Monday 31 March 2008
Sunday 30 March 2008
...I have uploaded some photos over at the Chess Links Project site as part of the new gallery.
There are pictures from four of this season's junior events over at:
Tuesday 25 March 2008
An almost 100% vote for this simple move, capturing the pawn and keeping the Knight protected.
What would you play for Black? Please vote in the usual ways. This is open to ALL players and readers.
Thursday 20 March 2008
Duels of the Mind
The Twelve Best Games of Chess
Presented by GM Raymond Keene (OBE)
It’s hard to believe now, but there was a time when we had regular chess shows on British TV. ‘The Master Game’ brought chess into the living rooms of the country just as ‘Pot Black’ did for snooker. We were also treated to a weekly round-up of World Championship action. Things reached an absolute peak in 1993 when Short played Kasparov for The Times World Championship. Chess was on two channels, with Channel 4 showing various stages of each game live throughout the day.
The explosion of satellite channels should have held lots of promise for (at the very least) a niche home for chess programmes old and new. And yet….somehow the trail went cold and chess vanished from our screens altogether.
A particular highlight of the Golden Era was the ‘Duels of the Mind’ series, as shown on Thames TV towards the end of the 1980s (but other ITV regions had to do without). Presented by influential Grandmaster Ray Keene (OBE), the 12 half-hour shows featured one classic game per week, all the way from 1851 to 1985.
Fortunately for us all, the whole set has just been released on DVD and is now available as a four-disc set.
The contents clearly shows the historical breadth of the series:
1851 Anderssen - Kieseritsky
1857 Paulsen - Morphy
1883 Zukertort - Blackburne
1892 Steinitz - Chigorin
1896 Pillsbury - Lasker
1914 Bernstein - Capablanca
1922 Bogoljubow - Alekhine
1923 Samisch - Nimzowitsch
1938 Botvinnik - Capablanca
1970 Larsen - Spassky
1972 Fischer - Spassky
1985 Karpov - Kasparov
Each game starts with an excellent historical summing up of the time and event in which the featured game was played, complete with very welcome archive footage.
The history of our favourite game has always fascinated me but I know that in our ultra-fast, quick-fix world the wonderful heritage is in danger of being neglected. Many players simply won’t pay any attention to games that have no interest as far as their own repertoires are concerned. Amazing as it seems, I believe a lot of the games featured in this set will be new to a high percentage of viewers.
GM Keene is the ideal guide for this 12-part journey through history. His chess credentials are second to none and his measured, controlled delivery has been away from our screens for too long. The late Donald Woods (former newspaper editor and chess enthusiast) asks typical club-player questions throughout each game; Ray’s answers are always informative and to the point.
A couple of positions from these terrific games should whet the appetite.
Zukertort - Blackburne
What would you play for White?
Bogoljubow - Alekhine
How did Alekhine respond to 30 Rxa8 ?
Hooked on Chess
By Bill Hook
New in Chess
Nice ol (Men) prel Nice (5), 1974
And after 9.Ra2? (Fischer had played 9.Qd1! two years earlier) White’s pieces ended up in awkward positions and Black was able to take advantage of the lack of coordination to infiltrate on the Queenside. Hook notched up a famous victory.
There is a sequel to the French Defence story. In 1990 Hook played Nigel Short in a blitz tournament. The opening of the game followed the famous precedent. ‘…and I said, Fischer - Hook, Siegen Olympiad, 1970.’ ‘Yes, I know’, and he followed Fischer’s moves exactly, deep into the opening. ‘After the game, Fischer showed me where I had gone wrong.’ ‘That I do not know’ and Nigel, in quite good humour, proceeded to crush me after I varied’.
It’s fascinating to read of the author’s experiences over many years and it’s interesting to read about the emergence of numerous young players - such as Kasparov, Shirov, Leko, Ivanchuk, and the Polgars - making their Olympiad debuts.
Other memories include Fidel Castro’s three-and-a-quarter-hour speech, Petrosian dancing, The USSR winning the 1984 Olympiad despite Kasparov and Karpov being still locked in their marathon match, America’s John Donaldson eloping with Soviet Elena Akhmilovskaya and many other vignettes. Attending 16 Olympiads has given Hook an unparallel view of chess history in the making. One of the author’s greatest career highlights was a gold medal for the best score on board one at the 1980 Olympiad.
The memoir covers other significant aspects of Hook’s life, such as gambling, painting and photography. There’s a plethora of good quality photos of famous chess players the author has met over his long chess life. Some smaller ones are interspersed with the main text but the main (mostly colour) selection is nicely presented on pages 97-127.
There’s a small sprinkling of games scores but they have no annotations; it just isn’t that sort of chess book, remaining true to being ‘a memoir’ rather than a collection of best games.
In these days when so-called celebrities have ‘autobiographies’ on the bookshop shelves by the time they are 20, it is rare indeed to see a new book written by - and about - the life of a chess player. This particular chess book cannot make any claims to improving your chess rating or making you unbeatable in the Sicilian Defence, but it is a very engaging read regarding a fascinating character.
Forcing Chess Moves
The Key to Better Calculation
By FM Charles Hertan
New in Chess
There’s a very well-written foreword by GM Joel Benjamin, who uses positions from his own games to demonstrate the ideas presented in the book. He also compares ‘Forcing Chess Moves’ to ‘Van Perlo’s Endgame Tactics’; stylistically, they are similar works albeit ones which analyse different phases of the game.
FM Hertan lays out the point of his work in his introduction.
‘What prevents me from finding the winning forcing moves more often? While hard work and talent certainly play important roles, my 29 years of teaching have shown me the central role of HUMAN BIAS in the failure to adequately consider key options. If we could shed our natural human thought tendencies and see the position through ‘COMPUTER EYES’, these biases might fall away, enabling us to consider other options which may hold the truth to a given position.’
The material is divided into the following chapters:
Stock Forcing Moves
Stock Mating Attacks
Brute Force Combinations
Surprise Forcing Moves
Equal or Stronger Threats
Quiet Forcing Moves
Defensive Forcing Moves
Endgame Forcing Moves
Intuition and Creativity
A series of exercises follows each main chapter.
FM Hertan develops the reader’s skills methodically, thus enabling each tactical lesson to be learned and absorbed properly. Often he will five a fairly basic example of a particular device and then follows it up with the same idea in a tougher setting.
For example, knowing the winning path from this position:
Belov - Osachuk
(White mates in three moves)
…should enable the reader to eventually force a route to checkmate in six moves (for Black) from this tougher nut:
Netto - Abente
The winning moves can be quite shocking but they are the most forcing available. This author trains the student to automatically look at the most forcing moves first, however unlikely they may appear at first glance. The lowering of human inhibitions is exactly the method behind the ‘Computers Eyes’ school of thought advocated here.
The material has been very well-chosen. There are some classic examples but plenty of ‘new’ ones too.
There are, typically, two positions to a page in the ‘Study Material’ sections and four to a page when it comes to the ‘Exercises’. In a book running to 382 pages, it’s easy to see that there will be enough positions to keep the reader busy for a considerable time.
Fischer fans will doubtless go all ‘misty-eyed’ when they see the likes of this again….
18 Bxd4 exd4 19 Rf6! and wins. Fischer’s ‘Computer Eyes’ rarely let him down!
A useful ‘Glossary of Terms’ and an index of players’ names concludes a fine, pain-staking work.
And now, dear reader, it is time to test your own ‘Computer Eyes’ on the following positions!
Toran Albero - O’Kelly de Galway (From the chapter ‘Stock Forcing Moves’)
White to play and mate in six moves!
Levitina - Marinello (From the chapter ‘Endgame Forcing Moves’)
In real life, Black missed the best move here (and even managed to lose). What can your ‘Computer Eyes’ spot instead of the ill fated 34...Kf7 ?
Geist - Burrows (From the chapter ‘Brute Force Combinations’)
White played Qxg7+ but could only draw. Which unlikely looking move would have been better?
If the sample positions appeal to you (as I’m sure they do), then you really should add this instructive book to your chess library.
For further details of these and other New in Chess products, please visit: http://www.newinchess.com/
Missed a review? Pop along to my archive:
Friday 14 March 2008
The Queen’s Gambit
IM Richard Palliser
GM Glenn Flear
GM Chris Ward
The ‘Dangerous Weapons’ series is a very interesting one. It’s not often that books will freely admit to some of their main recommendations as dubious but the integrity of the authors is maintained in this series, with the given lines often coming with a health warning.
GM Emms outlines the general ethos of the whole series in the introduction:
‘As the title suggests, Dangerous Weapons may not be for the faint-hearted! More than anything, it is aimed at players of all levels who like to be entertained, those who are happy to try out fun-to-play openings at their local chess club, on the Internet, in tournaments, wherever they choose to play.’
The three authors of the volume on the Queen’s Gambit all have considerable experience in the world of 1 d4 d5 2 c4. Given the positional nature of many Queen’s Pawn openings, I was intrigued to see what sort of dangerous weapons they could come up with.
There are 14 chapters, each dealing with a different dose of danger.
Chapter 1 sets the scene nicely with a very early attempt by Black to surprise Queen’s Gambiteers.
1 d4 d4 2 c4 dxc4 3 e4 b5!?
Lines are also provided to enable Black to head for a rapid …b5 against 3 Nf3 and 3 e3 also (lots of care is required!).
The next seven chapters look at ways for both sides to liven up the habitually solid Slav and it’s wilder cousin, the Semi-Slav.
Some stunners in more Orthodox variations of the Queen’s Gambit Declined await the reader in chapters 9-12, including this one…
1 d4 d5 2 c4 e6 3 Nc3 Nf6 4 Nf3 Be7 5 g4!?
'The venerable Queen’s Gambit Declined is not at all an easy opening to shock, but perhaps this rare thrust might just do it. Of course, an early g2-g4 advance is all the rage in many openings (apart from the Sicilian, it is regularly seen in the Anti-Meran Semi-Slav and has given White a whole new weapon against the Nimzo-English, namely the Krasenkow-Zvjaginsev Attack: 1 c4 Nf6 2 Nc3 e6 3 Nf3 Bb4 4 g4!?), but can it really work against the solid QGD?'
The subsequent analysis throws up plenty of food for thought. Despite 5 g4 being very rare, six replies are covered here and a few practice blitz games will soon give the brave White player an idea whether or not it is worth risking in serious encounters.
Can the Tarrasch Defence be crushed tactically? Chapter 13 provides some ammunition to try just that.
1 d4 d5 2 c4 e6 3 Nc3 c5 4 cxd5 exd5 5 e4 dxe4 6 Bc4 cxd4 7 Qb3
But be warned - it could backfire against a well-booked opponent. This is real ‘roll of the dice’ territory.
The final chapter attempts to rob the Albin Counter-Gambit and the Chigorin Defence of a lot of their fun with an early - and outwardly unpretentious - e3 by White. This seems a little bit against the general tone of the rest of the book - it’s not so much as dangerous weapon to adopt as how to defuse two Black ones. However, the lines do have a great pedigree and will no doubt come in useful for Queen’s Gambiteers.
You will certainly catch your opponents off guard with these dangerous weapons but I’d definitely hesitate before thinking about using them in important games. They will provide lots of fun games in blitz sessions though!
1 e4 e5
GM John Emms
GM Glenn Flear
IM Andrew Greet
It seems to me that there is less unexplored territory in this volume as opposed to the one on the Queen’s Gambit. Given the generally sharper nature and older age of 1 e4 e5, there’s probably ‘nothing new under the sun’. Therefore, this book takes a slightly different approach and the method is to put more meat on the bones of older and forgotten variations. At 335 pages it is almost exactly 100 pages more than it’s companion volume.
As usual for this series, shocking variations abound for both colours.
There are variations from the following openings:
It is a little bit surprising to find that the 1 e4 e5 dangerous weapons appear to me to be generally sounder than those emanating from 1 d4 d5. For example, one of the recommendations for Black against The Ruy Lopez is The Bird Defence (called l’Oiseau by GM Flear here, for French language related reasons. Poor Henry Bird will be turning in his grave).
The quoted reasons for advocacy are:
1) It avoids loads of theory;
2) There are no dull drawish lines to face such as the Exchange Variation;
3) It takes your opponent into unusual types of position;
4) It’s lots of fun
True enough, I’m sure that the players we are likely to meet will have very little prepared after 1 e4 e5 2 Nf3 Nc6 3 Bb5 Nd4. In all my years of chess I can only recall seeing three games with players trying it with Black on the local circuit (In chronological order: Howard Turner in a 5-minute game with me; David Wise against Tim Wall in one of our local weekend congresses and Paul Gregory against Joe Spayne in the Cleveland Championship. Results: a White win - on time in a very dubious position - a fine Black win and a comfortable draw respectively).
There are 18 pages on the Bird and it certainly does throw up some ‘fun’ positions.
A major - and recurring - factor is the doubled centre pawn acquired after an early exchange of Knights. Are they easy targets or do they exert a long lasting clamp on the White position?
There are plenty of tricky lines. After White’s natural 9 Bb5+ Black can really muddy the waters with 9...Kf8!?, the point being that White’s Bishop can end up as a mere spectator out in no-man’s land.
Last but not least come the best chapters of the books: The Centre Game Revealed Parts 1-3. This section, written by IM Andrew Greet, covers no less than 100 pages.
It’s fair to say that the Centre Game - 1 e4 e5 2 d4 - has been somewhat neglected by theory (while, curiously, the theory of the Scandinavian - 1 e4 d5 - has flourished).
IM Greet does a simply marvellous job of collating and explaining all of the available material, covering all of the minor variations as well as the main line.
1 e4 e5 2 d4 exd4 3 Qxd4 Nc6 4 Qe3 Nf6 5 Nc3 Bb4 6 Bd2 0-0 7 0-0-0 Re8
It’s easy to see that an exiting race of attacks is on the agenda. White now plays 8 Qg3, giving up the e-pawn, when 8...Rxe4! is the best way to take it. The twists and turns of this position are analysed well. Imagine being the master of the material presented here and coming up against an opponent who is having to find his own way over the board!
IM Greet put his ideas into practice very recently with a terrific victory against Vladimir Georgiev (rated 2576) at Hastings. The game is included in this book and is fully annotated in the March 2008 edition of CHESS also.
There are lots of inspiring ideas and lines in this book but f course you’d have to be brave to base you whole repertoire around them. (It wouldn’t be so easy anyway; for example, 1 e4 e5 2 d4 Nc6 is beyond the scope of the book so more lines would have to be analysed independently to make up the difference.) However, everything is thought provoking and fun, which surely shows that the intending aims have been well and truly met.
For further details about Everyman Chess books, please visit: http://www.everymanchess.com/
GM Viacheslav Eingorn and IM Valentin Bogdanov
It’s becoming much more difficult to write an all-embracing book on a single opening. Theory continues to develop incredibly quickly and it’s no easy matter to stay up to date.
The ‘Chess Explained’ books ‘…provide an understanding of an opening and the middle games to which it leads, enabling you to find the right moves and plans in your own games. It is as if you were sitting at the board with a chess coach answering your questions about the plans for both sides, the ideas behind particular moves, and what specific knowledge you need to have’.
The first chapter covers the Advance Variation and this is followed by two on the Tarrasch, one on the Burn/Rubinstein complex, one on the Classical and then three on the Winawer. 25 annotated, illustrative games form the meat of the book.
Second move options are not given, which is disappointing. It’s probably an impossible task to distil even just the essentials of the French Defence into 127 pages and this leads to a very uneasy balance between what to cover and what to leave out.
I think anyone trying to play the Black side of the Milner Barry Gambit armed merely with the one-liner that it is ‘not fully correct’ is in for some real trouble at the board.
Similar skimpiness abounds throughout the book. One of the big main lines (1 e4 e6 2 d4 d5 3 Nc3 Nf6 4 Bg5 Be7 5 e5) is covered in a single game.
After 5 …Nfd7, the comment is:
‘As usual, in answer to the pawn attack, the Black Knight retreats to d7. 5...Ne4 has a fairly dubious reputation, although perhaps not entirely fairly.’
Without a single demonstrative move (and ignoring the option of 5...Ng8 altogether) this is far too dismissive to be useful. Lack of space is the real killer; it would be necessary to have several volumes to make Chess Explained: The French work properly.
Given more space, the material improves in depth. Consequently, the Winawer chapters are the best in the book and the explanations are much more helpful.
This is one of the sharpest and most controversial of all French Defence positions. Here is the relevant comment by the authors:
‘The Queen’s diversionary raid has destroyed the opponent’s position on the Kingside, but White’s own centre has collapsed. In the opening, central achievements are usually considered more important, so one can legitimately ask why White would allow such a radical unbalancing of the position, especially when he is also behind in development. What benefits does he see? His pluses are mainly long-term. He has two Bishops and a passed h-pawn, factors which will grow ion importance as the endgame approaches. In addition, he usually retains his extra pawn, although in return, his King has to remain in the centre for a long time. Consequently, Black’s chances lie in the activity of his pieces and an attack on the enemy King - in other words, in dynamic play.’
Anyone trying to learn the French Defence from scratch could use this book as a basic starting point but I’d recommend a lot of further reading before putting it into practice. Established French aficionados should note: this volume is for the completist only.
GM Reinaldo Vera
The Nimzo-Indian is definitely one of the soundest of all openings and it has been used very successfully by nearly all of the World Champions from Capablanca onwards; Kasparov is the one who struggled when he played it.
The explanations seem to work much better here than in the French book, with a better balance between tasks and more time and space taken to guide the reader through the territory.
The introduction sets the scene well, with plenty of general advice concerning Black’s general aims.
Black’s best-known and most common playing methods of play and strategies in this defence are:
Blockade of the position (to restrict the scope of the enemy Bishops, with pawns on c5, d6 and e5);
Attack on the doubled pawn on the c-file (…b6, …Ba6, …Na5);
Creation, blockade and siege of an isolated Queen’s pawn, or pressure against hanging pawns.
The variations are split into seven chapters.
The Samisch Variation
The Capablanca Variation (two chapters)
Rubinstein System (two chapters)
Leningrad Variation and Other Lines
The author doesn’t try to cram too much in to the chapters makes no pretence at offering encyclopaedic coverage. For instance, after 4 Qc2, the focus is firmly on 4…d5 and 4...0-0, with no details of alternatives, making this a repertoire book.
One point of interest for regular visitors to Marsh Towers: in the Capablanca (or Classical) Variation, the position after the 11th move of illustrative game number 5 (Ibrahimov - Mamedyarov, Baku 2006) is identical to that of our ongoing correspondence game, The Hawk v The Rest of the World.
GM Vera now opines that 12 Be5 is best and that ‘Dreev’s idea 12 Bxb8 (pictured above) is not as strong: 12…Rxb8 13 Nd4 Bd7! 14 Nb3 Bxc3+ 15 bxc3 Qxc3+ 16 Qxc3 Nxc3 17 f3 Ke7 and after …Na4 and …Rc8 Black’s pressure on c3 compensates for his weaknesses on the Kingside and the isolated Queen’s pawn.’ The Hawk played 14 Bd3, so it will be interesting to see if his line of play leads to a rehabilitation of Dreev’s idea.
The important Rubinstein Variation is met by 4...0-0, heading for the Parma System. 5 Bd3 d5 6 Nf3 c5 7 0-0 dxc4 (7...Nc6 is also covered) 8 Bxc4 Nbd7!?
‘This pattern of development is known as the Parma Variation and at the moment it is one of the most popular among the world elite. Black wants to complete his Queenside development with …b6,…Bb7 and ….Rc8 and is ready, at the right moment, to play against an isolated pawn after a timely …cxd4 or against an isolated pawn-couple after …cxd4 and …Bxc3.
The flexible 8...Nbd7!? Keeps the central tension so as not to help the c1 Bishop develop, which is a frequent strategic theme in the Rubinstein System.’
The material is up to date, with just over half of the illustrative games coming from 2007.
This book does indeed provide the reader with more than enough explanation to get the Nimzo-Indian up and running in their repertoire. A little bit of further background reading will no doubt be necessary but I’m sure that careful study of GM Vera’s lines will bring the player success over the board.
For further information regarding Gambit chess books, please visit:
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Tuesday 11 March 2008
By GM Gawain Jones
I must straight away declare an interest at the start of this review. Having known Gawain since long before he became a Grandmaster of chess and I have to say it gives me great pleasure to be able to review his debut book. (http://marshtowers.blogspot.com/2007/08/keeping-up-with-jonesesnot-easy-matter.html
One of the games in the introduction demonstrates a typical Kingside attack.
Gawain Jones v D. Abhishek
World Junior Championship 2007
White has just played 13 f5 and after 13 …g5 it should come as no surprise that White continued with 14 Nxg5.
It should also come as no surprise that Gawain finished off the game in brilliant style. The culmination of the tactical assault came when all three of White’s major pieces smashed through the bulk of Black’s defences, leaving a poor Knight quaking, solo, in its boots.
Such attacks recur throughout the book but White has a second string to his bow. An early trade of Bishop for Knight on c6 - another common theme - can give White a secondary winning plan: the positional picking off of a puny pawn. Here’s an excellent example of the type of position White aims for.
Rogers v Johansson
The first two chapters get stuck into the main lines after:
1 e4 c5 2 Nc3 Nc6 3 f4 g6 4 Nf3 Bg7
5 Bc4 (chapter one: ‘..an interesting line which can be used as a good surprise weapon, but objectively it should not trouble Black‘) and 5 Bb5 (chapter two: ‘5 Bb5 Nd4 is the main line of the whole Grand Prix Attack’ )
'This is the most theoretical line…. But there still isn’t that much theory to know.’
Gawain focuses on 6 0-0
‘I think 6 0-0 is the only way to fight for an advantage’ ...but he covers five other moves too, so those who favour other sixth move tries will not be left in the dark.
Chapters three and four cover 2...d6 and 2...e6 respectively, leaving chapter five to cover the second move alternatives.
The final two chapters provide coverage of the reasonably new idea 2 Nc3 Nc6 3 Bb5
‘3 Bb5 is a sideline which has grown in popularity in the last few years. White’s aim is to reach a Grand Prix type position, but having swapped off his light-squared Bishop, which is often a target for Black’s counterplay, while damaging Black’s queenside pawn structure.’
The standard ‘Starting Out’ trappings are all present and correct, such as the ‘hints’, ‘tips’, ’warnings’ and statistical summaries. A useful index of variations - complete with diagrams - covers no less than six pages and makes the material very easy to navigate. The concluding pages contain an index of complete games. A brief glance is enough to convince the reader of the validity of White’s opening, with such luminaries as Adams, Anand, Judit Polgar, Short and Spassky all successfully adopting the Grand Prix Attack.
Naturally, there are several games by GM Jones himself (regular visitors to Marsh Towers will know I prefer it when authors practice what they preach). My favourite is his crush of Super-GM van Wely at last year’s Staunton Memorial, in which he capped an excellent performance with a stunning Queen sacrifice.
25 Qxf8+! 1-0
There’s a lot of wisdom, advice and terrific attacking games packed into the 174 page. It provides an excellent, easy to learn system against one of Black's most popular defences. Highly recommended!
For further details about Everyman Chess books, please visit: http://www.everymanchess.com/
Although this was his debut as an author, Gawain had already contributed to an earlier chess book, written by his Mother, Tanya Jones.
For this book, Gawain provided the game annotations to some of his important encounters along the road to Grandmasterdom.
Incidentally, Tanya's writing skills are by means limited to chess.
Three novels cover the exploits of Ophelia O. and her encounters with eccentric characters, legal wranglings, ante-natal matters and a murder mystery.
Tanya's most recent novel (soon to be reviewed here at Marsh Towers) is an Italian-based comic and romantic mystery.
For further details, please visit: http://www.crystalbard.com/home.htm
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Monday 10 March 2008
Friday 7 March 2008
Sunday 2 March 2008
There's a report here: http://www.chesslinksproject.btik.com/home.ikml
GM Karsten Muller and IM Frank Lamprecht
The book is split into sixteen chapters, starting with the very basics and working through some very advanced material.
The chapter titles give an excellent indication as to the book’s material.
King and Pawn(s) v King
King and Pawn v King and Pawn
Race of the Passed Pawns
Small Number of Pawns
Unique Features of the Rook’s Pawn
Fortresses, Stalemates and Underpromotion
Pawns on One Wing
Pawns on Both Wings
Fight for Tempi and Manoeuvres
Thinking Methods to Find the Right Moves
Each chapter is around 12 pages long and packed with thorough - yet readable - analysis and there are exercises at the end of every one to test the reader’s developing skills. The final chapter presents a series of tests (without clues) to determine whether or not the lessons have been absorbed.
Practising the positions given in this book against Fritz and/or a human sparring partner will undoubtedly lead to an increase in a player’s endgame understanding, planning and general calculating ability. For example, it would be a good exercise to use this well-known position…
…which is the dream endgame for all players of the Exchange Ruy Lopez. The authors augment Euwe’s 1940 analysis and there is a genuine opportunity to master the technique required for White to win.
It is possible to lose oneself in the amazing universe of King and Pawn endings and this is the ultimate guidebook for what would certainly be an extraordinary journey. It is also an excellent book to dip into to dig out some quick snippets of entertainment. Every single page will deliver such goods.
‘Breakthroughs’ is a particularly good chapter for bite-sized nuggets.
The classics are all there, such as this one (come on…you can win for White from here!)
Things build up very nicely to more complicated examples.
White can force a win - but incredibly there is only one way to do it!
Fanciful positions are actually kept to a minimum. The following breakthrough is a typical example, taken from ‘real life’.
Svacina - H. Muller
At first glance Black appears to be in trouble, but after his next move White… resigned! Can you spot the start of the breakthrough?
A very thorough and entertaining work!
The Ultimate Chess Strategy Book: Volume 1
By Alfonso Romero and Amador Gonzalez de la Nava
The basic format is similar to the excellent 'Test Your Positional Play' by Robert Bellin and Pietro Ponzetto.
As mentioned in the foreword by former World Champion Topalov: ‘The reader will not only exercise his understanding of chess, but will also learn in a quick and entertaining way’
Volume one focuses on play arising from Closed Openings; presumably volume 2 will take a good look at 1 e4 lines and plans.
The tests themselves take up the first 67 pages and the in-depth solutions cover the next 138. The players' names and game openings are well indexed at the end.
There are typically three tests over each two-page spread. The opening notes are very light but the fun starts once the initial phase has reached its end. Each critical position is accompanied by three very tempting choices and the reader is invited to carefully select the best way forward.
The illustrative games are very well chosen. The games of Karpov and Petrosian are well represented. The reader will see that trying to discover the secrets of a quiet looking, generically positional game can just as tricky as attempting to navigate a sea of tactical possibilities. The subtle plans and manoeuvres of a Petrosian can be as instructive as Tal attack.
I remember, many years ago, playing through the moves of some of the games from the Karpov-Sokolov Candidates match with some club mates at Guisborough chess club. Club supremo Stuart Morgan covered the relevant pages of the chess magazine and the rest of us tried to figure out Karpov's next moves. Despite the apparent simplicity of his play, his actual moves proved most elusive. So when a position from that match caught my eye in this book, I thought it would make a worthy sample…
Karpov - A Sokolov
Candidates' Match 1987
Now the reader has a decision to make. Should White…
A: Move the rook from a1 to c1 and the other to d1, with the idea of exerting pressure on the c-file, as well as against the future hanging pawns after black plays ….c5
B: Play 15 Rhe1 with the idea of Ng1, followed by pushing the f-pawn.
C: Play 15 Rhd1 in order to double Rooks on the d-file with Rd3 and Rad1, preventing Black's counterplay with ….c5
D: Play 15 h4 threatening to meet …Nd8 with the Knight jump to g5, followed by Qh5 or Qd3 launching an attack against the Black King.
Here's a better known (and important) position - but do you know how to proceed?
Uhlmann - Gligoric
A: Play 15 Rae1, aiming to exchange the major pieces on the e-file, and exploit the advantage of the Bishop-pair in the ending.
B: Play 15 a5 fixing the Queenside, in order to continue pressing with Ra3-b3 or Rb1 followed by b4.
C: Play 15 g4, with the idea of a further advance f4, gaining more ground on the Kingside
Once the reader has tried to solve a few of the tests, the themes will become more familiar and a pattern should soon emerge; on which areas does the student score poorly and need to do some more work? The themes are not revealed until the one studies the solutions, of course.
Lucid explanations are given to explain why one plan is better than the others and points are awarded according to choice of answer. However, accumulating points does not lead to anything and no overall category of achievement is ever given; the scores are in isolation to each test. The given test games are analysed in impressive depth and plenty of supplementary games and positions are used to further demonstrate the points made in each lesson.
It is possible to use this book as 'just' a collection of well-annotated, instructive strategic games but to gain the maximum benefit it is important to apply oneself and enter into the spirit of the test format.
As can be seen, the covers to Gambit books are usually interesting, different and attractive. Bonus marks must go to the use of capital letters in the titles too; it's good to see they haven't succumbed to the trendy - but annoying - lowercase revolution.
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