Gata Kamsky was born in 1974 in Siberia. When moved to Leningrad he became a student of the renowned veteran trainer, who had coached since about 1945, witness Spassky and Korchnoi ! and author (‘Improve Your Chess Results’ and ‘The King’s Gambit’ with Viktor K), Vladimir Zak. At 12 he won the USSR Junior Championship. However, early journeys into the top game were not always successful and his fast track was criticised even by Botvinnik himself.
His father brought Gata up alone and loomed large in the prodigy’s life, Kamsky Senior even stopping Short in his tracks (“Where is your father?”). He was moved to the USA in 1989 but, sadly, has recently stated that he was never fully accepted. He became GM shortly afterwards.
Although a 1996 FIDE World Championship challenger, he lost a well contested match versus Karpov, whereupon Kamsky Senior announced Gata intention to pursue a career in medicine. He had withdrawn from the game, was seeking a teenage bride, and by order!
This book deals with the first part of an incredible career up to 1996. It centres on 22 games, all against fellow grandmasters, all with very deep notes. The text lacks an index. No attempt is made to list his tournament record, or give family photos or reminiscence. It is the first of two volumes, the second yet to appear.
A recent interview on ‘Perpetual Chess Podcast’ saw Gata labeling himself an advocate of the Lasker School. He emerges from an era when preparation might even be considered cheating. a big fan of endgame studies. Further, he is revealed as almost humble, of great depth who, the introduction to his book states, as author, seems to want to be compared with Fischer. I don’t agree but, BCN, as ever, welcomes correspondence here.
Potential buyers of this book, which is subtitled ‘Awakening’ should definitely listen in to his interview and please let us know what you think.
The Chigorin defence to the Ruy Lopez comes about when black plays the closed 5…Be7 variation and play continues 6.Re1 b5 7.Bb3 d6 8.c3 00 9.h3 now black unleashes 9…Na5.
The opening is named after the Russian player Mikhail Ivanovich Chigorin (1850 to 1908) who twice played Wilhelm Steinitz for the world title, losing on both occasions.
The authors of the book are Dutch Grandmaster Ivan Sokolov and Spanish (appropriately enough !) Grandmaster Ivan Salgado Lopez.
Anyone playing the black side of 1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 has to face the problem of how to get equality after 3.Bb5 undoubtedly the most challenging move. White’s normal strategy will often be to play for a kingside attack and therefore black needs to find a good defence that gives him equal chances and the opportunity to take over the initiative if white goes astray. The two Ivans offer a defence to the Ruy Lopez that seems to do that and one which is a lot more interesting than the (in my opinion) boring (according to many!) Berlin Defence.
Firstly, I was surprised to learn that this opening variation was first played by (1910 World Championship Challenger) Carl Schlechter in 1902 and his opponent was Dr. Siegbert Tarrasch. Chigorin himself played the defence twice but it was Akiba Rubinstein who made the opening popular playing it many times against world class opponents. Later on Capablanca, Lasker, Botvinnik, Euwe, Reshevsky and particularly Paul Keres all helped to make it a popular response to the Spanish Opening.
The book starts out by discussing early games and detailing middle game plans for Black. The first variation to be discussed in detail is 10.Bc2 c5 11.d4 Qc7 12.Nbd2 citing the stem game Lasker vs Tarrasch giving an excellent example of how black should play the position. A whole chapter then looks at the games of Paul Keres (most of which he won) however it does not include his famous game v Robert James Fischer (Zurich 1959) which is nevertheless analysed in another chapter : Fischer won that historic encounter.
An attractive (and unusual ) feature of this book is that it also points out best lines for White to play rather than simply evangelizing the Chigorin Variation from Black’s perspective. An example of this is when black chooses 11…Bb7 over 11…Qc7 and after 12.d5! it is difficult for black to activate the bishop or the knight on a5.
A better 11th move for Black is Nd7 which features in several games. Here again the author’s point out that 12.d5 is playing into blacks’ hand as he plays Nb6 intending f5. A better try is 12.a4 as a number of high level games demonstrate.
The latter part of the book discusses much theory and sums up which lines are promising for each player and which are to be avoided.
Summing up, I would say that this is an excellent book and any player studying it is likely to be better prepared than their opponent for sure.
Colin Lyne, Farnborough, Hampshire, April 16th, 2019
After four years, ending in 2014, of working with the Bulgarian Grandmaster, Veselin Topalov, the second (“a Second generally has to work at night, often all night”) to the former FIDE World Champion speaks of his duties, preparation and with colour (“He fought like a lion for 71 moves”). It is a tale of dedication and loyalty to a seemingly fearsome character. (Presumably this could not have been written whilst the author, who is also the Managing Editor of Thinkers series, was under contract?!)
Chapters: A World Apart. The Start of Our Co-operation. Learning the Job. Zug More Success! Tough Times in Thessalonika. Rollercoaster in Beijing! Preparing for the Candidates. The Candidates Tournament. A Few Novelties More. Exercises 24 positions and Solutions.
Many annotated games, mostly recent, no Rabars but ratings quoted. Use of smaller diagrams in notes (good!). A few cartoons and 7 crosstables. Very artistic colour cover. No index.
Digestible and thorough and, happily, honest. The author has been a French grandmaster for the last decade.
This is a relaxed and almost carefree publication written by a grandmaster little known to me, though I imagine readers of BCN will not confuse him with Gennady Kuzmin (b.1946). Alexey was, in fact, born in 1963 and is sensibly introduced on the back of this weighty paperback, a recent arrival from Thinkers Publishing who are, in turn, a new publisher in the realm of the Royal Game.
The subject matter is the Candidates tournaments and matches – almost all staged within FIDE – and bears the sub-title ‘Budapest 1950 to Berlin 2018’.
Certainly the book, which features test positions, crosstables, black and white photos, no index, a very artistic aqua marine cover, six chapters, a key to symbols and, of course, well annotated games, should be of interest to many players. Not all the games are from candidates matches or tournaments but this surely doesn’t matter. And I did say it has relaxed in approach.
Younger readers will, I hope, enjoy a bit of history as the qualification history is relived and the old names, so many champions from the time of Botvinnik onwards, are resurrected respectfully and with relish.
I spotted a few mistakes. The numbering of the Tests, which surely might have been sequential, is the same in each chapter. Jussupow called himself Yusupov as long ago as 1986 and some of the photos are so dark that they are hardly worthwhile.
I would like to like this book but it is a bit of a mix, a hotch-potch, at least in my opinion. Certainly it is pleasantly free from misprints and original in concept.
James Pratt, Basingstoke, April 2019
Book Details :
Papercover : 280 pages
Publisher: Thinkers Publishing, (1st January 2019)
FIDE Master Graham Burgess needs no introduction to readers of English language chess books ! Minnesota, USA based, Graham has authored more than twenty five books and edited at least 250 and is editorial director of Gambit Publications Ltd. In 1994 Graham set a world record for marathon blitz playing and has been champion of the Danish region of Funen !
Readers may remember “101 Chess Opening Surprises” published in 1998, also by Gambit Publications, was well received and added to GKBs reputation for originality, accuracy and encyclopedic knowledge of openings.
Chess Opening Traps for Kids is the fifth in a series of “for Kids” books and is robustly (!) hardbound in a convenient size such that weights are not need to keep it propped open (unlike some A5 paperbacks) meaning studying with this book is more convenient than with many books. The layout and printing is clear (as you would expect with Gambit) with numerous diagrams at key moments in each, relatively short, game. In essence, players under 18 (for whom this book is intended) will find it easy to dip in out of and it can be used without a board (although BCN would always recommend following each game on a “proper” board).
As you would expect with Gambit, the notation is English short form algebraic using figurines for pieces. One slight criticism is that the diagrams do not have “whose move it is” indicator. We know that many readers like to see this on all diagrams. However, each diagram does have coordinates; welcome for the junior readership.
Graham has identified and described 100 unique themes (usually tactical) that lead to relatively short wins out of the opening, many of which could be termed “miniatures”. An example theme is “Drag the King Out with Nxf7” : “Sometimes players leave f7 so weak that a knight sacrifice on that square wins by force. The signs to look out for are a queen that can invade on e6 and other pieces ready to support the raid.” Under this theme the author presents three examples (typical for each theme) from different openings plus supporting analysis and explanation.
A range of openings are demonstrated that yield a similar trap. For example, The Siberian Trap is shown from the usual perspective of the Sicilian Defence and the Queen’s Gambit Accepted. In the main, the author does not get bogged down giving details of who were the players of the games and when and where they were played but does in a few cases where the players are especially well known.
The author’s explanations and language are clear, concise and presented with a friendly and engaging style. There are numerous cross references to other themes when an idea uses a previously mentioned one. All of this contributes to the learning experience and the pattern recognition aspects of chess that are especially important for young players in their formative years. Thankfully, there is no recourse to engine evaluations and the emphasis is to use one’s personal brain engine in making an assessment. (One of our bugbears as chess teachers and coaches is juniors increasingly relying on engine assessments rather than their own brains).
Having worked through the 100 themes the student is presented with 48 exercises (with solutions) that test the students understanding (not memory) of what they hopefully have learnt.
Finally there are useful tips on further improvement and how to make progress.
In summary, this is an excellent book with much original material presented in a clear and friendly way and therefore to be recommended.
One negative comment we would make concerns the cover. “Never judge a book by its cover” we are told and you might look at this book cover and think it was suitable for say primary aged children. I would say not but I would suggest it suitable from secondary aged children. I would say strong juniors from 12 upwards would read this book and enjoy it.
Apart from the “move indicator” we would like to see an index of openings from which the theme examples were obtained.
The title and cover might, perhaps, put off the adult club player market. However, the content is totally suitable for adult club players upto say 180 ECF or 2000 Elo.
John Upham, Cove, Hampshire, April 5th 2019
Book Details :
Hardcover : 128 pages
Publisher: Gambit Publications Ltd. (1st February 2019)