Working with the Grandmaster Preparation books

November 27th, 2015 4 comments

There is a conversation I have once a week, sometimes once a fortnight. It is with a player or the parent of a talented youngster, who would like to have private tuition, either short term or continuously. At the moment this is not something I am ready to do for the payment people are willing to pay. There are just too many projects I need to bring to completion.

But this article is not supposed to be about whining, but a longer reply to the last person who asked me to help her daughter make decisions better and faster. It is, in short, a guide to using my books.

The first point I want to make is the most fundamental one, and thus also the one that is most far reaching and most difficult to implement.

In order to improve your chess abilities, you will have to think in a different way.

There are other ways to improve in chess: physical form (not greatly effective, but it does a lot for your health!), openings (they go out of date and you forget them, still a good position is easier to play), memorising theoretical endings (worthwhile doing, but this needs updating too), calculating faster (similar to sprint training for physical athletes, something you lose if you don’t maintain it) and others.

All of these are worth doing and if you are ambitious, you are probably doing some of them and aware that you should be doing the others as well!

But if you can improve the way you think chess, you will really get ahead.

Read more…

Categories: Jacob Aagaard's training tips Tags:

Minor, minor publication schedule update

November 24th, 2015 32 comments

We sent Vassilios Kotronias Grandmaster Repertoire 6A – Beating the Anti-Sicilians away to the printer a while ago. Despite the impending doom, commonly referred to as Christmas, the book will be out soon – 9th December to be exact (and a week before on Forward Chess as usual).

Andrew and Nikos are working around the clock, Andrew during the day and Nikos during the night. They are almost done with Playing 1.e4 e5 – A Classical Repertoire, which will be yet another repertoire book for Black based on the Breyer. It seems this is rather popular at the moment! We are hoping this will be the best of the lot, but the competition is stiff.

We are also quite close to finishing Yuri Razuvaev’s book in the classic series, Key Concepts of Gambit Play. It will not go to the printer that quickly though, as John will proofread it and he has to finish his own book first!

This is what we are doing right at the moment. A bit down the line, we will have Mikhalevski: Grandmaster Repertoire 19 – Beating Minor Openings, which will be the final numbered book in the GM Repertoire series, if we exclude A’s, B’s and so on. We will also get around to editing the final book in Tal’s Best Games series, The Invincible. We are working on other projects of course, such as Kotronias on the King’s Indian 4, with the series finishing with volume 5. And no, I will not go through the content of any of these books at this moment.

For a more detailed publishing schedule, maybe the future will provide!?

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What’s the matter with Magnus?

November 23rd, 2015 21 comments

Two weeks ago the poll predicted a Russian victory in the European Team Championship in Reykjavík. You were right about that, so your overwhelming vote for “The rest is a matter of technique” as the most annoying chess-writing cliché is probably right too.


The comments also produced plenty of interesting “Others”. Too many to note all of them individually, but a couple in particular caught my eye.

Starting with “Better is…” is annoying and unnatural. I must have used this phrase a thousand times without noticing the problem, but I see your point.

“Strategical” is not a word, claims Wulfgar – I would say that if people use it, then it’s a word, but it seems to mean the same as “strategic” while pointlessly using two extra letters.

For this week’s poll I will return to Iceland. World Champion Magnus Carlsen had, by his own stratospheric standards, a poor tournament – a TPR of ‘only’ 2670. This was the third-best TPR in the Norwegian team, after Jon Ludwig Hammer and Aryan Tari. Firstly, congratulations to my 4ncl teammate Aryan who, at age 16, became Norway’s 12th Grandmaster.

But what’s the matter with Magnus? Options include “Lack of motivation” – he is already the World Champion, and has had the highest-ever rating.

Or maybe he prefers playing for himself, rather than a team. If you don’t believe there’s such a thing as a ‘great team player’, then consider Gabriel Sargissian, who delivered a 2800 performance for Armenia, as is traditional.

Or maybe there’s nothing wrong with Magnus, and it’s just natural variation – he’s not a machine.

I will include “Other” to cover everything from ‘distractions in his personal life’ to the fact that his star sign is Sagittarius.


Categories: Polls Tags:

When computers fail to play good chess

November 20th, 2015 17 comments

The Top Chess Engine Championship is ongoing. The final is not surprisingly Stockfish against Komodo. As I write, round 58 is under way. Komodo is leading with four wins against one.

It can be viewed here:

In an earlier round (22), something that is hard to explain happened. Stockfish had a winning position and misplayed it! Gone is the illusion that “you have to be a computer to win this”, or at least it has been augmented a bit.

On top of this there was something to feed conspiracy theories. Here is what a source close to the match said:

“After 53.b6 the online broadcast stopped. The reason it stopped was a technical glitch. There are
two computers running the TCEC event: a 24-core machine runs the engines, and the tournament program cutechess-cli, a webserver. The game playing machine had a problem uploading the pgn file to the webserver (that’s my assessment of what happened). The live broadcast went offline in a position which seemed like an easy win for SF (sf was showing +7 and komodo was also showing a high score). Then the game was drawn; offline…and out of view.”

Indeed Stockfish did mess up a winning position, which led to some Stockfish fans to conclude that there was foul play involved. I enjoy the sound of “computer cheating in computer tournament” or “human cheats in computer tournament” or whatever the Daily Mail will be able to make out of it, looking for another scandal in chess to write about. (Recently an English player changed to Wales – for the second time in his life – and somehow this was seen as a major scandal in chess, while no one had actually noticed, or had cared once they did notice… Best of luck to Nigel of course, but that it should be a scandal is hard to understand.)

To me the most interesting to me is the question, “Why did Stockfish mess up?”, not “Did the Knights Templar hide the descendent of Christ?” or whatever…

Here is the position.

TCEC Season 8 – Superfinal (22), 11.11.2015

1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 e6 3.Nf3 b6 4.g3 Ba6 5.Nbd2 c5 6.e4 cxd4 7.e5 Ng4 8.h3 Nh6 9.Bg2 Nc6 10.0–0 Be7 11.Qa4 Bb7 12.Nxd4 Nxd4 13.Bxb7 Rb8 14.Be4 Qc7 15.Qd1 Nhf5 16.Re1 Qxe5 17.Nb3 Rd8 18.Bf4 Qf6 19.Qd3 Bc5 20.Rad1 Nxb3 21.axb3 Nd4 22.Kg2 Nc6 23.h4 a5 24.Qe2 Qe7 25.Qh5 g6 26.Qf3 Nd4 27.Qc3 Qf6 28.Bd5 Bb4 29.Qd3 0–0 30.Be5 Qf5 31.Qxd4 Bxe1 32.Rxe1 d6 33.Bf6 e5 34.Qxb6 Qxf6 35.Qxa5 Kh8 36.b4 g5 37.Rh1 gxh4 38.Rxh4 Qg6 39.Qa3 f5 40.Qf3 Qg7 41.b5 Rb8 42.b4 Rf6 43.Rh5 Qg6 44.Qe2 f4 45.Be4 Qg7 46.Qf3 Rh6 47.Rxh6 Qxh6 48.Qe2 fxg3 49.fxg3 Qg5 50.c5 Rg8 51.Qe1 dxc5 52.bxc5 Rd8 53.b6 Rd2+ 54.Kg1 Qd8 55.Qe3 Rb2 56.Bf3 Rb1+ 57.Kg2 Rb2+ 58.Kh3 Qf6 59.b7 Qe6+ 60.g4 h5 61.c6 hxg4+ 62.Bxg4 Qd6 63.Bf5 Qf6

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Categories: Fun Games Tags:

Negi Publication Day

November 18th, 2015 17 comments

Today is the official publication day of Parimarjan Negi’s 1.e4 vs The Sicilian II.

In our terms, that means it’s the day the new books will arrive at specialist chess shops. Some websale customers will already have received their books. If you bought on our site and haven’t received your book yet, then it’s in the post. As ever, we will be interested to know what you think of the book.

Parimarjan was in action in a mixed-format match against Hou Yifan last week. The result was 11–7 to the Chinese star, but Parimarjan had his chances, and even lost one on time in a dead drawn position, after being winning earlier. The biggest gap was in Fischer Random, which was won 3.5–0.5 by Hou Yifan.

No opening prep can help in Fischer Random, but Parimarjan did put some ideas from his book into action in the other games, including the following line against a rare but clever variation of the Accelerated Dragon. The following is a blitz game so I shall not analyse it in depth.

Parimarjan Negi – Hou Yifan

USA 12/11/15

1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 g6 5.Nc3 Bg7 6.Be3 Nf6 7.Bc4 O-O 8.Bb3 Re8

Negi devotes a whole chapter to this rare move. “This rook move is incredibly subtle, which is why it has almost exclusively been played by really strong players.” You’ll need to read Negi’s explanation of the points of 8…Re8 to understand why he is so impressed by this move.

Read more…

Categories: GM Repertoire, Publishing Schedule Tags:


November 17th, 2015 1 comment

I played a couple of games of chess last weekend in the first rounds of the 4ncl in Birmingham. This is newsworthy because, before this, my most recent competitive game was the final round of last season’s 4ncl, six months ago. My inactivity is due, in part, to being busy with work, including nearing a finish to a Playing 1.e4 book.

Through bad luck of the draw, my opponent on Saturday was IM Sam Collins of Ireland. I say bad luck, because when I make a 600-mile round trip from Glasgow to Birmingham, I would rather play someone I haven’t played before, not an old friend. I will just show the end of the game, though analysing the earlier parts of the rook ending could fill a book.

John Shaw – Sam Collins

4ncl 14.11.2015

A small crowd had gathered as this was one of the last games to finish. I later learned one of the spectators thought I had put my rook en prise to the black pawn. Which way are the pawns going?

A sneaky try to block the a-file using a check on c6 first.
The simple approach allows White to draw by a tempo. For example: 50…Kb3 51.h6 Kb2 52.h7 a1Q 53.Rxa1 Kxa1 54.Kg7 b5 55.g5 b4 56.g6 b3 57.h8Q Rxh8 58.Kxh8 b2 59.g7 b1Q Not a check. 60.g8Q=

This felt like an only move, and is the most practical choice, but allowing the black pawn to queen would also draw, as my tandem get close enough to prevent Black making progress.

51.g5 Rc6+ 52.Kh7 Ra6 53.Rxa6 bxa6 54.g6 a1Q 55.g7= (55.h6=) 55…Qb1+ 56.Kh6! Qc1+ 57.Kh7 Qc2+ 58.Kh6 Qd2+ 59.Kh7 Qd3+ 60.Kh6 Qe3+ 61.Kh7 Qe4+ 62.Kh6 Qf4+ 63.Kh7 Qf5+ 64.Kh6 Qf6+ 65.Kh7 A set-up to remember: Black cannot win. 65…Qf7 66.h6 (Even 66.Kh6 works. 66…Qg8 67.Kg6 Kc5 68.h6=) 66…Kc5 67.Kh8 Qf6 68.Kh7=

Or similarly: 51.h6=

51…Rxa2 52.h6 Kc5

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Categories: Authors in Action, Fun Games Tags:

Let’s have some new clichés

November 16th, 2015 46 comments

One of the challenges of writing about chess is avoiding tedious repetition (as I may have said before…) but there are only so many ways to say: “White has an edge due to his bishop pair.”

So this week’s poll question is: Name your least favourite chess writing cliché.

My candidates are: “The rest is a matter of technique”, “Study-like”, “The bishop is biting on granite”, “Passed pawns must be pushed”, “The threat is stronger than the execution” and “Knight on the rim is dim”.

I know “Other” will be a wide category, but that’s what the comments box is for.

Last week’s poll predicted the European Team Championships will be won by the Russians, who had over twice as many votes as their nearest rivals. They are sitting on three wins out of three so far. The clichéd phrase is: “The race is not always to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, but that’s the way to bet.”


Categories: Polls Tags:

Who will win the Euros?

November 9th, 2015 21 comments

The 1st round of the European Team Championship starts on Friday the 13th in Reykjavík, Iceland.

Russia will be top seeds in the Open section, as usual, but the Russians have struggled in some team events in recent years. They will be challenged by the likes of Ukraine (Ivanchuk, Eljanov…), Azerbaijan (with new arrival Naiditsch), France (MVL, Fressinet…), England, Armenia (Aronian, Sargissian…) and Hungary (non-playing captain Judit Polgar).

Who do you think will win the Open Section of the 2015 European Team Championship?

I should avoid interfering with the sanctity of an internet poll, but as a loyal Brit I like the medal hopes of an England team of Adams, Short, Jones, Howell and McShane. And good luck to Scotland and Denmark, with the Danish non-playing captain Jacob Aagaard. In fact, if you check out the team list you could make a few fine teams out of the non-playing captains.

Read more…

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