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Keep it Simple 1.d4

Keep it Simple 1.d4 : Christof Sielecki

Keep it Simple 1.d4 by Christor Sielecki
Keep it Simple 1.d4 by Christor Sielecki

“Half the variations which are calculated in a tournament game turn out to be completely superfluous. Unfortunately, no one knows in advance which half..” – Jan Timman

The value for any practising chess player of a coherent opening repertoire when playing with the white pieces is key to success, enjoyment and efficient use of study time.  Books with “Opening Repertoire” in the title are many and varied and we were intrigued to what the emphasis in this latest book from New in Chess would be.

From the books rear cover :

After the success of his award-winning book ‘Keep it Simple 1.e4’ International Master Christof Sielecki is back. His new repertoire based on 1.d4 has a similar profile: variations that are straightforward and easy to remember, and require little or no maintenance.

Sielecki has created a reliable set of opening lines for chess players of almost all levels. The major objective is to dominate Black from the opening, by simple means. You don’t need to sacrifice anything or memorize long tactical lines.

His main concept is for White to play 1.d4, 2.Nf3, 3.g3, 4.Bg2, 5.0-0 and in most cases 6.c4. Sielecki developed this repertoire while working with students who were looking for something that was easy to understand and easy to learn.

This new 1.d4 repertoire may be even easier to master than his 1.e4 recommendations, because it is such a coherent system. Sielecki always clearly explains the plans and counterplans and keeps you focused on what the position requires. Ambitious players rated 1500 or higher will get great value out of studying this extremely accessible book.

International Master Christof Sielecki
International Master Christof Sielecki

So, what is Keep it Simple 1.d4  about ?

This is a weighty (427 pages) tome advocating a repertoire for  white based on a “delayed Catalan” development approach against almost any line that black chooses.

Originally the content was provided on the popular training site Chessable. Its popularity caused New in Chess to publish in paper format.  See Chessable version

From the successful series by Boris Avrukh (and many others) we know that the conventional Catalan System (1.d4, 2.c4, 3.g3) is a highly respected opening system played at the very highest levels by the worlds top players. So, a normal Catalan would see

appear fairly promptly allowing Black various options that White might like to avoid.

By delaying c4 to say move 6 then White is denying Black some of these sharper continuations and maybe allowing White to focus more on middlegame plans rather than engaging in theoretical skirmishes at move 2, 3, 4, 5 or even.

This is the kind of opening philosophy that has encouraged the London System (and the Colle System before that) “pandemic” to dominate club chess : “We show a system that allows you to get your pieces onto sensible squares without allowing your opponent to distract you”. Of course this is a gross over simplification but many club players want an easy life !

So, something typical might be :

where White’s last move was 6.c4

which is covered in chapter 8 and 9 depending if Black captures on c4.

There is one major difference with the approach Sielecki suggests in that we get to a principled set-up via a slower move order.

The book is divided into four main parts as follows :

  1. Black’s classical / symmetrical set-ups : 1.d4 d5 2. Nf3
  2. Black’s …g7-g6 based set-ups : 1.d4 Nf6 2.Nf5 g6 3.g3
  3. Black’s flexible set-ups : 1.d4 Nf6 2.Nf3 e6 3.g3
  4. Black’s sharp and offbeat defences

The author states he has three “KIS” guidelines :

  • The chosen lines are simple to learn;
  • It must be possible to find your way if you forget your lines;
  • Choose lines that may not be most critical, but uncomfortable for the opponent

All the usual (and many unusual) structures from Black are given a detailed treatment :

Chigorin, Tarrasch, Grunfeld, King’s Indian, various forms of Benoni, Modern, Queen’s Indian, Benko b5 ideas, Dutch, Old Indian, Wade Defence and other odds and ends.

An interesting comment we noted elsewhere was from IM John Donaldson : “A worthy follow-up with the author achieving the near impossible in carving out a cohesive repertoire based on 1.d4 2.Nf3 and 3.g3 against all but a handful of Black replies. The most amazing magic trick is how the author makes the Slav and Queens Gambit Accepted disappear – namely by adopting the sequence 1.d4 d5 2.Nf3 Nf6 3.g3. This reviewer gives two thumbs up for for Keep It Simple 1.d4. It is full of interesting variations and ideas for players rated 2200 on up who are looking for a positionally oriented repertoire that is not overly theoretical.”

and “As promised, the repertoire is simple, but not so simple that it is not of practical value. IM Sielecki has taken great pains to research the material carefully and package it into a repertoire that is relatively consistent throughout.”–Carsten Hansen “American Chess Magazine ”

and “I like this particular repertoire very much as it’s one which could probably hold the reader in good stead for many years to come. His introductions, conclusions and textual explanations are instructive and ones that a human can readily appreciate, learn from and understand. As I think that I should keep my advice ‘simple’, then I would say ‘just get it’!”–Glenn Flear, Grandmaster “Yearbook 134”

So, who what is the most suitable audience for this book ? We would say that a club player of 2000 plus who wishes to upgrade their white opening into a Queen’s Gambit style structure would enjoy the content. Maybe they have been playing the London, Colle, Stonewall or Veresov systems and want to progress their chess : this book is ideal for that upgrade. It is also good for those who play a conventional move order looking for a more positional repertoire.

As a bonus for the observant, this book provides material for those wishing to kick-off with 1.Nf3 although you will need to deal with 1.Nf3 c5 of course !

As with every recent New in Chess publication high quality paper is used and the printing is clear. The book can easily be laid flat next to the board and does not require weights to prevent it from “self-closing” (a particular bugbear of ours !). Each diagram is clear and the instructional text is (mostly !) typeset in two column format, which, we find, enables the reader to maintain their place easily. Figurine algebraic notation is used throughout and the diagrams are placed adjacent to the relevant text.

At the rear is the customary detailed Index of Variations and following that there is an Index of Players where the numbers refer to pages.

In summary this book provides a pragmatic and positional repertoire for White against most of the all the commonly encountered responses to 1.d4 and 2.Nf3, 3.g3 and an eventual c4.  There is a host of interesting new and dangerous ideas that help you fight for the whole point with the white pieces : recommended !

John Upham, Cove, Hampshire, February 19th 2020

John Upham
John Upham

Book Details :

  • Hardcover : 432 pages
  • Publisher: New In Chess (1 Dec. 2019)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 9056918672
  • ISBN-13: 978-9056918675
  • Product Dimensions: 17.6 x 2.7 x 23.1 cm

Official web site of New in Chess

Keep it Simple 1.d4 by Christof Sielecki
Keep it Simple 1.d4 by Christof Sielecki

Opening Repertoire : The Ruy Lopez

Opening Repertoire : The Ruy Lopez
Opening Repertoire : The Ruy Lopez

Joshua Doknjas is a FIDE Master from Canada who has enjoyed success competing internationally. He has won seven national titles for his age and tied for 1st in the 2019 U18 North American Youth Chess Championship. This is his second book for Everyman Chess.

From the book’s rear cover we have :

“The Ruy Lopez is perhaps the most classical of all chess openings. It dates back to the 16th century and has featured in the opening repertoire of every modern world champion. It is a highly flexible variation: Bobby Fischer used it to create numerous powerful strategic masterpieces. In the hands of Anatoly Karpov it led to many of his trademark positional squeezes, whereas Garry Kasparov often used it as a springboard for his typically powerful attacks.

Opening Repertoire: The Ruy Lopez is a modern examination of this perennial favourite. Joshua Doknjas has put together a repertoire for White based firmly around contemporary trends in the Lopez. He examines all aspects of this highly complex opening and provides the reader with well-researched, fresh, and innovative analysis. Each annotated game has valuable lessons on how to play the opening and contains instructive commentary on typical middlegame plans.

  • A complete repertoire for White in the Ruy Lopez
  • A question and answer approach provides an excellent study method

Everyman Chess have already produced several books of high quality on chess openings and have now added another one.

Here is a sample pdf

The book is divided into ten main chapters as follows :

  1. The Zaitsev : 9…Bb7 and Sidelines
  2. The Chigorin : 9…Na5
  3. The Breyer : 9…Nb8
  4. The Anti-Berlin : 4.d3
  5. The Open Variation
  6. The Anti-Marshall : 8.a4
  7. Systems with 5…b5 and 5…Bc5
  8. Systems with …g6 and …Nge7
  9. The Schliemann
  10. Rare Lines

The Ruy Lopez has been called the mother of chess openings and is undoubtedly the most challenging for anyone who plays the open game with the black pieces.

The book is divided into 3 parts. Part 1 is solely dedicated to the closed Lopez : a great favourite of Lev Aronian. Three main variations are looked at after 5…Be7 6.d4 b5 7.Bb3 d6 8.c3 00 9.h3 when 9…Bb7; the Zaitzev 9…Na5 the Chigorin; a great favourite of Paul Keres and 9…Nb8 favoured by Anatoly Karpov are each considered in detail.

The lines are investigated by examining games played by those of at least 2500 Elo with lots of discussion of other possibilities and questions giving the reader the chance to see if they can work out the correct path.

A Grischuk win against the Ziatzev is analysed, Alexei Shirov shows us how to face the Chigorin with nice wins by Ray Robson with Grischuk and Maxime Vachier-Legarve dismanting the Breyer Variation.

Part2 starts by looking at the notorious Berlin Defence and recommends that White plays 4.d3 which has been the move favoured By Magnus Carlsen and Fabiano Caruana in recent years.
Both 4…d6 and 4…Bc5 are studied the latter in some depth.

The Open variation with 5…Nxe4 by black is analysed in Chapter 5.

The main line 6.d4 b5 7.Bb3 d5 8.d4xe5 Be6 9.c3 is chosen as surprise recommendation as I have played the Open Variation for about 30 years and always thought 9.Nbd2 chosen by Karpov in many games to be the strongest continuation. After 9…Bc5 10 Qd3 is Doknjas suggestion probably chosen to avoid the dangerous Dilworth Attack.
The top game here is a rapid game between heavyweight giants Anish Giri and Vishy Anand and, as usual, White wins.

There is no analysis of the Marshall Defence as 8.a4 avoiding it is the repertoire recommendation.

This was Kasparov’s choice in game 1 of his 1993 PCA world championship match versus Nigel Short. Again, games by Giri and Vachier-Legarve are given as examples for White players. Unusually there is a draw for Black when Ding Liren defends the black side : unusual for this book which has a heavy white bias.

The Arkhangelsk with both 6…Bb7 and the very modern 6…Bc5 often favoured by Shirov is discussed with 7.d3 recommended against the former and 7.c3 against the latter.

The closing chapters in Part 3 look at the rarer moves 3…Nge7 3…g6 3…Nd4 and 3..d6 lines are covered next.

For completeness, there is a chapter on the 3…f5 Schliemann and 4.d3 is the recommended way forward when white intends to snatch a pawn and challenge black to prove he has compensation.

This book is aimed at players from about 120 ECF and upwards though promising juniors who play 1.e4 and are wondering what to choose against the open game are likely to benefit.

The book is nicely presented with good clear print and many diagrams as well as lots of good games.

Colin Lyne, Farnborough, Hampshire, 8th February, 2020

Colin Lyne
Colin Lyne

Book Details :

  • Paperback : 288 pages
  • Publisher: Everyman Chess (30 Nov. 2019)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1781945411
  • ISBN-13: 978-1781945414
  • Product Dimensions: 17.1 x 1.8 x 23.8 cm

Official web site of Everyman Chess

Opening Repertoire : The Ruy Lopez
Opening Repertoire : The Ruy Lopez

Opening Repertoire : The Modern Defence

Opening Repertoire : The Modern Defence
Opening Repertoire : The Modern Defence

Cyrus Lakdawala is an IM and former US Open Champion who teaches chess and has written over 25 books on chess openings.

IM Cyrus Lakdawala
IM Cyrus Lakdawala

As a treat for our readers we allow you to download this review in Portable Game Notation (pgn) format. We suggest ChessBase Reader as a means of opening the file.

You may also download this review in ChessBase (.cbv) format.

This is the Modern Defence, which has been described both as a fighting opening, based on counterattack and a masochistic paradise, where Black has to sit with less space for the whole game and then loses.

Having played the Modern for some 40 years now, I can testify that the truth is somewhere between the two views.

You either like the Modern or you don’t and you have to get into the right frame of mind in order to play it properly. Black has to suck up early pressure and time his counterattack to perfection to break up the enemy position. If this is your thing and you have an independent character, you will find what you want after 1…g6.

I think I have most of the Modern Defence books in my library, stretching back to Keene and Botterill, through Norwood and Tiger Hillarp Persson and now complimented by the latest work from Cyrus Lakdawala : ‘ Opening Repertoire’ The Modern Defence.

Lakdawala’s book is comprehensive, brimming with ideas and gives lines for Black after all sensible opening first moves, based on complete games.

His suggestions differ from Hillarp Persson, in that whereas the Swedish GM recommends that Black plays an early …-a7-a6 in most lines, Lakdawala goes back to the Norwood repertoire of old, where 1 e4 g6 2 d4 d6 3 Nc3 c6!? was one of the key pillars of the Black counterattacking reply.

It’s an approach which seems to stand up in the present day.

Let’s dive in and take a look at a few recent games that are not in the book, but which align with the recommendations therein.

I enjoyed the book and I think you will too. Focus on the ideas and the originality of Lakdawala’s thought and you will get a lot from it. I guess the book could have been shortened by 20/30 pages with a more economical writing style, but that is the way he does things and you like it or lump it.

Lakdawala’s book is an important addition to the available chess literature on the Modern. As such, it comes with my strong recommendation.

Andrew Martin, Bramley, Surrey, 6th February, 2020

IM Andrew Martin
IM Andrew Martin

Book Details :

  • Paperback : 416 pages
  • Publisher: Everyman Chess (22 Oct. 2019)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1781945306
  • ISBN-13: 978-1781945308
  • Product Dimensions: 17 x 7.5 x 24 cm

The book is available as a physical book and as a Kindle version.

Official web site of Everyman Chess

Opening Repertoire : The Modern Defence
Opening Repertoire : The Modern Defence

Crucial Chess Skills for the Club Player – Volume 2

Crucial Chess Skills for the Club Player - Volume 2
Crucial Chess Skills for the Club Player – Volume 2

Robert Ris is an IM from the Netherlands who spends a lot of his time training other players, and it shows in the clarity of explanation in this book, in which the material is split into eleven chapters, followed by forty exercises, then their solutions.

IM Robert Ris
IM Robert Ris

The first six chapters cover the roles of pieces, primarily using endgame positions to bring out ideas in sharpest relief, although some chapters require middlegame positions.  The next five chapters cover various types of material imbalance. These chapter titles are:-

  1. The role of the king in the ending
  2. Same-coloured bishop endings
  3. Opposite-coloured bishop endings
  4. Initiative in opposite-coloured bishop endings
  5. Bishop v knight
  6. The power of major pieces
  7. Queen vs. two rooks
  8. Two minor pieces vs. rook
  9. Worth of a queen
  10. Exchange sacrifice
  11. Piece vs. pawns

The material covered here can be found in many other books, but what differentiates  the coverage in this book, in addition to the aforementioned clarity of explanation, is the analysis of sidelines. There  is a difficult balance to strike here. Too many sidelines, too much detail and you lose the reader’s attention. To  few sidelines, too little detail and you aren’t answering the reader’s questions. In my opinion Ris gets the balance exactly right.

Here is example to illustrate Ris’ style. It’s from Chapter 6 (The power of major pieces) and illustrates the idea of combining files and ranks:

The occupation of an open file is not a goal in itself, but rather a first step in strengthening your own position. In the previous example we have seen the impact of major pieces controlling the only open file. From there they were enabled to infiltrate the seventh rank with devastating effect. The following game nicely shows that with one extra pair of rooks the side with the initiative is able to pose even more problems. By employing the other rook laterally White creates extra threats against the king.

Bacrot, Etienne (2730) v Giri, Anish (2749), Germany 2013

19.b4!

White makes use of the unfortunate placement of the black king on g7 to prepare the advance of the c-pawn. Clearly inferior is 19.cxb5? axb5 when Black becomes active on the a-file.

19…bxc4

This is practically forced, because after 19…Rac8 White plays 20.c5! dxc5 21.bxc5, and Black can’t now take on c5 in view of Qd4+, while after other moves the pawns on c5 and d5 are very powerful, dominating Black’s major pieces.

20.Rxc4 h5

A) First of all, Black is unable to start disputing control over the c-file, as 20…Rac8? fails to 21.Qc3 winning the rook.

B) With the text Black admits that the possible rook lift to h4 is very dangerous for him. The alternative 20…f6 is not much fun to play either. White has the luxury of being able to choose between playing for an attack on the kingside, pressurizing the backward pawn on the e-file or simply mobilizing his queenside majority. The latter is a good option and moves like a4, Qc3 and Rc6 are very useful. The black pieces have been paralyzed and even though there is no immediate way for White to break down the barricades, Black’s task of avoiding any concessions seems to be much harder.

21.Qc3+ Kg8

21…f6 is met by 22.Rc7 followed by taking on e7.

22.Rc7 Qb6

23.a4!

Superb technical play by Bacrot, who doesn’t get tempted into winning a pawn with 23.Rcxe7? Rxe7 24. Rxe7, because after 24…a5 Black obtains reasonable counterplay and drawing chances despite the minus pawn.

23…Rab8 24.Re4!

The point of White’s play. His queenside majority is well supported by the major pieces and Black doesn’t get a single chance to create counterplay. After the text White is ready to expose the black weaknesses on the kingside with the powerful break g2-g4.

24…f6

A) They say that in bad positions mistakes are easily made, but what else should Black do? The attempt to simplify the position with 24…Qxc7 25.Qxc7 Rbc8 backfires in view of 26.Qc6! Rxc6 27.dxc6 and the white pawns are too strong.

B) Trying to reduce the pressure on the seventh rank with 24…Rb7 is strongly met by 25.Rexe7! Rxe7 26.Rc8+ and mate on h8.

C) 24,,,a5 will always be met by 25.b5! The only conclusion we can draw is that Black is in zugzwang!

25.g4! Rb7

Giri overlooks a nice tactical shot and can resign immediately, but his position was already impossible to defend. A great illustration of White’s dominance is seen in the following variation where Black is attacked from all sides: 25…hxg4 26.Rxg4 Kf7 (Black also collapses after 26…Kg7 27.Qc2 g5 28.h4) 27.Rh4

(27.Qc2 f5 is less convincing) 27…Rh8 (27…g5 leads to mate after 28.Rh7+ Kg6 29.Qd3+ f5 30.Qh3 Kf6 31.Qc3+ Kg6 32.Qg7#) 28.a5 Qb5 29.Qe3 Rhe8 (29…Rxh4 30.Qxe7+ Kg8 31.Qg7#) 30.Rh7+ Kg8 31.Qh6 and mate on g7.

26.Qxf6!

Black resigned, in view of 26…Qxc7 (26…exf6 27.Rxe8#) 27.Qxg6+ Kh8 (27…Kf8 28.Rf4#) 28.Re6! Qc1+ 29.Kg2 and there is nothing Black can do against Qxh5, Rg6 and Qf5 mate.

1-0

So what do you think? For me this is just the right amount of description and analysis. For you it may be too little or too much, but this is broadly what you’re going to get from Ris in this book (there are some exceptions where more analytical detail is given, but only when it’s unavoidable.)

Moving on to the next five chapters on material imbalances, Ris himself remarks in the Preface: “Of course these topics have been discussed in other works as well, but I can offer you a lot of fresh examples from the highest level as well as quite a number of games from my own practice.” Modesty inhibits him from saying that he explains these imbalances as well as anyone and better than almost all.

Here is an example from Chapter 10 (Exchange sacrifice) subtitled “Knight v rook: the octopus

Ris, Robert (2419) v Beliavsky, Alexander (2597), Reykjavik 2017

Everything had gone wrong for me in the early middlegame. I had lost an exchange, was down one hour on the clock and was basically hoping not to lose in 25 moves. With a bit of fortune on my side, I have managed to avoid an immediate disaster and still reach some sort of playable position. The main reason for that is my knight on d6 (in chess terminology called thge octopus!), which restricts the mobility of the black rooks. The only open file has been kept closed by the knight (and the very important pawn on e5!), so there is no immmediate way to activate the rooks and exploit the material advantage.

24.e4 b5

It looks very logical to mobilize the queenside majority, aiming to create a passed pawn and open the  files for the black rooks, either to invade White’s position or just to liquidate into a winning endgame thanks to the material plus. We will see that this plan of advancing the pawn majority simply takes too much time and is therefore unrealistic to carry out. Opening the files  for the rooks is the right plan, though, but it needs to be carried out in a different way.

Correct is 24…f6! which is a move I considered at various moments during the game, but I also thought that weakening the kingside would give me reasonable practical chances with three powerful pieces standing ready to attack the black king. Well, that’s what I was thinking during the game with only a few minutes left on the clock, no time to calculate concrete variations.

After the intended 25.exf6? (centralizing the queen with 25.Qc3 might have been a better idea, though after 25…Rad8 Black is clearly better, and soon will try increasing the pressure on White’s centre) 25…Rxf6 26.Qe3 Raf8 White is losing his grip on the position. That’s mainly because the knight has lost the support from the pawn on e5, while the black rooks are now exerting pressure on the f-file and simply threaten to take on f4.

25.Qe3

25…Qb6

A) In case of 25…b4 it had been my intention to follow up with 26.f5 and Black has to watch out for White’s mating threats with Qh6 and f6.

B) 25…f6! would still have been a very reasonable option.

26.Qg3 Qa5 27.Rf2 b4 28.f5 c3 29.bxc3 bxc3 30.Qf4!

30.f6? would have been a serious mistake, as it allows Black to close the kingside with 30…h6! 31.Qh4 Kh7 and there is no convenient way for White to continue the attack, as his own king is too exposed.

30…c2?

During the game I was very optimistic about my chances here, but it turns out that there is still a way to stop White’s attack.

A) Correct is 30…exf5 31.gxf5 f6

and the position is still quite balanced, e.g., 32.exf6 Rxf6 33.e5 Qd5+ 34.Qf3 Qxf3+ 35.Rxf3 Rff8 36.Rxc3 gxf5 37.Rg3+ Kh8 38.e6 and soon White will win back the exchange, resulting in a drawn rook ending.

B) It’s worth pointing out that the immediate 30…f6? is inferior, in view of 31.exf6 Rxf6 32.e5 Rff8 33.f6 ansd White retains a very dangerous attack.

For example, 33…Kh8 34.Qh6 Qc7 35.Rf3 c2 36.Rc3! and after White picks up the c-pawn, Black remains very passive as he still can’t activate the rook while the queen needs to cover  the seventh rank.

31.f6! Qxe5

31…Kh8 32.Qh6 Rg8 33,Nxf7#.

32.Qh6!

Black resigned, as the only way to avoid mate is 32…Qxf6 33.Rxf6 but then my queen is still guarding the c1 square and White enjoys a huge material advantage.

1-0

In summary then, this book covers familiar ground, but it does so very impressively, with plenty of diagrams, lucid explanations and  appropriate levels of analyis. In my opinion Ris’ book becomes the leader of the pack in a relatively crowded field. I commend it unreservedly.

Mark Taylor, Windsor, Berkshire, 1st February 2020

Mark Taylor
Mark Taylor

Book Details :

  • Paperback : 390 pages
  • Publisher: Thinkers Publishing; 1 edition (15 Feb. 2019)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 9492510456
  • ISBN-13: 978-9492510457
  • Product Dimensions: 17.3 x 2.3 x 23.4 cm

Official web site of Thinkers Publishing

Crucial Chess Skills for the Club Player - Volume 2
Crucial Chess Skills for the Club Player – Volume 2

Planning : Move by Move

Planning : Move by Move
Planning : Move by Move

According to Wikipedia :

Zenón Franco Ocampos (American Spanish: [seˈnoɱ ˈfɾaŋko oˈkampos];[a] born 12 May 1956, Paraguay) is a chess grandmaster (GM) from Paraguay. In the 1982 Chess Olympiad at Lucerne, he won the gold medal at board one by scoring 11 of 13. In the 1990 Chess Olympiad at Novi Sad, he shared first place at board one with 9 points in 12 games. As of 2007, Ocampos is the top-ranked player and only GM in Paraguay (now, there are three GMs: Zenon Franco, Axel Bachmann and Jose Cubas). He has written several books on chess for Gambit Publications under the name Zenon Franco.

GM Zenon Franco
GM Zenon Franco

A few days ago my friend Paul Barasi asked me a question on Twitter: “Does planning play a distinctive & important role in deciding inter-club chess match games? I don’t hear players saying: I lost because I picked the wrong plan or failed to change plan, or won by having the better plan. Actually, they never even mention the subject.”

I replied: “It does for me. I usually lose because my opponent finds a better plan than me after the opening. But you’re right: nobody (except me) ever mentions this.”

I can usually succeed in putting my pieces on reasonable squares at the start of the game, but somewhere round about move 15 I have to decide what to do next. If I’m playing someone 150 or so Elo points above me (as I usually am at the moment), I’ll choose the wrong plan and find out, some 20 moves later I’m stuck with a pawn weakness I can’t defend and eventually lose the ending.

Perhaps Zenón Franco’s book Planning Move by Move will be the book to, as the blurb on the back suggests, take my game to the next level.

There are five chapters: Typical Structures, Space Advantage, The Manoeuvring Game, Simplification and Attack and Defence, with a total of 74 games or extracts. Although most of the games are from recent elite grandmaster practice, there are also some older games, dating back as far as Lasker-Capablanca from 1921. Three masters of strategy, Karpov, Carlsen and Caruana, make regular appearances.

Each game is interspersed with exercises (where the author is asking you to answer his question) and questions (which you might ask the author).

Compared to the Kislik book I reviewed last week which covers fairly similar territory, Franco’s book is more user friendly for this reason. It’s the difference, if you like, between a teacher and a lecturer. Kislik is talking to you from the demo board without giving you a chance to interact, while Franco is answering your questions and asking you questions in turn.

Let’s take as an example from the book Game 31, which is Caruana-Ponomariov Dortmund 2014

In this position, with Caruana, white, to play, you’re given an exercise.

“A decision must be taken. What would you play?”

White played 20. Rde1!

Answer: “Seeking the favourable exchange of dark-squared bishops and preventing 20… f6 for tactical reasons. Caruana didn’t see a favourable way of continuing after 20. h4 f6 and he commented that he wasn’t happy about allowing … h4, but he thought it was more important to prevent … f6.”

You might then ask the question: “But how did 20. Rde1 prevent 20… f6?”

Answer: “I’ll answer that with an ….”

Exercise: “How can 20… f6 be punished?”

Answer: “White can gain a positional advantage by exchanging the bishops with 21. Be5, but even better is 21. exf6 Bxf6 and now 22. Bxc7! Kxc7 23. Qf4+ wins a pawn.”

Taking you through to the end of the game, we reach this position with Caruana to play his 39th move.

“Exercise: Test position: ‘White to play and win’.”

You might want to solve this exercise yourself before reading on.

With any luck you’ll have spotted the lovely deflection 39. Re7!!

“Exercise: “What’s the key move now for solving the problem I set you?”

If you found the previous move you’ll have no problem finding the second deflection 40. Ba6 Kxa6 41. Qa8#

You’ll see from this example that the book is far from just a guide to chess strategy. At this level tactics and strategy are inseparable, and in order to solve Franco’s exercises you’ll have to calculate sharply and accurately both to justify your chosen plan and to finish your opponent off at the end of the game.

What we have, then, is a collection of top class games and extracts with annotations which are among the best I’ve seen. Copious use is made of other sources: the notes on the above game incorporate, with acknowledgement, Caruana’s own notes which can be found, amongst other places,  on MegaBase. Franco also refers to computer analysis, in places making interesting comparisons between modern (early 2019) and older engines, and frequently comments on the difference between human and computer moves.

Having said that, the games are not easy, and, although all readers will enjoy a collection of great games instructively analysed, I would suggest that, to gain full benefit from the book, you’d probably need to be about 1800+ strength and prepared to take the book seriously, reading it with a chessboard at your side, covering up the text and attempting to solve the exercises yourself.

We’ve all seen games where Capablanca, for example, wins without having to resort to complex tactics, because his opponents are far too late to catch onto what’s happening. I could well imagine a book written for players of, say, 1400-1800 strength featuring this type of game, perhaps with some more recent examples. There must be many games from Swiss tournaments where GMs beat amateurs in this way.

I have a few minor criticisms:

  • While I understand that publishers want to save paper, I’d have preferred each example to start on a new page
  • There is some inconsistency as to whether or not we’re shown the opening moves before the exercises start. I’d have preferred to see the complete game in all examples.
  • There are a few shorter examples, lasting only a few moves, in the final chapter which seem rather out of place and might have been omitted.
  • The games disproportionately favour White: I’d have preferred a more equal balance between white and black wins.
  • Some of the ‘exercises’, it seems to me, are mistakenly labelled as ‘questions’. The first question/exercise in Game 1 is an example.
  • Names of Chinese players are sometimes given incorrectly: for instance, Bu Xiangzhi appears both in the text and the index as B. Xiangzhi. Bu is his family name and Xiangzhi his given name, and Chinese names are customarily printed in full. Failure to do so (and the book is inconsistent in this) seems to me rather disrespectful.

In spite of these resservations I can recommend the book very highly as a collection of excellent and often beautiful top level games with first rate annotations. Stronger club standard players, in particular, will find it helpful in improving not just their planning skills but their tactical skills as well.

I really enjoyed reading it and I’m sure you will as well.

Richard James, Twickenham, 20th January, 2020

Richard James
Richard James

Book Details :

  • Paperback : 416 pages
  • Publisher: Everyman Chess (1 Sept. 2019)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1781945373
  • ISBN-13: 978-1781945377
  • Product Dimensions: 17.1 x 2.3 x 23.8 cm

Official web site of Everyman Chess

Planning : Move by Move
Planning : Move by Move

Improve Your Practical Play in the Endgame

Improve Your Practical Play in the Endgame : Alexey Dreev

Improve Your Practical Play in the Endgame
Improve Your Practical Play in the Endgame

“After a bad opening, there is hope for the middle game. After a bad middle game, there is hope for the endgame. But once you are in the endgame, the moment of truth has arrived.” – Edmar Mednis

GM Alexey Dreev
GM Alexey Dreev

From Wikipedia :

Alexey Sergeyevich Dreev (Russian: Алексей Сергеевич Дреев; born 30 January 1969[1]) is a Russian chess player. He was awarded the title Grandmaster by FIDE in 1989.

While being a promising young chess talent, he was for a period coached by the world-class chess trainer Mark Dvoretsky.

As with every recent Thinkers Publishing publication high quality paper is used and the printing is clear. The book can easily be laid flat next to the board and does not require weights to prevent it from “self-closing” (a particular bugbear of ours !). Each diagram is clear and the instructional text is typeset in two column format, which, we find, enables the reader to maintain their place easily. Figurine algebraic notation is used throughout and the diagrams are placed adjacent to the relevant text and each diagram has a “to move” indicator.

There is no index which, unfortunately, is a standard feature of Thinkers Publishing books. Also missing is a bibliography.

This author of this book is Alexey Dreev, super GM who reached the quarter finals of the candidates in 1991.

This excellent book is packed full of instructive, exciting endgames, taken from top level games, including many of Dreev’s own games
extensively analysed with short pithy didactic comments.

Many of the examples are complex and require serious study to really gain the understanding of practical endgames.

This book is a pleasure to read with an excellent layout and plenty of diagrams making it easy to peruse anywhere.

The book is divided up into six chapters, but not on piece configurations (except for chapter 5) but on aspects of play:

  1. Particular Endgames,
  2. Defence,
  3. Hidden Resources,
  4. Prophylaxis,
  5. Pawn Endgames and Transitioning into Pawn Endgames,
  6. Converting

Each chapter has eight or nine examples analysed in depth followed by a similar number of exercises which will really test the reader;
I did get a few right without moving any pieces.

One of favourite chapters is Particular Endgames which mostly covers positions with material imbalance such as Q v pieces
which the vast majority of players would find fascinating. There is an excellent example no 3 showing the use of a space advantage in B+2Ns endgame.

Following is the first example in the Chapter on Defence and a new perspective on a famous game.

My other favourite chapter is Pawn Endgames and Transitioning into Pawn Endgames which shows the rich complexity of king and pawn endgames
and the crucial importance of this topic.

In my experience, this transition is commonly mishandled by players of all standards: I have spoiled winning endgames in this area and I have seen countless games spoiled by poor play in pawn endgames, so study of this chapter will reap rich rewards for a reader.

FM Richard Webb, Chineham, Hampshire, 17th January 2020

FM Richard Webb
FM Richard Webb

Book Details :

  • Paperback : 248 pages
  • Publisher: Thinkers Publishing; 1 edition (5 Oct. 2019)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 9492510596
  • ISBN-13: 978-9492510594
  • Product Dimensions: 16.5 x 1.9 x 22.9 cm

Official web site of Thinkers Publishing

Improve Your Practical Play in the Endgame
Improve Your Practical Play in the Endgame

Chess Logic in Practice

Chess Logic in Practice : Erik Kislik

Erik Kislik is an American IM and chess coach who has been based in Hungary for some years.

This is his second book, a successor to Applying Logic in Chess, which proved rather controversial, containing rather more words and less chess than you might expect. John Hartmann’s review proved even more controversial than Kislik’s book, and was subjected to some rather aggressive online responses by the author’s friends and supporters.

As someone who likes chess books with lots of words and has a specific interest in logic, I was sufficiently intrigued to buy the book myself and find out what all the fuss was about. While agreeing with Hartmann’s reservations, I enjoyed the book and was looking forward to the sequel.

Kislik’s premise is that, by using logical thought processes, we can eliminate bias from our thinking and improve our choice of candidate moves. According to the introduction: “I decided to write this book to lay out straightforward problem-solving approaches to the tough decisions we face in practical games. We have all sorts of biases that get in our way and stop us from finding, considering and calculating strong moves.”

Unlike his previous book, you’ll find a lot more chess than verbiage here. The book is full of interesting extracts from top GM games, games by the author and his students, and positions from opening theory.

Kislik splits his material into two parts. The first part, Thinking Concepts, concerns identifying specific cognitive biases which might prevent us finding the best moves. The second part, Positional Concepts, looks at more directly chess-related ideas.

You can find a contents list and sample pages on the publisher’s website.

I guess I’m not really part of the target market as I have had no particular interest in improving my own chess for several decades now and am gradually winding down my playing career.

For reference, my ECF grade is, at the time of writing, 167, which would be round about 1900 Elo.

What did I make of the material? Does it succeed in its aim? What level of player is it aimed at?

Chapter 3, The Method of Elimination, tells us that we can simplify our choices if there’s only one move that meets our opponent’s threat or, in some other way, reacts to the demands of the position. Sure, but I’ve certainly played games where I’ve done just that only to find that the one move to meet my opponent’s threat, which I’ve played without too much thought, allows something much worse. There seems to be an assumption here that the reader calculates much more accurately and quickly than I do.

This position is from Harikrishna-Dominguez (Wijk aan Zee 2014) with Black to play.

Black’s a pawn down, so he has no choice but to play Qg6, which, as you will see, regains the pawn with equality. Not so hard, even for me, but I was more interested in the position a couple of moves earlier where he chose to free his position by a temporary sacrifice of his e-pawn.

A few moves later they reached this position:

Here Dominguez played a5. Kislik: “This very unnecessary defensive move allows White to make a lot of progress and set some awkward problems. 32… Ke7 is a move I would have chosen by a process of elimination. Black improves his worst-placed piece and White has no threats anyway.” The position should still be within the bounds of a draw, but Harikrishna gave a textbook example of how to maintain the pressure and eventually brought home the full point.

Yes, but you might equally well say that Black would have been following general principles: bringing his king up for the ending and not creating unnecessary pawn weaknesses.

This is from Chapter 12: Painfully Slow Moves: Kislik-Szalanczy Budapest 2009 with White to play.

Looking at what I’d learnt from Chapter 3, I’d quickly eliminate everything except gxf7+ and Rxf7 as I don’t want to lose the g6 pawn for nothing. In fact both moves give White a slight plus. Kislik chose gxf7+ and a few moves later allowed a perpetual.

As he explains, he missed a Painfully Slow Move: “33. Rf4!! wins by threatening the very modest Qxe7.” Wait a minute. Why does Rf4 threaten Qxe7?  Why can’t I play Qxe7 at once? He analyses various other lines but doesn’t answer my questions. I asked Stockfish 10, who told me that 33. Qxe7 Qg1+ 34. Kc2 Qxg2+ 35. Nd2 fxg6 is equal, but if the white rook was on f4 rather than f5 White would be mating with Qe6+ followed by Rh4+. All rather too deep for me, I’m afraid.

I believe there have been several recent books based on the opposite premise: that to play at a high level you need to use creativity, imagination and intuition rather than just pure logic. At my level, at any rate, I’d need to go beyond pure logic to find Rf4.

I get the feeling from this example that the book is really aimed at stronger players than me. The book is full of punctuation marks and assessments without further comment. From my perspective I’d have preferred fewer examples and more explanation.

I wonder also if the author might have had a database of instructive positions and a list of interesting chapter headings and tried to shoehorn everything in somehow and somewhere.

The other quibble I have is with the layout. It’s all rather breathless, with one position being followed by another without a pause, I’d have liked a gap, or even a horizontal line, to separate examples, so that my brain could take a break.

In spite of my reservations, I’m sure that a player of, say, 2000+ strength prepared to work hard will get a lot out of this book. Kislik’s theories are thought provoking and his examples fascinating. Slightly lower rated players will, as I did, get a lot of pleasure out of reading this book and enjoying some excellent chess.

Richard James, Twickenham, January 14th 2020

Richard James
Richard James

Book Details :

  • Hardcover : 240 pages
  • Publisher: Gambit Publications Ltd (18 September 2019)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1911465244
  • ISBN-13: 978-1911465249
  • Product Dimensions: 17.1 x 2.3 x 24.8 cm

Official web site of Gambit Publications Ltd.

The Club Player’s Modern Guide to Gambits

The Club Player's Modern Guide to Gambits
The Club Player’s Modern Guide to Gambits

The Club Player’s Modern Guide to Gambits : Nikolai Kalinichenko

Nikolai Kalinichenko is an ICCF (correspondence) grandmaster and renowned theoretician.He has published no less than 50 books on various chess aspects in Russia, Germany, France, Spain, the U.K., USA, China and other countries. His most acclaimed English-language titles include “Vassily Ivanchuk: 100 Selected Games”; “A Positional Opening Repertoire for the Club Player”; “An Aggressive Opening Repertoire for the Club Player”; and “King’s Gambit”

This is an unusual book : the theme is sacrificing a pawn (or more) in the opening for various types of compensation such as initiative, development, control of squares or perhaps simply surprise !

Those with long memories will recall the diminutive Counter Gambits by Tim Harding published by British Chess Magazine in 1974.

Counter gambits by Timothy D. Harding (1974)
Counter gambits by Timothy D. Harding (1974)

This new book could be seen (to some extent) as a successor to the above and details forty eight or so opening pawn sacrifices for both Black and White organised along the following lines :

  1. Open Games – White Gambits
  2. Open Games – Black Gambits
  3. Semi-open Games – White Gambits
  4. Semi-open Games – Black Gambits
  5. Closed Games – White Gambits
  6. Closed Games – Black Gambits
  7. Opening Variations Featuring Material Imbalances

Here is an excerpt from the publisher, Russell Enterprises, Inc. :

This is no ordinary opening book. This practical guide describes only such openings in which White or Black sacrifices material at an early stage of the game. They are called gambits (in Old Italian, gambetto means tripping).

The justification for such sacrifices can differ quite a lot. In most cases, the side that sacrifices material tends to get ahead of the opponent in development and/or opens lines to attack the enemy king. However, there are also gambits aimed at the occupation of the center (Blumenfeld Gambit), depriving the opponent of castling (Cochrane Gambit or Traxler Variation), weakening the opponent’s pawn structure (Anti-Moscow Variation), luring an opponent’s piece to an unfavorable position (sacrificing the b2-pawn), obtaining a certain positional compensation (Volga Gambit), etc.

Gambits are often associated with the romantic chess of the 19th century. Indeed, that was the heyday of such sharp openings as the King’s Gambit or Evans Gambit, but even nowadays, many games begin with one of the well-known or even innovative gambits. This should come as no surprise: gambits help to reveal the true essence of chess, “the triumph of spirit over matter.”

The concept of this book is to examine practical games and give theoretical insights in the notes rather than in stand-alone articles. Practice has shown this to be the most effective way of mastering new material. More often than not, recent games by the world’s top players have been chosen as an illustration, played in the last few years in particular. However, the most important classic games are mentioned as well. The present book analyzes almost 50 of the major gambit lines and systems. Almost 140 games are given in full, with many game fragments selected to illustrate the important deviations. And there is a special section about types of sacrificial themes, such as sacrificing the b2-pawn, sacrificing on f7, etc.

Readers who may wish to employ one of the examined gambit variations on a regular basis should, no doubt, study the specific books on that very opening, although in most cases the lines and ideas given are sufficient for a beginner or club player to include the system in his or her opening repertoire and give it a try.

One of the features of this book (which is a little unsual these days) is a potted history of each gambit, how it got its name and some idea of early adopters. This is most welcome.

For each gambit the author provides detailed analysis (which has been engine checked) plus from two to five illustrative games (usually) between strong players with copious notes.

Almost all (probably 90%) of the gambits are lines played at serious tournament level, possibly more likely in games with shorter times control and on-line where anything goes. Of the 48 probably only perhaps 3-4 would be considered suitable for the coffee-house or following a visit to the bar! These might be the Englund Gambit, The Latvian Gambit and the Blackmar-Deimer Gambit but don’t tell Tim Sawyer or any other BDG fan !

Amongst the most sound we have :

The Geller, Morra, Evans, Marshall (in the Ruy Lopez), Marshall (in the Semi Slav), Icelandic, Benko, Blumenfeld, Volga, From, Winawer Counter, Staunton, Albin Counter, Budapest, von Hennig-Schara, Krause (in the Slav) and Botvinnik gambits with the balance falling somewhere in between.

We were surprised not to find coverage of the Elephant (Queen’s Pawn Counter) gambit in the open games section but maybe the author considers it unsound :

We learnt a new name (The Been-Koomen Variation) for a familiar gambit :

that you might not have encountered previously.

Here is an example game that is analysed by the author but here analysed by Michael Kransekow :

So, in summary we have a book that is most suitable for club players and those perhaps looking for ideas for rapidplay or blitz games. Almost all of these gambits are considered to be “sound” (whatever this means in these engine dominated days) and most definitely practical and playable.

Snooty theoreticians might look down their noses at some choices forgetting that chess is a game (for most people) and to be enjoyed. This book is certainly not a rehash of “Unorthodox Chess Openings” by the late Eric Schiller and many of these gambit suggestions will liven up a dull repertoire.

John Upham, Cove, Hampshire 11th January 2020

John Upham
John Upham

Book Details :

  • Softcover : 256 pages
  • Publisher: Russell Enterprises (15 Oct. 2019)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 194127076X
  • ISBN-13: 978-1941270769
  • Product Dimensions: 15.2 x 1.3 x 22.9 cm

Official web site of Russell Enterprises

The Club Player's Modern Guide to Gambits
The Club Player’s Modern Guide to Gambits

The Safest Grünfeld Reloaded

The Safest Grünfeld Reloaded : Alexander Delchev

The Safest Grünfeld Reloaded
The Safest Grünfeld Reloaded

From Wikipedia :

Aleksander Delchev (Bulgarian: Александър Делчев; born 15 July 1971) is a Bulgarian chess player and writer. He was awarded the title of Grandmaster by FIDE in 1997. Delchev won the Bulgarian Chess Championship in 1994, 1996 and 2001. He played for the Bulgarian national team in the Chess Olympiads of 1994, 2000, 2002, 2004, 2006, 2008, 2010 and 2012 with a performance of 64.6% (+36=34-12).[1]

Selected tournament victories include the European Junior Chess Championship (1991–1992), the 47th Reggio Emilia chess tournament (2004–2005),[2] the 4th Open Master at the Sixth International Chess Festival in Benidorm (2007),[3] the International Open Championship of Croatia (2007)[4] and the Open International Bavarian Chess Championship in Bad Wiessee (2005[5] and 2013).[6] In 2011 he tied for 2nd-7th with Julio Granda, Ivan Šarić, Pablo Almagro Llamas, Maxim Turov and Mihail Marin at the 31st Villa de Benasque Open.[7]

GM Aleksander Delchev by Ray Morris-Hill
GM Aleksander Delchev by Ray Morris-Hill

This new book is an extensive rewrite and update of the original (2011) edition by GM Delchev going from 348 to 352 pages.

From the Foreword we have :

This book is a completely new edition of the original The Safest Grünfeld of 2011. I rechecked all the lines and changed my recommendations according to latest developments of theory and my new understanding. Especially the anti-Grünfeld chapters are basically new. In my opinion top players have long lost hope to find advantage in the main lines and try early deviations. Anand chose 3.f3 against Gelfand and 5.Bd2 against Carlsen. So I devoted special attention to the Sämish approach with two different propositions. 3…Nc6 is less studied and probably more rewarding from a practical standpoint, while 3…d5 is in perfect theoretical shape, but requires more memorization. Every too often White players try to avoid the Grünfeld by refraining from d4 or c4. I added an additional chapter on the very topical lately Trompowsky and Barry/Jobava attack. The 7.Bc4 system in the Exchange Variation, and the Russian System have also underwent a major reconstruction

According to the author “The material in this book is up to date to the end of July, 2019”.

Chess Stars publications have earned themselves a prestigious place amongst publishers of opening theory books and “The Safest Grünfeld Reloaded” reinforces this reputation for sure. Their books are definitely not for beginners and moreover they are for serious players who want to know an opening deeply and in much detail. You can be sure that the analysis is at the sharp end of tournament practice by an author that plays the opening rather then just writes about it.

We have a total of fourteen chapters as follows :

  1. The Fianchetto System
  2. The Bf4 System
  3. The Bg5 System
  4. The e3 System
  5. The Russian System 5.Qb3
  6. Rare Lines. Deviations on move 5
  7. Rare Lines. Deviations on move 7
  8. The Exchange System 7.Be3
  9. The Exchange System 7.Nf3
  10. The Exchange System 7.Bc4
  11. SOS Systems
  12. The Sämisch Anti-Grünfeld – 3.f3
  13. The English Anti-Grünfeld
  14. The Queen’s Pawn Anti-Grünfeld

(The “SOS Systems” chapter is coverage of somewhat speculative lines for White that have appeared in the New in Chess SOS series such as lines with h4, g4 and the like.)

For completeness there is a Bibliography, an Index of Variations, a Table of Contents but no Index or List of Games.

The treatment of each chapter more or less follows the same pattern and structure throughout : Each chapter is divided into sub-chapters as follows :

  • Main Ideas : Objectives, Move Orders, Basic Plans & Structures, and Typical Tactical Motifs
  • Step by Step : detailed analysis of the line(s)
  • Complete Games : a handful of high quality games are analysed in detail

and this is pretty much the pattern for each chapter.

As a taster we delved into Chapter 5 on the topical Russian System

since this includes some of the sharpest and most highly analysed positions. The first main starting position is :

at which point Black has sensible choices such as 7…a6 (The Hungarian Variation), 7…Na6 (The Prins Variation), 7…Bg4 (The Smyslov Variation), 7…c6 (Boleslavsky) and 7…Nc6 (un-named but first employed in 1957 by Donald Byrne versus Reshevsky). Out of these the author recommends The Hungarian Variation as the Black’s primary weapon and failing that Black should consider 7…Nc6 (the “fallback” line) and an implied pawn sacrifice giving Black huge activity whilst White’s centre is under siege. Indeed, 7…Nc6 is labelled as “Hot” in Megabase 2020 and features regularly in current GM practise by such Grünfeld specialists as Peter Svidler and Maxime Vachier-Legrave.

Here is one of the example games (annotations not included here) :

The author is quite candid about his recommendations giving their strengths and weaknesses and there is definitely no “Winning with the Grünfeld” flavour to this objective tome. Generally the student can make their own choices to suit their own style.

In summary, this second edition is a substantial update and improvement of a first edition and we recommend it heartily to the serious player who finds themselves on the White or Black side of one of the most interesting defences to d4 & c4.

John Upham, Cove, Hampshire, January 10th 2020

John Upham
John Upham

Book Details :

  • Hardcover : 352 pages
  • Publisher: Chess Stars ltd (2019)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 6197188252
  • ISBN-13: 978-6197188257
  • Product Dimensions: 14.5 x 2 x 21.5 cm

Official web site of Chess Stars Publishing

The Safest Grünfeld Reloaded
The Safest Grünfeld Reloaded

A Startling Chess Opening Repertoire (New Edition)

A Startling Chess Opening Repertoire : Chris Baker and Graham Burgess

A Startling Chess Opening Repertoire (New Edition)
A Startling Chess Opening Repertoire (New Edition)

FIDE Master Graham Burgess needs no introduction to readers of English language chess books ! Minnesota, USA based, Graham has authored more than twenty five books and edited at least 250 and is editorial director of Gambit Publications Ltd. In 1994 Graham set a world record for marathon blitz playing and has been champion of the Danish region of Funen !
We previously reviewed Chess Opening Traps for Kids also by Graham Burgess.

FM Graham Burgess
FM Graham Burgess

This new book is an extensive rewrite and update of the original (1998) edition by IM Chris Baker.

IM Chris Baker
IM Chris Baker

Baker and Burgess have provided a complete repertoire for the White player based around 1.e4 and the Max Lange Attack with suggested lines for White against each and every reasonable reply from Black. Logically, the content is organised based on the popularity of Black’s first move and therefore the order is

  1. 1…e5 2.Nf3
    • 2…Nc6
    • 2…Nf6
    • 2…d6 (and Modern Philidor)
    • 2…f5
  2. 1…c5
  3. 1…e6
  4. 1…c6
  5. 1…d6 & g6
  6. 1…Nf6
  7. 1…d5 (we might have put the Scandinavian higher up the pecking order but that is a matter of opinion)
  8. 1…Nc6
  9. Odds & Ends
    • Elephant Gambit
    • St. George
    • Owen’s Defence

and for each Black defence the authors have selected sharp and challenging lines for White that will definitely give Black something to think about. We have sampled some of these lines and confirm that they are variations that Black needs to tread very carefully in to stay on the board. They are all sound and not based on “coffee house gambits” or cheap traps.

Who is the intended audience of this book ? Well, clearly anyone who currently plays 1.e4 or is contemplating adding 1. e4 to their repertoire. Also, anyone who faces 1.e4 (and that is everyone who plays chess!) should be aware of of what might land on their board when they are least expecting it. As Robert Baden Powell would advise : “Be prepared !”

Keep Calm and Be Prepared
Keep Calm and Be Prepared

Unfortunately, We do not possess a copy of the original 1998 edition and we were curious as to the extent of the changes. The Introduction states :

“For this new edition, I have sought to retain the spirit and aims of the original book, while bringing the content fully up-to-date, making a repertoire that will work well in 2019 and for years to come.

In a sense it is basically a new book: wherever anything needed correcting, updating, replacing or adding, I have done so. Where material is unaltered, this is because it passed verification and nothing needed to be added. … the overall recommendations were not changed unless this was necessary. Some lines covered in this book basically didn’t exist in 1998, so I needed to decide what line against them was most in keeping with the rest of the repertoire.”

We followed up on the above and contacted the author (GB) receiving a very helpful reply as follows :

Something like 70% of the content is either new or modified so much as to be basically new. Examples of lines that essentially didn’t exist in 1998 include “Tiger’s Modern” and the 3…Qd6 Scandinavian. Lines where the old recommendation has been replaced (since it was fundamentally flawed in some way) include the Modern Philidor and the Two Knights French with 3…d4 (I briefly explain the switch from 5 c3 to 5 b4).

The whole Three Knights/Four Knights section in Chapter 10 is new, both to fill the repertoire hole and to provide an alternative vs the Petroff to those who don’t like the Cochrane.

But, almost every part of the book features fundamental changes. Little remains of the original Part 3 of the Sicilian chapter (other than the basic theme of a fianchetto set-up), for instance.

My aim was to be faithful to the aims of the original book, but only to the specifics where they still work, or where there isn’t a new possibility that fits better with the repertoire.

and furthermore :

I have attached a graph showing the years the game references come from. The number for each year shows the cumulative total up to that year. Though this doesn’t really tell the full story, as I cited game references in a very sparing way, only using them when there seemed a real purpose in doing so.

and here is that graphic (courtesy of Graham) :

A graph showing the years the game references come from. The number for each year shows the cumulative total up to that year.
A graph showing the years the game references come from. The number for each year shows the cumulative total up to that year.

Clearly we are not going to reveal all of the suggestions here as that really would be a spoiler. Suffice to say that players of the Black lines would be wise to be aware of B&Bs suggestions ! We would recommend that any of the lines are tried out in off-hand games and on-line before important games and some of the more critical ones will need a degree of memorization to a fair few moves deep.

In the BCN office we have a Caro-Kann expert who confirmed that B&Bs suggestions for White are most definitely on the cutting edge and were checked with Stockfish 10. Indeed a team mate tried the suggestion for White in a league match and the opponent (a Caro-Kann player of more than forty years) had a catastrophic loss on his hands in short order.

As a taster here is a suggested line from the book that is full of pitfalls for Black :

We consulted an experienced (and successful) player of the Elephant Gambit* and was told that he had never faced White’s fifth move suggestion in more than twenty years and that it was an excellent suggestion worthy of respect. *Some might know this as the Queen’s Pawn Counter Gambit (1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 d5!?)

In summary, this second edition is a substantial update and improvement of a first edition well received and we recommend it heartily to anyone who wants to sharpen and refresh their 1.e4 repertoire and anyone who faces 1.e4. You will not be disappointed and you might be ready for someone’s preparation and shock tactics !

John Upham, Cove, Hampshire, December 13th 2019

John Upham
John Upham

Book Details :

  • Hardcover : 192 pages
  • Publisher: Gambit Publications Ltd; 2nd New edition edition (22 Sept. 2019)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1911465325
  • ISBN-13: 978-1911465324
  • Product Dimensions: 17.1 x 1.5 x 24.8 cm

Official web site of Gambit Publications Ltd.

A Startling Chess Opening Repertoire (New Edition)
A Startling Chess Opening Repertoire (New Edition)