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Miguel Najdorf – ‘El Viejo’ – Life, Games and Stories

Miguel Najdorf - 'El Viejo' - Life, Games and Stories, Zenon Ocampos, Thinker's Publishing, 2 September 2021, ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-9464201130
Miguel Najdorf – ‘El Viejo’ – Life, Games and Stories, Zenon Ocampos, Thinker’s Publishing, 2 September 2021, ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-9464201130

From the author’s introduction:

I was lucky enough to play against six world champions and several top players in my modest chess career, but the greatest player I feel privileged to have known, to have spent time with him, was Miguel Najdorf, “El Viejo”.

This is a chess book, with 275 commented games, it covers all his chess career, but it has also many stories. Najdorf was the most important Argentinean chess player, and he was an exceptional person. Oscar Panno said that Najdorf reminded him of Don Quixote, in the part of the book where he tells Sancho Panza, “Wherever I am, that is where the head of the table is going to be”. He successfully overcame the most terrible setbacks, as few are capable of doing. Writing about Miguel Najdorf is one of my greatest pleasures as a chess journalist and writer!

Zenon Franco Ocampos, April 2021.”

GM Zenon Franco
GM Zenon Franco

“Zenon Franco Ocampos was born in Asuncion, Paraguay, May 12, 1956. From there he moved to Buenos Aires until 1990. Since 1990 he has lived in Spain. Zenon authored 28 chess books which have been published in six languages. In addition to his books, he has served as a chess columnist for the Paraguayan newspapers ‘Hoy’ and ‘ABC Color’ for 17 years. He has written a chess column for magazines from Argentina, Italy, and Spain. Zenon is most respected Grandmaster and FIDE Senior Trainer. He has participated in 11 chess Olympiads and will now captain the Paraguay team during the Moscow Olympiad 2021. His greatest achievements winning gold medals at the Olympiads of Luzern, 1982 and Novi Sad, 1990. His most successful students were GM F. Vallejo Pons and IM David Martinez Martin, Spanish editor of Chess24.com.”

Miguel Najdorf
Miguel Najdorf

If you hear the name Najdorf, what immediately comes to mind? The Najdorf Variation of the Sicilian Defence, I’d guess.

Something like this, perhaps, although it transposes into a Scheveningen.

It wasn’t Najdorf who originated the idea, though. He’d been playing it since the mid 1930s, perhaps having been shown it by the Czech master Karel Opocensky

In this important game, from the last round of the 1948 Interzonal, he was playing black against Dr Petar Trifunovic, who was considered almost unbeatable with the white pieces, but who needed a win to have any chance of qualifying for the Candidates Tournament.

Here’s Najdorf on his choice of 5th move:

In those days the line had scarcely been investigated and I emphasise that Dr Trifunovic was famous for his theoretical knowledge.

And after the game:

I was pleased with this game against Trifunovic, because it was a battle of ideas and plans to bring about a balanced game.

His attempt to attack is not successful and with an extremely audacious manoeuvre he exposes his queen, granting me a very tiny chance. Maybe he didn’t foresee the consequences. What is certain is that, from that moment on, Black takes control and forces and forces, until resignation.

But there was a lot more to Najdorf than his variation. He was a colourful personality who had a long and eventful life, and a chess career lasting 70 years: from 1926 to 1996, playing everyone from Capablanca, Alekhine and Rubinstein through to Fischer, Karpov and Kasparov. Jeff Sonas (Chessmetrics) puts him in the world top 10 for the decade or so after World War 2, and at number 2, with a highest rating of 2797, for most of the period between 1946 and 1949.

If you’re from my generation you may know quite a lot already, but younger readers may not.

Here’s your opportunity to put that right: Zenon Franco Ocampos and Thinkers Publishing offer you 720 pages on the life and games of El Viejo (the old man, as he was often known, especially by himself), with 275 annotated games and extracts, along with much historical information and a wealth of hilarious anecdotes.

We start with an unfinished book written by Najdorf himself, with thirteen annotated games, before moving onto an account of his early life.

Najdorf was born in 1910 in Warsaw, named Moishe Mendel, although the Polish version, Mieczyslaw, was also used, but when he settled in Argentina, he became Miguel. He learnt the moves at the relatively late age of 14 from a friend’s father, but his parents were unhappy with his chess obsession.

He soon gained a reputation as a highly talented but erratic player, capable of producing brilliancies such as the much anthologised ‘Polish  Immortal’ against Gluksberg, where he sacrificed all his minor pieces, but Najdorf himself preferred this game (the date, venue and name of his opponent are all uncertain).

Najdorf was playing for Poland in the 1939 Buenos Aires Olympiad when World War 2 broke out, and, like a number of other European Masters, decided to stay there.

This was a decision that saved his life: his wife, daughter, parents and four brothers were all murdered in the Holocaust. You won’t read a lot about this here, though. As Franco points out, this is a games collection rather than a biography, and he directs you to Najdorf’s daughter Liliana’s book for further information.

Further chapters look at the war years, when he settled in Argentina, the decade or so after the war when he was a world championship candidate, the years up to 1982 when he was still competing regularly at the top level, and the last phase of his career, up to his death in 1997.

You might be disappointed if you’re expecting a lot of Sicilian Najdorfs. There aren’t very many – and he didn’t play it all that often. A large proportion of the games have Najdorf playing White, where he usually opened 1. d4, so you’ll get a lot of queen’s pawn games. Before the war he often adopted a Colle-Zukertort set-up, but later preferred more critical variations. He was particularly impressive playing positions with an isolated queen’s pawn: study of these games will be beneficial if you enjoy this pawn formation yourself.

This position is from Najdorf – Kotov (Mar del Plata 1957), where our hero chose 21. Bd1!

An unusual move, very imaginative, which brings White a quick victory. This is strong, but not the most forceful.

Many years later, Igor Zaitsev indicated that the strongest move was 21. Bc2!!, with a potential fork on f7 after Rxc2.

After 21. Bd1 Qa5, Najdorf won quickly, but after 21… Rc7, Franco points out the computer move 22. a5, freeing a4 for the bishop.

Here’s the complete game.

Najdorf was also renowned for his prowess on both sides of the King’s Indian Defence.

This game, the first brilliancy prize winner at the 1953 Candidates’ Tournament, is of considerable historical importance, played at a time when players like Bronstein and Najdorf were developing the King’s Indian Defence into a dangerous counter-attacking weapon.

Franco sensibly combines Bronstein’s and Najdorf’s annotations from their tournament books.

If you have a particular interest in the King’s Indian Defence, either as a player or from a historical perspective, you’ll enjoy a lot of the games here.

So what you get in this book is a lot of great chess, many of the games annotated by Franco, but others with annotations from a variety of sources, including, in many cases, Najdorf himself. He also adds modern engine improvements where appropriate. As you’d expect from such an experienced author, the notes are pitched at just the right level: approachable for anyone from 1500 to 2500 strength.

Then you have the anecdotes. Najdorf was an ebullient character, who barely seemed to stop talking, even during his games. Kotov famously asked the (rhetorical) question: should you imitate Botvinnik or Najdorf? He was one of the most popular figures in chess, extrovert, charming, passionate about both chess and people, but sometimes also annoying.

Back in 1937, during the Polish Championship, another player allegedly asked him what the time was. On the first two occasions, lost in thought, he made no reply. On the third occasion he consulted his watch and replied, after some consideration, “d2-d4”.

On a long chartered train journey in Argentina in 1957, Najdorf constantly walked up and down the carriage, talking to all the other players, who wanted to get some rest, and not taking any hints. At length Keres shouted to Kotov at the other end (in English so that everyone would understand) “Alexander, how long have you known Najdorf?” “I think I have known him since 1946.” Keres congratulated his colleague on his good fortune: “I have known him since the Warsaw Olympiad in 1935.”

Pal Benko told the story of how he adjourned a pawn up in a rook ending against Najdorf. He didn’t have time to analyse it, but Najdorf insisted it was a draw and not worth playing out. He wouldn’t stop talking so eventually agreed to shut him up. He then went back to his room and saw that the position was in fact easily winning for him. Outraged, he confronted his opponent:

“Why did you lie to me like that? What the hell’s wrong with you? Why didn’t you let me think?” He just smiled, put his arms round me and said, “Don’t worry about it. Come on, I’ll take you to a nice nightclub.” How could you stay mad at a guy like this?

All entirely believable for anyone who knew Najdorf, but Franco looked at the game, and found it really didn’t match the story. He’s very good at checking out anecdotes like this.

So what we have, then, is 720 pages about an important figure in the chess life of the mid 20th century: great games expertly annotated, a lot of chess history, and a lot to make you laugh as well. Good use is made of various sources, and these are always credited so we know where to go if we want more information about Najdorf. What’s not to like?

Unfortunately, there are problems regarding the production. The book almost seems to be in two halves. The first part of the book provides tournament tables (sometimes with unnecessary errors), but by the time he starts playing in top level tournaments these disappear without explanation. Yes, I know they’re readily available elsewhere but I find the inconsistency rather annoying. We get group photographs, which is great, but the players are often not identified. There’s a lack of proper indexing as well: there’s a list of games in the order in which they appear in the book, but no indexes of players or openings. A summary of Najdorf’s tournament and match results at the end of the book is also something I’d expect from a chess biography of this nature.

To take just one example of a careless factual error, we’re told that Franciszek Sulik was champion of Australia nine time (sic). If he had been, I’d have heard of him. In fact he was champion of South Australia nine times. The typo again is only too typical. There are far too many to be acceptable for a book of this nature. Like so many chess books published these days, it really needed someone else to check it through one more time.

Perhaps the book would have been better as two volumes, or maybe just as a games collection without the historical background. I can’t help feeling the publishers, skilled as they are in producing other types of chess book, were slightly out of their comfort zone here.

It’s an important book, an entertaining book, and in many ways an excellent book which will be enjoyed by readers of all levels, especially those with an interest in chess history. My reservations about the production values, though, preclude a wholehearted recommendation.

Richard James, Twickenham 19th October 2021

Richard James
. Richard James

Book Details :

  • Softcover: 720 pages
  • Publisher: Thinkers Publishing; 1st edition (2 September 2021)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10:9464201134
  • ISBN-13:978-9464201130
  • Product Dimensions: 16.51 x 1.27 x 23.5 cm

Official web site of Thinkers Publishing

Miguel Najdorf - 'El Viejo' - Life, Games and Stories, Zenon Ocampos, Thinker's Publishing, 2 September 2021, ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-9464201130
Miguel Najdorf – ‘El Viejo’ – Life, Games and Stories, Zenon Ocampos, Thinker’s Publishing, 2 September 2021, ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-9464201130

The Secret Ingredient: To Winning at Chess

The Secret Ingredient: To Winning at Chess, Jan Markos & David Navara, Quality Chess, 7th Feb 2022, ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-1784831424
The Secret Ingredient: To Winning at Chess, Jan Markos & David Navara, Quality Chess, 7th Feb 2022, ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-1784831424

From the publisher:

The Secret Ingredient is a grandmaster guide to maximizing your chess results, focusing on key elements of practical play which have received little to no attention in previous chess literature.

How exactly can we best make use of computers? What’s the ideal, step-by-step way to prepare against a specific opponent? How can we optimize our time management at the board? And what’s the one key skill that separates the best players from those who have yet to reach their full potential? GM Jan Markos sheds light on these topics and many more, helped by the world-class insights of his good friend GM David Navara.”

“Jan Markos is a Slovakian grandmaster and trainer. His previous book, Under the Surface, was the English Chess Federation’s 2018 Book of the Year.

David Navara is a ten-time Czech Champion and a world-class grandmaster. He is noted for combining fighting spirit with outstanding sportsmanship.”

End of blurb…

GM David Navara
GM David Navara

Quality Chess live up to their name by being one of the few publishers who offer a hardback as well as softback version of all of their titles.

The production values are superb with a “McFarland-like” feel. Of course, you could save a few pence and go for the paperback version but we would definitely treat ourselves with an early Christmas present and savour the hardback. In addition, high quality paper is used and the printing is clear: excellent glossy paper has been used. The weight of this paper gives the book an even better feel to it!

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

GM Jan Markos
GM Jan Markos

From the introduction, written by Jan Markos:

This is above all a practical book. My goal is simple: I want to help you avoid as many disastrous defeats … as possible. I’ll show you what a real fight on the chessboard is all about. And I would like you to learn how to hold your ground in this fight. I’ll tell you how to cope with stress, how to use your time efficiently and how to make well-reasoned decisions. I’ll show you how to prepare for every individual opponent and how to play endgames in 30-second rhythm.

In short, this book wants to teach you how to win at chess.

I haven’t read Jan Markos’s previous award-winning book, so was interested to receive this. Most of the book is written by Markos, with contributions by David Navara, providing further examples, agreeing with, or, on occasion, disagreeing with his colleague, are printed using a sans serif font, helpfully allowing the reader to differentiate between the two authorial voices.

Diving into Chapter 1, looking at what grandmaster chess is really like, I was immediately taken by Markos’s comments on tactics:

In real chess, the width of your calculation is usually much more important than its depth.

Indeed so, and this is precisely the limitation of most tactics books, not to mention online tactics training.

This is Markos – Tomashevsky (Plovdiv 2008).

Markos takes up the story:

I knew I had to stop the advance of the black d-pawn, but I considered just one way to prevent d5-d4. I included only 22. Qa1 into my calculation, perhaps because I liked the potential threat of checkmate on g7. In fact, 22. Qa1 is only one of three good moves available to White in this position: the other two being 22. Ne2 and 22. Qb4.

He demonstrated the long variation he calculated, which is what happened in the game, but adds:

If I had focused more on the width of my calculation, I might have noticed that Black could have met 22. Qa1 with a much stronger reply: 22… Rc3!

Reviving the threat of …d5-d4 in a much better setting, To escape a downright losing position, White has to find the non-trivial:

23. Rc1! d4 24. Rxc3! dxe3+ 25. Kg1 (even the exotic 25. Ke1!? is playable) 25… exf3 26. gxf3

reaching a position where Black has sufficient compensation for the sacrificed material, but nothing more.

He adds:

Good calculation doesn’t look like a way through a tunnel and isn’t meant to get you as far as possible in one direction. It resembles more a path through an unknown forest; you have to consider all the detours and paths you encounter, one step at a time.

In endings, though, things are very different. With fewer pieces on the board, you can – and have to  calculate much further ahead.

I found Chapter 2, about the limits of computer evaluation, particularly interesting. We learn that there are several types of equal position: eternal balance, where anything sensible for either player draws, stable balance, where strong players will have no problem drawing with either colour, and fragile balance, where it’s difficult for one or both players to find the correct moves to maintain equality. Likewise, there are different types of advantage, again to do with how easy it is to find the best continuation.

Navara demonstrates a spectacular example.

Black is objectively winning, yet I believe that in 90 per cent of practical games, White players would win.

If, on the other hand, you presented it to grandmasters or international masters with a hint “Black to move wins”, the situation would be quite different. I would estimate that half of the players, or even more, would discover the correct continuation.

This is Ni Hua – Le Quang Liem (Ho Chi Minh City 2012).

The game concluded 29… h5? 30. Qxh5 Ba3+ 31. Kxb3 and Black resigned.

Engines prefer to continue 29… Ba3+! 30. Kxb3 a1N+!! 31. Rxa1 Qb6+!! 32. Bxb6 Nd4+! 33. Kc3 Rxc4+! 34. Kxc4 Rc8+ 35. Bc7 Rxc7#.

In Chapter 3, Markos asks a question.

But is there a single, defining skill that any mature chess player should master?

Well, Jan, is there?

If you ask me, yes there is – and it’s the art of defence. The ability to defend themselves is that separates mature players from the youngsters in the chess world. There’s a certain logic behind it; defence is the most demanding part of the game – requiring not only chess skills, but also strength of character from an individual. You need to be both patient and able to take a risk. You need to devote a lot of energy to every single move and never take an immediate reward for granted.

Here’s Markos in 2018 playing black against Viktor Gazik, who, a few months later, would become World Junior Champion.

White’s position is quite uncomfortable, as Black can build up an attack along the g- and h-files in an instant. Yet, objectively speaking, it’s only slightly worse. To defend successfully, White only needs to exchange off the bishop on f2, which will enable him to cover g2 with his rook along the second rank. If Gazik had realized this, he would have played 25. Qd3, and after the possible continuation 25… Rg8 26.  Bd4 Qg6 27. Rc2, I would have had only a slight superiority. 

But Gazik panicked, playing the active but misguided 25. c5?, losing a few moves later.

An instructive moment, I think, because White has to trade off what looks like his opponent’s bad bishop. Yes, defence is difficult.

Chapter 4 concerns the important topic of time management.

Save your time for when you need it, advises Markos. The more important the decision you have to make, the more time you should spend making it. With small decisions, decide quickly; for bigger decisions, allow time to think them over.

Chapter 5 features a subject close to my heart: the draw. When should you offer a draw? When should you accept or decline your opponent’s offer?

There’s a lot of psychology involved here, and chess psychology is the subject of Chapter 6.

In the game Roiz – Holzke (Rijeka 2010) White missed the chance to win a piece: 21. Nd3! Qxb3 22. Nc5 Qb2 23. Rab1.

Roiz simply regarded this position as strategic, and from this point of view the pawn on b3 was untouchable. I’m quite sure that a player such as Shirov or Tal would have won the knight, even in a blitz game.

Seek and you will find. Its opposite is equally valid: if you don’t seek, you won’t find. It’s no coincidence that the best chess players are usually (at least behind the chessboard) optimists. Their optimism and confidence help them to find solutions and fight even in situations where other players would long have lost hope.

Chapters 7 and 8 are perhaps of less relevance to average club players. If you play most of your over the board chess in league matches and weekend congresses you’ll have little opportunity to prepare in depth for specific opponents.

Giving a few examples, Chapter 7 explains how to research your next opponent’s games, looking at their style, strengths and weaknesses. Chapter 8 takes this further, looking at how you can choose a specific opening variation that will make your opponent uncomfortable.

Then we have a quiz with ten (hard) questions, in which you can compare your answers with those of David Navara.

The book concludes with a chapter summarising the lessons to be learnt from the book.

Jan Markos is an excellent writer, who uses metaphors to draw you into his world. Each chapter starts a long way from chess, discussing anything from Aesop’s Fables, via Andy Warhol, to initiation rites in Vanuatu, and concludes with Markos asking his co-author three questions about the topic in question.

The examples themselves are, I think, pitched at a pretty high level: I’d say 2200+. As a player of about 2000 strength, I usually learn more from simpler positions taken from games played at lower levels, but, yes, I understand that looking at grandmaster play is the point of the book. The content, also, is, for the most part more suitable for higher rated players, although, in the first six chapters, there’s a lot of general advice which any serious player will find useful.

If you’re a strong, ambitious player aiming towards IM or GM level I’m sure you’ll find this book invaluable. But lower rated players will also find much to enjoy, from Markos’s engaging style of writing to a host of fascinating positions taken from grandmaster play, and pick up some helpful tips for general improvement along the way. Best of all, you also get a genuine understanding of what grandmaster chess is all about, taking you beyond the familiar brilliancies and sacrifices into the minds and brains of elite players.

The book is beautifully produced: the standard of translation, editing and proofreading by Quality Chess seems to me to be a class above that of many other chess publishers. Although there are a few insignificant translational infelicities, I’ve yet to find any typos: most unusual for a chess book.

Highly recommended, then, for anyone hoping to reach master strength, but also with a lot to interest club and tournament players . I can see why Markos’s previous book was so successful. If the content appeals, you won’t be disappointed.

 

Richard James, Twickenham 3rd October 2021

Richard James
. Richard James

Book Details :

  • Paperback : 224 pages
  • Publisher: Quality Chess UK LLP (7 Feb. 2022)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10:1784831425
  • ISBN-13:978-1784831424
  • Product Dimensions: 17 x 2 x 24 cm

Official web site of Quality Chess

The Secret Ingredient: To Winning at Chess, Jan Markos & David Navara, Quality Chess, 7th Feb 2022, ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-1784831424
The Secret Ingredient: To Winning at Chess, Jan Markos & David Navara, Quality Chess, 7th Feb 2022, ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-1784831424

Forgotten Genius – The Life and Games of Grandmaster Albin Planinc

Forgotten Genius - The Life and Games of Grandmaster Albin Planinc, Georg Mohr & Adrian Mikhalchishin, Thinker's Publishing, 20th September 2021, ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-9464201291
Forgotten Genius – The Life and Games of Grandmaster Albin Planinc, Georg Mohr & Adrian Mikhalchishin, Thinker’s Publishing, 20th September 2021, ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-9464201291

From the publisher we have:

“Albin Planinc was born in the middle of the Second World War, on 18th April 1944, in the little village of Briše, near the small town of Zagorje ob Savi, approximately 30 kilometers from Ljubljana, the capital of Slovenia. He spent his childhood with his mother Ljudmila (unofficially Milka), a simple, uneducated woman who earned money from various unskilled jobs’.

This fascinating biography of over eighty-five annotated games and stories are being presented by grandmasters Georg Mohr and Adrian Mikhalchishin. It covers Planinc’ entire life and chess career, including his most fascinating games. This fitting tribute of a forgotten chess genius should be found in anyone’s chess library. Thanks to this colorful book Albin Planinc will continue to inspire us all and will keep his spirit alive.”

GM Albin Planinc, circa 1973
GM Albin Planinc, circa 1973

About the authors we have:

“Georg Mohr was born in Maribor, Slovenia in 1965 becoming a Grandmaster in 1997. He joined as a member of the FIDE Trainers Commission from 2002, becoming a FIDE Senior Trainer in 2004 and a FIDE International Organizer in 2011. Georg has been a professional chess trainer for many years. He was coach and captain of Slovenian national team from 2003 – 2010 and since 2011 he has been Turkish national youth trainer. He is a chess writer and was editor of Slovenian chess magazine Šahovska Misel from 1999 and editor of Fide Trainers Commission trainers’ surveys. He is also an organiser of chess events acting as tournament director of the European Club Cup (Rogaška Slatina 2011), the World Youth Championship (Maribor 2012) and the World Senior Championship (Bled 2018). This is his second book for ‘Thinkers Publishing’.

FIDE Senior Trainer Georg Mohr
FIDE Senior Trainer Georg Mohr

Adrian Bohdanovych Mikhalchishin was born in Lvov, Ukraine in 1954 and became a Grandmaster in 1978. In 1995 he took Slovenian citizenship and became a FIDE Senior Trainer from 2002 and was chairman of FIDE Trainers Commission from 2009. Adrian was a trainer of many famous chess players. Amongst others he was in Anatoly Karpov’s team during matches with Garry Kasparov. He has worked with Maja Chiburdanidze, Nana Aleksandria, the Polgar sisters, Alisa Maric and Nana Dzagnidze. He was coach and captain of the national teams of Slovenia and the Netherlands. In recent years he has been coach of the Turkish woman team. He has written many chess books and thousands of articles for many chess magazines. This is his second book for ‘Thinkers Publishing’.”

FIDE Senior Trainer GM Adrian Mikhalchishin
FIDE Senior Trainer GM Adrian Mikhalchishin

Albin Planinc (1944-2008), the late Slovenian grandmaster, was an extraordinary chess player and so the title ‘Forgotten Genius’ is not hyperbole.

Planinc’s games are characterised by enormous energy and by creative, daring sacrificial play. Mohr and Mikhalchishin have selected eighty-six of his best games for this volume.

They assert rightly on page 9 that ‘the reader of this book will soon discover that these games are not commonplace. They are imbued with incredible energy, interwoven with so many imaginary climaxes, with so much of what most people think of as beautiful in chess’.

It is very much a labour of love as Mohr, himself a Slovenian grandmaster, sees Planinc as the player who inspired him to dedicate his life to chess. However the book is not only games; plenty of biographical material is provided.

Indeed, the book starts with a brief synopsis of Albin’s childhood positing that Albin’s unidentified father may well have been a German soldier. Hence it is reasonable to speculate that Albin’s childhood was clouded by shame and stigma as well as being marred by the evolving mental illness of his mother, Ljudmila.

Parallels with a certain Robert James Fischer are suggested. Both players nursed their troubled childhoods with a love of chess. However the authors suggest on page 27 that ‘there was an important difference between him [Planinc] and Fischer. While the American was content with victories, Planinc was never content with victory itself. It needed an accessory, an aesthetic input, preferably one that would turn chess games into works of art’.

The next sections of the book offer a year by year selection of games from 1961-1979 interspersed with further biographical material. All the classics are there (v Bogdanovic 1965, v Matulovic 1965, v Ljubojevic 1971,

and Minic 1975)

and most notably his game with Vaganian from Hastings 1974/75 which involves the charming manoeuvre Na1 followed by a crisp Queen sacrifice.

The games are annotated with plenty of explanation. It should also be noted that the book is sumptuously produced with plenty of photographs and a typeface and layout pleasing to the eye. However more diagrams would have been appreciated. Furthermore an index of players would have been most useful.

The book ends with the revelation that Albin spent the last 20 years of his life in and out of institutions playing very little chess. This part of the book is handled sensitively and compels me to dig deeper into the creative genius of Albin Planinc. This tome is hence a welcome addition to chess literature.

FM Julian Way, Kingston, 2nd October, 2021

FM Julian Way
FM Julian Way

Book Details :

  • Softcover : 407 pages
  • Publisher:Thinkers Publishing; 1st edition (20 Sept. 2021)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 9464201290
  • ISBN-13: 978-9464201291
  • Product Dimensions: 17.15 x 1.27 x 23.5 cm

Official web site of Thinkers Publishing

Forgotten Genius - The Life and Games of Grandmaster Albin Planinc, Georg Mohr & Adrian Mikhalchishin, Thinker's Publishing, 20th September 2021, ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-9464201291
Forgotten Genius – The Life and Games of Grandmaster Albin Planinc, Georg Mohr & Adrian Mikhalchishin, Thinker’s Publishing, 20th September 2021, ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-9464201291

Caruana’s Ruy Lopez: A White Repertoire for Club Players

Caruana’s Ruy Lopez: A White Repertoire for Club Players : GM Fabiano Caruana

Caruana's Ruy Lopez: A White Repertoire for Club Players, Fabiano Caruana, New in Chess, 29th June 2021, ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-9056919443
Caruana’s Ruy Lopez: A White Repertoire for Club Players, Fabiano Caruana, New in Chess, 29th June 2021, ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-9056919443

From the book’s rear cover :

“The Ruy Lopez is arguably the most classic of chess openings. White immediately starts the battle for the centre, fighting for the initiative. This strategic clarity has made the Ruy Lopez, or Spanish Opening, an eternal favourite with chess players at all levels.

Inevitably, this popularity has also led to a wealth of opening theory. In this book, Fabiano Caruana takes you by the hand and lays out a complete and practical White repertoire for club players. He avoids complicated chaotic lines, but doesn’t shy away from sharp battles. Caruana loves to find and use the tactics to punish Black for risky choices.

This one-volume and crystal-clear repertoire covers fifteen main variations, from the classical lines to the anti-Marshall (8.a4), and from the Schliemann (3…f5) to the Modern Steinitz. In an easy-to-grasp manner Caruana explains general characteristics, such as permanent weaknesses long-term goals, and is always looking for an advantage for White. The insights of the World #2 in this classic opening, will not only greatly improve your results in the Ruy Lopez, but also sharpen your general chess knowledge.”

GM Fabiano Caruana, London Chess Classic 2014, courtesy of John Upham Photography
GM Fabiano Caruana, London Chess Classic 2014, courtesy of John Upham Photography

“Fabiano Caruana became a grandmaster at the age of 14. Ever since his majestic tournament win at the 2014 Sinquefield Cup, he has been the undisputed #2 in the Chess world. In 2018 he earned the right to challenge Magnus Carlsen in a match for the World Championship and only narrowly lost in the play-off.”

Before we proceed further it is worth inspecting the sample pages in pdf format provided by the publisher.

Fabiano Caruana became a Grandmaster aged 14 and challenged Magnus Carlsen for the World title in 2018.

and here we have the Table of Contents:

Table of Contents for Caruana's Ruy Lopez: A White Repertoire for Club Players
Table of Contents for Caruana’s Ruy Lopez: A White Repertoire for Club Players

Caruana kicks-off by looking at the Anti-Marshall line which starts with the closed Lopez 5…Be7 6.Re1 b5 7.Bb3 00. Now fearing the Marshall Gambit, which has scored very highly for black, he avoids it with 8.a4.

This was Gary Kasparov’s choice in Game 1 of his 1993 match with Nigel Short and it would seem to be a sensible choice.

The two Black main replies discussed are 8…Bb7

and 8…b4.

In similar vein Chapter 2 covers Black playing 7…d6 instead of 7…00 and interestingly 8 a4 is again recommended as opposed to the vastly more popular 8.c3 thus:

Black has to be careful in these lines not to lose his b pawn!

The next few chapters look at the so-called main line of 7…d6 8.c3

giving White another choice than 8 a4. After 8…00 9.h3 Na5 we have the Chigorin variation which is covered in Chapter 3. After 10. Bc2 c5 11.d4 Qc7 12.d5 ! is a move the computers like and does seem to give white a space advantage.


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Now White plans a Kingside attack with g4 and moving his f3 knight to f5. This line does not seem to be much fun for black.

Chapter 4 covers the Breyer variation, 9…Nb8

planning to reposition a knight to d7. White combines a plan of a4 attacking the Black’s Queen-side along with a King-side attack.

Chapter 5 examines Karpov’s favourite of the Zaitzev variation (9…Bb7). White will almost always play 10.d4 Re8 followed a knight coming round from b1 to f5 ensures an advantage. Black will need to get in f5 in to avoid being crushed.

Often more than one line is given for white as this book is written from a white perspective.

Chapter 6 switches tack to the Open variation where Black plays 5…Ne4

which was a favourite with Viktor Korchnoi who employed in his various matches with Anatoly Karpov. The main line is 6.d4 b5 7.Bb3 when the dubious 7…ed4? (7…is much better) played in Fischer – Trjfunovic (Bled, 1961) is analysed.

Better is the main line of 6…b5 7.Bb3 d5 8.de5 Be6 when White has several decent moves. Both Karpov and Kasparov have played 9.Nbd2 which is the move I always considered strongest in this line.

Surprisingly, the move given by Caruana is 9.Qe2 planning Rd1 and c4.

Black can play 9…Nc5 but the main line is 9…Be7 10.Rd1 00 11.c4 bc4 12.Bc4 Bc5 which seems to me to give clear equality . However both Caruana and Giri have played the white side of this position so maybe this line needs looking at more carefully.

Possibly the chapter many will turn to first is Chapter 7 covering the Berlin defence of 3…Nf6 which seems to have taken the terror out of the Lopez is discussed. Caruana prefers 4.00 leading to a middlegame without queens.

Players who, perhaps, have more confidence in their middle game abilities (with queens) than the previous line should probably try 4.d3 and I am surprised that Kasparov never tried this in his match with Vladimir Kramnik. Fabiano believes that this queenless middlegame is still more pleasant in practical play for White and Maxime Vachier-Lagrave regularly plays it with white.

Ian Nepomniachtchi won a miniature against Hikaru Nakamura quite recently as follows:

Chapter 8 discusses the Modern Archangelsk which is 3…a6 4.Ba4 Nf6 5.00 b5 6.Bb3 Bc5

which is really rather popular at present. Caruana, Magnus Carlsen, Gata Kamsky and Alexei Shirov all seem to like this line.

Following this we have 7.c3 d6 8.d4 Bb6 9.Be3

when the consequences of white next playing 9… 10.de5 need to be carefully considered. Black players playing for a win should consider this line seriously as it is a lot more interesting than the Berlin!

It is surprising that the old move 6…Bb7 (the Archangelsk of old) is not covered by the author as I have played many internet games with this line.

The last few chapters cover a collection rarely played moves such as 3…Bc5 (the Classical defence). White should play 4 c3 and d4 but black has the interesting f5 on move 4 mixing things up somewhat.

Other unusual moves are the Smyslov variation, 3…g6, the Bird’s defence, 3…Nd4 and the Cozio defence, 3…Nge7 which is aimed against Lopez exchange advocates.

However, two of the most interesting chapters look at the Schliemann defence (3…f5) and the Steinitz defence of 3…d6.

Caruana recommends 4.d3 against the Schliemann and only this or 4.Nc3 can give white a plus. After 4.d3 fe4 5.de4 Nf6 6.00 now black normally plays 6…Bc5 when white can win a pawn with 7.Bc6 and 8 Ne5.

Black can, of course, avoid this with 6…d6 but suffers the same problem as in the closed variation, that is a passive dark square bishop.

Finally, the Steinitz and Steinitz deferred are looked at in the last two chapters. After 3…d6 the line 4.d4 ed4 5.Nd4 Bd7 is examined. After 6.00 White has a space advantage a common feature in a number of variations chosen leaving white with the more pleasant positions to play.

Overall, from black’s point of the Modern Archangelsk seems one of the most interesting and sound lines to play if he is looking to play for a win.

There are a few omissions  that are curious. As mentioned previously 6…Bb7 is not covered but most surprisingly there is no coverage of the so-called Neo-Møller which was recently covered, in depth, by FM Ioannis Simeonidis also for New in Chess  in

Carlsen’s Neo-Møller : A Complete and Surprising Repertoire Against the Ruy Lopez

It might have been amusing to pit the two publications against each other!

In summary, Caruana’s first venture into writing yields a comprehensive repertoire for the white side of the Ruy Lopez with much material for anyone playing the black side.

Colin Lyne, North Camp, Farnborough, Hampshire, 30th September, 2021

Colin Lyne
Colin Lyne

Book Details :

  • Paperback : 240 pages
  • Publisher: New in Chess (29th June, 2021)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10:905691944X
  • ISBN-13:905691944X
  • Product Dimensions: 17.53 x 1.09 x 23.55 cm

Official web site of New in Chess

Caruana's Ruy Lopez: A White Repertoire for Club Players, Fabiano Caruana, New in Chess, 29th June 2021, ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-9056919443
Caruana’s Ruy Lopez: A White Repertoire for Club Players, Fabiano Caruana, New in Chess, 29th June 2021, ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-9056919443

Battle of Endgames: 1066 Stratagems for you to Conquer

Battle of Endgames, Ray Cannon, Amazon, 9th June, 2021, ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 979-8518031715
Battle of Endgames, Ray Cannon, Amazon, 9th June, 2021, ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 979-8518031715

From the back cover:

The author has written what he believes to be an original book on the endgame, using a play on words for the title based on the historic battle of Hastings in 1066 which involved William the Conqueror.
*****

Ray Cannon, a familiar frequenter of chess tournaments in London and elsewhere, has condensed his copious knowledge into an enjoyably instructive compendium of endgame positions. In tune with the Victorian notion of learning via fun, the reader cannot help but absorb the endgame stratagems that recur in the examples given and emerge as a better player without any conscious effort.

The endgame is a prime arena for the emergence of error through lack of practice, and even elite grandmasters can miss the unsuspected anti-intuitive resource that would have secured the rescue draw or shock win. I would go so far as to say this book would benefit master-standard players. Studying it has all the value of learning one’s times tables but without the repetitive drudgery! The end result is the same: increased knowledge.

Julian Simpole

Jimmy Adams and Ray Cannon at a 2012 meeting in Norwich of the Ken Whyld Association

My good friend Ray Cannon, who was, for many years, an invaluable part of the coaching team at Richmond Junior Club, has written a book which will be useful for all club standard players.

With faster time limits and online play now the norm, endings play a vital part in 21st century chess. A good knowledge of endgame theory and tactics is a fundamental requirement for all serious players.

From the author’s introduction:

Positions in this book have been taken from various sources including my collection of newspaper cuttings that go back to the 1970’s, books, magazines, websites and even from games I had witnessed personally at tournaments. Many have been modified for reasons of clarity and a few I have composed myself. Most of the positions have annotated solutions unless the moves are self-explanatory.

The 1066 diagram positions can be played out against a computer or an opponent but they are best solved using a chess set. You are invited to write down your choice of move for each position on the pages provided before looking up the answers. On the other hand, you may simply prefer to enjoy the instructive content of this book by dipping in and out of its pages.

Endgames may give the appearance of being easy  but even the world’s best players misplay them from time to time and some of these missed opportunities from practical play are included among the 1066 stratagems.

The majority of the puzzles are elementary but there are a few that are quite difficult. When solving them, you will detect familiar methods of play. Knowledge of these is often referred to as pattern recognition and this is an important component of learning and improving at chess. 

So what you get is 1066 endgame puzzles, or stratagems as Ray prefers to call them. It’s White’s move in positions 1 to 728, and Black’s move in positions 729 to 1066. In each position you’re told whether you’re trying to win or draw, and you know that there’s only one move to achieve your aim.

A few fairly random examples chosen simply by turning to a random page will show you what to expect. I’ll give the answers at the end of the review.

Q482 is a neat draw: White to play.

Q497 is of practical value. Endings with R + f&h pawns against R are very often drawn. How can White win here?

Q533, halfway through the book, has more pieces on the board (too many for an endgame?) and demonstrates the need to know your mating patterns. White to play and win again.

If you enjoyed these puzzles, you’ll certainly enjoy the rest of the book. If you think your students will enjoy these puzzles, you’ll also want to buy this book.

It’s self-published via Amazon so the production qualities are not quite up to the standard you’d expect from leading chess book publishers. However, the diagrams and text are both clear.

Ray has chosen to print the ‘Black to play’ puzzles with the 8th rank at the bottom of the board: not what I or most authors would have chosen but I can see why he did it. There’s a slight problem, though, in that the diagrams are without coordinates, which can make things slightly confusing in positions with few pawns on the board. (The diagrams in the answers to the ‘Black to play’ do have coordinates, though.) I understand the next edition will use diagrams with coordinates throughout.

You might also prefer to write your answers under the diagrams rather than in the pages provided for this purpose at the beginning of the book. I’d also have welcomed an index by material so that I could quickly locate, for example, pawn endings or rook endings.

These are just personal preferences, though. The quality of material is excellent (all positions have been thoroughly engine checked) and Ray Cannon should be congratulated for his efforts in producing a highly instructive puzzle book.

A basic knowledge of endgame theory is assumed, so I would consider the book ideal for anyone rated between about 1500 and 2000, although some of the puzzles will be challenging for stronger players.

Richard James, Twickenham, 17th September 2021

Richard James
Richard James

Answers:
Q482: 1. f7+ Qxf7 2. Bb3 Qxb3 is stalemate. Or 1… Kxf7 2. Bh5+. In just two moves we have a fork, a skewer, a pin and a stalemate.

Q497: 1. Rg5+ Kxg5 (or 1… Kxh6 2. Rg8) 2. h7 Re1+ 3. Kd6 Rd1+ 4. Ke7 Rh1 5. f8Q wins (as long as you know how to win with queen against rook!)

Q533:  1. Re8+ Rxe8 2. Nf6 Ra7 3. Rxa7 Re7 4. Rxe7 a1Q 5. Rh7# – an Arabian Mate!

You can buy the book on Amazon here.

  • ASIN ‏ : ‎ B096TTR6RB
  • Publisher ‏ : ‎ Independently published (9 Jun. 2021)
  • Language ‏ : ‎ English
  • Paperback ‏ : ‎ 248 pages
  • ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 979-8518031715
  • Dimensions ‏ : ‎ 15.6 x 1.42 x 23.39 cm
Battle of Endgames, Ray Cannon, Amazon, 9th June, 2021, ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 979-8518031715
Battle of Endgames, Ray Cannon, Amazon, 9th June, 2021, ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 979-8518031715

The Modernized Modern Benoni

The Modernized Modern Benoni, Alexey Kovalchuk, Thinker's Publishing, 2021, ISBN-13 : 978-9464201048
The Modernized Modern Benoni, Alexey Kovalchuk, Thinker’s Publishing, 2021, ISBN-13 : 978-9464201048

From the publisher:

“The Modern Benoni is one of the most controversial but also dynamic answers to 1.d4. This opening remained the favourite of famous attacking players as Tal, Kasparov, Gashimov and Topalov. From the outset, Black creates a new pawn structure and deploying his active piece play against White’s central majority.

In his book Alexey Kovalchuk focuses on a set of new ideas and deep analyses supported by his silicon friends. His book supplies all Black needs to know to fight for the initiative from move two!”

FM Alexey Kovalchuk
FM Alexey Kovalchuk

“Alexey Kovalchuk was born in 1994 in Russia and learned to play chess at the “late” age of 12. In November of 2017 he reached his highest Elo yet of 2445 and is considered an IM without the norms. Alexey has never had a coach having studied with the aid of books and other materials.

His tournament successes include winning the Rostov Championship in both classical and rapid. He is a three-time winner of the Taganrog Championship and has won prizes in many events including Taganrog, Togliatti, Astrakhan, Lipetsk, Kharkov and Donetsk. His reputation as a theoretician is well known and he has previously published a book on the Grünfeld Defense. Currently Alexey serves as a second for several grandmasters as well as coach for several aspiring students.”

End of blurb.

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

Each diagram is clear and the instructional text is typeset in two column format, which, we find, enables the reader to maintain their place easily. Figurine algebraic notation is used throughout and the diagrams are placed adjacent to the relevant text and each diagram has a “to move” indicator and a “position after: x move” type caption.

There is no Index or Index of Variations but, despite that, content navigation is relatively straightforward as the Table of Contents is clear enough.

This is the author’s second book, we reviewed Playing the Grünfeld : A Combative Repertoire previously.

Here is the detailed Table of Contents:

  1. Classical Main Line
  2. Knight’s Tour Variation
  3. Modern Main Line
  4. Kapengut Variation
  5. Nge2 Systems
  6. Bg5 & Bb5 Systems
  7. f4 System
  8. Fianchetto Variation
  9. Bf4 Variation
  10. Sidelines
  11. Anti-Benoni Systems

Before we continue we will declare an interest.  We only play a couple of these positions from the White side and none from the Black side.

The Preface provides a couple of tremendous Tal games in which White is crushed in short order. The Introduction nicely provides an overview of the coverage of each of the main chapters.

Chapter 1 kicks-off with the so-called “Classical Main Line” which  is initially reached via:

ending up at

as the tabiya position for this chapter. The author looks at various move 11 alternatives for White  concluding that 11. Bf4 is the most troublesome for Black which scores 56.4% for White and features in 260 MegaBase 2020 games.

The approach is typically that of working through the moves of a variation in detail making reference to played games which is a Thinker’s Publishing “house style”.

Chapter 2 examines a favourite idea of Vladimir Kramnik for White namely the, at one time,  incredibly popular 7.Nd2 i.e.

ending up at

which is discussed in detail.

The third chapter is dubbed the Modern Main Line  (as labelled by Richard Palliser in his excellent Modern Benoni tome) and has White playing h3 instead of Be2 and placing the f1 bishop on d3 instead leading to

which may be arrived at in several different ways at which point Kovalchuk strong advocates the immediate 9…b5!? instead of the more familiar and less violent 9…a6.

Clearly this is a critical line for the Benoni and is given much detailed analysis. 9…b5!? has featured in 2123 MegaBase 2020 games  and of these 727 are designated as “Top Games”.

Chapter Four brings the joys of the Kapengut Variation which was analysed in detail by Albert Kapengut in 1996:

and appears 1037 times in MegaBase 2020 with a white success rate of 57%.

After 7…Bg7 various ideas for White are examined.

As the Chapter Five’s title suggests various move orders are covered in  which develops the King’s knight to e2 rather than f3 without playing f3 quickly.

For example:

Chapter 6 covers ideas for white involving an early pin with Bg5 or an early check with Bb5+ (but without f4) . The author considers neither of these to be dangerous for Black and provides analysis of his antidotes.

However, much more exacting is the daunting Taimanov Attack (dubbed by David Norwood as the Flick-Knife Attack such was its ferocity) which is examined in Chapter 7.

This famous line made popular in the 1980s begins

and there are 38 pages on this line alone. 9.a4 is given detailed treatment with the main line reaching:

which is then analysed thoroughly.

In the same chapter is the more modern treatment of 9.Nf3 (omitting a4) continuing to

where both 14.f5 and 14.Qe1 are looked at in considerable detail with the latter having the highest database hit rate.

Chapter 8 explores the somewhat innocuous Fianchetto Variation of 7.g3:

and this is given 19 pages of discussion.

The somewhat rare 7.Bf4 system is covered in Chapter 9 with 15 pages of text.

Chapter 10 “tidies up” with coverage of some rarer third and fourth move sidelines which as 3.dxc5 and 4.dxe6 whilst the final Chapter (11) looks at some White Anti-Benoni systems including where c4 is omitted or delayed.

All in all the author provides comprehensive coverage of all of White’s reasonable tries focusing on the critical main lines such as the fearsome Flick-Knife and Modern Main Lines.

This book surely is a must for any player of the Modern Benoni with the black pieces and will be invaluable for the White player who wishes to take Black on in the main lines.

It might have been helpful to sequence the chapters in some kind of order of precedence with perhaps the least significant ones first and then build-up to the most important ones. It is not clear to us that the sequence chosen has any significance since Chapters 1, 3 and 7 perhaps are the most critical variations and 8, 10 and 11 the least.

Any tournament player that either plays the Benoni or who faces it will benefit from this modernised approach.

John Upham, Cove, Hampshire, 31st August, 2021

John Upham
John Upham

Book Details :

  • Hardcover : 280 pages
  • Publisher:Thinkers Publishing; 1st edition (28 Jan. 2021)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 9464201045
  • ISBN-13: 978-9464201048
  • Product Dimensions: 17.15 x 1.27 x 23.5 cm

Official web site of Thinkers Publishing

The Modernized Modern Benoni, Alexey Kovalchuk, Thinker's Publishing, 2021, ISBN-13 : 978-9464201048
The Modernized Modern Benoni, Alexey Kovalchuk, Thinker’s Publishing, 2021, ISBN-13 : 978-9464201048

Chess Board Options

Chess Board Options, Larry Kaufman, New in Chess, 15th July 2021, ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-9056919337
Chess Board Options, Larry Kaufman, New in Chess, 15th July 2021, ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-9056919337

From the publisher:

“Larry Kaufman can safely be called an exceptional chess grandmaster

Larry Kaufman started out as a prodigy, however not in chess but as a whizz kid in science and math. He excels at shogi (Japanese chess) and Go, and is also a world-famous computer programmer and a highly successful option trader. Remarkably, as a chess player he only peaked at the weirdly late age of fifty.

Yet his victories in the chess arena are considerable. Over a career span of nearly sixty years Kaufman won the state championships of Massachusetts, Maryland, Florida, Virginia, D.C. and Pennsylvania. He was an American Open Champion and won the U.S. Senior Championship as well as the World Senior Championship.

‘Never a great chess player’ himself (his words), he met or played chess greats such as Bobby Fischer, Bent Larsen, Walter Browne, Boris Spassky, Viktor Kortchnoi and many others. He worked as a second to legendary grandmaster Roman Dzindzichashvili, and coached three talented youngsters to become International Master, one of them his son Raymond.

This engrossing memoir is rife with stories and anecdotes about dozens of famous and not-so-famous chess players. In one of the most remarkable chapters Larry Kaufman reveals that the American woman chess player that inspired Walter Tevis to create the Beth Harmon character of Netflix’s The Queen’s Gambit fame, is his former girlfriend. You will learn about neural networks, material values and how being a chess master helps when trading options. And find lots of memorable but little-known annotated games.

Larry Kaufman is an American Grandmaster. He has been involved in computer chess since 1967, when he worked on ‘MacHack’, the first computer that competed in tournaments with human players. More recently he has been working on the programs Rybka and Komodo.

Praise for the best-selling opening manual Kaufman’s New Repertoire for Black and White:

“Kaufman’s book is a pleasure to read.” — Miguel Ararat, Florida Chess Magazine

“Kaufman does an outstanding job.” — IM Gary Lane, Chess Moves Magazine”

GM Larry Kaufmann
GM Larry Kaufman

The memoirs of a relatively obscure grandmaster might not be at the top of your wish list, I guess.

The title might be considered slightly odd as well, referring in part to his career as an options trader, with perhaps also some reflections on options for the further development of chess.

Nevertheless, Larry Kaufman has some interesting stories to tell, and much to say about the future of our favourite game. You’ll also find, appropriately enough, 64 games, some played by the author, some by players he knew, and some by computers against grandmasters, all with brief but pertinent annotations. I’d urge you to stop and take a look inside rather than just pass it by.

The introduction provides some background biographical information concerning his 60 year chess career.

Here’s an early game: the book provides annotations as far as move 20.

In Part 1, Kaufman introduces us to some of the 20th century champions he has known, with plenty of anecdotes and a few games along the way. We meet Fischer, Spassky and Kasparov, Korchnoi, Larsen, Gligoric and others. For me, though, the most interesting chapters here are about the lesser known players. We go all the way back to Harold Phillips (1874-1967), a family friend, who had played Steinitz in simuls back in 1894. I guess this must make Kaufman one of the youngest players to have a shared opponent with Steinitz. In 1961 or 1962 there was a kindly old man who ‘gave generous and valuable free chess lessons to the kids’. This was the notorious Norman Whitaker: of course they knew nothing of his background at the time.

Then there was Steve Brandwein (1942-2015), a new name to me. ‘Although he retired from tournament play at only 22 years of age, … he … was a very strong player … and probably taught me more about the finer points of chess than any other individual.’ Kaufman compares him to Bernie Sanders, and describes him as ‘perhaps the best-liked chess master I’ve ever known’, who could, if he’d wanted have become a grandmaster, or perhaps, had he been prepared to compromise, a US President.

Even more interesting (although readers of New in Chess might have read about this before), is Diana Lanni, who, according to Kaufman, may have been the major inspiration behind the character of Beth Harmon in The Queens Gambit. He also sees himself as the closest match to Harry Beltik, and Walter Browne as Benny Watts.

Part 2 looks at Larry Kaufman’s life outside chess: his time as an options trader and his interest in Shogi, Go and other games.

In Part 3, he shows us some of his most memorable games and talks about his chess students, including his son Ray.

This was his first win against a grandmaster, and helped him towards his first IM norm.

This game helped propel him to a shared first place and the grandmaster title in the 2008 World Seniors.

Part 4 is about computer chess. Kaufman has been involved in this since 1967, when, as a student at MIT, he had a part-time job working on MacHack. Today, he’s part of the Komodo team. After a brief résumé of his career in computer chess, we see some recent games between engines and grandmasters. These days, the engines give the GMs considerable odds.

Particularly interesting here is a 2020 16-game match (15’+10″) between Komodo and GM Alex Lenderman. In every game, Komodo played White without a knight. In half the games, Lenderman played without a pawn, in four games he had all his pieces but without castling rights, and four games were played using Fischerrandom rules, but with kings and rooks on their usual squares. On the first day, using its standard version, Komodo lost three games, with just one draw. It then switched to the Monte Carlo Tree Search version, which seeks the best practical chances rather than the objectively best moves. In the remaining twelve games, all of which are published here, Komodo scored three wins, seven draws and only two losses.

Here’s a Komodo win. Kaufman’s brief annotations don’t mention a significant improvement for Komodo pointed out by Stockfish 14.

Part 5 comprises short essays on various topics such as: ratings, openings and piece values, along with suggestions for the reform of competitive chess and thoughts about the future.

Kaufman is perhaps best known, at least in the USA, for a 1999 Chess Life article about the values of the pieces. As someone involved in teaching beginners, this is of considerable interest to me. I’d really like to stop my pupils trading BN for RP on f7 and thinking they have an advantage because points are equal and they’ve exposed the enemy king. He suggests that, while the traditional values (1, 3, 3+, 5) are reasonable for positions without queens, in the presence of queens we should teach 1, 4, 4+, 6, 11. That will resolve my problem: the trade on f7 will now win 7 points but lose 8+ points.

I found this book a riveting read, especially parts 4 and 5, but then it covers a number of topics which are of particular interest to me. If the topics appeal to you too, or if you have a general love of chess culture, I’d give it a very strong recommendation. Fascinating, well written, and, as usual with New in Chess, well produced.

 

Richard James, Twickenham 19th August 2021

Richard James
. Richard James

Book Details :

  • Softcover: 224 pages
  • Publisher: New In Chess (27 May 2021)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10:9056919334
  • ISBN-13:978-9056919337
  • Product Dimensions: ‎17.02 x 23.11 cm

Official web site of New in Chess

Chess Board Options, Larry Kaufman, New in Chess, 15th July 2021, ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-9056919337
Chess Board Options, Larry Kaufman, New in Chess, 15th July 2021, ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-9056919337

Understanding Queen Endgames

Understanding Queen Endgames, Karsten Müller & Yakov Kanoval, Russell Enterprises (24 Mar. 2021), ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-1949859317
Understanding Queen Endgames, Karsten Müller & Yakov Kanoval, Russell Enterprises (24 Mar. 2021), ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-1949859317
From the publisher:

The Daunting Domain of Queen Endgames Explained! Knowing the abilities and limitations of the powerful queen is very valuable for mastering the secrets of the royal game, and this can be studied best in the endgame.

Queen endgames are very difficult, if only for purely mathematical reasons  the queen is the most mobile piece in chess, and the amount of possible options is incomparably higher than in any other type of endgames.

This book follows a dual philosophy as in the three previous works by the same authors: Understanding Rook Endgames, Understanding Minor Piece Endgames and Understanding Rook vs. Minor Piece Endgames. The 7-piece endings are dealt with in great detail. They are often so complex that pre-tablebase analysis almost always contains errors. Many new discoveries are revealed here. But to really understand the fight of a queen against a queen or minor pieces with rooks, these theoretical positions are of course not enough. So subchapters on the principles of each material configuration have been added.

All in all, this fantastic book is already on my (very short) “must study” list for chessplayers of different levels, including the top ten! I want to thank the authors for the courage which is required just to start working on such a complex topic, as well as for the very high quality of their work, which will endure for decades to come and will be very useful for many future generations of chessplayers. The foreword is by Vladimir Kramnik,14th World Chess Champion”

This titanic technical endgame tome is a  Magnum Opus with a forward by former World Champion Vladimir Kramnik. The complexity of queen endings is obvious as the queen is the most mobile piece and the number of  variations becomes vast after only a few ply. This is probably the reason that this is the first work to cover queen endings in great depth. The complexity of these endgames is shown by a famous game from Vladimir Kramnik’s World Championship match versus Peter Leko in 2004. The first game of that match reached this position:

Leko-Kramnik World Championship 2014(1) Move 44 White to move
Leko-Kramnik World Championship 2014(1) Move 44 White to move

White played 44.Qf4??  which loses as demonstrated by Kramnik in the game and is covered in this book 44…g5! 45.Qf6 h6! winning, the point being that 46.Qxh6 loses the queen to 46…R8a6! After 45…h6 White cannot prevent Black from manoeuvring his rooks to win the kingside pawns. The natural move is 44.hxg6 exchanging pawns to reduce material which was thought, at the time, to draw. In fact Black stills retains winning chances. As the position has eight men the result is still not known definitively – this shows the richness of such endgames.

This publication also covers endgames that have had little coverage in the past such as Two Rooks + Pawn  v Queen.

Most first quick skim of the book did concern me slightly as I noticed some diagrams followed by 100+ moves with no annotations. On a deeper perusal, I realised that these examples are included as “longest wins” for certain material combinations. This emulates John Nunn’s longest wins in “Secrets of Pawnless Endings”. There is plenty of well annotated material within  practical games to bring out key ideas, for example the techniques to break down fortresses are examined in detail.

The book has ten main chapters traditionally based on piece configuration:

  • Chapter 1 Queen vs. Pawn
  • Chapter 2 Queen vs. Queen
  • Chapter 3 Queen vs. Rook
  • Chapter 4 Queen vs. Rook and Knight
  • Chapter 5 Queen vs. Rook and Bishop
  • Chapter 6 Queen vs. Two Rooks
  • Chapter 7 Queen vs. Rook and Two Minor Pieces
  • Chapter 8 Queen and Minor Piece vs. Queen (and Minor Piece)
  • Chapter 9 Queen and Rook vs. Queen and Rook
  • Chapter 10 Queen vs. Minor Pieces

Each chapter ends with some fruitful exercises to check if you were paying attention. The solutions are given near the end of the book.

Chapter 1 Queen vs. Pawn

This chapter obviously concentrates on the cases where the pawn is on the seventh rank. Here is the end of a Troitzky study:

Troitzky 1935 (end of study) White to draw
Troitzky 1935 (end of study) White to draw

1.Ke6!! and whichever way Black’s king goes, White moves into his shadow drawing: 1…Kf4+ 2.Kf7! draws or 1…Kd4+ 2.Kd7 draws

This next position looks arcane but the reviewer has has this position twice in blitz, once as the attacking side and once as the defending side: in both cases the defence was accurate to hold the draw.

Q v P (king outside winning zone) White to move
Q v P (king outside winning zone) White to move

White cannot win despite the proximity of his king. White can try 1.Qd5+ 1…Ke1!! is the only move to draw, 1…Ke2 loses to 2.Qa2! Kd1 3.Kd4! c1Q 4.Kd3 mating. White can also try 1.Qa2 Kc3!! is the only move to draw, 1…Kd1 2.Kd4! c1=Q 3.Kd3 mating.

This chapter goes on to cover many types of position with far advanced pawns against a queen.

Chapter 2 Queen versus Queen

Naturally the authors start with the notoriously difficult ending Queen and Pawn vs. Queen: their comment is “This can be very deep and tricky if the defending king can’t get in front of the pawn.”  Certainly an understatement as many strong GMs have gone down in drawn endings.  A whole volume could be dedicated to this fascinating endgame.

The authors systematically cover the rook’s pawn, knight’s pawn, bishop’s pawn and centre pawns. Some useful general rules are given for each pawn:

“Rook Pawn – In this case, the drawing zone for the defending king is usually quite large when the pawn is not far advanced, as the rook pawn does not provide good shelter. But the zone gets smaller as the pawn advances, and the main drawing zone is in the corner farthest from the queening square.”

A didactic example from Carlsen-Gashimov Monaco 2011 is given:

Carlsen-Gashimov Monaco 2011 Move 59 Black to play
Carlsen-Gashimov Monaco 2011 Move 59 Black to play

Black’s king is badly placed restricting his own queen, so he should run to the a1-corner as fast as he can. 59…Kc5!? 60.h5 Qe8+ 61.Kh6 Kd5?! 61…Kb4 going closer to the drawing zone is more logical 62.Kg5 Qg8+ 63.Kf4 Qb8+ 64.Kg4

Carlsen-Gashimov Monaco 2011 Move 64 Black to play
Carlsen-Gashimov Monaco 2011 Move 64 Black to play

64…Qb4+! An excellent move preserving the draw., 64…Qa7? loses to 65.Qf4!! cutting the Black king off from the a1-drawing zone and winning in the long run. It looks as though Black’s king might get near the pawn, but that is an illusion: he just restricts his own queen’s movements. 65.Kg5 Qd2+ 66.Kg6 Kc4 67.h6 Qg2+ 68.Kf7 Qb7+ 69.Kg8 Qb8+ 70.Qf8 Qg3+ 71.Kh8 Qe5+ 72.Qg7 Qe4 73.h7

Carlsen-Gashimov Monaco 2011 Move 73 Black to play
Carlsen-Gashimov Monaco 2011 Move 73 Black to play

This a typical position from this ending, white has pushed the pawn to the seventh rank with his king hiding in the corner in front of the pawn. This is a tablebase draw but this has been known for many decades before the advent of tablebases.

73…Kd3?? loses, a bad mistake from a 2700 GM. 73…Kb3! draws but accuracy is still required. 74.Qf7+ (74.Kg8 Qe8+ 75. Qf8 Qg6+ 76.Kh8 Kc2=) 74…Kb2

Carlsen-Gashimov Monaco 2011 Variation 1 Move 75 White to play
Carlsen-Gashimov Monaco 2011 Variation 1 Move 75 White to play

This is the type of position that Black is aiming for. The authors explain why it is drawn with a pithy comment: “and White can’t win as the king must move too far from the pawn to move into a countercheck position.” For example: 75.Kg7 Qg4+ 76.Qg6 Qd7+ 77.Kh6 Qd2+ 78.Qg5 Qd6+ 79.Kh5

Carlsen-Gashimov Monaco 2011 Variation 1 Move 79 Black to play
Carlsen-Gashimov Monaco 2011 Variation 1 Move 79 Black to play

Another excellent explanation from the authors: “White’s king wants to go to h1 or h2 to make counterchecks possible, but the pieces are then too far apart” (and un-coordinated) e.g. 79…Qd1+ 80.Qg4 Qh1+ 81.Kg6 Qc6+ 82.Kg5 Qd5+ 83.Qf5 Qg2+ 84.Kh4

Carlsen-Gashimov Monaco 2011 Variation 1 Move 84 Black to play
Carlsen-Gashimov Monaco 2011 Variation 1 Move 84 Black to play

84…Qh2+ 85.Qh3 Qf4+ 86.Kh5 Qe5+ 87.Kg6 Qd6+ 88.Kf7 Qf4+ drawn

Carlsen-Gashimov Monaco 2011 Variation 1 Move 89 White to play
Carlsen-Gashimov Monaco 2011 Variation 1 Move 89 White to play

Black to the game after 73…Kd3??

Carlsen-Gashimov Monaco 2011 Move 74 White to play
Carlsen-Gashimov Monaco 2011 Move 74 White to play

74.Qd7+ Ke2?! (74…Kc2 lasts longer but does not save the game anymore: buy the book to find out how White wins) 75.Kg8 White is going to shuffle his king along to the adjacent file to Black’s king to setup a crosscheck: 75…Qg6+ 76.Kf8 Qh6+ 77.Qg7 Qf4+ 78.Qf7

Carlsen-Gashimov Move 78 Black to play
Carlsen-Gashimov Move 78 Black to play

78…Qh6+ Notice how Black’s choice of checks are severely restricted because of his king’s placement 79.Ke7 Qh4+ 80.Ke8 Qa4+ 81.Kf8! Now we can see again why Black’s king is badly placed: Black has no good checks.

Carlsen-Gashimov Monaco 2011 Move 81 Black to play
Carlsen-Gashimov Monaco 2011 Move 81 Black to play

81…Qd4 82.Qh5+ Kf2 83.h8Q Qd6+ 84.Kf7 Qd7+ 85.Kg6 1-0

A very important ending to study and learn from a World Champion.

Muller & Konoval give an example of good defence with the king in the drawing zone where the defending side does not let the draw slip at any point:

Markowski-Piket Istanbul 2000 Move 57 White to play
Markowski – Piket Istanbul 2000 Move 57 White to play

Piket played 57.Qe8+ and drew: buy the book to see the excellent defensive effort.

Here is an old game where modern tablebases really show how difficult these endgames are:

Ed. Lasker-Marshall USA 1923 Move 80 White to play
Ed. Lasker-Marshall USA 1923 Move 80 White to play

White played 80.Qc1? The amazing 80.Qh1!! is the only move to draw, for example 80…Qd7 81.Qf3+ Ke8 82.Qa8+ Ke7 83.Qh8! Qd6+ 84.Ka7!

Ed. Lasker-Marshall USA 1923 Variation 1 Move 84 Black to play
Ed. Lasker-Marshall USA 1923 Variation 1 Move 84 Black to play

Drawing, a beautiful geometric display of the queen’s power with the white queen moving around all the corners in a few moves. 80…Qe5! 81. Qb1

Ed. Lasker-Marshall USA 1923 Move 81 Black to play
Ed. Lasker-Marshall USA 1923 Move 81 Black to play

81…Qf6+? (A mistake improving White’s king for free particularly as White’s checks are restricted because of potential cross checks, the natural 81…h2! wins, e.g.: 82.Qb7+ Kf6 83.Qf3+ Ke7 84.Qb7+ Kd8 85.Qa8+ Kd7 86.Qb7+? Qc7 and white has no good check, so he loses) 82.Ka7!  and white drew with excellent defence 82…Kg7 83.Qg1+ Kh7 84.Qe3 Qa1+ 85.Kb8 Qb2+ 86.Ka7 Qg2 87.Qd3+ 87…Kh8 Although White’s king is in the drawing zone, Black’s king is on a neighbouring rank making counterchecks possible, so white played 88.Ka6! (88.Qe3 also draws)

Ed. Lasker-Marshall USA 1923 Move 88 White to play
Ed. Lasker-Marshall USA 1923 Move 88 White to play

88…h2 89.Qd8+ Kh7 90.Qc7+! Staying on the h2-pawn so Black cannot interpose the queen, and White drew 14 moves later by repetition.

If the defending king can get in front or very near the pawn, it should do so:

Bakutin-Novitzkij Tula 2000 Move 63 White to play
Bakutin – Novitzkij Tula 2000 Move 63 White to play

63.Kd3! h5 64.Ke2! now the draw is easy as white does not fear a queen exchange.

Sometimes the defending king has to keep both options open: here is a brilliant example:

Dominguez Perez - Nakamura Thessaloniki 2013 Move 60 Black to move
Dominguez Perez – Nakamura Thessaloniki 2013 Move 60 Black to move

Black looks to be in trouble as his king is a long way from the drawing zone and will interfere with his queen. However Nakamura found 60…Ke5!! 61.Kg7 Qc6! Keeping Black’s options open 62.h6

After 62.Qg6 Qb7+ 63.Kh8 Qa8+ 64.Qg8 Qc6 65.Qg5+ Black changes plans and runs to the drawing zone as White’s king is badly placed in front of the pawn, he just has time to do this 65…Kd4!! 66.Qg7+ Kc4 67.h6 Kb3 68.h7 Ka2=

Dominguez Perez - Nakamura Thessaloniki 2013 Variation Move 69 White to move
Dominguez Perez – Nakamura Thessaloniki 2013 Variation Move 69 White to move

62… Qg2+ 63.Qg6 Qb7+ 64.Qf7 Qg2+ 65.Kh8 Qa8+ 66.Qg8 Qf3

Dominguez Perez - Nakamura Thessaloniki 2013 Move 67 White to move
Dominguez Perez – Nakamura Thessaloniki 2013 Move 67 White to move

67.Qg6 (67.h7 Qh5 68.Qg7+ Ke6! draws as Black’s king cramps White’s pieces.) 67…Qf8+ 68.Kh7 Qf3 69.Qg7+ Ke6 70.Kg8  Qh5 71.h7 Qe8+ 72.Qf8 Qg6+ 73.Kh8 Qf7 drawn

Knight Pawn – “With a knight pawn, play is similar to a rook pawn, but the winning chances are better as the pawn provides  better shelter. There is still a drawing zone in the far corner.”

The play is complex and there are many subtleties with slight differences being crucial as we shall see below.

Here is a superb example of drawing technique from Negi-Postny Helsingor 2009:

Negi-Postny Helsingor 2009 Move 63 Black to move
Negi-Postny Helsingor 2009 Move 63 Black to move

Where does Black put his king? 63…Kf1! (63…Kd2? loses in 91 moves as the king is cut off from the drawing zone!) 64.b5 Qc7+ 65.Kd5 Qb7+ 66.Qc6 Qf7+ 67.Kd6 Qf4+ 68.Kd7 Qf7+ 69.Kc8 Qf8+ 70.Kb7 Qe7+ 71.Qc7 Qe4+ 72.Ka6 Qa4+ 73.Qa5 Qc4 74.Qa1+ Kg2

Negi-Postny Helsingor 2009 Move 75 White to move
Negi-Postny Helsingor 2009 Move 75 White to move

Black’s king has reached the drawing zone. It is still very easy to go wrong.

75.Qb2+ Kh1 76.Qh8+ Kg1 77.Qg7+ Kh1 78.Qb7+ Kh2 79.Qc6 Qa2+ 80.Kb7 Kg1 81.Qc1+ Kf2 82.Qc5+ Kf1 83.b6  Postny comments :The pawn has reached the 6th rank already, although it is still a draw theoretically. For the defensive side it’s very easy to go astray, but, somehow I managed to give the right checks. 83…Qg2+ 84.Ka6 Qa8+ 85.Kb5 A crucial position, Black’s king is temporarily out of the drawing zone and cannot go back immediately.

Negi-Postny Helsingor 2009 Move 85 Black to move
Negi-Postny Helsingor 2009 Move 85 Black to move

85…Qe8+!  The only move to draw 86.Ka5 Qe1+ 87.Ka6 Qa1+ 88.Qa5

Negi-Postny Helsingor 2009 Move 88 Black to move
Negi-Postny Helsingor 2009 Move 88 Black to move

88…Qf6! 89.Qb5+ Kg1 90.Qc5+ Kh1 91.Ka7 Qa1+ 92.Kb7 Qg7+ 93.Qc7 Qf8 94.Qd7 Qf2 95.Qd5+ Kg1 96.Qg5+ Kh1 97.Kc6 Qc2+ 98.Kd6 Qh2+ 99.Qe5 Qh6+ 100.Kc5 Qc1+ 101.Kd5 Qd2+ 102.Qd4 Qg5+ 103.Kc4 Qc1+ 104.Qc3 Qf1+ 105.Kb4 Qb1+ 106.Qb3 Qe1+ 107.Kb5 Qe5+ 108.Ka6 Qa1+ 109.Kb7 Qg7+ 110.Kc6 Qf6+ 111.Kc5 Qe7+ 112.Kd4 Qf6+ 113.Kd3 Qf5+ 114.Kc3 Qe5+ 115.Kb4 Qe1+ 116.Qc3 Qb1+ 117.Ka5 Qa2+ 118.Kb5 Qd5+ 119.Qc5 Qd3+ 120.Kc6 Qg6+ 121.Kb7 Qf7+ 122.Ka6 Qa2+ 123.Qa5 Qe2+ 124.Ka7 Qf2 125.Qd5+ Kg1 126.Kb7 Qf8 127.Qd4+ Kh1 128.Qe4+ Kg1 129.Qe3+

Negi-Postny Helsingor 2009 Move 129 Black to move
Negi-Postny Helsingor 2009 Move 129 Black to move

Postny comments again: For a moment I thought that I was losing. The queen covered the a3 square, and Kb7-a7 followed by the pawn advance just one move before the fifty move rule seems inevitable. But… 129…Kh1! 130.Ka7 Qf2!! This stalemate trick saves the game. 131.Qe4+ Kg1 132.Kb7 Qf7+ 133.Kc6 Draw due to the fifty move rule. ½-½

The next example shows how difficult this ending really is:

Oddone - Espinoza Asuncion 2009 Move 77 Black to play
Oddone – Espinoza Asuncion 2009 Move 77 Black to play

Black’s king is not yet in the drawing zone. Black played the obvious check 77…Qe7+? which loses 77…Qe3! (77..Qc5? loses to 78.Qd3!) does draw, e.g. 78.Ka8 Kh3 79.b7 Qe4 80.Ka7 Qd4+ 81.Qb6 Qa1+ 82.Qa6 Qd4+ 83.Ka8 Qe4

Oddone - Espinoza Asuncion 2009 Variation Move 84 White to play
Oddone – Espinoza Asuncion 2009 Variation Move 84 White to play

This is drawn despite Black’s king not being in the drawing zone but it is close enough! 84.Qa2!? cutting the Black king off from the drawing zone (by analogy with the line below) does not win here.

Back to the game 78.b7 Qe3+ 79.Ka8 Qe4

Oddone - Espinoza Asuncion 2009 Move 80 White to play
Oddone – Espinoza Asuncion 2009 Move 80 White to play

80.Qb5? 80.Qa3!! cutting the king off from the drawing zone wins, followed by moving White’s king down to the same rank as Black’s king which is similar to the line below 80…Qf3? (80…Kg3! draws) 81.Qb4+ Kh3 82.Qc5?! Qe4

Oddone - Espinoza Asuncion 2009 Move 83 White to play
Oddone – Espinoza Asuncion 2009 Move 83 White to play

83.Qc3+? Sloppy, improving Black’s king for free and the queen is much better placed on c5; it was time to move the White king down to the rank that Black’s king is on: 83.Ka7! wins, e.g. 83…Qa4+ 84.Kb6 Qb3+ 85.Ka6 Qa4+ 86.Qa5 Qc4+ 87.Qb5 Qe6+ 88.Ka5 Qa2+ 89.Kb6 Qf2+ 90.Qc5 Qb2+ 91.Ka6 Qe2+ 92.Ka5 Qa2+ 93.Kb5 Qe2+ 94.Qc4 Qb2+ 95.Qb4 Qe5+ 96.Ka4 Qe8+ 97.Ka3

Oddone - Espinoza Asuncion 2009 Variation 1 Move 97 Black to play
Oddone – Espinoza Asuncion 2009 Variation 1 Move 97 Black to play

97…Qb8 98.Kb3 Kh2 99.Kb2 Qe5+ 100.Kb1 Qf5+ 101.Ka1 wins

Oddone - Espinoza Asuncion 2009 Variation 1 Move 102 Black to play
Oddone – Espinoza Asuncion 2009 Variation 1 Move 102 Black to play

Very instructive. This is a typical winning manoeuvre in queen and pawn vs queen.

Back to the game after 83.Qc3+? Kg2

Oddone - Espinoza Asuncion 2009 Move 84 White to play
Oddone – Espinoza Asuncion 2009 Move 84 White to play

84.Ka7 Qe7 85.Kb6 Qd8+ 86.Qc7 Qd4+ 87.Qc5 Qb2+ 88.Kc7 Qg7+ 89.Kc6

Oddone - Espinoza Asuncion 2009 Move 89 Black to play
Oddone – Espinoza Asuncion 2009 Move 89 Black to play

A key position and a common problem for the defending side, which check should I make? Black choose the wrong check and lost. 89…Qg6+? The authors offer some general advice here: “As Black’s king is on a light square, it was better to operate on dark squares”: 89…Qf6+! Drawing 90.Qd6 Qc3+ 91.Kd7 Qg7+ 92.Qe7 Qd4+ 93.Ke8 White is trying to bring his king across to the same file as Black’s king.  Qh8+ 94.Qf8 Qe5+

Oddone - Espinoza Asuncion 2009 Variation 2 Move 95 White to play
Oddone – Espinoza Asuncion 2009 Variation 2 Move 95 White to play

95.Kf7 loses the pawn to a fork 95…Qd5+ drawing instantly

Back to the game, after 89…Qg6+? 90.Qd6 Qe8+?!

Oddone - Espinoza Asuncion 2009 Move 91 White to play
Oddone – Espinoza Asuncion 2009 Move 91 White to play

91.Qd7?! (91. Kb6! Qe3+ 92. Kc7 Qa7 Kc8 wins quickly, now we see why Black’s queen should operate on the dark squares) 91…Qg6+

Oddone - Espinoza Asuncion 2009 Move 92 White to play
Oddone – Espinoza Asuncion 2009 Move 92 White to play

92. Kd5? White could have centralised the queen and effected a memorable manoeuvre to win 92.Qd6! Qc2+ 93.Kd7 Qh7+ 94.Qe7 Qd3+ 95.Ke8 Qg6+ 96. Kf8 Qf5+ 97.Kg8 Qd5+ 98.Kh8 Qh5+ 99.Qh7 winning

Oddone - Espinoza Asuncion 2009 Variation 3 Move 99 Black to play
Oddone – Espinoza Asuncion 2009 Variation 3 Move 99 Black to play

Notice that this winning motif is effectively the same idea as the king manoeuvre down the a-file and b-files rotated ninety degrees!

In the game: 92…Qd3+ 93.Ke6 Qg6+ 94.Ke5 Qg5+ 95.Ke4 Qg6+! 96.Ke5 Qg5+ 97.Kd6

Oddone - Espinoza Asuncion 2009 Move 97 Black to play
Oddone – Espinoza Asuncion 2009 Move 97 Black to play

97…Qf6+? The final mistake allowing White to improve his queen. 97…Qf4+ 98.Kc6 Qa4+ 99.Kc7 Qa5+ 100.Kc8 Qc5+ draws 98.Qe6! 98…Qd8+?! 99.Kc6 Qh8 100.Qa2+ Kf1 101.Qb1+ and queens the pawn, White won 4 moves later.

Here is a pretty study showing  a neat idea:

Van Vliet 1888
Van Vliet 1888

How does White break the pin to get his pawn home?

1.Qb4! mutual zugzwang 1…Qh1 (1…Qd5 2.Qa4+ Kb6 3.Qb3+ Qxb3 4.b8Q+ wins; 1…Qf3 2.Qa4+ Kb6 3.Qb3+ wins; 1…Qg2 2.Qa3+Kb5 3.Qb2+ wins) 2.Qa3+ Kb6 3.Qb2+ Ka6 4.Qa2+ Kb5 5.Qb1+ Qxb1 6.b8Q+ skewering the queen

Amazingly this idea occurred in a game and White  missed the neat win, but won anyway.

Bishop Pawn

This is completely different. If the defending king can’t get in front of the pawn or at least very near the pawn, the attacker usually wins as there is no drawing zone in the far corner. This is best pawn for the superior side.

Matamoros Franco - Bologan 2005 Move 65 White to play
Matamoros Franco – Bologan 2005 Move 65 White to play

White played 65.Qe5+? (A bad mistake from a 2500 player, 65.Qc3+ draws as Black’s queen is poorly placed.) 65…Qe4! Black gives up his h-pawn to centralise his queen and get his f-pawn going 66.Qxh5 f5 White has restored material equality but is now lost as the centralised Black queen is dominant and the f-pawn is much more dangerous than White’s a-pawn. 67.Qh3+ Kd2 68.Qh2+ Kc3 69.Kb5 f4 70.Qh8+ Kb3 71.Qf8 f3 72.Qf7+ Kxa3 Black has eliminated the a-pawn which wasn’t strictly necessary. The win is simple from here as Black’s queen is so well placed.

Matamoros Franco - Bologan 2005 Move 73 White to play
Matamoros Franco – Bologan 2005 Move 73 White to play

73.Qf8+ Kb2 74.Qf6+ Kc2 75.Ka6?! Accelerating the loss. When the kings are close to each other on files or ranks, the stronger side should always be on the look out for a sequence to exchange queens.

Matamoros Franco - Bologan 2005 Move 75 Black to play
Matamoros Franco – Bologan 2005 Move 75 Black to play

75…Qd5?! (Black could have exchanged queens with 75…Qd3+! 76.Kb7 Qb3+ 77.Ka8 Qa3+ 78.Kb7 Qb2+) 76,Qf4 Kd3 77.Qg3 Qc4+ 78.Ka7 Qc5+ 79.Ka8 Qd5+ 80.Ka7 Ke2 81.Qg4 Kd3 82.Qg3

Matamoros Franco - Bologan 2005 Move 82 Black to play
Matamoros Franco – Bologan 2005 Move 82 Black to play

82…Qd4+! 83.Ka6 Ke2 84.Qh3 f2 85.Qh5+ Ke1 86.Qa5+ Kd1 87.Qh5+ Kc2 88.Qe2+ Kc3

Matamoros Franco - Bologan 2005 Move 89 White to play
Matamoros Franco – Bologan 2005 Move 89 White to play

89.Kb7 Qg7+ 0-1 in view of 90.Kb8 Qf8+ 91.Kb7 Qf7+ 92.Kb6 f1Q

A central pawn

This is similar to the bishop’s pawn, but the winning chances are slightly less. There is no drawing zone for the defending king in the far corner:

Miladinovic - Graf Ohrid 2001 Move 68 Black to move
Miladinovic – Graf Ohrid 2001 Move 68 Black to move

There is no chance for a draw here with the central pawn as Black cannot be prevented from advancing the pawn to the queening square: it just requires patience, care and a lot of moves.

Black played 68…Qa1+ (the natural 68…Qf5 unpinning the pawn is better.)

Black played well, not letting the win slip at any point until this position at move 110:

Miladinovic - Graf Ohrid 2001 Move 110 Black to move
Miladinovic – Graf Ohrid 2001 Move 110 Black to move

Black played 110…Kf4?? which throws the win away as white has a brilliant draw utilising the fact that the pawn is unprotected by the queen and the star cross perpetual check. Better was 110…Qb3 protecting the pawn and preparing cover for the king on the queenside viz.: 111.Qh2+ Ke4 112.Qg2+ Kd3 113.Qg6+ Kd2 114.Qg5 Qc4 115.Ka8 Qd4 116.Kb7 Kc3 117.Qg3 Qd3 winning

Miladinovic - Graf Ohrid 2001 Move 118 White to move
Miladinovic – Graf Ohrid 2001 Variation 1 Move 118 White to move

The reviewer makes this observation:

Notice how Black’s king has migrated over to the file adjacent to White’s king ready to setup cross checks in a few moves. This cannot be prevented wherever White’s king is on the board with two exceptions:

  • The weaker side can draw if the defending king gets in front of the pawn
  • or reaches a small drawing zone on the short side of the pawn.

The only other drawing mechanism is to setup the star cross perpetual check or a variant of it which is shown below.

111.Qh2+! Reaching a very important position as White can draw

Miladinovic - Graf Ohrid 2001 Move 111 Black to move
Miladinovic – Graf Ohrid 2001 Move 111 Black to move

111…Kg4 112.Qg1+Kf4 113.Qh2+ Ke4

Miladinovic - Graf Ohrid 2001 Move 114 White to move
Miladinovic – Graf Ohrid 2001 Move 114 White to move

114.Qg2+??  [114.Qh1+!! Kd4 115.Qa1+  Kd3 116.Qd1+ Ke4 117.Qh1+ Ke5 118.Qh5+ Kf5 (118…Kd6 or Ke6 loses the pawn to 119.Qh6+) 119.Qh5+ drawing] 114…Kd4 115.Qb2+ Kd3 Black breaks the perpetual sequence and wins as White’s queen has lost her checking distance

Miladinovic - Graf Ohrid 2001 Move 116 White to move
Miladinovic – Graf Ohrid 2001 Move 116 White to move

116.Qb1+ Ke2 117.Qc2+ Kf3 118.Qc3 Kf2 (quicker is 118…Qd6) 119.Qf6+ Qf3 120.Qd4 Qf5 121.Qh4+ Kf3 122.Qh1+ Ke2 123.Qh2+ Qf2 124.Qh5+ Qf3

Miladinovic - Graf Ohrid 2001 Move 125 White to move
Miladinovic – Graf Ohrid 2001 Move 125 White to move

125.Qh2+? (Centralising with 125.Qe5 was a tougher defence) 125…Kf1 126.Qc2 e2 127.Qc4 Kg2 128.Qg8+ Qg3 129.Qd5+Kg1

Miladinovic - Graf Ohrid 2001 End
Miladinovic – Graf Ohrid 2001 End

Exploiting White king position 0-1

The central pawn does have a small drawing zone for the defending side which is on the short side of the pawn:

Karjakin - Mamedyarov Beijing 2013 Move 91 White to move
Karjakin – Mamedyarov Beijing 2013 Move 91 White to move

This is a theoretical draw as White’s king restricts Black’s king manoeuvres, but White must defend perfectly:

91.Kb3? losing as White’s king can be kicked out of the drawing zone. 91,Qc4 holds for example 91…Qb6+ 92.Ka2 Qa5+ 93.Kb2 Qe5+ 94.Kb1 Qa1+ 95.Kb2 Qe3 96.Qc1+ Ke2 97.Qc4=

Karjakin - Mamedyarov Beijing 2013 Variation Move 97 Black to move
Karjakin – Mamedyarov Beijing 2013 Variation Move 97 Black to move

White’s king covers the queenside and the White queen can hassle Black on the kingside. If Black’s king strays too far on the kingside, Black cannot block a queen check as White will simply exchange queens drawing owing to the proximity of his king to the pawn.

The game continued 91…Qb6+ 92.Kc4 Qa6+  (92…Qc7+ is better 93.Kb3 Qc3+ 94.Ka2 Qa5+ 95.Kb2 Qb5+ 96.Ka3 Kc3 wins) 93.Kb3?! Qb5+ 94.Ka2 Kc3 95.Qe1+ Kc2 0-1 (96.Qf2 d2)

The book covers numerous positions with more pawns.

Here is a celebrated game Kasparov v The World Internet 1999.

Kasparov - The World Internet 1999 Move 51 Black to play
Kasparov – The World Internet 1999 Move 51 Black to play

Although Black is a pawn up, White is playing for the win as his g-pawn is the most advanced pawn. The seven piece tablebase confirms this position is a draw but Black is on the edge of losing and most defend perfectly. The game continued 51…b5?! (51,,,Ka1! holds) 52.Kf6+ Kb2? (The final mistake 52…Ka1 was necessary) 53.Qh2+ Ka1 54.Qf4! b4 55.Qxb4 Black is lost as the d-pawn is a hindrance as it obstructs Black’s queen and offers cover to White’s king. Without the d-pawn the position is drawn as show earlier in this review.

Kasparov - The World Internet 1999 Move 54 Black to play
Kasparov – The World Internet 1999 Move 54 Black to play

The ROW did not last much longer and resigned on move 62.

Chapter 3 Queen v Rook

The basic Queen v Rook endgame is covered sufficiently. The authors show how to break the third rank defence:

Queen v Rook Third Rank Defence
Queen v Rook Third Rank Defence

The authors observe: “The third rank defence is very difficult to break down if you do not know how, because it requires at least one counter-intuitive move to achieve that. John Nunn suggests the following method:”

1.Qf4! (1.Qg7 does not make progress because of 1…Ke8 2.Qc7 Rh6 3.Ke5 Rg6 and the starting position has been mirrored) 1…Kd7 2.Qa4+! Kc7 3.Qa7+ Forcing Black into the third rank defence 3…Rb7 4.Qc5+ Kb8 5.Kd6 Rg7 6.Qb4+ Rb7 7.Qe4 Rb6+ 8.Kc5 Ka7 9.Qd4 Rb7 10.Kc6+ Ka8 11.Qd5 Kb8 12.Qa5 and Philidor’s position is reached.

The book covers a multitude of Queen vs Rook + Pawn(s) positions where there are many fortresses  worth knowing and even in the situations where the queen wins, many wins are quite long and complicated. Here is an example of a simple draw.

Queen v Rook+P Fortress
Queen v Rook+P Fortress

Here White can simply move his rook back and forth between two safe squares e3 & g3.

An additional pawn for Black on g4  makes no difference viz:

Queen v Rook+P Fortress 2
Queen v Rook+P Fortress 2

This is clearly drawn as well. However, make a subtle change to the position and place White’s king on e2, then the queen wins:

Agopov - Norri Finland 2012 Move 89 White to move
Agopov – Norri Finland 2012 Move 89 White to move

White played the incomprehensible 89.g6? allowing the simple 89…Rxg6 drawing 89.Qh1! wins as follows: 89…Rg6 90.Qa8 Re6 91.Qa3+ Ke8 92.Kg4 Rg6 93.Kh5 Re6 94.Qb4 zugzwang

Agopov - Norri Finland 2012 Move 94 Black to move
Agopov – Norri Finland 2012 Move 94 Black to move

Black has no good move. One key point is 94…Rg6 95.Qe4+ Kf8 (95…Re6 96.Qxe6 fxe6 97.Kh6 winning) 96.Qxg6 winning

With a further advanced bishop’s pawn, it is no longer a fortress as the attacking king can encircle the weaker side’s position:

Queen v Rook + Pawn Breaking the Fortress
Queen v Rook + Pawn Breaking the Fortress

The winning process falls into three phases and zugzwang is the main weapon to achieve these steps:

  1. First the king has to cross the e-file

1.Kf2 Qc7 2.Kg2 Qc2+ 3.Kg1 (3.Kg3 Qd2 4.Rg4 Ke5 5.Re4+ Kd5 and the first phase is complete) 3…Qd2 4.Kf1 Qh2 5.Re2Qg3 6.Rg2 Qh3 7.Kf2 Ke5 8.Rg4 Kd5

Queen v Rook + Pawn Breaking the Fortress Move 9 White to move
Queen v Rook + Pawn Breaking the Fortress Move 9 White to move

2. Next the Black king crosses the fourth rank:

9.Ke2 Qh6 10.Kf2 Qd2+ 11.Kf1 Qe3 12.Kg2 Qe2+ 13.Kg3 Qf1! 14.Re4 Qg1+ 15.Kf4 Qf2! 16.Kg4 Qg2+ 17.Kf4 Qg1!

Queen v Rook + Pawn Breaking the Fortress Move 18 White to move
Queen v Rook + Pawn Breaking the Fortress Move 18 White to move

White is in zugzwang again and most give way. There are two main defences 18.Re5+ and 18.Ra4.

After 18.Re5+ Kd4 19.Re4+ Kd3 The king’s next target is f2 to gobble the pawn 20.Re8 Qd4+ 21.Re4 Qg7!

Queen v Rook + Pawn Breaking the Fortress Move 22 White to move
Queen v Rook + Pawn Breaking the Fortress Move 22 White to move

22.Re3+ Kd3 23.Re4 Qg6!

Queen v Rook + Pawn Breaking the Fortress Move 24 White to move
Queen v Rook + Pawn Breaking the Fortress Move 24 White to move

Next the final phase: Black’s king crosses the e-file to win the pawn.

24.Re5 Qf6+ 25.Rf5 Qd4+ 26.Kg5 Qg7+ 27.Kf4 Ke2 28.Ke4 Kf2 29.f4 Qe7+ 30.Re5 Qb4+ 31.Kf5 Kf3 and the pawn falls

Queen v Rook + Pawn Breaking the Fortress Move 32 White to move
Queen v Rook + Pawn Breaking the Fortress Move 32 White to move

After 18.Ra4, they are two winning methods, Magnus Carlsen shows one of them here in a position with reversed colours:

Carlsen - Matlakov Move 64 White to play
Carlsen – Matlakov Move 64 White to play

White can win with 64.Kd3 which is quickest according to the tablebase but Carlsen’s method is just as good:

64.Kf4! Rd5 65.Kg4 zugzwang 65…Kc4  (65…Rd4+ 66.Kf5) 66.Qb6! Rd4+ (66…c5?! 67.Qe6 Kd4 Kf4 wins) 67.Kf5 c5 68.Qa5 Rd5+ 69.Ke6 

Carlsen - Matlakov Move 69 Black to play
Carlsen – Matlakov Move 69 Black to play

69…Rd4 70.Qa4+ Kc3 71.Qa3+ Kc4 72.Qa5 Rd3 73.Qa4+ Kc3 74.Qa3+ Kc4 75.Qc1+ Kb4 76.Qb2+ Kc4 77.Qc2+

Carlsen - Matlakov Move 77 Black to play
Carlsen – Matlakov Move 77 Black to play

77…Kd4 [77…Rc3 78.Qe4+ Kb3 79.Qb1+! (79.Kd6?? Kb2=) Kc4 80.Kd6 wins] 78.Kd6 c4 79.Qf2+ Re3 80.Qd2+ 1-0

Carlsen - Matlakov Move 80 Black to play
Carlsen – Matlakov Move 80 Black to play

because 80…Rd3 (80…Ke4 81.Qd5+ wins) 81.Qf4+ Kc3+ 82.Kc5 wins

Chapter 4 Queen versus Rook and Knight

Fortresses are an important topic here.

Gelfand-Anand Moscow 2012 Move 37 Black to move
Gelfand-Anand Moscow 2012 Move 37 Black to move

Here Black has a fortress. White’s obvious pawn lever is g4, so Black stops it with 37…h5! Can White exploit the g5 square? 38.Kh4 Kh6 39.Qb2 Kg6 40.Qc3 Ne4

Gelfand-Anand Moscow 2012 Move 41 White to move
Gelfand-Anand Moscow 2012 Move 41 White to move

41.Qc8 (41.Qf3 Nf6 42.Qg3+ Kh7 43.Qg5?? Ne4 44.Qxh5+ Kg7 45.g4 Rd8 46.gxf5 Rh8 wins for Black!) 41…Nf6 42.Qb8 R37 43.g4 hxg4 44.hxg4 fxg4 45.Qe5

Gelfand-Anand Moscow 2012 Move 45 Black to move
Gelfand-Anand Moscow 2012 Move 45 Black to move

45…Ng8! 46.Qg5+ Kh7 47.Qxg4 f6 48.Qg2 Kh8 49.Qe4 Kg7 drawn

Techniques to destroy fortresses are examined:

Kasparov - Ivanchuk Frankfurt 1998 Move 69 White to move
Kasparov – Ivanchuk Frankfurt 1998 Move 69 White to move

Here the rook and knight have a temporary blockade of two passed pawns. A pawn sacrifice disrupts the coordination of Black’s pieces: 69.g5!?  Nxg5?! (69…Rg6 is tougher) 70.Qg4? (A rare mistake from the former World Champion 70.Qg3! breaks the blockade 70…Rg6 71.Qe5+ Kf7 72.d6 wins; 70…Kh6 71.Qh4+ Kg6 72.d6 wins) 70…Rg6 71.Kb4 Nf7 72,Qd4+ drawn

Here a blockade could have been broken by clever manoeuvring:

Brameyer - Pitzl Dresden 2010 Move 52 Black to play
Brameyer – Pitzl Dresden 2010 Move 52 Black to play

This looks desperate for white who looks to be close to zugzwang. Black continued 52…Kg4?  allowing White to escape

52…Qf5! 53,Kg2 Qg4+ 54.Kh2 Qg5 55.Rd3 Qg6 56.Ne2+ Ke4 57.Rh3 Qf6+ 58.Nc3+ Kd4 59.Ne2+ Kc4 60.Kg3 Qb2 61.Rh4+ Kc5 wins

Brameyer - Pitzl Dresden 2010 Variation Move 62 White to play
Brameyer – Pitzl Dresden 2010 Variation Move 62 White to play

53.Re3! Qd2 54.Rg3+! Kh4 55.Rf3 mutual zugzwang and white held on for a draw

Brameyer - Pitzl Dresden 2010 Move 55 Black to play
Brameyer – Pitzl Dresden 2010 Move 55 Black to play

Queen vs Rook + Knight + Pawn

Beukema-Hausrath Dieren 2017 Move 110 White to move
Beukema – Hausrath Dieren 2017 Move 110 White to move

It is hard to believe that White can lose to here. White played 110.Qe2? which does lose and he lost quickly missing a draw when Black erred. (110.Qb7 holds along with 4 other moves) 110…Rf6+ does win for Black. Buy the book to find out how.

Chapter 5 Queen versus Rook and Bishop

Babula - Blatny Stare Mesto 1992 Move 69 Black to move
Babula – Blatny Stare Mesto 1992 Move 69 Black to move

It is hard to believe that White can win this position as the f7 square is covered by both rook and bishop and all Black’s pieces are safe and coordinated.  White failed to win this game in practice; he tried for 16 moves and gave up. However, White can force the pawn through or win a piece in 43 moves. This is a good example where computer generation of tablebases has really enhanced the understanding of the endgame and found  sophisticated winning manoeuvres in positions like these. The key piece in this type of position is the attacker’s king.

Chapter 6 Queen vs Two Rooks

The authors summarise this material imbalance thus “The rooks are slightly superior materially speaking, but this does not make them favourites automatically. It is very important, if they can get static control and their king can hide. The queen on the other hand often wants to start dynamics to overload the rooks and destroy their coordination and harmony.”

The ending of two Rooks + P v Q is covered in some depth, the theory of which is completely new to the reviewer and probably new to the reader.

The most important factor is whether the attacking king can find hiding places. This often depends on where the defending king is. It has some similarities with queen and pawn vs queen endings:

Vovk - Savchenko Move 90 White to play
Vovk – Savchenko Move 90 White to play

With a rook’s pawn, generally if White’s king is away from the action (near the pawn), the game is drawn, but it is not so easy to give a main drawing zone which was possible in the queen and rook’s pawn or knight’s pawn versus queen case, but d7 seems to be a a good square but it does not always draw.

Matters are very complex and the wins are often very long as this game shows:

90.Qg8? losing

90.Qd4+ holds 90…R5f4 91.Qd8+ Kg3 92.Qg5+ (92.Qg8+ loses in 117 moves) 92…Kf2 93.Qc5+ Re3+ 94.Kd7

Vovk - Savchenko Variation 1 Move 94 Black to play
Vovk – Savchenko Variation 1 Move 94 Black to play

The tablebases give this position as a draw after 94…h2 95.Qh5! Kg2 96.Qg5+ Rg3 97.Qxf4 h1Q 98.Qd2+ Kh3 99.Qh6+ with a perpetual

Vovk - Savchenko Variation 1 Move 98 Black to play
Vovk – Savchenko Variation 1 Move 98 Black to play

Back to the game: 90…h2 91. Qg2?! (91.Qh7+ is tougher losing in 92 moves) 91…Rf2 92.Qh1?! Kh3 93.Qa8?! Rf8 94.Qb7?!

Vovk - Savchenko Move 94 Black to play
Vovk – Savchenko Move 94 Black to play

94…R2f7?! (Black missed a quick win 94…Re2+ 95.Kd6 Rd8+ 96.Kc5 Rc2+ 97.Kb4 Rb2+ winning the queen) 95.Qb3+?! Rf3?! 96.Qb1 Re8+ 97.Kd7 Here White loses despite the king being on d7.

Vovk - Savchenko Move 97 Black to play
Vovk – Savchenko Move 97 Black to play

97…Ree3?  A natural move, throwing away the win, 97…Rh8! wins in 46 moves 98.Kd6? This was White’s last chance to draw: Black won on move 114  0-1

98.Qh7+ seizes the draw 98…Kg2 99.Qc2+ Rf2 100.Qc6+ Ref3 101.Qg6+ Rg3 102.Qc6+ Kg1 102.Qc1+ Rf1 103.Qc5+ drawing

Vovk - Savchenko Variation 2 Move 104 Black to play
Vovk – Savchenko Variation 2 Move 104 Black to play

As the reader can see, this endgame is very complex, even harder than queen + pawn v queen.

Here is example with the king hiding in front of the rook’s pawn in the corner:

Tiviakov - Van der Wiel Leiden 2011 Move 108 Black to move
Tiviakov – Van der Wiel Leiden 2011 Move 108 Black to move

Black played 108…Rb1+? throwing away the win which was to be had with 108…Kg1 in 125 moves! 109.Ka4 now White is holding and Tiviakov defends perfectly:

109… Rf1 110.Qe4 Kg1 111.Qe3+ Rgf2 112.Qg5+ Kh1 113.Qd5+ Rf3 114.Qc6 Kg2 115.Qc2+ R1f2 116.Qg6+

Tiviakov - Van der Wiel Leiden 2011 Move 116 Black to move
Tiviakov – Van der Wiel Leiden 2011 Move 116 Black to move

116…Rg3 117.Qe4+ Rff3 118.Qc2+ Kg1 119.Qd1+ Rf1 120.Qd4+ Kg2 121.Qe4+ Rff3 122.Qc2+ Kg1 123.Qd1+ Rf1 124.Qd4+ Rf2 125.Qd1+ Kg2 126.Qd5+

Tiviakov - Van der Wiel Leiden 2011 Move 126 Black to move
Tiviakov – Van der Wiel Leiden 2011 Move 126 Black to move

126…Rgf3 127.Qg5+ (127.Qg8+ loses after 127…Kf1) Kf1 128.Qc1+ Ke2 129.Qc2+ Ke3 130.Qc3+ Ke4 131.Qc4+ Kf5 132.Qf7+ Ke5 133.Qc7+ Kd4 134.Qd6+ Kc3 135.Qa3+ Kc2 ½-½

The knight’s pawn is the best pawn for the attacker. The attacker wins, if reasonably well placed and coordinated and the king safe:

Van der Wiel - Winants Brussels 1987 Move 74 Black to move
Van der Wiel – Winants Brussels 1987 Move 74 Black to move

White won quickly in about 20 moves after 74…Qf4+ 75.Kg1 Qe3+ 76.Kh1

There is no safe place for the defender’s king with a knight’s pawn.

The bishop’s pawn is surprisingly different. Here a few draws exist. One occurs with the defending king on the long side in a good position:

Markowski - Gdanski Warsaw 2002 Variation Move 69 White to move
Markowski – Gdanski Warsaw 2002 Variation Move 69 White to move

This is a theoretical draw. White can try 69.R5d4+

Or 69.Ke5 Qg7+ 70.Ke6 Qh6+ 71.Kd7 Qg7+ 72.Kc6 Qf6+ 73.Rd6 Qf5 74.R2d5 Qc8+=

Markowski - Gdanski Warsaw 2002 Variation 3 Move 75 White to move
Markowski – Gdanski Warsaw 2002 Variation 3 Move 75 White to move

69…Ka5! (69…Kb3? loses in 107 moves) 70.Rd6 Kb4 71.Rb2+ Kc5 72.Rbb6 Qe2+ 73.Kf5 Qh5+ =

Markowski - Gdanski Warsaw 2002 Variation 2 Move 74 White to move
Markowski – Gdanski Warsaw 2002 Variation 2 Move 74 White to move

White a knight’s pawn this setup does not draw because Black’s queen is too restricted on the short side:

2R+P v Q Instructive example
2R+P v Q Instructive example

1,R5e4+ Kb5 2.Re7 Qf6+ 3.Kg3 Qc3+ 4.R2e3 Qf6 5.R3e5+ Kb4 6.g5

2R+P v Q Instructive example move 6
2R+P v Q Instructive example move 6

6…Qf1 7.Kg4 Qd1+ 8.Re2 Kc3 9.Kh5 Qh1+ 10.Kg6 Qd5 11.R2e6 Qd3+ 12.Kg7 Qd4+ 13.Re5

2R+P v Q Instructive example move 13
2R+P v Q Instructive example move 13

13…Kc2 14.g6 Kd2 15.Kg8 Qd6 16.g7 Qb8+ 17.Kf7 Qb3+ 18.R5e6 Qf3+ 19.Rf6 Qd5+ 20.Ree6

2R+P v Q Instructive example move 20
2R+P v Q Instructive example move 20

20…Qb7+ 21.Kg8 Qh1 22.Rh6 Qa8+ 23.Kh7 Qa7 24.Kh8 Qa1 25.Ref6 winning

2R+P v Q Instructive example final
2R+P v Q Instructive example final

If the reader has played through this ending, it was remarkably simple to win.

With a central pawn, there is no fortress on the short side for the defending king:

2R+Central P v Q Instructive example
2R+Central P v Q Instructive example

This is winning after 1.Kd7 Qg7+ 2.e7

In general, the queen can draw when the defending king is well placed and the attacker cannot coordinate and safeguard the king. This can be very complicated and not easy to calculate:

Zwakala - De Abreu Boksburg 2018 Move 71 White to play
Zwakala – De Abreu Boksburg 2018 Move 71 White to play

White’s king is trapped on the edge but White can just hold: 71.Qb6+ Kf7 72.Kg4 R5f4+ 73.Kg5 Rf6 74.Qb1 Rg3+ 75.Kh4 Rg2 75.Kh4 Rg2

Zwakala - De Abreu Boksburg 2018 Move 76 White to play
Zwakala – De Abreu Boksburg 2018 Move 76 White to play

76.Qb3+ and lost quickly 76.Qh7+! draws 76…Kf8 77.Qh8+ Rg8 78.Qh5 e5 79.Kh3 Rg7 80.Qh4 Kf7 81.Qc4+ Re6 82.Qc7+ Re7 83.Qc4+ Kf6 84.Qc6+ Re6 85.Qf3+ =

Here is a game from the early Fischer. His opponent played 90..Kd6? and Fischer defended perfectly to draw.

Fischer - Matthai Montreal 1956 Move 90 Black to move
Fischer – Matthai Montreal 1956 Move 90 Black to move

Black could have hunted down the White king as follows: 90…Rc3 91.Kg4 Ra4+ 92.Kh5 Rc5+ 93.Kh6 Rh4+ 94.Kg6 Rg4+ 95.Kh6 Rgg5

Fischer - Matthai Montreal 1956 Variation Move 96 White to move
Fischer – Matthai Montreal 1956 Variation Move 96 White to move

96.Qa2 Ke8 97.Qa8+ Kf7 98.Qa2+ Rcd5

Fischer - Matthai Montreal 1956 Variation Final
Fischer – Matthai Montreal 1956 Variation Final

After 99.Qf2+ Rgf5 winning as 100…Rh5+ follows

General case with more pawns

In general the rooks want static control and the queen dynamic. It is extremely important for the rooks to coordinate. Examples of positions where the two rooks are better are shown below.

The reviewer gives some typical positions with a quick assessment: buy the book to go through the analysis.

In this position below the rooks have full board control. White wins easily.

Hole - Thomassen Oslo 2011 Move 35 Black to move
Hole – Thomassen Oslo 2011 Move 35 Black to move

In the position below the rooks are coordinated and white’s weak isolated pawns are easy pickings for the rooks. Black won quickly.

Shirov - Anand Linares 1998 Move 41 Black to move
Shirov – Anand Linares 1998 Move 41 Black to move

In the next position, white has just played 43.Re1 threatening Ree7, Black has to weaken his pawns to prevent the immediate loss of the f7-pawn. This is enough for white to win.

Kramnik - Andreikin Tromso 2013 Move 43 Black to move
Kramnik – Andreikin Tromso 2013 Move 43 Black to move

The queen needs targets to start dynamic play. Good for the queen are weak pawns, an exposed king, uncoordinated rooks and of course dangerous friendly passed pawns.

Queen + two connected passed pawns usually beat two rooks. The defensive setup with the rooks doubled up against the more advanced pawn can be difficult to break down. The position below is winning but takes nearly 50 moves against best defence!

Murdiza - Rozentalis Cappelle-la-Grande 2004 Move 59 Black to move
Murdiza – Rozentalis Cappelle-la-Grande 2004 Move 59 Black to move

The position below is winning for the queen as the rooks are uncoordinated and the queen has a dangerous passed c-pawn.

McShane - Mamedov Astand 2019 Move 45 White to move
McShane – Mamedov Astana 2019 Move 45 White to move

In this position the passed pawn dominates the rooks but Black is still holding out. The key to winning this game is to open a second front on the queenside to widen the bridgehead for the queen. Hence 48.c4!

Shirov - Short Yerevan 1996 Move 48 White to move
Shirov – Short Yerevan 1996 Move 48 White to move

In the next position Black has a small material advantage with two connected passed pawns. The easiest way to win is to open a second front on the queenside and create fresh White pawn weaknesses, hence 35…a5!

Giri - Aronian Leuven 2018 Move 35 Black to move
Giri – Aronian Leuven 2018 Move 35 Black to move

In the next example, there is rough material equality but the queen is winning here as White’s rooks are uncoordinated, his king is exposed and he has lots of weak pawns.

Amanov - Adams Wheeling 2012 Move 30 White to move
Amanov – Adams Wheeling 2012 Move 30 White to move

Chapter 7 – Queen versus Rook and Two Minor Pieces

Surprisingly the author does not cover the  endgame with no pawns as R+B+N v Q is drawn but is difficult to hold.

The pieces seek static control. In the position below, Black is winning but needs squares for his pieces, hence 34…g5!? After 35.fxg5 Bxg5 Black is winning as White’s pawns are going to drop off in the long run.

Vitiugov - Lysyj Kazan 2014 Move 34 Black to move
Vitiugov – Lysyj Kazan 2014 Move 34 Black to move

In the next example, the position is static with the pieces controlling everything. The queen has no targets and White’s king is safe. White will slowly and surely improve his pieces and pick off Black’s pawns.

Grischuk - Topalov Linares 2010 Move 47 Black to move
Grischuk – Topalov Linares 2010 Move 47 Black to move

In the next example, the queen has passed pawns, but they are all separated and effectively isolated, so Black’s well coordinated pieces can just collect the apple harvest after 34…Rb4!

Caruana - Le St Louis 2017 Move 34 Black to move
Caruana – Le St Louis 2017 Move 34 Black to move

The queen loves dynamic play with an exposed enemy king.

A good example is below where queen and 3 pawns fight a rook and two bishops with an exposed king. After 24.Qe6 Black is struggling to coordinate and finish development. Black put up stiff resistance but the defensive task proved too much and White won.

Karpov - Speelman Reykjavik 1991 Move 24 White to move
Karpov – Speelman Reykjavik 1991 Move 24 White to move

In the next game, a queen and two connected passed pawns supported by the king face an uncoordinated rook, bishop and knight. The queen wins effortlessly.

Kramnik - Aronian Zurich 2012 Move 30 Black to move
Kramnik – Aronian Zurich 2012 Move 30 Black to move

Chapter 8 Queen an Minor Piece vs Queen (and Minor Piece)

This topic is covered well with sections on:

  • Queen + Knight v Queen
  • Queen + Knight + Pawns v Queen + Pawns
  • Queen + Bishop v queen
  • Queen + Bishop + Pawns v Queen + pawns
  • Queen + Knight endings
  • Queen + Bishop (same colour) endings
  • Queen + Bishop (opposite colour) endings
  • Queen + Knight v Queen + bishop endings

This is particularly good chapter.

Chapter 9 Queen  + Rook  v Queen + Rook

This piece combination is a really a mixture of middlegame and endgame themes. King safety is paramount. In this game White’s king is safe whereas Black’s king is looking potentially vulnerable.

Fischer - Benko 1959 Move 33 White to move
Fischer – Benko 1959 Move 33 White to move

Fischer played the incisive 33.a4!! to open up files for his rook. If 33…b4 34.Rh5!

There is another Fischer game below. White had to play 35.Rf3. However after 35.Qf8+? Kh5 Black’s king entered the fray with decisive effect. After 36.g4+ Kh4 37.Qxf6+ Kxh3 it was all over.

Blau - Fischer Varna 1962 Move 35 White to move
Blau – Fischer Varna 1962 Move 35 White to move

Chapter 10 Queen vs. Minor pieces

The interesting endgames of queen v 2 minor pieces with no pawns are covered.

The endgame of queen v two knights with pawns is covered showing typical winning methods:

  • Overloading the knights which can only defend a limited front
  • King invasion
  • Zugzwang

Some successful fortresses are also demonstrated.

The endgame of queen v two bishops with pawns is also covered. Positions with mutual passed pawns are shown demonstrating the power of the queen. Some fortresses are shown of course.

The endgame of queen v knight and bishop with pawns is also covered. Positions with fortresses are covered with methods of breaching them covered.

Queen versus three minor pieces is by far the most interesting endgame covered with this rough material equality.

In this sort of position where the pieces are uncoordinated, the queen wins:

Berkes - Indjic Valjevo 2018 Move 36 Black to move
Berkes – Indjic Valjevo 2018 Move 36 Black to move

If the pieces are coordinated and their king is safe, they have good winning chances.

Lautier - Gurevich Munich 1993 Move 53 White to move
Lautier – Gurevich Munich 1993 Move 53 White to move

White misfired with 53.b5? (53.Qxb7 holds a draw) 53…Nd4! wins as the pieces gain static control. Eventually all the queenside pawns were exchanged and Black won on the kingside.

If the minor pieces have control even with a pawn apiece, the pieces have winning chances:

Gustafsson - Svane Bonn 2011 Move 50 Black to move
Gustafsson – Svane Bonn 2011 Move 50 Black to move

Black played 50…Qc1+? and lost the pawn and the game. 50…Qg1 just holds!

The next position is one of dynamic equality:

Nisipeanu - Radjabov Bazna Move 30 Black to move
Nisipeanu – Radjabov Bazna Move 30 Black to move

30…Bc6! 31.Qxa7 Nc5=

Chapter 11 is a pot pourri of fascinating positions that do not belong elsewhere in the book.

Chapter 12 covers some endgame studies. Every endgame book should include some studies to enhance the readers’ imaginations.

The book ends with comprehensive solutions to the exercises set in each chapter.

In summary, this is an excellent book which requires a lot of time to absorb. Some sections are much easier to absorb than others, for example the sections on two rooks v queen in the general case with many pawns is excellent and would be useful for club players and above.  The chapter on queen and minor piece v queen and minor piece with many pawns is also superb. The more difficult sections such as queen and pawn v queen are definitely worth studying and are fascinating in themselves.

FM Richard Webb
FM Richard Webb

FM Richard Webb, Basingstoke, Hampshire, 11th August 2021

Book Details :

  • Hardcover : 272 pages
  • Publisher:Russell Enterprises (24 Mar. 2021)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10:1949859312
  • ISBN-13:978-1949859317
  • Product Dimensions: ‎15.24 x 1.27 x 22.86 cm

Official web site of Russell Enterprises

Understanding Queen Endgames, Karsten Müller & Yakov Kanoval, Russell Enterprises (24 Mar. 2021), ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-1949859317
Understanding Queen Endgames, Karsten Müller & Yakov Kanoval, Russell Enterprises (24 Mar. 2021), ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-1949859317