Archive for the ‘Reviews’ Category

Yusupov success

February 17th, 2014 4 comments

My good friend, Danish Women’s Team Coach Thomas Schou-Moldt has written an article in Danish on the benefits of training. In this case based on the Yusupov books and a recent game he won in the Danish league. I am not sure how many will benefit from this, as it is written in Danish but I found it fun. Not sure how Google translate will work, but at least the chess moves will be easy to understand.

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The King’s Gambit – Wagenbach Variation

February 13th, 2014 17 comments

In The King’s Gambit I mentioned that the Wagenbach Variation – 2.f4 exf4 3.Nf3 h5 – was first played by Jonathan Tait and that Mr Wagenbach was mainly a correspondence player. I have since learned (from Mr János Wagenbach) that neither of these things are true. Mr Wagenbach played it first – in blitz games in his club – and he is primarily an over-the-board player. I am happy to correct the record. When re-printing the book (perhaps soon) I shall also correct the relevant page.

The game below shows the Wagenbach working well for Wagenbach – but note the line I recommend for White is 4.d4 (with 4.Nc3 as another option) not 4.h4.

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The difficulty of being Black

December 29th, 2013 57 comments

In a recent review of Nikos’s and my book Playing the French (on ChessVibes and, the reviewer Arne Moll expresses some doubt about our understanding of practical chess. You can read the review if you are interested in the detail of the argument and in my reply (given below). But I wanted to give a little thought to the difficulty of being Black in general.

As most of you will have noticed, playing an inferior position is perilous. A mistake in a slightly better position can be annoying, but a mistake in an inferior position can land you in trouble you cannot solve. I will write more about this in the near future, but for now let us just continue as if this hypothesis is indeed a fact.

When you are Black your games will in general fall into two categories. Either your opponents will play sidelines or mainlines. This leads to two different challenges.

Mainlines have a tendency to lead to positions where accuracy is important. New ideas will exist in most positions, but mainlines are popular because of the pressure they put on Black (and Black’s success in neutralizing it). For this reason we often need a lot of theoretical knowledge to defend the black side. It is either this or risk your life in variations where you are worse and the problems you have to solve are harder to solve (because deciding between two inferior positions is harder than deciding between a decent and an inferior position).

Sidelines tend to offer you a number of decent options, all of them leading to decent positions. Unless White has played something problematic, he will not be worse either. In such situations exact knowledge usually decreases in value. Unless we play correspondence chess, it is almost impossible to anticipate what sidelines you will face in your next few tournaments, so extensive knowledge has a tendency to be overkill. Working on your problem solving abilities will be more likely to help you once you end in a respectable sideline.

This is the approach Nikos and I chose for our book. This is the philosophy behind it. It is absolutely up for debate, but our approach is not random.

For the full review of Playing the French, go to: review

Reading this review, I felt it was one long question, asking: why did they offer this line? This post below is my answer, not meant as a criticism of the reviewer. Read more…

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In depth review of the King’s Gambit by Smerdon

September 26th, 2013 45 comments

ChessVibes have an interesting review of The King’s Gambit by John Shaw.

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Different approaches to the same material

September 11th, 2013 No comments

When I sat down to write the Attacking Manual 1 the main goal for me was to make the book very readable. It later made me very happy when Slovakian GM Jan Markos (author of the underrated and generally excellent Beat the KID) said that he had read the book like if it had been a novel. This was exactly the flow I wanted to achieve; the focus being on recurring strategic themes, rather than on calculation.

This does not mean that the material could not have been used in a different way. Chess is a complex game and our minds are complex tools. Obviously they will offer different ways to achieve the same goals.

In his latest post on Mark Dvoretsky uses one of the positions from the book to look into calculation. His goal is quite different from mine and the end result is therefore quite different as well. Not better or worse, just different. To my relief the analysis I did six years ago have not been spanked by today’s much faster computers and Mark talks very nicely of my writing, which shows that he is a good friend, as well as awfully kind to youthful amateurs like myself.

If you at all feel inspired to do some heavy calculation, then you should check out his article here.

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“Playing the Trompowsky” – IM Richard Pert responds to a critical review

August 5th, 2013 105 comments


In comments to this blog, a review critical of “Playing the Trompowsky” was linked. IM Richard Pert asked for the right to respond. If “everyone is entitled to an opinion” then that must include the author, so I will let Richard take it from here:


Firstly I want to say “thank you” to the many readers who have shown support for my first book, which I have written on the Trompowsky. I put a lot of time into my analysis, and my efforts combined with the hard work of the Quality Chess team has, in my opinion, produced a book to be proud of.


Unfortunately there will always be people who like to criticize, and this time it’s the turn of Mr Martin Rieger. I don’t know who Mr Rieger is; I’ve never heard of him before, but since he has criticized my work I am keen to respond.


My book aims to provide a practical repertoire. Deep analysis is mostly saved for the critical lines, while new positions with a small advantage for White are talked about in more general terms. There will come a point in every game where you have to think for yourself, and my book focuses on what you need to know to get an advantage/promising position, rather than producing a 1000-page manual which is impossible to memorize.


I will, in passing, point out that Mr Rieger makes no mention whatsoever of the numerous improvements I provided for White in several of the critical main lines. Instead he has picked out a handful of mostly non-critical lines, then added some of his own non-critical analysis and proceeded to rubbish my book. I don’t want to get into a slanging match with Mr Rieger and I can’t speak German, so I don’t know exactly what he is saying, although I can get the gist of it with an online translator.


I will respond to the two examples that Mr Rieger emphasizes the most in his analysis. His opening point concerns the following line:
Read more…

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April 16th, 2013 43 comments

Calculation won the ACP book of the year prize with one vote ahead of How I Beat Fischer’s Record. Sort of random and a bit undeserved, as Judit’s book is far richer than mine. But obviously people care most about improvement, so a training book always has an advantage.

This is not said to be ungrateful. I am terribly chuffed and proud and want to thank everyone who voted for me. I only say that it is a shame John and I did not vote, as we would have voted for Judit!

At the same time congratulations to Ruslan Sherbakov, who won the Chess Publishing members vote for the best opening book of 2012. Previously this was won by Avrukh and Marin. We are big fans of Sherbakov and think he is a worthy successor. If I am a worthy successor to last year’s winners of the ACP award, Nunn and Dvoretsky, I am less sure.

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My best ever review

February 6th, 2013 5 comments

Today in his always interesting column at ChessCafe, FM Carsten Hansen, gives what is probably my best ever review for Grandmaster Preparation – Calculation. It is not so much the six stars as well as some quotable sentences that make me so happy. But rather a few other facts:

* Carsten is not generally a Quality Chess devotee, although he is by no means hostile either. For example: Boris Avrukh’s GM11 got 5/6 stars, while other books got 6/6 in the same column. To me Boris is the best author of opening books there is – and this is his best book! So fair and positive when we deserve it, but maybe with more of a taste for typical Everyman books!?

* Carsten and I played a few times from 1989 to 1991 in Denmark. I think it was three draws, the first of them a blitz game. To say that we did not click back then is accurate, but these days we have an occasional pleasant exchange of e-mails. The main reason I bring this up is the simple truth that a prophet is never appreciated in his home town. It has taken almsot a decade longer to gain a reputation with people of my own generation in Denmark, compared to with the rest of the world. That I have won Carsten over completely is therefore a big victory for me.

* Finally – and this is really the most important thing by a mile for me. The review clearly shows that Carsten has worked with the book and found it to be exactly as I intended it to be. For a writer this is always the dream; for the reader to understand his book exactly and to appreciate it. When this reader is a critic, well, it is home run!

Carsten did bring up one interesting point in his review:

“My only criticism of this book is a fairly simple one, and one that I have with most other books that have test positions or puzzles to solve. I do not understand why the test positions have to have the players names listed. Strong players will likely recognize the positions based on the name references and thus know the solutions.”

Andrew and I are in first this morning and debated it a bit. In the end we agreed that it came down to a choice.

On the one side there is Carsten’s, on the other side my point of view:

* For people who like name indexes, it is nice to be sent to the positions as well as the solutions.

* It is not very likely that a strong player will recognise the position through the names and not through the position itself. And if he does, he would not necessarily know the right move.

* If you recognise a game position, this does not mean that you know what the best move is. I have a taste for positions where good players made mistakes. I like it when the amateur does better than the world class player. I recently sent a position (without names) to a few very strong players. They all said they knew the game, but none of them found the right move! Actually, learning to think even when you have some recognition of the position is something I want my students to develop.

* I think it looks better!

So, in the end we have possible negative and positives in both directions. I like my choice, Andrew was more undecided – but then he hardly ever change a point of view!

If you don’t want to read all of the view, here is the conclusion:

“Studying Grandmaster Preparation: Calculation carefully will make you a much stronger player, open your eyes to new possibilities, allow you to immerse yourself into positions from completely different angles, and see possibilities that would have surprised you before. This book teaches your mind to think differently and solve complicated task; provided you have taken the time to work your way through this book. It is written for strong players and those who are serious about improving their chess understanding and their ability to calculate accurately. To benefit from this book you should probably be rated at least 2000. Nevertheless, there is really no limit to how strong you can be to benefit from studying the material.”

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