Archive for July, 2013

Quality Chess Newsletter – Six new books and a birthday

July 31st, 2013 47 comments


Dear Quality Chess reader,

Today is the 40th birthday of GM Jacob Aagaard, my friend and business partner. Happy Birthday Jacob!

To business – six new Quality Chess books were made available this past month.

The King’s Gambit (by me) made its long-awaited appearance. Five years of analysis resulted in 680 pages of fun-filled lines. Early reactions, I must admit, have been highly favourable.

Another monster of a book is Kotronias on the King’s Indian: Fianchetto Systems by Vassilios Kotronias. The Greek GM is one of the world’s leading theoreticians with particular expertise in the KID. This book not only contains wonderful opening analysis but also guidance on how to play the resulting middlegame positions.

Playing the Trompowsky by Richard Pert does not require such heavy lifting. The English IM, a Trompowsky expert, supplies a practical attacking repertoire with 1.d4 Nf6 2.Bg5. Other 2.Bg5 lines are also covered against 1…f5 and 1…d5.

The remaining three books are from Jacob’s Grandmaster Preparation series: Calculation, Positional Play and Strategic Play are published in paperback. Previously they had been available only in hardcover.

The chess files (in pgn and pdf) cover many topics, including an improvement by GM Boris Avrukh on his original analysis in Grandmaster Repertoire 11 – Beating 1.d4 Sidelines.


John Shaw

Chief Editor

Quality Chess


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Happy Birthday Jacob

July 31st, 2013 25 comments

Today is Jacob’s 40th birthday. To celebrate, everyone in the office went out to an excellent steakhouse for lunch and had a couple of drinks. Productivity in the afternoon may have dipped.

The article below is translated from today’s issue of Politiken – a leading Danish newspaper.

Jacob Photo

Grandmaster Jacob Aagaard – 40 today and entirely on top
He was recently awarded the last of the four big Book of the Year awards and is the first player in the World to have them all. Jacob can also brag about having the highest trainer title, FIDE Senior Trainer. Quality Chess, of which Jacob is a co-founder, is the World’s leading chess publisher; not the least because of Jacob’s diligence, enthusiasm and great capacity.

Jacob is simply put, one of the leading people in the fields of chess literature and chess training and we are very grateful that he at the moment is a (great) trainer for the Danish elite. In other words: everything is on track for the Scottish Dane. But it was not always like that.

Jacob had a rough start in life; in his youth he had a sensitive and restless mind, which made it difficult to translate the obvious talent into results. His play went from sublime to horrible and it was more the inner demons than lack of ability which were to blame for him only reaching the IM-title in his mid-20s. From then on it took another ten years before Jacob could put GM on his business card.

Meanwhile he wrote a lot of chess books and trained a lot of people. In 2007 he finally broke through and got the GM-title and won the British Championship. He has also won the Scottish Championship and is currently the Danish Blitz Champion.

In a memorable Scottish wedding in 2004 Jacob replaced Denmark with Scotland and said ‘YES’ to Anne. They still live in Glasgow and have two girls, Cathy and Rebecca, aged 5 and 4. For a few years Jacob played for Scotland, but luckily he is back in Denmark now.

Jacob has written more than 20 chess books. The major works are Attacking Manual 1&2 as well as the current series Grandmaster Preparation, which looks like it is going to be the training bible of the future. Jacob manages to entertain and be funny, as well as to keep a high instructional level. A merciless inner drive combined with the ability to grow with the challenge has been with Aagaard throughout his life. He has not yet peaked; though it will be difficult to achieve more within the fields of chess training and chess literature.

GM Sune Berg Hansen, Politiken 31.07.2013


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It’s Physics Baby!

July 29th, 2013 27 comments


Having retired from ambitious chess (I’m still allowed to go to the Spanish coast to eat paella and make draws, just as I am allowed to win blitz championships – but that is another story) I am now focused on improving my tennis and my general level of fitness. I also have some other ambitions, but more about that another time.

The intention was always that I would start working out seriously after the Olympiad. But when I came home I was quite tired. Then I fell behind with Positional Play (and found it quite hard to write) and had to typeset a lot of books. Then our childcare arrangements collapsed (the last nursery in Milngavie closed down) and I had to pick up the slack, as I am the “flexi-time” worker in the family.

The latter actually was the catalyst to get started. Catherine (age 5) needed afternoon care on Wednesdays. So, Anne signed her up for a dance class, to her utter delight. The dance class was in a gym, so I simply joined.

Over the next six months I went to the gym twice a week and did 45 minutes of exercise. I also did a bit of rowing at home, maybe 20k a week or so. Slowly I was improving my ‘physics’ a little bit, building confidence and gaining momentum. I even went down to the tennis club a few times, though I was still a bit too slow to catch the balls I would like to catch.

During the year I have been working more and more days from home. At the moment I am only in the office Mondays and Fridays. The main reason is that I drop off Cathy at 9am and pick her up at 3pm, making the travel time of 45 minutes each way to work a killer. I would rather spend that time in the gym.

So, since July 5th I have been doing just that. I now exercise about 14 hours a week. I cycle to work (13k in 36 minutes/41 minutes back up the hill), I do weights, row, swim, play tennis, run on the treadmill (10.5kph is my cruise speed), use the cross-trainer and so on. Take today; 26k cycling, 90 minutes of tennis and possibly half an hour on the treadmill/concept 2 afterwards. Hell, in a few months I might not even be fat anymore!

This training pattern looks a lot like everything in my life I have ever succeeded in. I could tell you exactly the same story with the writing of the Grandmaster Repertoire series; or the Attacking Manuals; or the Excelling series. Once you get going, you build up momentum; and even if it is maybe harder stuff you are doing later on, you do it easily.

Actually, it is Newton: Read more…

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Progress Report

July 25th, 2013 116 comments

I have been making the finishing touches on Attack & Defence and Endgame Play over the last two months. I know from experience that my opinions on the quality of the books are not going to be the same as the readership; for example, I like Positional Play most of the first three books, while the most popular is without a shadow of doubt Calculation. I think this is good news for the readers, as the two new books were always meant to be closer to Calculation than to the two positional ones. Sure, there are some exercises with a strategic/technical aspect, but a lot of the positions are very concrete and requires accurate calculation from the reader.

Most progressed is Attack & Defence. I think we are going to the printer in two weeks. At the moment I am finishing the last chapter, while John is polishing off Pump up your Rating. As John is hyper efficient and as the formatting of my book will be near perfect from my hand, editing should happen in a whirlwind.

We are looking at last week of August/early September for a joint publication of these two books. Axel’s is clearly the most original, but hopefully mine will do well as well, being a part of a series.

Looking further down the line, I saw on Facebook that Judit has finished rough draft for From GM to Top Ten. Marin still needs to have a look at it before it goes to us, so maybe this will not make it out in 2013, but only early 2014.

And after he has finished editing my book, John will continue on Playing 1.e4. Already a lot of work has been done on these books, but the masters hand is needed to finish them. Hopefully it will not take five years, but rather 5-6 weeks to finish the first volume.

Meanwhile Colin McNab has made great progress on Playing the French, written in Nikos’ voice, with my support. I am quite happy with this book and hope it will support our most important opening book of the autumn, Grandmaster Repertoire 14 – The French Defence 1 by Swedish GM Emanuel Berg. Andrew is a few weeks from the end of the editing of that one, so it seems likely we will have two books out on the French together in the second half of September.

This covers almost everything in the Coming Soon section so far. But I should also mention that Boris Avrukh, Victor Mikhalevski and Tiger Hillarp-Persson are all writing in between tournaments. As their last books for us were all masterpieces, we are very optimistic about their next projects.

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The King’s Gambit reaches Glasgow

July 23rd, 2013 76 comments



Solid proof that The King’s Gambit exists. Click to see a larger version and marvel at the concentration of my hard-working colleagues.
So the jinx is over? Not quite. Not all the books due to arrive in Glasgow actually arrived. We asked the delivery man why not. “Perhaps the other books were on a different flight and were delayed by the thunderstorm.”

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The relative importance of fitness

July 22nd, 2013 38 comments


Did you ever see the 60 Minutes clip on Carlsen; it’s maybe 8-10 minutes long. You can find it on Youtube if you did not catch it. Basically, as a chess player you are constantly amused. For example: when they are amazed by Carlsen’s confidence against Kasparov, when he does not feel that he has to sit at the board when Kasparov is deciding what line to go for on move 5. Or the expressions of wonder when the journalist sees Carlsen give a blindfold display. “The most amazing thing I have ever seen,” I think the words were.

But the real amazing thing is not the party tricks grandmasters can easily perform. The amazing thing is the story of “lazy Carlsen” and how the myth-machinery is spinning, with Friedel from ChessBase chipping in, using the L-word.

Carlsen did decide early on not to go down the Russian drillmaster school and decided to be in charge of his own chess development. He does not devote all of his time to chess when he is at home; maybe not a lot even. But here are some of the statements that contradict the lazy idea:

– When up in the London Eye with the journalist, Carlsen blanks him and blanks the view; he is thinking about the next day’s game.

– At some point he says that the trip he went on at age 13 was very successful and the culmination of a heavy amount of work.

– He is travelling half of the year, at least (I think they said 200 days) with chess.

– He is sweating it out in the gym.
And this is just from a less than 10-minute segment! We have far more information on Carlsen showing his high level of concentration at the board, that he has a strong team of trainers and helpers and so on.

I am sure that Carlsen likes to play on the Wii, that he spends a good deal of his time in Norway hanging out with friends and playing football. But you are not lazy because you do not spend all your time preparing for the next game. Kramnik, Gelfand and Anand are all married with children; knowing personally what that feels like, I can say that a lot of time is spent being a family man!

The term “the Mozart of chess” has been re-invented for Carlsen. The metaphor is supposed to be something like a “no-effort genius” I assume. Indeed, Mozart did study music with his father (a top composer in his own right) from the age of 2. He wrote his first big pieces at the age of 6 – in his father’s handwriting (and allegedly copy and pasted from little-known pieces). By his early twenties, he was the most talented composer of his time – OVERNIGHT!

Carlsen is the number-one rated chess player at the moment because of a few factors:
Read more…

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July 18th, 2013 48 comments

It has been clear to us for some time that everything surrounding the King’s Gambit release has been jinxed. Latest, the KID and the Trompowsky have been two weeks delayed from Estonia due to DSV mucking about. They should arrive next week; once they have located them…

Meanwhile the King’s Gambit arrived this morning in our warehouse. It will be in a few shops and in our office next week and most places at the very end of that week/ start of the next. Hopefully this is the end of the jinx…

Obviously, as I pressed publish to this post, our Internet died. (Oh yeah; please no more requests for John’s blood. He read the comment and cut his finger three minutes later.)

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Should Chess Authors play the openings they recommend?

July 15th, 2013 91 comments


Some people assert that the authors of chess repertoire books should not be allowed to play anything other than what they have recommended in their books. I have always found that this claim, if upgraded to law, would seriously injure the human rights of a small group of people I have a natural positive bias towards.

Why do chess authors play in tournaments? Basically to win games, rating and prizes – just like everyone else. They are not on a book tour!

Repertoire books are great and extremely useful. At times someone will say here on the blog that grandmasters don’t read the Grandmaster Repertoire books. Well, we know for sure that the Chinese don’t really read them, because they keep getting stuffed by recommendations from them! But we also know that Anand, Kramnik, Ponomariov, Aronian, Gelfand, Ivanchuk, Svidler, Grischuk, Adams, Polgar and most likely all the other top players in the world have them – with the exception of Shirov, who “doesn’t read chess books”.

However, none of these players would ever follow a repertoire strictly. Instead they look for ideas and information; new analysis and so on. They have their own core repertoires, but will at times include ideas from wherever they find them. In some cases they will take up a new opening and check the analysis carefully; adding their own ideas.

It is not a surprise to me that after the Avrukh and Delchev books were published on the Grünfeld this opening became wildly popular among top players.

There are times when players of a reasonable level will follow a repertoire book for a tournament. Recently GM Sune Berg Hansen followed Bologan’s book on the Chebanenko Slav at the Danish Championship and in general did OK out of the opening with it. I am sure it happens all the time.

But what about the authors?

I want to give two examples of authors following their repertoires from the same tournament:

Read more…

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