“Improve your ability to take calculated risks! In order to win a game of chess you very often have to sacrifice material. Gathering the courage to do so while accurately assessing the potential benefits is a real challenge. The big question is always: what’s my compensation? Generations of chess players grew up with the idea that a sacrifice was correct if the material was swiftly returned, with interest.
Almost by reflex, they spent lots of time counting, quantifying the static value of their pieces. But is that really the best way to determine the correctness of a sacrifice? In this book, Grandmaster Davorin Kuljasevic teaches you how to look beyond the material balance when you evaluate positions.
With loads of instructive examples he shows how the actual value of your pieces fluctuates during the game, depending on many non-material factors. Some of those factors are space-related, such as mobility, harmony, outposts, structures, files and diagonals. Other factors are related to time, and to the way the moves unfold: tempo, initiative, a threat, an attack. Modern chess players need to be able to suppress their need for immediate gratification.
In order to gain the upper hand you often have to live with uncertain compensation. With many fascinating examples, Kuljasevic teaches you the essential skill of taking calculated risks. After studying Beyond Material, winning games by sacrificing material will become second nature to you.”
“Davorin Kuljasevic is an International Grandmaster born in Croatia. He graduated from Texas Tech University and played in USCL 2007 and 2008 for Dallas Destiny, the team that became US champion in both these years. He is an experienced coach and a winner of many tournaments.”
This entertaining book is subdivided into seven chapters:
Chapter 1 – Attachment to material
Chapter 2 – Relative value of material
Chapter 3 – Time beats material
Chapter 4 – Space beats material
Chapter 5 – Psychology of non-materialism
Chapter 6 – Is it good to be greedy in chess?
Chapter 7 – Solutions
Each of the chapters 1 to 6 begin with an introductory section which sets the scene for the chapter: sometimes an historical angle is given or a famous player’s contribution to chess understanding is referenced or some short pithy pieces of advice are given.
The examples chosen by the author are generally from top players’ games and usually begin from a critical middlegame position. However complete games are shown where the opening is relevant to the theme. A few endgame positions are demonstrated.
Each chapter has a conclusion with a set of handy bullet points summarising some main ideas of the chapter.
Chapters 2 through to 6 have ten testing exercises at the end of each chapter. These are well worth tacking and definitely add to the book’s didactic value.
Chapter 7 gives the solutions to the exercises.
Chapter 1 Attachment to Material
Chapter 1 begins with a sage quote: “You will become a strong player once you learn how to properly sacrifice a pawn.”
One of the first examples in the chapter shows an interesting rook and pawn ending:
White is three pawns up in this rook endgame. However, after 48..Rd8! it becomes clear that black’s single passed pawn is much more dangerous than white’s four passed pawns. White’s pieces are also poorly placed.
49.Rg5+ (49.a4?? trying to get white’s pawns going loses: 49…e3 50.Rg7 Kf6! 51.Rg4 e2 52.Re4 Rd1+ winning the rook and the game as white’s four pawns are no match for the rook.)
49…Kf6 50.Rc5 e3 51.Rc2 White has managed to stop the pawn but both his pieces are passive. Black advances the king to aid the pawn.
51…Kf5 52.a4 Ke4 53.Rc4+ (53. a5?? is foolish: 51…Kf3 52. a6 e2 winning) 53…Kd3 54.Rc3+ White just about grovels a draw with side checks Ke4 55.Rc4+ Kd3 56.Rc3+ Ke4 57.Rc4+ Kd3 drawn
Here is an amusing but instructive example:
White has just played 29.a6 threatening to promote the a-pawn. Black replied 29…Ra2? (To round up the terrifying a-pawn) 30.Ra1 Rc3+ 31. 30.Rxc3 Rxa1 32.Kxd2 Rxa6 33.Ke3 draw agreed
However, black failed to realise how poorly placed the white king is and missed a brilliant win.
29…Bf4!! 30.a7 Rxf2 31.a8Q+ Kg7 White is up a queen for a bishop and pawn, but white’s king is trapped in a mating net. Black is threatening mate with Rbe2 followed by Re3# and white’s three major pieces cannot do muchabout it.
White can try:
A) 32. Qc8 preparing to defend the third rank 32…Rxg2 33.Qh3 Rxh2 34.Qf3 Rbf2 and white’s queen is trapped. Best is 35.Qxf2 Rxf2 when black has a winning endgame with B+3P for a rook. 35.Qg4 is met by 35…h5! and white’s queen cannot defend the f3 and h3 squares anymore.
B) 32.Kc3 Rfc2+ 33.Kd3 Re2 threatening Re3# 34. Kc3 Be5+ 35.Kd3 Bd4 with 36…Re3# to follow
C) 32.Qa5 Rbe2 33.Re1 Rd2+ 34.Kc3 (34,Qxd2 Rxd2+ 35.Kc3 Rxg2 black has a winning ending) 34…Rc2+ 35.Kb3 Rb2+ 36.Ka4 (36.Kc3 Bd2+ 37.Kxb2 Bxa5+ followed by 38…Bxe1 wins) 36…Bd2! winning
Chapter 2 – Relative Value Of Material
Here is an interesting game illustrating the chapter’s theme well.
White is clearly better here with more active pieces; black’s Bc6 is particularly bad. Black is solid and white is yet to break through.
21.Bxf6!! Bb6?! Winning the queen but not best. 21…Bxf6 is better. 22.Rxf6 gxf6 23.Qxf6
White has a knight and pawn for the exchange, black has a terrible bishop, lots of weak pawns and an exposed king. However, white’s king is not totally secure.
23…Bd7! Giving up a pawn to improve the bishop and the queen 24.Qg5+ Kf8 25.Bxd5 Qb6+ 26.Nd4 Qg6 27,Qf4 Ra6 white is slightly better but black should hold with care.
22. Bxg7 Bxd4+ 23.Bxd4 White has just two pieces and a pawn for the queen but his pieces coordinate brilliantly, black has a terrible bishop and black’s kingside is fractured.
23…h6 Stopping 24.Rg5+ but creating another target
23,,,Kf8 24.Ne3 Ra2 25.Rg5! Rxe2 26.Bc5+ Ke8 27.Rg8+ Kd7 28.Bh3+ Kc7 29.Rf8! with a crushing attack
24.Rf6 Ra2 25.Rxh6 f6 26.Ne3
Better was 26…Rxe2 27.Rg6+ Kh7 28.Rxf6 Qa8! 29.Bf1 Rd2 30.Nf5 Rxd4 31.Nxd4 Be8 Black has far better chances to draw here as white’s king is more exposed than in the game. White is better but the reviewer doubts whether white can win.
27.Nf5 Rxd4 28.Nxd4 +- Black has no counterplay
28…Qe7 29.Kf2 Bb7 30,Bh3! Qc7 31.Be6+ Kf8
White finds an elegant tactical way to win the game
A tense middlegame from Petrov’s Defence is shown in the diagram. White’s next move removes one of black’s best pieces, secures a strong outpost on e5 and exposes black’s king somewhat.
24.Rxe6! fxe6 25.Re1 Bd6 26.Re3 (26.Be5 is also possible) Bxf4 27.Rf3 Ke7 28.Rxf4 Rf8 29.Rf6! Using the dark square outpost (29…Rxf6 30.gxf6+ the threats of Qd2-Qh6, Ng4-Ne5 and f6-f7 are too much to deal with)
Qd6 30.Ne5?! (30.Qe3 is better with a big advantage) 30…Ke8? (30…Rxf6! had to be played, 31.gxf6+ Kxf6 32.Qf4+ Kg7 33.Qf7+ Kh8 34.Qxb7 Qb8! 35.Qxc6 Qe8! and black may hold on )31.Qf4 Qe7 32.Ng4 Kd7 33.Ne5+ Ke8 34.Ng4?! (Queenside expansion with b4 followed by a4 was called for) Kd7 35.Qe3 Rae8 36.Ne5+ Kc8 37.Qf4 Qd6 38.a4! with the simple idea of a5 and a6
a6 (Now b6 is weakened) 39.a5 Qe7 40.b3! (Planning c4 and c5 to create a d6 outpost) Qd6 41.Kh2 Rd8 42.g3 Rde8 43.Kg1 Qe7?!
44.c4 dxc4 (44…Qd6 45. c5 Qe7 46.Nf7! followed by Nd6+ winning) 45.Nxc4 (The weakness on b6 is fatal) e5 46.dxe5 Kb8 47.e6+ Qc7 48.Rxf8 1-0
The key themes from this game are space and the weak colour complex in black’s position.
Chapter 5 Psychology of non-materialism
This is really good game which is a famous clash. Paul Keres had to win this game, hence his choice of an ultra sharp variation.
Paul Keres – Boris Spassky
Candidates Riga (10) 1965
1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 g6 3.Nc3 Bg7 4.e4 d6 5.f4 A good choice for a must win game c5 6.d5 0-0 7.Nf3 e6 8.Be2 exd5 9.cxd5 b5!? Very aggressive: Spassky goes for a slugfest.
10.e5 dxe5 11.fxe5 Ng4 12.Bf4 Nd7 13.e6 fxe6 (13…Nde5 is a safer option, but Spassky wants a fight) 14.dxe6 Rxf4! (14…Nb6 leads to a slight edge for white)
15.Qd5 (The point of the piece sacrifice) Kh8! (15…Bb7 is playable as well) 16.Qxa8 Nb6
17.Qxa7 (17.Qb8 is probably better, 17…Ne3! 18.Rd1! unclear 18…Qe7 19.Rd2 Nxg2+ 20.Kf2 b4 and the game is wide open) Bxe6 18.0-0 Ne3
19.Rf2? (Best is 19.Bxb5 Nxf1 20.Rxf1 Rf7 when black has lots of play for a mere pawn) b4 20.Nb5 (20.Na4 or 20.Nd1 are still better for black) Rf7 21.Qa5 Qb8! (21…Bxb2 is also good)
22.Re1 Bd5 (Also good is 22…Ng4 23.Bf1 Bd5! 24.Rfe2 Rf8 and black has a decent attack) 23.Bf1 Nxf1 24.Rfxf1 Nc4 25.Qa6 Rf6 White’s queen is misplaced, tied to defending the knight 26.Qa4 Nxb2
27.Qc2? (Just blundering a piece, 27.Qa5 had to be played, after 27…Nd3 28. Re3 c4 29.Nc7 Bg8 black is clearly better) Qxb5 28.Re7 Nd3 29.Qe2 c4 30.Re8+ Rf8 31.Rxf8+ Bxf8 32.Ng5 Bc5+ 33.Kh1 Qd7 34.Qd2 Qe7 35.Nf3 Qe3 0-1
Chapter 6 Is It Good To Be Greedy In Chess?
The author generously gives a couple of his own games where early pawn hunting with the queen lead to disaster. Here is one example of greed punished.
Kozul – Kuljasevic
1.d4 d5 2.c4 e6 3.Nf3 Nf6 4.Nc3 Be7 5.Bf4 0-0 6.e3 b6 7.cxd5 Nxd5 8.Nxd5 Qxd5 9.Be2 (Black was out of theory here and after 40 minutes of thought tried an attractive looking move)
Bb4+? (Black thought erroneously that 10.Kf1 was forced, 9…Qa5+ 10.Nd2 Ba6 11.0-0 c5 looks ok) 10.Nd2 Qxg2?? (10…Bxd2+ 11.Qxd2 Qxg2 12.0-0-0 wins a pawn but white has obvious compensation) 11.Bf3 Bxd2+ 12.Kxd2 Qxf2+
13.Kc3! (13.Kc1? allows the queen to escape via f1 after black plays c6 & Ba6) c6 14.h4 1-0 The queen is trapped after 15.Rh2
In summary, this is a good book which demonstrates important themes in chess with some entertaining and instructive middlegames. It is aimed at 140+ players.
FM Richard Webb, Basingstoke, Hampshire, 12th July 2021
“After his first two most successful volumes of Chess Middlegame Strategies, Ivan Solokov explores in his final volume ideas related to the symbiosis of the strategic and dynamic elements of chess. He combined the most exceptional ideas, strategies and positional play essentials. These three volumes will give you a serious head start when studying and playing a middlegame. A book and series that cannot be missed in any serious chess library!”
“Grandmaster Ivan Sokolov is considered one of the best chess authors winning many chess tournaments and writing many bestselling chess books. At the moment he is coaching worldwide the most chess talented youngsters.”
This interesting book has seven diverse chapters on middlegame strategies:
Karpov’s king in the centre
Geller/Tolush gambit plans & ideas
Anti-Moscow Typical plans and ideas
Space versus flexibility
Positional exchange sacrifice
Chapters two and three do cover two sets of related positions and are rather specialised in terms of the opening. The other chapters are rather more generic in nature.
It is well known that opening preparation these days is very deep with the use of chess engines. Many variations of sharp openings played at the top level are effectively analysed to the end of the game now, for example resulting in a perpetual or an equal ending. Although this book does cover some games in sharp tactical openings, it does not make the mistake of providing a sea of complex variations with little explanation: Sokolov has made a good effort to extract out some of the key ideas in these dynamic battles.
Chapter 1 Karpov’s king in the centre
Karpov employed the “king in the centre” idea in his favourite Caro-Kann defence. The celebrated game Kamsky – Karpov Dortmund 1993 shows this idea.
In the position white has more space and an intention to attack on the kingside, so white played 11.Qh4?! Black looks to have a problem with his king as castling kingside will be “castling into it” with white’s bishops and queen ready for action there. Karpov came up with an ingenious solution: 11…Ke7!
Suddenly black threatens 12…g5! and the white aggressively placed queen becomes a liability.
The idea only works because white’s queen is misplaced on h4 and is vulnerable to attack. In the famous game against Kamsky, white is really forced to sacrifice a pawn with 12.Ne5! Bxe5 13.dxe5 Qa5+ 14.c3 Qxe5+ when white has sufficient compensation but no more. 12.Bf4 is pretty insipid, after 12…Bb4+ 13.Bd2 Bxd2 14.Kxd2 Qa5+ 15.c3 c5 with equal chances.
The reviewer is not going to cover this game in detail in his review as this is a well known game. If the reader is not familiar with this game, then buy the book to get good coverage of an instructive struggle.
In subsequent games in this variation, white played 10.Qe2! keeping the queen centralised.
The reviewer was particularly impressed with the following game by Vishy Anand against Vladimir Kramnik in the World Championship match in Bonn 2008. Anand’s preparation and superior play in the Meran variation effectively won him the match. The book covers one of Anand’s wins in this variation using the “king in the centre” strategy.
Kramnik, Vladimir – Anand, Viswanathan
World Championship Bonn (5) 2008
This is a key position in just one of the main lines in the Meran variation.
14…Bb7 (The main line, 14…b4 is interesting) 15.Bxb5 Rg8!? (Anand is the first to deviate from Game 3 which he won, and present Kramnik with a new surprise instead of 15…Bd6. Kramnik’s choice in the previous game was the natural 16.Rd1 Rg8 17.g3 Rg4 18.Bf4 Bxf4 19.Nxd4 At this moment Anand was an hour(!) up on the clock, but now he had his first long think 19…h5!? 20.Nxe6 fxe6 21.Rxd7 Kf8 22.Qd3 Rg7! 23.Rxg7 Kxg7 24.gxf4 Rd8 Kramnik – Anand WCh Bonn (3) 2008) 16.Bf4Bd6 17.Bg3 Black has good counterplay on the g-file f5 (Anand continues to harass the Bg3) 18.Rfc1!?f4 19.Bh4
19…Be7! The bishop’s role on d6 is over, so it returns to free the e7-square for Black’s king 20.a4 Bxh4 21.Nxh4
Ke7! The possible threat to g2 again enters the equation. 22.Ra3
White boosts his third rank, but on the other hand disconnects his rooks and Black can turn his attention to the c-pawn. The radical 22.g3!? should be considered. This weakens the long diagonal, but removing the pawn from g2 enables White to play more actively, a possible line is 22…fxg3 23.hxg3 Rg5 24.Bxd7
24…Rag8! 25. a5 (25.Bb5?? loses to 25…d3 followed by Rxg3+) Qd6 26.Ra3
Black will pick up the dangerous a-pawn with Qc7+ or Qg5+ leading to an unbalanced but roughly level ending.
Back to the game.
22…Rac8 23.Rxc8 Rxc8 24.Ra1 Qc5 25.Qg4
Black intuitively keeps his queen closer to his king. Another interesting computer alternative is 25…Qc2!? to support the d4-pawn 26.Qxf4 d3!
and it’s already reasonable to bail out with 27.Nf5+ exf5 28.Re1+ Kf8 (28…Be4 leads to an equal ending) 29.Bxd7 d2 30.Qh6+ Kg8 31.Qg5+ with a draw by perpetual
26.Nf3 Qf6 This move is also connected with a hidden trap.
27.Re1 [27.Nxd4? Qxd4 28.Rd1 Nf6 29.Rxd4 Nxg4 30.Rd7+ Kf6 31.Rxb7 Rc1+ 32.Bf1 Ne3!-+ Surprisingly enough, this motif occurs later in the game!; harmless is 27.Bxd7 Kxd7 28.Nxd4 Ke7 29.Rd1 Rc4= Best is 27.Ne1! improving the knight. Kramnik still wants more and keeps the tension.] 27…Rc5!? 28.b4 Rc3 Setting a beautiful trap.
29.Nxd4?? (Black’s forces already exert unpleasant pressure, but the text-move is an unforced and decisive tactical miscalculation. 29.Nd2!? still leads to a murky position and the outcome of the game remains open.) 29…Qxd4 30.Rd1 Nf6! 31.Rxd4
A previous Kasparov game went 12.Nxh7? (a well known blunder nowadays) 12…Nc6! Black leads in development and the tactics work for him as well. White is probably lost already!
13.Nxf8 Qxd4! leads to a huge advantage to black
Kasparov’s opponent missed 13…Qxd4!, played 13…Rxh5? and Kasparov went on to win
13.Nf6+? gxf6 14.Qxh8 also loses
14…Nxd4! 15.cxd4 Qxd4 16.Ra2 0-0-0 winning
Back to the main game
Nc6 (13…g6 weakens black’s kingside, after 14.Qh3 Nc6 15.Ne4 0-0-0 16.Be3! leads a white advantage)14.0-0 Nd8 Black is defending his weaknesses and avoiding the weakening g6 but his development is lacking 15.Ne4 a5
16.Bg5 (16.Qg4! was more accurate, 16…Rh7 17.Re1 and black has problems developing) Bd5 17.Rfe1 Nc6 18.Bh4 Ra7 19.Qg4
Rh7 20.Nd6+! Bxd6
21.Bxd5 (21.exd6 is very strong as well) Be7 22.Be4 g6 23.Bf6 Black’s rooks are horribly disconnected
Kf8 24.Qf3 Nd8 25.d5! Opening up files for white’s better placed rooks: black crumbles quickly exd5 26.Bxd5 Qf5 27.Qe3
White declines the exchange of queens again. Black can now force a queen exchange, but should he? White won the game without black making an obvious mistake. So this suggests that black should keep the queens on.
11…Qe4 12.Qxe4 Nxe4 13.Re1 g6 14.d4 Bg7 15.Bf3
15…Nf6 (15…Nd6 is another idea to hamper d5 from white 16.Bf4 Rd8 17.Rad1 Bf6 18.b3 Nf5 19.c3 h5 white can still play g4 with an edge)16.c4 White’s plan is straightforward, push d5
16…Rd8 17.Be3 0-0 18.Rad1 e6
19.g4! A typical space gaining move with the intention of kicking black’s knight away with g5 h6 20.h4?! (20.Kg2! was more accurate, see below) 20…Rfe8?!
20…h5!? would have given black better chances than the game, but white still retains good winning chances 21.g5 Ng4 22.Bxg4 hxg4 Black’s g-pawn will fall, but black has time to counterattack the d-pawn 23.Kg2 Rd7 24.Rd2 Rfd8 25.Red1 c5!
26.d5! (26.dxc5? leads to a clear draw Rxd2 27.Rxd2 Rxd2 28.Bxd2 Bxb2 29.Kg3 Kg7 30.Kxg4 f5+ Black draws as white’s extra doubled isolated pawn is not enough to win the bishop ending: see below)
26…exd5 27.Bxc5! b6 28.Be3 d4 29.Kg3 and white is winning the g-pawn with good winning chances, but there is work to do.
Back to the game.
21.Kg2 Do not hurry: improve the king, although 21.g5 also gains an advantage 21…Nd7 22.d5! At last the breakthrough
22…Ne5 23.dxc6 Nxf3 24.Kxf3 bxc6
White transforms his advantages: the bishop pair has gone but his better pawn structure and more active pieces prove decisive: first he grabs the d-file because of black’s weak a7-pawn
25.b3! a5 26.g5 (26.Bb6 is also good, but do not hurry: fix black’s kingside first limiting black’s kingside counterplay which is good technique) hxg5 27.hxg5 Ra8 28.Rd7 Bf8 29.Red1 a4 Hoping for play down the a-file 30.Rc7
axb3 31.axb3 Rec8 32.Rdd7 Rxc7 33.Rxc7 Rb8 34.Rxc6 Rxb3 35.Rc8 Winning a second pawn
This chapter covers positional exchange sacrifices which is one of the key chapters in this book.
The most famous positional exchange sacrifice is probably Rxc3! in the Sicilian Defence. This is not covered in this book as it is so well known.
The following game covers an interesting exchange sacrifice in one of the old main lines of the Sicilian Richter-Rauzer variation. Kramnik’s concept in this game effectively killed off this line for white.
14…Ng4!? A new move at the time, and a very interesting idea, black sacrifices an exchange in order to get a strong initiative, when white loses many tempi with his queen (14…Qa5 is a sound alternative) 15.Qf3 15…Nxe5 16.Qxa8 (16.fxe5 Bb7 is better for black) 16…Nd7
Black has plenty of compensation for the exchange: a powerful pair of bishops and white will lose time with his queen.
17.g3? (17.Qe4 is probably best 17…Bb7 18.Qd4 Nf6 when black definitely has sufficient compensation with his great bishops) 17…Nb618.Qf3 18…Bb7 19.Ne4
19…f5!! (19…0-0 is good, but the move played whips up a powerful attack even more quickly) 20.Qh5+ 20…Kf8 21.Nf2 Bf6!
White has a dearth of pieces defending his king. Black now has a typical winning Sicilian attack against the poorly defended white king. Look at white’s pieces stuck on the kingside. Regaining the exchange by 21…Bxh1 was not necessary: play for mate!
22.Bd3 Na4 23.Rhe1 23…Bxb2+!
24.Kb124…Bd5! Bringing in the other bishop into the attack with decisive effect 25.Bxb5! (25.Bxf5 25…Bxa2+! 26.Kxa2 Qc4+ 27.Kb1 Nc3+ 28.Kxb2 Qb4+ 29.Kc1 Na2#)
A superb exchange sacrifice comfortably equalising. White could have held but defending a virulent attack over the board is nigh impossible.
Chapter 6 Open File
This section covers the topic of the open file. Many different types of position are demonstrated including pure attacking chess sacrificing a pawn or two or a piece to open files against an uncastled king.
Subtle positional struggles are also covered. In this latter vein, the reviewer was particularly impressed with a smooth win by Michael Adams shown below.
This is a main line in the Petroff Defence. White now exchanges some minor pieces to gain control of the e-file. White sometimes executes this strategy in the Ruy Lopez anti-Berlin variation.
9.Re1 Nxd2 10.Qxd2 Bxd3 11.Qxd3 0-0
This position looks pretty equal which is undoubtedly the case, however, white has a slight lead in development and control of the e-file which make white’s position easier to play. Recently Carlsen and other top players have played these types of positions to win with success. Black must defend very precisely as shown by this game.
12.Bf4 White chooses a plan that involves the exchange of bishops and retaining control of the e-file. An alternative plan is 12.c3 followed by queenside expansion with b4 12…Bd6 13.Bg3 Bxg3 14.hxg3 Qd7
15.Re3 Rfe8 16.Rae1 Rxe3 17.Rxe3 h6 (17…Re8?? runs into 18.Qf5! winning a pawn and the game, exploiting the weak bank rank)
19.Ne5 White exchanges knights to dominate the e-file Qd6 20.Nxc6 Qxc6 21.c3 a5 22.Qa3 b6 23.Qe7 White now dominates the e-file. What does white do next? The logical plan is to attack on the kingside by advancing the kingside pawns to expose black’s king and use white’s more active pieces to mate black. Black decides to pre-empt this plan by correctly creating counterplay on the queenside.
b5! 24.a3 b4 25.axb4 axb4 26.cxb4
Black is closer to the draw, but must be very precise to exchange off the queenside pawns.
Qc1+? (A natural check but this probably loses, 26…Qb6! was the exact move required: 27.Rf3 f6 28.Rc3 Qxd4! 29. Rxc7 Qd1+ 30.Kh2 Qh5+ with a draw by perpetual check) 27.Kh2 Qxb2
28.Rf3? (Gifting black a chance to save the game, 28.Qxc7 Qxb4 29. Re5! wins a pawn under favourable circumstances, although white must display some technique to convert) Rf8? (28…f6! draws viz. 29. Qxc7 Qxb4 30.Rf5 Qb6! forcing a queen trade 31. Qxb6 Rxb6 32. Rxd5 Rb2 33.f3 Rd2 with a drawn rook ending but black will have to demonstrate sound technique to hold this ending a pawn down) 29.Qc5 c6 30.Qxc6
So white has won a pawn: black may be lost even with best play, but he can make things difficult for white.
Qxd4? (31…Qxb4! 32. Qxd5 offers black chances to draw but the presence of queens makes things much harder for the defending side. With the queens off and black’s rook on d2, black would be drawing) 31.b5 This pawn runs very fast, the d-pawn offers no real counterplay Qe5 32.b6 Re8 Black threatens mate in two
33.Rf4 Qe6 34.Qb7?!
blocking the passed pawn doesn’t look right. More accurate for white was 34.Qc7! After 34…Qe7 we reach:
35.Qa7! wins nicely, for example 35…Qxa7 36.bxa7 Ra8 37.Ra4 White’s king is in the square of the d-pawn, so black is totally lost.
34…g5 35.Ra4 Qe2? (35…Kg7 getting the king off the back rank was the only hope to fight on) 36.f3 d4
An instructive win with white elegantly exploiting a very small advantage. Notice how one mistake on move 26 loses black the game. It is surprising that black is already in the “zone of one mistake” from a seemingly innocuous opening.
Chapter 7 G-Pawn Strategies
This section covers the early aggressive push of the g-pawn against a castled king. This occurs in many different openings.
The Neo-Steinitz is not popular in modern GM praxis although Keres and Portisch did play this opening. Mamedyarov is a very aggressive player who plays the Neo-Steinitz. The following game is a slugfest.
Grischuk – Mamedyarov
1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5 a6 4.Ba4 d6
5.0-0 Bd7 6.Re1 (6.d4, c3 or c4 are more common) g5! This idea is perfectly sound, it was introduced by Portisch in 1968 against Kortschnoi.
7.Bxc6 (7.d4 is possible but will probably transpose into the game) bxc6! 8.d4 g4 9.Nfd2 exd4 10.Nb3
10…Ne7 (10…c5 is too greedy, after 11.c3 white has plenty of compensation for the pawn) 11.Nxd4 Bg7 12.Nc3 0-0 13.Bg5 f6 14.Be3 Qe8
Black will move his queen over to the kingside and push his pawns for a direct attack
15.Qd3? This move and the next just lose time, clearly white was unsure of his correct plan 15…Qf7 16.Qd2 Qg6 (16…c5! 17.Nde2 Bc6 followed by f5 looks great for black) 17.Bf4 h5
18.b4 h4 19.a4 Qh5 20.Be3
h3 (20…f5! was perhaps even stronger: 21.exf5 h3! 22.Ne4 hxg2 23.Ng3 Qh3 the main threat is to move a rook to the h-file) 21.Nce2! (21.g3 fails to 21…f5 22.Bf4 fxe4 23. Rxe4 Qf7 with 24…Ng6 to follow and white crumbles) hxg2
22.Nf4 Qh7!? An exchange sacrifice, 22…Qf7 was also very good for black 23.Nfe6 Bxe6 24.Nxe6
Ng6! The knight is heading to f3 25.Nxf8 Rxf8 26.Bf4! (26.Ra3 f5! 27.Bd4 f4 and black’s attack is crashing through) f5 (26…Nh4 is answered by 27.Ra3) 27.exf5 Nh4
The final mistake, 28.Qd3! was essential and white can just save the game, one line is 28…Bxa1 29. Rxa1 Rxf5! 30.Bg3 Nf3+ 31. Kxg2 Qh3+ 32.Kh1 Rf6! Threatening Rh6
32.Qc1 (32.Qe3! gives white some hope) Bc3 33.Re3 (33.Rd1 also loses Qh5 34. Rd3 Be5 35.Qg5+ Qxg5 36.Bxg5 Rf5 37.Bh4 Kf7 winning) Bd4 34.Rd3 Re8
35.Be3 leads to a lost queen ending 35…Bxe3 36.Rxe3 Rxe3 37.fxe3 Qc4
The threat of 38…Qe2 is decisive.
35… Bxf2+ 36.Kxf2 Re2+
The checks run out after 37.Kg1 Qxd3 38.Qg5+ Kf7 39.Qg7+ Ke8 40.Qf8+ Kd7 and the black king escapes to b7 0-1
This book is aimed at grades 160+ players although aspiring players with lower ratings would benefit from reading this book.
To summarise, this is an good read with lots of educational games demonstrating the themes in each chapter. My only minor criticism is chapters 2 & 3 are very specialised handling middlegames from two particular opening systems. The other chapters handle more generic themes.
FM Richard Webb, Basingstoke, Hampshire, 5th July 2021
“Using carefully selected examples, the authors want to make you familiar with the strategic ideas behind the famous Maroczy bind. These plans arising from both colours, are a must for your arsenal of chess knowledge and understanding.”
“Adrian Bohdanovych Mikhalchishin was born in Lvov, Ukraine in 1954 and became a Grandmaster in 1978. In 1995 he took Slovenian citizenship and became a FIDE Senior Trainer from 2002 and was chairman of FIDE Trainers Commission from 2009. Adrian was a trainer of many famous chess players. Amongst others he was in Anatoly Karpov’s team during matches with Garry Kasparov. He has worked with Maja Chiburdanidze, Nana Aleksandria, the Polgar sisters, Alisa Maric and Nana Dzagnidze. He was coach and captain of the national teams of Slovenia and the Netherlands. In recent years he has been coach of the Turkish woman team. He has written many chess books and thousands of articles for many chess magazines.”
“Georg Mohr was born in Maribor, Slovenia in 1965 becoming a Grandmaster in 1997. He joined as a member of the FIDE Trainers Commission from 2002, becoming a FIDE Senior Trainer in 2004 and a FIDE International Organizer in 2011. Georg has been a professional chess trainer for many years. He was coach and captain of Slovenian national team from 2003 – 2010 and since 2011 he has been Turkish national youth trainer. He is a chess writer and was editor of Slovenian chess magazine Šahovska Misel from 1999 and editor of Fide Trainers Commission trainers’ surveys. He is also an organiser of chess events acting as tournament director of the European Club Cup (Rogaška Slatina 2011), the World Youth Championship (Maribor 2012) and the World Senior Championship (Bled 2018).”
Looking at the title of this book, Understanding Maroczy Structures, it appears to be an abstruse book on a specialised middlegame structure which many club players will know by name. They will be able to describe the tusks on c4 and e4 and probably have lost a game horribly against a stronger player who squeezed the life out of them like a hungry reticulated python. Chess like a reticulated python has beautiful patterns: this book covers all the major ideas and patterns in the Maroczy structures. The reader may be thinking: I don’t play these systems for either colour, it’s of no relevance to me. The reviewer begs to differ: many general, important middlegame themes are demonstrated in this book such as:
Avoiding exchanges to keep the opponent cramped
Exchanging pieces to relieve cramp
Use of knight outposts
Using a space advantage to attack on the queenside
Using a space advantage to attack the king
Using the bishop pair
Pawn levers to attack the opponent’s pawn structure & relieve cramp
Opening up the position to exploit a space advantage and better placed pieces
Bad bishops and weak colour complexes
This book is not a repertoire bible for playing the Maroczy bind; it is a examination of the typical middlegame strategies for both sides in these complex and interesting positions. It is definitely harder to play for the side playing against the Maroczy structures.
The book is structured into five sections and sixteen chapters.
Section 1 Introduction to the Maroczy is divided into three logical foundation chapters:
Chapter 1 What is the Maroczy Structure?
This chapter covers the typical move orders to reach Maroczy bind structures including the Rubinstein variation of the Symmetrical English opening which is a reversed Maroczy.
Here is the most well known incarnation of the Maroczy bind arising from an Accelerated Dragon.
Here is the reversed Maroczy mentioned above:
This chapter enumerates the possible ways that a Maroczy structure can be reached which is usually through the Sicilian Defence (many different ways), English Opening and King’s Indian Defences.
Chapter 2 Typical Positions
This short chapter shows typical positions concentrating mainly on some key decisions & strategies:
White’s decision whether to defend his knight on d4 or retreat it to c2
White’s white squared bishop development to e2, d3 or more rarely g2
Defending the e-pawn with f3 or Bd3
Black’s dark square strategy
Recapturing on d5 with the e-pawn, c-pawn or a piece
The potential weakness of the d4 square
All these topics are covered in subsequent chapters.
Chapter 3 History
Akiba Rubinstein was one of the first players to master Maroczy structures; Mikhail Botvinnik stated that he learnt how to play these positions by studying Rubinstein’s games.
Here is a masterclass by the first Soviet World Champion in his younger days:
Lisitsin – Botvinnik
Leningrad Championship 1932
1.Nf3 c5 2.c4 Nf6 3.g3 d5 4.cxd5 Nxd5 5.Bg2 Nc6 6.0-0 e5 reaching the Rubinstein variation of the Symmetrical English. White now embarks on a slow development scheme which is too passive and not played by modern masters.
7.d3 Be7 8.Nbd2 0-0 9.Nc4 f6 10.Be3 Be6 11.a4 The trouble with this move and white’s plan is that the b4 break is now never available. The other two possible breaks to achieve counterplay in Maroczy structures are f4 or e3/d4, both of which are impossible to achieve in a satisfactory manner with white’s slow, flawed development scheme.
11…Qd7 12.Qd2 b6 13.Rfc1 Rac8 both sides have developed their pieces but black already has a distinct edge and a far easier position to play. White’s next seven moves are pure faffing and he clearly does not know what to do.
14.Qd1 Kh8 15.Bd2 Rfd8 16.Qb3 Nc7 17.Bc3 Rb8 18.Qc2 Nd5 19.Nfd2 Rbc8 20.Nf1 After several moves of shadow boxing, black has a distinct advantage and now acts.
20…Nd4 21.Qd1 Bg4! A typical idea pressuring the e-pawn. White must remove the powerful knight or play the equally unpalatable f3
22.Bxd4 exd4 The recapture with the e-pawn exposes white’s e2- pawn to potential pressure from black’s rooks. Notice how Botvinnik skilfully manoeuvres to arrange this.
23.Qd2 Bf8 24.Re1 Re8 25.h4 Bh3 26.Bf3 Re7 27.Nh2 Rce8 28.Kh1 Be6! White has no counterplay and must simply wait for the reticulated python to tighten its coils.
29.b3 Nb4 (not 29…Nc3? when white has 30.e4!) 30.Bg2 Bd5 Attempting to exchange a key defender of the king 31.Nf3 Rf7! Further masterful manoeuvring points more black pieces at white’s kingside 32.Kh2 Bd6 33.Bh3 Qd8 34.Rab1 Rfe7 35.Ng1 Bc7 36.Na3 Bb7 Compare the respective activity of each side’s pieces. It is not surprising that white collapses quickly.
The follower encounter shows an ideal strategic white win.
Knaak – Walter
East German Championship Erfurt, 1973
1.c4 c5 2.Nf3 g6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 Bg7 5.e4 Nc6 6.Be3 Nf6 7.Nc3 By transposition, an Accelerated Sicilian Dragon has been reached. Black plays a popular variation to exchange a pair of knights.
Ng4 8.Qxg4 Nxd4 9.Qd1
9…Nc6 Black normally retreats the knight to e6 here. 9…e5 is an interesting try. 10.Qd2 Qa5 11.Rc1! (Black was threatening Bxc3, another key strategy) d6 12.Be2 Be6 13.0-0 Rc8 14.a3 0-0
15.Rc2! (White effects a smart manoeuvre to prepare b2-b4) Rfe8 16.Rb1! a6 17.b4!
Qd8 (Black cannot take the a3 pawn: after 17…Qxa3 18. Nd1! followed by 19.Ra2 wins the queen) 18.Rbc1 Ne5 Black looks to have play against the c4 pawn, but white’s next move squashes any black hopes of counterplay.
19.Nd5! Bxd5 The knight has to be removed 20.cxd5 (As white’s rooks are already doubled opening the c-file is very strong 20…Qd721.h3! (Stopping any ideas of Ng4) 21… f5 Desperately seeking some play 22.f4! A typical reaction pushing the knight back 22…Nf7 23.exf5 gxf5 24.Bb6! (Another thematic idea dominating the c7 square)
Bf6 25.Rc7 Rxc7 26.Rxc7 The rook penetrates with decisive attack. The black king is soon on the menu. Qa4 27.Qd3 Bb2 28.Qxf5 (The attack is soon decisive)
Chapter 5 covers white’s attacking options on the kingside.
The game below shows a Maroczy Bind position being reached from a transposition into a Symmetrical English with an exemplary attacking display from a former World Champion.
Smyslov – Timman
1.d4 Nf6 2.Nf3 g6 3.g3 c5 4.Bg2 cxd4 5.Nxd4 Bg7 6.c4 Nc6 7.Nc3 Nxd4 8.Qxd4 0-0 9.0-0 d6 10.Qd3 This position is a well known variation of the English Symmetrical which is definitely better for white.
Bf5?! (This idea is now known to be inaccurate. Better is 10…Rb8, 10…a6 or 10…Ng4 but white retains an advantage in all cases) 11.e4 Be6 12.b312…a6 13.Bb2 Nd7 14.Qd2!14…Nc5 (14…Qa5 15.Rfd1 Rfc8 16.Nd5!±)
15.f4! Rc8? (Careless, underestimating white’s attacking chances, better is 15…f5 16.exf5 Bxf5 17.Nd5 when white has a clear advantage, but black can fight on) 16.f5 Bd7 17.f6!± (Obviously missed by Timman)
exf6 (17…Bxf6 18.Rxf6! exf6 19.Nd5±) 18.Nd5 f5 19.exf5 Bxf5 (19…gxf5!? 20.Bxg7 Kxg7 21.Qd4+ f6±) 20.Bxg7 Kxg7 21.Qd4+ f6 22.g4! Be6 (22…Ne6 23.Qd1!+- as the bishop is trapped )
This chapter covers the white’s knight leap to d5 and white’s three possible responses to its capture:
Taking with a piece x d5
Lev Polugaevsky was considered an expert on the white side of the Maroczy bind. Here is a didactic game of his demonstrating the power of cxd5 and the use of the bishop pair. This is a common type of win in the Maroczy bind, so this game is worth studying carefully.
This game also demonstrates that entering a vastly inferior endgame with no chance of counterplay is poor judgement particularly against a very strong technical player: the speculative 12…Qxa2 keeping the queens on had to be tried.
12.Nd5! Qxd2+? (Black should have tried the complicated 12…Qxa2 13.Nxe7+ Kh8 14.Be2 with a white edge)13.Kxd2 Bxd5 (13…Nxd5 14. cxd5 Bd7 15.Rc7+- a decisive penetration to the seventh rank) 14.cxd5 Rfc8 15.Rxc8+ Rxc8
16.g3! (A typical move activating the white squared bishop) Rc7 (16…b6 17.Bh3 Rc7 18.Rc1 Ne8 19.b4 Rxc1 20.Kxc1 Nc7 21.Bd7! wins as in Gheorghiu – Szilagyi Varna 1971 – another game well worth studying in this book) 17.Bh3 Nd7 18.Rc1! (Exchanging rooks enables white to carve up the black queenside) Rxc1 19.Kxc1Nb6 20.Kc2 Kf8 21.b3 The simple plan of a4-a5 is unstoppable
Recapturing with exd5 is also a common strategy which has already been showcased with a Botvinnik win earlier in the review. Here is a more modern example between two 2700+ players with a crisp finish.
Notice that the white squared bishops are exchanged very early. It is not clear which side this favours. White gets rid of his potential bad bishop, but his c-pawn can be vulnerable. Black has exchanged a minor piece relieving his cramp.
Bacrot – Giri
1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 d6 3.Bb5+ Bd7 4.c4!? Nf6 5.Nc3 g6 6.0-0 Bg7 7.d4 cxd4 8.Nxd4 0-0 9.Bxd7 Qxd7 Reaching a standard position from the Moscow Variation.
10.b3 (10.f3 preparing Be3 allows the clever 10…Rc8 11.b3 d5!! equalising 12.exd5 Nxd5! 13.Nxd5 e6=) Nc6 11.Bb2 a6 (11…e6 followed by Rfd8 and d5 should be considered and is another standard idea to break up the Maroczy bind) 12.Nxc6
Qxc6?! (12…bxc6 13. Re1 Qc7 is better as black has a better share of the centre controlling d5 with his c-pawn) 13.Nd5! Nxd5?! (Better was 13…Rfe8 14.Nxf6 Bxf6 15.Bxf6 exf6 followed by Re6 when white has a slight edge) 14.exd5 Qc5 15.Bxg7 Kxg7 16.Re1 With heavy pieces the pressure on e7 is very uncomfortable, Black’s play with b5 turns out to be illusory. White’s space advantage spearheaded by the d5-pawn effectively splits black’s position into two compartments, thus facilitating a direct attack on black’s king. It is very difficult for black to funnel his pieces across to defend his kingside.
Rfe8 (Black had to play 16…e5 allowing 17.dxe6 fxe6 when white has very easy play against the e6 and d6 pawns, but at least black gains breathing space, opens the f-file for his rook and he can defend his king 17.Qd2! (White has a host of ideas after this multi-purpose queen move: Rac1 & b4, c5 or Re4, Rae1 and Rh4) b5? (Again 17…e5 had to be played) 18.Rac1! (Compare the activity of each side’s rooks, white prepares b4 and c5 creating a dangerous passed pawn)
Qa7?! (18…b4 is probably better, but white will turn his attention to the kingside) 19.b4! bxc4 20.Rxc4 h5 (20…Rac8 21.Qc3+ is a neat fork) 21.Qc3+ Kg8 22.Rc7 Qb6 23.a4! (Stopping any play with a5, because white replies b5!)
Rab8 24.Re4 f6 25.g4 Rb7? Desperation
26.Qxf6! A lovely combination to finish 1-0
Taking with a piece on d5 is demonstrated with another famous Botvinnik victory.
Botvinnik to move continued 22.Rxd5! The strategical idea is simple: utilise the pawn level e4-e5 to smash up black’s pawn structure and penetrate with the more active rooks.
22…Rc6?! (Better is 22…Rc7 defending the 7th rank 23.e5 dxe5 24.fxe5 f5 25.Red1 Rgc8 with chances to hold, but white is for choice) 23.e5 dxe5 24.fxe5 Re6 25.Kf2 Rf8 26.Rd7! fxe5+ 27.Ke3 Rb8 28.Ke4 Kg8 29.Kd5 Kf7 30.Rxe5 White has an enormous advantage
Chapter 7 covers the retreat of the white knight from d4 to avoid freeing exchanges for black. Here is a thematic game played by Nigel Short.
Short – Felgaer
Buenos Aires 2001
1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 g6 5.c4 Bg7 6.Be3 Nf6 7.Nc3 0-0 8.Be2 d6 9.0-0 Bd7 10.Nc2 (White withdraws the knight to prevent black exchanging)
a6 (10…Qa5? just encourages white expansion viz: 11. f4 Rac8 12.Rb1! a5 13.b4 Qd8 14. Qd3 and white has a big advantage) 11.f3 A typical move to shore up the e4-pawn allowing the c3-knight to eye up b5 preventing b5 by black Rc8 12.Rc1 Re8 13.Qd2 Qa5
14.Rfd1! Ne5 [14…Red8 15.b4!
A typical tactic based on the undefended e7-pawn, if 15…Nxb4? 16.Nd5! Nc6 17.Qxa5 Nxa5 18.Nxe7+ and 19.Nxc8 winning, so 15…Qh5 is forced when 16.Nd5 leaves white better.
15.b4 (15.c5! is even better: dxc5 16.f4 Neg4 17.e5 winning) 15…Qd8 16.Na3
Short enjoys a solid space advantage, but his pawns will require full piece support. 16…a5 [16…Bc6 17.b5 axb5 18.cxb5 Bd7 19.b6 white is better] 17.b5 Be6 17…b6?
9.exf5 [9.Bxh6!? is playable: 9…Bxh6 10. exf5 Nxd4 11. Qxd4 Rxf5 (11…gxf5 12.0-0 Bg7 13.Qd2 and black has problems with the c8 bishop) 12. 0-0 Bg7 13.Qd3 white has an initiative] 9…Bxd4!10. Bxd4?! (10.Bxh6 is probably better 10…Rxf5 11.0-0 d6 12.Qd2 and black again has problems with the c8 bishop) 10.Bxd4 Nxf5 11.Bc5 The bishop is driven to an awkward place d6 12.Ba3 Nfd4! (Making way for the white squared bishop) 13.0-0 Bf5 14.Rc1 Qd7 Intending to double on the f-file with his rooks
15.Nd5?! White should have improved his bishop on a3 viz: 15.b3 Rf7 16.Bb2 Raf8
17.Nb5! Exchanging off the powerful knight 17…Nxe2+ 18.Qe2 and white is slightly better owing to the great bishop on b2
Rf7 16.b3 Raf8 17.Bb2 e5! Cementing the wonderful steed
18.b4 (The prophylactic 18.f3 is better) Be6! 19.Bd3 Bg4!!
a6 The usual plan here is to exchange knights, play the bishop to c6 and attempt to exchange dark squared bishops with Nd7 11.Qd2?! (11.f3! had to be played to overprotect the e-pawn) b5! Of course 12.cxb5 Nxd4 13.Bxd4 axb5 A massive change has occurred, black has plenty of space on the queenside, he has equalised.
14.a3 Qa5 (Threatening 15…Nxe4!) 15.Rc2 Bc6
16.Qe3?! (16.Nd5 Bxd5 17.exd5 Qxd2 18.Rxd2 is approximately equal) Rfb8! Threatening to trap white’s bishop with e5 17.e5 dxe5 18.Bxe5 Rd8 19.Bf3 Rac8 20.Rd1 Bxf3 21.Qxf3
b4! A typical minority attack 22.Bxf6 b3! A superb Zwischenzug 23.Rcc1 Bxf6 Black has huge pressure on the white queenside with a dragon bishop breathing fire, white is busted
7.e4 (7.Bd2 is less double edged) Bxc3+ !? (The enterprising exchange of black’s fianchettoed bishop for a knight to smash up white’s queenside) 8.bxc3 Nf6 9.f3 Qa5 (Attacking the weak pawns: black’s king is safer in the middle for now. It is imperative for black to attack the weak c-pawns as soon as possible)
10.Bd2 Bd7! Getting the queenside pieces into play quickly 11.Be2 Rc8 12.Ne3 Be6! Now the bishop can safely move to e6 without being harassed by the knight 13.Nd5 Nd7! (An excellent manoeuvre to hold the c5 and e5 squares and target the c4-pawn) 14.0-0 Nce5 15.Be3 White gives up the front c-pawn hoping to benefit from increased scope for his white squared bishop. White cannot attack on the kingside as black has not put his king there.
Nxc4 16.Qd4 Nde5!
17.Bf2 (17.f4 is met by 17..Nxe3 18.Nxe3 Qxc3) g5! Blockading the dark squares 18.a4 Rc5 19.Rfd1 Rg8 20.Rdb1 b6 21.Nb4 f5 22.Qd1
f4! Black has been offering his rook for the dark squared bishop as this bishop holds white’s dark squares together 23.Bxc5 Qxc5+ 24.Qd4 Kf7 25.Nd5 Na5 26.Rb5 Qc8 Black retains the queens as 26..Qxd4 is clearly a blunder
Chapter 14 Play for the bishop pair covers white’s strategy of gaining the bishop pair by playing Nd5 forcing Bxd5. The reviewer has already covered one game demonstrating this idea Polugaevsky-Ostojic. This chapter covers further instructive examples.
Chapter 15 Playing without the light-squared bishop gives another game in the Moscow Variation of the Sicilian Variation. The reviewer has already shown some typical ideas in this line with some of Garry Kasparov’s games.
Chapter 16 shows some typical tactical strikes in the Maroczy. Buy the book to find out about these lightning strikes.
The final section 5 covers games by the world champions in the Maroczy. This is a great way to round off the book showcasing efforts by the great champions.
In summary this is an excellent book on Maroczy structures covering all the major strategies for both sides with some exemplary games showcasing the ideas.
FM Richard Webb, Basingstoke, Hampshire, 1st July 2021
Book Details :
Hardcover : 296 pages
Publisher: Thinkers Publishing; 1st edition (1st July 2019)
Technical Decision Making in Chess : Boris Gelfand
From the Publisher’s Foreword:
“In Technical Decision Making in Chess former World Championship Challenger Boris Gelfand discusses his path to decision making in endgames and positions where one side possesses a structural or material advantage.
This investigation into a top Grandmaster’s technical understanding will illuminate difficult parts of the game that many players find elusive. Concepts like the “Zone of one mistake” are certain to be a revelation to many.”
From the back cover:
“In Decision Making in Major Piece Endings former World Championship Challenger Boris Gelfand discusses his path to decision making in endgames involving rooks or queens, as well as the neglected “4th phase”. Countless games are decided by good or bad technique in such endgames, so readers are certain to benefit from the insights of a word-class Grandmaster on this vital topic.
Grandmaster Boris Gelfand has been an elite player for over 30 years, winning the World Cup, Olympiad Gold, the Candidates and many other top tournaments.”
Grandmaster Jacob Aagaard is the only chess writer to have won all the major awards for chess writing.
Reaction to previous volumes in the series:
In 2015 Positional Decision Making In Chess won the ECF Book of the Year award.
“The most interesting chess book I have read in the last quarter-century.” Mikhail Shereshevsky on Positional Decision Making in Chess.
This new Quality Chess publication Technical Decision Making In Chess uses high quality paper and the printing is clear. The book can easily be laid flat next to the board and does not require weights to prevent it from “self-closing” (a particular bugbear of ours !). Each diagram is clear and the instructional text is typeset in two column format, which, we find, enables the reader to maintain their place easily. Figurine algebraic notation is used throughout and the diagrams are placed adjacent to the relevant text and each major diagram at the beginning of a chapter has a “to move” indicator. Where a “to move” indicator is not present, it is obvious which colour is to move from the accompanying moves in a variation.
Each chapter is introduced with a contemporary photograph of a player or players or a tournament scene which launches each chapter in a engaging manner. This is followed by a Diagram Preview page which shows the critical analytical diagrams in the following chapter and invites the reader to practise their analysis and decision making! If you can work out most of the variations you are stronger than a world champion.
The introduction of this book makes it clear that this book is about “positions where the main goal is the conversion of a static advantage. (A static or long term advantage can be anything from a weakness to better pieces to an actual material advantage.) The flip side is included in this, meaning when it is the opponent who is trying to convert an advantage and we are trying to resist.”
It is not an endgame primer or manual on basic endgames as there are plenty of these theoretical works already in existence: the author’s particular favourites are named.
The author suggests how to best use the book by first analysing the endgames without a chess engine and/or tablebases to prevent lazy thinking by relying too heavily on engine assessments without understanding: “I just want to say that any active work with the the engine, where you are probing, analysing, asking questions, examining and so on, is useful. Any passive submission to the engine evaluations is likely to make you a worse player.”
“The key question for us has not been which line wins. but why the line is winning.”
The chapter themes are not the usual themes that are found in other endgame books, for example arranged by material, except for the last chapter on opposite bishop endgames. Boris Gelfand shows the vast majority of the endgames in relation to the whole game including the opening and middlegame transitions. This is the modern way to study endgames and gives a much deeper understanding of chess in general and is the approach of a Grandmaster.
Chapter 1 Akiba Showing The Way
In this chapter, Boris showcases the great endgame skill of Akiba Rubinstein in his famous game versus Richard Reti at Gothenburg 1920. It is black to move in the position below which is included in Reuben Fine’s Basic Chess Endings and many other endgame manuals. Black is clearly better with multiple advantages:
Better pawn structure on the queen side, the c2 pawn needs constant vigilance. The white a2 is also a significant weakness.
Better minor piece
Better pawn structure on the kingside: the white kingside is full of holes, hence black’s best move given below
30…Bd7! was the strongest move, fixing the white pawns on the dark squares. They are not in danger from the bishop, but they are unable to prevent the black king from penetrating the position, which is the greatest problem for white.
Rubinstein made one bad move in this game: 30…Ke6? 31.g4! Now white can draw with accurate play, but in practice, he missed the drawing ideas.
31…Kd6 32.h3 g6 33.Kd2 Bd7
34.Nf3 Better is 34.Ng2! The idea is simple. White wants to play d3-d4 and Ne3, when he has managed to plug the holes on the light squares on the kingside to a significant degree. 34…d4 is critical, cutting across this idea. 35.cxd4 cxd4 36.c4 dxc3+ 37.Kxc3 This looks to be good for black as he has a potential outside passed pawn on the queenside, but white can apparently hold! 37…g5 38.f5 Bc6 39.Ne3 Bf3 40.d4 Kc6 41.a3 and white draws. This is extremely instructive and should be studied carefully.
The game continued 34…Ke7 Another idea is 34…h6 35.Ke3 g5 and Gelfand shows that white has a lot of fantastic resources to just hold the game. Buy the book to find out how! 35.Ke3 h5
Reti now placed a horridly passive move 36.Nh2? which definitely loses. His last chance was a far sighted pawn sacrifice to draw as follows: 36.Nh4! Kf7 37.gxh5! gxh5 38.f5! Ke7 39.Ng6+ Kd6 40.h4! Bxf5 41.Nf4 Bg4 42.d4! and white has created an effective fortress. Black cannot make progress as he loses a pawn.
36…Kd6 37.Ke2? (37.gxh5 gxh5 38.h4 is tougher, but does not hold. 38…Bh3! The domination theme, a sample line is 39.Nf3 Ke6! 40. Nh2 b5 41.Kf2 Kd6 42.Ke3 a5 43.Nf3 Ke6 44.Nh2 a5 45.Kf2 (45.a3? Kf5 with the idea of b4 creating an outside a-pawn wins quickly) a3! 46.Ke3 Kf5 47.Kf3 Kg6 48.Ke3 d4+ 49.cxd4 Be6 50.Kd2 Bxa2 and black wins as the blockade does not hold.
The game continued 37…d4! Fixing a2 and c2 and widening the bridgehead for the king and bishop. 38.cxd4 cxd4
White lost quickly as follows 39.Kd2 hxg4 40.hxg4 Bc6 41.Ke2 Bd5 42.a3 b5 43.Nf1 a5 44.Nd2
Now black won with the thematic 44…a4! forcing the creation of a passed a-pawn. We all know that knights are very poor at dealing with passed rook pawns. 45.Ne4+(45.Nb1 Kc5 46.c3 Ba2 wins) Bxe4 46.dxe4 b4 47.Kd2 bxa3 48.Kc1 g5 0-1
This ending is worthy of close study, not just to enjoy Rubinstein’s great technique, but also to discover hidden resources in difficult positions: a variation on the theory of infinite resistance.
Chapter 2 Turning Points
This section covers two interesting Gelfand games, one of which he wins and one he loses. As the chapter heading indicates, the key theme is recognising critical points in a game. The section culminates in the analysis of a fascinating same colour bishop endgame from the second game that was holdable by the inferior side.
This is a middlegame position from a Catalan opening. Gelfand comments along the lines of white (Ivanchuk) is a little better with a better bishop and a bit more space. The important factor is that the position is easier to play for white and white risks little by playing on. Black’s main problem is the decision about when to stay passive (waiting) or go active. This general issue is covered more in chapter 3.
It is hard to believe that a player of Ivanchuk’s standard ends up in a losing position after only six more moves!
White played 21.Nel?! (Hoping to get the knight to b4 an apply some pressure. The simple and natural 21.Bd3 was better. After 21…Qd6 white can try 22.Ne5, 21…Qc8 with the idea of a5 and Ba6 exchanging the semi-bad bishop is logical. 22.Qa3 Qf8 23.Qa4 Qc8 24.Kg2 a5 25.Bb5 Ba6 26.Bxa6 Qaa6 27.Ne5 Qc8 28.Qc6 and white is better in the inevitable double knight ending.
The game continued 21…Qc8 22.Nc2 Ne4! 23.Nxe4 dxe4
White probably mistakenly thought this pawn structure transformation was in his favour. This is incorrect. The e4-pawn is fixed on the colour of the bishop, however, the e4 pawn gives a space advantage, the d5 square and a pivot for a pawn storm on the king side.
White should probably play 24.a4 then Bd5 25.Qc3 Qxc3 26.bxc3 White is optically better but 26…Bb7! 27.Nb4 Nb8! Black is going to bring his king over and hold. White played 24.Qc3? Qxc3 25.Bxc3 b5! This looks dangerous putting another pawn on the colour of the bishop, but white’s bishop is also hemmed in by black’s pawns and black has a significant space advantage.
This is the crucial turning point of the game. White should have objectively realised that he had gone wrong and looked for way to draw. 26.c4 looks reasonable, but after bxc4 27.Bxc4 Nb6 28.Be2 a5 29.Kf1 Bd5 30.a3 Bc4!? white is a fraction worse. Black has rid himself of the semi-bad bishop and has a space advantage in a knight endgame.
White played 26.a4? (See two diagrams back above, gifting black an outside passed a-pawn) and duly lost. An horrendous positional error from a world class player. Black combined the passed a-pawn distraction with a general advance on the king side to create entry points for his king and win.
In the second game, the aforementioned bishop ending reached this critical position.
White played 44.h4? which loses. 44.Kb6! would have drawn. The analysis is complicated but black’s best try is 44…Ke6 (44…Bd1 also leads to draw by a single tempo) 45.Bg6 Kd6 46.Be4 c5 47.Kb5 Bd5 48.Bxd5 Kxd5 49.Kxa4 h5 50. Kb5 c4 51.Kb6 Ke4 52.Kxb7 Kf3 53.Kc6 Kg2 54.Kc5 Kxh2 55.Kxc4 Kxg3 56.b4 h4 57.b5 h3 58.b6 h2 59.b7 h1=Q 60.b8=Q Qe4+ 61.Kc5 Qxf4 (see below) with a theoretical draw but still a practical challenge. The companion volume Decision Making in Major Piece Endings covers this type of ending.
This whole bishop ending is worthy of close study as white has some amazing ideas to hold an ending that just looks lost.
Chapter 3 covers the important topic of active or passive defence.
Gelfand demonstrates this theme with a complex double rook and knight endgame. Here is a position a few moves before that endgame, where black missed a chance to equalise comfortably.
Gelfand points out that active defence with 23…Nd5! forces easy equality. 24.Qxe5 Nxe3! 25.Be4= (25.Qxe3? Qxe3 26.fxe3 Rxd3 27.Rxa7 Rxa7 28.Rxa7 Rxb3 and black is playing for a win)
Black played the passive 23…Qc6?! forcing a queen exchange. This is a common mistake when a (weaker) player wants a draw and exchanges pieces with small concessions 24.Qxc6 Bxc6 25.Bf1! Rdb8?! (26…Rab8! is more active when white can win a pawn but has great technical difficulties) 26.Bc4?! ( 26.Ra6! Rb6 27.Bc4 Bd5 28.Bxd5 Nxd5 29.Rxb6 Nxb6 30.Ra5! White is definitely in plus equals mode playing for two results.) 26…Bd5?! (26…Bb5 equalises) 27.Nxd5 Nxd5 28.Ne4 Rb4 29. Nd2! Rb7 Reaching the position below.
White played 30.Ra5 which sets a small trap. 30.g4! was probably better gaining space and attempting to isolate the e5 pawn from its friends. Black played the obvious 30…Rd8?! activating the rook (30…Nc3 is better). After the game move, white has an edge and it’s very instructive to see how Gelfand increases his advantage in a practical game with mistakes from both sides.
Chapter 4 covers the common idea of A Bad Plan is Better than No Plan.
Here is a complex middlegame position.
The penalties of planless play are amply demonstrated in the middlegame between moves 21-30 where planless play by black spoils an equal position resulting in a difficult heavy piece middlegame and subsequent losing king and pawn ending.
White to move on move 40. What would you play? 40.a4! springs to mind spoiling black’s majority and winning.
Chapter 5 is all about long games with an increment.
Gelfand demonstrates two games, the first is a complex rook and knight endgame; the second of which is a very long queen and minor piece ending with an extra pawn.
This queen and minor piece ending has just arisen after white forced the exchange of rooks a few moves ago.
White played 34.Qe2? which is a blunder. 34.Kg1 is obviously better, 34…Nxh4 35.Bxe5 activates the bishop increasing white’s advantage. 34…Kg8? Missing 34…Nf4! 35. Qf3 (35.Bxf4 Qxh4! threatening mate) 35.Kg1 Qd2 with loads of counterplay 35.Kg1 Nxh4 36. Bxe5 Qa5 37.Bg3 Ng6
White has increased his advantage by activating his bishop.
I shall show a couple of other positions from this instructive game with Gelfand’s pithy comments. Black sacrifices the h-pawn to open up the white king.
White played 45.Qg3?! instead of the consolidating 45.Bc3! “White consolidates and is on the way to winning the game. In these long games where it is very hard to spot the critical moments, because every moment is a mini-version of it, inaccuracies are bound to happen. This is why it is important to analyse the games and improve our feeling for how to spend our time, how to organise our pieces, how to organise our thinking and how to control the opponent’s counterplay. A lot of happens subconsciously. We analyse the games, find out what actually happened, compared to our experience during the game, and our feeling for the details will be slightly better the next time around.”
At move 49 this position was reached:
Gelfand played 50.Qe3!? a perfectly decent move. Gelfand comments that the computer suggests 50.Kf3 Qf5+ 51.Ke2 Qe5 52.Qe7 Qxb2+ 53.Ke3 reaching this position:
The knight is lost after 53…Nxf2 54.Qe6+ Kh8 55.Qc8+ Kh7 56.Qf5+ A brilliant line.
Gelfand makes a wise and honest observation: “Obviously this is the type of thing the engine does much better than a human. Finding a tactic in a position where there are a large number of possibilities. No human can go 2-3 moves deep in all lines and see these types of options. So, all in all, I pay attention to this kind of information, but I do not regret not seeing it.”
At move 101 (see position below), Boris comments: “At this point I was confident that I would win. I knew what I should do. The queen controls everything and the white king can go forward. White is also winning in this position if there are no f- or g- pawns on the board….White can also play f5-f6, creating a situation where the black king is exposed, liniting the number of checks Black is able to give. The general idea is basic: White will aim to put the queen in-between on one of these checks, spiking the black king, forcing the exchange of queens.”
Having read the relevant section in the companion volume “Decision Making In Major Piece Endings” even the reviewer would be confident of victory in this technical position.
Chapter 6 When is the Right Time to Run?
This chapter is about “situations in both the middlegame and the endgame, where both players had to make decisions about when to improve their position and target the opponent’s resources and when to roll the dice and attack the king or let passed pawns roll. This is perhaps the most essential theme in top level chess, as a good feeling for what kind of action is needed in various positions, when to calculate and when simply to improve the position, is worth many points.”
Gelfand demonstrates this with a complex rook and knight ending.
Gelfand also brings out a pertinent comment about computer evaluations in this section. This is a position from a short variation in that game:
Boris says “Stockfish helpfully tells us that the position is still equal. But is it really? Black is full control of the d-file and can penetrate to the second rank…..Black is much more comfortable….”
Objectively, a strong engine would hold as white, but who would choose white?
Chapter 7 Choosing the Right Transformations
This chapter shows a complex queen and knight ending which is really interesting considering all the transformations to knight endings.
Black played a technical, far reaching move 30…Qg5! forcing 31.e3 and the weakening of the f3 square. Gelfand stresses the point that black cannot win on the queenside alone and must create weaknesses on the kingside. Gelfand analyses the alternative 30…Qa6 to a probable win giving some superb analysis including a brilliant positional knight sacrifice creating passed a- and h-pawns which is definitely worth studying:
37…Nf1+ 38.Ke1 Nxh2 39. Kf2 Kf8! 40. Kg2 Nxf3 41.Kxf3 (41.exf3 h5 ensures a passed h-pawn) f5! Black wins by a tempo.
Chapter 8 – Karjakin
This game is a technical queenless middlegame in the Chebanenko.
This position gives a flavour of the struggle:
White is clearly better, but how does white proceed here? Buy the book to find out.
Chapters 9 and 10 are titled Stalemate and Stalemated respectively.
Here is an amusing finish:
Black is under the cosh with a killing rook discovery on the cards.
Bacrot played 34…Bd3+!! 35.Bxd3 Qd5 36.Bc4 Renewing the threats. 36…Rh1+ 37.Kg2 Qd2+! 38.Kxh1 Qg2+ stalemate
Chapter 11 The Relevance Of Endgame Studies
This chapter is good and the title is self explanatory. Solving endgame studies is useful for getting a feel for the potential of the pieces – not only in the endgame. Endgame studies are the artistic side of chess. Here is an instructive and entertaining study composed by Sergey Tkachenko & Boris Gelfand:
I will not give the solution, but there is a beautiful zugzwang, so buy the book to find out!
Chapter 12 Geometry
This chapter has an intriguing title but covers mainly R+N v R and positions with R v N or B with just a few pawns. Here is a good example:
White is in great danger here with his monarch in the corner. 65. Rxa7 loses as it unpins the knight allowing the prosaic mate 65..Rh5+ 66. Kg1 Ne2+ 67.Kf1 Rh1# The move that springs to mind is 65.Kg1. In fact this does draw as does 65.Kh2.
White actually played 65.Nd4+? to distract the black rook, so he could capture the a7-pawn. After 65…Rxd4 66.Rxa7 black has a pretty win with 66…Rd6! 67.Ra2 (67.Rf7 Kg3 68.Rg7+ Ng6! shuts out the rook and mates) 67…Rh6+ 68. Rh2 Nh3! with a beautiful zugzwang that I have not seen before.
69.Rh2 Nf2+ 70.Kg1 Rh1#
Chapter 13 – Endings with Opposite Coloured Bishops
This is one of the reviewer’s favourite chapters as it shows the immense complexity of such endgames.
White has just played 71.Bxb4 and reached the haven of an opposite coloured bishop endgame. This is quite a common type of position reached in practice. This position is a draw but it is difficult and a world class player of Peter Leko’s standard did not succeed in practice. Buy the book to find out how black won and how white could have drawn.
To summarise this is a very good technical book with many instructive games with deep analysis and didactic commentary. The book is clearly aimed at aspiring FIDE2000+ (ECF175+) players and above.
FM Richard Webb, Chineham, Hampshire, May 12th 2021
“When should we exchange a piece in the endgame and when should we keep it? Why is it so important? How to make a right choice? Different types of endings and guidance on how to make the correct decision were the subject of my book The Correct Exchange in the Endgame. Two editions were very well accepted by chess players of different levels. I am especially happy that many chess coaches and teachers found it useful for their training programs.
The book was announced as a silver winner of the Boleslavsky Award 2016 by the FIDE Trainer’s Commission. Many readers and coaches expressed a wish to see more instructive exercises, so together with Thinkers Publishing we decided to make an exercise book. It can be widely used by chess teachers in schools, coaches in chess clubs and all chess players.
Trying to solve 120 instructive exercises and then going through the correct solutions, you will certainly improve your decision-making ability and analysing skills, as well as enrich your knowledge and understanding of the final stage of the chess game.”
From the publisher:
“Lithuanian Grandmaster Rozentalis lifetimes achievements in chess are enormous. We mostly remember him being champion of Lithuania in 1981 and 2002, 3 times champion of the Young Masters of the USSR, 1984-85-87, World Youth Team champion in 1985 and World Senior Team champion in 2014. In between 1985 until now, he won 85 international tournaments, played for many European different club teams and in 10 Chess Olympiads for Lithuania. This is his second book for Thinkers Publishing. His first, ‘The Correct Exchange in the Endgame’, became a great success and was nominated as ‘FIDE CHESS BOOK 2016’.”
End of blurb…
There are two short introductory sections: a preface and an introduction that clarify the purpose of the book as an exercise book with 120 endgame positions to solve. The problems are all concerned with exchanging issues: exchange a piece or not; which piece to exchange; when and where to exchange.
The main workbook is divided up into six chapters based on three increasing levels of difficulty for the problems:
Warm Up Solutions
There are forty exercises from real games at each complexity level, presented as four problems per page. Many of the positions are from Rozentalis’ own games. Each solution chapter demonstrates the answers with typically one to two pages of analysis for each solution accompanied by two to three diagrams.
The problems cover all types of piece configurations in endgames from single piece endgames through to complex multi piece endgames. The problems vary in their nature with these typical example themes:
Calculation (for example pawn races in king and pawn endgames)
Knowledge of basic endgames
Exploitation of weaknesses
Suppression of counterplay
The reviewer will show some positions from each problem chapter to give a flavour of the coverage.
Here is the first position in the book demonstrating an exchange to exploit pawn weaknesses and suppress counterplay:
The problem posed is should white exchange rooks or not?
General positional considerations say that a rook and bishop are slightly better than a rook and knight in an endgame: this advantage is regarded as a “grindable” endgame advantage by good endgame players. However, in this position black has numerous pawn weaknesses on both sides of the board, that can be exploited by the active bishop in an open position: namely a fixed g4 pawn and a vulnerable pawn chain on a6/b7. Black’s rook is also active on the c-file, if white moves his rook along the d-file to say 41.Rd5 Rc1+ is annoying for white.
41.Rd7+! exchanging rooks to exploit black pawn weaknesses and prevent counterplay by black with his rook.
41…Rxd7 42.Bxd7 Nd6 This loses the pawn on g4, but 42…Kf6 43.Bc8 wins either the b7 pawn or the g4 with a technically winning endgame
43. Bxg4 fxg3 44. fxg3! Capturing with the f-pawn, not the h-pawn to eventually make a distant passed pawn on the h-file which makes black’s defence even more difficult. White now has a straightforward technical win.
44…a5 45.Kf2 Nc4 46. b3 Ne5 47. 47.Be2 Kf6 48. Ke3 Kf5 49. Kd4 g4 Black tries to block the white pawns, and hopes for Nf3 as some point, but the g4 will just become another target.
50.Kd5 b6 After 50…Nf3, white wins with 51.h3!
51.a4 Zugzwang, if 51…Nf3 52.h3! wins, if the knight moves to say d7 or f7, white’s king penetrates decisively on the queen side.
51…Kf6 52.Ke4 1-0 (The g-pawn drops after Kf4 and Bxg4)
The second example shows a common tactical theme to simplify to a winning king and pawn endgame.
Black has achieved a lot in this endgame with the better placed pieces and a far more potent pawn majority, plus the white knight is utterly dominated. Black’s next move achieves a transformation that quickly decides the game.
44…Bxb2! 45.Nxb2 (45.axb4+ makes no difference: 45…Kxb4 46.Nxb2 c3+ wins)
45…c3+ 46.Kc2 axb2 47.axb4+ Kxb4
The white king has to deal with the black’s passed a-pawn, while the black king goes to the kingside for a delicious meal of white pawns.
Here is another position showing that exchanging the opponent’s most active piece is always an important consideration.
White has a very active rook which holds his position together. If white was to move, he would play Rf4 collecting black’s dangerous passed pawn.
But it black to move and he played 44…Rf8! (44…h3 allows 45.Rf2 and white fights on) and white resigned 0-1. Why did he resign?
If the white rook avoids the exchange, for example 45.Rd5, then after 45…h3 the black cannot be stopped.
Exchanging rooks is hopeless as the black knight dominates the bad bishop. Black’s passed pawn will distract the white king, while the black king mops up the weak white g-pawns:
Here is a cautionary tale regarding transitioning into a king and pawn ending. White had been pressing for a while, playing on for the win with an outside passed pawn and the better minor piece. It did not occur to him that he could lose, but just watch, enjoy and learn!
46.Kd4? (A poor move, over pressing, but white can still draw. Safer was 46. Bc2 b3 47.axb3 cxb3 48.Bd1 Na4 with a simple draw)
46…Nxe4 47. Kxe4?? (The losing move as white’s king is too far away to prevent a classic pawn breakthrough which is covered in all good endgame primer manuals. White must have lost his sense of danger. 47. Kxc4! Kg6 48.Kb5 with a quick draw as the knight cannot prevent the exchange of both queenside pawns.)
47…a4 48.Ke3 Only now did white realise that after 48.Kd4
one of the black pawns queens in a well known and instructive motif: 48…c3! 49.bxc3 b3 50. axb3 a3! winning.
After the game move of 48.Ke3 black played 48…c3 which wins. The players agreed a draw in this position! An amazing escape for white, particularly as both players were at least IM strength (2400+).
To see why black is winning, analyse on.
49.b3 (Forced as 49.bxc3 allows 49…b3! queening a pawn as in the variation above) 49…axb3 50.axb3 Kg6
Black wins using a well known technique covered in Fine’s Basic Chess Endings and many other endgame manuals.
The key idea breaking into white’s position: black’s king seizes the critical squares and wins the b3 pawn by force.
56.Kxc2 Ke2 winning easily.
Now, the reviewer will showcase three positions from the intermediate problems chapter.
Here is a transitioning problem.
Black played the very poor 75…Qxh4?? throwing away a win. Was this bad evaluation or a lack of knowledge? If black hadn’t played so quickly, he would have easily found the win by retaining his much more active queen: 75…Qe3+ 76.Kf1 (76.Kh1 Qe2 mates, exploiting white’s passive queen) 76…Qe4 77.Qh2 Bd5! bringing the bishop into the attack and either mates or wins both g-pawns with check.
The game continued: 76.gxh4 g3 77.h5+ Kxh5 78.Kh1 Kg5 79. Kg1 Kf4 80. Kh1 0.5-0.5
This is a well known fortress draw, once again covered in Fine’s BCE and other good endgame books. Black can collect the a-pawn and bring his king over the kingside but the white fortress cannot be breached. A decent effort is put the black king on e1, e2 or e3 and wait for the white king to move into the corner and try the poisoned offer of the bishop on f3 viz 89…Bf3!?
If white rids himself of the turbulent priest, then 90…Kf2 wins for black. However, the calm 91. Kg1! from white, ignoring the proferred prelate, draws for white. Note that with a knight instead of a bishop, this would be winning for black as white must capture!
The next position shows a complex position with two rooks and a minor piece each. The attacking power and mating potential of two rooks is well known, particularly in conjunction with the absolute seventh. The example aptly demonstrates this.
White has a massive passed a-pawn and is winning. White continued with 33.Be7 and did win pretty quickly. There is however, a simpler and cleaner win:
33.Bxe5! Rxe5 34. Rb7 Rxg5+ (34…Re8 35.a7 Rcc8 36.Rxb6 Ra8 37.Rb7 followed by Rfb1 & Rb8 wins) 35.Kh1 Ra5 (black does not have time to attack white’s king as the a-pawn is too fast) 36.a7 Rca3 (Stopping the pawn, but…)
37.Rd1 mating after Rxa7 38.Rd8# (Pretty)
Here is a really educational ending about hidden dangers in so called drawn endings. Here white has an extra pawn in a Q+4 v Q+3 with all the pawns on one side. This is a drawn ending, but the stronger side can torture the opponent for a long time. To put this position into context, the last two moves were 81.Qd8+ Kg7?
White played an unexpected, but amazing move, which is not obvious unless you have seen similar ideas before.
82.Qf6+!! (Giving up the extra pawn to force a pawn ending with a better king.) Qxf6 83. exf6+ Kxf6 84.Kf4
Zugzwang! Black is totally lost. Black’s king must move one way and white’s king goes the other way. White exploits the weakness on h5 and his reserve tempi with the f-pawn.
86…Ke6 87.f4! The black king must retreat and white plays f5 destroying the pawn structure and wins the h-pawn with a simple technical win. 1-0
To finish, the reviewer will demonstrate one of the advanced problems. This is an exchanging problem in a Q+B ending.
The ending is complex with both sides having a spoiled pawn majority. White has the better bishop as black has many pawns fixed on black squares. White may have difficulty getting into black’s position as the position is fairly blocked. Black can hold but must be careful. Black forced the play with 25…Qd2? which was the wrong decision as white can win with a clever bishop manoeuvre, ruining black’s potential fortress, clearly overlooked by black.
25…Bf4+! was the correct move which looks like a pointless check but is extremely subtle. White must reply 26.g3 to make progress which restricts white’s own bishop: a quick h5 and Bh4 is no longer available. If 26.Kh3 Kf7 27.Qf3 Kg8 and black simply waits. 26…Bd2
If white goes for a queen exchange hoping to the win the better bishop ending, black is safe after 27.Qd3 (27.Qc4+ Kf8 is ok) 27…Qxd3 28.cxd3 c5 followed by c6 and white can never break through and it is a fortress.
In the game, white took the queens off with 26.Qxd2 Bxd2 27.Bg3! (Black probably expected 27.h5 Kf7 28.Bh4 Bg5 with a clear draw.) 27…Bc3 (The bishop is distracted to defend the e-pawn) 28.h5! Opening the way for the white bishop. Black has a nightmare bishop ending which cannot be saved as he has far too many weaknesses.
28…Kf7 29.Bh4 (Threatening the Bd8) Ke6 30. g5 Bd2 31.gxh6 was played which wins easily as white has undoubled his pawn and black still has the weak h6 pawn. However 31.g6! wins more quickly fixing the g7 pawn. The main point is that Kd7 from black allows Bf6! in reply.
If black plays 31…Bb4, 32.Bd8 Bd6 (32…Kd7 33.Bf6) 33. Kh3 Zugzwang, eventually black will have to lose a pawn and the game.
All in all, this is an very good endgame puzzle book to work through. Players of all standards will learn a lot from attempting to solve the positions followed by studying the solutions which are well structured and easy to follow.
FM Richard Webb, Chineham, Hampshire, 26th April 2021
Forcing Chess Moves : The Key to Better Calculation : Charles Hertan
From the publisher :
“Charles Hertan is a FIDE master from Massachusetts with several decades of experience as a chess coach. He is the author of the bestselling Power Chess for Kids series. Joel Benjamin broke Bobby Fischer’s record as the youngest ever US master. He won the US Championship three times and has been a trainer for more than two decades. His book Liquidation on the Chess Board won the 2015 Best Book Award of the Chess Journalists of America (CJA). His latest book is the highly acclaimed Better Thinking, Better Chess.”
From the book’s rear cover :
“Why is it that the human brain so often refuses to consider winning chess tactics? Every chess fan marvels at the wonderful combinations with which famous masters win their games. How do they find those fantastic moves? Do they have special vision? And why do computers outwit us tactically? Forcing Chess Moves proposes a revolutionary method for finding winning moves.
Charles Hertan has made an astonishing discovery: the failure to consider key moves is often due to human bias. Your brain tends to disregard many winning moves because they are counter-intuitive or look unnatural. Its a fact of life: computers outdo us humans when it comes to tactical vision and brute force calculation. So why not learn from them? Charles Hertan’s radically different approach is: use COMPUTER EYES and always look for the most forcing move first.
By studying forcing sequences according to Hertan’s method you will: Develop analytical precision; Improve your tactical vision; Overcome human bias and staleness; Enjoy the calculation of difficult positions; Win more games by recognizing moves that matter. This New and Extended Fourth Edition of Hertan’s award-winning modern classic includes 50 extra pages with new and instructive combinations.
There is a foreword by three-time US chess champion Joel Benjamin, and a special foreword to this new edition by Swedish Grandmaster Pontus Carlsson. Charles Hertan is a FIDE master from Massachusetts with several decades of experience as a chess coach. He is the author of the bestselling Power Chess for Kids series.”
You might think a chess puzzle book is just that, but there are many ways of going about it.
Are you going to write a text book or an exercise book? Or perhaps a text book with exercises to reinforce the lessons in the text?
Are you going to deal with puzzles winning material, checkmate puzzles, or perhaps positional sacrifices?
Are you going to provide practical advice to your readers about how to find tactics in their own games, or are you simply content to let the positions you demonstrate serve as an inspiration?
How are you going to order it? By tactical device? By level of difficulty? By pieces sacrificed? By squares on which sacrifices are played? Alphabetically: by player? Chronologically: by date?
What level are you aiming it at? Novices? Club players? Experts? Masters?
Most importantly, perhaps, what’s your USP? How are you going to stand out from the crowd?
This is the fourth edition, so Charles Hertan’s book has certainly proved popular (I’d previously read the first edition) and rightly so as well. Everyone enjoys a good puzzle book and this is one of the best on the market.
Let’s take a look inside.
Chapter 1 is about Stock Forcing Moves.
It’s immediately clear that readers should already be very familiar with basic tactical ideas: forks, pins, discovered attacks, deflections and so on. They should also be aware of the concept of what Hertan calls Stock ideas: common ideas which you will gradually become aware of as you look at more and more tactical exercises.
So it’s very much a book for club standard players rather than a book for novices.
This, for example is a common idea. White won with 1. Rxf7+!! Rxf7 2. Qxh6+!! Kg8 3. Qh8+! when White emerges two pawns up (Gallagher – Curran Lyon 1993).
At the end of every chapter you’ll find some puzzles to test your growing tactical skills.
Chapter 2 moves onto Stock Mating Attacks . The same sort of thing, but this time we’re mating our opponents rather than just winning material.
Chapter 3 is Brute Force Combinations. Hertan rightly observes that tactical skill combines two elements, depth and breadth of vision, a point missed by many authors and teachers. This chapter is about depth of vision. “Accurate brute force analysis”, according to the author, “is the single most important chess skill”. I wouldn’t disagree: I’d just add that you will often need to be able to assess the final position accurately: analysis = calculation + assessment.
This is where things start getting difficult.
A typical example.
Here’s Hertan’s commentary on the conclusion of Alatortsev – Boleslavsky (Moscow 1950).
“Black is able to parlay a fleeting advantage in activity into a stunning brute force win:
1… Bh3! 2. f4!
The natural 2. Rfe1 fails to 2… Rxf2! 3. Kxf2 Qe3#.
Since 2… Qc5 3. Rf2 holds, Black had to seek a creative solution, maintaining the initiative.
3. fxg5 Rxe2 4. Qc3 Bg2! 5. Qd3
There’s no time for 5. Re1 Bh3! and, at the right moment, … Rxe1+ and Rf1+! with a winning ending.
Not 5… Rff2 6. Re1!.
White has no good answer to 6… Rg2+, e.g. 6. Kf1 Rxh2; or 6. Qd4 Rg2+ 7. Kf1 c5 8. Qxd6 Bc6+ 9. Ke1 Rg1+ 10. Ke2 Rxa1 11. Qe6+ Rf7.
6… Rg2+ 7. Kh1 Bc6!
A beautiful quiet forcing move; not 7… Rd2? 8. Rxf3 with drawing chances.
8. Rxf8+ Kxf8 9. Qf1+ Rf2+ 0-1”
You’ll see that some of the examples aren’t easy to solve from the diagram. You need what Hertan calls excellent ‘computer eyes’ to calculate accurately that far ahead.
The remainder of the book is devoted to improving your move selection by overcoming human bias. The point is sometimes made that the difference between experts and masters is not so much that they think further ahead, or that they consider more moves, but that they consider better moves. Hertan believes that we often miss the best moves because of cognitive bias. Computers, of course, don’t have this problem.
Chapter 4 looks at Surprise Forcing Moves. These fall into two categories: moves that look impossible and moves that appear unusual or antipositional.
This is from Vetemaa – Shabalov (Haapsalu 1986).
Here, Black found the ‘impossible’ 1… Qb5!!, leaving the queen en prise to two pieces, but spotting that, if either piece takes, the other is pinned so 2… Nb3 is mate.
White has to prevent Qb2# and 2. b4 loses to Nb3+. The game continued 2. Rd2 Nxc3 3. Qxc3 Nxb3+ 0-1.
Chapter 5 is about ESTs: Equal or Stronger Threats. When your opponent makes a threat it’s natural only to consider defensive moves. Sometimes your best option will be to create an equal or stronger threat, but cognitive bias makes these moves hard to find.
Chapter 6 looks for Quiet Forcing Moves, which are again easy to miss. I’m not sure that I’d call a move threatening mate ‘quiet’, though. I guess it all depends what you mean by the word.
Chapter 7 brings us onto Forcing Retreats. Again, when you’re attacking, human bias tend to lead you towards looking at forward rather than backward moves.
From Filguth – De la Garza (Mexico 1980):
“Are your computer eyes sufficiently trained to find the wondrous shot 1. Qh1!! and the two brute force variations that make it the strongest attacking move on the board?”
1… Qh5 would be met by g4 as the h-pawn is guarded, while 1… Qf6, the move played over the board, was met by 2. Bg5! 1-0 because, after 2… hxg5 hxg5, the white queen breaks through to h7.
You’ll realise at this point that there’s considerable overlap between chapters: Qh1 might be seen as a Surprise Forcing Move or a Quiet Forcing Move as well as a Forcing Retreat.
Chapter 8 offers Zwischenzugs: intermediate moves in which, instead of playing an automatic recapture, you find something stronger to do first. There are similarities here with ESTs here: again, human bias will lead you towards taking back without stopping to think about it.
Defensive Forcing Moves are the subject of Chapter 9: these might be moves using tactical force to refute a dangerous but unsound attack, or counterattacking moves, where the defender suddenly turns into the attacker.
Chapter 10 brings us to Endgame Forcing Moves, although Hertan’s definition of endgame is not the same as mine, including, as it does, positions where each side has queen, rook and minor piece.
Chapter 11, Intuition and Creativity, sums everything up. According to Hertan there are five factors which will enable you to develop master intuition: a strong knowledge of stock tactics, hard work in calculating variations, creativity, courage and practical experience and wisdom.
Chapter 12 is a final set of exercises, and Chapter 13 gives you the Hertan Hierarchy, a tool for teaching better calculation skills, which you might see as a flowchart to help you find the best move.
This isn’t the only way to write about tactics, and I’m not convinced that Hertan’s methods are as revolutionary as the publisher claims. Teaching students to look for checks, captures and threats dates back, I think, to Reinfeld and Purdy in the 1930s. I’ve always taught my pupils to use a CCTV to look at the board: look for Checks, Captures, Threats and Violent moves. What he adds, and I’m not sure how original this is, and whether it’s any more than common sense, is to advise you to analyse the most forcing moves first, no matter how foolish they might appear. The idea of using protocols to find the best move and avoid missing tactics dates back at least to Kotov in Think Like a Grandmaster. Some players, including this reviewer, find protocols helpful in some situations, but others strongly dislike the whole idea.
You might also find the continual repetition of the phrase ‘Computer Eyes’ rather grating, and the language at times over hyperbolic. On the other hand, many readers like this style of writing.
But everyone loves tactics books full of beautiful, surprising, creative and imaginative moves, and this book is perhaps the best on the market in that respect. The author has spent decades collecting positions of this nature, and his experience and enthusiasm shines through every page.
It’s not a book for novices. You need a basic grounding in tactics and thinking skills, along with the understanding that most tactics don’t involve sacrifices or surprise moves, that most sacrifices you’ll consider in your games will be unsound, and that, at least at amateur level, more games are lost by unsound sacrifices than won by sound sacrifices (although many games at all levels are won by unsound sacrifices). But anyone from, say, 1400 or so upwards, will be enchanted and inspired by the hundreds of examples of spectacular play to be found here. They’ll also enjoy the exercises and find at least some of the advice, particularly, perhaps, about avoiding cognitive bias when selecting moves to analyse, helpful.
While the teaching methods might not suit all readers, you won’t be disappointed by the contents.
Richard James, Twickenham 1st December 2020
Book Details :
Paperback : 432 pages
Publisher: New In chess; New and Extended 4th ed. edition (16 Aug. 2019)
The Power of Defence and the Art of Counterattack in 64 Pictures : Nikola Nestorović and Dejan Nestorović
From Nikola’s web site :
“My name is Nikola Nestorović and I have been playing chess for more than 20 years. During that time I managed to accomplish most of my playing career goals. The most important fact is that I became a Grandmaster at the end of 2015 and officially I became FIDE Chess Trainer in 2018. As I was growing up I realized that I really enjoy teaching so I decided that I am going to pursue that kind of a profession. Whether at school or at home I was always in the mood for teaching others and that feeling was very important in my chess coaching career. The connection between teacher and student need to be professional but friendly because only with this trust student can improve in a special way. So first, I want to make a special connection with my student – and then, chess will be very easy to learn! For years I worked on my special chess materials, so I can adjust my lessons to any type of player! And one very important thing – your age is not important, you can ALWAYS improve your chess play! So, If you love chess and you want to learn and improve in this beautiful game – I am sure that together – we can achieve your (our) goals! I am waiting for you! Cheers! Nikola”
From the publisher’s website :
“A tale of 64 magical squares in 64 shrewdly created pictures. Many a book delved deep into the vast oceans of tactics, positional play and strategy, but very few dared to enter and master a notoriously elusive realm of defence in chess.
In this highly instructive tome the authors tried to accomplish several demanding goals. To uncover many of the secrets that remain hidden so very often, to tackle the most difficult area of chess skill – defence, and finally to teach a great number of ambitious chess-players helping them to improve their knowledge in this important area of chess expertise.
We present you the book by GM Nikola Nestorović, and his father IM Dejan Nestorović with firm belief that you will appreciate many hours of their hard work and devotion to this intriguing topic. The games presented in this tome are both recent and older ones, played by the chess elite and their lower rated peers, but without exception instructive, deeply and diligently analysed for your reading and learning pleasure.
You learned to attack – now it is time to sharpen your defensive tools!”
The first thing to notice is that this is a handsome hardback, complete with a bookmark, and enhanced by photographs of some of the players featured within. Unlike the previous book I reviewed from this publisher, it uses orthodox fonts for both text and diagrams.
When turning to the first game you’ll see a game from a tournament that is still, at the time of writing this review, unfinished. This is Grischuk – Alekseenko from the 2020 Candidates Tournament. The first section, Modern gladiators, features 19 games or positions from recent tournaments, working backwards from 2020 to 2017, featuring many of today’s leading players.
Knights of XXI century takes us back from 2016 to 2007 with another 19 examples. Then, Pearls don’t lose their luster offers ten more positions going back to Savon – Tal in 1971. A moment of glory gives us seven specimens from slightly less celebrated players, and finally, From the maker’s mind treats us to nine games from the authors themselves.
This is an advanced book covering a difficult topic, that of defence and counterattack, and probably most suitable for players above, say, 2200 strength. You’ll find a lot of exciting, double-edged games, demonstrating all that is best in contemporary chess. Many of the games feature positional sacrifices, so if you’ve read and enjoyed Merijn van Delft’s recent book, this might be a useful follow-up. But the analysis here is much denser: lots of presumably computer generated tactical variations for you to work your way through.
Let’s look at one of the shorter and simpler examples.
We join the game Kožul – Stević (Nova Gorica 2007) with White about to play his 31st move. (Informator’s house style is to omit capture and check signs: I’m following that here, but using letters for pieces instead of the book’s figurines.)
“Kožul is resigned to the fact that he has to wait for his opponent’s mistake in the realisation because Black’s extra pawn on b4 along with excellent placement of his pieces don’t bode well for White.”
“A mistake that wouldn’t have needed to drastically affect assessment and events in the game had the danger alarm made a sound in good time.
“31… Qd3!? After simple exchange of queens Black would have only minor technical problems in the realisation of his material advantage. 32. Qd3 Rd3 33. Rc6 Ba5 34. Rc8 Kh7 35. Kg2 g5 With further strengthening of the position.”
“The only way to create a chance, of course. White is still waiting for his opponent’s help.”
“After Rd3 one could surmise that Stević overlooked his opponent’s threat and that he only expected a passive defence. 32… Rd8! after the rook returned to the eighth rank, the chance for salvation disappeared, at least at this moment.”
“A nice tactical stroke which immediately changed the situation on the board. This was an absolute shock for Stević! All of a sudden he had to deal with concrete problems. And as it is usually the case, one mistake follows another.”
“33… hxg5?? 34. Qh5#”
“After Qe4 good defence is required in order not to lose the game.”
“Now a fatal error which brings White closer to victory. Black has two responses after which his opponent would be forced to draw.”
(Now there’s some analysis of Black’s drawing moves Kg5! and Kh5!, along with a diagram after Kh5, which I’ll omit here.)
35. ef6 Kg5 36. fg7!?
“36. Qe5! The safest path to victory. 36… Kg4 37. Qf4 Kh5 38. fg7+-”
“A good attempt to create a counter-chance. 36… Qb1! The best practical chance. 37. Kg2 Rg3! 38. hg3 Qe4 39. Kh2 Qh7 40. g8Q Qg8 41. Rg8 Kf6 42. f4 There would still be some play here, although it can be said that White only needs to resolve some technical problems in the realisation of his material advantage.”
(There’s another diagram here: rather redundant as we’re only two half moves away from the previous one.)
“The game can still be lost for White: 37. Kf2?? Rd2 38. Kf1 Qd1 39. Qe1 Qf3 40. Kg1 Qg2#”
37. Rg3 38. Kf2 1:0
“Dangerous checks have disappeared. Black resigns due to the simple capture of the rook followed by promotion of the pawn to queen. Certainly, the key moments happened in time-trouble which is the period of the game when the side experiencing problems in the position should be concentrated and should seek its chance carefully.
“Kožul seized his chance while for Stević it can be said that he first missed a huge opportunity to win and then when he had to calculate where to go with his king and how o do it, he made incorrigible mistakes and suffered defeat.”
Here’s one of the authors in action in a very recent game: Todorović – N Nestorović (Smederevska Palanka (rapid) 2020).
“The position on the board shows us the moment when White has the opportunity to prevent a counterattack with a simple bc3 or enter calculations by playing tactical Ne8 where, at first glance, he wins material and easily promotes the e-pawn to queen.”
“29. bc3! (I’ve omitted the diagram) The simplest move! Now White is threatening to capture the rook on e8 and create the best defensive setup. 29… Qc4! 30. R4e3! After two simple defensive moves, Black’s hope vanishes. 30… Rc7 (30… Re7 31. Qa8! Capturing material.) 31. Qc7 And Black doesn’t have any possibility to create threats. 31… Qa2 32. cd4 Qa1 33. Kd2 Qb2 34. Kd1 Qb1 35. Ke2+-
“The king goes to the part of the board where there are no more checks and so the last threats will disappear.”
(There’s another diagram here.) “The only way to create threats and shift the focus of play to the other side of the board.”
“The most logical way to defend the white castling.”
(There’s a long note here demonstrating that 30. Nd6!? and 30. Qa5!? both lead to perpetual check, and again there’s a diagram after each of these moves.)
30… cb2 31. Kb2 Qc2 32. Ka1 Qc3
“Our desire to win sometimes gets us off the right path. 33. Kb1=
33… Nc2 34. Kb1
(Surely this diagram should be after, rather than before Black’s next move.)
“A phenomenal way to end a counterattack!
“White resigns due to his inability to defend from checkmate!”
35. Qb6 Na3# 0:1
These extracts should give you some idea of the strengths and weaknesses of this book. There’s a lot of great chess here: exciting, creative and imaginative, as well as, as you’d expect in games of this nature, even at the highest level, a lot of mistakes as well. You certainly get a feeling of the inexhaustible riches of our beloved game. The subject of defence and counter-attack is not an easy one to teach, but the main point is well made. If you’re under attack you must meet immediate threats, but, beyond that, you should, if possible, avoid passive defence and look for opportunities to create active counterplay, even if this involves taking risks. Don’t be afraid to consider moves which may not be objectively best but will put your opponent under pressure.
The authors clearly have a keen eye for games of this nature and all readers will enjoy playing through and studying them.
However, you can probably also see some negatives. The translation, while mostly making sense, is a long way below professional standards. The layout of the book is poor and makes the games difficult to follow. You’d certainly need two boards and even then it wouldn’t be easy. There are lots of long tactical variations with embedded diagrams the same size as those in the main text. In some cases the game continuation is in the annotations while the book follows a more interesting line that wasn’t played. It all gets rather confusing, and the translation, along with the lack of capture and check signs, doesn’t help. It’s especially confusing when the actual game continuation is in the notes, while another variation, which would have led to a different result, is given as the main line.
Speaking as a 1900 strength player, I thought the book was pitched rather above me. I’d have preferred annotations with fewer computer generated variations and less verbose prose, and perhaps a puzzle section at the end to reinforce the lessons learnt from the examples, along with an improved layout and a better translation. The van Delft book mentioned above handles a similar subject in a much more appropriate way for players of my level, in terms of a more logical structure and more helpful annotations.
A qualified recommendation, then, for lovers of thrilling tactical games with vacillating fortunes played, mostly, at the highest level.
Richard James, Twickenham 22nd November 2020
Book Details :
Hardback : 352 pages
Publisher: Sahovski Chess (aka Chess Informant or Informator) 2020
Mastering Positional Sacrifices : A Practical Guide to a Vital Skill in Chess : Merijn van Delft
From the publisher :
“Merijn van Delft is an International Master from the Netherlands. He has been a chess trainer for more than two decades and created instructional material both online and offline.”
From the book’s rear cover :
“Most chess games of beginners and post-beginners are decided by fairly straightforward tactics. Anyone who wants to progress beyond this level and become a strong club player or a candidate master, needs to understand that somewhat mysterious-looking resource, the positional sacrifice.
International Master Merijn van Delft has studied and loved positional sacrifices for as long as he can remember. This non-forcing tool is not just a surprising and highly effective way of creating a decisive advantage during a game. Positional sacrifices are also instruments of superior beauty.
Van Delft has created a unique thematic structure for all types of positional sacrifices. He shows the early historical examples, explains which long-term goals are typical for each fundamental theme and presents lots of instructive modern examples. He then concentrates on those sacrifices that have become standard features of positional play. Solving the exercises he has added will further enhance your skills.
Playing a positional sacrifice will always require courage. Merijn van Delft takes you by the hand and not only teaches the essential technical know-how, he also helps you to recognize the opportunities when to take the plunge. Mastering Positional Sacrifices is bound to become a modern-day classic.”
Dutch IM Merijn van Delft introduces readers to one of the most complex and fascinating aspects of chess: the positional sacrifice. He’s not the first author to tackle this subject: previous books by McDonald and Suba, which I haven’t read are discussed in the bibliography.
A few quotes from the introduction will give you some idea of what this book is about, and who the target readership is.
“I am trying to write for as broad a readership as possible, but let me give a mild warning to beginning chess players: this book may not be the best place to start for you. … Here is a mild warning for very experienced players as well: you may come across a fair amount of examples you already know. I considered it my job to combine the most impressive classical games with new material, and to find a nice balance there.
“A feel-good book is what this is meant to be. It should be fun to play through the games and the book can easily be used for entertainment purposes only. If you are simply seeking inspiration, feel free to open it at a random page and check the diagrams. The most exciting moments are always covered with a diagram and described in the text that follows.
“Having said that, my main intention has been to present the material as systematically as possible. My goal was to create a unique framework of positional sacrifices. The structure should have an inner logic and should help the reader to build up his knowledge systematically.”
Let’s look inside and see whether or not the author has achieved his aim. There are 115 complete games in the main body of the book, ranging from Morphy to Wijk aan Zee 2020, so it’s nothing if not up to date. All but the first two (in the introduction) feature positional sacrifices. All games are fully annotated, mostly verbally, with variations only given when necessary. It’s particularly good to see the complete games, so that readers can witness how the positional sacrifices arose from the opening.
The first part of the book deals with the four basic reasons for positional sacrifices: piece play, pawn structure, colour complexes and domination.
Chapter 1 teaches us how we can use positional sacrifices to create play for our pieces: by opening files, opening closed positions or opening diagonals.
Here, for example, is a position from Leko – Vachier-Lagrave (Batumi Ol 2018), with Black just about to use a positional sacrifice to open some files on the queen side.
“For now White seems to have everything under control, but what follows is a true thunderbolt.
Vachier-Lagrave’s handling of the opening stage may have been unfortunate, but now he displays very deep understanding of the position with a truly amazing piece sacrifice.”
The game continued 24. Bxa4 b5 25. Bxb5 a4 26. Nd4 a3 and Black won on move 71.
Chapter 2 looks at how we can use positional sacrifices to help our pawns. We can create a Perfect Pawn Centre, a Pawn Steamroller or a Mighty Pawn Chain.
This is Gemy Vargas – Fier Sao Paolo 2019. White’s f-pawn has just moved two squares, and van Delft points out the alternative 30… exf3, which is the engine recommendation. But instead…
“The artist is taking over. Black sacrifices a piece to increase the size of his pawn steamroller. As Alexandr said at the Masterclass he gave recently at Apeldoorn, during his early years as a chess player he was heavily influenced by Kasparyan’s book with endgame studies on the theme of domination.”
By move 41 he’d reached this position, where White resigned.
“A pretty picture, the ultimate pawn steamroller, minding a bit of the famous McDonnell – De la Bourdonnais finish with black pawns on d2, e2 and f2.”
Chapter 3 moves onto the idea of positional sacrifices to control colour complexes. As van Delft explains, because this is a more abstract concept than pieces and pawns, it’s harder to understand.
Chapter 4 then puts everything together: we can play a positional sacrifice to achieve domination of the entire board.
In Wojtaszek – Hracek (Aix-les-Bains 2011) White, who had already sacrificed a pawn, now gave up the exchange to dominate the board.
17. Rxc5! “The key move, a strong positional exchange sacrifice.”
Now we understand the reasons why we might want to play a positional sacrifice, we can move onto Part 2, where we can learn about typical sacrifices and store the ideas in our long-term memory. Many of them, though, will already be familiar to experienced players.
Chapter 5 concerns pawn sacrifices: as you might expect the Benko and Marshall Gambits are among the openings considered. Chapter 6, concluding Part 2, moves onto typical exchange sacrifices.
Part 3 goes way beyond this, to more difficult and dangerous ideas. Chapter 7, Extreme Sports, asks how much you can get away with sacrificing. You’ll find double exchange sacrifices, queen sacrifices for a couple of minor pieces, and even positional rook sacrifices.
In Firouzja – Karthikeyan (Xingtai Asian Championship 2019) Black sacrificed his queen on move 9:
9… Qxc3+! “A great positional queen sacrifice.”
10. bxc3 dxe3
“Black now has two minor pieces and a pawn for the queen. White has many weak pawns and squares, which makes Black’s position much easier to play.”
In Chapter 8, Heroes, van Delft introduces us to some of the games that have inspired him over the years, played by the likes of Shirov, Aronian and Carlsen.
Finally, Chapter 9 goes beyond human positional sacrifices to the Superhuman, including recent games by Leela Chess Zero and Stoofvlees.
Now it’s time to put your new found knowledge and skills into action with a final chapter of Exercises.
“In total there are 48 exercises, on four different levels, with 12 exercises each. Every reader should have a fair chance at Level 1, while at Level 2 things are already becoming more difficult. Level 3 is serious business, and at Level 4 most people will be running into a wall. Level 4 is mainly there to remind us how rich chess is, and that we will not easily be done learning.”
The answers always include the play up to the question, and in some cases the complete game as well.
As you’ll realise, there’s a lot of great chess in this book. The author has also achieved his aim of treating a difficult subject in a logical and well structured way. But what really appeals to me is van Delft’s style of writing. There are many strong players who excel at writing or talking about chess, but not all of them understand how their readers or viewers might learn. He is at pains to differentiate between material which provides specific lessons you can employ in your own games and more difficult material which might serve as an inspiration. Although the English isn’t always totally idiomatic, the meaning is never less than totally clear. Not for him the fanciful analogies and flowery language preferred by some authors to make their books fun: for van Delft the fun comes from the moves themselves. Although the intent is serious, his approach is warm, friendly and encouraging. Enjoy your chess and don’t be afraid to try out new ideas: this is how you improve. He comes across to me as, above all, an excellent teacher. I look forward to reading whatever he writes about in future.
Personally, I’d have liked a broader historical perspective. Those 19th century favourites the King’s Gambit and Evans Gambit are positional sacrifices for, amongst other things, an Ideal Pawn Centre, and many other 19th century gambits have aims relating to themes in the book. While there are a few 19th century games along with some discussion of the Steinitz Gambit and a brief mention of its context, a chapter on the history of positional sacrifices would have been interesting.
Nevertheless,, this is yet another outstanding book from New in Chess in what has been an exceptional year for chess literature. Very highly recommended: I’m sure you’ll find it both enjoyable and instructive, and, if you’re rated, say, 1800+, this book will add a new dimension to your chess.
“By going through the chapters, you will get acquainted with my way of grandmaster type thinking. I can assure you of one thing: there are better and weaker grandmasters, but you won’t find a GM who is playing without ideas or, let’s say, without his way of thinking! As you will find out, I am basically trying to detect the problem or goal of the position and then I am starting to scan factors which can lead to the solution. That process you will find in many examples in the book. GM Alojzije Jankovic, April 2020.”
“Alojzije Jankovic (1983) is a Grandmaster and FIDE trainer from Croatia. In 2010 he shared first place in the Croatian National Championship, was national champion in 2015, shared third place with Croatia in the European Team Championships 2017 and played for Croatia in the Chess Olympiad. He won several international tournaments and also hosts weekly the broadcast ‘Chess commentary’, Croatian national tv, third channel. This is his second book for Thinkers Publishing, after his successful co-edition with GM Zdenko Kozul on the ‘Richter Rauzer Reborn‘ updated version 2019.”
As with every recent Thinkers Publishing publication high quality paper is used and the printing is clear. The book can easily be laid flat next to the board and does not require weights to prevent it from “self-closing” (a particular bugbear of ours !). Each diagram is clear and the instructional text is typeset in two column format, which, we find, enables the reader to maintain their place easily. Figurine algebraic notation is used throughout and the diagrams are placed adjacent to the relevant text and each diagram has a “to move” indicator.
A bibliography of sources along with suggestions for further reading would have been helpful.
I was rather confused when I first saw this book. The title, The Grandmaster Mindset, suggests a book for advanced players , while the subtitle A First Course in Chess Improvement suggests a book for novices.
Let’s take a look inside and find out.
The first chapter concerns pins. We start off with Légal’s Mate, which is important for novices but hardly necessary for advanced players.
En passant, we learn what Jankovic means by the Grandmaster Mindset. First, you assess the position, just as recommended by many other authors, such as Silman. Then you look for candidate moves: you consider all checks, captures and threats, as recommended by Kotov and many others, including me, over the past half century or so. Other authors, notably Willy Hendriks, will tell you to ignore protocols of this nature, to use your intuition and ‘move first, think later’.
We soon find ourselves in deeper waters, and by the end of the chapter we’re faced with a beautiful endgame study (M Matouš 1975) which is analysed in depth.
The second chapter, Candidate Moves, only seems to repeat the lessons from Chapter 1: if you assess the position and look for forcing moves you can find brilliant queen sacrifices.
Chapter 3, the longest in the book, brings with it a change of scenery. Useful endings: we have some pawn endings, rook against pawn, queen against rook, the bishop and knight checkmate explained in some detail, and finally rook against knight, again at length.
We’re back to tactics in Chapter 4, Knight Geometry.
This is Zvjaginsev-Schwarz (Novi Sad 2016).
White won with the aesthetically pleasing 44. Rxa6!! bxa6 45. b7 Qd8 46. Qxh6+!! Kxh6 47. Nxf7+. Beautiful, to be sure, with symmetrical major piece sacrifices on a6 and h6, but the queen sacrifice wasn’t necessary: 45. f4 Rg6 46. b7 was just as effective. (Note that 44. f4 also worked, but not, in the game, 46. f4? Qa5! and Black has a perpetual.) Perhaps this might have been mentioned.
The tactical ideas continue: Back Rank Mate (Chapter 5), Lure the King (Chapter 6: sacrificing a piece to expose the enemy king to danger), Unexpected Moves (Chapter 7: a collection of fairly random examples which you can discover by looking for Checks, Captures and Threats), Power of the Rooks (Chapter 8), Sudden Attack on the King (Chapter 9).
Chapter 10 is entitled Burying, which is a new one to me. The explanation, that it’s a very important tactical element when attacking the opponent’s king, didn’t leave me much wiser. It seems to be something to do with taking away the king’s escape squares, but who knows?
In this position (Dizdarevic-Miles Biel 1985) Tony played a classic double bishop sacrifice: 13… Bxh2+! 14. Kxh2 Qh4+ 15. Kg1. Now after the immediate and obvious 15… Bxg2, 16. f3 defends. Instead, 15… Bf3!! (‘Burying!’) 16. Nd2 Bxg2!, and as the queen can no longer defend along the second rank, Black wins in short order.
There’s more to come: Underpromotion to a Knight in Chapter 11, and Different Tactical Motives in Chapter 12, but the whole book seems to me fairly random.
If you want to see some beautiful and spectacular chess, you’ll find a lot of great examples in this book: some hackneyed (the queen sac and knight fork from the 1966 Petrosian-Spassky match must have been in almost every tactics book for the past half century, and the Topalov-Shirov bishops of opposite colours ending for the past 20 years) but many unfamiliar.
Jankovic, by and large, explains his examples well and has an attractively friendly style of writing.
However, for this reviewer at least, the whole is rather less than the sum of its parts. With its mixture of elementary and advanced examples the book’s target market is not clear. The ‘Grandmaster Mindset’ advice (assess the position and consider candidate moves looking at checks, captures and threats) is far from original and, you might think, rather too simplistic. The contents seem fairly random (showy sacrifices, with some technical endings thrown in for good measure) but typical of what appears to pass for chess tuition in some circles. I’ll be writing a lot more about this at some point in the future.
It would require quite a lot of fleshing out, but there were potentially two much more useful books here. A book on finding tactical surprises, using the examples here but with the addition of exercises for the reader to solve. And then a much expanded version of Chapter 3 dealing with technical endings.
A qualified recommendation, then, but perhaps a missed opportunity which would have benefited from a more proactive approach from the publishers.
Richard James, Twickenham 13th August 2020
Book Details :
Hardcover : 200 pages
Publisher:Thinkers Publishing; 1 edition (14 July 2020)
Cyrus Lakdawala is a former American Open Champion. He has been teaching chess for four decades and is a prolific and widely read author. His ‘Chess for Hawks’ won the Best Instructional Book Award of the Chess Journalists of America (CJA). Other much acclaimed books include ‘How Ulf Beats Black’, a study of Swede Ulf Andersson, and ‘Clinch It! How to Convert an Advantage into a Win‘. He has become one of the most controversial writers around today!
From the cover : Welcome to the world of imperfection! Chess books usually feature superbly played games. In this book you will see games where weird moves are rewarded. Cyrus Lakdawala knows that playing good chess is all very well, but that beating your opponent is better. A paradox? He demonstrates the fine art of winning undeserved victories by: miraculously surviving chaos; throwing vile cheapos; refusing to resign in lost positions; getting lucky breaks; provoking unforced errors, and other ways to land on your feet after a roller-coaster ride. Lakdawala shows how you can make sure that it is your opponent, not you, who makes the last blunder. If you’d rather win a bad game than lose a good one, then this your ideal guide. The next time the wrong player wins, you will be that player!”
We have an Index of openings (rich in Sicilians and King’s Indians), an Index of Players, 10 chapters and 336 pages. Many games from all eras from Anderssen to recent Swisses. Subtitled ‘Playing badly is No Excuse for Losing’. Paperback, no use of Rabar codes, no photos but exercises scattered throughout. This exceptional book is offered for sale at the Chess & Bridge Shop in Baker Street for £20.95. Good value!
So, enquires the author, when was the last time you won a perfect game? A game that wasn’t tainted by inferior moves?
Every player knows that smooth wins are the exception and that play is often chaotic and positions are frequently irrational. The road to victory is generally full of bumps and misadventures.
Books supposedly feature superbly played games. In ‘Winning Ugly in Chess’ you will see games, usually quoted in full, where weird moves are rewarded. The prolific author (has he written 43 books?-Ed.) knows that playing good chess is all very well, but that beating your opponent is better, that these are not two heads on the same coin. He shows that this is no paradox or contradiction. It is a fact of life – of chess life, anyway – and he demonstrates the fine art of winning undeserved victories by:
miraculously surviving chaos
throwing (setting up- Ed) vile cheapos (swindles)
refusing to resign in lost positions
getting lucky breaks
provoking unforced errors
finding other ways to land on your feet after a roller-coaster ride.
Lakdawala shows how you can make sure that it is your opponent, not you, who makes the last blunder. he calls it ‘flip-flop a result’. (What would Tartakower have said? Actually, towards the end of his life Tartakower was largely inaudible-Ed.). If you’d rather win a bad game than lose a good one, then this your ideal guide.
The next time the, supposedly, wrong player wins, you could be that player. Welcome to the fine art of winning undeserved victories.
A short review in CHESS 08/19 welcomes this title, adding that it is largely based on Lakdawala’s games and those of his students. This really is a book to be enjoyed on so many levels.
Random thought: I wonder why the book calls 1.e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nf6 – as well as the Petroff’s, naturally – the Russian Game? Unusual!
The author is an International Master.
James Pratt, Basingstoke, Hampshire, July 18th, 2020
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