Reflections on Journey to the Chess Kingdom by Dr Lyndon Bouah

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One of the nice aspects of attending a chess Olympiad is that you have an opportunity to purchase books that may not always be available on the internet or in books stores. One of the books that I purchased at a Chess Olympiad was the book “Journey to the Chess Kingdom” by Yuri Averbakh and Mikhail Beilin.

At the bottom of the book were two statements:

Gold classics of Russian chess

Over a million copies sold.

The book has been endorsed by famous and super grandmasters of the highest order. I had to buy the book!

The opening page indicates that the book is published by Chess Evolution in 2014 in Poland. Their email address is info@chess-evolution.com and their website address is www.chess-evolution.com. The corresponding opening page states that the book is going to take the reader on a fascinating journey into the magical world of chess. From the very ground up through the rules of the game and moves of the pieces, the authors will guide the reader to an understanding of the ancient game’s beauty. The book is designed in a special way, so that it can actually serve as a self-study chess guide. This new edition is significantly updated compared to the previous one and is intended for a wide range of chess fans.

The book is divided into ten chapters. It looks at all aspects of chess starting with the strict laws of the chess kingdom in chapter one. According to grandmaster Mikhail Mikhalchisin (who was the GM who wrote a foreword to the book) more than one million Soviet children have read this book. He

was at the time of publication the chairman of the FIDE trainers Commission.

The authors are grandmaster Yuri Averbakh is a former Soviet champion and is the oldest living grandmaster and candidate for the World Championship and Mikhail Beilin is a lawyer by training and was a coach of the Soviet National Team. In their introduction which they start with a quote “Chess is the most noble of all the games. It is harder to master than any other game. So we speak of it first.” From the Book of Games Alfonso, written in Seville in 1283.

Strict laws and ancient traditions govern the kingdoms inhabitants. To become a real commander you have to learn these laws and traditions perfectly, respect them and protect them. We invite you to take a journey into a pleasant chess land. Yes, exactly a chess journey, with adventures and challenges: a true journey is full of adventures, awaiting travellers awaiting travellers in the chess kingdom. Travellers have to deal with difficulties, but without them the pathways would be less interesting. So chapter one is devoted to the piece movements with some exercises thrown in at the end.

Chapter two is entitled the King without the retinue. It looks at easy mates by the different pieces. Chapter three continues these themes with a middle game feel and is an elementary lesson in attack. Chapter three ends off with puzzles to the test the reader.

Chapter four looks at the soul of chess which of course is the role of the pawn. Some interesting observations in this chapter include

“although all pawns look the same, their value is different. “

  • the most important role of a pawn … Is hustling away enemy pieces.
  • a positions quality can be characterised by the following features: particular qualities of the pawn structure, weak and strong squares, active and passive pieces, safety if the king, open files and of course coordination of the pieces. The chapter ends off with some interesting examples of famous grandmasters who relieved their titles at an old age.

The authors state (page 98) that it is a great art to assess the situation properly and choose the right plan; it cannot be learned at once. Never give up if your plans fail at the beginning. A chess player gains experience over a long time and only then after years of work, does his or her practical strength increase sharply. Alexander Kotov became a grandmaster at age 26 while Alexander Tolush became a grandmaster at age 43.

GM Alexander Kotov                                                                 GM Alexander Tolush

The authors offer the very important advice “After each game try to understand what has happened on the board, regardless of whether you have won or lost. Self-critical analysis of the game you played is the best way for self-improvement. Strive to be a real sportsman: do not rejoice in winning and do not give way to despair when you are defeated. Remember that in the next game it can be the other way round. “

Chapter five is entitled Reflections before the battle. It consists of many well-known examples. The coaches amongst the readers would recognise the examples immediately. It is however good to have them all of packaged together to make it easier for the reader and student as well. The authors note the opening has three pillars:

  1. The first pillar is the quick and purposeful mobilisation of forces
  • The second pillar is the pawn structure
  • The third pillar is the centre. Examples of each pillar are well illustrated.

Chapter six is entitled chess geography. It looks at openings in particular. The chapter starts off with a quote from the famous Russian chess grandmaster Mikhail Chigorin who stated that “in every opening almost in every variant it is possible to avoid formulaic and dull moves while achieving certainly not the worst but the best results.”

GM Mikhail Chigorin

They opine that before running through opening variations you should carefully understand and internalise the principles which openings rest on. It will give you an opportunity to “know the score of the openings.” Do not try to cram the most difficult opening variations. Famous games are used to illustrate the different types if openings.

The chapter ends off with the following advice. “The fact is that the openings you choose must correspond to your style and propensity. The openings used by a chess player compose his chess opening repertoire. If you want to become a good player you need to build your own chess-opening repertoire.

How do you do it? The authors provide an answer. Firstly distinguish a few openings which appeal to you. Study them carefully according to the book, paying attention to the ideas of the variation and remember what Black and White should strive for. Then try to apply them in practice. Afterwards, analyse your games. Take a look at how you played the opening and if you managed to solve the problem of development and rational deployments no matter how deeply chess openings are studied by generations of masters there are still lots of unexplored paths.

Chapter seven is devoted to the endgame. The authors use many examples from practical play and from puzzles by famous composers such as A. Troitsky (1924) to illustrate the three pillars of

endgame play. They are;

The king is an active attacking piece

The activity of the pieces and their cooperation

The role of the pawns

Chapter 8 is devoted to the gems of chess treasury. Many of you will of course be acquainted with the Immortal Game and the Morphy game played in a Paris theatre but it is always important to cast a fresh eye on these well-known examples lest we as coaches become complacent.

Chapter nine is devoted to the strongest players in the world and describes all the champions except Topalov! I wonder why as I thought he was in the classical line but the authors go from Kasparov to Kramnik and then Anand and then Carlsen!

A great book indeed and I agree with the grandmasters on the back over… This is probably the best beginner book that I have seen. You need to obtain this book if you are a coach as it will save you countless hours of preparation and at the same time will guide you and a student to understand the journey to the chess kingdom!

Regards Dr Lyndon Bouah

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