Friday 30 November 2012

London Chess Classic: Player Photos (2)

Here are the rest of the publicity photos featuring the players who will contest the London Chess Classic.

All images in this post are © Ray Morris-Hill

Thursday 29 November 2012

London Chess Classic: Player Photos (1)

The London Chess Classic starts on Saturday.

Here are some splendid publicity photos featuring the Classic participants. More will follow tomorrow.



Add caption


All images in this post are © Ray Morris-Hill

Wednesday 28 November 2012

How The Other Half Park

Catch up with our collection of amusing signs here.

Tuesday 27 November 2012

Amateur to IM: More Coverage

Further to our recent coverage of Amateur to IM by Jonathan Hawkins, a new article appeared today over at Chess. com, written by Jonathan himself.

Monday 26 November 2012

Chess Reviews: 205

The Russian Endgame Handbook
By Ilya Rabinovich
523 pages
Mongoose Press

The Mongoose has unearthed a real treasure here, with the first English version of a Soviet classic. 

Rabinovich's endgame book was first published back in 1927 and then updated in 1938. This new version has been translated (from the 1938 edition) by Jim Marfia and slightly revised 'to make the final result sound more natural to the mind's ear in our less formal times, yet without changing the meaning of any statement.'

The material 'constitutes a complete course on the endgame, assuming little about the reader's knowledge of the final phase of the game but taking the student to a high level of understanding.'

Things start off simply with The Simplest Mates, showing how to force checkmate against a lone king with king and rook, king and queen and then with king and bishops. Checkmate with king, bishop and knight is left until chapter five, after copious amounts of illuminating material on king and pawns, queen vs. pawns and kings and minor pieces.

Two chapters of particular interest  deal with Bishops of Opposite Colors and Exploiting the Advantage in Endings with a Large Number of Pieces.

The ghosts of chess past - Lasker, Capablanca, Alekhine et al - loom large in this book. Indeed, the reading experience is a little like stepping back in time, with author's thanks being offered to the likes of Levenfish, Troitzky and Botvinnik (in those days, Rabinovich would probably have been in trouble if he had omitted the mighty Mikhail from the list). Yet despite the age of the original book, the theory behind the material on offer has not changed (imagine an opening book given the same treatment; it would serve only as a museum piece).

The Russian Endgame Handbook is a high-class single volume course on the ultimate phase of the game, brought alive for the modern audience. Endgame enthusiasts and practical players will find plenty of interest here.

Winning Pawn Play
In The Indian Defenses
By Henrique Marinho
313 pages
Mongoose Press

The author, 'surprised by the mystery of why Nimzowitsch never developed a systematic treatment of the concept of qualitative majorities in the Indian pawn chains', attempts to plug the gap with Winning Pawn Play In The Indian Defenses.

First he looks at the possible reasons why Nimzowitsch neglected the area and presents the 'only ten games in any of the openings classified as Indian defenses' that he played. Then he speculates if Nimzowitsch was keeping back his thoughts on these lines as secret preparation for a potential world championship match, or whether he was somehow acting against Tarrasch, his great rival in chess thinking.

Moving on to the main content of the book, the author focuses mainly on various branches of the King's Indian and Benoni. However, neither defence is covered comprehensively and despite the all-embracing title there is nothing on the other Indian Defenses. To confuse matters further, the appendix gives some material (new to this edition) on Qualitative Majorities In The Ruy Lopez.

It's an unusual book, reminiscent more of Han's Kmoch's Pawn Power in Chess than of anything else I've ever read. It is deep and eccentric and will require serious study to obtain from it the maximum benefit. Fans of Kmoch's work who also play the King's Indian and Benoni will welcome it, but that probably represents a slim target audience.

This is translation of an original Portuguese book, published in 2004.

Thinking With Chess
Teaching Children Ages 5-14
By Alexey W. Root
81 pages (large format)
Mongoose Press

This is a book 'for teachers, chess coaches, counselors and parents. No prior knowledge of chess is required to read this book.'

Starting with the basic moves of the pieces, the material then becomes more advanced and present numerous original challenges, with each one bookended, science-lesson style, by a list of Objectives, MaterialsProcedure and Evaluation. The challenges are very suitable for use on whole chess classes.

The challenges all look like educational fun to me and I'm looking forward to setting some of my own students to work on them.

There's a useful chapter towards the end describing how to run various clubs, competitions and camps.

With plenty of original material and a general feeling of a very fresh approach, Thinking With Chess is definitely worth adding to the libraries of schools, teachers and chess coaches.

Chess is Child's Play
Teaching Techniques That Work
By Laura Sherman and Bill Kilpatrick
302 pages
Mongoose Press

Chess is Child's Play is a chess book for the junior world, only with a big difference to the rest.

'This isn't a children's book. That's why there aren't any colorful illustrations or cartoon characters. It's a book written for parents. It's written for you!' 

Written by parents for parents, this luxurious hardback aims to present 'a step-by-step method for teaching chess that parents of all skill levels can use to teach children of any age.'

There are 26 chapters, covering subjects from Why Chess? to Stalemate and Draw. The main lessons come with accompanying mini-games and are punctuated by a plethora of tidbits in the form of Coffee Talk (anecdotes) and Coach's Corner (extra bits and pieces relevant to the main lessons). There's also a number of Troubleshooting sections to keep parents on the right track and give them confidence in their teaching ability.

This is a very accessible book, beautifully presented and very easy on the eye. 

Further details about all of the books reviewed here can be found on the official Mongoose Press website.

Sunday 25 November 2012


It's been some time since we last spotted a sign worthy of inclusion here, but this strict instruction would seem to be ideal.

Saturday 24 November 2012

Chess Reviews: 204

The Art of the Endgame
By Jan Timman
269 pages
New in Chess

Despite being one of the world's top players from the late 1970s to the early 1990s (ranked number two in the world in 1982 and a challenger for the FIDE World Championship in 1993), Grandmaster Jan Timman always found the time and energy to bridge the gap between over-the-board battles and the mysterious world of chess composition, specifically in the genre of endgame studies.

This book, suitably subtitled 'My Journeys in the Magical World of Endgame Studies' is the result of many years of work  As the back cover blurb puts it: 'In this fascinating book, Timman has collected a wide range of the finest endgame studies by other composers and explains in his lucid style how they inspired him to create dozens of brand-new studies himself.'

The material is split into 14 chapters:

Miniature Studies
Rook versus Bishop
Preventing Pawn Promotion
Various Promotion Combinations
Knight Promotions
Bishop Promotions
Mating Patterns
Stalemate Patterns
Mutual Zugzwang
Building a Fortress
Systematic Manoeuvres
The Disappearing Trick
Three Themes
Various Endgame Studies

Note the systematic approach, which is entirely logical but, according to the author, not exactly typical: 'It had struck me that most books on endgame studies were quite random collections.'

The months spent working on the book saw an increase in Timman's own enthusiasm and output.  'Before, I had never occupied myself with the question how you could incorporate the Novotny theme and the related Plachutta theme in studies. Studying a number of examples pointed me in the right direction. Never before have I been so productive as an endgame study composer as in the seven months that I wrote this book.'

His genuine love of studies is apparent throughout and he treats the subject with great care and respect:

'The computer has refuted a number of studies by great composers. Nowadays there is a trend to publish such refutations as if they were great achievements. In this book I have striven to use the computer in a constructive way. An impressive work of art that has been damaged, must be repaired with great care. I have treated studies with such defects in the same way. I corrected them in ways that did not affect the brilliant ideas.'

The book is absolutely full of astounding chess variations and ideas. Even the simplest of positions produces extraordinary passages of play. The very first study given by Timman, in the chapter Miniature Studies, sets the scene well.

You'll have to but the book for the annotations (and for the other examples I'm going to give) but simply following the moves - and looking for the ideas behind them - should convince you that something special is on offer here.

Liburkin, '64' 1933
White to play and win

1 Kd1 Kf5
2 Ke2 Bf6
3 Kf3 Bxh4
4 Bxe4+ Kg5
5 Bd5! Kh5
6 Bf7+ Kg5
7 Be8 

 ...and Black's bishop cannot be saved.

Delights await in every chapter. I particularly enjoyed some of the studies I found in Building a Fortress.

Smyslov 2005
White to play and draw

1 Nb8 Rd6
2 Nd7+ Rxd7
3 Rxg7! Kxg7
4 h4 
4 ...Rd6
5 Kg2 Rg6+
6 Kh3!

'And the black rook has to leave the g-file again in order to prevent stalemate.'

Bishop Promotions are very rare, but there are two in this sample snippet of play.

Timman 2011

5 Bb1!! Bg8
6 b7 a1=B!
7 b8=B! Bc4
8 Bxa7 Bd3
9 Bd4+ and wins.

The final position I'd like to present here features the Novotny Theme. In the words of the author:

'The Novotny Theme signifies that a piece is placed on the intersection between a diagonal of the opponent's bishop and a file (or rank) on which his rook operates.'

It is very rare to find a Queen stepping onto the intersection but by pure chance, Timman found a casual game from 1910 while reading the biography of Amos Burn (Amos Burn by Richard Forster, McFarland 2004), featuring the very thing he had been looking for.


MacDonald - Burn 
Liverpool 1910

33 ...Qg4!!
34 Rxg4 Nf3+

...although White soon missed a chance to gain an advantage, Burn went on to win.

If any book is going to open the eyes of practical chess players to the beauty and value of studies, then this is surely the one. Timman's passion and determination to make this the best possible work on the subject are admirable indeed and this fine book deserves to reach a wide audience.

Timman playing Korchnoi at the 2009 Staunton Memorial Tournament

Friday 23 November 2012


Devils, the debut CD from Apple of My Eye, has arrived at Marsh Towers and is awaiting review.

Stay tuned, folks - it's coming soon!

Thursday 22 November 2012

London Chess Classic: Get Short!

The forthcoming London Chess Classic - the fourth in the highly successful series - will be the first one in which Nigel Short will not be competing (his decision).

He will, however, be giving two simultaneous displays against 30 people at a time. Can you beat a former World Championship contender?

Nigel Short during a simultaneous display. Kasparov watches!

Here are the basic details, quoted from the website:

Monday 3 & Friday 7 December. Start time: 6pm (duration 3 - 3½ hours)
Entry Fee: £50
Who can play? Anyone can take part provided your Elo is below 2300. 

Further details are available here.

Wednesday 21 November 2012

CSC News

The Chess in Schools and Communities charity received some excellent publicity last week, including two appearances by Malcolm Pein on the radio and two newspaper articles - in the Mail and the Independent - which can be read here and here.

Malcolm Pein at the 2011 London Chess Classic
There will be several CSC junior events at the forthcoming London Chess Classic. Details are available on the official website.

Tuesday 20 November 2012

Chess Reviews: 203

Attack With Black
By Valery Aveskulov
224 pages

The aim of Attack With Black is to arm Black with a full repertoire against 1 d4 players, with the Benko Gambit acting as the cornerstone.

The material is presented in three main parts:

White Avoids the Benko

This part covers all of the annoying Queen's Pawn system, such as the Veresov, Trompowsky and the Torre Attack. There's also coverage of the Blumenfeld Gambit (to be played against 1 d4 Nf6 2 Nf3 specialists after 2 ...c5 3 d5 e6 4 c4 b5) and other non-compliant responses to 1 d4 Nf6 2 c4 c5 (3 dxc5, 3 e3 and 3 Nf3). It takes just under 100 pages to cover all of these variations, so there's plenty of information to help Black players combat these popular Benko dodgers.

The Benko Gambit

The main meat of the book presents the author's coverage on all lines of the Benko Gambit (1 d4 Nf6 2 c4 c5 3 d5 b5). Still Black doesn't always obtain exactly the sort of game he would like, as White has numerous ways - of varying popularity - to decline the gambit. We finally get on to the Benko Gambit Accepted - hooray! - and Black seems to be in pretty good shape, according to this book.

Understanding the Benko

The final part is a much shorter one (24 pages), dealing with some Dream Positions for Black, Positions to Avoid and then some exercises and solutions.

All in all, this is a very well presented repertoire book, which shows how Black can reach lively (but sound) positions against 1 d4, whether White players simply try to avoid the issue or try to grab the Benko bull firmly by the horns.

Weekend tournament players should find this book suitable if they are looking to prepare a new set of anti-1 d4 openings.

 A Rock-Solid Chess Opening Repertoire For Black
Viacheslav Eingorn
192 pages

In this book, Eingorn 'recommends ideas and move-orders that are a little off the beaten track, but which he has very carefully worked out over many years of his own practice.'

The repertoire in question involves playing 1 ...e6 against virtually everything (although 1 ...d5 is preferred in response to 1 Nf3).

Approximately half of the book covers the French Defence. The early deviations are covered (unlike in The Modern French, reviewed yesterday) in the chapter French Satellites. There are some similarities with the lines recommended in The Modern French against the King's Indian Attack (an early ...b6) and the Exchange Variation (4 Bd3 c5) but against the Advance Variation Eingorn sticks with the traditional ...Qb6 plan, albeit via a slightly unusual move order - 1 e4 e6 2 d4 d5 3 e5 c5 4 c3 Qb6 and 5 ...Nc6, which has the merit of ruling out the occasionally trendy 5 Be3 lines (after 4 ...Nc6).

3 ...c5 is given against the Tarrasch, with both 4 exd5 Qxd5 and 4 ...exd5 receiving attention. 3 Nc3 is met by the old Classical with 3 ...Nf6 4 Bg5 Be7, making a change from the more popular Winawer and MacCutcheon lines recommended elsewhere.

Against 1 d4, Black plays 1 ...e6 and crosses his fingers. if White persists with 2 c4, the recommendation is 2 ...Bb4+, leading to slightly unusual positions in which Black refuses to play ball and enter the main line Nimzo or Bogo Indian defences.

There are sections dealing with transpositions to other openings (such as 1 d4 e6 2 Nf3 c5 3 d4 - the Sicilian, by an unusual order of moves) and the other Queen's Pawn systems. The English Opening is given basic coverage too.

I'd recommend this book as a template to club players, who want to get up and running with an all-embracing, comparatively easy to absorb repertoire. Serious tournament players will require a little more flesh on the bones before testing the recommended openings against tough opposition.

Both books are published by Gambit and further details can be found on their official website.

Monday 19 November 2012

Chess Reviews: 202

Time now to start catching up with a number of books which have fallen through the gaps between my reviews here and for CHESS magazine.

Between now and Christmas I will catch up with everything staring at me from the review pile. One or two books from each publisher will be granted greater coverage than the rest but no stone will be left completely unturned.

All of the books covered in this column are published by New in Chess and further details can be found on their website.

The Modern French
A Complete Guide for Black
By Dejan Antic and Branimir Maksimovic
365 pages
New in Chess

Anyone writing a book about the French Defence risks being lost in a crowded market. John Watson, Viktor Moskalenko and Simon Williams are among those who have produced very interesting and instructional manuals on the subject in recent times.

So, what do Antic and Maksimovic bring to the table? In a word - detail. Or, at least, detail in the lines they chose to cover, namely:

King's Indian Attack
The Exchange Variation
The Advance Variation
The Steinitz Variation
The McCutcheon Variation

One problem with this repertoire book - claiming to present 'a complete guide for Black' - is that some early deviations and (admittedly minor) sidelines are not covered at all, because they 'are of little value, and pose no threat to Black.' Theoretically, this doubtless the case, but club players walking into a rival's special preparation may have to lose first and then look elsewhere later.

However, coverage of the variations listed above is excellent. The authors clearly have a fine feel for the French and their collective 1 ...e6 style packs a lot of punch, displaying Black's desire to seize the initiative wherever possible. For example, the recommendation against the potentially soporific Exchange Variation is a very early ...c5, heralding an unbalanced position (provided Black doesn't mind playing with IQP). Elsewhere there's an early ...b6 against the KIA, 5...Bd7 against the Advance (instead of the more famous 5 ...Qb6), and 3 ...Be7 against the Tarrasch, before rounding off with very detailed coverage of both the Steinitz and McCutcheon Variations (with 8 ...Kf8 in the main line) to combat 3 Nc3.

Throughout the book, Black can be seen lunging on both sides of the board, with early an ...g5 or ...a5 and ...b5.

I would recommend this book players who already play the French and who would like to expand their repertoire withing the world of 1 e4 e6, perhaps adopting one new variation at a time. Newcomers to the French may find this book a shade on the difficult side.

The Strategic Nimzo-Indian
Volume 1:
A Complete Guide to the Rubinstein Variation
By Ivan Sokolov
411 pages
New in Chess

Ivan Sokolov's coverage of 4 e3 in the Nimzo-Indian Defence is presented with even more depth than The Modern French. He has been studying the Rubinstein Variation since the mid-1980s and the fruits of his labour are clear in this impressively thorough volume.

Special attention is given to the significance of the pawn structures arising from the various variations, making this, in some ways, a companion volume to Sokolov's earlier work on Winning Chess Middlegames.

The coverage is so deep that we even get whole chapters on obscure lines that have long been relegated to the role of sidelines, such as the Baguio Variation (1 d4 Nf6 2 c4 e6 3 Nc3 Bb4 4 e3 0-0 5 Bd3 c5 6 d5!?). Therefore an enquiring mind has an excellent starting point for further investigation.

Nimzo novices will find themselves lost in a sea of variations (encountering the likes of 'B322' reminds me of some of Batsford's early, encyclopedic efforts); this is a serious book for serious players. I think even Grandmasters will find much of interest here and this is almost certainly the best coverage of the Rubinstein Variation to be found anywhere.

The second and final volume in the series will cover 4 a3.

The Kaufman Repertoire
For Black and White
By Larry Kaufman
496 pages
New in Chess

The first thing to notice about this book is the unusual format. The first half of the book, behind the white cover, focuses on the repertoire for White. Flipping the book over, one discovers a black cover, which opens up the world of the Black repertoire. It's an unusual idea and, in terms of visual impact, an effective one.

Kaufman's previous repertoire book - The Chess Advantage in Black and White - was a very impressive volume. The Kaufman Repertoire follows the same premise of 'covering the entire scope of chess openings for both White and Black, in one tome' but it is by no means a rehash of old material, merely augmented by a few recent games. Not at all; this is essentially a whole new book, with a new repertoire for both colours.

The White repertoire is based on 1 d4 2 c4 (it was based on 1 e4 in the earlier book). Black's oddball attempts, such as the Englund Gambit, are covered briskly before the main lines appear. We are given 2 Bg5 against the Dutch, the Exchange Variation against the QGD, Classical against the King's Indian, Russian System against the Grunfeld and the Classical against the Nimzo-Indian. There's a chapter on the 3 Nf3 move order too, for those who would rather face the Queen's Indian Defence. 1 ...g6 and 1 ...d6 systems are met by 2 e4, with an early Be3 on the agenda.

Black is given the Grunfeld and 1 e4 e5, with the Breyer Defence replacing Kaufman's previous recommendation of the Berlin Defence.

Of the three books covered here, this is definitely the one club players will find most accessible. Players moving up the levels will need to do some more background reading to expand on the material given (Black Lion players can give a sigh of relief).

Kaufman's repertoire is very sound and I doubt many unpleasant surprises await the diligent reader when adopting the recommendations over the board. The book represents excellent value for money and delivers on its promise of providing 'a complete, sound and user-friendly chess opening repertoire.'

Sunday 18 November 2012

Bridie Jackson and The Arbour: New Deal Announced.

Bridie Jackson and The Arbour have just announced that they have joined the Debt Records label.

Initial details are available here and further details will doubtless follow.

Saturday 17 November 2012

Amateur to IM: Interview With IM Hawkins

To conclude the week's coverage of Amateur to IM, we present a short interview with the author, International Master Jonathan Hawkins.

How long ago did you get the idea to write a book?

I knew maybe two years ago that I had the material to write an interesting book. I didn’t seriously consider actually doing it until last September (2011).

Was the process easier or harder than you expected?

Harder in the sense that I grossly underestimated the length of time it would take me. Also I found myself using all my chess time doing it instead of working on my own chess.

How long did it take?

I’m not sure about hours. From start to finish it was about eight months, of which the last two and half was spent chopping and changing and editing.

Are you planning a sequel (especially if/when you become a GM)?

I would like to, I’ve thought about it a lot, but nothing on paper yet.

Are you happy with the reaction to the book so far?

Yes. My worry was that people wouldn’t understand what I was trying to say but this hasn’t been the case. I am yet to read anything negative.

Were any players inspirational or particularly helpful on your road to becoming an IM?

Yourself in the early years, when we used to talk about chess a lot. My best friend Bret who I’ve done probably thousands of hours of chess with. In more recent times on the tournament trail Keith Arkell has been very supportive. Quite a lot of stuff in the second half of the book is the type of things we would discuss.

What are your chess plans for the next couple of years?

More writing and coaching. Playing tournaments and trying to make my final GM norm. After that I’m not sure, I will have to make a decision at some point how seriously I want to take my chess.

Amateur to IM is available from all of the usual chess suppliers, including:

Friday 16 November 2012

Amateur to IM: Author!


Our extended look at Amateur to IM will conclude over the weekend, with an exclusive interview with the book's author.

It will be by no means the first time Jonathan Hawkins has been featured here at Marsh Towers. We covered some of his early successes back in 2006, when he was first making a habit of winning Open tournaments on the UK weekend circuit.

Two years later he bravely agreed to take part in a correspondence game against the Rest of the World, the moves of which were relayed both here and on the Chess Links Project website.

More recently, Jonathan supported the 2nd Mike Closs Memorial Tournament and gave a talk on one of his games against Stuart Conquest.

Demonstrating a crushing victory

He didn't win the quiz though!
Stay tuned for the forthcoming interview.

Thursday 15 November 2012

Amatuer to IM: Initial Reviews

Amateur to IM hasn't been out for very long but it has already attracted a number of very positive reviews.

Our week-long look at the book continues today with some excerpts from these reviews.

From The Chess Mind review, written by Dennis Monokroussos

''Mongoose Press often publishes chess books that are slightly unusual, but in a good way, and this is no exception. In fact, this is one of the best chess books I've seen in some time.''

''Good information, excellent exercises and lucid explanations. What more could you want? Very highly recommended for players 1900 and up, though players below that could benefit greatly as well.''

From the
Steve Giddins Chess Blog:

''Hawkins' book is a fascinating story of how an 18-year old 2000-strength player (and by definition, therefore, not a player blessed with exceptional natural talent, if he will forgive me for saying so) turned himself into a Grandmaster (he isn't one just yet, but it is clearly only a matter of time and opportunity) by a process of well-planned, assiduous work. As such, it is an inspiring story, and an example which any similarly ambitious amateur can follow, if he has the strength of character. "Amateur to IM" is a book which all those interested in chess improvement, be they players or trainers, should read, and I hope it sells as well as it deserves to.''

More will doubtless follow...

Wednesday 14 November 2012

Amatuer to IM: Why the Endgame?

This week's preview of Amateur to IM continues with Jonathan's explanation of why the endgame enjoys special coverage in his book.

Why the Endgame? 
Why did I choose the endgame for the subject of this book? Why will it improve the reader’s chess?

The simple answer is that I am convinced a careful study of the endgame sparked the biggest leap forward in my own game. Can it really be that the endgame is more important than other phases of the game?

I would say that it is more a question of balance than of one phase being more worthy of our study time than another. Let us sketch the portrait of a modern player to illustrate the typical imbalance:

  • With the wealth of opening literature, and the ease of access to the latest Grandmaster games on computer databases, it is no great task to build up a high-level opening repertoire. Time consuming perhaps, but the path to take is not a difficult one.
  • Indeed, I have listened to Grandmasters lament the unfairness of this. Gone are the days when the ‘weaker’ player can be routinely dispatched in the opening.
  • Combined with the knowledge of standard schemes in the middlegame - linked to their opening repertoire (which is relatively easy to attain, by playing through master games in the relevant openings) - we have painted the picture of quite a formidable foe.

All of this is perfectly reasonable, and I encourage the reader to spend time doing exactly these things.

We have, however, a clear motivation here for focusing (at least some) of our chess energy on the endgame:

  • Our opponents will typically have a clear weakness in this area.
  • We want to fortify our game with a strong endgame foundation; otherwise we will be throwing away many good positions (and points!).
Of course, we must expect a certain amount of crossover between the phases of the game. Knowledge of endgames is useful when studying the openings; often modern opening theory is so deep that it transposes directly into endgames.

All of this not new advice; in fact, most players know this already. Why then is the endgame such a neglected phase of the game?

There is no question it is more difficult to study than, say, the opening. Most endgame works, typically featuring general rules and many theoretical positions, are rather too dull to study. By the time we get the theoretical position we memorized, many years may have passed and we have forgotten the details. Computers often offer little help. I found this very evident when analyzing the opposite-colored bishop endgame Aronian-Bacrot in ‘Endgame Exploration 2’.

We are all guilty of mimicking the world’s strongest players to some degree, and it is true that they work considerably on openings. The reason is that they are already proficient in theoretical and technical endgames. Occasionally this is not the case and, as we do a few times throughout this book, we can enjoy the feeling that we know something an elite player did not!

Jonathan deep in thought, waiting for his opponent's first move

For ordering details, please contact your regular chess supplier or head for the Mongoose Press website.

Tuesday 13 November 2012

Amateur to IM: Aims of the Book

Continuing our preview of Amateur to IM, we now take a look at the aims of the book, as taken from Jonathan's introduction.

Aims of the Book

I did not intend in any way for this to be an exhaustive theoretical manual.

My aim was always just to start the ball rolling and help the reader to think about chess in a different and more coherent way. Everything we learn we will try to understand to the level where it can be used in a practical game.

  • I wanted to show that chess is an interesting game which is definitely not played out; there are often countless possibilities in even the most innocent looking position (take the Aronian – Bacrot game I discuss later, for example).
  • I wanted to teach good principles in the endgame and (although it was not my primary goal) to show some important theoretical endgames. Some of the theoretical endgames in the book are not essential knowledge, but I saw no reason to dumb anything down if they were relevant to the analysis.
  • I also wanted to spark the reader’s interest in analysis and investigation of chess positions. Always search for the truth, and never pass something by without understanding it.
The astute reader will notice that some of the examples in the book are quite recent. It is true that I updated some of the games from my original notebooks. Be assured I only did this when I felt the new example was stronger than the old.

I should say a few words about the structure of the book and how best to use it:

  • It is split into two main parts. The first half is quite lightweight, and focuses on some thinking techniques, principles and some essential theoretical endgames. The second half is quite deep and involves analysis and discussion of some very specific types of endgame. There is also a short section of exercises.
  • Most chapters have a ‘Theoretical Notes’ section at the end. Any theoretical endgames or particularly interesting variations which cropped up in the main lessons and required further coverage are discussed there.
When we encounter a specific theoretical position (or type of position) I would recommend playing it out several times, against a playing partner or an engine. My favorite way to do this is to play without studying the position at all. Only afterwards do I study the analysis of the position and repeat the process. In this way you will see the problems in the position really clearly, since you are already committed to thinking rather than just memorizing.

When playing over the annotated games (or game fragments) the primary goal is to retain the patterns and ideas, and the secondary goal is to use the arising positions to hone your analytical skills. Memorizing the game, move by move, is not something you need to consciously try to do. Once you understand the moves and ideas this will happen automatically. To this end I would recommend playing over the games quite rapidly in order to digest the main points. Later, upon completion of the chapter in question, you can look at the games and side variations in more detail.

Jonathan playing Peter Wells at the 2011 British Championship
For ordering details, please contact your regular chess supplier or head for the Mongoose Press website.

Monday 12 November 2012

Amateur to IM: Contents

Throughout this week, I'll be looking at Amateur to IM - the debut book by International Master Jonathan Hawkins.

Recently published by Mongoose Press, the book sports a particularly eye-catching cover that will hopefully stand out from the crowded bookstalls.

I must declare an interest in the book. I am the editor and I worked very closely with Jonathan throughout the project. Believe me, Jonathan put a lot of effort into this volume; it was definitely not a proverbial case of writing a book over a weekend.

Instead of a review, this week's articles should be considered as a set of previews.

So, what is the book about? How exactly did Jonathan rise through the ranks and what are the ''proven ideas and training methods'' on offer? As the cover blurb explains:

''The secret was knowing what to study and how to learn as efficiently as possible. Focusing his attention firmly on the endgame, Jonathan devised a number of building blocks and identified a number of very important areas of study. The result of his hard work was a meteoric rise through the ranks, as he became firmly established as a prominent GM killer on the English tournament circuit.

These pages reveal the secrets of his notebooks for the first time. IM Hawkins presents special material aimed to help you become a much better practical player, one armed with a deeper understanding of key aspects of chess.

A careful study of the lessons presented in this book should enable the chess student to gain a significant improvement in both performance and rating.''

Here's the list of contents:


Part 1
Thinking Techniques

Lesson 1
Reaching the Horizon – Reference Points in Calculation

Calculating with a goal in mind
Key squares in king and pawn endgames.
Opposition and outflanking
An arsenal of positions
Summary of Ideas
Theoretical Notes: opposition, distant opposition, outflanking

Lesson 2
A Short Introduction to Planning in the Endgame

Basic winning methods
Identifying long-term goals
Promoting our pawns
Attacking the enemy structure

Lesson 3
Capablanca’s Pawn Endgame

Combining planning with calculation
Mastering key positions
Building blocks
Reserve tempi
Critical squares
Three training games
Summary of Ideas
Theoretical Notes

Lesson 4
Step by Step – A Guide to Little Plans

Optimizing the pieces
Understanding the concept of ‘little plans’
Summary of Ideas

Part 2
Principles and Essential Theory

Lesson 5
Essential Rook Endgames

Lucena position
Philidor’s sixth rank defense
Passive bank rank defense
The geometry of checking distance
Short-side defense
Cutting the King
Building a bridge
Summary of Ideas: Simple Defensive Procedures; pawn on the fifth rank; pawn on the fourth rank
Theoretical Notes: Lucena position with a rook’s pawn; Philidor denied; knight’s pawn on the fourth rank

Lesson 6
Bishop and Pawn Connections – Dynamic Defense

R+P vs. B+P with blocked pawns
Positional ideas
Simplification into a known drawn endgame
Illustrative game: Sasikiran – Carlsen
Summary of Ideas: ‘solid’ and ‘passive’; fortress

Lesson 7
Pawn Walls Against Bishops

Restraining a bishop with a pawn chain
B+2P vs. B, with opposite-colored bishops and connected pawns
Summary of Ideas
Illustrative game: Akobian – Howell
Theoretical Notes: defensive set ups

Lesson 8
Dropping Down the Anchor

Opposite-colored bishop endgames
The anchor
Zugzwang and sacrifice
The psychology of defense and attack
Illustrative game: Kramnik – Adams
Summary of Ideas
Theoretical Notes

Lesson 9
Back To Reality – Other Minor Piece Endgames

Bishops of the same color
The theory of bishop and vs. bishop with same-colored bishops
Bishops dominating
Illustrative game: Karpov – Susan Polgar
Summary of Ideas
Theoretical Notes: bishop and pawn vs. bishop

Lesson 10

Part 3
Endgame Explorations

Practical games
Endgame tabiyas

Endgame Exploration 1:
My Favorite Endgame

Rook and bishop vs. rook
Summary of Ideas
Theoretical Notes: Lolli’s two positions

Endgame Exploration 2:
A Long Discussion of a Short Endgame

Opposite-colored bishops
Summary of Ideas
Theoretical Notes: important discoveries

Endgame Exploration 3:
Skeleton of the Minority Attack - Endgames in the Karlsbad Structure

QGD: Exchange Variation
Important structures
Illustrative game: Arkell – Kiriakov
Summary of Ideas
Theoretical Notes: minority attack; transformations

Endgame Exploration 4:
Extra Pawn on the Queenside
Part 1 - Positional Advantage

Rook behind passed pawns
Summary of Ideas
Theoretical Notes: Kopaev Line; Alekhine Line

Endgame Exploration 5:
Extra Pawn on the Queenside
Part 2 - Walking the Borderline

Steckner position
Dautov position
Unzicker position
Dvoretsky position
Zugzwang position
Skewed Dautov position
Summary of Ideas
Theoretical Notes: more on the Steckner position

Endgame Exploration 6:
Ulf on the Warpath!
Development in the Endgame

Illustrative games:
Andersson – Marovic
Andersson – Hort
Andersson – Robatsch
Andersson – Nyback
Summary of Ideas
Theoretical Notes: knights against passed pawns; L-barrier; pawns on the seventh rank

Endgame Exploration 7:
Positions for Analysis

Solutions to Exercises

Follow-up Solutions

Final Thoughts


Jonathan demonstrating a crushing victory over GM Conquest

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