The Chess Quiz: Famous Players

The Chess Quiz: How Well Do You Know The Players?

How well do you know the famous names of chess?
Take this quiz and find out!

No cheating. It’s easy to search the internet but that defeats the point of playing.
Winners don’t cheat 🙂

Once complete, share the quiz and challenge your friends!

Instructive Rook Endgames: Nakamura – Giri

NakamuraGiriHikaru Nakamura and Anish Giri played out an instructive Rook endgame at the Grand Chess Tour Paris Blitz event this year.

Material is level but Nakamura (White) has his Rook ideally placed behind his pawn and his King is helping out too.

Nevertheless, this is a drawn position. Only 1 move gets the draw however, the other 21 lose.

Anish Giri chose 68…Rb8 covering the promotion square – and lost.

This position isn’t really about stopping the a-pawn. White will get it to a7, Black must play …Ra8 then White brings his King to b7. Black is going to have to give up his Rook for the pawn eventually. The question is “will Black be able to do anything with his pawn?”

NakamuraGiri2Let’s see what happened in the game 69.a6 Kf6 70.a7 Ra8 71.Kb7 Rxa7+ 72.Kxa7 Ke5 (diagram)

Now there are many ways for White to win. He can cut off the King with 73.Ra4 forcing Black to protect the pawn, advance 1 square, protect… while White’s King races to help Kb6-c5-d4.

When the White King is close, the Rook goes behind the pawn (Ra8-g8) and the pieces combine to win it.

What Anish Giri should have played is 68…Rf5! with the idea of perpetually checking. Clearly f5 is the only square to operate from as here (and on f6/f7/f8) it is protected and it can’t go to the h-file as the Black King and pawn would get in the way.

NakamuraGiri3To stop the checks, the White King must go to e4 69.a6 Rf6+ 70.Kd5 Rf5+ 71.Ke4 Rf8 72.a7 Ra8. Now it’s going to take White 3 moves to get to b7, compared to 1 in the game. 73.Kd5 Kf6 74.Kc6 Ke5! (staying close to the pawn but making it tougher for the White King to get to d4) 75.Kb7 Rxa7+ 76.Kxa7 g5 (diagram).

Black has gained 1 tempo (pawn on g5 instead of g6) and it makes all the difference. 77.Ra4 Kf5 78.Kb6 g4 79.Kc5 g3 80.Kd4 g2 81.Ra1 Kf4 Draw (diagram).

Of course, you don’t need to calculate all this out in a game (and this was blitz). If you have a similar position as Giri where you’ll have to give up your Rook for a pawn, make your opponent use the maximum number of moves to do it!

You can use the extra tempi to carry out your own plan.

What did you think of this endgame? Any comments or questions? Leave them below!

Secrets of chess tactics: Reversing the move order

Ever had it where you get a really good position and your tactical radar starts going crazy? You know there’s a win here somewhere… but when you play the obvious moves your opponent somehow escapes.

Trust your intuition – there probably was a win… but it slipped away. This tip will reduce those frustrations and help you win more games.

It’s called “reversing the move-order”, a name which pretty much sums up the whole idea.

When you spot a combination but it doesn’t quite work as you want it to, try changing the move order. Here’s a simple example:

ReverseMoveOrderAll White’s pieces are aimed at the enemy King. There must be a winning combination.

Let’s start with the obvious 1.Rxh6+ Kg7 now what? 2.Rh7+ Kf6 and the King escapes.

Ok, 1.Rxh6+ Kg7 2.Rg5+ oops, …Kxh6.

But if we reverse the move order, 1.Rg5! wins …Nf5 2.Bxf5 exf5 3.Rxh6#.

This is a very useful idea to remember, you’ll find it helps in many different types of combinations. It’s also worth noting that removing escape squares (as with 1.Rg5!) is often better than playing immediate checks when on a King hunt.

Chess Tip: One Pawn Holds Two

Here’s a really simple tip which will help you take control of positions by claiming space and limiting your opponent’s possibilities. It’s a principle called “one pawn holds two”.

Imagine Black has 2 pawns, one on a6 the other still on b7. If White was to place a pawn on a5, neither of the Black pawns would be able to move. The a6 pawn is blocked and, if Black plays b7-b6 or b7-b5, the a-pawn could capture it.


2r5/1p1bkp2/p3p3/3pP2r/P2P1P2/R2B4/2P3PP/5RK1 w – – 0 24

Here’s an example from one of my club games. White has 2 extra pawns and Black’s Bishop is pretty terrible so many moves are playable but I played the simplest a5. This fixes Black’s pawns on the same colour as his Bishop, prevents him (temporarily at least) from moving either of these pawns and frees my Rook from guarding the pawn.

However, it’s the restriction of Black’s a6 and b7 pawns that is most important. One pawn is stopping two – a very efficient move!

If you put this position into your engine, you’ll find a5 is one of the top suggestions but once you’ve seen the pattern it doesn’t require any thinking, you’ll find it in a 1 minute game.

So powerful is this idea that, if it was Black’s move in the above position, then …a5, stopping White’s pawn advance, becomes one of the computer’s favourite moves.


8/1p2kp2/p3p3/3pP3/P2P1P2/8/2P3P1/6K1 w – – 0 24

Here’s the same position with Bishops & Rooks removed and, to show the power of this idea, I’ve taken away White’s h-pawn too.

Again, many moves win but the strongest is a5! We’re not restricting a Bishop here, just slowing Black down, taking away his options. Without us playing this move, Black might try …a5 himself, followed by …b5 to get a passed a-pawn.

So, a simple idea but one to remember. It will come up loads of times in your games and make your job much easier!

The 5 people you meet in online blitz chess

BadLoserBlitz chess: fast, exciting and fun. Who cares if it doesn’t do much for your overall game? Blitz is about reactions, pattern recognition and speed of both thought and movement. As long as you don’t confuse it with actual chess training, go for it!

Play online chess enough, though, and you’ll surely meet a few recurring characters. I’ve listed some of the most familiar faces below. How many do you recognise?

All blitz, no chess
This guy has only one thing on his mind: keep making legal moves until your clock runs down. Pre-move features heavily so expect him to avoid conflict with 1…d6, 2…c6, 3…g6, 4…Bg7 and so on. In the endgame he’ll waltz his King around the board without a care in the world as you snaffle all his pawns… only to lose on time.

Thinks you’re Houdini
You’ve just beaten him with a sweet tactic – and he’s not happy about it.
“Go to hell, ****ing engine!”
He’s not interested when you point out you blundered away a pawn earlier, something our silicon friends would never do. Take this outburst as a sign you’re playing well.

Player has disconnected
You’ve already played 5 games and you’re leading 3-2. He’s desperate for revenge but when he meets your Bg5 with a pre-move 0-0 you capture his Queen. He disconnects. You have to wait 1 minute to auto-win.

Claims to know your mother
Upon realising your pawn will promote 2 moves before his will, this guy reacts rather oddly. No “good game, sir” here. Instead he claims to be intimately acquainted with your mum – on a regular basis.
Two things: one, you’re pretty sure your mum has never been to Kazakhstan and, two, she’s like 60, ewwww.

The Gentleman
Let’s end on a positive note with this character worthy of playing the Royal Game. Win or lose he reflects positively on the art you created with “gg” (good game). In a position completely even on the board but with you only having 3 seconds on the clock, he offers a draw. When you sac a Knight then a Rook to invade with your Queen and make mate inevitable, he resigns and declares “nice tactic!”
You like him. You become friends.

Who do you meet most often? Do you know any not mentioned here?


Book review: What it takes to become a Grandmaster – Andrew Soltis

Publisher: Batsford Chess Author: GM Andrew Soltis 318 pages ★★★★½

soltis_what_takes_grandmasterGM Andrew Soltis returns with a sequel to his popular book “What it takes to become a Chess Master”. Whereas “Chess Master” talked about the new skills you need to move from club player to master level, “Grandmaster” points out the things only GMs do.

Right at the beginning Soltis warns that reading this book alone will not make you a GM. Instead he refers to a Kasparov quote to outline the book’s goal:

“70% of the moves could be found by any competent player,” was Garry’s view of the play between Carlsen and Anand in their first World Championship match. “25% could be played by any GM but 5% could only be played by World Championship level players”.

This book aims to show the kind of moves that form the 25% that “could be played by any GM”. Soltis includes 50 plans, formations and ideas that GMs have used to win games which might well appear counter-intuitive to start with.

Topics include:

  • Mystery Moves: Rook Pawns – the hidden advantages of pushing your a or h-pawn in the middlegame.
  • Delayed castling – Mikhail Botvinnik’s advice on getting more out of your opening than just King safety.
  • Hidden 3rd move: Why there is often a sting in the tail of 2 move combinations.
  • Endgame anchors – how to save an endgame an exchange down.
  • Piece nullification – the art of making your opponent’s pieces useless.
  • Impossible moves – the thought-process that finds moves normally reserved for chess engines.

Each section includes the author’s clear explanation of the idea and real world examples taken from games between top players, mainly from the modern era but including Capablanca, Fischer, Karpov and Kasparov among many others.

There are plenty of diagrams, normally 3-4 per 2 pages and the book is full of great quotes and anecdotes from/about famous players about each idea. One tells how the 14 year old Kasparov had adjourned a position down an exchange for a doubled pawn (2R3P v RB4P). Garry wanted to discuss the position in detail with Botvinnik but the Patriarch cut him off with a question, “Garry, just tell me one thing. Is your Bishop protected by a pawn?”
“No,” came the reply.
“Then you’re lost” was the brutally honest evaluation; and so it proved,

Some care is needed to make sure the ideas aren’t taken as universal solutions. Often they are exceptions, but powerful exceptions to be aware of. For instance, when talking about “uber-luft”, giving the King room to escape back-rank issues by advancing a pawn 2 squares instead of 1, Soltis admits that “in the vast majority of cases, one square will be better. But in that minority of positions, the benefit of two squares will be considerable”.

What I really like about this book is the ability to read it in almost any order, dipping in, picking up a new idea before skipping to another one that catches my attention. It’s pretty easy to follow the games without having to get a board out and it’s lightweight too so you can really reduce your exercise to a minimum!

While “What it takes…” probably won’t make you a GM on it’s own, it is sure to teach you a load of new concepts and understand chess at a deeper level. There are Quiz questions and answers to test your ability with too, a very important part of consolidating knowledge and making real progress.

All in all, a great book and highly recommended to anyone who enjoys learning new chess ideas.

Buy the book from the publisher here.

The 6 Types of Chess Player – Which one are you?

Yuri_AverbakhYuri Averbakh, Russian GM, author, endgame expert and currently the world’s oldest living GM at 93 (!), revealed in a 1997 interview in New in Chess that he placed chess players into 6 categories.

Here they are with his description of each and the names of some famous examples (as given by Yuri).

  1. The Killers – “players who are, figuratively speaking, trying to kill their opponent. As a rule, the main definition of a killer is a man who was raised without a father.”
    1. Fischer
    2. Botvinnik
    3. Korchnoi
  2. The Fighters – “They try to win with all means, but it’s not necessary to kill. ”
    1. Kasparov
    2. Bronstein (“He tries to pose as an artist. Maybe he has something of the artist but his main strength is that of the fighter.”)
  3. The Sportsmen – “For them chess is a sport like any other kind of sport. They are normal people, but when they play it is for them just like any other sport.”
    1. Spassky
    2. Keres
    3. Capablanca
  4. The Gamblers – “He wants to play any game.”
    1. Karpov
  5. The Artist – “For whom not only the result is important.”
    1. Simagin
    2. Rossolimo
    3. Zukertort
  6. The Expolorer
    1. Averbakh
    2. Nimzowitsch
    3. Rubinstein
    4. Fine

” Of course, not everyone fits just in one category. For instance, Tal had something of both the fighter and the artist. Karpov and Kasparov also have some killer characteristics, but not as strongly as Botvinnik.”

Blackburne in Lancashire.

BlackburneJoseph Henry Blackburne (1841-1924) only learned chess at 18 but became one of the most successful players in England, famous for his tactical play and talent for blindfold chess.

The following games take place between Blackburne and a player called John Lord who was now playing his chess in Lancashire. The games and italicized comments have been supplied by the Lancashire County Chess captain (and former coach to the young Nigel Short) Mike Conroy.

Blackburne got leave from a London tournament to fulfil prior engagement in
the Rossendale area of Lancashire. On June 15 he played a 30 board simul
against local players at Waterford Grammar School. He scored +28 =1 -1. On
June 16 he played an eight board blindfold simul. He scored +7 -1.

17 and 18 Nov, 1893 ordinary simul and blindfold simul at Rossendale CC,

25 years earlier Lord had won a tournament game against Blackburne.

Finally, another game between Lord and Blackburne, found on