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Sherlock’s Method – The Working Tool for the Club Player

Sherlock's Method - The Working Tool for the Club Player
Sherlock’s Method – The Working Tool for the Club Player

From the book’s rear cover :

“The book before you is a product of what happens when two chess players start a relationship (which started over six years ago) and enter a dialogue about how to get ready for the next tournament. The content of this book is a training program for players who plan to play an over-the-board tournament a few weeks from the time they start training with this book. This book, unlike other similar books in the field of improvement, does not have a central theme. In other words, we are not focused solely on openings, middlegames or endgames. Moreover, the book does not only concentrate on specific themes (calculation, positional decisions, or other strategic aspects), though many of these concepts are addressed throughout the book. Instead, this book offers a holistic view on how to approach every single position in it, regardless of the phase of the game or the nature of the position. We try to teach players how to identify types of decisions in various positions, while pointing at the trade-off between a hardcore calculation and a heuristics judgment.”

“GM Elshan Moradiabadi was born and raised in Tehran, Iran. He learned to play chess at age 7 by watching his dad play against a friend. His passion and will to get better grew fast and in 2001, at the age of 15, he won Iran’s Chess Championship with a 2712 rating performance. He became a GM in 2005 and represented Iran in five Chess Olympiads. He won the Bronze Medal at the Asian Games in 2006 with the Iranian team. Elshan received his B.S. in Chemical Engineering from Sharif University of Technology and moved to the United States in 2012. Since then, he has been active in the US chess scene. In his first years, he pursued two master’s degrees from Texas Tech University (TTU). With the TTU chess team he won the Final Four in 2012 and the Pan Ams in 2015. Elshan has also essayed numerous articles and reports for different chess websites and publications. Elshan coached the US team in the World Team Championship in 2019 in Astana, Kazakhstan.”

“WGM Sabina Foisor was born in 1989 in Romania to a chess family and learned to play chess at age 4. With two International Masters and her mother being one of the strongest female chess players in the country and world, Sabina soon followed in her footsteps. She won multiple National and European titles in her age category (from Girls under 8-20) in different styles of chess (Normal, Blitz, Rapid and Solving Problems). Sabina was awarded the title of WGM in 2007 and a year later, she received a full scholarship to attend college in the United States. She pursued her undergraduate and master’s degrees in Linguistics and Intercultural Communication. She has represented the United States since 2009, being an important part of the US team in five Chess Olympiads and four Women’s World Team Championships. Her biggest achievement was winning the US Women’s Chess Championship in 2017 after unexpectedly losing her mother two months previously.”


I have two theories.

One is that most players would be much better off reading books aimed at a lower level than books aimed at a higher level.

(Here, for example, is a friend of mine, possibly a slightly stronger player than me, discussing Michael Stean’s excellent book Simple Chess, a short pre-computer book aimed at average club players.  Just the sort of book that many of today’s coaches would advise you not to read, partly because some of the analysis no longer stands up and partly because it’s over-simplistic.)

My second theory follows on from this: most chess books are really suitable for much higher rated players than the publishers claim. Consider, for example, books marketed as being ‘for kids’ which are essentially books written for adult club players with a few added cartoons.

Here’s what the authors have to say in their introduction:

“This book is composed of three parts, each broken down into two subsections. The parts are as follows: simple positions, endgames, and complex decisions. There are 150 positions in the first part, 120 in the second part, and 42 in the third part. The targeted readers for the book are players rated between 1700 and 2300. The range may seem rather wide, but the variety of concepts addressed makes it possible for the players in the aforementioned range to enjoy and learn from the book’s content.”

They recommend you spend up to 15 minutes per exercise in Parts I and II, and 25 minutes per exercise in part III.

You should write down your thoughts, read the solutions, and, in a week’s time, repeat the process to see how your thinking process has changed.

The USP of this book is that the authors, who are fans of detective fiction, introduce each part with a Sherlock Holmes pastiche, which you might, I suppose, either like or find a trifle annoying. The idea is that, just as Holmes used specific thinking processes to solve crimes, the reader has to use specific thinking processes to solve the exercises.

As a player of about 1900 strength, I should, at least in terms of rating, be part of the target audience for the first two parts of the book. Let’s look at a few examples and find out.

This is Q8. It’s in Chapter 1 so it’s a Simple Position. It’s Black to play his 24th move in Handke – Naiditsch (Bundesliga 2017). Here’s the authors’ analysis of this position.

24… Rxd4!

This would have been the correct continuation.

Instead 24… Bxb4?? was chosen by Black. OK, the ideas are easy, but not too easy! This is an example of considering the opponent’s counterplay before committing to a non-forcing tactical sequence. Black picks up a pawn, but White is not forced to take back immediately, and in fact obtains a winning position with a critical in-between move. After 25. Ng5! g6 26. cxb4 Rxd4 27. Qc3! the queen’s path is paved for her to be transferred to the kingside where Black is rather helpless due to the numerous weaknesses and the lack of presence of his pieces to defend his king. After 27… Rd5 28. Qh3 h5 29. Bxh5! +- White is completely winning, but somehow ended up losing this winning position after not committing to 29… Kg7 30. Bxg6! Rh8 31. Bh5!.

25. cxd4 Bxb4 (slight advantage to Black)

Now White can continue with his attacking plan on the kingside. However after:

26. f5 exf5 27. Rxf5 g6 28. Rf2 Bxa5!

White’s idea with Nd6 is not so consequential as f7 is well-protected.

29. Nd6 Qc7 30. Rcf1 Bd5 31. Bf3 Be6

and White’s initiative is gone, while Black’s queenside will start to roll soon.

(Well, Stockfish 12 is much less convinced than Stockfish 11 that Black is a lot better here, but we’ll let it pass.)

Would you consider this a Simple Position? I didn’t try to solve it myself, and am not sure how much, if anything, I would have seen in 15 minutes. If the position was too hard for a 2684 rated GM it would certainly be too hard for me.

In fact many of the examples in the book are positions which top GMs (Carlsen, Anand and many others) failed to get right.

I found this position, where Anand played the correct move, instructive.

In the game Anand – Grischuk (WCh Rapid 2017) White’s bishop on b2 looks strong, but Vishy chose to trade it off with 16. Bxf6!.

The authors explain:

“Great judgment and a simple decision.

“The pawn on e4 was under fire from Black’s pieces while Black was planning to exert more pressure by playing … Ba5. With this move and the next one, Vishy completely outplays Black’s bishop on b6.”

After 16… Qxf6 17. Nc4! they add:

“White gradually builds up his play on the kingside as the bishop on b6 does not take part in the game!”

Here’s an everyday pawn ending. With seconds remaining on the clock, Quang Liem Le had what looked like a 50-50 shot in his game against Mamedov.

He chose 52. Kd3?, which soon lost, but could have saved a half point by going the other way:

52. Kf3! Kd4 53. Kf2! taking the diagonal opposition, when both players queen.

Very instructive again, but what you really want to know is whether I enjoyed the book.

To be perfectly honest, not very much.

I read chess books primarily for enjoyment. If I happen to learn something as well, that’s a bonus. I found the more positional questions helpful, while the tactical exercises, with a lot of computer generated analysis, made my brain hurt. But that’s just me.

If, however, you’re really serious about improving your chess and you’re prepared to follow the instructions, working hard on each position, then this could be just the book for you.

The positions are well chosen to cover a wide range of themes, and the solutions are fully explained. You might think some of the explanations might have been clearer, and the English, although it doesn’t really matter, might have been more idiomatic. You might also notice that, in positions where margins are very thin, different engines will choose different moves and give different assessments. You might wish for some recognition of human factors such as ‘playability’ rather than just computer analysis. But strong and ambitious players who have the time and motivation to put in the required effort will undoubtedly benefit a lot.

Where I’d disagree with Moradiabadi and Foisor is that I’d consider it most suitable for players of at least 2000 strength. I think the 1700-1999 folk would probably learn more from either simpler or more specifically targeted positions.

As a final word, I should add that, as always with Thinkers Publishing, the production values are excellent.

Richard James, Twickenham 21st January 2021

Richard James
. Richard James

Book Details :

  • Hardcover: 448 pages
  • Publisher: Thinkers Publishing; 1st edition (19 Nov. 2020)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10:949251091X
  • ISBN-13:978-9492510914
  • Product Dimensions: 16.51 x 1.91 x 22.86 cm

Official web site of Thinkers Publishing

Sherlock's Method - The Working Tool for the Club Player
Sherlock’s Method – The Working Tool for the Club Player

Magnus Carlsen : 60 Memorable Games

Magnus Carlsen : 60 Memorable Games, Andrew Soltis, Batsford, 2020
Magnus Carlsen : 60 Memorable Games, Andrew Soltis, Batsford, 2020

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

GM Andrew Soltis
GM Andrew Soltis

From the Batsford web site :

“Following on from the long success of one of the most important chess books ever written, Bobby Fischer: My 60 Memorable Games, renowned chess writer Andrew Soltis delivers a book on today’s blockbuster chess player Magnus Carlsen.

Magnus Carlsen has been the world’s number one player for more than a decade, has won more super-tournaments than anyone ever and is still in his prime. He is the only player to repeatedly win the world championships in classical, speed and blitz chess formats. This book details his remarkable rise and how he acquired the crucial skills of 21st-century grandmaster chess

He will defend his world championship title this autumn and if he wins, it will set a record of five championship match victories. This book take you through how he wins by analysing 60 of the games that made him who he is, describing the intricacies behind his and his opponent’s strategies, the tactical justification of moves and the psychological battle in each one.

This book is essential for chess enthusiasts, competitors and professionals of all skill sets.”


Andrew Soltis has been a prolific author of chess books over the course of several decades. I first encountered him when I read – and thoroughly enjoyed The Younger School of Soviet Chess, published by Bell, the predecessors of Batsford, back in 1976. I particularly relished his unique, story-telling style of annotation, which has been a feature of many of his books.

His titles have ranged widely, from opening monographs to serious historical works, often concerning chess in the old Soviet Union. Yet he’s never received the publicity accorded to other, more colourful and controversial, writers, nor, perhaps, the respect he deserves.

Perhaps this is because he’s never been published by today’s leading chess book publishers. His historical works are published by McFarland, while he’s written a steady stream of books for average club player under the Batsford imprint.

Ah yes, Batsford. Back in the day they were the most celebrated publisher of chess books on the planet. They can trace their chess ancestry back to Staunton’s friend and publisher Henry Bohn, whose business was later taken over by George Bell & Sons, who were in turn taken over by Batsford. But that’s a story for another time. Batsford are still publishing chess books, although, compared to their glitzier rivals, they have a rather old-fashioned appearance. Soltis is the author of many of their more recent books, but they also have the rights to a number of classic titles, most notably Fischer’s My Sixty Memorable Games.

The first thing you’ll notice about Soltis’s new collection of Magnus Carlsen’s games is the title: Magnus Carlsen: 60 Memorable Games. Cheeky, or what? It wasn’t difficult to get the publishers’ approval, and the original author was sadly not around to object, although I suspect his ghost is ranting and raging even now.

A misjudgement, I think: a different number of games and a different adjective would have been fine. But they say you can’t judge a book by its cover, so let’s look inside.

The format is very similar to Bobby’s book. Sixty chapters with one game to a chapter, each having a catchy title and a brief introduction putting it in context. One difference is that all the games are wins for our hero. You wouldn’t say they were necessarily his greatest games, though. They include blitz and blindfold games, and, for example, the game where he famously hung a piece in the opening against Gawain Jones. In fact you get more than 60 games for your money: there are several others in Soltis’s introduction, and more buried within the annotations.

At the start of the book Soltis asks “What made Magnus?”. The first answer is revealing: playability. The ability to judge how easy positions are to play. This is a point which is hammered home throughout the book. Carlsen excels at assessing positions, but his assessments are based on which player will find it easier to play good moves, which is often very different from computer assessment. Then there’s his versatility: he can play any type of position equally well and might play almost any opening against you. As we all know, he has an exceptional memory. He also has a very strong mindset: he is able to recover quickly from defeats and fight back from mistakes in his games. Readers of Chess Improvement: It’s all in the Mindset will know how important this is. He has exceptional stamina, which is why he will play on and on waiting for a mistake in positions which most of us would give up as drawn. He is also highly intuitive.

This is not the only anthology of Carlsen’s games on the market. Whether or not it’s the one for you will depend on how you react to Soltis’s style of annotation, which is very much based on verbal explanations. Variations are given where necessary, but what you don’t get, and many potential readers will be relieved by this, is pages of long computer-generated analysis.

This is a position from one of the earlier games in the book, Brynell – Carlsen (Gausdal 2005), with White to play his 32nd move.

If I were Black here I’d look at the equal material and bishops of opposite colours and consider offering a draw followed by heading off to the bar for a pint.

Here’s Soltis:

“Why doesn’t White have the superior winning chances? After all, he has the famous ‘queenside pawn majority’.

“Yes, but there are two factors that matter much more. One is the difference in bishops.

“White’s bishop has no offensive power. While queens are on the board it can only defend.

“Black’s bishop, on the other hand, ties White’s queen to the defense of f2.

“That’s not enough to give Black an edge. But it’s enough to keep the game going.”

32. Qf3 f5!

“This is the second factor that favors Black. Carlsen has a kingside pawn majority.

“They cannot create a useful passed pawn, as a queenside majority might.

“But they can become a powerful offensive weapon if …e5-e4 and …f4-f3+ drives the white queen from the defense of f2.

“A secondary plan is … g5-g4 and … h5-h4-h3+.

“Note that if White offers a trade of queens, even by 33. Qf4 Qxf4 34. gxf4, Black could refuse, 33… Qb2!, for example.”

What do you think? I, as a 1900 strength player, found the explanation very instructive, but I’d imagine someone of, say, 2200 strength would find it obvious and over-simplistic.

Here’s another example, this time an opening.  Carlsen – Wojtaszek (Gashimov Memorial 2018).

Carlsen’s just played his 9th move in an unusual variation of the Sicilian.

“Here’s an admittedly over-simplified way of evaluating the position:

“First, just look at the top half of the diagram.

“The Black pieces and pawns are on the same squares they could be on in other balanced Sicilian positions, such as in the Richter-Rauzer or Scheveningen variations.

“Now look at the bottom half of the diagram. White’s pieces and pawns are uncommon but coordinated. The worst thing you could say is that he has no obvious plan except a kingside attack, begun by pushing his g-pawn.

“Now let’s consider specifics. After 9… Be7 White must avoid 10. g4? because 10… Nxg4! 11. fxg4? Bg5! loses his queen.

“Instead, 10. Kb1 0-0 11. g4 and then 11… Nd7, perhaps followed by … Nc5 and … b4 would have the double-edged nature of a typical Sicilian.”

Instead, Wojtaszek played 9… h5, when, because Carlsen’s knight was on g1 rather than d4, he was able to meet by Nh3 followed by Ng5, winning in short order when Black chose to keep his king in the centre.

“Over-simplified”? That word again. But top level games these days are so complicated that it’s hard to annotate them for club standard players.

I found the annotations of more tactical positions slightly confusing on occasion, but, given the nature of the games, that’s entirely understandable. By and large, Soltis does a good job in attempting to explain his selected games in terms that are readily understandable and instructive to club standard players. He’s a highly experienced journalist who really knows how to write: something that can’t be said of all chess authors.

You might have noticed that, although published in England, US spellings are favored (sic). I spotted a few notation and diagram errors: slightly annoying but there will always be one or two that slip through the net.

Games collections are rightly popular, and every chess library needs at least one volume of Carlsen’s best games. This isn’t the last word, not least because Magnus has many more years ahead of him, and there are other books on the market which I don’t have to hand for direct comparisons. It’s always a good idea to consider alternatives before making your move.

I enjoyed it: the games were well chosen and all full of interest. I found the annotations were pitched at the right level for me. While higher rated players find prefer more detailed notes, if you’re between about 1500 and 2000 strength I’m sure you’ll enjoy it too.


Here, in full, but without annotations, are the games referred to above.


Richard James, Twickenham 14th January 2021

Richard James
Richard James

Book Details :

  • Paperback : 384 pages
  • Publisher:Batsford Ltd; 1st edition (12 Nov. 2020)
  • Language:English
  • ISBN-10:1849946507
  • ISBN-13:978-1849946506
  • Product Dimensions: 15.24 x 2.79 x 23.37 cm

Official web site of Batsford

Magnus Carlsen : 60 Memorable Games, Andrew Soltis, Batsford, 2020
Magnus Carlsen : 60 Memorable Games, Andrew Soltis, Batsford, 2020

Rewire Your Chess Brain : Endgame studies and mating problems to enhance your tactical ability

Rewire Your Chess Brain: Endgame studies and mating problems to enhance your tactical ability, Cyrus Lakdawala, Everyman Chess, August 2020
Rewire Your Chess Brain: Endgame studies and mating problems to enhance your tactical ability, Cyrus Lakdawala, Everyman Chess, August 2020

Cyrus Lakdawala is an IM and former US Open Champion who teaches chess and has written over 25 books on chess openings.

IM Cyrus Lakdawala
IM Cyrus Lakdawala

The ever prolific Cyrus Lakdawala’s latest book offers a collection of endgame studies and problems aimed primarily at players who are not all that familiar with the world of chess compositions.

Much of the material is taken from the Facebook group Chess Endgame Studies and Compositions which Lakdawala runs with Australian GM Max Illingworth. I should declare an interest here as I’m a member of, and a very occasional contributor to, this group.

The first half of the book introduces the reader to the world of endgame studies. After a brief preliminary chapter taking us on a journey of almost a thousand years up to 1750 (though I’m not sure how Al Adli was composing in both 800 and 900), we move onto a collection of studies with the stipulation ‘White to play and draw’. Like this one (the solutions are at the end of the review).

Frédéric Lazard L’Échiquier de Paris 1949

(Lazard’s first name is anglicized to Frederick in the book. He died in 1948: perhaps this was first published in a posthumous tribute.)

The next, and longest, chapter is, you won’t be surprised to hear, devoted to ‘White to play and win’ studies.

Another short example:

Mikhail Platov Shakhmaty 1925

Then we move on from studies to problems. After a brief excursion to Mates in 1 in Chapter 4, Chapter 5 deals with mates in 2, like this one from the ever popular Fritz Giegold.

Fritz Emil Giegold Kölnische Rundschau 1967

(The first word of the newspaper is given as Kolner, without an umlaut: Wikipedia tells me the correct name.)

Another composer to feature heavily in this book is the great Puzzle King himself: Sam Loyd. Here’s an example from Chapter 6: Mates in Three Moves.

Sam Loyd Cleveland Voice 1879

Chapter 7 brings us some mates in four or more moves. Chapter 8 looks at some eccentric problems, Chapter 9 looks at study like themes in real games (yes, Topalov-Shirov, as you probably guessed, is there), and finally Chapter 10 presents us with some studies composed by young American IM Christopher Yoo.

On a personal level, I’d have liked some helpmates, which are often very attractive to practical players, and perhaps also problems with other stipulations: serieshelpmates or selfmates, for example. A short introduction to fairy pieces and conditions would also have been interesting. Something for a sequel, perhaps?

Cyrus Lakdawala has a large and devoted following, and his fans will certainly want this book. Those who don’t like his style will stay well clear. As for me, I find Everyman Cyrus a far more congenial companion than NiC Cyrus: do I detect a firmer editorial hand in removing some of the author’s more fanciful analogies? Given the nature of the book I think it works quite well: entertaining positions can take ‘entertaining’ writing but more serious material demands more serious writing.

The studies and problems are well chosen to be attractive to the keen over the board player who is not very familiar with the world of chess compositions. If you don’t know a lot about this aspect of chess and, perhaps enjoying the examples in this review, would like to investigate further, this book would be a good place to start.

The current Zeitgeist seems to demand that chess books are marketed as being good for you rather than just enjoyable and entertaining, and here it’s claimed that solving the puzzles in this book will ‘without question, undoubtedly improve the ‘real world’ tactical ability of anyone attempting to do so. Well, possibly. Solving endgame studies has been considered by many, Dvoretsky for one, to be beneficial for stronger players, and I quite understand why. I’m less convinced, though, that solving problems is the most effective way to improve your tactical skills, but it may well give you an increased appreciation of the beauty that is possible over 64 squares, and inspire you to find beautiful moves yourself.

My issue with the book concerns lack of accuracy, particularly in the problem sources. Puzzle 190 was composed by (the fairly well known) Henry D’Oyly Bernard, not by (the totally unknown) Bernard D’Oily. Frustratingly for me, I seem to remember pointing this out to the author on Facebook. Puzzle 242, a much anthologised #3 by Kipping, is given as ‘Unknown source 1911’. It took me 30 seconds (I know where to look) to ascertain that it was first published in the Manchester City News. As Fritz Giegold was born in 1903, it seems unlikely that he was precocious enough to compose Puzzle 237 in 1880.  Again, a quick check tells me it was actually published in 1961. And so it goes on.

It’s not just the sources: the final position of puzzle 203 has three, not four pins. Someone with more knowledge of chess problems might have pointed out that in Puzzle 164 Sam Loyd displays an early example of the Organ Pipes Theme.

Even the back cover, which you can see below, is remiss, in claiming that ‘In a chess puzzle, White has to force mate in a stipulated number of moves’. No – you mean ‘chess problem’, not ‘chess puzzle’.

Chess problem and study enthusiasts are, by their nature, very much concerned with accuracy. It’s unfortunate that this book doesn’t meet the high standards they’d expect.

To summarise, then: this is a highly entertaining book which will appeal to many players of all levels, especially those who’d like to find out more about studies and problems. It’s somewhat marred by the unacceptable number of mistakes, which might have been avoided with a bit of fact checking and a thorough run through by an expert in the field of chess composition.


(Apologies for the repeated diagrams in the solutions: it’s a function of the plug-in used by British Chess News.)

Richard James, Twickenham 7th January 2021

Richard James
Richard James

Book Details :

  • Paperback : 530 pages
  • Publisher:Everyman Chess (31 August. 2020)
  • Language:English
  • ISBN-10:1781945691
  • ISBN-13:978-1781945698
  • Product Dimensions: 17.45 x 2.97 x 24.08 cm

Official web site of Everyman Chess

Rewire Your Chess Brain: Endgame studies and mating problems to enhance your tactical ability, Cyrus Lakdawala, Everyman Chess, August 2020
Rewire Your Chess Brain: Endgame studies and mating problems to enhance your tactical ability, Cyrus Lakdawala, Everyman Chess, August 2020

Chess Improvement: It’s all in the mindset

Chess Improvement: It’s all in the mindset : Barry Hymer and Peter Wells

Chess Improvement: It's all in the mindset, Barry Hymer and Peter Wells, Crown House Publishing, 2020
Chess Improvement: It’s all in the mindset, Barry Hymer and Peter Wells, Crown House Publishing, 2020

From the publisher :

“Written by Barry Hymer and Peter Wells, Chess Improvement: It’s all in the mindset is an engaging and instructive guide that sets out how the application of growth mindset principles can accelerate chess improvement.

With Tim Kett and insights from Michael Adams, David Howell, Harriet Hunt, Gawain Jones, Luke McShane, Matthew Sadler and Nigel Short.

Foreword by Henrik Carlsen, father of world champion Magnus Carlsen.

Twenty-first-century knowledge about skills development and expertise requires us to keep such mystical notions as fixed ‘talent’ in perspective, and to emphasise instead the dynamic and malleable nature of these concepts.

Nowhere is this more apparent than in chess, where many gifted players fall prey to plausible but self-defeating beliefs and practices – and thereby fail to achieve the levels their ‘natural’ abilities predicted. Happily, however, the reverse can be true too; through learned dispositions such as grit, risk-taking, strategic thinking and a capacity for sheer hard work, players of apparently modest abilities can achieve impressive results.

Blending theory, practice and the distinct but complementary skills of two authors – one an academic (and amateur chess player) and the other a highly regarded England Chess Olympiad coach (and grandmaster) – Chess Improvement is an invaluable resource for any aspirational chess player or coach/parent of a chess player.

Barry and Peter draw on interviews conducted with members of England’s medal-winning elite squad of players and provide a template for chess improvement rooted in the practical wisdom of experienced chess players and coaches.

They also include practical illustrative descriptions from the games and chess careers of both developing and leading players, and pull together themes and suggestions in a way which encourages readers to create their own trajectories for chess improvement.”

Professor Barry Hymer at Didactics of Strategy Games, October 13th 2016, courtesy of John Upham Photography
Professor Barry Hymer at Didactics of Strategy Games, October 13th 2016, courtesy of John Upham Photography
 GM Peter Wells, King's Place Rapidplay 2013, Courtesy of of John Upham Photography
GM Peter Wells, King’s Place Rapidplay 2013, Courtesy of of John Upham Photography


If you visit the Chess Palace at the end of my garden you’ll find quite a few chess books and magazines. But if you visit my office and look at the shelves above my desk you’ll find a lot of books on education, child development, psychology, parenting, conditions such as autism and ADHD. There are not many books which would fit equally well in both my office and the Chess Palace, but this is one. Perhaps I need a second copy.

The authors are a well matched team. Barry Hymer is a distinguished academic specialising in educational psychology, and also a strong amateur chess player. Peter Wells is an experienced grandmaster and élite level coach with an interest in psychology. Tim Kett, another strong player and experienced chess coach, also made a significant contribution to the book.

England’s six strongest players, Mickey Adams, Nigel Short, Gawain Jones, David Howell, Luke McShane and Matthew Sadler, along with one of our top woman players, Harriet Hunt, were interviewed for the book. I wonder if Jovanka Houska was also invited. Henrik Carlsen, Magnus’s father, agreed to provide the preface.

The main message of the book, which draws heavily on the work of Carol Dweck and other researchers, is that having a growth rather than a fixed mindset is a major factor in chess improvement. If you see yourself as someone who can grow as a player you will do so, but defining yourself by your current rating will leave you stuck.

Chapter 1 introduces the concept of mindset theory and how it applies to chess. The authors then provide us with their chess mindset biographies: Hymer tells of his unfulfilled early promise while Wells is brutally honest about what he sees as underachievement and psychological failings.

The remaining chapters start with Hymer giving the theoretical and research background, followed by Wells looking at the same subject from a practical point of view. Finally, there are some very helpful guidelines for parents and coaches, for which Kett was partly responsible.

Chapter 2 concerns Motivation. Hymer explains the difference between extrinsic (prizes, rewards) and intrinsic (from the game itself) motivation, explaining that intrinsic motivation is, by and large, more likely to lead to improvement. I’d add here that many competitions for young children are very big on extrinsic motivation, from fluffy mascots to outsize trophies.

Wells then provides us with the views of his interviewees, all of whom, as you would expect, just enjoy playing chess. Several of them related that they really enjoyed reading chess books when they were younger, and some also enjoyed the beauty of endgame studies. His points are illustrated by examples from play.

I was particularly interested to see a game with which I was very familiar: played by Luke McShane in the 1992 World U10 Championship. I knew his opponent as Aronov: I hadn’t realised until now that this was Aronian, who was at that time using the Russian version of his surname.

Wells was impressed by the sophistication of McShane’s play after a poor opening and suggested that he had already studied Nimzowitsch. After White’s 7th move he speculated that ‘Luke was just making it up’.

I have a story about this game which can now be told for the first time. Before the tournament Luke’s father sent me copies of his recent scoresheets and I provided some feedback. Luke had played this poor variation before and, as I was playing the Schliemann myself at the time and had won several games on the black side of this line, I was able to identify the problem. I suggested to his father that he needed something different against the Schliemann in case it came up in the tournament, but my advice was ignored.

It was all the more amusing, then, to turn to Chapter 7 and read: “Sometimes, as with Richard James, the very thoughtful and experienced influence behind Richmond Junior Chess Club’s involvement in Luke’s early career, the advice was directed to his father, reinforcing Rod McShane’s already impressively sound instincts as to how to help his son.”

Chapter 3 is about Challenge and Feedback. Should you challenge yourself by playing in stronger tournaments where you might not score many points but you’ll learn from playing stronger opponents? Or should you play in weaker tournaments where you hope to win most of your games and perhaps receive a reward, financial or otherwise, for doing so? What is the best way for chess teachers to give feedback to their students?

In general, mindset theory suggests you should play up, but it doesn’t always work out. Nigel Short recalls playing in the Phillips & Drew Tournament in 1982 where he was rather out of his depth, scoring 3½/13. “Even at the time, concerns were widely expressed that Nigel had been launched into a level for which he was just not ready, but he is now adamant that there were simply no adults around to see the danger in advance. Nigel himself is in no doubt that this did tangible damage to his confidence and appetite to the game and thereby impeded his development for some time after – that was ‘not a learning experience, that was trauma’. ” Of course different players will respond differently. Luke, for example, has no such memories. But the general message here is to mix challenging and confidence boosting events.

On the subject of feedback, specific praise and constructive criticism are valued, but general praise can be less than useful. Harriet Hunt is interesting here on girls in chess. “She felt subjected to much gender-grounded feedback, some of it critical for sure, but also large amounts of condescension in the form of ‘praise and patting on the head’. … More generally, she shares my conviction that girls in chess tend to be held back by excessive adulation for relatively modest achievements in a way that can damage their motivation.”

I particularly liked two of the pieces of advice for parents and coaches at the end of this chapter: “Discourage children from counting their trophies.” and “When they finish a tournament game, don’t ask the result!”. You might have to think about both of them.

Chapter 4 looks at “the right kind of effort: making practice purposeful”. Most of us are familiar with Ericsson’s ‘10,000 hour rule’, but what do we mean by ‘deliberate practice’ and how does it apply to chess? In fact the interviewees, by and large, approached chess in a rather less structured way than might be expected. Wells then talks at length about various aspects of studying openings before moving onto tactics and endings.

The important subject of Failure is tackled in Chapter 5. All chess players lose games from time to time. All tournament players will experience bad tournaments. Different players will deal with this in different ways.

Hymer reached this position with black in Round 4 of the 2018 Blackpool Open. It’s an easy win: all he has to do is play fxg5 (or f5) to fix the king-side pawns, march his king round to the queen side and create a passed pawn. But instead he played the immediate and catastrophic Ke8, and after the reply f5 had to resign. “I withdrew from the tournament”, he admitted, “and headed home, seriously contemplating another three-decade separation from chess”.

Wells then addresses the issues of how to cope when something goes wrong in your game, how to respond to a loss in your next game, and how to reflect on your defeats before the next tournament.

Chapter 6 brings us on to Metacognition – thinking about thinking. Being aware of your thought processes, and, beyond that, being able to regulate them, is not only important in terms of chess improvement but is a vital life skill. After Barry Hymer’s theoretical background, Peter Wells considers the effect of metacognition on chess style, and whether it’s preferable to develop a ‘universal’ style or to focus on your specific strengths and preferences. Of particular interest here is a section devoted to the role of style in Matthew Sadler’s professional chess career.

Finally, Chapter 7 is about Cooperation. Hymer explains the latest research into the advantages of working together within small groups. Then Wells looks at the practical side of cooperation, emphasising the importance of parents, mentors and coaches for younger players, and then writing about the camaraderie and sportsmanship which exists at all levels of chess.

This is from the game Wells – Priehoda (Cappelle-la-Grande Open 1992) where White played the winning combination 25. Nb5+ Kc8 26. Rxc6+ Rxc6 27. Nxa7+ Kc7 28. Rxd7+ Kxd7 29. Nxc6 Ra8 30. a6 Kc7 31. Nb4 1-0

The loser responded not only with generous words but by submitting the combination to Chess Informant: a sporting gesture indeed.

By now we’ve reached the epilogue and, having learnt a lot of interesting and helpful information about mindset theory, it’s rather perturbing to read in a footnote: “(John) Hattie attributes having a growth rather than a fixed mindset to a modest effect size of 0.19 in recent presentations, and the Education Endowment Foundation has failed in their research to find a compelling reason  to do mindset interventions in schools and classrooms.”.

So, have we all been wasting our time? Not at all, claims Hymer: schools tend to have ‘superficial or muddled understandings’. Yes, I can understand that. My impression is that some schools tend to jump on the latest education bandwagon without a lot of thought. A decade or so ago it was VAK (look it up!), then it was Mindsets: for some it’s Chess on the Curriculum.

I was already familiar with the concept and had read Carol Dweck’s book on the subject. I was also aware that the whole idea had been criticised in some quarters: here, for instance (with my apologies for a rather rude word), is respected education author and blogger David Didau’s take on mindset theory. There’s a lot more on both sides of the argument online if you care to look. You pay your money and you take your choice.

My view, as an interested and reasonably well informed layman, is that Mindset Theory has its uses in certain situations, but needs to be treated with discretion. Hymer seems to think that almost anyone could become a strong player given sufficient time and the right mindset. I don’t think I agree. Estimates for the heritability of IQ range from something like 50% to 80% so it seems reasonable to assume that chess ability (which is in itself a macro-skill comprising a lot of micro-skills) is also in part heritable. His views – and this may explain his promotion of Mindset Theory – are a lot closer to the nurture end of the nature-nurture spectrum than mine.

This leads into my other problem with the book. We hear a lot of grandmaster voices, all of whom have interesting and sometimes contradictory things to say. I found the contributions of Matthew Sadler and Luke McShane particularly valuable: it may not be a coincidence that they are perhaps the two strongest amateur chess players in the world. But I also wanted to hear the voices of lower rated players who are interested in chess improvement. Ben Johnson’s popular Perpetual Chess Podcast, for example, often features adult improvers. Hearing from ambitious teenagers might also have been valuable, and it would have been good to hear more than one female voice. I’m not sure how helpful this fixation with top grandmasters really is: one issue for me is that many of the games and positions Wells uses to make his points were rather too difficult to be personally useful to this 1900 strength player.

In spite of my reservations I’d still offer a strong recommendation for this book, which takes a fresh, even if sometimes controversial, approach to chess improvement. It’s well written, well structured and often very funny. On almost every page you’ll find nuggets of wisdom which will, at the very least, make you stop and think.

There are, of course, very many books on the market which will show you how to play good moves, but there are very few that consider what’s happening in both your mind and your brain when you play. An understanding of these issues will improve both your rating and your enjoyment of chess. The book will also be especially valuable – perhaps essential reading – for chess teachers and parents.

The publishers, Crown House, may be a new name to you. They specialise in books on education and self help, and, as their logo is a chess queen, it seems only right that they should branch out into our favourite game. This book is already high up in the Amazon best seller list for chess books, so perhaps it’s reaching an audience away from the usual chess community. There’s certainly scope for more books in the field of chess psychology and education: we at British Chess News hope this will be the first of many books from this publisher.

Richard James, Twickenham 21st December 2020

Richard James
. Richard James

Book Details :

  • Paperback : 352 pages
  • Publisher: Crown House Publishing (16 Oct. 2020)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1785835025
  • ISBN-13: 978-1785835025
  • Product Dimensions : 15.75 x 2.29 x 23.37 cm

Official web site of Crown House Publishing

Chess Improvement: It's all in the mindset, Barry Hymer and Peter Wells, Crown House Publishing, 2020
Chess Improvement: It’s all in the mindset, Barry Hymer and Peter Wells, Crown House Publishing, 2020

Grandmaster Repertoire 1.e4 vs Minor Defences

Grandmaster Repertoire : 1.e4 vs Minor Defences, Parimarjan Negi, Quality Chess, 2020
Grandmaster Repertoire : 1.e4 vs Minor Defences, Parimarjan Negi, Quality Chess, 2020

From the Publisher :

“The fifth volume of the Grandmaster Repertoire – 1.e4 series provides a top-class repertoire against the Alekhine, Scandinavian, Pirc and Modern Defenses, plus various offbeat alternatives Black may try. Negi’s latest work continues the winning formula of his previous books: the 1.e4 repertoire is founded on established main lines and turbo-charged with the innovative ideas of a world-class theoretician, making this an essential addition to the library of every ambitious chess player.”

GM Parimarjan Negi
GM Parimarjan Negi

I suspect that some of the keen proponents of these openings would strongly disagree that their pet opening is a minor defence to e4. Indeed, the popularity of some of these defences, in particular, the Scandinavian, would suggest that these openings are not easy for white  to meet and the first player has to work hard to gain an advantage out of the opening. The sheer size of this volume shows that these so called lesser defences are pretty resilient.

This is where this book comes in, the quality of the analysis is impressive and there are plenty of original suggestions backed up by concrete lines and analysis which will arm the white player with much material.  There is plenty of explanatory text that elucidates the main positional ideas in each chapter. The author pays particular attention to move order considerations which are particularly pertinent in the Pirc/Modern complex of openings.

As the title suggests, this is a book written from a 1.e4 white player’s point of view but there are many instances where Negi gives alternative variations for the first player to try. The suggested repertoire is generally dynamic and attacking but there are plenty of lines where white nurses a space advantage and positional pressure.

The book is divided into four sections:

  1. Alekhine
  2. Scandinavian
  3. Pirc/Modern
  4. Miscellaneous

Each section in then partitioned into logical chapters covering the major variations. The author skillfully manages transpositions with good cross references.

The first section on the Alekhine recommends the solid, Modern Variation with 4.Nf3 which is usually played at GM level. One particular line that has fascinated me for years is the variation 1.e4 Nf6 2.e5 Nd5 3. d4 d6 4.Nf3 dxe5 5.Nf3 Nd7 where black goads white into the tempting 6.Nf7. Bent Larsen tried this against Bobby Fischer in a blitz game  in 1966 and was duly crushed. This line has been in the repertoire of some decent players and white, even when handled by an IM, has gone wrong and not pressed home the attack. The following game demonstrates this, but in the notes gives the refutation to this provocative fifth move. The author acknowledges that some of the analysis is taken from a book by John Shaw.

Eric Prie – Igor Alexandre Nataf Andorra op 15th 1997

1. e4 Nf6 2. e5 Nd5 3. d4 d6 4. Nf3 dxe5 5. Nxe5 Nd7? A provocative move, Bent Larsen famously played this in a blitz game v Bobby Fischer in 1966 and was crushed. 6. Nxf7

Prie-Nataf(Move 6)
Prie-Nataf(Move 6)

Kxf7 7. Qh5+ Ke6 8. c4 N5f6 9. d5+ Kd6 10. Qf7!

Prie-Nataf(Move 10)
Prie-Nataf(Move 10)

10…Ne5 11. Bf4 c5 12. Nc3 a6 13. b4!

Prie-Nataf(Move 13)
Prie-Nataf(Move 13)

Qb6 (13… b6 Black’s best try 14. Bd3! g6 15. bxc5+ bxc5 16. Rb1!!

Prie-Nataf(Variation Move 16)
Prie-Nataf(Variation Move 16)

An engine discovery, winning stylishly 16… Bh6 17. Rb7! Bd7 (17… Bxf4 18. Qxf6+ exf6 19. Ne4# Is the pretty point!

Prie-Nataf(Variation Move 19)
Prie-Nataf(Variation Move 19)

or17… Bxb7 18. Qe6+ Kc7 19. Bxe5+ Wins trivially) 18. Bg3 Rb8 19. Rxb8 Qxb8 20. O-O Qf8 21. Re1 Nfg4 22. Qf3!! Qxf3 23. gxf3 Rf8 24. Ne4+ Kc7 25. fxg4 Bf4 26. Be2 White has a winning endgame but some technique is still required to convert the extra pawn.)

Prie-Nataf(Variation Move 26)
Prie-Nataf(Variation Move 26)

14. Rc1 g6 15. Be2 Qc7

Prie-Nataf(Move 15)
Prie-Nataf(Move 15)

16. Na4? This is poor (16. bxc5+! Winning but care is still required. Qxc5 17. Bxe5+! Kxe5 18. O-O White a winning attack: Intending a combination of Rfe1, Na4, Bf3 and c4-c5, an example variation is given: Bh6 19. Na4 Qa3 20. Rc3 Qxa4 21. Qxe7+ Kd4 22. Rd3+ wins) 16… Bh6 ! 17. bxc5+?  The final mistake (17. Bxe5+ Kxe5 18. f4+ Bxf4 19. Rd1 Bf5 20. g3 Raf8 21. gxf4+ Kd6 22. Qg7 b6 Black is probably better, but white can still fight) 17… Kd7

Prie-Nataf(Move 15)
Prie-Nataf(Move 15)

Now white is dead, the queens’s come off and he is left a piece down.} 18. Qe6+ Ke8 19. Qxe5 Bxf4 20. Qxc7 Bxc7 21. Nb6 Rb8 22. Bf3 Nd7 23. Nxd7 Ba5+ 24. Ke2 Bxd7 25. Kd3 Bb4 26. c6 bxc6 27. dxc6 Bf5+ 28. Ke2 Bc5 0-1

The second section deals with the Scandinavian. The Pytel variation 3…Qd6 is very trendy and this is one of the first chapters that I turned to. Here is an entertaining win by white in the 5…Bg4 line.

R. Horvath – P. Fauland 2018

1. e4 d5 2. exd5 Qxd5 3. Nc3 Qd6 4. d4 Nf6 5. Nf3 Bg4 6. h3 Bxf3 (6…Bh5 7.g4 Bg7 8.Ne5 Nbd7 9. Qe2! is a good pawn sac) 7. Qxf3

Horvath-Fauland(Move 7)
Horvath-Fauland(Move 7)

c6 ( 7… Nc6 8. Bf4 is good for white) 8. Bf4 Qd8 (8… Qxd4 9. Nb5! Is more or less winning)


9. d5! A crushing blow opening up the position for the better developed side

Horvath-Fauland(Move 9)
Horvath-Fauland(Move 9)

Nxd5 (9… cxd5 10. Bxb8 Followed by Bb5+
leads to major problems for black) 10. O-O-O e6 11. Nxd5 cxd5 (11… exd5 12.Qg3! Black finds it impossible to develop)


12. Bxb8 Qxb8 13. Bb5+ Ke7 14. Rhe1

Horvath-Fauland(Move 14)
Horvath-Fauland(Move 14)

a6 (14… g6 Is too slow 15. Rxd5 Bh6+ 16. Kb1 Rd8 17. Rxd8 Qxd8 18. Rd1 winning) 15. Qxd5! The play is now totally forcing. White has a forced mate or win of queen. axb5 16. Qg5+ Ke8 17. Qxb5+ Ke7 18. Qg5+ Ke8 19. Qb5+ Ke7 20. Rd7+ Kf6 21. Rxf7+!

Horvath-Fauland(Move 21)
Horvath-Fauland(Move 21)

Kxf7 22. Qd7+ Be7 23. Qxe6+ Kf8 24. Qxe7+ Kg8 25. Qe6+ Kf8 26. Qf5+ Kg8 27. Qd5+ Kf8 28. Qf5+ Kg8 29. Re7 Qe8 30. Qd5+ Kf8 31. Rxe8+ Rxe8 32. Qxb7 Black should have resigned here

Horvath-Fauland(Move 32)
Horvath-Fauland(Move 32)

g6 33. a4 Re7 34. Qc8+ Kg7 35. Qc3+ Kg8 36. a5 h6 37. a6
Kh7 38. b4 Rf8 39. Qc5 Ref7 40. b5 Rf5 41. Qc7+ R8f7 42. Qb8 1-0

The third sections deals with the Pirc/Modern complex. The repertoire suggested is the 150 Attack but is far more subtle than that, as white varies his setup according to the myriad black setups available. Below, is an instructive, thematic win by the editor, Andrew Greet.

Greet – Volovoj Correspondence 2019

1. e4 g6 2. d4 Bg7 3. Nc3 d6 4. Be3 a6 5. Nf3 Nd7!? 6. Bd3 e6 A bit

Greet-Valovoj(Move 6)
Greet-Valovoj(Move 6)

7. Qd2 h6 8. O-O-O Ne7 9. e5 d5 10. h4! b6? 11. h5! g5 12. Nxg5! Crying out to be played and good, essentially winning

Greet-Valovoj(Move 6)
Greet-Valovoj(Move 6)

12…c5 (12… hxg5 13. Bxg5 Bb7 14. Ne2 c5 15. h6 Bf8 16. c3 Black is
defenceless on the kingside

Greet-Valovoj(Move 6)
Greet-Valovoj(Move 6)

13. Nxf7! Kxf7 14. f4 Black is a piece
for two pawns up, but he is poorly coordinated and cannot stop the advance of the pawns.


Kg8 15. g4 cxd4 16. Bxd4 Nc6 17. Bf2 Nc5 18. Bg6 Bb7 19. Rhe1 Qe7 20. Nxd5 A stylish finish


exd5 21. Bh4  Qd7 22. Bf5 Qc7 23. Qxd5+ Kf8 24. Qc4 a5 25. e6 1-0

The final section is on miscellaneous opening such as Owen’s Defence and the Nimzowitsch Defence.

I give an example of an offbeat line that is outrageous but not easy to refute, particularly in a blitz game. In this game, a 2400 player shows how to crush it.

Santo Roman – Palleja Toulouse 2000

1. e4 Nc6 2. Nf3 f5? 3. exf5 d5 4. d4 Bxf5 5. Bb5 e6 6. Ne5 Nge7 7. Nc3!

Santo Roman-Palleja(Move 7)
Santo Roman-Palleja(Move 7)

7…a6 (7… Qd6 8. Bf4 Is horrid for black) 8. Ba4 b5? (8…
Rb8 9. Bg5!Qd6 10. f4! b5 11. Bb3 Nc8?! (11… h6 Black can stay
in the game albeit with a lousy position) 12. Bxe7 Nxe7 13. O-O
Simple development leaves white with a big plus, or 13.g4) 9. Nxb5 axb5 10. Bxb5 Qd6 11. c3 Ra6 12. Bf4! Rb6 13. Qa4

Santo Roman-Palleja(Move 13)
Santo Roman-Palleja(Move 13)

13…Bc2 14. b3 g5 15. Bxg5 Rg8 16. Bxe7 Bxe7 17. Bxc6+ Kf8 18. O-O  Black struggled on until move 37 but could have resigned here

Santo Roman-Palleja(Move 18)
Santo Roman-Palleja(Move 18)

Kg7 19. f4 Bf6 20. Bb5 Rgb8 21. Be2 Rd8 22. Rac1 Be4 23. b4 Qe7 24. Qd1 Kh8 25. a4 Bxe5 26. fxe5 Rbb8 27. Bd3 Qh4 28. Bxe4 dxe4 29. Qd2 Rf8 30. Qe3 Qg4 31. a5 Rg8 32. Rc2 Rbf8 33. Rxf8 Rxf8 34. Re2 Qf5 35. Rf2 Qh5 36. Rxf8+ Kg7 37. Rf1 1-0

My conclusion is that this is an excellent repertoire book for white, packed full of top quality analysis and much original analysis.

FM Richard Webb, Chineham, Hampshire, 19th December 2020

FM Richard Webb
FM Richard Webb
  • Paperback : 432 pages
  • Publisher:Quality Chess UK LLP (30 Sept. 2020)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1784830771
  • ISBN-13: 978-1784830779
  • Product Dimensions: 17.42 x 1.96 x 24.16 cm

Official web site of Quality Chess

Grandmaster Repertoire : 1.e4 vs Minor Defences, Parimarjan Negi, Quality Chess, 2020
Grandmaster Repertoire : 1.e4 vs Minor Defences, Parimarjan Negi, Quality Chess, 2020

Playing the Grünfeld : A Combative Repertoire

Playing the Grünfeld: A Combative Repertoire Book by Alexey Kovalchuk, Quality Chess, 2020
Playing the Grünfeld: A Combative Repertoire Book by Alexey Kovalchuk, Quality Chess, 2020

From the rear cover :

“Alexey Kovalchuk is a Russian player whose rating reached 2445 in recent years. In additional to winning the Rostov Championship and numerous other tournaments, he is a theoretician who works as a second for strong chess grandmasters.”

Also from the rear cover

“The Grünfeld Defence is well known to be one of Black’s best and most challenging responses to 1.d4, and has long been a favorite choice of elite players including Kasparov, Svidler, Caruana, Vachier-Lagrave and many more. As with many chess openings, however, it can be difficult to navigate the ever-expanding jungle of games and theory. Playing the Grünfeld offers an ideal solution for practical chess players. Alexey Kovalchuk is a young Russian talent with expert knowledge of the Grünfeld, and in this book he shares his best ideas to form a complete, coherent and combative repertoire for Black. In addition to theoretical soundness, efforts have been made to avoid variations leading to early forced draws, as well as those in which Black allows his king to be attacked at an early stage.”

This book, published by Quality Chess, is a substantive addition to the literature covering the Grünfeld Defence. I write “substantive” partly to refer to its 500 pages, which is rather a lot for a repertoire book. Of course, a major opening like the Grünfeld  deserves a large number of pages.

The book is nicely presented and has high production values. For example, each of the 16 chapters of opening content has its own mini Index of Variations, and there is a detailed Index of Variations at the end of the book. The subject matter is up to date, with many references to games played up to 2019.

Content of the Book

The Grünfeld is covered in some detail, both in the breadth and depth of variations. As mentioned above, game references are up to date, and the author supplements known theory with his own suggestions and analysis. (For example, he mentions a very intriguing piece sac in a side-line of the Fianchetto Variation – sorry, no spoilers here!) The author’s “scientific approach to chess” and the fact that he is a “diligent worker” (both quotes from GM Petrov’s foreword) do come across in this work.

One nice feature is that for the major variations the author gives a paragraph or two about the background of the move. For example he says who played it first, which books recommend it, which top GMs currently include it in their repertoire and so on. I think this is a nice touch which adds interest to the opening.

The he goes into detail, covering the lines he recommends with a good mixture of variations and wordy (but not over verbose) explanations. This obviously constitutes the bulk of the book, and I give an example of his style below.

Also, each chapter is given a Conclusion, usually half a page or so, in which Kovalchuk gives a broad brush reminder of the material covered, and puts the lines into perspective (eg pointing out the dangerous lines, the common lines, or the positional lines). Another nice touch which I believe helps the reader to make sense of the material, which can be difficult after playing through a number of variations.

Example Content

The following excerpt shows the author’s attention to detail, and his willingness to share his own analysis. It is taken from the chapter on the 3 f3 variation:

11 …Ne8!?
With the typical Benoni plan of …Nc7, …Rb8 and …b5.
The reader may be wondering why we don’t play 11 …h5 here. The trick is revealed, showing why White waited so long to to develop his dark-squared bishop: 12 Bg5! Qe8 13 Qd2 Nh7 14 Bh6 Rb8 15 Bxg7 Kxg7 16 Nf1 Qe7 17 Ne3 +=  The royal knight is perfectly employed.

12 0-0
12 Be3 Rb8 leaves White nothing better than 13 0-0 transposing.
12 Bf4!? deserves further attention; I only found one game with this move, Boehme – Bochev, email 2014. I recommend 12 …Bd4!?N with the possible continuation: 13 Qd2 f5 14 exf5 (14 h4 fxe4 15 Ngxe4 Ndf6 16 Bg5 Qa5∞) 14 …gxf5 15 Bc4 Ne5∞ There arises a complex position with mutual chances.

(The book actually uses figurines.)

Comparison with The Modernized Grunfeld Defense

Having reviewed Yaroslav Zherebukh’s The Modernized Grunfeld Defense recently, and both books published in 2020, it is hard not to compare the two books.

First, let me say that I think that these are both very good books which will serve Grünfeld players well, whether they are new to the defence or more experienced.

For brevity, I will refer to the books as PtG and TMG.

PtG at 500 pages is somewhat larger than TMG‘s 300 pages and so we can expect the former to cover more lines. (Zherebukh’s style is more terse and to-the-point, but that doesn’t account for 200 pages.)

Both books go into some depth, but PtG goes into more detail with the side-lines. For example, there is little on an early Qa4+ in TMG whereas Kovalchuk gives this idea a chapter in PtG.  It is true that TMG does have advice on how to play anti-Grünfeld’s which is not covered by PtG, but generally Kovalchuk’s book does have broader coverage.

As mentioned above, this book (PtG) does have production values and features which make it more accessible, which is not to say that TMG is bad in this regard.

Which one would I recommend? As above, I am sure that all Grünfeld players would benefit from either book, but it is possible that PtG‘s presentation and coverage of side-lines would make it more attractive to players starting with this opening. TMG, however, does have some good advice on how to learn an opening, which is a nice feature of that book.

It is interesting that the repertoires recommended by the two books are substantially different, and it could be that which book is “better” could just mean which book recommends lines that suit particular players.


Playing the Grünfeld is an excellent book, which I can recommend to any player of this opening.

Colin Purdon, December 15th 2020

Colin Purdon
Colin Purdon

Book Details :

  • Flexicover : 504 pages
  • Publisher: Quality Chess UK LLP (15 July 2020)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 178483095X
  • ISBN-13: 978-1784830953
  • Product Dimensions: 17.09 x 2.24 x 24.16 cm

Official web site of Quality Chess

Playing the Grünfeld: A Combative Repertoire Book by Alexey Kovalchuk, Quality Chess, 2020
Playing the Grünfeld: A Combative Repertoire Book by Alexey Kovalchuk, Quality Chess, 2020

Forcing Chess Moves : The Key to Better Calculation

Forcing Chess Moves : The Key to Better Calculation : Charles Hertan

Forcing Chess Moves : The Key to Better Calculation, New in Chess, Charles Hertan, 2019
Forcing Chess Moves : The Key to Better Calculation, New in Chess, Charles Hertan, 2019

From the publisher :

“Charles Hertan is a FIDE master from Massachusetts with several decades of experience as a chess coach. He is the author of the bestselling Power Chess for Kids series. Joel Benjamin broke Bobby Fischer’s record as the youngest ever US master. He won the US Championship three times and has been a trainer for more than two decades. His book Liquidation on the Chess Board won the 2015 Best Book Award of the Chess Journalists of America (CJA). His latest book is the highly acclaimed Better Thinking, Better Chess.”

Charles Hertan
Charles Hertan

From the book’s rear cover :

“Why is it that the human brain so often refuses to consider winning chess tactics? Every chess fan marvels at the wonderful combinations with which famous masters win their games. How do they find those fantastic moves? Do they have special vision? And why do computers outwit us tactically? Forcing Chess Moves proposes a revolutionary method for finding winning moves.

Charles Hertan has made an astonishing discovery: the failure to consider key moves is often due to human bias. Your brain tends to disregard many winning moves because they are counter-intuitive or look unnatural. It’s a fact of life: computers outdo us humans when it comes to tactical vision and brute force calculation. So why not learn from them? Charles Hertan’s radically different approach is: use COMPUTER EYES and always look for the most forcing move first.

By studying forcing sequences according to Hertan’s method you will: Develop analytical precision; Improve your tactical vision; Overcome human bias and staleness; Enjoy the calculation of difficult positions; Win more games by recognizing moves that matter. This New and Extended Fourth Edition of Hertan’s award-winning modern classic includes 50 extra pages with new and instructive combinations.

There is a foreword by three-time US chess champion Joel Benjamin, and a special foreword to this new edition by Swedish Grandmaster Pontus Carlsson. Charles Hertan is a FIDE master from Massachusetts with several decades of experience as a chess coach. He is the author of the bestselling Power Chess for Kids series.”



You might think a chess puzzle book is just that, but there are many ways of going about it.

Are you going to write a text book or an exercise book? Or perhaps a text book with exercises to reinforce the lessons in the text?

Are you going to deal with puzzles winning material, checkmate puzzles, or perhaps positional sacrifices?

Are you going to provide practical advice to your readers about how to find tactics in their own games, or are you simply content to let the positions you demonstrate serve as an inspiration?

How are you going to order it? By tactical device? By level of difficulty? By pieces sacrificed? By squares on which sacrifices are played? Alphabetically: by player? Chronologically: by date?

What level are you aiming it at? Novices? Club players? Experts? Masters?

Most importantly, perhaps, what’s your USP? How are you going to stand out from the crowd?

This is the fourth edition, so Charles Hertan’s book has certainly proved popular (I’d previously read the first edition) and rightly so as well. Everyone enjoys a good puzzle book and this is one of the best on the market.

Let’s take a look inside.

Chapter 1 is about Stock Forcing Moves.

It’s immediately clear that readers should already be very familiar with basic tactical ideas: forks, pins, discovered attacks, deflections and so on. They should also be aware of the concept of what Hertan calls Stock ideas: common ideas which you will gradually become aware of as you look at more and more tactical exercises.

So it’s very much a book for club standard players rather than a book for novices.

This, for example is a common idea. White won with 1. Rxf7+!! Rxf7 2. Qxh6+!! Kg8 3. Qh8+! when White emerges two pawns up (Gallagher – Curran Lyon 1993).

At the end of every chapter you’ll find some puzzles to test your growing tactical skills.

Chapter 2 moves onto Stock Mating Attacks . The same sort of thing, but this time we’re mating our opponents rather than just winning material.

Chapter 3 is Brute Force Combinations. Hertan rightly observes that tactical skill combines two elements, depth and breadth of vision, a point missed by many authors and teachers. This chapter is about depth of vision. “Accurate brute force analysis”, according to the author, “is the single most important chess skill”.  I wouldn’t disagree: I’d just add that you will often need to be able to assess the final position accurately: analysis = calculation + assessment.

This is where things start getting difficult.

A typical example.

Here’s Hertan’s commentary on the conclusion of Alatortsev – Boleslavsky (Moscow 1950).

“Black is able to parlay a fleeting advantage in activity into a stunning brute force win:

1… Bh3! 2. f4!

The natural 2. Rfe1 fails to 2… Rxf2! 3. Kxf2 Qe3#.

2… Bxf1!!

Since 2… Qc5 3. Rf2 holds, Black had to seek a creative solution, maintaining the initiative.

3. fxg5 Rxe2 4. Qc3 Bg2! 5. Qd3

There’s no time for 5. Re1 Bh3! and, at the right moment, … Rxe1+ and Rf1+! with a winning ending.

5… Bf3!

Not 5… Rff2 6. Re1!.

6. Rf1

White has no good answer to 6… Rg2+, e.g. 6. Kf1 Rxh2; or 6. Qd4 Rg2+ 7. Kf1 c5 8. Qxd6 Bc6+ 9. Ke1 Rg1+ 10. Ke2 Rxa1 11. Qe6+ Rf7.

6… Rg2+ 7. Kh1 Bc6!

A beautiful quiet forcing move; not 7… Rd2? 8. Rxf3 with drawing chances.

8. Rxf8+ Kxf8 9. Qf1+ Rf2+ 0-1”

You’ll see that some of the examples aren’t easy to solve from the diagram. You need what Hertan calls excellent ‘computer eyes’ to calculate accurately that far ahead.

The remainder of the book is devoted to improving your move selection by overcoming human bias. The point is sometimes made that the difference between experts and masters is not so much that they think further ahead, or that they consider more moves, but that they consider better moves. Hertan believes that we often miss the best moves because of cognitive bias. Computers, of course, don’t have this problem.

Chapter 4 looks at Surprise Forcing Moves. These fall into two categories: moves that look impossible and moves that appear unusual or antipositional.

This is from Vetemaa – Shabalov (Haapsalu 1986).

Here, Black found the ‘impossible’ 1… Qb5!!, leaving the queen en prise to two pieces, but spotting that, if either piece takes, the other is pinned so 2… Nb3 is mate.

White has to prevent Qb2# and 2. b4 loses to Nb3+. The game continued 2. Rd2 Nxc3 3. Qxc3 Nxb3+ 0-1.

Chapter 5 is about ESTs: Equal or Stronger Threats. When your opponent makes a threat it’s natural only to consider defensive moves. Sometimes your best option will be to create an equal or stronger threat, but cognitive bias makes these moves hard to find.

Chapter 6 looks for Quiet Forcing Moves, which are again easy to miss. I’m not sure that I’d call a move threatening mate ‘quiet’, though. I guess it all depends what you mean by the word.

Chapter 7 brings us onto Forcing Retreats. Again, when you’re attacking, human bias tend to lead you towards looking at forward rather than backward moves.

From Filguth – De la Garza (Mexico 1980):

“Are your computer eyes sufficiently trained to find the wondrous shot 1. Qh1!! and the two brute force variations that make it the strongest attacking move on the board?”

1… Qh5 would be met by g4 as the h-pawn is guarded, while 1… Qf6, the move played over the board, was met by 2. Bg5! 1-0 because, after 2… hxg5 hxg5, the white queen breaks through to h7.

You’ll realise at this point that there’s considerable overlap between chapters: Qh1 might be seen as a Surprise Forcing Move or a Quiet Forcing Move as well as a Forcing Retreat.

Chapter 8 offers Zwischenzugs: intermediate moves in which, instead of playing an automatic recapture, you find something stronger to do first. There are similarities here with ESTs here: again, human bias will lead you towards taking back without stopping to think about it.

Defensive Forcing Moves are the subject of Chapter 9: these might be moves using tactical force to refute a dangerous but unsound attack, or counterattacking moves, where the defender suddenly turns into the attacker.

Chapter 10 brings us to Endgame Forcing Moves, although Hertan’s definition of endgame is not the same as mine, including, as it does, positions where each side has queen, rook and minor piece.

Chapter 11, Intuition and Creativity, sums everything up. According to Hertan there are five factors which will enable you to develop master intuition: a strong knowledge of stock tactics, hard work in calculating variations, creativity, courage and practical experience and wisdom.

Chapter 12 is a final set of exercises, and Chapter 13 gives you the Hertan Hierarchy, a tool for teaching better calculation skills, which you might see as a flowchart to help you find the best move.

This isn’t the only way to write about tactics, and I’m not convinced that Hertan’s methods are as revolutionary as the publisher claims. Teaching students to look for checks, captures and threats dates back, I think, to Reinfeld and Purdy in the 1930s. I’ve always taught my pupils to use a CCTV to look at the board: look for Checks, Captures, Threats and Violent moves. What he adds, and I’m not sure how original this is, and whether it’s any more than common sense, is to advise you to analyse the most forcing moves first, no matter how foolish they might appear. The idea of using protocols to find the best move and avoid missing tactics dates back at least to Kotov in Think Like a Grandmaster.  Some players, including this reviewer, find protocols helpful in some situations, but others strongly dislike the whole idea.

You might also find the continual repetition of the phrase ‘Computer Eyes’ rather grating, and the language at times over hyperbolic. On the other hand, many readers like this style of writing.

But everyone loves tactics books full of beautiful, surprising, creative and imaginative moves, and this book is perhaps the best on the market in that respect. The author has spent decades collecting positions of this nature, and his experience and enthusiasm shines through every page.

It’s not a book for novices. You need a basic grounding in tactics and thinking skills, along with the understanding that most tactics don’t involve sacrifices or surprise moves, that most sacrifices you’ll consider in your games will be unsound, and that, at least at amateur level, more games are lost by unsound sacrifices than won by sound sacrifices (although many games at all levels are won by unsound sacrifices). But anyone from, say, 1400 or so upwards, will be enchanted and inspired by the hundreds of examples of spectacular play to be found here. They’ll also enjoy the exercises and find at least some of the advice, particularly, perhaps, about avoiding cognitive bias when selecting moves to analyse, helpful.

While the teaching methods might not suit all readers, you won’t be disappointed by the contents.

Richard James, Twickenham 1st December 2020

Richard James
. Richard James

Book Details :

  • Paperback : 432 pages
  • Publisher: New In chess; New and Extended 4th ed. edition (16 Aug. 2019)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 9056918567
  • ISBN-13: 978-9056918569
  • Product Dimensions : 16.94 x 2.77 x 23.67 cm

Official web site of New in Chess

Forcing Chess Moves : The Key to Better Calculation, New in Chess, Charles Hertan, 2019
Forcing Chess Moves : The Key to Better Calculation, New in Chess, Charles Hertan, 2019

The Modernized Marshall Attack

The Modernized Marshall Attack, Thinkers Publishing, 2020, Milos Pavlovic
The Modernized Marshall Attack, Thinkers Publishing, 2020, Milos Pavlovic

Grandmaster Milos Pavlovic was born in Belgrade in 1964 and was Yugoslav Champion in 2002. He is a well known theoretician specialising in opening theory and has written many chess books and magazine articles. Previously we have reviewed The Modernized Stonewall Defence and The Modernized Colle-Zukertort Attack by this author.

GM Milos Pavlovic
GM Milos Pavlovic

From the publisher :

“his book is about the Marshall Attack and the lines which can be grouped together under the banner of the so-called Anti-Marshall. The theory has developed so much in the last decade that there is more than enough material to be going on with just in those areas, but I also decided to include a detailed look at an important line in the Exchange Variation. Black’s key concept in the Marshall is giving up a central pawn in return for activity, and I have tried to give as many lines as possible which adhere closely to this principle. Why is this so significant? Well, for starters, usually in the Ruy Lopez Black is looking for long, slow games in solid, closed positions. The Marshall flips this on its head and Black tries to accelerate the play and radically change the character of the game at an early stage. Let’s briefly discuss the material of the book itself and the lines that I have decided to give. First of all, I started off with the standard Marshall Attack, after the initial moves: 1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5 a6 4.Ba4 Nf6 5.0-0 Be7 6.Re1 b5 7.Bb3 0-0 8.c3 d5. I have given direct analysis wherever possible and I have tried to cover all the essential lines. Of course, with the passing of the years and the continual development of theory we can see how the popularity of some positions has shifted and, in some cases, how certain lines have simply been rendered obsolete. I also discovered, to my surprise, that there are still new, unexplored, and interesting paths for further analysis.”

As with every recent Thinkers Publishing publication high quality paper is used and the printing is clear. The book can easily be laid flat next to the board and does not require weights to prevent it from “self-closing” (a particular bugbear of ours !). Each diagram is clear and the instructional text is typeset in two column format, which, we find, enables the reader to maintain their place easily. Figurine algebraic notation is used throughout and the diagrams are placed adjacent to the relevant text and each diagram has a “to move” indicator.

After decades of incinerating opponents with the Sicilian Dragon, the reviewer’s addiction to the wyvern is waning after meeting many well primed,  prepared, Saint Georges.

This good, action packed book on the modern Marshall attack is the answer to the reviewer’s quest for an aggressive new opening against 1.e4. The issue of well prepared adversaries will not go away with databases and engines and the Marshall is just as susceptible to deep preparation, but this guide will give the reader a very good grounding. The Marshall pawn sacrifice is clearly sound and the fact that the Anti-Marshall section of this book is the biggest part shows that the top players clearly agree that Frank Marshall’s concept is still alive and burning.

As the name of this volume suggests, it does not cover all variations of the Marshall; to do that would require a huge series of tomes.  The publication concentrates on the topical lines although some important  discarded variations are given for completeness and to show typical ideas. The book does not cover old lines such as the “Internet Refutation” and the “Pawn Push Variation”.

The book is definitely written from a black point of view. Although it is not a traditional black to play and win and/or neutralise white’s advantage repertoire. The publication does have some future proofing built in, because in certain key variations, multiple black alternatives are given. This not only reflects trendy theory but if a line is busted, there is a fallback.

There is plenty of original analysis given with some very long lines that the reader should check carefully with a strong engine. The same goes for any book of this type.  The reviewer has not found any major analytic howlers yet, but I have only scratched the surface. Occasionally, the writer claims that a move is new when in actual fact, it has been known for over ten years.

The book is divided into three parts:

Part 1 – The Marshall Attack with d4 (traditional Marshall)

Part 2 – The Marshall Attack with d3

Part 3 – The Anti-Marshall

Each part is then divided into four to six chapters which are of an appropriate length for easy reading. Where necessary sub-chapters are introduced which are well structured and easy to find.

To whet the readers’ appetites, here are some exciting positions from Part 1:

20.Nf1 Variation Analysis
20.Nf1 Variation Analysis

Here is a famous scrap showing one of the great Marshall practitioners, Peter Leko, in action, which is given in the book:

Vassily Ivanchuk v Peter Leko (Ningbo 2011)

1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bb5 a6 4. Ba4 Nf6 5. O-O Be7 6. Re1 b5 7. Bb3 O-O 8. c3
d5 9. exd5 Nxd5 10. Nxe5 Nxe5 11. Rxe5 c6 12. d4 Bd6 13. Re1 Qh4 14. g3 Qh3

 15. Qe2 Introduced about 10 years ago.


Bg4 16. Qf1 Qh5 17. Nd2 f5 Probably best sharpening the game with a typical Marshall thrust (17… Rae8 is an alternative) 18. c4


18. f3 is the main line now. 18… f4
19. cxd5 c5! An excellent zwischenzug


20. Re4 This leads to a
complex draw with best play. 20. Re5 Is not advised and loses as follows: Bxe5 21. dxe5
fxg3 22. hxg3 Rae8 White’s lack of development costs him 23. e6 c4 24. Bc2
Qxd5 25. Be4 Qd4 26. Qg2 Rxe6 27. Bd5 Rxf2! A pretty finish, winning


20… c4 21. Bc2 fxg3 22.
hxg3 Bxg3 23. fxg3 Rxf1+ 24. Nxf1


Qh3 White has a pile of material for
the queen, but his lack of development prevents him from exploiting it. 25. Re3 Rf8 26. Bd2 Bf3 27. Rxf3 Rxf3 28. Be4 Rxg3+ 29. Nxg3 Qxg3+


30. Bg2? A suicidal winning attempt 30. Kf1 Qh3+ 31. Ke2 Qh2+ 32. Ke3 Qh3+ Is a draw by perpetual:


30… Qd3 Black is winning as the white pieces lack
coordination and the black queen is a perfect shepherdess for the passed pawns
31. Be1 Qxd4+ 32. Bf2 Qxb2 33. Rf1 Qd2 34. Bc5 g6 35. Rf8+ Kg7 36. Rf2 Qd1+ 37. Rf1 Qd2 38. Kh2 c3 39. Rf2 Qe1 40. Bd4+ Kh6 41. Bh3 c2 0-1


Some fascinating positions from Part 2 (Marshall accepted with d3) follow:

Jue Wang-Anne Muzychuk
Jue Wang-Anne Muzychuk
Bacrot-Aronian 2005
Bacrot-Aronian 2005
Saric-Matlakov 2016
Saric-Matlakov 2016

See another great Marshall player, Lev Aronian, in action in this game:

M. Vachier Lagrave – L. Aronian Sharjah Grand Prix 2017

1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bb5 a6 4. Ba4 Nf6 5. O-O Be7 6. Re1 b5 7. Bb3 O-O 8. c3
d5 9. exd5 Nxd5 10. Nxe5 Nxe5 11. Rxe5 c6 12. d3 The modern line Bd6 13. Re1 Bf5

Vachier Lagrave-Aronian(Move 13)
Vachier Lagrave-Aronian(Move 13)

(13… Qh4 14. g3 Qh3 15. Re4!? Testing black’s setup.}Nf6 16. Rh4 Qf5 17. Nd2 Is the critical line Ng4 18. f3 Ne3 19. Qe2 Nd5 20. c4 Is a crucial try)

Vachier Lagrave-Aronian(Variation1)
Vachier Lagrave-Aronian(Variation1)

14. Qf3 Qh4 (14… Qf6 Leads to an inferior endgame for
black. No one plays the Marshall for this! 15. Nd2 Qg6 16. Bd1 Bxd3 17. Ne4
Bxe4 18. Qxe4 Qxe4 19. Rxe4 Rae8 20. Rxe8 Rxe8 21. Kf1)

Vachier Lagrave-Aronian(Variation2)
Vachier Lagrave-Aronian(Variation2)

15. g3 Qh3

Vachier Lagrave-Aronian(Move15)
Vachier Lagrave-Aronian(Move15)

16. Be3 White gives back the pawn to develop and achieve a small edge but black is ok with accurate play. (16. Nd2 Leads by force to a well known endgame which is drawn if black is careful. Rae8 17. Ne4 Bg4 18. Qg2 Qxg2+ 19.
Kxg2 f5 20. h3 Bh5 21. Bf4 Bxf4 22. gxf4 fxe4 23. dxe4 Bf3+! 24. Kxf3 Rxf4+
25. Kg3 Rfxe4 26. Rxe4 Rxe4 27. f3)

Vachier Lagrave-Aronian(Variation3)
Vachier Lagrave-Aronian(Variation3)

16… Bxd3 17. Nd2 Qf5 18. Bd4 A modern Marshall tabiya, perhaps white has a very small edge)

Vachier Lagrave-Aronian(Move18)
Vachier Lagrave-Aronian(Move18)

Rfe8 (18… Rfd8 Is a serious alternative.) 19. a4 h6 20. Kg2 Qxf3+ 21. Nxf3
(21. Kxf3 Rxe1 22. Rxe1 Bf5 23. Ne4 Bf8 24. Nc5 Nb6 25. g4 Nd7! Equalising by removing the strong knight.) 21… Rac8 22. axb5 axb5 23. Ra6 Rxe1 24. Nxe1

Vachier Lagrave-Aronian(Move24)
Vachier Lagrave-Aronian(Move24)

24… Nc7 Black skillfully neutralises white’s small edge. 25. Rb6 Bf5 26.
Bc2 Be6 27. Be4 Nd5 28. Ra6 b4 29. c4 Nf6 30. Bf3

Vachier Lagrave-Aronian(Move30)
Vachier Lagrave-Aronian(Move30)

Bxc4 Black has completely equalised. The ending is a straightforward draw at elite level 31. Rxc6 Rxc6 32.
Bxc6 Kf8 33. Nc2 Nd5 34. Kf3 g6 35. Ne3 Nxe3 36. Bxe3 g5 37. Ke4 Ke7 38. Kd4 Be2 39. Bb7 f6 40. f4 gxf4 41. Bxf4 Bxf4 42. gxf4 Kd6 43. h4 1/2-1/2

Part 3 covers the Anti-Marshalls which are by their nature, more of positional manoeuvring battles. However, Ding Liren succeeded in sharpening up this game. What did he play here?

Inarkiev-Ding Liren
Inarkiev-Ding Liren

The final game is an all British bout showing David Howell versus Michael Adams, who is another famous Marshall pro.

David Howell-Michael Adams 2018

1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bb5 a6 4. Ba4 Nf6 5. O-O Be7 6. Re1 b5 7. Bb3 O-O 8. a4 The main Anti-Marshall

Howell-Adams(Move 8)
Howell-Adams(Move 8)

8…b4 The modern choice. (8…Bb7 is an alternative
but commits the bishop rather early.)

9. d3 d6 10. a5 A key strategic move, but black is fine.

Howell-Adams(Move 10)
Howell-Adams(Move 10)

Be6 11. Bxe6 Popular at the moment. White is hoping to achieve c3 and d4 to show the weakness of black’s centre.  11. Nbd2 This is an important alternative 11… fxe6

Howell-Adams(Move 11)
Howell-Adams(Move 11)

12. Nbd2 d5 (12… Rb8 and 12… Qe8 are both
important alternatives) 13. c3 Bc5 14. Nb3 Ba7 15. Be3 bxc3 16. bxc3 dxe4 17.dxe4 Qxd1 18. Raxd1 Rab8 19. Nc5 Bxc5 20. Bxc5 Rfd8 21. Rxd8+

Howell-Adams(Move 21)
Howell-Adams(Move 21)

 21… Rxd8 Black has exchanged pieces and achieved a slight edge. 22. Kf1 h6 23. Bb4 Kf7
24. h4 Ke8 25. Ke2 Nxe4 26. Kf1 Nd2+ 27. Nxd2 Rxd2 28. Re4 h5 29. Re3 Rd5 30.
Rg3 Kf7 Black has an advantage here, but Michael Adams must have had an off day here. 31. Rf3+ Kg6 32. Rg3+ Kh7 33. Rf3 Nxb4 34. cxb4 c5 35. bxc5 Rxc5 36.
Ra3 Kg6 37. Rg3+ Kh6 38. Ra3 Rc4 39. Rb3 Rc5 40. Rb6 Rxa5 41. Rxe6+ Kh7 42. Ke2 Kg8 43. Re7 Kh7 44. Re6 Kg8 45. Re7 Kf8 46. Rc7 Ra4 1/2-1/2

There is an extensive appendix covering the Exchange Variation which initially looked out of place to the reviewer, but on reflection it has good coverage of a decent suggestion.

My overall summary of this book: very good.

FM Richard Webb, Chineham, Hampshire, 29th November 2020

FM Richard Webb
FM Richard Webb

Book Details :

  • Hardcover : 232 pages
  • Publisher:Thinkers Publishing; 1st edition (22 Sept. 2020)
  • Language:English
  • ISBN-10:9492510855
  • ISBN-13:978-9492510853
  • Product Dimensions: 16.51 x 1.52 x 22.86 cm

Official web site of Thinkers Publishing

The Modernized Marshall Attack, Thinkers Publishing, 2020, Milos Pavlovic
The Modernized Marshall Attack, Thinkers Publishing, 2020, Milos Pavlovic

The Power of Defence and the Art of Counterattack in 64 Pictures

The Power of Defence and the Art of Counterattack in 64 Pictures : Nikola Nestorović and Dejan Nestorović

The Power of Defence and the Art of Counterattack in 64 Pictures, Nestor Nestorovic and Dejan Nestorovic
The Power of Defence and the Art of Counterattack in 64 Pictures, Nestor Nestorovic and Dejan Nestorovic

From Nikola’s web site :

“My name is Nikola Nestorović and I have been playing chess for more than 20 years. During that time I managed to accomplish most of my playing career goals. The most important fact is that I became a Grandmaster at the end of 2015 and officially I became FIDE Chess Trainer in 2018. As I was growing up I realized that I really enjoy teaching so I decided that I am going to pursue that kind of a profession. Whether at school or at home I was always in the mood for teaching others and that feeling was very important in my chess coaching career. The connection between teacher and student need to be professional but friendly because only with this trust student can improve in a special way. So first, I want to make a special connection with my student – and then, chess will be very easy to learn! For years I worked on my special chess materials, so I can adjust my lessons to any type of player! And one very important thing – your age is not important, you can ALWAYS improve your chess play! So, If you love chess and you want to learn and improve in this beautiful game – I am sure that together – we can achieve your (our) goals! I am waiting for you! Cheers! Nikola”

From the publisher’s website :

“A tale of 64 magical squares in 64 shrewdly created pictures. Many a book delved deep into the vast oceans of tactics, positional play and strategy, but very few dared to enter and master a notoriously elusive realm of defence in chess.

In this highly instructive tome the authors tried to accomplish several demanding goals. To uncover many of the secrets that remain hidden so very often, to tackle the most difficult area of chess skill – defence, and finally to teach a great number of ambitious chess-players helping them to improve their knowledge in this important area of chess expertise.

We present you the book by GM Nikola Nestorović, and his father IM Dejan Nestorović with firm belief that you will appreciate many hours of their hard work and devotion to this intriguing topic. The games presented in this tome are both recent and older ones, played by the chess elite and their lower rated peers, but without exception instructive, deeply and diligently analysed for your reading and learning pleasure.

You learned to attack – now it is time to sharpen your defensive tools!”


The first thing to notice is that this is a handsome hardback, complete with a bookmark, and enhanced by photographs of some of the players featured within. Unlike the previous book I reviewed from this publisher, it uses orthodox fonts for both text and diagrams.

When turning to the first game you’ll see a game from a tournament that is still, at the time of writing this review, unfinished. This is Grischuk – Alekseenko from the 2020 Candidates Tournament. The first section, Modern gladiators, features 19 games or positions from recent tournaments, working backwards from 2020 to 2017, featuring many of today’s leading players.

Knights of XXI century takes us back from 2016 to 2007 with another 19 examples. Then, Pearls don’t lose their luster offers ten more positions going back to Savon – Tal in 1971. A moment of glory gives us seven specimens from slightly less celebrated players, and finally, From the maker’s mind treats us to nine games from the authors themselves.

This is an advanced book covering a difficult topic, that of defence and counterattack, and probably most suitable for players above, say, 2200 strength. You’ll find a lot of exciting, double-edged games, demonstrating all that is best in contemporary chess. Many of the games feature positional sacrifices, so if you’ve read and enjoyed Merijn van Delft’s recent book, this might be a useful follow-up. But the analysis here is much denser: lots of presumably computer generated tactical variations for you to work your way through.

Let’s look at one of the shorter and simpler examples.

We join the game Kožul – Stević (Nova Gorica 2007) with White about to play his 31st move. (Informator’s house style is to omit capture and check signs: I’m following that here, but using letters for pieces instead of the book’s figurines.)

31. g3

“Kožul is resigned to the fact that he has to wait for his opponent’s mistake in the realisation because Black’s extra pawn on b4 along with excellent placement of his pieces don’t bode well for White.”

31… Rd3?!

“A mistake that wouldn’t have needed to drastically affect assessment and events in the game had the danger alarm made a sound in good time.

“31… Qd3!? After simple exchange of queens Black would have only minor technical problems in the realisation of his material advantage. 32. Qd3 Rd3 33. Rc6 Ba5 34. Rc8 Kh7 35. Kg2 g5 With further strengthening of the position.”

32. Rc8

“The only way to create a chance, of course. White is still waiting for his opponent’s help.”

32… Kh7?

“After Rd3 one could surmise that Stević overlooked his opponent’s threat and that he only expected a passive defence. 32… Rd8! after the rook returned to the eighth rank, the chance for salvation disappeared, at least at this moment.”

33. Ng5!

“A nice tactical stroke which immediately changed the situation on the board. This was an absolute shock for Stević! All of a sudden he had to deal with concrete problems. And as it is usually the case, one mistake follows another.”

33… Kg6

“33… hxg5?? 34. Qh5#”

34. Qe4

“After Qe4 good defence is required in order not to lose the game.”

34… f5?

“Now a fatal error which brings White closer to victory. Black has two responses after which his opponent would be forced to draw.”

(Now there’s some analysis of Black’s drawing moves Kg5! and Kh5!, along with a diagram after Kh5, which I’ll omit here.)

35. ef6 Kg5 36. fg7!?

“36. Qe5! The safest path to victory. 36… Kg4 37. Qf4 Kh5 38. fg7+-”

36… Bf2

“A good attempt to create a counter-chance. 36… Qb1! The best practical chance. 37. Kg2 Rg3! 38. hg3 Qe4 39. Kh2 Qh7 40. g8Q Qg8 41. Rg8 Kf6 42. f4 There would still be some play here, although it can be said that White only needs to resolve some technical problems in the realisation of his material advantage.”

37. Kg2!

(There’s another diagram here: rather redundant as we’re only two half moves away from the previous one.)

“The game can still be lost for White: 37. Kf2?? Rd2 38. Kf1 Qd1 39. Qe1 Qf3 40. Kg1 Qg2#”

37. Rg3 38. Kf2 1:0

“Dangerous checks have disappeared. Black resigns due to the simple capture of the rook followed by promotion of the pawn to queen. Certainly, the key moments happened in time-trouble which is the period of the game when the side experiencing problems in the position should be concentrated and should seek its chance carefully.

“Kožul seized his chance while for Stević it can be said that he first missed a huge opportunity to win and then when he had to calculate where to go with his king and how o do it, he made incorrigible mistakes and suffered defeat.”

Here’s one of the authors in action in a very recent game: Todorović – N Nestorović (Smederevska Palanka (rapid) 2020).

“The position on the board shows us the moment when White has the opportunity to prevent a counterattack with a simple bc3 or enter calculations by playing tactical Ne8 where, at first glance, he wins material and easily promotes the e-pawn to queen.”

29. Ne8?

“29. bc3! (I’ve omitted the diagram) The simplest move! Now White is threatening to capture the rook on e8 and create the best defensive setup. 29… Qc4! 30. R4e3! After two simple defensive moves, Black’s hope vanishes. 30… Rc7 (30… Re7 31. Qa8! Capturing material.) 31. Qc7 And Black doesn’t have any possibility to create threats. 31… Qa2 32. cd4 Qa1 33. Kd2 Qb2 34. Kd1 Qb1 35. Ke2+-

“The king goes to the part of the board where there are no more checks and so the last threats will disappear.”

29… Qc4!!

(There’s another diagram here.) “The only way to create threats and shift the focus of play to the other side of the board.”

30. Qb8

“The most logical way to defend the white castling.”

(There’s a long note here demonstrating that 30. Nd6!? and 30. Qa5!? both lead to perpetual check, and again there’s a diagram after each of these moves.)

30… cb2 31. Kb2 Qc2 32. Ka1 Qc3

33. Qb2?

“Our desire to win sometimes gets us off the right path. 33. Kb1=

33… Nc2 34. Kb1

(Surely this diagram should be after, rather than before Black’s next move.)

34… Rb6!!

“A phenomenal way to end a counterattack!

“White resigns due to his inability to defend from checkmate!”

35. Qb6 Na3# 0:1


These extracts should give you some idea of the strengths and weaknesses of this book. There’s a lot of great chess here: exciting, creative and imaginative, as well as, as you’d expect in games of this nature, even at the highest level, a lot of mistakes as well. You certainly get a feeling of the inexhaustible riches of our beloved game. The subject of defence and counter-attack is not an easy one to teach, but the main point is well made. If you’re under attack you must meet immediate threats, but, beyond that, you should, if possible, avoid passive defence and look for opportunities to create active counterplay, even if this involves taking risks. Don’t be afraid to consider moves which may not be objectively best but will put your opponent under pressure.

The authors clearly have a keen eye for games of this nature and all readers will enjoy playing through and studying them.

However, you can probably also see some negatives. The translation, while mostly making sense, is a long way below professional standards. The layout of the book is poor and makes the games difficult to follow. You’d certainly need two boards and even then it wouldn’t be easy. There are lots of long tactical variations with embedded diagrams the same size as those in the main text. In some cases the game continuation is in the annotations while the book follows a more interesting line that wasn’t played. It all gets rather confusing, and the translation, along with the lack of capture and check signs, doesn’t help. It’s especially confusing when the actual game continuation is in the notes, while another variation, which would have led to a different result, is given as the main line.

Speaking as a 1900 strength player, I thought the book was pitched rather above me. I’d have preferred annotations with fewer computer generated variations and less verbose prose, and perhaps a puzzle section at the end to reinforce the lessons learnt from the examples, along with an improved layout and a better translation. The van Delft book mentioned above handles a similar subject in a much more appropriate way for players of my level, in terms of a more logical structure and more helpful annotations.

A qualified recommendation, then, for lovers of thrilling tactical games with vacillating fortunes played, mostly, at the highest level.


Richard James, Twickenham 22nd November 2020

Richard James
. Richard James

Book Details :

  • Hardback : 352 pages
  • Publisher: Sahovski Chess (aka Chess Informant or Informator) 2020
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: ?
  • ISBN-13: ?
  • Product Mass : ?

Official web site of Sahovski Chess

The Power of Defence and the Art of Counterattack in 64 Pictures, Nestor Nestorovic and Dejan Nestorovic
The Power of Defence and the Art of Counterattack in 64 Pictures, Nestor Nestorovic and Dejan Nestorovic

Decision Making in Major Piece Endings

Decision Making In Major Piece Endings : Boris Gelfand

Decision Making In Major Piece Endings, Boris Gelfand, Quality Chess, 2020
Decision Making In Major Piece Endings, Boris Gelfand, Quality Chess, 2020

From the Publisher’s Foreword:

“This is the fourth book in the Decision Making In Chess series. It was written over the last couple of years. A lot of work has gone into this book and the accompanying volume Technical Decision Making In Chess, which deals with a wider range of technical topics, whereas this book focuses on positions without minor pieces.

It has been four years since the publication of Dynamic Decision Making in Chess and certainly there will be one person out there wondering what happened to us and why the third volume was taking so long to complete. I hope that the content alone of these two books will answer that question.”

From the back cover:

“In Decision Making in Major Piece Endings former World Championship Challenger Boris Gelfand discusses his path to decision making in endgames involving rooks or queens, as well as the neglected “4th phase”. Countless games are decided by good or bad technique in such endgames, so readers are certain to benefit from the insights of a word-class Grandmaster on this vital topic.

Grandmaster Boris Gelfand has been an elite player for over 30 years, winning the World Cup, Olympiad Gold, the Candidates and many other top tournaments. Grandmaster Jacob Aagaard is the only chess writer to have won all the major awards for chess writing. ”

Boris Gelfand, FIDE Grand Prix, London, 2013, Courtesy of John Upham Photography
Boris Gelfand, FIDE Grand Prix, London, 2013, Courtesy of John Upham Photography

Reaction to previous volumes in the series:

In 2015 Positional Decision Making In Chess won the ECF Book of the Year award.

“The most interesting chess book I have read in the last quarter-century.” Mikhail Shereshevsky on Positional Decision Making in Chess.

This new Quality Chess publication Decision Making In Major Piece Endings uses high quality paper and the printing is clear. The book can easily be laid flat next to the board and does not require weights to prevent it from “self-closing” (a particular bugbear of ours !). Each diagram is clear and the instructional text is typeset in two column format, which, we find, enables the reader to maintain their place easily. Figurine algebraic notation is used throughout and the diagrams are placed adjacent to the relevant text and each major diagram has a “to move” indicator. Where a “to move” indicator is not present, it is obvious which colour is to move from the accompanying moves in a variation.

Each chapter is introduced with a contemporary photograph of a player or players or a tournament  scene which  launches each chapter in a engaging manner. This is followed by a Diagram Preview page which shows the critical analytical diagrams in the following chapter and invites the reader to practise their analysis and decision making! If you can work out most of the variations you are a world champion.

The introduction of this book makes it clear that this book is not an endgame primer or manual on basic major piece endgames as there are plenty of these theoretical works already in existence.  Knowledge of very basic rook and pawn endgames such as the Lucena and Vancura positions is assumed.  This book is “about decision making at the board and learning from your games – and those of others. In this book I will discuss topics that have arisen in some of the most interesting games without minor pieces during my career. We will encounter rook endings, queen endgames and games in what Romanovsky called the fourth phase, which is essentially later middlegames/early endings where only major pieces remain.”

The introduction also guides the reader on how to study the endgame: 1. knowledge of basic positions and their key variations and ideas must be known; 2. improving deep analytical skills; 3.  development of intuition. This book concentrates on improving items 2 & 3 above. The author suggests how to best use the book by first analysing the endgames without a chess engine and/or tablebases to prevent lazy thinking by relying too heavily on engine assessments without understanding.

Despite the fact that the introduction claims that this book is not an endgame primer, there are a couple of excellent chapters on theoretical endgames. They are covered from a practical point of view and Gelfand draws out the key defensive ideas by concentrating on patterns and key positions.   More on these chapters later. There are other basic endgame positions interspersed in other chapters which are reached from long variations but are nevertheless didactic as the theoretical endgames are shown in context within the whole endgame and the reader is clearly shown how these positions can be reached in practice.

Here is an critical position from the game Julian Hodgson – Boris Gelfand played at Groningen 1996. Both players misevaluated this ending as they both thought that black was easily winning. At the time, endgame theory agreed with them. Modern tablebases give this as a clear draw as black cannot hide his king from the checks with accurate defensive play from white.

Hodgson-Gelfand 1996
Hodgson-Gelfand 1996

The game continued 86.Qe8+? The losing mistake. The black king escapes the checks by stepping in front of the pawns. 86.Qe6!, the most natural waiting move was still drawing. (86.Qd7! also draws). 86…Qf8 87. Qe2+ g4 88. Qe5+ Kh6 89. Qe6+ Kg5 90. Qe5+ Qf5 91.Qg7+ Kf4 92. Qc7+ Qe5 93. Qf7+ with a draw. 86… Kg4 87. Qe6+ Qf5 88.Qc4+ Kg3 89. Qc7+ Qf4 0-1

The author makes the point that if white had known that the endgame was a draw, and knew a few general ideas, he would have probably drawn the game. But when you think it is lost, psychologically it is impossible to hold it, particularly in an increment finish. A lot of the top players do not think in terms of lost or not: they concentrate on looking for ideas (to make life difficult for the opponent).

Chapter 1  – The Importance of Analysis

The title of the chapter is self explanatory and Gelfand stresses the need to study complicated endgames in depth and understand all the nuances. There are some superb examples of brilliant analysis. Here is one such position where Gelfand did not discover the right idea until 2018:

Suetin-Portisch 1973
Suetin-Portisch 1973 (variation)

It is black to play, clearly 60…d1=Q 61. Rxd1 Kxd1 62. Kf3  is not good enough to win. Black to play can win with 60…Rc4!! 61. Rb1 Rc1 62. Rb2 Rf1!!  cutting the king off from the e-file (62…Ke3? 63. Rxd2 Kxd2 64.Kf4 draws shouldering the black king) 63. Kg4 Ke3 64. Rxd2 Kxd2 65. Kg5 Ke3 wins as black’s king is now available to hunt the pawns down.

Chapter 2 Do Not Hurry

The “Do not hurry” concept is a key concept that I first encountered in Shereshevsky’s classic Endgame Strategy. In the position below, this principle can be demonstrated aptly.

Giberto Hernandez Guerrero-Gelfand
Giberto Hernandez Guerrero-Gelfand

Converting this position is covered in detail with a key discussion on exchanges which is enlightening.

This rook ending could have occurred and black’s winning’s manoeuvre is instructive:

Gilberto Hernandez Guerrero-Gelfand Merida 2003
Gilberto Hernandez Guerrero-Gelfand Variation

63…Rc5 64. Rc7 Rc3+ 65. Kf2 Rc4 66.Kg3 Now the black rook has been optimally placed, it is time to improve the king to the maximum, while keeping the best possible pawn structure, which is to keep the pawn on g7 and play …f6, so that White does not have Rc8 followed by c6-c7. If the pawn would be on g6 in that position, Rg8 would  eventually come and save a draw. The best black would achieve is f- and h- pawns, but not in favourable circumstances. With the pawn on g7, …Rxc7 will always come as a response to Rg8 and black wins trivially. 66…Kf6 67.Kh3 Kg6 68.Kg3 f6 And black wins after either 69.Kh3 Kh6! followed by the advance of the g-pawn, or 69.Rc8 Kf5! and the advance of the king.

Chapter 3 – Three Surprisingly Complicated Rook Endgames

This is a variation from an interesting rook and pawn endgame Boris Gelfand – Lars Bo Hansen Wijk aan Zee 1993:

Gelfand-Hansen (variation)
Gelfand-Hansen (variation)

White wins with the instructive 64.Rc7!! preparing to cut black’s king off along the fifth rank 64…Rh1 65.Rc5! and if 65…Kd6 66.Rc6+, white can then simply queen the b pawn winning black’s rook whilst black’s king is unable to support his own pawn.

Here is another common type of position taken from a variation in the game Gelfand-Vladimir Kramnik Zurich 2017. White is clearly much better as his king supports his pawn and black’s king is not in the game. But how does white win?

Gelfand-Kramnik Variation
Gelfand-Kramnik Variation

The answer is simple once you see it. 48.Rc3!! Kf6 49. Rc2! and wins

Chapter 4 Two Defensive Methods in Rook Endings

This chapter is one of the theoretical chapters which covers rook and four against three all on one side and rook against three connected passed pawns. This section is well constructed with coverage of all the major positions and ideas in the 4 v 3 ending.

Some famous games are included which must be present in every treatise on rook endings. Here is one such ending from: Mikhail Botvinnik v Miguel Najdorf Moscow 1956:

Botvinnik-Najdorf Moscow 1956
Botvinnik-Najdorf Moscow 1956

White is winning here because he can create a passed e-pawn and he has fixed the pawn structure with h5 leaving an entry point for the king on g6. The game continued 61…Kf7 62. Ra5 Rc7 63. Rd5 Ra7 64. e5 fxe5 65. fxe5 Ke7 66.e6 Ra4 67. g5! providing cover for the king 67…hxg5 68.Rd7+ Kf8 69.Rf7+ Kg8 70.Kg6 g4 71.h6! gxh6 72.e7 Ra8 73.Rf6 There is no defence to Rd6 and Rd8 with mate.

The celebrated endgame Capablanca-Yates Hastings 1930 is of course covered in great detail. The analysis of the famous position is covered in great depth showing the defender’s best defence which is tricky to crack. It is revealing to note that even the great Cuban World Champion let the win slip at one point. I suggest that the reader buys the book to study this superb analysis.

Capablanca-Yates Hastings 1930
Capablanca-Yates Hastings 1930

The position below is the celebrated game Piket-Kasparov Internet 2000 because Kasparov misplayed a drawn endgame so badly. We must not be too hard on the former World Champion as it was a rapid game and Kasparov is a superb endgame player.

Piket-Kasparov Move 42 Internet 2000
Piket-Kasparov Move 42 Internet 2000

The game continued: 42.Kh3 Re3 43.Kh4 Kg7?! Black does not have to let the white king into g5. 43…Kh6! 44.Rc7 Re2! 45h3

Piket-Kasparov Move 42 Internet 2000
Piket-Kasparov Variation 1

Now, 45…Rxe5! 46.Rxf7 Re4 47.g4 Rxf4! forces a quick draw.

The game continued: 44.Kg5 Re1? (The final mistake: black can hold with 44…Ra3 45.Rc7 Ra5 and white is stymied) 45.Rc7 Re2 46.Re7 Ra2 The following variation is the key to why white is winning: 46…Re1

Piket-Kasparov Move 42 Internet 2000
Piket-Kasparov Variation 2

47.e6! Rxe6 48.Rxe6 fxe6 49.h3 Despite material equality, black is lost as he is in zugzwang. 49…Kf7 50.Kh6 Kf6 51.g4 h4 52.g5+ Kf5 53.Kg7 Kxf4 54.Kxg6 e5 55.Kf6 e4 56.g6 e3 57.g7 e2 58.g8=Q e1=Q 59.Qg4+ Ke3 60.Qe6+ exchanging queens and winning

In the game, black lost in a similar manner to Botvinnik-Najdorf:

47.f5! gxf5 48.e6 h4 49.Rxf7+ Kg8 50. Kf6 1-0

Piket-Kasparov Move 47
Piket-Kasparov Move 47

The final two positions in this chapter concern Rook v 3 connected passed pawns.

Rook v 3 pawns (1)
Rook v 3 pawns (1)

White to move wins with 1.Rf8, black to move draws only with 1…Kg7! preventing the rook from moving behind the base of the chain.

Similarly in the mirror position, white to move wins with 1.Rh8, black to move draws with 1…Kg7!

The core of the book (chapters 5 to 8) is a series of four chapters deeply analysing three rook and pawn endgames of Gelfand’s against world class opposition. The games are shown in their entirety which is the modern way to study endgames in relation to the opening and middlegame.

Gelfand-Kasimdzhanov Variation
Gelfand-Kasimdzhanov Variation

This position from a variation in the game Gelfand-Kasimdzhanov from Baku 2014 caught my eye. Black to play – what should he do? 59…Kf5!! The obvious move is to push the pawns with 59…g4. Let’s see what happens: 60.Rc6! f5 61.Rxa6 Kg5 62.Rb6 h3 63.Kg3 f4+ 64.Kh2 Kf4 65.Rh6+ Kg5

Gelfand-Kasimdzhanov Variation2
Gelfand-Kasimdzhanov Variation2

66.Rh8! Kf5 67. Rg8! Black is in zugzwang and loses all the pawns.

60.Rc6 a5 61. Rc5+ Kg6 62.Rxa5 f5 and black prevents the rook from reaching f8. This is obvious when one has knowledge of the basic endgame rook v 3 connected pawns shown above! The author has shown an excellent example of knowing your basics being applied to a real live game.

Chapter 9 Queen Endings with a g- or h- pawn

This is one of the reviewer’s favourite chapters as it combines endgame theory with practical examples showing that even strong GMs do not know how to defend these endings correctly. Even when players know where to put their defending king, choosing the correct check to draw is not obvious!

Here is a position from Gelfand-Jobava from Dortmund 2006.

The reviewer loves this endgame.

Gelfand-Jobava (Move 50)
Gelfand-Jobava (Move 50)

This king and pawn ending is clearly drawn but white is pressing with a more advanced king. White played 50.h4 setting a subtle trap. 50…h5?? losing, incredible to believe but it is true. 50…Kd7 draws, for example 51.g4 f6+ 52.Kd5 e6+ 53.Kc5 h6 54. e5 fxe5 55.fxe5 Kc7 seizing the opposition and drawing 51.f5! f6+ 52.Ke6 gxf5

Gelfand-Jobava (Move 53)
Gelfand-Jobava (Move 53)

Now white played 53. e5!! which had been completed missed by black (automatic recapture syndrome) fxe5 54.Kxe5 Kd7 55.Kxf5 Kd6 56.Kg5 Ke5 57.Kxh5 Kf4

Gelfand-Jobava (Move 57)
Gelfand-Jobava (Move 57)

Now white can enter a winning queen endgame with 58.Kg6!

White did not play the endgame perfectly, and after many adventures this position was reached at move 87. Black is drawing here if he places his king in the drawing zone which is the far corner diagonally opposite where the g pawn is hoping to queen i.e. a1.

Gelfand-Jobava (Move 87)
Gelfand-Jobava (Move 87)

87… Ka5? was played which loses. I am surprised that a strong GM moved his king the wrong way. 87…Ka3 draws but the draw is not simple. 88.g7 and now black can draw with an accurate sequence of moves that are not obvious. 87… Qe5+ (the obvious 87… Qg3+ loses in 41 moves) 89.Kg6 Qe6+ 90.Kh7 reaching the drawn position below.

Gelfand-Jobava (Move 90)
Gelfand-Jobava (Variation Move 90)

90…Qf5+ 91.Kg8 Qf4! (only move) draws, 90…Qh3+ 91.Kg8 Qf5! (91…Qe6+ loses) also draws

The game continued 88.g7 Qe5+ 89.Kg6 Qe6+ 90.Kh7 Qf5+ 91.Kg8 Ka4 92. Qh1 Qc8+ 93. Kh7 Qf5+ 94. Kh8 Qe5 reaching the position below:

Gelfand-Jobava (Move 95)
Gelfand-Jobava (Move 95)

Now 95.Qh3! wins cutting off he black king from the drawing zone. Gelfand won  the game easily after another 18 moves. The best defence involves white winning by transitioning through the two diagrams below exploiting black’s king position to misplace the black queen. Absolutely fascinating stuff.

Gelfand-Jobava (Move 116 variation)
Gelfand-Jobava (Move 116 variation)
Gelfand-Jobava (Move 133 variation)
Gelfand-Jobava (Move 133 variation)

Chapter 10 – Multiple Queens

This section is entertaining with some really exciting and amusing positions. Here is one such position:

David Anton Guijaro-Alejandro Franco Alonso
David Anton Guijaro-Alejandro Franco Alonso

This looks like a fairly standard queen and pawn ending. Black is  a pawn down but is to play and played the obvious capture 55…Qxb2? which is simply too slow. 55…b4! was the drawing move.  White has two tries: 56.axb4  is the only real winning attempt but falls short: 56…Qxb2 57. Qh7+ Ke6 58. Qxh6 a3 59. Qg6 a2 60.h6 a1=Q 61.h7 Qe2! forcing white to take a perpetual. Or 56. Qh7+ Ke6 57. Qxh6 Qxe4+ 58. Kh2 Qe2 with sufficient counterplay against the white king to draw. The game continued: 56.Qh7+ Ke6 57. Qxh6 b4 58. Qg6 bxa3 59. h6 a2 60. h7 a1=Q reaching the position below.

After move 60
Two queens each

61. Qf5+?  Driving the king towards safety: 61.h8=Q wins instantly, with a quick mate.) Kd6 62. h8=Q Kc5! 63. Qf8+ Kc4 64. Qe6+ Kd3 65. Qfxf6 Qd4 66.Qf3+ Kd2 67. Qh6+ Kc2 68.Qc6+ (the computer prefers 68.Qe2+ Kc3 69.Qc6+ Kb4 70. Qb7+ Ka3 71. Qe7+ Kb3 72. Qf7+ Kb4 73.g4 and white is winning)  Kb1 69. g4 Qab2 70.g5 a3 71. g6 a2 72. g7 a1=Q 73. g8=Q Qaa3 74. Qgg3 ? (74. Qcf6 keeps the advantage) reaching this position:

3 queens each

This is the beautiful but sad moment of the game. Black played 74…Qxf3+? and went on to lose quickly. 74…Qdxf2+!! draws by sacrificing all three queens for stalemate, for example 75. Qfxf2 Qxg3+ 76. Kxg3 Qc3+ 77. Qxc3 stalemate. Fantastic! Who says there is no humour in chess ?


Chapter 11 – Full Circle

This chapter covers the famous game Botvinnik-Minev Amsterdam 1954 which goes into a celebrated Q + g pawn v Q ending which Botvinnik won from a drawn position. As Boris Gelfand points out, once we know that an article written by Paul Keres in the 1947-1949 Soviet Yearbook  recommended that black place the king on a4, black’s moves become completely understandable.


56.Qg4+ Ka5? This is still a draw but modern knowledge recommends Ka3 heading towards the opposite corner. 57.Qxe6 Qh8+ 58.Kg6 Qc3 59.g4 Qd2 60.g5 Qd4? Centralisation looks good, but in fact loses. 60…Ka4! was best, several other moves also draw.

Botvinnik-Minev Move 60
Botvinnik-Minev Move 60

Now 61. Qf5+? allowing black to draw. 61. Kh7! Qh4+ 62.Qh6 followed by g6, the black king is too far from the a1 corner 61…Ka4 62. Kh5 Qh8+ 63. Kg4 Qh1? The final mistake, after this Botvinnik wins with no slip-ups. Buy the book to find out how. 63…Ka3! was correct.

Chapter 12 – Conversion in the 4th Phase

This chapter covers a complex Q and double rook late middlegame which reveals the complexities of such positions. The game clearly shows that a sustained initiative is so potent.

This is a critical position from the game Gelfand-Edouard. Black is under the cosh but can defend with 35…Qxe5! 36. Qxa7 Rg6! 35.Qb7 Rxg3+! 36.fxg3 Qe3+! 37. Kh2 Qh6+ with a perpetual check.


The penultimate chapter is a series of studies which are elegant and instructive. There is a particularly beautiful study by Darko Hlebec. Buy the book to appreciate the beauty of chess.

The final chapter is a series of  rook exercises which are extremely didactic. If you can solve all of these, you are a World Champion.

I heartily recommend this superb book on major piece endgames which is a labour of love and hard work. It combines practical examples with coverage of basic endgame positions.

FM Richard Webb, Chineham, Hampshire, 16th November 2020

FM Richard Webb
FM Richard Webb
  • Paperback : 320 pages
  • Publisher:Quality Chess UK LLP (28 April 2021)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1784831395
  • ISBN-13: 978-1784831394
  • Product Dimensions: 17.2 x 1.55 x 24.43 cm

Official web site of Quality Chess

Decision Making In Major Piece Endings, Boris Gelfand, Quality Chess, 2020
Decision Making In Major Piece Endings, Boris Gelfand, Quality Chess, 2020