All posts by Richard Webb

Richard Webb is a FIDE Master and plays for 4NCL Crowthorne and Crowthorne. Richard lives in Basingstoke, Hampshire and is a software engineer.

The Art of the Endgame: My Journeys in the Magical World of Endgame Studies

The Art of the Endgame
My Journeys in the Magical World of Endgame Studies
Revised Edition – with 14 New Studies
by Jan Timman

From the publisher, New in Chess:

“All through his career Jan Timman has been captivated by the mystery and splendour of endgame studies. Even during his most successful and busy years as a world-class player, Timman continued to compose studies and admire those of others. For him, there has never been any doubt that his journeys in this magical world helped him to grow as a player.

In this fascinating book, first published in 2011, Timman has collected studies by other composers and explains in his lucid style how they inspired him to create dozens of brand-new studies.

Timman has revised the book for this new edition. With the help of engines, Timman discovered that a few studies needed to be corrected or had alternative solutions. He removed six studies and replaced another six with better versions. And fourteen new studies have been added, two of which are published here for the first time.”

About the Author, Jan Timman:

“Jan Timman is a former world championship candidate who rose to number two on the FIDE world rankings. He is the author of several highly acclaimed bestsellers, such as Timman’s Titans and Max Euwe’s Best Games. He was awarded the title of FIDE Master of Composition in 2022.”

GM Jan Timman
GM Jan Timman

This book is a gem and I do remember perusing the first edition at a bookstall a while back, now I have a copy of the second edition.

There is no doubt that familiarity with ideas from endgame studies improves a player’s overall chess ability and imagination.

The reviewer was introduced to endgame studies at a tournament in London when he was junior: I was having lunch in the analysis room, when an older gentlemen showed some Harold Lommer studies involving knight promotions which got me hooked. The acquisition of Test Tube Chess by John Roycroft soon followed.

Jan Timman’s book has a variety of positions some of which are really “game like” whilst others are artistic beauties involving for example multiple promotions.

The book is divided into fourteen themed chapters viz:

Chapter 1: Miniature studies
Chapter 2: Rook versus bishop
Chapter 3: Preventing pawn promotion
Chapter 4: Various promotion combinations
Chapter 5: Knight promotions
Chapter 6: Bishop promotions
Chapter 7: Mating patterns
Chapter 8: Stalemate patterns
Chapter 9: Mutual zugzwang
Chapter 10: Building a fortress
Chapter 11: Systematic manoeuvres
Chapter 12: The disappearing trick
Chapter 13: Three themes
Chapter 14: Various endgame studies

The reviewer will show a variety of positions from various subsections.

Chapter 1: Miniature studies

These are positions with no more than seven pieces. This one is particularly beautiful with a mutual zugzwang.

Position 1

Liburkin
Liburkin, ’64’ 1933 White to play and win

White is a pawn up with black’s king close to the passed pawn, so white needs something special here.
1.Kd1 pins the knight forcing  1…Kf5 2.Ke2 threatening to win the knight. Black bishop’s impedes his king, so he goes after the h-pawn with 2…Bf6 3.Kf3 Bxh4

Liburkin 1934 After 3...Bxh4
Liburkin 1934 After 3…Bxh4

If white takes the bishop 4.Nxh4+ Kg5 attacking the knight saves black. So 4.Bxe4+ Kg5 5.Bd5!Kh5 6.Bf7+ Kg5 7.Be8

Liburkin 1934 After 7.Be8
Liburkin 1934 After 7.Be8

Black is zugzwang and loses the bishop and the game. Note this is a position of mutual zugzwang as white has no good waiting move and cannot win with the move! Very pretty.

Chapter 2: Rook versus bishop

This is the most practical chapter with studies in the complex endgame of R+P v B+P.

Position 18

Reshevsky-Fischer, Los Angeles match (11) Position after 52...Ra2+
Reshevsky-Fischer, Los Angeles match (11) Position after 52…Ra2+

This is a celebrated position where Reshevsky played 53.Kf3? with Fischer missing a clear win by exchanging rooks and occupying g4 with his king. Instead Fischer kept the rooks on. White draws with 53.Kh3!

This study was created to show this:

Position 19

Study based on Reshevsky-Fischer game White to play and draw
Study based on Reshevsky-Fischer game White to play and draw

1.Kg2! Kf5 2.Kh3 Rc4 3.Be7! the only move 3…Rc1 4.Bf8! (The bishop hides itself to prevent a rook check followed by attacking the bishop to allow black to get in Kg4) 4…Rb1 5. Bg7 or 5.Bh6 draws

Chapter 3: Preventing pawn promotion

This is a famous promotion combination from a game which resembles the elegance of a study:

Position 44

Ortueta-Sanz Madrid 1933 Position after 30.h3
Ortueta-Sanz Madrid 1933 Position after 30.h3

Black played 30…Rd2 31.Na4 (31.a4 was better) 31…Rxb2! 32.Nxb2 c3 33.Rxb6 c4!! 34.Rb4 a5!! winning

Ortueta-Sanz Madrid 1933 Position after 34...a5
Ortueta-Sanz Madrid 1933 Position after 34…a5

White cannot prevent the coronation of a new  queen.

The great composer, Pogosyants composed a study with a very similar theme:

Position 46

Pogosyants 1977 White to play and win
Pogosyants, ‘Themes-64’ 1977 White to play and win

The solution is 1.Bg3 dxc4 2.Rxg7! Nxg7 3.f6 Rxg3 4.f5!! Rg5 5.f4! Nxf5 6.f7 wins

Chapter 4: Various promotion combinations

Position 69

Wotawa Schach Magazin 1951 White to play and win
Wotawa Schach Magazin 1951 White to play and win

A game like position. 1.d6 Be5 2.Bb8 threatening d7 winning the bishop, so 2…Bf6 3.d7 Bd8 apparently saving the bishop, but 4.Bg3! a4 5.Bh4! Bxh4 6.g4+ and wins

Chapter 5: Knight promotions

Here is a superb Harold Lommer study with multiple promotions:

Position 96

Lommer 1933 White to play and win
Lommer, ‘Feuille d’Avis de Lausanne’ 1933 White to play and win

White is threatened with a brutal discovered mate by the black monarch. So 1.d8N Bd5 2.g8B!! (2.g8Q allows black a brilliant defence  2…Ke3+ 3.Qxd5 stalemate!) 2… Be4 3.e8R!! (3.e8Q allows another fantastic defence 3…Kg3+ 4.Qxe4 stalemate!) and wins

A brilliant study has with stunning counterplay.

Position 97 shows a famous Lommer involving 5 knight promotions, but unfortunately after the fourth promotion, there is alternative prosaic win promoting to a queen.

Chapter 6: Bishop promotions

Position 112

Rusinek 1971 White to
Rusinek ‘New Statesman’ 1971 White to play and draw

White has an army of far advanced pawns against 3 minor pieces and a well placed black king.

1.a7 Ba6+ 2.b7 Ne4 threatening  Nd6# 3.g8N+ Ke8 4.Nf6+

Rusinek 1971 after 4.Nf6+
Rusinek 1971 after 4.Nf6+

If black plays 4…Ndxf6 5.Kb8 gets the king out of the mating trap, so 4…Nexf6 5.a8B!! (5.a8=Q? Nd5 followed by Ne7#)

Rusinek 1971 after 5.a8B
Rusinek 1971 after 5.a8B

White is attempting a self stalemate, so black must release this and rearrange his pieces. 5…Ne5 (5…Bf1 6.b8N! draws) 6.Kb8 Nc6+ 7.Kc8 Bf1 threatening Bh3# 8.b8R!! (8.b8Q? Ba6+ 9.Qb7 Ne4 10.Qxa6 Nd6#, or 8.b8N? Ne7+ 9.Kb7 Bg2+ 10.Ka7 Nc8+ wins the bishop on a8 and the game)

Rusinek 1971 after 8.b8R
Rusinek 1971 after 8.b8R

8…Ba6+ 9.Rb7! with a draw

Scintillating promotion play.

Position 124

This is a creation of genius and very amusing.

Troitsky, Korolkov 1938-1939 White to play and win
Troitzky, Korolkov 1938-1939 White to play and win

The great Troitzky is involved here. Black threatens a brutal Ng3 mate. 1.Qc3!! (Threatening the key g7 pawn, 1.Qa3? is met by f1N reinforcing the threat on g3 winning for black) 1…Nxc3 2.d8B!! (Not 2.d8Q? Nde4 3.Qxc7 f1N 4.Bf4 Ne2 followed by sacrificing all the knights ending with Qxg3 stalemate) 2…Ne2 3.Bxc7 f1N 4.b8B!! (4.b8Q allows black to sacrifice all the knights on g3 ending with Qg3 stalemate) 4…Ne4 5.B1f4 winning as the three white bishops control the three knights.

Troitzky, Korolkov 1938-1939 Position after 5.B1f4
Troitzky, Korolkov 1938-1939 Position after 5.B1f4

Who says there is no humour in chess?

Chapter 7: Mating patterns

Here is an elegant study by the author, Jan Timman:

Position 163

Timman 2010 White to play and win
Timman 2010 White to play and win

1.h5 preventing Bxa2 as Rd7+ would win easily 1…Kh6 2.Rd8! Bxa2 3.Rh8! Bg8! great counterplay

Timman 2010 Position after 3...Bg8
Timman 2010 Position after 3…Bg8

4.Kc3 a2 5.Kb2 a3+ 6.Ka1 Kg7 7.h6+

Timman 2010 Position after 7.h6+
Timman 2010 Position after 7.h6+

7…Kxh8 8.g7 mate

Chapter 8: Stalemate patterns

Position 167

Rusinek 1973 white to play and draw
Rusinek 1973 White to play and draw

Stalemate looks unlikely here. 1.b6 must be played as white is two pieces down 1…Rf5 2.b7! Rf7+ 3.Kd6 Nc4+ 4.Ke6 Bxb7 5.Rh3+ Kg7 6.Rf3+ Kf8

Rusinek 1973 position after 6...Kf8
Rusinek 1973 position after 6…Kf8

7.Rg8+! Kxg8 stalemate!

Chapter 9: Mutual Zugzwang

Position 189

Here is an entertaining position:

Kliatskin 1924 White to play and win
Kliatskin 1924 White to play and win

1.Rc8+ Kxc8 2.b7+ Kb8 3.d5 Kc7

Kliatskin 1924 Position after 3...Kc7
Kliatskin 1924 Position after 3…Kc7

Now only 4.bxa8B! Kb8 5.Bb7 wins with a position of mutual zugzwang

Chapter 10: Building a fortress

Position 203

Smyslov 2005 White to play and draw
Smyslov 2005 White to play and draw

The elderly former World Champion, Smyslov, composed this amusing study in his eighties. 1.Nb8 Rd6 2.Nd7+! Rxd7 3.Rxg7! Kxg7 4.h4

Smyslov 2005 Position after 4.h4
Smyslov 2005 Position after 4.h4

After 4…Rd6 5.Kg2 Rg6+ 6.Kh3! black has to move the rook off the g-file to avoid stalemate, so white draws!

Chapter 11: Systematic manoeuvres

Kotov, Mitrofanov 1976 White to play and draw
Kotov, Mitrofanov 1976 White to play and draw

The reviewer assumes this is the Mitrofanov of Qg5!! fame.

White plays 1.Rf8+ Bf2 2.g8Q Rxf8 3.c5! 

Kotov, Mitrofanov 1976 Position after 3.c5
Kotov, Mitrofanov 1976 Position after 3.c5

3…Rf7 4.Qg7! Rf6 5.Qg6! Rf5 7.Qg5! Rf4 8.Qg4! Rxf4 stalemate

Chapter 12: The disappearing trick

The disappearing trick is a kind of systematic manoeuvre whereby white plays to achieve a particular position without a certain white piece. This is demonstrated below with a neat study.

Position 260

Sochniev, Gurgenidze JT 2004 White to play and win
Sochniev, Gurgenidze JT 2004 White to play and win

1.Nd6+ (to create two dangerous passed pawns) cxd6 2.Kh6 Rf6+ 3.Kh5 Rf5+ 4.Kg4 Rf4+ 5.Kh3! Rxf3+

Sochniev, Gurgenidze JT 2004 Position after 5...Rxf3+
Sochniev, Gurgenidze JT 2004 Position after 5…Rxf3+

Now the king sneaks back minus the f-pawn.

6.Kg4 Rf4+ 7.Kh5 Rf5+ 8.Kh6 Rf6+ 9.Kh7 Rf5

Sochniev, Gurgenidze JT 2004 Position after 11...Rf5
Sochniev, Gurgenidze JT 2004 Position after 9…Rf5

10.Rf1! (The point of removing the f-pawn) Rxf1 11.c7 Rf5 12.d8N+ Rxd8 13.cxd8N+

Sochniev, Gurgenidze JT 2004 Position after cxd8N+
Sochniev, Gurgenidze JT 2004 Position after cxd8N+

13…Kf6 (otherwise white promotes to a queen) 14.g8N mate Brilliant!

The last two chapters are short with some pretty positions.

I heartily recommend this labour of love to the endgame study which will give the reader many pleasurable hours.

FM Richard Webb

FM Richard Webb, Basingstoke, Hampshire, 15th June 2024

Book Details :

  • Hardcover : 248 pages
  • Publisher:New in Chess (31 Aug. 2023)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10:9083328414
  • ISBN-13: 978-9083328416
  • Product Dimensions: ‎7.3 x 2 x 23.7 cm

Official web site of New in Chess

GM Jan Timman
GM Jan Timman
The Art of the Endgame: My Journeys in the Magical World of Endgame Studies, Jan Timman, New in Chess, ISBN-13: 978-9083328416
The Art of the Endgame: My Journeys in the Magical World of Endgame Studies, Jan Timman, New in Chess, ISBN-13: 978-9083328416

King’s Indian Killer: The Harry Attack

King’s Indian Killer: The Harry Attack by Richard Palliser & Simon Williams

From the publisher, Everyman Chess:

“Do you want a simple and practical method to counter Black’s kingside fianchetto defences after 1 d4? A line that takes the initiative from a very early stage and creates difficult practical problems? If so, then The Harry Attack (1 d4 Nf6 2 c4 g6 3 h4!) is for you.

At first this looks like some sort of joke or, at the very least, a weird outlandish line. Aren’t we all taught to focus on development and control of the centre in the early stages? What’s 3 h4 got to do with that? Perhaps surprisingly, this is a very difficult line for Black to counter effectively. This applies not just in practical play but also theoretically, where it is far from straightforward for Black even to find a route to equality. And when Black gets it wrong they are often on the receiving end of a very unpleasant miniature.

You may be thinking that surely the best chess engines can show how to counter this line? No! One of the unexpected features of leading engine play is their enthusiasm for shoving the h-pawn up the board and they fully concur that 3 h4! is a very decent move for White.

Many leading players have taken the hint and 3 h4 is frequently seen at elite level. Richard Palliser and Simon Williams (the GingerGM) provide a thorough guide to this fascinating line. They show how to adapt when Black chooses a King’s Indian set-up, a Grunfeld set-up, a Benoni set-up or even plays in Benko style.

The Harry Attack is easy to learn and is perfect for unsettling players steeped in the theory of their favourite Indian defences.”

Simon Williams is a Grandmaster, a well-known presenter and a widely-followed streamer, as well as a popular writer whose previous books have received great praise. He is much admired for his dynamic and spontaneous attacking style.

 

GM Simon Williams
GM Simon Williams

Richard Palliser is an International Master and the editor of CHESS Magazine. In 2006 he became Joint British Rapidplay Champion and in 2019 finished third in the British Championship. He has established a reputation as a skilled chess writer and written many works for Everyman, including the bestselling The Complete Chess Workout.

IM Richard Palliser
IM Richard Palliser

Harry is a nickname for the h-pawn. The Harry Attack is 1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 g6 3.h4!?

Although this book is titled as an anti-King’s Indian system, it is also aimed at the Gruenfeld Defence as the book explains.

The reviewer likes the book and despite his initial scepticism about the Harry Attack (based on his ignorance), has come to realise that this is a serious system that cannot be refuted: in fact it has been adopted at the highest levels. It is not just a one trick pony with the crude idea of hacking down the h-file, it is a sophisticated scheme with many facets including space gain. After just one or two careless moves, black can easily find himself/herself being suffocated, devoid of counterplay.

Of course, it is an “anti-book/theory” system aimed at getting the opponent out of their familiar territory. As ever, these fresh systems soon acquire a fair body of theory!

This book is suitable for club players and above. Chapter 2 gives a pertinent precis of the whole system which would be perfectly adequate for a less experienced player to play the variation with confidence.

The book is divided into seven main chapters:

Chapter 1: Model Games
Chapter 2: The Basic Repertoire
Chapter 3:  Gruenfeldesque Lines
Chapter 4:  Black Obstructs Harry
Chapter 5: Other Third Move Alternatives to 3…Bg7
Chapter 6: King’s Indian Style 3…Bg7
Chapter 7: The Main Line: 3…Bg7 and 6…c5

Chapter 1: Model Games

This is a really good section that shows many of the key ideas of the Harry Attack.  There are six model games that are definitely worth studying. A summary of these games is:

  • Games 1, 2 & 3 show typical continuations if black replies with the Gruenfeld move d5 on moves 3 or 4
    Chapter 3 covers this in more depth
  • Game 4 showcases black blocking Harry with 3…h5
    Chapter 4 gives further coverage when black blocks Harry
  • Game 5 introduces the second player responding in a Modern Benoni fashion
    Chapter 7 gives good guidance on this main line
  • Game 6 demonstrates Peter Svidler responding in Benko Gambit style
    Chapter 7 also presents this important system in more detail

The first two games show black’s difficulties if he insists on playing a Gruenfeld setup. viz: 1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 g6 3.h4!? Bg7 4.Nc3 d5?!

Basman - Grinberg Ramat Hasharon 1980
Basman – Grinberg Ramat Hasharon 1980 White to move

Game 1 is a superb model game from the late and great Mike Basman.

After 5.h5! Nxh5 6.cxd5 c6 (6…e6 is a more modern try but white has powerful riposte with an excellent pawn sacrifice covered in Chapter 3. Buy the book to find out.) 7.e4! cxd5 8.e5! A well judged pawn sac’ from the creative Basman viz:

Excellent pawn sac 8.e5
Basman – Grinberg 1980 Excellent pawn sac 8.e5 Black to move

White has a simple threat of 9.g4 winning the stranded knight, after 8…Bf8 9.Nf3 Nc6 (9…Bg4 10.Qb3! is awkward) 10.Qb3! white has a clear advantage:

Basman - Grinberg After 10.Qb3
Basman – Grinberg After 10.Qb3 Black to move

The next few moves showed what a pickle black is in 10…e6 11.g4! Ng7 12.Bh6! reaching this horror show for black:

Basman - Grinberg After 12.Bh6
Basman – Grinberg After 12.Bh6 Black to move

The knight on g7 is particularly awkward. Basman went on to win a fine game.

The second illustrative game shows one of the authors, Simon Williams, in scintillating form beating Katarzyna Toma following the Mike Basman game until move 9, where black varied with 9…Ng7, white responded with the natural 10.Qb3!

Williams - Toma 10.Qb3
Williams – Toma 10.Qb3 Black to move

Stockfish gives this as a clear plus to white. Simon went on to win a fine game.

Chapter 2: The Basic Repertoire

This section gives the reader a quick overview of the repertoire against black’s main tries. It is a useful introduction to all the subsequent chapters. As I stated above, this chapter is adequate coverage for a less experienced player to play this system.

Chapter 3:  Gruenfeldesque Lines

As already mentioned, this covers black’s attempt at an early d5.

Stockfish does not like 4…d5 and  gives 5.h5! with an edge for white already!

4...d5 5.h5
4…d5 5.h5 Black to move

Black’s best move, according to the engine, appears to be the nonchalant 5…0-0 completely ignoring white’s attack! 6.hxg6 hxg6 7.cxd5 Nxd5 8.Bh6!

4...d5 early h-file attack
Basman – Grinberg 1980 4…d5 early h-file attack Black to move

This is looks scary for black, but he can defend with 8…Bxh6! 9.Rxh6 Kg7! Nevertheless, white is still for choice here owing to his extra space, central control and the initiative. This is covered in some detail in Chapter 3.
Beware Gruenfeld players!

Chapter 4:  Black Obstructs Harry

Black can block the h-pawn with 3…h6 or 3…h5 which is committal.
The obstructive 3…h5 can lead to either KID or Gruenfeld lines with the extra h4 and h5 moves thrown in. Who does this favour? White can profitably occupy g5 with a bishop or knight that cannot be kicked with h6. Buy the book to find out.

Chapter 5: Other Third Move Alternatives to 3…Bg7

This chapter important alternatives such as the super solid 3…c6 and the more aggressive 3…c5 which can lead to Benoni or Benko Gambit type positions.

The solid 3…c6 cannot be a bad move. White responds by going into a Schlechter Slav viz: 4.Nc3 d5 5.cxd5 cxd5 6.Bf4 Nc6 7.e3 Bg7 8.Be2 h5 9.Nf3 0-0 10.Qb3

Exchange Slav type position 10.Qb3
Exchange Slav type position 10.Qb3 Black to play

White has a pull here and his position is easier to play. The line given in the book involves black playing a5 a few moves later which is a little compliant creating weaknesses.

After the Benko Gambit type response viz: 1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 g6 3.h4  c5 4.d5 b5!? 5.cxb5 a6 6.e3!

Benko Response 6.e3
Benko Response 6.e3 Black to play

White plays solidly and intends to use b5 as an outpost to slow black’s counterplay. Clearly black has some compensation here but not a full pawn’s worth. A critical line here may be 6…Bg7 7.Nc3  0-0 8.a4! e6!? This is covered in the book.

Chapter 6: King’s Indian Style 3…Bg7

This and the final chapter are probably the key chapters for more experienced players who want to get to the meaty main lines.

Chapter 7: The Main Line: 3…Bg7 and 6…c5

After these natural moves 1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 g6 3.h4 Bg7 4.Nc3 d6 5.e4 0-0 6.Be2 c5 7.d5 e6 8.h5 exd5 9.exd5! Re8 10.h6! Bh8  11.Bg5, this tabiya is reached:

Main tabiya
Main tabiya after 11.Bg5 Black to move

This is a hot position played quite a bit at the top level. The open e-file may look scary for white, but the king can slide to f1. White’s space advantage is significant and black can have difficulties finding counterplay. Stockfish gives white about a small advantage. More important than that is understanding the ideas in this interesting position. Get the book to further your knowledge.

For those competitors fed up with meeting reams of KID or Gruenfeld theory, I recommend giving The Harry Attack a go!

FM Richard Webb, Chineham, Hampshire, 9th June 2024

FM Richard Webb
FM Richard Webb

Book Details :

  • Paperback: 400 pages
  • Publisher:  Everyman Chess (12 Jun. 2023)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1781947066
  • ISBN-13: 978-1781947067
  • Product Dimensions: 17.17 x 1.4 x 23.39 cm

Official web site of Everyman Chess

King's Indian Killer: The Harry Attack, Simon Williams and Richard Palliser, Everyman Chess, ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-1781947067
King’s Indian Killer: The Harry Attack, Simon Williams and Richard Palliser, Everyman Chess, ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-1781947067

Understanding Pawn Endgames

Understanding Pawn Endgames: Valentin Bogdanov

From the publisher, Gambit Publications “Understanding the endgame is fundamental to playing good chess, and at its heart lie positions where just kings and pawns remain on the board.

Even when a pawn ending is not actually reached, the players must often assess ones that could arise from an exchange of pieces. And an error calculating a pawn ending is normally fatal. Questions of pawn-structure, and thus decisions made early in the game, can be fully understood only when we appreciate how they impact the possible pawn endings.

This book takes a practical angle, so is the perfect complement to Secrets of Pawn Endings, which examines their theory in detail. Experienced trainer Bogdanov examines a wealth of pawn endings where strong players made significant errors, and draws lessons and rules of thumb from them.

While we are enjoying the entertaining material in this book, we are painlessly absorbing endgame principles and improving our intuitive decision-making skills. We learn how to calculate and identify key positional elements, and appreciate the beautiful tactics and paradoxical ideas that are unique to the world of pawns.

The Nunn Convention is used throughout the book, and all the material has been checked in detail with modern NNUE-based engines with access to seven-man tablebases.”

International Master Valentin Bogdanov has vast experience as a chess trainer, and is from Ukraine. His pupils include grandmasters Moskalenko, Savchenko and Drozdovsky, and he has acted as a second for the well-known grandmaster and theoretician Viacheslav Eingorn since the late 1970s.

For 50 years he has been a teacher at the chess school in Odesa (Ukraine), and in 2016 won the European Over-65 Championship. In the same year he also qualified as an International Arbiter and has since then officiated over a great many chess events in his country.

This is his fourth book for Gambit.

IM Valentin Bogdanov (UKR)
IM Valentin Bogdanov (UKR)

Before we start our review it is worth watching this video preview from John Nunn and Gambit Publications:

This is a excellent book that has an emphasis on practical king and pawn endgames. All the examples are taken from 1981 onwards which means that the reader will see novel positions rather than a rehash of old favourites. The other fresh approach is the structure of the ten chapters based on themes rather than the number of pawns. This book is not for beginners or very inexperienced club players as it assumes a basic knowledge of elementary pawn endgames. It is aimed at 1750+ chess enthusiasts but ambitious lower rated readers will benefit from some of the easier examples. The more difficult positions will tax GMs. This book would be ideal material for a coach for training purposes to give the students a toolkit of ideas.

The chapter structure is as follows:

Chapter 1: Obvious Errors
Chapter 2: Breakthrough
Chapter 3: Zugzwang
Chapter 4: Opposition and Corresponding Squares
Chapter 5:Spare Tempi
Chapter 6: The Fight To Promote
Chapter 7: Changing the Pawn-Structure
Chapter 8: Calculation
Chapter 9: Evaluating the Resulting Queen Endings
Chapter 10: Positional Play

The reviewer will  show examples distributed from all the chapters to give the reader a flavour of this instructional idyll.

Chapter 1: Obvious Errors

Position 21

Movsesian-Sadvakasov Calvia Olympiad 2004
Movsesian-Sadvakasov Calvia Olympiad 2004              White to play

White, Movsesian, a 2600+ GM played the dreadful blunder 59.Kc6? (throwing away a totally winning pawn endgame. 59.Kc5! wins as the threat is to play Kb4 which will preserve white’s remaining pawn as a b-pawn with the king in front and a reserve tempo move of b3, if 59…a3 60.bxa3! Ke7 61. Kc6 Kd8 62.Kb7! and the a-pawn promotes) 59…Ke6 60.Kb5 reaching this position:

Movsesian-Sadvakasov Move 60 Calvia Olympiad 2004
Movsesian-Sadvakasov Calvia Olympiad 2004 Move 60 Black to play

Now, black drew with a common, but nevertheless neat idea:
60…a3! (transforming white’s pawn into a now useless a-pawn, as black’s king is just close enough to draw) 61.bxa3! Kd7! 62.Kb6 Kc8! reaching c8 with an elementary draw

Position 22

Forcen Esteban - Lagarde
Forcen Esteban – Lagarde Internet rapid 2019 Move 83 Black to play

This position is simpler than the last one.
Both players are rated well over 2500!
Black is to play here and after the obvious 83..b3, it is crystal clear to a novice player that both sides are going to promote with a draw, even though white promotes first. If 83…Kb7 trying to impede the advance of the d-pawn, white can play 84.Kf6 making sure that the d-pawn does promote with a stone cold draw.
Black played 83…Kb8? (Placing the king on the back rank presumably in the mistaken belief that he could stop the white pawn from promoting. 84.Kf6! b3 85.d7! followed by promoting with check, winning the game, thanks to black’s foolish Kb8 move!

Chapter 2: Breakthrough

This is a key topic in pawn endings and there are many beautiful examples. Sometimes, the threat of a breakthrough can limit the opponent’s king manoeuvres, thus winning the game indirectly.
Once a player has seen some pretty examples of this theme, they are never forgotten.

Position 33

Nikolic-Lautier Reykjavik rapid 2004
Nikolic-Lautier Reykjavik rapid 2004                                   White to play

White missed a chance for a standard breakthrough against black’s mangled pawns viz: 35.h5 Kd7 36.g5 reaching this key position:

Nikolic-Lautier Reykjavik rapid 2005 Move 36
Nikolic-Lautier Reykjavik rapid 2005 Move 36                 Black to move

Now there are two main variations:

A) 36…Ke8 37.gxh6! Kf8 38.Kc2 Kg8 39.Kb3

Nikolic-Lautier Reykjavik rapid 2005 variation A
Nikolic-Lautier Reykjavik rapid 2005 variation A

and white wins the race to get a new queen for example: 39… Kh7 (39…a5 40.a4 breaks through) 40.Kb4 Kxh6 41.Kc5 Kxh5 42.Kxd5 Kg4 43.Kc6 Kxf4 44.d5 wins easily

B) 36…fxg5 37.fxg5! Ke8 38.gxh6! Kf8 39.Ke3

Nikolic-Lautier Reykjavik rapid 2005 variation B
Nikolic-Lautier Reykjavik rapid 2005 variation B

39…Kg8 40.Kf4 Kh7 41.Kg5 winning

Back to the original position: white played 35.Kc2? f5! 36.g5 h5! 37. Kb3 draw agreed

Position 36

Gashimov-Anastasian Dubai 2003 Move 53
Gashimov-Anastasian Dubai 2003 Move 53                     White to play

White has an outside passed a-pawn and was probably dreaming of swapping his a-pawn for black’s c-pawn, leaving black to deal with an outside passed b-pawn, while white’s king mops up the king side pawns winning the game, hence his next move 53.Kc3?

A more alert white player would have spotted the danger of black’s advanced kingside pawns. It might look as though black can only create a passed e-pawn as his extra kingside pawn is on the e-file, but this an illusion: black can now breakthrough creating a pawn configuration that ties down the white king permanently, thus allowing black to win on the queenside. Once seen never forgotten!
53…e4! would have won threatening e3 or f3 winning, if 54.Kd2 f3! 55.gxf3 exf3 reaching a position similar to the game

53…Kd5? 54.a4? Pursing his faulty plan, 54.Kd2! would have drawn 54…e4! 55.Kd2 (55.gxf4 allows an immediate breakthrough 55…e3! 56.fxe3 h4! and the h-pawn queens) 55…f3! 56.gxf3 exf3! reaching this position:

Gashimov-Anastasian Dubai 2003 Move 56
Gashimov-Anastasian Dubai 2003 Move 56                    White to play

White’s king is tied down and cannot cross to the c-file as this allows a decisive breakthrough of h4! Therefore black’s king can invade on the queenside with decisive gains viz: 57.Ke3 Kc5 58.Ke4 Kb4 59.Kd4 Kxa4 60.Kxc4 h4 61.b3+ Ka3 62.gxh4 g3! 63.Kd4 0-1

Position 38

Mamedyarov-Sokolov Hoogeveen 2006
Mamedyarov-Sokolov Hoogeveen 2006                             White to play

White missed the elegant 59.f5! b3 60.Kc3! Kd5 61.e6 fxe6 62.f6 62…gxf6 63.h5! and the h-pawn queens.

White played 59.Kc4? and still won after black missed a draw.

Chapter 3: Zugzwang

Here is a subtle example, but nevertheless didactic:

Position 56

Grabarczyk - Rustemov
Grabarczyk – Rustemov Koszalin 1997                                 Black to play

This ending looks like an easy win for black with a extra passed pawn. But be careful!
Black played the natural 52…Kg5? which throws away the win. This won’t become clear for a few moves. 52…Kg6! wins
53.f4+ exf3 54.Kxf3! h5 55.Kg3! reaching a position of mutual zugzwang:

Grabarczyk-Rustemov Mutual Zugzwang
Grabarczyk-Rustemov Mutual Zugzwang

If black had played 52…Kg6, white would be on move here and would be lost as 56.Kh3 or 56.Kf3 would be met by 56…h4 and any other king move would allow 56…Kg4 winning easily.

The game continued 55…h4+ 56.Kf3! Kh5 57.Kf4! Kh6 58.e4! h3 59.Kg3 drawn

Chapter 4: Opposition and Corresponding Squares

The introduction to this chapter is excellent explaining the concept of the opposition, the distant opposition, corresponding squares and triangulation.

Here is a simple example from a game between players rated in the 2400s:

Position 70

Heim - Helmers Reykjavik 1981
Heim – Helmers Reykjavik 1981                                               White to play

White played the “active” 55.Ke4? (55.Kf2! maintaining the distant opposition draws a textbook ending) 55…Ke6! winning the opposition 56. Kf3 Kd5 bypassing 57.Ke3 Ke5! 58.Kf3 Kd4 (another bypass) 59.Kf2 Kd3 60.Kf3 g4+ and white threw in the towel

Chapter 5: Spare Tempi

Position 105

Siugirov - Lupulescu Jerusalem 2015
Siugirov – Lupulescu Jerusalem 2015                                     Black to Play

The author’s explanation of black’s defensive plan here is pithy and pedagogical:

“Black’s defensive plan is to let White  take the a7-pawn and then block the king in permanently in front of his own a-pawn. For this idea to work, Black needs a spare tempo on the kingside, as otherwise he will be forced to release the white king from its a-file prison. Immediately fixing the kingside pawns by 43…g5!? secures two such tempi and is the simplest path to a draw viz: 44.Kc6 Ke5 45.Kb7 Kd6! 46.Kxa7 Kc7! 47.h3 h6 48.a6 h5!”

Siugirov - Lupulescu Jerusalem 2016 Trapped king
Siugirov – Lupulescu Jerusalem 2016 Trapped king

White does not enough tempi to release his imprisoned king.

In practice Black played 43…Kd7 which retains the draw but mis-defended on the next move and lost.

Interestingly, I had a similar position in a game many decades ago with reversed flanks. I won the game and proudly showed the endgame to a friend, who promptly demonstrated a drawing plan for my opponent identical to this game.

Chapter 6: The Fight To Promote

Mchedlishvili - Jankovic
Mchedlishvili – Jankovic Dubai 2009                                     White to move

White totally mis-assessed the resulting king and pawn endgame after the exchange of queens here. He probably thought that his connected passed pawns on the kingside were at least a match for black’s queenside majority. 

34.Qxf7+? Kxf7 35.g4 a5 36.Kf2 c5 37.Ke3 d5 38.Kd3 a5 reaching this position:

Mchedlishvili - Jankovic Winning queenside majority
Mchedlishvili – Jankovic Winning queenside majority

What white missed was that black can create a passed a-pawn and a passed d-pawn (separated by two files) and these pawns can reach the fifth rank safely which means they are unstoppable.

White played the desperate 39.c4 dxc4+ (39…bxc4+ also wins) 40.Kc3 a3 41.h4 Kg6 42.g5 h5 43.Kd2 b4 44.Kc2 c3 white resigned

7: Changing the Pawn-Structure

This is one of the most complex chapters and the hardest to evaluate in practice.

The reviewer will show an excellent example to show a typical idea:

Position 153

Kasparov - Azmaiparashvili Geropotamos rapid 2003
Kasparov – Azmaiparashvili Geropotamos rapid 2003  Black to play

Black played the automatic 46…Kc6? White won with a well known technique exploiting the fact that his king is one move ahead in the race to the kingside 47.h4! f5 48.g3! Kc5 (48…Kc7 49.Ka7 Kc6 50.Kb8 wins) 49.Kb7! and black resigned because of this variation: 49…b5 50.axb5 Kxb5 51.Kc7 Kc4 52.Kd6 Kd3 53.Ke6 Ke3 54.Kf6 Kf3 55.Kxg6! Kxg3

Kasparov - Azmaiparashvili Geropotamos rapid 2004 possible continuation
Kasparov – Azmaiparashvili Geropotamos rapid 2004 possible continuation White to play

56.Kg5! winning

Going back to the original position:

Kasparov - Azmaiparashvili Geropotamos rapid 2003
Kasparov – Azmaiparashvili Geropotamos rapid 2003  Black to play

Instead of the passive 46…Kc6? black can actively rearrange the kingside pawn structure to draw as follows:

46…h4! 47.Ka7 f5 48.h3

Kasparov - Azmaiparashvili Geropotamos rapid 2004 variation in missed draw
Kasparov – Azmaiparashvili Geropotamos rapid 2004 variation in missed draw Black to play

48…Kc6! 49.Kb8 Kc5 50.Kc7 Kb4 51.Kxb6 Kxa4 52.Kc5 Kb3! 53.Kd4 Kc2! 54. Ke5 Kd3 55.Kf6 Ke4 56.Kxg6 Kxf4! 57.Kf6!

Kasparov - Azmaiparashvili Geropotamos rapid 2004 variation in missed move 57
Kasparov – Azmaiparashvili Geropotamos rapid 2004 variation in missed draw move 57 Black to play

Black draws here with 57…Ke4! 58.Kg5 Ke5! 59.Kxh4 Kf4! 60.g4 (60.g3 Ke3 draws) 60…Ke5! 61.g5 f4! 62.Kg4 Ke4! leads to a drawn Q + h-pawn v Q endgame

Kasparov - Azmaiparashvili Geropotamos rapid 2004 variation in missed move 62
Kasparov – Azmaiparashvili Geropotamos rapid 2004 variation in missed draw move 62 White to play

Position 158

The reviewer loves this endgame.

Gelfand-Jobava (Move 50)
Gelfand-Jobava (Move 50)

This king and pawn ending is clearly drawn but white is pressing with a more advanced king. White played 50.h4 setting a subtle trap. 50…h5? losing, incredible to believe but it is true. 50…Kd7 draws, for example 51.g4 f6+ 52.Kd5 e6+ 53.Kc5 h6 54. e5 fxe5 55.fxe5 Kc7 seizing the opposition and drawing 51.f5! f6+ 52.Ke6! gxf5

Gelfand-Jobava (Move 53)
Gelfand-Jobava (Move 53)

Now white played 53. e5! which had been completed missed by black (automatic recapture syndrome) 53… fxe5 54.Kxe5! Kd7 55.Kxf5! Kd6 56.Kg5 Ke5 57.Kxh5! Kf4

Gelfand-Jobava (Move 57)
Gelfand-Jobava (Move 57)

Now white can enter a winning queen endgame with 58.Kg6! e5 59.h5! e4 60.h6! e3 61.h7! e2! 62.h8Q e1Q 

Gelfand - Jobava Dortmund 2006 Queen Ending
Gelfand – Jobava Dortmund 2006 Queen Ending            White to play

This looks drawn as the white g-pawn is only on the second rank and the black king is close to it. However, white has a series of checks to exploit the poor position of the black pieces viz:

63. Qb8+ Kg4 64. Qc8+ Kf4 (64…Kg3 65.Qh3! is the same as the game) 65. Qf5+ Kg3 66.Qh3+ Ke5 67.g4!

Gelfand - Jobava Dortmund 2006 Queen Ending Tablebase win
Gelfand – Jobava Dortmund 2006 Queen Ending Tablebase win

Surprisingly this is a tablebase win even though the g-pawn is only on the fourth rank. Looking more closely at the position, black’s pieces are badly placed with the king interfering with the queen. If the black king was in the south west corner, he would draw.

Gelfand did win this game about 50 moves later after mistakes by both sides.

Chapter 8: Calculation

Clearly this is absolutely critical in king and pawn endings.
Here is a relatively simple example:

Position 172

Ikonnikov - Liogky Paris 1998
Ikonnikov – Liogky Paris 1998 Black to play

Black played the obvious exchange 47…hxg5? which loses trivially 48.hxg5! Kf1 49.Kf3! Kg1 50.Kg3 (50.g6 Kh2 51.Kg4! also wins) 50…Kg1 51.g6! Black resigned as white’s king travels to f7 and black’s cannot get to h6 in time.

Ikonnikov - Liogky Paris 1999 End
Ikonnikov – Liogky Paris 1999 Final Position Black to play

Going back to the start:

Ikonnikov - Liogky Paris 1998
Ikonnikov – Liogky Paris 1998

Black can draw with 47…h5! After 48.g6 viz:

Ikonnikov - Liogky Paris 1999 Drawing Line
Ikonnikov – Liogky Paris 1999 Drawing Line

As soon as white plays Kxh5, black will answer Kf4 stalemate!
If white goes after the g-pawn, black draws by going after the h-pawn, for example 48…Kf1 49.Kf4 Kg2 50.Ke5 Kh3 51.Ke6 Kxh4 52.Kf7 Kg3 53.Kg7 h4 54.Kf6 h3 55.g7 h2 56.g8Q+ Kf2 drawing

Chapter 9: Evaluating the Resulting Queen Endings

The introduction to this chapter by the author is a superb summary of the intricacies of these transitions. The reviewer has already given an example from Chapter 7 (position 158), so I will leave the reader to buy the book to sample this chapter.

Chapter 10: Positional Play

Position 259

Radjabov - Ding Liren Internet rapid 2021
Radjabov – Ding Liren Internet rapid 2021 Black to play

This looks very difficult for black as not only does white have a potential outside passed pawn but also a better king. He played 52…Kc6? and lost. Buy the book to find out how black can draw or work it for yourself!

In summary, this is a really good book and close study will reap rewards.  The book is very well laid out and is easy to read with lots of diagrams. Thoroughly recommended.

FM Richard Webb, Chineham, Hampshire, 30th May 2021

FM Richard Webb
FM Richard Webb

Here is a pdf extract from Everyman

Book Details :

  • Hardcover : 192 pages
  • Publisher: Gambit Publications Ltd (16 Sept. 2020)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1911465597
  • ISBN-13: 978-1911465591
  • Product Dimensions: 17.15 x 1.52 x 24.77 cm

Official web site of Gambit Publications Ltd.

Understanding Pawn Endgames, Valentin Bogdanov, Gambit Publications, ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-1915328854
Understanding Pawn Endgames, Valentin Bogdanov, Gambit Publications, ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-1915328854

Unknown Weapons in the Grünfeld: Second revised and extended edition

From the Publisher, Thinkers Publishing:

“The Grunfeld Defence is one of the most dynamic openings for Black.

The opening was developed by two famous World Champions, namely Bobby Fischer and Garry Kasparov.

While theory is far from being exhausted and still developing, our author Grandmaster Milos Pavlovic made a strange case and found new alternatives to battle White’s setups. On top this book cuts through the dense theory that surrounds this opening and establishes a total new repertoire based around consistent strategies, concepts and novelties.

This is a fully revised and seriously extended edition of the original book published in 2017.”

About the Author:

“Grandmaster Milos Pavlovic was born in Belgrade in 1964. He has won many chess tournaments worldwide including becoming Yugoslav Champion in 1992. A well-known theoretician, he has published many well-received chess books and numerous articles in a variety of chess magazines. This is his 14th book for Thinkers Publishing.”

GM Milos Pavlovic
GM Milos Pavlovic

This is the fifth title from Milos Pavlovic that we have reviewed. Previously we have examined: The Modernized Marshall Attack, The Modernized Scotch Game: A Complete Repertoire for White and Black, The Modernized Stonewall Defence and The Modernized Colle-Zukertort Attack

This heavy theoretical book has 14 chapters:

Chapter 1 – Exchange Variation 7.Bc4 – with 11.Rc1
Chapter 2 – Exchange Variation 7.Bc4 – Sidelines
Chapter 3 – Modern Exchange Variation – 8.Rb1
Chapter 4 – Modern Exchange Variation – 7.Be3
Chapter 5 – Modern Exchange Variation – 7.Nf3 c5 – Sidelines
Chapter 6 – Exchange Variation – Alternatives on  move 7
Chapter 7 – Alternatives after 4.cxd5 Nxd5
Chapter 8 – 5.Qb3 – The Russian System
Chapter 9 – Early Qa4+
Chapter 10 – 4.Bf4
Chapter 11 – 5.Bg5 lines
Chapter 12 – 4.Nf3 Bg7 5.h4
Chapter 13 – 4.e3
Chapter 14 – Anti-Gruenfeld 3.f3

This theoretical tome is certainly a comprehensive guide to the contemporary opening theory of the Gruenfeld Defence from black’s point of view . It is certainly a repertoire book for black. There are pithy paragraphs that explain the ideas behind the moves but these are few and far between the dense variations. In my opinion, it is aimed at active 2000+ tournament players. This is in no way a criticism, but an inexperienced player wanting to learn the opening with just this book may be lost in a sea of variations without a mentor and/or a Gruenfeld primer book to explain the ideas.

In terms of layout, the book is easy to read, has sufficient accompanying text and plenty of diagrams  to be able to get a good grasp of the lines. The chapter structure is  logical with a strong bias toward the contemporary lines played at the top. This slant is perfectly reasonable as trendy lines trickle down to all levels.

This review will briefly summarise the suggested repertoire and highlight a few interesting variation choices from the author.

Chapter 1 covers the “old” Exchange after these moves:

1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 g6 3.Nc3 d5 4.cxd5 Nxd5 5.e4 Nxc3 6.bxc3 Bg7 7. Bc4 c5 8.Ne2 Nc6 9.Be3 0-0 10.0-0 b6 11.Rc1

Old Exchange 10...b6 11.Rc1
Diagram 1: Old Exchange Variation after10…b6 11.Rc1

The author has recommended the modern 10…b6 which is the key line now. This supersedes the old 10…Qc7 of Fischer-Spassky days.

The last line covered in this chapter is 11…Bb7 12.Bb3!?

Old Exchange After 12.Bb3
Diagram 2: Old Exchange after 10…b6 11.Rc1 Bb7 12.Bb3

The main move here is 12…cxd4 but the author suggests 12…Na5!? as an improvement. 13.d5 e6 14.c4 exd5 15.exd5 Re8

Old Exchange Suggestion
Diagram 3: After 15…Re8

The author gives 16.h3 (Stockfish suggests the irritating 16.Ba4 when 16…Re5 17.Qd3 17…a6 looks to equalise) 16…Bc8 a neat manoeuvre to rearrange black’s minor pieces to better posts 17.Ng3 Nb7 18.Qd2 Nd6 =
Back to the main line after 12…cxd4 13.cxd4 Na5 14.d5 reaching this position:

After 14.d5
Diagram 4: After 14.d5

I like the author’s didactic comment on this position, explaining white’s positional idea with 14.d5:
“That’s the idea. White doesn’t care about his bishop on b3; he wants to trade the dark-squared bishops on d4 and play a middlegame with a strong knight against a poor bishop on b7”
14…Qd6 15.Re1!?N (15.Bd4 Ba6! ridding black of his poor bishop by exploiting the pin on white’s e2 knight which equalises as played by Gruenfeld expert Grischuk)

After 15.Re1
Diagram 5: After 15.Re1

15…Rac8 16.Rxc8 (16.Qd2 Nxb3 17.axb3 f5! striking in the centre to equalise) 16…Rxc8 17.Bd4 Ba6 activating the prelate 18.Bxg7 Kxg7 19.Nd4!

After 19.Nd4
Diagram 6: After 19.Nd4

White has achieved his goal of centralising his horse although black has activated his bishop and rook. White’s plan is now to advance the h-pawn: black must not faff about. Hence 19…Qb4 20.h4 Qc3! 21.h5 Bd3 with equality.

Chapter 2 covers the “sidelines” other than 11.Rc1 from Diagram 1 above. Sidelines is a slight misnomer as these lines are all important.
The three moves covered are the solid 11.Qd2, the greedy 11.bxc5 and the aggressive 11.h4.

After 11.Qd2 a main line continuation with typical Gruenfeld moves is: 11…Bb7 12.Rad1 cxd4 13.cxd4 Rc8 14.Bh6 Na5! 15. Bxg7 Kxg7 16.Bd3 Nc4 17.Bxc4 Rxc4 reaching a balanced tabiya position where both sides have their trumps:

Navara - Ding Liren
Navara – Ding Prague 2019 after 17…Rxc4

The greedy 11.bxc5 is obviously critical as it wins a pawn but black has good positional compensation.

Old Exchange after 11.bxc5
Old Exchange after 10…b6 11.bxc5

After 11…Qc7! the obvious 12.cxb6 axb6 winning a pawn is dismissed briefly with a couple of variations. I do not disagree with the author that this line gives white no advantage, but black players should study this line in more detail, as it is common response from white players.

After 11…Qc7 12.Nd4  Ne5 13.Nb5 Qb8! reaches a key position:

11.bxc5 main line
11.bxc5 main line

There are two critical lines, the greedy 14.Bd5 and the more popular, solid 14.Be2
Both lines are covered in detail showing adequate play for black to equalise.

11.h4 is extremely interesting and in the author’s opinion, the critical test of 10…b6.

11.h4
Old Exchange Variation 10…b6 11.h4

Black should respond 11..e6 12.h5 Qh4

After 12...Qh4
After 12…Qh4

White has two main moves here, the reviewer will show a pretty line after the natural 13.hxg6 hxg6 14.f3 cxd4 15.cxd4 Rd8 16.Qd2

After 16.Qd2
After 16.Qd2

Black looks to be in trouble with 17.Bg5 threatened, however black calmly develops with 16…Bb7 offering a poisoned exchange, after 17.Bg5 17…Qh5 18.Bxd8 loses, after 18…Rxd8, the two bishops and white’s gapping black squares lead to defeat, for example 19.d5 Ne5 20.Rac1 Nxc4 21.Rxc4 Ba6 22.Ra4 Bh6 wins

13.Qc1 is much more dangerous, buy the book to find out how black neutralises this enterprising continuation.

Chapter 3 is all about the Modern Exchange variation with 8.Rb1.

As the author points out, this is a well-known weapon, and for a while, a few decades ago, created massive problems for the Gruenfeld opening.  Its fangs have now been drawn; at the moment there are at least two decent variations that equalise for black. Several recent Gruenfeld books such as those by Delchev and Kovalchuk recommend 8…0-0 9.Be2 Nc6 (with 13…Bc7!) which has been known for a while to be perfectly viable for equality. The reviewer thinks that line is perhaps simpler for black, but both that line and the author’s suggestion require a significant amount of theoretical knowledge.

After 1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 g6 3.Nc3 d5 4.cxd5 Nxd5 5.e4 Nxc3 6.bxc3 Bg7 7.Nf3 c5 8.Rb1 0-0 9.Be2 cxd4 10.cxd4 Qa5+

Pavlovic recommends the “old fashioned” Qa5+ taking the a2 pawn.

Modern Exchange after 10...Qa5
Modern Exchange after 10…Qa5+

11.Qd2 is rather anaemic, leading to an equal ending.

After 11.Bd2!? Qxa2 12.0-0 Bg4! Quick development to put pressure on the d4 pawn, not worrying about the b7 pawn.
13.Rxb7 leads to equality although black has to be careful.

Modern Exchange after 13.Rxb7
Modern Exchange after 13.Rxb7

Now 13…Bxf3 14.Bxf3 Bxd4 15.e5 Na6! 16.Rxe7 Rad8 is ok for black, the pressure on the d-file makes it hard for white to generate a serious initiative.

The last two sub-variations in this chapter are in a very sharp line:

Modern Exchange after 14.Bh4
Modern Exchange after 14.Bh4

The author gives two lines for black to achieve equality: 14..g5! and 14…a5! The fact there are two good lines indicates that the line is clearly satisfactory for black.

Chapter 4 covers 1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 g6 3.Nc3 d5 4.cxd5 Nxd5 5.e4 Nxc3 6.bxc3 Bg7 7.Be3 c5

This is a large chapter and one of the major white systems. There are many subtleties in  the placing of white’s rook on c1 or b1. The author has 15 principal lines.

This is the position in the 10.Rb1 line viz:

Modern Exchange after 10.Rb1
Modern Exchange after 10.Rb1

Pavlovic recommends two different variations for black here:

  • 10…cxd4 going into the queenless  middlegame
  • 10…a6 waiting and preventing Rb5

After 10…a6 white’s main move is 11.Rc1: white argues that 10…a6 has weakened black’s queenside.

Black again has two alternatives:

  • 11…cxd4 going into the queenless  middlegame
  • 11…Bg4 keeping the queens on

If instead of 10.Rb1 white plays 10.Rc1, Pavlovic unequivocally recommends 10…cxd4 11.cxd4 Qxd2+ as this ending is definitely ok for black.

White can play Be3 and Qd2 before Nf3:

Modern Exchange after 9.Rc1
Modern Exchange after 9.Rc1

In this, the recommended line is to exchange queens with 10…cxd4 11.cxd4 Qxd2+ which lead to an interesting ending where black is holding his own.

Chapter 5 covers 7.Nf3 c5 sidelines

These variations include:

  • 8.h3
  • 8.Be2
  • 8.Bb5+

I have never faced 8.h3 and have rarely met 8.Bb5+.
On the other hand, I have faced 8.Be2.

There is an exciting exchange sacrifice in this line viz:
1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 g6 3.Nc3 d5 4.cxd5 Nxd5 5.e4 Nxc3 6.bxc3 Bg7 7.Nf3 c5 8.Be2 Nc6 9.d5 (9.Be3 is inept 9…Bg4! and black is at least equal) 9…Bxc3+ 10.Bd2 Bxa1 11.Qxa1 Nd4 12.Nxd4 cxd4 13.Qxd4

Exchange Variation 8.Be2 after 13.Qxd4
Exchange Variation 8.Be2: main line after 13.Qxd4

Black has two moves, the obvious 13…f6 preserving the material advantage and the probably safer 13…0-0

After 13…f6, the author is of the opinion that 14.Bc4! is exciting and dangerous

After 13…0-0 white can regain the exchange with the obvious 14.Bh6 but loses time and forfeits castling rights after 14…Qa5+ 15.Kf1 f6 16.Bxf8 Rxf8 – this is equal

14.0-0 is more ambitious when 14…Qb6! 15.Qa1!? Bd7 16.Bh6 f6 17.Bxf8 Rxf8 18.Rb1 (18.Qb1 leads to a drawn bishop endgame) 18…Qc7 leads to approximate equality

Chapter 6 covers alternatives on move 7 in the Exchange Variation:

Exchange after 6...Bg7
Exchange after 6…Bg7

The book shows the following four alternatives:

  • 7.Ba3
  • 7. Bg5
  • 7.Bb5+
  • 7.Qa4+

These moves are rare: in full length games, the reviewer only recalls facing 7.Ba3 once, 7.Bg5 once and has never faced the other two.

Pavlovic handles these lines  well. It is interesting that his recommendation against Bb5+ is to play 7…c6 and then play for e5. Many books have suggested rapid queenside expansion for black.

Chapter 7 covers alternatives after 1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 g6 3.Nc3 d5 4.cxd5 Nxd5

The two lines covered are:

  • The exotic 5.Na4
  • The super trendy 5.Bd2 which is played at all levels

After 5.Na4

After 5.Na4 e5
After 5.Na4

Pavlovic recommends the dynamic 5…e5 striking in the centre which is the top engine suggestion. This draws the teeth of this extravagant knight move. (5…Nf6 6.Nc3 Nd5 7.Na4 has been played as a silly repetition draw).

5.Bd2 is a different kettle of fish, the idea is to recapture the knight on c3 with the bishop:

After 5.Bd2
After 5.Bd2

The author recommends a straightforward approach from black viz:
5…Bg7 6.e4 Bxc3 7.Bxc3 0-0 maintaining flexibility & waiting to see which setup white adopts.

After 7...0-0
After 7…0-0

The two main lines here are 8.Bc4 and 8.Qd2 which the author covers in great detail. Shirov’s idea of 8.h4!? is covered very briefly with a variation given that is far from best play for white.

In the reviewer’s opinion this is a very important chapter, as this variation is so popular to avoid main line theory. Ironically, this setup now has a large body of practice.

Chapter 8 covers the Russian System.  Pavlovic recommends the Prins Variation which is 7..Na6.

Prins Variation
Prins Variation

As the author points out, black can play this variation against many of white’s tricky move orders involving Qb3. The Prins Variation was often used by Garry Kasparov, so has an excellent pedigree. The reviewer loves this part of the repertoire as black avoids the Hungarian 7…a6 and 7…Nc6 which are both decent systems but very topical. Avoiding the most popular lines does have its advantages.

Chapter 9 covers Qa4+ ideas which is a short chapter. Qa4+ ideas are usually used as a move order trick to get black out of main line theory.

There are two really important positions in this chapter.

After 1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 g6 3.Nc3 d5 4.Nf3 Bg7 5.Qa4+ Bd7 6.Qb3 dxc4 7.Qxc4 0-0 8.Bf4

Early Qa4 with Bf4
Early Qa4 with Bf4

and after 1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 g6 3.Nc3 d5 4.Nf3 Bg7 5.Qa4+ Bd7 6.Qb3 dxc4 7.Qxc4 0-0 8.e4

Early Qa4 with e4
Early Qa4 with e4

White has played a move order to disrupt black’s development by giving him an extra move of Bd7. However, black can exploit the bishop on d7, to play 8…b5! in both positions gaining good play with this energic pawn sacrifice.

Chapter 10 covers the 4.Bf4 line which is very popular at club level and was played by Karpov against Kasparov.

The author gives three major sub-variations in the main line:

4.Bf4 main line
4.Bf4 main line

  • 14.g4
  • 14.Nxe4
  • 14.Nd5

All these lines are well known and black has equality with care.

Pavlovic suggests a really interesting idea early in one of the main lines which I had not seen before:

1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 g6 3.Nc3 d5 4.Bf4 Bg7 5.e3 c5 6.dxc5 Qa5 7.Rc1 Nbd7!?

4.Bf4 new move 7...Nbd7
4.Bf4 new move 7…Nbd7

Buy the book to find out about this excellent idea.

The idea is allied to another line:

1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 g6 3.Nc3 d5 4.Nf3 Bg7 5.Bf4 0-0 6.e3 c5 7.dxc5 Ne4! 8.Rc1 Nd7!

4.Bf4 another Nbd7 line
4.Bf4 an allied Nd7 line

Chapter 11 is all about Bg5 ideas which occur on move 4 or 5.

Against 1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 g6 3.Nc3 d5 4.Nf3 Bg7 5.Bg5, Pavlovic suggests the traditional 5…Ne4  and against 4.Bg5 he also approves of the knight move to e4.

The solid repertoire here is pretty well known and respectable.

Chapter 12 is a brief chapter on 1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 g6 3.Nc3 d5 4.Nf3 Bg7 5.h4!?

After 5.h4
After 5.h4

The author recommends 5…c6 which is solid and sensible. The author states this is an important new line: it has been around for decades.

After these sensible developing moves 6.cxd5 cxd5 7.Bf4 0-0 8.e3 Nc6 9.Be2 Bg4 resembles a Slav Defence.

Morozevich-Nepomniachtchi 2014
Morozevich-Nepomniachtchi 2014

White has absolutely nothing here. A draw was soon agreed.

Chapter 13 is about 4.e3 which is a solid continuation, not generally played by the top players. It covers a topical line:

1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 g6 3.Nc3 d5 4.e3 Bg7 5.cxd5 Nxd5

Quiet 4.e3
Quiet 4.e3

Now white draws the black queen into the centre with 6.Nxd5 Qxd5 only to manoeuvre his other knight to gain time 7.Ne2 0-0 8.Nc3 8…Qd6

After 8...Qd6
After 8…Qd6

But it’s all too slow really. After 9.Be2 black can play 9…c5! sacrificing a pawn for loads of play 10.Nxe4 (10.d5 is the main line but leads to nothing for white) 10…Qc7 11.Nxc5 e5 12.0-0 Rd8 13,Nb3 Nc6 reaching this position:

After 13...Nc6
After 13…Nc6

White can retain his extra pawn with 14.d5, but 14…e4! gains space and after 15.Qc2 Rxd5 16.Qe4 Be6 black has excellent play for a pawn.

The author fails to cover 6.Be2:

After 6.Be2
After 6.Be2

This is a solid line that can lead to a reversed Queen’s Gambit, Tarrasch after 6…c5 7.0-0 cxd4. I have faced this as black, against an an IM, so perhaps it should have been covered. Of course, the author has to make a decision on what to include: as this is not a fashionable line, I can understand why the line was omitted.

The final chapter covers 3.f3, a popular anti-Gruenfeld system.
The author recommends the “old” main line with 3…d5 which some authors have eschewed in favour of other systems such as 3…c5 transposing into a kind of Benoni or simply going into a King’s Indian Defence.

The key tabiya is this:

Ding-Gelfand Wenzhou 2015
Ding-Gelfand Wenzhou 2015

The analysis given by the author is an excellent coverage of all the critical lines from this position and happens to very largely agree with my own investigations.

Here is one fascinating endgame that results after 16.d6 e4! 17.fxe4 Ng4 18.Bg5 Qe8 19.Nf3 Rf7! 20.Qe1 Bxc3! 21.bxc3 Na4 22.Rc1 Nc5 23.Bc4 Be6 24.Bxe6 Qxe6 25.Be7 Nd3 26.Qd2 Nxc1 27.Ng5 Qxa2+ 28. Qxa2 Nxa2 29.Nxf7 Nxc3+ 30.Ka1  Kxf7 31.d7 Ra8 32.d8Q Rxd8 33.Bxd8 Nxe4 34.Rxb7 Ne3 35.Rb2 Kd5

3.f3 crazy forced line after 36...Kd5
3.f3 crazy forced line to 35…Kd5

This is a draw as white’s rook and king are passive. This occurred in a correspondence game and the reviewer has had it in an on-line blitz game: white allowed a perpetual with the two knights in a few moves.

The only major variation that has been missed from the book is the Fianchetto Variation which is pretty popular as a solid, positional line. In the reviewer’s last game with the Gruenfeld, he did indeed face a Fianchetto Variation. This is a significant omission but does not spoil an excellent publication on the Gruenfeld Defence.

The reviewer notes a fair few typos in the book.

FM Richard Webb, Basingstoke, Hampshire, 12th May 2024

FM Richard Webb
FM Richard Webb

Book Details :

  • Hardcover : 404 pages
  • Publisher:Thinkers Publishing; 2nd edition (2 May 2024)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 9464201967
  • ISBN-13:  978-9464201963
  • Product Dimensions: 17.78 x 3.81 x 24.77 cm

Official web site of Thinkers Publishing

Unknown Weapons in the Grünfeld: Second revised and extended edition, Thinkers Publishing, 978-9464201963, Milos Pavlovic
Unknown Weapons in the Grünfeld: Second revised and extended edition, Thinkers Publishing, 978-9464201963, Milos Pavlovic

The Exchange Sacrifice Unleashed: Power of Middlegame Knowledge

From the Publisher, Thinkers Publishing:

“The book you have just started reading is about a very interesting and difficult concept: the exchange sacrifice. This is the moment in chess when basic mathematics breaks down, the moment when 3 counts equal to or even more than 5. So let us leave the mathematics aside and try to figure out why this simple calculation is so difficult to understand.

The answer is largely hidden in psychology, as the ninth World Champion, Tigran Petrosian, has often told us, as the man who brought this strategic-tactical chess concept to its first peak. Chess beginners were taught the value of pieces by their teachers (parents, grandparents, perhaps at school or even later in the beginners’ sections of chess clubs).

We explain the difference between piece values to children in the simplest way possible, with the help of a unit of measurement, and in chess those units are the pawns. They tell us that a rook is worth five pawns (units) and a knight and a bishop are worth about three each. They also tell us to always be careful, especially during exchanges, to ensure we take at least as much from our opponent as he or she took from us. So, one rook at a time, perhaps for a bishop and a knight next to two pawns. This “chess thinking” is done quickly and very strongly subconsciously in most, one could even say all. Therefore, when choosing moves, we will automatically reject unfavourable exchanges. But who trades a queen for a knight, a bishop for a pawn, and the like? We know from our own life experience that it is better to have ten coins in our pocket than three, and I prefer three to one!

This psychological barrier is the most difficult step in making the decision to sacrifice. And so it is with the sacrifice of an exchange. Five for three, that is! Even five for four, if we get a pawn for the rook along with the knight or the bishop. “I am not stupid,” you think. The Exchange Sacrifice Unleashed brings different games or coaches try to explain this and that to us, we see that a material advantage is not always something to celebrate about.”

About the Author:

“Georg Mohr was born in Maribor, Slovenia in 1965 becoming a Grandmaster in 1997. He joined as a member of the FIDE Trainers Commission from 2002, becoming a FIDE Senior Trainer in 2004 and a FIDE International Organizer in 2011. Georg has been a professional chess trainer for many years. He was coach and captain of Slovenian national team from 2003 – 2010 and since 2011 he has been Turkish national youth trainer. He is a chess writer and was editor of Slovenian chess magazine Šahovska Misel from 1999 and editor of Fide Trainers Commission trainers’ surveys. He is also an organiser of chess events acting as tournament director of the European Club Cup (Rogaška Slatina 2011), the World Youth Championship (Maribor 2012) and the World Senior Championship (Bled 2018). This is his third book for ‘Thinkers Publishing’.”

FIDE Senior Trainer Georg Mohr
FIDE Senior Trainer Georg Mohr

This is the third title from Georg Mohr that we have reviewed. Previously we have examined: Understanding Maroczy Structures and Forgotten Genius – The Life and Games of Grandmaster Albin Planinc.

This interesting book has seven chapters:

Chapter 1 – The Exchange Sacrifice for the Attack
Chapter 2 – Defence!
Chapter 3 – Ending
Chapter 4 – Exchange Sacrifice in the Opening
Chapter 5 – Critical Squares
Chapter 6 – The Positional Exchange Sacrifice
Chapter 7 – World Champions and the Exchange Sacrifice

Chapter 1 is divided into seven themed subsections, each with plenty of entertaining and didactic examples of exchange sacrifices for the attack.

Here is a splendid finish from the “King in the centre” segment:

Geller-Karpov Moscow 1976
Geller-Karpov Moscow 1976

Karpov, who was crowned World Champion, in 1975, had played a rather inept French Defence, Winawer variation. The great theoretician, Efim Geller finished him off neatly with a exchange sacrifice removing a key defender:

21.Rxb8+!  Qxb8 (21…Bxb8?? 22.Qxc6+ wins quickly) 22.Qxc6+ Kf8 23.Nf4  Ra7 24.Nh4 (The knights close in to stomp on Black) 24… Qe8?! (Allowing a lovely combination)

Geller-Karpov Moscow 1977
Geller-Karpov Moscow 1977

25.Qxe6! (winning) fxe6 26. Nhg6+ Qxg6 27.Nxg6+ Ke8 28.Nxh8 Ra4 29.Rd1 Ne7 30.Bxe7 Kxe7 31.Ng6+ Kf7 32.Nf4 Bxe5 33.dxe5 Rf4 34.Rc1! (getting the rook behind the passed pawn and Karpov soon resigned)

Here is a very famous defensive exchange sacrifice from Chapter 2.

Reshevsky-Petrosian Zurich 1953
Reshevsky – Petrosian Zurich 1953

Black, Petrosian is some trouble as White dominates the centre, has more space and good attacking chances on the kingside with h4, h5 etc.

Black played 25…Re6! If White takes the exchange straightaway with 26.Bxe6 fxe6, he cannot prevent Black’s knight moving to d5, a possible continuation is 27.Rf3 Ne7 28.Bc1 Nd5 29.Qg3 Rc8 30.Bd2 b4! reaching this position:

Reshevsky-Petrosian Zurich 1953 Variation
Reshevsky-Petrosian Zurich 1953 Variation

Black has plenty of play with very active pieces and White’s rooks defensively placed. This is a Petrosian blockade at its best. Modern analysis suggests 26.h4! as best.

The game continued 26.a4 Ne7! 27.Bxe6 fxe6 reaching this celebrated position:

Reshevsky-Petrosian Zurich 1953 after move 27
Reshevsky-Petrosian Zurich 1953 after move 27

Black is almost equal, Reshevsky bailed out with a draw on move 41.

Chapter 3 is an excellent chapter about exchange sacrifices in the ending.

Here is an instructive position with a pawn up in a rook and opposite colour bishop ending:

Isgandarova - Zimina Riga 2017
Isgandarova – Zimina Riga 2017

White has just played 79.Kh3 and at first glance appears to be holding. Black played 79…Rxc5! 80.bxc5 Kd5 winning another pawn: the passive rook dooms White and Black won by pushing the b-pawn supported by the king.

A famous Fischer finish is very instructive:

Lombardy-Fischer New York 1960
Lombardy-Fischer New York 1960

White has just played 30.Re1? which Fischer ruthlessly exploited with a neat simplification:

30…Rxc3+! 31.bxc3 Rxe5+ 32.Kd2 Rxe1 33.Kxe1 Kd5 34.Kd2 Kc4 35.h5 b6! creating an outside passed pawn which won easily:

Lombardy-Fischer New York 1961 after move 35
Lombardy-Fischer New York 1961 after move 35

Chapter 4 covers some exchange sacrifices in the opening. I shall give two examples, one of which I fell into as a junior player:

Dieks - Van der Sterren After 13.Qf3
Dieks – Van der Sterren After 13.Qf3?

White has just played 13.Qf3? winning material which was met with the excellent 13…Nd4! 14.Nc7+ Qxc7 15.Qxa8+ Ke7 with a nasty threat of b4! 16.c3 b4! 17cxb4 Qb6 18.Bxa6 Qb4 19.Kf1

Dieks - Van der Sterren After 19.Kf1
Dieks – Van der Sterren After 19.Kf1

Now, the engine gives 19…Bh6! which wins prettily. The game continued with the tempting 19…Qd2 20.h3 (20.h4! limits White disadvantage, 20.Re1?? is a gross blunder as played by the reviewer, losing to 20…Bd3+ followed by a smothered mate) 20…Bd3+ 21.Bxd3 Qxd3+ 22. Kg1 Bh6! 23. Qb7 (23.Qxh8 Ne2+ 24.Kf1 Ng3+ 25.Kg1 Bf4! winning)23…Kf6 and Black won

There is a special section on some Gruenfeld exchange sacrifices:

Gruenfeld Bronsteins Exchange Sacrifice
Gruenfeld Bronstein’s Exchange Sacrifice

Gruenfeld Modern Exchange
Gruenfeld Modern Exchange Sacrifice

Buy the book to see a couple of exciting Gruenfeld games.

There are of course, plenty of Sicilian Rxc3 examples which is the most famous and important exchange sacrifice. Here is an example from the Dragon Variation in an old variation which is rare nowadays:

Kasparov-Piket Tilburg 1989
Kasparov-Piket Tilburg 1989 After 16.Bh6!?

White’s attack looks powerful, but the well-known sequence starting with 16…Nxe4! leads to equality which modern engines confirm. 17.Qe3! Rxc3! removing the key attacker 18.bxc3  Nf6! Although Kasparov won, Black’s opening was a success.

A pretty example from a Sicilian Paulsen is given  showing an offering for black square domination:

Giri-Vitiugov Reggio Emilia 2012
Giri-Vitiugov Reggio Emilia 2012

Black has just played the risky 6…Bb4 against one of the best theoreticians

Gipslis-Simagin Sverdlovsk 1957
Gipslis-Simagin Sverdlovsk 1957

which is ruthlessly punished: 7.e5! Nd5 8.0-0! Nxc3 9.bxc3 Bxc3 10.Ba3!

Giri-Vitiugov Reggio Emilia 2012 10.Ba3

Throwing in an exchange as well, Black is now in real trouble as his king is trapped in the with a weak colour complex on the black squares.

Chapter 5 Critical Squares has plenty of traditional Sicilian exchange sacrifices on c3.

Here is an example from the Sicilian Defence, Sozin Variation:

Gipslis-Simagin Sverdlovsk 1957
Gipslis – Simagin Sverdlovsk 1957 After 16.Rad1

Black played the natural 16…Rxc3! and won a nice game. The reviewer has played Rxc3 is a very similar position and also won a good game.

Chapter 6 – The Positional Exchange Sacrifice is really the heart of the book with 22 themes.

Here is a good example from the Exchange sacrifice to dominate the black squares section:

Adams – Khalifman Las Palmas 1993

Adams has played a rather insipid Classical Variation against the Dragon. Black played 17…Rxd4! 18.Rxd4 Rb8! (activating the black rook, also preventing white from playing Rb4) 19.f4?!  (19.Rb1 with equality according to the engines, but black is having all the fun) 19…exf3 20.Bxf3 Bxe5 and Black won a lovely game.

The final chapter shows many didactic examples from the World Champions.

I would suggest that the book is aimed at 1750+ players. The book is well produced in an easy to read style with plenty of diagrams and themes to learn from.

However, there are more than a few typographical errors/grammatical errors and the reviewer has spotted an incorrect diagram at the top of page 31. Although this does not detract from the many merits of the book, perhaps future publications should address this.

FM Richard Webb, Basingstoke, Hampshire, 10th May 2024

FM Richard Webb
FM Richard Webb

Book Details :

  • Hardcover : 496 pages
  • Publisher:Thinkers Publishing; 1st edition (20 Jun. 2023)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 946420186X
  • ISBN-13:  978-9464201864
  • Product Dimensions: 17.78 x 3.81 x 24.77 cm

Official web site of Thinkers Publishing

The Exchange Sacrifice Unleashed: Power of Middlegame Knowledge, Georg Mohr, Thinker's Publishing, ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-9464201864
The Exchange Sacrifice Unleashed: Power of Middlegame Knowledge, Georg Mohr, Thinker’s Publishing, ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-9464201864

The Modernized Trojan Knight 1.Nc3: A Complete Repertoire for White

From the Publisher, Thinkers Publishing:

The idea of the move 1. Nc3 is to confuse the second player, as White plays a supposedly unambitious move to mislead Black. This is why we found the name “Trojan Horse” very appropriate for the move 1. Nc3, just as the gift from Ulysses to the Trojans appeared to be a tricky and poisoned gift. The appropriate term for chess will, therefore, be the Trojan Knight to refer to the Trojan Horse.

1. Nc3 became popular among professional players, and many grandmasters have added it to their repertoire or played it occasionally in official games: Nakamura, Morozevich, Rapport, Bauer, Vallejo Pons… However, it is especially in rapid games that it has reached the world elite, and the very best players in the world have tried it: Carlsen, Mamedyarov, Andreikin and Firouzja for example. I truly hope that seeing the very best players in the world playing it will convince even the most sceptical critics.

About the Author:

The author Bruno Dieu is a FIDE Master and became French Correspondence Chess Champion in 2000. He has a rich experience in chess, having participated in various chess tournaments, both over the board and in correspondence. It’s fascinating that he has competed with notable experts and writers on the 1 Nc3, such as Dick Van Geet, Anker Aasum, and Harald Keilhack. The mention of a book being a token of his experience suggests that he has documented his insights and knowledge about this opening.

FM Bruno Dieu
FM Bruno Dieu

This absorbing and well-thought tome is a delight and covers a wealth of material after White’s opening salvo with 1.Nc3.

First encounters

As a junior, the reviewer knew this opening as the Dunst opening. I first met the Dunst on 18 January 1975 in a simul in London against the late and great Tony Miles, a year before he became the first UK-born, over-the-board chess GM.  The game transposed into the Four Knights opening  and I was inevitably steadily outplayed by Miles, who won a pawn with a neat back rank combination in a major piece middlegame. Unexpectedly, Miles faltered in a winning rook and pawn endgame at move 47, wasting a vital tempo, allowing an excited junior to escape with a draw. My next encounter with the Dunst was a few months later against another strong Birmingham player. This time, booked up, I played the so called refutation with 1…d5 reaching this position:

Ball-Webb10.Nh4
Ball-Webb After10.Nh4

The inexperienced junior, as Black, came up with the positional howler 10…f5? but managed to draw again when my opponent blundered by opting to exchange into an optically good, but drawn king and pawn endgame. This line is covered in the book, 10…f6 is certainly a better move, although the author prefers 10.Nd2 for White.

A callow player as Black may regard the Trojan Knight as just another unusual opening move which aims to avoid main line theory. On the contrary, as the author points out, 1.Nc3 is a cunning move full of transpositional possibilities whereby the second player can end up in an unfamiliar opening.

I have faced the Trojan Knight on 15 occasions replying 1…e5 in my first game, 1…d5 in my second outing and 1…c5 in subsequent encounters.

The reviewer has opted for the Trojan Knight as White in a total of 15 games; the transposition statistics are of interest:

  • Sicilian (4 games)
  • French (2 games)
  • Caro-Kann (1 game)
  • Vienna (1 game)
  • Czech Pirc  (1 game)
  • Irregular queen’s pawn (1 game)
  • 1…b6 1 (game)
  • Trojan Knight main line 1…d5 2.e4 d4 (1 game)
  • Trojan Knight main line 1…e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.d4 (3 games)

This small sample  shows the variety of branches available.

The book is logically divided into 6 parts:

PART I – 1…e5

PART II – 1…d5 2.e4 d4

PART III – 1…d5 2.e4 dxe4

PART IV – 1…d5 – Caro-Kann, French & Alekhine Style

PART V – 1…c5 – Sicilian Style

PART VI – Other First Moves

PART I – 1…e5

This is the natural response which was the move played by the reviewer on first meeting 1.Nc3.

After the following natural moves 1.Nc3 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.d4 exd4 4.Nxd4 this position is reached:

1...e5 Main Line
1…e 5 Main Line

This position obviously has affinities with the Scotch Game and of course can transpose if both players acquiesce. Black can can get into difficulties very quickly here with a sloppy move. A few examples given are:

4…Qf6? (played in some lines of the Scotch) 5. Ndb5! winning as c7 collapses.

4… Qh4? 5.Ndb5! (winning)

4…g6? (looks natural to fianchetto, akin to Larsen’s fianchetto variation of the Philidor Defence) 5.Nd5! a6 (5…Bg7 6. Nb5  Be5 7.f4 wins) 6.Bg5! (6.Bf4 is also excellent) 6…f6 7.Bf4 d6 8.e4 Bg7 9.h4 with a clear advantage

4…d5?! (looks natural) 5.Bf4! a6 (5…Bb4 6.Nxc6 Bxc3+ 7.bxc3 bxc6 8.Qd4! with a big plus) 6. e4 with a definite edge

4…Bb4!? is interesting, White can gain an edge with the Scotch like move 5.Nxc6! bxc6 (5…dxc6 is obviously weaker) 6. Qd4! winning the bishop pair or forcing the horrid 6…Bf8?!

Black should interject the capture on c3 in the last line, after 4…Bb4!? 5.Nxc6 Bxc3+ 6. bxc3 bxc6 7.Qd4! Nf6 8.Bg5

PositionAfter8.Qd4
PositionAfter8.Qd4

White has a small edge. A typical continuation could be 8…h6 9.Bxf6 Qxf6 10.Qxf6 gxf6 11. g3 Rb8 12.Bg2 Ke7 13.Kd2 Ba6

Larsen-Christiansen Denmark 2000
Larsen-Christiansen Denmark 2000

Now 14.Rhb1! with a slight edge to White in a complex endgame.

4…Bc5 is the best move along with 4…Nf6.

4...Bc5
4…Bc5

The author offers three decent alternatives for white:

  • 5.Be3
  • 5.Nxc6
  • 5.Nf5

5.Nb3 Bb6 6.e4 transposes a Scotch Game main line.

After 5.Nf5 Qf6, the author offers two interesting alternatives 6.g4 and 6.e4. He claims that 6.g4 is very strong, but the author’s analysis has a significant hole.  After 6.g4 Bb4 7.Bd2 Nge7 8.e4:

8.e4
8.e4

The author offers the anaemic 8…Nxf5 for Black, after 9.gxf5 Qh4 10.Qf3 Black is in real trouble. The reviewer smelt a rat here as Nxf5 looks too compliant: a quick check with Stockfish reveals 8…d5! equalising. This is a rare significant oversight by the author. Clearly the reviewer has not checked 450+ pages of dense variations but intuition has to be used to choose the positions to use the engine.

6.e4! is better as the author points out leading to Scotch positions where White has a space advantage and although the position is only fractionally better for White, it is easier to play for the first player.

4…Nf6 seems to be the most natural developing move. 5.Bg5! keeps the game in lesser known channels and is better than 5.e4.

5.Bg5
5.Bg5

Black has to be careful here, not to slip into an inferior position.

The passive 5…Be7 allows 6.Nf5! and White has a definite advantage.

The natural 5…d5? allows 6.Bxf6! and White has a distinct edge.

The natural 5…Bc5! is ok setting up veiled threats against f2. 6.e3! Nxd4 (6…0-0 7.Nd5! and white is a little better) 7.exd4 Be7 Now 8.Qd2 is an improvement on the author’s 8.Qf3 leading to a small advantage to White.

The pin 5…Bb4 is certainly playable, 6.Nxc6 leads to a small White edge.

PART II – 1…d5 2.e4 d4

If there is a problem with 1.Nc3, it is definitely this variation which is critical as Black gains space and time.  One of the crucial lines is 1.Nc3 d5 2.e4 d4 3. Nce2 (3.Nb1 Nf6!)  3…e5 4.Ng3 (4.f4 Nc6! 5.Nf3 Bg4!) Be6! 5.Nf3 (5.c3 Nc6!) 5…f6!

Best 5...f6
Best 5…f6

This line is the reason that the reviewer gave up on 1.Nc3.
White can try 6.Bb5+ c6 7.Be2!? (7.Ba4 Na6! 8.Bb3 Bxb3! 9.axb3 d3! 10.0-0 Nb4 11.cxd3 Nxb4 12.Ne1 Nh6 and Black has an edge.) 7…g6 (keeping the knight out of f5) 8.0-0 Qd7 9.b4!? Nh6 (9…Bxb4 10.c3! dxc3 11.d4 is better for White as Black’s development is lacking.) and Black is slightly better.

I hope that this short review gives the reader a glimpse into the complexities of this opening. My only small criticism of the book is that the author sometimes puts the best moves in an editorial side line but I realise this is to keep the featured game as the main line.

In summary, this is an excellent book.

FM Richard Webb, Basingstoke, Hampshire, 28th April 2024

FM Richard Webb
FM Richard Webb

Book Details :

  • Hardcover : 475 pages
  • Publisher:Thinkers Publishing; 1st edition (1 Mar. 2024)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 9464787546
  • ISBN-13:  978-9464787542
  • Product Dimensions: 16.61 x 3.4 x 23.6 cm

Official web site of Thinkers Publishing

The Modernized Trojan Knight 1.Nc3: A Complete Repertoire for White, Bruno Dieu, Thinkers Publishing, 1st March 2024, ISBN-10 ‏ : ‎ 9464787546
The Modernized Trojan Knight 1.Nc3: A Complete Repertoire for White, Bruno Dieu, Thinkers Publishing, 1st March 2024, ISBN-10 ‏ : ‎ 9464787546

Dragon Masters – The Life and Times of The Fiercest Opening in Chess Volume 1

From the Publisher, Thinkers Publishing:

DragonMasters volume 1 charts the history of the most exciting and dangerous opening known to chess – the Dragon Variation of the Sicilian Defense.

Unlike almost all other books on the Dragon, the focus is not purely on theoretical development. Instead, the author has combined the most historically important games, the famous players who chose to fight either side (sometimes both sides!) of the opening, and the most unexpected and interesting stories featuring the Dragon. World Champions, contenders of the crown, code-breakers, revolutionaries in every sense of the world – all feature in this remarkable and entirely unique look into the history of an opening variation. as the ancient may say: Here be Dragons!

About the Author:

Andrew Burnett is a Scottish FM who represented his country on several occasions. He is the author of cult classic Streetfighting Chess and his love of the Dragon opening stretches back to his teenage years when he was looking to escape 1.e4 e5! He is currently working on the second volume of DragonMasters.

This book is volume 1 of a labour of love devoted to the history, praxis, and famous players who have unleashed the fury of the Dragon Variation or fought to quench the fire of the wyvern.

Volume 1 covers the origin of the Dragon to 1973.

The front and back cover is an engaging, colourful picture.

This publication is not a theoretical treatise on the latest developments in the Sicilian Dragon, although it does give theoretical analyses in relation to historical variations and famous clashes with some references to modern variations and theory.

Many great players have had the Dragon in their regular repertoire, although the reviewer was surprised to find a game of Mikhail Tal’s on the black side, as I had the impression that Tal always preferred the white side.  Perhaps the result of the game in this book influenced Tal’s choice: he got crushed. The reviewer will show this amusing brevity later.

The author, Andrew Burnett has a sub-variation in the Modern Variation 12.Kb1 named after him viz:

  1. e4 c5 2.Nf3 d6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 Nf6 5.Nc3 g6 6.Be3 Bg7 7.f3 0-0 8.Qd2 Nc6 9.Bc4 Bd7 10.0-0-0 Rc8 11.Bb3 Ne5 12. Kb1! Nc4 13.Bxc4 Rxc4 14.g4! b5 15.b3! b4!?

Burnett_Variation
Burnett Variation

The work is divided into fifteen chapters:

Chapter 1 – In the beginning
Chapter 2 – Bird’s Folly
Chapter 3 – The World’s Finest Discover The Dragon
Chapter 4 – DragonMasters and DragonAmateurs
Chapter 5 – Hypermodernism and beyond
Chapter 6 – Botvinnik’s Trilogy
Chapter 7 – The War Years
Chapter 8 – The Post-War Years
Chapter 9 – When Giants take sides
Chapter 10 – Revolution in the 60s?
Chapter 11 – The Yugoslav Attack
Chapter 12 – DragonMasters and DragonWriters
Chapter 13 – Candidates and Contenders
Chapter 14 – The English Connection
Chapter 15 – The Dragon is Dead! Long Live the Dragon?

In the preface, Andrew Burnett shows a famous Dragon game which inspired the author to take up the Dragon; it also happens to be one of my favourites viz. Plaskett – Watson from Brighton 1983:

  1. e4 c5 2.Nf3 d6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 Nf6 5.Nc3 g6 6.Be3 Bg7 7.f3 0-0 8.Qd2 Nc6 9.g4 Be6 10.O-O-O Nxd4 11.Bxd4 Qa5 12. a3 Rfc8 13.h4 Rab8 14.h5 b5 15.h6  b4! 16. hxg7 bxa3 17. Qh6 axb2+ 18.Kd2 reaching this super sharp scenario:

Plaskett - Watson Brighton 1983
Plaskett – Watson Brighton 1983

This position had been included in some theoretical treatises of the time with the +- symbol as White’s threat of Bxf6 and Qxh7# looks unstoppable. Jonathon Mestel had looked further and spotted 18…Bxg4! which muddies the waters. (As an aside, Stockfish 16 gives 18…Bxg4! as a draw and 18…Nh5! as a draw. This just shows the richness of chess and amazing hidden resources.)

19.Bxf6 Bh5!  Simply blocking the h-file, giving Black time to continue with his attack. Jim Plaskett now goes wrong which is unsurprising as he must have been shocked by Black’s revelation.

20. Bd4? losing but only 20.Rxh5! equalises

Plaskett-Watson20.Rxh5
Plaskett-Watson 20.Rxh5!

Best play after 20.Rxh5! leads to an unexpected repetition draw viz:

20…gxh5 21. Bh3 exf6 22. Bxc8 (22.Bf5? Qxc3+ 23.Ke2 Qxc2!+ 24. Rd2 Qc4+ 25.Kf2 Qc5+ 26. Kg2 Qxf5 27. exf5 b1=Q winning for Black). 22…Rxc8 23.Qxf6 Qb4! 24.Rb1 a5 threatening a4-a3-a2 25.Kd3 (threatening Nd5) Qc4+ 26.Kd2 Qb4 27.Kd3 with a draw!

Plaskett-Watson Variation
Plaskett-Watson Variation

As is so often the case in these double edged lines, the game fizzles out to an exciting draw. Brilliant stuff.

The game continuation was a massacre 20…e5! 21.Rxh5 gxh5 22. Qg5 Qb4 23.Bd3 Qxd4 24. Nd5 Qf2+ 25. Be2 Rxc2+ 26.Kxc2 Qxe2+ 27.Kc3 Qxf3+ 28.Kc4 Qb3#

Plaskett-Watson End
Plaskett-Watson End

Chapter 1 introduces the first games featuring a Sicilian with a black, kingside fianchetto.

The reviewer was under the false impression that Louis Paulsen was the first to play a Sicilian with a kingside fianchetto. Although Paulsen did play some Dragons including beating Steinitz in London in 1862, it was Marmaduke Wyvill who played the first recorded “high-level Dragon” in 1851 at the celebrated London International tournament. We all remember Adolf Anderssen winning that tournament but do we recall whom he defeated in the final? It was Wyvill.

Some of these first Sicilian fianchetto games don’t resemble the modern Sicilian Dragon move orders and are full of basic strategic mistakes but do give insights into the development of the variation and the Sicilian defence in general. Game 3 of the book demonstrates Paulsen’s win over Steinitz with an hyper accelerated Dragon although he was lost out of the opening!

Louis Paulsen was one of the great pioneers of the Sicilian Defence, not just developing the variation named after him.

Chapter 2 concentrates on Henry Bird’s contribution to early Dragon Praxis.

He was the first player to play the modern Dragon move order:
1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 d6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 Nf6 5.Nc3 g6

As the author points out, his score with the Dragon was 16 losses, 10 wins and 9 draws which is not brilliant, but taking into account he was playing against the world’s best, it is a respectable Dragon legacy.

Game 7 shows a titanic struggle with Joseph Blackburne. This is the position after the opening:

Blackburne-Bird
Blackburne-Bird

This could be a modern game with white playing a fairly inept Classical Variation, but making sensible developing moves leaving the main struggle to the middlegame. Bird played the somewhat dubious 14…Qh5?! (better is the natural 14…Nd7 which is clearly equal). Blackburne responded with the impatient move 15.Bxf6 (Simply 15.Qf2 or 15.Rd3 leaves white with a slightly more comfortable position) 15…Bxf5 16.Nd5 Qe5 is equal. The players fought out a exciting draw to move 77. Buy the book to the see the game.

Chapter 3 introduces some of the first games with top players riding the Dragon such as Emmanuel Lasker.

This chapter features some greats such as Tarrasch, Pillsbury and Emmanuel Lasker playing the Dragon at the end of the 19th century and the beginning of the 20th century. The game below shows a typical Dragon trap.

Brody – Pillsbury Paris 1900

1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Nc3 Nf6 4.d4 cxd4 5.Nxd4 d6 6.Be2  g6 7.Be3 Bg7 8.0-0 Bd7 9. h3 Qa5

Brody-Pillsbury
Brody-Pillsbury

White now played a natural looking move  that loses 10.Qd2?? Ne4! 11.Nc6 Qxc3! (Easy to overlook) 12.Qxc3 Nxc3 13. bxc3 Bxc6 (Black is completely winning, a pawn up with a much better pawn structure)

Brody-Pillsbury-11...Qxc3
Brody-Pillsbury-11…Qxc3

Chapter 4 shows some early games with masters v amateurs.

The first game in this chapter is famous tussle Lasker – Napier at Cambridge Springs 1904. This game is an extremely tactical queenless middlegame and is well worth a look.

Another game covered is a loss by Lasker to a modern idea of an exchange sacrifice on c3 in a simultaneous display. This idea had been seen before but this version is so thematic, it must be shown:

Emmanuel Lasker – Donald MacKay Hampstead 1908

1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Nc3 g6 4.d4 cxd4 5.Nxd4 Bg7 6.Be3 d6 7.Be2 Nf6 8.h3 0-0 9.0-0 Bd7 10.f4 a6 11.g4 Rc8 12.f5 Ne5 13.g5

Lasker-MacKay
Lasker-MacKay

13…Rxc3! (Winning as White’s position falls apart) 14. bxc3 Nxe4 15.Bd3 Nxc3 16.Qe1 Nxd3 17.Qd3 Nc5 18.f6!? (A desperate try)

Lasker-MacKay-18.f6
Lasker-MacKay-18.f6

18…exf6 19.gxf6 Ne4 (19…Bxf6 wins as well) and Black won on move 34.

Chapter 5 features the introduction of two major Dragon lines.

They are 10…Qc8 in the Classical Variation and the DragonDorf played by another great Sicilian pioneer Miguel Najdorf.

The first variation is shown with a famous game Reti -Tartakower

Dragon-Classical-Tartakower-Var
Dragon-Classical-Tartakower-Var

The game continued 11.h3 Ne8 ?! (A modern master would shudder at this move, the natural 11…Rd8 is better, Reti won a good positional game)

The game Reissner – Najdorf from Warsaw 1934 introduces the Dragadorf which Simon Williams reintroduced many decades later.

The game began 1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 d6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 Nf6 5.Nc3 g6 6.Be3 Bg7 7.f3 0-0 8.Qd2 a6? (Black cannot play this slowly after castling, if Black wishes to play this way, he must not castle early).

Dragadorf-Castle-Too-Early
Dragadorf Castling too early

Stockfish already gives White a big advantage. Najdorf did win this game as White did not play incisively enough. See the book to look at these two interesting games.

Chapter 6 features the famous Alekhine-Botvinnik melee from Nottingham 1936 resulting in an exciting short draw.

1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 d6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 Nf6 5.Nc3 g6 6.Be2 Bg7 7.Be3 Nc6 8.Nb3 0-0 9.f4 Be6 10.g4!? (The Rabinovich Attack)

Rabinovich-Attack
Rabinovich-Attack

10…d5!? (The modern preference is for 10…Rc8 when Black may already be better) 11.f5 Bc8 12.exd5 Nb4

Rabinovich-Attack-12.Nb4
Rabinovich-Attack-12…Nb4

A critical position 13.d6!? (13.Bf3! is much stronger leading to a significant White advantage) 13…Qxd6 (leading to a forced perpetual) 14. Bc5 Qf4! 15.Rf1 Qxh2 16.Bxb4 Nxg4 17.Bxg4 Qg3+ 18. Rf2 (Any winning attempt is suicidal) Qg1+ 19.Rf1 Qg3+ 20.Rf2 Qg1+ Draw agreed

Chapter 7 introduces the Levenfish Variation with Mikhail Tal falling victim.

Game 31 showcases the game that introduced the Levenfish Variation at the highest level: Levenfish – Rabinovich Leningrad 1939. The author’s commentary on this game is full of excellent analysis showing many of the traps in the Levenfish and some brilliant white victories. Two of the greatest attacking players have games in this variation  including  a crushing win by Nezhmetdinov and a crushing loss for Tal. First the Tal miniature:

Janis Klavins – Mikhail Tal Riga 1954

1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 d6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 Nf6 5.Nc3 g6 6.f4

Levenfish-Variation
Levenfish-Variation

6…Nc6! (6…Bg7!? is dangerous for Black, but just about playable with care, but 6…Nc6 equalises easily, so why play an inferior risky move?)

7.Nxc6 bxc6 8. e5 (This looks dangerous but is a paper tiger) Nd7! 9.exd6 exd6 10.Be3

Levenfish-Variation-10.Be3
Levenfish-Variation-10.Be3

10…Qe7?! (10…Be7 is slightly better for black already, the pawn on f4 weakens White’s position) 11.Qd4! Nf6?! (11…Bg7 is hardly better: 12.Qxg7 Qxe3+ 13.Be2 Rf8 14.Rf1 Nb6 15.Rd1 is better for white despite white’s king on e1 as Black is behind in development and has a weaker pawn structure with black squared weaknesses.) 12.0-0-0 Bg7

Levenfish-Variation-Start-of-Crushing-Attack
Levenfish-Variation-Start-of-Crushing-Attack

White has a significant lead in development which he exploits ruthlessly in the style of his opponent:

13.Qxd6! (sacrificing a piece with check) Qxe3+ 14.Kb1 Bd7? (14…Qb6! makes it harder for White but his attack is just too strong) 15.Bb5! (A classic clearance: 15…cxb5 16.Rhe1 wins the queen and although Black has a rook and two bishops for the queen and pawn, his lack of development is fatal) 15…Qb6 16.Rhe1+ Kd8 17.Bxc6 Rb8 (threatening mate but too late) 18. Qe7+ Kc7 19.Rxd7+ Kc8

Mate-in-4
Mate-in-4

20.Bb5 (20.Nb5! is quicker mating in four moves, Klavins chooses a prosaic win going into a trivially won endgame) Rb7 21.Rxb7 Qxb7 22.Qxb7+ 1-0

Now the Nezhmetdinov game:

1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 d6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 Nf6 5.Nc3 g6 6.f4 Bg7?! (Risky) 7.e5!  dxe5? (The only decent move here is the surprising 7…Nh5 with the idea 8.g4? Nxf4 9.Bxf4 dxe5 regaining the piece with interest, better for White is 8.Bb5+ Bd7 9.Qe2! with an edge as Black still has to solve the problem of the h5 knight, 9.e6!? looks good but 9…fxe6 10.Nxe6 Bxc3+ 11.bxc3 Qc8! is a mess but dynamically equal) 8.fxe5 (This is a very dangerous position for the unwary)

Levenfish Danger
Levenfish after 8.fxe5

8…Nd5? (8…Ng4?? 9.Bb5+ wins 9…Bd7 10.Qxg4 wins a piece or 9…Kf8 10.Ne6+ wins the queen. 8…Nfd7 is relatively best 9.e6! Ne5! 10.exf7+ gives a White a pleasant edge but Black can fight) 9.Bb5+ Kf8 10. 0-0 (Black is totally lost) Bxe5 (accelerating the inevitable defeat, and allowing an attractive finish, 10…Nc6 lasts longer) 11.Bh6+ Kg8 12. Nxd5 Qxd5 13.Nf5! Qc5+ 14.Be3 Qc7 15.Nh6+ 1-0

Levenfish-13.Nf5
Levenfish-13.Nf5!

Chapter 8 features a famous victory by a British player, William Winter over David Bronstein in the England – USSR radio match in 1946.

1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 d6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 Nf6 5.Nc3 g6 6.Be3 Bg7 7.f3 Nc6 8.Qd2 0-0 9.Nb3!? (Not the most challenging line) 9…Be6 10.Nd5 Bxe6 (Stockfish also likes 10…Rc8 with both moves giving Black a slight edge, but removing the pesky knight now is understandable) 11.exd5 Ne5

Bronstein-Winter-11...Ne5
Bronstein-Winter-11…Ne5

12. Be2? (12.0-0-0 is better but Black is at least equal) Qc7 13.0-0 (13…a5! is also good but the move played is an obvious thematic Sicilian move) Nc4 14.Bxc4 Qxc4 15. Rad1?! (The wrong rook, White needs the queen’s rook on the queenside for defence, showing how badly the game is going)  15…Rfc8! 16.Rf2 Nd7 (16…a5! increases Black’s advantage to decisive proportions) 17.Bg5!? (Trying to mix things up, but 17.c3 is better, then Black has 17…a5 with a typical Sicilian initiative and advantage) 17..Bxb2 18.Bxe7 Nb6? (Bronstein’s gamble with Bg5 has paid off as Black goes wrong, much better is 18…Bc3! 19.Qd3 Qb4 maintains a big Black advantage) 19.Bxd6 Rd8

Bronstein-Winter-20.Na5
Bronstein-Winter-20.Na5

20. Na5?? (A horrible move losing the game, 20.Qb4 or 20.Qf4 holds the balance) 20…Qa6! 21.Qf4 Rxd6 22.c4 Bg7 23.Rfd2 Bh6 24. Rd3 Rad8 25.a4 Bf6 26.Qb5 Qxb5 27.axb5 R6d7 0-1

Chapter 9 introduces some giants into the mix with players such as the great Soviet theoretician Efim Geller who played the Dragon with both colours, and the great Bobby Fischer who was a veritable St George. Fischer famously lost against Cesar Munoz, a Ecuadorean National Master: this game is definitely worth a look.

This chapter also includes the famous Fischer – Larsen clash from Portoroz 1958.  The game is in a line that has become topical recently:

1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 d6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 Nf6 5.Nc3 g6 6.Be3 Bg7 7.f3 0-0 8.Qd2 Nc6 9.Bc4 Nxd4 10.Bxd4 Be6 11.Bb3 Qa5 12.0-0-0 b5 13.Kb1 b4 14.Nd5 14…Bxd5

Fischer-Larsen-Portoroz
Fischer-Larsen Portoroz 1958

15.Bxd5 (Not best, better is15.exd5! Qb5 16.Rhe1 a5 17.Qe2! Tal, M-Larsen, B Zürich 1959)

Tal-Larsen-Zurich-1959
Tal-Larsen 17.Qe2 Zurich-1959

This position used to be thought to be slightly better for White with the bishop pair and pressure along the e-file. Modern engines dispute this and reckon Black is more or less equal viz:

17… Qxe2 18.Rxe2 a4 19.Bc4 Rfc8 20.b3 (20Bb5?! Ra5=) Rc7= 21.Bb5 axb3 22.cxb3 Ra5 23.Bc4 Rb7 = (Stockfish gives White a tiny advantage)

Now back to the main game.

15…Rac8?! (Much better is 15…Nxd5 16.Bxg7 Nc3!!+ 17.Bxc3 bxc3 18.Qxc3 Qxc3 19.bxc3 Rfc8 20.Rd3 Rc5 =, or 17.bxc3 Rab8! 18.cxb4 Qxb4+ 19.Qxb4 Rxb4+ 20.Bb2 Rfb8=)

16.Bb3! and Fischer won a great game.

Chapter 10 introduces the famous Soltis Variation.

It may not be widely known, but in 1963  Heikki Westerinen introduced the Dragon Soltis Variation to the world, 8 years before Andrew Soltis popularised the variation named after him. This is the stem position:

Soltis-Variation
Soltis-Variation

Westerinen played this line against Bent Larsen, who was one of the protagonists who played the Dragon with both colours. He lost the game, but his opening and early middlegame were fine as he achieved a winning position by move 20: he was outplayed later by a world class player. Buy the book to see analysis of this ground breaking game.

Chapter 11 introduces  Geller on the Black side and Anatoly Karpov as a chief Dragon slayer. His game against Gik in the Moscow University championship in 1968 is one of Karpov’s best games.

1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 d6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 Nf6 5.Nc3 g6 6.Be3 Bg7 7.f3 0-0 8.Bc4 Nc6 9.Qd2 Qa5 10.0-0-0 Bd7 11.h4 Ne5 12.Bb3 Rfc8 13.h5 Nxh5 14.Bh6 Bxh6 15.Qxh6 Rxc3 16.bxc3

Karpov-Gik-Moscow-1968
Karpov-Gik-Moscow-1968

In this position below Gik made a fatal mistake: 16…Qxc3 no doubt expecting 17.Kb1, so 17.Ne2 came as a rude awakening gaining a crucial tempo, both 16…Nf6 and 16…Rc8 equalise comfortably.

The book analyses this theoretical scuffle in detail.

Chapter 12 is devoted mainly to famous Dragon writers: David Levy and Andrew Soltis.

David Levy, the Scottish IM famously wrote two editions of the Batsford books The Sicilian Dragon. Here Levy faces the former World Champion, Boris Spassky who is in devastating form:

1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 d6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 Nf6 5.Nc3 g6 6.Be3 Bg7 7.f3 Nc6 8.Qd2 0-0 9.Bc4 Bd7 10.0-0-0 Qb8?! (A trendy line at the time, which is almost certainly unsound, Stockfish does not rate it.)

Spassky-Levy
Spassky-Levy

11.h4! a5? (This is a horrible move, it loses quickly, Stockfish recommends 11..Ne5 12.Bb3 h5 trying to slow down the attack in Soltis style, but Black’s misplaced queen renders this fruitless) 12.Bh6!? (Not the very best, the simple 12.h5 is even stronger winning quickly) 12…Nxe4? (Black pushes his luck with a flawed combination, better was 12…Nxd4 13.h5! Be6 14.Bxg7 Kxg7 14.Qxd4 with a big plus for White) 13. Nxe4 Bxd4 14.h5! (With a huge winning attack)

Spassky-Levy-14.h5
Spassky-Levy-14.h5

14…d5 (Desperation, trying to get the queen into the defence) 15.Bxd5 Qxe5 16.Bxf8! (Simple and effective) 16…Qxd5 17.Qh6! Nb4 18.Rxd4! (Removing the last defender) Qxd4 19.Bxe7 1-0

An opening experiment crushed by an attacking great!

Chapter 13 is mainly devoted to two fascinating clashes between Efim Geller and Viktor Korchnoi in their Candidates match in 1971 in Moscow. It also reintroduces Anatoly Karpov who is undoubtedly one of the greatest Dragon slayers, shown in action in a famous tussle with Juergen Dueball at Skopje in 1972.  It was Karpov’s endgame skill that won him that game.

The first Geller – Korchnoi shows the good old exchange sacrifice on c3 in all its glory.

Geller-Korchnoi-Moscow-1971
Geller-Korchnoi-Moscow-1971

White played the poor 12.Bh6?! provoking Black. 12…Bxh6! 13.Qxh6 Rxc3! 14.bxc3  a5! (14…Qc7 is fine as well)

Black is equal here and has a position that is easier and more fun to play. The game was eventually drawn, but Black achieved a winning game but threw it away in mutual time trouble.

Chapter 14 introduces one of the great Dragon specialists, the late and great Tony Miles.

Here is a exciting scrap with another future GM, Michael Stean.

Michael Stean – Tony Miles Hastings 73/74

1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 d6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 Nf6 5.Nc3 g6 6.Be3 Bg7 7.f3 0-0 8.Bc4 Nc6 9.Qd2 Bd7 10.h4 h5 11.0-0-0 Rc8 12.Bb3 Ne5 13.Kb1 Nc4 14.Bxc4 Rxc4 15.Nde2 Qc7 !? (An attempt to avoid the main line theory, 15…b5 is the main line which equalises comfortably as played by Kasparov against Anand 16.Bh6 Qa5 =)

Stean-Miles-15.Qc7
Stean-Miles-15.Qc7

16.Bh6 Be6 17.Bxg7 Kxg7 18.Nf4 Qa5 (This position is equal, but Stean comes up with a faulty plan) 19.Nxe6+ (19.Nce2 is equal) fxe6 20.Rh3?! (20.Ne2 is still equal) Rfc8 21.Rg3?

Rxc3! (Now Black is better) 22.bxc3 Rc6 23.Rg5 e5! (Cutting the rook off)

Stean-Miles-23...e5
Stean-Miles-23…e5

Now Black is slightly better, somehow Miles contrived to lose this game.

Chapter 15 is devoted to one of the most famous gladiatorial contests in the Sicilian Dragon: Anatoly Karpov v Viktor Korchnoi Moscow 1974 game 2 of the Candidates final. The winner was to play Bobby Fischer.

1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 d6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 Nf6 5.Nc3 g6 6.Be3 Bg7 7.f3 Nc6 8.Qd2 0-0 9.Bc4 Bd7 10.h4 Rc8 11.Bb3 Ne5 12.0-0-0 Nc4 13.Bxc4 Rxc4 14.h5 Nxh5 15.g4 Nf6 16.Nde2 !?

Karpov-Korchnoi-16.Nde2
Karpov-Korchnoi-16.Nde2

At the time, the position before 16.Nde2 was a topical Dragon tabiya. Korchnoi played the natural reply which is already a mistake.

16…Qa5 (16…Re8 is much better and about equal) 17.Bh6 Bxh6 (17…Bh8 18.Bxf8 Kxf8 19.Qe3 is clearly better for White) 18.Qxh6 Rfc8 19.Rd3 R4c5? (The final mistake, 19…Be6 20. 20.g5 Nxh5 21. Nf4 Qe5 22.Nxh5 gxh5 23. Qxh5 Qg7 24.f4 with a clear advantage to White) 20.g5! (Winning) Rxg5 21.Rd5! Rxd5 22.Nxd5 Re8 23.Nef4 Bc6 24.e5!+- Bxd5 25.exf6 exf6 26.Qxh7+ Kf8 27.Qh8+ 1-0 (27… Ke7 28.Nxd5+ Qxd5 29.Re1+)

It is quite possible that the whole game was prepared analysis.

This game really knocked the Dragon for six, but the Dragoneers soon came up with an antidote 16…Re8.

In summary, this is a well thought out book and an enjoyable read with plenty of exciting, fighting chess. Although it is a history of the Dragon, that story is really a microcosm of the development of modern chess from 1850 onwards.

FM Richard Webb, Basingstoke, Hampshire, 1st April 2024

FM Richard Webb
FM Richard Webb

Book Details :

  • Hardcover : 385 pages
  • Publisher:Thinkers Publishing; 1st edition (5 Mar. 2024)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 9464201959
  • ISBN-13:  978-9464201956
  • Product Dimensions: 17.78 x 3.18 x 24.77 cm

Official web site of Thinkers Publishing

Dragon Masters - The Life and Times of The Fiercest Opening in Chess Volume 1, Andrew Burnett, Thinkers Publishing, ISBN-10 ‏ : ‎ 9464201959
Dragon Masters – The Life and Times of The Fiercest Opening in Chess Volume 1, Andrew Burnett, Thinkers Publishing, ISBN-10 ‏ : ‎ 9464201959

The Dragon Sicilian: A Take-No-Prisoners Repertoire Versus 1.e4

The Dragon Sicilian: A Take-No-Prisoners Repertoire Versus 1.E4, Anish Giri, New in Chess / ChessAble, 15th November 2022, ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-9493257351
The Dragon Sicilian: A Take-No-Prisoners Repertoire Versus 1.E4, Anish Giri, New in Chess / ChessAble, 15th November 2022, ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-9493257351

From the publisher:

“The Dragon Sicilian is the perfect choice for club players searching for chaotic and imbalanced positions. This opening manual shows how Black can turn up the heat against 1.e4, and enjoy dynamic winning chances game after game. Top-10 player Anish Giri is the best tutor to bring this complicated opening across to ‘everyday’ club players. Anish serves up his super-GM lines and clearly explains the ideas and strategies behind the moves. So when game time comes, you know exactly which moves to play, at what moment, and how to deliver the knockout blow. Make no mistake: This repertoire’s take-no-prisoners-strategy means you will sometimes reach razor-sharp positions, where both sides must play ‘only moves’. But that’s why you’ll love having Anish Giri as your opening coach. Giri delivers just the right mix of cutting-edge analysis and practical guidance for players of all levels with his trademark witty and down-to-earth teaching style. The Dragon Sicilian also covers all other major systems Black could face, including what to play against Anti-Sicilians such as the Rossolimo, the 2.c3 Alapin, and the Grand-Prix Attack.”

Anish Giri
Anish Giri

“Anish Giri became a chess Grandmaster at the age of 14 years, 7 months and 2 days. At the time, in 2009, that meant he was the youngest grandmaster in the World. Starting from the January 2013 list, the Dutch grandmaster was the leading junior player in the FIDE World Rankings. In June 2014 he turned twenty, which ended his junior years. Giri is a top-GM with a 2700-plus ELO rating.”

I am impressed with this colourful book, which is an accessible, lucid introduction to the Sicilian Dragon. The repertoire guide is a well- produced hardback book with an attractive vibrant front cover, good quality paper and many large diagrams, typically two per page and sometimes three making the work pleasant to browse and study.

The back cover blurb on the volume states that the opening manual work is aimed as an introduction for everyday club players, and it succeeds admirably in this respect. This title does not purport to be a major theoretical treatise or a “latest developments” style of publication, however, there is some cutting-edge theory and new ideas, some of which are new to the reviewer, who is a life-long Dragon addict.

The reviewer is not going to do a detailed theoretical critique the lines chosen by Giri for several reasons: time;  my knowledge of some of the lines recommended is not sufficiently well-developed yet and thirdly these surveys can often come down to a thicket of engine analysis which can be off putting for less experienced players and does not always enhance understanding: it is important to understand the typical ideas, so when your opponent deviates from the book main lines/engine main lines, you can work out a solution at the board.

Despite my comments above, it is important for any reader of an opening tome, to not blindly follow the lines and take everything as gospel: check with an engine and use other sources.

The book has a short, didactic introduction to the Sicilian Dragon introducing the ideas, and nineteen chapters.

DragonStartingPos
Dragon Starting Position

The book is effectively divided into four sections:

  • Yugoslav Attack main lines (five chapters)
  • Sixth move alternatives; non-Yugoslav Attack (five chapters)
  • Move orders, Accelerated Dragon and Drago(n)Dorf (two chapters)
  • Anti-Sicilians (seven chapters)

Yugoslav Attack Section

The first chapter gives a useful overview of the Yugoslav Attack main line 9.Bc4 variation.

This introductory part briefly surveys the other main systems, other than the recommended repertoire, that occur such as the Chinese Dragon, Soltis Variation, Modern Variation, Topalov Variation. This is a useful pointer for the reader to the myriad of Dragon systems.

Chapter 2 Yugoslav Attack 9.Bc4 Nxd4

This part covers the book’s suggestion against 9.Bc4 which is the rare system 9…Nxd4.

Yugoslav9...Nxd4
Yugoslav9…Nxd4

This system was popular in the late 1950s/early 1960s but fell into disuse after some high-profile white victories, such as Fischer-Larsen Portoroz 1958 and Tal-Portisch European Team Championship 1961.

The idea of the line is to reduce white’s attacking potential by exchanging some pieces. I can see the logic of recommending this line as it is a straightforward system which is not popular, so many white players won’t know how to meet it: white must be accurate to even get a small advantage. The disadvantage is that it could be regarded as passive as black defends a slightly inferior, but defensive ending in the main line.

Black’s move order in this variation is critical as Giri points out: black has just played 12…b5!

Yugoslav12...b5
Yugoslav12…b5

Giri offers a new twist on this ancient line with an intriguing positional pawn sacrifice in a main line, which has been played successfully in a correspondence game. Buy the book to find out.

Chapter 3 Dragon Main Line Konstantinov’s pawn sacrifice sidelines

This chapter covers the sidelines in the main line after 9.0-0-0 d5

White has a fair number of alternatives to the main line of 10.exd5 which are:

  • 10.Bh6
  • 10.h4
  • 10.Nxc6
  • 10.Kb1
  • 10.Qe1

The last two are definitely the most important with Giri covering these with main-line recommendations which are well known and fine for black.

After 10.Kb1 Nxd4 11.e5! Nf5 12.exf6 exf6 13.Bc5 d4! 14.Bxf8 Qxf8, this position is reached:

10Kb1MainLine
10.Kb1 Main Line

Black has sacrificed the exchange for active play: Magnus Carlsen has played this way; a host of games has vindicated black’s approach including Short-Carlsen London 2009 which was drawn after a serious of adventures.

Chapter 4 Dragon main line 9.0-0-0 d5 10.exd5

This chapter is divided into two sections covering the greedy pawn grab and what is probably the main line of the entire Dragon at top level.

The (in)famous pawn grab leads to this position:

PawnGrab
Pawn Grab Line

This position has been well known since the 1950s, black now plays 13…Qc7! with equality. White has to be accurate to hold on: as a youngster, I won many quick games in this line with black. The author covers this line well with respected well-known variations for black.

The main, main line occurs after 12.Bd4:

MainLine
Main Line 12.Bd4

Here Giri offers the old main line 12…e5 which has been under pressure in recent years. He offers an interesting, rare approach which if it holds up is very important for Dragon theory. Buy the book to find out.

Chapter 5 The early 9.g4

The idea behind this line is to prevent 9…d5 whilst avoiding one of the main lines 9.Bc4. the author recommends the well-rehearsed response 9…Be6 which is fine for black.

The second section of the book, chapters 6 to 10 cover the following variations:

  • Classical 6.Be2
  • Fianchetto System 6.g3
  • Levenfish 6.f4
  • 6.Bc4 system
  • Sixth move sidelines

These lines are perfectly respectable but do not threaten to extinguish the Dragon’s breath. Giri covers these with well-known antidotes. For example, in the Levenfish Variation:

Levenfish
Levenfish

Black has just played 6…Nc6! which neutralises white’s main idea to get in e5 to disrupt black’s development.

The third section has a couple of short chapters on the Accelerated Dragon and the Drago(n)dorf.  These are really supplementary chapters which are interesting but do not detract from the main book.

The fourth section has seven chapters on the Anti-Sicilians and covers over half the book which is excellent. These systems are very popular at all levels particularly at club level with the obvious intention to avoid reams of theory: we have all got stuffed on the white side of the Sicilian facing an opponent bristling with theoretical barbs. This part is divided as follows:

  • The Prins system 5.f3
  • The Hungarian system 4.Qxd4
  • Moscow Variation 3.Bb5+
  • Various 3rd moves
  • Closed Sicilian
  • Alapin 2.c3
  • Other second moves

I particularly like the chapter on the Moscow Variation, which introduced the reviewer to some new lines. As well as that, the author covers some excellent points about the importance of move order in the Maroczy system.

FM Richard Webb

FM Richard Webb, Basingstoke, Hampshire, 27th November 2022

Book Details :

  • Hardcover : 248 pages
  • Publisher:ChessAble / New in Chess (27 Sept. 2022)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10:9493257355
  • ISBN-13: 978-9493257351
  • Product Dimensions: ‎17.73 x 1.91 x 23.85 cm

Official web site of New in Chess

The Dragon Sicilian: A Take-No-Prisoners Repertoire Versus 1.E4, Anish Giri, New in Chess / ChessAble, 15th November 2022, ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-9493257351
The Dragon Sicilian: A Take-No-Prisoners Repertoire Versus 1.E4, Anish Giri, New in Chess / ChessAble, 15th November 2022, ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-9493257351

Understanding Queen Endgames

Understanding Queen Endgames, Karsten Müller & Yakov Kanoval, Russell Enterprises (24 Mar. 2021), ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-1949859317
Understanding Queen Endgames, Karsten Müller & Yakov Kanoval, Russell Enterprises (24 Mar. 2021), ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-1949859317

From the publisher:

The Daunting Domain of Queen Endgames Explained! Knowing the abilities and limitations of the powerful queen is very valuable for mastering the secrets of the royal game, and this can be studied best in the endgame.

Queen endgames are very difficult, if only for purely mathematical reasons  the queen is the most mobile piece in chess, and the amount of possible options is incomparably higher than in any other type of endgames.

This book follows a dual philosophy as in the three previous works by the same authors: Understanding Rook Endgames, Understanding Minor Piece Endgames and Understanding Rook vs. Minor Piece Endgames. The 7-piece endings are dealt with in great detail. They are often so complex that pre-tablebase analysis almost always contains errors. Many new discoveries are revealed here. But to really understand the fight of a queen against a queen or minor pieces with rooks, these theoretical positions are of course not enough. So subchapters on the principles of each material configuration have been added.

All in all, this fantastic book is already on my (very short) “must study” list for chessplayers of different levels, including the top ten! I want to thank the authors for the courage which is required just to start working on such a complex topic, as well as for the very high quality of their work, which will endure for decades to come and will be very useful for many future generations of chessplayers. The foreword is by Vladimir Kramnik,14th World Chess Champion”

This titanic technical endgame tome is a  Magnum Opus with a forward by former World Champion Vladimir Kramnik. The complexity of queen endings is obvious as the queen is the most mobile piece and the number of  variations becomes vast after only a few ply. This is probably the reason that this is the first work to cover queen endings in great depth. The complexity of these endgames is shown by a famous game from Vladimir Kramnik’s World Championship match versus Peter Leko in 2004. The first game of that match reached this position:

Leko-Kramnik World Championship 2014(1) Move 44 White to move
Leko-Kramnik World Championship 2014(1) Move 44 White to move

White played 44.Qf4??  which loses as demonstrated by Kramnik in the game and is covered in this book 44…g5! 45.Qf6 h6! winning, the point being that 46.Qxh6 loses the queen to 46…R8a6! After 45…h6 White cannot prevent Black from manoeuvring his rooks to win the kingside pawns. The natural move is 44.hxg6 exchanging pawns to reduce material which was thought, at the time, to draw. In fact Black stills retains winning chances. As the position has eight men the result is still not known definitively – this shows the richness of such endgames.

This publication also covers endgames that have had little coverage in the past such as Two Rooks + Pawn  v Queen.

Most first quick skim of the book did concern me slightly as I noticed some diagrams followed by 100+ moves with no annotations. On a deeper perusal, I realised that these examples are included as “longest wins” for certain material combinations. This emulates John Nunn’s longest wins in “Secrets of Pawnless Endings”. There is plenty of well annotated material within  practical games to bring out key ideas, for example the techniques to break down fortresses are examined in detail.

The book has ten main chapters traditionally based on piece configuration:

  • Chapter 1 Queen vs. Pawn
  • Chapter 2 Queen vs. Queen
  • Chapter 3 Queen vs. Rook
  • Chapter 4 Queen vs. Rook and Knight
  • Chapter 5 Queen vs. Rook and Bishop
  • Chapter 6 Queen vs. Two Rooks
  • Chapter 7 Queen vs. Rook and Two Minor Pieces
  • Chapter 8 Queen and Minor Piece vs. Queen (and Minor Piece)
  • Chapter 9 Queen and Rook vs. Queen and Rook
  • Chapter 10 Queen vs. Minor Pieces

Each chapter ends with some fruitful exercises to check if you were paying attention. The solutions are given near the end of the book.

Chapter 1 Queen vs. Pawn

This chapter obviously concentrates on the cases where the pawn is on the seventh rank. Here is the end of a Troitzky study:

Troitzky 1935 (end of study) White to draw
Troitzky 1935 (end of study) White to draw

1.Ke6!! and whichever way Black’s king goes, White moves into his shadow drawing: 1…Kf4+ 2.Kf7! draws or 1…Kd4+ 2.Kd7 draws

This next position looks arcane but the reviewer has has this position twice in blitz, once as the attacking side and once as the defending side: in both cases the defence was accurate to hold the draw.

Q v P (king outside winning zone) White to move
Q v P (king outside winning zone) White to move

White cannot win despite the proximity of his king. White can try 1.Qd5+ 1…Ke1!! is the only move to draw, 1…Ke2 loses to 2.Qa2! Kd1 3.Kd4! c1Q 4.Kd3 mating. White can also try 1.Qa2 Kc3!! is the only move to draw, 1…Kd1 2.Kd4! c1=Q 3.Kd3 mating.

This chapter goes on to cover many types of position with far advanced pawns against a queen.

Chapter 2 Queen versus Queen

Naturally the authors start with the notoriously difficult ending Queen and Pawn vs. Queen: their comment is “This can be very deep and tricky if the defending king can’t get in front of the pawn.”  Certainly an understatement as many strong GMs have gone down in drawn endings.  A whole volume could be dedicated to this fascinating endgame.

The authors systematically cover the rook’s pawn, knight’s pawn, bishop’s pawn and centre pawns. Some useful general rules are given for each pawn:

“Rook Pawn – In this case, the drawing zone for the defending king is usually quite large when the pawn is not far advanced, as the rook pawn does not provide good shelter. But the zone gets smaller as the pawn advances, and the main drawing zone is in the corner farthest from the queening square.”

A didactic example from Carlsen-Gashimov Monaco 2011 is given:

Carlsen-Gashimov Monaco 2011 Move 59 Black to play
Carlsen-Gashimov Monaco 2011 Move 59 Black to play

Black’s king is badly placed restricting his own queen, so he should run to the a1-corner as fast as he can. 59…Kc5!? 60.h5 Qe8+ 61.Kh6 Kd5?! 61…Kb4 going closer to the drawing zone is more logical 62.Kg5 Qg8+ 63.Kf4 Qb8+ 64.Kg4

Carlsen-Gashimov Monaco 2011 Move 64 Black to play
Carlsen-Gashimov Monaco 2011 Move 64 Black to play

64…Qb4+! An excellent move preserving the draw., 64…Qa7? loses to 65.Qf4!! cutting the Black king off from the a1-drawing zone and winning in the long run. It looks as though Black’s king might get near the pawn, but that is an illusion: he just restricts his own queen’s movements. 65.Kg5 Qd2+ 66.Kg6 Kc4 67.h6 Qg2+ 68.Kf7 Qb7+ 69.Kg8 Qb8+ 70.Qf8 Qg3+ 71.Kh8 Qe5+ 72.Qg7 Qe4 73.h7

Carlsen-Gashimov Monaco 2011 Move 73 Black to play
Carlsen-Gashimov Monaco 2011 Move 73 Black to play

This a typical position from this ending, white has pushed the pawn to the seventh rank with his king hiding in the corner in front of the pawn. This is a tablebase draw but this has been known for many decades before the advent of tablebases.

73…Kd3?? loses, a bad mistake from a 2700 GM. 73…Kb3! draws but accuracy is still required. 74.Qf7+ (74.Kg8 Qe8+ 75. Qf8 Qg6+ 76.Kh8 Kc2=) 74…Kb2

Carlsen-Gashimov Monaco 2011 Variation 1 Move 75 White to play
Carlsen-Gashimov Monaco 2011 Variation 1 Move 75 White to play

This is the type of position that Black is aiming for. The authors explain why it is drawn with a pithy comment: “and White can’t win as the king must move too far from the pawn to move into a countercheck position.” For example: 75.Kg7 Qg4+ 76.Qg6 Qd7+ 77.Kh6 Qd2+ 78.Qg5 Qd6+ 79.Kh5

Carlsen-Gashimov Monaco 2011 Variation 1 Move 79 Black to play
Carlsen-Gashimov Monaco 2011 Variation 1 Move 79 Black to play

Another excellent explanation from the authors: “White’s king wants to go to h1 or h2 to make counterchecks possible, but the pieces are then too far apart” (and un-coordinated) e.g. 79…Qd1+ 80.Qg4 Qh1+ 81.Kg6 Qc6+ 82.Kg5 Qd5+ 83.Qf5 Qg2+ 84.Kh4

Carlsen-Gashimov Monaco 2011 Variation 1 Move 84 Black to play
Carlsen-Gashimov Monaco 2011 Variation 1 Move 84 Black to play

84…Qh2+ 85.Qh3 Qf4+ 86.Kh5 Qe5+ 87.Kg6 Qd6+ 88.Kf7 Qf4+ drawn

Carlsen-Gashimov Monaco 2011 Variation 1 Move 89 White to play
Carlsen-Gashimov Monaco 2011 Variation 1 Move 89 White to play

Black to the game after 73…Kd3??

Carlsen-Gashimov Monaco 2011 Move 74 White to play
Carlsen-Gashimov Monaco 2011 Move 74 White to play

74.Qd7+ Ke2?! (74…Kc2 lasts longer but does not save the game anymore: buy the book to find out how White wins) 75.Kg8 White is going to shuffle his king along to the adjacent file to Black’s king to setup a crosscheck: 75…Qg6+ 76.Kf8 Qh6+ 77.Qg7 Qf4+ 78.Qf7

Carlsen-Gashimov Move 78 Black to play
Carlsen-Gashimov Move 78 Black to play

78…Qh6+ Notice how Black’s choice of checks are severely restricted because of his king’s placement 79.Ke7 Qh4+ 80.Ke8 Qa4+ 81.Kf8! Now we can see again why Black’s king is badly placed: Black has no good checks.

Carlsen-Gashimov Monaco 2011 Move 81 Black to play
Carlsen-Gashimov Monaco 2011 Move 81 Black to play

81…Qd4 82.Qh5+ Kf2 83.h8Q Qd6+ 84.Kf7 Qd7+ 85.Kg6 1-0

A very important ending to study and learn from a World Champion.

Muller & Konoval give an example of good defence with the king in the drawing zone where the defending side does not let the draw slip at any point:

Markowski-Piket Istanbul 2000 Move 57 White to play
Markowski – Piket Istanbul 2000 Move 57 White to play

Piket played 57.Qe8+ and drew: buy the book to see the excellent defensive effort.

Here is an old game where modern tablebases really show how difficult these endgames are:

Ed. Lasker-Marshall USA 1923 Move 80 White to play
Ed. Lasker-Marshall USA 1923 Move 80 White to play

White played 80.Qc1? The amazing 80.Qh1!! is the only move to draw, for example 80…Qd7 81.Qf3+ Ke8 82.Qa8+ Ke7 83.Qh8! Qd6+ 84.Ka7!

Ed. Lasker-Marshall USA 1923 Variation 1 Move 84 Black to play
Ed. Lasker-Marshall USA 1923 Variation 1 Move 84 Black to play

Drawing, a beautiful geometric display of the queen’s power with the white queen moving around all the corners in a few moves. 80…Qe5! 81. Qb1

Ed. Lasker-Marshall USA 1923 Move 81 Black to play
Ed. Lasker-Marshall USA 1923 Move 81 Black to play

81…Qf6+? (A mistake improving White’s king for free particularly as White’s checks are restricted because of potential cross checks, the natural 81…h2! wins, e.g.: 82.Qb7+ Kf6 83.Qf3+ Ke7 84.Qb7+ Kd8 85.Qa8+ Kd7 86.Qb7+? Qc7 and white has no good check, so he loses) 82.Ka7!  and white drew with excellent defence 82…Kg7 83.Qg1+ Kh7 84.Qe3 Qa1+ 85.Kb8 Qb2+ 86.Ka7 Qg2 87.Qd3+ 87…Kh8 Although White’s king is in the drawing zone, Black’s king is on a neighbouring rank making counterchecks possible, so white played 88.Ka6! (88.Qe3 also draws)

Ed. Lasker-Marshall USA 1923 Move 88 White to play
Ed. Lasker-Marshall USA 1923 Move 88 White to play

88…h2 89.Qd8+ Kh7 90.Qc7+! Staying on the h2-pawn so Black cannot interpose the queen, and White drew 14 moves later by repetition.

If the defending king can get in front or very near the pawn, it should do so:

Bakutin-Novitzkij Tula 2000 Move 63 White to play
Bakutin – Novitzkij Tula 2000 Move 63 White to play

63.Kd3! h5 64.Ke2! now the draw is easy as white does not fear a queen exchange.

Sometimes the defending king has to keep both options open: here is a brilliant example:

Dominguez Perez - Nakamura Thessaloniki 2013 Move 60 Black to move
Dominguez Perez – Nakamura Thessaloniki 2013 Move 60 Black to move

Black looks to be in trouble as his king is a long way from the drawing zone and will interfere with his queen. However Nakamura found 60…Ke5!! 61.Kg7 Qc6! Keeping Black’s options open 62.h6

After 62.Qg6 Qb7+ 63.Kh8 Qa8+ 64.Qg8 Qc6 65.Qg5+ Black changes plans and runs to the drawing zone as White’s king is badly placed in front of the pawn, he just has time to do this 65…Kd4!! 66.Qg7+ Kc4 67.h6 Kb3 68.h7 Ka2=

Dominguez Perez - Nakamura Thessaloniki 2013 Variation Move 69 White to move
Dominguez Perez – Nakamura Thessaloniki 2013 Variation Move 69 White to move

62… Qg2+ 63.Qg6 Qb7+ 64.Qf7 Qg2+ 65.Kh8 Qa8+ 66.Qg8 Qf3

Dominguez Perez - Nakamura Thessaloniki 2013 Move 67 White to move
Dominguez Perez – Nakamura Thessaloniki 2013 Move 67 White to move

67.Qg6 (67.h7 Qh5 68.Qg7+ Ke6! draws as Black’s king cramps White’s pieces.) 67…Qf8+ 68.Kh7 Qf3 69.Qg7+ Ke6 70.Kg8  Qh5 71.h7 Qe8+ 72.Qf8 Qg6+ 73.Kh8 Qf7 drawn

Knight Pawn – “With a knight pawn, play is similar to a rook pawn, but the winning chances are better as the pawn provides  better shelter. There is still a drawing zone in the far corner.”

The play is complex and there are many subtleties with slight differences being crucial as we shall see below.

Here is a superb example of drawing technique from Negi-Postny Helsingor 2009:

Negi-Postny Helsingor 2009 Move 63 Black to move
Negi-Postny Helsingor 2009 Move 63 Black to move

Where does Black put his king? 63…Kf1! (63…Kd2? loses in 91 moves as the king is cut off from the drawing zone!) 64.b5 Qc7+ 65.Kd5 Qb7+ 66.Qc6 Qf7+ 67.Kd6 Qf4+ 68.Kd7 Qf7+ 69.Kc8 Qf8+ 70.Kb7 Qe7+ 71.Qc7 Qe4+ 72.Ka6 Qa4+ 73.Qa5 Qc4 74.Qa1+ Kg2

Negi-Postny Helsingor 2009 Move 75 White to move
Negi-Postny Helsingor 2009 Move 75 White to move

Black’s king has reached the drawing zone. It is still very easy to go wrong.

75.Qb2+ Kh1 76.Qh8+ Kg1 77.Qg7+ Kh1 78.Qb7+ Kh2 79.Qc6 Qa2+ 80.Kb7 Kg1 81.Qc1+ Kf2 82.Qc5+ Kf1 83.b6  Postny comments :The pawn has reached the 6th rank already, although it is still a draw theoretically. For the defensive side it’s very easy to go astray, but, somehow I managed to give the right checks. 83…Qg2+ 84.Ka6 Qa8+ 85.Kb5 A crucial position, Black’s king is temporarily out of the drawing zone and cannot go back immediately.

Negi-Postny Helsingor 2009 Move 85 Black to move
Negi-Postny Helsingor 2009 Move 85 Black to move

85…Qe8+!  The only move to draw 86.Ka5 Qe1+ 87.Ka6 Qa1+ 88.Qa5

Negi-Postny Helsingor 2009 Move 88 Black to move
Negi-Postny Helsingor 2009 Move 88 Black to move

88…Qf6! 89.Qb5+ Kg1 90.Qc5+ Kh1 91.Ka7 Qa1+ 92.Kb7 Qg7+ 93.Qc7 Qf8 94.Qd7 Qf2 95.Qd5+ Kg1 96.Qg5+ Kh1 97.Kc6 Qc2+ 98.Kd6 Qh2+ 99.Qe5 Qh6+ 100.Kc5 Qc1+ 101.Kd5 Qd2+ 102.Qd4 Qg5+ 103.Kc4 Qc1+ 104.Qc3 Qf1+ 105.Kb4 Qb1+ 106.Qb3 Qe1+ 107.Kb5 Qe5+ 108.Ka6 Qa1+ 109.Kb7 Qg7+ 110.Kc6 Qf6+ 111.Kc5 Qe7+ 112.Kd4 Qf6+ 113.Kd3 Qf5+ 114.Kc3 Qe5+ 115.Kb4 Qe1+ 116.Qc3 Qb1+ 117.Ka5 Qa2+ 118.Kb5 Qd5+ 119.Qc5 Qd3+ 120.Kc6 Qg6+ 121.Kb7 Qf7+ 122.Ka6 Qa2+ 123.Qa5 Qe2+ 124.Ka7 Qf2 125.Qd5+ Kg1 126.Kb7 Qf8 127.Qd4+ Kh1 128.Qe4+ Kg1 129.Qe3+

Negi-Postny Helsingor 2009 Move 129 Black to move
Negi-Postny Helsingor 2009 Move 129 Black to move

Postny comments again: For a moment I thought that I was losing. The queen covered the a3 square, and Kb7-a7 followed by the pawn advance just one move before the fifty move rule seems inevitable. But… 129…Kh1! 130.Ka7 Qf2!! This stalemate trick saves the game. 131.Qe4+ Kg1 132.Kb7 Qf7+ 133.Kc6 Draw due to the fifty move rule. ½-½

The next example shows how difficult this ending really is:

Oddone - Espinoza Asuncion 2009 Move 77 Black to play
Oddone – Espinoza Asuncion 2009 Move 77 Black to play

Black’s king is not yet in the drawing zone. Black played the obvious check 77…Qe7+? which loses 77…Qe3! (77..Qc5? loses to 78.Qd3!) does draw, e.g. 78.Ka8 Kh3 79.b7 Qe4 80.Ka7 Qd4+ 81.Qb6 Qa1+ 82.Qa6 Qd4+ 83.Ka8 Qe4

Oddone - Espinoza Asuncion 2009 Variation Move 84 White to play
Oddone – Espinoza Asuncion 2009 Variation Move 84 White to play

This is drawn despite Black’s king not being in the drawing zone but it is close enough! 84.Qa2!? cutting the Black king off from the drawing zone (by analogy with the line below) does not win here.

Back to the game 78.b7 Qe3+ 79.Ka8 Qe4

Oddone - Espinoza Asuncion 2009 Move 80 White to play
Oddone – Espinoza Asuncion 2009 Move 80 White to play

80.Qb5? 80.Qa3!! cutting the king off from the drawing zone wins, followed by moving White’s king down to the same rank as Black’s king which is similar to the line below 80…Qf3? (80…Kg3! draws) 81.Qb4+ Kh3 82.Qc5?! Qe4

Oddone - Espinoza Asuncion 2009 Move 83 White to play
Oddone – Espinoza Asuncion 2009 Move 83 White to play

83.Qc3+? Sloppy, improving Black’s king for free and the queen is much better placed on c5; it was time to move the White king down to the rank that Black’s king is on: 83.Ka7! wins, e.g. 83…Qa4+ 84.Kb6 Qb3+ 85.Ka6 Qa4+ 86.Qa5 Qc4+ 87.Qb5 Qe6+ 88.Ka5 Qa2+ 89.Kb6 Qf2+ 90.Qc5 Qb2+ 91.Ka6 Qe2+ 92.Ka5 Qa2+ 93.Kb5 Qe2+ 94.Qc4 Qb2+ 95.Qb4 Qe5+ 96.Ka4 Qe8+ 97.Ka3

Oddone - Espinoza Asuncion 2009 Variation 1 Move 97 Black to play
Oddone – Espinoza Asuncion 2009 Variation 1 Move 97 Black to play

97…Qb8 98.Kb3 Kh2 99.Kb2 Qe5+ 100.Kb1 Qf5+ 101.Ka1 wins

Oddone - Espinoza Asuncion 2009 Variation 1 Move 102 Black to play
Oddone – Espinoza Asuncion 2009 Variation 1 Move 102 Black to play

Very instructive. This is a typical winning manoeuvre in queen and pawn vs queen.

Back to the game after 83.Qc3+? Kg2

Oddone - Espinoza Asuncion 2009 Move 84 White to play
Oddone – Espinoza Asuncion 2009 Move 84 White to play

84.Ka7 Qe7 85.Kb6 Qd8+ 86.Qc7 Qd4+ 87.Qc5 Qb2+ 88.Kc7 Qg7+ 89.Kc6

Oddone - Espinoza Asuncion 2009 Move 89 Black to play
Oddone – Espinoza Asuncion 2009 Move 89 Black to play

A key position and a common problem for the defending side, which check should I make? Black choose the wrong check and lost. 89…Qg6+? The authors offer some general advice here: “As Black’s king is on a light square, it was better to operate on dark squares”: 89…Qf6+! Drawing 90.Qd6 Qc3+ 91.Kd7 Qg7+ 92.Qe7 Qd4+ 93.Ke8 White is trying to bring his king across to the same file as Black’s king.  Qh8+ 94.Qf8 Qe5+

Oddone - Espinoza Asuncion 2009 Variation 2 Move 95 White to play
Oddone – Espinoza Asuncion 2009 Variation 2 Move 95 White to play

95.Kf7 loses the pawn to a fork 95…Qd5+ drawing instantly

Back to the game, after 89…Qg6+? 90.Qd6 Qe8+?!

Oddone - Espinoza Asuncion 2009 Move 91 White to play
Oddone – Espinoza Asuncion 2009 Move 91 White to play

91.Qd7?! (91. Kb6! Qe3+ 92. Kc7 Qa7 Kc8 wins quickly, now we see why Black’s queen should operate on the dark squares) 91…Qg6+

Oddone - Espinoza Asuncion 2009 Move 92 White to play
Oddone – Espinoza Asuncion 2009 Move 92 White to play

92. Kd5? White could have centralised the queen and effected a memorable manoeuvre to win 92.Qd6! Qc2+ 93.Kd7 Qh7+ 94.Qe7 Qd3+ 95.Ke8 Qg6+ 96. Kf8 Qf5+ 97.Kg8 Qd5+ 98.Kh8 Qh5+ 99.Qh7 winning

Oddone - Espinoza Asuncion 2009 Variation 3 Move 99 Black to play
Oddone – Espinoza Asuncion 2009 Variation 3 Move 99 Black to play

Notice that this winning motif is effectively the same idea as the king manoeuvre down the a-file and b-files rotated ninety degrees!

In the game: 92…Qd3+ 93.Ke6 Qg6+ 94.Ke5 Qg5+ 95.Ke4 Qg6+! 96.Ke5 Qg5+ 97.Kd6

Oddone - Espinoza Asuncion 2009 Move 97 Black to play
Oddone – Espinoza Asuncion 2009 Move 97 Black to play

97…Qf6+? The final mistake allowing White to improve his queen. 97…Qf4+ 98.Kc6 Qa4+ 99.Kc7 Qa5+ 100.Kc8 Qc5+ draws 98.Qe6! 98…Qd8+?! 99.Kc6 Qh8 100.Qa2+ Kf1 101.Qb1+ and queens the pawn, White won 4 moves later.

Here is a pretty study showing  a neat idea:

Van Vliet 1888
Van Vliet 1888

How does White break the pin to get his pawn home?

1.Qb4! mutual zugzwang 1…Qh1 (1…Qd5 2.Qa4+ Kb6 3.Qb3+ Qxb3 4.b8Q+ wins; 1…Qf3 2.Qa4+ Kb6 3.Qb3+ wins; 1…Qg2 2.Qa3+Kb5 3.Qb2+ wins) 2.Qa3+ Kb6 3.Qb2+ Ka6 4.Qa2+ Kb5 5.Qb1+ Qxb1 6.b8Q+ skewering the queen

Amazingly this idea occurred in a game and White  missed the neat win, but won anyway.

Bishop Pawn

This is completely different. If the defending king can’t get in front of the pawn or at least very near the pawn, the attacker usually wins as there is no drawing zone in the far corner. This is best pawn for the superior side.

Matamoros Franco - Bologan 2005 Move 65 White to play
Matamoros Franco – Bologan 2005 Move 65 White to play

White played 65.Qe5+? (A bad mistake from a 2500 player, 65.Qc3+ draws as Black’s queen is poorly placed.) 65…Qe4! Black gives up his h-pawn to centralise his queen and get his f-pawn going 66.Qxh5 f5 White has restored material equality but is now lost as the centralised Black queen is dominant and the f-pawn is much more dangerous than White’s a-pawn. 67.Qh3+ Kd2 68.Qh2+ Kc3 69.Kb5 f4 70.Qh8+ Kb3 71.Qf8 f3 72.Qf7+ Kxa3 Black has eliminated the a-pawn which wasn’t strictly necessary. The win is simple from here as Black’s queen is so well placed.

Matamoros Franco - Bologan 2005 Move 73 White to play
Matamoros Franco – Bologan 2005 Move 73 White to play

73.Qf8+ Kb2 74.Qf6+ Kc2 75.Ka6?! Accelerating the loss. When the kings are close to each other on files or ranks, the stronger side should always be on the look out for a sequence to exchange queens.

Matamoros Franco - Bologan 2005 Move 75 Black to play
Matamoros Franco – Bologan 2005 Move 75 Black to play

75…Qd5?! (Black could have exchanged queens with 75…Qd3+! 76.Kb7 Qb3+ 77.Ka8 Qa3+ 78.Kb7 Qb2+) 76,Qf4 Kd3 77.Qg3 Qc4+ 78.Ka7 Qc5+ 79.Ka8 Qd5+ 80.Ka7 Ke2 81.Qg4 Kd3 82.Qg3

Matamoros Franco - Bologan 2005 Move 82 Black to play
Matamoros Franco – Bologan 2005 Move 82 Black to play

82…Qd4+! 83.Ka6 Ke2 84.Qh3 f2 85.Qh5+ Ke1 86.Qa5+ Kd1 87.Qh5+ Kc2 88.Qe2+ Kc3

Matamoros Franco - Bologan 2005 Move 89 White to play
Matamoros Franco – Bologan 2005 Move 89 White to play

89.Kb7 Qg7+ 0-1 in view of 90.Kb8 Qf8+ 91.Kb7 Qf7+ 92.Kb6 f1Q

A central pawn

This is similar to the bishop’s pawn, but the winning chances are slightly less. There is no drawing zone for the defending king in the far corner:

Miladinovic - Graf Ohrid 2001 Move 68 Black to move
Miladinovic – Graf Ohrid 2001 Move 68 Black to move

There is no chance for a draw here with the central pawn as Black cannot be prevented from advancing the pawn to the queening square: it just requires patience, care and a lot of moves.

Black played 68…Qa1+ (the natural 68…Qf5 unpinning the pawn is better.)

Black played well, not letting the win slip at any point until this position at move 110:

Miladinovic - Graf Ohrid 2001 Move 110 Black to move
Miladinovic – Graf Ohrid 2001 Move 110 Black to move

Black played 110…Kf4?? which throws the win away as white has a brilliant draw utilising the fact that the pawn is unprotected by the queen and the star cross perpetual check. Better was 110…Qb3 protecting the pawn and preparing cover for the king on the queenside viz.: 111.Qh2+ Ke4 112.Qg2+ Kd3 113.Qg6+ Kd2 114.Qg5 Qc4 115.Ka8 Qd4 116.Kb7 Kc3 117.Qg3 Qd3 winning

Miladinovic - Graf Ohrid 2001 Move 118 White to move
Miladinovic – Graf Ohrid 2001 Variation 1 Move 118 White to move

The reviewer makes this observation:

Notice how Black’s king has migrated over to the file adjacent to White’s king ready to setup cross checks in a few moves. This cannot be prevented wherever White’s king is on the board with two exceptions:

  • The weaker side can draw if the defending king gets in front of the pawn
  • or reaches a small drawing zone on the short side of the pawn.

The only other drawing mechanism is to setup the star cross perpetual check or a variant of it which is shown below.

111.Qh2+! Reaching a very important position as White can draw

Miladinovic - Graf Ohrid 2001 Move 111 Black to move
Miladinovic – Graf Ohrid 2001 Move 111 Black to move

111…Kg4 112.Qg1+Kf4 113.Qh2+ Ke4

Miladinovic - Graf Ohrid 2001 Move 114 White to move
Miladinovic – Graf Ohrid 2001 Move 114 White to move

114.Qg2+??  [114.Qh1+!! Kd4 115.Qa1+  Kd3 116.Qd1+ Ke4 117.Qh1+ Ke5 118.Qh5+ Kf5 (118…Kd6 or Ke6 loses the pawn to 119.Qh6+) 119.Qh5+ drawing] 114…Kd4 115.Qb2+ Kd3 Black breaks the perpetual sequence and wins as White’s queen has lost her checking distance

Miladinovic - Graf Ohrid 2001 Move 116 White to move
Miladinovic – Graf Ohrid 2001 Move 116 White to move

116.Qb1+ Ke2 117.Qc2+ Kf3 118.Qc3 Kf2 (quicker is 118…Qd6) 119.Qf6+ Qf3 120.Qd4 Qf5 121.Qh4+ Kf3 122.Qh1+ Ke2 123.Qh2+ Qf2 124.Qh5+ Qf3

Miladinovic - Graf Ohrid 2001 Move 125 White to move
Miladinovic – Graf Ohrid 2001 Move 125 White to move

125.Qh2+? (Centralising with 125.Qe5 was a tougher defence) 125…Kf1 126.Qc2 e2 127.Qc4 Kg2 128.Qg8+ Qg3 129.Qd5+Kg1

Miladinovic - Graf Ohrid 2001 End
Miladinovic – Graf Ohrid 2001 End

Exploiting White king position 0-1

The central pawn does have a small drawing zone for the defending side which is on the short side of the pawn:

Karjakin - Mamedyarov Beijing 2013 Move 91 White to move
Karjakin – Mamedyarov Beijing 2013 Move 91 White to move

This is a theoretical draw as White’s king restricts Black’s king manoeuvres, but White must defend perfectly:

91.Kb3? losing as White’s king can be kicked out of the drawing zone. 91,Qc4 holds for example 91…Qb6+ 92.Ka2 Qa5+ 93.Kb2 Qe5+ 94.Kb1 Qa1+ 95.Kb2 Qe3 96.Qc1+ Ke2 97.Qc4=

Karjakin - Mamedyarov Beijing 2013 Variation Move 97 Black to move
Karjakin – Mamedyarov Beijing 2013 Variation Move 97 Black to move

White’s king covers the queenside and the White queen can hassle Black on the kingside. If Black’s king strays too far on the kingside, Black cannot block a queen check as White will simply exchange queens drawing owing to the proximity of his king to the pawn.

The game continued 91…Qb6+ 92.Kc4 Qa6+  (92…Qc7+ is better 93.Kb3 Qc3+ 94.Ka2 Qa5+ 95.Kb2 Qb5+ 96.Ka3 Kc3 wins) 93.Kb3?! Qb5+ 94.Ka2 Kc3 95.Qe1+ Kc2 0-1 (96.Qf2 d2)

The book covers numerous positions with more pawns.

Here is a celebrated game Kasparov v The World Internet 1999.

Kasparov - The World Internet 1999 Move 51 Black to play
Kasparov – The World Internet 1999 Move 51 Black to play

Although Black is a pawn up, White is playing for the win as his g-pawn is the most advanced pawn. The seven piece tablebase confirms this position is a draw but Black is on the edge of losing and most defend perfectly. The game continued 51…b5?! (51,,,Ka1! holds) 52.Kf6+ Kb2? (The final mistake 52…Ka1 was necessary) 53.Qh2+ Ka1 54.Qf4! b4 55.Qxb4 Black is lost as the d-pawn is a hindrance as it obstructs Black’s queen and offers cover to White’s king. Without the d-pawn the position is drawn as show earlier in this review.

Kasparov - The World Internet 1999 Move 54 Black to play
Kasparov – The World Internet 1999 Move 54 Black to play

The ROW did not last much longer and resigned on move 62.

Chapter 3 Queen v Rook

The basic Queen v Rook endgame is covered sufficiently. The authors show how to break the third rank defence:

Queen v Rook Third Rank Defence
Queen v Rook Third Rank Defence

The authors observe: “The third rank defence is very difficult to break down if you do not know how, because it requires at least one counter-intuitive move to achieve that. John Nunn suggests the following method:”

1.Qf4! (1.Qg7 does not make progress because of 1…Ke8 2.Qc7 Rh6 3.Ke5 Rg6 and the starting position has been mirrored) 1…Kd7 2.Qa4+! Kc7 3.Qa7+ Forcing Black into the third rank defence 3…Rb7 4.Qc5+ Kb8 5.Kd6 Rg7 6.Qb4+ Rb7 7.Qe4 Rb6+ 8.Kc5 Ka7 9.Qd4 Rb7 10.Kc6+ Ka8 11.Qd5 Kb8 12.Qa5 and Philidor’s position is reached.

The book covers a multitude of Queen vs Rook + Pawn(s) positions where there are many fortresses  worth knowing and even in the situations where the queen wins, many wins are quite long and complicated. Here is an example of a simple draw.

Queen v Rook+P Fortress
Queen v Rook+P Fortress

Here White can simply move his rook back and forth between two safe squares e3 & g3.

An additional pawn for Black on g4  makes no difference viz:

Queen v Rook+P Fortress 2
Queen v Rook+P Fortress 2

This is clearly drawn as well. However, make a subtle change to the position and place Black’s king on e7, then the queen wins:

Agopov - Norri Finland 2012 Move 89 White to move
Agopov – Norri Finland 2012 Move 89 White to move

White played the incomprehensible 89.g6? allowing the simple 89…Rxg6 drawing 89.Qh1! wins as follows: 89…Rg6 90.Qa8 Re6 91.Qa3+ Ke8 92.Kg4 Rg6 93.Kh5 Re6 94.Qb4 zugzwang

Agopov - Norri Finland 2012 Move 94 Black to move
Agopov – Norri Finland 2012 Move 94 Black to move

Black has no good move. One key point is 94…Rg6 95.Qe4+ Kf8 (95…Re6 96.Qxe6 fxe6 97.Kh6 winning) 96.Qxg6 winning

With a further advanced bishop’s pawn, it is no longer a fortress as the attacking king can encircle the weaker side’s position:

Queen v Rook + Pawn Breaking the Fortress
Queen v Rook + Pawn Breaking the Fortress

The winning process falls into three phases and zugzwang is the main weapon to achieve these steps:

  1. First the king has to cross the e-file

1.Kf2 Qc7 2.Kg2 Qc2+ 3.Kg1 (3.Kg3 Qd2 4.Rg4 Ke5 5.Re4+ Kd5 and the first phase is complete) 3…Qd2 4.Kf1 Qh2 5.Re2Qg3 6.Rg2 Qh3 7.Kf2 Ke5 8.Rg4 Kd5

Queen v Rook + Pawn Breaking the Fortress Move 9 White to move
Queen v Rook + Pawn Breaking the Fortress Move 9 White to move

2. Next the Black king crosses the fourth rank:

9.Ke2 Qh6 10.Kf2 Qd2+ 11.Kf1 Qe3 12.Kg2 Qe2+ 13.Kg3 Qf1! 14.Re4 Qg1+ 15.Kf4 Qf2! 16.Kg4 Qg2+ 17.Kf4 Qg1!

Queen v Rook + Pawn Breaking the Fortress Move 18 White to move
Queen v Rook + Pawn Breaking the Fortress Move 18 White to move

White is in zugzwang again and most give way. There are two main defences 18.Re5+ and 18.Ra4.

After 18.Re5+ Kd4 19.Re4+ Kd3 The king’s next target is f2 to gobble the pawn 20.Re8 Qd4+ 21.Re4 Qg7!

Queen v Rook + Pawn Breaking the Fortress Move 22 White to move
Queen v Rook + Pawn Breaking the Fortress Move 22 White to move

22.Re3+ Kd3 23.Re4 Qg6!

Queen v Rook + Pawn Breaking the Fortress Move 24 White to move
Queen v Rook + Pawn Breaking the Fortress Move 24 White to move

Next the final phase: Black’s king crosses the e-file to win the pawn.

24.Re5 Qf6+ 25.Rf5 Qd4+ 26.Kg5 Qg7+ 27.Kf4 Ke2 28.Ke4 Kf2 29.f4 Qe7+ 30.Re5 Qb4+ 31.Kf5 Kf3 and the pawn falls

Queen v Rook + Pawn Breaking the Fortress Move 32 White to move
Queen v Rook + Pawn Breaking the Fortress Move 32 White to move

After 18.Ra4, they are two winning methods, Magnus Carlsen shows one of them here in a position with reversed colours:

Carlsen - Matlakov Move 64 White to play
Carlsen – Matlakov Move 64 White to play

White can win with 64.Kd3 which is quickest according to the tablebase but Carlsen’s method is just as good:

64.Kf4! Rd5 65.Kg4 zugzwang 65…Kc4  (65…Rd4+ 66.Kf5) 66.Qb6! Rd4+ (66…c5?! 67.Qe6 Kd4 Kf4 wins) 67.Kf5 c5 68.Qa5 Rd5+ 69.Ke6 

Carlsen - Matlakov Move 69 Black to play
Carlsen – Matlakov Move 69 Black to play

69…Rd4 70.Qa4+ Kc3 71.Qa3+ Kc4 72.Qa5 Rd3 73.Qa4+ Kc3 74.Qa3+ Kc4 75.Qc1+ Kb4 76.Qb2+ Kc4 77.Qc2+

Carlsen - Matlakov Move 77 Black to play
Carlsen – Matlakov Move 77 Black to play

77…Kd4 [77…Rc3 78.Qe4+ Kb3 79.Qb1+! (79.Kd6?? Kb2=) Kc4 80.Kd6 wins] 78.Kd6 c4 79.Qf2+ Re3 80.Qd2+ 1-0

Carlsen - Matlakov Move 80 Black to play
Carlsen – Matlakov Move 80 Black to play

because 80…Rd3 (80…Ke4 81.Qd5+ wins) 81.Qf4+ Kc3+ 82.Kc5 wins

Chapter 4 Queen versus Rook and Knight

Fortresses are an important topic here.

Gelfand-Anand Moscow 2012 Move 37 Black to move
Gelfand-Anand Moscow 2012 Move 37 Black to move

Here Black has a fortress. White’s obvious pawn lever is g4, so Black stops it with 37…h5! Can White exploit the g5 square? 38.Kh4 Kh6 39.Qb2 Kg6 40.Qc3 Ne4

Gelfand-Anand Moscow 2012 Move 41 White to move
Gelfand-Anand Moscow 2012 Move 41 White to move

41.Qc8 (41.Qf3 Nf6 42.Qg3+ Kh7 43.Qg5?? Ne4 44.Qxh5+ Kg7 45.g4 Rd8 46.gxf5 Rh8 wins for Black!) 41…Nf6 42.Qb8 R37 43.g4 hxg4 44.hxg4 fxg4 45.Qe5

Gelfand-Anand Moscow 2012 Move 45 Black to move
Gelfand-Anand Moscow 2012 Move 45 Black to move

45…Ng8! 46.Qg5+ Kh7 47.Qxg4 f6 48.Qg2 Kh8 49.Qe4 Kg7 drawn

Techniques to destroy fortresses are examined:

Kasparov - Ivanchuk Frankfurt 1998 Move 69 White to move
Kasparov – Ivanchuk Frankfurt 1998 Move 69 White to move

Here the rook and knight have a temporary blockade of two passed pawns. A pawn sacrifice disrupts the coordination of Black’s pieces: 69.g5!?  Nxg5?! (69…Rg6 is tougher) 70.Qg4? (A rare mistake from the former World Champion 70.Qg3! breaks the blockade 70…Rg6 71.Qe5+ Kf7 72.d6 wins; 70…Kh6 71.Qh4+ Kg6 72.d6 wins) 70…Rg6 71.Kb4 Nf7 72,Qd4+ drawn

Here a blockade could have been broken by clever manoeuvring:

Brameyer - Pitzl Dresden 2010 Move 52 Black to play
Brameyer – Pitzl Dresden 2010 Move 52 Black to play

This looks desperate for white who looks to be close to zugzwang. Black continued 52…Kg4?  allowing White to escape

52…Qf5! 53,Kg2 Qg4+ 54.Kh2 Qg5 55.Rd3 Qg6 56.Ne2+ Ke4 57.Rh3 Qf6+ 58.Nc3+ Kd4 59.Ne2+ Kc4 60.Kg3 Qb2 61.Rh4+ Kc5 wins

Brameyer - Pitzl Dresden 2010 Variation Move 62 White to play
Brameyer – Pitzl Dresden 2010 Variation Move 62 White to play

53.Re3! Qd2 54.Rg3+! Kh4 55.Rf3 mutual zugzwang and white held on for a draw

Brameyer - Pitzl Dresden 2010 Move 55 Black to play
Brameyer – Pitzl Dresden 2010 Move 55 Black to play

Queen vs Rook + Knight + Pawn

Beukema-Hausrath Dieren 2017 Move 110 White to move
Beukema – Hausrath Dieren 2017 Move 110 White to move

It is hard to believe that White can lose to here. White played 110.Qe2? which does lose and he lost quickly missing a draw when Black erred. (110.Qb7 holds along with 4 other moves) 110…Rf6+ does win for Black. Buy the book to find out how.

Chapter 5 Queen versus Rook and Bishop

Babula - Blatny Stare Mesto 1992 Move 69 Black to move
Babula – Blatny Stare Mesto 1992 Move 69 Black to move

It is hard to believe that White can win this position as the f7 square is covered by both rook and bishop and all Black’s pieces are safe and coordinated.  White failed to win this game in practice; he tried for 16 moves and gave up. However, White can force the pawn through or win a piece in 43 moves. This is a good example where computer generation of tablebases has really enhanced the understanding of the endgame and found  sophisticated winning manoeuvres in positions like these. The key piece in this type of position is the attacker’s king.

Chapter 6 Queen vs Two Rooks

The authors summarise this material imbalance thus “The rooks are slightly superior materially speaking, but this does not make them favourites automatically. It is very important, if they can get static control and their king can hide. The queen on the other hand often wants to start dynamics to overload the rooks and destroy their coordination and harmony.”

The ending of two Rooks + P v Q is covered in some depth, the theory of which is completely new to the reviewer and probably new to the reader.

The most important factor is whether the attacking king can find hiding places. This often depends on where the defending king is. It has some similarities with queen and pawn vs queen endings:

Vovk - Savchenko Move 90 White to play
Vovk – Savchenko Move 90 White to play

With a rook’s pawn, generally if White’s king is away from the action (near the pawn), the game is drawn, but it is not so easy to give a main drawing zone which was possible in the queen and rook’s pawn or knight’s pawn versus queen case, but d7 seems to be a a good square but it does not always draw.

Matters are very complex and the wins are often very long as this game shows:

90.Qg8? losing

90.Qd4+ holds 90…R5f4 91.Qd8+ Kg3 92.Qg5+ (92.Qg8+ loses in 117 moves) 92…Kf2 93.Qc5+ Re3+ 94.Kd7

Vovk - Savchenko Variation 1 Move 94 Black to play
Vovk – Savchenko Variation 1 Move 94 Black to play

The tablebases give this position as a draw after 94…h2 95.Qh5! Kg2 96.Qg5+ Rg3 97.Qxf4 h1Q 98.Qd2+ Kh3 99.Qh6+ with a perpetual

Vovk - Savchenko Variation 1 Move 98 Black to play
Vovk – Savchenko Variation 1 Move 98 Black to play

Back to the game: 90…h2 91. Qg2?! (91.Qh7+ is tougher losing in 92 moves) 91…Rf2 92.Qh1?! Kh3 93.Qa8?! Rf8 94.Qb7?!

Vovk - Savchenko Move 94 Black to play
Vovk – Savchenko Move 94 Black to play

94…R2f7?! (Black missed a quick win 94…Re2+ 95.Kd6 Rd8+ 96.Kc5 Rc2+ 97.Kb4 Rb2+ winning the queen) 95.Qb3+?! Rf3?! 96.Qb1 Re8+ 97.Kd7 Here White loses despite the king being on d7.

Vovk - Savchenko Move 97 Black to play
Vovk – Savchenko Move 97 Black to play

97…Ree3?  A natural move, throwing away the win, 97…Rh8! wins in 46 moves 98.Kd6? This was White’s last chance to draw: Black won on move 114  0-1

98.Qh7+ seizes the draw 98…Kg2 99.Qc2+ Rf2 100.Qc6+ Ref3 101.Qg6+ Rg3 102.Qc6+ Kg1 102.Qc1+ Rf1 103.Qc5+ drawing

Vovk - Savchenko Variation 2 Move 104 Black to play
Vovk – Savchenko Variation 2 Move 104 Black to play

As the reader can see, this endgame is very complex, even harder than queen + pawn v queen.

Here is example with the king hiding in front of the rook’s pawn in the corner:

Tiviakov - Van der Wiel Leiden 2011 Move 108 Black to move
Tiviakov – Van der Wiel Leiden 2011 Move 108 Black to move

Black played 108…Rb1+? throwing away the win which was to be had with 108…Kg1 in 125 moves! 109.Ka4 now White is holding and Tiviakov defends perfectly:

109… Rf1 110.Qe4 Kg1 111.Qe3+ Rgf2 112.Qg5+ Kh1 113.Qd5+ Rf3 114.Qc6 Kg2 115.Qc2+ R1f2 116.Qg6+

Tiviakov - Van der Wiel Leiden 2011 Move 116 Black to move
Tiviakov – Van der Wiel Leiden 2011 Move 116 Black to move

116…Rg3 117.Qe4+ Rff3 118.Qc2+ Kg1 119.Qd1+ Rf1 120.Qd4+ Kg2 121.Qe4+ Rff3 122.Qc2+ Kg1 123.Qd1+ Rf1 124.Qd4+ Rf2 125.Qd1+ Kg2 126.Qd5+

Tiviakov - Van der Wiel Leiden 2011 Move 126 Black to move
Tiviakov – Van der Wiel Leiden 2011 Move 126 Black to move

126…Rgf3 127.Qg5+ (127.Qg8+ loses after 127…Kf1) Kf1 128.Qc1+ Ke2 129.Qc2+ Ke3 130.Qc3+ Ke4 131.Qc4+ Kf5 132.Qf7+ Ke5 133.Qc7+ Kd4 134.Qd6+ Kc3 135.Qa3+ Kc2 ½-½

The knight’s pawn is the best pawn for the attacker. The attacker wins, if reasonably well placed and coordinated and the king safe:

Van der Wiel - Winants Brussels 1987 Move 74 Black to move
Van der Wiel – Winants Brussels 1987 Move 74 Black to move

White won quickly in about 20 moves after 74…Qf4+ 75.Kg1 Qe3+ 76.Kh1

There is no safe place for the defender’s king with a knight’s pawn.

The bishop’s pawn is surprisingly different. Here a few draws exist. One occurs with the defending king on the long side in a good position:

Markowski - Gdanski Warsaw 2002 Variation Move 69 White to move
Markowski – Gdanski Warsaw 2002 Variation Move 69 White to move

This is a theoretical draw. White can try 69.R5d4+

Or 69.Ke5 Qg7+ 70.Ke6 Qh6+ 71.Kd7 Qg7+ 72.Kc6 Qf6+ 73.Rd6 Qf5 74.R2d5 Qc8+=

Markowski - Gdanski Warsaw 2002 Variation 3 Move 75 White to move
Markowski – Gdanski Warsaw 2002 Variation 3 Move 75 White to move

69…Ka5! (69…Kb3? loses in 107 moves) 70.Rd6 Kb4 71.Rb2+ Kc5 72.Rbb6 Qe2+ 73.Kf5 Qh5+ =

Markowski - Gdanski Warsaw 2002 Variation 2 Move 74 White to move
Markowski – Gdanski Warsaw 2002 Variation 2 Move 74 White to move

White a knight’s pawn this setup does not draw because Black’s queen is too restricted on the short side:

2R+P v Q Instructive example
2R+P v Q Instructive example

1,R5e4+ Kb5 2.Re7 Qf6+ 3.Kg3 Qc3+ 4.R2e3 Qf6 5.R3e5+ Kb4 6.g5

2R+P v Q Instructive example move 6
2R+P v Q Instructive example move 6

6…Qf1 7.Kg4 Qd1+ 8.Re2 Kc3 9.Kh5 Qh1+ 10.Kg6 Qd5 11.R2e6 Qd3+ 12.Kg7 Qd4+ 13.Re5

2R+P v Q Instructive example move 13
2R+P v Q Instructive example move 13

13…Kc2 14.g6 Kd2 15.Kg8 Qd6 16.g7 Qb8+ 17.Kf7 Qb3+ 18.R5e6 Qf3+ 19.Rf6 Qd5+ 20.Ree6

2R+P v Q Instructive example move 20
2R+P v Q Instructive example move 20

20…Qb7+ 21.Kg8 Qh1 22.Rh6 Qa8+ 23.Kh7 Qa7 24.Kh8 Qa1 25.Ref6 winning

2R+P v Q Instructive example final
2R+P v Q Instructive example final

If the reader has played through this ending, it was remarkably simple to win.

With a central pawn, there is no fortress on the short side for the defending king:

2R+Central P v Q Instructive example
2R+Central P v Q Instructive example

This is winning after 1.Kd7 Qg7+ 2.e7

In general, the queen can draw when the defending king is well placed and the attacker cannot coordinate and safeguard the king. This can be very complicated and not easy to calculate:

Zwakala - De Abreu Boksburg 2018 Move 71 White to play
Zwakala – De Abreu Boksburg 2018 Move 71 White to play

White’s king is trapped on the edge but White can just hold: 71.Qb6+ Kf7 72.Kg4 R5f4+ 73.Kg5 Rf6 74.Qb1 Rg3+ 75.Kh4 Rg2 75.Kh4 Rg2

Zwakala - De Abreu Boksburg 2018 Move 76 White to play
Zwakala – De Abreu Boksburg 2018 Move 76 White to play

76.Qb3+ and lost quickly 76.Qh7+! draws 76…Kf8 77.Qh8+ Rg8 78.Qh5 e5 79.Kh3 Rg7 80.Qh4 Kf7 81.Qc4+ Re6 82.Qc7+ Re7 83.Qc4+ Kf6 84.Qc6+ Re6 85.Qf3+ =

Here is a game from the early Fischer. His opponent played 90..Kd6? and Fischer defended perfectly to draw.

Fischer - Matthai Montreal 1956 Move 90 Black to move
Fischer – Matthai Montreal 1956 Move 90 Black to move

Black could have hunted down the White king as follows: 90…Rc3 91.Kg4 Ra4+ 92.Kh5 Rc5+ 93.Kh6 Rh4+ 94.Kg6 Rg4+ 95.Kh6 Rgg5

Fischer - Matthai Montreal 1956 Variation Move 96 White to move
Fischer – Matthai Montreal 1956 Variation Move 96 White to move

96.Qa2 Ke8 97.Qa8+ Kf7 98.Qa2+ Rcd5

Fischer - Matthai Montreal 1956 Variation Final
Fischer – Matthai Montreal 1956 Variation Final

After 99.Qf2+ Rgf5 winning as 100…Rh5+ follows

General case with more pawns

In general the rooks want static control and the queen dynamic. It is extremely important for the rooks to coordinate. Examples of positions where the two rooks are better are shown below.

The reviewer gives some typical positions with a quick assessment: buy the book to go through the analysis.

In this position below the rooks have full board control. White wins easily.

Hole - Thomassen Oslo 2011 Move 35 Black to move
Hole – Thomassen Oslo 2011 Move 35 Black to move

In the position below the rooks are coordinated and white’s weak isolated pawns are easy pickings for the rooks. Black won quickly.

Shirov - Anand Linares 1998 Move 41 Black to move
Shirov – Anand Linares 1998 Move 41 Black to move

In the next position, white has just played 43.Re1 threatening Ree7, Black has to weaken his pawns to prevent the immediate loss of the f7-pawn. This is enough for white to win.

Kramnik - Andreikin Tromso 2013 Move 43 Black to move
Kramnik – Andreikin Tromso 2013 Move 43 Black to move

The queen needs targets to start dynamic play. Good for the queen are weak pawns, an exposed king, uncoordinated rooks and of course dangerous friendly passed pawns.

Queen + two connected passed pawns usually beat two rooks. The defensive setup with the rooks doubled up against the more advanced pawn can be difficult to break down. The position below is winning but takes nearly 50 moves against best defence!

Murdiza - Rozentalis Cappelle-la-Grande 2004 Move 59 Black to move
Murdiza – Rozentalis Cappelle-la-Grande 2004 Move 59 Black to move

The position below is winning for the queen as the rooks are uncoordinated and the queen has a dangerous passed c-pawn.

McShane - Mamedov Astand 2019 Move 45 White to move
McShane – Mamedov Astana 2019 Move 45 White to move

In this position the passed pawn dominates the rooks but Black is still holding out. The key to winning this game is to open a second front on the queenside to widen the bridgehead for the queen. Hence 48.c4!

Shirov - Short Yerevan 1996 Move 48 White to move
Shirov – Short Yerevan 1996 Move 48 White to move

In the next position Black has a small material advantage with two connected passed pawns. The easiest way to win is to open a second front on the queenside and create fresh White pawn weaknesses, hence 35…a5!

Giri - Aronian Leuven 2018 Move 35 Black to move
Giri – Aronian Leuven 2018 Move 35 Black to move

In the next example, there is rough material equality but the queen is winning here as White’s rooks are uncoordinated, his king is exposed and he has lots of weak pawns.

Amanov - Adams Wheeling 2012 Move 30 White to move
Amanov – Adams Wheeling 2012 Move 30 White to move

Chapter 7 – Queen versus Rook and Two Minor Pieces

Surprisingly the author does not cover the  endgame with no pawns as R+B+N v Q is drawn but is difficult to hold.

The pieces seek static control. In the position below, Black is winning but needs squares for his pieces, hence 34…g5!? After 35.fxg5 Bxg5 Black is winning as White’s pawns are going to drop off in the long run.

Vitiugov - Lysyj Kazan 2014 Move 34 Black to move
Vitiugov – Lysyj Kazan 2014 Move 34 Black to move

In the next example, the position is static with the pieces controlling everything. The queen has no targets and White’s king is safe. White will slowly and surely improve his pieces and pick off Black’s pawns.

Grischuk - Topalov Linares 2010 Move 47 Black to move
Grischuk – Topalov Linares 2010 Move 47 Black to move

In the next example, the queen has passed pawns, but they are all separated and effectively isolated, so Black’s well coordinated pieces can just collect the apple harvest after 34…Rb4!

Caruana - Le St Louis 2017 Move 34 Black to move
Caruana – Le St Louis 2017 Move 34 Black to move

The queen loves dynamic play with an exposed enemy king.

A good example is below where queen and 3 pawns fight a rook and two bishops with an exposed king. After 24.Qe6 Black is struggling to coordinate and finish development. Black put up stiff resistance but the defensive task proved too much and White won.

Karpov - Speelman Reykjavik 1991 Move 24 White to move
Karpov – Speelman Reykjavik 1991 Move 24 White to move

In the next game, a queen and two connected passed pawns supported by the king face an uncoordinated rook, bishop and knight. The queen wins effortlessly.

Kramnik - Aronian Zurich 2012 Move 30 Black to move
Kramnik – Aronian Zurich 2012 Move 30 Black to move

Chapter 8 Queen an Minor Piece vs Queen (and Minor Piece)

This topic is covered well with sections on:

  • Queen + Knight v Queen
  • Queen + Knight + Pawns v Queen + Pawns
  • Queen + Bishop v queen
  • Queen + Bishop + Pawns v Queen + pawns
  • Queen + Knight endings
  • Queen + Bishop (same colour) endings
  • Queen + Bishop (opposite colour) endings
  • Queen + Knight v Queen + bishop endings

This is particularly good chapter.

Chapter 9 Queen  + Rook  v Queen + Rook

This piece combination is a really a mixture of middlegame and endgame themes. King safety is paramount. In this game White’s king is safe whereas Black’s king is looking potentially vulnerable.

Fischer - Benko 1959 Move 33 White to move
Fischer – Benko 1959 Move 33 White to move

Fischer played the incisive 33.a4!! to open up files for his rook. If 33…b4 34.Rh5!

There is another Fischer game below. White had to play 35.Rf3. However after 35.Qf8+? Kh5 Black’s king entered the fray with decisive effect. After 36.g4+ Kh4 37.Qxf6+ Kxh3 it was all over.

Blau - Fischer Varna 1962 Move 35 White to move
Blau – Fischer Varna 1962 Move 35 White to move

Chapter 10 Queen vs. Minor pieces

The interesting endgames of queen v 2 minor pieces with no pawns are covered.

The endgame of queen v two knights with pawns is covered showing typical winning methods:

  • Overloading the knights which can only defend a limited front
  • King invasion
  • Zugzwang

Some successful fortresses are also demonstrated.

The endgame of queen v two bishops with pawns is also covered. Positions with mutual passed pawns are shown demonstrating the power of the queen. Some fortresses are shown of course.

The endgame of queen v knight and bishop with pawns is also covered. Positions with fortresses are covered with methods of breaching them covered.

Queen versus three minor pieces is by far the most interesting endgame covered with this rough material equality.

In this sort of position where the pieces are uncoordinated, the queen wins:

Berkes - Indjic Valjevo 2018 Move 36 Black to move
Berkes – Indjic Valjevo 2018 Move 36 Black to move

If the pieces are coordinated and their king is safe, they have good winning chances.

Lautier - Gurevich Munich 1993 Move 53 White to move
Lautier – Gurevich Munich 1993 Move 53 White to move

White misfired with 53.b5? (53.Qxb7 holds a draw) 53…Nd4! wins as the pieces gain static control. Eventually all the queenside pawns were exchanged and Black won on the kingside.

If the minor pieces have control even with a pawn apiece, the pieces have winning chances:

Gustafsson - Svane Bonn 2011 Move 50 Black to move
Gustafsson – Svane Bonn 2011 Move 50 Black to move

Black played 50…Qc1+? and lost the pawn and the game. 50…Qg1 just holds!

The next position is one of dynamic equality:

Nisipeanu - Radjabov Bazna Move 30 Black to move
Nisipeanu – Radjabov Bazna Move 30 Black to move

30…Bc6! 31.Qxa7 Nc5=

Chapter 11 is a pot pourri of fascinating positions that do not belong elsewhere in the book.

Chapter 12 covers some endgame studies. Every endgame book should include some studies to enhance the readers’ imaginations.

The book ends with comprehensive solutions to the exercises set in each chapter.

In summary, this is an excellent book which requires a lot of time to absorb. Some sections are much easier to absorb than others, for example the sections on two rooks v queen in the general case with many pawns is excellent and would be useful for club players and above.  The chapter on queen and minor piece v queen and minor piece with many pawns is also superb. The more difficult sections such as queen and pawn v queen are definitely worth studying and are fascinating in themselves.

FM Richard Webb
FM Richard Webb

FM Richard Webb, Basingstoke, Hampshire, 11th August 2021

Book Details :

  • Hardcover : 272 pages
  • Publisher:Russell Enterprises (24 Mar. 2021)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10:1949859312
  • ISBN-13:978-1949859317
  • Product Dimensions: ‎15.24 x 1.27 x 22.86 cm

Official web site of Russell Enterprises

Understanding Queen Endgames, Karsten Müller & Yakov Kanoval, Russell Enterprises (24 Mar. 2021), ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-1949859317
Understanding Queen Endgames, Karsten Müller & Yakov Kanoval, Russell Enterprises (24 Mar. 2021), ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-1949859317

Zlotnik’s Middlegame Manual – Typical Structures And Strategic Manoeuvres

Zlotnik's Middlegame Manual - Typical Structures And Strategic Manoeuvres, Boris Zlotnik, New in Chess, 7th December 2020, 7th December 2020, ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-9056919269
Zlotnik’s Middlegame Manual – Typical Structures And Strategic Manoeuvres, Boris Zlotnik, New in Chess, 7th December 2020, 7th December 2020, ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-9056919269

Blurb from the publisher:

“If you want to improve your middlegame play, you will have to develop a FEEL for positions.

That’s what Boris Zlotnik has been stressing during his long and rich trainers career. Clicking through concrete variations (a popular pastime in the computer era) is not enough. To guide your thinking during a game you should be able to fall back on a reservoir of typical ideas and methods.

That is exactly what this book offers you: Zlotnik’s legendary study material about the middlegame, modernized, greatly extended and published in the English language for the first time. As you familiarize yourself with the most important strategic ideas and manoeuvres in important basic opening structures, you will need less time to discover the clues in middlegame positions.

You will find it so much easier to steer your game in the right direction after the opening has ended. Zlotnik’s Middlegame Manual is accessible to a wide range of post-beginners and club players. It is your passport to a body of instructive material of unparalleled quality, collected during a lifetime of training and coaching chess.

A large collection of exercises, carefully chosen and didactically tuned, will help you drill what you have learned. With a foreword by Fabiano Caruana.”

IM Boris Zlotnik
IM Boris Zlotnik

“Boris Zlotnik is an International Master from Russia and a prominent chess trainer. For many years he was the director of the legendary Chess Department of the INEF College in Moscow. In 1993 he emigrated to Spain. One of his most successful pupils is Fabiano Caruana, who in 2004, as a 12-year-old, moved to Madrid with his entire family to live near his trainer.”

End of blurb.

Courtesy of Amazon we have an option to Look Inside the Kindle version of this book

From my first quick perusal through this middlegame  manual, I was really impressed with the illuminative, explanatory paragraphs enumerating the possible plans of both sides particularly in Part 1 Typical structures in the middlegame. These typical schemes are demonstrated with instructive games from top players of many periods interspersed with many pithy paragraphs which effectively communicate key ideas. The reviewer will give examples as we navigate this excellent training manual for typical middlegame structures and manoeuvres.

The tome also effectively uses the analysis and evaluations of chess engines in conjunction with the excellent, explanatory passages to scrutinise games and emphasize key motifs. It is surprising how often the play and evaluations of the old masters is vindicated by the computer. (Of course there are tactical oversights, but that is to be expected.)

The book is divided into three sections. Part 1 is concerned with Typical structures in the middlegame and has three chapters:

  • The Isolated Queen’s Pawn
  • The Carlsbad Structure
  • Symmetrical Pawn Structures

Part 2  is titled Typical methods of play:

  • Restricted mobility in the King’s Indian Defence
  • Should we exchange the fianchettoed bishop (EFB) ?
  • The d5-square in the Sicilian

Part 3 has two chapters with exercises followed by solutions.

The reviewer will present a detailed report of chapters 1 and 2 to give the reader a good feel for the book. Chapter 3 will get modest coverage whilst Chapters 4-6  will get a  very brief overview.

Chapter 1 The Isolated Queen’s Pawn

The author begins with an introduction with Tarrasch’s famous quote followed by showing the typical IQP pawn structures viz.:

IQP1
IQP1

IQP2
IQP2

IQP3
IQP3

IQP4
IQP4

As the author points out, these pawn structures can occur from a wide variety of openings which only makes their study more valuable for any aspiring player to improve.

As a young junior, the reviewer won a host of games against the IQP by exchanging pieces and exploiting the weak d-pawn in the endings. As a result of these comfortable victories, against mainly weaker opposition, I jumped to the false conclusion that the IQP was a “bad thing”. My poor education was soon exposed when I got crushed in games against stronger players who knew exactly how to handle the advantages of the IQP.

Zolotnik gives a quick historical survey of the IQP with a couple of games from the Victorian era including a game by the first official world champion William Steinitz.

The author explains the weakness of the IQP in the endgame with two didactic games by Sergei Tiviakov.

The first endgame starts here:

Tiviakov-Neverov Warsaw 2015 White To Play Move 33
Tiviakov-Neverov Warsaw 2015 White To Play Move 33

The second endgame commences here:

Tiviakov-Miladinovic Algiers 2015 White To Play Move 25
Tiviakov-Miladinovic Algiers 2015 White To Play Move 25

After the exchange of one pair of rooks, this position is reached:

Tiviakov-Miladinovic Algiers 2015 Black To Play Move 36
Tiviakov-Miladinovic Algiers 2015 Black To Play Move 36

The reader may well be thinking:  black is slightly worse, but with opposite coloured bishops how did black lose those endgames, particularly as the white rook has no obvious entry point? Tiviakov’s second opponent was a decent GM close to 2600 and he got ground down thus displaying how difficult these type of equals minus mode endings are to defend with an inferior pawn structure and a semi-bad bishop. Stockfish helpfully indicates that the ending is drawn for many moves, but pity the mere mortals in practice with an increment finish! Buy the book to enjoy these ending masterclasses.

The author proffers some sagacious observations:

“As can be seen from these two endings, the main drawbacks of the IQP are that it cannot be defended by another pawn, and in addition the square in front of this pawn, as well as various squares to the side of the pawn, can be exploited by the opponent as strongpoints for his pieces. These disadvantages are most apparent following simplification, whereas the side with the IQP possesses several advantages which are present in the middlegame. First and foremost, the IQP confers a space advantage, which makes it easy to regroup the pieces and consequently to create threats in different areas of the board, especially on the kingside. Secondly, the IQP serves as support for the central deployment of one or two minor pieces, particularly a knight, which creates the conditions for an attack on the enemy castled king. Thirdly, the side with the isolated pawn can exert pressure along the c- and e- files.”

The author then lists the typical plans for both sides in the IQP battle of ideas:

“The side with the IQP has the following four plans available:

A) kingside attack;

B) opening the game by advancing the isolated pawn;

C) advancing the isolated in order to fix an enemy pawn on an adjacent file;

D) developing activity on the queenside

The side playing against the IQP employs basically two methods:

A) simplification of the position, aiming for an endgame;

B) transformation from an IQP structure to a structure with hanging pawns.”

The subsequent six sub-sections of the chapter analyses each of these plans in turn.

Sub-section A Kingside attack

This begins with an exemplary attacking game by Vladimir Tukmakov against Viktor Kortchnoi from the Soviet championship Riga 1960: the great defensive player Kortchnoi is smashed up. Well worth a visit: get the book to enjoy this slugfest with good notes.

The author adds this observation: “In the structure with a pawn on e6 versus a pawn on d4, the ‘hot spots’ where White often sacrifices his pieces are e6 and f7, while in the structure with pc7/c6 versus pd4, there is a typical sacrifice, as seen in the following game.”

Here is a modern game in the Petroff that shows these demolition of these ‘hotspots’.

Nils Grandelius (2653) – Anna Zatonskih (2424)
IoM Masters 2017

1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nf6 3.Nxe5 d6 4.Nf3 Nxe4 5.d4 d5 6.Bd3 Nc6 7.0-0

Grandelius-Zatonskih IOM 2017 Move 7 Black to move
Grandelius-Zatonskih IOM 2017 Move 7 Black to move

7…Bg4 (7…Be7 is more common and scores better, but Stockfish likes both moves) 8.c4 Nf6 9.Nc3 Be7 10.cxd5 Nxd5 11.h3 Be6 12.Re1 0-0 A typical IQP position

Grandelius-Zatonskih IOM 2017 Move 13 White to move
Grandelius-Zatonskih IOM 2017 Move 13 White to move

13.a3 (White employs a standard plan, preparing the well known queen on d3 and bishop on c2 battery eyeing up h7) 13…Re8 14.Bc2 (It is interesting to note that after 14.Qc2 h6 15.Rxe6!? white has sufficient compensation for the exchange)

Grandelius-Zatonskih IOM 2017 Move 14 Black to move
Grandelius-Zatonskih IOM 2017 Move 14 Black to move

A common sort of IQP position which contains hidden venom.

14…h6?? (This looks wrong in this type of position and is totally refuted. Black should wait for Qd3 and play g6 solidifying the b1-h7 diagonal, better is 14…Bf6, 15.Qd3 g6 16.Bh6 (or 16.Ba4!? with a tiny edge according to the iron monster) Nxc3 17.bxc3 Bf5 with equality) 15.Qd3 Nf6

Grandelius-Zatonskih IOM 2017 Move 16 White to move
Grandelius-Zatonskih IOM 2017 Move 16 White to move

The erroneous h-pawn advance is severely punished with a thematic breakthrough:

16.Bxh6! Winning by force 16…gxh6 (16…Qd7 is hopeless: 17.Bg5 g6 18.d5! Nxd5 19.Rxe6! Qxe6 20.Nxd5 crashes through)  17.Rxe6! Killing, as all the white squares collapse.

Grandelius-Zatonskih IOM 2017 Move 17 Black to move
Grandelius-Zatonskih IOM 2017 Move 17 Black to move

17…Qd7 (17…fxe6 leads to a typical finish: 18.Qg6+ Kh8 19.Qxh6+ Kg8 20.Ng5! bringing in the third piece for the attack and mate follows quickly, for example 20…Rf8 21.Bh7+ Kh8 22.Bf5+ Kg8 23.Bxe6+ Rf7 24.Bxf7#) 18.Rae1 fxe6 19.Qg6+ Kf8 20.Qxh6+ Kg8

Grandelius-Zatonskih IOM 2017 Move 21 White to move
Grandelius-Zatonskih IOM 2017 Move 21 White to move

21.Ne5 (White can also win in a similar manner to the line given above: 21.Qg6+ Kh8 22.Ng5 Rf8 23. Qh6+ Kg8 24.Bh7+ Kh8 25.Bf5+) Nxe5 22.dxe5 Bf8 23.Qxf6 Bg7 24.Qg6 Qd2 25.Re3 Re7 26.Ne4 Qc1+ 27.Kh2 Qxb2 28.Nf6+ Kf8 29.Nd7+ Rxd7 30.Rf3+ 1-0

A lesson in care about moving pawns in front of the king. A surprising mistake, 14…h6?? from an IM standard player.

Plan B: opening the game by advancing the IQP

Here is a superb game from the young Boris Spassky showing his brilliant tactical and positional skills:

Boris Spassky – Avtonomov
Leningrad 1949

1.d4 d5 2.c4 dxc4 3.Nf3 Nf6 4.e3 e6 5.Bxc4 c5 6.0-0 a6 7.Qe2 b5 8.Bb3 (The main line, but 8.Bd3 is also a played) 8…Nc6 (Modern theory prefers 8…Bb7! or Stockfish prefers 8…Be7) 9.Nc3

Spassky - Avtonomov Leningrad 1949 Move 7 Black to move
Spassky – Avtonomov Leningrad 1949 Move 7 Black to move

 A common position from the queen’s gambit accepted. Black now plays an obvious move that is a serious mistake.

9…cxd4? (Once again 9…Bb7! is the modern main line, Stockfish, again prefers kingside development with 9…Be7) 10.Rd1!

Spassky - Avtonomov Leningrad 1949 Move 10 Black to move
Spassky – Avtonomov Leningrad 1949 Move 10 Black to move

The point, a standard resource in the QGA after a previous Qe2 10…Bb7? (10…Na5 was essential surrendering a pawn for the bishop pair: 11.Nxd4 Bd6 12.e4 Qc7 13.Nf3 Nxb3 14.axb3 Be7 15.Nxb5 Qb8 16.Nc3 0-0) 11.exd4 Nb4? (The losing move! It is hard to believe that Black will not survive ten moves from here, 11…Na5 is better, but 12.d5! anyway which is similar to the game leads to a clear advantage to white)

Spassky - Avtonomov Leningrad 1949 Move 12 White to move
Spassky – Avtonomov Leningrad 1949 Move 12 White to move

The d5 square is covered five times, but….

12.d5!! (Completely crushing. Now we see why Stockfish liked Be7 on moves 8 and 9) 12…Nbxd5 (12…Nfxd5 loses a piece to 13.a3!) 13.Bg5! (Developing the last minor piece with a killing pin and more pressure on d5, simply 14.Nxd5 is threatened winning a piece)

Spassky - Avtonomov Leningrad 1949 Move 13 Black to move
Spassky – Avtonomov Leningrad 1949 Move 13 Black to move

13…Be7 Forced 14.Bxf6 (Crunch!, smashing up black’s kingside, so his king will never find shelter) 14…gxf6 15.Nxd5 Bxd5 (15…exd5 is better but black is still lost) 16.Bxd5 exd5 17.Nd4

Spassky - Avtonomov Leningrad 1949 Move 17 Black to move
Spassky – Avtonomov Leningrad 1949 Move 17 Black to move

Black’s position is a sorry sight. His king has no haven: the end is swift. Notice how the white steed is the key cavalryman in the execution.

17…Kf8 (17…0-0 18.Nf5! wins a piece owing to the threat of 19.Qg4+ mating) 18.Nf5 h5 19.Rxd5! Qxd5 20.Qxe7+ Kg8 21.Qxf6 A crisp finish in a fine attacking game 1-0

An exemplary display from the future World Champion.

Subsection C: advancing the isolated pawn to fix an enemy pawn

This plan occurs most frequently in structures with a black IQP arising from the Tarrasch Defence to the Queen’s Gambit. There are cases with a white IQP in the Gruenfeld Defence for example.

The reviewer will show some key positions from a game Nikolay Novotelnov – Igor Bondarevsky Moscow 1951.

This is the standard tabiya from the Tarrasch Defence to the Queen’s Gambit.

Novotelnov-Bonarevsky Moscow 1951 Move 9 Black to move
Novotelnov – Bonarevsky Moscow 1951 Move 9 Black to move

In the position below, Bondarevsky played  a memorable idea which is not obvious 12…d4! 

Novotelnov-Bonarevsky Moscow 1951 Move 12 Black to move
Novotelnov – Bonarevsky Moscow 1951 Move 12 Black to move

Boris Spassky was a pupil of Bondarevsky and in the position above played 12…h6 13.Bxf6 Qxf6 14.Nxb6 axb6 15.Qb3 Qd8 16.a3 d4!

Chernikov-Spassky Moscow 1966 Move 17 White to move
Chernikov – Spassky Moscow 1966 Move 17 White to move

Spassky’s expertise in this variation played a large part in his victory over Petrosian in the World Championship match in 1969.

The Bondarevsky game reached this position after move 21:

Novotelnoy-Bondarevsky Moscow 1951 Move 21 White to move
Novotelnoy – Bondarevsky Moscow 1951 Move 21 White to move

It’s all gone horribly wrong for white who has to endure horrendous pressure down the e-file. Black duly won after several mistakes by both sides.

Here is an instructive game from another former World Champion, Vasily Smyslov.

Vasily Smyslov – Vladimir Liberzon
Moscow 1969

1.c4 g6 2.Nc3 Bg7 3.d4 Nf6 4.Bg5 c5 5.e3 cxd4 6.exd4 d5 7.Bxf6 Bxf6 8.cxd5 0-0 9.Nf3

Smyslov-Liberzon Moscow 1969 Move 9 Black to move
Smyslov-Liberzon Moscow 1969 Move 9 Black to move

According to modern theory, this position should hold no terrors for black.

9…Nd7 9…Bg4 is a decent move: 10. Bc4 Bxf3 11.Qxf3 Bxd4 12. Rd1 Bxc3+ 13.Qxc3 Qd6 14.0-0 Nd7 15.Rfe1 Rac8 16.Qd4 Nb6 17.Bb3 with equality. This looks slightly easier to play for white who has more space and pressure on the e-pawn, Kasparov outplayed his opponent and went on to win.

Kasparov-Kasimdzhanov Bastia 2007 Move 17 Black to move
Kasparov-Kasimdzhanov Bastia 2007 Move 17 Black to move

Stockfish likes 9…Bg7 10.Qb3 e6!?

Smyslov-Liberzon Moscow 1969 Variation Move 11 White to move
Smyslov-Liberzon Moscow 1969 Variation Move 11 White to move

There are a lot of gambits in the Bg5 systems against the Gruenfeld after white has surrendered his dark squared bishop. This gambit is totally sound: after 11.dxe6 Bxe612.Qxb7 Qe8! 13.Be2 Nc6 14.0-0 Rb8 15.Qa6 Nxd4 16.Nxd4 Bxd4 17.Rad1 Bg7 With equality, black’s bishop pair and activity compensate for the pawn.

The Smyslov-Liberzon game continued:

10.Bc4 Nb6 11.Bb3 Bg4 12.0-0 Rc8 (12…Nc8 to blockade the d-pawn is also fine) 13.Re1 Bxf3 14.Qxf3 Bxd4 15.Rad1

Smyslov-Liberzon Moscow 1969 Variation Move 15 Black to move
Smyslov-Liberzon Moscow 1969 Move 15 Black to move

This position is equal and black can continue as he did in the game or retain his bishop with equality in both cases. The reviewer agrees with the author and prefers the latter course. Equal does not mean drawn and white’s space advantage makes his position somewhat easier to play.

15…Bxc3 16.bxc3 Qd6 17.h4

Smyslov-Liberzon Moscow 1969 Variation Move 17 Black to move
Smyslov-Liberzon Moscow 1969 Move 17 Black to move

17…h5?! (17…a5! undermining the bishop is better: 18.a4 h5 19.g4 hxg4 20.Qxg4 Rxc3 21.Re6 fxe6 22.Qxg6+ is only a draw)18.Rd4?! (Strike while the iron is hot: 18.g4! hxg4 19.Qxg4 Rxc3 20.h5 with a strong initiative and a clear advantage, e.g. 20…g5 21.Qxg5+ Kh8 21.Qxe7 Nc8 22.Qe4)

18…Kg7 19.Rf4 Rc7? (Disconnecting the rooks with fatal consequences, once again 19…a5! is the right idea with equality)

Smyslov-Liberzon Moscow 1969 Variation Move 20 White to move
Smyslov-Liberzon Moscow 1969 Variation Move 20 White to move

20.Re6! Qd8 21.Re3 I’ll be back 21…Qd6

Smyslov-Liberzon Moscow 1969 Move 22 White to move
Smyslov-Liberzon Moscow 1969 Move 22 White to move

22.Rfe4?! (22.g4! sets up a winning attack: notice how the d5-pawn confers on white a space advantage which allows easy manoeuvring of his major pieces whilst black’s rook and knight are still offside) 22…a5! 23.a4 Qf6 (23…Nd7 is better) 24.Rf4 Qd6

Smyslov-Liberzon Moscow 1969 Move 25 White to move
Smyslov-Liberzon Moscow 1969 Move 25 White to move

25.Re6! (Hello again! This time the rook brings the grim reaper with a specially sharpened scythe.) 25…Qc5 26.Rxg6+! Ouch fxg6 27.Rxf8 Qxc3 28.Qf7+ Kh6 29.Qf4+ Kg7 30.Rf7+ Kg8 31.d6 Qxb3 32.Rf8+ 1-0

Plan D – developing activity on  the queenside

Here is one of the author’s games:

Alexander Bitman – Boris Zlotnik Moscow 1979

1.e4 e6 2.d4 d5 3.Nd2 c5 4.Ngf3 Nf6 5.exd5 exd5 6.Bb5+ Bd7 7.Bxd7+ (7.Qe2+ is the main alternative) Nbxd7 8.dxc5 (8.0-0 is more accurate) Bxc5 9.0-0 0-0 10.Nb3 Bb6

In this position, white plays a seemingly natural move that is a mistake because it allows black to gain time for activating his pieces. The reviewer has made the same mistake in a very similar position in an on-line blitz game.

11.Re1?! (11.c3! or 11.Nbd4 is better) Re8! (Preventing 12.Be3) 12.Rxe8+ Qxe8 13.Nbd4 Ne5 (13…Qe4 is interesting: Stockfish likes the game move as well)

Bitman -Zlotnik Moscow 1979 Move 14 White to move
Bitman -Zlotnik Moscow 1979 Move 14 White to move

14.Bg5?! (A definite mistake, it’s as if white thought that black’s queen was still on d8! Better is 14.Nxe5 Qxe5 15.Be3 Re8 16.c3 h5 17.h3 with equality) Ne4 15.Bh4!? (The bishop is out of play here, 15.Bf4 is better; 15.Be3 Nc4!) 15…Nxf3+ 16.Nxf3 (Strangely 16.gxf3 is better ejecting the powerful knight at the cost of a weakened kingside)

Bitman -Zlotnik Moscow 1979 Move 14 White to move
Bitman -Zlotnik Moscow 1979 Move 14 White to move

16…Qb5! (Attacking the weak queenside which is made more effective because of white’s misplaced bishop) 17.Rb1 Re8 18.a3? ( A fatal weakening: better was 18.Qd3 or 18.c3 with the idea of 19.Nd4) 18…h6 19.Qd3 Qxd3 (Good enough to win a pawn and the game, but 19…Qc5!? is even better 20.b4 Qc6 with a big advantage)  20.cxd3 Nc5 Winning a pawn and the full point 21.Re1 (21.d4 Nb3 wins the d4-pawn because of white’s weak back rank) 21…Rxe1+ 22.Nxe1 Nb3 23.Nc2 Nc1 24.Nb4 (24.d4 Nb3 wins a pawn) 24…Bd4! 25.b3 Bc5! 26.Nxd5 Bxa3 27.b4 a6 28.Be7 f6 29.d4 Ne2+ 30.Kf1 Nxd4 and black won the pawn up technical endgame 0-1

The last two subsections of this chapter cover the two main plans for the defending side.

1.6 Plan A: simplification of the position

Here is a smooth win from the former World Champion, Anatoly Karpov at the height of his powers, over another ex-champion Boris Spassky.

Anatoly Karpov (2705) – Boris Spassky (2640)
Montreal Montreal 1979

1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 e6 3.Nf3 d5 4.Nc3 Be7 5.Bf4 0-0 6.e3 c5 7.dxc5 Nc6 8.Qc2 Qa5 9.a3 Bxc5 10.Rd1

Karpov-Spassky Montreal 1979 Move 10 Black to move
Karpov-Spassky Montreal 1979 Move 10 Black to move

10…Be7 (This move is still one of the main lines today, however 10…Rd8!? is the latest theory leading to a small edge for white, one complicated line is: 11.Nd2! d4!? 12.Nb3 Qb6 13.Na4 Bb4+, 14.axb4 Qxb4+ 15.Nd2 e5 16.Bg5 Qa5 17.Qb3 Nb4 18.Bxf6 gxf6 19.Be2 Bd7 20.Ra1 dxe3 21.fxe5 b5 22.0-0 bxa4 23.Qc3 with a small edge. The only reason the reviewer gives this line is to demonstrate the extent of computer home preparation today: in Karjakin-Anand, Shamkir 2019, white won after playing the first 36 moves of home preparation) 11.Nd2 Bd7? (11…e5! is better and is the main line leading to rough equality) 12.Be2 Rfc8?! (Again 12…e5! is better limiting white’s edge) 13.0-0  Qd8 14.cxd5 exd5 (14…Nxd5 15.Nxd5 exd5 16.Qb3 with a definite edge) 15.Nf3 h6

Karpov-Spassky Montreal 1979 Move 10 Black to move
Karpov-Spassky Montreal 1979 Move 10 Black to move

Karpov makes a pertinent note: “The exchange of at least one pair of knights favours White, as it makes it easier to control the d4-square. Furthermore the f3-square is available for the e2 bishop, exerting direct pressure on the d5-pawn.”

16.Ne5 Be6 17.Nxc6 (17…Bxc6? 18.Ba6! nets an exchange, showing the power of white’s active bishops) Rxc6 18.Bf3 Qb6 19.Be5! Threatening to win the d5-pawn forcing black’s reply

Karpov-Spassky Montreal 1979 Move 19 Black to move
Karpov-Spassky Montreal 1979 Move 19 Black to move

19…Ne4 20.Qe2 Nxc3 21.Bxc3

Karpov-Spassky Montreal 1979 Move 21 Black to move
Karpov-Spassky Montreal 1979 Move 21 Black to move

21…Rd8 (Stockfish recommends 21…Bxa3!? 22.Bxg7! Kxg7 23.bxa3 Qb3! 24.e4 Rc2 25.Qe1 d4 26.e5 d3 27.Qe4 d2 28.Qf4 Qc4 29.Be4 Rb2= Few human players would choose a line leading to a smashed up kingside with no material compensation.) 22.Rd3! Rcd6 23.Rfd1 23…R6d7

Karpov-Spassky Montreal 1979 Move 24 White to move
Karpov-Spassky Montreal 1979 Move 24 White to move

The position has clarified with a clear white advantage. Black has no compensation for the weak d-pawn. The author makes an interesting historical comment here stating that in the 1960s, many Soviet players erroneously believed that an IQP cannot be exploited without knights. This game should disabuse anyone of that myth. Karpov wins a model game with a patient build-up and some prophylactic moves: sit back and appreciate the game.

24.R1d2 Qb5 25.Qd1 b6 26.g3 Bf8 27.Bg2 Be7 28.Qh5! a6 29.h3 Qc6 30.Kh2 a5

Karpov-Spassky Montreal 1979 Move 31 White to move
Karpov-Spassky Montreal 1979 Move 31 White to move

White now begins the assault to force a second weakness with a fine demonstration of a kingside initiative. The author points out that white has another good plan 31.Bd4 followed by doubling rooks on the c-file. The fact that white has two excellent plans shows how bad black’s cheerless position is.

31.f4! f6

Forced as 31…f5 allows 32.Qg6 Bf8 33.Be5 with the winning idea of …g3-g4

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Karpov-Spassky Montreal 1979 Variation Move 33 Black to move

32.Qd1 Qb5 33.g4

Karpov-Spassky Montreal 1979 Variation Move 33 Black to move
Karpov-Spassky Montreal 1979 Move 33 Black to move

33…g5? (The fatal error after defending for so long: black was probably is time trouble and lashed out wanting to do something, 33..Bf7! 34.h4 Qc6 35.Bd4 Bc5 36.Rc3 keeps white’s edge but black is still resisting) 34.Kh1 Qc6 35.f5 Bf7

Karpov-Spassky Montreal 1979 Move 36 White to move
Karpov-Spassky Montreal 1979 Move 36 White to move

36.e4! The decisive breakthrough against the IQP Kg7 37.exd5 Qc7 38.Re2 b5 39.Rxe7 Rxe7 40.d6 Qc4 41.b3 1-0

A didactic display from Karpov giving black not one iota of counterplay.

The final subsection covers:

Transformation from an IQP structure to a structure with hanging pawns

Here is an impressive blockade with an exquisite control of tactics from the former World Boss of chess, Garry Kasparov.

Vladimirov (2612) – Kasparov (2838) Batumi 2001

1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 e6 3.Nc3 Bb4 4.e3 0-0 5.Bd3 d5 6.Nf3 c5 7.0-0 cxd4 8.exd4 dxc4 9.Bxc4 b6 10.Qe2 Bb7 11.Rd1 Bxc3 12.bxc3 Qc7

Vladimirov-Kasparov Batumi 2002 Move 13 White to move
Vladimirov-Kasparov Batumi 2002 Move 13 White to move

13.Bb2?! (A weak move as the bishop never sees the light of day. The main line is 13.Bd3, 13.Ne5 is ok as well with equality) 13… Bxf3 14.Qxf3? (The ugly 14.gxf3 had to be played, play could continue 14…Nc6 15.Bb3 Nh5 16.c4 Nf4 17.Qe3 with a definite black advantage) 14…Qxc4! A far sighted exchange sacrifice based on the weakness of the white squares and the imminent danger to white’s queen 15.Qxa8 The tempting cake is ingested but is laced with poison 15… Nc6 16.Qb7 Nd5

Vladimirov-Kasparov Batumi 2002 Move 17 White to move
Vladimirov-Kasparov Batumi 2002 Move 17 White to move

Black has a big advantage with a vice like grip on the white squares. The difference in activity of the respective sides’ pieces is quite striking: the only active white piece, the queen, is all alone and in dire danger of death.

17.Re1 Rb8 18.Qd7 Rd8 19.Qb7 h5?! (A rare Kasparov inaccuracy, 19…Na5! 20.Qxa7 Qc6 21.c4 Nxc4 22.Rac1 Nf4 23.f3 Nd3 24.Rxc4 Qxc4 25.Qxb6 Rc8 26.Rf1 h6 is easily winning for black. Notice how the knights stomp all over white combining threats against the queen, the kingside and white’s passively placed bishop and rooks) 20.Bc1? (The final mistake: Stockfish points out that with 20.Rac1! White can still put up a fight) 20…Na5 21.Qxa7 Qc6 22.Qa6 Nc4 23.Rb1 Nc7

Vladimirov-Kasparov Batumi 2002 Move 24 White to move
Vladimirov-Kasparov Batumi 2002 Move 24 White to move

After 24.Qa7 Ra8, the greedy queen meets her end on the executioner’s block 0-1

Chapter 2 – The Carlsbad structure

This is the famous Carlsbad structure, named from the great Carlsbad tournament in 1923 (in the modern day Czech Republic close to the German border), is one of the most important pawn structures in the game of chess both historically and in the modern game:

Carlsbad structure
Carlsbad structure

A deep understanding of how to play the positions with the Carlsbad structure is the hallmark of a very strong player and I suspect, every GM. The British GM, Keith Arkell was once asked how did you become a GM?  He quipped: Carlsbad structures, and rook endings. Of course, Keith has a profound knowledge of more than just those two topics, but his pithy reply contains much more than a grain of truth. The titanic struggle between Capablanca and Alekhine for the World Championship in 1927 featured many games in the queen’s gambit including the Carlsbad structure. The reviewer’s scant knowledge of these games is a gap in his chess education.  Many GMs have observed that one of their key skills over lower rated players is their superior knowledge and praxis of rook endings.

Back to the topic at hand: the author shares his knowledge of these positions with a lucid listing of both sides respective plans:

“Plan A: minority attack with b4-b5xc6;

Plan B: attack in the centre with e3-e4;

Plan C: kingside attack with both sides castled on the kingside;

Plan D: kingside attack with the kings castled on opposite sides;

Plan E: play in positions with both sides castled on the queenside.

Black in turn has the following methods of defence available:

i) Kingside counterattack with pawns;

ii) Kingside counterattack with pieces;

iii) Positional methods of defence, e.g. erecting a barrier with b7-b5 or controlling the squares c4 and b5 with the pieces;

iv) The central break c6-c5;

v) Counterattack against White’s queenside castled position.

Black’s choice of defensive method depends on which plan White adopts. For instance, method v) can only occur in the plan of Plan D or E.”

Plan A: the minority attack

This is a frequently adopted plan and is covered in great detail in this book. “The minority attack is a typical strategic method, which has the aim of creating a weak pawn in the opponent’s ranks, precisely where he has a pawn majority. The same procedure is applicable to a large number and variety of middlegame positions.”

There are many variations/lines of the Sicilian where Black launches a minority attack against white’s queenside.

This next position shows a celebrated endgame resulting from a classic minority attack: Kotov-Pachman from Venice 1950.

Kotov-Pachman Venice 1950 Move 42 Black to play
Kotov-Pachman Venice 1950 Move 42 Black to play

Stockfish helpfully suggests 42..h5! with a microscopic edge to White. I am not disagreeing with the silicon brain, but white has a more pleasant position to play. Black only has one weakness, so he can hold with patient, careful defence looking to go active at the right time. However, a decent GM went down here.

I will not reproduce a detailed analysis of this ending here: I will give the key positions in this ending including a fascinating line showing black’s defensive resources.

42… Kf6?! (42…h5! is better preventing white’s next cramping move) 43.g4! White fixes the h7-pawn as a potential weakness
43…Ke6?!

Much better is 43…Kg5! 44.h3 f5! 45.gxf5

Not 45.f4+? Kh4 46.gxf5

Kotov-Pachman Venice 1950 Variation 1 Move 46 Black to play
Kotov-Pachman Venice 1950 Variation 1 Move 46 Black to play

46…Kg3!! 47.fxg6 (47.f6 Rf7) 47…hxg6 48.Rd8

Kotov-Pachman Venice 1950 Variation 1 Move 48 Black to play
Kotov-Pachman Venice 1950 Variation 1 Move 48 Black to play

48…Ra7! 49.Kf1 Bc7 50.Rd7 Ra1+ 51.Ke2 Ra2+ 52.Kd1 Ba5 53.Ne5 Bd2=

45…Kxf5 46.Kf1 Kg5 47.Kg2 Kf6 48.Kf3 Kf5 with a slight edge to white, but black’s king is active.

Kotov-Pachman Venice 1950 Variation 2 Move 49 White to play
Kotov-Pachman Venice 1950 Variation 2 Move 49 White to play

Back to the game:

44.Kg2 Rb7 45.Re8+ Re7 46.Rh8 f6 47.h4 Rb7 48.Kf3 Rf7 49.Re8+ Re7 50.Rd8 Ra7

Kotov-Pachman Venice 1950 Move 51 White to play
Kotov-Pachman Venice 1950 Move 51 White to play

White has made significant progress but black can still hold.

51.Nc5+ Ke7?! (51…Bxc5 giving up a pawn offers good drawing chances) 52.Rc8 Bxc5 53.dxc5 Kd7 54.Rh8 Ke6 55.Rd8

Kotov-Pachman Venice 1950 Move 55 Black to play
Kotov-Pachman Venice 1950 Move 55 Black to play

55…Ke7? (The decisive mistake: counterplay with 55…Ra4! holds. This shows that the decision on whether to stay passive or go active is not obvious even for a strong GM: White now wraps up efficiently) 56.Rd6 Ra6 57.g5 fxg5 58.hxg5 Kf7 59.Kg3 Ke7 60.f3 Ra3 61.Kf4 Ra4+ 62.Ke5 Ra3 63.Rxc6 Rxe3+ 64.Kxd5 Rd3+ 65.Ke4 Rc3 66.f4 Rc1 67.Rc7+ Kd8 68.Rxh7 Rxc5 69.Rf7 1-0

Buy the book to see this endgame analysed in more detail.

Mark Hebden-Peter Shaw Leeds rapid 2013 Move 34 White to play
Mark Hebden-Peter Shaw Leeds rapid 2013 Move 34 White to play

A typical double rook endgame arising from a minority attack. Black only has one weakness but he is totally passive awaiting white’s attempts to breach his fortress. Stockfish defends this ending without breaking a sweat, however for flesh and blood, down on the clock in an increment finish against a good, grinding GM, there is zero chance of a draw. Buy the book to see how Mark Hebden won this ending.

Here is a model game from another former World Champion.

Tigran Petrosian – Nikolai Krogius
Tbilisi 1959

1.d4 Nf6 2.Nf3 g6 3.c4 Bg7 4.Nc3 d5 5.Bg5 Ne4 6.cxd5 Nxg5 7.Nxg5 e6 8.Nf3 exd5 9.e3 0-0

Petrosian-Krogius Tbilisi 1959 Move 10 White to play
Petrosian-Krogius Tbilisi 1959 Move 10 White to play

A Carlsbad structure from the 5.Bg5 line against the Gruenfeld.

10.Bd3 (White can also play 10.Be2, Qb3 or even b4 straightaway, none of these moves secure an edge against accurate play) Nc6 (The more common move order is 10…c6 11.0-0 Qd6 12.Rc1 a5) 11.0-0 Ne7 (Stockfish agrees with the reviewer’s preference: 11…a5)  12.b4

Petrosian-Krogius Tbilisi 1959 Move 12 Black to play
Petrosian-Krogius Tbilisi 1959 Move 12 Black to play

Bf5? [This exchange of bishops is a poor positional error as the game is now closer to the Kotov-Pachman ending. Better is 12…c6 13.Rc1 (13.b5 c5!) 13…a6 14.a4 Qd6 15.Rb1 Be6 16.h3 Nc8 with equal chances ] 13.Bxf5 Nxf5 14.b5 (14.Qb3 c6 15.b5 was more incisive)

Petrosian-Krogius Tbilisi 1959 Move 14 Black to play
Petrosian-Krogius Tbilisi 1959 Move 14 Black to play

14…Qd6?!

Occupying the obvious square for the knight, Stockfish prefers 14…a6 15.bxa6 (15.a4 axb5 16.axb5 c5 17.bxc6 bxc6 18.Na4 Nd6 19.Qc2 Nc4 20.Nd2 Nxd2 21.Qxd2 and an endgame similar to Kotov-Pachman is near which we know is tenable but unpleasant) 15.bxa6 Rxa6 16.Qb3 Ra5 17.Rac1 c5 18.dxc5 Rxc5 19.Nb5 with a small advantage to white.

15.Qb3 Ne7 16.Rfc1 Kh8? (What on earth is this move for? 16…Rfc8 looks more relevant, but white is better in any case) 17.Rc2 h6 18.Rac1 c6

Petrosian-Krogius Tbilisi 1959 Move 19 White to play
Petrosian-Krogius Tbilisi 1959 Move 19 White to play

19.Na4! (19.bxc6 bxc6 20.Na4 20…Rfb8 gives black some play down the b-file) 19…Rab8 20.g3 (Typical prophylaxis securing the back rank and creating a stronger barrier against f5-f4, the direct 20.Nc5 is even stronger) 20…Kh7 21.Nc5 Rfd8?! Loses the c-pawn quickly, but Stockfish already assesses black’s game as dead, 21…b6 puts up more resistance 22.bxc6 bxc6 23.Qa4!

Petrosian-Krogius Tbilisi 1959 Move 23 Black to play
Petrosian-Krogius Tbilisi 1959 Move 23 Black to play

Eyeing both weak pawns on a7 and c6; this is why black should have played a6 or a5 earlier to exchange off the a-pawn 23…Qf6 24.Kg2 (The ever cautious Petrosian improves his king before winning the c-pawn as he saw that it cannot run away. This follows the Russian rule about about improving your king before the final assault. 24.Ne5 wins the pawn more quickly: 24…Ra8 25.Nb7 Rdc8 26.Nxc6) 24…Ra8 25.Nb7 Re8 26.Na5 g5 27.h3 Qf5 28.Nxc6 With the fall of this pawn, the game is over. Petrosian gives his opponent no chance. Qe4 29.Rc5 f5 30.Qc2 Nxc6 31.Rxc6 f4 32.exf4 gxf4 33.g4 Bxd4 34.Qd2 Bg7 35.Re1 Qa4 36.Qxd5 Rxe1 37.Nxe1 Rf8 38.Nf3 Kh8 39.Rc7 a6 40.Qb7 Rg8 41.Nh4 1-0

I like the didactic commentary of the author on the strategic features following this cruising crush by Petrosian:

“1. It is essential for white to carry out the b4-b5 advance in circumstances that do not allow Black to reply with c6-c5, which means that white needs to control the c-file and in particular the c5 square.

2. It is useful for white to exchange his own dark-squared bishop for the enemy knight, since this gains several tempi (the black bishop is badly placed on f6) and he can attack the c6-pawn with his knight after the usual minority attack.

3. The move g2-g3 is also good for White, forming a ‘saw’ against the possible advance of the enemy f-pawn.

4. It is appropriate for Black to play a7-a6 (or sometimes a5), since after White advances with a2-a4 and b4-b5, Black is able to exchange his a6-pawn, leaving him with just one weakness on c6 instead of two.

5. in anticipation of White’s b4-b5 advance, Black should prepare either Kingside counterplay or the advance c5.”

The author goes on to discuss the methods of defence against the minority attack beginning with:

i) Kingside counterattack with pawns

The following modern day clash shows this theme well even though Black lost:

Lev Aronian (2777) – Vishy Anand (2797)
Baden-Baden 2015

1.c4 e6 2.Nc3 Nf6 3.Nf3 d5 4.d4 Bb4 5.cxd5 exd5 6.Qa4+ Nc6 7.Bg5 h6 8.Bxf6 Qxf6 9.e3 0-0 10.Be2 a6 11.0-0 Be6 12.Rfc1 Bd6 13.a3 Ne7 14.b4 c6 This time we reach the Carlsbad structure from the Ragozin 15.Qb3 g5! This looks good as black has the bishop pair pointing at the kingside. After this game, the white players of this variation went back to the drawing board as black is clearly better here with an initiative.

Aronian-Anand Baden-Baden Move 16 White to move
Aronian-Anand Baden-Baden Move 16 White to move

16.Qb2 Qg7 (Stopping e4 and preparing a possible f-pawn battering ram) 17.Na4 Rae8 18.Nc5 Bc8

Aronian-Anand Baden-Baden Move 19 White to move
Aronian-Anand Baden-Baden Move 19 White to move

19.g3?!

Too slow and stereotyped forming the Nimzowitsch saw. White had to get on with it on the queenside with 19.a4! f5 20.b5 (20.Nd3?! f4 21.exf4 Ng6 22.Re1 Nxf4 23.Nfe5 now both 23…gxf4 and 23…Nxf4 lead to a black initiative with a superior position) 20…axb5 21.axb5 21…f4 22.Nd3 fxe3 23.fxe3 Nf5 24.bxc6 Nxe3 25.cxb7 Bxb7 26.Ra7 Re7 27.Nfe5 with approximate equality!

Aronian-Anand Baden-Baden Variation 1 Move 27 Black to move
Aronian-Anand Baden-Baden Variation 1 Move 27 Black to move

The game continued:

19…Nf5!?  (This move is good, but Stockfish, the author and the reviewer prefer the obvious 19…f5! which is clearly much better for black, e.g. 20.Kh1 Ng6 21.Nd3 Qe7 22.Re1 Qe4 23.Kg1 f4 with a dangerous attack) 20.Bd3 Qf6 21.Rf1 h5! 22.Rac1 h4! 23.Qd2

Aronian-Anand Baden-Baden Move 23 Black to move
Aronian-Anand Baden-Baden Move 23 Black to move

23…Nh6? (A tactical blunder retreating the knight to the wrong square, letting White off the hook, 23…Ng7 is good, after say 24.Be2 the obvious 24…hxg3! leads to a big advantage for black; 24…Re7 is even better according to Stockfish, White’s position is unappealing in both cases; 23…hxg3 is also excellent for black ) 24.e4! Clearly missed by Anand

Aronian-Anand Baden-Baden Move 24 Black to move
Aronian-Anand Baden-Baden Move 24 Black to move

24…Bxc5?! (24…Be7! 25.Ne5 dxe4 26.Bxe4 Rd8 is equal, Anand probably missed that 24…Qxf3 loses to 25.Qxg5+ Kh7 26.e5+ Bf5 27.Bxf5+ Nxf5 28.Rc3!! Nxd4 29.Qxh4+) 25.e5! A powerful Zwischenzug

Aronian-Anand Baden-Baden Move 25 Black to move
Aronian-Anand Baden-Baden Move 25 Black to move

25…Qg7? (The final mistake, 25…Bxb4 26.axb4 Qg7 27.Nxg5 Bf5 28.Nf3 hxg3 29.fxg3 Bh3 leads to a slight edge for white) 26.bxc5 Now black is dead 26…f6 27.exf6 Rxf6 28.Nxg5 Bf5 29.Rce1 Rff8 30.Rxe8 Rxe8 31.Nf3 Bxd3 32.Qxd3 Re4 33.Re1 hxg3 34.hxg3 1-0

A pity that Vishy spoiled a well played game but his approach renders this line unplayable for White.

ii) Kingside attack with pieces

Here is a game played by the brilliant attacking player Rashid Nezhmetdinov (who famously once beat Mikhail Tal in the style of Tal).

Mark Taimanov – Rashid Nezhmetdinov
Kiev 1954

1.d4 d5 2.c4 c6 3.Nf3 e6 4.cxd5 exd5 5.Nc3 Nf6 6.Bg5 Be7 7.Qc2 Nbd7 8.e3 0-0 9.Bd3 Re8 10.0-0 Nf8 11.Rab1 a5 (A small refinement as the open a-file after a3 and b4 by White could be useful. However its drawback could have been exploited by White on move 14.)

Taimanov-Nezhmetdinov Kiev Move 12 White to play
Taimanov-Nezhmetdinov Kiev Move 12 White to play

12.a3 Ne4 (The standard move, but the silicon brain prefers 12…Ng6) 13.Bxe7 Qxe7 14.b4 (White should probably change plans here and remove black’s best minor piece and exploit the b6 square with 14.Bxe4! dxe4 15.Ne5 Bf5 16.Rfc1 Ne6 17.Nc4  Nc7 with an edge for white) axb4 15.axb4 Ng6 (The engine also likes 15…Bf5) 16.b5 Bg4

Taimanov-Nezhmetdinov Kiev Move 17 White to play
Taimanov-Nezhmetdinov Kiev Move 17 White to play

17.Nd2? (This is a definite mistake which loses, more prudent is 17.Bxe4! removing black’s most dangerous minor piece: 17…dxe4 18.Nd2 with a definite advantage to white) 17…Nxd2 18.Qxd2 Nh4! (Suddenly black has whipped up a very dangerous attack with threats of 19…Nf3+ and 19…Nh3)

Taimanov-Nezhmetdinov Kiev Move 19 White to play
Taimanov-Nezhmetdinov Kiev Move 19 White to play

19.f3!? (19.Be2 Bh3! 20.g3 wins an exchange, so Taimanov gives up a pawn) Qxe3+ 20.Qxe3 Rxe3 21.fxg4 Rxd3 22.bxc6 bxc6 23.Ne2 Rd2 24.Rf2 h6 25.Rbf1 Ng6 26.h3 f6 (This is clearly winning for black) 27.Ng3 Rxd4 winning a second pawn, but Black failed to convert and only drew!

iii) Positional methods of defence

The following game shows  an important method of defence.

Pedrag Nikolic (2635) – Vladimir Kramnik (2790)

Monte Carlo Blindfold 1998

1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 e6 3.Nf3 d5 4.Nc3 c6 5.cxd5 exd5 6.Bg5 Be7 7.e3 Bf5 8.Bd3 Bxd3 9.Qxd3 (9.Bxf6 is more accurate: 9…Bxf6 10.Qxd3, so black has to waste time getting his b8 knight to a good square like f6) 9…Nbd7 10.0-0 0-0 11.Rab1 a5

Nikolic-Kramnik Monte Carlo 1998 Move 12 White to move
Nikolic-Kramnik Monte Carlo 1998 Move 12 White to move

Zolotnik makes the pertinent observation that the minority attack is nothing like as effective with the white squared bishops off the board. One of the main reasons for this is that the black knights can gain a strong square on c4. White should manoeuvre patiently.

12.a3 Ne4 13.Bxe7 Qxe7

Nikolic-Kramnik Monte Carlo 1998 Move 14 White to move
Nikolic-Kramnik Monte Carlo 1998 Move 14 White to move

14.b4? (Too stereotyped blindly following a standard plan without considering the subtle differences with a standard minority attack when the white squared bishops are on the board. b4 had to be prepared properly, e.g. 14.Qc2 f5 15.b4 axb4 16.axb4 Ra3 17.Rb3 with equality) 14…b5! (The point, a Black knight will land on c4 blocking the c-file pressure)

Nikolic-Kramnik Monte Carlo 1998 Move 15 White to move
Nikolic-Kramnik Monte Carlo 1998 Move 15 White to move

15.Qc2 axb4 16.axb4 Nd6 17.Rb3 Nb6!

Nikolic-Kramnik Monte Carlo 1998 Move 18 White to move
Nikolic-Kramnik Monte Carlo 1998 Move 18 White to move

Let us absorb Vladimir Kramnik’s assessment of this position:

“The position has clarified. The knight goes to c4 blocking all White’s play on the queenside, after which the main events transfer to the kingside, where Black has more resources. Although in general the play seems nothing spectacular, in reality it is a classic game for the Carlsbad structure.

18.Ne5 Rfc8 19.Nd3 Nbc4! The other knight can move over to the kingside at its leisure. 20.Nc5 Re8 21.h3 g6 22.Rc1

Nikolic-Kramnik Monte Carlo 1998 Move 22 Black to move
Nikolic-Kramnik Monte Carlo 1998 Move 22 Black to move

22…Ra7 (22…Nf5 is probably even better)  23.Qd1 h5 24.Kh1 Qg5 25.Rbb1 Rae7 26.Ra1

Nikolic-Kramnik Monte Carlo 1998 Move 26 Black to move
Nikolic-Kramnik Monte Carlo 1998 Move 26 Black to move

Black has skilfully moved his forces over to the new theatre of battle on the kingside: the end is close for White.

26…Nf5 Black could have sacrificed the knight on e3 now:  26…Nxe3! 27.fxe3 Rxe3 28. Ra2 Nf5 29.Rf2 Qg3 30.Re2 Rxe2 31.Nxe2 Qf2 winning

Nikolic-Kramnik Monte Carlo 1998 Variation 1 Move 32 White to move
Nikolic-Kramnik Monte Carlo 1998 Variation 1 Move 32 White to move

27.Ra2 Ncxe3! 28.fxe3 Rxe3 29.Rf2

Nikolic-Kramnik Monte Carlo 1998 Move 29 Black to move
Nikolic-Kramnik Monte Carlo 1998 Move 29 Black to move

29…Qh4?

29…Qg3! wins 30.Qd2Nh4! 31.Nd7 Nxg2! White’s king will die of exposure

Nikolic-Kramnik Monte Carlo 1998 Variation 2 Move 32 White to move
Nikolic-Kramnik Monte Carlo 1998 Variation 2 Move 32 White to move

32.Nf6+ Kf8 33.Nxe8 Qxh3+ 34.Kg1 Nf4! 35.Rxf4  Rg3+ 36.Kf2 Qh2+ winning

Back to the game 30.Qd2 Amazingly 30.Kg1 holds according to our silicon friend 30… Nxd4

Nikolic-Kramnik Monte Carlo 1998 Move 31 White to move
Nikolic-Kramnik Monte Carlo 1998 Move 31 White to move

31.Rcf1?( Again 31.Kg1 holds) Nf5! with crushing threats 32.Rxf5 gxf5 33.Nd1 Re1 34.Kg1 R8e2 35.Qc3 Rxd1 0-1

Although Black muffed the final attack in the game allowing white a couple of chances to hold on, the really educational part of the game was from moves 14 to 26.

Another defensive method is the advance c6-c5-c4. Here is another lesson from Vlad:

Topalov (2740) – Kramnik (2790)
Linares 15th 1998

1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 e6 3.Nf3 d5 4.Nc3 Be7 5.Bg5 h6 6.Bh4 0-0 7.e3 b6 8.Be2 Bb7 9.Bxf6 Bxf6 10.cxd5 exd5 11.b4 The bishop on b7 is misplaced compared with the Anand game above where it sits on e6 11…c6 12.0-0 a5

Topalov-Kramnik Linares 1998 Move 13 White to move
Topalov-Kramnik Linares 1998 Move 13 White to move

13.b5 (This is the most common move which scores better than the alternatives which are 13.a3 and 13.bxa5. It is interesting that Stockfish evaluates them all roughly the same)  13…c5! 14.Re1 (The modern main line is  14.Ne5 cxd4 15.exd4 Bxe5 16.dxe5 d4 17.Na4 Qg5 18.Bg4 Qxe5 19.Nxb6 Ra7 with an edge to white) 14…Re8 15.Rc1 Nd7 16.g3 (16.dxc5 Nxc5 17.Nd4 Qd6=) 16…Nf8 17.Na4?!

Topalov-Kramnik Linares 1998 Move 17 White to move
Topalov-Kramnik Linares 1998 Move 17 White to move

This move is controversial, probably better is 17.dxc5 bxc5 18.Na4 c4 19.Nc5 19…Qb6 (19…Bc8 is interesting) 20.Nxb7 Rxb7 21.a4 Ne6=  17…c4! Fixing the structure, so the weak spots b6,c6 will be less accessible. The bishops will enable black to position his pieces in such a way, as to enable activity on the kingside. The e4 break is hard for White to achieve. 18.Bf1 Qd6 (18…Qc7 is also good) 19.Bg2 Rad8 20.h4 Ne6 (The black squared bishop should be improved to the a3-f8 diagonal where it can influence the game more viz. 20…Qc7 21.Nc3 Be7, black is a bit better) 21.Nc3 g6 22.Nd2 Ba8 (Black has a total clamp on the position stopping e4, Stockfish assesses this position as pretty equal)

Topalov-Kramnik Linares 1998 Move 23 White to move
Topalov-Kramnik Linares 1998 Move 23 White to move

23.h5?!  [This looks slightly suspect, after 23.f4!? with the idea of transferring the knight to e5, 23…Ng7 24.Bh3 (24.Nf3 Nf5!) 24…Qc7 25.Nf3 Be7 26.Ne5 Ba3 27.Rc2 Bb4 black is to be preferred]

Topalov-Kramnik Linares 1998 Varaition 1 Move 28 White to move
Topalov-Kramnik Linares 1998 Variation 1 Move 28 White to move

Back to the game: 23…g5 24.Nf1 Be7 The first part of a regrouping of the black forces that improves his position considerably

Topalov-Kramnik Linares 1998 Move 25 White to move
Topalov-Kramnik Linares 1998 Move 25 White to move

25.g4?!Weakening the h2-b8 diagonal which is dangerous as Black has a dark squared bishop; white’s own bishop is becoming bad with the self induced structural changes on the kingside. 25.Nh2 is superior, e.g. 25…f5 26.g4 f4 27.e4! dxe4 28.Bxe4 Nxd4 29.Bxa8 Rxa8 30.Ne4 Qd5 31.Nf3 Nxf3+ 22.Qxf3 and the strong knight on e4 compensates for the pawn minus.

Topalov-Kramnik Linares 1998 Variation 2 Move 32 Black to move
Topalov-Kramnik Linares 1998 Variation 2 Move 32 Black to move

 25…Qd7 26.Ng3 Ng7 27.a4 Bb4 28.Bh3 Bb7 29.Qc2 Bd6!

Topalov-Kramnik Linares 1998 Variation 2 Move 30 White to move
Topalov-Kramnik Linares 1998 Move 30 White to move

Black has a clear regrouping plan of Bc7, Qd6,Bc8,Rf8 and f5 crashing through

30.Nf5 Stopping f5 for good but at a great cost. The dark squares around White’s king look sickly and White’s light squared bishop is a bad bishop now. 30…Nxf5 31.gxf5 Bb4 32.Kg2 Qd6 33.f3 White is positionally busted and must await Black’s final assault 33…Re7 34.Re2 Rde8 35.Rce1 Qf6 36.Bg4

Topalov-Kramnik Linares 1998 Variation 2 Move 36 Black to move
Topalov-Kramnik Linares 1998 Move 36 Black to move

The once proud bishop on g2 is now choked by its own foot soldiers.

36…Bd6 37.Qd1 Bb4 38.Qc2 Rd8 39.Rd1 Bc8  40.e4? The f5-pawn is a source of great trouble for white, so he panics and defends it: but this last move before the time control is a decisive mistake. White had to sit tight and make Black find the winning breakthrough: 40.Na2 lasts longer. 40…Bxc3 41.e5 [41.Qxc3 dxe4 42.fxe4 (42.Rxe4 42…Rxe4 43.fxe4 Bb7 44.Qe3 c3 45.d5 c2 46.Rc1 Rc8 with a huge advantage) 42…Bb7 43.Bf3 g4! 44.Bxg4 Rxe4 45.Rxe4 Bxe4+ 46.Kf2 Bd3-+]

Topalov-Kramnik Linares 1998 Move 41 Black to move
Topalov-Kramnik Linares 1998 Move 41 Black to move

41…Rxe5!! 42.dxe5 (42.Rxe5 Bxd4! 43.Re2 Bc3 winning with the simple idea of d5-d4) 42…Bxe5 The triumph of strategical concept, despite an exchange sacrifice black controls the whole board and pawns c4-d5 will start rolling.  43.Rde1 Bc7 44.Re8+ Kg7 45.Rxd8 Bxd8 46.Rd1 Bb7 47.f4 d4+ 48.Bf3  d3 0-1 (49.Qxc4 Qb2+ 50.Kg3 Bxf3 51.Kxf3 Qe2+ wins)

Topalov-Kramnik Linares 1998 End
Topalov-Kramnik Linares 1998 End

Plan B: attack in the centre with e3-e4

This plan can occur in two forms depending on where White’s Ng1 is developed to e2 or f3. The first one is based on creating a pawn centre by means of f3 and e4. The second way of playing e4 is with the king’s knight on f3 leading to an IQP position.

The game below shows the first Soviet World Champion Mikhail Botvinnik at work against possibly the strongest player never to become the top dog: Paul Keres.

Botvinnik – Keres
Moscow, 1952

1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 e6 3.Nc3 d5 4.cxd5 exd5 5.Bg5 Be7 6.e3 0-0 7.Bd3 Nbd7 8.Qc2 Re8 9.Nge2 Nf8 10.0-0 c6

Botvinnik-Keres Moscow 1952 Move 11 White to play
Botvinnik-Keres Moscow 1952 Move 11 White to play

11.Rab1 (The author points out that Stockfish likes Botvinnik’s choice here, but modern players usually play 11.f3 immediately) 11…Bd6?! (This move is based on a tactical oversight,11…a5 is better here) 12.Kh1 Ng6?! Continuing the faulty plan

Botvinnik-Keres Moscow 1952 Move 13 White to play
Botvinnik-Keres Moscow 1952 Move 13 White to play

13.f3! Be7 (A loss of time, Black realised that his intended 13…h6? fails to 14.Bxf6! Qxf6 15.e4!Qh4 16.e5!) 14.Rbe1 (14.e4 dxe4 15.fxe4 Ng4 16.Bd2 c5 17.Nd5 cxd4! is unclear which was not Botvinnik’s style)

Botvinnik-Keres Moscow 1952 Variation 1 Move 18 White to play
Botvinnik-Keres Moscow 1952 Variation 1 Move 18 White to play

14…Nd7?! (It’s odd to waste more time simply exchanging off the dark squared bishops, 14…Be6 is better or 14…h6 15.Bxf6 Bxf6 16.Ng3 Nf8 17.Qf2 Bh4 18.e4 with a small edge to white) 15.Bxe7 Rxe7 16.Ng3 Nf6

Botvinnik-Keres Moscow 1952 Move 17 Black to play
Botvinnik-Keres Moscow 1952 Move 17 Black to play

17.Qf2! White is clearly better now as he prepares e4 and has a lead in development 17…Be6? (A kind of pseudo development of the bishop subjecting black’s minor pieces to a potential pawn roller, better is 17…b6 but Black is struggling anyway.) 18.Nf5

Better is 18.f4! which Stockfish assesses as winning already viz: 18…Bd7 19.f5 Nf8 20.e4! dxe4 21.Ngxe4 Nxe4 22.Nxe4 f6 23.Qg3 with a very strong attack for White: look at Black’s pieces cowering waiting for the inevitable end.

Botvinnik-Keres Moscow 1952 Move 23 Black to play
Botvinnik-Keres Moscow 1952 Variation Move 23 Black to play

18…Bxf5 19.Bxf5 Qb6 20.e4! dxe4 21.fxe4 Rd8

Botvinnik-Keres Moscow 1952 Move 22 White to play
Botvinnik-Keres Moscow 1952 Move 22 White to play

22.e5! (Pushing the defensive knight away and preparing Ne4-Nd6) 22…Nd5 23.Ne4 Nf8 24.Nd6 Qc7

Botvinnik-Keres Moscow 1952 Move 25 White to play
Botvinnik-Keres Moscow 1952 Move 25 White to play

25.Be4! Stockfish likes Botvinnik’s move 25…Ne6 26.Qh4 g6 27.Bxd5! Removing one of Black’s best pieces, it’s now close to the end for Black 27… cxd5 28.Rc1 Qd7 29.Rc3 Rf8

Botvinnik-Keres Moscow 1952 Move 31 White to play
Botvinnik-Keres Moscow 1952 Move 31 White to play

30.Nf5! Crunch  30…Rfe8 (30…gxf5 21.Rg3+ Ng7 22.Qf6 and mate next ) 31.Nh6+ Kf8 32.Qf6 Ng7 33.Rcf3 Rc8 34.Nxf7 Re6 35.Qg5 Nf5 36.Nh6 Qg7 37.g4 1-0

A crushing strategic win for Botvinnik. One of the main reasons that Keres never got to the pinnacle was Botvinnik’s continual strategic mastery over him. Keres was a brilliant theoretician and attacking player but Botvinnik had clearly worked out how to play against Keres.

Plan C: kingside attack with both sides castled on the kingside

This plan can take two forms: The first is based on the advance f4 and is sometimes accompanied with the e4 break. The second is characterised by the advances g4 and h4.

The first plan here is demonstrated by Tigran Petrosian:

Petrosian 2605 – Beliavsky (2570)
Moscow 1983

1.d4 d5 2.c4 e6 3.Nc3 Nf6 4.cxd5 exd5 5.Bg5 Be7 6.e3 0-0 7.Bd3 Nbd7 8.Nf3 Re8 9.0-0 c6 10.Qc2 Nf8

Petrosian-Beliavsky Moscow 1983 Move 11
Petrosian-Beliavsky Moscow 1983 Move 11

11.a3!? Not the commonest move but not without bite 11…Ne4 (A common response, but 11…Bg4 is ok as well) 12.Bf4

Petrosian-Beliavsky Moscow 1983 Move 12 Black to move
Petrosian-Beliavsky Moscow 1983 Move 12 Black to move

12…Ng5 (An interesting move; 12…f5 is the main line bolstering the knight but conceding e5; the author suggests a move not in Megabase which is surprising 12…Bf5!? although it involves a pawn sacrifice) 13.Nxg5

13.Ne5 is interesting keeping all the pieces on followed by f3 and e4 securing a space advantage with a full board of pieces, e.g. 13…g6 14.Rae1 Nge6 15.Bg3 Ng7 16.f3 Nf5 17.Bf2 Be6 18.Kh1 Nd6 19.e4 with an edge

Petrosian-Beliavsky Moscow 1983 Variation 1 Move 19 Black to move
Petrosian-Beliavsky Moscow 1983 Variation 1 Move 19 Black to move

 13…Bxg5 14.Bxg5 Qxg5 15.Rae1 Bd7 16.f4 Qh6 17.Qf2

Petrosian-Beliavsky Moscow 1983 Move 17 Black to move
Petrosian-Beliavsky Moscow 1983 Move 17 Black to move

17…Re7? (17…f5! had to played despite weakening the e5 square and leaving Black with a bad bishop, White would improve his worst piece with 18.Nb1! b6! 19.Nd2 c5 20. Nf3 c4 Black has got counterplay on the queenside, but White is definitely better with a tough fight ahead.) 18.f5! g6 19.e4! dxe4

Petrosian-Beliavsky Moscow 1983 Move 20 White to move
Petrosian-Beliavsky Moscow 1983 Move 20 White to move

20.Nxe4 (20.Qg3! is very strong as well: 20…Bxf5 21.Rxf5 Qg7 22.Rf2 Qxd4 23.Rxe4 Rxe4 24.Nxe4 winning; 20…e3 21.Ne4 is very good, e.g. 21…Kh8 22.Qd6 Rae8 23.Qf6+ Kg8 24.Nd6 wins) 20…gxf5 21.Qg3+ Kh8 22.Nd6 f4 Trying to complicate matters

Petrosian-Beliavsky Moscow 1983 Move 23 White to move
Petrosian-Beliavsky Moscow 1983 Move 23 White to move

23.Rxe7! Qxd6 (27…fxg3+ 28.Nxf7+ wins) 24.Rxd7 Qxd7 25.Qxf4 Rd8

Petrosian-Beliavsky Moscow 1983 Move 26 White to move
Petrosian-Beliavsky Moscow 1983 Move 26 White to move

Black’s king is horribly exposed and cannot survive long.

26.Qf6+ Kg8 27.Kh1 Qxd4 28.Qxf7+ Kh8 29.Qe7! Ng6 30.Bxg6 hxg6 31.h3 b5 32.Rf6!

Petrosian-Beliavsky Moscow 1983 Move 32 Black to move
Petrosian-Beliavsky Moscow 1983 Move 32 Black to move

32…Rg8 33.Rxc6

A quicker way 33.Rd6! Qg7 34.Qh4+ Qh7 35.Qg5 c5 36.Re6 b4 37.Re7 Rg7 38.Re4

Petrosian-Beliavsky Moscow 1983 Variation 2 Move 38 Black to move
Petrosian-Beliavsky Moscow 1983 Variation 2 Move 38 Black to move

33..Rg7 34.Qg5 Kh7 35.Kh2 b4 36.Rf6 bxa3 37.bxa3 Qc4 38.Rf4 Qc7 39.Qh4+ Kg8 40.Qg3 a5 41.a4 Qb6 1-0

Petrosian-Beliavsky Moscow 1983 Final
Petrosian-Beliavsky Moscow 1983 Final

Plan D: kingside attack with opposite side castling

This game is a total annihilation of Black in an exciting good old fashioned kingside hack. Black had his chances but finding the accurate moves when subjected to such a brutal direct attack is not easy.

Boris Gulko – Paul Van der Sterren
Amsterdam 1988

1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 e6 3.Nc3 d5 4.cxd5 exd5 5.Bg5 Be7 6.e3 0-0 7.Bd3 c6 8.Nge2 Nbd7

Gulko-van der Sterren Move 9 White to play
Gulko-van der Sterren Move 9 White to play

9.Ng3!? (This move was played in the 32nd game of the Capablanca-Alekhine World Championship match)9…h6 (Capablanca responded rather ineptly 9…Ne8 10.h4!? Ndf6 11.Qc3 Be6 12.Nf5 Bxf5 13.Bxf5 Nd6 14,Bd3 h6 15.Bf4 Rc8 16.g4!? Nfe4? 17,g5 h5 18.Bxe4 Nxe4 19.Nxe4 dx34 20.Qxe4 and white won with his extra pawn.)  10.h4 Nb6! (10…hxg5? is asking for a kicking 11. hxg5 g6 12.gxf6 Nxf6 13.Qd2 Re8 14.0-0-0 and white has a pleasant initiative) 11.Qc2 (11.Nh5!? leads to a perpetual: 11…Nbd7 12. Qf3 Re8! 13. Nxg7! Kxg7 14.Bxh6+ Kxh6 15.Qf4+ Kg7 16.Qg5 drawn) 11…Re8 12.0-0-0 12…hxg5 (Very brave: Stockfish likes this as well as 12…Nc4) 13.hxg5 Ne4 14.Bxe4 dxe4

Gulko-Van der Sterren Amsterdam 1988 Move 15 White to play
Gulko-Van der Sterren Amsterdam 1988 Move 15 White to play

15.f4 Deliberately complicating the game by not playing  one of the two obvious recaptures on e4, 15.Ncxe4 leads to  an unbalanced ending: 15…Bxg5 16. Rh5 Bh6 17.Rdh1 f5 18.Nxf5 Bxf5 19.Qxf5 Qxd4 20.Nf6+ gxf6 21.Rxh6 Qc4 22.Qxc4 Nxc4 23.Rg6+ Kf7 24.Rgxf6+ Ke7 25.Rf7+ when white has three pawns for a knight: this looks better for Black as his pieces are very active.

Gulko-van der Sterren Move 9 Variation 2 Move 25 White to play
Gulko-van der Sterren Variation 2 Move 25 White to play

15.Qxe4 Bxg5 16.Qh7+ Kf8 17.Nce4 Be6 18.Nh5 Bh6 19.Nhf6 Ke7 20.Nxe8 Qxe8 is unclear but probably better for Black

15…Nd5 16.Ngxe4 (16.Rh2 is interesting when 16…f5! is the best reply which may well refute the attack)

Gulko-Van der Sterren Amsterdam 1988 Move 16 Black to play
Gulko-Van der Sterren Amsterdam 1988 Move 16 Black to play

16…Nxe3 (Greedy but sufficient to draw at least! The engine likes 16…f5! or 16…Bb4 which seem to be good for Black) 17.Qf2 Nxd1? (17…f5 definitely holds, I will leave the reader to spend some time with the silicon brain) 18.Qh4 f5! 19.Qh5

Gulko-Van der Sterren Amsterdam 1988 Move 19 Black to play
Gulko-Van der Sterren Amsterdam 1988 Move 19 Black to play

Kf8?? The losing mistake, taking yet more material leads to a probable draw viz.: 19…fxe4 20.g6 Bh4 21.Rxh4 Qxh4 22.Qxh4 Nxc3 23.bxc3 e3 White is left with a queen and pawns against a host of pieces but can probably draw as Black’s king is horribly exposed. 24.Qh7+ Kf8 25.Kd1! Using the king to stop the dangerous e-pawn25… Bf5 26.Ke1 e2 27.g4 Bxg4 28.Qh8+ Ke7 29.Qh4+ Kd6 30.Qxg4 Re7 31.f5 Rf8 with a black edge 20.Qg6 Kg8 21.Rh7 Qxd4

Gulko-Van der Sterren Amsterdam 1988 Move 22 White to play
Gulko-Van der Sterren Amsterdam 1988 Move 22 White to play

22.Qh5! Probably the move Black overlooked Qe3+ 23.Kc2 1-0

Plan E: play in positions with both sides castled on the queenside

Here is an impressive game from the World Championship candidate.

Nepomniachtchi (2757) – Nisipeanu (2672)
Dortmund 2018

1.c4 e6 2.Nc3 d5 3.d4 Nf6 4.cxd5 exd5 5.Bg5 c6 6.Qc2 Be7 7.e3 Nbd7 8.Bd3 h6 9.Bh4 Nh5 10.Bxe7 Qxe7 11.0-0-0 Nb6

Nepomniachtchi-Nisipeanu Doermund 2018
Nepomniachtchi-Nisipeanu Dortmund 2018 Move 12

12.Nf3!? (White decides to save a tempo by omitting the customary h3 )12…Nf6 (12…Be6 13.Kb1 Nf6 14.Ne5 Ng4 15.Nxg4 Bxg4 16.Rde1 0-0-0 with equality; 12…Bg4 13.Kb1 Nf6 14.Rc1 Bxf3 15.gxf3 0-0-0 16.Qb3 Kb8 17.a4 with a slight edge to White) 13.Kb1 Be6 14.Ka1 (Preparing the minority attack, 14.Rc1 is another idea)  14…0-0-0 15.Na4

Nepomniachtchi-Nisipeanu Dortmund
Nepomniachtchi-Nisipeanu Dortmund

Kb8?! (14…Nxa4 removing the potentially annoying knight is better) 16.Rc1 Rhe8 (16…Nxa4 17.Qxa4 Ne4 18.Rc2 Rhe8 19.Rhc1 f6 20.Ne1 Bf5 with a slight edge for White) 17.Nc5 Bc8 18.b4 (Hasty, 18.Nd2 stops Black’s next move) 18…Ne4

Nepomniachtchi-Nisipeanu Dortmund 2019 Move 19 White to play
Nepomniachtchi-Nisipeanu Dortmund 2019 Move 19 White to play

19.a4 (The minority attack continues even though the kings are on the queenside, 19.b5! cxb5 20.Bxb5 Rg8 21.Qb2 Be6 leads to a slight edge for White) 19…Nd6! (Fighting for c4) 20.Nd2 (20…h5 21.Rhd1 g6 22.a5 Nd7 23.Nf3 a6 is roughly equal) 20…Qf6 21.Rhf1

Nepomniachtchi-Nisipeanu Dortmund 2019 Move 21 Black to play
Nepomniachtchi-Nisipeanu Dortmund 2019 Move 21 Black to play

21…Bf5?! (This is a typical move in the Carlsbad structure, but the bishop is a good defensive piece here holding black’s structure together) 22.Bxf5 Qxf5 23.Qxf5 Nxf5 24.a5

Nepomniachtchi-Nisipeanu Dortmund 2019 Move 24 Black to play
Nepomniachtchi-Nisipeanu Dortmund 2019 Move 24 Black to play

24…Nd7?

Possibly the decisive mistake, the retreat into the corner is better 24…Na8! 25.a6  b6 26.Nd3 Ne7 27.Ne5 f6 28.Nxc6+ Nxc6 29.Rxc6  Nc7 white has a slight edge

Nepomniachtchi-Nisipeanu Dortmund 2019 Variation 1 Move 30 White to play
Nepomniachtchi-Nisipeanu Dortmund 2019 Variation 1 Move 30 White to play

25.a6! Undermining the c6-pawn with a definite White edge

Nepomniachtchi-Nisipeanu Dortmund 2019 Move 26 Black to play
Nepomniachtchi-Nisipeanu Dortmund 2019 Move 26 Black to play

25…Nxc5 26.bxc5! Kc7 27.axb7 Rb8 28.Kb2 Rxb7+ 29.Kc3 Rb5 30.Ra1 Kb7 31.Ra2 Ne7 32.Rfa1 Ra8

Nepomniachtchi-Nisipeanu Dortmund 2019 Move 33 White to play
Nepomniachtchi-Nisipeanu Dortmund 2019 Move 33 White to play

White has a huge plus, now a knight manoeuvre improves his position further

33.Nb1! (Or Nf3, Ne5,Nd3,Nb4) Kb8 34.Ra6 Kb7 35.R6a4 Kb8 36.Na3 Rb7 37.Ra6 Kc7 38.Nc2 Kd7 39.Nb4

Nepomniachtchi-Nisipeanu Dortmund 2019 Move 39 Black to play
Nepomniachtchi-Nisipeanu Dortmund 2019 Move 39 Black to play

Black’s two weaknesses on a7 and c6 are covered. To win the game, White must open the position to increase the bridgehead for his more active rooks. This can be achieved by arranging the opening of the centre/kingside.

39…f6 40.f3 f5 Hindering e4 but White can break with g4 instead 41.Nd3 Ke6 42.Ne5 Rc7 43.g4 fxg4 44.fxg4 h5 45.h3 hxg4 46.hxg4 Kf6 47.Rf1+ Ke6 48.Rf7 Rg8 49.g5 Rb7

Nepomniachtchi-Nisipeanu Dortmund 2019 Move 50 End
Nepomniachtchi-Nisipeanu Dortmund 2019 Move 50 End

50.g6 Zugzwang 1-0

Chapter 3 – Symmetrical pawn structures

The introduction to this section contains some insightful observations about symmetrical positions. This paragraph stood out: “In modern chess, a tiny advantage, evaluated by the engine at 0.20, is already sufficient reason for the player with white to analyse the corresponding continuation in depth.” The reviewer wonders whether this approach is linked to the impressive technique of Magnus Carlsen in grinding out wins from positions with small edges: an impressive example is Carlsen’s win over Nakamura in the Airthings Masters rapid in December 2020 in the anti-Berlin line: 1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5 Nf6 4.0-0 Nxe4 5.Re1 Nd6 6.Nxe5 Nxe5 7.Rxe5 0-0 8.Bf1. This game is not covered in this book but is instructive nevertheless.

In section 3.2, Zlotnik enumerates the possible advantages for the side to move in a symmetrical pawn structure situation:

  • Control of an open file;
  • Establishment of an outpost;
  • Active deployment of the pieces.

Control of an open file is such a fundamental concept of chess that this factor alone can win a game. The celebrated game Botvinnik-Alekhine from AVRO 1938 is a superb example of this. Alekhine gets a lousy opening but resists well forcing Botvinnik to show exemplary technique in the endgame. The reviewer will give this game with  key positions and a few notes to remind the reviewer of this historic tussle.

Mikhail Botvinnik-Alexander Alekhine AVRO 1938

1.Nf3 d5 2.d4 Nf6 3.c4 e6 4.Nc3 c5 5.cxd5 Nxd5 6.e3 Nc6 7.Bc4 cxd4 8.exd4 Be7 9.0-0 0-0 10.Re1 b6?! Possibly the losing move 11.Nxd5! exd5 12.Bb5 Despite the symmetrical pawn structure Black is now doomed to a passive defence. Weaknesses on the c-file and a slight discoordination of the black pieces give White an easy game in which he can develop his initiative.

Botvinnik-Alekhine AVRO 1938 Move 12 Black to move
Botvinnik-Alekhine AVRO 1938 Move 12 Black to move

12…Bd7? Now after the inevitable exchange of the light-squared bishops the black position becomes even more vulnerable. 13.Qa4 Nb8 Forced 14.Bf4 Bxb5 15.Qxb5 a6 16.Qa4 Keeping the horse on b8 in its stable. 16…Bd6 In order to relieve pressure. 17.Bxd6 Qxd6 18.Rac1 Ra7 19.Qc2! c-file domination

Botvinnik-Alekhine AVRO 1938 Move 19 Black to move
Botvinnik-Alekhine AVRO 1938 Move 19 Black to move

19…Re7 20.Rxe7 Qxe7 21.Qc7 Qxc7 22.Rxc7 After these exchanges the white rook invades the seventh rank. This rook cannot win the game alone, as White must bring in the cavalry.
22…f6! 23.Kf1 23…Rf7 24.Rc8+ Rf8 25.Rc3! g5 A good idea: by pushing his pawns on the kingside, Black reduces the importance of the seventh rank. 26.Ne1 h5

Botvinnik-Alekhine AVRO 1938 Move 27 White to move
Botvinnik-Alekhine AVRO 1938 Move 27 White to move

 27.h4!! Forcing new weaknesses on the kingside. 27…Nd7 28.Rc7
28…Rf7 29.Nf3! g4 30.Ne1 Aiming for f4 via d3 30…f5 31.Nd3 f4 The key square is temporarily under control, but the pawn on f4 is another weakness.

Botvinnik-Alekhine AVRO 1938 Move 32 White to move
Botvinnik-Alekhine AVRO 1938 Move 32 White to move

32.f3 (32.Nb4 wins a pawn, but Botvinnik doesn’t want to allow any counterplay) 32…gxf3 33.gxf3 a5 34.a4 Kf8 35.Rc6 Ke7 36.Kf2 Rf5 37.b3 37…Kd8 38.Ke2 Nb8

Botvinnik-Alekhine AVRO 1938 Move 39 White to move
Botvinnik-Alekhine AVRO 1938 Move 39 White to move

39.Rg6! (39.Rxb6? Kc7 and 40…Nc6 gives Black counter-chances.)
39…Kc7 40.Ne5 Keeping the steed tied up 40…Na6 41.Rg7+ Kc8 42.Nc6 Rf6 43.Ne7+ Kb8 44.Nxd5 Caching in 44…Rd6 45.Rg5 Nb4 46.Nxb4 axb4 47.Rxh5 Rc6 48.Rb5 Kc7 49.Rxb4 Rh6 50.Rb5 Rxh4 51.Kd3 1-0

Alekhine said after the tournament: “Of the 14 games I played in this tournament only once did I feel that my opponent outplayed me – it was the game with Botvinnik in round seven”. Praise indeed.

3.2.2 Establishment of an outpost

“Sometimes it happens that control of an open file is not in itself enough to ensure immediate superiority, in that case the best measure is to establish an output on that file.”

Here is a game from Botvinnik who loved playing positions with isolated pawns.

Botvinnik – Petrosian
Moscow 1964

1.c4 c5 2.Nf3 Nf6 3.Nc3 e6 4.g3 b6 5.Bg2 Bb7 6.0-0 Be7 7.b3 d5 8.e3 0-0 9.Bb2 Nc6 10.cxd5 exd5 11.d4 Re8 12.Rc1 Rc8

Botvinnik-Petrosian Moscow 1964 Move 13 White To Move
Botvinnik-Petrosian Moscow 1964 Move 13 White To Move

13.Bh3! Rb8 14.Re1 cxd4 15.exd4 Bb4 16.Rxe8+ Qxe8 17.a3 Bf8 (Better was 17…Bxc3 or 17…Bc8) 18.Qd3 g6 19.Re1 Qd8 20.Ne5 White has a slight pull

Botvinnik-Petrosian Moscow 1964 Move 20 Black To Move
Botvinnik-Petrosian Moscow 1964 Move 20 Black To Move

21…Bg7 21.f3 Na5 22.Qd1 a6 23.Na2 Nc6 24.Bc3 Qc7 25.Qd2 a5 26.Bb2 Qd6 27.Nc1 Bc8 28.Bf1!? Avoiding exchanging as White has more space 28…Be6 29.Ncd3 Ne7 (A definite error, 29…Nd7 is better)

Botvinnik-Petrosian Moscow 1964 Move 30 White To Move
Botvinnik-Petrosian Moscow 1964 Move 30 White To Move

30.b4! (Squeezing Black) axb4 31.axb4 Ne8 (31…Nd7 is better) 32.b5 f6 33.Ng4 Bd7? The fatal mistake, 33…Nf5 was ok

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Botvinnik-Petrosian Moscow 1964 Move 34 White To Move

34.Bc3! (winning the d5-pawn) 34…Nf5 35.Nf4 Qf8?! (35…Qa3 is tougher) 36.Nxd5 Kh8 37.Bb4 Qf7 38.Ne7! Ned6 39.Nxf5 Nxf5 40.d5 Re8

Botvinnik-Petrosian Moscow 1964 Move 41 White To Move
Botvinnik-Petrosian Moscow 1964 Move 41 White To Move

And white won on move 62.

3.2.3 Active deployment of the pieces

Gulko – Radjabov
Malmo 2001

1.g3 g6 2.Bg2 Bg7 3.d4 d6 4.e4 e5?! A poor move allowing White a definite advantage. Stockfish does not rate this move at all. 5.dxe5

Gulko-Radjabov Malmo 2001 Move 5 Black to move
Gulko-Radjabov Malmo 2001 Move 5 Black to move

 5…dxe5 (Stockfish prefers 5…Bxe5 6.Nf3 but white has a pleasant advantage in both cases] 6.Qxd8+ Kxd8

But the book to see how White exploited his lead in development and more active pieces.

3.3 Breaking the symmetry as a method of defence

Robert Byrne – Bobby Fischer New York 1963 began with a symmetrical structure.

Robert Byrne-Bobby Fischer New York 1964 Move 12 Black to move
Robert Byrne-Bobby Fischer New York 1964 Move 12 Black to move

This game looks pretty even. Bobby played the enterprising 12…e5!? to break the symmetry. Eleven moves later the game was over.

This celebrated game had to be included. Black has just played 21…Qd7!

Robert Byrne-Bobby Fischer New York 1963
Robert Byrne-Bobby Fischer New York 1963 End position

The story goes that the grandmasters watching the game failed to understand what was happening.

Section 3.4 A clash of pawns covers some interesting symmetrical opening sequences such as:

Petrov Copycat Variation Move 5 White to move
Petroff Copycat Variation Move 5 White to move

Petrov Copycat Move 4 White to move
Petrov Copycat Move 4 White to move

Queens Gambit Move 3
Queens Gambit Move 3

The book contains the antidotes to these lines.

The last subsection is 3.5 Symmetrical structures from various openings.

Here are a couple of positions that are covered in depth:

QGA Move 7 Black to move
QGA Move 7 Black to move

Carlsen won an impressive game versus Nisipeanu at Medias in 2011.

Anti-Gruenfeld Move 6 Black to move
Anti-Gruenfeld Move 6 Black to move

White has just played 6.dxc3 which looks harmless, however in Radjabov-Svidler Geneva 2017, Black responded with some inaccurate moves and was lost at move 19! Book the book to find out how.

Part 2 of this publication covers Typical methods of play in three chapters.

Chapter 4 Restricted Mobility in the KID covers typical methods of play, particularly for White, but also for Black whrn the centre is blocked.

Two cautionary tales  for White are given early on in the chapter showing White being blown away on the kingside. Here is one of them:

So-Nakamura St Louis 2015 Move 19 White to play
So-Nakamura St Louis 2015 Move 19 White to play

This position is pretty standard fare in the KID. White has just played 18.Nb5 and Black boots the knight with 18…a6. This manoeuvre by White looks odd to lose time, but b6 has been weakened and this is significant. White should play 19.Nc3! g4 20.Na4 g3 21.Nb6 Rb8 22.Bg1 gxh2 23.Bf2 Bd7 24.Nxd7! removing the dangerous bishop and White is slightly better.

So tried 19.Na3? and got stuffed.

So-Nakamura St Louis 2015 Checkmate
So-Nakamura St Louis 2015 Checkmate

The author discusses the main White methods to counter Black’s expansion with f7-f5:

  1. The manoeuvre Nf3-h4
  2. Pinning the Nf6 with Bc1-g5
  3. Playing an early g2-g4
  4. Exchanging pawns with exf5 gxf5, followed by f2-f4/f3

The reviewer will show a couple of typical positions involving each idea and leave the reader to get the book to study further.

Petrosian-Hort Wijk aan Zee 1971 Move 19 White to play
Petrosian-Hort Wijk aan Zee 1971 Move 19 White to play

19.Nh4!

Nikcevic-Djukic Cetinje 2016 Move 13 White to play
Nikcevic-Djukic Cetinje 2016 Move 13 White to play

13.Nh4!?

Petrosian-Yukhtman Tbilisi 1959 Move 8 Black to play
Petrosian-Yukhtman Tbilisi 1959 Move 8 Black to play

White has just played 8.Bg5 which is named after Petrosian.

Karpov-Spassky Leningrad 1974 Move 17 White to play
Karpov-Spassky Leningrad 1974 Move 17 White to play

White played 17.g4!

Botvinnik-Boleslavsky Move 15 White to play
Botvinnik-Boleslavsky Move 15 White to play

Black has just played 14…f5. White played 15.exf5 gxf5 16,f4

Chapter 5 Should we exchange the fianchettoed bishop (EFB)?

This considers the matter of exchanging Black’s fianchettoed bishop in the KID, Sicilian Dragon and the Sicilian Accelerated Dragon. As the author points out, sometimes White seeks the exchange for attacking reasons but Black will also seek to exchange his bishop for positional reasons in say the Maroczy Bind.

The position below shows a common idea in the KID:

Averbakh-Petrosian Moscow 1961 Move 12 Black to play
Averbakh-Petrosian Moscow 1961 Move 12 Black to play

12… Bxh6! 13.Qxh6 Kg8! 14.h5 Ng8! 15.Qe3 g5! and the kingside remains closed.

Here is a mainline Dragon  position from a game Geller-Kortchnoi Moscow 1971.

Geller-Kortchnoi Moscow 1971
Geller-Kortchnoi Moscow 1971

In this Dragon tabiya, Geller played 12.Bh6? which looks logical to exchange the bishop. Timing is everything and in this position Black has a well known riposte 12…Bxh6 13.Qxh6 Rxc3! 14.bxc3 a5!? (14…Qa5 and 14…Qc7 are also both good enough for equality)

Black achieved an excellent position but muffed the attack allowing Geller off the hook. The players agreed a draw when Geller was much better.

Here is a standard Maroczy Bind position in the Accelerated Dragon.

Tukmakov-Velimirovic Odessa 1975 Move 13 White to move
Tukmakov-Velimirovic Odessa 1975 Move 13 White to move

Black has just played 12…Nd7 offering an exchange of dark squared prelates. White has two plans here:

Gain space on the queenside with 13.b4 allowing the bishop exchange or retain the dark squared bishop 13.Be3 keeping  it to guard the dark squares and avoiding exchanges as White has more spaces.

White played the inaccurate 13.Kh1?! after 13…Bxd4 14.Qxd4 Qb6 and black is equal.

The author gives a good introduction to the Maroczy style positions.

Chapter 6 – the d5-square in the Sicilian.

The chapter covers what is says in the title. The typical strategic manoeuvres for both White and Black are covered in the Boleslavsky’s Variation of the Najdorf, the Sveshnikov and related systems.

Topics covered are:

Boleslavsky’s idea

The power of Nd5

Bishops of opposite colours

Chapter 7 is an excellent set of exercises followed by Chapter 8 Solutions.

This publication is one of the best middlegames I have read and the reviewer definitely recommends this book for all club players and above.

FM Richard Webb
FM Richard Webb

FM Richard Webb, Basingstoke, Hampshire, 1st August 2021

Book Details :

  • Hardcover : 400 pages
  • Publisher:New In chess (7 Dec. 2020)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10:9056919261
  • ISBN-13:978-9056919269
  • Product Dimensions: ‎17.22 x 2.67 x 23.67 cm

Official web site of New in Chess

Zlotnik's Middlegame Manual - Typical Structures And Strategic Manoeuvres, Boris Zlotnik, New in Chess, 7th December 2020, 7th December 2020, ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-9056919269
Zlotnik’s Middlegame Manual – Typical Structures And Strategic Manoeuvres, Boris Zlotnik, New in Chess, 7th December 2020, 7th December 2020, ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-9056919269