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on 3 January 2014
Look Inside! it says. Well, let's look inside.

Let's look at the copyright notice. Copyright "Raymond Keene OBE 2013", it says. Uh huh.

Well, the first position in the book is Alekhine-Bogoljubow, which as Ray says, was played in 1929. The notes, as Ray does not say, originally appeared in My Great Predecessors, part one, pages 411-412. This was published by Everyman in 2003. They were written by Garry Kasparov. They're not copyright Raymond Keene OBE at all.

The second position? Well, that's from the second part of the same series, also published by Everyman in 2003, pages 223-4, same author. Once again, Ray is claiming copyright on material which he has lifted from a previously published book.

Third position? Well, in this instance Ray's lifted them from a book he edited, called Learn from the Grandmasters, first published by Batsford in 1975. Although he edited the book, he didn't write the notes: as he does not say, they were written by Viktor Korchnoi, and appear on page 14 of the 1975 edition, copyright BT Batsford.

As it happens, all three examples have been lifted before - in the Times for 5, 6 and 3 June 2013 respectively. In each instance small changes were made from the originals and the work was presented as Ray's own. The original works were not credited, nor the original authors. Nor does the present book mention them, or the previous publications in the Times. It just gives a copyright claim of "Raymond Keene OBE 2013".

There are other examples in the book, but I just give those which the reader can see without purchasing it. Scandalous conduct, which the publisher should not accept.
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on 2 January 2014
This *is* a little book - six inches by four with about 128 unnumbered pages.

It's well presented with a hardcover and a built-in elastic cord, presumably for place marking.

The bulk of the book is made up 101 positions each illustrating a different facet of chess play: weak back rank, dark square domination, pawn breakthrough and so on. Most positions are described on a page, a few of them in two. Examples can be seen through Amazon's 'Look Inside' facility.

Before the positions there are five pages of preamble consisting of an introduction, a short biography of the author, a list of "official" world champions, something on the relative values of the pieces and a description of algebraic notation.

All well and good for the format. What of the content?

It doesn't start auspiciously. The Introduction begins 'Chess in the most popular mind sport in the world'. OK. Then it says 'A 2012 YouGov survey revealed 600 million people worldwide regularly play chess'. I don't think that's correct. If you search the Internet you can find that YouGov produced stats for five countries; someone else - not YouGov - somehow extrapolated these to produce an implausible worldwide figure of 605 million.

The introduction ends 'Interspersed with the examples are informative notes on the history, culture and personality of chess'. Where are these notes? I couldn't find them!

On the next page, the list of "official" world champions omits those who gained the title under the auspices of FIDE, the world governing body, between 1993 and 2005.

Turning to the positions... The first of these - which is available through 'Look Inside' - illustrates 'zwischenzug' (German for intermediate move). It's from Alekhine vs. Bogoljubow, Game 5, World Championship 1929. Alekhine wins a pawn by means of a tactic (beginning with a zwischenzug) which, to my eyes, is fairly involved and results in him having doubled pawns but positional plusses. I'm not sure this is a good example as, unless the reader is a strong player, I think it's quite difficult to work out the consequences of the zwischenzug and the benefits it brings... I should say here that I'm assuming, given its format and the content of the opening pages, the book is aimed at either players with basic knowledge and wishing to improve or, those who are a little stronger and looking for a recap in convenient form.

Still with the first position but some moves further on from the zwischenzug, we learn that the player with the Black pieces is 'totally statemated'. This seems odd for two reasons. First, you're either stalemated or you're not; the word an absolute not a relative. And second, stalemate ends the game; the side to move (while not in check) has no legal move and the game is drawn... and yet the game continued. Doesn't the grandmaster author understand stalemate? I'm sure he does. So how might the mistake have been made? Well it turns out that all three of the annotations contained within the game fragment are remarkably similar to three of those for the same game in the book 'My Great Predecessors, Part 1' (MGP1), written by Garry Kasparov and published by Everyman (see pages 410 to 412). MGP1 also has the expression 'totally stalemated' and attributes it to Sozin (I'm guessing that what Sozin said wasn't in English and something was lost in translation)... Both books also, for example, have the text (after White's move 26) 'This intermediate move [represents] the completion of White's long-term strategic plan'. It's a bit strange, isn't it: the same annotations as another book written by another author and published by another publisher?

Later in the book there's a second zwischenzug position - number 51 played between "top international experts" (according to the introduction), Simpole and Kwiatkowski. The finish is nice but I wonder, is it really an example of zwischenzug? The piece recapture which Simpole eschews on the first move might have been made subsequently but wasn't.

Position 2 ('knight verses bishop') is also quite involved and it too has text in common with a 'My Great Predecessor' book written by Garry Kasparov - this time, Part 2 (pages 222 - 224). Both books have the words 'White prepares g4-g5, to weaken the dark squares in the opponent's position'. They also have text '37... Kg7 38 Nf4 Kf7 is more tenacious, although after 39 Kg3 Black's position is unenviable'.

It's the same with Position 3 ('centralisation'). The game notes are similar to those written by Victor Korchnoi in the book 'Learn from the Grandmasters' (Batsford, 1975 - see pages 11 - 14). For example, Korchnoi had 'Lasker conducts the attack with great energy. First he gains control of the centre, and now he wins back a pawn at the same time effectively breaking into the enemy camp' while Keene has 'Lasker gains control of the centre, and now he wins back a pawn, at the same time breaking into the enemy camp'.

How curious.
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on 21 April 2014
This book is very helpful for any chess enthusiast at the post-beginner stage. The information is concise and clearly explained and I have found it very useful. I recommend it highly
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on 19 July 2014
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on 8 February 2014
The book covers many useful aspects for the chess enthusiast. Binding useful to save latest page. Easy to transport around.
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on 14 January 2014
I purchased this book to use in conjunction with the calendar produced by The Times that has a chess puzzle for each day of the year. And that is how I recommend it is used.

A friend of mine, who just finished The Amateur's Mind: Turning Chess Misconceptions into Chess Mastery by Jeremy Silman, recommended keeping this on one's desk and absorbing a position per day. It's nothing too taxing but is a great way of keeping your mind fresh with all of the relevant strategic (EG centralization) and tactical (EG pin) motifs in the wonderful game of chess.

If you are an intermediate player or above this book is unlikely to be much use. I would say club players will not get anything from it.

But for those beginning chess who don't have much time to study, this is a great book to use to keep one's chess-mind from going stale. It's simple, effective and reminds me a lot of Lev Albert's Chess Training Pocket Book: 300 Most Important Positions & Ideas (Comprehensive Chess Course Series), except it is smaller and much more suited for beginners.
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on 16 July 2015
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