“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?
Last time you met, amongst other chess playing Leicester Ladies, Elsie Margaret Reid, a British Ladies’ Championship contender, and witnessed her marriage to Alfred Lenton.
It’s now time to meet her husband.
Perhaps you’ve see Michael Wood’s 2010 documentary series Story of England. If you have, you’ll be aware that it tells its story from the perspective of Kibworth, seen as being a typical village in the middle of the country. In fact it’s two villages in one, owned by different families in the Middle Ages. Kibworth Harcourt is north of the railway line, and, the more significant part, Kibworth Beauchamp (just as Belvoir is pronounced Beaver, Beauchamp is pronounced Beecham), where the shops are, is south of the railway line. There used to be a school there too: a Grammar School founded in about 1359, but in 1964 it migrated to the Leicester suburb of Oadby. You’ll meet one of the new school’s most distinguished former pupils next time.
The Lenton family had been prominent in the village for centuries, perhaps arriving there from the area of Nottingham bearing that name. There’s a brief mention in one of the Story of England episodes, but they don’t seem to have educated their children at the Grammar School.
Join us now on 28 December 1744, when, between the Christmas celebrations and the dawn of the new year, the community welcomed the arrival of Robert Lenton, who was baptised that day. We know his father’s name was Richard, but it’s not entirely clear whether this was Richard the son of Robert, born in 1710, or Richard the son of Richard, born in 1719. I suspect they were cousins, but there’s no way of telling for certain from the extant parish registers. There are reasons to believe – and hope – that it was the older Richard who was Robert’s father.
Robert was a butcher by trade: a significant member of the local community. His youngest son, William, was born in 1787. He married a girl from Bedworth, Warwickshire, in 1811. Maybe he had moved there to seek work, or perhaps she was in service in Leicestershire. They soon returned, settling in Smeeton Westerby, a small village just south of Kibworth Beauchamp.
The first census as we know them today was taken in 1841, and we can pick William up there in both the 1841 and 1851 censuses, where his occupation is given as FWK – Framework Knitter. This was a very common occupation in the East Midlands at the time: William and his family would have been working at home using mechanical knitting machines. By 1851 his oldest son, also named William, had moved into Leicester, but was still working as a framework knitter. In 1853 he married a widow, adopting her children and presenting her with two more sons, William and Thomas.
His younger son, Thomas, very typically for his place and time, spent his working life in the footwear industry, involved in various aspects of making shoes. So here we see a very common pattern of men and their families moving out of villages and into cities where there was plenty of factory work available. His oldest son, another Thomas, also sought factory work, but rather than on the manufacturing side, he worked as a warehouseman for the clothing company Hart & Levy. Sir Israel Hart, one of the company’s founders, was Mayor of Leicester 1884-6 and 1893-94 and President of Leicestershire Chess Club. between 1894 and 1896.
In 1910 this Thomas married Ethel Wood, born in 1888. Ethel was perhaps slightly higher up the social scale: her father, John, was a School Attendance Officer, although his background was also very much working class. Here he is, on the right. John and his wife Sarah had five daughters (Ethel was the fourth), the oldest of whom married into a branch of the Gimson family, followed by a son.
In the 1911 census Thomas and Ethel, not yet able to afford their own house, were living with Thomas’s widowed father and two brothers. He was described as working in the tailoring industry.
On 1 November that year, their first son, Alfred, was born, followed in 1914 by another son, whom they named Philip.
In this family photograph, taken in about 1917, you can see the proud parents with their two boys.
By 1921 the family were living at 27 Halkin Street, north of the city centre (the door of this very typical two up two down Victorian terraced house is open to welcome us in). I would have passed the end of the road regularly in my first year at what was then the Leicester Regional College of Technology, when I was living in digs in Thurmaston. Ethel’s mother had died a few months earlier, and her father was now living with them.
By now Ethel was expecting a third child, and another son, named Clifford was born later that year.
Alfred, a bright, bookish and perhaps rather quiet boy, won a place at Alderman Newton’s Grammar School, where he was a contemporary of the historian Sir John Plumb and a few years below novelist CP Snow, a member of Leicestershire Chess Club during the 1923-24 season.
This was a time when chess was becoming popular amongst teenage boys, and it was when he was 15 that young Alfred learnt the moves. The earliest appearance I can find is in December 1928, at the age of 17, losing his game on bottom board for the Victoria Road Institute (I’d encounter his son playing chess for Leicester Victoria more than four decades later.)
At the Victoria Road Institute, Alfred received some instruction from their top player, building contractor Herbert William Lea, soon making rapid progress. By early 1930 he’d come to the attention of the county selectors, and was one of the promising young players they tried out in a match against Birmingham.
By 1931 Lenton was playing on top board for Victoria Road, taking a high board in the county team and participating in the county championship. Here was a talented and ambitious young man who was clearly going places.
If you’re an ambitious chess player, one of the places you’ll go to is Hastings, and, at the end of that year, he travelled down to the south coast where he was placed in the Major B section.
Here’s what happened.
Full tournament report (and larger format crosstable) here.
This was a whole new experience for him, and it’s not surprising that he found the going tough. In this game his hesitant opening play soon got him into trouble when he was paired against a creative tactician who unleashed a cascade of sacrifices. (Click on any move of any game in this article for a pop-up window.)
Alfred learnt from this experience that he needed to take the game more seriously: in an interview many years later he explained that, at this point, he was studying chess for three hours a day.
The following year he returned again – and seems to have brought a friend along with him – as you might remember from last time.
He did indeed maintain his lead to the end of the tournament, as you can see here. Perhaps the opposition was slightly weaker than the previous year, perhaps his hours of study were paying off, or perhaps it was Elsie’s presence that was responsible for his success.
Full tournament report (and larger format crosstable) here.
(As far as I can tell, C(ecil?) H(unter?) Reid, Peter Reid, whom he played the previous year, and Elsie Margaret Reid were totally unrelated.)
In 1933 the British Championship was held separately from the remainder of the congress, which took place in Folkestone at the same time as the Chess Olympiad.
Alfred was one of a number of promising young players in the Premier Reserves, the second section down: you’ll meet some of them in future Minor Pieces. His 50% score was a good result in such a strong field.
Full tournament report (and larger format crosstable) here.
This game demonstrates that he’d been working on his openings since his first tournament appearance, and concludes with a neat tactic.
The following month the Leicester Evening Mail had some important news.
Alfred had got himself a column in a local paper. Each week there would be the latest chess news, a game, which could be of local, national, international or historical interest, along with a puzzle for solving. He was a young man who enjoyed both reading and writing.
Here’s a powerful win against the stronger of the Passant brothers, slightly marred by his 17th move, giving his opponent a tactical opportunity which went begging.
By now established as his county’s second strongest player behind Victor Hextall Lovell, he returned to Hastings after Christmas, where he scored an excellent third place with only one defeat, well ahead of his Leicester Victoria clubmate Watts and former Leicestershire player Storr-Best.
Full tournament report (and larger format crosstable) here.
In this game he missed a win against his Dutch opponent.
The 1934 British Championships took place in Chester, when Alfred was places in the Major Open Reserves, in effect the third division, while his future wife Elsie (were they engaged at this point?) played in the British Ladies’ Championship.
Lenton was essentially a positional player, but here he unleased a very different weapon when Black against 1. d4 – the dangerous and, at the time, fashionable Fajarowicz variation of the Budapest Defence. It proved rather successful against his clergyman opponent (you can read about him here) in this game, where his opponent miscalculated a tactical sequence, overlooking a queen sacrifice.
His opponent in this game, another talented young Midlands player, will need no introduction.
Full tournament report (and larger format crosstable) here.
You’ll see that he was extremely successful in this event, sharing first place. Full tournament report (and larger format crosstable) here.
He was rather less successful at Hastings that winter, as you’ll see below.
Full tournament report (and larger format crosstable) here.
On the home front, though, he was more successful.
Don Gould, in Chess in Leicestershire 1860-1960, sums him up at this stage of his career:
The new champion had left Alderman Newton’s School only six years previously. He was a fine all-round player, with a particularly good grasp of positional play. Unlike Lovell, he had been entering for national tournaments, and profiting by the better practice obtained thereat. Later on he twice won the Midland Counties Individual Championship, and finished in a tie for second place in the British Championship. At that time, he favoured the Reti Opening and the Buda-Pest Defence. Lenton for some years ran a chess column in the local press.
This result (he’d repeat his success the following year) established him as the strongest player in Leicestershire, and, in the 1935 British Championships, held in Great Yarmouth, he was selected for the championship itself.
In this game Lenton displayed his endgame skill after his opponent missed an opportunity on move 17.
Endgame skill, along with hypermodern openings, were the key to his successes at this time of his life. His opponent here was unable to cope with the opening.
Admittedly it wasn’t the strongest renewal of the British, but this was still an outstanding performance, which would have been even better but for a moment of tactical carelessness in the last round.
At this level you can’t afford to give your opponent an opportunity like that.
Full tournament report (and larger format crosstable) here.
Now top board for his county, and with a new job as a local government officer (he’d transferred his chess allegiance from VIctoria to NALGO) he returned to Hastings over the Christmas holidays. There were so many entries for the Premier Reserves that the organisers decided to run two sections of equal strength, with Alfred in the B section.
He used his favourite variation of the Caro-Kann in this game, grabbing a hot pawn early on (sometimes you can get away with Qxb2) and surviving to dominate the enemy rook in the ending.
You’ll see from the tournament table this was another great success for the Leicester man. It’s perhaps significant that, while all three of his losses were published, the only win I’ve been able to find was the game above.
Full tournament report (and larger format crosstable) here.
1936 was the year of the famous Nottingham tournament, which took place in August. The British Championship itself took place separately, in Bournemouth in June.
Again, many of the top players were missing, and Sir George Thomas, who would probably have been considered the most likely winner, was out of form. Would Alfred improve on his shared third place the previous year?
Here, he was outplayed in the opening, but his Birmingham opponent miscalculated the tactics, leaving him two pawns ahead in the ending.
He only needed 11 moves to defeat his Ipswich opponent in this game. White’s catastrophic error would be a good candidate for a Spot the Blunder question in the next Chess Heroes: Tactics book.
As you’ll see above, he equalled his previous year’s score, which, this time round, was good enough for a share of second place. There were a lot of talented players in their mid 20s around at the time, and Lenton seemed at this point to be as good as any of them.
Full tournament report (and larger format crosstable) here.
Meanwhile, Alfred had reached the final of the Forrest Cup, the Midland Counties Individual Championship, where he faced future MP Julius Silverman. A rather fortuitous win brought him the title.
Nottingham in August was only a short journey. The Major Open was split into two equal sections, both in themselves fairly strong international tournaments.
This time his performance was slightly disappointing. The three games I’ve been able to find include two losses and this game, where he did well to survive and share the point.
Full tournament report (and larger format crosstable) here.
After the tournament, Alekhine visited Leicester to give a simultaneous display, winning 33 games, drawing 5 and losing 2, one of which was to Lenton.
Alfred’s marriage to Elsie Margaret Reid was registered in the fourth quarter of 1936. They both decided to give Hastings a miss that year.
His favourite Réti Opening wasn’t always successful against stronger opposition, but it could be devastating against lesser lights, as shown in this game from a county match.
In May that year, Alfred made his international début in the inaugural Anglo-Dutch match, scoring a win and a draw (he was losing in the final position) against Klaas Bergsma. He also won the Forrest Cup for the second time.
Then it was on to Blackpool for the British Championship. Would he improve on his performances in the two previous years?
It was soon clear that the answer would be no. Something was clearly wrong in the first week, when he lost his first five games. Was he unwell? Who knows? But he fought back well to score 4½ points from his last six games, including wins against two venerable opponents.
Winning this game against a man who must have been one of his heroes, 9 times British Champion and Leicester’s finest ever player, now in the twilight of his career. A powerful pin on the e-file proved decisive.
Against the tournament runner-up he demonstrated his knowledge of Réti’s hypermodern ideas: note the queen on a1. His position wasn’t objectively good, but it seemed to leave Sir George confused.
Full tournament report (and larger format crosstable) here.
Two games from this period demonstrate again how lethal his queen’s bishop could be in his favourite double fianchetto set-up. You might want to see them as a diptych: both being decided by a Bxg7 sacrifice.
In 1937 Leicestershire reached the final of the English Counties Championship.
We have two photos and a report.
Now into 1938, Alfred won the Forrest Cup for the third time, his final game producing another sacrificial finish.
He again scored 1½/2 in the 1938 Anglo-Dutch match, this time paired against Chris Vlagsma. His opponent was doing well here before ill-advisedly opening the f-file.
Then it was down to Brighton for the 1938 British Championship, which proved to be another disappointment.
The low point was a loss in only 9 moves against Tylor.
In the very next round, though, switching from his usual Réti, he won in 13 moves when Frank Parr got his queen trapped. This time capturing his opponent’s b-pawn with his queen wasn’t a good idea.
It’s not clear what had happened to his chess here. I suspect that, with the twin demands of his job and married life, he was no longer putting in the three hours study every day.
Here, from Battersea Chess Club’s obituary of Parr, is a photograph, with Lenton on the right considering his move.
And here, as you see, he finished in a share of 10th-11th place, quite a comedown from his results of 2 and 3 years earlier.
Full tournament report (and larger format crosstable) here.
In spite of this result, he was selected for the 1939 Anglo-Dutch match, where he was up against Carel Fontein, drawing one game and losing the other.
How strong was he during this period? EdoChess gives his rating peaking at 2250 in 1936, so, although he finished high up in the British on two occasions, he was only, by today’s standards, a strong club player. A player with considerable ability, both tactical and positional, but also with some weaknesses.
Storm clouds were gathering over Europe, war was declared on 1 September 1939, Lenton’s chess column was wound down, perhaps anticipating a paper shortage. A register was taken on 29 September listing all residents, for the purpose of producing identity cards and ration books.
Alfred and Elsie were recorded two miles east of the city centre, at 65 Copdale Road, Leicester (on the left here), living next door to his parents and brothers at number 63 (with the blue van up the drive: looks like it might have been rebuilt). The family had moved up in the world since 1921.
While Elsie is knitting socks with her circular machine, Alfred is a Gas Department Securities Clerk, working for the local government office.
At this point it’s almost time to break off our story, just noting that our hero had won his third county championship, receiving the trophy in October. “A worthy champion, who will be British Champion one day”, said the county President Robert Pruden on presenting the trophy. You’ll find out how accurate that prediction was in our next Minor Piece, when we look at what happened next in Alfred’s life.
But first, let’s return to Kibworth Beauchamp, where our story began. We met Robert Lenton, born in 1744, who might have been the son of Richard born in 1710. He had a brother named Mark (a very popular name in this family) who moved to the nearby village of Thorpe Langton. We travel down the generations, another Mark, Henry, and his daughter Ann, baptised on 27 July 1794. On 2 December 1816 Ann married Thomas James, from the small village of Slawston, a few miles further east. We travel down the generations again, another Thomas, who moved back to Thorpe Langton, John, Tom Harry, and to the youngest of his 18 children, Howard, who was my father.
Which makes Alfred possibly my 6th cousin twice removed, or if Robert’s father was the other Richard, my 7th cousin twice removed (I think).
Another golden chain. Even though I didn’t inherit his talent, I’m delighted to be a kinsman of someone who finished =2nd and =3rd in two British Championships.
Sources and Acknowledgements:
findmypast.co.uk/British Newspaper Library
BritBase (John Saunders)
John Saunders also for providing me with his Lenton file
EdoChess (Rod Edwards)
Chess in Leicester 1860-1960 (Don Gould)
Battersea Chess Club website
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)
“We are pleased to release another book in the Fred Reinfeld Chess Classics series. The Immortal Games of Capablanca was – and continues to be – one of Reinfeld’s most popular books. A detailed biography of the third world chess champion introduces the 113 games. They are presented chronologically, with clear and instructive annotations.
This 21st century edition has been revised and reformatted to meet the expectations of the modern chessplayer. This includes:
(a) The original English descriptive notation has been converted to modern figurine algebraic notation;
(b) Over 200(!) diagrams have added, along with more than a dozen archival photos; and
(c) The Index of Openings now has ECO codes.
Reinfeld’s annotations were also cross-checked by Stockfish 14, one of the most powerful engines available. When Stockfish had a different, meaningful evaluation from that of Reinfeld’s, the engine’s suggestion is indicated by “S14:” followed by the specific line.
As in our other “21st Century Editions,” and with the exception of the occasional supplement by Stockfish, Reinfeld’s original text has been preserved.
Follow the life and games of the brilliant Cuban world champion in Reinfelds’s timeless classic The Immortal Games of Capablanca.”
“Fred Reinfeld (January 27, 1910 – May 29, 1964) was an American writer on chess and many other subjects. He was also a strong chess master, often among the top ten American players from the early 1930s to the early 1940s, as well as a college chess instructor.”
In July 2019 Richard James reviewedFred Reinfeld: The Man Who Taught America Chess, with 282 Games and perhaps you might like to read this to get a better feel for FRs legacy.
Russell Enterprises (via New In Chess) with this new edition have, to date, added a total of eight titles to their Fred Reinfeld Classic Series: the more the merrier!
Over the years many have looked down their noses at publications from Reinfeld, Chernev, Schiller and others but if we are completely honest then Reinfeld and Chernev have brought a huge amount to the chess buying public and many have found much benefit from their publications.
The Immortal Games of Capablanca by Russell Enterprises is (to use a modern phrase) a “re-imagining” of a timeless classic. Most of us reading this review would have almost certainly had one of the previous versions. The first edition dates from 1942 and, interestingly, the copyright lies with Beatrice Reinfeld rather than Fred, himself. Published by Horowitz and Harkness, New York here is an original first edition copy from the collection of Jose Font:
Betts (Chess: An Annotated Bibliography of Works Published, 1850-1968) informs us that this very edition was re-issued in 1953 by the same publisher. In 1974, Collier Books (A Division of Macmillan Publishing Co., Inc. New York) brought out their own edition and added an Introduction by Robert Byrne, Chess Editor of The New York Times. This had the following appearance front and rear:
and, for the sake of completeness, and because it is worth reading, here is the Introduction from Robert Byrne:
I joined the Manhattan Chess Club a year or so after Capablanca’s death, and the afterglow of the great Cuban’s presence still filled his favourite haunts. There was an old white-haired patzer, Richard Warburg, who would collar me, my brother Donald, and several other young high school players to tell us the “compliment” Capa had once paid him. What Capa had said was, “Warburg, nobody plays the Rinky-Dink the way you do!” So overcome with pride and delight was Warburg that the great man had deigned to remark on his play that he never stopped to think why Capa had dubbed his Accelerated Dragon Variation the “Rinky-Dink.” Needless to say, the ironic joshing of Capablanca’s remark was totally lost on him.
Moreover, it would not have mattered, for Capablanca was so idolized that it was deemed a privilege to breathe the same air he did. Not only did his fans feel that way about him, but the man from whom he won the world championship, Emanuel Lasker, said of him, “I have known many chess players, but only one chess genius.” Capablanca’s successor, Alexander Alekhine, also termed him “a very great genius whose like we shall never see again.”
What lent Capablanca the glamour that was denied to his fellow champions of the game was the incredible speed of his play. Hard work at the board, consuming the full two and one half hours for forty moves, was unknown to him at the peak of his career. Brilliant strategic plans, marvellous com binational possibilities, scintillating turns in the play came tumbling out of him in response to his extraordinarily quick sight of the configuration before him.
He did not consider what he achieved as coming under the head of thinking, scandalizing his colleagues by insisting that chess was not an intellectual game. For him it was nothing remotely resembling problem solving, but rather flashes of intuition in which he grasped the essential pattern governing each individual position. That is why he looked upon chess playing as an aesthetic activity.
Quite obviously, no greater natural player ever lived. At the age of four, Capablanca learned the moves by watching his father play and, years later, he declared that he had never bothered to study the game. Of course, growing up in the fertile chess climate of Havana and later New York, he honed himself on very strong opposition. Watching the games of his competitors could hardly have failed to serve as an education in itself.
In chess style, Capablanca was the master par excellence of reduction, stripping positions down to the bare backbone by exchanging off all irrelevant material. In what were for others
positions of unfathomable complexity, he could, with uncanny lucidity, expose the genuinely dominant but often hidden theme that dictated the strategy to be pursued.
It is this astonishing clarity in Capablanca’s conceptions that makes his games a gold mine for the aspiring student. The elements of chess strategy can all be seen here purged of the confusion introduced by side issues. The late Fred Reinfeld has made an excellent selection of 113 Capablanca games which give a rounded picture of the scope and invention of Cuba’s greatest genius. These are the wonderful performances that have so heavily shaped the play of current world champion Bobby Fischer, Capablanca’s spiritual descendant.
One of my favourites, which I have replayed many times, is game 6, from Capablanca’s match with Frank Marshall (see page 39 ). It is not too much to say that this is the indispensable stem game for the understanding of how White develops a kingside attack in the Ruy Lopez. Another lesson in the Ruy Lopez, this time in the exchange variation by transposition, is given by game 17 against David Janowski (see page 83). Capablanca’s handling of the pawn structure and his fine rook play in the ending beautifully illuminate a formation reintroduced into current practice by Bobby Fischer.
In the realm of bishops-of-opposite-colour play, the drawing chances of the defence can only be defeated by the kind of positional mastery Capablanca evinces in game 2L against Richard Teichmann (see page 97 ) and in game 25 against Aron Nimzovich (see page 111). Capablanca’s terrifically coolheaded defensive play shows up in his defeat of Frank Marshall’s anti-Ruy Lopez gambit in game 36 (see page 157), which the American champion kept under wraps for eight years to spring on him. I could go on and on, but, if I must limit myself to just one more, Capablanca’s best-played-prize-winning Caro-Kann Defense in game 63 against Aron Nimzovich (see page 276) would be my choice. It is a wonderfully instructive masterpiece of infiltration tactics to undermine a passive position and score with Zugzwang.
Fred Reinfeld’s annotations are clear and schematic and give a dramatic portrayal of these epic battles. Fred, the epitome of the hero-worshipper, is a little too harsh in fastening on the very human foibles that brought about Capablanca’s loss of the world championship to Alekhine. With the ease of success Capablanca enjoyed, it was all but impossible for him to have taken Alekhine’s challenge seriously, especially since Capablanca had a 6-O record against him going into the match. No one could have guessed the fanatic zeal that Alekhine put into his preparation for the struggle.
Moreover, the last word on Capablanca’s enormous capacity can be gleaned from Alekhine’s behaviour. He sought lesser opponents rather than give the awesome genius a return match.
In 1990 Dover did their usual “reprint” thing and re-issued the Horowitz and Harkness, New York, 1942 version with this cover:
and in 2011 Sam Sloan put on his anti-copyright Ye-Ha! cowboy spurs and re-issued his version with the original 1942 cover.
So, in 2022, what do we have that is new in this 21st century edition?
Firstly, we have FAN or figurine algebraic notation which should help to bring in those for whom English Descriptive is old hat (their words not ours).
Secondly, thirteen photographs of of Capa and his opponents liven up the pages that once contained a single image of Capa giving a simultaneous display at the Imperial Chess Club in London, 1911. Printing quality could have been improved but welcome they are nonetheless.
The format has transitioned from the old style single column with diagrams few and far between to a double column format with a liberal sprinkling of diagrams of greater printed clarity than the originals. Each game has been allocated an ECO code (or Rabar Index for our more mature readers). Indeed, the font is a little smaller than it was in 1942 but quite readable all the same.
The authors pithy annotation style has been retained for the modern student to enjoy and engine worshippers (“I cannot read a chess book that has not been engine checked”) are acknowledged using supplemental comments indicated by a Stockfish (S14) label.
We carried out a detailed edition comparison with the Collier edition and found some subtle differences. As noted previously the Robert Byrne Introduction is not present but then again, it wasn’t in the original. Game 2a, Corzo-Capablanca is now Game 3 and the comment “This game discovered just as the book was going to press” is no longer present.
Capablanca-Voight, Philadelphia, 1910 is labelled as a Team Match between Manhattan CC and Franklin CC in 1942 and in 2022 as a simultaneous display game. Both Megabase 2023 and Chessgames.com concur with the recent verdict: any Capa scholars (EGW) out there with definitive knowledge?
Game 15 is now identified as Capablanca – Bacu Arus from a blindfold simul whereas Black was listed simply as “Amateur” in the original.
Through out this fresh, new edition there are subtle additions of detail together with corrections to the original which are to be admired.
The Stockfish (S14) comments are sparse and unobtrusive but of value. For example, from Capablanca- Janowski we have reproduced the comments to Black’s 24th move only:
In summary it was an absolute pleasure to be re-united with this timeless classic and Russell Enterprises are to be congratulated on producing this fresh new edition with added value.
John Upham, Cove, Hampshire, 2nd March 2023
Book Details :
Softcover : 256 pages
Publisher: Russell Enterprises (September 12, 2022)
We remember Raaphy(i) Persitz who passed away on Wednesday, February 4th, 2009.
From British Chess Magazine, Volume CXXIX (129, 2009), Number 3 (March), pp. 130-134 by John Saunders we have this detailed obituary:
A tribute to a great friend of British chess, by John Saunders
Raphael Joseph Arie (Raaphy) Persitz (26 vii 1934, Tel Aviv – 4 ii 2009, Tel Aviv)
Raaphy Persitz, one of the strongest players resident in Britain in the 1950s and 1960s and also one of BCM‘s most popular contributors, has died aged 74. Raaphy was born in Tel Aviv, the grandson of Shoshana Persitz (1893-1969), a publisher who became an early member of the Knesset, the Israeli parliament. Raaphy became Israel’s first junior champion in 1951 and shortly afterwards came to study PPE (Philosophy, Politics and Economics) at Oxford University where he was a member of their very strong chess team and a close friend of Leonard Barden and others.
One of his most publicised feats was to win his Varsity match game and also a county match against Hugh Alexander on the same day (see the May 1954 or March 2004 issues of the magazine for further details). Raaphy played three times in the Varsity match and also represented England in three Students Olympiads in the mid-1950s. He represented Israel in the 1960 Leipzig Olympiad on board four, and also played twice in the Hastings Premier, in 1955-56 and 1968-69, the latter being his swansong in competitive chess as he turned his attention to a career in banking which took him first to Switzerland and eventually to his home town of Tel Aviv. As a player his best result was probably finishing third behind Reshevsky and Szabo at the first major international tournament held in Israel, Haifa/Tel Aviv 1958.
Despite giving up competitive play, Raaphy never lost his love of the game and remained an avid reader of magazines and follower of the game until the end of his life. And, of course, he remained a perceptive and humorous writer on the game though his output was much lower than in the 1950s. The news of his death came as a particular shock to me as, only a couple of weeks previously, he had sent me a fax saying how moved he had been by the tribute I had writ- ten to Bob Wade in the January 2009 issue of BCM. That was typical of his kindness to wards me which dated back to when I took my first tottering steps as BCM editor in 1999. We never actually met in person but spoke occasionally on the telephone and exchanged faxes (Raaphy didn’t seem to communicate by email).
As a long-time reader of the magazine I had enjoyed his Student’s Corner column contributions. The column had been initiated by Abe Yanofsky in the early 1950s and Raaphy had inherited it in 1958. I was particularly delighted when, in 2004, after I had written about his 1954 feat in winning his Varsity match game and a county match against English number one CHO’D(Hugh) Alexander on the same day, Raaphy consented to write another column (which appeared in the May 2004 issue of BCM). I never succeeded in getting him to write another one but it was such a pleasure to have him write for the magazine during my spell as editor.
Raaphi Persitz agreed to play for Oxford v Cambridge in London and also on the same day for Oxon v Gloucester in a county match in Swindon.
This is the second game, he won both games.
Be aware that Bruce Hayden in ‘Cabbage Heads and Kings’, which is where I got this game from, mentions this but also added that these games took place on the same day as the 1954 Grand National (won by Royal Tan). This is wrong as the Grand National that year was run on the 10 April.
I think that maybe Bruce saw the score of the games with the two games a day story in a Sunday newspaper covering Saturdays Grand National and perhaps got the dates mixed up.
The fax he sent me on 7 January 2009 seems particularly poignant now but it is a good example of Raaphy’s kindness and self-deprecating humour. Here is the full text:
“Dear John, I was moved by your wide-ranging obituary of Bob Wade in the BCM[January 2009, p34l. I dare say you did justice to his contributions and devotion to chess, spanning well over half a century. I have several pleasant recollections of conversations and over-the-board encounters with Bob. One such tussle, a hard-fought draw, was reproduced by Bob, with comments (in the Student’s Corner) in a book containing his eventful games.
Another, somewhat less felicitous, recollection harks back to a game we contested at Ilford, where, in extreme time trouble, I blithely played Rxh7+, expecting …Qxh7, but overlooking the simple …Kxh7, leaving me a whole rook down with no compensation, whereupon I duly resigned. What impressed me at the time was the lightning speed with which Bob reacted to my ill-fated blunder – as if it were nothing but inevitable…
With warmest wishes for a healthy,
happy, fruitful 2009. Raaphy.”
I had hoped to publish the above as a Letter to the Editor but, sadly, it must now appear as part of Raaphy’s obituary. The draw with Bob Wade referred to in the fax was played in Dublin in 1962 and featured in Student’s Corner in BCM in the December 1966 issue on page 356. It seems appropriate to reproduce the game here in tribute to these two recently departed and much-loved chessplayers.
Notes by Persitz
Unlike the majority of games that have, over the years, appeared in the Student’s Corner, the following dour struggle between Bob Wade (White) and myself (Black), from Dublin, 1962, is in no way outstanding: it does not contain any brilliant combinations; it is not a positional masterpiece; it is certainly not devoid of mistakes. Nor is it amusing, or original, or of theoretical interest or particularly instructive. Yet (with the aid of the interspersed comments) it ought to give the student a pretty shrewd and realistic idea of the stuff competitive chess is made of: the endless number of laborious variations that have to be examined; the annoying little threats that must be attended to; the treacherous pitfalls to be sidestepped; the technical hurdles to be surmounted; the frustrating little details, indifference to which may be fatal; in brief, the drudgery that has become part and parcel of contemporary tournament practice, without which success is unimaginable.
Raaphy Persitz Tributes
Leonard Barden: Raaphy was probably my best friend at Oxford – certainly so among chessplayers. We played hundreds of blitz games in the junior common room at Balliol and later for some months in 1957 we shared a London flat, analysing Russian championship games over breakfast. He was a wonderful man to know, bright, witty, gentle, sympathetic and knowledgeable.
A tribute by Amatzia Avni: Ordinary people have a mixture of good qualities and bad ones. After 20 years of friendship with the late Raaphy Persitz I can attest that he was a distinct type: one sided, positive-only; pure gold.
I first met him in 1989. I had just written my first chess book (in Hebrew) and was searching for someone to write me an introduction. The word was that Persitz was back in town, after long years abroad. Having seen glimpses of his amazing linguistic skills, I contacted him and he agreed immediately. He didn’t know me, hadn’t read a single sentence of the book, yet he didn’t hesitate: “yes, sure, I’ll be glad to”.
That was typical Persitz: always ready to help, unconditionally. The introduction, needless to say, was a sheer delight, a class or two above the rest of the book. In later years he gave me a hand several times polishing my texts and making them more reader-friendly to English-speaking readers. Somehow he seemed to know what I wished to express better than I did. His suggestions enabled me to convey my meaning in a clear and precise manner.
Raaphy was modest and reserved. Once I called him and realized he was upset. “My mother had passed away some weeks ago,” he said. I was puzzled why he didn’t tell me the sad news at the time. “I didn’t want to bother you” was his reply.
A couple of years ago I stumbled upon Bruce Hayden’s old book Cabbage Heads and Chess Kings. One of the book’s chapters was headed “Raaphy Persitz star or comet?”. I learned that, in the 1950s, Persitz gained bright victories in England, against Penrose, Alexander, Milner-Barry and others. Searching a Chessbase database I found out that he also done battle with some out- standing international players. Yet, in all our meetings and hundreds of hours of conversation, he never said a thing about that!
Persitz was a master of understatement. I learned that if I wrote “very fine” or “extremely strong”, the ‘very’ and ‘extremely’ would fly out of the window. If I made a firm stand on a certain issue, he would add “probably”, “apparently’ or “it may be argued that”, because it was indeed only an opinion, not a fact. Over time, following his line of thought made me improve the way I expressed myself and thought about chess.
Persitz’s distinctions in chess, in linguistics and in journalism are evident to anyone who ever read his chess books and articles. He also excelled at economics, but I am unqualified to comment on this.
God bless you, Raaphy. I feel privileged to have known you. Amatzia Avni.
BCN wishes Happy Birthday to IM Andrew P Horton (15-i-1998)
Andrew became a FIDE Master in 2015 and an International Master in 2018 following the 89th FIDE Congress 2018, 26 Sep – 6 Oct, Batumi, Georgia.
Andrew represents the 3Cs club in the Manchester League and in the Four Nations Chess League (4NCL) (as well as Wood Green) and, in addition, Wotton Hall, Durham City (during his University years) and Northumberland CA for county matches.
Andrew made regular appearences at the Delancey UK Chess Challenge and was placed 1st in the 2014 Terafinal, Challengers section.
In 2021 Andrew was invited and played in the London Chess Classic at the Cavendish Conference Centre.
Andrew’s ECF standard play rating at January 2023 is 2452K.
Here is the publishers blurb from the rear cover :
“What is it that makes Magnus Carlsen the strongest chess player in the world? Why do Carlsen’s opponents, the best players around, fail to see his moves coming? Moves that, when you replay his games, look natural and self-evident?
Emmanuel Neiman has been studying Carlsen’s games and style of play for many years. His findings will surprise, delight and educate every player, regardless of their level. He explains a key element in the World Champion’s play: instead of the absolute’ best move he often plays the move that is likely to give him the better chances. Carlsen’s singular ability to win positions that are equal or only very slightly favourable comes down to this: he doesn’t let his opponents get what they hope for while offering them the maximum amount of chances to go wrong. In areas such as pawn play, piece play, exchanges as a positional weapon and breaking the rules in endgames, Neiman shows that Magnus Carlsen has brought a new understanding to the game.
Neiman also looks at Carlsen’s key qualities that are not directly related to technique. Such as his unparalleled fighting spirit and his ability to objectively evaluate any kind of position and situation. Carlsen is extremely widely read and knows basically everything about chess. What’s more, as the most versatile player in the history of the game he is totally unpredictable. The Magnus Method presents a complete analysis of the skills that make the difference. With lots of surprising and instructive examples and quizzes. Examining Carlsen’s abilities together with Emmanuel Neiman is a delightful way to unlock you own potential.”
About the author :
Emmanuel Neiman is a FIDE Master who teaches chess in his home country France. He is the (co-) author of Invisible Chess Moves and Tune Your Chess Tactics Antenna, highly successful books on tactics and training.
The Chapters are as follows:
Explanation of symbols
Chapter 1) Style: from Karpov to Tal?
Chapter 2) The opening revolution
Chapter 3) Attack: inviting everyone to the party
Chapter 4) Defence: the preventive counter-attack
Chapter 5) Tactics: ‘les petites combinaisons’
Chapter 6) Exchanges: Carlsen’s main positional weapon
Chapter 7) Calculation: keeping a clear mind
Chapter 8) Planning: when knowledge brings vision
Chapter 9) Pawns: perfect technique and new tips
Chapter 10) Pieces: the art of going backwards
Chapter 11) Endings: breaking the principles
Chapter 12) How to win against Magnus Carlsen: the hidden defects?
Chapter 13) Games and solutions
Index of names
Emmanuel Neiman has produced a fascinating book in which he tries to answer the question; what makes Magnus Carlsen unique and sets him apart from his peers? Magnus is currently the 5 time world champion and been the no.1 position in the FIDE World rankings since July 2011. In addition to this remarkable feat Magnus has also been the World Rapid Chess Champion (three times) and the World Blitz Champion (five times). This is even more remarkable when you consider that Magnus is still only 31. Since the book was published in 2021 Magnus has announced that he will not be defending his title and will effectively step down as world champion in 2023. As well as his achievements over the board Magnus co founded the company Play Magnus AS in 2013 and in Aug 2022 the company accepted an offer from Chess.com that will see the two companies merge.
A lot has been written about Magnus Carlsen over the years but one of the most interesting articles I found was written by Jonathan Rowson in 2013 in which he described Magnus as a ‘nettlesome’ player. “we needed the word ‘nettlesomeness’ to capture the quintessence of his strength, which lies in his capacity to induce errors by relentlessly playing moves that are not only good, but bothersome.” (https://en.chessbase.com/post/carlsen-the-nettlesome-world-champion Magnus is a very pragmatic player, who has the ability to play accurate moves that maximise the chances for inaccuracy by his opponents rather than always looking for the ‘best’ move. Magnus is also an extremely well-rounded chess player. In terms of dynamic attacking play, Kasparov was probably better than him. In terms of positional play people will argue that Karpov and Kramnik at their best could give Magnus a run for his money. However, no player in chess history can play both tactical, strategic and technical positions as well as Magnus. He is also one of the toughest defenders out there. He does occasionally get bad positions but when he does, he digs in and defends like his life depends on it. His opponent has to play with razor-sharp precision to even think about winning. Finally, Gary Kasparov in an interview once described Magnus as a lethal combination of both Fischer and Karpov https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Np1zODg5cqc.
In writing this book the author sets out to answer two questions; firstly, what does Magnus bring to the game and secondly what specific tools does he use? When you play though his games they can look deceptively simple. At some point his opponent (often one of the best players in the world) will blunder, often after conducting a long and difficult defence in a seemingly level endgame.
The introduction spans 21 pages and could have been a stand-alone chapter covers two aspects of Carlen’s play, his technique and the characteristics of his play that are not directly related to technique. The technique covers how Magnus is able to win equal or slightly advantageous positions, even against the strongest players in the world. Carlsen will try and keep the position alive at all costs and avoid getting to a position where his opponent knows what to do. Carlsen will constantly look for ways to change the position in both the middlegame and the endgame. So that when his opponent has solved one problem he will be faced with a further set of problems.
Moving onto Carlsen’s strong points the author examines the following attributes:
Evaluation – constantly trying to get an objective assessment of a position before making any decisions or making a plan.
Chess Knowledge – practically knows everything there is to know about the game.
Versatility – he can play virtually any opening and any type of game.
Fighting Spirit – sets out to win every game he plays.
Pragmatism and Perfectionism – Carlsen is a pragmatist rather than a purist.
Intelligence/psychology – Carlsen was a gifted child and owes very little to coaches or outside help.
Chapter 1 covers Magnus’s style of play and how that has changed over time. Starting out as a tactician then becoming a more technical player then evolving into the universal player that he is today. This has enabled Magus to be successful in all formats of the game. Chapter 2 describes the changes that have taken place in opening preparation. Previously elite players would prepare long concrete lines and spend a considerable time researching opening novelties. Many openings were not played by the top players as they weren’t considered to be strong enough. Carlsens approach is radically different and he will literally will play anything and everything. This has minimised the importance of the opening and placed more emphisis on middlegame and endgame play.
Chapters 3 -10 These 10 chapters each cover a particular characteristic of Carlsen’s play and begin with a short introduction followed by a number of exercises for the reader to solve. The solutions are found in the final chapter of the book. (Games and Solutions) This consists of 248 annotated games or positions. The structure of this book is different from other similar books where the reader is asked to solve a position and find the correct move for one side. Here the diagrams at the end of each chapter refer to specific games and specific diagrams within the game. However I did have a problem with this approach as I feel that there were too many problems to solve from specific games and in many cases several diagrams were included where there are only few moves between the diagrams. In several cases like this I was able to work out the solution to a problem by referring to the next diagram and deducing how to get to the next position. Also, it is not clear whether the reader is being asked to find a single move or to calculate a number of variations. I would have liked to have known in advance how difficult each problem is to solve. This does detract from the book but it making it a good book rather than an excellent one.
Clearly a lot of research has gone into producing this book and organising the material therein. Virtually all of the games in this book were played against the world’s elite players with the most recent games played in 2021. Some of these games are from online events even including a couple of games from ‘Banter Blitz’ events. There are also a few of his junior games as well. The games are well annotated with a nice balance between explanations and analysis. This book can be read either as a collection of puzzles to solve or the reader can skip the puzzles and just enjoy playing through the games.
Overall the author succeeded in answering the two questions that he posed at the beginning of the book specifically what Magnus Carlsen brings to the game and what is his approach. The book does not cover how Magnus was able to adapt his play and be so successful in the online tournaments that were played throughout 2020 & 2021. I presume that this was because the book was written in early 2021 and perhaps this will be addressed in a future edition.
Addendum, the day after I finished completed this review I saw an article on the Chessbase website that Magnus Carlsen had just recorded a podcast with Lex Fridman (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0ZO28NtkwwQ ) This is a 2.5 hour conversation covering a wide range of chess (and non-chess) related topics. Lex has previously interviewed Gary Kasparov (see link above) and more recently Demis Hassabis ( https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Gfr50f6ZBvo ) CEO and co-founder of DeepMind.
Tony Williams, Newport, Isle of Wight, 30th August 2022
“There aren’t many chess players who can say they’ve both beaten Garry Kasparov in an official blitz game and crushed Peter Leko in a classical game in 26 moves. And who regularly win blitz tournaments high on marihuana. But then Manuel Bosboom is not an ordinary chess player.
The Dutch International Master never made it to the top in chess, but over the course of his swashbuckling career he has produced an astonishing amount of brilliantly creative games. When Manuel Bosboom enters the room, a smile appears on every chess players face. Not only is he an exuberantly colourful player, he also leads an unconventional existence. His enthusiasm for the game and zest for life are highly contagious.
This book offers a captivating collection of games and it also describes the adventurous life of the Wizard from Zaanstad, who grew up and still lives in a picturesque shed next to a 17th century windmill on the famous Zaanse Schans. You will be treated to many a stunning chess move, a wealth of hilarious but also touching stories and a vivid impression of the Dutch chess scene in the late 20th and early 21st century.
Merijn van Delft is an International Master from the Netherlands. He has been a chess trainer for more than two decades and created instructional material both online and offline.
Peter Boel is a FIDE Master and a sports journalist who works as an editor with New In Chess. He is the author of two collections of short stories (in Dutch).”
My last review introduced you to a Chess Crusader. Now we have a Chess Buccaneer.
The Dutch IM Manuel Bosboom has been a cult figure in his native country for several decades, renowned for his bohemian lifestyle, adventurous and creative play, erratic results and brilliance at blitz. He came to the notice of a wider public recently when some of his games were featured in David Smerdon’s wonderful book The Complete Chess Swindler. Now we have a whole volume devoted to his life and games, written by two of his friends, Peter Boel, who was responsible for the biography, and Merijn van Delft, who provided the annotations.
Bosboom himself provides a foreword.
Meanwhile, I developed an affection for players like Alexander Alekhine, Mikhail Tal and Leonid Stein. My games became wilder, often leaving the opponent wondering: was this move a blunder or a sacrifice?! I didn’t mind! From my many blitz games I learned that you just had to keep going, regardless of the situation. A diehard attitude, quick board view and deft movements earned me a reputation in blitz.
Follow your Heart and use your Mind. Play without Dogma!
You’re promised some entertaining games, then, and that’s exactly what you’ll get.
From the authors’ preface:
If Manuel Bosboom didn’t exist, he would have to be invented. His unique, fascinating personality is bound to enrapture every true chess fan.
The book features 66 amazing games, as well as a number of other striking fragments that have been gathered and annotated by Peter in the chapters ‘Swindles’ and ‘Curiouser’. And of course we couldn’t leave out a collection of 36 combinations that the reader can try his hand at solving, with three different levels of difficulty.
We mixed this explosive material into a heady cocktail that we hope will get you pleasantly tipsy, and no hangover!
Chess is an adventure with many beautiful vistas. The great appeal of Manuel Bosboom is that he shows us that you can do things differently – in chess as well as in life. This is a marvellous gift for which we will never be able to thank him enough.
Chapter 1 takes us to the 1999 Wijk aan Zee blitz tournament, and demonstrates the game in which Bosboom beat none other than Garry Kasparov.
We then take a chronological journey through our subject’s life. Bosboom, born in 1963, comes from a Jewish socialist working-class family – the name was originally Nussbaum – and his father, Adriaan, is a talented, but commercially unsuccessful, painter.
Chapters 2 and 3 take him through his childhood and career up to 1990. At this time he favoured openings such as the King’s Gambit, so you’ll see a lot of romantic chess in these games, with brilliantly creative attacking play alongside mutual blunders.
Bosboom is famous for his early attacks with his g- and h-pawns, which sometimes result in sparkling miniatures such as this game. (Click on any move and a pop-up board will magically appear.)
Chapter 4, Manuel versus Computer, must be one of the shortest chapters ever to appear in a chess book. Just a four-move game. You’ll discover the reason later in the book.
Chapter 5 takes Bosboom through the 1990s, when he was perhaps, at the peak of his strength. He was now producing positional as well as tactical masterpieces.
I particularly enjoyed this game against Sofia Polgar.
Chapter 6 again interrupts the narration, this time for a short collection of swindles. Then Chapter 7 takes Bosboom from 2001 through to 2006.
We don’t just get Manuel Bosboom’s wins: there are draws and losses as well, such as this extraordinary game, played in the Dutch League. Bosboom was, as he often is, broke at the time so couldn’t afford the bus to the tournament venue, only just managing to arrive before the default time.
Chapter 8 is the obligatory (for this publisher, it seems) Combinations chapter, and then Chapter 9 takes us up to the present day.
Finally, Chapter 10 is entitled ‘Curiouser’.
Here are some episodes from Manuel’s chess life that may be even curiouser than what you have seen so far. Since ‘correctness’ is not a very prevalent characteristic in this chapter, the comments have been done in a slightly more ‘enthusiastic’ style than elsewhere in this book!
This is from Bosboom – Dvoirys (Leeuwarden 1997).
(Dvoirys) seemed to know nothing but chess in his life and would only mumble an unintelligible reply every time you asked him something.
The game concluded: 35. Rf5! Rf7 36. Be4! Rgg7 37. Rxe5
Dvoirys sat aghast, staring at the ruins of his position. Then he started fumbling with a big chocolate bar he had put beside the board, and suddenly squeezed it to pieces. These then fell out of his hands and onto the floor, and Bosboom watched in amazement how Dvoirys knelt down and started crawling around to collect all the pieces of chocolate.
It seems almost de rigueur these days that every chess book should include Hilarious Anecdotes, and this book, as you might expect, is no exception. They’re more likely to involve alcohol or marijuana (or marihuana, as preferred by the back cover) than chocolate, though.
For someone like me, who leads a very sober and boring life, and plays very sober and boring chess, it comes as quite a shock to meet someone like Manuel Bosboom who is, in both respects, my polar opposite. He is, I suppose very much a product of the Dutch counter-culture in that respect.
It’s again fascinating, from the UK perspective, to learn about the difference between Dutch and British chess culture. Here chess is seen very much as a game played either by small children in primary schools or by old men in draughty church halls, but in the Netherlands it seems very different. It’s also interesting to learn that Bosboom makes much of his meagre income from winning cash prizes in blitz tournaments: something almost unknown here, although it’s good to see that some enterprising organisers are now running blitz events with substantial cash prizes.
This book is well structured, well written (the English is not always entirely idiomatic, but no matter) and well produced. Merijn van Delft is rapidly earning a reputation as one of the best chess writers around and his annotations here are excellent, pitched at just the right level to be accessible to all readers.
The world needs eccentrics, and the chess world benefits enormously from the presence of the likes of Manuel Bosboom. Playing through his games – his fiascos as well as his successes – will, if you follow his example, add creativity and excitement to your chess. Whether it will also improve your rating is, I suppose, another matter entirely.
I really enjoyed this book in every respect. Bosboom’s life and games are both enormously entertaining and often wildly funny. The authors have done a fine and important job in bringing his colourful personality and chess moves to our attention.
This book, then, is very highly recommended for players of all strengths. Even if you’ve never heard of Manuel Bosboom, do yourself a favour and give it a try.
“In 1971 Robert James Fischer defeated Mark Taimanov by the sensational score of 6-0 in Vancouver, but the match games were far more competitive and tension-filled than the final score would suggest.
Twenty years later Taimanov put pen to paper, reflecting on the experience. Exactly 50 years after the match, this is the first English translation of Taimanov’s original Russian text. Taimanov provides a richly detailed, honest and emotional account of the drama on and off the board. Despite the catastrophic match score, his love for the game of chess is evident throughout.
Taimanov also discusses his early acquaintance with Fischer from 1960, including detailed annotations of both of their pre-1971 games, as well as the personal consequences of the match result. With fascinating additional archive material and analytical contributions from some of the brightest young stars of the American chess scene today, I was a Victim of Bobby Fischer is the ultimate insight into one of the most famous matches in chess history.”
End of blurb…
Quality Chess live up to their name by being one of the few publishers who offer a hardback as well as softback version of all of their titles.
The production values are superb. You could save a few pence and opt for the paperback version but we would definitely treat ourselves with a Christmas / New Year present and savour the hardback. In addition, high quality paper is used and the printing is clear. The weight of this paper gives the book an even better feel to it as the pages are turned.
The book can easily be laid flat next to the board and does not require weights to prevent it from “self-closing”. Each diagram is clear and the instructional text is typeset in two column format, which, we find, enables the reader to readily maintain their place. Figurine algebraic notation is used and the diagrams are placed adjacent to the relevant text.
A small (and insignificant) quibble: the diagrams (except for Chapter 19, Interesting Positions) do not have a “to move” indicator (but they do have coordinates).
Before we take our first look at this book Quality Chess have provided a pdf excerpt.
Over the years there have been numerous books with Taimanov somewhere in the title but almost all are concerned with his famous variation of the Sicilian Defence:
We are aware of two English language books covering Taimanov’s career. One is Taimanov’s Selected Games published in 1995 by Everyman Chess covering 60(!) games selected and annotated by MT. The second is Smyslov, Bronstein, Geller, Taimanov and Averbakh: A Chess Multibiography (McFarland, 2021) with 220 Games by Andrew Soltis reviewed here.
This Quality Chess title helps to address this surprising shortfall.
The title is perhaps the first worthy discussion point and we learn the interesting reason for it. Is it clear from the outset just how in regard MT held Fischer when he wrote this manuscript in 1993.
You might think that the events of 1971 had left a bitter taste with MT, and degree of resentment, especially when we read in Chapter 5 of his post match treatment by the Soviet authorities. The latter even restricted his career in music which was gratuitously cruel. There is no evidence of that here, in fact, quite the opposite. Taimanov stipulated in his will that should the book be published then “I Was a Victim of Bobby Fischer” must be its title.
Let us not forget that Taimanov jointly holds (and will always) a record with Efim Geller of twenty-three appearences in the Soviet Championships apart from his many other achievements on the chess board.
Taimanov played Fischer a total of eight times and their first meeting was on June 4th, 1960 in the good air of Buenos Aires.
This game was a monumental battle (drawn after eighty-seven moves) when Fischer was a mere seventeen and MT was a more plausible thirty-four.
Here is the game devoid of any notes simply because you really should treat yourself to the fourteen(!) pages of glorious annotations including 20 diagrams. What a struggle!
Much of the book is taken up with discussion of Fischer’s development and eventually his downfall (but nether MT nor Spike Milligan played any part) and this is particularly apposite on the eve of the Reykjavik match 50th anniversary.
Chapters 6-12 cover each game of the 1971 match (ten games were planned) in Vancouver. Each game is very much worthy of close study and a model of sporting attitude from the loser. It is painful to see how well Taimanov plays compared with the game results. At no point did he “do a Nepo” and collapse into a heap. His emotions and reactions to the match are rather revealing.
Chapter 13(!) discusses the causes of Fischer’s eventual reclusion comparing RJFs fate with players of the past with an update in Chapter 14 on more recent events.
You might predict “That must be the end of the book”. Well, not at all. Part IV contains the substantial Appendices which include additional deeply annotated games of Taimanov and of Fischer, a biography of MT and a fascinating interview of MT from 2016.
Almost last and by no means least we have Chapter 19 which presents a number of key positions from the previously discussed games and the reader is asked a pertinent question about each.
“We will look at three positions from this complicated game, all of them very interesting. In the first, Black has a difficult strategic decision to make”
Chapter 20 (titled “Thoughts and Solutions”) takes the Chapter 19 positions and analyses them in detail courtesy of a team of strong players (Shankland, Liang, Xiong and Aagaard) providing their individual opinions of each position. This is really rather innovative and most welcome. Note that these “thoughts” are not usurped by reams of unwelcome engine analysis.
In summary, this is a significant book quite unlike any other we have read. Beautifully produced it brings you into the mind of a great chessplayer and person who gave his all and was treated appallingly.
We commend to you this book without doubt: you will not be disappointed. One of our favourites of 2021.
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