Former World Chess Championship Challenger Nigel Short has written his first book, Winning. The English Chess Federation selected Winning as one of four books under consideration for its 2021 “Book of the Year.” Although Winning did not win, it got a special mention. Like Nigel Short the chess commentator, Nigel Short the chess writer is educational and entertaining.
Don’t Stop Me Now
Each chapter of Short’s book is named after a song. Quality Chess provides a PDF excerpt from the chapter named after Queen’s Don’t Stop Me Now. Some of its lyrics are “I’m having such a good time. I’m having a ball. (Don’t stop me now).” That’s how I felt when I watched Nigel Short commentate for FIDE on the January 2020 Women’s World Chess Championship. Often, I would stay awake from 11:30 p.m. to 4:00 a.m. to watch live, even though FIDE also archives broadcasts on YouTube.
In addition to explaining openings, strategy, tactics, and endgames, Short shared his views without hesitation. For example, he discussed his motion to ban smoking in all FIDE tournament areas, including break areas, and his thoughts on transgender competitors. He said he might become “Nigella” so he could play for the Women’s World Chess Championship, as alluded to in this Tweet. Was he making a joke? Maybe, and I felt compelled to keep watching so I wouldn’t miss any of the fun. It seemed like Short enjoyed commentating as much as I enjoyed watching him. He was, to quote Queen’s lyrics, “having a ball.”
Openings and Opinions
Likewise, Short seems to enjoy writing and the reader is carried along with his enthusiasm. I read every page of Winning. I learned more about some openings that I already play, like the Ruy Lopez, Exchange Variation; the French Defense, Rubenstein Variation; and the Dutch Defense, Stonewall Variation. He doesn’t recommend the latter two. There were also many games with the Sicilian Defense, usually with Short playing the White side. Short’s annotations show the value of preparing good openings for specific opponents.
I also enjoyed Short’s opinions. Especially when they happened to agree with mine! One of his favorite early chess books was Grandmaster Raymond Keene’s Leonid Stein: Master of Attack. That was one of my favorites too; I still have my hardback copy of it. Stein could play 1. g3 and win, which I always hoped to do too.
I wrote about queen sacrifices by top-level players in a previous SparkChess article. Short sacrifices his queen in several games in Winning. But the PDF preview gives a position requiring the sacrifice of a different piece. Your hints are “clearance sacrifice” and “interference” and it is White (Short) to move against Grandmaster Ljubomir Ljubojevic.
Book of the Year Nominee
For the four books up for the English Chess Federation’s 2021 “Book of the Year” award, and for a brief description of each, go to this link. As mentioned, Short’s book was one of the contenders. Winning ended up with a special mention, see this link for the winner announced on October 8, 2021.