I have finally worked my way through all the instructional chapters of book 1, with just the final exam left to complete. My progress has not been as fast as anticipated, but I hope those readers who are also doing the challenge are managing to stay on track.
Book 1, Chapter 18
This chapter was about calculating forced variations. I found some of the calculations a bit of a grind, but managed to complete them accurately in the end, dropping just one point.
Time spent: 1 hour 55 minutes (35 reading, 70 solving, 10 marking/reviewing)
Book 1, Chapter 19
The theme here was combinations to promote a pawn. As with some previous chapters, the topic led me to the answer quite easily in most cases, but I did learn one useful motif which I wasn’t really aware of before: namely that of attacking a knight on the 8th rank with a pawn on the 7th, thereby threatening to promote in two ways. This particular vulnerability of the knight also seems to work one rank further back (with the pawn on the 6th/3rd rank) if the knight is on b2, g2, g7 or b7.
Time spent: 1 hour 5 minutes (20 reading, 40 solving, 5 marking)
Book 1, Chapter 20
Weak points was the topic of this chapter, with some nice strategic examples from the classics to illustrate it. I tried not to overthink the solutions, just scanning the position for a weak square and trying to find a natural way to exploit it, rather than attempting to calculate exhaustively. The approach worked pretty well, and I think is the right way to go in this sort of position in a practical game, though I did drop a couple of points on exercise 20-9.
Time spent: 1 hour 15 minutes (30 reading, 45 solving, 5 marking)
Book 1, Chapter 21
More pawn combinations. I went for Ne8+ rather than the book’s Be7 on exercise 21-7, but as my variation is also clearly winning I didn’t deduct points.
Time spent: 55 minutes (10 reading, 35 solving, 10 marking)
Book 1, Chapter 22
This was a useful chapter for me, as it digs deep into the idea of a ‘wrong-coloured’ bishop in endings with a rook pawn. Whilst the basic fortress (shown in the diagram below) is straightforward once you know it, there are some nice nuances in reaching it.
Time spent: 1 hour 10 minutes (20 reading, 45 solving, 5 marking)
Book 1, Chapter 23
No matter how many times I see smothered mate, it never fails to bring a smile to my face. This chapter introduced a few fresh examples. I’ve yet to get this in an over-the-board game, but have done in online blitz. Let me know in the comments below if you have had the opportunity to give smothered mate.
Time spent: 55 minutes (10 reading, 40 solving, 5 marking)
Book 1, Chapter 24
Despite playing the open games for the entirety of my chess career to date, there are still plenty of gambits which make me uncomfortable. That was the topic of this chapter, and I dropped a lot of points (though this was likely in part due to fatigue). I may return to this chapter at some point, and certainly need to brush up on my opening theory in a number of gambits.
Time spent: 55 minutes (15 reading, 35 solving, 5 marking)
Those of you who are doing the challenge, or have completed the chapters I have written about here, do let me know how you got on / are getting on in the comments below.