Wednesday, 30 November 2011

Rachel Lyn Harrington & The Knock Outs

Rachel Lyn Harrington & The Knock Outs will be appearing at The Cleveland Bay (Yarm, Stockton-on-Tees, TS16 0JE) on Wednesday 28 March 2012, with support by Sara Dennis.

This event has been created - and is being promoted - by myself in conjunction with The Cleveland Bay.

Further updates will follow both here and on our Facebook event page.

After three critically acclaimed albums in a row, Seattle's country soul sensation Rachel Lyn Harrington heads for the hills with her 4th CD, a collection of all-new all-original old school country ballads, western honkytonk swing and early rock n' roll. She's wrangled up three other gals for this tour of Europe and the UK, the band comprised of bass, drums, fiddle and guitar. In addition to songs from the new album, the live show will also include a set of the girls' favorite country and rockabilly covers.

Rachel Harrington has toured tirelessly since the release of her 2007 debut, The Bootleggers Daughter (Four Stars, Mojo), her follow-up in 2008, City of Refuge (inspiringly original! Q), and 2011's Celilo Falls (Four Stars, Mojo, Q, The Irish Times). Shes played major festivals throughout Europe and the US, made three live appearances on BBCs legendary Bob Harris Show, and reached millions of listeners through airplay at Starbucks. A 2011 winner in Merlefest's esteemed songwriting contest (previous winners include Gillian Welch and Tift Merritt), this is Harrington's 6th annual European tour but her very first with a full band.

Not to be missed!

For audio clips and more info:

With support from Sara Dennis - one of the North East's most in-demand folk singer/songwriters!

Buy advance tickets from:

Only 40 tickets are available and they are going to sell out, so please book early.

Tuesday, 29 November 2011

London Classic: The Pairings

The pairings have been announced for the London Chess Classic.

Round 1: December 3rd, starting at 14.00

Vladimir Kramnik v Hikaru Nakamura,
Levon Aronian v Luke McShane,
Magnus Carlsen v David Howell,
Michael Adams v Viswanathan Anand.

Nigel Short bye, assisting the commentary

Round two: December 4th, starting at 14.00

David Howell v Michael Adams
Luke McShane v Magnus Carlsen
Hikaru Nakamura v Levon Aronian
Nigel Short v Vladimir Kramnik

Viswanathan Anand bye, assisting the commentary

Round three: December 5th, starting at 14.00

Levon Aronian v Nigel Short
Magnus Carlsen v Hikaru Nakamura
Michael Adams v Luke McShane
Viswanathan Anand v David Howell

Vladimir Kramnik bye, assisting the commentary

Round four: December 6th, starting at 16.00

Magnus Carlsen v Vladimir Kramnik
Michael Adams v Nigel Short
Viswanathan Anand v Hikaru Nakamura
David Howell v Luke McShane

Levon Aronian bye, assisting the commentary

Rest day: December 7th

Round five: December 8th, starting at 14.00

Hikaru Nakamura v David Howell
Nigel Short v Viswanathan Anand
Vladimir Kramnik v Michael Adams
Levon Aronian v Magnus Carlsen

Luke McShane bye, assisting the commentary

Round six: December 9th, starting at 14.00

Michael Adams v Levon Aronian
Viswanathan Anand v Vladimir Kramnik
David Howell v Nigel Short
Luke McShane v Hikaru Nakamura
Magnus Carlsen bye, assisting the commentary

Round seven: December 10th, starting at 14.00

Nigel Short v Luke McShane
Vladimir Kramnik v David Howell
Levon Aronian v Viswanathan Anand
Magnus Carlsen v Michael Adams
Hikaru Nakamura bye, assisting the commentary

Round eight: December 11th, starting at 14.00

Viswanathan Anand v Magnus Carlsen
David Howell v Levon Aronian
Luke McShane v Vladimir Kramnik
Hikaru Nakamura v Nigel Short

Michael Adams bye, assisting the commentary

Round nine: December 12th, starting at 12.00

Luke McShane v Viswanathan Anand
Hikaru Nakamura v Michael Adams
Nigel Short v Magnus Carlsen
Vladimir Kramnik v Levon Aronian

David Howell bye, assisting the commentary

Nigel Short and Magnus Carlsen will meet in the last round for the third consecutive Classic!

Monday, 28 November 2011

London Classic: Battle of Britain

An interesting aspect of the London Chess Classic is the participation of four of the strongest Grandmasters in Britain. It is, surprisingly, a rare achievement to get our top players together in the same tournament.

Luckily for chess fans, the London Chess Classic has managed to bring Grandmasters Michael Adams, Nigel Short, Luke McShane and David Howell back together for the third consecutive year.

Two all-British clashes at the 2009 Classic

In 2009, Howell was on top of the British bunch, finishing just ahead of Adams (on tiebreak, due to a win with the Black pieces). In 2010, it was McShane's turn to finish ahead of his fellow countrymen.

Who will it be in 2011?

Sunday, 27 November 2011

Transatlantic Sessions 2012

Following on from yesterday's post, another great thing about the Celtic Connections is that various artistes go on to play a few dates after their Celtic commitments have been fulfilled.

I was pleased to see that the Transatlantic Sessions will be on tour again in February. Here is a quote from the Celtic Connections website:

From the award-winning Pelicula/BBC TV series, the Transatlantic Sessions continue to revisit shared roots and forge new common ground between today’s finest Celtic and Americana musicians. Fresh from the success of last year’s sold out tour are musical directors fiddle maestro Aly Bain and dobro legend Jerry Douglas.

Making their Transatlantic Sessions debut are Grammy-winning ex-Mavericks frontman Raul Malo, the Wailin’ Jennys’ dulcet soprano Ruth Moody and Irish balladeer Declan O’Rourke.

Further gracing the stage are Scottish stars Eddi Reader and Karen Matheson, while the stateside posse features Tim O’Brien and Bruce Molsky, flanked as ever by the ultimate house band of John Doyle, Russ Barenberg, Phil Cunningham, John McCusker, Donald Shaw, Michael McGoldrick and James Mackintosh.

I was fortunate to be able to see one of the shows in 2010 and very good it was too.

Transatlantic Sessions 2010 - Complete with Cara Dillon!

Take a look at the 2012 tour dates here.

Saturday, 26 November 2011

Celtic Connections 2012

The Celtic Connections Festival will return in 2012 and there'll be nearly a full month of musical entertainment.

There will be an incredible amount of artistes on display, including The Wiyos, Cahalen Morrison & Eli West and Bard (all of whom have been mentioned here at Marsh Towers in recent times).

The Wiyos

For the full listings and all other details, please take a look at the official website.

Friday, 25 November 2011

London Classic: FIDE Open

The entry for the FIDE Open section of the London Chess Classic reveal a very formidable bunch of players, including plenty of strong Grandmasters.

The top two English players in the Open are Grandmasters Gawain Jones and Nick Pert (seen here playing against each other at the British Chess Championship). Will we see an English success?

The current list of entries can be seen here.

Thursday, 24 November 2011

New CDs

Two new CDs have arrived for review.

Skinny Mammy's Revenge by Hillfolk Noir and an EP from Bard are currently being played - and enjoyed - here at Marsh Towers and full reviews will follow in the not too distant future.

Wednesday, 23 November 2011

London Classic: Korchnoi Returns!

Grandmaster Viktor Korchnoi will be at the London Chess Classic again this year.

I watched his two simultaneous displays at the Classic in 2009 over the course of two very exciting and memorable evenings.

Despite being 80 years old, GM Korchnoi always plays with extraordinary energy and possesses a phenomenal will to win.

Places are still available for this year's simultaneous displays. Full details can be found on the official website.

Tuesday, 22 November 2011

Coming Soon...

I am currently putting the final touches to a new music project, which promises to be very exciting indeed.

A full announcement will follow at the end of the month, so stay tuned!

Monday, 21 November 2011

London Classic: Nakamura + GK = ?

Grandmaster Hikaru Nakamura will be at the centre of a considerable slice of attention at the forthcoming London Chess Classic.

Word spread recently that Nakamura has been working with Garry Kasparov.

However, the news wasn't quite the scoop some thought it was. Diligent readers of ChessBase Magazine 189 would have already known that the two players had started to work together.

The question is, will the 13th World Champion's insider knowledge of the London participants help GM Nakamura on his way to a memorable success?

Sunday, 20 November 2011


I finally managed to obtain a copy of the remarkable film, Me & Bobby Fischer. This should not be confused with Bobby Fischer Against The World, which I saw in Greenwich earlier this year.

The first time I requested a copy of Me & Bobby Fischer from Iceland, it was swallowed up by the volcanic ash cloud.

It has been worth the wait. My review should follow soon.

Saturday, 19 November 2011

Bridie Jackson: Album Launch

I last saw Bridie Jackson just over a year ago, when she performed as part of the Banoffee Pie Tour Collective. Bridie was also the subject of a three-part, in-depth series of interviews here at Marsh Towers.

Exciting news - Bridie will be launching her album at The Sage on Thursday 12 January 2012.

Further details may well follow here. Meanwhile, pick your seat at The Sage!

Friday, 18 November 2011

'Pitch In' for Rachel

It's not too late to pitch in and help Rachel Harrington reach the target required to fund her forthcoming CD.

Several packages are available for those pre-ordering and/or donating a set amount to help fund the project.

So far, the campaign has reached the 73% mark. That's about $2,000 more than when I last wrote about it.

One more big push could do it!

For further details, head for the official 'pitch in' page.

Thursday, 17 November 2011

Mongoose Newsletter 4

The latest issue of the Mongoose Press Newsletter is now available.

There are two ways to see the newsletter.

1) Visit the Mongoose Times blog.

2) Subscribe to the newsletter at the Mongoose home page and have each issue sent straight to your email inbox as soon as it appears.

Wednesday, 16 November 2011

CSC Update (November)

My latest update for the Chess in Schools and Communities website is now available.

It features press clippings covering our recent trip to Westminster and you can read it here.

Tuesday, 15 November 2011

Alison Krauss & Union Station at The Sage

Alison Krauss & Union Station
Featuring Jerry Douglas
The Sage, Gateshead

With the voice of an angel and a Bluegrass fiddle fit to challenge the devil, Alison Krauss was back in the UK with Union Station for the first time in too many years. Definitely a date not to be missed...

It seems I've accidentally set a tradition of going to shows on Bonfire Night. It means I miss the fireworks but I'm more than happy with the entertainment I've been treated to. In 2010 I attended - and enjoyed - the Banoffee Pie Tour Collective. It doesn't seem like a year ago.

This year I was delighted to be in possession of a pair of tickets for the great Alison Krauss & Union Station. I bought them many months ago and I'm glad I did; any delay would have meant missing out on this special tour, as The Sage was absolutely packed out on the night.

There was no support act. Just like it was for the Rhythm Kings, the show started promptly at 7.30 p.m. The very appearance of the artistes was enough to produce enthusiastic and appreciative applause from the packed audience. Two hours of authentic Bluegrass followed, delivered in style by the undoubted modern masters of the genre.

There is a new CD to promote this year called Paper Airplane. We got to hear roughly half of the tracks from there, along with an excellent selection of songs from Alison's career both with Union Station and without. Indeed, the opening number was the title track of the new CD and it drew more applause, this time happy recognition.

Set List
(I think this is correct; please send me a comment if you were there and spot any errors)

Paper Airplane
Dustbowl Children
Who's Your Uncle
Sinking Stone
Let Me Touch You For A While
Ghost in this House
Baby, Now That I've Found You
Rain Please Go Away
Sawing on the Strings
Wild Bill Jones
Every Time You Say Goodbye
Jerry Douglas Medley
Pastures of Plenty
Dimming of the Day
Lie Awake
Bonita and Bill Butler
Miles to Go Man of Constant Sorrow
Any Old Time
Oh, Atlanta


When You Say Nothing At All
Down in the River to Pray
Your Long Journey
There is a Reason

The first few songs came think and fast, with little time for talking in between. This changed somewhat after the first half hour and we were given various anecdotal snippets and band introductions.

Alison said they were ' happy to be back in England; it's been a number of years since we travelled here as a band. I spent some time over here a few years ago with a curly haired person...'
(we know who she means).

Introducing Ron Block (banjo, guitar) led to a story about him being in London and of him trying to take some photos ' the big gallery there.' He was stopped by a guard and, according to Ron himself, ‘...they forcibly threw me out.'

Characters in Bluegrass songs don't always have the happiest of lives and some don't even survive the experience. Alison mentioned this in passing: 'A lot of time people will come up to us and say , hey what’s your problem, doing those sad songs all the time. After a long time of careful study, we finally figured out that we were just... sad people...' But they didn't look it; they were clearly enjoying playing as much as we were enjoying listening.

Indeed, the artistes were in good humour throughout the show. Left alone on the stage to play his medley, Jerry Douglas (Dobro virtuoso – and musical director of the famous Transatlantic Sessions tours) hinted about the perils of being involved with a touring band. ‘I’m going to play a couple of tunes while they’re gone…rearranging all my stuff on the bus…’

Later, Dan Tyminski (George Clooney's singing voice in the film Oh Brother, Where Art Thou) took a break from guitar and vocal duties to enthuse about a coffee machine in a previous hotel. It's hardly Rock 'n' Roll, but we like it.

Bass player Barry Bales completed the main line-up. He looked way too young to have been in the group for 21 years. Various songs were enhanced by the talents of a drummer and pianist who appeared and disappeared when required (whose names, alas, I did not catch).

It was a wonderful evening. Let's hope they come back soon.

Follow the the latest news and tour dates for Alison Krauss & Union Station over at the official website.

Monday, 14 November 2011

UK Chess Challenge

The UK Chess Challenge, organised by IM Mike Basman, has a new sponsor.

Delancey, who are (according to the UKCC website) '...a specialist property investment advisor and development group' have signed up for a two-year spell.

There is a new website too, with a facility to enter your school and/or chess club online. Entries are being accepted right now, so don't leave it too late - join in the fun with the biggest (and best) chess tournament in the world.

Sunday, 13 November 2011

The Holy Coming Of The Storm

The Holy Coming of the Storm
Cahalen Morrison and Eli West

Having thoroughly enjoyed Alison Krauss and Union Station in concert last week, fate followed up quickly with another slice of high-class bluegrass. Just as I was set on exploring more of the Krauss back-catalogue, I found myself repeatedly playing a new CD which arrived unexpectedly at Marsh Towers.

Cahalen Morrison and Eli West were new names to me so I wasn't sure what to expect from 'The Holy Coming of the Storm'. Gospel? Folk? Country...? There were touches of all three, but none of them offer an adequate description on their own.

In fact, the best description is probably one supplied with the promotional material: 'old-time music styled for the 21st century'. Contradictory? Maybe...but it's not so easy to explain the fusion between the authentic sound of old-time, soulful bluegrass and the thoroughly modern, fresh approach taken by the duo.

From the very first track, 'Lost Lovin' Girl', the strengths of this body of work are immediately apparent; it's all in the harmonies. As clawhammer banjo meets delicate, intricate guitar riffs, so the two vocalists compliment each other very nicely indeed.

Track list:

1. Lost Lovin' Girl
2. On God's Rocky Shore
3. My Lover, Adorned
4. Fleeting Like The Days
5. Weathervane Waltz
6. My Bloody Heart
7. Cutting In/Weymann's Last Run
8. Jealous Sea
9. Over There
10. Since You Took Your Leave
11. Won't Be Long
12. Kingsfold
13. I'll Not Be A Stranger
14. My Bloody Heart Reprise

The songwriting duties have mainly been fulfilled by Cahalen Morrison, with four exceptions. Tracks three and seven have shared credits with Eli West and 13 & 13 are under the 'traditional' umbrella.

The subject matter is familiar. We hear of lost love, desire, loneliness, and, as suggested by the title, coming storms, both real and metaphorical.

My favourites are 'On God's Rocky Shore', 'Fleeting Like The Days', and 'Jealous Sea' although there's nothing I don't like.

There's an impressive number of different instruments used on the CD, displaying the versatility of the musicians.

Cahalen: clawhammer banjo, bouzouki, mandolin, lap slide guitar
Eli: guitar, bouzouki, clawhammer banjo

Four more artistes are credited too

Ryan Drickley: fiddle
Eric Thorn: upright bass
Aaron Youngberg: banjo
Matt Filner: bouzouki, mandolin, tenor guitar

That's quite a range. When I encounter a musical showcase such as this, I like to concentrate while I try to focus on each individual instrument so I found it best to out everything else aside, plug the headphones in and really listen. I found that this approach gave me a very good insight into how the instruments interacted with each other and how cleverly the songs were constructed.

Cahalen and Eli (pictured above) are currently in the middle of a UK tour. This Thursday (17 November) they will be at The Cluny in Newcastle, which is where I saw Little Miss Higgins and The Wiyos earlier in the year.

For all of the other tour dates and further details of a general nature, please visit their official website.

Saturday, 12 November 2011

Further Reading

...and there's one more review for you, this time to be found in the new issue of CHESS (November 2011).

The subject of the review is 'The Wonderful Winawer'.

Friday, 11 November 2011

Chess Reviews: 190

Time to catch up with some recent chess releases. This time, I will provide a brief overview but longer reviews of some products will follow in a well known chess magazine.

Koltanowski-Phoenix Attack
The Future of the c3-Colle
By David Rudel
256 pages

In his 2009 book, ‘Moment of Zuke’ David Rudel proposed a new way of playing one of the main lines of the Colle System. After 1 d4 Nf6 2 Nf3 d5 3 e3 e6 4 Nbd2 c5 5 c3 Nc6 6 Bd3 Bd6 7 0-0 0-0, the idea was to play 8 dxc5 Bxc5 9 b4.

He promised to return to the subject, and he was as good as his word. This new book is an in-depth study of the Koltanowski-Phoenix Attack. The author has identified a problem for White in the traditional method of play. In this key position…

…Black has a high-class waiting move in 10 …h6. It doesn’t look like much, but it throws a spanner in the works.

White is hoping for one of two things in this variation of the Colle: pushing e4-e5 or isolating the d-pawn with a timely exd5. Yet neither can occur without Black’s cooperation and with 10 …h6 the second player steadfastly refuses to be compliant with moves such as 10 …Bd6 or 10 …Ng4.

The upshot is that White may struggle to find a meaningful move. For example, 11 Re1, trying to push e4-e5, is met by the annoying 11 …Ng4 and the waiting move 11 h3 is frustrated by 11 …Nh5, when the weakness on g3 is apparent. This is the argument which gave rise to the creation of the Phoenix Attack.

The material is presented in five main parts:

First Things First
A Simple Mini-Repertoire (SmR) for the Phoenix
Additional Weapons
Reference Analysis

After taking the reader through the analysis, goals and nuances of this intriguing new plan, the author finishes off with a substantial number of test positions to enable students to see how much of the material has been absorbed.

As a former Colle player, I'd be happy to try these new avenues over the board.

It's a well-written book with an impressive amount of space devoted to prose explanations.

For further details, head for new Koltanowski Phoenix Attack website.

Yearbook 100

Congratulation to New in Chess on reaching such an impressive milestone. 100 Yearbooks! There is a celebratory tone to the volume, yet they keep an optimistic eye on the future

‘Already the 100th Yearbook? We prefer to say that this is ‘only’ issue 100, as we don’t intend to stop here.’

One of the many highlights of this bumper volume (it has an extra 56 pages) is a special survey by Garry Kasparov on the Zaitsev Variation of the Ruy Lopez, which is 13 pages long. It brings many memories of the ear in which Kasparov and Karpov used to head for this position:

Needless to say, the opening surveys are of a very high standard, as always. This time the authors include Anand, Ivanchuk, Adorjan, Vaisser, Kuzmin, Van der Wiel, Palliser...

There is also a (tough!) prize Anniversary Quiz (deadline: 1/1/2012) and various anniversary columns, including Glenn Flear's personal list of the best opening books he's reviewed over the last 10 years.

There's nothing quite like a New in Chess Yearbook. Every volume contains something of interest, regardless of one's repertoire.

Here's to the next 100 volumes. Probably, Kasparov will still somehow find time to write something special and I'll still be reviewing...

The Four Knights Game
By IM Andrey Obodchuk
238 pages

The Four Knights has suffered from a dull reputation for many years. This can be due to the eternal popularity of the Ruy Lopez and a natural desire for junior players to move away from their early years of simply brining out their pieces and ending up with a symmetrical game every time.

This book aims to bring some of the freshness back to the old way of playing, offering ‘A New Repertoire in an Old Chess Opening’.


The Three Knights’ Opening
The Four Knights
Black avoids the main line on move 4
The Symmetrical Variation 1 e4 e5 2 Nf3 Nc6 3 Nc3 Nf6 4 Bb5 Bb4
The Metger System
The Rubinstein System
5 Bc4 in the Rubinstein
The Belgrade Gambit

One advantage of trying this old opening is that your opponent may not be familiar with the most accurate responses. That was certainly the case in the game Short – L’Ami (Wijk aan Zee 2009) when after 1 e4 e5 2 Nf3 Nf6 3 Nc3 Nc6 3 Bb5 Nd4 5 Nxe5, Black immediately committed an inaccuracy with 5 …Nxb5?! (5 …Qe7! Leads to equality, according to this book). Short won in just 19 moves.

Frankly, Black remains in good shape, theoretically speaking. It’s not easy for White to make any impression the ‘creative’ Belgrade Gambit and in the main lines he is fine too, if he knows what he is doing. The Metger System has not changed much at all over the last 80 years or so and remains fully viable for Black.

The author has most fun in chapter 6, ‘5 Bc4 in the Rubinstein’.

5 …Bc5 6 Nxe5 Qe7 7 Nf3 d5! 8 Bxd5! After the further moves 8 …Bg4 9 d3 Nd7 10 Be3 Ne5 we reach a key game; in fact, Sutovsky – Naiditsch, Wijk aan Zee 2010 ‘…the very game which induced the author to write this book!’

White played the surprising 11 Nxd4!? Here, allowing 11 …Bxd1 and then followed up with the very complicated 12 Nf5. This leads to 14 pages of complicated analysis.

The author is honest about the merits of his subject:

‘Does the Four Knights give White real chances to fight for the advantage? No, of course not! But it does guarantee a lot of adventures, and adrenaline rushes, especially if both sides are disposed to a sharp fight!’

The Ruy Lopez
Move by Move
By GM Neil McDonald
317 pages

GM McDonald provides lucid explanations and pertinent examples to present a high quality guide to one of the most popular of all chess openings. There’s always plenty of prose in the books of GM McDonald. He never leads readers into a forest of analysis and just leaves them there. I like the way he takes the time and space to explain things properly, even in very familiar positions.

‘No other mainline opening exposes the black pawns to such long-term attack. Black is buying a safe and full development, and restraining the power of the white pieces, at the cost of a couple of static blemishes in his structure.’


White Plays d2-d3
White Plays d2-d4
Black Plays …Bc5
White’s e5 Pawn Centre
Gambit Lines

The first 60 pages are sensibly spent giving the reader ‘A plan to get you started with the Ruy Lopez’. This involves playing d2-d3 at a very early stage, rather than following the main lines (c2-c3 followed by d2-d4).

This ensures that readers can start playing the Ruy Lopez with the minimum amount of preparation. The positions may not be as potent or testing as the main lines but White will have a clear plan to follow.

After that, it’s straight into a voyage through the main lines, encompassing journeys through the well-travelled lands of the likes of the Chigorin, Breyer and Zaitsev systems.

The book does not pretend to supply an encyclopaedic coverage of the Ruy Lopez (for example, the Exchange Variation is mentioned only in passing) and there are no refutations of Black’s established stalwarts (the author prefers Ant-Marshall lines to accepting the gambit) but it is very strong on no-nonsense explanations, presented in terms club players can easily understand.

I wasn’t totally convinced by the previous book in this series (on The Slav), but GM McDonald has provided a template others would be well advised to follow.

Beating Unusual Chess Defences: 1 e4
By IM Andrew Greet
304 pages

Playing the Ruy Lopez is one thing, but to use 1 e4 in serious games requires knowledge of numerous other openings. This new book should help readers deal with some of Black’s other responses.

IM Greet covers…

Scandinavian Defence
Modern Defence
Pirc Defence
Philidor and Czech Pirc
Alekhine’s Defence
Other Defences

‘My approach has been to meet each of these openings in a principled manner, choosing well-established main lines for White. Generally we will be looking to seize space in the centre and pursue the initiative in whichever way best meets the demands of the position.’

To this end, he analyses: 3 Nf3 against the Scandinavian (whether Black plays 2 …Qxd5 or 2 …Nxd5) with the basic plan of castling quickly and gaining space with c2-c4 An early f2-f4 against the Czech Pirc, Modern and Pirc (heading for an Austrian Attack) and some of the Philidor lines.

Against 1 e4 d6 2 d4 Nf6 3 Nc3 e5 (which some of us prefer to call The Lion) he likes 4 dxe5 dxe5 5 Qxd8+ Kxd8 6 6 Bg5 and on 6 …Be6 he continues with 7 g3!? (‘This venomous and slightly unusual move offers White good prospects.’)

Alekhine’s Defence is met classically by 1 e4 Nf6 2 e5 Nd5 3 d4 d6 4 Nf3. ‘Other Defences’ refers to 1 …Nc6, 1 …b6, 1 …a6, 1 …g5 and 1 e4 g6 2 d4 Nf6. Most of the illustrative games are taken from 2000 up to 2011, with just one or two examples from the 1990s.

Chess Secrets: Giants of Innovation
By IM Craig Pritchett
288 pages

The giants in question are Steinitz, Lasker, Botvinnik, Korchnoi and Ivanchuk. Each of them is given a chapter all to himself. Essentially, the format is a series of well annotated games for each hero, interspersed with biographical snippets and a few pertinent quotes.

The criteria for a player to be classed as a 'giant of innovation' is explained thus:

'...innovation is about much more than just coming up with new opening moves. It certainly includes the discovery of new stratagems and tactical motifs as well as the development of whole new game plans.'

It's interesting to see the development of the opening phase through the journey from Steinitz to Ivanchuk. In 1866 we Steinitz and Anderssen giving it their all and trading blows in a wild King’s Gambit, where theory was being created virtually as they went along. By the end of the book, Ivanchuk is playing a new move on his 12th turn against Beliavsky's Caro-Kann and giving the latter no chance of recovery.

Of course, some of the games will be very familiar to readers, such as Lasker’s famous win against Capablanca in an Exchange Spanish at St. Petersburg in 1914, but others are less well known.

It's good to see one of the big Reshevsky v Botvinnik clashes getting an airing. It shows Botvinnik using a system rather than just an opening; something which became a very valuable part of his chess armoury.

Reshevsky - Botvinnik
World Championship Tournament, 1948

Botvinnik decided against giving up his Kingside pawns with 7 ...Ne7 and played instead the unusual (for the time) 7 ...f5, leading to a different sort of game. Black went on to win.

'The American, Samuel Reshevsky, felt the full force of Botvinnik’s mature powers at the 1948 Championship, losing 1.5-3.5 to him in their individual games.’ The score may be the all-important factor, but the mini-match between the two players was extremely close and Reshevsky certainly had his share of opportunities.

With a bibliography spanning the years from 1847 up to 2010, the depth of research is evident. This is one of the better volumes in Everyman's 'Giants...' series.

Thursday, 10 November 2011

London Classic: 4 x 2800

December will be here soon enough. That means, of course, the return of the London Chess Classic!

I will be posting teasers here and elsewhere during the run-up to the first weekend of December.

This is some news just in from the press office:

'The 2011 London Chess Classic is now just a month away - and it’s just got a little bit stronger. The latest ratings published by FIDE, the World Chess Federation, are the ones which will apply to the event. At the top of the list, for the first time in the history of chess competition, there are four players rated 2800 or more. And it just so happens that these four gentlemen are playing in London next month!'

The top-class field includes...

Former World Champion - Vladimir Kramnik

World's Number 1 rated player - Magnus Carlsen

Reigning World Champion - Vishy Anand

For further details, please visit the London Classic Website

Wednesday, 9 November 2011

Short Story

My good friend Kevin Winter kept up his terrific record in simultaneous chess displays with a great win against GM Nigel Short.

GM Short looks happy -
but this was before he played Kevin

Peter Lalic has created one of his special chess videos to present the game. As usual, Peter brings the action to life with his very insightful comments and analysis.

One thing is for sure; GM Short doesn't take his simultaneous games lightly and he very rarely loses in them, so Kevin's exciting victory is a notable achievement.

Together with Kevin at the

For a full selection of Peter's excellent chess videos, please pop along to his very impressive YouTube page.

Peter also produced a whole series of videos devoted to the memory of Mike Closs during our memorial season.

Tuesday, 8 November 2011

WorldJam 2011

People in the Teesside area may like to know that November will feature numerous events as part of WorldJam 2011.

'Throughout November 2011, Middlesbrough Libraries & Information Services will be delivering a series of events, entitled WorldJam. There will be a variety of events and activities including poetry, creative writing, knitting, Christmas crafts, music, a publishing workshop and a variety of holistic health and wellbeing events.'

Among the highlights is an afternoon event called 'The War Poets: Creative Reading, Creative Writing' which will be held at the Middlesbrough Central Library (Reference Floor), 2.00 - 4.00 p.m. on 11 November.

'More than any other conflict, The First World War inspired some very great works of poetry from both soldiers and civilians, across various classes and generations.

During the session, we will read a variety of poems from the era, by poets such as Siegfried Sassoon, Wilfred Owen and John McRae, sharing our thoughts about them as a group.

We will also look at the often overlooked women poets of the time and take inspiration from local images taken during wartime as prompts for our own writing.

Please bring along any favourite war poems to share or your own poetry on the subject.

All are welcome.'

For further details, head for the Middlesbrough Libraries News and Events page.
There's a PDF link on the right hand side of the page will full listings of all the WorldJam events.

Monday, 7 November 2011

Chess Reviews: 189

The Gambit Book of Instructive Chess Puzzles
By FM Graham Burgess
160 pages

Gambit's new puzzle book takes a different approach to the norm, presenting very recent - and relatively obscure - positions which are not merely 'White to play and smash Black in two'. Instruction is the aim and this book confidently hits the target.

Graham Burgess explains the ethos of his work in the Introduction.

'The aim of this book is to help my readers make better chessboard decisions. On every single move of every chess game you will ever play, you need to make a decision. Tactical skills are vital if you are ever to make a good decision, but if you try to solve every situation with tactics, you will squander a lot of opportunities.'

'In this book, in addition to tactical exercises, I present positions that call for a calm decision, or for a good assessment based on intuition and analysis.'

I have to declare an interest here. Together with Wolff Morrow, I was a tester for this book and worked my way through 300 puzzles, providing feedback along the way. I can verify how tough some of them are and I did learn a lot from the book.

The puzzles are split into eight chapters:

Not Just for Beating Your Dad!
Putting Your Knowledge to Work
Endgame Skills
Attack, Defence and Counterattack
Leaving the Comfort Zone Behind
A Tough Day at the Office

The 300 puzzles are all from very recent games (2010/2011) and I’m sure that the vast majority of them will be new to most readers. The answers provide full explanations of what is happening, rather than just giving the basic moves.

Here are three examples to give you an idea what to expect. As usual, I won't give the answers here; you'll just have to do some work for yourself (and/or buy the book).

From the chapter on Creativity:

Vallejo Pons - Onischuk

How does White add the finishing touch to his attack?

From Leaving the Comfort Zone Behind:

Olszewski - A. Mista
Warsaw 2010

Black has four pawns for a piece, but needs to play precisely to
make the most of his far-advanced d-pawn.
The move-order is important here, so choose carefully.

From A Tough Day at the Office:

Hammer - Sethuraman
Moscow 2011

A tricky pawn ending! you must decide how to use the tempo moves
with the a-pawns, and how they affect the battle between the kings.

The book is a smaller size than normal (194 mm x 132 mm) making it easier to carry around on the way to chess matches, to enable a bit of last minute warming up.

Strong club and tournament players will find this book particularly useful.

A summary column featuring a lot more of the recent chess releases will follow here before the end of the week.