1001 Chess Exercises for Advanced Club Players : Frank Erwich
“Tactics is knowing what to do when there is something to do; strategy is knowing what to do when there is nothing to do.” – Savielly Tartakower
From the publishers blurb:
“In this follow-up to his acclaimed 1001 Chess Exercise for Club Players, FIDE Master Frank Erwich teaches you how to reach the next level of identifying weak spots in the position of your opponent, recognizing patterns of combinations, visualizing tricks and calculating effectively.
Erwich repeats the themes of his previous book, focusing on exercises in which the key move is less obvious. He also introduces new, more sophisticated tactical weapons. They are geared towards the reality of the advanced club player (Elo 1800 2300): it is not enough to spot simple combinations, at this level you must be able to resist your reflexes and look deeper. In variations that look forcing you will always search for that deadly Zwischenzug. Quiet moves in general should be your new best friends.
In short: an advanced club player should expect the unexpected. One of the celebrated elements of Erwichs previous book, which is neglected in other books on tactics, is back: defence! You will also learn how to defend against tactics, as well as how to use tactical weapons when you are under heavy pressure. This is a complete and structured course, and not just a collection of freewheeling puzzles. Erwich starts every chapter with an instructive explanation of the tactical concept at hand and has carefully selected the most didactically productive exercises.
FIDE Master Frank Erwich is a a professional chess teacher for the Royal Dutch Chess Federations, coach and active player. In 2012 he established a teaching company and, from his own web site
He holds a Masters degree in Psychology.
He works as an editor for New in Chess, he helps with the development of material for chess books and chess apps, he writes about chess (including author of 1001 Chess Exercises for Club Players and the e-book Basic Chess rules for Kids ), he makes online lessons for starting chess players and he is regularly active as a coach during a chess tournament (including during the European Youth Championship in 2014, 2015 and 2016).
Tactics books are, of course, part of the staple publishing diet of many chess specialists. What is the USP of this one?
Erwich has collected 1001 (no, this is nothing to do with carpet cleaning*) positions from recent tournament praxis the majority of which (just like the preceding volume) are from the last ten years.
They have been organised into ten groupings viz :
Surprises and traps
Diagonals, ranks and files
The walking King
Special threats and quiet moves
Calculation and move order
which are followed by a chapter entitled “Mix” which combines many of the previous themes and of course, a Solutions to each exercise chapter.
As with every recent New in Chess 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 mine !). More or less each diagram clearly shows who is to move but for a curious reason the diagrams showing analysis are left without one. I’ve no idea of the reasoning for this decision.
The instructional text is typeset in two column format, which, I 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.
You might have noticed that in the list of categories the author has inserted “Trapping a piece” and “Defending” which are welcome (not often discussed) themes among the more familiar ones.
Each chapter kicks-off with a description of the theme in question followed by high quality examples. All jargon and terms are explained in detail making each section self-contained eliminating the need to go elsewhere to cross-reference. Sometimes the author invents his own terminology (such as “away” and “chasing”) in cases where there is a need and all is carefully explained.
Following the instructional text and examples there are, on average 100 test positions given as groups of twelve per page. Each diagram clearly indicates who is to move and underneath most is a hint such as “King hunt: series of checks”. I prefer to hide the hint but some will value these clues. Of course, after say a dozen in one section, one gets a feel for what is expected and this forms part of the training. Each solution provides useful analysis (which has been engine checked) plus contextual information about the source game, players and event.
To give you some idea of the content here are some samples:
A fairly straightforward but pleasing example (#102) from “In-between moves”:
and from “Automatic moves” we have #193 which is rather lovely but not difficult:
and this pleasing example (#325) from “Surprises and traps”
Finally, as before, a detailed glossary in itself provides learning opportunities to improve one’s knowledge.
Once again It was a pleasure to work through some of the exercises and I’m confident the book will provide ideas for my student lessons and coaching.
The most enjoyable section (one again, as before) was Chapter 11 entitled “Mix”. This is the best test of what has gone before since there is no declared theme, and, more often than not, no visible hint. You are on your own and you might start a chess timer with each new position to provide motivation and test your speed and accuracy of solution.
In summary this is an excellent follow-up book that goes highly recommended. If I hadn’t had it to review then I would have purchased it anyway! Most excellent and deserving of the accolades and a great stocking filler.
“Goethe once wrote, “Everything is both simpler than we can imagine, and more complicated than we can conceive.” He could well have had chess endgames in mind. Endgames have fewer pieces on the board than middlegames but this does not necessarily make them “easier” to play or understand.
Tactical expertise is, understandably, generally associated with middlegame (and sometimes opening) positions. However, tactics are also crucial in endgames – a point that is sometimes overlooked. Even some quite simple looking pawn endgames can feature complex tactical ideas. Tactics in endgames also tend to be very different to middlegame tactics.
As well as the familiar themes of pins, skewers and forks, endgames also feature unique concepts that rarely occur in middlegames such as pawn breakthroughs, manoeuvring for zugzwang and active use of the king as an aggressive unit.
In this book the highly experienced chess author and coach Cyrus Lakdawala guides the reader through the complexities of endgame tactical play. Lakdawala assembles positions that are most effective to improve tactical ability. Work your way through this book and you will undoubtedly see the results in your own games.”
end of blurb…
“Cyrus Lakdawala is an International Master, a former National Open and American Open Champion, and a six-time State Champion. He has been teaching chess for over 30 years, and coaches some of the top junior players in the U.S.”
The reviewer is a fan of this type of book which is a really good endgame puzzle/training tome: this title does not disappoint. The examples are a pleasing mixture of endgames from high level games; composed studies and a final chapter consisting of composed mate in two problems.
In the introduction, the author addresses the common objection to studies and problems “they are artificial and also too difficult”. He recalls a piece of advice from GM Bill Lombardy: “You don’t have to solve them. Just try for a few minutes and then look up the answer.” This is the point, the act of attempting to solve the study/problem followed by a close study of the answer will improve your analytic ability and enlarge your toolbox of recognised patterns. A lot of studies have very memorable moves/themes which once seen are never forgotten.
The reviewer can recall a particular knight and pawn endgame where I jeopardised an easy draw by missing a study like move (lack of imagination in cruise mode) but redeemed myself by scrambling a study like draw (desperation but only found because my imagination had been improved by studying studies).
Cyrus goes on to discuss training techniques to improve students’ calculation skills, tactical awareness and tactical/strategic imagination: he and the vast majority of trainers regard studies as an essential tool to aid the development of endgame mastery.
In the main seven chapters, I like the way the author breaks down the more difficult studies to aid a student/reader to solve them: it’s almost like a brain dump of his assessment/analysis process as he goes about solving the problem.
The over the board endgames include many games from masters of the endgame such as Botvinnik, Capablanca, Karpov, Smyslov, and Tal. Tal may not be immediately recognised by some as a maestro of the endgame, but his calculation skills and imagination were second to none and this made him a superb endgame player.
The studies include giants such as Afek, Grigoriev, Mitrofanov, Pogosyants, Réti, Troitzky.
The book is divided into eight chapters, the first two sections are kind of introductory followed by five chapters with different piece combinations. The final section is a set of mate in two problems.
The reviewer will showcase three or four positions from each chapter to give the reader a taster.
Here are some interesting positions from Chapter One – Deadly Simplicity.
This position is from the game Chigorin v Tarrasch Ostend 1905. White looks to be in terrible trouble here as black’s king is going to outflank white’s king and win material.
White played the resigned 50.gxf6 and lost shortly. However, white does have a dastardly defence which once seen is always remembered. 50.Kg4!! Ke4 51.g6! Now white creates a stalemate defence or he can create a future passed pawn. 51…hxg6 (51…h6 52.Kh5! and the f-pawn cannot be captured as it is stalemate!)
52.fxg6 f5+ 53.Kg5 f4 54.h5 f3 55.h6
55…gxh6+ 56.Kh6 f2 57.g7 f1Q 58.g8Q drawn
Next I shall show a lovely study which looks deceptively simple!
White to play and win.
The obvious approach to black’s pawn such as 1.Kf4? or 1. Ke5? fails to 1…Kc4 2.Kg5 Kd3 3.Kxg6 Ke4 and black gobbles the f-pawn to draw. 1.Kd5? looks tempting to shoulder barge the black king, however 1…Kb4! draws 2.Ke5 (2.f4 Kc3! draws is a major point) Kc4 3.Kf6 Kd4 4.Kxg6 Ke4 draws.
1.Kd4!! is the only way preventing the side approach, now 1…Kb4 (1…Kc6 2.Ke5 Kd7 3.Kf6 wins) 2.f4! The key point 2..Kb3 3.Ke5 Kc4 4.Kf6 wins
A really instructive problem and very game like.
The next study is white to play and win. I remember being shown this study as a kid and solving it.
1.Re8+ !! (1…Kg7 2.f6+ wins black’s rook) 1…Kxe8 2.g7 Rg8 3.f6 Zugzwang 3…Rf8 4.exf8Q+ Kxf8 5.Kd7 Kg8 6.Ke7 and wins the f-pawn and the game.
Chapter 2 – Recognizing Patterns
What is happening here with white to play? White can draw easily with 1.Rxe7 or 1.gxf7. Can white do better?
1.f6 looks interesting with the idea of 1…Rxe8 2.gxf7
Surely white is winning with 3.fxg7 to follow after black moves his rook. But analyse further! 2…Rd8!! wins as after 3.fxg7 Ke7!+ wins both pawns and the game. Cyrus had set this position as an exercise for some students, most of whom complained bitterly when they fell into the trap. The author responded that he did not specify a “white to play and win” position, he just gave them a position to analyse, just like a game! A great learning experience.
Here is a didactic opposite coloured bishop endgame.
How does white make progress here? 51.Be7 allows Kc7 blocking the king’s path into black’s position. 51.Bb8! does the trick and black resigned 1-0. If 51…Kxb8 52.Kd6 Kc8 53.Kxe6! Kd8 54.Kf6 Kd7 55.Kg7 Ke7 56.Kxh7 Kf7 57.e6+ decoying the black king, winning after 58.Kg7 and 59.h7
Here is some Troitzky magic: white to play and draw.
White looks to be in desperate straits as the black’s outside passed h-pawn looks to be the decisive factor.
1.Kb6! threatening 2.a6 1…Kc8 2.a6 Kb8 3.a7+! Ka8 4.Kc7! h5 5.Kxd6 h4 6.Kxd7 h3 7.e5 h2 8.e6 h1Q 9.e7 Qd5+ This looks lost for white as an e-pawn on the seventh normally loses against a queen 10.Kc7! Qe6 11.Kd8 Qd6+ 12.Kc8! Qxe7 stalemate
Chapter 3 – King And Pawn Endgames
Here is an important idea that does occur in practice. Alexei Shirov lost a game to this idea.
This position looks to be drawn after a move like 1.Rg1 a1=Q as white wins both pawns but black’s king gets back in time to secure the draw. However white has an elegant idea to win: 1.Ra1! Kxa1 Forced as 1…Kb3 2.Kc1 Ka3 3.Kc2 wins the a-pawn and the game easily 2.Kc2 Zugzwang 2…g5 3.hxg5 h4 4.g6 h3 5.g7 h2 6.g8Q h1Q 7.Qg7#
Here is a famous finish to a game demonstrating the potential power of a breakthrough and Reti’s theme with king paths.
White looks to be lost as after 1.Kf6 c4 2.bxc4 bxc4 3.Ke5 c3! 4.bxc3 a4 the black pawn promotes. 1.Kg6!! threatening h5 forces 1…Kxh42. Kf5 Kg3 3.Ke4 Kf2 4.Kd5 Ke3!
5.Kxc5 Kd3 6.Kxb5 Kc2 7.Kxa5 Kxb3 draw (A really instructive endgame lesson – kings do not have to take the most obvious path.)
Some Vasily Smyslov magic next.
White had had a vastly superior (winning) rook ending and decided to enter this king and pawn ending which he assessed as easily winning for white as he has a potential passed outside h-pawn and his king can enter via c4. Smyslov shattered that illusion with 46…g4!! 47.h4 (47.hxg4 does not help as the potential passed pawn has disappeared and black’s king now can enter white’s position via g5 leading to a draw.) 47…c5 48.Ke2 Kh7! 49.Kd3 Kh6 waiting
50. c3 (white’s intended 50.Kc4 loses to the breakthrough move 50…f5! 51.exf5 e4! 52.c3 a5! zugzwang and the e-pawn promotes) 50…a5 51.cxb4 axb4 drawn (A brilliant escape for the endgame master)
Chapter 4 – Rook Endgames
A famous study but worth reproducing called Lasker’s manoeuvre/steps/ladder. This has occurred in practice in GM games.
Here is some more Troitzky magic which is very game like.
Black appears to be ok as his h-pawn should be enough to draw.
1.e5! fxe5+ (1…h3 2.exf6 wins as the black king will exposed to a decisive rook check) 2.Ke4! h3 3.Rh8! Rxa7 4.Rh6+ Ke7 5.Rh7+ securing the rook and the game. A very common idea in rook and pawn endgames.
Here is the end of a game Judit Polgar v Nigel Short Monte Carlo 1993.
This is instructive: 61.h6+! Kf7 (61…Kxh6 62.Kf6 wins threatening mate and the rook) 62.g5!! fxg5 63.Rd8! and black cannot stop the h-pawn without giving up the rook, 1-0 in a few moves after a few spite checks.
Chapter 5 – Queen Endgames
Queen endgames are notoriously tricky and complex.
Here is an entertaining study.
White looks to be in trouble as 1.Qe3!! is met by 1…f4 forcing promotion, but look further: 2.Qf2! d1=Q 3.Kc3!! zugzwang 3…f3 4.Qe3+ Kb1 5.Qb6+ Kc1 6.Qb2#
Here is an amusing study. How does white win here?
After 1.Qxg8+ Kxg8 white can play 2.h7+ which only leads to stalemate or 2.hxg7 and although white wins the a-pawn, black’s king reaches the a8 corner in time to draw.
Here is an amusing finish from a game Adams-Dimitrov.
Black played 68…e3?? no doubt looking forward to a win over his illustrious opponent. Adams reply soon disabused him: 69.Qh3+! 69…Qxh3 stalemate (Lesson: the queen is powerful, always be on the look-out for mating and stalemating ideas)
Chapter 6 – Minor Piece Endgames
Here is a study by the great Grigoriev which shows a bad bishop endgame, but how does white breakthrough?
1.g4 creating a passed h-pawn does not win as white has no entry point for his king. So the only idea to win must be Bxh5 but white must prepare this move without allowing black’s bishop to get out of its cage.
1.Bf3 Bb7 2.Ke3! (2.Ke4? would allow black’s bishop to improve its posting 2…Bc8 and draws) Ba8 3.Ke4! Bb7 4.Kf4 Ba8 5.Bxh5! (Now black’s bishop is on its worst possible square) Kxh5 6.g4+ Kxh4 (6…Kh6 7.g5Kg7 8.h5 Bb7 9.h6+ Kf7 10.gxf6 Kxf6 11.h7! Kg7 12.Ke5 Kxh7 13.Kd6 winning) 7.g5 fxg5+ 8. Ke4! (8.Ke5 also wins but takes much longer) Kh5 (8…g4 9.f6 g3 10.Kf3! Kh3 11.f7 g2 12.f8Q g1Q 13.Qh8#) 9.Ke5! g4 10.f6 g3 11.f7 g2 12.f8Q g1Q 13.Qh8+ Kg4 14.Qg7+ winning the queen
Here is more Smyslov magic:
How does white breakthrough? Black looks to have a fortress.
59…g5!! 60.fxg5 d4+! 61.exd4 Kg3 (The position below demonstrates the very important “one diagonal” principle in opposite coloured bishop endings. Black’s bishop fulfils two roles on one diagonal: protecting his own b3-pawn whilst simultaneously preventing the advance of white’s passed pawns.)
62.Ba3 Kxh4 63.Kd3 Kxg5 64.Ke4 h4 65.Kf3 Bd5+ 0-1 Black wins the bishop which has to give itself up for the h-pawn and then simply captures white’s pawns winning easily.
Chapter 7 All Other Piece Combinations
Tal – Trifunovic
Palma de Mallorca (5) 1966
Tal had to seal in this position and he played the best move beginning a ten move combination.
Here is a jointly composed study with one of the composers being Leopold Mitrofanov of Qg5!! fame. If the reader doesn’t know what I am on about, then look it up for a real treat – arguably one of the greatest studies ever.
1.Be4+ Kg3 2.Bf3! Kxf3 3.f7 Bd6+ 4.Kxd6 d1Q+ 5.Kc7!! Qxc2+ 6.Kd7 drawing (Black’s king is one square too far from the winning zone.)
Here is a superb study by Yochanan Afek.
1.b7 Qc6 2.Bd7! Qxd7 3.Rxe4+ (These checks avoid black’s stalemate defences, I will leave the reader to work them out) Ka5 4.Re5+ Kb6! (4…Ka6? 5.b8N+ wins) 5.b8Q+ Ka6
White is threatened with mate and has no checks. 6.Rb5!! Qxb5 7.Qa7#
Chapter 8 Composed Mates In Two
Here is a problem – white to play and mate in two moves.
1.Qf1! There are four different mates. I shall leave the reader to figure them out.
In summary, an excellent endgame coaching/training manual to improve your analytic powers with some instructive, beautiful and entertaining games, studies and problems.
FM Richard Webb, Chineham, Hampshire, 27th July 2021
“Grandmaster Grivas presents the reader an unique and massive amount of amazing puzzles including their historical background. All the most famous and rare tactical themes are covered, promising the read of the year!”
“Efstratios Grivas (30.03.1966) is a highly experienced chess trainer and chess author. He has been awarded by the International Chess Federation (FIDE) the titles of International Chess Grandmaster, FIDE Senior Trainer, International Chess Arbiter and International Chess Organiser.
His main successes over the board are the Silver Medal Olympiad 1998 (3rd Board), the Gold Medal European Team Championship 1989 (3rd Board) and the 4th Position World Junior Championship U.20 1985. He has also won 5 Balkan Medals (2 Gold – 1 Silver – 2 Bronze) and he was 3 times Winner of the International ‘Acropolis’ Tournament. He has also in his credit the 28 times first position in Greek Individual & Team Championships and he has won various international tournaments as well.
He was also been awarded five FIDE Meals in the Annual FIDE Awards (Winner of the FIDE Boleslavsky Medal 2009 & 2015 (best author) – Winner of the FIDE Euwe Medal 2011 & 2012 (best junior trainer) – Winner of the FIDE Razuvaev Medal 2014 (Trainers’ education) and has been a professional Lecturer at FIDE Seminars for Training & Certifying Trainers.
He has written 95 Books in Arabic, English, Greek, Italian, Spanish & Turkish. Since 2009 he is the Secretary of the FIDE Trainers’ Commission and since 2012 the Director of the FIDE Grivas Chess International Academy (Athens).”
This large tactical tome is action packed full of great tactics and some exciting, instructive games. It is an ideal companion for trainers and players who seek to develop their recognition of dozens of mating patterns. All these mating motifs are shown in constructed cut down diagrams followed by many different examples from real games with the checkmating ideas demonstrated with both colours and rotated to aid practising recognising them in different forms thus helping to form a kind of brain muscle memory for these crucial motifs.
The tactics are taken from a mixture of old classics and modern games.
I expect that most older players can remember going through many tactics/ puzzle books on their road to learning the game and this book is another excellent addition to this genre.
The book is divided into five parts:
Part 1 A Tactical World
Part 2 Tactical Play
Part 3 Basic Mates
Part 4 Combinative Mates (Queen & Rook)
Part 5 Combinative Mates (Bishop, Knight and Pawn)
Part 1 A Tactical World is a thoughtful introduction into the world of tactics with thoughts on Tactical Education and a brief history of the development of chess schools of thought.
Four very famous and brilliant games are then presented with objective modern analysis which points out not only the exciting attacking opportunities but also the defensive possibilities. The author is mindful of the fact that tactical patterns help defensive prowess as well as attacking acumen.
The four games are a mixture of old and new:
The Immortal Game Adolf Anderssen v Lionel Kieseritzky London 1851 (Offhand game)
The EverGreen Game Adolf Anderssen v Jean Dufresne Berlin 1852 (Offhand game)
The Rainbow Game Gregory Serper v Ioannis Nikolaisis St Petersburg 1993
The Chess Game Garry Kasparov v Veselin Topalov Wijk aan Zee 1999
I can remember playing through the two Adolf Anderssen games as a novice and being really impressed by the beautiful combinations and of the course the queen sacrifices. They are a must for any book on tactics.
The two modern games are also superb and are obviously of a much higher defensive standard than the games played in the 1850s.
Garry Kasparov’s win over Veselin Topalov is regarded by many people as his finest game.
The reviewer will not showcase these well known games here as experienced players will be well aware of them and new players should buy the book for a treat. However, I will whet your appetite by showing one position from the Rainbow Game:
White has sacrificed two pieces for a long term attack and two dangerous passed pawns. Black has just played 29…Qe8. How does white continue the attack?
Part 2 Tactical Play
This chapter examines various aspects of attacking play by presenting examples from real play:
Attack Via The Edged Files
Blocking the F6-Square
King In The Box
The King Hunt
The Novotny Interference
Defence & Counter-Attack
The section Attack Via The Edged Files discusses the opening of lines around the opponent’s king, typically the rook file and tactics associated therein.
Here is a nice tactic that could easily be missed in practice.
33…Ra3+! 34.Kxa3 Qa7+ 0-1 35.Kb3 Qa4#
The Blocking The F6 section has some entertaining attacking finishes. Here is a vintage Kasparov finish against his old rival Karpov:
22.Nf6+! Opening up the king (22…Kh8 23.Rh5! mates quickly) 22…gxf6 23.Qxh6 f5 24.Qg5+ Kh8 25.Qf6+ Kg8 26.Rxf5 Ne4
The King Hunt section reminds me of one of my favourite books as a junior player: The King Hunt by W.H. Cozens. Some of the games from that book are included here. I shall show one example here from Lodewijk Prins v Lawrence Day Lugano 1968:
White played the greedy 23.Ne1?? The punishment was a humiliating long, lonely walk to the scaffold for the white king. (23. Kf2 gxf3 24. Bxf3 is about equal) Rh1+ 24.Kf2 g3+! 25.Kxg3 Rxe1! 26.Qxe1 Qxg2+ 27.Kf4 g5+ 28.Ke5 Qe4+ 29.Kf6 (29.Kd6 Rc8 30. b4 Rc6#) Qf5+ 30.Kg7 Qg6+ 31.Kh8 0-0-0# 0-1
A Novotny interference is when the attacking side sacrifices a piece on a square where it can be taken by two different opponent’s pieces – whichever piece captures interferes with the other. Here is a Novotony example that was new to me:
White resigned here as he could not see any defence to 30…Rc1+ 31.Ke2 and 31…d1Q+ winning easily. What did he miss?
He could have won with 30.Rd6!! Rxd6 (30…cxd6 32.f7 wins) 31.g8=Q+ Kd7 32.Qf7+ Kc6 33.Qe8+ Kb6 34.Qe3! pinning the dangerous rook followed by taking it and f7 winning.
The section on the counterattack is didactic and shows some good examples. Here is a game Fischer-Gligoric from Varna 1962.
White clearly has had an initiative with active pieces but his attack has been halted and white’s exposed king will become a factor. His knight is also not really contributing much.
27…h6! (Stockfish prefers 27…Bb4 but also likes the move played) 28.Re3 Bb4 29.gxh6 Qxc2 30.Rg1 Kh7
31.Qg3 (31.Rxg6 does not work because white’s king is too exposed: 31…Kxg6 32. Rg3+ Kh7 33. Rg7+ Rxg7 34.hxg7 Qc1+ 35. Kg2 Qd2+ 36.Kf1 Kg6! wins) Rg8 32.e5
Bxc3! (stopping the knight from getting to g5) 33.Rxc3 Qe4+ 34.Rg2 Rd8! (Very strong, the counterattack is rolling) 35.Re3 Rd1+ 36.Kh2 Qb1 37.Qg4 (37.Rg1 Qxa2+ 38. Kh3 Rxg1 39.Qxg1 a4) Rh1+ 38.Kg3
Qc1? (38…Rh5! is more murderous 39.Qe4 Qc1 40.Rf3 Rd7 activating the other rook kills white) 39.Re4? (39.Qd4 is better) Rd7! Bringing up the reserves 40.Qe2 Qg5+ (40…Qxh6 is even more accurate but the game line is good enough) 41.Qg4 Rd3+ 42.Kf2 Rd2+ 43.Kg3 Rxg2+ 44.Kxg2 Qc1 0-1
Part 3 Basic Mates
As the title suggests, it covers basic checkmates. The chapter is divided into two sections covering the fundamental endgame mates with the pieces and common checkmates occurring at the beginning of the game.
A more experienced reader may think this section is too basic but you would be wrong as the author covers some pretty complex stuff in the endgame such as two knights against a pawn.
Grivas has an excellent section on the Bishop & Knight mate which is not trivial by any means. GM Vladimir Epishin failed to win this ending! I will confess that I had never heard of Delétang’s triangles although I am aware of the techniques to confine the king using triangles. I take my hat off the author for explaining the bishop and knight mate so clearly.
This is a surprising stalemate trap not mentioned in endgame manuals:
1…Nb6+? 2.Kd8! Oops black can only save his bishop by inflicting stalemate on white! A quick win was to be had: 1…Na5 2.Kd8 Ba4 3.Kc8 Bd7+ 4.Kb8 Kc6 5.Ka7 Bc8 6.Kb8 Kd7 7.Ka8 Kc7 8.Ka7 Nc6+ 9.Ka8 Bb7#
Some basic mates at the beginning of the game are covered such as Fool’s Mate, Scholar’s Mate and similar ideas. Importantly, the author considers the defences to Scholar’s mate. Some GM games are included!
Here is an example from a Greco game which is an offshoot of a foolhardy variation of Owen’s Defence.
Greco – NN
1.e4 b6 2.d4 Bb7 3.Bd3 f5?
4.exf5! Bxg2 5.Qh5+ g6 6.fxg6 Nf6
6…Bg7 is better, but there are two busts to this silly line:
7.gxh7+ Kf8 8.Qg6 or even better 7.Qf5! Nf6 8.Bh6!! Bxh6 9.gxh7 Bxh1 10.Qg6+ Kf8 11.Qxh6+ Kf7 12.Nh3! Qf8 13.Qg6+ Ke6 14.Nc3 d5 15.0-0-0 with a winning position
7.gxh7+! Nxh5 8.Bg6#
Part 4 Combinative Mates (Queen & Rook)
Although the author states in the introduction that knowing the names of the mates does not matter, I tend to disagree as a name gives some poetry. There are about 24 different types of mates in this chapter. The reviewer will show a few positions to give the reader a taste:
Here is a famous opening trap with Anastasia’s Mate:
12.Qh5! d5 (12…g6 13.Qh4 is nasty) 13.Qxh7!+ 1-0 (13…Kxh7 14.Rxh5#
The Arabian mate is a common mating motif:
Black’s a pawn is unstoppable, but white has seen further.
37.Qxf7! a1=Q+ 38.Kh2 and black’s extra queen cannot prevent the inevitable mate on h7! 38…Qxf7 39.Rxf7 b6 40,Rh7#
The back row mate (aka corridor mate) is probably one of the commonest tactical themes in chess:
Capablanca muffed the coup de grâce by playing 29.Qa8?? and black resigned obviously believing the future world champion. Black could have saved the game with 29…Rxa2!
White could have won with 29.Rxe8 or even simpler 29.Qb5! Rxb8 (29…c6 30.Rxe8 Qxe8 31.Qb8 Rc1+ 32.Kf2) 30.Qxb8 Kg8 31.Qb3+ or 31.Qa7
Here is another beautiful example of a back rate coupled with a self block mate:
White played 21.Qf5! (with a double threat on the black queen and h7) 21…Re6 (21…Qxf5 22.Rxe8#;Qa4 23.b3! Rxe4 24,bxa4 Re1+ 25.Bf1 wins;21…Qd8 22.Re7!! capturing the rook allows 23.Qxh7+ Kf8 24.Qh8#) 22.d5! Nxd3 23.dxe6 fxe6 24.Qxe6+ Qxe6 25.Rxe6 (25…Nxb2 26.Re7 wins by harvesting the black pawns) Kf7 26.Re2 1-0
No anthology of tactics would be complete without the Opera Mate:
Probably one of the most famous finishes 16.Qb8!+ Nxb8 17.Rd8#
This is an instructive example of Cozio’s Mate:
White looks to be in trouble here. However after 1.Qe7+ Qg5 (1…g5 2.Qe1+ Qg3+ 3.Qxg3#) 2.Qe4+ Qg4 3.Qe3!! black is in zugzwang and will be mated.
Here is an example of Marshall’s mate from a modern game:
White played 36.Ne2?? (36.Qxd1 Rf2 37.Qf1 Rxf1 38.Rxf1 wins as a rook and three pieces will overcome a queen and 3 pawns) overlooking 36…Rf1+ 37.Kxf1 Qf2#
Part 5 Combinative Mates (Bishop, Knight & Pawn)
There are about 11 different types of mates in this chapter. The reviewer will show a few positions to give the reader a taste:
Here is the original Boden’s Mate:
13…d5! 14.Bxd5 Qxc3+ 15.bxc3 Ba3#
Here is an example of the Pony Express mate from Joseph Blackburne:
White appears to have plenty of pieces round his king, but 20…Qg2+! 21.Rxg2 Nh3# is a pretty mate
Here is a example of the Suffocation Mate deep in the ending:
White has just played 84.h7! and black resigned. After 84…Kg7 85.h8Q+! Kxh8 86.Bh6 the black king is trapped in the corner. White mates with the moves 87.Bf8 followed by 88.Kg5, 89.Kh6 and 90.Bg7#
In summary, I recommend this book as an excellent training manual for practising pattern recognition of common mating patterns.
To make the book even better, I would have added a short section on common tactical motifs such as forks, skewers & pins.
FM Richard Webb, Basingstoke, Hampshire, 20th July 2021
Book Details :
Hardcover : 450 pages
Publisher:Thinkers Publishing; 1st edition (1 Mar. 2019)
“If you had to choose a single luxury chess item to take to a desert island, then how about this: a superb selection of 400 puzzles to solve? Each author has carefully chosen 100 original positions, graded by difficulty and theme into four sections of 25. The emphasis throughout is on entertainment, instruction and inspiration. The solutions pinpoint lessons to be learnt and explain why plausible but incorrect solutions fail.”
“This book is written by an all-star team of authors. Wesley So is the reigning Fischer Random World Champion, the 2017 US Champion and the winner of the 2016 Grand Chess Tour. Michael Adams has been the top British player for the last quarter of a century and was a finalist in the 2004 FIDE World Championship. John Nunn is a three-time winner of both the World Solving Championship and the British Chess Federation Book of the Year Award. Graham Burgess is Gambit’s Editorial Director and the author of 30 books.”
Each author supplies 100 puzzles broken up into four chapters which progressively get harder. There are a few specialist chapters such as Graham Burgess’ Opening Themes which is one of my favourite parts.
The reviewer will kick-off by demonstrating some of the puzzle posers from Michael Adams’ section.
Black has just moved his to queen to h5 to offer the exchange of queens. What did he miss?
Solution: Black overlooked the stunning rejoinder: 14.Nd5! winning the bishop on e7. Black cannot move his queen to defend the bishop. If black tries 14…Qxd1, the intermezzo 15.Nxe7+ followed by recapturing the queen, wins a piece. Black cannot retreat the bishop with 14…Bd8 as 15.Nxf6+ followed by 16.Qxh5 wins black’s queen.
The next position reminds the reviewer of a game he won with this tactical idea in an early club match as a junior.
White has just played Ra5 going after the a-pawn. What did he overlook?
Adams unleashed the devastating 37…Ne3+ exploiting the seventh rook for his rook. After 38. fxe3 Rb2+ white resigned because of 39. Kh3 Qxf3 40. Qc8+ Kh7 followed by a quick massacre of the white king.
In the next position, white has a clear advantage with a big lead in development. White played 20.Qd7 and won easily. Can you spot a quicker and more elegant route to victory?
20. Re8+ Bxe8 21.Qg3+ kills black prettily on the diagonals 21…Qe5 22.Qxe5#
In the next position, black is threatening the brutal Rc1#. How does white get the knife in first?
White wins with a common mating pattern: 42.Rh7+ Kxh7 43.Nf6+ Kh8 44.Rg8#
This next position was from a marathon blitz game. White has slowly edged his pawns forward and has just played 215. Re4. What was black’s response to abruptly end the game?
Peter Leko found the incisive 215…Qf7+ 216.Kxf7 stalemate, ending the torture.
In the next puzzle, black has just played Rd8. What was white’s crisp response?
Nigel Short, a brilliant tactician, missed a golden opportunity here. What is white’s best move?
The rampant white knights stomp all over black with 19.Nd6! threatening 20.Nxc6+ and Nf7+ 19…Nd5 (19…Qxd6 20. Nf7+ wins the queen, or 19…cxd6 20.Nc6+ Kd7 21.Nxb8+ also captures the queen) 20.Nxc6+ Kd7 21.Nxb8+ Kxd6 22. Qa3+ c5 23. Bd2 white has a material advantage and a virulent attack.
The next position shows a classic over press in a drawn ending. White has just played his queen from b8 to b2. How did black punish this careless move?
Black used the power of his centralised steed to fork the queen with the knight 65…Re3+! 0-1 After 66.Qxe3 Nc4+ snares the lady, 66. Kd1 Re1+ also captures the queen, similarly 66.Kf1 Re1+ wins
Black has just played the active Rd2. How did white exploit this?
26. Rxe6! exploits the weak back rank. 1-0 as 26…Rxf2 27.Re8# & 26…fxe6 27.Qf8#
In this next position white baled out with a perpetual. How could white win with a beautiful geometrical sequence?
47.Qd7+ Kg6 48.f5+ Qxf5 black’s queen blocks his own king 49.Qg7+ Kh5 50.g4+ Qxg4 once again the queen gets in the way 51.Qh7# Very pretty
The next section is by John Nunn who is a brilliant problem solver having won the world problem solving championship three times. I shall show a couple of beautiful studies from his chapter on Advanced Tactics, Endings And Studies.
White to play and win.
1.Rc1+! The obvious 1.a8=Q+ loses to 1…Kg1 2.Rc1+ Qf1+! 3.Rxf1+ Kxf1 4.Qa6+ Kg1 5.Qg6+ Rg2 6.Qf6 otherwise the pawn queens 6…Rf2+ skewers the queen and wins
1…Qf1+!! (1…Kg2 2.a8=Q+ Qf3+ 3.Qxf3+ Kxf3 4.Rc3+ Ke2 5.Ra3 and white wins the rook ending) 2.Rxf1+ Kg2
3.Rh1!! (Deflecting either the black king or rook to an inferior square, 3.a8=Q+ loses as above) 3…Kxh1 (3…Rxh1 4. a8=Q+ Kh2 5. Qh8+ followed by Qg8+ winning the dangerous black pawn and the game) 4.a8=Q+ Kg1 (4…Rg2 5.Qh8+ Kg1 6.a6 wins) 5.Qg8+ Rg2 6. Qh8 stopping the pawn and white wins
Here is another brilliant problem. I could not solve this one, but just sit back and enjoy!
e7 cxb1=Q 2. e8=Q Nf3+! (To give access to h7 for a black queen) 3. Nxf3 Qh7+ 4. Kg3 b1=Q Black seems to have everything under control with the two queens poised to kill
5.Qe4!! Putting white’s queen en prise and forking the two queens. Black cannot take the queen because of a deadly rook check. 5…Qg1+ (5…Qg7+ 6.Ng5+ Qxe4 7.Rd1+ mates) 6.Nxg1 Qxe4 7.Nf3 black has no decent check to avoid mate. 7…Qxf3+ 8.Kxf3 with an easy RvN winning ending as black’s king is stuck in the corner, separated from the knight, for example 8…Nb7 9.Rd7 Nc5 10.Rd5 Ne6 11.Kg3 mating.
Section three is by Graham Burgess. The Opening Themes chapter is an instructive set of puzzles based on tactical possibilities in the opening. The reviewer had not seen these exact positions before, but a lot of the themes are common ideas and traps in the opening.
Black has just played the active and provactive Nb4. How should white deal with the threat to the d-pawn?
9.c3! Nbxd5 10. e4 and the knight is lost. 9.e4 is also good based on the same idea.
A typical position from the Sicilian. Black has just kicked the bishop with h6, before deciding how to complete his development. How does white cut across this plan?
10.Ndxb5! axb5 11.Nxb5 threatening Nd6# d5 12.Bf4! targeting the weak d6 and c7 squares 12…e5 13.exd5 exf4 14.dxc6 Nxc6 15.Re1+ Be7 16.Nd6+ Kf8 17.Nxb7 winning a couple of pawns
Black has just left his d-pawn en prise. Can white take it?
No. After 6.Nxd5?? Nxd5 7.Qxd5 c6! white cannot prevent Qa5+ picking up the bishop on g5. Strange error considering that this was a postal game!
This is a Modern Defence. Black has just unmasked his fianchettoed bishop with Nfd7. White can refute this outright. How?
Finally an old trap in the Slav Defence. White has just played 12.e4. What is black’s surprising reply?
12…Nc5!! 13.dxc5 dxe4 14.Qxd8 (14.Qe3 exf3 is bad for white as well) Rfxd8 white loses back the piece and will be a pawn down 15.Na4 (15.Nxe4 Nxe4 16.Be3 Nxc5 and 15.Be3 exf3 16.gxf3 Rd3 leave black in a superb position) 15…exf3 16.Rfd1 Rd3 with a huge plus.
Finally, I will show a complex king and pawn ending given by Wesley So. Black to play – how does he capitalise on his better pawn structure and better king?
The first few moves are obvious 31…Kg6 32.Ke2 Kg5 33.Kf3 f5 34.gxf5
Now what should black play?
Buy the book to find out.
In summary, this is a superb puzzle book with a varied pot-pourri of problems such as opening traps, pure tactics, attacking ideas, defensive ideas, endings, and studies with a varying degree of difficulty to suit all standards. An excellent book for not just junior training but for players of all standards to hone their tactical skills.
FM Richard Webb, Chineham, Hampshire, 30th April 2021
Book Details :
Hardcover :320 pages
Publisher: Gambit Publications Ltd (16 Dec. 2020)
Product Dimensions: 17.15 x 1.65 x 24.77 cm
This physical book is also available as an eBook and as an App book from Gambit.
A Modern Guide to Checkmating Patterns : Vladimir Barsky
From the book’s rear cover :
“Giving mate is the ultimate goal of every chess player. Finding that all-decisive combination is immensely satisfying. But how are you supposed to spot a checkmate when you are sitting at the board with the clock ticking?
In this guide International Master Vladimir Barsky teaches the method created by his mentor Viktor Khenkin (1923-2010). It’s based on an ingenious classification of the most frequently occurring mating schemes. A wide range of chess players will find it an extremely useful tool to recognize mating patterns and calculate the often narrow path to the kill.
All the 1,000 examples (850 of them in exercise format) that Barsky presents are from games played in 21st century. He has carefully selected the most instructive combinations and lucidly explains the typical techniques to corner your opponent’s king. More often than you would expect, positions that look innocent at first sight, turn out to contain a mating pattern. This is not just another book full of chess puzzles.
It’s a brilliantly organized course that has proven to be effective. Finding mate isn’t rocket science, but you need to know what to look for. Vladimir Barsky teaches you exactly that.”
“Vladimir Barsky (1969) is an International Master, an experienced chess coach and a well-known journalist and author. He lives in Moscow.”
I’ve been thinking a lot recently about the difference between instructing novices and experts.
You might find this chart (source) helpful. It’s from an education blog but there’s some chess there as well!
Let’s assume that a novice has a rating below 1000 and an expert has a rating of 2000 or over. There’s also a rather large area in between the two, which would include most competitive players, for whom you’d use a combination of the two approaches.
A novice, then, learns best through explicit instruction and worked examples. Just as you probably learnt maths at school. You learn something specific, hold your teacher’s hand while she demonstrates how to do it, then go away and try it out for yourself. You will then receive feedback on how well you have done and transfer your new found knowledge and skills from short-term to long-term memory.
Learning skills such as playing a new opening or winning a rook ending with an extra pawn, will require personalised feedback, but tactics can be taught through books or apps: you solve a puzzle on a specific theme and find out whether or not you have the correct answer.
Tactics books and, these days, apps, are rightly popular. You might, in general, think of books where each chapter concerns a specific subject to be ‘novice’ books while books with random examples where you don’t know what you’re going to get next (just as in a game) to be ‘expert’ books. But within each of these categories there are easier and harder books. Players rated between 1000 and 2000 will probably benefit most from a mixture of harder ‘novice’ books and easier ‘expert’ books.
A basic knowledge of checkmate patterns is essential for every serious player, and all chess libraries should contain at least one book on the subject. Even though most games at higher levels end in resignation, and, at lower levels, in very simple checkmates, a knowledge of these patterns plays a part in every kingside attack. You might not force mate, but your opponent may have to give up material to avoid it.
Let’s see what the author has to say in his foreword.
“The remarkable trainer and Soviet Master of Sport, Viktor Lvovich Khenkin (1923-2010), proposed systematizing mating schemes or ‘pictures’ by reference to the piece or pawn which brought the mate to its conclusion. It turned out that there were not so many of these schemes – about a hundred basic ones – and about 20 or 30 which occur in the great majority of mating combinations. These can be remembered even by an inexperienced player: ‘it’s not rocket science’, as the popular saying runs.
Khenkin was a mentor and colleague of the author and a number of other celebrated chess writers and journalists.
“This book A Modern Guide to Checkmating Patterns is divided into ten chapters: first, we present schemes and examples with explanations, and then positions for independent solving. These number 851.”
Excellent pedagogic principles. We have a total of 1000 positions, all taken from 21st century games, most of which will probably be new to you, so you won’t see the same tired old examples repeated by many authors. The chapters, in turn, feature, the rook, the queen, the minor pieces and pawns, two rooks, rook and bishop, rook and knight, queen and bishop, queen and knight, queen and rook, and, finally, three pieces. In each chapter you work through some examples with the author holding your hand before being let loose to solve some puzzles on your own. As you know what you’re looking for, most of these will not be too difficult for experienced players. Most of the positions are not forced mates, but positions in which mate threats will lead to material gain.
Here, from the game Barsky – Logunov (Moscow 2004) in Chapter 1, is the author himself in action:
White’s position looks critical since the bishop cannot retreat because of mate on d1, whilst exchanging on f4 leads to the loss of the c4-pawn. But there is an unexpected tactical blow…
37. R5xb6! a5
Mate results from 37… axb6 38. Ra8+.
Black’s misfortunes continue – again he cannot take the rook because of 39. Ra8+.
38… Ka3 39. Rb3+
He could also win with 39. R4b5+ Ka4 40. Ra8 with mate in a few moves.
39… Ka4 40. Rxf3 Rxd6 41. Rxf4 1-0
My next example is from Chapter 7 (queen and bishop mates). It’s Black’s move in Kamsky – Svidler (Khanty-Mansiysk 2011).
White has an extra rook but it is Black to play. He could take either of the two attacked white pieces, but in that case, White gets a valuable tempo to beat off the attack, e.g. 26… Rxb8 27. Be3 or 26… Qxh6 27. Nc6,and the knight cannot be driven away, because the square e6 is attacked by the white bishop.
A very beautiful idea by the St Petersburg GM. Now after 27. Qxe2 Qg3 mate is inevitable. But why not the immediate 26… Qg3? In this case the knight retreat (27. Nc6) allows the key diagonal to be blocked.
27. Qc3 Rxf2 28. Nc6 Rxf1+
White resigned (29. Kxf1 Qf2#)
Finally, a beautiful finish from West London Chess Club’s Mark Lyell (Lyell – Bradac Zdar nad Sazavou 2010)
With three successive sacrifices, White underlines the vulnerability of the enemy king, trapped in the centre:
17. Rxe5! dxe5 18. Bxa5! Qxa5
Otherwise he is mated on d8.
The final blow. Black resigned: after any reasonable reply, he is mated by 20. Nc7.
All serious chess players should have at least one book concerning checkmating patterns in their library. This book is an excellent example of the genre. The author knows exactly what he’s doing and why he’s doing it: something that can’t be said for the majority of instructional chess books. Furthermore, most of the examples will be unfamiliar to most readers.
My impression was that the puzzles were, by and large, easier than the worked examples: perhaps this was deliberate.
This is ‘novice’ rather than ‘expert’ tuition in that it trains specific skills and provides hints to help you solve the puzzles, but at the same time it’s not a book for beginners: there’s an assumption that you are already reasonably proficient at calculating and spotting checkmates. If you’re rated anywhere between about 1250 and 2000 and want to improve your attacking skills you’ll find this book invaluable. In addition, it provides useful coaching materials for anyone teaching students at this level. Stronger players might also want to use it as a refresher course.
You can also, if you choose, just sit back and enjoy 1000 21st century examples of brilliant and beautiful sacrificial chess.
Highly recommended, then, for all chess players who enjoy attacking the enemy king.
Cyrus Lakdawala is an IM and former US Open Champion who teaches chess and has written over 25 books on chess openings.
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.)
Forcing Chess Moves : The Key to Better Calculation : Charles Hertan
From the publisher :
“Charles Hertan is a FIDE master from Massachusetts with several decades of experience as a chess coach. He is the author of the bestselling Power Chess for Kids series. Joel Benjamin broke Bobby Fischer’s record as the youngest ever US master. He won the US Championship three times and has been a trainer for more than two decades. His book Liquidation on the Chess Board won the 2015 Best Book Award of the Chess Journalists of America (CJA). His latest book is the highly acclaimed Better Thinking, Better Chess.”
From the book’s rear cover :
“Why is it that the human brain so often refuses to consider winning chess tactics? Every chess fan marvels at the wonderful combinations with which famous masters win their games. How do they find those fantastic moves? Do they have special vision? And why do computers outwit us tactically? Forcing Chess Moves proposes a revolutionary method for finding winning moves.
Charles Hertan has made an astonishing discovery: the failure to consider key moves is often due to human bias. Your brain tends to disregard many winning moves because they are counter-intuitive or look unnatural. Its a fact of life: computers outdo us humans when it comes to tactical vision and brute force calculation. So why not learn from them? Charles Hertan’s radically different approach is: use COMPUTER EYES and always look for the most forcing move first.
By studying forcing sequences according to Hertan’s method you will: Develop analytical precision; Improve your tactical vision; Overcome human bias and staleness; Enjoy the calculation of difficult positions; Win more games by recognizing moves that matter. This New and Extended Fourth Edition of Hertan’s award-winning modern classic includes 50 extra pages with new and instructive combinations.
There is a foreword by three-time US chess champion Joel Benjamin, and a special foreword to this new edition by Swedish Grandmaster Pontus Carlsson. Charles Hertan is a FIDE master from Massachusetts with several decades of experience as a chess coach. He is the author of the bestselling Power Chess for Kids series.”
You might think a chess puzzle book is just that, but there are many ways of going about it.
Are you going to write a text book or an exercise book? Or perhaps a text book with exercises to reinforce the lessons in the text?
Are you going to deal with puzzles winning material, checkmate puzzles, or perhaps positional sacrifices?
Are you going to provide practical advice to your readers about how to find tactics in their own games, or are you simply content to let the positions you demonstrate serve as an inspiration?
How are you going to order it? By tactical device? By level of difficulty? By pieces sacrificed? By squares on which sacrifices are played? Alphabetically: by player? Chronologically: by date?
What level are you aiming it at? Novices? Club players? Experts? Masters?
Most importantly, perhaps, what’s your USP? How are you going to stand out from the crowd?
This is the fourth edition, so Charles Hertan’s book has certainly proved popular (I’d previously read the first edition) and rightly so as well. Everyone enjoys a good puzzle book and this is one of the best on the market.
Let’s take a look inside.
Chapter 1 is about Stock Forcing Moves.
It’s immediately clear that readers should already be very familiar with basic tactical ideas: forks, pins, discovered attacks, deflections and so on. They should also be aware of the concept of what Hertan calls Stock ideas: common ideas which you will gradually become aware of as you look at more and more tactical exercises.
So it’s very much a book for club standard players rather than a book for novices.
This, for example is a common idea. White won with 1. Rxf7+!! Rxf7 2. Qxh6+!! Kg8 3. Qh8+! when White emerges two pawns up (Gallagher – Curran Lyon 1993).
At the end of every chapter you’ll find some puzzles to test your growing tactical skills.
Chapter 2 moves onto Stock Mating Attacks . The same sort of thing, but this time we’re mating our opponents rather than just winning material.
Chapter 3 is Brute Force Combinations. Hertan rightly observes that tactical skill combines two elements, depth and breadth of vision, a point missed by many authors and teachers. This chapter is about depth of vision. “Accurate brute force analysis”, according to the author, “is the single most important chess skill”. I wouldn’t disagree: I’d just add that you will often need to be able to assess the final position accurately: analysis = calculation + assessment.
This is where things start getting difficult.
A typical example.
Here’s Hertan’s commentary on the conclusion of Alatortsev – Boleslavsky (Moscow 1950).
“Black is able to parlay a fleeting advantage in activity into a stunning brute force win:
1… Bh3! 2. f4!
The natural 2. Rfe1 fails to 2… Rxf2! 3. Kxf2 Qe3#.
Since 2… Qc5 3. Rf2 holds, Black had to seek a creative solution, maintaining the initiative.
3. fxg5 Rxe2 4. Qc3 Bg2! 5. Qd3
There’s no time for 5. Re1 Bh3! and, at the right moment, … Rxe1+ and Rf1+! with a winning ending.
Not 5… Rff2 6. Re1!.
White has no good answer to 6… Rg2+, e.g. 6. Kf1 Rxh2; or 6. Qd4 Rg2+ 7. Kf1 c5 8. Qxd6 Bc6+ 9. Ke1 Rg1+ 10. Ke2 Rxa1 11. Qe6+ Rf7.
6… Rg2+ 7. Kh1 Bc6!
A beautiful quiet forcing move; not 7… Rd2? 8. Rxf3 with drawing chances.
8. Rxf8+ Kxf8 9. Qf1+ Rf2+ 0-1”
You’ll see that some of the examples aren’t easy to solve from the diagram. You need what Hertan calls excellent ‘computer eyes’ to calculate accurately that far ahead.
The remainder of the book is devoted to improving your move selection by overcoming human bias. The point is sometimes made that the difference between experts and masters is not so much that they think further ahead, or that they consider more moves, but that they consider better moves. Hertan believes that we often miss the best moves because of cognitive bias. Computers, of course, don’t have this problem.
Chapter 4 looks at Surprise Forcing Moves. These fall into two categories: moves that look impossible and moves that appear unusual or antipositional.
This is from Vetemaa – Shabalov (Haapsalu 1986).
Here, Black found the ‘impossible’ 1… Qb5!!, leaving the queen en prise to two pieces, but spotting that, if either piece takes, the other is pinned so 2… Nb3 is mate.
White has to prevent Qb2# and 2. b4 loses to Nb3+. The game continued 2. Rd2 Nxc3 3. Qxc3 Nxb3+ 0-1.
Chapter 5 is about ESTs: Equal or Stronger Threats. When your opponent makes a threat it’s natural only to consider defensive moves. Sometimes your best option will be to create an equal or stronger threat, but cognitive bias makes these moves hard to find.
Chapter 6 looks for Quiet Forcing Moves, which are again easy to miss. I’m not sure that I’d call a move threatening mate ‘quiet’, though. I guess it all depends what you mean by the word.
Chapter 7 brings us onto Forcing Retreats. Again, when you’re attacking, human bias tend to lead you towards looking at forward rather than backward moves.
From Filguth – De la Garza (Mexico 1980):
“Are your computer eyes sufficiently trained to find the wondrous shot 1. Qh1!! and the two brute force variations that make it the strongest attacking move on the board?”
1… Qh5 would be met by g4 as the h-pawn is guarded, while 1… Qf6, the move played over the board, was met by 2. Bg5! 1-0 because, after 2… hxg5 hxg5, the white queen breaks through to h7.
You’ll realise at this point that there’s considerable overlap between chapters: Qh1 might be seen as a Surprise Forcing Move or a Quiet Forcing Move as well as a Forcing Retreat.
Chapter 8 offers Zwischenzugs: intermediate moves in which, instead of playing an automatic recapture, you find something stronger to do first. There are similarities here with ESTs here: again, human bias will lead you towards taking back without stopping to think about it.
Defensive Forcing Moves are the subject of Chapter 9: these might be moves using tactical force to refute a dangerous but unsound attack, or counterattacking moves, where the defender suddenly turns into the attacker.
Chapter 10 brings us to Endgame Forcing Moves, although Hertan’s definition of endgame is not the same as mine, including, as it does, positions where each side has queen, rook and minor piece.
Chapter 11, Intuition and Creativity, sums everything up. According to Hertan there are five factors which will enable you to develop master intuition: a strong knowledge of stock tactics, hard work in calculating variations, creativity, courage and practical experience and wisdom.
Chapter 12 is a final set of exercises, and Chapter 13 gives you the Hertan Hierarchy, a tool for teaching better calculation skills, which you might see as a flowchart to help you find the best move.
This isn’t the only way to write about tactics, and I’m not convinced that Hertan’s methods are as revolutionary as the publisher claims. Teaching students to look for checks, captures and threats dates back, I think, to Reinfeld and Purdy in the 1930s. I’ve always taught my pupils to use a CCTV to look at the board: look for Checks, Captures, Threats and Violent moves. What he adds, and I’m not sure how original this is, and whether it’s any more than common sense, is to advise you to analyse the most forcing moves first, no matter how foolish they might appear. The idea of using protocols to find the best move and avoid missing tactics dates back at least to Kotov in Think Like a Grandmaster. Some players, including this reviewer, find protocols helpful in some situations, but others strongly dislike the whole idea.
You might also find the continual repetition of the phrase ‘Computer Eyes’ rather grating, and the language at times over hyperbolic. On the other hand, many readers like this style of writing.
But everyone loves tactics books full of beautiful, surprising, creative and imaginative moves, and this book is perhaps the best on the market in that respect. The author has spent decades collecting positions of this nature, and his experience and enthusiasm shines through every page.
It’s not a book for novices. You need a basic grounding in tactics and thinking skills, along with the understanding that most tactics don’t involve sacrifices or surprise moves, that most sacrifices you’ll consider in your games will be unsound, and that, at least at amateur level, more games are lost by unsound sacrifices than won by sound sacrifices (although many games at all levels are won by unsound sacrifices). But anyone from, say, 1400 or so upwards, will be enchanted and inspired by the hundreds of examples of spectacular play to be found here. They’ll also enjoy the exercises and find at least some of the advice, particularly, perhaps, about avoiding cognitive bias when selecting moves to analyse, helpful.
While the teaching methods might not suit all readers, you won’t be disappointed by the contents.
Richard James, Twickenham 1st December 2020
Book Details :
Paperback : 432 pages
Publisher: New In chess; New and Extended 4th ed. edition (16 Aug. 2019)
Romain Édouard (born 28 November 1990) is a French grandmaster and is Editor-in-Chief of Thinkers Publishing. Édouard has played for the French national team at the Olympiads of 2010, 2012, 2014 and 2018, won several major tournaments including equal first place in the 2015 World Open and Montreal Open 2015.
We previously reviewedChess Calculation Training : Volume 3 : Legendary Games by the same author and were impressed (although the content was aimed at more experienced and higher rated players.)
As with every recent Thinkers Publishing publication high quality paper is used and the printing is clear. We were hoping that the excellent glossy paper of previous titles would be used but never mind.
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.
There is no index. However, for a tactics books this is less crucial. However, some readers might wish to list tactics from particular players…
We have reviewed several tactics books in the last few months and this one from GM Romain Edouard competes in the busy improving juniors and club players market.
There is another market sometimes not considered as important which is the adult player who does not play OTB (who does right now?) or even online but does enjoy solving chess problems : this book will satisfy these readers.
Noteworthy is the absence of patronising cartoons which can put off the more serious juniors and adults. For very young players these are fine but for probably 10 year olds plus these (IMHO) are not welcome.
The main content is divided into eight chapters :
Check & Mate
Check, Check & Mate
A Few Checks & Mate
Trap Your Opponents King
Hit the Defender
A Nasty Double Threat
An Unexpected Blow
A Few More Problems
Having scanned the index I was immediately drawn to Chapter 5 to look for unusual methods for the attacker!
However, Chapter 1 is (usually) the best place to start and consists of 48 carefully selected (i.e. a unique solution) mates in two, the first move always being a check.
Here is a nice example :
Nezhmetdinov, R – Kotkov, Y
The solutions are grouped together at the end of each chapter avoiding the annoyance of stumbling into the solution when it appears on the same page.
You won’t need it but the solution to #8 is given as :
25. Re8+! Qxe8
25…Bxe8 26.Qg8# 26.Qxf6#
(for the history fans amongst us the above game was played at the 17th RSFSR Championship, Krasnodar, 1957.)
Chapter 2 contains 52 mates in three with all three attacker moves being check.
Chapter 3 ramps up the challenge with 40 examples of increasing number of checks to a maximum of 7. Here is a rather satisfying example from the 1987 New York Open. The attacker’s chess career was tragically cut short at the age of 22. He played this mating attack when eleven years old :
Waitzkin, J – Frumkin, E
Mate in 7
The solution (should you need it) is at the foot of this review.
You might be thinking “if all the moves are check then the task is made easier”. Of course but this is a training book and the logical approach of Edouard provides for increasing the confidence of the student incrementally.
Chapter 4 (Trap Your Opponent’s King) serves up 32 positions in which the first move is quite often not a check but winning, nonetheless. Finding winning “quiet moves” is a skill level that is quite often beyond the less experienced or lower rated player and deserves serious study.
I particularly liked this example :
Ulibin,M – Mesman,E
Chapter 5 (Hit the Defender) contains 40 of perhaps the most pleasing (to me at least) combinations. Each features some kind of deflection or distraction such as this rather jolly example from 1964 :
Wiler – Hell
A hard example !
I was curious as to the source of this game and determined (with the valuable assistance of Leonard Barden) that the game was :
Following on from this Chapter 6 contains 16 examples of “A Nasty Double Threat” in which the attacker makes a move that threatens a simultaneous forced mate and the win of material.
Difficult to chose but #5 appealed in a satisfying way :
Jansen,I = Asenova,V
The penultimate chapter promises 32 tales of the unexpected with “An Unexpected Blow” : nothing to do with The Italian Job.
Essentially, this group of positions feature some kind of sacrifice that explodes the defender’s position. Some great examples and this one is from Wijk aan Zee, 1991 that GM Ben Finegold would surely enjoy !
Khalifman, A – Seirawan, Y
Finally, Chapter 8 (A Few More Problems) contains 16 positions that could not be categorised in the previous 7 chapters.
I’ve selected the final one for your entertainment :
Abasov, N – Kantor, G
Find the killer move for White!
I hope you enjoyed those!
So, in summary we have 48+52+40+32+40+16+32+16=276 positions including both classics and contemporary with a whole range of themes suitable for improving and advanced juniors and club players. The presentation is excellent and the solutions clear. I found one typographical error (hxg4 instead of fxg4) and one position incorrectly attributed.
As a coach I am looking to unleashing these on my students. I’ve recommended this book to their parents without hesitation and am looking forward to Level 2 and beyond.
Chess parents take note !
John Upham, Cove, Hampshire, 8th October, 2020
Book Details :
Hardcover : 152 pages
Publisher:Thinkers Publishing; 1 edition (19 May 2020)
Grandmaster Thomas Luther, born in 1969, is the first player with a disability to have entered the FIDE Top 100 rating list. In 2001 he was ranked 80th in the world. He has won the German Championship three times and is well known as an experienced and successful coach. In 2014 his achievements were recognised by being granted the title of FIDE Senior Trainer. In his career to-date he has published several books and DVDs. This is his second book for Thinkers’ Publishing, after a co-production with Jugend Schach Verlag entitled “Chess Coaching for Kids – the U10 Project.”
As with every recent Thinkers Publishing publication high quality paper is used and the printing is clear. In fact, for this particular title we have been treated with pleasing glossy paper that gives the book a higher quality feel than usual.
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.
There is no index which, unfortunately, is a standard omission of Thinkers Publishing books. Also missing is a bibliography. However, for a tactics books these items are less crucial, of course. A biography or autobiography would miss these things.
The main content is divided into sixteen chapters :
Exercises & Mazes
Checkmate & Advantage
The Winning Move!
Rules & Behaviour
Find Checkmate in Two Moves!
Double Attack / Fork
The Knight and his Forks
How to Handle a Pin
The Overload Motif
History of Chess & Checkmate
We have reviewed several tactics books in the last few months and this one from Thomas Luther is really rather interesting. It would appear to have at least two clear target audiences : improving and ambitious juniors and also club players perhaps less than 1900 Elo.
The chapters on Exercises and Mazes and Little Games appeal to myself as a chess teacher and coach since these ideas are rarely presented by GMs. For example :
The rook has to give check to the black King.
He cannot move to a square where he be captured.
He cannot capture pawns, even if they are unprotected.
Make a guess how many moves are needed?
The “Little” Games (most western coaches would refer to these as “Mini” Games) is refreshing and entertaining :
In this position the pawns can overwhelm the bishop!
Following these interesting chapters we move on to more conventional themed tactics problems designed to build-up patterns that are recognizable. Each position has solution text that is aimed at junior and improving players reinforcing what (hopefully) has been learnt.
Chapter 6 (Rules & Behaviour) is somewhat unusual. Etiquette and basic playing advice is rarely discussed but again the focus is improving players. This sort of advice is regularly handed out by teachers and coaches but rarely found in print.
One of the more innovative features of the book are positions in which there is a win depending on who it is to move. Chapter 7 (Find Checkmate in Two Moves!) kicks off this notion and here is an example (there should be both a White and Black to move indicator) :
Before you ask, yes, most of these positions are concocted but that is irrelevant to the teaching aims of the examples.
One pleasing aspect of the bulk of the “normal” tactics chapters is that diagrams are large enough not to need a board and that, as a consequence, one can get a rhythm going almost akin to a “Puzzle Rush” ! Using a stopwatch also is not so silly.
Chapter 16 (History of Chess & Checkmate) will be of interest to perhaps more mature players and takes positions and puts them into a real life context about players current and past.
Not all books that are reviewed are going to be read cover to cover, but we did enjoy working through the examples. We’d say that an improving junior maybe 10+ in years will take to this book and get a lot from it. We are pleased that this book is free of silly cartoons which tend to put off serious juniors. When will publishers realise that cartoons do not enhance a chess book? The presentation is excellent and the material is fun to work on ! Highly recommended : chess parents take note.
John Upham, Cove, Hampshire, 28th May, 2020
Book Details :
Hardcover : 325 pages
Publisher:Thinkers Publishing; 1 edition (19 May 2020)
FIDE Master Graham Burgess needs no introduction to readers of English language chess books ! Minnesota, USA based, Graham has authored more than twenty five books and edited at least 250 and is editorial director of Gambit Publications Ltd. In 1994 Graham set a world record for marathon blitz playing and has been champion of the Danish region of Funen !
Readers may remember “101 Chess Opening Surprises” published in 1998, also by Gambit Publications, was well received and added to GKBs reputation for originality, accuracy and encyclopedic knowledge of openings.
Chess Opening Traps for Kids is the ninth in a series of “for Kids” books and is robustly (!) hardbound in a convenient size such that weights are not need to keep it propped open (unlike some A5 paperbacks) meaning studying with this book is more convenient than with many books. The layout and printing is clear (as you would expect with Gambit) with numerous diagrams. In essence, players under 18 (for whom this book is intended) will find it easy to dip in out of and it can be used without a board (although BCN would always recommend following each game on a “proper” board).
As you would expect with Gambit, the notation is English short form algebraic using figurines for pieces. Each diagram has coordinates and a “whose move it is indicator” (thank-you Gambit !); welcome for the intended junior readership.
This book follows on from the highly regarded (2018) Chess Opening Traps for Kids from the same author and reviewed here
The author divides the material into 11 chapters titled as follows :
Hunting the King
Development and the Centre
Does Bxh7+ Work?
This is not a book about openings per se. It focuses more on tactics and traps and tactical ideas that happen very early in many games. It is not organised on a per opening variation basis and neither is there an index of openings. If that is what you want then this is not the right book for you.
However, this is much, much more than a book about openings…
Chapters 2 – 9 each kick-off with an introduction to the chapter’s theme followed by (in some cases) 60 example test positions where the theme can be exploited by an accurate move sequence : the student is invited to work-out this sequence. The chapter ends with detailed solutions to each test position.
Chapter 10 are exercises using any of the themes in the previous chapters but randomised and without any clue as to what the theme is. In general these are more challenging and serve as a test of what should have been learnt so far !
Chapter 11 contains 40 test positions some according to theme and rest without a clue. Following the solutions the student is invited to assess their strength at these exercises using a simple score table.
Here is an example from Chapter 3, Double Attack :
White has just played 6c4?? Why was that a blunder ?
See the foot of this review for the solution should you need to.
For further insight you may use the “Look Inside” feature from Amazon here. Of course there are many worthy book retailers to be your supplier !
In summary, this is an excellent book with much original material presented in a clear and friendly way and therefore to be recommended. It is an ideal follow-up to Chess Opening Traps for Kids and we would advise studying Chess Opening Traps for Kids first and then move on to this workbook.
One negative comment we would make concerns the cover. “Never judge a book by its cover” we are told and you might look at this book cover and think it was suitable for say primary aged children. I would say not but I would suggest it suitable from secondary aged children. I would say strong juniors from 12 upwards would read this book and enjoy it.
We would like to see an index of openings from which the theme examples were obtained.
The title and cover might, perhaps, put off the adult club player market. However, the content is totally suitable for adult club players upto say 180 ECF or 2000 Elo.
John Upham, Cove, Hampshire, March 30th 2020
Book Details :
Hardcover : 128 pages
Publisher: Gambit Publications Ltd. (15th November 2019)
Solution to Example#5
The problem is similar to the Cambridge Springs Trap : 6…dxc4! wins a piece. After 7 Bxc4 Qa5+ the queen check picks up the loose bishop. This has even cropped up at super grandmaster level. The other key point is that White can’t unload his bishop with 7 Bxf6 because 7…cxd3 leaves two white pieces attacked.
We focus on the British Chess Scene Past & Present !
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