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Less is more

Dear Chessable members,

Today we would like to announce the removal of a couple of features to combat feature bloat. Don’t worry though, there are many positive things on the flip side and I would like to tell you a bit more about this.

Throughout Chessable’s history we have released quite a few features. Some have been very well received, but some others have lacked the adoption and impact we thought they’d have. As our learning community grows, it is important to have a feature set that makes sense for all. This doesn’t always mean adding new features, but also deciding which ones to keep, which ones to remove.

The problem is that every feature adds extra complexity in many different ways. This complexity can make it harder to develop new features, features that may be better received and more useful.Moreover, having a lot of features can also make it harder for users to understand the platform and for us to explain the possibilities.

Because of these reasons, we had to take these steps today. First, FastTrack – a feature that allowed you to skip some spaced repetition levels is now gone. In it’s place we have the Custom Scheduling for you to customise spacing between your repetitions  to your heart’s content. The features are not exactly alike, but they are very similar. We wanted to keep only the more powerful one, custom scheduling.

Second, Ask a Master (for rubies) is now gone. The rationale for this one is twofold. It was never used by more than a handful of people. Sometimes when it was used, it was misused as people thought the actual authors would be there to reply (this was never the case). It simply was not working out. If you had any pending questions, your rubies would have automatically been returned to you.

We at Chessable really would like that all the comments on EVERY course get answered, whether they get an “ask a master” or not. Therefore, instead of investing more resources to improve the Ask a Master feature, we will invest more to encourage and making it easier for authors to reply. We will also invest more resources to grow our in-house team of titled players that can answer your question (regardless of Ask a Master status or not).

We grew the team from a single non-titled team member to three titled players that are making the rounds and answering comments in a systematic way. Currently this process is being ramped up for all Publishing House material, where our team is hard at work answering all your comments. For any popular course where the authors maybe overwhelmed with demand, we will upgrade that course (or author) to Publishing House status so that our team may help the author address comments. We are very excited about being able to do this, essentially, any comment on the majority of popular Chessable courses, becomes an Ask a Master comment. We are here to help you on your chess journey.

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The Art of Attack in Chess: Updated Tactical Excellence

Art of Attack in Chess

The Art of Attack in Chess

Careful study of the art of attack should bring an improvement in chess results.

Chess players of former generations derived a considerable amount of knowledge – and pleasure – from the study of well-written chess books.

Don’t neglect the classics

The study of databases and overreliance on chess engines has certainly changed the situation over the last couple of decades.  As previously mentioned, there is a risk of our rich chess heritage being overlooked, which is why I was pleased to see Steinitz being honoured by the chess elite in the recent memorial event.

Chess literature has a rich heritage too and it would be a mistake to neglect the classics.

I recently reacquainted myself with The Art of Attack in Chess by International Master Vladimir Vuković, complete with Chessable’s MoveTrainer™ for an enhanced study experience.

The Chessable version is an adaptation of the Everyman Chess edition, edited by Grandmaster John Nunn. Additionally, the material has received an engine-check by Chessable’s Fide Master Kamil Plichta to weed out some inaccuracies from the original analysis.

We recently presented material from Anna Rudolf ’s Chessable course, Anna’s Anatomy of the Attack and showed an example of how to attack the castled king. The Art of Attack in Chess is almost entirely devoted to the very same subject, all bar two chapters on attacking an uncastled king.

I studied the book, cover-to-cover, a long time ago. As I reinvestigated the book with much older (and hopefully wiser) eyes, I felt a strong reconnection with the material.

In amongst the 13 chapters of attacking wisdom, I found myself drawn instinctively to the two chapters that had made the deepest impression on me, all those years ago: Focal-points and The Classic Bishop Sacrifice.

The Art of Attack: Focal-points

Studying the chapter on Focal-points brought a sharp increase in the potency of my own attacks over the chess board.

As the book puts it:

‘Generally speaking, every focal-point is a weak square in the defender’s territory and a potentially strong one for the attacker.’ This is especially so when such a point is adjacent to the opponent’s king.

The book offers a fine selection of instructive attacking game – with Alexander Alekhine well to the fore, as is to be expected.

However, it should never be forgotten that all of the World Champions enjoyed fabulous tactical ability, including Alekhine’s immediate predecessor, the great José Raúl Capablanca; otherwise they would never have risen to the summit of the chess world.

The book quaintly uses this example amid a sea of attacks on g7, bothering the black king, and is keen to show a similar attacking idea at the other side of the board.

Attacking the King in chess

Coria – Capablanca

Buenos Aires, 1914

‘In order not to be unfair to Black, who tends to suffer in books such as this, here are some actual cases where White came to grief on the analogous square g2. This position arose in the game Coria-Capablanca, Buenos Aires 1914. Black, to move, attacks g2:’

1 …Bh3! 2 Ne3 Bxg2 3 Nf5

‘White played this in desperation; if 3 Nxg2 Qg5 4.f3, Black plays Nh3+ and wins White’s queen – a typical trick in positions such as this.’

3…Bxe4 4.Ng3 Nh3 checkmate.

The Art of Attack: The Greek Gift Sacrifice

The Classic Bishop Sacrifice also known as The Greek Gift, strips away a key part of Black’s defensive wall with Bxh7+ (and Black, similarly, will play …Bxh2+ if given the chance).

Vuković breaks down the factors required to award the sacrifice a greater chance of success.

Here is a sample of the explanatory prose:

‘White must firstly have a queen, a bishop and a knight. The light-squared bishop must be able to reach h7 in order to force the tempo of the attack, though it is not essential that it should put Black in check or take a pawn in so doing. The knight should be within easy and safe reach of the square g5, and the queen within reach of h5, though in some cases it is enough for it to be able to get to some other square on the h-file.’

Vuković goes on to highlight the specific favourable positions for the various supporting pieces. The interested reader will discover much more on the subject by purchasing the Chessable course.

Here is a teaser to be going on with.

Greek Gift SacrificeColle – O’Hanlon

Nice, 1930


The unassuming Colle System (1 d4 2 Nf3 3 e3) is actually excellent for those wanting to test their Greek Gift powers. The bishop quickly finds its natural home on d3 and from there it is very nicely placed to worry the h7-pawn.

In this position Colle famously unleashed the sacrifice with 12 Bxh7+ Is it sound, or can Black survive?

Don’t neglect the classics! Head for the course right now where you can find a brand new 29hr video version from Grandmaster Simon Williams. Hot off the press!

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Chessable backs America’s ‘Grandmaster factory’

America’s top chess school, which has produced a conveyor-belt of talent, has joined forces with Chessable, the world’s leading online training platform.

Dubbed the “Grandmaster factory”, the US Chess School provides free training and resources to the nation’s most talented juniors.

Its aim is to develop and polish the elite talent needed to make the US the dominant force in world chess through holding invitation-only camps and training sessions.

From today, this world class school, which has numerous International Masters and Grandmasters as alumni, will receive significant support from Chessable.

Chessable’s sponsorship will allow the USCS to expand the number of students it can admit and continue to attract high-caliber coaches. 

Students will also be given the ability to train on Chessable’s unique MoveTrainer technology, with access to the courses and videos from the world’s top players.

Attendees include 19-year-old Jeffery Xiong, who became a Grandmaster at 14, the current US Women’s Champion Jennifer Yu, and the youngest female chess player to defeat a grandmaster, Carissa Yip, who achieved the feat aged 10.

International Master Dmitri Shneider, a former US #1 ranked junior and Chessable’s Chief Operations Officer, said: “I wish I had this kind of a resource when I was coming up through the ranks a few decades ago.

“To be able to learn from not just the top coaches but also from fellow peers is a unique opportunity that very few around the world are able to get. I am happy that we at Chessable can contribute to this effort.”

The US Chess School, a non-profit, was founded in 2006 by International Master Greg Shahade, from Philadelphia, and has been generously supported by Dr. Jim Roberts over the past decade. It has held over 50 training camps for talented youngsters all over the US, including CA, NY and the US chess capital St Louis.

Greg Shahade said: “I’m very excited to have Chessable as a sponsor, not only because the additional financial resources will allow us to attract top coaching talent and provide free training to many more students, which of course is very nice…but I, myself am a big user of the Chessable platform and I’ve learned a lot about openings from some of the courses, and have used these courses to form my repertoire.”

Chessable was founded in 2015 by David Kramaley and Minnesota-based International Master John Bartholomew and is now part of the PlayMagnus Group.

Its MoveTrainer technology was built to make learning chess content as easy, fun and as efficient as possible.

The US currently ranks second in the world to Russia when it comes to Grandmasters. Russia has 256 GMs, to America’s 101.


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Terms of Service Update

Dear Chessable members,

We have just touched up and revised our terms of service. It’s a tiny update, but nonetheless, you should take some time to review them.

I’d like to remind you that when writing our legals, we have always kept our users in mind at every step of the way. We followed the best practices listed at https://tosdr.org/ to make sure we were doing the best we can for you. We’ve provided a running summary in plain English, minimising the legal jargon.

We’ve updated the terms to reflect the changes to localised pricing and inclusive tax pricing (in Europe). We also added in legals for payments in Norwegian Kroner, which we started accepting this week.

There are also new clauses for bundled pricing (to explain how that works), as well as the 15% PRO discount. One final, and perhaps less positive update, we’ve had to add some language for a few bad apples who are currently trying to exploit our refunds system. Please note, legally we can refuse the sale of our products to anyone. At times we may be forced to do this to protect our authors. Of course, the majority of people who ask for a refund do so in good faith, but if you have bought 15 products, and have asked for a refund for each one, perhaps Chessable is not for you, and we may email you to refuse selling to you.

Now that these important updates are out of the way, we are going to crack on working on something more exciting. We think you’ll love some of the stuff we’ve got coming up with soon! (And remember, we are hiring, to make it happen). 

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The FIDE Online Steinitz Memorial – Day Two

Dubov FIDE Online Steinitz Memorial

The FIDE Online Steinitz Memorial
Day Two

Day Two of the FIDE Online Steinitz Memorial Blitz chess event brought a dramatic shift at the top of both the Open and Women’s sections.

World Champion Magnus Carlsen started the day at the top of the table but ended it in second place, half a point behind Daniil Dubov.

Anyone for Seconds?

The pivotal game on the second day of this elite event came in round nine, bringing Dubov a noteworthy victory over Carlsen. Dubov served on Carlsen’s team during the 2018 title match against Fabiano Caruana. It is a very refreshing sign of the times when we can see a member of a champion’s team beating their boss. In former times, with former champions, this was definitely not the norm; diplomatic draws with the occasional ‘careless’ defeats were very much on the agenda.

Carlsen gave the King’s Indian Defence a rare outing. The gloves were well and truly off once Dubov castled long.

Dobov Carlsen King's Indian Defence Blitz ChessDubov – Carlsen

I find certain aspects of this position reminiscent of the one I gave in my article on the Free Strategy Lesson from Magnus Carlsen last week, especially the safety of White’s king, despite the best efforts of the black forces to cause problems on the queenside.

Dubov now continues in what looks like a very aggressive style.  It is actually a line of play with one major purpose in mind – winning the e4-square for his knights.

16 exf5 gxf5 17 g4! Qf6 The key square on e4 cannot be held by Black, so Carlsen steps up his search for counterplay against the white king. 18 gxf5 Qxf5+ 19 Ka2 Qc2 20 Rc1 and now the queens came off after 20 …Qd3.

Fast forward a few moves and we can see the point of Dubov’s play.

The Key Square – e4!

 FIDE Online Steinitz BlitzKing’s Indian players will recognise certain features of this position as bad news. The white knight is absolutely dominant. The knight blocks the e-file, cannot be removed without an exchange sacrifice, supports White’s kingside play and is extremely well placed to support another of White’s standard plans; namely the queenside push with c4-c5. It is very difficult to find active counterplay for Black.

Dubov eventually allowed the exchange of the knight for the bishop, but only when he knew the rook ending was much better for him. 1-0 (54)

It is easy forget this game was played in a Blitz event; such is the high quality of the battle.

Carlsen lost to Svidler too, but with six wins (one more win than Dubov, who has drawn twice as many games as Carlsen) he is still very much in the race for first place.

Steinitz Memorial Open StandingsThe third and final day should be an exciting rollercoaster of chess.

Another Change at the Top

There was a dramatic change at the top of the Women’s section too. Alexandra Kostenuik looked like the firm favourite after a very convincing display on the first day, but Kateryna Lagno managed to leapfrog the leader and now has a half-point advantage at the top of the table.

Blitz chess produces all manner of fascinating games. This ending is exciting as the material distribution is a rarity in games played at classical time controls.

Knight vs. Three Pawns Ending Blitz ChessKostenuik – Lagno

The material is equal, but only White has winning chances. It is extraordinary that the knight can pirouette around the board and deal with the three passed pawns. It seems so far away from the action. However, it turns out the knight does indeed have the required dexterity to hold the draw.

Good Knight to the Pawns

59 …Ke7 60 Ke4 Kd6! An important move, as White was threatening to gain a greater chance of success with 61 Ke5! After 60 …Kd6!, stopping the d-pawn in its tracks, the knight has a comfortable journey to pick it off. 61 g4 Nb4 62 g5 Nxd5 One pawn down; two to go.
Knight vs. Two Pawns Ending63 g6 Ne7 64 g7 Kxc6 65 Ke5 Kd7 66 Kf6 Ke8 67 Ke6 Ng8 and a draw was agreed at this point. Very impressive play, especially in Blitz chess.

We certainly cannot accuse the players of a premature draw. This is effectively the half-point that put Lagno at the top of the table at the end of the second day.

Steinitz Memorial Women's StandingsEverything is set for a fabulous finale on the third and final day of the FIDE Online Steinitz Memorial.

The full games are available over at Chess24. We will conclude our tournament coverage tomorrow.

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