Category Archives: Middlegame

Understanding Maroczy Structures

Understanding Maroczy Structures, Adrian Bohdanovych Mikhalchishin and Georg Mohr, Thinker's Publishing, 2019, ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-9492510549
Understanding Maroczy Structures, Adrian Bohdanovych Mikhalchishin and Georg Mohr, Thinker’s Publishing, 2019, ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-9492510549

From the publisher:

“Using carefully selected examples, the authors want to make you familiar with the strategic ideas behind the famous Maroczy bind. These plans arising from both colours, are a must for your arsenal of chess knowledge and understanding.”

FIDE Senior Trainer GM Adrian Mikhalchishin
FIDE Senior Trainer GM Adrian Mikhalchishin

“Adrian Bohdanovych Mikhalchishin was born in Lvov, Ukraine in 1954 and became a Grandmaster in 1978. In 1995 he took Slovenian citizenship and became a FIDE Senior Trainer from 2002 and was chairman of FIDE Trainers Commission from 2009. Adrian was a trainer of many famous chess players. Amongst others he was in Anatoly Karpov’s team during matches with Garry Kasparov. He has worked with Maja Chiburdanidze, Nana Aleksandria, the Polgar sisters, Alisa Maric and Nana Dzagnidze. He was coach and captain of the national teams of Slovenia and the Netherlands. In recent years he has been coach of the Turkish woman team. He has written many chess books and thousands of articles for many chess magazines.”

“Georg Mohr was born in Maribor, Slovenia in 1965 becoming a Grandmaster in 1997. He joined as a member of the FIDE Trainers Commission from 2002, becoming a FIDE Senior Trainer in 2004 and a FIDE International Organizer in 2011. Georg has been a professional chess trainer for many years. He was coach and captain of Slovenian national team from 2003 – 2010 and since 2011 he has been Turkish national youth trainer. He is a chess writer and was editor of Slovenian chess magazine Šahovska Misel from 1999 and editor of Fide Trainers Commission trainers’ surveys. He is also an organiser of chess events acting as tournament director of the European Club Cup (Rogaška Slatina 2011), the World Youth Championship (Maribor 2012) and the World Senior Championship (Bled 2018).”

 FIDE Senior Trainer Georg Mohr
FIDE Senior Trainer Georg Mohr

Looking at the title of this book, Understanding Maroczy Structures, it appears to be an abstruse book on a specialised middlegame structure which many club players will know by name. They will be able to describe the tusks on c4 and e4 and probably have lost a game horribly against a stronger player who squeezed the life out of them like a hungry reticulated python.  Chess like a reticulated python has beautiful patterns: this book covers all the major ideas and patterns in the Maroczy structures. The reader may be thinking: I don’t play these systems for either colour, it’s of no relevance to me. The reviewer begs to differ: many general, important middlegame themes are demonstrated in this book such as:

  • Avoiding exchanges to keep the opponent cramped
  • Exchanging pieces to relieve cramp
  • Use of knight outposts
  • Using a space advantage to attack on the queenside
  • Using a space advantage to attack the king
  • Using the bishop pair
  • Pawn levers to attack the opponent’s pawn structure & relieve cramp
  • Opening up the position to exploit a space advantage and better placed pieces
  • Bad bishops and weak colour complexes

This book is not a repertoire bible for playing the Maroczy bind; it is a examination of the typical middlegame strategies for both sides in these complex and interesting positions. It is definitely harder to play for the side playing against the Maroczy structures.

The book is structured into five sections and sixteen chapters.

Section 1 Introduction to the Maroczy is divided into three logical foundation chapters:

Chapter 1 What is the Maroczy Structure?

This chapter covers the typical move orders to reach Maroczy bind structures including the Rubinstein variation of the Symmetrical English opening which is a reversed Maroczy.

Here is the most well known incarnation of the Maroczy bind arising from an Accelerated Dragon.

Maroczy Bind
Maroczy Bind

Here is the reversed Maroczy mentioned above:

Reversed Maroczy Bind
Reversed Maroczy Bind

This chapter enumerates the possible ways that a Maroczy structure can be reached which is usually through the Sicilian Defence (many different ways), English Opening and King’s Indian Defences.

Chapter 2 Typical Positions

This short chapter shows typical positions concentrating mainly on some key decisions & strategies:

  • White’s decision whether to defend his knight on d4 or retreat it to c2
  • White’s white squared bishop development to e2, d3 or more rarely g2
  • Defending the e-pawn with f3 or Bd3
  • Black’s dark square strategy
  • Recapturing on d5 with the e-pawn, c-pawn or a piece
  • The potential weakness of the d4 square

All these topics are covered in subsequent chapters.

Chapter 3 History

Akiba Rubinstein was one of the first players to master Maroczy structures; Mikhail Botvinnik stated that he learnt how to play these positions by studying Rubinstein’s games.

Here is a masterclass by the first Soviet World Champion in his younger days:

Lisitsin – Botvinnik
Leningrad Championship 1932

1.Nf3 c5 2.c4 Nf6 3.g3 d5 4.cxd5 Nxd5 5.Bg2 Nc6 6.0-0 e5 reaching the Rubinstein variation of the Symmetrical English. White now embarks on a slow development scheme which is too passive and not played by modern masters.

Lisitsin-Botvinnik Leningrad 1932 Move 7
Lisitsin-Botvinnik Leningrad 1932 Move 7

7.d3 Be7 8.Nbd2 0-0 9.Nc4 f6 10.Be3 Be6 11.a4 The trouble with this move and white’s plan is that the b4 break is now never available. The other two possible breaks to achieve counterplay in Maroczy structures are f4 or e3/d4, both of which are impossible to achieve in a satisfactory manner with white’s slow, flawed development scheme.

Lisitsin-Botvinnik Leningrad 1932 Move 11
Lisitsin-Botvinnik Leningrad 1932 Move 11

11…Qd7 12.Qd2 b6 13.Rfc1 Rac8 both sides have developed their pieces but black already has a distinct edge and a far easier position to play. White’s next seven moves are pure faffing and he clearly does not know what to do.

Lisitsin-Botvinnik Leningrad 1932 Move 14
Lisitsin-Botvinnik Leningrad 1932 Move 14

14.Qd1 Kh8 15.Bd2 Rfd8 16.Qb3 Nc7 17.Bc3 Rb8 18.Qc2 Nd5 19.Nfd2 Rbc8 20.Nf1 After several moves of shadow boxing, black has a distinct advantage and now acts.

Lisitsin-Botvinnik Leningrad 1932 Move 20
Lisitsin-Botvinnik Leningrad 1932 Move 20

20…Nd4 21.Qd1 Bg4! A typical idea pressuring the e-pawn. White must remove the powerful knight or play the equally unpalatable f3

22.Bxd4 exd4 The recapture with the e-pawn exposes white’s e2- pawn to potential pressure from black’s rooks. Notice how Botvinnik skilfully manoeuvres to arrange this.

23.Qd2 Bf8 24.Re1 Re8 25.h4 Bh3 26.Bf3 Re7 27.Nh2 Rce8 28.Kh1 Be6! White has no counterplay and must simply wait for the reticulated python to tighten its coils.

Lisitsin-Botvinnik Leningrad 1932 Move 29
Lisitsin-Botvinnik Leningrad 1932 Move 29

29.b3 Nb4 (not 29…Nc3? when white has 30.e4!) 30.Bg2 Bd5 Attempting to exchange a key defender of the king 31.Nf3 Rf7! Further masterful manoeuvring points more black pieces  at white’s kingside 32.Kh2 Bd6 33.Bh3 Qd8 34.Rab1 Rfe7 35.Ng1 Bc7 36.Na3 Bb7 Compare the respective activity of each side’s pieces. It is not surprising that white collapses quickly.

Lisitsin-Botvinnik Leningrad 1932 Move 37
Lisitsin-Botvinnik Leningrad 1932 Move 37

37.Bg2 Bxg2 38.Kxg2 Nd5 39.Nc2 Qd6 40.Na3 Ne3+ 41.Kh1 Ng4! with numerous murderous threats

Lisitsin-Botvinnik Leningrad 1932 Move 42
Lisitsin-Botvinnik Leningrad 1932 Move 42

42.Qf4 total desperation and hopeless Qxf4 43.gxf4 Nxf2+ 44.Kg2 Nxd3 0-1

An absolute crush of Georgy Lisitsin who was Leningrad champion three times.

Section 2 Typical Methods of play for White consists of four chapters covering:

  • Attack on the queenside with b2,(b3),b4 aiming to limit the activity of black’s pieces
  • Attack on the kingside: f2-f4-f5
  • Play Nd5 and after its capture, respond with cxd5 or exd5 or capture on d5 with a piece
  • Withdrawing the d4 knight to c2, b3 or e2 with a queenside attack

Chapter 4 covers white’s queenside attacking plans involving b4.

The follower encounter shows an ideal strategic white win.

Knaak – Walter
East German Championship Erfurt, 1973

1.c4 c5 2.Nf3 g6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 Bg7 5.e4 Nc6 6.Be3 Nf6 7.Nc3 By transposition, an Accelerated Sicilian Dragon has been reached. Black plays a popular variation to exchange a pair of knights.

Knaak-Walter Erfurt 1973 Move 7
Knaak-Walter Erfurt 1973 Move 7

Ng4 8.Qxg4 Nxd4 9.Qd1

Knaak-Walter Erfurt 1973 Move 9
Knaak-Walter Erfurt 1973 Move 9

9…Nc6 Black normally retreats the knight to e6 here. 9…e5 is an interesting try. 10.Qd2 Qa5 11.Rc1! (Black was threatening Bxc3, another key strategy) d6 12.Be2 Be6 13.0-0 Rc8 14.a3 0-0

Knaak-Walter Erfurt 1973 Move 15
Knaak-Walter Erfurt 1973 Move 15

15.Rc2! (White effects a smart manoeuvre to prepare b2-b4) Rfe8 16.Rb1! a6 17.b4!

Knaak-Walter Erfurt 1973 Move 17
Knaak-Walter Erfurt 1973 Move 17

Qd8 (Black cannot take the a3 pawn: after 17…Qxa3 18. Nd1! followed by 19.Ra2 wins the queen) 18.Rbc1 Ne5 Black looks to have play against the c4 pawn, but white’s next move squashes any black hopes of counterplay.

Knaak-Walter Erfurt 1973 Move 19
Knaak-Walter Erfurt 1973 Move 19

19.Nd5! Bxd5 The knight has to be removed 20.cxd5 (As white’s rooks are already doubled opening the c-file is very strong 20…Qd7 21.h3! (Stopping any ideas of Ng4) 21… f5 Desperately seeking some play 22.f4! A typical reaction pushing the knight back 22…Nf7 23.exf5 gxf5 24.Bb6! (Another thematic idea dominating the c7 square)

Knaak-Walter Erfurt 1973 Move 24
Knaak-Walter Erfurt 1973 Move 24

Bf6 25.Rc7 Rxc7 26.Rxc7 The rook penetrates with decisive attack. The black king is soon on the menu. Qa4 27.Qd3 Bb2 28.Qxf5 (The attack is soon decisive)

Knaak-Walter Erfurt 1973 Move 28
Knaak-Walter Erfurt 1973 Move 28

Qxa3 29.Bh5 Bf6 30.Qe6 Rf8 31.Qg4+ Ng5 32.fxg5 1-0

Chapter 5 covers white’s attacking options on the kingside.

The game below shows a Maroczy Bind position being reached from a transposition into a Symmetrical English with an exemplary attacking display from a former World Champion.

Smyslov  – Timman
Moscow 1981

1.d4 Nf6 2.Nf3 g6 3.g3 c5 4.Bg2 cxd4 5.Nxd4 Bg7 6.c4 Nc6 7.Nc3 Nxd4 8.Qxd4 0-0 9.0-0 d6 10.Qd3 This position is a well known variation of the English Symmetrical which is definitely better for white.

Smyslov-Timman Moscow 1981 Move 10
Smyslov-Timman Moscow 1981 Move 10

Bf5?! (This idea is now known to be inaccurate. Better is 10…Rb8, 10…a6 or 10…Ng4 but white retains an advantage in all cases)
11.e4 Be6 12.b3 12…a6 13.Bb2 Nd7 14.Qd2! 14…Nc5 (14…Qa5 15.Rfd1 Rfc8 16.Nd5!±)

Smyslov-Timman Moscow 1981 Move 15
Smyslov-Timman Moscow 1981 Move 15

15.f4! Rc8? (Careless, underestimating white’s attacking chances, better is 15…f5 16.exf5 Bxf5 17.Nd5 when white has a clear advantage, but black can fight on) 16.f5 Bd7 17.f6!±  (Obviously missed by Timman)

Smyslov-Timman Moscow 1981 Move 17
Smyslov-Timman Moscow 1981 Move 17

exf6 (17…Bxf6 18.Rxf6! exf6 19.Nd5±) 18.Nd5 f5 19.exf5 Bxf5 (19…gxf5!? 20.Bxg7 Kxg7 21.Qd4+ f6±) 20.Bxg7 Kxg7 21.Qd4+ f6 22.g4! Be6 (22…Ne6 23.Qd1!+- as the bishop is trapped )

Smyslov-Timman Moscow 1981 Move 23
Smyslov-Timman Moscow 1981 Move 23

23.Nxf6! Rxf6 24.g5+- Bf5 25.Rad1 b5 26.cxb5 axb5 27.gxf6+ Qxf6 28.Qxf6+ Kxf6 29.Rxd6+ Ne6 30.Rb6 Rc5 31.Re1 1-0

Chapter 6 A leap to d5

This chapter covers the white’s knight leap to d5 and white’s three possible responses to its capture:

  • Taking cxd5
  • Taking exd5
  • Taking with a piece x d5

Lev Polugaevsky was considered an expert on the white side of the Maroczy bind. Here is a didactic game of his demonstrating the power of cxd5 and the use of the bishop pair. This is a common type of win in the Maroczy bind,  so this game is worth studying carefully.

This game also demonstrates that entering a vastly inferior endgame with no chance of counterplay is poor judgement particularly against a very strong technical player: the speculative 12…Qxa2 keeping the queens on had to be tried.

Polugaevsky – Ostojic
Belgrade 1969

1.c4 g6 2.e4 c5 3.Nf3 Nc6 4.d4 cxd4 5.Nxd4 Nf6 6.Nc3 Nxd4 7.Qxd4 d6 8.Be3 Bg7 9.f3 0-0 10.Qd2 Be6 11.Rc1 Qa5

Polugaevsky-Ostojic Belgrade 1969 Move 12
Polugaevsky-Ostojic Belgrade 1969 Move 12

12.Nd5! Qxd2+? (Black should have tried the complicated 12…Qxa2 13.Nxe7+ Kh8 14.Be2 with a white edge)13.Kxd2 Bxd5 (13…Nxd5 14. cxd5 Bd7 15.Rc7+- a decisive penetration to the seventh rank) 14.cxd5 Rfc8 15.Rxc8+ Rxc8

Polugaevsky-Ostojic Belgrade 1969 Move 16
Polugaevsky-Ostojic Belgrade 1969 Move 16

16.g3! (A typical move activating the white squared bishop) Rc7 (16…b6 17.Bh3 Rc7 18.Rc1 Ne8 19.b4 Rxc1 20.Kxc1 Nc7 21.Bd7! wins as in Gheorghiu – Szilagyi  Varna 1971 – another game well worth studying in this book) 17.Bh3 Nd7 18.Rc1! (Exchanging rooks enables white to carve up the black queenside) Rxc1 19.Kxc1 Nb6 20.Kc2 Kf8 21.b3 The simple plan of a4-a5 is unstoppable

Polugaevsky-Ostojics Move 21
Polugaevsky-Ostojics Move 21

Ke8 22.a4 Kd8 23.a5 Nc8 24.Bxc8 Kxc8 25.Bxa7 (White effortlessly wins the bishop ending a pawn up) e6 26.Kd3 exd5 27.exd5 Bb2 28.Kc4 Bc1 29.Kb5 Kc7 30.Bb6+ Kd7 31.a6 bxa6+ 32.Kxa6 Bd2 33.Ba5 1-0

Recapturing with exd5 is also a common strategy which has already been showcased with a Botvinnik win earlier in the review. Here is a more modern example between two 2700+ players with a crisp finish.

Notice that the white squared bishops are exchanged very early. It is not clear which side this favours. White gets rid of his potential bad bishop, but his c-pawn can be vulnerable. Black has exchanged a minor piece relieving his cramp.

Bacrot – Giri
Bundesliga 2013

1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 d6 3.Bb5+ Bd7 4.c4!? Nf6 5.Nc3 g6 6.0-0 Bg7 7.d4 cxd4 8.Nxd4 0-0 9.Bxd7 Qxd7 Reaching a standard position from the Moscow Variation.

Bacrot-Giri Emsdetten 2013 Move 10
Bacrot-Giri Emsdetten 2013 Move 10

10.b3 (10.f3 preparing Be3 allows the clever 10…Rc8 11.b3 d5!! equalising 12.exd5 Nxd5! 13.Nxd5 e6=) Nc6 11.Bb2 a6 (11…e6 followed by Rfd8 and d5 should be considered and is another standard idea to break up the Maroczy bind) 12.Nxc6

Bacrot-Giri Emsdetten 2013 Move 12
Bacrot-Giri Emsdetten 2013 Move 12

Qxc6?! (12…bxc6 13. Re1 Qc7 is better as black has a better share of the centre controlling d5 with his c-pawn) 13.Nd5! Nxd5?! (Better was 13…Rfe8 14.Nxf6 Bxf6 15.Bxf6 exf6 followed by Re6 when white has a slight edge) 14.exd5 Qc5 15.Bxg7 Kxg7 16.Re1 With heavy pieces the pressure on e7 is very uncomfortable, Black’s play with b5 turns out to be illusory. White’s space advantage spearheaded by the d5-pawn effectively splits black’s position into two compartments, thus facilitating a direct attack on black’s king. It is very difficult for black to funnel his pieces across to defend his kingside.

Bacrot-Giri Emsdetten 2013 Move 16
Bacrot-Giri Emsdetten 2013 Move 16

Rfe8  (Black had to play 16…e5 allowing 17.dxe6 fxe6 when white has very easy play against the e6 and d6 pawns, but at least black gains breathing space, opens the f-file for his rook and he can defend his king 17.Qd2! (White has a host of ideas after this multi-purpose queen move: Rac1 & b4, c5 or Re4, Rae1 and Rh4) b5? (Again 17…e5 had to be played) 18.Rac1! (Compare the activity of each side’s rooks, white prepares b4 and c5 creating a dangerous passed pawn)

Bacrot-Giri Emsdetten 2013 Move 18
Bacrot-Giri Emsdetten 2013 Move 18

Qa7?! (18…b4 is probably better, but white will turn his attention to the kingside) 19.b4! bxc4 20.Rxc4 h5 (20…Rac8 21.Qc3+ is a neat fork) 21.Qc3+ Kg8 22.Rc7 Qb6 23.a4! (Stopping any play with a5, because white replies b5!)

Bacrot-Giri Emsdetten 2013 Move 23
Bacrot-Giri Emsdetten 2013 Move 23

Rab8 24.Re4 f6 25.g4 Rb7? Desperation

Bacrot-Giri Emsdetten 2013 Move 26
Bacrot-Giri Emsdetten 2013 Move 26

26.Qxf6! A lovely combination to finish  1-0

Taking with a piece on d5 is demonstrated with another famous Botvinnik victory.

Botvinnik-Toran Palma de Mallorca 1967 Move 22
Botvinnik-Toran Palma de Mallorca 1967 Move 22

Botvinnik to move continued 22.Rxd5! The strategical idea is simple: utilise the pawn level e4-e5 to smash up black’s pawn structure and penetrate with the more active rooks.

22…Rc6?! (Better is 22…Rc7 defending the 7th rank 23.e5 dxe5 24.fxe5 f5 25.Red1 Rgc8 with chances to hold, but white is for choice) 23.e5 dxe5 24.fxe5 Re6 25.Kf2 Rf8 26.Rd7! fxe5+ 27.Ke3 Rb8 28.Ke4 Kg8 29.Kd5 Kf7 30.Rxe5 White has an enormous advantage

Botvinnik-Toran Palma de Mallorca 1967 Move 30
Botvinnik-Toran Palma de Mallorca 1967 Move 30

30…Rd6+ 31.Rxd6 exd6 32.Kxd6 Rd8+ 33.Kc7 Rd2 34.Kxb7 Rxg2 35.c5 Rxh2 36.c6 Rc2 37.b4 1-0

Chapter 7 covers the retreat of the white knight from d4 to avoid freeing exchanges for black. Here is a thematic game played by Nigel Short.

Short – Felgaer
Buenos Aires 2001

1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 g6 5.c4 Bg7 6.Be3 Nf6 7.Nc3 0-0 8.Be2 d6 9.0-0 Bd7 10.Nc2 (White withdraws the knight to prevent black exchanging)

Short-Felgaer Buenos Aires 2001 Move 10
Short-Felgaer Buenos Aires 2001 Move 10

a6 (10…Qa5?  just encourages white expansion viz: 11. f4 Rac8 12.Rb1! a5 13.b4 Qd8 14. Qd3 and white has a big advantage) 11.f3 A typical move to shore up the e4-pawn allowing the c3-knight to eye up b5 preventing b5 by black Rc8 12.Rc1 Re8 13.Qd2 Qa5

Short-Felgaer Buenos Aires 2001 Move 13
Short-Felgaer Buenos Aires 2001 Move 13

14.Rfd1! Ne5 [14…Red8 15.b4!

Short-Felgaer Buenos Aires 2001 Variation Move 15
Short-Felgaer Buenos Aires 2001 Variation Move 15

A typical tactic based on the undefended e7-pawn, if 15…Nxb4? 16.Nd5! Nc6 17.Qxa5 Nxa5 18.Nxe7+ and 19.Nxc8 winning, so 15…Qh5 is forced when 16.Nd5 leaves white better.

15.b4 (15.c5! is even better: dxc5 16.f4 Neg4 17.e5 winning) 15…Qd8 16.Na3

Short-Felgaer Buenos Aires 2001 Move 16
Short-Felgaer Buenos Aires 2001 Move 16

Short enjoys a solid space advantage, but his pawns will require full piece support. 16…a5 [16…Bc6 17.b5 axb5 18.cxb5 Bd7 19.b6 white is better] 17.b5 Be6 17…b6?

Short-Felgaer Buenos Aires 2001 Variation Move 17
Short-Felgaer Buenos Aires 2001 Variation Move 17

18.Na4! Rb8 19.Bd4 Qc7 20.Qe3+- wins the weak b6-pawn] 18.Na4 Nfd7 (18…Ned7 19.b6±) 19.b6!

Short-Felgaer Buenos Aires 2001 Move 19
Short-Felgaer Buenos Aires 2001 Move 19

White has a huge advantage that he duly converted.

Part 3 covers Typical Methods of Play For Black and is an important chapter if you are intending to face the Maroczy Bind.

Black has four strategies to combat the Maroczy, each of which is covered in a separate chapter:

  • e6 & d5 attacking both tusks simultaneously
  • b5 undermining the c4 pawn
  • f5 undermining the e4-pawn
  • dark square strategy

Chapter 8

The e6-d5 central strike commonly occurs in the Maroczy structure reached via the Moscow Variation of the Sicilian Defence. Here is an example played by World Champion Garry Kasparov.

Akopian – Kasparov
Bled  2002

1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 d6 3.Bb5+ Bd7 4.Bxd7+ Qxd7 5.c4 Nc6 6.d4 cxd4 7.Nxd4 Nf6 8.Nc3 g6 9.f3 Bg7 10.Be3 0-0 11.0-0

Akopian-Kasparov Bled 2002 Move 10
Akopian-Kasparov Bled 2002 Move 11

a6!? (Normal is 11…Qd8 intending Qa5 to activate the queen on the dark squares) 12.a4 e6 Again Qd8 is possible 13.Rc1 Ne5 14.b3 (14.Qe2 Rfc8! 15. b3 d5! = is another Kasparov game)

Akopian-Kasparov Bled 2002 Move 14
Akopian-Kasparov Bled 2002 Move 14

d5 15.cxd5 exd5 16.Nxd5 Nxd5 17.exd5 Rfe8 18.Bf2 Qxd5 19.Qc2

Akopian-Kasparov Bled 2002 Move 19
Akopian-Kasparov Bled 2002 Move 19

Ng4 20.fxg4 Bxd4 21.Qc4 Bxf2+ 22.Rxf2 Qxc4 23.Rxc4 Re7 24.h4 ½-½

Chapter 9 covers the f7-f5 strike. Here is a superb game by the young Boris Spassky before he became World Champion.

Furman – Spassky
USSR Championship Moscow 1957

1.Nf3 c5 2.c4 g6 3.e4 Bg7 4.d4 cxd4 5.Nxd4 Nc6 6.Be3 Nh6 7.Nc3 0-0 8.Be2

Furman-Spassky Moscow 1957 Move 8
Furman-Spassky Moscow 1957 Move 8

8…f5! Attacking the e4 tusk

9.exf5 [9.Bxh6!? is playable: 9…Bxh6 10. exf5 Nxd4 11. Qxd4 Rxf5 (11…gxf5 12.0-0 Bg7 13.Qd2 and black has problems with the c8 bishop) 12. 0-0 Bg7 13.Qd3 white has an initiative] 9…Bxd4! 10. Bxd4?! (10.Bxh6 is probably better 10…Rxf5 11.0-0 d6 12.Qd2 and black again has problems with the c8 bishop) 10.Bxd4 Nxf5 11.Bc5 The bishop is driven to an awkward place  d6 12.Ba3 Nfd4! (Making way for the white squared bishop) 13.0-0 Bf5 14.Rc1 Qd7 Intending to double on the f-file with his rooks

Furman-Spassky Moscow 1957 Move 15
Furman-Spassky Moscow 1957 Move 15

15.Nd5?! White should have improved his bishop on a3 viz: 15.b3 Rf7 16.Bb2 Raf8

Furman-Spassky Moscow 1957 Variation Move 17
Furman-Spassky Moscow 1957 Variation Move 17

17.Nb5! Exchanging off the powerful knight 17…Nxe2+ 18.Qe2 and white is slightly better owing to the great bishop on b2

Rf7 16.b3 Raf8 17.Bb2 e5! Cementing the wonderful steed

Furman-Spassky Moscow 1957 Move 18
Furman-Spassky Moscow 1957 Move 18

18.b4 (The prophylactic 18.f3 is better) Be6! 19.Bd3 Bg4!!

Furman-Spassky Moscow 1957 Move 20
Furman-Spassky Moscow 1957 Move 20

20.f3 (20.Qd2 Bf3! 21. h3 Qd8!! 22. Qh6 Be2 wins the exchange) 20…Bxf3! 21.gxf3 Nxf3+ 22.Kh1 Qh3! 23.Rf2 Ne1!!

Furman-Spassky Moscow 1957 Finish
Furman-Spassky Moscow 1957 Finish


Chapter 10 covers the a6-b5 break. Here is a game showing a typical white inaccuracy allowing black counterplay.

Ehrenfeuch – Neverov
Warsaw 1992

1.Nf3 Nf6 2.c4 g6 3.Nc3 Bg7 4.e4 d6 5.Be2 0-0 6.0-0 c5 7.d4 cxd4 8.Nxd4 Nc6 9.Be3 Bd7 10.Rc1

Ehrenfeucht-Neverov Warsaw 1992 Move 10
Ehrenfeucht-Neverov Warsaw 1992 Move 10

a6 The usual plan here is to exchange knights, play the bishop to c6 and attempt to exchange dark squared bishops with Nd7 11.Qd2?! (11.f3! had to be played to overprotect the e-pawn)  b5! Of course 12.cxb5 Nxd4 13.Bxd4 axb5 A massive change has occurred, black has plenty of space on the queenside, he has equalised.

Ehrenfeucht-Neverov Warsaw 1992 Move 14
Ehrenfeucht-Neverov Warsaw 1992 Move 14

14.a3 Qa5 (Threatening 15…Nxe4!) 15.Rc2 Bc6

Ehrenfeucht-Neverov Warsaw 1992 Move 16
Ehrenfeucht-Neverov Warsaw 1992 Move 16

16.Qe3?! (16.Nd5 Bxd5 17.exd5 Qxd2 18.Rxd2 is approximately equal) Rfb8! Threatening to trap white’s bishop with e5 17.e5 dxe5 18.Bxe5 Rd8 19.Bf3 Rac8 20.Rd1 Bxf3 21.Qxf3

Ehrenfeucht-Neverov Warsaw 1992 Move 21
Ehrenfeucht-Neverov Warsaw 1992 Move 21

b4! A typical minority attack 22.Bxf6 b3! A superb Zwischenzug 23.Rcc1 Bxf6 Black has huge pressure on the white queenside with a dragon bishop breathing fire, white is busted

Ehrenfeucht-Neverov Warsaw 1992 Move 24
Ehrenfeucht-Neverov Warsaw 1992 Move 24

24.h3 Rxd1+ 25.Qxd1 Qg5 26.h4 Qxh4 27.Qxb3 Be5 28.Qb7 Qh2+ 29.Kf1 Rb8 30.Qxe7 Qh1+ 31.Ke2 Qxc1 32.Qxe5 Qxb2+ 33.Kd3 Rd8+ 34.Kc4 Rc8+ 35.Kd3 Qxa3 36.g4 h6 0-1

Chapter 11 Dark-squared strategy is one of the most interesting chapters and should be studied carefully. I shall showcase a good tussle between World Champion Anatoly Karpov and Bent Larsen.

Karpov – Larsen
Brussels 1987

1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 g6 5.c4 Bg7 6.Be3 Nf6 7.Nc3 Ng4 8.Qxg4 Nxd4 9.Qd1 Ne6 10.Qd2 Qa5 11.Rc1 b6

Karpov-Larsen Brussels 1987 Move 12
Karpov-Larsen Brussels 1987 Move 12

12.Be2 Bb7 13.f3 h5 14.0-0 g5 15.Rfd1 d6 (White has achieved nothing, a3 & b4 does not trouble black’s queen as it can move to the lovely central square e5, so white transitions into an ending)

Karpov-Larsen Brussels 1987 Move 16
Karpov-Larsen Brussels 1987 Move 16

16.Nd5 Qxd2 17.Rxd2 Be5 18.b4 hoping for c5

Karpov-Larsen Brussels 1987 Move 18
Karpov-Larsen Brussels 1987 Move 18

Rc8 19.a4 h4! 20.Bf1 f6 21.Ra2 Hoping for a5 21…Bd4! Getting the dark squared bishops off

Karpov-Larsen Brussels 1987 Move 22
Karpov-Larsen Brussels 1987 Move 22

22.Kf2 Kf7 23.a5 Bxd5 24.exd5 Bxe3+ 25.Kxe3 Nf4

Karpov-Larsen Brussels 1987 Move 26
Karpov-Larsen Brussels 1987 Move 26

26.Kd2 Rc7 27.axb6 axb6 28.Ra6 Rhc8 29.Rxb6 Nxd5 30.Rb5 Nf4 with equal play

Karpov-Larsen Brussels 1987 Move 31
Karpov-Larsen Brussels 1987 Move 31

31.Ra5 Ng6 32.c5 Ne5 33.Rc3 dxc5 34.bxc5 Rb8 35.Bb5 Rd8+ 36.Ke2 Nc6 37.Bxc6 Rxc6 38.g3 Rd4 39.Rb5 hxg3 40.hxg3 Rd5 41.g4 Rc7 42.Ke3 e6 43.Rc2 Ke7 44.Rc3 Kf7 45.Rc2 f5 46.gxf5 exf5 47.Kf2 Kg7 ½-½

The game Serper – Sorenson Tunja 1989 is well worth study.

Serper-Sorensen Tunja 1989 Move 19
Serper-Sorensen Tunja 1989 Move 19

19…Qf8 (carrying out a sophisticated plan to exchange black squared bishops with Qf8, h5, Kh7 and Bh6) 20.Rd1 h5 21.Bd3 Kh7 22.Ne3 Bh6

Serper-Sorensen Tunja 1989 Move 23
Serper-Sorensen Tunja 1989 Move 23

23.Nf4 Bc6 24. Nd5 Bxc6 25.exd5 Bxe3+ 26.Qxe3

Serper-Sorensen Tunja 1989 Move 26
Serper-Sorensen Tunja 1989 Move 26

Black has to relieve the pressure on the e-pawn by playing e6 at some point.

Re8 27.Bc2 e6 28.dxe6 Rxe6 29.Qd2 b6 30.Re1 Rae8 31.a3 Rxe1+ 32.Rxe1 Rxe1+ 33.Qxe1 Qg7

Serper-Sorensen Tunja 1989 Move 34
Serper-Sorensen Tunja 1989 Move 34

Black has a winning positional advantage owing to the passive bishop and weak dark squares. The queen and knight combine well.

34.h4!? Too weakening Qb2 35.Qd1 Qxa3 36.f4 Ne6! 37.Qxh5+ Kg7 38.Qd1 Qc5+ 39.Kf1 Nxf4 40.Qf3 Qe5 41.g3 Ne6 42.Bd1 Nd4 43.Qd3 Nf5 44.Kf2 Qc5+ 0-1

Part IV covers some general techniques consisting of three chapters.

Chapter 12 considers an unusual move, early in the Accelerated Dragon. Here is game by Dragon specialist Tiviakov.

Beshukov – Tiviakov Saint Vincent 2000

1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 g6 5.c4

Beshukov-Tiviakov Saint Vincent 2000 Move 5
Beshukov-Tiviakov Saint Vincent 2000 Move 5

5…Bh6!? 6.Bxh6 Nxh6 7.Nc3 0-0 (7…d6 could be played) 8.Be2

Beshukov-Tiviakov Saint Vincent 2000 Move 8
Beshukov-Tiviakov Saint Vincent 2000 Move 8

d6 (8…f5!? is worth considering) 9.Qd2 [9.0-0 Be6!? (9…f5!?) ] 9…Ng4 [9…Kg7] 10.Bxg4 [10.0-0 Nge5=] 10…Bxg4 11.h3?! (11.0-0 Be6 (11…Qb6!?; 11…Rc8) ] 11…Be6 12.b3 Black has equalised

Beshukov-Tiviakov Saint Vincent 2000 Move 12
Beshukov-Tiviakov Saint Vincent 2000 Move 12

Qb6 [ Black has equalised, also possible is 12…Nxd4 13.Qxd4 Qa5=;
12…Qa5!? …a6, b5] 13.Nc2 [13.Rd1 Nxd4 14.Qxd4 Qxd4 15.Rxd4=] 13…a6 [13…f5!?;
13…Qc5!?] 14.Ne3 Qc5 […b5] 15.Rc1 Qe5 [15…Rac8] 16.0-0 Qf4 [16…g5!?] ½-½

Beshukov-Tiviakov Saint Vincent 2000 Finish
Beshukov-Tiviakov Saint Vincent 2000 Finish

Chapter 13 Capturing Bg7xc3! is all about giving up the dark squared bishop to wreck white’s queenside pawn structure.

Polugaevsky- Averbakh Leningrad 1960 illustrates this strategy well.

Polugaevsky – Averbakh
Soviet Championship Leningrad 1960

1.c4 c5 2.Nc3 Nc6 3.Nf3 g6 4.d4 cxd4 5.Nxd4 Bg7 6.Nc2 d6

Polugaevsky-Averbakh Leningrad 1960 Move 7
Polugaevsky-Averbakh Leningrad 1960 Move 7

7.e4 (7.Bd2 is less double edged) Bxc3+ !? (The enterprising exchange of black’s fianchettoed bishop for a knight to smash up white’s queenside) 8.bxc3 Nf6 9.f3 Qa5 (Attacking the weak pawns: black’s king is safer in the middle for now. It is imperative for black to attack the weak c-pawns as soon as possible)

Polugaevsky-Averbakh Leningrad 1960 Move 10
Polugaevsky-Averbakh Leningrad 1960 Move 10

10.Bd2 Bd7! Getting the queenside pieces into play quickly 11.Be2 Rc8 12.Ne3 Be6! Now the bishop can safely move to e6 without being harassed by the knight  13.Nd5 Nd7! (An excellent manoeuvre to hold the c5 and e5 squares and target the c4-pawn) 14.0-0 Nce5 15.Be3 White gives up the front c-pawn hoping to benefit from increased scope for his white squared bishop. White cannot attack on the kingside as black has not put his king there.

Polugaevsky-Averbakh Leningrad 1960 Move 15
Polugaevsky-Averbakh Leningrad 1960 Move 15

Nxc4 16.Qd4 Nde5!

Polugaevsky-Averbakh Leningrad 1960 Move 17
Polugaevsky-Averbakh Leningrad 1960 Move 17

17.Bf2 (17.f4 is met by 17..Nxe3 18.Nxe3 Qxc3) g5! Blockading the dark squares 18.a4 Rc5 19.Rfd1 Rg8 20.Rdb1 b6 21.Nb4 f5 22.Qd1

Polugaevsky-Averbakh Leningrad 1960 Move 22
Polugaevsky-Averbakh Leningrad 1960 Move 22

f4! Black has been offering his rook for the dark squared bishop as this bishop holds white’s dark squares together 23.Bxc5 Qxc5+ 24.Qd4 Kf7 25.Nd5 Na5 26.Rb5 Qc8 Black retains the queens as 26..Qxd4 is clearly a blunder

Polugaevsky-Averbakh Leningrad 1960 Move 27
Polugaevsky-Averbakh Leningrad 1960 Move 27

27.Rd1 Rd8 28.g3 Bxd5 29.Rxd5 Rg8 30.Kg2 Nac4 31.Bxc4

Polugaevsky-Averbakh Leningrad 1960 Move 31
Polugaevsky-Averbakh Leningrad 1960 Move 31

Qxc4! 32.Qd2? (32.Kf2 is better when the game is roughly equal)  fxg3 33.hxg3 g4! Destroying white’s kingside winning the game

Polugaevsky-Averbakh Leningrad 1960 Move 35
Polugaevsky-Averbakh Leningrad 1960 Move 35

34.Qf4+ Ke8 35.fxg4 Qe2+ 36.Kh3 Rxg4 37.Qf5 Rg6 38.Rf1 Rh6+ 0-1

Chapter 14 Play for the bishop pair covers white’s strategy of gaining the bishop pair by playing Nd5 forcing Bxd5. The reviewer has already covered one game demonstrating this idea Polugaevsky-Ostojic. This chapter covers further instructive examples.

Chapter 15 Playing without the light-squared bishop gives another game in the Moscow Variation of the Sicilian Variation. The reviewer has already shown some typical ideas in this line with some of Garry Kasparov’s games.

Chapter 16 shows some typical tactical strikes in the Maroczy. Buy the book to find out about these lightning strikes.

The final section 5 covers games by the world champions in the Maroczy. This is a great way to round off the book showcasing efforts by the great champions.

In summary this is an excellent book on Maroczy structures covering all the major strategies for both sides with some exemplary games showcasing the ideas.

FM Richard Webb, Basingstoke, Hampshire, 1st July 2021

Book Details :

  • Hardcover : 296 pages
  • Publisher: Thinkers Publishing; 1st edition (1st July 2019)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10:9492510545
  • ISBN-13:978-9492510549
  • Product Dimensions: 17.27 x 1.78 x 23.11 cm

Official web site of Thinkers Publishing

Understanding Maroczy Structures, Adrian Bohdanovych Mikhalchishin and Georg Mohr, Thinker's Publishing, 2019, ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-9492510549
Understanding Maroczy Structures, Adrian Bohdanovych Mikhalchishin and Georg Mohr, Thinker’s Publishing, 2019, ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-9492510549
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Technical Decision Making in Chess

Technical Decision Making in Chess : Boris Gelfand

Technical Decision Making in Chess, Boris Gelfand, Quality Chess, 2021, ISBN-13 : 978-1784830649
Technical Decision Making in Chess, Boris Gelfand, Quality Chess, 2021, ISBN-13 : 978-1784830649

From the Publisher’s Foreword:

“In Technical Decision Making in Chess former World Championship Challenger Boris Gelfand discusses his path to decision making in endgames and positions where one side possesses a structural or material advantage.
This investigation into a top Grandmaster’s technical understanding will illuminate difficult parts of the game that many players find elusive. Concepts like the “Zone of one mistake” are certain to be a revelation to many.”

From the back cover:

“In Decision Making in Major Piece Endings former World Championship Challenger Boris Gelfand discusses his path to decision making in endgames involving rooks or queens, as well as the neglected “4th phase”. Countless games are decided by good or bad technique in such endgames, so readers are certain to benefit from the insights of a word-class Grandmaster on this vital topic.

Grandmaster Boris Gelfand has been an elite player for over 30 years, winning the World Cup, Olympiad Gold, the Candidates and many other top tournaments.”

Boris Gelfand, FIDE Grand Prix, London, 2013, Courtesy of John Upham Photography
Boris Gelfand, FIDE Grand Prix, London, 2013, Courtesy of John Upham Photography

Grandmaster Jacob Aagaard is the only chess writer to have won all the major awards for chess writing.

GM Jacob Aagaard
GM Jacob Aagaard takes on all-comers!

Reaction to previous volumes in the series:

In 2015 Positional Decision Making In Chess won the ECF Book of the Year award.

“The most interesting chess book I have read in the last quarter-century.” Mikhail Shereshevsky on Positional Decision Making in Chess.

This new Quality Chess publication Technical Decision Making In Chess uses high quality paper and the printing is clear. The book can easily be laid flat next to the board and does not require weights to prevent it from “self-closing” (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 major diagram at the beginning of a chapter has a “to move” indicator. Where a “to move” indicator is not present, it is obvious which colour is to move from the accompanying moves in a variation.

Each chapter is introduced with a contemporary photograph of a player or players or a tournament  scene which  launches each chapter in a engaging manner. This is followed by a Diagram Preview page which shows the critical analytical diagrams in the following chapter and invites the reader to practise their analysis and decision making! If you can work out most of the variations you are stronger than a world champion.

The introduction of this book makes it clear that this book is about “positions where the main goal is the conversion of a static advantage. (A static or long term advantage can be anything from a weakness to better pieces to an actual material advantage.) The flip side is included in this, meaning when it is the opponent who is trying to convert an advantage and we are trying to resist.”

It is not an endgame primer or manual on basic endgames as there are plenty of these theoretical works already in existence: the author’s particular favourites are named.

The author suggests how to best use the book by first analysing the endgames without a chess engine and/or tablebases to prevent lazy thinking by relying too heavily on engine assessments without understanding: “I just want to say that any active work with the the engine, where you are probing, analysing, asking questions, examining and so on, is useful. Any passive submission to the engine evaluations is likely to make you a worse player.”

“The key question for us has not been which line wins. but why the line is winning.”

The chapter themes are not the usual themes that are found in other endgame books, for example arranged by material, except for the last chapter on opposite bishop endgames. Boris Gelfand shows the vast majority of the endgames in relation to the whole game including the opening and middlegame transitions. This is the modern way to study endgames and gives a much deeper understanding of chess in general and is the approach of a Grandmaster.

Chapter 1 Akiba Showing The Way

In this chapter, Boris showcases the great endgame skill of Akiba Rubinstein in his famous game versus Richard Reti at Gothenburg 1920. It is black to move in the position below which is included in Reuben Fine’s Basic Chess Endings and many other endgame manuals. Black is clearly better with multiple advantages:

  • Better pawn structure on the queen side, the c2 pawn needs constant vigilance. The white a2 is also a significant weakness.
  • Better minor piece
  • More space
  • Better pawn structure on the kingside: the white kingside is full of holes, hence black’s best move given below
Richard Reti-Akiba Rubinstein Gothenburg 1920 Move 30

30…Bd7! was the strongest move, fixing the white pawns on the dark squares. They are not in danger from the bishop, but they are unable to prevent the black king from penetrating the position, which is the greatest problem for white.

Rubinstein made one bad move in this game: 30…Ke6? 31.g4! Now white can draw with accurate play, but in practice, he missed the drawing ideas.

31…Kd6 32.h3 g6 33.Kd2 Bd7

Richard Reti-Akiba Rubinstein Gothenburg 1920 Move 33

34.Nf3 Better is 34.Ng2! The idea is simple. White wants to play d3-d4 and Ne3, when he has managed to plug the holes on the light squares on the kingside to a significant degree. 34…d4 is critical, cutting across this idea. 35.cxd4 cxd4 36.c4 dxc3+ 37.Kxc3 This looks to be good for black as he has a potential outside passed pawn on the queenside, but white can apparently hold! 37…g5 38.f5 Bc6 39.Ne3 Bf3 40.d4 Kc6 41.a3 and white draws. This is extremely instructive and should be studied carefully.

The game continued 34…Ke7 Another idea is 34…h6 35.Ke3 g5 and Gelfand shows that white has a lot of fantastic resources to just hold the game. Buy the book to find out how! 35.Ke3 h5

Richard Reti-Akiba Rubinstein Gothenburg 1920 Move 35

Reti now placed a horridly passive move 36.Nh2? which definitely loses. His last chance was a far sighted pawn sacrifice to draw as follows: 36.Nh4! Kf7 37.gxh5! gxh5 38.f5! Ke7 39.Ng6+ Kd6 40.h4! Bxf5 41.Nf4 Bg4 42.d4! and white has created an effective fortress. Black cannot make progress as he loses a pawn.

36…Kd6 37.Ke2? (37.gxh5 gxh5 38.h4 is tougher, but does not hold. 38…Bh3! The domination theme, a sample line is 39.Nf3 Ke6! 40. Nh2 b5 41.Kf2 Kd6 42.Ke3 a5 43.Nf3 Ke6 44.Nh2 a5 45.Kf2 (45.a3? Kf5 with the idea of b4 creating an outside a-pawn wins quickly) a3! 46.Ke3 Kf5 47.Kf3 Kg6 48.Ke3 d4+ 49.cxd4 Be6 50.Kd2 Bxa2 and black wins as the blockade does not hold.

The game continued 37…d4! Fixing a2 and c2 and widening the bridgehead for the king and bishop. 38.cxd4  cxd4

Richard Reti-Akiba Rubinstein Gothenburg 1920 Move 38

White lost quickly as follows 39.Kd2 hxg4 40.hxg4 Bc6 41.Ke2 Bd5 42.a3 b5 43.Nf1 a5 44.Nd2

Richard Reti-Akiba Rubinstein-Gothenburg 1920 Move 44

Now black won with the thematic 44…a4! forcing the creation of a passed a-pawn. We all know that knights are very poor at dealing with passed rook pawns. 45.Ne4+(45.Nb1 Kc5 46.c3 Ba2 wins) Bxe4 46.dxe4 b4 47.Kd2 bxa3 48.Kc1 g5 0-1

This ending is worthy of close study, not just to enjoy Rubinstein’s great technique, but also to discover hidden resources in difficult positions: a variation on the theory of infinite resistance.

Chapter 2 Turning Points

This section covers two interesting Gelfand games, one of which he wins and one he loses. As the chapter heading indicates, the key theme is recognising critical points in a game. The section culminates in the analysis of a fascinating same colour bishop endgame from the second game that was holdable by the inferior side.

Ivanchuk-Gelfand Wijk aan Zee 2012 Move 20

This is a middlegame position from a Catalan opening. Gelfand comments along the lines of white (Ivanchuk) is a little better with a better bishop and a bit more space. The important factor is that the position is easier to play for white and white risks little by playing on. Black’s main problem is the decision about when to stay passive (waiting) or go active. This general issue is covered more in chapter 3.

It is hard to believe that a player of Ivanchuk’s standard ends up in a losing position after only six more moves!

White played 21.Nel?! (Hoping to get the knight to b4 an apply some pressure. The simple and  natural 21.Bd3 was better. After 21…Qd6 white can try 22.Ne5, 21…Qc8 with the idea of a5 and Ba6 exchanging the semi-bad bishop is logical. 22.Qa3 Qf8 23.Qa4 Qc8 24.Kg2 a5 25.Bb5 Ba6 26.Bxa6 Qaa6 27.Ne5 Qc8 28.Qc6 and white is better in the inevitable double knight ending.

Ivanchuk-Gelfand Wijk aan Zee 2012 Variation Move 28

The game continued 21…Qc8 22.Nc2 Ne4! 23.Nxe4 dxe4

Ivanchuk-Gelfand Wijk aan Zee 2012 Move 23

White probably mistakenly thought this pawn structure transformation was in his favour. This is incorrect. The e4-pawn is fixed on the colour of the bishop, however, the e4 pawn gives a space advantage, the d5 square and a pivot for a pawn storm on the king side.

White should probably play 24.a4 then Bd5 25.Qc3 Qxc3 26.bxc3 White is optically better but 26…Bb7! 27.Nb4 Nb8! Black is going to bring his king over and hold. White played 24.Qc3? Qxc3 25.Bxc3 b5! This looks dangerous putting another pawn on the colour of the bishop, but white’s bishop is also hemmed in by black’s pawns and black has a significant space advantage.

Ivanchuk-Gelfand Wijk aan Zee 2012 Move 25

This is the crucial turning point of the game. White should have objectively realised that he had gone wrong and looked for  way to draw. 26.c4 looks reasonable, but after bxc4 27.Bxc4 Nb6 28.Be2 a5 29.Kf1 Bd5 30.a3 Bc4!? white is a fraction worse. Black has rid himself of the semi-bad bishop and has a space advantage in a knight endgame.

Ivanchuk-Gelfand Wijk aan Zee 2012 Variation Move 30

White played 26.a4? (See two diagrams back above, gifting black an outside passed a-pawn) and duly lost. An horrendous positional error from a world class player. Black combined the passed a-pawn distraction with a general advance on the king side to create entry points for his king and win.

In the second game, the aforementioned bishop ending reached this critical position.

Gelfand-Wang Sochi 2008 Move 43

White played 44.h4? which loses. 44.Kb6! would have drawn. The analysis is complicated but black’s best try is 44…Ke6 (44…Bd1 also leads to draw by a single tempo) 45.Bg6 Kd6 46.Be4 c5 47.Kb5 Bd5 48.Bxd5 Kxd5 49.Kxa4 h5 50. Kb5 c4 51.Kb6 Ke4 52.Kxb7 Kf3 53.Kc6 Kg2 54.Kc5 Kxh2 55.Kxc4 Kxg3 56.b4 h4 57.b5 h3 58.b6 h2 59.b7 h1=Q 60.b8=Q Qe4+ 61.Kc5 Qxf4 (see below) with a theoretical draw but still a practical challenge. The companion volume Decision Making in Major Piece Endings covers this type of ending.

Gelfand-Wang Sochi 2008 Variation Move 61

This whole bishop ending is worthy of close study as white has some amazing ideas to hold an ending that just looks lost.

Chapter 3 covers the important topic of active or passive defence.

Gelfand demonstrates this theme  with a complex double rook and knight endgame. Here is a position a few moves before that endgame, where black missed a chance to equalise comfortably.

Gelfand-Pelletier Biel 2001 Move 23

Gelfand points out that active defence with 23…Nd5! forces easy equality. 24.Qxe5 Nxe3! 25.Be4= (25.Qxe3? Qxe3 26.fxe3 Rxd3 27.Rxa7 Rxa7 28.Rxa7 Rxb3 and black is playing for a win)

Black played the passive 23…Qc6?! forcing a queen exchange. This is a common mistake when a (weaker) player wants a draw and exchanges pieces with small concessions 24.Qxc6 Bxc6 25.Bf1! Rdb8?! (26…Rab8! is more active when white can win a pawn but has great technical difficulties) 26.Bc4?! ( 26.Ra6! Rb6 27.Bc4 Bd5 28.Bxd5 Nxd5 29.Rxb6 Nxb6 30.Ra5! White is definitely in plus equals mode playing for two results.) 26…Bd5?! (26…Bb5 equalises) 27.Nxd5 Nxd5 28.Ne4 Rb4 29. Nd2! Rb7 Reaching the position below.

Gelfand-Pelletier Biel 2002 Move 29

White played 30.Ra5 which sets a small trap. 30.g4! was probably better gaining space and attempting to isolate the e5 pawn from its friends. Black played the obvious 30…Rd8?! activating the rook (30…Nc3 is better). After the game move, white has an edge and it’s very instructive to see how Gelfand increases his advantage in a practical game with mistakes from both sides.

Chapter 4 covers the common idea of A Bad Plan is Better than No Plan.

Here is a complex middlegame position.

Gelfand-Harikrishna 2014 Move 21

The penalties of planless play are amply demonstrated in the middlegame between moves 21-30 where planless play by black spoils an equal position resulting in a difficult heavy piece middlegame and subsequent losing  king and pawn ending.

Gelfand-Harikrishna 2014 Move 30
Gelfand-Harikrishna Wijk aan Zee 2014

White to move on move 40. What would you play? 40.a4! springs to mind spoiling black’s majority and winning.

Chapter 5 is all about long games with an increment.

Gelfand demonstrates two games, the first is a complex rook and knight endgame; the second of which is a very long queen and minor piece ending with an extra pawn.

This queen and minor piece ending has just arisen after white forced the exchange of rooks a few moves ago.

Gelfand-Grachev Moscow 2016 Move 34

White played 34.Qe2? which is a blunder. 34.Kg1 is obviously better, 34…Nxh4 35.Bxe5 activates the bishop increasing white’s advantage. 34…Kg8? Missing 34…Nf4! 35. Qf3 (35.Bxf4 Qxh4! threatening mate) 35.Kg1 Qd2 with loads of counterplay 35.Kg1 Nxh4 36. Bxe5 Qa5 37.Bg3 Ng6

Gelfand-Grachev Moscow 2016 Move 37

White has increased his advantage by activating his bishop.

I shall show a couple of other positions from this instructive game with Gelfand’s pithy comments. Black sacrifices the h-pawn to open up the white king.

Gelfand-Grachev Moscow 2016 Move 44

White played 45.Qg3?! instead of the consolidating 45.Bc3! “White consolidates and is on the way to winning the game. In these long games where it is very hard to spot the critical moments, because every moment is a mini-version of it, inaccuracies are bound to happen. This is why it is important to analyse the games and improve our feeling for how to spend our time, how to organise our pieces, how to organise our thinking and how to control the opponent’s counterplay. A lot of happens subconsciously. We analyse the games, find out what actually happened, compared to our experience during the game, and our feeling for the details will be slightly better the next time around.”

At move 49 this position was reached:

Gelfand-Grachev-Moscow 2016 Move 49

Gelfand played 50.Qe3!? a perfectly decent move.  Gelfand comments that the computer suggests 50.Kf3 Qf5+ 51.Ke2 Qe5 52.Qe7 Qxb2+ 53.Ke3 reaching this position:

Gelfand-Grachev Moscow 2016 Variation Move 53

The knight is lost after 53…Nxf2 54.Qe6+ Kh8 55.Qc8+ Kh7 56.Qf5+ A brilliant line.

Gelfand makes a wise and honest observation: “Obviously this is the type of thing the engine does much better than a human. Finding a tactic in a position where there are a large number of possibilities. No human can go 2-3 moves deep in all lines and see these types of options. So, all in all, I pay attention to this kind of information, but I do not regret not seeing it.”

At move 101 (see position below), Boris comments: “At this point I was confident that I would win. I knew what I should do. The queen controls everything and the white king can go forward. White is also winning in this position if there are no f- or g- pawns on the board….White can also play f5-f6, creating a situation where the black king is exposed, liniting the number of checks Black is able to give. The general idea is basic: White will aim to put the queen in-between on one of these checks, spiking the black king, forcing the exchange of queens.”

Gelfand-Grachev Moscow 2016 Move 101

Having read the relevant section in the companion volume “Decision Making In Major Piece Endings”  even the reviewer would be confident of victory in this technical position.

Chapter 6 When is the Right Time to Run?

This chapter is about “situations in both the middlegame and the endgame, where both players had to make decisions about when to improve their position and target the opponent’s resources and when to roll the dice and attack the king or let passed pawns roll. This is perhaps the most essential theme in top level chess, as a good feeling for what kind of action is needed in various positions, when to calculate and when simply to improve the position, is worth many points.”

Gelfand demonstrates this with a complex rook and knight ending.

Gelfand also brings out a pertinent comment about computer evaluations in this section. This is a position from a short variation in that game:

Navara-Gelfand Prague 2006 Variation Move 26

Boris says “Stockfish helpfully tells us that the position is still equal. But is it really? Black is full control of the d-file and can penetrate to the second rank…..Black is much more comfortable….”

Objectively, a strong engine would hold as white, but who would choose white?

Chapter 7 Choosing the Right Transformations

This chapter shows a complex queen and knight ending which is really interesting considering all the transformations to knight endings.


Caruana-Gelfand Amsterdam 2010 Move 30

Black played a technical, far reaching move 30…Qg5! forcing 31.e3 and the weakening of the f3 square. Gelfand stresses the point that black cannot win on the queenside alone and must create weaknesses on the kingside. Gelfand analyses the alternative 30…Qa6 to a probable win giving some superb analysis including a brilliant positional knight sacrifice creating passed a- and h-pawns which is definitely worth studying:

Caruana-Gelfand Amsterdam 2010 Variation Move 37

37…Nf1+ 38.Ke1 Nxh2 39. Kf2 Kf8! 40. Kg2 Nxf3 41.Kxf3 (41.exf3 h5 ensures a passed h-pawn) f5! Black wins by a tempo.

Chapter 8 – Karjakin

This game is a technical queenless middlegame in the Chebanenko.

This position gives a flavour of the struggle:

Gelfand-Karjakin Nalchik 2009 Move 20

White is clearly better, but how does white proceed here? Buy the book to find out.

Chapters 9 and 10 are titled Stalemate and Stalemated respectively.

Here is an amusing finish:

Ponkratov-Bacrot Berlin 2015 Move 34

Black is under the cosh with a killing rook discovery on the cards.

Bacrot played 34…Bd3+!! 35.Bxd3 Qd5 36.Bc4 Renewing the threats. 36…Rh1+ 37.Kg2 Qd2+! 38.Kxh1 Qg2+ stalemate

Chapter 11 The Relevance Of Endgame Studies

This chapter is good and the title is self explanatory. Solving endgame studies is useful for getting a feel for the potential of the pieces – not only in the endgame. Endgame studies are the artistic side of chess. Here is an instructive and entertaining study composed by Sergey Tkachenko & Boris Gelfand:

Sergey Tkachenko & Boris Gelfand 2017.

I will not give the solution, but there is a beautiful zugzwang, so buy the book to find out!

Chapter 12 Geometry

This chapter has an intriguing title but covers mainly R+N v R and positions with R v N or B with just a few pawns. Here is  a good example:

Mamedyarov-Gelfand Pamplona 2004 Move 64

White is in great danger here with his monarch in the corner. 65. Rxa7 loses as it unpins the knight allowing the prosaic mate 65..Rh5+ 66. Kg1 Ne2+ 67.Kf1 Rh1# The move that springs to mind is 65.Kg1. In fact this does draw as does 65.Kh2.

White actually played 65.Nd4+? to distract the black rook, so he could capture the a7-pawn. After 65…Rxd4 66.Rxa7 black has a pretty win with 66…Rd6! 67.Ra2 (67.Rf7 Kg3 68.Rg7+ Ng6! shuts out the rook and mates) 67…Rh6+ 68. Rh2 Nh3! with a beautiful zugzwang that I have not seen before.

Mamedyarov-Gelfand Pamplona-2004 Move 68

69.Rh2 Nf2+ 70.Kg1 Rh1#

Chapter 13  – Endings with Opposite Coloured Bishops

This is one of the reviewer’s favourite chapters as it shows the immense complexity of such endgames.

Leko-Gelfand Dortmund 1996 Move 71

White has just played 71.Bxb4 and reached the haven of an opposite coloured bishop endgame. This is quite a common type of position reached in practice. This position is a draw but it is difficult and a world class player of Peter Leko’s standard did not succeed in practice. Buy the book to find out how black won and how white could have drawn.

To summarise this is a very good technical book with many instructive games with deep analysis and didactic commentary.  The book is clearly aimed at aspiring FIDE2000+ (ECF175+) players and above.

FM Richard Webb, Chineham, Hampshire, May 12th 2021

FM Richard Webb
FM Richard Webb
  • Paperback : 320 pages
  • Publisher:Quality Chess UK LLP (28 April 2021)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10:178483064X
  • ISBN-13:978-1784830649
  • Product Dimensions: 17.35 x 1.52 x 24.16 cm

Official web site of Quality Chess

Technical Decision Making in Chess, Boris Gelfand, Quality Chess, 2021, ISBN-13 : 978-1784830649
Technical Decision Making in Chess, Boris Gelfand, Quality Chess, 2021, ISBN-13 : 978-1784830649
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To Exchange or Not? The Ultimate Workbook

To Exchange or Not?, Eduardas Rozentalis, Thinker's Publishing, 8th December 2020, ISBN-13 : 978-9492510945
To Exchange or Not?, Eduardas Rozentalis, Thinker’s Publishing, 8th December 2020, ISBN-13 : 978-9492510945

From the publisher:

“When should we exchange a piece in the endgame and when should we keep it? Why is it so important? How to make a right choice? Different types of endings and guidance on how to make the correct decision were the subject of my book The Correct Exchange in the Endgame. Two editions were very well accepted by chess players of different levels. I am especially happy that many chess coaches and teachers found it useful for their training programs.

The book was announced as a silver winner of the Boleslavsky Award 2016 by the FIDE Trainer’s Commission. Many readers and coaches expressed a wish to see more instructive exercises, so together with Thinkers Publishing we decided to make an exercise book. It can be widely used by chess teachers in schools, coaches in chess clubs and all chess players.

Trying to solve 120 instructive exercises and then going through the correct solutions, you will certainly improve your decision-making ability and analysing skills, as well as enrich your knowledge and understanding of the final stage of the chess game.”

GM Eduardas Rozentalis at the Jersey International, 2013.
GM Eduardas Rozentalis at the Jersey International, 2013.

From the publisher:

“Lithuanian Grandmaster Rozentalis lifetimes achievements in chess are enormous. We mostly remember him being champion of Lithuania in 1981 and 2002, 3 times champion of the Young Masters of the USSR, 1984-85-87, World Youth Team champion in 1985 and World Senior Team champion in 2014. In between 1985 until now, he won 85 international tournaments, played for many European different club teams and in 10 Chess Olympiads for Lithuania. This is his second book for Thinkers Publishing. His first, ‘The Correct Exchange in the Endgame’, became a great success and was nominated as ‘FIDE CHESS BOOK 2016’.”

End of blurb…

There are two short introductory sections: a preface and an introduction that clarify the purpose of the book as an exercise book with 120 endgame positions to solve. The problems are all concerned with exchanging issues: exchange a piece or not; which piece to exchange; when and where to exchange.

The main workbook is divided up into six chapters based on three increasing levels of difficulty for the problems:

  • Warm Up
  • Warm Up Solutions
  • Intermediate
  • Intermediate Solutions
  • Advanced
  • Advanced Solutions

There are forty exercises from real games at each complexity level, presented as four problems per page.  Many of the positions are from Rozentalis’ own games. Each solution chapter demonstrates the answers with typically one to two pages of analysis for each solution accompanied by two to three diagrams.

The problems cover all types of piece configurations in endgames from single piece endgames through to complex multi piece endgames. The problems vary in their nature with these typical example themes:

  • Pure tactics
  • Calculation (for example pawn races in king and pawn endgames)
  • Knowledge of basic endgames
  • Exploitation of weaknesses
  • Suppression of counterplay
  • Positional considerations

The reviewer will show some positions from each problem chapter to give a flavour of the coverage.

Here is the first position in the book demonstrating an exchange to exploit pawn weaknesses and suppress counterplay:


The problem posed is should white exchange rooks or not?

General positional considerations say that a rook and bishop are slightly better than a rook and knight in an endgame: this advantage is regarded as a “grindable” endgame advantage by good endgame players. However, in this position black has numerous pawn weaknesses on both sides of the board, that can be exploited by the active bishop in an open position: namely a fixed g4 pawn and a vulnerable pawn chain on a6/b7. Black’s rook is also active on the c-file, if white moves his rook along the d-file to say 41.Rd5 Rc1+ is annoying for white.

41.Rd7+! exchanging rooks to exploit black pawn weaknesses and prevent counterplay by black with his rook.

41…Rxd7 42.Bxd7 Nd6 This loses the pawn on g4, but 42…Kf6 43.Bc8 wins either the b7 pawn or the g4 with a technically winning endgame

43. Bxg4 fxg3 44. fxg3! Capturing with the f-pawn, not the h-pawn to eventually make a distant passed pawn on the h-file which makes black’s defence even more difficult. White now has a straightforward technical win.

44…a5 45.Kf2 Nc4 46. b3 Ne5 47. 47.Be2 Kf6 48. Ke3 Kf5 49. Kd4 g4 Black tries to block the white pawns, and hopes for Nf3 as some point, but the g4 will just become another target.

50.Kd5 b6 After 50…Nf3, white wins with 51.h3!

51.a4 Zugzwang, if 51…Nf3 52.h3! wins, if the knight moves to say d7 or f7, white’s king penetrates decisively on the queen side.

51…Kf6 52.Ke4 1-0 (The g-pawn drops after Kf4 and Bxg4)


The second example shows a common tactical theme to simplify to a winning king and pawn endgame.

B.Wyczling-E.Rozentalis-Warsaw-2008-Move 44
B.Wyczling-E.Rozentalis-Warsaw-2008-Move 44

Black has achieved a lot in this endgame with the better placed pieces and a far more potent pawn majority, plus the white knight is utterly dominated. Black’s next move achieves a transformation that quickly decides the game.

44…Bxb2!  45.Nxb2 (45.axb4+ makes no difference: 45…Kxb4 46.Nxb2 c3+ wins)

45…c3+ 46.Kc2 axb2 47.axb4+ Kxb4

The white king has to deal with the black’s passed a-pawn, while the black king goes to the kingside for a delicious meal of white pawns.


Here is another position showing that exchanging the opponent’s most active piece is always an important consideration.


White has a very active rook which holds his position together. If white was to move, he would play Rf4 collecting black’s dangerous passed pawn.

But it black to move and he played 44…Rf8! (44…h3 allows 45.Rf2 and white fights on) and white resigned 0-1. Why did he resign?

If the white rook avoids the exchange, for example 45.Rd5, then after 45…h3 the black cannot be stopped.

Exchanging rooks is hopeless as the black knight dominates the bad bishop. Black’s passed pawn will distract the white king, while the black king mops up the weak white g-pawns:

45.Rxf8+ Kxf8 46. Ke2 Ke7 47. Kf2 Ke6 48.Kg2 Kf5 wins easily


Here is a cautionary tale regarding transitioning into a king and pawn ending. White had been pressing for a while, playing on for the win with an outside passed pawn and the better minor piece. It did not occur to him that he could lose, but just watch, enjoy and learn!


46.Kd4? (A poor move, over pressing, but white can still draw. Safer was 46. Bc2 b3 47.axb3 cxb3 48.Bd1 Na4 with a simple draw)

46…Nxe4 47. Kxe4?? (The losing move as white’s king is too far away to prevent a classic pawn breakthrough which is covered in all good endgame primer manuals. White must have lost his sense of danger. 47. Kxc4! Kg6 48.Kb5 with a quick draw as the knight cannot prevent the exchange of both queenside pawns.)

47…a4 48.Ke3 Only now did white realise that after 48.Kd4


one of the black pawns queens in a well known and instructive motif: 48…c3! 49.bxc3 b3 50. axb3 a3! winning.

After the game move of 48.Ke3 black played 48…c3 which wins. The players agreed a  draw in this position! An amazing escape for white, particularly as both players were at least IM strength (2400+).

To see why black is winning, analyse on.

49.b3 (Forced as 49.bxc3 allows 49…b3! queening a pawn as in the variation above) 49…axb3 50.axb3 Kg6


Black wins using a well known technique covered in Fine’s Basic Chess Endings and many other endgame manuals.

51.Kd3 Kxh6 52.Kc2 Kg5 53.Kd3 Kf4 54.Kc2 Ke3 55.Kc1 c2!


The key idea breaking into white’s position: black’s king seizes the critical squares and wins the b3 pawn by force.

56.Kxc2 Ke2 winning easily.

Now, the reviewer will showcase three positions from the intermediate problems chapter.

Here is a transitioning problem.


Black played the very poor 75…Qxh4?? throwing away a win. Was this bad evaluation or a lack of knowledge? If black hadn’t played so quickly, he would have easily found the win by retaining his much more active queen: 75…Qe3+ 76.Kf1 (76.Kh1 Qe2 mates, exploiting white’s passive queen) 76…Qe4 77.Qh2 Bd5! bringing the bishop into the attack and either mates or wins both g-pawns with check.


The game continued: 76.gxh4 g3 77.h5+ Kxh5 78.Kh1 Kg5 79. Kg1 Kf4 80. Kh1 0.5-0.5


This is a well known fortress draw, once again covered in Fine’s BCE and other good endgame books. Black can collect the a-pawn and bring his king over the kingside but the white fortress cannot be breached. A decent effort is put the black king on e1, e2 or e3 and wait for the white king to move into the corner and try the poisoned offer of the bishop on f3 viz 89…Bf3!?


If white rids himself of the turbulent priest, then 90…Kf2 wins for black. However, the calm 91. Kg1! from white, ignoring the proferred prelate, draws for white. Note that with a knight instead of a bishop, this would be winning for black as white must capture!

The next position shows a complex position with two rooks and a minor piece each. The attacking power and mating potential of two rooks is well known, particularly in conjunction with the absolute seventh. The example aptly demonstrates this.


White has a massive passed a-pawn and is winning. White continued with 33.Be7 and did win pretty quickly. There is however, a simpler and cleaner win:

33.Bxe5! Rxe5 34. Rb7 Rxg5+ (34…Re8 35.a7 Rcc8 36.Rxb6 Ra8 37.Rb7 followed by Rfb1 & Rb8 wins) 35.Kh1 Ra5 (black does not have time to attack white’s king as the a-pawn is too fast) 36.a7 Rca3 (Stopping the pawn, but…)

37.Rd1 mating after Rxa7 38.Rd8# (Pretty)


Here is a really educational ending about hidden dangers in so called drawn endings. Here white has an extra pawn in a Q+4 v Q+3 with all the pawns on one side. This is a drawn ending, but the stronger side can torture the opponent for a long time. To put this position into context, the last two moves were 81.Qd8+ Kg7?


White played an unexpected, but amazing move, which is not obvious unless you have seen similar ideas before.

82.Qf6+!! (Giving up the extra pawn to force a pawn ending with a better king.) Qxf6 83. exf6+ Kxf6 84.Kf4


Zugzwang! Black is totally lost. Black’s king must move one way and white’s king goes the other way. White exploits the weakness on h5 and his reserve tempi with the f-pawn.

84…Ke6 (84…Kg7 85.Ke5 f6+ 86.Ke6 f5 87.f4 Kg8 88.Kf6 Kh7 89.Kf7 Kh6 90.Kg8 wins) 85.Kg5 Ke5 86.f3! Zugzwang again.


86…Ke6 87.f4! The black king must retreat and white plays f5 destroying the pawn structure and wins the h-pawn with a simple technical win. 1-0

To finish, the reviewer will demonstrate one of the advanced problems. This is an exchanging problem in a Q+B ending.


The ending is complex with both sides having a spoiled pawn majority. White has the better bishop as black has many pawns fixed on black squares. White may have difficulty getting into black’s position as the position is fairly blocked. Black can hold but must be careful. Black forced the play with 25…Qd2? which was the wrong decision as white can win with a clever bishop manoeuvre, ruining black’s potential fortress, clearly overlooked by black.

25…Bf4+! was the correct move which looks like a pointless check but is extremely subtle. White must reply 26.g3 to make progress which restricts white’s own bishop: a quick h5 and Bh4 is no longer available. If 26.Kh3 Kf7 27.Qf3 Kg8 and black simply waits. 26…Bd2


If white goes for a queen exchange hoping to the win the better bishop ending, black is safe after 27.Qd3 (27.Qc4+ Kf8 is ok) 27…Qxd3 28.cxd3 c5 followed by c6 and white can never break through and it is a fortress.

In the game, white took the queens off with 26.Qxd2 Bxd2 27.Bg3! (Black probably expected 27.h5 Kf7 28.Bh4 Bg5 with a clear draw.) 27…Bc3 (The bishop is distracted to defend the e-pawn) 28.h5! Opening the way for the white bishop. Black has a nightmare bishop ending which cannot be saved as he has far too many weaknesses.

D.Harika-Ju-Wenjun Lausanne-2020-Move-28

28…Kf7 29.Bh4 (Threatening the Bd8) Ke6 30. g5 Bd2 31.gxh6 was played which wins easily as white has undoubled his pawn and black still has the weak h6 pawn. However 31.g6! wins more quickly fixing the g7 pawn. The main point is that Kd7 from black allows Bf6! in reply.



If black plays 31…Bb4, 32.Bd8 Bd6 (32…Kd7 33.Bf6) 33. Kh3 Zugzwang, eventually black will have to lose a pawn and the game.

All in all, this is an very good endgame puzzle book to work through. Players of all standards will learn a lot from attempting to solve the positions followed by studying  the solutions which are well structured and easy to follow.

FM Richard Webb, Chineham, Hampshire, 26th April 2021

FM Richard Webb
FM Richard Webb

Book Details :

  • Hardcover : 192 pages
  • Publisher:Thinkers Publishing; 1st edition (8 Dec. 2020)
  • Language:English
  • ISBN-10:9492510944
  • ISBN-13:978-9492510945
  • Product Dimensions: 16.51 x 0.64 x 23.5 cm

Official web site of Thinkers Publishing

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How to Swindle in Chess

How to Swindle in Chess, Andrew Soltis, Batsford, 2020
How to Swindle in Chess, Andrew Soltis, Batsford, 2020

“International Grandmaster Andrew Soltis is chess correspondent for the New York Post and a very popular chess writer. He is the author of many books including What it Takes to Become a Chess Master, Studying Chess Made Easy and David vs Goliath Chess.”

GM Andrew Soltis
GM Andrew Soltis

From the Batsford web site :

“A book by (a) stalwart chess writer on an aspect of chess that is quite common, but little is written about, swindling in chess. In chess, a swindle is a ruse by which a player in a losing position tricks his opponent, and thereby achieves a win or draw instead of the expected loss. Renown(ed) chess writers Horowitz and Reinfeld observe that swindles, “though ignored in virtually all chess books”, “play an enormously important role in over-the-board chess, and decide the fate of countless games”. Andrew Soltis, American chess journalist, says swindles are not accidental or a matter of luck. Swindling is a skill. But there has been almost nothing written about how to do it, how to make yourself lucky in chess. Swindling means setting traps that exploit an opponent’s over-confidence. It means choosing the move that has the greatest chance of winning, rather than the move that has the least chance of losing. Soltis’ new proposal will explain to players of all levels how to do just that with plenty of examples to explain along the way.”

“… there has been almost nothing written about… ” swindles. True until recently (although books by Shamkovich/Schiller and LeMoir come to mind), but perhaps it’s unfortunate that this book was published at about the same time as David Smerdon’s outstanding book on the same subject.

Soltis’ view of what constitutes a swindle seems rather narrower than Smerdon’s. Most of the examples here are longer extracts from games where the player with an advantage in a complex position failed to win.

The first three chapters define swindles and explain the difference between swindles and traps.

Chapter Four tells you how to Make Yourself Lucky.

According to Soltis you should:

(a) Identify your best tactical resources,

(b) Give your opponent choices, and,

(c) Confuse him.

There’s quite a lot of British interest in this book, and here is Rowson – Emms (Gibraltar 2004).

If you’re clearly winning, but the position is chaotic and you perhaps don’t have too much time left to calculate it’s natural to make safe, sensible moves rather than looking for the quickest win.

This policy doesn’t always work, though.

This looks grim for Rowson: he’s two pawns down and all his opponent’s forces are in ideal attacking positions, with the immediate threat of Rxb2+.

“In mutual time pressure, White found an inspired bid to confuse, 34. Nb5~.

“It is confusing because all of Black’s main options seem to win. In fact, they all do. ‘But visually there is a lot to process’, White said after the game.”

Soltis then analyses the four captures on b5 and continues:

“No human can analyze all that in time pressure. Black made the common-sense decision 34… Rxb2+ 35. Rxb2 axb5.”

The game continued 36. Qf4~ Nc3+ 37. Ka1 when we rejoin Soltis:

“Again 37… Rf8 would have won. So would 37… Qa7. But common sense says Black should not be making his pieces passive when the tactics are reaching a peak.

“They are actually pretty active after 37… Qa7 38. Rh2 Ra8! because he mates first after 39. Qh6 Nb3+! 40. Rxb3 Qxa2+!

“Black made the intuitive decision to keep his pieces more flexible with 37… Rb7.

“White still needed a miracle. He might have tried 38. Qg5, with the idea of Qd8+. But 38… Rd7 is more than adequate.

“He changed the subject of the conversation with 38. Qe3~. That gave Black something new to think about, the threat to his knight.

“(It set a delicious trap 38…. Nc6 39. Rfc2! b4 40. Rxc3! and wins.)”

Now Soltis points out that 38… Qc5 would have won (as, according to Stockfish 12 would Rc8). Instead, Emms played 38… e5??, when Soltis mentions 39. Bc4! as leading to a position with equal chances, and Stockfish 12 adds 39. Rh2 as also being equal. After 39. Qg5!, Qa5 would have won, but 39… Ra7 turned out to be a blunder. White won after 40. Qd8+ Kg7 41. Qf6+ Kd8 42. Bc4! d5 43. Rh2! and Black resigned.

You’ll notice the symbol ~, which Soltis uses to annotate a move which, although not objectively best, is the most practical.

Chapter Five looks at swindles from the perspective of the victim (swindlee) and asks why players fall for swindles. For instance ‘The swindlee believes only two results are possible’ and ‘The swindlee wants to win quickly’. You might think differently: ‘The swindlee is in time trouble’, ‘The swindlee miscalculates’ or ‘The swindlee loses concentration’.

Further chapters again take other approaches, although there seems to be some overlap between them: ‘False Narrative and Bluffing’, ‘Panic Worthy’, ‘The Swindling Process’, ‘Swindler Versus Swindlee’. ‘Royal Swindles’ looks at swindles involving kings: perpetual check, stalemate and king marches. Finally, ‘The Very Lucky’ features three great swindlers, Judit Polgar, Lasker and Carlsen.

Here’s another all British example: Norwood – Plaskett from the 1990 British Championship held in Eastbourne.

Black’s a pawn up at the moment but, as Soltis explains:

“White threatens 26. Bb7, trapping the queen (26… Qa3 27. Ra1).

“Black can give up the Exchange, 25… Rc7 26. Be5 Qc8 27. Bxc7 Qxc7. But even with his extra pawn he would be significantly worse.

“An experienced defender – not just a swindler – would try to distract White by offering a choice. After 25… e5 Black would be alive after 26. Bxe5 Qe6.

“But if White makes the right decision, 26. Bb7! Qe6 27. Bxc8 Rxc8, he again has good winning chances. (Remember this position.)

“After 28. Qe2 a6 29. Ra5, for example, it would be harder for Black to draw than for White to win.

“Black felt his situation was dire and went for 25… Nd5~. It was partially based on 26. cxd5?? Qxb5 and 26. Bxd5? exd5 27. Rxd5 Be7 with near-equality.

“He was mainly betting that he would find counterchances if White replied 26. Rxc5! Rxc5 27. cxd5.”

Soltis then spends some time analysing that position and concluding that White would have been winning.

Returning to his narrative:

“But there was one other option for White and it occurred on the board: 26. Ra1? overlooked Black’s threat, 26… Qxb5! 27. cxb5 Nxc3 (28. Qxc3?? Bxf2+).

“The position is slightly better for White. Black can anchor his bishop on d4 with …e5. He may also be able to use tactics to liquidate the queenside pawns, bringing the position closer to a draw, e.g. 28. Bc6 Bd4 29. Ra5 a6!? 30. Rxa6 Nxb5.

“But the jarring effect of a swindle took effect and play went 28. Ra6? Bb6 29. Qb3 Ne2+ 30. Kh2? Bxf2 31. Qf3? Bxg3+ 32. Kh1 Rc1+ and Black eventually won.

“So was Black’s decision to choose 25… Nd5 over 25… e5 correct?

“The experienced swindler would say ‘Yes’ because White had three ways to go wrong (26. cxd5??, 26. Bxd5? and 26. Ra1?)

“The experienced defender would say ‘No!’ because 26. Rxc5! would have given White better winning chances than after 25… e5.”

This extract exemplifies some of the slight problems I have with the annotations. Some of it, inevitably I suppose, doesn’t quite stand up to Stockfish 12, which thinks that 25… Rc7 was a better drawing chance than either Nd5 or e5, and in that variation, Qc3 was better than Bxc7. It also considers the position in the 28. Bc6 line in the game to be completely level. Perhaps, from a GM perspective, White is slightly better, but I’m not a GM so I really have no idea.

Soltis also writes as if it’s plausible that a strong player will fall for an obvious trap. Is it really likely that a strong tactician like Norwood would have considered 26. cxd5??, or would have played 26. Bxe5 rather than 26. Bb7 after 25… e5?

At the same time I felt that he sometimes reads too much into what the players might have been thinking about and how far ahead they saw. Were Norwood’s subsequent mistakes caused by ‘the jarring effect of a swindle’, by time trouble, perhaps by a combination of the two, maybe by something else entirely? You’d have to ask him to find out.

As is to be expected from Soltis, this is a workmanlike book with, as you will have seen from these examples a lot of exciting chess, as well as some helpful advice on how to play – and how to avoid -swindles. I certainly enjoyed reading it, but I’m not convinced I learnt anything new. The general appearance of the book is rather old-fashioned, and there are a few – admittedly insignificant – notation errors.

If you’re looking for a book on swindles I’d strongly advise you go for Smerdon first: it really is an excellent – and highly entertaining – read. If that book whets your appetite for more swindles, you won’t be disappointed with Soltis. Recommended for players of all levels, but not a first choice.

Richard James, Twickenham 26th January 2021

Richard James
Richard James

Book Details :

  • Paperback: 240 pages
  • Publisher: Batsford Ltd; 1st edition (5th March 2020)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10:1849945632
  • ISBN-13:978-1849945639
  • Product Dimensions: 15.24 x 2.03 x 23.11 cm

Official web site of Batsford

How to Swindle in Chess, Andrew Soltis, Batsford, 2020
How to Swindle in Chess, Andrew Soltis, Batsford, 2020
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Forcing Chess Moves : The Key to Better Calculation

Forcing Chess Moves : The Key to Better Calculation : Charles Hertan

Forcing Chess Moves : The Key to Better Calculation, New in Chess, Charles Hertan, 2019
Forcing Chess Moves : The Key to Better Calculation, New in Chess, Charles Hertan, 2019

From the publisher :

“Charles Hertan is a FIDE master from Massachusetts with several decades of experience as a chess coach. He is the author of the bestselling Power Chess for Kids series. Joel Benjamin broke Bobby Fischer’s record as the youngest ever US master. He won the US Championship three times and has been a trainer for more than two decades. His book Liquidation on the Chess Board won the 2015 Best Book Award of the Chess Journalists of America (CJA). His latest book is the highly acclaimed Better Thinking, Better Chess.”

Charles Hertan
Charles Hertan

From the book’s rear cover :

“Why is it that the human brain so often refuses to consider winning chess tactics? Every chess fan marvels at the wonderful combinations with which famous masters win their games. How do they find those fantastic moves? Do they have special vision? And why do computers outwit us tactically? Forcing Chess Moves proposes a revolutionary method for finding winning moves.

Charles Hertan has made an astonishing discovery: the failure to consider key moves is often due to human bias. Your brain tends to disregard many winning moves because they are counter-intuitive or look unnatural. It’s a fact of life: computers outdo us humans when it comes to tactical vision and brute force calculation. So why not learn from them? Charles Hertan’s radically different approach is: use COMPUTER EYES and always look for the most forcing move first.

By studying forcing sequences according to Hertan’s method you will: Develop analytical precision; Improve your tactical vision; Overcome human bias and staleness; Enjoy the calculation of difficult positions; Win more games by recognizing moves that matter. This New and Extended Fourth Edition of Hertan’s award-winning modern classic includes 50 extra pages with new and instructive combinations.

There is a foreword by three-time US chess champion Joel Benjamin, and a special foreword to this new edition by Swedish Grandmaster Pontus Carlsson. Charles Hertan is a FIDE master from Massachusetts with several decades of experience as a chess coach. He is the author of the bestselling Power Chess for Kids series.”



You might think a chess puzzle book is just that, but there are many ways of going about it.

Are you going to write a text book or an exercise book? Or perhaps a text book with exercises to reinforce the lessons in the text?

Are you going to deal with puzzles winning material, checkmate puzzles, or perhaps positional sacrifices?

Are you going to provide practical advice to your readers about how to find tactics in their own games, or are you simply content to let the positions you demonstrate serve as an inspiration?

How are you going to order it? By tactical device? By level of difficulty? By pieces sacrificed? By squares on which sacrifices are played? Alphabetically: by player? Chronologically: by date?

What level are you aiming it at? Novices? Club players? Experts? Masters?

Most importantly, perhaps, what’s your USP? How are you going to stand out from the crowd?

This is the fourth edition, so Charles Hertan’s book has certainly proved popular (I’d previously read the first edition) and rightly so as well. Everyone enjoys a good puzzle book and this is one of the best on the market.

Let’s take a look inside.

Chapter 1 is about Stock Forcing Moves.

It’s immediately clear that readers should already be very familiar with basic tactical ideas: forks, pins, discovered attacks, deflections and so on. They should also be aware of the concept of what Hertan calls Stock ideas: common ideas which you will gradually become aware of as you look at more and more tactical exercises.

So it’s very much a book for club standard players rather than a book for novices.

This, for example is a common idea. White won with 1. Rxf7+!! Rxf7 2. Qxh6+!! Kg8 3. Qh8+! when White emerges two pawns up (Gallagher – Curran Lyon 1993).

At the end of every chapter you’ll find some puzzles to test your growing tactical skills.

Chapter 2 moves onto Stock Mating Attacks . The same sort of thing, but this time we’re mating our opponents rather than just winning material.

Chapter 3 is Brute Force Combinations. Hertan rightly observes that tactical skill combines two elements, depth and breadth of vision, a point missed by many authors and teachers. This chapter is about depth of vision. “Accurate brute force analysis”, according to the author, “is the single most important chess skill”.  I wouldn’t disagree: I’d just add that you will often need to be able to assess the final position accurately: analysis = calculation + assessment.

This is where things start getting difficult.

A typical example.

Here’s Hertan’s commentary on the conclusion of Alatortsev – Boleslavsky (Moscow 1950).

“Black is able to parlay a fleeting advantage in activity into a stunning brute force win:

1… Bh3! 2. f4!

The natural 2. Rfe1 fails to 2… Rxf2! 3. Kxf2 Qe3#.

2… Bxf1!!

Since 2… Qc5 3. Rf2 holds, Black had to seek a creative solution, maintaining the initiative.

3. fxg5 Rxe2 4. Qc3 Bg2! 5. Qd3

There’s no time for 5. Re1 Bh3! and, at the right moment, … Rxe1+ and Rf1+! with a winning ending.

5… Bf3!

Not 5… Rff2 6. Re1!.

6. Rf1

White has no good answer to 6… Rg2+, e.g. 6. Kf1 Rxh2; or 6. Qd4 Rg2+ 7. Kf1 c5 8. Qxd6 Bc6+ 9. Ke1 Rg1+ 10. Ke2 Rxa1 11. Qe6+ Rf7.

6… Rg2+ 7. Kh1 Bc6!

A beautiful quiet forcing move; not 7… Rd2? 8. Rxf3 with drawing chances.

8. Rxf8+ Kxf8 9. Qf1+ Rf2+ 0-1”

You’ll see that some of the examples aren’t easy to solve from the diagram. You need what Hertan calls excellent ‘computer eyes’ to calculate accurately that far ahead.

The remainder of the book is devoted to improving your move selection by overcoming human bias. The point is sometimes made that the difference between experts and masters is not so much that they think further ahead, or that they consider more moves, but that they consider better moves. Hertan believes that we often miss the best moves because of cognitive bias. Computers, of course, don’t have this problem.

Chapter 4 looks at Surprise Forcing Moves. These fall into two categories: moves that look impossible and moves that appear unusual or antipositional.

This is from Vetemaa – Shabalov (Haapsalu 1986).

Here, Black found the ‘impossible’ 1… Qb5!!, leaving the queen en prise to two pieces, but spotting that, if either piece takes, the other is pinned so 2… Nb3 is mate.

White has to prevent Qb2# and 2. b4 loses to Nb3+. The game continued 2. Rd2 Nxc3 3. Qxc3 Nxb3+ 0-1.

Chapter 5 is about ESTs: Equal or Stronger Threats. When your opponent makes a threat it’s natural only to consider defensive moves. Sometimes your best option will be to create an equal or stronger threat, but cognitive bias makes these moves hard to find.

Chapter 6 looks for Quiet Forcing Moves, which are again easy to miss. I’m not sure that I’d call a move threatening mate ‘quiet’, though. I guess it all depends what you mean by the word.

Chapter 7 brings us onto Forcing Retreats. Again, when you’re attacking, human bias tend to lead you towards looking at forward rather than backward moves.

From Filguth – De la Garza (Mexico 1980):

“Are your computer eyes sufficiently trained to find the wondrous shot 1. Qh1!! and the two brute force variations that make it the strongest attacking move on the board?”

1… Qh5 would be met by g4 as the h-pawn is guarded, while 1… Qf6, the move played over the board, was met by 2. Bg5! 1-0 because, after 2… hxg5 hxg5, the white queen breaks through to h7.

You’ll realise at this point that there’s considerable overlap between chapters: Qh1 might be seen as a Surprise Forcing Move or a Quiet Forcing Move as well as a Forcing Retreat.

Chapter 8 offers Zwischenzugs: intermediate moves in which, instead of playing an automatic recapture, you find something stronger to do first. There are similarities here with ESTs here: again, human bias will lead you towards taking back without stopping to think about it.

Defensive Forcing Moves are the subject of Chapter 9: these might be moves using tactical force to refute a dangerous but unsound attack, or counterattacking moves, where the defender suddenly turns into the attacker.

Chapter 10 brings us to Endgame Forcing Moves, although Hertan’s definition of endgame is not the same as mine, including, as it does, positions where each side has queen, rook and minor piece.

Chapter 11, Intuition and Creativity, sums everything up. According to Hertan there are five factors which will enable you to develop master intuition: a strong knowledge of stock tactics, hard work in calculating variations, creativity, courage and practical experience and wisdom.

Chapter 12 is a final set of exercises, and Chapter 13 gives you the Hertan Hierarchy, a tool for teaching better calculation skills, which you might see as a flowchart to help you find the best move.

This isn’t the only way to write about tactics, and I’m not convinced that Hertan’s methods are as revolutionary as the publisher claims. Teaching students to look for checks, captures and threats dates back, I think, to Reinfeld and Purdy in the 1930s. I’ve always taught my pupils to use a CCTV to look at the board: look for Checks, Captures, Threats and Violent moves. What he adds, and I’m not sure how original this is, and whether it’s any more than common sense, is to advise you to analyse the most forcing moves first, no matter how foolish they might appear. The idea of using protocols to find the best move and avoid missing tactics dates back at least to Kotov in Think Like a Grandmaster.  Some players, including this reviewer, find protocols helpful in some situations, but others strongly dislike the whole idea.

You might also find the continual repetition of the phrase ‘Computer Eyes’ rather grating, and the language at times over hyperbolic. On the other hand, many readers like this style of writing.

But everyone loves tactics books full of beautiful, surprising, creative and imaginative moves, and this book is perhaps the best on the market in that respect. The author has spent decades collecting positions of this nature, and his experience and enthusiasm shines through every page.

It’s not a book for novices. You need a basic grounding in tactics and thinking skills, along with the understanding that most tactics don’t involve sacrifices or surprise moves, that most sacrifices you’ll consider in your games will be unsound, and that, at least at amateur level, more games are lost by unsound sacrifices than won by sound sacrifices (although many games at all levels are won by unsound sacrifices). But anyone from, say, 1400 or so upwards, will be enchanted and inspired by the hundreds of examples of spectacular play to be found here. They’ll also enjoy the exercises and find at least some of the advice, particularly, perhaps, about avoiding cognitive bias when selecting moves to analyse, helpful.

While the teaching methods might not suit all readers, you won’t be disappointed by the contents.

Richard James, Twickenham 1st December 2020

Richard James
. Richard James

Book Details :

  • Paperback : 432 pages
  • Publisher: New In chess; New and Extended 4th ed. edition (16 Aug. 2019)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 9056918567
  • ISBN-13: 978-9056918569
  • Product Dimensions : 16.94 x 2.77 x 23.67 cm

Official web site of New in Chess

Forcing Chess Moves : The Key to Better Calculation, New in Chess, Charles Hertan, 2019
Forcing Chess Moves : The Key to Better Calculation, New in Chess, Charles Hertan, 2019
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The Power of Defence and the Art of Counterattack in 64 Pictures

The Power of Defence and the Art of Counterattack in 64 Pictures : Nikola Nestorović and Dejan Nestorović

The Power of Defence and the Art of Counterattack in 64 Pictures, Nestor Nestorovic and Dejan Nestorovic
The Power of Defence and the Art of Counterattack in 64 Pictures, Nestor Nestorovic and Dejan Nestorovic

From Nikola’s web site :

“My name is Nikola Nestorović and I have been playing chess for more than 20 years. During that time I managed to accomplish most of my playing career goals. The most important fact is that I became a Grandmaster at the end of 2015 and officially I became FIDE Chess Trainer in 2018. As I was growing up I realized that I really enjoy teaching so I decided that I am going to pursue that kind of a profession. Whether at school or at home I was always in the mood for teaching others and that feeling was very important in my chess coaching career. The connection between teacher and student need to be professional but friendly because only with this trust student can improve in a special way. So first, I want to make a special connection with my student – and then, chess will be very easy to learn! For years I worked on my special chess materials, so I can adjust my lessons to any type of player! And one very important thing – your age is not important, you can ALWAYS improve your chess play! So, If you love chess and you want to learn and improve in this beautiful game – I am sure that together – we can achieve your (our) goals! I am waiting for you! Cheers! Nikola”

From the publisher’s website :

“A tale of 64 magical squares in 64 shrewdly created pictures. Many a book delved deep into the vast oceans of tactics, positional play and strategy, but very few dared to enter and master a notoriously elusive realm of defence in chess.

In this highly instructive tome the authors tried to accomplish several demanding goals. To uncover many of the secrets that remain hidden so very often, to tackle the most difficult area of chess skill – defence, and finally to teach a great number of ambitious chess-players helping them to improve their knowledge in this important area of chess expertise.

We present you the book by GM Nikola Nestorović, and his father IM Dejan Nestorović with firm belief that you will appreciate many hours of their hard work and devotion to this intriguing topic. The games presented in this tome are both recent and older ones, played by the chess elite and their lower rated peers, but without exception instructive, deeply and diligently analysed for your reading and learning pleasure.

You learned to attack – now it is time to sharpen your defensive tools!”


The first thing to notice is that this is a handsome hardback, complete with a bookmark, and enhanced by photographs of some of the players featured within. Unlike the previous book I reviewed from this publisher, it uses orthodox fonts for both text and diagrams.

When turning to the first game you’ll see a game from a tournament that is still, at the time of writing this review, unfinished. This is Grischuk – Alekseenko from the 2020 Candidates Tournament. The first section, Modern gladiators, features 19 games or positions from recent tournaments, working backwards from 2020 to 2017, featuring many of today’s leading players.

Knights of XXI century takes us back from 2016 to 2007 with another 19 examples. Then, Pearls don’t lose their luster offers ten more positions going back to Savon – Tal in 1971. A moment of glory gives us seven specimens from slightly less celebrated players, and finally, From the maker’s mind treats us to nine games from the authors themselves.

This is an advanced book covering a difficult topic, that of defence and counterattack, and probably most suitable for players above, say, 2200 strength. You’ll find a lot of exciting, double-edged games, demonstrating all that is best in contemporary chess. Many of the games feature positional sacrifices, so if you’ve read and enjoyed Merijn van Delft’s recent book, this might be a useful follow-up. But the analysis here is much denser: lots of presumably computer generated tactical variations for you to work your way through.

Let’s look at one of the shorter and simpler examples.

We join the game Kožul – Stević (Nova Gorica 2007) with White about to play his 31st move. (Informator’s house style is to omit capture and check signs: I’m following that here, but using letters for pieces instead of the book’s figurines.)

31. g3

“Kožul is resigned to the fact that he has to wait for his opponent’s mistake in the realisation because Black’s extra pawn on b4 along with excellent placement of his pieces don’t bode well for White.”

31… Rd3?!

“A mistake that wouldn’t have needed to drastically affect assessment and events in the game had the danger alarm made a sound in good time.

“31… Qd3!? After simple exchange of queens Black would have only minor technical problems in the realisation of his material advantage. 32. Qd3 Rd3 33. Rc6 Ba5 34. Rc8 Kh7 35. Kg2 g5 With further strengthening of the position.”

32. Rc8

“The only way to create a chance, of course. White is still waiting for his opponent’s help.”

32… Kh7?

“After Rd3 one could surmise that Stević overlooked his opponent’s threat and that he only expected a passive defence. 32… Rd8! after the rook returned to the eighth rank, the chance for salvation disappeared, at least at this moment.”

33. Ng5!

“A nice tactical stroke which immediately changed the situation on the board. This was an absolute shock for Stević! All of a sudden he had to deal with concrete problems. And as it is usually the case, one mistake follows another.”

33… Kg6

“33… hxg5?? 34. Qh5#”

34. Qe4

“After Qe4 good defence is required in order not to lose the game.”

34… f5?

“Now a fatal error which brings White closer to victory. Black has two responses after which his opponent would be forced to draw.”

(Now there’s some analysis of Black’s drawing moves Kg5! and Kh5!, along with a diagram after Kh5, which I’ll omit here.)

35. ef6 Kg5 36. fg7!?

“36. Qe5! The safest path to victory. 36… Kg4 37. Qf4 Kh5 38. fg7+-”

36… Bf2

“A good attempt to create a counter-chance. 36… Qb1! The best practical chance. 37. Kg2 Rg3! 38. hg3 Qe4 39. Kh2 Qh7 40. g8Q Qg8 41. Rg8 Kf6 42. f4 There would still be some play here, although it can be said that White only needs to resolve some technical problems in the realisation of his material advantage.”

37. Kg2!

(There’s another diagram here: rather redundant as we’re only two half moves away from the previous one.)

“The game can still be lost for White: 37. Kf2?? Rd2 38. Kf1 Qd1 39. Qe1 Qf3 40. Kg1 Qg2#”

37. Rg3 38. Kf2 1:0

“Dangerous checks have disappeared. Black resigns due to the simple capture of the rook followed by promotion of the pawn to queen. Certainly, the key moments happened in time-trouble which is the period of the game when the side experiencing problems in the position should be concentrated and should seek its chance carefully.

“Kožul seized his chance while for Stević it can be said that he first missed a huge opportunity to win and then when he had to calculate where to go with his king and how o do it, he made incorrigible mistakes and suffered defeat.”

Here’s one of the authors in action in a very recent game: Todorović – N Nestorović (Smederevska Palanka (rapid) 2020).

“The position on the board shows us the moment when White has the opportunity to prevent a counterattack with a simple bc3 or enter calculations by playing tactical Ne8 where, at first glance, he wins material and easily promotes the e-pawn to queen.”

29. Ne8?

“29. bc3! (I’ve omitted the diagram) The simplest move! Now White is threatening to capture the rook on e8 and create the best defensive setup. 29… Qc4! 30. R4e3! After two simple defensive moves, Black’s hope vanishes. 30… Rc7 (30… Re7 31. Qa8! Capturing material.) 31. Qc7 And Black doesn’t have any possibility to create threats. 31… Qa2 32. cd4 Qa1 33. Kd2 Qb2 34. Kd1 Qb1 35. Ke2+-

“The king goes to the part of the board where there are no more checks and so the last threats will disappear.”

29… Qc4!!

(There’s another diagram here.) “The only way to create threats and shift the focus of play to the other side of the board.”

30. Qb8

“The most logical way to defend the white castling.”

(There’s a long note here demonstrating that 30. Nd6!? and 30. Qa5!? both lead to perpetual check, and again there’s a diagram after each of these moves.)

30… cb2 31. Kb2 Qc2 32. Ka1 Qc3

33. Qb2?

“Our desire to win sometimes gets us off the right path. 33. Kb1=

33… Nc2 34. Kb1

(Surely this diagram should be after, rather than before Black’s next move.)

34… Rb6!!

“A phenomenal way to end a counterattack!

“White resigns due to his inability to defend from checkmate!”

35. Qb6 Na3# 0:1


These extracts should give you some idea of the strengths and weaknesses of this book. There’s a lot of great chess here: exciting, creative and imaginative, as well as, as you’d expect in games of this nature, even at the highest level, a lot of mistakes as well. You certainly get a feeling of the inexhaustible riches of our beloved game. The subject of defence and counter-attack is not an easy one to teach, but the main point is well made. If you’re under attack you must meet immediate threats, but, beyond that, you should, if possible, avoid passive defence and look for opportunities to create active counterplay, even if this involves taking risks. Don’t be afraid to consider moves which may not be objectively best but will put your opponent under pressure.

The authors clearly have a keen eye for games of this nature and all readers will enjoy playing through and studying them.

However, you can probably also see some negatives. The translation, while mostly making sense, is a long way below professional standards. The layout of the book is poor and makes the games difficult to follow. You’d certainly need two boards and even then it wouldn’t be easy. There are lots of long tactical variations with embedded diagrams the same size as those in the main text. In some cases the game continuation is in the annotations while the book follows a more interesting line that wasn’t played. It all gets rather confusing, and the translation, along with the lack of capture and check signs, doesn’t help. It’s especially confusing when the actual game continuation is in the notes, while another variation, which would have led to a different result, is given as the main line.

Speaking as a 1900 strength player, I thought the book was pitched rather above me. I’d have preferred annotations with fewer computer generated variations and less verbose prose, and perhaps a puzzle section at the end to reinforce the lessons learnt from the examples, along with an improved layout and a better translation. The van Delft book mentioned above handles a similar subject in a much more appropriate way for players of my level, in terms of a more logical structure and more helpful annotations.

A qualified recommendation, then, for lovers of thrilling tactical games with vacillating fortunes played, mostly, at the highest level.


Richard James, Twickenham 22nd November 2020

Richard James
. Richard James

Book Details :

  • Hardback : 352 pages
  • Publisher: Sahovski Chess (aka Chess Informant or Informator) 2020
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: ?
  • ISBN-13: ?
  • Product Mass : ?

Official web site of Sahovski Chess

The Power of Defence and the Art of Counterattack in 64 Pictures, Nestor Nestorovic and Dejan Nestorovic
The Power of Defence and the Art of Counterattack in 64 Pictures, Nestor Nestorovic and Dejan Nestorovic
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Mastering Positional Sacrifices : A Practical Guide to a Vital Skill in Chess

Mastering Positional Sacrifices : A Practical Guide to a Vital Skill in Chess : Merijn van Delft

Mastering Positional Sacrifices: A Practical Guide to a Vital Skill in Chess.New In Chess, August 2020, Merijn van Delft
Mastering Positional Sacrifices: A Practical Guide to a Vital Skill in Chess.New In Chess, August 2020, Merijn van Delft

From the publisher :

“Merijn van Delft is an International Master from the Netherlands. He has been a chess trainer for more than two decades and created instructional material both online and offline.”

IM Merijn van Delft
IM Merijn van Delft

From the book’s rear cover :

“Most chess games of beginners and post-beginners are decided by fairly straightforward tactics. Anyone who wants to progress beyond this level and become a strong club player or a candidate master, needs to understand that somewhat mysterious-looking resource, the positional sacrifice.

International Master Merijn van Delft has studied and loved positional sacrifices for as long as he can remember. This non-forcing tool is not just a surprising and highly effective way of creating a decisive advantage during a game. Positional sacrifices are also instruments of superior beauty.

Van Delft has created a unique thematic structure for all types of positional sacrifices. He shows the early historical examples, explains which long-term goals are typical for each fundamental theme and presents lots of instructive modern examples. He then concentrates on those sacrifices that have become standard features of positional play. Solving the exercises he has added will further enhance your skills.

Playing a positional sacrifice will always require courage. Merijn van Delft takes you by the hand and not only teaches the essential technical know-how, he also helps you to recognize the opportunities when to take the plunge. Mastering Positional Sacrifices is bound to become a modern-day classic.”



Dutch IM Merijn van Delft introduces readers to one of the most complex and fascinating aspects of chess: the positional sacrifice. He’s not the first author to tackle this subject: previous books by McDonald and Suba, which I haven’t read are discussed in the bibliography.

A few quotes from the introduction will give you some idea of what this book is about, and who the target readership is.

“I am trying to write for as broad a readership as possible, but let me give a mild warning to beginning chess players: this book may not be the best place to start for you. … Here is a mild warning for very experienced players as well: you may come across a fair amount of examples you already know. I considered it my job to combine the most impressive classical games with new material, and to find a nice balance there.

“A feel-good book is what this is meant to be. It should be fun to play through the games and the book can easily be used for entertainment purposes only. If you are simply seeking inspiration, feel free to open it at a random page and check the diagrams. The most exciting moments are always covered with a diagram and described in the text that follows.

“Having said that, my main intention has been to present the material as systematically as possible. My goal was to create a unique framework of positional sacrifices. The structure should have an inner logic and should help the reader to build up his knowledge systematically.”

Let’s look inside and see whether or not the author has achieved his aim. There are 115 complete games in the main body of the book, ranging from Morphy to Wijk aan Zee 2020, so it’s nothing if not up to date. All but the first two (in the introduction) feature positional sacrifices. All games are fully annotated, mostly verbally, with variations only given when necessary. It’s particularly good to see the complete games, so that readers can witness how the positional sacrifices arose from the opening.

The first part of the book deals with the four basic reasons for positional sacrifices: piece play, pawn structure, colour complexes and domination.

Chapter 1 teaches us how we can use positional sacrifices to create play for our pieces: by opening files, opening closed positions or opening diagonals.

Here, for example, is a position from Leko – Vachier-Lagrave (Batumi Ol 2018), with Black just about to use a positional sacrifice to open some files on the queen side.

“For now White seems to have everything under control, but what follows is a true thunderbolt.

23… Nxa4!

Vachier-Lagrave’s handling of the opening stage may have been unfortunate, but now he displays very deep understanding of the position with a truly amazing piece sacrifice.”

The game continued 24. Bxa4 b5 25. Bxb5 a4 26. Nd4 a3 and Black won on move 71.

Chapter 2 looks at how we can use positional sacrifices to help our pawns. We can create a Perfect Pawn Centre, a Pawn Steamroller or a Mighty Pawn Chain.

This is Gemy Vargas – Fier Sao Paolo 2019. White’s f-pawn has just moved two squares, and van Delft points out the alternative 30… exf3, which is the engine recommendation. But instead…

30… e3!

“The artist is taking over. Black sacrifices a piece to increase the size of his pawn steamroller. As Alexandr said at the Masterclass he gave recently at Apeldoorn, during his early years as a chess player he was heavily influenced by Kasparyan’s book with endgame studies on the theme of domination.”

By move 41 he’d reached this position, where White resigned.

“A pretty picture, the ultimate pawn steamroller, minding a bit of the famous McDonnell – De la Bourdonnais finish with black pawns on d2, e2 and f2.”

Chapter 3 moves onto the idea of positional sacrifices to control colour complexes. As van Delft explains, because this is a more abstract concept than pieces and pawns, it’s harder to understand.

Chapter 4 then puts everything together: we can play a positional sacrifice to achieve domination of the entire board.

In Wojtaszek – Hracek (Aix-les-Bains 2011) White, who had already sacrificed a pawn,  now gave up the exchange to dominate the board.

17. Rxc5! “The key move, a strong positional exchange sacrifice.”

Now we understand the reasons why we might want to play a positional sacrifice, we can move onto Part 2, where we can learn about typical sacrifices and store the ideas in our long-term memory. Many of them, though, will already be familiar to experienced players.

Chapter 5 concerns pawn sacrifices: as you might expect the Benko and Marshall Gambits are among the openings considered. Chapter 6, concluding Part 2, moves onto typical exchange sacrifices.

Part 3 goes way beyond this, to more difficult and dangerous ideas. Chapter 7, Extreme Sports, asks how much you can get away with sacrificing. You’ll find double exchange sacrifices, queen sacrifices for a couple of minor pieces, and even positional rook sacrifices.

In Firouzja – Karthikeyan (Xingtai Asian Championship 2019) Black sacrificed his queen on move 9:

9… Qxc3+! “A great positional queen sacrifice.”

10. bxc3 dxe3

“Black now has two minor pieces and a pawn for the queen. White has many weak pawns and squares, which makes Black’s position much easier to play.”

In Chapter 8, Heroes, van Delft introduces us to some of the games that have inspired him over the years, played by the likes of Shirov, Aronian and Carlsen.

Finally, Chapter 9 goes beyond human positional sacrifices to the Superhuman, including recent games by Leela Chess Zero and Stoofvlees.

Now it’s time to put your new found knowledge and skills into action with a final chapter of Exercises.

“In total there are 48 exercises, on four different levels, with 12 exercises each. Every reader should have a fair chance at Level 1, while at Level 2 things are already becoming more difficult. Level 3 is serious business, and at Level 4 most people will be running into a wall. Level 4 is mainly there to remind us how rich chess is, and that we will not easily be done learning.”

The answers always include the play up to the question, and in some cases the complete game as well.

As you’ll realise, there’s a lot of great chess in this book. The author has also achieved his aim of treating a difficult subject in a logical and well structured way. But what really appeals to me is van Delft’s style of writing. There are many strong players who excel at writing or talking about chess, but not all of them understand how their readers or viewers might learn. He is at pains to differentiate between material which provides specific lessons you can employ in your own games and more difficult material which might serve as an inspiration.  Although the English isn’t always totally idiomatic, the meaning is never less than totally clear. Not for him the fanciful analogies and flowery language preferred by some authors to make their books fun: for van Delft the fun comes from the moves themselves. Although the intent is serious, his approach is warm, friendly and encouraging. Enjoy your chess and don’t be afraid to try out new ideas: this is how you improve. He comes across to me as, above all, an excellent teacher. I look forward to reading whatever he writes about in future.

Personally, I’d have liked a broader historical perspective. Those 19th century favourites the King’s Gambit and Evans Gambit are positional sacrifices for, amongst other things, an Ideal Pawn Centre, and many other 19th century gambits have aims relating to themes in the book. While there are a few 19th century games along with some discussion of the Steinitz Gambit and a brief mention of its context, a chapter on the history of positional sacrifices would have been interesting.

Nevertheless,, this is yet another outstanding book from New in Chess in what has been an exceptional year for chess literature. Very highly recommended: I’m sure you’ll find it both enjoyable and instructive, and, if you’re rated, say, 1800+, this book will add a new dimension to your chess.

Richard James, Twickenham 13th November 2020

Richard James
. Richard James

Book Details :

  • Paperback : 320 pages
  • Publisher: New in Chess (1st June 2020)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-13: 978-9056918835
  • Product Dimensions : 6.82 x 0.82 x 9.3 inches

Official web site of New in Chess

Mastering Positional Sacrifices: A Practical Guide to a Vital Skill in Chess. New In Chess, June 2020, Merijn van Delft

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The Complete Chess Swindler

The Complete Chess Swindler : David Smerdon

The Complete Chess Swindler
The Complete Chess Swindler
GM David Smerdon
GM David Smerdon

David Smerdon is an Australian chess grandmaster and behavioural economist. In 2015 he published the highly successful chess opening book Smerdon’s Scandinavian.

From the book’s rear cover :

“Chess is a cruel game. We all know that feeling when your position has gone awry and everything seems hopeless. You feel like resigning. But don’t give up! This is precisely the moment to switch to swindle mode. Master the art of provoking errors and you will be able to turn the tables and escape with a draw – or sometimes even steal the full point!

Swindling is a skill that can be trained. In this book, David Smerdon shows how you can use tricks from psychology to marshal hidden resources and exploit your opponent’s biases. In a lost position, your best practical chance often lies not in what the computer recommends, but in playing your opponent.

With an abundance of eye-popping examples and training exercises, Smerdon identifies the four best friends of every chess swindler: your opponent’s impatience, their hubris, their fear, and their need to stay in control. You’ll also learn about such cunning swindling motifs as the Trojan Horse, the decoy trap, the berserk attack, and ‘window-ledging’.

So, come and join the Swindlers’ Club, become a great escape artist and dramatically improve your results. In this instructive and wildly entertaining guide, Smerdon shows you how.”

As with every recent New in Chess publication high quality paper is used and the printing is clear. The book can easily be laid flat next to the board and does not require weights to prevent it from “self-closing” (a particular bugbear of ours !). Each diagram is clear and the instructional text is (mostly !) 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.


Who doesn’t love a good swindle? Well, if you’ve just been swindled in the final of your online club championship I guess you might not, but, in truth, as long as we’re not the victim we all love a good swindle.

So it’s surprising, then, that it’s a subject which hasn’t been covered much in chess books. Australian GM David Smerdon’s new book promises to fill that gap in your library.

Here’s Smerdon’s description of a swindle:

1) The Swindler starts from an objectively lost position.

2) The Swindler consciously provokes the victim into blundering, usually by taking advantage of some psychological trait.

3) The victim squanders the advantage, allowing the swindler to escape with a draw or even the full point.

He also offers three questions to help you find swindles.

1) What does my opponent want?

2) How is he planning to do it?

3) What’s good about my position?

Let’s look at an example.

This is Shirov-Kramnik (Groningen 1993).  White launched a manic attack right from the opening, but Black defended calmly.

Now Shirov had to make a choice. He saw 18. Qh4 Nxg3 19. Bxe7 Nxf1 20. Bxd8 Qxe5 21. Bf1 Qe3+ 22. Kb1 Bc6 which he assessed as favourable to Black due to White’s uncoordinated forces.

Instead he went for the spectacular 18. Bxh6!?! when the game concluded 18… Nxf4 19. Bxg7+ Kh7 20. Rxf4 Rg8 21. Rfg4 Rxg7 22. Rxg7+ Kh6 23. Rg8 Kh7 24. R8g7+ with a draw.

However, as Smerdon points out, Kramnik could have won with the beautiful counter queen sacrifice  21… Qxc3!!, when 22, Rxc3 Rxg7 leaves Black a piece up, while 22. bxc3 Ba3+ is a pretty standard mate. (Smerdon’s ‘exquisite’ seems a bit hyperbolic to me.)

Smerdon might have mentioned that 20… Qxc3!! would also have worked, and that Black could equally well have played 19… Kg8 20. Rxf4 Qxc3!!.

All very interesting, but was it really a swindle?

It depends.  Did Shirov see Qxc3 at move 18. at move 21, or not until after the game? If he’d decided 18. Qh4 would lose, had seen the Qxc3 defence and played Bxh6 anyway, hoping Kramnik would miss it, then, yes, it was a swindle. But if he’d seen the game conclusion in advance and played it, thinking he was forcing a draw, then it was something arguably more interesting: a mutual blunder by two of the strongest players in the world.

Why, then, did Kramnik, a future world champion rated 2710 at the time of the game, miss, on two occasions, what was essentially a fairly simple two move tactic. A psychological flaw? A cognitive bias? Perhaps he was only looking at the king side, where all the action was, so missed a tactic on the other side of the board. You could say that looking at the wrong side of the board is a cognitive bias of sorts, but it’s not what Smerdon has in mind.

There are all sorts of reasons why we make the type of mistake we really shouldn’t make. Cognitive bias, yes, but also, for example, time trouble or fatigue. It’s always interesting to hear a great player explain how he made a simple oversight. Take this example.

This is Petrosian-Kortchnoi (1963) with Black to make his 32nd move. White has an overwhelming advantage in this rook ending, but he’s facing a resourceful defender.

Smerdon quotes Petrosian. “For a long time I had regarded my position as a winning one. Thus the whole opening phase of the struggle, when Kortchnoi was unable to get out of trouble, had psychologically attuned me to the idea that the ending would be favourable to me.”

Kortchnoi tried 32… Rf8 (sheer bluff: 33. Rxh6 or Re6 both win easily) 33. d6 Rh8 34. Kg4 Rf8 when the world champion fell straight into the cunning trap: 35. Rxh6?? f3!!.

Petrosian again. “I did not even see the threat f4-f3, possibly because it was in contrast to Black’s hopeless position. Personally, I am of the view that if a strong master does not see such a threat at one he will not notice it, even if he analyses the position for twenty or thirty minutes.”

This, then, unlike the Shirov-Kramnik position, is an excellent example of where Smerdon’s theory works. Petrosian was swindled because he was overconfident, convinced that nothing could possibly go wrong.

Smerdon identifies two pairs of psychological flaws which, in his view, are usually the cause of a player being swindled. Two, impatience and hubris, are caused by overconfidence, while two more, fear and kontrollzwang (the need to keep the position under control) are caused by lack of confidence.

He goes on to suggest that, if you know your opponent is impatient, you should look for a Trojan Horse: a move which seemingly offers your opponent a quicker or easier way to win, but instead sets a trap. If he’s overconfident, consider a Decoy Trap: a move which creates two threats: with any luck he’ll meet the minor threat while missing the major threat.

On the other hand, if your opponent is looking fearful, play a Berserk Attack, which will make him even more scared than he is already. If he’s a player who likes to keep control, adopt a window-ledging strategy: randomise the position so that neither player really knows what’s happening.

This is all very interesting, and great fun as well. Along the way, we meet characters such as Aussie swindling expert Junta Ikeda, and ever-optimistic German FM Olaf Steffens: in one game here we witness him window-ledging Richmond IM Gavin Wall.

But, I wonder how often you have a choice of swindles to set. In the real world, once we’re in swindling mode we’re just trying to find moves to stay in the game and pose problems for our opponent. We’re not really going to stop and take our opponent’s mindset into consideration before deciding which swindle to set up.

Understanding your cognitive biases is important, and, I’d suggest, this is rather more useful in helping to avoid being swindled yourself than in swindling your opponent. But is it really true that swindles usually exploit psychological flaws? I’m not entirely convinced.

By now we’ve reached Part IV, where the mood changes. We now look at the Core Skills swindlers need. The corollary is, of course, that if you want to avoid being swindled you also require these skills.

You can try to swindle your opponent by heading for an ending which might be difficult or impossible to win despite a large material advantage. For instance, KQ v KR is, generally speaking, a win, but notoriously difficult in practice. Knowing the defensive techniques to give your opponent the most trouble is helpful, as is knowing how to win against best defence. KRB v KR, on the other hand, is, generally speaking, a draw, but not so easy over the board (especially if you’re playing Keith Arkell). Knowing the correct technique is again useful – for both sides.

The next two chapters cover Fortresses and Stalemate, both familiar in the rarefied world of endgame studies but not often discussed in relation to competitive chess. We then continue with Perpetual Check, a very frequent guest in Swindleland.

We also look at Creativity. Here, for example, is the conclusion of the remarkable game between Detlev Birnbaum (2190) and Eloi Relange (2420) played at Cappelle-la-Grande in 1995. You’ll have to  buy the book to find out what was really happening here.

Part V demonstrates some complete games from both master and amateur chess, including Smerdon’s favourite swindle. Finally, Part VI presents 110 quiz questions, in which you have to find, or avoid, a swindle.

This is a unique book which covers a number of important topics not usually mentioned in text books, and does so in highly entertaining fashion. Smerdon’s writing style is lively, if sometimes loose, and he presents a lot of fascinating material. You’ll find a lot of creative and resourceful ideas here which should inspire all readers to look for ways to convert their potential losses into draws, or even wins. I would guess that, in terms of chess improvement, players in the 1800-2200 range would benefit most, but I really can’t imagine any reader not falling in love with this book. There is a lot of helpful advice – most importantly perhaps, not to give up in a lost position but to look for ways to provoke your opponent into making a mistake. Not only will it help you to find swindles in your own games: it will also help you to avoid being swindled yourself.

I do have a couple of reservations: as mentioned earlier I think Smerdon overstates the importance of cognitive bias in swindles when there are many other factors involved. What looks like a swindle might, on occasion, just be a mutual blunder: to be certain we need to know the swindler’s motive. As a behavioural economist by profession, he is naturally interested in why and how decisions are made, and this is something not very often mentioned in chess literature. Cognitive bias and psychological flaws undoubtedly affect how we study chess as well as our performance at all stages of the game. Given his academic background, Smerdon would, I think, be the ideal author for a book of this nature.

I would also have preferred a broader historical perspective, but then Smerdon, unlike some other authors, is sceptical about the value of studying the classics. Mention might also have been made of endgame studies, which frequently use many of the ideas discussed in this book: you might, at one level, see all endgame studies as the result of a swindle, and I suspect that solving studies, as recommended by a number of esteemed chess coaches, might be very beneficial in helping you to find, or avoid, swindles.

In spite of these reservations, I have no hesitation in recommending The Complete Chess Swindler to all readers. There have been some exceptionally interesting chess books published this year, and this is certainly one to add to the list.

Richard James, Twickenham 23rd September 2020

Richard James
. Richard James

Book Details :

  • Paperback : 368 pages
  • Publisher: New In chess (1 Jan. 2020)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 9056919113
  • ISBN-13: 978-9056919115
  • Product Dimensions: 17 x 2.3 x 23.6 cm

Official web site of New in Chess

The Complete Chess Swindler
The Complete Chess Swindler
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The Grandmaster Mindset

The Grandmaster Mindset
The Grandmaster Mindset

From the book’s rear cover :

“By going through the chapters, you will get acquainted with my way of grandmaster type thinking. I can assure you of one thing: there are better and weaker grandmasters, but you won’t find a GM who is playing without ideas or, let’s say, without his way of thinking! As you will find out, I am basically trying to detect the problem or goal of the position and then I am starting to scan factors which can lead to the solution. That process you will find in many examples in the book. GM Alojzije Jankovic, April 2020.”

“Alojzije Jankovic (1983) is a Grandmaster and FIDE trainer from Croatia. In 2010 he shared first place in the Croatian National Championship, was national champion in 2015, shared third place with Croatia in the European Team Championships 2017 and played for Croatia in the Chess Olympiad. He won several international tournaments and also hosts weekly the broadcast ‘Chess commentary’, Croatian national tv, third channel. This is his second book for Thinkers Publishing, after his successful co-edition with GM Zdenko Kozul on the ‘Richter Rauzer Reborn‘ updated version 2019.”

GM Alojzije Jankovic
GM Alojzije Jankovic

As with every recent Thinkers Publishing publication high quality paper is used and the printing is clear. The book can easily be laid flat next to the board and does not require weights to prevent it from “self-closing” (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.

A bibliography of sources along with suggestions for further reading would have been helpful.


I was rather confused when I first saw this book. The title, The Grandmaster Mindset, suggests a book for advanced players , while the subtitle A First Course in Chess Improvement suggests a book for novices.

Let’s take a look inside and find out.

The first chapter concerns pins. We start off with Légal’s Mate, which is important for novices but hardly necessary for advanced players.

En passant, we learn what Jankovic means by the Grandmaster Mindset. First, you assess the position, just as recommended by many other authors, such as Silman. Then you look for candidate moves: you consider all checks, captures and threats, as recommended by Kotov and many others, including me, over the past half century or so. Other authors, notably Willy Hendriks, will tell you to ignore protocols of this nature, to use your intuition and ‘move first, think later’.

We soon find ourselves in deeper waters, and by the end of the chapter we’re faced with a beautiful endgame study (M Matouš 1975) which is analysed in depth.

The second chapter, Candidate Moves, only seems to repeat the lessons from Chapter 1: if you assess the position and look for forcing moves you can find brilliant queen sacrifices.

Chapter 3, the longest in the book, brings with it a change of scenery. Useful endings: we have some pawn endings, rook against pawn, queen against rook, the bishop and knight checkmate explained in some detail, and finally rook against knight, again at length.

We’re back to tactics in Chapter 4, Knight Geometry.

This is Zvjaginsev-Schwarz (Novi Sad 2016).

White won with the aesthetically pleasing 44. Rxa6!! bxa6 45. b7 Qd8 46. Qxh6+!! Kxh6 47. Nxf7+. Beautiful, to be sure, with symmetrical major piece sacrifices on a6 and h6, but the queen sacrifice wasn’t necessary: 45. f4 Rg6 46. b7 was just as effective. (Note that 44. f4 also worked, but not, in the game, 46. f4? Qa5! and Black has a perpetual.) Perhaps this might have been mentioned.

The tactical ideas continue: Back Rank Mate (Chapter 5), Lure the King (Chapter 6: sacrificing a piece to expose the enemy king to danger), Unexpected Moves (Chapter 7: a collection of fairly random examples which you can discover by looking for Checks, Captures and Threats), Power of the Rooks (Chapter 8), Sudden Attack on the King (Chapter 9).

Chapter 10  is entitled Burying, which is a new one to me. The explanation, that it’s a very important tactical element when attacking the opponent’s king,  didn’t leave me much wiser. It seems to be something to do with taking away the king’s escape squares, but who knows?

In this position (Dizdarevic-Miles Biel 1985) Tony played a classic double bishop sacrifice: 13… Bxh2+! 14. Kxh2 Qh4+ 15. Kg1. Now after the immediate and obvious 15… Bxg2, 16. f3 defends. Instead, 15… Bf3!! (‘Burying!’) 16. Nd2 Bxg2!, and as the queen can no longer defend along the second rank, Black wins in short order.

There’s more to come: Underpromotion to a Knight in Chapter 11, and Different Tactical Motives in Chapter 12, but the whole book seems to me fairly random.

If you want to see some beautiful and spectacular chess, you’ll find a lot of great examples in this book: some hackneyed (the queen sac and knight fork from the 1966 Petrosian-Spassky match must have been in almost every tactics book for the past half century, and the Topalov-Shirov bishops of opposite colours ending for the past 20 years) but many unfamiliar.

Jankovic, by and large, explains his examples well and has an attractively friendly style of writing.

However, for this reviewer at least, the whole is rather less than the sum of its parts. With its mixture of elementary and advanced examples the book’s target market is not clear. The ‘Grandmaster Mindset’ advice (assess the position and consider candidate moves looking at checks, captures and threats) is far from original and, you might think, rather too simplistic. The contents seem fairly random (showy sacrifices, with some technical endings thrown in for good measure) but typical of what appears to pass for chess tuition in some circles. I’ll be writing a lot more about this at some point in the future.

It would require quite a lot of fleshing out, but there were potentially two much more useful books here. A book on finding tactical surprises, using the examples here but with the addition of exercises for the reader to solve. And then a much expanded version of Chapter 3 dealing with technical endings.

A qualified recommendation, then, but perhaps a missed opportunity which would have benefited from a more proactive approach from the publishers.

Richard James, Twickenham 13th August 2020

Richard James
. Richard James

Book Details :

  • Hardcover : 200 pages
  • Publisher:Thinkers Publishing; 1 edition (14 July 2020)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10:9492510774
  • ISBN-13:978-9492510778
  • Product Dimensions: 16.8 x 1.8 x 23.4 cm

Official web site of Thinkers Publishing

The Grandmaster Mindset
The Grandmaster Mindset
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Winning Ugly : Playing Badly is No Excuse for Losing

Winning Ugly in Chess: Playing Badly is No Excuse for Losing Paperback
Winning Ugly in Chess: Playing Badly is No Excuse for Losing Paperback

Cyrus Lakdawala is a former American Open Champion. He has been teaching chess for four decades and is a prolific and widely read author. His ‘Chess for Hawks’ won the Best Instructional Book Award of the Chess Journalists of America (CJA). Other much acclaimed books include ‘How Ulf Beats Black’, a study of Swede Ulf Andersson, and ‘Clinch It! How to Convert an Advantage into a Win‘. He has become one of the most controversial writers around today!

IM Cyrus Lakdawala
IM Cyrus Lakdawala

From the cover :  Welcome to the world of imperfection! Chess books usually feature superbly played games. In this book you will see games where weird moves are rewarded. Cyrus Lakdawala knows that playing good chess is all very well, but that beating your opponent is better. A paradox? He demonstrates the fine art of winning undeserved victories by: miraculously surviving chaos; throwing vile cheapos; refusing to resign in lost positions; getting lucky breaks; provoking unforced errors, and other ways to land on your feet after a roller-coaster ride. Lakdawala shows how you can make sure that it is your opponent, not you, who makes the last blunder. If you’d rather win a bad game than lose a good one, then this your ideal guide. The next time the wrong player wins, you will be that player!”

We have an Index of openings (rich in Sicilians and King’s Indians), an Index of Players, 10 chapters and 336 pages. Many games from all eras from Anderssen to recent Swisses. Subtitled ‘Playing badly is No Excuse for Losing’. Paperback, no use of Rabar codes, no photos but exercises scattered throughout. This exceptional book is offered for sale at the Chess & Bridge Shop in Baker Street for £20.95. Good value!

So, enquires the author, when was the last time you won a perfect game? A game that wasn’t tainted by inferior moves?

Every player knows that smooth wins are the exception and that play is often chaotic and positions are frequently irrational. The road to victory is generally full of bumps and misadventures.

Books supposedly feature superbly played games. In ‘Winning Ugly in Chess’ you will see games, usually quoted in full, where weird moves are rewarded. The prolific author (has he written 43 books?-Ed.) knows that playing good chess is all very well, but that beating your opponent is better, that these are not two heads on the same coin. He shows that this is no paradox or contradiction. It is a fact of life – of chess life, anyway – and he demonstrates the fine art of winning undeserved victories by:

  • miraculously surviving chaos
  • throwing  (setting up- Ed) vile cheapos (swindles)
  • refusing to resign in lost positions
  • getting lucky breaks
  • provoking unforced errors
  • finding other ways to land on your feet after a roller-coaster ride.

Lakdawala shows how you can make sure that it is your opponent, not you, who makes the last blunder. he calls it ‘flip-flop a result’. (What would Tartakower have said? Actually, towards the end of his life Tartakower was largely inaudible-Ed.). If you’d rather win a bad game than lose a good one, then this your ideal guide.

The next time the, supposedly, wrong player wins, you could be that player. Welcome to the fine art of winning undeserved victories.

A short review in CHESS 08/19 welcomes this title, adding that it is largely based on Lakdawala’s games and those of his students. This really is a book to be enjoyed on so many levels.

Random thought: I wonder why the book calls 1.e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nf6 – as well as the Petroff’s, naturally – the Russian Game? Unusual!

The author is an International Master.

James Pratt
James Pratt

James Pratt, Basingstoke, Hampshire, July 18th, 2020

Book Details :

  • Paperback : 336 pages
  • Publisher: New In chess (4 Jun. 2019)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 9056918281
  • ISBN-13: 978-1781945070
  • Product Dimensions: 16.9 x 2 x 24.1 cm

Web site of New in Chess

Winning Ugly in Chess: Playing Badly is No Excuse for Losing Paperback
Winning Ugly in Chess: Playing Badly is No Excuse for Losing Paperback
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