Category Archives: New in Chess

How to Study Chess on Your Own

How to Study Chess on Your Own, Davorin Kuljasevic, New in Chess, June 2021, ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-9056919313
How to Study Chess on Your Own, Davorin Kuljasevic, New in Chess, June 2021, ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-9056919313

From the publisher:

“Every chess player wants to improve, but many, if not most, lack the tools or the discipline to study in a structured and effective way. With so much material on offer, the eternal question is: “”How can I study chess without wasting my time and energy?””

Davorin Kuljasevic provides the full and ultimate answer, as he presents a structured study approach that has long-term improvement value. He explains how to study and what to study, offers specific advice for the various stages of the game and points out how to integrate all elements in an actionable study plan. How do you optimize your learning process? How do you develop good study habits and get rid of useless ones? What study resources are appropriate for players of different levels? Many self-improvement guides are essentially little more than a collection of exercises.

Davorin Kuljasevic reflects on learning techniques and priorities in a fundamental way. And although this is not an exercise book, it is full of instructive examples looked at from unusual angles. To provide a solid self-study framework, Kuljasevic categorizes lots of important aspects of chess study in a guide that is rich in illustrative tables, figures and bullet points. Anyone, from casual player to chess professional, will take away a multitude of original learning methods and valuable practical improvement ideas.”

“Davorin Kuljasevic is an International Grandmaster born in Croatia. He graduated from Texas Tech University and played in USCL 2007 and 2008 for Dallas Destiny, the team that became US champion in both these years. He is an experienced coach and a winner of many tournaments.”

GM Davorin Kuljasevic
GM Davorin Kuljasevic

‘Study’ is the operative word here.

When I was learning chess in the 1960s and playing fairly seriously in the 1970s, chess wasn’t something you studied unless you were a top grandmaster. I’d play in club matches and tournaments. I’d read books and magazines because I enjoyed reading them, and, if I learnt something as well then so much the better. It wasn’t anything resembling serious study as you might study a subject at university. In those days, of course, you didn’t have a lot of opportunity to do much else.

In those days we couldn’t have imagined having a multi-million game database and a computer program capable of playing far better than any human on our desk, or being able to play a game at any time against opponents from anywhere in the world.

It’s not surprising, then, that ambitious players at any level are, if they have the time, keen to raise their rating by studying chess seriously.

We also know a lot more than we did, even 20 or 30 years ago, about the teaching and learning processes: lessons that can be applied to chess just as they can to other domains.

In the past, chess books told you what you should learn. Now, we’re seeing books, like this one, that teach you HOW you should learn. There’s a big difference.

Let’s start, controversially, at the end.

Chapter 9: Get organized – create a study plan

The author advises us to create a weekly timetable. Table 9.1 is based on the assumption that you’re at school in the morning, when you can spend 3 hours every afternoon and 2 hours every evening studying chess.

In my part of the world, if you’re an older teen you’re probably going to be at school in the afternoon as well as the morning, and have three hours of homework to do when you get home. Not to mention family commitments, other interests, hanging out with friends, eating, sleeping… I wonder how many chess players actually have time to study 4-5 hours a day, or even 1-2 hours a day, on a regular basis. On the other hand, 12-year-old Abhi Mishra, who has just become the youngest ever Grandmaster, spends at least 12 hours a day studying chess.

Returning to the Preface, the author anticipates your question: who will benefit the most from this book? “In my view, it would be self-motivated players of any level and age who are serious and disciplined about their chess study and have enough time to put the methods from the book into practice.”

If you fall into this category, read on. Even if you don’t: if you only have an hour or two a week to study, rather than 4-5 hours a day, you might still learn a lot.

What we have is 9 chapters looking at different aspects of studying chess, each concluding with a helpful list of bullet points. It’s not just a book of technical advise on how to study, though.  There’s a lot of chess in there as well, mostly taken from games you probably won’t have seen before. The first eight chapters have, as is the case with many books from this publisher, some exercises for you to solve, based on the most interesting positions from the chapter. The tactics and middle-game chapters also have questions for you to answer: do they tally with the author’s solutions given in Chapter 10?

In Chapter 1, the author asks “Do you study with the right mindset?”. Now, he doesn’t mean mindset in this sense, although that will come in useful. Instead, he suggests that mastering chess requires both time and intelligent study. There’s no substitute for study time. He quotes the example of English GM Jonathan Hawkins, only an average club player at 18, but through hard work, much of which involved with studying endings, became a GM by the age of 31.

A proper chess study mindset means, in Alekhine’s words, ‘a higher goal than a one-moment satisfaction’. Four typical mistakes are: lack of objectivity, shallow study approach, short-run outlook and playing too much. Kuljasevic talks about the correct balance between playing and studying. He quotes Botvinnik as saying that chess cannot be taught, only learned, which he interprets as meaning that everyone learns in a different way, and that it’s you, rather than your coach, who will make yourself a stronger player.

Kuljasevic was shocked to read a well known GM’s coaching advert: “I have produced numerous top-level players”. “Excuse me, but chess players are not ‘produced’! Every chess player’s learning process is their unique experience that cannot be replicated on someone else.”

These days there are many study methods available, and Chapter 2 provides a guide to fifteen you might consider, and giving them all scores out of 5 for practical relevance, study intensity and long-term learning potential. The three methods which score a maximum of three fives are Deep Analysis, Simulation (pretending to play a real game by guessing the next move) and Sparring (playing a pre-arranged game or match with a training partner for a specific reason).

As an example of what is meant by Deep Analysis, this is Aronian – Anand (Zurich 2014) with Black to play. Anand played 58… Ke7 here, but Re1+ would have been a more stubborn defence. Kuljasevic wanted to prove that White can always win positions of this type, and here spends seven pages doing just that.

Of course such an approach won’t suit everyone, but this chapter will help all readers determine the most useful methods for them. The point is not so much the relevance or otherwise of this particular ending, but the process itself used to analyse it.

Chapter 3 is about identifying your study priorities. At this point the author divides his readership into five categories:

  1. Intermediate player (1500-1800 Elo)
  2. Advanced player (1800-2100 Elo)
  3. Improving youngster (1900-2200 Elo)
  4. Master-level player (2100-2400 Elo)
  5. Strong titled player (2400+ Elo)

He suggests that, in general, you should spend 10% of your time on openings, 25% on tactics 25% on endgames, 20% on middlegames and 20% on general improvement. What proportion of your study time do you spend on openings? I thought so!

He then makes suggestions about how readers in each category might prioritise their studies.

If you’re an intermediate player you should concentrate on improving your tactical and endgame skills, while choosing a simple opening repertoire. Once you reach 1800 strength you can start working on more strategically complex openings. Club standard players should spend a large proportion of their time studying endings (Jonathan Hawkins would agree, as would Keith Arkell) and players of all levels would benefit from solving endgame studies on a regular basis.

Chapter 4 is about choosing the right resources for your study plan. Here we have a list of online resources: chess websites, the categories for which they are suitable, and, in each cases, the specific study opportunities they offer. Then we look at the best websites for each of the study methods from Chapter 2. An extensive list of recommended books for each of the five categories of player from Chapter 3 follows, arranged by subject matter. The books include classics by authors such as Alekhine, Spielmann and Chernev as well as more recent books. GM Grivas is quoted: “Reading the autobiographical games collections of great past players is like taking lessons with some of the greatest players in history”.  Unlike Kuljasevic, I’m not convinced that Chernev’s Logical Chess, excellent though it is for novices, is suitable for anyone much over 1800, though. There’s also some very useful advice on the best way to use ChessBase and other database software.

Chapters 5 to 8 each focus on one specific aspect of chess: openings, tactics, endings and middlegames.

Chapter 5 tells you how to study your openings deeply. The author starts with a warning: “I have met many people, and I’m sure you have, too, who have fallen into the trap of spending too much time studying openings. If they were to study other aspects of the game as zealously as openings, I am sure that they would be more complete, creative, and, most likely, stronger chess players. Young players and their coaches should especially keep this in mind.” He quotes, with approval, Portisch’s opinion: “Your only task in the opening is to reach a playable middle game”, and advises simplicity and economy when deciding on your openings. The study material in this chapter, then, is more suited for master level players and above.

This, for example, is an example of a ‘static tabiya’: you may well recognise it as coming from the Breyer Variation of the Ruy Lopez.

“This is one of the most well-known opening tabiyas, not only in the Ruy Lopez, but in chess in general. Over 1000 tournament games have been played from this position, from the club to the super-GM level. There is something appealing about this static type of structure for both sides as it contains a lot of potential for creative strategic play. I would like to present my brief analysis of a fairly rare idea: 17. Be3!?”

17. Bg5 is usually played here, meeting 17… h6 with Be3, happy to spend a move weakening the black king’s defences. Be3 has a different attacking plan in mind: Nf3-h2-g4-h6+ and possibly also Qf3. This is discussed over 3½ pages: I think you have to be a very stong player with a lot of study time available to go into this sort of detail, though.

Chapter 6 advises you to ‘Dynamize’ your tactical training. We’re all used to solving puzzles where we play combinations to win material or checkmate the enemy king. We could do more than that, though, by studying dynamic positions, complicated, double-edged tactical positions and positional sacrifices. We can also improve our tactical imagination by solving endgame studies and problems.

At the end of this chapter we get the chance to take a tactics test: “20 exercises consisting of tactical puzzles, positions for analysis, endgame studies, and problems for the development of dynamics and imagination”.

It’s Black’s move in this tactical puzzle. Your challenge is to solve it blindfold.

This is taken from Xie Jun – Galliamova (Women’s World Championship 1999). Black played 30… Qc7 here and eventually lost. She should have preferred 30… Qc8! (Nd2+ also wins) 31. Rc1 Qg4!, an attractive geometric motif winning either rook or queen.

Here, by contrast, is an endgame study, composed by FK Amelung in 1907. It’s White to play and win. Again, you’re challenged to solve it without moving the pieces.

The solution is 1. Rd8+ Ke1 2. Re8+ Kd2 3. Nc3! c1Q+ 4. Nb1+ Kd1 5. Rd8+ Ke1 6. Rf8! and wins.

There’s a lot more to tactics training than sac, sac, mate!

Studying endings can seem rather dull, so it’s good to know that Chapter 7 tells you how to make your endgame study more enjoyable.  Kuljasevic advises that, instead of reading books from beginning to end you look at practical examples, including your own games, and, (yes, again) endgame studies. He agrees with Capablanca that “Study of chess should commence with the third and final phase of a chess game, the endgame”.

Chapter 8 is all about strategy: how to systemize your middlegame knowledge. This is the hardest aspect of chess to study. The author looks at studying the pawn structures that might arise from your opening repertoire in a systematic way, and then goes on to discuss piece exchanges: understanding when exchanges might be favourable or unfavourable rather than just seeing them as a way to simplify towards an ending.

The chapter concludes with a short quiz on this subject. Here’s the first question: would you advise White to trade rooks, to give Black the option of trading, or to move his rook away?

This was Mamedyarov – Carlsen Baku 2008

White correctly moved his rook away, playing 25. Rf1, and later won after a Carlsen blunder. The coming kingside attack will be much stronger with the rook on the board, and Black can do nothing on the c-file.

Chapter 9, as we’ve seen, looks at how you might devise your own study plan – on the assumption that you have several hours a day to study, and Chapter 10 provides solutions to the quiz questions.

So, what to make of all this? I found it an extremely impressive book on an increasingly important aspect of chess: ‘how to learn’ as opposed to ‘what to learn’. Davorin Kuljasevic has clearly put an enormous amount of thought and hard work into writing it. If you’re within the target market – you want to improve your chess and have a lot of time available for that purpose – I’d give this book a very strong recommendation.

Even if you only have a few hours (or even less) a week, rather than a few hours a day to set aside for chess study, you’re sure to find much invaluable advice about how to make the most of your time.

There’s a lot of great – and highly instructive – chess in the book as well, so you might enjoy it for that alone. Much of it, though, I felt, was aimed more at the higher end of the rating scale. It would also be good to read a book on how to study chess written more for average players with limited study time.

Kuljasevic’s previous book (there’s an excellent review here) was shortlisted for FIDE’s 2020 Book of the Year, and I wouldn’t be surprised if this book was similarly honoured. He’s clearly an exceptional writer as well as an exceptional coach.

Richard James, Twickenham 22nd July 2021

Richard James
. Richard James

Book Details :

  • Softcover: 384 pages
  • Publisher: New in Chess (1 May 2021)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10:9056919318
  • ISBN-13:978-9056919313
  • Product Dimensions: ‎ 17.27 x 2.54 x 23.62 cm

Official web site of New in Chess

How to Study Chess on Your Own, Davorin Kuljasevic, New in Chess, June 2021, ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-9056919313
How to Study Chess on Your Own, Davorin Kuljasevic, New in Chess, June 2021, ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-9056919313
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Beyond Material – Ignore the Face Value of Your Pieces

Beyond Material: Ignore the Face Value of Your Pieces and Discover the Importance of Time, Space and Psychology in Chess, Davorin Kuljasevic, New in Chess, 2021, 978-9056918606
Beyond Material: Ignore the Face Value of Your Pieces and Discover the Importance of Time, Space and Psychology in Chess, Davorin Kuljasevic, New in Chess, 2021, 978-9056918606

From the publisher:

“Improve your ability to take calculated risks! In order to win a game of chess you very often have to sacrifice material. Gathering the courage to do so while accurately assessing the potential benefits is a real challenge. The big question is always: what’s my compensation? Generations of chess players grew up with the idea that a sacrifice was correct if the material was swiftly returned, with interest.

Almost by reflex, they spent lots of time counting, quantifying the static value of their pieces. But is that really the best way to determine the correctness of a sacrifice? In this book, Grandmaster Davorin Kuljasevic teaches you how to look beyond the material balance when you evaluate positions.

With loads of instructive examples he shows how the actual value of your pieces fluctuates during the game, depending on many non-material factors. Some of those factors are space-related, such as mobility, harmony, outposts, structures, files and diagonals. Other factors are related to time, and to the way the moves unfold: tempo, initiative, a threat, an attack. Modern chess players need to be able to suppress their need for immediate gratification.

In order to gain the upper hand you often have to live with uncertain compensation. With many fascinating examples, Kuljasevic teaches you the essential skill of taking calculated risks. After studying Beyond Material, winning games by sacrificing material will become second nature to you.”

“Davorin Kuljasevic is an International Grandmaster born in Croatia. He graduated from Texas Tech University and played in USCL 2007 and 2008 for Dallas Destiny, the team that became US champion in both these years. He is an experienced coach and a winner of many tournaments.”

GM Davorin Kuljasevic
GM Davorin Kuljasevic

This entertaining book is subdivided into seven chapters:

  • Chapter 1 – Attachment to material
  • Chapter 2 – Relative value of material
  • Chapter 3 – Time beats material
  • Chapter 4 – Space beats material
  • Chapter 5 – Psychology of non-materialism
  • Chapter 6 – Is it good to be greedy in chess?
  • Chapter 7 – Solutions

Each of the chapters 1 to 6 begin with an introductory section which sets the scene for the chapter: sometimes an historical angle is given or a famous player’s contribution to chess understanding is referenced or some short pithy pieces of advice are given.

The examples chosen by the author are generally from top players’ games and usually begin from a critical middlegame position. However complete games are shown where the opening is relevant to the theme. A few endgame positions are demonstrated.

Each chapter has a conclusion with a set of handy bullet points summarising some main ideas of the chapter.

Chapters 2 through to 6 have ten testing exercises at the end of each chapter. These are well worth tacking and definitely add to the book’s didactic value.

Chapter 7 gives the solutions to the exercises.

Chapter 1  Attachment to Material

Chapter 1 begins with a sage quote: “You will become a strong player once you learn how to properly sacrifice a pawn.”

One of the first examples in the chapter shows an interesting rook and pawn ending:

Alexandra Kosteniuk-Hou Yifan Nalchik Wch 2008 (6) Move 49
Alexandra Kosteniuk-Hou Yifan Wch 2008 (6) Move 48

White is three pawns up in this rook endgame. However, after 48..Rd8! it becomes clear that black’s single passed pawn is much more dangerous than white’s four passed pawns. White’s pieces are also poorly placed.

49.Rg5+ (49.a4?? trying to get white’s pawns going loses: 49…e3 50.Rg7 Kf6! 51.Rg4 e2 52.Re4 Rd1+ winning the rook and the game as white’s four pawns are no match for the rook.)

49…Kf6 50.Rc5 e3 51.Rc2 White has managed to stop the pawn but both his pieces are passive. Black advances the king to aid the pawn.

51…Kf5 52.a4 Ke4  53.Rc4+ (53. a5?? is foolish: 51…Kf3 52. a6 e2 winning) 53…Kd3 54.Rc3+ White just about grovels a draw with side checks Ke4 55.Rc4+ Kd3 56.Rc3+ Ke4 57.Rc4+ Kd3 drawn

Here is an amusing but instructive example:

Shen Yang-Melissa Castrillon Gomez Batumi 2018 Move 29
Shen Yang-Melissa Castrillon Gomez Batumi 2018 Move 29

White has just played 29.a6 threatening to promote the a-pawn. Black replied 29…Ra2?  (To round up the terrifying a-pawn) 30.Ra1 Rc3+ 31. 30.Rxc3 Rxa1 32.Kxd2 Rxa6 33.Ke3 draw agreed

However, black failed to realise how poorly placed the white king is and missed a brilliant win.

29…Bf4!! 30.a7 Rxf2 31.a8Q+ Kg7 White is up a queen for a bishop and pawn, but white’s king is trapped in a mating net. Black is threatening mate with Rbe2 followed by Re3# and white’s three major pieces cannot do muchabout it.

Shen Yang-Melissa Castrillon Gomez Batumi 2018 Variation Move 32
Shen Yang-Melissa Castrillon Gomez Batumi 2018 Variation Move 32

White can try:

A) 32. Qc8 preparing to defend the third rank 32…Rxg2 33.Qh3 Rxh2 34.Qf3 Rbf2 and white’s queen is trapped. Best is 35.Qxf2 Rxf2 when black has a winning endgame with B+3P for a rook. 35.Qg4 is met by 35…h5! and white’s  queen cannot defend the f3 and h3 squares anymore.

B) 32.Kc3 Rfc2+ 33.Kd3 Re2 threatening Re3# 34. Kc3 Be5+ 35.Kd3 Bd4 with 36…Re3# to follow

C) 32.Qa5 Rbe2 33.Re1 Rd2+ 34.Kc3 (34,Qxd2 Rxd2+ 35.Kc3 Rxg2 black has a winning ending) 34…Rc2+ 35.Kb3 Rb2+ 36.Ka4 (36.Kc3 Bd2+ 37.Kxb2 Bxa5+ followed by 38…Bxe1 wins) 36…Bd2! winning

Shen Yang-Melissa Castrillon Gomez Batumi 2018 Variation Move 37
Shen Yang-Melissa Castrillon Gomez Batumi 2018 Variation Move 37

Chapter 2 – Relative Value Of Material

Here is an interesting game illustrating the chapter’s theme well.

Malakhov-Moiseenko Russia 2005 Move 21
Malakhov-Moiseenko Russia 2005 Move 21

White is clearly better here with more active pieces; black’s Bc6 is particularly bad. Black is solid and white is yet to break through.

21.Bxf6!! Bb6?! Winning the queen but not best. 21…Bxf6 is better. 22.Rxf6 gxf6 23.Qxf6

Malakhov-Moiseenko Russia 2005 Variation Move 23
Malakhov-Moiseenko Russia 2005 Variation Move 23

White has a knight and pawn for the exchange, black has a terrible bishop, lots of weak pawns and an exposed king. However, white’s king is not totally secure.

23…Bd7! Giving up a pawn to improve the bishop and the queen 24.Qg5+ Kf8 25.Bxd5 Qb6+ 26.Nd4 Qg6 27,Qf4 Ra6 white is slightly better but black should hold with care.

22. Bxg7 Bxd4+ 23.Bxd4 White has just two pieces and a pawn for the queen but his pieces coordinate brilliantly, black has a terrible bishop and black’s kingside is fractured.

Malakhov-Moiseenko Russia 2005 Move 23
Malakhov-Moiseenko Russia 2005 Move 23

23…h6 Stopping 24.Rg5+ but creating another target

23,,,Kf8 24.Ne3 Ra2 25.Rg5! Rxe2 26.Bc5+ Ke8 27.Rg8+ Kd7 28.Bh3+ Kc7 29.Rf8!  with a crushing attack

Malakhov-Moiseenko Russia 2005 Variation 2 Move 29
Malakhov-Moiseenko Russia 2005 Variation 2 Move 29

24.Rf6 Ra2 25.Rxh6 f6 26.Ne3

Malakhov-Moiseenko Russia 2005 Move 26
Malakhov-Moiseenko Russia 2005 Move 26

26…Rd2?

Better was 26…Rxe2 27.Rg6+ Kh7 28.Rxf6 Qa8! 29.Bf1 Rd2 30.Nf5 Rxd4 31.Nxd4 Be8 Black  has far better chances to draw here as white’s king is more exposed than in the game. White is better but the reviewer doubts whether white can win.

Malakhov-Moiseenko Russia 2005 Variation 3 Move 32
Malakhov-Moiseenko Russia 2005 Variation 3 Move 32

27.Nf5 Rxd4 28.Nxd4 +- Black has no counterplay

28…Qe7 29.Kf2 Bb7 30,Bh3! Qc7 31.Be6+ Kf8

Malakhov-Moiseenko Russia 2005 Move 32
Malakhov-Moiseenko Russia 2005 Move 32

White finds an elegant tactical way to win the game

32.Rg6! Qh7 (32…Qxc3 33.Nf5! mating) 33.Rg8+ Ke7 34.Rg7+ Qxg7 35.Nf5+ Kxe6 36.Nxg7+  Ke5 37.Ke3 Bc8 38.Nh5 d4+ 39.cxd4+ Kd5 40.Nf6+ Kc4 41.d5 1-0

Chapter 3 – Time Beats Material

Here is an entertaining king hunt.

Yi – Bruzon
Danzhou 2015

1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 e6 3.Nc3 a6 4.Be2 Nc6 5.d4 cxd4 6.Nxd4 Qc7 7.0-0 Nf6 8.Be3 Be7 9.f4 d6 10.Kh1 0-0 11.Qe1 Nxd4 12.Bxd4 b5 13.Qg3 Bb7 14.a3 Rad8 15.Rae1 Rd7 16.Bd3 Qd8

Yi-Bruzon Danzhou 2015 Move 17
Yi-Bruzon Danzhou 2015 Move 17

This is a Scheveningen Sicilian with black’s rook slightly misplaced on d7.

17.Qh3 g6?! (Perhaps 17…Ne8 was less weakening, Stockfish suggests17…Re8, white is still better in both cases) 18.f5! Opening up the f-file 18…e5 19.Be3 Re8  (19…d5? fails tactically 20.exd5 Nxd5 21.Nxd5 Rxd5 22.Be4 Rd7 23.Bxb7 Rxb7 24.f6! Bxf6 25.Qf3  winning) 20.fxg6 hxg6 21.Nd5! Nxd5 (21…Bxd5 22.exd5 gives white a massive kingside attack: 22…Rb7 23.Qf3 Kg7 24.g4! Rf8 25.h4)

Yi-Bruzon Danzhou 2015 Move 22
Yi-Bruzon Danzhou 2015 Move 22

22.Rxf7!! Kxf7 (22…Nf6 23.Qe6! Kh8 24.Bg5 crushes) 23.Qh7+ Ke6 24.exd5+ Kxd5 25.Be4+! Kxe4

Yi-Bruzon Danzhou 2015 Move 26
Yi-Bruzon Danzhou 2015 Move 26

26.Qf7! (Threatening 27.Qf3#) Bf6 27.Bd2+ Kd4 28.Be3+ Ke4

Yi-Bruzon Danzhou 2015 Move 29
Yi-Bruzon Danzhou 2015 Move 29

29.Qb3!! Kf5 30.Rf1+ Kg4 31.Qd3! (Threatening 32.Qxg6+ and 32.Qe2+)

Yi-Bruzon Danzhou 2015 Move 31
Yi-Bruzon Danzhou 2015 Move 31

31…Bxg2+

31…Kh5 32.Qd1+ Kh4 33.Rf3!! closing the net around the doomed black monarch

Yi-Bruzon Danzhou 2015 Variation Move 33
Yi-Bruzon Danzhou 2015 Variation Move 33

32.Kxg2 Qa8+ 33.Kg1 Bg5 34.Qe2+ Kh4 35.Bf2+ Kh3 Amusing as black is threatening mate

Yi-Bruzon Danzhou 2015 Move 36
Yi-Bruzon Danzhou 2015 Move 36

36.Be1! 1-0 36…Qa7+ 37.Kh1 Qb7+ 38.Rf3+ Kg4 39.Qg2+ Kh5 30.Rh3+ Bh4 31.Rxh4#

Chapter 4 Space Beats Material 

Oleg Korneev – David Recuero Guerra
Spanish Championship Linares 2013

1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nf6 3.Nxe5 d6 4.Nf3 Nxe4 5.d4 d5 6.Bd3 Nd6 7.0-0 Be7 8.c3 0-0 9.Qc2 g6 10.Re1 c6 11.Bf4 Re8 12.Nbd2 Nd7 13.Nf1 Nf8 14.Ng3 Ne6 15.Bh6 Ng7 16.Qd2 Ngf5 17.Bf4 Nxg3 18.hxg3 Bg4 19.Ne5 Bf5 20.Bxf5 Nxf5 21.g4 Ng7 22.g5 Ne6 23.Ng4 Kf8

Korneev-Recuero Guerra Linares 2013 Move 24
Korneev-Recuero Guerra Linares 2013 Move 24

A tense middlegame from Petrov’s Defence is shown in the diagram. White’s next move removes one of black’s best pieces, secures a strong outpost on e5 and exposes black’s king somewhat.

24.Rxe6! fxe6 25.Re1 Bd6 26.Re3 (26.Be5 is also possible) Bxf4 27.Rf3 Ke7 28.Rxf4 Rf8 29.Rf6! Using the dark square outpost (29…Rxf6 30.gxf6+ the threats of Qd2-Qh6, Ng4-Ne5 and f6-f7 are too much to deal with)

Korneev-Recuero Guerra Linares 2013 Move 29
Korneev-Recuero Guerra Linares 2013 Move 29

Qd6 30.Ne5?! (30.Qe3 is better with a big advantage) 30…Ke8? (30…Rxf6! had to be played, 31.gxf6+ Kxf6 32.Qf4+ Kg7 33.Qf7+ Kh8 34.Qxb7 Qb8! 35.Qxc6 Qe8! and black may hold on )31.Qf4 Qe7 32.Ng4 Kd7 33.Ne5+ Ke8 34.Ng4?! (Queenside expansion with b4 followed by a4 was called for) Kd7 35.Qe3 Rae8 36.Ne5+ Kc8 37.Qf4 Qd6 38.a4! with the simple idea of a5 and a6

Korneev-Recuero Guerra Linares 2013 Move 38
Korneev-Recuero Guerra Linares 2013 Move 38

a6 (Now b6 is weakened) 39.a5 Qe7 40.b3! (Planning c4 and c5 to create a d6 outpost) Qd6 41.Kh2 Rd8 42.g3 Rde8 43.Kg1 Qe7?!

Korneev-Recuero Guerra Linares 2013 Move 44
Korneev-Recuero Guerra Linares 2013 Move 44

44.c4 dxc4 (44…Qd6 45. c5 Qe7 46.Nf7! followed by Nd6+ winning) 45.Nxc4 (The weakness on b6 is fatal) e5 46.dxe5 Kb8 47.e6+ Qc7 48.Rxf8 1-0

The key themes from this game are space and the weak colour complex in black’s position.

Chapter 5 Psychology of non-materialism

This is really good game which is a famous clash. Paul Keres had to win this game, hence his choice of an ultra sharp variation.

Paul Keres – Boris Spassky
Candidates Riga (10) 1965

1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 g6 3.Nc3 Bg7 4.e4 d6 5.f4  A good choice for a must win game c5 6.d5 0-0 7.Nf3 e6 8.Be2 exd5 9.cxd5 b5!? Very aggressive: Spassky goes for a slugfest.

Keres-Spassky Candidates Riga (10) 1965 Move 10
Keres-Spassky Candidates Riga (10) 1965 Move 10

10.e5 dxe5 11.fxe5 Ng4 12.Bf4 Nd7 13.e6 fxe6 (13…Nde5 is a safer option, but Spassky wants a fight) 14.dxe6 Rxf4! (14…Nb6 leads to a slight edge for white)

Keres-Spassky Candidates Riga (10) 1965 Move 15
Keres-Spassky Candidates Riga (10) 1965 Move 15

15.Qd5 (The point of the piece sacrifice) Kh8!  (15…Bb7 is playable as well) 16.Qxa8 Nb6

Keres-Spassky Candidates Riga (10) 1965 Move 17
Keres-Spassky Candidates Riga (10) 1965 Move 17

17.Qxa7 (17.Qb8 is probably better, 17…Ne3! 18.Rd1! unclear 18…Qe7 19.Rd2 Nxg2+ 20.Kf2 b4 and the game is wide open) Bxe6 18.0-0 Ne3

Keres-Spassky Candidates Riga (10) 1965 Move 19
Keres-Spassky Candidates Riga (10) 1965 Move 19

19.Rf2? (Best is 19.Bxb5 Nxf1 20.Rxf1 Rf7 when black has lots of play for a mere pawn) b4 20.Nb5 (20.Na4 or 20.Nd1 are still better for black) Rf7 21.Qa5 Qb8! (21…Bxb2 is also good)

Keres-Spassky Candidates Riga (10) 1965 Move 22
Keres-Spassky Candidates Riga (10) 1965 Move 22

22.Re1 Bd5 (Also good is 22…Ng4 23.Bf1 Bd5! 24.Rfe2 Rf8 and black has a decent attack) 23.Bf1 Nxf1 24.Rfxf1 Nc4 25.Qa6 Rf6 White’s queen is misplaced, tied to defending the knight 26.Qa4 Nxb2

Keres-Spassky Candidates Riga (10) 1965 Move 27
Keres-Spassky Candidates Riga (10) 1965 Move 27

27.Qc2? (Just blundering a piece,  27.Qa5 had to be played, after 27…Nd3 28. Re3 c4 29.Nc7 Bg8 black is clearly better) Qxb5 28.Re7 Nd3 29.Qe2 c4 30.Re8+ Rf8 31.Rxf8+ Bxf8 32.Ng5 Bc5+ 33.Kh1 Qd7 34.Qd2 Qe7 35.Nf3 Qe3 0-1

Chapter 6 Is It Good To Be Greedy In Chess?

The author generously gives a couple of his own games where early pawn hunting with the queen  lead to disaster. Here is one example of greed punished.

Kozul – Kuljasevic
Rijeka 2011

1.d4 d5 2.c4 e6 3.Nf3 Nf6 4.Nc3 Be7 5.Bf4 0-0 6.e3 b6 7.cxd5 Nxd5 8.Nxd5 Qxd5 9.Be2 (Black was out of theory here and after 40 minutes of thought tried an attractive looking move)

Kozul-Luljasevic Rijeka 2011 Move 9
Kozul-Luljasevic Rijeka 2011 Move 9

Bb4+?  (Black thought erroneously that 10.Kf1 was forced, 9…Qa5+ 10.Nd2 Ba6 11.0-0 c5 looks ok) 10.Nd2 Qxg2?? (10…Bxd2+ 11.Qxd2 Qxg2 12.0-0-0 wins a pawn but white has obvious compensation) 11.Bf3 Bxd2+ 12.Kxd2 Qxf2+

Kozul-Luljasevic Rijeka 2011 Move 13
Kozul-Luljasevic Rijeka 2011 Move 13

13.Kc3! (13.Kc1? allows the queen to escape via f1 after black plays c6 & Ba6) c6 14.h4 1-0 The queen is trapped after 15.Rh2

In summary, this is a good book which demonstrates important themes in chess with some entertaining and instructive middlegames. It is aimed at 140+ players.

FM Richard Webb
FM Richard Webb

FM Richard Webb, Basingstoke, Hampshire, 12th July 2021

Book Details :

  • Hardcover : 272 pages
  • Publisher:New In chess (30 Oct. 2019)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10:9056918605
  • ISBN-13:978-9056918606
  • Product Dimensions: ‎ 16.94 x 2.13 x 23.57 cm

Official web site of New in Chess

Beyond Material: Ignore the Face Value of Your Pieces and Discover the Importance of Time, Space and Psychology in Chess, Davorin Kuljasevic, New in Chess, 2021, 978-9056918606
Beyond Material: Ignore the Face Value of Your Pieces and Discover the Importance of Time, Space and Psychology in Chess, Davorin Kuljasevic, New in Chess, 2021, 978-9056918606
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How to Become a Candidate Master: A Practical Guide to Take Your Chess to the Next Level

How to Become a Candidate Master: A Practical Guide to Take Your Chess to the Next Level: FM Alex Dunne

How to Become a Candidate Master: A Practical Guide to Take Your Chess to the Next Level, FM Alex Dunne, New in Chess, December 2020, ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-9056919214
How to Become a Candidate Master: A Practical Guide to Take Your Chess to the Next Level, FM Alex Dunne, New in Chess, December 2020, ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-9056919214

From the publisher:

Surprise yourself and reach higher! This book is based on real amateur games and shows you how an average club player can proceed through the ranks and reach Candidate Master level. Its a hard struggle, nothing comes for free and your path will be strewn with setbacks and disappointments. Just like in real life.

Alex Dunne guides you in the more than 50 games that you will be playing and offers lots of practical, straightforward and effective advice. Slowly but surely, you will improve in all phases of the game: the opening, the middlegame and the endgame. Dunne explains when and how to activate your pieces and how to recognize and punish the errors your opponents are bound to make. At the end of the book, having absorbed these lessons, your experience, technique and confidence will have improved in such a way that your first win against a master will not come as a big surprise.

Alex Dunne is an American FIDE Master, ICCF Correspondence Chess Master and author of more than a dozen chess books. He lives in Sayre, Pennsylvania. This is a revised, improved and extended edition of the 1985 classic.

FM Alex Dunne
FM Alex Dunne

 

I’ve always thought that one of the best ways to improve your chess, especially if you don’t have the time or inclination for serious study, is to do two things:

  1. Look at the games of players rated 200-300 points higher than you. Work out what they do better than you, and what you need to do to reach their level. They’re not that much stronger than you so you can think to yourself “Yes, I could do that”.
  2. Look at the games of players of your own strength (best of all, your own games). Look at typical mistakes and work out how you could avoid those mistakes and take your chess up to the next level.

That’s exactly what this book aims to do. However, it was originally published in 1985. It was a best seller in its day, but does it really stand up to the test of time? Was it really worth updating and re-publishing?

Let’s get the title out of the way first. It’s rather misleading: FIDE considers Candidate Masters to be players rated 2200+, whereas this book uses the term to mean USCF Experts: players in the 2000-2199 range. The target market, according to the introduction, is USCF Grade A players: rated 1800-1999, although, as standards are higher now than 35 years ago, I’d put it lower than that.

As Dunne says in his introduction:

It is the design of this book to reveal the difference in play to the 1800 player to enable him to become a Candidate Master.

And again:

This book, then, differs from others in that the games contained within are mostly games between 1800+ players and Candidate Masters. These games were mainly selected from 1982 US tournaments with some more modern games included.

So what you get is 50 games, mostly between 1800-1999 rated players and 2000-2199 rated players, and mostly played in 1982. There are two later games, new to this edition, featuring stronger players.

It’s not the only book featuring amateur games. Reinfeld’s 1943 book Chess for Amateurs may have been the first. Older readers will also recall the Euwe and Meiden books, while, more recently, there have been books by the likes of Jeremy Silman and Dan Heisman. You might see Chernev’s Logical Chess Move by Move, although it features games by stronger players, as a book written with a similar purpose in mind.

The games are, as you’d expect, not of especially high quality. I’d also speculate that 1800 or 2000 rated players today are rather stronger than they were 40 years or so ago. Perhaps, because they’ll be more comprehensible to average club players, you’ll find them more instructive than those played by Magnus and his chums. You won’t encounter any brilliant sacrifices or spectacular attacks here, and not much in the way of complicated tactics either: just typical games that you or I might play in tournaments or league matches, where, in most cases, the stronger player displays greater knowledge or skill than his weaker opponent. You’ll even find one or two short draws here, though it’s debatable whether they add anything to the party.

You sit alongside the Candidate Master (or, more accurately, Expert), guessing, if you choose, his (or perhaps her: the players are not identified by name) moves, and are occasionally asked questions which are answered at the end of the chapter.

We’re assured that The analysis has been checked with modern computer engines for accuracy and that Also, a more modern view of some of the openings has been used, but there’s still a dated feel to many of the annotations. I’m not sure without checking how much has actually been changed since the original 1985 edition.

Here’s the first game.

Like many of the games here, it seems on the surface that the CM didn’t do anything especially difficult. The last move was pretty, but at that point everything reasonable would have won. At the same time, Mr 1907 didn’t make any very obvious mistakes. It was more a question of not understanding what was happening at the critical point in the game. I should add that I don’t play the Sicilian Najdorf with either colour: much too hard for me, as it was for poor Mr 1907.

I asked my shiny new Stockfish 14 to take a look.

Dunne asks us how important Black’s unusual 6th move (rather than the usual 6… e6) is. Stockfish tells me e6 is equal, but Qc7, amongst other moves, is slightly better for White. Dunne doesn’t say anything very helpful: I’d have thought the point was that White is always going to play Bb3 anyway, while Black may not want to play an early Qc7.

On move 9, Dunne rightly says that 9. O-O is slightly inferior because of tactics on the g1-a7 diagonal, but without mentioning any alternatives. It makes sense to me (and to my fishy friend) to play Be3 before castling. He gives a line starting 9… Nxd4 10. Qxd4 d5 11. Kh1?!, but the engine prefers White here after 11. Be3, thinking that Black would be better to play the immediate 9… d5, threatening to take on e4. It’s still only equal, though.

The critical part of the game is between moves 10 and 13. 10… Na5, to trade off the dangerous bishop, or 10… Be7, to castle the king into safety, are the two moves almost always chosen here, and both of them are absolutely fine and equal. On move 12 Black chose the wrong recapture: Bxc6, not leaving the queen exposed was better. The last chance to stay in the game was to play 13… Be7. The tactical point he may have missed is that 13… b4 14. a5 gives the white bishop access to a4.

Although Black played what looked like natural moves between moves 10 and 13, his position went from equal to totally lost. At one level he lost because he failed to develop his king-side and castle his king into safety. I suppose you could also say he chose a complicated opening variation without having enough understanding and played a few casual moves when more concrete decisions were required, but, without access to 21st century technology it’s understandable that Dunne didn’t mention this explicitly.

Dunne has some interesting views on opening choices: you might or might not agree. In game 16 Mr CM is congratulated on meeting 1. Nf3 with the relatively unusual 1… b6 to get his opponent out of the books, even though he unexpectedly loses the game. But in game 25 Mr 1816 is roundly castigated for choosing the Trompowsky. This is bad strategy on the 1800 player’s part. The weaker player with white has a better chance of gaining a good position by playing book lines.

In other words, weaker players should play book lines while stronger players should try to get weaker players out of the book by playing less usual variations. I can see why he thinks this way, but it might not suit everyone. It might not suit you.

I was interested in the double rook ending in this game.

Mr 1863, playing black, had rather the better of the opening and has now reached this double rook ending where he has the superior pawn formation.

Let’s pick up the story after White’s 29th move.

Dunne rightly and instructively points out that if the rooks were off the board Black would win the pawn ending. He therefore proposes that, instead of 29… g6, suggesting he doesn’t understand the ending, he continues with 29… Rxd1 30. Rxd1 a5! 31. c4 Ra8 32. Rc1 Ke6, when he will have made further progress towards the win. Stockfish has several problems with this: 32. c5, to prevent b5, is equal, 32… b5 would indeed give Black winning chances, and again after 32… Ke6, 33. c5 would be equal.

The game continued:

29… g6 30. Ke3 Ke6 31. h4 h5 32. Ra1 a6

This move passes without comment, but Stockfish prefers to give up the pawn and double rooks on the d-file: something like 32… Rd7 33. Rxa7 Red8, with adequate counterplay.

An instructive moment, I think, demonstrating the important principle that, in rook endings, the initiative is often worth a pawn. No mention in the annotations, though.

Moving on:

33. Ra5! f6? (Poor endgame play – Black allows his pawns to become weakened.) Yes, quite possibly. Dunne’s improvement, Re7, is probably better, but Black missed a tactical defence next move.

34. f5+ Kf7

Here Black could have equalised with 34… gxf5 35. Rxf5 Rd5!, so White should have maintained his advantage by playing 34. c4! to prevent this possibility.

By solid play White has overcome his inferiority of eight moves ago and now owns an advantage. Thus is the advantage frittered away because of the 1800 player’s lack of endgame technique (read: understanding).

White was actually equal (although his position may have been harder to play) 8 moves ago, and the point about Mr 1863’s lack of endgame technique is well made, but there are also analytical errors which can easily be picked up by modern computer engines.

There are other more minor issues as well. You might want to consider, for example, how White’s inaccurate 52nd move gave Black a defensive chance.

One reason for the difference between 1800 and 2100 players is indeed that Mr 2100 is more likely, in a general way, to understand what’s going on in the position, which is what this book is all about. Another reason, though, is that Mr 1800 is more likely to miss tactical points than Mr 2100. The annotations in this book focus more on positional rather than tactical ideas. You might think that, at this level, understanding ideas is more important than getting tactics right: if so, the analytical errors might not concern you too much.

You may well disagree but I found the annotations in general both frustrating and outdated. Frustrating because of Dunne’s tendency to ask questions without providing answers and criticise moves without suggesting improvements. Outdated because of the tactical oversights mentioned above, but also because readers are constantly exhorted to read My System and Basic Chess Endings, rather than more modern, and, at least in the case of My System, more relevant and approachable books. Occasional references to ChessBase have been added but, apart from that there’s little indication that the book is intended for 21st century readers rather than those in the pre-computer age.

The world’s a very different place now. I couldn’t have imagined, half a lifetime ago, that I’d be sitting here with a database of almost 8.5 million games and a free engine which plays far better than any human.  We know a lot more now about teaching and learning processes as well.

It’s a great idea for a book, and was pretty good in its day. There’s certainly a lot of excellent general advice and encouragement within the annotations. But, in my opinion, it’s well past its best-before date. I’m afraid it’s only a qualified recommendation then.

Having said that, players of average club standard, say 1400-1800 strength, will certainly learn a lot from it, and, if they like the style and concept (there’s a sample chapter on the publisher’s website), they won’t be too disappointed.

I’d love to see more books written for average players based on amateur games, but I’d prefer to see something with more recent games, more accurate tactical analysis and more interaction between author and reader.

New in Chess have an enviable reputation for publishing excellent books, not to mention an excellent magazine. I’m not convinced that re-publishing outdated books will do much to enhance that reputation.

Richard James, Twickenham 9th July 2021

Book Details:

  • Softback: 272 pages
  • Publisher: New in Chess (7 Dec. 2020)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10:9056919210
  • ISBN-13:978-9056919214
  • Dimensions: ‎ 15.24 x 1.78 x 22.2 cm

Official web site of New in Chess

How to Become a Candidate Master: A Practical Guide to Take Your Chess to the Next Level, FM Alex Dunne, New in Chess, December 2020, ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-9056919214
How to Become a Candidate Master: A Practical Guide to Take Your Chess to the Next Level, FM Alex Dunne, New in Chess, December 2020, ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-9056919214
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Carlsen’s Neo-Møller : A Complete and Surprising Repertoire Against the Ruy Lopez

Carlsen’s Neo-Møller : A Complete and Surprising Repertoire Against the Ruy Lopez : FM Ioannis Simeonidis

Carlsen's Neo-Møller, Ioannis Simeonidis, New In Chess, 2020, ISBN 9789056919375
Carlsen’s Neo-Møller, Ioannis Simeonidis, New In Chess, 2020, ISBN 9789056919375

From the book’s rear cover :

“White players will thoroughly dislike the Neo-Møller!

The Ruy Lopez is one of the most important chess openings, hugely popular with amateurs and masters alike. Black players allowing the Ruy Lopez main lines are usually condemned to passivity, defending a slightly worse (though solid) position for as long as White chooses this situation to continue.

World Champion Magnus Carlsen doesn’t like passivity. He likes unconventional and active systems that allow him to take command and put pressure on his opponent from early on.

That’s why Magnus Carlsen revolutionized the old Møller Attack, one of the sharpest and most uncompromising variations against the Ruy Lopez. As yet largely disregarded and unexplored by the majority of players, Carlsen’s new approach allows Black to break free early and start giving White a hard time.

FIDE Master Ioannis Simeonidis is the first to investigate this system, cover it in detail, and make it easy to grasp for club players. He has called it the Neo-Møller. Simeonidis has made lots of exciting discoveries, presents many new ideas and shows that it is a reliable and playable system.

Since the Neo-Møller is a very early deviation from the main lines, it’s easy for Black to actually get it on the board and take opponents out of their comfort zone. Simeonidis has created a compact, accessible and inspirational book. One thing looks certain: White players of the Ruy Lopez are going to thoroughly dislike the Neo-Møller!”

FM Ioannis Simeonidis, photo by Jovan Petronic
FM Ioannis Simeonidis, photo by Jovan Petronic

“Ioannis Simeonidis (1975) is a Greek FIDE Master and FIDE Trainer. He is a contributor to New In Chess Yearbook, the world’s leading publication on chess opening news. Simeonidis is the inventor of a recent new system in the Sicilian (the line 2.Nc3 d6 3.d4!?), also played by Magnus Carlsen.”

End of blurb…

FM Ioannis Simeonidis recommends meeting the venerable Ruy Lopez with 3…a6; 4.Ba4 Nf6; 5.00 Bc5

which is rather an unusual choice. In fact, it is the fifth most popular option and, according to an updated version of Megabase 2020, we have the following ranking of popularity:

  1. 5…Be7 : 83439 games
  2. 5…b5 : 27907 games
  3. 5…Nxe4 : 13462 games
  4. 5…d6 : 3378 games
  5. 5…Bc5 : 3248 games
  6. 5…Bd6 : 67 games

and therefore, it is the least popular of the decent alternatives to 5…Be7. For that reason players with the white pieces may be caught unawares facing a sound line.

Its adherents include a fairly reasonable (!) selection of players such as Caruana, Kramnik and Anand and the most frequent of these are Onischuk, Stefanova, Anand and Gareyev. They would certainly make at least our B team! In fact, Alexander Onischuk has played this line 55 times up to 2020.

Carlsen himself has played 5…Bc5 versus players such as Wesley So, Hikaru Nakamura, Maxime Vachier Lagrave, Francisco Vallejo Pons and Sergey Karjakin hence the title of the book rather than say, the more obvious, but less eye catching,  Onischuk’s Neo-Møller!

GM Alexander Onischuk, 5...Bc5's most popular adherent.
GM Alexander Onischuk, 5…Bc5’s most popular adherent.

The full list of Contents is

List of Contents of Carlsen's Neo-Møller
List of Contents of Carlsen’s Neo-Møller

and we recommend that you  inspect sample pages for yourself.

Although the bulk of the book analyses the above  position it also examines earlier deviations,  For example 4.Bxc6, the Exchange variation is considered.

This has been relatively rarely essayed by the top players in recent years but it retains its popularity at club level. I have played several 5th move options as black so I was interested to see what was the author recommended.

And, perhaps predictably, 5…Bg4 immediately pinning the knight and preparing to answer 6.h3 with 6…h5 !! is the preference.

is not an unsurprising choice recommendation as it is the choice of many chess engines and seems to equalise quite easily. A well-known pair of sisters have used this line to draw their tournament games several times.

After 4.0-0 Nf6 many 5th moves such as 5.d3, 5.Qe2, 5.Nc3, 5.d4 and 5.Bxc6 (The Delayed Exchange variation) are all examined.

Against the first three of these moves the recommendation is 5…Bc5 when play will sometimes transpose to main lines.

The Centre Attack (5.d4) is an interesting choice which may catch some black players out but 5…exd4; 6.e5 Ne4; 7.0-0 Nc5

or 6.0-0 Be7; 7.e5 Ne4; 8.Nd4 00; 9.Nf5 d5!

should allow black to equalise satisfactorily.

The rest of the book, as you would expect,  mainly concentrates on the main line starting 6.c3 but many other 6th moves are completely playable the most interesting being the knight sacrifice 6.Nxe5!? when 6…Nxe5 7.d4 b5; 8.Bb3 Bxd4; 9.Qxd4 d6

where black’s position is comfortable or 8.dxe5 Ne4 when black must know the theory after the tricky move 9.Qd5 which black can refute with 9…Bb7! when after 10.Qxb7 c6 trapping the Queen seems good for black .

The main line 6.c3

has 7 chapters of analysis with 6…0-0 ;7.d4 Ba7; when 8.Bg5 was originally thought to refute the Møller but the game Anton Smirnov v Tamir Nabaty in 2016 won by black seems to have changed the assessment:

Since black has not committed to …b5 he does not have to worry about a possible a4 by White but taking on c6 and Ne5 has to be watched for so black will sometimes play exd4 as in the line 6.c3 00; 7.d4 Ba7; 8 Bg5 exd4; 9.e5 h6; 10.Bh4 g5; 11.Bc6 dxc6 12.Nxg5!? with a scary looking position for both players where black seems to be doing well.

Far more popular has been 5…b5; 6.Bb3 Bc5 played by both Shirov and Kamsky but Carlsen’s line seems to stand up to computer analysis and will make a lot of White players think early in the game.

The Møller can lead to a variety of sharp and hairy positions which are not for the faint hearted but, will appeal to black players with a tactical mind that want to fight hard to win with the black peices.

It is already catching on with Shirov, Stefanova and Gustafsson giving it a go and this could hopefully spice up world chess that is already bored with the Berlin!

Colin Lyne, Farnborough, Hampshire, 7th June, 2021

Colin Lyne
Colin Lyne

Book Details :

  • Paperback : 160 pages
  • Publisher: New in Chess (15th December, 2020)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10:9056919377
  • ISBN-13:978-9056919375
  • Product Dimensions: 17.53 x 1.09 x 23.55 cm

Official web site of New in Chess

Carlsen's Neo-Møller, Ioannis Simeonidis, New In Chess, 2020, ISBN 9789056919375
Carlsen’s Neo-Møller, Ioannis Simeonidis, New In Chess, 2020, ISBN 9789056919375
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Chess for Educators : How to Organize and Promote a Meaningful Chess Teaching Program

Chess for Educators : Karel van Delft

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

From the book’s rear cover :

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

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

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

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

Karel van Delft
Karel van Delft

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

 

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

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

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

A couple of quotes from the Introduction:

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

And:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Richard James, Twickenham 21st May 2021

Richard James
. Richard James

Book Details :

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

Official web site of New in Chess

Chess for Educators, Karel van Delft, New in Chess, March 2021, ISBN: 9789056919429
Chess for Educators, Karel van Delft, New in Chess, March 2021, ISBN: 9789056919429
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The Lasker Method to Improve in Chess

The Lasker Method to Improve in Chess : Gerard Welling and Steve Giddins

The Lasker Method to Improve in Chess, Gerard Welling and Steve Giddins, New in Chess, 2021, ISBN-13 : 978-9056919320
The Lasker Method to Improve in Chess, Gerard Welling and Steve Giddins, New in Chess, 2021, ISBN-13 : 978-9056919320

From the book’s rear cover :

“Many club players think that studying chess is all about cramming as much information in their brain as they can. Most textbooks support that notion by stressing the importance of always trying to find the objectively best move. As a result amateur players are spending way too much time worrying about subtleties that are really only relevant for grandmasters.

Emanuel Lasker, the second and longest reigning World Chess Champion (27 years!), understood that what a club player needs most of all is common sense: understanding a set of timeless principles. Amateurs shouldn’t waste energy on rote learning but just strive for a good grasp of the basic essentials of attack and defence, tactics, positional play and endgame play. Chess instruction needs to be efficient because of the limited amount of time that amateur players have available.

Superfluous knowledge is often a pitfall. Lasker himself, for that matter, also studied chess considerably less than his contemporary rivals. Gerard Welling and Steve Giddins have created a complete but compact manual based on Lasker’s general approach to chess. It enables the average amateur player to adopt trustworthy openings, reach a sound middlegame and have a basic grasp of endgame technique. Welling and Giddins explain the principles with very carefully selected examples from players of varying levels, some of them from Lasker’s own games.

The Lasker Method to Improve in Chess is an efficient toolkit as well as an entertaining guide. After working with it, players will dramatically boost their skills, without carrying the excess baggage that many of their opponents will be struggling with.”

FM Steve Giddins
FM Steve Giddins

“Steve Giddins is a FIDE Master from England, and a highly experienced chess writer and journalist. He compiled and edited The New In Chess Book of Chess Improvement, the bestselling anthology of master classes from New In Chess magazine. In 2019 Giddins published, together with Gerard Welling, the highly successful chess opening guide Side-Stepping Mainline Theory (ISBN 9789056918699).”

IM Gerard Welling
IM Gerard Welling

“Gerard Welling is an International Master and an experienced chess trainer from the Netherlands. He has contributed to NIC Yearbook and Kaissiber, the freethinker’s magazine on chess openings. In 2019 Welling published, together with Steve Giddins, the highly successful chess opening guide Side-Stepping Mainline Theory (ISBN 9789056918699).”

 

Most instructional chess books fall, broadly speaking, into one of two categories.

There are those, often written by younger players, which emphasise studying recent grandmaster games, teach openings by encouraging you to memorise long variations, provide annotated games with reams of computer-generated lines, offer very hard puzzles from top level competitions, and sometimes suggest you devise a timetable for study, setting aside a certain number of hours a day for opening study, tactics training, online games and so on.

Then there are books, usually written by older and, perhaps, wiser authors, very often not of GM strength, but with decades of experience both playing and teaching, who understand that most amateurs have a limited amount of time available. They recommend studying the classics, keeping things simple, choosing openings which are easy to learn, understanding ideas and plans, mastering the ending.

You won’t be surprised to learn that my sympathies are, with some reservations, more with the latter camp. And that’s what we have here.

You might not like the vivid yellow and blue cover, with our hero Manny Lasker wearing cool shades, but, putting that aside, let’s dive in.

The introduction is always a good place to start, so that we can see the authors’ aims in writing the book. In this case, they have much to say which I found particularly interesting, or perhaps just confirming my prejudices.

The amateur player has limited time for chess play and study, but still likes to practice his ‘major hobby’ as well as he can, and thus would like to base his game on reliable premises. He ideally wants to play trustworthy openings, and reach a sound middle game, and would welcome a basic grasp of endgame strategy, but often lacks the time to work on this.

Some amateurs, certainly, most, quite possibly, but not all. If you prefer to play dodgy gambits in the hope of winning a few quick brilliancies, this may not be the book for you.

You might recall, that a few years ago, John Nunn wrote a text book based on Lasker’s games. How does this book differ?

In the present book, we aim to do something completely different: we emphasise the specifically Laskerian approach and how it can be used by the average club player. Lasker emphasised most of all playing by understanding and general principles, with minimum rote-learning (especially of openings). This is perfect for the average amateur player, who wants to be able to maintain a good standard of play without relentless homework.

And again:

Nobody can possibly play the best moves all the time. Mistakes are inevitable and they are what decide games, so his (Lasker’s) aim was to try to induce more mistakes from the opponent than from ourselves. So, for example, for the average player, playing a position which he understands and feels comfortable in is more important than playing an objectively superior position that he doesn’t understand and doesn’t feel comfortable in, because he is more likely to go wrong in the latter. 

If you, like me, are broadly sympathetic to this view of chess instruction, then, you’ll almost certainly enjoy this book.  Younger and more ambitious readers, who prefer to study hundreds of ‘trainable variations’ on an online platform might have a different opinion.

Chapter 1 is very brief, looking at Lasker’s general ‘common sense’ chess philosophy. His Manual of Chess dates from 1925. Almost a century later, chess is very different, but do his principles still stand up? The authors believe they do.

Chapter 2 considers the three principles of positional play. 1: the principle of attack: if you have the advantage you must seek ways of exploiting it. 2: the principle of defence: as your opponent will attack your weakest point, you must defend it. 3: the aim of your actions should be proportionate to the size of your advantage.

In real life, of course, it’s not always as simple as that. You might, for example, have an extra pawn but a weakened king-side or a less effective minor piece. Imbalances of this nature are also important.

Chapter 3 looks at endings. The authors explain the need to know theoretical endgames, and offer a few examples from Lasker’s games.

In this position, for instance, from the first game of his 1911 World Championship match against Schlechter, he managed to draw the game by giving up a second pawn with 54… Re4! 55. Rc5 Kf6 to activate his pieces.

We move on to Attack in Chapter 4. Only the first game here was played by Lasker. The others, mostly unfamiliar, illustrate the point that if your opponent’s king is insufficiently well defended you sometimes need to strike quickly before he has time to bring up the reserves. The openings, though, are often not those you’d associate with Lasker. A small point here: in game 12, where Lodewijk Prins played the eccentric 1. e4 c6 2. b4, the black pieces were handled by Rupert, not Robert Cross.

The authors prefer verbal explanations to variations, and that can be seen in the instructive note here (Sosonko – Eising  Mannheim 1975), where Black played 30… Nxg2!

The Australian master and didact C.J.S. Purdy warned that tactics dominate the game and can come out of nowhere, even in positionally lost situations. We believe it is a matter of formulation, because if there are correct tactics available, then, by definition, the position is NOT strategically lost. Lasker formulated this in a clear way, where he mentioned ‘a large superiority of force in a quarter where the opponent has an important weakness’.

Well, yes, but we’ve all lost games by blundering and allowing a tactic in strategically winning positions.

After Attack you’d be right to expect Defence. Two of the four examples here come from Lasker’s games. We’re often taught to seek counterchances or to enter swindle mode, but here the authors demonstrate that, in some cases, just sitting tight and trying to hold everything is the best policy.

Next, we have a short chapter on knights and bishops. Lasker had a particular appreciation for positions where knights outshine bishops, and here we learn about Giddins’ friend Michael Cook, one of the inspirations behind this book: a Lasker admirer who also favours equine manoeuvres.

The following chapter is perhaps unexpected: Amorphous Positions. Restrained but resilient formations without weak links but with potential energy. We first look at a couple of Lasker games where he placed a bunch of pawns on the third rank before moving on to meet another amateur, in this case a Dutch player named Philip du Chattel, who, when playing black, seemingly favoured Nh6 on move 1 or 2. I’m not sure this is something Lasker would ever have considered.

(As an aside, Welling himself is a chess maverick, and his latest book has been co-written with English maverick IM Mike Basman. I suspect there’s an interesting book to be written about strong (say 2200+) players who favour offbeat openings.)

Finally in this chapter we see some games played by Canadian maverick GM Duncan Suttles, who also preferred non-committal openings of this nature.

We’ve now, travelling backwards from the ending, reached the opening, and in Chapter 8 the authors propose a repertoire based on Lasker’s principles.

At amateur level, especially, most games are decided by tactical opportunities and it is of no relevance at all whether one side or the other has a quarter of a pawn’s advantage after the opening. The important thing is just to reach a playable position, with the pieces developed and the king safe, preferably without significant pawn weaknesses.

(Another aside: the authors previously collaborated on a repertoire book which proposed playing a Philidor/Old Indian setup with both colours. Here we have something very different.

As Black, we’re going to defend classically. We’ll meet 1. e4 with e5, playing the Steinitz Defence (with 3… Nf6 followed by 4… d6) against the Ruy Lopez. Against the Italian Game we’ll play 3… Bc5, although we’ll need some concrete analysis. 4… d5!? is suggested against the Evans Gambit, but Greco’s 7. Nc3 in the old main line is dismissed rather too hurriedly. If you don’t like this, 3… d6 is an alternative. We’re also provided with safe and sensible lines against White’s alternatives. We’ll decline any gambit, meeting the King’s Gambit with 2… Nf6!? and the Danish Gambit with 3… d5. Against d4, likewise, we’ll opt for 1… d5, playing the Orthodox Defence to the Queen’s Gambit. Again, common-sense lines are offered against the main line, the Exchange variation, the Bf4 variation and the Catalan. But something seems to be missing here: there’s nothing about the currently popular and annoying London System, not to mention the Colle or Torre. The English and Réti are dismissed in a column and a half (1… e6 and 2… d5) and other first moves aren’t mentioned at all.

With White, we’ll play 1. e4. Against 1… e5 we’ll play the Ruy Lopez, but, following Lasker’s predilection for knights, we’ll trade on c6 at the first opportunity. In the Exchange variation proper we’re advised to play 5. Nc3 rather than O-O.

If Black offers the Petroff instead we’ll head for the ending with 5. Qe2.  We’ll play the Closed Sicilian, with our king’s knight on the flexible e2 square. Against the French and the Caro-Kann you won’t be surprised to hear that we’ll trade pawns on d5. Again, this seems incomplete: there’s no recommendation against any other defence to 1. e4.

What do you make of this? It makes sense as far as it goes, but it’s certainly not for everyone. You’ll need a lot of patience as well as endgame skill to enjoy it. It might, of course, be exactly what you’re looking for. You might, as one often does with repertoire books, like some, but not all the suggestions.

Chapter 9 is the meat of the book: games for study and analysis based on the openings recommended in the previous chapter, 41 of them in total, well selected (many deeply obscure so you almost certainly won’t have seen them before) and well annotated. The young guns who tell you to study recent GM games will be horrified to see that most of the games are from the last century, although Carlsen makes an appearance playing the Exchange French. Welling and Giddins are not the first authors to comment on the similarity between Lasker’s and Carlsen’s approach to chess.

You won’t find many short brilliancies, but this is an exception:

Black chooses a modest opening formation giving White a slight advantage, but this game demonstrates how easy it is for the first player to overreach in this type of position.

We also meet Michael Cook again, and see two of his wins against the Ruy Lopez, one of them against my old friend Malcolm Lightfoot. I found the ending of the other game particularly interesting.

This is from a 1980 county match where Cook is black against R Bristow. Like many of my generation, I was brought up on Basic Chess Endings and led to believe that bishops were stronger than knights in endings with pawns on both sides of the board. Of course this is very often the case, and there’s an excellent example earlier in the book.

This position is objectively drawn, but it’s Black who can press for the full point.

The game concluded 29. Kg1 Nd6 30. g3 f6 31. Bb4 Nb5 32. Kf2 Kf7 33. Ke3 Ke6 34. Ke4 f5+ 35. Kd3 Kd5 36. Bc3 g6 37. Be5 h5 38. Bb2 Kc5 39. Bc3 Nd6 40. Bd2 Ne4 41. Be1 Kd5 42. Ke3? (a3 would have held) Kc4 43. Ke2 Kd4 44. Bb4 h4 at which point time was called and the adjudicator (yes, that’s how we played chess 40 years ago) awarded Cook the point.  The authors claim that after 45. Kf3 hxg3 46. hxg3 Nc3 47. a3 Kc4  Black wins, but Stockfish isn’t convinced after, for example, 48. g4.

The authors comment:

Within reason, the objective assessment of the position does not matter that much, when it is just a matter of a slight plus one way or the other – what is much more important is knowing what you’re doing and understanding that the white advantage, if any, is relatively small. 

… and:

An additional point, as we have seen, is that the white player will frequently overestimate his advantage and play too ambitiously, often just because ‘the books’ say this Steinitz Defence is not really very good. Just as Lasker said, he preferred the side ‘which has kept back his forces a little’. so deliberately heading for a position where one knows one is objectively slightly worse, but also knows that the disadvantage is small and manageable, and where one also knows how to handle the position, is often a very effective way to play for a win.

Interesting and thought-provoking, I think, and certainly a very different philosophy from the maximalist approach espoused by many authors of instructional manuals. It’s certainly not the only way to play chess,  but it might just be for you. An awareness that your opponents might be taking that approach could also be useful.

Finally, there’s the almost obligatory puzzle section. We have 50 puzzles, split into easy, intermediate and difficult, taken, with one exception, from the games of the authors and their hero.

Again, they have some helpful insights to share:

Talking about the experience of analysing with a much stronger player:

The other chap just seems to ‘see’ things so quickly, noticing immediately little tactical tricks which escape the lesser player altogether, or else take him much longer to spot. And we are mainly talking not about spectacular sacrificial combinations, but about routine tactical ideas, 2-3 moves deep, on which so much of a chess game hinges.

Indeed. At club level it’s precisely this which decides most games.

So how does one acquire such ability? Well, as with most things in life, talent is obviously a factor, but hard work and regular practice is crucial. Tactical ability and alertness is rather like physical fitness – when you start from a very low level, a lot of work is needed to build yourself up to a certain level, but once you are there, 15-30 minutes’ exercise a day is all you need to maintain that level.

Here’s one of the intermediate puzzles.

In this position White played 24. Nxc4. Is this a blunder? You’ll find the solution at the foot of the page.

It’s often interesting when reading a book with two authors to try to guess which author was primarily responsible for which chapter. (You might like to do this with The (Even More) Complete Chess Addict.) Welling (eccentric openings) and Giddings (safe and simple openings) seem to have slightly different chess philosophies, but they converge with the idea that it doesn’t matter if you’re slightly worse: just that have more understanding of what’s going on than your opponent.

If you’re young and ambitious you might turn your nose up at books of this nature, but club players rated anywhere between, say, 1600 and 2200 who would like to improve their chess in between family and work commitments may well find this book inspirational even though they might not agree with everything the authors say, and might well find some or all the repertoire recommendations don’t suit.

I really enjoyed reading it, and felt I learnt quite a lot as well. I’ve always believed that you’ll benefit more from studying games played by someone 200-300 points stronger than you than you would from top grandmasters. Looking at their games you can think “Yes: I could learn to play like that”, and as Michael Cook, for example, was, at his peak, 200 points or so stronger than me, I could learn a lot from his games. My frustration was that the book seemed incomplete, and, as a result, perhaps not always totally coherent. There were a couple of signs that it might have been edited down from something much longer at the request of  the publisher, but of course my hunch could well be incorrect.

The book is well written and produced to this publisher’s customary high standards. It may not be a book for everyone, but if you’re part of the target market you don’t need to hesitate. There are many fascinating and provocative insights which will encourage you to look at chess in a different way.

Solution to puzzle (Giddins – Carlier Antwerp 1993): 24. Nxc4 isn’t a blunder because after 24… Bxc4 he has the decisive blow 25.Rb6! Qxb6 26. Re6+ Kg8 27. Rxb6.

Richard James, Twickenham 4th May 2021

Richard James
. Richard James

Book Details :

  • Paperback : 240 pages
  • Publisher: New in Chess (16 Mar 2021)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10:9056919326
  • ISBN-13:978-9056919320
  • Product Dimensions: 17.25 x 1.55 x 23.67 cm

Official web site of New in Chess

The Lasker Method to Improve in Chess, Gerard Welling and Steve Giddins, New in Chess, 2021, ISBN-13 : 978-9056919320
The Lasker Method to Improve in Chess, Gerard Welling and Steve Giddins, New in Chess, 2021, ISBN-13 : 978-9056919320
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World Champion Chess for Juniors : Learn From the Greatest Players Ever

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

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

From the book’s rear cover :

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

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

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

 

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

Let’s see what we have here.

From the introduction:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

White, Gelfand, is considering his 23rd move.

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

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

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

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

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

20… Bxb5

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

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

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

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

Well, I hope you followed all that.

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

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

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

24. d5!!

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

White could easily go wrong here:

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

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

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

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

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

But is it a book for juniors, though?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Richard James, Twickenham 12th April 2021

Richard James
. Richard James

Book Details :

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

Official web site of New in Chess

World Champion Chess for Juniors: Learn From the Greatest Players Ever, Joel Benjamin, New in Chess, 2020, ISBN-10 : 9056919199
World Champion Chess for Juniors: Learn From the Greatest Players Ever, Joel Benjamin, New in Chess, 2020, ISBN-10 : 9056919199
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A Modern Guide to Checkmating Patterns

A Modern Guide to Checkmating Patterns : Vladimir Barsky

A Modern Guide to Checkmating Patterns, Vladmir Barsky, New in Chess, 2020
A Modern Guide to Checkmating Patterns, Vladmir Barsky, New in Chess, 2020

From the book’s rear cover :

“Giving mate is the ultimate goal of every chess player. Finding that all-decisive combination is immensely satisfying. But how are you supposed to spot a checkmate when you are sitting at the board with the clock ticking?

In this guide International Master Vladimir Barsky teaches the method created by his mentor Viktor Khenkin (1923-2010). It’s based on an ingenious classification of the most frequently occurring mating schemes. A wide range of chess players will find it an extremely useful tool to recognize mating patterns and calculate the often narrow path to the kill.

All the 1,000 examples (850 of them in exercise format) that Barsky presents are from games played in 21st century. He has carefully selected the most instructive combinations and lucidly explains the typical techniques to corner your opponent’s king. More often than you would expect, positions that look innocent at first sight, turn out to contain a mating pattern. This is not just another book full of chess puzzles.

It’s a brilliantly organized course that has proven to be effective. Finding mate isn’t rocket science, but you need to know what to look for. Vladimir Barsky teaches you exactly that.”

Vladimir Barsky in 2007, Courtesy of Frederic Friedel
Vladimir Barsky in 2007, Courtesy of Frederic Friedel

“Vladimir Barsky (1969) is an International Master, an experienced chess coach and a well-known journalist and author. He lives in Moscow.”

 

I’ve been thinking a lot recently about the difference between instructing novices and experts.

You might find this chart (source) helpful. It’s from an education blog but there’s some chess there as well!

Let’s assume that a novice has a rating below 1000 and an expert has a rating of 2000 or over. There’s also a rather large area in between the two, which would include most competitive players, for whom you’d use a combination of the two approaches.

expertnovice

A novice, then, learns best through explicit instruction and worked examples. Just as you probably learnt maths at school. You learn something specific, hold your teacher’s hand while she demonstrates how to do it, then go away and try it out for yourself. You will then receive feedback on how well you have done and transfer your new found knowledge and skills from short-term to long-term memory.

Learning skills such as playing a new opening or winning a rook ending with an extra pawn, will require personalised feedback, but tactics can be taught through books or apps: you solve a puzzle on a specific theme and find out whether or not you have the correct answer.

Tactics books and, these days, apps, are rightly popular. You might, in general, think of books where each chapter concerns a specific subject to be ‘novice’ books while books with random examples where you don’t know what you’re going to get next (just as in a game) to be ‘expert’ books. But within each of these categories there are easier and harder books. Players rated between 1000 and 2000 will probably benefit most from a mixture of harder ‘novice’ books and easier ‘expert’ books.

A basic knowledge of checkmate patterns is essential for every serious player, and all chess libraries should contain at least one book on the subject. Even though most games at higher levels end in resignation, and, at lower levels, in very simple checkmates, a knowledge of these patterns plays a part in every kingside attack. You might not force mate, but your opponent may have to give up material to avoid it.

Let’s see what the author has to say in his foreword.

“The remarkable trainer and Soviet Master of Sport, Viktor Lvovich Khenkin (1923-2010), proposed systematizing mating schemes or ‘pictures’ by reference to the piece or pawn which brought the mate to its conclusion. It turned out that there were not so many of these schemes – about a hundred basic ones – and about 20 or 30 which occur in the great majority of mating combinations. These can be remembered even by an inexperienced player: ‘it’s not rocket science’, as the popular saying runs.

Khenkin was a mentor and colleague of the author and a number of other celebrated chess writers and journalists.

Barsky continues:

“This book A Modern Guide to Checkmating Patterns is divided into ten chapters: first, we present schemes and examples with explanations, and then positions for independent solving. These number 851.”

Excellent pedagogic principles. We have a total of 1000 positions, all taken from 21st century games, most of which will probably be new to you, so you won’t see the same tired old examples repeated by many authors. The chapters, in turn, feature, the rook, the queen, the minor pieces and pawns, two rooks, rook and bishop, rook and knight, queen and bishop, queen and knight, queen and rook, and, finally, three pieces. In each chapter you work through some examples with the author holding your hand before being let loose to solve some puzzles on your own. As you know what you’re looking for, most of these will not be too difficult for experienced players. Most of the positions are not forced mates, but positions in which mate threats will lead to material gain.

Here, from the game Barsky – Logunov (Moscow 2004) in Chapter 1, is the author himself in action:

White’s position looks critical since the bishop cannot retreat because of mate on d1, whilst exchanging on f4 leads to the loss of the c4-pawn. But there is an unexpected tactical blow…

37. R5xb6! a5

Mate results from 37… axb6 38. Ra8+.

38. Rb4+!

Black’s misfortunes continue – again he cannot take the rook because of 39. Ra8+.

38… Ka3 39. Rb3+

He could also win with 39. R4b5+ Ka4 40. Ra8 with mate in a few moves.

39… Ka4 40. Rxf3 Rxd6 41. Rxf4 1-0

My next example is from Chapter 7 (queen and bishop mates). It’s Black’s move in Kamsky – Svidler (Khanty-Mansiysk 2011).

White has an extra rook but it is Black to play. He could take either of the two attacked white pieces, but in that case, White gets a valuable tempo to beat off the attack, e.g. 26… Rxb8 27. Be3 or 26… Qxh6 27. Nc6,and the knight cannot be driven away, because the square e6 is attacked by the white bishop. 

26… Re2!!

A very beautiful idea by the St Petersburg GM. Now after 27. Qxe2 Qg3 mate is inevitable. But why not the immediate 26… Qg3? In this case the knight retreat (27. Nc6) allows the key diagonal to be blocked.

27. Qc3 Rxf2 28. Nc6 Rxf1+

White resigned (29. Kxf1 Qf2#)

Finally, a beautiful finish from West London Chess Club’s Mark Lyell (Lyell – Bradac Zdar nad Sazavou 2010)

With three successive sacrifices, White underlines the vulnerability of the enemy king, trapped in the centre:

17. Rxe5! dxe5 18. Bxa5! Qxa5

Otherwise he is mated on d8.

19. Qa4!!

The final blow. Black resigned: after any reasonable reply, he is mated by 20. Nc7.

All serious chess players should have at least one book concerning checkmating patterns in their library. This book is an excellent example of the genre. The author knows exactly what he’s doing and why he’s doing it: something that can’t be said for the majority of instructional chess books. Furthermore, most of the examples will be unfamiliar to most readers.

My impression was that the puzzles were, by and large, easier than the worked examples: perhaps this was deliberate.

This is ‘novice’ rather than ‘expert’ tuition in that it trains specific skills and provides hints to help you solve the puzzles, but at the same time it’s not a book for beginners: there’s an assumption that you are already reasonably proficient at calculating and spotting checkmates. If you’re rated anywhere between about 1250 and 2000 and want to improve your attacking skills you’ll find this book invaluable. In addition, it provides useful coaching materials for anyone teaching students at this level. Stronger players might also want to use it as a refresher course.

You can also, if you choose, just sit back and enjoy 1000 21st century examples of brilliant and beautiful sacrificial chess.

Highly recommended, then, for all chess players who enjoy attacking the enemy king.

Richard James, Twickenham 25th February 2021

Richard James
. Richard James

Book Details :

  • Paperback : 256 pages
  • Publisher: New in Chess (7th August, 2020)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10:9056918877
  • ISBN-13:978-9056918873
  • Product Dimensions: 17.5 x 1.68 x 23.55 cm

Official web site of New in Chess

A Modern Guide to Checkmating Patterns, Vladmir Barsky, New in Chess, 2020
A Modern Guide to Checkmating Patterns, Vladmir Barsky, New in Chess, 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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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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