Tag Archives: Books

The Immortal Games of Capablanca

The Immortal Games of Capablanca: Fred Reinfeld

From the publisher:

“We are pleased to release another book in the Fred Reinfeld Chess Classics series. The Immortal Games of Capablanca was – and continues to be – one of Reinfeld’s most popular books. A detailed biography of the third world chess champion introduces the 113 games. They are presented chronologically, with clear and instructive annotations.

This 21st century edition has been revised and reformatted to meet the expectations of the modern chessplayer. This includes:

(a) The original English descriptive notation has been converted to modern figurine algebraic notation;
(b) Over 200(!) diagrams have added, along with more than a dozen archival photos; and
(c) The Index of Openings now has ECO codes.

Reinfeld’s annotations were also cross-checked by Stockfish 14, one of the most powerful engines available. When Stockfish had a different, meaningful evaluation from that of Reinfeld’s, the engine’s suggestion is indicated by “S14:” followed by the specific line.

As in our other “21st Century Editions,” and with the exception of the occasional supplement by Stockfish, Reinfeld’s original text has been preserved.

Follow the life and games of the brilliant Cuban world champion in Reinfelds’s timeless classic The Immortal Games of Capablanca.”

End of blurb…

Fred Reinfeld
Fred Reinfeld

According to Wikipedia:

“Fred Reinfeld (January 27, 1910 – May 29, 1964) was an American writer on chess and many other subjects. He was also a strong chess master, often among the top ten American players from the early 1930s to the early 1940s, as well as a college chess instructor.”

In July 2019 Richard James reviewed Fred Reinfeld: The Man Who Taught America Chess, with 282 Games and perhaps you might like to read this to get a better feel for FRs legacy.

Russell Enterprises (via New In Chess) with this new edition have, to date,  added a total of eight titles to their Fred Reinfeld Classic Series: the more the merrier!

Over the years many have looked down their noses at publications from Reinfeld, Chernev, Schiller and others but if we are completely honest then Reinfeld and Chernev have brought a huge amount to the chess buying public and many have found much benefit from their publications.

The Immortal Games of Capablanca by Russell Enterprises is (to use a modern phrase) a “re-imagining” of a timeless classic. Most of us reading this review would have almost certainly had one of the previous versions. The first edition dates from 1942 and, interestingly,  the copyright lies with Beatrice Reinfeld rather than Fred, himself. Published by Horowitz and Harkness, New York here is an original first edition copy from the collection of Jose Font:

The Immortal Games of Capablanca, Fred Reinfeld, Horowitz and Harkness, New York, 1942.
The Immortal Games of Capablanca, Fred Reinfeld, Horowitz and Harkness, New York, 1942.

Betts (Chess: An Annotated Bibliography of Works Published, 1850-1968) informs us that this very edition was re-issued in 1953 by the same publisher. In 1974, Collier Books (A Division of Macmillan Publishing Co., Inc. New York) brought out their own edition and added an Introduction by Robert Byrne, Chess Editor of The New York Times. This had the following appearance front and rear:

The Immortal Games of Capablanca, Fred Reinfeld, Collier Books, New York, 1974
The Immortal Games of Capablanca, Fred Reinfeld, Collier Books, New York, 1974
The Immortal Games of Capablanca, Fred Reinfeld, Collier Books, New York, 1974
The Immortal Games of Capablanca, Fred Reinfeld, Collier Books, New York, 1974

and, for the sake of completeness, and because it is worth reading, here is the Introduction from Robert Byrne:

Robert Byrne, Hastings 1971-72
Robert Byrne, Hastings 1971-72
Introduction

I joined the Manhattan Chess Club a year or so after Capablanca’s death, and the afterglow of the great Cuban’s presence still filled his favourite haunts. There was an old white-haired patzer, Richard Warburg, who would collar me, my brother Donald, and several other young high school players to tell us the “compliment” Capa had once paid him. What Capa had said was, “Warburg, nobody plays the Rinky-Dink the way you do!” So overcome with pride and delight was Warburg that the great man had deigned to remark on his play that he never stopped to think why Capa had dubbed his Accelerated Dragon Variation the “Rinky-Dink.” Needless to say, the ironic joshing of Capablanca’s remark was totally lost on him.

Moreover, it would not have mattered, for Capablanca was so idolized that it was deemed a privilege to breathe the same air he did. Not only did his fans feel that way about him, but the man from whom he won the world championship, Emanuel Lasker, said of him, “I have known many chess players, but only one chess genius.” Capablanca’s successor, Alexander Alekhine, also termed him “a very great genius whose like we shall never see again.”

What lent Capablanca the glamour that was denied to his fellow champions of the game was the incredible speed of his play. Hard work at the board, consuming the full two and one half hours for forty moves, was unknown to him at the peak of his career. Brilliant strategic plans, marvellous com binational possibilities, scintillating turns in the play came tumbling out of him in response to his extraordinarily quick sight of the configuration before him.

He did not consider what he achieved as coming under the head of thinking, scandalizing his colleagues by insisting that chess was not an intellectual game. For him it was nothing remotely resembling problem solving, but rather flashes of intuition in which he grasped the essential pattern governing each individual position. That is why he looked upon chess playing as an aesthetic activity.

Quite obviously, no greater natural player ever lived. At the age of four, Capablanca learned the moves by watching his father play and, years later, he declared that he had never bothered to study the game. Of course, growing up in the fertile chess climate of Havana and later New York, he honed himself on very strong opposition. Watching the games of his competitors could hardly have failed to serve as an education in itself.

In chess style, Capablanca was the master par excellence of reduction, stripping positions down to the bare backbone by exchanging off all irrelevant material. In what were for others
positions of unfathomable complexity, he could, with uncanny lucidity, expose the genuinely dominant but often hidden theme that dictated the strategy to be pursued.

It is this astonishing clarity in Capablanca’s conceptions that makes his games a gold mine for the aspiring student. The elements of chess strategy can all be seen here purged of the confusion introduced by side issues. The late Fred Reinfeld has made an excellent selection of 113 Capablanca games which give a rounded picture of the scope and invention of Cuba’s greatest genius. These are the wonderful performances that have so heavily shaped the play of current world champion Bobby Fischer, Capablanca’s spiritual descendant.

One of my favourites, which I have replayed many times, is game 6, from Capablanca’s match with Frank Marshall (see page 39 ). It is not too much to say that this is the indispensable stem game for the understanding of how White develops a kingside attack in the Ruy Lopez. Another lesson in the Ruy Lopez, this time in the exchange variation by transposition, is given by game 17 against David Janowski (see page 83). Capablanca’s handling of the pawn structure and his fine rook play in the ending beautifully illuminate a formation reintroduced into current practice by Bobby Fischer.

In the realm of bishops-of-opposite-colour play, the drawing chances of the defence can only be defeated by the kind of positional mastery Capablanca evinces in game 2L against Richard Teichmann (see page 97 ) and in game 25 against Aron Nimzovich (see page 111). Capablanca’s terrifically coolheaded defensive play shows up in his defeat of Frank Marshall’s anti-Ruy Lopez gambit in game 36 (see page 157), which the American champion kept under wraps for eight years to spring on him. I could go on and on, but, if I must limit myself to just one more, Capablanca’s best-played-prize-winning Caro-Kann Defense in game 63 against Aron Nimzovich (see page 276) would be my choice. It is a wonderfully instructive masterpiece of infiltration tactics to undermine a passive position and score with Zugzwang.

Fred Reinfeld’s annotations are clear and schematic and give a dramatic portrayal of these epic battles. Fred, the epitome of the hero-worshipper, is a little too harsh in fastening on the very human foibles that brought about Capablanca’s loss of the world championship to Alekhine. With the ease of success Capablanca enjoyed, it was all but impossible for him to have taken Alekhine’s challenge seriously, especially since Capablanca had a 6-O record against him going into the match. No one could have guessed the fanatic zeal that Alekhine put into his preparation for the struggle.

Moreover, the last word on Capablanca’s enormous capacity can be gleaned from Alekhine’s behaviour. He sought lesser opponents rather than give the awesome genius a return match.

-Robert Byrne”

In 1990 Dover did their usual “reprint” thing and re-issued the Horowitz and Harkness, New York, 1942 version with this cover:

The Immortal Games of Capablanca, Fred Reinfeld, Horowitz and Harkness, Dover Publishing, 1990 and then 2011 by Sam Sloan
The Immortal Games of Capablanca, Fred Reinfeld, Horowitz and Harkness, Dover Publishing, 1990 and then 2011 by Sam Sloan

and in 2011 Sam Sloan put on his anti-copyright Ye-Ha! cowboy spurs and re-issued his version with the original 1942 cover.

So, in 2022, what do we have that is new in this 21st century edition?

Firstly, we have FAN or figurine algebraic notation which should help to bring in those for whom English Descriptive is old hat (their words not ours).

Secondly, thirteen photographs of of Capa and his opponents liven up the pages that once contained a single image of Capa giving a simultaneous display at the Imperial Chess Club in London, 1911. Printing quality could have been improved but welcome they are nonetheless.

The format has transitioned from the old style single column with diagrams few and far between to a double column format with a liberal sprinkling of diagrams of greater printed clarity than the originals. Each game has been allocated an ECO code (or Rabar Index for our more mature readers). Indeed, the font is a little smaller than it was in 1942 but quite readable all the same.

The authors pithy annotation style has been retained for the modern student to enjoy and engine worshippers (“I cannot read a chess book that has not been engine checked”) are acknowledged using supplemental comments indicated by a Stockfish (S14) label.

We carried out a detailed edition comparison with the Collier edition and found some subtle differences. As noted previously the Robert Byrne Introduction  is not present but then again, it wasn’t in the original. Game 2a, Corzo-Capablanca is now Game 3 and the comment “This game discovered just as the book was going to press” is no longer present.

Capablanca-Voight, Philadelphia, 1910  is labelled as a Team Match between Manhattan CC and Franklin CC in 1942 and in 2022 as a simultaneous display game. Both Megabase 2023 and Chessgames.com concur with the recent verdict: any Capa scholars (EGW)  out there with definitive knowledge?

Game 15 is now identified as Capablanca – Bacu Arus from a blindfold simul whereas Black was listed simply as “Amateur” in the original.

Through out this fresh, new edition there are subtle additions of detail together with corrections to the original which are to be admired.

The Stockfish (S14) comments are sparse and unobtrusive but of value. For example, from Capablanca- Janowski we have reproduced the comments to Black’s 24th move only:

In summary it was an absolute pleasure to be re-united with this timeless classic and Russell Enterprises are to be congratulated on producing this fresh new edition with added value.

John Upham, Cove, Hampshire, 2nd March 2023

John Upham
John Upham

Book Details :

    • Softcover : 256 pages
    • Publisher:  Russell Enterprises (September 12, 2022)
    • Language: English
    • ISBN-10: 1949859274
    • ISBN-13: 978-1949859461
    • Product Dimensions: 15.24 x 1.27 x 22.86 cm

    Official web site of Russell Enterprises

    The Immortal Games of Capablanca Reinfeld, Fred Reinfeld, Russell Enterprises, Hanon Russell, September 12, 2022, ISBN: 9781949859461
    The Immortal Games of Capablanca Reinfeld, Fred Reinfeld, Russell Enterprises, Hanon Russell,
    September 12, 2022, ISBN:
    9781949859461

Opening Repertoire: Queen’s Gambit Declined: Tarrasch

Here is the publishers blurb from the rear cover:

“The Tarrasch Variation of the Queen’s Gambit Declined is a fierce counter-attacking line arising after 1 d4 d5 2 c4 e6 3 Nc3 c5. In this variation Black gains free and easy piece play but in return usually has to accept the structural weakness of an Isolated Queen’s Pawn (IQP).

In the early development of chess theory this line was somewhat frowned upon due to the vulnerability of the IQP. However, Siegbert Tarrasch, after whom the opening is named, famously declared that, “he who fears an Isolated Queen’s Pawn should give up chess”. The Tarrasch has had many powerful adherents over the years including the legendary Garry Kasparov who made much use of it in the early part of his career.

In this book Cyrus Lakdawala guides the reader through the complexities of the Tarrasch and carves out a repertoire for Black, based on a modern treatment popularised by the Russian grandmaster Daniil Dubov. He examines all aspects of this highly complex opening and provides the reader with well-researched, fresh, and innovative analysis.

Each annotated game has valuable lessons on how to play the opening and contains instructive commentary on typical middlegame plans. * A complete repertoire for Black to counter 1 d4. * The question and answer approach provides an excellent study method.”

About the author:

IM Cyrus Lakdawala
IM Cyrus Lakdawala

“Cyrus Lakdawala is an International Master, a former National Open and American Open Champion, and a six-time State Champion. He has been teaching chess for over 40 years, and coaches some of the top junior players in the U.S.”

As with every recent Everyman Chess publication high quality paper is used and the printing is clear. Each diagram is clear as is the instructional text. Figurine algebraic notation is used throughout. The usual and reliable formatting from Brighton-based typesetter IM Byron Jacobs is employed.

The diagrams do not have a “to move” indicator or any kind of caption so you will need to work out for yourself how they relate to the text that they are embedded in. However, this is fairly obvious.

There is a helpful Index of Variations and an Index of completed games.

The table of contents is:

Opening Repertoire: Queen's Gambit Declined: Tarrasch, Cyrus Lakdawala, Everyman Chess (16 Jan. 2023), ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-1781946961
Opening Repertoire: Queen’s Gambit Declined: Tarrasch, Cyrus Lakdawala, Everyman Chess (16 Jan. 2023), ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-1781946961

Before we continue it is worth taking a look at the pdf extract which includes the Contents, Preface and pages 87 – 108.

Everyman (and Cyrus) kicks-off in Chapter 1, The Classics  with its most welcome trait of laying out the historical development of an opening by detailing twelve significant games including this old favourite from 1969:

We very much like this feature of Everyman books and long may it continue!

In reviewing books from this author it is traditional to discuss his “Marmite” annotation style. In general, we are presented with a grammar and vocabulary rich narrative that gives you the impression that the author is coaching you one-to-one with a mixture of humour and superlatives. There is never a dull moment with his chatty style, of that we can be sure!

For example in discussing Larsen-Kasparov, Brussels, 1987

after Larsen’s 37 hxg7! Cyrus writes:

Exercise (critical decision): Even the serpent from the Garden of Eden would be impressed by Larsen’s talent for manipulative deception. His last move a good practical try in an objectively lost position. Should Black play 37…Bxg7, 37…Be7. or 37…Qaa2?”

Indeed, some reviewers become so distracted by the authors idiosyncratic style that they forget to review the content of the book!

The USP (“Unique Selling Point” for our younger readers) of this foray into Tarrasch land is to promote an alternative and albeit more active deployment of Black’s King’s bishop to c5 instead of the traditional e7. This nuance was first campaigned with success by Carl Schlecter versus Milan Vidmar at Budapest 1912 a year after becoming a novelty / TN from Georg Salwe who first punted it at Karlovy Vary in 1911. Since Netanya 2019 Daniil Dubov has played this line with success along with other notables such as Nodirbek Abdusattorov, Dommaraju Gukesh and Dennis Wagner to name but a few.

We must be grateful to the author for choosing to name this variation after Dubov rather than say Abdusattorov (!) but we think we could all appreciate a Wagner Variation / Cycle or two!

So, the Dubov Variation is:

which is, in turn an offshoot of the highly popular and reliable anti-IQP Rubinstein Variation (6.g3).

Chapter Two dispenses (via Games 13 – 15) with Whites various ninth move alternatives before focussing in Chapter Three on 9 Nxc6 (seven games) followed by the more critical 9 Nb3 (nine games) in Chapter Four.

To complete Black’s Dubov-based Tarrasch repertoire there is a nine game treatment via Chapter Five of the so-called Symmetrical Variation:

followed by an examination of the popular 6 Bg5 line:

and then positions resulting from White capturing on c5. Lastly the author tidies up by discussing the usual move order issues caused by White delaying development of the Queen’s knight.

Looking at the increasing popularity of the Dubov Variation this book is about as topical as one can get and its likely there will a gradual shift from …Be7 to …Bc5 and eventually this will filter down from the top to less giddy heights.

A constant theme of the book is learning through reinforcement of ideas and the solving of multiple combinational, tactical and positional understanding exercises.

Is there a final verdict on this line? No, and even if there was I would encourage you to obtain this book to find out!

As a taster here is a very recent smooth performance from Dubov himself:

Enjoy!

John Upham, Cove, Hampshire, 26th February, 2023

John Upham
John Upham

Book Details :

  • Paperback : 304 pages
  • Publisher:  Everyman Chess (16 Jan. 2023)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10:1781946965
  • ISBN-13:978-1781946961
  • Product Dimensions: 17.3 x 1.7 x 23.8 cm

Official web site of Everyman Chess

Opening Repertoire: Queen's Gambit Declined: Tarrasch, Cyrus Lakdawala, Everyman Chess (16 Jan. 2023), ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-1781946961
Opening Repertoire: Queen’s Gambit Declined: Tarrasch, Cyrus Lakdawala, Everyman Chess (16 Jan. 2023), ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-1781946961

Fabiano Caruana: 60 Memorable Games

From the Batsford web site:

“Following on from the enduring success of one of the most important chess books ever written, Bobby Fischer: My 60 Memorable Games, and the recently released Magnus Carlsen: 60 Memorable Games, celebrated chess writer Andrew Soltis delivers a book on Fabiano Caruana, the Grandmaster set to rival current world champion Magnus Carlsen.

This book details Caruana’s remarkable rise from chess prodigy to one of the best chess player in the world, exploring how he acquired the skills of 21st-century grandmaster chess over such a short period of time.

This book dives into how he wins by analysing 60 of the games that made him who he is, describing the intricacies behind his and his opponent’s strategies, the tactical justification of moves and the psychological battle in each one.”

About the Author:

“International Grandmaster Andrew Soltis is chess correspondent for the New York Post and a very popular chess writer. He is the author of many books including What it Takes to Become a Chess Master, Studying Chess Made Easy and David Vs Goliath Chess.”

 

GM Andrew Soltis
GM Andrew Soltis

If you’ve read and enjoyed the companion volume on Carlsen, you’ll want this as well. Many readers collect games collections, and will be eager to add a book on one of today’s leading practitioners to their shelves. This isn’t the only book on Caruana available: there’s one, for example, by Lakdawala, a writer with a very different style. If you like Soltis’s annotations you may well not like Lakdawala’s, and vice versa. They’ve both been doing what they do for a long time and understand their readership.

Here, then, we have sixty of Caruana’s most interesting games, not all of them wins, mostly from the last decade, but a few earlier, starting with a game from 2002. Most are standardplay games, but there are also a few rapid, blitz and internet encounters.

In his introduction, Soltis looks at what makes Caruana different from other top players.

And if he had a celebrity personality – that of a Magnus Carlsen, a Bobby Fischer or a Garry Kasparov – his story would be known well beyond chess circles. But Caruana is Caruana. “He is shy and modest, like a conservatory student”, one of his teachers said. He is content to let his moves do most of the talking.

He identifies several traits in Caruana’s play.

  • He’s a concrete player, relying on calculation more than intuition.
  • He doesn’t only rely on computer analysis, using curiosity and self-discipline to investigate the secrets of a position.
  • He believes the board and the pieces, playing the way the pieces tell him to play regardless of the tournament situation.
  • He is able to manage his nerves and emotions.
  • He chooses moves that push his opponents out of their comfort zone.
  • He is very patient, often playing quiet ‘little moves’ which slightly improve his position.
  • He employs deep opening preparation, much more than, for example, Carlsen.
  • An occasional flaw in his play is that he sometimes fails to deliver the knockout blow.
  • He has emotional stamina: he can deal with his mistakes and knows how to react when things go wrong.

The introduction also tells about Caruana’s early life in New York, and about the influence of the Soviet Chess School on his studies there.

Then we have, yes, sixty memorable games, each prefaced with a catchy title and a brief introduction. Just like another book of 60 Memorable Games.

The best way to describe this book, is, perhaps, to show you a few examples of Soltis’s style of annotations.

This is from Caruana – Aronian (Sao Paulo 2012).

Members of Caruana’s generation grew up with computers and Kasparov games. Many of them had little interest in games played before 1990.

Hikaru Nakamura called the classic books “a waste of time” and complained to his father, “Why do I have to study dead people?”.

Caruana studied them. He understood how White can benefit from d4-d5 in this pawn structure, as Bobby Fischer had in a celebrated game against Viktor Korchnoi.

16. d5

But in another textbook game (Tal – Panno Portoroz 1958) White scored with the alternative plan e4-e5. Here 16. e5! dxe5 17. dxe5 opens the b1-h7 diagonal. This does a better job than 16. d5 of exploiting the diversion of Black’s bishop to h5.

Black cannot protect his knight after 17… Nd5 18. Be4! with Be6.

Also unfavourable for him is 17… Nd7 18. axb5 axb5 19. Be4.

What do you think? Helpful? Informative? Instructional? Interesting?

This is from another Caruana – Aronian game, this time played in the Sinquefield Cup in 2014.  Caruana has just played 13. Bd2.

The pawn structure created by 11. Bxe6 gave Black a choice of four basic policies:

(a) Leaving the pawn structure intact. He could pursue a kingside plan such as 13… Qe8 and … Qh5/… Ng6.

(b) Change it by trading knights with 13… Nd4. His pieces would be freed a bit by 13… Nd4 14. Nxd4 exd4 15. Ne2 c5. This would expose his queenside to greater pressure after 16. a4 and Qb1 – b3.

(c) Attack the queenside. Thanks to 13. Bd2, White can respond to 13… Qd7 14. Na2 a5 with 15. c3. Black can add 15… d5 into the mix, with uncertain prospects.

13… d5

Aronian chooses (d), Gain space with this move, followed by … Qd6 or … Bd6 and potentially … d4/… a5. 

The reader learns from this how to create plans based on the pawn formation, specifically with regard to this position, and perhaps also more generally.

Do you like this style of annotation, or would you prefer something rather less dry? Perhaps you’d go to the other extreme, hoping to sees long computer-generated variations to demonstrate these plans.

Finally, another Sinquefield Cup game, this time with Caruana playing white against Nakamura in 2018, and considering his 26th move.

It was time for long-range thinking:

White could try for e4-e5 after offering an exchange of queens: 25. Qf4.

But even after 25… Qe7 26. e5 Bd5 it is not clear he is making progress.

For instance, 27. Nxd5 exd5 28. Rxd5 c3 or 28… Qb4. 

If e4-e5 isn’t a good plan, what about a kingside pawn march?

This would show promise after 25. g4 Be8 26. h4.

For example, 26… Bc6 27. g5! hxg5 28. hxg5 and Qh4/Rh1.

But the attack abruptly halts if Black swaps rooks, 26… Rd8! 27. g5 Rxd2 28. Rxd2 hxg5 29. hxg5 Rd8 30. Rxd8 Qxd8.

Then White’s knight has few good squares. But Black’s queen does (31. Qc5 Qd2 or 31. Qf4 Qd4).

25. Qc5!

Psychologically, the best move.

It gives Black a choice of playing an inferior endgame – which is likely to be drawn – or giving up a pawn he might lose anyway.

Nakamura mistakenly went for the inferior ending and eventually lost.

Did you find this clear and easy to follow, or confusing and hard to follow? Or just about right?

Whether you’ll enjoy this book, then, is very much about whether you like Soltis’s style of annotation. Me, I’ve been a long-term fan so I enjoyed the book very much, but it’s very much a matter of taste, isn’t it?

If you appreciate annotations of this nature, you won’t want to miss this. You can, of course, be sure that you’ll get 60 top class games from recent elite GM praxis, expertly selected and with commentary from one of the most experienced writers in the business.

Games collections such as this are popular with many readers, and all chess book collectors with an interest in contemporary grandmaster chess will want at least one book about Caruana on their shelves. If that describes you, you’ll certainly want to consider this book.

You might well ask how much a club standard player can learn from the games of someone 1000 or so points stronger. It’s a good question, but I think Soltis does a pretty good job of making the games both accessible and instructive.

The book is well produced to Batsford’s usual standards, although one or two diagram and notation errors escaped the proofing. I don’t care much for the title of this or the companion Carlsen book, which some might consider disrespectful to Fischer, but I guess the publishers choose the title they think will sell most copies.

If the extracts I’ve presented appeal, you won’t be disappointed. An excellent book from a highly respected author recommended for competitive players of all standards, for connoisseurs of fine chess, and for all interested in chess culture.

 

Richard James, Twickenham 25th February 2023

Richard James
Richard James

Book Details :

  • Paperback: 442 pages
  • Publisher: Batsford; 1st edition (3 Mar. 2022)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10:184994721X
  • ISBN-13: 978-1849947213
  • Product Dimensions: 15.24 x 3.49 x 23.5 cm

Official web site of Batsford

Fabiano Caruana: 60 Memorable Games, Andrew Soltis, ‎ Batsford; 1st edition (3 Mar. 2022), ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-1849947213
Fabiano Caruana: 60 Memorable Games, Andrew Soltis, ‎ Batsford; 1st edition (3 Mar. 2022), ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-1849947213

Opening Repertoire: Black Lion

Here is the publishers blurb from the rear cover :

“The Black Lion is a thoroughly modern counterattacking system that is a nightmare to face. This wild and aggressive line attempts to take away White’s initiative from a very early stage and is guaranteed to throw your opponents off balance.

The Black Lion is essentially a contemporary and aggressive interpretation of the Philidor Defence (1 e4 e5 2 Nf3 d6). The Black Lion starts with a slightly different move order, 1 e4 d6 2 d4 Nf6 3 Nc3, and now the lion family splits into two different animals: the risky lion (3…Nbd7) or the tame lion (3…e5). Both treatments are thoroughly investigated in this book.

Simon Williams (the Ginger GM) is the ideal guide to explain how to whip up an extremely dangerous attack using either treatment. Williams is well known for his swashbuckling, attacking play and the Black Lion suits his style perfectly. His commentary and annotations are always instructive and entertaining. * The Black Lion is an unusual and dangerous system with little established theory. * White cannot rely on simple, safe moves as such a strategy is liable to be overrun. * The Black Lion is fun and exciting to play!”

About the author:

GM Simon Williams
GM Simon Williams

“Simon Williams is a Grandmaster, a well-known presenter and a widely-followed streamer, as well as a popular writer whose previous books have received great praise. He is much admired for his dynamic and spontaneous attacking style.”

As with every recent Everyman Chess publication high quality paper is used and the printing is clear. Each diagram is clear as is the instructional text. Figurine algebraic notation is used throughout. The usual and reliable formatting from Brighton-based typesetter IM Byron Jacobs is employed.

The diagrams do not have a “to move” indicator or any kind of caption so you will need to work out for yourself how they relate to the text that they are embedded in. However, this is fairly obvious.

There is a helpful Index of Variations and an Index of completed games.

The table of contents is:

Opening Repertoire: Black Lion, Simon Williams, Everyman Chess, 15 Aug. 2022, ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-1781946282
Opening Repertoire: Black Lion, Simon Williams, Everyman Chess, 15 Aug. 2022, ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-1781946282

Before we continue it is worth taking a look at the pdf extract which includes the Contents, Preface and pages 128 – 141.

(One thing to note is that despite being published in August 2022, the most recently played cited games are dated from 2019 and, essentially, we have a Chessable course migrated into physical book form. I can’t imagine that this task was straightforward for editor IM Richard Palliser.)

Overall, this book offers a repertoire for Black (against 1.e4 essentially but 1.d4 d6 2.e4 Nf6 could transpose of course) after White has played 3.Nc3 as follows:

and from here on in offering Black the choice of two main continuations which are closely related but which Black can make distinctly different.

We have

which most would characterise as The Modern Philidor rather than a Black Lion (so named in the wonderful The Black Lion: The Chess Predator’s Choice Against Both 1.e4 and 1.d4 by Jerry Van Rekom and Leo Jansen (New in Chess, 2008).

Alternatively Black can essay the more provocative

which you could also term a Modern Philidor or a Lion Defence depending on Black’s subsequent handling of the position.

The Black Lion and Modern Philidor diverge based on what Black does with the Queen’s knight. If Black castles short and leaves the knight on d7 (initially) then we probably have a Modern Philidor. Deferring castling, re-routing the d7 knight to f8, playing h6 and g5 and then the knight goes to g6 and then f4 really is The Black Lion proper.

Anyway, enough of my pedantic nomenclature rambling…

As implied the transpositional possibilities are numerous so organising the material cannot have been easy. One thing to note is that the author advocates 5…Be7 in the main line which is a move order improvement over the older 5…h6 Lion move order. The Introduction lays out the ‘philosophy’ of the approach clearly differentiating the 3…e5 and 3…Nbd7 choices and together with early games provides background knowledge for those new to this …d6 dark square system.

Chapter One: Key Concepts and Lines essentially clothes the skeleton created by the Introduction and includes ideas such as the once feared Shirov Attack:

which is detailed in Chapter 11.

Chapter Two: Common Ideas is the first real exposé of the key Lion idea and spends pages 65 – 128 and 14 full games detailing the really quite profound idea of rerouting the d7 knight to f4. Anyone new to the Lion should study this chapter carefully before moving on.

Chapter Three: The Standard Set-up with Bc4 takes as its starting position

in which Black has deferred castling to allow the knight relocation manoeuvre.

Chapter Four: The Standard Set-up with 5.Be2 allocates twelve pages on a line that probably will never be seen by most second players but will be of interest nonetheless.

A consequence of the move order advocated in Chapter three is that White may attempt various ‘capturing on f7 type hacks’ and these are treated in detail in Chapters Five and Six.

Arguably the most obvious attempt to refute the 3…Nbd7 move order is the aggressive 4.f4 dealt with in Chapter Four: The Risky Lion: 3…Nbd7 4 f4

and then …e5

As indicated Black may chose to go down the “Modern Philidor” (although the author refers to this as “The Tame Lion) route as in Chapter Eight with

covering in detail the queenless middlegame variations. The more common White choice of 4.Nf3 is assumed to be covered elsewhere such as Chapters Three to Six, or is it…?

Coverage is completed with Chapters on various g4 ideas by White plus insipid ideas such as g3 and f3.

In summary, The Black Lion is a welcome take on an increasingly popular dark square defence to 1.e4 with the accent on the trademark knight manoeuvre and deferred castling providing many lessons learnt from the 2008 book which introduced the idea.

I would argue that a chapter is missing on the so-called Tame Lion / Modern Philidor move order making Qc7 less desirable and I am thinking of

arising from a typical move order such as 1.e4 d6 2.d4 Nf6 3.Nc3 e5 4. Nf3 Nbd7 5.Bc4 Be7 6.00 00 7.a4 c6 which has 3465 games in MegaBase 2023. No doubt the author will argue that this position where White has tried around 20 (!) different 8th moves deserves an entire book in its own right and I would agree with that.

As a consequence of the migration of the contents from Chessable course to book (which cannot have made life easy for the editor!) there is degree of repeated déjà vu as one reads the same comments. Presumably this is  measure of the Chessable philosophy of learning through reinforcement and would not normally happen in a “normal” physical book.

Bearing in mind my earlier comments regarding 2019 this book is a valuable addition to opening literature. Enjoy!

John Upham, Cove, Hampshire, 19th February, 2023

John Upham
John Upham

Book Details :

  • Paperback : 336 pages
  • Publisher:  Everyman Chess (22 August 2022)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10:1781946280
  • ISBN-13:978-1781946282
  • Product Dimensions: 17.3 x 1.7 x 23.8 cm

Official web site of Everyman Chess

Opening Repertoire: Black Lion, Simon Williams, Everyman Chess, 15 Aug. 2022, ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-1781946282
Opening Repertoire: Black Lion, Simon Williams, Everyman Chess, 15 Aug. 2022, ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-1781946282

Play the Barry Attack

Here is the publishers blurb from the rear cover:

“The Barry Attack is a highly aggressive system that arises after 1 d4 Nf6 2 Nf3 g6 3 Nc3 d5 4 Bf4. Although the concept of the Barry Attack has been known for a century or so, the modern interpretation (as with a number of other dynamic white systems) has mainly been developed by English grandmasters over the past couple of decades. This “modern interpretation” is often not very subtle.

If Black provides a target by castling early on the kingside, White will often let rip with moves such as Qd2, Bh6, 0-0-0 and h4-h5, playing very directly for a quick checkmate. If this strikes you as too crude to have a chance against a sophisticated and competent defender, then a quick glance through this book will undoubtedly change your mind. You will witness countless games where very strong players are destroyed on the black side in less than 30 moves. Sometimes a lot less.

This makes the Barry an ideal weapon for those who love to attack. Black’s defence has to be very accurate. If not, a quick annihilation is on the cards. Play the Barry Attack is the ideal guide to this fascinating opening. Anyone who reads this book carefully and studies all White’s attacking ideas will have a fearsome weapon in their armoury.”

About the author:

IM Andrew Martin
IM Andrew Martin

“Andrew Martin is a FIDE Senior Trainer and International Master. He teaches in twelve schools, is an experienced chess writer and has produced numerous chess DVDs.”

And now on with the review:

As with every recent Everyman Chess publication high quality paper is used and the printing is easy to read. Each diagram is clear as is the instructional text. Figurine algebraic notation is used throughout. The usual and reliable formatting from Brighton-based typesetter IM Byron Jacobs is employed.

The diagrams do not have a “to move” indicator or any kind of caption so you will need to work out for yourself how they relate to the text that they are embedded in. However, this should be fairly obvious.

The cover of the paperback appears to be of thinner material than usual: We miss the versions with built-in book markers at each end.

There is a most helpful Index of Variations and an Index of completed games.

The table of contents is:

Play the Barry Attack: Contents
Play the Barry Attack: Table of Contents

Before we continue it is worth taking a look at the pdf extract which includes the Contents, Preface and pages 118 – 137.

At this point we feel the need to make a couple of small confessions: we have played the Barry (and 150/1800) Attacks with the White pieces (but not the Black side) for some years and and share an emotional bond with the opening. We have been friends with the author since we were both members of the famous CentYMCA chess club in Tottenham Court Road, London between 1978 and 1983.

It is worth noting that this book follows-on from the publication (July 2021) of a ChessBase DVD entitledThe Barry Attack (by the same author) which (we don not have but) is likely to provide a useful compliment to this book.  However, the book contains more recent content.

We were disappointed not to find  a bibliography of sources since we have a particular interest in the development of this opening. For example, there was not a single mention of Aaron Summerscale’s superb  A Killer Chess Opening Repertoire, 1998, Everyman Chess,  which was one of the first (if not the first) books to discuss The Barry in detail: never mind! Aaron also recorded a superb DVD for Foxy Openings (#7, Anti King-Indian & Grunfeld System) which is still worth watching even in 2023.

Chapter 1, A Barry Timeline is an in-depth history lesson on how the Barry (what was it called before George Hodgson named it? We presume the usual “Queen’s Pawn Opening” type label) developed by examining thirty games spanning from Tartakower – Wahltuch, 1922 to Sadhwani-Jones from 2022, one hundred years later. Fascinating stuff!  If only more opening books bothered to do this it would give them a USP over their rivals.

The first real foray in explicit theory is via Chapter Two and the unlikely named Tarzan Attack (whoever gave it this epithet? Mark Hebden or Julian Hodgson perhaps?)

The Tarzan (or Lord Greystoke)  is as subtle as a brick (rather akin to the 150 / 1800 Attack) and forms the basis for Chapter Two. We remember for some years that the Barry Attack section of GM Tony Kosten’s  ChessPublishing.com and its associated forum had many posters swooning over 5.Qd2 and it soon became the line de rigeur. Of course, adequate resources were found for Black and these are examined in detail. The author tries his best to make 5.Qd2 playable and, of course, at club level (where anything goes according to Lombardy) it is worth a punt. Nineteen games are analysed and the most plausible and critical lines covered so you should be well prepared with either colour.

Chapter three (The Modern 5. Nb5) must be one of the first serious studies of what first appears to be “a bit of a patzer” line with the ambitious

which in 2023 is “all the rage” amongst Barry experts. Thirty-two pages are used to examine eleven games in detail and 5.Nb5 would appear to be a most playable and intriguing line. Almost certainly the first player will be more up-to-date than the second so well worth a try!

For many Barry die-hards Chapter Four (The Original Barry Attack) will be their first port of call to refresh their knowledge. At Seventy-Five pages and thirty-four examined games this is the most substantial chapter covering the most interesting struggles starting with

The author provides a balanced approach showing reliable methods for Black’s defence.  Conclusions: you will have to purchase the book to find out what these are!

Chapter Five (Other fifth moves for White) tidies things up with seventeen pages and seven games. This material will mainly be of interest to the second  player but there are some idea based around early h4 attempts by White.

The sixth Chapter (4…c6 and Others) will be of interest to the first player since it contains arguably less critical tries for Black where an early …c5 is punted. All good for completeness of course.

Chapter Seven (Transposition to a Pirc) might at first glance be discussing the 150 / 1800 Attack that a Barry move order can become.

However, appearences are deceptive and it contains forty-six pages and twenty-one games where White continues with 5. Bf4 against a Pirc type structure.

(whereas the more common approach would be

which is subtly different)

This is likely to be a good choice against a King’s Indian / Pirc player who is likely not to be familiar with the set-up. I’m not sure these positions have been given a detailed treatment such as this in the literature previously. Interesting stuff!

All in all “Play the Barry Attack” is a welcome and fresh treatment with much original analysis from real games. The author has and continues to be a supporter of lines developed by British players such as the Barry.

Enjoy!

John Upham, Cove, Hampshire, 9th February, 2023

John Upham
John Upham

Book Details :

  • Paperback : 320 pages
  • Publisher:  Everyman Chess (21 Nov. 2022)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10:1781946949
  • ISBN-13:978-1781946947
  • Product Dimensions: 17.3 x 1.7 x 23.8 cm

Official web site of Everyman Chess

Play the Barry Attack, Andrew Martin, Everyman Chess (21 Nov. 2022), ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-1781946947
Play the Barry Attack, Andrew Martin, Everyman Chess (21 Nov. 2022), ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-1781946947

Silman’s Chess Odyssey: Cracked Grandmaster Tales, Legendary Players, and Instruction and Musings

Silman's Chess Odyssey: Cracked Grandmaster Tales, Legendary Players, and Instruction and Musings, Jeremy Silman, Siles Press, 31st May 2022, ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-1890085247
Silman’s Chess Odyssey: Cracked Grandmaster Tales, Legendary Players, and Instruction and Musings, Jeremy Silman, Siles Press, 31st May 2022, ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-1890085247

From the Siles Press web site:

Silman’s Chess Odyssey is International Master Jeremy Silman’s homage – part instruction, part history, part memoir – to the game he loves. The book opens with with behind-the-scenes tales of tournament life. Then it profiles the lives and careers of eleven legendary players-Adolf Anderssen, Ignatz Kolisch, Johannes Zukertort, Siegbert Tarrasch, Wilhelm Steinitz, Emanuel Lasker, Frank Marshall, Rudolf Spielmann, Alexander Alekhine, Salo Flohr, and Efim Geller-with the help of diagrams and analysis of over 275 games. After that it delves into accounts of criminals who were talented chess players, discusses a memorably odd series of games in a historic interzonal tournament, and memorializes some of Silman’s friends in the chess world. It concludes with material on openings, imbalances, tactics, and psychology, and FAQs”

About the Author:

IM Jeremy Silman
IM Jeremy Silman

“Jeremy Silman is an International Master and a world-class teacher, writer, and player who has won the American Open, the National Open, and the U.S. Open. Considered by many to be the game’s preeminent instructive writer, he is the author of over thirty-seven books, including Silman’s Complete Endgame Course, The Amateur’s Mind, The Complete Book of Chess Strategy, and The Reassess Your Chess Workbook. His website (www.jeremysilman.com) offers fans of the game instruction, book reviews, theoretical articles, and details of his work in the creation of the chess scene in the movie Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone.”

IM Jeremy Silman
IM Jeremy Silman

 

From the author’s preface:

As I sit down to write this preface I find myself at a loss for words. Why? I’ve been writing about chess for over fifty years (as well as teaching and playing), but every paragraph I start to write seems as f I’ve written or said it a thousand times before.

I ask myself what are my current thoughts on chess. For example, computer chess engines are monsters. Humans have no way to beat them, and they will get better and better. 

Chess continues to be a part of everyday as I must feed my habit? I very much enjoy the game when I play blitz against other masters. Sadly, several of my close friends (my chess posse) have died: Igor Ivanov, Walter Browne, Pal Benko, Steve Brandwein (I can still hear Steve chanting, “I came, I ate, and I left”), and John Grefe, and I miss there banter. I enjoy chess teaching (if the student is really engaged) and I have a handful of students. But mostly I love, love, love chess books. 

Fantastic: so do I. Wait a minute, though. ‘I miss THERE banter’? While I’m at it, I’m not sure what that question mark is doing at the end of the first sentence in that paragraph. Although I share Jeremy’s love of chess books, I hate, hate, hate spelling, grammatical and factual errors (especially those in my own books and reviews).

To be fair, it does get a lot better: perhaps the preface was written after the grammar checker had read the rest of the book.

Jumping forward a bit:

I love chess history. For example, Gioacchino Greco – he was the best chess player in the world circa 1620. You must look at his games (see part four)! Greco was a master of tactics, positional play, and openings – he did everything! I Greco knew “imbalances” (which I created) he would be a chess god. As for Philidor (in the 1700s), Greco would destroy him.

Interesting, and perhaps a controversial opinion, quite apart from the question as to whether Greco actually played the games in his book. If you’re a historian of early chess, what do you think?

Further again:

And I am constantly amused by the endless stories. One of my favorites is the account Steinitz wrote following his physical battle with the hard-drinking Joseph Henry Blackburne (who was also known as the Black Death).

“After a few words Blackburne pounced upon me and hammered at my face and eyes with fullest force about a dozen blows … but at last I had the good fortune to release myself from his drunken grip, and I broke the windowpane with his head, which sobered him down a little.”

I laugh every time I look at this, as I hope you do when you read some of the stories squeezed in between the history and instruction within these pages.

There are so many sides to chess: You can have fun with it. You can study for long hours every day and become a strong player (that was my path). You can be a bad player, but just love the game and feel joy when you sit down at the board. You can be a five-year-old kid (boy or girl), or a ninety year old that plays every day.

I hope that every chess player will find some part of this book that speaks to them.

Here we have, then, an author with a distinguished record of writing instructional books, but who also has a passionate love of chess. If you share that passion you’ll want to read this book.

The first part, taking you up to page 56, offers Cracked Grandmaster Tales,  amusing anecdotes which Jeremy himself either witnessed or was part of.

Here’s Filipino GM Balinas drinking a cup of honey mixed with tea – and losing horribly.  Here’s Tal visiting Disneyland (his favourite ride was Pirates of the Caribbean). Here’s Najdorf, well, being Najdorf. Here’s Larsen, well, being Larsen and telling his favourite stories. All great fun, although I’m not sure everything would pass a sensitivity reader.

The bulk of the book, up to page 376 is taken up by Part 2, where Silman introduces you to his 11 favourite players of all time, mostly from the 19th and early 20th centuries. A pretty eclectic bunch they are as well, but with tacticians predominating: Anderssen, Kolisch, Zukertort, Tarrasch, Steinitz, Lasker, Marshall, Spielmann, Alekhine, Flohr, Geller). There’s a lot of variance in the number of pages allotted to them. Poor Zukertort only gets six pages, compared to Lasker’s 50, Marshall’s 67 and Alekhine’s 72.

Marshall’s chapter is, as you would expect, hugely entertaining. Silman offers us a lot of games, a few with Marshall’s annotations, some lightly and often amusingly annotated by Silman, and others without annotations, as well as a run-through of his career record.

He describes this rather inaccurate game, against Janowski, as a thrilling battle. As always in my reviews, click on any move for a pop-up window.

The annotations aren’t entirely accurate, either, if you consult Stockfish, or, for the last few moves, tablebases. The rook ending is certainly worth your attention if you like that sort of thing.

The chapter on Alekhine is also fun, although some readers will have seen some of the games many times before.

This game has a British interest, although I have a slight quibble. Milner-Barry was usually known by his middle name: Silman only gives his first name here.

There’s a more serious problem when we reach 1938.

Silman presents this Famous Miniature, but mistakenly attributes the black pieces to Rowena rather than her future husband Ronald Bruce.

This mistake still appears in some online sources, and earlier versions of MegaBase had it wrong, but it’s correct in the current version. This article sets the record straight.

Silman also fails the Yates test: he was just Fred, not Frederick (and MegaBase, frustratingly, still hasn’t picked this up). Silman is a lover of chess history, but, like many others, not a historian. You might equally well argue, I suppose, that not all chess historians actually love chess history, being interested in facts at the expense of character.

Part 3 is entitled Portraits and Stories. Here we have some chess-playing criminals such as Norman Whitaker and Claude Bloodgood, who will be familiar to readers of The (Even More) Complete Chess Addict.

Silman also pays tribute to a few of his departed friends. Here, I was struck by his memories of Steve Brandwein, an exceptionally strong blitz player who played very little over the board.

Here’s one of his games.

Part 4 is a real miscellany: Musings, Theory, Instruction, and FAQs. You’ll find all sorts of things here, including this classic game. It taught me a lot in my early teens, and improved my positional understanding by leaps and bounds. Perhaps, with Silman’s annotations, it will improve your positional understanding as well.

There’s so much more here: the aforementioned Greco games, chess psychology, some opening theory, answers to questions such as ‘Can Anyone Become a Grandmaster?’ – and the Greatest Amateur Game of All Time.

You might think there are at least two books struggling to escape from this heavy, well produced, entertainingly written and beautifully illustrated (a wide range of great photographs throughout the book) volume. Part 2, Silman’s First Eleven, might be compared with Chernev’s Golden Dozen, while Parts 1, 3 and 4 would make a great collection of Wonders and Curiosities of Chess. And, yes, I think I can see the great Irving’s shade smiling down in approval.

You might see it as a bran tub, a lucky dip. Turn to any page at random and you’ll find something to amuse, inform or instruct.

Despite some avoidable errors, which will probably annoy you less than they annoy me, this book is highly recommended to all true chess enthusiasts, whatever their rating. It’s Jeremy’s love letter to the game that has meant so much to him throughout his life, a paean to the beauty and excitement of chess. If anyone out there thinks chess is a dull game, or chess players are dull people, this is the book to disabuse them.

In his chapter on Geller, Silman writes:

In my mind, if you don’t know all the greats from the past, then you’re missing the heart and soul of what chess is about. So many wonderful games. So many stories; some funny, some crazy, some very, very sad.

I’m in complete agreement: what sets chess apart from other games is its history, heritage and culture. If you agree as well, or if you’d just like to investigate further, then you should certainly read this book.

Richard James, Twickenham 7th February 2023

Richard James
Richard James

Book Details :

  • Paperback: 550 pages
  • Publisher: Siles Press (US) (31 May 2022)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10:1849947511
  • ISBN-13:978-1890085247
  • Product Dimensions: 17.78 x 3.81 x 25.4 cm

Official web site of Siles Press

Silman's Chess Odyssey: Cracked Grandmaster Tales, Legendary Players, and Instruction and Musings, Jeremy Silman, Siles Press, 31st May 2022, ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-1890085247
Silman’s Chess Odyssey: Cracked Grandmaster Tales, Legendary Players, and Instruction and Musings, Jeremy Silman, Siles Press, 31st May 2022, ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-1890085247

300 Most Important Chess Exercises

300 Most Important Chess Exercises, Thomas Engqvist, Batsford (5 May 2022), ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-1849947510
300 Most Important Chess Exercises, Thomas Engqvist, Batsford (5 May 2022), ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-1849947510

From the Batsford web site:

“An informative and accessible new book by Thomas Engqvist, the practical follow up to his previous two authoritative chess books: 300 Most Important Chess Positions and 300 Most Important Tactical Chess Positions.

Filled with 300 engaging chess exercises and complete solutions in the end of the book, this book will allow you to apply and consolidate your newfound knowledge. The book is divided into four key sections: ·75 exercises practising positional ideas in the opening/middlegame ·75 exercises covering the endgame ·75 tactical exercises in the opening/middlegame ·75 tactical endgames.

The exercises featured in the book are taken from real game positions from various renowned chess players, including Capablanca and Magnus Carlsen.”

About the Author:

“Thomas Engqvist is an International Master from Sweden. He has over 30 years’ experience as a chess coach and teacher. He has worked with players at world championship level in both junior and correspondence chess. He is the author of 300 Most Important Chess Positions and 300 Most Important Tactical Chess Positions, both published by Batsford.

 

From the back cover:

  • In-depth analysis of the 300 most important exercises according to the famous principle “less is more”. The less you study the less you forget.
  • Practice the most important positional and tactical ideas in all phases of the game by solving just five positions every week for one year.
  • Find out if the positional or tactical idea crops up in your mind, regardless of whether you have seen the idea before or not.

Well, if you solve five positions every week it will take you 60 rather than 52 weeks to complete the book, but never mind. The claim that you’ll improve more by studying less is also rather silly: the real point is that the quality rather than the quantity of your study is important.

It continues:

In this highly instructive exercise book, International Master and experienced chess coach Thomas Engqvist outlines the 300 most important chess exercises. A sequel to 300 Most Important Chess Positions and 300 Most Important Tactical Chess Positions, this is the perfect manual for players who want to reach a higher level but don’t have the time to spend hours every week on less productive study.

Each numbered position is a test-yourself quiz to help cement the positional and tactical understanding that you have acquired. This book can be your life-long companion, enabling you to apply and solidify your positional and tactical chess knowledge.

Swedish International Master Thomas Engqvist has almost 40 years experience as a chess coach, teacher, writer and player. He has successfully worked with players at world championship level in both junior and correspondence chess. He works as a teacher at a school outside Stockholm. He is the author of eight chess books. This is his third book for Batsford Chess.

Yes, I get the point. Not everyone who wants to improve has the sort of time to spare that would be required to benefit from a book like this. Most of us have other commitments: just solving five exercises a week might be ideal. And what about the title? Are these exercises more important than the positions in the previous books? Who is to determine importance anyway. An exercise that’s important to me might not be important to you.

Let’s see what the author has to say in his introduction.

300 Most Important Chess Exercises starts off with 150 opening and middlegame positions to solve and the quota is 75 exercises where you practice positional ideas, and 75 exercises where the focus is on tactics. The other half of the book deals with 75 positional endings and 75 tactical endings. This is the only hint the solver will get.

This, then, is the final volume of a trilogy, with exercises based on the material in Engqvist’s two earlier Batsford books. If you’ve read and enjoyed them (sadly, I haven’t) you’ll undoubtedly want this as well. However, the author points out that it’s not necessary to have read them to read and benefit from this book.

The back cover claims that it’s a Universal book – suitable for players of all strengths.

No, it’s not. There’s an assumption that readers are proficient players with a good understanding of the game – say about 1500 strength. At the same time, some of the exercises will be familiar to more experienced players. I’d put the target range for this book, then, as in the region of 1500-2000 rating, although slightly weaker and slightly stronger players may also benefit.

I found Engqvist’s comments on the very first position in the book particularly interesting.

This is from a Morphy – Schulten game (New York 1857) with White to play.

White played 10. Bf4 here, but was it best? What would you suggest?

Engqvist:

Morphy claimed his 10th move was an improvement on 10. Qxd6 which was given in the leading treatises of the day (Hanstein – von der Lasa in Staunton’s “Handbook”). However this is not true if one consults the computer programs Komodo and Stockfish. It’s good to capture the d6-pawn as long as White can maintain pressure on the d-file. What’s more is that there is an even better move, suggested by both computers, namely 10. Nc3!. This is very interesting since Komodo makes good evaluations and Stockfish is good at deep calculations,  but they still come up with the same move!

This simple Knight move also follows Lasker’s principle that a knight should be developed before the bishop. The idea is to prepare Bf4 next move without allowing the d-file to be closed after …d5 . Morphy played according to the principle of development so his move is understandable, but the computers’ choice is the most precise. Even if we do know that development is on the agenda, we must also think carefully which piece to move first.

This tells you a lot about the author. Here we have someone who is well versed in chess history and culture, but also able to use modern technology effectively. Beyond that he has the ability to explain abstact concepts clearly and unambiguously.

Although that example may have been familiar to you if you’ve studied Morphy’s games, there are other exercises which you almost certainly won’t have seen before. Like this one, number 79, so it’s a tactical puzzle.

What would you play for White here?

This is from the less than Famous Game Kludacz – Pavlovskaya (Hasselbacken Open (Women) Stockholm 2001).

The whole game is interesting for anyone playing the Queen’s Gambit with either colour. White has launched a Minority Attack and now continued with 21. e4? which Black met with Bxh3!?, eventually winning the game.

Did you see how she could have done better?

21. h4! Ne6 22. Nce4!!

Presumably Kludacz missed the following knight sacrifice…

22… dxe4 23. Nxe4

White exploits the tactical weaknesses on f6 and c6. Black has no effective defence.

23… Qc7

If 23… Qe7 then 24. Qxc6

24. Nf6+ Kf8

White doesn’t need to cash in on f8 but can exploit the pin on the c-file.

25. d5!

Now Black’s position collapses and White wins.

Helpfully, Engqvist provides the whole game here so that readers can see how the position arose from the opening.

The second half of the book covers endgame exercises. Like other authors such as Judit Polgar and RB Ramesh, whose books I’ve reviewed recently, Engqvist believes that solving endgame studies is a very valuable form of chess training, so here we have a mix of studies and positions from practical play. He finds pawn endings especially fascinating, so there are plenty here.

Take this one, for example.

It’s White to play here (Kalinicev – Schulz Cham 1992). What would you suggest.

I guess most players, like me, would play 1. Ke7 here without a second thought, but it’s not the correct answer.

Engqvist:

The first time I saw this endgame I wrote in my private annotations that it’s “incredible that this move doesn’t win!” From a visual point of view it certainly seems that White’s king will wipe out the whole kingside of pawns like a vacuum cleaner,  but that turns out to be an optical illusion. The key move to winning is to play according to Nimzowitsch’s rule, which states that you should hem in the target before blockading it and only then destroy it!

 1. g4! would have prevented Black from moving his f-pawn to f5. Then 1… Kd3 2. Ke7 f6 3. Kf7 Ke2 4. f4 Kf3 5. f5. The f-pawn is now blockaded and a future attacking target. 5… Kg3 6. Kxg7 Kxh3 7. Kxh7 (7. Kxf6 Kxg4 8. Ke6 also wins but it’s unnecessary to give Black some hope even though that would be futile.) 7… Kxg4 8. Kg6 and White’s f-pawn decides.

Instead, the game concluded:

1. Ke7? f5 2. Kf7 Kd3 3. Kxg7 f4!! 4. Kxh7 Ke2 5. g4 Kxf2 6. g5 f3 7. g6 Kg3! 8. g7 f2 9. g8=Q+ Kxh3 with a drawn position because an eventual Qg3+ will be met by Kh1.

If you mistakenly went for Ke7 here then this may well be the book for you.

It does beg a question, though. This is billed as a positional endgame exercise, which it undoubtedly is, but it’s certainly tactical as well.

Of course positional and tactical chess are inextricably entwined, and, by the time you get to the ending, they’re really the same thing. The whole idea of splitting endgame exercises into ‘positional’ and ‘tactical’ seems very artificial to me. I’d guess this was the publisher’s rather than the author’s decision.

You probably hadn’t seen that position before (it’s not even in MegaBase), but if you’ve read anything on pawn endings you’ll almost certainly have seen the Famous Ending Cohn – Rubinstein (St Petersburg 1909), which you’ll also meet here. “If you only study one endgame with many pawns this is the one”, according to Engqvist, who discusses it over two pages. Regular readers of endgame manuals will find several other old friends as well: there’s six pages devoted to another Famous Ending, Timman – Velimirović (Rio de Janeiro 1979), to take just one example. Exercises 212-214 cover the ending of RB v R: the solutions cover 11 pages: extremely useful if you want to learn this ending, but I guess it’s debatable how important it is for average club players.

Here’s a quick endgame study from the last section of the book: tactical endgame exercises. See if you can solve it yourself before reading on.

White to play and draw (Prokes 1939)

A very game-like position, you’ll agree, and you were probably brought up with the knowledge that, in the absence of kings, two pawns on the sixth rank beat a rook.

In this instructive study, White’s king, contrary to appearances, is just about close enough.

Here’s the solution:

1. Kg4 e2 (1… d2 2. Kf3 Kd3 3. Ra1 e2 4. Ra3+ Kc2 5. Ra2+ Kc1 6. Ra1+ Kb2 7. Kxe2 =) 2. Rc1+ Kd4 (2… Kb3 3. Kf3 d2 4. Rb1+ Kc2 5. Kxe2 Kxb1 6. Kxd2 =) 3. Kf3 d2 4. Rc4+!!  Kd3 (4… Kxc4 5. Kxe2 Kc3 6. Kd1 Kd3 =) 5. Rd4+!! Kxd4 6. Kxe2 Kc3 7. Kd1 =

I hope you managed to solve this. But was it purely tactical or positional as well? What do you think?

To sum up, then, it’s very clear from this book that Thomas Engqvist is an exceptional teacher, who, like all exceptional teachers, knows exactly what he’s doing and why he’s doing it. Unlike some less experienced authors he doesn’t just throw a load of GM positions at you, show you a pile of computer generated variations and expect you to play like Carlsen.

To refer again to two other excellent books I’ve reviewed recently, if you find Ramesh too heavy and Polgar’s exciting enthusiasm grating, I’m sure Engqvist will hit the sweet spot for you. In that case you’ll probably want to investigate his two earlier Batsford books as well, and perhaps read them first. As the authors take very different approaches and cover different topics, ambitious club  players would do well to buy both Polgar and Engqvist. Young players who are aiming for IM or GM titles and have plenty of time to study would, on the other hand, be better off with Ramesh.

I’m just not sure that the format of the book is the best way to present Engqvist’s material, especially since endgames are both positional and tactical at the same time. (What the best format actually would be is an interesting question: different readers will prefer different formats. If you really, as Engqvist does, want to make the training environment resemble a tournament game you might want to mix the positions up rather than give a clue as to whether it’s a positional or tactical exercise.) I’m also not sure that the subtitle ‘Study five a week to become a better chess player’ is particularly helpful or realistic. Some of the positions require little time and explanation while others require a lot. The author himself doesn’t suggest in his introduction that this is the best way to use his book. As I suggested above, this book, notwithstanding the claims on the back cover, is far too advanced for beginners, but would be a great choice for anyone rated in the region of 1500-2000, or perhaps a bit higher.

But of course publishers do whatever it takes to sell copies, including resorting to unhelpful titles and unrealistic claims, and people don’t always buy chess books for rational reasons. Which is why it’s a good idea to read impartial reviews first.

The book is published to Batsford’s usual standards and appears to be free from the typos that mar books by some other publishers. The English might not always be totally idiomatic but is perfectly comprehensible throughout. I note that there is no mention of translators or proofreaders at the front of the book.

A book by an outstanding teacher, then, and, if the style and contents appeal to you, very highly recommended for club standard players ambitious to improve their rating.

Richard James, Twickenham 12th January 2023

Richard James
Richard James

Book Details :

  • Paperback: 416 pages
  • Publisher: Batsford (5 May 2022)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10:1849947511
  • ISBN-13:978-1849947510
  • Product Dimensions: 15.57 x 2.29 x 23.5 cm

Official web site of Batsford

300 Most Important Chess Exercises, Thomas Engqvist, Batsford (5 May 2022), ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-1849947510
300 Most Important Chess Exercises, Thomas Engqvist, Batsford (5 May 2022), ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-1849947510

The Match of All Time: The Inside Story of the legendary 1972 Fischer-Spassky World Chess Championship in Reykjavik

The Match of All Time: The Inside Story of the legendary 1972 Fischer-Spassky World Chess Championship in Reykjavik, Gudmundur Thorarinsson, New In Chess (30 Jun. 2022), ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-9493257474
The Match of All Time: The Inside Story of the legendary 1972 Fischer-Spassky World Chess Championship in Reykjavik, Gudmundur Thorarinsson, New In Chess (30 Jun. 2022), ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-9493257474

From the publisher:

“When the Icelandic Chess Federation made a bid to host the 1972 world title match between Soviet icon Boris Spassky and American challenger Bobby Fischer, many Icelanders were rightly shaking their heads in disbelief. How could their small island country in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean with a population of less than 300 thousand people stage such a prestigious event in the first place?

“Undeterred and naively optimistic, the young President of the Icelandic Chess Federation, Gudmundur Thorarinsson, set to work and to everyone’s astonishment theirs was the winning bid. But that was only the beginning of one of the most amazing stories in chess history… Bobby Fischer’s demands and whims constantly jeopardised the match. First the American chose not to board his plane in New York, and then he came late for the first game. That game he lost after a silly blunder and the second game he lost because he didn’t turn up in a fight about noisy cameras. But next he won the third game, that was played in a back room, and the rest…. is history.

“Fifty years on, Gudmundur Thorarinsson has written a tell-all book about ‘The Match of the Century’, crammed with behind-the-scenes stories and improbable twists and turns. Reading his gripping account of probably the most iconic sports contest during the Cold War, you will understand why he prefers to call it ‘The Match of All Time’. And why reliving this most unlikely adventure he comes to the conclusion: ‘It was not possible to organise this match, nor was it possible to rescue it…but still it was done!'”

“Gudmundur Thorarinsson is a chess organizer and businessman from Iceland. In 1972, as the chairman of the Icelandic Chess Federation he organized the Match of All Time, the World Championship Match between the Russian incumbent champion Boris Spassky and the American challenger Bobby Fischer.”

 

Half a century on from the legendary Fischer – Spassky World Championship match, and still the books keep on coming.

From Chapter 1 (Prologue):

Why write another book about the World Chess Championship match in 1972? Approximately 140 books have been published about the match already, plus films, TV and radio programs, newspapers and magazine articles. To add another book to this list seemed too much to me. But many people have been encouraging me to write about the match, people working for radio and television, chess players and friends. But many have simply said: ‘We still do not have a book written by someone who was working behind the scenes, where the bombs were falling.

One thing is certain: a long time ago this match acquired a life of its own. Nowadays people tend to look at the course of events from a different perspective. Looking at the match from afar enables the observer to put the whole saga into another context, broadening the horizon, so to speak. It may be true that the viewpoint and experiences of those of us who were on the frontline during the planning and execution of the event have not been widely documented. Those who wrote about the match in the following months, or even years after it happened, did so mostly by annotating the games, explaining the battle from the perspective of the chess players or the audience.

If you’re looking for the games of the match you’ll be disappointed: but of course they are readily available elsewhere.

What you have instead is a source document telling the story of what was going on in the background, written by someone who was there and very closely involved at the time.

The book is designed to be interesting to the general reader as well as the chess specialist. Chapter 2, therefore, looks at the origins of chess, including a contribution from GM Fridrik Olafsson, an expert in this field, and, specifically, the early history of chess in Iceland.

Chapter 3 relates the history of the world chess championship prior to Spassky, starting with Stamma and Philidor, and taking us as far as Petrosian. There is little here that will be new to readers familiar with chess history.

Chapter 4, on the prelude to the 1972 match, is where things start getting interesting. We read about Fischer’s wins in his Candidates Matches against Taimanov, Larsen and Petrosian before being introduced to the two protagonists, with background information about their family, upbringing and chess career. Then the bidding process for the match venue is discussed, with Iceland, a small country in the Atlantic Ocean, but with a proud chess history, unexpectedly being selected.

The author of this book had, as a young man, been appointed President of the Icelandic Chess Federation in 1969. He had been proposed in his absence by his brother and not wanting to cause embarrassment, felt he had no choice but to accept.  As a result, he found himself in the middle of negotiations which would have a dramatic effect on the history of chess.

Chapter 5, the longest in the book, covers the match itself in fascinating and engrossing detail. Everyone who was interested in chess at the time will have vivid memories of Fischer’s demands and conditions, and of the problems and arguments these caused. Thorarinsson was at the heart of everything that was happening, and it was to no small extent due to his diplomatic skills, often described here in a self-deprecating way, that the match eventually started and, more or less successfully, concluded with Bobby as the new World Champion. There’s a lot of documentary material here which will be new to many readers.

Chapter 6 describes the aftermath of the match. Fischer’s life over the next three and a half decades is related, including his return match with Spassky in 1992. Bobby spent the last few years of his life in Iceland, and Thorarinsson was again very much involved with expediting his journey from a Japanese detention centre, and with helping him settle in for what would be his rather sad endgame.

This and the final section, the author’s tribute to his friend, which he delivered at Fischer’s memorial service, are both intensely moving.

If you’re looking for chess moves, this won’t be the book for you. But if you want to know more about Fischer, and about the background to the 1972 match, it will be an essential purchase.

The book is, like everything from this publisher, beautifully produced and copiously illustrated with photographs and cartoons. There are many entertaining and enlightening anecdotes to keep you amused as well. It’s a great story, reminiscent of a Greek tragedy, and well told here from the author’s unique perspective. Whether or not you’re familiar with what happened half a century ago, you’ll find it a gripping read.

Do bear in mind, though, that while it may be an important source document for future historians (and we really need a fully sourced and referenced biography of Fischer) it’s a memoir with its fair share of uncertainty and speculation. You read that ‘Harry Golombek states in one of his books…’: yes, but which one? Or, to take another example, ‘According to some sources…’. Which ones?

I have a few other issues, just as I do with many New in Chess books, essentially coming down to the fact that it could have benefitted from a firmer editorial hand and a final read-through from a native English speaker. There are odd words and sentences that are not quite idiomatic. There’s also a certain amount of repetition (Fischer’s parentage is discussed on page 82, and again on pages 90-92) and one or two places where I felt continuity might have been improved.

Nevertheless, this book is essential reading for anyone with an interest in Fischer as a person, or in the 1972 Fischer – Spassky match. If the subject matter appeals to you, and, if you have any interest at all in chess culture and history, it undoubtedly will, don’t hesitate.

You’ll find pricing and other details here and sample pages here.

 

 

 

Richard James, Twickenham 26th December 2022

Richard James
. Richard James

Book Details:

  • Softcover: 224 pages
  • Publisher: New In Chess (30 Jun. 2022)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10:9493257479
  • ISBN-13:978-9493257474
  • Product Dimensions: ‎17.22 x 1.52 x 23.65 cm

Official web site of New in Chess

The Match of All Time: The Inside Story of the legendary 1972 Fischer-Spassky World Chess Championship in Reykjavik, Gudmundur Thorarinsson, New In Chess (30 Jun. 2022), ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-9493257474
The Match of All Time: The Inside Story of the legendary 1972 Fischer-Spassky World Chess Championship in Reykjavik, Gudmundur Thorarinsson, New In Chess (30 Jun. 2022), ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-9493257474

The Dragon Sicilian: A Take-No-Prisoners Repertoire Versus 1.e4

The Dragon Sicilian: A Take-No-Prisoners Repertoire Versus 1.E4, Anish Giri, New in Chess / ChessAble, 15th November 2022, ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-9493257351
The Dragon Sicilian: A Take-No-Prisoners Repertoire Versus 1.E4, Anish Giri, New in Chess / ChessAble, 15th November 2022, ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-9493257351
From the publisher:

“The Dragon Sicilian is the perfect choice for club players searching for chaotic and imbalanced positions. This opening manual shows how Black can turn up the heat against 1.e4, and enjoy dynamic winning chances game after game. Top-10 player Anish Giri is the best tutor to bring this complicated opening across to ‘everyday’ club players. Anish serves up his super-GM lines and clearly explains the ideas and strategies behind the moves. So when game time comes, you know exactly which moves to play, at what moment, and how to deliver the knockout blow. Make no mistake: This repertoire’s take-no-prisoners-strategy means you will sometimes reach razor-sharp positions, where both sides must play ‘only moves’. But that’s why you’ll love having Anish Giri as your opening coach. Giri delivers just the right mix of cutting-edge analysis and practical guidance for players of all levels with his trademark witty and down-to-earth teaching style. The Dragon Sicilian also covers all other major systems Black could face, including what to play against Anti-Sicilians such as the Rossolimo, the 2.c3 Alapin, and the Grand-Prix Attack.”

Anish Giri
Anish Giri

“Anish Giri became a chess Grandmaster at the age of 14 years, 7 months and 2 days. At the time, in 2009, that meant he was the youngest grandmaster in the World. Starting from the January 2013 list, the Dutch grandmaster was the leading junior player in the FIDE World Rankings. In June 2014 he turned twenty, which ended his junior years. Giri is a top-GM with a 2700-plus ELO rating.”

I am impressed with this colourful book, which is an accessible, lucid introduction to the Sicilian Dragon. The repertoire guide is a well- produced hardback book with an attractive vibrant front cover, good quality paper and many large diagrams, typically two per page and sometimes three making the work pleasant to browse and study.

The back cover blurb on the volume states that the opening manual work is aimed as an introduction for everyday club players, and it succeeds admirably in this respect. This title does not purport to be a major theoretical treatise or a “latest developments” style of publication, however, there is some cutting-edge theory and new ideas, some of which are new to the reviewer, who is a life-long Dragon addict.

The reviewer is not going to do a detailed theoretical critique the lines chosen by Giri for several reasons: time;  my knowledge of some of the lines recommended is not sufficiently well-developed yet and thirdly these surveys can often come down to a thicket of engine analysis which can be off putting for less experienced players and does not always enhance understanding: it is important to understand the typical ideas, so when your opponent deviates from the book main lines/engine main lines, you can work out a solution at the board.

Despite my comments above, it is important for any reader of an opening tome, to not blindly follow the lines and take everything as gospel: check with an engine and use other sources.

The book has a short, didactic introduction to the Sicilian Dragon introducing the ideas, and nineteen chapters.

DragonStartingPos
Dragon Starting Position

The book is effectively divided into four sections:

  • Yugoslav Attack main lines (five chapters)
  • Sixth move alternatives; non-Yugoslav Attack (five chapters)
  • Move orders, Accelerated Dragon and Drago(n)Dorf (two chapters)
  • Anti-Sicilians (seven chapters)

Yugoslav Attack Section

The first chapter gives a useful overview of the Yugoslav Attack main line 9.Bc4 variation.

This introductory part briefly surveys the other main systems, other than the recommended repertoire, that occur such as the Chinese Dragon, Soltis Variation, Modern Variation, Topalov Variation. This is a useful pointer for the reader to the myriad of Dragon systems.

Chapter 2 Yugoslav Attack 9.Bc4 Nxd4

This part covers the book’s suggestion against 9.Bc4 which is the rare system 9…Nxd4.

Yugoslav9...Nxd4
Yugoslav9…Nxd4

This system was popular in the late 1950s/early 1960s but fell into disuse after some high-profile white victories, such as Fischer-Larsen Portoroz 1958 and Tal-Portisch European Team Championship 1961.

The idea of the line is to reduce white’s attacking potential by exchanging some pieces. I can see the logic of recommending this line as it is a straightforward system which is not popular, so many white players won’t know how to meet it: white must be accurate to even get a small advantage. The disadvantage is that it could be regarded as passive as black defends a slightly inferior, but defensive ending in the main line.

Black’s move order in this variation is critical as Giri points out: black has just played 12…b5!

Yugoslav12...b5
Yugoslav12…b5

Giri offers a new twist on this ancient line with an intriguing positional pawn sacrifice in a main line, which has been played successfully in a correspondence game. Buy the book to find out.

Chapter 3 Dragon Main Line Konstantinov’s pawn sacrifice sidelines

This chapter covers the sidelines in the main line after 9.0-0-0 d5

White has a fair number of alternatives to the main line of 10.exd5 which are:

  • 10.Bh6
  • 10.h4
  • 10.Nxc6
  • 10.Kb1
  • 10.Qe1

The last two are definitely the most important with Giri covering these with main-line recommendations which are well known and fine for black.

After 10.Kb1 Nxd4 11.e5! Nf5 12.exf6 exf6 13.Bc5 d4! 14.Bxf8 Qxf8, this position is reached:

10Kb1MainLine
10.Kb1 Main Line

Black has sacrificed the exchange for active play: Magnus Carlsen has played this way; a host of games has vindicated black’s approach including Short-Carlsen London 2009 which was drawn after a serious of adventures.

Chapter 4 Dragon main line 9.0-0-0 d5 10.exd5

This chapter is divided into two sections covering the greedy pawn grab and what is probably the main line of the entire Dragon at top level.

The (in)famous pawn grab leads to this position:

PawnGrab
Pawn Grab Line

This position has been well known since the 1950s, black now plays 13…Qc7! with equality. White has to be accurate to hold on: as a youngster, I won many quick games in this line with black. The author covers this line well with respected well-known variations for black.

The main, main line occurs after 12.Bd4:

MainLine
Main Line 12.Bd4

Here Giri offers the old main line 12…e5 which has been under pressure in recent years. He offers an interesting, rare approach which if it holds up is very important for Dragon theory. Buy the book to find out.

Chapter 5 The early 9.g4

The idea behind this line is to prevent 9…d5 whilst avoiding one of the main lines 9.Bc4. the author recommends the well-rehearsed response 9…Be6 which is fine for black.

The second section of the book, chapters 6 to 10 cover the following variations:

  • Classical 6.Be2
  • Fianchetto System 6.g3
  • Levenfish 6.f4
  • 6.Bc4 system
  • Sixth move sidelines

These lines are perfectly respectable but do not threaten to extinguish the Dragon’s breath. Giri covers these with well-known antidotes. For example, in the Levenfish Variation:

Levenfish
Levenfish

Black has just played 6…Nc6! which neutralises white’s main idea to get in e5 to disrupt black’s development.

The third section has a couple of short chapters on the Accelerated Dragon and the Drago(n)dorf.  These are really supplementary chapters which are interesting but do not detract from the main book.

The fourth section has seven chapters on the Anti-Sicilians and covers over half the book which is excellent. These systems are very popular at all levels particularly at club level with the obvious intention to avoid reams of theory: we have all got stuffed on the white side of the Sicilian facing an opponent bristling with theoretical barbs. This part is divided as follows:

  • The Prins system 5.f3
  • The Hungarian system 4.Qxd4
  • Moscow Variation 3.Bb5+
  • Various 3rd moves
  • Closed Sicilian
  • Alapin 2.c3
  • Other second moves

I particularly like the chapter on the Moscow Variation, which introduced the reviewer to some new lines. As well as that, the author covers some excellent points about the importance of move order in the Maroczy system.

FM Richard Webb

FM Richard Webb, Basingstoke, Hampshire, 27th November 2022

Book Details :

  • Hardcover : 248 pages
  • Publisher:ChessAble / New in Chess (27 Sept. 2022)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10:9493257355
  • ISBN-13: 978-9493257351
  • Product Dimensions: ‎17.73 x 1.91 x 23.85 cm

Official web site of New in Chess

The Dragon Sicilian: A Take-No-Prisoners Repertoire Versus 1.E4, Anish Giri, New in Chess / ChessAble, 15th November 2022, ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-9493257351
The Dragon Sicilian: A Take-No-Prisoners Repertoire Versus 1.E4, Anish Giri, New in Chess / ChessAble, 15th November 2022, ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-9493257351

Improve Your Chess Calculation: The Ramesh Chess Course – Volume 1

Improve Your Chess Calculation: The Ramesh Chess Course - Volume 1, RB Ramesh, New In Chess (31 May 2022), ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-9056919979
Improve Your Chess Calculation: The Ramesh Chess Course – Volume 1, RB Ramesh, New In Chess (31 May 2022), ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-9056919979

From the publisher:

“Calculation is key to winning chess games. Converting your chess knowledge into concrete moves requires calculation and precise visualisation. The bad news: calculation is hard work. You cannot rely on feeling or intuition — you will have to turn on your brainpower.

The good news: you can improve your calculation skills by training. Set up a position on a chessboard and try to solve exercises without moving the pieces! Grandmaster Ramesh RB is the perfect coach to awaken your chess brain and feed you precisely the right exercises. ‘After only a month of intensive training with Ramesh, I could sense a seismic shift in both the precision of my calculation as well as my general level of sharpness’, says GM Daniel Naroditsky.

“GM Ramesh is one of the world’s most successful coaches. He has trained many of India’s top talents at all stages of their development on their journey to become International Masters and Grandmasters. Ramesh understands what mistakes players can make while calculating. He knows that the best move in a specific position may be the opposite of what your intuition is urging you to play. And he serves you the exercises to correct these misconceptions and start finding the right solutions. Every chess player will benefit from the hundreds of exercises in this book. Coach Ramesh will take your calculation skills from a club players level to grandmaster level.”

 

This is the first of what promises to be a multi-volume series of coaching books under the title of The Ramesh Chess Course. As Ramesh is perhaps the world’s most successful chess coach this promises to be a treat for all ambitious players. As calculation is the single most important skill in chess, there’s no better place to start.

Ramesh starts off by telling us how to use the book. Here are his first two paragraphs.

  1. Have a good look at every position and try to understand what is going on behind the scenes. Compare the king positions, piece placements, pawn structure, material parity, etc., before beginning your analysis.
  2. Before we start analysing any move, we should make a list of reasonable looking moves and only then begin analysing them.

Good advice, although 2. is Kotov’s Candidate Moves idea, which not everyone finds useful in every position. Always useful when tackling the tasks set in this book, though.

The most important paragraph here is the final one, number 10.

I have divided the material into five categories:
Level 1 = Elo Rating 1200-1600
Level 2 = Elo Rating 1600-2000
Level 3 = Elo Rating 2000-2400
Level 4 = Elo Rating 2400-2600
Level 5 = Elo Rating 2600 & above

It’s always a problem for authors and publishers of multi-volume coaching courses whether to structure the material horizontally (by topic) or vertically (by difficulty of material). Ramesh and New in Chess have chosen the former rather than the latter route.

If you’re anywhere between 1200 and 2800 strength, then, you’ll find exercises pitched at the right level for you, but you’ll also find much which is either too hard or too easy. If you’re a coach working with students anywhere between 1200 and 2800 strength, likewise you’ll find plenty of great coaching material.

As you’ll see, quite a lot of the book is taken up with Level 5 exercises, which, by their nature, often involve several pages of detailed analysis.

Each exercise is labelled with the appropriate level, with the more complex exercises comprising a number of ‘tasks’. In each case we are told the amount of time the student should be allowed.

The first chapter considers the difference between dynamic and static positions: it’s the former which are the subject of this book. There are two critical areas to study: Calculation and Attack.

The first task is set at Level 1: you have 2 minutes to solve it.

This is Carlsen – Vachier-Lagrave, from a 2021 speed game. Magnus played 34. Bd4+ Rxd4 35. cxd4 Bxd4, which really should have been a draw, but he later managed to win it.

He missed the move I hope you found, 34. Rc8!, which would have forced immediate resignation as after 34… Rxc8 there’s 35. Bd4#. Ramesh points out the 34… Ra8 35. Rxa8 Rxa8 36. Bd4#. I don’t know about you, but I’d have preferred the immediate 35. Bd4# here. A slightly unfortunate start, but I guess it doesn’t really matter.

In Chapter 2 Ramesh shares with us some games and positions he’s used to train his students, aiming to recreate his training sessions and demonstrate typical mistakes. He expects you to look deeply into each position, calculate multiple variations without making mistakes and evaluate the position correctly at the end. I hope readers will find this instructive and exciting. 

The first example is an endgame study (there are a lot of studies in this book) composed by Alexandr Grin in 1989.

His student gave the solution as 1. Nb5 a2 2. Na7+? Kc7 3. c6 a1Q with stalemate, overlooking that Black could win in this variation by playing 3… Kb6 instead.

As Ramesh explains over 2½ columns, it’s very easy to get over-excited when you see a beautiful idea and fail to check it through thoroughly.

The correct solution to the study is 2. c6! a1Q+ 3. Na7+ Kd8 4. c7+ Kxc7, again with stalemate. His student had the right idea but failed to execute it correctly.

Chapter 3, The Analytical Process, is the heart of the book. Ramesh explains in detail how to calculate and how to analyse, taking into account psychological as well as purely chess factors.

The advice in this chapter will be of great interest and benefit both to chess coaches and to ambitious players at all levels.

Most of the examples here are extremely complex positions, usually Level 5 (suitable for 2600+ players).

Take, for example, this complex position (Smyslov – Rubinetti Palma de Mallorca Interzonal 1970).

Here, we have 16 pages of detailed analysis, broken down into 27 tasks, with nested variations given labels such as B3113242). You may well, like me, find it hard to follow, even with the copious diagrams provided.

Ramesh comments at the end:

In my training with young players for over a decade, I have seen that analysing very complicated positions without the help of moving pieces on the board is not only possible, but even essential for quicker and long-lasting improvement in a player’s analytical capabilities. This will require the coach to be patient and believe in the capabilities of his student in the long run. From the players’ part, they must put in a genuine effort to try to analyse the positions without giving in to self-defeating doubts. In my academy, even 1800-level players can follow all the analysis like this with some effort and without a chessboard. It is simply a question of patience and perseverance.

If you’re interested in the complete game, here it is. Click on any move for a pop-up window. Black’s last move was a losing blunder: the only way to draw was 44. a1Q.

It’s clear from this book that chess tuition has changed a lot in the past 20 years or so. (60 years ago, when I was learning chess, if you wanted to improve you had no choice but to read a book.) Visualisation exercises and solving endgame studies (recommended by Judit Polgar as well as Ramesh) are now common.

Later in the chapter, Ramesh has this to say.

Even though humans can probably never analyse at the level of engines anymore, it is possible to take the help and inspiration from engines to further our capabilities to previously unknown levels. I have personally trained players with ratings in the range of 1400-1800 to analyse variations that players of previous generations with a rating range of 2200-2400 were unable to do. This is one of the reasons my students in the 9 to 14 age group can quickly become International Masters or grandmasters.

Chapter 4 provides more examples of Forcing Moves. Judit Polgar, like me, uses the acronym CCTV: in her case Checks, Captures, Threats and Variations. Ramesh adds pawn breaks into his definition of Forcing Moves. If you still want to use CCTV you might try Checks, Captures, Threats and pawn leVers perhaps.

Here’s a Level 3 question (Henrichs – Fontaine Bremen (Bundesliga) 2012).

Black won this game by using a series of forcing moves: captures and threats: 20… f3 21. Nxf3 Rxf3 22. Bxf3 Nxb4 23. Bxb7 Nxc2 24. Be4 Nxa3 25. Rb3 Qa4 0-1

Ramesh mentions that 20… f3 wasn’t Black’s only strong move here: 20… Nd4 was another way to play for the win.

In Chapter 5 we learn about typical mistakes made while calculating variations.

Ramesh lists 14 types of mistake, starting with not being able to visualise the position in the mind, not seeing forcing moves and not making a list of candidate moves, giving examples and possible solutions.

In this world championship game from 2008 Kramnik, playing White, made a fatal error.

29. Nd4? was a blunder, missing 29… Qxd4 30. Rd1 Nf6! 31. Rxd4 Nxg4 32. Rd7+ Kf6 33. Rxb7 Rc1+ 34. Bf1 Ne3!, when Anand had a winning advantage.

I guess it’s debatable whether Kramnik’s error was one of calculation or evaluation, and whether he’d missed Anand’s 30th or 34th move.

Chapter 6 is devoted entirely to endgame studies.

Here’s Ramesh:

Whenever I feel my student’s calculation skills are not up to the mark, I will make them solve studies for three to four hours a day for around three to five days in a row. Usually, the students will show significant improvement in their calculation skills.

You might like to try your hand at solving this Level 2 study, composed by the great Leonid Kubbel and published in 1911. It’s White to play and draw.

The solution runs like this:

1. Rc1+ Bb1 2. Kb3 g2 3. Ka3 h2 4. Rc2 g1=Q (4… Bxc2) (4… Ba2 5. Rxg2 h1=Q 6. Rg1+ Qxg1) 5. Ra2+ Bxa2 *

Finally, Chapter 7 offers some more general suggestions for chess improvement. As with the suggestions throughout the book, these cover many aspects of chess psychology as well as practical advice which will be beneficial for all players and teachers.

While there’s an enormous amount of helpful advice both here and elsewhere in the book, there’s also some repetition which might have been better avoided.

For instance, returning for a moment to Chapter 6, we’re told on both p258 and p260 that solving a study might take anywhere between 5 and 40 minutes. I think this might have been picked up by the publishers at editing or proofing stage.

How to summarise?

This is an important book, and, by the look of it, part of an important series. The author is arguably the most successful high level chess teacher in the world, and, reading the book, you can understand why. The positions are all well chosen and the explanations throughout the book display profound insight into the minds of chess players. Although you might think it’s aimed at stronger or at least more ambitious players, it will, for the general advice, in particular that of a psychological nature, be a great read for many players of all levels. Even though not everyone will find the book’s structure particularly helpful, it’s also esssential reading for anyone who teaches chess to students rated 1200+.

Speaking as a retired 1900-2000 strength player, the Level 4 and Level 5 examples, which take up a lot of the book, were way beyond me and not always easy to follow. At one level, it was interesting to see how deeply highly complex positions can be analysed, and how talented young players who are prepared to put in the necessary time and effort can learn to perform these tasks, but at another level I found it rather disspiriting to work through so many pages of dense analysis. To be fair, though, I’m not really part of the target market for this book.

At the same time, the market for books aimed at 2400-2600 strength players must be very limited. What I’d like to see would be a book taking a more structured approach, with, for example, 100 pages each of exercises at Levels 1, 2 and 3 (which is anyone from 1200 to 2400 strength), along with some general advice at either the beginning or the end of the book.

Instead, what we have is a book which is more about how to teach calculation and how to improve your calculation rather than one where you can start at page 1 and work your way through in sequential fashion. Ramesh also expects his students to have seriousness of purpose and a strong work ethic, as well as plenty of time to spend on chess improvement. If you’re just a hobby player looking to have fun and make a bit of progress, you might well find this rather scary.

The approach recommended here certainly isn’t for everyone, but even so, any reader who is prepared to work hard will gain a lot from this book.

I couldn’t really imagine Ramesh exclaiming ‘Awesome move!!’ and ‘Kaboom!!’ like Judit Polgar. If you’d prefer something that also covers calculation skills, but is an easier read taking a more ‘fun’ approach I’d recommend this book instead. They certainly have points in common: teaching you to look for Checks, Captures and Threats, and using endgame studies.

You can find more details here and read some sample pages here.

I’d also, by the way, recommend reading an excellent interview with Ramesh which appeared in New in Chess 2022#3, which puts his methods into context.

I look forward very much to seeing future volumes in this series.

Richard James, Twickenham 5th December 2022

Richard James
. Richard James

Book Details:

  • Softcover: 336 pages
  • Publisher: New In Chess (31 May 2022)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 9056919970
  • ISBN-13:978-9056919979
  • Product Dimensions: ‎17.25 x 2.64 x 23.67 cm

Official web site of New in Chess

Improve Your Chess Calculation: The Ramesh Chess Course - Volume 1, RB Ramesh, New In Chess (31 May 2022), ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-9056919979
Improve Your Chess Calculation: The Ramesh Chess Course – Volume 1, RB Ramesh, New In Chess (31 May 2022), ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-9056919979