Category Archives: Gambit Publications Ltd.

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
 Save as PDF

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

"John DM Nunn Britain' Number 2 chess grandmaster and winner of the Benedictine International Chess Championship Tournament in Manchester pictured during the Benedictine Tournament. September 15th , 1980. Photograph by John C Madden"
“John DM Nunn Britain’ Number 2 chess grandmaster and winner of the Benedictine International Chess Championship Tournament in Manchester pictured during the Benedictine Tournament. September 15th , 1980. Photograph by John C Madden”

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

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

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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Chess Logic in Practice

Chess Logic in Practice : Erik Kislik

Erik Kislik is an American IM and chess coach who has been based in Hungary for some years.

This is his second book, a successor to Applying Logic in Chess, which proved rather controversial, containing rather more words and less chess than you might expect. John Hartmann’s review proved even more controversial than Kislik’s book, and was subjected to some rather aggressive online responses by the author’s friends and supporters.

As someone who likes chess books with lots of words and has a specific interest in logic, I was sufficiently intrigued to buy the book myself and find out what all the fuss was about. While agreeing with Hartmann’s reservations, I enjoyed the book and was looking forward to the sequel.

Kislik’s premise is that, by using logical thought processes, we can eliminate bias from our thinking and improve our choice of candidate moves. According to the introduction: “I decided to write this book to lay out straightforward problem-solving approaches to the tough decisions we face in practical games. We have all sorts of biases that get in our way and stop us from finding, considering and calculating strong moves.”

Unlike his previous book, you’ll find a lot more chess than verbiage here. The book is full of interesting extracts from top GM games, games by the author and his students, and positions from opening theory.

Kislik splits his material into two parts. The first part, Thinking Concepts, concerns identifying specific cognitive biases which might prevent us finding the best moves. The second part, Positional Concepts, looks at more directly chess-related ideas.

You can find a contents list and sample pages on the publisher’s website.

I guess I’m not really part of the target market as I have had no particular interest in improving my own chess for several decades now and am gradually winding down my playing career.

For reference, my ECF grade is, at the time of writing, 167, which would be round about 1900 Elo.

What did I make of the material? Does it succeed in its aim? What level of player is it aimed at?

Chapter 3, The Method of Elimination, tells us that we can simplify our choices if there’s only one move that meets our opponent’s threat or, in some other way, reacts to the demands of the position. Sure, but I’ve certainly played games where I’ve done just that only to find that the one move to meet my opponent’s threat, which I’ve played without too much thought, allows something much worse. There seems to be an assumption here that the reader calculates much more accurately and quickly than I do.

This position is from Harikrishna-Dominguez (Wijk aan Zee 2014) with Black to play.

Black’s a pawn down, so he has no choice but to play Qg6, which, as you will see, regains the pawn with equality. Not so hard, even for me, but I was more interested in the position a couple of moves earlier where he chose to free his position by a temporary sacrifice of his e-pawn.

A few moves later they reached this position:

Here Dominguez played a5. Kislik: “This very unnecessary defensive move allows White to make a lot of progress and set some awkward problems. 32… Ke7 is a move I would have chosen by a process of elimination. Black improves his worst-placed piece and White has no threats anyway.” The position should still be within the bounds of a draw, but Harikrishna gave a textbook example of how to maintain the pressure and eventually brought home the full point.

Yes, but you might equally well say that Black would have been following general principles: bringing his king up for the ending and not creating unnecessary pawn weaknesses.

This is from Chapter 12: Painfully Slow Moves: Kislik-Szalanczy Budapest 2009 with White to play.

Looking at what I’d learnt from Chapter 3, I’d quickly eliminate everything except gxf7+ and Rxf7 as I don’t want to lose the g6 pawn for nothing. In fact both moves give White a slight plus. Kislik chose gxf7+ and a few moves later allowed a perpetual.

As he explains, he missed a Painfully Slow Move: “33. Rf4!! wins by threatening the very modest Qxe7.” Wait a minute. Why does Rf4 threaten Qxe7?  Why can’t I play Qxe7 at once? He analyses various other lines but doesn’t answer my questions. I asked Stockfish 10, who told me that 33. Qxe7 Qg1+ 34. Kc2 Qxg2+ 35. Nd2 fxg6 is equal, but if the white rook was on f4 rather than f5 White would be mating with Qe6+ followed by Rh4+. All rather too deep for me, I’m afraid.

I believe there have been several recent books based on the opposite premise: that to play at a high level you need to use creativity, imagination and intuition rather than just pure logic. At my level, at any rate, I’d need to go beyond pure logic to find Rf4.

I get the feeling from this example that the book is really aimed at stronger players than me. The book is full of punctuation marks and assessments without further comment. From my perspective I’d have preferred fewer examples and more explanation.

I wonder also if the author might have had a database of instructive positions and a list of interesting chapter headings and tried to shoehorn everything in somehow and somewhere.

The other quibble I have is with the layout. It’s all rather breathless, with one position being followed by another without a pause, I’d have liked a gap, or even a horizontal line, to separate examples, so that my brain could take a break.

In spite of my reservations, I’m sure that a player of, say, 2000+ strength prepared to work hard will get a lot out of this book. Kislik’s theories are thought provoking and his examples fascinating. Slightly lower rated players will, as I did, get a lot of pleasure out of reading this book and enjoying some excellent chess.

Richard James, Twickenham, January 14th 2020

Richard James
Richard James

Book Details :

  • Hardcover : 240 pages
  • Publisher: Gambit Publications Ltd (18 September 2019)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1911465244
  • ISBN-13: 978-1911465249
  • Product Dimensions: 17.1 x 2.3 x 24.8 cm

Official web site of Gambit Publications Ltd.

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A Startling Chess Opening Repertoire (New Edition)

A Startling Chess Opening Repertoire : Chris Baker and Graham Burgess

A Startling Chess Opening Repertoire (New Edition)
A Startling Chess Opening Repertoire (New Edition)

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.

FM Graham Burgess
FM Graham Burgess

This new book is an extensive rewrite and update of the original (1998) edition by IM Chris Baker.

IM Chris Baker
IM Chris Baker

Baker and Burgess have provided a complete repertoire for the White player based around 1.e4 and the Max Lange Attack with suggested lines for White against each and every reasonable reply from Black. Logically, the content is organised based on the popularity of Black’s first move and therefore the order is

  1. 1…e5 2.Nf3
    • 2…Nc6
    • 2…Nf6
    • 2…d6 (and Modern Philidor)
    • 2…f5
  2. 1…c5
  3. 1…e6
  4. 1…c6
  5. 1…d6 & g6
  6. 1…Nf6
  7. 1…d5 (we might have put the Scandinavian higher up the pecking order but that is a matter of opinion)
  8. 1…Nc6
  9. Odds & Ends
    • Elephant Gambit
    • St. George
    • Owen’s Defence

and for each Black defence the authors have selected sharp and challenging lines for White that will definitely give Black something to think about. We have sampled some of these lines and confirm that they are variations that Black needs to tread very carefully in to stay on the board. They are all sound and not based on “coffee house gambits” or cheap traps.

Who is the intended audience of this book ? Well, clearly anyone who currently plays 1.e4 or is contemplating adding 1. e4 to their repertoire. Also, anyone who faces 1.e4 (and that is everyone who plays chess!) should be aware of of what might land on their board when they are least expecting it. As Robert Baden Powell would advise : “Be prepared !”

Keep Calm and Be Prepared
Keep Calm and Be Prepared

Unfortunately, We do not possess a copy of the original 1998 edition and we were curious as to the extent of the changes. The Introduction states :

“For this new edition, I have sought to retain the spirit and aims of the original book, while bringing the content fully up-to-date, making a repertoire that will work well in 2019 and for years to come.

In a sense it is basically a new book: wherever anything needed correcting, updating, replacing or adding, I have done so. Where material is unaltered, this is because it passed verification and nothing needed to be added. … the overall recommendations were not changed unless this was necessary. Some lines covered in this book basically didn’t exist in 1998, so I needed to decide what line against them was most in keeping with the rest of the repertoire.”

We followed up on the above and contacted the author (GB) receiving a very helpful reply as follows :

Something like 70% of the content is either new or modified so much as to be basically new. Examples of lines that essentially didn’t exist in 1998 include “Tiger’s Modern” and the 3…Qd6 Scandinavian. Lines where the old recommendation has been replaced (since it was fundamentally flawed in some way) include the Modern Philidor and the Two Knights French with 3…d4 (I briefly explain the switch from 5 c3 to 5 b4).

The whole Three Knights/Four Knights section in Chapter 10 is new, both to fill the repertoire hole and to provide an alternative vs the Petroff to those who don’t like the Cochrane.

But, almost every part of the book features fundamental changes. Little remains of the original Part 3 of the Sicilian chapter (other than the basic theme of a fianchetto set-up), for instance.

My aim was to be faithful to the aims of the original book, but only to the specifics where they still work, or where there isn’t a new possibility that fits better with the repertoire.

and furthermore :

I have attached a graph showing the years the game references come from. The number for each year shows the cumulative total up to that year. Though this doesn’t really tell the full story, as I cited game references in a very sparing way, only using them when there seemed a real purpose in doing so.

and here is that graphic (courtesy of Graham) :

A graph showing the years the game references come from. The number for each year shows the cumulative total up to that year.
A graph showing the years the game references come from. The number for each year shows the cumulative total up to that year.

Clearly we are not going to reveal all of the suggestions here as that really would be a spoiler. Suffice to say that players of the Black lines would be wise to be aware of B&Bs suggestions ! We would recommend that any of the lines are tried out in off-hand games and on-line before important games and some of the more critical ones will need a degree of memorization to a fair few moves deep.

In the BCN office we have a Caro-Kann expert who confirmed that B&Bs suggestions for White are most definitely on the cutting edge and were checked with Stockfish 10. Indeed a team mate tried the suggestion for White in a league match and the opponent (a Caro-Kann player of more than forty years) had a catastrophic loss on his hands in short order.

As a taster here is a suggested line from the book that is full of pitfalls for Black :

We consulted an experienced (and successful) player of the Elephant Gambit* and was told that he had never faced White’s fifth move suggestion in more than twenty years and that it was an excellent suggestion worthy of respect. *Some might know this as the Queen’s Pawn Counter Gambit (1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 d5!?)

In summary, this second edition is a substantial update and improvement of a first edition well received and we recommend it heartily to anyone who wants to sharpen and refresh their 1.e4 repertoire and anyone who faces 1.e4. You will not be disappointed and you might be ready for someone’s preparation and shock tactics !

John Upham, Cove, Hampshire, December 13th 2019

John Upham
John Upham

Book Details :

  • Hardcover : 192 pages
  • Publisher: Gambit Publications Ltd; 2nd New edition edition (22 Sept. 2019)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1911465325
  • ISBN-13: 978-1911465324
  • Product Dimensions: 17.1 x 1.5 x 24.8 cm

Official web site of Gambit Publications Ltd.

A Startling Chess Opening Repertoire (New Edition)
A Startling Chess Opening Repertoire (New Edition)
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Chess Tactics Workbook for Kids

Chess Tactics Workbook for Kids : John Nunn

Chess Tactics Workbook for Kids
Chess Tactics 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 Tactics Workbook for Kids is the sixth (a seventh and eighth are scheduled for January 2020 publication) in a highly successful series of “for Kids” books. Indeed, we recently reviewed Chess Opening Traps 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 (2003) and much liked Chess Tactics for Kids by Murray Chandler :

Chess Tactics for Kids
Chess Tactics for Kids

Chess Tactics 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 13 chapters as follows :

  1. Fork
  2. Pin
  3. Skewer
  4. Deflection and Decoy
  5. Discovered Attack
  6. Discovered and Double Check
  7. Removing the Guard
  8. In-Between Moves
  9. Trapped Piece
  10. Pawn Promotion
  11. Opening and Closing Lines
  12. Forcing a Draw
  13. Test Papers

Chapters 1 – 12 each contain a description of the type of tactic that is subject of the chapter followed by 20 – 40 exercises for the reader followed by a set of more challenging “Tougher Positions” and then, interestingly, by a set of “Does the Tactic Work ?” exercises. We appreciated the latter especially since this appears to be a novel feature. These are excellent blunder prevention tests since they help to slow typical impetuous juniors down who often move first and then engage their brain.

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.

Here is a particularly satisfying example (we thought so anyway !) from the Skewer chapter (Tougher Positions #23) *solution at bottom of this review

We particularly enjoyed the chapters on “Trapped Piece” and “Forcing a Draw” as these are less usual to find in books of this kind.

Here is a pleasing (well, we liked it here in the BCN editorial office) example (#30) from the “Does the Tactic Work?” section of the skewers chapter :

@and the solution is at the foot of this review

We enjoyed working through the chapters and emerged with a feeling of attending a mental gymnasium : exhausted but refreshed.

Chapter 13 (“Test Papers”) puts all of your newly learnt skills to a full and proper test since there are no themes, hints or clues of what to do : just like a real game !

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. 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 150 ECF or 1800 Elo.

In summary, we recommend this book to any junior or adult who wishes to improve their tactical vision and results. It makes an excellent stocking filler for young players and the young at heart !

John Upham, Cove, Hampshire, November 11th 2019

John Upham
John Upham

Book Details :

  • Hardcover : 128 pages
  • Publisher: Gambit Publications Ltd (22 July 2019)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1911465317
  • ISBN-13: 978-1911465317
  • Product Dimensions: 17.8 x 1.3 x 22.9 cm

Official web site of Gambit Publications Ltd.

Chess Tactics Workbook for Kids
Chess Tactics Workbook for Kids

*solution to Skewer exercise #23 : “Normally this material would lead to a draw, but White can win with a brilliant tactical idea : 1.Bd6!! (the only defence to the threat of 2.Qd3# is to take the bishop) 1…Qxd6 2. Qd3+ Kc5 (2…Ke5 3.Qg3+ is a mirror image) 3.Qa3+ and the queen falls.”

@solution to Skewer exercise #30 : “It seems impossible to save the game because after both side promote White has a skewer, but there is a miraculous defence : 1…g2 2.c8=Q g1=Q 3.Qc5+ Ke2! and further checks don’t help White, while after 4.Qxg1 Black is stalemated.”

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