Book Review 'Amateur To IM: Proven Ideas and Training Methods by Jonathan Hawkins' Episode One

Book Review 'Amateur To IM: Proven Ideas and Training Methods by Jonathan Hawkins' Episode One

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Those who are looking for chess books, very well know that it is quite impossible to select one book and finish reading them. Because there are a lot of books! Those books are well designed to fall in love at first sight for, their covers are awesome, forewords are written by well-known players, and conveys intensely instructive games of the masters, etc.

When I decided to read books for my own improvement, I fell into the same kind of trap, to be honest. I first started judging them by the reviews (which is obviously an initial process), and then to some extent, by their covers, authors, etc. But soon I learned, if you do not decide quickly, you are going to be a slave to the invisible and useless choice of your subconscious mind.

According to me, what you need to do are:

  • Identify your weakness
  • First work on them on your own
  • After coming to a certain level and with less weakness, you will have a more clear vision to look for the book suggestions

That's how I came to a conclusion and decided to start reading this particular book. Let's talk about it now.

Amateur To IM: Proven Ideas and Training Methods by Jonathan Hawkins

Mongoose Press’s book Amateur to IM has some genuine feedbacks and wild ratings in GoodReads from readers across the world.

The book has three parts and each part has numerous lessons which cover a wide area of basic ideas, techniques, etc. This is entirely from my perspective, not a professional review rather an amateur one hoping to get there where this book promised (sort of) to take.


Jonathan Hawkins is an English player who became an FM in 2008, IM in 2010, and GM in 2014. He published this book in 2012 when he was an IM.

British Chess News

According to Jonathan:

I always had quite a strong memory for chess. Ever since I learned the game I could recall all of my games - and the games of others - easily. So openings were my topic of study and I could memorize opening theory with no problem. I actually made some improvement in playing strength with this rather artificial method of study. At some point though, this all changed and I became addicted to studying the endgame. I filled notebook after notebook with endgame analysis. This is what led to my biggest improvement. It also felt as if my better understanding helped me to assimilate more knowledge.

The subject of this book is particularly the Endgame. In an answer to ‘Why this subject’, Jonathan wrote from his experience:

The simple answer is that I am convinced a careful study of the endgame sparked the biggest leap forward in my own game.


The book is split into two main parts; the first half is quite lightweight and focuses on some thinking techniques, principles, and some essential theoretical endgames. The author also mentioned the second part as ‘quite deep and involves analysis and discussion of some very specific types of the endgame.’

I will be reviewing the parts quite slowly yet extensively as I am still on the journey of reading the book and hoping to finish this with a clear view.

So for now, let’s jump into Part One: Thinking Techniques

This part (especially, lesson one) is about:

  • the calculation in the endgame.
  • We will see some references and some certain points from where we will stop calculating and start evaluating the positions.

The author also says, right after lesson one, in lesson two :

  • We will get to know the planning in the endgame.
  • We will learn the fundamentals
  • We will learn how to target a weakness, promote a pawn, or a combination of the two.

In lesson three :

  • We will get to know how the calculation will help us to realize a plan
  • We will get to know our starting point and the destination as well as the tactics which will make a bridge of connecting the two points together.
  • We will become aware of a more realistic goal.

And finally, in lesson four :

  • We will go through a little deeper at the planning
  • We will get to know some short term plans and how they will improve our position
  • Grand ideas to win (or draw) the game
  • We will learn to recognize the knowledge in our games which we learned throughout the lessons in the book, and
  • And thus, we will be able to execute those smoothly.

For lesson one, reference points in calculation, Hawkins presented a game that demonstrates the ideas of calculation.

(White to play and win)

Try to solve this position on a board and let me know what was your thought process.

Meanwhile, Hawkins presented his idea and shared it with us. This goes like this :

27. Nc8+! Nc5

27. ....Qc5 28. Qxc5+ Nxc5 29. Rd8#

27......Ke8 28. Qe7#

28. Qxc5+ Qxc5 29. Rd8#

Hawkins says, the problem was made easier for us for the following reasons :

  • We knew White had a winning position
  • We had obvious points at which to stop our calculation, namely when Black was checkmated.

Puzzles have this sort of 'thing'. When you see 'White to move and win', you immediately think of the following two ideas :

  • Checkmate.
  • Decisive win of material.

The idea that strong players calculate to the end, seeing everything along the way, is simply not true. In certain situations, they will calculate deeply because the position demands it.

In this part, Hawkins also mentioned the Lesson Aims :

  • Realize the importance of calculating with a goal in mind.
  • Master the concept of key squares in king and pawn endgames.
  • Understand the ideas of opposition and outflanking in king and pawn endgames.
  • Realize the importance of having an arsenal of positions we can evaluate accurately without calculation.

Hawkins talks about the Key Squares in the endgame of the king and king vs. pawn. Here is an example, white to play, but can he win?

If the pawn is in 6th rank, there's a modification of the rule, which goes by the name of 'Squeezing'. For example, in the following position, Black faces the squeeze. It's white to move :

The book has a very important section named: 'Theoretical Notes'

In this section, Hawkins introduced:

  • Opposition
  • Distant opposition and outflanking

Hawkins defined the term opposition as :

If we can draw on the board a rectangle with all four vertices the same color, and if the two kings stand on two of these vertices, then the side who is to move does not have the opposition.

White to play. Who has the opposition?

That's it for now. I will be back with another episode of the review and I will interpret Lesson Two of the book. Let me know your suggestions about the review, and also tell me which book you did enjoy the most!

Meanwhile, you can check my other blogs out. See the memes Part One, Part Two and Part Three!