Tuesday, 30 December 2008
Tuesday, 23 December 2008
Monday, 22 December 2008
A presentation on the endgame marks a new departure for GM Shirov. His former DVDs concentrated on a variety of openings and general ‘best games’ collections.
However odd it may seem to see the word ‘Endgame’ connected to Shirov, the second part of the title should assure the viewer that the Latvian wizard is still able to stamp his unique personality on proceedings, even when the board is bedecked with only scanty material.
In his introduction, he makes the remarkable claim that he doesn’t know a lot of endgame theory. This is familiar ‘complaint’ of his spiritual and geographical predecessor, Mikhail Tal, who claimed to be afraid of endgames. Nevertheless, both of them scaled to the very top of the chess world (even though one of them had his hands stepped on as he tried to take over at the summit) and it would be folly to suggest they played endgames poorly. The opponents here are all top Grandmasters, including Topalov, Kramnik, Adams and Karjakin.
His most famous endgame is undoubtedly this classic…
He goes into great detail to show that this was the only winning move. Only in 2008 - 10 years after the game was played - does Rybka manage to appreciate the strength of move 47.
It is interesting to discover that GM Shirov took the basics of the idea from an earlier game, in which he suffered a defeat at the hands of an endgame maestro.
44...Bxh4! and Black won with the King march f6-f5-e4-d3-c4, after which the passed pawns were much stronger than the Bishop.
There are 17 examples in all. Not all types of endgame are covered; this is definitely not a ‘how to play endgames’ product. The specific areas of interest here include ‘Opposite coloured Bishops’ , ‘Rooks’ (including two Rooks each), ‘Rook and Knight’.
Rooks with opposite coloured Bishops come under great scrutiny, taking five of the lessons. It’s easy to see the appeal they hold for a predominantly attacking player; middlegame themes seep through into the endgames and the unbalanced Bishops can add many a tactical twist to proceedings. An advantage in material is often much less important than piece activity.
Quite a few of the examples come from Rapidplay games. The presenter makes the point that even though faster time limits can dilute a player’s strength, the greater reliance on intuition provides fertile ground for the point the is trying to make. It’s the intuitive side of endgame play - with an overriding sense of creativity - that he is eager to demonstrate.
Sometimes, spotting an improvement on his earlier thoughts, he analyses on the go and it’s almost possible to see his mind swiftly running through the variations before presenting his new conclusions to the viewer.
The final example provides a bit of fun.
The tablebases claim a win for Rook and Bishop against two Knights, but in some cases it can take over 200 moves to force checkmate. As GM Shirov takes the viewer through the game, he compares the actual moves played with the tablebase lines. A little (and imperceptible) inaccuracy here and there has a major effect on the number of moves to checkmate. At one point, Black achieves a position in which checkmate in 28 moves is possible. Along the way, Back could force the capture of one of the Knights, thus extending the 50-move rule.
This is a very interesting DVD and it should provide plenty of inspiration to seek creative solutions to your own endgame problems. It could be the perfect antidote for those who still see endgames as inherently dull.
By GM Vlastimil Hort
GM Hort may not be such a familiar character to anyone whose chess study started from the mid-1980s onwards.
His style of presentation isn’t forceful, as if he is trying to sell you an opening variation; he is a quietly spoken gentleman, very much of the old school. After watching just a couple of the video segments one feels at home, as if in the company of a long-term friend.
The games given here feature the kings of chess all the way from Botvinnik to Kasparov (World Champions 6 to 13 inclusive).
The stories behind the games often take as long as the playing over the moves themselves. Every single story is fascinating; the bulk of the anecdotes cannot be found anywhere else.
For example, GM Hort remembers taking an unexpected phone call from ‘Mr Botvinnik’ during the Monte Carlo tournament in 1968. The great champion offered to help him analyse his adjourned game with Bent Larsen, but GM Hort, quite shocked, declined. (It was in Botvinnik’s interests to try and prevent Larsen from scoring a win as he his main rival for first place). When Hort played Botvinnik in the next round, the latter declined the pre- and post-game handshakes.
He certainly doesn’t like to mix politics with chess and this leads to some very interesting opinions of Anatoly Karpov. He highlights how much Karpov was favoured by the authorities but pinpoints the death of Furman (Karpov’s second and father figure) as a major blow. He still gives Karpov his due as being a very strong player and speculates that his performance with the White pieces (in his prime) could well be the best in history.
Of course, a win against a World Champion is a fine achievement regardless of colour, and the presenter is happy to show this encounter:
There are three players that GM Hort thinks deserve the description ‘genius’ and they are Tal, Fischer and Kasparov. He clearly has a very special memories about Fischer and makes the point that the controversial American was always the perfect sportsman at the board.
He thinks very highly of Spassky too. In 1977 they played a tough Candidates’ match and Hort lost the penultimate game on time in a completely winning position. That must have been a bitter blow (it was the furthest he ever got along the World Championship trail) but he has remained on excellent terms with Spassky to this day. He says he looks forward to more meetings with him over the board, when at this stage in their lives they could simply have some fun.
I would definitely like to see more DVDs like this one. It would be great to see other veteran chess heroes - such as Spassky, Portisch, Larsen and Andersson - reminiscing about their finest chess battles
The latest in GM King’s highly successful ‘Power Play’ series takes a good look at the differences between the two minor pieces.
He starts off with two very clear demonstrations of the strengths the two pieces enjoy on a good day. Both are winning positions for White (to play), as you can no doubt comfortably verify for yourselves:
There's a general discussion on the imbalance of strengths and what we should looking out for.
It’s precisely these imbalanced positions that club players tend to find very difficult to navigate over the board. I remember reading GM Bronstein’s theory on why the third World Champion, GM Capablanca, was so successful. The basic summary reveals a very simple method: trade an unlike minor piece early in the game and arrange one’s pawn structure according to the strengths of the remaining pieces
Then it’s on to the main work. As usual, the viewer is encouraged to switch off the analysis window and assess the first of many interesting positions.
GM King talks the viewer through 22 examples of play, methodically building up a store of essential knowledge.
12 test positions follow the main lectures, followed by the answers, with full explanations.
The first of the tests should whet the appetite:
The material is expertly chosen and GM King’s presentation skills are as polished and professional as always. Indeed, in my opinion he is the best of all ChessBase presenters. His delivery is directly to the camera and his natural teaching style comfortably entices the viewer into doing some hard work.
I believe that careful study of this DVD will provide the reader with a thorough grounding of the relative advantages and disadvantages of the Knight and the Bishop. Appreciation of such qualities should enable the viewer to add an extra twist to their over-the-board prowess.
So it is with these three very different ChessBase DVDs that we bring the reviews of 2008 to a close.
The first reviews of 2009 should follow very early in January, so stay tuned.
For further details of Chessbase products, please go to:
Wednesday, 17 December 2008
There was a very large queue of people waiting to go in. The venue is 'standing only'; the doors opened at seven but the main act didn't come on till nine so it was a long wait. However, it was well worth waiting for.
The band came on first and struck up a fast and furious tempo. After a minute or so, Amy Mavdonald appeared, strummed her way into the tempo and launched into a blistering rendition of 'Poison Prince'.
I took a few photos, all which were from a distance so are not of the highest quality. Nevertheless, they give a decent impression of the concert in progress.
She came across as modest yet excited when she spoke to the audience between songs. She was very happy to impart the news that her debut CD, 'This is the Life', had now sold two million copies.
Over the course of the first hour, Amy and the band ripped it up with all of the well known songs from her CD, including 'Mr. Rock & Roll', 'This is the Life' and the barbed 'Footballer's Wife'.
After a short break - and with the audience (estimated around 2,000 people) calling for more - Amy emerged and did a great solo acoustic version of 'Dancing in the Dark'.
Then the band came back on and they played for another 20 minutes. It was all good, exciting stuff.
It's been a packed year for Amy Macdonald, with constant touring and very impressive sales. There will be pressure now to come up with a worthy second CD. She certainly has an abundance of talent and energy and has kept her feet on the ground. The complete lack of tabloid sleaze stories is extremely refreshing.
I feel sure that we will be seeing and hearing a lot more of her in years to come.
Thursday, 11 December 2008
Learn all about an interesting line in the French Defence over at:
‘My objective with this work is to provide instruction and analysis ranging from that appropriate for a low-rated player with, say, one or two years’ experience, to a long-time player who is familiar with a good deal of theory.’
IM John Watson is a popular writer. His works on chess strategy and the French Defence are all highly regarded; indeed, no 1 e4 e6 player should consider their library complete without at least one edition of ‘Play the French’.
His series aimed at ‘Mastering Chess Openings’ was originally planned to cover two volumes but now it looks set to run to four books.
Long-term Watson readers should be delighted to see that this volume covers the English Opening. The author wrote a famous tetralogy on 1 c4 in the late 1970s/early 1980s.
At 351 pages, this is the longest book in the series to date. The coverage is not encyclopaedic; indeed, some rather important lines are omitted (or at least only mentioned in passing), such as:
1 c4 e5 2 Nc3 Nf6 3 Nf3 Nc6 4 g3 Bb4 5 Nd5
However, there is still a large amount of material with coverage of all the major variations of the English Opening, namely:
Introduction to the English Opening
Reversing the Sicilian: 2nd Moves
Introduction to 2 Nc3: Black Plays Flexibly
2...Nf6 and g3 Systems
Four Knights Variation
Three Knights and Closed English
Pure Symmetrical Variation
Main Lines with 2 Nf3 and d4
The Hedgehog Variation
Mikenas Attack and Nimzo-English
King’s Indian Variations
After 1 c4 e5, there’s an obvious point which leads to an interesting discussion on the merits of reversed openings.
‘So you might ask (and many players have done so) why anyone would subject themselves to playing against the Sicilian Defence with a tempo less?’
IM Watson provides plenty of detail regarding the pluses and minuses of such an approach. The extra tempo isn’t always useful.
Similarly, he takes another bull by the horns when he outlines the differences between White playing 1 c4 and 2 Nc3 and the trendy 1 c4 and 2 g3. The subtle differences may have passed most players by so it’s well reading his stock taking summary.
Reading IM Watson’s prose reveals one of his great writing strength; getting the reader to think, and often rethink, even for positions and variations in which one’s knowledge seemed complete. His works are never dry and always inspiring.
Sometimes the illustrative games end with a brief assessment but no mention is made of the eventual result; this looks a bit odd and could have been cured by a simple '1-0 (34)' typ of comment.
Those already familiar with the author’s writing style will feel at home; he is at his chatty best, talking directly to the reader (sample snippet: ‘…play should continue with 10...Qxc6, to which I’ll return in a minute’). He has the ability to sum up the salient points of even the trickiest variations in easy to follow prose.
For example, on this tricky pawn sacrifice:
1 c4 c5 2 g3 g6 3 Bg2 Bg7 4 Nc3 Nc6 5 Nf3 e6 6 d4
…he has this to say:
‘For many years this radical pawn offer was not taken seriously, partly because the expenditure of two tempi to place a bishop on g2 would not generally fit into a sacrificial theme. So, what is going on? Above all, White is trying to exploit the weak dark squares created by the move 5...e6, in particular d6 and f6. In what follows he will play either Nb5 or Ne4, attacking d6. In addition, 6 d4 frees his dark-squared bishop to rush into play by Bf4 or Bg5, hitting one of those weaknesses. Since Black’s c-pawn will end up on d4 (or gone), the potential manoeuvre b3 and Ba3 will strike at the d6-square and sometimes prevent castling (even Bb2 attacks down the long diagonal) and the advance c5 might add to White’s grip on d6’
Incidentally, the ‘dull’ tag often dumped on 1 c4 can be safely refuted once and for all. Dangerous and exciting lines are available for English players, just as they are for 1 e4 devotees.
Here’s a few of random examples, all nicely covered in the book:
1 c4 Nf6 2 Nc3 e6 3 Nc3 Bb4 4 g4 would clearly be fun to play over the board.
This comes from a Mikenas Attack (1 c4 Nf6 2 Nc3 e6 3 e4). White improved on earlier theory with 12 Bh6!! in Ni Hua - Aleksandrov (Calcutta 2004).
Black can have fun too:
8...Nxe4! when 9 Nxe4 d5! leads to serious problems for White.
The extensive bibliography, covering nearly two full pages, clearly shows the depth of research.
There’s a very good index of variations, complete with way marking diagrams, which needs to be thorough for the English Opening due to the large number of early transpositions.
It would be great to see Watson let loose on a new version of his four-volume classic coverage of 1 c4, or at least a full and frank single volume repertoire book, in the style of his classic French Defence tomes.
Meanwhile, this fine overview will appeal to anyone looking to discover the inside story of a powerful and important opening. Those who already play the English will enjoy this new book too. Mastering an opening can take a long time; this book will provide a plethora of help and inspiration along the way.
In my opinion, this is the best volume in the series (so far).
For further details regarding the Gambit books, please visit their website: http://www.gambitbooks.com/
Saturday, 6 December 2008
ChessBase carries a worthy tribute, as do several other sites.
I met Bob several times over a number of years.
The first meeting was in 1988 when he came up to Teesside for a coaching course. Over a period of two days, he gave a Masterclass in various aspects of coaching and I was delighted when he awarded me the title of British Chess Federation Junior Coach.
I was able to ask him many questions about his games and chess career, all of which he was more than willing to answer. Naturally, a lot of my questions regarded his meetings with the likes of Fischer and Korchnoy.
The following year, we met again; this time in London, behind the scenes at the 1989 Candidates’ Matches. I admitted to being a little bit overawed, being in a room packed with so many Grandmasters and other chess celebrities. Bob took the time to take me around the room and introduced me to a whole gallery of chess stars, including Grandmasters Short, Speelman, Timman and many others. Bob must have a hundred and one things to do but he still made sure he helped me out.
Afterwards, he asked if I had some spare time and he took me on a mini-tour of London bookshops, including the Batsford offices and Caissa at Grays-in-the-Mews.
I asked him how many chess books he owned and he said he had no idea at all and that counting would be retrograde step anyway. He came out of one bookshop with a couple of volumes on ‘Go’; he mentioned in passing that his collection of books on that game was very large too.
As we walked the streets of London, I quizzed him about his contact with Fischer. He was undoubtedly still in touch with the 11 th World Champion but had to be little bit careful how much he said. He did tell me that when Fischer needed him, contact was made ‘in a round about sort of way’ and that there had been plans for Fischer and Spassky to play a match in, of all places, South Africa. The plans had fallen through (this was still three years before the 1992 ‘World Championship’ match).
Our perambulations concluded and I had to catch a bus back to Victoria. Understanding the queue system, I started off by allowing other people on first, but Bob was adamant that I had to pursue more of an initiative and he physically pushed me through the uncoordinated mob and I flew onto the bus like a cork from a bottle.
We met a few more times after that, always in London. I remember us travelling by tube on the way back from one of the Kasparov - Kramnik games in 2000. He pulled some chess magazines from his voluminous pockets and showed me some great examples of three-piece attacks, which he said juniors found difficult to produce in their own games.
Our final encounter was at the 2008 Staunton Memorial tournament. He was clearly very tired after one of his losses and I’m not sure he recognised me at first. Nevertheless, he recovered his spirits quickly and we chatted about his experiences against the younger generation.
I had written to him shortly before his death to invite to take part in my series of interviews for CHESS Magazine. I was confidently awaiting a positive response when the news of his death suddenly appeared online.
He has gone but will not be forgotten.
Monday, 1 December 2008
‘In this book I intend to share with the reader some of my knowledge and enthusiasm for the Kan. If that makes yet another chess player follow in Taimanov’s footsteps, or stay within them, then my efforts will not have been in vain.’
It’s not so easy to learn a new line in the Sicilian Defence. The large amount of theory associated with the Najdorf and Dragon variations can be a real deterrent; Black could do with something simpler to learn. Could the Kan be the answer?
1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 e6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 a6
The Introduction takes a quick look at some common Kan pawn structures and gives an overview of typical characteristics.
The main material is split into the following chapters:
5 Nc3 Qc7: Introduction and 6th Move Sidelines
5 Nc3 Qc7 6 Bd3 Nf6 7 f4 and 7 Qe2
5 Nc3 Qc7 6 Bd3 Nf6 7 0-0 d6
5 Nc3 Qc7 6 Bd3 Nf6 7 0-0 Bc5
5 Nc3 Qc7 6 Be2
5 Nc3 Qc7 6 g3
5 Bd3 Bc5: Introduction and Set-ups without 6 Nc3
5 Bd3 Bc5: Classical Set-ups
5 Bd3 Bc5: Maroczy Bind
5 c4 and Other 5th Moves
The coverage is deep and there are lots of variations. This is not a ‘quick start’ to learning the Kan; the student will need to be diligent to get the most from the material.
However, those prepared to get stuck in will be rewarded by some fresh Sicilian positions which could be very interesting to try out over the board, especially as the opponents won’t be as well versed as in other main line variations.
For example, Black’s flexible structure works to his advantage when White tries to steer the game into Najdorf territory.
Sutovsky - Vasilevich
‘Comparing this to standard positions within the 6 Bg5 Najdorf, here White has had to spend a tempo on a2-a3, and his queen is not at its usual location on f3. Black, on the other hand, has just made natural developing moves.’
A particularly eye catching device crops up several times, including this position:
McShane - Epishin
Black played 13 ...h5!, apparently a recurring theme in the Kan. The author explains the reasons:
‘Apart from gaining some space, what are the ideas behind …h7-h5?
Preparing …Ng8-f6 without having to worry about the bishop move to h6, now that the rook covers that square;
Advance the pawn to h3 in order to soften up White’s kingside and enhance the counterplay along the h1-a8 diagonal;
Play …h5-h4 followed by …Nf6-h5 and/or …g6-g5, with increased dark square control;
After a future f2-f4 and …Ng8-f6, enable …Nf6-g4 as a reply to e4-e5;
After a future f2-f4 and …Ng8-f6, if White goes h2-h3, then play …h5-h4 in order to create a weak square on g3, which can be exploited by …Nh5-g3.’
The index of variations is very thorough and is granted nine pages to help guide the reader through a large body of material. Careful study of the given lines should enable Black to cause future opponents new problems.
The Greatest Ever Chess Tricks and Traps
By IM Gary Lane
‘This collection of opening tricks and traps is designed to be a guide to winning chess. I have tried to find ways to win quickly in the opening, usually within the first ten moves to make sure that the opponent has a chance to go wrong. These will be ideal for people who wish to improve by discovering the pitfalls and traps in various opening systems.’
To that end, the material in the first five chapters is arranged according to opening rather than the theme of each trap.
Here’s a couple of typical examples…
‘A Knight to Remember’
Jahn - Kauschman
1 d4 Nf6 2 Bg5 Ne4 3 h4 d5 4 Nd2 Qd6
'A sneaky move, because it seems that Black is intending to play …Qb4+ and consequently White takes evasive action.'
5 c3? Ng3! 0-1
…although White could have battled on with 6 Rh2!?
‘The Petrosian Punch’
Petrosian - Ree
Wijk aan Zee 1971
1.c4 e5 2.Nc3 Nf6 3.Nf3 Nc6 4.g3 Bb4 5.Nd5 Nxd5 6.cxd5 e4 7.dxc6 exf3
8 Qb3! 1-0 Black loses a piece if he continues the game.
The final chapter looks at ‘Classic Attacks’, with examples of such things as the Greek Gift, Philidor’s Legacy and The Thornton Castling Trap.
The latter isn’t as well known as the rest, but this example should make things clearer:
Thornton - Boultbee
22 Bxd7 Kxd7 23 Bxc5 Kxd7 23 Bxc5 dxc5 24 0-0-0+ 1-0
I think I would spot that in game, but there was a time when I would have probably missed it. In fact there’s proof of that just three pages later in this very book…
S. Marsh - F.N. Stephenson
Cleveland League 1987
Oblivious to the possibility of the Thornton Trap, I played 17 Rxb7?? and had to resign after the fantastic 17 …0-0-0! 0-1
There is a scoring system, based on ‘Surprise Value’, ‘Risk’, ‘Chance of Success’ and ‘Reward’. A ‘pawnometer’ indicates marks out of ten for each trap. I don’t think the idea works any better here than it did in the previous book in the series (‘The Greatest Ever Opening Ideas’) but as IM Lane points out, ’…it is just a bit of fun and not a scientific report’.
As usual in a book by IM Lane (a specialist in writing chatty books for club players), little biographical and historical snippets are often used to add colour and background to the players and games.
For example, in his analysis of the Blackmar-Diemer Gambit, he relates a little surprise:
‘Did you know? It is alleged that music composed by Blackmar can be `heard in the famous Gone with the Wind.’
Having blown away numerous chess opponents with his favourite opening, it seems quite fitting.
It’s a bright and breezy read, providing lots of entertainment and some new traps for everyone.
Dangerous Weapons: Flank Openings
By IM Richard Palliser
GM Tony Kosten
FM Dr. James Vigus
So what exactly can be done to pep up the Flank Openings?
First of all, the reader should abandon any preconceptions regarding ‘boring’ moves such as 1 c4 and 1 Nf3. It still takes two people to create a boring games and the authors of this book ably demonstrate that the English and Reti can be played dynamically and creatively.
Some of the lines are quite obscure and will be new to most readers. For example, the idea of playing the Leningrad Dutch with White has never been popular but interest may be heightened now that it has a name.
1.f4 d5 2.Nf3 g6 3.g3 Bg7 4.Bg2 Nf6 5.0–0 0–0 6.d3 c5
The Polar Bear
Transpositions to the Polar Bear are possible after 1 g3, but Black can spoil the fun with 1 …e5. Yet playing 1 f4 invites the infamous From Gambit. Fortunately, Dr Vigus provides analysis of ‘Larsen’s Antidote’. Bent Larsen is, of course, a great expert on Bird’s Opening and has a penchant for unusual lines of play. Virtually all of the From Gambit positions analysed here were new to me. I wonder if any readers will have seen this sort of thing before?
Black to move
‘Beware! Never underestimate the From Gambit! If an opening has survived fir 150 years, it has probably done so for a good reason…’
Don’t get the wrong idea; the recommendations don’t steer the reader into such dangerously unexplored backwaters all of the time. Indeed, the Flohr-Mikenas Attack (shortened here to simply the ‘Mikenas Attack’, now apparently ‘Flohr’-less) has been played at World Championship level.
1 c4 Nf6 2 Nc3 e6 3 e4
‘A 2 …e6 move order is very popular with Nimzo-Indian and even some Modern Benoni players who are hoping to transpose to positions they know well and feel comfortable with. However, 3 e4 gives them a rude awakening - White has no desire to transpose and instead selects a dangerous, aggressive system.’
GM Kosten, extending his advocacy of 1 c4 beyond his classic ‘The Dynamic English’, analysis a sharp pawn sacrifice:
3 …c5 4 e5 Ng8 5 Nf3 Nc6 6 d4 cxd4 7 Nxd4 Nxe5 8 Ndb5 a6 9 Nd6+ Bd6 10 Qxd6
‘White has gained the bishop-pair and severely weakened Black’s dark squares.’
Pawn sacrifices to achieve such advantages are clearly not the private domain of 1 e4 players.
One of the most interesting chapters covers ‘An Improved Lowenthal?’
The point is that after:
1 c4 c5 2 Nf3 Nc6 3 d4 cxd4 4 Nxd4 e5!? 5 Nb5 a6!
…Black can aim for a weird position, in the spirit of the Lowenthal Sicilian, with: 6 Nd6+ Bxd6 7 Qxd6 Qf6!
The difference between this and the Sicilian is that White has a pawn on c4 rather than e4. This line is barely covered in other English Opening books. Familiarity with IM Palliser’s analysis will enable readers to spring a very nasty surprise on unsuspecting 1 c4 adherents.
IM Richard Palliser says in his introduction:
‘I certainly can’t wait to employ a number of these ideas in my own games!’
I imagine most readers will have similar thoughts. This is a very nice addition to an impressive series.
For further details of these and other Everyman products, please visit:
Missed a review? Pop along to my archive:
Friday, 28 November 2008
See here for further details:
Naturally, a full review will follow here, so stay tuned.
Thursday, 27 November 2008
Tuesday, 25 November 2008
'Mongoose Press' have been attracting very good reviews for their books and I'm delighted to welcome them to Marsh Towers.
The author's introduction nicely sets the scene for what to expect:
'This book recounts all of these stories - the woe of the aged master, the triumph of the prodigy, the sometime reversal of fortune in the other extreme’.
'You won’t find full biographies here. What you will find is the essence of players, the triumphs and tragedies that shaped their lives. You will get a fascinating look at chess players from a perspective you never may have considered before’.
The front cover is striking, with pictures of the featured players embedded in the squares of the chess board. The photos are excellent and very well chosen; they are used at the start of each players’ section. Only a small number of them were familiar to me. I particularly enjoyed seeing the pictures of Reshevsky, Junge and a very young Kamsky.
The selected players are taken from a very large period of time, all the way from As-Suli the Exile (880-946) to Magnus Carlsen (born 1990). Each subject is typically given several pages of biography and at least one illustrative game.
There’s been plenty of misery in the lives of chess players, that’s for sure. Lots of poverty, deaths at a young age and even cases of severe mental illness. Fortunately, and very noticeably, the geniuses born from the 1960s onwards have generally enjoyed much happier lives than their illustrious chess predecessors.
Two special sections are included, giving extra emphasis for the conditions of human misery, namely:
The Tragic Fate of the Gamblers
World War II and the chess players
I have always enjoyed reading about the lives of chess players and there are several subjects here which I formerly knew little about.
Here’s a couple of examples:
David Przepiorka should have been at the Buenos Aires Olympiad with the Polish team in 1939 when war broke out, but was delayed by illness. Players such as Najdorf stayed in Argentina and survived. Przepiorka died at Auschwitz.
There’s a very touching account by Vladislav Litmanovich, who visited Akiba Rubinstein in a mental hospital in 1957. The latter insisted on washing hands before shaking, as he had just had his lunch. He still had an interest in chess at that time but ‘…However, he had no idea that Tartakower had died, nor did he know about the recent match for the world title between Smyslov and Botvinnik’.
There are some controversial assertions, such as:
When describing the 1866 Steinitz - Anderssen match: ‘This would be remembered as the fiercest match in chess history’. It certainly was fierce, but the statement is rather too sweeping.
‘Confirming’ that Schlechter needed to beat Lasker by two clear points in their famous 1910 World Championship match; as I understand it, the truth is still very obscure and the version quoted here is still just a theory.
Claiming that Janowski played two title matches with Lasker.
However, little niggles aside, there is an abundance of fine material to enjoy. The purely chess bits are augmented by numerous colourful stories ad quotes. For instance, there’s page of Tartakower’s aphorisms (or ‘Tartakowerisms’).
‘They don’t give points for moral victories’
‘Only a strong player knows how badly he stands’
‘It’s always better to sacrifice your opponent’s men’
The choice of subjects - demonstrating genius, misery or both - will always be a controversial one. Here, for example, there is no place for Lasker or Tal but there is space for Donner and Short (billed as ‘England’s only chess prodigy).
The annotations are very light and some games are bare scores, but they serve the purpose of adding a little bit of chess to the prose and will hopefully whet the appetite enough to inspire independent research. Indeed, the book concludes with a list of ‘Suggested further reading’. Most are very recent and easily obtainable; some, such as Kotov’s biography of Alekhine, may take a little tracking down. Hopefully readers will make the effort to apply themselves and investigate the rich heritage of chess players and their personalities.
Production-wise, the book is very nicely presented and bound. The format is easy on the eye and the printing is of a very high standard. (There’s a little typo on the back cover, in which a letter is missing from the author’s name, but that’s the only one I spotted).
Here’s a couple of examples of play, with over a thousand years between them.
White to play and checkmate in three moves
Junge - Kottnauer
Duras Memorial 1942
17 Bxh7+! Kxh7 18 Qh5+ Kg8 19 Bxg7! F5 20 Be5! 1-0 (32)
The Colle-Zukertort Revolution!
By David Rudel
That there’s something a little bit different about this book is immediately apparent from the cover, on which a Bishop-shaped plane is busy parachuting players onto the chessboard while a tough looking soldier blasts away in the foreground with his machine gun.
The back blurb contains further indications of the unusual style, offering:
‘Introductory chapters for those who would not know the Zukertort from a Lemon Torte’
GM Aaron Summerscale is a good choice to provide the foreword. His 1996 book, ‘A Killer Chess Opening Repertoire’, advocated the Colle-Zukertort system and he effectively passes the C-Z baton to David Rudel.
The book is split into three distinct sections. The first three chapters present the reader with copious introductory material, highlighting the differences between the Colle-Zukertort and the Colle-Koltanowski variation.
One of the reasons for the appearance of another book on this opening is remarkably honest:
‘The Colle-Zukertort needs help!’
The problem lies in the existence of a number of recommended tries for Black. The author sets out to debunk some of the myths surrounding the typical Anti-Colle systems and their effectiveness.
There’s also a discussion on the correct placings for each piece, illustrative examples and a general round-up of ‘Zukertort Principles, Wisdom, and Guidelines’, such as:
‘Never allow Black to place anything on a3, f4 or e5’
‘It’s ok to let your opponent take your B/d3 with a Knight if you can immediately attack with Rf3’.
Chapters 4-11 contain the meat of the analysis of the various variations.
It’s refreshing to see the author tackling the main repertoire problems head on and not sweeping them under the carpet of a couple of minor notes. I was intrigued to see how the book would deal with two of the noted spanners Black players can throw into the works at their leisure, namely:
Black is limbering up for a choice of two spoiling plans. One is to play a quick …Nb4, to hassle the Bishop on d3. The other the oft-recommended idea of …Qe7 and …Ba3, trading the Bishop on b2. White struggles to avoid both Black plans. The book’s suggestion is to play 8 Ne5, leading into a key position.
The Bd3 cannot be preserved due to the pressure on c2. So the recommendation is: 11 Nc3 Nxd3 12 Qxd3.
As is the norm for this book, extensive prose explanations are given, rather than a thicket of confusing variations. The illustrative games show that Black has plenty of scope to go wrong against the automatic attacking plan of Rf3 and Ng4.
That seems to me to a very interesting way to play the position and one which could catch out opponents, even when they have done their homework.
Another annoying position for Colle players is this one:
Indeed, some sources either omit this possibility or dismiss it with 4 c4 c6 5 Qb3, aiming to exploit the tender Queenside. Unfortunately, Black can play simply 4 …dxc4 with a transposition to the Queen’s Gambit Accepted. It could be that players who use the Colle are less likely to have a full understanding of the nuances of a main line opening and they could even stumble into Black’s pet 1 d4 defence.
The recommended recipe here is 4 h3. Rudel points out that 4 …Bxf3 looks suspect and scores badly in practice. After 4 …Bh5, White is encouraged to chase the Bishop with 5 g4 Bg6 6 Ne5. The positional threat is 7 h4 h6 8 Nxg6 fxg6 9 Bd3 giving Black ‘…a salty cracker to chew’.
Black’s fianchetto is a tough nut to crack too.
'Zuke ‘Em' advocates 4 c4, with transpositions to Grunfeld and Slav defences possible. Grunfeld players will need to study the book to assess the subtle differences White has in store.
The remaining chapters cover ‘Extra Analysis’, (featuring a number of further investigations, thoughtfully given their own chapter so as not to complicate the teaching structure of the earlier chapters), ‘Training’, (seven pages of positions to fine-tune the reader’s skill) ‘New Ideas Index’ (four pages of positions demonstrating new ideas) the indices (utilising chapter number and section, but not page number, which would have been simpler) and a bibliography.
It’s a very interesting book and one that will definitely inspire readers and tempt them to give the Colle-Zukertort a try. It’s not a big hit in Grandmaster circles but can be a devastating weapon at club level.
David Rudel’s presentation and style could well have produced a cult book which - publisher willing - could result in updated editions in years to come (rather like John Watson’s famous books on the French Defence). Indeed, the book has a forum devoted it over at:
The author has written several updates, which can be found here:
For more information regarding Thinkers' Press, please go to: http://www.thinkerspressinc.com/
My 60 Memorable Games
By GM Bobby Fischer
The classic games collection of the 11th World Champion has long been described as one of the best chess books ever written. Yet the previous Batsford edition, with its unfortunate errors, left the world waiting for a proper, unadulterated algebraic version.
It’s good to see that Batsford have now made amends for their earlier, frankly poor, version.
Purists will be delighted to see a complete lack of tampering with the content, bar the upgrading to algebraic notation.
The format of the book works well. A short introduction precedes each game, written by GM Larry Evans. These set the scene very nicely for the games, covering, on average, five pages each.
The opponents cover a wide range of strengths of fame. It should be no surprise to see him battling with the likes of Botvinnik, Petrosian, Spassky and Tal within the pages, but the names of Celle, Letelier and Walther will be much less known to readers.
Indeed, that highlights part of the overall ethos of the book; the games are ‘Memorable’ rather than ‘Best’. This gives scope to present losses and draws alongside wins, indicating Fischer’s extreme sense of honesty.
It is striking that even though Fischer was often apparently intolerant of ‘patzers’, he was quite prepared to break down his explanations to a very simple level - including one move variations - when he thought it necessary to do so.
Naturally, some of the text has dated and further reading will be required to fill in the historical gaps. As things stand, it’s like a time capsule from one of the classic eras of chess. For example, game 31 is introduced as ‘…Fischer’s only win against Petrosian’ - how that situation would change in a few short years!
The openings are fairly typical for Fischer. There are numerous examples of the Ruy Lopez (including a detailed look at his resurrection of the Exchange Variation), King’s Indian Defence and Sicilian Defence (especially with his trademark Sozin Attack, 6 Bc4).
A couple of famous positions will surely stir more memories from those familiar with older editions of the book. It’s White to move in both cases and I’m sure the strongest moves are already springing into readers’ minds….
Fischer - Larsen
Fischer v Benko
USA Championship, 1963-4
The 60 games are replete with such memorable moments
Notes by other players are sometimes quoted to augment Fischer’s own. Korchnoi is ‘allowed’ to give extensive views on his side of their classic clash at Stockholm 1962 and Botvinnik is quoted even more as the most famous game of the 1962 Varna Olympiad is analysed.
Indeed, the reader should be able to sense Fischer’s deep frustration at letting the great champion escape with a draw. One gets the feeling that the game is a little too painful for Fischer to reveal all of his emotions; at times, it’s almost as if he’s hiding behind Botvinnik’s notes and that even though the game is obviously very memorable, he can’t quite bring himself to look at ‘the one that got away’.
The production is generally very good, with a high page count allowing plenty of space to make the layout very easy on the eye. Indeed, the format is very similar to the classic Faber edition. New games start on new pages and one doesn’t have to turn a page to match a diagram with the relevant text (two small points often neglected by space-conscious publishers).
The only production blip is that due to the size of the book, the spine of the book is prone to bending; a genuine problem, as the book is sure to be read many times. This could have been averted with more binding glue.
As usual with Fischer, one can easily end up with feelings of great frustration and a plethora of ‘what if?’ questions. Just imagine a sequel, covering his Candidates matches and 1972 match with Spassky. Did he ever think of writing it? ‘My 60 Memorable Games’ leaves the reader not merely hungry for more, but absolutely ravenous.
Just this once, let us refrain from detailing the darker side and deeds of Robert James Fischer and concentrate on the side all chess players admire. This book is an acknowledged classic, with no apparent dissenters.
Incidentally, despite Fischer’s inherent paranoia, it’s not so easy to spot any examples here and when they do appear they are extremely mild. Noting that Stein had surprised him with 1 e4 e5, he comments: ‘I suspect that the Russians ‘‘group think’’ before important games to decide which openings will upset their opponents psychologically’. That’s as strong as it gets; great respect for the opponent is the normal state of affairs.
If you’ve never owned any edition of ‘My 60 Memorable Games’ then the waiting time is over and there is a very big treat in store. Even those with a copy or two already in their libraries will welcome this new algebraic edition.
For full details of all available Batsford chess books, please go to:
The Return of The Lion
I've been enjoying reading the Chronicles of Narnia recently. There's a permanent expectation of The Lion appearing. The same is going to happen very soon in the world of chess. Here's a press release which should be of interest to all fans of 'The Lion'....
Reputable publisher New In Chess presents chess book ‘The Black Lion’
DRECHTSTREEK – The international chess book publishers New In Chess (NIC) are about to publish completely revised Dutch and English editions of the successful book on chess openings The Lion: The Black Weapon. While accessible to anyone who likes to play chess, the book also appeals to average and strong club chess players. The Lion helps players find their way in the opening stages of the game, enabling them to play according to a specific system.
The authors Jerry van Rekom and Leo Jansen are proud of the worldwide success of their book, which first appeared in early 1997 and has since been in consistent demand.
The English version of The Lion will be put on the market in November 2008. The Dutch version is scheduled for presentation on Saturday 10 January 2009, just a few days ahead of the opening of the Corus Chess tournament.
"This is going to be the fourth edition of the opening book. We had no choice because the earlier editions were sold out. But that is not the only reason. At the request of our new publisher, NIC, the book was rewritten to suit international standards and adapted in response to the latest developments in chess. It has in fact become a new book", says the author Jerry van Rekom.
The book, written in the small town of Sliedrecht, has had astounding success in the chess world. As a rule, only books authored by chess title holders enjoy good sales. Leo Jansen and Jerry van Rekom belong to the ranks of strong club chess players. They play, or played, in the national competition of the Dutch Chess Association (KNSB). Perhaps that is why they can also communicate in language that appeals to a broad public. On this point, Jerry van Rekom says that it proves that "it is possible for amateurs to write a popular book that can become a worldwide success."
Chess journalist Lex Jongsma had the privilege of presenting the first printing of the chess book De Leeuw, hét zwarte wapen on 22 February 1997. The book was the culmination of years of diligent work by Leo Jansen, Jerry van Rekom and a team of chess-playing friends. The book featuring this unique chess opening is more than 350 pages long and was an instant success.
Within a year the first printing was sold out and the second the year thereafter. The third printing came in 2000, followed the next year by an English translation. These editions also sold like hotcakes.
Calls for a new edition increased, and in 2007 the authors bowed to popular demand . They partnered with the famous international chess book publishers New In Chess (NIC) in Alkmaar. NIC also expressed the desire to publish the new edition in English.
Leo Jansen, now 80 years old, provided encouragement for the new edition as Van Rekom tackled the revisions.
The author: "Every chapter has been rewritten from the first letter to the last. Many new analyses by grand masters have been added along with many, many new games. We have done quite a lot to improve quality. And we will certainly surprise our fans as well as our adversaries with never-before-seen variants. What’s great about that is that we’ve used games and analyses our fans have sent us from all over the world. In particular, the chapter where white attacks black by an early g4 has undergone a metamorphosis. The Shirov attack is popular with ‘Lion-tamers’, but in the new edition we prove that this attack can also be repelled by the system."
A new feature of the book, in addition to the new analyses and games, is that every chapter is introduced by a prominent chess player that has been associated with the Lion in some way. For example, grand master Jan Timman and the international masters Johan van Mil and Gerard Welling give their comments on the Lion. The American master Keith Hayward also gives his views on the system. Club chess player and Lion promoter Hans van Steenis, son of the former chairman of the KNSB, offers his assessment of the system he so gladly employs.
The presentation of the new Dutch edition on Saturday, 10 January 2009 will be accompanied by a host of chess activities. The Sliedrecht Chess Club, which has garnered fame by organising several large chess events in recent years, will be in charge of the presentation. The Zwijndrecht chairman, Frank Stoute, and Hans Berrevoets of the Dordrecht chess club De Willige Dame have made an important contribution to the event, showing that this new edition of a chess book is important to promoting the game of chess on a wider scale.
Thus, a real celebration is in the works—not only for the Lion enthusiast but for every chess lover. We will ring in the new year at De Lockhorst conference centre, where the festive presentation will begin at 11:00 a.m. and feature the Lion in the leading role.
More news on the new editions can be found on the website of NIC, www.newinchess.nl, on the official The Lion website, www.thelion.nl, and on the website of Tom van Bokhoven, www.tomsschaakboeken.nl.
Jerry van Rekom
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