I am proud to have achieved at least some things in chess, if not in the rest of my life. This includes...

Charlton School Chess Champion (my proudest chess moment)
Member of seven times championship winning teams in Shropshire
Played for Shropshire County team many times
Shropshire County Individual Champion 1998
British Chess Federation County Master title achieved in 1996
Played for Oxfordshire County team
Organised many high profile events including simultaneous displays from...
Lev Polugayevsky
Jonathan Speelman
Nigel Davies
Daniel King
John Nunn
Tania Sachdev
Nigel Short lecture and simul in 2012
Won prizes in several tournaments including in Germany where I played in the Niedersachsen league for three years
Played Viktor Korchnoi in a simul at the London Chess Classic 2010
I was the Chess Correspondent for the Ministry of Defence
Former Captain of the Ministry of Defence team for the CSSC games.
I am the Editor of the Combined Services Chess Association Magazine 'OPEN FILE'.
Runner Up Victor Ludorum trophy 2012 (Combined Services)
English Chess Federation Chess Coach.
Attended the Chess in Schools and the Community workshop.
Member of the United Kingdom team in the 2012 NATO Chess Championships in France.
Captain of the United Kingdom team in the 2017 NATO Chess Championships in Hungary.
Currently playing actively in the Oxfordshire, Leamington and 4NCL leagues.
Best game prize - Combined Services Chess Championships 2013
Leamington and District Individual Open Champion 2014
Banbury Chess Club Blitz Champion 2013
ECF Manager of Chess in Prisons
Chess Columnist for InsideTime - the newspaper for prisoners
Chess Columnist for CHESS MONTHLY issued by Chess of London
Former Chess Columnist for The British Chess Magazine
Chess coach at the Dragon School, Oxfordshire and other schools.
Received the President's Award for Services to Chess from the English Chess Federation in 2015
Guest speaker on Chess in Prisons at the London Chess Conference in 2015
Author of 'Chess Behind Bars' published in August 2017 by Quality Chess Publishing
I am a qualified European Chess Union Chess in Schools Teacher (Qualified in 2017)
Captain of the UK Chess team - 29th NATO Championship 2018 in Lubbock, Texas USA.


This section is dedicated to reviewing chess books but will include related items such as DVD's. I will be as objective as possible and give my open and honest views. I am a chess player of county strength and I have been pushing pawns for some 40 years now. I have read and owned hundreds of chess books. I will conduct these reviews from that perspective, from a county standard chess players viewpoint. After all, it is mainly chess players like me (I have a normal day job but play chess as a serious hobby) that fork out hard cash for chess books and there are so many products available that choosing them should be done with care and consideration. I will be particularly keen to see how the books can improve your chess as an 'average' league or county player, or how your knowledge of chess in general is enhanced. Books should make you 'all the better' in some way for reading them.

Whether or not beginners or Grandmasters alike agree or disagree with my reviews I shall stick to my guns and give my own view - I do hope I can help fellow chess players in making purchasing choices. I will add though that the books you see will all have some intrinsic value - I am simply not in the business of giving really poor books the oxygen of publicity so you can take it from me that some 'didn't make it' here. Besides, I am the author of a chess book myself (CHESS BEHIND BARS) and it is not nice having a bad review of all your labours up in lights! (Actually I am relieved to say that it has been very well received so far.)

I will use a system as follows;

Highly recommended *****
Recommended ****
Borrow from a friend ***
Loan from the library **
Save your money *

Click on any link below to go straight to the relevant book.

Book: Game Changer

Author: Matthew Sadler and Natash Regan

Publisher: New In Chess

Edition: First

ISBN: 9-789056-918187

Softcover 415 pages

Date of review: February 2019

We are always advised not to judge a book by its cover. However, a cover should depict something about what the reader might find inside. Although I like the face of this book it is actually a paragraph on the back cover that enticed me to investigate further. It says that 'it took AlphaZero only a few hours of self-learning to become the chess player that shocked the world'. How can that not shake your foundations? For me as a relative oldie who played chess before computers, I have seen the unstoppable rise of these machines and I can understand just how powerful they are. Each time a new program comes out I wonder what the improvisations could possibly be. Often there are upgrades but with just a few tweaks here and there, still doing much the same as it has always done but maybe a bit faster etc. Alpha-zero is different. Very different.

I will call it a chess program for the purposes of this review but it is also an algorithm - I shall let the computer buffs fight over the differences. I must name drop here and say that I was talking to none other than Vishy Anand (briefly) whilst sharing a lift at the London Chess Classic in 2017. There was some excitement about something called AlphaZero that had convincingly defeated a world champion chess program called Stockfish. Apparently, it had done so in a human-like way! I asked Vishy for his view on it. In essence he said he thought that it was a very exciting development for chess and he was looking forward to learning more about it. The ramifications of this could be huge.

I should note right away that it has been remarked upon that AlphaZero did not play Stockfish on a completely level playing field. Grandmaster Jon Speelman whilst talking on this subject says "though admittedly in their first match Stockfish was grossly hampered being deprived of its opening book and given a meagre one Gigabyte of hash tables when 64 would apparently have been optimal". A little bit of detective work on my part has revealed that there were two separate series of AlphaZero-Stockfish matches. The first was played in December 2017 (from which those 10 games were released during the 2017 London Classic) and a common remark as with Speelman's above - was that Stockfish had not been configured with its optimal settings. DeepMind then ran a more extensive second series of matches in January 2018 - the focus of the book - to address that criticism, with an improved configuration of Stockfish's settings and hardware (based on TCEC computer championship settings). Hopefully that sets the record straight. Whatever the situation, if such esteemed writers as Matthew Sadler and Natasha Regan assert that because of AlphaZero and Artificial Intelligence chess has a new style of approach to the game then that is good enough for me. When the likes of a very strong Grandmaster such as Sadler writes that if he had his time again as a 1.d4 player he would choose AlphaZero's opening repertoire you simply have to listen.

Both authors are entirely credible. I trust them. Two more qualified and competent people to undertake this work I am struggling to think of. I mean, where does one begin to write such a book? There is an awful lot of labyrinthine information to deal with and it is all about how that information can be broken down, then organised and only then presented to the reader. I think the authors make a splendid job of it, I really do. The book is written so that the reader can scrutinise any chapter at random as there is always a discreet theme/subject wherever you turn. AlphaZero is a program that learned chess didactically. That is to say it began with no knowledge of the game other than the rules and trained against itself playing 44 million games - more than 1,000 games a second. Can you even imagine this? Did I forget to mention that it also mastered the games of GO and SHOGI in the same way?

This is one reason why AlphaZero is ground breaking and it has the attention of so many people across many disciplines. Yet there is more. It plays chess in a human-like manner apparently. It does not simply play 'computer-moves' as we have come to know them with standard evaluations (there's a lot of seriously though-provoking information about the 0:00 evaluation in the book) and the fanatical emphasis on material alone. AlphaZero will sacrifice material to open up lines - as we humans do. It will ignore material in order to gain space - as we do. It will play thematically pushing (as one example) its h-pawn right into the heart of the enemy position. GM Simon Williams would be so proud of that. It loves outposts and plays a limited repertoire of 'best' openings. The book is a chunky tome of 415 pages. You might wonder how anyone could write so many pages about a chess program but that all becomes clear as you give it more time. There are five parts which include the history of AlphaZero and how it thinks, the themes in its play, opening choices and a conclusion.

POSITION BELOW: What about this position? It is White to move. What did Alphazero play and why did Matthew Sadler say that it was 'one of the most beautiful ideas I have ever seen'? I am pleased to say that my own engine - Komodo 10 found the move but I have no idea if it 'knew' why. Well you'll need to buy the book to find out why but it shows strategical rather than tactical reasons, and tactics is what chess engines do so well.

I really like the fact that there are not only the chess computer games but comparisons with games of human players such as Kasparov, Larsen, Aronian and Blackburne. This is because the authors use historical parallels for some of AlphaZero's games. The 'machine' sacrifices like Tal, attacks like Kasparov, and 'the games that Chigorin won are strangely similar to the victories of AlphaZero'. That is a remarkable insight. Further, I think it is a tribute to the game of chess that we can have a book here in 2019 that contains great masters like Blackburne along with the latest developments in Artificial Intelligence. What a nice touch, giving a nod to the old guard to whom we owe so much.

Former chess player Demis Hassabis and his team at DeepMind have really set the cat among the pigeons. The ramifications of this program extend beyond the realms of chess. What else could be developed? This is just the beginning. What are the possibilities? There is an old (and probably politically incorrect these days) joke about an Irish photographer who spent his days trying to get a close up of the horizon. Well the likes of the people at DeepMind just keep on finding new horizons. As far as AlphaZero and chess goes and the lessons it may be teaching us we do not have to change the rules of chess at all to make it more interesting. No, what we have to do is change the way that we think about the game. AZ has definitely given me cause for serious thought and I am certain it will for every reader of this seminal work. I admit that I would like to have had an index of openings and/or the names of the openings at the header to each full game because that is very useful to club players but there is a chapter on the openings that AlphaZero used and this hits the mark. I mean, a chess program that is averse to playing 1.e4 - the move that Bobby Fischer said was 'best by test'. Whatever next? Ooh, I would love to know what Bobby thought of that. At the top level these days players are saying that if you want to go for a win play 1.d4 because 1.e4 warrants the reply 1...e5 and a solid game. AlphaZero agrees.

My really important point here is that chess players will not only enjoy reading about this program and playing through the games (use a real chess set, please) but they will also obtain many new ideas to incorporate into their own game confident that if it is good enough for AlphaZero it is good enough for them. I do echo Natasha Regan's legitimate warning though that trying to play like the machine (for example h4-h5-h6 etc) by rote hoping for a win is no good. You will need to gain a better understanding of what you are playing but then that's a basic concept for chess players anyway. Well done then to New in Chess, the authors and the team at DeepMind for shattering the glass into a million pieces and allowing chess players to walk into a new world - a constantly evolving world where the only limits are your horizons.

Those are my thoughts - here's the official blurb

AlphaZero only a few hours of self-learning to become the chess player that shocked the world. The artificial intelligence system, created by DeepMind, had been fed nothing but the rules of the Royal Game when it beat the world's strongest chess engine in a prolonged match. The selection of ten games published in December 2017 created a worldwide sensation: how was it possible to play in such a brilliant and risky style and not lose a single game against an opponent of superhuman strength? For Game Changer, Matthew Sadler and Natasha Regan investigated more than two thousand previously unpublished games by AlphaZero. They also had unparalleled access to its team of developers and were offered a unique look 'under the bonnet' to grasp the depth and breadth of AlphaZero's search. Sadler and Regan reveal its thinking process and tell the story of the human motivation and the techniques that created AlphaZero. Game Changer also presents a collection of lucidly explained chess games of astonishing quality. Both professionals and club players will improve their game by studying AlphaZero's stunning discoveries in every field that matters: opening preparation, piece mobility, initiative, attacking techniques, long-term sacrifices and much more.

The story of AlphaZero has a wider impact. Game Changer offers intriguing insights into the opportunities and horizons of Artificial Intelligence. Not just in solving games, but in providing solutions for a wide variety of challenges in society. With a foreword by former World Chess Champion Garry Kasparov and an introduction by DeepMind CEO Demis Hassabis.

Matthew Sadler (1974) is a Grandmaster who twice won the British Championship and was awarded an individual Gold Medal at the 1996 Olympiad. Natasha Regan is a Women's International Master from England who achieved a degree in mathematics from Cambridge University. Matthew Sadler and Natasha Regan won the English Chess Federation 2016 Book of the Award for their book Chess for Life.

Magnus Carlsen: "Quite inspirational. I was thinking at several points during the game (in Round 11 of the 2019 Tata Steel Chess Tournament): how would AlphaZero have approached this?"

Garry Kasparov: "Chess has been shaken to its roots by AlphaZero."

Steven Strogatz (professor of mathematics at Cornell), New York Times, December 26, 2018: "Most unnerving was that AlphaZero seemed to express insight. It played like no computer ever has, intuitively and beautifully, with a romantic, attacking style."

Grandmaster Raymond Keene, The Spectator: "One of the most important chess books ever written."

To conclude, there are many chess books being published all the time but every now and again one stands out as a 'must have'. Well I am here to tell you ladies and gentlemen that this is it.

I rate this book as ***** Highly recommended. Any book that has a foreword by Garry Kasparov must not only have demanded his attention but be the catalyst for something new to say about the chess scene. I was not sure before I started to read this book what that might be but now that I have, I totally get it. I bet Kasparov wished he had written it.

Book: The Longest Game

Author: Jan Timman

Publisher: New In Chess

Edition: First

ISBN: 978-90-5691-811-8

Softcover and Hardcover: 365 pages

Date of review: February 2019

Anatoly Karpov was, and is my chess hero. He was winning tournaments across the globe as World Champion in the eighties and appeared on BBC's 'The Master Game' which was my weekly treat at the time. I idolised Karpov then and I still do, certainly in chess terms anyway. To many he was a boring, stamp-collecting commie but to me as a kid, he was God-like. I could not hope to copy his style, because like many chess players I could not even understand it. His moves were so deep, so profound. He would play a move and you would only see the point of it several moves later. They called him The Python as he strangled his victims slowly and mercilessly, sometimes almost imperceptably. I still fondly recall that tremendous loss of his to our own Tony Miles with the shocking 1...a6 St George Defence game and the reverberations it sent around the world. Even a world champion can lose after all.

Karpov enjoyed several years at the top. It was not his fault that Fischer would not fight for his title and Karpov more than made up for his 'World Champion by default' tag by entering more tournaments and competitions than any of his predecessors as World Champion and he certainly proved himself. It was all going so well. Then along came on Garry Kimovich Kasparov. In the January 1984 rating list, Kasparov had 2710 ELO and Karpov had 2700. The marathon matches began on September 10th 1984. In the next six years they would play five matches for the World Chess Champion title. It would be one of the fiercest rivalries in the history of sport. It seems incredible to look back now and recall that the matches themselves lasted some 14 months and 5,540 moves over 144 games.

Just stop and have a think about that.

If Karpov was the Python, then Kasparov was the Cobra, striking quickly from the early stages. It was the cobra who eventually wrested the title from the Python. I said at the beginning that I had been waiting a long time for this book. I should explain why. Both of the K's have written about their experiences in their own books and their own words but Jan Timman adds new commentary from an objective standpoint. Kasparov for example used quotations without his own assessments and the author here thought that there was room for other stories and anecdotes. He is right. His annotations are lighter than Kasparov's who could often lose a reader in a thick pea soup fog of variations. Timman's notes are more accessible and there are just the right amount of diagrams to support the text in my view. I also like the fact that at last these matches are covered under one roof. The author has selected 50 games, all annotated along with 17 fragments. The games are instructive, as should be expected and I am delighted to note that on page 346 he includes one of my very favourite games. It was game 20 in Lyon 1990. Kasparov won in fine style and it is the game that one can easily on You Tube with Kasparov analysing alongside Bachar Kouatly. It is an absolutely fascinating insight into the mind of a chess genius.

There are a few black and white photographs to supplement the text, including a rather comical one of Svetozar Gligoric, chief arbiter in Moscow - inspecting Karpov's chair in the Hall of Columns. Kasparov is seen smiling, thus it is anyone's guess what the arbiter is looking for. The book consists of five chapters - one for each match. There is a succinct and informative introduction before every chapter, setting he scene. One cannot escape politics when writing about these two legends. Stories of shady characters, changing allegiances and bribery come to the fore once again. Mikhail Gurevich was on Kasparov's team and he has a go at Karpov talking about morals. He says "How dare Karpov forbid me to help my friends? (Gurevich assisted Vishy Anand at one point) Now that I live in Brussels I am a free man. Karpov, with his Bolshevik mentality will never be able to understand that". Ooh, I have so missed all of this. World Championships are just so darned friendly these days. There are references to 'Perestroika against the establishment', psychologists and seconds shouting 'kill him' 'destroy him' etc. Wonderful. The infamous Florencio Campomanes features, of course, as does Margaret Thatcher!

For sure, the two K's have a greater respect for one another these days as they have matured and realise that they both needed one another to make this chess history. They understood that at some point they were the only two players strong enough on the planet to understand one another's chess game. That is true. Karpov even visited Kasparov when he was briefly imprisoned. In his foreword, Timman announces that the idea for this book came from Allard Hoogland, the publisher of New in Chess. It is him then that we have to thank for planting the seed from which Timman has written an informative and historic account of a time in chess the likes of which we shall never see again.

One thing I would have like to have been included is an Index of Openings which ought to be standard these days. It is something that many amateur players (perhaps the majority of customers) like to consult in a chess book. A table of results at the end would also be useful and would act as an easy reference for the interested reader. I should finish by saying that the author, GM Jan Timman is a former World Championship Candidate himself and has written several excellent books including 'Timman's Titans' and 'The Art of the Endgame' which I also thoroughly enjoyed.

I rate this book as **** Recommended. I am biased because as I said I have been waiting a long time for exactly this type of book and what chess fan of a certain age (my age!) could not enjoy it? What chess player young and old could not learn from the games and what chess fan does not want to hear a more objective insight about the matches from one of the world's most likeable and knowledgeable players? Could someone put all of this history together in a deliverable way? Well, if anyone can, Jan can.

Incidentally there are a limited number of hard cover editions of the book.

Book: Evil-Doer, half a century with Viktor Korchnoi

Author: Genna Sosonko

Publisher: Elk and Ruby

Edition: First

ISBN: 9785950043383

Softcover: 314 pages

Date of review: November 2018

To be able to say that I have actually played Viktor Korchnoi sits even above the fact that I stood next to Her Majesty the Queen after being invited to one of her garden parties. Yes, it was that much of an honour. Korchnoi is of course an absolute legend in chess and I thought I knew a great deal about him after reading his book 'Chess is my Life' but Genna Sosonko has shared his own personal insights and experiences from a lifelong relationship with Korchnoi. The book includes some lovely stories including the one where in 1985, Korchnoi played Grandmaster Maroczy - the game lasting eight years - and Viktor eventually won. Oh, did I mention that Maroczy had long since departed this world but Viktor had been persuaded by a leading (and clearly influential) parapsychologist to play a dead master from the past?

Anyone who knows anything about chess history will be aware that English Grandmaster Nigel Short had lovingly referred to Korchnoi as 'A curmudgeonly old git' but I laughed aloud reading about how Korchnoi understood the word 'old' but not the other two. When Sosonko revealed that it basically meant a quarrelsome old asshole, Viktor was less than amused but he got the point eventually. I mean, Nigel Short is quite correct, and this book definitley substantiates his remark. Yet despite being so obtuse and downright rude at times we had to love Viktor for his fighting chess, his will to win right to the end. Draws were anathema to him and he especially liked to beat the younger players just to put them in their place. Not for him the computer age and all that study - but just playing chess for the sheer unadulterated love of it. That isn't to say he didn't study. Sosonko tells us repeatedly how hard Viktor worked on adjourned positions and other studies. Korchnoi came alive in the fourth and fifth hours of such tasks when others (much younger) began to wither.

There are some incredibly sad moments too. Sosonko writes in a powerful, articulate and intelligent manner, and one becomes a willing hostage to the narrative. Describing Korchnoi's twilight years he says that the great man died 'piece by piece, surrendering first his hearing, then his memory, his stamina, physical movement - everything to which he hadn't earlier given a moment's thought, and which he took for granted'. I mean, how powerful is that? I thought of the inevitability of my own death and those that I love. I never considered death taking us piece by piece as one would take pieces from a chessboard. I wanted to jump into the book as one would enter Narnia from a wardrobe to stop the process and help Victor - to turn back the clock and have the younger, energetic and intense chess player back again, but time waits for no man, not even Victor Korchnoi - and now he has gone forever. His loss is palpable.

There are several pages of photographs (black and white), some of which I have never seen before including one of him playing a tiny Magnus Carlsen in Norway in 2004 - the only time they ever met. Korchnoi won in 40 moves. He was sixty years older than Magnus who was 14 at the time. This is not a book with chess games in it - it is a proper read, and I am delighted that Genna Sosonko was driven to write it. Oddly, the only thing I am not keen on is the title. I totally understand why it is called 'Evil-Doer' after reading the book but I have been wracking my brains thinking what I would have called it had I written it myself. Probably something like 'The Stubborn Trout' but you'll have to read it for yourself to find out why!

Here is the official Blurb

Viktor Korchnoi was one of the leading grandmasters of the 20th century, coming within one game of winning the world championship in 1978. His battles with Karpov for the world crown were among the most important chess matches ever played. A man with a unique - and in many ways tragic - life and career, Korchnoi's defection to the West in 1976 was a major event in Cold War politics.

Grandmaster Genna Sosonko was Korchnoi's coach and second during tournaments and candidates matches in 1970-71 and then a close friend of Korchnoi for decades. Indeed, Sosonko's emigration to the West in 1972, which is described in detail in this memoir, had a key impact on Korchnoi's decision to defect four years later. They would meet up at tournaments and at home and discuss chess, politics, and just about everything else. Their conversations constitute an important part of this book, in which Sosonko tackles difficult questions about Korchnoi's personality and places much of his often challenging behaviour into its historical context. This book, like Sosonko's previous masterpiece The Rise and Fall of David Bronstein, contains no games but focuses on Korchnoi's life, from his early childhood to his final years. Further, it includes many previously unpublished photos from the private collections of Sosonko and the Korchnoi family.

I rate this book as ***** Highly recommended. It is a book that should stand alongside Viktor's own account of his life. This is an intriguing insight into the mind of a World Championship contender and truly remarkable human being whether or not it is chess related. Well done Elk and Ruby for getting it out there. More of the same please. Buy this as your festive (or is that Chesstive?) read.

Book: The Queen Saves the Day

Author: Sergei Tkachenko

Publisher: Elk and Ruby

Edition: First in English

ISBN: 9785604071007

Softcover: 206 pages

Date of review: November 2018

This is the first time that I have reviewed a product from the Elk and Ruby Publishing House. They say that they specialize in publishing high-quality chess books. (The consumer will be the judge of that). They were founded in early 2017 and have so far published 14 chess books from excellent authors and they have more exciting books in the pipeline. All of their books are available on Amazon and some are also available on the Forward Chess mobile app for Apple and Android ( They can also be ordered online through select book shops, including Barnes & Noble in the United States and Waterstones in the UK.

I begin with a review of 'The Queen Saves The Day' A World Champion's favourite studies where there are 100 studies with the queen in the finale. It is written by Sergei Tkachenko, a member of the Ukrainian team that won the 5th World Chess Composition Tournament in 1997 and which came second in 2000, 2004, 2013, and 2017, who has collected 100 studies whose common theme is that white ends up with just the queen in the finale, yet manages to win or draw.

There are no more than six moves in almost all solutions, so experienced chess players can analyze the positions directly from the diagrams. Those new to chess problems will find analyzing these studies useful. The diverse set of tactical ideas involving a single queen in the finale will enable them to gain a deeper understanding of the queen's resourcefulness and hopefully turn losses into draws and draws into wins! Some of the studies are classics from a bygone age. Others were originally published in the Soviet Union or ex-Soviet countries. Several are Sergei's own compositions. This is the fifth book in a series of six endgame studies by Sergei Tkachenko to be published by Elk and Ruby Publishing House. Others include One knight, pawn, bishop, rook and king saves the day.

There are some really wonderful positions in here, from the kind of endgames the amateur player will definitely encounter over the board to the problem type positions created to really tax your brain. Here's one of my favourites with white to play and draw. Okay, you won't see this sort of thing over the board but it has its own beauty to enjoy nevertheless. The problem is by V.Nikitin, 2008]

1.Qa6+ (1.Qxc5+?? Kb2! 2.Qb4+ Ka1 3.Kc1 Bh6+ and Black wins.)

1...Kb2 2.Qb7+ Ka1 (2...Ka3 3.Qa7+ Keeps checking and gets the draw.)

3.Qxg7+ Rd4 4.Qxd4+! Kb1 (4...cxd4=)

5.Qa1+!! Kxa1 6.Kc1! (followed by stalemate no matter what Black plays next.)


A small and therefore portable book, you can take it (and the others in the series) anywhere, and burn time productively whilst waiting for trains, planes and automobiles. They are indispensible too for places like the doctor's surgery, hospitals and even the queue in the post office. Seriously What is there not to like?

I rate this book as **** Recommended High Quality? Yes. Someone else has done all the work - now you can have all the pleasure.

Book: Chess Opening Traps For Kids

Author: Graham Burgess

Publisher: Gambit Books

Edition: First

ISBN: 13-978-1-911465-27-0

Hardcover: 127 pages

Also available as an e-book and an app book

Date of review: November 2018

I have consulted all of the 'for kids' books by Gambit including 'Chess Openings' Chess Endgames, Chess Tactics and of course the very well known 'How to beat your dad at chess', all of which are very useful coaching tools but I am delighted that there is a new book specifically written about opening traps because after all, that's where people get caught initially. This book does what it says on the tin and shows 100 traps, some of which I have never seen myself so this is not just for kids, believe me. It is a well-presented hardback book, consistent with the format in this excellent series, and there are three sections covering Basic Tactics, Combining Ideas and Advanced concepts. There is also a section at the end to test your opening tactics, and see what you have learned. This consists of 48 positions (six per page) ranging from easy to 'much harder'. There is a list of target scores in which if you get 42-48 of the positions correct you are at Master or Grandmaster standard so this is clearly not just for kids I would suggest! That is not a criticism as the more people that can benefit from this book the better.

Burgess gives a few tips to the reader for further improvement including reading the book again, understanding and remembering key positions and traps and playing competitive games which of course is the arena to try out and develop one's sense of understanding. Going through it I would have liked the author to mark whether the ideas were for 'White or Black' at the beginning of each trap and also if possible to put the name of the Opening before every game but this does not detract in any way from the quality of the book. It is just that these additions would be useful for kids to reinforce their understanding of Opening names.

Here is the official Blurb

Chess becomes fun when we learn how to survive the opening and stop falling into our opponents' cheap tactical tricks. That's what this book is about! By understanding opening play and how to exploit tactical ideas, we turn the tables on our opponents. Now they will be the ones getting outmanoeuvred, tricked, trapped and pushed off the board!

Chess Opening Traps for Kids is a serious course on how to play the opening, illustrated with memorable and entertaining examples. By focusing on 100 key themes, Graham Burgess explains how to use opening tricks to our advantage. Every opening features the hidden dangers for both players, so we need to avoid pitfalls while making full use of tactics to achieve the opening goals of purposeful development and central control. Most of the 100 sections feature a basic example followed by a more complex one. Some of the traps have claimed grandmaster victims, while others are more likely to arise in junior chess. Either way, the aim is to learn the theme so well that you can use it when similar opportunities arise in your own games. A series of exercises at the end of the book allows you to check that you have grasped the main points. Throughout the book there are tips on how to spot tactics in advance and advice on opening strategy.

Award-winning author Graham Burgess has written 25 chess books ranging from general guides to works on specific openings. He is a FIDE Master and a former champion of the Danish region of Funen. In 1994 he set a world record for marathon blitz chess playing.

I rate this book as **** Recommended kids and adults learning chess will benefit from reading this and learning the various traps - of which there are many to fall into. Buy this and remember that forewarned is forearmed.

Book: Fabio Caruana - His amazing story and his most instructive chess games

Author: Alexander Kalinin

Publisher: New In Chess

Edition: First

ISBN: 978-90-569-1813-2

Softcover: 207 pages

Date of review: September 2018

And about time too! I was wondering when there might be a book about 'Fabulous Fabi' and now that he is the challenger for the World Chess Championship, New In Chess have released a book by Grandmaster Alexander Kalinin who is a distinguished chess trainer from Russia. He coached Daniel Naroditsky (USA) to win the World Youth Championship and is the author of the acclaimed Chess Training for Candidate Masters. The cover says it tells his amazing story and offers his most instructive chess games. Did it accomplish this task, that's the question? Well, the book is just over 200 pages in length, so it isn't too onerous and it is very well presented with a very nice style of writing for us amateur players and smart diagrams thoughtfully placed throughout. It is written in 2 parts, the first being 'The rise of the American chess star' and the second being 'learn from Fabio's best games'.

The former is only from page 11 to 39, and I found myself wanting to learn more about this man. There is a photograph of Fabio as a junior, which is very sweet and one of him with his father - the first time I have seen any photos of Caruana with any of his family. I am left wondering why not a photo with his father and mother, but perhaps there is good reason for that. Caruana was playing chess at the age of five - yes FIVE years of age and being coached by Bruce Pandolfini who said that 'It was obvious that he had rare intuition'. At 14 years, 11 months and 20 days Fabiano became the youngest Grandmaster in the history of the United States. Among his countless tournament victories Caruana's legendary win in St Louis in 2014 stands out, making him the third-highest ranked chess player in history. In 2016 he became US Champion and led the US team at the Chess Olympiad. His victory at the 2018 Candidates Tournament in Berlin earned Caruana the right to challenge World Champion Magnus Carlsen in a match for the highest title.

Personally speaking, I have actually met him a couple of times and photographed him at the London Chess Classic and found him to be extraordinarily polite and friendly. A really lovely man. But do nice guys win? Clearly when one plays through some of the games in part two of the book they do! He's a wolf in sheep's clothing is Fabiano. The book assert that it is the perfect guide for amateur chess players. I have heard this claim many times on book covers only to be disappointed when scrutinising it. Yet, in this case it really is true. Kalinin writes with clarity and has a real common-sense approach to explaining the game at the most important points. There really are no terribly lengthy sub-variations, just the ones necessary to support the main points. It was simply a pleasure to work through. It would be remiss of me not to give you a window into the pleasures of the book by showing you the amazing finish Caruana played against Ruslan Ponomariov at Dortmund in 2014. It is alchemy at the chessboard. (SEE DIAGRAM)

39.Re7!! Lightning from a clear blue sky. This is a double piece sacrifice combination and one that will be remembered for a very long time to come. 39...Qxe7 40.Ba6!! wonderful. There is simply no defence against checkmate. How sporting of Ponomariov to play on for the gallery. 40...Kxa6 41.Qa8 mate. After the game, Caruana stated that this was 'One of the most satisfying combinations I have ever played'. You know those 100 tactics a day we are supposed to do - this is precisely why! I learned several new insights into Caruana the chess player, and I won't reveal them all here. After all you should purchase this book and find out for yourself. But it is clear that he has travelled and lived around the world, never been afraid to change trainer if he feels he needs to, and he has a tremendous work ethic and fighting spirit as well as being one heck of a talented chess player. He will need all of these attributes in order to beat Carlsen in London in November but only Fabiano Caruana knows if he has the tools to finish the job and be the first American since you-know-who to bring the title home. I thought he was all about the Ruy Lopez of the Berlin Wall but I was delighted to see games in the book covering the French Defence, The Bishop's Opening, The Scandinavian, The Evans Gambit, The Dzindzi-Indian and more.

This is quite simply my kind of book. Informative, well laid out and easy to read and just delightful. The author and publisher are to be commended and I have to say that this book is rated as HIGHLY RECOMMENDED. Read it before the World Champs start-then follow Fabi's next great endeavour.

I rate this book as ***** Highly recommended.It is very well written, the content in terms of games is first class and this is an intriguing insight into the mind (more than the life) of a World Championship contender. All in all, this is another value for money NIC book.

Book: Strike Like Judit

Author: Charles Hertan

Publisher: New In Chess

Edition: First

ISBN: 978-90-569-1770-8

Softcover: 255 pages

Date of review: August 2018

Judit Polgar is the strongest female chess player of all time. From an early age on the Hungarian prodigy baffled the world with her sensational triumphs. At the age of 15 she beat Bobby Fischer's record to become the youngest grandmaster in history. During her glorious career, which she ended in 2014, she defeated World Champions Boris Spassky, Anatoly Karpov, Garry Kasparov, Vishy Anand and Magnus Carlsen.

To reach the 8th spot in the FIDE World Rankings (for men) and belong to the very best for many years, as Judit Polgar did, you obviously have to be a brilliant all-round chess player. Still, she will be first and foremost remembered for her attacking skills. Her electrifying combinations and tactical triumphs set her apart. As former U.S. Champion Joel Benjamin said after he lost to her: "She is a tiger at the chessboard. She absolutely has a killer instinct."

Award-winning author Charles Hertan has revisited the gold mine of Judit Polgar's games and selected her best and most instructive tactics. They are arranged by theme and presented with helpful explanations and lots of practical advice. You will be inspired by her clever traps, stunning sacrifices and cunning endgame tricks. You will learn from her tactical vision, calculating skills and counter-intuitive ideas. Strike Like Judit is a riveting guide that will help you win more games as you will find killer moves more easily and more quickly.

Charles Hertan is a FIDE Master from Massachusetts who has been teaching chess for more than thirty years. He won the ChessCafe Book of the Year Award and authored the best-selling 'Power Chess for Kids' books.

I rate this book as **** Recommended Something here for Judit fans.

Book: Applying logic in chess

Author: Erik Kislik

Publisher: GAMBIT

Edition: First

ISBN: 13 978-1-911465-24-9

Softcover: 319 pages

Date of review: June 2018

Is chess a logical game? What constitutes an advantage in chess? How can we set problems and create psychologically difficult situations for the opponent? These are big questions, and Erik Kislik tackles them and others head-on in this thought-provoking, thoroughly modern, and original work. He answers the first of those questions with a resounding 'yes!'. His assessments focus on concrete points: pawn-structure, material imbalance and compensation. Even though the analytical proofs may be complex, he repeatedly shows that these elements are the keys to evaluating positions and forming plans.

As the trainer of players ranging from high-level grandmasters to average club-players, Kislik is very strong on providing practical guidance on topics such as how best to use chess software, choosing hardware, getting psychologically ready for a game and preparing for specific opponents. He is always willing to boldly state his views, even when they run contrary to conventional chess wisdom. "I was excited by this book because of the way all of the ideas are intertwined and you get very concrete advice... Everything is applicable and it is easy to see how it applies to the real world." - from the Foreword by GM Hjürvar Steinn Gretarsson.

Erik Kislik is an International Master originally from California who lives in Budapest. He is an expert in computer chess and one of the most in-demand chess trainers on ICC. He has coached many grandmasters and assisted a number of elite players with their opening preparation.

I rate this book as **** Recommended Every time I open it there is something of interest.

Book: British Chess Literature to 1914

Author: Tim Harding

Publisher: McFarland

Edition: First

ISBN: 9 781476 668390

Softcover: 393 pages

Date of review: June 2018

A huge amount was published about chess in the United Kingdom before the First World War. The growing popularity of chess in Victorian Britain was reflected in an increasingly competitive market of books and periodicals aimed at players from beginner to expert. The author combines new information about the early history of the game with advice for researchers into chess history and traces the further development of chess literature well into the 20th century. Topics include today's leading chess libraries and the use of digitized chess texts and research on the Web. Special attention is given to the columns that appeared in newspapers (national and provincial) and magazines from 1813 onwards. These articles, usually weekly, provide a wealth of information on early chess, much of which is not to be found elsewhere. The lengthy first appendix, an A to Z of almost 600 chess columns, constitutes a detailed research aid. Other appendices include corrections and supplements to standard works of reference on chess.

It took me a long time to read through, but I wanted to digest it properly. The author is quite rightly meticulous about his own work and the requirement for others not to rely on Wikipedia but to do proper groundwork of their own. He is keen to explain the difference between primary and secondary sources of reference and research. Primary would be evidence from the actual time an event occurred, such as a letter whilst secondary source is created at a later time, but even then researchers should be very careful to check sources carefully. Sage advice indeed. This book contains a wealth of characters from Staunton and Blackburne to Leopold Hoffer (director of the British Chess Club Company) and George Brunton Fraser who contributed to the Chess Players Chronicle for many years.

These are the ghosts of the past, gone and probably forgotten by the majority of today's chess players so I personally could not be more delighted and grateful that Tim Harding has brought them all back to life. My favourite photograph among many is the one of Antonius van der Linde from 1875. If today's footballers think that their haircuts are cool and new they can think again. This man did it 143 years ago. But this book is a serious work detailing how chess was marketed and published before the First World War. There are many references for the keen chess historian to get their teeth into - after all at some point the baton must be handed on. Are you up for the challenge?

I rate this book as **** Recommended A veritable feast of chess

Book: How to Beat the Open Games

Author: Sverre Johnsen

Publisher: GAMBIT

Edition: First

ISBN: 13 978-1-911465-23-2

Softcover: 256 pages

Date of review: April 2018

Reviewing books is about being as objective as possible. Personally I almost never reply 1...e5 to 1.e4 so this book is new territory for me, even after 4 decades of playing our noble game. However, this publication is not just for the likes of me but covers the broad church of all chess players. Thus I shall do my best to reveal my own thoughts whilst acknowledging that others will have their own view.

The official blurb states...

The Open Games (those beginning 1 e4 e5) are now more topical than ever, featuring in a high proportion of elite-level games. This new user-friendly guide offers players of all levels a carefully worked-out repertoire, taking into account this wealth of new material.

Noted opening writer Sverre Johnsen has also taken a critical look at the more traditional Open Games, where theory is often based on old or obscure games. Making extensive use of modern computer engines, he has overturned ancient assessments and found new paths that breathe fresh life into positions long thought to be resolved. It is striking how often in his lines Black is able to seize the initiative.

A full repertoire for Black with 1 e4 e5 when White avoids the Ruy Lopez ...Bc5 and ...Nf6 systems both fully covered after 3 Bc4

Each chapter starts with a 'Memorable Game' to inspire and set the scene and Johnsen has chosen sound lines that are likely to surprise opponents and deny them the type of game they are seeking. He has deeply researched correspondence sources and recent books on the Open Games, and employs similar methods to those that made his earlier opening works so popular among club-level players.

Sverre Johnsen is a chess analyst, researcher, organizer, trainer and writer from Norway. He is co-author of Win with the London System and Win with the Stonewall Dutch, two of the best-selling openings books of recent years.

My comments

First of all, the book certainly has the look and feel of a GAMBIT publication. It has a creative cover, the pages are of good quality and the layout is easy to follow. I particularly like the fact that the author puts the main moves before sub-variations at the beginning of each new piece. This is very useful and stops the reader from continually flipping back to the beginning if they forget the main moves - very good.

There are 24 chapters as such under four main headings which are The Two Knights Defence, Giuoco Piano, Four knights and Scotch and 'Other Open Games'. I do like the very brief intro I each chapter and the sample game, but also the chapter guide sets out the variations that the reader will be analysing, and that's useful too as you can go directly where you want to go for any particular line you might fancy looking at.

Chapter 3 is rather amusingly titled 'The Duffer's Attack' which for white is 4.Ng5 after 1.e4 2.Nf3. 3.Bc4. The author asserts that 'this controversial move lacks a recognized name'. Maybe in Norway but here in the UK we refer to it as the Fried Liver Attack or at least the beginning of it if White sacrifices the knight on f7.

Here it is. (See diagram opposite). Would you be up for defending this as Black?

I took note of the very useful tip that in many 1.e4 e5 lines the central thrust of ...d5 at the right moment is key. That's certainly applicable here. I enjoyed looking at the chapter and moved on to the Giuoco Piano and was equally interested. The Pianissimo is 'very quiet' with 4.d3 lines but the Piano is more aggressive and d3 is eschewed for c3 and d4 moves. I have always found these lines rather tricky from a Black perspective and it is easy to fall foul of horrible tactics if you don't know your stuff so I dug deeper into the chapter and actually learned some neat things - which I am not revealing here lest I meet you over the board. The Evans Gambit is also covered. Did you know that Captain Evans also invented the light system on shipping lanes? The book does not tell you this, but I know my chess trivia.

The Scotch section was informative and I re-learned some lines going through it. Unfortunately though I could not find the Steinitz Variation 4...Qh4 which I do see this played at club level occasionally so it would be very helpful to scrutinise this and have the author's view. This move almost wins a pawn by force and White's most successful line seems to have been 5.Nc3 Bb4 6.Be2 Qxe4 7.Nb5 Bxc3+ 8.bxc3 Kd8 9.0-0, when Black's awkwardly placed king has generally proven more significant than his extra pawn. Unless I have missed this somewhere - I cannot see it in the book. Of course, that is the author's choice but I would have thought it should be covered. The reader gets lots of bone to chew on though with the Belgrade Gambit, Potter's move (5.Nb3), the Mieses variation and more.

The final section contains some golden nuggets too in the form of (among others) the Vienna, Bishop's Opening, King's Gambit, Göring Gambit, Danish Gambit, the Centre game and rare second moves Personally I enjoyed learning at least two good lines against the Vienna and the King's Gambit and I shall try my best to commit these to memory. The chapter includes Nakamura's outrageous and amusing 2.Qh5. This is just a kids move right? Why would he play it then?

At the very end the author looks at 1.e4 e5 2.Be2!? and says that this move has been very 'lightly tested' and he may publish a booklet on it later. Until then he is modestly claiming the naming rights to this Opening - and why not indeed? He does give a very brief analysis of it.


Firstly, be clear that this is a book from a Black perspective. It is true though that the reader will also learn optimum moves and strange variations for White and that's all useful. There are a lot of lines so the reader will need to be serious about giving the necessary time and focus to get the best from it. If like me you fancy trying something new at the chessboard - entering deeper waters and seeing what you can find then this will be beneficial for you if you don't normally reply 1...e5 to 1.e4.

One thing I should like to see. The writer Andas Adjoran has written mostly about chess from a Black perspective and in his book he inverts the chess diagrams so the reader can follow the action from a Black point of view. I feel that would have been rather cool here. Sometimes we club players look at a book and think 'who is this written for, White or Black?' but if the diagrams were given from the relevant perspective we would instantly know. Just a thought.

Overall I enjoyed it and have marked several pages for reference. If there is another edition I would love to see the Steinitz Scotch in there but you cannot have everything in life. The author makes a fair point at the very beginning of the book. He is well aware that there have been many books written about 1.e4 e5 and questioned if there was anything new to add. Based on his 30 years of teaching student 1...e5 he felt that there was and I agree with him. It is the way in which he delivers the information that I like and he has done a fine job of imparting his knowledge on these systems.

I am not sure if I am yet proficient enough to 'seize the initiative' as Black, as the proclamation suggests but that is the fault of Carl, not the book!

This publication is intended to cater for both inexperienced players wanting first step knowledge to more experienced players who know theory but never really studied the open games. Has the author achieved his goal in this respect? I would say so in my case, yes. Thus, whjy not any other reader wanting to look at chess from this 1...e5 angle. Not only does Norway have a World Champion at chess, but some very proficient chess writers too - and I look forward to seeing more work from Sverre Johnsen. GAMBIT have once again secured a very capable author.

I rate this book as **** Recommended especially for all those wishing to embrace change and play 1...e5 against 1.e4 Free your mind and fly.

Book: Fundamental Chess Tactics

Author: Antonio Gude

Publisher: GAMBIT

Edition: First

ISBN: 13: 978-1-911465-17-1

Softcover: 335 pages

Date of review: December 2017

An argument rages in some quarters of my chess club as to whether it is tactics, strategy or both that win chess games. Indulge me and let's say that tactics does so much of the time. We can engage in our esoteric discussion about other aspects of the game over a beer. Tactics or 'tic-tacs' as some chess players rather annoyingly refer to them can be very rewarding but one has to develop the art of spotting the little devils. Tactics lurk. Tactics have camouflage but if you possess the correct goggles (night vision sometimes) and a mindset rigorously trained and developed for spotting them when they venture out from behind the trees you can execute them. As the song goes 'They're everywhere and nowhere baby'.

I already have the book 'Fundamental Checkmates' by the same author and publisher so this is a very useful companion guide to that. Let us dig deeper and find out what it is all about. The official; blurb states that 'once a player has learned how the pieces move, the next task is to put them to work - that is to study tactics. For all players, from beginners to champions, tactical skill is the main component of chess ability. And this skill must be constantly practised and improved. This book provides a systematic course in chess tactics and hundreds of exercises to sharpen and measure your skills. With Antonio Gude's assistance, you will understand how the pieces work, so you can carry out your strategic plans and launch devastating attacks. And even in those games where things go wrong, you will always be ready to pounce when given the chance. The book is packed with entertaining and inspiring examples, brought to life with information and stories about some of the more notable figures in chess history.'

GM Lubosh Kavalek states that 'the author (Gude) is well-read, knows important games from the past and present, and uses famous endgame compositions to create a useful mating manual for wide readership'. Hardly a ringing endorsement I feel but Kavalek always was a hard marker - just ask Nigel Short.

What's in this book exactly and should you purchase it? Well I can announce that it is quite a thick tome and might deter some chess players from putting in the hours to delve within its pages, but nothing worth having comes easy so let's flip open the cover. I confirm that there are some 8 chapters as follows:

1. Glossary of Attacking and Strategic Terms
2. Double Attack
3. The role of pawns
4. Attacking the Castled Position
5. Drawing Combinations
6. Combined tactical themes
7. Opening disasters
8. Tactical Examination

Chapter 8 consists of a series of tests for the reader (have you been paying attention?) to solve. These are designed for players of varying chess strengths so everyone should feel comfortable having a go. I also think that the Glossary is very useful, especially for intermediate readers.If you thought that 'interference' was something that only occurred on your TV screen then prepare to be enlightened. If you think outposts adorn only your garden fence then think again, and if you truly want to know about 'removing the guard' without getting arrested at Buckingham Palace then read on.

You might well already be familiar with some popular chess themes such as the Greek gift, passed pawns, the weak king position and fortresses but look out also for the Kamikaze pawns, extraordinary combinations and diabolical positions, of which I have had more than my fair share. What level would this humble reviewer say the book is suitable for? Well, certainly, experienced club players and above will benefit from it but even if you are new to the game there are some golden nuggets for you. As the author quoted 'The greatness of a man lies not in hitting the target but firing the arrow'. In that case, draw back your bow, aim as best you can and fire into the pages of this highly interesting book. You do not have to go through the whole book at once - dip in and out as you have the time and immerse yourself in the myriad possibilities. Then grasshopper, you will begin to appreciate the satisfaction of spotting tactics quickly. If you don't your opponent might.

Antonio Gude is a well-known chess writer and teacher from Spain who has represented his country in international correspondence chess events. His previous book for Gambit, Fundamental Checkmates, was shortlisted for the English Chess Federation Book of the Year Award.

I rate this book as **** Recommended Tactics do win games - deal with it!

Book: 125 Chess Opening Surprises

Author: Graham Burgess

Publisher: GAMBIT

Edition: Second (2017)

ISBN: 978-1-911465-18-8

Softcover: 175 pages

Date of review: December 2017

If you already have the book '101 Chess Opening Surprises' by the same author then you need to know that this is the updated version of that. It is revised and expanded with new opinions and ideas on many openings. It does contain lots of additional analysis and ideas. The brand-new sections mostly deal with ideas that were unknown before 2016 or 2017. It is 140% bigger too - physically and in terms of content. The cover intrigues me. It has various opening ideas on chess boards, hanging from sticks on what appears to be a desert island, though it could just be a beach. If it were the former I am given to thinking I might be alone on said island therefore I would have no-one to try out my devilish new ideas on but that's just me thinking too much. The book fells nice (unlike those horrid Kindle things - I would like to see you recharge one of those on a desert island) with the usual good Quality Gambit layout and print and plenty of diagrams to support the text.

I often personally give 'gimmicky' Openings a wide berth as I am unlikely to play them in competitive chess but this book is different. Yes, it has some opening surprises that only those with strong hearts and nerves could stomach - never mind an urge to enter the unknown and not be afraid. But it does have some very enterprising material too. Each opening is measured on soundness and surprise value and there are some real gems in there. I am not going to tell you my particular favourites as I might just want to try them out against you.

In these days of openings being learned some 15-20 moves deep - even by average club players (thanks to computers, DVD's and YOU Tube) we all need something different in the Openings tool bag, surely. Surprising the opponent is now a primary aim of modern opening preparation and these 125 opening surprises land like bombshells in the apparent calm of standard openings and disorientate your opponents as they grapple with original problems. This book is a treasure-trove of unusual ideas at an early stage of the opening, each with a firm logical foundation, yet running against the grain of conventional play. Each idea has quick-strike potential and is supported by enough concrete analysis to enable you to try it with confidence.

Well, that line is what the blurb says but I cannot see me playing 2...h6 very often. That said it is right to examine some of the crazy ideas that Openings can provide to wander off the well-trodden paths and see what we can find. I mean who on earth would play 3...a5 instead of 3...a6 in the Ruy Lopez? Do me a favour. Yet the explanation for this is lucid and logical. Optically, certain moves just look to be rubbish but drawbacks in one sense have advantages in another and as the author himself says 'The moral is that a re-examination of even scrupulously checked chess material will tend to prove useful.

This book was apparently five years in the making and I believe it has been worth the effort for the author and worth the wait for the reader. There are eight sections and a list of Openings at the end. Now I am off to analyse 6...Bg4 in the QGD Tarrasch. That's all I am telling you. FIDE Master Graham Burgess is Gambit's Editorial Director, and one of the founders of the company. He holds the world record for marathon blitz chess playing, and lives in Minnesota.

I rate this book as **** Recommended especially for players who do not have the original edition and those who like to play chess 'flying by the seat of their pants'.

Book: The New in chess book of Chess Improvement

Author: Steve Giddins

Publisher: NEW IN CHESS

Edition: First (2017)

ISBN: 978-90-5691-717-3

Softcover: 350 pages

Date of review: December 2017

I have never met Steve Giddins but if I did the first thing I should do is congratulate him. I think he is an excellent chess writer and that I have always enjoyed his chess books and I hold him in high regard because he knows how to impart his knowledge of the game to grass roots players and that is not an easy skill to master. Many is the junior who has been the grateful beneficiary of advice from Giddin's '101 Chess Questions Answered' and I have learned much from that book myself. My radar is always on high alert when one of his books appears. So what's this one about?

In essence it is a compendium of 100 instructive games from previous issues of the legendary New In Chess Magazine. The author has visited the NIC vault and put together some of the best (and most didactic) examples of games covering everything from pawn structures, space advantage, weak colour complex (you are wondering what that is aren't you?) and much more. There are seven chapters, every one of which has something of interest for the person who wants to learn.

Themes range from Attacking the king, to Sacrifices and Material imbalances and positional and endgame themes, but there's lots more in there including the Openings from the games that he offers us. He includes eight World Champions which is pretty impressive in my book. He has not merely lifted games and pasted them into a book. Clearly he has given great thought to which games to include and his very illuminating introductory comments before each chapter set the scen nicely. He has thoughtfully included 'Key Lessons' after each game which are of great value. Such advice might discuss the power of two connected rooks, the downside of hemming in your bishop or detailing specific manoeuvres from a game which highlight strategies, not just tactics. Very enjoyable.

Notes to the games are given by various masters, including my favourite Anatoly Karpov and it is quite right that Giddins has kept the original comments. This book is about learning from the very best and I fail to see how anyone could not benefit from dipping into this book now and gaain when you ahve time to playa game. That's the other good thing - you do not have to read it from page one to the end in that order. They say 'what is written without effort is read without pleasure'. Well I have had a great deal of pleasure reading this book and still learning from each time I visit it. I will finish with the autor's own words in his introduction. 'Less of the fuit is low-hanging than in older instructional books, perhaps, but spme very sweet and tasty treats are awaiting the reader who is willing to make a little more effort to clamber up a few branches. The author has done all the hard work - now the reader can reap the rewards.

I rate this book as ***** Highly Recommended

DVD ROM: Fritz 16

Author: ChessBase

Publisher: ChessBase

Edition: 2017

ISBN: 978-3-86681-631-2

Date of review: December 2017

I was reading an old chess magazine from the 1980's and it gave a review of 'new' computer software quoting Garry Kasparov as saying that the development of software for chess is as important as the printed word. He was perceptive was Garry, and we virtually all use chess software these days and probably take it for granted. Fritz came into my life from version 8 (which I still have!) and I have always considered it to be an integral aspect of my chess life, studies and analysis as well as for fun, playing online etc. Those wizards at ChessBase have recently released Fritz 16 which retains all of the old favourites and functions but certainly contains a new look and feel to it. I have had a good play with this though I should say at the start that I have not tried every single function - just the ones I use most often. I give the official blurb at the end so you can understand how much more there is to enjoy. The bright banana yellow interface is certainly erm, bright and it stands out on my bookshelf, for sure.

Essentially, it is divided into three sections titled 'Fritz, Playchess and Online Apps' and it is very intuitive. It is just easier to go where you want to go which is a welcome time saver and a significant improvement on previous editions. The options are clearly set out and anyone can use this - even people new to using computer chess software. Just click on the buttons! With the Classic Menu I particularly like the 'insert diagram' function - which puts an image straight into your annotations and helps with the visual picture of your game as you play through it. It is simple, but effective. You can see this in the image below. Also, it takes just one click to play Blitz, that's my kinda chess. After a long day it is great to unwind with Fritz and just let loose at Blitz or just watch others play online.

The 'Easy Game' function I can describe in two words word - tremendous fun. Just as it should be. The new feature here for Fritz is the 'Assisted Analysis' which has emoticons giving hints and tips and evaluations as you go along. I thought this might be a bit of a gimmick until I tried it and I found myself using it more - competing against it as if it were a human being! I wanted to improve, I wanted to beat it - this was (and is) personal! The emoticon becomes a sort of chess partner and I am even tempted to give it a name other than the obvious Fritz. Chess players will have hours of fun using this function and I reckon kids particularly will absolutely love it. It is especially useful if you cannot get out, say to a chess club or tournament and you want to play some chess. Well, fire up the engine, get the coffee on and play chess in the comfort of your own home. It will play at your level so you won't get downhearted losing all the time. It will tell you your current players rating which is an incentive to improve as well.

I also want to know what openings are being played as quickly as possible when entering moves. I really like the 'Classify Opening' option in the analysis section. A window pops up and gives the details immediately. Very nice. It not only gives the opening but will sometimes add wording - as in the image here - such as 'Black avoids the Meran'.

There are plenty of other new aspects and the functional buttons have icons in them so it is easier to find what you want (such as blitz chess 3 minute) and let us not forget that with Fritz you get 6 months access on a Premium Account basis to the world of ChessBase and which is my favourite chess playing site. This and the tabs on the initial start up which include many hours of free videos, Openings and tactics area, training, Database updates, chess news and so much more. It's all there. The wording for Fritz 16 this year is 'He just wants to play'. Well there's no excuse. Get your copy now and make your move. The official blurb goes as follows.

'When is chess the most enjoyable? When you win! When Fritz entered his first tournaments some 25 years ago, humans still had a real chance of taking the engine down. Only a few years down the line, Fritz was already beating grandmasters left, right and centre, but ever since his 4:2 victory over Kramnik in 2006, Fritz has been considered unbeatable. Who would want to play against him? In the case of Fritz 16, however, playing against an engine is now once again the very definition of fun! A host of features, including 'Assisted Analysis', which gives you discreet visual hints as you move, and emoticons, which show Fritz's mood, are there to help you. Even with little knowledge of chess, you can enjoy many an exciting game, and more importantly, victory, against Fritz. If things don't work out, Fritz 16 shows you the combinations you might have missed directly after the game with the handy 'Tactical Analysis' function, or you can dive right into 'Easy Play' calculation training to hone your skills. The new multiprocessor engine was developed by Vas Rajlich ('Rybka') and is up there with the global elite. Stay mobile with Fritz 16: With a 6-month ChessBase Premium Account included, you're guaranteed full access to the world of ChessBase Web Apps (also for iPads, Android Tablets and Smartphones) on the move: 6,000 chess training videos, 60,000 tactical exercises, 8 million games in the Live database and, of course, the best online action on Fritz now also annotates and analyses as you play, immediately providing you with move-by-move summaries to replay after a game ends.

No other chess program offers you more, with the online manual alone spanning a whopping 457 pages! But you won't need it - Fritz 16 is intuitive and easy to use, and whether you want to play against the engine, analyse or enjoy some online blitz, Fritz 16 will open just the functions you need at the click of a mouse'.

To be fair I want to mention a couple of issues that bother me, one of which Chessbase could change and one that might be my own computer issue (although I use Fritz on three computers) so they cannot all be 'faulty'. Setting up coaching positions for juniors is not as good as doing it in chessbase. Chessbase allows you to set up an 'illegal' position such as one with no kings. Fritz won't let you do that as far as I can see. Also I continue to have issues around pawn promotion whereby despite unticking the box saying 'automatically promote to queen' it still wants to do this on my PC. It does so on two of my computers and I still don't understand why and I would love to sort it out. Even when I return to factory settings it does this and did so in Fritz 15. It's very odd.

As far as this reviewer is concerned however, Fritz is still as much fun and as useful as ever. Despite stiff competition, I remain loyal to Fritz as my trusty 'pal' when it comes to chess. It is phenomenal value for money in my opinion and you can have months - nay years of fun for less than the the price of a pair of good shoes. The strap-line for the Fritz 16 product is 'He just wants to play'. Well so do we all, and there is simply no excuse. Grab your copy now, load it up, strap yourself into your chair and make your move. Travel forward with Fritz 16 - I am certain that you won't look back.

I rate this software as ***** Highly Recommended. A must have addition in your chess life.

Book: The Chess Attacker's Handbook

Author: Michael Song and Razvan Preotu

Publisher: GAMBIT

Edition: First (2017)

ISBN: 978-1-911465-16-4

Softcover: 175 pages

Date of review: November 2017

Let me begin by giving some of the official bumf...

Life is too short to play boring chess! That's the mantra of the two young authors of this book, and as you read their energetic and insightful words, you may find yourself caught up in their enthusiasm for direct attacking play. Their over-the-board successes are not based on mere bravado or trickery, but on a profound understanding of the chessboard struggle and thought process. Song and Preotu consider the role of manoeuvring and prophylactic thought, and examine attacks in the endgame, as well as more standard topics such as play on colour complexes and when and how to launch the pawns in an all-out assault.

The text is packed with advice, study suggestions and anecdotes as well as quotes and references to philosophy and other 'real-world' topics. Their examples are drawn from their own practice and their super grandmaster trainer, as well as modern classics and older gems. Most of their material you will not have seen before; the rest you will not have seen explained this way before. The authors are the two highest-rated Canadian juniors. Razvan Preotu earned the Grandmaster title in 2016 at the age of 17. Michael Song became an International Master by winning the North American Under-18 Championship. He has represented Canada many times, winning a bronze medal at the 2011 World Youth Championship. His coach is super-grandmaster Evgeny Bareev.

Now for my own thoughts. There are countless books on attacking chess so what if anything makes this different? Well to begin with I am very pleased to see the (much) younger generation having the courage to write chess books. Clearly both considered that there was a need for this publication. Bareev in his introduction emphasizes the modern way that the authors provide material which includes short tutorials which are a good idea. This never used to be the case in books I had as a kid.

There are 14 chapters with each author specialising in separate ones from Attacks in endgames, to charging the h-pawn forward (A favourite subject also of GM Simon Williams) and prophylaxis, which might seem a tad out of place in a book about attacking but it has its place. I enjoyed the introduction to this chapter more than any other with Song talking about his love of steak and the uselessness of asparagus. If you read the book then all will become clear. The examples taken in opposite coloured bishops are very nice including Elianov-Paunovic from Andorra la Vella in 2003 and I enjoyed playing through the chapter about including all pieces in the attack - which is something that many players, not just juniors forget to do.

As with any chess book, you have to commit time to this if you want to get the best out of it but there's nothing wrong at all with dipping in and out of chapters when you have some time. This book is aimed at people of all levels but I would say that beginners and intermediate players might do well to find something a little less intense elsewhere but certainly upward of this there is plenty to sharpen your attacking teeth on.

I rate this book as **** Recommended if your goal is to make a deeper study of the game to think more strategically about your approach to chess.

Book: Extreme Chess Tactics

Author: Yochanan Afek

Publisher: GAMBIT

Edition: First (2017)

ISBN: 978-1-911465-12-6

Softcover: 143 pages

Date of review: October 2017

I will declare my hand right from the start - I really liked this book. It is just the kind of tome that I can not only enjoy reading in the comfort of my own home but use in my coaching sessions with juniors (and indeed a couple of my much older students including a 90-year-old priest). Yochanan Afek is on a winner for me by starting the book with that egregious Magnus Carlsen move against Sergey Karjakin in the World Chess Championships, New York 2016. You know the one, of course you do. It was the 4th rapid play tiebreak game.

Let me help you. Here's the diagram (right)

I recall seeing this game live on the Internet and the tension was high. Karjakin, playing Black was threatening checkmate on g2 as well as ...Ra1 check but it was Carlsen's turn to move and in a split second he essayed the beautiful 50.Qh6 check and the game was over. Black gets mated next move no matter what he plays. Having this position in the book ensures that it is 'modern' and up to date and I can only imagine the thrill that future chess players will have when they see this position for the first time. Tactics win games, that's what they say and I happen to believe there is a strong case for that to be true. There are many more tactical positions like this in the book and all you have to do is take out the chessboard and immerse yourself in them.

At the end of the author's introduction there's a nice explanation about the position on the front cover. It's an interesting study which is presumably why the author chose it. I think it is one of those that one either solves in seconds or scratches one's head for hours.

So what's it all about? The book aims to develop the readers ability to find stunning tactics at the chessboard shown as composed studies and real game positions. Doing something on a regular basis - in other words. Practising - usually makes a person better at what they do, be it writing, athletics, chess or driving. There are 16 Chapters, covering different themes such as batteries, pins, skewers, deflection, decoy, removing the guard, line opening, back-ranks, pawn promotion, Zwischenzug, perpetual check, stalemate, checkmate and combinations. The final chapter is entitled 'It's your move' and tests the reader without hints or clue about the theme. If you have done the preceding work it should be a breeze - except it won't be as some are very tricky. That's great though, the more we look, the further we will be bound to see.

One of the great triumphs of 'Extreme Chess Tactics' is the fact that it does not contain endless reams of analysis. It is written very simply and the author wastes no time and no words; he just gets straight down to business in each chapter with a brief introduction and your first position to tackle. Just what the doctor ordered. I thoroughly enjoyed it and it is a book that stays 'live' with me, showing positions to friends, clubmates and enthusiasts alike. I appreciate the thought that the author has put into this book and Gambit have released yet another stimulating and (very importantly) useful book. Club and county players will learn a good deal from the chess knowledge contained within the covers and the reader will be able to transfer the cultivated skill of looking for opportunities and possibilities to their own games immediately.

Afek is a grandmaster of composition and an over the board International Master who I already knew was a very insightful writer. He grew up in Tel-Aviv and now resides in Amsterdam. He won the Paris Championship in 2002. In his introduction, Afek contests that almost anyone can still improve his chess abilities by regularly solving tactical problems. I believe that also and this book will be of great assistance in doing just that.
Write to Father Christmas immediately and get it for Christmas!

I rate this book as ***** Highly Recommended

Book: Chess - A guide for the club player

Author: Simpole and Hardinge

Publisher: Hardinge Simpole

Edition: First (2016)

ISBN: 978-1-84382-225-7

Softcover: 150 pages

Date of review: April 2017

A book by none grandmasters aimed at fellow club players - how refreshing!

I must begin this review by quoting some of the wording on the back cover. "Often chess literature for amateur enthusiasts is written by experts who are remote from the concerns, fears and realistic aspirations of club players". We soon learn that the audience for the book are the amateur club and internet players and it is written by two people who have played their careers at club and county level, thus they write from personal experience.

Julian Simpole is, among many other things a Commonwealth Chess Master who has trained GM's David Howell and Luke McShane and Julian Hardinge defeated the legendary Paul Keres in a simul as well as Dr Jonathan Penrose so both know their way around a chessboard.The book is a good pocket size, and some 150 pages in length with the right amount (in my view) of diagrams to text. I reviewed this on a flight to Budapest (and the return flight also) without a chess set in front of me so that shows just how easy it is to follow. I believe the book is printed on demand and the paper and print are decent quality. There is a foreword by GM Ray Keene, a short introduction by the authors and 12 chapters following that. Chapter 11 is entitled 'Some Exemplars' and consists of a king and pawn endgame quiz of 30 positions which I thoroughly enjoyed and can be used for club mates and juniors alike.

Amateurs love their chess openings and the first chapter looks at choice and style, making the valid point that some players are more intuitive in openings and require less book knowledge. We club players either stick to the same openings or vary quite a lot and there is no correct way but you are asked to consider how to approach this. Most of the games are taken from the games of both authors so they are both well qualified to comment on them. There are some golden tips such as castling on the same side as your opponent in the Caro Kann, and that the pieces are 'dead' at the start of the game but our job is to magically make them come alive. It may sound like a Harry Potter scene but of course it is absolutely spot on. In all this is a very useful book for amateur chess players. It contains many personal thoughts, it is written in a common-sense language and mercifully there are not endless reams of variations to plough through.

There are chapters on emotions, initiative, computers and one of my favourites - the simultaneous display. I give a few of these in my role as manager of chess in prisons and it was really thought provoking. There is really good advice here in recommending that when engaged in a simul against a master the amateur should set themselves up to play with a view to learning something from the experience. Great point.

The main aspect about the book that I personally noted was that I 'connected' with it. It is written by people like me who played chess before computers and chess engines. They had to use their own brain power to locate information and come up with ideas and improvements in those days - it was not available at the click of a button as today. I was curious as to why the book is dedicated to C J de Mooi, the former President of the English Chess Federation and I was further intrigued as to why Ray Keene wrote the introduction. Keene does say that the authors have laboured over the book for many years and I think it has been time well spent.

In an effort to be totally objective, I would perhaps have liked an index of games and opponents but that's a niggly point. That omission is more than compensated for by the rest of the book. Did the book achieve its purpose? It did for me and I believe it will for club and county players who immerse themselves in the pages. Finally I did like the fact that the reader is instantly challenged with two chess problems before they even get to the introduction. That was a fun way to start the book and I am pleased to say I got both studies right!

I rate this book as ***** Highly Recommended

Sofware: Chessbase 14

Publisher: Chessbase

Date of review: January 2017

Chessbase 14 review

Life seems to be about constantly running around getting the next best thing. This includes computers, cars, cameras, mobile phones, televisions and much more. Then there are the software upgrades on our computers. Some of these are built in downloads that many of us don't really want (think about the Windows 10 issues) but some we do choose ourselves and these includes various apps.

In my view such upgrades are not necessarily better, they are just different. Personally I liked Windows 7 thanks very much so why would I want to upgrade? In chess terms we have a great deal of software to choose from but we all know that the serious chess player (amateur and professional) has Chessbase these days. The most recent was Chessbase 13 and that's certainly done a great job for me. Now, Chessbase 14 is on the market and as usual one asks the question "Is it worth buying/upgrading?" I won't simply repeat the official marketing from Chessbase which outlines the product and what it offers. That is a more in depth view from the company and I encourage the reader to visit the page here:

Chessbase 14 published

Let me cut to the chase in my own words, because your time is precious right? It absolutely is worth puyrchasing. I will explain why I say this from my perspective as a chess amateur. I shall do this in terms of pros and cons and be as objective as I can. Please bear in mind that I am writing about the Premium Package but there are several options available including a cheaper upgrade from Chessbase 13 but you don't get all the extras.

The new 'Assisted Analysis' is brilliant and for me the best aspect of the new program. I really like it, and what a tremendous idea this was from those clever people at Chessbase. It gives tactical hints whilst you are entering the actual moves, thereby eradicating the need to keep averting your eyes to the side of the screen to check for possibilities. Here's my example in the screenshot below. (See image 1)

It is not only good for looking at your move 'live' and asking questions about why this or that square is best but it is a very useful optical aid for study when coaching or checking positions. In this image the answer to the puzzle I am annotating is 1.Rxg7+ and in an instant you can see that this is the only green square. Thus, when you click on a piece, the target squares light up in a colour related to the strength of the move to that square. Green moves are strong, yellow are mediocre, red are mistakes, blue are book moves and black moves are mating. It really helps visualise what's going on without having to avert your eyes off the board to the right of the screen to check moves. This for me is the best and most important new feature.

There is a new cloud database, called 'Cloud Clip'. It automatically stores games from, and if you are logged in with your ChessBase Account. This is especially useful for their news page: the instant you click on a game while reading an article on, it is available in ChessBase 14. Just Alt-Tab the programs to work with it. No more downloads necessary.

I really like the fact that actual diagrams now appear in the annotations box as well as text giving the opening and assessments

Twelve month's Premium Membership of Playchess comes with this product and that's always worth having to stay connected with your online chess world.

ChessBase 14 Program with access to the Live-Database (8 million games)

Chessbase Magazine comes for a full year (six issues) as well and there are always new and interesting ideas from top players around the world on those.

Updates to the database 2017 come for one year, added thousands of the latest games from around the globe to your precious database.This saves so much time from the old days when one had to hunt around the internet and compile them oneself.

The Correspondence Chess database is invaluable too in as much as many of the games are different from standard play and have some fascinating experimental lines.

Endgame Turbo4 DVD's are also included also. Yet at this early stage time I have not used them.

The price might be prohibitive for some people but I believe it is tremendous value for money if you really play chess a lot and want to improve or enjoy the many possibilities that Chessbase offers. I always think of it as the price of a service on the car. Except the Chessbase program will last! I must admit that in previous versions it was clearer what the opening was when inputting games. Unless I am missing something it only seems to show the name of the opening when the game is saved and replayed back. I don't like this but at least there is the facility there.I have tried this on two different computers and when I turn the engines on it seems to freeze on and off which is annoying. Now that could be my pc or something to do with the engines. I shall investigate further.

For me, the purpose of having Chessbase is two-fold. First and foremost it is for enjoyment and then it is to be used as a chess tool for a myriad different things from analysing my own games (and other peoples), to training and preparing to play against other people. The changes I have written about above enrich this experience and is therefore worth the upgrade/first purchase to me. I think this really is a significant improvement on Chessbase 13 and in that sense I still find this a very desirable product as a mad keen chess player, columnist and coach.

For all of the offerings making up the Chessbase 14 Premium package I have to say that

I rate this product as ***** Highly Recommended

Book: Vera Menchik - A biography of the first women's world chess champion with 350 games

Author: Robert B. Tanner

Publisher: McFarland

Edition: First (2016)

ISBN: 978-0-7864-9602-0

Hardcover: 316 pages

Date of review: January 2017

Women and chess. It's always a subject for lively discussion. Of course nowadays we hear about the likes of Judit Polgar or Hou Yifan but these came long after Vera Menchik,a woman who paved the way for women in chess - and did so very much within a man's world. When I mention her to chess players many have no idea who she was, how she lived and died or what her achievements were. What a lamentable state of affairs.

This book must therefore go a long way to righting that wrong and a curious and interested chess player can hold the story of Menchik in the palm of his or her hand. The work has been done by someone else - Tanner - and now it is the responsibility of people to read about this remarkable woman, born in Moscow with Czech parents. She came to live in St. Leonards near Hastings, married Rufus Henry Streatfield Stevenson (28 years her senior)and became a British citizen.

She was the first woman in history to compete with the top male players of the time and dominated women's chess during the last 17 years of her life. This book is another quality hardback from McFarland and has some 350 games given over 316 pages. As ever it just feels like a proper book should. The paper is of a very high quality as is the font and layout. The binding looks to be very professional and the book is written in four parts. The first is about Menchik, the second her games, the third relates to her writings and the final fourth part gives the relevant appendices, notes, bibliography and indices. There are also 21 illustrations in the book.

The games are accompanied by plenty of diagrams and tournament information. In the section on her writings I found the exchange between her and BH Wood, the editor of 'Chess' in Sutton Coldfield rather fascinating and food for thought about the state of chess in Britain during wartime and the comparison with the Soviet Union. Vera Menchik was tragically killed by a V-1 Flying Bomb. She took refuge during a Nazi air raid in the basement rather than a bomb shelter and the 18 feet, 4,700llb missile landed on Clapham, but primarily on the Menchik household, wiping the family out instantly.

To think that this lady played the likes of Lasker, Capablanca Colle and Rubinstein. Chess history is so fascinating. This is yet another excellent and value for money publication from McFarland. Get your copy whilst it is still in print.

I rate this book as ***** Highly Recommended

Book: H E Bird - A chess biography with 1,198 Games

Author: Hans Renette

Publisher: McFarland

Edition: First (2016)

ISBN: 978-0-7864-7578-0

Hardcover: 595 pages

Date of review: January 2017

Henry Edward Bird was a remarkable character in the history of chess. He remained at top level for decades, and employed an aggressive attacking style of play which pleased the crowds. He was apparently rather curmudgeonly which led to many conflicts with colleagues. The book is written not so much in Chapters, but parts - and there are twelve of them taking us through his life at and away from the chessboard. I was particularly surprised - nay shocked - to see right at the beginning that the earliest traces of Henry Bird's ancestors lead to Bridgnorth in Shropshire. This is a county that I live in for many years and indeed I am proud to say I am a former Shropshire County Chess Champion.

Born in Bristol on 30th May 1799, Bird was one of several children and he was introduced to the game of chess at the age of 15. The chapters in the book take us through his early years, to becoming an expert accountant and he was heavily involved with the Great Western Railway Company in the United States. Of course, he returned to chess and the bulk of the book gives his games and travels. Becoming the grand old man, and living his final years take us to the end of the book. He played many games against the legendary Paul Morphy as a sparring partner when the American hit British shores for the first time in 1858 - heading for my home City of Birmingham to participate in the British Chess Association Congress. Sadly, he withdrew from playing but did visit the congress to play some skittles chess. He then gave a blindfold exhibition against eight opponents. Bird was defeated in all of the recorded games between him and Morphy. One of the most memorable battles was played out in London in August 1858. It was just an offhand game (we call it a friendly these days) and Bird was White. Here is the position after 17.0-0-0. I want to show the position.


17...Rf8xf2!! A beautiful move for the day. Certainly not the best move by today's modern chess engines. 17...Bd6-b4 18.c2-c3 Bb4-d6 18.Be3xf2 Qh3-a3!! Stunning play by Morphy. Still, the computer has this as 0:00 would you believe? 18...Bd6-a3?! 19.Qd2-e3 Enough of Morphy - back to Bird.

This is just one of 1320 games given, many of which have been published here for the first time. We then have an Appendix containing nine chess problems. Appendix 2 contains documents about and by Bird. Appendix 3 has his tournament record. Appendix 4 shows his match record and Appendix 5 gives his results against masters. Some of the old photographs are a joy to behold, especially the one on page 553 of the Garden Party held at the Dunstans on 22 June 1901 where Bird can be seen sitting in his wheelchair with his top hat on. Wonderful.

There is also a photograph of a young Wilhelm Steinitz that I have never seen before. Check out page 100 for that beauty. I further enjoyed both the contemporary and modern annotations in the book or if you prefer 'the old and new language'. One example of the former is Löwenthal's résumé of one chess evening. "The large smoking saloon upstairs was thrown open for the benefit of the members of the St. James's and their friends and so ably were arrangements made that every visitor was enabled with comfort to view proceedings". I agree, this is much more verbose than 'We opened the smoking room and visitors had a great view' but isn't it much more interesting? This isn't just chess, it is history.

It is a veritable treasure trove. Open the book on almost any page and there will be something to engage the reader, from rare photographs to even rarer anecdotes and games. It is a manifestation of seriously hard work. The author has clearly explored many avenues to obtain information and I like the layout too. If I were to be particularly picky I would say that I would personally have preferred a few more diagrams to accompany the games but this would have really bulked up the book. It is not a show stopper by any means and it remains a very high quality publication indeed - yet another from the McFarland stable.

I rate this book as ***** Highly Recommended

Book: Joseph Henry Blackburne A Chess Biography

Author: Tim Harding

Publisher: McFarland

Edition: First (2015)

ISBN: 978-0-7864-7473-8

Hardcover: 582 pages

Date of review: January 2017

"Do you take any kind of stimulant whilst playing?"

"Coffee and a cigar, and I find a little whisky a good sedative when the play is over"

So said Joseph Blackburne (1841-1924) to an interviewer which appeared in 'The Western Daily Press' and 'The Edinburgh Evening News' in May 1888. Now that's my kinda guy. He sounds like the Ozzy Osbourne of his day. Known as 'The Black Death' (Probably because of his aggressive style of play) he was the greatest player that Britain produced until the last quarter of the twentieth century. Born in Manchester, he took up chess late in life at the age of 18 but soon became very proficient. In his lifetime he played such luminaries as Paulsen, Steinitz, Zukertort, Anderssen, Tarrasch, Rubinstein, Lasker and Nimzowitsch, beating the latter two gentlemen in very interesting style. I am always fascinated by players from this period. Not just the chess but the wider aspects of their lives. This was another time, another place. I know that there is a dearth of information on Blackburne so I can only imagine the huge commitment of time and effort that Tim Harding has expended to accumulate, compile and publish this - but thank heavens he has. It is a shining star in the constellation of chess books.

It is an absolute pleasure to read. Don't be put off by the size and thickness of the tome as it is chock full of goodness. There are some 582 pages, sized 8.5 x 11 and it is weighty, like real books used to be. It is quite simply another very high-quality publication - the expected norm from McFarland. The library binding will withstand much use but you'll not want to loan it to friends.

So what's in it?

Well, it is first and foremost a biography of a player who was in the top few players of his time. There are some 1184 games (given chronologically), which exceeds the 1184 I found in the computer databases. There is something new here then. There are 18 chapters starting with 'Manchester Beginnings' to the last one which is 'His final moves'. In between there are details about his games, rivals, travels, anecdotes and more. He learned the game late did Joseph, but between 1861 and January 1912 played over 2400 games in more than 320 blindfold exhibitions playing against eight opponents each time on average. He enjoyed a 77% success rate.

There are six appendices after all of this which include newspaper interviews with Blackburne - a rare insight indeed. This is followed by detailed chapter notes, bibliography, index of players and openings (traditional and ECO) and finally a general index. Harding also offers the reader 56 examples of Blackburne's own chess compositions, which are in themselves well worth the many hours trying to solve. I did not realise just how proficient Blackburne was at blindfold chess. Indeed at the tender age of 21 he set a then world record for playing blindfold against 12 club players simultaneously. He could perform this epic mental feat well into his sixties.

Many of the games in the book contain beautiful combinations and are exceedingly instructive. Playing through some of them I felt myself transported back to the day and it felt kind of weird following the moves from such an English legend, now sadly only dust. The anecdotes are revealing too. Did Blackburne really say "He left it en-prise so I took it en-passant" when referring to drinking an opponent's glass of whisky carelessly left unattended for a moment? You'll have to read on!

It must have been incredibly laborious (yet I can see from the final presentation that it is a labour of love) to collate information about Joseph Blackburne. Though he played many thousands of games many are simply not recorded anywhere and many that were happened to be truncated. In addition, Blackburne's family line died out so there are no surprise revelations from anywhere about other games he may have played. That's a terrible shame. Still, to have all of this information about one man - and not just any man is a genuine pleasure and I look forward to consulting it for many years to come. I use his win over Nimzowitsch in St Petersburg in 1914 as a sample game for juniors to play through. I would not normally recommend playing 1.e3 as your first move but here 'The Black Death' certainly killed off the great Nimzowitsch after beginning with it.

St Petersburg 1914

White: Blackburne, Joseph Henry

Black: Nimzowitsch, Aron

1. e3 (Nimzowitsch must have raised an eyebrow) d6 2. f4 e5 3. fxe5 dxe5 4. Nc3 Bd6 5. e4 Be6 6. Nf3 f6 7. d3 Ne7 8. Be3 c5 9. Qd2 Nbc6 10. Be2 Nd4 11. O-O O-O 12. Nd1 Nec6 13. c3 Nxe2+ 14. Qxe2 Re8 15. Nh4 Bf8 16. Nf5 Kh8 17. g4 Qd7 18. Nf2 a5 19. a3 b5 20. Rad1 Rab8 21. Rd2 b4 22. axb4 axb4 23. c4 Ra8 24. Qf3 Ra2 25. g5 g6 26. Ng4! (a key move and the threatened fork on f6 enables white to gain the initiative) gxf5 27. Nxf6 Nd4 28. Qf2 Qc6 29. Nxe8 Qxe8 30. Bxd4 exd4 31. exf5 Bd7 32. Re1 Qf7 33. Qh4 Ra8 34. Rf2 Bc6 35. Qg4 Re8 36. Rxe8 Qxe8 37. Re2 Qd7 38. Re6 Ba8 39. g6 hxg6 40. Rxg6 Qh7 41. Qg3 Qh5 42. Rg4 1-0

Blackburne said in an interview about chess that devoted as he is to the game, there are periods when he utterly loathes it - periods of weeks, during which he cannot bear the sight of a chess board. We chess players can all relate to this. I suggest if you are 'off' your chess for any reason then procure this book and rekindle your passion for the history of the game and the game itself through the words of Harding and the games of Blackburne. It's an irresistible duo. My memo to the author would be that Blackburne would have been proud of you.

I have no hesitation whatsoever in saying that this book is highly recommended. It's the kind of book that makes me want to find a desert island and disappear with it (and a chess set!) for weeks on end. No serious chess aficionado should be without it.

I rate this book as ***** Highly Recommended

Book: Your First Chess Lessons

Author: Paul van der Sterren

Publisher: Gambit

Edition: First (2016)

ISBN: 13 978-1-910093-95-5

Softback: 96 pages

Date of review: October 2016

The official blurb

Assuming no previous knowledge of the game, Grandmaster Paul van der Sterren teaches you how to play and draws you into the fascinating world of modern chess. This carefully crafted chess course is divided into true lessons, each building on what has been learned in the previous ones. Before moving on from a topic, you have the chance to test that you have fully understood it with the help of thoughtfully graded exercises.

This is a 21st-century guide. Throughout, there are references to online chess resources and suggestions for online activities, such as training, playing and live broadcasts, and chess-related social media.Also dotted throughout the book are pieces of chess lore, practical tips and information about great players past and present.

Grandmaster Paul van der Sterren has won the Dutch Championship on two occasions, and in 1993 reached the Candidates stage of the World Chess Championship. He is an internationally renowned chess writer and editor: he was one of the founding editors of New in Chess, and is author of the bestselling user-friendly opening guide Fundamental Chess Openings.

My comments

When I first took the book out of the packaging I thought 'Wow, that's small'. It only measures five inches wide by seven and three quarter inches high. It is light and there are only 96 pages. I suspect this was done for a purpose. One is that the book can be carried around without it having an adverse affect on the pocket or briefcase etc. I like it from that persepctive. The book (or quantities of them) will not take up much room in a collection or in a school classroom for example.

The cover is politically correct as many are nowadays showing black and white children in cartoon form and the chess coach has remove a rook's pawn for some reason. I am not sure what point he is making by doing that but that's not a criticism. I should note though that it is not just children that are beginners at chess I have known many people in their later years take up the game. Looking at the cover one would assume it was for kids but it isn't. Perhaps that might put older people off, I do not know but a cover showing people of all ages might have been a good idea too.

The book is clearly written for people who have no idea how to play at all. Written in two parts, the first being 'The Rules' and the second being 'The basics of strategy and tactics' it covers the job quite nicely. There are 9 lessons in all including information on the Opening and Endgame. There is no heading for the Middlegame. The author provides a list of useful websites at the end. The small size means that the book can be read in bed, playground, car or train to name but a few places. I like the layout, Key points and tips are given in boxes on the page for the reader to memorise. There are exercises for the reader to complete to check understanding.

This is a book I can - and will - take into class and use to make points to my beginners. Quite often I want to reach for a book to lend to a beginner and actually that can be quite tricky. This book has filled that void for me and I look forward to more people learning to play our great game because of it.

I rate this book as ****Recommended

Book: Chess Strategy for Kids

Author: Thomas Engqvist

Publisher: Gambit

Edition: First (2016)

ISBN: 13 978-1-910093-87-0

Hardback: 128 pages

Date of review: October 2016

The official blurb

So you have learned how to play chess, studied tactics and know some basic endgames and openings. What's next? The glue that binds it all together is strategy. By forming a good plan, chess-players seize strong points on the board and target the opponent's weaknesses. Experienced player and teacher Thomas Engqvist shows that it all depends on logic that can be grasped by players of any age. He explains how to identify the right strategy in a wide range of typical situations. With his guidance, you will soon be finding good plans on your own - and then it will be time to demonstrate your tactical mastery!

He first teaches the importance of the central squares and the basics of pawn-play, before examining the role of each of the pieces and how they are affected by the pawn-structure. Finally we see how to use them together to launch attacks of many different types. You then get a chance to test your new strategic skills in 54 exercises, all with full solutions.

Chess Strategy for Kids provides a complete course that will help readers understand the potential of their pieces and play more purposefully in their games. Chess will stop feeling like a series of random events as you take command of your forces and direct them like a general in charge of an army. Thomas Engqvist is an International Master from Sweden with more than three decades' experience of international chess.

My comments

Without doubt this book is useful for the target audience - that is to say 'kids'. There is plenty of useful information for them and their coaches to get their teeth into. The thing I love about chess is that no matter how long you have been playing or coaching there's always something new to learn or a new way to look at a theme. This came to mind when I looked at the section on over protection. The author quotes the great Nimzowitsch and the point he made in his book 'My System' which stated that important squares/pawns should be defended one more time than is necessary. The point of that is that then, none of the pieces are tied down to defence and one of them can move away - and enough defenders remain. This is a crucial point, especially for juniors to remember. There are five main subject headings in the book. They are 'The centre, development and space - Pawns - Minor pieces - Major pieces - and General Strategy. These have sub-headings which include subjects like controlling the centre, pawn chains, Good and bad bishops, The rook lift and play on the wings. There are plenty more and the book contains some 50 smart strategy points. It's all good material for juniors to learn and develop their chess.

The author gives test positions with fully explained answers and a nice glossary at the end. I like this book and kids will too.

I rate this book as ****Recommended

Book: Instructive Chess Miniatures

Author: Alper Efe Ataman

Publisher: Gambit

Edition: First (2016)

ISBN: 13 978-1-910093-88-7

Paperback: 126 pages

Date of review: September 2016

The official blurb

Warning: this book is not just entertainment. The author wants to teach you a lot about chess and improve the quality of your play!

He has selected 53 miniatures from throughout chess history - the earliest are from the 1850s, while the most recent are from grandmaster events just a few months ago! A miniature is a decisive game, won in 25 moves or fewer. Most of these 53 games feature brilliant tactics attacks on the king, and even a few outrageous king-hunts. In many, the winner had to overcome cunning defensive ploys and inventive counterattacks.

But our aim in this book is not just to admire the players' skill, but to learn how we can play like this in our own games. Chess coach Ataman is keenly focused on the instructive points, explaining which features of the position justified the attacks, and what prompted the critical decisions. Where analysis is given, it is restricted to what it would be realistic for a human to work out at the board. But why are miniatures so instructive, especially for younger players? It's because we get to see an idea or plan implemented successfully in full. Once we understand what players are trying to achieve, we can then appreciate how to oppose these ideas, and the cut-and-thrust typical in modern grandmaster play will make a lot more sense.

Alper Efe Ataman is a FIDE Master from Turkey. He is a chess publisher, author and an experienced trainer, especially at the scholastic level.

"The author has dragged his net wide and re-discovered undiscovered gems like Freeman-Mednis, New York 1955, played when the future Grandmaster was still a teenager. Instructive Chess Miniatures is a book that will provide plenty of pleasure and instruction at a very reasonable price...recommended" - IM John Donaldson

My comments

Excellent for playing through each game, each session with juniors. A nice read that you can take anywhere and enjoy. I am also re-learning games I had forgotten when I was a junior.

I rate this book as ****Recommended

Book: A Simple Chess Opening Repertoire for White

Author: Sam Collins

Publisher: Gambit

Edition: First (2016)

ISBN: 13 978-1-910093-82-5

Paperback: 159 pages

Date of review: September 2016

The official blurb

By carefully choosing variations that lead to similar structures, IM Sam Collins has put together a powerful repertoire book ideal for players with limited study time. White opens with 1 e4 and develops his pieces to natural squares, seeking open lines and the initiative. The dominant theme of this sound and active repertoire is that - where reasonable - White seeks out Isolated Queen Pawn (IQP) positions: i.e. with the c3 Sicilian, Panov Caro-Kann, Tarrasch French, and the Italian Game with early c3 and d4.

There are no speculative gambits here, just plenty of healthy aggression and new ideas. Because so many of Collins's recommendations lead to familiar structures, ideas can easily be transplanted from one opening to another. He gives illustrative games that emphasize the key themes, including White's many opportunities to forcibly weaken and attack the black king. The specific analysis is up-to-the-minute and features ideas that have proven their worth in grandmaster practice. Throughout there is attention to move-order subtleties, with clever nuances in 'sidelines' that your opponents are unlikely to have examined in detail.

My comments

Of course there are thousands of books on openings and when I pick a new one up I begin to wonder what makes it so different. Well this one does not actually profess to be different but it does offer eight fairly short chapters on the Openings already mentioned. The diligent student will have a basic grasp of these if he studies the book properly. Personally I am not an advocate of the 2.c3 variation of the Sicilian Defence but each to their own. I think there is just about the right number of diagrams to support the text and it is written in a way that club players - who I am thinking about in this review - can understand and follow easily enough.

One cannot understand the Scandinavian in nine pages mind you, but sure enough it provides enough information to spur the interested reader on to further study. The c3 Sicilian command 52 pages so one can easily deduce what the spine of the book is. I would comment on one particularly useful aspect of this book and it is a great learning point. The Chapter on the Isolated Queen's Pawn opened my eyes to new possibilities with regard to this structure. Such positions can be very difficult to play for either colour but of course one of the points of the IQP is to use it to spearhead an attack.

Finally, the author says in his introduction that all lines in the book's repertoire feature the philosophy of quick active development and central control. It is based on his own repertoire and he considers it all to be quite sound. After looking at the book I tend to agree.

Obtain this if you want to either brush up on your current repertoire which might involve any or all of these Openings or if you want to learn any of them as new tools in your chess toolkit. It was especially fascinating to learn more about playing games with the Isolated Queen's Pawn. It's a logical layout, well written and it will prove useful for club players for sure.

Good luck.

My comments

Personally speaking I am not a c3 Sicilian man, so a lot of the book was not for me. However, many people do play it and the reverse will be true.

I rate this book as **** Recommended

Book: Fundamental Checkmates

Author: Antonio Gude

Publisher: Gambit

Edition: First (2016)

ISBN: 13 978-1-910093-80-1

Paperback: 383 pages

Date of review: September 2016

The official blurb

Chess might seem a complex and mysterious game, but the ultimate goal is simple: checkmate. Checkmate can occur in all stages of the game, from snap mates in the opening, through middlegame attacks to simplified endgames.

This book lays out, in systematic and thorough fashion, a wide range of mating patterns and techniques, in particular showing how each piece-pair can combine to deliver mate. A working knowledge of these ideas enables players to move on to mating combinations, where pieces lay down their lives so that the remaining forces can deliver mate. Gude explains an amazing variety of tactical devices, and illustrates them in unforgettable style with some of the most brilliant mating attacks from practice, new and old. There are chapters on how to attack kings in the centre, as well as standard (and other!) attacks against the castled position.

This is a true textbook of checkmate; readers will never be short of mating ideas, and will instinctively know when there is a possibility to launch an attack, or when they must parry the opponent's threats. Fundamental Checkmates also features more than 300 exercises with full solutions.

My comments

This is one of those books that one can leave lying around the house. You can pick it up and flick to any page and gain some enjoyment from the positions given. It refreshes the memory for things I already forgot and introduces me to some new concepts. I thoroughly enjoy having this book around - and of course it is a great tool for coaching others as well. There is a lot of material and it is well laid out and very well written.

I rate this book as **** Recommended

DVD: Komodo 10

Author: Chessbase

Publisher: Chessbase

Edition: Version 10

Date of review: September 2016

Komodo Chess 10 Chessbase
The official blurb

The new number one has arrived! Thanks to a host of extensive improvements and fine tweaking, the latest version of Komodo has again gained over 60 Elo points on its predecessor. The changes cover several areas: the evaluation function has been significantly sharpened, particularly with respect to king safety and endgame positions, and the search algorithm has been improved and optimized to run on multiple processors. Komodo 10 is also better at managing its time, and just generally calculates faster.

The result is an unbeatable combination - the strongest chess engine ever running on the best and most popular user interface around. As it comes with the Fritz 15 GUI,Komodo, as well as chess prowess, offers all the training and playing functions you know from Fritz, including direct access to the Chess- Base Web Apps such as Live Database, the ChessBase video portal, our tactics server and more!

Komodo's intelligent and results-driven evaluations have also proven extremely effective in practice and are reflected in the engine's playing style. If Komodo 10 considers its position to be advantageous, it avoids exchanges and seeks to open the position, but when defending a worse position, it strives to exchange pieces and block the position, in an attempt to push the game towards a draw.

It also recently demonstrated its exceptional playing strength in a series of matches against grandmasters, including the current world number 6, Hikaru Nakamura. Komodo remained unbeaten in over 50 games in which it gave its human opponents a material advantage or several free moves (with the exception of only a few games in which the handicap consisted of two important pawns or the f7 pawn and three free moves) - Komodo even beat Nakamura 2.5 to 1.5! This ultra-strong engine has won three of the last four TCEC championships, making it a multiple winner of the most prestigious prize in computer chess. What is more, at tournament time controls, Komodo is number 1 in the majority of rating lists.

My comments

I will be honest. At first I just didn't get it. I didn't really know how Komodo worked having always been a Fritz aficionado. I was even blind to the fact that I can keep Fritz loaded on the laptop and add Komodo as well. It is then interesting to run both engines to analyse chess positions. I could tell right away that it simply processed faster. It does find options quicker than Fritz- at least on my computer.

It looks and feels like Fritz, with familiar buttons and options. I use it all the time now in preference to Fritz - something I never thought I would do. Nevertheless, I will always have room enough for both to run side by side. What is absolutely clear to me is that Komodo is a different beast to Fritz. It processes quicker and does indeed suggest different strongest moves to Fritz occasionally. I need to play off one against the other at some point to find the truth!

I rate this software as ***** Highly Recommended

Book: Understanding Rook Endgames

Author: Karsten Müller and Yakov Konoval

Publisher: Gambit

Edition: First (2016)

ISBN: 13 978-1-910093-83-8

Paperback: 287 pages

Date of review: 21 April 2016

Any book on endgames that begins with the Lucena position is always going to require a big commitment from the reader! Don't get me wrong, this - and many other themes - needs to be inculcated but it is a sudden and demanding start to the book. Endgames with rooks and pawns are the most frequently occurring in chess, arising in about one game in ten. If you learn an important technique in the endgame the chances are that you will end up using it sooner or later. There are a great many methods and concepts that can be mastered with a little effort. This book highlights the key themes in rook endings, and at each turn invites the reader to test his knowledge and skills with abundant exercises.

Rook endgame theory does not stand still. New practical examples illustrate novel approaches as players seek to pose problems to their opponents Magnus Carlsen has shown that even the driest-looking positions can feature deadly traps. The ongoing creation of new endgame tablebases of which co-author Yakov Konoval has been at the forefront enables new classes of positions to be assessed with definitive certainty. Using six-man and the brand new seven-man tablebases, the authors re-examine many of the old evaluations and reach new and enlightening conclusions about classic rook endings. You will be startled and amazed, and soon discover that you are becoming a far more effective endgame player.

German grandmaster Karsten Müller is for me the world's foremost writer on chess endgames. I have commented on his excellent work before. His masterwork, Fundamental Chess Endings, is a modern endgame bible and was studied intensively by current World Champion Magnus Carlsen in his youth.

Yakov Konoval is someone I do not know either personally or have ever been aware of. He is a Russian chess-player and programmer who studied at Mikhail Botvinnik's chess school so he should know his onions. He has written programs for solving chess problems and has pioneered new techniques for generating endgame tablebases.For those that have the time and dedication to spend hours on an endgame book costing £17.99 RRP.

I rate this book as **** Recommended

Book: Chess for Life

Author: Matthew Sadler and Natasha Regan

Publisher: Gambit

Edition: First (2016)

ISBN: 13 978-1-910093-83-2

Paperback: 222 pages

Date of review: 21 April 2016

In this thought-provoking, wide-ranging and inspiring book, the authors examine how chess style and abilities vary with age. The conventional wisdom is that greater experience should compensate for a loss of youthful energy, but with so many of the world's elite currently in their twenties, chess is increasingly looking like a young man's game. By making a number of case studies and interviewing players who have stayed strong into their forties, fifties and beyond, the authors show in detail how players can steer their games towards positions where their experience can shine through.

Interviewees include: GM John Nunn, GM Yasser Seirawan, GM Nigel Short, GM Judit Polgar, GM Keith Arkell, GM Pia Cramling, FM Terry Chapman, GM Jon Speelman, GM Sergei Tiviakov and WIM Ingrid Lauterbach. I particularly enjoyed the inteview with Terence Chapman because it resonated with my own situation and many chess players will make the connection. Coming back to play chess after time away can be a daunting prospect and Chapman's approach is an inspiration to us all. The authors have worked very hard on this book, gleaning precious data from years gone by to support their main points. The book is a a text on how and why we love chess, the means by which we can play successfully whatever our age and level of play, and how chess is truly a game for life. Matthew Sadler is one of the strongest British players of recent decades. Having become a GM in his teens, he twice won the British Championship and was awarded an individual gold medal at the 1996 Olympiad. After concentrating on an IT career for more than a decade, he returned to high-level chess in 2010 and quickly regained a spot in the world top 100. Matthew's struggles to bring his game back up to speed after his long break were part of the inspiration for this book. Natasha Regan is a Women'sInternational Master from England who achieved a degree in mathematics from Cambridge University.

Nigel Short for example is the wrong side of 50 but remains in the world's top 150 players. Surely if that is not reason to wonder how he does it nothing is. If he is not an inspiration to older players then who is? There's an illuminating interview with him in the book. He still enjoys his chess and when asked for any tips for aspiring chess players he says that you have to love the game. I'll second that. I love the game and I love this book. In a world where many chess books are much the same, this is refreshingly different, thought-provoking and actually very useful. I would like to see more books of this kind being published in future. Well done Sadler and Regan.

I rate this book as ***** Highly recommended.

Book: Understanding the Scandinavian

Author: Sergey Kasparov

Publisher: Gambit

Edition: First (2015)

ISBN: 13 978-1-910093-65-8

Paperback: 174 pages

Date of review: 21 March 2016

The appeal of the Scandinavian Defence is easy to understand: it is very forcing Black is virtually guaranteed to get his desired structure. There are no annoying Anti-Scandinavians to study! But for many decades the Scandinavian was regarded with some suspicion, as Black apparently loses time recapturing on d5. Modern players have a different view. The great Danish player Bent Larsen kickstarted the revolution with his provocative assertion that it is an improved Caro-Kann (and, not least, beating Karpov with our opening)!

But the 21st-century Scandinavian is a different beast altogether; the new main line of the whole opening (3...Qd6) has proven to have great strategic richness, with more than a few tactical tricks lurking just behind the scenes. The Scandinavian has been transformed into an opening that strong grandmasters are willing to use as their main defence, rather than as an occasional surprise weapon. This thoroughly modern guide focuses on these new approaches, while also covering the more traditional main lines. Kasparov guides the reader carefully through each system, explaining his recommendations with wit and clarity. With his help, you will have your opponents wishing there really were some Anti-Scandinavian lines!"

I want to point out that much of the book focuses on the 3...Qd6 line but there is material on 3...Qa5 and 3...Qd8 I rate this book as **** Recommended for those that want to play this interesting opening.

Book: Chess Endgames for Kids

Author: Karsten Müller

Publisher: Gambit

Edition: First (2015 Hardback)

ISBN: 13 978-1-910093-61-0

Date of review: 25 July 2015

Most chess games are decided in the endgame. It is here where you reap the reward for your good play, or else use all your cunning to deny the opponent victory. Knowing just a few key endgame techniques will dramatically increase your confidence, as you will understand what positions to aim for and which to avoid. Starting with the basic mates and the simplest pawn endings, this book provides all the endgame knowledge that players need to take them through to club level and beyond. Müller carefully guides us step by step through a fascinating range of endgame tactics and manoeuvres, helping us understand the underlying logic.

Throughout the book, many cunning endgame tricks are highlighted. You will have fun springing them on friends, family - or your opponents in serious tournaments. Chess Endgames for Kids makes learning chess endgames fun. But it is also a serious endgame course written by a leading endgame expert, and provides a firm basis for vital skills that will develop throughout your chess career.

German grandmaster Karsten Müller is arguably the world's foremost writer on chess endgames. I personally love his work and the passion and professionalism in which he conveys his thoughts and ideas to others. Whenever an interesting endgame occurs in a high-level game, the chess world knows that it will soon be dissected and explained by Müller. Whether writing for a low-level or high-level audience, his infectious zeal for the endgame shines through. His 'masterwork', Fundamental Chess Endings (co-authored with Frank Lamprecht, and also published by Gambit) is a modern endgame bible and was studied intensively in his youth by current World Champion Magnus Carlsen.

Comments from others include: "This attractively produced hardback covers the endgame in 50 lessons arranged by level of difficulty (basic mates are presented early but B+N is not covered until near the end). Chess Endgames for Kids presents fundamental endgame knowledge but not in a way that overwhelms the reader... valuable not only for kids, but also chess teachers and adults who are tired of starting (and never finishing) massive tomes on endgame theory" - IM John Donaldson

"No-one has explained the 'W-manoeuvre' so clearly before, and I had a lot of fun with it! My impression is that Karsten Müller has completely fulfilled his aims. His zeal for the endgame shines through, even with a modest number of pages..." - Raymund Stolze, CHESS INTERNATIONAL DE

Make no mistake about this - Kids and adults alike will learn so much from this excellent book (I did!) and it will undoubtedly help turn a few zero or half points into a full point.

I rate this book as ***** Highly Recommended

Book: The Death's Head Chess Club

Author: John Donoghue

Publisher: Atlantic Publishing

Edition: First (2015 Hardback)

ISBN: 9 781782 396451

Date of review: 14 February 2015

SS Obersturmführer Paul Meissner arrives in Auschwitz from the Russian front. After being badly wounded he is fit only for administrative duty and his first and most pressing task is to improve flagging camp morale. He sets up a chess club which thrives, as the officers and enlisted men are allowed to gamble on the results of the games. However, when Meissner learns from a chance remark that chess is also played by the prisoners he hears of a Jewish watchmaker who is 'unbeatable'. Meissner sets out to discover the truth behind this rumour and what he finds will haunt him to his death...

This book tells the story of an impossible friendship between a Nazi and Jew with chess as the central theme. The book challenges us to consider what the limits of forgiveness could be and what the cost of a lifetime of bitterness might be.

There are too few fictional books written with chess as a central theme so I was very eager to read this book. As a passionate chess lover and someone who lived near Bergen-Belsen (another concentration camp) for several years at the turn of the Century I have a very keen interest in the subject matter.

Whilst this is technically a work of fiction, the setting is very real. Auschwitz - Birkenau was probably the most notorious of all the death camps where an estimated 1.1 million people died; the great majority were Jews from across Europe. This was a place where the worst ever crime against humanity was committed. Some of the character names are fictitious, others were real historical people. It is hard hitting and uncompromising and describes the horrific brutality of those times. It remains so difficult to comprehend what occurred there, and why so many people followed the Nazi ideology. To initiate the systematic genocide of a race, of a specific group of people is almost incomprehensible - but it happened, and it happened here as well as many other death camps. The only race we are members of is the Human Race, and we should be rightly shocked, appalled and ashamed at what mankind is capable of. Yet this is only part of the story...

I have no idea if the author is a chess player but he certainly had to possess at least a rudimentary understanding of the game to describe it as he does. The book is written in a most intelligent fashion, transporting the reader back and forth through time from the years around the Second World War to 'present day' 1960's in Amsterdam. It flows seamlessly and is very easy to follow indeed. I have always been interested in the role that chess plays in the lives of people incarcerated in the direst of situations. As the Manager of Chess in Prisons for England I meet many people who are in custody and chess is their great friend, chess is their intellectual escape. Yet to have chess as your hope in a truly hopeless place is testament to its attraction and value. It is certainly no mere game.

The Death Camp John Donohue is very descriptive in his account of what life must have been like at Auschwitz. The starvation, deprivation and torture tears strips off the readers soul. One is transported time and again to a world of grotesque evil; a life of pain and abject misery that has only one conclusion - the crematorium. Within this world reside characters; people. Some of these remain true to themselves, people who retain their honour even in the face of death. There are others who lie, cheat and steal in order to cling to life, to turn against their own and betray their people and their principles. Who can say what we would do in the same position? Am I referring only to the prisoners? One will be very surprised. The author writes in a vivid and lucid style that conjures the horrors of that place to the forefront of the mind. When reading it, I have to say that I felt in some way that I was there, witness as a fly on the wall to the humiliation, and I could almost smell the stench of decay and disease in the barracks.

Donoghue writes 'Stürmbannführer Bär is adamant that I should have consulted him before pitting a Jew against a member of the SS in a game of chess'. One is compelled to read on and is confronted with the revelation that 'An idea cannot be defeated by shooting bullets at it' profound. Think about that. An idea cannot be defeated by shooting bullets at it. So what of the chess and how on earth can chess make any tangible difference in such a place?

The chess I was hugely impressed with the way that the author weaves chess into the story. When he describes a game in play the protagonist's moves are carefully written so that anyone with a basic grasp of the game can follow it. There are a couple of minor technical points that I take issue with. Here comes the chess geek bit - the Alekhine's Defence is referred to as a 'Gambit' after 1.e4 Nf6 2.e5 Nd5 3.d4 d6. The d6 move is not really a Gambit as it is not offered for free but any chess player will understand the point. Also the final game (which I shall refrain from elaborating upon) is a little tricky to follow in places unless you know what you are doing but that aside the narrative is excellent. I actually set up my own board to follow it and the chess players amongst you will be very impressed with the final flourish. For me (and many others) chess is a game of great beauty. It is art and sport and can be played anywhere; on a bus, in a café and yes, in a Death Camp. Donoghue writes about one of the characters that 'To him, chess is not a game or even an art - it is an act of worship. It is something to be lived'. Oh how this will resonate with pawn pushers across the globe.

I must not reveal too much about the chess or the story so as not to spoil it for readers. Any chess fan; any historian or indeed anyone who enjoys a gripping story will thoroughly enjoy this book. It will remain etched in my memory forever. I am so glad that John Donoghue wrote this book and that Atlantic had the foresight to publish it. It helps not only to better understand the power and magnetism of chess but that the best thing about the game and life itself is the opportunity to participate, to be a part of it.

The book has some 387 pages and contains 37 Chapters, most with the names of chess openings or chess terminology (Who knows what Zugswang is?) and is rounded off with a list of the actual ranks of the SS and historical notes, which complement the text very nicely.

I very rarely read fictional works. This is one exception I have been very happy to make. I eagerly devoured it in two sittings and suggest that you do the same. On an aesthetic note, the hardback book is printed on good quality paper, the font is kind on the eyes and it feels so much more satisfying than anything I could get in electronic format. I am über impressed.

I rate this book as ***** Highly Recommended Order it now...

Book: Tactics time 2 - 1001 more chess tactics from the games of everyday players

Author: Evgeny Sveshnikov

Publisher: NEW IN CHESS

Edition: First (2014)

Date of review: 27 January 2015

There are a lot of books on chess tactics out there and mostly they do what they say on the tin, ergo it is hard to go wrong as such. Some are better than others and I will say right at the start that this book is excellent. It is aimed at lower graded players (it says beginners and casual players on the front cover) and the positions are taken from everyday games, which is a nice touch. I do not have TACTICS 1 so I must assume that it is much the same format as this. Tim Brennan and Anthea Carson have taken the time to compile some nice little problems and kindly acknowledged the people that have helped collate them. It is an ambulatory work in one sense, as players are submitting their own examples to the authors all the time. The games are instructive and tactical. Tactics of course are very important. I read recently that strategy requires thought but tactics require observation. Well that is the case here and the problems are such that you don't need a board (depending upon your strength) to do them so any place will do to fill in down time moments and sharpen your game. The authors promise: no composed problems, no endgame studies, no puzzles that you have seen before! I can but agree with the sentiments of the following three players: Praise for Tactics Time I:

Grandmaster Alex Fishbein:
'These problems are not contrived - they are the types of tactics likely to occur in a real game. Tim Brennan and Anthea Carson made sure to include diverse positions; you will find opening checkmates and pawn endings.'

James E. DuBois, ChessCafe:
'Tactics Time is right on the mark for its intended audience, say, for players rated up to 1200 or so.'

Sean Marsh, CHESS Magazine:
'Ideal for juniors and inexperienced club players wanting to build up their solving confidence and to learn some new tactical ideas along the way.'

Certainly I would like the juniors that I coach to try these puzzles. They do develop the process of chess thinking which can be transferred to our own games. Looking for checkmates, pins, forks, skewers and more are the key to winning games. For beginners and those advancing this book is the seed from which a mighty tree may grow. On an aesthetic front, I really like the cover and the book feels like it is printed on quality paper. There are two aspects I would like to have seen included but this is only a personal view and not a detraction from the work. If amateurs are to have their five minutes of chess fame then it might be nice to credit their names under the respective position and perhaps also include a blank page or two at the back of the book headed 'Your notes' which might be useful for the reader to jot down their thoughts as they work through the book. That aside this is a book you can use, rather than just leave on the shelf and I congratulate the authors on their publication.

I rate this book as **** Recommended I look forward to the third edition in time

Book: Improve Your Chess Pattern Recognition - key moves and motives in the middlegame

Author: Evgeny Sveshnikov

Publisher: NEW IN CHESS

Edition: First (2014)

Date of review: 27 January 2015

What does this title actually mean? It sounds a bit heavy going yet the prose on the back page of the book elicited my interest. 'Pattern recognition is one of the most important mechanisms of chess improvement. Realizing that the position on the board has similarities with something you have seen before helps you to quickly grasp the essence of that position and find the most promising continuation'.

Well, that's quite right. We all know that Grandmasters are so strong because they can recognize patterns, not just moves like we mortals do. It further states that this book will supply a wealth of easy to remember building blocks for your chess knowledge. Wow, that's seductive for any chess player. There are 40 short chapters and experienced chess trainer Arthur van de Oudeweetering presents hundreds of examples of surprising middlegame themes. To test your understanding he provides exercises for every chapter.

The book exclaims that 'After working with this book, an increasing number of positions, pawn structures and piece placements will automatically activate your chess knowledge. As a result you will find the right move more often and more quickly!' Well, let us jolly well hope so eh, dear reader? First a little information about the author. Arthur van de Oudeweetering (1966) is an International Master and a chess trainer from the Netherlands. He has written regular columns for chess news websites ChessVibes and, and is a frequent contributor to the New In Chess Yearbooks. I have heard of him but admit to not reading any of his works so this would be an interesting introduction. To the book then. Here are a few interesting titles to chapters. 'A very powerful piece; the Octopus'. 'Play actively, double your f-pawn!' 'A dynamic Pawn sac' and 'The Nievergelt Manoeuvre'. This is all very intriguing. As Ian Rogers states in his excellent foreword 'As a new chapter begins you think 'Whatever does he mean by 'Inside the chain', or 'Fishing for the hook'?' but enlightenment soon follows.

As I worked through the book I could see what the author intended when he wrote it. There really are some key themes here which I now consider when I look at a chess position. One of the best learning aspects for me was the breaking down of common prejudices. For example, the author concludes after one chapter that the so called 'bad' bishop on c8 can often be a very good defender. Furthermore it can be an attacker later on even if it remains on its initial square. Whether one agrees or not isn't the point I would suggest. What is important is that the book starts you thinking in a different - more receptive and creative - way and that is how one is going to be able to proceed after the opening into the murky depths of the middlegame.

One has to play actively and dynamically in order to get the required result and that show here, especially with the idea of doubling the f-pawns and using the resultant open g-file to support attacks.There is an absolute wealth of information here, from being advised not to immediately capture central pawns to the knight on the edge being far from dim - it can be a very good attacker.

Back to Ian Rogers for the final comment here. He states that this book is 'One of a kind'. I must agree with him, especially so for club players wanting to advance

James Rizzitano, ChessCafe: 'Many of the chapter titles are very helpful for remembering the theme. IM van de Oudeweetering has done a good job identifying and classifying instructive middlegame positions by theme. Club players rated between 1600-2200 will benefit from this book and master level players (2200 and up) are also likely to pick up some new ideas by carefully reviewing the material.'

Uwe Bekemann; German Correspondence Chess Federation: 'Very practical and perfect for self-study. The book is written in an entertaining way, working with it is a joy. Suitable for beginners as well.'

Dennis Monkroussos: The Chess Mind: 'I think it's an excellent book, and while it's not systematic in a way that would turn it into a primer on positional play, there is no question but that this will improve the positional understanding of many club players. I'd highly recommend this to players rated around 1400 to 2100, and I think even masters can (and will) learn something from this book as well.'

I rate this book as ***** Highly Recommended If you seriously want to improve, buy the book and study it properly, at length, at leisure then I am sure you will see those improved results you so desire.

Book: Sveshnikov vs. the Anti-Sicilians - A complete repertoire for Black

Author: Evgeny Sveshnikov

Publisher: NEW IN CHESS

Edition: First (2014)

Date of review: 27 January 2015

I am reviewing this book as objectively as I can. I shall be honest from the start and say that I do not play the Sicilian Defence but I do have some ideas of the key themes of many of the lines. This book is about what happens when white does not play 2.Nf3 after 1.e4 c5. The Sveshnikov proper goes 1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 Nf6 5.Nc3 e5 6.Ndb5 d6 unless I am mistaken but this book deals with what happens when white playes something other than 2.Nf3 to try to steer black into unchartered territory perhaps.

There are some 12 chapters on lines such as 2.a3; 2.Na3; 2;b4 2;d4 2;b3 2;c4 2;g3; 2.d3 2;c3; 2;Nc3 and many of the lines that follow on from this known as the anti-Sicilian lines. It is not a book to be taken lightly. I must treat the author with great respect of course since the line was named after him! He ought, therefore to know a thing or two about it. The book is some 251 pages in length and actually has 14 Chapters in total followed by exercises; their solutions and a conclusion about lines, predicted lines and what lines (such as 2.a3 among others) he believes will 'practically cease at all levels'.

As the official blurb states: The Sicilian Defence is Black's most popular reply to 1.e4. Most Black players hope for an Open Sicilian, seeking unbalanced positions and opportunities to play for a win. In roughly one-third of the games White does not play 2.Nf3 and chooses one of numerous 'Anti-Sicilian' lines. Ranging from primitive and aggressive to respected but tedious, these Anti-Sicilians have one thing in common: they all cross Black's plans and steer for territories where it is easy to get ambushed. Evgeny Sveshnikov offers help. The world-famous Sicilian expert tackles these annoying lines one by one. With great ingenuity he presents a watertight repertoire that consists of practical and effective opening ideas. As always, Sveshnikov is quite explicit in his judgments, never afraid to challenge established ideas. To test your understanding of his systems, he has included dozens of exercises. Grandmaster Evgeny Sveshnikov, a former trainer of world champion Anatoly Karpov (my chess hero - Carl) and is one of the most respected chess opening experts in the world. He recently published the bestselling opening monographs The Complete c3 Sicilian and The Grand-Prix Attack.

International Master John Donaldson states: 'Sicilian players looking for a one volume work dedicated to combating anti-Sicilian variations will find 'Sveshnikov vs. the Anti-Sicilians: A Complete Repertoire' just the thing they need.'

Elburg Chess Book Reviews: 'It does not matter what white plays after the move 1...c5, the master of attack comes with an excellent answer.'

Time to add my own. Carl Portman - Carl's Planet:

Why do I say this? First of all, it is important to know this stuff! It is so easy to play openings by wrote, in this case simply expecting only 2.Nf3 or Nc3 in the Sicilian. One needs to be armed with as much hardware as possible in order to win the opening battle, in order to take us into a favourable middlegame. At an amateur level this is really easy to understand and it is one of those areas where we know we cannot remember all the variations at the board, but knowing the theme is key. Getting that positional feel is of great importance. Let me just take one example for you. If I do play the Sicilian, I do so online or in friendlies. I have always been confused when white plays 2.d3 and I wonder why he/she does this.

Sveshnikov explains that White wants to play a kind of King's Indian Attack. It is a cunning move and there are all sorts of possibilities afterwards of which 3.f4 appeals to me greatly. When I began to play through the lines it actually began to impress me and I could see the sense in how black was setting up. Heck, I might even be brave enough to give it a punt in a league game soon and I shall add to this review if I do. Until then whilst I cannot give the book five stars - as I am still far from au-fait enough with the lines to know how useful and accurate they really are, I can give it the next best thing and recommend it highly to Sicilian Players especially. Non-Sicilian players will benefit from reading it too as there is more than just script on opening lines here' there are general principles at play also.

I rate this book as **** Recommended The author is a free-thinker, disagreeing where he has to with the likes of Mark Dvoretsky, and that's good enough to want to know more about this book

Book: The Liberated Bishop Defence

Author: Alexey Bezgodov

Publisher: NEW IN CHESS

Edition: First (2014)

Date of review: 27 January 2015

Actually the book's full title is - The Liberated Bishop Defence - A surprising and complete Black repertoire against 1.d4. 'In this book, I will equip you with a complete repertoire against 1.d4' claims the author. That's a pretty big statement and one that I have heard before but been left wanting. Personally I have been looking for something new to play against 1.d4 so this book has been published at just the right time. So what's it all about? After the moves 1.d5 d5 the author recommends responding to both 2.Nf3 and c4 with 2...Bf5! (His exclamation mark).

This develops a bishop that can often be shut in. Okay it leaves b7 vulnerable but the plusses are meant to outweigh the minuses. Playing 2...Bf5! against either 2.c4 or 2.Nf3 will surprise your opponent and is also a great way to support your development, because the bishop takes control of the important square e4. If White does not immediately take decisive action then within a move or two he can relinquish any hopes on an opening advantage.The author is a Russian Grandmaster and writer. He was Russian Champion in 1993 and came shared first in the 1999 Ukrainian Championship and has written other works. He has, we should be relieved to learn - played this chess opening system for a long time. He has found some great antidotes to White's most dangerous reactions in sharp lines and he includes more than 100 exercises.

What do other people say? Well Matthew Sadler, who is respected deeply as a reviewer says that it is 'A very impressive book. Bezgodov presents masses of original analysis.' That's good enough for me. As for the format of the book it has 334 pages, 11 chapters and a few black and white photographs to support the text. This includes a rather serious looking Jon Speelman so be warned if you are faint of heart. There are conclusions at the end of chapters - which is useful - and the training exercises are well worth not skipping over. Chess, like art and music is a very personal trying so this opening may not be for everyone. However on delving into the pages I found it of great interest. This opening will undoubtedly catch opponents out at club level and is well worth a try.

I will give you one example in just one variation that will surely crop up in your games. After 1.d4 d5 2.c4 Bf5 3.Nf3 e6 4.Qb3 (pressuring that pawn on b7) black MUST play 4...Nc6 according to Bezgodov. He says that 'All other replies are weaker and grant white a significant advantage'. Now don't worry - he does go on to explain why in the chapter.

I decided to be naughty and put the position after 4.Qb3 into Chessbase and turn the machine on. (See diagram below)

Guess what; it does give 4...Nc6 as the best move. You will have to buy the book and work out the permutations for yourself but there are some hairy lines and you have to know them, or else. The author has clearly invested substantial time and effort into this and every other chapter. Oh go on, let me show you the main and most dangerous possibility. It is you as black, to play here. (See diagram below)

What would you do? Yes, of course you would play 3...e5!? Wouldn't you? Well Fritz wouldn't that's for sure and people may balk at the idea of giving up a pawn so early but this game is not about to be a boring one so the pugilist might relish this line as it can get very crazy. Space does not permit me to re-create every chapter. Let's just say that I think this book really is worth forking out your hard earned cash on. It states that 'After studying the fresh ideas in The Liberated Bishop Defence every chess player will enjoy the flexibility of a surprising, effective and universal weapon against 1.d4'.I can believe that.

I did have to smile though. I put the position after 2...Bf5 into Chessbase 2015 and plenty of games came up including (unsurprisingly) the authors. I clicked on the first one - he lost against Nikita Vitiugov but then he was heavily out graded and at no point did he state that the opening was 'winning' in any sense anyway. Rather than showing any deficiencies in the author's work it further demonstrates - should it be needed - the rich tapestry of chess.

I rate this book as ***** Highly Recommended Especially if you want something completely different.

Book: Mikhail Botvinnik - The life and games of a World Chess Champion

Author: Andrew Soltis

Publisher: McFarland & Company Inc,

Edition: First (2014)

Date of review: 30 November 2014

Mikhail Moiseyevich Botvinnik did not trust the changes to the Soviet Union in the 1980's. He said that he never left the party (The Communists) but the Party left him. He was an old school communist who had friends at the highest level. His political ideology was unswerving throughout his life and I respect that. At the chessboard he was a formidable opponent who believed in working systematically and in an organised manner. Discipline was his faith, winning was his objective. He was the sixth FIDE World Champion and he won it on three occasions.

The book is published in hardback form and has some 274 pages including 88 games. The twelve chapters include titles such as 'Allies and enemies, Absolution, Champion and The End of Revenge'. After that we have a very useful and very clear selection of Appendixes, Notes on sources, Bibliography and an Index of Openings and opponents followed by the final General Index. It is a lovely tome to actually hold (I still don't do Kindle) and my only gripe - which is a very personal one - is that I would have liked to have seen a photograph of Botvinnik on the cover. Perhaps a dust cover might be considered in future publications. In general terms I thoroughly enjoyed this book. I have stated before that what is written without effort is read without pleasure and Soltis has done his homework and written a superb record of a legendary chess Champion. Clearly he expended much time and effort to the task but he has been rewarded for his lucubrations with the English Chess Federation's Book of the Year award for 2014. I expext there will be more plaudits along the way.

The book is written chronologically as one might expect, from Botvinnik's birth on August 17th 1911 (in Finland actually - but that's because it was within Tsar Nikolai II's Empire) to his death on May 5th 1995. It describes how he learned to play, early games and aspirations through to the amount of work, dedication and sacrifice that it took to become World Chess Champion. There are fascinating pages filled with detail about how life affected him afterwards he relinquished his title for the very last time. One of his secret weapons was one that I use myself at club level. No, not the French Defence but a flask of tea! Indeed this has earned my nickname 'Emanuel Flasker' but that is another story. Soltis conveys how passionate the Russian people were for chess back then in the days before the Internet. For example the demand for tickets for one of the rounds of the 11th Soviet Championship in 1939 was so great that 'huge crowds gathered on the banks of the Moika River, following the moves on giant demonstration boards, grinding traffic to a halt'. How charming, how romantic in chess terms. I wish that sort of thing would occur today. Just imagine the newsflash as London comes to a halt until the game was finally over.The reader will find not only great chess games but some really thought-provoking information such as when spectators bought tickets that included a valuable roll of bread. Yes, times were that hard in 1941-42.

It seems that Botvinnik was a man lacking a sense of humour but then his very great intellect was of interest to many. As well as being a chess Grandmaster and World Champion he was head of a high-voltage factory called the North-west Regional Network for the Ural Energy Corporation. See, I bet you didn't know that did you? He was a chess teacher who can include Garry Kasparov among his students, and he was one of the first to work on and develop computer chess. The chess games in the book include opponents as legendary as Suetin, Capablanca, Tal, Keres, Levenfish, Menchik, Reshevsky and Petrosian to name but a few. There is much to learn from playing through these. Smyslov apparently always believed that the French Winawer was bad but Botvinnik took a different view. Their career score in this line was three wins to Botvinnik, three to Smyslov and six draws. The first 6 moves go as follows.

1.e4 e6 2.d4 d5 3.Nc3 Bb4 4.e5 c5 5.a3 Bxc3+ 6.bxc3 Ne7

As a French player I rarely get to play this line but I intend to look at it with new eyes.If it was good enough for 'Misha' it is good enough for me.

The author, Andrew Soltis, is a grandmaster and prolific chess writer. His works include Soviet Chess 1917-1991, 1999, for McFarland & Company which I am yet to read. I have a copy of Botvinnik's 100 selected games which has a very interesting introduction and I always wanted to learn more about Botvinnik the man. This book provides that greater insight and I can recommend it in the strongest terms. Soltis says in his foreword that he had nothing to add to the games that have already been published elsewhere but I won't be alone in being delighted that he elected to include the games that he did. They complement the text beautifully. I am a little biased because I am a fan of the French Defence which Botvinnik employed frequently. There's always something new to learn in those games and many others.

I reviewed this book over several weeks reading a few pages at a time in bed before I turned out the lights. It was the perfect method for me and I was thoroughly absorbed. As I closed the book each time and closed my eyes I imaged meeting Botvinnik, the Patriarch of Russian chess. I wondered what it might be like to be in the audience witnessing his games or just to have lived in the time when he became world chess champion. This is the English Chess Federation's book of the year and I can see why. Own this, and what you hold in your hand won't just be a chess book - it is a piece of chess history. You have a book here that describes the life of a Marxist-Leninist whose gums bled through the stress of playing for the world chess title. A book about a man who was as cold as ice to his enemies but warm and generous to friends. A man who carried the sometimes murderous weight of the Soviet Union around the globe for so many years. That in itself is reason enough to open this book and start at the very beginning. Once again McFarland - and Andrew Soltis have released an outstanding publication and we are lucky to have the opportunity to get it for the cost of a very average meal - go on, grab yourself a piece of history.

I rate this book as ***** Highly Recommended For chess officianado's and especially Botvinnik fans this is the Holy Grail.

Book: Bent Larsen's Best Games - Fighting Chess with the Great Dane

Author: Bent Larsen

Publisher: New In Chess

Edition: First (2014)

Date of review: 30 November 2014

I have always been a fan of Bent Larsen. He wasn't afraid to be different and he would play 1.b3 or 1.f4 when the stakes were high, often with great success. It's about time a new book on his best games was written. I own Eric Brondum's 'Bent Larsen - The Fighter' which although superb left me wanting much more, especially something written by Larsen himself. Anatoly Karpov said of him "Of the many chess masters I have met, Bent is the most original". Garry Kasparov called him "One of the most colourful players of the 20th century." What greater praise could there be? This book is 350 pages in length and includes 120 games. It contains 39 chapters and at the end has a list of Larsen's achievements until 1973, an index of openings and a further index of games.

Peter Heine Nielsen gives an introduction of several pages entitled 'The will to win' in which he gives the necessary background information about Larsen - where he was born etc. and four illustrative games. The reader learns that Larsen was born in 1935 in Jutland and that he learned to play chess in 1942 when he was confined to bed with a series of children's diseases. The author then prefaces the book. He remarks 'In a book it is as if we are in the analysis room, but without questions and answers. The author therefore has to guess some of the questions'. Larsen does this with his fine style of writing, as lucid as ever, as honest and objective as one would want. Sometimes he is amusing, sometimes he surprises with his frankness but that's what makes this book a ripping read and also a useful chess reference book. It contains some very nice (black and white) photographs and it struck me that Larsen was a handsome man and this along with his cultured, articulate nature must have made him a tremendous person to have to dinner! I shall give an example of some chess from his very first game in the book. It was played in the World Junior Championships Birmingham, England in 1951 and he was white against Lionel Joiner. I shall refrain from showing the whole game but provide just a taster. (Notes by Larsen)

1.e4 e5 2.f4 Bc5 3.Nf3 d6 4.c3 Bg4 (A logical move to prevent d2-d4. However, White gets a good game with the following queen manoeuvre, well-known for many a long year). 5.fxe5 dxe5 6.Qa4+! Bd7 (6...Qd7 7.Bb5 c6 8.Nxe5! loses a pawn. I knew all this very well as the King's Gambit was my favourite opening). 7.Qc2 Nc6 8.b4 Bd6 and Larsen went on to win in 32 moves.

I feel that I should provide just some of the official blurb about the book. Bent Larsen (1935-2010) was one of the greatest fighters chess has ever seen. In his rich career the Great Dane defeated all World Champions from Botvinnik to Karpov and he became one of the most successful tournament players of his time. Bent Larsen's uncompromising style and his unorthodox thinking made him popular with chess players all around the globe. In 1967/1968 Larsen won five international elite events in a row, a truly spectacular achievement. His successes were such that Bobby Fischer let him play first board in the legendary Soviet Union vs. the World match in Belgrade in 1970. Bent Larsen also was a highly original chess writer and an extremely productive chess journalist. Not surprisingly the first chess book that Magnus Carlsen ever studied was written by the strongest Scandinavian player before him.

The book affected me in as much as reading Larsen's own words makes it more personal, more interesting. Playing through these games really was a joy because it was so refreshing to see opening choices that club players might opt for instead of just 1.e4 and 1.d4 all the time. As black he played all sorts of openings, from the Sicilian Defence and the King's Indian Defence to the Dutch. I am sure he played the Danish too at some point! He even played 1...b6 against Guillermo Garcia's 1 Nf3. Marvellous stuff. This book is really well written, easy to follow and understand and paints a picture of the man - written by the man himself. We must lament his loss. It is so sad that Bent Larsen passed away on September 9, 2010 (aged 75) in Buenos Aires. You owe it to yourself (whatever level you play at) to enjoy these games from one of the greats and you will learn a great deal. Though never World Champion he had many successes and he left us with some beautiful jewels of the chessboard. Find him again and share his love of the game.

I rate this book as ***** Highly RecommendedFighting chess with a Great Dane indeed.

Book: Bologan's Black Weapons in the Open Games

Author: Victor Bologan

Publisher: New In Chess

Edition: First

Date of review: 06 October 2014

I have not seen an opening chess book quite like this before! Now that's not to say that I like it or don't like it but I shall elaborate in due course. I want to separate content from layout and then give my thoughts. Firstly, what is the book about? Well, if you are ready to play the Ruy Lopez with Black, you also need to be prepared if White avoids the Ruy so Victor Bologan covers all the relevant lines.

Victor Bologan is a world-class grandmaster. His tournament victories include the Aeroflot Open in Moscow and the Dortmund super-tournament. He is the author of acclaimed opening books like The Chebanenko Slav, The Rossolimo Sicilian, and The Powerful Catalan. Here's the official blurb...

Bologan's Black Weapons in the Open Games is not just another chess opening repertoire book. Bologan presents TWO different options against every main line: a common sense approach and an aggressive weapon. It's actually two books in one!

And there is more:

-guidance for those who are new to 1...e5 and have little time
-a wealth of new ideas in old lines
-The Fast Lane repertoire (in every chapter): the minimum you need to know
-a special strategy section: how pawn structures define important themes
-transpositions and move-order subtleties clearly identified
-historical lines and gambits re-examined
-traps & tricks visually marked
-many examples from Bologan's own games
-2200(!) games referenced and presented in a separate index
-lots of practical tips

Victor Bologan has taken the chess opening repertoire book to a next level. He has created a unique instrument of chess instruction for players of almost every strength. And what does an eminent fellow grandmaster say? GM Karsten Müller, author of 'The Modern Scandinavian' "The book is really excellent. Not only is the analysis up to date but also the presentation is right to the point and very readable. Not many long variations but verbal explanations. Just the way opening books should be in the modern computer times."

Whilst I must bow to grandmaster opinion I must also form my own. I will be honest, I rarely play these lines so I was excited to learn as if I were almost a beginner to it. First to the layout. It seems to be a new format to me as I have never seen anything like it. It has sidebars on the edge of each page showing chapters and variations, very nice and clear diagrams and variations marked in black boxes and lighter grey boxes showing traps move orders and general ideas to remember. You will have to make your own mind up but I am still absorbing this format. For me it looks a bit too cluttered at times and there are so many sub variations I got a little confused - so If I did others will too.

For example, one of the boxes shows this:

It shows variations, symbols...and motor cycles! In other lines there are skull and crossbones signs (for white and black) to show any traps. Okay, I had to concentrate quite hard to follow variations and remember where the start was but then this would have been infinitely easier if I had done this on a computer instead of a standard chess set. Here is the layout of a random page and you must make your own mind up if you like it. I am sure that many will. It is busy but you do get used to it after a while.

The back cover states that Bologan keeps things very clear and doesn't bog the reader down. I cannot totally agree but in essence that was the case for me. An example of the diagrams used is given here - a different way of illustrating points and I am certainly not averse to it.

To be absolutely fair, the more I used it the quicker I got to grips with it. So what about the content of the book? It consists of 528 pages, has five parts and 57 chapters. Before we get to part one there is an introduction and a section on Bologan's Strategic ideas and themes. This is a very nice touch actually and gives diagrams of basic pawn and piece structures along with other information about the likes of the queen sacrifice, attacking ideas, castling and much more. It is high quality in terms of print.

The chapters cover the reply 1...e5 in reply to 1.e4 and being prepared if white avoids the Ruy Lopez. Specifically Part 1 covers 1.e4 e5 and associated lines such as The Danish Gambit arising from that. Part 2 covers 1.e4 e5 2.f4 and associated lines. Part 3 covers 1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nf6 and associated lines. Part 4 covers 1.e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3.Nc3 Nf6 and associated lines and Part 5 covers 1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bc4 and associated lines. I should mention that rather conveniently all diagrams are shown from black's point of view - that is black pieces at the bottom of the board. This is useful since the book is written from black's perspective and you wonder why more authors don't do it.. At the end of each chapter there is a box with traps, move orders and ideas to remember.

As part of this review I chose to study (among others) Chapter 46 - the Evans Gambit as I had been thinking about playing this as white but never actually done so. I followed it logically and it was very enlightening. Clearly the author has worked tirelessly with this book giving loads of information not just on openings but chess history and many lines I have never heard of. In that respect it is excellent. I think if you can get to grips with the layout and sometimes going into a lot of detail then you'll be fine. I especially recommend that you play through the lines using a computer, which will save a great deal of time in going back to the initial position after playing through sub-variations.

This book shows just how complicated and deep chess is. After all it is about replies to 1.e4 if white avoids the Ruy hasn't even touched on the other lines that can arise from 1.e4. The more I look at it, the more I want to delve in the pages. The more I want to learn - that's the sign of a good book. I know that all the information is in there, I just have to find it and get used to finding my way around the format.

Two final notes. The pictures of the motor cycle I referred to indicate a fast lane which are a list of lines that the reader should in any case pay attention to if he does not have the time to go through the whole chapter. Also it would be useful to have a couple of blank pages for reader's notes/comments at the end of the book. The question I asked myself before reviewing this book was 'is there room for yet another book on responding to 1.e4 these days? The answer after reading this is; Indeed there is!

I rate this book as **** Recommended It is a fresh approach to a complex subject.

Book: 1001 Brilliant Ways to Checkmate

Author: Fred Reinfeld

General Editor Bruce Alberston

Publisher: Russell Enterprises Inc

Edition: First in algebraic

Date of review: 06 October 2014

Fred Reinfeld (1910-1964) was for many years among the strongest chess players in the U.S.A. He stands alone as a chess author in many ways as one of the most successful and prolific chess writers of all time, with over one hundred books to his credit. I have a copy of 'How to play winning chess' written by Reinfeld which I purchased when I was a kid several decades ago - and even at that time it was in its seventeenth edition! I know then that any work by this author will be of interest and value to chess players of all strengths.

Indeed ask most chess players from the "baby boomer" generation how they acquired and sharpened their tactical skills, and chances are a Fred Reinfeld tactics collection will be part of their answer. And now for the first time, 1001 Brilliant Ways to Checkmate is available in modern algebraic notation.

This is one of the great checkmate collections, with forced checkmate positions taken mainly from actual play, (although I do note that no references are given to who the players were). Reinfeld's selection is fascinating though, touching on all the important tactical themes.

In short this is a tremendous book to hone your tactical abilities. It will help you recognise mating patterns, develop visualisation skills, enhance imagination, and improve tactical sharpness. And now, with a modern 21st-century edition of this great checkmate collection finally available, there is no excuse for not only improving your tactical skills but also enjoying yourself along the way.

Just a couple of constructive comments. Since the book embraces beginners it might be an idea one day to include the algebraic notation system with the diagrams and I would also like to see a couple of blank pages at the back for reader's notes. Other than that it is what I expected, a cornucopia of wonder and chess magic.

I rate this book as **** Recommended Buy it along with '1001 winning chess sacrifices and combinations'.

Book: 1001 Winning Sacrifices and Combinations

Author: Fred Reinfeld

General Editor Bruce Alberston

Publisher: Russell Enterprises Inc

Edition: First in algebraic

Date of review: 06 October 2014

Fred Reinfeld (1910-1964) was for many years among the strongest chess players in the U.S.A. He stands alone as a chess author in many ways as one of the most successful and prolific chess writers of all time, with over one hundred books to his credit. I have a copy of 'How to play winning chess' written by Reinfeld which I purchased when I was a kid several decades ago - and even at that time it was in its seventeenth edition! I know then that any work by this author will be of interest and value to chess players of all strengths.

1001 Winning Chess Sacrifices and Combinations is the companion volume to Reinfeld's 1001 Brilliant Ways to Checkmate. They serve better together than separate and make for a wonderful collection. Both are now available in 21st-century editions, using modern algebraic notation.

Reinfeld has arranged his quiz positions so that they fall into orderly chapters, each with a common theme. This includes motifs such as discovered checks, pinning, queening combinations, Zugswang, the weakened castled position, overworked pieces and many more. The degree of difficulty varies widely. Easiest are one movers, suitable for players starting out. Most difficult are the examples that run seven moves and more; some of these may even stump an ordinary master.

Most of all, this is a book of combinative ideas, all designed to enhance your arsenal of weapons. The first step toward mastery is to become familiar with the different types of tactical motifs. The second step is to study a great many examples of these tactical themes.

So, the object of this book is to add to your knowledge, to make you a strong chess player, and (last but not least) to delight you with some of the most beautiful moves ever played on the chessboard. It is a 21st-Century edition of a great checkmate collection.

Just a couple of constructive comments. Since the book embraces beginners it might be an idea one day to include the algebraic notation system with the diagrams and I would also like to see a couple of blank pages at the back for reader's notes. Other than that it is what I expected, a cornucopia of wonder and chess magic. There is a typo on page 7 (The move on bottom right shows 1.e2 when it should be 1.e4) but that's small beer in the grand design of this excellent book.

I rate this book as **** Recommended Buy it along with '1001 brilliant ways to checkmate'.

Book: John Nunn's Chess Course

Author: John Nunn

Publisher: GAMBIT

Edition: First

Date of review: 27 July 2014

If John Nunn was a soldier he would have been a sniper. The man is the living embodiment of cool calculation, precision and ice cold professionalism. When he has a king in his sights he always seems to be able to make the kill shot. His prose in this - like his other books - is brutally honest, highly engaging and very educational. The reader never has to look far to find the golden nuggets that may help to buy your way to a better chess game.

GAMBIT Chess always produce super chess works and this publication continues that trend. The book is not at all what I thought it would be when I looked at the title. It is not one that intends to project you from beginner to higher level. What it is though is a book that provides a chess education through the games of former world champion Emanuel Lasker. And why not? After all he is the longest serving champion in the history of chess - reigning for some 27 years. I won't repeat all the wording on the back cover - if you are reading this you have internet access and you can find it elsewhere. I am giving my own personal thoughts here for club players. Here are the hard facts about the layout of the book:

There are 320 pages

There are 16 chapters covering Attack and Defence, Piece Activity, Pawn-structure, The endgame, Queenless middlegames, Defending inferior positions, Manoeuvring, Endgames: Making something from nothing, Playing for the win, Fleeting chances, The critical moment, Common failings and the final one is chess exercises. Now there's surely enough there to get your teeth into.

Suitably placed diagrams support the text. As ever you cannot 'cheat' on John Nunn's books. You have to devote real time to them if you want to learn something, if you really want to understand - to improve as a chess player. It's not for free. It is a two-way affair, quid pro-quo. I would like the author to write a book on Time Management because I can only marvel at his prodigious output and the sheer effort it must have taken to compile and annotate this book. I feel as of it were a labour of love. I would be so fascinated to invite Nunn and Lasker to dinner and just listen in. Imagine that conversation. He says himself in the introduction that 'The games in this book (and there are 100 of them - CP) have been chosen so as to show how the most important chess concepts operate in practice'. The book focuses chiefly on the middlegame and endgame but of course openings are commented upon and much can still be gleaned in this phase of the game. There is a very strong emphasis not just on the moves but on thought-processes and decision making.

Nunn sums up Lasker's technique in one word - misdirection. That seems odd when you first read it but this becomes totally appropriate as you work through the book. Nunn says that Lasker's talent lay in creating situations in which the normal rules and evaluations didn't apply and that his opponents would fail to realize that there was something amiss until it was too late. You can really see this as you play through the games, with Nunn's expert commentary. Some people say that Lasker was a lucky player but Nunn sets out to dispel that view in a very compelling way. Lasker was surely miscast in chess history. Those diagrams I mentioned earlier compliment the text in this book and the analysis can - necessarily - go into some depth at times but only in Nunn's quest to add more meat to the bones of the position.

One example I shall give is a famous ending from the game Emmanuel Lasker v Edward Lasker, New York in 1924. See diagram. Now this is just the sort of ending that we amateurs regularly have to play in our league, club and tournament matches. Exactly the sort of positions that we ruin and wonder how we lost. Look at the position, what do you think of it? Nunn says that 'It is clear that black holds the advantage since white has only one pawn for the exchange and although he has two connected passed pawns, these are not very far advanced. However, the pawn structure on the queenside is relatively favourable for white since if black wants to make a passed pawn he must give up a further pawn with ...a5'. You see how a Master looks at the board? We mortals may be tempted just to make some moves and hope to win. Of course, time pressure plays a part in our games but this is a position well worth taking serious time to study. I won't give Nunn's analysis - you'll have to buy the book - but it is hugely instructive. All I will say is it is white to play here - what would your move be? Find the book and look on page 203.

I particularly like the author's introductions before each game/position which sets out the essence of the situation to help the reader to follow. Also of great value are his general statements about chess. Examples include playing on the other side of the board when an attack breaks down, thereby using the whole board; that opposite coloured bishops whilst drawish in the endgame generally have the reverse affect in the middlegame and you should not fall into a passive frame of mind - rather think about nullifying your opponents' threats. This is all excellent advice and it occurred to me that if the amateur player is really serious about improving one could write these gems down on a big whiteboard and study them, trying to commit them to memory. Alternatively get one of those index card systems and write them down on there. Each card would be a most useful reminder.

This book is very good then not only for us amateur players but also chess coaches and anyone who has an interest in Lasker or the history of chess. Indeed it is fair to say that I have a much better appreciation of Emmanuel Lasker's style as a result of reading this book. For example I now know that he had a predilection for taking on c6 in the Ruy Lopez so if I was a Lopez player I would profit from studying his games with this line. Further, I am sufficiently motivated to study other great players to see what their style was like in comparison. I have learned much about Lasker's play and that he could for example force the great Capablanca into a losing position whereby his bishop was horribly enclosed like that of an amateur - the sort of torture that Capablanca used to inflict upon everyone else.

Final point. The author intends the book to be read sequentially rather than dipped into. This ensures that elementary topics are followed by abstract ideas and psychological issues. After working through the book I agree and see the logic of this.

There is nowhere to run then, nowhere to hide. Just buy this book because Nunn has you in his sights. The author has a seriously impressive chess CV. Amongst many other achievements he was one of the world's leading Grandmasters for 20 years, winning four gold medals in chess Olympiads. He is a highly acclaimed writer winning book of the year awards around the globe. He is a former world champion and British Champion at chess problem solving. I do not know how many more books he will write but he has hitherto given meritorious service to the art of writing instructive and worthwhile chess books. Long may he continue.

I rate this book as ***** Highly Recommended Buy it if you seriously intend to improve your game or if you just want a collection many of Lasker's games.

Book: Chess training for post-beginners. A basic course in positional understanding

Author: Yaroslav Srokovski

Publisher: New In Chess

Edition: First

Date of review: 02 July 2014

This is what the blurb says about the book:
You have learned the rules of chess and developed some tactical skills. You are fascinated by the game and want to know more. So, the question is: what's next? What is the best way to improve your play and start winning? Yaroslav Srokovski, one of the most successful chess trainers in Europe, has developed a practical course which addresses the challenges that ambitious post-beginners face.

- What is the best way to train at chess?
- How do you acquire the ability to assess a position on the board?
- What should you try to achieve in the various stages of the game?
- Which long-term advantages should you aim for in what type of position?

In a clear and concise manner, Srokovski explains basic positional motifs like the strengths and weaknesses of pieces and pawns, of squares, files and diagonals. All these he illustrates with highly instructive examples. His tried-and-tested training material includes many exercises. The author says: "Every player who studies my book intensively will gain at least 100 Elo points."
So, blurb aside, in my opinion (and it is merely that!) how does the book live up to the billing? Let's break it down a little further. The book is 220 pages in length and there are 12 chapters covering the motifs laid out above. One point of interest in the preface was this. 'My book is aimed specifically at this Elo 1400-2200 group'. Now that is a wide range in playing strength. To my mind is the author saying that a player of 1400 would be able to understand the concepts in the same way as a 2200 player would? Well I must say that there are elements in this book that do cover the range the author intended but whether everone in that range will 'get it' remains to be seen. I hope so because there are some gems contained within the pages.

I especially appreciated the simple introductions to each position/game when the author immediately gives an appraisal of the position with something like 'Black has the more active king' or 'The black bishops are worth more than white's knights as the knights do not have any supporting outposts'. These are the immediate elements that one would take into account - along with king safety - when making an evaluation of a position. Other advice given is to 'play where you have an advantage' which is is a good tip to keep in mind and fine if you are not having to defend your king from jugulation.

The point of this book is to be able to develop the art of evaluating positions and to this end Srokovski offers the idea of static and dynamic advantages. An example of the former being pawn weaknesses and the latter piece pressure on the centre. It works actually and the more time you set aside to study the positions given the more you begin to understand thanks to plain and articulate explanations. Now, let us say that a 1400 player is looking at the following position from page fifteen:

What would you, as white play here and why? Take your time.

Well, Karpov played 22.g4!! The thing is, why? Well the g-pawn now prevents the bishop from returning to e6 where it would block the e-file. Black's problem child in the position is the d-pawn which is well protected by its own pieces. However this means that they are not occupying their optimal positions. This is a fine example for people learning chess; to look all the time at opponent's moves and not just your own. If you only analyse only your own you are doing half a job. Could a 1400 player grasp it? Again, I hope so as it is too good to miss. Just for interest I put the position into Fritz 14 which eventually agreed that 22.g4 was the optimum move. Thus proving that my hero Karpov was a pretty good player in 1973 wasn't he?
There were a couple of points which are observational rather than critical. I could not agree with the author slating Botvinnik by saying that he 'was not only inaccurate when playing this game (p39) but that even in its analysis he lacked the willpower to penetrate its secrets'. How does he know he lacked the willpower? Botvinnik did not have the luxury of computers in 1936 and maybe he just could not find those secrets. This was too harsh I thought.

There are many instructive positions in the book though and I particularly enjoyed the section on the queen-side pawn majority and Ivanchuk's beautiful finish to position 76. I would also mention the truly instructive Fisher-Taimanov endgame in position 102 with the good bishop v the bad knight. It is the kind of thing we amateurs end up with time and again and playing through this and remembering the key themes will reap rewards - and maybe get you some of those 100 ELo points!

I do not know for sure if people will improve by 100 Elo points if they study this book intensively (what is intensively?) but it ought to induce an improvement in OTB play and give a great deal of pleasure at the same time. The key will be remembering it when at the board in your own games. I enjoyed this book and expect it to be a useful reference. I do recommend it to anyone interested in taking those crucial 'post-beginner' steps but be prepared to be patient and don't rush the book. It can be studied over weeks and months and you'll get best return doing it this way in my opinion. Also make sure that you attempt the excellent training exercises after every chapter.

Who is Yaroslav Srokovski? He is an International Master from Ukraine. A few of his students have reached Grandmaster level and he has been appointed a Senior Trainer by FIDE, receiving the highest Soviet award for chess trainers, the Chigorin Medal.

New In Chess have released another publication that is a nice addition to a chess players library.

I rate this book as ***** Highly Recommended Buy it, enjoy it and see your game improve.

Book: Sabotage the Grünfeld - A cutting-edge repertoire for white based on 3.f3

Author: Larry Kaufman

Publisher: New In Chess

Edition: First

Date of review: 14 June 2014

I want you to know that there can be fewer dedicated to the cause of chess book reviewing than me. I say this by offering the photograph of me in a hospital bed having a blood transfusion whilst reading the book for review and making notes. Well, I figure that it is the perfect time to be in one spot and give proper focus to the task. I hope the author and publisher appreciate my serious approach to the work!

Let's get on. Grandmaster Larry Kaufman presents an effective method for white to disrupt plans and rigorously engage the position of the black side of the very popular Grünfeld Defence. Certainly 3.f3 is not something I have played or am familiar with. I should say also that I don't play or play against the Grünfeld that often so I am no expert, but there's always something to learn from new work and I do like Kaufman's style. He certainly prepares before he writes.

Alexander Alekhine was an early pioneer of this opening after 1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 g6 and this will take Grünfeld players out of their comfort zone for sure, especially at club level.

The author analysed all positions for 15 minutes using the high end computer programs Komodo and Houdini 3 and also adds his own thoughts to the work. He is not shy of saying when he thinks the engines have it 'wrong' if they cannot grasp the position. Kaufman recommends leaving Black with the unpleasant choice of either facing a well-prepared opponent ready for immediate attack, or ending up in a completely different opening which is not going to leave him very happy: the Sämisch variation of the Kings Indian. The book begins usefully with a history of the line, which dates back to games played by Nimzowitsch and Flohr in 1929. After that we have four chapters, covering offshoots, the Neo-Grünfeld, the Samisch with ...c7-c5 and finally the Sämisch without ...c7-c5. After this the reader is given 25 test exercises to solve with solutions. I do like the way the author gives 'top tips' using a thumbs up icon in the book. Tips such as 'lose a tempo, save the bishop' and 'An outpost knight on b5 can sometimes make the Benko Gambit look like a blundered pawn' are very helpful. Bearing in mind I was not exactly at my best when I reviewed this I am remarkably upbeat about the idea of finding something different to add to an opening repertoire. If Alexander Grischuk, Vishy Anand and Levon Aronian can play it at their level, you can play it at yours so why not give it a go?

I rate this book as ***Borrow from a friend if you are a 1.e4 player but **** recommended if you are a 1.d4 player Try it!

Book: A cunning chess opening repertoire for white

Author: Graham Burgess

Publisher: GAMBIT

Edition: First

Date of review: 19 December 2013

It is odd that although I have been playing chess for decades I can still have a mental block when playing with the white pieces. Sometimes it can be hard to play the first move, sometimes being the follower (black) is better than being the leader. After all, the early bird catches the worm but the second mouse gets the cheese.

The title has the word 'cunning' in it. In essence what does that mean? Well it comes down to the very important issue of move order. It is about trying to steer your opponent into positions that you like, denying them the chance to fight on their territory. Sounds good.

Graham Burgess - a highly respected FIDE Master and author explores a repertoire based on 1 d4 and Nf3. Black's possibilities for counterplay - and sharp gambit play - are kept to a minimum. The aim is to give Black exactly the type of position he doesn't want. If he is seeking blocked positions with pawn-chains, then he will show how to keep the game fluid. If he wants complex strategy, then he will be attacked with simple piece-play. If your opponent tries to simplify then the pieces will remain on in order to intensify the battle. Gambits? Most of them against this opening order will be simply prevented.The main cornerstones of the repertoire are carefully chosen Queen's Gambit lines, the Torre Attack (vs ...e6), and a variety of fianchetto options against the King's Indian and related set-ups. White's position is kept highly flexible, with many possible transpositions to a wide variety of systems that the reader can use to extend and vary the repertoire. The book features a wealth of new ideas and original analysis.

FIDE Master Graham Burgess is Gambit's Editorial Director, and one of the founders of the company. He holds the world record for marathon blitz chess playing, and lives in Minnesota. This is his 23rd chess book.

Book: Eminent Victorian Chess Players (Ten Biographies)

Author: Tim Harding

Publisher: McFarland

Edition: First

Date of review: 29 November 2013

I have always held an interest in the Victorian period so I was very happy to see the publication of this book. Tim Harding always researches his work painstakingly and I get the feeling that his books are a labour of love. Chess history is lamentably overlooked by far too many chess players and this is a major work on the history of the top personalities from the period. In essence I will split this review into three parts. Firstly I will tell you what the book contains then I will give you some further detail and finish with my personal comments.

The book has 400 pages, ten chapters (the players) six appendixes, select bibliography and an Index. The ten essays cover both amateur and professional players. We've all heard of Howard Staunton of course but what do you know about Arthur Bollard Skipworth or William Davies Evans - he of the Evans Gambit? The other players featured are Löwenthal, Bird, Steinitz, Blackburne, Zukertort, Burn and Gunsberg.

There are 50 photographs and line drawings to supplement the text. The reader begins the journey with Captain Evans and there are some startling revelations here. For example did you know that he was responsible for the coloured lighting system on shipping lanes? In addition to the chess content, Eminent Victorian Chess Players is full of human interest as the players careers unfold and you'll be hard pushed to find such information in other books. If we go back to the afore mentioned Arthur Skipworth for example we learn that he was a 'fighting reverend' with a very secret life. Chapters include career summaries and personal notes on several other players involved with the main characters, including Ernst Falkbeer, Daniel Harrwitz, Leopold Hoffer, the Rev. George Alcock MacDonnell, and Adolphus Zytogorski. Through these overlapping stories, a new picture of nineteenth century chess emerges.The 160 game selection (with diagrams) is a mixture of classics and little-known games that have never been republished until now. Many factual inaccuracies in previous chess history books and reference works are corrected along the way.

Appendices of further interest include the career records of all ten eminences, all the known games by Captain Evans, a bonus article on the chess 'automaton' Mephisto, and a full transcript of Howard Staunton's contract with Routledge & Co. for his Shakespeare work, which is an important document when considering the reasons he gave for not playing a match with Morphy with 1858.

My personal comments I thoroughly enjoyed stepping back in time and I really did learn so much. The games themselves are of great interest and show chess as it was played at the time - swashbuckling and carefree at times yet these Victorians had grades of up to 2600 in today's terms so don't think of them as dusty old men by any means. Very briefly, here's just a single line of interest per player but there is much more to read:

William Davies Evans - Invented the lighting system on shipping lanes.
Howard Staunton - Latter day Victor Meldrew often afraid of risk.
John Jacob Lowenthal - did much for the spread of chess to 'refine and elevate the many'.
Henry Edward Bird - A good man who died with an estate worth only £35.
Arthur Bollard Skipworth - a lonely and unsympathetic character, perhaps with a secret lover!
William Steinitz - was said to have 'pursued chess so ardently that he has rather neglected the branches of polite learning which are said to lend a charm to social intercourse'.
Joseph Henry Blackburne - nicknamed 'Der schwarze Tod' - the Black Death. He came closer to the world summit than any native-born Englishman between the eras of Staunton and Nigel Short.
Johannes Hermann Zukertort - died young (46) but was at one point deemed to be the strongest player in the world.It is said that at the peak of his glory he had no real friend.
Amos Burn - who? Well he actually beat Steinitz and played one of the greatest chess moves of all time.
Isidor Arthur Gunsberg - was the most neglected figure in the history of British Chess.
There is an absolute treasury of information in this wonderful book. If you love chess history, the Victorian Period or you want to learn more about these then make the investment, purchase the book and keep it in your library forever.I mean, just who is Arthur Skipworth? No-one I have spoken to has heard of him yet listen to this taken from the Hull Packet on 3rd March 1882.

'With reference to Mr. Skipworth's performance at the Grimsby Chess Club, on Friday the 10th February, we are informed that he commenced his labours by walking from Tetford to Swinhope, some 15 or 16 miles, then he dined, then he drove to Grimsby, 10 miles, then without taking further refreshment, or sitting down, he fought for six hours over the chess-board simultaneously with twelve members of the Grimsby club. Then he drove back to Swinhope, on the way he jumped out and walked up two or three long hills and after breakfast set off to walk to Bonby, some 28 miles!'

Now I do not know why he walked some, drove some, jumped out or such but my word, just how indefatigable was that man? THAT'S Arthur Skipworth if you please.That's a real man!

It would be remiss of me not to finish with one of the games. There are so many to choose from but I have elected to show you that great move from Amos Burn - and don't forget there were no computers then.

This is Edmund E. MacDonald v Amos Burn. An offhand game played in 1910 at the Liverpool chess club. Here is the start position with white to move.

White, having sacrificed a piece for a powerful attack now played: 31.Ng5! This threatens 32.Ne6 having no satisfactory defence.. Burn set a subtle trap. 31...Nh4 32.Bxg6 Bxg5 White cannot capture on g5 because of the fork 33...Nf3+ After the game, Burn demonstrated the winning reply for white: 33.Be4, but his opponent played another move covering f3, which at first sight appears just as good.

33.Bh5? Here is the position, are you ready? What would you play as black?

Burn now found the stunning resource: 33...Qg4!! This problem-like interference move cuts the bishop's control of the critical square. 34.Rxg4 34.hxg4? obviously fails to 34...Nf3+ while 34.Bxg4 blocks the g-file and so allows 34...Bxd2 retaining the extra piece since white has no dangerous discovered check. Also if 34.Qxg5+ Qxg5 35.Rxg5+ Kh6 white must lose a piece, which is another unfortunate consequence of the bishop being on the wrong square. 34...Nf3+ If the white bishop had been on e4 this would fail. 35 Kg2 Nxd2 36.Rxg5+Kh6 37.h4 Nxb3 Material is now level but black will win the endgame on the queenside.The game concluded38.Rf5 Nxa5 39.Be2 Kg7 40.h5 Rf7 41.Rg5+Kh8 42.h6 Rf6 43.Rh5 Rf4 44.Rg5 Nxc4 45.Bd3 Nb2 46.Bc2 c4 47.Rg7 Nd3 48.Bb1 Rxf2+ 40.Kg3 Rb2 0-1

Once again, Tim Harding has in my opinion produced an outstanding work. I love what he publishes and can only hope for more. I wonder what would be next?

I rate this book as ***** Highly recommended. This is history, this is where some of today's chess came from. If you play 1.f4 you want to know who Bird was, right? If you play the Burn variation of the French you want to know a bit about the man who it is named after, correct? Then turn your ignorance into enlightenment and add this to your library - it really is a treasure.

Book: Chess Puzzles for Kids

Author: Murray Chandler

Publisher: GAMBIT

Edition: First

Date of review: 27 June 2013

This book is written for kids - so I thought I might do something novel - let a kid review it! He is still cogitating so for now here are a few comments of my own. An overview is that the book has 100 puzzles for children. These puzzles illustrate many typical themes and patterns such as the fork, the pin, a knight sacrifice on f6, decoys, the zwischenzug (this is a German word for an in between move) and even mate with two knights - yes folks it CAN be done! Here's one example how with black to play...

It is relatively easy to find the moves 1...Ne2+ 2.Kh1 Nf2 checkmate

Okay so I was being naughty. One cannot force checkmate with two knights and a king against a lone king but here we have the 'assistance' of a few pawns. Kids need to know these things, they need to be clear what positions to play for, what potential there is for checkmate as opposed to just grabbing material.

Other books from GAMBIT include 'How to beat your dad at chess' and 'Chess tactics for kids'. Both are excellent and I rate this the same. Murray Chandler and GAMBIT should be congratulated on bringing not only quality publications to the chess community but chess to children throughout the world. Each puzzle contains two diagrams per page, one above and one below. Puzzle A teaches the concept using arrows whilst puzzle B is the one that has to be solved. The reader has to find the correct contiuation in a similar (but not identical) position. It's all rather fun actually. The only (constructive) personal point I would make is that I would like to have had the answers to the puzzles at the back of the book to reduce the temptation to cheat and peek at the actual answer below puzzle B.

I was never a fan of covering up parts of the page with card to hide answers as invariably I used to pull the card too far down the page and accidentally reveal the solution which spoiled it for me.

If a junior paid proper attention to the contents of this book I simply don't see how he or she could not improve. Don't be fooled by the title incidentally; adults will derive much pleasure and some new ideas from this book so don't let the juniors be one step ahead of you.

I rate this book as ****recommended an excellent book.

Book: Attack with Black

Author: Valery Aveskulov

Publisher: GAMBIT

Edition: First

Date of review: 09 October 2012

Valery Aveskulov is not a Grandmaster that I am familiar with, yet at the age of 21 he won the championship of the Ukraine which is one of the world's strongest chess nations.He is an experienced chess coach. Of course being a strong chess player does not necessarily mean that one can coach well or write well. It is about how skilfully knowledge is transferred to the recipient that matters and to that end a 'message' must be tailored for the audience it is aimed at. So what audience IS this book aimed at? Well, the author says himself that he wanted to make the book of interest to professionals and amateurs alike. It will be for the purchaser to decide if he has achieved this goal but I will say that from a county standard players perspective it is a darned good read!

This book has three headings to it in essence but spread over 18 chapters. White avoids the Benko, The Benko Gambit and Understanding the Benko. The first part is instructive in that the author gives lines against the Colle,, London and Zukertort systems amongst others. It's always good to have lines against these openings which we doubtless face frequently. The Benko is not played that much at top master level, perhaps because some think that with proper play from white, black is just a whole pawn down but of course at amateur level there is room for lots of ideas, and of course many mistakes which are key ingredients of the amateur game.

Just for fun to show the opening Here's a game I played against a recent adversary and fine fellow, Steve Burnell. This was a Leamington League game in Sept 2012. He was white 1.d4 Nf6 2. c4 c5 3. d5 b5! (Here we go, 'Attack with Black') as Valery Aveskulov would say. 4. Nf3! (Now I give my opponent an exclamation mark - for not taking. 4.Nf3 is 'the most important and popular way for white to decline the gambit' according to the book. Now though I was not sure what to do as I had only analysed the gambit lines). 4...g6 (I seemed to recall that this was okay but I think 4...Bb7 is better.)
(4... Qa5+ 5. Bd2 b4 6. a3 d6 7. Bf4 bxa3+ 8. Nc3 Ne4 9. Rxa3 Nxc3 10. Rxa5 Nxd1 11. Kxd1 h6) (4... e6 5. dxe6 fxe6 6. e4 Nxe4 7. cxb5) (4... e6 5. d6 bxc4 6. Nc3 Nc6 7. e4 Qa5 8. e5 Ne4 9. Bd2 Nxd2 10. Qxd2 f6) 5.a4 (Forcing a decision.
I wondered why I could not just play b4 - and Fritz does give this as an option. Oddly, I suspected that by playing a4 my opponent wanted b4 so I was suspicious. On reflection I should have played it.) 5...bxc4 (5... b4 6. Qc2 d6 7. e4 (Trouble is, what do I do with the light squared bishop? I want to play Nb-d7 right now but this blocks the prelate in.) 6. Nc3 d6 7. e4 Nbd7 ?! (And here's where my inexperience of the position showed.There was nothing wrong with playing 7...Ba6) 8. Bxc4 Bg7 9. O-O O-O 10. h3 (A good move preventing my from putting my knight on g4 where it would then have gone to e5.) 10...Rb8 in the end we drew in a very interesting game but I was glad that I tried something new as a result of reading this very good book.

So I tried something from a book. A new (to me) idea which was fun if not a little unnerving at the board and I did not lose. If variety is the spice of life for you and you don't normally play the Benko against d4, why not choose this moment to get the book and give it a go?

I rate this book as ****recommended Time to revive the Benko perhaps?.

Book: A Strategic Chess Opening Repertoire for White

Author: John Watson

Publisher: GAMBIT

Edition: First

Date of review: 20 July 2012

After all these decades playing chess I still sit in front of the white pieces and think 'what am I going to play?' Sometimes you can have too much choice, a little like walking into a sweet shop and not knowing what goodies to buy. Yet there are plenty of books on white openings, so what's this one all about and does it stand out from the crowd? As usual I shall do my best to help you make your mind up. Let's look at the basics first. It is a GAMBIT Publication, therefore you know it will be quality, and the layout will be very nice indeed. There are some 12 chapters spanning 271 pages. Here's what those chapters cover:

Queen's Gambit Declined
Tarrasch Defence
Unorthodox Queen's Gambit
Queen's Gambit Accepted
Slav Defence
Semi-Slav Defence
Nimzo-Indian Defence
King's-Indian Defence
Grünfeld Defence
Benoni Systems and Benko Gambit
Dutch Defence
Assorted Defences

When I looked at this list I immediately thought 'What is an Unorthodox Queen's Gambit?' I can reveal that after 1.d4 d5 2.c4 it is moves such
2...Bf5 (Baltic)
2...Nc6 (Chigorin)
2...e5 (Albin)
2...e6 3.Nc3 c5 4.cxd5 cxd4 (Schara)
2...c5 (Austrian)
2...e6 3.Nc3 Irregular Lines
There are lots of books about these openings including work from John Watson so I will concentrate here on the Assorted Defences that people might wish to learn because we do face this in match play from time to time. By Assorted Defences, Watson refers to:

Budapest Gambit
Fajarowicz Gambit
Systems with ...d6 and .../or...g6
Systems with...e6 and/or...b6
Assorted Systems
I further referred to page 259 to ascertain what the author meant by Assorted Systems and they are: 1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 Nc6
1.d4 Nc6
1.d4 b5 2.e4 a6 1.d4 b5 2.e4 Bb7?!
1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 a6
1.d4 e5?!
Phew, I think that's the lot!

Now let me quote the author from his Introduction to the book. "The book before you presents a set of opening systems beginning with the move 1d4 and in almost every case, 2.c4" Now this ties in with the Kaufman book I reviewed on this page, so if you were going to buy one you would have to make choice. With Kaufman's book you do at least get the black side of openings too but Watson is a known quantity for quality and logical writing - which Kaufman also manages to achieve to be fair.

The essence of the book is this: One can play openings as white that are almost standard against anything such as the Colle. One does not learn chess form playing the same thing and frankly it can be a bit boring. Another style is hit and run where people go all out - a la Mike Tyson - for the quick knockout. The problem with this of course is that when such openings are countered, the offensive player has nowhere to go. Then there are the offbeat and irregular openings that try to trip you up. If these really were any good then we would see them in Grandmaster chess. We don't and there's good reason for that.

No - the intention of this book is to give 1.d4 and 1.c4 openings that are not tactically critical but can be played relatively safely. They often lead to the move e4 as well exposing white to counterplay but it makes for interesting chess as it leads to so many possibilities. Variety is the spice of life and I can relate to what John Watson is trying to achieve here. I myself get fed up playing 'the same old stuff' from time to time.

I think it would be good to leave with some very sensible (and rare) advice from the author himself who says that he does not view this as a whole set of openings for the reader to adopt. He is astute enough to be aware that many will do as he suggests and pick and choose openings to mix with other systems that they may already play or like.

An example is the following position in the Dutch Defence. Would you have the nerve to play 3.h4 after 2...g6 in a tournament or league game. Go on - step outside of your box for a while. I certainly will.

I rate this book as ****recommended a very good book.

Book: Vishy Anand: World Chess Champion

Author: John Nunn and Vishy Anand

Publisher: GAMBIT

Edition: Third

Date of review: TBC

I am officially way ahead of the anoraks, and I certainly know how to treat a woman! Let me tell you where I reviewed this book. It was at the historic Appleton Water Tower in Norfolk where I spent my honeymoon. Now Mr. Anand, Mr. Nunn, Gambit Publications - THAT is commitment to the cause!

I refuse to review a book unless I have properly looked at it, read it or at least seen most of it to get the essence of the tome. Therefore I sat back and relaxed some 100ft up in the open air and began...

Here's the basics first of all. This book is a new expanded edition from the original published in 2001. In that book, John Nunn selected the games and Vishy Anand annotated them. This time around, there are 30 extra games which Vishy has selected and the good Dr. Nunn has annotated them. With no offence meant I preferred the former as I felt more 'excited' getting inside the head of Vishy through his own words. That's not to say you won't learn an awful lot from Nunn's commentary - you most certainly will.

There are 87 games in all from 2001 to 2011. I note that there are no draws or losses in the book. If we are to believe what we amateurs are told - that we learn most from our losses- then it would have been good to have seen Anand or Nunn comment upon defeats as Fischer graciously elected to do in his 60 memorable games. That said there are some cracking games to get your teeth into. As early as game 2 we find an over the board 'find' from Anand in 11.g4 in the Sicilian Kan against Ninov.

Space does not allow for a word for word response to everything in the book but I enjoyed game 20. B.Gelfand - V.Anand from Linares in 1993 which was much more interesting in my view than anything they played in the recent World Championship match. It was a fascinating Queen's Gambit Accepted which is instructive and profound so you should play through this game very slowly.

As someone who appreciates the complexities of the French defence I also enjoyed reading Anand's prose on his game against Kasparov (game 13) and the fact that 8...Nb-d7 is better as the knights should be connected. It makes sense! The second part of the book (the new games) is a valuable addition because it provides another perspective from a top player. I do still raise a smile when I see comments such as 'Now it's easy' as on move 38 of game 62 (Anand-Karpov, Wijk aan Zee 2003) because I think it is far from easy at my level but Nunn does explain a few moves later how the game will be won.

It's not just about whole games though, there are specific elements to be learned here. For example the basic position of the Petroff is shown on page 352 with a nice explanation of what's going on in strategic terms. It's very useful indeed.

I derived great pleasure from game 84 - Anand v Topalov in their World Championship tussle in Sofia in 2010. It was a crazy Catalan and worthy of spending as much time as you can on it. Turn the telly off and get stuck in. Here are some nice quotes from the book and we could all learn from them...

"I took the view that you couldn't become World Champion by avoiding people - you just have to take opponents as they come"

"I wasn't especially excited by club chess, so I wasn't too disappointed when the club folded - at least I didn't have to resign from the team" (Good job we don't all take this attitude but he meant it in the context of club v more important games. (CP)

"It's useful to vary your openings a bit. A bit of variety helps to keep one's interest alive"

" There was no way I could face a boring Caro-Kann and trying to deal with an improvement on move 45 leading to a difficult ending etc" (Versus Karpov at Las Palmas in 1996)

"The difference between a good performance and an extra-special one is often not to be found in the technical aspects of the game, but in sporting characteristics such as will-power and resilience under pressure.

Anand brings us closer to earth when he mentions having a bad tournament at Blackpool! That would have been worth seeing.

There is an appreciation at the end of the book by Sean Marsh who puts a series of thoughtful and perceptive questions to Anand which gives a much needed insight into where he came from, how he took up chess and information about his early career.

It is a chunky book dear reader. At 540 pages it cannot be taken lightly (literally) but it is packed full of great games and narrative from two of the best. It's difficult sometimes trying to understand what the great chess players are really doing. I mean game 45 for me was an example. It is difficult for many amateurs to understand the move 5...d6 in the given position where many would 'naturally' play 5...Bb4. This is where it is crucial if the master is aiming his work at the amateur market (and I am not saying he is here!) to carefully expand wherever he can but this is a purely subjective comment of my own. Anand does explain a great deal.

Now to business - should you buy it?

If you have the first edition I must assume that you would think hard about parting with the best part of twenty quid for 30 games and an interview but if you don't already have the book... Well, let me quote the final paragraph of the book and John Nunn's comment that at the time of writing (Feb 2012) the preparations are underway for the World Championship Match which "it is hoped that this provides as much excitement as previous title matches". Well John, it didn't so the best way to embrace the best of Viswanathan Anand is to purchase the book.

I rate this book as ****recommended but especially if you don't own the first edition.

Book: A Rock-Solid Chess Opening Repertoire for Black

Author: Viacheslev Eingorn

Publisher: GAMBIT

Edition: First

Date of review: 01 May 2012

There are times in every chess players life when he/she just does not want to study and memorise openings. Personally speaking I occasionally want to play a move almost 'against anything'. I was curious therefore to take a look at this book, written by Ukrainian Grandmaster Viacheslav Eingorn who I freely admit I had never heard of. The book says that it is possible to to play solidly and take white out of his comfort zone. Really? Well I thought I would put this to the test since I had a league game the following day. I thought I would employ 1...e6 against whatever my opponent played.
Here's how the game went.

Event "Leamington A V Banbury A"]
[Date "2012.04.11"]
[White "Burnell, Steve"]
[Black "Portman, Carl"]

1. d4 e6 2. c4 Bb4+ 3. Bd2 a5!? (Bent Larsen has played this at top level. Then again, I ain't Bent Larsen) 4. e4 d6 (4...d5 is also an option here.) 5. Nf3 Nf6 6. Bd3 Nc6 7. O-O e5 8. d5 Bxd2 9. Nbxd2 Ne7 (9... Nb4 10. Bb1 b6 11. a3 Na6 12. b4 O-O) 10. c5 O-O 11. Rc1 Ng6 12. g3 dxc5 13. Rxc5 c6 14. Qe2 cxd5 15. exd5 b6 16. Rcc1 Bb7 17. Ne4 Nxe4 18. Bxe4 f5 (Sneaky! He even hovered with the bishop as if to show that he had no idea where to put it but he meant it to go to c2 alright...) 19. Bc2 Ba6 20. Qd2 Bxf1 21. Kxf1 h6 (21... Qd6 22. Ng5 e4 23. Ne6 Rfc8) 22. Re1 (22.d6) Qd6 23. Ba4 Rad8 24. Qc3 Rc8 25. Qe3 Qc5 26. Qxc5 Rxc5 27. Nxe5 Nxe5 28. Rxe5 b5 29. Bb3 a4 (29... Rc1+ 30. Re1 Rxe1+ 31. Kxe1 Kf7 32. Kd2 Rd8 33. a3 Ke7) 30. d6+ (Amazingly, I missed the fact that my rook is en-prise here! I thought he had to play his bishop back.) axb3 31. Rxc5 bxa2 32. Rc1 Kf7 (32... Ra8 33. d7 a1=Q 34. d8=Q+ Rxd8 35. Rxa1 Rd2 36. Rb1 Kf7) 33. Rc7+ Ke6 34. Ra7 1/2-1/2

Apart from playing imprecisely later on (don't we all?) I thought the opening was a bit of fun actually and I felt fine playing 3...a5 which I don't believe I have ever done before. Now I should say that the book deals only with 1...e6 as a reply to 1.e4 or 1.d4 but I guess you can still play it against anything. The author does ask if we should play this against flank openings. Objectively he states in answer that it is not necessarily a move that should be played against anything. It is not necessarily a coherent repertoire. For example after 1.Nf3 e6 2.g3 it is difficult to propose for black any worthwhile original ideas to give the move order real purpose.

Nevertheless, I don't see why at our level we can't employ this as a first move and just 'play on'. Against 1.e4 the reply 1.e6 is likely to turn into a French Defence of course but against 1.d4 the reply 1...e6 can lead to a Dutch Defence, a Sicilian Defence or a Nimzo-Indian amongst others. With this opening black keeps white guessing, which I approve of and he also defers playing ...Nf6 until he is ready.

There are three parts to the book as follows. Part 1: 1.e4 e6 (and subsequent variations) Part 2: 1.d4 e6 (and subsequent varaiations) and Part 3 (Regarding flank openings and X-files). I like the layout of the book which is small and compact in A5 format. There are 192 pages and it retails at around fifteen quid. Should you buy it? Well of course that depends on your style and willingness to try something different.

I rate this book as ****recommended particularly for those who like closed positions.

Book: The Strategic Nimzo-Indian - A complete guide to the Rubinstein Variation

Author: Ivan Sokolov

Publisher: NEW IN CHESS

Edition: First

Date of review: 18 July 2012

Chess truly is a sea in which a gnat may drink and an elephant may bathe. It's deep, very deep. To have a book (and this is only volume 1) of some 411 pages dedicated to one opening is mind boggling. The Nimzo-Indian is popular at all levels, therefore it is reasonable to assume that players of all strengths will be interested in this tome.

The first thing that struck me (and others who have reviewed this book) is that Ivan Sokolov who is an established chess author does not provide the first three moves of this opening so you begin with Part 1. 4. e3 Various. The reader is left to figure out what the preceding moves were. Well, they are 1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 e6 3. Nc3 Bb4.

I was confused for a second when looking at the back cover to see the praise (in standout red text) for Sokalov by Arne Moll when he says "This is simply a great opening book, probably one of the best ever on the Spanish Opening". The Spanish?? I had to check the front cover again. Usually when someone says something about the book in your hand it just that - about the book you purchased. Underneath that it has 'Terrific instructional content and great games' by John Watson but he isn't referring to the Nimzo-Book you are holding in your hand. He is praising Sokalov's Winning Chess Middlegames book. Many won't agree with me but I think it is a bit naughty.

There are four parts to the book with an index of variations and players at the end. You would not believe there were so many variations. Just a few are the Karpov, Larsen, Parma and Baguio variations plus main lines, delayed fianchettoes, the original Rubinstein, Romanishin's 4...b6 and the 3.Bxc3+ exchange.

True, Sokolov beat Kasparov with the Rubinstein variation so it should be solid enough and will attract certain readers as a result but then you won't be playing Kasparov so you'll need to be able to beat club and county players with it!

Here's what a couple of Grandmasters think about the book;-

GM Glenn Flear: "The author is constantly pointing out the positional consequences of the various thematic ideas throughout the lines. There are times when his research will almost certainly change the future course of theory. Whatever your connection to the Nimzo, make sure that you get hold of a copy. An absolute must."

Joe Petrolito, Australasian Chess Magazine: "There is a lot of explanatory material to complement the analysis and orientate the reader [Sokolov] is not afraid to challenge previous analysis, even describes some old analysis by Botvinnik as 'wishful thinking'! A dense but readable book on a mainstream opening that can only enhance Sokolov's growing reputation as an author."

I do have to say that I have an issue with some grandmasters (not necessarily those above) patting one another on the back saying what a great book has been published and we should all get it. Well, when you write a book you usually do so with a market in mind. I am not so sure that very average players could take the time and effort to go through this book when it is possible to learn a few lines and play at the club. However if this is aimed at those who have a desire to develop a 'profound positional understanding' then this is the book for you.

However, in fairness you might wish to choose a particular line from the book and develop your expertise in that so Sokalov does provide that option in this considerable book. A couple more points; I do like the layout and the fact that there are 'conclusions' at the end of every chapter.

The Nimzo-Indian is a fascinating opening that leads to some really interesting games and used to be one of my favourite replies to 1.d4 but for some reason I just stopped playing it. Perhaps this book will encourage me to introduce it again. Certainly I will be interested to see the second volume and the 4. a3 lines

I rate this book as **** Recommended.

Book: The Kaufman Repertoire for black and white

Author: Larry Kaufman

Publisher: NEW IN CHESS

Edition: First

Date of review: 18 July 2012

The very first thing that you note about this book is that it really is one of two halves. Half of the book is written 'upside down' to the other so you really have to flip it over to read it. I guess that's the black/white thing and it seems to work.

When you flip through it you will (thankfully) not see reams of variations and boring sub-variations and there are plenty of diagrams to support the text on the near 500 pages. I really like the idea of having a book for white AND black, and it is important to note that the book started out as an update to Kaufman's 'The chess advantage in black and white' but soon became a tome of its own.The chess advantage was all about white playing 1.e4 but this book looks at openings beginning 1.d4 with the view to playing 2.c4 next. Therefore we look at The Queen's Gambit Accepted and Declined, the Slav and Semi, Slav, the Old Indian, Benoni Defences, King's Indian, Pirc, Modern and Philidor, Dutch, black Gambits, Chigorin, the Nimzo-Indian Defence and avoiding the Nimzo Indian Defence and also starting with 1.Nf3.

Grunfeld Exchange, Centre Game and Ponziani, Bishops Opening and Vienna, Scotch and four knights, Italian game, Spanish off shoots and the Breyer Defence.Kaufman believes after 8 years since his last book that 1.d4 does give white a better advantage that 1.e4 and he tailors the book accordingly.

Now for the chapters on playing black

There are 15 Chapters, and an Introduction called Magnus Carlsen's Defences which explains that the best argument for switching to the Breyer is that Carlsen has played it recently. It keeps all the pieces on the board, concedes very little to white (perhaps a small advantage of pawns on d4 and e4 versus pawns on d6 and e5) and is in excellent shape theoretically. I have never played it but studying the chapter on the Breyer certainly captured my imagination and taught me a thing or two about knight moves!

The other chapters consist chiefly of unusual opening moves, English opening, Queen's Indian v the Reti, Anti-Grünfeld, Queen's Pawn Openings, Neo-Grünfeld, There's also a section on the repertoire in practice. (I am not sure why the white section does not have this incidentally)

In the chess advantage book, Kaufman recommended meeting 1.e4 with 1...e5 aiming for the Berlin Defence or Spanish Opening and 1.d4 with 1...d5 aiming for the Semi-Slav. This book retains 1...e5 as a reply to 1.e4 but this time aims for the Breyer Defence (which Spassky used to favour - Carl) rather than the Berlin Defence.

Against 1.d4 Kaufman switches his focus to the Grünfeld saying that the Semi-Slav is still a good alternative but that there are 'some problems' with 5.Bg5 lines. Again, some of the chapters are very short but do give lines to remember. An example is the English Opening in Chapter two, which is only six and a half pages but gives enough to employ a line against 1.c4.

There's loads to enjoy and learn in this book and I can envisage people using it as a reference work for a long time to come. Definitely worth investing in. Don't just take my word for it, here's what other chess reviewers say...

Mark Crowther, TWIC "Larry Kaufman's opening repertoire book may have proved an inspiration for Morozevich's choice of opening gambit against Carlsen in round 2 of the Tal Memorial. Carlsen would certainly have been warned against playing what he did. Kaufman combines GM practice with detailed computer analysis to produce a volume that provides a complete repertoire for both colours."

GM Glenn Flear: "Kaufman isn't fobbing the public off with Mickey Mouse sidelines. He keeps things simple, but lucid. The book serves a purpose and does this very well. For training purposes, I have been hunting for something like this for a while. Thanks, Mr Kaufman, my search is over!"

IM Arthur van de Oudeweetering, ChessVibes: "Occasionally produces a stunning novelty. Kaufman focuses on active, strategically sound variations. Stronger players will be able to quickly scan an opening and pick up ideas, while the openings are indeed also suitable for the average player. Pleasant to read and easy to handle. Extremely useful."

John Watson on The Week in Chess describes the book as "Simply the best comprehensive repertoire book I have ever seen" WOW, that is serious praise and enough to ensure that the book is not in any way taken lightly.

GM Luke McShane "The explanations are clear and concisely explain the reasoning behind the choices"

I will now add my own note

Carl Portman: English Chess Federation Chess Coach "This really is an excellent book for us amateur players. I like to take an openings book to tournaments when I play and this one has displaced all the others especially if I intend to open with 1.d4. It is a superb reference with loads of updated lines and novelties too and I intend to invest even more time with it".

I rate this book as ***** Highly recommended.and I think you should invest in it right away.

Book: The Art of the Endgame - my journeys in the magical world of endgames

Author: Jan Timman

Publisher: NEW IN CHESS

Edition: First

Date of review: 18 July 2012

Jan Timman himself writes 'Never before have I been so productive as an endgame study composer as in the seven months that I wrote this book. It was a sensational experience'. That's quite a statement and one that had me opening the book with great excitement. The endgames are a collection of Timmans own compositions and studies by other composers and could perhaps be described as a labour of love. There are 14 chapters and the book spans 269 pages.

Chapters include: Miniature Studies (7 pieces or less)
Rook versus Bishop -- the bishop can often draw, even with pawns on the board
Preventing Pawn Promotion, Various Promotion Combinations, Knight Promotions, Bishop Promotions, Mating Patterns, Stalemate Patterns, Mutual Zugzwang and Building a Fortress

There is also - Systematic Manoeuvres - Opposing pieces move up and down (or sideways across) the board in tandem. The Saavedra study, featuring a white king and black rook marching down the board, is perhaps the most famous example of this.
The Disappearing Trick - White makes a position reappear with one of his pieces removed in order to win. (which I don't particularly enjoy but others certainly will)

There are indeed some fascinating and bewildering endgame studies in here, some of which burned their way into the authors head whilst he was simply doing other things. Here are the pros; if you love endgames (as I do) then you cannot fail to be sucked into the magical world that Timman has created for chess lovers everywhere. There truly are some themes and ideas that I have never even heard of before such as the Excelsior theme, the Prokes Manoeuvre and the Ortueta-Sanz combination. I also like the idea of 'mutual zugswang'. Some of the problems have been published in other places so you might have seen them before but to my mind the vast majority have not (I could be wrong on that score!) and I enjoy dipping into them when I have a spare half hour to sip tea and lose myself at the chessboard.

The cons are few but I am compelled to mention one opinion and a couple of facts. In my opinion I do have to say that I am not overwhelmed by the layout of the book and I found it testing at times working out what was the end of one composition and the beginning of another but perhaps that was just me.

My copy came with an Errata slip from the editors at the front to correct a number of diagram errors. There were quite a few unfortunately. Does that give the view that the booked was rushed in any way? Surely not since it took Timman so long to write it - it justified a thorough proof read.

I do think that the book is a bit advanced for a lot of club players but that remains to be seen. If you like compositions then you will absolutely love it, but if you like to study books that have more realistic endgame positions - the kind you might find in your own games then you'll not be so keen to procure this yet there ARE some fundamentally important themes here that will help you immeasurably if you take the trouble to digest them.

I have always liked Jan Timman. He's a maverick who can play some fantastic chess and has of course been a contender for the world crown. I do believe that chess endgame literature is all the better for this publication of this book.

I rate this book as **** Recommended.

DVD: Fritz 13

Author: ChessBase

Publisher: ChessBase

Edition: Thirteenth

Date of review: 28th November 2011

As Fritz 13 hits the streets it does so in austere times. People are buying what they need as opposed to what they want. Chess players are not exempt from this and I know of many (including myself) that are giving more consideration than ever before before spending hard earned cash. Yet amongst the doom and gloom we still need to have some fun, to enjoy ourselves and if we are able to, give ourselves the occasional treat.

In chess terms then the question is should you stick with Fritz 12 or buy Fritz 13? In order to answer this question one needs to ask the question 'What's new about it? I'll come to that presently but first let me give my opinion on the Fritz programme for us club and county chess players who this review is primarily aimed at.

Quite simply, Fritz has changed our lives. For many it is an integral aspect of our chess experience in terms of preparation for club and tournament games, for training and self improvement and indeed for analysing your own games to try to find 'the truth' of the position. I think Nigel Short once said that we know computers are stronger than us so there's no need to try to prove otherwise. He said it was like 'entering a fork lift truck into a weight-lifting contest' - there IS no contest so just accept it. We amateurs are not stupid. We know that we can't play like Fritz (We don't always want to) but we do use it to aid and analyse our games. Then there are other benefits. The wonderful database system where we can locate specific games from millions played with a single keyboard stroke. Remember when players had to scour the books and newspaper cuttings to do this? It wasn't that long ago you know. Then there's the multimedia aspect with hours of training and lessons from the very best masters and Grandmasters (including Garry Kasparov) on the planet. How much would a single hour with one of these guys cost?

My favourite element and the one most 'responsible' for consuming many hours of my life is the ability to play online chess at the web site. It's brilliant. You can travel around the world in one evening playing people from Brazil to Birmingham, from New Zealand to New York - whilst sipping hot coffee and nibbling away at ginger biscuits from the comfort of your own home. That little button that says 'Would you like another game' is akin to Santa Claus saying 'Have you been good this year?'...OF COURSE.

So what IS new about Fritz 13? Actually, there is a really groundbreaking development to tell you about and it's called 'Let's Check'. This is a revolutionary new feature that is changing the chess world. Users can join a world-wide community that will build a huge knowledge database for chess. Whenever you analyse a position to any meaningful depth with your chess engine, Fritz 13 will if you allow it, send the main line and evaluation to a central chess server to be shared by all participant users. Therefore you can find deep analysis for almost every position you look at - instantly. The days of waiting for your computer to reach substantial depth to be sure that you are not falling into some kind of trap are gone.

You can even see the analysis of differing chess engines in seconds which is a fantastic new development in my opinion. Then there's the marvel of 'Discover a position' which registers you as an automatic discoverer of a position if you use a powerful engine to analyse a hitherto unknown position. Let's check continually updates evaluations given to any position with newer, deeper analysis and this allows you to 'conquer' chess positions with your name attached to the newest analysis. This 'Conquer chess positions' is a cool feature that gives you the opportunity to make a name for yourself on the world stage! You are even able to add comments to your analysis for the world to see. I can see the headline now...Kramnik uses the Portman variation of the Petroff Defence after consulting Let's check. Okay okay, I can dream can't I?

It matters not if you are a beginner or a super GM, you can use this facility to improve your game. Finally on this, using 'Let's Check' whilst watching top games live on the Playchess server (Did you realise that you could do this - it's brilliant?) is very informative. You have the latest opening statistics at your disposal and the results of the most powerful engines and serves logged on to the central server. Talk about having a personal trainer.

For a demonstration from ChessBase on what 'Let's Check' is all about visit here Let's Check

Fritz 13, like those previous is easy to use and the Database has been improved to Windows Office 2010 standard. This is important as I want database management to be as quick and easy as possible. I log all of my games into my own personal database so I can bring them up, print them off, analyse them, use them in training etc whenever I want. It's just so darned useful. When I was at school in the late seventies I was besotted with chess to the detriment of some of my other learning but I never believed that we would have access to this sort of chess material. How things change - and in this case for the better.

Other features on Fritz 13 include an improved engine, excellent board graphics in 2D and 3D, coaching functions and adjustable playing strength, automatic analysis of games (a really great function), a database of 1.5 million games and ten hours of private video instruction by those GM's I was talking about. Finally - and the real winner for me is a FREE six months premium membership to the world's largest chess server,

Should you buy it? Well, let me put this in perspective. For around £40 you get all of the above which will, I guarantee give every chess player enjoyment and improve their game if they use it properly. I just bought a round of drinks for some friends and it cost me nearly £40. I topped up my car with fuel and that was over £60 and I bought just a few items of food groceries that cost me £50. None of these will last but Fritz 13 certainly will. It boils down to ones definition of 'need'. If I want to improve my game and have hours of fun playing the game I love above any other then I need Fritz 13. Without it I would feel a little empty. It may 'only' be a computer program but it's been a great companion in the wee small hours of many an evening.

Before I go, and for the sake of trying my best to be objective, I always try to find something that I think could be improved upon. There are a few very minor points such as adding a back button once you have searched for games in the database to get you back to the main list and providing a hard copy user booklet with the disc instead of having to read and/or download it online (which I really don't enjoy doing) for but this is niff-naff and trivia in the wider scheme of things. No - there are no major issues for me and if any issues arise the ChessBase team tell me how something can be done so it is usually my lack of competence rather than the programme that's to blame. The support is first class.

Christmas is almost upon us folks so treat yourself. There's a line in 'A Christmas Carol' where Bob Cratchet as head of the family takes the first taste of the Christmas pudding. He slowly masticates, looks to his wife (the tension is palpable) and declares it to be 'another triumph'. The very same can be said for Fritz 13 and the Chessbase team are to be heartily congratulated. We may be living in austere times but I see no reason why Fritz 13 can't alleviate some of the gloom and improve the chess players' lot at the same time. Merry Christmas to one and all.

I rate this software as ***** Highly recommended.

Book: Understanding Chess Middlegames

Author: John Nunn

Publisher: GAMBIT

Edition: First

Date of review: 20 January 2012


The Middlegame. Just look at the word. It's strange, very curious indeed. Is it meant to be two words or one? In a way this phase of a chess game is a form of self harm. It's that 'middle bit' between the opening and the endgame but where does it begin and where does it end? It's like something from a Tolkien novel where we chess players travel middle earth to get to where we want to go. Some of the best advice I have ever read is that to have a good middlegame you have to have a good opening and to have a good endgame you have to have a good middlegame. This seems very logical and lends me to believe that all three phases are important but the middlegame is the one less written about.

Enter stage right, the talented chess author and famous English Grandmaster John Nunn who has written a book called 'Understanding Chess Middlegames'. Bear in mind that as with all my reviews here I am trying to assess it from a club and county player's perspective. Therefore the leading question is 'Is it worth me buying at my level?' I will come to that presently.

This book features 100 of the most important middlegame ideas under the following headings:

Material Imbalances (including advantage of the exchange) Strategy (including creating plan, and when you can't think of a plan) Activity (including The seventh rank and the curse of passivity) Attacking Play (including king in the centre and castling on opposite sides) Defensive play (including The risks of attacking and Don't panic!) Pawn-Structure (including Isolated pawns and the central passed pawn) Typical Central Pawn-Formations (including The open centre and the open e-file centre) Typical mistakes (including Underestimating an attack and overestimating an attack!)

Nunn precedes all this with a succinct introduction and a short chapter on 'Myths of the Middlegame' which is very interesting indeed. Each chapter does have a lot of sub headings to get your teeth into. Each of the 100 lessons features examples from modern chess annotated openly and honestly with a real focus on the main instructive points.

Let's think about our own games. How often do we have to decide about bishops or knights for the endgame? Well, every game we have to make decisions about these 'minor' pieces, although they are not so minor when it comes to keeping the right one on the board. I will give you one example from idea number 10 - BISHOP vs. KNIGHT (1). Nunn asserts that 'in general a bishop is worth slightly more than a knight or put another way, positions that favour bishops tend to arise more often than those which favour knights'. I have never thought about this actually but when I apply this to some of my own games - it rings true. There are exceptions of course and the requirements of the position override any general principles.

Here is one position from the game Miles-Timman (Tilburg 1984). You are in the middlegame, you are sitting behind the white pieces and you have to make a move. How do you assess this? We have two bishops and two knights each but something will have to go at some point. I ran the position through the new Fritz 13 for a few minutes and it offered two main possible moves. Firstly and just about the favourite was 1.Bxh3 followed by Nc5. Secondly Nc5 straight away.

White actually played 1.Nc5 immediately and the bishop is forced to take otherwise black loses a pawn. Thus white secures the 'advantage' of bishop against knight in this position.

The game goes on but I am electing to cut to move 28 for white. Here's the position now where you can see bishop vs. knight.

It continued... 28.Re4! and suddenly white has a decisive attack. The immediate threats are 29.Re8 and 29.Qxg7+ Rxg7 30.Re8+ followed by mate next move. 28...Qf8 29.Qh5 Ne7. Black aims to meet 30.Rh4 by 30...Qf5, but one final finesse overloads blacks defences. 30.Qg5! Ng6 30...Nc6 loses to 31.Rh4 (threatening 32.Rxh7+) 31...Qf7 32.Qh6 Qf5 33.e4 31.Qxg6 1-0 I found this very instructive and very enjoyable but do play through all the moves and not just jump to the end as I did. (For space reasons). Bishop v Knight (2) demonstrates where a knight is preferable to the bishop in what is obviously a more closed position.

I own several books on the Middlegame in chess written by esteemed Grandmasters but this one is probably my favourite and I am not just saying that. John Nunn knows his subject; he is three-times World Chess Solving Champion and has a certain style of writing that I find very agreeable. I am not saying this is an easy or quick read but then if you really want to learn more about Middlegames, especially from such a renowned author then you will have to put in the time. Why not undertake for example to do two or three lessons a week? Surely you can only benefit from this when you sit at the board and play your own games.

I asked at the beginning of the review if it is worth you buying this book. Firstly understand that what I write is only my opinion so feel free to form your own. If you really want to study and improve your middlegame you can buy a book, buy a DVD or get some personal coaching. Not only is this book the cheapest option it is the best. Why do I say this? I am biased in the respect that I love books. I can take them anywhere, I don't need (sometimes unreliable) computers or other people to get me started and I can just enjoy this in my own sweet time. It might also prove beneficial for (say) two people to go through each element and share thoughts and ideas. It may be like Middle Earth but it is a place I very much want to be...

I rate this book as ***** Highly recommended.

Book: The Nimzo-Indian, move by move

Author: John Emms


Edition: First

Date of review: 24th November 2011

This is my first ever review of an EVERYMAN CHESS publication so I will be sure to be as objective as I can on behalf of us mortals everywhere who are the ones possibly most likely to spend money on chess books.

As a relatively strong club and county player I do get put off when I try to wade through a book that has tons of different lines, variations, sub variations, sample games and the rest of it to support a single move here or there. I understand however that some of this is necessary but the skill from an author, and the way to really catch my eye (and my wallet) is to find just the right amount of this supporting information to keep me interested. I know I speak for many chess playing friends on this also.

Good news then, that this book seems to find that 'magic formula' and John Emms really does seem to want you (us!) to improve as a result of reading and digesting his work. This very practical text covers a very popular opening that players at all levels choose to play week in and week out. Let me begin by saying that Emms is in my opinion a most excellent author and I have read some of his work before, such as the Sicilian Defence move by move. He has worked with many of the world's top players including Michael Adams and has captained the English team at two Olympiads. All in all he has always struck me as a creative and thoughtful Grandmaster.

The format encourages learning in a very practical way and keeps the reader (pupil?) actively involved throughout the book. Emms begins by asking 'What is the Nimzo-Indian?' and explains that it arises after 1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 e6 3.Nc3 Bb4. There are seven chapters and a total of 368 pages to lose yourself in. There are also 41 illustrative games. If you know anything about the Nimzo then you will be aware of the key variations including the Sämisch, the 4f3 variation, the Rubinstein 4.e3 main line, the Rubinstein 4.e3 other lines, the Classical variation with 4.Qc2 0-0, the Classical with 4.Qc2 with...c5, the Leningrad variation with 4.Bg5 and indeed the Kasparov variation with 4.Nf3. and they are all covered here.

Now for a little more detail. Of the things I like about the book the layout is very pleasing to the eye and well printed, clean diagrams are given for all the key positions. You don't even need to have a chessboard handy as you can follow a lot of this just by looking - which is incredibly useful on the train, bus or in bed before you turn out the light! Throughout the whole book Emms stops the reader in their tracks and asks key questions or gives exercises. Questions such as 'Why did black play this instead of x,y or z?'. There's the type of question which asks you to try to find the strongest move for white (or black) and give the best response to it, and also questions around multipe choice - 'which move should black (or white) choose here and why?' There are also BIG questions such as 'What is black's plan?' which really requires serious thought about the Nimzo- and the kind of positions you are likely to arrive at over the board. This is just great as it really makes you focus on the positions and thereby develop a feel for them. This in turn should manifest itself in your own play if you have really put the effort in.

Truth be told, I have played the Nimzo-Indian a lot in my own lifetime but as early as chapter one (The Sämisch) I learned an absolute stack about what position to aim for and WHY the moves were being made. This is crucial as it's no good just putting bits on squares. Note: I did find an error on page fourteen. Emms asks if a knight should go to h5 or e8. He meant g8 as the king is standing on e8 but this is a minor quibble.I admit I have not specifically looked through the book for any other errors of this type but I suspect they are few and far between and they do not diminish the enjoyment because the diagrams support the questions anyway.

John Emms has obviously worked diligently in obtaining sample games for the book and they cover recent and older games including correspondence. For example there's a game from 2010 between D.Neelotpal-B.Adhiban in the Asian Continental Championship, Olongapo City in the final chapter! Doubtless databases have made life easier but I personally like to see such games between players other than the world's top 20. After all, the other mortals come up with new ideas too! I am suitably convinced that time with this book and a bit of application will improve not only your Nimzo-Indian play but your middlegame and pawn play too.

You know, you could buy a DVD on this and other openings. However you can take this book with you anywhere and flip it open in a second. It's easy to follow and richly educational - it REALLY is. The battery won't die, it won't crash and it does not have to be compatible with anything. It is just you and the author enjoying a fascinating opening at your own leisure. Treat yourself or get someone else to treat you whilst Christmas lists are being bandied around.

Emms states in his introduction that "the Nimzo-Indian is undoubtedly a sound opening and has no chance of being refuted any time soon". I'll second that, and if this is indicative of the level of quality that EVERYMAN CHESS publishes then chess players are well served indeed. .

I rate this book as ***** Highly recommended.

Book: Dynamic Chess Strategy

Author: Mihai Suba

Publisher: New in Chess

Edition: Second, updated and revised

Date of review: 02 November 2010

What makes this book worth your time? To answer that it is best to start with who the book is aimed at. In Suba's own words "This book is not a chess manual and is not recommended for children unless they are prodigies. The book was designed for players above say, 1900 FIDE or equivalent. Exceptionally, the strength ranking could be lowered, if compensated by patience and a general chess culture well above that of the average ranking". Wow - I was wondering if I should proceed with a look at the book but at grade 174 ECF I think I just fit in at 2042 ELO. I might therefore be qualified to give my thoughts on this book. This tome was first published in 1991 and won the BCF chess book of the year award in 1992. It contains 8 chapters with Suba's own games being used throughout as examples. Chapter four covers the obvious question 'What is strategy?' but before you get there the author revisits his first edition and then asks 'why rethink chess strategy?' It's quite deep but it is interesting to visit such elements as overall plans and part plans. I mean, do you know the difference and why would you opt for one or the other? Pages 63 and 64 will enlighten you dear reader! I do like books that make you work. I enjoy exercises where the position is given and the author asks 'What would you play?' There's plenty of such exercises and quizzes to keep you occupied but you will need to be determined and of course resist the urge to look for answers too early. The enjoyment is derived from doing it yourself. Let's have a look at the very first example in the book. What would you play as white here?

I will give you the book answer below. Conclusion: An absorbing book that will benefit a range of players including some below 2000 ELO. Buy it if you are serious about improving the strategic aspects of your game. It's not superficial stuff this; but like finding a pearl in the deep it is ultimately rewarding.
Answer to problem: 1.Qg3. If you want to know why - get the book!

I rate this book as **** recommended

Book: The complete c3 Sicilian

Author: Sergey Sveshnikov

Publisher: New in Chess

Edition: First

Date of review: 02 November 2010

At first I thought this could be a form of self-harm. A book on one opening, and that book has 574 pages. Can there really be that much to say about it? In all my years as a chess player I have never ever played 2.c3 as a reply to 1...c5 so this was going to be an interesting experience. The opening is supposedly easy to play. After 1.e4 c5 white plays 2.c3 and there are not too many replies or lines to learn. Often, this opening can transpose into an advanced French so you'll need to know how to handle yourself with the white pieces in those lines too. Black has to take big risks if he wants to win. Sveshnikov is an excellent teacher (he formerly trained Anatoly Karpov) and a well respected grandmaster and he writes in a lucid style. He says that this opening often goes quickly into an endgame, by-passing the middlegame which is an interesting thought. The book is written in two parts. The first looks at 2...d5 and other moves and the second part analyses 2...Nf6. There are supporting chapters for each theme with basic plans and ideas. He uses a selection of theoretically important games and looks further at pawn structures - a crucial aspect of any chess game. The author has included several exercises at the end which serve to test understanding of key positions. Questions such as 'suggest a plan for white' are sure to make the reader contemplate long and hard over a cup of tea. Great stuff for winter evenings when you can't get to the club I reckon. If black knows what he is doing he can maintain a solid position and should be able to draw but as with any chess game there's plenty of room for things to go awry.

Study this position from the game Nisipeanu-Kiselev (Bucharest 1997). It's black to play. So, what would YOU play? There appear to be three candidate moves. 1...Bxg2 1...Na5 or 1...O-O-O. The move played was 1...Bxg2 but the author contends that this was the wrong move asserting that 1...Na5 was in fact correct. Fritz disagrees however and opts for taking the g-pawn. You'll have to make up your own mind. Would you entertain castling long here? Buy this book if you want a solid opening with the white pieces against 1...c5. It is generally less complicated than other lines. Don't buy it if you like gambits. It is well written and a surprisingly interesting read. It's a specific piece of work for a specific opening.

I rate this book as *** borrow from a friend.

Book: 1001 Deadly Checkmates

Author: John Nunn

Publisher: GAMBIT

Edition: First

Date of review: 23 January 2011

There are lots of chess puzzle books available, so why should you buy this one? To answer that I would recommend that you ask the question 'What do I really want from such a book?' I mean, do you want something simply for puzzle solving on a train or a aeroplane? Do you want it to 'do' more? Perhaps at the end of it all you want it to have improved your skills at assessing positions for when you play at the board. Maybe you want some really original puzzles at various levels of difficulty to share with friends, chess students and the like.

This book ticks all the boxes for me, it really does. There are (as the title suggests) 1001 puzzles varying from elementary (great for beginners and even experienced players to 'remember where it all began') to extreme mate challenges (much harder indeed). These positions are taken from real play and I am pleased with that because I am not the greatest fan of artificially composed positions, though some are simply wonderful. The positions in this book mean that someone has either found or missed the solutions in a real situation. Hey, even Kramnik missed a mate in one once so it does happen to us all.

The positions are broken down into 17 themes such as pawn promotion mates, death on the rook's file, mate by blocking squares and queen sacrifices and I like the fact that you can score your work at the end of every chapter. Incidentally, some of the positions I thought 'huh that will be far too easy for me' yet I had some difficulty solving them. Some I even disagreed with believing that the position could not have been correct but when or if I had to yield and look to the answer it was indeed right - no less than I would expect from the meticulous work of John Nunn or indeed a GAMBIT publication.

For you chess problem aficionados take a look at this position from the 'Mate by blocking squares' section. It is white to play and win and you would have received four points for working this out - on your own of course with out the aid of the computer. A simple puzzle would be one point. I will give the answer below but have a go before you look. The thrill of solving it will be greater than the disappointment of yielding!

The game was played at the 4NCL in 2005/6 between G. O'Toole and A. McCumiskey. The first move is 1.Bf5+ and white first drives the enemy king into the corner where it is vulnerable to attack by knight and queen. 1...Kh8 2.Nf7+ Kg8 3.Nxh6++ Kh8 (3...Kf8 Qf7#) 4.Qg8+! Rxg8 5.Nf7#. Did you get it? Well done if you did and keep trying with more puzzles from the book if you didn't.

You can buy the book from or indeed any chess retailer. Subscribers to Chess Magazine are able to get a discount.

I rate this book as ***** Highly recommended.

Chess Home

Book: Chess Movies, Quick Tricks

Author: Bruce Pandolfini

Publisher: Russell Enterprises Inc

Edition: First

Date of review: 20 February 2011

This is a book with a difference. You can go through it from first page to last without ever needing a chess set in front of you. This is so because there is a diagram for every move played. So what's the book about? In essence it contains quick tricks that one may do well to remember in a wide variety of openings. There are also themed tactics such as the fork, driving off, overload, pins, undermining, discovery and mating net to name a few. Bruce Pandolfini is a well known and well respected author of chess books and this instructive book supports that point as this first book in his 'library' series serves to amuse and educate at once.

The book contains a series of openings,tricks and traps that are invariably only a few moves deep, so these are lines to remember for IF your opponent gets it wrong - which rarely seems to happen nowadays because even at grass roots level the standard is getting better all the time. It is not lost on me that there are 64 traps in total - the same as the amount of squares on the chess board. Let's have a look at one of the lines then.

This is the (in)famous Orang-Utan Opening as played by Marec Vokac vs Peter Bazant in the Czech Republic in 1996. 1.b4 d5 2.Bb2 Nd7 3.Nf3 N(g)-f6 4.e3 g6 5.c4 dxc4 6.Bxc4 Bg7? This is a mistake allowing a shot, which white doesn't miss. 7.Bxf7+ and now if 7...Kxf7 we have 8.Ng5+ and black loses his queen or gets mated. Only seven moves - easy enough to remember right? 1-0

Here's another from the more commonly played English Opening: 1.c4 e6 2.Nc3 d5 3.d3 (this was a typo on page 21 of the book where the author repeated the second move, Nc3 again) Nf6 4.Bg5 d4 5.Ne4? Nxe4! wow. If 6.Bxd8 then 6...Bb4+ and if 6.dxe4, then 6...Qxg5 wins. 0-1

Go on then -I will give you one more - a loss for white in the Albin Counter Gambit. It is quite well known but then again, lots of people don't know it so like many of the lines in the book, it is well worth remembering. 1.d4 d5 2.c4 e5 Black sacrifices a pawn to keep the initiative. Only the brave seem to play this at the tournaments I go to... 3.dxe5 d4 4.e3 Bb4+ 5.Bd2 dxe3 Apparently, black is offering a piece sacrifice. 6.Bxb4 exf2+ 7.Ke2 fxg1N+! There's promotion, and then there is the beauty of underpromotion too. 8.Rxg1? A losing blunder, white had to play Ke1. 8...Bg4+ and the skewer forces resignation, or should do!

I do have one issue, that is possibly particular only to myself - everyone else may be just fine with it. The layout shows up to six diagrams per page and you have to read left hand side down then right hand side down. I would prefer to read simply across the page, as I naturally would with the wording in any book but this is a small point.

The book is of interest because you can not only learn a few amusing tricks but digest the contents anywhere without the neeed for a board. It's not the first time this idea has been used I think. I seem to recall a book of Nigel Short's doing the same but we shall see if it is an idea that catches on or not. For now, if you are into cheapos and opening traps this could be one of your better purchases.

Give it a spin and let me know what you think. I rate this book as recommended **** but don't rely on it for serious tournaments!

You can buy the book from New in Chess and other reputable outlets.

Book: Secrets of Opening Surprises Vol.13

Author: Jeroen Bosch

Publisher: New In Chess

Edition: First

Date of review: 07 March 2011

Secrets of Opening Surprises vol.13 This is the latest in a series of books from New in Chess, edited by Jeroen Bosch. If you are not already familiar with the theme, and every self-respecting chess player ought to be let me educate you. The SOS series is aimed at people who have little time for opening theory and are adventurous and brave enough to try something a little different from the off to shock the opponent.

Some of the ideas may seem outrageous at first, but be patient and try to play through them. The proof of the pudding is in the eating so why not try them in friendly games at the club or on the Internet? International Master John Watson, a well respected author himself considers SOS to be "The most entertaining of books about openings that I know of" which is high praise indeed.

Let's look inside the cover and check out (no pun intended) some of the meat on those bones...

There are pages on openings such as the North Sea Defence which Carlsen played against Adams - and lost. My first thought was if he lost with it what's the point of including it in the book? The answer is simple - there are many ways to play openings and you dear reader won't be facing Adams every game will you? There's the Sicilian Najdorf Czebe attack with the interesting move 6.Qe2!? which I have played through a few times and find most interesting.

How about this one from Simon Williams on the Anti-Grünfeld variation which goes 1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 g6 3.h4!? You may laugh at first but try 'refuting' it. There's much more with content such as Korchnoi's ideas for a central attack in the Spanish, taking the gloves off in the Pirc defence, delaying the Budapest Gambit (very sneaky) and playing a surprising sacrifice in the Giuoco Piano. You are bound to find something of interest in here whether you like open or closed positions.

There's another really cool feature about this book with the SOS competition. You could win € 250 if you submit a game featuring a variation from any of the SOS books and it is deemed worthy of a prize.You will need to include full details of where and when it was played.

What have you got to lose? Learn some fun new stuff, play it in real games and possibly win loads of dosh! GET IN THERE.

Purchase the book from New in Chess or any reputable chess retailer. Please do mention this column if you choose to buy.

I rate this book as recommended **** for a bit of fun!

Book: Sicilian Attacks

Author: Yuri Yakovich

Publisher: New In chess

Edition: First

Date of review: 10 March 2011

The Sicilian Defence is the most popular opening of the second half of the twentieth and start of the 21st century - yet I myself never play it. Now I don't want to give all my openings secrets away (as if you care) but there are two chief reasons why I don't play it. Firstly, there's just so much theory, so many lines and it's so complicated. Secondly I just didn't like the positions for black arising from this opening yet it is played at all levels with good results. This short review of 'SICILIAN ATTACKS' by Yuri Yakovich is therefore as objective as I can make it. Yakovich is a Russian Grandmaster and highly acclaimed chess trainer thus well qualified to write such a book.

If I was a Sicilian player I would absolutely find this book of major importance and there will be many new ideas contained within the pages. However, it is also useful with me not being a Sicilian player to see how influenced I might be by the book.

Let me be clear, this is not just about the opening but it serves well as a middlegame textbook arising from the Sicilian Opening itself. It's a 'I have got to this point, so what do I do next? kind of thing. The author has played the Sicilian for over 30 years and shows the reader the Najdorf, Scheveningen, Dragon, Taimanov and Richter-Rauser variations. (See I told you there were lots of lines!) He teaches how pawn structures dictate certain attacks for white but importantly (crucially) also gives defensive techniques for black.

There are many instructive games and I really like the page on conclusions at the end of each chapter. This is the sort of thing you could photocopy and put on your wall at home for a week to let the messages sink in. Here's an example relating to positions where white puts pawns on e4 and f4. "The plan with f2-f4 is exceptionally dangerous after short castling by black. If white succeeds in playing f4-f5 driving the bishop from e6 he should immediately throw forward the g-pawn. Black must accept this sacrifice, otherwise by playing g4-g5, white develops a very strong attack with equal material. White's long term initiative more than compensates for the sacrificed material." There is a game to illustrate the point.

Learning how to attack in the sharpest lines of the most widely played chess opening isn't easy. It's a journey that you elect to take over many years and like any opening you have to hone your art as you progress. Whether or not you play the Sicilian or wish to learn the key lines it's a very good book indeed. To be honest, I think the time has come for something new in my own repertoire. I might just spend a little more time with Mr. Yakovi...

I rate this book as recommended **** A very informative Sicilian resource.

Book: The Wonderful Winawer

Author: Viktor Moskalenko

Publisher: New in Chess

Edition: First

Date of review: 10 April 2011

I love the French Defence; indeed it is my favourite opening as black. I have never understood those people who ignorantly declare that the French is boring (The Berlin Wall has that accolade in my personal view). I will concede that the exchange variation is often akin to watching paint dry but there are so many interesting lines and the Winawer is most certainly one of them. One of the first chess books I ever (lovingly) owned was the French Winawer and I have always had great respect for it. It arises from the moves 1.e4 e6 2.d4 d5 3.Nc3 Bb4 4.e5 c5 5.a3 Bxc3+ 6.bc but there are plenty of possibilities here including 4.a3, 4.Qg4, 4.Bd2 and 4.N(g)e2.

The book is written by hugely respected author Viktor Moskalenko who incidentally also wrote 'The Flexible French' - available from New In Chess. Let me comment first on the layout. Not only do we have the standard type layout of chess positions and text but we have photographs of players new and old, which could be considered historic. There's something else about the book layout too - we have a 'pistol' icon that's used when there are 'Weapons' (as ina weapon in your chess armoury) and they are clearly highlighted on the pages in italics. The same goes for 'tricks' which are depicted by a magician's hat and there are the occasional 'workshops' where the reader has to do some work looking at important themes. It's all very useful and thought provoking. This style of writing and the layout works really well for me and will for many players.

There are diagrams and wise words on pawn structures, which is very important and summaries and conclusions on chapters which is a very useful tool. Part one is dedicated to white and black deviations, part two looks at the sub-and old Winawer and the third and final part examines 'The ultimate Winawer'. Additionally, there are 35 games including recent encounters from 2010. It's a great book not only for the French Defence Player but by anyone who needs to learn some of the important lines should they meet this opening over the board as white.

The foreword to the book is written by none other than Viktor Korchnoi and I can do no better than finish with a quote from the chess legend. "It is pleasant for me to be able to say that this author, unlike many of his colleagues, writes with soul."

Here here.

I rate this book as recommended **** A valuable addition to your chess library.

Book: New in Chess Magazine

Author: New in Chess

Publisher: New in Chess

Edition: Monthly

Date of review: 22 March 2011

I have been a subscriber to New in Chess Magazine for many years. True, I subscribe to another magazine and also get the occasional ones from abroad so there's some replication of news. They are all fine publications but this review is about NIC Magazine. I should begin by stating that the format has just changed and it is now larger which some people appear to like and others don't. I am in the former school of thought. It is now nearer to 11x8 inches as opposed to the 9.5 x 6.5 before.

As editor Allard Hoogland explains "Auberon Waugh once said 'The publishing industry is given to sudden frenzies of mindless change' usually due to a decline in circulation, freshly appointed Chief Executive etc". but that "None of this is behind the present changes. Our circulation is up and the company has not been sold". The small format started to feel like an incumbrance to the NIC team and they believe that the magazine hasn't really 'changed' it has just become better.

Make your own mind up. Get a copy now and see what you have been missing all these years. I cannot conceive that any serious chess fan would be without this magazine. The reporting is of a very high standard, the photographs equally so. Top players contribute to it and indeed annotate games for it. There's always a fresh perspective on chess news and there are plenty of articles written after rummaging around in the dustbin of chess history.

There are regular book reviews (by our own Jonathan Rowson) and regular articles from the likes of Jan Timman on current and past aspects of chess. Naturally there are a selection of chess problems to tackle and more besides. As with my newspaper, I tend to read the back pages first! I am particularly fond of the 'Just checking' page where top players are asked questions about their lives, habits, favourite things and opinions on chess and the wider world. Having an insight into these players thought processes helps me to decide who I think is out of touch with the real world and who still has an umbilical link with reality away from the 64 squares.

It's a brilliant magazine with cutting edge news and articles. It is not just about what you see, but I can imagine the amount of sheer hard work and effort that goes into each edition of this publication. What can I say? Subscribe today or lament forever what you are missing.

The New in Chess team are based in Holland and the magazine is sent direct to your door. Go to...

New in Chess

I rate this magazine as Highly recommended ***** A must for every chess fan.

Book: Correspondence Chess in Britain and Ireland 1824-1987

Author: Tim Harding

Publisher: McFarland & Company

Edition: First

Date of review: 23rd April 2011

They say that what is written without effort is generally read without pleasure. Well I have to tell you that I spent a week in Lancashire (on my holidays) reading this book and I am going to recommend it to all chess lovers right here, right now at the start of this review.

I can only imagine the amount of time and care that author Tim Harding has expended on this historical work - for that's what it is. I have always had an interest in correspondence chess and also matters of the nineteenth century so it was a combination that worked very well for me.

The difficulty for me is knowing where to start, and I can't possibly write all I would wish to, so I will outline the purpose of the book. It is a record of correspondence chess (described in nineteen chapters) from 1824, (the very first recorded match between Edinburgh and London) to 1987 (The British team's victory over the Russians in the 9th Olympiad). There are plenty of games, photographs, drawings and of course anecdotes, quotes and historical information throughout which serve to add great value to the story being told.

Correspondence chess is a fascinating pastime and a discipline in its own right. In my own view this is one area of human pleasure that has been utterly destroyed by computers, but others are welcome to disagree. Having played correspondence chess myself in the early and mid nineties I am able to recall from experience how pleasurable it was making new friends far and wide, studying moves at leisure and improving my depth of understanding of the game. Nowadays, I get the feeling that I wouldn't be playing a human opponent; rather it would be me against their Fritz programme. No - the fun has definitely gone but before I get too depressed let's go back to the good old days.

Harding begins with the Edinburgh - London correspondence match from 1824 - 1828. A beautiful embossed silver trophy was made especially for the occasion - which Edinburgh won - and it still resides with them to this day. The match involved an incident which set the precedent for correspondence chess ever after. I won't reveal what it was though - you'll have to read the book for yourself. Suffice to say it was a fundamental issue and one that all correspondence chess players will relate to.

I particularly enjoyed reading the written correspondence between fellow players and others as the vocabulary used was just exquisite - a far cry from some of the diluted garbage that passes for language nowadays. Here's a brilliant example written by none other than Howard Staunton when referring to one George Walker; an adversary of his at the time. Walker had made reference in a negative manner to Staunton which greatly upset the latter. In his chess chronicle, Staunton referred to "the egregious conceit and deplorable ignorance which this Titmouse of chess professors exhibits in his lubrications upon the game." What a superb put-down.

I was very intrigued playing through the games how keen players were at that time to bring out their queen very early in the game. For example when was the last time you saw a game begin 1.e4 e5 2.Bc4 Bc5 3.c3 Qg5 and lived to tell the tale? There are plenty of games featuring the openings of the day including the Four Knights game, Evans Gambit, Scotch Gambit and the swashbuckling King's Gambit. This is actually very educational nineteenth century fare and I am suitably inclined to play a line or two in my own games in respect for those long since gone - but only if I think they are sound. They did play some shockingly awful moves back then and strong club players of today would probably hold their own or even beat some of the top players at that time but that's a debate for another day.

In more general terms, the chapters cover the Scottish, Irish, Welsh and English scenes; inter club games, personal games, correspondence chess in World War I and World War II plus the International scene. Each chapter reveals priceless information and the reader won't fail to be engrossed in developments as the decades unfold. Whilst correspondence chess was primarily a gentleman's game there were maverick female participants (perish the thought) and one or two made a significant contribution to the correspondence game and (I suspect) the male opinion of female intellect at the time.

Here's a lovely example when one Mrs Ellen Gilbert, lauded as the strongest female player of the nineteenth century declared a checkmate in 35 moves!! That would have been a hammer blow to any gentleman's ego when in receipt of such impudent correspondence. I wonder if he told his mates? Should any lady seek an inspirational figure with regard to competing in a male orientated pastime (and succeeding) they would do well to refer to "The queen of chess" as an example.

There are many more memorable moments in the book. I was highly amused at a quote on page 116. When Great Britain played America in 1877, the British players received this message from the captain Hugh Bryan: "We sincerely hope that every man on this side at least will do his best to win, and not permit carelessness to jeopardize the result". He went further to quote Lord Nelson saying that players were expected "to do their duty". No pressure there then chaps. I can just imagine my club captain saying this in a team talk before a key league match in Oxfordshire. I do hope he reads this review!

An objective review should include any 'critical observations' as well as the good but I honestly cannot find much to grumble about. A chess historian may be more qualified to find any flaws if they exist, but I simply enjoyed the whole journey without feeling the need to check up on data. I will forgive the mention in the footnote on page 73 that Crystal Palace are a 'soccer club' which is an oft repeated crime. We, the British play Association Football, the Americans play 'soccer'.

I found the chapter on crisis and resolution in correspondence chess (chapter 16) the hardest to get through and concentration is a key requirement. There are a lot of acronyms to explain who was doing what at the time (1951-1971) so you need to pay attention. There's the I.C.C.F, the B.C.C.A, the B.C.F, the BCM, the B.C.C.S, the C&DCCC, the B.P.C.F and F.I.D.E to contend with - so thank heavens it all got resolved in the end. It all needs to be in there though as it is a true account of events.

The book finishes with the wonderful note about Great Britain's win over the Russians in the 9th Correspsondence Chess Olympiad Final (1982-1984), though it was actually the West Germans who were the greatest threat. Becoming World Champions was surely the zenith of British Correspondence Chess. As holders of the trophy, the Russians were responsible for handing over the silverware. Apparently, when Reg Gillman, a stalwart of correspondence chess went to pick up the gold medals, the two-foot-tall cut glass Ragozin cup was not there. The Russians had apparently 'forgotten' it! The trophy was finally handed over in 1989. Priceless! I would have loved to have been there for that moment.

I should finish by mentioning some of the characters in the book. Apart from such well known world class correspondence players like Dr. Jonathan Penrose and renowned figures such as Howard Staunton and you will learn about such figures as John Dillon Chambers, George Hatfeild Dingley Gossip, Mary Rudge, James White, Thomas Benjamin Rowland, The Rev. Evan Griffiths, Erik Larssen, Frank Parr, Slade Milan, John Mackie, Adrian Hollis, David Yarnton Mills and many more besides. I even remember who William Ritson-Morry was and I learned one or two quite shocking revelations about him whilst reading this book. So many of these people were unknown to me yet they contributed so much in their own way to our great game.

I repeat that this is more than a book, it is a historical gem and an important reminder that to know where we are going, we should always have an idea where we have been. Do yourself a big favour and buy it. Savour the contents over a good period of time and lose yourself in chess history. Correspondence Chess in Britain and Ireland 1824-1987 was clearly written with much effort, and I can assure the author that it was most definitely read with immense pleasure.

I rate this book as Highly recommended *****For lovers of chess and chess history.

Book: Chess Openings for Kids

Author: John Watson and Graham Burgess

Publisher: Gambit

Edition: First

Date of review: 6th June 2011

Teaching youngsters to play chess is a very pleasurable experience. To see them grow into the game and to see the light bulbs go on as they begin to improve and see further is the reward that I get for spending time with those that wish to learn. I hasten to add, I am not a teacher (well, I don't a have a piece of paper saying I am) but I certainly do impart my knowledge and therefore 'teach' chess to children and indeed adults of all ages. Chess Openings are just one element of chess, and need to be taught carefully as part of an overall training plan. This book certainly looks to me as if it could play a fundamental role in that. So what is in the book?

The authors state clearly in the introduction "We assume only that our readers know how to play chess, and are familiar with some of the basic tactics" and that sets the scene nicely.The first few pages go through algebraic notation and some of the principles of how to play the opening. Then we are into the openings with two pages being afforded to each one. I believe that great skill was required to do this because it is very hard to try to explain the key elements of any opening in just two pages - but the authors pull this off with aplomb. That's not surprising though, as they are both very well written and widely respected - not least by me.

The main King and Queen pawn openings are covered, with a couple of pages at the end just to peek at 1.c4 and 1.Nf3, the English and the Reti.This is followed by fifteen questions on 'give the names to the openings' and a further fifteen on 'give the moves' to the following opening. Then it is on to 'name the position' and 'test your opening skills' where 36 diagrams are given with the reader having to Find the winning move and identify the opening being played.

Readers will be able to refer to this book often to improve their game. Have the patience to go through it step by step with the pupil and you will gain immense pleasure (as will they) when they get build on their learning and their play improves commensurately.

If this book had been available to me when I was learning chess at the age of 12, I would have more easily been able to work out what openings I wanted to play according to my own style and preferences. To have 50 opening choices in one very handy volume (and tremendously well priced for a hardback!) is excellent and parents/teachers wishing to work on openings with children - and indeed adults should obtain a copy whilst you can.

This is a book to give the pupil wings in terms of learning the basics of key openings - it is up to them to learn how to fly.

I rate this book as Highly recommended *****Great for kids.

Book: Centre Stage and Behind the Scenes - The personal memoire of a Soviet chess legend.

Author: Yuri Averbakh

Publisher: New in Chess

Edition: First

Date of review: 29 October 2011

I love reading chess memoirs and I have always been fascinated with the history of chess in the Soviet Union. This book therefore was a must read, which I managed to do in just about one very long evening.

Yuri Averbakh is a distinguished Russian Grandmaster and a former world Championship candidate, former USSR Champion, journalist, arbiter, trainer and historian; he has been there and done that. I am delighted to share the same birthday as him - the eighth of February.

This book is ostensibly about personal views and recollections of Averbakh's life as a person and in chess. and there are three main elements to it. 'The beginning' in which the author describes his early years, schooling, memories at that young age and his first steps in chess. The second part of the book 'Not only chess' covers the famous Pioneer's Palace and University, the start of the Second World War, first time abroad and Soviet Sport after the war as well as how 'The General' ran sport. The third and most lengthy part of the book is 'Only Chess' and this covers much from Candidates tournaments, the old guard, the notorious Sports Committee and his personal views on Soviet players and other less well known grandmasters. There's lots more sub headings and each contain really interesting information on the past and clear insights into people and events at the time.

Let me pick out a few points that I personally noted. He describes the moment when as a youngster he attended a lecture by Nikolai Grigoriev showing pawn ending studies at the Moscow Central Chess Club. He writes that Grigoriev was 'moving the pieces on the demonstration board with his subtle, artistic fingers and one felt that one could sense the full depth and beauty of chess. I saw how human thought inspires and brings the pieces to life, and they in turn are like actors in a show'. How wonderful an introduction to the game.There's real hardship in this book as Averbakh describes fleeing Moscow after the position on the front had deteriorated. He says 'It was far from easy; in my gas mask case I had two loaves of bread, a pack of sugar, a packet of tea and a small amount of money'. He lost contact with his parents and upon reaching the Capital of Udmurtia, Izhevsk he had no means to live on but found work. Nothing was available on ration cards and people slept in the factories on the floor. He wore the same pair of boots for a year and they fell apart and he managed to get them repaired but they shrank and he had to wear them for a long time two sizes too small.

These are real hardships and surely these experiences forge a persons character on and away from the chess board.

I loved the little piece about his call up for military service just outside Leningrad. He arrived at the door of the reporting officer and was told to get out and present himself properly before he walked in. He composed himself, stepped back inside and the following conversation ensued...

"Allow me to present Engineer Lieutenant Averbakh, arrived for Military service!"
"That's more like it, where did you study?"
"Moscow Higher Technical Institute."
"Internal Combustion Engines."
"Where do you work?"
"I am a Grandmaster"

There was a pause. The Officer even got up from his chair.

"A Grandmaster? Have a seat, Comrade Grandmaster!"

And life was a lot easier than it could have been. There's loads of great little stories and anecdotes in this book but I don't want to spoil them all. Oh okay just a couple more then...

Unsurprisingly, Viktor Korchnoi takes up plenty of page space - he does after all have a very interesting history. There was one funny line when he played in London against Kasparov in 1983 he was 'helped' onto the stage by Stewart Reuben, one of the members of the organising committee. As Reuben took his arm Kortchnoi pulled his own arm away and barked "What, do you think I am an invalid?" Yep, that's Viktor.

Of great interest to me was Averbakh's division of all great players into six groups. I won't reveal what these are - you will have to buy the book but it's thought provoking and I think it has some substance to it. Finally, one niggle and one of my own observations.

I noted a couple of typos on pages 189 (should be 'calm' not 'clam') and 199 (should be 'spend' not 'spent') but otherwise there was nothing to record on that front.Congratulations to Steve Giddins on the translation.

Averbakh writes that "Chess has become a game for the young" and I do see the point of this remark in the context of the book. However let me say this - chess is everyone's game, that's the utter beauty of it. Whatever level, whatever age. wherever you are in the world, whatever background, the royal game of chess is for us all.

For anyone interested in chess and Russian chess history this book will be a very welcome and I believe necessary addition to your collection. The alchemic mix of Russian chess and the political 'Zeitgeist' merge to tell a tale of power and passion at and away from the chessboard that made me want to turn page after page.

To read this is to put your own life in perspective and learn a lot too.

I rate this book as Highly recommended *****

Book: The Four Knights Game

Author: Andrey Obodchuk

Publisher: New in Chess

Edition: First

Date of review: 13 November 2011

Never judge a book by its cover, that is the 'caveat emptor' message for any sensible person. Yet if a chess book were to be bought for the cover then this would be it. It's clever, colourful and just makes me want to have a copy on the shelf. That's the plain truth, though not particularly helpful to anyone reading this. I have said my piece though so let's get down to the contents, what's it all about? Here's the official advertising for the book.

'The Four Knights variation is one of the oldest chess openings and quite popular with club players. In recent years it has been injected with numerous fresh ideas by Alexey Shirov and Emil Sutovsky and has shaken off the reputation of being a peaceful choice. White has quite a few ways to create tension and play for the attack. Russian International Master Andrey Obodchuk has written a repertoire book for white players based on the Spanish Four Knights variation (starting with 4.Bb5). He covers a range of positional themes as well as amazing, sharp adventures, and creates an easy-to-handle toolbox for amateur chess players of intermediate level. About the Author - Andrey Obodchuk is an International Master from Khanty-Mansiysk, Russia. He writes for international chess publications and works as a coach. He was the ICPA (physically disabled) World Chess Champion in 2010 and prolonged this title in 2011.'

Essentially the four knights game is reached after (for example) 1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nf6 3.Nc3 Nf6 4.Bb5 Nd4 5.Bc4 Bc5 6.Ne5 but there are a good number of key variations and move orders. Now here's the acid test, I am not a four knights player and never have been so I was interested to see if the book could grab my attention and dissuade me from playing 1.d4 for a while.

There are seven chapters including the three knight's opening, the four knights, symmetrical variation, Metger System, Rubinstein system,(where queen sacrifices are apparently played in a large number of games!) 5.Bc4 in the Rubinstein and an extra bonus in the book in the form of 'The Belgrade Gambit'. The book is laid out nicely but there are a lot of lines to muddle through if you want to elarn this properly. Lazy players (like me!) might not want to do this but it's still good to play the main moves in bold if you are short of time - to get the feel for the opening.

The Belgrade gambit is described as 'a treacherous sideline' and begins 1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Nc3 Nf6 4.d4 ed 5.Nd5!? (see diagram below)

Now this IS interesting and the first thing I asked myself was 'Why on earth would I play 5.Nd5 at all?' Answer - it's fun and could be a brilliant surprise element in a league match. There are several responses for black here and 5...Nxe4!? is oft played. This leads to complicated and chaotic positions so I am going to try it out for fun online and see what happens. To check out the variations you will need to get the book (obviously) but this does seem like great fun if complications float your boat.

The previous chapters are interesting too with examples of games from well known and no-so-well known GM's. This includes our own David Howell, Michael Adams and Nigel Short with a game between Gormally and Hebden thrown in on the Rubinstein variation. There are 64 games in total and some new ideas for the players that Obodchuk is aiming the book at.

There's an interesting final line in the afterword to the book from the author. He says "Does the four knights

give white real chances to fight for the advantage? No, of course not! But it does guarantee a lot of adventures, and adrenaline rushes, especially if both sides are disposed to a sharp fight".

Yes, I'll agree with that. The author has invested great time and effort to write this book (he calls it a Sisyphian effort) and that does seem to be evident from my perspective. It is yet another quality publication from the New in Chess team.

I rate this book as recommended ****

Book: New in Chess Yearbook 100

Author: New in Chess

Publisher: New in Chess

Edition: 100

Date of review: 4th November 2011

It is very important - and sometimes difficult to remain objective when reviewing a book. In this case I am a subscriber to the New in Chess Yearbook so if I did not think it was a worthy publication I would hardly spend my well earned cash on it would I? What is the New in Chess Yearbook anyway I hear you cry? It is produced quarterly and focuses on current thinking in openings. However, as editor Genna Sosonko says in the foreword to this 100th edition "It's not just an opening handbook - it is a book full of ideas". This is quite true and subscribers are guaranteed to have a refreshed opening repertoire every quarter.

Usually the content of the book begins with a forum (letters pages) followed by the main surveys on specific opening lines with book reviews at the end. It all began 27 years ago (does time really go that fast?) when Wim Andriessen had the guts to go International and it is (along with the New in Chess Magazine) one of the very best publications on the market, without question. He engaged the services of the tireless Paul van der Sterren and Genna Sosonko to embark on the adventure of the opening series.This 100th edition is bigger and more jam-packed than normal and there's loads to get stuck into during those dark winter nights here in the UK and further afield.

I recently attended a lecture by one of the world's leading chess masters recently and he said something profound, and in my opinion absolutely spot on. He spoke about books that we buy for various reasons and don't really read them. We just flick through the pages then leave them on the shelves. I certainly am guilty of that! However this does not apply with regard to my NIC Yearbooks as they contain a wealth of new ideas in the opening phase that I return to again and again. I have employed some of these ideas in real matches and I have at least one latent secret weapon from this 100th Yearbook that I am waiting to spring on an unsuspecting opponent. You don't have to be a Grandmaster to understand the contents but it does deserve real effort in terms of reading and digesting so take your time, relax...chill.

This 100th edition has a special contribution by Garry Kasparov on the Zaitsev variation of the Ruy Lopez which he employed so many times against Anatoly Karpov and it is appropriate that a player of his magnitude should be the main feature and have is photograph on the cover. Between the covers you will find the usual high quality articles, forums and novelties along with a special anniversary quiz (way too difficult for me I am afraid), stories and a reflection by GM Glenn Flear on the books that he has reviewed from Yearbook 62 onwards. His reviews are always insightful and I take great stock by them. There are contributions and games from top players in each yearbook. There are also topical lines from top GM's such as Kasparov, Topalov, Anand and Svidler who all feature in this 100th edition.

You know, we do tend to take things for granted. Every three months I hear the thump as the NIC Yearbook whizzes through my letterbox and I immediately lose myself in the black tome, oblivious to all around me and to the incredible amount of work that has gone into it from the marvellous New in Chess Team, based in the Netherlands. They are always friendly, always willing to help and always dedicated to bringing chess players of all levels quality work.I want to take this opportunity to thank them for providing chess players everywhere with such an outstanding publication.

Okay, subscription fees may stretch the budget for some people, especially in these austere times but if you play chess and you want to improve or just keep abreast of opening theory you should ask yourself if you can afford to be without this. True enough, there's lots of chess information for 'free' online but here you have real books that have been written carefully and with pleasure that you can carry about to tournaments or just read when you are on holiday, on the train or like bed before lights go out. You ARE chess fans, right? I have to say, I AM biased, and I AM going to champion the cause for the New in Chess product. As Genna Sosonko says at the end of his introduction "Until the next anniversary - until yearbook 150". Hear Hear!

I rate this Yearbook as Highly recommended *****

Book: The Gambit Book of Instructive Chess Puzzles

Author: Graham Burgess

Publisher: Gambit

Edition: First

Date of review: 30th October 2011

The first thing to note about this book is that it is smaller than A5, ergo it is easy to carry around. This means it's easy to whip out during those laborious moments waiting for trains and buses or just hanging' around somewhere. Let me start with the author. Graham Burgess is a FIDE Master and the Editorial Director of Gambit Publications. He has written more than twenty books and I never knew that he holds the world record for marathon blitz chess playing.

The aim of this tome is outlined on page four and I will quote directly. 'The aim of this book is to help my readers make better chessboard DECISIONS. On every single move of every single game of chess you will ever play, you need to make a decision'. True indeed and boy don't we make some dubious ones? We look back on our games and see what could have been. The reader is urged that to get the most out of the book we should tackle each of the 300 problems as if the position actually arose in a game - say in a real tournament where you are pushing for a money prize and need to play well. Take up to 20 minutes to try to make your decision. I do like this book because it's not a load of positions with 'obvious' first moves like a queen or rook sacrifice. It's much more subtle than that. Indeed often the puzzle will be about rejecting such a move because it is often artificial.

This approach works. I started to solve the 'easy' puzzles during a hospital stay and they require serious thought. I am a county chess player (so not a patzer by any means) and I really had to work at some of these 'easy' positions. This is good though as at least the reader will get their money's worth from the book. The positions incidentally are taken from games played in 2010/11 so you can enjoy analysing lots of new material. Burgess clearly states that he was looking for positions where the right path is hard to guess without seeing the main idea, and where there is only one solution.

In my case it usually proves that I am not as clever a cloggs as I think I am! There are eight chapters and of course the puzzles range from easy to downright impossible - well for me anyway.You can rate your strength at the end of the book, which is always fun to do. I am easily confused so I did scratch my head at the author's advice in his introduction. He says that obviously we should not use a computer to analyse the position "or move the pieces around on the board. You're welcome to set the position up on a real board". Was he saying don't use a computer 2d board? I think so.

So, is this just another chess puzzle book? Well I have already said that I have not done all of the puzzles but it is different. I personally enjoyed the fact that you don't always have to look for some sacrifice at the start of analysis and I like the layout of the book too. If you take your time going through this and work hard to retain the ideas behind what Graham Burgess is trying to get you to do I believe it will imporve your game as well as provide hours of fun at the board.

I will give you an example of the 'easy' problem that I had trouble solving in hospital. Admittedly I was ill at the time (duh!) but I should have solved it quicker. HOW FAST CAN YOU SOLVE IT? Start the clock and get your thinking cap on. It is a position from the game Phiri-Shyam in Delhi 2010. Don't be confused by the tangle of pieces; a simple tactic wins for black. Answer in small print under the position but resist the urge to look until you have a proper answer of your own.

I rate this book as Highly recommended *****

The answer is: 35...Qa4! White's knight is pinned against the unprotected rook on c2, and attacked three times but defended only once. 35...Nxb3? 36.Qxa7 Rxa7 37.Rxb3 leaves black a pawn down, whilst 35...Rxb3?? 36.Rxb3 is even worse. 36.Nxc5 36.Rxc5 dxc5 certainly doesn't improve white's lot. 36.Ra5 Qxb3 is likewise hopeless. 36.Rb2 Rxb3 37.R(2)xb3 Nxb3 38.Qd1 is an unsuccessful pin because of 38...Nc5. 36...Qxc2 White is an exchange down and will even lose his c4-pawn. After 37.Nd7 Qxc4 38.Qxc4 Rxc4 black won easily enough.



White to play and win.

This is a composition by Polish player David Przepiorka. He perished in a concentration camp during the Second World War and his collection of chess books was looted by the occupiers.

Many people assume that white wins with 1.Re2! Qg8 (forced) 2.Nf6 Qg1! 3.Re8+ Kg7 4.Rg8+ but black has 4...Kh6!! 5.Rg1 stalemate.

You must give this wonderful problem lots of study and not use a computer. Let your brain take the strain and enjoy the beauty of this creation. Answer given below if you really need to look.

The beautiful answer is: 1.Re2! Qg8 2.Ng7!! and now if 2...Kg7 3.Rg2 wins or if 2...Qg7 3...Re8+ wins. A pawn move by black would simply allow 3.Re8. In every case, white's advanced pawns are left to decide the issue. Chess - the game of kings, the king of games.

Here's another famous study by Richard Reti. It is white (moving up the board) to play and draw. This seems at first glance to be an impossible task, but the position serves only to illustrate the wonder of chess and teaches us never to give up.

The position looks like a clear win for white, since black's pawn is so far out in front. However after 1.Kg7 h4 2.Kf6 Kb6 3.Ke5! black actually has an unhappy choice. He can race his pawn to promotion with 3...h3 4.Kd6 h2 5.c7 when both pawns promote or he can take the pawn immediately with 3...Kxc6 4.Kf4 when white will stop the black pawn. Either way a draw ensues.Other lines are similar; black must waste two tempi in stopping white's pawn. which is just enough time for white's king to get back.

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This section contains a few photographs/cartoons for your delectation

Pic below: AND YOU THOUGHT CHESS WAS FOR GEEKS? Make no mistake, plenty of women play chess as shown here when I gave a simultaneous display in Bergen, Germany at the start of the millenium.

AND YOU THOUGHT CHESS WASN'T FUN? The picture says it all. Back then in 1999 we used to have a good time before the fun police were established and meekly followed by the majority. How can I explain this photograph? I played for Newport Chess Club after winning the Shropshire league several times with another club (The mighty Coddon) and for some reason, known only to the team we decided to dress up for our last match against Telepost. If we won we would take the title, if we lost - well, we would look like a right bunch of clowns, and yes my hair IS yellow. I am delighted to say we did what we had to do, the beer flowed and a good night was had by all. Chess is fun - and if you don't believe me go and play bowls :-)

Actually you can find more information on my 'exploits' at the following address.

C.S.Portman - 1998 County Champion

Carl Portman, the 1998 champion can claim a unique record in Shropshire chess. He also has seven Shropshire League Championship wins with three different clubs in the Shropshire league. He joined the GKN club in 1984 moving to Coddon in the late 1980's. He was a member of the Coddon Team which dominated the Shropshire League from 1992 to 1997. However in 1997-8 he moved to Shrewsbury to take the league title with his new club to add to his individual crown. The following season he moved to Newport taking the league title with him, before leaving Shropshire for Germany.This was a loss to the local chess scene - he had been General Secretary of the Shropshire Chess Association and anonymous writer of the Shropshire Star chess column.

Carl Portman - Toby Neal - Individual Round 4, 1999

1.c4 d6 2.Nc3 f5 3.d4 Nf6 4.g3 e6 5.Bg2 Be7 6.e3 0-0 7.Nge2 Nc6 8.0-0 Qe8 9.a3 Kh8 10.b4 e5 11.d5 Nb8 12.Bb2 a5 13.Qd2 axb4 14.axb4 Rxa1 15.Rxa1 Na6 16.Ba3 g5 17.b5 Nc5 18.Bxc5 dxc5 19.Ra8 e4 20.Na4 b6 21.Qb2 Bd6 22.Bh3 Qe7 23.Qc3 Be5 24.Qd2 Rg8 25.Kf1 Qg7 26.Bg2 Qh6 27.h3 Nh5 28.Ke1 f4 29.exf4 gxf4 30.Bxe4 Qf6 31.g4 f3 32.gxh5 fxe2 33.Kxe2?? Carl should have taken with the Queen 33...Bd4? missing Bg4+ picking up the rook for bishop. 34.Kd3 Bxf2 35.Kc2 Bd4 36.Nc3 Qe5 37.Qh6 Bf5? [37...Qe7] 38.Rxg8+ Kxg8 39.Qg5+ Qg7 40.Qxg7+ Bxg7 41.Bxf5 1-0

I was honoured to have the great Russian master Lev Polugayevsky stay at my house in Shropshire on the weekend of 12/13 September 2002. He was due to give a simultaneous display that I had organised and he stayed with me. It was a fascinating Saturday evening as I am recalling some 19 years later. He had a light supper and conversation turned to politics and oil and other natural resources and of course chess. Now it just so happened that at this time, in Yugoslavia (as was) Bobby Fischer and Boris Spassky were playing in their rematch and today (the Saturday) was game seven which Fischer won.

Imagine my delight when Lev wanted to play through the game with me and analyse various lines. Of course I told him that I was no match for him at this, being 'just' a county player in England but he would have none of it. 'I want you to analyse with me' he said - so we did. He did not seem over impressed with the game and I elected not to press him on asking about his relationships with the players.

Afetr analysing this game he asked me to set the board up on the table and gave me some 'work to do' with him. My task was to look at King and pawn versus king and two knights endgames. Now, as far as I am aware a king and two knights alone cannot force a checkmate but a checkmate can be achieved with careless play from the opposition. When the opponent has a pawn as well as a king, other possibilities come into play and we tried several scenarios - which were very hard indeed.

It was tremendous fun and when I asked him on behalf of us amateurs everywhere how to improve he said to keep studying and just work hard at the game. Fair enough.I did say to Lev that my house was his to just relax in and that I would not talk much about chess or ask for a game etc, but he wouldn't have it. He wanted to play and talk chess all the time - but was also happy to discuss many other issues as I have already stated.I could never have imagined when I was twelve years old, playing chess in the Geography room at Charlton Scool in Shropshire that one day a super grandmaster of world renown would be staying at my house playing the noble game in my own front room. It was magic. He was a fantastic person, very sweet and very fair minded.

I further recall a very funny moment. Just before he was due to retire to bed I asked him if he would like a cup of tea. At this idea he was truly incredulous. "You drink immediately before you go to bed?" When I confirmed that I did he seemed genuinely astonished.Apparently they don't do that in Russia - maybe it's vodka instead!

Anyway - just for fun here was the game played in Yugoslavia that day that Lev and I played through.

White: Bobby Fischer Black: Boris Spassky
Yugoslavia 1992

1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bb5 a6 4. Ba4 Nf6 5. O-O Be7 6. Re1 b5 7. Bb3 O-O 8. c3 d6 9. d3 Na5 10. Bc2 c5 11. Nbd2 Re8 12. h3 Bf8 13. Nf1 Bb7 14. Ng3 g6 15. Bg5 h6 16. Bd2 d5 17. exd5 c4 18. b4 cxd3 19. Bxd3 Qxd5 20. Be4 Nxe4 21. Nxe4 Bg7 22. bxa5 f5 23. Ng3 e4 24. Nh4 Bf6 25. Nxg6 e3 26. Nf4 Qxd2 27. Rxe3 Qxd1+ 28. Rxd1 Rxe3 29. fxe3 Rd8 30. Rxd8+ Bxd8 31. Nxf5 Bxa5 32. Nd5 Kf8 33. e4 Bxd5 34. exd5 h5 35. Kf2 Bxc3 36. Ke3 Kf7 37. Kd3 Bb2 38. g4 hxg4 39. hxg4 Kf6 40. d6 Ke6 41. g5 a5 42. g6 Bf6 43. g7 Kf7 44. d7 black resigned.

I took this photograph of Vladimir Kramnik on stage at the London Chess Classic 2010. Itw as round 3 and he was playing Luke McShane. He seems to be lost in a world of his own thinking about goodness knows what but in reality he was staring up at the demonstration screens just behind me. Still it looks good for a caption competition if you ask me...

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It would not be asinine to compare a game of chess to a painting. You have a blank canvas to start with (the start position) and you begin to create something. It’s your own game, your own picture. No-one else can ruin it, yet no-one else can help you; that’s half the fun.

They say that your style of chess is a true reflection of your personality. After all these years I still don’t have the answer to that, except to say that I probably do not agree. When I was younger, I was feisty but played solid no risk chess. Now I am older and calmer and am more than happy to go for the jugular from move one.

Here’s a recent example played over the Internet. It’s a three minute game (I love the buzz of such frenetic chess) so the quality isn’t great from either of us but it’s fun. I am ‘Alchemist’ incidentally.
White: Kuda7Simbolon (1843)
Black: Alchemist (1871)

1.f4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.fxe5 d6 4.d4 Bg4 5.e3 dxe5 6.d5 Nb4 7.e4 Bxf3 8.gxf3 Qh4+ 9.Ke2 Bc5 10.Be3 Bxe3 11.Kxe3 Qf4+ 12.Ke2 0–0–0 13.a3 Nxd5 14.exd5 e4 15.Kf2 Nf6 16.Nc3? Ng4+ 17.Ke1 exf3 18.Qd3 Rhe8+ 19.Kd1 Nf2 checkmate. 0–1

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Here's one of my latest games, against a chess legend. Viktor Korchnoi gave a 25 board simultaneous at the London Chess Classic 2010. He won 20, drew 4 and lost only one to an ex Olympiad trainer. Amazing stuff for a 79 year old.

Kortchnoi,Viktor GM (2548)
Portman,Carl (2042)

London Chess Classic Simultaneous, 09.12.2010

Even though I had met Viktor Korchnoi before, the opportunity to actually play him and engage in battle at the board was simply too good to be missed. The man is, after all a legend, and legends don't come into your life every day. 1.d4 I guessed correctly that this would be his first move. 1...d5 2.c4 c6 3.e3 Nf6 4.Nf3 g6 I am never so sure about this line but do play it from time to time. I like the fianchettoed dark squared bishop. 5.Nc3 Bg7 6.Bd3 0-0 7.0-0 Bg4?! 8.h3 Bxf3 9.Qxf3 a6 10.Rd1 Putting your rook on the file of the opposing queen is usually a good idea. 10...e6 11.b3 Of course he can now play his dark squared bishop to b2 or a3. 11...Re8 12.Bc2 I didn't expect this but I guess it further clears the file between rook and queen. 12...Nbd7 13.Bb2 Rc8 Fritz 12 seems to agree with this move but I am not so sure it is best as we shall see. 14.e4! Decision time for black. 14...Nxe4?! [14...e5 15.dxe5 Nxe5 16.Qe3 Ned7 17.Rd2 b5 18.cxd5 cxd5 19.Rad1 with lots of play.] 15.Bxe4! Best. This keeps the knight on the board and as we will see it is a nasty, meddlesome annoying combatant. 15...dxe4 16.Nxe4 Threatening to hop into d6 forking the rooks. I was wishing I had not put that rook on c8 now. I was however hoping soon to get some play if I could get my queen active. I didn't know what to play next and Viktor the terrible was approaching my board very quickly... 16...Nf6?! This wasn't best. I looked at 16...Qe7 but saw c5 supporting the square d6 for the white knight to occupy. [16...Qe7 17.c5 and now what? 17...Rb8 18.Nd6 Red8 19.Bc3 and I am cramped.] 17.Nc5 Rc7 Now I know this looks dubious to say the least and I had seen Viktor's next move but I thought I could get away with it.

It defended the pawn on b7 and was a prophylactic to support f7. I could have played what I wanted to play which was 17...Nf7. [17...Nd7 18.Nxb7 Qc7 I missed this! I always thought he could take the b-pawn but he cannot. Now if... 19.Nc5 Nxc5 20.dxc5 Bxb2] 18.Bc3 Qc8 19.Ba5 Korchnoi actually stopped for quite a while at my board thinking about this move. 19...Rce7 20.Rac1 I was aware of the queenside pawn majority of four to three for white but I could not make use of MY pawnside majority on the kingside! 20...e5 At last - a push! So I have completed 20 moves and I am still in the game. Fritz has white as 0.86 down, so that's not even a pawn. I was wary of those rooks of his but still hoped to get at him with my queen if only I could activate her. That's a big 'if' in chess. 21.d5 e4! I am giving myself an exclamation mark for a good move here. 22.Qe3 This scuppers any plans I have of pushing on and trying to get at him though. Look at his queen compared to mine. She defends and readies to attack whereas my queen defends only and on the back rank at that. She was made for a different purpose... 22...Nd7 The good news is, Fritz agreed. The bad news is, Viktor Korchnoi (fast approaching the board again) has a passed pawn next move. 23.d6 Re5 24.Nxd7 Qxd7 25.Bc3 R5e6 26.Bxg7 Hey, is this Korchnoi running scared? Is he simply swapping off pieces against Portman?

Er, no is the answer to that.

It's all about positional acumen. Korchnoi would give nothing up unless it suited him and this does. He has to be a little patient but the d pawn is a telling feature of this next phase. 26...Kxg7 27.c5 Beginners should note that the queen is just about the worst piece to be blocking an opponents pawn. That job is better served by a pawn of your own or a knight. The queen needs wings but at the moment the black queen's wings are clipped and she has nowhere to fly to. 27...Re5 I am still in the game, but just. 28.b4 f6 After much consideration but again Viktor was coming around quicker now. The alternative was 28...Qc6 and Rd8. 29.Rd4 f5 30.Rcd1 Now I cannot move that queen away. 30...h6 31.h4 Rf8 I was starting to get a little confused here about what to do and where to shuffle what. I was just holding and it was up to white to try to make the breakthrough but I would make it all the easier if I misplaced a move. 32.Qf4 Ree8?! 33.Re1 Rh8 34.Re3 Rhf8 35.f3 I never expected this but white has to do something if he wants to break in to the black position. 35...exf3 36.Qxf3 Rxe3 37.Qxe3 Re8 Even here, Fritz has black as about a pawn down. Not hopeless but very hard to hold. 38.Qc3 Kh7 39.Rd1! Brilliant.

Now he will play Re1 and I am losing for sure. Of course you would expect a super GM to play this strong move but Korchnoi is 79 years old, had been playing 25 people for over four hours and played this in one second after arriving at my board. 39...Re6? [39...Qe6 40.d7 Rd8 41.Rd6 Qe7 42.Qd4 virtual Zugswang. 42...Qe1+ 43.Kh2 there are no perpetual check cheapos which I had been looking for! The queen always covers h4. 43...g5 44.h5 Qe7 45.a3 Qe1 46.Qc4 Qe7 47.Qc2 Qe5+ 48.g3 Kg7 Still some play here but it is difficult.] 40.Re1 Kg8 [40...Rxe1+ 41.Qxe1 Kg8 42.Qe5 Qf7 43.Qd4 Qe8 44.d7 Qd8 45.h5 Look at my dreadful queen!!!!] 41.Rxe6 Qxe6 42.Qd2 Kf7?? Clearly a blunder in a losing position. I simply overlooked the fact that he could play d7 next move. 43.d7 and I resigned.

There was a humerous moment here. In his own inimitable fashion, when Korchnoi arrived at the board and pushed this pawn, he exclaimed loudly 'goodbye' which was not meant to be nasty, only that this finally was the end. Note how even though white's king is exposed there is no way black's queen can get at it. I did okay for four hours and 20 minutes and had 43 moves out of him. He won 20, drew four and lost only one of his 25 games. That one loss was to a guy who had trained someone in Olympiads so well done Viktor, the grand old man of chess. I take my hat off to you.



Just to reinforce the fact that Viktor is playing incredible chess at his tender age I want to give you an example of what he did to one of the world's best players less than 2 months after taking me and all the others on in London. Fabiano Caruana is a super Italian chess player - graded 177 points higher than Korchnoi at the time of the game - which is a heck of a lot in chess terms. The game was played in Gibraltar (a tournament I have been lucky enough to play in myself) and it is well worth taking lots of time playing through this game. It is a masterpiece.

In what other sport is an encounter at all likely between two players 60 years apart in age? Bridge perhaps, but not so many others. Bowls? Do let me know if you have an example.

Picture courtesy of Gibraltar chess congress website 2011

Korchnoi had a 0-4 score against this chap so it is with some relief I think that he finally won, but win he did. Here is Viktor the Terrible's revenge on Fabiano (the Young).

Gibraltar Masters
26 Jan 2011
Caruana,Fabiano (2721) - Korchnoi,Viktor (2544)
Ruy Lopez

1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5 a6 4.Ba4 Nf6 5.d3 d6 6.c3 Be7 7.0-0 0-0 8.Re1 Nd7

First played exactly 100 years ago at a tournament in San Sebastian by Maroczy but the famous Hungarian's plan was more cautious. Viktor has something quite aggressive in mind. Korchnoi and Maroczy are alleged to have played chess with each other in the 1980s via a psychic medium (Maroczy died in 1951). Viktor won that game too. Maroczy never had a chance. 9.Be3 Nb6 10.Bb3 Kh8 11.Nbd2 f5 12.Bxb6 cxb6 13.Bd5 g5 "This clearly took the youngster by surprise and his failure to respond actively took me equally by surprise," said Viktor after the game. 14.h3 Instead 14.Nc4 would allow the f3 knight to retreat to d2 when Black plays g4. As played, the knight gets driven out of play. 14...g4 15.hxg4 fxg4 16.Nh2 Bg5 17.Nc4 17.a4 restrains Black's next move. 17...b5 18.Ne3 Bxe3 19.Rxe3 Qf6 20.Qe1

The position is equal according to the computer analysis but Korchnoi is having fun after all. 20...Ne7 21.f3 Nxd5 22.exd5 Rg8 23.Qg3?! Perhaps this is a little too provocative. 23...gxf3 24.Qxf3 Bf5 Self-pin but Black has it all worked out. 25.Rf1 Rg5 26.Kh1 Qh6 27.Rf2 Rag8 An unpleasant position to defend and it has a negative effect on Black's subsequent play. 28.Re1? 28.Kg1 looks more resilient. 28...Qg6 29.Re3?! The position is already very difficult and the d3 pawn beyond salvation, but 29.Nf1 Bxd3 30.Ne3 Be4 31.Qf6+ Qxf6 32.Rxf6 gives White an outside chance. 29...Bxd3!

There is no way back for the young Italian after this. He is firmly in the clutches of Viktor the Terrible. 30.Kg1 30.Rxd3 e4 also wins. 30...e4 31.Qh3 Rxd5 32.Qd7 Rg5 33.g4 Qh6 34.Rf7 R5g7 35.Rxg7 Rxg7 36.Qd8+ Rg8 37.Qb6 Qf6 38.Qxb7 Rf8 39.Qa7 b4 40.Rh3 Qg7 41.Qe3 bxc3 42.bxc3 Qxc3 43.Rh5 d5 44.g5 Qa1+ 45.Kg2 Bf1+ 46.Kg3 Qe5+ 0-1

47.Kg4 d4 and something has to give.

I no longer wish to hear people saying they are too old to improve at chess. Look up to Viktor and take great encouragement and strength from what he does. There really is no-one like him.

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A chess master died - after a few days, a friend of his heard a voice; it was him! "What's it like, where you are now?" he asked. "What do you want to hear first, the good news or the bad news." "Tell me the good news first." "Well, it's really heaven here. There are tournaments and blitz sessions going on all the time and Morphy, Alekhine, Lasker, Tal, Capablanca, Botvinnik, they're all here, and you can play them." "Fantastic!" the friend said, "and what is the bad news?" "You have Black against Capablanca on Saturday."

I was having dinner with Garry Kasparov - Problem was, we had a checkered tablecloth and it took him two hours to pass the salt!"

A group of chess enthusiasts had checked into a hotel, and were standing in the lobby discussing their recent tournament victories. After about an hour, the manager came out of the office and asked them to disperse. "But why?" they asked, as they moved off. "Because," he said, "I can't stand chess nuts boasting in an open foyer."

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