Sherlock's Method

“His idea in the book is to help players train for tournaments by working on all aspects of the game and analyzing problems in a healthy way. They have a wide variety of themes from a wide variety of players". ~ GM Magesh Panchanathan

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It was the year 2001 and I was representing India at the Asian Youth Championship playing against some of the best young talent in Asia. It was the penultimate round and I was up against this young Iranian player, Elshan Moradiabadi. Our scores were similar, indicating that our playing strengths were almost equal. I came in aggressive, but Elshan was able to defend against my attack and push me to the brink of defeat with an extra pawn in a rook and pawn end. I had to fight for 81 moves before I could get boards in that game. When I shook his hand with a sigh of relief, I did not realize that we would be entangled in this long journey of playing and teaching chess together. Over the years, Elshan and I have faced off in several other games. While we both share a great friendship off the board, we've always fought hard on the board. That's how we've always played chess; that's the passion we share for this beautiful game.

I remember watching the U.S. Women's Championship games. Live in 2017, and the clear favorite in the last game was WGM Sabina Foisor. He had to deal with a lot of nerves and was facing an important match against the young and talented Apurva Virkud. I remember watching the game closely and thinking it's never easy for the leading player to win those games because they have everything to lose. I didn't know Sabina personally at the time, but I was very happy to see that she not only came out with a win, but she played with style with a nice queen sacrifice at the end. Since then, I have met Sabina personally and can say that she brings the same kind of sincerity and passion to the game of chess. Elshan and Sabina make a great team, like Sherlock and Watson in your book.

The book covers exactly what it promises to cover; they have a little bit of everything in the examples, from silent knight manoeuvres to elegant sacrifices. His idea in the book is to help players train for tournaments by working on all aspects of the game and analyzing problems in a healthy way. They have a wide variety of themes from a wide variety of players. For example, there is a beautiful tactical game exercise by former world champion Viswanathan Anand against super grandmaster Alexander Grischuk. As you solve the problem and move on, you'll see another exercise played by your students with a score around 1300. This is a beautiful way of illustrating that chess is chess, no matter who's playing it. Just a warning to the reader, the latter is much harder to decipher! Some of the examples like Jeffrey Xiong without a queen trap or Nihal Sarin without a simple way to control an open line to gain an advantage show that even the best make mistakes. While there may be easy puzzles you can solve in a few minutes or real Titanic puzzles that take hours to learn, you need to train with them constantly.

In chess, there are two main methods for finding the best move: one is abstract, thinking in terms of ideas and the other is exact, thinking in terms of moves and variations. In my opinion, this is one of the hardest skills to acquire: knowing when to think in terms of movements and when to think in terms of ideas. Books often try to address one or the other, but they don't give us a complete picture of the game. As promised in their book, Elshan and Sabina are focusing on all of this. By mixing up the thought process, they keep readers in doubt, and that's a very useful training exercise when you're preparing for a real tournament. When Ding Liren is playing, no one is there to tell him to look for a forced Knight sacrifice to open his opponent's king instead of thinking of an abstract idea to improve his position. The same applies to the brilliant retreat of the queen of Jobava to expose the black king on a weak diagonal. In both cases, once the player found the idea/movement, the game was essentially over, but they had to do it in real time.

Adding a nice story with Sherlock and Watson increases the book's entertainment value; it's a good way to add fun to the hard chess training readers are about to endure. By mixing themes and varying the difficulty level, Elshan and Sabina have found a good training tool for tournament players. Most training methods focus on specific topics to help familiarize players with the hope that the large amount of work done on that topic will help the player recognize the pattern in a practical game. While learning each subject in depth is an irreplaceable method of study, it is always intended for a longer period and also requires considerable time. The best training you can do right before a tournament has to be something that can emulate the tournament situation as much as possible. In this book, Elshan and Sabina have addressed that requirement for players.

Cary, NC - May of 2020

~ GM Magesh Panchanathan

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No Pages
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23.5 x 17cm



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