Friday, 27 February 2009

Elaine Paige

Elaine Paige
Newcastle Theatre Royal

Elaine Paige has been in show business for such a long time, yet paradoxically she is the sort of star one never really believes one will ever have the opportunity to see in concert. So I was pleased indeed to be able to see her on her 40th Anniversary Tour.

The Theatre Royal is a great venue. I was fortunate to obtain tickets; the show was quickly sold out and only a couple in the Gallery were left. The Gallery is advertised as ‘restricted view’ but that was a misnomer; the view was actually very good.

The seven-piece band started the show with an overture for the first half and this built up nicely to herald the entrance of the star.

As Elaine Paige was celebrating an incredible 40 years in the business, she was able to present her favourite songs from a terrific and timeless repertoire, selected from numerous famous shows. Anecdotes interspersed the songs, but never intrusively so. The funniest one concerned her untimely attack of cramp, mid-curtsey, as she was being presented to the Queen Mother.

The show was in two parts and there were a couple of costume changes around the midpoint of each half. ‘Don’t Cry For Me Argentina’ brought the first half to a very satisfactory conclusion.
We were treated to the finest efforts from 'Peron' to 'Piaf', from ‘Hair’ to ‘Cats', from ‘Jesus Christ Superstar’ to ‘Sunset Boulevard’.

The appreciative audience was treated to two encores - one of which was ‘Memory’, as one would expect - capping a very fine evening’s entertainment.

Seeing a true star - with a fantastic amount of experience - is bound to bring about comparisons with the ‘made on TV’ stars(?) of today. The conclusions should be fairly obvious. The evidence will be there for all to see over the decades. We’ll see for ourselves how many of the plastic people will ever be able to sing with such power, range, elegance and grace.

Meanwhile, if you get the chance to see Elaine Paige remember to book early and then prepare yourself for a wonderful evening.

Wednesday, 25 February 2009

Time For More Mongoose

There's a new posting for your perusal over at:

Chess Reviews: 81

In the real world, efforts are being made to present e-books as a fully viable option to printed matter. The Sony Reader and Kindle devices are busy competing for the new market but the impact does seem to be that of a slow burner rather than a dramatic change of readers’ habits.

The chess world has been joining the slow revolution too. I was interested to see how a selection of titles from the Everyman range would look and how the format would compare to their traditional book alter-egos. Consequently, this review column will focus as much on the differences between the two as the actual content.

Starting Out: Sicilian Sveshnikov
By IM John Cox
Everyman e-book

I have already the reviewed the content of the book here:

The e-books arrive via email, thus saving money on postage and time on delivery. They load up instantly on ChessBase, complete with all of the usual database features. For example, it is easy to arrange and search the material by game, player, tournament etc with a couple of mouse clicks. Adding an engine is easy too. Perhaps the reader will uncover improvements on the analysis, and even some computer assisted novelties? It is definitely easier this way than having to manually input the key positions before letting Fritz loose.

I think the format works best of all for opening books. This is because one can add extra notes to those already given, thus giving the diligent reader the option of manually updating the book with extra games, new annotation and the latest developments. Of course, this is also possible with a physical book and a pen, but the results would not be as neat.

The text of the e-books is identical - as far as I can tell - to the printed versions. There are links throughout the text to enable the reader to navigate instantly to the other chapters and the illustrative games. The latter are fully playable, just as any game stored in a ChessBase database is. The variations in the annotations are playable also.

Winning Chess Strategies
By GM Yasser Seirawan With IM Jeremy Silman
Everyman e-book

The authors take the readers on a journey through a course on strategical aspects of chess games. The explanations are very clear, lively and instructive.

The list of contents clearly described the breakdown of material:

1. The Importance of Strategy

2. Making the Most of a Material Advantage

3. Stopping the Enemy Counterplay

4. Understanding Where the Pieces Go

5. Superior Minor Pieces

6. How to Use Pawns

7. The Creation of Targets

8. Territorial Domination

9. Attacking the King

10. Faulty Strategies

11. The Great Masters of Strategy

Here's a fairly simple example of what to expect:

Karpov - Browne
San Antonio 1972

'A glance shows that no weak squares exist. Karpov changes this assessment with a surprising capture. 4.Bxf6! White does not give up his strong fianchettoed Bishop to double Black's pawns because the doubled pawns won't be weak in any way. He gives it up because he sees that, when the e-pawn is drawn away from e7, it will not be able to exert any control over d5. In other words, White is playing to create a weak square!

4...exf6 5.Nc3
Having created a weakness on d5, White proceeds to "capture the square" by training the sights of all his pieces in that direction.

5...Bg7 6.g3
With 5.Nc3, White obtained a firm grip on d5, but he is not satisfied with just a little control: He wants total domination of that square! By playing 6.g3, he allows his light-squared Bishop to join in the d5 orgy.

6...Nc6 7.Bg2 f5
Black also has a Knight, a Bishop, and a pawn hitting d4. Does that mean that he can lay claim to that square? No. 8.e3 Now none of the Black pieces can land on d4. 8...0–0 9.Nge2 .

White intends to add to his control of d5 with an eventual Nf4, and in fact White went on to win this game. The rest of the moves are not important here. What is important is how White went out of his way to create the weak square, and how White rushed all his pieces to it. It's also important to pay attention to why White owned d5, while Black didn't own d4. The d4-square was not Black's because the White e3-pawn defended it.'

The ebook format makes it easier to present puzzles and their solutions without either letting the eye wander ‘inadvertently’ or having to flick through pages to find the correlating information.

Try this one:

Sherbakov-M. Gurevich, Helsinki 1992
White to play

'White is a pawn down. He could try to defend passively and hope for a draw, but that type of thankless misery is only for the masochistic. Because all of White's pieces are aiming at the Black King, White must try for some kind of knockout in that direction. Normal material and positional considerations do not count (you can give away as much as you want); it's all or nothing in this situation! Fortunately for White, he can land a decisive blow. See if you can find it..

The book then says: 'Press F10 for solution', whereupon the following is found via a link:

'Because his dark-squared Bishop and his Knight both hit g7, and because his Queen can join in that fight, the punch has to land there. Here's the blow-by-blow: 1.Bxg7!

White shreds the kingside pawn shield. 1...Bxg7 2.Qg5 Now g7 falls, and the game is suddenly over. What good did Black's extra pawn do him? None whatsoever! White's attack on the kingside proved to be the winning one, but if he had not taken advantage of it right away he surely would have lost. 2...Kf8 3.Rxe6! [Black was hoping to run his King to a safer place after

3.Qxg7+ Ke7
. After 3.Rxe6! the pawn position around the Black King is completely tossed aside.] 3...Qe5 Desperation. [But 3...fxe6 4.Qxg7+ Ke8 5.Bxh7 leaves Black unable to cope with the threat of 5...-- 6.Bg6# .]

4.Rxe5 Bxe5 5.Re1 Re8 6.Qh6+ Ke7 7.f4
. At the end, White doesn't care about checkmating the Black King anymore. He just wants to win all of Black's pieces. His army in tatters, Black resigns. It doesn't matter whether or not you saw 1.Bxg7!. It does matter whether or not you recognized that White had to do something on the kingside.'

The book should be accessible to players of most strengths and is definitely suitable for improving juniors.

Art of Attack in Chess
Vladimir Vukovic
Everyman e-book

This is a classic book which has already gone through various editions, including a conversion from Descriptive Notation to Algebraic.


1. The attack against the uncastled king

2. The attack on the king that has lost the right to castle

3. On castling and attacking the castled position in general

4. Mating Patterns

5. Focal-Points

6. The classic bishop sacrifice

7. Ranks, files and diagonals in the attack on the castled king

8. Pieces and pawns in the attack on the castled king

9. The attack on the fianchetto and queenside castling positions

10. Defending against the attack on the castled king

11. The phases of the attack on the castled king

12. The attack on the king as an integral part of the game

The introduction highlights the need to make occasional slight amendments to the text. There is a mention of footnotes appearing at the bottom of a page, and ‘where there is no room for a footnote on a particular page, the footnote appears on the following page’. Clearly, this is now out of context and redundant.

This may be a minor point but it deserves consideration; in the context of an e-book the meaning is not relevant, but should one preserve the original text for historical reasons or permit a tweak or two to eradicate discrepancies?

On a similar note, I spotted a couple of small typos in the form of full stops where commas should be and a missing letter in one of the chapter titles (I've corrected it above).

One such 'comma' example occurs in chapter 12, in the preamble to the Alekhine - Asztalos game. I don’t have a copy of the printed algebraic book to hand to check if the errors are consistent. My intention is not to be a critical typo-jumper; I am merely interested in the process of conversion, and wondering whether or not the whole text had to be retyped or simply uploaded from existing files.

My favourite chapters from this book have always been 5 & 6. A long time ago, when I was discussing the Greek Gift with Norman Stephenson (at the time a future British Senior chess champion), he had an abundance of praise for this book and chapter 5 in particular.

He suggested that I ‘…beg, borrow or steal’ a copy. Like I fool, I bought one instead. However, the chapter is a gem and required reading for those seeking the full story of when Bxh7+ is expected to be sound and when it isn’t. Vukovic lists ‘a practical criterion for the sacrifice’, giving the reader all of the necessary preconditions for a successful over-the-board sortie. It works even better in the e-book format, because after each criteria one can click the links and instantly display the relevant illustrative games.

A small difference in the preconditions can change the course of the game and even the best players can make mistakes…

Capablanca - Molina Carranza
Buenos Aires casual Buenos Aires, 1911

The following is indicative of the book's style:

However unsound the sacrifice is, his opponent will see to it for himself that his own position is spoilt... [The young victor from San Sebastian naturally does not consent to make a peaceful move like 12.Be2 against an Argentine amateur.] 12...Kxh7 13.Ng5+ Kg6 Black is correct to choose the ...Kg6 variation and the reader - armed with the guidance given a few pages back - will notice that White's chances of success in this case are dubious, since he does not have the two necessary supporting pieces, but only one, and a fairly weak one at that (the knight on c3).

14.Qg4 f5
[As a lover of fine combinations from his earliest youth, Capablanca here quotes the following continuation: 14...e5? 15.Ne6+ Kf6 16.f4! e4 (or 16...Nc6 17.Qg5+ Kxe6 18.f5+ Kd7 19.Rfd1+ Nd4 20.Qxg7 when White will get one piece back and have three pawns for his knight plus a winning attack against Black's exposed king) 17.Qg5+ Kxe6 18.Qe5+ Kd7 19.Rfd1+ Nd3 20.Nxe4 Kc6 21.Rxd3 Qxd3 22.Rc1+ and mate in a few moves.]

15.Qg3 Kh6?
This game has entered the anthologies as one of Capablanca's famous feats because commentators have passed this obviously incorrect move by in silence.

[By 15...Kf6! Black could have shown that the bishop sacrifice was unsound. This game, here given a proper critical commentary for the first time. provides yet another blow against the legend of 'the infallible Cuban'. Another interesting point is that Capablanca often undertook attacks against the castled king in his earlier years, but extremely rarely as he became older. This was to a certain extent the result of the progressively greater ability of his opponents and a general rise in standards, but it was perhaps even more because of a gradual waning of enthusiasm under the weight of increasing self-criticism. Unlike Capablanca, Alekhine played in his own style from his youth right till the end, accepting the risk of difficult attacks against the castled king even against strong opponents.' (eventually 1–0

Here's a position created by Vukovic in 1965 to demonstrate some basic ideas of using focal points.

'White, to play, has excellent prospects for an attack on g7. His knight is already observing the square, while his queen and bishop are in a position to threaten it in one move. An extremely useful point is the fact that the queen has the choice of attacking from either c3 or g3.

Nevertheless, the situation is not quite as simple as that, and White must be prepared to sacrifice his bishop on h6 if he is to obtain a winning position;
1.Bh6! [by simply playing 1.Qg3 White would only gain a relatively small advantage, e.g. 1...g6 2.Bg5 Qc5 3.Nf6+ Bxf6 4.Bxf6 , when Black can counter with 4...h6 followed by ...Kh7. Only 1 Bh6! guarantees complete success; the main reason why it is better to move the bishop rather than the queen is that in order to attack g7 the bishop has only the one move to h6, whereas the queen has a choice between c3 and g3.

Thus the bishop enters the fray first, while the queen waits to see which will be better, depending on Black's reply. ] Thus:
1...g6 [If 1...gxh6 , then 2.Qc3 f6 (if 2...Bf8 , then 3.Nf6+ leads to a quick conclusion) 3.Qg3+ Bg4 (otherwise the queen mates on g7) 4.Qxg4+ Kf7 5.Qg7+ Ke6 6.Nf4+ Kd7 7.Nd5 followed by 8 Nxf6+. In this variation the queen is most effective if it goes first to c3 and then to g3.; If 1...Bf8 , then White plays 2.Bxg7 Bxg7 3.Qg3 Kf8 4.Qxg7+ Ke7 5.Qg5+ Kf8 6.Rd3 (or 6.Nf6 .) ]

2.Qc3 f6 3.Nxf6+
and White wins,[for after 3.Nxf6+ Bxf6 4.Qxf6 Black has no defence against mate on g7. ]'

Some of the material in this book is quite advanced. The prose style may be a little dated compared to more modern books but it's well worth the student's effort to study the detailed and instructive material.

Summing up the differences between the two formats


Speedy delivery.

Fast loading on to ChessBase.

‘Playable’ games - no need to set up a chess board.

The option of manually updating/amending material.

Trees and warehouse space is saved.

Customer returns/faulty goods are easier to deal with.


A computer is needed; one cannot read as easily in as many places.

Reading from a screen is still not as comfortable as reading form a printed page.

Eye strain could be a problem.

For the publisher, piracy problems could be a big issue.

Old habits die hard. E-books are not generally popular at the moment and the format is taking time to catch on.

I would be interested to read comments from readers regarding e-books. Do you like them? Dislike them? Would you be willing to give them a try? Comment, dear readers!

For full details of Everyman ebooks, please visit:

For the archive of my reviews, please go to:

Saturday, 21 February 2009

Four Days In London

I managed to pack quite a bit into my latest London trip. Four days gave me scope to record nearly six hours of chess interviews for various writing projects, catch up with some old friends, make some new ones and visit some very impressive museums.

First on the agenda was The Imperial War Museum. This consists of an enormous collection of authentic artifacts and displays on several levels from numerous wars and other conflicts.

It really is an excellent place to visit and there is so much to see that at least one more return to the museum is a certainty.

Here's a few snaps from around the displays.

Just like when we were kids...hanging models from the ceiling!
These require something more than a small piece of cotton and staple.

Only worry when the engine stops.

Small but highly dangerous. One of the original 'weapons of mass destruction'

View from the top floor of the musuem.

It just so happened that the Ian Fleming exhibition, 'For Your Eyes Only', was at the Imperial War Museum for the last week or so of its duration. This was the only part of the museum for which one had to pay, but it was worth the financial effort.

A dapper chap.

Early editions of his famous books

Authentic furniture from 'Goldeneye' (the house - not the film!)

Souvenirs from war time exploits.

'I say Q, this invisible paint is all very well, but it doesn't seem to work on hands!'

After I took this shot of something Blofeld would spend all day looking at, I was informed that cameras weren't allowed in the Ian Fleming exhibition, so I rather obediently put it away. A pity really, because there were lots of James Bond costumes and gadgets just around the corner, including the famous golden gun, the 'shoes with the spike' and 'Little Nellie'.

The following day I went to Doughty Street to see the Charles Dickens Museum.

The museum was packed with Dickensiana, covering all periods of his life. Here's a selection from the photos I took...

A magnifiecnt bust.

A wonderful knocker.

Perhaps you should make up your own joke captions
every now and then - there's no 'arm in it.

A signed first edition.

Relics from the blacking factory (a sort of early Victorian YTS scheme)

One of his favourite desk ornaments.

'Oliver Twist' was written at Doughty Street.

A good colection of monthly editions.

Dickens was rarely without a moral - and worthy - message.

These S. Cowells have obviously been in the music business for some time.

Blue plaque for the great man. I wonder if they'll ever award them for blogging?

The chess part of the trip will no doubt bear fruit in due course (some projects take time). Meanwhile, perhaps you will recognise this famous g-pawn pusher, advertising his famous 'Hook-a-book' chess set in a Thai Restaurant?

Yes - it's the unique Mike Basman, creator of the UK Chess Challenge, whose chess achievements are quite astonishing.

Thursday, 12 February 2009

Wednesday, 11 February 2009

Chess Reviews: 80

Let’s Play Chess
A Step-by-Step Guide for New Players
By Bruce Pandolfini
2nd Edition Revised and Enlarged
136 pages
Russell Enterprises

‘I have tried to be as direct as possible. To make your journey a smooth one, the fundamentals have been broken down into short, logical statements. Each idea is numbered, ordered, and clearly stated. For the most part, statements are linked in graded sequence with the easier ones preceding the harder. The format is unique and easy to follow. You should feel yourself learning step by step.’

Starting with the absolute basics with step 1: ‘Chess is a game of skill played by two people on a board of sixty-four squares. The board is the same one used for checkers’, he moves instructively through everything a novice needs to know in 20 sections.

1. General Rules

2. The Board, the Forces, and Their Names

3. The Moves of the Pieces

4. The Object of the Game

5. Mating Patterns

6. Twenty Mating Patterns

7. Three Special Rules

8. Drawing a Chess Game

9. Pawn Promotion

10. En Passant

11. The Exchange Value of the Pieces

12. How to Record a Game

13. Winning Material

14. Principles

15. The Opening

16. Development

17. Chess Thinking

18. An Actual Game

19. More Chess Thinking

20. Conclusion

The steps are numbered to create easily digested bite-sized chunks.

A few eye-catching samples should give an indication of what one can expect:

170 ‘Players generally prefer resigning to being mated. This is true especially for veterans. Maybe it has to do with avoiding embarrassment. Or perhaps it’s an acknowledgment of the winner’s skill and accomplishment. By resigning it’s almost as if the loser is saying, ‘I see your point,’ implying a kind of equality with the winner and thearby saving face.’

260 ‘Some players mistakenly think that the fifty-move rule is really a fifteen move-rule, a sixteen-move rule, or a twenty-one move rule. It isn’t, it isn’t, and` it isn’t. There are no such shortcuts to drawing heaven.’

505. ‘Whatever you attempt to do your opponent will try to anticipate, frustrate, and thwart. You may even be allowed to get what you want. That is, your opponent may have seen more than you and has set a surprise ambush.’

640 ' You should employ a chess version of Occam’s Razor and never look further ahead than necessary'

There's a number of illustrative positions. Keep in mind that these are for novices as you solve them...

Black mates in one move

Black can save the Knight

White has a losing game

A lot of chess books for beginners are written with children in mind. It’s not so easy to recommend a book covering things from the very basics for adult readers. Bruce Pandolfini, born to teach chess if ever a man was, neatly plugs the gap with this well-written primer.

For more on books from Russell Enterprises, pop along to:

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Sunday, 8 February 2009

More at Mongoose Times

The latest posting at Mongoose Times is now available for your perusal:

Wednesday, 4 February 2009

Chess Reviews: 79

Kasparov: How His Predecessors Misled Him About Chess
Tibor Karolyi and Nick Aplin
271 pages Batsford Chess

‘The present book now provides us with an obvious opportunity to introduce some humour, particularly as Kasparov - we think - subconsciously favoured some teasing of the great players and former champions more so than others. By doing so he invited others to have a joke at his expense too. Humour in chess - sometimes a rare commodity - needs to take its rightful place.’

Karolyi and Alpin wrote two volumes on Kasparov’s games, so they are well qualified to write about the 13th World Champion.

Following the authors’ introduction, in which the ethos of the book is expounded, the rest of the book is presented as if it has been written by Garry Kasparov. Starting with ‘Anatoly the 12th’, the chapters work backwards through all of Kasparov’s predecessors showing how their games (possibly) influenced his defeats. Essentially, the stance is taken that Kasparov is blaming his losses on the other 12 champions.

‘In this book I would like to concentrate on the negative effects that I experienced from the world champions - effects which prevented me from becoming even more devastating in my play.’

There are three ways to read this book:

1) On one level the book is pastiche, a pure spoof of Kasparov’s ‘My Great Predecessors’ series. The layout of the cover is in right style too, albeit in blue rather than red.

2) As it collects a large number of losses for the former champion, one can also read it as a study in ‘How to Beat Garry Kasparov’. If the given ideas are good enough to defeat a player of his calibre then they will be surely be of use in a player’s general armoury.

3) It presents a collection of fine games by the first twelve World Champions, some of which may not necessarily be found in the standard works.

Spoofs can be an acquired taste. The best example of the genre is Hans Kmoch’s parody of Nimzowitsch (famously reproduced in the Bell edition of GM Keene’s ‘Aron Nimzowitsch: A Reappraisal’). Kmoch’s notes were to a single game; keeping the trick alive over the course of an entire book is a much harder task.

Here’s a little sample of what to expect:

‘Botvinnik liked to play on the edge of the board, especially the h-file. Though I won games with this method I also lost some. On the right is a position I remember so well. The patriarch attacked on the h-file while his opponent played along the g-file - and in the two positions below I tried to copy Botvinnik’s method.’

A. Ilyin Zhenevsky - M. Botvinnik

Svidler- Kasparov

I. Sokolov - Kasparov

Each game is then given in full, with notes. ‘Kasparov’ highlights the critical moments in which he was influenced by his predecessors, with unfortunate results.

‘Botvinnik gave no instructions on his game. I lost track of what to do with my king’

Some World Champions are blamed for more serious things than a single defeat. Alekhine isn't in 'Kasparov's' good books:

‘Indirectly, Alekhine affected me as well, since Kramnik learned from him how to avoid a rematch. He never gave me a chance to prove my superiority over him in a match, the same way that Alekhine denied Capablanca. So Alekhine had an especially marked and controversial influence on my career.’

One of Fischer's attempts to pep up the simple game of chess comes under fire too:

Akopian - Kasparov

Black now played 16...Bd8

‘This move was inspired by one of Fischer’s ideas - Random Chess. At the start of the game the pieces are positioned on the first rank in irregular or random positions. Somehow I must have thought we were playing his brand of chess, so I started to arrange my pieces on the first rank in an unorthodox manner.’

I had doubts that the spoof approach would work in a full book, but it does hold up provided the reader enters into the spirit of the work.

It's certainly an original book, with a curious mix of humour and serious chess, fact and fiction, instruction and entertainment.

I suppose most of us blame our defeats on the 'guy who showed us the line down the club' or 'Grandmaster X' and it's good to know that 'Kasparov' is no exception.

I wonder if anyone dare try and get a copy signed by the real 13th World Champion...?

John Nunn’s Chess Puzzle Book
New Enlarged Edition
By GM John Nunn
336 pages Gambit

'In a real game, a player may sometimes need to find a combination. On the other hand he may have to reject a tactical idea and simply find a good positional move. His task is to find the right move, whatever it may be. The puzzles in this book put you precisely in that situation.'

Puzzle books are generally popular things. Not many of us can resist pitting our wits against the exercises. They can provide useful, confidence building tactical warm-ups before a match and can act as a useful indication as to how efficient our chess brains are.

This is a revised and expanded version of a book first released in 1999 (Gambit’s early days). Errors have been corrected following feedback from readers and some puzzles have been replaced by new ones.

The original introduction is intact and there’s a smaller, new one to bring matters up to date. Then the reader is plunged straight into the action with the first set of puzzles.

This is a good one, demonstrating the general level:

J Polgar - L.B. Hansen

‘Which is the best move here:

1) 1…Rxe4+ 2) 1...Qxg2 3) 1...Qe1+’

As usual, I won’t give the answers here. This one is well within your powers, dear readers.

There’s a peculiar section between the first two sets of puzzles, called ‘Find the Wrong Move’, in which the reader is invited to do exactly that. I don’t think the idea works very well. There are far too many ways to lose quickly in almost any given chess position; trying to guess the lapse of judgement suffered by the players, out of context, is an impossible task. It would work better as a straight forward section on blunders and missed opportunities.

After the second set of puzzles comes a section called ‘The Test of Time’, which caused controversy when the book was first published.

‘My main interest is in assessing how much the overall level of chess has changed since the pre-First World War period.’

To this end:

‘I decided to take two tournaments, one from the historical past and one recent, and analyse all the games in the two tournaments looking for serious errors.’

The tournaments in question are Karlsbad 1911 and Biel Interzonal 1993. The quality of games in the older of the two tournaments really struggles to come anywhere near that of the latter event. Yet the players were heavyweights of their time; giants such as Alekhine, Rubinstein, Schlechter, Marshall and Nimzowitsch were all participants.

10 pages of puzzles are based on games from Karlsbad. GM Nunn is clearly of the opinion that the games of Karlsbad 1911 haven’t stood the test of time. However, presenting evidence from but a single tournament is unlikely to be entirely conclusive and the comment about monkeys and typewriters - made in relation to the quality of play - is unworthy. Biel 1993 was only six years old when the book was first published; now it dates the chapter.

In any case, comparisons would hold more water if one was comparing like with like. How do the playing conditions of the two events compare? Were there more distractions - such as spectators - in 1911 or 1993? Were the time-controls similar? There are too many unknown factors which could be stand in the way of a fair judgement.

The third selection of puzzles is new to this edition and features positions from the years 2000 to 2007. Most of these were new to me. Here’s one for you to try.

Choisy - Shen

Black to play

White is caught in a pin, but given time she will escape by h3 and Kh2. How did Black force a quick win?

Eight tests - given without clues - conclude the first half of the book. Some are very difficult. Here’s a pretty one which shouldn’t take you too long.

White to play

Hints and fully annotated solutions complete an interesting work. Diagrams, not present in the first edition, have been added to the solutions. This works very well and makes things much easier to follow without having to flick back through the pages for the relevant starting positions.

Despite the two chapters which didn't hit the mark for me, I do think there's some great material here and readers will have fun - and quite a lot of hard work - ahead of them. This puzzle book works much better when it's not trying too hard to be something else.

For further details regarding Batsford Chess Books, please see:

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