Tag Archives: Gambit Publications Ltd.

Chess Logic in Practice

Chess Logic in Practice : Erik Kislik

Erik Kislik is an American IM and chess coach who has been based in Hungary for some years.

This is his second book, a successor to Applying Logic in Chess, which proved rather controversial, containing rather more words and less chess than you might expect. John Hartmann’s review proved even more controversial than Kislik’s book, and was subjected to some rather aggressive online responses by the author’s friends and supporters.

As someone who likes chess books with lots of words and has a specific interest in logic, I was sufficiently intrigued to buy the book myself and find out what all the fuss was about. While agreeing with Hartmann’s reservations, I enjoyed the book and was looking forward to the sequel.

Kislik’s premise is that, by using logical thought processes, we can eliminate bias from our thinking and improve our choice of candidate moves. According to the introduction: “I decided to write this book to lay out straightforward problem-solving approaches to the tough decisions we face in practical games. We have all sorts of biases that get in our way and stop us from finding, considering and calculating strong moves.”

Unlike his previous book, you’ll find a lot more chess than verbiage here. The book is full of interesting extracts from top GM games, games by the author and his students, and positions from opening theory.

Kislik splits his material into two parts. The first part, Thinking Concepts, concerns identifying specific cognitive biases which might prevent us finding the best moves. The second part, Positional Concepts, looks at more directly chess-related ideas.

You can find a contents list and sample pages on the publisher’s website.

I guess I’m not really part of the target market as I have had no particular interest in improving my own chess for several decades now and am gradually winding down my playing career.

For reference, my ECF grade is, at the time of writing, 167, which would be round about 1900 Elo.

What did I make of the material? Does it succeed in its aim? What level of player is it aimed at?

Chapter 3, The Method of Elimination, tells us that we can simplify our choices if there’s only one move that meets our opponent’s threat or, in some other way, reacts to the demands of the position. Sure, but I’ve certainly played games where I’ve done just that only to find that the one move to meet my opponent’s threat, which I’ve played without too much thought, allows something much worse. There seems to be an assumption here that the reader calculates much more accurately and quickly than I do.

This position is from Harikrishna-Dominguez (Wijk aan Zee 2014) with Black to play.

Black’s a pawn down, so he has no choice but to play Qg6, which, as you will see, regains the pawn with equality. Not so hard, even for me, but I was more interested in the position a couple of moves earlier where he chose to free his position by a temporary sacrifice of his e-pawn.

A few moves later they reached this position:

Here Dominguez played a5. Kislik: “This very unnecessary defensive move allows White to make a lot of progress and set some awkward problems. 32… Ke7 is a move I would have chosen by a process of elimination. Black improves his worst-placed piece and White has no threats anyway.” The position should still be within the bounds of a draw, but Harikrishna gave a textbook example of how to maintain the pressure and eventually brought home the full point.

Yes, but you might equally well say that Black would have been following general principles: bringing his king up for the ending and not creating unnecessary pawn weaknesses.

This is from Chapter 12: Painfully Slow Moves: Kislik-Szalanczy Budapest 2009 with White to play.

Looking at what I’d learnt from Chapter 3, I’d quickly eliminate everything except gxf7+ and Rxf7 as I don’t want to lose the g6 pawn for nothing. In fact both moves give White a slight plus. Kislik chose gxf7+ and a few moves later allowed a perpetual.

As he explains, he missed a Painfully Slow Move: “33. Rf4!! wins by threatening the very modest Qxe7.” Wait a minute. Why does Rf4 threaten Qxe7?  Why can’t I play Qxe7 at once? He analyses various other lines but doesn’t answer my questions. I asked Stockfish 10, who told me that 33. Qxe7 Qg1+ 34. Kc2 Qxg2+ 35. Nd2 fxg6 is equal, but if the white rook was on f4 rather than f5 White would be mating with Qe6+ followed by Rh4+. All rather too deep for me, I’m afraid.

I believe there have been several recent books based on the opposite premise: that to play at a high level you need to use creativity, imagination and intuition rather than just pure logic. At my level, at any rate, I’d need to go beyond pure logic to find Rf4.

I get the feeling from this example that the book is really aimed at stronger players than me. The book is full of punctuation marks and assessments without further comment. From my perspective I’d have preferred fewer examples and more explanation.

I wonder also if the author might have had a database of instructive positions and a list of interesting chapter headings and tried to shoehorn everything in somehow and somewhere.

The other quibble I have is with the layout. It’s all rather breathless, with one position being followed by another without a pause, I’d have liked a gap, or even a horizontal line, to separate examples, so that my brain could take a break.

In spite of my reservations, I’m sure that a player of, say, 2000+ strength prepared to work hard will get a lot out of this book. Kislik’s theories are thought provoking and his examples fascinating. Slightly lower rated players will, as I did, get a lot of pleasure out of reading this book and enjoying some excellent chess.

Richard James, Twickenham, January 14th 2020

Richard James
Richard James

Book Details :

  • Hardcover : 240 pages
  • Publisher: Gambit Publications Ltd (18 September 2019)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1911465244
  • ISBN-13: 978-1911465249
  • Product Dimensions: 17.1 x 2.3 x 24.8 cm

Official web site of Gambit Publications Ltd.

A Startling Chess Opening Repertoire (New Edition)

A Startling Chess Opening Repertoire : Chris Baker and Graham Burgess

A Startling Chess Opening Repertoire (New Edition)
A Startling Chess Opening Repertoire (New Edition)

FIDE Master Graham Burgess needs no introduction to readers of English language chess books ! Minnesota, USA based, Graham has authored more than twenty five books and edited at least 250 and is editorial director of Gambit Publications Ltd. In 1994 Graham set a world record for marathon blitz playing and has been champion of the Danish region of Funen !
We previously reviewed Chess Opening Traps for Kids also by Graham Burgess.

FM Graham Burgess
FM Graham Burgess

This new book is an extensive rewrite and update of the original (1998) edition by IM Chris Baker.

IM Chris Baker
IM Chris Baker

Baker and Burgess have provided a complete repertoire for the White player based around 1.e4 and the Max Lange Attack with suggested lines for White against each and every reasonable reply from Black. Logically, the content is organised based on the popularity of Black’s first move and therefore the order is

  1. 1…e5 2.Nf3
    • 2…Nc6
    • 2…Nf6
    • 2…d6 (and Modern Philidor)
    • 2…f5
  2. 1…c5
  3. 1…e6
  4. 1…c6
  5. 1…d6 & g6
  6. 1…Nf6
  7. 1…d5 (we might have put the Scandinavian higher up the pecking order but that is a matter of opinion)
  8. 1…Nc6
  9. Odds & Ends
    • Elephant Gambit
    • St. George
    • Owen’s Defence

and for each Black defence the authors have selected sharp and challenging lines for White that will definitely give Black something to think about. We have sampled some of these lines and confirm that they are variations that Black needs to tread very carefully in to stay on the board. They are all sound and not based on “coffee house gambits” or cheap traps.

Who is the intended audience of this book ? Well, clearly anyone who currently plays 1.e4 or is contemplating adding 1. e4 to their repertoire. Also, anyone who faces 1.e4 (and that is everyone who plays chess!) should be aware of of what might land on their board when they are least expecting it. As Robert Baden Powell would advise : “Be prepared !”

Keep Calm and Be Prepared
Keep Calm and Be Prepared

Unfortunately, We do not possess a copy of the original 1998 edition and we were curious as to the extent of the changes. The Introduction states :

“For this new edition, I have sought to retain the spirit and aims of the original book, while bringing the content fully up-to-date, making a repertoire that will work well in 2019 and for years to come.

In a sense it is basically a new book: wherever anything needed correcting, updating, replacing or adding, I have done so. Where material is unaltered, this is because it passed verification and nothing needed to be added. … the overall recommendations were not changed unless this was necessary. Some lines covered in this book basically didn’t exist in 1998, so I needed to decide what line against them was most in keeping with the rest of the repertoire.”

We followed up on the above and contacted the author (GB) receiving a very helpful reply as follows :

Something like 70% of the content is either new or modified so much as to be basically new. Examples of lines that essentially didn’t exist in 1998 include “Tiger’s Modern” and the 3…Qd6 Scandinavian. Lines where the old recommendation has been replaced (since it was fundamentally flawed in some way) include the Modern Philidor and the Two Knights French with 3…d4 (I briefly explain the switch from 5 c3 to 5 b4).

The whole Three Knights/Four Knights section in Chapter 10 is new, both to fill the repertoire hole and to provide an alternative vs the Petroff to those who don’t like the Cochrane.

But, almost every part of the book features fundamental changes. Little remains of the original Part 3 of the Sicilian chapter (other than the basic theme of a fianchetto set-up), for instance.

My aim was to be faithful to the aims of the original book, but only to the specifics where they still work, or where there isn’t a new possibility that fits better with the repertoire.

and furthermore :

I have attached a graph showing the years the game references come from. The number for each year shows the cumulative total up to that year. Though this doesn’t really tell the full story, as I cited game references in a very sparing way, only using them when there seemed a real purpose in doing so.

and here is that graphic (courtesy of Graham) :

A graph showing the years the game references come from. The number for each year shows the cumulative total up to that year.
A graph showing the years the game references come from. The number for each year shows the cumulative total up to that year.

Clearly we are not going to reveal all of the suggestions here as that really would be a spoiler. Suffice to say that players of the Black lines would be wise to be aware of B&Bs suggestions ! We would recommend that any of the lines are tried out in off-hand games and on-line before important games and some of the more critical ones will need a degree of memorization to a fair few moves deep.

In the BCN office we have a Caro-Kann expert who confirmed that B&Bs suggestions for White are most definitely on the cutting edge and were checked with Stockfish 10. Indeed a team mate tried the suggestion for White in a league match and the opponent (a Caro-Kann player of more than forty years) had a catastrophic loss on his hands in short order.

As a taster here is a suggested line from the book that is full of pitfalls for Black :

We consulted an experienced (and successful) player of the Elephant Gambit* and was told that he had never faced White’s fifth move suggestion in more than twenty years and that it was an excellent suggestion worthy of respect. *Some might know this as the Queen’s Pawn Counter Gambit (1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 d5!?)

In summary, this second edition is a substantial update and improvement of a first edition well received and we recommend it heartily to anyone who wants to sharpen and refresh their 1.e4 repertoire and anyone who faces 1.e4. You will not be disappointed and you might be ready for someone’s preparation and shock tactics !

John Upham, Cove, Hampshire, December 13th 2019

John Upham
John Upham

Book Details :

  • Hardcover : 192 pages
  • Publisher: Gambit Publications Ltd; 2nd New edition edition (22 Sept. 2019)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1911465325
  • ISBN-13: 978-1911465324
  • Product Dimensions: 17.1 x 1.5 x 24.8 cm

Official web site of Gambit Publications Ltd.

A Startling Chess Opening Repertoire (New Edition)
A Startling Chess Opening Repertoire (New Edition)

Chess Tactics Workbook for Kids

Chess Tactics Workbook for Kids : John Nunn

Chess Tactics Workbook for Kids
Chess Tactics Workbook for Kids

John Nunn has written around thirty books on chess and many of these are some of the finest chess books published in any language : Secrets of Pawnless Endings (1994, Batsford) easily is a candidate for the all time list. John is a director of Gambit Publications Ltd. together with Murray Chandler and Graham Burgess.

GM John Nunn
GM John Nunn

Chess Tactics Workbook for Kids is the sixth (a seventh and eighth are scheduled for January 2020 publication) in a highly successful series of “for Kids” books. Indeed, we recently reviewed Chess Opening Traps for Kids. The Workbook theme is likely to be extended other “for Kids” style books from Gambit Publications.

This workbook is a follow-up to the original (2003) and much liked Chess Tactics for Kids by Murray Chandler :

Chess Tactics for Kids
Chess Tactics for Kids

Chess Tactics Workbook for Kids is robustly (!) hardbound in a convenient size such that weights are not need to keep it propped open (unlike some A5 paperbacks) meaning studying with this book is more convenient than with many books. The layout and printing is clear (as you would expect with Gambit) with numerous diagrams at key moments in each, relatively short, game. In essence, players under 18 (for whom this book is intended) will find it easy to dip in out of and it can be used without a board (although BCN and most chess teachers and coaches would always recommend following each game on a “proper” board).

As you would expect with Gambit, the notation is English short form algebraic using figurines for pieces. A previous criticism (ibid) has been addressed in that each diagram has a symbolic “whose move it is” indicator. Each diagram does have coordinates which are very welcome for the younger junior reader.

The book is divided into 13 chapters as follows :

  1. Fork
  2. Pin
  3. Skewer
  4. Deflection and Decoy
  5. Discovered Attack
  6. Discovered and Double Check
  7. Removing the Guard
  8. In-Between Moves
  9. Trapped Piece
  10. Pawn Promotion
  11. Opening and Closing Lines
  12. Forcing a Draw
  13. Test Papers

Chapters 1 – 12 each contain a description of the type of tactic that is subject of the chapter followed by 20 – 40 exercises for the reader followed by a set of more challenging “Tougher Positions” and then, interestingly, by a set of “Does the Tactic Work ?” exercises. We appreciated the latter especially since this appears to be a novel feature. These are excellent blunder prevention tests since they help to slow typical impetuous juniors down who often move first and then engage their brain.

It was clear when working through the easier set of exercises that the author had thought carefully about their sequence since the reader should (we did for sure !) notice the level of difficulty increasing slowly but surely. The solutions are remote from the puzzles nicely avoiding the “accidentally seeing the solution” issue one gets with lesser books. The solutions themselves are clear and concise and instructional in their own right.

Here is a particularly satisfying example (we thought so anyway !) from the Skewer chapter (Tougher Positions #23) *solution at bottom of this review

We particularly enjoyed the chapters on “Trapped Piece” and “Forcing a Draw” as these are less usual to find in books of this kind.

Here is a pleasing (well, we liked it here in the BCN editorial office) example (#30) from the “Does the Tactic Work?” section of the skewers chapter :

@and the solution is at the foot of this review

We enjoyed working through the chapters and emerged with a feeling of attending a mental gymnasium : exhausted but refreshed.

Chapter 13 (“Test Papers”) puts all of your newly learnt skills to a full and proper test since there are no themes, hints or clues of what to do : just like a real game !

One negative comment we would make concerns the cover. “Never judge a book by its cover” we are told and you might look at this book cover and think it was suitable for say primary aged children. We would say not but we would suggest it suitable from secondary aged children. We would say strong juniors from 12 upwards would read this book and enjoy it.

As we previously mentioned in our review of Chess Opening Traps for Kids, The title and cover might, perhaps, put off the adult club player market. However, the content is totally suitable for adult club players upto say 150 ECF or 1800 Elo.

In summary, we recommend this book to any junior or adult who wishes to improve their tactical vision and results. It makes an excellent stocking filler for young players and the young at heart !

John Upham, Cove, Hampshire, November 11th 2019

John Upham
John Upham

Book Details :

  • Hardcover : 128 pages
  • Publisher: Gambit Publications Ltd (22 July 2019)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1911465317
  • ISBN-13: 978-1911465317
  • Product Dimensions: 17.8 x 1.3 x 22.9 cm

Official web site of Gambit Publications Ltd.

Chess Tactics Workbook for Kids
Chess Tactics Workbook for Kids

*solution to Skewer exercise #23 : “Normally this material would lead to a draw, but White can win with a brilliant tactical idea : 1.Bd6!! (the only defence to the threat of 2.Qd3# is to take the bishop) 1…Qxd6 2. Qd3+ Kc5 (2…Ke5 3.Qg3+ is a mirror image) 3.Qa3+ and the queen falls.”

@solution to Skewer exercise #30 : “It seems impossible to save the game because after both side promote White has a skewer, but there is a miraculous defence : 1…g2 2.c8=Q g1=Q 3.Qc5+ Ke2! and further checks don’t help White, while after 4.Qxg1 Black is stalemated.”

Chess Opening Traps for Kids

Chess Opening Traps for Kids : Graham Burgess

Chess Opening Traps for Kids
Chess Opening Traps for Kids

FIDE Master Graham Burgess needs no introduction to readers of English language chess books ! Minnesota, USA based, Graham has authored more than twenty five books and edited at least 250 and is editorial director of Gambit Publications Ltd. In 1994 Graham set a world record for marathon blitz playing and has been champion of the Danish region of Funen !

FM Graham Burgess
FM Graham Burgess

Readers may remember “101 Chess Opening Surprises” published in 1998, also by Gambit Publications, was well received and added to GKBs reputation for originality, accuracy and encyclopedic knowledge of openings.

Chess Opening Traps for Kids is the fifth in a series of “for Kids” books and is robustly (!) hardbound in a convenient size such that weights are not need to keep it propped open (unlike some A5 paperbacks) meaning studying with this book is more convenient than with many books. The layout and printing is clear (as you would expect with Gambit) with numerous diagrams at key moments in each, relatively short, game. In essence, players under 18 (for whom this book is intended) will find it easy to dip in out of and it can be used without a board (although BCN would always recommend following each game on a “proper” board).

As you would expect with Gambit, the notation is English short form algebraic using figurines for pieces. One slight criticism is that the diagrams do not have “whose move it is” indicator. We know that many readers like to see this on all diagrams. However, each diagram does have coordinates; welcome for the junior readership.

Graham has identified and described 100 unique themes (usually tactical) that lead to relatively short wins out of the opening, many of which could be termed “miniatures”. An example theme is “Drag the King Out with Nxf7” : “Sometimes players leave f7 so weak that a knight sacrifice on that square wins by force. The signs to look out for are a queen that can invade on e6 and other pieces ready to support the raid.” Under this theme the author presents three examples (typical for each theme) from different openings plus supporting analysis and explanation.

A range of openings are demonstrated that yield a similar trap. For example, The Siberian Trap is shown from the usual perspective of the Sicilian Defence and the Queen’s Gambit Accepted. In the main, the author does not get bogged down giving details of who were the players of the games and when and where they were played but does in a few cases where the players are especially well known.

The author’s explanations and language are clear, concise and presented with a friendly and engaging style. There are numerous cross references to other themes when an idea uses a previously mentioned one. All of this contributes to the learning experience and the pattern recognition aspects of chess that are especially important for young players in their formative years. Thankfully, there is no recourse to engine evaluations and the emphasis is to use one’s personal brain engine in making an assessment. (One of our bugbears as chess teachers and coaches is juniors increasingly relying on engine assessments rather than their own brains).

Having worked through the 100 themes the student is presented with 48 exercises (with solutions) that test the students understanding (not memory) of what they hopefully have learnt.

Finally there are useful tips on further improvement and how to make progress.

In summary, this is an excellent book with much original material presented in a clear and friendly way and therefore to be recommended.

One negative comment we would make concerns the cover. “Never judge a book by its cover” we are told and you might look at this book cover and think it was suitable for say primary aged children. I would say not but I would suggest it suitable from secondary aged children. I would say strong juniors from 12 upwards would read this book and enjoy it.

Apart from the “move indicator” we would like to see an index of openings from which the theme examples were obtained.

The title and cover might, perhaps, put off the adult club player market. However, the content is totally suitable for adult club players upto say 180 ECF or 2000 Elo.

John Upham, Cove, Hampshire, April 5th 2019

John Upham
John Upham

Book Details :

  • Hardcover : 128 pages
  • Publisher: Gambit Publications Ltd. (1st February 2019)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1911465279
  • ISBN-13: 978-1911465270
  • Product Dimensions: 17.8 x 1.3 x 22.9 cm

Official web site of Gambit Publications Ltd.

Chess Opening Traps for Kids
Chess Opening Traps for Kids