Category Archives: Tactics

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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Rewire Your Chess Brain : Endgame studies and mating problems to enhance your tactical ability

Rewire Your Chess Brain: Endgame studies and mating problems to enhance your tactical ability, Cyrus Lakdawala, Everyman Chess, August 2020
Rewire Your Chess Brain: Endgame studies and mating problems to enhance your tactical ability, Cyrus Lakdawala, Everyman Chess, August 2020

Cyrus Lakdawala is an IM and former US Open Champion who teaches chess and has written over 25 books on chess openings.

IM Cyrus Lakdawala
IM Cyrus Lakdawala

The ever prolific Cyrus Lakdawala’s latest book offers a collection of endgame studies and problems aimed primarily at players who are not all that familiar with the world of chess compositions.

Much of the material is taken from the Facebook group Chess Endgame Studies and Compositions which Lakdawala runs with Australian GM Max Illingworth. I should declare an interest here as I’m a member of, and a very occasional contributor to, this group.

The first half of the book introduces the reader to the world of endgame studies. After a brief preliminary chapter taking us on a journey of almost a thousand years up to 1750 (though I’m not sure how Al Adli was composing in both 800 and 900), we move onto a collection of studies with the stipulation ‘White to play and draw’. Like this one (the solutions are at the end of the review).

Frédéric Lazard L’Échiquier de Paris 1949

(Lazard’s first name is anglicized to Frederick in the book. He died in 1948: perhaps this was first published in a posthumous tribute.)

The next, and longest, chapter is, you won’t be surprised to hear, devoted to ‘White to play and win’ studies.

Another short example:

Mikhail Platov Shakhmaty 1925

Then we move on from studies to problems. After a brief excursion to Mates in 1 in Chapter 4, Chapter 5 deals with mates in 2, like this one from the ever popular Fritz Giegold.

Fritz Emil Giegold Kölnische Rundschau 1967

(The first word of the newspaper is given as Kolner, without an umlaut: Wikipedia tells me the correct name.)

Another composer to feature heavily in this book is the great Puzzle King himself: Sam Loyd. Here’s an example from Chapter 6: Mates in Three Moves.

Sam Loyd Cleveland Voice 1879

Chapter 7 brings us some mates in four or more moves. Chapter 8 looks at some eccentric problems, Chapter 9 looks at study like themes in real games (yes, Topalov-Shirov, as you probably guessed, is there), and finally Chapter 10 presents us with some studies composed by young American IM Christopher Yoo.

On a personal level, I’d have liked some helpmates, which are often very attractive to practical players, and perhaps also problems with other stipulations: serieshelpmates or selfmates, for example. A short introduction to fairy pieces and conditions would also have been interesting. Something for a sequel, perhaps?

Cyrus Lakdawala has a large and devoted following, and his fans will certainly want this book. Those who don’t like his style will stay well clear. As for me, I find Everyman Cyrus a far more congenial companion than NiC Cyrus: do I detect a firmer editorial hand in removing some of the author’s more fanciful analogies? Given the nature of the book I think it works quite well: entertaining positions can take ‘entertaining’ writing but more serious material demands more serious writing.

The studies and problems are well chosen to be attractive to the keen over the board player who is not very familiar with the world of chess compositions. If you don’t know a lot about this aspect of chess and, perhaps enjoying the examples in this review, would like to investigate further, this book would be a good place to start.

The current Zeitgeist seems to demand that chess books are marketed as being good for you rather than just enjoyable and entertaining, and here it’s claimed that solving the puzzles in this book will ‘without question, undoubtedly improve the ‘real world’ tactical ability of anyone attempting to do so. Well, possibly. Solving endgame studies has been considered by many, Dvoretsky for one, to be beneficial for stronger players, and I quite understand why. I’m less convinced, though, that solving problems is the most effective way to improve your tactical skills, but it may well give you an increased appreciation of the beauty that is possible over 64 squares, and inspire you to find beautiful moves yourself.

My issue with the book concerns lack of accuracy, particularly in the problem sources. Puzzle 190 was composed by (the fairly well known) Henry D’Oyly Bernard, not by (the totally unknown) Bernard D’Oily. Frustratingly for me, I seem to remember pointing this out to the author on Facebook. Puzzle 242, a much anthologised #3 by Kipping, is given as ‘Unknown source 1911’. It took me 30 seconds (I know where to look) to ascertain that it was first published in the Manchester City News. As Fritz Giegold was born in 1903, it seems unlikely that he was precocious enough to compose Puzzle 237 in 1880.  Again, a quick check tells me it was actually published in 1961. And so it goes on.

It’s not just the sources: the final position of puzzle 203 has three, not four pins. Someone with more knowledge of chess problems might have pointed out that in Puzzle 164 Sam Loyd displays an early example of the Organ Pipes Theme.

Even the back cover, which you can see below, is remiss, in claiming that ‘In a chess puzzle, White has to force mate in a stipulated number of moves’. No – you mean ‘chess problem’, not ‘chess puzzle’.

Chess problem and study enthusiasts are, by their nature, very much concerned with accuracy. It’s unfortunate that this book doesn’t meet the high standards they’d expect.

To summarise, then: this is a highly entertaining book which will appeal to many players of all levels, especially those who’d like to find out more about studies and problems. It’s somewhat marred by the unacceptable number of mistakes, which might have been avoided with a bit of fact checking and a thorough run through by an expert in the field of chess composition.

 

(Apologies for the repeated diagrams in the solutions: it’s a function of the plug-in used by British Chess News.)

Richard James, Twickenham 7th January 2021

Richard James
Richard James

Book Details :

  • Paperback : 530 pages
  • Publisher:Everyman Chess (31 August. 2020)
  • Language:English
  • ISBN-10:1781945691
  • ISBN-13:978-1781945698
  • Product Dimensions: 17.45 x 2.97 x 24.08 cm

Official web site of Everyman Chess

Rewire Your Chess Brain: Endgame studies and mating problems to enhance your tactical ability, Cyrus Lakdawala, Everyman Chess, August 2020
Rewire Your Chess Brain: Endgame studies and mating problems to enhance your tactical ability, Cyrus Lakdawala, Everyman Chess, August 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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Chess Calculation Training for Kids and Club Players : Level 1 : Checkmating

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

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

GM Romain Édouard
GM Romain Édouard

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The main content is divided into eight chapters :

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

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

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

Here is a nice example :

#8
Nezhmetdinov, R – Kotkov, Y

25.? +-

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

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

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

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

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

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

#21
Waitzkin, J – Frumkin, E

Mate in 7

26.?+-

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

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

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

I particularly liked this example :

#24
Ulibin,M – Mesman,E

29.? +-

 

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

#6
Wiler – Hell

1…?-+
A hard example !

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

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

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

#5
Jansen,I = Asenova,V

19…?-+

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

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

13
Khalifman, A – Seirawan, Y

22.?+-

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

I’ve selected the final one for your entertainment :

16
Abasov, N – Kantor, G

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

I hope you enjoyed those!

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

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

Chess parents take note !

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

John Upham
John Upham

Book Details :

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

Official web site of Thinkers Publishing

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

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

26.Qxg7+! Kxg7 27. Bf6+ Kg6

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

28. Rg3+ Kh6

28…Kh5 29.Rg5+ Kh4 30.Nf3#

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

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Thinker’s Chess Academy with Grandmaster Thomas Luther : First Steps in Tactics

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

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

GM Thomas Luther
GM Thomas Luther

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

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

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

The main content is divided into sixteen chapters :

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

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

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

The rook has to give check to the black King.

He cannot move to a square where he be captured.

He cannot capture pawns, even if they are unprotected.

Make a guess how many moves are needed?

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

In this position the pawns can overwhelm the bishop!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

John Upham
John Upham

Book Details :

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

Official web site of Thinkers Publishing

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

Practical Chess Puzzles
Practical Chess Puzzles

Here is the publishers blurb from the rear cover :

Chess puzzle books are undoubtedly popular – and with good reason. Solving chess puzzles helps to sharpen a player’s tactical and combinational skills. This ability is absolutely fundamental for chess development. You won’t get better at tennis until you can consistently hit the ball with accuracy and you won’t get better at chess until you improve your ability to calculate. It is that simple and there are no shortcuts.

Many puzzle books take a far too simplistic approach and offer endless positions where the solution is nearly always along the lines of: queen takes something check, king takes queen, check, check and a pretty mate. Aesthetically pleasing perhaps but of minimal use for actual improvement as the patterns are so familiar. Practical Chess Puzzles avoids this pitfall. The positions chosen are far more like those that actually appear on the board during the vast majority of games. Furthermore, at all stages, the puzzles are ranked, enabling the student to gauge progress and identify and correct weaknesses.

  • 600 puzzles featuring instructive, typically “game-like” positions
  • A ranking system to assess progress.

and about the authors :

Guannan Song is a FIDE Master with one International Master norm from Canada. He won the 2010 Canadian Youth Chess Championship and scored bronze at the 2015 North American Junior Chess Championships. He also played for Team Canada at the 2010 World Youth Chess Championship and the 2014 World Youth U16 Chess Olympiad. He represents Western University on board 1 of its Championship team and led his team to 2nd place at the 2019 Canadian University Chess Championship.

Dachey Lin is a FIDE Master from the United States, having achieved the title in 2016. He is a seven-time All American Team member and participated in three World Youth Chess Championship events, tying for ninth place in 2009. Though he is not as active as some of the other chess players, he enjoys following and helping other chess players and watching them grow and succeed.

Edward Song is an International Master from the United States. He won the 2014 US Cadet Championship, the 2017 Supernationals (tie), and the 2017 Denker Tournament of High School Champions (tie). He is also a four-time All American Team member and played two World Youth Chess Championships, achieving top ten both times. He is looking forward to making further progress towards grandmaster.

As with every recent Everyman Chess publication high quality paper is used and the printing is clear. Each diagram is clear as is the instructional text. Figurine algebraic notation is used throughout and the diagrams are placed adjacent to the relevant text.

The book consists of five chapters :

  1. Model Games : six games
  2. Combinations : 250 positions
  3. Evaluation : 100 positions
  4. Tests : 250 positions
  5. Solutions

The first aspect that leaps out is that material is largely based on real games from the last ten years. Secondly, those games have largely not found themselves into databases such as MegaBase 2020. Thirdly, many of the games are from North American tournaments and a good number featured are from the authors own practise.

The model games are entirely practical : real games played by strong but not super strong players with flaws and blunders that human beings make. They set the scene for the main course.

The Combinations chapters provides 250 unthemed positions which range from simple tactics of all types to deep combinations of tactics. The variety is excellent and, much like the Carsten Hansen book we reviewed earlier the positions are real and “messy”. Therefore very much for the tournament player rather than sanitised positions for teaching children and beginners.

Here is an example (#25) from M. Kernighan-J.Lipoka, Winnipeg, 2010.

Potentially the most interesting is the Evaluation section. The student is asked to study and pick apart the positions inorder to assess the correct outcome. Part of that assessment includes finding the best continuation. The solutions to these exercises focus on the latter it has to be said : We would like to have seen more of the assessment angle !

Here is an example (#343) from A.Jayakumar-G.Garcia, Philadelphia, 2012 :

Finally (the solutions do not count !), combining all of the previous elements, is the Tests section. If you were only to work on one section (but why would you do that ?) then this would be the most rewarding.

Here is an example (#435) from R.Ulrich-A.Wang, St Louis, 2017

In summary, the content lives up to the title and any tournament player from say 1200 Elo to perhaps 2200 will derive much benefit from working through the content. It is good to find a whole tranche of new material and ideas from real games played by mostly amateur players.

A small gripe (but not important) with the production is : Some (so why not this one) Everyman books have an extra folding part to the front and rear covers. These we find protect the book from damage and also can be used as an emergency book mark !

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

John Upham
John Upham

Book Details :

  • Paperback : 288 pages
  • Publisher: Everyman Chess (1 Jan. 2020)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1781945616
  • ISBN-13: 978-1781945612
  • Product Dimensions: 17.3 x 1.7 x 23.8 cm

Official web site of Everyman Chess

Practical Chess Puzzles
Practical Chess Puzzles
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Chess Opening Workbook for Kids

Chess Opening Workbook for Kids : Graham Burgess

Chess Opening Workbook for Kids
Chess Opening Workbook for Kids

FIDE Master Graham Burgess needs no introduction to readers of English language chess books ! Minnesota, USA based, Graham has authored more than twenty five books and edited at least 250 and is editorial director of Gambit Publications Ltd. In 1994 Graham set a world record for marathon blitz playing and has been champion of the Danish region of Funen !

FM Graham Burgess
FM Graham Burgess

Readers may remember “101 Chess Opening Surprises” published in 1998, also by Gambit Publications, was well received and added to GKBs reputation for originality, accuracy and encyclopedic knowledge of openings.

Chess Opening Traps for Kids is the ninth in a series of “for Kids” books and is robustly (!) hardbound in a convenient size such that weights are not need to keep it propped open (unlike some A5 paperbacks) meaning studying with this book is more convenient than with many books. The layout and printing is clear (as you would expect with Gambit) with numerous diagrams. In essence, players under 18 (for whom this book is intended) will find it easy to dip in out of and it can be used without a board (although BCN would always recommend following each game on a “proper” board).

As you would expect with Gambit, the notation is English short form algebraic using figurines for pieces. Each diagram has coordinates and a “whose move it is indicator” (thank-you Gambit !); welcome for the intended junior readership.

This book follows on from the highly regarded (2018) Chess Opening Traps for Kids from the same author and reviewed here

The author divides the material into 11 chapters titled as follows :

  1. Warm-Ups
  2. Mate
  3. Double Attack
  4. Trapped Pieces
  5. General Tactics
  6. Hunting the King
  7. Development and the Centre
  8. Castling
  9. Does Bxh7+ Work?
  10. Advanced Exercises
  11. Tests

This is not a book about openings per se. It focuses more on tactics and traps and tactical ideas that happen very early in many games. It is not organised on a per opening variation basis and neither is there an index of openings. If that is what you want then this is not the right book for you.

However, this is much, much more than a book about openings…

Chapters 2 – 9 each kick-off with an introduction to the chapter’s theme followed by (in some cases) 60 example test positions where the theme can be exploited by an accurate move sequence : the student is invited to work-out this sequence. The chapter ends with detailed solutions to each test position.

Chapter 10 are exercises using any of the themes in the previous chapters but randomised and without any clue as to what the theme is. In general these are more challenging and serve as a test of what should have been learnt so far !

Chapter 11 contains 40 test positions some according to theme and rest without a clue. Following the solutions the student is invited to assess their strength at these exercises using a simple score table.

Here is an example from Chapter 3, Double Attack :

Example #5


White has just played 6c4?? Why was that a blunder ?

See the foot of this review for the solution should you need to.

For further insight you may use the “Look Inside” feature from Amazon here. Of course there are many worthy book retailers to be your supplier !

In summary, this is an excellent book with much original material presented in a clear and friendly way and therefore to be recommended. It is an ideal follow-up to Chess Opening Traps for Kids and we would advise studying Chess Opening Traps for Kids first and then move on to this workbook.

One negative comment we would make concerns the cover. “Never judge a book by its cover” we are told and you might look at this book cover and think it was suitable for say primary aged children. I would say not but I would suggest it suitable from secondary aged children. I would say strong juniors from 12 upwards would read this book and enjoy it.

We would like to see an index of openings from which the theme examples were obtained.

The title and cover might, perhaps, put off the adult club player market. However, the content is totally suitable for adult club players upto say 180 ECF or 2000 Elo.

John Upham, Cove, Hampshire, March 30th 2020

John Upham
John Upham

Book Details :

  • Hardcover : 128 pages
  • Publisher: Gambit Publications Ltd. (15th November 2019)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1911465376
  • ISBN-13: 978-1911465379
  • Product Dimensions: 17.8 x 1.3 x 22.9 cm

Official web site of Gambit Publications Ltd.

Chess Opening Workbook for Kids
Chess Opening Workbook for Kids

Solution to Example#5
The problem is similar to the Cambridge Springs Trap : 6…dxc4! wins a piece. After 7 Bxc4 Qa5+ the queen check picks up the loose bishop. This has even cropped up at super grandmaster level. The other key point is that White can’t unload his bishop with 7 Bxf6 because 7…cxd3 leaves two white pieces attacked.

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Chess Tests

Chess Tests
Chess Tests

Chess Tests : Mark Dvoretsky

From the rear cover :

“Mark Dvoretsky (1947-2016) is considered one of the greatest chess instructors in the modern era. He left behind a great legacy of many books and publications. At the time of his passing, there were two unpublished manuscripts he had finished (and one other co-authored with study composer Oleg Pervakov).”

IM Mark Izrailovich Dvoretsky
IM Mark Izrailovich Dvoretsky

And from the Foreword by Artur Yusupov :

“Chess Tests offers chess players material of very high quality for working on various themes, from training combinative vision to techniques of realizing advantages. I recommend using those materials for in-depth work in the directions mentioned in the book. If you follow this advice, then this volume will become a valuable addition to your chess studies and will help you reinforce skills and knowledge you have already obtained. “And here is probably the most important point. Dvoretsky wanted to write a book that would not only teach some intricacies of chess, but would also be simply a pleasure to read for aficionados of the game, so he tried to amass the ‘tastiest’ of examples here. I hope that this last book by him is going to achieve this, presenting its readers with many chess discoveries and joy of communication with the great coach and author.”

IM Mark Izrailovich Dvoretsky holding forth with Jonathan Speelman, Jonathan Manley., Mihai Suba and Bernard Cafferty. Photograph : Mark Huba
IM Mark Izrailovich Dvoretsky holding forth with Jonathan Speelman, Jonathan Manley., Mihai Suba and Bernard Cafferty. Photograph : Mark Huba

This book (also available as an eBook) is divided into seven chapters as follows :

  1. Training Combinational Vision, 32 tests
  2. Candidate Moves, 38 tests
  3. Calculating Variations, 18 tests
  4. Attack and Defense, 28 tests
  5. Positional Play, 52 tests
  6. Realizing an Advantage, 24 tests
  7. Endgame Tests, 35 tests

and each of these is further sub-divided. Above we have indicated a number of tests for each chapter. Each of these tests comprises a position diagram with a whose move it is indicator.

Unusually, the tests sections comprise the first 62 pages and pages 63 – 206 are the solutions. So, this book is a little unusual for a standard “tactics” book in that the bulk of the text is in form of solutions and explanations.

So, this is much, much more than a routine tactics book. As you might expect from Dvoretsky the bonuses come from the solutions. It is clear that Dvoretsky had gone to great lengths to collect the test positions, and, as we found (in the BCN office), they were an absolute delight to work on. To whet your appetite here is a pleasing example from “Tasty Tactics #2 :

And here is the solution that you may wish to cover up for now :

6. Stern-Sanakoev, corr wch 1994-99

51…Ra5-a1!!

A fine queen deflection that prepares a mating attack.

52.Qb1xa1 Qd6xh2+1 53.Rh3xh2 Nf5-g3+ 54.Kh1-g1 Bc7-b6+ 55.Re1-e3 Bb6xe3#

52.Qe4 does not help..

The same combination leads to a won endgame : 52…Qxh2+ 53.Rxh2 Ng3+ 54. Kg1 Bb6+ 55.Qd4 Bxd4+ 56.cd Rxe1+ 57.Kf2 Nf1 (57…Re3!?;57…Rh1!?), but a quicker way to finish the game is 52…Qf4! (there is a threat of both 53…Qxe4 and 53…Qf1+) 53.Qe8+ Kg7 54.Rxa1 Qxh2+! 55.Rxh2 Ng3+ 56.Kg1 Bb6+.

and here is a beautiful example from Tasty Tactics #4 :

but we won’t give the solution here : you will either have to solve this yourself or buy the book or both !

The general standard of these tests is high : even the tests labelled as “not very difficult” are challenging to say the least. Particularly instructive was the “Realizing an Advantage” section which includes subsections labelled “Technique”.  Here is an example :

and here is a particularly tricky example :

In summary, this is a wonderful book and a great testament to the legend that is Mark Dvoretsky. We cannot recommend this book highly enough and claim that is it one of the best chess books of 2019. Please get it and enjoy it !

John Upham, Cove, Hampshire 24th February 2020

John Upham
John Upham

Book Details :

  • Softcover : 208 pages
  • Publisher:  Russell Enterprises (15 Nov. 2019)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1949859061
  • ISBN-13: 978-1949859065
  • Product Dimensions: 15.2 x 0.6 x 22.9 cm

Official web site of Russell Enterprises

Chess Tests
Chess Tests
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Chess Tactics Workbook for Kids

Chess Tactics Workbook for Kids : John Nunn

Chess Tactics Workbook for Kids
Chess Tactics Workbook for Kids

John Nunn has written around thirty books on chess and many of these are some of the finest chess books published in any language : Secrets of Pawnless Endings (1994, Batsford) easily is a candidate for the all time list. John is a director of Gambit Publications Ltd. together with Murray Chandler and Graham Burgess.

GM John Nunn
GM John Nunn

Chess Tactics Workbook for Kids is the sixth (a seventh and eighth are scheduled for January 2020 publication) in a highly successful series of “for Kids” books. Indeed, we recently reviewed Chess Opening Traps for Kids. The Workbook theme is likely to be extended other “for Kids” style books from Gambit Publications.

This workbook is a follow-up to the original (2003) and much liked Chess Tactics for Kids by Murray Chandler :

Chess Tactics for Kids
Chess Tactics for Kids

Chess Tactics Workbook for Kids is robustly (!) hardbound in a convenient size such that weights are not need to keep it propped open (unlike some A5 paperbacks) meaning studying with this book is more convenient than with many books. The layout and printing is clear (as you would expect with Gambit) with numerous diagrams at key moments in each, relatively short, game. In essence, players under 18 (for whom this book is intended) will find it easy to dip in out of and it can be used without a board (although BCN and most chess teachers and coaches would always recommend following each game on a “proper” board).

As you would expect with Gambit, the notation is English short form algebraic using figurines for pieces. A previous criticism (ibid) has been addressed in that each diagram has a symbolic “whose move it is” indicator. Each diagram does have coordinates which are very welcome for the younger junior reader.

The book is divided into 13 chapters as follows :

  1. Fork
  2. Pin
  3. Skewer
  4. Deflection and Decoy
  5. Discovered Attack
  6. Discovered and Double Check
  7. Removing the Guard
  8. In-Between Moves
  9. Trapped Piece
  10. Pawn Promotion
  11. Opening and Closing Lines
  12. Forcing a Draw
  13. Test Papers

Chapters 1 – 12 each contain a description of the type of tactic that is subject of the chapter followed by 20 – 40 exercises for the reader followed by a set of more challenging “Tougher Positions” and then, interestingly, by a set of “Does the Tactic Work ?” exercises. We appreciated the latter especially since this appears to be a novel feature. These are excellent blunder prevention tests since they help to slow typical impetuous juniors down who often move first and then engage their brain.

It was clear when working through the easier set of exercises that the author had thought carefully about their sequence since the reader should (we did for sure !) notice the level of difficulty increasing slowly but surely. The solutions are remote from the puzzles nicely avoiding the “accidentally seeing the solution” issue one gets with lesser books. The solutions themselves are clear and concise and instructional in their own right.

Here is a particularly satisfying example (we thought so anyway !) from the Skewer chapter (Tougher Positions #23) *solution at bottom of this review

We particularly enjoyed the chapters on “Trapped Piece” and “Forcing a Draw” as these are less usual to find in books of this kind.

Here is a pleasing (well, we liked it here in the BCN editorial office) example (#30) from the “Does the Tactic Work?” section of the skewers chapter :

@and the solution is at the foot of this review

We enjoyed working through the chapters and emerged with a feeling of attending a mental gymnasium : exhausted but refreshed.

Chapter 13 (“Test Papers”) puts all of your newly learnt skills to a full and proper test since there are no themes, hints or clues of what to do : just like a real game !

One negative comment we would make concerns the cover. “Never judge a book by its cover” we are told and you might look at this book cover and think it was suitable for say primary aged children. We would say not but we would suggest it suitable from secondary aged children. We would say strong juniors from 12 upwards would read this book and enjoy it.

As we previously mentioned in our review of Chess Opening Traps for Kids, The title and cover might, perhaps, put off the adult club player market. However, the content is totally suitable for adult club players upto say 150 ECF or 1800 Elo.

In summary, we recommend this book to any junior or adult who wishes to improve their tactical vision and results. It makes an excellent stocking filler for young players and the young at heart !

John Upham, Cove, Hampshire, November 11th 2019

John Upham
John Upham

Book Details :

  • Hardcover : 128 pages
  • Publisher: Gambit Publications Ltd (22 July 2019)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1911465317
  • ISBN-13: 978-1911465317
  • Product Dimensions: 17.8 x 1.3 x 22.9 cm

Official web site of Gambit Publications Ltd.

Chess Tactics Workbook for Kids
Chess Tactics Workbook for Kids

*solution to Skewer exercise #23 : “Normally this material would lead to a draw, but White can win with a brilliant tactical idea : 1.Bd6!! (the only defence to the threat of 2.Qd3# is to take the bishop) 1…Qxd6 2. Qd3+ Kc5 (2…Ke5 3.Qg3+ is a mirror image) 3.Qa3+ and the queen falls.”

@solution to Skewer exercise #30 : “It seems impossible to save the game because after both side promote White has a skewer, but there is a miraculous defence : 1…g2 2.c8=Q g1=Q 3.Qc5+ Ke2! and further checks don’t help White, while after 4.Qxg1 Black is stalemated.”

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