Category Archives: Beginner

The Chess Heroes Books

Are you rated below 1500?

Do you have friends who are rated below 1500?

Are any members of your chess club rated below 1500?

Do you have any students rated  below 1500?

If so, you’ll really want to take a look at my Chess Heroes books: a unique series of volumes taking players from learning the basics through to club standard and beyond. There’s nothing else like these books on the market. They’re based on 50 years experience teaching chess, using my private RJCC database of almost 17000 games played at this level. Every word and every position is there for a reason.

No gimmicks. No short cuts. No idle promises. Just simple no-nonsense instruction providing all the knowledge and skills you need, along with hard work and seriousness of purpose, to succeed at chess.

This is the starter book (0-500 range) explaining what a game of chess is really about. If you just want to learn the basics, this is for you.

If you want to take the game further, these four books, designed to be read in parallel, are what you require.

Written for players of about 500-1000 strength, if you’ve understood everything here you’ll be able to go along to your local chess club and play some social games without being totally outclassed. You might even be able to play lower level competitive chess if you want.

By now you may be eager to learn more. If you’re around 1000-1500 level, these books will help you make further progress. The Puzzles book is exactly what it says on the cover, while the Games book uses the ‘How Good is Your Chess’ format where you play through the games guessing the next move. I’ll soon be starting work on the second books for publication towards the end of 2024.

You can order them from Amazon here. You’ll see that I also have free downloads available if you want to have a look  before you buy, or if, for instance, you want to print off some of the puzzle pages for your own or your students’ use.

I’d recommend you also read this blog post explaining some of the theory behind my teaching and writing.

Please do take a look, and if you like what you see, support me by purchases and 5* reviews!


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Everyone’s First Chess Workbook: Fundamental Tactics and Checkmates for Improvers

Everyone’s First Chess Workbook: Peter Giannatos

Everyone's First Chess Workbook: Fundamental Tactics and Checkmates for Improvers, Peter Giannatos, New in Chess, New In chess (6 Sept. 2021), ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-9056919887
Everyone’s First Chess Workbook: Fundamental Tactics and Checkmates for Improvers, Peter Giannatos, New in Chess, New In chess (6 Sept. 2021), ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-9056919887

From the publisher’s blurb:

“Working on chess tactics and checkmates will help you win more games. It develops your pattern recognition and your board vision’ your ability to capitalize on opportunities.

This Workbook features a complete set of fundamental tactics, checkmate patterns, exercises, hints, and solutions. Peter Giannatos selected 738 exercises based on ten years of experience with thousands of pupils at the prize-winning Charlotte Chess Center. All problems are clean, without unnecessary fluff that detracts from their instructive value.

The Workbook has ample room for writing down the solutions to the exercises. This is helpful for both students and coaches, who can assign homework from the book without having to worry about being unable to review the solutions. And writing down the correct chess moves will greatly accelerate your learning process.

Everyone’s First Chess Workbook offers you a treasure trove of chess knowledge and more than enough lessons to keep you busy for a year!”

“Peter Giannatos is the founder and executive director of the Charlotte Chess Center & Scholastic Academy, in Charlotte, North Carolina, USA. Peter has been teaching and organizing chess for more than 10 years. As a teenager, he boosted his chess rating from 589 to over 2000 USCF in less than four years. Since then, Peter has achieved both the FIDE Master title and the US Chess National Master title. He now spends most of his time teaching his students the same techniques he used to rapidly improve.”

Peter Giannatos
Peter Giannatos

As with every recent New in Chess publication high quality paper is used 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”.

Figurine algebraic notation is used throughout and the diagrams are placed adjacent to the relevant text. Being a workbook the layout is quite different to most from New in Chess. It is superbly laid out and attractively produced.

We are constantly reminded that size does not matter when it comes to chess books, however, this new book from New in Chess immediately creates an impression. Weighing in at just under a kilogram and sporting dimensions of 22 x 2 x 28 cm this must be NICs largest publication for a very long time.

This is a workbook containing generous space for the recording of answers to the puzzles  and the making of notes. Usually there are three positions per page with the positions occupying the left hand column and the answer space the right hand column. The carefully worded solutions are all contained in Part IV meaning bumping into the solutions accidentally is easily avoided.

Before we go further we may Look Inside which included the following Table of Contents:

Table of Contents. Part 1
Table of Contents. Part 1
Table of Contents. Part 2
Table of Contents. Part 2

The author has assembled a collection of 738 exercises of which 692 are examined by way of a test and the balance are examples.

The approach is to

  1. Provide a definition of what the exercise theme is about,
  2. Give around a dozen “Guided Examples” in which there is a strong hint
  3. Set around 20 or more test exercises with no hint

If you solve tactics puzzles on a regular basis then the bulk of the exercises will not challenge you with the exceptions of Chapters 20, Combinations/Setting Up Tactics and the interesting Chapter 21, Finish Like The World Champions.

Chapter 19 is very much in the style of the legendary book, Art of Attack in Chess by Vladimir Vuković in that the author provides examples of named checkmating patterns introducing the “Kill Box” and Vuković’s checkmates not mentioned by name in the original book. To find out what these are you will need to buy the book!

In our opinion, this is the perfect trainer for

  • Adult beginners
  • Adults returning to the game after a long lay-off
  • Juniors of secondary school age
  • coaches / teachers needing examples for their students

The explanations are crystal clear with no undefined jargon or strange expressions.

Firstly, we liked the correct use of terminology in that all pieces are shown giving forks including pawns and kings. Some texts believe that the label “fork” should be reserved purely for knights and that the other pieces deliver double attacks: Hurrah for this correct approach.

Secondly, the author differentiates between skewer and X-Ray and clearly shows the difference. For example this (#205) is a skewer:

once Black has found the correct move. On the other hand, this (#354), with Black to move,

is designated as an X-Ray tactic.

The bonus section of the book has to be Chapter 21, Finish Like the World Champions, which features 47 exercises from games of the sixteen world champions from Steinitz to Carlsen. Part of the exercise is to describe the themes used in the example. Here is a nice finish from the tenth World Champion, Boris Vasilievich Spasski in the 1960 game from Kislovodsk, Kuznetsov vs Spasski:

In summary, Peter Giannatos has created a unique and instructive trainer for a market that has been little satisfied and that is the post-Queen’s Gambit / lockdown created adult beginner. It has been superbly produced by New in Chess in a format quite new to them.

So, if you know of adults new or returning to chess then you could easily recommend this. Juniors of secondary school age new to chess will also benefit.

An excellent piece of work!

John Upham, Cove, Hampshire, January 5th 2022

John Upham
John Upham

Book Details :

  • Hardcover : 344 pages
  • Publisher:New In chess (6 Sept. 2021)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10:9056919881
  • ISBN-13:978-9056919887
  • Product Dimensions:  22 x 2 x 28 cm and 0.995 Kg

Official web site of New in Chess

Everyone's First Chess Workbook: Fundamental Tactics and Checkmates for Improvers, Peter Giannatos, New in Chess, New In chess (6 Sept. 2021), ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-9056919887
Everyone’s First Chess Workbook: Fundamental Tactics and Checkmates for Improvers, Peter Giannatos, New in Chess, New In chess (6 Sept. 2021), ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-9056919887
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Basic Chess

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

From the publisher:

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

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

End of blurb.

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

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

From David’s coaching web site we have

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Basic Chess is divided into twelve main sections as follows:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

John Upham
John Upham

Book Details :

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

Official web site of Octopus Books

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