Archive for June, 2016

The United Kingdom

June 28th, 2016 21 comments

Last week’s question: ‘Was it right of Nakamura to claim the full point in the game against Topalov?’ 69% said Yes, and 23% No. The only surprise to me is that ‘No’ received so many votes. In competitive blitz, illegal moves lose. And push-a-pawn-to-the-8th-and press-the-clock is a blatantly illegal move.

Clearly some feel that the rule is too harsh, but for blatantly illegal moves, it seems fair to me. I have more sympathy for what I might call ‘accidental illegal moves’. Example: you move a piece, press the clock, then the piece topples over because it was not placed exactly flat and steady on its base. This has been given as a loss in blitz. The innocent party has been disadvantaged, so a penalty is due. But a time penalty seems fairer than a default, for what seems to me to be clumsiness rather than intentional rule-breaking.


You may have noticed that last week the UK voted to leave the European Union. And many believe this makes it more likely that the UK might split up into its constituent countries. But in chess, and various other sports, the UK is already split, and competes as various teams. Why? Tradition or inertia. This is the way it has been, so it continues. For example, in September, Andrew, Colin and I will play for Scotland at the Olympiad in Baku.

At the chess Olympiad, do you think it is fair that England, Scotland and other British teams are allowed to compete individually?

I am aware that ‘national chess teams’ would not make the top million important Brexit-related topics, but we will keep this a chess blog.

Categories: Polls Tags:

Boris Gelfand Q & A – delay and time to ask more questions

June 23rd, 2016 13 comments

Sorry guys, it has been really really hard for Boris and myself to get our calendars to work in tune. The time we have had has all gone towards finishing Dynamic Decision Making in Chess which will go to the printer tomorrow and be out on August 31. (The exception is that it will be on sale at Copenhagen Open at the end of July, where Boris and I will give a lecture).

So, what is happening is this: Boris and I will go through all the questions at Copenhagen Open, in front of a video camera and we will post a video then. You can ask us questions all the way till the 24th of July. I will look through them after then and we will spend probably up to an hour doing the Q & A at the tournament, as well as some footage from the lecture.

I am trying all I can for you guys, but it has not been possible. But in July it definitely will be.

Categories: Authors in Action Tags:


June 20th, 2016 36 comments

Last week’s question was: ‘Who was the best player never to become World Champion?’ Our clear winner was Korchnoi, ahead of Rubinstein and Keres. Was it an impossible question? Probably. How can we compare players from different eras? Not well, but luckily there is no harm done if we get it ‘wrong’. For what it’s worth, I voted for Korchnoi. Ask me again next week and I’d probably vote for Rubinstein.


Nakamura took first place in the combined rapid and blitz event in Paris at the start of the Grand Chess Tour. In the blitz tournament Topalov was beating Nakamura with Black in an endgame, but then made the mistake of not promoting his pawn as it went to the first row. Nakamura claimed the point, the players shook hands and life went on. No dispute, as the video shows.

However, the Internet has a life of its own and over the last week there has been absolutely no focus on Topalov, a former World Champion, not abiding by the simple rules, but lots of focus on whether or not it was sporting of Nakamura to claim the full point. The punishment seems excessive.

People are arguing that it can be compared to being punished going 61 km/h in a 60-zone in the same way as going 120. I have personally received a £50 fine for gently rolling across a traffic light on my bicycle, going 5 km/h while the lights were green for pedestrians, of which there were none. The same fine for going through a red light, speeding, in a car. So, I understand why that would be painful. But traffic is not sport.

Nor is it a morality play. In the 1990s I played a lot of blitz tournaments in Copenhagen, every Friday night. Whenever people promoted a pawn and failed to put in a piece, I would point out that I could claim the point, and then I would play on. This happened maybe ten times, before I made the mistake myself. Obviously my opponent claimed the point instantly. It taught me an important lesson.

To me sportsmanship is to play by the rules. There are rules about how to behave, not to disturb the opponent, putting the pieces fully on the right square, which hand to push the clock with. And so on. There are also rules for illegal moves. In blitz it means you lose. Even if you take the king instead of claiming a win. I personally dislike this rule, but on behalf of John Shaw, I have been asked if we can do something about outlawing knight forks first…

Or maybe you disagree?

Q: Was it right of Nakamura to claim the full point in the game against Topalov?

1) Yes. Nakamura was of course lucky, but playing according to the rules is sportsmanship.

2) No. The rule is excessive and the sporting decision would be to press back the clock and continue the game.


Categories: Polls Tags:

Who was the best player never to become World Champion?

June 13th, 2016 46 comments

Last week’s poll question was about football/soccer – ‘Who will win Euro 2016?’ Germany dominated the early voting and held the lead to the finish, despite a late surge for ‘Other’. It seems many of you believe in the Gary Lineker quote: ‘Football is a simple game. Twenty-two men chase a ball for 90 minutes and at the end, the Germans always win.’ But which ‘other’ team are those voters betting on? Croatia? Austria? Surely not Wales?


This week’s poll question was suggested by Vassilis. Who was the best player never to become World Champion? A few of the likely candidates are Rubinstein, Nimzowitsch, Pillsbury, Tarrasch, Keres, Bronstein and Korchnoi. I suggest excluding all players who are still active. For example, Caruana might be a clever answer, but he still has a chance to win it, so let’s not count him. Also, let’s exclude the pre-Steinitz era, as the likes of Philidor and Morphy could not win a title that did not officially exist yet.

Categories: Polls Tags:

Viktor Korchnoi 1931-2016

June 8th, 2016 12 comments

I never had the honour of meeting Viktor Korchnoi, so I shall turn over to Andrew Greet, who posted this on Facebook earlier.

“Just learned the sad news that Viktor Korchnoi died today at the age of 85. A fantastic chess player, arguably the strongest of all time never to become World Champion. Back in 2009, when I first joined Quality Chess, I was lucky enough to spend a few days with him at his home in Switzerland, as he was intending to write a book for us at the time. Each day, after we finished working, we spent a couple of hours playing blitz – a great privilege which I will remember forever.

Playing blitz with Viktor was an amazing experience. Even in that informal setting, he was highly competitive. Initially I was a bit starstruck, and he completely destroyed me in the first couple of games. Then I found my groove and won one, which he was visibly annoyed about! I even wondered if I might be subjected to one of his infamous put-downs, but he was a perfect gent. We didn’t keep score of the blitz games, but he definitely won more than me in total. It was pretty competitive though. On a few occasions, when I played an especially good game, he would begrudgingly say, while stopping the clock to resign: ‘You outplayed me.’ That was a nice thing to hear.”

Categories: Uncategorized Tags:

Puzzle Competition for Gelfand Lecture in Denmark

June 7th, 2016 1 comment

White to play and win

The diagram position is a study by Steffen Slumstrup Nielsen. It’s part of a competition by the organizers of the Xtracon tournament in Denmark. You can read all the details at the previous link.

Solve the puzzle and you have the chance to win a ticket to the Boris Gelfand lecture “Dynamic Decision Making in Chess”, which will be held Thursday July 28th at 8 pm. at Konventum in Helsingør, Denmark. And collect a free copy of the book while you are there.

“White to move and win.” In the organizer’s words: “A correct solution contains as a minimum the main line until White’s move number 7”.

Please DO NOT give the answer in comments, and don’t email it to us either. ‘Solutions should be sent to with the subject “Gelfand” no later than Saturday July 2nd.’

If you will not be in Denmark, then the competition is not much use to you, but solving the puzzle will still be fun. If you use an engine, we’ll know…

Categories: Prizes Tags:

Questions for the poll?

June 6th, 2016 55 comments

Last week’s poll proved what we suspected: you are mainly chess players, not board game players.


One of the best things we ever did in Quality Chess was to start this blog. We had no real plans for it, and just did it because our website manager asked if we wanted one. The communication with people who know of our work is truly inspiring. I think one of the reasons is that it is quite rare we use the blog to promote our books. It feels bad, but at times I think we have to do it…

I really like the polls and the discussions. I want to know what other people think. I do not become a better writer and publisher from listening to my own thoughts. Some results have been truly surprising. Some not.

I was wondering: is there anything you think we should put on the poll? Any wacky (or sensible) question about chess you would like debated? If so, let us know and in time we might use it!

This week we will go non-chess for the poll. It’s football/soccer: Who will win Euro 2016?

Categories: Polls Tags:

Excerpt – Playing 1.e4

June 2nd, 2016 169 comments

Just a quick announcement that an excerpt of Playing 1.e4 – Caro-Kann, 1…e5 & Minor Lines is now available.

So what’s the book like? It’s big – 632 pages. I also hope it’s good, as several people put a lot of effort into it. If printing goes to schedule, it should be published on June 29. And that would mean it would be available on Forward Chess on June 22.

‘Published on June 29’ means that is the first day it will be in chess shops. We generally send out books bought from our website as soon as possible, so if you happen to live somewhere with a quick postal service, you might get lucky and receive the book just before the publication date. The paperbacks have ‘thread-sewn binding’ which is the same binding as our hardcovers, so they should be sturdy.

Categories: Publishing Schedule Tags: