Category Archives: 2021

Beat the French Defense with 3.Nc3

Beat the French Defense with 3.Nc3, Pentala Harikrishna, Thinker's Publishing, 2021, ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-9492510976
Beat the French Defense with 3.Nc3, Pentala Harikrishna, Thinker’s Publishing, 2021, ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-9492510976

“GM Pentala Harikrishna is an established elite player who has been in India’s Olympiad team for over two decades. Since November 2016 Harikrishna has often entered the top 10 of the world rankings, and has consistently stayed in the top 20.

His peak rating is 2770 and he is well known for his exceptional endgame skills as well as for the ability to convert positions with a slight or even no advantage. Harikrishna learned chess from his grandfather at the age of 4, and swiftly progressed up through age-group tournaments until he became a grandmaster at age 14.

He has been World Junior Champion (2004) and Asian Individual Champion (2011). As part of the Indian national team, he has won bronze medals at the World Team Chess Championship, gold and bronze at the Asian Games, and silver (twice) at the Asian Team Championship. He has also won many major open and invitational tournaments, including the Marx Gyorgy Memorial (2006), Tata Steel Group B (2012), Biel MTO (2013), Edmonton International (2015) and Poker Stars Isle of Man (2015).”

GM Pentala Harikrishna
GM Pentala Harikrishna

From the publisher  we have this extensive blurb:

“The French Defence was my main opening with Black while I was striving towards the GM title at the turn of the century. Quite often, I was able to use it to drag my opponent into a complicated maze of deep analysis, so I have intimate knowledge of the tricks used on the other side of the ‘barricades’. This helped me craft a solid base for our present repertoire, and many of the ideas presented in the book have brought me fine victories against some of the strongest French exponents as well.”

“At times, this means suggesting the 2nd or 3rd choice of the engine. He builds on the material from his earlier French course (Chessable, May 2019) and has expanded it with new analysis in all the lines, especially the 3…Nf6 4.e5 Nfd7 5.f4 variation. Harikrishna analyses both 5.Nce2 and 5.f4, so that the reader may make an informed choice about their personal preference. The driving force throughout is to keep the book clear-cut and practical. A good example of a practical weapon is the deceptively simple 3…Bb4 4.exd5 line. There are also fresh and interesting suggestions against the side lines you are likely to encounter, especially at shorter time controls. The entire Thinkers Publishing team joins with the author in wishing you enjoyment and success from this exceptional book”

End of blurb…

It is rare that one of the  World’s top ten players would write a book on opening theory but here Hari, as he is commonly called,  obliges. He has had a peak rating  of 2770 and has been a member of India’s very strong Olympiad team for around two decades .

So, the starting position of this rather large (456 pages) tome is

and this book is written from the perspective of the first player striving to take on the French Defence with 3.Nc3. Of course it will also be of considerable interest to the second player.

Chapter 1 is entitled “Odds and Ends” in which Hari examines  unusual Black 3rd moves .

He kicks off with 3…c5 which is a good move in a Tarrasch (3.Nd2) context  but a clear mistake against 3.Nc3 as White trivially loses a pawn after White takes on d5 and c5 ending up with a 4 to 2 queen side majority and the d4 square in his control  with the following position after 8.Ne4:

Next comes 3…a6 where both 4.Nf3 and 4.Bd3 are discussed . The most critical line here would appear to be 4.Nf3 Nf6; 5.e5 where in the main line Whites Q eventually comes to g4 putting black under pressure on the K side.

3…h6 is a curious third move alternative, but, as Hari points out it stops Black from getting in the Nimzowitschian style …f6 break as now g6 is horribly weakened.

Finally, 3…Be7 is covered but after 4.e5 c5; 5 Qg4 then puts black under pressure.

Both Chapters 2 and 3 look at the black reply 3…Nc6 (a idea of Aron Nimzowitsch) which has always seemed an illogical move to me in the French by blocking …c5.

After 3…Nc6 Hari first looks at 4.Nf3 then in the Chapter 3 4.e5 when 4…f6 is given as the black’s main line usually followed by 5.Nf3 Bd7; 6.Bd3 fxe5; 7.dxe5 Nb4; 8.Ng5 turns out to be good for white according to the author:

In this line black can play 5…fxe5 immediately but after 6.dxe5 Nh6 7.Bg5! again leaves White with advantage.

Chapter 4 brings the reader to the Rubinstein Variation (also ECO code C10) where black plays 3…dxe4 when after 4.Nxe4 options such as 4…Nf6 4…Qd5 and 4…Bd7 attract attention.

According to the author none of these achieve equality but 4…Bd7 is given the most analysis since it is not easy to show an advantage for white. Furthermore, 5.Nf3 Bc6; 6.Bd3 alternatives such as 6…Be4; 6…Nf6 and 6…Nd7 are all interesting tries. White usually plays ideas including c3 and Ne5 to maintain an edge.

Chapter 5 continues to look at the Rubinstein when 4…Nd7 is considered to be the main line. Hari recommends an usual approach for white which we will not reveal here: buy the book!

Chapter 6 progresses to more classical territory with the hugely popular 3…Nf6 (ECO C11 – C14) when 4.e5 Nfd7 and now 5.Nce2 is analysed in considerable depth through to the end of chapter 9.

Club French players will be expecting (and hoping for no doubt) 5.f4 or 5.Nf3 and therefore 5.Nce2 could well throw them off their stride. 5.Nce2 scores well at the highest levels (56%) and is in the armoury of Carlsen, Grischuk, Anand and Nepomniachtchi and consequently deserves much respect.

In this line White intends the usual c3 following …c5 and often will relocate his N from e2 to f4.

Having said all of that 5.f4, which Hari starts to look at in Chapter 10, seems (to me at least) to be the “best” move. Clearly it is the most popular continuation.

The “main line” continues 5…c5; 6.Nf3 where 6…Be7; 7.Be3 b6; 8.Qd2 00; 9.Nd1 is given.

Although this line leads to a white advantage the more aggressive “Williamsesque” 9.h4 which features in some of the other lines should be considered by white players, especially those who love to attack.

Chapter 11 consider 6…Nc6; 7.Be3 Be7; 8.Qd2 is looked at and Black can play …a6 and …b5 here but Whites plan here is Be2 and 00 as Q side castling is somewhat playing into blacks hand.

Instead Black can try 8…00 instead when White is best capturing on c5.

The older line 5.f4 c5; 6.Nf3 Nc6; 7.Be3 Qb6 has always been regarded as slightly suspect and Hari takes a look at this in Chapter 14.

Usually White plays b4 and black sacrifices a piece and although it leads to exciting chess the verdict remains the same. A well prepared white player should be delighted to see this line. The key word in all of this is, of course, “well”

Better perhaps is 7…cxd4 and Chapter 15 examines this: probably much tougher for white to crack. After 8.Nxd4 Qb6 the author provides a large quantity of analysis in this poisoned pawn style line where White sacrifices a pawn with 9.Qd2 and black rightly accepts the challenge with 9…Qxb2.

Finally(!) Hari leads us to the Winawer Variation but here he shocks the white player with his suggestion. To find out what this is you will need to buy the book!

I generally play the Tarrasch but my next bunch of email and postal games will definitely feature 3.Nc3 ! I’m keen to try out the authors suggestions and so should you be!

Colin Lyne, Farnborough, Hampshire, 19th June, 2021

Colin Lyne
Colin Lyne

Book Details :

  • Paperback : 456 pages
  • Publisher: Thinkers Publishing; 1st edition (28 Jan. 2021)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 9492510979
  • ISBN-13: 978-9492510976
  • Product Dimensions: 16.51 x 2.54 x 22.86 cm

Official web site of Thinkers Publishing

Beat the French Defense with 3.Nc3, Pentala Harikrishna, Thinker's Publishing, 2021, ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-9492510976
Beat the French Defense with 3.Nc3, Pentala Harikrishna, Thinker’s Publishing, 2021, ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-9492510976
 Save as PDF

Marvelous Modern Miniatures

Marvelous Modern Miniatures, Carsten Hansen, Russell Enterprises, December 2020, ISBN-13 : 978-1949859225
Marvelous Modern Miniatures, Carsten Hansen, Russell Enterprises, December 2020, ISBN-13 : 978-1949859225

From the publisher:

“50% Tactics – 50% Opening Book – 100% Enjoyment! Enter the world of chess miniatures where games are decided in 20 moves or less! Marvelous Modern Miniatures features the largest collection of miniatures chess games played in the last half-century. Over 500 pages of cut and thrust! Although every player is rated at least 2100, the overwhelming majority are strong masters or grandmasters. You will follow them as they do battle with tactical fireworks raging around them. The surprising depth of the annotations (each one of the 2,020 games has meaningful comments) turns this book into a virtual course on tactics. Looking for traps and pitfalls in your favourite openings? You’ll probably find them here. Marvelous Modern Miniatures will improve your tactical skills and alertness and sharpen your opening play. As a bonus, the entire collection is immensely enjoyable!”

Cartsen Hansen is a Danish FIDE Master, FIDE Trainer and author of twenty-eight chess books on all phases of the game. He is a columnist for American Chess Magazine and Shakbladet.

FM Carsten Hansen
FM Carsten Hansen

This action packed book is an entertaining selection of opening/early middlegame disasters which includes some miniatures with  world class players being crushed in twenty moves or less.

This book is naturally arranged by opening: on starting this book, I went straight to the section on my favourites. I offer four games from the fiery Dragon Variation.

The following game is a celebrated game which features a rare crushing loss for Dragon expert Jonathan Mestel against the late John Littlewood who was a fine feisty attacking player.

John Littlewood (2375) – Jonathan Mestel (2475)
British Championship Chester 1979

1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 d6 3.d4 Nf6 4.Nc3 cxd4 5.Nxd4 g6 6.f4 The Levenfish variation which is a decent alternative to the highly theoretical Yugoslav Attack. Bg7!? (Better is the standard 6…Nc6) 7.e5 Nh5 8.Bb5+ Bd7 9.e6!? (A dangerous line which must be handled carefully, but 9.Qe2 is better and leads to a white advantage) 9…fxe6 10.Nxe6 Bxc3+ 11.bxc3 Qc8 12.Bxd7+ Kxd7 13.Ng5 Qc4?! (13…Qxc3+ 14.Bd2 Qc4 15.Rb1 b6 16.Rb4 Qd5 17.Qg4+ Qf5 18.Qf3 Nc6 black is slightly better, for example 19.g4 Qc5 20.gxh5 Nxb4 21.Qb7+ Qc7 22.Qxc7+ Kxc7 23.Bxb4 gxh5) 14.Rb1 Kc7

John Littlewood-Mestel Chester 1979 Move 14
John Littlewood-Mestel Chester 1979 Move 14

15.Rb4! Qxa2 The queen is very poorly placed here 16.Qe2 Nc6 17.Ne6+ 1-0 (Hopeless is 17…Kc8 18.Rxb7! Qa4 19.Rc7+ Kd8 20.0-0 Rc8 21.Rxc8+ Kxc8 22.f5 Nc6 23.Bg5 with a huge advantage)

John Littlewood-Mestel Chester 1979 Finish
John Littlewood-Mestel Chester 1979 Finish

The second featured game in the Dragon variation features a well concealed mistake in the quiet g3 line, which the reviewer had not seen before despite having played the line with both colours.

Vladimir  Georgiev (2564) – Evgeni Janev (2487)
Elgoibar 22.12.2001

1.Nf3 c5 2.e4 Nc6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 g6 5.Nc3 Bg7 6.Nde2 Nf6 7.g3 0-0 8.Bg2 d6 9.0-0 a6 10.a4 Rb8 11.h3 b5 12.axb5 axb5 13.Be3 b4 14.Nd5 Nd7! 15.Nd4? A natural, but it is a well known mistake that is also seen in this setup with the colours reserved in the English Opening.

Georgiev-Janev Elgoibar 2001 Move 15
Georgiev-Janev Elgoibar 2001 Move 15

15…Bxd4! 16.Bxd4 e6 Winning a piece 17.Ne3 e5 18.Ba7 Rb7 Winning the bishop 0-1

Georgiev-Janev Elgoibar 2001 Move 18
Georgiev-Janev Elgoibar 2001 Finish

The next struggle features the Classical Variation of the Dragon. White essays the sharp Stockholm Attack which was venomous in its early days, but the theory was worked out many decades ago.

Perez,Robert M (2210) – Esserman,Marc (2453)
US Open Orlando 04.08.2011

1.e4 c5 2.Nc3 d6 3.f4 Nc6 4.Nf3 g6 5.d4 cxd4 6.Nxd4 Bg7 7.Be3 Nf6 8.Be2 0-0 9.Nb3 Be6 10.0-0 Rc8 11.g4 Na5 12.Nxa5 Qxa5 13.Bd4? [13.f5 Is better but black is at least equal after 13…Bc4]

Perez-Esserman US Open 2011 Move 13
Perez-Esserman US Open 2011 Move 13

13…Bxg4! 14.Bxg4 Nxg4 15.Nd5 (15.Bxg7 Qh5! The main point: protecting the knight and threatening mate, before recapturing on g7) 15…Bxd4+ 16.Qxd4 e5 17.Qd1 Qc5+ 18.Kg2 Qxd5 0-1 (Black wins the queen back with Ne3+ followed by a crushing rook invasion on c2 a which gives an easily winning double rook ending.)

Perez-Esserman US Open 2011 Finish
Perez-Esserman US Open 2011 Finish

My last example Wyvern offering is from a main line in the highly theoretical Soltis Variation of the Yugoslav Attack.

Goran M Todorovic (2470) – Dejan Brankovic (2345)
Yugolavian Championship Kladovo 1996

1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 d6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 Nf6 5.Nc3 g6 6.Be3 Bg7 7.f3 Nc6 8.Qd2 0-0 9.Bc4 Bd7 10.0-0-0 Rc8 11.Bb3 Ne5 12.h4 h5 13.Bg5 Rc5 14.Kb1 b5 15.g4 a5 16.gxh5 a4 17.h6 (17.Bxf6 is a critical alternative) 17…Bh8

Todorovic-Brankovic Kladovo 1996 Move 17
Todorovic-Brankovic Kladovo 1996 Move 17

18.h7+ (18.Bd5 is really interesting.) Kxh7?? A bad blunder [18…Nxh7 leads to a complex struggle] 19.h5 Kg8 20.hxg6 1-0 (Black’s kingside is crumbling with no hope of support: catastrophe on the h-file follows imminently with the black king meeting a grisly execution.)

Todorovic-Brankovic Kladovo 1996 Finish
Todorovic-Brankovic Kladovo 1996 Finish

My next featured game is from an good old fashioned slugfest in the King’s Gambit, Double Muzio Variation and features the refutation to this Victorian romantic opening.

Stephen Brady (2320) – Mark Heidenfeld (2280)
Irish Championship Limerick, 1991

1.e4 e5 2.f4 exf4 3.Nf3 g5 4.Bc4 g4 5.0-0 gxf3 6.Qxf3 Qf6 7.e5 Qxe5 8.Bxf7+ Kxf7 9.d4 Qf5! (The bust, which leads to a large black advantage) 10.g4?? Much too weakening (10.Bxf4 Nf6 11.Nc3 Bg7 12.Rae1 d6 13.Qe2 Nc6 14.Be5 Qg4 15.Bxf6 Bxf6 16.Qxg4 Bxg4 17.Nd5 h5 18.Nxf6 Kg6 19.Nxg4 hxg4 20.Re4 Rhf8 with a winning endgame but black must still display some technique) 10…Qe6?! [10…Qg6! is even better] 11.d5? (Accelerating the loss, 11.Bxf4 is better still much better for black) 11…Bc5+ 12.Kg2 Qg6 13.Bxf4 Nf6 14.Be5

Brady-Heidenfeld Irish Championship Limerick 1991 Move 14
Brady-Heidenfeld Irish Championship Limerick 1991 Move 14

d6! The point of black’s play, the g4-pawn is targeted 15.Bxf6 Bxg4 16.Qf4 Bf3+! 0-1 (Forcing the exchange of queens, leaving black a clear piece to the good.)

Brady-Heidenfeld Irish Championship Limerick 1991 Finish
Brady-Heidenfeld Irish Championship Limerick 1991 Finish

The next game features the dangerous Max Lange Attack in the Two Knight’s Variation for the Italian Game.

Kacper Piorun (2457) – Piotr Staniszewski (2383)
Polanica Zdroj Open  21.08.2009

1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bc4 Bc5 4.0-0 Nf6 5.d4 exd4 6.e5 d5 7.exf6 dxc4 8.Re1+ Be6 9.Ng5 Qd5 10.Nc3 Qf5 11.g4 A sideline, 11.Nce4 is the main line: black is fine but must know a lot Qxf6?? A very common mistake (11…Qg6 is fine)

Piorun-Staniszewski Polanica Zdroj 2009 Move 11
Piorun-Staniszewski Polanica Zdroj 2009 Move 11

12.Nd5 Qd8 13.Rxe6+ fxe6 14.Nxe6 Qd7 15.Ndxc7+ Kf7 16.Ng5+ Kg6 [16…Kg8 is a slight improvement] 17.Qf3 Rad8 18.Nce6 (18.Qe4+ Kf6 19.Qf4+ Kg6 20.Nge6 also wins) 1-0

Piorun-Staniszewski Polanica Zdroj 2009 Move Finish
Piorun-Staniszewski Polanica Zdroj 2009 Move Finish

The next game shows a well known trap is the Scotch which two strong players were unaware of.

Delgado Ramirez  (2620) – J. Gemy (2401)
Arica Open 2018 17.12.2018

1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Nc3 g6 4.d4 exd4 5.Nd5 Bg7 6.Bg5 Nge7?? [6…Nce7 is best] 7.Nxd4

Ramirez-Gemy Arica 2018 Move 7
Ramirez-Gemy Arica 2018 Move 7

Bxd4? 8.Bxe7? [8.Qxd4! wins prettily 8…Nxd4 9.Nf6+ Kf8 10.Bh6#]

Ramirez-Gemy Arica 2018 Variation Finish
Ramirez-Gemy Arica 2018 Variation Finish

8…Nxe7 [8…Bxf2+ 9.Kxf2 Nxe7 10.Qd4 0-0 11.Nf6+ Kh8 12.Qc3 wins for white] 9.Qxd4 0-0 10.Nf6+ Kh8 11.0-0-0 [11.Qc3 is even stronger] 11…Nc6 12.Qc3 d6 13.Nd7+ Kg8 14.Nxf8 Qxf8 15.Bb5 Qh6+ 16.Kb1 Ne5 17.Qxc7 1-0

Ramirez-Gemy Arica 2018 Finish
Ramirez-Gemy Arica 2018 Finish

The following encounter features an ancient trap in the Steintz Variation of the Ruy Lopez, known since 1892. I have not seen this before!

Dusan Popovic  (2363) – Tibor Jesenski (2361)
Senta Open 25.07.2002

1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5 d6 4.d4 Bd7 5.Nc3 Nf6 6.0-0 Be7 7.Re1

Popovic- Jesenji Senta 2002 Move 7
Popovic- Jesenji Senta 2002 Move 7

0-0? Falling into an ancient snare known since 1892. 8.Bxc6 Bxc6 9.dxe5 dxe5 10.Qxd8 Raxd8 11.Nxe5

Popovic- Jesenji Senta 2002 Move 11
Popovic- Jesenji Senta 2002 Move 11

Bxe4? Black hopes that he can regain his pawn exploiting white’s weak bank rank 12.Nxe4 Nxe4 13.Nd3 f5 14.f3 Bc5+? 15.Nxc5 Nxc5 16.Bg5! The killer, this has happened many times

Popovic- Jesenji Senta 2002 Move 16
Popovic- Jesenji Senta 2002 Move 16

16…Rd7 [16…Rd5 17.c4 followed by Be7] 17.Be7 b6 18.Bxf8 Kxf8 19.Rad1 1-0

 Jesenji Senta 2002 Finish
Popovic-Jesenji Senta 2002 Finish

Here is a fine attacking game from the Queen’s Gambit Accepted which shows the dynamic potential in an isolated queen pawn (IQP) middlegame. Here the former world champion Anatoly Karpov is the victim, stuffed in 18 moves.

Ulf Andersson (2630) – Anatoly Karpov (2775)
Nykoping rapidplay Nykoping 1995

Notes by Baburin

1.Nf3 d5 2.d4 Nf6 3.c4 dxc4 4.e3 e6 5.Bxc4 c5 6.0-0 a6 7.Qe2 cxd4 8.exd4 Be7 9.Nc3 b5 10.Bb3 0-0 11.Bg5 Bb7 12.Rad1 Nc6 13.Rfe1 Nb4? This is quite a difficult line for Black anyway, but his last move is a serious mistake. (13…Na5?! 14.d5! Nxb3 15.dxe6 Qb6 16.axb3 fxe6 17.Nd4 Bd6 18.Qxe6+ Kh8 19.Nf3 Rad8 20.Bf4! Bxf3 21.Rxd6 Rxd6 22.Qxd6 Qxd6 23.Bxd6 Re8 24.Rxe8+ Nxe8 25.Be5+- Boleslavsky-Kotov, Zurich, 1953.;
13…Nd5 14.Nxd5 Bxg5 15.Nb6!? Bronstein. 15…Qxb6 16.Nxg5)

Andersson-Karpov Nykoping rapid 1995 Move 13
Andersson-Karpov Nykoping rapid 1995 Move 13

14.d5! This thematic break works really well for White, due to his superior development, in fact this move was analysed long ago by Russian master V. Rauzer! 14…Nfxd5 15.Nxd5 Bxg5 16.Nxb4 Qe7 17.Nd5 Bxd5 18.Bxd5 1-0

Andersson-Karpov Nykoping rapid 1995 Finish
Andersson-Karpov Nykoping rapid 1995 Finish

The reviewer’s last offering shows an instructive loss by another former World Champion is just six moves. He followed a previous game Miles-Christansen where both players missed white’s sixth move winning a piece!

Alonso Zapata (2480) – Vishy Anand (2555)
Biel 1988

1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nf6 3.Nxe5 d6 4.Nf3 Nxe4 5.Nc3 Bf5?? This had been played by Christiansen against Miles who played 6.Nxe4? [5…Nxc3 is the main line] 6.Qe2 winning a piece 1-0 (6…Qe7 is met by 7. Nd5 whereas 6…d5 is met by 7.d3

Zapata-Anand Biel 1998 Finish
Zapata-Anand Biel 1998 Finish

In summary, this is a good read which revealed traps that the reviewer had not seen before. It just shows that even titled players can fall into lost positions very quickly.

I have one small criticism: the reviewer quickly spotted a couple of typos in the book but this does not detract from a didactic book. Look up your favourite openings and you may be surprised!

FM Richard Webb, Chineham, Hampshire, 31st May 2021

FM Richard Webb
FM Richard Webb

Book Details :

  • Softcover : 424 pages
  • Publisher: Russell Enterprises (1 Dec. 2020)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1949859223
  • ISBN-13: 978-1949859225
  • Product Dimensions: 17.78 x 3.18 x 25.4 cm

Official web site of Russell Enterprises

Marvelous Modern Miniatures, Carsten Hansen, Russell Enterprises, December 2020, ISBN-13 : 978-1949859225
Marvelous Modern Miniatures, Carsten Hansen, Russell Enterprises, December 2020, ISBN-13 : 978-1949859225
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Minor Pieces 3: Septimus Swyer

Between 31 August and 9 November 1888, five prostitutes were brutally murdered in Whitechapel, in London’s East End. Their killer was never caught, and is known to us now as Jack the Ripper. Several later murders in the same area might have been committed by the same person.

What you all want to know is this: did Jack the Ripper play chess?

Hundreds of possible suspects have been mentioned over the years: almost everyone, it seems, who was in the right place at the right time, and even some who almost certainly weren’t.

Several of these suspects have chess connections.

First on our list is the artist Walter Sickert. From The (Even More) Complete Chess Addict: ‘According to a well-argued book by Stephen Knight, Jack the Ripper … was in fact the painter Walter Sickert as part of a three-man team. One of the things we know about Sickert was that he was a keen chess-player’.

Sadly, this source is notoriously unreliable. I searched the newspaper archives for any connection between Sickert and chess. All I could find was a critic’s view of a portrait of political activist and atheist Charles Bradlaugh: ‘But the clever artist should have placed a chessboard on the table over which the intellectual face of Mr. B. is bending. He habitually plays chess, I am given to understand, with members of the high aristocracy, and recently checkmated a Bishop.’ This must surely refer to Bradlaugh, who was known to be a chess player, rather than Sickert, although history doesn’t record whether the famous atheist used a bishop to checkmate the Bishop. Perhaps Mike Fox had read a biography of Sickert which provided more information, but I can find no evidence of the artist being particularly interested in chess.

More recently, the crime novelist Patricia Cornwell took up the theory of Sickert being Jack, but I don’t think the evidence stands up.

Number two on our list is none other than Lewis Carroll. We know, of course, that he was a chess enthusiast: you can read more here. I’ve known the compiler of this information, Roger Scowen, on and off for many years: we recently exchanged emails and hope to meet up soon for a few games once it’s safe to do so. But was Carroll Jack the Ripper? To me, it seems like a totally ridiculous suggestion.

Moving swiftly on, let’s visit the Langdon Down Museum of Learning Disability in Teddington – and if you’ve never been there you really ought to. Some of the inmates there at Normansfield were identified by John Langdon Down as having a specific genetic condition which is now known as Down Syndrome. Others, like James Henry Pullen, might now be diagnosed as being on the autism spectrum. Facilities were also available for members of wealthy families with mental health conditions, one of whom, who features, with a mention of his chess prowess, in a display in the museum, was Reginald Treherne Bassett Saunderson. Saunderson certainly didn’t have an intellectual disability, but today he’d probably be diagnosed as schizophrenic. His story is told here.

In this game he was winning most of the way through against a strong opponent, but eventually came off second best.

Saunderson was certainly a pretty good chess player, and certainly killed a lady of, reputedly, ‘ill-fame’, but, born in 1873, he was much too young to have been the original Jack the Ripper.

Let’s try again. Lord Randolph Churchill, Winston’s dad, was certainly a chess player, and certainly an opponent of Steinitz. By all accounts he was a pretty unpleasant and unpopular man, but, although he sometimes appears in lists of possible suspects, there’s absolutely no evidence that he had anything at all to do with the Whitechapel Murders.

Lord Randolph Churchill

Finally, meet S Swyer. He played Steinitz in the second round of a handicap tournament at the City of London Chess Club in 1871-72: among the other participants was J Swyer, a first round loser. Tim Harding (Steinitz in London) suggests that the two Swyers were probably brothers, but doesn’t provide any further information. Swyer is an uncommon surname so it’s not too difficult to find out more.

The Swyer family came from near Shaftesbury, in Dorset. Walter Swyer and Sarah Lush (Buckland) Swyer had a daughter, Sarah, followed by seven sons. Walter and Robert, John and George, James and William, and, as was the custom in educated families at the time, their seventh son was named Septimus. Let’s get J Swyer out of the way first. John was a bank manager who spent most of his life in Dorset. James was a chemist and druggist, living in Bethnal Green in London’s East End at the time of the 1871 census, so it must have been him, rather than John, who played chess at the City of London Chess Club.

James Swyer

S Swyer, then, was Septimus. In 1871 he was a General Practitioner, living in Brick Lane, Spitalfields, not very far from his brother Jim. As well as being a GP he specialised in obstetrics and gynaecology.

Both Swyers were placed in Class IV (of V) at the City of London Club, so when Steinitz was paired against Septimus he took the white pieces in both games, but had to play without his queen’s knight.

This game suggests that Septimus was a reasonably competent player, but handicapped by a lack of opening knowledge.

It was much the same story the second time around, but here the game was truncated when Swyer, in a difficult position, hung a rook.

Dr Septimus Swyer

Swyer was a colourful character whose life was not short on controversy. In 1861 a cat, allegedly belonging to his neighbour, broke into his shop and shattered all his medicines, including a bottle of Godfrey’s Cordial, but the narcotic had no effect on the feline intruder. He sued for damages, but his neighbour claimed it was a different moggy and the case was thrown out.

His first wife died in 1874 and he remarried in 1880. It was stated his second wife’s husband was still alive (it seems he lived until 1912) and she was tried for bigamy, but acquitted.

In 1888 he was still in the same area, but in 1891, shortly after the last possible Ripper murder, he suddenly emigrated to the USA. He certainly had financial problems, but who knows?

Dr Septimus Swyer was in the right place at the right time, had the required medical knowledge, and left the country in a hurry. Only circumstantial evidence. Was he Jack the Ripper? Unlikely, I would have thought, but at least, unlike our other four chess-playing (or perhaps not in the case of Sickert) suspects, a possibility. I guess we’ll never know.



There’s a lot more about Swyer as a Ripper suspect (but do bear in mind the proviso at the top of the first post) at:
Dr Septimus Swyer + proviso – Casebook: Jack the Ripper Forums

A lot more again here from a direct descendant (one of his sons emigrated to Australia) at:
Septimus Swyer (

Photographs of James and Septimus Swyers taken from family trees at:
Genealogy, Family Trees and Family History Records online – Ancestry®

Photograph of Lord Randolph Churchill from Wikipedia.

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The Gloomy Fate and Romantic Chess of Arthur Towle Marriott

The Gloomy Fate and Romantic Chess of Arthur Towle Marriott : Fabrizio Zavatarelli

The Gloomy Fate and Romantic Chess of Arthur Towle Marriott, Fabrizio Zavatarelli, Moravian Chess, 2019, ISBN 978-8071890164
The Gloomy Fate and Romantic Chess of Arthur Towle Marriott, Fabrizio Zavatarelli, Moravian Chess, 2019, ISBN 978-8071890164

From the publisher:

Biography of prominent Nottingham chess-player (1859-1884). Biography contents 156 annotated games with comments mostly from contemporary sources. A. T. Marriott played chess with many contemporary chess players of this time, e.g. Blackburne, Freeborough, MacDonnell, Thorold, etc.

I won’t quote the publisher’s introduction, as it’s the same as you’ll find in this book.

This is the first volume in a different series, though, featuring the careers of forgotten chess players. In this case the author is Fabrizio Zavatarelli, an Italian chess historian, who has written a book on Kolisch and co-authored one on Neumann, Hirschfeld and Suhle, both published by McFarland. An author, then, with a proven track record as an excellent writer and researcher in this field. A helpful feature of the book is a rating system for games: one star: of some interest, two stars: worthy of an anthology, and three stars (there are none in this book): a masterpiece.

Arthur who? You may well ask. I hadn’t heard of him until I saw the advance publicity for this book. Arthur Towle Marriott, it turns out, was the youngest and strongest member of a chess playing family. We have 156 games, with contemporary annotations, along with a few problems, and we follow him as he travels the country, playing chess wherever and whenever he can.

Marriott was born in Nottingham on 25 November 1859, the youngest son of Thomas and Sarah. There is information about his family now available online which Zavatarelli was either unable to find or which wasn’t available when he was researching the book. A footnote suggests that Sarah’s maiden name was probably Lacey: it wasn’t: she was Sarah Green. He also states that no mention of the family can be found in the 1861 and 1871 census records: in fact the 1871 record has now been found, but not, as yet, the 1861 record. You can find out more information about the chess playing Marriotts here.

His earliest games, mostly played by correspondence, date from 1876, about the time of his 17th birthday. But a few months later he was playing, and winning, in a match between Nottingham against Leicester. As an example of Marriott’s play at this time, here’s a casual game played at his chess club.

From this game you can tell that he was a highly talented tactician with a love, which would last the rest of his life, of rather dubious gambits.

Marriott played in the 2nd Class Tournament at Grantham over the following New Year, outclassing the opposition to win with a 100% score. In August 1878 he travelled to Hull for a series of games against Edward Freeborough, later to find fame as the co-author of Chess Openings Ancient and Modern. Two months later, Blackburne was in town for a simul, and, underestimating his young opponent, was mated in only 17 moves.

We follow Marriott’s career and travels over the next few years, visiting London, for example, to take on the chess automaton ‘Mephisto’, possibly operated by Gunsberg at the time. But at some point, possibly early 1881, he contracted tuberculosis. Undeterred, he continued playing chess between bouts of his illness.

Everyone loves a good king hunt, so take a look at this.

Curiously, the moves up to 15. Be3 were duplicated in a 21st century game (Haller – Torretta Wasselonne Open 2009), but White ended up repeating moves in a winning position.

The Danish Gambit was one of Marriott’s favourite openings, as was the Boden-Kieseritzky Gambit, which he also played with colours reversed: yes – the currently fashionable (in some circles) Stafford Gambit.

It’s very clear from the games in this book that Arthur Towle Marriott was a player with an outstanding tactical imagination: deadly against opponents who failed to develop their pieces in the opening. Not everything stands up to computer analysis, but he was more interested in playing a beautiful game than winning prosaically.

Playing in a tournament against master standard opposition, though, is another matter entirely. Would he be able to raise his game and become a world class player like Blackburne, or would he remain just a tricky tactician like Bird?

A tournament in Birmingham in August 1883 gave him the chance to find out by taking on some of the country’s leading amateurs under serious match play conditions.

In the first round he faced Nelson Fedden, and this time forsook his beloved gambits for a more cautious start.

This game suggested that he could make the grade, but, had he been in full health he would no doubt have concluded more quickly and efficiently rather than missing some simple mates. He lost to Thorold, the eventual winner, in the second round, and then, playing poorly, to Ranken. At that point he was forced to withdraw from the tournament on health grounds. In November he travelled down to Bournemouth, hoping the sea air would improve his health, and, of course, played a lot of chess while he was there. He returned home in early 1884, but his condition was worsening and he spent some time in the TB Sanatorium at Ventnor on the Isle of Wight. It was all to no avail, though, and that dreadful disease claimed his life on the night of 21-22 November, just a few days before his 25th birthday.

Here’s a problem: White to play and mate in 3 moves (Nottingham Guardian 1884). You’ll find the solution at the end of this review.

Arthur Towle Marriott is one of the great might-have-beens of English chess history. He was a highly creative and imaginative attacking player who was very much at home in the 19th century world of romantic gambit play. A real chess enthusiast, he played wherever he went: casual games, club matches or tournaments, simultaneous displays, odds games, blindfold games, they all came alike to him. You’ll even find a game of four-handed chess here. He was very popular as well: everyone who knew him soon became fond of him, and you’ll also find a few lovely anecdotes within these pages. But he was strong enough to beat the likes of Blackburne and Gunsberg in one-to-one games. EdoChess gives him a peak rating of 2376 in 1881, placing him 66th in the world. It’s quite possible that, had he lived, he’d have reached grandmaster level.

What you get is everything currently known about Marriott’s life and chess. What you don’t get is external contextualisation: there’s a lot more to be told about his family background, some of which I’ll endeavour to do at a future date in my Minor Pieces series. There’s much that could be written about some of his opponents, who also have their stories. You also don’t get computer-assisted analysis: he played some highly complex games, and, inevitably, many of the annotations fail to meet with Stockfish’s approval. Finally, you don’t get professional production values. The publisher uses a different – and less suitable – diagram font than in the Mackenzie book: it’s not always easy to distinguish between some of the white and black pieces.

One of my particular interests is in the history of chess in Leicester (a city with which I have various personal connections), and Marriott played in several matches between his and my father’s home towns. If you’re interested in chess at this time and place you’ll be sure to want this book. If you have a general interest in 19th century chess history, if you love the romantic 19th century style of play, where gambits are offered and accepted, and where pieces are sacrificed for speculative attacks, you won’t be disappointed by the specimens here. If you just want to find out about an unjustly forgotten figure in chess history, one who, in some ways, typified the spirit of his age, again, go right ahead and buy it.


Problem solution: 1. Ng3 d4 2. Nh3 Ke3 3. Rc3#. The two knights withdraw to set up a pin mate. Not profound, but rather charming, I think.


Richard James, Twickenham 27th May 2021

Richard James
. Richard James

Book Details :

  • Softback : 160 pages
  • Publisher: Publishing House Moravian Chess (1 Jan. 2019)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10:8071890162
  • ISBN-13:978-8071890164

Official web site of Moravian Chess

The Gloomy Fate and Romantic Chess of Arthur Towle Marriott, Fabrizio Zavatarelli, Moravian Chess, 2019, ISBN 978-8071890164
The Gloomy Fate and Romantic Chess of Arthur Towle Marriott, Fabrizio Zavatarelli, Moravian Chess, 2019, ISBN 978-8071890164
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The Modernized Ruy Lopez – Volume 2 – A Complete Repertoire for White

The Modernized Ruy Lopez – Volume 2 – A Complete Repertoire for White, Dariusz Swiercz, Thinkers Publishing, ISBN 978-9464201086
The Modernized Ruy Lopez – Volume 2 – A Complete Repertoire for White, Dariusz Swiercz, Thinkers Publishing, ISBN 978-9464201086

“Dariusz Swiercz was born in 1994 in Tarnowskie Gory, Poland. His grandfather taught him to play chess at the age of three. During his junior career he won numerous National Championships as well as several European and World Championship medals. His highest successes include the bronze medal in 2010 at the World U20 Championship (Chotowa, Poland), gold medal in 2011 at the World U20 Championship (Chennai, India) and another gold medal in 2012 at the World U18 Championship (Maribor, Slovenia). He is one of the youngest to receive the Grandmaster title at the age of 14 years and 7 months. In 2016 he won the third edition of the “Millionaire Chess” held in Las Vegas, USA. Since 2018 he has represented the United States. Dariusz currently resides in Saint Louis, Missouri.”

GM Dariusz Świercz
GM Dariusz Świercz

From the book’s rear cover we have this extensive blurb:

“I would like to thank you for purchasing this book, I really appreciate it. It also means that you found an interest in my work of trying to crack the Ruy Lopez. As I said in the introduction to the first volume, I had no idea what I was signing up for when deciding to write a book on Ruy Lopez. This opening has such a rich history and good reputation that proving advantages in many lines is nearly impossible.

Writing the first volume on this opening was a Herculean effort and I thought “it cannot be more difficult”. After all, I was covering such solid variations as the Berlin and the Open Spanish. Well, I got surprised again! I am not exaggerating when I say that writing the second volume was at least as hard as writing the first one. This second volume on the Ruy Lopez consists of two parts. In the first part I focus on modern systems with …Bc5, attempting to dissect both the Archangelsk and Moller Variations. These two variations have quite a rich history but in 2020 there have been several developments. If I had to name one person that contributed the most to the developments in those lines it is, without a doubt, Fabiano Caruana. His encounters in the Candidates Tournament in Ekaterinburg, then his theoretical discussion in those lines with Leinier Dominguez, revised my opinion on many of those lines and led to interesting discoveries that I analyse in this book.

In the subsequent part I discuss the Closed Ruy Lopez. It is easily one of the most popular openings throughout the history of chess with many games occurring as early as the 1800s. I suggest going for 9.h3 which usually leads to a positional battle. I present new trends and find new paths and ideas in such evergreen variations as the Zaitsev, Breyer, Chigorin and others. Additionally, I attempt to crack the Marshall Attack by suggesting the Anti-Marshall lines with 8.a4. I must admit that I thought that it would be a pretty easy task to analyse those openings having some prior analysis and experience with both colours. However, time after time I was encountering new challenges and new ideas from both sides that I had to resolve. My conclusions, based on careful analysis with the most powerful engines currently available is presented in this book.

This book completes my series on the Ruy Lopez. I would like to take a moment and recall what I said in the introduction to the first volume. When both sides play very good and sound chess, it is normal that games end in a draw. It is especially true for such sound openings as Ruy Lopez. I do not attempt to dismiss one line or another because somewhere with best play Black can make a draw by force on move number 30, playing sometimes ridiculous moves that are only found during the analytical work. Over the board the reality is way different – practical aspect plays an important role in chess. Some positions are easier to play, some harder. Similarly to what I did in the first volume, I try to offer the most playable positions.

I do not mind if the positions are equal, provided it is easier to play with White or the chance of an error by Black is quite large. Sometimes I go into forced variations (e.g. in Moller Defense or Archangelsk Defense), sometimes into more positional battles (like in the Zaitsev) but I truly believe that the positions I aim to reach have potential and are tricky for Black. With proper knowledge I think White can put pressure on Black in the Ruy Lopez. I hope that you will find my approach to tackling the Ruy Lopez interesting. I am aware that there is only so much I can analyse and someone may say that I did not analyse some positions deeply enough but that is the nature of chess – possibilities are pretty much unlimited and there will always be theoretical debate!

Finally, I wish you, dear Reader, good luck and I hope you can successfully use the ideas that I present in this book in your games. Dariusz Swiercz February 2021.”

End of blurb…

Volume 1 of this series was previously reviewed here.

In Volume 2 the author looks at the major lines against the Lopez and he breaks the content down into three parts.

Before continuing it would be worth looking at this 19 page excerpt from the book.

Part 1 starts with systems with …Bc5 including the Møller defence.

After 1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5 a6 4.Ba4 Nf6 5.00 Bc5 a move played by World Champion Magnus Carlsen in a few games but more regularly championed by Alexander Onischuk. White continues with 6.c3 which is the most popular move according to my database.

In the game Nepomniachtchi v Caruana the game went 6…0-0 7.d4 Ba7 8.Re1

and White plans to bring his bishop to e3. He can also try 8.Bg5 as Lev Aronian did in a game vs Magnus. White is trying to pressurise e5 and get black to exchange on d4. After 8…d6 9 h3 b5 10 Bc2 when Be3 is coming and White usually tries to play his Knight to f5 with king side pressure.

On 6…b5 7.Bc2 d5 8.a4 will surprise black players. After 8…Rb8 9.ab5 ab5 10.d4 de4 11.dc5 Qd1 12.Bd1 ef3 13.Bf3 e4 14.Be2 when Stockfish gives White as much better since he retains the bishop pair.

Black can try 8…de4 9.ab5 00 but 10 Ng5 ! seems to leave White better.  As in many lines analysis is given up to move 25 !

This whole line is very tricky and both players need to know it well. The Archangelsk with 5…b5 6 Bb3 completes Part 1 with the older move 6…Bb7 being looked at first and then 7 Re1 is given first. Having played this in many online games I as black I believe this is Whites best move now and ….Be7 is rather condemned. White can just play as he does against the Closed but he can save a tempo on h3 as there is no Bg4 move.

The modern 6…Bc5 played by Fabio Caruana and Gata Kamsky is given when 7 a4 should set black thinking. First 7…b4 is dismissed as an error as 8 Ne5! Ne5 9 d4 is good for White. Better are both 7…Bb7 and …Rb8 though White will continue his plan of building a big pawn centre with c3 and d4. In many of these lines white follows up with Bg5 when h6 Bh4 g5 can often be met with Nxg5 ideas.

Part 2 comprises the so-called main line of 5…Be7 6 Re1 b5 7 Bb3 d6 8 c3 00 9 h3

when 9…a5 is the Keres variation, 9…Be6 the Kholmov variation, 9…Nd7 the Karpov and both 9…Qd7 and 9…h6 credited to Smyslov.

For the first three variations 10.d4 followed by d5 attempting to cramp black are investigated but 9…Qd7 10 d4 Re8 11 Bg5 and 9…h6 10 d4 Re8 11 Nbd2 Bf8 12 Nf1 are both given as gaining an advantage for White .

Against the Zaitzev variation (9…Bb7) white has a plan of d4 combined with a3 and Bc2 followed by b3. He must be well prepared for black to play d5 here .

The Chigorin variation (9…Na5) was a favourite of Paul Keres and following 10 Bc2 c5 11 d4

both …Qc7 and …Nd7 are looked at in detail with 12 d5 recommended against both, again trying to cramp black.

12.d5 seems better than 12 Nbd2 when black can exchange on d4 and play for pressure on e4.

The Breyer variation (9…Nb8 ) as essayed by Anatoly Karpov sees 10 d4 Nbd7 11 c4 !? a move that will probably surprise Black.

For recommendations to deal with the Marshall Attack you will need to buy the book!

The book winds up in Part 3 by looking at 5…Be7 6.d3 for players who don’t want to get involved in too much opening theory.

Generally this is a book for those who take chess very seriously and are not frightened of learning large quantities of opening theory. The book is written from White’s perspective and therefore does not include a treatment of the exchange variation.

It is also good for postal /correspondence chess as White usually ends up with an edge so can torture his opponent for some time.

Colin Lyne, Farnborough, Hampshire, 26th May, 2021

Colin Lyne
Colin Lyne

Book Details :

  • Paperback : 336 pages
  • Publisher:Thinkers Publishing; 1st edition (13 April 2021)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10:9464201088
  • ISBN-13:978-9464201086
  • Product Dimensions: 17.02 x 23.5 cm

Official web site of Thinkers Publishing

The Modernized Ruy Lopez – Volume 2 – A Complete Repertoire for White, Dariusz Swiercz, Thinkers Publishing, ISBN 978-9464201086
The Modernized Ruy Lopez – Volume 2 – A Complete Repertoire for White, Dariusz Swiercz, Thinkers Publishing, ISBN 978-9464201086
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Minor Pieces 2: Alexander Sich

It’s Monday 28 August 1871. Join me at Simpson’s Divan in the Strand, where, after a satisfying lunch of roast beef, accompanied by a bottle of their finest claret, followed by a glass of brandy and a Havana cigar, we adjourn to the chess room to watch the great Wilhelm Steinitz in action.

He introduces us to his friend Mr Sich, who is, he informs us, a wine merchant. The two gentlemen are engaged in an exciting battle. At one point Herr Steinitz is a rook ahead but his king seems to be in trouble. He manages to survive and win the game, but could Mr Sich have done better?

I reach into my pocket. “Look, Herr Steinitz! I’m a time traveller from 150 years into the future. I can press a few buttons on this small machine and talk to anyone in the world. I can press a few more buttons, enter the moves of the game you just played and show you both where you went wrong.”

“You might have been impressed by Ajeeb, but my machine is a million times better. You see, Mr Sich, you might have played your rook to queen one on move 28, announcing check to Herr Steinitz’s king. You were still winning, though, but on move 32, if you’d played your queen to queen’s knight five you could then have exchanged everything off on queen seven and advanced your king’s bishop’s pawn to the end of the board. Two moves later, you could still have drawn by exchanging rooks, but instead you left your own king defenceless.”

But now it’s time to bid our farewells and leave: we have a journey to make. Our destination is Hammersmith. We’re excited by the prospect of travelling on the Underground Railway, so head for Charing Cross Station. Just eight weeks earlier, following a banquet attended by Mr Gladstone two days previously, the District Railway started running trains round part of what would become the Inner Circle. In a few years time we’ll be able to take the train directly to Hammersmith, and the line will later be extended to exotic destinations such as Richmond and Ealing. 90 years later a schoolboy playing his friends on the train between Ravenscourt Park and Richmond will develop a lifelong chess obsession, but that’s another story for another time.

For now, we must take the underground train as far as Paddington, and change onto the Hammersmith and City Railway. When we reach our destination we spot a pub called the George just round the corner: it was rebuilt in 1911 and is now part of the Belushi’s chain. We could stop for a drink there, or in several other pubs nearby, but instead we’ll take a stroll down King Street.

After half a mile or so we’ll pass what is now Hammersmith Town Hall, which we visited in our last journey, and notice, in 2021, that it’s being redeveloped. If we look across the street we’ll see Dalling Road, and the building which, we hope, will soon be the site of a new Mind Sports Centre.

Then we pass another pub. This was the Hampshire Hog, but is now just the Hampshire, serving Indian cuisine as well as beers, wines and spirits. Mine’s a pint of London Pride: what are you having?

Why have I brought you here? Because this pub, like the George and many others in the area, was owned by the Sich family. The brewery was purchased by one John Sich in 1790 and later run by his sons, John junior and Henry.  The two brothers both had numerous children, many of whom were involved in the family business.

But let’s stop there. News has just come in that Herr Steinitz and Mr A Sich played again two days after the game we witnessed. Again, Herr Steinitz survived a totally lost position to win, in an encounter which was even more exciting that their previous game, with a lot of bamboozling tactics. Probably worth a separate article, I think.

You’ll notice that Mr S missed a simple mate in 5 on move 38 before blundering away first the win and then the draw. Still impressive, though, that he could achieve winning positions in level play against the world’s strongest active player.

What else do we know about him? He was very active in the St James’s Club from 1860 onwards, where he was a second category player, receiving odds from Loewenthal and Valentine Green, but conceding odds to weaker players. We’ll meet at least one of his opponents, EE Humphreys, in a later article. He played published games on level terms against Steinitz in 1871, as we’ve seen, and against Loewenthal in 1873 and 1874, before disappearing from the chess scene. Tim Harding comments that his forename is unknown, but perhaps we can find out. Let’s continue our walk.

Back in the 1960s, when such things were allowed, the Hampshire Hog was the place where teachers from nearby Latymer Upper School would take their pupils for a drink. We’re now going to head away from King Street towards the river. Not so easy to cross the Great West Road, but we could perhaps cheat (as I’m an alumnus they might let me in) by following in the distinguished footsteps of the likes of GM Michael Stean and IM David Goodman, taking the school’s Secret Subway to the dining hall and the Prep department, and then out onto Upper Mall.

We’re now at the start of the notorious Round the River Run (or, in my case, walk) which takes you along the river, over Barnes Railway Bridge, along the towpath on the other side, across Hammersmith Bridge and back to where you started. We won’t do that now, not least because Hammersmith Bridge is currently closed for repairs, but will take a gentle walk by the river in the direction of Chiswick.

Passing the Old Ship, we’ll stop off at the Black Lion. Thanks for offering: I’ll have another pint of Pride. It would be rude not to, given how close we are to where it’s brewed. Above one of the corner tables is a portrait of local resident AP Herbert, whose wife was regularly seen at the Hammersmith Town Hall chess tournaments.

While we’re here, news comes in that Herr Steinitz and Mr A Sich have played another game.

I’m not sure what 7. Ng5 was all about: my pupils get their knuckles rapped if they play moves like that. Steinitz chose to go for the attack rather than regain the exchange on move 26, but Sich missed a draw on move 34.

It’s time to continue our walk, passing Fuller’s (London Pride) Brewery and soon reaching St Nicholas’s Church. Turning up Church Street towards the busy Hogarth Roundabout, a stark contrast to the bucolic views of the Thames, you’ll see a tower on your right with the words LAMB BREWERY. This was the name of the Sich family concern: little other than the tower remains.

But we still haven’t identified A Sich. Let’s return to John and Henry. John had a son named Alexander who was born in 1837, while, two years later, Henry’s son Arthur John was born. So we have two gentlemen named A Sich who were of the right age. As he was active from 1860 onwards, the older cousin seems more likely. A better reason is that, in the days when people were referred to by their full initials and surnames, the chess player was always ‘A. Sich’, never ‘A.J. Sich’. We also know from Steinitz  that he was a wine merchant. As it happens, 1871 was a census year, so let’s travel back 150 years again and join the enumerator.

Here, in Church Street, where we’re standing now, is Arthur John, a brewer, with his wife and children. And just round the corner, in Sunbury House, The Mall, Chiswick, is Alexander, a wine merchant, with his wife (who just happened to be Arthur’s sister Helen: nothing like keeping it in the family) and children. This seems confirmation that it was Alex, not Artie, who played chess against Steinitz. We know quite a lot more about them as well. Al was very much concerned with municipal affairs throughout his life, while Art was involved with the army volunteers. Unlike his cousin, he seemed to prefer real soldiers to wooden soldiers.

Time for a final drink, I think. While we’re at the Hogarth Roundabout we could choose the George & Devonshire, which has probably always been a Fuller’s pub, but, to continue the theme of our pub crawl, we might prefer to walk up towards Turnham Green to visit another former Sich pub, the Lamb (formerly the Barley Mow, but its name was changed to that of the original brewery).

While we’re there, there’s another game to look at. Steinitz is White again and plays the King’s Gambit. Again, Sich is doing well at one point, but misdefends, allowing a neat sacrificial finish.

We could, I suppose, visit the Watermans Arms in Brentford, which comes with a recommendation from food critic and West London Chess Club secretary Andy Hayler. Close by is the Watermans Arts Centre, which in turn is across the road from the rather wonderful Musical Museum and a short walk from the London Museum of Water and Steam, which itself is just across the railway line from the new Brentford Stadium. Will they be seeing Premiership football there next season, I wonder?

We could also travel further west to the Bell in Hounslow. Back in the 1980s or thereabouts Hounslow Chess Club met nearby, and the Bell was often the venue for our post mortems after we played them in the Thames Valley League. There are plenty of other former Sich pubs still around as well: see the link below.

Before I leave you, there’s one further reference connecting Alexander Sich to the game of chess.

In 1903 the Chiswick Library Committee, of which Alex was a member, decided to allow their committee room to be used as a games room. Chess, draughts and dominoes were provided so that the local louts could avoid trouble by playing some nice quiet games.

Unfortunately, it didn’t work out as planned. The boys resorted to games of their own: ‘coddam’, noisy larking, horse-play and pitching cinders. The good citizens of Chiswick were not at all happy, and, after a few weeks, the club was closed down. Alexander Sich said that he did not regret that they had made the experiment. It could hardly have been more different from the pre-lockdown chess group at Whitton Library. There’s a moral there somewhere,  but I’m not sure what it is. (Coddam, since you asked, is ‘an old game, usually with three players on each side, based around guessing which of the players’ hands is hiding a coin or button.’)

Meanwhile, the Sich Brewery hit problems during the First World War and was sold off in 1920. Their neighbour, Fuller’s, however, survives and thrives to this day.

This is the second of a series of articles about Steinitz’s English amateur opponents. The next instalment will be coming shortly.


The chess games of A Sich

The Lamb Brewery | Brentford & Chiswick Local History Society (

Metropolitan Railway – Wikipedia

Genealogy, Family Trees and Family History Records online – Ancestry®

Dashboard |


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Chess for Educators : How to Organize and Promote a Meaningful Chess Teaching Program

Chess for Educators : Karel van Delft

Chess for Educators, Karel van Delft, New in Chess, March 2021, ISBN: 9789056919429
Chess for Educators, Karel van Delft, New in Chess, March 2021, ISBN: 9789056919429

From the book’s rear cover :

“Chess has the rare quality that children love it despite the fact that it is good for them. Playing chess is just like life: you have to make plans, take decisions, be creative, deal with challenges, handle disappointments, interact with others and evaluate your actions.

Psychologist and chess teacher Karel van Delft has spent a large part of his life studying the benefits of chess in education. In this guide he provides access to the underlying scientific research and presents the didactical methods of how to effectively apply these findings in practice.

Van Delft has created a dependable toolkit for teachers and scholastic chess organizers. What can teachers do to improve their instruction? How (un)important is talent? How do you support a special needs group? How do you deal with parents? And with school authorities? What are the best selling points of a chess program? Boys and girls, does it make a difference? How do ‘chess in schools’ programs fare in different countries?

This is not a book on chess rules, with lots of moves and diagrams, but it points the way to where good technical chess improvement content can be found. Van Delft offers a wealth of practical advice on how to launch and present a chess program and how to apply the most effective didactics in order for kids to build critical life skills through learning chess.”

Karel van Delft
Karel van Delft

“Karel van Delft is a Dutch chess teacher and chess organizer. He holds a Master’s degree in Psychology of the University of Amsterdam and has lectured and published widely on the subject of the benefits of chess in education.”


Chess education is an important subject which has been much discussed over the past decade or more, but, up to now, it hasn’t been the topic of many books, at least in the English language.

Karel van Delft is ideally qualified to write this book. He’s been teaching chess very successfully at all levels for many years and will be known to many of us who have attended the London Chess Conference. His son, Merijn, is an IM whose recent book was favourably reviewed on this site. He generously mentions me twice within these pages.

For whom is the book written? Although there’s very little chess and very few diagrams, there’s an assumption that readers know something about the game and are either already chess teachers, or are interested in teaching chess to young children. For the most part, we’re looking, then, at chess in primary schools, or for children of primary school age.

A couple of quotes from the Introduction:

Chess is a playground for the brain. Children enjoy playing it, and it poses fascinating challenges to their brain. But the game also widens their horizon.


Chess can contribute to the cognitive, social, emotional and meta-cognitive development of children. For children with special needs and other groups, chess can also be a means for empowerment. It helps them to develop self-respect, and to get a grip on themselves and their environment. 

In other words, especially for children, chess has many benefits. What are these exactly, and how can chess have a positive effect on the education of children? That is what we examine in this book. We will discuss didactics and teaching methods, the organization of school clubs, scientific research on the benefits of chess education, and chess as a means of emancipation within the scope of school chess and special needs groups. 

Chapter 1 is a very brief tour round School Chess Worldwide, with, as you’d expect, a mention for Chess in Schools and Communities.

Chapter 2 is an important look at Didactics in School Chess. Van Delft recommends that lessons should combine instruction and playing, and take place within groups of children at the same level, with, ideally, a maximum of 12 children in each group. If, however, chess is on the curriculum, the classes will be larger and not all children will be motivated.

Chapter 3 is perhaps more controversial: Pre-School Chess, which, by its definition, applies to chess at home rather than at school. We hear about grandmasters – the Polgar sisters and others – who started chess very young. Various ways of encouraging children from the age of 2 upwards to take an interest in chess are suggested, for instance getting them to watch chess videos or a chess engine playing itself. You may well have reservations about whether 2-year-olds should be encouraged to use screens in this way, or, indeed, to use screens at all.

The next few chapters provide checklists for organising school chess clubs and youth tournaments, and, critically, the role of parents is also discussed. The School Chess Club chapter is very revealing: it’s certainly completely different from most school chess clubs I’ve seen, which involve a visiting tutor coming in to teach 20-30 children of different ages and playing strengths, with minimal support from the school. If you showed this to most primary schools here in the UK they’d be horrified: the teachers are under far too much pressure elsewhere to deal with anything like this. On the other hand it’s perfect for anyone wanting to start a professionally run junior chess club within their community.

Chapter 7 is worthwhile for all readers, looking at Fernando Moreno’s work in teaching life skills through chess.

Chapter 8, again, is invaluable, talking about chess, intelligence and teaching highly gifted children. Here, van Delft differentiates between ‘top down teaching’, which is favoured by schools in the Netherlands, and ‘bottom up teaching’, of which the Steps Method is, at least in part, an example. There’s a lot of food for thought for all chess teachers here.

The following chapters look at how to encourage specific categories of chess player: those with visual or hearing impairments, with autism or dyslexia, girls and women, and then, in a catch-all chapter, those with ADHD, Down Syndrome, long-term illnesses or handicaps, and depression. All of this is of vital importance, and should be considered by anyone involved in chess education or administration.

We’re now onto Chapter 15, Class Management, especially useful for those, like me, who struggle in this area. The author provides several pages of helpful advice for chess tutors who may not be trained teachers.

Chapters 16 to 20 cover various aspects of chess instruction, most notably a description of research into the possible academic benefits, with descriptions of the methodology and results of various studies around the world along with constructive criticisms of current research and suggestions for future studies. As you would expect, he uses the work of Fernand Gobet and his colleagues here, but reaches a rather different conclusion.

Gobet is, broadly speaking, critical of the movement to promote chess on the curriculum for it’s perceived academic benefits: “In my view, chess is a great game providing much excitement, enjoyment and beauty on its own. There is no need to justify its practice by alluding to external benefits.”. (The Psychology of Chess Routledge 2019) I agree with Gobet here, but I’m not sure that van Delft would share my views. If you want to make chess more popular by promoting it in schools, though, you’ll probably need to convince them of the potential academic advantages.

Finally, we have Chapter 21, the best part of 120 pages, devoted to an Alphabet of Methods and Teaching Tips for Chess Education. There are dozens of ideas here, some just of one sentence, others taking several pages. No one will want to use all these ideas, but all readers will find something to enhance and enliven their chess tuition.

You may have gathered that this book doesn’t really provide a coherent narrative, but that is of little importance, and I know from personal experience how difficult it is to write on this subject in a logical and structured way.

You should be aware that this book is written from a Dutch perspective. Although you might think our two countries are culturally similar, in fact there are many differences. If you’re interested in this sort of thing you might start by reading this book. Dutch schools are very different from British schools. The Dutch, in general have (and have had since Euwe became World Champion in 1935) a rather more positive view of chess than we do. Dutch chess clubs are also much more suitable for children than our clubs with their evening meetings in less than adequate venues. So things that work in the Netherlands might not work in the UK or elsewhere. If you’re writing for a UK audience you might also want to provide links to, for example, the Delancey UK Chess Challenge and the English Primary Schools Chess Association as well as the ECF.

There are also a few translation problems, although the meaning is usually clear. Page 75, for example, uses the word ‘retardedness’, in relation to autism, which many teachers, parents and advocates here in the UK would consider both inappropriate and offensive. I appreciate that the economics of chess publishing make it impractical, but in an ideal world the book would have been checked through by a native English speaker with appropriate subject knowledge.

There are also many involved in various aspects of childhood who are concerned about the increasing professionalisation of children’s leisure activities and the ‘schoolification’ of childhood, as well as about young children’s screen time. Of course it’s all about striking the right balance, and that balance will vary a lot from one child to another. I’d have liked to see these issues and others discussed. Is it, in general, a good idea to encourage schools to put chess on the curriculum instead of, say, music or PE? Accentuating the positive is all very well, but you can’t always eliminate the negative.

Nevertheless, this book is essential reading for everyone interested in chess education, whether in practice or only in theory.  Both established chess teachers and those just setting out will find great ideas to inspire them on every page. Karel van Delft is one of the world’s leading experts on the subject, so the book is an ocean of wisdom. You won’t find everything equally useful, and you might not agree with everything, but then no critical reader will agree with everything in any book on education, no matter what the subject. I wouldn’t say that I disagree with him at all, but that I bring a very different perspective, in part from living in a different country and in part from being a very different person.

The most important aspect of the book for me, on a very personal level, is the understanding that chess has potential social as well as cognitive benefits for a very wide range of young- and not so young – people. We hear a lot about chess ‘making kids smarter’ but not so much about chess ‘making kids happier’, by which I mean genuine long-term benefits rather than short-term fun playing with your friends.

There is certainly a need for more books on the subject of why, how, when, where and by whom chess should be taught, offering a multiplicity of views and perspectives. I hope Karel’s book meets with the success it deserves: you could start by buying a copy yourself.

Richard James, Twickenham 21st May 2021

Richard James
. Richard James

Book Details :

  • Paperback : 272 pages
  • Publisher: New in Chess (1 Mar 2021)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10:9056919423
  • ISBN-13:978-9056919429
  • Product Dimensions: 7.25 x 1.88 x 23.57 cm

Official web site of New in Chess

Chess for Educators, Karel van Delft, New in Chess, March 2021, ISBN: 9789056919429
Chess for Educators, Karel van Delft, New in Chess, March 2021, ISBN: 9789056919429
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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
 Save as PDF

Technical Decision Making in Chess

Technical Decision Making in Chess : Boris Gelfand

Technical Decision Making in Chess, Boris Gelfand, Quality Chess, 2021, ISBN-13 : 978-1784830649
Technical Decision Making in Chess, Boris Gelfand, Quality Chess, 2021, ISBN-13 : 978-1784830649

From the Publisher’s Foreword:

“In Technical Decision Making in Chess former World Championship Challenger Boris Gelfand discusses his path to decision making in endgames and positions where one side possesses a structural or material advantage.
This investigation into a top Grandmaster’s technical understanding will illuminate difficult parts of the game that many players find elusive. Concepts like the “Zone of one mistake” are certain to be a revelation to many.”

From the back cover:

“In Decision Making in Major Piece Endings former World Championship Challenger Boris Gelfand discusses his path to decision making in endgames involving rooks or queens, as well as the neglected “4th phase”. Countless games are decided by good or bad technique in such endgames, so readers are certain to benefit from the insights of a word-class Grandmaster on this vital topic.

Grandmaster Boris Gelfand has been an elite player for over 30 years, winning the World Cup, Olympiad Gold, the Candidates and many other top tournaments.”

Boris Gelfand, FIDE Grand Prix, London, 2013, Courtesy of John Upham Photography
Boris Gelfand, FIDE Grand Prix, London, 2013, Courtesy of John Upham Photography

Grandmaster Jacob Aagaard is the only chess writer to have won all the major awards for chess writing.

GM Jacob Aagaard
GM Jacob Aagaard takes on all-comers!

Reaction to previous volumes in the series:

In 2015 Positional Decision Making In Chess won the ECF Book of the Year award.

“The most interesting chess book I have read in the last quarter-century.” Mikhail Shereshevsky on Positional Decision Making in Chess.

This new Quality Chess publication Technical Decision Making In Chess uses high quality paper and the printing is clear. The book can easily be laid flat next to the board and does not require weights to prevent it from “self-closing” (a particular bugbear of ours !). Each diagram is clear and the instructional text is typeset in two column format, which, we find, enables the reader to maintain their place easily. Figurine algebraic notation is used throughout and the diagrams are placed adjacent to the relevant text and each major diagram at the beginning of a chapter has a “to move” indicator. Where a “to move” indicator is not present, it is obvious which colour is to move from the accompanying moves in a variation.

Each chapter is introduced with a contemporary photograph of a player or players or a tournament  scene which  launches each chapter in a engaging manner. This is followed by a Diagram Preview page which shows the critical analytical diagrams in the following chapter and invites the reader to practise their analysis and decision making! If you can work out most of the variations you are stronger than a world champion.

The introduction of this book makes it clear that this book is about “positions where the main goal is the conversion of a static advantage. (A static or long term advantage can be anything from a weakness to better pieces to an actual material advantage.) The flip side is included in this, meaning when it is the opponent who is trying to convert an advantage and we are trying to resist.”

It is not an endgame primer or manual on basic endgames as there are plenty of these theoretical works already in existence: the author’s particular favourites are named.

The author suggests how to best use the book by first analysing the endgames without a chess engine and/or tablebases to prevent lazy thinking by relying too heavily on engine assessments without understanding: “I just want to say that any active work with the the engine, where you are probing, analysing, asking questions, examining and so on, is useful. Any passive submission to the engine evaluations is likely to make you a worse player.”

“The key question for us has not been which line wins. but why the line is winning.”

The chapter themes are not the usual themes that are found in other endgame books, for example arranged by material, except for the last chapter on opposite bishop endgames. Boris Gelfand shows the vast majority of the endgames in relation to the whole game including the opening and middlegame transitions. This is the modern way to study endgames and gives a much deeper understanding of chess in general and is the approach of a Grandmaster.

Chapter 1 Akiba Showing The Way

In this chapter, Boris showcases the great endgame skill of Akiba Rubinstein in his famous game versus Richard Reti at Gothenburg 1920. It is black to move in the position below which is included in Reuben Fine’s Basic Chess Endings and many other endgame manuals. Black is clearly better with multiple advantages:

  • Better pawn structure on the queen side, the c2 pawn needs constant vigilance. The white a2 is also a significant weakness.
  • Better minor piece
  • More space
  • Better pawn structure on the kingside: the white kingside is full of holes, hence black’s best move given below
Richard Reti-Akiba Rubinstein Gothenburg 1920 Move 30

30…Bd7! was the strongest move, fixing the white pawns on the dark squares. They are not in danger from the bishop, but they are unable to prevent the black king from penetrating the position, which is the greatest problem for white.

Rubinstein made one bad move in this game: 30…Ke6? 31.g4! Now white can draw with accurate play, but in practice, he missed the drawing ideas.

31…Kd6 32.h3 g6 33.Kd2 Bd7

Richard Reti-Akiba Rubinstein Gothenburg 1920 Move 33

34.Nf3 Better is 34.Ng2! The idea is simple. White wants to play d3-d4 and Ne3, when he has managed to plug the holes on the light squares on the kingside to a significant degree. 34…d4 is critical, cutting across this idea. 35.cxd4 cxd4 36.c4 dxc3+ 37.Kxc3 This looks to be good for black as he has a potential outside passed pawn on the queenside, but white can apparently hold! 37…g5 38.f5 Bc6 39.Ne3 Bf3 40.d4 Kc6 41.a3 and white draws. This is extremely instructive and should be studied carefully.

The game continued 34…Ke7 Another idea is 34…h6 35.Ke3 g5 and Gelfand shows that white has a lot of fantastic resources to just hold the game. Buy the book to find out how! 35.Ke3 h5

Richard Reti-Akiba Rubinstein Gothenburg 1920 Move 35

Reti now placed a horridly passive move 36.Nh2? which definitely loses. His last chance was a far sighted pawn sacrifice to draw as follows: 36.Nh4! Kf7 37.gxh5! gxh5 38.f5! Ke7 39.Ng6+ Kd6 40.h4! Bxf5 41.Nf4 Bg4 42.d4! and white has created an effective fortress. Black cannot make progress as he loses a pawn.

36…Kd6 37.Ke2? (37.gxh5 gxh5 38.h4 is tougher, but does not hold. 38…Bh3! The domination theme, a sample line is 39.Nf3 Ke6! 40. Nh2 b5 41.Kf2 Kd6 42.Ke3 a5 43.Nf3 Ke6 44.Nh2 a5 45.Kf2 (45.a3? Kf5 with the idea of b4 creating an outside a-pawn wins quickly) a3! 46.Ke3 Kf5 47.Kf3 Kg6 48.Ke3 d4+ 49.cxd4 Be6 50.Kd2 Bxa2 and black wins as the blockade does not hold.

The game continued 37…d4! Fixing a2 and c2 and widening the bridgehead for the king and bishop. 38.cxd4  cxd4

Richard Reti-Akiba Rubinstein Gothenburg 1920 Move 38

White lost quickly as follows 39.Kd2 hxg4 40.hxg4 Bc6 41.Ke2 Bd5 42.a3 b5 43.Nf1 a5 44.Nd2

Richard Reti-Akiba Rubinstein-Gothenburg 1920 Move 44

Now black won with the thematic 44…a4! forcing the creation of a passed a-pawn. We all know that knights are very poor at dealing with passed rook pawns. 45.Ne4+(45.Nb1 Kc5 46.c3 Ba2 wins) Bxe4 46.dxe4 b4 47.Kd2 bxa3 48.Kc1 g5 0-1

This ending is worthy of close study, not just to enjoy Rubinstein’s great technique, but also to discover hidden resources in difficult positions: a variation on the theory of infinite resistance.

Chapter 2 Turning Points

This section covers two interesting Gelfand games, one of which he wins and one he loses. As the chapter heading indicates, the key theme is recognising critical points in a game. The section culminates in the analysis of a fascinating same colour bishop endgame from the second game that was holdable by the inferior side.

Ivanchuk-Gelfand Wijk aan Zee 2012 Move 20

This is a middlegame position from a Catalan opening. Gelfand comments along the lines of white (Ivanchuk) is a little better with a better bishop and a bit more space. The important factor is that the position is easier to play for white and white risks little by playing on. Black’s main problem is the decision about when to stay passive (waiting) or go active. This general issue is covered more in chapter 3.

It is hard to believe that a player of Ivanchuk’s standard ends up in a losing position after only six more moves!

White played 21.Nel?! (Hoping to get the knight to b4 an apply some pressure. The simple and  natural 21.Bd3 was better. After 21…Qd6 white can try 22.Ne5, 21…Qc8 with the idea of a5 and Ba6 exchanging the semi-bad bishop is logical. 22.Qa3 Qf8 23.Qa4 Qc8 24.Kg2 a5 25.Bb5 Ba6 26.Bxa6 Qaa6 27.Ne5 Qc8 28.Qc6 and white is better in the inevitable double knight ending.

Ivanchuk-Gelfand Wijk aan Zee 2012 Variation Move 28

The game continued 21…Qc8 22.Nc2 Ne4! 23.Nxe4 dxe4

Ivanchuk-Gelfand Wijk aan Zee 2012 Move 23

White probably mistakenly thought this pawn structure transformation was in his favour. This is incorrect. The e4-pawn is fixed on the colour of the bishop, however, the e4 pawn gives a space advantage, the d5 square and a pivot for a pawn storm on the king side.

White should probably play 24.a4 then Bd5 25.Qc3 Qxc3 26.bxc3 White is optically better but 26…Bb7! 27.Nb4 Nb8! Black is going to bring his king over and hold. White played 24.Qc3? Qxc3 25.Bxc3 b5! This looks dangerous putting another pawn on the colour of the bishop, but white’s bishop is also hemmed in by black’s pawns and black has a significant space advantage.

Ivanchuk-Gelfand Wijk aan Zee 2012 Move 25

This is the crucial turning point of the game. White should have objectively realised that he had gone wrong and looked for  way to draw. 26.c4 looks reasonable, but after bxc4 27.Bxc4 Nb6 28.Be2 a5 29.Kf1 Bd5 30.a3 Bc4!? white is a fraction worse. Black has rid himself of the semi-bad bishop and has a space advantage in a knight endgame.

Ivanchuk-Gelfand Wijk aan Zee 2012 Variation Move 30

White played 26.a4? (See two diagrams back above, gifting black an outside passed a-pawn) and duly lost. An horrendous positional error from a world class player. Black combined the passed a-pawn distraction with a general advance on the king side to create entry points for his king and win.

In the second game, the aforementioned bishop ending reached this critical position.

Gelfand-Wang Sochi 2008 Move 43

White played 44.h4? which loses. 44.Kb6! would have drawn. The analysis is complicated but black’s best try is 44…Ke6 (44…Bd1 also leads to draw by a single tempo) 45.Bg6 Kd6 46.Be4 c5 47.Kb5 Bd5 48.Bxd5 Kxd5 49.Kxa4 h5 50. Kb5 c4 51.Kb6 Ke4 52.Kxb7 Kf3 53.Kc6 Kg2 54.Kc5 Kxh2 55.Kxc4 Kxg3 56.b4 h4 57.b5 h3 58.b6 h2 59.b7 h1=Q 60.b8=Q Qe4+ 61.Kc5 Qxf4 (see below) with a theoretical draw but still a practical challenge. The companion volume Decision Making in Major Piece Endings covers this type of ending.

Gelfand-Wang Sochi 2008 Variation Move 61

This whole bishop ending is worthy of close study as white has some amazing ideas to hold an ending that just looks lost.

Chapter 3 covers the important topic of active or passive defence.

Gelfand demonstrates this theme  with a complex double rook and knight endgame. Here is a position a few moves before that endgame, where black missed a chance to equalise comfortably.

Gelfand-Pelletier Biel 2001 Move 23

Gelfand points out that active defence with 23…Nd5! forces easy equality. 24.Qxe5 Nxe3! 25.Be4= (25.Qxe3? Qxe3 26.fxe3 Rxd3 27.Rxa7 Rxa7 28.Rxa7 Rxb3 and black is playing for a win)

Black played the passive 23…Qc6?! forcing a queen exchange. This is a common mistake when a (weaker) player wants a draw and exchanges pieces with small concessions 24.Qxc6 Bxc6 25.Bf1! Rdb8?! (26…Rab8! is more active when white can win a pawn but has great technical difficulties) 26.Bc4?! ( 26.Ra6! Rb6 27.Bc4 Bd5 28.Bxd5 Nxd5 29.Rxb6 Nxb6 30.Ra5! White is definitely in plus equals mode playing for two results.) 26…Bd5?! (26…Bb5 equalises) 27.Nxd5 Nxd5 28.Ne4 Rb4 29. Nd2! Rb7 Reaching the position below.

Gelfand-Pelletier Biel 2002 Move 29

White played 30.Ra5 which sets a small trap. 30.g4! was probably better gaining space and attempting to isolate the e5 pawn from its friends. Black played the obvious 30…Rd8?! activating the rook (30…Nc3 is better). After the game move, white has an edge and it’s very instructive to see how Gelfand increases his advantage in a practical game with mistakes from both sides.

Chapter 4 covers the common idea of A Bad Plan is Better than No Plan.

Here is a complex middlegame position.

Gelfand-Harikrishna 2014 Move 21

The penalties of planless play are amply demonstrated in the middlegame between moves 21-30 where planless play by black spoils an equal position resulting in a difficult heavy piece middlegame and subsequent losing  king and pawn ending.

Gelfand-Harikrishna 2014 Move 30
Gelfand-Harikrishna Wijk aan Zee 2014

White to move on move 40. What would you play? 40.a4! springs to mind spoiling black’s majority and winning.

Chapter 5 is all about long games with an increment.

Gelfand demonstrates two games, the first is a complex rook and knight endgame; the second of which is a very long queen and minor piece ending with an extra pawn.

This queen and minor piece ending has just arisen after white forced the exchange of rooks a few moves ago.

Gelfand-Grachev Moscow 2016 Move 34

White played 34.Qe2? which is a blunder. 34.Kg1 is obviously better, 34…Nxh4 35.Bxe5 activates the bishop increasing white’s advantage. 34…Kg8? Missing 34…Nf4! 35. Qf3 (35.Bxf4 Qxh4! threatening mate) 35.Kg1 Qd2 with loads of counterplay 35.Kg1 Nxh4 36. Bxe5 Qa5 37.Bg3 Ng6

Gelfand-Grachev Moscow 2016 Move 37

White has increased his advantage by activating his bishop.

I shall show a couple of other positions from this instructive game with Gelfand’s pithy comments. Black sacrifices the h-pawn to open up the white king.

Gelfand-Grachev Moscow 2016 Move 44

White played 45.Qg3?! instead of the consolidating 45.Bc3! “White consolidates and is on the way to winning the game. In these long games where it is very hard to spot the critical moments, because every moment is a mini-version of it, inaccuracies are bound to happen. This is why it is important to analyse the games and improve our feeling for how to spend our time, how to organise our pieces, how to organise our thinking and how to control the opponent’s counterplay. A lot of happens subconsciously. We analyse the games, find out what actually happened, compared to our experience during the game, and our feeling for the details will be slightly better the next time around.”

At move 49 this position was reached:

Gelfand-Grachev-Moscow 2016 Move 49

Gelfand played 50.Qe3!? a perfectly decent move.  Gelfand comments that the computer suggests 50.Kf3 Qf5+ 51.Ke2 Qe5 52.Qe7 Qxb2+ 53.Ke3 reaching this position:

Gelfand-Grachev Moscow 2016 Variation Move 53

The knight is lost after 53…Nxf2 54.Qe6+ Kh8 55.Qc8+ Kh7 56.Qf5+ A brilliant line.

Gelfand makes a wise and honest observation: “Obviously this is the type of thing the engine does much better than a human. Finding a tactic in a position where there are a large number of possibilities. No human can go 2-3 moves deep in all lines and see these types of options. So, all in all, I pay attention to this kind of information, but I do not regret not seeing it.”

At move 101 (see position below), Boris comments: “At this point I was confident that I would win. I knew what I should do. The queen controls everything and the white king can go forward. White is also winning in this position if there are no f- or g- pawns on the board….White can also play f5-f6, creating a situation where the black king is exposed, liniting the number of checks Black is able to give. The general idea is basic: White will aim to put the queen in-between on one of these checks, spiking the black king, forcing the exchange of queens.”

Gelfand-Grachev Moscow 2016 Move 101

Having read the relevant section in the companion volume “Decision Making In Major Piece Endings”  even the reviewer would be confident of victory in this technical position.

Chapter 6 When is the Right Time to Run?

This chapter is about “situations in both the middlegame and the endgame, where both players had to make decisions about when to improve their position and target the opponent’s resources and when to roll the dice and attack the king or let passed pawns roll. This is perhaps the most essential theme in top level chess, as a good feeling for what kind of action is needed in various positions, when to calculate and when simply to improve the position, is worth many points.”

Gelfand demonstrates this with a complex rook and knight ending.

Gelfand also brings out a pertinent comment about computer evaluations in this section. This is a position from a short variation in that game:

Navara-Gelfand Prague 2006 Variation Move 26

Boris says “Stockfish helpfully tells us that the position is still equal. But is it really? Black is full control of the d-file and can penetrate to the second rank…..Black is much more comfortable….”

Objectively, a strong engine would hold as white, but who would choose white?

Chapter 7 Choosing the Right Transformations

This chapter shows a complex queen and knight ending which is really interesting considering all the transformations to knight endings.


Caruana-Gelfand Amsterdam 2010 Move 30

Black played a technical, far reaching move 30…Qg5! forcing 31.e3 and the weakening of the f3 square. Gelfand stresses the point that black cannot win on the queenside alone and must create weaknesses on the kingside. Gelfand analyses the alternative 30…Qa6 to a probable win giving some superb analysis including a brilliant positional knight sacrifice creating passed a- and h-pawns which is definitely worth studying:

Caruana-Gelfand Amsterdam 2010 Variation Move 37

37…Nf1+ 38.Ke1 Nxh2 39. Kf2 Kf8! 40. Kg2 Nxf3 41.Kxf3 (41.exf3 h5 ensures a passed h-pawn) f5! Black wins by a tempo.

Chapter 8 – Karjakin

This game is a technical queenless middlegame in the Chebanenko.

This position gives a flavour of the struggle:

Gelfand-Karjakin Nalchik 2009 Move 20

White is clearly better, but how does white proceed here? Buy the book to find out.

Chapters 9 and 10 are titled Stalemate and Stalemated respectively.

Here is an amusing finish:

Ponkratov-Bacrot Berlin 2015 Move 34

Black is under the cosh with a killing rook discovery on the cards.

Bacrot played 34…Bd3+!! 35.Bxd3 Qd5 36.Bc4 Renewing the threats. 36…Rh1+ 37.Kg2 Qd2+! 38.Kxh1 Qg2+ stalemate

Chapter 11 The Relevance Of Endgame Studies

This chapter is good and the title is self explanatory. Solving endgame studies is useful for getting a feel for the potential of the pieces – not only in the endgame. Endgame studies are the artistic side of chess. Here is an instructive and entertaining study composed by Sergey Tkachenko & Boris Gelfand:

Sergey Tkachenko & Boris Gelfand 2017.

I will not give the solution, but there is a beautiful zugzwang, so buy the book to find out!

Chapter 12 Geometry

This chapter has an intriguing title but covers mainly R+N v R and positions with R v N or B with just a few pawns. Here is  a good example:

Mamedyarov-Gelfand Pamplona 2004 Move 64

White is in great danger here with his monarch in the corner. 65. Rxa7 loses as it unpins the knight allowing the prosaic mate 65..Rh5+ 66. Kg1 Ne2+ 67.Kf1 Rh1# The move that springs to mind is 65.Kg1. In fact this does draw as does 65.Kh2.

White actually played 65.Nd4+? to distract the black rook, so he could capture the a7-pawn. After 65…Rxd4 66.Rxa7 black has a pretty win with 66…Rd6! 67.Ra2 (67.Rf7 Kg3 68.Rg7+ Ng6! shuts out the rook and mates) 67…Rh6+ 68. Rh2 Nh3! with a beautiful zugzwang that I have not seen before.

Mamedyarov-Gelfand Pamplona-2004 Move 68

69.Rh2 Nf2+ 70.Kg1 Rh1#

Chapter 13  – Endings with Opposite Coloured Bishops

This is one of the reviewer’s favourite chapters as it shows the immense complexity of such endgames.

Leko-Gelfand Dortmund 1996 Move 71

White has just played 71.Bxb4 and reached the haven of an opposite coloured bishop endgame. This is quite a common type of position reached in practice. This position is a draw but it is difficult and a world class player of Peter Leko’s standard did not succeed in practice. Buy the book to find out how black won and how white could have drawn.

To summarise this is a very good technical book with many instructive games with deep analysis and didactic commentary.  The book is clearly aimed at aspiring FIDE2000+ (ECF175+) players and above.

FM Richard Webb, Chineham, Hampshire, May 12th 2021

FM Richard Webb
FM Richard Webb
  • Paperback : 320 pages
  • Publisher:Quality Chess UK LLP (28 April 2021)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10:178483064X
  • ISBN-13:978-1784830649
  • Product Dimensions: 17.35 x 1.52 x 24.16 cm

Official web site of Quality Chess

Technical Decision Making in Chess, Boris Gelfand, Quality Chess, 2021, ISBN-13 : 978-1784830649
Technical Decision Making in Chess, Boris Gelfand, Quality Chess, 2021, ISBN-13 : 978-1784830649
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Minor Pieces 1: Samuel Walter Earnshaw (i)

Six months or so ago I had the opportunity to review Tim Harding’s excellent book Steinitz in London.

Whenever I see a game of chess I want to know more about the players, so did a bit of research into a few names that caught my eye. I threatened to write more about them at some point in the future. My first subject is Samuel Walter Earnshaw.

Tim gives two games played in Autumn 1866 between Earnshaw, a member of Birmingham Chess Club, and Steinitz. There’s another game further on in the book played at an unspecified date.


If you know anything at all about 19th century English chess history you’ll be aware of the number of clergymen who played. This seems to have been a specifically British – or even English – phenomenon.

Father Sam wasn’t one of the strongest of the Fighting Reverends, but he turns out to be rather interesting. He was born in Cambridge in 1833, the oldest child of Samuel and Ann (Wall) Earnshaw. Samuel senior (1805-88), originally from Sheffield, was a clergyman, but also a mathematician and physicist, still remembered today for Earnshaw’s Theorem. This is apparently something to do with magnetism, but I didn’t understand a word of the explanation. If you want to find out more I suggest you contact Dr John Upham, who studied this sort of thing for his doctorate.

And here, from an online family tree, he is. The tree also includes photographs of some of Samuel Walter’s brothers, but I haven’t yet been able to locate an image of the man himself.

He had a large family, and several of his sons emigrated to America, but his oldest son stayed in England, following in his father’s footsteps to Cambridge, and then into the church.

Samuel Walter held his first curacy in Bromley-by-Bow, in East London, from where, in 1858, he didn’t have far to go to watch Morphy in action. It was probably there that he first met Samuel Boden, who was to become a lifelong friend. (You might want to describe him as Boden’s Mate.) His next post was in Birmingham, from where he moved a short distance to the small village of Nether Whitacre, twelve miles or so from the city centre. By 1865, now in his early 30s, he was active in the Birmingham chess scene, and his games were being reported in local and national publications. But he also  had to make time for his clerical duties. We can pick him up in the Nether Whitacre registers, which record baptisms, marriages and burials in the parish. Here he is, for example, at about the time he played Steinitz in 1866, officiating at three baptisms.

The following August, though, he was to be involved in a tragic incident. The Coventry Standard of 16 August 1867 reported:

Nothing sinister should be taken from this. These days we’d be suspicious of a vicar being ‘much attached’ to ‘fine youths’ and taking them for a swim in the river, but relationships between adults and children were very different in those times.

It’s understandable, though, that Samuel might have felt the need to move on. After a brief curacy in Wales his career, quite typically for the time, changed direction, and he took on the post of Headmaster of Archbishop Holgate Grammar School, Hemsworth, Yorkshire, not all that far from his family roots. In 1888 the school would move to Barnsley, where it would educate the likes of Michael Parkinson, while the new Hemsworth Grammar School would count Geoff Boycott amongst its most famous alumni.

His new job seems to have left him little time for chess, and we don’t hear from him again until 1877, when he appears to be a member of chess clubs in both Sheffield and Leeds.

By this time he may have come to the end of his time at Archbishop Holgate, and he shortly took on a new post as Rector of Ellough, in Suffolk. Here, the work was less demanding and he was also rather nearer London, so he was able to travel down to the capital’s chess haunts where he was once again able to indulge his passion by taking on the great players of the time. He was also very happy to submit his losses for publication, so there are quite a few games available in newspaper columns, which might be the subject of another article.

The next decade saw him continuing what must have been a relatively quiet life, bringing up his children, tending to the needs of his parishioners, and, once every seven weeks, at least up to 1884, visiting London for a few games of chess.

He died at the relatively early age of 54 in 1887. Perhaps he’d been unwell for some time as there’s no chess reference to be found for the last three years of his life.

An obituary, presumably written by another of the Fighting Reverends, George Alcock MacDonnell, appeared in the Illustrated Sporting and Dramatic News.

“He preferred being wrong with the books to being right with the innovators.”: yes, we all know players like this! It sounds like he was a solid and knowledgeable player, but perhaps lacking either the inspiration or the opportunity to reach master standard. A true and enthusiastic lover of chess, though, amiable, good-hearted and right-principled. A devotee of Caïssa could hardly hope for a better obituary.

The reference to Boden’s board and men is rather odd: I suspect there’s a mistake and it was actually Sam B who presented his set to Sam E before his death, not the other way round. I wonder what happened to the set: does anyone know? Perhaps it was handed down to one of his children.

That’s the end – at least for the time being – of Samuel Walter Earnshaw’s story. It’s not the end of my story, though.

Let me take you back to the church of St Giles, Nether Whitacre, on 30 December 1866. The foundation dates back to Norman times, but by then it may have been in a state of disrepair, as it would be rebuilt in 1870, not long after Samuel Earnshaw’s departure.

It’s the Sunday after Christmas, so the congregation will still be celebrating the birth of Christ  as well as looking forward to the new year ahead. There, we see the Houghton family (they pronounced it Howton rather than Horton, I believe). They’re a bunch of, frankly, rather undistinguished farm labourers, like most of the parishioners, but they’re dressed up in their finery today for the baptism of baby William. We really want to talk to his Aunt Jane, though, a sister of Will’s father George. She’s ten years old and proud to be wearing her Sunday best. Shall we reveal what her future holds?

Jane will marry a man named Charles Woolley, a blacksmith from Berkswell, some ten miles to the south of Nether Whitacre. She will present him with four strong and healthy sons, but their two youngest children will sadly die in infancy.

Their oldest son, Thomas, will become a farmer: he and his wife Kate will have to wait 15 years, though, for their only daughter to be born. After Janet’s birth, her mother will be confined in the county Lunatic Asylum, perhaps suffering from what would now be called post-natal depression. Tom, needing help with the farm and the new baby, employs a housekeeper, a middle-aged widow named Florence Smith. One thing leads to another, and, by the time Kate returns home, Flo is expecting Tom’s child. It’s now 1921, and Betty will be brought up by two of Flo’s many sisters, moving to another part of the country to escape from the scandal which had made headlines in the local press. Betty will never be told the identity of her father. History doesn’t record whether or not Jane met, or even knew about, her granddaughter.

In time, Betty will marry, and her elder son will take up chess. He’ll develop an interest in chess history, and, in 2020, will be asked to review a book called Steinitz in London, where he will come across the name of Samuel Walter Earnshaw.

We’ll now travel back in time half a century, to Easter 1971, where, at Hammersmith Town Hall, he will encounter chess journalist and former international Leonard Barden, who, himself, fifty years on and now in his nineties, still writes excellent chess columns.

We’ll now go back to 1948-49, where a young Leonard Barden finished second in the Premier Reserves Major Section in the annual Hastings Congress. Among his opponents was the veteran German master Jacques Mieses. You’ll see that the game was drawn, but the moves were never published and Leonard didn’t keep his scoresheet, so I’m afraid you’ll have to make do with the crosstable.

Let’s turn the clock back again, more than half a century this time, but we’re still in Hastings, for the great 1895 tournament. A young Mieses is there too, along with the former, and first official, World Champion Wilhelm (or William if you prefer) Steinitz.

Their game was also a draw, although my fishy friend tells me Steinitz had a clear advantage at a couple of points. Mieses did well to hold on and share the point.

And, with the Steinitz – Earnshaw games you saw at the start of the article, we complete the circle. I played Barden, who played Mieses, who played Steinitz, who played the Reverend Samuel Walter Earnshaw, who knew my great grandmother, the scion of a family of humble agricultural labourers.


Online family trees and newspaper articles from and (both £)

Samuel Earnshaw (

Yorkshire Chess History (

St Giles’, Nether Whitacre – ourparishwls


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