition for “club level” players.

We are grateful to Helen Milligan who told BCN :

My most memorable incident was when I refused to play in the Scottish Ladies at the annual Congress, preferring to try to improve my chess by playing in the Open section (really the B-Grade, below the Championship proper). I got given a piece of Nancy’s mind for that – she did not approve!

Here are her playing records from the Olympiads.

Here is a potted biography from Chess Scotland.