“Almost as fascinating as chess is the community of chess players. In every major city in the world, you are guaranteed to meet interesting people when you walk into a local chess club or chess cafe. This book pays tribute to one of those characters who gave colour to the chess world, the Russian grandmaster Alexey Vyzhmanavin.
The best chance to bump into Vyzhmanavin in the 1980s and early 1990s was in Sokolniki park in Moscow, playing blitz. You could meet him at the 1992 Chess Olympiad as a member of the winning Russian team. Or in the finals of the PCA rapid events of the 1990s, frequently outplaying his illustrious opponents with his fluent and enterprising style. In Moscow in 1994, he reached the semi-final, narrowly losing out to Vladimir Kramnik, having already beaten Alexei Shirov and Viktor Korchnoi. Commentating at a PCA event, Maurice Ashley described Vyzhmanavin in predatory terms: ‘He’s a dangerous one, looking like a cat, ready to pounce’.
For this book, grandmaster Dmitry Kryakvin has talked to dozens of people, enabling him to give a complete picture of Vyzhmanavin’s life. The result is a mix of fascinating chess, wonderful anecdotes, and some heartbreaking episodes. The stories are complemented by the memories of Vyzmanavin’s ex-wife Lyudmila. They revive his successes but also reveal the dark side of this forgotten chess genius who battled with depression and the ‘green serpent’, a Russian euphemism for alcoholism. He died in January 2000 at the age of forty, in circumstances that remain unclear. The stories and games in this book are his legacy.
Dmitry Kryakvin is an International Grandmaster from Russia and an experienced chess trainer and author. For New In Chess he wrote Attacking with g2-g4: The Modern Way to Get the Upper Hand in Chess”
There’s always a demand for biographical works and games collections concerning lesser known players. Here we have a book about Alexey Vyzhmanavin, who, for a short time in the late 1980s and early 1990s, was one of the leading Soviet/Russian grandmasters.
Viorel Bologan provides the Foreword.
(Vyzhmanavin) was a very inventive and enterprising chess player, with deep and precise calculation skills. His best games featured in this book constitute great learning material. I must add that I rather liked the style of the book: it’s not a simple collection of best games – it’s a history of his life, bright and tragic. The narration of the author, Dmitry Kryakvin, is complemented by the memories of Vyzhmanavin’s ex-wife Lyudmila and stories from his friends.
Bright and tragic. This sums up Vyzhmanavin’s short life, with its highs and lows. A player of exceptional natural talent, particularly at speed chess, but his life blighted by his mental health problems and addictions to gambling and alcohol.
A fascinating book with an important story to tell – and some great chess along the way as well.
Right at the start, though, I should explain that I have one issue. Not, I suspect, to do with the book itself, but to do with what I assume was an editorial decision made by the publishers.
If I’m reading a Best Games collection I really want to see the complete games. Here, in the majority of cases, we don’t get all the moves, but only join the game after the opening, or, in some cases, at the start of the ending. This is something I find very frustrating: while it’s good to see how the winner exploited his advantage, I’d also like to know how he obtained that advantage in the first place, which might teach me something about the opening.
I appreciate that this is their house style, and that the decision was no doubt made for economic reasons, but for me it rather spoils what is otherwise an excellent book.
Vyzhmanavin had a difficult family background, with an alcoholic father. His mother was a kindergarten teacher, and he didn’t discover chess until his teens, when, accompanying his mother and her pupils to a summer camp, he chanced upon a chess book.
He had to start his playing career against much younger children, but, supported by Lyudmila Belavenets (daughter of pre-war Soviet master Sergey), he won books as prizes and rapidly became addicted to chess. As she later wrote: I am completely sure that it’s not necessary to start studying chess at the age of 4 or 6. When a teenager comes to the chess section, this means that it was his own choice.
I wholeheartedly agree with these sentiments.
We are all products of our childhood, and what we discuss here and now is very important in understanding what happened to Alexey Vyzhmanavin later. Alexey didn’t have any of the things that we love so much and sometimes value so little at home: warmth, loving and caring family members.
For him, much more than for most players, his childhood is the key to understanding both why and how he played chess.
He soon discovered the chess pavilion in Sokolniki Park in Moscow, where he honed his exceptional talent for blitz chess. By 1981, at the age of 20, he was beating players like Bronstein and Vaganian: you can see the games here.
By this time he had been conscripted into the armed forces. joining the sports unit, where he could pursue chess rather than military training. After his two year conscription period ended he signed up for another six years, winning the Armed Forces championship on seven occasions.
By 1985 he was approaching GM strength, winning this fine attacking game. Click on any move for a pop-up window.
By the late 1980s he was, like his father before him, experiencing problems with alcoholism and mental health, but in 1988 his life changed when he married a fellow chess player, Lyudmila Didenko, as she is now known. Soon after their marriage a daughter was born. Lyudmila’s moving recollections of Alexey play an important part in this book.
There was more good news in 1989 when Vyzhmanavin, now with a 2555 rating, finally attained the grandmaster title.
Here’s an example of his play from the following year.
He continued to progress, playing for the successful Russian Olympiad and European Championship teams in 1992, and reaching a peak rating of 2620 in 1993.
But, by the mid 1990s his problems with the ‘green serpent’ were getting worse. His results started to decline, and his marriage broke up, Lyudmila filing for divorce in 1996. He played little chess that year, and, despite sharing first place at Cappelle-la-Grande the following year, soon gave up completely.
By now his life had spiralled out of control, and, in January 2000, at the age of only 39, he was found dead in his Moscow flat.
A tragic story, then, of a talented but troubled man who was unable to control his demons.
As usual from this publisher, the book is well produced. The translation is excellent and the game annotations serve their purpose well. As is usual with New in Chess books, active learning is promoted by questions inviting readers to find the best continuation. Given that Vyzhmanavin excelled in positional chess, most of the questions involve planning rather than calculation. If you feel the purpose of this book is to inform rather than instruct, they’re not necessary, but they don’t do any harm.
If you’re interested in the human side of chess you’ll certainly want to read this book. If you’re interested in chess life in the last days of the Soviet Union, this is also a book for you. If you enjoy powerful positional chess, particularly in queen’s pawn games, you’ll learn something from this book. I’d suspect you’d have learnt rather more, though, if you’d been able to see the complete games rather than, in the majority, just the conclusion.
Dmitry Kryakvin has done an outstanding job in producing a fine tribute to Alexey Vyzhmanavin, a man who deserves to be remembered for both his life and his games.
Before I leave you, I have one further question prompted by reading this book. Should international and national chess organisations do more to help members of their community suffering from problems in the areas of mental health and addictions? I consider this an important topic which isn’t being discussed enough. Of course it’s quite possible that Vyzhmanavin might have turned down offers of help anyway, but what do you think?
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.
“Boris Zlotnik is an extraordinary trainer and coach. He was the director of a legendary chess school in Moscow before he emigrated to Spain in 1993. Ten years later, the super talent Fabiano Caruana moved to Madrid with his entire family to live near his trainer Zlotnik.
As a former coach of U.S. Champion Caruana, Zlotnik knows how top players work on their chess improvement. And his experience with club players allows him to translate that understanding into practical lessons for amateurs about highly original subjects like creativity or ‘putting up resistance’ – topics seldom touched on in other chess manuals.
Zlotnik covers a wide variety of topics and uses a wealth of material. Readers will love this new book, as they did his first book, Zlotnik’s Middlegame Manual. ‘A brilliant, important and extraordinarily instructive book’, said Florian Jacobs, the book reviewer for the Max Euwe Center in Amsterdam. ‘This is how probing, rich and motivating studying chess can be.'”
A slightly strange title, and perhaps a contradictory subtitle. I’m not sure that Zlotnik is exactly a household name, and therefore one that would sell more copies by its appearance on the cover. Dvoretsky’s books certainly sold by virtue of having his name in the title, but will Zlotnik do the same? If you thought more chess trainers should be household names, I wouldn’t disagree with you.
Treasure Trove? Buried treasure. According to Wiki:
The term is also often used metaphorically. Collections of articles published as a book are often titled Treasure Trove, as in A Treasure Trove of Science. This was especially fashionable for titles of children’s books in the early- and mid-20th century.
So perhaps that’s what we have here: a collection of articles about chess training. A lucky dip. A grab bag. But given Zlotnik’s reputation one that will undoubtedly be worth reading.
But then Enjoyable Chess Training for Amateurs sounds like something rather more formal and structured. Kudos to the publishers, though, for highlighting the target market (1600-2200 Elo). Regular readers of my reviews will know that I’m frequently critical of publishers who claim books are suitable for much wider target markets and much lower rated players than they really are.
I was also wondering whether anyone would buy a book promising ‘unenjoyable’ or ‘boring’ chess training. But never mind: let’s look inside.
In his preface, Zlotnik describes the book’s contents. He appreciates that most amateur chess players have other demands on their time: there are books available for ambitious young players prepared to devote several hours a day to improving their chess, but this isn’t one of them.
He concludes like this:
I share the following opinion with the sixth World Champion Mikhail Botvinnik: ‘It is not possible to teach someone to play chess well, but this is something that can be achieved through ones own efforts.’ This book is a book of reflections on chess, rather than an attempt to teach how to play well, and its aim is to demonstrate the richness and at the same time the difficulty of chess and the possible ways to get better at this game.
I also agree with Botvinnik. Many parents seem to think that if their children spend an hour a week with a strong player they’ll learn by osmosis, and that the stronger the player the more they’ll learn. You, I’m sure, will realise that this is nonsense. But that’s something for another time and place.
In Chapter 1, Zlotnik talks about the difference between amateurs and professionals, about the nature of chess talent, and about chess itself. An interesting read, but you won’t find any chess training there.
Chapter 2 is Factors which determine success in chess. We look at the different thought processes required for tactical and positional play. What they have in common is calculation: in tactical play you calculate forced variations while in positional play you calculate unforced variations.
In this position (Groningen 2013) IM Sergio Estremera Panos (2365) miscalculated against Jasel Lopez (2179). Rb7! would have won, but instead he blundered with Qe5?, when Ng7 gave the lower rated player a winning attack.
Chapter 3 provides advice on Training in tactical play. Like many chess coaches today, Zlotnik is very keen on training visualisation skills through blindfold play and other exercises. He also looks at Kotov’s views on tactical training outlined in Think Like a Grandmaster.
Here’s Zlotnik with another recommendation:
It is beyond doubt that chess problems and studies, by their very nature, present us with many more possibilities of encountering something original and are useful for us in training our combinative vision. … I think that a good criterion is to assess the ability to solve ‘mate in two’ problems, although exceptionally some of them are difficult even for GMs. Among especially creative puzzle composers, Samuel Loyd stands out, well-known above all for his mathematical puzzles.
Again, solving compositions of this nature is something now recommended by most leading chess coaches.
If you’re a tactical star (and that’s a big hint) you’ll be able to solve this mate in two composed by Sam Loyd in 1891.
Zlotnik also recommends, again following in Kotov’s footsteps, playing through a complex game, stopping at interesting points to analyse the position, and then comparing your analysis with that of the annotator or your computer. He then offers you Kramnik – Topalov (Skopje 2015), with ten questions for you to answer.
After training in tactical play, we have, naturally enough, Training in positional play in Chapter 4. Inevitably, given the nature of the subject, the advice here is of a rather more nebulous nature.
Something I don’t recall seeing before is this:
… usually you should attack your opponent’s most advanced piece or pawn, and if you cannot do so directly, then you should attack its base of support. Curiously, and in my experience, this very simple piece of advice is valid in many cases.
The next two chapters are what makes this book unusual. Chapter 5 tackles Creativity in chess. Zlotnik shows us some endgame studies, along with some games by Nezhmetdinov and the less well-known Konstantin Chernyshov. Click on any move for a pop-up window.
The exercises at the end of the chapter include some Proof Game puzzles, which are always fun. I used one of them here.
Chapter 6 then tells us how to put up Maximum resistance in practical situations.
If you’re in the target market for this book you’ll reach a bad position at some point in about half your games, so you might think this is an important subject which should be discussed more than it is. In 1967 Zlotnik asked Bronstein about the difference between masters and non-masters. He was surprised by the reply: a master knows how to fight against another human being!
In this extract, a dangerous tactician turns the tables on her strong opponent in a time scramble.
We then have 20 pages, plus two pages of exercises, on Studying the opening.
In this game the amateur playing white, unlike his opponent, was aware of a sharp tactical variation, but Black’s superior practical skill soon told.
Zlotnik concludes the chapter:
The main advice I can give to an amateur player is to seek a balance between specific knowledge of opening lines and typical ideas. Also, whatever the opening being studied, it is useful to have as a model an active high-level player who is an expert in the variation/opening we plan to play. From their games we can receive specific answers to any questions we might have and also learn a number of typical methods for this variation in the middlegame and perhaps also in the endgame.
Finally, the book wouldn’t be complete without Zlotnik’s ideas on Studying the endgame, which take up 18 pages along with three pages of exercises. As an example of what an amateur needs to know he devotes seven pages to some theory in the important ending of rook and pawn against rook.
The endgame is a difficult science and it requires the investment of a great deal of work to master this aspect of the game.
This is a rather unusual coaching book, then, and I’m not sure whether either the title or subtitle does it justice. ‘Reflections of a Chess Coach” might give the prospective purchaser a better idea of what to expect. If you’re in the target market, an amateur rated between about 1600 and 2000 with a limited amount of time to spend on the game, it might be just what you’re looking for to help you put on another 100 points or so. But, while the examples and exercises have been chosen with exemplary care, this relatively slim volume will serve more as a guide to the sort of work you should be doing to make that improvement rather than something which will, in itself, bring it about.
For anyone with any interest at all in chess coaching, whether as an instructor or as a student, the opinions of one of the world’s most experienced and distinguished chess teachers will undoubtedly be both fascinating and inspiring. The book is produced to this publisher’s customary high standards and, if you’ve enjoyed the examples demonstrated in this review, it deserves a warm recommendation.
Major investment to transform future of English chess announced
Package of measures worth almost £1 million will inspire the next generation of chess players, bringing chess to a wider audience, whilst supporting the development of elite players.
Plans will see 100 new chess tables installed in public spaces, and grants for schools in disadvantaged areas to get more primary school children playing chess
Investment in the English Chess Federation will ensure players receive world-leading training and development opportunities, and help make England a chess heavyweight
Plans form part of Culture Secretary Lucy Frazer’s mission to give young people “someone to talk to, something to do and somewhere to go” outside of school
Chess will receive a major boost, thanks to a package of measures announced today.
The package will support primary school children attending schools in disadvantaged areas across England to learn and play chess, improve the visibility and availability of chess in communities, as well as fund elite playing as part of a combined package worth almost £1 million.
The Department for Culture, Media and Sport will invest £500,000 in the English Chess Federation (ECF) over two years, in order to develop the next generation of world-class talent. Funds will support expert coaching, training camps and cutting-edge computer analysis for international events to assist current grandmasters and up-and-coming players.
Investment into the ECF will include funding for junior training camps and one-to-one coaching with England internationals, prioritising access for young chess players to take part in an educational, productive activity that helps develop critical thinking skills. A portion of the money will be dedicated to support visually impaired and deaf players to compete in their own elite level competitions.
This investment comes following a speech at the Onward think tank in July, where Culture Secretary Lucy Frazer set out her commitment to ensure that young people have “someone to talk to, something to do and somewhere to go” outside of school.
Culture Secretary Lucy Frazer said:
“Chess is a brilliant way for young people to develop skills such as patience and critical thinking. It is something constructive on which to spend their time and feel part of. It inspires creativity and sparks the competitive spirit.
“We want to give more young people the opportunity to find the thing that they love and realise their potential. So this package is focused on getting more young people playing chess and supporting them to develop their talent.
“We’re also equipping our elite chess players with expert coaching to help them dominate at the highest levels of the global game and restore England’s reputation among the best in the world.”
English Chess Federation Director of International Chess Malcolm Pein:
“The unprecedented grant funding will be transformational for English chess, helping to train more grandmasters and beginning the process of regaining England’s former status as a force in international chess.
“The funds will enable us to support a training programme and pipeline for our growing pool of young talent as well as assist our elite players, seniors, visually impaired and deaf players to compete for top honours in their respective international competitions. The funding will also enable the ECF to revitalise the chess tournament circuit here at home.”
Alongside the support committed to elite players, the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities (DLUHC) will provide £250,000 to 85 Local Authorities throughout England to install 100 new chess tables in public parks and outdoor green spaces, to allow more people to play, connect, tackle loneliness, and develop problem solving skills.
Local authorities which are currently receiving the Levelling Up Parks Fund (LUPF) and have been identified as communities most in need of improved quality green space will determine where to locate the chess tables.
In addition, the Government has set out plans to encourage more primary school children, particularly girls, to learn to play the game. The Department for Education will award grants of up to £2,000 to at least 100 schools in disadvantaged areas across England, subject to interest.
The grants will enable them to purchase chess sets, provide access to weekly online chess tutorials, and set up online learning platforms and curriculum planning materials for teachers. This will give even more young people access to a productive, enriching activity, helping them build relationships and develop key skills that can be used beyond the game.
Children’s Minister Claire Coutinho said:
“Chess is for everyone, regardless of background. I’m thrilled that more primary school children will learn how to play, boosting their concentration, problem-solving and wellbeing in the process.
“From providing in-person tuition to helping pupils enter competitive tournaments, this funding will support schools to spark a passion for chess in children across the country.”
Learning to play chess is already a skill that young people aged 14-24 can choose to pick up while working towards their Duke of Edinburgh’s Award (DofE). Since 2021, 8,000 young people have pursued chess as part of the Skills section of their DofE.
Harriet Hunt, International Master and former World Girls’ Champion said:
“My own journey into international chess was inspired by the world-leading England players and teams at that time. I am delighted that this government funding will enable the next generation of English talents to reach their potential and compete successfully at the highest level internationally’.
David Howell, Grandmaster and UK No.1:
“Chess has been my life and, as a professional player, the news of support from the government is music to my ears. Hopefully this will inspire the next generation of chess players, as well as bringing the joys of the game that I love to an even wider audience.”
Jitendra Singh, father of UK’s No.1 chess prodigy Shreyas Royal said:
“I was struggling to support my son with the required chess tournaments and coaching instrumental to his development at such a young and crucial age.
“With this grant from the government we will be able to help more kids flourish at the game through the hard-working organisations of the English Chess Federation and chess in Schools and Communities. I believe that it is also a very beneficial hobby and would love to see more people getting into the game from this monumental announcement.”
Notes to Editors
The chess table locations will be determined by Local Authorities who rate highly on the Index of Multiple Deprivation and have limited access to green space. The Index of Multiple Deprivation is a dataset used within the UK that looks at a number of measures of deprivation including income, employment, health, crime and access to housing.
DLUHC is also committed to working with the devolved governments to consider how best to support the installation of outdoor chess boards in Scotland and Wales.
Schools with higher proportions of pupils on free school meals will be eligible for grant funding.
As part of the Duke of Edinburgh’s Award (DofE), young people can choose their own activity for the skills section. Chess is already one skill they can learn or improve their game. The Department of Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) and the Department of Education (DfE) are providing over £7 million between 2022 and 2025 for The Duke of Edinburgh’s Award (DofE) charity to support more secondary schools and community settings to deliver the DofE, giving young people the opportunity to develop new skills and discover new interests and passions, such as chess.
“The vast majority of chess games witness familiar strategies and well known tactical motifs. These are the games that you will find in the anthologies and opening repertoires. Sometimes however, games appear that seem to have been played on a different planet.
Conventional strategies go out of the window. Familiar tactical themes are nowhere to be seen. Chaos has broken out. The pieces appear to be in open rebellion and are steadfastly refusing to do the natural jobs that they were designed for.
Having to navigate a path in such a game can be a nightmare. Do you rely purely on calculation? Is it better to trust your instincts? Can you assess the position using “normal” criteria?
In order to answer these questions, prolific chess author and coach Cyrus Lakdawala has assembled a collection of brilliantly unconventional and irrational games. The positions in these games appear almost random. Kings have gone walkabout, pieces are on bizarre squares, huge pawn rollers are sweeping all before them.
Irrational chess is like nothing you’ve seen before. As well as being highly instructive this is a hugely entertaining book.
Do not adjust your set. It’s chess, Jim, but not as we know it.”
and about the author:
Cyrus Lakdawala is an International Master, a former National Open and American Open Champion, and a six-time State Champion. He has been teaching chess for over 30 years, and coaches some of the top junior players in the U.S.
As with every recent Everyman Chess publication high quality paper is used and the printing is clear. Each diagram is clear as is the instructional text. Figurine algebraic notation is used throughout and the diagrams are placed adjacent to the relevant text.
Here we have another title from the ever prolific keyboard of Cyrus Lakdawala. Irrational Chess seems like a good match for this author’s sometimes irrational writing style.
But my first question is: what makes a game irrational? If you watch two beginners playing, their moves will mostly be irrational because they have little or no idea what they’re doing. We’re really talking about games between strong players where no one really knows what’s going on. Games where pieces end up on unlikely squares, where there are unusual material imbalances, where one player has decided to take a risk, or to confuse his or her opponent.
As Mikhail Tal, the Patron Saint of Irrational Chess said, “You must take your opponent into a deep, dark forest where 2+2=5 and the path leading out is only wide enough for one.”
That, for the most part, is what you’ll find here. We all enjoy playing through and studying games of this nature. Some of us enjoy playing games like this ourselves as well.
In his rather rambling introduction, Lakdawala tells us how to identify positions of disorder/irrationality.
He offers 12 pointers, for example:
1. A lack ofcontinuity, in that one thing doesn’t necessarily logically lead to what we expected. In this book we try to decode the “without words” positions, which cannot be accessed logically/verbally broken town and explained easily. In such positions the logical mind tends to transform atavistically into a kind of animal consciousness, where nothing is fixed and we are engulfed in a deep realization of terrifying impermanence, where all which matters is our survival.
2. You are lost in the woods and hungry. Then you come upon a patch of unfamiliar berries and mushrooms which could be edible or could be poisonous. The question is: are you going to risk eating them? This book examines the mechanics of risk. Go too far and you overextend; play too safely with too strong a self-preservatory instinct and you may suppress opportunity.
10. While the Sesame Street Muppets taught us that learning can be fun, in this book we look at games so irrationally complex that it is actually difficult to learn from many of them. Nonetheless, in a position’s confusion, just because we lose our faculty of sight, doesn’t also mean we also lose our power of reason. The idea behind this book is: any position, no matter how complex, can still be broken down (at least to some degree!) into points of data, from which we hope to come up with the correct idea. So before most of the examples, I try my best to “explain” that which is often unexplainable. In such positions when we think: “I have a strong intuition on the matter”, it won’t be code for “I’m taking a wild guess!”
If you’re at all familiar with this author’s work you won’t be surprised by all this chattering about Muppets and mushrooms. Cyrus has a devoted fanbase who will lap this up, but it’s not to everyone’s taste.
Reading on, what we have here is eight chapters: four relatively long chapters, covering Attack, Defence and Counterattack, The Dynamic Element (I’m not sure how exactly this differs from Attack, but never mind) and Exploiting Imbalances, followed by four shorter chapters, on Irrational Endings, Opening Shockers, Crazy Draws and Promotion Races. We have 89 games or extracts, copiously illustrated with many diagrams.
Cyrus, quite rightly, is a devotee of active learning, sprinkling his annotations, as he always does, with exercises (Planning, Combination Alert or Critical Decision). You might like to cover up the page and try to solve them before reading on. The author is a highly experienced annotator who knows his market well. He’s always thorough, but without going over the top with long computer generated variations, and makes ample use of the latest engines to ensure accuracy. Once you get past the verbiage, he does an excellent job of explaining complex ideas and tactics in a way that is understandable to his readership.
You’ll find most of the greats featured within the 400 pages, from Morphy and earlier through to Carlsen and AlphaZero. You might consider the likes of Capablanca, Euwe and Smyslov to be supremely rational players, but they’re there as well. Tal, unsurprisingly, features on several occasions, but there’s no sign of Alekhine.
If you’re knowledgeable about chess history and literature you’ll encounter a lot of old friends, but they will always be new to some readers. There were quite a few games that were new to me – and I much enjoyed discovering them for the first time.
I wouldn’t dispute the irrationality of most of them, but there were one or two, especially in the first chapter, which you might consider were just very well played attacking games. How would you judge this much anthologised game? (Click on any move for a pop-up window.)
On the other hand, there’s no argument about the irrationality of games like this, described by Lakdawala as one of the most crazy, head-spinning games in the book.
My heart is thudding, as if watching a Quentin Tarantino movie while on the treadmill is how Lakdawala introduces the following encounter.
A small historical point – the game Van der Loo – Hesseling (Game 75 here) is known to be a fake, with White’s name usually given as Van de Loo, but the author is apparently unaware of this.
Irrational Chess is produced to this publisher’s customary high standards: well laid out with many large diagrams. This book will appeal to players of all standards, and will undoubtedly bring a lot of pleasure to a lot of readers, demonstrating, to anyone who might doubt it, the excitement and richness of chess. Lakdawala’s obvious enthusiasm and love of chess shine through everything he writes, but his eccentricities will always divide the critics.
If you’re easily offended you should perhaps steer clear. If you’re on the religious right you’ll find some of the words blasphemous, while elements of the woke left will consider other words to be mental health slurs.
Then you read something like this:
Black’s position pulls him down, like our demanding, emotional, high-maintenance college ex-girlfriend.
If Fischer’s pawns are an athlete’s body, then his rook represents the love handles.
Sexist? Inappropriate? It’s your decision. A sensitivity reader would have a field day with his/her red pen. You might think, and I might well agree with you, that a lot of people these days are over-sensitive, but we are where we are. The author’s many devoted admirers don’t seem to have a problem.
If you’re a Lakdawala fan, and there are many around, or if his writing style appeals to you, you’ll really enjoy this book, and the often extraordinary and thrilling games featured within. The games are certainly a lot of fun, especially if you haven’t seen them before. If you find Cyrus’s writing fun as well, there’s no reason to hesitate.
“Have you ever wondered why strong chess players immediately grasp what is happening in complex positions? The secret is pawn structures. The pawn structure dictates the game’s flow, and different structures require distinct approaches. You can improve your game by studying a large variety of pawn structures and the Hidden Laws of Chess.
IM Nick Maatman invented the Hidden Laws of Chess as an instructional tool to help his students bridge the gap between the basic understanding of a club player and the next level of knowledge of Masters and Grandmasters. A grandmaster knows from experience what pieces to exchange when facing an isolated pawn, while a club player wonders if he should keep his rooks on the board – or not.
The Hidden Laws go one level deeper than the basic laws on piece development, king safety or material balance. The Hidden Laws will uncover elements such as space, the quality of a pawn structure, and a doubled pawn’s strength or weakness. Maatman will answer questions like: Are backward pawns the worst in chess? What is the value of a space advantage? Could doubled pawns be an asset? How can I win symmetrical positions?
Using his coaching experience and writing with a touch of science and philosophy, Maatman will guide any ambitious chess player to the next level. His book contains dozens of actionable tips, instructive games and carefully selected exercises.
“Nick Maatman (1995) is an International Master, experienced chess coach, and training partner of Super-GM Jorden van Foreest. Maatman has won the Dutch U20 Championship and has beaten many strong grandmasters in tournament games. The Hidden Laws of Chess is his first book, but he expects many more to follow. He graduated from Groningen University in both Business and Philosophy.”
From the author’s introduction:
What is a Hidden Law in chess? With a ‘Hidden Law’, I refer to the deeper structures that spring from a mere contingency of the rules of chess. This might sound like a mouthful of gibberish to you. What I mean is that there are certain patterns that underlie good play. Had the rules of chess been different, these hidden structures would have been different as well. On a surface level, there are Laws that comprise the comparative value of the pieces. On a deeper level there are Hidden Laws that encompass elements such as the importance of space, the quality of a pawn structure, the strength or weakness of an isolated pawn, the importance of a key square, etc.
… and …
.. the Hidden Laws are context dependent. Good chess strategy may vary immensely in different types of positions. That’s why this book is divided into eight chapters featuring eight different types or aspects of pawn structures.
In this book, my objective is to explore these Hidden Laws of Chess. My goal is … to provide actionable tips and ideas that you can apply to elevate your game. Ideas that form the foundation for a solid positional understanding. A mastery of the Hidden Laws of Chess contributes to sound judgment – and sound judgment leads to good moves, which ultimately leads to better results.
So what we have here is, according to the author, essentially a positional book covering eight different types of pawn formation. He suggests that combining reading this book with tactics training will enable you to make progress with your chess.
The eight chapters cover in turn: space advantage, doubled pawns, backward pawn, isolani, hanging pawns, mobile pawn centre, locked pawn centre, symmetry.
Each chapter is, as with many books from this publisher, preceded by some puzzles (Preview Exercises) taken from games analysed within the chapter, and followed by a Quiz reinforcing the lessons learnt in the chapter. The difficulty of the puzzles is indicated using a star system: one star for the easiest through to five stars for the hardest. The solutions to the quiz questions are to be found at the end of the book. Helpfully, important sentences are highlighted throughout, and each chapter concludes with the author’s Hidden Laws concerning that particular pawn formation.
Of course it’s a lot harder to set meaningful position exercises than tactical exercises. I was interested to see how Maatman dealt with this.
As this is a relatively slim volume, the chapters themselves are fairly short, mostly 20-25 pages excluding the puzzles, although the chapter on isolani is slightly longer.
The main question I always have with instructional books such as this concerns the target market. There is, or should be, an enormous difference between books written for 1500s and books written for 2000s, and again between books written for 2000s and books written for 2500s. Books written for, say, 1750s or 2250s will, or again should be, rather different again. The danger for authors and publishers is that if your book is too specific you’ll limit your target market, while if you try to offer something for everyone you’ll and up pleasing nobody.
Again, I was interested to see how this book approached these issues. Neither the publisher’s blurb nor the author’s introduction give any indication as to the approximate rating range of the book.
I turned to Chapter 2, as my view for many years has been that doubled pawns are, by and large, not dealt with very well in chess literature. Have there been any books specifically devoted to this subject? If not, someone, perhaps Nick Maatman, should certainly write one.
Maatman does a good job, given that he only has twenty pages, in explaining the potential advantages, as well as the disadvantages of doubled pawns. We get a few classic examples, for example the 1938 Botvinnik – Chekover game, which made a big impression on me when I first came across it in about 1970. We also get some recent games, for example Caruana – Carlsen (Wijk aan Zee 2015), in which the doubled pawns were only on the board for a few moves. I can’t help thinking the game was selected for the fascinating tactical possibilities both in the game and in the notes, rather than because it was particularly instructive in helping the reader to understand the subject. I’m not sure how games like this fit it with the author’s claim that the book is more of a positional manual.
The Hidden Laws of Doubled Pawns at the end of the chapter include, amongst others:
Having fewer pawn islands is favourable
Isolated doubled pawns are particularly vulnerable
A doubled pawn can create a semi-open file.
Could these rules really be considered Hidden? While they’re all very useful, I’d have thought that most club standard players, even 1500 standard players, would be aware of them.
The pattern is repeated through all the chapters. You’ll find some classic games which will be very familiar to most 2000 strength players, but new to less experienced players, along with more complex contemporary games often featuring interesting tactics. Of course there’s a generational issue. While I’m very familiar with many of the older games and less familiar with the 21st century examples, younger readers may well have the opposite experience.
As well as questions at the beginning and end of the chapter, there are questions in the text as well.
Take this example from Chapter 3 (Backward Pawns), where the author’s friend Jorden van Foreest is facing Nigel Short at Malmo in 2021, about to play his 12th move.
Try to put yourself in White’s shoes for a moment. You have prepared the game all the way to move 10. Now, you realise that your opponent played a move that wasn’t in your notes, suggesting it may be inferior. How would you try to take advantage.
I was truly impressed when I witnessed this move. In Chapter 2, we learned about the weaknesses of doubled pawns and how they can be especially problematic if their presence creates multiple pawn islands. Furthermore, you probably knew something about the value of the bishop pair already. Here, Van Foreest throws all conventional wisdom out of the window. He voluntarily gives up a great bishop for a shabby-looking knight on b6, and on top of that he repairs the black pawn structure. What did Van Foreest notice that made him commit to this decision?
It’s all about the pawn that’s left behind on d7 and the gaping hole this creates on d6, Van Foreest accurately assesses that the creation of a backward pawn outweighs all other factors in this position.
Well, you might perhaps have guessed the answer given that the chapter features backward rather than doubled pawns, but active learning, forcing you to think for yourself, is always good.
It’s all about trading advantages, isn’t it? A complex and difficult topic which could do with a book to itself. Here, a vastly experienced former World Championship Candidate misjudged the position. If it was too hard for Nigel, what hope do the rest of us have?
There’s always a danger when you demonstrate advanced material to your students that they will fail to contextualise the information and go round randomly trading great bishops for shabby-looking knights or straightening out their opponents’ pawn structure. On the other hand, seeing how top GMs make decisions might inspire us to become better players. What do you think?
I think Maasman’s introduction to the chapter on Isolani will be instructive to many readers. He offers two positions, both with White to move, and asks which you’d prefer.
Which position would you prefer?
In fact, it’s the first position that offers White more winning chances: Rd4! gives a clear advantage. The second position is optically very good for White but Black can hold comfortably as long as he finds 1. Bd1 Bd7!.
Maatman proposes two Hidden Laws:
When playing against an isolated queen’s pawn, the preservation of major pieces increases winning chances
When playing against an isolated queen’s pawn, the exchange of minor pieces increases winning chances.
According to the author: These laws are very specific and there is a good chance that you haven’t heard them before.
Actually, I had heard them before, in a book written for children published in the 1980s (I prefer not to name the title and author), which demonstrated the 9th game of the 1981 Karpov – Korchnoi World Championship Match – the same game which, in this book, provides three of the quiz questions at the end of this chapter.
I’d guess, though, that this will be new to most players of, say, 1500 strength, but might well be known to many 2000 strength players.
If you play the King’s Indian Defence or anything similar with either colour, you’ll certainly enjoy Chapter 7 on Locked Pawn Centres, but if you prefer the French Defence, for example, you might be disappointed.
One of the games demonstrated here is a 2022 computer game between versions of Stockfish and Scorpio.
In this position Stockfish has to choose it’s 23rd move. What would your plan be here?
Stockfish found 23. c5!!, with the idea of meeting bxc5 with Nc1, with a later Bb5 to follow, trading off White’s bad bishop for Black’s good bishop.
Maatman comments after the game:
An enthralling concept by Stockfish. The move 23. c5!! is just so captivating. Extraordinary imagination is needed to even consider such an idea. White’s only path forward appears to be on the dark squares, but the machine completely forfeits the dark squares. Instead it contests the light squares at the cost of a pawn. Eventually, the black a-pawn was lost, and its White counterpart promoted. Outstanding foresight by the machine.
The famous evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins once remarked: ‘Personally, I rather look forward to a computer program winning the World Chess Championship. Humanity needs a lesson in humility.’ The times that humans were able to compete with computers have long gone, but the above game showcases that computers now have our number in any position.
I found the idea of puzzles both before and after each chapter rather confusing. Yes, like all good teachers, Maatman likes to offer his students a way of testing their understanding of the contents of the lesson. And yes, it’s this publisher’s house style to include preview puzzles at the start of each chapter to draw you in. I’m not convinced, though, that having both types of puzzle works. In an instructional book you’re assuming the reader isn’t very familiar with the study material, which makes me rather sceptical of the value of the preview puzzles here.
You also have to be careful that your quizzes at the end of the lesson are testing genuine understanding rather than just memory. To give you an example, one of the Hidden Laws in Chapter 1 states that, if you’re playing against a Hedgehog formation you should consider a2-a4-a5. (I don’t think I’ve ever played against a pure Hedgehog in my very long chess career, but that’s another issue.) In the quiz there’s a position from a Hedgehog in which White has a pawn on a4. It’s given four stars for difficulty, but once you’re read the chapter you’ll play the move automatically.
You’ll find a lot of useful instruction throughout this book, and I found the highlighted sentences an excellent way of getting the most important points across. Maatman is an engaging writer and a great communicator with a friendly style, occasionally digressing into football or philosophy, but never overdoing the jollity. He’s chosen an important and underestimated topic: many club players would do well to study pawn formations rather than just memorising openings. Players of all standards will enjoy and learn something here.
While I appreciate that publishers want to aim their books at as wide a readership as possible, I can’t help feeling that less experienced players would benefit from more concrete examples rather than games decided by complex tactics, while more experienced players would value more detail and depth, more pages and even more volumes, along with some less familiar examples.
As is to be expected from this publisher, the book is attractively produced. If you like the idea you won’t be disappointed, but while everyone will learn something, many would learn more from a book focussed on their specific needs.
Richard James, Twickenham 30th June 2023
Softcover: 256 pages
Publisher: New in Chess; 1st edition (31 Jan. 2023)
“The rivalry between William Steinitz and Johannes Zukertort, the world’s strongest chess players in the late nineteenth century, became so fierce that it was eventually named The Ink War. They fought their battle on the chessboard and in various chess magazines and columns. It was not only about who was the strongest player but also about who had the best ideas on how to play the game. In 1872, Johannes Zukertort moved from Berlin to London to continue his chess career.
Ten years earlier, William Steinitz had moved from Vienna to London for the same purpose; meanwhile, he had become the uncrowned champion of the chess world. Their verbal war culminated in the first match for the World Championship in 1886. Zukertort is certainly the tragic protagonist of this book, but is he also a romantic hero? He has often been depicted as a representative of romantic chess, solely focusing on attacking the king. Steinitz is said to have put an end to this lopsided chess style with his modern scientific school. This compelling story shakes up the traditional version of chess history and answers the question which of them can claim to be the captain of the modern school. With his first book, Move First, Think Later, International Master Willy Hendriks caused a minor revolution in the general view on chess improvement.
His second book, On the Origin of Good Moves, presented a refreshing new outlook on chess history. In The Ink War, Hendriks once again offers his unique perspective in a well-researched story that continues to captivate until the tragic outcome. It gives a wonderful impression of the 19th-century chess world and the birth of modern chess. Hendriks invites the reader to actively think along with the beautiful, instructive and entertaining chess fragments with many chess exercises.”
“Willy Hendriks (1966) is an International Master who has been working as a chess trainer for over thirty years. His bestseller Move First, Think Later won the English Chess Federation Book of the Year Award in 2012. In his much-acclaimed second book, On the Origin of Good Moves, he presented a provocative new view on chess history.”
There are always dichotomies, aren’t there? You only have to look at any news website or paper to see them playing out before your eyes. Passionate people on either side of an argument taking extreme views and unwilling to listen to the other side.
In the world of education, for example, there’s the dichotomy between ‘trad’ and ‘prog’, traditional or progressive values, which has been going on, in one form or another, since the days of Rousseau. (Sensible teachers, of course, know that you need some of both.) The same terms are also used in music: perhaps you’re a fan of prog rock, or a devotee of trad jazz.
Let me take you back now to the musical world of the 1850s and 1860s, specifically to central Europe and, in particular, Germany. There were two groups of composers in opposition in what would later become known as the War of the Romantics. Both groups, in very different ways, saw themselves as heirs to Beethoven. The conservative, traditionalist camp was led by the likes of Brahms and Clara Schumann, while, in the opposite corner, were the progressive modernists such as Wagner and Liszt. Nowadays we have no problems listening to the music of both groups with equal pleasure.
Moving forward a couple of decades we come to a very similar war, which, although the camps were led by Central Europeans, took place mostly in London. The Ink War: Romanticism and Modernity in Chess, the subject of Dutch IM Willy Hendriks’ latest book, features Johannes Zukertort flying the romantic flag while William Steinitz sports the colours of Modernity. Two men with, at least if you believe their writings, very different views about how chess should best be played.
This is a successor to the author’s previous book which I reviewed enthusiastically here. Whereas the previous book took a wide-ranging view of 19th century chess history, here we look in more detail at a period of fourteen years: between Zukertort’s arrival in London in 1872 and the first official world championship match, between Steinitz and Zukertort, in 1886.
In the course of 468 pages we meet not just our two protagonists, but a whole host of colourful characters who enlivened the 19th century London chess scene. While we’re given an in depth look at the games of Steinitz and Zukertort, there are many other games included to put their moves in context. A lot of fascinating history, and also a lot of fascinating chess.
At the time there were very few players making a living out of chess, and, if you wanted to be a professional player, the place to go was London. Steinitz had moved there in 1862, and, not the most likeable of men, soon made enemies. The British Chess Association wanted to put him in his place, and, invited Zukertort, who had just won a match against Anderssen, to London.
As Hendriks relates in his prologue:
This book tells the story of this struggle, which was fought on the chessboard, but also, to a significant extent, in chess magazines and in columns in newspapers. First and foremost, this battle was about who was the strongest, and who could eventually call himself the first World Champion. But there was more at stake. Chess and chess theory were in full development and the ideas about how the game should be played were quite divergent. Steinitz had a very outspoken position and saw himself as the foreman of a scientific modern school. For our story it would be nice if Zukertort represented the other pole, the romantic attacking school, but things are not that simple. The larger public, however, understood the rivalry between the two for the greater part along these lines. Thus, the struggle on and around the chessboard was closely linked to the societal developments of the time, such as the rise of science and technology and the romantic resistance to them.
After introductions to Steinitz and Zukertort, in Chapter 3 Hendriks tackles the question of chess style. This ‘primitive dichotomy’, between tactics and strategy, ‘plays a major role in (traditional) chess history writing.’ ‘The danger of this is that it can easily lead to caricatures’.
Of course these caricatures can be seen in later rivalries as well: Alekhine v Capablanca, Tal v Petrosian, Kasparov v Karpov. The tactician against the strategist.
But, in reality, we’re all just trying to find the best moves.
As you’ll know if you’ve read his previous book, Hendriks takes a different approach, looking at ‘the quantitative changes that led to an increase in chess knowledge and to a higher level of skill’. He’s contextualising the games he demonstrates by looking at what the players would have known from previous experience about the positions on the board.
Here, for example, is Zukertort, just having arrived in London in 1872, playing White against the archetypal tragic/romantic hero Cecil de Vere.
You’ll recognise this as a Sicilian Taimanov, which, almost a century later, would become very popular, but this would have been virgin territory to both players. It’s quite understandable, given what he would have known at the time, that de Vere now blundered with 7… Nge7? (you can play this in similar positions but not here), and likewise impressive that Zukertort found the refutation, Ndb5!, over the board.
In the same event Steinitz and Zukertort met for the first time. Steinitz, playing White, essayed his favourite gambit, based on his belief that the king was a strong piece which could take care of itself.
Here’s the game. Click on any move for a pop-up window.
A strong defensive performance by Steinitz, according to Hendriks, who, understandably, only gives us the first 24 moves. A triumph for materialism over romanticism, you might think. Or equally that Zukertort’s second piece sacrifice on move 12 was tempting but unsound.
Hendriks is at his best discussing the development of both positional and tactical ideas. His contextualisation is both informative and instructive.
In those days the French Defence was considered a dull and even cowardly opening, an opinion which continued well into the 20th century. The justification at the time was that the lines where White plays e5 were considered favourable for Black, so the first player usually chose the Exchange Variation.
In 1875 Zukertort played a match against (the very interesting) William Norwood Potter. In the 10th game they reached this position.
A stark contrast to the Steinitz game above. Zukertort, playing White, saw nothing wrong with winning a pawn: 9. Bxf6 Qxf6 10. Nxd5, but after 10… Qh6 11. h3? Nxd4! he was losing material. The Nxd4 idea is very familiar to most club players today, but back in 1875 it would have been unknown: they would have had to discover it for themselves.
Another idea in this sort of position was for one player to swing the queen’s knight over to the kingside, allowing doubled pawns after a trade on f6. In exchange you get the two bishops and a possible attack down the g-file.
It didn’t work in this game from Paris 1878.
You’ll observe that by no means all the games in this book feature Steinitz or Zukertort.
Chapter 11 is intriguingly titled The discovery of the queenside. In his 1880 match against Samuel Rosenthal, Zukertort switched from his usual Ruy Lopez to the Queen’s Gambit. This was by no means a new opening: it dates back to Greco and de Labourdonnais played it on many occasions against McDonnell. In those days the Queen’s Gambit, like the King’s Gambit was usually accepted: after all accepting gambits was the chivalrous thing to do. Rosenthal preferred to decline Zukertort’s gambit, and, in the 9th match game White was able to carry out his favourite plan of a queenside pawn roller, playing an early c5 followed by advancing his a- and b-pawns.
In the 9th game of the match he reached this position, with White to play.
Any strong player will start by considering Rb6, having seen the idea many times before in games played by the likes of Botvinnik and Petrosian. Stockfish agrees that it’s the best move here. Zukertort saw it but, not having had the advantages we have, mistakenly rejected it, eventually drawing a favourable ending. As Hendriks demonstrates, 12 years later, in a very similar position against Chigorin, Steinitz, who had learnt from this example, did indeed play Rb6 with success.
Again and again, throughout the book, we see examples of ideas which are familiar to us now, but would have been new at the time.
By 1881, as Hendriks relates, Steinitz and Zukertort were engaged in a war of words over the analysis of recent chess games: the Ink War. The war was not just about the rights and wrongs of particular moves, but about how games should be annotated: a debate which is still continuing today. Zukertort tended to publish long variations while Steinitz took a more scientific approach.
It was generally understood that Steinitz was, following Morphy’s retirement, the strongest player in the world (EdoChess ranks him top from 1868 onwards) but he hadn’t been active since his 1876 match against Blackburne, and his last tournament had been Vienna 1873. Questions were now being asked as to whether Zukertort was now stronger, so Steinitz decided to return to the fray in 1882, again in Vienna.
This was the strongest tournament yet held, and resulted in a very exciting finish. Steinitz and Winawer shared first place, a point ahead of Mason, with Zukertort and Mackenzie another half point behind, but Zukertort scored 1½/2 against his arch rival.
Another strong tournament took place in London in 1883, and again Steinitz and Zukertort took part.
Here’s Zukertort’s exciting Round 3 encounter with Mason.
White had the draw in hand before blundering on move 57. Curiously, Mason lost the return encounter with Zukertort through a very similar oversight.
Hendriks comments: Such small tactics were often missed in those days, as back then the possibilities for training your tactics were minimal. Today’s diligent student solves more tactical puzzles in a day than the old masters did in their entire lives.
This is one of the themes of both this and his previous book. We might assume that the 19th century greats didn’t have today’s opening knowledge but were equally good at tactics. Hendriks’ view, reinforced by many examples here, is that they weren’t – and unsurprisingly so, as they didn’t have the opportunities for practice and training. Zukertort himself was particularly prone to blunders which would have shamed your club’s third team players.
It was in Round 6 of this game when Zukertort played his Most Famous Game, to which Hendriks develops a whole chapter.
With three rounds to go, Zukertort had reached the extraordinary score of 22/23, losing only to Steinitz in the first cycle, but he then lost his last three games, two of them to the tournament tail-enders. Was this due to problems with his health, or with the medication he was using to treat his health problems, or just a random occurrence? Hendriks considers the evidence here.
Finally, we move onto the 1886 World Championship match. By that point Steinitz had moved to America, and Zukertort was also spending time there, so the contest took place in New York, St Louis and New Orleans. Most of the twenty games are full of interest, and Hendriks contextualises and analyses them in depth.
Ironically, the ‘modernist’ Steinitz opened with the king’s pawn in all his white games, while the ‘tactical’ Zukertort, in all but one of his white games, chose the supposedly more modern and positional Queen’s Gambit. This demonstrates, I suppose, that the dichotomy between them was more about a personality clash than anything else, although, by this point, the two men seemed to have been on tolerably friendly terms.
Several of Zukertort’s white games reached IQP positions, which were, at the time, very little understood, so are of some historical interest.
Here’s the 9th game.
Hendriks has some interesting things to say about the hanging pawns position after Black’s 22nd move, which will give you some idea of his annotation style.
The exchange of pieces in the past few moves did not help White, but Zukertort apparently had a lot of confidence in his attacking chances in this position. However the beautiful knight on e5 can be chased away, and White does not have that many pieces to strengthen his attack either, so he no longer has the better chances. Therefore, this was a good moment for the quiet move 23. h3. Many contemporary players would play this way, but in those days such a prophylactic move was not a matter of course. The idea of prophylaxis would only be introduced a quarter of a century later by Aron Nimzowitsch. This strategy consists of improving one’s position and protected potential weaknesses even before they are threatened.
Steinitz won the first game in brilliant style, but Zukertort then won four in a row. After that, with Zukertort’s health problems worsening, it was mostly one-way traffic, with Steinitz emerging a convincing winner by 12½ to 7½, becoming the first official world champion.
The end of the story is rather sad: Zukertort’s standard of play and health both declined rapidly, and he died in London two years later.
I thoroughly enjoyed this book, just as I did its predecessor. Willy Hendriks is a born storyteller: the book is grippingly written. You’ll always want to turn over the page to see what happens next. If you thought chess history was boring this book may persuade you to think again. It’s beautifully produced and copiously illustrated. I suppose more serious chess historians than me might regret that it’s not as fully referenced as you’d expect from an academic history book, but it’s quite understandable that the author and publisher would take the approach they chose. The English is fluent and highly readable, if not always totally idiomatic. I found one or two minor mistakes, but they didn’t interfere with my enjoyment. If you’re interested in improving your rating, the book is there to help you as well. As with many books from this publisher, most chapters are preceded by puzzles based on games discussed within: if you feel inclined you can attempt to solve them before reading on. If you love, as I do, 19th century chess history, you won’t want to miss this book. You don’t just get the games: there’s a lot of engrossing information about the leading personalities of the day and the way top level chess was organised as well.
You might want to start, if you haven’t read it already, with On the Origin of Good Moves, which is more general and wide-ranging, before continuing with this book. You may not agree with all the author’s opinions and conclusions, but you’ll find something thought-provoking on every page. This is the ideal chess book for me and goes straight into my list of all-time favourites. I can’t wait to see what Willy Hendriks writes about next.
BCN is sorry to report the passing of FM Mike Franklin on Tuesday April 25th 2023: one of England’s most respected and well regarded players.
Michael John Franklin was born on Monday, February 2nd, 1931 in Battersea, London to Albert George (27 ix 1906, Dover – ? iii 1983, Wandsworth) and Helen Ann Franklin (née Colson, 1908-2003) who married in the third quarter of 1928 in Wandsworth. Albert was a clerk as was his father.
At the commencement of the Second World War, when eight years old, Michael was evacuated to Frome in Somerset. As a consequence Michael would delight in playing in the Frome Congress whenever possible. He played in the first event in 1990 organised by Leon York (whose name is the memorial trophy for the Major section). The story of Michael’s return to Frome made its’ way in to the local newspaper and was reported by Gary Lane as follows :
From British Chess Magazine, Volume CX (110, 1990), Number 7 (July), page 296 :
“A special presentation by the sponsor, Mrs. Jean Mackereth, Managing Director of Keyford Frames, was made to Londoner Michael Franklin, who was returning for the first time in 51 years to the town to which he was evacuated during the war. His final appearance at Frome was in the 2010 event.
The Early Years
Michaels interest in chess started in 1944 aged 13 when he witnessed games being played on Clapham Common. He was fascinated by the pieces and taught himself to play, never receiving any formal coaching. He joined the Clapham Common Chess Club in 1944. (CCCC became incorporated into Battersea Chess Club some time later).
Apart from summer events such as the above the club had a Winter Section that played matches in the London League. The club won the first division (now known as the Brian Smith Trophy) of the London League in the 1946-47 and 1947-48 seasons. Michael played his final game in the London Chess League for Richmond & Twickenham on April 14th 2010 drawing with John Hodgson, giving a sixty year span.
In his formative years he played at the Gambit Chess Café, Budge Row, Cannon Street, London, EC4N. Many strong players regularly visited the Gambit to play skittles, blitz and the frequently held lightning tournaments hosted by the proprietor Mr GH White.
Events such as these enabled Michael to develop his quick sight of the board and his flair for tactical play.
Leonard Barden added:
“Michael made his name as a young player first by his successes in the Saturday evening Gambit Guinea speed events at the Gambit Chess Café in Cannon Street which he often won ahead of master level rivals. He remained a strong speed player all his life.”
In the early 1950s Michael was persuaded by his friends Aird Thomson (who was Scottish Boys’ Champion in 1932, and 1933 ( equal-first). In 1951 he was Scottish Champion. In 1954 he moved to London. He married Susan Mary Hamilton in 1961 who went on to become Scottish Ladies’ Champion in 1965.) and oriental carpet expert Robert Pinner to join the Richmond and Twickenham Chess Club playing for the club in the London League, Surrey Trophy and National Club Championship until he retired from competitive play 2010.
Michael’s first appearance in British Chess Magazine was in Volume LXVI (66, 1946), Number 2 (February). Page 52 contained this report of the 1945 London Boy’s Championship in which Michael reached the final A section :
On leaving school Michael joined a firm of Patent Agents remaining in their employ in the accounts department for around forty years before retiring in the late 1980s. His retirement was prompted by the firm’s adoption of electronic computers. When he retired he was Chief Cashier.
On June 18th 1960 Michael’s happiest day was when he married Jean Fey. They celebrated their diamond anniversary in 2020.
For the rest of his life Michael has maintained an aversion toward modern technology. He did, however, concede to the ownership of a mobile telephone. This was for the specific purpose of updating Jean on his days progress in any chess tournaments where he was away from home.
In 1946 (aged 15) Michael won the Felce Cup awarded by the Surrey County Chess Association. A result indicating rapid improvement since Michael had only started playing competitively in 1944.
In 1951 Michael finished third in the Surrey Championships behind the winner Frank Parr and runner-up David Hooper. In 1961, 1966, 1968, 1969 and 1970 Michael won the Surrey Championship outright and made many appearences in county matches for Surrey from 1950 onwards until 2010.
Unfortunately Michael’s rapid progress was threatened by two bouts of ill health. In 1948 aged 17 Michael was diagnosed with Tuberculosis which lasted for eighteen months including a twelve month stay in the Royal National Hospital for Diseases of the Chest in Ventnor on the Isle of Wight. Aged twenty the TB returned leading to yet another twelve months illness.
Michael has suffered from ill health all of his life interrupting his chess career at various times. Fortunately the TB never returned.
Michael won the National Chess Centre Championship in 1953 and 1955 being runner-up in 1954. The venue was Hill’s Restaurant, 158 Bishopsgate, London, EC2 opposite Liverpool Street Station since the original John Lewis department store venue was bombed in 1940.
The British Chess Federation first published a National Grading list in 1953 (using the Richard Clarke system). In the 1954 list MF appeared with a grade of 2A (225-232) and from then on with a grade of either 2A or 2B. In 1964 a numeric system had him at 225 ranking Michael 4th in England behind Penrose 244, Kottnauer 238 and Clarke 231.
Michael played many times in the annual Battle of Britain Tournament organised by Squadron Leader David Pritchard and his committee. He won it four times : 1959, 1960, 1961 and 1962.
The Ilford Whitsun Congress
The Ilford Whitsun Congress was a regular part of Michael’s season throughout the sixties. He won the Premier Reserves in 1961 ahead of Hilton, Hindle, Howson, Sales and Blaine and was runner-up to Kottnauer in 1962. In 1963 he went one step better by winning the Premier :
and here is the fifth round game :
In his tournament report PH Clarke wrote :
This buoyant, optimistic attitude of his is a great strength and always makes him a dangerous opponent.
Away from Home : International Progress
1964 saw selection by the BCF to play in the Tel Aviv Olympiad :
and scored a creditable 4/6. This was followed in 1965 with 3/5 in Clare Benedict tournament held in Berlin.
He played in the annual Anglo-Dutch match on no less than six occasions in 1962, 1963, 1964, 1965, 1968 and finally in 1969. His aggregate score was an impressive 8/12.
On the national scene Michael repeated his 1963 victory at the 1969 Ilford Premier with a clear first place : Franklin 4; RG Wade and D Wright 3; JB Howson 2.5; BH Wood 2; PH Clarke 0.5.
In 1970 Michael won the London Championship which was also known as the Budget Cup which had last been held in 1956 . He followed this in 1972 by rightly earning the (now defunct) title of British Master.
Michael’s final appearance for England was in 1971 in the Cheltenham based Anglo-German match with a somewhat disappointing 0.5/2 against Juergen Dueball.
Michael played board two for London in a Telex match versus Belgrade playing Marjanovic. The game was drawn.
The Ultimate Prize : The Aaronson Masters
The Aaronson Masters at *Imperial Hotel, Russell Square, Bloomsbury, London, 1978 brought his best individual success at the age of 47, sharing first place with IM Aldo Haik of France and to boot, earning an IM norm.
(*Venue location thanks to Ken Norman)
Michael scored an undefeated 7.5/10 and finished ahead of Short, Speelman, Nunn, Hartston, Mestel, Webb, Basman, Botterill and numerous other illustrious players. Michael remarked of his lifetime best result that it was
just one of those occasions when everything went right!
But he scored 3.5/5 against the IMs, was alert to every opportunity, and the games show he owed little to luck.
Like many others Michael made appearences in Lloyds Bank events of 1977, 1978, 1984, 1989, 1991, 1993 and 1994.
The Hastings Years
Michael first played at Hastings in 1964 when he was invited to play in the Premier Tournament. The tournament was won by Mikhail Tal and Michael finished in last place.
Undaunted he returned to Hastings in 1968 to play in the Challengers tournament. One of the attractions of playing in the Challengers was that the winner received a place the following years Premier. Frustratingly Michael finished second three years in a row! In 1968 the Challengers was won by Danny Wright, in 1969 by Martyn Corden and in 1970 by Peter Markland. Finally, in 1971 his patience was rewarded and he won the Challengers and qualified to the following years Premier.
The 47th Hastings Premier of 1971-72 had been changed from the traditional 10 player all-play-all to a 16 player tournament. Also, having obtained sponsorship from various organisations the committee were able to invite some of the top names of the day. The sponsors were:
So, the entry included Karpov, Korchnoi, Andersson, Najdorf, Mecking, Gligoric, Unzicker and Robert Byrne to name but a few. This was undoubtedly the strongest Hastings Premier since World War Two and possibly the strongest Hastings Tournament since 1895.
Michael started well with a draw against the Rumanian GM Ciocaltea followed by a draw in with the Brazilian prodigy Mecking. In round three he surprised everyone by beating Ray Keene. With 2/3 things were looking promising. However, after this bright start Michael only managed a draw against Unzicker and a draw with Hartston finishing in a disappointing last place with a score of 3/15.
In the tournament report Peter Clarke opined
Franklin suffered the usual fate of the gifted amateur in a professional field of simply not being accustomed to this kind of chess.
Despite this Michael continued to play in the Hastings Challengers. He played in nineteen out of the next twenty-five years! He came close to winning the tournament in 1982: he was leading the tournament with a score of 7/8 when he was informed that Jean’s Father had passed away. Having drawn his ninth round game and needing only a draw in the last round to ensure at least a tie for first place he withdrew from the tournament and immediately left for home.
The Weekend Scene
Like all players with a full time job Michael had to play most of his chess at the weekend so the explosion of weekends tournaments in the early 1970’s gave him ample opportunities. His habit of playing quickly was ideally suited to the fast time limits of the weekend tournament. During the 1970 and 1980’s he was very successful. He won numerous events and was more often than not in the prize list.
In later years he restricted himself to London based tournaments and those in the West Country. His regular tournaments being Exeter, Torquay and old favourite, Frome. Michael at the age of 78 shared first place at Frome 2009. Frome 2010 was his farewell appearance.
Michael played for a number of clubs viz : Richmond & Twickenham, Coulsdon CF, Surrey CCA, 4NCL Richmond, 4NCL Bristol and Richards Butler to name but a few.
Finally, in 1980, Michael was awarded the FIDE Master title and achieved his highest rating (in the Elo era) of 2345 in January 1979. It is most likely that his highest ever rating would have been more like 2450.
Appropriately enough Michael was the inaugural winner of the BCF/ECF Senior Prix in 2000 and won it again in 2002 and 2003. The event last ran in 2006.
When Surrey won the counties championship a few years back the team took the trophy around to Michael’s home in Norbury, such was their regard for his contributions.
The London System
Any currently active club player cannot have missed the explosive rise to prominence of the system for White he developed :
The London System and Accelerated London System has acquired a huge cohort of followers in recent times probably not realising the debt they (and many authors, book and DVD publishers!) owe to Michael. If only he could have earnt a royalty every time it was played!
Also Michael had notable success as Black with the O’Kelly Sicilian 1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 a6.
Life Outside of Chess
Michael had many interests apart from Chess. He was for many years a member of the Surrey County Cricket Club. After he retired he would arrange to meet fellow Surrey Member Frank Parr at the Oval and after lunch in the Pavilion they would spend the day enjoying the Cricket. Tennis was another sport that Michael followed. Michael was also interested in horseracing. Several players were surprised when visiting one of the racetracks around London to find Michael also attending the race meeting.
Michael was the typical “natural” player. He never studied the game and his only sources of opening information were the British Chess Magazine and the chess columns in The Times and the Guardian. He never kept the scores of his games. Once the game was finished it was time to move on. One of Michael’s greatest strengths was his optimistic attitude at the chessboard. No matter how bad the position he was confident of ultimate success.
Marching your king across the board – at times right through or into enemy lines – may be both exhilarating and terrifying. Nothing may be quite as satisfying as a majestic kingwalk across the board which brings you glorious victory. And nothing as tragicomic as a needless journey ending in epic failure.
Chessplayers are fascinated by kingwalks, perhaps because of their inherent contradiction and even implausibility. The most important – and vulnerable – chess piece does something other than trying to remain safe.
Topics include: Kingwalks to Prepare an Attack; Kingwalks in Anticipation of an Endgame; Kingwalks to Defend Key Points; Kingwalks to Attack Key Points or Pieces; Mating Attacks; Escaping to Safety Across the Board; Escaping to Safety Up the Board; Kingwalks in the Opening; Kingwalks in the Endgame; Double Kingwalks; and Unsuccessful Kingwalks.
For sheer entertainment as well as instructive value, the kingwalk is transcendent!
“Executing a successful kingwalk has the power to make a chessplayer happy and the same can be said about playing over the many beautiful examples in this book. Enjoy!” — From the Foreword by Hans Ree
About the Authors:
American grandmaster Yasser Seirawan is a four-time U.S. champion. He also won the World Junior Championship in 1979. He is one of the best-selling chess authors and is considered one of the top commentators for games broadcast on the web.
Canadian master Bruce Harper has been champion of British Columbia many times and has also participated in several Canadian championships. He is the co-author with Yasser Seirawan of the highly acclaimed three-volume series, Chess on the Edge, chronicling the career of Canadian grandmaster Duncan Suttles. He is also co-author, with American grandmaster Hikaru Nakamura, of Bullet Chess: One Minute to Mate.”
From the rather rambling introduction:
While our hope is that readers of all strengths will enjoy this book, there is also much to be learned from the study of kingwalks. They are a legitimate part of chess, and can transform the nature of the position to a great extent. given the difficulty people, including chess players, have in coping with change, the psychological effect of kingwalks cannot be overestimated.
In the pages that follow, we not only give examples of different types of kingwalks, but we try to explain the positional, tactical or psychological basis for each example. A legitimate kingwalk doesn’t come out of the blue, any more than a combination arises by chances. By exploring the preconditions for the different types of kingwalks, we hope the attentive reader will recognize positions from his or her own games where a kingwalk might be the path to victory. Equally, this type of analysis will help players in coping with opponent’s kingwalks.
Chapter 1 takes us straight into Kingwalks to Prepare an Attack. In a position where your opponent can do nothing, you want to break through to the enemy king, but first you move your king to the other side of the board to deprive your opponent of potential counterplay.
I was struck by the very first example: Kevitz & Pinkus v Alekhine in a 1929 consultation game.
Here’s the position after White’s 28th move.
Black has a potential pawn break with g6 followed by f5, but Alekhine decided to move his king to the other side of the board first.
The authors explain:
In this position, Black has a clear advantage. White’s pieces are tied to the defense of his weak e4-pawn and the light-square weaknesses around White’s king are a constant source of concern. The engine of course recommends direct action, but Alekhine, who was no stranger to that type of play, first takes the time to reposition his king.
Black’s 42nd move completed the kingwalk, reaching this position.
You’ll observe that, while Alekhine has made considerable progress, the consultation partners’ position is exactly the same as it was in the previous diagram.
The game continued 43. Bf2 f5 and Black won a few moves later.
We then move on to other motivations for kingwalks, in Anticipation of an Ending (Chapter 2: the examples all taken from Petrosian’s games), to Defend Key Points (Chapter 3) and to Attack Key Points or Pieces (Chapter 4).
Chapter 5 ramps the excitement up a notch as we look at kingwalks as part of Mating Attacks.
Hillarp Persson – Laurusas (not, as in the book, Laurusus), from the 2018 Olympiad in Batumi, reached this position after White’s 24th move.
Seirawan and Harper take up the story.
White has some compensation for his pawn deficit, but that’s about all. It is difficult to see how, in only ten moves, this game will become the best in the 2018 Olympiad.
Since there really isn’t anything happening in this position, White’s motif brings to mind the theme song for the Mary Tyler Moore Show:
“Who can take a nothing day, and suddenly make it all seem worthwhile?”
Of course we’re referring to Joan Jett’s cover version, not the original…
White gets some help at this point. The engine recommends the supremely logical 24… Rfd8!, allowing 25. Rxh5 so that 25… Qg7 forces the exchange of queens, leaving Black with a favorable endgame. Black instead surrenders the wrong pawn.
Black played 24… Qg7?! instead, and soon started an attack on White’s king, forcing him up the board.
After mutual inaccuracies in what was, to be fair, a very difficult position, this position was reached.
The game concluded: 34. Qxg6+! Kh8 35. Kh6 and it’s mate next move.
A beautiful creative achievement by White, with some help from his opponent at the critical moment. The most remarkable aspect of this game is there wasn’t really anything to make one think that something like this was even possible ten moves ago.
We then move on from attacking kingwalks to defensive kingwalks: Escaping to Safety Across the Board in Chapter 6 and Up the Board in Chapter 7.
Even the greatest tacticians can end up confused when their opponent starts a kingwalk.
This is from Geller – Tal (Moscow 1975).
In a difficult position, Tal has just played 29… Bd4!?, hoping for complications in the impending time scramble.
As Kasparov points out, White should first drive Black’s queen off the first rank by offering an exchange of queens with 30. Qc1!, switching to the attack only after 30… Qxa2 31. Qe1! Then Black would have no play against White’s king.
30… Ne7! 31. Nb5
If White takes Black’s e7-knight, either before or after checking on e6 with his queen, Black wins: 31. Qxe7 Qg1+ 32. Kg3 Qf2+ 33. Kg4 Qxg2+ 34. Bg3 h5+ 35. Kh4 Qe4+! 36. Qxe4 Bf6#
31… Qg1+ is also sufficient to draw. Now White has no choice other than to begin a kingwalk, and the road to victory for White, and for a draw for Black lies along the White king’s path, which is wide enough only for one…
Short of time, Tal went wrong a couple of moves later and Geller’s king fled up the board to safety. Tal resigned on move 41 (perhaps at the adjournment), not waiting for 42. Kf8, which would have given this position.
Chapters 8, 9 and 10 consider, respectively, Kingwalks in the Opening (here’s Steinitz’s king boldly venturing into the centre of the board right at the start of the game, Kingwalks in the Ending (well, it’s what you do in the ending anyway, isn’t it?) and Double Kingwalks.
Seirawan and Harper are at pains to point out, throughout the book, that there’s often an element of danger in kingwalks, so Chapter 11 shows us some Unsuccessful Kingwalks.
Then, in Chapters 12-16, we have chapters devoted to players particularly associated with kingwalks: Steinitz (again), Nimzowitsch, Petrosian (again), and, less expectedly perhaps, the highly creative Canadian GM Duncan Suttles (the subject of a previous 3-volume series by the same authors), followed by Yasser Seirawan himself. You might or might not consider this slightly narcissistic.
Finally, Chapter 17 demonstrates some recent examples.
For my last example I offer you this 2019 game between Dubov and Giri.
After a very sharp opening, a complex position has arisen. Objectively White is slightly better, and the engine recommends 19. Nd2, with an edge. Instead Dubov shocks his opponent with a stunning move.
Is there another example in chess history where a player castled on the side where there were no friendly pawns at all? We can’t term castling a “kingwalk”, but don’t worry. White’s king is just getting started.
White has unpinned his c3-knight, so he threatens 20. Nxb5, as well as 20. Qd8 mate. But Black has a logical reply that ruins White’s dream.
After 19… Qb6!, Black defends against mate and forces a queen trade, because 20. Nb5? fails to 20… Qc6+! 21. Kb1 Na6.
White’s king went to b1 on move 22, but by move 28 it was perfectly safe on f3.
You’ll have to read the book to discover how this happened.
This is an attractive and enjoyable book which will appeal to competitive players of all levels. It covers an aspect of chess which hasn’t been much written about so will have a unique place on your bookshelves. It’s a subject which leads itself naturally to creative and imaginative play, so you’ll find a feast of exciting chess within its pages.
Many readers will be re-acquainted with a host of old friends. There’s Short, marching his king up to h6 to mate Timman. And Botvinnik. with his king scuttling up the board to evade Capablanca’s checking queen. But there are also a lot of examples which will be probably be new to you. It’s good to have them all, both the familiar and unfamiliar, in the same place.
It’s nicely produced, but, although there’s a short list of sources (four chess books/series and two Tolkien books), an index of players might have been helpful. You might also wish, for a number of reasons, that the authors had included initials as well as surnames for the players. I wonder whether or not it’s culturally insensitive only to give the family names of players of East Asian origin (Wei, Hou and so on) rather than their full names. The examples have all been analysed using Stockfish 10, so it’s safe to assume that there will be few, if any, significant tactical errors.
Given that kingwalks are relatively rare, at least before you get to the ending, I suppose this might not be the first choice of book to improve your rating. But taking a different approach, looking at chess, and in particular your king, in a different way, might well add another dimension to your play. Even if it does little to improve your rating, it will certainly provide you with a lot of entertainment and a wider appreciation of the beauty of your favourite game. If the subject matter appeals, and you like the style of writing typified by the examples in this review, this book can be highly recommended.
BCN remembers GM Daniel Yanofsky OC QC (25-iii-1925 05-iii-2000)
From The Encyclopedia of Chess (Robert Hale, 1970 & 1976)by Anne Sunnucks:
YANOFSKY, Daniel Abraham (1925- )
International Grandmaster (1964), Canadian Champion in 1941, 1943, 1945, 1947,1953, 1959, 1963 and 1965, British Champion in 1953. Abe Yanofsky, was born in Brody, Poland, on 26th March 1925. His parents were Russian and had left their native country a few months earlier on their way to Canada, to which they were emigrating. They eventually arrived at their destination when Yanofsky was 8 months old.
When he was 8 Yanofsky saw a chess set in a shop window and persuaded his father to teach him the game. He joined Winnipeg Jewish Chess Club and when he was 11 his obvious talent was noticed by Bernard Freedman, Treasurer of the Canadian Chess Federation, who was visiting Winnipeg. Freedman was responsible for Yanofsky playing in his first tournament a few months later in Toronto. Yanofsky arrived in Toronto determined to get as much chess as possible and put his name down for three tournaments: the Junior Boys’ Championship, which was to be played in the morning; the Senior Boys’ Championship, which was to be played in the afternoon; and the Major Championship, which was to be played in the evening. He withdrew from the Junior Boys’ Championship after 1 round at the request of the organisers, who realised that he was far too strong for that event, and went on to win both the other events.
This was the first of a number of successes which to his selection as a member of the Canadian team to play in the Chess Olympiad at Buenos Aires in 1939, where on 2nd board he scored 84.4 per cent and attracted the notice of the World Champion, Alekhine, who spent many hours going over Yanofsky’s games with him.
On his return to Canada Yanofsky had to divide his time between earning a living, completing his education and playing chess. Before joining the Royal Canadian Naval Volunteer Reserve in 1945, Yanofsky graduated from the University of Manitoba with a Bachelor of Science degree, and, apart from his victories in the Canadian Championship, won lst prize at Ventnor City 1942 and the United States Open Championship the same year.
After his discharge from the Navy Yanofsky played at Groningen 1946 and came 14th out of 20. However his score included a win against Botvinnik and a 50 per cent score against the five top Russian players. After Groningen he ‘played in Switzerland, Spain, England, Denmark and Iceland before returning to Canada. His main successes were 2nd
at Barcelona 1946; lst at Reykjavik 1947 and 2nd at Copenhagen 1947.
Back in Canada, Yanofsky enrolled at Manitoba Law School and played little chess until he had graduated in 1951, having won the University Gold Medal in Law and five scholarships. He decided to do a post-graduate course in Law at Oxford University and left for England later that year. In 1952 he was awarded the Viscount Bennett Scholarship as the most outstanding law student in Canada by the Canadian Bar Association.
While in England Yanofsky added to his chess reputation by winning the British Championship in 1953 and tying for 1st prize at Hastings in the same year.
Since then he has played regularly for Canada in Chess Olympiads since 1954.
From The Oxford Companion to Chess (OUP, 1984) by Hooper and Whyld:
YANOFSKY, DANIEL ABRAHAM (1925- ), Canadian player. International Grandmaster (1964), international Arbiter (1977). He was born in Poland of Russian parents who took him to Canada when he was eight months old; his childhood was spent in Winnipeg where he learned the moves of the game when he was 8 and improved so rapidly that at the age of 14 he was selected to
represent Canada in the Buenos Aires Olympiad 1939; In this event he made the highest percentage score at second board (+12=3 — 1), In 1941 he came equal first with H. Steiner in the US Open Championship, won the title on tie break, and also won the Canadian Championship (for the first of eight times). After the Second World War Yanofsky played in several tournaments including the Saltsjöbaden interzonal 1948, in which he shared eleventh place.
He then began law studies, completing them so brilliantly that he was offered five scholarships for postgraduate work. He chose Oxford, While in England he won, with case, the British Championship 1953, Returning to Winnipeg he became a successful lawyer active in civic politics. His chess career took second place although he found time to play in several tournaments and in many Olympiads from 1954. Yanofsky wrote of his early life in Chess the Hard Way! (1953); he excelled in the endgame and there are many examples in this book of his prowess in this phase.
The second edition (1996) of Hooper & Whyld reduces DAFs entry to a mere five lines!
From The Encyclopedia of Chess (Batsford, 1977) by Harry Golombek (but written by Nathan Divinski):
A Canadian grandmaster, Yanofsky was born in Poland, came to Canada in 1926 and was raised in Winnipeg. He played 2nd board for Canada in the 1939 Olympiad and won his first (of eight) national titles in 1941, dethroning the eight-time champion Maurice Fox, Yanofsky had wins at Ventnor City 1942, The US Open 1942 and was =1st at Hastings 1953.
He won the British Championship in 1953, 1.5 points ahead of the field:
Yanofsky tied for 4th in the 1957 Dallas tournament and became a grandmaster in 1964.
At Groningen 1946 Yanofsky beat Botvinnik in their individual game. He has led many of the Canadian Olympiad teams.
Yanofsky is a lawyer with post-graduate studies at Oxford. He edited Canadian Chess Chat for several years and is active in civil politics.
He is an expert on the Ruy Lopez and the French Defence, though his strongest point is his endgame play.
From Chess Facts and Fables, Edward Winter, McFarland Publishing, 2006, page 91:
From page 39 of Chess the Hard Way! by D.A.Yanofsky (London, 1953), comes this passage regarding the 1939 Olympiad in Buenos Aires:
“By winning the next two games I scored 9.5 points out of a possible 10 and was awarded a silver cigarette holder inscribed : “Mejor Jugador del Torneo” (best player of the tournament)”
Times have certainly changed, as it is hard to imagine that organisers today would offer a 14-year old boy anything smacking of smoking. (3003).
From British Chess Magazine, Volume CXXIX (120, 2000), Number 4 (March), pp. 223 (presumably by) John Saunders we have this obituary:
DANIEL ABRAHAM YANOFSKY
Obituary of “Abe” Yanofsky (26 iii 1925 – 5 iii 2000)
ABE YANOFSKY has died in Winnipeg after a long illness. Born in Poland, he emigrated to Canada with his family when eight months old. Learning the moves at eight, Yanofsky lost his first three games to his father but next day scored his first chess victory. He was already an acknowledged chess prodigy at 11, giving simultaneous displays and winning the championship of Manitoba at the age of 12. His big break came at the age of 14 when he was selected to play for Canada at the 1939 Buenos Aires Olympiad, achieving an 85% score, including a famous win over Dulanto which moved world champion Alekhine to watch all his remaining games in the tournament.
In 1941 Yanofsky won the first of eight Canadian Championships.
After war service in the navy, he played in a number of tournaments in Europe, defeating Botvinnik in a game at Groningen 1946.
Later that year he finished second to Najdorf in Barcelona, and then fourth at Hastings L94617. Other continental tournaments followed, including the Saltsjöbaden Interzonal of 1948. He returned to Canada where he was an outstanding law student, returning to Europe in 1951 to embark on a post-graduate law course at University College, Oxford, the funding being subsequently supplemented by his winning a $1,000 scholarship for being the most outstanding Canadian law student of 1952.
Yanofsky finished second at the I951/2 Hastings Premier, and took part many other UK competitions, crowning his UK-based period by winning the 1953 British Championship at Hastings: he scored a (then) record 9.5/11 despite a first round loss to DM Horne. In 1953 he also published an account of his chess adventures entitled Chess The Hard Way!
He returned to Canada to establish a successful career as a lawyer and politician in Winnipeg, though finding time to play in national championships and 11 Olympiads between 1939 and 1980. He edited Canadian Chess Chat for a number of years.
He became the British Commonwealth’s first FIDE grandmaster in 1964 (ed: although some might claim that Jacques Mieses was the first)
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