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Fredthebear recommends amateurs play similar aggressive openings and learn how to attack, Attack, ATTACK!! The openings in these ten games are full of fight!! (Grandmasters may know/reference the best line to play from the theoretical books, but your local opponents probably will not, or cannot not remember what they studied because there are so many, many openings and variations to sort through.) Knowing how to attack will make you a better DEFENDER because you know what the opponent is looking for to crack your own position. So, advance your central pawns, develop your minor pieces rapidly, seize the initiative and become a great attacker. Transpose this acquired knowledge to the defense of your own king! (The castled king usually beats the uncastled king.)
It's also vitally important to realize when an attack would be pre-mature; it needs more preparation to be successful. Premature attacks, often by a faulty sacrifice without sufficient follow up, perhaps just one or two pieces attacking instead of the necessary three or four, are a good way to beat yourself. The opponent does not have to be creative in most such cases. S/he just plays logically and repels your mistimed threats. The biggest chess upset Fredthebear has ever personally witnessed occurred when the master impatiently played a sacrifice that was unsound, and his weaker opponent found the best response, then had an easy game from there on by trading down.
Beginners should read the simple but necessary "Bobby Fischer Teaches Chess" for dual lessons in attacking and defending the king. (It does not cover openings.) You must see the threats in time! Chess is a "take aim" game of Checks, Captures and Pawn Promotions, as well as THREATS to Check, Capture or Promote on the next move or two. Fischer's book is a basic puzzle book that will easily instruct beginners what to look for when the king is under attack.
"The Chess Tactics Workbook" by Al Woolum is quite useful for students, teachers and club players. The notes in the back also include 30 aggressive king pawn miniatures to jump start your opening play. Train with Woolum's workbook on a daily basis, solving perhaps 3-5 pages per day and replaying the miniature games often. These miniatures are good examples of how to attack swiftly after a misstep by the opponent! After a few months of daily dedication from cover-to-cover and again, it's time for the next challenge. Follow up with "1001 Chess Exercises for Beginners: The Tactics Workbook that Explains the Basic Concepts, Too" by Franco Masetti and Roberto Messa. That's plenty to chew on for awhile. Of course, there are many good puzzle books worthy of study, but some might be too difficult and discouraging. Amateurs cannot be expected to solve the spectacular positions from grandmaster games that most puzzle books include. The book selections listed here will allow the reader to experience success through regular home studies at the appropriate level of difficulty.
The algebraic reprint of the classic "The Art of (the) Checkmate" by Renaud & Kahn is another step in the learning process, but quite necessary, entertaining and informative. The aspiring chess player must develop pattern recognition and strike swiftly when the opportunity rises! Seek to use tactics and combinations to attack (and defend) until you finish off your opponent! "A First Book of Morphy" by Frisco Del Rosario will certainly increase your attacking skills. The phenomenal Paul Morphy could really whip up an attack, sustain the initiative, and finalize!!
Fredthebear believes it is better for amateurs, club players to read a chess book that is a bit too easy as opposed to a complex, overwhelming chore. When your tournament rating rises above 2000, tackle catalogues that are more in-depth. Difficult chess books tend to have lots of text and only a few diagrams. The number of pages matters not.
At the opposite end of the chess spectrum is the endgame. The great Capablanca would argue that endgame studies should come first, and rightfully so...begin with the end in mind. There are three phases to a typical chess game of 40 moves or longer:
1) The Opening ten moves or more - deploy ALL your minor pieces,
2) Middlegame tactics and positional strategies, and...
3) The Endgame after ten or fewer exchanges have occurred and there is no danger to the king.
Checkmate (as well as perpetual check and stalemate) can theoretically occur in any of the three phases but typically does not happen quickly unless one side makes multiple mistakes against a strong player. Thus, the term endgame is a stage far more encompassing than the term checkmate; it's not the same thing.
The endgame arises after the opening and middlegame phases have played on without conclusion. The endgame focuses on creating and promoting a passed pawn to queen (or under promotion to a knight check and/or fork) and then delivering checkmate with the new piece. Replacing the far pawn with a new piece so late in the game on a mostly bare board adds overwhelming force.
Yes, for a proper chess education the aspiring player absolutely must read some basic endgame chapters from introductory chess instruction books. Reserve these instructive books from your local library one by one, month after month. Sooner or later, every attacker meets a difficult foe that cannot be buffaloed. When your opponent is equal to the task of thwarting your attack in the opening and middlegame, you must shift gears to the proper endgame techniques.
Some algebraic notation books with instructive endgame chapters:
- Beginning Chess/The Right Way to Play Chess by D.B. Pritchard
- Chess Basics by David Levens
- Chess Made Easy by Milton L. Hanauer (out-of-print favorite)
- Tips for Young Players by Matthew Sadler
- A World Champion's Guide to Chess by GM Susan Polgar & Paul Truong
- Guide to Good Chess (12th printing) by C.J.S. Purdy
- Chess/Win at Chess (Teach Yourself) by William R. Hartston
- Learn Chess: A Complete Course by Alexander and Beach
- Learn Chess in 40 Hours by Rudolph Teschner
- Chess Fundamentals (Re-printed Algebraic edition) by Jose Raul Capablanca.
- Common Sense in Chess by Emanuel Lasker, New 21st Century Edition
- The Complete Idiot's Guide to Chess (3rd edition) by Patrick Wolff
- The Guide to Chess by Malcolm Pein
- Improve Your Chess in 7 Days by Gary Lane
- Win at Chess by Ron Curry
- Secrets of Practical Chess by John Nunn
- Chess Training by Nigel Povah
- Chess Strategy by Eduard Gufeld and Nikolai Kalienchenko
- Tarrasch: The Game of Chess by Tarrasch 21st Century edition
- Lasker's Manual of Chess by Emanuel Lasker 21st Century edition
- My System by Nimzowitsch 21st Century edition
The books listed above contain endgame chapters with more information than typical beginner's books that show elementary checkmates of the lone king but little else. The above list is generally given in progressive difficulty, so start at/near the top. The Susan Polgar/Paul Truong guide book has 30 instructive endgame positions to be memorized -- the minimal amount of understanding necessary, so advanced beginners and intermediates should not skip it. This is MUST KNOW stuff!
There is no need to purchase these books. Students can request book reservations through the sharing interlibrary loan program. (First, you will need to provide proof of address and get your free library card in order to reserve materials.) Your local library may not carry many chess books on it's shelves, but it can borrow them for you. Just be aware that many chess books have similar titles that might be confusing, so be sure to request the correct author.
Once you read chapter after chapter after chapter and know the fundamental endgame principles and positions by heart, read a couple endgame manuals dedicated entirely to the endgame. Re-read your endgame manuals once or twice every year. It will pay lasting dividends well worth your effort over the course of your chess career. The reader should purchase his favorite endgame manual to have it on hand at all times.
Introductory endgame manuals for the intermediate and club player include:
- Easy Endgame Strategies by Bill Robertie (2 "Basic" books in 1.)
- Pandolfini's Chess Challenges: 111 Winning Endgames
by Bruce Pandolfini. This is a crafty pocket puzzle book.
- Chess Endgames for Kids by Karsten Muller. Good information is good information; it's not just for kids.
- End Games in Chess by Theo Schuster. Small, cheap, good!
- Pandolfini's Endgame Course by Bruce Pandolfini. One lesson per page. Insert book mark and solve one crease per day, everyday and review yesterday's crease. That's 4 lessons on 4 pages in 8-12 minutes per day; you'll slowly but systematically work your way through the entire book by season's end. You read a snip of it everyday like the Bible.
- Improve Your Endgame Play by Glenn Flear. Intermediates will like this book. His other endgame books are way more advanced and would follow down below this list.
- Endgame Play by Chris Ward. He's a fine all-around author!
- Concise Chess Endings by Neil McDonald. FTB prefers McD's smaller series over the Seirawan series.
- Winning Chess Endings by Yasser Seirawan. His popular series is a bit too expensive, but the information is good.
- Chess Endings: Essential Knowledge (3rd Edition) by Yuri Averbakh
- Chess Endgame Quiz by GM Larry Evans. Evans was an American champion and underappreciated author who helped Bobby Fischer.
- Capablanca's Best Chess Endings: 60 Complete Games by Irving Chernev. This was written in Descriptive notation. FTB just had to mention it!!
- 100 Endgames You Must Know: Vital Lessons for Every Chess Player by Jesus de la Villa. Don't judge a book by it's cover, but the title fits the book this time.
- Essential Chess Endings: The tournament player's guide by James Howell. Some folks swear by this book as their EG bible.
- Endgame Challenge by Lou Hayes. One more self-test before the "practical" EG books. You're a talented EG player by now.
- Practical Chess End Games Hardcover – 1972 by David Hooper
- Practical Endgame Tips by Edmar Mednis (Q & A edition is fine.)
- Practical Endgame Play by Neil McDonald
- Practical Chess Endings by Paul Keres. This classic is more advanced, but covers the basics too. It is a stand alone from start to finish that can make you a master in the endgame!
- Lars Bo Hansen, Secrets of Chess Endgame Strategy
Endgame knowledge is stable, lasting and somewhat universally applied to multiple arrangements. It does not change with popularity like openings do. The endgame has it's own specific concepts and principles. General endgame factors include king advancement vs. restriction, pawn majorities, outside passed pawn, square of the pawn, rook pawn exceptions, the wrong colored bishop, blockade, connected passed pawns, pawn breakthroughs, control of the promotion square, diagonal and distant opposition, triangulation, shouldering, fortress, waiting moves, zugzwang, sacrifices to allow/prevent promotion, B vs. N, opposite colored bishops, minors vs. R, building a bridge, Q vs. R, and various drawing methods (blunders waiting to happen) re-occur often. Once you gain conceptual understanding, it is a chess skill that will apply over and over and over in your evenly matched games as material forces dwindle. Even when behind on material, your endgame knowledge may help draw a position that was otherwise lost, saving you half-a-point in the standings. After all, a scheming draw is way better than a loss.
Experience has shown that the weakest aspect of the typical American chess player is his/her endgame fundamentals. Certain principles and techniques are unique to the endgame. Dedicated students of the endgame can seize a significant advantage late in the game to conclude a hard fought battle! It's like having an extra gear to pull ahead at the finish line of a close race.
The art of exchange is not discussed much in some chess books, but the lasting impact of an apparently "equal" trade can be crucial to the flow and eventual outcome of the game. An understanding of superior endgame positions will factor in for wiser decision-making when trade opportunities arise in the middle game. Each exchange brings the endgame closer. If ol' Fredthebear has no sound attack, he knows how to simplify the position and drag the younger hot shot tacticians out to deep water in the endgame where a simple, wasteful, harmless looking pawn move can give away a free square or fatal tempo. A mistake in the endgame often has permanent consequences (cannot be corrected) on the path to defeat.
In the mean time, thrust those central pawns forward, bring out your minor pieces, prepare to castle and play aggressively in the opening...attack, Attack, ATTACK!! (Attack IF you have a lead in piece development and the opponent has a weakness.)
* There are intelligent endgame chapters and manuals written in the older descriptive notation which FTB learned from that are not in these lists simply because of the notation. (Many modern day students won't read descriptive notation, but they should. It's merely jargon shorthand... "Pawn to king's four" is on the king's original file, etc.) Descriptive books by I.A. Horowitz and Frank J. Marshall put FTB on the right path to chess success in the endgame! Two similar, versatile descriptive books worthy of mention are 1) Chess the Easy Way by Reuben Fine, and 2) The MacMillan Handbook of Chess by Horowitz & Reinfeld. Both give 10 tips on the Opening, Middlegame, and Endgame. Their equal is one of the most undervalued, virtually forgotten chess books: Chess Made Simple by Milton L. Hanauer. If every chess book would cut to the chase like Mr. Hanauer's book (which has it's own lists), there would not be so many chess books!
* Nowhere did FTB suggest that you read ALL these books. Just pick a few from each group. Don't leave the endgame chapters until you're completely comfortable with that material. You should be able to look at the diagrams a second or third time and visualize the finishing moves. It should become rather routine, ordinary for your thought process so you're eager to confidently steer games toward the endgame when your attack is stalled. One day, you might come to appreciate the middlegame Minority Attack on the queenside (outside passer) as much as the king hunt.
* Yes, FTB deliberately left out the books of two well-known authors who target amateurs because the material in their other books is not reliable, and one has a belittling, sour puss tone toward amateur players that he attempts to profit from. It turns out the IM was not as smart as he thought he was. (Now FTB is sounding like the IM.) Vanity is not appealing. Always be humble and kind, modest and helpful, honest and trustworthy, respectful and responsible, for we are but a speck of sand in time.
* FTB has not read Endgame Workshop by Bruce Pandolfini, but it probably belongs on this page if it's not full of unnecessary, fluffy words. The positions given in a Pandolfini book are always worthwhile in a fundamental sense. Have you read his ABC's of Chess? It goes deeper than the ABCs.
* John Nunn is a fine endgame author for strong, experienced players. Lev Alburt material book after book seems good, but FTB has not read the entire series through. If you're not winning local chess tournaments, you're probably not ready for all their (Nunn/Alburt) material. FTB has no complaints about their introductory books which are too thorough, dense for some tastes, making such a fine read for advanced beginners and intermediates. Again, it's better to read a chess book that is a bit too easy rather than one that is too challenging, discouraging. The idea is to read reputable books in a short amount of time (one or two weeks) so it can do your chess brain some good! However, sooner or later you have to step up your studies and tackle meatier material if you want to increase your understanding of the finer details.
* Alas, heed Lasker's observation: "More chess games are lost by not applying what you already know, than by what you don't know." (FTB is paraphrasing, but it's real close to the original quote.)
* Understand that misprint typos occur in every chess book. A wrong letter or number can cause confusion because it gives the appearance of being in order but does not make sense. Recognize that your frustration might mean that you're simply wrong -- something was overlooked, OR there might be a typographical error throwing you off-course. Sometimes a piece is missing from the diagram, or placed on the wrong square. Sometimes Black has a defensive resource (such as declining the sacrifice) that the author did not consider, so the author is partially wrong. When you come across a position that seems absolutely unsolvable, think for another minute or two. Look at each and every unit again. Where all can it go? It helps to identify all the absolute pins on board that limit mobility. Is there a discovered attack that establishes a check, lineal cut-off, or pin? Is castling still possible? Did you consider every possible legal move, including the ones that seem to be foolish giveaways? If the position still appears not possible, look up the correct solution in the back. Don't make it torcher on yourself! Stop, and look up the answer! Either you get it, or you don't, but keep moving along; it's no big deal as long as you gave it an honest effort. Sometimes you will be able to identify an occasional mistake in the book -- which gives you a new sense of chess confidence! Write a (?) beside the diagram as an indicator that something seems amiss. When FTB thinks he's found a better move than the actual solution given, he writes the move in the answer notes. The next time you read the book, the position in question might make sense, or it might truly be a typographical error that you've come across. All chess books contain a few errors here and there. Don't make yourself miserable in pursuit of correctness and come to hate the book for it. Just mark the typo and move along.