A few chestnuts more

by Jonathan Speelman
5/15/2022 – Unashamed ultra-violence. Jon Speelman continues to share findings from his bookshelf, and today explores Irving Chernev’s “The 1000 best short games of chess”, a collection of miniatures first published in 1957. Speelman adds notes to selected games from the collection of thud and blunder.

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Thud and blunder

[Note that Jon Speelman also looks at the content of the article in video format, here embedded at the end of the article.]

Irving ChernevAfter A fistful of chestnuts a fortnight ago, it was fairly inevitable — even though I’m not personally greatly enamoured of occidental cinematographic pasta — that we’d move on to A few chestnuts more.

With this in mind, I moved to the right along my bookshelf, away from Euwe and Kramer and Suetin, and then my eye happened to travel up a shelf to where I found Irving Chernev’s The 1000 best short games of chess.

After verifying that 1000(!) is not a misprint, it was obvious that this collection, first published in 1957, would be bigger on quantity than quality. But scanning through (looking at the pictures — or diagrams if you want to be technical) I did find lots of enjoyable games, if a paucity of credible variations before the violent dénouements, and I’m looking at a few of these today, all from the first 150 of the 1000.

Before that, a small moment from the recent tournament in Bucharest, which vividly highlights in a microcosm the relationship between material and activity on the chessboard.


A strong player should see immediately that White should retreat Bd3 and that dxe3 then would be close to suicidal (in fact, it’s utterly fatal). But I’m interested, partly from a teaching perspective, in how strong a player needs to be for this to be obvious? Rapport’s clever reply of ...e5-4 then diffused the position immediately.

We move on to Chernev’s mega-collection of thud and blunder. I’ve given the game numbers in the book, in case anybody has a copy, and added some notes as well.


Select an entry from the list to switch between games

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Jonathan Speelman, born in 1956, studied mathematics but became a professional chess player in 1977. He was a member of the English Olympic team from 1980–2006 and three times British Champion. He played twice in Candidates Tournaments, reaching the semi-final in 1989. He twice seconded a World Championship challenger: Nigel Short and then Viswanathan Anand against Garry Kasparov in London 1993 and New York 1995.