Monday, 27 March 2006

Chess reviews: 11

Devious Chess
How To Bend The Rules And Win

By FM Amatzia Avni
Batsford Chess

FIDE Master Amatzia Avni is a psychologist whose previous books centre on the psychological aspect of chess.

He starts off the introduction thus:

‘We live in an age where many people are bored with their lives and are looking for change. Some desire to live in another country; others yearn to change their workplace; there are those who would gladly adopt another family or be adopted by one. A poem by the Israeli Yona Wallach expresses the hope that there might exist another kind of sex…
In short, people are averse to routine and search feverishly elsewhere, towards anything or anyone who will inject some excitement into their world.
I wonder: Is there a ‘different’ kind of chess?’

Avni goes on to advocate an unconventional - or devious - approach to chess, based on criteria such as ‘sailing in uncharted waters’, ‘lacking familiar anchors and stratagems‘, ‘materially unbalanced’ et al.

The first eight chapters concentrate on the methods of devious chess, such as ‘Coffeehouse Chess’, ‘Peculiar Moves’ and ‘Twists and Turns’. Then comes an interesting chapter on ‘Confronting Devious Chess’. Perhaps your opponent has read this book and is trying to be just as devious; what can you do? Avni recommends four methods to keep the tricksters at bay: ‘Preventing’, ‘Ignoring’, ‘Simplification’ and ‘Refutation’. However, it is never easy, over the board, knowing which method to apply against a tricky opponent.

The book is rounded off with a selection of complete illustrative games and some further tips on how to become a devious player.

The author has gathered some excellent material to demonstrate his ideas. Lots of the examples really do catch the eye.

From Chapter Four: Not So Elementary, My Dear Watson’

Bogoljubow was not just an overweight clown who lost a couple of world championship matches to Alekhine to help the latter avoid a rematch with Capablanca, but a very fine and distinguished player who knew a thing or two about devious chess.

Bogoljubow - Rellstab 1940
Black needs another move to castle his King into safety. Bogoljubow ensures it will never happen with the remarkable 15 Bg6!! 15 …Nxc4 16 Rxe6+; 15 …Ke7 16 Nxd6 Qxd6 17 Qxd6+ Kxd6 18 Bxf7 Bd5 19 Rad1 ‘and Black is torn apart’. Rellstab tried 15 …hxg6 but didn’t last much longer…16 Nxd6+ Ke7 17 Nxb7 Qc7 18 Qd5 Rh5 19 Qe4 Nc6 20 g4 1-0

In is often easy to get excited towards the end of a game in which one feels everything is going well, as shown in chapter seven: ‘The Trap vs The Blunder Dilemma’

Adorjan v Hubner
Game 9 Candidates’ QF 1980

Adorjan looked set to equalise the score with one game remaining. 62 …Rxh3 is simple and good but Adorjan must have thought that Hubner had blundered into this position, allowing a fatal Rook exchange. However, after 62 …Rc5?? He was shocked to find he had fallen for a stalemate trap after 63 Kxh4 when he has nothing better than to conclude the game with 63 …Rxg5 stalemate.

The next position is very tricky, despite the paucity of material.

Dvoris v Svidler
Russian Championship 1997

How can Black win? With a bit of devious play, of course. He needs a zugzwang and he can only do this by stalemating the King, thus forcing something lese to move. The trick is to advance on the King with Queen, but making sure they are always a Knight’s move away. 61 Kb7 Qd6! 62 Kc8 Qe7! 0-1 White sees what is happening and gives up. The winning technique is shown in the line: 63 Kb8 Qd7 64 Ka8 Qc7 65 Bd5 Qd6 66 Bf7 Qb6 and something finally drops off.

As ever with this sort of book, the question remains as to whether or not it really will make you think and play differently. I suppose it depends on your capacity to learn and if you can adopt the demonstrated ideas for use in your own games, which will certainly require the loosening of a few of your chess inhibitions. If you play through the examples in this book you will at least get a reasonable idea of the sort of things that are possible. The book could always be used to provide relatively light-hearted chess entertainment.

For details of this and all other Batsford chess books, please visit:

Happy reading!
March 2006

Thursday, 9 March 2006

Archive: UNCUT! 46

The Sean Marsh Chess Column

*Column 46*
* *March 2006* *

Dear Readers,

You may have noticed as you go through life, that people have a curious habit of perpetually stating the obvious. Meet someone six foot plus and what do they say? ‘You’re very tall’. Come back from the barber and guess what the first thing you hear is? ‘You’ve had your hair cut’. Enter a building dripping wet and trying to place your sodden umbrella somewhere safe and someone is bound to ask, ‘Oh - is it raining?’

Over the last couple of years it has become an equally obvious statement to say ‘The Hawk is getting good.’

The most recent congresses attended by Jonathan ‘The Hawk’ Hawkins have confirmed the truth more than any others…

First, at York, The Hawk swooped and collected a share of second place.

Then he stunned the pack at the Cleveland Congress by sticking his claws into sole first place, with a grading performance of almost 220 - a magnificent achievement!

Not content with this, he went on to a good second place at the Darlington Rapidplay and an even better share of first place at the Doncaster Open.

Here’s a few snippets for you to enjoy….

Two from York….

J. Hawkins v Fitzpatrick

Here The Hawk played 16 h5! and after the further moves …. 16 …Ng5 17.Qg6 Qf6 …he has succeeding in blackmailing Black into accepting a clearly inferior ending. 18.Bxg5 Qxg6 19.hxg6 hxg5 20.Ne4 g4 21.Ke2 Rf5 (Suddenly it is clear - d6 cannot be satisfactorily defended!) 22.Nxd6 1–0 After 22 …Rf6 23 Nf7! Rxg6 24 Rh8+ and 25 Rxa8 White’s game is obviously won.
With a last round victory essential for tournament success, The Hawk duly wheeled out 18 moves of sharp theory and soon reached this position…

J. Hawkins v Maulinn
The Black centre pawns could become menacing but only if White fails to find….
20.f5+! Kh7 21.Rf4! Bxf5 Just three moves out of the book and it’s an easy win for White. Black has to shed material to stave off checkmate. 22.Qxa8 Qc5+ 23.Kh1 Qc2 24.Qxa7 1–0 Total devastation as The Hawk rips his prey to shreds.

The final round of the Cleveland Congress had a dramatic finish. So far, he had scored:
Round 1: Hawkins-Kinney 1-0
Round 2: Hawkins-Shaw 1-0
Round 3: Hutchinson-Hawkins 0-1
Round 4: Addison-Hawkins ½-½

J. Hawkins v R. Coathup
This doesn’t look too bad at all for Black but now White steps up the pace…
23.Nf5!? Tricky stuff. Black needs to be careful about the in on the d-file; eg. 23 …Qxe3+? 24 Nxe3 and he loses material. 23 …Qc7 24.Ne7+ Kg7 25.Nd5! Now Nb6 is coming, enforcing the pin once more. 25 … Qa5 26.b4 Qb5 27.a4 Qc6 Apparently Black offered a draw here but needless to say The Hawk spotted the winning idea some moves ago.

28.Nb6! Absolutely fatal for Black. 28 …Bxh2+ 29.Kxh2 Qc7+ 30.g3 Bxa4 31.Nxa4 1–0

The Hawk’s best single result came in a key encounter on his way to success at Doncaster, against a very strong International Master.

J. Hawkins v IM R. Palliser
After 21 moves of a typically lively Modern Benoni, White refuses to take the bait with 22 Bxh6? Bxh6 23 Qxh6 Nc2 and instead ensures a Knight fork is never available on his Rooks.
22 Ra7 Ne5 23 Bxh6 and he now considered it safe to do so, despite the activity of the Black Knights. 23 …Nc4 24 Qf4 Note the annoying attack on f7, which ensures White of an advantage. After a few more moves, The Hawk spotted a tactical way to wrap things up.

White’s advantage is beyond doubt, but not many players would find (and the confidence to play) the bombshell: 30 Nxb5!

The ideas include:

Deflecting the Queen from protecting the Bishop (30 …Qxb5 31 Bxd4 and the dark squares are gone)
Destroying the Queenside pawn constellation (Bxc4 could happen in some lines).
Winning the d6 pawn (if Black plays 30 …Bxf6 31 Qxf6 Rf8 allowing 32 Nxd6)

Black tried 30 …Be3 but after 31 f4 his position is beyond repair, so...1-0

The message is clear – beware of The Hawk!

Sean Marsh

Sunday, 5 March 2006

Chess Reviews: 10

Why Lasker Matters
By GM Andrew Soltis
Batsford Books

Historical chess books are much rarer than opening tomes and are less appealing to the general readership.

It’s often seen as far more fun to get stuck into another volume about the Sicilian Defence than a tournament book or a biography. However, every now and then a risk is taken and we are able to delve into the past and read about the great players of times gone by.

One of the many good things about the recent series of Kasparov books (‘My Great Predecessors’) is the way in which they re-examined the games of the great masters and fuelled a desire for more knowledge of the old champions.

World Champion from 1894 to 1921 - the longest reign of any world champion to date (indeed, Fischer (three years), Karpov (10 years) and Kasparov (15 years) combined only just beat his tenure by one year) - Emanuel Lasker is certainly a worthy subject for a book and a fresh look at his games is long overdue.

‘Why Lasker Matters’ sets out with the task of revealing ‘…for the first time the winning formula behind Lasker’s phenomenal achievements. With over 100 annotated games, he analyses the tricks, traps and techniques behind Lasker’s winning moves, and makes Lasker’s methods accessible to today’s players.’

A short introduction sets the scene and reveals how Lasker’s chess life started in the Berlin chess cafes and how he entered one of the minor sections of the German Congress at Breslau 1889 ‘…and to my surprise won first prize! So began my chess career.’

The book is very similar in style to ‘Bobby Fischer Rediscovered’ also by Soltis. Each game is well-annotated over three to four pages and there is a good mix of variations and verbal comments.

Some of the games should be familiar to readers, such as the classic encounter against Pillsbury (St. Petersburg 1895/6)…

17 …Rxc3! 18 fxe6 Ra3!! and amazingly the other Rook was sacrificed on a3 later in the game!
v Capablanca (St. Petersburg 1914)

Lasker played the shocking 12 f5!

v Ilyin-Genevky (Moscow 1925)

Lasker went in for the unlikely looking sequence 13…Qxa2 14 Ra1 Qxb2 15 Rfb1 Qxb1+ 16 Rxb1.

The annotations by Soltis make very interesting reading and draw on lots of different sources so there is a good balance of views.

There are also some lesser-known games from exhibitions and simultaneous displays. It is good to see some attention given to the story of The Rice Gambit. Isaac Leopold Rice was a rich chess enthusiast who was fascinated by one of his own ideas in the King’s Gambit. He sponsored events aimed at testing the variation, featuring big-name players including Lasker.

The inaugural moves are:
1 e4 e5 2 f4 exf4 3 Nf3 g5 4 h4 g4 5 Ne5 Nf6 6 Bc4 d5 7 exd5 Bd6 8 0-0

Black can take the Knight but White is hoping that 9 Re1 will start a strong attack.
Unfortunately, the variation wasn’t particularly good but none of the players - thankful for the funds - really wanted to let on. Soltis quotes Lasker from a book devoted to the gambit: ‘Let us admit, which is most probably true, that the gambit will not yield to the first player as high a percentage of wins as the Ruy Lopez or the Queen’s Pawn; but let us therefore not sacrifice the beauty hidden in the gambit…White is not lost!’ A game is given from a match with Chigorin in 1903, which Lasker won but he lost the match (+1, 3, -2).

Some of Lasker’s cunning is revealed in his choice of opening variations. For example, against Janowski - a dangerous attacker who loathed endgames - the choice of the Exchange Variation of the Ruy Lopez was an excellent one as an ending is almost inevitable. I was surprised to read that Lasker had played 500 practice games with this variation against Duz-Khotimirsky but it certainly explains how he had such a good feel for the positions it produced.

I would have preferred more biographical material. Some detail is given of his great and often bitter rivalry with Dr Tarrasch and there is an attempt - ultimately unsuccessful - to unravel the controversy of the 1910 title match with Schlecter, in which the 10th and final game was played at as if both players needed to win. The controversy surrounds whether or not there was a clause in the contract stating that Schlecter, who led by one point with one game to play, actually had to win the match by two clear points. If not, his method of play in the game seems somewhat odd for a player who was strong enough to play successfully for a draw. If the clause existed then why should Lasker play so hard for a decisive result? Possibly because it would have been a little bit embarrassing to lose a match but still keep the title. It seems that this is one chess puzzle that will never be solved.

There is a lot more that could have been said about the relationship between Lasker and his immediate successor, Capablanca. Lasker lost to the latter in a curious title match in 1921 that still has plenty of unanswered questions but the whole match is scarcely mentioned in the book. Lasker went on to finish above the Cuban in several major tournaments after their match, most famously at New York in 1924 and the dynamic between the two players appears complex and worthy of further study.

However, this is probably more to do with the symptoms of a greedy reader. After all, the book fills 320 pages so it is easy to see that the page count would have been impractical if more detail was included of Lasker’s life.

VERDICT: For the full Lasker experience, you will definitely need supplementary biographical material. However, if you are new to Lasker’s great battles or you wish to immerse yourself in a bygone chess age with the help of some well-annotated games then this book will definitely appeal to you. Following on from last year’s book on Najdorf, this volume continues the mini-trend of dusting off the old games of the greats. More like these please, Batsford!

For details of this and all other Batsford chess books, please visit:

Happy reading!
March 2006