Archive for May, 2016

Other board games

May 31st, 2016 13 comments

Last week’s question was: ‘Are you interested in chess variants?’ By far the most common answer was ‘no’, you only play classical chess over-the-board. Even the second-most-common answer was ‘correspondence chess’, so the true chess variants are still very much a minority pursuit.

I am with the majority, as over-the-board chess is the only one for me. Late in 1994, I did start a handful of correspondence games, but after taking ill at the end of that year, I forgot all about them. It was years later before I remembered them, and I found out I had effectively ‘lost on time’ (belated apologies to my opponents).


Continuing my idle curiosity about your likes and dislikes – Do you also play other board games, or just chess?

There are so many board games that I will not even attempt to give options. Just a straight choice between ‘only chess’ and ‘I play other board games’. You can name your other board games in comments, but I am betting on a win for ‘only chess’. But if you play other versions of chess, such as Shogi, then I would count that as a different board game.

Categories: Polls Tags:

Q & A with Boris Gelfand

May 24th, 2016 61 comments

After pleading for a year (at least) on your behalf, I have talked Boris Gelfand into doing a Q&A with the readers of the Quality Chess blog. It will work like this:

Put your questions in comments to this post by the end of Sunday 29th May. Boris and I will then agree on a day when we will go through them, and he will answer most of them. Please keep the questions brief, as we will not have time to read long blocks of text to get to your question. And please make them simple comprehensible questions. Thanks.

Categories: Authors in Action Tags:

Publishing Schedule (quick and dirty)

May 24th, 2016 212 comments

Colin is off today, but sometime over the next few days we will put a few more books in the Coming Soon section. These are the books that are “all under control” (if ever that was true…) and where we know more or less when they will come out.

Many books are close to completion, but we do not know if printing will take three or five weeks, so there is a bit of uncertainty.

There is a special point about Dynamic Decision Making in Chess. Boris will be giving a 90 minute lecture at X-Tra Con Open (formerly Politiken Cup) in Helsingor on the 28th of July, assisted by yours truly. The entry fee is essentially to buy the new book in hardback. This is one month ahead of general publication.

1. e4 vs the Sicilian III is waiting for a few updates from Negi and a proofread. Playing 1.e4 – Caro-Kann, 1…e5 & Minor Lines is 90% proofread and will go to the printer this week. GM Repertoire 1B, 1.d4 – The Queen’s Gambit is halfway through editing and will be done within a few weeks. Key Concepts of Gambit Play is lacking a quick edit. Mikhail Tal 3 – The Invincible is lacking a long and thorough edit! The same with King’s Indian Warfare. The authors of Grandmaster Repertoire – The Nimzo-Indian and Kotronias on the King’s Indian 5 have sent many files already. Hopefully they are not far off. Thinking Inside the Box has yet to be fully written.

I have been busy with the Gelfand book and also wanted to spend a bit of time writing a beginner’s book, which is Chess from Scratch. I teach at Fettes College in Edinburgh and wanted to put my experiences of working with beginners on paper. As I am not going to the Olympiad this year, Read more…

Categories: Publishing Schedule Tags:

Chess variants

May 23rd, 2016 18 comments

Last week’s question was ‘What is most important for you in a World Championship cycle?’ Over three-quarters of you voted for ‘that the best player wins’. Fair enough, but I suspect the ‘entertainment’ option would have gained more votes if we still had the old classical system of first-to-win-6-games, and matches lasting for six months.



This week I am curious about a topic we at Quality Chess rarely touch in our books – chess variants. We usually focus on ‘normal’ classical chess with the traditional starting position. But there are other chess worlds out there, such as Fischer Random, odds-giving (removing some material from one side, to even up a mismatch in playing strength), chess-boxing, correspondence, problem solving, and many more. Are you interested in chess variants? Unlike our previous polls, when you vote, you can click more than one option, as it’s perfectly possible to be interested in more than one variant.

I will take ‘interested in’ to mean as either a spectator or a competitor. And since we have in the office a World Champion solver in GM Colin McNab, I should admit that ‘solving’ and ‘correspondence chess’ are not really ‘chess variants’, but I am using the term broadly and carelessly, just to distinguish from over-the-board chess.

Categories: Polls Tags:

Can a normal person become a titled player, even a GM?

May 17th, 2016 50 comments

I was asked this question (rephrased) on Facebook a few days ago. I felt that the right place to offer my opinion would be here. It will be an answer with a few points.

a) First of all, the answer is probably both yes and no. John and I are nothing special. I had “talent” for about 2200 and John maybe 1800. What I mean by this is that we got to these levels after playing chess for quite a number of years, but essentially just by playing. We did not study much before we hit the ceiling. This comes at different levels. For Luke McShane it came at 2600, while others face it at 1200 or 2100.

b) If you face the ceiling at 1200, I am honestly not so optimistic about you getting the GM title. I like to play music and I spend a lot of my time trying to improve, but I am not under the illusion that I will ever reach a professional level. This does not mean that it does not have tremendous value for me, it does. I love it.

c) The main issue with my musical ability is not that I do not have the talent of Prince or the educational possibilities of Mozart (home schooled by one of the greatest musicians of the time, his father). The real problem is more to do with the ‘10,000 hours rule’, as outlined by Malcolm Gladwell. (I know this is highly controversial, but let’s at least for the moment say that the idea of 10,000 hours of deliberate practice is a good indicator of how difficult it is to learn something). I do not have five years of 2,000 hours to invest. I maybe practice 3-4 hours a week on average, 10+ hours on a good week and only 1 hour of fooling around the last few weeks. Progress is understandably slow.

The question of talent

We have debated this from time to time here on the blog. It seems clear that talent exists and Read more…

Categories: Jacob Aagaard's training tips Tags:

World Championship priority…

May 16th, 2016 8 comments

Last week’s poll question was about trying to claim a draw in a blitz game. It was a simple question and had an overwhelming answer from the readers. ‘Play on’. Some of you correctly guessed the reason for asking the question was to settle an argument in the office. Playing with Black was a friend of ours from Edinburgh. The draw claimant with White – let’s call him “Andrew” – believed he should get a draw because of his overwhelming position. Jacob, Colin and I disagreed. We are grateful for your help in showing “Andrew” how wrong he was.


This week’s question is more serious, and was suggested by a conversation between various people on the blog. What is most important for you in a World Championship cycle? That the best player wins the World Championship. Or that we get the most entertaining cycle?

Categories: Polls Tags:

How to deal with paperback issues

May 11th, 2016 28 comments


We have long been pushing our hardback editions as much as we can without seeming, well, pushy. This has been for one reason mainly; we believe in the product immensely and the feedback we are getting is that people are very pleased with it. They lie open flat, for example, which is an important issue when you are working with books such as the Yusupov series or my own Grandmaster Preparation books.

We have always been happy with the quality of the paperback books and over the years we have received very few complaints about pages falling out of the books. This is if we exclude the first edition of Experts vs. the Sicilian and a reprint of Grandmaster Repertoire 3, where some copies were bound poorly. We took steps to deal with it at the time. Read more…

Categories: Publishing Schedule Tags:

This week you are the arbiter

May 9th, 2016 32 comments

Last week’s question was: ‘Is it reasonable to award the title of World Champion after a knock-out tournament?’ The readership is of (almost) one mind on this issue: 88% say ‘no’. To be a real World Champion you must win a match. I hope FIDE is paying attention.


We move on from the World Championship to a blitz game at Jacob’s house-warming on Saturday night.


In the position above, White was almost out of time (2 or 3 seconds) and stopped the clock, claiming a draw. It was a five-minute game, with no increment. There was a discussion. It was a friendly beer-and-pizza event, so Black sportingly agreed a draw.

But what’s your view? How would you have reacted if you were the arbiter? Is a claim of a draw reasonable here in a blitz game? Would you have awarded the draw, or instead asked the players to play on, which would almost immediately lead to White losing on time?

Categories: Polls Tags: