The Complete Chess Swindler

The Complete Chess Swindler : David Smerdon

The Complete Chess Swindler
The Complete Chess Swindler
GM David Smerdon
GM David Smerdon

David Smerdon is an Australian chess grandmaster and behavioural economist. In 2015 he published the highly successful chess opening book Smerdon’s Scandinavian.

From the book’s rear cover :

“Chess is a cruel game. We all know that feeling when your position has gone awry and everything seems hopeless. You feel like resigning. But don’t give up! This is precisely the moment to switch to swindle mode. Master the art of provoking errors and you will be able to turn the tables and escape with a draw – or sometimes even steal the full point!

Swindling is a skill that can be trained. In this book, David Smerdon shows how you can use tricks from psychology to marshal hidden resources and exploit your opponent’s biases. In a lost position, your best practical chance often lies not in what the computer recommends, but in playing your opponent.

With an abundance of eye-popping examples and training exercises, Smerdon identifies the four best friends of every chess swindler: your opponent’s impatience, their hubris, their fear, and their need to stay in control. You’ll also learn about such cunning swindling motifs as the Trojan Horse, the decoy trap, the berserk attack, and ‘window-ledging’.

So, come and join the Swindlers’ Club, become a great escape artist and dramatically improve your results. In this instructive and wildly entertaining guide, Smerdon shows you how.”

As with every recent New in Chess publication high quality paper is used and the printing is clear. The book can easily be laid flat next to the board and does not require weights to prevent it from “self-closing” (a particular bugbear of ours !). Each diagram is clear and the instructional text is (mostly !) typeset in two column format, which, we find, enables the reader to maintain their place easily. Figurine algebraic notation is used throughout and the diagrams are placed adjacent to the relevant text.

 

Who doesn’t love a good swindle? Well, if you’ve just been swindled in the final of your online club championship I guess you might not, but, in truth, as long as we’re not the victim we all love a good swindle.

So it’s surprising, then, that it’s a subject which hasn’t been covered much in chess books. Australian GM David Smerdon’s new book promises to fill that gap in your library.

Here’s Smerdon’s description of a swindle:

1) The Swindler starts from an objectively lost position.

2) The Swindler consciously provokes the victim into blundering, usually by taking advantage of some psychological trait.

3) The victim squanders the advantage, allowing the swindler to escape with a draw or even the full point.

He also offers three questions to help you find swindles.

1) What does my opponent want?

2) How is he planning to do it?

3) What’s good about my position?

Let’s look at an example.

This is Shirov-Kramnik (Groningen 1993).  White launched a manic attack right from the opening, but Black defended calmly.

Now Shirov had to make a choice. He saw 18. Qh4 Nxg3 19. Bxe7 Nxf1 20. Bxd8 Qxe5 21. Bf1 Qe3+ 22. Kb1 Bc6 which he assessed as favourable to Black due to White’s uncoordinated forces.

Instead he went for the spectacular 18. Bxh6!?! when the game concluded 18… Nxf4 19. Bxg7+ Kh7 20. Rxf4 Rg8 21. Rfg4 Rxg7 22. Rxg7+ Kh6 23. Rg8 Kh7 24. R8g7+ with a draw.

However, as Smerdon points out, Kramnik could have won with the beautiful counter queen sacrifice  21… Qxc3!!, when 22, Rxc3 Rxg7 leaves Black a piece up, while 22. bxc3 Ba3+ is a pretty standard mate. (Smerdon’s ‘exquisite’ seems a bit hyperbolic to me.)

Smerdon might have mentioned that 20… Qxc3!! would also have worked, and that Black could equally well have played 19… Kg8 20. Rxf4 Qxc3!!.

All very interesting, but was it really a swindle?

It depends.  Did Shirov see Qxc3 at move 18. at move 21, or not until after the game? If he’d decided 18. Qh4 would lose, had seen the Qxc3 defence and played Bxh6 anyway, hoping Kramnik would miss it, then, yes, it was a swindle. But if he’d seen the game conclusion in advance and played it, thinking he was forcing a draw, then it was something arguably more interesting: a mutual blunder by two of the strongest players in the world.

Why, then, did Kramnik, a future world champion rated 2710 at the time of the game, miss, on two occasions, what was essentially a fairly simple two move tactic. A psychological flaw? A cognitive bias? Perhaps he was only looking at the king side, where all the action was, so missed a tactic on the other side of the board. You could say that looking at the wrong side of the board is a cognitive bias of sorts, but it’s not what Smerdon has in mind.

There are all sorts of reasons why we make the type of mistake we really shouldn’t make. Cognitive bias, yes, but also, for example, time trouble or fatigue. It’s always interesting to hear a great player explain how he made a simple oversight. Take this example.

This is Petrosian-Kortchnoi (1963) with Black to make his 32nd move. White has an overwhelming advantage in this rook ending, but he’s facing a resourceful defender.

Smerdon quotes Petrosian. “For a long time I had regarded my position as a winning one. Thus the whole opening phase of the struggle, when Kortchnoi was unable to get out of trouble, had psychologically attuned me to the idea that the ending would be favourable to me.”

Kortchnoi tried 32… Rf8 (sheer bluff: 33. Rxh6 or Re6 both win easily) 33. d6 Rh8 34. Kg4 Rf8 when the world champion fell straight into the cunning trap: 35. Rxh6?? f3!!.

Petrosian again. “I did not even see the threat f4-f3, possibly because it was in contrast to Black’s hopeless position. Personally, I am of the view that if a strong master does not see such a threat at one he will not notice it, even if he analyses the position for twenty or thirty minutes.”

This, then, unlike the Shirov-Kramnik position, is an excellent example of where Smerdon’s theory works. Petrosian was swindled because he was overconfident, convinced that nothing could possibly go wrong.

Smerdon identifies two pairs of psychological flaws which, in his view, are usually the cause of a player being swindled. Two, impatience and hubris, are caused by overconfidence, while two more, fear and kontrollzwang (the need to keep the position under control) are caused by lack of confidence.

He goes on to suggest that, if you know your opponent is impatient, you should look for a Trojan Horse: a move which seemingly offers your opponent a quicker or easier way to win, but instead sets a trap. If he’s overconfident, consider a Decoy Trap: a move which creates two threats: with any luck he’ll meet the minor threat while missing the major threat.

On the other hand, if your opponent is looking fearful, play a Berserk Attack, which will make him even more scared than he is already. If he’s a player who likes to keep control, adopt a window-ledging strategy: randomise the position so that neither player really knows what’s happening.

This is all very interesting, and great fun as well. Along the way, we meet characters such as Aussie swindling expert Junta Ikeda, and ever-optimistic German FM Olaf Steffens: in one game here we witness him window-ledging Richmond IM Gavin Wall.

But, I wonder how often you have a choice of swindles to set. In the real world, once we’re in swindling mode we’re just trying to find moves to stay in the game and pose problems for our opponent. We’re not really going to stop and take our opponent’s mindset into consideration before deciding which swindle to set up.

Understanding your cognitive biases is important, and, I’d suggest, this is rather more useful in helping to avoid being swindled yourself than in swindling your opponent. But is it really true that swindles usually exploit psychological flaws? I’m not entirely convinced.

By now we’ve reached Part IV, where the mood changes. We now look at the Core Skills swindlers need. The corollary is, of course, that if you want to avoid being swindled you also require these skills.

You can try to swindle your opponent by heading for an ending which might be difficult or impossible to win despite a large material advantage. For instance, KQ v KR is, generally speaking, a win, but notoriously difficult in practice. Knowing the defensive techniques to give your opponent the most trouble is helpful, as is knowing how to win against best defence. KRB v KR, on the other hand, is, generally speaking, a draw, but not so easy over the board (especially if you’re playing Keith Arkell). Knowing the correct technique is again useful – for both sides.

The next two chapters cover Fortresses and Stalemate, both familiar in the rarefied world of endgame studies but not often discussed in relation to competitive chess. We then continue with Perpetual Check, a very frequent guest in Swindleland.

We also look at Creativity. Here, for example, is the conclusion of the remarkable game between Detlev Birnbaum (2190) and Eloi Relange (2420) played at Cappelle-la-Grande in 1995. You’ll have to  buy the book to find out what was really happening here.

Part V demonstrates some complete games from both master and amateur chess, including Smerdon’s favourite swindle. Finally, Part VI presents 110 quiz questions, in which you have to find, or avoid, a swindle.

This is a unique book which covers a number of important topics not usually mentioned in text books, and does so in highly entertaining fashion. Smerdon’s writing style is lively, if sometimes loose, and he presents a lot of fascinating material. You’ll find a lot of creative and resourceful ideas here which should inspire all readers to look for ways to convert their potential losses into draws, or even wins. I would guess that, in terms of chess improvement, players in the 1800-2200 range would benefit most, but I really can’t imagine any reader not falling in love with this book. There is a lot of helpful advice – most importantly perhaps, not to give up in a lost position but to look for ways to provoke your opponent into making a mistake. Not only will it help you to find swindles in your own games: it will also help you to avoid being swindled yourself.

I do have a couple of reservations: as mentioned earlier I think Smerdon overstates the importance of cognitive bias in swindles when there are many other factors involved. What looks like a swindle might, on occasion, just be a mutual blunder: to be certain we need to know the swindler’s motive. As a behavioural economist by profession, he is naturally interested in why and how decisions are made, and this is something not very often mentioned in chess literature. Cognitive bias and psychological flaws undoubtedly affect how we study chess as well as our performance at all stages of the game. Given his academic background, Smerdon would, I think, be the ideal author for a book of this nature.

I would also have preferred a broader historical perspective, but then Smerdon, unlike some other authors, is sceptical about the value of studying the classics. Mention might also have been made of endgame studies, which frequently use many of the ideas discussed in this book: you might, at one level, see all endgame studies as the result of a swindle, and I suspect that solving studies, as recommended by a number of esteemed chess coaches, might be very beneficial in helping you to find, or avoid, swindles.

In spite of these reservations, I have no hesitation in recommending The Complete Chess Swindler to all readers. There have been some exceptionally interesting chess books published this year, and this is certainly one to add to the list.

Richard James, Twickenham 23rd September 2020

Richard James
. Richard James

Book Details :

  • Paperback : 368 pages
  • Publisher: New In chess (1 Jan. 2020)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 9056919113
  • ISBN-13: 978-9056919115
  • Product Dimensions: 17 x 2.3 x 23.6 cm

Official web site of New in Chess

The Complete Chess Swindler
The Complete Chess Swindler

Remembering Hugh Blandford (24-i-1917 20-ix-1981)

Hugh Francis Blandford
Hugh Blandford

BCN remembers Hugh Blandford who was a British composer.

Hugh Francis Blandford was born on Wednesday, January 24th in 1917 in South Stoneham, Southampton, Hampshire, England.

On this day Ernest Borgnine was born and an earthquake measuring 6.3 in magnitude struck Anhui Province, China, causing 101 deaths.

Hugh’s father was the Rev Albert Francis Blandford and his mother was Alice Rhoda Crumpton Evans. Hugh had two younger brothers, Philip Thomas. and Evan Arthur.

The family moved to Jamaica and he spent his early childhood there until he was nine years old when they sailed from Kingston, Jamaica with his family to Bristol on board the SS Carare (Elders & Fyffes Line) :

Passenger Manifest (part) for SS Carare , 30th May 1926.
Passenger Manifest (part) for SS Carare , 30th May 1926.

His mother Alice Rhoda Crumpton passed away on 19 July 1964 in Minehead, Somerset, at the age of 79.

His father Rev Albert Francis passed away in December 1967 in Somerset at the age of 79.

He had three children during his marriage to Marjorie Cox.

Thanks to GM Nigel Davies we know that towards the end of his life his lived in Southport, Merseyside. He attended Southport Chess Club. See http://www.arves.org/arves/images/PDF/EG_PDF/eg2.pdf

His postal address was : 12 Clovelly Drive, Hillside, Southport, Lancashire. PR8 3AJ.

HFB's home when living in Southport
HFB’s home when living in Southport

He died in Hatfield, Hertfordshire on Sunday, September 20th, 1981.

Blandford is also known for participating (with Richard Guy and John Roycroft) in defining the GBR (Guy, Blandford Roycroft) code.

In 1961 he was awarded the title of “International Judge of the FIDE for Chess Composition”

CM Bent wrote the following obituary in the British Chess Magazine, Volume CI (101, 1981), Number 12 (December), page 532 :

“The modest and self-effacing composer who formerly conducted our Studies column from 1951-1972 died in September. His work as a metallurgist and his family responsibilities allowed him to make periodical contributions over a long span and to offer us many of his own original compositions.

His style, as with his manner, was essentially quiet and it was a rarity for him to compose anything other than wins.

His last voluntary labour was to compile an index for E.G. of all studies published there to date. His loss to the world of of studies will be greatly felt.

The first prize winner below is a classic of exquisite refinement and matches the immaculate handwriting which was always such an elegant feature of his work”

Studies by Hugh Francis Blandford
Studies by Hugh Francis Blandford
Solutions to studies by Hugh Francis Blandford
Solutions to studies by Hugh Francis Blandford

See more of his compositions here from the arves.org database.

Here is a deleted item from Russell Enterprises

From The Encyclopedia of Chess by Anne Sunnucks :

“British study composer and FIDE Judge of Endgame Studies. Born on 24th January 1917. Since July 1951, Hugh Blandford has conducted the Endings Section of the British Chess Magazine. By profession a metallurgist, he was married and had two children. Of his 60 or more studies he was best known for the excelsior theme.”

From Wikipedia :

“Hugh Francis Blandford (24 January 1917 – 20 September 1981) was a chess endgame composer born in Southampton, England.[1]
He spent several years of his childhood in Jamaica with his father, the Reverend Albert Francis (Frank) Blandford, a Minister in the Congregational church, his mother and two younger brothers, Evan Arthur and Philip Thomas Blandford. All three brothers then returned to England and attended Eltham College (the School for the Sons of Missionaries) in South-east London, while their parents remained in Jamaica. He married Marjorie Cox, whom he had worked with during the Second World War.

He played chess from his schooldays and as well as playing, also started to compose original chess endings. He became known in the field of chess endgame studies for a small but elegant body of compositions, expertly edited and published after Hugh’s death by his long-standing chess endings colleague, John Roycroft.[2]

1st Prize, Springaren 1949, White to move and win
1st Prize, Springaren 1949, White to move and win

Hugh Blandford was co-inventor with Richard Guy – and, later, with John Roycroft – of the Guy–Blandford–Roycroft code for classifying studies.[3] In July 1951 he began as the endgame study editor for the British Chess Magazine.[4][5] He was made an International Judge for Chess Composition[4] in 1961.[6]

A metallurgist, he continued to compose chess endgame studies until the end of his life, dying of a heart attack in early retirement in Hatfield, England, on 20 September 1981.”

Happy Birthday IM Richard Palliser (18-ix-1981)

IM Richard Palliser
IM Richard Palliser

We wish IM Richard Palliser all the very best on his birthday

Richard Julian David Palliser was born September 18th in 1981 in Birmingham, West Midlands. His mother’s maiden name was Hyde.

He became a FIDE Master in 2000 and an International Master in 2001.

Richard Palliser
Richard Palliser

His peak FIDE rating (according to Felice and Megabase 2020) was 2482 in July 2012 at the age of 31.

In 1995 Richard was joint British U13 Champion together with David Hodge and Richard S. Jones.

Palliser was joint (with Danny Gormally) British Rapidplay Chess Champion in 2006. He writes regularly for ChessMoves and “Everyman Chess” who also employ him as an editor and advisor.

Richard represents in matches 4NCL White Rose, York RI, Yorkshire CA, and ‘Eagle and Child’

According to “Play 1.d4!” :

“is an international master and recipient of a special British Chess Federation young player’s award for achievement. In addition to being a very active tournament and match player he also writes regularly for CHESS magazine and other periodicals and is noted for his theoretical knowledge and analytical ability.”

IM Richard Palliser at the King's Place  Rapidplay, 2013.
IM Richard Palliser at the King’s Place Rapidplay, 2013.

According to “tango!” :

“His debut book Play 1.d4! was very well received by critics and the chess public alike”

His handle on the Internet Chess Club is “worcester”.

IM Richard Palliser
IM Richard Palliser

With the White pieces Richard plays 1.d4(!) and the Queen’ Gambit, Exchange Variation is the main weapon of choice.

As the second player Richard plays the Sicilian Najdorf and the King’s Indian Defence.

IM Richard Palliser and IM Jovanka Houska, British Championships, 2019
IM Richard Palliser and IM Jovanka Houska, British Championships, 2019

Richard is Editor of “CHESS” and has authored a number of publications :

Play 1.d4 !, Batsford, 2003
Play 1.d4 !, Batsford, 2003

Palliser, Richard (2005). Tango! A Dynamic Answer to 1 d4. Everyman Chess. ISBN 1-85744-388-8.

Tango! A Dynamic Answer to 1 d4
Tango! A Dynamic Answer to 1 d4

Palliser, Richard (2006). Beating Unusual Chess Openings. Everyman Chess. ISBN 1-85744-429-9.

Beating Unusual Chess Openings
Beating Unusual Chess Openings

Palliser, Richard (2006). Starting Out: Closed Sicilian. Everyman Chess. ISBN 978-1-85744-414-8.

Starting Out: Closed Sicilian
Starting Out: Closed Sicilian

Palliser, Richard (2007). Starting Out: Scilian Najdorf. Everyman Chess. ISBN 978-1-85744-601-2.

Starting Out: Scilian Najdorf
Starting Out: Scilian Najdorf

Palliser, Richard (2007). Starting out: the Colle. Everyman Chess. ISBN 978-1-85744-527-5.

Starting out: the Colle
Starting out: the Colle
The Complete Chess Workout, Everyman, 2007
The Complete Chess Workout, Everyman, 2007

Palliser, Richard; Kosten, Tony; Vigus, James (2008). Dangerous Weapons: Flank Openings. Everyman Chess. ISBN 978-1-85744-583-1.

Dangerous Weapons: Flank Openings
Dangerous Weapons: Flank Openings

Palliser, Richard (2008). Starting out: d-pawn attacks. The Colle-Zukertort, Barry and 150 Attacks. Everyman Chess. ISBN 978-1-85744-578-7.

Starting out: d-pawn attacks
Starting out: d-pawn attacks

Palliser, Richard (2009). Starting Out: the Trompowsky Attack. Everyman Chess. ISBN 978-1-85744-562-6.

Starting Out: the Trompowsky Attack
Starting Out: the Trompowsky Attack

Palliser, Richard; Williams, Simon; Vigus, James (2010). Dangerous Weapons: The Dutch. Everyman Chess. ISBN 978-1-85744-624-1.

Dangerous Weapons: The Dutch
Dangerous Weapons: The Dutch
Dangerous Weapons  : The Caro-Kann, Everyman, 2010
Dangerous Weapons : The Caro-Kann, Everyman, 2010
The Complete Chess Workout II, Everyman, 2012
The Complete Chess Workout II, Everyman, 2012
IM Richard Palliser
IM Richard Palliser

Remembering FM John Littlewood (25-v-1931 16-ix-2009)

FM John Littlewood (25-v-1931 16-ix-2009) Source : BCM, 2009, October
FM John Littlewood (25-v-1931 16-ix-2009). Source : BCM, 2009, October

John Eric Littlewood was born in Sheffield on Wednesday, September 16th 1931. His mother’s maiden name was Wheeldon. He last resided in the WN8 postal area of Skelmersdale, West Lancashire.

He became a FIDE Master in 1989 at the age of 58. According to Felice (and ChessBase) his peak FIDE rating was 2395 in January 1980. However, it is certain that it would have been higher than that, in the 1960s and 1970s : more likely 2450 or possibly higher.

John, Jenny and Paul Littlewood, circa 1962. Kindly supplied by Paul Littlewood.
John, Jenny and Paul Littlewood, circa 1962. Kindly supplied by Paul Littlewood.

He coached his son Paul who became British Champion in 1981. His brother Norman was also a very strong player.

John and Paul on Skegness beach circa 1958. Kindly supplied by Paul Littlewood. George and Ringo are out of shot !
John and Paul on Skegness beach circa 1958. Kindly supplied by Paul Littlewood. George and Ringo are out of shot !

From “Chess Coaching” :

John Littlewood is a National Coach and the Director of Junior Chess to the British Chess Federation. He is a FIDE Master with national and international playing experience, and is an established chess writer, translator and journalist.

03-01-1962 37th Hastings International Chess Congress, 1962. World Champion Mikhail Botvinnik (R) playing against John Littlewood of England
03-01-1962 37th Hastings International Chess Congress, 1962. World Champion Mikhail Botvinnik (R) playing against John Littlewood of England

From “Learn Chess 2

“A British Master, formerly Northern Counties Champion and currently (1984) a National Coach for the British Chess Federation. John Littlewood has played for England in several international tournaments, including two Olympiads”

John Littlewood giving a simultaneous display
John Littlewood giving a simultaneous display

John wrote the “Test Your Chess” column in British Chess Magazine under the editorship of Murray Chandler

John Was Northern Counties Chess Union (NCCU) Champion in 1971, 1972, 1977, 1978, 1979, 1980 and 1981 : a record seven times !

John with chess friends
John with chess friends

John won the Appleby-Frodingham Chess Club tournament in 1962 with 3.5/5 :

Appleby-Frodingham Tournament of 1962 crosstable
Appleby-Frodingham Tournament of 1962 crosstable

and then, in the same year came 3= in the British Championships with 7.5/11 :

Truncated crosstable from the 1962 British Championship in Whitby
Truncated crosstable from the 1962 British Championship in Whitby

and in 1969 in Rhyl John was unfortunate not to share the title with Dr. Jonathan Penrose after losing to Frank Parr in the final round :

Truncated crosstable of the British Championships of Rhyl 1969
Truncated crosstable of the British Championships of Rhyl 1969
John Littlewood at Hastings 1963-4. Still taken from Pathe news reel footage
John Littlewood at Hastings 1963-4. Still taken from Pathe news reel footage
John Littlewood playing Wolfgang Unzicker in round one of the 1969-70 Hastings International Congress
John Littlewood playing Wolfgang Unzicker in round one of the 1969-70 Hastings International Congress

John won the Southport Open in 1972 and the picture below was taken shortly afterwards :

John and family following winning the 1972 Southport Open. See the BCM article below for a full caption
John and family following winning the 1972 Southport Open. See the BCM article below for a full caption

John won the Chorley tournament of 1977 with 7/9

Chorley 1977 tournament crosstable
Chorley 1977 tournament crosstable

JEL won the British Chess Federation’s President’s Award in 2000.

FM John Littlewood at 4NCL courtesy of Helen Milligan
FM John Littlewood at 4NCL courtesy of Helen Milligan

In 2006 John won the BCF Veterans / Seniors title for the first time repeating the feat in 2008 sharing with George Dickson.

With the White pieces John almost exclusively played 1.e4 favouring the Wormald Attack, Open Sicilians and the Rossolimo variation.

As the second player John played the Closed Ruy Lopez, the Sicilian Dragon and the Grünfeld defence.

In the following video IM Andrew Martin discusses the game Bisguier – Littlewood, 1962.

Rather than reinventing an already round wheel we reproduce the following ten page tribute in the October 2009 issue of British Chess Magazine. The tribute is by John Saunders :

British Chess Magazine, Volume CXXIV (129), 2009, Number 10, October, page 536
British Chess Magazine, Volume CXXIV (129), 2009, Number 10, October, page 536
British Chess Magazine, Volume CXXIV (129), 2009, Number 10, October, page 537
British Chess Magazine, Volume CXXIV (129), 2009, Number 10, October, page 537
British Chess Magazine, Volume CXXIV (129), 2009, Number 10, October, page 538
British Chess Magazine, Volume CXXIV (129), 2009, Number 10, October, page 538
British Chess Magazine, Volume CXXIV (129), 2009, Number 10, October, page 539
British Chess Magazine, Volume CXXIV (129), 2009, Number 10, October, page 539
British Chess Magazine, Volume CXXIV (129), 2009, Number 10, October, page 540
British Chess Magazine, Volume CXXIV (129), 2009, Number 10, October, page 540
British Chess Magazine, Volume CXXIV (129), 2009, Number 10, October, page 541
British Chess Magazine, Volume CXXIV (129), 2009, Number 10, October, page 541
British Chess Magazine, Volume CXXIV (129), 2009, Number 10, October, page 542
British Chess Magazine, Volume CXXIV (129), 2009, Number 10, October, page 542
British Chess Magazine, Volume CXXIV (129), 2009, Number 10, October, page 543
British Chess Magazine, Volume CXXIV (129), 2009, Number 10, October, page 543
British Chess Magazine, Volume CXXIV (129), 2009, Number 10, October, page 544
British Chess Magazine, Volume CXXIV (129), 2009, Number 10, October, page 544
British Chess Magazine, Volume CXXIV (129), 2009, Number 10, October, page 545
British Chess Magazine, Volume CXXIV (129), 2009, Number 10, October, page 545

A rather detailed article from Tartajubow on Chess II

Here is how news of his passing was received on the English Chess Forum

Here is an obituary from Leonard Barden in The Guardian

Here is an obituary published in The Times of London

Farewell to John Littlewood : The Lincolnshire Poacher

and, finally a history of JEL from the Yorkshire Chess Archives

FM John Littlewood (25-v-1931 16-ix-2009)
FM John Littlewood (25-v-1931 16-ix-2009)

Here is John’s Wikipedia entry

How to Play the Middle Game in Chess by John Littlewood, Collins, 1974
How to Play the Middle Game in Chess by John Littlewood, Collins, 1974
Chess Coaching by John Littlewood, The Crowood Press, 1991
Chess Coaching by John Littlewood, The Crowood Press, 1991
Learn Chess by Edward Penn and John Littlewood, Pitman House, 1980
Learn Chess by Edward Penn and John Littlewood, Pitman House, 1980
Learn Chess : Teacher's Book,  by Edward Penn & John Littlewood, Pitman House, 1980
Learn Chess : Teacher’s Book, by Edward Penn & John Littlewood, Pitman House, 1980
Learn Chess 2 by John Littlewood, Adam & Charles Black, 1984
Learn Chess 2 by John Littlewood, Adam & Charles Black, 1984
FM John Littlewood (25-v-1931 16-ix-2009)
FM John Littlewood (25-v-1931 16-ix-2009)

Remembering Alexander McDonnell (22-iv-1798 14-ix-1835)

We do not have a reliable image of Alexander McDonnell
We do not have a reliable image of Alexander McDonnell

We remember Alexander McDonnell who died aged 37 on September 14th, 1835 in Tavistock Square, London.

Please note : We have referenced a number of secondary and tertiary sources on AM and they agree on heritage. However, following painstaking research of primary sources by James O’Fee and Tim Harding it has been demonstrated that the father of AM was not Dr. Alexander McDonnell but, in fact, Thomas McDonnell, a merchant.

Also, we do not have a primary source confirming the date of birth. 22-iv-1798 was obtained from the family tree of a distant relative.

Hopefully we will be permitted to publish further details unearthed by James O’Fee

Alexander McDonnell was born on Tuesday, May 22nd 1798 in Belfast, Antrim, Northern Ireland to Dr Alexander McDonnell, age 34. His mother is unknown.

His (half-)brother Robert died (in a riding accident) on 19 July 1818 in Belfast, Antrim, when Alexander was 20 years old. He also had one sister, Eliza (Elizabeth)

From The Oxford Companion to Chess (OUP, 1983) by Hooper & Whyld :

The best player in England around 1830, Born in Belfast, the son of a doctor, he spent some years in the West Indies and later worked in London as
secretary of the Committee of West Indian Merchants. William Lewis, who taught McDonnell in the 1820s, soon found that he could not successfully offer odds of pawn and move to his pupil; but challenged to play even Lewis declined, fearing for his reputation.

From June to October 1834 McDonnell played six matches against La Bourdonnais; of the 85 games that were played McDonnell won 27, drew 13, and lost 45. McDonnell’s lack of experience against strong opponents was a serious handicap. On occasion his combinative play could be brilliant and imaginative, but his opening play (based on Lewis’s teachings) and his technique were inferior. He is described as ‘quiet, reserved, outwardly imperturbable’ with ‘an insular sense of’decorum’, quite different from his extrovert opponent.

Whereas La Bourdonnais played fast and with ease, McDonnell concentrated at length upon his moves and retired from a playing session exhausted, sometimes ‘walking his room the greater part of the night in a dreadful state of excitement’. His contemporaries believed that this long period of stress hastened his death from Bright’s disease. The games were regarded as the finest ever played. They were first published in England where they greatly stimulated interest in the game.

Unlike his great rival, McDonnell died wealthy; besides chess he was interested in political economy on which he wrote half a dozen books or
pamphlets.”

From The Encyclopedia of Chess (Robert Hale, 1970 & 1976) by Anne Sunnucks :

“The greatest player Ireland has ever (1976) produced, McDonnell is remembered mainly for his series of games against La Bourdonnais in 1834 which were described by Morphy as ‘beautiful models of chess strategy’.

The son of a Belfast doctor, McDonnell’s profession of Secretary to the Committee of West India Merchants brought him to London., where he took chess lessons from William Lewis and as a member of the West London Chess Club soon established the reputation of being the strongest amateur of his day. He was also a strong blindfold player.

In 1823 he lost some games against La Bourdonnais. These were probably played in Paris, since there is no record of the players meeting in England. In 1834 La Bourdonnais came to London, and a further contest was arranged. There are a number of conflicting reports on the sub-division of the games into matches,but a total of 84 games were played, of which McDonnell scored +27-44=13 before La Bourdonnais was recalled to Paris on business.

It was intended that the series should be continued, but before this could be arranged McDonnell fell ill with Bright’s disease and died on 14th September 1835.”

From The Encyclopedia of Chess (Batsford, 1983) by Harry Golombek :

“Britain’s leading player before Staunton. McDonnell was Irish born, the son of a Belfast doctor. He was secretary to the Committee of West India Merchants in London. After he studied chess with Lewis, he rose to the front rank of British players.

In 1834 he was engaged in a marathon series of matches with the visiting French champion La Bourdonnais. Five complete matches of varying lengths were played and a sixth was left unfinished, comprising a probable total of 85 games (there is some dispute among chess historians over the details of the final two matches), with the victory going to La Bourdonnais by 45 games to 27 with 13 draws. The standard of play was high and these contests did much to kindle interest in chess in both France and England. McDonnell died the following years of Bright’s disease.”

Edward Winter in Chess Notes writes

From Wikipedia :

“Alexander McDonnell (1798–1835) was an Irish chess master, who contested a series of six matches with the world’s leading player Louis-Charles Mahé de La Bourdonnais in the summer of 1834.

In 1825 he became a pupil of William Lewis, who was then the leading player in Britain. But soon McDonnell had become so good that Lewis, fearing for his reputation, simply refused to play him anymore.

Around 1825–1826, McDonnell played Captain Evans, while the latter was on shore leave in London. McDonnell was beaten with what is now regarded in chess circles as the creation of the Evans Gambit (1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bc4 Bc5 4.b4).[3]

La Bourdonnais matches
Main article: La Bourdonnais – McDonnell chess matches
At that time the world’s strongest player was the French aristocrat Louis-Charles Mahé de La Bourdonnais. Between June and October 1834 La Bourdonnais and McDonnell played a series of six matches, a total of eighty-five games, at the Westminster Chess Club in London. McDonnell won the second match, while La Bourdonnais won first, third, fourth and fifth. The sixth match was unfinished.

In the first game of the third match, McDonnell successfully introduced a new variation in the King’s Gambit (1.e4 e5 2.f4 exf4 3.Nf3 g5 4.Bc4 g4 5.Nc3) known today as the McDonnell Gambit.”

We are not convinced that the photograph above is of AM. We received this reply from Tim Harding :

“I don’t recall ever seeing ANY image that was definitely of him, but I have referred your enquiry to James O’Fee in Belfast who is probably the only person who might know of one.

It doesn’t help that he had in Belfast an almost exact contemporary of the same name (who came to work in Dublin and long outlived the chess player) and there is some issue about which one was the son of a doctor and which the son of a merchant. So even if you found an image online it’s more likely to be of the wrong man.

Unless I am wrong there was never any image of Alexander McDonnell in a chess context.
The main chance would perhaps be in connection with his lobbying for the Demerara planters.

Best wishes
Tim”

There is a darker side to AMs life

‘The Rise and Fall of David Bronstein’ – Genna Sosonko

‘The Rise and Fall of David Bronstein’ – Genna Sosonko.

20 chapters, 17 black and white photos. Foreword by Garry Kasparov which states ‘Bronstein was the first player to propose changing the starting position of the pieces’. Now, is that really correct? But the former World No.1 gives the book the thumbs-up adding: ‘Soviet reality was so complicated’. Now, that I do agree with!

First published in 2014 in Russian, this is a more recent translation of rather a sad book. In what way ‘sad’? Well, Davy B (1924-2006) was obviously a top chesser but the stress of World Championship matches – he drew a match for the crown with Botvinnik in 1951 – meant that the remainder of his life was spent trying to explain, regroup and, above all, recover. None of the games of the match are given; in fact, no games are given at all.

It all began sadly. Dad was seven years in the Gulag. Davy narrowly escaped the Holocaust. The author is at some pains to explain his subject and I believe Sosonko has succeeded. Bronstein blamed his baldness (“I gave my hair” he told me) on the life he was obliged to live.

Chess.com on Twitter: "The great David Bronstein was born on this day in 1924 🗓️. Few have more narrowly missed the world championship title than Bronstein when he drew a match with

Ridiculously overpriced – the cover price is £24.15 – the book, one of a series, tells the tale of a gentleman sent mad by a board game whilst war raged. His writings are given generous praise but his riches lay in his games and wonderful annotations. Here we get none of this.

I met David a couple of times, in London and then Hastings, just after the second Fischer-Spassky match. We got on well. I had always dreamt of meeting the Soviet GM so this was a treat that nothing could spoil beyond everyday comparison. I wrote about it – twice, I think – so repeating much of it here about 30 years later is not going to happen.

The Sosonko text contains dozens of classical references to foreign authors chessers are not going to have heard of. Much is delivered verbatim. Bronstein, a born raconteur, told stories far into his old age when much of chess was lost to him. Having heard one or two, I can assert Sosonko has the patience, background and great love of the game; in short an excellent amanuensis. And you won’t get far into the book without encountering irrelevance heaped upon irrelevance.

The publishers website contains a 12 page PDF which I hope you’ll find revealing.  I did not like this book. I doubt David Bronstein would have liked it either.

The author is a Dutch, formerly Soviet, Grandmaster.

(Also see ‘American Chess Magazine’ No.7, p.122 and Richard James’s review of same penned on this site last May).
  • Paperback: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Limited Liability Company Elk and Ruby Publishing House (10 Aug. 2017)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 5950043316
  • ISBN-13: 978-5950043314
  • Product Dimensions: 12.9 x 1.6 x 19.8 cm.

chessparrot

James Pratt  (on the right!)

Basingstoke 09/20

Happy Birthday WGM Anya Sun Corke (12-ix-1990)

WGM Anya Sun Corke
WGM Anya Sun Corke

We wish happy birthday to WGM Anya Sun Corke on her birthday.

Anya Sun Corke was born in California, USA on Wednesday, September 12th 1990.

In 2013, Anya graduated from Wellesley College summa cum laude with a B.A. in Russian and Philosophy

She became a woman’s Grandmaster in 2004.

Her peak FIDE rating (according to Felice) was 2301 in October 2008.

FIDE rating profile of WGM Anya Sun Corke
FIDE rating profile of WGM Anya Sun Corke

With the white pieces Anya played the Queen’s Gambit and Trompowski Attack

As the second player Anya played the Sicilian Kan, French Rozentalis (3.Nc3 Nc6) and the Grünfeld Defence.

Anya won outright the 2007 Budapest First Saturday FM tournament :

Budapest First Saturday FM Tournament, 2007
Budapest First Saturday FM Tournament, 2007

She gave up competitive chess in 2014.

An almost miniature from the 2006 British Championship :

From Wikipedia :

“Anya Sun Corke (born 12 September 1990 in California, USA) is an English chess player holding the title of Woman Grandmaster (WGM). She played for Hong Kong, where she was the top ranked chess player, until 2009.[1]

Corke earned the WGM title with her performance in the 36th Chess Olympiad, playing for the Hong Kong men’s team.[2][3]

She was the 2004, 2005, 2006 and 2008 Hong Kong National Champion (for men and women), one of the youngest national champions ever at the age of 13 years and 9 months.

She was the British Junior Under-11 Champion in 2002[4] and the Under-12 Champion in 2003,[5] the first girl to win either of these age groups. In 2004, she became joint British U-14 Champion.[6]

In December 2004, she won the Asian Youth Girls U-14 Championship in Singapore.[7]

In August 2005, she jointly won with Alisa Melekhina and Abby Marshall the second annual Susan Polgar National Invitational for Girls under-19.[8]

Corke represented the England Women’s team at the 2012 Chess Olympiad in Istanbul, Turkey,[9][10] and the 2013 European Team Championship in Warsaw, Poland.[11]

In 2013, she graduated from Wellesley College summa cum laude with a B.A. in Russian and Philosophy.[12][13]

In 2014, she started a Ph.D. program in Slavic Languages and Literatures at Yale University.”

WGM Anya Sun Corke
WGM Anya Sun Corke

Best Wishes FM William Claridge-Hansen (11-ix-1999)

FM William Claridge-Hansen, British Championships 2019, courtesy of John Upham Photography
FM William Claridge-Hansen, British Championships 2019, courtesy of John Upham Photography

We wish FM William Claridge-Hansen all the best on his birthday.

William Joseph Claridge-Hansen was born on Saturday, September 11th in 1999 in Chesham in the registration district of Chiltern, Buckinghamshire.

“Mambo No 5 (A Little Bit of …)” by Lou Bega was top of the UK singles chart.

William learnt chess at the age of 5 and his father Hans-Peter, is a strong county player having been over 200ECF for a number of years.

William is a keen table-tennis player as is his chess playing brother, Douglas.

Whilst living in Chartridge William attended Great Missenden Church of England School and whilst there was selected for England :

William Claridge-Hansen. Source : Bucks Free Press
William Claridge-Hansen. Source : Bucks Free Press

William attends The University of Exeter and resides in London.

William plays for Exeter University, Buckinghamshire CCA and 4NCL Oxfordshire and has a current ECF grading for 230B and a FIDE rating of 2290 for standard play.

His first BCF / ECF grading was 63D in July 2008 aged 8.

William Claridge-Hansen, Southern Gigafinal, 2012, courtesy of John Upham Photography
William Claridge-Hansen, Southern Gigafinal, 2012, courtesy of John Upham Photography

His first title was to win the West of England Junior (U12 Challengers) in 2008 with 5.5/6 and followed by sharing the British U8 title with Mark Kenyon & Rohan Shiatis. In the following year William shared the British U10 title with future IM Matthew Wadsworth

He was rapidly recruited to the AMCA (Andrew Martin Chess Academy) 4NCL squad and quickly climbed the board order within the squad. The AMCA squad morphed into the BCM (British Chess Magazine) squad.

FIDE rating profile for FM William Claridge-Hansen
FIDE rating profile for FM William Claridge-Hansen

In 2013 William won (with 6/7) the British U-13 Championship in Torquay.

In 2015 William became a FIDE Master.

In 2016 William was British U-18 Champion and now had an ECF grading of 220. He scored 7/11 in the British Championship.

By now William was playing for Oxford in the Four Nations Chess League.

With the white pieces William plays the English Opening with an early king side fianchetto.

As the second player William plays the Hyper Accelerated Dragon and the Queen’s Indian Defence so clearly a student of the Hypermodern School of the 1920s!

FM William Claridge-Hansen, British Championships 2019, courtesy of John Upham Photography
FM William Claridge-Hansen, British Championships 2019, courtesy of John Upham Photography

Openings for Amateurs – Next Steps

Openings for Amateurs - Next Steps
Openings for Amateurs – Next Steps

‘Openings for Amateurs – Next Steps’ – Pete Tamburro (Mongoose Press 2020). 5 sections. Amusing cartoon cover. Rabars.

This is the sequel to Openings For Amateurs ~ see below ~ which was written by the same author and published by the same publisher in 2014.

Openings for Amateurs
Openings for Amateurs

Since that time British Chess Magazine has published many monthly columns by Pete Tamburro, a US writer of vast experience and understanding with, I might add, a reference library as large as any ocean. He is a brilliant teacher, respectful of his material, his many students and of the past, in which he revels. The book has been favourably reviewed on Amazon.

Pete Tamburro
Pete Tamburro

He divides his material according to openings:

Open Games, Semi-Open Games, Closed Games, Isolated Queen’s Pawn games and Queen’s Pawn Majority Openings. Some (random) examples: Smith-Morra Gambit, Missed opportunities to play … d5, the Two Knights Defense (“Let’s look at the Ng5 matter first”), Petroff’s (” .. equal positions do not mean drawn positions .. “), the Wormald and Worrall Attack with George Thomas at the controls and so on.

He asks ‘How many games have you played when you made the right move one or two turns too late?.’ So there is philosophy here too and humour is not forgotten: though never intrudes.

Sixty-nine games are presented featuring encounters from almost every available decade including several visitors from the Nineteenth Century: Blackburne, Anderssen, Steinitz, Paulsen, Kieseritzky prowl these pages along with, for example, Adams, McShane and Hawkins. Is anybody forgotten? Not that I spotted. Is it necessary to have studied the first (2014) volume beforehand? For the stronger – Elo 1850+ – player, I would think not. Clearly it wouldn’t hurt, especially for the inexperienced or junior player. A pleasant checklist, a mere closing page, offers 20 tips to improve your rating by 100 points. Useful, useful.

A closing chapter, ‘Final Thoughts’ sees the author lapsing into autobiography, his lessons from Gulko, his bucket list and colleagues and so on. In sum, a sympathetic book. I hope it sells well.

The author is a veteran American chess man like no other. And he has written for the Kasparov Chess Foundation.

James Pratt
James Pratt

James Pratt, Basingstoke, Hampshire, September 10th, 2020

  • Paperback 280 pages
  • Publisher Mongoose Press, 1005 Boylston St., Suite 324, Newton Highlands, MA 02461, USA. (04/20)
  • Language English
  • ISBN-10 1936277948
  • ISBN=13 978-1936277940
  • Product Dimensions: 15.24 x 1.91 x 22.86 cm
  • Kindle £11.35   Paper £18.89.
Openings for Amateurs - Next Steps
Openings for Amateurs – Next Steps

Remembering IM Imre (Mirko) König (2-ix-1901 9-ix-1992)

IM Imre (Mirko) König (2-ix-1901 9-ix-1992). Source : The Anglo-Soviet Radio Chess Match
IM Imre (Mirko) König (2-ix-1901 9-ix-1992). Source : The Anglo-Soviet Radio Chess Match

We remember IM Imre (Mirko) König on the anniversary of his death, this day (September 9th) in 1992.

His “obituary” in British Chess Magazine, Volume 112, Number 11 (November), page 542 was disappointingly brief :

“RIP Imre König : The great veteran died on 9 September at his home in California. Our last link with the Hypermoderns is broken – he associated with Réti in the 1920s.” There was no detailed follow-up as you might expect.

From The Anglo-Soviet Radio Chess Match by E.Klein and W.Winter :

“Born in 1901 in Hungary when it still belonged to the old pre-World War I Austria, spent most of his life in Vienna, where he became a promising player at an early age. After World War I and the various geographical adjustments in the map of Europe, he became Yugoslav by nationality and represented that country three times in international team tournaments.

He has competed in a great number of international tournaments, some of them in this country, where he has lived since 1938. He won the Premier Reserves at Hastings, 1938, in a strong international field, finished fourth and fifth with the late Landau at Bournemouth, 1939, and shared first and second prizes with Milner-Barry in the National Chess Centre tournament, 1939. His last performance was in the London International Tournament, 1946, where he shared fourth, fifth and sixth places with Sir George Thomas and Gerald Abrahams. He is now a professional player.

König’s special strength lies in the openings, of which he has a deep knowledge.”

Imre König
Imre König

From The Encyclopedia of Chess (Robert Hale, 1970 & 1976) by Anne Sunnucks :

“International Master (1951). Born in Kula, Hungary (now Serbia). König became a Yugoslav citizen when the territory in which he lived was ceded to Yugoslavia after the First World War. In 1938 he emigrated to England and became a naturalised British subject in 1949. He found that the English climate affected his health and in 1953 went to live in the USA.

König learnt to play chess when he was 10. In 1920, while studying at Vienna University, he met Spielmann, Tartakover and Réti, and became became interested in the hypermodern school of chess, which they represented.

IM Imre (Mirko) König (2-ix-1901 9-ix-1992)
IM Imre (Mirko) König (2-ix-1901 9-ix-1992)

He played for Yugoslavia in the chess Olympiads of 1931 and 1935 and came 2nd in the Yugoslav national tournament of 1922. His results in international tournaments include =4th at Bournemouth 1939; =4th at London 1946 and 2nd at Hastings 1948-49. These results do not do justice to his strength as a player. He was handicapped by a poor temperament for tournament chess, which prevented him from achieving greater success in the international field.

IM Imre (Mirko) König (2-ix-1901 9-ix-1992)
IM Imre (Mirko) König (2-ix-1901 9-ix-1992)

A chess professional, König was a first-class teacher of the game (Anne was a student of his), as well as being a leading theoretician. He is author of The Queen’s Indian Defence (Pitman, 1947) and Chess from Morphy to Botvinnik (Bell, 1951).”

From The Encyclopedia of Chess (Batsford, 1977) by Harry Golombek :

“An international master since 1951, born at Gyula in Austro-Hungary. After the first world war König became a Yugoslav citizen and represented that country in the Olympiads of 1931 and 1935. He emigrated to England in 1938 and was naturalised in 1949. Since 1953 he has resided in the USA. Tournament results include 2nd prize at Hastings 1948/9. His publications include a monograph on the Queen’s Indian Defence, London 1947, and a longer work, Chess from Morphy to Botvinnik, London, 1951 ”

Hooper & Whyld are silent on König for some strange reason.

From Wikipedia :

“Imre König (Koenig) aka Mirko Kenig (Sept 2, 1901, Gyula, Hungary – 1992, Santa Monica, California) was a Hungarian chess master.

He was born in Gyula, Hungary, and also lived in Austria, England and the USA during the troubled times between the two world wars.

In 1921, he took 2nd in Celje. In 1920s König played in several tournaments in Vienna; he was 3rd in 1921, 14th in 1922 (Akiba Rubinstein won), 3rd-4th in 1925, 4-5th in 1926 (Rudolf Spielmann won), and 3rd-5th in 1926. He took 12th in Rogaška Slatina (Rohitsch-Sauerbrunn) in 1929. The event was won by Rubinstein. In 1929/30, he took 7th in Vienna (Hans Kmoch and Spielmann won). In 1931, he took 4th in Vienna (Albert Becker won). In 1936, he tied for 6-7th in Novi Sad (Vasja Pirc won). In 1937, he tied for 2nd-4th in Belgrade (Vasilije Tomović won).

Mirko Kenig represented Yugoslavia in the 4th Chess Olympiad at Prague 1931 (+5 –1 =2), the 6th Chess Olympiad at Warsaw 1935 (+5 –2 =8),[2] and in 3rd unofficial Chess Olympiad at Munich 1936 (+7 –4 =7).”

“In 1938, Imre König emigrated to England. In 1939, he tied for 4-5th in Bournemouth (Max Euwe won), and shared 1st with Philip Stuart Milner-Barry in Hampstead. In 1946, he took 4th in London. In 1948/49, he took 2nd, behind Nicolas Rossolimo, in the Hastings International Chess Congress.

In 1949, he became a naturalized British citizen. However, in 1953 he moved to the United States.

König was awarded the International Master title in 1951.”

Queen's Indian Defence, König, Pitman, 1947
Queen’s Indian Defence, König, Pitman, 1947
Chess from Morphy to Botwinnik by Imre König
Chess from Morphy to Botwinnik by Imre König
Chess from Morphy to Botwinnik by Imre König
Chess from Morphy to Botwinnik by Imre König
The Right Way to Play Chess
The Right Way to Play Chess
Imre König by John Donaldson
Imre König by John Donaldson

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