Category Archives: New in Chess

Side-Stepping Mainline Theory

Side-Stepping Mainline Theory : Gerard Welling and Steve Giddins

Side-Stepping Mainline Theory
Side-Stepping Mainline Theory

From the book’s rear cover :

“Spend more study time on what’s really decisive in your games!
The average chess player spends too much time on studying opening theory. In his day, World Chess Champion Emanuel Lasker argued that improving amateurs should spend about 5% of their study time on openings. These days club players are probably closer to 80%, often focusing on opening lines that are popular among grandmasters.

Club players shouldn’t slavishly copy the choices of grandmasters. GMs need to squeeze every drop of advantage from the opening and therefore play highly complex lines that require large amounts of memorization. The main objective for club players should be to emerge from the opening with a reasonable position, from which you can simply play chess and pit your own tactical and positional understanding against that of your opponent.

Gerard Welling and Steve Giddins recommend the Old Indian-Hanham Philidor set-up as a basis for both Black and White. They provide ideas and strategies that can be learned in the shortest possible time, require the bare minimum of maintenance and updating, and lead to rock-solid positions that you will know how to handle. By adopting a similar set-up for both colours, with similar plans and techniques, you will further reduce study time.

Side-stepping Mainline Theory will help you to focus on what is really decisive in the vast majority of non-grandmaster games: tactics, positional understanding and endgame technique.

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 non-mainline chess openings.

IM Gerard Welling
IM Gerard Welling

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.”

FM Steve Giddins
FM Steve Giddins

The authors have divided up the content into six chapters as follows:

  1. The keys to successful opening play
  2. The Old Indian against 1.d4
  3. The Old Indian against Flank Openings
  4. The Philidor against 1.e4
  5. The System as White
  6. Tables of the main variations

So, what we have here is somewhat unusual : this is a complete repertoire book for the same player of both the Black and White pieces using essentially the same structure. Precedents have been previously set using similar approaches with a combination of the Pirc and King’s Indian Defences combined with the King’s Indian Attack or reversed King’s Indian Defence but, nonetheless, this is an unusual and welcome approach to building a repertoire.

So the structure for Black is essentially :

which could be so-called Modern Philidor when white plays 1.e4 and The Old Indian when White defers e4

and the structure for White is :

which is essentially a Reversed Modern Philidor / Old Indian or more correctly An Inverted Hanham.

All of these structures are sound, resilient and reward manoeuvring play where the better play will win. More importantly a player familiar with these structures will enjoy understanding of the plans and ideas is likely to enjoy a considerable advantage on the clock. This is particularly true for the first player based on the rarity of the Inverted Hanham.

The authors have organised their material very logically showing the reader firstly the way to play for Black against almost anything and only then (when the structures are familiar) do they demonstrate the way for the first player. I’m sure players will be more comfortable playing these lines for Black since it might seem somewhat unnatural to play 1.e4 and then play slowly after that.

The authors use a standard model to explain these systems : they take 92 high quality games and analyse each one in detail. Combined with this is a clear description of the themes and ideas contained within the Black and White structures. This is very much an ideas based opening book rather than based on rote memorisation. One of the issues analysing these lines is that they are very transpositional compared to say the sequential and forcing lines of the Sicilian Dragon or Slav Defence. Chapter six helps enormously the reader to navigate their way through the transpositions especially for the Inverted Hanham.

Here is a game from Istvan Csom, an expert on this system :

As with every recent New in Chess publication high quality paper is used and the printing is clear. The book can easily be laid flat next to the board and does not require weights to prevent it from “self-closing” (a particular bugbear of ours !). Each diagram is clear and the instructional text is (mostly !) typeset in two column format, which, we find, enables the reader to maintain their place easily. Figurine algebraic notation is used throughout and the diagrams are placed adjacent to the relevant text.

In summary, Welling and Giddins have produced an out-of-the-ordinary book which fills a gap in the market : complete opening book not based on rote memorisation. The middlegame starts very early in these lines and the ideas for White are particularly intriguing. if you adopt these suggestions then your middlegame play will benefit hugely. This is probably not a book for hackers or those who have no patience : highly recommended !

John Upham, Cove, Hampshire, March 31st 2020

John Upham
John Upham

Book Details :

  • Paperback : 272 pages
  • Publisher: New In Chess (16th August 2019)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 9056918699
  • ISBN-13: 978-9056918699
  • Product Dimensions: 16.9 x 1.8 x 23.6 cm

Official web site of New in Chess

Side-Stepping Mainline Theory
Side-Stepping Mainline Theory

Keep it Simple 1.d4

Keep it Simple 1.d4 : Christof Sielecki

Keep it Simple 1.d4 by Christor Sielecki
Keep it Simple 1.d4 by Christor Sielecki

“Half the variations which are calculated in a tournament game turn out to be completely superfluous. Unfortunately, no one knows in advance which half..” – Jan Timman

The value for any practising chess player of a coherent opening repertoire when playing with the white pieces is key to success, enjoyment and efficient use of study time.  Books with “Opening Repertoire” in the title are many and varied and we were intrigued to what the emphasis in this latest book from New in Chess would be.

From the books rear cover :

After the success of his award-winning book ‘Keep it Simple 1.e4’ International Master Christof Sielecki is back. His new repertoire based on 1.d4 has a similar profile: variations that are straightforward and easy to remember, and require little or no maintenance.

Sielecki has created a reliable set of opening lines for chess players of almost all levels. The major objective is to dominate Black from the opening, by simple means. You don’t need to sacrifice anything or memorize long tactical lines.

His main concept is for White to play 1.d4, 2.Nf3, 3.g3, 4.Bg2, 5.0-0 and in most cases 6.c4. Sielecki developed this repertoire while working with students who were looking for something that was easy to understand and easy to learn.

This new 1.d4 repertoire may be even easier to master than his 1.e4 recommendations, because it is such a coherent system. Sielecki always clearly explains the plans and counterplans and keeps you focused on what the position requires. Ambitious players rated 1500 or higher will get great value out of studying this extremely accessible book.

International Master Christof Sielecki
International Master Christof Sielecki

So, what is Keep it Simple 1.d4  about ?

This is a weighty (427 pages) tome advocating a repertoire for  white based on a “delayed Catalan” development approach against almost any line that black chooses.

Originally the content was provided on the popular training site Chessable. Its popularity caused New in Chess to publish in paper format.  See Chessable version

From the successful series by Boris Avrukh (and many others) we know that the conventional Catalan System (1.d4, 2.c4, 3.g3) is a highly respected opening system played at the very highest levels by the worlds top players. So, a normal Catalan would see

appear fairly promptly allowing Black various options that White might like to avoid.

By delaying c4 to say move 6 then White is denying Black some of these sharper continuations and maybe allowing White to focus more on middlegame plans rather than engaging in theoretical skirmishes at move 2, 3, 4, 5 or even.

This is the kind of opening philosophy that has encouraged the London System (and the Colle System before that) “pandemic” to dominate club chess : “We show a system that allows you to get your pieces onto sensible squares without allowing your opponent to distract you”. Of course this is a gross over simplification but many club players want an easy life !

So, something typical might be :

where White’s last move was 6.c4

which is covered in chapter 8 and 9 depending if Black captures on c4.

There is one major difference with the approach Sielecki suggests in that we get to a principled set-up via a slower move order.

The book is divided into four main parts as follows :

  1. Black’s classical / symmetrical set-ups : 1.d4 d5 2. Nf3
  2. Black’s …g7-g6 based set-ups : 1.d4 Nf6 2.Nf5 g6 3.g3
  3. Black’s flexible set-ups : 1.d4 Nf6 2.Nf3 e6 3.g3
  4. Black’s sharp and offbeat defences

The author states he has three “KIS” guidelines :

  • The chosen lines are simple to learn;
  • It must be possible to find your way if you forget your lines;
  • Choose lines that may not be most critical, but uncomfortable for the opponent

All the usual (and many unusual) structures from Black are given a detailed treatment :

Chigorin, Tarrasch, Grunfeld, King’s Indian, various forms of Benoni, Modern, Queen’s Indian, Benko b5 ideas, Dutch, Old Indian, Wade Defence and other odds and ends.

An interesting comment we noted elsewhere was from IM John Donaldson : “A worthy follow-up with the author achieving the near impossible in carving out a cohesive repertoire based on 1.d4 2.Nf3 and 3.g3 against all but a handful of Black replies. The most amazing magic trick is how the author makes the Slav and Queens Gambit Accepted disappear – namely by adopting the sequence 1.d4 d5 2.Nf3 Nf6 3.g3. This reviewer gives two thumbs up for for Keep It Simple 1.d4. It is full of interesting variations and ideas for players rated 2200 on up who are looking for a positionally oriented repertoire that is not overly theoretical.”

and “As promised, the repertoire is simple, but not so simple that it is not of practical value. IM Sielecki has taken great pains to research the material carefully and package it into a repertoire that is relatively consistent throughout.”–Carsten Hansen “American Chess Magazine ”

and “I like this particular repertoire very much as it’s one which could probably hold the reader in good stead for many years to come. His introductions, conclusions and textual explanations are instructive and ones that a human can readily appreciate, learn from and understand. As I think that I should keep my advice ‘simple’, then I would say ‘just get it’!”–Glenn Flear, Grandmaster “Yearbook 134”

So, who what is the most suitable audience for this book ? We would say that a club player of 2000 plus who wishes to upgrade their white opening into a Queen’s Gambit style structure would enjoy the content. Maybe they have been playing the London, Colle, Stonewall or Veresov systems and want to progress their chess : this book is ideal for that upgrade. It is also good for those who play a conventional move order looking for a more positional repertoire.

As a bonus for the observant, this book provides material for those wishing to kick-off with 1.Nf3 although you will need to deal with 1.Nf3 c5 of course !

As with every recent New in Chess publication high quality paper is used and the printing is clear. The book can easily be laid flat next to the board and does not require weights to prevent it from “self-closing” (a particular bugbear of ours !). Each diagram is clear and the instructional text is (mostly !) typeset in two column format, which, we find, enables the reader to maintain their place easily. Figurine algebraic notation is used throughout and the diagrams are placed adjacent to the relevant text.

At the rear is the customary detailed Index of Variations and following that there is an Index of Players where the numbers refer to pages.

In summary this book provides a pragmatic and positional repertoire for White against most of the all the commonly encountered responses to 1.d4 and 2.Nf3, 3.g3 and an eventual c4.  There is a host of interesting new and dangerous ideas that help you fight for the whole point with the white pieces : recommended !

John Upham, Cove, Hampshire, February 19th 2020

John Upham
John Upham

Book Details :

  • Hardcover : 432 pages
  • Publisher: New In Chess (1 Dec. 2019)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 9056918672
  • ISBN-13: 978-9056918675
  • Product Dimensions: 17.6 x 2.7 x 23.1 cm

Official web site of New in Chess

Keep it Simple 1.d4 by Christof Sielecki
Keep it Simple 1.d4 by Christof Sielecki

An Attacking Repertoire for White with 1.d4

An Attacking Repertoire for White with 1.d4 : Viktor Moskalenko

An Attacking Repertoire for White with 1.d4
An Attacking Repertoire for White with 1.d4

“Half the variations which are calculated in a tournament game turn out to be completely superfluous. Unfortunately, no one knows in advance which half..” – Jan Timman

The value for any practising chess player of a coherent opening repertoire when playing with the white pieces is key to success, enjoyment and efficient use of study time.  Books with “Opening Repertoire” in the title are many and varied and we were intrigued to what the emphasis in this latest book from New in Chess would be.

From the books rear cover :

Viktor Moskalenko (1960) is an International Grandmaster and a FIDE Senior Trainer. The former Ukrainian champion’s recent books include The Even More Flexible French, The Wonderful Winawer, Training with Moska and The Fabulous Budapest Gambit.

GM Viktor Moskalenko
GM Viktor Moskalenko

So, what is An Attacking Repertoire for White with 1.d4 about ?

Up front one factor worth noting is that Moskalenko is advocating a repertoire based around the classical move order approach to playing the “Queen’s Gambit”, viz, 1 . d4, 2.c4 and 3. Nc3 rather than say 1. d4, 2.Nf3, 3.c4 which is, nonetheless, increasing in popularity.  Some lines simply do not transpose of course so please bear that in mind !

The author has identified 14 defences employed by Black and offers  lines for White against all of these.  The variations given attention (and the order in which they are presented ) are :

  1. King’s Indian Defence : Four Pawns Attack
  2. Modern Benoni Defence : Taimanov Attack
  3. Snake Benoni (a fairly rare beast at club level and good to see it discussed therefore)
  4. Indo-Benoni which includes the Schmid Benoni & Czech Benoni
  5. Benko & Volga Gambit
  6. Grünfeld Defence
  7. Nimzo Indian Defence
  8. Slav Defence : Exchange Variation
  9. Queen’s Gambit Accepted
  10. Queen’s Gambit Declined : Triangle Variation
  11. Queen’s Gambit Declined : Exchange Variation
  12. Baltic Defence
  13. Chigorin Defence
  14. Albin Counter Gambit

For each of these chapters there is a theory / instructional section containing the recommended line, analysis and variations followed by a separate section of illustrative games from modern practise. Many of these 106 games are the authors own with insightful, deep notes explaining his thought processes.

For all fourteen chapters the emphasis of the author’s recommendations is on “active play supported by a powerful pawn centre” and this bears out when exploring the various recommendations.

Ideas featuring an early f3 (hence our comment about the Nf3 move order earlier!) appear frequently with the exceptions of the slightly surprising Exchange Slav  and the Queen’s Gambit Accepted. recommendations. However, the latter pair do use active piece play lines (with an early Nf3 in the QGA).

The most interesting  bonus is when one investigates the games section that is associated with each of the chapters. There is generous use of six clear symbols designating something special about various lines as follows :

  • TRICK : hidden tactics and some tricky ideas, e.g. traps you can set and pitfalls you have to avoid.
  • PUZZLE : possible transpositions, move order subtleties, curiosities and rare lines.
  • WEAPON : the best lines to choose; strong or surprising options for both attack and defence, which deserve attention.
  • PLAN : the main ideas for one of the sides in the next phase of the game.
  • STATISTICS : winning percentages for a line for either side / player.
  • KEEP IN MIND : here, fundamental ideas for either side are given.

An example from game 66 in the Exchange Slav chapter :

Black has played 11…Na5

12. Kf2

KEEP IN MIND : The king’s move is included in White’s plan, but it is more accurate to play h2-h4 or Ng3 first :

WEAPON / TRICK : For instance , 12.h4!? Nc4 13. Qc2!? b5 14. b3!? (with initiative)  (14. Qb1 Khairullin-Kapnisis, Budva 2009) 14…b4? 15 Nxd5!+-;

WEAPON : Or 12. Ng3 !?

analysis diagram

12…Bc6 (12…h6 13 h4.!?) 13.g5!? Nd7 14.h4 Be7 15.Kf2! b5 (Moskalenko – Alono Rosell, Catalonia tt 2013) 16.Nce2!

Possibly the only disappointing  recommendation is that of the use of the  Exchange Slav to take on both the Slav and the Semi-Slav family.  Recommending more ambitious lines for White would have increased the size of the book substantially and also the learning workload for the student : sometimes a line in the sand has to be drawn !

Reviewers usually like to point out material that they believe has been omitted and we will not disappoint you ! Chapters (we believe) should have been included are treatments of :

  1. The Queen’s Indian Defence (the most surprising omission of all)
  2. The Old Indian Defence (quite a rare bird of course)
  3. The Dutch Defence (see below*)
  4. Queen’s Gambit : Tarrasch Defence (popular at club level)

*In fairness to Moskalenko he refers readers to his previously (2014) New in Chess published The Diamond Dutch treatment to handle the white side of 1.d4 f5

We can also forgive the absence of any treatment of the Englund Gambit and other such blitz and rapidplay oddities !

As with every recent New in Chess publication high quality paper is used and the printing is clear. The book can easily be laid flat next to the board and does not require weights to prevent it from “self-closing” (a particular bugbear of ours !). Each diagram is clear and the instructional text is (mostly !) typeset in two column format, which, we find, enables the reader to maintain their place easily. Figurine algebraic notation is used throughout and the diagrams are placed adjacent to the relevant text.

At the rear is the customary detailed Index of Variations and following that there is an Index of Players where the numbers refer to pages.

In summary this book provides a pragmatic and fighting repertoire for White against most of the all the commonly encountered responses to 1.d4 and the Queen’s Gambit. There is a host of interesting new and dangerous ideas that help you fight for the whole point with the white pieces : recommended !

John Upham, Cove, Hampshire, August 13th 2019

John Upham
John Upham

Book Details :

  • Hardcover : 320 pages
  • Publisher: New In chess (2nd July 2019)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 9056918303
  • ISBN-13: 978-9056918309
  • Product Dimensions: 17 x 23.1 cm

Official web site of New in Chess

An Attacking Repertoire for White with 1.d4
An Attacking Repertoire for White with 1.d4

1001 Chess Exercises for Club Players : The Tactics Workbook that Also Explains All Key Concepts

1001 Chess Exercises for Club Players : Frank Erwich

1001 Chess Exercises for Club Players
1001 Chess Exercises for Club Players

“Tactics is knowing what to do when there is something to do; strategy is knowing what to do when there is nothing to do.” – Savielly Tartakower

Every chess player enjoys (or should !) solving and practising tactics and, let’s be pragmatic, most games at mortal level are decided by executing them if the conditions are right. Creating suitable conditions is, of course, another book or books and I’m confident New in Chess will publish such material in due course.

FIDE Master Frank Erwich is a a professional chess teacher for the Royal Dutch Chess Federations, coach and active player. In 2012 he established a teaching company and, from his own web site :

He works as an editor for New in Chess, he helps with the development of material for chess books and chess apps, he writes about chess (including author of 1001 Chess Exercises for Club Players and the e-book Basic Chess rules for Kids ), he makes online lessons for starting chess players and he is regularly active as a coach during a chess tournament (including during the European Youth Championship in 2014, 2015 and 2016).

FM Frank Erwich
FM Frank Erwich

So, what is 1001 Chess Exercises for Club Players about ?

The author has identified 1001(!) positions from recent tournament praxis the majority of which are from the last ten years. This, in itself, is a tour de force as many previous tactics books bring a strong sense of déjà vu. He has categorised them into ten groupings viz :

  1. Elimination of the Defence
  2. Double Attack
  3. Discovered Attack
  4. Skewer (or x-ray for our USA readers !)
  5. Pin
  6. Trapping a piece
  7. Promotion
  8. Draw
  9. Mate
  10. Defending

and then follows these with a chapter entitled “Mix” which combines many of the previous themes and of course, a Solutions to each exercise chapter.

As with every recent New in Chess publication high quality paper is used and the printing is clear. The book can easily be laid flat next to the board and does not require weights to prevent it from “self-closing” (a particular bugbear of mine !). Each diagram clearly shows who is to move and the instructional text is typeset in two column format, which, I find, enables the reader to maintain their place easily. Figurine algebraic notation is used throughout and the diagrams are placed adjacent to the relevant text.

You might have noticed that in the list of categories the author has inserted “Trapping a piece” and “Defending” which are welcome (not often discussed) themes among the more familiar ones.

Each chapter kicks-off with a description of the theme in question followed by high quality examples. All jargon and terms are explained in detail making each section self-contained eliminating the need to go elsewhere to cross-reference. Sometimes the author invents his own terminology (such as “away” and “chasing”) in cases where there is a need and all is carefully explained.

Following the instructional text and examples there are, on average 100 test positions given as groups of twelve per page. Each diagram clearly indicates who is to move and underneath most is a hint such as “magnet + double check”. I prefer to hide the hint but some will value these clues. Of course, after say a dozen in one section, one gets a feel for what is expected and this forms part of the training. Each solution provides useful analysis (which has been engine checked) plus contextual information about the source game, players and event.

To give you some idea of the content here is an excerpt from the training section on Elimination of the Defence :

“We conclude this chapter with a spectacular move:

Li Chao, 2746
Nigel Short, 2666
Baku ol 2016 (7) (analysis)

36. Qe6!
This is called a Novotny Interference! The queen is sacrificed on a square where it can be captured in four ways, but whichever black piece makes the capture, it interferes with the range of the other pieces:

36…Rxe6 (and Nxe6) interupts the a2-g8 diagonal and allows 37.Rg8#, while 36…Bxe6 closes off the sixth rank and runs into 37.Bxf6+ Rg7 38.Bxg7#.36…Rg7 prevents immediate mate, but after37.Bxf6 Black will also have to lay down his king before long.”

Here is one of the more challenging exercises :

The hint is “away + material”

and the solution is :

31…Qe5! 32.Qxe5 32.Qd2 Rxc1+ 33.Qxc1 Qxd4+ -+. 32…Rxc1+ 33.Kf2 Rxe5 34.Nxf6 Kxf6 35. Rxd7 Re7 -+ Jonkman Inza – K. Arnold, Assen ch-NED jr W 2019 (analysis).”

Finally, a detailed glossary in itself provides learning opportunities to improve one’s knowledge.

It was a pleasure to work through the exercises and they provided ideas for my student lessons and coaching. Possibly the most enjoyable section was Chapter 11 entitled “Mix”. This is the best test of what has gone before since there is no declared theme, and, more often than not, no visible hint. You are on your own and you might start a chess timer with each new position to provide motivation and test your speed and accuracy of solution.

In summary this is an excellent book that goes highly recommended. If I hadn’t had it to review then I would have purchased it anyway ! It it much than more than “just another tactics book”.

John Upham, Cove, Hampshire, June 20th 2019

John Upham
John Upham

Book Details :

  • Hardcover : 192 pages
  • Publisher: New In chess (3 April 2019)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 9056918192
  • ISBN-13: 978-9056918194
  • Product Dimensions: 16.9 x 1.2 x 24 cm

Official web site of New in Chess

1001 Chess Exercises for Club Players
1001 Chess Exercises for Club Players