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Archive for November 2016

100 Chess Master Trade Secrets

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100 Chess Master Trade Secrets: From Sacrifices to Endgames

An instructive book covering a wide range of topics – and one sure to make you a better player.

In 100 Chess Master Trade Secrets: From Sacrifices to Endgames Andrew Soltis sets out 100 key items of information, the kinds of things it is necessary or at least highly useful to know, if you want to progress as a chessplayer. The first chapter presents 25 middle-game stratagems, one such being the minority attack; the second examines 25 aspects of good endgame play (e.g. domination, building a fortress). Next, there’s a chapter covering standard sacrifices like …Rx(N)c3 in the Sicilian. Finally, a chapter devoted to theoretical endings (e.g. the Lucena and Philidor positions). Each chapter closes with a short set of exercises.

What holds your attention, even when presented with quite familiar fare, is Soltis’s knack of annotating a chess position. He does it in such a way that he tells a story, making each player’s intentions clear. Triumph and disappointment is there for all to see. This is his main strength as a writer, in my opinion: he is adept at bringing out the drama inherent in a chess game.

Most of the positions, where appropriate, are fairly recent. As no-nonsense handbooks go, this is an excellent example of the genre. An essential arsenal of chess concepts and techniques.

Book Details

100 Chess Master Trade Secrets: From Sacrifices to Endgames

By Andrew Soltis

Batsford, 2013

ISBN: 9781849941082

There is an interesting interview with Andrew Soltis at the US Chess Trust website, here.

The publisher’s description of 100 Chess Master Trade Secrets: From Sacrifices to Endgames by Andrew Soltis can be read here.


Written by P.P.O. Kane

November 20, 2016 at 10:37 pm

The Love of Wood

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The Love of Wood is probably the best film ever made about chess – if there is a better film, I’d like to hear about it. It is a Dutch film and we get to hear from Donner, Timman and Ree. Look hard and you can see Ulf Andersson in there as well. Donner is the star, mind, he has a kingly presence.

Here is the film:

Written by P.P.O. Kane

November 16, 2016 at 6:50 pm

Jon Speelman’s Chess Puzzle Book

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Jon Speelman's Chess Puzzle Book

This book makes for a fine collection of tactical puzzles.

In his introductory remarks Jon Speelman points out that tactical skill involves both vision (seeing the tactical idea or pattern to start with) and calculation (verifying that the idea works against every possible defence) and, furthermore, that in calculation it is as important to accurately evaluate the final position at the end of each sequence of moves or variation. He then presents 300 or so positions where your task is to find the winning (or, more rarely, the saving) tactic.

The positions are set out in two parts. Part 1, ‘The Elements’, has ten thematic chapters (covering the Knight Fork, the Pin, the Skewer, Mating Attacks and so on), so you more or less know what to expect in each puzzle. The positions are very simple to start with and become progressively more difficult, though none is really tough. ‘Tactics in Practice’, Speelman’s Part 2, has three chapters. The first, ‘Finger Exercises’, has positions where the calculations required are not very deep; combinational vision is the skill they mainly ask of you. Still, the idea is often well hidden. ‘Mixed Bag’ has a wide variety of positions, some quite challenging. The final chapter, entitled ‘Tougher Examples’, contains tougher examples.

Speelman’s fine chess intelligence is evident in the comprehensive ‘Solutions’ section of the book, which runs to fifty or so pages. His personality and love of the game shines
through and at times he cannot resist pointing out interesting, albeit sub-optimal moves…

Jon Speelman’s Chess Puzzle Book is an excellent package overall and would make an ideal complement to an elementary textbook on tactics. You could think of it as being sort of a missing workbook. By diligently attempting to solve each position you will undoubtedly increase your tactical skill.

If you want to read more from Jon Speelman, and you should, his Agony Column at ChessBase is a good place to start. They are listed here.

Book Details

Jon Speelman’s Chess Puzzle Book

By Jon Speelman

Gambit Publications, 2008

ISBN: 9781904600961

The publisher’s description of Jon Speelman’s Chess Puzzle Book can be read here.

Written by P.P.O. Kane

November 14, 2016 at 1:56 pm

Carlsen-Karjakin Match Special

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No doubt about it, it is going to be a biggie!

New in Chess Carlsen-Karjakin Match Special

The World Chess Championship match between Magnus Carlsen and Sergey Karjakin takes place later this month in New York, from 11-30 November.  As a preview, New In Chess magazine has published a free digital 40-page Match Special, which includes:

  • annotations by both Carlsen and Karjakin to their previous games
  • a preview of the match by Dutch GM Jan Timman
  • an interview with Sergey Karjakin
  • a comparison of the players’ respective strengths
  • an analysis of a Carlsen sideline in the Ruy Lopez

You have to register with New In Chess to receive the Match Special, which is available to view in the New In Chess magazine app and as a downloadable PDF. Details here.

Written by P.P.O. Kane

November 7, 2016 at 5:15 pm

A Chess Story

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A Chess Story

Zweig’s novella, the Austrian writer’s last great work of fiction, was completed not long before his death.

It is a straightforward story yet, as always with Zweig, psychologically complex. We are on a steamship bound for Buenos Aires, where one of the passengers is Czentovic, the world chess champion. Some chess enthusiasts take the opportunity to challenge him to a consultation game and, naturally enough, he is soon beating them easily. Until, that is, an enigmatic stranger, one Dr B, intervenes on the enthusiasts’ side and secures a draw. A clamour ensues as they try to persuade Dr B to challenge Czentovic directly, to a match of two or three games…

Chess flowered in fin-de-siècle Vienna under the stewardship of George Marco, the celebrated editor of the Wiener Schachzeitung. Carl Schlechter flourished in the city’s rich chess culture and went on to draw a match with Emmanuel Lasker for the world championship. And the city attracted many talented players, including Richard Reti and Savielly Tartakower, leading lights of the Hypermodern School. Hardly surprising, therefore, that Zweig gives a remarkable, if not always coherent or accurate, eulogy to the royal game in the early pages of A Chess Story:

But aren’t we guilty of being insultingly disparaging if we refer to chess as a game? Is it not also a science, an art, poised between one and the other like Muhammad’s coffin between heaven and earth, a unique synthesis of all opposites; ancient and yet always new, mechanical in its structure yet animated only by the imagination, limited to a geometrically petrified space yet unlimited in its permutations, always developing yet ever sterile, a logic with no result, a mathematics without calculations, an art without works, an architecture without materials, which has nevertheless proved more lasting in its forms and history than any works or books, the only game that belongs in every era and among every people, of which no one knows what god brought it to earth to kill boredom, sharpen the wits and tauten the spirit?

When Dr B is arrested by the Gestapo in Vienna and brought to the Hotel Metropole for interrogation, this complex, anachronistic game becomes his salvation. He steals a book of master games and plays through them one by one in his mind; then later he plays against himself. Chess offers an escape, a place of solace, a sphere where the mind can lose itself. In time he survives, yet is damaged irretrievably. A victim of the game’s awful infinitude.

A Chess Story is a brilliant work, excellently translated by Alexander Starritt, which might be described as a meditation on the fragility of culture and civilisation, a subject about which Zweig could speak with some authority. Chess is used as a metaphor for myriad aids and evils, any arena of addiction and obsession – myth, fantasy, ideology, even art – where the mind may come to lose itself.

Book Details

A Chess Story

By Stefan Zweig

Translated by Alexander Starritt

Cover illustration by Petra Börner

Pushkin Press, 2013

ISBN: 9781782270119

The publisher’s description of A Chess Story can be read here.

Written by P.P.O. Kane

November 7, 2016 at 1:01 pm