The story of how I became a chess author goes like this.
In 1975 my late friend and colleague Mike Fox and I started Richmond Junior Chess Club. Mike worked in advertising: a few years later his job took him to Birmingham, and we kept in touch only sporadically. One of his clients was Rolls Royce: he devised a series of adverts for them based on unlikely facts about their cars. The campaign was highly successful: RR suggested that they could turn the adverts into a book and put them in touch with Faber & Faber. As a result of this, Rolls Royce: The Complete Works by Mike Fox and Steve Smith was born. The book became a best-seller, and the publishers asked Mike for another book, on whatever subject he chose. He decided that chess would be a suitable topic for a similar book and Faber & Faber, who had several chess books on their list, including Fischer’s My 60 Memorable Games, agreed. One day in February 1986, while I was sitting in my London office wondering how to get out of a dead-end job, the phone rang. “Hello Richard, it’s Mike. This phone call could change your life.” And it did.
So The Complete Chess Addict was born: perhaps I’ll write more about this when I can’t think of anything else to write about children’s chess, but not now. Again, the book was successful, so I suggested to Faber & Faber that perhaps I could write a chess book for children. I envisaged three volumes covering what I considered to be the three stages of children’s chess development: Vision, Calculation, Judgement, and the first volume, Move One!, was published in 1990. I wrote Move Two! and Faber & Faber, after some thought, decided they wanted to publish it. I think The Even More Complete Chess Addict (1993), a new edition published to coincide with the Kasparov-Short match, was, apart from some problem books by Sir Jeremy Morse (which I presume he funded himself) their last chess book. But before things progressed any further they decided to pull out of publishing chess books and sold the rights of their chess titles to a Bridge publishing company, who in turn sold them to Batsford. For this reason Move Two! was never published, even though I think it’s the best, or at least the most useful book I’ve written.
There are many books for beginners which introduce young children to the game. There are many more books for adults of club standard and above. But there’s very little for adult social players who would like to improve to reach club level, although Dan Heisman is now writing very successfully for this market. And there’s also very little for children who know the basics but want to take the game further. Move Two! was written for this market, and I still use it today for private pupils at this level. After a few years I decided that the tactical material was too hard for children who, if they were playing in tournaments, needed to read the opening and ending sections, but now I’ve changed my mind and think the book stands up well. If children are spending time solving tactical puzzles on a regular basis, as I recommend elsewhere, they will be able to cope with the tactics chapters without too much trouble.
The book comprises 16 chapters, alternating opening, middle game and ending, along with quizzes, other activities, and, uniquely, at the end of each chapter, Masters of the Universe, a history of world championship chess up to that point, with, in each section, two games, often played by future world champions in their youth. I’m very much in favour of teaching chess culture and history.
The book is currently available for free download at chessKIDS academy (http://www.chesskids.com/grownups/move2.pdf): there are some typos (you don’t need to tell me: I know where they are) and it needs updating to take the last 20 years of chess history into account. Perhaps one day I’ll do this and publish it as an e-book if I can’t find a publisher. I really ought to think about Move Three! as well, although it probably needs a stronger player than me as co-author.
Future articles will consider Move Two! in more detail and look at the thinking behind its contents.