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In a recent Perpetual Chess Podcast the chess writer and translator Douglas Griffin pointed out how much fine chess literature is waiting to be translated into English; most of it is in Russian, as you might expect. Griffin has been mining Soviet chess archives for many years and presents some outstanding finds on his excellent blog. A discerning book publisher will surely make his work more widely available before long.

Of the great chess books in other languages seeking a translator, Soultanbéieff’s Le maître de l’attaque (Paris, 1974) will be on the connoisseur’s list of the top ten.

Barely remembered today, Victor Soultanbéieff (1895–1972) was one of the strongest amateur players of the 1930s. Like his contemporary Kurt Richter, ‘the Sultan’ enjoyed a global reputation for swashbuckling play despite relatively few appearances on the international stage.

The pressures of family life and a tough day job hobbled his chess career with fatigue and missed opportunities. Who knows what he might have achieved had circumstances been kinder. See Part 1 and Part 2 for details of his life, combinations and crushing victories over the likes of Tartakower and Nimzowitsch.

Le maître de l’attaque [Master of Attack] is Soultanbéieff’s great legacy. It originally appeared in French in the early 1950s under the title ‘Guide pratique du jeu des combinaisons’ [Practical Guide to Combinations]. In a warm preface, Max Euwe heaps praise on the ‘precise, meticulous, instructive and enjoyable’ book and extols Soultanbéieff’s candour:

    ‘the author … uses his own games to explain tactical ideas but not only his wins, as is generally the case, but draws and even losses. This gives the book a remarkable objectivity.’

Le maître de l’attaque is an attacking manual packed with sparkling games, fragments, pen-portraits, amusing anecdotes and clear, shrewd advice drawn from the master’s (sometimes bitter) experience.

(The following extract is a translation of Games 14 and 15 of Le maître de l’attaque )

 ‘Holes’ – the Achilles heel of defence

The hole (French – trou; German – loch) is a square that can no longer be defended by a pawn. Example: white pawns on f2, g3, h2; here the squares f3, g2, f3 create ‘holes’ in White’s position. Another example: black pawns on f6, g7, h6; here the squares f7, g6, h7 create ‘holes’ in Black’s position. In general, holes weaken the position and often allow the opponent’s pieces to infiltrate. The following two games offer pretty conclusive evidence of this.

Pawn March

In chess composition the solver has the advantage of knowing to focus on the challenge in hand (‘mate in two’, ‘White to play and win’, etc.); unlike a real game where the player must assess all of the possibilities in a kaleidoscope of ever-changing positions. To recognise that a given position is ripe for a tactic or a decisive combination, to find and execute that manoeuvre or combination – these are the marks of the master. In the following example Black seizes the opportunity with both hands (20…h4!), but how many times are critical moments like this overlooked and squandered?

The game was played in the Liège Quadrangular Tournament in 1949:

  1. Soultanbéieff 2/3; 2-3. P. Devos and F. van Seters 1½; Dr Wery 1. It won the beauty prize offered by M-R Anciaux, honorary President of Liège Chess club.

Frits van Seters – Victor Soultanbéieff

Quadrangular Tournament, Liège 1949

Queen’s Gambit Declined

    1 d4 d5 2 c4 e6 3 Nf3 Nf6 4 Bg5 Nbd7 5 e3 Be7 6 Nc3 O-O 7 Rc1 c6 8 Bd3 dxc4 9 Bxc4 Nd5 10 Bxe7 Qxe7 11 O-O N5b6

The classical line is 11 Nxc3 12 Rxc3 e5; it has been analysed in the finest detail and requires very precise play from Black. The text move was tried in international tournaments about twenty years ago but without much success. At that time I contributed a special article about it to L’Echiquier magazine (1932).

    12 Bb3 e5

    13 Re1 (?)

Black’s psychological plan bears fruit: as theory frowns on the variation, my opponent, although a first-class theoretician, did not trouble himself to study it. Instead of this passive move, he should have played, as I showed in the aforementioned article, 13 Ne4! which is stronger than the move commonly played 13 d5 (Nc5!). Confident that 13 Ne4! gives a positional advantage against all Black replies (including Tartakower’s 13…Nf6 14 Nxf6+ gxf6 with weakened kingside), I had adopted this original, bold and yet dubious continuation in a correspondence match with the Lithuanian champion S. Macht (1932-33; drawn: +1, -1, =2). 13 (Ne4) a5!? 14 a3 a4 15 Ba2 Ra5?! 16 Qd2 Rb5?! (a rook manoeuvre à la Sultan Khan) 17 Nc3 e4! 18 Nxb5 exf3 19 Na7 ! Qg5 and after 20 g3 the ‘nail’ on f3 and the ‘holes’ on g2 and h3 caused Black many problems, but the game was drawn on the 51st move.

    13…e4! 14 Nd2 Nf6

    15 Qc2

Here White intended to play 15 Bc2 and if 15…Bf5 (?) 16 f3 winning a pawn, but noticed that 15…Bg4! 16 f3 exf3 17 gxf3 Bh5 would give Black an advantage.

    15…Re8 16 Ne2 Nbd5 17 a3

To parry the threat of Nb4-d3 winning the exchange.

    17…Bd7 18 Nf1 b6!

If the a8 rook moves 19 Qc5 would force the exchange of queens owing to the threat of Qxa7, freeing White’s game.

    19 Nfg3 Rac8 20 Qb1 h5!

The right plan! White’s play has been a little hesitant (as shown by his knight manoeuvres) and his forces are far from the kingside. So Black seizes the opportunity to launch a quick attack on this side of the board.

    21 Bxd5 cxd5 22 Rxc8 Rxc8 23 Nc3

Not wanting to concede to his opponent an undoubted advantage in the endgame after 23 Rc1 h4 24 Rxc8+ Bxc8 25 Nf1 Ba6, or 23 h3 h4 24 Nf1 Bb5 25 Rc1 Rxc1 26 Qxc1 Qc7 when White is subjected to a mating attack.

    23…h4 24 Nge2 h3! 25 Nf4 Qd6

    26 g3

This move was played only after a long think, as White realised the danger the holes on f3 and g2 posed to his king. In any event damage to his king’s position is unavoidable, for example 26 Nxh3 (if 26 gxh3 g5 followed by …Bxh3, …Ng4 etc.) 26…Bxh3 27 gxh3 Qe6 threatening …Nh7, …Rg6+ or …Rh6. after 26 Nxh3 Ng4 the best move is 27 Nf4 g5 28 Nxd5 gxf4 29 Nxf4 with three pawns for the knight while 27 g3 Qh6 28 Kg2 loses to 28…Nxh2.

    26…g5 27 Nfe2 Qe6

Already threatening a deadly invasion: Qf4-f3-g2 mate. Weaker was 27…Ng4 when White can put up some resistance with 28 Qd1 Qf6 29 Nf4 gxf4 30 Nxd5 and 31 Nxf4.

    28 Qd1 Qf5 29 Nc1 Ng4 30 Qe2 Rxc3!! 0-1

On taking the rook there follows 31…Bb5!! and any queen move allows Black to give mate by Qxf2+ or Qf3-g2. Note that there is no saving White after 29…Ng4.

Defensive tries like 30 Rf1 or Re2 (instead of 30 Qe2) lead to beautiful zugzwang positions:

  1. 30 Rf1 Rxc3!! (stronger than 30…Bb5 31 Nxb5 Rxc1 32 Qe2 – 32 Nd6 Qxf2+! – Rc2 33 Nd6 and not Qd1 Rd2 or Rxf2) 31 bxc3 Ba4! 32 Qe2 Bb5 33 Qd1 Bc4 34 a4 a5 and White’s large and superior army is completely movebound and quickly mated!
  2. 30 Re2 Qf3 31 Qf1 Rxc3! 32 bxc3 Bb5 33 Qxh3 (must escape zugzwang!) Bxe2 34 Qg2 Bc4 35 Qxf3 exf3 36 h3 Nf6 37 g4 Ne4 winning because once again White has run out of moves!
A Deadly ‘Nail’

Originally from Poland, as a youth my opponent belonged to the famous Lodz school (Salve, Rubinstein). A fine and deep player, Albert Jarblum is also one of the most likeable I know.

He did not show his best qualities in this game. Leaving theory on his ninth move, he got a passive position and succumbed to an energetic mating attack.

Albert Jarblum – Victor Soultanbéieff

Liège Club Championship, 1923

Four Knights Game

    1 e4 e5 2 Nf3 Nc6 3 Nc3 Nf6 4 Bb5 Bb4 5 O-O O-O 6 d3 d6 7 Bg5 Bxc3 8 bxc3 Qe7

    9 Ne1

Preparing f4 which Black proceeds to prevent. Theory gives 9 Re1 Nd8 10 d4 Ne6 11 Bc1.

    9…h6 10 Bh4

It was better to retreat the bishop along the other diagonal.

    10…g5 11 Bg3 Nd8

The knight heads towards the ‘hole’ on f4.

    12 h4

Opening the file on outer flank will favour Black. Znosko-Borovsky recommends instead f3 and d4 to initiate play in the centre, an idea White postpones.

    12…Ne6 13 Bc4 Nf4 14 hxg5 hxg5

    15 Qd2

This move does not improve the situation. After 15 Bxf4 gxf4 16 g3 Ng4! is very strong.

    15…Kg7 16 d4 Rh8 17 f3 Be6 18 Bb3 Rh6 19 Kf2 Rah8 20 Nd3 N6h5 21 Bh2


    22 Bxf4

Not 22 g3 Nf6 winning.

    22…exf4 23 Bxe6 Qh4+ 24 Kg1

Forced. 24 Ke2 Ng3+ wins.


    25 Nxf4

25 fxg4 would have been a little better whereupon 25…Ng3 (25…Qg3 26 Rf3! offers nothing tangible) 26 Rxf4 Ne2+! 27 Qxe2 Qg3 28 Nf2 Qh2+ 29 Kf1 Qxf4 winning the exchange. If 25 fxg3 Nxg3 26 Rfe1 f3!

    25…g3! 26 Nxh3 Nf4! 27 Rfe1 Qg5!

Not only more elegant but also cleaner and quicker than the brutal 27…Nxh3+ 28 gxh3 Qxh3 29 Qg2 Qh4 followed by Qf4 or Qg5 etc. The move played mates or wins the queen.

    28 Qe3 Rxh3 29 gxh3 Rxh3! 30 Re2 Qh6 0-1

[Event "Liège Quadrangular"] [Date "1949"] [White "Van Seters, Frits"] [Black "Soultanbéieff, Victor"] [Result "0-1"] [ECO "D67"] [PlyCount "60"] [SourceVersionDate "2013.06.09"] d4 d5 2. c4 e6 3. Nf3 Nf6 4. Bg5 Nbd7 5. e3 Be7 6. Nc3 O-O 7. Rc1 c6 8. Bd3 dxc4 9. Bxc4 Nd5 10. Bxe7 Qxe7 11. O-O N5b6 12. Bb3 e5 13. Re1 e4 14. Nd2 Nf6 Qc2 Re8 16. Ne2 Nbd5 17. a3 Bd7 18. Nf1 b6 19. Nfg3 Rac8 20. Qb1 h5 21. Bxd5 cxd5 22. Rxc8 Rxc8 23. Nc3 h4 24. Nge2 h3 25. Nf4 Qd6 26. g3 g5 27. Nfe2 Qe6 28. Qd1 Qf5 29. Nc1 Ng4 30. Qe2 Rxc3 0-1

[Event "Liège Club Championship"] [Date "1923"] [White "Jarblum , Albert"] [Black "Soultanbéieff, Victor"] [Result "0-1"] [ECO "C49"] [PlyCount "60"] [SourceVersionDate "2019.06.08"] e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Nc3 Nf6 4. Bb5 Bb4 5. O-O O-O 6. d3 d6 7. Bg5 Bxc3 8. bxc3 Qe7 9. Ne1 h6 10. Bh4 g5 11. Bg3 Nd8 12. h4 Ne6 13. Bc4 Nf4 14. hxg5 hxg5 Qd2 Kg7 16. d4 Rh8 17. f3 Be6 18. Bb3 Rh6 19. Kf2 Rah8 20. Nd3 N6h5 21. Bh2 g4 22. Bxf4 exf4 23. Bxe6 Qh4+ 24. Kg1 fxe6 25. Nxf4 g3 26. Nh3 Nf4 27. Rfe1 Qg5 28. Qe3 Rxh3 29. gxh3 Rxh3 30. Re2 Qh6 0-1

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Kingpin Chess Magazine by Jon Manley - 1M ago

‘Music seems to me one of the few things (like chess) which really last through life, and gives one almost as much pleasure towards the end as in the early days.’ 

H.E. Atkins
quoted in R.N. Coles, H.E. Atkins: Doyen of British Chess Champions
(London: Pitman, 1952), p.3

 [click c2 square for autoplay]

[Event "London BCF Congress"] [Site "London"] [Date "1922"] [Round "6"] [White "Atkins, Henry Ernest"] [Black "Rubinstein, Akiba"] [Result "1-0"] [ECO "D60"] [PlyCount "69"] [EventDate "1922.07.31"] [EventType "tourn"] [EventRounds "15"] [EventCountry "ENG"] [SourceTitle "HCL"] [Source "ChessBase"] [SourceDate "1999.07.01"] [SourceVersion "2"] [SourceVersionDate "1999.07.01"] [SourceQuality "1"] 1. d4 Nf6 2. Nf3 e6 3. c4 d5 4. Bg5 Nbd7 5. e3 Be7 6. Nc3 O-O 7. Bd3 dxc4 8. Bxc4 a6 9. a4 c5 10. O-O Qa5 11. Qe2 cxd4 12. exd4 Nb6 13. Bd3 Rd8 14. Rfd1 Bd7 15. Ne5 Be8 16. Qe3 Nfd5 17. Qg3 Bxg5 18. Qxg5 Nxc3 19. bxc3 Nd5 20. Qh4 Nf6 21. c4 h6 22. Qg3 Rac8 23. Bc2 Bc6 24. Qe3 b6 25. Ra3 Ba8 26. Qf4 b5 27. Rh3 bxc4 28. Rxh6 Rc5 29. Rh3 Rcd5 30. Kf1 Qb6 31. Rg3 Rxd4 32. Rxd4 Qxd4 33. Qxf6 Qa1+ 34. Ke2 Bf3+ 35. gxf3 1-0
See Matthew Sadler’s blog for a brilliant analysis of this game.
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‘. . . Hillary Clinton asserted that Donald Trump is “playing checkers and Putin is playing three-dimensional chess”. . .

In fact, there is no evidence that Putin plays chess, and in any case, it is not his sort of game. Chess is a contest of inflexible rules, transparency and of an intellectual competition where the options are strictly  constrained. Everyone starts with the same pieces, and everyone knows what a pawn can do and when it’s their turn to move. Putin doesn’t want to limit his options like that. He does know judo, however. A black belt, he has been honing his skills since starting as a teenager, and his approach to statecraft seems to reflect this. A judoka may well have prepared for a rival’s usual moves and worked out countermoves in advance, but much of the art is in using the opponent’s strength against him to seize the moment when it appears. In this respect, in geopolitics as in judo, Putin is an opportunist. He has a sense of what constitutes a win, but no predetermined path towards it. He relies on quickly seizing any advantage he sees, rather than on a careful strategy.’

Mark Galeotti, ‘Putin is a Judoka, Not a Chess Player’
We Need to Talk about Putin: How the West Gets Him Wrong (London: Ebury Press, 2019), pp.13-15

See also

Bad Men

Chess and Politics

We Need to Talk about Garry

Americans Prefer Poker

A Famous Critic Writes

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Kingpin Chess Magazine by Jon Manley - 2M ago

Second prize Bobby Fischer oven gloves See also

Two Brains

Women Prefer Bridge

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Playwright Samuel Beckett’s interest in chess is well known, but what did he read about the game? There are several chess books among the 757 works in Beckett’s online library.

‘He also studied the chess columns regularly in Le Monde and spent hours playing chess against himself, re-enacting some of the famous games described in the Best Games of Chess of Alexander Alekhin, Mikhail Tal, José Raúl Capablanca y Graupera and the current champion, Tigran Vartanovich Petrosian. He had recently been given Irving Chernev’s The Most Instructive Games of Chess Ever Played. 62 Masterpieces of Modern Chess Strategy which he studied avidly. And, a few years later, a friend added Spassky’s and Fischer’s best games to his growing collection of chess books, which he divided between his Paris apartment and Ussy.’

James Knowlson, ‘Accident, Illness, and “Catastrophe 1967–9” ’
Damned to Fame: The Life of Samuel Beckett (London: Bloomsbury, 1996), pp.546-7

That he was a fan of Irving Chernev shows good taste. Reuben Fine was another favourite.

He preferred games collections.

And books on the endgame.

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Hans Renette Kurt Richter

A Chess Biography with 499 Games

Alan McGowan

380 pages | 93 photos | hardback | $75.00

Jefferson: McFarland, 2018

A few months ago McFarland’s new-born chess book saw the light of day. After working for over four decades on his favourite chess subject, Alan McGowan presented his biography of Kurt Richter (19001969).

Richter may not be the best-known German chess player of the interwar years, nor was he the strongest, but nevertheless he was a fascinating character whose name is still familiar today. Besides his outstanding contributions to opening theory, Richter’s reputation as an extremely sharp and tactical player endures. Even in his lifetime his status was such that McGowan quotes world champion Alekhine that he ‘could recognize one of Richter’s games out of hundreds’ (p.128). Some of them became very well known and caught the eye of other great contemporaries. One of his classics (against Ahues, see below) made Réti think, not too surprisingly, that ‘The reign of the Romantic era in chess is long past’, while Tartakower was more optimistic and saw it as ‘hope for the German chess renaissance and a glimpse of its direction’ (p.40).

A collection of Richter’s best games, by Alfred Brinckmann, was published as early as 1939. Golombek, reviewing it for the British Chess Magazine, wrote somewhat lyrically that ‘Almost every Richter game is characterized by a superb fighting quality and a great depth of Anderssen-like combination’ (p.188). It will please the modern reader unfamiliar with Richter’s games that Golombek was entirely right in his judgement.

 Richter defeating his publisher, Alfred Brinkmann, at Bad Aachen 1935

McGowan’s attraction to Richter is thus evident, and in his introduction he elucidates a little on what made this maverick so special. Richter experimented with several interesting opening ideas and innovations, which often led to very sharp positions where his tactical brilliancy fully came into its own. Unlike many other players, the result was less important to Richter than a thrilling fight.

McGowan first encountered Richter in Foldeák’s book Chess Olympiads, which contained some of his games, and he began gathering information about him as long ago as the 1970s. He claims that he could have published a book on Richter even back then, but fortunately he waited a little longer for otherwise it would have been an entirely different work. Modern technology has made unearthing information and games a lot easier, adding to the material McGowan has gathered from an extensive network he built up over forty years.

The book consists of nine parts, with 499 games and four appendices. A little over 350 games are annotated rather deeply, but it is a pity that McGowan does not explain his approach to annotating these games. It seems that he has written notes for most of the games (probably using a lot of contemporary sources), but sometimes bases his comments on those of other players and sometimes quotes the historical sources. More games, with no or very few notes, are given in a first appendix. A second appendix summarizes Richter’s results, while McGowan rounds off with two essays on Richter’s openings with White and Black. With the latter he wishes to

‘highlight the extent of Richter’s involvement and to review the history of the openings, which has sometimes been ignored or treated indifferently. Further, it is important to understand that some authors have made Richter’s contributions less important than those of Soviet-era players, including the removal of his name from the titles of books about the one opening to which he contributed the most.’ (p.318)

It seems that McGowan is especially irked by the case of 1 d4 and 2 Nc3, which is nowadays known as the Veresov opening (see also p.19).

Richter’s chess career is treated chronologically, tournament by tournament, with each chapter providing a short introduction and (mostly) a selection of games. McGowan logically devotes more and more attention to Richter’s career as it reaches its peak. McGowan gives full coverage to Richter’s most important events like Podebrady 1936 (his only international tournament), the 1936 Munich Olympiad, Stuttgart 1939, Munich 1941 and 1942.

After Munich 1942 the war completely overshadowed all chess activities and by 1945 Richter found himself in a shattered land. His appetite for chess had waned and his tournament career became less of a priority. Instead he focused on his work as a journalist and writer in Berlin and East Germany. His final years were spent behind the Iron Curtain, cut off from many of his old chess friends.

Richter’s chess legacy is an enchanting one, and any reader playing over his games will be bewildered by their tactical richness. There follows a small selection of games and fragments he left behind. Please bear in mind that these games are outstandingly analysed in the book.

Richter – Ahues

Berlin 1928

   28 Nh6+ Kh8 29 Qf7 Nxf7 30 Nxf7+ Kg8 31 gxh7+ Kxf7 32 Rf1+ Bf5 33 Rxf5+ Ke8 34 Re5+ Kf7 35 Bg6+ 1–0

Richter – Kipke

Berlin 1934

   27 Ba6 Bxa6 28 Qg3 1–0

Richter – Eliskases

Bad Nauheim 1935

   13 c5 f5 14 Qd5 Kh8 15 cxd6 cxd6 16 Rad1 Rb8

   17 Nxe5 f4 18 Ba7 Ra8 19 c7 Nxc7 20 Nf7+ Rxf7 21 Qxf7 Be6 22 Rxe6 Nxe6 23 Qxe6 Rxa7 24 Nd5

‘What the Berlin executioner (as his countless friends call him) couldn’t achieve with dagger (7 d5) and axe (17 Nxe5), he now finishes with the rope: Black is throttled.’

Paul Michel in the tournament book

   24…Bf8 25 Rc1 Qd7 26 Qe4 Rb7 27 Qxf4 Qe8 28 h3 Rf7 29 Qd2 Qe5 30 Re1 Qf5 31 Qd4 h5 32 Re8 Kh7 33 g4 hxg4 34 hxg4 Qb1+ 35 Kg2 Qc1 36 Qe4+ g6 37 Re6 Qg5 38 Kg3 Bg7 39 f4 Qh6 40 g5 Qh5 41 Re7 Rxe7 42 Qxe7 Kh8 43 Qe8+ Kh7 44 Ne7 1–0

Munich 1942 was one of Richter’s most interesting tournaments. He played well, sharing third place with Bogoljubow and Foltys, behind Alekhine and Keres. In the sixth round the world champion came up with a ‘wonderful concept’ to deal with Richter’s aggressive impulses.

Alekhine – Richter

Munich 1942

   18 Qf1

Alekhine anticipated this move when playing his rook to e1. The queen lures the rook to d4 before coming out again.

   18…Rxd4 19 Qb5 Rd6 20 Ne4 Qg6 21 Nxd6 Nd4 22 Bxb7 Nxb5 23 Nxb5 Qf6 24 Nc3 e5 25 Rad1 e4 26 Rd7 h5 27 h3 h4 28 Red1 Kh7 29 Ba6 Rf7 30 R7d6 Qg5 31 R6d5 Qf4 32 Ne2 Qg5 33 Nd4 Rf6 34 Be2 Kh6 35 Nc2 Rf7 36 Ne3 g6 37 Bc4 Qf4 38 Rd6 Rc7 39 b3 Kh7 40 a4 Qe5 41 Re6 Qc3 42 Nd5 Qc2 43 Rf1 Rg7 44 f3 exf3 45 Rxf3 Kh6 46 Ne3 1–0

Richter–Alekhine, Munich 1941 (Brinckmann, Kurt Richters beste Partien) 

Two rounds later Richter created one of his masterpieces against Keres, demonstrating a similarly deep and cunning concept.

Keres – Richter

Munich 1942


A brilliant refutation of the flank attack initiated by Keres.

   12 Rd1 Ne4 13 Qe5 Bxc3+ 14 bxc3 Nxg3 15 fxg3 Bg6 16 hxg5

   16…Qxg5 17 Qf4 Rae8 18 Rd5 Qxf4 19 gxf4 b6 20 Kf2 h5 21 e3 h4 22 Rg5 Be4 23 Be2 Reg8 24 Bg4+ Kc6 25 Rxg8 Rxg8 26 Rxh4 Kc5

   27 Bf3 Bxf3 28 Kxf3 Kxc4 29 Rh7 Rf8 30 g4 Kxc3 31 Ke4 c5 32 Kd5 c4 33 e4 Kb4 34 g5 c3 35 Rh2 Rc8 36 Rc2 b5 37 f5 a5

   38 Kxd6? Kc4 39 e5 b4 40 Kd7 Ra8 41 e6 fxe6 42 f6 a4 43 f7 b3 44 axb3+ axb3 45 Rxc3+ Kxc3 46 g6 b2 47 g7 b1Q 48 f8Q Qb7+ 49 Kxe6 Ra6+ 50 Kf5 Qd7+ 51 Kf4 Ra4+ 52 Kg3 Qd3+ 53 Qf3 Ra8 54 g8Q Rxg8+ 55 Kh2 Rh8+ 56 Kg1 Rg8+ 57 Kh2 Kc2 58 Qc6+ Kd1 59 Qf3+ Qe2+ 0–1

Yet there are some regrettable missed opportunities in this book. Opening it for the first time, the reader is immediately struck by the acknowledgements section, which is truly impressive. McGowan’s words of thanks, which stretch over two pages, give the reader good reason to expect the best. Not only does it read as a ‘who’s who’ of chess scholars, but it reveals that the author’s long study of his subject brought him into contact with many of Richter’s former opponents (including Rudolf Teschner who eulogised Richter on his death as ‘friend, my teacher, and adviser’) and above all with Richter’s brother Gerhard.

McGowan’s correspondence with Gerhard Richter continued for years and he supplied ‘a considerable amount of information, including documents, photographs and scoresheets’. So it is somewhat disappointing that this intense contact fails to come across in the book. We learn that Kurt was ill during his youth, and that this affected his whole life, but hardly ever do we learn more about him personally. Many references to information provided by Gerhard actually derive from an old article in the Deutsche Schachzeitung, and not from his correspondence with the author (for example, p.138, footnote 4).

Richter late in life (Rudolf Teschner, Schach-Echo 1970)

McGowan often shows self-restraint, seemingly in deference to the ‘rule’ set by some chess writers that restricts the ‘chess historian’ to mere facts and excludes anecdotes, sketches and impressions of the time. Although Richter’s chess career is covered in detail, his character remains rather flat, and the author does not really examine his childhood or life under the Nazi regime and in East Germany. Richter is not brought to life as a human being and the reader does not learn much about his personality or personal history beyond cursory details such as his dislike for travelling or his serious illness as a child.

The same goes for the ‘zeitgeist’ that does not really shine through the book, despite the fact that Richter lived in a fascinating era much of which remains undiscovered. We learn little about, for example, people like Erhardt Post and Otto Zander, strong chess players and officials in the service of the Nazis. Sometimes McGowan mentions disputes, even involving Richter (p.65, footnote 16), but he prefers to skim the surface rather than scrutinise the details of these conflicts. From time to time McGowan deals with Richter’s attitude towards the Nazi regime, but drifts into vague and far-fetched conjecture. Take, for instance, the following line Richter played against Becker during the ‘German-Austria Friendship tournament’: 1 e4 e5 2 Nf3 Nc6 3 Nc3 Nf6 4 d4 exd4 5 Nd5. The game was played on 12 March 1938, i.e. the day when early in the morning German troops crossed the Austrian border leading to the Annexation of Austria. McGowan comments:

‘We can only speculate about what was going through Richter’s mind when he replicated real life by moving into the Austrian’s half of the board. Was this simply an expression of German-Austrian friendship or did he have something more symbolic in mind?’ (p.177)

A few moves later Richter made a mistake and Becker won the game.

On page 103 McGowan tells us more about ‘Dr Zabel’, the fictional aspiring chess master Richter invented for instructional purposes. The notes to the games involving Zabel are among the most interesting in the book. McGowan concurs that ‘such games provided some insight into the way Richter viewed chess in general’, but he hardly explores this figure and fails to examine Zabel’s comments to elucidate Richter’s views of chess. On p.271, close to end of the book, McGowan suddenly mentions ‘Ben Akiba’, ‘another figure invoked by Richter in his writings’, but the reader learns nothing more of him. We are left in the dark as to whether Richter created more characters like this.

Despite these criticisms, Alan McGowan’s book is full of brilliant games, deeply annotated, and anyone with even the faintest interest in chess history in general (and especially of those difficult interwar years) will give himself/herself a major present by purchasing it. It is a fascinating reconstruction of Kurt Richter’s life. Also noteworthy are the numerous, often truly outstanding, photos of chess masters. Many have not been published before and contain close-ups of famous as well as lesser known chess masters. Needless to say, their presentation is enhanced by the classic layout McFarland has designed for its biographies.

[Event "It Cafe Koenig"][Site "Berlin GER"] [Date "1928.10.03"] [Round "10"] [White "Kurt Richter"] [Black "Carl Ahues"] [Result "1-0"] [ECO "C84"] [PlyCount "71"] [EventDate "1928.??.??"] 1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bb5 a6 4. Ba4 Nf6 5. O-O Be7 6. d4 O-O 7. d5 Nb8 8. Qe2 d6 9. h3 Kh8 10. c4 Ng8 11. Nh2 f5 12. f4 exf4 13. Bxf4 fxe4 14. Nc3 Nf6 15. g4 Nbd7 16. Bc2 Nc5 17. Rae1 a5 18. Bd2 Bd7 19. g5 Ng8 20. Nxe4 Qe8 21. Nxc5 dxc5 22. Rxf8 Bxf8 23. Qf3 Ne7 24. h4 Kg8 25. h5 Qd8 26. g6 Nc8 27. Ng4 Nd6 28. Nh6+ Kh8 29. Qf7 Nxf7 30. Nxf7+ Kg8 31. gxh7+ Kxf7 32. Rf1+ Bf5 33. Rxf5+ Ke8 34. Re5+ Kf7 35. Bg6+ Kf6 36. Re6# 1-0
[Event "Berlin"] [Site "Berlin GER"] [Date "1934"] [Round "?"] [White "Kurt Richter"] [Black "Erwin Kipke"] [Result "1-0"] [ECO "C13"] [PlyCount "55"] [EventDate "1934.??.??"] 1. e4 e6 2. d4 d5 3. Nc3 Nf6 4. Bg5 Be7 5. Bxf6 Bxf6 6. e5 Be7 7. Qg4 O-O 8. Bd3 f5 9. Qh3 c5 10. dxc5 Nc6 11. f4 Bxc5 12. Nge2 a6 13. O-O-O b5 14. g4 b4 15. gxf5 exf5 16. Na4 Qa5 17. Nxc5 Qxc5 18. Rhg1 Kh8 19. Ng3 Nd4 20. Kb1 a5 21. Nh5 Ra7 22. Rg6 a4 23. Rdg1 b3 24. Rxg7 bxc2+ 25. Kc1 Nb3+ 26. axb3 axb3 27. Ba6 Bxa6 28. Qg3 1-0
[Event "Bad Nauheim"] [Site "Bad Nauheim GER"] [Date "1935.08"] [Round "3"] [White "Kurt Richter"] [Black "Erich Eliskases"] [Result "1-0"] [ECO "C80"] [PlyCount "87"] [EventDate "1935.??.??"] 1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bb5 a6 4. Ba4 Nf6 5. O-O Nxe4 6. d4 b5 7. d5 bxa4 8. dxc6 d6 9. Re1 Nc5 10. Be3 Ne6 11. c4 Be7 12. Nc3 O-O 13. c5 f5 14. Qd5 Kh8 15. cxd6 cxd6 16. Rad1 Rb8 17. Nxe5 f4 18. Ba7 Ra8 19. c7 Nxc7 20. Nf7+ Rxf7 21. Qxf7 Be6 22. Rxe6 Nxe6 23. Qxe6 Rxa7 24. Nd5 Bf8 25. Rc1 Qd7 26. Qe4 Rb7 27. Qxf4 Qe8 28. h3 Rf7 29. Qd2 Qe5 30. Re1 Qf5..
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Kingpin Chess Magazine by Jon Manley - 6M ago
Justin Horton

Ray Keene’s charity, The Brain Trust, appears to donate a lot of the money it raises to organisations run by Ray Keene and his friends.

What’s going on? Let’s ask Ray directly.

Email, Sunday 13 January, to rdkobe@aol.com. [For details and further reading, see Notes below.]

Dear Ray

Sorry to bother you.

I have been researching a charity called The Brain Trust,1 of which you appear2 to be both a Director and a Trustee, and I would like to ask you some questions about it. These questions relate to the accounts for the periods ending 31 March 2016 and 31 March 2017 – and more widely to the question of whether the charity is operating as a charity properly should.

I would be grateful if you could give the questions some consideration, since it would be useful to have them answered before deciding whether and how to take the matter further.

I have previously sent these questions to the email address given on the Brain Trust website3 and to two4 of your fellow Directors and Trustees,5 but have not received a reply.

In the year to 31 March 2016 it appears that almost all Brain Trust donations listed in section 3 of the accounts6 were made to entities controlled by individuals who are themselves Trustees of the Brain Trust, specifically T Buzan and RD Keene OBE. Why was this? Is this the Brain Trust’s normal practice?

Although some of those donations are listed in section 15 of that year’s accounts, which lists “related party transactions”,7 several other donations of the same kind are absent from that section. Why is the list in section 15 incomplete? Was this done to disguise how many donations benefitted Trustees?

How did the Brain Trust come to donate several thousand pounds to World IQ Counsel Limited8 when, according to that company’s own accounts, it never traded? What was the purpose of the donation, and was it connected to the fact that you were a director of that company?

Do the purposes of donations to entities owned or controlled by Trustees include permitting those Trustees to receive tax-free income?

Why did your accounting practices change for the accounts covering the year ending 31 March 2017, so that donations of less than five thousand pounds were no longer listed?9 Was the intention of this to hide the fact of further donations to entities controlled by Trustees?10

Why were the accounts for the year ending 31 March 2017 signed off despite including basic errors? These include11

  • the non-appearance of any section for “related party transactions”
  • the absence of a section 15, while both 14 and 16 do appear
  • the accounts stating that “the company made twelve grants totalling £x” but giving no actual figure.

Is it your view that these accounts were presented in a satisfactory condition? 12

I look forward13 to receiving a satisfactory reply in the near future.


Justin Horton

PS As I am trying to get round to writing to all the Trustees about this matter, I would be grateful if, as well as considering them yourself, you could forward them to Mr Julian Simpole, for whom I do not have an email address.14, 15

[spacer height=”20px”

  1. The Brain Trust is registered charity number 1001012. Its public address is Ray Keene’s house. It was “founded in 1990 by Tony Buzan”. The Brain Trust Limited is company number 02383683.
  2. Documents relating to the Brain Trust Limited, including its accounts, can be found at the Companies House website under Filing History.
  3. Email sent 31 October 2018.
  4. Emails sent to Professor Jacqueline Eales on 10 December 2018 and Alexander Keene on 6 January 2019. Professor Eales is Ray’s sister and Mr Keene is Ray’s son. The emails were essentially the same as the one later sent to Ray. Neither has been replied to.
  5. The other Trustees are Tony Buzan and Julian Simpole, long-term friends of Ray. (Eric Schiller, also a Trustee and long-term friend, unfortunately passed away in November.) You may wonder whether these relationships are unusually close for trustees of a bona fide charity.
  6. These are:
  • World Memory Sports Council (received £5,100). This runs the World Memory Championships founded by Keene and Buzan in 1991. It is “the governing body for the Mind Sport of Memory worldwide on behalf of the World Memory Championships International Ltd” which company features several Brain Trust trustees on its board. The 2016 Brain Trust accounts state that it is “controlled by RD Keene”.
  • World Speed Reading Council (received £5,750). This appears to have no present-day corporate or online existence: however we can see from Mind Maps For Business (Buzan and Griffiths, Pearson, 2014) that it is an entity under the control of Tony Buzan. This is also the case for World Creativity Council (received £5,200).
  • World IQ Counsel Limited (received £5,200). See note 8.
  • Vesna Petkovic Silk Road Project (received £1,500).This was a project that appears to have explored the “ancient network of the Silk Road” the link of which to the aims of The Brain Trust is not clear. Vesna Petkovic is connected to the Buzan/Keene circle (e.g. see Money or Synapsia Summer 2016 page 7).
  • UK Schools’ Memory Championship (received £4,500). The precise destination of this donation is opaque, though it’s clear that it’s linked to Tony Buzan: the UK Schools Memory Competition is listed in Mind Maps for Business and there is a website which has not been updated since 2013.
  • World Mind Mapping Council (received £6,240). This is a Buzan organization with a website though no obvious present-day activity.
  • Outside in Pathways (received £2,500). This is a not-for-profit company, though not a charity. It has a website on which two listed board members are trustees of The Brain Trust, these being Julian Simpole and Ray Keene.

Everything is Ray Keene, or Tony Buzan, or friends of Ray and Tony.

  1. From 2016 it became a legal requirement for charities to list “related party transactions” above a stated figure. This requirement has clearly been carried out only in part, and in small part at that.
  2. Subsequently Intelligent Resources and Services Limited. A charity sending several thousand pounds to a company that never traded, but was controlled by one of the charity’s own trustees is, on the face of it, a remarkable act.
  3. This is legal, but it does have the effect of obscuring the destination of a large amount of money in circumstances where it would be desirable to know that it has been properly distributed. Of £90,303 distributed, £63,538 has gone to hidden destinations. (In fact the donations as stated add up to £90,333, so either the figure in the accounts is wrong, or one or more of the donations is incorrectly stated.)
  4. The only donations listed as being larger than the cut-off figure are both to Professor Michael Crawford, who received £12,350 under his own name and £14,400 via his Institute for Brain Chemistry and Nutrition. This was certainly a bona fide entity some years ago, but now, though it claims to be located at the Chelsea and Westminster Hospital, it cannot be located there, and the listed contact, Manabel Thabet, is a Buzan/Keene associate. Professor Crawford himself is also a longstanding Buzan/Keene associate and is claimed to be Dean and Chairman of the Board of The Gifted Academy which is a Buzan/Keene venture of dubious nature. All efforts to contact Professor Crawford or IBCHN have failed.
  5. They don’t include the apparent error in calculating the donations (see footnote 9) which I only noticed when writing these notes!
  6. While the various errors in the 2017 accounts aren’t to my mind as serious as the various questions raised by their contents and those of the 2016 set, they’re still worth drawing attention to, if only for their shoddiness.
  7. Without particular optimism.
  8. Nor do I have one for Tony Buzan.
  9. Further reading: Brain You Can’t Trust and Counsel Of Despair.


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Kingpin Chess Magazine by Jon Manley - 6M ago

The Grandmaster

Magnus Carlsen and the Match that Made Chess Great Again

Brin-Jonathan Butler

224 pages | softback | £12.95

London: Simon & Schuster, 2018

Sarah Hurst

The directionless nature of Brin-Jonathan Butler’s book is evident from its title, ‘The Grandmaster: Magnus Carlsen and the Match that Made Chess Great Again’. Already there are two questionable concepts here: an attempt to weave in the theme of the election of Donald Trump, which took place just before the start of the World Championship match between Magnus Carlsen and Sergey Karjakin in November 2016, and the suggestion that the match made chess great again. If that doesn’t put you off, there is much to be enjoyed in this whirlwind tour of the (mainly American) chess scene – but more for those with a casual interest than serious players and chess history fans.

Butler is the author of books on Cuba and boxing, and his engaging style makes up for The Grandmaster’s lack of an entirely coherent narrative. Along with attending the Carlsen–Karjakin match and trying to understand what was going on in the minds of the two combatants, Butler also interviews chess luminaries from Fischer biographer Frank Brady to Judit Polgar.

While the stories of Bobby Fischer and Josh Waitzkin are very familiar, one of the most intriguing chapters in the book is about the promising chess player Peter Winston, an eccentric genius who disappeared in a New York blizzard in 1978 at the age of 20, shortly after losing all of his nine games in a tournament. At a school for gifted children the five-year-old Winston had impressed the headmaster by telling him what day of the week his birthday was on. Not long afterwards John F. Kennedy was assassinated and Winston delivered a eulogy in front of the school.

Winston turned his attention and intellectual brilliance to chess, but struggled with mental health and drug problems as a teenager. His chess career peaked when he tied for first place at the US Junior Championships in 1974. He qualified for the World Junior Championships in Manila, but could only manage sixth place. Butler searches in vain for any records that could shed light on Winston’s disappearance, but his sympathetic conversations with Winston’s friends briefly bring the lost boy back to life.

Like many writers before him Butler is fascinated with the link between chess and mental illness, and refers to the standard examples of Bobby Fischer, Paul Morphy and Wilhelm Steinitz. Certainly there are people who have had an abnormal obsession with chess, but chess can often also be the one stable anchor in a life of mental turmoil. The documentary Magnus gives clear indications that Carlsen is on the autism spectrum, and dedicating his life to a pursuit that required a phenomenal memory and analytical skills but no social interaction has been ideal for him. Other people on the spectrum sometimes sink into loneliness and frustration, unable to express themselves.

Butler continues the theme of chess as a refuge with his visit to the Chess Forum in Greenwich Village and meeting with its owner, Imad Khachan, who describes how he was dragged out of bed to open the shop on the morning of September 11, 2001, ‘by players literally covered in debris from the collapsed towers’. People had nowhere else to go. A former manager of the Village Chess Shop, Aaron Louis, tells Butler a similar story:

‘Everyone they knew, their family was there. The owners recognized that and they wouldn’t close. Some people who were evacuated from the towers went to the Chess Shop and just kept playing. Never left. It was the only way they could deal with the trauma. After the attacks, we stayed open for days and kept the lights on.’

Brin-Jonathan Butler (photo © Larry D. Moore CC BY-SA 4.0)

Khachan came to New York from war-torn Lebanon, but found he was in more danger from ex-convict, drug-dealing chess hustlers. He points out that chess addiction can be harmful, but at the same time adds that the Chess Forum is a community that brings together the rich and poor, and is something genuine, not full of hype. By contrast, Butler finds himself denied access to Carlsen and Karjakin at the match, which is a tasteless celebration of wealth sponsored by Russian fertilizer company PhosAgro, with Woody Harrelson making the ceremonial first move. Khachan also laments the direction chess has taken, telling Butler that Garry Kasparov asked for $30,000 for a 20-minute visit to the Chess Forum.

The topic of the Russian money and influence in chess is one that Butler might have explored more, especially since Karjakin has embraced his role as cheerleader for Putin’s annexation of his homeland, Crimea. But the match was not viewed as a Cold War 2.0 struggle, and it didn’t capture the public’s imagination. Nor did the recent Carlsen–Caruana match with its 12 draws. But there is still a flourishing chess culture all over the world that can always inspire more people, and that is what really makes chess great.

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This Armageddon-style knockout tournament will take place amid the splendour of the Vladimir Putin Memorial Tearoom, St Petersburg.

Play will begin on Christmas Day and continue until one player is left standing. He will be declared the winner and carry off the Prince Salman Bone-saw Trophy.

Round 1 pairings

Polonium v Litvinenko

Skripal v Novichok

Magnitsky v P. Karpov

Kasparov v Putin

Ilyumzhinov v Yudina

Khashoggi v Salman

After the third round the event will move to a sound-proof room in the Saudi Embassy for a sudden death play-off.

There will be live streaming to assist the subsequent police investigation.

Journalists are invited to collect their visa and press pack from the Saudi Embassy.

See also We Are Family  Murdering a Journalist Chess, Murder, Fraud
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