Wednesday 30 September 2020

English Chess Federation BOOK of the YEAR 2020

English Chess Federation 

BOOK of the YEAR 2020 

This years Short List contained four books of considerable merit. One however stood out for its original subject matter which was treated in a serious manner, but with good writing and a considerable sense of humour.

GM David Smerdon 
New in Chess 
Paperback pp359 £21.95

The subtitle explains the aim of the book: “How to save points from lost positions”. 

It is the fate of all chess players to sometimes wind up in lost positions, but Smerdon argues that does not mean a player should give up trying to save the game.

There are many ways to resist and this book is a manual of weapons, strategic, tactical and psychological that the reader could use. Saving a lost game can sometimes be as rewarding as winning one!

Smerdon starts by looking at the psychology surrounding swindles. A swindler has to know both his own mind (Tal being the perfect example of optimistic resourcefulness) and that of his opponent
(are they anxious, want to get the game over quickly for whatever reason, or prefer a simple technical win to complicated but quicker victory)? 

He then goes onto consider the various approaches a swindler may use such as a “Trojan Horse” and the “Decoy Trap” and many others.

But the above does not work unless a player knows various ways that enable a potential swindler to escape his fate such as stalemate or perpetual check. The book contains many examples of the various positions and techniques that can be used.

Smerdon concludes with 110 exercises to develop the reader’s swindling skills of various degrees of difficulty.

What lifts the book above the ordinary is Smerdon’s quality of writing and his enthusiasm for chess, its players and the chess world. As an academic in behavioural economics he has a sharp eye for
human nature and enlivens the text with many quotes and pointed foot notes. 

Of course the book’s subject provides much amusement - who does not enjoy, (unless you are the victim) a good swindle?

An outstanding Book of the Year 2020 which combines insightful discussion of a previously unexplored subject, with good writing and great entertainment throughout. 

Ideal for these difficult times.

Ray Edwards and Sean Marsh 
29 September 2020

In Memoriam

Saturday 12 September 2020

CSC: 'Covid Secure Chess'

Nobody could have predicted how strangely my 32nd year of teaching chess in schools would end.

By the time the news of the potential worldwide spread of Covid-19 became a reality, we were already making plans to stop our school visits until the coast was clear.

Nearly six months later and the virus is still a major problem.

We have, however, been able to return to the art of delivering chess lessons in our schools, albeit via a variety of methods.

The loyalty of the 15 CSC Teesside schools who signed up for the year 2020-21 - prior to the spread of the virus - is impressive. They clearly value what we are doing. 

Every one of our schools still wants to be part of CSC Teesside for the year ahead and I am very grateful for their support, especially as they have so many other things to deal with at the moment.


A small number of our schools preferred to wait a little while longer before resuming their chess lessons but the majority wanted an instant return to action.

International Master Malcolm Pein, our Chief Executive, realised that CSC doesn't just mean 'Chess in Schools and Communities' but it can also stand for 'Covid Secure Chess.' Now there's serendipity for you.

It was so good to see the children enjoying the new chess lessons. They have been through a lot and even though people tend to underestimate the resilience of children none of them would have found it easy to get back into the school way of life after half a year away.

My halo is still intact

We are also delivering online lessons, an innovation made possible only by our extensive planning and training sessions which kept us busy throughout the Summer months.

I strongly suspect we will be delivering even more online sessions over the course of the next month out so.

I enjoyed catching up with our CSC Teesside tutors: Richard Harris, Dave Edmunds and Sean Cassidy. They had all been looking forward to the big return and, believe me, they are all on top form and teaching as well as anyone.

Only a fool would think the current emergency is drawing to a close.

I am under no illusions about the enormity of the challenges ahead. I do, however, believe we have prepared as well as we could to ensure that when we can deliver lessons the quality will be of the highest standard possible.

He had waited patiently for our return and we
 refreshed his knowledge of the bare bones.

We are determined to meet all of the challenges ahead with our famous Teesside positivity.