Category Archives: Junior

The School Seedbed of Britain’s Chess Success

The following article was originally published on November 7th 1980 in Education magazine. The author was George Low. George may be found on LinkedIn. Education magazine was a weekly publication that started in 1903 and in 1997 was absorbed into Education Journal.

The article was reproduced in 1981 in The English Chess Explosion by Murray Chandler and Ray Keene :

Education, 7th November 1980

The school seedbed of Britain’s chess success

George Low explains why our youngsters are doing so well

“Britain’s international chess team, with an average age of under 30, is now the most formidable and talented in the world. At this month’s tournament in Malta they will be breathing down the necks of the Russians for the championship and have a high chance of coming away with a medal.

Behind the national team there is an even more promising junior squad, who have won the European championships two years’ running. Among the up and coming youngsters who are beginning to give the Russians cause for anxiety are two potential world champions – Tony Miles, now a Grandmaster and serious contender for the world championship, and Nigel Short, who at 15 is already the youngest international master ever.

The remarkable upsurge of standards and interest is a phenomenon of some educational significance. The schools have been the seedbed. The nurturing of young talent (often from the age of six or even younger) has been a tangible proof of the dedication of teachers to supervision and support outside school
hours, and there are few extra-curricular activities more time-consuming than chess.

A class of girls listens to their teacher Lucy Anness give a lesson on the game of chess at a school in Bromley, Kent, England, in 1948. Miss Anness, head of the school, believes this is the only girls' school in Britain at this time that teaches chess as part of the curriculum. (Photo by © Hulton-Deutsch Collection/CORBIS/Corbis via Getty Images)
A class of girls listens to their teacher Lucy Anness give a lesson on the game of chess at a school in Bromley, Kent, England, in 1948. Miss Anness, head of the school, believes this is the only girls’ school in Britain at this time that teaches chess as part of the curriculum. (Photo by © Hulton-Deutsch Collection/CORBIS/Corbis via Getty Images)

But alongside the school clubs a network of small informal clubs have sprung up and a series of tournaments for all ages and groups. City financier Jim Slater and Lloyds Bank can take the main credit for financial sponsorship of the junior squad, and newspapers like The Sunday Times and The Evening Standard have stimulated a great deal of competitive zeal through their school and individual tournaments.

Like many educational developments in this country, the chess phenomenon has completely by-passed the Department of Education and Science, who have turned down all approaches for financial and even moral support. Officials are wont to plead that there is no mention of chess in the 1944 Education Act or its successors, This is, of course, true, but the Department, nevertheless, manages to make all sorts of direct and indirect contributions to musical and sporting activities. When set beside the intense involvement of many other nations in the development of chess the official attitude appears all the more
uninspiring.

How then has Britain managed to bound up the international league table from no. 26 to among the top three nations of the world? Mr. Leonard Barden, manager of the junior squad, traces the resurgence of interest to media coverage of the Spassky-Fischer duel eight years ago and its sequel between Korchnoi and Karpov five years later.

In about 1972-3, he recalls, the selectors started casting their nets much wider than the Home Counties grammar schools where the recruiting ground had
traditionally been. He and his colleagues looked through the results of a lot more tournaments all over the country. Those who had real talent were encouraged to go in for the National Junior Squad championships and to enter adult tournaments. They were also given the opportunity to play against Grandmaster in ‘simuls’ (simultaneous games involving 20 or 30 boards). Mr. Barden now has 500 young players on his books in whom he takes an active interest, following their tournament games and writing to suggest alternative strategies in their games. Beneath these there is a pool of 2000 to 3000 children who play in tournaments and are graded players whom the selectors have their eye on.

Julian and Nigel Short play Korchnoi in a simul. Leonard Barden observes.
Julian and Nigel Short play Korchnoi in a simul. Leonard Barden observes.

Nigel Short was an early find when he won the Merseyside championship under nines. By the age of 9.5 he was developing very rapidly under special tuition and was entering simuls with Grandmasters. He was one of the children who Leonard Barden put into his training schedule and persuaded him to aim for the highest league. ‘Between the ages of nine and fourteen they can develop very rapidly and are ready to play with adults. After that they fall foul of the English exam system and that slows them down having to memorise all that largely irrelevant mass of information,’Mr. Barden says.

There is no risk of force-feeding the children in his squad, he says, they are all naturally bright and do not suffer from the competition within their age group. They are as group a perfectly normal lot. He believes that besides the technical help promising youngsters can be given such as being introduced to chess magazines, motivation is all-important. The Department of Education should do more to foster chess, he thinks, achievement in chess and success in academic subjects.

Mr. Michael Sinclair, who runs the chess club at Hampton School and organises many school tournaments, see numerous educational and personal benefits from children playing chess in schools. The older boys (Ed: this was 1980!) can help the younger ones to develop their game and they in turn learn a lot from competing with adults in congresses.

The game teaches children to concentrate for long periods of time, to observe correct etiquette and to accept adjudication decisions (Ed: I suspect this means arbiting decisions!). It also gives them an understanding of a symbolic language that can be a useful grounding in such subjects as algebra or even computer programming. in later studies. Given its undoubted educational contribution, it is surprising that few books have been written on teaching chess in schools.”

The English Chess Explosion
The English Chess Explosion
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Chess Calculation Training for Kids and Club Players : Level 1 : Checkmating

Chess Calculation Training for Kids and Club Players : Level 1 : Checkmating
Chess Calculation Training for Kids and Club Players : Level 1 : Checkmating

Romain Édouard (born 28 November 1990) is a French grandmaster and is Editor-in-Chief of Thinkers Publishing.  Édouard has played for the French national team at the Olympiads of 2010, 2012, 2014 and 2018, won several major tournaments including equal first place in the 2015 World Open and Montreal Open 2015.

GM Romain Édouard
GM Romain Édouard

We previously reviewed Chess Calculation Training : Volume 3 : Legendary Games by the same author and were impressed (although the content was aimed at more experienced and higher rated players.)

As with every recent Thinkers Publishing publication high quality paper is used and the printing is clear. We were hoping that the excellent glossy paper of previous titles would be used but never mind.

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

There is no index. However, for a tactics books this is less crucial. However, some readers might wish to list tactics from particular players…

We have reviewed several tactics books in the last few months and this one from GM Romain Edouard competes in the busy improving juniors and club players market.

There is another market sometimes not considered as important which is the adult player who does not play OTB (who does right now?) or even online but does enjoy solving chess problems : this book will satisfy these readers.

Noteworthy is the absence of patronising cartoons which can put off the more serious juniors and adults. For very young players these are fine but for probably 10 year olds plus these (IMHO) are not welcome.

The main content is divided into eight chapters :

  1. Check & Mate
  2. Check, Check & Mate
  3. A Few Checks & Mate
  4. Trap Your Opponents King
  5. Hit the Defender
  6. A Nasty Double Threat
  7. An Unexpected Blow
  8. A Few More Problems

Having scanned the index I was immediately drawn to Chapter 5 to look for unusual methods for the attacker!

However, Chapter 1 is (usually) the best place to start and consists of 48 carefully selected (i.e. a unique solution) mates in two, the first move always being a check.

Here is a nice example :

#8
Nezhmetdinov, R – Kotkov, Y

25.? +-

The solutions are grouped together at the end of each chapter avoiding the annoyance of stumbling into the solution when it appears on the same page.

You won’t need it but the solution to #8 is given as :

25. Re8+! Qxe8
25…Bxe8 26.Qg8#
26.Qxf6#

(for the history fans amongst us the above game was played at the 17th RSFSR Championship, Krasnodar, 1957.)

Chapter 2 contains 52 mates in three with all three attacker moves being check.

Chapter 3 ramps up the challenge with 40 examples of increasing number of checks to a maximum of 7. Here is a rather satisfying example from the 1987 New York Open. The attacker’s chess career was tragically cut short at the age of 22. He played this mating attack when eleven years old :

#21
Waitzkin, J – Frumkin, E

Mate in 7

26.?+-

The solution (should you need it) is at the foot of this review.

You might be thinking “if all the moves are check then the task is made easier”. Of course but this is a training book and the logical approach of Edouard provides for increasing the confidence of the student incrementally.

Chapter 4 (Trap Your Opponent’s King) serves up 32 positions in which the first move is quite often not a check but winning, nonetheless. Finding winning “quiet moves” is a skill level that is quite often beyond the less experienced or lower rated player and deserves serious study.

I particularly liked this example :

#24
Ulibin,M – Mesman,E

29.? +-

 

Chapter 5 (Hit the Defender) contains 40 of perhaps the most pleasing (to me at least) combinations. Each features some kind of deflection or distraction such as this rather jolly example from 1964 :

#6
Wiler – Hell

1…?-+
A hard example !

I was curious as to the source of this game and determined (with the valuable assistance of Leonard Barden) that the game was :

Following on from this Chapter 6 contains 16 examples of “A Nasty Double Threat” in which the attacker makes a move that threatens a simultaneous forced mate and the win of material.

Difficult to chose but #5 appealed in a satisfying way :

#5
Jansen,I = Asenova,V

19…?-+

The penultimate chapter promises 32 tales of the unexpected with “An Unexpected Blow” : nothing to do with The Italian Job.

Essentially, this group of positions feature some kind of sacrifice that explodes the defender’s position. Some great examples and this one is from Wijk aan Zee, 1991 that GM Ben Finegold would surely enjoy !

13
Khalifman, A – Seirawan, Y

22.?+-

Finally, Chapter 8 (A Few More Problems) contains 16 positions that could not be categorised in the previous 7 chapters.

I’ve selected the final one for your entertainment :

16
Abasov, N – Kantor, G

30.?+-
Find the killer move for White!

I hope you enjoyed those!

So, in summary we have 48+52+40+32+40+16+32+16=276 positions including both classics and contemporary with a whole range of themes suitable for improving and advanced juniors and club players. The presentation is excellent and the solutions clear. I found one typographical error (hxg4 instead of fxg4) and one position incorrectly attributed.

As a coach I am looking to unleashing these on my students. I’ve recommended this book to their parents without hesitation and am looking forward to Level 2 and beyond.

Chess parents take note !

John Upham, Cove, Hampshire, 8th October, 2020

John Upham
John Upham

Book Details :

  • Hardcover : 152 pages
  • Publisher:Thinkers Publishing; 1 edition (19 May 2020)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 9492510693
  • ISBN-13: 978-9492510693
  • Product Dimensions: 17.02 x 1.02 x 23.37 cm

Official web site of Thinkers Publishing

Chess Calculation Training for Kids and Club Players : Level 1 : Checkmating
Chess Calculation Training for Kids and Club Players : Level 1 : Checkmating

n.b. Solution to Chapter 3, position #21 :

26.Qxg7+! Kxg7 27. Bf6+ Kg6

27…Kh6 28.Rh3+ Kg6 delays mate by one move

28. Rg3+ Kh6

28…Kh5 29.Rg5+ Kh4 30.Nf3#

29.Bg7+ Kh5 30.Rg5+ Kh4 31.Nf3#

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Happy Birthday IM Ezra Kirk (02-ix-1996)

IM Ezra Kirk, Hastings 2012-2013, courtesy of John Upham Photography
IM Ezra Kirk, Hastings 2012-2013, courtesy of John Upham Photography

BCN wishes Happy Birthday to IM Ezra Kirk (02-ix-1996)

Ezra G Kirk was born on Monday, September 2nd 1996 in France.

Ezra Kirk, Sautron, 2007, Courtesy of Dominique Primel / Chessbase
Ezra Kirk, Sautron, 2007, Courtesy of Dominique Primel / Chessbase

Ezra attended Varndean College, Brighton and then the University of Bath to read Natural Sciences and is currently a Data Product Consultant at the Kubrick Group.

He edits chess books written by non-English speaking authors

Ezra became a FIDE Master in 2013 and an International Master in 2018

His peak rating is likely to be in the future but currently is 2445 in December 2018 aged 22.

Ezra plays for 4NCL Cheddleton in the Four Nations Chess League.

IM Ezra Kirk, Tours, 2020, Courtesy of Dominique Primel / Chessbase
IM Ezra Kirk, Tours, 2020, Courtesy of Dominique Primel / Chessbase

Here is one of Ezra’s best wins :

IM Ezra Kirk, Hastings 2012-2013, courtesy of John Upham Photography
IM Ezra Kirk, Hastings 2012-2013, courtesy of John Upham Photography
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Thinker’s Chess Academy with Grandmaster Thomas Luther : First Steps in Tactics

Thinkers' Chess Academy with Grandmaster Thomas Luther - Volume 1 First Steps in Tactics
Thinkers’ Chess Academy with Grandmaster Thomas Luther – Volume 1 First Steps in Tactics

Grandmaster Thomas Luther, born in 1969, is the first player with a disability to have entered the FIDE Top 100 rating list. In 2001 he was ranked 80th in the world. He has won the German Championship three times and is well known as an experienced and successful coach. In 2014 his achievements were recognised by being granted the title of FIDE Senior Trainer. In his career to-date he has published several books and DVDs. This is his second book for Thinkers’ Publishing, after a co-production with Jugend Schach Verlag entitled “Chess Coaching for Kids – the U10 Project.”

GM Thomas Luther
GM Thomas Luther

As with every recent Thinkers Publishing publication high quality paper is used and the printing is clear. In fact, for this particular title we have been treated with pleasing glossy paper that gives the book a higher quality feel than usual.

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

There is no index which, unfortunately, is a standard omission of Thinkers Publishing books. Also missing is a bibliography. However, for a tactics books these items are less crucial, of course. A biography or autobiography would miss these things.

The main content is divided into sixteen chapters :

  1. Notation
  2. Exercises & Mazes
  3. Little Games
  4. Checkmate & Advantage
  5. The Winning Move!
  6. Rules & Behaviour
  7. Find Checkmate in Two Moves!
  8. Tactical Motifs
  9. Double Attack / Fork
  10. The Knight and his Forks
  11. The Skewer
  12. The Pin
  13. How to Handle a Pin
  14. The Overload Motif
  15. Discovered Attack
  16. History of Chess & Checkmate

We have reviewed several tactics books in the last few months and this one from Thomas Luther is really rather interesting. It would appear to have at least two clear target audiences : improving and ambitious juniors and also club players perhaps less than 1900 Elo.

The chapters on Exercises and Mazes and Little Games appeal to myself as a chess teacher and coach since these ideas are rarely presented by GMs. For example :

The rook has to give check to the black King.

He cannot move to a square where he be captured.

He cannot capture pawns, even if they are unprotected.

Make a guess how many moves are needed?

The “Little” Games (most western coaches would refer to these as “Mini” Games) is refreshing and entertaining :

In this position the pawns can overwhelm the bishop!

Following these interesting chapters we move on to more conventional themed tactics problems designed to build-up patterns that are recognizable. Each position has solution text that is aimed at junior and improving players reinforcing what (hopefully) has been learnt.

Chapter 6 (Rules & Behaviour) is somewhat unusual. Etiquette and basic playing advice is rarely discussed but again the focus is improving players. This sort of advice is regularly handed out by teachers and coaches but rarely found in print.

One of the more innovative features of the book are positions in which there is a win depending on who it is to move. Chapter 7 (Find Checkmate in Two Moves!) kicks off this notion and here is an example (there should be both a White and Black to move indicator) :

Before you ask, yes, most of these positions are concocted but that is irrelevant to the teaching aims of the examples.

One pleasing aspect of the bulk of the “normal” tactics chapters is that diagrams are large enough not to need a board and that, as a consequence, one can get a rhythm going almost akin to a “Puzzle Rush” ! Using a stopwatch also is not so silly.

Chapter 16 (History of Chess & Checkmate) will be of interest to perhaps more mature players and takes positions and puts them into a real life context about players current and past.

Not all books that are reviewed are going to be read cover to cover, but we did enjoy working through the examples. We’d say that an improving junior maybe 10+ in years will take to this book and get a lot from it. We are pleased that this book is free of silly cartoons which tend to put off serious juniors. When will publishers realise that cartoons do not enhance a chess book? The presentation is excellent and the material is fun to work on ! Highly recommended : chess parents take note.

John Upham, Cove, Hampshire, 28th May, 2020

John Upham
John Upham

Book Details :

  • Hardcover : 325 pages
  • Publisher:Thinkers Publishing; 1 edition (19 May 2020)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 9492510723
  • ISBN-13: 978-9492510723
  • Product Dimensions: 16.8 x 1.5 x 23.1 cm

Official web site of Thinkers Publishing

Thinkers' Chess Academy with Grandmaster Thomas Luther - Volume 1 First Steps in Tactics
Thinkers’ Chess Academy with Grandmaster Thomas Luther – Volume 1 First Steps in Tactics
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Remembering Ian Wells (22-vi-1964 25-i-1982)

Ian Duncan Wells
Ian Duncan Wells

We remember Ian Duncan Wells who very sadly passed away on this day (January 25th) in 1982 aged seventeen years.

From Chessgames.com :

Ian Duncan Wells was born in Scarborough, England. He was awarded the FM title in 1982. At the Islington Open in December 1981 he finished 1st= with John Nunn and Tony Miles. Following a 5th= placing in the Golden Pawn of Brazil Junior tournament held in Rio de Janeiro he and other players went swimming outside their hotel. He got into difficulties and although he was brought ashore by lifesavers he died after six days in a coma.

Here is an excellent article from chess.com written by Neil Blackburn.

ID Wells (left) plays GM RD Keene
ID Wells (left) plays GM RD Keene
Ian Wells plays GM Alexander Kotov at the home of Mike Fox
Ian Wells plays GM Alexander Kotov at the home of Mike Fox

Ian Duncan Wells (standing, third from left)
Ian Duncan Wells (standing, third from left)
At the Lloyds Bank Masters : Front (l-r) : Joel Benjamin, Ian Wells, Rear : Peter Morrish, Stewart Reuben, Richard Beville, Gary Senior, Richard Webb, John Hawksworth, Andrew King, Nigel Short, Mark Ginsburg, Daniel King, David Cummings, Erik Teichmann, John Brandford and Micheal Pagden
At the Lloyds Bank Masters : Front (l-r) : Joel Benjamin, Ian Wells, Rear : Peter Morrish, Stewart Reuben, Richard Beville, Gary Senior, Richard Webb, John Hawksworth, Andrew King, Nigel Short, Mark Ginsburg, Daniel King, David Cummings, Erik Teichmann, John Brandford and Micheal Pagden
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