Monday, 22 April 2013

Albany Down: Not Over Yet

Not Over Yet
Albany Down
Bedford's blues-rock outfit Albany Down first hit the headlines with their debut album, South of the City, in 2011. Now they are back with Not Over Yet, which offers 12 more turbo-charged, riff-driven songs.

Albany Down play with a high level of energy, rocking with their roots in plain site: Led Zepellin, Cream and Hendrix can all be easily picked out as clear influences.

BBC Radio 2's Paul Jones has already identified them as one to watch. ''These guys are really going somewhere; make sure they take you with them!''

The ''guys'' in question are a quartet, consisting of the following personnel:

Paul Muir: Vocals
Paul Turley: Guitars/mandolin/harmonica/backing vocals
Damien Campbell: Drums
Billy Dedman: Bass

The album's opener - Back Again - builds slowly and ignites impressively. I was less taken by the next two tracks, which rocked well on the surface but were somewhat cliched in the lyric department. For example, You'd Better Run starts off thus: ''I've got a mind full of trouble, a soul full of sin/I've got a .38 and a bottle of gin/You stole my girl what can I do/I'm making up my mind, I'm coming after you...''

Man Like Me is much better and is the start a run of stronger songs, with welcome changes of tempo here and there to add variety.

The Working Man is a song for our times. It cleverly mixes a rail against the current state of the nation with a battle cry to keep going and ride the storm. Indeed, it's a theme which is spread liberally across the whole album.  ''Take a look at my face, can you see I'm falling/Would you walk right by and let me down/There's a world outside can you here it calling/There's so much more if you look around...''

Track List

Back Again
You'd Better Run
Take The Town
Man Like Me
Not Over Yet
My Lucky Streak
You Ain't Coming Home
She's The Light
You Wanna Be My Baby
Travelling Blues
Who Do You Think You Are
The Working Man

With the songs seemingly structured to be best enjoyed live and featuring great guitar work and strong vocals, Albany Down sound like a good group to catch on tour. It's definitely not over yet; in fact it's probably only just beginning.

Stand out tracks:  Back Again, Man Like Me, Not Over Yet, The Working Man.

Find out more over at their official website.

Sunday, 21 April 2013

Yarm Craft and Mind Body Spirit Fair - Photo Report

The Yarm Craft and Mind Body Spirit Fair took place today at the Fellowship Hall.

We had a plethora of very skilled people in attendance, offering a very wide range of services, as advertised.

One of the highlights was the felting workshop presented by Sarah Fishburn.




Add caption
It was a good day and the fair attracted a steady stream of customers, who enjoyed a variety of treatments and purchased a number of top quality products.

Here are a few more snaps from the busy and friendly event.
More events are in the pipeline. Keep an eye on the Light Embrace website for announcements.

Friday, 19 April 2013

Yarm Craft and Mind Body Spirit Fair - Update

As previously mentioned, the Yarm Craft and Mind Body Spirit Fair will take place between 11.00 a..m. and 3.00 p.m. on Sunday 21 April at the Fellowship Hall, West Street, Yarm, TS15 9BT.

Here's an update from the official Facebook event page:

''Good News! Here is an update of what's on offer at the Yarm Craft and Mind Body Spirit Fair.

Crystals, Books, Fair Trade Clothing, Bespoke Jewellery, Bespoke Furniture, Organic Health and Beauty Products, Felt products and Millinery, Leather goods and authentic Greek Olive Oil, Soaps, Essences, Sprays and Incense.

Alternative Therapy taster sessions, Readings and Tarot.

Free Felting Demonstration and Felting Workshop.

Plus Children's Crafts and Face Painting!''

Come along and see what it's all about - and bring a friend or two!

Saturday, 13 April 2013

Savoy Brown: Songs From The Road

Songs From The Road
Savoy Brown
Savoy Brown have been pumping out the blues rock since the mid-1960s. Kim Simmonds is the only original member left in the band, but as singer/songwriter and guitarist there's no danger of the Savoy Brown turning things down from 11.

Songs From The Road is a live recording on the Ruf Records label that hits the ground running from the scorching instrumental opener - 24/7 - through to the closing Wang Dang Doodle.

Track List

Looking In
Natural Man
Street Corner Talking
She's Got The Heat
Time Does Tell
Voodoo Moon
Meet The Blues Head On
Hellbound Train
Tell Mama
Wang Dang Doodle

2011's best-selling Voodoo Moon album is well represented here, as one would expect with She's Got The Heat, Natural Man, Voodoo Moon, Meet The Blues Head On and Shockwaves all present and correct. However, with a back catalogue dipping toes into six different decades, room is still found for earlier material to rub shoulders with the new. For example, Street Corner Talking goes all the way back to 1971 but doesn't sound even remotely dated.


Kim Simmonds: guitar, vocals.
Joe Whiting: saxophone, vocals.
Pat DeSalvo: bass, vocals.
Garnett Grimm: drums.

Stand out tracks:  24/7, Voodoo Moon, Hellbound Train (just under 14 minutes!).

Of course, simply listening to the songs gives just half of the experience. Another great thing about this release is that it comes with a full DVD of the concert too, complete with two bonus tracks - Little Red Rooster and Louisiana Blues - plus an illuminating 10-minute interview with Kim Simmonds.

Your ears may need a rest afterwards, but I can recommend this slice of fast and furious blue rock to all those who want to see an uncompromising band playing as if their lives depend on it.

Find out more about Savoy Brown over at their official website.

Friday, 12 April 2013

Cam Penner: To Build A Fire

To Build A Fire
Cam Penner
Cam Penner's fifth album is an extraordinary piece of work. Edgy, raw and thoroughly original, this is alt-folk with numerous unexpected twists and turns.

The surprises come as early as the first track, the instrumental Mighty Damn Animator (So Long, Farewell). I definitely wasn't expecting to encounter a brass section. The style book is continually ripped up as the album progresses. There's some Woody Guthrie-style material some contemporary folk and even a touch of banjo-driven rap on Memphis. One things for sure - no two songs could be accused of being similar!

Track List

1. Mighty Damn Animator
(So Long, Farewell)
2. To Build A Fire
3. This Could Be Your Anthem
4. Rivers Forgotten
5. No Consequence
6. Memphis
7. Curiosity
8. Gasoline Summers
9. House Of Liars
10. Whiskey Lips

Stand out tracks: Mighty Damn Animator (So Long, Farewell), Curiosity, House Of Liars.

It's a challenging album that will demand attention from the listener.

Find out more about Cam Penner over at his official website.

Thursday, 11 April 2013

Chess Reviews: 215

We conclude our Easter round up with a quick look at three more new books.

Mastering Complex Endgames
By Daniel Naroditsky
304 pages
It's over three years since I reviewed Daniel Naroditsky's Mastering Positional Chess. How time flies.

Now he is back with another impressive tome, dealing with Complex Endgames, which he defines as ''positions in which neither side can depend entirely on endgame theory and common themes in order to find ideas.''

The aim of the book is quickly revealed too. ''How does one come about finding strong moves in muddy and tricky endgames? This question obviously cannot be answered immediately. In fact, we will spend the rest of the book trying to discover why and how strong players make powerful moves.''

The endgames in question are split into the following categories:

Rook Endgames
Rook + Minor Piece(s) vs Rook + Minor Piece(s)
Queen Endgames
Queen + Minor Piece(s) vs Queen + Minor Piece(s)

The concluding chapter looks at Weaknesses, Passed Pawns, Passive vs. Active Defense, Deep Calculation and King Activity.

Game fragments and studies are used throughout the book. The author has done a very good job of explaining the key ideas and taking away some of the mystery and difficulty of these complex endings.

Tune Your Chess Tactics Antenna
By Emmanuel Neiman
237 pages
FIDE Master and chess teacher Emmanuel Neiman proposes to demonstrate that there are seven key signals which can indicate the presence of a tactical blow in a position. Furthermore, by training a player's ''tactics antenna'' to pick up on these signals one should be able to ''find the killer move'' more frequently.

The book is in four parts. The first identifies the seven signals, the second teaches how to spot the relevant theme, the third looks at finding the right move and the fourth presents a ''Final Test'' to the reader.

The examples are very well chosen and include plenty of games from 2011 and 2012. The material is very accessible and will suit players of all strengths looking to ''tune their tactics antenna''. Trainers and coaches will find plenty of ideas for lesson plans too.

Soviet Middlegame Technique
By Peter Romanovsky
416 pages
This is a book with a long history. Romanovsky's original version was published in 1929 but an intended update was put on hold when the manuscript was lost during the siege of Leningrad. He started again and the revised edition finally saw the light of day in 1960, in two volumes (Planning and Combinations). Quality Chess have resurrected this classic work with a new translation and some analytical tweaks. They have also combined the two volumes to create a big and impressive work.

Thinks start of with ''Basic Concepts'' and work their way up to some really advanced material, such as ''The Interference Device in Various Combinative Schemes.''

As this is book on middlegame, the material has not become noticeably dated (as would have been the case with an opening manual, or even an endgame tome). In terms of illustrative games we are taken back in time to encounter the likes of Steinitz, Tarrasch, Alekhine and Capablanca but the lessons from the games of such giants are still just as valid and important today.

Quality Chess should be congratulated on their crisp layout and presentation, bringing this classic work to life and ready to instruct a whole new generation of chess players.

Monday, 8 April 2013

Chess Reviews: 214

As promised in the last column, it's now time to take a quick look at 1 d4-based opening books.

The Colle
Move by Move
By Cyrus Lakdawala
416 pages
I'm not sure how Cyrus Lakdawala manages to write so many books in such a relatively short period of time. He is certainly a prolific author and with a 400+ page count it's not as if these books can be written over a weekend.

There's more than one way to play the Colle System. One can follow the Zukertort recipe (an early b3) or head for the classic Koltanowski set up (characterised by the c3/d4/e3 pawn triangle). There's also the Phoenix Attack which David Rudel has covered extensively. All are covered here, but the depth is clearly lacking in some areas (in particular, one should stick with David as a guide to the Phoenix).

I was interested to see the latest developments against a worrying line from Beating 1 d4 Sidelines by Boris Avrukh (Quality Chess, 2012), namely: 1 d4 d5 2 Nf3 Nf6 3 e3 e6 4 Bd3 c5 5 c3 Nc6 6 Nbd2 Bd6 7 0-0 0-0 8 dxc5 Bxc5 9 e4 Qc7 10 Qe2 b6!? when 11 e5 Ng4 12 Bxh7+ Kxh7 13 Ng5+ Kg8 14 Qxg4 Qxe5 seems to end up surprisingly good for Black, but I couldn't find it.

In fact, I have to say as a former Colle player I had trouble warming to the lines given in this book. It just doesn't seem to add much at all to what is already known in the main lines and some of the tries against Black's non-compliant defences merely look odd. For example, 1 d4 Nf6 2 Nd2 (''The Ostrich'')  looks unconvincing to me.

Frankly, Everyman already have a much better book on the Colle, written by Richard Palliser and for the best coverage on the Colle as a whole - including the Phoenix version - then one should head straight for David Rudel's site.

Wojo's Weapons
Winning With White Volume 3
By Jonathan Hilton and Dean Ippolito
402 pages
I know this book has been eagerly anticipated by 1 d4 fans and with good reason. Volumes 1 and 2 have proved to be very popular (they are two of the finest from the Mongoose catalogue) and as the first one came out back in 2009 then presumably there have been numerous players anxiously waiting to complete their repertoire.

As with the other two volumes, White starts with 1 Nf3 and generally speaking heads for an early d4 and c4, heading for main line theory, usually with featuring g3 and Bg2 somewhere in the mix.

This concluding volume answers one of the biggest problems faced by 1 d4 today - what to do against the Grunfeld? Needless to say, the fianchetto comes into it, with 1 Nf3 Nf6 2 c4 g6 3 g3 Bg7 4 Bg2 0-0 5 d4 d5 6 cxd5 Nxd5 7 0-0 Nb6 9 d5 Na5 10 e4 c6 11 Bg5 being the first weapon covered, but 11 Qc2 is the main recommendation. Black's deviations are dealt with too.

There are also important chapters on the English Opening (including coverage of the Maroczy Bind), the Dutch Defense and miscellaneous tries (including the Old Indian).

Has it been worth the wait? Yes - definitely. The Wojo's Weapons trilogy is now complete and a serious study of the lines given in these fine books will give the reader a very strong repertoire which can be used at the highest levels.

Sunday, 7 April 2013

Chess Reviews: 213

It's time to take a look at the latest chess books. As usual, my more in-depth reviews will can be found in CHESS Magazine. My reviews here at Marsh Towers will be more succinct but hopefully still give a good indication of what each book has to offer.

This column will focus on books dealing with 1 e4 openings. Next time we'll look at the 1 d4 side of things and then column 215 will round up miscellaneous titles.

The Perfect Pirc-Modern
By Viktor Moskalenko
255 pages
Viktor Moskalenko's new book retains the enthusiasm of his earlier volumes. This time he has moved away from 1 ...e6 and slipped one square to the right with 1 ...d6 (and related systems with 1 ...g6).

I'm not so sure the Pirc can described as ''Perfect'' without inviting a successful contradiction. Certainly Kramnik, having lost with it in one of the most important games of his life at the recent London Candidates tournament would have every right to disagree with such a description. With great irony, the Grandmaster who provided the foreword and is quoted on the back of the book praising the work is none other than Vassily Ivanchuk - the man who beat Kramnik in London!

The book is very nicely produced. I like the historical pictures and the photos of chess players. It's good see a decent picture of Mr Pirc himself in the introduction.

Three chapters are devoted to the sharp Austrian Attack, then there's one each for 4 Be3, 4 Bg5, 4 g3, 4 Nf3 and Miscellaneous Ideas.

I'm sure Black will achieve the sort of battle he seeks after most of the White tries, but if I were a Pirc player I would be a little concerned about my winning prospects against the Classical with 4 Nf3. Here, 6 ...Nc6 is the unbalancing recommendation, but we also get a look at 6 ...Bg4.

The author's enthusiasm and sunny-side up presentation should inspire readers to give the recommended lines a go, but I think The Perfect Pirc-Modern works best as an ideas book and I feel some further reading will be required to cobble together a full and effective repertoire.

The Open Spanish
By Victor Mikhalevski
381 pages
Quality Chess
The Open Spanish (1 e4 e5 2 Nf3 Nc6 3 Bb5 a6 4 Ba4 Nf6 5 0-0 Nxe4) isn't as popular as it used to be. Probably the inexorable rise in the popularity of the Berlin Defence (1 e4 e5 2 Nf3 Nc6 3 Bb5 Nf6) since 2000 is partly to blame.

This book offers Black a full repertoire against the Ruy Lopez and it doesn't neglect White's early deviations after 1 e4 e5 2 Nf3 Nc6 3 Bb5 a6 4 Ba4 Nf6, such as 5 Bxc6, 5 Nc3 and 5 d4.

Long-term followers of the World Championship battles will remember Korchnoi using 5 ...Nxe4 against Karpov in both 1978 and 1981. Korchnoi clearly believed in the validity of the Open Spanish even at the highest level and with the might of many a top Soviet analyst working against him. However, towards the end of the 1981 title match Karpov roughed up the Open Spanish very badly and seven years later Korchnoi suffered another very important defeat in a Candidates match.

I thought I'd take a look at this book to see if - and how - the theory on those particular lines has developed over the decades. I didn't have much luck with either!

In the Candidates match against Hjartarson, after the moves 1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5 a6 4.Ba4 Nf6 5.0-0 Nxe4 6.d4 b5 7.Bb3 d5 8.dxe5 Be6 9.c3 Be7 10.Nbd2 Nc5 11.Bc2, Korchnoi played 11 ...Bg4. Victor Mikhalevski prefers 11 ...d4 ''to force the play.'' Although he concedes ''it may lead to positions where White has a slight endgame advantage'' he contends that ''Black is not in any real danger.'' The subsequent analysis is admirably thorough - as it is throughout the book.

On to the 1981 Karpov games. 1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5 a6 4.Ba4 Nf6 5.0-0 Nxe4 6.d4 b5 7.Bb3 d5 8.dxe5 Be6 9.Nbd2 Nc5 10. c3 and now Korchnoi liked 10 ...d4, but this book - while acknowledging that as ''the most popular theoretical line'' prefers instead to focus on the ''modest yet reliable '' 10 ...Be7.

So, Korchnoi's old lines are not considered, but this is a serious book offering a deeply analysed repertoire. Club players may be overwhelmed, but strong and experienced tournament players will welcome the depth offered here.

Dangerous Weapons:
The Ruy Lopez
By John Emms, Tony Kosten and John Cox
299 pages

The aim of the Dangerous Weapons series is ''to concentrate on variations that are ambitious, sharp, innovative, disruptive, tricky, enjoyable to analyse; ones not already weighed down by huge mountains of theory, and ones unfairly ignored or discredited.'' Usually one can find all manner of sharp, weird, wonderful and disreputable lines, some of which are undoubtedly unsound but would make excellent surprise weapons against the unwary.

There are six weapons for each colour, but this time I ended up a little underwhelmed by the suggestions. True enough, we have the obligatory g4 lunge (1 e4 e5 2 Nf3 Nc6 3 Bb5 a6 4 Ba4 Nf6 5 d3 b5 6 Bb3 Be7 7 g4) and even the b-file counterpart (1 e4 e5 2 Nf3 Nc6 3 Bb5 Bc5 4 0-0 Nd4 5 b4) but it seems to me that there is too much time (one third of the 12 chapters) spent skulking around in the Berlin Defence.

The overall impression is of a series of suggestions that are more on the safe than dangerous side. Where are the Schliemann (3 ...f5), Alapin's (3 ...Bb4) and Brentano (3 ...g5)? They would be more in keeping with the aim of the series.

More danger, please!

The French Winawer
Move by Move
By Steve Giddins
287 pages
Everyman's Move by Move series is a strong one. The books are generally very well written and they make a genuine attempt to explain things in good detail. Questions are posed throughout the text with the hope of engaging the reader and stimulating the learning experience.

Steve Giddins is a very good writer and he brings a quarter of a century of French Winawer (1 e4 e6 2 d4 d5 3 Nc3 Bb4) experience to his book. Steve explains ''the key ideas and typical plans behind this inexhaustibly rich and fascinating opening'', using 25 very well annotated games to do so.

All of the classics are there: Smyslov - Botvinnik, Fischer - Uhlmann, Timman - Korchnoi. The main focus falls on the standard main lines (including, of course, the ultra-sharp 7 Qg4 Qc7 8 Qxg7 line) but other variations - such as the potentially annoying fourth and fifth move deviations - are also covered.

It's quite a while since I played a French Winawer but if I felt tempted to reinstate it then I would definitely return to this book to help me prepare. The annotations are excellent and I feel they would be ideal for club players who would like to learn the Winawer from scratch and also experienced French players who would like to increase their knowledge of the wonderful world of 3 ...Bb4.

Saturday, 6 April 2013

Chuck Leavell: Back To The Woods

Back To The Woods
Chuck Leavell
Chuck Leavell will probably best known to most readers as the keyboardist for the Rolling Stones, a post he has held since 1982. He takes centre stage on this new album, which is a stripped-down tribute to blues piano players including Leroy Carr, Little Brother Montgomery and Otis Spann.

The aim of the album is clear: ''It was important to me [to do] this project to expose the piano as an important instrument in blues history.''

Track List
  1. No Special Rider
  2. Evening Train
  3. Wish Me Well
  4. Low Down Dirty Dog
  5. Losing Hand
  6. Naptown Blues
  7. Back To The Woods
  8. I Got to Go Blues
  9. Boots and Shoes
  10. Mean Mistreater
  11. Southern Casey Jones
  12. If You Haven't Any Hay
  13. Memphis Town
  14. The Blues Is All Wrong
  15. Vicksburg Blues

The detailed sleeve notes, written by Leavell and Larry Cohn, provide a potted history of the role of the piano from the 1880s, when ''most American families, rural as well as urban, had a piano in their homes and churches. Widespread availability of the guitar had yet to arrive.'' There's also a section offering biographical notes on some of the finest blues pianists, whose songs are covered on the album.

The core band is a trio, with Leavell (piano, organ, and tailor-made blues lead vocals) joined by Chris Enghauser (stand-up bass) and Louis Romanos (drums, Cajon). Special guest stars pepper the album and they include Keith Richards and John Mayer.

The songs cover various differently paced slices of blues, from fast (Wish Me Well - driven by John Mayer's excellent guitar) to slower, Gospel-tinged numbers (Back to the Woods).

In some cases, the story behind the songs are just as interesting. Southern Casey Jones was written by Jesse James (it's not even clear if that was his real name), who recorded four sides for Decca back in 1936. Only two were ever released and James was never heard of - or from - again. It is good to see such songs rescued from historical oblivion. Doubtless there are hundreds of others buried in the archives, just waiting to be rediscovered.

The playing is exemplary throughout. The piano shines particularly brightly, but not so much it doesn't allow the others to breathe.

Stand out tracks: Evening Train, Wish Me Well, Boots and Shoes.

Further details are available over at the official Chuck Leavell website.

Friday, 5 April 2013

The Walled Garden Festival

Bridie Jackson and The Arbour are organising a festival and here are the details:

Event: The Walled Garden Festival
Venue: Preston Park Museum & Grounds
Date: 27th May 2013 5 p.m. - 10.30 p.m.
Price: Tickets £8

The line up includes Bridie Jackson and The Arbour (of course!), Rob Heron and The Teapad Orchestra (recently reviewed here), Lilliput, By Toutatis and Ditte Elly.

There was a battle for Preston Park three years ago and fortunately it survived. I'm sure this new festival 
will grace the venue and will be a great success.

Head for the official Walled Garden Festival page for further details, including an online ticket-ordering facility. There's a Facebook page too.

Thursday, 4 April 2013

The Stray Birds

The Stray Birds
We have four new CDs to review and all will receive their share of attention over the next week or so. First up is the debut album of The Stray Birds, a trio from Lancaster County, Pennsylvania.

The genre is American folk - strong on the storytelling aspect - and the personnel are:

Maya de Vitry - vocals, guitar, fiddle, banjo.
Oliver Craven - vocals, guitar, fiddle.
Charles Muench - vocals, bass, banjo.

 Track List

1. Dream in Blue
2. 25 to Life
3. Railroad Man
4. Heavy Hands
5. No Part of Nothin'
6. Wildflower Honey
7. My Brother's Hill
8. Give That Wildman a Knife/
Bellows Falls/
Waitin' on a Hannah
9. Harlem
10. Just Sayin'
11. Wind and Rain

Maya and Oliver share the songwriting credits with a 50/50 split; five songs each and an additional joint effort on (the instrumental) track 8.

The opening track, Dream in Blue, showcases the groups strengths right from the start. The steady banjo, the delightful lead vocals of Maya de Vitry and the gradual introduction of the bass and fiddle send an ostensibly simple song soaring. Already we hear the three-way vocal harmonies which will be a noteworthy feature across the album.

Oliver Craven takes over as lead vocalist on the next track, 25 to Life, a musical story about a life gone off the rails. In fact the first two songs set the pattern, with Maya and Oliver switching vocals depending on who wrote the song in question (they each sing their own compositions). The multi-titled track 8 shows a different side to the group. Devoid of lyrics, the instruments are left to do the singing and they are more than up to the task. Wind and Rain brings this fine album to a close with the pick of the bunch from the selection of wistful songs. Musically, this track simply features a single acoustic guitar but the three-way harmony vocals provide admirable depth and texture.

This is clearly a very strong debut album for The Stray Birds and we doubtless be hearing a lot more from them in future.

Stand out tracks: Dream in Blue, Give That Wildman a Knife/Bellows Falls/Waitin' on a Hannah, Wind and Rain.

For further details, head for the official Stray Birds website.

Wednesday, 3 April 2013

Chess Reviews: 212

ChessBase Magazine 153

The latest issue of ChessBase magazine features impressive tournament reports on Zurich (Caruana, Anand, Kramnik, Gelfand), Wijk aan Zee (Carlsen, Aronian, Anand...), Baden-Baden (Anand, Caruana, Adams...) and Gibraltar (Short, Vitiugov, Vachier Lagrave, Sandipan...).

A puzzled-looking Garry Kasparov takes pride of place on the cover of the printed part of the magazine. He has not returned to over-the-board battles; he provided live commentary at the Zurich event.

One eternal puzzle for us all - how do super-Grandmasters actually lose games? I found it interesting to look at some example of high-level losses and to compare how the super-GMs toppled. One of the big strengths of ChessBase Magazine is that one has all of the top games altogether in one place, so such comparisons are made a lot easier. It also helps when the games have Grandmasterly annotations.

Example One: Bad Judgement

Anand - Caruana
Zurich 2013
Anand's exchange sacrifice certainly didn't turn out as planned. 29 Rxe5?! Nxe5 30 Qxe5 Be8 31 Na5 Qxe5 32 Nxe5 Ne7! (0-1, 45)

Example Two: A Simple Blunder

Anand - Kramnik
Zurich 2013
Even World Champions can blunder, just like the rest of us. I can't imagine Kramnik would have felt too good after playing: 21 ...Qb8?? overlooking 22 Rxa6 when 22 ...Rxa6 allowed 23 Qxd3, forking a6 and e2 (1-0, 27).

As annotator GM Gormally says: ''All of a sudden the game is over. It's easy with chess to become obsessed with strategy, positional play, opening preparation and so on. But horrible blunders decide the games more often than we think.''

Example Three: Fatigue

Caruana - Gelfand
Zurich 2013
Boris Gelfand came so close to winning the World Championship last year. Yet even a player as strong as he undoubtedly is can lose focus towards the end of a tough game. Some of his moves in this endgame make a bizarre impression. 50 hxg4 fxg4? (50 ...hxg4!) 51 Kg2 Nc5 52 Nb7 Nxb7 53 Rxb7 Ra4 54 Rb6 ''Now White has good winning chances, but it will take time and patience to break down the light-square blockade.'' 54 ...Re4 

55 Kf1 h4? 56 gxh4 g3 57 Bg1 Bh6 58 Kg2 1-0 The last pawn falls and further resistance is meaningless. (Notes by GM Stohl)

Example Four: Preparation

Aronian - Anand
Tata Steel
Anand showed some great preparation in this game, but as his honest annotations reveal, he didn't have a perfect recall of his homework.

''After this I actually could not remember, what we had prepared. This was a bit of a problem, because this is not the position where you could make a half move or a position that plays itself. You have to make an exact move, because there is a rook hanging on f8 and a lot of action. You have to do the right thing. And there are some possibilities. I was considering moves like 15...e5, 15...Nde5, 15...Qh4, etc. But none of them made a lot of sense. And then I got the key. Though I couldn't remember the variations, I remembered that in some lines my knight gets to d3. So I mainly remembered the position where my knight gets to d3 and from this I managed to reconstruct and find this move ...Bc5.''

So 15 ...Bc5! it was, and after Aronian's erroneous reply 16 Be2? Anand went on to chalk up an important victory (0-1, 23).

All very instructive stuff.

Elsewhere, all of the usual ChessBase features are present and correct, making this another feast of fine chess which should be a required purchase for all serious chess players.

Tuesday, 2 April 2013

The London Young Masters International Chess Tournament - Kickstarter Appeal

Indefatigable chess organiser Adam Raoof - most recently in action as an Arbiter at the London Candidates Tournament - has announced a new venture and he is looking for backers.

Adam Raoof - the smiling Arbiter
Photo © Ray Morris-Hill

''England has a bunch of young talented chess masters who need this event to become Grandmasters, the next Magnus Carlsen! 

A ten player all-play-all chess tournament featuring seven young International Masters and three Grandmasters. The money will be used to fund the venue, the accommodation costs of the players and appearance fees for the Grandmasters.

The main aim is to give our home nation players the chance to qualify as Grandmasters themselves by aiming for a final score of 6.5 or 7/9.  We don't have enough tournament opportunities like this for our young masters, and I hope that this event will be the first in a series of similar tournaments.''

The players in question include:

Jonathan Hawkins, Richard Palliser, Ameet Ghasi, Harriet Hunt, Richard Pert, Craig Hanley, Yang-Fan Zhou, Adam Hunt, Lawrence Trent, Jovanka Houska, Lorin D'Costa, Karl Mah, Mark Ferguson James Cobb, Leighton Williams, Andrew Greet and Eddie Dearing.
Jonathan Hawkins, demonstrating a victory over
GM Conquest at the 2nd Mike Closs Memorial event.
Lawrence Trent, playing an exhibition
game at the 2012 London Chess Classic
Adam has created a Kickstarter page for the project, which offers various rewards depending on the size of the donation. Simply head for the page for further details.

Kickstarter is an excellent way to proceed. It is becoming more popular with musicians seeking to fund their new releases. In recent times we have highlighted appeals by Amy Speace, The Two Man Gentleman Band, The Wiyos and a similar 'Pitch In' drive for Rachel Harrington. All four projects came to fruition. Hopefully Adam will receive support his plan deserves.

Monday, 1 April 2013

Further Reading

The latest issue of CHESS Magazine (April 2013) includes my reviews of Fighting Chess: Move by Move by Colin Crouch (Everyman Chess) and A History of Chess: From Chaturanga to the Present Day by Yuri Averbakh (Russell Enterprises).

The magazine can be ordered here.