Friday, 2 October 2020

The Chess Endgame Exercise Book

 

BOOK REVIEW by CARL PORTMAN

THE CHESS ENDGAME EXERCISE BOOK

by JOHN NUNN



John Nunn

The Chess Endgame Exercise Book

1st edition (softcover, 192 Pages)

Also available as an e-book ($9.95) and an app-book ($12.99)

2020

GAMBIT PUBLICATIONS

http://www.gambitbooks.com/index.html

 

What is this book about?

That would be…chess endgames! Okay let’s peel back the skin and look deeper into the belly of the book.

 

Contents

There are ten chapters, after an illuminating introduction from the author.

 

1.   Pawn Endings

2.   Knight Endings

3.   Bishop Endings

4.   Bishop vs Knight Endings

5.   Rook Endings

6.   Rook and Minor Piece Endings

7.   Queen Endings

8.   Endings with Queens and Other Pieces

9.   Endgame Tactics

10.Test Papers

 

Score table

Index of Players and Composers

 

What does (some of) the official Blurb say?

Everyone knows they should work on their endgame play. So many hard-earned advantages are squandered in ‘simple’ endings... But it’s tough finding a way to study endings that doesn’t send you to sleep and that helps you actually remember and apply what you have learnt.

“While endgame theory books are helpful, active participation by the reader is a great aid to learning. I have spent several months selecting the 444 exercises in this book from what was initially a much larger collection.” – John Nunn

All major types of endgame are covered, together with a wide-ranging chapter on endgame tactics. Examples are drawn from recent practice or from little-known studies. The emphasis is on understanding and applying endgame principles and rules of thumb.

Does the book achieve its aim?

Dr. Nunn says that he wants to encourage the reader to put their brains in high gear, both to test themselves and to learn more about the endgame. The fact that he has included exercises covering the range of chess players from beginner to master means that everyone can do this. Yes, they can learn an awful lot.

Let me just give you an example of the fun that one can have studying any position of the 444 at random.

 




Have a look at this position. What do you think you would play if you were Black?

Remember that these days we are all playing faster time controls so you might not have long at all to think about it in a game. If you can remember principles it can help you to make good moves. Well the move that draws for Black according to Nunn is 1…Kh1!

 

Now then. It is not enough just to know the move. One has to get to grips with the why. That’s how we learn. Nunn goes on to say “It is important to be aware of the general principles. Black to play would draw here by 1…Kh1! since in the case of a knight’s pawn, the best square for the defender’s king is in the corner diagonally opposite the pawn”.

 

Who knew that? It’s a fascinating principle and leads the reader (hopefully) into investigating this concept further with or without the chess engine.

 

There are many pearls of wisdom in the book and I particularly like the thorough and clear explanations to the puzzles in the solutions. These solutions incidentally appear immediately after the puzzles as opposed to being shown at the end of the book. I much prefer this method and long may it continue.

 

Concluding notes

Do we chess fans need another book on endgames? Well I can speak as a chess coach. I have used and re-used many positions from the most recent (at that particular time) to the very old – the works of Reti and Kubbel for example to show aspects of endgames, but the fact that this book contains recent games certainly up to 2019 means that I had not seen the vast majority (well, almost all) and it is so useful to have new material. Each time I flipped a page I found myself absorbed in the positions, some of which were from players that I know (and count amongst my friends) such as Trevor Brotherton and Nathaniel Paul from Shropshire who have a position from one of their games in Telford shown. There was therefore a real sense of the personal in this book.

I wonder, are YOU in it? Did the good Doctor Nunn select one of your games? Who knows? You’ll have to get the book and find out.

What this book did for me was to reinforce – as if I needed that – the fact that endgames are not boring. They are fun. They are fantastically rich in possibilities. You cannot tell me that any kind of magic in chess occurs in the opening. There’s more in the middlegame but in my humble view the witchcraft and alchemy are to be found in the endgame. John Nunn is one of our own. He is one of England’s evergreen and great chess inspirations, and we are very lucky to have him still writing, still sharing his ridiculously incisive wisdom with us. When I read his work - it inspires me to want to learn more. I want to get the chess set out and study. I want to lose myself in the depths of the possible and seemingly impossible. That's the mark of a notable and experienced chess author.

I particularly liked the idea of the test papers in chapter 10. I could visualize sitting at an old wooden school desk, fountain pen in hand, ink in the bottle and the chess test papers in front of me. Sitting at the head of the class in the finger of sunlight streaming through the window was the teacher, Dr. Nunn, peering over his round spectacles like a wise old owl – getting ready to say ‘turn over your paper and begin’. I would not have been his best pupil, that’s for sure but he would hopefully have given me a good mark for endeavour. It took him a long time to put all of these puzzles together so the least I – and other readers - can do is switch off the infernal chess engine and apply ourselves. Just try. Have a go. Teacher Nunn is on our side! He wants us to do well.

I really enjoyed and will continue to enjoy this book. The layout is excellent. The style is very supportive of easy learning and of course it has the GAMBIT stamp of approval.

You can watch a YouTube video in which author GM John Nunn presents a sample from this book. He will tell you why this book is a little different to other endgame books he has written.  

Cut and paste this address.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nQ5GAikuslg&feature=youtu.be

Who is the author?

As if you needed to ask! (Shame on you).

Dr. John Nunn is one of the best-respected figures in world chess. He was among the world’s leading grandmasters for nearly twenty years and won four gold medals at chess Olympiads. In 2004, 2007 and 2010, Nunn was crowned World Chess Solving Champion, ahead of many former champions. In 2011, his two-volume work Nunn’s Chess Endings won the English Chess Federation Book of the Year Award, and was highly praised by Levon Aronian (who read both books cover to cover!) when making the award presentation.

 

600 Modern Chess Puzzles

 

BOOK REVIEW by CARL PORTMAN

600 MODERN CHESS PUZZLES

by MARTYN KRAVTSIV

 


Martyn Kravtsiv

600 Modern Chess Puzzles

1st edition (softcover, 192 Pages)

Also available as an e-book ($9.95) and an app-book ($11.99)

2020

GAMBIT PUBLICATIONS

http://www.gambitbooks.com/index.html

 

What is this book about?

Chess puzzles. 600 of them, many or all of which the author claims have never been seen before, because they are from recent (fairly recent) play. They range from very easy to very difficult so if you work through the book in sequence and keep solving, you will be improving.

 

Contents

There are two parts to the book.

 

Part 1: With hints, Questions and tasks

1.   Warming Up

2.   Checkmate

3.   Your Choice

4.   Getting Tricky

5.   Endgame Exercises

6.   Tough Nuts

7.   Tough Choices

 

Part 2: No Clues!

1.   Not Too Hard

2.   Tricky Tasks

3.   Endgame Challenges

4.   Nightmare!

 

Index of Themes

Naturally, there is an introduction to the book, followed by short pieces on basic tactical ideas, symbols and the difficulty ranges for each chapter.

 

I very much like the explanation of tactical ideas (such as Zugzwang, square vacation, interference, line opening, deflection and destroying the guard, among others) in the introduction. That’s very useful for the reader to prepare them for what is to come. Further I applaud the author for including the Index of themes at the end of the book. Here, you can see which positions relate to certain themes such as perpetual check, endgame technique, positional play, candidate moves and attacks on the king. This is very useful, especially for chess coaches.

 

What does (some of) the official Blurb say?

The easiest, quickest and most effective way to improve your overall game is to increase your tactical vision. Many good positions are lost because a key moment is passed by and a player misses the opportunity to win by a beautiful combination. This book is designed simply to help you improve your play by seeing tactics better.” – Martyn Kravtsiv

 

Written along similar lines to Gambit’s earlier Ultimate Chess Puzzle Book, this new work presents 600 puzzles, mostly from the last two years, that are chosen for instructive value and maximum training benefit. To ensure that few will be familiar to readers, Kravtsiv has deliberately chosen positions from obscure games or from analysis. If you find the right answers, it will be because you worked them out yourself!

 

Does the book achieve its aim?

What is the aim of any chess puzzle book? Presumably to entertain (surely?) and educate. It should also be a good reference resource as far as I am concerned. In fairness, it is a chess puzzle book so yes it does, especially with fresh material.

 

By way of an example from the book I offer the following:

 

The position below is taken from the game Seo Jung - Dhulipalla, Stockholm 2018/19. It is Black to play and the instruction given by the author is to choose between 36…Rxc8 and 36…Rxa2. My own view is that I don’t see the value in just trying to find the correct move, it is going to be really important to learn the reason why it is best and what the move is in context with any theme. That’s the way to progress.

 

Have a look at the position below and I will provide the answer at the foot of this review. So – are you playing 36…Rxc8 or 36…Rxa2

 

 



Concluding notes 

I was interested to note that so many of the games are taken from India, particularly Mumbai, with plenty from Stockholm, Chennai and Hastings as well as elsewhere. That’s just an observation, not a criticism. I am simply curious as to why a Ukrainian author should choose so many games from India.

 

The fact that these are recent positions makes it more interesting and the fact that the reader won’t have seen most (any?) of the positions brings new life into the puzzle studies. Books such as this are perfect for taking with you on a trip to read in a car, on a railway platform, in an aircraft or in my case waiting to see a doctor!

 

The layout is up to the usual GAMBIT standards with clear and precise diagrams on good quality paper. There are some very memorable moments from the positions in the book. With the dark evenings just about upon us I would certainly recommend this to keep you company, and with a lockdown Christmas on the horizon, you might want to get it sooner rather than later.

 

Thanks to the miracle of technology you can visit YouTube and watch a short video in which GM John Nunn presents a sample from this book. He comments that the positions are a good selection for training purposes. They are not artificially created, they are practical. Don’t argue with the Doctor.

 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ffv964-Wl6M&feature=youtu.be

 

Who is the author?

Martyn Kravtsiv is an experienced grandmaster from Lviv, Ukraine. His tournament results include tied first places at Cappelle in 2012 and the 2015 Ukrainian Championship, as well as being blitz champion of the 2008 World Mind Sports Games (at age 17). He represented his country at the 2017 World Team Championship and was a coach for the team that won silver medals at the 2016 Olympiad.

Note: The book has been translated by Graham Burgess who is an excellent author in his own right. That should instill confidence in the reader that a thorough job has been made of it.

 

Answer to the puzzle

 

1...Re8xc8! (1...Rd2xa2? 2.Rc8xe8+ Qe7xe8 3.Qc4xa2 Qe8–e1 (3...Bb4–d6 4.Qa2xf2 Qe8xa4 is not enough for Black to win.) 4.Qa2–e2 Bb4–d6 5.g2–g4! and White holds the position.) 2.Qc4xc8+ Rd2–d8.

 

Opposite-coloured bishops have a stronger drawing tendency the fewer pieces are on the board. Thus, to retain winning chances, Black should only allow the exchange of one pair of rooks. It’s a very good point and these fairly simple themes once inculcated could help to gain lots of game points for the hard-working chess student. Good hunting.

 

 

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