Thursday, December 02, 2010

Chess Books on Kindle

I am learning about the awesome resource of chess books on Kindle.

I think we all -- whether we like it or not -- have to accept the fact that paper books are quickly "going the way of the dodo." announced that for the first time in their history, electronic books have outsold hardback, paper versions.

It is a sign of the times. . . . and it only going to get worse (or better -- depending how much of a fan you are of e-books).

And who can you really blame in the ascension of e-books?

1) They are cheaper then their paper back cousins (often by a lot) as publishers do not need to spend any money (or any serious money anyways) in transportation/production costs.

2) A person can carry 10,000 books in a handheld Kindle reading device (How awesome would it be to be able to take -- quite literally -- all the books you own wherever you go.

3) You buy a book, and it arrives instantaneously. Mail orders and trips to the bookstore are all avoided.

Despite all the positives regarding e-books, the drawbacks are that there are real duds.

Go to and you will find many chess books where only the text -- and no digrams -- are transfered into e-format. Thus, you will buy a chess book without any chess diagrams!

Some, however, are very good -- with diagrams galore.

This is the one I am reading now: It is ve
ry good.


Thus, be careful what you purchase -- there are some real winners and some real duds.

Luckily, allows the Kindle user to download a sample of each potential book he or she wants to buy. These samples (often 10% of the entire book) can provide valuable insight on the kind of book you are buying.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

The Greatest Chess Move of All Time?

This has been called the "Greatest Move In All of Chess."

Given the trillions of moves that players have played over the millenniums, this is -- of course -- a bold statement. This is, however, a pretty sweet move.

Do you see it?

Legend has it that spectators were so enamored with Marshall's bold, winning move, they threw pieces of gold onto the chess board to pay homage to the brilliancy they just witnessed.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

The Knight/Bishop Mate -- An Almost Complete Waste of Time

White to Win

It's a problem you will find in almost all chess books -- certainly in all chess books dealing with the endgame.

The infamous knight-bishop mate.

It is probably one of the trickiest forced mates in all of chess. Go the web and you will find countless websites explaining to you how to do it.

This isn't one of those sites.

This one is going to do something much more radical but at the same time much more practical -- and tell you that "you shouldn't care." In other words (barring sheer boredom), don't bother learning it.

People will huff and pout -- "Of course, you have to learn this forced checkmate! It's essential to any serious chess student's studies!"

But I am right . . . . and all those hours you spend on learning this mate is virtually a complete waste of time (and for novice chess players -- the 95% of us! -- "hours" is not much of an exaggeration).

Why do I say this? Why am I flaunting the conventional chess wisdom that you find in countless chess books (where authors devote page after page to this very problem).

Quite simply . . . . Because the situation never comes up.

(I imagine people are huffing and pouting more furiously now.).

Okay, okay . . . . . of course, it occasionally comes up. All things occasionally "come up" -- chess positions with 5 queens on the board occasionally "come up" -- but it does not come up frequently enough to ever justify spending the time to learn the process of forcing mate.

Don't believe me?

In the last couple years I have played over 3,758 games of chess. This mate came up Zero times. That's "Zero" with a great big, capital "Z".

Want more proof?

I downloaded 9,408 random games from this site (

How many games came up incorporating the knight/bishop mate? Two.

That is .002% by my math. (In other words, there is a .002% chance you will be in a situation where you will need to know this ending. Or once in every 3,704 game.).

I know what the counter arguments will be:

1) If you find yourself in this situation -- and you DO NOT know the mate -- you will throw away a "won-game."

Fair enough. (Indeed, many Grandmasters have found themselves in this very scenario and were forced to take the embarrassing draw.). But again -- do the math. Wouldn't you win more games, by spending the time you would invest in learning this mate and devoting it to tactics training or opening study?

More importantly -- say you do spend the time needed to learn this ending. And lo and behold, some 3,704 games down the road , you come across this ending. Do you think you will remember it? Make no mistake about it -- it will be years (yes, years!) before you will ever come across a game requiring knowing this mate. Think your memory is that good?

2) It's not about knowing the mate, but chess skills in general (how the knight and bishop work together).

This is a better argument, but, again, not a very good one. Yes, you are learning how the knight and bishop work as a team -- but in a very limited scenario (when the two are pinned against the lone opposing king.). Throw in a couple pawns or an opposing piece -- and much of the knight/bishop coordination you learn in memorizing this mate becomes next to useless.

So, in summary . . . .

Unless you are bored, just plain curious, or really eager to harness your knight/bishop coordination skills -- skip learning the process of forcing the knight/bishop mate. You'll be cursing my name when that 3,704th game comes along and you need it, but if you devote your chess energies else where, I can almost guarantee you will benefit more because of it.

You have a limited amount of hours for "chess studies" -- you might as well invest them properly.

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Saturday, November 07, 2009


I hate throwing away "won games." It's worse than getting completely slaughtered -- and is much more psychologically devastating.

Here's a good example.

I am playing black and the winning move (against a much higher ranked opponent) is right in front of me.

See it?

1. . . Re2+ is decisive. Black's key worry (indeed, only worry) in the f6 pawn.

1. . . Re2+ nips it in the butt. The white king cannot retreat to the d-file (shaded area).

2. Kd7 (for example) is met with 2 . . . Rf2!. And white's last pawn is gone. (White cannot play 3. Rxf2 because of 3 . . . h1 = Q.)

But Black can't retreat to the f-file either.

If so, white's king is trapped there and black has free reign to advance his queen-side pawns to promotion. (ex. 2. Kf7 is met with 2. . . c4).

How is the white king "stuck" on the f-file?

If White moves to the g-file (ex. 3. Kg6 it is met with 3 . . . Kg2+!).

No matter where White moves (ex. 4. Kf7) Black's next move is 4 . . . Rg8!.
And either way the h-pawn queens (5. Rxg1 hxg1=Q).

Wednesday, August 12, 2009


I came across this puzzle the other day.

White to play and win.

1. Rh5! is decisive. (1. Qxc3 does nothing and leaves white a pawn down).

After the forced 1... gxh5, black's king is horribly exposed.

2. Rg5+! is the winning move.

As 2... Kh8 (forced) is met with 3. Qh6#.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Stubborn People and Chess

BlueEyedRook v. NN
April 2009

Black to play and win (?)

I have commented on this issue a couple times, but it never ceases to frustrate me.

Why do people not resign clearly lost games?

Take the position above. How can anyone with a chess rating over 800 lose this playing white -- yet black still plays on.

I would have more sympathy for black if there was blitz match where black can still win by white's time running out, but this is a correspondence match -- and a generous one too with a week or so to make moves.

I understand egos bruise easily (and indeed the player playing black -- no need to give names) is ranked higher than me, but at the same time what is the point is dragging this on?


Monday, April 06, 2009

Chess Flash = Awesome

Found this awesome new feature that allows you to display full games. The site's name is and the creator is Glenn Wilson (who has his own impressive chess blog as well If you haven't checked it out -- do so! I think (like me) you'll be very impressed.

I am still learning the ropes of this feature so I started off with the game below -- a game simply 8 moves long!

... And this was at a correspondence chess website. (I knew after 1...a6 that I was in for something interesting!).


Tactical Problem

Found this nice tactical puzzle the other day. It highlights the devestating effects of having two rooks (doubled up) on the seventh rank.

White to Move

1. Bh6! is decisive (see below). Black has no real options from here.

1... Rg8 guards the g7-pawn for one more turn, but doesn't do anything when 2. Re7 is played (see below).

1... gxh6 also leads to disaster after 2. Re7 (see below).

And black is replyless. If he doesn't move his f8-rook, 3. Rxh7+ and 4. Rg7# ensues. Moving the rook is equally unpleasant for black. 2... Rfd8 (for example) leads to 3. Rxh8+ Kg8. 4. Nxf6+ (see below).

Monday, March 02, 2009

More Allegations of Cheating in the Chess World

The chess world was marred by yet another cheating allegation. At the Aeroflot Open in Moscow, Shakriyar Mamedyarov (Azerbaijan) -- the favorite to win the tournament -- was defeated (in 21 moves) by Igor Kurnosov (Russia). Allegations of cheating arose when it was noted that Kurnosov went to the bathroom allegedly after every move and wore heavy clothing (suggesting he was concealing an electronic device). The most damning evidence was the alleged fact that all of Kurnosov’s moves matched a computer chess program’s analysis of the game (i.e., his moves perfectly matched those of a computer-generated analysis).

After these allegations were made, referees investigated Kurnosov’s person and found no electronic equipment or other signs of cheating. And Kurnosov was able to proceed in the tournament.

The incident highlights major problems in the chess world as computers and electronic communication devices become easier to acquire and even easier to conceal. How competitive chess will proceed into the 21st century under these circumstances remains to be seen.

The winning move (whether discovered by computer or man!) in the Kurnosov/Mamedyarov match was a bold queen sacrifice.

(Black to Move)

1... Qd2! (Threatening 2. . . Qxb2#).

2. Rxd2 Nxd2+. 3. Kc2 Bxh5.

3. Rxh5 Nc4.

And Black has obtained a game winning advantage.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Not Seeing an Easy Mate-In-Three (D'oh!)

Black to Move

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Searching for Bobby Fischer (The Book vs. The Movie)

As with most chess enthusiasts, Searching for Bobby Fischer is one of my favorite movies of all time. I always knew it was based on a book, but never actually read it – or for that matter seen a copy (it was first released way back in 1984). I finally got a chance to read it the other day. All in all, it is a good read, but as with most books that were turned-into-a-movie, the book differs from the movie – often in some significant ways.

Fred Waitzkin

Josh’s father, Fred, comes across quite differently in the book – of which he is the narrator/author. In the movie, for example, we see Fred dealing with the pressures that come along with raising a chess prodigy. Interestingly, in the movie, Fred is never identified with chess. In the film, Josh one day come home magically from the park (where the chess hustlers play) and challenges his dad to a game. Josh purposely loses a game to his father because, as Josh’s film-mother suggests, “he doesn’t want to beat his daddy.” After this, his film dad demands a “fair game” and the film Josh then plays a real game against his dad – and much to his dad’s amazement – his young son solidly crushes him (in the movie, Josh is practically playing blindfold as he is calling moves from his bathtub).

The book version is significantly different. In real life, Fred and Josh played often – well before Josh showed significant signs of talent. Fred sounds like hardly a patzer. He admits in the book that he was intrigued (like most of America) with chess after the Fischer/Spassky match in Iceland – he took up the game soon after and played semi-regularly. As he would describe chess was in his blood and over the years “Bobby Fischer has occupied much of time in my fantasy life.” Fred’s enthusiasm, however, evaporated when he realized that he wasn’t particularly good. He described one particular incident where he was beaten by another player who read the newspaper as Fred made his moves and hardly paid attention to the game. This devastated Fred – who before such defeats – thought he was pretty good and as such he eventually gave up the game.

This is interesting because the movie suggests Fred’s interest in his son’s chess has more to deal with the typical parent’s desire to see their child achieve the best they possibly can (one could have easily substituted chess for anything and much of the movie would have been the same: fencing, spelling, etc.). The book, however, shows what is perhaps a bruised “chess ego” that Fred, the father, never recovered from. This psychological wound comes up in interesting ways throughout the book. For starters, Fred admits openly to purposely beating Josh anytime he and his son first started playing. Unabashedly he admits to never letting his young win – even to the point where the father feared he might be crushing the spirits of his young son. As such, Fred, at even Josh’s first beginnings, was seeking to push his son down the chess mastery path. It appears that he is forcing Josh to become the chessmaster that he knew he could never be – but so wanted to.

And Fred desperately appears to want to tag along on Josh’s journey to fame – a feature again missing from the movie. In the book, for example, Fred takes on the role of reporting and writing about chess. It comes across as a way of making his son’s chess success his own success. This desire to be included often reeks of desperation. For example, Fred flies to Russia with Josh and Bruce Pandolfini. According to the book, Fred and Bruce are going there to learn how the Soviets rear their young prodigies. Perhaps not too coincidentally they go during the Kasparov/Karpov match. During his coverage, Fred “uncovers” a host of unfavorable aspects of Soviet chess politics (from rigged games to anti-Semitism). (“Uncovers” is definitely questionable – because before his visit several Russian chess defectors report to him the chess situation in the Soviet Union). This news is, of course, interesting, but Fred – in what comes across as an attempt to make him feel important in the chess world in which he clearly is not – treats the news as important information that must be revealed to the West. So convinced Fred is in the importance of the story, that he travels to the U.S. Embassy in Russia to deliver his notes and files on the subject to a U.S. ambassador who will see to it that the “important” documents are shipped – unsearched and uncensored – to the anxious hands of the Free World. It’s in effect making a mountain of a mole hill – but as Josh continued to climb the chess mastery summit, it hard to blame Fred – a wounded chess enthusiast – for not wanting to reach a similar summit.

Bruce Pandolfini

In the movie, Josh’s mentor, Bruce Pandolfini is portrayed as a man desperate to have Josh succeed. There are a couple points in the movie where Bruce’s desire becomes truly disturbing -- for example when he tells young Josh that he should hold other players in “contempt” if he wants to beat them. It’s hard to really determine what the movie Pandolfini’s motivation is. At one point he is not so much concerned with Josh’s individual success, but excellence in chess itself. As the movie Pandolfini tells Josh’s father, people have been looking for Bobby Fisher along time, but he, Bruce, has found him in young Josh -- implying Josh can and should be the chess titan that previously was Fischer. In a way, the movie Pandolfini seems to be seeking some kind of replacement for the void Fischer left when he abandoned chess and faded into obscurity.

In the book, Pandolfini comes across much less complex from a psychological perspective. Pandolfini (as portrayed by Josh’s father, the author of the book), simply enjoys the game -- and his tutoring of Josh comes across as merely an extension of this. There is none of the desperate desire to win that is seen in the movie. Instead, Pandolfini is described as despising the competitive nature of the game. As he tells, Josh’s father his favorite chess games always end in a draw because there is no winner or loser. He sees promise in Josh -- no doubt, but he lacks the real fanaticism that the movie version portrays. As the book explains, Bruce was often hours late to his practices with Josh and often times completely missed them -- implying that in Pandolfini’s world there were more important things going on. Josh certainly does not come across as Pandolfini’s raison d’etre that you see in the movie.

Josh Waitzkin

Ironically, the movie’s star, Josh Waitzkin, is the character most accurately portrayed from the book. The innocence and good-natured boy shown in the movie is very much present in the book. The famous closing quote: “You are a much player than I was at your age” is, indeed, real (at least according to Josh’s father.) -- as are Josh’s fundamental insecurities (often shown in the movie) at how good he is supposed to be.

The only real discrepancy is the final game in the movie. In the movie, Josh faces what is perceived to be a losing position. He then realizes that it is -- in fact -- a winning position for him. He, in an effort to not humiliate his opponent (who Josh empathizes with), reaches out his hand to ask for a draw. The opponent, portrayed as the antithesis of Josh (arrogant, mean-spirited, etc.), refuses and then Josh proceeds -- almost reluctantly -- to beat him to win the championship.

In real life, there was such a game, and against a much less-likeable opponent (as the movie accurately revealed, in real life the parents of the opponent had pulled the boy out of school so he could learn chess full-time; as in the movie, he was extremely arrogant). However, Josh, in the real life championship game, simply draws against this opponent to win the tournament. (The two were undefeated going into the final tournament game and because Josh was higher rated, he would retain the championship upon the drawn match). Relying on a tie-breaking mechanism to prevail is certainly unclimatic -- Hollywood can, perhaps, be forgiven in dramatizing the ending.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Chess Books O'Plenty

By an odd and strange series of events, I have become the recent owner of a trove of chess books -- 96 to be exact.

Titles, authors, year of publication, etc. are all listed below. There are some real interesting ones in there including one all the way back from 1915 (very cool!).

Title Author Year Theme Hard/Soft Notation Copies
100 Master Games of Modern Chess Tartakiwer, S. and Du Mont, J. 1975 Game Collection soft British 1
1001 Brilliant Ways to Checkmate Reinfeld, Fred 1955 Tactics soft British 1
1001 Winning Chess Sacrifices and Combinations Reinfeld, Fred 1955 Tactics soft British 1
200 Demanding Chess Puzzles Greif, Martin 1996 Puzzle soft British 1
500 Master Games of Chess Tartakiwer, S. and Du Mont, J. 1975 Game Collection soft British 1
A Guide To Chess Endings Euwe, Max and Hooper, David 1976 Endgame soft Algebraic 2
An Introduction to Chess Moves and Tactics Simply Explained Barden, Leonard 1959 Misc. soft British 1
An Invitation to Chess Chernev, Irving and Harkness, Kenneth 1945 Misc. soft British 2
Art of Attack in Chess Vukovic, Vladimir 2002 Misc. soft Algebraic 1
Attack and Counterattack in Chess Reinfeld, Fred 1959 Tactics soft British 1
Begin Chess Pritchard, David 1992 Misc. soft Algebraic 1
Best Lessons of a Chess Coach Weeramantry, Sunil and Eusebi, Ed 1993 Misc. soft Algebraic 1
Better Chess Gillan, A.J. 1993 Misc. soft Algebraic 1
Bobby Fischer Teaches Chess Fischer, Bobby 1972 Misc. soft None 2
Chess Catechism Evans, Larry 1970 Narrative soft British 1
Chess for Beginners Horwitz, I.A. 1960 Misc. soft British 1
Chess in 30 Minutes Lowe, E.S. 1955 Misc. soft British 1
Chess In a Nutshell Reinfeld, Fred 1960 Misc. soft British 1
Chess Secrets I Learned from the Masters Lasker, Edward 1969 Narrative soft British 1
Chess Self-Teacher Horowitz, Al 1961 Misc. soft British 1
Chess Tactics for Beginners Reinfeld, Fred 1961 Tactics soft British 1
Chess Theory and Practice Morry, W. Ritson and Mitchell, W. Melville 1967 Misc. soft British 1
Chess Traps, Pitfalls and Swindles Horwitz, I.A. and Reinfeld, Fred 1954 Tactics soft British 1
Chess: 5334 Problems, Combinations and Games Polgar, Laszlo 1994 Tactics soft Algebraic 1
Chess: The Search for Mona Lisa Gufeld, Eduard 2001 Misc. soft Algebraic 1
Classic Chess Problems Howard, Kenneth 1970 Tactics soft Algebraic 1
Encyclopedia of Chess Wisdom Schiller, Eric 2000 Misc. soft Algebraic 1
Essential Chess Endings Explained Move by Move (Vol. II) Smith, Ken 1992 Endgame soft Algebraic 1
Evans Gambit and a System Versus Two Knights' Defense Harding, Tim 1996 Specific - Opening soft Algebraic 1
First Book of Chess Horwitz, I.A. and Reinfeld, Fred 1952 Misc. soft British 1
Fischer Spassky Roberts, Richard 1972 Narrative soft British 1
Fundamental Chess Endings Muller, Karsten and Lamprecht, Frank 2001 Endgame soft Algebraic 1
How Good is Your Chess? Barden, Leonard 1976 Misc. soft British 1
How to Force Checkmate Reinfeld, Fred 1958 Puzzle soft British 1
How to Improve Your Chess Horowitz, I.A. and Reinfeld, Fred 1973 Misc. soft British 1
How To Play the Chess Openings Znosko-Borovsky, Eugene 1971 Openings soft British 1
How to Play the Endgame in Chess Barden, Leonard 1975 Endgame soft British 1
How to Play Winning Chess Reinfeld, Fred 1972 Misc. soft British 1
How to Reassess Your Chess Silman, Jeremy 1993 Misc. soft Algebraic 1
How to Solve Chess Problems Howard, Kenneth 1961 Puzzle soft British 1
How to Think Ahead in Chess Horowitz, I.A. and Reinfeld, Fred 1951 Misc. soft British 1
Hypermodern Opening Repetoire for White Schiller, Eric 1999 Openings soft Algebraic 1
Ideas Behind The Ches Openings Fine, Ruben 1949 Openings soft British 1
Mastering the Opening Jacobs, Bryan 2003 Openings soft Algebraic 1
Mitchell's Guide to the Game of Chess Mitchell, David 1915 Misc. Hard British 1
Modern Chess Openings (11th ed.) Korn, Walter 1972 Openings hard British 1
Modern Chess Openings (14th ed.) de Firmian, Nick 1999 Openings soft Algebraic 1
Modern Chess Strategy Lasker, Edward 1968 Misc. soft British 1
Modern Chess Tactics Pachman, Ludek 1970 Tactics soft British 1
More Chessercizes: Checkmate! Pandolfini, Bruce 1991 Puzzle soft Algebraic 2
New Ideas in Chess Evans, Larry 1972 Misc. soft British 1
Pandolfini's Chess Complete Pandolfini, Bruce 1992 Narrative soft none 1
Pawn Power in Chess Kmoch, Hans 1990 Misc. soft British 1
Play Winning Chess Seirawan, Yasser 1990 Misc. soft Algebraic 1
Play Winning Chess Seirawan, Yasser 1995 Misc. soft Algebraic 1
Rapid Chess Improvements de la Maza, Michael 2002 Narrative soft Algebraic 1
Searching for Bobby Fischer Waitzkin, Fred 1988 Narrative Hard none 1
Simple Chess Emms, John 2001 Misc. soft Algebraic 1
Standard Chess Openings Schiller, Eric 2000 Openings soft Algebraic 1
The ABCs of Chess Pandolfini, Bruce 1986 Misc. soft Algebraic 1
The Amatuer's Mind Silman, Jeremy 1999 Misc. soft Algebraic 1
The Art of Sacrifice in Chess Spielmann, Rudolf 1995 Tactics soft British 1
The Basics of Winning Chess Cantrell, Jacob 2002 Misc. soft Algebraic 1
The Chess Café Puzzle Book Muller, Karsten 2004 Puzzle soft Algebraic 1
The Chess Companion Chernev, Irving 1968 Narrative soft British 1
The Chess Mysteries of the Arabian Knights Smullyan, Raymond 1981 Logic soft None 1
The Complete Book of Chess Strategy Silman, Jeremy 1998 Misc. soft Algebraic 1
The Complete Chessplayer Reinfeld, Fred 1953 Misc. soft British 1
The Complete Chessplayer Reinfeld, Fred 1992 Misc. soft British 1
The Fireside Book of Chess Chernev, Irving & Reinfeld, Fred 1949 Misc. soft Algebraic 1
The Game of Chess Golombek, Harry 1980 Misc. Soft British 1
The Golden Treasury of Chess Wellmuth, Francis 1943 Misc. Hard British 1
The Grunfeld Defense Hartson, William 1971 Specific - Opening hard British 1
The Logical Approach to Chess Euwe, Max, Blaine, M., Rumble, J.F.S 1958 Misc. soft British 2
The Most Instructive Games of Chess Ever Played Chernev, Irving 1992 Misc. soft British 1
The Official Laws of Chess MacMillian Chess Library 1989 Narrative Hard none 1
The Pan Book of Chess Abraham, Gerald 1983 Misc. soft British 1
The Petroff Defense Forintos, Gyozo and Haag, Ervin 1991 Specific - Opening soft Algebraic 1
Weapons of Chess Pandolfini, Bruce 1989 Misc. soft none 2
Winning Chess Chernev, Irving and Reinfeld, Fred 1948 Tactics soft British 2
Winning Chess Brilliancies Seirawan, Yasser 1995 Tactics soft Algebraic 2
Winning Chess Openings Reinfeld, Fred 1973 Openings soft British 1
Winning Chess Tactics Robertie, Bill 1996 Tactics soft Notational 1
Winning Chess: Strategies Seirawan, Yasser 1994 Misc. soft Algebraic 1
Winning Chess: Strategies Seirawan, Yasser 2004 Misc. soft Algebraic 1
Winning Chess: Tactics Seirawan, Yasser 2004 Tactics soft Algebraic 1
Winning With the Philidor Kosten, Tony 2001 Specific - Opening soft Algebraic 1
Your Chess Questions Answered Lalic, Susan 1999 Narrative soft Algebraic 1