Logical Chess (2) – The Chess Improver

As you saw last week, I wasn’t impressed with the annotations in the first game of Chernev’s Logical Chess Move by Move.

Perhaps I was being a bit unfair. By and large, the notes are serviceable for their purpose: there seemed to be a few other basic tactical oversights at least in the main lines.

Game 26 (Bernstein – Mieses Coburg 1904) did give me a few problems, though.

There were some strange remarks in the opening, a Sicilian Defense.

1. e4

Nowadays it takes a Daring to venture on this move. It is rarely met by the classic reply 1.. e5. What one gets is the French, the Sicilian, the Caro-Kann, the Alekhine or some other defense on which Black has written a treatise.

Well, the nature of the book is that you get a comment on each move, so Chernev had to think of different things to say for every game beginning 1. e4.


Black will not come out and fight like a man as they did in the good old days.

Another strange remark, as the Sicilian is considered, quite rightly, one of Black’s most aggressive replies to 1. e4. The casual sexism of ‘fight like a man’ wouldn’t get past the sensitivity readers these days either. If such issues concern you, it’s best to stay clear of books written 65 years ago.

2. Nc3 e6
3. Nf3 Nc6

Black misses his chance. Now was the time for the thrust 3.. d5, giving him a fine, free game.

Not true at all: White’s clearly better after 3.. d5. Elsewhere in the book, Chernev quite rightly warns of the dangers of opening up the position when you’re behind in development, but here ignores his own advice.

We’ll now move swiftly on to the position after White’s 19th move.

Up to this point, several of White’s moves have been adorned with exclamation marks, and Chernev evidently thinks White’s much better here because of Black’s dark square weaknesses.

Stockfish 14, on the other hand, considers the position completely level, after, for instance, 19.. Bxd3, when White should recapture with the pawn to deny the black knight access to e4.

But Black’s next move, not criticized by Chernev, is a big mistake. Let’s follow the next few moves.

19.. Nc4+?

Black’s plan becomes manifest: he wants to force an exchange of Knight for Bishop. This would leave Bishops commanding squares of different colors on the board, a circumstance generally leading to a drawn game.

As someone once said about positions like this, the bishops may be of opposite colours, but the rooks aren’t. It’s precisely because of the bishops of opposite colors that White’s now winning. Black’s knight can fight to control the important central dark squares, but his light-squared bishop can’t.

20. Bxc4 Bxc4
21. A4?!

This is a bit slow, giving Black time to play Rhf8 followed by g5 or e5. Black should aim for counterplay by sacrificing a pawn or two. Instead 21. Bc5 or 21. b3 followed by Bc5 would have been correct.

22. b3 Ba6
23. Bb6?!

Now Black could play 23.. g5! when Stockfish thinks White’s only slightly better. After the correct Bc5! Stockfish thinks Black’s best chance is to give up the exchange by putting a rook on f8.

23.. Bc8?!
24. Ke3?! Ba6?!

White should have played 24. Bc5, and Black might have preferred 24.. Ba6!, preparing to meet Bxa5 with c5. Chernev suggests Rf8, which was also an improvement.

25. Bc5!

Finally White puts his bishop on the correct square. From here on he makes no mistake. It’s instructive to see how he brings home the point, but also instructive, I think, to consider this sequence of moves. Chernev’s annotations, for the most part, miss the point, failing to appreciate that Black might consider giving up material to break the blockade.

You can’t really blame him for this, I suppose. In a way it demonstrates how much we’ve learned since the 1950s.

Again, Logical Chess Move by Move was, for its time, a brilliant book. It still has a lot of merit, but the annotations, in a few places, leave something to be desired. Not surprisingly so as well.

There’s certainly a place for more contemporary books of this nature aimed at players between, say, 1000 and 1500 strength, taking simple games in which the loser didn’t really understand what was going on. They can be presented either with detailed verbal annotations, as Chernev does here, or using Socratic questioning, as Reinfeld did in some of his books.

Here’s the complete game.

Richard James

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Richard James

Author: Richard James

Richard James is a professional chess teacher and writer living in Twickenham, and working mostly with younger children and beginners. He was the co-founder of Richmond Junior Chess Club in 1975 and its director until 2005. He is the webmaster of chessKIDS academy (www.chesskids.org.uk or www.chesskids.me.uk) and, most recently, the author of Chess for Kids and The Right Way to Teach Chess to Kids, both published by Right Way Books. Richard has been a member of Richmond & Twickenham Chess Club since 1966. Richard is a published author and his books can be found at Amazon. Richard is currently promoting minichess (games and puzzles using subsets of chess) for younger children through his website www.minichess.uk, and writing coaching materials for children (and adults) who want to start playing serious competitive chess, through www.chessheroes. uk. View all posts by Richard James

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