Tuesday, October 25, 2016

The Power of Pawns: Chess Structure Fundamentals for Post-beginners by Jorg Hickl

     If you want to improve at chess, you must know the characteristics of typical P-formations and understanding them is the focus of GM Jorg Hickl's latest (published this year) book. 
     Better than Hans Kmoch's masterpiece, Pawn Power in Chess, Hickl's book is targets the average player and gives examples of hanging pawns, isolated pawns, backward pawns, passed pawns, doubled pawns, weak squares and pawn chains. Like Pachman's classic, Modern Chess Strategy, Hickl also includes three chapters showing the strengths and weakness of Rooks, Knights and Bishops. Unlike Pachman though, he does not include the Queen and King. 
     This book is good for players in the 1500 to 1800 range. Or, it could also be used by those under 1500 if they are willing to put in some effort and those over 1800 if they want to review what they should already know.

Saturday, October 22, 2016

Chess Developments: The Sicilian Dragon by IM David Vigorito

     Vigorito gives good, but limited coverage of Dragon theory and as with all books that present the 'latest' theory they are soon outdated and this book was published back in 2011. In order to stay current you will need additional resources...at least if you are rated 2000 or better. For players below that a good over view of the most popular lines should suffice, so it has value for players below 2000 in that it will give them a place to start whether they might face the Dragon or play it as black. At least the 'theory' is not twenty or thirty years old.
     Because there's so much theory on the Dragon, this book only covers 9. Bc4 and 9. 0-0-0 with g4, but it does so very thoroughly. No Levenfish (6.f4), Classical (6.Be2) or Fianchetto variations (6.g3) and no ...Qa5 lines by black against the Yugoslav Attack, for example.
     Instead he has concentrated on the Soltis Variation, the Modern Variation, the Topalov Variation, the Chinese Variation and the Accelerated Variation when white plays 9.Bc4. If white plays 9.0-0-0 he covers black replies 9...d5 and 9...Nxd4.
     The book is nicely laid out...major variations are in bold-face and evaluations and plans explain why certain moves are good or bad, sort of in the style of the Dummy books. 

Download a pdf sample

Friday, October 14, 2016

Alekhine: Move by Move


Another book on Alekhine's games? What's the need for one?  This one is different. FM Steve Giddins looks at his favorite Alekhine games and challenges the reader to answer questions designed to keep you involved and allow you to monitor your progress. Giddins points out that while studying the classics may not be fashionable with modern day GMs, doing so is both enjoyable and instructional for us ordinary players. 
     Giddens analyzed 35 of Alekhine’s games and twenty positions. He uses mostly words and not a lot of concrete analysis in explaining Alekhine’s moves which makes it great for the lower-rated player. He relied on an old engine (Fritz 12) to check his lines, but because he is explaining plans and ideas in words for average players, a correction here or there that a stronger engine may have found is not a big issue as far as I am concerned. If I want a lot of analytical lines I will do the same as always...play over the games with my own engine. 
     One reviewer didn't like the book because he thought that because Giddins is only an FM he is not capable of explaining Alekhine's games.  That's just plain asinine. As an FM Giddins is 1) strong enough to understand what went on in the games, even if it's only AFTER the fact because he has seen the outcome and knows what Alekhine had in mind, 2) he has access to engines which point out tactical flaws, 3) he has access to tablebases for aid in researching endings and 4) he has access to the notes of many other, stronger players. If you went by this fellow's criteria a lot of great chess books would have to get thrown out and we'd be left with only a handful of books written by world class GMs. 
     Giddins has used a minimum number of Alekhine's best known games, but of course there are some that just had to be included in this collection. And, of those that are included, thanks to the use of a chess engine, he has been able to shed new light on them. He also did not include any games against Capablanca because Kasparov included some of them in My Great Predecessors. Also, there's no autobiographical material, but like his games, a lot has been written about Alekhine and apparently Giddens saw no reason to repeat it and drive up the price of the book.

Friday, September 30, 2016

A Must Have Database

     One of the most important databases you can have is MegaBase. It has over 6.46 million games. The database is searchable by player, tournament, and annotator and you can access various keys for openings, endgames, strategic and tactical themes. Also included are annotated games and a year’s worth of weekly updates and PlayerBase (this requires ChessBase 12 or 13), which collects rating data and pictures for thousands of players if you are interested in using that feature. The 2016 version includes over 68,000 annotated games. Many of them are Super-GM games annotated by other GMs, but there are also a lot of games annotated by IMs John Donaldson and Elliot Winslow which come from come from tournaments played at the Mechanics Institute in San Francisco. 
     One important feature is the update service that allows you access to weekly downloads of 5,000 games; this service is available for one year. Everybody knows of the enormous opening preparation that GMs and top-level correspondence players have to do. Back before computers the pros lugged around books and their own personal notebooks and index cards while correspondence players, in addition to opening books, subscribed to all the foreign magazines they could find. These days a monster database is essential. 
     Of course, readers of this Blog aren't likely to be playing in any international tournaments and won't likely be playing any GMs soon, so why should you buy this product and what can you do with it? How do you get the most out of your database? 
     With a databases you can review statistics on specific opening line, the percentage of the time a move has been played, how ell did it fare, when was it last played and what was its performance rating. You can locate games based on any criteria you want. All that's interesting and can be important if you are a serious correspondence player, but most of us aren't and my experience has been that class players usually leave the book within a handful of moves anyway, so memorizing lines 20 moves deep (assuming you have the ability to do even that) is a waste of time. A good opening book that explains the reasons behind the moves is a better investment. 
     Even if you can't remember line upon line of analysis it is very useful to be able to play over a lot of games using your opening lines so that PATTERNS become familiar and databases are great for that. 
     One thing you do have to remember is that a database only tells you which moves been played in the past by humans and those moves may be flawed and the refutation may or may not have been found.  
     Also, rememebr the sample size may be far too small too draw any conclusions. Another issue is when was the move last played? The older the game, the less likely the opening is to be considered good by modern standards. Case in point, in my early years Reshevsky was my favorite payers and I admired the ease in which he won games using the Exchange Variation against the Queen;s Gambit Declines and then proceeded to carry out the Minority Attack and racked up easy wins. Throw in Pachman's treatment in Modern Chess Strategy and Botvinnk writings on it, and it seemed like a great way to score points. Didn't work. Modern players were just too well versed in how to handle it, so I got a lot of draws. 
     Also, remember that a line might score heavily, but a recent development refutes it. I once made an opening book consisting of recent games played by correspondence players rated over 2500. They players were not only highly rated, but it was almost certain that their moves were checked by engines, so what could go wrong? In one game the opening line was from a game that was 3 or 4 years old and somewhere around move 20 I noticed my engine was suggesting a major improvement that left me at a serious disadvantage. Of course my opponent played it. 
     It is also important to consider the strength of the players in your assessment. Lines popular on lower levels may not work when played against higher rated opponents. You also need to consider whose games are in the database because games by near beginners are sometimes included. The best advice when using any database is...CHECK EVERYTHING.

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Fritz 14 with Deep Fritz 64-bit [Download]

After reading customer reviews of this program I am convinced that most are NOT fair! I have used Fritz for years and have had absolutely NO PROBLEMS with it. In fact, it is still my go-to program because of its versatility and ease of use. This is a great chess program. Many users complained that it is complicated, but it appears most of them are former Chessmaster users who are not serious players or else their computer literacy is very, very poor. Download it and install Stockfish 7 or purchase and install Komodo 10 (or both) and you will have a top notch analysis program and database, plus many other valuable features...and maybe a few that are less so. And...the price is reasonable.

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Must Have Books for Novices

Logical Chess Move by Move by Chernev. This classic explains 33 complete games in detail and explains the reason for every single move.


Silman's Complete Endgame Course. Good! Silman separates endgame knowledge into rating level... Unrated-999, 1000-1199 and 1200-1399. Even if you are rated higher than 1400 it's still good to review this material.

Simple Chess by Michael Stean. Introduction to strategy aimed at novice players, but also excellent for intermediates! 


Monday, May 9, 2016

Chess Structures: A Grandmaster Guide by Mauricio Flores Rios


    I have not had the opportunity to review any chess books in a while simply because I haven't bought any, but recently was intrigued with this book after browsing through it.
     There have been several books that cover P-structures, Pawn Structure Chess by Andy Soltis for example and the monster work on the isolated QP by Alex Baburin, Winning Pawn Structures. That last one turned out to be more work than I cared to put in! 
     What I liked about Rios’ massive 464-page book is that it's a collection of 140 games (and positions) divided by P-structure. Flores Rios, like authors before him, takes a pretty classical approach by breaking down P-structures into families. He covers: 
A) 1.d4 d5
B) Open Sicilian 
C) Benoni 
D) King's Indian 
F) French 

     Each structure is further sub-divided by theme. Example: the d-Pawn opening chapter covers isolated pawn, hanging pawns, the Carlsbad formation, the Caro-Kann formation, the Slav formation, Stonewall formation, and Gruenfeld. 
     Best...he includes annotated games as examples that illustrate the objectives and then he gives final remarks. As one commentator opined, this book is not a primer of positional play, but rather the author describes the interrelation between P-structure and how you should go about planning. 
    Well written and I am happy to see somebody writing about something other than tactics! Recommended.

Friday, April 15, 2016

Chess Assistant 16

Available from ChessOK.

    I have been a long time user of Fritz 12 and use  Komodo 8 and Stockfish 7 for analysis, but a while back decided I needed a program that is better suited for manipulating databases and doing opening research so finally settled on the Chess Assistant 16 Starter package.
     Game databases are essential for training, study, research and analysis. While primarily a database program, Chess Assistant offers a lot more than just a database management as it does game analysis, helps with tournament preparation and serves as a playing partner.
     It's available as a Starter package and in a Professional package and here I am concerned with the Starter package. The program can be purchased by download so you do not have to wait for a CD to arrive in the mail. 
     Chess Assistant includes several databases of games. The most notable is the HugeBase which includes over 5 million games. These games can be updated from the site so that you can keep the database current. There is also a Guru database (slightly over one million games from 1807 to 2006) which includes games of the world's elite players plus a correspondence database (a little over 800,000 games) that includes games between top rated correspondence players from 1962 to 2014. The databases can be searched using a number of criteria: player name, opening, date, results and more. Also, you can search databases by not only exact positions, but those that are similar is, say, Pawn structure. Not all of the databases are games. For example, the Openings database can be used to study opening systems. This database also shows you the percentage of wins to losses and computer evaluations. 
     Chess Assistant does more than manage databases. It includes several engines (Rybka 2.3.2w32, Crafty, Dragon, Delfi and Ruffian), but you can also add other engines like the world's strongest, the free Stockfish. Also, if you want to practice against Rybka you can adjust its “personality.” For example, you can make adjustments to the opening book it uses, its outlook (from very pessimistic to ultra optimistic), how fast it plays and how it handles it time. 
     When analyzing games, analysis can be based on the amount of time the engine is allowed to use or by search depth plus the user can interact with the engine. It can also perform engine analysis in the background. This feature allows you to perform other tasks without interfering with the analysis. 
     The program also includes limited guest access to the Internet Chess Club. 
     If I have any issues at all, it's 1) the program does so much that the learning curve can be pretty steep. In order to help learn the features I created a couple of games that I put in a database named “Junk” so that I could experiment with different features without the risk of messing up anything. 
     CA also has excellent documentation and you can even view videos online that show how to use the different features. 2) the appearance has limited boards and pieces and the way you can move the windows around is not really very flexible, but that's a rather minor issue. CA does offer a free download of additional pieces. Personally, I downloaded from elsewhere my favorite pieces, those of Chessmaster. 
    For the price, Chess Assistant is a great value and I have had experience with their customer service a few times in the past and would have to give them an excellent rating in this area.  I can't say the same for  their main competition.
    Whether you are looking for a program to play against, practice openings, middlegame structures, endings or perform analysis, or managed databases, then Chess Assistant is an excellent choice at a reasonable price.

Thursday, February 18, 2016

You Know You Want Some of This Stuff

I discovered a site called Cafe Press that offers hundreds of chess themed products some of which is you can get customized. No chess socks though.

Wednesday, February 17, 2016



     Deep HIARCS Chess Explorer is a chess database, analysis and playing program for either Windows or Apple Macintosh computers. It has an easy to use intuitive graphical interface and the HIARCS 14 engine. 
     The program comes in two versions: Deep HIARCS with the multi-core/multi-processor plus it gives you access to additional online content, including one terrabyte of endgame and opening book databases. The regular HIARCS is the single core versionand only gives you access to standard online content. Obviously, the better program for serious analysis is the deep version, but the price is higher. The GUI can use any UCI compatible engine and the pieces boards are very nice. More importantly is the easy navigation of databases, games and players plus the documentation is very thorough. 
     HIARCS is not the strongest engine on the market so it is NOT suitable for serious engine assisted correspondence play. Currently HIARCS 14 4-cpu is rated only number 21 on the SSDF 40/40 rating list with a rating of 3067. You can use any engine, but the HIARCS engine is best known for its human-like attacking playing style which for many players will make it an excellent engine for preparing for over the board play. 
     The program also supports variations, embedded text comments, annotations, diagrams and symbols. It also prints the games, complete with diagrams wherever you want them in a nice format. It also has an Openings Explorer with multi-source real-time trees and live updates from regularly updated online opening books. If you are a subscriber, you can get access to additional content. Another important feature is the books and databases provide detailed opening statistics.
     If you want to play against the computer you will probably want to use the HIARCS engine because, as mentioned, it has realistic human-like handicap levels that allow you to set Elo strength. You can choose to play rated or unrated games with adjustable time controls, or not if you don't want to play rated games. You can also choose a starting position or select the opening you want to practice against. There are also the usual coaching features that point out mistakes and suggest better moves and gives hints. One unique feature is that the program matches your ability if you improve. HIARCS allows you to set 13 levels of play in the play game mode from beginner (under 1000 elo) to World Champion (over 2800 elo). A review on Youtube can be watched HERE.
     Recommended for study and practice for OTB tournament players.

Saturday, January 30, 2016

Two Chess Books Worth the Money


Improve Your Chess Pattern Recognition 
subtitled Key Moves and Motifs in the Middlegame 
by IM Arthur van de Oudeweetering. 

     I have posted many times and offered many quotes by strong players about the importance of pattern recognition when it comes to improvement and van de Oudeweetering has produced a truly great book on this important subject. 
     Positions often have similarities with something you have seen before and this is basically all that pattern recognition is. We think in patterns, but studies have shown that we amateurs just can't see the best possibilities like GMs do simply because our recognition of patterns is limited. But, learning patterns is often a hit and miss process. Playing over thousands of master games quickly where you are going after quantity was the way U.S. Senior Master Kenneth Smith recommended doing it, but that system is pretty unorganized. A refinement is simply to play over games using the openings you generally play so as to become familiar with the recurring patterns in those openings. 
     In this book the author, in an organized way, supplies building blocks by giving short, well-defined subjects that are easy to remember and each section has exercises at the end. He also assigns each pattern a funny name, but, seriously, it's that funny name that may help in remembering the theme. 
     The author presents 40 patterns and in each chapter he gives you 7 or 8 examples of the theme and lots of diagrams are provided. As an additional, and important, feature he also gives a PGN database from the publisher's website that you can download that contains additional games for study. To reinforce the patterns he provides 4 tests of 10 problems each. Highly recommend for players rated 1600 or above. The price is a bargain, too!!


The Veresov Move by Move by Jimmy Liew 
Liew is an IM from Malaysia and an FIDE Trainer. 

     The Veresov begins with the moves:   1. d4 d5 2. Nc3 Nf6 3. Bg5 and is attractive because it's rarely played and so there is not a lot of theory on it.   By playing the Veresov after reading this book you will be on familiar territory because you will be familiar with the themes and patterns that develop from the opening.  I know, I know!  Authors usually give this as the reason for playing a lot of openings, but in the case of the Veresov, unlike many seldom played openings that are recommended to amateurs, the Versov is a reasonably solid opening.  Of course, it's not without its weaknesses. As Nigel Davies observed in his book on the Veresov, if black knows what he is doing white will be struggling to hold his own. But, for most of us who won't be paired against any internationally titled players that possibility is slim and equipped with the knowledge gained from Liew's book, we should be in pretty good shape.
     The Veresov allows you to choose lines that are either positional or tactical in nature so it can be used by players who prefer either style. 
     Perhaps the books greatest value is that the author uses the Socratic method of teaching where he continually asks questions that will make you think and keep you involved. To do this he uses an excellent move by move format. Naturally he explains the main positional and tactical ideas for both sides and provides answers all in an easy to understand prose style that doesn't leave the reader swamped in a maze of variations.

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Chess Informant

     Back in the old days when I ordered my chess literature from Europe, mostly Germany and England, the Chess Informants were high on my priority list. That was despite their rather hefty cost in those days...$5.00, or about $35.00 in today's money. 
     Chess Informant, or Sahovski Informator, is a publishing company from Belgrade that produces the Informants, the Encyclopedia of Chess Openings, Encyclopedia of Chess Endings, Opening Monographs, other publications and software. 
     The company was founded by GM Aleksandar Matanović and Milivoje Molerović in 1966 for the purpose of offering chess players access to information that up until that time was only enjoyed by Soviet players. They originally published two issues per year from 1966–90, but since then the number of issues per year has increased. Each issue, then as now, offers several hundred games or fragments of games from master play, most of which are annotated using the now popular symbols. 
     Nowadays much of the book is in English though the symbols remain. Since issue 5 they have also included a section on combinations and a section on endings. Garry Kasparov said of his generation,"We are all children of Informant" but Tigran Petrosian derided the books saying that the new generation of players were mere “children of the Informant” and they stripped the game of creativity and reduced it to a memory contest...wonder what he would have thought of today's computers?!  Even so, Petrosian still annotated 509 games for the Informant! Fischer? He only annotated 10 of his games. 
     These days what with games being instantly available on the Internet , the question is just how important or relevant can a book like the Informant be? Well, the thing is, you can find unannotated games scores all overt the place and you can annotated them with an engine, but what do you do when you have questions that an engine can't answer? GM thoughts and explanations of key positions are something an engine simply can't provide. It might be helpful to know white is better by 1.25 Pawns in a position with equal material, but Stockfish or Komodo won't tell you why. By the way, when this happens, the best thing I know to do is, if your GUI supports it, is run some Shootouts. Then you can click through the games and get a general idea of how the engine exploited its advantage. As you watch the game progress this method will often let you see why the engine evaluates the position as it does. 
     Another thing books like the Informant do is offer is color commentary, often by players who were present. Just as in the world of espionage, facts and photos are important, but you can't beat the human factor when it come to gathering intelligence. That said, among the annotators not many top players annotate their games for the Informant...can't give away any secrets, or perhaps they just don't want to. 
     The important thing is the games they publish are only high quality and generally of theoretical value, especially opening novelties. If you are interested in openings and/or a correspondence player to whom novelties are important, then Informants are valuable because they have already culled them all out for you. Another handy feature is that there is an index of players and annotators which makes it easy to find games by your favorite player. 
     Yes, the Informants are expensive for some because, as Reshevsky once commented, “Chess payers are an impecunious lot,” but generally no more so than a lot of poorly written and generally useless books, and at least you get your money's worth.

Thursday, December 31, 2015

Big Database

     The Big Database 2016 contains more than 6.4 millions games from 1560 to 2015 with ChessBase opening classification with more than 100,000 key positions, direct access to players, tournaments, middlegame themes, endgames. The most recent games of the database are from the Middle of September 2015. 
     You need a large reference database if you’re going doing serious study or correspondence play.   Online databases are OK, but they can’t manipulate the data and making your own requires a lot of time and effort. 
     With BigBase allows you to access various keys for openings, endgames, strategic and tactical themes which is probably the best and most helpful feature.  And, playing over a lot of sample games with your favorite opening lines, endings or middlegame themes is one of the best ways to learn.  When you see similar positions in your own games, you will remember them.  Even if it's only a vague recollection, at least you have a starting point. Learning by example is one of the best ways of learning anything.  Seet his article on Observational Learning.
     Note though that BigBase does NOT include annotated games and you are not offered a year’s worth of weekly updates. Nor does it, like MegaBase, offer rating data and pictures for thousands of players. Personally, I do not think the price of MegaBase (around $135) is worth the extra cash outlay. BigBase 2016 is available for download or by mail.

Monday, December 21, 2015

Get a 2500 Rating!


     How did Jonathan Hawkins manage to go from being an average tournament player with a rating of around 1700 to a Grandmaster? He claims he did it by focusing his attention on the endgame and devising a number of building blocks and identified a number of important areas of study. 
     In this book he reveal the secrets of his success. The book consists of two parts. Part I (Thinking Techniques) and Part II (Principles and Essential Theory) are composed of positions and ideas that serve as the basic elements of endgame knowledge. In Part I he describes how strong players break down analysis into key positions and linked ideas...pattern recognition. For example, one of my favorite examples is what he calls Capablanca’s Pawn Ending. White to move:
     Most of us would probably begin calculating and would soon be swamped with a whole bunch of lines and still be unsure if white wins. Hawkins says we should be looking for ’building blocks’ and key positions. The Shredder Endgame Database confirms there's only one winning move here: 1.Kf2 wins in 32 moves against the best defense which, of course, is beyond our ability to actually calculate. According to the database other moves only draw. By the way, if it's black's move he can draw with either 1...Kf7 or 1...Kg7. 
     Obviously, you need some kind of guide for positions like this. Hawkins does a good job of showing how strong players use short plans to improve their positions little by little to secure the win. 
     In Part II he shows us how the thinking techniques he describes in Part I work in simple positions. He looks at R vs. P vs R, R&P vs. B&P and other B endings. He also has an outstanding lesson on understanding how (and why) the Philidor and Lucena positions work. Parts I and II give the basics. 
     He gets down to business in the second half which is where he begins showing us the analytical work that resulted in his great success. He also throws in lessons on the middlegame. Then he examines R endings with 3P's vs. 4P's. Hawkins' book also teaches us another important thing...HOW to do the work that leads to improvement. Basically, he advises that improvement will come in small spurts as basic knowledge grows and one learns how to analyze. That was an interesting insight. GM Alex Yeromlinsky has also discussed how he made great strides in his chess development when he finally earned how to do independent analysis. I wish I had this book back in the 1970s!

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Buy Old Classics...Not new!!

A while back I made a post on my Blog titled An Unscientific Observation where I said that despite the glut of chess material that's available to us today, usually at high prices, we average players have not gotten much better. So, instead of paying $25-30 for a “modern” chess book or even more for training DVDs, one might as well buy reprints of old chess books on Amazon for a fraction of the price; they'll give the same results. A reader observed it's true in other areas, too. He mentioned golf where modern pros have improved, but despite modern training methods and videos, and despite the fact that we can all by the same great equipment the pros play, the scores turned in by the average weekend golfer haven’t improved in nearly a half-century. So, here's my recommendations for a few good, OLD books covering all areas.

The Game of Chess (Dover Chess) - Tarrasch. This book taught several generations how to play.
Guide to Good Chess (C.J.S. Purdy Gold Chess Series) - Purdy. ANYTHING written by Purdy is both fun to read AND instructional. He was one of the greatest writer EVER.
The Search for Chess Perfection (Purdy Series) - Purdy. A bio, collection of his games and...what makes it worth buying: a collection of his magazine articles on all aspects of chess. 

How to Play the Chess Openings (Dover Chess)- Znosko-Borovsky. Focuses on ideas and planning rather than memorization. He explains how to avoid amateur mistakes and traps.
Action Chess: Purdy's 24 Hours Opening Repertoire - Purdy. Deals with learning a basic opening repertoire quickly.

The Middlegame in Chess - Fine. Algebraic notation. Explains the  basic elements of combinations and attacks against the King. How to evaluate a position, handle superior, equal, and inferior positions, the significance of pawn structure and space, transition from opening to middlegame and middlegame to endgame.
Pawn Power in Chess (Dover Chess) - Kmoch. One you get past his weird names for different formations and maneuvers, this book offer some great instruction on strategy.
Modern Chess Strategy - by Pachman. Explains the characteristics of the pieces, exchanges, seven different uses of pawns, minority attack, dynamic elements, much more. 129 games and fragments are used as examples.
The Middle Game in Chess (Dover Chess) - by Znosko-Borovsky. Z-B teaches about Space, Time and Force.

The Art of Checkmate - by Renaud and Kahn. A classic. 23 mating situations are classified and described with example.

Basic Chess Endings - by Fine. Benko has revised this with the latest innovations in the endgame and adapted the book to algebraic notation. Very precise and technical with no frills or wasted words. A classic.

Reshevsky's Best Games of Chess - by Reshevsky. I believe Reinfeld was the real author of this book which contains 110 games prior to 1948. Very instructive and entertaining.
500 Master Games of Chess (Dover Chess) - by Tartakower and du Mont. Games arranged by opening.
Botvinnik: One Hundred Selected Games - by Botvinnik. 100 games played before becoming World Champion in 1948. Includes opponents like Alekhine, Capablanca, Euwe, Keres, Reshevsky, Smyslov. Explains his theories, the development of Russian chess, and six end game studies. Superb.
Zurich International Chess Tournament, 1953 (Dover Chess) by Bronstein.  Personally I prefer the book written by Najdorf, but whichever one you get, they are both instructive and it's fun just to watch the greatest players of that era slug it out. 
107 Great Chess Battles, 1939-1945 (Dover Books on Chess) - by Alekhine, Translated and edited by William Winter this book of games from 1939 to 1945 is not as great as the other two classics, but those two volumes are pricey.   
My Best Games of Chess: 1905/1954 (Two Volumes Bound As One)-  by Tartakower. I don't often use the word "delightful" but can't think of a better description.  210 games, annotated with brilliant wit, humor, and insight.  A great book. 

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Free Roman's Lab DVD

     The United States Chess federation is offering a free DVD for download: Roman's Lab: Russian School of Chess, vol. 62, part 1.  You do not have to be a USCF member.
     You have to supply them with your e-mail address then confirm it. Then subscribe. My first attempt got me a message that “there are too many attempts for this e-mail address. Please try again in about 5 minutes.” A few minutes later I downloaded the DVD with no problem.  Also, what are you “subscribing” to? Exclusive savings for USCF Sales Subscribers-Receive exclusive coupon codes in your inbox! Of course it's a trick to get your e-mail so they can send you offers, but I don't mind...as a life member, I already get them anyway.
     After that, you will receive an e-mail link in your inbox. After going to your inbox you have to click on “Please confirm subscription below to claim your free eDVD!” You will them be sent to the USCF site and awaiting for you there is a $5 off coupon on your next USCF order, but you are warned you have to act fast - the coupon expires in 7 days. After jumping through all those hoops there's a button to click on that downloads your zipped DVD.
     The DVD, which sold for $20, is over an hour long and “In this DVD, the first of GM Roman Dzindzichashvili's Russian School of Chess collection, Roman provides you with step-by-step instruction on how to develop your pieces for the best future activity and coordination.”    LINK

Monday, November 30, 2015

Shredder Chess

     Shredder 12 runs on all Windows PCs with at least Windows 2000 including Windows Vista, Windows 7, Windows 8 and Windows 10 and costs about $60. 
     It has the usual stuff you expect: an nice GUI that's easy to use, 6 sets of pieces and boards both in 2D and 3D though personally, I have never liked the 3D setups. 
     It has a coaching feature that alerts you to mistakes and suggests better moves, an analysis feature, access to Shredder's online endgame database which I very often refer to in correspondence play, etc, etc, etc. 
     If you are looking for the strongest engines then Komodo and Stockfish are your best choices, but if you are looking to practice against engines that plays more like a human, Shredder is a good choice. Shredder will play tactically if the situation requires it, but its overall style of play is pretty positional. The playing level can be adjusted to any strength and the best part is that at lower difficulty levels it doesn't play stupid moves; it makes typical human mistakes...the moves may not be good, but not irrational. 
     Another handy feature is that Shredder will rate your play in normal or rated games and it can adapt its playing strength automatically to your strength. There's also a handy feature that gives a graphic display of your progress 
     You can download a slightly restricted test version of Shredder Classic FREE and try it out for 30 days without obligation from their site HERE. I might also add that if you run into any problems, their customer service is very good. You may also want to consider the multi-processor version, but it'll cost you more...about $106.  As far as I know, you can only order Shredder from the site as it does not appear to be available on Amazon.

Friday, November 6, 2015

Analyze You Chess by Colin Crouch

      I rarely buy chess books anymore because 1) I no longer care to study and 2) like most players I learned that I was throwing money down a rat hole buying chess books with good intentions, but never reading them. This recent purchase was an exception. 
     According to the blurb Crouch believes the key to sustained improvement lies in the critical analysis and assessment of your own games. Each and every game you play provides a significant learning opportunity, and this opportunity should never be squandered. In this book which is actually a sequel to Why We Lose at Chess Crouch examines what can be done to maximize results and increase one's rating. Magic words for chess players, increase your rating. 
     The focus is on improving decision making, how to plan after the opening, how to maintain objectivity, improving endgame skills, the psychological aspects of the game, and more. Crouch looks at his own games (not because they are perfect, but you always understand your own games best) and his style is entertaining and a lot of fun to read and I think that's why I liked this book so much. 
     His focus is on games he blew...wins that were drawn, draws that were lost. Don't look for a lot of tactical play because Crouch is essentially a positional player with a limited opening repertoire and a love of the Scandinavian Defense. Still, the games are thoroughly annotated and I especially liked his prose explanations which is a change from much of the computer analysis you often see. Instead of bare bones computer analysis Crouch explains what he was thinking during the game which gives us a lot of insight into how master really think. I like that; it's almost like you are having a conversation with an IM.  Although there is a certain IM that I am familiar with whom I have seen analyzing in rapid fire fashion and playing moves so fast you could hardly  follow his hand.  Then after telling everybody, "See, black is lost." and before you could see anything, he would already be resetting the pieces back to their original position.  He had some students, but none of them ever improved much...I wonder why.
     There are some editing issues, but that seems to be something we have to live with these days. Good for anybody below master. Check out Amazon's Look Inside feature and it'll probably convince you that it's an excellent book!

Saturday, October 10, 2015

Chess Videos

      What about Igor Smirnov courses? Smirnov is a good salesman! He offers a ton of courses promising amazing results, usually at fairly hefty prices, but are they as good as he claims? His Remote Chess Academy offers courses like The Grandmaster’s Secrets-Learn and implement the most essential principles of chess. The course GM’s Secrets will show you how to think like a strong player step-by-step. Cost $57
      Calculate Till Mate-No fluff and no hype – “CALCULATE TILL MATE” is a COMPLETE and UNIQUE 3-in-1 training system that will sharpen your tactics, calculation, and visualization skills like no other chess book, DVD, or training program could. Cost $149
      The Grandmaster’s Positional Understanding-Learn everything about Chess Strategy, GM’s Positional understanding, a beginner chess course which will take your chess play to the next level. Cost $139
      Grandmaster Secrets is a basic course about positional play and one average player who bought is advised on one forum that it in no way compared to Silman's book How to Reassess Your Chess which is available for under $25.
      The general consensus of opinion is that while Smirnov has some sound ideas, the courses offer little in actual content. Watching videos may give some good ideas, but they are no substitute for grabbing a chess set and digging into a good book. I have talked to a few people who have tried various videos and so far none have actually improved significantly, but, come to think of it, the same could be said of books. The real problem is, truth be told, most “students” lack the gumption to put in hours of hard work, preferring instead to look for shortcuts and “secrets.”
 If you like videos, Smirnov does have some teaser stuff on his Youtube channel. There is also some other good chess content on Youtube and you may want to check out some of them listed HERE. Two of my personal favorites on Youtube are majnu and kingscrusher. I also recommend chessvideos as they have some excellent training videos by various National Masters, etcIM Greg Shahade also offers some pretty good Youtube lectures.

Friday, October 9, 2015

Free Chess Book App

Simply reading a Chess book without a Chess board is not easy unless you are Vishy Anand or Magnus Carlsen! What if you could read your PDF Chess ebooks or magazines as well as follow the games on a Chess board, all in one screen!? This is exactly what this app helps achieve. All your Chess books and magazines in the palm of your hand! Ideal for Large screen phones and Tablets.  Get the App

☆ Open YOUR ebook in pdf, djvu format or purchase from the Store!
☆ Built-in Store with magazines from Chessdom (Chess Insider) and 50 Moves Magazine!
☆ Open e-magazines from New in Chess, USCF, Chess Today, British Chess Magazine etc
☆ Analyze with the power of two Chess engines!
☆ Open web sites
☆ Talk to move! (experimental)
☆ Copy board position to other apps like Droidfish, Chess for Android
☆ Book options like Day/Night mode, Bookmarks, Multi-touch zoom, Crop, Split
☆ Edit Annotations/variations, change Board themes and much more

Forward Chess

If you don't know about this site, you should. Tons of free chess material. Just look at what's available!!  Link to site

Composed Chess Problems
Mate in 2's: Anonymous; George E Carpenter; George N Cheney; Ed H Courtenay; John Gardiner; Charles A Gilberg; Napoleon Marache; Joseph A Potter; George A Reed

Mate in 3's: Anonymous; JB of Bridport; Mrs Baird; A. Bayersdorfer; O. Blumenthal; George E Carpenter; R. Collinson; A. Corrias; J. Crum; A W Daniel; H. Hosey Davis; A. Decker; F. Dubbe; K. Erlin; Otto Fuss; K. Gavrilow; W. Geary; Sam Loyd; O Nemo; F M Teed

Puzzles by Opening (ECO)
Grandmasters by country


Game Collections
Alexander Alekhine: "My Best Games of Chess 1908-1937"; AVRO 1938 Chess Tournament; Frederick Edge: "Paul Morphy: The Chess Champion (1859)"; Robert Fischer: "My 60 Memorable Games"; Roberto Franco-Perez: "God Of War - Bobby Fischer At The Peak of Power"; Garry Kasparov: "Fighting Chess: My Games and Career"; Viktor Korchnoi: "Chess is My Life"; Johann Lowenthal: "Morphy's Games of Chess"; Ludek Pachman: "Decisive Games in Chess History"; Fred Reinfeld: "Great Brilliancy Prize Games of the Chess Masters; Wilhelm Steinitz: Sixth American Chess Congress (1866); Russian Championship 2004; US Championship 2005; World Chess Championship 2005

William Aramil: "The Complete Idiot's Guide to Chess Openings"; James Eade: "Chess Openings for Dummies"; WTHarvey: "50 English Miniatures (A17)"; WTHarvey: "50 King's Indian Saemisch Miniatures (E81)"; WTHarvey: "50 Marshall Gambit Miniatures (C89)"; WTHarvey: "50 Sozin Miniatures"; WTHarvey: "50 Semi-Slav Miniatures (D47)"; Nick de Firmian: "Chess Openings the Easy Way"; Nick de Firmian: "Modern Chess Openings (15th ed.)"; I. A. Horowitz: "How to Win in the Chess Openings"; Bruce Pandolfini: "Chess Openings: Traps and Zaps"; Bruce Pandolfini: "More Chess Openings: Traps and Zaps 2"; James Plaskett: "Sicilian Grand Prix Attack"; Eric Schiller, ed: "Unorthodox Chess Openings"; Chris Ward: "Improve Your Opening Play"

Strategy & Tactics
Paul Keres: "The Art of the Middle Game"; Ludek Pachman: "Modern Chess Strategy"; Susan Polgar: "Chess Tactics for Champions"; Fred Reinfeld & Irving Chernev: "Chess Strategies and Tactics"; Fred Reinfeld: "Hypermodern Chess"; Vladimir Vukovic: "The Art of Attack in Chess"

Improve/Evaluate Your Game
Pal Benko: "Winning with Chess Psychology"; A D de Groot: "Thought and Choice in Chess"; Angus Dunnington: "Can You Be a Positional Chess Genius?"; Garry Kasparov: "Kasparov Teaches Chess"; Alexander Kotov: "Play Like a Grandmaster"; Dan Kretschmer: "How To Beat ANYONE At Chess"; Emmanuel Lasker: "Common Sense in Chess"; Jacques Mieses: "Instructive Positions From Master Chess"; Sam Palatnik: "The Tarrasch Formula"; Fred Reinfeld: "Chess by Yourself"

Irving Chernev: "Capablanca's Best Chess Endings"; Irving Chernev: "Practical Chess Endings"; Max Euwe: "A Guide to Chess Endings"; Reuben Fine: "Basic Chess Endings"

Chess Miscellany
Henry Bird: "Chess History and Reminiscences"; Ferank Brady: "Bobby Fischer: Profile of a Prodigy"; Bruce Pandofini: "Chess Thinking"; Hanon Russell: "Russian for Chess Players"; Eric Schiller: "Encyclopedia of Chess Wisdom"