Tag Archives: Thinkers Publishing

Improve Your Life by Playing a Game

Improve Your Life by Playing a Game, Dr. Jana Krivec, Thinker's Publishing, 28 Jan. 2021, ISBN 9464201029
Improve Your Life by Playing a Game, Dr. Jana Krivec, Thinkers Publishing, 28 Jan. 2021, ISBN 9464201029

From the author’s introduction:

“This book is partly designed as an autobiographical experience focusing on the processes that arise in the life of a chess player that have be translated into everyday life. In part, the book incorporates psychological theories that generally explain these processes, but overall it can be seen as a guide on how to use any activity to learn skills that will enrich your life. There are several activities in life which can be seen in the same way if we know where and how to exploit the opportunities. The truth is that all aspirations are interconnected when we keep an eye on the thematic links. I believe that this book will give you a new insight into how any ability can be transferred from a particular activity to the universal wisdom of life. It will awaken your networking skills and teach you how to turn life activities into lifelong skills that will improve your well-being. The course of the book follows the typical process of playing chess, starting with training, followed by the tournament situation, the course of the game, the time after the game and the tournament. Since I am not a poet, I have often borrowed some quotations from famous, imaginative and clever people from all over the world. I believe that these valuable thoughts have enriched the book. One thing I ask you to do while reading this book is to open your mind and enjoy the inner journey. So let us go and try to become aware of the processes behind our life activities. Let us find out what and why we do what we do in our daily lives.”

Dr. Jana Krivec at the Batumi Olympiad 2018
Dr. Jana Krivec at the Batumi Olympiad 2018

“Jana Krivec graduated from the Faculty of Psychology at the University of Ljubljana in 2004, where she successfully defended her doctoral thesis entitled “Cognitive Information Processing: the Case of Chess” in 2011. In 2004 she worked with the Faculty of Computer and Information Science on a project in which researchers developed a program for automatic annotation of a chess game. She was a researcher at the Department of Intelligent Systems at Jozef Stefan Institute, Ljubljana in the field of artificial intelligence. Her work was presented at several international conferences and published in scientific publications. She is a university professor of Psychology at the School of Advanced Social Studies in Nova Gorica. Jana Krivec is a Women’s Chess Grandmaster with a ELO rating peak of 2362 in 2008. She has been the Slovenian Women’s Champion seven times as well as a member of the Slovenian women’s chess team at eleven Chess Olympiads. At the 2006 Turin Olympics she and her teammates reached ninth place. She has won several international tournaments. Chess has been her passion and will probably remain explicitly or implicitly present throughout her life.”

 

The well deserved success of Barry Hymer and Peter Wells’ recent book Chess Improvement: it’s all in the Mindset, as well as The Moves that Matter, by Jonathan Rowson, two books which take very different, but essentially ‘serious’ approaches, suggests that there may be a hitherto untapped market for chess self-help books. A book which takes a more populist approach, then, should be welcomed.

What we have here is a book which can be read on two levels: as a self-help book for chess players, and as a book for general readers using chess as a metaphor. But the title: Improve your Life  by Playing a Game: what exactly does this mean? By playing one game, by playing chess generally, by playing any game? Bridge? Noughts and crosses? Snakes and ladders?

First impressions are good: a colourful book using nice shiny paper, with copious photographs, illustrations and cartoons as well as callouts in tasteful pastel-shaded boxes. Green for ‘key takeaways’, pink for ‘a minute of self-reflection, and so on.

The chapters take us through a chess tournament. In Chapter 1 we have to train for the tournament. Chapter sections look at goal setting, motivation, self-examination and improvement, discipline, hard work and persistence, learning from the masters, memorization techniques, working with modern technology, delayed reward … and never stop exploring.

In Chapter 2 we’re playing a game. First, we have to prepare for our opponent, then, during the game, we have ‘Always find a meaning’, ‘Focus and concentration’, ‘Systematic thinking, problem solving and decision making’, ‘Activation, patience and responsibility’, Courage and optimistic thinking’, Creative thinking and flexibility’, ‘Being in control of your feelings’, ‘Never stop fighting’ and ‘Ethics’.

After the game, in Chapter 3, we might have to cope with stress and losses, using cognitive techniques, behavioural techniques and understanding that if you don’t fail, you don’t learn.

Chapter 4 suggests what we might do after the tournament. We’re offered ‘A will to change’, ‘Who are you?’, ‘Mind and body work together’, ‘Positivity’, ‘Do what you like’ and ‘Gens una sumus’.

Chapter 5 warns us about the potential negative aspects of chess. Only two pages here, so clearly there’s not much worth talking about.

Chapter 6, Theories and Studies on Benefits of Chess’, moves into rather different territory. We learn about chess and education, and about chess and health problems, though I for one would raise a very strong objection to describing ADHD and Autism Spectrum Disorder as health problems.

Sadly, it’s not the only issue I have with the book. It starts right at the beginning, with the author’s introduction. We start with a quote, ‘Chess is life in miniature’, from ‘Gary’ Kasparov, but in the third line of text underneath he’s granted the preferred spelling of his first name: Garry. Gary and Garry seem to appear fairly randomly throughout the book, as do, for example, Bobby Fisher and Bobby Fischer.

Then we come to the inspirational quotations. You may well find many of them valuable, but there are attribution problems.

Page 37, for instance tells us ‘The only way to get smarter is by playing a smarter opponent’, attributed to a book entitled Fundamentals of Chess, published in 1885, with www.reddit.com as the source. The use of the word ‘smarter’ didn’t sound like 1885 to me, and a quick google located a Kingpin article by Justin Horton, which explained that this was a fictional book mentioned in the Guy Ritchie movie Revolver, where, however, it was given a publication date of 1883.

Page 66 offers ‘One bad move nullifies 40 good ones’, attributed to Vladimir Horowitz, an outstanding pianist, but not noted for his chess mastery. A search revealed that my guess was correct: it was actually written by the chess master and prolific author IA Horowitz, although it has also been misattributed to Bernhard Horwitz. Horwitz, Harrwitz or Horowitz? Vlad, Al, or even Anthony? If you’re looking for inspiration or self-help you might not care, but some of us do.

The advice, while no doubt invaluable to many readers, incorporates a ragbag of ideas familiar to any reader of pop psychology books. We have the Big Five personality traits and de Bono’s Thinking Hats. There’s Kahneman’s Fast and Slow Thinking as well as the Stanford Marshmallow Experiment. All of which is fine and understandable, as they’ll be new to some readers, but they are often presented without criticism or adequate source references. Ericsson’s 10,000 hours is, of course, there, also quoting Malcolm Gladwell, but failing to mention any possible reservations (there are many) or that Gladwell failed to understand Ericsson’s research. Flow is also there,  but mysteriously attributed to Alan Watts (or possibly Wats: both spellings appear at the top of page 68): Mihály Csíkszentmihályi, the originator of the concept, doesn’t get mentioned at all. Sometimes, but not always, sources are quoted. Page 25, for instance, offers us ‘Some studies have shown…’ and ‘In one study…’, without any further information. (This is about the possible dangers of external rewards, and I’m sure they’re all quoted by Alfie Kohn, so I can look them up myself, but not all readers will have this knowledge.)

The text is enlivened by many photographs, colourful illustrations and cartoons, taken, with brief acknowledgements, from online sources, but not always either relevant or fully explained.

There is a bit of chess here as well, although, bizarrely, the author uses long algebraic notation but without capture and check symbols.

While talking about marshmallows and instant gratification, Krivec presents us with this position which I’m sure you’ll recognise.

Coincidentally, this is something Joel Benjamin also mentions: “I believe that 8. Qxb7 is the best move. Bobby Fischer would have played it. Or, as you kids would say, Magnus would play it.” Krivec takes a different view: “(Qxb7) is not a good move because it follows the urge for immediate gratification and not the rules of good chess playing.” Far be it from me to argue with a WGM about the best move, but this seems a rather silly thing to say. My view is that both authors missed the opportunity to explain that both Qxb7 and Nc3 are excellent moves: your choice will be a matter of style.

If you want a chess example of the disadvantages of immediate gratification there are thousands of better examples to choose from, including one or two later in this book.

In some of the other chess ‘minutes for self-reflection’ you’re not told whose move it is: not very helpful, I think.

On page 110 we’re learning about creative thinking: thinking outside the box. An important topic, in life as well as in chess. To exemplify this we’re invited to solve the 9 dot puzzle.

A good example, I think, because you literally have to think outside the box to solve it. However, the ‘solution’ on the following page only connects seven of the nine dots and doesn’t go outside the box at all. Again, like so much of this book, unsatisfactory.

It’s all a great pity. I’m sure there’s a demand for a book of this nature, which should appeal to many players at all levels. Taking some well known ideas from psychology and applying them to both studying and playing chess is a great concept which will be inspirational to many readers. Jana Krivec’s passion both for chess and for helping people improve their lives comes through very well. If you can forgive the problems, you’ll probably enjoy and benefit from this book. It certainly contains a lot of valuable, although not especially original, advice about many aspects of both chess and life, as well as exercises in, for example, mindfulness, which many will find helpful.

However, the typos, errors, inadequate referencing and sourcing, amongst other reasons, preclude a general recommendation. It really needed a lot more editorial input, preferably from someone with specific subject knowledge, as well as better proof-reading.

Thinkers Publishing are well known for their high production qualities and excellent books, mostly on advanced chess subjects. It looks to me like, in a praiseworthy attempt to broaden their appeal, they stepped out of their comfort zone.

Richard James, Twickenham 17th April 2021

Richard James
. Richard James

Book Details :

  • Hardcover: 192 pages
  • Publisher: Thinkers Publishing; 1st edition (28 Jan. 2021)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10:9464201029
  • ISBN-13:978-9464201024
  • Product Dimensions: 16.51 x 1.27 x 23.5 cm

Official web site of Thinkers Publishing

Improve Your Life by Playing a Game, Dr. Jana Krivec, Thinker's Publishing, 28 Jan. 2021, ISBN 9464201029
Improve Your Life by Playing a Game, Dr. Jana Krivec, Thinker’s Publishing, 28 Jan. 2021, ISBN 9464201029

The Modernized Ruy Lopez – Volume 1 – A Complete Repertoire for White

The Modernized Ruy Lopez – Volume 1 – A Complete Repertoire for White, Dariusz Swiercz, Thinkers Publishing, ISBN 9789464201031
The Modernized Ruy Lopez – Volume 1 – A Complete Repertoire for White, Dariusz Swiercz, Thinkers Publishing, ISBN 9789464201031

“Dariusz Swiercz was born in 1994 in Tarnowskie Gory, Poland. His grandfather taught him to play chess at the age of three. During his junior career he won numerous National Championships as well as several European and World Championship medals. His highest successes include the bronze medal in 2010 at the World U20 Championship (Chotowa, Poland), gold medal in 2011 at the World U20 Championship (Chennai, India) and another gold medal in 2012 at the World U18 Championship (Maribor, Slovenia). He is one of the youngest to receive the Grandmaster title at the age of 14 years and 7 months. In 2016 he won the third edition of the “Millionaire Chess” held in Las Vegas, USA. Since 2018 he has represented the United States. Dariusz currently resides in Saint Louis, Missouri.”

GM Dariusz Świercz
GM Dariusz Świercz

From the book’s rear cover we have :

“The Ruy Lopez is one of the most popular openings of all time. It is a frequent guest in the games of players around the world from novice to Grandmaster. As a result of the increased power of analysis engines the theory of the Ruy Lopez has greatly expanded. Lines that did not exist years ago have been fully developed, supported with extensive analysis, and incorporated into the repertories of top players. Despite this exponential growth in theory, I believe that when armed with sound knowledge it is possible to pose certain practical problems for Black. The purpose of this book is to provide you with detailed and clear explanations of the intricacies of the Ruy Lopez.”

In this series (this is Volume 1) the author takes an in-depth look via 513 pages of how to play the Ruy Lopez (Spanish Opening) from Whites perspective giving many lines that he believes will leave White with some advantage after the opening .

Part 1 looks at opening lines that are slightly unusual and “off-beat” such as the Bird’s defence;

the Schliemann defence;

the Cozio defence;

the Smyslov defence;

the Classical defence;

the Steinitz defence;

the Norwegian defence (ed. the Taimanov defence for those with long memories!);

and Averbakh variations;

Unlike many recent opening books, unusually Dariusz does not analyse complete games but does provide copious amounts of analysis as to how to play against many different tries by black.

Having played the Schliemann a great deal both OTB and online I was interested to see what his recommendation was:

and 4. d3 fe4; 5. de4 Nf6; 6. 00 was his choice here

with both 6…d6 and the main line 6…Bc5 discussed in detail.

Against 6…Bc5 it is recommended that White goes pawn grabbing with 7.Bxc6 bxc6; 8.Ne5 00 9 Nc3 d6 10 Na4 with analysis that goes as far as move 25 showing that White has a clear advantage.

The delayed Schliemann 3…a6; 4. Ba4 f5 is also discussed but this has, for many years, been regarded as suspect concluding that 5.d4! is considered the “refutation”.

Part 2 deals solely with Kramnik’s favourite (and Kasparov’s anti-favourite!) the Berlin Defence 3…Nf6 which has caused even some of the top players in the world to switch (albeit temporarily) further south from the Spanish Opening to the Italian Game, 3.Bc4.

Both 4.00 and 4.d3 are examined closely and in the castles line he prefers variations for White that keep the Queens on: after 4…Ne4; 5.Re1 Nd6; 6.Ne5 Be7; 7.Bf1 Nf5; 8.Nf3 d5

both 9.d4 00; 10.c3 and 9 Nc3 are considered as alternatives.

The depth of Berlin analysis runs to nearly 100 pages and is aimed at players who are willing to look at openings well over 20 moves deep.

4.d3 is also studied when both 4…d6 and 4…Bc5 are looked at with much analysis again going to over 20 moves and showing that usually white has an advantage and can continue putting pressure on black .

Part 3 features the Open 5…Ne4 line when after 6 d4 b5 7 Bb3 d5 now both 8 Ne5 and the more popular 8 de5 Be6 9 Nbd2 the move that Karpov employed in his games against Korchnoi is discussed:

I played this variation for at least 30 years and came to the conclusion that White is always a bit better.

Essentially this is the coverage of Volume 1. To learn about the Closed Ruy Lopez we will be looking at Volume 2 in a future review.

In summary, this book is for players who are not frightened of looking at an opening in considerable depth that is sure to happen in a significant number of their games. It is a handy tool for “correspondence” players and I will, no doubt, be consulting it for good use in my future games!

Colin Lyne, Farnborough, Hampshire, 9th April, 2021

Colin Lyne
Colin Lyne

Book Details :

  • Paperback : 520 pages
  • Publisher:Thinkers Publishing; 1st edition (28 Jan. 2021)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10:9464201037
  • ISBN-13:978-9464201031
  • Product Dimensions: 16.51 x 3.18 x 22.86 cm

Official web site of Thinkers Publishing

The Modernized Ruy Lopez – Volume 1 – A Complete Repertoire for White, Dariusz Swiercz, Thinkers Publishing, ISBN 9789464201031
The Modernized Ruy Lopez – Volume 1 – A Complete Repertoire for White, Dariusz Swiercz, Thinkers Publishing, ISBN 9789464201031

A Complete Opening Repertoire for Black after 1.e4 e5!

A Complete Opening Repertoire for Black after 1.e4 e5!, Yuriy Krykun, Thinkers Publishing, 2020
A Complete Opening Repertoire for Black after 1.e4 e5!, Yuriy Krykun, Thinkers Publishing, 2020

According to the author : “I am a 21-year-old FIDE Master from Ukraine with two IM norms and a peak rating of 2382 currently residing in Saint Louis, USA. During my youth chess career, I won more than ten medals in Ukrainian Youth Championships, having become Ukrainian champion – both individually, in rapid U-20 in 2018 and as a team member during the Ukrainian Team Championship in 2016. I represented the Ukrainian National Team at the U-18 European Team Championship in 2016 where Ukraine earned a bronze medal; I also won an individual board bronze medal.

I have participated in European and World Junior Championships, representing Ukraine. Presently, my focus is teaching, and I have already acquired great experience working to improve my student’s chess skills. I currently share my knowledge and understanding of the game by writing books, articles for the Yearbook and other sources while creating opening and video courses. I have a bachelor’s degree in Translation, and I am currently pursuing my master’s in Finance at Webster University where I am attending on a chess scholarship. Webster is also acknowledged for having the one of best collegiate chess teams in the United States.”

FM Yuriy Krykun
FM Yuriy Krykun

From the book’s rear cover we have :

“One of the important issues players face – both relatively inexperienced ones at the beginning of their career as well as seasoned ones as they realize their chess craves change – is choosing an opening repertoire. As a player and a coach, I have seen many approaches to this question, both remarkable and mistaken. Some players believe that the opening is something to ignore, that everything is decided in the middlegame. Others think that studying opening traps is what wins games. Some tend to follow their favourite world-class player’s recommendations, while others like to sidestep well-known opening theory early on, preferring unpopular side-lines. To me, opening choice is about all those decisions. I think that many openings are good; there are some dubious ones, but they can also yield formidable results overall or in specific situations if chosen and handled carefully.

I firmly believe that your opening repertoire should mostly be based on your playing style and other personal traits, such as memory and work ethic. It is important to evaluate yourself as well as your strengths and weaknesses properly in order to be able to build the right repertoire that would not only suit you well, but also improve your overall chess. The little detail, though, is in the word “mostly”. Namely, I firmly believe that there are a few classical, rock-solid openings with an impeccable reputation, such as 1.e4 e5 as a response to 1.e4 or the Queen’s Gambit and Nimzo as an answer to 1.d4 that players of all styles and standards should try, no matter what their style is. This will enable players to learn, appreciate and practice some of the key chess values, such as the importance of space, lack of weaknesses, bad pieces, and comfortable development and so on – you name it. I, myself, started out as a keen Sicilian player.

Just like all youngsters, I cheerfully enjoyed complications, tactical massacres and everything else that the Sicilian is all about. However, as I was developing as a player, my style was changing also. Eventually, I realized I was much more successful with positional play, so it was time to change the outfit – and 1.e4 e5 suited me well. I have used this move as a response to 1.e4 nearly exclusively in recent years, both versus weaker and stronger opposition, with fantastic results. If only other openings would grant me such results as well! I have not only studied these variations myself but have also shown them to numerous private students. To be frank, we have almost always concentrated on White’s most dangerous possibilities, such as the Ruy Lopez, Italian and Scotch. Occasionally, we have also analysed the side-lines – either as a part of preparation for specific opponents or to make sure my students become more universal players and gain more all-round knowledge.

Eventually, I realized that the knowledge I gained from 1.e4 e5 can and should be shared with more players, and this is how my book came to life. Of course, the readers will differ, so there is a no “one-size-fits-all” solution. But, I have carefully and diligently tried to achieve the same goal I used when working with my students: to keep my recommendations both theoretically sound as well as practical and accessible.

I expect not only titled players but club players and the less experienced readers to equally benefit from this book. So, sometimes you will find razor-sharp novelties, but in many cases, we will rely on positional understanding, typical structures and standard ideas. I believe the opening is not all about memorization, so I have taken a different approach from many authors by keeping the balance between recommending objectively good variations as well as making sure an adequate amount of work will suffice to get you started.

You won’t need to spend years studying the material, fearing there is still much more to learn. 1.e4 e5! is not just an opening. It is repertoire that represents our game as a whole. It is something players of all styles will enjoy due to the countless possibilities 1…e5 provides. Hopefully, learning 1…e5 will also make you a better player. And, finally, I hope the book you are now holding in your hands will not only give you joy but illustrate a passion for chess with the variations presented in this work.”

Having spent almost all of my chess life (both OTB and postally) playing 1…e5 I was very much looking to examining the author’s detailed recommendations.

For many years during the eras of both Bobby Fischer and Gary Kasparov the Sicilian Defence was easily the most popular reply to 1.e4 but now with players like Magnus Carlsen and Levon Aronian often adopting open (1…e5) defences preference have greatly changed.

The author starts by looking at odd openings such as Nakamura’s “Whimsy” 2.Qh5 (perhaps this should be called the school chess club opening?): Not surprisingly he gives a line that shows Black can readily get the upper hand.

He then goes on to look at the Centre Game 2 d4 ed4 3 Qd4 !? this is an odd opening that will catch many Black players by surprise.

I always feel uncomfortable when I face this on the Internet . Yuriy gives some good analysis showing that Black can quickly turn the tables on White.

The following chapters examine the Scotch Game and the King’s Gambit. These openings appear straightforward for Black to equalise against. I was surprised to find that in the King’s Gambit after 2.f4 ef4 3.Nf3 Ne7 was recommended!

It turns out that this idea has been played by the French GM Etienne Bacrot, the idea being to play a quick d5.

The author often offers some unusual lines which seem designed to surprise the opponent . He provides analysis of a game up to move 18 concluding that Black is better and shows how to continue the middle game plan from there.

The Vienna Game is also looked at in some depth . After 2 Nc3 Nf6 both 3.Bc4 and 3.f4 are seen . Against the former he recommends 3…Ne4!?

and against the latter 3…d5 4.fe5 Ne4 5.Nf3 Be7 a solid choice which I have played myself.

After recommending 3…d5 versus the Ponziani Opening

the author looks at the Scotch Game (which is very popular at club level) and recommends 4…Bc5 :

Peter Leko selected this line against Magnus Carlsen a few years ago and despite losing  the game  it was not because of this opening choice which was quite sound. From here 5.Nc6: and 5.Nb3 are both analysed along with the “traditional move” 5.Be3 .

The author now suggests two alternatives for Black: 5…Bd4 which  is an unusual line that could well  be a good choice against a higher graded player as after 6.Bd4 Nd4 7.Qd4 Qf6 White will have to work hard to win.

Yuriy then looks at the main line with 5…Qf6 but after 6.c3 he suggests the unusual 6…Qg6 :

Once again this suggestion is  move which will set White players thinking early in the game  whilst remaining a sound choice.

In The Four Knights Game after 4.Bb5 (the Spanish Four Knights) Yuriy gives Rubinstein’s aggressive 4…Nd4 which Kramnik used successfully to defeat Nigel Short.

A small, but not terrible omission,  is the lack of coverage of the dangerous Halloween Gambit: something for the second edition!

We now move on to the  Evans Gambit, and side-lines of the Guioco Piano are examined before giving detailed analysis of the quiet Italian . This opening 4 c3 Nf6 5 d3 is very popular at world class level and, currently  Jan-Krzysztof Duda being the latest high profile player to adopt it .

The plan (which I adopt) of d6 and a6 is recommended when Black again achieves equal play .

Finally (and most fittingly) we come to the Ruy Lopez usually regarded as the ultimate test for 1…e5 players .
In the Exchange Lopez, Barendregt Variation after 5.00 Qf6 a line advocated by Michael Adams is suggested and you’ll need to buy the book to find out what it is!

In the main line Lopez the Open is the weapon of  choice with the somewhat unusual 5…Ne4 6 d4 Be7 !? recommended.

This, perhaps is the one recommendation I might not agree with 100%.

Yuriy then goes onto examine some rather unusual lines in the Lopez giving comprehensive coverage.

In summary this book gives a lot of interesting and thought provoking  lines that may surprise the player of the White pieces and push them into waters that they are not familiar with.

Black players may do well to try these ideas on-line first and if they work for them then use them in more “serious” games .

The author claims to have checked all of his ideas with an engine and therefore  (hopefully) none are unsound !

Colin Lyne, Farnborough, Hampshire, 19th February, 2021

Colin Lyne
Colin Lyne

Book Details :

  • Paperback : 280 pages
  • Publisher:Thinkers Publishing; 1st edition (19 Nov. 2020)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10:9492510847
  • ISBN-13:978-9492510846
  • Product Dimensions: 17.78 x 1.91 x 24.13 cm

Official web site of Thinkers Publishing

A Complete Opening Repertoire for Black after 1.e4 e5!, Yuriy Krykun, Thinkers Publishing, 2020
A Complete Opening Repertoire for Black after 1.e4 e5!, Yuriy Krykun, Thinkers Publishing, 2020

Universal Chess Training

Universal Chess Training, Wojciech Moranda, Thinker's Publishing, 2020
Universal Chess Training, Wojciech Moranda, Thinker’s Publishing, 2020

From the book’s rear cover :

“Are you struggling with your chess development? While dedicating hours and hours on improving your craft, your rating simply does not want to move upwards? Spending loads of money on chess books and DVDs, but feeling no real improvement at all? No worries – the book that you are holding in your hands might represent a game changer! Years of coaching experience as well as independent research has allowed the author to identify the key skills that will enhance the progress of just about any player rated between 1600 and 2500. Becoming a strong chess thinker is namely not only reserved exclusively for elite players, but actually constitutes the cornerstone of chess training, being no less important than memorizing opening theory, acquiring middlegame knowledge or practicing endgames. By studying this book, you will:- learn how to universally deal with any position you might encounter in your games, even if you happen to see it for the first time in your life, – have the opportunity to solve 90 unique, hand-picked puzzles, extensively annotated and peculiarly organised for the Readers’ optimal learning effect, – gain access to more than 300 pages of original grandmaster thoughts and advice, leaving you awestruck and hungry for more afterwards!”

GM Wojciech Moranda, Photo courtesy of GM Moranda
GM Wojciech Moranda, Photo courtesy of GM Moranda

“Wojciech Moranda (1988), Grandmaster since 2009, rated FIDE >2600 in standard/rapid/blitz. Poland’s TOP 7 player (February 2020) and FIDE TOP 100 in Rapid (2018). Member of top teams from the German (Schachfreunde Berlin), Belgian (Cercle d’Échecs Fontainois) and Swedish (Visby Schackklubb) league. Captain of the third best Polish team (Wieża Pęgów) as well as the PRO Chess League team, The New York Marshalls. Professional chess coach, running his own chess school ‘Grandmaster Academy’ seated in Wroclaw (Poland), while training students worldwide, from California to Sydney. His other notable coaching experiences include i.a. working with the National Youth Chess Academy of the Polish Chess Federation (since 2012) and the Polish National Female Chess Team (2013). In his work as a trainer, Wojciech puts special emphasis on improving his students’ thought-process and flawless opening preparation.”

Time was when you knew what to expect from a puzzle book. With a few notable exceptions they tended to be ‘sac sac mate’ type of position.

21st century puzzle books are very different, and, at least for stronger players, quite rightly so as well. These days you can run a blundercheck on a bunch of games to identify the turning point, and then, with a careful selection of positions, produce a puzzle book in which anything might happen. A book of positions in which very strong players, even leading grandmasters, failed to find the correct plan. A book which exemplifies the wonderful complexity of contemporary chess, covering all aspects of the game: strategy as well as tactics.

What we have here is very much a 21st century book written for strong and ambitious players. Indeed it seems in many ways very similar to this book from the same publisher: aimed at a similarly wide range of players and divided into three sections of increasing difficulty. One wonders if the authors of both books received a similar brief from Thinkers Publishing.

Let’s see what Moranda has to say for himself.

He identifies that his students have strategic problems in five areas:

  1. Anticipation & prophylaxis
  2. Attack & defense
  3. Coordination
  4. Statics & dynamics
  5. Weakness

Together, he considers these to be the basis of ‘Universal Chess Training’, “because knowing them will most certainly help you play a good move whether the position seems familiar or not”.

His book offers:

  1. Original content (he’s dismissive of books which repeat examples from the past, and also of books which haven’t been computer checked)
  2. Three levels of difficulty (the first part is for players of 1600-1900 strengh, the second part for 1900-2200 strength and the third part, presumably for 2200+ strength, where the questions demand ‘the highest level of abstract thinking’)
  3. Mixed exercises with no hints (so you have no idea what’s going to come next)
  4. Focus on what remained behind the scenes (so, instead of analysing the rest of the game he provides a possible conclusion  given best play, which, he believes, provides more solid training material than the flawed continuation in the game)

There are 90 questions in total, 30 in each section. As a 1900 strength player the first two sections should be appropriate for me.

The first position in the book comes from Winterberg – Lubbe (Magdeburg 2019). You have to choose a continuation for White here.

Here’s how Moranda assesses the position:

“A brief review of the position reveals that a major backlash is coming in White’s direction. Black just needs to remove the queen from e6 and make way for the e7-pawn to go all the way to e5. As a result, White will not only be forced to concede space, but also have to spend time re-routing his minor pieces from their overly exposed outposts on d4 and h4.  But this would by no means be the end of the story for White. With Black expanding his pieces would improve in quality, and it would only be a matter of time before they would shift their attention towards possible weaknesses present in White’s camp. Such a weakness is represented by the c5-pawn, which would be rather difficult to defend should the white bishop be compelled to step aside. At the same time, if White becomes too absorbed with maintaining control over the queenside, Black could very effectively switch to an attack against the white king due to his space advantage by means of …Nf7-g5. That is a grim prospect for sure but maybe there is an antidote to this looming chaos?”

I won’t tell you the answer: you’ll have to buy the book to find out.

Now look at the first question in Chapter 2:

It’s again White’s move in L van Foreest – Navara (Skopje 2018).

What do you think?

Moranda’s explanation again:

“At first sight it is hard to believe that this crazy position arose out of a Giuoco Piano which is a rather timid, manoeuvring opening. White has just embarked on a risky venture sending a knight deep into the heart of the opponent’s position. Black has responded with an offer to exchange queens, a perfectly viable solution from the perspective of limiting White’s chances of playing for an attack afterwards. The decision White should take is far from obvious as there are, at this point in time, five different discovered checks at his disposal. All of them look dangerous, but simultaneously none of them looks lethal enough. White would also love to include the remaining pieces into play, but he does not seem to have the time to do this. Notably, the proximity of the black queen to his own monarch constitutes an element White cannot easily ignore before furthering his attack. Thus I ask you dear reader, what should White do?”

A lot of words, a lot of explanations. The style is informal, often colloquial and sometimes amusing. “Do you ever have chess nightmares? You know, dreams of yourself taking part in a tournament and losing every single game or, even worse, finding yourself playing a game with the London System as White?” “At first glance this move is uglier than a Fiat Multipla.” You might like this sort of thing, or you might consider it out of place in a serious instructional book. Your choice. In general, though, I found the explanations excellent.

From a personal point of view, the 30 questions in the first chapter were pitched at just the right level for me: instructive and helpful. The second chapter, as well as the third, though, were much too deep. While I enjoyed reading the solutions and explanations I thought they were too hard for me to learn from. There’s a lot more than simply understanding the strategic ideas: you also have to calculate accurately to justify them: it was the calculation as much as the strategy that was too much for me. The book demonstrates clearly that tactics and strategy are inextricably entwined, and that, in today’s chess, positional sacrifices are an increasingly important weapon which ambitious players need to understand.

I’d have liked to have seen the openings of the games in question, and could have done with shorter explanations rather than the three or four pages of partly computer-generated analysis provided for each position, but, if you’re more serious about studying chess books than I am you may well disagree.

I read chess books mainly for enjoyment, and it’s 40 years or more since I had any real ambitions about improving my chess, so, although I’m the right strength, I’m not really part of the target market for this book.

Moranda is clearly an outstanding teacher at this level, and seems to come highly recommended online. The positions are well chosen and the ideas clearly explained: it’s obvious a lot of work and passion has gone into creating this book. The author is also an openings expert, seemingly favouring lines leading to positions which are both tactically and strategically rich: you’ve seen that he’s pretty scathing about the Giuoco Piano and the London System. If you prefer simpler methods of starting the game you will be less likely to reach the sort of positions featured here. While I consider the claim that it’s for anyone 1600+ to be a trifle optimistic, if you’re a strong and ambitious player (say 2000+, although anyone 1800+ will benefit from at least the first chapter) and you’re prepared to work hard, this book will undoubtedly improve your understanding of grandmaster chess strategy.

Richard James, Twickenham 2nd February 2021

Richard James
. Richard James

Book Details :

  • Hardcover: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Thinkers Publishing; 1st edition (19 Nov. 2020)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10:9492510901
  • ISBN-13:978-9492510907
  • Product Dimensions: 17.78 x 2.54 x 24.13 cm

Official web site of Thinkers Publishing

Universal Chess Training, Wojciech Moranda, Thinker's Publishing, 2020
Universal Chess Training, Wojciech Moranda, Thinker’s Publishing, 2020

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

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:

Jiminez-Brunello
Jiminez-Brunello
So-Tomashevsky
So-Tomashevsky
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.

Ivanchuk-Leko(Move15)
Ivanchuk-Leko(Move15)

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

Ivanchuk-Leko(Move18)
Ivanchuk-Leko(Move18)

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

Ivanchuk-Leko(Move19)
Ivanchuk-Leko(Move19)

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

Ivanchuk-Leko(Variation2)
Ivanchuk-Leko(Variation1)

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

Ivanchuk-Leko(Move24)
Ivanchuk-Leko(Move24)

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+

Ivanchuk-Leko(Move29)
Ivanchuk-Leko(Move29)

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

Ivanchuk-Leko(Variation2
Ivanchuk-Leko(Variation2)

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

Ivanchuk-Leko(FinalPosition)
Ivanchuk-Leko(FinalPosition)

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

Candidates Tournament 2020 : Part 1 Yekaterinburg

Candidates Tournament 2020 Part 1 Yekaterinburg
Candidates Tournament 2020 Part 1 Yekaterinburg

From the rear cover :

“Vladimir Tukmakov, born in Odessa 1946, was one of the strongest Ukrainian grandmasters. He was the winner of several strong tournaments, including the Ukrainian Championship in 1970, and he came second in three Soviet championships in 1970,72 and 83. After his successful period as active player, he became a coach, trainer and author. This is his second book for Thinkers Publishing, after his major success in 2019 with ‘Coaching the Chess Stars’.”

GM Vladimir Tukmakov
GM Vladimir Tukmakov

Also from the rear cover

“The official story of the 2020 Candidates Tournament began on November the 11th, 2019 with the signing of a contract between FIDE and the Russian Chess Federation detailing the hosting duties of said tournament in Ekaterinburg from the 15th of March to the 5th of April, 2020. At that point no one could have even imagined how difficult the road to that tournament would be nor how unexpected the outcome. Yet the significance of the actual numbers in this dramatic epic is hard to overestimate which is why the author will attempt to play the role of chronicler and try to describe as accurately as possible the key moments of this historic event. Vladimir Tukmakov was our close observer, author and wrote a historically important book on the first part of the Candidates 2020.”

Tournament books, once a staple of chess literature, have been rare in recent years and books about half a tournament have always, naturally, been rarer still. This book by GM Vladimir Tukmakov is just such a book – and in my opinion it is a very welcome one.

Of course, 2020 has been an exceptional year (in a bad sense of exceptional) and the Candidates Tournament stands out as the exceptional (in a good sense of exceptional) over-the-board elite event of the year. It is unfortunate that Covid-related reasons forced the tournament to be suspended before its conclusion. (Or was the suspension necessary? The author’s comments on the decision are interesting.)

Although the tournament started on schedule in March, it was already in somewhat controversial circumstances because Teimour Radjabov had withdrawn – citing the rapid spread of the pandemic – and had been replaced by Maxime Vachier-Lagrave.  The tournament was suspended exactly half way through following an announcement by the Russian government that all international air travel had been suspended indefinitely. The eight Candidates had been due to play each other twice, and seven of the fourteen rounds had been completed.

The author of this book, now aged 74, has been pretty much inactive as a player in recent years but he was a top player for a number of years, coming second in the Soviet Championship on three occasions, and reaching number 12 in the world rankings. This quality is reflected in his game annotations even if they are – as he modestly admits – sometimes helped by his “Iron Friend” (as he refers to chess engines).

The book consists of the following sections:

Introduction: Three pages of he author’s reflections on why he chose to write this book.

Prelude: Nine pages which describe the tournament itself, its participants and its occurrence in the time when the pandemic was developing.

The Play: 121 pages of games, with each of the 28 games annotated by the author and with a summary of the situation after each round.

Unexpected Conclusion: A brief two page description of the suspension.

Interim Results: An eight page summary of the tournament (so far!) including general observations of the players and their prospects for the remainder of the tournament, whenever that will be.

The Prelude and Interim Results chapters are informative and are engagingly written. They include a number of personal reflections by the author.  The annotations in The Play chapter are, I think, superb, with both textual comments and given variations always hitting the spot in their relevance. An example of this is taken from his notes to the Ding-Caruana game:

12 d5!?
Another complicated decision. The position demanded 12.e3 in the hope of completing development after 12… Bb3 which was like the game. Also, worth considering was 12… Bg6!? 13.Bc4 (Although 13.Nd3 led to an even more complicated struggle. For instance, 13…Na6 14.Nxb4 Nxb4 15.dxc5 Nc2 16.Rb1 Qa5) 13… Bxc4 14.Nxc4 cxd4 15.exd4 (15.Qxd4 Qe7) 15… Nc6 with enough compensation for the pawn.
It is very revealing, that having found himself in a difficult psychological situation, the Chinese grandmaster does not rush towards simplification instead choosing a more difficult and principled continuation each time.

(The book actually uses figurines for the pieces.)

Tukmakov is generally very respectful of the great players who are taking part in the tournament (indeed he writes that the book “bears witness to my solidarity with my younger colleagues” in view of their bravery in playing under the circumstances of the pandemic), but this doesn’t stop him from criticising them. For example, their clock handling occasionally comes in for comment. On one occasion he writes:

It is difficult to understand what Giri thought about for 25 minutes.

As may perhaps be expected, Grischuk receives sterner criticism in this area – but criticism that is well reasoned (and somewhat humorous).

In summary, I really like this book. I look forward to the second instalment which I hope arises as and when the second half of the tournament is complete. Who knows, perhaps tournament books are not a thing of the past after all?

Colin Purdon, Crowthorne, Berkshire, November 11th 2020

Colin Purdon
Colin Purdon

Book Details :

  • Flexicover : 160 pages
  • Publisher: Thinkers Publishing; 1 edition (8 Dec 2020)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 9492510928
  • ISBN-13: 978-9492510921

Official web site of Thinkers Publishing

GM Vladimir Tukmakov
GM Vladimir Tukmakov
Candidates Tournament 2020 Part 1 Yekaterinburg
Candidates Tournament 2020 Part 1 Yekaterinburg

The Modernized Scotch Game : A Complete Repertoire for White and Black

The Modernized Scotch Game : A Complete Repertoire for White and Black, Thinkers Publishing, December 2019,  Milos Pavlovic
The Modernized Scotch Game : A Complete Repertoire for White and Black, Thinkers Publishing, December 2019, 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

This is another title in the “Modernized” series from Thinkers Publishing with this Scotch Game book being published on December 17th 2019. We first reviewed a title in this series with The Modernized Caro-Kann from GM Daniel Fernandez and then followed by The Modernised Colle-Zukertort from Pavlovic.

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.

Four and Half out of Five Stars
Four and Half out of Five Stars

Andrew Martin, Bramley, Surrey, 5th November, 2020

IM Andrew Martin
IM Andrew Martin

Book Details :

  • Hardcover : 280 pages
  • Publisher:  Thinkers Publishing (17 Dec. 2019)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 9492510731
  • ISBN-13: 978-9492510648
  • Product Dimensions: 17.02 x 1.52 x 23.37 cm

Official web site of Thinkers Publishing

The Modernized Scotch Game : A Complete Repertoire for White and Black, Thinkers Publishing, December 2019,  Milos Pavlovic
The Modernized Scotch Game : A Complete Repertoire for White and Black, Thinkers Publishing, December 2019, Milos Pavlovic

Chess Calculation Training for Kids and Club Players : Level 1 : Checkmating

Chess Calculation Training for Kids and Club Players : Level 1 : Checkmating
Chess Calculation Training for Kids and Club Players : Level 1 : Checkmating

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.

GM Romain Édouard
GM Romain Édouard

We previously reviewed Chess 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 :

  1. Check & Mate
  2. Check, Check & Mate
  3. A Few Checks & Mate
  4. Trap Your Opponents King
  5. Hit the Defender
  6. A Nasty Double Threat
  7. An Unexpected Blow
  8. 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 :

#8
Nezhmetdinov, R – Kotkov, Y

25.? +-

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 :

#21
Waitzkin, J – Frumkin, E

Mate in 7

26.?+-

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 :

#24
Ulibin,M – Mesman,E

29.? +-

 

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 :

#6
Wiler – Hell

1…?-+
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 :

#5
Jansen,I = Asenova,V

19…?-+

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 !

13
Khalifman, A – Seirawan, Y

22.?+-

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 :

16
Abasov, N – Kantor, G

30.?+-
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

John Upham
John Upham

Book Details :

  • Hardcover : 152 pages
  • Publisher:Thinkers Publishing; 1 edition (19 May 2020)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 9492510693
  • ISBN-13: 978-9492510693
  • Product Dimensions: 17.02 x 1.02 x 23.37 cm

Official web site of Thinkers Publishing

Chess Calculation Training for Kids and Club Players : Level 1 : Checkmating
Chess Calculation Training for Kids and Club Players : Level 1 : Checkmating

n.b. Solution to Chapter 3, position #21 :

26.Qxg7+! Kxg7 27. Bf6+ Kg6

27…Kh6 28.Rh3+ Kg6 delays mate by one move

28. Rg3+ Kh6

28…Kh5 29.Rg5+ Kh4 30.Nf3#

29.Bg7+ Kh5 30.Rg5+ Kh4 31.Nf3#

The Modernized Grünfeld Defense

The Modernized Grünfeld Defense
The Modernized Grünfeld Defense

From the rear cover :

“Yaroslav Zherebukh was born in July 1993 in Lviv, Ukraine. He earned the Grandmaster title in January of 2009 at 15.5 years of age. In 2011 Yaro participated in the World Cup where he was seeded 97 th out of 128 contestants. He won his first three matches against Pavel Eljanov, Ruben Felgaer and Shakhriyar Mamedyarov before losing to David Navara. In 2013 he moved to the United States shifting his focus to coaching and academics. In 2017 he competed in the US Championship in 2017 where he scored a spectacular win over world #2 Fabiano Caruana and qualified to the 2017 World Cup! He has coached a plethora of talented American youths including world class GM Jeffery Xiong. Besides his chess activities, Yaro holds an MA in financial economics from Saint Louis University and has experience working for private equity firms in New York City.”

GM Yaroslav Zherebukh
GM Yaroslav Zherebukh

Also from the rear cover

“The Modernized Grünfeld Defense will be extremely helpful for any chess player looking for a reliable lifetime repertoire against White’s 1.d4. It will benefit current Grünfeld players as Yaro unveils his analysis and numerous novelties waiting to be played over the board.”

This new book on the Grünfeld, a welcome addition to Thinkers Publishing’s “Modernized” series, is written by a 2600+ GM who plays the defence himself. It is a repertoire book,  with the author recommending which variation (and sometimes a choice of variations) to play against each system that White may employ.

The book is arranged into five parts (Exchange Variation, 4Nf3, other 4th moves etc) each containing several chapters for the main sub-variations. There is no overall index of variations, but the reader can quite easily navigate to a particular line by using the Table of Contents and then the Guide at the beginning of each chapter.

The book is very up-to-date (one chapter is devoted to 5 h4) and includes much of Zherebukh’s own analysis and many of his novelties. He typically recommends combative lines which have been much tested in practice. When he does recommend an ambitious sideline (such as 5 …dxc4 in the 5 Bg5 variation) he also provides analysis of the less ambitious “main” line (5 …Ne4 in that example).

This excerpt from the book is, I think, quite typical of Zherebukh’s style. It arises from a rare line in the 7 Bb5+ variation:

Position after: 9…b5

10. Bb3
10 Bc2 b4N A cute novelty, although not terribly important as only 6 games have reached this position according to the ChessBase online database. Still, let’s enjoy the underlying idea. 11. cxb4 a5!

Position after: 11…a5!

A) 12. bxa5 c5=+ The last three pawn moves remind me of checkers: Black is begging White to take all of the pawns to get to the grand prize, the d-pawn.

B) 12. Bd2 axb4 13. Bxb4 c5! And yet one more pretty pawn sacrifice.

Position afer 13… c5!

14. Bxc5 [14.dxc5 Bxa1 15.Qxa1 Ba6 -+] 14 …Na6 The bishop on c5 suddenly doesn’t have any good squares. Note that it cannot retreat to a3 because we would win it after the devastating … Qa5+ followed by …Qxa3. If 15.Rb1 Nxc5 16.dxc5 Qa5+ 17.Qd2 Qxc5 18.Bd3 Be6 -/+ we are about to capture the extra pawn White currently enjoys and then our bishop pair would be vastly superior to White’s knight and bishop.

The material is well-presented and the repertoire suggestions are both aggressive and sound.

The book has some interesting features which I believe add value to the actual chess content. For example, it contains a “Conclusion” in which the author describes, in one or two paragraphs, what was covered in each of the 16 chapters with a couple of additional insights about the variation the chapter covers. For example, about the 4,e3 variation he writes:

While this system is not the most ambitious and is commonly played to avoid the major theoretical battles, I still recommend memorising the precise move orders for Black. In my opinion, White may have some venom in the 5.Nf3 6.b4 system which I suggest studying in detail.

Also, Zherebukh gives some tips on how to learn openings and how to memorise them, including some specifics on how to use software or web sites to achieve this and how he himself prepares to use a newly-learnt opening. (I should point out that the book itself does not rely on software or online content.)

As someone who has been playing the Grünfeld recently, I very much like this book and I can recommend it it to anyone who is seeking to take up the Grünfeld, or who is already playing it.

Colin Purdon, August 23rd 2020

Colin Purdon
Colin Purdon

Book Details :

  • Flexicover : 302 pages
  • Publisher: Thinkers Publishing; 1 edition (14 July 2020)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 9492510790
  • ISBN-13: 978-9492510792
  • Product Dimensions: 17 x 23.5 cm

Official web site of Thinkers Publishing

The Modernized Grünfeld Defense
The Modernized Grünfeld Defense