Staff picks: What we recommend in 2019 and why

By Leon Watson / On / In Uncategorised

We originally sent this out as an email to our members, but then thought we may as well put it on our blog: it is our staff picks for our own personal favourite releases so far in 2019.

A bit like the recommendations you get in book stores.

We’re the guys who’ve worked hard on these courses and we know them inside out – find out which ones have piqued our interest and why.

So, here goes:

1. Jabe’s choice
The Fundamentals – Build Up Your Chess 1

Yusupov's Build Up Your Chess
Yusupov’s brilliant Build Up Your Chess

No surprise for me that someone went for this. Yusupov’s course is just great – and Jabe should know as he was deeply involved in adapting it for us. Here’s what he had to say: My pick is no other than Yusupov’s The Fundamentals: Build Up Your Chess 1. Aimed at players below 1500, the course attempts to give the student a rock-solid chess foundation using over 500 lessons on tactics, strategy, endgames, openings, positional play, and calculation. The variety ensures the student doesn’t get bored, while Yusupov’s selection of positions/exercises will make you a more well-rounded player.

2. Geert’s choice
Crush the London!

It was a close-run thing between this and the sharp Trompowsky course we released in January, but Logozar’s course edged it. Geert and I are both big fans of Logozar.My favorite so far is Crush the London! because I’ve really struggled to find a good way to play fun chess against the London set-up with Black and Logozar’s is the perfect ambitious and agressive approach to taking it down. Also, Logozar’s courses are just incredibly well done in the Chessable format. He IS truly the Mozart of Chessable.

William’s choice
Thematic Tactics: Endgame Checkmates

William didn’t read the brief and went for a course that was actually released last year, but he was so effusive I had to go with it. In fact, I had to cut his response down by about 70 per cent. Here is the nub:It’s more than just a collection of endgame tactics, the way the chapters are arranged by material you learn how to better coordinate your pieces too. The number of exercises and level of difficulty really makes it a fun course that you can complete in short amount of time – ideal for players of all levels.

As for me, my favourite course is easy: Mastering Pawn Endgames: Volume 1 by IM Ahmad Alkhatib, a guy I’d never heard of until I started learning his course. It’s really helped me nail my pawn endings and I can’t wait for IM Alkhatib’s second course to come (which it will soon).

One more thing, chess-site.com posted a really nice review of us – check it out here.

That’s all folks.

Magnus Carlsen crushes Fabiano Caruana to win World Chess Championship in tie-breaks

By Leon Watson / On / In Fabiano Caruana, Magnus Carlsen, Uncategorised, World Chess Championship

It has been the longest staredown in history – 12 long drawn-out games. But after 50 nerve-shredding hours of play, one black-eye, and an embarrassing data leak, the world chess champion has been crowned in London.Norway’s rock star of chess Magnus Carlsen held onto his title in commanding style on Wednesday as he crushed US challenger Fabiano Caruana in a penalty-kick style sudden-death playoff that followed three weeks of deadlock.
World chess champion Magnus Carlsen
World chess champion Magnus Carlsen
Carlsen picks up a prize fund of £487,000 plus 20% of the worldwide pay per view proceeds, while Caruana takes home £400,000.Caruana, who was bidding to be only game’s 17th king and the first American for 46 years, pushed Carlsen all the way but could not hold on at the end.

Heartbreak for Fabi

“It’s heartbreak for Fabi because he had been doing so well over the course of the 12 games,” said International Master Anna Rudolf.Chess legend Garry Kasparov, meanwhile, paid tribute to Carlsen’s brilliancy in playoff situations where the time controls get faster.
Magnus Carlsen
Magnus Carlsen
“Carlsen’s consistent level of play in rapid chess is phenomenal,” said. “We all play worse as we play faster and faster, but his ratio may be the smallest ever, perhaps only a 15% drop off. Huge advantage in this format.”The grueling three-week match, every minute of which has been broadcast live in Norway across two channels, was poised on a knife-edge after a record 12 straight draws in the classical version of the game.

Moment of weakness

The previous record had been just eight in Kasparov’s 1995 match against Vishy Anand. Carlsen, 27, and Caruana, 26, then had to enter overtime to battle it out in rapid and, if needed, blitz – two much faster forms of the game – to find a victor.Carlsen had the advantage of playing with the white pieces for the first of four mini-games and won swiftly after Caruana blundered. It was the first moment of weakness the American had shown all match.Carlsen then followed up in the second game as Caruana wilted under the pressure in the fully-enclosed sound-proofed glass tank they were playing in at The College, Holborn. It left Carlsen two nil up and needing just a draw. He then won the final game to secure the result and a very painful end for the American.Carlsen, who has held the title now for five years, was the heavy favourite going into the playoffs. He is the world’s number one rapid and blitz player, while Caruana is only ranked 8th and 16th respectively.The main section of the match was described by some as one of the most boring in history as the ultra-high level of play from Carlsen and Caruana only resulted in the world’s top two players battling themselves to a standstill.However, off the board, there were a series of incidents that have spiced up the match, held in London for the first time since 2000.

‘It was so, so tense’

In round 5, Caruana played without knowing a clip that appeared to reveal tightly held secrets of the American challenger’s preparation had been uploaded to YouTube shortly before the game. Carlsen’s team had seen it and informed the champion, but Caruana only found out at the post-match press conference.Then it was Carlsen’s turn. In round 5 he turned up sporting a bandage and a black eye having collided with a Norwegian TV reporter while playing football the day before.
Carlsen Vs Caruana
Carlsen Vs Caruana
He missed a winning chance with an impatient move and the match remained deadlocked.Added to that, Carlsen has complained about the enclosed glass “fish tank” being too cold and at one key moment the sound-proofing allowing Russian voices to disturb the players.Lucy Hawking, the novelist daughter of British physicist Professor Stephen Hawking, was invited to make the ceremonial first move in the playoff.She said afterward: “The atmosphere in there was electric! It was so, so tense.”Carlsen is a former child prodigy who has been dubbed everything from the “Mozart of chess” for his symphonic style to the “Justin Bieber of chess”, for his good looks and trendy quiff. He has modeled for a fashion label, been named one of Cosmopolitan’s sexiest men and given interviews to teen girl magazines.In 2004 he became a grandmaster aged just 13 years and 148 days, making him the second youngest ever at the time after Russian rival Sergey Karjakin.Carlsen won his first world championship in 2013 against Anand before becoming the highest-rated player in the history of chess with a peak rating of 2881 in 2014.He then defended his title again in 2014 and in 2016 against Karjakin.Carlsen dominates the international chess scene but until today has had an up and down year that has included a record run of draws in classical chess.

World Chess Championship 2018: A quick round-by-round summary

By Leon Watson / On / In Fabiano Caruana, Magnus Carlsen, Uncategorised, World Chess Championship

The World Chess Championship 2018 has been an enormous amount to take in – however much of a superfan you are.

By our (rough) calculations, there have been 637 moves and around 48 hours of chess in total.

Not to mention novelties, shocks, surprises and the odd celebrity.

So to make it easier to get a handle on, we’ve boiled each game down to its bare bones in our quick round-by-round summary of everything that has happened so far:

Round 1

White: Caruana

Opening: Sicilian Rossolimo

Result: Draw.

Andrey Guryev, Vice President and Member of the Board of Trustees of the Russian Chess Federation, CEO of PhosAgro, Woody Harrelson, Arkady Dvorkovich, President of FIDE, Stepahne Escafre, The Chief Arbiter of the Match, Ilya Merenzon, CEO of World Chess, Magnus Carlsen, the reigning World Chess Champion and Fabiano Caruana, US Challenger during the First Move Ceremony (Round 1) of the FIDE World Chess Championship Match 2018 on November 9, 2018 in London, England. (Photo by Tristan Fewings/Getty Images for World Chess ) *** Local Caption *** Andrey Guryev; Woody Harrelson; Arkady Dvorkovich; Stepahne Escafre; Ilya Merenzon; Magnus Carlsen; Fabiano Caruana
Woody Harrelson makes the first move, or tries to

Moves: 115

Length of game: Seven hours

Flash verdict: A marathon grind leaves Carlsen kicking himself after missing a winning opportunity with 34… Qe5. He nearly became the first champion to win Game 1 of a world title match as black in 37 years.

Thrills from Carlsen, and spills from Woody: Our Round 1 report


Round 2

White: Carlsen

Opening: Queen’s Gambit Declined

Result: Draw.

Carlsen opened with 1.d4
Carlsen opened with 1.d4

Moves: 49

Length of game: Three and a quarter hours

Flash verdict: Caruana comes back faster, more confident and better prepared. He surprises Carlsen in the opening and the champion then has to defend for the entire game and at the end hold a pawn-down rook endgame.

Speedy Caruana can’t break through Carlsen’s defences: Our Round 2 report


Round 3

White: Caruana

Opening: Rossolimo Sicilian

Result: Draw.

Carlsen-Caruana Game 3: a bore draw
Carlsen-Caruana Game 3: a bore draw?

Moves: 49

Length of game: Four and a quarter hours

Flash verdict: Caruana gets a promising position out of the opening but then wavers and has to defend doggedly against Carlsen.

‘Deadlock’ in Carlsen-Caruana match after third draw: Our Round 3 report


Round 4

White: Carlsen

Opening: English Opening

Result: Draw.

Magnus Carlsen and Fabiano shake hands before the start of Round 4
Magnus Carlsen and Fabiano shake hands before the start of Round 4

Moves: 34

Length of game: Less than three hours

Flash verdict: Not much going on here in this 34-move draw, although Carlsen did offer a novelty with 11. b4, played in less than three hours. Much more interesting was what was happening off the board with Caruana’s YouTube controversy.

Fabiano Caruana’s prep accidentally uploaded to YouTube


Round 5

White: Caruana

Opening: Rossolimo Sicilian

Result: Draw.

Wikipedia's Jimmy Wales makes the ceremonial first move
Wikipedia’s Jimmy Wales makes the ceremonial first move

Moves: 34

Length of game: Three-and-a-quarter hours

Flash verdict: Carlsen weathers early fireworks from Caruana to negotiate a peaceful result.

Carlsen snuffs out Caruana’s ‘fireworks’: Our Round 5 report


Round 6

White: Carlsen

Opening: The Petroff

Result: Draw.

Sky News anchor Kay Burley makes the first move
Sky News anchor Kay Burley makes the first move

Moves: 80

Length of game: Six-and-a-half-hours

Flash verdict: An epic. Carlsen narrowly avoids a devastating defeat as he saves a miraculous draw.

Sky News host Kay Burley on chess: ‘It’s so glitzy and fabulous’


Round 7

White: Carlsen

Opening: Queen’s Gambit Declined

Result: Draw.

England junior Shreyas Royal made the first move
England junior Shreyas Royal made the first move

Moves: 40

Length of game: Three-and-a-half-hours

Flash verdict: The same as the second game until Caruana’s rare 10. … Qd8!? but that was the only highlight. Carlsen rues his conservative play (castling instead of playing the sharper 15.Nce4) as the match drifts.

Magnus Carlsen isn’t exactly loving all these draws: Our Game 7 report


Round 8

White: Caruana

Opening: Sveshnikov Sicilian

Result: Draw.

World champion Magnus Carlsen
World champion Magnus Carlsen

Moves: 38

Length of game: Three hours and 43 minutes

Flash verdict:  Carlsen escapes with a draw after Caruana plays the slow 24. h3?! to let him off the hook after three hours and 43 minutes.

Magnus Carlsen brands World Chess Championship sound-proofing failure ‘unacceptable’


Round 9

White: Carlsen

Opening: English Opening

Result: Draw.

Magnus Carlsen's black eye
Magnus Carlsen’s black eye

Moves: 58

Length of game: Three hours and 43 minutes

Flash verdict: Carlsen, sporting a bandage over a black-eye, misses a winning chance with an impatient 25. h5 that allows Caruana to hold for a peaceful result.

For Magnus, the time for talking is clearly over: Our Game 9 report


Round 10

White: Caruana

Opening: Sveshnikov Sicilian

Result: Draw.

Magnus Carlsen's net worth is boosted by his partnership with Iskvar bottled water
Magnus Carlsen’s net worth is boosted by his partnership with Iskvar bottled water

Moves: 54

Length of game: Five-hour and 19 minutes

Flash verdict: Carlsen weathers Caruana’s surprise 12.b4 move to hold on for a nervy draw in a marathon game.

A result, at last! #TeamCarlsen triumphs in Chessable blitz as John Bartholomew shows how to win


Round 11

White: Carlsen

Opening: The Petroff

Result: Draw.

Sergey Karjakin made the ceremonial first move
Sergey Karjakin made the ceremonial first move

Moves: 55

Length of game: Two hours 15 minutes

Flash verdict: A quiet draw. Carlsen got surprised in the opening then shut it down. Tie-breaks clearly on the players’ minds as it goes to the final game.

Sergey Karjakin: Magnus needs to invent something new in chess to be the strongest again


Round 12

White:  Caruana

Opening: Sveshnikov Sicilian

Result: Draw.

The post-match press conference at the end of Game 12
The post-match press conference at the end of Game 12

Moves: 31

Length of game:  Two hours and 57 minutes

Flash verdict: Caruana pushed, Carlsen got the advantage. Carlsen declined an opportunity to go for the win in the finale to the classical games and offered a draw while ahead to go to tie-breaks. A tame end.

Squeaky-bum time as World Chess Championship goes to tie-breaks: Our Game 12 report

What happens now? After Carlsen-Caruana Game 12 ends in a draw, here’s the tie-break rules

Puzzle Rush: How good is chess.com’s new feature?

By Leon Watson / On / In Chessable reviews, Uncategorised

Puzzle Rush is the new feature brought out by our friends over at chess.com – and it is causing a bit of a sensation.

The platform’s latest puzzle game been described as the “new chess drug” and it has clearly been a hit. Grandmasters like Hikaru Nakamura, Alexander Grischuk, Peter Svidler and Eric Hansen say they are gripped by it.

Puzzle Rush, chess.com's new feature
Puzzle Rush, chess.com’s new feature

And not just them. Regular users also seem to love it, or at least according to Twitter. Here’s Chessable’s Geert van der Velde talking about it after hitting 29:

Grandmaster Judit Polgar, while taking a break from commentating at the World Chess Championship, was introduced to it.

Unsurprisingly, the former world top 10 player – and greatest female player in history – scored a scorching 38 on her first go!

Our co-founder International Master John Bartholomew has also been playing Puzzle Rush and even elicited a clever idea to break the deadlock at the Carlsen-Caruana match:

Maybe we need a Puzzle Rush World Championship?

Is Puzzle Rush bad for you?

No, of course not! But be aware – some users have been reporting some worrying experiences:

And others have clearly gone too far:

The rules to Puzzle Rush are simple:

  1. Solve as many puzzles as you can in five minutes.
  2. Each puzzle gets harder as you go.
  3. Three strikes and you’re out.

Writing on the Puzzle Rush page, Chessable user David Millern said: “Puzzle Rush could be a good competitor for high-volume pattern recognition training, like Saltmining and The Woodpecker Method, if there were a setting that allowed the player to do a quick review of the three strikes puzzles, assuming there were three strikes.”

Puzzle Rush is only available right now on chess.com’s desktop site. However, it will be released for iOS soon and the Android version is apparently coming early next year.

Squeaky-bum time as World Chess Championship goes to tie-breaks: Our Game 12 report

By Leon Watson / On / In Fabiano Caruana, Magnus Carlsen, Uncategorised, World Chess Championship

Another draw. The final scheduled game, Game 12, of the 2018 World Chess Championship ended in a draw. That’s an incredible TWELVE in a row.

Perhaps this is what we expected, with Magnus Carlsen and Fabiano Caruana separated by just three rating points going into the match.

But while for some today’s game had an air of predictability about it – even if the timing of the draw on move 31 caught everybody off-guard – it leaves us firmly in squeaky-bum time.

Carlsen-Caruana Game 12
Carlsen-Caruana Game 12

The match goes to tie-breaks on Wednesday when either the US challenger will become the first champion to have won the crown without winning any classical games in a title match, or Carlsen will be the first to defend it without winning a classical game.

One thing is for sure: Carlsen is the favourite. While Carlsen and Caruana are separated by just a hair’s breadth in classical chess, there is a chasm – at least at the elite level – between them in rapid and blitz: 100 points.

Carlsen is the world’s top-rated rapid player and top-rated blitz player, while Caruana is rated No 8 and 16 respectively. It’s also been 13 years since Carlsen lost a tiebreak.

However, if rapid and blitz aren’t sufficient to separate the champion from the chaff, the match will go down to Armageddon – chess’s version of a penalty shoot-out.

Was it boring?

Hell, no. This was another dynamic game with Caruana pushing – perhaps over pushing – and Carlsen seeing a serious advantage but not taking the opportunity, perhaps because he was satisfied with a draw. There were gasps of surprise when it ended in a draw – Carlsen could have pushed on but chose to be conservative.

But the question is, are all these draws good for chess?

In the post-match press conference, English Grandmaster Daniel King seemed to think so: “I hope it generates a lot of interest because it [the match] has been incredibly close.”

Carlsen Caruana Game 12 post-match press conference
Carlsen Caruana Game 12 post-match press conference

He added that Carlsen “took us all by surprise” when he offered the draw with a small advantage, at least according to the chess computers.

A thrilling end?

Tarjei Svensen, the Norwegian journalist, tweeted: “Well, for the fans, a draw today was great. We get to see a thrilling tiebreak now. Nothing better than that.”

Carlsen also seemed sanguine about the prospect of tie-breaks.

Carlsen revealed afterward that his intention before the game started was to hold the draw and head for the tie-breaks, and therefore he was not in the right mindset to take any risks and play for the win.

“Everybody could see that I wasn’t necessarily going for the maximum, I just wanted a position that was completely safe where I could put some pressure. If a draw hadn’t been a satisfactory result, obviously I would have approached it differently.”

Speaking about the final position, Caruana declared: “I was a bit surprised by the draw offer…I can never be better here and I don’t really have any active ideas. If anything Black is better but I thought I was over the worst of it. It was much more dangerous a few moves ago.”

Later on he admitted: “I’m mainly relieved because I thought it was quite close today, I was very worried during the game.”

Former top 10 player Grandmaster Judit Polgar said afterward that, by deciding to take the safe route and not take advantage of an inaccuracy from Caruana on move 25, Carlsen may have put his title at risk.

“This mistake could cost him the crown,” she said. “He did not try, he did not want to win it in classical chess. This shows something we’ve never seen before by Magnus, and it’s not a good sign necessarily.”

What happens next?

Here’s what happens next as we enter tie-breaks and possible Armageddon situation:

  1. Play will start again on Wednesday at 3pm at The College in Holborn.
  2. Carlsen and Caruana will play a best of four rapid games with 25 minutes for each player with an increment of 10 seconds after each move.
  3. If still tied, they will play up to five mini-matches of two blitz games (five minutes for each player with a three-second increment).
  4. If all five mini-matches are drawn, one sudden-death ‘Armegeddon’ match will be played where White receives five minutes and Black receives four minutes. Both players will receive a three-second increment after the 60th move. In the case of a draw, Black will be declared the winner.
  5. Around an hour and a half after the result, the ceremony will take place and the winner is crowned.