John Watson Book Review (96)
History and General Works Part 1. John Watson Book Review #96
IM John Watson - Tuesday 11th May 2010
Nigel Short's Greatest Hits | http://www.theweekinchess.com
Coming fast on the heals of #95 New Editions respected author IM John Watson has a second set of reviews with a historical slant.
These books cover such general subjects as Genius, Misery and Blindfold play in chess, Career DVDs of Hort and Short and then career reviews of Lasker and Kashdan.
#96 History and General Works Part 1
In this column, I'll look at an unusual assortment of products, several on unusual topics not often explored in the literature, the rest on games collections with an emphasis on the historical. A common thread, at least to most of these books and DVDs, is that they are readable/viewable in the sense of being good bedside or screenside reading (note to self: send 'screenside' to OED staff).
Before starting, I should mention that the German book Emanuel Lasker: Denker, Weltenbürger, Schachweltmeister , edited by R Forster, S Hansen, and M Negele and published by Exzelsior Verlag, has appeared on the market. I haven't seen it, but it's a major event in the world of chess literature, being a monumental work of 1079 pages, consisting of contributions by 25 writers, mostly chess players and historians. The price is beyond most of our budgets, but true collectors will simply have to have a copy. I'm not very interested in the various lengthy books which have been appearing about minor chess figures (to put it charitably), but I strongly suspect that this work, about one of the three or four greatest players of all time, will become a permanent classic.
Philosophy Looks at Chess; Benjamin Hale, editor; 208 pages; Open Court Books 2008
The Genius and the Misery of Chess; Zhivko Kaikamjozov; 224 pages; Mongoose Press 2008
Blindfold Chess: History, Psychology, Techniques, Champions, World Records, and Important Games; Eliot Hearst & John Knott; 445 pages; McFarland 2009
Vlastimil Hort: Facing the World Champions; DVD; ChessBase 2008
Nigel Short: Greatest Hits Volume 1; Nigel Short; ChessBase 2010
Inside Philippine Chess, Book One; Bobby Ang; 223 pages; Media Plus 2000
Inside Philippine Chess, Book Two; Bobby Ang; 319 pages; Brown Heritage 2008
Rampant Chess - Over 60 Great Games by Scottish Masters; Geoff Chandler & Keith Ruxton; 200 pages; 2008
Isaac Kashdan, American Chess Grandmaster; Peter Lahde; 348 pages; McFarland 2009
I'll begin with the unique book Philosophy Looks at Chess. Rather than work too hard and get it wrong anyway, let me quote from the publisher:
"For the first time, this book offers a collection of contemporary essays that explore philosophical themes at work in chess. This collection includes essays on the nature of a game, the appropriateness of chess as a metaphor for life, and even deigns to query whether Garry Kasparov might—just might—be a cyborg. In twelve unique essays, contributed by philosophers with a broad range of expertise in chess, this book poses both serious and playful questions about this centuries-old pastime."
The first thing to note is that almost all of the writers are academic philosophers (in one case a political philosopher), and they reference dozens of famous philosophic figures ranging from James to Wittgenstein, Pierce to Rorty, Dennett to...Habermasÿ And many others. The authors' essays are occasionally flippant, but address serious philosophic questions. For example, Tama Coutts (described as a philosopher, chess player, and chess coach) tries to address Searle's Chinese Room experiment, surely one of the famous and accessible modern arguments in Philosophy. It deals with the question of whether a computer can have a mind as humans do, that is, whether they can be agents with understanding, beliefs, desires, intentionality, etc. Coutts reviews the Chinese Room argument along with the two most common objections to it, and then (this is the original part) discusses the argument in the context of chess computers and whether they 'understand' chess, leaving aside the beliefs, desires, etc. He tries to show that within the context of the Searle debate, computers do 'understand' chess. It's good fun plowing through his discusion, although you feel, and the author hints, that the article is more of an incitement to think about the issue than one with a solid conclusion. The word 'understanding', for example, goes sadly undefined.
The best article from a chessplayer's point of view is surely John Hartmann's 'Garry Kasparov is a Cyborg, or What ChessBase tells us about technology.' Hartmann explores 'the most interesting philosophic aspects of the human encounter with technology', with chess and chess programs as his lens into the issue. His essay has an authoritative tone because he is an active player who uses chess databases extensively. With Heidegger's The Question Concerning Technology as a source (a book that is easier to read than most of Heidegger's work), he outlines the dehumanizing effects of our obsession with technology and its limiting influence upon our thought and perspective. For example, Hartmann gives examples of how we tend to use technological solutions to problems that better lend themselves to natural solutions. Then he addresses the obvious question of whether technology can also open up new possibilities for people to productively expand their thoughts and abilities. Using one of the few actual chess examples in the book that interested me, he investigates the interaction between man and machine by examining the real-world example of a master, Tim Mirabile, who employs ChessBase in preparation for a game against a particular opponent (grandmaster Igor Novikov). I won't go into the details, which, being concrete, give this article a certain credibility that others lack. Suffice it to say that the computer suggests an improvement in Novikov's favourite line, and Mirabile uses it to win. Hartmann concludes that there is a certain middle ground about who is actually responsible for Mirabile's novelty (suggested by the computer) and ultimate victory; in his view, neither the man nor machine can claim full credit. Then he moves on to examples of modern chess in which the player's moves have been influenced by computers, either directly or in terms of players beginning to think 'like computers'; I have been surprised to see so many masters and grandmaster agreeing that this is a genuine phenomenon and result of studying so much with computers. Using the games of Kasparov combined with the World Champion's description of computer-assisted preparation, Hartmann finds that 'human' and 'machine' are becoming intimately intertwined to the extent that both computers and players are in some sense 'cyborgs'! Entertaining and provocative reading.
There are too many articles to describe, obviously, but the other one that chessplayers are most likely to relate to is Stuart Rachel's 'The Reviled Art', which is perhaps the least philosophical of the lot (although Rachels is a professional philosopher). It begins with a lengthy lament on the lack of respect given chess in the United States (hence the title) and it's general lack of popularity there. Rachels is a former U.S. Champion (as well as Junior star, e.g. U.S. Junior champion). He recounts how winning the championship meant virtually nothing to the world outside of chess, for example, even his local newspaper declined to run a story about it and his college newspaper gave it a bare mention on page 13. Rachels has many examples in support of this theme, citing the inattention to chess on TV, its absence from the popular culture, etc. He attributes this to two properties of the game which apply generally (its antisocial nature and inaccessibility in terms of aesthetic appreciation), and only one factor that he calls 'peculiar to the U.S.A.': our country's 'deeply ingrained anti-intellectualism'. That's hard to dispute, almost a given, but it would have been interesting to have his opinion on why, in the face of this trait, the United States has both historically and currently had continual success in international team competition. It has been the second most successful nation in the Olympiads by a considerable margin (the Olympiads began in 1924 or 1927, depending upon your interpretation), finishing within the top three 16 times. And of course in other intellectual areas it has excelled, with scores of Nobel Prizes in areas from the sciences to literature, and many fundamental discoveries in cosmology, math, etc.. To my mind, it's hard to reconcile these two realities — anti-intellectualism and leadership in intellectual affairs — without acknowledging the fact that our purportedly egalitarian society, with its reputation of offering opportunity to all, is radically elitist and segregated when it comes to affairs of the mind. In contemporary times, this is not distinct from (and goes hand in hand with) the hardening of class boundaries and lack of social mobility. Ironically, chess is potentially an area which could transcend those boundaries, and occasionally does; although for a player to excel these days requires travel, coaching, and considerable economic support.
Rachels then moves on to something more traditionally philosophic, the nature of beauty in chess. Although he concludes that 'explanations of beauty, however, ring hollow in chess, much as they do elsewhere', he brilliantly explains and identified many unique properties of chess beauty, and the circumstances under which it arises, in a way that I've never seen before.
Rachels also briefly discusses 'perception in chess', chess compositions, and chess as a sport; his writing is clear and lively. In an academic article he would have presumably have to demonstrate more thematic unity between these elements, but Philosophy Looks at Chess is more of a collection of essays than strict arguments. It may not be everyone's cup of tea, but I think most of you will enjoy this stroll through abstract ideas, if only as a relief from chess material which is designed with practical improvement in mind.
Another book of a less-than-practical bent is The Genius and the Misery of Chess by Zhivko Kaikamjozov. In fact, the first 2/3 or so of the book might simply turn an impressionable reader away from the game entirely. Let the author set the tone:
"We are used to reading about glorious feats by chess masters from the past, but we often are unaware that chess drove some unfortunate ones to nervous breakdowns, asylums, and poorhouses...The reader might be surprised to learn that famous champions like Steinitz, Alekhine, Schlechter, and Rubinstein died in misery. Chess masters presume that they will enjoy long careers until the age of 40 or 50 or beyond; but the years of hard competition often are enough to ruin one's health.
Yet, there was no choice for the masters of the past; they could not think about rest. They lived in a poor world and their income was scarce and barely enough to support a family. That's why only a few professional players before World War II lived to a happy old age. Others died consumption or perished in the war."
In fact, 25 of the first 27 players discussed in the book have lives marked by misery and/or tragedy. Beginning with As-Suli the Exile (880-946) and ending with Alekhine, they become impoverished, starve, are sickened by or die from any of numerous diseases, are killed in the war, are imprisoned and executed or, alarmingly often, go insane.
As-Suli sets the tone. After a few years of success as a favorite in the court, we find: "The remainder of his life was marked by tragedy. Forgotten and abandoned by everyone, and living in constant fear of being detected by his enemies, he fell into poverty. After his opulent life in the palace, living in misery shattered his health. He was assaulted by various diseases, spent the last six years of his life in loneliness and destitution, and died in 946."
As we move on, the tales of wretchedness are so numerous that Kaikamjozov runs out of adjectives. They begin to resemble each other: de la Bourdannais, after defeating McDonnell, is 'doomed to spend his life in extreme poverty', his health deteriorates, and he dies at 45. Kieseritsky falls into miserable poverty, can't raise enough money to return to his family, collapses physically and mentally, and dies in loneliness and poverty. Gunsberg lives much longer, but nevertheless 'die[s] in misery'. Morphy you already know about. Charousek returns to form, with 'a tragic and untimely end', dying at 27. Bilguer falls at 25 to tuberculosis. Cecil de Vere lasts a bit longer: 'he fell into depression, became a heavy drinker, and died 6 days before his thirtieth birthday'. Walbrodt succumbs to tuberculosis at 31. Noteboom's death at 22 is a bit more mysterious: the author gives only the following cause of death: 'because everything else - even his self-preservation instinct - paled before his dedication to chess.' Poor Schlechter has a bit of everything: 'total misery', 'poverty and hardship', 'weakness', 'exhaustion', and death by the Spanish flu! For Steinitz, we need only list the descriptors: 'exhausted', 'depressed', 'nerves completely broken', 'psychiatric hospital', 'poor health', 'deranged', 'hallucinations', etc. Janowsky: 'sick', 'without any friends', 'penniless', 'tuberculosis'.
In short, these guys make Bobby Fischer look happy-go-lucky by comparison. And the list goes on; many are familiar cases (e.g., Pillsbury, Rubinstein, Torre), but I wasn't aware that Tartakower was a compulsive gambler who 'spent his entire life suffering from a chronic illness - poverty', or that he 'died of destitution.'
So who would want to read this depressing chronologyÿ The typical reader, of course! We are fascinated with human misfortune, and the tragic downfall of heroes is an eternal theme of literature and nonfiction.
The author Zhivko Kaikamjozov (a FIDE International Arbiter who served in that capacity for Kasparov-Karpov 1990 match) tries valiantly to compensate for this dreary view of chessplayers, and devotes the end of the book to more positive stories. 'Today, the chess martyrs are a sad reminiscence of the past. The world has become richer, the socia1 status of the game has become higher, and the best and most talented have become assured of a decent living.' Most of the players he discusses in this context were prodigies or extremely talented young players, for example, Kasparov, Short, Kamsky, Polgar, Leko, Stefanova, Bacrot, Ponomariov, Lahno, Karjakin, Radjabov, Koneru, and Carlsen. He describes them all in polite portraits which focus on their development and results, with some words on their chess styles and personalities. The problem is that this section seems like an afterthought, particularly since the players' lives outside of chess isn't discussed, although that was largely the point of the first 2/3 of the book. On the other hand, this section can serve as an educational overview of some of today's best players, particularly in the age 15-25 group.
I was caught up in the drama of the lives of the early chess personalities and found this book a good read; my guess is that most chessplayers will also enjoy delving into the multitudinous stories of horror. After all, things have gotten awfully boring in the meantime.
Although I'm intending to address CDs and DVDs in a separate column, a couple of special ones deserve comment. ChessBase continues to dominate this field, with the majority of their offerings being about openings. I am of two minds about those, and will try to point out the better ones in my columns. The problem is that videos can be superficial and, because the lines covered are so selective, they can sometimes be misleading. It's also hard to get back to the relevant material if you haven't recently seen the DVD. Nevertheless, there are two compensating factors. One is that some presenters are so insightful and/or the lines are so well chosen that you simply learn an enormous amount; examples are Shirov, Kasparov, and Bolgan (see his recent excellent video on the King's Indian Defence). In addition, there's a crowd who in the absence of opening videos wouldn't be studying books anyway. Because they enjoy seeing chess in a visual manner, they will be more motivated to absorb the chess material, something that might be particularly relevant after a long day's work. Nevertheless, I think the DVD format is ideal for narratives and situations which call for general commentary, such as autobiographical accounts and games collections. I have previously reported upon ChessBase's excellent biographical/historical DVDs such the World Championship Chess series (Anand's My Career and Kramnik's My Path to the Top) and Korchnoi's My Life for Chess. Apart from their inherent interest, these DVDs show the player himself addressing the viewers, something which will appeal to those who feel that books lack the human touch. Imagine if we had similar lengthy videos by Lasker, Alekhine, Petrosian, or Fischer!
From the same series, the video Vlastimil Hort: Facing the World Champions also features players at the very top, but this time in the context of someone who has met nine World Champions and played most of those (in fact, all of them with the exception of Euwe). Hort is one of those figures who was very well-known to those of us following chess during the peak of his career. He won numerous Czechoslovakian Championships and later became the champion of Germany multiple times. Hort's greatest achievement was his performance in the Candidates matches of 1977, where he narrowly missed beating Spassky himself, overlooking some huge opportunities and losing only because of the penultimate game which led to a 8.5-7.5 victory for the ex-World Champion.
The DVD is 4 hours long and divided into 12 sections: an Introduction, Epilogue, and in between, lectures on the World Champions Tal, Botvinnik, Smyslov, 'a study from Smyslov', 'chessnut from Euwe', Petrosian, Spassky, Fischer, Karpov, and Kasparov, in that order. In the Introduction, Hort talks about the nature of chess (the 'diabolic game') and his own introduction to chess at age 5 while sick and staying in a hospital. Speaking of champions, he actually begins with someone not on the list, Alekhine, who inspired Hort when he began chess and had a 'special relationship' with the Czech world, particularly Moravia. Hort has stories galore, including a description of Alekhines simuls and tournaments during the war. Once again drinking far too much, Alekhine for one simul demands as a prize 11 liters of especially potent Slivowitz (a plum brandy). Hort revels in details: Who knew that Alekhine loved cats (with two Siamese cats), and that his wife was a serious kleptomaniacÿ Hort then turns to Euwe for the next half of the Introduction. He claims that Euwe introduced the official second, rather than the 'Russians', who began to do so later. Hort returns to the nature of the chess life often, for example, the sleepless nights, agonising after defeats, addiction to the game, and the experience of being old in the chess world.
After this, Hort's lectures are organised around games, interspersing both entertaining and serious comments. Before his first game, with Tal in Moscow 1963, Tal disappears and doesn't appear at the board. Everyone is panicky, and there are even radio announcements telling citizens to call in if they locate Tal. With minutes to spare, Tal shows up drunk and almost falls asleep. He disappears, returns shaking, and can't even light his cigarettes. For all that, he manages to struggle to a draw. Later Tal is socialising with Hort and tells him that the Russians in desperation had dragged him out of sight during the game and doused him with freezing water!
The entire DVD is full of stories. Hort describes his game with Botvinnik as a 'bitter' memory. He was analysing a difficult adjournment with Larsen which had kept him up all night until he fell asleep in the bath, letting the pieces fall into the wall. That morning Botvinnik called and offered his help with the position; Hort refused and Botvinnik slammed down the phone. Later Botvinnik, clearly angry, plays Hort; Botvinnik plays inaccurately, apparently influenced by his emotions, and draws the game. What's interesting is that this turns out to be Botvinnik's last tournament, and Hort, in spite of his reprehensible behaviour, is generous enough to admire Botvinnik for his still insatiable desire to win.
And so it goes. Every section begins with general commentary on the players and is laced with stories about each of them. In general, the time devoted to 'colour commentator' is equal to or more than that spent on the moves and [limited] analysis. He devotes two games to Spassky, and the longest lecture is about Fischer. In it, the main game (a draw, as is the accompanying blitz game) is wholly secondary to his reminiscences, which begin with a continuation with his thoughts and stories about Spassky and move on to impressions of Fischer.
I can't imagine that anyone interested in the lives and styles of the great players wouldn't want to have this DVD. It is my strongest recommendation in this column, with the caution that it is 90% historically driven and not made with ones chess improvement in mind.
Speaking of chess DVDs and games collections, I've just gotten Nigel Short's DVD Nigel Short: Greatest Hits Volume 1 today, and immediately looked it over for a few hours. The first good news is the 'Volume 1' part. Given his extensive assortment of original and often brilliant games, combined his verbal facility and sense of humour, I'm sure there's enough material here for two DVDs or more.
It may seem implausible to the older players among you that any of my readers won't know much about Nigel Short, or even not heard of him; but his World Championship match against Kasparov, for example, is now 17 years ago, and many of you were either very young then, or not yet in existence. In a day of innumerable prodigies, it's hard to realize what shocking news it was when Short qualified for the British Chess Championship at age 11, and then shared first place in the British Championship at age 14. He played in the Candidates at a remarkably young 20 years old, and then moved through the ranks to land at number 3 in the world. In 1989 defeated Speelman, Timman, and Karpov himself in matches, thus setting up the first World Championship not involving Karpov since Fischer-Spassky in 1972. Of the many successes in his career, two victories at Wijk aan Zee stand out, as well as his first place in Amsterdam 1991, ahead of Kasparov and Karpov .
Short is known for his strong opinions about matters off-the-board, but in this DVD he sticks to 14 games, stretching from 1979 to 2009, and their analysis. The opponents are a prominent bunch, including Kasparov, Karpov, Kramnik, Topalov, Anand and other impressive players. Short wins every game (it might be interesting for him to talk about a loss or draw next time, for example, one of his epic battles with Kasparov). We see a wide range of openings. Short plays the Evans Gambit in a previously unknown game versus Ponomariov, with whom he was playing a secret match in preparation for the latter's ill-fated match with Kasparov. The game is wonderfully random and tactical, in the tradition of 19th-century Evans Gambit games. Short says that they played the match under leaking water, with only one draw in 8 games.
Other games feature the Petroff, the Dutch Slav with Smyslov's 5...Na6 (Short beats Kramnik as Black); the Rauzer Sicilian (a brilliancy versus Ljubojevic); Short's best-known Worrall Ruy Lopez game (a win over Karpov); and the Alekhine Defence (a Short favourite in recent years, but he is White here; you may well recognize his famous king walk versus Timman). There are also two games versus the Caro-Kann with a Short specialty: no, not the Advance with Nf3/Be2, etc., but 1 e4 c6 2 Ne2 d5 3 e5!, a line which is currently popular and unresolved. He plays the White side of the Najdorf against Kasparov (another nice game that you may have seen) and, surprisingly, the Black side versus Topalov. He wins another Najdorf with 6 Be2 versus Cheparinov.
A funny side theme is Short's use of the move Ba7, a 'magic move' which he says he seems to play whenever given the chance, even if it's not good! He was inspired by Karpov's use of the move versus Unzicker (which allowed Karpov to double rooks, and thus is unrelated to Short's use). The move comes up in a several games (including one where his opponent plays it), including a near-disastrous sally versus Kasparov.
This is an entertaining DVD. The games are really excellent, and Short's comments are well within the ken of the average player. I recommend it as a pleasant way to learn something about top-flight chess.
Let me switch gears completely and look at a couple of books that have to do with the chess of a small country. The first is a two-volume work called Inside Philippine Chess, by Bobby Ang. Book One appeared in 2000 and Book Two in 2008. Both volumes having the goal of chronicling the stories and history of chess in the Philippines. The first is a collection of Ang's articles, centering largely upon players and events over the years, and including an article on Bobby Fischer, who of course had a special relationship with the Philippines. The second, 320 page, volume is also a compilation of material about various events and players, but has some special sections on GM Eugenio Torre, and the incredible story of Rosendo Balinas, who won the Philippine Championship six times. Balinas stunned the world by gaining his Grandmaster title with a clear 1st place in a powerful tournament in Odessa, one of the very few times an 'outsider' had ever won a tournament in the Soviet Union. Ang also writes a series of stories about the Philippine Olympic Squads through the years. There are some great games in these books; the best way to get them is through Ang himself (ICC handle RobertoPeAng).
The other 'localized' book I'd like to mention is Rampant Chess - Over 60 Great Games by Scottish Masters, by Geoff Chandler and Keith Ruxton. The authors asked 13 Scottish GMs and IMs to send 5 games, without notes, for the authors to annotate. Most of the games were sent with notes anyway, so the authors pitched the notes and started in on their own! No respect for authority. As annotators, Chandler and Ruxton explicitly value fun above truth (not that they sacrifice the latter, exactly), so most of the notes are verbal, and usually silly. As far as I can see, their analysis is perfectly good; but if a long variation is required, they often prefer to insert a joke. Somehow it works, partly because the games are so entertaining. But also because Chandler and Ruxton are having such a good time making fun of everybody (and themselves) that they don't lose perspective, treating the games lightly while making sure to hit the important points and get them right.
This is a great read with some terrific chess content. You are bound to get a few laughs out of Rampant Chess, and as an added incentive, the authors are donating their proceeds to the organisation Chess Scotland.
I'm not going to go into great detail about Eliot Hearst & John Knott's Blindfold Chess: History, Psychology, Techniques, Champions, World Records, and Important Games, because so much has been written about it already, and much of that can be found on the book's website http://www.blindfoldchess.net in the form of reviews and blog posts. Blindfold Chess was published by McFarland and won the Fred Cramer Award for the Best Chess Book of 2009. This is the first time the subject of blindfold chess has been dealt with in such detail. The book is divided into three parts. Part One deals with the history of blindfold play beginning with its earliest days (including a list of Arab players and others before Philidor). Part Two is about the psychology of blindfold chess, and Part three has the games of all world-record-setting exhibitions and other games, with reports. This includes 444 annotated games. There are a host of other features, including many photographs of players. The book is a typically high quality McFarland hardback.
I had co-author Eliot Hearst on my radio show and he talked about how the days of record-breaking simultaneous blindfold games may be over, in part because the financial pressures aren't there. In terms of quality, he thinks that Alekhine played the best blindfold chess of any of the famous players from Morphy through Pillsbury, Reti, Koltanowski, and Najdorf. Incidentally, in the Hort DVD reviewed below, Hort relates that Kashdan once told him about seeing Alekhine playing a blindfold simul in New York, against 21 of what Kashdan says were the best New York players, at least master-strength players ('2200-2300'). Kashdan said that he had 'never seen anything like that in his life and would never see it again'.
In modern times, the individual blindfold games at the Amber tournament are of incredible quality, often difficult to distinguish from the best sighted games, and Hearst has run tests with computer engines which indicate that the number of blunders is comparable between the two. Blindfold Chess is extremely broad, covering history, psychology, blindfold techniques, records, etc. It has a hefty price tag, but offers many hours of fascinating reading material.
Finally, it's worth noting another handsome book from McFarland, Isaac Kashdan, American Chess Grandmaster by Peter Lahde. Kashdan was arguably the leading American player in the very late 1920s and early 1930s, no small feat in that he was preceded by Marshall and succeeded by Reshevsky and Fine. There's even a quote from Denker that Flohr and Kashdan were considered the two key challengers for Alekhine's title from 1930 to 1934. Well, that's a bit of a stretch, at least until 1932, with Capablanca around, not to mention Euwe (also Nimzowitsch had an equal or better claim for the first couple of years); but by 1933-1934 you can at least make the case, since Botvinnik, Reshevsky, Keres and Fine are a year (or two) short of breaking into the very elite.
The book itself is disappointing in one respect: it is a compilation of Kashdan's results and games with almost no description of his life outside of chess, and only a very sterile view of his life within the chess milieu. To be fair, that's all the author sets out to do (the subtitle is 'A Career Summary with 757 games'); but this kind of cold research makes me feel that the book is primarily appropriate for a limited audience: dedicated lovers of chess history, collectors, and libraries.
IM John Watson - Photo © Jonathan Berry
John Watson is an International Master, teacher, and author of numerous books, including the award-winning Secrets of Modern Chess Strategy and Chess Strategy in Action. His most recent work is the 4-volume Mastering the Chess Openings. John writes for the website ChessPublishing and conducts weekly interviews of leading chess personalities on ChessFM (ICC).