Minor Pieces 25: Edmund Elias Humphreys

It’s a good day for any chess club when a player strong enough to play on top board turns up at your door. When he brings his three strong chess playing sons with him as well it must be something rather special.

That’s what happened at Twickenham Chess Club in 1891 when the Humphreys family moved into the area.

Edmund Elias Humphreys had been born in Chelsea in 1831. He married Louisa Telfer in 1854 and the young couple settled in Hackney, North East London. At some point in the mid 1860s they moved south to Clapham. Edmund was a senior clerk working for the Civil Service Commissioners, so the family were quite well off.

Edmund was a keen and pretty strong chess player back then. In 1862 he was a member of St James’ Club, where his opponents included Alexander Sich, and by the early 1870s he was playing at the City of London Club, giving odds to most of his opponents in handicap tournaments. Rod Edwards suggest he was round about 2000 strength: a decent county standard player. As you’d expect, he taught his sons (and perhaps also his daughters) to play his favourite game.

Unlike, for example, Arthur Makinson Fox, the family never stayed at the same address very long, and by the time of the 1891 census they’d moved to Teddington Park, just off Waldegrave Road, where their daughter Louisa junior was living with her husband and large family, and where, a few years later, Noël Coward would be born. (Confusingly, Teddington Park and Teddington Park Road are both turnings off Waldegrave Road.) Edmund and Louisa’s household was completed by their three youngest children, a niece and two servants.

Edmund’s oldest surviving son, Edmund Walter Humphreys, had been born in 1860. By 1891 he was working as an accountant, was married with two daughters and living in New Malden, not very far from the station, from where a short train journey would take him to Teddington and Twickenham. IM Gavin Wall now lives on the same estate.

Herbert Arthur Humphreys was born in 1864, and was still at home with his parents in 1891. Rather unexpectedly, he was working as a seedsman, and would later become a market gardener.

The youngest son was born Frederick Thomas Hudson Humphreys in 1869, but seems to have been known as F H Humphreys. He was also living at home in 1891, with his occupation listed as ‘None’. In those days when work for a young man from that background was easy to come by, this suggests he may have had some sort of health problem.

The first Twickenham chess record currently available for them is a match against Acton later in 1891. Perhaps they’d all joined the club for the start of the season.

Acton Gazette 7 November 1891

Here, we see Edmund Elias winning his game on top board, playing ahead of club stars Arthur Makinson Fox, George Edward Norwood Ryan and Wallace Britten, with Herbert and Edmund junior also in the team.

In 1893 Twickenham visited the British Chess Club, where they were facing stronger opposition than expected.

London Evening Standard 24 January 1893

It sounds from the report that the British Chess Club were planning to recruit whoever was there at the time to play in the match, and, by chance, a lot of strong players turned up. Their top five boards were all of genuine master standard (and all worthy of future posts, as indeed is Mr Hewitt) so it’s not surprising this proved a bridge too far for the Twickenham chess players. It looks very much like the 1890s equivalent of a London League match against Wood Green.

The life of the BCC top board is celebrated here.

Streatham and Brixton chess chronicler Martin Smith wrote about the BCC’s fourth board here.

You will note that Edmund senior wasn’t playing, but that Herbert had been promoted to top board, with Edmund junior and Frederick lower down.

If you’ve been paying attention you’ll already have seen our next exhibit.

Surrey Comet 27 May 1893

Here, we see Herbert, who seems to have been the strongest of the three brothers, taking a half point off Joseph Blackburne in a simul.

Moving on to 1894, here’s a match between Twickenham and the City of London Club’s second team.

London Evening Standard 12 February 1894

A narrow win for the good guys, then, and a few interesting new names in the Twickenham team to whom we’ll return in future articles. (No, before you ask, GP James isn’t related to me.)

You’ll spot Edmund senior back on top board, with Frederick also playing, but Edmund junior and Herbert not in the team.

It seems the Humphreys family didn’t stay very long in Teddington as that’s the last we see of them locally.

By 1901 they’d moved across South London to Sydenham where Edmund Elias Humphreys, at the age of 69, was now the Manager of a Public Company (Corporation?) and Stock Exchange Jobber. Louisa and their unmarried daughter Florence were there, along with three granddaughters, perhaps just paying them a visit, and two servants.

Herbert had by now married, and was a market gardener out in Farnham, Surrey, and Frederick was nowhere to be found.

They were still in Sydenham in 1911: Edmund had now retired, and would die later that year.  Florence was still there, along with a granddaughter and, again, two servants. There’s a possible death record for Louisa in 1915.

One more question: what happened to Frederick? We can make a rather sad speculation. There’s a death record for a Frederick H Humphreys of the right age recorded in Epsom in the first quarter of 1917. Epsom, as you may know, is the home of a number of psychiatric hospitals, or lunatic asylums as they were called in those days. Perhaps this was our man, also providing a possible explanation for his lack of employment in 1891. Nobody seems to know.

The story of the Humphreys family and their brief membership of Twickenham Chess Club takes us up to the mid 1890s, when chess in our Borough would undergo a significant transformation. But there’s one more, very significant, name to investigate first.

You’ll find out more in future Minor Pieces. Don’t you dare miss them.

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Mastering Chess Logic

Mastering Chess Logic, Joshua Sheng, Guannan Song, Everyman Chess, 10th September 2021, ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-1781946237
Mastering Chess Logic, Joshua Sheng, Guannan Song, Everyman Chess, 10th September 2021, ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-1781946237

Here is the publishers blurb from the rear cover :

“What exactly makes the greatest players of all time, such as Magnus Carlsen, Bobby Fischer, and Garry Kasparov stand out from the rest? The basic aspects of chess (calculation, study of opening theory, and technical endgame ability) are of course of great importance. However, the more mysterious part of chess ability lies within the thought process.”

In particular: * How does one evaluate certain moves to be better than others? * How does one improve their feel of the game? This book will tackle this woefully underexplored aspect of chess: the logic behind the game. It will explain how chess works at a fundamental level. Topics include:

  • What to think about when evaluating a position.
  • How to formulate and execute plans.
  • How to generate and make use of the initiative.

The reader also has plenty of opportunities to test their decision-making by attempting 270 practical exercises. These are mostly designed to develop understanding, as the justification of the moves is more important than the actual correct answer.”

and about the authors :

Guannan Song is a FIDE Master with one International Master norm from Canada. He won the 2010 Canadian Youth Chess Championship and scored bronze at the 2015 North American Junior Chess Championships. He also played for Team Canada at the 2010 World Youth Chess Championship and the 2014 World Youth U16 Chess Olympiad. He represents Western University on board 1 of its Championship team and led his team to 2nd place at the 2019 Canadian University Chess Championship.

Joshua Sheng Joshua Sheng is an International Master with one Grandmaster norm from Santa Monica, California. He tied for first in the 2016 North American Junior Chess Championships and placed third in the 2019 U.S. Junior Chess Championships. He graduated from the University of California, Berkeley, in 2021. Joshua has been a serious chess coach for many years, and this is his first book.

As with every recent Everyman Chess publication high quality paper is used and the printing is clear. Each diagram is clear as is the instructional text. Figurine algebraic notation is used throughout and the diagrams are placed adjacent to the relevant text.

The book consists of six chapters viz:

  1. Building Blocks
  2. Know What You Have
  3. Mise en Place
  4. The Big Game
  5. Beginning and End
  6. Solutions

A video review has appeared on YouTube.

Before going further you may Look Inside via Amazon.

 

The authors might not be very well known to you, so perhaps we should find out more.

The publishers tell us that ‘Joshua has been a serious chess coach for many years’ and that ‘Guannan is an experienced chess coach’.  But according to FIDE Joshua was born in 2000 and Guannan in 1998. They haven’t been alive many years, let alone been serious chess coaches for many years. Some of us have been teaching chess (although in my case not very seriously) since 1972. Not only before they were born,  but perhaps even before their parents were born.

Let’s give them the benefit of the doubt and take a look inside.

From the authors’ introduction:

This book will be arranged primarily into sections where games will be analysed and your authors will talk. The talking and exposition will predominantly be done in the first person to ease communication. The beliefs and opinions held will generally be shared by both authors, although the primary voice will be Joshua’s. At the end of each of the first four chapters, there will be 30 practical exercises intending to reinforce your  understanding of the relevant topics. Chapter 5 will consist of another 150 exercises representing a more comprehensive synthesis of the explored material and are designed to test your overall knowledge and understanding. For the most part, we have intentionally avoided mentioning the end result or the game continuation after the point of interest from those exercises, as doing so might distract the reader from the primary point of them – developing your understanding. What matters is the decision-making process at the critical position shown in each puzzle.

What we have here is a book aimed mainly, I would say, at players between about 1500 and 2000 strength, although many of the puzzles demonstrate much stronger players making poor decisions.

It’s relatively easy, I suppose, to write books about openings, tactics or endings, but strategy, being a rather nebulous topic, is much harder to write about.

Other recent books, for example those by Erik Kislik, have discussed logic in chess, but these have, for the most part, been aimed at higher rated players.

There have been other books looking at strategy at this level – an excellent and much quoted example is Michael Stean’s book Simple Chess. The authors have also used Jeremy Silman’s rightly popular How to Reassess your Chess and make frequent references to imbalances in their explanatory material. These days we’re very much into interactive learning, so we expect quizzes to be incorporated so that we can test our understanding of the book’s content.

This book, then, looks like it fills a gap in the market as an interactive instructional book on logic and strategy for club standard players.

The first chapter, Building Blocks, introduces the reader to some basic concepts: material (including compensation), piece activity, piece improvement, pawn structure and space. In each case a few simple examples are provided, which are aimed more at 1500 than 2000 rated players.

Then, we move onto some quiz questions to test your understanding. All the puzzle positions in this book have been taken from games played between 2019 and 2021, so it’s very unlikely that you’ll have seen many – or any – of them before.

Here’s the first question, with Black to play (Arabidze – Jojua, Tblisi 2019). What would you recommend?

The answer (in part):

20… Bh6!

Black finds a great opportunity to force a trade of dark-squared bishops, getting rid of his weak blunted piece on g7 and its strong counterpart on e3. A lax move like 20… Ke7? would lose the opportunity to trade bishops after 21. Bf2. 

Of course you also have to see that Bxc4 fails tactically. There’s an assumption throughout the book that you have a reasonable level of tactical ability.

Chapter 2, Know What You Have, looks at positional evaluations. The authors use the acronym MAPS (Material, Activity, Pawn structure and king Safety) to lead you to your desired destination. This is taught by means of four games. We have Botvinnik – Capablanca (Netherlands 1938), which, if you’ve read a lot of chess books, you’ll have seen many times before, followed by Geller – Euwe (Zurich 1953), which again you may well have seen on many previous occasions. The chapter concludes with two recent games played by Joshua Sheng.

In Q35 (Grinberg – Ipatov, chess.com 2021) it’s again Black’s move.

In this instance Black got it wrong.

17… Be5?

Black protects his d6-pawn but gives away his two-bishop advantage. 17… Re6! was a greatly superior way to continue. A subsequent …Qe8 would place insurmountable pressure on e4. After 18. Rbd1 Qe8 19. Qb3 b5 20. Bxd6 c4 Black retains the bishop pair, recovers the pawn on the next move, and maintains pressure on White’s position.

Chapter 3, Mise En Scene, talks about identifying candidate moves, using a combination of calculation and evaluation. So they’re been reading Kotov as well as Silman, then? This time we have five example games: three from Sheng, plus Fischer – Spassky 1972 Game 6 (like Botvinnik – Capablanca, one of the most anthologised games of all time) and Tal – Rantanen from 1979.

In Chapter 4, The Big Game, we look at the initiative. The games are Kasparov – Andersson from 1981, Hydra – Ponomariov from 2005, and another three from Sheng.

Here’s one of them. (Click on any move for a pop-up window.)

Chapter 5 offers the reader 150 puzzles based on the lessons from earlier in the book.

Here’s another question: Q243 (Wall – Greet, Dublin 2019). It’s Black’s move again.

This is yet another question to do with trading bishops. Here, Richmond top board IM Gavin Wall chose to trade off his bad bishop, but this time he was mistaken.

19. Bc1?

At a glance, White holds a space advantage and control over the c-file. However, with this move, White starts to remove important defenders from his d4-pawn, giving Black a way back into the game. Though it looks like White is trading away a bad bishop for Black’s good bishop, the white bishop on b2 is actually a strong defensive piece. Better was 19. Bd3!, preparing h3-g4 or Nc3-Bxf5-Nxd5.

There’s a lot to admire about this book. There are very few books of this nature on the market providing interactive strategic instruction for club level players. As a 1900-2000 player myself I thought it was pitched at the right level for me, and would be accessible, if challenging, for ambitious and hard-working players from, say, 1500 upwards. The positions have been expertly chosen and the solutions are well explained giving just the right level of detail.

Having said that, introducing Chapters 2-4 through a seemingly fairly random selection of games (a combination of old chestnuts which many readers will have seen before and games by one of the authors) is not the only way to approach this topic. A different approach would have been to provide more specific advice and demonstrate some worked examples with more detailed explanations of thought processes before moving onto the quiz questions.

Again, another approach to questioning which would make the book more suitable for 1500 strength players (but perhaps less suitable for 2000 strength players) would have been to ask leading questions or provide multiple choices rather than just asking you for the next move.

The authors write engagingly and annotate well: I look forward to reading more from them in the future. If the concept appeals, and you think from the examples that it’s written at the right level for you, this book can be warmly recommended. As usual from Everyman, the publishing standards are exemplary.

 

Richard James, Twickenham 18th January 2022

Richard James
Richard James

Book Details :

  • Paperback : 256 pages
  • Publisher: Everyman Chess (10 Sept. 2021)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 178194623X
  • ISBN-13: 978-1781946237
  • Product Dimensions: 17.15 x 1.5 x 24.18 cm

Official web site of Everyman Chess

Mastering Chess Logic, Joshua Sheng, Guannan Song, Everyman Chess, 10th September 2021, ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-1781946237
Mastering Chess Logic, Joshua Sheng, Guannan Song, Everyman Chess, 10th September 2021, ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-1781946237
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Movers and Takers: A Chess History of Streatham and Brixton 1871-2021

From the Introduction:

Movers and Takers is the 150-year story of Streatham and Brixton Chess Club, and of chess in our neighbourhood.

It begins with two separate clubs in Victorian times – one in north Brixton, the other in Streatham – amid the outburst of enthusiasm for chess in the expanding suburbs. The two clubs amalgamated half way through the story. Movers and Takers charts the cycles of ups and downs, the periods of feast and famine, the championship victories, and the dismal defeats of these clubs over a century and a half up to the present day.

You will meet the characters who made up the club during its long journey. There have been strong players who changed the club’s fortunes before they moved on. And there have been many average ones, who have yet been the lifeblood of the club, devoted to their passion, who sustained it through thick and thin. You will also meet players who, though not members, have passed through our neighbourhood while leaving their footprint on the wider chess landscape. They may grab our attention for that they did off the board as much as on it.

 

Streatham and Brixton Chess Club celebrated its 150th birthday last year, and one of their members, Martin Smith, has written a history of chess in that part of South London, taking the club through the Victorian era, two world wars, the English Chess Explosion and into a global pandemic.

The book was written for The Streatham Society, a local amenity group whose publications include volumes on local history, so its target market is residents and historians as much as chess players. There is, however, a selection of games at the end, roughly one for each decade of the club’s history, featuring a wide range of players, from world champions down to small children.

The current club traces its history to a club in North Brixton, originally named Endeavour, which appears to have been founded in 1871. By 1875 it was already considered one of the strongest suburban clubs, although at the time, in the very early days of chess clubs outside city centres, it was very much weaker than those in central London. It then went into hibernation for a few years before starting up again in 1879 and, within a few years, dropping Endeavour and becoming just Brixton Chess Club.

The club thrived, and was, albeit with some ups and downs recorded here, a powerful force in Surrey chess up to the First World War and on into the 1920s and beyond.

Brixton’s more genteel suburban neighbour, Streatham, acquired its chess club in 1886, but for much of its history it was not as strong as its more northerly counterpart. But by the 1930s, while Brixton’s fortunes were fading, Streatham was flourishing. Both clubs suspended activities during the Second World War, and, once competitive chess resumed, they agreed to merge, becoming the Streatham and Brixton club well known today in Surrey, London and national chess circles.

Martin Smith’s book offers an engrossing whistle-stop tour of 150 years of South London chess history. We meet a lot of famous people who have pushed pawns in this part of our capital, whether as residents, club members or visiting simul givers, from the likes of Staunton and Lasker, through to Harry Golombek in the inter-war years and Ray Keene in the 1960s, and then the likes of Julian Hodgson and Daniel King from the club’s more recent glory days. We also meet a variety of colourful characters such as occultist Aleister Crowley and Broadmoor problemist Walter Stephens, as well as a whole host of devoted administrators and organisers, the often unsung heroes who are the backbone of any successful club.

The Felce dynasty were prominent as organisers in Surrey chess for three generations. Here’s Harold, their strongest player, defending coolly against an unsound sacrifice to score a notable victory against the great Sultan Khan. Click on any more to display the game in a pop-up window.

The author does an excellent job of placing the club within its local community. We learn about the changing role of chess in society through the Victorian era and how this was reflected in the growth of clubs such as Brixton and the development of leagues in London and Surrey. There’s also a lot about the girls and women who played chess in the area: there were a surprising number, from Vera Menchik through to 1960s girl star Linda Bott (seen, below, at the age of 8) and beyond. Junior chess in general, of course, plays a big part in the latter half of the story: we learn about the popularity of chess in local schools, the pioneering books for young children written by Ray Bott and Stanley Morrison, and the sterling work done by Nigel Povah (whose grandfather was a prominent Streatham administrator) in coaching top juniors and introducing them to the club.

I wonder whether Linda’s 20th move in this game was an oversight (it’s very easy to miss backward diagonal moves) or a move displaying precocious tactical awareness. Only she would know.

Works like this are important in explaining the background behind club chess, and, if the subject appeals, this book won’t fail to please. You might see it as complementing my Minor Pieces articles, particularly those involved with Richmond and Twickenham players, and, given that Martin and I have discussed our respective ideas over several pints during the course of his research, you’ll understand where we’re both coming from. It’s very well written and copiously illustrated throughout: the expertly chosen photographs and press cuttings add enormously to the story.

I’m sure it would have been easy (perhaps even easier) for Martin to have written a book two or three times its length, and as a chess player you’d perhaps like to have seen more chess as well, but, given the limitations of writing primarily for a non-chess playing readership, he has done an outstanding job in compressing the story into a relatively short volume. Perhaps he might consider an expanded version for private publication.

I did spot a few minor mistakes: misspelt or incorrect names and incorrect dates, for example, but this won’t spoil your enjoyment of the book. Strongly recommended for anyone with any interest at all in the history of British – and London – chess over the past 150 years.

If you’d like to buy a copy, the book can be ordered by providing a postal address to SFChess@btinternet.com, who will provide a/c details for payment of £12.50 plus £2.50 P&P.

Richard James, Twickenham 14 January 2022

Richard James

  • Published: November 2021
  • Publisher: Local History Publications for The Streatham Society in association with Streatham and Brixton Chess Club.
  • Softcover 116 pages (A4)
  • ISBN 978 1 910722 17 6
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Minor Pieces 24: Arthur Makinson Fox

There was good news for Twickenham Chess Club in January 1889. A victory against Acton gave them an impressive 100% record for the season.

We note a new name among the winners: as well as a Bull (here and here) we now have a Fox to add to the menagerie.

Morning Post 28 January 1889

Eighteen months later, and Mr A M Fox was by now winning every game in the handicap tournament off scratch. Twickenham was one of the strongest suburban chess clubs, and Mr Fox was perhaps their strongest player, which suggests that he was pretty useful.

Morning Post 23 June 1890

His full name was Arthur Makinson Fox, born in Dorchester, Dorset in 1863, the son and grandson of Congregational Ministers, although his father, Joseph Makinson Fox, converted to the Church of England in 1886. An uncle, Daniel Makinson Fox, was a railway engineer who led the construction of the São Paulo railway, and one of Arthur’s brothers, John Ernest Ravenscroft Fox, was a landscape artist.

Arthur shared an occupation with Robert Davy Ganthony: the 1881 census found him in Dudley, Worcestershire, articled to a dentist. It appears that, in those days, training to be a dentist required an apprenticeship rather than a university education.

By 1882 he found himself in Teddington, perhaps still training to be a dentist, but also the organist at Christ Church, Teddington, in whose church hall Richmond & Twickenham Chess Club met until a few years ago.

In 1887 he married Helen Maud McComas, the daughter of an Irish merchant living in Hampton Road, Teddington, not too far from the Roebuck. They settled in the same road, but closer to the town centre: a house named Brendon, 32 Hampton Road, on the corner of Coleshill Avenue (perhaps this house), just round the corner from the Cowards. Three daughters, Dorothy, Helen and Violet, soon arrived to complete the family, and they would remain there for the rest of their lives. None of their daughters married: they weren’t the only spinster sisters in Teddington.

In 1889 he wasn’t new to chess. Since at least the beginning of 1888 he’d been solving problems in the Morning Post, and occasionally tried his hand at composing as well.

This example seems to me to be pretty crude and forgettable: he doesn’t seem to have shared Cecil Alfred Lucas Bull’s talent for composition. Have a go at solving it yourself and see what you think. The solution is at the end of the article.

#3 Arthur Makinson Fox Morning Post 3 December 1888

In 1893 Joseph Henry Blackburne returned to Twickenham for another simul. Arthur Fox was the only player to win his game.

Surrey Comet 27 May 1893

In between dentistry and chess he also found time to study music at London University, being awarded a Bachelor’s degree in 1893.

Arthur seems to have been a real chess addict. He wasn’t just a member of Twickenham Chess Club, but also a number of clubs in central London. I presume he took the train up from nearby Teddington Station.

Here he is, for example, in 1901, playing for the British Chess Club against a combined team from Oxford and Cambridge Universities, and drawing his game against South African law student Frederick Kimberley Loewenthal, named, like Sydney Meymott, after his place of birth. (Kimberley, not Frederick just in case you were wondering, and apparently not related to Johan Jacob.) There are several interesting names in both teams, some of whom you might meet in future Minor Pieces, but if he’d been one board lower, he’d have met Harold Francis Davidson, a theology student at Exeter College, Oxford.

The Field 30 March 1901

Wikipedia:

At Oxford, Davidson’s behaviour was notably eccentric; he displayed considerable energy but disregarded rules, was persistently unpunctual and regularly failed his examinations. … By 1901 his academic inadequacies were such that he was required to leave Exeter College, although he was allowed to continue studying for his degree at Grindle’s Hall, a cramming establishment. He finally passed his examinations in 1903, at the age of 28, and that year was ordained by the Bishop of Oxford—after some reluctance on the part of the bishop to accept so unpromising a candidate. 

Yes, this was the future Rector of Stiffkey, the Rector Who Was Eaten (or, more accurately, mauled) By A Lion, and one of the stars of The (Even More) Complete Chess Addict, co-written by an unrelated Teddington chess player named Fox.

On April Fools Day 1901 the census enumerator called. As you’d expect, Arthur and Helen were at home along with their three young daughters, Helen’s relation Herbert McComas, a Cambridge University student born in Dublin, and three servants, all in their mid 20s: Grace Gisbourne was a cook, Helena Larkham a housemaid and Ellen Gowing a nurse. It must have been rather confusing with two Helens, Helena and Ellen in the household.

Moving forward another decade, not much had changed. Their middle daughter, Helen, had left home to work as a teacher, but Dorothy and Violet were still there, along with the same three servants as ten years earlier.

But there was another resident as well, Douglas Gerard Arthur Fox, the son of Arthur’s brother Gerard, a 17 year old music student.

Douglas was a promising organist and pianist: he was educated at Clifton College, a school with a strong music tradition, and was now studying under Sir Charles Villiers Stanford at the Royal College of Music. The following year he would be appointed Organ Scholar at Keble College, Oxford.

When war broke out he enlisted in the army, and, in 1917, suffered a serious injury requiring the amputation of his right arm. In 1918 he was appointed musical director at Bradfield College, and in 1931 returned to Clifton College, where he was Head of Music until his retirement in 1957. Among his pupils was the great and wonderful David Valentine Willcocks, one of whose brothers, Theophilus Harding Willcocks, was a mathematician and chess problemist.

For further information about Douglas Fox see here, pp 11-14. You might even want to buy a book here.

At some point, perhaps round about his 50th birthday, Arthur Makinson Fox decided to retire from his work as a dentist, giving himself more time to spend on music.

In 1912 Arthur and his wife contributed two guineas to a fund to rebuild the organ at St James’s Church, Hampton Hill. They lived in the parish of St Peter & St Paul, Teddington, but it’s possible they preferred to worship at St James’s. just a mile down the road. (Walk along Hampton Road past the Roebuck and keep going.) It’s also quite possible that Arthur was the organist there. (A more recent organist at St James’s, Mark Blackwell (2015-2018) is the brother of one of my first private pupils, Richard, who played for Cambridge in the 1986 Varsity Match.)

In 1914 St James’s appointed a new vicar, the Rev Richard Coad-Prior, who had a lot in common with Arthur Makinson Fox, sharing his passion for both music and chess. In February that year, he played for London University in a match against Cambridge. There, sitting almost opposite him, was Richard’s only son Eric, who would himself have a long career as a strong club and county player.

Oxford Chronicle and Reading Gazette 6 March 1914

Arthur’s opponent in this match, Bertram Goulding Brown, was well known as, amongst other things, a chess historian. He had played in Varsity Matches a decade or so earlier, and was now, I think, a lecturer in history. This may have been a ‘past and present’ match, or perhaps Arthur was now associated with London University again in some way.

This is the last match result I’ve been able to find for Arthur Makinson Fox. Not a lot of competitive chess took place during the war, and perhaps, now in his fifties, he decided to hang up his pawns, at least as far as competitive chess was concerned.

The 1921 census has recently become available online, and we still find him in the same place, along with Helen, Dorothy and Violet, who is now working just a couple of minutes walk away at the National Physical Laboratory. Their servants Grace and Ellen are both still there after more than 20 years.

During this period of his life he continued his interest in music. The two fields which particularly interested him were organ music (he seems to have composed some works for his instrument) and madrigals. He wrote articles for various music magazines and was the President and Librarian of the Madrigal Society. In 1914 he had subscribed to a collection of madrigals composed by Orlando Gibbons. (Beware, though: some online sources attribute two cantatas published in the mid 1870s to Arthur Makinson Fox: they must have been written by another Arthur Fox.)

We can now move forward another 18 years to 1939. Helen Maud Fox died that year, but, apart from his sad loss, there’s no change in the household circumstances from 1921. Arthur, Dorothy and Violet are still there, with Dorothy still carrying out household duties and Violet still at the NPL. And, yes, Grace and Ellen are still there as well, having worked for the family for about 40 years. Quite some loyalty, and I guess Arthur must have been a good employer as well.

Although he may not have played competitively for a quarter of a century, he still kept up his interest in chess. In 1941 he wrote an article for the British Chess Magazine reminiscing about the British Chess Club.

British Chess Magazine February 1941
British Chess Magazine February 1941

In February 1945 he had a letter published in the BCM joining in a debate about reversing the starting positions of bishops and knights.

He lived a long but relatively uneventful life devoted to his work as a dentist and his twin passions of chess and music. Arthur Makinson Fox’s death at the age of 86 was registered in Middlesex South in the second quarter of 1949.

 

Acknowledgements and Sources:

ancestry.co.uk

findmypast.co.uk

britbase.org.uk

Wikipedia

Various other online sources

Problem solution:

1. Nd8! followed by 2. Be3 and either 3. Qe6# or 3. Qd4#. The only other variation is 1. Nd8! Kc5 2. Be3+ Kb5 3. Qa4#

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Birthday Greetings FM Shreyas Royal (09-i-2009)

FM Shreyas Royal at the London Chess Classic, 2021 courtesy of John Upham Photography
FM Shreyas Royal at the London Chess Classic, 2021 courtesy of John Upham Photography

BCN sends birthday wishes to FM Shreyas (known as “Shrey” by his friends) Royal born on Friday, January 9th, 2009. “Hallelujah” by Alexandra Burke was number one in the UK hit parade.

Shreyas attended The Pointer School in Blackheath, London, SE3 whose motto is “The Lord is my Shepherd”. Currently Shreyas is home schooled.

In October 2021 BCN secured an interview with Shreyas via his father Jitendra and below is mostly from that interview:

BCN: What caused his initial interest in chess and at what age?

His initial interest in chess was capturing or as he used to call it ‘eating’ pieces but as he grew more mature, he loved that there were so many possibilities in chess, so much still left to explore! At the Age of 6 he learnt and got an interest in chess.

BCN: Has Shreyas had any chess teachers or coaches?

  1. Jyothi Lal N. with a peak of 2250 FIDE but is very knowledgeable and helped from just above beginner to 1800. He was Shreyas’s first coach.
  2. Meszaros Gyula (Julian) who was an IM with a peak of 2465 FIDE and was an endgame master which helped him from 1800-2100.
  3. His Current Coach is GM John Emms with a peak of around 2600 FIDE, he is an expert in many fields such as Positional Play, Openings, Strategic chess etc and has also made a big impact on how to prepare against opponents. He had helped him from 2100-2300 so far in just under a year!

BCN: Which chess clubs and/ or Teams does Shreyas represent?

He represents SV Erkenschwick from Germany and Wasa SK from Sweden for online events as he has joined them during the pandemic. He started his 4NCL career with KJCA Kings in January 2019 but now mainly represents Wood Green which he has played for in online events in and will also represent them in the upcoming 4NCL weekends.

His first appearance in Megabase 2022 comes from the 2015 British Under-8 Championship in Coventry, the eventual winner being Dhruv Radhakrishnan.

Progress from those early days has only been interrupted by school examination breaks and the Covid pandemic:

FIDE Rating progress chart for FM Shreyas Royal
FIDE Rating progress chart for FM Shreyas Royal

In August 2016 in Bournemouth Shreyas scored an impressive 6/6 to win the British Under-8 Championship.

Shreyas Royal at the 2016 UKCC Delancey Terafinal in Loughborough courtesy of John Upham Photography
Shreyas Royal at the 2016 UKCC Delancey Terafinal in Loughborough courtesy of John Upham Photography

BCN: What was his first memorable tournament success?

This was the 2016 European Schools Under-7 championship where he was runner-up without any preparation or work on chess!

Shreyas Royal at the 2016 UKCC Delancey Southern Gigafinal in Reading courtesy of John Upham Photography
Shreyas Royal at the 2016 UKCC Delancey Southern Gigafinal in Reading courtesy of John Upham Photography

In September 2017 Shreyas travelled to Mamaia in Romania and after nine hard fought rounds tied for first place with 8/9 in the European Youth Chess Championship, Under-8 with Giang Tran Nam (HUN, 1561).

In 2021 Shreyas was awarded the FM title by FIDE:

FIDE FM Certificate for Shreyas Royal
FIDE FM Certificate for Shreyas Royal

BCN: Which chess players past & present are inspirational for him?

  1. Magnus Carlsen, world champion and broke many FIDE records also is an inspiration for most of this generation. He likes his slow grinding and almost winning from any opening or ending. This is his favourite player of all time.
  2. Garry Kasparov played brilliant attacking chess and calculated like a machine.
  3. Bobby Fischer played a similar style to Kasparov but was more talented than both Magnus and Kasparov in his opinion as he worked all by himself at a time in the USA when chess was not so popular while for the Russians, they had brilliant coaches and had one good player after the other. He rates him a bit lower because Fischer quit competitive chess a bit too early and could not reach the heights he was worthy of.
  4. Alireza Firouzja
  5. Fabiano Caruana

BCN: What are his favourite openings with the White pieces?

He plays 1.d4 pretty much all the time.

MegaBase 2020 has 294 games with 1.d4 and one solitary 1.g3 from March 2021. The 1.d4 games feature main line Queen’s Gambit / Catalan type positions championing 5.Nge2 against the King’s Indian Defence and the exchange variation against the Grunfeld.

BCN: and what are his preferred defences as the second player?

Really depends on what they play, against every opening he has got one or two lines which he enjoys equally.

Megabase 2022 informs us that Shreyas defends the main line Closed Variation of the Ruy Lopez and main line Giuoco Piano. Previously he essayed the Sicilian Najdorf.

BCN: Does he have any favourite chess books?

Not really as he is not such a big fan of chess books, but he likes My 60 Memorable Games by Bobby Fischer. Fundamental Chess Endings and Encyclopedia of Chess Combinations.

BCN: Which tournaments are planned for 2022?

We have pencilled in a couple of norm and Open (France, Spain, Germany etc.) tournaments in European countries.

BCN: What are his favourite subjects outside of chess?

His favourite subjects outside chess are Science, History, Maths with Science as his favourite, History as his second favourite and Maths as his third favourite.

BCN: Does Shreyas play any physical sports?

He does Football, Cricket and a bit of Lawn Tennis.

BCN: What are his plans and aspirations for the future?

To become a world chess champion one day, but it’s very expensive to even get to the level of IM! Currently we are looking for sponsors who can help support Shreyas to get there.

Here is his personal website.

In late December 2021 Camberley Chess Club had Shreyas as their weekly Zoom meeting guest speaker.

and finally three of SRs favourite games:

and from more recent times:

and finally:

FM Shreyas Royal at the London Chess Classic, 2021 courtesy of John Upham Photography
FM Shreyas Royal at the London Chess Classic, 2021 courtesy of John Upham Photography
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Chess Buccaneer: The Life and Games of Manuel Bosboom

Chess Buccaneer: The Life and Games of Manuel Bosboom, Merijn van Delft & Peter Boel, New in Chess, 31st December 2021, ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-9056919818
Chess Buccaneer: The Life and Games of Manuel Bosboom, Merijn van Delft & Peter Boel, New in Chess, 31st December 2021, ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-9056919818

From the publisher:

“There aren’t many chess players who can say they’ve both beaten Garry Kasparov in an official blitz game and crushed Peter Leko in a classical game in 26 moves. And who regularly win blitz tournaments high on marihuana. But then Manuel Bosboom is not an ordinary chess player.

The Dutch International Master never made it to the top in chess, but over the course of his swashbuckling career he has produced an astonishing amount of brilliantly creative games. When Manuel Bosboom enters the room, a smile appears on every chess players face. Not only is he an exuberantly colourful player, he also leads an unconventional existence. His enthusiasm for the game and zest for life are highly contagious.

This book offers a captivating collection of games and it also describes the adventurous life of the Wizard from Zaanstad, who grew up and still lives in a picturesque shed next to a 17th century windmill on the famous Zaanse Schans. You will be treated to many a stunning chess move, a wealth of hilarious but also touching stories and a vivid impression of the Dutch chess scene in the late 20th and early 21st century.

Merijn van Delft is an International Master from the Netherlands. He has been a chess trainer for more than two decades and created instructional material both online and offline.

Peter Boel is a FIDE Master and a sports journalist who works as an editor with New In Chess. He is the author of two collections of short stories (in Dutch).”

 

My last review introduced you to a Chess Crusader. Now we have a Chess Buccaneer.

The Dutch IM Manuel Bosboom has been a cult figure in his native country for several decades, renowned for his bohemian lifestyle, adventurous and creative play, erratic results and brilliance at blitz. He came to the notice of a wider public recently when some of his games were featured in David Smerdon’s wonderful book The Complete Chess Swindler. Now we have a whole volume devoted to his life and games, written by two of his friends, Peter Boel, who was responsible for the biography, and Merijn van Delft, who provided the annotations.

Bosboom himself provides a foreword.

Meanwhile, I developed an affection for players like Alexander Alekhine, Mikhail Tal and Leonid Stein. My games became wilder, often leaving the opponent wondering: was this move a blunder or a sacrifice?! I didn’t mind! From my many blitz games I learned that you just had to keep going, regardless of the situation. A diehard attitude, quick board view and deft movements earned me a reputation in  blitz.

He concludes:

Follow your Heart and use your Mind. Play without Dogma!

You’re promised some entertaining games, then, and that’s exactly what you’ll get.

From the authors’ preface:

If Manuel Bosboom didn’t exist, he would have to be invented. His unique, fascinating personality is bound to enrapture every true chess fan.

The book features 66 amazing games, as well as a number of other striking fragments that have been gathered and annotated by Peter in the chapters ‘Swindles’ and ‘Curiouser’. And of course we couldn’t leave out a collection of 36 combinations that the reader can try his hand at solving, with three different levels of difficulty. 

We mixed this explosive material into a heady cocktail that we hope will get you pleasantly tipsy, and no hangover!

Chess is an adventure with many beautiful vistas. The great appeal of Manuel Bosboom is that he shows us that you can do things differently – in chess as well as in life. This is a marvellous gift for which we will never be able to thank him enough.

Chapter 1 takes us to the 1999 Wijk aan Zee blitz tournament, and demonstrates the game in which Bosboom beat none other than Garry Kasparov.

We then take a chronological journey through our subject’s life. Bosboom, born in 1963, comes from a Jewish socialist working-class family – the name was originally Nussbaum – and his father, Adriaan, is a talented, but commercially unsuccessful, painter.

Chapters 2 and 3 take him through his childhood and career up to 1990. At this time he favoured openings such as the King’s Gambit, so you’ll see a lot of romantic chess in these games, with brilliantly creative attacking play alongside mutual blunders.

Bosboom is famous for his early attacks with his g- and h-pawns, which sometimes result in sparkling miniatures such as this game. (Click on any move and a pop-up board will magically appear.)

Chapter 4, Manuel versus Computer, must be one of the shortest chapters ever to appear in a chess book. Just a four-move game. You’ll discover the reason later in the book.

Chapter 5 takes Bosboom through the 1990s, when he was perhaps, at the peak of his strength. He was now producing positional as well as tactical masterpieces.

I particularly enjoyed this game against Sofia Polgar.

Chapter 6 again interrupts the narration, this time for a short collection of swindles. Then Chapter 7 takes Bosboom from 2001 through to 2006.

We don’t just get Manuel Bosboom’s wins: there are draws and losses as well, such as this extraordinary game, played in the Dutch League. Bosboom was, as  he often is, broke at the time so couldn’t afford the bus to the tournament venue, only just managing to arrive before the default time.

Chapter 8 is the obligatory (for this publisher, it seems) Combinations chapter, and then Chapter 9 takes us up to the present day.

Finally, Chapter 10 is entitled ‘Curiouser’.

Here are some episodes from Manuel’s chess life that may be even curiouser than what you have seen so far. Since ‘correctness’ is not a very prevalent characteristic in this chapter, the comments have been done in a slightly more ‘enthusiastic’ style than elsewhere in this book!

This is from Bosboom – Dvoirys (Leeuwarden 1997).

(Dvoirys) seemed to know nothing but chess in his life and would only mumble an unintelligible reply every time you asked him something.

The game concluded: 35. Rf5! Rf7 36. Be4! Rgg7 37. Rxe5

Dvoirys sat aghast, staring at the ruins of his position. Then he started fumbling with a big chocolate bar he had put beside the board, and suddenly squeezed it to pieces. These then fell out of his hands and onto the floor, and Bosboom watched in amazement how Dvoirys knelt down and started crawling around to collect all the pieces of chocolate.

It seems almost de rigueur these days that every chess book should include Hilarious Anecdotes, and this book, as you might expect, is no exception. They’re more likely to involve alcohol or marijuana (or marihuana, as preferred by the back cover) than chocolate, though.

For someone like me, who leads a very sober and boring life, and plays very sober and boring chess, it comes as quite a shock to meet someone like Manuel Bosboom who is, in both respects, my polar opposite. He is, I suppose very much a product of the Dutch counter-culture in that respect.

It’s again fascinating, from the UK perspective, to learn about the difference between Dutch and British chess culture. Here chess is seen very much as a game played either by small children in primary schools or by old men in draughty church halls, but in the Netherlands it seems very different. It’s also interesting to learn that Bosboom makes much of his meagre income from winning cash prizes in blitz tournaments: something almost unknown here, although it’s good to see that some enterprising organisers are now running blitz events with substantial cash prizes.

This book is well structured, well written (the English is not always entirely idiomatic, but no matter) and well produced. Merijn van Delft is rapidly earning a reputation as one of the best chess writers around and his annotations here are excellent, pitched at just the right level to be accessible to all readers.

The world needs eccentrics, and the chess world benefits enormously from the presence of the likes of Manuel Bosboom. Playing through his games – his fiascos as well as his successes – will, if you follow his example, add creativity and excitement to your chess. Whether it will also improve your rating is, I suppose, another matter entirely.

I really enjoyed this book in every respect. Bosboom’s life and games are both enormously entertaining and often wildly funny. The authors have done a fine and important job in bringing his colourful personality and chess moves to our attention.

This book, then, is very highly recommended for players of all strengths. Even if you’ve never heard of Manuel Bosboom, do yourself a favour and give it a try.

 

Richard James, Twickenham 6 January 2022

Richard James
. Richard James

Book Details:

  • Softcover: 288 pages
  • Publisher: New In Chess (25 Oct 2021)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10:9056919814
  • ISBN-13:978-9056919818
  • Product Dimensions: ‎17.02 x 23.11 cm

Official web site of New in Chess

Chess Buccaneer: The Life and Games of Manuel Bosboom, Merijn van Delft & Peter Boel, New in Chess, 31st December 2021, ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-9056919818
Chess Buccaneer: The Life and Games of Manuel Bosboom, Merijn van Delft & Peter Boel, New in Chess, 31st December 2021, ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-9056919818
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Everyone’s First Chess Workbook: Fundamental Tactics and Checkmates for Improvers

Everyone’s First Chess Workbook: Peter Giannatos

Everyone's First Chess Workbook: Fundamental Tactics and Checkmates for Improvers, Peter Giannatos, New in Chess, New In chess (6 Sept. 2021), ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-9056919887
Everyone’s First Chess Workbook: Fundamental Tactics and Checkmates for Improvers, Peter Giannatos, New in Chess, New In chess (6 Sept. 2021), ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-9056919887

From the publisher’s blurb:

“Working on chess tactics and checkmates will help you win more games. It develops your pattern recognition and your board vision’ your ability to capitalize on opportunities.

This Workbook features a complete set of fundamental tactics, checkmate patterns, exercises, hints, and solutions. Peter Giannatos selected 738 exercises based on ten years of experience with thousands of pupils at the prize-winning Charlotte Chess Center. All problems are clean, without unnecessary fluff that detracts from their instructive value.

The Workbook has ample room for writing down the solutions to the exercises. This is helpful for both students and coaches, who can assign homework from the book without having to worry about being unable to review the solutions. And writing down the correct chess moves will greatly accelerate your learning process.

Everyone’s First Chess Workbook offers you a treasure trove of chess knowledge and more than enough lessons to keep you busy for a year!”

“Peter Giannatos is the founder and executive director of the Charlotte Chess Center & Scholastic Academy, in Charlotte, North Carolina, USA. Peter has been teaching and organizing chess for more than 10 years. As a teenager, he boosted his chess rating from 589 to over 2000 USCF in less than four years. Since then, Peter has achieved both the FIDE Master title and the US Chess National Master title. He now spends most of his time teaching his students the same techniques he used to rapidly improve.”

Peter Giannatos
Peter Giannatos

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”.

Figurine algebraic notation is used throughout and the diagrams are placed adjacent to the relevant text. Being a workbook the layout is quite different to most from New in Chess. It is superbly laid out and attractively produced.

We are constantly reminded that size does not matter when it comes to chess books, however, this new book from New in Chess immediately creates an impression. Weighing in at just under a kilogram and sporting dimensions of 22 x 2 x 28 cm this must be NICs largest publication for a very long time.

This is a workbook containing generous space for the recording of answers to the puzzles  and the making of notes. Usually there are three positions per page with the positions occupying the left hand column and the answer space the right hand column. The carefully worded solutions are all contained in Part IV meaning bumping into the solutions accidentally is easily avoided.

Before we go further we may Look Inside which included the following Table of Contents:

Table of Contents. Part 1
Table of Contents. Part 1
Table of Contents. Part 2
Table of Contents. Part 2

The author has assembled a collection of 738 exercises of which 692 are examined by way of a test and the balance are examples.

The approach is to

  1. Provide a definition of what the exercise theme is about,
  2. Give around a dozen “Guided Examples” in which there is a strong hint
  3. Set around 20 or more test exercises with no hint

If you solve tactics puzzles on a regular basis then the bulk of the exercises will not challenge you with the exceptions of Chapters 20, Combinations/Setting Up Tactics and the interesting Chapter 21, Finish Like The World Champions.

Chapter 19 is very much in the style of the legendary book, Art of Attack in Chess by Vladimir Vuković in that the author provides examples of named checkmating patterns introducing the “Kill Box” and Vuković’s checkmates not mentioned by name in the original book. To find out what these are you will need to buy the book!

In our opinion, this is the perfect trainer for

  • Adult beginners
  • Adults returning to the game after a long lay-off
  • Juniors of secondary school age
  • coaches / teachers needing examples for their students

The explanations are crystal clear with no undefined jargon or strange expressions.

Firstly, we liked the correct use of terminology in that all pieces are shown giving forks including pawns and kings. Some texts believe that the label “fork” should be reserved purely for knights and that the other pieces deliver double attacks: Hurrah for this correct approach.

Secondly, the author differentiates between skewer and X-Ray and clearly shows the difference. For example this (#205) is a skewer:

once Black has found the correct move. On the other hand, this (#354), with Black to move,

is designated as an X-Ray tactic.

The bonus section of the book has to be Chapter 21, Finish Like the World Champions, which features 47 exercises from games of the sixteen world champions from Steinitz to Carlsen. Part of the exercise is to describe the themes used in the example. Here is a nice finish from the tenth World Champion, Boris Vasilievich Spasski in the 1960 game from Kislovodsk, Kuznetsov vs Spasski:

In summary, Peter Giannatos has created a unique and instructive trainer for a market that has been little satisfied and that is the post-Queen’s Gambit / lockdown created adult beginner. It has been superbly produced by New in Chess in a format quite new to them.

So, if you know of adults new or returning to chess then you could easily recommend this. Juniors of secondary school age new to chess will also benefit.

An excellent piece of work!

John Upham, Cove, Hampshire, January 5th 2022

John Upham
John Upham

Book Details :

  • Hardcover : 344 pages
  • Publisher:New In chess (6 Sept. 2021)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10:9056919881
  • ISBN-13:978-9056919887
  • Product Dimensions:  22 x 2 x 28 cm and 0.995 Kg

Official web site of New in Chess

Everyone's First Chess Workbook: Fundamental Tactics and Checkmates for Improvers, Peter Giannatos, New in Chess, New In chess (6 Sept. 2021), ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-9056919887
Everyone’s First Chess Workbook: Fundamental Tactics and Checkmates for Improvers, Peter Giannatos, New in Chess, New In chess (6 Sept. 2021), ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-9056919887
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600 Modern Chess Puzzles

600 Modern Chess Puzzles : Martyn Kravtsiv

600 Modern Chess Puzzles, Martyn Kravtsiv, Gambit Publications Ltd., 16th September 2020, ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-1911465478
600 Modern Chess Puzzles, Martyn Kravtsiv, Gambit Publications Ltd., 16th September 2020, ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-1911465478

Blurb from the publisher:

“The easiest, quickest and most effective way to improve your overall game is to increase your tactical vision. Many good positions are lost because a key moment is passed by and a player misses the opportunity to win by a beautiful combination. This book is designed simply to help you improve your play by seeing tactics better.” – Martyn Kravtsiv

Written along similar lines to Gambit’s earlier Ultimate Chess Puzzle Book, this new work presents 600 puzzles, mostly from the last two years, that are chosen for instructive value and maximum training benefit. To ensure that few will be familiar to readers, Kravtsiv has deliberately chosen positions from obscure games or from analysis. If you find the right answers, it will be because you worked them out yourself!

The solutions feature plenty of verbal explanations of the key points, and cover most of the logical but incorrect answers. The book is completed with a set of ‘no clues’ tests, and an index of themes that will be useful to coaches and those looking to focus on specific aspects of tactics – or just seeking extra clues!”

GM Martyn Kravtsiv
GM Martyn Kravtsiv

From the rear cover:

“The author is an experienced grandmaster from Lviv, Ukraine. His tournament results include tied first places at Cappelle in 2012 and the 2015 Ukrainian Championship, as well as being blitz champion of the 2008 World Mind Sports Games (at age 17). He represented his country at the 2017 World Team Championship and was a coach for the team that won silver medals at the 2016 Olympiad.”

Gambit Publications have their own YouTube channel to promote and publicise their products. Here we have GM John Nunn introducing this book :

Before going further we suggest you make use of the Look Inside option. This will reveal the Table of Contents.

Also, you may download a pdf sample.

Just like “Snakes on a Plane” you might imagine, from the title, you know what this book is about without reading it: well let us see!

The first mystery to clear up is what does the author mean by “Puzzles”? Almost all 600 positions presented are taken from actual gameplay during 2018 and 2019 or from analysis derived from those games. Strangely, there is a tranche from 2012
mostly from the author’s own games.

If you do have a phobia of problems, fairies or endgame studies etc then have no fear here: there are none of these.

From the “Warming Up” Chapter we have position #36:

Theodor Kenneskog – Klavs Stabulnieks, 48th Rilton Cup, Stockholm, 2nd January 2019

Does Black have a way to get the upper hand?

*(We have added the previous move arrow and these are not shown in the book.)

71 warming up puzzles of multiple themes are followed by solutions with explanations which is the continuing pattern for each chapter.

Chapter 3 contains 29 forced mates and here is an example, #92:

Vahe Danielyan – Chinna Reddy Mehar, Novi Sad, 20th April 2019

Can you see White’s mating idea?

Rather pleasing!

Chapter 3, Your Choice, asks the solver to select between two plausible options more reminiscent of one’s thinking in a practical game situation when the clock is ticking. Here is an example (#106):

Marc Narciso Dublan – Kratvtsiv, Olivier Gonzalez Memorial, Madrid, 8th September 2012

Choose between 74…Ke4 and 74…Kg5

Chapter 4 (“Getting Tricky”) ups the ante and the difficulty is raised followed by 58 endgame puzzles graded into four levels.

Here is example #283:

Anthony Fred Saidy – Thomas Kung, Bay Area Open, Burlingame, 3rd January 2019

The game ended in a draw. Show how Black could have done better.

Tough Nuts is the title of Chapter 6 containing 43 challenging positions for example #313:

Jonathan Hawkins – Bogdan Lalic, Hastings 2018/19, 5th January 2019 (Analysis)

Black has a beautiful path to victory. Can you find it?

Chapter 7 is a tougher version of Chapter 3.

In Part 2 the book changes tack slightly in that the clue or clues for each position are not present. You are placed in a much more game like situation thinking for yourself. The Part is broken down into sections of Not Too Hard, Tricky Tasks, Endgame Challenges and finally Chapter 11 entitled Nightmare! including #562 featuring Hastings once more:

Thomas Villiers – PU Midhun, 98th Hastings Masters, 4th January 2019

Unfortunately, White did not find the killer blow and went on to lose.

The exercises are followed by an Index of Themes which is a clever touch removing this “clue” from the position as posed.

As is to be expected from a Gambit publication the explanations are crystal clear and instructive and expertly translated and edited by Graham Burgess. Petra Nunn does an excellent job of typesetting.

To have found 600 instructive puzzles from 2018, 2019 and 2012 is a real achievement and then to organise them for a range of students makes this book both enjoyable and hard work!

The author has produced another reliable publication from the Gambit stable and we are sure he will be asked to produce another in due course. We particularly liked the puzzles that created a  game-like feel to the task. Highly recommended.

John Upham, Cove, Hampshire, December 28th 2021

John Upham
John Upham

Book Details :

  • Hardcover :160 pages
  • Publisher:Gambit Publications Ltd (16 Sept. 2020)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10:1911465473
  • ISBN-13:978-1911465478
  • Product Dimensions: 17.15 x 1.65 x 24.77 cm

Official web site of Gambit Publications Ltd.

600 Modern Chess Puzzles, Martyn Kravtsiv, Gambit Publications Ltd., 16th September 2020, ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-1911465478
600 Modern Chess Puzzles, Martyn Kravtsiv, Gambit Publications Ltd., 16th September 2020, ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-1911465478
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