“GM Pentala Harikrishna is an established elite player who has been in India’s Olympiad team for over two decades. Since November 2016 Harikrishna has often entered the top 10 of the world rankings, and has consistently stayed in the top 20.
His peak rating is 2770 and he is well known for his exceptional endgame skills as well as for the ability to convert positions with a slight or even no advantage. Harikrishna learned chess from his grandfather at the age of 4, and swiftly progressed up through age-group tournaments until he became a grandmaster at age 14.
He has been World Junior Champion (2004) and Asian Individual Champion (2011). As part of the Indian national team, he has won bronze medals at the World Team Chess Championship, gold and bronze at the Asian Games, and silver (twice) at the Asian Team Championship. He has also won many major open and invitational tournaments, including the Marx Gyorgy Memorial (2006), Tata Steel Group B (2012), Biel MTO (2013), Edmonton International (2015) and Poker Stars Isle of Man (2015).”
From the publisher we have this extensive blurb:
“The French Defence was my main opening with Black while I was striving towards the GM title at the turn of the century. Quite often, I was able to use it to drag my opponent into a complicated maze of deep analysis, so I have intimate knowledge of the tricks used on the other side of the ‘barricades’. This helped me craft a solid base for our present repertoire, and many of the ideas presented in the book have brought me fine victories against some of the strongest French exponents as well.”
“At times, this means suggesting the 2nd or 3rd choice of the engine. He builds on the material from his earlier French course (Chessable, May 2019) and has expanded it with new analysis in all the lines, especially the 3…Nf6 4.e5 Nfd7 5.f4 variation. Harikrishna analyses both 5.Nce2 and 5.f4, so that the reader may make an informed choice about their personal preference. The driving force throughout is to keep the book clear-cut and practical. A good example of a practical weapon is the deceptively simple 3…Bb4 4.exd5 line. There are also fresh and interesting suggestions against the side lines you are likely to encounter, especially at shorter time controls. The entire Thinkers Publishing team joins with the author in wishing you enjoyment and success from this exceptional book”
End of blurb…
It is rare that one of the World’s top ten players would write a book on opening theory but here Hari, as he is commonly called, obliges. He has had a peak rating of 2770 and has been a member of India’s very strong Olympiad team for around two decades .
So, the starting position of this rather large (456 pages) tome is
and this book is written from the perspective of the first player striving to take on the French Defence with 3.Nc3. Of course it will also be of considerable interest to the second player.
Chapter 1 is entitled “Odds and Ends” in which Hari examines unusual Black 3rd moves .
He kicks off with 3…c5 which is a good move in a Tarrasch (3.Nd2) context but a clear mistake against 3.Nc3 as White trivially loses a pawn after White takes on d5 and c5 ending up with a 4 to 2 queen side majority and the d4 square in his control with the following position after 8.Ne4:
Next comes 3…a6 where both 4.Nf3 and 4.Bd3 are discussed . The most critical line here would appear to be 4.Nf3 Nf6; 5.e5 where in the main line Whites Q eventually comes to g4 putting black under pressure on the K side.
3…h6 is a curious third move alternative, but, as Hari points out it stops Black from getting in the Nimzowitschian style …f6 break as now g6 is horribly weakened.
Finally, 3…Be7 is covered but after 4.e5 c5; 5 Qg4 then puts black under pressure.
Both Chapters 2 and 3 look at the black reply 3…Nc6 (a idea of Aron Nimzowitsch) which has always seemed an illogical move to me in the French by blocking …c5.
After 3…Nc6 Hari first looks at 4.Nf3 then in the Chapter 3 4.e5 when 4…f6 is given as the black’s main line usually followed by 5.Nf3 Bd7; 6.Bd3 fxe5; 7.dxe5 Nb4; 8.Ng5 turns out to be good for white according to the author:
In this line black can play 5…fxe5 immediately but after 6.dxe5 Nh6 7.Bg5! again leaves White with advantage.
Chapter 4 brings the reader to the Rubinstein Variation (also ECO code C10) where black plays 3…dxe4 when after 4.Nxe4 options such as 4…Nf6 4…Qd5 and 4…Bd7 attract attention.
According to the author none of these achieve equality but 4…Bd7 is given the most analysis since it is not easy to show an advantage for white. Furthermore, 5.Nf3 Bc6; 6.Bd3 alternatives such as 6…Be4; 6…Nf6 and 6…Nd7 are all interesting tries. White usually plays ideas including c3 and Ne5 to maintain an edge.
Chapter 5 continues to look at the Rubinstein when 4…Nd7 is considered to be the main line. Hari recommends an usual approach for white which we will not reveal here: buy the book!
Chapter 6 progresses to more classical territory with the hugely popular 3…Nf6 (ECO C11 – C14) when 4.e5 Nfd7 and now 5.Nce2 is analysed in considerable depth through to the end of chapter 9.
Club French players will be expecting (and hoping for no doubt) 5.f4 or 5.Nf3 and therefore 5.Nce2 could well throw them off their stride. 5.Nce2 scores well at the highest levels (56%) and is in the armoury of Carlsen, Grischuk, Anand and Nepomniachtchi and consequently deserves much respect.
In this line White intends the usual c3 following …c5 and often will relocate his N from e2 to f4.
Having said all of that 5.f4, which Hari starts to look at in Chapter 10, seems (to me at least) to be the “best” move. Clearly it is the most popular continuation.
The “main line” continues 5…c5; 6.Nf3 where 6…Be7; 7.Be3 b6; 8.Qd2 00; 9.Nd1 is given.
Although this line leads to a white advantage the more aggressive “Williamsesque” 9.h4 which features in some of the other lines should be considered by white players, especially those who love to attack.
Chapter 11 consider 6…Nc6; 7.Be3 Be7; 8.Qd2 is looked at and Black can play …a6 and …b5 here but Whites plan here is Be2 and 00 as Q side castling is somewhat playing into blacks hand.
Instead Black can try 8…00 instead when White is best capturing on c5.
The older line 5.f4 c5; 6.Nf3 Nc6; 7.Be3 Qb6 has always been regarded as slightly suspect and Hari takes a look at this in Chapter 14.
Usually White plays b4 and black sacrifices a piece and although it leads to exciting chess the verdict remains the same. A well prepared white player should be delighted to see this line. The key word in all of this is, of course, “well”
Better perhaps is 7…cxd4 and Chapter 15 examines this: probably much tougher for white to crack. After 8.Nxd4 Qb6 the author provides a large quantity of analysis in this poisoned pawn style line where White sacrifices a pawn with 9.Qd2 and black rightly accepts the challenge with 9…Qxb2.
Finally(!) Hari leads us to the Winawer Variation but here he shocks the white player with his suggestion. To find out what this is you will need to buy the book!
I generally play the Tarrasch but my next bunch of email and postal games will definitely feature 3.Nc3 ! I’m keen to try out the authors suggestions and so should you be!
Colin Lyne, Farnborough, Hampshire, 19th June, 2021
When a local chess player is discovered dead, Detective Inspector John Logos of Cornwall s St Borstal Constabulary is called in to investigate what turns out to be a serial killer running amok in the sedate world of Cornish chess. The detectives quickly find themselves as pawns in the game of an arrogant mastermind calling himself The Turk who taunts them with chess-related clues. Baffled, they call in Caradoc Pritchard, an eccentric Welsh Professor, and together they must work against the clock to predict the killer’s next move.
While working at the University of the South Pacific, David played chess for Fiji as Board 4 in the 1994 Moscow Chess Olympiad, a memorable experience but one distinctly above his pay grade (think Eddy the Eagle). While in Fiji he also ran an experimental theatre group Stage Fright Aah!.
He was until 2016 captain of the Cornwall county chess team, hanging on to his place despite the ravages of old age. He is currently the President of the Cornwall Chess Association and teaches chess at Calstock Community Primary School. He has made a modest contribution to chess journalism, including the publication of a weekly chess cartoon, a brief selection of which can be found elsewhere on these web pages.
David has held chairs at a number of universities including Warwick and the University of the South Pacific. He is widely published in the field of qualitative evaluation, writing in a style of ‘curriculum criticism’ that offer readers a surrogate experience of educational programs, rendering them accessible to outside judgements.
In 2011, the American Evaluation Association awarded David’s study of a cross-European youth training initiative, A Tale Unfolded, the ‘Outstanding Evaluation of the Year’. The official citation noted that his report ‘deploys such literary devices as narrative vignettes, irony, metaphor and wit, seeing humour as a legitimate way of addressing ambivalences. The report pulls no punches, but does so with considerable grace and wit,’
Spurious Games is David’s first novel.
From the back cover:
“An extended riff on the theme of authenticity, Spurious Games is cast as a detective novel in which the St Borstal police, with outside help from a Welsh professor of plagiarism struggle to apprehend a serial killer calling himself ‘the Turk’, wo is running amok in the eccentric cloistered world of Cornish chess and taunting the detectives with chess-related clues.
“In a style that is wry, playful and allusive, the novel ranges widely across pop culture, magic shows and fortune telling, cyber espionage, pro-sex feminism, doppelgangers, the inanities of New Age spirituality , and whether the game of chess constitutes a mental health hazard.”
‘It seems his entire world for the last couple of years has revolved around his chess’, added Polgooth, ‘like a koala chewing legal highs in a eucalyptus tree’.
At the start of this novel, an overweight antisocial chess addict named Richard prematurely meets his maker as the result of eating a Poisoned Pawn from a chocolate chess set.
I was starting to get worried, but, at least to the best of my knowledge, I’ve never met David Jenkins, the author of this chess novel.
I’m not quite sure how I found myself as the chief fiction reviewer of British Chess News, but perhaps I’m the only member of their panel who ever reads fiction. Many chess players, I suspect, don’t, and that’s their loss.
So what we have here is a comic novel, a spoof on detective fiction if you like, set in the world of Cornish chess. Several of the characters have names redolent of prominent Cornish chess personalities. A serial killer is on the loose, and his victims are all chess players. The incompetent detectives working on the case receive mysterious emails from ‘The Turk’ offering chess-related clues.
The whole book is often hilariously funny. There’s a Chris Farlowe tribute band who posted online covers of their favourite 60s rock star, and were at one point known as the Farlowepian YouTubes. You’ll also meet a research fellow in Game Theory called Bernadette Madoff – and much more in the same vein. A knowledge of both popular and high culture (the Gospel of St John and the poetry of TS Eliot, for example ) will come in useful.
After four Cornish chess players meet untimely deaths the novel reaches its climax at the ICA, where a modern day replica of the Mechanical Turk is on display. Will the killer be unmasked before another victim (and GM Daniel King should be very careful) is checkmated? Chess journalist Stephen Moss has a walk-on part here, and other well known chessers (Andrew Greet, Michael Adams, Jack Rudd, Matthew Sadler) are mentioned en passant throughout the book.
I found the book very enjoyable and often extremely funny, even though we chess players don’t come out of it very well. Our Cornish colleagues, it seems, are either grossly overweight or unhealthily underweight, are unsociable loners, are often unable to drive a car, and are prone to believe in conspiracy theories such as the Nibiru Cataclysm and hang onto every word of David Icke. Not very different, then, from chess players in my part of the world. If you look in the mirror you might not like what you see.
The back cover quotes award-winning screenwriter Andrew Davies, who found echoes of Nabokov, Umberto Eco and Spike Milligan. Yes, I can see all of that, but for me it was as if the shades of Agatha Christie (The ABC Murders, a clear inspiration, is namechecked on several occasions), PG Wodehouse and Robertson Davies had collaborated on a novel about Cornish chess players.
The ‘whodunit’ part didn’t really work as, for me, the culprit was obvious from the start, but I rather suspect that was the whole point. The chess, as you’d expect from the President of the Cornish Chess Association, is mostly accurate, although the Fried Liver Attack is, rather strangely, described as an unsound tactical opening, and the participants play online on ICC at a time when most of the chess world had migrated elsewhere. The book does contain scenes of an adult nature, so it would be best not to leave it within sight of the likes of Cornish chess prodigy Barnaby Bude.
Apart from that, highly recommended for all chess players, even though you might not like the way you and your pawn-pushing brethren are presented. Although it’s extremely amusing, with laughs guaranteed on every page, there is also a serious undercurrent touching on a wide variety of issues both on and off the board. Well produced too, and, unusually for a work of fiction, beautifully illustrated. If you play chess and enjoy fiction, or even if you don’t, I’d urge you to give it a try. I’m sure the Netflix dramatisation won’t be far away.
“50% Tactics – 50% Opening Book – 100% Enjoyment! Enter the world of chess miniatures where games are decided in 20 moves or less! Marvelous Modern Miniatures features the largest collection of miniatures chess games played in the last half-century. Over 500 pages of cut and thrust! Although every player is rated at least 2100, the overwhelming majority are strong masters or grandmasters. You will follow them as they do battle with tactical fireworks raging around them. The surprising depth of the annotations (each one of the 2,020 games has meaningful comments) turns this book into a virtual course on tactics. Looking for traps and pitfalls in your favourite openings? You’ll probably find them here. Marvelous Modern Miniatures will improve your tactical skills and alertness and sharpen your opening play. As a bonus, the entire collection is immensely enjoyable!”
Cartsen Hansen is a Danish FIDE Master, FIDE Trainer and author of twenty-eight chess books on all phases of the game. He is a columnist for American Chess Magazine and Shakbladet.
This action packed book is an entertaining selection of opening/early middlegame disasters which includes some miniatures with world class players being crushed in twenty moves or less.
This book is naturally arranged by opening: on starting this book, I went straight to the section on my favourites. I offer four games from the fiery Dragon Variation.
The following game is a celebrated game which features a rare crushing loss for Dragon expert Jonathan Mestel against the late John Littlewood who was a fine feisty attacking player.
John Littlewood (2375) – Jonathan Mestel (2475)
British Championship Chester 1979
1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 d6 3.d4 Nf6 4.Nc3 cxd4 5.Nxd4 g6 6.f4 The Levenfish variation which is a decent alternative to the highly theoretical Yugoslav Attack. Bg7!? (Better is the standard 6…Nc6) 7.e5 Nh5 8.Bb5+ Bd7 9.e6!? (A dangerous line which must be handled carefully, but 9.Qe2 is better and leads to a white advantage) 9…fxe6 10.Nxe6 Bxc3+ 11.bxc3 Qc8 12.Bxd7+ Kxd7 13.Ng5 Qc4?! (13…Qxc3+ 14.Bd2 Qc4 15.Rb1 b6 16.Rb4 Qd5 17.Qg4+ Qf5 18.Qf3 Nc6 black is slightly better, for example 19.g4 Qc5 20.gxh5 Nxb4 21.Qb7+ Qc7 22.Qxc7+ Kxc7 23.Bxb4 gxh5) 14.Rb1 Kc7
15.Rb4! Qxa2 The queen is very poorly placed here 16.Qe2 Nc6 17.Ne6+ 1-0 (Hopeless is 17…Kc8 18.Rxb7! Qa4 19.Rc7+ Kd8 20.0-0 Rc8 21.Rxc8+ Kxc8 22.f5 Nc6 23.Bg5 with a huge advantage)
The second featured game in the Dragon variation features a well concealed mistake in the quiet g3 line, which the reviewer had not seen before despite having played the line with both colours.
Vladimir Georgiev (2564) – Evgeni Janev (2487)
1.Nf3 c5 2.e4 Nc6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 g6 5.Nc3 Bg7 6.Nde2 Nf6 7.g3 0-0 8.Bg2 d6 9.0-0 a6 10.a4 Rb8 11.h3 b5 12.axb5 axb5 13.Be3 b4 14.Nd5 Nd7! 15.Nd4? A natural, but it is a well known mistake that is also seen in this setup with the colours reserved in the English Opening.
15…Bxd4! 16.Bxd4 e6 Winning a piece 17.Ne3 e5 18.Ba7 Rb7 Winning the bishop 0-1
The next struggle features the Classical Variation of the Dragon. White essays the sharp Stockholm Attack which was venomous in its early days, but the theory was worked out many decades ago.
Perez,Robert M (2210) – Esserman,Marc (2453)
US Open Orlando 04.08.2011
1.e4 c5 2.Nc3 d6 3.f4 Nc6 4.Nf3 g6 5.d4 cxd4 6.Nxd4 Bg7 7.Be3 Nf6 8.Be2 0-0 9.Nb3 Be6 10.0-0 Rc8 11.g4 Na5 12.Nxa5 Qxa5 13.Bd4? [13.f5 Is better but black is at least equal after 13…Bc4]
13…Bxg4! 14.Bxg4 Nxg4 15.Nd5 (15.Bxg7 Qh5! The main point: protecting the knight and threatening mate, before recapturing on g7) 15…Bxd4+ 16.Qxd4 e5 17.Qd1 Qc5+ 18.Kg2 Qxd5 0-1 (Black wins the queen back with Ne3+ followed by a crushing rook invasion on c2 a which gives an easily winning double rook ending.)
My last example Wyvern offering is from a main line in the highly theoretical Soltis Variation of the Yugoslav Attack.
18.h7+ (18.Bd5 is really interesting.) Kxh7?? A bad blunder [18…Nxh7 leads to a complex struggle] 19.h5 Kg8 20.hxg61-0 (Black’s kingside is crumbling with no hope of support: catastrophe on the h-file follows imminently with the black king meeting a grisly execution.)
My next featured game is from an good old fashioned slugfest in the King’s Gambit, Double Muzio Variation and features the refutation to this Victorian romantic opening.
Stephen Brady (2320) – Mark Heidenfeld (2280)
Irish Championship Limerick, 1991
1.e4 e5 2.f4 exf4 3.Nf3 g5 4.Bc4 g4 5.0-0 gxf3 6.Qxf3 Qf6 7.e5 Qxe5 8.Bxf7+ Kxf7 9.d4 Qf5! (The bust, which leads to a large black advantage) 10.g4?? Much too weakening (10.Bxf4 Nf6 11.Nc3 Bg7 12.Rae1 d6 13.Qe2 Nc6 14.Be5 Qg4 15.Bxf6 Bxf6 16.Qxg4 Bxg4 17.Nd5 h5 18.Nxf6 Kg6 19.Nxg4 hxg4 20.Re4 Rhf8 with a winning endgame but black must still display some technique) 10…Qe6?! [10…Qg6! is even better] 11.d5? (Accelerating the loss, 11.Bxf4 is better still much better for black) 11…Bc5+ 12.Kg2 Qg6 13.Bxf4 Nf6 14.Be5
d6! The point of black’s play, the g4-pawn is targeted 15.Bxf6 Bxg4 16.Qf4 Bf3+! 0-1 (Forcing the exchange of queens, leaving black a clear piece to the good.)
The next game features the dangerous Max Lange Attack in the Two Knight’s Variation for the Italian Game.
Kacper Piorun (2457) – Piotr Staniszewski (2383)
Polanica Zdroj Open 21.08.2009
1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bc4 Bc5 4.0-0 Nf6 5.d4 exd4 6.e5 d5 7.exf6 dxc4 8.Re1+ Be6 9.Ng5 Qd5 10.Nc3 Qf5 11.g4 A sideline, 11.Nce4 is the main line: black is fine but must know a lot Qxf6?? A very common mistake (11…Qg6 is fine)
12.Nd5 Qd8 13.Rxe6+ fxe6 14.Nxe6 Qd7 15.Ndxc7+ Kf7 16.Ng5+ Kg6 [16…Kg8 is a slight improvement] 17.Qf3 Rad8 18.Nce6 (18.Qe4+ Kf6 19.Qf4+ Kg6 20.Nge6 also wins) 1-0
The next game shows a well known trap is the Scotch which two strong players were unaware of.
Delgado Ramirez (2620) – J. Gemy (2401)
Arica Open 2018 17.12.2018
0-0? Falling into an ancient snare known since 1892. 8.Bxc6 Bxc6 9.dxe5 dxe5 10.Qxd8 Raxd8 11.Nxe5
Bxe4? Black hopes that he can regain his pawn exploiting white’s weak bank rank 12.Nxe4 Nxe4 13.Nd3 f5 14.f3 Bc5+? 15.Nxc5 Nxc5 16.Bg5! The killer, this has happened many times
16…Rd7 [16…Rd5 17.c4 followed by Be7] 17.Be7 b6 18.Bxf8 Kxf8 19.Rad11-0
Here is a fine attacking game from the Queen’s Gambit Accepted which shows the dynamic potential in an isolated queen pawn (IQP) middlegame. Here the former world champion Anatoly Karpov is the victim, stuffed in 18 moves.
1.Nf3 d5 2.d4 Nf6 3.c4 dxc4 4.e3 e6 5.Bxc4 c5 6.0-0 a6 7.Qe2 cxd4 8.exd4 Be7 9.Nc3 b5 10.Bb3 0-0 11.Bg5 Bb7 12.Rad1 Nc6 13.Rfe1 Nb4? This is quite a difficult line for Black anyway, but his last move is a serious mistake. (13…Na5?! 14.d5! Nxb3 15.dxe6 Qb6 16.axb3 fxe6 17.Nd4 Bd6 18.Qxe6+ Kh8 19.Nf3 Rad8 20.Bf4! Bxf3 21.Rxd6 Rxd6 22.Qxd6 Qxd6 23.Bxd6 Re8 24.Rxe8+ Nxe8 25.Be5+- Boleslavsky-Kotov, Zurich, 1953.;
13…Nd5 14.Nxd5 Bxg5 15.Nb6!? Bronstein. 15…Qxb6 16.Nxg5)
14.d5! This thematic break works really well for White, due to his superior development, in fact this move was analysed long ago by Russian master V. Rauzer! 14…Nfxd5 15.Nxd5 Bxg5 16.Nxb4 Qe7 17.Nd5 Bxd5 18.Bxd5 1-0
The reviewer’s last offering shows an instructive loss by another former World Champion is just six moves. He followed a previous game Miles-Christansen where both players missed white’s sixth move winning a piece!
Alonso Zapata (2480) – Vishy Anand (2555)
1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nf6 3.Nxe5 d6 4.Nf3 Nxe4 5.Nc3 Bf5?? This had been played by Christiansen against Miles who played 6.Nxe4? [5…Nxc3 is the main line] 6.Qe2 winning a piece 1-0 (6…Qe7 is met by 7. Nd5 whereas 6…d5 is met by 7.d3
In summary, this is a good read which revealed traps that the reviewer had not seen before. It just shows that even titled players can fall into lost positions very quickly.
I have one small criticism: the reviewer quickly spotted a couple of typos in the book but this does not detract from a didactic book. Look up your favourite openings and you may be surprised!
FM Richard Webb, Chineham, Hampshire, 31st May 2021
John Nunn has written around thirty books on chess, many of these being some of the finest published in any language : Secrets of Pawnless Endings (1994, Batsford) for example, is easily a candidate for the all time list. John is a director of Gambit Publications Ltd. together with Murray Chandler and Graham Burgess.
From the rear cover :
“Everyone knows they should work on their endgame play. So many hard-earned advantages are squandered in ‘simple’ endings… But it’s tough finding a way to study endings that doesn’t send you to sleep and that helps you actually remember and apply what you have learnt.
“While endgame theory books are helpful, active participation by the reader is a great aid to learning. I hope that this book of endgame exercises will encourage readers to put their brains in high gear, both to test themselves and to learn more about the endgame. I have spent several months selecting the 444 exercises in this book from what was initially a much larger collection.” – John Nunn
All major types of endgame are covered, together with a wide-ranging chapter on endgame tactics. Examples are drawn from recent practice or from little-known studies. The emphasis is on understanding and applying endgame principles and rules of thumb. You will learn by experience, but always backed up by Nunn’s expert guidance to ensure that the lessons you take away from the book are correct and useful.”
To get some idea of the book Gambit (via Amazon) provide a “Look Inside” at their Kindle edition.
As you would expect with Gambit, the notation is English short form algebraic using figurines for pieces. A previous criticism (ibid) has been addressed in that each diagram has a W or B “whose move it is” indicator. The diagrams do not have coordinates but this is not likely to be a problem for most.
Here on YouTube John Nunn gives the reader an introduction to the book :
So, what did we think?
This is another superb endgame book by John Nunn. This excellent tome is titled as an exercise book, so the reader will gain most by attempting to solve the puzzles, but there is no compulsion to do this: the book can also be treated as a practical endgame manual.
Most of the positions are from recent actual play and show typical positions that occur in practice and therefore show practical problems and mistakes even by very strong players. In many positions, John Nunn selects two or three obvious candidate moves and asks the reader to choose one. I like this approach as it reflects a real game and the pressure to choose between candidates.
There are some theoretical positions which are shown in many endgame primers. Some studies are included which always expand the reader’s mind by showing the beautiful rich tapestry of chess and should increase the reader’s imagination in practical play.
Each of the first nine chapters has an introductory piece over two pages which is short and pithy introducing some main principles for the forthcoming chapter: for example in the king and pawn ending section, key ideas are presented including:
Assessing transitions into Q+P endings
This is followed by the exercises which vary in difficulty from 1-5. This degree of hardness is indicated by a number of stars. Level 1 is solvable by a club player; level 5 will give a Grandmaster a good workout.
Most of the chapters have a special harder exercises section.
The two biggest chapters are king and pawn endings, and rook and pawn endings which reflect their importance and relative occurrence. Many endings reduce down to bare king and pawn endings which most be understood to play the endgame at a half decent level. Rook and pawn endings are the most common as the rooks tend to be developed last: excellence in these endings is a sure sign of a strong player.
The reviewer will show a flavour of positions from the first nine chapters with varying difficulty levels.
Chapter 1 – King and Pawn Endings
This first position below in the book is a level 1 exercise and an illustration of triangulation.
Black to move here has to move his king losing the d-pawn and the game quickly. But it is white to move and white wins by executing a fundamental manoeuvre as follows:
1.Ke2 Ke6 (1…Kc6 2.Kd2 is no different) 2. Kd2! Kd5 3.Kd3 and now black has the move and is in zugzwang. White has moved his king in a triangle whereas black could only move his king between two squares (because the c5 pawn restricts his manoeuvres).
Shown below is a harder example (level 3) of triangulation.
To the casual observer this position looks to be drawn as both kings are tied up watching the opponent’s connected passed pawns. White’s pawns are further advanced and he can win with a subtle manoeuvre as follows:
Kg4! White must prevent d5 and d4, 1…Kf6 (The toughest defence. 1…d5 loses to 2.Kg5 see below) 2.Kg3! d5 (2…Kg7 3.Kf4 d5 3.Kg5 transposes) 3. Kf4 Zugzwang, black must give way 3…Kg7 4.Kg5 e3 5.h6+ Kg8 6. Kf6 e2 7.h7+ Kh8 8.Kf7 e1=Q 9.g7+ Kxh7 10.g8=Q+ Kh6 11.Qg6#
In the basic king and pawn endgame below, the author informs the reader that black has only one move to draw.
This position illustrates not only the opposition but also consideration of the opponent’s pawn breaks. White has two winning ideas:
Achieve the position of Ke5 v Ke7 with black to move
Get in the h5 break when black cannot capture and follow up with Kg7 or Kh7 drawing
Black played 1…Kd6? guarding against the first idea but not the second. White won with 2.Kg4 Ke6 3.h5 gxh5+ 4.Kxh5 Kf7 5.Kh6 seizing the critical squares, winning.
To this end only 1…Kf7! draws viz: 2.Ke5 Ke7 seizing the opposition or 2. Kg4 Kf7 meeting 3.h5 with 3…gxh5+ 4.Kxh5 Kg7 drawing
The next example shows an example of the distant opposition at work.
White only has one move to draw: 1.Kh2! (Seizing the distant opposition three squares apart, 1.Kg2? Ke2 2.Kg3 Ke3 3.Kg4 Kf2 4.Kh4 Kf3 5.Kg5 Kg3 wins) 1…Kd3 2.Kh3! Kd4 3.Kh4! Ke4 4.Kg4 Ke3 5.Kg3 Ke2 6.Kg2 Kd2 7.Kh2 holding the draw. White’s king has access to all the squares on the h-file, which why this defence works.
This next struggle (at level 3) shows the importance of reserve tempi and how crucial it is to manage them precisely. This is of course coupled with exact calculation. Neither side wants to move their king as to do so loses the game. Nunn gives the reader an amusing choice between 1…a4, 1…b5 and 1…e4 stating that one loses, one draws and one wins.
This is highly instructive as black played the worst move, but white let him escape with a draw!
Black wins with 1…b5! gaining space and ensuring that white runs out of pawn moves first. 2.b3 c5 3.c4 (3.f3 a4!) 3…bxc4 4.bxc4 a4 5.a3 e4 winning the h-pawn 6.Kg3 Kxh5 7.Kf4 Kg6 8.Ke5 Kg5 9.Kd5 Kf4 10.Kxc5 Kf3 11.Kd5 Kxf2 12.c5 e3 13.c6 e2 14.c7 e1=Q 15.c8=Q Qd2+ 16Ke5 f4 with a winning Q ending for black
It is very instructive to look at the other two moves that Nunn suggests: it is all down to exact calculation which is why king and pawn endings are so interesting and difficult!
I shall finish the king and pawn examples with a level 5 difficulty example.
How does white draw here? White played 1.Kd5? and lost.
1.c5! b5! (1…bxc5? loses as 2.b5 axb5 3.a5 wins as black cannot catch the a-pawn and his own pawns are too slow. 2.axb5 axb5 White has a protected passed pawn but most play some accurate moves to draw. 3. Kd5!! (3.Kf3? loses to the triangulation technique of the second example above viz: 3…h5 4.Kg3 Kf5 5.Kf3 h4 6.Kg2 g4 7.Kf2 g3+ 8.Kf3 Ke5 9.Kg2 Ke6! 10.Kf3 Kf5 11.Kg2 Kg4 12.c6 h3+ 13.Kg1 Kf3 14.c7 h2+ 15.Kh1 Kf2 16.c8=Q g2+ mates) 3…g4 (3…h5 4.Kd6 h4 5.c6 h3 6.c7 h2 7.c8=Q h1=Q 8. Qe6+ Kg7 9.Qd7+ is a perpetual) 4.Ke4!! A brilliant switchback 4…h5 5.Kf4 Ke6 6.Kg3 Ke5 7.Kh4! Now white oscillates between h4 and g3 drawing, black cannot play his king to g5 as the white c-pawn promotes. The Kd5, Ke4 manoeuvre forced black to advance his pawns in a sub optimal manner allowing white a blockade. A very instructive ending.
Chapter 2 covers knight endings. The reviewer will give a couple of examples. The type of position below does occur in practice quite often: the stronger side may have won a knight on the queenside by promoting an outside passed passed pawn. How does white win?
Black is threatening Kf5 followed by Kg4 drawing.
White must play 1.Nd4! Kg5 (threatening Kg4 followed by h4) 2.Ke6! (The obvious 2.Ke5? throws the win away 2…Kg4 3.Nf5 Kg5 zugzwang 4.Ke6 Kg6 zugzwang) 2…Kg4 (2…h4+ 3.Nf3+ wins) 3.Nf5! Kg5 4.Ke5! Zugzwang 4…Kg4 4.Kf6 Kf3 5.Kg5 winning the pawn and the game. This is a very common theme in knight endgames as a knight cannot lose a tempo.
The second knight and pawn example is harder.
White played 1.Kd5 which only draws. It looks logical as it places the king near the kingside ready for a hoped for decisive invasion. However it does not win. Passed pawns must be pushed!
White wins with 1.Kb6! Blocking his own pawn but the king must support the dangerous pawn. 1…Nxg5 2. Kb7 (Keeping the black pieces from their optimal squares. 2.Ka7? Ne6 3.Ne4 Nd4! 4.b6 Nc6+ draws) 2…Ne6 3.Ne4! g5 4.Nf6+ Kd8 5.b6 Nc5+ 6.Ka8! Ke7 7.Ne4! Nd7 8.b7 g4 9.Nc5 wins
Chapter 3 covers bishop endings.
The type of ending below is fairly common and is covered in endgame primer manuals. How does white draw?
The key factor here is the presence of the h-pawn which renders this position a draw with accurate defence, because of the edge of the board and stalemating opportunities. A similar position with pawns on the e,f & g files would be won for black.
White lost this game by playing 1.Bb5? but could have drawn as follows:
1.Kg1! (Or 1.Kh1!) Kg3 2. Bd7! (2.Bd5? loses to 2…f2+ 3.Kf1 Kh2) 2…f2+ 3.Kf1 Kf3 4.Bxg4+ Kxg4 5.Kxf2 with a clear draw
The position below is covered in Basic Chess Endings by Fine and other primers on the endgame. How does black to play draw?
1…Kd5! (Black played 1…Be7? Now white wins with a standard idea. 2.Bd8 Bc3 3.Bh4 Ba5 4.Bg3 and black prevent cannot prevent Bc7 blocking out the bishop and wins) 2. Bd8 Bc3 3.Bh4 Ba5 4.Be1 Bb6 5. Bf2 Ba5 6.Bg3 Kc6 (Just in time to stop Bc7, black draws) =
This chapter also has some excellent examples of opposite coloured bishop endgames which are well worth study. Buy the book to see these.
Chapter 4 covers bishop versus knight endings.
Here is a position that looks desperate for black, so he resigned. But there is a saving resource. His pieces are restricted and near the corner, so….
1…Kh8! (Any knight move allows the f-pawn to advance decisively) draws 2.Kf7 Ng7! 3.Bd4 (3.f6 Nh5 draws) 3…Kh7! draws as 4. Bxg7 is stalemate
The next fight shows how poorly the knight deals with rook pawns.
Black won with 1…Kb5 2.Kf3 Kc4 3.Ke2 Kc3 Keeping the white king away by shouldering – a common theme in all sorts of endings. Even though the pawn has not moved, white cannot draw! 4.Nf4 Kc2 5.Nd5 a5 (Finally the pawn moves) 6.Nc7 a4 7.Nb5 Be5 8.Na3+ (8.Ke3 Kb3 9.Kd3 Kb4 10.Na7 a3 11.Nc6+ Kc5 12.Na5 a2 13.Nb3+ Kb4 14.Kc2 Bf6 is a win by zugzwang – a common occurrence in B+P v N endings) Kb3 9.Nb1 Bc3 10.Kd1 Ba5 11.Kc1 Bb4 0-1 as 12. Kd1 is met by Kb2 winning easily.
Chapter 5 covers Rook Endings.
The position shows a common type of position. Nunn asks the question, which is best 1.Rf8+, 1.Rg8 or 1.Ke5?
The intermediary check gains a tempo which wins: 1.Rf8+! Ke4 Attempting to shoulder barge the white king 2. Rg8! Kf4 3.Kd5 g4 4. Kd4 1-0 as 4…h3 5.Kd3 Kf3 6.Rf8+ Kg2 7.Ke2 Kg1 8.Kf3 g2 9.Kg3 Kh1 10.Rh8+ Kg1 11.Rh2 wins
Which king move should white make in the position below?
White played 1.Ke6? and lost because of 1…Re1+ which is similar to the position above. 1.Kg6 draws as white should keep his king on the same side as Black. 1…Kf3 2.f5 Ke4 3.f6 Rg1+ 4.Kh7 Rf1 5.Kg7 Ke5 6.f7 draws
How does black draw in this common type of position?
1…Re1! 2.f6 (2.Kf6 Kb4! 3.e7 Kc5 4.Kf7 Kd6 draws after 5.f6 Kd7 or 5.e8=Q Rxe8 6.Kxe8 Ke5 draws) 2…Re5!+ (A superb hesitation check which is easy to miss, 2…Rxe6 loses to 3.f7) 3.Kg6 Rxe6 drawing.
One move wins for black in this position. What is it?
1…Rc3+! is the winner. This idea is analysed in “My Sixty Memorable Games” in a Fischer game with Gligorić (with reversed colours). Fischer comments that he spent all night analysing this rook and pawn endgame learning a lot about rook and pawn endgames.
2. Kd2 b5 (now the black rook shields the king from a frontal assault) 3.Rb1+ Rb3 4. Rh1 Ka3 5.Kc2 Rb2+! 6.Kc1 b4 7.Rh8 Rg2 8.Ra8+ Kb3 9.Rb8 Rg1+ 10.Kd2 Rb1! 11.Rb7 Ka2 and white cannot avoid the Lucena position for long.
In the example below, Dr Nunn asks which is better 1…Ke8 or 1…Kg8? This is a fundamental rook and pawn position that everyone should know.
The black king should move to the short side, so the rook can operate on the long side.
Black played 1…Ke8? which loses 2.Ra8+ Kd7 3.Rf8! The key move 3…Rf2 4.Kg7 Rg2+ 5.Kf7 Rf2 6.f6 and the Lucena will soon be reached.
1… Kg8! would have drawn 2. Ra8+ Kh7 3.Ke6 (3.Rf8 Ra1! preparing flank checks on the long side) 3…Kg7! 4. Ra7+ Kf8 5.Kf6 Kg8 repeating =
Should black play 1…Rb6, 1…Ka7, 1…Rh2?
Only 1…Rb6! draws setting up the Vancura position as soon as possible. 2.Kf4 Rc6 3.Kg5 Rc5+ 4.Kg6 Rc6+ 5.Kg7 Rc7+ with a standard Vancura draw. This Vancura draws only works with rook pawns.
Chapter 6 covers Rook and Minor Piece endgames.
I will show three examples of didactic positions.
This is a standard theoretical position with the king in the wrong corner (same colour as the bishop).
White wins by 1.Kf6! (Black is threatening Bb2 followed by Bg7) 1…Be3 2.Kf7 Ba7 3.Ra6 smoking out the bishop 3…Bb8 4.Ra8 Bc7 5.Rc8 Bf4 (5…Bb6 6.Rc3 Kh6 7.Rc6+ wins the bishop) 6.Rc4 Bg5 7.Rc3 1-0 since 7…Kh6 8.Rh3+ wins the bishop
In the next game we have a rook and opposite colour bishop ending where mating ideas are always on the agenda particularly when a king is on the edge of the board.
White won with 1.Kc7! (Threatening the brutal 2.Rb8#) 1…Bb7 2.a6! winning easily as 2…Rxc5+ 3.Rxc5 Bxa6 4. Ra5 wins
The next example shows the notoriously difficult rook and bishop versus rook ending. The reviewer has had this endgame twice in practice and won both times. This type of position is very common in this ending. Black has only one drawing move. What is it?
This second rank defence is good but cannot always be reached. It does not work when the king is in the corner.
Here is a R v B with the defending king near the safe corner, however, this position is still very dangerous for white, who has one drawing move.
White played 1.Bd5? and lost as follows: 1…Rd7 (Black smokes the bishop out again) 2.Bc6 Rc7 3.Bd5 Rd7 4.Bc6 Rd6 5.Bb5 Rb6 6.Be8 Rb8 7.Bg6 Rh8+ winning 1.Kh5 draws since 1…Kf5 2.Kh4 Kf4 3.Kh3 or Kh5 draws
Chapter 7 covers queen endings.
Here I will give a flavour with four endings. Here white has a strong passed pawn but white’s queen is offside. How does black impede its further advance? This type of position occurs quite frequently.
Black played 1…Qc5? (1…Qf3? also loses 2. Qb6 wins) 2.Kg1 Qd4 (or 2…Qc1+ 3.Kg2 winning as black cannot check on the long diagonal) 3.c7 1-0
Black can draw with 1…Qd4! (Harassing white’s king and stopping Qb6) 2.Kg1 Qd1+ 3.Kg2 Qd5+ draws as 4.f3 Qd2+ 5.Kh3 Qc1 draws
The next position shows how dangerous a queen can be: don’t forget she is a potent mating force! Black is a pawn up but white’s next few moves show how immaterial that is.
There are many games, even in GM praxis where the stronger side falls into a mating net trying to a avoid a perpetual.
The next game shows the notorious Q + rook’s pawn v Q ending.
Here black has placed his king onto a very poor square. Black should have put his king in the a1 corner area to draw. Even then, the defending side has to be very accurate. How does white win?
Black’s king is very vulnerable to a cross check. White should move his king towards the 4th rank to exploit black’s king position. So:
1.Qf5! (1.Kg7? only draws, don’t forget a queen can shepherd home a pawn without its king’s help, so white plays his king towards the rank that black’s king is on) 1…Qg2+ 2.Kf6 Qb2+ 3.Kg5 (Black has no more checks) 3…Qh8 4.Qd7+ (4.h7 is quicker) 4…Ka3 (4…Kb3 lasts longer) 5.Qe7+ Ka4 6.h7 Qb8 7.Qd7+ Kb3 8.Qd3+ Ka4 9.Qd4+ wins 1-0
Notice how black’s king position obstructs the scope of his own queen and allows a cross check.
Here is an unusual position which looks hopeless for black as white’s king looks safe and a7 followed by a8=Q looks inevitable. However, black can draw!
1…Kg2! Getting the king out of way to avoid any potential cross checks. 2.a7 Kf3! ( or 2…Kf2) 3.a8=Q Qg8+ 4.c8=Q Qg3+ 5.Qc7 Qg8+ 6.Ka7 Qa2+ 7.Kb6 Qb3+ 8.Kc5 Qc2+! 9.Kd6 Qg6+ 10.Kd5 Qe4+ with a draw by perpetual despite white being a queen and a pawn up!
Chapter 8 is Endings With Queens And Other Pieces
The position below is a fairly common type of position. It looks as though white can double the rooks on the b-pawn and win it followed by ganging up on the kingside pawns winning. Black can prevent this with accurate defence. How?
Black played 1…Qa3? and lost 2.Rfe1 wins as 3.Re2 and 4.Reb2 followed by 5.Rxb4 cannot be prevented. 1…Qd2? also loses to 2.Rb3, but 1..Qc3! holds; white is surprisingly unable to organise his rooks to win the b-pawn. 2. Rfe1 Qd2! 3.Kf1 Qd3+ 4.Kg1 Qd2 5.Red1 Qc2 6.Rdc1 Qd2 and white is not making any progress.
Here is a rampant rook situation. White’s king is stalemated, so he is continually offering his rook with check for stalemate. Quite often there is a king manoeuvre to get out of the checks. How does black win here?
Black played 1…Kf5? 2.Rg5+! Oops, skewering the queen, drawing instantly.
A win was to be had with 1…Kh5 (or 1…Kh6) 2.Rh4+ (2.Rg5+ Qxg5 lifts the stalemate) 2…Kg6 3.Rh6+ (3.Rg4 Qg5 wins) 3…Kf7 4.Rh7+ (4.Rxf6+ Ke7 5. Re6+ Kd8 ends the checks) 4…Ke6 5.Re7+ Kf5 6.Re5+ Qxe5 wins)
Here is a theoretical Q v R+P ending. Nunn puts the poser: which is better 1…Rc2 or 1…Rc8?
The reviewer feels a bit smug as he knew the answer to this one.
Black played 1…Rc2? which is a blunder because white’s king can now cross the c-file: 2.Qb1+! Kc3 3.Kc5 b3 4.Qe1+! Rd2 (4…Kd3+ 5.Kb4 b2 6.Qb1 Kd2 7.Kb3 and he pawn falls) 5.Qc1+ Rc2 6.Qe3+ Kb2 7.Kb4 winning the pawn and the game.
1…Rc8! Draws 2.Qd1+ Ka3! 3.Qd3+ Kb2 4.Qd4+ Ka3 holding the draw
Chapter 9 Endgame Tactics
White played 1.Kf3 allowing 1…Kh4 and black consolidated his advantage to win. What did white miss?
White missed a beautiful draw with 1.Qd8+ Kg4 (1…Kh6 does not help) 2.Qd1+!! Rxd1 stalemate in mid board. Very study like.
The tenth and final chapter is the test chapter.
In summary a really good book to improve the reader’s endgame knowledge and analytical skills.
FM Richard Webb, Chineham, Hampshire, 30th May 2021
The Gloomy Fate and Romantic Chess of Arthur Towle Marriott : Fabrizio Zavatarelli
From the publisher:
Biography of prominent Nottingham chess-player (1859-1884). Biography contents 156 annotated games with comments mostly from contemporary sources. A. T. Marriott played chess with many contemporary chess players of this time, e.g. Blackburne, Freeborough, MacDonnell, Thorold, etc.
I won’t quote the publisher’s introduction, as it’s the same as you’ll find in this book.
This is the first volume in a different series, though, featuring the careers of forgotten chess players. In this case the author is Fabrizio Zavatarelli, an Italian chess historian, who has written a book on Kolisch and co-authored one on Neumann, Hirschfeld and Suhle, both published by McFarland. An author, then, with a proven track record as an excellent writer and researcher in this field. A helpful feature of the book is a rating system for games: one star: of some interest, two stars: worthy of an anthology, and three stars (there are none in this book): a masterpiece.
Arthur who? You may well ask. I hadn’t heard of him until I saw the advance publicity for this book. Arthur Towle Marriott, it turns out, was the youngest and strongest member of a chess playing family. We have 156 games, with contemporary annotations, along with a few problems, and we follow him as he travels the country, playing chess wherever and whenever he can.
Marriott was born in Nottingham on 25 November 1859, the youngest son of Thomas and Sarah. There is information about his family now available online which Zavatarelli was either unable to find or which wasn’t available when he was researching the book. A footnote suggests that Sarah’s maiden name was probably Lacey: it wasn’t: she was Sarah Green. He also states that no mention of the family can be found in the 1861 and 1871 census records: in fact the 1871 record has now been found, but not, as yet, the 1861 record. You can find out more information about the chess playing Marriotts here.
His earliest games, mostly played by correspondence, date from 1876, about the time of his 17th birthday. But a few months later he was playing, and winning, in a match between Nottingham against Leicester. As an example of Marriott’s play at this time, here’s a casual game played at his chess club.
From this game you can tell that he was a highly talented tactician with a love, which would last the rest of his life, of rather dubious gambits.
Marriott played in the 2nd Class Tournament at Grantham over the following New Year, outclassing the opposition to win with a 100% score. In August 1878 he travelled to Hull for a series of games against Edward Freeborough, later to find fame as the co-author of Chess Openings Ancient and Modern. Two months later, Blackburne was in town for a simul, and, underestimating his young opponent, was mated in only 17 moves.
We follow Marriott’s career and travels over the next few years, visiting London, for example, to take on the chess automaton ‘Mephisto’, possibly operated by Gunsberg at the time. But at some point, possibly early 1881, he contracted tuberculosis. Undeterred, he continued playing chess between bouts of his illness.
Everyone loves a good king hunt, so take a look at this.
Curiously, the moves up to 15. Be3 were duplicated in a 21st century game (Haller – Torretta Wasselonne Open 2009), but White ended up repeating moves in a winning position.
The Danish Gambit was one of Marriott’s favourite openings, as was the Boden-Kieseritzky Gambit, which he also played with colours reversed: yes – the currently fashionable (in some circles) Stafford Gambit.
It’s very clear from the games in this book that Arthur Towle Marriott was a player with an outstanding tactical imagination: deadly against opponents who failed to develop their pieces in the opening. Not everything stands up to computer analysis, but he was more interested in playing a beautiful game than winning prosaically.
Playing in a tournament against master standard opposition, though, is another matter entirely. Would he be able to raise his game and become a world class player like Blackburne, or would he remain just a tricky tactician like Bird?
A tournament in Birmingham in August 1883 gave him the chance to find out by taking on some of the country’s leading amateurs under serious match play conditions.
In the first round he faced Nelson Fedden, and this time forsook his beloved gambits for a more cautious start.
This game suggested that he could make the grade, but, had he been in full health he would no doubt have concluded more quickly and efficiently rather than missing some simple mates. He lost to Thorold, the eventual winner, in the second round, and then, playing poorly, to Ranken. At that point he was forced to withdraw from the tournament on health grounds. In November he travelled down to Bournemouth, hoping the sea air would improve his health, and, of course, played a lot of chess while he was there. He returned home in early 1884, but his condition was worsening and he spent some time in the TB Sanatorium at Ventnor on the Isle of Wight. It was all to no avail, though, and that dreadful disease claimed his life on the night of 21-22 November, just a few days before his 25th birthday.
Here’s a problem: White to play and mate in 3 moves (Nottingham Guardian 1884). You’ll find the solution at the end of this review.
Arthur Towle Marriott is one of the great might-have-beens of English chess history. He was a highly creative and imaginative attacking player who was very much at home in the 19th century world of romantic gambit play. A real chess enthusiast, he played wherever he went: casual games, club matches or tournaments, simultaneous displays, odds games, blindfold games, they all came alike to him. You’ll even find a game of four-handed chess here. He was very popular as well: everyone who knew him soon became fond of him, and you’ll also find a few lovely anecdotes within these pages. But he was strong enough to beat the likes of Blackburne and Gunsberg in one-to-one games. EdoChess gives him a peak rating of 2376 in 1881, placing him 66th in the world. It’s quite possible that, had he lived, he’d have reached grandmaster level.
What you get is everything currently known about Marriott’s life and chess. What you don’t get is external contextualisation: there’s a lot more to be told about his family background, some of which I’ll endeavour to do at a future date in my Minor Pieces series. There’s much that could be written about some of his opponents, who also have their stories. You also don’t get computer-assisted analysis: he played some highly complex games, and, inevitably, many of the annotations fail to meet with Stockfish’s approval. Finally, you don’t get professional production values. The publisher uses a different – and less suitable – diagram font than in the Mackenzie book: it’s not always easy to distinguish between some of the white and black pieces.
One of my particular interests is in the history of chess in Leicester (a city with which I have various personal connections), and Marriott played in several matches between his and my father’s home towns. If you’re interested in chess at this time and place you’ll be sure to want this book. If you have a general interest in 19th century chess history, if you love the romantic 19th century style of play, where gambits are offered and accepted, and where pieces are sacrificed for speculative attacks, you won’t be disappointed by the specimens here. If you just want to find out about an unjustly forgotten figure in chess history, one who, in some ways, typified the spirit of his age, again, go right ahead and buy it.
Problem solution: 1. Ng3 d4 2. Nh3 Ke3 3. Rc3#. The two knights withdraw to set up a pin mate. Not profound, but rather charming, I think.
Richard James, Twickenham 27th May 2021
Book Details :
Softback : 160 pages
Publisher: Publishing House Moravian Chess (1 Jan. 2019)
“Dariusz Swiercz was born in 1994 in Tarnowskie Gory, Poland. His grandfather taught him to play chess at the age of three. During his junior career he won numerous National Championships as well as several European and World Championship medals. His highest successes include the bronze medal in 2010 at the World U20 Championship (Chotowa, Poland), gold medal in 2011 at the World U20 Championship (Chennai, India) and another gold medal in 2012 at the World U18 Championship (Maribor, Slovenia). He is one of the youngest to receive the Grandmaster title at the age of 14 years and 7 months. In 2016 he won the third edition of the “Millionaire Chess” held in Las Vegas, USA. Since 2018 he has represented the United States. Dariusz currently resides in Saint Louis, Missouri.”
From the book’s rear cover we have this extensive blurb:
“I would like to thank you for purchasing this book, I really appreciate it. It also means that you found an interest in my work of trying to crack the Ruy Lopez. As I said in the introduction to the first volume, I had no idea what I was signing up for when deciding to write a book on Ruy Lopez. This opening has such a rich history and good reputation that proving advantages in many lines is nearly impossible.
Writing the first volume on this opening was a Herculean effort and I thought “it cannot be more difficult”. After all, I was covering such solid variations as the Berlin and the Open Spanish. Well, I got surprised again! I am not exaggerating when I say that writing the second volume was at least as hard as writing the first one. This second volume on the Ruy Lopez consists of two parts. In the first part I focus on modern systems with …Bc5, attempting to dissect both the Archangelsk and Moller Variations. These two variations have quite a rich history but in 2020 there have been several developments. If I had to name one person that contributed the most to the developments in those lines it is, without a doubt, Fabiano Caruana. His encounters in the Candidates Tournament in Ekaterinburg, then his theoretical discussion in those lines with Leinier Dominguez, revised my opinion on many of those lines and led to interesting discoveries that I analyse in this book.
In the subsequent part I discuss the Closed Ruy Lopez. It is easily one of the most popular openings throughout the history of chess with many games occurring as early as the 1800s. I suggest going for 9.h3 which usually leads to a positional battle. I present new trends and find new paths and ideas in such evergreen variations as the Zaitsev, Breyer, Chigorin and others. Additionally, I attempt to crack the Marshall Attack by suggesting the Anti-Marshall lines with 8.a4. I must admit that I thought that it would be a pretty easy task to analyse those openings having some prior analysis and experience with both colours. However, time after time I was encountering new challenges and new ideas from both sides that I had to resolve. My conclusions, based on careful analysis with the most powerful engines currently available is presented in this book.
This book completes my series on the Ruy Lopez. I would like to take a moment and recall what I said in the introduction to the first volume. When both sides play very good and sound chess, it is normal that games end in a draw. It is especially true for such sound openings as Ruy Lopez. I do not attempt to dismiss one line or another because somewhere with best play Black can make a draw by force on move number 30, playing sometimes ridiculous moves that are only found during the analytical work. Over the board the reality is way different – practical aspect plays an important role in chess. Some positions are easier to play, some harder. Similarly to what I did in the first volume, I try to offer the most playable positions.
I do not mind if the positions are equal, provided it is easier to play with White or the chance of an error by Black is quite large. Sometimes I go into forced variations (e.g. in Moller Defense or Archangelsk Defense), sometimes into more positional battles (like in the Zaitsev) but I truly believe that the positions I aim to reach have potential and are tricky for Black. With proper knowledge I think White can put pressure on Black in the Ruy Lopez. I hope that you will find my approach to tackling the Ruy Lopez interesting. I am aware that there is only so much I can analyse and someone may say that I did not analyse some positions deeply enough but that is the nature of chess – possibilities are pretty much unlimited and there will always be theoretical debate!
Finally, I wish you, dear Reader, good luck and I hope you can successfully use the ideas that I present in this book in your games. Dariusz Swiercz February 2021.”
In Volume 2 the author looks at the major lines against the Lopez and he breaks the content down into three parts.
Before continuing it would be worth looking at this 19 page excerpt from the book.
Part 1 starts with systems with …Bc5 including the Møller defence.
After 1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5 a6 4.Ba4 Nf6 5.00 Bc5 a move played by World Champion Magnus Carlsen in a few games but more regularly championed by Alexander Onischuk. White continues with 6.c3 which is the most popular move according to my database.
In the game Nepomniachtchi v Caruana the game went 6…0-0 7.d4 Ba7 8.Re1
and White plans to bring his bishop to e3. He can also try 8.Bg5 as Lev Aronian did in a game vs Magnus. White is trying to pressurise e5 and get black to exchange on d4. After 8…d6 9 h3 b5 10 Bc2 when Be3 is coming and White usually tries to play his Knight to f5 with king side pressure.
On 6…b5 7.Bc2 d5 8.a4 will surprise black players. After 8…Rb8 9.ab5 ab5 10.d4 de4 11.dc5 Qd1 12.Bd1 ef3 13.Bf3 e4 14.Be2 when Stockfish gives White as much better since he retains the bishop pair.
Black can try 8…de4 9.ab5 00 but 10 Ng5 ! seems to leave White better. As in many lines analysis is given up to move 25 !
This whole line is very tricky and both players need to know it well. The Archangelsk with 5…b5 6 Bb3 completes Part 1 with the older move 6…Bb7 being looked at first and then 7 Re1 is given first. Having played this in many online games I as black I believe this is Whites best move now and ….Be7 is rather condemned. White can just play as he does against the Closed but he can save a tempo on h3 as there is no Bg4 move.
The modern 6…Bc5 played by Fabio Caruana and Gata Kamsky is given when 7 a4 should set black thinking. First 7…b4 is dismissed as an error as 8 Ne5! Ne5 9 d4 is good for White. Better are both 7…Bb7 and …Rb8 though White will continue his plan of building a big pawn centre with c3 and d4. In many of these lines white follows up with Bg5 when h6 Bh4 g5 can often be met with Nxg5 ideas.
Part 2 comprises the so-called main line of 5…Be7 6 Re1 b5 7 Bb3 d6 8 c3 00 9 h3
when 9…a5 is the Keres variation, 9…Be6 the Kholmov variation, 9…Nd7 the Karpov and both 9…Qd7 and 9…h6 credited to Smyslov.
For the first three variations 10.d4 followed by d5 attempting to cramp black are investigated but 9…Qd7 10 d4 Re8 11 Bg5 and 9…h6 10 d4 Re8 11 Nbd2 Bf8 12 Nf1 are both given as gaining an advantage for White .
Against the Zaitzev variation (9…Bb7) white has a plan of d4 combined with a3 and Bc2 followed by b3. He must be well prepared for black to play d5 here .
The Chigorin variation (9…Na5) was a favourite of Paul Keres and following 10 Bc2 c5 11 d4
both …Qc7 and …Nd7 are looked at in detail with 12 d5 recommended against both, again trying to cramp black.
12.d5 seems better than 12 Nbd2 when black can exchange on d4 and play for pressure on e4.
The Breyer variation (9…Nb8 ) as essayed by Anatoly Karpov sees 10 d4 Nbd7 11 c4 !? a move that will probably surprise Black.
For recommendations to deal with the Marshall Attack you will need to buy the book!
The book winds up in Part 3 by looking at 5…Be7 6.d3 for players who don’t want to get involved in too much opening theory.
Generally this is a book for those who take chess very seriously and are not frightened of learning large quantities of opening theory. The book is written from White’s perspective and therefore does not include a treatment of the exchange variation.
It is also good for postal /correspondence chess as White usually ends up with an edge so can torture his opponent for some time.
Colin Lyne, Farnborough, Hampshire, 26th May, 2021
Book Details :
Paperback : 336 pages
Publisher:Thinkers Publishing; 1st edition (13 April 2021)
“Chess has the rare quality that children love it despite the fact that it is good for them. Playing chess is just like life: you have to make plans, take decisions, be creative, deal with challenges, handle disappointments, interact with others and evaluate your actions.
Psychologist and chess teacher Karel van Delft has spent a large part of his life studying the benefits of chess in education. In this guide he provides access to the underlying scientific research and presents the didactical methods of how to effectively apply these findings in practice.
Van Delft has created a dependable toolkit for teachers and scholastic chess organizers. What can teachers do to improve their instruction? How (un)important is talent? How do you support a special needs group? How do you deal with parents? And with school authorities? What are the best selling points of a chess program? Boys and girls, does it make a difference? How do ‘chess in schools’ programs fare in different countries?
This is not a book on chess rules, with lots of moves and diagrams, but it points the way to where good technical chess improvement content can be found. Van Delft offers a wealth of practical advice on how to launch and present a chess program and how to apply the most effective didactics in order for kids to build critical life skills through learning chess.”
“Karel van Delft is a Dutch chess teacher and chess organizer. He holds a Master’s degree in Psychology of the University of Amsterdam and has lectured and published widely on the subject of the benefits of chess in education.”
Chess education is an important subject which has been much discussed over the past decade or more, but, up to now, it hasn’t been the topic of many books, at least in the English language.
Karel van Delft is ideally qualified to write this book. He’s been teaching chess very successfully at all levels for many years and will be known to many of us who have attended the London Chess Conference. His son, Merijn, is an IM whose recent book was favourably reviewed on this site. He generously mentions me twice within these pages.
For whom is the book written? Although there’s very little chess and very few diagrams, there’s an assumption that readers know something about the game and are either already chess teachers, or are interested in teaching chess to young children. For the most part, we’re looking, then, at chess in primary schools, or for children of primary school age.
A couple of quotes from the Introduction:
Chess is a playground for the brain. Children enjoy playing it, and it poses fascinating challenges to their brain. But the game also widens their horizon.
Chess can contribute to the cognitive, social, emotional and meta-cognitive development of children. For children with special needs and other groups, chess can also be a means for empowerment. It helps them to develop self-respect, and to get a grip on themselves and their environment.
In other words, especially for children, chess has many benefits. What are these exactly, and how can chess have a positive effect on the education of children? That is what we examine in this book. We will discuss didactics and teaching methods, the organization of school clubs, scientific research on the benefits of chess education, and chess as a means of emancipation within the scope of school chess and special needs groups.
Chapter 2 is an important look at Didactics in School Chess. Van Delft recommends that lessons should combine instruction and playing, and take place within groups of children at the same level, with, ideally, a maximum of 12 children in each group. If, however, chess is on the curriculum, the classes will be larger and not all children will be motivated.
Chapter 3 is perhaps more controversial: Pre-School Chess, which, by its definition, applies to chess at home rather than at school. We hear about grandmasters – the Polgar sisters and others – who started chess very young. Various ways of encouraging children from the age of 2 upwards to take an interest in chess are suggested, for instance getting them to watch chess videos or a chess engine playing itself. You may well have reservations about whether 2-year-olds should be encouraged to use screens in this way, or, indeed, to use screens at all.
The next few chapters provide checklists for organising school chess clubs and youth tournaments, and, critically, the role of parents is also discussed. The School Chess Club chapter is very revealing: it’s certainly completely different from most school chess clubs I’ve seen, which involve a visiting tutor coming in to teach 20-30 children of different ages and playing strengths, with minimal support from the school. If you showed this to most primary schools here in the UK they’d be horrified: the teachers are under far too much pressure elsewhere to deal with anything like this. On the other hand it’s perfect for anyone wanting to start a professionally run junior chess club within their community.
Chapter 7 is worthwhile for all readers, looking at Fernando Moreno’s work in teaching life skills through chess.
Chapter 8, again, is invaluable, talking about chess, intelligence and teaching highly gifted children. Here, van Delft differentiates between ‘top down teaching’, which is favoured by schools in the Netherlands, and ‘bottom up teaching’, of which the Steps Method is, at least in part, an example. There’s a lot of food for thought for all chess teachers here.
The following chapters look at how to encourage specific categories of chess player: those with visual or hearing impairments, with autism or dyslexia, girls and women, and then, in a catch-all chapter, those with ADHD, Down Syndrome, long-term illnesses or handicaps, and depression. All of this is of vital importance, and should be considered by anyone involved in chess education or administration.
We’re now onto Chapter 15, Class Management, especially useful for those, like me, who struggle in this area. The author provides several pages of helpful advice for chess tutors who may not be trained teachers.
Chapters 16 to 20 cover various aspects of chess instruction, most notably a description of research into the possible academic benefits, with descriptions of the methodology and results of various studies around the world along with constructive criticisms of current research and suggestions for future studies. As you would expect, he uses the work of Fernand Gobet and his colleagues here, but reaches a rather different conclusion.
Gobet is, broadly speaking, critical of the movement to promote chess on the curriculum for it’s perceived academic benefits: “In my view, chess is a great game providing much excitement, enjoyment and beauty on its own. There is no need to justify its practice by alluding to external benefits.”. (The Psychology of Chess Routledge 2019) I agree with Gobet here, but I’m not sure that van Delft would share my views. If you want to make chess more popular by promoting it in schools, though, you’ll probably need to convince them of the potential academic advantages.
Finally, we have Chapter 21, the best part of 120 pages, devoted to an Alphabet of Methods and Teaching Tips for Chess Education. There are dozens of ideas here, some just of one sentence, others taking several pages. No one will want to use all these ideas, but all readers will find something to enhance and enliven their chess tuition.
You may have gathered that this book doesn’t really provide a coherent narrative, but that is of little importance, and I know from personal experience how difficult it is to write on this subject in a logical and structured way.
You should be aware that this book is written from a Dutch perspective. Although you might think our two countries are culturally similar, in fact there are many differences. If you’re interested in this sort of thing you might start by reading this book. Dutch schools are very different from British schools. The Dutch, in general have (and have had since Euwe became World Champion in 1935) a rather more positive view of chess than we do. Dutch chess clubs are also much more suitable for children than our clubs with their evening meetings in less than adequate venues. So things that work in the Netherlands might not work in the UK or elsewhere. If you’re writing for a UK audience you might also want to provide links to, for example, the Delancey UK Chess Challenge and the English Primary Schools Chess Association as well as the ECF.
There are also a few translation problems, although the meaning is usually clear. Page 75, for example, uses the word ‘retardedness’, in relation to autism, which many teachers, parents and advocates here in the UK would consider both inappropriate and offensive. I appreciate that the economics of chess publishing make it impractical, but in an ideal world the book would have been checked through by a native English speaker with appropriate subject knowledge.
There are also many involved in various aspects of childhood who are concerned about the increasing professionalisation of children’s leisure activities and the ‘schoolification’ of childhood, as well as about young children’s screen time. Of course it’s all about striking the right balance, and that balance will vary a lot from one child to another. I’d have liked to see these issues and others discussed. Is it, in general, a good idea to encourage schools to put chess on the curriculum instead of, say, music or PE? Accentuating the positive is all very well, but you can’t always eliminate the negative.
Nevertheless, this book is essential reading for everyone interested in chess education, whether in practice or only in theory. Both established chess teachers and those just setting out will find great ideas to inspire them on every page. Karel van Delft is one of the world’s leading experts on the subject, so the book is an ocean of wisdom. You won’t find everything equally useful, and you might not agree with everything, but then no critical reader will agree with everything in any book on education, no matter what the subject. I wouldn’t say that I disagree with him at all, but that I bring a very different perspective, in part from living in a different country and in part from being a very different person.
The most important aspect of the book for me, on a very personal level, is the understanding that chess has potential social as well as cognitive benefits for a very wide range of young- and not so young – people. We hear a lot about chess ‘making kids smarter’ but not so much about chess ‘making kids happier’, by which I mean genuine long-term benefits rather than short-term fun playing with your friends.
There is certainly a need for more books on the subject of why, how, when, where and by whom chess should be taught, offering a multiplicity of views and perspectives. I hope Karel’s book meets with the success it deserves: you could start by buying a copy yourself.
Here is the publishers blurb from the rear cover :
“The Budapest Gambit (1 d4 Nf6 2 c4 e5) is an aggressive, dynamic approach for meeting 1 d4 and is a great line for throwing opponents onto their own resources. It is certainly double-edged as Black moves the same piece twice early on and also sacrifices a pawn. This pawn is often quickly regained but one of the great advantages of the Budapest is that if White tries to hang on to the pawn (and many players do) Black can quickly whip up a ferocious attack.
A great number of materialistic but unprepared White players have found themselves swiftly demolished by Black’s tremendously active pieces. When White is more circumspect and allows Black to regain the pawn, play proceeds along more sedate strategic lines where Black enjoys free and easy development.
Experienced chess author and coach Andrew Martin examines all key variations of the Budapest. There is an emphasis on typical middlegame structures and the important plans and manoeuvres are demonstrated in numerous instructive games. * Includes complete repertoires for Black with both 3…Ng4 and 3…Ne4 * Comprehensive coverage featuring several new ideas * Take your opponents out of their comfort zone!”
About the author :
Andrew Martin is an English IM, a Senior FIDE Trainer, the Head of the ECF Chess Academy, a teacher in numerous schools and a coach to many promising and upcoming players. Andrew has authored in excess of thirty books and DVDs and produced huge numbers of engaging videos on his sadly defunct YouTube Channel.
As with every recent Everyman Chess publication high quality paper is used and the printing is clear. Each diagram is clear as is the instructional text. Figurine algebraic notation is used throughout. The usual and reliable formatting from Brighton-based typesetter IM Byron Jacobs is employed.
The diagrams do not have a “to move” indicator or any kind of caption so you will need to work out for yourself how they relate to the text that they are embedded in. However, this is fairly obvious.
There is a helpful Index of Variations and an Index of the whopping 164 completed games the author provides ranging from 1896 until 2021.
For those who do not know the Budapest Gambit starts here:
and it has some overlaps with ideas from the Albin Counter Gambit:
and even the choice of many juniors and beginners, the Englund Gambit:
The book consists of fourteen chapters organised into two main parts:
The Budapest Gambit
A Budapest Timeline
Key Strategic Ideas after 3…Ng4
The Rubinstein Variation after 4.Bf4
Safe and Sound 4.Nf3
The Aggressive 4.e4
The Dark Horse 4.e3
The Budapest Gambit Declined
The Fajarowicz Gambit
Key Strategic Ideas after 3…Ne4
The Natural 4.Nf3
The Acid Test: 4.a3
An Independent Line: 4.Nd2 Nc5
Early White Queen Moves
Other Fourth Moves
Before we continue it is worth taking a look at the pdf extract which includes the Contents, Preface and pages 166 – 184.
We were immediately struck by the author’s candour in the Preface:
This has been a tough book to write and I have agonised over the format for quite some time.
In the end I have settled for an approach by which I hope the reader will get to like the Budapest as an ingenious concept and then be willing to take the risks involved in playing the opening.
This statement is really rather refreshing. Most of us can recall the dubious days of highly ambitious (and some might say misleading) book titles such as “Winning with the Englund Gambit” or “Crushing Your Opponent with the Damiano“* or maybe something equally nonsensical but amusing. Chess publishing has mostly matured for the better in that respect and we can look forward to increasingly honest and objective tomes.
*These are fictionalised titles but hopefully the point is made clear.
The first chapter will be of interest both to both the chess historian and students of the Budapest as the author provides a welcome 64 page chronology of the gambit’s development from 1896 through 2020: interesting stuff! Indeed, this type of chapter would be a welcome addition to opening books in general and we should thank the author for being innovative in this respect.
Here is a sample game from Chapter One:
The meat and potatoes theory chapters adopt a methodology of selecting a large number (135) of practical games which are each annotated with succinct explanations rather than tedious reams of variations and engine dumps. The author’s coaching pedigree is evident throughout which will enhance the ambitious students understanding of this interesting gambit.
Not ever having played the Budapest and not allowing it with white (in the BCN office we are all extremely dull players and chose 1.d4 Nf6 2.Nf3) it would not be appropriate for us to comment on the merits of various lines and variations. However the author can hardly be accused of selecting only games where Black does well. In fact, the chapter (Two) outlining the Key Strategic Ideas after 3…Ng4 contains ten wins for White out of 18 games! So, again, applause for an objective approach.
So, how does Black fare in the recommended line?
Well, this is covered in Chapter Four: Safe and Sound: 4.Nf3 and game 72 is instructive:
It would certainly appear that the recommendation of 7…Ncxe5!? is a good one since out of 62 games in this line in MegaBase 2020 White scores a rather poor 44.3% whereas the more popular (411 games) 7…Re8 scores a little better for White at 47.1% and, as Andrew writes it is pleasing to see the Ra6 rook lift working well: a nice game!
Possibly the most angst is evident in the treatment of the Fajarowicz Gambit:
I think the Fajarowicz is an excellent surprise weapon, but perhaps not 100% sound.
So, again, how does Black fare in the recommended line? We turn to Chapter Ten to find out…
4.Nf3 is, by far, the most popular (but not necessarily most testing) choice and leads to the following game with the interesting idea of 7…Bf8!:
So, why the lack of enthusiasm for the Fajarowicz? The title of Chapter Eleven is the spoiler: The Acid Test: 4.a3
To find out more about this line and all the others you will need to buy the book which is published on May 24th 2021.
In summary, play the Budapest Gambit is a comprehensive look at the main line and the Fajarowicz Gambit in a refreshingly objective way. The wealth of annotated games is a joy in itself and these are combined with the author’s ideas in keeping this enterprising gambit afloat within the unfriendly world of examination by engines. One of the author’s best works.
George Henry Mackenzie: Third US Chess Champion, 1870
From the publisher:
Definitive biography of the strongest American chess player, which cover the year 1870. Author worked out all available American (and other) chess sources for this year (The Turf, Field, and Farm, Sunday Mercury, New York Albion, New York Clipper, all New York dailies, British chess columns and European chess magazines, etc.) and collected in total 56 games played by Mackenzie in this year, almost of them are fully annotated. Author described in detail all chess tournaments and matches played by Mackenzie in 1870, including description of his all chess activities and New York chess life. 167pp. Indexes of players and openings.
Vlastimil Fiala is a professor of Political Science and distinguished academic and the main driving force behind the publishing house, Moravian Chess based in Olomouc in the Czech Republic. Fiala’s second love is chess history which he treats as a science. His publication portfolio is impressive : the web site of Moravian Chess provides a listing.
Professor Fiala’s Moravian Chess publishing house have been bringing out a lot of valuable material for more than two decades now.
This volume, dated 2019 but seemingly only recently published, is the first of a new series.
The Foreword provides some explanation:
The lives of famous chess players (Paul Morphy, Wilhelm Steinitz, Emanuel Lasker, Jose Raul Capablanca, Alexander Alekhine etc.) have by now been covered in dozens of publications of varying quality. Writing an exhaustive biography of professional chess players whose careers span multiple decades is a highly demanding task. When authors have attempted to do so, books containing a 700-900 A4 pages result (for instance several titles from MacFarland publishing house about A.A. Alekhine, A. Burn etc.), and these biographies moreover turn out to be less exhaustive than they first appear. Many details of their chess career are side-lined, or ignored entirely (e.g. chess exhibitions, consultation games, correspondence play, study composition, journalistic activities etc.). Their careers are usually not even contextualized into the wider, colourful canvas of chess events taking place in the same historical period.
You might think he’s being a bit hard on McFarland there, and not just for spelling their name incorrectly.
After considering all the options, I decided on an unconventional solution: the creation of the “Great Chess Players” series, which features biographies of prominent chess players centred on brief periods of time, usually a single year. In the years to come I want to focus on increasingly details (hopefully definitive) accounts of the careers of the following world chess champions: Paul Morphy, Wilhelm Steinitz, Emanuel Lasker, José Raul Capablanca, Alexander Alekhine, and George Henry Mackenzie.
Well, it’s debatable whether or not you’d consider Morphy a world chess champion, even though he was undoubtedly the best player in the world for a few brief years, but Mackenzie?
Let’s not be too critical, though. Fiala seems to be a one man band working in what is (at best) his second language and performs a vital service for chess historians with both reprints and original research.
He takes a completist approach to history: publishing everything written about his subject in the year in question, as well as every published game. It’s by no means the only approach to writing chess history, or, indeed, any sort of history. Contextualisation, as Fiala says, is important, but completism is not the only way to contextualise.
As the prequels have not yet been published, some background information on Mackenzie might be in order.
George Henry Mackenzie was born in Scotland in 1837 and learnt chess in his teens. Originally destined for a business career, he instead decided to join the army, seeing service in South Africa and India. He then crossed the Atlantic to fight for the North in the American Civil War, reaching the rank of Captain but ending up in prison for impressment and desertion. On his release in 1865 he exchanged the battlefield for the chequered board, settling in New York to make a living as a chess professional, playing games against all-comers, organising clubs and tournaments, and writing newspaper columns. It soon became clear that, apart from Morphy, he was the strongest player in his adopted country, but, as we meet him for the first time seeing in the New Year at the Europa Chess Rooms, there had been little opportunity for him to take on top level opposition.
Morphy’s brief career had led to an increase in the popularity of chess, and New York was generally regarded as the home of most of the country’s strongest players. As we follow Mackenzie round the city’s chess clubs we learn a lot about how chess was played and organised at the time. Our hero was at the heart of everything going on, as player, journalist and organiser, and we can observe how chess was developing into the competitive activity we know today.
We have in total 56 games played by Mackenzie, with annotations taken from contemporary newspapers. No attempt has been made to update them with engine analysis: you might or might not approve. Given their nature, it’s not really a problem for me. Many of them are either odds games or consultation games: both of these were very popular at the time. Over the next decade or two they would gradually die out, to be replaced by a programme of tournament and match chess.
Here, for example, is Mackenzie giving odds of pawn and two moves to Augustus Zerega. These were common odds at the time: the odds giver takes the black pieces, plays without his f-pawn and allows his opponent to play the first two moves.
The highlight of early 1870 was the Brooklyn Chess Club championship, which included, apart from Mackenzie, a young James Mason, as well as names such as Eugene Delmar and Frederick Perrin, who might be familiar to those interested in chess history. It was run as an incomplete double-round all-play-all tournament with about 26 participants. You could choose who you played and when you played them. Mackenzie finished with 31 wins and 2 losses, just ahead of F Eugene Brenzinger. Eight of his games have survived, and are given here.
In May Mackenzie played a match against Perrin, comprising four games on equal terms and four where Mackenzie gave odds of pawn and move (he played black and started without his f-pawn). Perrin held his opponent to a draw on level terms in the first game, but that was all he was able to score. Five of the games have survived.
The chess year continued with a mix of offhand, odds and consultation games, enlivened by a visit from two of Chicago’s leading players. In August the Brooklyn club decided to play a consultation game to find out whether a queen could beat eight pawns. Yes, it could.
But the most significant event of the summer months was an inter-club match between the Café International in New York (Mackenzie was its chess manager) and the Brooklyn Chess Club. Up to that point competitions between clubs had usually been consultation matches, but this was what we’d now consider a Scheveningen System tournament, but with some irregularities. Six rounds were due to be played, with six players on each side, and with each player facing a different opponent in each round. In fact, only five rounds were played as, by that time, the Café International had opened up an unassailable lead, and, in the fifth round there were only five players on each side.
Not everyone was available for each round so, in the end, eight players on each side took part.
A controversy arose as early as the second round, when the Café International fielded a ringer in the shape of Mackenzie’s Bostonian friend Preston Ware. Frederick Perrin was unimpressed. “Although happy at all times to meet so agreeable and accomplished a chess-player as Mr. Ware, we regretted that the Brooklyn players allowed this substitution. To allow substitutes when New York possesses such an array of chess-players, and the Brooklyn Chess Club comparatively so few, must be very prejudicial to the success of the latter, and to admit one of the very best players of Boston into their ranks looks very much like a practical joke on the Brooklynites.”
Just the sort of dispute that has plagued club chess competitions ever since. We’ve all been there.
Only one of Mackenzie’s games from this event is available:
Autumn 1870 witnessed another competition between the Café International and Brooklyn Chess Club: this time a series of 12 consultation games, with the New Yorkers running out narrow winners. Mackenzie was on the wrong side of two of the games. The results and games in the book don’t quite tally, though. It looks like the results of the 5th and11th games are the wrong way round.
But much of Mackenzie’s work in the last months of 1870 was administrative: setting up a chess congress for the following year.
There, at the end of 1870, we leave Mackenzie, at least for this volume. It’s not clear at the moment when the sequel will be published, but, of course, you’ll want to know what happened next.
The 1871 American Congress eventually took place in Cleveland the following December, with Mackenzie winning comfortably. He continued his rabbit-bashing career in New York until 1878, when, at the age of 41, he was invited to his first major international tournament, in Paris. He performed respectably, sharing 4th place with Bird, behind Zukertort, Winawer and Blackburne. His next major event was Vienna 1882, and, for the rest of the decade, he was a regular visitor to the top table. He scored his best result at the age of 50, winning at Frankfurt in 1887. His last tournament was Manchester 1890, but by then he was suffering from tuberculosis, and he died the following year.
He was clearly one of the world’s strongest players for the last 25 years or so of his life, but, living the wrong side of the Atlantic, he had, for many years, to content himself with acting the flat-track bully, along with his involvement in other aspects of chess.
An important, but not very well documented historical figure, then, who led an interesting life. It’s good to know that John Hilbert is working on a full biography for McFarland. I’m certainly eager to find out more about his military career.
If you’re interested in chess history you’ll find this well worth reading to give you an idea of how chess was played and organised a century and a half ago. From a personal perspective – and you might well disagree – I’d have preferred less detail on administrative issues, tournament regulations, committee meetings and so on, and more background information.
How did Mackenzie’s life work financially? Was he well off or struggling to make a living? How did he get paid? We all know about the Blackburne Shilling Gambit, so I guess many of his opponents were paying for the privilege of playing him. I suppose this information isn’t readily available, though.
Who were his opponents? What sort of person was attracted to the New York chess clubs at that time? Augustus Zerega, for instance, was seriously wealthy, having made a fortune as a shipping magnate. Eugene Brenzinger, by contrast, was a German-born baker, renowned for his delicious cakes. Napoleon Marache, born in France, most famous for losing a Famous Game to Morphy, was a problemist, editor and writer.
Perhaps there are lessons we can learn as well. There’s much talk, at least in chess clubs in my part of the world, about doing more to promote social chess. Perhaps we might consider reviving activities such as odds games and consultation matches in order to bring our clubs’ first team players together with their lower rated clubmates.
The production is serviceable, but, understandably, not up to the quality you’d expect from McFarland, for example. The project of which this is the first part, is extremely ambitious: perhaps too much so, but we’ll have to wait and see. I wish Professor Fiala every success in adding to his already extensive contribution to chess history. If you’d like to support him you know what to do.
Richard James, Twickenham 9th May 2021
Book Details :
Softback : 168 pages
Publisher: Publishing House Moravian Chess; 1870th edition (1 Jan. 2019)
The Lasker Method to Improve in Chess : Gerard Welling and Steve Giddins
From the book’s rear cover :
“Many club players think that studying chess is all about cramming as much information in their brain as they can. Most textbooks support that notion by stressing the importance of always trying to find the objectively best move. As a result amateur players are spending way too much time worrying about subtleties that are really only relevant for grandmasters.
Emanuel Lasker, the second and longest reigning World Chess Champion (27 years!), understood that what a club player needs most of all is common sense: understanding a set of timeless principles. Amateurs shouldn’t waste energy on rote learning but just strive for a good grasp of the basic essentials of attack and defence, tactics, positional play and endgame play. Chess instruction needs to be efficient because of the limited amount of time that amateur players have available.
Superfluous knowledge is often a pitfall. Lasker himself, for that matter, also studied chess considerably less than his contemporary rivals. Gerard Welling and Steve Giddins have created a complete but compact manual based on Lasker’s general approach to chess. It enables the average amateur player to adopt trustworthy openings, reach a sound middlegame and have a basic grasp of endgame technique. Welling and Giddins explain the principles with very carefully selected examples from players of varying levels, some of them from Lasker’s own games.
The Lasker Method to Improve in Chess is an efficient toolkit as well as an entertaining guide. After working with it, players will dramatically boost their skills, without carrying the excess baggage that many of their opponents will be struggling with.”
“Steve Giddins is a FIDE Master from England, and a highly experienced chess writer and journalist. He compiled and edited The New In Chess Book of Chess Improvement, the bestselling anthology of master classes from New In Chess magazine. In 2019 Giddins published, together with Gerard Welling, the highly successful chess opening guide Side-Stepping Mainline Theory (ISBN 9789056918699).”
“Gerard Welling is an International Master and an experienced chess trainer from the Netherlands. He has contributed to NIC Yearbook and Kaissiber, the freethinker’s magazine on chess openings. In 2019 Welling published, together with Steve Giddins, the highly successful chess opening guide Side-Stepping Mainline Theory (ISBN 9789056918699).”
Most instructional chess books fall, broadly speaking, into one of two categories.
There are those, often written by younger players, which emphasise studying recent grandmaster games, teach openings by encouraging you to memorise long variations, provide annotated games with reams of computer-generated lines, offer very hard puzzles from top level competitions, and sometimes suggest you devise a timetable for study, setting aside a certain number of hours a day for opening study, tactics training, online games and so on.
Then there are books, usually written by older and, perhaps, wiser authors, very often not of GM strength, but with decades of experience both playing and teaching, who understand that most amateurs have a limited amount of time available. They recommend studying the classics, keeping things simple, choosing openings which are easy to learn, understanding ideas and plans, mastering the ending.
You won’t be surprised to learn that my sympathies are, with some reservations, more with the latter camp. And that’s what we have here.
You might not like the vivid yellow and blue cover, with our hero Manny Lasker wearing cool shades, but, putting that aside, let’s dive in.
The introduction is always a good place to start, so that we can see the authors’ aims in writing the book. In this case, they have much to say which I found particularly interesting, or perhaps just confirming my prejudices.
The amateur player has limited time for chess play and study, but still likes to practice his ‘major hobby’ as well as he can, and thus would like to base his game on reliable premises. He ideally wants to play trustworthy openings, and reach a sound middle game, and would welcome a basic grasp of endgame strategy, but often lacks the time to work on this.
Some amateurs, certainly, most, quite possibly, but not all. If you prefer to play dodgy gambits in the hope of winning a few quick brilliancies, this may not be the book for you.
You might recall, that a few years ago, John Nunn wrote a text book based on Lasker’s games. How does this book differ?
In the present book, we aim to do something completely different: we emphasise the specifically Laskerian approach and how it can be used by the average club player. Lasker emphasised most of all playing by understanding and general principles, with minimum rote-learning (especially of openings). This is perfect for the average amateur player, who wants to be able to maintain a good standard of play without relentless homework.
Nobody can possibly play the best moves all the time. Mistakes are inevitable and they are what decide games, so his (Lasker’s) aim was to try to induce more mistakes from the opponent than from ourselves. So, for example, for the average player, playing a position which he understands and feels comfortable in is more important than playing an objectively superior position that he doesn’t understand and doesn’t feel comfortable in, because he is more likely to go wrong in the latter.
If you, like me, are broadly sympathetic to this view of chess instruction, then, you’ll almost certainly enjoy this book. Younger and more ambitious readers, who prefer to study hundreds of ‘trainable variations’ on an online platform might have a different opinion.
Chapter 1 is very brief, looking at Lasker’s general ‘common sense’ chess philosophy. His Manual of Chess dates from 1925. Almost a century later, chess is very different, but do his principles still stand up? The authors believe they do.
Chapter 2 considers the three principles of positional play. 1: the principle of attack: if you have the advantage you must seek ways of exploiting it. 2: the principle of defence: as your opponent will attack your weakest point, you must defend it. 3: the aim of your actions should be proportionate to the size of your advantage.
In real life, of course, it’s not always as simple as that. You might, for example, have an extra pawn but a weakened king-side or a less effective minor piece. Imbalances of this nature are also important.
Chapter 3 looks at endings. The authors explain the need to know theoretical endgames, and offer a few examples from Lasker’s games.
In this position, for instance, from the first game of his 1911 World Championship match against Schlechter, he managed to draw the game by giving up a second pawn with 54… Re4! 55. Rc5 Kf6 to activate his pieces.
We move on to Attack in Chapter 4. Only the first game here was played by Lasker. The others, mostly unfamiliar, illustrate the point that if your opponent’s king is insufficiently well defended you sometimes need to strike quickly before he has time to bring up the reserves. The openings, though, are often not those you’d associate with Lasker. A small point here: in game 12, where Lodewijk Prins played the eccentric 1. e4 c6 2. b4, the black pieces were handled by Rupert, not Robert Cross.
The authors prefer verbal explanations to variations, and that can be seen in the instructive note here (Sosonko – Eising Mannheim 1975), where Black played 30… Nxg2!
The Australian master and didact C.J.S. Purdy warned that tactics dominate the game and can come out of nowhere, even in positionally lost situations. We believe it is a matter of formulation, because if there are correct tactics available, then, by definition, the position is NOT strategically lost. Lasker formulated this in a clear way, where he mentioned ‘a large superiority of force in a quarter where the opponent has an important weakness’.
Well, yes, but we’ve all lost games by blundering and allowing a tactic in strategically winning positions.
After Attack you’d be right to expect Defence. Two of the four examples here come from Lasker’s games. We’re often taught to seek counterchances or to enter swindle mode, but here the authors demonstrate that, in some cases, just sitting tight and trying to hold everything is the best policy.
Next, we have a short chapter on knights and bishops. Lasker had a particular appreciation for positions where knights outshine bishops, and here we learn about Giddins’ friend Michael Cook, one of the inspirations behind this book: a Lasker admirer who also favours equine manoeuvres.
The following chapter is perhaps unexpected: Amorphous Positions. Restrained but resilient formations without weak links but with potential energy. We first look at a couple of Lasker games where he placed a bunch of pawns on the third rank before moving on to meet another amateur, in this case a Dutch player named Philip du Chattel, who, when playing black, seemingly favoured Nh6 on move 1 or 2. I’m not sure this is something Lasker would ever have considered.
(As an aside, Welling himself is a chess maverick, and his latest book has been co-written with English maverick IM Mike Basman. I suspect there’s an interesting book to be written about strong (say 2200+) players who favour offbeat openings.)
Finally in this chapter we see some games played by Canadian maverick GM Duncan Suttles, who also preferred non-committal openings of this nature.
We’ve now, travelling backwards from the ending, reached the opening, and in Chapter 8 the authors propose a repertoire based on Lasker’s principles.
At amateur level, especially, most games are decided by tactical opportunities and it is of no relevance at all whether one side or the other has a quarter of a pawn’s advantage after the opening. The important thing is just to reach a playable position, with the pieces developed and the king safe, preferably without significant pawn weaknesses.
(Another aside: the authors previously collaborated on a repertoire book which proposed playing a Philidor/Old Indian setup with both colours. Here we have something very different.
As Black, we’re going to defend classically. We’ll meet 1. e4 with e5, playing the Steinitz Defence (with 3… Nf6 followed by 4… d6) against the Ruy Lopez. Against the Italian Game we’ll play 3… Bc5, although we’ll need some concrete analysis. 4… d5!? is suggested against the Evans Gambit, but Greco’s 7. Nc3 in the old main line is dismissed rather too hurriedly. If you don’t like this, 3… d6 is an alternative. We’re also provided with safe and sensible lines against White’s alternatives. We’ll decline any gambit, meeting the King’s Gambit with 2… Nf6!? and the Danish Gambit with 3… d5. Against d4, likewise, we’ll opt for 1… d5, playing the Orthodox Defence to the Queen’s Gambit. Again, common-sense lines are offered against the main line, the Exchange variation, the Bf4 variation and the Catalan. But something seems to be missing here: there’s nothing about the currently popular and annoying London System, not to mention the Colle or Torre. The English and Réti are dismissed in a column and a half (1… e6 and 2… d5) and other first moves aren’t mentioned at all.
With White, we’ll play 1. e4. Against 1… e5 we’ll play the Ruy Lopez, but, following Lasker’s predilection for knights, we’ll trade on c6 at the first opportunity. In the Exchange variation proper we’re advised to play 5. Nc3 rather than O-O.
If Black offers the Petroff instead we’ll head for the ending with 5. Qe2. We’ll play the Closed Sicilian, with our king’s knight on the flexible e2 square. Against the French and the Caro-Kann you won’t be surprised to hear that we’ll trade pawns on d5. Again, this seems incomplete: there’s no recommendation against any other defence to 1. e4.
What do you make of this? It makes sense as far as it goes, but it’s certainly not for everyone. You’ll need a lot of patience as well as endgame skill to enjoy it. It might, of course, be exactly what you’re looking for. You might, as one often does with repertoire books, like some, but not all the suggestions.
Chapter 9 is the meat of the book: games for study and analysis based on the openings recommended in the previous chapter, 41 of them in total, well selected (many deeply obscure so you almost certainly won’t have seen them before) and well annotated. The young guns who tell you to study recent GM games will be horrified to see that most of the games are from the last century, although Carlsen makes an appearance playing the Exchange French. Welling and Giddins are not the first authors to comment on the similarity between Lasker’s and Carlsen’s approach to chess.
You won’t find many short brilliancies, but this is an exception:
Black chooses a modest opening formation giving White a slight advantage, but this game demonstrates how easy it is for the first player to overreach in this type of position.
We also meet Michael Cook again, and see two of his wins against the Ruy Lopez, one of them against my old friend Malcolm Lightfoot. I found the ending of the other game particularly interesting.
This is from a 1980 county match where Cook is black against R Bristow. Like many of my generation, I was brought up on Basic Chess Endings and led to believe that bishops were stronger than knights in endings with pawns on both sides of the board. Of course this is very often the case, and there’s an excellent example earlier in the book.
This position is objectively drawn, but it’s Black who can press for the full point.
The game concluded 29. Kg1 Nd6 30. g3 f6 31. Bb4 Nb5 32. Kf2 Kf7 33. Ke3 Ke6 34. Ke4 f5+ 35. Kd3 Kd5 36. Bc3 g6 37. Be5 h5 38. Bb2 Kc5 39. Bc3 Nd6 40. Bd2 Ne4 41. Be1 Kd5 42. Ke3? (a3 would have held) Kc4 43. Ke2 Kd4 44. Bb4 h4 at which point time was called and the adjudicator (yes, that’s how we played chess 40 years ago) awarded Cook the point. The authors claim that after 45. Kf3 hxg3 46. hxg3 Nc3 47. a3 Kc4 Black wins, but Stockfish isn’t convinced after, for example, 48. g4.
The authors comment:
Within reason, the objective assessment of the position does not matter that much, when it is just a matter of a slight plus one way or the other – what is much more important is knowing what you’re doing and understanding that the white advantage, if any, is relatively small.
An additional point, as we have seen, is that the white player will frequently overestimate his advantage and play too ambitiously, often just because ‘the books’ say this Steinitz Defence is not really very good. Just as Lasker said, he preferred the side ‘which has kept back his forces a little’. so deliberately heading for a position where one knows one is objectively slightly worse, but also knows that the disadvantage is small and manageable, and where one also knows how to handle the position, is often a very effective way to play for a win.
Interesting and thought-provoking, I think, and certainly a very different philosophy from the maximalist approach espoused by many authors of instructional manuals. It’s certainly not the only way to play chess, but it might just be for you. An awareness that your opponents might be taking that approach could also be useful.
Finally, there’s the almost obligatory puzzle section. We have 50 puzzles, split into easy, intermediate and difficult, taken, with one exception, from the games of the authors and their hero.
Again, they have some helpful insights to share:
Talking about the experience of analysing with a much stronger player:
The other chap just seems to ‘see’ things so quickly, noticing immediately little tactical tricks which escape the lesser player altogether, or else take him much longer to spot. And we are mainly talking not about spectacular sacrificial combinations, but about routine tactical ideas, 2-3 moves deep, on which so much of a chess game hinges.
Indeed. At club level it’s precisely this which decides most games.
So how does one acquire such ability? Well, as with most things in life, talent is obviously a factor, but hard work and regular practice is crucial. Tactical ability and alertness is rather like physical fitness – when you start from a very low level, a lot of work is needed to build yourself up to a certain level, but once you are there, 15-30 minutes’ exercise a day is all you need to maintain that level.
Here’s one of the intermediate puzzles.
In this position White played 24. Nxc4. Is this a blunder? You’ll find the solution at the foot of the page.
It’s often interesting when reading a book with two authors to try to guess which author was primarily responsible for which chapter. (You might like to do this with The (Even More) Complete Chess Addict.) Welling (eccentric openings) and Giddings (safe and simple openings) seem to have slightly different chess philosophies, but they converge with the idea that it doesn’t matter if you’re slightly worse: just that have more understanding of what’s going on than your opponent.
If you’re young and ambitious you might turn your nose up at books of this nature, but club players rated anywhere between, say, 1600 and 2200 who would like to improve their chess in between family and work commitments may well find this book inspirational even though they might not agree with everything the authors say, and might well find some or all the repertoire recommendations don’t suit.
I really enjoyed reading it, and felt I learnt quite a lot as well. I’ve always believed that you’ll benefit more from studying games played by someone 200-300 points stronger than you than you would from top grandmasters. Looking at their games you can think “Yes: I could learn to play like that”, and as Michael Cook, for example, was, at his peak, 200 points or so stronger than me, I could learn a lot from his games. My frustration was that the book seemed incomplete, and, as a result, perhaps not always totally coherent. There were a couple of signs that it might have been edited down from something much longer at the request of the publisher, but of course my hunch could well be incorrect.
The book is well written and produced to this publisher’s customary high standards. It may not be a book for everyone, but if you’re part of the target market you don’t need to hesitate. There are many fascinating and provocative insights which will encourage you to look at chess in a different way.
Solution to puzzle (Giddins – Carlier Antwerp 1993): 24. Nxc4 isn’t a blunder because after 24… Bxc4 he has the decisive blow 25.Rb6! Qxb6 26. Re6+ Kg8 27. Rxb6.
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