Category Archives: Junior

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

Chess for Educators : Karel van Delft

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

From the book’s rear cover :

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

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

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

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

Karel van Delft
Karel van Delft

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

 

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

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

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

A couple of quotes from the Introduction:

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

And:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Richard James, Twickenham 21st May 2021

Richard James
. Richard James

Book Details :

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

Official web site of New in Chess

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

World Champion Chess for Juniors : Learn From the Greatest Players Ever

World Champion Chess for Juniors : Learn From the Greatest Players Ever : Joel Benjamin

World Champion Chess for Juniors: Learn From the Greatest Players Ever, Joel Benjamin, New in Chess, 2020, ISBN-10 : 9056919199
World Champion Chess for Juniors: Learn From the Greatest Players Ever, Joel Benjamin, New in Chess, 2020, ISBN-10 : 9056919199

From the book’s rear cover :

“Grandmaster Joel Benjamin introduces all seventeen World Chess Champions and shows what is important about their style of play and what you can learn from them. He describes both their historical significance and how they inspired his own development as a player. Benjamin presents the most instructive games of each champion. Magic names such as Kasparov, Capablanca, Alekhine, Botvinnik, Tal, and Karpov, they’re all there, up to current World Champion Magnus Carlsen. How do they open the game? How do they develop their pieces? How do they conduct an attack or defend when necessary? Benjamin explains, in words rather than in chess symbols, what is important for your own improvement. Of course the crystal-clear style of Bobby Fischer, the 11th World Champion, guarantees some very memorable lessons. Additionally, Benjamin has included Paul Morphy. The 19th century chess wizard from New Orleans never held an official title, but was clearly the best of the world during his short but dazzling career. Studying World Champion Chess for Juniors will prove an extremely rewarding experience for ambitious youngsters. Trainers and coaches will find it worthwhile to include the book in their curriculum. The author provides many suggestions for further study.”

Joel Benjamin during the Lloyds Bank Masters
Joel Benjamin during the Lloyds Bank Masters

“Joel Benjamin won the US Championship three times and has been a trainer for almost three decades. His book Liquidation on the Chess Board won the Best Book Award of the Chess Journalists of America (CJA), and his most recent book Better Thinking, Better Chess is a world-wide bestseller.”

 

Naturally enough, given that I’ve been teaching chess to children since 1972, I’m always interested in reading chess books with ‘juniors’ or ‘kids’ in the title.

Let’s see what we have here.

From the introduction:

If you are not a junior, please don’t toss this book aside; there is still a lot of cool analysis and history in here for you. But I have written this book, primarily, to reach out to younger players. At any point in history, we see a ‘generation gap’, where young people see the world in a very different way than their elders. If you are, let’s say, a teen or a tween, you probably process most chess material from a computer. You follow recent events, work on tactics puzzles, practice against an engine, or whatever works for you. This may match your lifestyle of playing Minecraft or (worse) Fortnite on your I-pad instead of reading books.

A few years ago, I was horrified to learn that two of my (young) fellow instructors at a chess camp could not name the World Champions in order (or even place them roughly in their time periods). For someone of my generation, that fundamental lack of knowledge was unthinkable. And while I accept that kids today learn things in different ways,  I feel that they are still missing out on their ignorance of knowledge provided by books.

I’m in complete agreement with Joel Benjamin here. I believe that, for all sorts of reasons, learning about the great champions of the past should be part of everyone’s chess education. This issue has been raised in the introduction of several books I’ve reviewed recently: some authors agree, but others, sadly, don’t.

And from the back cover (presumably written by the publishers):

So you want to improve your chess? The best place to start is looking at how the great champs did it!

I’m not in agreement with this, though. I’ve spent the past 45 years or so failing to understand why round about 90% of chess teachers consider it a good idea to demonstrate master games, usually with sacrificial attacks, to inexperienced players.

What does it mean to write a book for ‘juniors’, anyway? What do we mean by a junior? Perhaps we mean Alireza Firouzja (rated 2759 at age 17 as I write this)? Or do we mean Little Johnny who’s just mastered the knight move? There’s an enormous difference between writing for 7-year-olds, writing for 12-year-olds and writing for 17-year-olds. Benjamin mentions ‘teens and tweens’ in his introduction. How do you write for this age group? Do you try to appear ‘down with the kids’ by writing things like ‘Yay, bro! Morphy was a real sick dude!”? Maybe not, but you might, as he does, throw in a lot of ‘cools’ and a few ‘legits’, as well as a lot of exclamation marks at the end of sentences.

There’s also an enormous difference between writing for players rated, say 500, 1000, 1500 and 2000. The nature of this difference is something I’ve been thinking about for many years. I think the most helpful information I’ve found about teaching at different levels is from this article (apologies if you’ve seen it before), in particular the section entitled ‘experts learn differently’. I’d consider a novice (apprentice) to be someone with a rating of under 1000, an expert (guild member) to have a rating of 2000 plus, and everyone else (which includes the vast majority of adults who know the moves) to be journeymen/women.

Novices, then, learn best through explicit instruction and worked examples, while experts learn best through discovery and/or an investigative approach. If you’re writing for a readership between novices and experts, you’ll use a mixture of both methods. I’d also suggest that, given the relative inexperience and immaturity of younger children, you’d probably be well advised to add two or three hundred points onto your novice/expert split.

Top GM games these days are, of course, insanely complicated, and only an expert player could expect to learn anything from looking at, say, a Carlsen – Caruana game.

Let’s plunge into this book, then, and decide who would benefit most from reading it, in terms of both age and rating.

Before I go any further, I’d add that there are many reasons you might want to read a chess book: information, enjoyment, inspiration or instruction, for example, but this book, as you might expect from the 21st century Zeitgeist, nails its colours firmly to the flagpole labelled ‘instruction’. LEARN from the Greatest Players Ever.

Taking the reader on a journey through chess history, stopping off on the way to introduce us to each of the world champions in turn, it reminds me of two other books I’ve reviewed on these pages: this and this (also from New in Chess), neither of which impressed me, as a cynic with a pretty good knowledge of chess history, greatly.

We start off, not unreasonably, with Morphy (the greatest showman). In every chapter we get some brief biographical notes, a handful of annotated games and a couple of unannotated games. Here he is, crushing the Aristocratic Allies at the opera house, and sacrificing his queen against Louis Paulsen in New York. Yes, you’ve probably seen them hundreds of times before, but the target reader, a young player with little knowledge of chess history, might not have done. The notes at this point focus, understandably, on ideas rather than variations.

Next up is Steinitz (the scientist). We visit Hastings, of course, just in time to witness von Bardeleben disappearing from the tournament hall rather than resigning. We also see him daringly marching his king up the board in the opening and exploiting the advantage of the two bishops. He beats Chigorin in a game that starts 1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bb5 Nf6 4. d3 when Benjamin points out that “With the rise of the Berlin endgame this move has become very popular in the 21st century”. Which is very true, but assumes that the reader knows something about the Berlin endgame. (It’s mentioned in slightly more detail later in the book, but you should describe it the first time you mention it.) Later on, though we’re advised not to forget the en passant rule. So this appears to be a book for readers who understand all about the Berlin endgame but might not remember en passant.

We move into the 20th century: Lasker (the pragmatist) beating Capa in an Exchange Lopez ending, Capablanca (the endgame authority) himself winning a rook ending against Tartakower, Alekhine (the disciplined attacker) winning complex encounters against Bogoljubov and Réti, Euwe (the professional amateur) in turn winning the Pearl of Zandvoort against Alekhine.

As we approach the present day, the games get more complicated and not so easy to use for specific lessons. The great Soviet champions all had their distinctive styles, though. There’s Botvinnik (the master of training), Smyslov (the endgame artist), Tal (the magician), Petrosian (the master strategist) and Spassky (the natural).

Then, of course, Fischer (the master of clarity), Karpov (the master technician) and Kasparov (the master of complications) are introduced as we approach the 21st century.

Today, all the top grandmasters excel in all areas of the game, and, with the aid of computer preparation, their games are often mind-boggling in their complexity. Kramnik is awarded the epithet ‘the strategic tactician’, but this could apply to any 21st century great.

It’s time to look at a few examples of Benjamin’s annotations, so that you can decide whether it’s a suitable book for you, your children or your students.

Here, at Linares in 1997, Topalov, the master of the initiative, has sacrificed the exchange for … the initiative.

White, Gelfand, is considering his 23rd move.

An exchange to the good, White has some leeway in defense. He must appreciate the need to give back to the community here.

Topalov points out that 23. Qd2 Ne5 24. Rxe5 Qxe5 25. Nxb7? is too dangerous (after almost any rook move, actually) but White can hold the balance with 25. b4 a5 26. Qe2!. White can play more ambitiously with 23. b4 Ne5 24. Rxe5 Qxe5 25. Nb2, though Topalov would likely pitch a pawn for good play after 25… d3 26. Nxd3 Qd4+. Finally, even the radical (and inhuman, I think) 23. Nc3!? dxc3 24. Qxc3 looks playable, as suddenly some black minor pieces look misplaced and the white rooks are working well. Chess players need a good sense of danger, but here Gelfand’s Spidey-sense fails to tingle.

An excellent note, I think, but it would, inevitably given the complexity of the position, be instructive for older and more experienced players.

For the record, the game continued 23. Ne4? Ne5 24. Qg5 Re8! 25. Rd2? when Topalov missed 25… Ng4+! 26. Kg1 Qxg5 27. Nxg5 Re1#. but his choice of Qc4 was still good enough to win quickly.

For another example of the style of annotation in this book, in this position Anand, the lightning attacker, has unleashed a TN against Kasparov’s Sicilian in the 1995 World Championship match. What will the champ play on his 20th move?

20… Bxb5

Anand had expected 20… Qa5, which has been played in subsequent practice. However, Kasparov would have had a lot to calculate and evaluate there. When you hit your opponent with an unpleasant opening surprise, they may hesitate to risk the most challenging lines.

20… Qa5!? 21. Nxd6 Bxa4 22. Bb6 Rxd6 and now Anand considered two lines:

A) 23. Qxd6 Rxd6 24. Bxa5 Bxf4 (24… Bxc2? 25. e5+-) 25. Rxb7 Bxc2 26 Rd8 Rxd8 27. Bxd8 Bxe4! 28. Rb4 Bxf3 29. Rxf4 Bd5 30. Bxf6 gxf6 31. Rxf6 and the position should be drawn;

B) Anand preferred 23. Bxa5! Rxd3 24. cxd3 Bxd1 25. Bxd1. White doesn’t win any material but keeps the potential for long-term pressure.

Well, I hope you followed all that.

The main part of the book concludes with Carlsen, the master of everything and nothing.

Here’s a position from a game which, according to Benjamin, displays his accuracy and brilliance in attacking play.

He’s playing the white pieces against Li Chao (Doha 2015) and is about to make his 24th move.

24. d5!!

Carlsen breaks down the defense with a beautiful interference tactic. By attacking the knight on b6, he enables the deadly push e5-e6.

White could easily go wrong here:

A) 24. gxf5 Nc4 25. Nxg6+ (25. e6?? a3 wins for Black) 25… Ke8 26. e6? a3! 27. exf7+ Kd7 28. f8N+! Ke8 29. bxa3 Rxa3+ 30. Kb1 Rda8 31. Na4! and White barely forces Black to take a perpetual. Instead 25. Ncd5!! wins for White. The idea is to kill the mate with Rc1xc4 and then proceed on the kingside;

B) Again the take-first mentality 24. Nxg8+? Ke8 loses ground. White can probably still win with 25 d5! but it’s a lot less clear.

Again, good analysis, although Benjamin’s notes do include rather a lot of ‘perhaps’ and ‘probably’, which you may or may not care for.

That’s not quite the end of the book. There’s some ‘fun stuff’ at the end, most usefully a 36 question tactics quiz: some easy and familiar  but others more challenging.

This is a good book of its kind, although if you like the first half you might find the last few chapters too hard, and if, like me, you enjoyed Benjamin’s coverage of contemporary players, the first half will offer you nothing new.

But is it a book for juniors, though?

Little Johnny, aged 8, is doing well in his school chess club, playing at about 1000 strength. His parents, who know little about chess, would like to buy him a book so that he can learn more and perhaps play like Fischer, Kasparov or Carlsen. What could be better, they think, than learning from the world champions? Is this a suitable book for him? Definitely not: it’s much too hard in every respect. Instead, as a young novice, he requires a book with explicit instruction and worked examples.

Jenny is 12, has a rating of about 1500, and is starting to play in adult competitions. Perhaps this would be a good book for her. Well, it’s more suitable for her than for Johnny, but again it’s rather too hard: I think you’ll agree from the extracts you’ve seen that it’s really aimed at older and more experienced players. She’ll still need, for the most part, explicit instruction and worked examples, but pitched at a higher level than Johnny’s book.

Jimmy is an ambitious 16-year-old with a rating of 2000 who would like to reach master strength while finding out more about the history of the game he loves. This could be an ideal book for him: as a player approaching expert standard with perhaps a decade’s experience of chess, he’d benefit from discovery and/or an investigative approach, for which he can use annotated grandmaster games. But would he be seen dead carrying a book with ‘juniors’ in the title under his arm? And, at least here in the UK, there are very few ambitious 16-year-olds around to read this book.

It’s nothing personal to do with the author or the publishers, but my view is that many people buy books which are much too hard to be useful, either for themselves or for their children or students. On the other hand, books which really would be helpful don’t sell. And you can’t blame publishers for bringing out books they think people will buy.

You could write a great book for Little Johnny, I think. A colourful hardback with short chapters about each champion. Photographs and perhaps also cartoons of each. A few simple one-move puzzles in each chapter taken from their games: perfect novice-level tuition. Some historical background as well. Maps to show the champions’ countries of birth, and, perhaps, where else they lived. The word for chess and the names of the pieces in their native languages. Cross-curricular benefits: children will learn about history, geography and languages as well as chess. Age-appropriate in terms of chess, vocabulary and grammar as well. All primary schools would welcome a few copies for their school library.

You could also write a good book for Jenny. You could introduce each champion again, and then look how the different champions interpreted openings like the Ruy Lopez and the Queen’s Gambit, how they played kingside attacks or IQP positions, how they navigated rook endings. Perhaps also, where available, some simple games played when they were Jenny’s age. She’ll learn, at a fairly basic level, about the history of chess ideas as well as the champions. You’d probably also want to include some puzzles where you have to look two or three moves ahead. This is how you teach students who are neither novices (like Little Johnny) or budding experts (like Jimmy). A mixture of harder ‘novice’ material and easier ‘expert’ material.

I think both Johnny’s and Jenny’s books should include female as well as male champions: Jenny, as well as Johnny, would like role models she can relate to. You might think it remiss of Benjamin (or New in Chess) not to have included any Women’s World Champions in this book.

It’s a good book, then, although, by it’s nature it’s not going to be earth-shatteringly original. But it’s not a book for juniors. If it was called simply World Championship Chess, or Learn Chess from the Champions I wouldn’t really have a problem with it.

I really ought to add that the games are well chosen and expertly annotated (if you don’t mind the slightly casual style), and the author, unlike others ploughing the same field, doesn’t stray beyond the limits of his historical knowledge.

It’s also, as to be expected from this publisher, excellently produced, with, unusually for these days, a refreshing lack of typos.

I mentioned earlier the reasons why you might want to read a chess book. You may well find this book informative, especially if your knowledge of chess history is lacking. It’s certainly an entertaining read: the author’s lively style of writing and annotation shines through. You’ll probably also find it inspirational to be able to play through the greatest games of the greatest players of all time. But is it also instructional? I’m not really convinced that this is the most efficient method of teaching anyone below 2000. It’s certainly not an efficient method of teaching this very experienced, 1900-2000 strength, player.

Recommended, then, if you want to know more about the world champions, but not really a book for juniors.

Richard James, Twickenham 12th April 2021

Richard James
. Richard James

Book Details :

  • Paperback : 256 pages
  • Publisher: New in Chess (7th August, 2020)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10:9056919199
  • ISBN-13:978-9056919191
  • Product Dimensions: 16.51 x 1.78 x 22.86 cm

Official web site of New in Chess

World Champion Chess for Juniors: Learn From the Greatest Players Ever, Joel Benjamin, New in Chess, 2020, ISBN-10 : 9056919199
World Champion Chess for Juniors: Learn From the Greatest Players Ever, Joel Benjamin, New in Chess, 2020, ISBN-10 : 9056919199
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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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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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