Chess players spend hours and hours trying to memorize openings, but even Grandmasters forget their preparation.
Meanwhile, memory competitors routinely memorize thousands of facts and random digits, using special techniques that anyone can learn.
This book explains how to use these memory techniques for chess.
Teaches advanced memory techniques from scratch.
Contains full worked examples in the Ruy Lopez Exchange and Schliemann Gambit.
Ideal for tournament players who want to recall their opening repertoire perfectly.
1. Picture Notation
2. Essential Memory Techniques
3. Memory Palace Architecture
4. Example Palace: The Schliemann Transit Line
5. Example Palace: The Spanish Exchange Airport
6. Bonus: Memorising Endgames
Appendix: Picture Words for all 64 Squares
About the Author:
Author of The Chess Memory Palace (2022) and A Curious Letter from Nebuchadnezzar (2021)
I don’t know about you, but I like to know something about the author before I read a book. John Holden seems remarkably coy. It’s clear from the book that he’s a memory expert, but what are his chess credentials?
He tells us in the book that he lives in London, which is a start. His website is johnden.org, and there’s a chess.com user named John Holden whose username is NEDNHOJ (johnden reversed) with a blitz rating round about 900.
There was also a Kent junior on the grading list between 2007 and 2013, when he’d reached 160 (about 1900), who played a few rapidplay tournaments last year, giving him a 1755 rating. Are these the same person? You’d expect someone of that strength to have a higher chess.com rating than 900, especially if he’d put his memory training to good effect.
Is the author, then, either, both or neither?
If you’ve read anything about memory training in the past you’ll be aware of the Memory Palace technique which top competitive memory people use to learn the digits of pi or memorise the order of a shuffled deck of cards.
Here’s the start of the introduction. I have a few questions.
Modern chess requires its players to memorise more and more. “That’s probably the number one thing,” said top grandmaster Hikaru Nakamura, “For becoming a really strong grandmaster today you have to have a really good memory because there’s so much to memorise.”
Yes, if you want to become a really strong grandmaster like Nakamura you need a really good memory. But to what extent is this necessary if you’re a 900 online rapid player like NEDNHOJ or a 1755 rapid player like Kent’s John Holden? From my own experience, playing at that level is probably not about that sort of memory at all, and learning openings in that way might even confuse you.
Most of this effort goes on the opening moves, because you have to survive the opening to demonstrate your middlegame and endgame prowess. Although chess players have a good memory for moves, even elite players can struggle to remember their preparation at the board. And it is a constant source of frustration for all of us to spend so much time rehearsing openings.
There are some (teachers as well as players) who recommend that club level players should concentrate on opening study, while others prefer the 20-40-40 rule: 20% of your time on openings, 40% on middlegames and 40% on endings. Some even think that 20% is too high: you’re better off just playing simple openings leading to playable middlegames. One of the examples here is playing White against the Ruy Lopez Schliemann (1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bb5 f5). How often are you going to reach this variation?
Meanwhile, a new sport of competitive memory has sprung up, which reaches new heights every year. The record for most numbers memorised in five minutes stands at over 540. In 15 minutes, 1300. A man from India has recited 70,000 digits of pi.
How is this possible? Is it a special photographic memory? Actually no, it’s the disciplined application of memory techniques – and the techniques are surprisingly simple! They tap into our brains’ natural ability to remember places, images and stories. We can all remember our route to work, and we can all understand a story, even when it’s told to us quite fast. The trick is to convert non-memorable information, like a number, into memorable images.
‘… our brains’ natural ability to remember places, images and stories’. You brain might well work like that but not everyone’s does. You might want to look at conditions such as aphantasia (the inability to form mental pictures) which would make techniques like this difficult, or perhaps impossible.
It’s like everything else: some people are very good at this sort of thing, others fairly average and others again will find it very difficult.
Here’s how it works.
We have eight consonant sounds representing the numbers 1 to 8. Therefore, each square can be associated with a word including the sound representing the file (a-h becomes 1-8) followed by the sound representing the rank (1-8). If more than one piece can move to the same square we deal with this through the number of consonants in the word. If more than one piece can move to the same square you use words with different numbers of syllables to determine which piece you should move.
You might possibly recognise this as a position from one of the main lines of the Schliemann.
Just out of interest, looking at some lichess stats (filtered on games with an average rating of 1400+:
e4 e5 (35% in this position)
Nf3 Nc6 (64% in this position)
Bb5 f5 (2% in this position)
Nc3 fxe4 (54% in this position)
Nxe4 d5 (46% in this position: the other main line, Nf6 is slightly more popular)
Nxe5 dxe4 (95% in this position)
Nxg6 Qg5 (62% in this position)
Qe2 Nf6 (93% in this position)
f4 Qxf4 (73% in this position)
Realistically, even if you play the Lopez at every opportunity you won’t get the Schliemann very often, and, even then, many of your opponents will choose alternatives at moves 4 or 5. If you’re just a club standard player I’d advise you to play something sensible like 4. d3 instead and get on with the rest of your life.
Anyway, let’s continue. Your opponent has gone down this line and you have to dig into your memory to remember what happens next.
Black’s last move was Qxf4: your word for f4 is ‘shark’ (f/6 is represented by ch/j/tch/sh, d/4 is represented by r, so you choose a monosyllabic word including these two sounds.)
It’s a sharp variation and you want to remember what to do next so you look into your Memory Palace. There you find a shark biting a jester; a match catching fire and burning a lion’s nose, making the lion roar; and a frog chewing gum. The jester gives you lol (laugh out loud, your word for e5), telling you that you now play 10. Ne5+. Well, hang on a minute. Stockfish slightly prefers Nxa7+, and d4 is by far the most popular choice on lichess, but Ne5+ is also fine, so we’ll let it pass. Then we have the match, indicating c6, so we expect our opponent to evade the check by playing 10… c6 – the only good move. Now the lion’s roar tells us to play 11. d4, again clearly best. Then the frog chewing gum gives you 11… Qh4+ 12. g3. It’s still a complicated position so you may need to extend your story a bit.
(If you’re interested in this variation, I’d add that, although 9. f4 is usually played, Stockfish flags 9. Nxa7+ as a significant improvement.)
You see how it works, then, and if you want to play this variation with either colour it’s a sharp line which you need to know well, so, in this case, memory is important.
You should by now have some idea of whether or not this technique will work for you (if you have a strong visual memory it may well do, but if you don’t, it won’t), and whether or not you’re prepared to spend the time to develop your memory in this way and apply it to improving your chess.
The second and third chapters, if you’re still undecided, explain more about memory techniques. The author has helpfully made the first three chapters available for free here.
The next two chapters provide worked examples. Chapter 4 returns to the variation of the Schliemann we looked at earlier, looking at it in more detail, including other variations that Black might choose. John Holden sees this as resembling a train journey: he’s very familiar with the journey on the London Underground from Waterloo to West Ham,
Chapter 5 takes a very different variation of the Lopez: the exchange variation, which is considered from Black’s perspective.
We’re most likely to reach this position, where White usually retreats the knight to either b3 or e2. In either case, Black will trade queens.
This time, Holden’s setting is an airport, where Ne2 is a journey through security to a connecting flight, while Nb3 takes you through immigration to leave the airport.
Again, I have a question. Yes, I can understand you need to memorise the moves in a tactical variation like the Schliemann line discussed earlier, but in this quiet line with an early queen exchange, understanding positional ideas might be more helpful.
Chapter 6 is a bonus chapter explaining how you can use the Memory Palace idea to learn theoretical endings such as KQ v KR. Chapter 7 is a miscellany, answering some of the questions you may have and tying up some loose ends. Holden mentions other learning techniques such as flashcards and spaced repetition, which I’m aware other improvers have used with success.
I notice that this book has been one of the best selling chess books on Amazon since its publication. The book is well written, well produced and well researched, and is being strongly promoted by its author, including sending a review copy to British Chess News. I’m all in favour of supporting authors who are self-publishing on Amazon if their books have something worthwhile to say (and I hope you’ll support my Chess Heroes books as well). John Holden is clearly very knowledgeable on the subject of memory training and, if you’re interested, you’ll want to read this book. However, I remain to be convinced that his chess knowledge is sufficient to make a good case for his methods.
You might have read other chess self-help books in which authors explain the methods they used to improve their rating. If the author had been able to relate how he had improved his rating as a result of using these techniques I might have been impressed, but, as far as I can tell, his rating appears to be modest and perhaps lower than when he was a junior.
Perhaps at some point I’ll write more about the place of memory in chess and how different peoples’ memory works in different ways. I know I’m not alone in thinking very much in words rather than pictures: I have a good memory for words, facts and connections but very little visual imagination and a relatively poor memory for images (which is why I can’t play blindfold chess). For this reason the method outlined here wouldn’t work for me. But, if your brain works in a different way to mine, it might be just the book to help you improve your opening knowledge and endgame techniques. I’d certainly be very interested to hear from anyone who has made a dramatic rating gain by using the Memory Palace method. But until I’ve seen some evidence I’ll remain sceptical.
“An informative and accessible new book by Thomas Engqvist, the practical follow up to his previous two authoritative chess books: 300 Most Important Chess Positions and 300 Most Important Tactical Chess Positions.
Filled with 300 engaging chess exercises and complete solutions in the end of the book, this book will allow you to apply and consolidate your newfound knowledge. The book is divided into four key sections: ·75 exercises practising positional ideas in the opening/middlegame ·75 exercises covering the endgame ·75 tactical exercises in the opening/middlegame ·75 tactical endgames.
The exercises featured in the book are taken from real game positions from various renowned chess players, including Capablanca and Magnus Carlsen.”
About the Author:
“Thomas Engqvist is an International Master from Sweden. He has over 30 years’ experience as a chess coach and teacher. He has worked with players at world championship level in both junior and correspondence chess. He is the author of 300 Most Important Chess Positions and 300 Most Important Tactical Chess Positions, both published by Batsford.
From the back cover:
In-depth analysis of the 300 most important exercises according to the famous principle “less is more”. The less you study the less you forget.
Practice the most important positional and tactical ideas in all phases of the game by solving just five positions every week for one year.
Find out if the positional or tactical idea crops up in your mind, regardless of whether you have seen the idea before or not.
Well, if you solve five positions every week it will take you 60 rather than 52 weeks to complete the book, but never mind. The claim that you’ll improve more by studying less is also rather silly: the real point is that the quality rather than the quantity of your study is important.
In this highly instructive exercise book, International Master and experienced chess coach Thomas Engqvist outlines the 300 most important chess exercises. A sequel to 300 Most Important Chess Positions and 300 Most Important Tactical Chess Positions, this is the perfect manual for players who want to reach a higher level but don’t have the time to spend hours every week on less productive study.
Each numbered position is a test-yourself quiz to help cement the positional and tactical understanding that you have acquired. This book can be your life-long companion, enabling you to apply and solidify your positional and tactical chess knowledge.
Swedish International Master Thomas Engqvist has almost 40 years experience as a chess coach, teacher, writer and player. He has successfully worked with players at world championship level in both junior and correspondence chess. He works as a teacher at a school outside Stockholm. He is the author of eight chess books. This is his third book for Batsford Chess.
Yes, I get the point. Not everyone who wants to improve has the sort of time to spare that would be required to benefit from a book like this. Most of us have other commitments: just solving five exercises a week might be ideal. And what about the title? Are these exercises more important than the positions in the previous books? Who is to determine importance anyway. An exercise that’s important to me might not be important to you.
Let’s see what the author has to say in his introduction.
300 Most Important Chess Exercises starts off with 150 opening and middlegame positions to solve and the quota is 75 exercises where you practice positional ideas, and 75 exercises where the focus is on tactics. The other half of the book deals with 75 positional endings and 75 tactical endings. This is the only hint the solver will get.
This, then, is the final volume of a trilogy, with exercises based on the material in Engqvist’s two earlier Batsford books. If you’ve read and enjoyed them (sadly, I haven’t) you’ll undoubtedly want this as well. However, the author points out that it’s not necessary to have read them to read and benefit from this book.
The back cover claims that it’s a Universal book – suitable for players of all strengths.
No, it’s not. There’s an assumption that readers are proficient players with a good understanding of the game – say about 1500 strength. At the same time, some of the exercises will be familiar to more experienced players. I’d put the target range for this book, then, as in the region of 1500-2000 rating, although slightly weaker and slightly stronger players may also benefit.
I found Engqvist’s comments on the very first position in the book particularly interesting.
This is from a Morphy – Schulten game (New York 1857) with White to play.
White played 10. Bf4 here, but was it best? What would you suggest?
Morphy claimed his 10th move was an improvement on 10. Qxd6 which was given in the leading treatises of the day (Hanstein – von der Lasa in Staunton’s “Handbook”). However this is not true if one consults the computer programs Komodo and Stockfish. It’s good to capture the d6-pawn as long as White can maintain pressure on the d-file. What’s more is that there is an even better move, suggested by both computers, namely 10. Nc3!. This is very interesting since Komodo makes good evaluations and Stockfish is good at deep calculations, but they still come up with the same move!
This simple Knight move also follows Lasker’s principle that a knight should be developed before the bishop. The idea is to prepare Bf4 next move without allowing the d-file to be closed after …d5 . Morphy played according to the principle of development so his move is understandable, but the computers’ choice is the most precise. Even if we do know that development is on the agenda, we must also think carefully which piece to move first.
This tells you a lot about the author. Here we have someone who is well versed in chess history and culture, but also able to use modern technology effectively. Beyond that he has the ability to explain abstact concepts clearly and unambiguously.
Although that example may have been familiar to you if you’ve studied Morphy’s games, there are other exercises which you almost certainly won’t have seen before. Like this one, number 79, so it’s a tactical puzzle.
What would you play for White here?
This is from the less than Famous Game Kludacz – Pavlovskaya (Hasselbacken Open (Women) Stockholm 2001).
The whole game is interesting for anyone playing the Queen’s Gambit with either colour. White has launched a Minority Attack and now continued with 21. e4? which Black met with Bxh3!?, eventually winning the game.
Did you see how she could have done better?
21. h4! Ne6 22. Nce4!!
Presumably Kludacz missed the following knight sacrifice…
22… dxe4 23. Nxe4
White exploits the tactical weaknesses on f6 and c6. Black has no effective defence.
If 23… Qe7 then 24. Qxc6
24. Nf6+ Kf8
White doesn’t need to cash in on f8 but can exploit the pin on the c-file.
Now Black’s position collapses and White wins.
Helpfully, Engqvist provides the whole game here so that readers can see how the position arose from the opening.
The second half of the book covers endgame exercises. Like other authors such as Judit Polgar and RB Ramesh, whose books I’ve reviewed recently, Engqvist believes that solving endgame studies is a very valuable form of chess training, so here we have a mix of studies and positions from practical play. He finds pawn endings especially fascinating, so there are plenty here.
Take this one, for example.
It’s White to play here (Kalinicev – Schulz Cham 1992). What would you suggest.
I guess most players, like me, would play 1. Ke7 here without a second thought, but it’s not the correct answer.
The first time I saw this endgame I wrote in my private annotations that it’s “incredible that this move doesn’t win!” From a visual point of view it certainly seems that White’s king will wipe out the whole kingside of pawns like a vacuum cleaner, but that turns out to be an optical illusion. The key move to winning is to play according to Nimzowitsch’s rule, which states that you should hem in the target before blockading it and only then destroy it!
1. g4! would have prevented Black from moving his f-pawn to f5. Then 1… Kd3 2. Ke7 f6 3. Kf7 Ke2 4. f4 Kf3 5. f5. The f-pawn is now blockaded and a future attacking target. 5… Kg3 6. Kxg7 Kxh3 7. Kxh7 (7. Kxf6 Kxg4 8. Ke6 also wins but it’s unnecessary to give Black some hope even though that would be futile.) 7… Kxg4 8. Kg6 and White’s f-pawn decides.
Instead, the game concluded:
1. Ke7? f5 2. Kf7 Kd3 3. Kxg7 f4!! 4. Kxh7 Ke2 5. g4 Kxf2 6. g5 f3 7. g6 Kg3! 8. g7 f2 9. g8=Q+ Kxh3 with a drawn position because an eventual Qg3+ will be met by Kh1.
If you mistakenly went for Ke7 here then this may well be the book for you.
It does beg a question, though. This is billed as a positional endgame exercise, which it undoubtedly is, but it’s certainly tactical as well.
Of course positional and tactical chess are inextricably entwined, and, by the time you get to the ending, they’re really the same thing. The whole idea of splitting endgame exercises into ‘positional’ and ‘tactical’ seems very artificial to me. I’d guess this was the publisher’s rather than the author’s decision.
You probably hadn’t seen that position before (it’s not even in MegaBase), but if you’ve read anything on pawn endings you’ll almost certainly have seen the Famous Ending Cohn – Rubinstein (St Petersburg 1909), which you’ll also meet here. “If you only study one endgame with many pawns this is the one”, according to Engqvist, who discusses it over two pages. Regular readers of endgame manuals will find several other old friends as well: there’s six pages devoted to another Famous Ending, Timman – Velimirović (Rio de Janeiro 1979), to take just one example. Exercises 212-214 cover the ending of RB v R: the solutions cover 11 pages: extremely useful if you want to learn this ending, but I guess it’s debatable how important it is for average club players.
Here’s a quick endgame study from the last section of the book: tactical endgame exercises. See if you can solve it yourself before reading on.
White to play and draw (Prokes 1939)
A very game-like position, you’ll agree, and you were probably brought up with the knowledge that, in the absence of kings, two pawns on the sixth rank beat a rook.
In this instructive study, White’s king, contrary to appearances, is just about close enough.
I hope you managed to solve this. But was it purely tactical or positional as well? What do you think?
To sum up, then, it’s very clear from this book that Thomas Engqvist is an exceptional teacher, who, like all exceptional teachers, knows exactly what he’s doing and why he’s doing it. Unlike some less experienced authors he doesn’t just throw a load of GM positions at you, show you a pile of computer generated variations and expect you to play like Carlsen.
To refer again to two other excellent books I’ve reviewed recently, if you find Ramesh too heavy and Polgar’s exciting enthusiasm grating, I’m sure Engqvist will hit the sweet spot for you. In that case you’ll probably want to investigate his two earlier Batsford books as well, and perhaps read them first. As the authors take very different approaches and cover different topics, ambitious club players would do well to buy both Polgar and Engqvist. Young players who are aiming for IM or GM titles and have plenty of time to study would, on the other hand, be better off with Ramesh.
I’m just not sure that the format of the book is the best way to present Engqvist’s material, especially since endgames are both positional and tactical at the same time. (What the best format actually would be is an interesting question: different readers will prefer different formats. If you really, as Engqvist does, want to make the training environment resemble a tournament game you might want to mix the positions up rather than give a clue as to whether it’s a positional or tactical exercise.) I’m also not sure that the subtitle ‘Study five a week to become a better chess player’ is particularly helpful or realistic. Some of the positions require little time and explanation while others require a lot. The author himself doesn’t suggest in his introduction that this is the best way to use his book. As I suggested above, this book, notwithstanding the claims on the back cover, is far too advanced for beginners, but would be a great choice for anyone rated in the region of 1500-2000, or perhaps a bit higher.
But of course publishers do whatever it takes to sell copies, including resorting to unhelpful titles and unrealistic claims, and people don’t always buy chess books for rational reasons. Which is why it’s a good idea to read impartial reviews first.
The book is published to Batsford’s usual standards and appears to be free from the typos that mar books by some other publishers. The English might not always be totally idiomatic but is perfectly comprehensible throughout. I note that there is no mention of translators or proofreaders at the front of the book.
A book by an outstanding teacher, then, and, if the style and contents appeal to you, very highly recommended for club standard players ambitious to improve their rating.
“Calculation is key to winning chess games. Converting your chess knowledge into concrete moves requires calculation and precise visualisation. The bad news: calculation is hard work. You cannot rely on feeling or intuition — you will have to turn on your brainpower.
The good news: you can improve your calculation skills by training. Set up a position on a chessboard and try to solve exercises without moving the pieces! Grandmaster Ramesh RB is the perfect coach to awaken your chess brain and feed you precisely the right exercises. ‘After only a month of intensive training with Ramesh, I could sense a seismic shift in both the precision of my calculation as well as my general level of sharpness’, says GM Daniel Naroditsky.
“GM Ramesh is one of the world’s most successful coaches. He has trained many of India’s top talents at all stages of their development on their journey to become International Masters and Grandmasters. Ramesh understands what mistakes players can make while calculating. He knows that the best move in a specific position may be the opposite of what your intuition is urging you to play. And he serves you the exercises to correct these misconceptions and start finding the right solutions. Every chess player will benefit from the hundreds of exercises in this book. Coach Ramesh will take your calculation skills from a club players level to grandmaster level.”
This is the first of what promises to be a multi-volume series of coaching books under the title of The Ramesh Chess Course. As Ramesh is perhaps the world’s most successful chess coach this promises to be a treat for all ambitious players. As calculation is the single most important skill in chess, there’s no better place to start.
Ramesh starts off by telling us how to use the book. Here are his first two paragraphs.
Have a good look at every position and try to understand what is going on behind the scenes. Compare the king positions, piece placements, pawn structure, material parity, etc., before beginning your analysis.
Before we start analysing any move, we should make a list of reasonable looking moves and only then begin analysing them.
Good advice, although 2. is Kotov’s Candidate Moves idea, which not everyone finds useful in every position. Always useful when tackling the tasks set in this book, though.
The most important paragraph here is the final one, number 10.
I have divided the material into five categories: Level 1 = Elo Rating 1200-1600 Level 2 = Elo Rating 1600-2000 Level 3 = Elo Rating 2000-2400 Level 4 = Elo Rating 2400-2600 Level 5 = Elo Rating 2600 & above
It’s always a problem for authors and publishers of multi-volume coaching courses whether to structure the material horizontally (by topic) or vertically (by difficulty of material). Ramesh and New in Chess have chosen the former rather than the latter route.
If you’re anywhere between 1200 and 2800 strength, then, you’ll find exercises pitched at the right level for you, but you’ll also find much which is either too hard or too easy. If you’re a coach working with students anywhere between 1200 and 2800 strength, likewise you’ll find plenty of great coaching material.
As you’ll see, quite a lot of the book is taken up with Level 5 exercises, which, by their nature, often involve several pages of detailed analysis.
Each exercise is labelled with the appropriate level, with the more complex exercises comprising a number of ‘tasks’. In each case we are told the amount of time the student should be allowed.
The first chapter considers the difference between dynamic and static positions: it’s the former which are the subject of this book. There are two critical areas to study: Calculation and Attack.
The first task is set at Level 1: you have 2 minutes to solve it.
This is Carlsen – Vachier-Lagrave, from a 2021 speed game. Magnus played 34. Bd4+ Rxd4 35. cxd4 Bxd4, which really should have been a draw, but he later managed to win it.
He missed the move I hope you found, 34. Rc8!, which would have forced immediate resignation as after 34… Rxc8 there’s 35. Bd4#. Ramesh points out the 34… Ra8 35. Rxa8 Rxa8 36. Bd4#. I don’t know about you, but I’d have preferred the immediate 35. Bd4# here. A slightly unfortunate start, but I guess it doesn’t really matter.
In Chapter 2 Ramesh shares with us some games and positions he’s used to train his students, aiming to recreate his training sessions and demonstrate typical mistakes. He expects you to look deeply into each position, calculate multiple variations without making mistakes and evaluate the position correctly at the end. I hope readers will find this instructive and exciting.
The first example is an endgame study (there are a lot of studies in this book) composed by Alexandr Grin in 1989.
His student gave the solution as 1. Nb5 a2 2. Na7+? Kc7 3. c6 a1Q with stalemate, overlooking that Black could win in this variation by playing 3… Kb6 instead.
As Ramesh explains over 2½ columns, it’s very easy to get over-excited when you see a beautiful idea and fail to check it through thoroughly.
The correct solution to the study is 2. c6! a1Q+ 3. Na7+ Kd8 4. c7+ Kxc7, again with stalemate. His student had the right idea but failed to execute it correctly.
Chapter 3, The Analytical Process, is the heart of the book. Ramesh explains in detail how to calculate and how to analyse, taking into account psychological as well as purely chess factors.
The advice in this chapter will be of great interest and benefit both to chess coaches and to ambitious players at all levels.
Most of the examples here are extremely complex positions, usually Level 5 (suitable for 2600+ players).
Take, for example, this complex position (Smyslov – Rubinetti Palma de Mallorca Interzonal 1970).
Here, we have 16 pages of detailed analysis, broken down into 27 tasks, with nested variations given labels such as B3113242). You may well, like me, find it hard to follow, even with the copious diagrams provided.
Ramesh comments at the end:
In my training with young players for over a decade, I have seen that analysing very complicated positions without the help of moving pieces on the board is not only possible, but even essential for quicker and long-lasting improvement in a player’s analytical capabilities. This will require the coach to be patient and believe in the capabilities of his student in the long run. From the players’ part, they must put in a genuine effort to try to analyse the positions without giving in to self-defeating doubts. In my academy, even 1800-level players can follow all the analysis like this with some effort and without a chessboard. It is simply a question of patience and perseverance.
If you’re interested in the complete game, here it is. Click on any move for a pop-up window. Black’s last move was a losing blunder: the only way to draw was 44. a1Q.
It’s clear from this book that chess tuition has changed a lot in the past 20 years or so. (60 years ago, when I was learning chess, if you wanted to improve you had no choice but to read a book.) Visualisation exercises and solving endgame studies (recommended by Judit Polgar as well as Ramesh) are now common.
Later in the chapter, Ramesh has this to say.
Even though humans can probably never analyse at the level of engines anymore, it is possible to take the help and inspiration from engines to further our capabilities to previously unknown levels. I have personally trained players with ratings in the range of 1400-1800 to analyse variations that players of previous generations with a rating range of 2200-2400 were unable to do. This is one of the reasons my students in the 9 to 14 age group can quickly become International Masters or grandmasters.
Chapter 4 provides more examples of Forcing Moves. Judit Polgar, like me, uses the acronym CCTV: in her case Checks, Captures, Threats and Variations. Ramesh adds pawn breaks into his definition of Forcing Moves. If you still want to use CCTV you might try Checks, Captures, Threats and pawn leVers perhaps.
Black won this game by using a series of forcing moves: captures and threats: 20… f3 21. Nxf3 Rxf3 22. Bxf3 Nxb4 23. Bxb7 Nxc2 24. Be4 Nxa3 25. Rb3 Qa4 0-1
Ramesh mentions that 20… f3 wasn’t Black’s only strong move here: 20… Nd4 was another way to play for the win.
In Chapter 5 we learn about typical mistakes made while calculating variations.
Ramesh lists 14 types of mistake, starting with not being able to visualise the position in the mind, not seeing forcing moves and not making a list of candidate moves, giving examples and possible solutions.
In this world championship game from 2008 Kramnik, playing White, made a fatal error.
29. Nd4? was a blunder, missing 29… Qxd4 30. Rd1 Nf6! 31. Rxd4 Nxg4 32. Rd7+ Kf6 33. Rxb7 Rc1+ 34. Bf1 Ne3!, when Anand had a winning advantage.
I guess it’s debatable whether Kramnik’s error was one of calculation or evaluation, and whether he’d missed Anand’s 30th or 34th move.
Chapter 6 is devoted entirely to endgame studies.
Whenever I feel my student’s calculation skills are not up to the mark, I will make them solve studies for three to four hours a day for around three to five days in a row. Usually, the students will show significant improvement in their calculation skills.
You might like to try your hand at solving this Level 2 study, composed by the great Leonid Kubbel and published in 1911. It’s White to play and draw.
Finally, Chapter 7 offers some more general suggestions for chess improvement. As with the suggestions throughout the book, these cover many aspects of chess psychology as well as practical advice which will be beneficial for all players and teachers.
While there’s an enormous amount of helpful advice both here and elsewhere in the book, there’s also some repetition which might have been better avoided.
For instance, returning for a moment to Chapter 6, we’re told on both p258 and p260 that solving a study might take anywhere between 5 and 40 minutes. I think this might have been picked up by the publishers at editing or proofing stage.
How to summarise?
This is an important book, and, by the look of it, part of an important series. The author is arguably the most successful high level chess teacher in the world, and, reading the book, you can understand why. The positions are all well chosen and the explanations throughout the book display profound insight into the minds of chess players. Although you might think it’s aimed at stronger or at least more ambitious players, it will, for the general advice, in particular that of a psychological nature, be a great read for many players of all levels. Even though not everyone will find the book’s structure particularly helpful, it’s also esssential reading for anyone who teaches chess to students rated 1200+.
Speaking as a retired 1900-2000 strength player, the Level 4 and Level 5 examples, which take up a lot of the book, were way beyond me and not always easy to follow. At one level, it was interesting to see how deeply highly complex positions can be analysed, and how talented young players who are prepared to put in the necessary time and effort can learn to perform these tasks, but at another level I found it rather disspiriting to work through so many pages of dense analysis. To be fair, though, I’m not really part of the target market for this book.
At the same time, the market for books aimed at 2400-2600 strength players must be very limited. What I’d like to see would be a book taking a more structured approach, with, for example, 100 pages each of exercises at Levels 1, 2 and 3 (which is anyone from 1200 to 2400 strength), along with some general advice at either the beginning or the end of the book.
Instead, what we have is a book which is more about how to teach calculation and how to improve your calculation rather than one where you can start at page 1 and work your way through in sequential fashion. Ramesh also expects his students to have seriousness of purpose and a strong work ethic, as well as plenty of time to spend on chess improvement. If you’re just a hobby player looking to have fun and make a bit of progress, you might well find this rather scary.
The approach recommended here certainly isn’t for everyone, but even so, any reader who is prepared to work hard will gain a lot from this book.
I couldn’t really imagine Ramesh exclaiming ‘Awesome move!!’ and ‘Kaboom!!’ like Judit Polgar. If you’d prefer something that also covers calculation skills, but is an easier read taking a more ‘fun’ approach I’d recommend this book instead. They certainly have points in common: teaching you to look for Checks, Captures and Threats, and using endgame studies.
You can find more details here and read some sample pages here.
I’d also, by the way, recommend reading an excellent interview with Ramesh which appeared in New in Chess 2022#3, which puts his methods into context.
I look forward very much to seeing future volumes in this series.
“Street Smart Chess is an expert guide to scoring more points at the chessboard. When does it pay off to play hard for a win? Or safe for a draw? And how do you adapt your playing style accordingly?
GM Axel Smith answers these questions, and more, by using a world-class player as a model for each chapter. Learn how Magnus Carlsen grinds out wins from level positions; how David Navara beats lower-rated opponents, and how Baskaran Adhiban beats higher-rated ones! Or serve-and-volley in the opening like Peter Heine Nielsen.
Playing well is a good start in chess, but you also need to be Street Smart.”
“Axel Smith is the award-winning author of The Woodpecker Method, Pump Up Your Rating and e3 Poison, which were all enthusiastically received by readers and reviewers. Using the Woodpecker as part of his training, as an adult he improved from a rating of 2100 to becoming a Grandmaster.”
End of blurb…
Quality Chess live up to their name by being one of the few publishers who offer a hardback as well as softback version of all of their titles.
The production values are superb with a “McFarland-like” feel. Of course, you could save a few pence and go for the paperback version but we would definitely treat ourselves with an early Christmas present and savour the hardback. In addition, high quality paper is used and the printing is clear: excellent glossy paper has been used. The weight of this paper gives the book an even better feel to it!
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. (JEU)
There have been a number of books over the years where the author either asks his friends to contribute or interviews them. The advantage is that you get to look at chess from the perspective of different players with different styles. The disadvantage is that the chapters may vary in quality, in interest or in relevance.
In this book we have eight chapters, all featuring a different player. At the end of each chapter there are a couple of quiz questions using positions from the author’s games but relating to the previous content. Seven of the players were interviewed by the author. The eighth, Magnus Carlsen, wasn’t, but I guess there was no real need.
In his Preface, Axel Smith divides his chapters into two, suggesting how you should play against lower-rated and higher-rated opponents. Unless your name is Magnus Carlsen you’ll often find yourself encountering higher rated players, and unless you’re a complete beginner you’ll likewise often meet lower rated players, so we should all find this useful.
Learning to beat lower-rated opponents the way David Navara does, to play positionally like Ulf Andersson, to turn water into wine like Magnus Carlsen and to get rich positions from the opening like his second Laurent Fressinet – that will certainly broaden your playing style. All those chapters are useful when playing against lower-rated opponents.
When playing against higher-rated opponents you can have a serve & volley repertoire like Peter Heine Nielsen, go for the kill like Baskaran Adhiban, play safe like Aryan Tari, or even for the draw like Bu Xiangzhi.
Is it worthwhile to imitate the style of the world’s best even though we don’t reach the same level? I think I have used the metaphor before, but I don’t remember where, so I will do so again: junior and amateur soccer teams play 4-4-2 (or any other established set-up) not only to prepare for a senior career, but also because it gives the best results.
We copy the professional players’ openings, so why not copy their attitude?
Well, yes, but chess is not football. Do we copy the professional players’ openings? Should we do so? Does it make sense for an amateur with a job, a family and other interests to play the same openings as grandmasters? Does it make sense for amateurs to play the same openings as grandmasters rated 1000, or even 500 points higher than them? In my view, it doesn’t, and my criticism of many of the instructional books I’m asked to review is that many authors, especially those of a younger generation, teach from the perspective of a grandmaster, not of an amateur.
Having said that, there’s much, in general, to be said in favour of amateurs learning to copy the attitude, the mindset of grandmasters. It’s here that this book might come in useful.
Let’s take a look inside and see what we find.
Our first chess hero is GM Baskaran Adhiban, a creative attacker who specialises in beating higher rated opponents? What can we learn from his games?
Here, first, is Axel Smith again, quoting another of our heroes:
Playing safe against stronger opponents prolongs the game, but normally decreases the probability of obtaining points. Magnus Carlsen is one of many who recommend an aggressive attitude against stronger opponents. To Chess24 he said: “There’s this thing called ‘sudden death aversion’, that I think affects a lot of people. You make decisions that give you a lesser chance of winning overall, but decisions that at least extend the game or the match, because you feel like, ‘as long as I’m in it I have a chance, and losing it right now because I did something risky would be very unpleasant.’ I very much understand that, but you’re not always going to maximize your chances this way. The strategy that’s almost always correct is: if you’re down, complicate; if you’re winning, simplify! If you believe that you’re weaker you should always try and complicate as much as possible.”
Some of you will recall that the late Simon Webb offered very similar advice in his wonderful Chess for Tigers.
The first game we see is this one: admittedly his opponent had only a slightly higher rating.
Throughout the book, our heroes’ advice is summarised using helpful bullet or numbered points. Here’s Adhiban’s advice on how to play the ideal attacking game.
Strive for a pawn structure where it’s possible to throw pawns at the opponent’s king at a later stage.
Invite all the pieces to the party – advice valuable for a beginner as well as for a super-GM.
Remove the defenders – sometimes by sacrificing, but exchanges can do the job as well.
Calculate well when it’s time to finish it off.
I found this chapter enjoyable and inspirational, with Adhiban demonstrating some great attacking play.
This might be very helpful for a player like me who always struggles against higher rated opponents. These, though, are games in which a highly rated GM beats slightly higher rated opponents. Not what you’d consider upset victories. Not, as Simon Webb would have put it, tigers beating heffalumps.
But some of our other heroes propose a very different way of tackling a higher rated opponent.
The first four chapters of this book deal with the subject of winning, while the last two chapters are about opening preparation. Chapters 5 and 6 take on something close to my heart: avoiding defeat.
If we jump forward to Chapter 5 we’ll find the games of Bu Xiangzhi being used to explain how to draw against a higher rated opponent.
Well, I guess sometimes you’d be happy with a draw against a higher rated opponent. If you’re like me you’ll always be happy with a draw. Yes, it’s rather contradictory, but I guess that’s one of the points of the book.
Here’s how to play with White:
Play normal moves, develop all your pieces to good squares and get your king to safety.
Allow exchanges, but don’t spend time or damage your pawn structure to exchange pieces.
Sounds to me like good advice, whoever you’re playing.
If you’re Black:
Have a good opening repertoire that you know well, preferably with symmetrical pawn structures.
Play the move you think is best, even if you are not sure – there are no margins for passive moves, so you can’t be afraid with Black.
Avoid time trouble.
Again, sounds pretty sensible: the controversial bit is whether you should play for symmetrical pawn structures.
I guess it’s a matter of temperament, personality and style, but this isn’t really discussed in the book.
Bu, who became a GM in 1999 at the age of 13 (at the time the youngest ever) might be considered a player who didn’t quite fulfil his promise. Perhaps he was too eager to play for draws against higher rated opponents.
As well as getting results against higher rated opponents, whether by going for the win like Adhiban or playing safe for the draw like Bu, we also need to know how to beat lower rated opponents.
Returning to Chapter 2, our hero here is David Navara. You may not be surprised to discover that this is the longest chapter in the book.
Navara plays a lot in national leagues where he’s often faced with significantly lower rated opponents, and usually racks up a large plus score.
Here’s the first game he demonstrates for us, against an opponent rated about 150 points below him. In the book it’s annotated, like the other games in this chapter, with Navara’s customary attention to detail.
The lessons we can learn from this game:
Choose an unbalanced opening.
Avoid long theoretical variations.
Play moves that highlight the drawback of the opponent’s previous move.
Be careful and use your time when you get some chances.
However, when the opponent is in time trouble, it might be a good idea to calculate several moves in advance to be able to play them quickly.
Another excellent chapter, I think, which will be of interest to most players of club standard and above.
Magnus Carlsen, the hero of Chapter 3, has spent many years playing lower-rated opponents. Here, we look at some examples of how he plays on and on in seemingly drawn positions, waiting for his opponent to crack. Unlike the other subjects of this book, he wasn’t interviewed, but has written a lot elsewhere.
Here’s what he said to New in Chess in 2014.
My thought process is basically that I will be able to agree a draw in such positions when I am 40 or 50, but that right now I should try and find every little chance of winning. And as long as there is no risk and a two percent chance of winning, I think it’s worth the two hours of extra effort.
One of the examples of Carlsen turning water into wine you’ll find here is this ending against Nakamura.
Another useful and inspirational chapter, although those of us well past 40 or 50 will be only to happy to agree a draw and spend the next two hours in the pub rather than playing on with a 2% chance of victory. At my level, anyway, there’s rather more than a 2% chance that I’ll blunder and lose.
Chapter 4 features young Norwegian GM Aryan Tari. The chapter was originally going to be about playing for two results, but once Axel Smith got talking to him it changed to a chapter about forcing yourself to play for a win, even if your mindset wants the opposite.
Yes, I know the feeling.
This is one of the shorter chapters in the book, and is in part about how he’s trying to deal with being over-cautious. His advice for someone who wants to increase his courage is to study the games of Richard Rapport. Come to think of it, Rapport might have been a better subject for a chapter of this book.
I got the impression that Tari is a young player who is still developing and has not yet matured enough to make a really meaningful contribution to a book of this nature.
We do, however, get a chapter about playing for two results elsewhere. This is Chapter 6, featuring the games of the legendary Ulf Andersson, who has been the sole subject of a few other recent books.
To play like Andersson you must avoid playing anti-positional moves.
Don’t weaken your pawn structure.
Don’t lose coordination: no knights on the rim and no bishops without a future – unless the reward is clear enough.
Keep the king safe.
So in Chapters 3-6, then, we have, broadly speaking, four technicians, although there are differences between them. While Andersson avoids anti-positional moves, Carlsen is happy to make moves which might make his opponent uncomfortable. Bu prefers to play safe, especially with the black pieces, while Tari is trying to force himself to take risks and become less cautious.
Chapters 7 and 8 look at the subject of opening preparation.
Laurent Fressinet is the subject of Chapter 7, where we learn about his approach to preparing with Black. He recommends playing different openings to keep your opponents guessing, avoiding main line theory and also avoiding symmetrical pawn structures. This is exactly the opposite of Bu’s approach: meeting e4 with e5 and d4 with d5, heading for symmetry to increase your chances of drawing with a higher rated opponent.
You pay your money and you make your choice.
Finally, in Chapter 8, Peter Heine Nielsen recommends a ‘serve & volley’ approach to preparing with White, using heavy theoretical lines which you’ve studied in depth.
This is fine if you have the time and the study skills, but it’s not really appropriate for many of us. If you’re young and ambitious to reach master standard you’ll find this chapter helpful. But if you have a limited amount of time for chess, and if you’re mostly playing in league or weekend chess where you don’t usually know in advance who you’ll be playing, it’s not really relevant.
My feelings about this book are mixed, then: perhaps only to be expected from a book of this nature where each chapter features a different player. From my perspective as a club player I enjoyed the first three chapters (Adhiban, Navara and Carlsen) but found less of interest in the remainder of the book.
If you’re, say 2200+, or perhaps 1800+ and ambitious to reach that level, you’ll probably find this book very helpful. If you’re a club player hoping for a stimulating read that will perhaps gain you a few rating points, you’ll certainly find much to interest, educate and entertain you, although you might not find all the chapters equally valuable.
I should add that, as always from Quality Chess, the production values are excellent and put other publishers to shame.
“The Secret Ingredient is a grandmaster guide to maximizing your chess results, focusing on key elements of practical play which have received little to no attention in previous chess literature.
How exactly can we best make use of computers? What’s the ideal, step-by-step way to prepare against a specific opponent? How can we optimize our time management at the board? And what’s the one key skill that separates the best players from those who have yet to reach their full potential? GM Jan Markos sheds light on these topics and many more, helped by the world-class insights of his good friend GM David Navara.”
“Jan Markos is a Slovakian grandmaster and trainer. His previous book, Under the Surface, was the English Chess Federation’s 2018 Book of the Year.
David Navara is a ten-time Czech Champion and a world-class grandmaster. He is noted for combining fighting spirit with outstanding sportsmanship.”
End of blurb…
Quality Chess live up to their name by being one of the few publishers who offer a hardback as well as softback version of all of their titles.
The production values are superb with a “McFarland-like” feel. Of course, you could save a few pence and go for the paperback version but we would definitely treat ourselves with an early Christmas present and savour the hardback. In addition, high quality paper is used and the printing is clear: excellent glossy paper has been used. The weight of this paper gives the book an even better feel to it!
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. (JEU)
From the introduction, written by Jan Markos:
This is above all a practical book. My goal is simple: I want to help you avoid as many disastrous defeats … as possible. I’ll show you what a real fight on the chessboard is all about. And I would like you to learn how to hold your ground in this fight. I’ll tell you how to cope with stress, how to use your time efficiently and how to make well-reasoned decisions. I’ll show you how to prepare for every individual opponent and how to play endgames in 30-second rhythm.
In short, this book wants to teach you how to win at chess.
I haven’t read Jan Markos’s previous award-winning book, so was interested to receive this. Most of the book is written by Markos, with contributions by David Navara, providing further examples, agreeing with, or, on occasion, disagreeing with his colleague, are printed using a sans serif font, helpfully allowing the reader to differentiate between the two authorial voices.
Diving into Chapter 1, looking at what grandmaster chess is really like, I was immediately taken by Markos’s comments on tactics:
In real chess, the width of your calculation is usually much more important than its depth.
Indeed so, and this is precisely the limitation of most tactics books, not to mention online tactics training.
This is Markos – Tomashevsky (Plovdiv 2008).
Markos takes up the story:
I knew I had to stop the advance of the black d-pawn, but I considered just one way to prevent d5-d4. I included only 22. Qa1 into my calculation, perhaps because I liked the potential threat of checkmate on g7. In fact, 22. Qa1 is only one of three good moves available to White in this position: the other two being 22. Ne2 and 22. Qb4.
He demonstrated the long variation he calculated, which is what happened in the game, but adds:
If I had focused more on the width of my calculation, I might have noticed that Black could have met 22. Qa1 with a much stronger reply: 22… Rc3!
Reviving the threat of …d5-d4 in a much better setting, To escape a downright losing position, White has to find the non-trivial:
23. Rc1! d4 24. Rxc3! dxe3+ 25. Kg1 (even the exotic 25. Ke1!? is playable) 25… exf3 26. gxf3
reaching a position where Black has sufficient compensation for the sacrificed material, but nothing more.
Good calculation doesn’t look like a way through a tunnel and isn’t meant to get you as far as possible in one direction. It resembles more a path through an unknown forest; you have to consider all the detours and paths you encounter, one step at a time.
In endings, though, things are very different. With fewer pieces on the board, you can – and have to calculate much further ahead.
I found Chapter 2, about the limits of computer evaluation, particularly interesting. We learn that there are several types of equal position: eternal balance, where anything sensible for either player draws, stable balance, where strong players will have no problem drawing with either colour, and fragile balance, where it’s difficult for one or both players to find the correct moves to maintain equality. Likewise, there are different types of advantage, again to do with how easy it is to find the best continuation.
Navara demonstrates a spectacular example.
Black is objectively winning, yet I believe that in 90 per cent of practical games, White players would win.
If, on the other hand, you presented it to grandmasters or international masters with a hint “Black to move wins”, the situation would be quite different. I would estimate that half of the players, or even more, would discover the correct continuation.
This is Ni Hua – Le Quang Liem (Ho Chi Minh City 2012).
The game concluded 29… h5? 30. Qxh5 Ba3+ 31. Kxb3 and Black resigned.
But is there a single, defining skill that any mature chess player should master?
Well, Jan, is there?
If you ask me, yes there is – and it’s the art of defence. The ability to defend themselves is that separates mature players from the youngsters in the chess world. There’s a certain logic behind it; defence is the most demanding part of the game – requiring not only chess skills, but also strength of character from an individual. You need to be both patient and able to take a risk. You need to devote a lot of energy to every single move and never take an immediate reward for granted.
Here’s Markos in 2018 playing black against Viktor Gazik, who, a few months later, would become World Junior Champion.
White’s position is quite uncomfortable, as Black can build up an attack along the g- and h-files in an instant. Yet, objectively speaking, it’s only slightly worse. To defend successfully, White only needs to exchange off the bishop on f2, which will enable him to cover g2 with his rook along the second rank. If Gazik had realized this, he would have played 25. Qd3, and after the possible continuation 25… Rg8 26. Bd4 Qg6 27. Rc2, I would have had only a slight superiority.
But Gazik panicked, playing the active but misguided 25. c5?, losing a few moves later.
An instructive moment, I think, because White has to trade off what looks like his opponent’s bad bishop. Yes, defence is difficult.
Chapter 4 concerns the important topic of time management.
Save your time for when you need it, advises Markos. The more important the decision you have to make, the more time you should spend making it. With small decisions, decide quickly; for bigger decisions, allow time to think them over.
Chapter 5 features a subject close to my heart: the draw. When should you offer a draw? When should you accept or decline your opponent’s offer?
There’s a lot of psychology involved here, and chess psychology is the subject of Chapter 6.
In the game Roiz – Holzke (Rijeka 2010) White missed the chance to win a piece: 21. Nd3! Qxb3 22. Nc5 Qb2 23. Rab1.
Roiz simply regarded this position as strategic, and from this point of view the pawn on b3 was untouchable. I’m quite sure that a player such as Shirov or Tal would have won the knight, even in a blitz game.
Seek and you will find. Its opposite is equally valid: if you don’t seek, you won’t find. It’s no coincidence that the best chess players are usually (at least behind the chessboard) optimists. Their optimism and confidence help them to find solutions and fight even in situations where other players would long have lost hope.
Chapters 7 and 8 are perhaps of less relevance to average club players. If you play most of your over the board chess in league matches and weekend congresses you’ll have little opportunity to prepare in depth for specific opponents.
Giving a few examples, Chapter 7 explains how to research your next opponent’s games, looking at their style, strengths and weaknesses. Chapter 8 takes this further, looking at how you can choose a specific opening variation that will make your opponent uncomfortable.
Then we have a quiz with ten (hard) questions, in which you can compare your answers with those of David Navara.
The book concludes with a chapter summarising the lessons to be learnt from the book.
Jan Markos is an excellent writer, who uses metaphors to draw you into his world. Each chapter starts a long way from chess, discussing anything from Aesop’s Fables, via Andy Warhol, to initiation rites in Vanuatu, and concludes with Markos asking his co-author three questions about the topic in question.
The examples themselves are, I think, pitched at a pretty high level: I’d say 2200+. As a player of about 2000 strength, I usually learn more from simpler positions taken from games played at lower levels, but, yes, I understand that looking at grandmaster play is the point of the book. The content, also, is, for the most part more suitable for higher rated players, although, in the first six chapters, there’s a lot of general advice which any serious player will find useful.
If you’re a strong, ambitious player aiming towards IM or GM level I’m sure you’ll find this book invaluable. But lower rated players will also find much to enjoy, from Markos’s engaging style of writing to a host of fascinating positions taken from grandmaster play, and pick up some helpful tips for general improvement along the way. Best of all, you also get a genuine understanding of what grandmaster chess is all about, taking you beyond the familiar brilliancies and sacrifices into the minds and brains of elite players.
The book is beautifully produced: the standard of translation, editing and proofreading by Quality Chess seems to me to be a class above that of many other chess publishers. Although there are a few insignificant translational infelicities, I’ve yet to find any typos: most unusual for a chess book.
Highly recommended, then, for anyone hoping to reach master strength, but also with a lot to interest club and tournament players . I can see why Markos’s previous book was so successful. If the content appeals, you won’t be disappointed.
The author has written what he believes to be an original book on the endgame, using a play on words for the title based on the historic battle of Hastings in 1066 which involved William the Conqueror. *****
Ray Cannon, a familiar frequenter of chess tournaments in London and elsewhere, has condensed his copious knowledge into an enjoyably instructive compendium of endgame positions. In tune with the Victorian notion of learning via fun, the reader cannot help but absorb the endgame stratagems that recur in the examples given and emerge as a better player without any conscious effort.
The endgame is a prime arena for the emergence of error through lack of practice, and even elite grandmasters can miss the unsuspected anti-intuitive resource that would have secured the rescue draw or shock win. I would go so far as to say this book would benefit master-standard players. Studying it has all the value of learning one’s times tables but without the repetitive drudgery! The end result is the same: increased knowledge.
My good friend Ray Cannon, who was, for many years, an invaluable part of the coaching team at Richmond Junior Club, has written a book which will be useful for all club standard players.
With faster time limits and online play now the norm, endings play a vital part in 21st century chess. A good knowledge of endgame theory and tactics is a fundamental requirement for all serious players.
From the author’s introduction:
Positions in this book have been taken from various sources including my collection of newspaper cuttings that go back to the 1970’s, books, magazines, websites and even from games I had witnessed personally at tournaments. Many have been modified for reasons of clarity and a few I have composed myself. Most of the positions have annotated solutions unless the moves are self-explanatory.
The 1066 diagram positions can be played out against a computer or an opponent but they are best solved using a chess set. You are invited to write down your choice of move for each position on the pages provided before looking up the answers. On the other hand, you may simply prefer to enjoy the instructive content of this book by dipping in and out of its pages.
Endgames may give the appearance of being easy but even the world’s best players misplay them from time to time and some of these missed opportunities from practical play are included among the 1066 stratagems.
The majority of the puzzles are elementary but there are a few that are quite difficult. When solving them, you will detect familiar methods of play. Knowledge of these is often referred to as pattern recognition and this is an important component of learning and improving at chess.
So what you get is 1066 endgame puzzles, or stratagems as Ray prefers to call them. It’s White’s move in positions 1 to 728, and Black’s move in positions 729 to 1066. In each position you’re told whether you’re trying to win or draw, and you know that there’s only one move to achieve your aim.
A few fairly random examples chosen simply by turning to a random page will show you what to expect. I’ll give the answers at the end of the review.
Q482 is a neat draw: White to play.
Q497 is of practical value. Endings with R + f&h pawns against R are very often drawn. How can White win here?
Q533, halfway through the book, has more pieces on the board (too many for an endgame?) and demonstrates the need to know your mating patterns. White to play and win again.
If you enjoyed these puzzles, you’ll certainly enjoy the rest of the book. If you think your students will enjoy these puzzles, you’ll also want to buy this book.
It’s self-published via Amazon so the production qualities are not quite up to the standard you’d expect from leading chess book publishers. However, the diagrams and text are both clear.
Ray has chosen to print the ‘Black to play’ puzzles with the 8th rank at the bottom of the board: not what I or most authors would have chosen but I can see why he did it. There’s a slight problem, though, in that the diagrams are without coordinates, which can make things slightly confusing in positions with few pawns on the board. (The diagrams in the answers to the ‘Black to play’ do have coordinates, though.) I understand the next edition will use diagrams with coordinates throughout.
You might also prefer to write your answers under the diagrams rather than in the pages provided for this purpose at the beginning of the book. I’d also have welcomed an index by material so that I could quickly locate, for example, pawn endings or rook endings.
These are just personal preferences, though. The quality of material is excellent (all positions have been thoroughly engine checked) and Ray Cannon should be congratulated for his efforts in producing a highly instructive puzzle book.
A basic knowledge of endgame theory is assumed, so I would consider the book ideal for anyone rated between about 1500 and 2000, although some of the puzzles will be challenging for stronger players.
Richard James, Twickenham, 17th September 2021
Q482: 1. f7+ Qxf7 2. Bb3 Qxb3 is stalemate. Or 1… Kxf7 2. Bh5+. In just two moves we have a fork, a skewer, a pin and a stalemate.
Q497: 1. Rg5+ Kxg5 (or 1… Kxh6 2. Rg8) 2. h7 Re1+ 3. Kd6 Rd1+ 4. Ke7 Rh1 5. f8Q wins (as long as you know how to win with queen against rook!)
Q533: 1. Re8+ Rxe8 2. Nf6 Ra7 3. Rxa7 Re7 4. Rxe7 a1Q 5. Rh7# – an Arabian Mate!
“If you want to improve your middlegame play, you will have to develop a FEEL for positions.
That’s what Boris Zlotnik has been stressing during his long and rich trainers career. Clicking through concrete variations (a popular pastime in the computer era) is not enough. To guide your thinking during a game you should be able to fall back on a reservoir of typical ideas and methods.
That is exactly what this book offers you: Zlotnik’s legendary study material about the middlegame, modernized, greatly extended and published in the English language for the first time. As you familiarize yourself with the most important strategic ideas and manoeuvres in important basic opening structures, you will need less time to discover the clues in middlegame positions.
You will find it so much easier to steer your game in the right direction after the opening has ended. Zlotnik’s Middlegame Manual is accessible to a wide range of post-beginners and club players. It is your passport to a body of instructive material of unparalleled quality, collected during a lifetime of training and coaching chess.
A large collection of exercises, carefully chosen and didactically tuned, will help you drill what you have learned. With a foreword by Fabiano Caruana.”
“Boris Zlotnik is an International Master from Russia and a prominent chess trainer. For many years he was the director of the legendary Chess Department of the INEF College in Moscow. In 1993 he emigrated to Spain. One of his most successful pupils is Fabiano Caruana, who in 2004, as a 12-year-old, moved to Madrid with his entire family to live near his trainer.”
From my first quick perusal through this middlegame manual, I was really impressed with the illuminative, explanatory paragraphs enumerating the possible plans of both sides particularly in Part 1 Typical structures in the middlegame. These typical schemes are demonstrated with instructive games from top players of many periods interspersed with many pithy paragraphs which effectively communicate key ideas. The reviewer will give examples as we navigate this excellent training manual for typical middlegame structures and manoeuvres.
The tome also effectively uses the analysis and evaluations of chess engines in conjunction with the excellent, explanatory passages to scrutinise games and emphasize key motifs. It is surprising how often the play and evaluations of the old masters is vindicated by the computer. (Of course there are tactical oversights, but that is to be expected.)
The book is divided into three sections. Part 1 is concerned with Typical structures in the middlegame and has three chapters:
The Isolated Queen’s Pawn
The Carlsbad Structure
Symmetrical Pawn Structures
Part 2 is titled Typical methods of play:
Restricted mobility in the King’s Indian Defence
Should we exchange the fianchettoed bishop (EFB) ?
The d5-square in the Sicilian
Part 3 has two chapters with exercises followed by solutions.
The reviewer will present a detailed report of chapters 1 and 2 to give the reader a good feel for the book. Chapter 3 will get modest coverage whilst Chapters 4-6 will get a very brief overview.
Chapter 1 The Isolated Queen’s Pawn
The author begins with an introduction with Tarrasch’s famous quote followed by showing the typical IQP pawn structures viz.:
As the author points out, these pawn structures can occur from a wide variety of openings which only makes their study more valuable for any aspiring player to improve.
As a young junior, the reviewer won a host of games against the IQP by exchanging pieces and exploiting the weak d-pawn in the endings. As a result of these comfortable victories, against mainly weaker opposition, I jumped to the false conclusion that the IQP was a “bad thing”. My poor education was soon exposed when I got crushed in games against stronger players who knew exactly how to handle the advantages of the IQP.
Zolotnik gives a quick historical survey of the IQP with a couple of games from the Victorian era including a game by the first official world champion William Steinitz.
The author explains the weakness of the IQP in the endgame with two didactic games by Sergei Tiviakov.
The first endgame starts here:
The second endgame commences here:
After the exchange of one pair of rooks, this position is reached:
The reader may well be thinking: black is slightly worse, but with opposite coloured bishops how did black lose those endgames, particularly as the white rook has no obvious entry point? Tiviakov’s second opponent was a decent GM close to 2600 and he got ground down thus displaying how difficult these type of equals minus mode endings are to defend with an inferior pawn structure and a semi-bad bishop. Stockfish helpfully indicates that the ending is drawn for many moves, but pity the mere mortals in practice with an increment finish! Buy the book to enjoy these ending masterclasses.
The author proffers some sagacious observations:
“As can be seen from these two endings, the main drawbacks of the IQP are that it cannot be defended by another pawn, and in addition the square in front of this pawn, as well as various squares to the side of the pawn, can be exploited by the opponent as strongpoints for his pieces. These disadvantages are most apparent following simplification, whereas the side with the IQP possesses several advantages which are present in the middlegame. First and foremost, the IQP confers a space advantage, which makes it easy to regroup the pieces and consequently to create threats in different areas of the board, especially on the kingside. Secondly, the IQP serves as support for the central deployment of one or two minor pieces, particularly a knight, which creates the conditions for an attack on the enemy castled king. Thirdly, the side with the isolated pawn can exert pressure along the c- and e- files.”
The author then lists the typical plans for both sides in the IQP battle of ideas:
“The side with the IQP has the following four plans available:
A) kingside attack;
B) opening the game by advancing the isolated pawn;
C) advancing the isolated in order to fix an enemy pawn on an adjacent file;
D) developing activity on the queenside
The side playing against the IQP employs basically two methods:
A) simplification of the position, aiming for an endgame;
B) transformation from an IQP structure to a structure with hanging pawns.”
The subsequent six sub-sections of the chapter analyses each of these plans in turn.
Sub-section A Kingside attack
This begins with an exemplary attacking game by Vladimir Tukmakov against Viktor Kortchnoi from the Soviet championship Riga 1960: the great defensive player Kortchnoi is smashed up. Well worth a visit: get the book to enjoy this slugfest with good notes.
The author adds this observation: “In the structure with a pawn on e6 versus a pawn on d4, the ‘hot spots’ where White often sacrifices his pieces are e6 and f7, while in the structure with pc7/c6 versus pd4, there is a typical sacrifice, as seen in the following game.”
Here is a modern game in the Petroff that shows these demolition of these ‘hotspots’.
Nils Grandelius (2653) – Anna Zatonskih (2424)
IoM Masters 2017
7…Bg4 (7…Be7 is more common and scores better, but Stockfish likes both moves) 8.c4 Nf6 9.Nc3 Be7 10.cxd5 Nxd5 11.h3 Be6 12.Re1 0-0 A typical IQP position
13.a3 (White employs a standard plan, preparing the well known queen on d3 and bishop on c2 battery eyeing up h7) 13…Re8 14.Bc2 (It is interesting to note that after 14.Qc2 h6 15.Rxe6!? white has sufficient compensation for the exchange)
A common sort of IQP position which contains hidden venom.
14…h6?? (This looks wrong in this type of position and is totally refuted. Black should wait for Qd3 and play g6 solidifying the b1-h7 diagonal, better is 14…Bf6, 15.Qd3 g6 16.Bh6 (or 16.Ba4!? with a tiny edge according to the iron monster) Nxc3 17.bxc3 Bf5 with equality) 15.Qd3 Nf6
The erroneous h-pawn advance is severely punished with a thematic breakthrough:
16.Bxh6! Winning by force 16…gxh6 (16…Qd7 is hopeless: 17.Bg5 g6 18.d5! Nxd5 19.Rxe6! Qxe6 20.Nxd5 crashes through) 17.Rxe6! Killing, as all the white squares collapse.
17…Qd7 (17…fxe6 leads to a typical finish: 18.Qg6+ Kh8 19.Qxh6+ Kg8 20.Ng5! bringing in the third piece for the attack and mate follows quickly, for example 20…Rf8 21.Bh7+ Kh8 22.Bf5+ Kg8 23.Bxe6+ Rf7 24.Bxf7#) 18.Rae1 fxe6 19.Qg6+ Kf8 20.Qxh6+ Kg8
21.Ne5 (White can also win in a similar manner to the line given above: 21.Qg6+ Kh8 22.Ng5 Rf8 23. Qh6+ Kg8 24.Bh7+ Kh8 25.Bf5+) Nxe5 22.dxe5 Bf8 23.Qxf6 Bg7 24.Qg6 Qd2 25.Re3 Re7 26.Ne4 Qc1+ 27.Kh2 Qxb2 28.Nf6+ Kf8 29.Nd7+ Rxd7 30.Rf3+ 1-0
A lesson in care about moving pawns in front of the king. A surprising mistake, 14…h6?? from an IM standard player.
Plan B: opening the game by advancing the IQP
Here is a superb game from the young Boris Spassky showing his brilliant tactical and positional skills:
Boris Spassky – Avtonomov
1.d4 d5 2.c4 dxc4 3.Nf3 Nf6 4.e3 e6 5.Bxc4 c5 6.0-0 a6 7.Qe2 b5 8.Bb3 (The main line, but 8.Bd3 is also a played) 8…Nc6 (Modern theory prefers 8…Bb7! or Stockfish prefers 8…Be7) 9.Nc3
A common position from the queen’s gambit accepted. Black now plays an obvious move that is a serious mistake.
9…cxd4? (Once again 9…Bb7! is the modern main line, Stockfish, again prefers kingside development with 9…Be7) 10.Rd1!
The point, a standard resource in the QGA after a previous Qe2 10…Bb7? (10…Na5 was essential surrendering a pawn for the bishop pair: 11.Nxd4 Bd6 12.e4 Qc7 13.Nf3 Nxb3 14.axb3 Be7 15.Nxb5 Qb8 16.Nc3 0-0) 11.exd4 Nb4? (The losing move! It is hard to believe that Black will not survive ten moves from here, 11…Na5 is better, but 12.d5! anyway which is similar to the game leads to a clear advantage to white)
The d5 square is covered five times, but….
12.d5!! (Completely crushing. Now we see why Stockfish liked Be7 on moves 8 and 9) 12…Nbxd5 (12…Nfxd5 loses a piece to 13.a3!) 13.Bg5! (Developing the last minor piece with a killing pin and more pressure on d5, simply 14.Nxd5 is threatened winning a piece)
13…Be7 Forced 14.Bxf6 (Crunch!, smashing up black’s kingside, so his king will never find shelter) 14…gxf6 15.Nxd5 Bxd5 (15…exd5 is better but black is still lost) 16.Bxd5 exd5 17.Nd4
Black’s position is a sorry sight. His king has no haven: the end is swift. Notice how the white steed is the key cavalryman in the execution.
17…Kf8 (17…0-0 18.Nf5! wins a piece owing to the threat of 19.Qg4+ mating) 18.Nf5 h5 19.Rxd5! Qxd5 20.Qxe7+ Kg8 21.Qxf6 A crisp finish in a fine attacking game 1-0
An exemplary display from the future World Champion.
Subsection C: advancing the isolated pawn to fix an enemy pawn
This plan occurs most frequently in structures with a black IQP arising from the Tarrasch Defence to the Queen’s Gambit. There are cases with a white IQP in the Gruenfeld Defence for example.
The reviewer will show some key positions from a game Nikolay Novotelnov – Igor Bondarevsky Moscow 1951.
This is the standard tabiya from the Tarrasch Defence to the Queen’s Gambit.
In the position below, Bondarevsky played a memorable idea which is not obvious 12…d4!
Boris Spassky was a pupil of Bondarevsky and in the position above played 12…h6 13.Bxf6 Qxf6 14.Nxb6 axb6 15.Qb3 Qd8 16.a3 d4!
Spassky’s expertise in this variation played a large part in his victory over Petrosian in the World Championship match in 1969.
The Bondarevsky game reached this position after move 21:
It’s all gone horribly wrong for white who has to endure horrendous pressure down the e-file. Black duly won after several mistakes by both sides.
Here is an instructive game from another former World Champion, Vasily Smyslov.
According to modern theory, this position should hold no terrors for black.
9…Nd7 9…Bg4 is a decent move: 10. Bc4 Bxf3 11.Qxf3 Bxd4 12. Rd1 Bxc3+ 13.Qxc3 Qd6 14.0-0 Nd7 15.Rfe1 Rac8 16.Qd4 Nb6 17.Bb3 with equality. This looks slightly easier to play for white who has more space and pressure on the e-pawn, Kasparov outplayed his opponent and went on to win.
Stockfish likes 9…Bg7 10.Qb3 e6!?
There are a lot of gambits in the Bg5 systems against the Gruenfeld after white has surrendered his dark squared bishop. This gambit is totally sound: after 11.dxe6 Bxe612.Qxb7 Qe8! 13.Be2 Nc6 14.0-0 Rb8 15.Qa6 Nxd4 16.Nxd4 Bxd4 17.Rad1 Bg7 With equality, black’s bishop pair and activity compensate for the pawn.
The Smyslov-Liberzon game continued:
10.Bc4 Nb6 11.Bb3 Bg4 12.0-0 Rc8 (12…Nc8 to blockade the d-pawn is also fine) 13.Re1 Bxf3 14.Qxf3 Bxd4 15.Rad1
This position is equal and black can continue as he did in the game or retain his bishop with equality in both cases. The reviewer agrees with the author and prefers the latter course. Equal does not mean drawn and white’s space advantage makes his position somewhat easier to play.
15…Bxc3 16.bxc3 Qd6 17.h4
17…h5?! (17…a5! undermining the bishop is better: 18.a4 h5 19.g4 hxg4 20.Qxg4 Rxc3 21.Re6 fxe6 22.Qxg6+ is only a draw)18.Rd4?! (Strike while the iron is hot: 18.g4! hxg4 19.Qxg4 Rxc3 20.h5 with a strong initiative and a clear advantage, e.g. 20…g5 21.Qxg5+ Kh8 21.Qxe7 Nc8 22.Qe4)
18…Kg7 19.Rf4 Rc7? (Disconnecting the rooks with fatal consequences, once again 19…a5! is the right idea with equality)
20.Re6! Qd8 21.Re3 I’ll be back 21…Qd6
22.Rfe4?! (22.g4! sets up a winning attack: notice how the d5-pawn confers on white a space advantage which allows easy manoeuvring of his major pieces whilst black’s rook and knight are still offside) 22…a5! 23.a4 Qf6 (23…Nd7 is better) 24.Rf4 Qd6
25.Re6! (Hello again! This time the rook brings the grim reaper with a specially sharpened scythe.) 25…Qc5 26.Rxg6+! Ouch fxg6 27.Rxf8 Qxc3 28.Qf7+ Kh6 29.Qf4+ Kg7 30.Rf7+ Kg8 31.d6 Qxb3 32.Rf8+ 1-0
Plan D – developing activity on the queenside
Here is one of the author’s games:
Alexander Bitman – Boris Zlotnik Moscow 1979
1.e4 e6 2.d4 d5 3.Nd2 c5 4.Ngf3 Nf6 5.exd5 exd5 6.Bb5+ Bd7 7.Bxd7+ (7.Qe2+ is the main alternative) Nbxd7 8.dxc5 (8.0-0 is more accurate) Bxc5 9.0-0 0-0 10.Nb3 Bb6
In this position, white plays a seemingly natural move that is a mistake because it allows black to gain time for activating his pieces. The reviewer has made the same mistake in a very similar position in an on-line blitz game.
11.Re1?! (11.c3! or 11.Nbd4 is better) Re8! (Preventing 12.Be3) 12.Rxe8+ Qxe8 13.Nbd4 Ne5 (13…Qe4 is interesting: Stockfish likes the game move as well)
14.Bg5?! (A definite mistake, it’s as if white thought that black’s queen was still on d8! Better is 14.Nxe5 Qxe5 15.Be3 Re8 16.c3 h5 17.h3 with equality) Ne4 15.Bh4!? (The bishop is out of play here, 15.Bf4 is better; 15.Be3 Nc4!) 15…Nxf3+ 16.Nxf3 (Strangely 16.gxf3 is better ejecting the powerful knight at the cost of a weakened kingside)
16…Qb5! (Attacking the weak queenside which is made more effective because of white’s misplaced bishop) 17.Rb1 Re8 18.a3? ( A fatal weakening: better was 18.Qd3 or 18.c3 with the idea of 19.Nd4) 18…h6 19.Qd3 Qxd3 (Good enough to win a pawn and the game, but 19…Qc5!? is even better 20.b4 Qc6 with a big advantage) 20.cxd3 Nc5 Winning a pawn and the full point 21.Re1 (21.d4 Nb3 wins the d4-pawn because of white’s weak back rank) 21…Rxe1+ 22.Nxe1 Nb3 23.Nc2 Nc1 24.Nb4 (24.d4 Nb3 wins a pawn) 24…Bd4! 25.b3 Bc5! 26.Nxd5 Bxa3 27.b4 a6 28.Be7 f6 29.d4 Ne2+ 30.Kf1 Nxd4 and black won the pawn up technical endgame 0-1
The last two subsections of this chapter cover the two main plans for the defending side.
1.6 Plan A: simplification of the position
Here is a smooth win from the former World Champion, Anatoly Karpov at the height of his powers, over another ex-champion Boris Spassky.
Anatoly Karpov (2705) – Boris Spassky (2640)
Montreal Montreal 1979
10…Be7 (This move is still one of the main lines today, however 10…Rd8!? is the latest theory leading to a small edge for white, one complicated line is: 11.Nd2! d4!? 12.Nb3 Qb6 13.Na4 Bb4+, 14.axb4 Qxb4+ 15.Nd2 e5 16.Bg5 Qa5 17.Qb3 Nb4 18.Bxf6 gxf6 19.Be2 Bd7 20.Ra1 dxe3 21.fxe5 b5 22.0-0 bxa4 23.Qc3 with a small edge. The only reason the reviewer gives this line is to demonstrate the extent of computer home preparation today: in Karjakin-Anand, Shamkir 2019, white won after playing the first 36 moves of home preparation) 11.Nd2 Bd7? (11…e5! is better and is the main line leading to rough equality) 12.Be2 Rfc8?! (Again 12…e5! is better limiting white’s edge) 13.0-0 Qd8 14.cxd5 exd5 (14…Nxd5 15.Nxd5 exd5 16.Qb3 with a definite edge) 15.Nf3 h6
Karpov makes a pertinent note: “The exchange of at least one pair of knights favours White, as it makes it easier to control the d4-square. Furthermore the f3-square is available for the e2 bishop, exerting direct pressure on the d5-pawn.”
16.Ne5 Be6 17.Nxc6 (17…Bxc6? 18.Ba6! nets an exchange, showing the power of white’s active bishops) Rxc6 18.Bf3 Qb6 19.Be5! Threatening to win the d5-pawn forcing black’s reply
19…Ne4 20.Qe2 Nxc3 21.Bxc3
21…Rd8 (Stockfish recommends 21…Bxa3!? 22.Bxg7! Kxg7 23.bxa3 Qb3! 24.e4 Rc2 25.Qe1 d4 26.e5 d3 27.Qe4 d2 28.Qf4 Qc4 29.Be4 Rb2= Few human players would choose a line leading to a smashed up kingside with no material compensation.) 22.Rd3! Rcd6 23.Rfd1 23…R6d7
The position has clarified with a clear white advantage. Black has no compensation for the weak d-pawn. The author makes an interesting historical comment here stating that in the 1960s, many Soviet players erroneously believed that an IQP cannot be exploited without knights. This game should disabuse anyone of that myth. Karpov wins a model game with a patient build-up and some prophylactic moves: sit back and appreciate the game.
White now begins the assault to force a second weakness with a fine demonstration of a kingside initiative. The author points out that white has another good plan 31.Bd4 followed by doubling rooks on the c-file. The fact that white has two excellent plans shows how bad black’s cheerless position is.
Forced as 31…f5 allows 32.Qg6 Bf8 33.Be5 with the winning idea of …g3-g4
32.Qd1 Qb5 33.g4
33…g5? (The fatal error after defending for so long: black was probably is time trouble and lashed out wanting to do something, 33..Bf7! 34.h4 Qc6 35.Bd4 Bc5 36.Rc3 keeps white’s edge but black is still resisting) 34.Kh1 Qc6 35.f5 Bf7
36.e4! The decisive breakthrough against the IQP Kg7 37.exd5 Qc7 38.Re2 b5 39.Rxe7 Rxe7 40.d6 Qc4 41.b3 1-0
A didactic display from Karpov giving black not one iota of counterplay.
The final subsection covers:
Transformation from an IQP structure to a structure with hanging pawns
Here is an impressive blockade with an exquisite control of tactics from the former World Boss of chess, Garry Kasparov.
13.Bb2?! (A weak move as the bishop never sees the light of day. The main line is 13.Bd3, 13.Ne5 is ok as well with equality) 13… Bxf3 14.Qxf3? (The ugly 14.gxf3 had to be played, play could continue 14…Nc6 15.Bb3 Nh5 16.c4 Nf4 17.Qe3 with a definite black advantage) 14…Qxc4! A far sighted exchange sacrifice based on the weakness of the white squares and the imminent danger to white’s queen 15.Qxa8 The tempting cake is ingested but is laced with poison 15… Nc6 16.Qb7 Nd5
Black has a big advantage with a vice like grip on the white squares. The difference in activity of the respective sides’ pieces is quite striking: the only active white piece, the queen, is all alone and in dire danger of death.
17.Re1 Rb8 18.Qd7 Rd8 19.Qb7 h5?! (A rare Kasparov inaccuracy, 19…Na5! 20.Qxa7 Qc6 21.c4 Nxc4 22.Rac1 Nf4 23.f3 Nd3 24.Rxc4 Qxc4 25.Qxb6 Rc8 26.Rf1 h6 is easily winning for black. Notice how the knights stomp all over white combining threats against the queen, the kingside and white’s passively placed bishop and rooks) 20.Bc1? (The final mistake: Stockfish points out that with 20.Rac1! White can still put up a fight) 20…Na5 21.Qxa7 Qc6 22.Qa6 Nc4 23.Rb1 Nc7
After 24.Qa7 Ra8, the greedy queen meets her end on the executioner’s block 0-1
Chapter 2 – The Carlsbad structure
This is the famous Carlsbad structure, named from the great Carlsbad tournament in 1923 (in the modern day Czech Republic close to the German border), is one of the most important pawn structures in the game of chess both historically and in the modern game:
A deep understanding of how to play the positions with the Carlsbad structure is the hallmark of a very strong player and I suspect, every GM. The British GM, Keith Arkell was once asked how did you become a GM? He quipped: Carlsbad structures, and rook endings. Of course, Keith has a profound knowledge of more than just those two topics, but his pithy reply contains much more than a grain of truth. The titanic struggle between Capablanca and Alekhine for the World Championship in 1927 featured many games in the queen’s gambit including the Carlsbad structure. The reviewer’s scant knowledge of these games is a gap in his chess education. Many GMs have observed that one of their key skills over lower rated players is their superior knowledge and praxis of rook endings.
Back to the topic at hand: the author shares his knowledge of these positions with a lucid listing of both sides respective plans:
“Plan A: minority attack with b4-b5xc6;
Plan B: attack in the centre with e3-e4;
Plan C: kingside attack with both sides castled on the kingside;
Plan D: kingside attack with the kings castled on opposite sides;
Plan E: play in positions with both sides castled on the queenside.
Black in turn has the following methods of defence available:
i) Kingside counterattack with pawns;
ii) Kingside counterattack with pieces;
iii) Positional methods of defence, e.g. erecting a barrier with b7-b5 or controlling the squares c4 and b5 with the pieces;
iv) The central break c6-c5;
v) Counterattack against White’s queenside castled position.
Black’s choice of defensive method depends on which plan White adopts. For instance, method v) can only occur in the plan of Plan D or E.”
Plan A: the minority attack
This is a frequently adopted plan and is covered in great detail in this book. “The minority attack is a typical strategic method, which has the aim of creating a weak pawn in the opponent’s ranks, precisely where he has a pawn majority. The same procedure is applicable to a large number and variety of middlegame positions.”
There are many variations/lines of the Sicilian where Black launches a minority attack against white’s queenside.
This next position shows a celebrated endgame resulting from a classic minority attack: Kotov-Pachman from Venice 1950.
Stockfish helpfully suggests 42..h5! with a microscopic edge to White. I am not disagreeing with the silicon brain, but white has a more pleasant position to play. Black only has one weakness, so he can hold with patient, careful defence looking to go active at the right time. However, a decent GM went down here.
I will not reproduce a detailed analysis of this ending here: I will give the key positions in this ending including a fascinating line showing black’s defensive resources.
42… Kf6?! (42…h5! is better preventing white’s next cramping move) 43.g4! White fixes the h7-pawn as a potential weakness 43…Ke6?!
White has made significant progress but black can still hold.
51.Nc5+ Ke7?! (51…Bxc5 giving up a pawn offers good drawing chances) 52.Rc8 Bxc5 53.dxc5 Kd7 54.Rh8 Ke6 55.Rd8
55…Ke7? (The decisive mistake: counterplay with 55…Ra4! holds. This shows that the decision on whether to stay passive or go active is not obvious even for a strong GM: White now wraps up efficiently) 56.Rd6 Ra6 57.g5 fxg5 58.hxg5 Kf7 59.Kg3 Ke7 60.f3 Ra3 61.Kf4 Ra4+ 62.Ke5 Ra3 63.Rxc6 Rxe3+ 64.Kxd5 Rd3+ 65.Ke4 Rc3 66.f4 Rc1 67.Rc7+ Kd8 68.Rxh7 Rxc5 69.Rf7 1-0
Buy the book to see this endgame analysed in more detail.
A typical double rook endgame arising from a minority attack. Black only has one weakness but he is totally passive awaiting white’s attempts to breach his fortress. Stockfish defends this ending without breaking a sweat, however for flesh and blood, down on the clock in an increment finish against a good, grinding GM, there is zero chance of a draw. Buy the book to see how Mark Hebden won this ending.
Here is a model game from another former World Champion.
A Carlsbad structure from the 5.Bg5 line against the Gruenfeld.
10.Bd3 (White can also play 10.Be2, Qb3 or even b4 straightaway, none of these moves secure an edge against accurate play) Nc6 (The more common move order is 10…c6 11.0-0 Qd6 12.Rc1 a5) 11.0-0 Ne7 (Stockfish agrees with the reviewer’s preference: 11…a5) 12.b4
Bf5? [This exchange of bishops is a poor positional error as the game is now closer to the Kotov-Pachman ending. Better is 12…c6 13.Rc1 (13.b5 c5!) 13…a6 14.a4 Qd6 15.Rb1 Be6 16.h3 Nc8 with equal chances ] 13.Bxf5 Nxf5 14.b5 (14.Qb3 c6 15.b5 was more incisive)
Occupying the obvious square for the knight, Stockfish prefers 14…a6 15.bxa6 (15.a4 axb5 16.axb5 c5 17.bxc6 bxc6 18.Na4 Nd6 19.Qc2 Nc4 20.Nd2 Nxd2 21.Qxd2 and an endgame similar to Kotov-Pachman is near which we know is tenable but unpleasant) 15.bxa6 Rxa6 16.Qb3 Ra5 17.Rac1 c5 18.dxc5 Rxc5 19.Nb5 with a small advantage to white.
15.Qb3 Ne7 16.Rfc1 Kh8? (What on earth is this move for? 16…Rfc8 looks more relevant, but white is better in any case) 17.Rc2 h6 18.Rac1 c6
19.Na4! (19.bxc6 bxc6 20.Na4 20…Rfb8 gives black some play down the b-file) 19…Rab8 20.g3 (Typical prophylaxis securing the back rank and creating a stronger barrier against f5-f4, the direct 20.Nc5 is even stronger) 20…Kh7 21.Nc5 Rfd8?! Loses the c-pawn quickly, but Stockfish already assesses black’s game as dead, 21…b6 puts up more resistance 22.bxc6 bxc6 23.Qa4!
Eyeing both weak pawns on a7 and c6; this is why black should have played a6 or a5 earlier to exchange off the a-pawn 23…Qf6 24.Kg2 (The ever cautious Petrosian improves his king before winning the c-pawn as he saw that it cannot run away. This follows the Russian rule about about improving your king before the final assault. 24.Ne5 wins the pawn more quickly: 24…Ra8 25.Nb7 Rdc8 26.Nxc6) 24…Ra8 25.Nb7 Re8 26.Na5 g5 27.h3 Qf5 28.Nxc6 With the fall of this pawn, the game is over. Petrosian gives his opponent no chance. Qe4 29.Rc5 f5 30.Qc2 Nxc6 31.Rxc6 f4 32.exf4 gxf4 33.g4 Bxd4 34.Qd2 Bg7 35.Re1 Qa4 36.Qxd5 Rxe1 37.Nxe1 Rf8 38.Nf3 Kh8 39.Rc7 a6 40.Qb7 Rg8 41.Nh4 1-0
I like the didactic commentary of the author on the strategic features following this cruising crush by Petrosian:
“1. It is essential for white to carry out the b4-b5 advance in circumstances that do not allow Black to reply with c6-c5, which means that white needs to control the c-file and in particular the c5 square.
2. It is useful for white to exchange his own dark-squared bishop for the enemy knight, since this gains several tempi (the black bishop is badly placed on f6) and he can attack the c6-pawn with his knight after the usual minority attack.
3. The move g2-g3 is also good for White, forming a ‘saw’ against the possible advance of the enemy f-pawn.
4. It is appropriate for Black to play a7-a6 (or sometimes a5), since after White advances with a2-a4 and b4-b5, Black is able to exchange his a6-pawn, leaving him with just one weakness on c6 instead of two.
5. in anticipation of White’s b4-b5 advance, Black should prepare either Kingside counterplay or the advance c5.”
The author goes on to discuss the methods of defence against the minority attack beginning with:
i) Kingside counterattack with pawns
The following modern day clash shows this theme well even though Black lost:
Lev Aronian (2777) – Vishy Anand (2797)
1.c4 e6 2.Nc3 Nf6 3.Nf3 d5 4.d4 Bb4 5.cxd5 exd5 6.Qa4+ Nc6 7.Bg5 h6 8.Bxf6 Qxf6 9.e3 0-0 10.Be2 a6 11.0-0 Be6 12.Rfc1 Bd6 13.a3 Ne7 14.b4 c6 This time we reach the Carlsbad structure from the Ragozin 15.Qb3 g5! This looks good as black has the bishop pair pointing at the kingside. After this game, the white players of this variation went back to the drawing board as black is clearly better here with an initiative.
16.Qb2 Qg7 (Stopping e4 and preparing a possible f-pawn battering ram) 17.Na4 Rae8 18.Nc5 Bc8
Too slow and stereotyped forming the Nimzowitsch saw. White had to get on with it on the queenside with 19.a4! f5 20.b5 (20.Nd3?! f4 21.exf4 Ng6 22.Re1 Nxf4 23.Nfe5 now both 23…gxf4 and 23…Nxf4 lead to a black initiative with a superior position) 20…axb5 21.axb5 21…f4 22.Nd3 fxe3 23.fxe3 Nf5 24.bxc6 Nxe3 25.cxb7 Bxb7 26.Ra7 Re7 27.Nfe5 with approximate equality!
The game continued:
19…Nf5!? (This move is good, but Stockfish, the author and the reviewer prefer the obvious 19…f5! which is clearly much better for black, e.g. 20.Kh1 Ng6 21.Nd3 Qe7 22.Re1 Qe4 23.Kg1 f4 with a dangerous attack) 20.Bd3 Qf6 21.Rf1 h5! 22.Rac1 h4! 23.Qd2
23…Nh6? (A tactical blunder retreating the knight to the wrong square, letting White off the hook, 23…Ng7 is good, after say 24.Be2 the obvious 24…hxg3! leads to a big advantage for black; 24…Re7 is even better according to Stockfish, White’s position is unappealing in both cases; 23…hxg3 is also excellent for black ) 24.e4! Clearly missed by Anand
24…Bxc5?! (24…Be7! 25.Ne5 dxe4 26.Bxe4 Rd8 is equal, Anand probably missed that 24…Qxf3 loses to 25.Qxg5+ Kh7 26.e5+ Bf5 27.Bxf5+ Nxf5 28.Rc3!! Nxd4 29.Qxh4+) 25.e5! A powerful Zwischenzug
25…Qg7? (The final mistake, 25…Bxb4 26.axb4 Qg7 27.Nxg5 Bf5 28.Nf3 hxg3 29.fxg3 Bh3 leads to a slight edge for white) 26.bxc5 Now black is dead 26…f6 27.exf6 Rxf6 28.Nxg5 Bf5 29.Rce1 Rff8 30.Rxe8 Rxe8 31.Nf3 Bxd3 32.Qxd3 Re4 33.Re1 hxg3 34.hxg3 1-0
A pity that Vishy spoiled a well played game but his approach renders this line unplayable for White.
ii) Kingside attack with pieces
Here is a game played by the brilliant attacking player Rashid Nezhmetdinov (who famously once beat Mikhail Tal in the style of Tal).
Mark Taimanov – Rashid Nezhmetdinov
1.d4 d5 2.c4 c6 3.Nf3 e6 4.cxd5 exd5 5.Nc3 Nf6 6.Bg5 Be7 7.Qc2 Nbd7 8.e3 0-0 9.Bd3 Re8 10.0-0 Nf8 11.Rab1 a5 (A small refinement as the open a-file after a3 and b4 by White could be useful. However its drawback could have been exploited by White on move 14.)
12.a3 Ne4 (The standard move, but the silicon brain prefers 12…Ng6) 13.Bxe7 Qxe7 14.b4 (White should probably change plans here and remove black’s best minor piece and exploit the b6 square with 14.Bxe4! dxe4 15.Ne5 Bf5 16.Rfc1 Ne6 17.Nc4 Nc7 with an edge for white) axb4 15.axb4 Ng6 (The engine also likes 15…Bf5) 16.b5 Bg4
17.Nd2? (This is a definite mistake which loses, more prudent is 17.Bxe4! removing black’s most dangerous minor piece: 17…dxe4 18.Nd2 with a definite advantage to white) 17…Nxd2 18.Qxd2 Nh4! (Suddenly black has whipped up a very dangerous attack with threats of 19…Nf3+ and 19…Nh3)
19.f3!? (19.Be2 Bh3! 20.g3 wins an exchange, so Taimanov gives up a pawn) Qxe3+ 20.Qxe3 Rxe3 21.fxg4 Rxd3 22.bxc6 bxc6 23.Ne2 Rd2 24.Rf2 h6 25.Rbf1 Ng6 26.h3 f6 (This is clearly winning for black) 27.Ng3 Rxd4 winning a second pawn, but Black failed to convert and only drew!
iii) Positional methods of defence
The following game shows an important method of defence.
Pedrag Nikolic (2635) – Vladimir Kramnik (2790)
Monte Carlo Blindfold 1998
1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 e6 3.Nf3 d5 4.Nc3 c6 5.cxd5 exd5 6.Bg5 Be7 7.e3 Bf5 8.Bd3 Bxd3 9.Qxd3 (9.Bxf6 is more accurate: 9…Bxf6 10.Qxd3, so black has to waste time getting his b8 knight to a good square like f6) 9…Nbd7 10.0-0 0-0 11.Rab1 a5
Zolotnik makes the pertinent observation that the minority attack is nothing like as effective with the white squared bishops off the board. One of the main reasons for this is that the black knights can gain a strong square on c4. White should manoeuvre patiently.
12.a3 Ne4 13.Bxe7 Qxe7
14.b4? (Too stereotyped blindly following a standard plan without considering the subtle differences with a standard minority attack when the white squared bishops are on the board. b4 had to be prepared properly, e.g. 14.Qc2 f5 15.b4 axb4 16.axb4 Ra3 17.Rb3 with equality) 14…b5! (The point, a Black knight will land on c4 blocking the c-file pressure)
15.Qc2 axb4 16.axb4 Nd6 17.Rb3 Nb6!
Let us absorb Vladimir Kramnik’s assessment of this position:
“The position has clarified. The knight goes to c4 blocking all White’s play on the queenside, after which the main events transfer to the kingside, where Black has more resources. Although in general the play seems nothing spectacular, in reality it is a classic game for the Carlsbad structure.
18.Ne5 Rfc8 19.Nd3 Nbc4! The other knight can move over to the kingside at its leisure. 20.Nc5Re8 21.h3 g6 22.Rc1
22…Ra7 (22…Nf5 is probably even better) 23.Qd1 h5 24.Kh1 Qg5 25.Rbb1 Rae7 26.Ra1
Black has skilfully moved his forces over to the new theatre of battle on the kingside: the end is close for White.
26…Nf5 Black could have sacrificed the knight on e3 now: 26…Nxe3! 27.fxe3 Rxe3 28. Ra2 Nf5 29.Rf2 Qg3 30.Re2 Rxe2 31.Nxe2 Qf2 winning
27.Ra2 Ncxe3! 28.fxe3 Rxe3 29.Rf2
29…Qg3! wins 30.Qd2Nh4! 31.Nd7 Nxg2! White’s king will die of exposure
Back to the game 30.Qd2 Amazingly 30.Kg1 holds according to our silicon friend 30… Nxd4
31.Rcf1?( Again 31.Kg1 holds) Nf5! with crushing threats 32.Rxf5 gxf5 33.Nd1 Re1 34.Kg1 R8e2 35.Qc3 Rxd1 0-1
Although Black muffed the final attack in the game allowing white a couple of chances to hold on, the really educational part of the game was from moves 14 to 26.
Another defensive method is the advance c6-c5-c4. Here is another lesson from Vlad:
Topalov (2740) – Kramnik (2790)
Linares 15th 1998
1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 e6 3.Nf3 d5 4.Nc3 Be7 5.Bg5 h6 6.Bh4 0-0 7.e3 b6 8.Be2 Bb7 9.Bxf6 Bxf6 10.cxd5 exd5 11.b4 The bishop on b7 is misplaced compared with the Anand game above where it sits on e6 11…c6 12.0-0 a5
13.b5 (This is the most common move which scores better than the alternatives which are 13.a3 and 13.bxa5. It is interesting that Stockfish evaluates them all roughly the same) 13…c5! 14.Re1 (The modern main line is 14.Ne5 cxd4 15.exd4 Bxe5 16.dxe5 d4 17.Na4 Qg5 18.Bg4 Qxe5 19.Nxb6 Ra7 with an edge to white) 14…Re815.Rc1 Nd7 16.g3 (16.dxc5 Nxc5 17.Nd4 Qd6=) 16…Nf8 17.Na4?!
This move is controversial, probably better is 17.dxc5 bxc5 18.Na4 c4 19.Nc5 19…Qb6 (19…Bc8 is interesting) 20.Nxb7 Rxb7 21.a4 Ne6= 17…c4! Fixing the structure, so the weak spots b6,c6 will be less accessible. The bishops will enable black to position his pieces in such a way, as to enable activity on the kingside. The e4 break is hard for White to achieve. 18.Bf1 Qd6 (18…Qc7 is also good) 19.Bg2 Rad8 20.h4 Ne6 (The black squared bishop should be improved to the a3-f8 diagonal where it can influence the game more viz. 20…Qc7 21.Nc3 Be7, black is a bit better) 21.Nc3 g6 22.Nd2 Ba8 (Black has a total clamp on the position stopping e4, Stockfish assesses this position as pretty equal)
23.h5?! [This looks slightly suspect, after 23.f4!? with the idea of transferring the knight to e5, 23…Ng7 24.Bh3 (24.Nf3 Nf5!) 24…Qc7 25.Nf3 Be7 26.Ne5 Ba3 27.Rc2 Bb4 black is to be preferred]
Back to the game: 23…g5 24.Nf1 Be7 The first part of a regrouping of the black forces that improves his position considerably
25.g4?!Weakening the h2-b8 diagonal which is dangerous as Black has a dark squared bishop; white’s own bishop is becoming bad with the self induced structural changes on the kingside. 25.Nh2 is superior, e.g. 25…f5 26.g4 f4 27.e4! dxe4 28.Bxe4 Nxd4 29.Bxa8 Rxa8 30.Ne4 Qd5 31.Nf3 Nxf3+ 22.Qxf3 and the strong knight on e4 compensates for the pawn minus.
Black has a clear regrouping plan of Bc7, Qd6,Bc8,Rf8 and f5 crashing through
30.Nf5 Stopping f5 for good but at a great cost. The dark squares around White’s king look sickly and White’s light squared bishop is a bad bishop now. 30…Nxf5 31.gxf5 Bb4 32.Kg2 Qd6 33.f3 White is positionally busted and must await Black’s final assault 33…Re7 34.Re2 Rde8 35.Rce1 Qf6 36.Bg4
The once proud bishop on g2 is now choked by its own foot soldiers.
36…Bd6 37.Qd1 Bb4 38.Qc2 Rd8 39.Rd1 Bc8 40.e4? The f5-pawn is a source of great trouble for white, so he panics and defends it: but this last move before the time control is a decisive mistake. White had to sit tight and make Black find the winning breakthrough: 40.Na2 lasts longer. 40…Bxc3 41.e5 [41.Qxc3 dxe4 42.fxe4 (42.Rxe4 42…Rxe4 43.fxe4 Bb7 44.Qe3 c3 45.d5 c2 46.Rc1 Rc8 with a huge advantage) 42…Bb7 43.Bf3 g4! 44.Bxg4 Rxe4 45.Rxe4 Bxe4+ 46.Kf2 Bd3-+]
41…Rxe5!! 42.dxe5 (42.Rxe5 Bxd4! 43.Re2 Bc3 winning with the simple idea of d5-d4) 42…Bxe5 The triumph of strategical concept, despite an exchange sacrifice black controls the whole board and pawns c4-d5 will start rolling. 43.Rde1 Bc7 44.Re8+ Kg7 45.Rxd8 Bxd8 46.Rd1 Bb7 47.f4 d4+ 48.Bf3 d3 0-1 (49.Qxc4 Qb2+ 50.Kg3 Bxf3 51.Kxf3 Qe2+ wins)
Plan B: attack in the centre with e3-e4
This plan can occur in two forms depending on where White’s Ng1 is developed to e2 or f3. The first one is based on creating a pawn centre by means of f3 and e4. The second way of playing e4 is with the king’s knight on f3 leading to an IQP position.
The game below shows the first Soviet World Champion Mikhail Botvinnik at work against possibly the strongest player never to become the top dog: Paul Keres.
11.Rab1 (The author points out that Stockfish likes Botvinnik’s choice here, but modern players usually play 11.f3 immediately) 11…Bd6?! (This move is based on a tactical oversight,11…a5 is better here) 12.Kh1 Ng6?! Continuing the faulty plan
13.f3! Be7 (A loss of time, Black realised that his intended 13…h6? fails to 14.Bxf6! Qxf6 15.e4!Qh4 16.e5!) 14.Rbe1 (14.e4 dxe4 15.fxe4 Ng4 16.Bd2 c5 17.Nd5 cxd4! is unclear which was not Botvinnik’s style)
14…Nd7?! (It’s odd to waste more time simply exchanging off the dark squared bishops, 14…Be6 is better or 14…h6 15.Bxf6 Bxf6 16.Ng3 Nf8 17.Qf2 Bh4 18.e4 with a small edge to white) 15.Bxe7 Rxe7 16.Ng3 Nf6
17.Qf2! White is clearly better now as he prepares e4 and has a lead in development 17…Be6? (A kind of pseudo development of the bishop subjecting black’s minor pieces to a potential pawn roller, better is 17…b6 but Black is struggling anyway.) 18.Nf5
Better is 18.f4! which Stockfish assesses as winning already viz: 18…Bd7 19.f5 Nf8 20.e4! dxe4 21.Ngxe4 Nxe4 22.Nxe4 f6 23.Qg3 with a very strong attack for White: look at Black’s pieces cowering waiting for the inevitable end.
18…Bxf5 19.Bxf5 Qb6 20.e4! dxe4 21.fxe4 Rd8
22.e5! (Pushing the defensive knight away and preparing Ne4-Nd6) 22…Nd5 23.Ne4 Nf8 24.Nd6 Qc7
25.Be4! Stockfish likes Botvinnik’s move 25…Ne6 26.Qh4 g6 27.Bxd5! Removing one of Black’s best pieces, it’s now close to the end for Black 27… cxd5 28.Rc1 Qd7 29.Rc3 Rf8
A crushing strategic win for Botvinnik. One of the main reasons that Keres never got to the pinnacle was Botvinnik’s continual strategic mastery over him. Keres was a brilliant theoretician and attacking player but Botvinnik had clearly worked out how to play against Keres.
Plan C: kingside attack with both sides castled on the kingside
This plan can take two forms: The first is based on the advance f4 and is sometimes accompanied with the e4 break. The second is characterised by the advances g4 and h4.
The first plan here is demonstrated by Tigran Petrosian:
11.a3!? Not the commonest move but not without bite 11…Ne4 (A common response, but 11…Bg4 is ok as well) 12.Bf4
12…Ng5 (An interesting move; 12…f5 is the main line bolstering the knight but conceding e5; the author suggests a move not in Megabase which is surprising 12…Bf5!? although it involves a pawn sacrifice) 13.Nxg5
13.Ne5 is interesting keeping all the pieces on followed by f3 and e4 securing a space advantage with a full board of pieces, e.g. 13…g6 14.Rae1 Nge6 15.Bg3 Ng7 16.f3 Nf5 17.Bf2 Be6 18.Kh1 Nd6 19.e4 with an edge
13…Bxg5 14.Bxg5 Qxg5 15.Rae1 Bd7 16.f4 Qh6 17.Qf2
17…Re7? (17…f5! had to played despite weakening the e5 square and leaving Black with a bad bishop, White would improve his worst piece with 18.Nb1! b6! 19.Nd2 c5 20. Nf3 c4 Black has got counterplay on the queenside, but White is definitely better with a tough fight ahead.) 18.f5! g6 19.e4! dxe4
20.Nxe4 (20.Qg3! is very strong as well: 20…Bxf5 21.Rxf5 Qg7 22.Rf2 Qxd4 23.Rxe4 Rxe4 24.Nxe4 winning; 20…e3 21.Ne4 is very good, e.g. 21…Kh8 22.Qd6 Rae8 23.Qf6+ Kg8 24.Nd6 wins) 20…gxf5 21.Qg3+ Kh8 22.Nd6 f4 Trying to complicate matters
Plan D: kingside attack with opposite side castling
This game is a total annihilation of Black in an exciting good old fashioned kingside hack. Black had his chances but finding the accurate moves when subjected to such a brutal direct attack is not easy.
9.Ng3!? (This move was played in the 32nd game of the Capablanca-Alekhine World Championship match)9…h6 (Capablanca responded rather ineptly 9…Ne8 10.h4!? Ndf6 11.Qc3 Be6 12.Nf5 Bxf5 13.Bxf5 Nd6 14,Bd3 h6 15.Bf4 Rc8 16.g4!? Nfe4? 17,g5 h5 18.Bxe4 Nxe4 19.Nxe4 dx34 20.Qxe4 and white won with his extra pawn.) 10.h4 Nb6! (10…hxg5? is asking for a kicking 11. hxg5 g6 12.gxf6 Nxf6 13.Qd2 Re8 14.0-0-0 and white has a pleasant initiative) 11.Qc2 (11.Nh5!? leads to a perpetual: 11…Nbd7 12. Qf3 Re8! 13. Nxg7! Kxg7 14.Bxh6+ Kxh6 15.Qf4+ Kg7 16.Qg5 drawn) 11…Re8 12.0-0-0 12…hxg5 (Very brave: Stockfish likes this as well as 12…Nc4) 13.hxg5 Ne4 14.Bxe4 dxe4
15.f4 Deliberately complicating the game by not playing one of the two obvious recaptures on e4, 15.Ncxe4 leads to an unbalanced ending: 15…Bxg5 16. Rh5 Bh6 17.Rdh1 f5 18.Nxf5 Bxf5 19.Qxf5 Qxd4 20.Nf6+ gxf6 21.Rxh6 Qc4 22.Qxc4 Nxc4 23.Rg6+ Kf7 24.Rgxf6+ Ke7 25.Rf7+ when white has three pawns for a knight: this looks better for Black as his pieces are very active.
15.Qxe4 Bxg5 16.Qh7+ Kf8 17.Nce4 Be6 18.Nh5 Bh6 19.Nhf6 Ke7 20.Nxe8 Qxe8 is unclear but probably better for Black
15…Nd5 16.Ngxe4 (16.Rh2 is interesting when 16…f5! is the best reply which may well refute the attack)
16…Nxe3 (Greedy but sufficient to draw at least! The engine likes 16…f5! or 16…Bb4 which seem to be good for Black) 17.Qf2 Nxd1? (17…f5 definitely holds, I will leave the reader to spend some time with the silicon brain) 18.Qh4 f5! 19.Qh5
Kf8?? The losing mistake, taking yet more material leads to a probable draw viz.: 19…fxe4 20.g6 Bh4 21.Rxh4 Qxh4 22.Qxh4 Nxc3 23.bxc3 e3 White is left with a queen and pawns against a host of pieces but can probably draw as Black’s king is horribly exposed. 24.Qh7+ Kf8 25.Kd1! Using the king to stop the dangerous e-pawn25… Bf5 26.Ke1 e2 27.g4 Bxg4 28.Qh8+ Ke7 29.Qh4+ Kd6 30.Qxg4 Re7 31.f5 Rf8 with a black edge 20.Qg6 Kg8 21.Rh7 Qxd4
22.Qh5! Probably the move Black overlooked Qe3+ 23.Kc2 1-0
Plan E: play in positions with both sides castled on the queenside
Here is an impressive game from the World Championship candidate.
12.Nf3!? (White decides to save a tempo by omitting the customary h3 )12…Nf6 (12…Be6 13.Kb1 Nf6 14.Ne5 Ng4 15.Nxg4 Bxg4 16.Rde1 0-0-0 with equality; 12…Bg4 13.Kb1 Nf6 14.Rc1 Bxf3 15.gxf3 0-0-0 16.Qb3 Kb8 17.a4 with a slight edge to White) 13.Kb1 Be6 14.Ka1 (Preparing the minority attack, 14.Rc1 is another idea) 14…0-0-0 15.Na4
Kb8?! (14…Nxa4 removing the potentially annoying knight is better) 16.Rc1 Rhe8 (16…Nxa4 17.Qxa4 Ne4 18.Rc2 Rhe8 19.Rhc1 f6 20.Ne1 Bf5 with a slight edge for White) 17.Nc5 Bc8 18.b4 (Hasty, 18.Nd2 stops Black’s next move) 18…Ne4
19.a4 (The minority attack continues even though the kings are on the queenside, 19.b5! cxb5 20.Bxb5 Rg8 21.Qb2 Be6 leads to a slight edge for White) 19…Nd6! (Fighting for c4) 20.Nd2 (20…h5 21.Rhd1 g6 22.a5 Nd7 23.Nf3 a6 is roughly equal) 20…Qf6 21.Rhf1
21…Bf5?! (This is a typical move in the Carlsbad structure, but the bishop is a good defensive piece here holding black’s structure together) 22.Bxf5 Qxf5 23.Qxf5 Nxf5 24.a5
Possibly the decisive mistake, the retreat into the corner is better 24…Na8! 25.a6 b6 26.Nd3 Ne7 27.Ne5 f6 28.Nxc6+ Nxc6 29.Rxc6 Nc7 white has a slight edge
25.a6! Undermining the c6-pawn with a definite White edge
Black’s two weaknesses on a7 and c6 are covered. To win the game, White must open the position to increase the bridgehead for his more active rooks. This can be achieved by arranging the opening of the centre/kingside.
39…f6 40.f3 f5 Hindering e4 but White can break with g4 instead 41.Nd3 Ke6 42.Ne5 Rc7 43.g4 fxg4 44.fxg4 h5 45.h3 hxg4 46.hxg4 Kf6 47.Rf1+ Ke6 48.Rf7 Rg8 49.g5 Rb7
50.g6 Zugzwang 1-0
Chapter 3 – Symmetrical pawn structures
The introduction to this section contains some insightful observations about symmetrical positions. This paragraph stood out: “In modern chess, a tiny advantage, evaluated by the engine at 0.20, is already sufficient reason for the player with white to analyse the corresponding continuation in depth.” The reviewer wonders whether this approach is linked to the impressive technique of Magnus Carlsen in grinding out wins from positions with small edges: an impressive example is Carlsen’s win over Nakamura in the Airthings Masters rapid in December 2020 in the anti-Berlin line: 1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5 Nf6 4.0-0 Nxe4 5.Re1 Nd6 6.Nxe5 Nxe5 7.Rxe5 0-0 8.Bf1. This game is not covered in this book but is instructive nevertheless.
In section 3.2, Zlotnik enumerates the possible advantages for the side to move in a symmetrical pawn structure situation:
Control of an open file;
Establishment of an outpost;
Active deployment of the pieces.
Control of an open file is such a fundamental concept of chess that this factor alone can win a game. The celebrated game Botvinnik-Alekhine from AVRO 1938 is a superb example of this. Alekhine gets a lousy opening but resists well forcing Botvinnik to show exemplary technique in the endgame. The reviewer will give this game with key positions and a few notes to remind the reviewer of this historic tussle.
Mikhail Botvinnik-Alexander Alekhine AVRO 1938
1.Nf3 d5 2.d4 Nf6 3.c4 e6 4.Nc3 c5 5.cxd5 Nxd5 6.e3 Nc6 7.Bc4 cxd4 8.exd4 Be7 9.0-0 0-0 10.Re1 b6?! Possibly the losing move 11.Nxd5! exd5 12.Bb5 Despite the symmetrical pawn structure Black is now doomed to a passive defence. Weaknesses on the c-file and a slight discoordination of the black pieces give White an easy game in which he can develop his initiative.
12…Bd7? Now after the inevitable exchange of the light-squared bishops the black position becomes even more vulnerable. 13.Qa4 Nb8 Forced 14.Bf4 Bxb5 15.Qxb5 a6 16.Qa4 Keeping the horse on b8 in its stable. 16…Bd6 In order to relieve pressure. 17.Bxd6 Qxd6 18.Rac1 Ra7 19.Qc2! c-file domination
19…Re7 20.Rxe7 Qxe7 21.Qc7 Qxc7 22.Rxc7 After these exchanges the white rook invades the seventh rank. This rook cannot win the game alone, as White must bring in the cavalry. 22…f6! 23.Kf1 23…Rf7 24.Rc8+ Rf8 25.Rc3! g5 A good idea: by pushing his pawns on the kingside, Black reduces the importance of the seventh rank. 26.Ne1 h5
27.h4!! Forcing new weaknesses on the kingside. 27…Nd728.Rc7 28…Rf7 29.Nf3! g4 30.Ne1 Aiming for f4 via d3 30…f5 31.Nd3 f4 The key square is temporarily under control, but the pawn on f4 is another weakness.
32.f3 (32.Nb4 wins a pawn, but Botvinnik doesn’t want to allow any counterplay) 32…gxf3 33.gxf3 a5 34.a4 Kf8 35.Rc6 Ke7 36.Kf2 Rf5 37.b3 37…Kd8 38.Ke2 Nb8
39.Rg6! (39.Rxb6? Kc7 and 40…Nc6 gives Black counter-chances.) 39…Kc7 40.Ne5 Keeping the steed tied up 40…Na6 41.Rg7+ Kc8 42.Nc6 Rf6 43.Ne7+ Kb8 44.Nxd5 Caching in 44…Rd6 45.Rg5 Nb4 46.Nxb4 axb4 47.Rxh5 Rc6 48.Rb5 Kc7 49.Rxb4 Rh6 50.Rb5 Rxh4 51.Kd3 1-0
Alekhine said after the tournament: “Of the 14 games I played in this tournament only once did I feel that my opponent outplayed me – it was the game with Botvinnik in round seven”. Praise indeed.
3.2.2 Establishment of an outpost
“Sometimes it happens that control of an open file is not in itself enough to ensure immediate superiority, in that case the best measure is to establish an output on that file.”
Here is a game from Botvinnik who loved playing positions with isolated pawns.
13.Bh3! Rb8 14.Re1 cxd4 15.exd4 Bb4 16.Rxe8+ Qxe8 17.a3 Bf8 (Better was 17…Bxc3 or 17…Bc8) 18.Qd3 g6 19.Re1 Qd8 20.Ne5 White has a slight pull
21…Bg7 21.f3 Na5 22.Qd1 a6 23.Na2 Nc6 24.Bc3 Qc7 25.Qd2 a5 26.Bb2 Qd6 27.Nc1 Bc8 28.Bf1!? Avoiding exchanging as White has more space 28…Be6 29.Ncd3 Ne7 (A definite error, 29…Nd7 is better)
30.b4! (Squeezing Black) axb4 31.axb4 Ne8 (31…Nd7 is better) 32.b5 f6 33.Ng4 Bd7? The fatal mistake, 33…Nf5 was ok
34.Bc3! (winning the d5-pawn) 34…Nf5 35.Nf4 Qf8?! (35…Qa3 is tougher) 36.Nxd5 Kh8 37.Bb4 Qf7 38.Ne7! Ned6 39.Nxf5 Nxf5 40.d5 Re8
And white won on move 62.
3.2.3 Active deployment of the pieces
Gulko – Radjabov
1.g3 g6 2.Bg2 Bg7 3.d4 d6 4.e4 e5?! A poor move allowing White a definite advantage. Stockfish does not rate this move at all. 5.dxe5
5…dxe5 (Stockfish prefers 5…Bxe5 6.Nf3 but white has a pleasant advantage in both cases] 6.Qxd8+ Kxd8
But the book to see how White exploited his lead in development and more active pieces.
3.3 Breaking the symmetry as a method of defence
Robert Byrne – Bobby Fischer New York 1963 began with a symmetrical structure.
This game looks pretty even. Bobby played the enterprising 12…e5!? to break the symmetry. Eleven moves later the game was over.
This celebrated game had to be included. Black has just played 21…Qd7!
The story goes that the grandmasters watching the game failed to understand what was happening.
Section 3.4 A clash of pawns covers some interesting symmetrical opening sequences such as:
The book contains the antidotes to these lines.
The last subsection is 3.5 Symmetrical structures from various openings.
Here are a couple of positions that are covered in depth:
Carlsen won an impressive game versus Nisipeanu at Medias in 2011.
White has just played 6.dxc3 which looks harmless, however in Radjabov-Svidler Geneva 2017, Black responded with some inaccurate moves and was lost at move 19! Book the book to find out how.
Part 2 of this publication covers Typical methods of play in three chapters.
Chapter 4 Restricted Mobility in the KID covers typical methods of play, particularly for White, but also for Black whrn the centre is blocked.
Two cautionary tales for White are given early on in the chapter showing White being blown away on the kingside. Here is one of them:
This position is pretty standard fare in the KID. White has just played 18.Nb5 and Black boots the knight with 18…a6. This manoeuvre by White looks odd to lose time, but b6 has been weakened and this is significant. White should play 19.Nc3! g4 20.Na4 g3 21.Nb6 Rb8 22.Bg1 gxh2 23.Bf2 Bd7 24.Nxd7! removing the dangerous bishop and White is slightly better.
So tried 19.Na3? and got stuffed.
The author discusses the main White methods to counter Black’s expansion with f7-f5:
The manoeuvre Nf3-h4
Pinning the Nf6 with Bc1-g5
Playing an early g2-g4
Exchanging pawns with exf5 gxf5, followed by f2-f4/f3
The reviewer will show a couple of typical positions involving each idea and leave the reader to get the book to study further.
White has just played 8.Bg5 which is named after Petrosian.
White played 17.g4!
Black has just played 14…f5. White played 15.exf5 gxf5 16,f4
Chapter 5 Should we exchange the fianchettoed bishop (EFB)?
This considers the matter of exchanging Black’s fianchettoed bishop in the KID, Sicilian Dragon and the Sicilian Accelerated Dragon. As the author points out, sometimes White seeks the exchange for attacking reasons but Black will also seek to exchange his bishop for positional reasons in say the Maroczy Bind.
The position below shows a common idea in the KID:
12… Bxh6! 13.Qxh6 Kg8! 14.h5 Ng8! 15.Qe3 g5! and the kingside remains closed.
Here is a mainline Dragon position from a game Geller-Kortchnoi Moscow 1971.
In this Dragon tabiya, Geller played 12.Bh6? which looks logical to exchange the bishop. Timing is everything and in this position Black has a well known riposte 12…Bxh6 13.Qxh6 Rxc3! 14.bxc3 a5!? (14…Qa5 and 14…Qc7 are also both good enough for equality)
Black achieved an excellent position but muffed the attack allowing Geller off the hook. The players agreed a draw when Geller was much better.
Here is a standard Maroczy Bind position in the Accelerated Dragon.
Black has just played 12…Nd7 offering an exchange of dark squared prelates. White has two plans here:
Gain space on the queenside with 13.b4 allowing the bishop exchange or retain the dark squared bishop 13.Be3 keeping it to guard the dark squares and avoiding exchanges as White has more spaces.
White played the inaccurate 13.Kh1?! after 13…Bxd4 14.Qxd4 Qb6 and black is equal.
The author gives a good introduction to the Maroczy style positions.
Chapter 6 – the d5-square in the Sicilian.
The chapter covers what is says in the title. The typical strategic manoeuvres for both White and Black are covered in the Boleslavsky’s Variation of the Najdorf, the Sveshnikov and related systems.
Topics covered are:
The power of Nd5
Bishops of opposite colours
Chapter 7 is an excellent set of exercises followed by Chapter 8 Solutions.
This publication is one of the best middlegames I have read and the reviewer definitely recommends this book for all club players and above.
FM Richard Webb, Basingstoke, Hampshire, 1st August 2021
“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.”
‘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:
Intermediate player (1500-1800 Elo)
Advanced player (1800-2100 Elo)
Improving youngster (1900-2200 Elo)
Master-level player (2100-2400 Elo)
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.
“Grandmaster Grivas presents the reader an unique and massive amount of amazing puzzles including their historical background. All the most famous and rare tactical themes are covered, promising the read of the year!”
“Efstratios Grivas (30.03.1966) is a highly experienced chess trainer and chess author. He has been awarded by the International Chess Federation (FIDE) the titles of International Chess Grandmaster, FIDE Senior Trainer, International Chess Arbiter and International Chess Organiser.
His main successes over the board are the Silver Medal Olympiad 1998 (3rd Board), the Gold Medal European Team Championship 1989 (3rd Board) and the 4th Position World Junior Championship U.20 1985. He has also won 5 Balkan Medals (2 Gold – 1 Silver – 2 Bronze) and he was 3 times Winner of the International ‘Acropolis’ Tournament. He has also in his credit the 28 times first position in Greek Individual & Team Championships and he has won various international tournaments as well.
He was also been awarded five FIDE Meals in the Annual FIDE Awards (Winner of the FIDE Boleslavsky Medal 2009 & 2015 (best author) – Winner of the FIDE Euwe Medal 2011 & 2012 (best junior trainer) – Winner of the FIDE Razuvaev Medal 2014 (Trainers’ education) and has been a professional Lecturer at FIDE Seminars for Training & Certifying Trainers.
He has written 95 Books in Arabic, English, Greek, Italian, Spanish & Turkish. Since 2009 he is the Secretary of the FIDE Trainers’ Commission and since 2012 the Director of the FIDE Grivas Chess International Academy (Athens).”
This large tactical tome is action packed full of great tactics and some exciting, instructive games. It is an ideal companion for trainers and players who seek to develop their recognition of dozens of mating patterns. All these mating motifs are shown in constructed cut down diagrams followed by many different examples from real games with the checkmating ideas demonstrated with both colours and rotated to aid practising recognising them in different forms thus helping to form a kind of brain muscle memory for these crucial motifs.
The tactics are taken from a mixture of old classics and modern games.
I expect that most older players can remember going through many tactics/ puzzle books on their road to learning the game and this book is another excellent addition to this genre.
The book is divided into five parts:
Part 1 A Tactical World
Part 2 Tactical Play
Part 3 Basic Mates
Part 4 Combinative Mates (Queen & Rook)
Part 5 Combinative Mates (Bishop, Knight and Pawn)
Part 1 A Tactical World is a thoughtful introduction into the world of tactics with thoughts on Tactical Education and a brief history of the development of chess schools of thought.
Four very famous and brilliant games are then presented with objective modern analysis which points out not only the exciting attacking opportunities but also the defensive possibilities. The author is mindful of the fact that tactical patterns help defensive prowess as well as attacking acumen.
The four games are a mixture of old and new:
The Immortal Game Adolf Anderssen v Lionel Kieseritzky London 1851 (Offhand game)
The EverGreen Game Adolf Anderssen v Jean Dufresne Berlin 1852 (Offhand game)
The Rainbow Game Gregory Serper v Ioannis Nikolaisis St Petersburg 1993
The Chess Game Garry Kasparov v Veselin Topalov Wijk aan Zee 1999
I can remember playing through the two Adolf Anderssen games as a novice and being really impressed by the beautiful combinations and of the course the queen sacrifices. They are a must for any book on tactics.
The two modern games are also superb and are obviously of a much higher defensive standard than the games played in the 1850s.
Garry Kasparov’s win over Veselin Topalov is regarded by many people as his finest game.
The reviewer will not showcase these well known games here as experienced players will be well aware of them and new players should buy the book for a treat. However, I will whet your appetite by showing one position from the Rainbow Game:
White has sacrificed two pieces for a long term attack and two dangerous passed pawns. Black has just played 29…Qe8. How does white continue the attack?
Part 2 Tactical Play
This chapter examines various aspects of attacking play by presenting examples from real play:
Attack Via The Edged Files
Blocking the F6-Square
King In The Box
The King Hunt
The Novotny Interference
Defence & Counter-Attack
The section Attack Via The Edged Files discusses the opening of lines around the opponent’s king, typically the rook file and tactics associated therein.
Here is a nice tactic that could easily be missed in practice.
33…Ra3+! 34.Kxa3 Qa7+ 0-1 35.Kb3 Qa4#
The Blocking The F6 section has some entertaining attacking finishes. Here is a vintage Kasparov finish against his old rival Karpov:
22.Nf6+! Opening up the king (22…Kh8 23.Rh5! mates quickly) 22…gxf6 23.Qxh6 f5 24.Qg5+ Kh8 25.Qf6+ Kg8 26.Rxf5 Ne4
The King Hunt section reminds me of one of my favourite books as a junior player: The King Hunt by W.H. Cozens. Some of the games from that book are included here. I shall show one example here from Lodewijk Prins v Lawrence Day Lugano 1968:
White played the greedy 23.Ne1?? The punishment was a humiliating long, lonely walk to the scaffold for the white king. (23. Kf2 gxf3 24. Bxf3 is about equal) Rh1+ 24.Kf2 g3+! 25.Kxg3 Rxe1! 26.Qxe1 Qxg2+ 27.Kf4 g5+ 28.Ke5 Qe4+ 29.Kf6 (29.Kd6 Rc8 30. b4 Rc6#) Qf5+ 30.Kg7 Qg6+ 31.Kh8 0-0-0# 0-1
A Novotny interference is when the attacking side sacrifices a piece on a square where it can be taken by two different opponent’s pieces – whichever piece captures interferes with the other. Here is a Novotony example that was new to me:
White resigned here as he could not see any defence to 30…Rc1+ 31.Ke2 and 31…d1Q+ winning easily. What did he miss?
He could have won with 30.Rd6!! Rxd6 (30…cxd6 32.f7 wins) 31.g8=Q+ Kd7 32.Qf7+ Kc6 33.Qe8+ Kb6 34.Qe3! pinning the dangerous rook followed by taking it and f7 winning.
The section on the counterattack is didactic and shows some good examples. Here is a game Fischer-Gligoric from Varna 1962.
White clearly has had an initiative with active pieces but his attack has been halted and white’s exposed king will become a factor. His knight is also not really contributing much.
27…h6! (Stockfish prefers 27…Bb4 but also likes the move played) 28.Re3 Bb4 29.gxh6 Qxc2 30.Rg1 Kh7
31.Qg3 (31.Rxg6 does not work because white’s king is too exposed: 31…Kxg6 32. Rg3+ Kh7 33. Rg7+ Rxg7 34.hxg7 Qc1+ 35. Kg2 Qd2+ 36.Kf1 Kg6! wins) Rg8 32.e5
Bxc3! (stopping the knight from getting to g5) 33.Rxc3 Qe4+ 34.Rg2 Rd8! (Very strong, the counterattack is rolling) 35.Re3 Rd1+ 36.Kh2 Qb1 37.Qg4 (37.Rg1 Qxa2+ 38. Kh3 Rxg1 39.Qxg1 a4) Rh1+ 38.Kg3
Qc1? (38…Rh5! is more murderous 39.Qe4 Qc1 40.Rf3 Rd7 activating the other rook kills white) 39.Re4? (39.Qd4 is better) Rd7! Bringing up the reserves 40.Qe2 Qg5+ (40…Qxh6 is even more accurate but the game line is good enough) 41.Qg4 Rd3+ 42.Kf2 Rd2+ 43.Kg3 Rxg2+ 44.Kxg2 Qc1 0-1
Part 3 Basic Mates
As the title suggests, it covers basic checkmates. The chapter is divided into two sections covering the fundamental endgame mates with the pieces and common checkmates occurring at the beginning of the game.
A more experienced reader may think this section is too basic but you would be wrong as the author covers some pretty complex stuff in the endgame such as two knights against a pawn.
Grivas has an excellent section on the Bishop & Knight mate which is not trivial by any means. GM Vladimir Epishin failed to win this ending! I will confess that I had never heard of Delétang’s triangles although I am aware of the techniques to confine the king using triangles. I take my hat off the author for explaining the bishop and knight mate so clearly.
This is a surprising stalemate trap not mentioned in endgame manuals:
1…Nb6+? 2.Kd8! Oops black can only save his bishop by inflicting stalemate on white! A quick win was to be had: 1…Na5 2.Kd8 Ba4 3.Kc8 Bd7+ 4.Kb8 Kc6 5.Ka7 Bc8 6.Kb8 Kd7 7.Ka8 Kc7 8.Ka7 Nc6+ 9.Ka8 Bb7#
Some basic mates at the beginning of the game are covered such as Fool’s Mate, Scholar’s Mate and similar ideas. Importantly, the author considers the defences to Scholar’s mate. Some GM games are included!
Here is an example from a Greco game which is an offshoot of a foolhardy variation of Owen’s Defence.
Greco – NN
1.e4 b6 2.d4 Bb7 3.Bd3 f5?
4.exf5! Bxg2 5.Qh5+ g6 6.fxg6 Nf6
6…Bg7 is better, but there are two busts to this silly line:
7.gxh7+ Kf8 8.Qg6 or even better 7.Qf5! Nf6 8.Bh6!! Bxh6 9.gxh7 Bxh1 10.Qg6+ Kf8 11.Qxh6+ Kf7 12.Nh3! Qf8 13.Qg6+ Ke6 14.Nc3 d5 15.0-0-0 with a winning position
7.gxh7+! Nxh5 8.Bg6#
Part 4 Combinative Mates (Queen & Rook)
Although the author states in the introduction that knowing the names of the mates does not matter, I tend to disagree as a name gives some poetry. There are about 24 different types of mates in this chapter. The reviewer will show a few positions to give the reader a taste:
Here is a famous opening trap with Anastasia’s Mate:
12.Qh5! d5 (12…g6 13.Qh4 is nasty) 13.Qxh7!+ 1-0 (13…Kxh7 14.Rxh5#
The Arabian mate is a common mating motif:
Black’s a pawn is unstoppable, but white has seen further.
37.Qxf7! a1=Q+ 38.Kh2 and black’s extra queen cannot prevent the inevitable mate on h7! 38…Qxf7 39.Rxf7 b6 40,Rh7#
The back row mate (aka corridor mate) is probably one of the commonest tactical themes in chess:
Capablanca muffed the coup de grâce by playing 29.Qa8?? and black resigned obviously believing the future world champion. Black could have saved the game with 29…Rxa2!
White could have won with 29.Rxe8 or even simpler 29.Qb5! Rxb8 (29…c6 30.Rxe8 Qxe8 31.Qb8 Rc1+ 32.Kf2) 30.Qxb8 Kg8 31.Qb3+ or 31.Qa7
Here is another beautiful example of a back rate coupled with a self block mate:
White played 21.Qf5! (with a double threat on the black queen and h7) 21…Re6 (21…Qxf5 22.Rxe8#;Qa4 23.b3! Rxe4 24,bxa4 Re1+ 25.Bf1 wins;21…Qd8 22.Re7!! capturing the rook allows 23.Qxh7+ Kf8 24.Qh8#) 22.d5! Nxd3 23.dxe6 fxe6 24.Qxe6+ Qxe6 25.Rxe6 (25…Nxb2 26.Re7 wins by harvesting the black pawns) Kf7 26.Re2 1-0
No anthology of tactics would be complete without the Opera Mate:
Probably one of the most famous finishes 16.Qb8!+ Nxb8 17.Rd8#
This is an instructive example of Cozio’s Mate:
White looks to be in trouble here. However after 1.Qe7+ Qg5 (1…g5 2.Qe1+ Qg3+ 3.Qxg3#) 2.Qe4+ Qg4 3.Qe3!! black is in zugzwang and will be mated.
Here is an example of Marshall’s mate from a modern game:
White played 36.Ne2?? (36.Qxd1 Rf2 37.Qf1 Rxf1 38.Rxf1 wins as a rook and three pieces will overcome a queen and 3 pawns) overlooking 36…Rf1+ 37.Kxf1 Qf2#
Part 5 Combinative Mates (Bishop, Knight & Pawn)
There are about 11 different types of mates in this chapter. The reviewer will show a few positions to give the reader a taste:
Here is the original Boden’s Mate:
13…d5! 14.Bxd5 Qxc3+ 15.bxc3 Ba3#
Here is an example of the Pony Express mate from Joseph Blackburne:
White appears to have plenty of pieces round his king, but 20…Qg2+! 21.Rxg2 Nh3# is a pretty mate
Here is a example of the Suffocation Mate deep in the ending:
White has just played 84.h7! and black resigned. After 84…Kg7 85.h8Q+! Kxh8 86.Bh6 the black king is trapped in the corner. White mates with the moves 87.Bf8 followed by 88.Kg5, 89.Kh6 and 90.Bg7#
In summary, I recommend this book as an excellent training manual for practising pattern recognition of common mating patterns.
To make the book even better, I would have added a short section on common tactical motifs such as forks, skewers & pins.
FM Richard Webb, Basingstoke, Hampshire, 20th July 2021
Book Details :
Hardcover : 450 pages
Publisher:Thinkers Publishing; 1st edition (1 Mar. 2019)
How to Become a Candidate Master: A Practical Guide to Take Your Chess to the Next Level: FM Alex Dunne
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.
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:
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”.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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