The Complete Chess Swindler


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The Complete Chess Swindler

Grandmaster David Smerdon’s book, originally published by New in Chess, has already been mentioned on our blog this week, due to the presentation of the English Chess Federation Book of the Year award at ChessTech 2020.

It is a book I know well, as I was not only on the ECF panel and chairperson of the relevant ChessTech2020 session, but I also reviewed the The Complete Chess Swindler for CHESS Magazine. When I say I can recommend the book highly, I believe I can speak with authority.

What is a Swindle in Chess?

Good question. What is a swindle in chess?

This is David’s definition:

‘A swindle describes a situation where a player finds himself in a lost position, but then actively – and deliberately – encourages the opponent to make a blunder to spoil the win, thus allowing us – the swindlers – to steal half a point, or sometimes even the full point.

It is important to note that a swindle in chess is not against the rules and is a perfectly acceptable way to change the course of the game.

Some players have even developed reputations are arch-swindlers. What is their secret? David, drawing on his experience as a Grandmaster of chess and a behavioural economist, shows how to train oneself in the art of swindling.


There are many ways to swindle an opponent. David even coins a new phrase (although he admits it came from his friend) and that is window-ledging.

‘In many a classic action film with sword-fighting, the weaker swordsman, facing imminent death, climbs out onto a precarious window ledge. The implication for the dominant swordsman is clear: follow into a terrain where risk, uncertainty, and deadly perils are rife for both, or give up the pursuit – and with it the advantage.’

David Smerdon

This concept deserves a closer look. Here is a sample from the course, with David’s own notes.

The Swindle in Practical Chess

‘Window-Ledging can be an especially effective technique when your opponent is short of time. After all, every move requires a lot more care when you’re standing on a ledge.’

Chess Swindle

Malcolm Armstrong – Thomas Rendle

Black to play

‘Tom later told me that he knew that 25… Nxd7 was objectively forced, but he didn’t trust himself to hold the draw against his lower-rated opponent. Indeed, the resulting position is pretty grim and, importantly, quite easy to play for White, as Black has virtually no counterplay. Instead, Tom steers the game into the sort of positions in which a lower-rated player feels very much not at ease: being under attack!’

25 …Bxe4!!

26. fxe4 Ng4

27. h3 Ne3

‘A colossal fork. The beauty of this swindle is that White appears to have such an obviously winning move in 28. Qe2 that he doesn’t bother to search for alternatives. Without such an obvious candidate, perhaps he would have found the crushing 27 …Ne3 28. Nxf8!! Nxc2 29. Rd8, capping off a splendid upset. Instead, the weaker player falls prey to his instincts and jumps at the opportunity to swap the Queens.’

28. Qe2


28 …f3!!

‘White’s Kingside, so unassailably secure a few moves earlier, is being ripped apart. In fairness, White may have seen this resource in advance, but missed Black’s later blow. After all, Black is sacrificing almost his entire army, while the promotion square is still defended by the Bishop. How bad can things really get?’

29. Qxe3

’29. Rf1!! is a tough move to find, but it was the only way to win.’

29 …f2+

30. Kh2 Qxd1

31. Nxf8

Surprising Move

31 …Qg1+!!

‘The killer tactic, without which Black can resign.’

32. Kg3 f1=N+

End of the Chess Swindle

‘Black’s sacrificed Knight rises like a phoenix to deliver a sweet finish. The prosaic 32…f1=Q was also sufficient, but who could resist the underpromotion? An educational victory by one of England’s trickiest masters.’

The Chessable Course

The Complete Chess Swindler is a book – and course – of many parts. Apart for the instructive element it is hugely entertaining, without a single dull page.

Head here for the Chessable course!

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