Review: Pump Up Your Rating by Axel Smith

Review: Pump Up Your Rating by Axel Smith

For those of you who have not heard of this book Pump Up Your Rating by Axel Smith – let me say that it aims to show new avenues for training for an already advanced player. The author presents a road-map of improvement in your Chess training.
Pump Up Your Rating by Axel SmithThe real value of this book is its instruction that is interspersed with lots of personal experiences from author and his chess colleagues. The book focuses mainly on increasing one’s strength at classical time control chess (more than 60 minutes per player per game). So if you are a casual blitz player you will not be benefited by this book.

Pump Up Your Rating by Axel Smith – who can benefit?

This book is for class A players (those who are 1800+ in elo) and above. For those who are rated below 1800 FIDE rated, it may help if you have a trainer working with this book. Remember that this book is for Tournament players and not for the casual blitz player.

Pump Up Your Rating – voted the Book of the Year 2013 – read here.

About the Author:

Pump Up Your Rating by Axel Smith

Axel Smith – Author

The author is Axel Smith is an IM (International Master) from Sweden and a FIDE trainer. Axel Smith is an upcoming Swedish IM, who is on his path to achieving a GM title. He is also a succesfull coach with many students climbing the success ladder, to his credit.

Smith talks seriously about his chess preparation; he prepares in detail for his opponents sometimes going to great lengths like looking at his opponent’s ICC games too check out their weaknesses. Now isn’t that a creative streak?

Nothing motivates him more than winning in chess.

What is shocking is that anything not related to improvement is not worthy of his attention as he feels that studying Chess history is unimportant – “I don’t think I have ever seen a complete game by Bobby Fischer,” he frankly reveals in the book.

Why should you read Pump Up Your Rating by Axel Smith?

I know for sure that had I read this book I would not have wasted my 3-4 years of chess training some 15 years ago.
This book is a labor of love and fills an important gap in an improving chess player’s library. It answers many questions that a budding chess player has or should think of like finding a good training partner for those who can not find chess players nearby and how to use chess software to aid in preparation.
During training, Smith reveals that he does not watch TV, or use smart-phones or the Internet; and he avoids reading books while playing in a tournament, as these are a cause of distraction.This may not appeal to some as each person has his own way of unwinding and relaxing.

He comes across as some one who has walked the talk and wrote it all down.

What does the book look like?

It consists of two big parts and each part is a book topic by itself!
The first part deals with How to think in Chess, pertaining to the basic positional ideas and strategy. He talks about pawn levers (and how they are the anchor of all planning), piece exchanges and imbalances, and finally the most important skill of all – calculation.
  • Chapter one – Pawn levers.
  • Chapter two – Exchanges and imbalances – art of exchanging and the timing so as to create an imbalance in the position.
  • Chapter three – Critical decision making and questions that need to be answered while coming across such positions.
  • Chapter four – Calculation (different from Kotov’s tree of calculation)
The Second part deals with techniques on training in Chess. This is the fun part of the chess book and will make you read everything in one go.
Here Smith explains how he improved by following what he describes in this second part, in four chapters: 
  • Analyzing your games and making a ‘list of mistakes’ 
  • A program to study tactics
  • Openings training using Chessbase software for the creation of ‘opening files’ and looking at games
  • Learning the most important theoretical endgames first – roughly 100 in number.  
He comes across as a live-wire author who is teaching you what you must learn and what you may avoid, in order to save precious time.
  • As a bonus, you get an Appendix that has a List of theoretical endgameshowever they are to be downloaded in PGN format from their official site which is here
  • The database discussed in Chapter 7 – Openings can be downloaded (in PGN format) here.

The book he recommends in the chapter 6 – The Woodpecker – Method Talent is Overrated: What Really Separates World-Class Performers from Everybody Else – by Geoffrey Colvin can be bought from Amazon or Book depository.

For anybody thinking about buying the book – I can wholeheartedly recommend this one; it has delivers on everything it promises.Jacob Aagaard described it on Quality Chess blog as “reminding him of his own Excelling at Chess, only better”! Pump Up Your Rating by Axel Smith is a refreshing new book for chess coaches and players who are trying hard to make progress and find that they are stagnating. Those who are in need a different set of training techniques that are not old school, will gain a lot from this book. Some techniques may sound radical but then it worked for him so who knows – it may work for you…
Pump Up Your Rating by Axel Smith
Get it from here in Amazon (India) or Flipkart India
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Dvoretsky’s latest book on the art of prophylaxis

Dvoretsky’s latest book on the art of prophylaxis

Dvoretsky's latest book on the art of prophylaxisThere is always a dearth of quality chess material for training once you climb up the ELO ladder. When my students join they are raw beginners but later I find it difficult to set them challenging tasks as they slowly master the techniques. And therefore I keep looking out for new avenues for training them with. Today I have a reason to be thrilled. I have seen Dvoretsky’s latest book on the art of prophylaxis that seems to have come after a long hiatus. Dvoretsky’s latest book on the art of prophylaxis is something that most of chess books have been lacking and that is Recognizing Your Opponent’s Resources: Developing Preventive Thinking which is by the way the title of Dvoretsky’s new book. 

Victor Kortchnoi once said with great insight If you do not check what your opponent is doing, you will end up complaining about bad luck after every game.

So understanding your opponent’s next move could be or what agenda he is trying to accomplish, is one of the most important core skills required climb up the ELO ladder. It is what makes a difference between a good chess player and a strong chess master.

The reason why many students stagnate is because they are aware of most of the direct methods of attack and will thrive in many a tactical melee, but give them a position where they are at the receiving end of the opponents’ blows, or where the tactics are not yet present on the board, they will be all at sea.

What is special about Dvoretsky’s latest book on the art of prophylaxis ?

What is prophylaxis in chess?

I have a 1200 player who attacks ferociously with tactical claws that will tear any ripe position apart. One day when we played a game that was steered into positional waters, he was stuck for 2 hours in getting the best move! I had to reset the clock many times as he was floundering for a move and in exasperation he asked me (after having reset the clock for the 4th time) – “What is the move I must play here, Master?” – to which all I could say was “I think your best move is to resign as I myself do not know how you are going to disentangle from your mess”.

That is the power of prophylactic thinking for you.*

Dvoretsky is known for advocating the art of prophylaxis as a key to mastery in the higher levels of chess playing arena. To put it in his own words (Secrets of positional play), Prophylaxis or prophylactic thinking is “the habit of constantly asking yourself what the opponent wants to do, what he would play if it were him to move, the ability to find an answer to this question and to take account of it in the process of coming to a decision.”

Coming to the book under review – Recognizing Your Opponent’s Resources is a collection of problems with underlying theme of prophylaxis. 

Dvoretsky is very famous for his classical books that are considered as must-read for those beyond 2000 ELO upto 2400 ELO. In this book, Dvoretsky embarks on a classical but neglected training on this theme, with high-quality training material for independent analysis. 

Contents of the book – on the subtle art of prophylaxis

Each chapter has a introductory theoretical section followed by plenty of exercises, from easy to difficult. Each chapter begins with a small explanation on the chapter’s theme, and this is followed by positions for solving with their solutions.

This book consists of four chapters, all dealing with identifying what your opponent’s next move or moves could be. They are:

  1. Pay Attention to Your Opponent’s Resources (180 problems).
  2. The Process of Elimination (106 problems).
  3. Traps (36 problems)
  4. Prophylactic Thinking (154 problems)

To summarize –

The best part is that among the approximately 500 exercises, there are opening, middlegame and endgame positions. This provides you with challenges in searching for a move and calculating variations as per the given pointers, that will help you at any stage of the game, be it the opening or the middlegame or the Endgame scenario.

The crux of the book is the solutions offered for the training position which are very detailed, as is typically expected of Dvoretsky’s work. Throughout the book, the author guides us by leading us through the schematic thinking for a solution in each position, to show how a player can come to the right choice of move at the board.

Recognizing Your Opponent’s Resources is a must buy as it comes from the master himself. I suggest going through this book with your student if you are a Coach or Trainer – this will open up a few hidden insights in his/her chess brain.

*I keep harping on positional play many times and prophylaxis is my main forte while playing with some upstart students, as it is a complex concept. And whenever they start watering in the mouth with an upcoming tactical warfare and an impending win over me, I pull the plug, and play positionally to get the grip back. That way I enjoy the looks on their face when they hit a wall. This actually makes them understand that tactics has to coupled with positional concepts for chess mastery.

Order Dvoretsky’s latest book on the art of prophylaxis from the Bookdepository if you are in the UK.


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Review: Tactics Time! 1001 Chess Tactics

Review: Tactics Time! 1001 Chess Tactics

Tactics Time! 1001 Chess Tactics

Tactics Time! 1001 Chess Tactics

It’s a known fact that has been stressed for long. Chess is 99% Tactics! And that is the theme of today’s Review: Tactics Time! 1001 Chess Tactics.  TacticsTime! 1001 Chess Tactics from the Games of Everyday Chess Player is different from other regular tactics chess books, in that the positions are all taken from everyday amateur games.


You just need to find a tactical solution without any hints whatsoever.
Some positions are dead easy while some are really difficult.

What appealed to me about this book is that each and every position, are typical of problems that the majority of the chess players are likely to meet either while playing on online sites like or or even in the weekend local tournaments or clubs.

Who is this book Tactics Time! 1001 Chess Tactics aimed at?

For the post-beginner upto 1400 ELO rated player. So for those of you above 1800 ELO there are other good books like

Sharpen Your Tactics: 1125 Brilliant Sacrifices, Combinations, and Studies or

Chess Tactics for Advanced Players.

Chess Tactics for Students by Bain

Tactics kindleOne caveat though – this book is not for the rank beginners, since the problems are not arranged by any theme and the answers can be difficult and lengthy for them.

So if you are probably somewhere in the range of ELO 1000 – 1600, solving this book’s puzzles every day should help in your game play as they will simulate a real chess game.

This training method is best suited for the serious beginner and helps as a daily warm-up course. If you are using the Kindle version use it while commuting or waiting. 

I know this sounds a bit difficult to understand as the usual perception is that the harder the problem the better the result. Trust me, it’s crucially important to master BASIC tactics.

It doesn’t matter if you can solve most of the 4-5 mover tactics if you are regularly missing on the smaller 1 and 2 movers. I hope this explains why people stagnate for years despite doing hard work studying tactics daily.  You must burn in the basic patterns into your sub-conscious mind, so it doesn’t even require any thought.

In the well-optimized Kindle version, you get one problem per page with the answer seen on the next page. This helps to keep the answer hidden from prying eyes. If  the answer is not possible just flip the page!

Pros of this book:

  • Contains a huge number of chess positions (1001 to be precise)
  • Diagrams are clear and easy to view
  • Problems are not too hard just apt for post-beginners.
  • Problems are taken from real games and are not composed.
  • Each position has additional meta info like players names, ratings, date of the game etc
  • Puzzles in this book are from many sources like blitz, correspondence, rated USCF games, weekend tournaments, scholastic tournaments, etc
  • Solutions are easily understood.
  • Affordable price.
  • If you are a Kindle owner, you’ll love it as it is specifically for Kindle with problem  and solutions on alternate page
  • Random mix of tactical themes (pins, forks, skewers, double attacks etc)

Cons of this book:

  • Has no grading of tactical themes.
  • Not apt for higher levels as the positions may be easy for them.


Tactics Time! 1001 Chess Tactics

Tactics Time! 1001 Chess Tactics

Or get it from here – at BookDepository with free shipping worldwide.

Or from Amazon India if you are from India

 ➡ This Kindle eBook from is available at a price of less than $5 U.S, the Kindle eBook is a steal.

However prices are subject to change.


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ChessBase Complete: Chess in the Digital Age

ChessBase Complete: Chess in the Digital Age

ChessBase Complete: Chess in the Digital Age
ChessBase Complete: Chess in the Digital Age is a remarkable book, a 356 pages guide that illustrates all aspects of using ChessBase. For those who have been using ChessBase Software (and I am pretty sure atleast 75% of chess players around the world have used it at one point of time or the other) for straight forward game collections and annotations or for mundane tasks like viewing a game or playing a game online, this book will show what ChessBase software is actually capable of doing.
Here I beg to disagree just one small bit – though he has done a very good job explaining key features with real-time case studies it can by no means be labelled as ‘complete’. However that does not take any credit away from the utility value of the book which is a path-breaking one.

I am sure most of you would have by now figured out a few basic functions in Chessbase, but a lot of the nerdy stuff features are not obvious unless you see them in the true perspective. You may argue that there is a user-manual in the program as is the case with all software, and pretty much is explained in there, but it’s written more with an eye for technicality than utility.  The how is explained but not the why and when.
When one opens Chessbase it appears as a mysterious piece of software that appears easy to operate but you get a gut feeling that it has some secrets that are hidden deep inside waiting to be unravelled.
After going through this book you will realize that you have been actually right all along. There were many functions that you did not even have an inkling of.

In other words this book is like the hitch-hiker’s guide to the Chessbase galaxy!

Showing hundreds of helpful screen shots from the program, Jon Edwards explains the following tasks with ChessBase:
    1. Effective Opening preparation is de-mystified with suitable examples.
    2. How to get a collection of important games in any opening, middlegame position type or even endgame positions
    3. How you can install and see what engines think about any given position.
    4. How you can perform an analysis and see where you and your opponents erred.
    5. How you can publish your games in a book or in the web/Facebook

      What the author Jon Edwards has done is to take pains explaining 14 general features (aptly called as  ‘scenarios’), such as training and teaching, position searches, opening preparation, playing on the Playchess server using ChessBase etc, and explains clearly how to go about accomplishing these activities. The fact is that this book is a ready-reckoner because Chessbase is one life-saving utility for 99% of today’s chess professionals.

      The book is full of screen shots, which are helpful so that the program need not be open in front of you (though that would be highly recommended) and he does not miss anything major. Every little function is explained to the point. I should add that this book is not a complete reference manual. The author merely elucidates how he uses the various features of ChessBase for his specific purposes (scenarios).

      That said however, if you are a serious chess player, this book should be on your desk. And although the book was written with Chessbase 12 in mind, it still works with the latest release of Chessbase 13.

      The only sore point is that the images used in the book could have been good quality colour images to better illustrate and engage the reader’s eye. Hence my half-star less in the rating.

      My rating of this book 4.5 out of 5.

      Get it here at Amazon (US)

      Get it at BookDepository (UK) 

      Get it at Amazon (India)