Wednesday, 30 December 2009

Chess Reviews: 121

The Rules of Winning Chess
By GM Nigel Davies
190 pages
Everyman Chess

‘These are the fundamentals - easy-to-learn guidelines which will help you to achieve greater understanding in your chess and enable you to approach every game with confidence.’

1: The Player

2: Preparation

3: The Opening

4: The Middlegame

5: The Endgame

This book does offer something different. A glance at the bibliography reveals several non-chess works. In amongst the likes of ‘500 Master Games of Chess’ by Tartakower and Dumont and 'Lasker’s Manual of Chess' we find 'The Unfettered Mind: Writings from a Zen Master to a Master Swordsman' by Takuan Soho and William Scott Wilson and ‘Striking Thoughts: Bruce Lee’s Wisdom for Daily Living’ by John Little.

The chapters consist of small but numerous examples (10 per chapter). Each one typically starts with a quote (sometimes more than one) to set the scene of the lesson. The there’s a piece of advice in prose, backed up with a lightly annotated illustrative game. This format works well, offering bite-sized chunks of wisdom.

The advice given covers subjects as diverse as ‘Overcome the fear of losing’, ‘Flatten your heart’, ‘Eat breakfast’ and ‘Harmonise your bishops and pawns’.

To start the section titled ‘Don’t think, feel’, two masters of different fields are quoted:

‘Don’t think - FEEL. Feeling exists here and now when not interrupted and dissected by ideas and concepts. The moment we stop analyzing and let go, we can start really seeing, feeling - as one whole.’ Bruce Lee

‘A great many people have mastered the multiplication tables of chess nowadays and even know its logarithm tables by heart. Therefore an attempt should occasionally be made to prove that two times two can also make five.’ Mikhail Tal

This leads to a discussion about intuition…

‘Intuition is in evidence when a player sacrifices material for some other factors such as time and space, such ‘irregular’ patterns calling for mental abilities way beyond the normal drudge work of applied technique.’

…followed by an in interesting famous game:

Tal - Larsen
Candidates Semi-final, 1965

16 Nd5! and 1-0 (37)

When asked whether or not it was ‘sound’, Tal’s comment was ‘‘I don’t know, but I would play it again!’’

It was as brave as it was intuitive; game 10 was the last game of a important match which had been poised at 4.5-4.5. Tal certainly knew how to ‘let go’.

The more exotic material - such as wearing ear plugs and not eating red meat before a game, is balanced by pure chess matters. ‘Improve your worst-placed piece’ shows Emanuel Lasker doing exactly that.

Lasker - Pillsbury
Paris 1900

‘In this position the only white piece that is not participating is his knight on c3. Accordingly Lasker sets about improving it.’

22 Nb1! Rae8 23 Nd2 e5 24 dxe5 Rxe5 25 Nf3 Re3 26 Ng5

Lasker - Pillsbury
Paris 1900

‘Five moves ago, this knight was doing nothing; now it is threatening mate in one.’

Pillsbury stopped the mate but couldn’t prevent the Knight from decisively raiding the Queenside pawns. 1-0 (85)

The title of the book doesn’t really convey the content. The lessons are providing the basis for good chess habits rather than presenting rules.

This a thoughtful work and one containing advice I have never seen before in any other chess book. As the New Year approaches and people think about making changes in their lives, perhaps chess players would like to turn over a few new leaves and change their bad chess habits. GM Davies provides numerous sensible and valid ways to do exactly that.

For further details of these and other Everyman products, please visit:

Zuke ‘Em
The Colle-Zukertort Revolutionized

New Edition
By David Rudel
312 pages
Thinkers’ Press

Expanded to include the Zukertort-Phoenix Attack

I enjoyed the first edition of ‘Zuke ‘Em’ (reviewed here):

My comments from the earlier review still stand firm so it makes good sense to stick to a review of the new material and general differences between the two editions.

There are 50 new pages and there are little additions in various places throughout the book. For example, a particular line of the Slav is now dubbed ‘The Elista Slav’ after its success in the (in)famous Kramnik - Topalov World Championship match.

The bulk of the new work comes in Chapter 4, ‘The Mainline’, which has been rewritten and boosted by increasing the page count from 28 to 50 pages.

A lot of the new material centres around the highly interesting Phoenix Attack. This is reached after:

1 d4 Nf6 2 Nf3 d5 3 e3 e6 4 Bd3 c5 5 c3 Nc6 6 Nbd2 Bd6 7 0-0 0-0 8 dxc5 Bxc5 9 b4!, known as the Koltanowski-Phoenix Attack


1 d4 d5 Nf3 Nf6 3 e3 e6 4 Bd3 c5 5 b3 Nc6 6 0-0 Bd6 7 Bb2 0-0 8 dxc5! Bxc5 9 a3, the Zukertort-Phoenix Attack.

The author analysis the basic differences between what White has achieved compared to similar lines of play by Black in the Semi-Slav Defence (Meran Variation).

This is all new teritory and it makes good sense to study these lines, as the surprise value could be very valuable.

‘…lain undiscovered for decades, you can bet your milk money that Black does not have a prepared defense. It will be a while, I suspect, before the Colle-hating contingent catches on.’

There is growing evidence to support the viability of this new way of playing the White position, providing, ‘…the chance for the Colle System to rise from is ashes and soar to new heights’.

For the uninitiated, playing the Colle isn’t a sign of being a dull, old player. People who start the game with 1 d4 d5 2 Nf3 can be bent on the destruction of the opponent just as much as any 1 e4 player, as demonstrated by this aggressive snippet from chapter six:

1.d4 d5 2.Nf3 Bg4 3.Ne5 Bf5 4.Nc3 Nf6

‘…White should be able to get a safe advantage by simply playing 5. f3 with 6. e4 to follow. But that’s not what I want to play.’

Why not?

‘I’d rather rip Black’s face off with 5. g4!

One shift casualty of the upgrade is that the the ‘Players and Variation Indices’ now lack the ‘Game Index’ of the first edition but of course rtha is a very mnro matter campared to all the things that have been updated and improved.

The important thing to realise is that David Rudel is taking the time and effort to produce an evolving work and he is definitely not content to rest on his laurels.

Don’t forget to join the debate over at the forum:

Missed a review? Pop along to my archive:

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