Sherlock’s Method – The Working Tool for the Club Player

Sherlock's Method - The Working Tool for the Club Player
Sherlock’s Method – The Working Tool for the Club Player

From the book’s rear cover :

“The book before you is a product of what happens when two chess players start a relationship (which started over six years ago) and enter a dialogue about how to get ready for the next tournament. The content of this book is a training program for players who plan to play an over-the-board tournament a few weeks from the time they start training with this book. This book, unlike other similar books in the field of improvement, does not have a central theme. In other words, we are not focused solely on openings, middlegames or endgames. Moreover, the book does not only concentrate on specific themes (calculation, positional decisions, or other strategic aspects), though many of these concepts are addressed throughout the book. Instead, this book offers a holistic view on how to approach every single position in it, regardless of the phase of the game or the nature of the position. We try to teach players how to identify types of decisions in various positions, while pointing at the trade-off between a hardcore calculation and a heuristics judgment.”

“GM Elshan Moradiabadi was born and raised in Tehran, Iran. He learned to play chess at age 7 by watching his dad play against a friend. His passion and will to get better grew fast and in 2001, at the age of 15, he won Iran’s Chess Championship with a 2712 rating performance. He became a GM in 2005 and represented Iran in five Chess Olympiads. He won the Bronze Medal at the Asian Games in 2006 with the Iranian team. Elshan received his B.S. in Chemical Engineering from Sharif University of Technology and moved to the United States in 2012. Since then, he has been active in the US chess scene. In his first years, he pursued two master’s degrees from Texas Tech University (TTU). With the TTU chess team he won the Final Four in 2012 and the Pan Ams in 2015. Elshan has also essayed numerous articles and reports for different chess websites and publications. Elshan coached the US team in the World Team Championship in 2019 in Astana, Kazakhstan.”

“WGM Sabina Foisor was born in 1989 in Romania to a chess family and learned to play chess at age 4. With two International Masters and her mother being one of the strongest female chess players in the country and world, Sabina soon followed in her footsteps. She won multiple National and European titles in her age category (from Girls under 8-20) in different styles of chess (Normal, Blitz, Rapid and Solving Problems). Sabina was awarded the title of WGM in 2007 and a year later, she received a full scholarship to attend college in the United States. She pursued her undergraduate and master’s degrees in Linguistics and Intercultural Communication. She has represented the United States since 2009, being an important part of the US team in five Chess Olympiads and four Women’s World Team Championships. Her biggest achievement was winning the US Women’s Chess Championship in 2017 after unexpectedly losing her mother two months previously.”

 

I have two theories.

One is that most players would be much better off reading books aimed at a lower level than books aimed at a higher level.

(Here, for example, is a friend of mine, possibly a slightly stronger player than me, discussing Michael Stean’s excellent book Simple Chess, a short pre-computer book aimed at average club players.  Just the sort of book that many of today’s coaches would advise you not to read, partly because some of the analysis no longer stands up and partly because it’s over-simplistic.)

My second theory follows on from this: most chess books are really suitable for much higher rated players than the publishers claim. Consider, for example, books marketed as being ‘for kids’ which are essentially books written for adult club players with a few added cartoons.

Here’s what the authors have to say in their introduction:

“This book is composed of three parts, each broken down into two subsections. The parts are as follows: simple positions, endgames, and complex decisions. There are 150 positions in the first part, 120 in the second part, and 42 in the third part. The targeted readers for the book are players rated between 1700 and 2300. The range may seem rather wide, but the variety of concepts addressed makes it possible for the players in the aforementioned range to enjoy and learn from the book’s content.”

They recommend you spend up to 15 minutes per exercise in Parts I and II, and 25 minutes per exercise in part III.

You should write down your thoughts, read the solutions, and, in a week’s time, repeat the process to see how your thinking process has changed.

The USP of this book is that the authors, who are fans of detective fiction, introduce each part with a Sherlock Holmes pastiche, which you might, I suppose, either like or find a trifle annoying. The idea is that, just as Holmes used specific thinking processes to solve crimes, the reader has to use specific thinking processes to solve the exercises.

As a player of about 1900 strength, I should, at least in terms of rating, be part of the target audience for the first two parts of the book. Let’s look at a few examples and find out.

This is Q8. It’s in Chapter 1 so it’s a Simple Position. It’s Black to play his 24th move in Handke – Naiditsch (Bundesliga 2017). Here’s the authors’ analysis of this position.

24… Rxd4!

This would have been the correct continuation.

Instead 24… Bxb4?? was chosen by Black. OK, the ideas are easy, but not too easy! This is an example of considering the opponent’s counterplay before committing to a non-forcing tactical sequence. Black picks up a pawn, but White is not forced to take back immediately, and in fact obtains a winning position with a critical in-between move. After 25. Ng5! g6 26. cxb4 Rxd4 27. Qc3! the queen’s path is paved for her to be transferred to the kingside where Black is rather helpless due to the numerous weaknesses and the lack of presence of his pieces to defend his king. After 27… Rd5 28. Qh3 h5 29. Bxh5! +- White is completely winning, but somehow ended up losing this winning position after not committing to 29… Kg7 30. Bxg6! Rh8 31. Bh5!.

25. cxd4 Bxb4 (slight advantage to Black)

Now White can continue with his attacking plan on the kingside. However after:

26. f5 exf5 27. Rxf5 g6 28. Rf2 Bxa5!

White’s idea with Nd6 is not so consequential as f7 is well-protected.

29. Nd6 Qc7 30. Rcf1 Bd5 31. Bf3 Be6

and White’s initiative is gone, while Black’s queenside will start to roll soon.

(Well, Stockfish 12 is much less convinced than Stockfish 11 that Black is a lot better here, but we’ll let it pass.)

Would you consider this a Simple Position? I didn’t try to solve it myself, and am not sure how much, if anything, I would have seen in 15 minutes. If the position was too hard for a 2684 rated GM it would certainly be too hard for me.

In fact many of the examples in the book are positions which top GMs (Carlsen, Anand and many others) failed to get right.

I found this position, where Anand played the correct move, instructive.

In the game Anand – Grischuk (WCh Rapid 2017) White’s bishop on b2 looks strong, but Vishy chose to trade it off with 16. Bxf6!.

The authors explain:

“Great judgment and a simple decision.

“The pawn on e4 was under fire from Black’s pieces while Black was planning to exert more pressure by playing … Ba5. With this move and the next one, Vishy completely outplays Black’s bishop on b6.”

After 16… Qxf6 17. Nc4! they add:

“White gradually builds up his play on the kingside as the bishop on b6 does not take part in the game!”

Here’s an everyday pawn ending. With seconds remaining on the clock, Quang Liem Le had what looked like a 50-50 shot in his game against Mamedov.

He chose 52. Kd3?, which soon lost, but could have saved a half point by going the other way:

52. Kf3! Kd4 53. Kf2! taking the diagonal opposition, when both players queen.

Very instructive again, but what you really want to know is whether I enjoyed the book.

To be perfectly honest, not very much.

I read chess books primarily for enjoyment. If I happen to learn something as well, that’s a bonus. I found the more positional questions helpful, while the tactical exercises, with a lot of computer generated analysis, made my brain hurt. But that’s just me.

If, however, you’re really serious about improving your chess and you’re prepared to follow the instructions, working hard on each position, then this could be just the book for you.

The positions are well chosen to cover a wide range of themes, and the solutions are fully explained. You might think some of the explanations might have been clearer, and the English, although it doesn’t really matter, might have been more idiomatic. You might also notice that, in positions where margins are very thin, different engines will choose different moves and give different assessments. You might wish for some recognition of human factors such as ‘playability’ rather than just computer analysis. But strong and ambitious players who have the time and motivation to put in the required effort will undoubtedly benefit a lot.

Where I’d disagree with Moradiabadi and Foisor is that I’d consider it most suitable for players of at least 2000 strength. I think the 1700-1999 folk would probably learn more from either simpler or more specifically targeted positions.

As a final word, I should add that, as always with Thinkers Publishing, the production values are excellent.

Richard James, Twickenham 21st January 2021

Richard James
. Richard James

Book Details :

  • Hardcover: 448 pages
  • Publisher: Thinkers Publishing; 1st edition (19 Nov. 2020)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10:949251091X
  • ISBN-13:978-9492510914
  • Product Dimensions: 16.51 x 1.91 x 22.86 cm

Official web site of Thinkers Publishing

Sherlock's Method - The Working Tool for the Club Player
Sherlock’s Method – The Working Tool for the Club Player
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Happy Birthday IM Paul Littlewood (18-i-1956)

IM Paul Littlewood. Source : British Chess, Pergamon Press, 1983.
IM Paul Littlewood. Source : British Chess, Pergamon Press, 1983.

BCN wishes Happy Birthday to Paul Littlewood

Paul Edwin Littlewood was born on Wednesday, January 18th, 1956 in Skegness, East Lindsey, Lincolnshire. His parents were John and Jean Littlewood (née) Hadwick. Paul’s chess playing uncle was Norman Littlewood.

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

Paul attended Glenburn Comprehensive School in Skelmersdale from 1967 and then read Natural Sciences at Christ’s College, Cambridge from 1974.

Paul played badminton for Lancashire and Cambridge and, in 1971, won the English Schools Mixed Championship when he was 15 years old.

Paul and family receive a chess lesson from John following John's win in the 1972 Southport Open
Paul and family receive a chess lesson from John following John’s win in the 1972 Southport Open

On leaving University Paul taught science at Southbrook Comprehensive, Daventry. Four years later Paul became a dealer at Phillips & Drew and followed this as an Executive Director at Goldman Sachs. Stays at Lehman Brothers and JP Morgan were followed by a change of direction and since then Paul has been director of various food supply companies retiring in 2014.

Paul is married (3rd November 2006) to (his second wife) Fiona and lives in St. Albans, Hertfordshire.

PEL won the ECF President’s Award in 2007 and from the 2008 ECF Yearbook we have the following citation :

“International Master and accomplished bridge player. From British Chess champion (1981) Paul has presided over the 4NCL as chairman during its most successful period. When he became chairman over ten years ago the league consisted of two divisions and 32 teams. The league has now expanded to four divisions and a total of 72 teams. Most of England’s juniors play 4NCL. During this time 4NCL became one of the strongest leagues in Europe, at one time boasting a Division 1 rivalling the Bundesliga in strength in the top matches.

Paul has demonstrated the sound judgement of Solomon when dealing with league disputes and has drawn on his business acumen, honed during a successful career in the City with Goldman Sachs to make 4NCL the financially stable and expanding league it is today.”

Roll of Honour

  • British U18 Champion 1972
  • British U21 Champion 1975
  • British Champion 1981
  • As a junior represented England in Glorney Cup
  • International Master 1980

From British Chess (Pergamon Press, 1983) by Botterill, Levy. Rice and Richardson we have this article from Richard W. O’Brien :

“Paul Littlewood was destined to become a strong player from birth. His father John was for some time one of the strongest players in the country and represented England on many occasions. His uncle Norman was for a few years not far behind. Paul, however, has surpassed them both and has become the first in the family to reach IM status. (Ed: JEL was very much worthy of the IM title but insufficient events of the right type held him back).

A. Howard Williams, Martyn J. Corden, Paul E. Littlewood and A. Jonathan Mestel
A. Howard Williams, Martyn J. Corden, Paul E. Littlewood and A. Jonathan Mestel

All three are essentially attacking players. There have been times in recent years when play at the Hastings Premier has become dull. However, Paul one of the English representatives at the last three tournaments, was certainly not to blame. (His game against Brito of Brazil which follows is a striking example of this).”

Coached by his father, Paul became British U18 champion in 1972 and three years later became British U21 champion.

Clearly more interested in an academic career he went up to Cambridge and then followed his father into the teaching profession. Opportunities to play in strong tournaments were thus very limited. These opportunities, however, were grasped in both hands. Three times in thirteen months between August 1978 and August 1979 he obtained an IM norm and thus the title.

Partial crosstable for the Lloyds Bank Open, 1978
Partial crosstable for the Lloyds Bank Open, 1978

The first caused a sensation as it was totally unexpected. He shared first place at Lloyds Bank ahead of several grandmasters including Shamkovich, who was the first grandmaster he ever defeated.

Leonid Shamkovich plays Paul Littlewood during the 1978 Lloyds Bank Masters. Paul won the game.
Leonid Shamkovich plays Paul Littlewood during the 1978 Lloyds Bank Masters. Paul won the game.

Eight months later Aaronson Masters was won and then came the final norm, also at Lloyds Bank.

Tournaments abroad were limited although he represented England students. He did play at Kringsja (2nd equal) in 1978 and Borovo where he scored 6.5.13 finishing ahead of 3 GMs.

In 1981 came his finest achievement – winning the British Championship with a massive 9/11.

Partial crosstable from the 1981 British Championship in Morecambe
Partial crosstable from the 1981 British Championship in Morecambe

His father who was also competing in the championship was as proud as could be and deservedly so (he also coached Sheila Jackson who retained her British Ladies Championship that year). His excellent all round play took him to the title and only once during the tournament did he stand worse. His endgame play was so good that CHESS even published an article solely on these endings.

Paul Littlewood and friends during the 1978 Lloyds Bank Masters
Paul Littlewood and friends during the 1978 Lloyds Bank Masters

Duties at school in Daventry meant he was, in February 1982, unable to take part in the zonal at Marbella. This followed an excellent Hastings when as British Champion he made a plus score – a rare event indeed.

IM Paul Littlewood during filming for the "Trick of the Mind" series from Derren Brown
IM Paul Littlewood during filming for the “Trick of the Mind” series from Derren Brown

In the summer he gave up teaching and joined Phillips & Drew (stockbrokers). He now (ed : this was in 1983) lives with his (first) wife Sue and family in the wilds of Essex (Billericay).

IM Paul Littlewood, event and photographer unknown
IM Paul Littlewood, event and photographer unknown

Paul gives a simultaneous display in Letchworth.

Chess Tactics, Paul Littlewood, Crowood Chess Library, 1991
Chess Tactics, Paul Littlewood, Crowood Chess Library, 1991

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Magnus Carlsen : 60 Memorable Games

Magnus Carlsen : 60 Memorable Games, Andrew Soltis, Batsford, 2020
Magnus Carlsen : 60 Memorable Games, Andrew Soltis, Batsford, 2020

“International Grandmaster Andrew Soltis is chess correspondent for the New York Post and a very popular chess writer. He is the author of many books including What it Takes to Become a Chess Master, Studying Chess Made Easy and David vs Goliath Chess.”

GM Andrew Soltis
GM Andrew Soltis

From the Batsford web site :

“Following on from the long success of one of the most important chess books ever written, Bobby Fischer: My 60 Memorable Games, renowned chess writer Andrew Soltis delivers a book on today’s blockbuster chess player Magnus Carlsen.

Magnus Carlsen has been the world’s number one player for more than a decade, has won more super-tournaments than anyone ever and is still in his prime. He is the only player to repeatedly win the world championships in classical, speed and blitz chess formats. This book details his remarkable rise and how he acquired the crucial skills of 21st-century grandmaster chess

He will defend his world championship title this autumn and if he wins, it will set a record of five championship match victories. This book take you through how he wins by analysing 60 of the games that made him who he is, describing the intricacies behind his and his opponent’s strategies, the tactical justification of moves and the psychological battle in each one.

This book is essential for chess enthusiasts, competitors and professionals of all skill sets.”

 

Andrew Soltis has been a prolific author of chess books over the course of several decades. I first encountered him when I read – and thoroughly enjoyed The Younger School of Soviet Chess, published by Bell, the predecessors of Batsford, back in 1976. I particularly relished his unique, story-telling style of annotation, which has been a feature of many of his books.

His titles have ranged widely, from opening monographs to serious historical works, often concerning chess in the old Soviet Union. Yet he’s never received the publicity accorded to other, more colourful and controversial, writers, nor, perhaps, the respect he deserves.

Perhaps this is because he’s never been published by today’s leading chess book publishers. His historical works are published by McFarland, while he’s written a steady stream of books for average club player under the Batsford imprint.

Ah yes, Batsford. Back in the day they were the most celebrated publisher of chess books on the planet. They can trace their chess ancestry back to Staunton’s friend and publisher Henry Bohn, whose business was later taken over by George Bell & Sons, who were in turn taken over by Batsford. But that’s a story for another time. Batsford are still publishing chess books, although, compared to their glitzier rivals, they have a rather old-fashioned appearance. Soltis is the author of many of their more recent books, but they also have the rights to a number of classic titles, most notably Fischer’s My Sixty Memorable Games.

The first thing you’ll notice about Soltis’s new collection of Magnus Carlsen’s games is the title: Magnus Carlsen: 60 Memorable Games. Cheeky, or what? It wasn’t difficult to get the publishers’ approval, and the original author was sadly not around to object, although I suspect his ghost is ranting and raging even now.

A misjudgement, I think: a different number of games and a different adjective would have been fine. But they say you can’t judge a book by its cover, so let’s look inside.

The format is very similar to Bobby’s book. Sixty chapters with one game to a chapter, each having a catchy title and a brief introduction putting it in context. One difference is that all the games are wins for our hero. You wouldn’t say they were necessarily his greatest games, though. They include blitz and blindfold games, and, for example, the game where he famously hung a piece in the opening against Gawain Jones. In fact you get more than 60 games for your money: there are several others in Soltis’s introduction, and more buried within the annotations.

At the start of the book Soltis asks “What made Magnus?”. The first answer is revealing: playability. The ability to judge how easy positions are to play. This is a point which is hammered home throughout the book. Carlsen excels at assessing positions, but his assessments are based on which player will find it easier to play good moves, which is often very different from computer assessment. Then there’s his versatility: he can play any type of position equally well and might play almost any opening against you. As we all know, he has an exceptional memory. He also has a very strong mindset: he is able to recover quickly from defeats and fight back from mistakes in his games. Readers of Chess Improvement: It’s all in the Mindset will know how important this is. He has exceptional stamina, which is why he will play on and on waiting for a mistake in positions which most of us would give up as drawn. He is also highly intuitive.

This is not the only anthology of Carlsen’s games on the market. Whether or not it’s the one for you will depend on how you react to Soltis’s style of annotation, which is very much based on verbal explanations. Variations are given where necessary, but what you don’t get, and many potential readers will be relieved by this, is pages of long computer-generated analysis.

This is a position from one of the earlier games in the book, Brynell – Carlsen (Gausdal 2005), with White to play his 32nd move.

If I were Black here I’d look at the equal material and bishops of opposite colours and consider offering a draw followed by heading off to the bar for a pint.

Here’s Soltis:

“Why doesn’t White have the superior winning chances? After all, he has the famous ‘queenside pawn majority’.

“Yes, but there are two factors that matter much more. One is the difference in bishops.

“White’s bishop has no offensive power. While queens are on the board it can only defend.

“Black’s bishop, on the other hand, ties White’s queen to the defense of f2.

“That’s not enough to give Black an edge. But it’s enough to keep the game going.”

32. Qf3 f5!

“This is the second factor that favors Black. Carlsen has a kingside pawn majority.

“They cannot create a useful passed pawn, as a queenside majority might.

“But they can become a powerful offensive weapon if …e5-e4 and …f4-f3+ drives the white queen from the defense of f2.

“A secondary plan is … g5-g4 and … h5-h4-h3+.

“Note that if White offers a trade of queens, even by 33. Qf4 Qxf4 34. gxf4, Black could refuse, 33… Qb2!, for example.”

What do you think? I, as a 1900 strength player, found the explanation very instructive, but I’d imagine someone of, say, 2200 strength would find it obvious and over-simplistic.

Here’s another example, this time an opening.  Carlsen – Wojtaszek (Gashimov Memorial 2018).

Carlsen’s just played his 9th move in an unusual variation of the Sicilian.

“Here’s an admittedly over-simplified way of evaluating the position:

“First, just look at the top half of the diagram.

“The Black pieces and pawns are on the same squares they could be on in other balanced Sicilian positions, such as in the Richter-Rauzer or Scheveningen variations.

“Now look at the bottom half of the diagram. White’s pieces and pawns are uncommon but coordinated. The worst thing you could say is that he has no obvious plan except a kingside attack, begun by pushing his g-pawn.

“Now let’s consider specifics. After 9… Be7 White must avoid 10. g4? because 10… Nxg4! 11. fxg4? Bg5! loses his queen.

“Instead, 10. Kb1 0-0 11. g4 and then 11… Nd7, perhaps followed by … Nc5 and … b4 would have the double-edged nature of a typical Sicilian.”

Instead, Wojtaszek played 9… h5, when, because Carlsen’s knight was on g1 rather than d4, he was able to meet by Nh3 followed by Ng5, winning in short order when Black chose to keep his king in the centre.

“Over-simplified”? That word again. But top level games these days are so complicated that it’s hard to annotate them for club standard players.

I found the annotations of more tactical positions slightly confusing on occasion, but, given the nature of the games, that’s entirely understandable. By and large, Soltis does a good job in attempting to explain his selected games in terms that are readily understandable and instructive to club standard players. He’s a highly experienced journalist who really knows how to write: something that can’t be said of all chess authors.

You might have noticed that, although published in England, US spellings are favored (sic). I spotted a few notation and diagram errors: slightly annoying but there will always be one or two that slip through the net.

Games collections are rightly popular, and every chess library needs at least one volume of Carlsen’s best games. This isn’t the last word, not least because Magnus has many more years ahead of him, and there are other books on the market which I don’t have to hand for direct comparisons. It’s always a good idea to consider alternatives before making your move.

I enjoyed it: the games were well chosen and all full of interest. I found the annotations were pitched at the right level for me. While higher rated players find prefer more detailed notes, if you’re between about 1500 and 2000 strength I’m sure you’ll enjoy it too.

 

Here, in full, but without annotations, are the games referred to above.

 

Richard James, Twickenham 14th January 2021

Richard James
Richard James

Book Details :

  • Paperback : 384 pages
  • Publisher:Batsford Ltd; 1st edition (12 Nov. 2020)
  • Language:English
  • ISBN-10:1849946507
  • ISBN-13:978-1849946506
  • Product Dimensions: 15.24 x 2.79 x 23.37 cm

Official web site of Batsford

Magnus Carlsen : 60 Memorable Games, Andrew Soltis, Batsford, 2020
Magnus Carlsen : 60 Memorable Games, Andrew Soltis, Batsford, 2020
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Remembering Samuel Boden (04-v-1826 13-i-1882)

Samuel Standidge Boden
Samuel Standidge Boden

We remember Samuel Boden, who passed away on this day, Friday, January 13th in 1882 at 3 Tavistock Street, Bedford Square, Middlesex.

Death notice for Samuel Standidge Boden from The London Gazette of 21 Apr 1882
Death notice for Samuel Standidge Boden from The London Gazette of 21 Apr 1882

Samuel Standidge Boden was born on Thursday, May 4th, 1826 in East Retford, Nottinghamshire. His parents were James (b. 1795/96) and Mary Frances Boden (b. 1800/01).

(Several secondary and tertiary sources give the birth month as April. It would appear that a transcription error was responsible.)

James was an Independent Congregational Minister who worked in West Retford and was responsible for recording parish birth and baptismal (and probably marriage) records including those of his own children.

Samuel was baptised by his father (for the first time!) on July 27th at Chapel Gate (independent) Church.

Birth and (first) baptismal record of Samuel Standidge Boden recorded by his father.  The record set is "England & Wales Non-Conformist Births And Baptisms"
Birth and (first) baptismal record of Samuel Standidge Boden recorded by his father. The record set is “England & Wales Non-Conformist Births And Baptisms”

Samuel had at least nine siblings and the details of these plus other family members (including multiple baptisms) may be found on Steve Mann’s Yorkshire Chess History.

From The Encyclopedia of Chess by Anne Sunnucks :

Boden was considered by Paul Morphy to be the strongest player in England in 1858. However, he is generally considered to have ranked below Staunton and to have been either the second of third strongest player, the other player being Buckle.

Born in Hull on 4th April 1826, Boden first came to the notice of British chess players when he won a provincial tournament in 1851. In 1858 he played two matches against John Owen , winning both, the first by +5 -3 =1 and the second by +5 -1. He played in very few major tournaments and his strength ws judged mainly from friendly games and small tournaments. He was the author of A Popular Introduction to Chess and conducted the chess column in The Field for 13 years.

He died of typhoid fever on 13th January 1882 and is buried in Woking, Surrey.

From The Oxford Companion to Chess by David Hooper & Ken Whyld :

English player active in the 1850s. In 1851 he wrote A Popular Introduction to the Study and Practice of Chess, an excellent guide introducing the Boden-Kieseritzky Gambit which at once became popular. In the same year he won the ‘provincial tournament” run concurrently with the London international tournament. At Manchester 1857, a knock-out event, he came second to Lowenthal— he drew one game of the final match and then withdrew. In 1858 Boden defeated Owen in a match ( + 7=2-3) and he played many friendly games with Morphy, who declared him to be the strongest English player; since Staunton and Buckle had retired this judgement was probably right. Also in 1858 he restarted the chess column in The Field , handing over to de Vere in 1872. The column has continued uninterruptedly ever since. Besides chess and his work as a railway company employee Boden found time to become a competent amateur painter and an art critic.

Samuel Standidge Boden
Samuel Standidge Boden

From The Encyclopedia of Chess by Harry Golombek OBE :

British master, considered by Morphy to have been the strongest opponent whom he played while in England (Boden’s record against Morphy in casual games was +1-6=4). Tournament results include 2nd Manchester 1857 and 2nd Bristol 1861. Chess editor of The Field 1858-1873. His name is linked with the Boden-Kieseritsky Gambit : 1.e4 e5 2.Bc4 Nf6 3.Nf3 Nxe4 4. Nc3 Nxc3 5.dxc3 f6 (article authored by Ray Keene).

Samuel Standidge Boden
Samuel Standidge Boden

Most players will be familiar with matting pattern that is Boden’s Mate using two bishops in a cross pattern.

Here is an example puzzle from 1001 Chess Exercises for Club Players that demonstrates the pattern :

White to play and checkmate.

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Remembering Roland Scott (25-iii-1888 10-i-1953)

From chessgames.com :

Roland Henry Vaughan Scott was born in Barnes, England. He was British champion in 1920. He passed away in Monte Carlo in 1953.

Here is an excellent article from John Saunders

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Rewire Your Chess Brain : Endgame studies and mating problems to enhance your tactical ability

Rewire Your Chess Brain: Endgame studies and mating problems to enhance your tactical ability, Cyrus Lakdawala, Everyman Chess, August 2020
Rewire Your Chess Brain: Endgame studies and mating problems to enhance your tactical ability, Cyrus Lakdawala, Everyman Chess, August 2020

Cyrus Lakdawala is an IM and former US Open Champion who teaches chess and has written over 25 books on chess openings.

IM Cyrus Lakdawala
IM Cyrus Lakdawala

The ever prolific Cyrus Lakdawala’s latest book offers a collection of endgame studies and problems aimed primarily at players who are not all that familiar with the world of chess compositions.

Much of the material is taken from the Facebook group Chess Endgame Studies and Compositions which Lakdawala runs with Australian GM Max Illingworth. I should declare an interest here as I’m a member of, and a very occasional contributor to, this group.

The first half of the book introduces the reader to the world of endgame studies. After a brief preliminary chapter taking us on a journey of almost a thousand years up to 1750 (though I’m not sure how Al Adli was composing in both 800 and 900), we move onto a collection of studies with the stipulation ‘White to play and draw’. Like this one (the solutions are at the end of the review).

Frédéric Lazard L’Échiquier de Paris 1949

(Lazard’s first name is anglicized to Frederick in the book. He died in 1948: perhaps this was first published in a posthumous tribute.)

The next, and longest, chapter is, you won’t be surprised to hear, devoted to ‘White to play and win’ studies.

Another short example:

Mikhail Platov Shakhmaty 1925

Then we move on from studies to problems. After a brief excursion to Mates in 1 in Chapter 4, Chapter 5 deals with mates in 2, like this one from the ever popular Fritz Giegold.

Fritz Emil Giegold Kölnische Rundschau 1967

(The first word of the newspaper is given as Kolner, without an umlaut: Wikipedia tells me the correct name.)

Another composer to feature heavily in this book is the great Puzzle King himself: Sam Loyd. Here’s an example from Chapter 6: Mates in Three Moves.

Sam Loyd Cleveland Voice 1879

Chapter 7 brings us some mates in four or more moves. Chapter 8 looks at some eccentric problems, Chapter 9 looks at study like themes in real games (yes, Topalov-Shirov, as you probably guessed, is there), and finally Chapter 10 presents us with some studies composed by young American IM Christopher Yoo.

On a personal level, I’d have liked some helpmates, which are often very attractive to practical players, and perhaps also problems with other stipulations: serieshelpmates or selfmates, for example. A short introduction to fairy pieces and conditions would also have been interesting. Something for a sequel, perhaps?

Cyrus Lakdawala has a large and devoted following, and his fans will certainly want this book. Those who don’t like his style will stay well clear. As for me, I find Everyman Cyrus a far more congenial companion than NiC Cyrus: do I detect a firmer editorial hand in removing some of the author’s more fanciful analogies? Given the nature of the book I think it works quite well: entertaining positions can take ‘entertaining’ writing but more serious material demands more serious writing.

The studies and problems are well chosen to be attractive to the keen over the board player who is not very familiar with the world of chess compositions. If you don’t know a lot about this aspect of chess and, perhaps enjoying the examples in this review, would like to investigate further, this book would be a good place to start.

The current Zeitgeist seems to demand that chess books are marketed as being good for you rather than just enjoyable and entertaining, and here it’s claimed that solving the puzzles in this book will ‘without question, undoubtedly improve the ‘real world’ tactical ability of anyone attempting to do so. Well, possibly. Solving endgame studies has been considered by many, Dvoretsky for one, to be beneficial for stronger players, and I quite understand why. I’m less convinced, though, that solving problems is the most effective way to improve your tactical skills, but it may well give you an increased appreciation of the beauty that is possible over 64 squares, and inspire you to find beautiful moves yourself.

My issue with the book concerns lack of accuracy, particularly in the problem sources. Puzzle 190 was composed by (the fairly well known) Henry D’Oyly Bernard, not by (the totally unknown) Bernard D’Oily. Frustratingly for me, I seem to remember pointing this out to the author on Facebook. Puzzle 242, a much anthologised #3 by Kipping, is given as ‘Unknown source 1911’. It took me 30 seconds (I know where to look) to ascertain that it was first published in the Manchester City News. As Fritz Giegold was born in 1903, it seems unlikely that he was precocious enough to compose Puzzle 237 in 1880.  Again, a quick check tells me it was actually published in 1961. And so it goes on.

It’s not just the sources: the final position of puzzle 203 has three, not four pins. Someone with more knowledge of chess problems might have pointed out that in Puzzle 164 Sam Loyd displays an early example of the Organ Pipes Theme.

Even the back cover, which you can see below, is remiss, in claiming that ‘In a chess puzzle, White has to force mate in a stipulated number of moves’. No – you mean ‘chess problem’, not ‘chess puzzle’.

Chess problem and study enthusiasts are, by their nature, very much concerned with accuracy. It’s unfortunate that this book doesn’t meet the high standards they’d expect.

To summarise, then: this is a highly entertaining book which will appeal to many players of all levels, especially those who’d like to find out more about studies and problems. It’s somewhat marred by the unacceptable number of mistakes, which might have been avoided with a bit of fact checking and a thorough run through by an expert in the field of chess composition.

 

(Apologies for the repeated diagrams in the solutions: it’s a function of the plug-in used by British Chess News.)

Richard James, Twickenham 7th January 2021

Richard James
Richard James

Book Details :

  • Paperback : 530 pages
  • Publisher:Everyman Chess (31 August. 2020)
  • Language:English
  • ISBN-10:1781945691
  • ISBN-13:978-1781945698
  • Product Dimensions: 17.45 x 2.97 x 24.08 cm

Official web site of Everyman Chess

Rewire Your Chess Brain: Endgame studies and mating problems to enhance your tactical ability, Cyrus Lakdawala, Everyman Chess, August 2020
Rewire Your Chess Brain: Endgame studies and mating problems to enhance your tactical ability, Cyrus Lakdawala, Everyman Chess, August 2020
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Remembering William Ritson Morry (05-ix-1910 08-i-1994)

William Ritson Morry (05-ix-1910 08-i-1994)
William Ritson Morry (05-ix-1910 08-i-1994)

We remember William Ritson Morry who passed away on Saturday, January 8th, 1994.

(A point of detail : It is incorrect, but many do, to write WRM hyphenated. His first name was William, his middle name was Ritson and his surname was Morry. He chose to use his middle name and was known by his friends as Ritson. Maybe this was because he father was also William Morry?)

WRM was born in the Wirral on Monday, September 5th 1910 and his father  was William Doughty Morry (born 16th July 1877). William was a sub-postmaster and seller of fancy goods. His mother was Norah Morry (née Holloway) who undertook “unpaid domestic duties”.

Ritson attended Friars School, Bangor (established in 1557) along with BH Wood. BHW was one year and three months older than WRM so it is entirely possible that they had met.

In the 1939 register he is recorded as being a solicitor with his own practice and was living at 294 Walmley Road, Royal Sutton Coldfield, Warwickshire with his parents : he was 29 years old.

294 Walmley Road, Royal Sutton Coldfield, Warwickshire, B76, 2PL
294 Walmley Road, Royal Sutton Coldfield, Warwickshire, B76, 2PL

In 1940 WRM married Nellie Cooper in Sutton Coldfield.

In 1943 WRM was mentioned in the London Gazette several times:

WRM appears in the London Gazette in 1943.
WRM appears in the London Gazette in 1943.

It would appear that this was the start of his first bankruptcy proceedings..

WRM was, by now, living at “Lyndon”, Coleshill Road, Sutton Coldfield, Warwickshire :

Lyndon, Coleshill Road, Sutton Coldfield, Warwickshire
Lyndon, Coleshill Road, Sutton Coldfield, Warwickshire

and in the same year on September 30th he was officially made bankrupt as recorded in the London Gazette, order number 195. This notice was repeated in the Edinburgh Gazette of the same year.

On the 8th of June 1944 he was recorded as being struck-off the list of solicitors under the Solicitors Acts of 1932 to 1941. It was determined that WRM had engaged in “fraudulent conversion of clients money”

Birmingham Daily Post 30 October 1945
Birmingham Daily Post 30 October 1945

For more on this see the excellent Chess in the Courts by Edward Winter.

In 1954 WRM sued BH Wood for libel over a letter BHW sent to Henry Golding of the Monmouthshire County Chess Association warning him of WRMs financial history. Here is a summary of the action :

The Birmingham Post, July 15th, 1954
The Birmingham Post, July 15th, 1954

In 1983 WRM was living at Flat 2, 53, Mayfield Road, Moseley, Birmingham, West Midlands and recorded as a Retired Chess Journalist. Elsewhere he was recorded as a freelance chess and cricket journalist.

57, Mayfield Road, Moseley, Birmingham, B13 9HT
57, Mayfield Road, Moseley, Birmingham, B13 9HT

and, unfortunately, in this year he made another appearance in the London Gazette (2nd September 1983) having been made bankrupt.

London Gazette, 2nd September 1983
London Gazette, 2nd September 1983

However, despite these unfortunate life events WRMs contribution to chess goes above and beyond them as he won the BCF President’s Award in 1984.

From British Chess Magazine, Volume CXIV (114, 1994), Number 2 (February), pp. 98 – 99 we have this obituary from Bernard Cafferty:

W Ritson Morry – a Tribute

That great chess character, known to everybody simply as Ritson, has left us in the fullness of years, coincidentally during the first Hastings Congress he missed for decades.

William Ritson Morry (5 ix 1910-8 i 1994) was a player, organiser, writer, arbiter and occasional sponsor of tournaments whose life touched so many aspects of chess that it is hard to know where to begin.

William Ritson Morry (05-ix-1910 08-i-1994)
William Ritson Morry (05-ix-1910 08-i-1994)

Ritson was educated in North Wales at the same school as BH Wood. Both were at Birmingham University at the same time, after which Ritson trained as a solicitor. As early as 1930 he founded the Birmingham Junior League, and a little later wrote a chess column for a time for a local newspaper, though Ritson is hardly the first person you think of as someone who would hit deadlines consistently. He was equal second in a rather unrepresentative British Championship of 1936 and equal third in 1951. An unfortunate incident in the mid-1940s led to him being struck off, whereupon he became a chess professional, who eked out a precarious living for the last 48 years of his life. Yet, I never heard him complain, for he was able to immerse himself in chess full time, and what could be better than that?

William Ritson Morry playing Baruch Harold Wood at the British Championships in Blackpool from 1956
William Ritson Morry playing Baruch Harold Wood at the British Championships in Blackpool from 1956

He ran a series of newsletters, which hardly covered their expenses and produced and British Championship and Hastings bulletins for many years. 1951 was a significant year in his life, for he gained the FIDE Arbiter title (he was always an expert on the rules and many of the conventions we all play to were codified by him, or under his guidance). Later on Ritson, a great raconteur, was the life and soul of the show in Hastings which, along with the Warwickshire chess team and Erdington CC, was the great love of his life.

Aberystwyth Chess Congress 1955, W Ritson Morry and KL Gardiner, En Passant Chess Publications, 1955
Aberystwyth Chess Congress 1955, W Ritson Morry and KL Gardiner, En Passant Chess Publications, 1955

At times he seemed to run Hastings almost single-handed in the Frank Rhoden era. In fact GM Vasyukov went back to Moscow in 1966 and wrote that Ritson Morry was the only controller to be seen in the morning, afternoon and evening sessions of play. I recall that Ritson was amused when I told him of this, but did not demur. To show that there was life in the old dog, he organised a series of Birmingham international tournaments in the 1970s at which Tony Miles got much of his early experience.

Tackle Chess by William Ritson-Morry & W Melville Mitchell
Tackle Chess by William Ritson-Morry & W Melville Mitchell

One such tournament was financed by him alone, on the basis of the sale of a piece of land in Sutton Coldfield where a change of planning status had led to a windfall profit.

 

Hastings Chess Congress 1955-56, RG Wade & W. Ritson Morry, En Passant Chess Publications
Hastings Chess Congress 1955-56, RG Wade & W. Ritson Morry, En Passant Chess Publications

He also saved Hastings in late 1974,by giving a partial guarantee when another sponsor reduced his contribution. A few years later the Inland Revenue made him bankrupt when they could not get their piece of the action out of the deal. Doubtless Ritson thought that the money had gone to a worthier cause. I must not fail to mention his love of gambling or his erudition. Many is the time when you could have an exposition from him of the law of England, the practice of the courts and the police, or the political news of the day.

William Ritson Morry (05-ix-1910 08-i-1994)
William Ritson Morry (05-ix-1910 08-i-1994)

He was deeply immersed in local Labour Party politics in Birmingham and was a friend of football referee, ‘rainmaker’ Dennis Howell, one-time Minister for Sport. Ritson also played a great deal of postal chess, winning the British title in 1943. His book on the game written in conjunction with a Birmingham schoolmaster Mel Mitchell is a very instructive one, and he also wrote many reports and amusing articles for BCM, particularly one on of the failings of the Elo rating system regulations.

Here is a game Ritson won against the veteran German GM at the London Easter congress of 1940:

Bernard wrote about WRM a year later for the centenary edition of the programme for the Hastings International Congress :

“‘Ritson’ as we all knew him was an institution in British Chess, active as a player, writer,  organiser, drafter of rules and well-known for his skill as a raconteur, Educated in North Wales, he spent the rest of his life, from university days onwards, in Birmingham, but the Hastings Congress was very close to his heart.  He played in a number of pre-war events, and also a few post-war, but by the time of the Frank Rhoden revival of the mid-1950s he was firmly in the saddle organising the post-Christmas traditional event. In fact I recall how perturbed Frank Rhoden was when the news came that Ritson might emigrate to the West Indies.  It was not clear then how he could be replaced, for he supervised the morning, afternoon and evening sessions at the Sun Lounge (his favourite venue) and later at the Falaise Hall when the congress was still of such a size that we could all, including the Premier, be fitted into one room.

William Ritson-Morry
William Ritson Morry

Ritson also did game commentaries for some years and produced a bulletin for at least three decades. He was greatly encouraging of younger talent and the objective historian has to recall the indignation he felt when players like Tony Miles and Nigel Short were not happy with the restraints imposed by financial stringency.

Hastings bench memorial bench for William Ritson Morry
Hastings bench memorial bench for William Ritson Morry

In his declining years Ritson was still a regular until his illness of late 1993, and a fixture at the “gate” where the public paid their entrance money at the Cinque Ports Hotel. The choice of word is deliberate as a visit to the dogs and the bookmaker was one of his rare pleasures outside chess.  Best of all, however, one recalls him telling his fund of stories and reminisces to anyone who cared to listen. His voice, alas, has been stilled, and we are left to recall his selfless devotion to chess and, in particular, to the Hastings Congress.

Here is an obituary from the Midland Counties Chess Union

Here is an in-depth article from William Hartston in The Independent

William Ritson Morry (05-ix-1910 08-i-1994)
William Ritson Morry (05-ix-1910 08-i-1994)

Here is a biography from the Midland Counties  Chess Union newsletter from 1994.

From The Encyclopaedia of Chess by Harry Golombek :

Midlands organiser and player who was a chess professional and journalist. As a player his best performances were an =2nd in the British Championship 1936 and an = 3rd in 1951.

In the international field his best results have been an =3rd with List in the Major Open A section of the Nottingham congress of 1936 and =1st with Milner-Barry in the Premier Reserves A at the Hastings congress 1946/7. He has played for England in international matches against the Netherlands (thrice) and against Czechoslovakia and Yugoslavia.

William Ritson Morry talking about Malik Mir Sultan Kahn
William Ritson Morry talking about Malik Mir Sultan Kahn

A keen and accomplished correspondence player, he had the title of British Postal Master on account of his winning the British Correspondence Championship in 1943.

But it is as tournament and congress organiser that he is best known. He founded the Birmingham Junior League in 1930 and has organised thirty-four Birmingham congresses. He conceived the idea of a junior world championship and in 1951 he held the first World Junior Championship tournament at Birmingham (won by Borislav Ivkov). In the same year he was awarded the title of FIDE judge. He has also had much to do with the organisation of the Hastings Christmas chess congresses in the 1970s.

William Ritson Morry (05-ix-1910 08-i-1994)
William Ritson Morry (05-ix-1910 08-i-1994)

He has written much for British chess magazines and was the co-author along with the late W. R. Mitchell  of Tackle Chess, London, 1967.

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Happy Birthday IM George Botterill (08-I-1949)

IM George Steven Botterill (08-I-1949) by Nigel Eddis
IM George Steven Botterill (08-I-1949) by Nigel Eddis

We send birthday wishes to IM George Steven Botterill born on this day (January 8th) in 1949.

Here is his Wikipedia page

Brian Reilly, Ray Keene, George Botterill, Anatoly Karpov, Harry Golombek and Viktor Korchnoi
Brian Reilly, Ray Keene, George Botterill, Anatoly Karpov, Harry Golombek and Viktor Korchnoi

and here is his academic page

Capa vs Corzo Rerun ? Nigel Short had 1977 British Champion George Botterill on the ropes at The National Bank of Dubai Open. In the photo Nigel is considering 42 Rh5 The champ just escaped with a draw.
Capa vs Corzo Rerun ? Nigel Short had 1977 British Champion George Botterill on the ropes at The National Bank of Dubai Open. In the photo Nigel is considering 42 Rh5 The champ just escaped with a draw.

IM George Steven Botterill (08-I-1949)
IM George Steven Botterill (08-I-1949)
The Modern Defence, BT Batsford, 1972, GS Botterill and RD Keene
The Modern Defence, BT Batsford, 1972, GS Botterill and RD Keene
The Pirc Defence, BT Batsford, 1973, GS Botterill and RD Keene
The Pirc Defence, BT Batsford, 1973, GS Botterill and RD Keene
British Chess, Pergamon Press, 1983. Editors : GS Botterill, DNL Levy, JM Rice and MJ Richardson
British Chess, Pergamon Press, 1983. Editors : GS Botterill, DNL Levy, JM Rice and MJ Richardson
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