Does The Dojo Even Have a Clue?

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In a word – yes! In two words, which you should read in the voice of Jesse Kraii, “Yes, boss.”

One of my continuing chess goals for 2024 will be an extension of what I did in 2023, and that is to trust the process.

I joined the Dojo Training Program a couple of months ago, and so far, I have to say that it’s helped me a lot. Has the help been that I am finally studying the “right” things? I don’t think so. To be honest, I’m not sure there are necessarily “right” things.

Certainly, there can be wrong things. If you spent years studying nothing but tactics, would you become stronger? Almost certainly. What if those tactics were nothing but mate in ones though? Would you be stronger then? Not likely. At least not after the first few hundred, assuming you were a beginner when you started.

Some things in the Dojo training program for my cohort include Polgar Mate in Two’s, Polgar Mate in Three’s, building a low-level opening repertoire along the lines of the quick starter courses in Chessable, playing through certain GM games, analyzing my games, etc.

Does that mean that this is the key? Has the Dojo cracked the code? Not necessarily, in my opinion. Where they get it right is that they give the learners something to focus on.

I do believe that some of the items in the Dojo program are vital to anyone who wants to make a real attempt at improvement. For example, analyzing one’s own games. My experience has shown that when I truly work at analyzing my games, I tend to get better, even if it’s a slow grind of a process.

So what is my plan for 2024? To keep grinding the Dojo Training Program. While I don’t think that the Polgar book is any better than other books would be, for instance, Forcing Chess Moves by Hertain, or one of my favorite books which should be more well known, Improve Your Chess Tactics by Neishtadt. However, the fact that it’s the book that was selected keeps me from jumping around and solving a few from this book and a few from that book.

Besides, it’s satisfying when you get to check things off the list, and with the Dojo program, boy do you get to check things off the list.

Also, their separate Discord for the training program makes it easy to find training partners and a community of like-minded folks.

Consider this my suggestion that you sign up for the Dojo Training Program today!

You can join here: Training Program | Chess Dojo

Til Next Time,

Chris Wainscott

Review of Grind Like a Grandmaster

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Grind Like a Grandmaster by Magnus Carlsen and David Howell New in Chess 208pp

You’re in the final round of the tournament. A win will put you in first place. A draw…well…why even bother? “If you’re not first, you’re last.” Wise words from a wise man, Ricky Bobby.

The problem is that your position is pretty level. Maybe you’re a tiny bit better, but it’s hard to say, and you are in a position where you now need to prove that over the board. This is where having a skill demonstrated time after time by players such as Magnus Carlsen, Boris Gelfand, Anatoly Karpov, and more, would come in handy. That skill is grinding out a win from a level endgame.

How does one develop that skill? Keep reading.

Fun. Quirky. Kitchy. Useful. These are not typically words that I would use to describe a chess book, but here we are.

One of the latest offerings in the Chessable-courses-come-to-life-as-books line, this book has much going for it.

First, let’s take the positives. It’s a hardcover. I, for one, love hardcover chess books and am sad that so few are published this way. Also, the printing and layout are immaculate from a design standpoint. This makes the book very easy to read.

Having mentioned some positives, I want to point out something that may be highly relevant to many readers of this blog. This is not an in-depth book that analyzes everything to death to teach the reader how to play more precisely in the endgame. Instead, it’s more of a guidepost designed to give the reader a feel for when an endgame grind may be called for.

This isn’t to say that there is no analysis in the book; there is. It’s just that the main idea here is to take the reader down the path of what it takes to become an endgame grinder.

Take this position, which is from Tari – Carlsen Stavanger 2021 after Black’s 32nd move.

David: What was his body language like around this time? Did he realize that maybe you were starting to bully him a little bit?

Magnus: I think here he was definitely getting nervous. He was starting to use more time as well. And 32…h5 also poses him problems. Do you want to play 33.g3, or is it hanging on account of 33…Nxg3 and 34…Qxe3? Do you want to play h4, or is this pawn too loose at the moment? He’ll need to spend more time protecting it. Essentially, that’s probably what he should have done.


Magnus: But he decides to wait.

David: I’ve noticed that this is a habit of yours. You always push h5 and a5 when you can. Is that just an endgame trick of the trade?

Magnus: It’s one of the things I learned from Boris Gelfand, actually. Improve your pieces as much as you can, including pawns, before going for forced lines. Especially if your opponent has no counterplay. Here it’s important to note that after my next move, 33…Nd6, White can never improve by pushing the pawn to d5, as it simply allows me to further centralize my queen on e5.

This example is extremely illustrative of most of the book. There is *some* analysis, but the gist of the content is to give someone a feel for the ideas which can be used in almost any game rather than a concrete path that worked in one specific game.

The book is divided into eight chapters. They are:

  1. Chapter 1 – Legendary endgame grinders
  2. Chapter 2 – Origin stories
  3. Chapter 3 – Accumlating small advantages
  4. Chapter 4 – Outgrinding fellow grinders
  5. Chapter 5 – Turning draws into wins
  6. Chapter 6 – Defensive grinding: saving the half point
  7. Chapter 7 – Tiring out your opponent
  8. Chapter 8 – Transformation of advantage types

Included in those chapters are 12 complete games, along with several fragments given along the way.

Now let’s take an example with a bit more analysis. The game is Carlsen – Nepomniachtchi from the sixth game of their 2021 World Championship match in Dubai. The position is after Black’s 29th move.

David: He could also have opted for 29…Bb2, forcing the minor piece exchange: 30.Rc5 Qd6 31.Rxb2 Qxd3 32.Rbc2 Qxa3 33.Rxb5

analysis diagram

Magnus: I knew my rooks would be forced into passivity here, so it should be fine. Play would continue with 33…Qd3 34.Rbc5 a3 35.Rc1 a2 36.Ra1 a2 37.Rc1

analysis diagram

and we exchange pawns (b4 for a2), leaving Black in a dreaded endgame. I’m sure those who have followed elite chess for a long time will remember the game Leko vs Kramnik (Brissago WCh m 2004/1), where Kramnik won the endgame with rooks against the queen and three pawns on both sides. The current position is even better for me. It’s probably still a draw with best play, but Black really has to worry about White’s rooks reaching the seventh rank.

That’s about the most in-depth the analysis gets in this one. It’s not non-existent, but it’s pretty light.

My personal thoughts on this book is that it’s well worth the read as long as the reader isn’t looking for more. There are many excellent books on practical and theoretical endgames. This is not one of them. If you are looking for instruction, this book is not for you. If you are looking for inspiration that can be combined with the instruction from other books, then you will likely enjoy this.

Til Next Time,

Chris Wainscott

Review of Spassky’s Best Games by Bezgodov and Oleinikov

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Spassky’s Best Games by Bezgodov & Oleinikov New in Chess 2023 280pp

This is the second recent offering by New in Chess, which covers the games of a World Champion. The other, Max Euwe’s Best Games by Jan Timman, was reviewed by me here.

While  61 games are included in this volume, the book focuses at least as much on the biography of the champion. The book is separated into two parts. Part I: A brief biography, and Part II: Games.

While there is no doubt that Spassky was one of the best players of his era, his reign as World Champion was nothing special. If I am being honest, I think Spassky would be largely forgotten by today’s players if not for the fact that he is the one from whom Fischer wrested the crown.

Talk to younger or newer players today, and they will recall names from the Soviet era, such as Tal, as his games sparkle with the creativity of sacrificial genius. Sure, he was one of the two “Winter Champions” spoken of by Botvinnik. So-called due to holding the title for a short time before the Patriarch reclaimed it. The other, Smyslov, while the greater overall player, is less well remembered today.

For Spassky, being Bobby’s opponent in 1972 keeps his memory alive. It’s not fair, but it is how life works.

To properly review this book, I also need to split my review into two parts.

Part I: A brief biography

This section of the book is quite well written. It covers Spassky’s first steps with famed trainer Vladimir Zak in St. Petersburg. Then, his training with Tolush once he became too strong for Zak. His professional relationship with Bondarevsky after parting ways with Tolush, etc.

From here, we see Boris gaining strength and winning accolades as he ultimately summits Olympus, only to fall out of favor with the apparatchiks of the communist party after losing to Fischer and his subsequent relocation to France, etc.

Along the way, game fragments show Spassky’s improving strength and skill.

I highly recommend this book for this section alone, alas…

Part II: Games

Here is where I take some exceptions with this book. I have two main quibbles: one minor and one not so much.

The minor quibble is the lack of what I would think is an appropriate number of diagrams and/or oddly placed diagrams.

To show an example:

We get this diagram from Spassky-Nezhmetdinov 1959

From here, we get the following:

“15.e4! Nh6

White’s idea is founded on the variation 15…f4 16.Nxg5!. White simply has an extra pawn and a winning position: 16…Nxh2 17.Ne6 Qh4 18.Nxf8 Nxf1 19.Bxf1 Kxf8 20.Nc7 Rh8 21.Qd5 Qe7 22.Ne6+ Ke8 23.Rd1.”

OK, I get it. Only two moves played after the diagram, so it’s not hard to reconstruct. But why not have another diagram appear after …Nh6 instead?

It gets worse as we then have:

16.exf5 Nxf5 17.Bd3

Black’s attack has ended before it begun (sic). Losses, both material and positional, are inevitable.


17…Nd4 18.Be4 a6 19.Nxd4 cxd4 20.Qh5 Rf7 21.Qh6 Kh8 22.Qe6 Rg7 23.b6 with a clear white advantage.”

I would like to see publishers better understand their potential target audiences for a book like this and understand the relationship that online training has with books.

I am by no means a strong chess player. Still, I am reasonably competent (US Chess rating is 1824 right now), and I find it much easier to read a book with a diagram before any analytical variation of more than a few moves. Most people reading this review will understand the pain of being well past some variation only to realize they left a piece on the wrong square for the last several moves. This is largely eliminated by placing diagrams there.

What I would do in the above passage is place diagrams after 15…Nh6 and 17…Nf6 which would help many readers, especially the lower-rated ones, with accurately playing through variations and then correctly setting the position from before the variation.

As for my remark about the relationship that online training has with books, when playing through games in Chessbase or watching a video with some analysis by strong players, there is zero chance that a piece will be on the wrong square after a variation. It can’t happen when playing through electronic content. Since it can happen when playing through games on a board, I feel that publishers would be doing themselves a favor by taking as many steps to eliminate this issue.

This brings me to my less-minor quibble. The overall lack of analysis is sad.  Take this position from the 1968 Spassky-Korchnoi Candidates Final. The notes in this case are by English FM Steve Giddins.

This position is after the move 26…Qe6

“White’s attempted ‘attack’ on the kingside is brushed away like a fly, and this illustrates the depth of Spassky’s match strategy. The Korchnoi of those days was well-known as a brilliant defender and counter-attacker, but, by his own admission, was much weaker at seizing and using the initiative. In later years, partly inspired by his match defeat against Spassky, he worked exceptionally hard to broaden his style and become more versatile.”

OK, but why was the attack brushed away? What problem does …Qe6 solve that was not solved up til now? Can we illustrate what White’s threats were with a less accurate move perhaps?

Well, maybe this is just a fluke, right? No. Here is Spassky-Larsen 1978 after 14.0-0-0

“Such things are common at lower levels, but rare at Grandmaster level. White’s advantage can already be assessed as decisive.”

OK. Neat. Why? What could Black have done to prevent this from happening? Why is White’s advantage so decisive? Again, I say these things with the understanding that the publisher is likely as happy with a player rated 1000 buying this book as they are with a player rated 2200+.

It’s not all bad, though. After each game, a brief description of the lesson to be learned is given.

All in all, I’d say this book is a solid 3.5 out of 5. Mostly for the biography, but not completely. Some of the games covered have nice analytical breakdowns; it’s just that it’s the exception rather than the norm.

Til Next Time,

Chris Wainscott

Review of Max Euwe’s Best Games by Timman

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Max Euwe’s Best Games by Jan Timman New in Chess 2023 304pp

One of the latest offerings by New in Chess is this excellent tome on the 5th world chess champion. Timman notes in the introduction that he wanted to write a book on Euwe for several years, primarily due to the fact that Euwe is the only world champion that the Netherlands has produced to date.

Of course, the author knew the subject, and they even wrote a book on Fischer-Spassky together. Nevertheless, this book is a nice, objective work rather than a hagiography. 

Over its 304 pages, the book covers 80 of Euwe’s games in depth. The book is split into four chapters.

  1. The 1920’s
  2. World Champion
  3. Dethroned
  4. After the war

There is a nice index of openings in the book and a list of names. One glaring omission is the lack of a games index. The “list of names” does cover the names of the opponents, but it also includes names of players who may have commented on a game in published analysis, so there is no direct list of the opponents. I find that to be the only real omission here. 

The rest of the book is very well presented. The analysis of the games is thorough, and there are multiple diagrams on just about every page. I personally find this to be rather important. I do enjoy playing over the analysis in books, and I find this to be sometimes difficult without enough diagrams. 

I also think that Timman did a wonderful job of combining explanations with variations. Here is an example from Thomas-Euwe Carlsbad 1929


“A logical move, gaining space in the centre. However, 19…Qxd1 20.Rxd1 Rfc8 was stronger. At the board, it was hard to calculate why the queen trade is so strong. The hidden point emerges in the variation 21.Ra1 e4 22.Rxa2 exf3 23.Bxc5 and now Black has the surprising 23…b5!, gaining a decisive advantage on the queenside. “

Lastly, I want to give serious kudos to New in Chess for what appears to be a reversal of a recent horrible decision. About a year back the paper quality of the books published by New in Chess declined significantly. At first I assumed there was a paper shortage or something similar, but New in Chess released a statement saying that the new paper was easier on the eyes, etc. While that was true, it made the books look less elegant and cheaper.

Lately they have gone back to the much higher quality of paper. I sincerely appreciate that.

Til Next Time,

Chris Wainscott

Review of Rock Solid Chess by Tiviakov

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Rock Solid Chess – Tiviakov’s Unbeatable Strategy: Pawn Structures by Sergei Tiviakov and Yulia Gokbulut. New in Chess 2023 264pp

It’s true that I haven’t been posting as much lately, but that’s not due to time away from chess. I actually have my highest rating in seven years at this point. Not bad for a guy who’ll be 50 in less than three months.

So what’s the “secret” that’s propelling me right now? Well, for one, I’ve been hitting the books pretty hard. One of those books is this latest offering by famed Dutch GM Sergei Tiviakov.

As far as I am aware, this is his first book, though he has produced many videos for ChessBase, including two which I am intimately familiar with, his videos on the …Qd6 Scandinavian and the Alapin Sicilian.

This book is the first in what will be a series of books on chess strategy by these co-authors, and I have to say I not only found it to be highly instructive, but I enjoyed it immensely.

The book is broken into seven chapters. They are

  1. Pawn majority on one flank
  2. Doubled pawns, part one
  3. Doubled pawns, part two
  4. Semi-open files in the centre
  5. One open file in the centre
  6. Two open files in the centre
  7. The double fianchetto

Preceding these chapters is one of the most interesting introductions I have ever read. It’s titled “Human chess versus computer chess”. It gives several games, some classics, some modern, where Tiviakov explains the difference in thought processes between humans and engines.

The games contained in the book are mostly lightly annotated in terms of variations, as the authors give most of the explanations in prose. The idea here is for the reader to understand the ideas rather than to get to the absolute analytical truth of a position.

This is something I would like to see a lot more in chess books. Yes, when you read certain books, like Ramesh’s recent book Improve Your Chess Calculation, it’s highly important to give line after line to ensure that the reader is thoroughly absorbing the most subtle details of each position. In a book such as Tiviakov’s, however, it’s far more important to ensure that the reader understands the concepts, which are best established with verbal explanations. Next year’s engines may give different lines than this year’s, but the ideas will remain the same.

Like many authors, Tiviakov knows his games best, so he often illustrates his ideas using them, but he also leans heavily on games from days gone by. Thus, you’ll see games from Botvinnik in the ’30s; Tal-Smyslov from the ’50s; Karpov from the ’90s, etc.

All in all, this book is quite well done, and I found it not only useful but enjoyable. Also, it seems that perhaps NiC’s “experiment” with paper of a lesser quality is over. This book is printed on high-quality paper for which NiC has historically been known.

Buy it today, and tell me about it tomorrow.

Til Next Time,

Chris Wainscott

Review of the Checkmate Patterns Manual

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The Checkmate Patterns Manual by Raf Mesotten 2022 New in Chess 376pp

One of the latest offerings in the Chessable/New in Chess partnership, The Checkmate Patterns Manual by Raf Messoten offers something for everyone.

Comprised of 30 chapters designed to drill the basic “name” mates, i.e. Anastasia, Arabian, Boden, Smothered, Swallow’s Tail, etc this book serves as an excellent primer for beginner and post-beginner players, a refresher course for slightly more intermediate players, and as a source of valuable teaching material for instructors.

Before we start talking about the book itself, let’s talk about a couple of technical points. First, the book is hardbound with excellent quality paper as has become a hallmark of the Chessable/New in Chess books. Second, the author is an average club player from Belgium (around 1900 FIDE).

I think that for some readers, this second point may seem overly important. After all, who wants to buy a book from a player well below the level of most authors? However, in this case, the level of the writer is well suited to the level of the material selected, so I don’t find that to be an issue at all.

Who is this book for? In my opinion, this book is best suited either for newer players, let’s say up to about 1000 Elo, or for anyone who coaches newer players.

To demonstrate the level of this book, let’s take a quick look at a couple of the puzzles in the “Final Test” which contains “100 of the hardest exercises in this book.”

For most players, neither of those exercises should present too much of a challenge. Those who do find them challenging should immediately buy this book, and those who coach should also immediately buy this book.

As for the book itself, it starts with a basic test to check the level of the reader, and is then split into 30 chapters, covering various “name” mating patterns such as Anastasia’s Mate, Arabian Mate, Boden’s Mate, etc, along with thematic mates such as Mate in the Opening, Bank Rank Mate, etc. After those chapters come three more tests, and then the solutions.

Each chapter contains several examples of the type of mate being discussed. Let’s take a look at an example from the first chapter on Anastasia’s mate.

First, the reader is given a diagram that shows the pattern:

Anastasia Pattern – click to see diagram in book

Then there are several game examples. For instance, this position from Karjakin-Metsalu 2001

Containing over 600 exercises, this book will keep the reader busy for some time.

While this book isn’t for everyone, I still give it five stars for those who it is meant for.

Til Next Time,

Chris Wainscott

Publishers and Diagrams

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One thing that I really wish chess book publishers would take into account more is the placement of diagrams.

One of the harder things for me to learn when I came back to chess in 2011 after an absence of almost 20 years was how to hold a position in my head so that I could reset it after playing through a line of analysis. I suspect that I am not alone in this.

Yes, I’ve read the musings of those who say they play through games with two boards, making the move on both boards, then using one to keep the position while they play through the analysis on the other board. I personally don’t find that to be an appealing thought at all.

I was drawn to the idea, both then and now, that learning to hold positions in my head would ultimately make me a stronger player. I believe this to be as true today as I did a decade ago when I was struggling to do this at all. If it’s relevant to anyone, my rating then was about 1600, whereas today I’m generally in the high 1700’s with a peak of 1896. Not exactly a strong player, but certainly not weak.

With that said, publisher’s do include diagrams for a reason. For some, it’s clear that they are trying to give readers a visual anchor in order to read through the book without needing a board. I am nowhere near that level, though I do often try to play through the analysis in my head without moving the pieces and have found that this has helped me visualize better. At first, I could hold the position well enough, but didn’t understand things like “why …Qd6 there” until I’d eventually realize that a pawn was unprotected on g3 or something like that.

That takes me to today’s quibble. Books which don’t have diagrams in places they clearly should.

Let’s take a look at this page from Enqvist’s 300 Most Important Chess Positions

We are given a diagram before Black’s 19th move, which is followed by a good explanation of why that move was played, but we are not given a diagram either after Black’s 20th move, where it would be much more useful. As you can see, the analysis runs to the next page and contains parentheses and brackets.

I’d really like to know the reasoning behind the placement of diagrams. This one makes no sense to me.

Til Next Time,

Chris Wainscott

Review of From Ukraine With Love for Chess

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From Ukraine With Love for Chess by New in Chess 2022 208pp

This compilation, recently published by New in Chess, is both a triumph and a tragedy. A triumph because it encapsulates the strong tradition of chess in Ukraine, starting with their earliest players from the Soviet days, and continuing on through their World Champions, Ponomariov and Ushenina. Also included are their victories in the Olympiad during the first decade of the new millennium. A tragedy because of the circumstances that caused it to be published.

The idea behind this book is to generate revenue for Ukraine charities which are helping the victims of the unprovoked and unacceptable Russian invasion of Ukraine. All proceeds are going to charities according to the book.

The layout of the book is divided into eight chapters.

Chapter I – The pioneers

Chapter II – Oleg Romanishin’s matches with Mikhail Tal

Chapter III – We are Ukrainian

Chapter IV – Heroic Ivanchuk leads Ukraine to victory at the Calvia Olympiad in 2004

Chapter V – Unstoppable Ukraine – The Women’s Team wins the Turin Olympiad in 2006

Chapter VI – A fully deserved win by Ukraine at the Olympiad in 2010.

Chapter VII – What’s your superpower? I’m Ukrainian!

Chapter VIII – Ukrainian nuggets

The games contained within each chapter are annotated by Ukrainian players, often the player of the game itself. In cases where the annotations are not by the players of the games, the notes are from Ukrainian legends, such as Ivanchuk and Moiseenko.

Although the book itself was somewhat “rushed” in order to get it out the world, in many cases the annotations themselves were not, as they have been published previously.

Prior to the games, there is a short biographical blurb on the Ukrainian player featured. Contained within these are all sorts of interesting tidbits. For instance, while I knew that one of my favorite players, Eljanov, was a second for Gelfand in 2012, I did not realize that he was the son of an IM.

There are also some nicely written sections of prose, including one by Romanishin in which he not only discusses his friendship with Tal and his secret training matches with him, but also his upbringing. He tells a nice story about going to a 1962 friendly match between teams from Yugoslavia and the USSR and collecting autographs while being far too shy to actually talk to the players.

Also included is a republished interview with Tukmakov by Dirk Jan, about the Ukrainian Olympic victory in 2004. Tukmakov was the captain of that team. This is then followed by some of the best games played by the Ukrainian team during that event. Those games are quite deeply annotated and instructive. Of historical interest is the fact that Sergey Karjakin was on that Ukraine team in 2004. For those who may not be aware, Karjakin was born in Ukraine and represented them until 2009 when he switched federations. Somewhere along the way he also lost his damn mind.

The book concludes with a chapter on Ukrainian study composers presented by Jan Timman. While largely unknown to the chess world, their work is worth presenting.

All in all I highly recommend this book. I would like to point out that with this book there seems to be a switch in the paper used by NiC. The paper is not as bright or heavy as most books of recent memory. I assumed that this was a supply issue, but it would appear per a response on a Facebook post that this is going to be the new normal.

As a collector, I do not like this since the book is not as aesthetically pleasing. As a reader though, it is much softer on the eyes. Perhaps I am resisting change solely for the sake of resisting change.

In any case, go buy this book and support Ukraine.

Til Next Time,

Chris Wainscott

Review of Attacking Strategies for Club Players

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Attacking Strategies for Club Players by Michael Prusikin 2021 New in Chess 192pp

It seems these days that there is no shortage of treatises on attacking, including ones directed specifically at club players. Therefore, I always have some trepidation when picking up a new one to read. Often it seems that the themes and material overlap. With the themes, that’s mostly to be expected, but with the materials it can often be a sign of laziness.

For instance, we’re often treated to Fischer – Benko 1963 with 19.Rf6, or we see the “Marshall Swindle” of Levitsky – Marshall 1912 with 23…Qg3, concluding the alleged “Gold Coin Game.”

Thus, it was refreshing when I opened this book, flipped through it, and saw that there were new themes and that the games were mostly games I had never seen.

The book is broken up into 18 chapters. They are as follows:

  1. Prerequisites and rules for attacking the king
  2. King in the centre
  3. Obstruction sacrifices
  4. Attacking the king without the queen
  5. Pawn storm with opposite-side castling
  6. Pawn storm with same-side castling
  7. The Steinitz ‘battering ram’ – using the h pawn against a finachetto
  8. The Alekhine ‘battering ram’ – using the g pawn to destroy your opponent’s king protection
  9. The nail in the coffin
  10. Doubled g-pawns
  11. Using pieces to attack the castled position
  12. The Grand Prix Attack
  13. The Chigorin ‘outrider’ – the knight on f5
  14. Long bishop on b2
  15. Interference
  16. Breakthrough on the strong point
  17. Test your attacking skills
  18. Solutions

As you would expect, many of these chapters cover themes that we’re all familiar with, such as a king stuck in the center or pawn storms, or sacrificial breakthroughs. However, when was the last time you saw an explanation of doubled g-pawns being used for attack?

By doubled g pawns the author is referring to positions with pawns on f2/g2/g3 or f7/g7/g6. Examples of when those positions can be a weakness are given, including this example from the game Oll – Chernin 1993

Here white plays 27.Qg4 Rfd8

Now White wins with 28.Nxe6 Rxd3 29.Nxc5 Rxc5 30.e6 and White goes on to convert.

As you can see from this example, these aren’t all straightforward wins, but rather positions where one side is simply better. My first instinct was some mild disappointment, but after some reflection I decided that tactics books are really the place for the straightforward wins to reside. It’s OK for attacking manuals to focus on the process of creating the attacking chances.

That doesn’t mean that none of the games feature brutal breakthroughs and firework finishes. Take Spassky – Geller 1968, for instance. Here we see the position after 22…Rc8

Here Spassky decisively crashes through with 23.Rxf6! exf6 24.Qh7+ Kf8 25.Nxf7!! Rxc2 26.Bh6! Rxc1+ 27.Nxc1 Kxf7 28.Qxg7+ Ke8 29.g5! f5 30.Qxg6+ Kd7 31.Qf7+ Kc6 32.exf5+

(diagram mine for emphasis)

All in all I found this book to be a pleasant surprise. Most of the examples I had not seen prior, and I enjoyed the new twists on attacking themes.

I will say that I did find the first chapter of the book, “Prerequisites and rules for attacking the king” to be a bit overly dogmatic and pedantic. The author tries to give some specific rules, along with some tips, but they feel a little forced.

The rules:

  1. Lead in development/uncastled opposing king
  2. Space advantage on the side of the board where the opposing king is located
  3. Few defensive pieces around our opponent’s king
  4. Lack of/weakened pawn protection for the king

The tips:

  1. Everyone must be invited to the party
  2. Open lines
  3. Have the courage to sacrifice
  4. Time is key

While some of those points are clearly applicable and prudent, it felt too much to me like an effort at forcing a list, ala those types of “Five Simple Rules for ___” articles about almost any subject.

Having said that, I did get a lot of enjoyment out of the book overall. It felt like a nice solution for either someone looking to improve their own game through a better understanding of attacking play, and also is something that can be enjoyed by those simply seeking to play over enjoyable games for pleasure.

Til Next Time,

Chris Wainscott

Review of Magnus Carlsen: A Life in Pictures

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Magnus Carlsen: A Life in Pictures New in Chess 2021 162pp

Until the past few years, as I became more acquainted with the photography of David Llada, Lennart Ootes, Alina L’Ami, and others, I never really appreciated the concept of chess photos as art. Of course, David Llada’s excellent book The Thinkers, published by Quality Chess in 2018, got me on board with the artistry of chess and chess players.

With this newfound love of chess photos as art, I was excited to receive this book which covers one subject: five-time world champion Magnus Carlsen.

Presented in chronological order, the book takes the reader (viewer) from Magnus’s pre chess childhood through the beginning of the pandemic.

Some of the photos are fairly well known, such as young Magnus lying on the grass holding a king, or 2013 Magnus with his arms raised in triumph after getting thrown in the swimming pool after dethroning Vishy. Most of the material was new to me though, and it was a pleasure working my way through the pages.

The book doesn’t just focus on Magnus the Chess Player, which I found to be a breath of fresh air. Instead, focus is given to all aspects of Magnus’s life. Magnus as part of an interconnected family. Magnus the sportsman. Magnus the sports fan. Magnus the celebrity.

In fact, an entire chapter is devoted to Magnus as a celebrity. From his G Star Raw modeling career, to his games against Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg, to his ceremonial opening kickoff on the pitch for Real Madrid, focus is given to the side of Magnus that has drawn some more mainstream attention to the chess world.

The layout of the book is mostly just visual, but there are some chapter introductions as well as captions. Overall, the material is beautifully presented.

My one quibble with this book is relatively minor. I would prefer that the book be larger. It’s the size of a regular book instead of coffee table book size. I would much prefer the larger size, which is more common when displaying something as art.

All in all, I recommend the book to any fans of Magnus, or lovers of chess or photography.

Til Next Time,

Chris Wainscott