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Secrets of Queen Endgames

Secrets of Queen Endgames: Ferenc Berkes and Tibor Karolyi

From the publisher:

A revolutionary new work on a notoriously challenging type of chess endgame

Queen endgames can seem unfathomably complicated. Computers have provided complete information for some of the basic queen and pawn endings, but human understanding has proved elusive.

In this ground-breaking work, two Hungarian authors have gone to extraordinary lengths to explain strategies and methods in queen endgames. Rather than a random series of checks, we can now understand king and queen triangulations that gradually bring the pieces to the squares they need to be to engineer the killer tactic that completes the process. Berkes and Karolyi have devised guidelines that help us judge what we need to aim for, and provided a broad set of tools to help us achieve these goals.

Going beyond previous texts, the authors have used not just seven-man tablebases and modern engines, but the specialized program FinalGen to delve with the same certainty into endgames with many more pawns. But most of all, they have spent thousands of hours seeking to present the whole truth about queen endings in human terms. Their wide-ranging discussion of shelters is especially instructive.”

  • A definitive guide to a fundamental class of endgames
  • Explains all types of endings with queens and pawns
  • A wealth of guidelines for handling positions with many pawns
  • Spectacular and previously unpublished endgame studies
  • Thoroughly up to date, with more than 1000 chess diagrams

Ferenc Berkes is a grandmaster from Hungary. A former World Under-18 Champion, he was won the championship of his country on eight occasions. He plays team chess in several European leagues. IM Tibor Karolyi is also from Hungary. His many pupils have included super-GMs Peter Leko and Judit Polgar, and he is a highly experienced chess writer.

To get some idea of the book Gambit (via Amazon) provide a “Look Inside” at their Kindle edition. As you would expect with Gambit, the notation is English short form algebraic using figurines for pieces. A previous criticism (ibid) has been addressed in that each diagram has a W or B “whose move it is” indicator.

The book is divided into 9 chapters as follows :

  1. Extreme Tactics in Queen Endings
  2. Tools in Queen Endings
    Technical Queen Endgames
  3. Queen and Pawn vs Queen
  4. All the Pawns on the Same Side
  5. Extra Outside Passed Pawn
    Practical and Strategic Queen Endgames
  6. The Pawn
  7. The Queen
  8. The King
  9. Complex Queen Endgames

Here on YouTube John Nunn gives the reader an introduction to the book :

This book is a superb tour de force covering a complex subject that has not been covered so extensively before. My short review cannot really do justice to this magnus opus.

The book is aimed at expert players, probably 2200 and above. The vast majority of GMs would learn a lot from this book. Despite  these comments, it is the reviewer’s opinion that any aspiring, improving player would benefit from reading the more general chapters 1, 2, 5, 6, 7, 8. The pure technical chapters 3 and 4 are certainly more abstruse but very instructive: the authors don’t just give long variations but intersperse these with pithy, useful comments.

The short first chapter really introduces the power of the queen with a mixture of studies and over the board positions.

Chapter 1: Extreme Tactics in Queen Endings

Here is an amazing and stunning study by Rusz:

Rusz 2022 White to play and win
Rusz 2022 White to play and win

Black is threatening to mate with Qa1+, so white plays 1.Qf6!!

Rusz 2022 Position after 1.Qf6 mutual zugzwang
Rusz 2022 Position after 1.Qf6 mutual zugzwang Black to move

Amazingly, this is a position of mutual zugzwang as White to play only draws, whereas Black to play loses. It is hard to believe that in an open position with three queens each, having the move is a disadvantage!
Black can try 1…Qad8_ 2.Qaxd8 Qxd8+ 3.Qxd8 Qf1+ 4.Kc2 Qf2+

Rusz 2022 Position after 4...Qf2+
Rusz 2022 Position after 4…Qf2+ White to move

5.Qd2 (The careless 5.Kb3? allows a standard trick 5…Qg3+ 6.Qxg3 stalemate, always watch out for this type of idea in queen endings) 5…Qc5+ 6.Kd1 Qc2+

Rusz 2022 Position after 6...Qc2+
Rusz 2022 Position after 6…Qc2+ White to move

7.Ke2! Black has run out of useful checks, so white wins

Here is a practical example showing many important principles in queen and pawn endings:

Percivaldi - Thybo Danish League 2021-2 Position after 42.Qd5+
Percivaldi – Thybo Danish League 2021-2 Position after 42.Qd5+ Black to move

White has three pawns for a bishop, but the most important feature of the position is black’s far advanced passed a-pawn. In queen endgames, it’s the degree of advancement of passed pawns that is all important, not the number of pawns. Black correctly shed the bishop with his next move:

42…Kc7! 43.Qf7+ Kb6 44. Qxf8 Kb5!

Percivaldi-Thybo Danish League 2021-2 Position after 44...Kb5
Percivaldi-Thybo Danish League 2021-2 Position after 44…Kb5 White to move

White is three pawns up but is totally lost. White’s only potentially useful pawn is the d-pawn as it’s closest to queening, but white is just too far behind in the race. Black’s king will shelter behind the white’s pawns, there is no chance of a perpetual check.

45.Qe8+ Kb4 46.Qb8+ Ka4 47.Qg8 Trying to bar the king’s progress, but to no avail. 47…Qc2! (47…Qb3 also wins) 48.Qe8+ Kb4 49.Qb8+ Kc3 50.Kg2 a2 51.d5 Using a little tactic to prevent queening and putting black under a little pressure

Percivaldi-Thybo Danish League 2021-2 Position after 51.d5
Percivaldi-Thybo Danish League 2021-2 Position after 51.d5 Black to move

51…Qb2? A poor move deactivating the queen allowing white an amazing draw which he misses, the obvious 51…Qe4+ 52.Kh3  Qxd5 eliminating white’s counterplay, followed by putting the king behind white’s pawns wins easily, 51…Qd1! also wins watching White’s d-pawn and preparing to promote, after 52.Qe5+ Kc2 53.Qe4+ Kb3 54.d6 a1=Q wins as does 54…Qxd6

White missed a clever draw and black won after a slugfest in a four queen ending. Buy the book to see this entertainment.

Chapter 2: Tools in Queen Endings

This is an excellent toolbox chapter that covers the follows topics:

The Queen Triangulates
Cutting Off the King
Batteries and Discovered Checks
Pinning Down a Piece
Exploiting the Opponent’s Harmful Pawn
Zugzwangs

These ideas are absolutely key themes in queen endings. This section is definitely worthy of examination.

The reviewer will show  examples from many of the themes in turn:

The Queen Triangulates
The author  explains the concept concisely:
“In queen endings, there are more zugzwangs than most players would assume. We shall see many examples where the attacker’s king manoeuvres to give up the right to move – a familiar theme from pawn endings, but more surprising with queens on the board. But the queen itself can also lose a tempo by a form of triangulation. It usually happens when the defender’s king is in danger.”

Here is another Rusz study showing this idea:

Rusz 2022 Queen Triangulation
Rusz 2022 Queen Triangulation White to play and win

This positions look ok for black as he has White’s passed pawn under control. 1.Qg5+ Ke8 2.Qc5! 2…a3! 3.Qe3+! Kd8 4.Qg5+ Ke8 5.Qc5! completing the first triangulation

Rusz 2022 Queen Triangulation Position after 5.Qc5
Rusz 2022 Queen Triangulation Position after 5.Qc5 Black to play

5…a6 forced 6.Qe3+ Kd8 7.Qg5+ Ke8 8.Qc5! another triangulation completed 8…a5 9.Qe3+ Kd8 10.Qg5+ Ke8 11.Qc5! a4 12. Qe3+ Kd8 13.Qg5+ Ke8 14.Qc5! zugzwang wins

Rusz 2022 Queen Triangulation Position after 14.Qc5
Rusz 2022 Queen Triangulation Position after 14.Qc5 Black to play

14…Qc8+ (14…Kd8 15.Qf8# ends the suffering) 15.Ka7 Qc7+ 16.Ka6 wins black’s pawns and the game

Cutting Off the King

This principle can be used by the stronger side or the weaker side to prevent the opposing king getting to a desirable area.  For example, the stronger side can use this technique in Q+P v Q to cut off the defender’s king from a drawing zone.  The example below shows the defending side successfully using this theme in an over the board game:

Lupulescu - Sarakauskas After move 46.Qxg5
Lupulescu – Sarakauskas After move 46.Qxg5 Black to play

White has just taken the pawn on g5, black can now draw with an accurate sequence of checks: 46…Qb1+ 47.Kh2 Qb8+ 48.Kg1 Qb1+ 49.Kh2 Qb8+ 50.Kg1 Qb1+ 51.Kf2 Qc2+ 52.Kf3

Lupulescu - Sarakauskas After move 52.Kf3
Lupulescu – Sarakauskas After move 52.Kf3 Black to play

Black must choose the right check here to draw: 52…Qd1+! (the sloppy 52…Qd3+ 53.Kg4! allows white to approach the h-pawn and win the game) 53.Ke4 Qa4+! not allowing the king to cross the fifth rank 54.Ke3 Qb3+ 55.Kd2 Qb2+ 56.Ke1 Qb1+ 57.Ke2 Qe4+ 58.Qe3 Qxg2+ Black has regained his pawn and drew comfortably

In this famous ending, Black is winning with an extra pawn and centralised queen. He played 62..f5? mobilising the pawn majority

Pillsbury - Burn Vienna 1898 Position after 62.Qe2
Pillsbury – Burn Vienna 1898 Position after 62.Qe2 Black to move

Better was 62…Kd6! activating the king trying to cross over to white’s queenside pawns: white cannot defend against the twin threats of the king invasion and the advance of the kingside pawn majority. After 62…f5? white took the opportunity to make Black’s life very difficult 63.Qb5! cutting the king off from white’s queenside. White missed a probable difficult draw and black eventually won.

Batteries and Discovered Checks

From the author: “Powerful ideas in queen endings include forcing an exchange of queens and launching an attack on the enemy king. Usually the queen harasses the enemy ling by giving checks, but sometimes setting up a battery is stronger than the immediate check. Players often miss such an opportunity, or the potential to play for it. The attacker typically uses a battery to attack the opponent’s king or to win a tempo and stop the opponent’s queen from continuously checking by stepping out the check with a cross check.”

This practical example is instructive:

Ni Hua - Berkes Taiyuan 2006 Position after 56...Kh6
Ni Hua – Berkes Taiyuan 2006 Position after 56…Kh6 White to move

White played 57.Qxd5 winning a pawn, 57… Qe3+ (black can also draw with the flashy 57…Qf6+ or 57…Qg4+ or 57…Qa4+) 58.Kf6 Qf2+ (58…Qf3!+ draws easily, 59.Qxf3 is stalemate, and 59.Kf6 Qc3+ draws) 59. Qf5 Qh4+ 60.Ke6 Qc4+ 61. Qd5 This position is getting difficult for black,  but there are still six drawing moves, Black choose a terrible check 61…Qa6??+ 62.Qd6! setting up a deadly battery 62…Qe2+ 63.Kd5+ 1-0 as white exchanges queens

Ni Hua - Berkes Taiyuan 2006 Position after 61.Qd5
Ni Hua – Berkes Taiyuan 2006 Position after 61.Qd5 Black to move

Pinning Down a Piece

Portisch - Morovic Dubai Olympiad 1986 Position after 103...Qe6
Portisch – Morovic Dubai Olympiad 1986 Position after 103…Qe6 White to move

White played 104.Kc2? and lost . Portisch missed a brilliant move here 104.Qd4!! which amazingly draws, after 104…b3 105.Qd3! attacks the pawn and paralyses the Black queen.

Exploiting the Opponent’s Harmful Pawn

There are many example in the ending Q+P v Q+P where the defending side (player with the pawn that’s least advanced) loses because the extra pawn is harmful blocking defender’s queen checks and/or providing shelter to the stronger side’s king. An example is given below:

Boleslavsky - Taimanov Zurich Candidates 1953 Position after 42...c1Q
Boleslavsky – Taimanov Zurich Candidates 1953 Position after 42…c1Q White to move

White played 43.Qb8+ which wins but Boleslavsky messed up later on. In some ways 43.h4 is simpler. A possible line is 43.h4 Qc2+ 44. Qg6 Qxa4 45.h5 Qxa2 reaching this position:

Boleslavsky - Taimanov Zurich Candidates 1953 Variation position after 45...Qxa2
Boleslavsky – Taimanov Zurich Candidates 1953 Variation position after 45…Qxa2 White to move

Without Black’s b-pawn this is a tablebase draw but not easy in practice. With the b-pawn, Black is losing after 46.Kg7!! The pawn blocks the g1-a7 diagonal.

The next huge section of the book is all about Technical Endgames.

Chapter 3: Queen and Pawn vs Queen

This is in some ways the core of the book with 65 pages devoted to this basic ending. But it is anything but basic!

Each pawn is covered in turn starting with the rook’s pawn working towards the centre pawn. Within each pawn’s section, positions are covered from the second rank to the seventh rank. It is certainly a systematic approach.

It is clear that the least favourable pawn is the rook’s pawn, followed by the knight’s pawn. It may surprise some readers to know that the bishop’s pawn is the most favourable.

Rook’s Pawn
These are the authors’ conclusions:
“The closer the pawn get to promotion, the harder it becomes to hold.
In the case of a white a7-pawn:
Black’s safest option is to get really close to the pawn, at least to the d-file.
The h1-corner is a draw for black’s king, but in practice the defence will require a lot of concentration.
The a1-corner is the second least difficult location for the defender’s king.
In case the black king gets trapped in the h8-corner, there is only one mutual zugzwang position that might save the defender.”

The reviewer will show a few positions:

Honfi - Toth Budapest Ch 1966 Position after 89...Qd1+
Honfi – Toth Budapest Ch 1966 Position after 89…Qd1+ White to play

This position is a tablebase draw  particularly as black’s king is fairly close to the h1 corner.
White played 90.Kb4
The author adds a didactic comment: “Ever since the famous Minev -Botvinnik game in 1954, we know the player with the extra pawn should look to put his king on the same or neighbouring file or rank as the opponent’s king. This creates chances for a cross check or to set up a battery.”

The game continued for another 61 moves until this position was reached:

Honfi - Toth Budapest Ch 1966 Position after 151.Kc7
Honfi – Toth Budapest Ch 1966 Position after 151.Kc7 Black to play

Black’s king is not ideally placed, but he can draw with the correct check. Black played 151…Qe7+? (151…Qf7+ draws as 152.Kc8 is met by 152…Qf5+ drawing, Gelfand has made an observation, if in doubt check on the opposite colour square to your king, obviously this not a hard and fast rule) 152.Kc8! Black has run out of checks because of the king on h4. White now plays superbly to bring home the full point fully exploiting the badly placed black king 152…Qe4 153.Qc5!

Honfi - Toth Budapest Ch 1966 Position after 153.Qc5
Honfi – Toth Budapest Ch 1966 Position after 153.Qc5

153…Qe6+ 154.Kc7 Qf7+ 155.Kb6 Qb3+ 156.Ka5!

Honfi - Toth Budapest Ch 1966 Position after 156.Ka5
Honfi – Toth Budapest Ch 1966 Position after 156.Ka5

A standard winning technique in Q+P v Q The author comments thus: “White approaches the rank of Black’s king. Now 156…Qa2+ would be the last check, as it is met by 157.Kb5. from this point, the win is easy, as White can promote after some checks.”

156…Qf3 157.Qc4+ Kh5 158.Kb6 Qf6+ 159.Qc6 Qd8+ 160.Kb7 Qe7+ 161.Ka6 Qa3+ 162.Kb6 exploiting black’s king position again, there are no more checks, so 1-0

Honfi - Toth Budapest Ch 1966 Position after 162.Kb6
Honfi – Toth Budapest Ch 1966 Position after 162.Kb6

The reviewer adds an observation: when the black king is in or near the h1-corner, it is much harder for White to manoeuvre his king to an adjoining rank/file and keep his pieces coordinated as well as the pawn safe.

Gligoric - Timman Bugojno 1980 Position after 60...g1Q
Gligoric – Timman Bugojno 1980 Position after 60…g1Q White to play

This is a tablebase draw as white’s king is close to the best corner (a8) but an experienced top GM still lost this position thirty moves later. This shows how hard it is in practice. The book has some excellent coverage of this endgame viz:

Honfi - Toth Budapest Ch 1966 Position after 84...Kc3
Gligoric – Timman Bugojno 1980 Position after 84…Kc3 White to move

This position is still a draw.
“White should also wait with 85.Ke5, or he could move closer to the corner with 85.Kf7 or 85.Kf6”

White played the obvious centralising check 85.Qe5+? which loses, black replied with the 85…Kc2? (85…Kd2! wins: the analysis is worth looking at just to see the process as Black uses triangulation and White’s poorly placed king to escape the checks, get the book to find out)

Honfi - Toth Budapest Ch 1966 Position after 85...Kc2
Gligoric – Timman Bugojno 1980 Position after  85…Kc2 White to play

In this position White can draw. Over to the authors: “86.Qf4!! is the right move. But why? If it Black’s turn to move in the diagram, Qf3 would cut off the white king and win. The queen on f4 stops that. If 86…Kd1 87.Kf7!= (87.Kf6 also draws)  87…Qe2 88.Qd4+ only move 88…Kc2 89.Qa4+ holds or 89.Qc5+ or 89.Qf4! h2 90.Qa4+ draws”

This subtle, underlying battle of the cut off is amazing. The game continued with 86.Qh2+? Kd1!  Once again the king approaches the neighbouring file of the enemy king 87.Qh1+ Kd2 88.Kf6 (the authors note that if white’s king could move to the c-file he would draw, the win after 88.Ke7 is very instructive as black triangulates again, get the book to find out how)

Gligoric - Timman Bugojno 1980 Position after 88.Kf6
Gligoric – Timman Bugojno 1980 Position after 88.Kf6 Black to move

Timman misses a fairly simple idea to win quickly here 88…Qg3! He played 88…Qe3? This throws away all the hard work. White can draw with 89.Qh2+ and then run with the king towards the h8 corner. White blundered with 89.Kf5? A fatigue blunder allowing 89…Qf2+ 90.Ke5 Qe1+ exchanging queens 0-1

Knight’s Pawn

This is the authors’ observations:
“This situation occurs more often in practice than Q+P v Q with other pawns. This type of pawn has some unique features. for example, the attacker’s king has more scope for hiding near the pawn then it does behind a rook’s pawn, but less room compared to a bishop’s pawn. There is a drawing zone that often exists for the defender’s king in the far corner from the promotion square.”
The reviewer adds the proviso: but even this depends on the exact position of the queens of course.

Lenart position
Lenart position after 19…Qxh3

This is position from an unknown composer/player. Surprisingly White wins here even with the black king so close. White plays 20.Qc6! which is a standard cut off move. The winning process here takes 75 moves with perfect defence. There are some mind boggling triangulations with white’s king to wrong foot the black queen. Buy the book to find out how.

Here is a position with a knight’s pawn on the fifth rank.

Zurakhov - Boleslavsky Riga 1955 Position after 73...e1Q
Zurakhov – Boleslavsky Riga 1955 Position after 73…e1Q White to play

White wins here with the brilliant 74.Qf8+ Kg4 75.Qa3!! cutting black’s king off from the drawing zone. Zurakhov played 74.Qc8? throwing away the win but he won anyway on move 119.

Once the knight’s pawn reaches the seventh rank, the defender’s king has to stay in the opposite corner. This is the type of position the attacking side should aim for:

Cheron 1968
Cheron 1968 Black to play loses

Apparently with a g-pawn on g7, the d4 is vitally important for the stronger side’s queen.

Bishop’s Pawn

There is no drawing zone for the defender’s king (unless of course the king can get in front of the pawn).

Velimirovic - Uhlmann Arandjelovac Zonal play-off 1976 Position after 55.Kxa6
Velimirovic – Uhlmann Arandjelovac Zonal play-off 1976 Position after 55.Kxa6

This is a technical win for Black: 55…Qg4! is an excellent cut-off preparing to activate the king. Uhlmann played this ending well not letting the win slip at any point. This ending is worth close study.

Centre Pawn

Jevtic - Vujacic (analysis) Belgrade 2008
Jevtic – Vujacic (analysis) Belgrade 2008

1.Qxf7+ Ke3! the only winning move.

If white’s king was on h1, he would draw as his king would be in the small drawing zone on the short side of the pawn. 2.Qg8 Qd5+ (a series of queen checks to force white’s king to the unfavourable long side of the pawn) 3. Kc1 Qh1+ 4.Kb2 Qe4!

Jevtic - Vujacic (analysis) Belgrade 2008 Position after 4...Qe4
Jevtic – Vujacic (analysis) Belgrade 2008 Position after 4…Qe4 White to move

5. Qg1+ Ke2 6.Qh2+ Kc3 7.Qg3+ Qe3! 8.Qg6+ Kd2 9.Qc2 Ke1 10.Qb1+ Kf2 stopping the checks, notice how white’s own king impedes his own queen 11.Qh7 e5

Jevtic – Vujacic (analysis) Belgrade 2008 Position after 11…e5 White to move

Nunn comments: “The general theory of queen and pawn against queen tells us that this position is probably winning, because with the centre pawn there is no drawing zone for the white king in a remote corner, and if the defender’s king cannot move in front of the pawn then his chances are grim.”

Chapter 4: All the Pawns on the Same Side

This is a systematic analysis of all the different pawn configurations and is a really technical. For mortals like me, this will take many months to take in, but is nonetheless really interesting.

One surprising conclusion is that a two pawn advantage Q and rook’s pawn + knight’s pawn [gh-0] v Q is drawn in many positions if the defender’s queen and king are actively placed.

Here is a practical example:

Atanasov - Spiridonov Ruse 1978 Position after 68...Kg8
Atanasov – Spiridonov Ruse 1978 Position after 68…Kg8 White to move

How should White capture the Black pawn? On general principles, it looks better to capture with the queen retaining two connected passed pawns. Here both captures win, but generally Q+f+h pawns v Q is a win unless there is an immediate perpetual. Q+g+h pawns v Q is drawn in many cases. After 69.Qxf4?! Qc5+ 70.Kg4? White has thrown the win away:

Atanasov - Spiridonov Ruse 1978 Position after 70.Kg4
Atanasov – Spiridonov Ruse 1978 Position after 70.Kg4

Black played 70…Qc8+ which draws as does 70…Qa7, 70…Qc3, 70…Qc6
The game was drawn after both sides made mistakes.  Instead of 70.Kg4?, 70.Kg6! wins.
This ending is truly complex and worthy of study. Buy the book to find out more.

Chapter 5: Extra Outside Passed Pawn
This is divided into four natural subsections:
Passed Rook’s Pawn
Passed Knight’s Pawn
Passed Bishop’s Pawn
Passed Centre Pawn

The author concentrates on the passed rook’s pawn:
“Firstly, they occur more often than other passed pawns, as is also the case in rook endings. Secondly, the defender has much better drawing chances compared to positions with a c-pawn for example, because the stronger side’s king can’t find shelter around the rook’s pawn. If the attacker’s queen is busy defending the king from checks, there is little capacity left to help the rook’s pawn advance. On the opposite wing from the passed rook’s pawn, exchange of pawns tend to favour the defending side for several reasons:
1) They increase the chance of perpetual check.
2) Less frequently, it may even be possible to simplify to a queen and pawn versus queen endgame by exchanging off all the kingside pawns.”

Here is an excellent demonstration by the strongest player in the world:

Carlsen - Vachier-Lagrave Karlsruhe/Baden-Baden 2019 Position after 32...Kg7
Carlsen – Vachier-Lagrave Karlsruhe/Baden-Baden 2019 Position after 32…Kg7 White to play

Carlsen played the neat 33.Bd5! (33.Qb2+ Kg8 34.a3 Qd3 black is very active and white cannot make progress) 33…Bxd5 34. Qe5+ f6? A serious mistake from a top player as it weakens the king’s shelter. Chapter 8 gives lots of advice and examples about shelters. Much better was 34…Kg8 35.Qxd5 Qa3 36.Qb3 Qc1+ 37.Kg2 h5 38.gxh5 Qg5+ 39.Kh2 Qxh5 and black can hold. 35.Qxd5 h5 (Trying to weaken White’s kingside) 36.gxh5 gxh5 37.Qd7+ Kg6 38.a4

Carlsen - Vachier-Lagrave Karlsruhe/Baden-Baden 2019 Position after 38.a4
Carlsen – Vachier-Lagrave Karlsruhe/Baden-Baden 2019 Position after 38.a4 Black to play

Although both Kings’ shelters have been partially wrecked, Black’s exposed king is more significant as the game continuation shows. 38…Qe2 39.Qd5! Centralisation 39…f5 Black is trying to block in the White king, but this move exposes his own king even more 40.a5 f4 41.Kg2! Kh6 42.Qf5

Carlsen - Vachier-Lagrave Karlsruhe/Baden-Baden 2019 Position after 42.Qf5
Carlsen – Vachier-Lagrave Karlsruhe/Baden-Baden 2019 Position after 42.Qf5 Black to play

42…Qc4 43.Kf3 winning another pawn, so 1-0
Notice how Black’s pawn advances brought down his downfall.

The last four chapters are in a section of the book on
Practical and Strategic Queen Endgames

Chapter 6: The Pawn

The following ideas are discussed:

Breakthrough
Promoting With Check
Reducing the Number of Pawns in Order to Hold the Draw
Pushing a Pawn to Force an Exchange of Queens
Connected Passed Pawns
Gaining Space
Races
Races when Both Sides Have Only One Pawn
Quality vs Quantity
Doubled Pawns

An example from the Quality vs Quantity subsection is given below.
The author states “It’s a well-known and common saying that in queen endgames, ‘it’s not the number of pawns that counts, but their quantity!’ In other types of endgames, the principle of strength in numbers map apply more often, but less so in queen endings.”

This ending has been quoted often:

Stahlberg - Euwe Stockholm Olympiad 1937 Position after 41.Kh2
Stahlberg – Euwe Stockholm Olympiad 1937 Position after 41.Kh2 Black to play

Euwe played the natural centralising move 41…Qd4? which is multi functional, but surprisingly throws away the win.  The h4-pawn is not important here. There is a win with a very subtle move 41…Qd6!!+ which looks like a superfluous check, but forces white to weaken his position.

Stahlberg - Euwe Stockholm Olympiad 1937 Position after 41...Qd6+
Stahlberg – Euwe Stockholm Olympiad 1937 Position after 41…Qd6+ White to play

White now has an invidious choice on how to spoil his position, g3 weakens the king’s shelter and both king moves have their disadvantages. Let’s look at each alternative.
a) 42. g3? Qd4! Now this move gains in strength as white would like to take the f2 pawn exposing White’s king fatally 43.Qb5 Qxf2+ 44.Kh3

Stahlberg - Euwe Stockholm Olympiad 1937 Variation 1 Position after 44.Kh3
Stahlberg – Euwe Stockholm Olympiad 1937 Variation A Position after 44.Kh3 Black to play

Black has two different wins here 44…Qf3! (44…Qf5+ also wins) 45.Kh2 (45.Qxb4? Qh1+ 46.Kg4 Qf1! forcing mate or win of queen) 45…b3 46.a5 Qf2+ 47.Kh3 Qg1! winning

Stahlberg - Euwe Stockholm Olympiad 1937 Variation 1 Position after 47...Qg1
Stahlberg – Euwe Stockholm Olympiad 1937 Variation A Position after 47…Qg1 White to play

48.Qxb3 Qh1+ 49.Kg4 f5+ 50.Kf4 Qe4#

b) 42.Kh3 b3 43.Qb5 (43.Qc3 Qd7+ exploits White’s wins exposed king, winning the a-pawn) Qa3!! This is unconventional move, putting the queen on the side, but it exploits the exposed White king: the threat of a discovered check is fatal for white.

Stahlberg - Euwe Stockholm Olympiad 1937 Variation B Position after 43...Qa3
Stahlberg – Euwe Stockholm Olympiad 1937 Variation B Position after 43…Qa3 White to play

If 44.Qb7 a2+ 45.Kh2 Qa2 wins
If 44.a5 b2+ 45. g3 Qa2 wins as well as 45…Qf3
If 44.h5 b2+ 45.f3 g5 46.Qf5+ Kg7 47.Qe5+ Kg8 48.Qb8+ Kh7 49.Qb7 Qa2 wins

c) 42.Kg1 b3 43.Qb5 Qa3 44.Qc4! b2!!

Stahlberg - Euwe Stockholm Olympiad 1937 Variation C Position after 44...b2
Stahlberg – Euwe Stockholm Olympiad 1937 Variation C Position after 44…b2 White to play

Black gives up three pawns to get his king out of the checks. This is a brilliant example of quality over quantity. 45. Qxf7+ Kh8 46.Qf6+ Kg8 47.Qxg6+ Kf8 48.Qxh6+ Ke7 49.Qg7+ Ke6 50.Qg8+ Kd5 51.Qg7+ Kd5 52.Qf7+ Kg4 53.Qg7+ Kc4 54.Qf7+ Kc3 55.Qf3+! Kb4 56.Qb7+ Kxa4 57.Qa6+ Kb3 58.Qe6+ Kc2

Stahlberg - Euwe Stockholm Olympiad 1937 Variation C Position after 58...Kc2
Stahlberg – Euwe Stockholm Olympiad 1937 Variation C Position after 58…Kc2 White to play

Now after the obvious 59.Qe2+ black plays 59…Kb1!!
The author explains why this wins: “Although Black is two pawns down and apparently has no shelter, he can win. The white king has to give up the back rank due to threats of crosschecks, after which the black king can find shelter on f1! For this reason, sacrificing the f2-pawn is inevitable. Then, in marvellous variations, White, can be forced into zugzwang where he either loses his h-pawn or is force to play Kh3, which means that the black king can find a shelter on g1, which decides the battle.”

Back to the game continuation, after 41…Qd4? 42.Kg3? White defends a pawn with little value and exposes his king fatally. 42.Qb5! draws easily viz: 42…Qxh4+ 43.Kg1 Qe4 44.a5 Qb1+ 45.Kh2 b3 46.Qb7 Kg7 47.a6 Qa2 48.a7 b2= The best Black can achieve here is Q+3 v Q+2 all on one side which is a draw.

Stahlberg - Euwe Stockholm Olympiad 1937 Missed draw in game
Stahlberg – Euwe Stockholm Olympiad 1937 Missed draw in game Position after 48…b2 White to play

After 42.Kg3? this is the position:

Stahlberg - Euwe Stockholm Olympiad 1937 After fatal mistake 42.Kg3
Stahlberg – Euwe Stockholm Olympiad 1937 After fatal mistake 42.Kg3 Black to play

Black exploited the exposed white king as follows: 42…b3 43.Qb5 b2 44.Qb3 Kg7! winning 45.f4 (Other moves lose as well, for example 45.a5 Qe5+ 46.Kf3 Qf5+) 45… Qd2 0-1

A really instructive game.

Chapter 7: The Queen

The following ideas are discussed:

Exchanging Queens
Zwischenzugs
Passive and Active Queens
Neutralizing Queens
The Queen has Multiple Tasks
Restraining an Enemy Passed Pawn from Behind
Superfluous Checks

The reviewer will show an example on the topic of superfluous checks. The author explains: “In many positions there is no clear plan to implement, and in this case having the move in an over-the-board game creates tension. Rather than finding something constructive to do, or at least find a move that doesn’t compromise their position, players often insert an exchange or a pointless check. Either can harm their position.”

Miron - Lupulescu Romanian Team Ch Sovata 2018 Position after 36...Qf6
Miron – Lupulescu Romanian Team Ch Sovata 2018 Position after 36…Qf6 White to play

This position is objectively equal, although Black’s position looks slightly superior as his pawn majority has been mobilised. White’s pieces are well placed. 37.b4 is equal, but simpler is probably 37.exf5 Qxf5+ 38.Ke2 Qc2+ 39.Qd2 Qe4+ 40.Qe3 is equal, Black has no realistic winning chances.

White played 37.Ke2?! So Black responded with the obvious 37..f4 gaining space and creating a passed pawn 38.Qa7+? The superfluous check that loses. The author quotes John Nunn here: “Nunn pinpoints the basic truth that many people think they must keep giving checks in queen endings. this is one of the most common conceptual mistakes.” 38.Qd3! holds 38…Kg6 39.b4! getting the queen side pawns going draws 38…Kh6

Miron - Lupulescu Romanian Team Ch Sovata 2018 Position after 38...Kh6
Miron – Lupulescu Romanian Team Ch Sovata 2018 Position after 38…Kh6 White to play

After two poor strategic moves, White is totally lost. After 39.Qd7? (39.Qf2 is more resilient but still loses after 39…Kg5)  39…fxg3! won easily as Black’s king can shelter near his passed pawn.

Chapter 8: The King

These topics are covered:

Attacking The King
Stalemate
Avoiding Stalemate
Perpetual Check
Shelters

The section on Shelters is really important and is broken down into 9 further sub-sections:
The Importance of a Good Shelter
Weakening Our Own Shelter
Failing To Reach a Shelter
Invading and Destroying Shelters
Unusual Shelters
Leaving The Shelter to Support Pawns on the Other Wing
Leaving the Shelter to Exchange Queens
Leaving The Shelter to Win a Pawn
Breaking Open The Shelter with Pawn Sacrifices

Here is an example from the Weakening Our Own Shelter section.

Tal - Tseshkovsky Riga 1981 Position after 39...Qg4
Tal – Tseshkovsky Riga 1981 Position after 39…Qg4 White to play

The great Tal made a serious mistake here in a winning queen endgame 40.f3? Voluntarily weakening his king’s shelter: a poor move from a great player. 40.Qd5 centralising the queen wins easily 40…Qc8 41.Qd2 b5 42.Qb4 wins or 40…b5 41.a4 wins 40…Qd7 41.Qd5 Qc7 42.Qd2 b5 43.a3 (43.a4 bxa4 44.bxa4 Qc4 45.a5 Kg6 holding) Qc5 44.Qa2 Qc1 draw agreed

Chapter 9 Complex Queen Endgames rounds off the book with the study of some intricate endings.

This is a great book and is thoroughly recommended. Be prepared to put in some hard work.

FM Richard Webb, Chineham, Hampshire, 17th June 2024

FM Richard Webb
FM Richard Webb

Book Details :

  • Hardcover : 384 pages
  • Publisher: Gambit Publications (27 Nov. 2023)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1805040634
  • ISBN-13: 978-1805040637
  • Product Dimensions: 15.6 x 2.69 x 23.39 cm

Official web site of Gambit Publications Ltd.

Secrets of Queen Endgames, Ferenc Berkes and Tibor Karolyi , Gambit Publications, ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-1805040637
Secrets of Queen Endgames, Ferenc Berkes and Tibor Karolyi , Gambit Publications, ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-1805040637
 Save as PDF

Understanding Pawn Endgames

Understanding Pawn Endgames: Valentin Bogdanov

From the publisher, Gambit Publications “Understanding the endgame is fundamental to playing good chess, and at its heart lie positions where just kings and pawns remain on the board.

Even when a pawn ending is not actually reached, the players must often assess ones that could arise from an exchange of pieces. And an error calculating a pawn ending is normally fatal. Questions of pawn-structure, and thus decisions made early in the game, can be fully understood only when we appreciate how they impact the possible pawn endings.

This book takes a practical angle, so is the perfect complement to Secrets of Pawn Endings, which examines their theory in detail. Experienced trainer Bogdanov examines a wealth of pawn endings where strong players made significant errors, and draws lessons and rules of thumb from them.

While we are enjoying the entertaining material in this book, we are painlessly absorbing endgame principles and improving our intuitive decision-making skills. We learn how to calculate and identify key positional elements, and appreciate the beautiful tactics and paradoxical ideas that are unique to the world of pawns.

The Nunn Convention is used throughout the book, and all the material has been checked in detail with modern NNUE-based engines with access to seven-man tablebases.”

International Master Valentin Bogdanov has vast experience as a chess trainer, and is from Ukraine. His pupils include grandmasters Moskalenko, Savchenko and Drozdovsky, and he has acted as a second for the well-known grandmaster and theoretician Viacheslav Eingorn since the late 1970s.

For 50 years he has been a teacher at the chess school in Odesa (Ukraine), and in 2016 won the European Over-65 Championship. In the same year he also qualified as an International Arbiter and has since then officiated over a great many chess events in his country.

This is his fourth book for Gambit.

IM Valentin Bogdanov (UKR)
IM Valentin Bogdanov (UKR)

Before we start our review it is worth watching this video preview from John Nunn and Gambit Publications:

This is a excellent book that has an emphasis on practical king and pawn endgames. All the examples are taken from 1981 onwards which means that the reader will see novel positions rather than a rehash of old favourites. The other fresh approach is the structure of the ten chapters based on themes rather than the number of pawns. This book is not for beginners or very inexperienced club players as it assumes a basic knowledge of elementary pawn endgames. It is aimed at 1750+ chess enthusiasts but ambitious lower rated readers will benefit from some of the easier examples. The more difficult positions will tax GMs. This book would be ideal material for a coach for training purposes to give the students a toolkit of ideas.

The chapter structure is as follows:

Chapter 1: Obvious Errors
Chapter 2: Breakthrough
Chapter 3: Zugzwang
Chapter 4: Opposition and Corresponding Squares
Chapter 5:Spare Tempi
Chapter 6: The Fight To Promote
Chapter 7: Changing the Pawn-Structure
Chapter 8: Calculation
Chapter 9: Evaluating the Resulting Queen Endings
Chapter 10: Positional Play

The reviewer will  show examples distributed from all the chapters to give the reader a flavour of this instructional idyll.

Chapter 1: Obvious Errors

Position 21

Movsesian-Sadvakasov Calvia Olympiad 2004
Movsesian-Sadvakasov Calvia Olympiad 2004              White to play

White, Movsesian, a 2600+ GM played the dreadful blunder 59.Kc6? (throwing away a totally winning pawn endgame. 59.Kc5! wins as the threat is to play Kb4 which will preserve white’s remaining pawn as a b-pawn with the king in front and a reserve tempo move of b3, if 59…a3 60.bxa3! Ke7 61. Kc6 Kd8 62.Kb7! and the a-pawn promotes) 59…Ke6 60.Kb5 reaching this position:

Movsesian-Sadvakasov Move 60 Calvia Olympiad 2004
Movsesian-Sadvakasov Calvia Olympiad 2004 Move 60 Black to play

Now, black drew with a common, but nevertheless neat idea:
60…a3! (transforming white’s pawn into a now useless a-pawn, as black’s king is just close enough to draw) 61.bxa3! Kd7! 62.Kb6 Kc8! reaching c8 with an elementary draw

Position 22

Forcen Esteban - Lagarde
Forcen Esteban – Lagarde Internet rapid 2019 Move 83 Black to play

This position is simpler than the last one.
Both players are rated well over 2500!
Black is to play here and after the obvious 83..b3, it is crystal clear to a novice player that both sides are going to promote with a draw, even though white promotes first. If 83…Kb7 trying to impede the advance of the d-pawn, white can play 84.Kf6 making sure that the d-pawn does promote with a stone cold draw.
Black played 83…Kb8? (Placing the king on the back rank presumably in the mistaken belief that he could stop the white pawn from promoting. 84.Kf6! b3 85.d7! followed by promoting with check, winning the game, thanks to black’s foolish Kb8 move!

Chapter 2: Breakthrough

This is a key topic in pawn endings and there are many beautiful examples. Sometimes, the threat of a breakthrough can limit the opponent’s king manoeuvres, thus winning the game indirectly.
Once a player has seen some pretty examples of this theme, they are never forgotten.

Position 33

Nikolic-Lautier Reykjavik rapid 2004
Nikolic-Lautier Reykjavik rapid 2004                                   White to play

White missed a chance for a standard breakthrough against black’s mangled pawns viz: 35.h5 Kd7 36.g5 reaching this key position:

Nikolic-Lautier Reykjavik rapid 2005 Move 36
Nikolic-Lautier Reykjavik rapid 2005 Move 36                 Black to move

Now there are two main variations:

A) 36…Ke8 37.gxh6! Kf8 38.Kc2 Kg8 39.Kb3

Nikolic-Lautier Reykjavik rapid 2005 variation A
Nikolic-Lautier Reykjavik rapid 2005 variation A

and white wins the race to get a new queen for example: 39… Kh7 (39…a5 40.a4 breaks through) 40.Kb4 Kxh6 41.Kc5 Kxh5 42.Kxd5 Kg4 43.Kc6 Kxf4 44.d5 wins easily

B) 36…fxg5 37.fxg5! Ke8 38.gxh6! Kf8 39.Ke3

Nikolic-Lautier Reykjavik rapid 2005 variation B
Nikolic-Lautier Reykjavik rapid 2005 variation B

39…Kg8 40.Kf4 Kh7 41.Kg5 winning

Back to the original position: white played 35.Kc2? f5! 36.g5 h5! 37. Kb3 draw agreed

Position 36

Gashimov-Anastasian Dubai 2003 Move 53
Gashimov-Anastasian Dubai 2003 Move 53                     White to play

White has an outside passed a-pawn and was probably dreaming of swapping his a-pawn for black’s c-pawn, leaving black to deal with an outside passed b-pawn, while white’s king mops up the king side pawns winning the game, hence his next move 53.Kc3?

A more alert white player would have spotted the danger of black’s advanced kingside pawns. It might look as though black can only create a passed e-pawn as his extra kingside pawn is on the e-file, but this an illusion: black can now breakthrough creating a pawn configuration that ties down the white king permanently, thus allowing black to win on the queenside. Once seen never forgotten!
53…e4! would have won threatening e3 or f3 winning, if 54.Kd2 f3! 55.gxf3 exf3 reaching a position similar to the game

53…Kd5? 54.a4? Pursing his faulty plan, 54.Kd2! would have drawn 54…e4! 55.Kd2 (55.gxf4 allows an immediate breakthrough 55…e3! 56.fxe3 h4! and the h-pawn queens) 55…f3! 56.gxf3 exf3! reaching this position:

Gashimov-Anastasian Dubai 2003 Move 56
Gashimov-Anastasian Dubai 2003 Move 56                    White to play

White’s king is tied down and cannot cross to the c-file as this allows a decisive breakthrough of h4! Therefore black’s king can invade on the queenside with decisive gains viz: 57.Ke3 Kc5 58.Ke4 Kb4 59.Kd4 Kxa4 60.Kxc4 h4 61.b3+ Ka3 62.gxh4 g3! 63.Kd4 0-1

Position 38

Mamedyarov-Sokolov Hoogeveen 2006
Mamedyarov-Sokolov Hoogeveen 2006                             White to play

White missed the elegant 59.f5! b3 60.Kc3! Kd5 61.e6 fxe6 62.f6 62…gxf6 63.h5! and the h-pawn queens.

White played 59.Kc4? and still won after black missed a draw.

Chapter 3: Zugzwang

Here is a subtle example, but nevertheless didactic:

Position 56

Grabarczyk - Rustemov
Grabarczyk – Rustemov Koszalin 1997                                 Black to play

This ending looks like an easy win for black with a extra passed pawn. But be careful!
Black played the natural 52…Kg5? which throws away the win. This won’t become clear for a few moves. 52…Kg6! wins
53.f4+ exf3 54.Kxf3! h5 55.Kg3! reaching a position of mutual zugzwang:

Grabarczyk-Rustemov Mutual Zugzwang
Grabarczyk-Rustemov Mutual Zugzwang

If black had played 52…Kg6, white would be on move here and would be lost as 56.Kh3 or 56.Kf3 would be met by 56…h4 and any other king move would allow 56…Kg4 winning easily.

The game continued 55…h4+ 56.Kf3! Kh5 57.Kf4! Kh6 58.e4! h3 59.Kg3 drawn

Chapter 4: Opposition and Corresponding Squares

The introduction to this chapter is excellent explaining the concept of the opposition, the distant opposition, corresponding squares and triangulation.

Here is a simple example from a game between players rated in the 2400s:

Position 70

Heim - Helmers Reykjavik 1981
Heim – Helmers Reykjavik 1981                                               White to play

White played the “active” 55.Ke4? (55.Kf2! maintaining the distant opposition draws a textbook ending) 55…Ke6! winning the opposition 56. Kf3 Kd5 bypassing 57.Ke3 Ke5! 58.Kf3 Kd4 (another bypass) 59.Kf2 Kd3 60.Kf3 g4+ and white threw in the towel

Chapter 5: Spare Tempi

Position 105

Siugirov - Lupulescu Jerusalem 2015
Siugirov – Lupulescu Jerusalem 2015                                     Black to Play

The author’s explanation of black’s defensive plan here is pithy and pedagogical:

“Black’s defensive plan is to let White  take the a7-pawn and then block the king in permanently in front of his own a-pawn. For this idea to work, Black needs a spare tempo on the kingside, as otherwise he will be forced to release the white king from its a-file prison. Immediately fixing the kingside pawns by 43…g5!? secures two such tempi and is the simplest path to a draw viz: 44.Kc6 Ke5 45.Kb7 Kd6! 46.Kxa7 Kc7! 47.h3 h6 48.a6 h5!”

Siugirov - Lupulescu Jerusalem 2016 Trapped king
Siugirov – Lupulescu Jerusalem 2016 Trapped king

White does not enough tempi to release his imprisoned king.

In practice Black played 43…Kd7 which retains the draw but mis-defended on the next move and lost.

Interestingly, I had a similar position in a game many decades ago with reversed flanks. I won the game and proudly showed the endgame to a friend, who promptly demonstrated a drawing plan for my opponent identical to this game.

Chapter 6: The Fight To Promote

Mchedlishvili - Jankovic
Mchedlishvili – Jankovic Dubai 2009                                     White to move

White totally mis-assessed the resulting king and pawn endgame after the exchange of queens here. He probably thought that his connected passed pawns on the kingside were at least a match for black’s queenside majority. 

34.Qxf7+? Kxf7 35.g4 a5 36.Kf2 c5 37.Ke3 d5 38.Kd3 a5 reaching this position:

Mchedlishvili - Jankovic Winning queenside majority
Mchedlishvili – Jankovic Winning queenside majority

What white missed was that black can create a passed a-pawn and a passed d-pawn (separated by two files) and these pawns can reach the fifth rank safely which means they are unstoppable.

White played the desperate 39.c4 dxc4+ (39…bxc4+ also wins) 40.Kc3 a3 41.h4 Kg6 42.g5 h5 43.Kd2 b4 44.Kc2 c3 white resigned

7: Changing the Pawn-Structure

This is one of the most complex chapters and the hardest to evaluate in practice.

The reviewer will show an excellent example to show a typical idea:

Position 153

Kasparov - Azmaiparashvili Geropotamos rapid 2003
Kasparov – Azmaiparashvili Geropotamos rapid 2003  Black to play

Black played the automatic 46…Kc6? White won with a well known technique exploiting the fact that his king is one move ahead in the race to the kingside 47.h4! f5 48.g3! Kc5 (48…Kc7 49.Ka7 Kc6 50.Kb8 wins) 49.Kb7! and black resigned because of this variation: 49…b5 50.axb5 Kxb5 51.Kc7 Kc4 52.Kd6 Kd3 53.Ke6 Ke3 54.Kf6 Kf3 55.Kxg6! Kxg3

Kasparov - Azmaiparashvili Geropotamos rapid 2004 possible continuation
Kasparov – Azmaiparashvili Geropotamos rapid 2004 possible continuation White to play

56.Kg5! winning

Going back to the original position:

Kasparov - Azmaiparashvili Geropotamos rapid 2003
Kasparov – Azmaiparashvili Geropotamos rapid 2003  Black to play

Instead of the passive 46…Kc6? black can actively rearrange the kingside pawn structure to draw as follows:

46…h4! 47.Ka7 f5 48.h3

Kasparov - Azmaiparashvili Geropotamos rapid 2004 variation in missed draw
Kasparov – Azmaiparashvili Geropotamos rapid 2004 variation in missed draw Black to play

48…Kc6! 49.Kb8 Kc5 50.Kc7 Kb4 51.Kxb6 Kxa4 52.Kc5 Kb3! 53.Kd4 Kc2! 54. Ke5 Kd3 55.Kf6 Ke4 56.Kxg6 Kxf4! 57.Kf6!

Kasparov - Azmaiparashvili Geropotamos rapid 2004 variation in missed move 57
Kasparov – Azmaiparashvili Geropotamos rapid 2004 variation in missed draw move 57 Black to play

Black draws here with 57…Ke4! 58.Kg5 Ke5! 59.Kxh4 Kf4! 60.g4 (60.g3 Ke3 draws) 60…Ke5! 61.g5 f4! 62.Kg4 Ke4! leads to a drawn Q + h-pawn v Q endgame

Kasparov - Azmaiparashvili Geropotamos rapid 2004 variation in missed move 62
Kasparov – Azmaiparashvili Geropotamos rapid 2004 variation in missed draw move 62 White to play

Position 158

The reviewer loves this endgame.

Gelfand-Jobava (Move 50)
Gelfand-Jobava (Move 50)

This king and pawn ending is clearly drawn but white is pressing with a more advanced king. White played 50.h4 setting a subtle trap. 50…h5? losing, incredible to believe but it is true. 50…Kd7 draws, for example 51.g4 f6+ 52.Kd5 e6+ 53.Kc5 h6 54. e5 fxe5 55.fxe5 Kc7 seizing the opposition and drawing 51.f5! f6+ 52.Ke6! gxf5

Gelfand-Jobava (Move 53)
Gelfand-Jobava (Move 53)

Now white played 53. e5! which had been completed missed by black (automatic recapture syndrome) 53… fxe5 54.Kxe5! Kd7 55.Kxf5! Kd6 56.Kg5 Ke5 57.Kxh5! Kf4

Gelfand-Jobava (Move 57)
Gelfand-Jobava (Move 57)

Now white can enter a winning queen endgame with 58.Kg6! e5 59.h5! e4 60.h6! e3 61.h7! e2! 62.h8Q e1Q 

Gelfand - Jobava Dortmund 2006 Queen Ending
Gelfand – Jobava Dortmund 2006 Queen Ending            White to play

This looks drawn as the white g-pawn is only on the second rank and the black king is close to it. However, white has a series of checks to exploit the poor position of the black pieces viz:

63. Qb8+ Kg4 64. Qc8+ Kf4 (64…Kg3 65.Qh3! is the same as the game) 65. Qf5+ Kg3 66.Qh3+ Ke5 67.g4!

Gelfand - Jobava Dortmund 2006 Queen Ending Tablebase win
Gelfand – Jobava Dortmund 2006 Queen Ending Tablebase win

Surprisingly this is a tablebase win even though the g-pawn is only on the fourth rank. Looking more closely at the position, black’s pieces are badly placed with the king interfering with the queen. If the black king was in the south west corner, he would draw.

Gelfand did win this game about 50 moves later after mistakes by both sides.

Chapter 8: Calculation

Clearly this is absolutely critical in king and pawn endings.
Here is a relatively simple example:

Position 172

Ikonnikov - Liogky Paris 1998
Ikonnikov – Liogky Paris 1998 Black to play

Black played the obvious exchange 47…hxg5? which loses trivially 48.hxg5! Kf1 49.Kf3! Kg1 50.Kg3 (50.g6 Kh2 51.Kg4! also wins) 50…Kg1 51.g6! Black resigned as white’s king travels to f7 and black’s cannot get to h6 in time.

Ikonnikov - Liogky Paris 1999 End
Ikonnikov – Liogky Paris 1999 Final Position Black to play

Going back to the start:

Ikonnikov - Liogky Paris 1998
Ikonnikov – Liogky Paris 1998

Black can draw with 47…h5! After 48.g6 viz:

Ikonnikov - Liogky Paris 1999 Drawing Line
Ikonnikov – Liogky Paris 1999 Drawing Line

As soon as white plays Kxh5, black will answer Kf4 stalemate!
If white goes after the g-pawn, black draws by going after the h-pawn, for example 48…Kf1 49.Kf4 Kg2 50.Ke5 Kh3 51.Ke6 Kxh4 52.Kf7 Kg3 53.Kg7 h4 54.Kf6 h3 55.g7 h2 56.g8Q+ Kf2 drawing

Chapter 9: Evaluating the Resulting Queen Endings

The introduction to this chapter by the author is a superb summary of the intricacies of these transitions. The reviewer has already given an example from Chapter 7 (position 158), so I will leave the reader to buy the book to sample this chapter.

Chapter 10: Positional Play

Position 259

Radjabov - Ding Liren Internet rapid 2021
Radjabov – Ding Liren Internet rapid 2021 Black to play

This looks very difficult for black as not only does white have a potential outside passed pawn but also a better king. He played 52…Kc6? and lost. Buy the book to find out how black can draw or work it for yourself!

In summary, this is a really good book and close study will reap rewards.  The book is very well laid out and is easy to read with lots of diagrams. Thoroughly recommended.

FM Richard Webb, Chineham, Hampshire, 30th May 2021

FM Richard Webb
FM Richard Webb

Here is a pdf extract from Everyman

Book Details :

  • Hardcover : 192 pages
  • Publisher: Gambit Publications Ltd (16 Sept. 2020)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1911465597
  • ISBN-13: 978-1911465591
  • Product Dimensions: 17.15 x 1.52 x 24.77 cm

Official web site of Gambit Publications Ltd.

Understanding Pawn Endgames, Valentin Bogdanov, Gambit Publications, ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-1915328854
Understanding Pawn Endgames, Valentin Bogdanov, Gambit Publications, ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-1915328854
 Save as PDF

600 Modern Chess Puzzles

600 Modern Chess Puzzles : Martyn Kravtsiv

600 Modern Chess Puzzles, Martyn Kravtsiv, Gambit Publications Ltd., 16th September 2020, ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-1911465478
600 Modern Chess Puzzles, Martyn Kravtsiv, Gambit Publications Ltd., 16th September 2020, ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-1911465478

Blurb from the publisher:

“The easiest, quickest and most effective way to improve your overall game is to increase your tactical vision. Many good positions are lost because a key moment is passed by and a player misses the opportunity to win by a beautiful combination. This book is designed simply to help you improve your play by seeing tactics better.” – Martyn Kravtsiv

Written along similar lines to Gambit’s earlier Ultimate Chess Puzzle Book, this new work presents 600 puzzles, mostly from the last two years, that are chosen for instructive value and maximum training benefit. To ensure that few will be familiar to readers, Kravtsiv has deliberately chosen positions from obscure games or from analysis. If you find the right answers, it will be because you worked them out yourself!

The solutions feature plenty of verbal explanations of the key points, and cover most of the logical but incorrect answers. The book is completed with a set of ‘no clues’ tests, and an index of themes that will be useful to coaches and those looking to focus on specific aspects of tactics – or just seeking extra clues!”

GM Martyn Kravtsiv
GM Martyn Kravtsiv

From the rear cover:

“The author is an experienced grandmaster from Lviv, Ukraine. His tournament results include tied first places at Cappelle in 2012 and the 2015 Ukrainian Championship, as well as being blitz champion of the 2008 World Mind Sports Games (at age 17). He represented his country at the 2017 World Team Championship and was a coach for the team that won silver medals at the 2016 Olympiad.”

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

Before going further we suggest you make use of the Look Inside option. This will reveal the Table of Contents.

Also, you may download a pdf sample.

Just like “Snakes on a Plane” you might imagine, from the title, you know what this book is about without reading it: well let us see!

The first mystery to clear up is what does the author mean by “Puzzles”? Almost all 600 positions presented are taken from actual gameplay during 2018 and 2019 or from analysis derived from those games. Strangely, there is a tranche from 2012
mostly from the author’s own games.

If you do have a phobia of problems, fairies or endgame studies etc then have no fear here: there are none of these.

From the “Warming Up” Chapter we have position #36:

Theodor Kenneskog – Klavs Stabulnieks, 48th Rilton Cup, Stockholm, 2nd January 2019

Does Black have a way to get the upper hand?

*(We have added the previous move arrow and these are not shown in the book.)

71 warming up puzzles of multiple themes are followed by solutions with explanations which is the continuing pattern for each chapter.

Chapter 3 contains 29 forced mates and here is an example, #92:

Vahe Danielyan – Chinna Reddy Mehar, Novi Sad, 20th April 2019

Can you see White’s mating idea?

Rather pleasing!

Chapter 3, Your Choice, asks the solver to select between two plausible options more reminiscent of one’s thinking in a practical game situation when the clock is ticking. Here is an example (#106):

Marc Narciso Dublan – Kratvtsiv, Olivier Gonzalez Memorial, Madrid, 8th September 2012

Choose between 74…Ke4 and 74…Kg5

Chapter 4 (“Getting Tricky”) ups the ante and the difficulty is raised followed by 58 endgame puzzles graded into four levels.

Here is example #283:

Anthony Fred Saidy – Thomas Kung, Bay Area Open, Burlingame, 3rd January 2019

The game ended in a draw. Show how Black could have done better.

Tough Nuts is the title of Chapter 6 containing 43 challenging positions for example #313:

Jonathan Hawkins – Bogdan Lalic, Hastings 2018/19, 5th January 2019 (Analysis)

Black has a beautiful path to victory. Can you find it?

Chapter 7 is a tougher version of Chapter 3.

In Part 2 the book changes tack slightly in that the clue or clues for each position are not present. You are placed in a much more game like situation thinking for yourself. The Part is broken down into sections of Not Too Hard, Tricky Tasks, Endgame Challenges and finally Chapter 11 entitled Nightmare! including #562 featuring Hastings once more:

Thomas Villiers – PU Midhun, 98th Hastings Masters, 4th January 2019

Unfortunately, White did not find the killer blow and went on to lose.

The exercises are followed by an Index of Themes which is a clever touch removing this “clue” from the position as posed.

As is to be expected from a Gambit publication the explanations are crystal clear and instructive and expertly translated and edited by Graham Burgess. Petra Nunn does an excellent job of typesetting.

To have found 600 instructive puzzles from 2018, 2019 and 2012 is a real achievement and then to organise them for a range of students makes this book both enjoyable and hard work!

The author has produced another reliable publication from the Gambit stable and we are sure he will be asked to produce another in due course. We particularly liked the puzzles that created a  game-like feel to the task. Highly recommended.

John Upham, Cove, Hampshire, December 28th 2021

John Upham
John Upham

Book Details :

  • Hardcover :160 pages
  • Publisher:Gambit Publications Ltd (16 Sept. 2020)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10:1911465473
  • ISBN-13:978-1911465478
  • Product Dimensions: 17.15 x 1.65 x 24.77 cm

Official web site of Gambit Publications Ltd.

600 Modern Chess Puzzles, Martyn Kravtsiv, Gambit Publications Ltd., 16th September 2020, ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-1911465478
600 Modern Chess Puzzles, Martyn Kravtsiv, Gambit Publications Ltd., 16th September 2020, ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-1911465478

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The Chess Endgame Exercise Book

The Chess Endgame Exercise Book : John Nunn

The Chess Endgame Exercise Book Paperback, JDM Nunn, Gambit Publications Ltd., 2020
The Chess Endgame Exercise Book Paperback, JDM Nunn, Gambit Publications Ltd., 2020

John Nunn has written around thirty books on chess, many of these being some of the finest published in any language : Secrets of Pawnless Endings (1994, Batsford) for example, is easily a candidate for the all time list. John is a director of Gambit Publications Ltd. together with Murray Chandler and Graham Burgess.

GM John Nunn
GM John Nunn

From the rear cover :

“Everyone knows they should work on their endgame play. So many hard-earned advantages are squandered in ‘simple’ endings… But it’s tough finding a way to study endings that doesn’t send you to sleep and that helps you actually remember and apply what you have learnt.

“While endgame theory books are helpful, active participation by the reader is a great aid to learning. I hope that this book of endgame exercises will encourage readers to put their brains in high gear, both to test themselves and to learn more about the endgame. I have spent several months selecting the 444 exercises in this book from what was initially a much larger collection.” – John Nunn

All major types of endgame are covered, together with a wide-ranging chapter on endgame tactics. Examples are drawn from recent practice or from little-known studies. The emphasis is on understanding and applying endgame principles and rules of thumb. You will learn by experience, but always backed up by Nunn’s expert guidance to ensure that the lessons you take away from the book are correct and useful.”

To get some idea of the book Gambit (via Amazon) provide a “Look Inside” at their Kindle edition.

As you would expect with Gambit, the notation is English short form algebraic using figurines for pieces. A previous criticism (ibid) has been addressed in that each diagram has a W or B “whose move it is” indicator. The diagrams do not have coordinates but this is not likely to be a problem for most.

The book is divided into 10 chapters as follows :

  1. Pawn Endings
  2. Knight Endings
  3. Bishop Endings
  4. Bishop vs Knight Endings
  5. Rook Endings
  6. Rook and Minor Piece Endings
  7. Queen Endings
  8. Endings with Queens and Other Pieces
  9. Endgame Tactics
  10. Test Papers

which is a similar sequence to that in  Chess Endgame Workbook for Kids reviewed by us.

Here on YouTube John Nunn gives the reader an introduction to the book :

So, what did we think?

This is another superb endgame book by John Nunn. This excellent tome is titled as an exercise book, so the reader will gain most by attempting to solve the puzzles, but there is no compulsion to do this: the book can also be treated as a practical endgame manual.

Most of the positions are from recent actual play and show typical positions that occur in practice and therefore show practical problems and mistakes even by very strong players. In many positions, John Nunn selects two or three obvious candidate moves and asks the reader to choose one. I like this approach as it reflects a real game and the pressure to choose between candidates.

There are some theoretical positions which are shown in many endgame primers. Some studies are included which always expand the reader’s mind by showing the beautiful rich tapestry of chess and should increase the reader’s imagination in practical play.

Each of the first nine chapters has an introductory piece over two pages which is short and pithy introducing some main principles for the forthcoming chapter: for example in the king and pawn ending section, key ideas are presented including:

Shouldering Away
Distant Opposition
Diagonal Opposition
Reserve Tempi
Assessing transitions into Q+P endings

This is followed by the exercises which vary in difficulty from 1-5. This degree of hardness is indicated by a number of stars. Level 1 is solvable by a club player; level 5 will give a Grandmaster a good workout.

Most of the chapters have a special harder exercises section.

The two biggest chapters are king and pawn endings, and rook and pawn endings which reflect their importance and relative occurrence. Many endings reduce down to bare king and pawn endings which most be understood to play the endgame at a half decent level. Rook and pawn endings are the most common as the rooks tend to be developed last: excellence in these endings is a sure sign of a strong player.

The reviewer will show a flavour of positions from the first nine chapters with varying difficulty levels.

Chapter 1 – King and Pawn Endings

This first position below in the book is a level 1 exercise and an illustration of triangulation.

Triangulation Example 1
Triangulation Example 1 White To Move

Black to move here has to move his king losing the d-pawn and the game quickly. But it is white to move and  white  wins by executing a fundamental manoeuvre as follows:

1.Ke2 Ke6 (1…Kc6 2.Kd2 is no different) 2. Kd2! Kd5 3.Kd3 and now black has the move and is in zugzwang. White has moved his king in a triangle whereas black could only move his king between two squares (because the c5 pawn restricts his manoeuvres).

Shown below is a harder example (level 3) of triangulation.

Triangulation Example 2
Triangulation Example 2 White To Move

To the casual observer this position looks to be drawn as both kings are tied up watching the opponent’s connected passed pawns. White’s pawns are further advanced and he can win with a subtle manoeuvre as follows:

  1. Kg4! White must prevent d5 and d4, 1…Kf6 (The toughest defence. 1…d5 loses to 2.Kg5 see below) 2.Kg3!  d5 (2…Kg7 3.Kf4 d5 3.Kg5 transposes) 3. Kf4 Zugzwang, black must give way 3…Kg7 4.Kg5 e3 5.h6+ Kg8 6. Kf6 e2 7.h7+ Kh8 8.Kf7 e1=Q 9.g7+ Kxh7 10.g8=Q+ Kh6 11.Qg6#

In the basic king and pawn endgame below, the author informs the reader that black has only one move to draw.

Teiitbaev-Ufimtsev Moscow 2019
Teiitbaev-Ufimtsev Moscow 2019 Black to move

This position illustrates not only the opposition but also consideration of the opponent’s pawn breaks. White has two winning ideas:

  1. Achieve the position of Ke5 v Ke7 with black to move
  2. Get in the h5 break when black cannot capture and follow up with Kg7 or Kh7 drawing

Black played 1…Kd6? guarding against the first idea but not the second. White won with 2.Kg4 Ke6 3.h5 gxh5+ 4.Kxh5 Kf7 5.Kh6 seizing the critical squares, winning.

To this end  only 1…Kf7! draws viz: 2.Ke5 Ke7 seizing the opposition or 2. Kg4 Kf7 meeting 3.h5 with 3…gxh5+ 4.Kxh5 Kg7 drawing

The next example shows an example of the distant opposition at work.

Distant Opposition
Distant Opposition White To Move

White only has one move to draw: 1.Kh2! (Seizing the distant opposition three squares apart, 1.Kg2? Ke2 2.Kg3 Ke3 3.Kg4 Kf2 4.Kh4 Kf3 5.Kg5 Kg3 wins)  1…Kd3 2.Kh3! Kd4 3.Kh4! Ke4 4.Kg4 Ke3 5.Kg3 Ke2 6.Kg2 Kd2 7.Kh2 holding the draw. White’s king has access to all the squares on the h-file, which why this defence works.

This  next struggle (at level 3) shows the importance of reserve tempi and how crucial it is to manage them precisely. This is of course coupled with exact calculation. Neither side wants to move their king as to do so loses the game. Nunn gives the reader an amusing choice between 1…a4, 1…b5 and 1…e4 stating that one loses, one draws and one wins.

McNally-Patterson Coventry 2019
McNally-Patterson Coventry 2019 Black to Move

This is highly instructive as black played the worst move, but white let him escape with a draw!

Black wins with 1…b5! gaining space and ensuring that white runs out of pawn moves first. 2.b3 c5 3.c4 (3.f3 a4!) 3…bxc4 4.bxc4 a4 5.a3  e4 winning the h-pawn 6.Kg3 Kxh5 7.Kf4 Kg6 8.Ke5 Kg5 9.Kd5 Kf4 10.Kxc5 Kf3 11.Kd5 Kxf2 12.c5 e3 13.c6 e2 14.c7  e1=Q 15.c8=Q Qd2+ 16Ke5 f4 with a winning Q ending for black

It is very instructive to look at the other two moves that Nunn suggests: it is all down to exact calculation which is why king and pawn endings are so interesting and difficult!

I shall finish the king and pawn examples with a level 5 difficulty example.

Aguilar Samper-Belmes Buenos Aires 2019
Aguilar Samper-Belmes Buenos Aires 2019 White To Move

How does white draw  here? White played 1.Kd5? and lost.

1.c5! b5! (1…bxc5? loses as 2.b5 axb5 3.a5 wins as black cannot catch the a-pawn and his own pawns are too slow. 2.axb5 axb5 White has a protected passed pawn but most play some accurate moves to draw. 3. Kd5!! (3.Kf3? loses to the triangulation technique of the second example above viz: 3…h5 4.Kg3 Kf5 5.Kf3 h4 6.Kg2 g4 7.Kf2 g3+ 8.Kf3 Ke5 9.Kg2 Ke6! 10.Kf3 Kf5 11.Kg2 Kg4 12.c6 h3+ 13.Kg1 Kf3 14.c7 h2+ 15.Kh1 Kf2 16.c8=Q g2+ mates)  3…g4 (3…h5 4.Kd6 h4 5.c6 h3 6.c7 h2 7.c8=Q h1=Q 8. Qe6+ Kg7 9.Qd7+ is a perpetual) 4.Ke4!! A brilliant switchback 4…h5 5.Kf4 Ke6 6.Kg3 Ke5 7.Kh4! Now white oscillates between h4 and g3 drawing, black cannot play his king to g5 as the white c-pawn promotes. The Kd5, Ke4 manoeuvre forced black to advance his pawns in a  sub optimal manner allowing white a blockade. A very instructive ending.

Chapter 2 covers knight endings. The reviewer will give a couple of examples. The type of position below does occur in practice quite often: the stronger side may  have won a knight on the queenside by promoting an outside passed passed pawn. How does white win?

Knight Ending Zugzwang Example
Knight Ending Zugzwang Example White To Play

Black is threatening Kf5 followed by Kg4 drawing.

White must play 1.Nd4! Kg5 (threatening Kg4 followed by h4) 2.Ke6! (The obvious 2.Ke5? throws the win away 2…Kg4 3.Nf5 Kg5 zugzwang 4.Ke6 Kg6 zugzwang) 2…Kg4 (2…h4+ 3.Nf3+ wins) 3.Nf5! Kg5 4.Ke5! Zugzwang  4…Kg4 4.Kf6 Kf3 5.Kg5 winning the pawn and the game. This is a  very common theme in knight endgames as a knight cannot lose a tempo.

The  second knight and pawn example is harder.

Warakomski-Moranda Katowice 2019
Warakomski-Moranda Katowice 2019 White To Play

White played 1.Kd5 which only draws. It looks logical as it places the king near the kingside ready for a hoped for decisive invasion. However it does not win. Passed pawns must be pushed!

White wins with 1.Kb6! Blocking his own pawn but the king must support the dangerous pawn. 1…Nxg5 2. Kb7 (Keeping the black pieces from their optimal squares. 2.Ka7? Ne6 3.Ne4 Nd4! 4.b6 Nc6+ draws) 2…Ne6 3.Ne4! g5 4.Nf6+ Kd8 5.b6 Nc5+ 6.Ka8! Ke7 7.Ne4! Nd7 8.b7 g4 9.Nc5 wins

Chapter 3 covers bishop endings.

The type of ending below is fairly common and is covered in endgame primer manuals. How does white draw?

Lysenko-Hamitevici 2019
Lysenko-Hamitevici 2019 White to move

The key factor here is the presence of the h-pawn which renders this position a draw with accurate defence, because of the edge of the board and stalemating opportunities. A similar position with pawns on the e,f & g files would be won for black.

White lost this game by playing  1.Bb5? but could have drawn as follows:

1.Kg1!  (Or 1.Kh1!) Kg3 2. Bd7! (2.Bd5? loses to  2…f2+ 3.Kf1 Kh2) 2…f2+ 3.Kf1 Kf3 4.Bxg4+ Kxg4 5.Kxf2 with a clear draw

The position below is covered in Basic Chess Endings by Fine and other primers on the endgame. How does black to play draw?

Moiseenko-Flom 2019
Moiseenko-Flom 2019 Black to move

1…Kd5! (Black played 1…Be7? Now white wins with a standard idea. 2.Bd8 Bc3 3.Bh4 Ba5 4.Bg3 and black prevent cannot prevent Bc7 blocking out the bishop and wins) 2. Bd8 Bc3 3.Bh4 Ba5 4.Be1 Bb6 5. Bf2 Ba5 6.Bg3 Kc6 (Just in time to stop Bc7, black draws) =

This chapter also has some excellent examples of opposite coloured bishop endgames which are well worth study. Buy the book to see these.

Chapter 4 covers bishop versus knight endings.

Here is a position that looks desperate for black, so he resigned. But there is a saving resource. His pieces are restricted and near the corner, so….

Baklanova-Y.Kim 2019
Baklanova-Y.Kim 2019 Black To Move

1…Kh8! (Any knight move allows the f-pawn to advance decisively) draws 2.Kf7 Ng7! 3.Bd4 (3.f6 Nh5 draws) 3…Kh7! draws as 4. Bxg7 is stalemate

The next fight shows how poorly the knight deals with rook pawns.

Esipenko-Pershin 2019
Esipenko-Pershin 2019 Black To Move

Black won with 1…Kb5 2.Kf3 Kc4 3.Ke2 Kc3 Keeping the white king away by shouldering – a common theme in all sorts of endings. Even though the pawn has not moved, white cannot draw! 4.Nf4 Kc2 5.Nd5 a5 (Finally the pawn moves) 6.Nc7 a4 7.Nb5 Be5 8.Na3+ (8.Ke3 Kb3 9.Kd3 Kb4 10.Na7 a3 11.Nc6+ Kc5 12.Na5 a2 13.Nb3+ Kb4 14.Kc2 Bf6  is a win by zugzwang – a common occurrence in B+P v N endings)  Kb3 9.Nb1 Bc3 10.Kd1 Ba5 11.Kc1 Bb4  0-1 as 12. Kd1 is met by Kb2 winning easily.

Chapter 5 covers Rook Endings.

The position shows a common type of position. Nunn asks the question, which is best 1.Rf8+, 1.Rg8 or 1.Ke5?

Ivanisevic-Madl 2018-9
Ivanisevic-Madl 2018-9 White To Move

The intermediary check gains a tempo which wins: 1.Rf8+! Ke4 Attempting to shoulder barge the white king 2. Rg8! Kf4 3.Kd5 g4 4. Kd4 1-0 as 4…h3 5.Kd3 Kf3 6.Rf8+ Kg2 7.Ke2 Kg1 8.Kf3 g2 9.Kg3 Kh1 10.Rh8+ Kg1 11.Rh2 wins

Which king move should white make in the position below?

Rahmani-Belouadah 2019
Rahmani-Belouadah 2019 White To Move

White played 1.Ke6? and lost because of 1…Re1+ which is similar to the position above. 1.Kg6 draws as white should keep his king on the same side as Black. 1…Kf3 2.f5 Ke4 3.f6 Rg1+ 4.Kh7 Rf1 5.Kg7 Ke5 6.f7 draws

How does black draw in this common type of position?

Hesitation Check
Hesitation Check Black To Play

1…Re1! 2.f6 (2.Kf6 Kb4! 3.e7 Kc5 4.Kf7 Kd6 draws after 5.f6 Kd7 or 5.e8=Q Rxe8 6.Kxe8 Ke5 draws) 2…Re5!+ (A superb hesitation check which is easy to miss, 2…Rxe6 loses to 3.f7)  3.Kg6 Rxe6 drawing.

One move wins for black in this position. What is it?

Marcelo-Fernandez Garcia 2018-9
Marcelo-Fernandez Garcia 2018-9 Black to Play

1…Rc3+! is the winner. This idea is analysed in “My Sixty Memorable Games” in a Fischer game with Gligorić (with reversed colours). Fischer comments that he spent all night analysing this rook and pawn endgame learning a lot about rook and pawn endgames.

2. Kd2  b5 (now the black rook shields the king from a frontal assault) 3.Rb1+ Rb3 4. Rh1 Ka3 5.Kc2 Rb2+! 6.Kc1 b4 7.Rh8  Rg2 8.Ra8+ Kb3 9.Rb8 Rg1+ 10.Kd2  Rb1! 11.Rb7 Ka2 and white cannot avoid the Lucena position for long.

In the example below, Dr Nunn asks which is better 1…Ke8 or 1…Kg8? This is a fundamental rook and pawn position that everyone should know.

Mutovin-Kulik 2019
Mutovin-Kulik 2019

The black king should move to the short side, so the rook can operate on the long side.

Black played 1…Ke8? which loses 2.Ra8+ Kd7 3.Rf8! The key move 3…Rf2 4.Kg7 Rg2+ 5.Kf7 Rf2 6.f6 and the Lucena will soon be reached.

1… Kg8! would have drawn 2. Ra8+ Kh7 3.Ke6 (3.Rf8 Ra1! preparing flank checks on the long side) 3…Kg7! 4. Ra7+ Kf8 5.Kf6 Kg8 repeating =

Should black play 1…Rb6, 1…Ka7, 1…Rh2?

Rook Ending Vancura Example
Rook Ending Vancura Example

Only 1…Rb6! draws setting up the Vancura position as soon as possible. 2.Kf4 Rc6 3.Kg5 Rc5+ 4.Kg6 Rc6+ 5.Kg7 Rc7+ with a standard Vancura draw. This Vancura draws only works with rook pawns.

Chapter 6 covers Rook and Minor Piece endgames.

I will show three examples of didactic positions.

This is a standard theoretical position with the king in the wrong corner (same colour as the bishop).

Edouard-Erdos 4NCL 2018-9
Edouard-Erdos 4NCL 2018-9

White wins by 1.Kf6!  (Black is threatening Bb2 followed by Bg7) 1…Be3 2.Kf7 Ba7 3.Ra6 smoking out the bishop 3…Bb8 4.Ra8 Bc7 5.Rc8 Bf4 (5…Bb6 6.Rc3 Kh6 7.Rc6+ wins the bishop) 6.Rc4 Bg5 7.Rc3 1-0 since 7…Kh6 8.Rh3+ wins the bishop

In the next game we have a rook and opposite colour bishop ending where mating ideas are always on the agenda particularly when a king is on the edge of the board.

Nakamura-Adly Internet 2019
Nakamura-Adly Internet 2019 White To Play

White won with 1.Kc7! (Threatening the brutal 2.Rb8#) 1…Bb7 2.a6! winning easily as 2…Rxc5+ 3.Rxc5 Bxa6 4. Ra5 wins

The next example shows the notoriously difficult rook and bishop versus rook ending. The reviewer has had this endgame twice in practice and won both times. This type of position is very common in this ending. Black has only one drawing move. What is it?

Ozen-Annageldiev 2019
Ozen-Annageldiev 2019 Black To Play

1…Rb7! 2.Rc2 Rb8 3.Be6 Ra8 4.Rc6 Rb8 5.Ke5 Rb7 6.Kf6 Rb8 drawing

This second rank defence is good but cannot always be reached. It does not work when the king is in the corner.

Here is a R v B with the defending king near the safe corner, however, this position is still very dangerous for white, who has one drawing move.

Czopor-Dragun 2019
Czopor-Dragun 2019 White To Move

White played 1.Bd5? and lost as follows: 1…Rd7 (Black smokes the bishop out again) 2.Bc6 Rc7 3.Bd5 Rd7 4.Bc6 Rd6 5.Bb5 Rb6 6.Be8 Rb8 7.Bg6 Rh8+ winning 1.Kh5 draws since 1…Kf5 2.Kh4 Kf4 3.Kh3 or Kh5 draws

Chapter 7 covers queen endings.

Here I will give a flavour with four endings. Here white has a strong passed pawn but white’s queen is offside. How does black impede its further advance? This type of position occurs quite frequently.

Dimakiling-Schebler Pattaya 2019
Dimakiling-Schebler Pattaya 2019 Black To Move

Black played 1…Qc5? (1…Qf3? also loses 2. Qb6 wins) 2.Kg1 Qd4 (or 2…Qc1+ 3.Kg2 winning as black cannot check on the long diagonal) 3.c7 1-0

Black can draw with 1…Qd4! (Harassing white’s king and stopping Qb6) 2.Kg1 Qd1+ 3.Kg2 Qd5+ draws as 4.f3 Qd2+ 5.Kh3 Qc1 draws

The next position shows how dangerous a queen can be: don’t forget she is a potent mating force! Black is a pawn up but white’s next few moves show how immaterial that is.

Bonnmann-Kolkin Germany 2018-9
Bonnmann-Kolkin Germany 2018-9 White To Move

White won with a mating attack as follows:

1. h5+ (1…Kg5 2.Qg7+ Kxh5 3.Qxh7+ Kg5 4.f4+ Kg4 5.Qh3#) 1… Kh6 2.Qxf6+ Kxh5 3.f4 h6 4.Qf7+ 1-0 as 4…Kg4 5.Qg6#

There are many games, even in GM praxis where the stronger side falls into a mating net trying to a avoid a perpetual.

The next game shows the notorious Q + rook’s pawn v Q ending.

Here black has placed his king onto a very poor square. Black should have put his king in the a1 corner area to draw. Even then, the defending side has to be very accurate. How does white win?

Sanal-Szustakowski Graz 2019
Sanal-Szustakowski Graz 2019 White To Play

Black’s king is very vulnerable to a cross check. White should move his king towards the 4th rank to exploit black’s king position. So:

1.Qf5!  (1.Kg7? only draws, don’t forget a queen can shepherd home a pawn without its king’s help, so white plays his king towards the rank that black’s king is on) 1…Qg2+ 2.Kf6 Qb2+ 3.Kg5 (Black has no more checks) 3…Qh8 4.Qd7+ (4.h7 is quicker) 4…Ka3 (4…Kb3 lasts longer) 5.Qe7+ Ka4 6.h7 Qb8 7.Qd7+ Kb3 8.Qd3+ Ka4 9.Qd4+ wins 1-0

Notice how black’s king position obstructs the scope of his own queen and allows a cross check.

Here is an unusual position which looks hopeless for black as white’s king looks safe and a7 followed by a8=Q looks inevitable. However, black can draw!

Q v 3 Pawns
Q v 3 Pawns Black to move

1…Kg2! Getting the king out of way to avoid any potential cross checks. 2.a7 Kf3! ( or 2…Kf2) 3.a8=Q Qg8+ 4.c8=Q Qg3+ 5.Qc7 Qg8+ 6.Ka7 Qa2+ 7.Kb6 Qb3+ 8.Kc5 Qc2+! 9.Kd6 Qg6+ 10.Kd5 Qe4+ with a draw by perpetual despite white being a queen and a pawn up!

Chapter 8 is Endings With Queens And Other Pieces

The position below is a fairly common type of position. It looks as though white can double the rooks on the b-pawn and win it followed by ganging up on the kingside pawns winning. Black can prevent this with accurate defence. How?

Dottling-Merkel Germany 2018-9
Dottling-Merkel Germany 2018-9 Black To Play

Black  played 1…Qa3? and lost 2.Rfe1 wins as 3.Re2 and 4.Reb2 followed by 5.Rxb4 cannot be prevented. 1…Qd2? also loses to 2.Rb3, but 1..Qc3! holds; white is surprisingly unable to organise his rooks to win the b-pawn. 2. Rfe1 Qd2! 3.Kf1 Qd3+ 4.Kg1 Qd2 5.Red1 Qc2 6.Rdc1 Qd2 and white is not making any progress.

Here is a rampant rook situation. White’s king is stalemated, so he is continually offering his rook with check for stalemate. Quite often there is a king manoeuvre to get out of the checks. How does black win here?

Mwale-Makoto Sandton
Mwale-Makoto Sandton Blitz 2019 Black To Play

Black played 1…Kf5? 2.Rg5+! Oops, skewering the queen, drawing instantly.

A win was to be had with 1…Kh5 (or 1…Kh6) 2.Rh4+ (2.Rg5+ Qxg5 lifts the stalemate) 2…Kg6 3.Rh6+ (3.Rg4 Qg5 wins) 3…Kf7 4.Rh7+ (4.Rxf6+ Ke7 5. Re6+ Kd8 ends the checks) 4…Ke6 5.Re7+ Kf5 6.Re5+ Qxe5 wins)

Here is a theoretical Q v R+P ending. Nunn puts the poser: which is better 1…Rc2 or 1…Rc8?

The reviewer feels a bit smug as he knew the answer to this one.

Enders-W. Watson Bundesliga 2018-9
Enders-W. Watson Bundesliga 2018-9

Black played 1…Rc2? which is a blunder because white’s king can now cross the c-file: 2.Qb1+! Kc3 3.Kc5 b3 4.Qe1+! Rd2 (4…Kd3+ 5.Kb4 b2 6.Qb1 Kd2 7.Kb3 and he pawn falls) 5.Qc1+ Rc2 6.Qe3+ Kb2 7.Kb4 winning the pawn and the game.

1…Rc8! Draws 2.Qd1+ Ka3! 3.Qd3+ Kb2 4.Qd4+ Ka3 holding the draw

Chapter 9 Endgame Tactics

White played 1.Kf3 allowing 1…Kh4 and black consolidated his advantage to win. What did white miss?

Presalovic-Vrabel Slovakia 2018-9
Presalovic-Vrabel Slovakia 2018-9

White missed a beautiful draw with 1.Qd8+ Kg4 (1…Kh6 does not help) 2.Qd1+!! Rxd1 stalemate in mid board. Very study like.

The tenth and final chapter is the test chapter.

In summary a really good book to improve the reader’s endgame knowledge and analytical skills.

FM Richard Webb, Chineham, Hampshire, 30th May 2021

FM Richard Webb
FM Richard Webb

Book Details :

  • Hardcover : 192 pages
  • Publisher: Gambit Publications Ltd (16 Sept. 2020)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1911465597
  • ISBN-13: 978-1911465591
  • Product Dimensions: 17.15 x 1.52 x 24.77 cm

Official web site of Gambit Publications Ltd.

The Chess Endgame Exercise Book Paperback, JDM Nunn, Gambit Publications Ltd., 2020
The Chess Endgame Exercise Book Paperback, JDM Nunn, Gambit Publications Ltd., 2020

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Desert Island Chess Puzzle Omnibus

Desert Island Chess Puzzle Omnibus, Adams, Nunn, Burgess, So, Gambit Publications Ltd., 2021, ISBN-13 : 978-1911465652
Desert Island Chess Puzzle Omnibus, Adams, Nunn, Burgess, So, Gambit Publications Ltd., 2021, ISBN-13 : 978-1911465652

From the publisher:

“If you had to choose a single luxury chess item to take to a desert island, then how about this: a superb selection of 400 puzzles to solve? Each author has carefully chosen 100 original positions, graded by difficulty and theme into four sections of 25. The emphasis throughout is on entertainment, instruction and inspiration. The solutions pinpoint lessons to be learnt and explain why plausible but incorrect solutions fail.”

“This book is written by an all-star team of authors. Wesley So is the reigning Fischer Random World Champion, the 2017 US Champion and the winner of the 2016 Grand Chess Tour. Michael Adams has been the top British player for the last quarter of a century and was a finalist in the 2004 FIDE World Championship. John Nunn is a three-time winner of both the World Solving Championship and the British Chess Federation Book of the Year Award. Graham Burgess is Gambit’s Editorial Director and the author of 30 books.”

End of blurb…

Before we dig in we suggest you take at look at this video about the book from John Nunn himself.

We all love puzzle books and this book is no exception. This excellent, entertaining book is split up into four sections by author:

Each author supplies 100 puzzles broken up into four chapters which progressively get harder. There are a few specialist chapters such as Graham Burgess’ Opening Themes which is one of my favourite parts.

The reviewer will kick-off by demonstrating some of the puzzle posers from Michael Adams’ section.

Black has just moved his to queen to h5 to offer the exchange of queens. What did he miss?

 Ray-Robson-Eugene-Perelshteyn-Lubbock-2010

Ray Robson-Eugene Perelshteyn Lubbock 2010

Solution: Black overlooked the stunning rejoinder: 14.Nd5! winning the bishop on e7. Black cannot move his queen to defend the bishop. If black tries 14…Qxd1, the intermezzo 15.Nxe7+ followed by recapturing the queen, wins a piece. Black cannot retreat the bishop with 14…Bd8 as 15.Nxf6+ followed by 16.Qxh5 wins black’s queen.

The next position reminds the reviewer of a game he won with this tactical idea in an early club match as a junior.

White has just played Ra5 going after the a-pawn. What did he overlook?

Boris-Gulko-Michael-Adams-Internet-2020
Boris Gulko-Michael Adams Internet 2020

Adams unleashed the devastating 37…Ne3+ exploiting the seventh rook for his rook. After 38. fxe3 Rb2+ white resigned because of 39. Kh3 Qxf3 40. Qc8+ Kh7 followed by a quick massacre of the white king.

In the next position, white has a clear advantage with a big lead in development. White played 20.Qd7 and won easily. Can you spot a quicker and more elegant  route to victory?

Laurent-Fressinet-Vladimir-Malaniuk-Bastia-2010
Laurent Fressinet-Vladimir Malaniuk Bastia 2010

20. Re8+ Bxe8 21.Qg3+ kills black prettily on the diagonals 21…Qe5 22.Qxe5#

In the next position, black is threatening the brutal Rc1#. How does white get the knife in first?

Vasilios-Kotronias-Francisco-Vllejo-Pons-Budva-2009
Vasilios Kotronias-Francisco Vallejo Pons Budva 2009

White wins with a common mating pattern: 42.Rh7+ Kxh7 43.Nf6+ Kh8 44.Rg8#

This next position was from a marathon blitz game. White has slowly edged his pawns forward and has just played 215. Re4. What was black’s response to abruptly end the game?

Vasily-Ivanchuk-Peter-Leko-Moscow-blitz-2007
Vasily Ivanchuk-Peter Leko Moscow blitz 2007

Peter Leko found the incisive 215…Qf7+ 216.Kxf7 stalemate, ending the torture.

In the next puzzle, black has just played Rd8. What was white’s crisp response?

Michael-Adams-Vladislav-Borovikov-Kallithea-2002
Michael Adams-Vladislav Borovikov Kallithea 2002

38. Qe8+ mates 38…Rxe8 39.Rxe8+ Kg7 40.Bf8+ Kg8 41. Bh6#

Nigel Short,  a brilliant tactician, missed a golden opportunity here. What is white’s best move?

Nigel-Short-Jan-Timman-London-2008
Nigel Short-Jan Timman London 2008

The rampant white knights stomp all over black with 19.Nd6! threatening 20.Nxc6+ and Nf7+ 19…Nd5 (19…Qxd6 20. Nf7+ wins the queen, or  19…cxd6 20.Nc6+ Kd7 21.Nxb8+ also captures the queen) 20.Nxc6+ Kd7 21.Nxb8+ Kxd6 22. Qa3+ c5 23. Bd2 white has a material advantage and a virulent attack.

The next position shows a classic over press in a drawn ending. White has just played his queen from b8 to b2. How did black punish this careless move?

Klaus-Bischoff-Mark-Quinn-Dun-Laoghaire-2010
Klaus Bischoff-Mark Quinn Dun Laoghaire 2010

Black used the power of his centralised steed to fork the queen with the knight 65…Re3+! 0-1 After 66.Qxe3 Nc4+ snares the lady, 66. Kd1 Re1+ also captures the queen, similarly 66.Kf1 Re1+ wins

Black has just played the active Rd2. How did white exploit this?

Michael Adams-John-Nunn-European-Internet-Blitz-2003
Michael Adams-John Nunn European Internet Blitz 2003

26. Rxe6! exploits the weak back rank. 1-0 as 26…Rxf2 27.Re8# & 26…fxe6 27.Qf8#

In this next position white baled out with a perpetual. How could white win with a beautiful geometrical sequence?

Ivan Saric-Vidmantas-Malisauskas-Novi-Sad-2009
Ivan Saric-Vidmantas Malisauskas Novi Sad 2009

47.Qd7+ Kg6 48.f5+ Qxf5 black’s queen blocks his own king 49.Qg7+ Kh5 50.g4+ Qxg4 once again the queen gets in the way 51.Qh7# Very pretty

The next section is by John Nunn who is a brilliant problem solver having won the world problem solving championship three times. I shall show a couple of beautiful studies from his chapter on Advanced Tactics, Endings And Studies.

White to play and win.

Arpad Rusz-The Problemist-2019
Arpad Rusz The Problemist 2019

1.Rc1+! The obvious 1.a8=Q+ loses to 1…Kg1 2.Rc1+ Qf1+! 3.Rxf1+ Kxf1 4.Qa6+ Kg1 5.Qg6+ Rg2 6.Qf6 otherwise the pawn queens 6…Rf2+ skewers the queen and wins

1…Qf1+!! (1…Kg2 2.a8=Q+ Qf3+ 3.Qxf3+ Kxf3 4.Rc3+  Ke2 5.Ra3 and white wins the rook ending) 2.Rxf1+ Kg2

Arpad Rusz-The Problemist 2020 Move 3
Arpad Rusz The Problemist 2019 Move 3

3.Rh1!! (Deflecting either the black king or rook to an inferior square, 3.a8=Q+ loses as above) 3…Kxh1 (3…Rxh1 4. a8=Q+ Kh2 5. Qh8+ followed by Qg8+ winning the dangerous black pawn and the game) 4.a8=Q+ Kg1 (4…Rg2 5.Qh8+ Kg1 6.a6 wins) 5.Qg8+ Rg2 6. Qh8 stopping the pawn and white wins

Here is another brilliant problem. I could not solve this one, but just sit back and enjoy!

Mario-Matous-Dresden-Olympiad-Touney-2008
Mario Matous Dresden Olympiad Tourney 2008

  1. e7 cxb1=Q 2. e8=Q Nf3+! (To give access to h7 for a black queen) 3. Nxf3 Qh7+ 4. Kg3 b1=Q Black seems to have everything under control with the two queens poised to kill

Mario-Matous-Dresden-Olympiad-Tourney-2009-Move-5
Mario Matous Dresden Olympiad Tourney 2009 Move 5

5.Qe4!! Putting white’s queen en prise and forking the two queens. Black cannot take the queen because of a deadly rook check. 5…Qg1+ (5…Qg7+ 6.Ng5+ Qxe4 7.Rd1+ mates) 6.Nxg1 Qxe4 7.Nf3 black has no decent check to avoid mate. 7…Qxf3+ 8.Kxf3 with an easy RvN winning ending as black’s king is stuck in the corner, separated from the knight, for example 8…Nb7 9.Rd7 Nc5 10.Rd5 Ne6 11.Kg3 mating.

Section three is by Graham Burgess. The Opening Themes chapter is an instructive set of puzzles based on tactical possibilities in the opening. The reviewer had not seen these exact positions before, but a lot of the themes are common ideas and traps in the opening.

Black has just played the active and provactive Nb4. How should white deal with the threat to the d-pawn?

Igor-Kovalenko-Axel-Bachmann-World-Blitz-Ch-Berlin-2015
Igor Kovalenko-Axel Bachmann World Blitz Ch Berlin 2015

9.c3! Nbxd5 10. e4 and the knight is lost. 9.e4 is also good based on the same idea.

A typical position from the Sicilian.  Black has just kicked the bishop with h6, before deciding how to complete his development. How does white cut across this plan?

Denis-Wiegner-Wolfgang-Trebing-Hamburg-Juniors-1994
Denis Wiegner-Wolfgang Trebing Hamburg Juniors 1994

10.Ndxb5! axb5 11.Nxb5 threatening Nd6#  d5 12.Bf4! targeting the weak d6 and c7 squares 12…e5 13.exd5 exf4 14.dxc6 Nxc6 15.Re1+ Be7 16.Nd6+ Kf8 17.Nxb7 winning a couple of pawns

Black has just left his d-pawn en prise. Can white take it?

Ian-Marshall-John-Henderson-Corr.-1993
Ian Marshall-John Henderson Corr. 1993

No. After 6.Nxd5?? Nxd5 7.Qxd5 c6! white cannot prevent Qa5+ picking up the bishop on g5. Strange error considering that this was a postal game!

This is a Modern Defence.  Black has just unmasked his fianchettoed bishop with Nfd7. White can refute this outright. How?

Wolfgang-Schaser-Hubertus-Hilchenbach-Corr.-2004
Wolfgang Schaser-Hubertus Hilchenbach Corr. 2004

10.Bxf7+ Kxf7 11.Ng5+ Kg8 12.Qf3 Nf6 13.Qb3+ wins, e.g. e6 14.Ncxe6 Qe7 15.0-0 Bxe6 16.Nxe6 Qf7 17.Nc7

Finally an old trap in the Slav Defence. White has just played 12.e4. What is black’s surprising reply?

Zdenko-Kozul-Miguel-Illescas-Erevan-Olympiad-1996
Zdenko Kozul-Miguel Illescas Erevan Olympiad 1996

12…Nc5!! 13.dxc5 dxe4 14.Qxd8 (14.Qe3 exf3 is bad for white as well) Rfxd8 white loses back the piece and will be a pawn down 15.Na4 (15.Nxe4 Nxe4 16.Be3 Nxc5 and 15.Be3 exf3 16.gxf3 Rd3 leave black in a superb position) 15…exf3 16.Rfd1 Rd3 with a huge plus.

Finally, I will show a complex king and pawn ending given by Wesley So. Black to play – how does he capitalise on his better pawn structure and better king?

Alexander-Grishchuk-Wesley-So-Leuven-rapid-2018
Alexander Grishchuk-Wesley-So Leuven rapid 2018

The first few moves are obvious 31…Kg6 32.Ke2 Kg5 33.Kf3 f5 34.gxf5

Now what should black play?

Buy the book to find out.

In summary, this is a superb puzzle book with a varied pot-pourri of problems such as opening traps, pure tactics, attacking ideas, defensive ideas, endings,  and studies with a varying  degree of difficulty to suit all standards. An excellent book for not just junior training but for players of all standards to hone their tactical skills.

FM Richard Webb, Chineham, Hampshire, 30th April 2021

FM Richard Webb
FM Richard Webb

Book Details :

  • Hardcover :320 pages
  • Publisher:  Gambit Publications Ltd (16 Dec. 2020)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10:1911465651
  • ISBN-13:978-1911465652
  • Product Dimensions: 17.15 x 1.65 x 24.77 cm

This physical book is also available as an eBook and as an App book from Gambit.

 

Official web site of Gambit Publications Ltd.

Desert Island Chess Puzzle Omnibus, Adams, Nunn, Burgess, So, Gambit Publications Ltd., 2021, ISBN-13 : 978-1911465652
Desert Island Chess Puzzle Omnibus, Adams, Nunn, Burgess, So, Gambit Publications Ltd., 2021, ISBN-13 : 978-1911465652

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Win with the Caro-Kann

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

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

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

Sverre Johnsen
Sverre Johnsen

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

Grandmaster Torbjørn Ringdal Hansen
Grandmaster Torbjørn Ringdal Hansen

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

whose endgame prospects are more attractive.

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

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

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

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

Following on from the optional lines after

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

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

and

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

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

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

Curiously the Blackmar-Diemer Gambit

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

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

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

So, how is the material presented?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Enjoy and good luck !

John Upham, Cove, Hampshire, March 23rd 2021

John Upham
John Upham

Book Details :

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

Official web site of Gambit Publications Ltd.

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

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An Idiot-Proof Chess Opening Repertoire

An Idiot-Proof Chess Opening Repertoire : Graham Burgess

An Idiot-Proof Chess Opening Repertoire
An Idiot-Proof Chess Opening Repertoire

FIDE Master Graham Burgess needs no introduction to readers of English language chess books ! Minnesota, USA based, Graham has authored more than twenty five books and edited at least 250 and is editorial director of Gambit Publications Ltd. In 1994 Graham set a world record for marathon blitz playing and has been champion of the Danish region of Funen !

We previously reviewed Chess Opening Traps for Kids also by Graham Burgess and, more recently we reviewed (and enjoyed) A Startling Chess Opening Repertoire (New Edition)

FM Graham Burgess
FM Graham Burgess

We searched the BCN office and, as the most obvious idiot, it was decided that John should evaluate the repertoire to test the title’s ambitious claim…

Burgess has provided a comprehensive repertoire aimed at the club player for both colours. Here are the chapters :

Repertoire for Black

  1. Scandinavian
  2. Queen’s Gambit Accepted
  3. Slav
  4. Queen’s Pawn
  5. Flank Openings (as Black)

Repertoire for White

  1. Closed English
  2. Other Reversed Sicilians
  3. Symmetrical English (as White)
  4. English : Other 1st Moves

So, Burgess recommends the Scandinavian (Centre Counter) Defence against 1.e4 and specifically the relatively modern Pytel-Wade Variation as championed by GM Sergei Tiviakov and others :

Of course this is a very reasonable alternative to the (arguably) more mainstream 3…Qa5 and is well supported in the literature and with DVD and online resources. In other words, if you adopt this line and want to delve deeper then the resources are out there.

As the second player versus 1.d4 Burgess offers an interesting hybrid of the Queen’s Gambit Accepted and the Slav Defence :

popularised by David Navara, Igor Khenkin, Christian Bauer and Matthew Sadler to name but a few : clearly a respectable line. The “idea” is that after 4. e3 Black will attempt to hang on to the pawn with 4…Be6 :

and an interesting struggle will ensue more or less on Black’s terms. If you had to name this line then The Khenkin Variation is most likely.

Against the various queen pawn openings (where White does not play an immediate c4) then Burgess champions concrete lines against the London System (Modern and with 2.Nf3), Torre Attack, Veresov Attack, Colle System, Pseudo-Trompovsky and even the amusing Blackmar-Diemar Gambit! Missing (for some reason) is the Stonewall Attack : not sure why?

Burgess provides recommendations for Black against the most common and sensible Flank openings.

For White we are offered the English Opening with a quick “Kosten style” g3 with most material covering 1…e5 but also good coverage of 1..c5, 1…Nf6 and others. In fact, you could buy this book simply to learn the English Opening as Burgess provides an excellent introduction and not worry about the Black repertoire.

For amusement we pitted the book’s white repertoire against its black repertoire and came up with this fabricated game :

which has been seen in just under 900 games in MegaBase 2020.

In summary, this is a coherent and well-thought out repertoire devoid of cheap tricks or dodgy gambits. I’m not entirely convinced that someone who enjoys the English Opening would also champion the Pytel-Wade Variation of the Scandinavian but who knows ! Clearly the first player opening is solid and “positional” (whatever that means). The second players lines are active and interesting and may even allow our player to dictate terms with The Khenkin Variation.

So, is the title accurate?

With careful study and practice (online for the time being!) you can learn this repertoire without fuss. So, the answer must be Yes!

As with every Gambit publication the typesetting is excellent and the use of diagrams generous. The book is available in physical form and, for around half the price, in Kindle format. In usual fashion you may “Look Inside” before purchasing. At $22.95 (physical) this is a lot of material for your money and represents good value.

As a bonus we decided to play a game where the “Idiot-Proof” repertoire plays the “Startling” repertoire. Here is what happened :

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

Enjoy and good luck !

John Upham, Cove, Hampshire, August 31st 2020

John Upham
John Upham

Book Details :

  • Hardcover : 192 pages
  • Publisher: Gambit Publications Ltd (11 Jun. 2020)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1911465422
  • ISBN-13: 978-1911465423
  • Product Dimensions: 17.15 x 1.52 x 24.77 cm

Official web site of Gambit Publications Ltd.

An Idiot-Proof Chess Opening Repertoire
An Idiot-Proof Chess Opening Repertoire

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Happy Birthday GM John Nunn (25-iv-1955)

BCN wishes GM John Nunn Happy Birthday (25-iv-1955). John resides in Bude, Cornwall with his wife Petra (née Fink) having previously resided in Chobham, Surrey.  John became a director of Gambit Publications Ltd. on January 30th, 1997 along with  Murray Chandler and Graham Burgess. WFM Petra Nunn is the German editor.

Harry Golombek OBE wrote the following (presumably in 1978) in the 1979 Dataday chess diary:

“Fortunate is the country which has a number six player as good and as effective as John Nunn. As I wrote last time, ‘The former European Junior champion is such a fine player and pursues the game with such energy when he does play that one is apt to forget he is an amateur with only a limited amount of time to spare for study of the game.’

He like Mestel, obtained a grandmaster norm at the Lord John tournament where he score 5.5 points coming just below Mestel but beating both Quinteros and Torre in the process.

At the Moscow Team tournament, already mentioned, he had a magnificent result scoring 3.5 out of 7 on board 4. Perhaps it was this performance that increased his Elo rating by 30 points and when I say board 4 it should be realised that opposition consisted of such players as the former world champion Tal and many other genuine grandmasters. I give the entertaining and fighting draw he had with Tal as Moscow.”

From British Chess (Pergamon Press, 1983), pp.201- 210:

“It is a difficult task to pick out three games from many hundreds played over the years. What criteria should be used in the selection? Brilliance, strength of opponent, importance of result – all these are reasons for a game to stand out in one’s memory. As this selection is autobiographical I have given prominence to the last criterion and so I will give one game from each of the tournaments in which I gained an International title, and one game from a team tournament.

The first of these tournaments was the European Junior Championships held over the new year 1974-5 in the Dutch town of Groningen. It was only by chance that I played in this event at all. Originally Jonathan Mestel was the English representative, but he was invited to play in concurrent Hastings Premier and so I travelled to Groningen instead.

The organisation of the Championship has changed over the years, but at that time a seven-round Swiss formed a preliminary event, with the top ten of the twenty-eight participants going on to an all-play-all final section. The score thought to be sufficient for qualification was 4.5/7 and the accepted method of reaching this target was to win one’s first two games and then draw all the others., facilitated by the fact that one’s opponents would also require draws to reach the magic figure 4.5. However tie-breaking in the final was decided  firstly by the score in the preliminaries and secondly by the result of the individual game in the final, so it was clearly an advantage to outstrip one’s rivals in the Swiss. I started with the requisite two wins and then drew my next three games, but in round six with the white pieces I decided to play for the win against Manny Rayner of Wales. I felt slightly self-conscious playing amidst a row of boards on which peace has been concluded at an early stage, but I did gain the full point. The game stirred up a certain amount of comment and I even heard one player’s second declare

You can’t trust Nunn!

In such a short race there will inevitably be upsets and the unlucky man on this occasion was Alexander Ivanov, the Russian representative.

The final round started less smoothly for me and after five rounds the leading scores were Borokowski 4, Szekely 3.5 and van der Sterren and myself on 3. I had already beaten van der Sterren, who had tied with me in the preliminaries, so in view of the tie-break rules, I had effectively half-a-point advantage over the rest of the field. In round six I played Borkowski and a win for would leave the tournament wide open.

I scored well in the three rounds after this game and appeared to have a good chance of winning. However in the penultimate round I lost to Lars-Ake Schneider in only 18 moves so as the last round started the leading scores were Szekely 5.5 out of 8 with Schneider, Borkowski and myself on 5. Skekely was White against Borkowski while I had White against the Israeli Grunfeld. Schneider blundered quickly and lost, while to my surprise Skekely drew in only 14 moves. The way was now open to the title if only I could defeat my opponent. However after 4.5 hours play I had only a slight advantage. But then a curious thing happened. I made my 40th move with a minute or two left on my clock and Grunfeld, who had half an hour left, replied almost immediately. The game was played to a finish without adjournment and now, with an hour on my clock, I was able to see that his 40th move was a mistake allowing a decisive combination. This small event decided the result of the tournament and so I became European Junior Champion and an International Master.

The second game was played in the Finals of the European Team Championship held at Moscow 1977. This event which takes place every three years, is second in importance only to the biennial Olympiads. The twenty teams entering were divided into five preliminary groups to produce seven qualifiers for the final. The USSR, as previous winners, were admitted directly to the final to make up the total of eight countries represented at Moscow. England qualified ahead of Holland, the other teams in this preliminary group being Wales and France. Since the matches in the final take place over eight boards this event is much more test of strength in the depth than the four board Olympiads and so England was not expected to do well, especially in view of the absence of Tony Miles. Nevertheless the final result of bottom place was a disappointment. My individual performance of 50% against strong opposition was quite satisfactory, but it was the following game which made the tournament particularly enjoyable for me.

We now move ahead to the summer of 1978. At this time I had a 9-game grandmaster norm from the Lord John Cup held in London during September 1977 and so I needed a 15-game norm to actually gain the title. In July I played in an event at Lublin in Poland at which, however, there was no GM norm. My play showed evidence of lack of practice and my final position was rather low.

Then I went on to the annual Tungsram tournament held in Budapest during August. This was a much stronger event (category 10) and the GM norm was a formidable 10 out of 15. However my play was much better than in Poland and, after a first round loss, I began to score well. After 12 rounds the leading scores were Kuzmin 8, Nunn 7.5 and Csom, Jansa, Adorjan and Mednis 7. I could have had half a point more if I had not overlooked a combination two (!) moves deep winning Kuzmin’s queen, but, apart from this incident Kuzmin had played very well and seemed to be heading for first prize.

My sights were firmly set on scoring 2.5 from the last three games to reach the GM norm and my interest in winning the tournament was secondary. However, Kuzmin was destined to lose his next two games and so these two objectives became one and the same.

In these final games I was to be White against F. Portisch (Lajos’ brother), Black against GM Jansa and in the last round White against Hardicsay, the weakest player in the tournament. The plan was clear – I had to win both games with White and hold Jansa to a draw with the Black pieces. The execution, however, was more difficult.

While preparing for F. Portisch I noticed that he played either the French or the Sicilian Pelikan. Since I was playing only for the win I naturally hoped he would opt for the complications of the Pelikan. Two days before this game I had been given a copy of the latest issue of the Hungarian chess magazine, Magyar Sakkelet, containing a game Honfi – Piasetki in which Honfi had played 11.Bxb5!? and won with the aid of a novelty. This piece sacrifice seemed to be ideal for stirring up as much trouble as possible and so I decided to try it in the game, at the same time hoping that F. Portsich had not read his magazine!

The first obstacle had been surmounted, but two more remained. The opening went badly against Jansa, but I managed to restrict myself to a small disadvantage in the early middle game. To my good fortune the Czech Grandmaster was going through a bad patch, having started with 7/10 anf then scored only half a point from his next three games. With only two rounds to go his interest in the tournament had dissipated and rather try to exploit his edge he offered a draw. Of course I was only too pleased to accept.

Before the last round I was extremely nervous but bolstered my confidence with that thought that Hardicsay had only managed to score 3.5/14 , and indeed had accumulated only half a point from his last six games. In most cases this was due to his chronic addiction to time trouble. At first things went well. I accepted a pawn sacrifice and gradually seemed to be repelling my opponent’s threats. But at a crucial moment I chose a faulty bishop move and suddenly my difficulties were growing from move to move. Before long I was pawn down with an inferior position. My only hope lay in the fact that Hardicsay had only seconds to make the last eight moves of the time control. Exploiting this, I regained the pawn and even adjourned with a slight plus.

After a one hour break play was resumed and once again Hardicsay played well, almost completely neutralizing my advantage. I cunningly made some pass moves with my King until he was once again in time trouble and then tried my last winning attempt!

In the event my opponent made a mistake and a further session was not necessary. The two spectators who had stuck it out to the end dashed up to congratulate me and Hardicsay gave me a distinctly sour look (justifiably!)- I had become a Grandmaster!

From The Encyclopaedia of Chess (Batsford, 1977) by Harry Golombek OBE :

British International master and European Junior Champion, 1975. Born in London, Nunn learned chess at the age of four and soon revealed a great aptitude for the game.

 

Graham Ladds and John Nunn. See full caption below.
Graham Ladds and John Nunn. See full caption below.

Supplied caption for above picture.
Supplied caption for above picture.

He came 6th in the Norwich Junior international tournament in 1970 and went up to Oxford University to take a mathematics degree at a very early age. He played on top board for the University from 1972-6 and is now preparing for a doctorate there.

John DM Nunn
John DM Nunn

He won the European Junior Championship and with it the international master title in Groningen in 1975. In that year too he was equal first in the IBM Master tournament, and at London in 1975 he reached an international master norm coming 5th in the international tournament there. He played on bottom board at the Haifa Olympiad 1976 and scored 64.2%

GM John Nunn
GM John Nunn

From The Oxford Companion to Chess by Hooper & Whyld :

English player. International Grandmaster (1978), British champion 1980. He went to Oxford at the unusually young age of 15, graduated in 1973. Gained his B.Sc. the following year and his
doctorate in 1978.

GM John Nunn
GM John Nunn

 

A Junior Research Fellow, he lectured in mathematics until 1981 when he became a professional player. By then he had already achieved several good results in international tournaments: Budapest 1978, first; Hastings 1979-80, first (4-5 = 10) equal with Andersson; Baden-bei-Wien 1980, category 12, third (+5=10) after Spassky and Belyavsky: Helsinki 1981, first (+5 = 6) equal with Matulovich; and Wiesbaden 1981, first (+6=3). In the category 12 Wijk aan Zee tournament 1982, Nunn came first ( + 5=7 — 1) equal with Balashov ahead of Tal, Hubner, and Timman and at Helsinki 1983 he came second (+5 = 6) after Karlsson.

Maia Chiburdanidze and John Nunn from Lloyds Bank, 1985
Maia Chiburdanidze and John Nunn from Lloyds Bank, 1985

Possessing a remarkably quick sight of the board, Nunn is an expert solver: he made the second highest individual score in the world team solving championship, 1978, and won the solving championship of Great Britain in 1981.

Lubomir Kavalek and John Nunn
Lubomir Kavalek and John Nunn

Here is an excellent article from ChessBase

Polugayevsky-Nunn European team championship :

GM John Nunn
GM John Nunn

Here is his Wikipedia entry

John and his partner WFM Petra Nunn have recently relocated from Chobham in Surrey to the West Country. We wish them a happy retirement!

46th USSR Chess Championships 1978, RD Keene, JDM Nunn, RG Wade, Master Chess Publications, 1978, ISBN 0 906634 00 8
46th USSR Chess Championships 1978, RD Keene, JDM Nunn, RG Wade, Master Chess Publications, 1978, ISBN 0 906634 00 8

 

The Benoni for the Tournament Player
The Benoni for the Tournament Player

Solving in Style
Solving in Style

The Complete Pirc
The Complete Pirc

Secrets of Rook Endings
Secrets of Rook Endings

Secrets of Pawnless Endings
Secrets of Pawnless Endings

New Ideas in the Pirc Defence
New Ideas in the Pirc Defence

Beating the Sicilian 3
Beating the Sicilian 3

The King Hunt
The King Hunt

Secrets of Grandmaster Chess
Secrets of Grandmaster Chess

Secrets of Practical Chess
Secrets of Practical Chess

Nunn's Chess Openings
Nunn’s Chess Openings

John Nunn's Chess Puzzle Book
John Nunn’s Chess Puzzle Book

101 Brilliant Chess Miniatures
101 Brilliant Chess Miniatures

Learn Chess
Learn Chess

Secrets of Minor-Piece Endings
Secrets of Minor-Piece Endings

Understanding Chess Move by Move
Understanding Chess Move by Move

John Nunn's Best Games
John Nunn’s Best Games

Endgame Challenge
Endgame Challenge

Tactical Chess Endings
Tactical Chess Endings

Learn Chess Tactics
Learn Chess Tactics

Mammoth Book of the World's Greatest Chess Games
Mammoth Book of the World’s Greatest Chess Games

Grandmaster Chess Move by Move
Grandmaster Chess Move by Move

Understanding Chess Endgames
Understanding Chess Endgames

Nunn's Chess Endings
Nunn’s Chess Endings

Understanding Chess Middlegames
Understanding Chess Middlegames

Chess Tactics Workbook for Kids
Chess Tactics Workbook for Kids

Chess Endgame Workbook for Kids
Chess Endgame Workbook for Kids

The Chess Endgame Exercise Book Paperback, JDM Nunn, Gambit Publications Ltd., 2020
The Chess Endgame Exercise Book Paperback, JDM Nunn, Gambit Publications Ltd., 2020

Desert Island Chess Puzzle Omnibus, Adams, Nunn, Burgess, So, Gambit Publications Ltd., 2021, ISBN-13 : 978-1911465652
Desert Island Chess Puzzle Omnibus, Adams, Nunn, Burgess, So, Gambit Publications Ltd., 2021, ISBN-13 : 978-1911465652

GM John Nunn
GM John Nunn

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Chess Opening Workbook for Kids

Chess Opening Workbook for Kids : Graham Burgess

Chess Opening Workbook for Kids
Chess Opening Workbook for Kids

FIDE Master Graham Burgess needs no introduction to readers of English language chess books ! Minnesota, USA based, Graham has authored more than twenty five books and edited at least 250 and is editorial director of Gambit Publications Ltd. In 1994 Graham set a world record for marathon blitz playing and has been champion of the Danish region of Funen !

FM Graham Burgess
FM Graham Burgess

Readers may remember “101 Chess Opening Surprises” published in 1998, also by Gambit Publications, was well received and added to GKBs reputation for originality, accuracy and encyclopedic knowledge of openings.

Chess Opening Traps for Kids is the ninth in a series of “for Kids” books and is robustly (!) hardbound in a convenient size such that weights are not need to keep it propped open (unlike some A5 paperbacks) meaning studying with this book is more convenient than with many books. The layout and printing is clear (as you would expect with Gambit) with numerous diagrams. In essence, players under 18 (for whom this book is intended) will find it easy to dip in out of and it can be used without a board (although BCN would always recommend following each game on a “proper” board).

As you would expect with Gambit, the notation is English short form algebraic using figurines for pieces. Each diagram has coordinates and a “whose move it is indicator” (thank-you Gambit !); welcome for the intended junior readership.

This book follows on from the highly regarded (2018) Chess Opening Traps for Kids from the same author and reviewed here

The author divides the material into 11 chapters titled as follows :

  1. Warm-Ups
  2. Mate
  3. Double Attack
  4. Trapped Pieces
  5. General Tactics
  6. Hunting the King
  7. Development and the Centre
  8. Castling
  9. Does Bxh7+ Work?
  10. Advanced Exercises
  11. Tests

This is not a book about openings per se. It focuses more on tactics and traps and tactical ideas that happen very early in many games. It is not organised on a per opening variation basis and neither is there an index of openings. If that is what you want then this is not the right book for you.

However, this is much, much more than a book about openings…

Chapters 2 – 9 each kick-off with an introduction to the chapter’s theme followed by (in some cases) 60 example test positions where the theme can be exploited by an accurate move sequence : the student is invited to work-out this sequence. The chapter ends with detailed solutions to each test position.

Chapter 10 are exercises using any of the themes in the previous chapters but randomised and without any clue as to what the theme is. In general these are more challenging and serve as a test of what should have been learnt so far !

Chapter 11 contains 40 test positions some according to theme and rest without a clue. Following the solutions the student is invited to assess their strength at these exercises using a simple score table.

Here is an example from Chapter 3, Double Attack :

Example #5


White has just played 6c4?? Why was that a blunder ?

See the foot of this review for the solution should you need to.

For further insight you may use the “Look Inside” feature from Amazon here. Of course there are many worthy book retailers to be your supplier !

In summary, this is an excellent book with much original material presented in a clear and friendly way and therefore to be recommended. It is an ideal follow-up to Chess Opening Traps for Kids and we would advise studying Chess Opening Traps for Kids first and then move on to this workbook.

One negative comment we would make concerns the cover. “Never judge a book by its cover” we are told and you might look at this book cover and think it was suitable for say primary aged children. I would say not but I would suggest it suitable from secondary aged children. I would say strong juniors from 12 upwards would read this book and enjoy it.

We would like to see an index of openings from which the theme examples were obtained.

The title and cover might, perhaps, put off the adult club player market. However, the content is totally suitable for adult club players upto say 180 ECF or 2000 Elo.

John Upham, Cove, Hampshire, March 30th 2020

John Upham
John Upham

Book Details :

  • Hardcover : 128 pages
  • Publisher: Gambit Publications Ltd. (15th November 2019)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1911465376
  • ISBN-13: 978-1911465379
  • Product Dimensions: 17.8 x 1.3 x 22.9 cm

Official web site of Gambit Publications Ltd.

Chess Opening Workbook for Kids
Chess Opening Workbook for Kids

Solution to Example#5
The problem is similar to the Cambridge Springs Trap : 6…dxc4! wins a piece. After 7 Bxc4 Qa5+ the queen check picks up the loose bishop. This has even cropped up at super grandmaster level. The other key point is that White can’t unload his bishop with 7 Bxf6 because 7…cxd3 leaves two white pieces attacked.

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Chess Endgame Workbook for Kids

Chess Endgame Workbook for Kids : John Nunn

Chess Endgame Workbook for Kids
Chess Endgame Workbook for Kids

John Nunn has written around thirty books on chess and many of these are some of the finest chess books published in any language : Secrets of Pawnless Endings (1994, Batsford) easily is a candidate for the all time list. John is a director of Gambit Publications Ltd. together with Murray Chandler and Graham Burgess.

GM John Nunn
GM John Nunn

Chess Endgame Workbook for Kids is the eighth in a highly successful series of “for Kids” books. Indeed, we recently reviewed Chess Opening Traps for Kids and Chess Tactics Workbook for Kids.  The Workbook theme is likely to be extended other “for Kids” style books from Gambit Publications.

This workbook is a follow-up to the original (2015) and much liked Chess Endgames for Kids by Karsten Müller :

Chess Endgames for Kids
Chess Endgames for Kids

From the rear cover :

“This is a book for those who have started to play chess and want to know how to win from good positions and survive bad ones.

The endgame is where most games are decided, and knowing all the tricks will dramatically improve your results. Endgame specialist John Nunn has drawn upon his decades of experience to present the ideas that are most important in real games. Step by step he helps you uncover the key points and then add further vital knowledge.

Chess Endgame Workbook for Kids is the third in a new series of books that help players gain chess skills by solving hundreds of carefully chosen exercises. The themes are similar to those in Gambit’s best-selling ‘Chess for Kids’ series, but the focus is on getting hands-on experience. Many positions build on ones given earlier, showing how advanced ideas are normally made up of simpler ones that we can all grasp.

Each chapter deals with a particular type of endgame and features dozens of exercises, with solutions that highlight the key points. For each endgame we are given tips on the themes that are most important and the strategies for both sides. The book ends with a series of test papers that enable you to assess your progress and identify the areas that need further work.

Dr John Nunn is one of the best-respected figures in world chess. He was among the world’s leading grandmasters for nearly twenty years and won four gold medals in chess Olympiads. In 2004, 2007 and 2010, Nunn was crowned World Chess Solving Champion, ahead of many former champions.”

To get some idea Gambit (via Amazon) provide a “Look Inside” at their Kindle edition.

Chess Endgame Workbook for Kids is robustly (!) hardbound in a convenient size such that weights are not need to keep it propped open (unlike some A5 paperbacks) meaning studying with this book is more convenient than with many books. The layout and printing is clear (as you would expect with Gambit) with numerous diagrams at key moments in each, relatively short, game. In essence, players under 18 (for whom this book is intended) will find it easy to dip in out of and it can be used without a board (although BCN and most chess teachers and coaches would always recommend following each game on a “proper” board).

As you would expect with Gambit, the notation is English short form algebraic using figurines for pieces. A previous criticism (ibid) has been addressed in that each diagram has a symbolic “whose move it is” indicator. Each diagram does have coordinates which are very welcome for the younger junior reader.

The book is divided into 8 chapters as follows :

  1. The Lone King
  2. King and Pawn Endings
  3. Minor Piece Endings
  4. Rook Endings
  5. Rook and Minor Piece Endings
  6. Queen Endings
  7. Endgame Tactics
  8. Test Papers

Each chapter has an introduction to the type of ending examined, followed by a good number (at least 20 – 40 ) of exercises followed by “Tougher Exercises”. Each chapter concludes with Solutions (and excellent explanations) to each exercise.

Here is an example (#39) from Chapter 2 :

“Should White play 1 a5 or 1 Kc6, and what is the result ?”

The solution is at the foot of this review.

Just as for Chess Tactics Workbook for Kids, it was clear when working through the easier set of exercises that the author had thought carefully about their sequence since the reader should (we did for sure !) notice the level of difficulty increasing slowly but surely. The solutions are remote from the puzzles nicely avoiding the “accidentally seeing the solution” issue one gets with lesser books. The solutions themselves are clear and concise and instructional in their own right.

We found chapters 7 & 8 particularly rewarding and Test Papers puts the previous chapters into context. Precise calculation is order of the day rather then intuition.

One negative comment we would make (and we are struggling to make any!) concerns the cover. “Never judge a book by its cover” we are told and you might look at this book cover and think it was suitable for say primary aged children. We would say not but we would suggest it suitable from secondary aged children. We would say strong juniors from 12 upwards would read this book and enjoy it.

As we previously mentioned in our review of Chess Opening Traps for Kids, The title and cover might, perhaps, put off the adult club player market. However, the content is totally suitable for adult club players upto say 180 ECF or 2000 Elo.

In summary, we recommend this book to any junior or adult who wishes to improve their core endgame skills and results. It makes an excellent book for the new year for young players and the young at heart !

John Upham, Cove, Hampshire, February 27th 2020

John Upham
John Upham

Book Details :

  • Hardcover : 128 pages
  • Publisher: Gambit Publications Ltd; Workbook edition (15 Nov. 2019)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1911465384
  • ISBN-13: 978-1911465386
  • Product Dimensions: 17.8 x 1.3 x 22.9 cm

Official web site of Gambit Publications Ltd.

Chess Endgame Workbook for Kids
Chess Endgame Workbook for Kids

Solution to #39 :

39) At the moment White’s g-pawn holds back all three enemy pawns. The winning idea is to stalemate Black’s kings and use zugzwang to force Black to push a pawn : 1 a5! (1 Kc6? Ka7 2 Kd6 doesn’t work because White will not promote with check if Black’s king is not on the back rank; then 2…h5! 3 gxh5 g4 4 h6 g3 5 h7 g2 h8Q g1Q leads to a drawn ending with equal material) 1…Kc8 2 a6 Kb8 3 a7+ Ka8 4 Ka6 (forcing Black to self-destruct on the kingside) 4…h5 5 gxh5 f5 6 h6 f4 7 h7 f3 8 h8Q#.

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