Category Archives: Opening Theory

Cheparinov’s 1.d4!

Cheparinov's 1.d4!, Volume 1 : King's Indian & Grünfeld
Cheparinov’s 1.d4!, Volume 1 : King’s Indian & Grünfeld

Here is the author’s Wikipedia entry

GM Ivan Cheparinov
GM Ivan Cheparinov

From the rear cover :

“This book marks the start of a series of four on 1.d4 in which Ivan will share the secrets from two decades spent analyzing and playing it at the pinnacle of world chess. This volume in particular deals with two of the most popular replies Black can play after 1.d4: the King’s Indian Defense and Grünfeld Defense. Ivan presents the cutting-edge theory with his personal refinements as well as explanations of the deep strategical nuances that arise after his recommendations.”

Courtesy of New in Chess we have a sample of the content

The author has divided the content into four chapters as follows :

  1. Early Sidelines
  2. Benoni Structures
  3. The Grünfeld
  4. The King’s Indian Sämisch

As mentioned previously, this book is Volume 1 of a four volume series for White to play 1.d4 and 2.c4. Volume 1 presents a repertoire for White to play against the Kings’s Indian, Grünfeld and Benoni defences based around 3.f3, building (or attempting to) a strong centre as follows

The Early Sidelines chapter covers reasonable third move alternatives for Black such as a Benko Gambit style attempt, 3…e6, 3…Nc6 and some lesser alternatives. The author then spends some time on Benoni (but not Benko) type structures suggesting that this approach is one of the best for Black.

The main meat and potatoes of this book is naturally taken up with the Grünfeld and King’s Indian type responses from Black. Each of these are analysed exhaustively using a discursive style that compels the reader to look further into these interesting ideas.

This book will be of considerable interest not only to the White player but also to Grünfeld and King’s Indian players who are keen to stay on top of attempts to stop them doing their thing.

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 omission of Thinkers Publishing books. Also missing, as usual, is a bibliography.

However, despite these shortcomings this is an excellent addition to White’s armoury and Black players should take note. We look forward to volumes 2,3 and 4 in this series from Cheparinov !

John Upham, Cove, Hampshire, 4th April, 2020

John Upham
John Upham

Book Details :

  • Hardcover : 192 pages
  • Publisher:  Thinkers Publishing; 1 edition (19 Mar. 2020)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 9492510707
  • ISBN-13: 978-9492510709
  • Product Dimensions: 17 x 1 x 23.4 cm

Official web site of Thinkers Publishing

Cheparinov's 1.d4!, Volume 1 : King's Indian & Grünfeld
Cheparinov’s 1.d4!, Volume 1 : King’s Indian & Grünfeld

Side-Stepping Mainline Theory

Side-Stepping Mainline Theory : Gerard Welling and Steve Giddins

Side-Stepping Mainline Theory
Side-Stepping Mainline Theory

From the book’s rear cover :

“Spend more study time on what’s really decisive in your games!
The average chess player spends too much time on studying opening theory. In his day, World Chess Champion Emanuel Lasker argued that improving amateurs should spend about 5% of their study time on openings. These days club players are probably closer to 80%, often focusing on opening lines that are popular among grandmasters.

Club players shouldn’t slavishly copy the choices of grandmasters. GMs need to squeeze every drop of advantage from the opening and therefore play highly complex lines that require large amounts of memorization. The main objective for club players should be to emerge from the opening with a reasonable position, from which you can simply play chess and pit your own tactical and positional understanding against that of your opponent.

Gerard Welling and Steve Giddins recommend the Old Indian-Hanham Philidor set-up as a basis for both Black and White. They provide ideas and strategies that can be learned in the shortest possible time, require the bare minimum of maintenance and updating, and lead to rock-solid positions that you will know how to handle. By adopting a similar set-up for both colours, with similar plans and techniques, you will further reduce study time.

Side-stepping Mainline Theory will help you to focus on what is really decisive in the vast majority of non-grandmaster games: tactics, positional understanding and endgame technique.

Gerard Welling is an International Master and an experienced chess trainer from the Netherlands. He has contributed to NIC Yearbook and Kaissiber, the freethinker’s magazine on non-mainline chess openings.

IM Gerard Welling
IM Gerard Welling

Steve Giddins is a FIDE Master from England, and a highly experienced chess writer and journalist. He compiled and edited The New In Chess Book of Chess Improvement, the bestselling anthology of master classes from New In Chess magazine.”

FM Steve Giddins
FM Steve Giddins

The authors have divided up the content into six chapters as follows:

  1. The keys to successful opening play
  2. The Old Indian against 1.d4
  3. The Old Indian against Flank Openings
  4. The Philidor against 1.e4
  5. The System as White
  6. Tables of the main variations

So, what we have here is somewhat unusual : this is a complete repertoire book for the same player of both the Black and White pieces using essentially the same structure. Precedents have been previously set using similar approaches with a combination of the Pirc and King’s Indian Defences combined with the King’s Indian Attack or reversed King’s Indian Defence but, nonetheless, this is an unusual and welcome approach to building a repertoire.

So the structure for Black is essentially :

which could be so-called Modern Philidor when white plays 1.e4 and The Old Indian when White defers e4

and the structure for White is :

which is essentially a Reversed Modern Philidor / Old Indian or more correctly An Inverted Hanham.

All of these structures are sound, resilient and reward manoeuvring play where the better play will win. More importantly a player familiar with these structures will enjoy understanding of the plans and ideas is likely to enjoy a considerable advantage on the clock. This is particularly true for the first player based on the rarity of the Inverted Hanham.

The authors have organised their material very logically showing the reader firstly the way to play for Black against almost anything and only then (when the structures are familiar) do they demonstrate the way for the first player. I’m sure players will be more comfortable playing these lines for Black since it might seem somewhat unnatural to play 1.e4 and then play slowly after that.

The authors use a standard model to explain these systems : they take 92 high quality games and analyse each one in detail. Combined with this is a clear description of the themes and ideas contained within the Black and White structures. This is very much an ideas based opening book rather than based on rote memorisation. One of the issues analysing these lines is that they are very transpositional compared to say the sequential and forcing lines of the Sicilian Dragon or Slav Defence. Chapter six helps enormously the reader to navigate their way through the transpositions especially for the Inverted Hanham.

Here is a game from Istvan Csom, an expert on this system :

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.

In summary, Welling and Giddins have produced an out-of-the-ordinary book which fills a gap in the market : complete opening book not based on rote memorisation. The middlegame starts very early in these lines and the ideas for White are particularly intriguing. if you adopt these suggestions then your middlegame play will benefit hugely. This is probably not a book for hackers or those who have no patience : highly recommended !

John Upham, Cove, Hampshire, March 31st 2020

John Upham
John Upham

Book Details :

  • Paperback : 272 pages
  • Publisher: New In Chess (16th August 2019)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 9056918699
  • ISBN-13: 978-9056918699
  • Product Dimensions: 16.9 x 1.8 x 23.6 cm

Official web site of New in Chess

Side-Stepping Mainline Theory
Side-Stepping Mainline Theory

Chess Opening Workbook for Kids

Chess Opening Workbook for Kids : Graham Burgess

Chess Opening Workbook for Kids
Chess Opening Workbook for Kids

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 !

FM Graham Burgess
FM Graham Burgess

Readers may remember “101 Chess Opening Surprises” published in 1998, also by Gambit Publications, was well received and added to GKBs reputation for originality, accuracy and encyclopedic knowledge of openings.

Chess Opening Traps for Kids is the ninth in a series of “for Kids” books and is robustly (!) hardbound in a convenient size such that weights are not need to keep it propped open (unlike some A5 paperbacks) meaning studying with this book is more convenient than with many books. The layout and printing is clear (as you would expect with Gambit) with numerous diagrams. In essence, players under 18 (for whom this book is intended) will find it easy to dip in out of and it can be used without a board (although BCN would always recommend following each game on a “proper” board).

As you would expect with Gambit, the notation is English short form algebraic using figurines for pieces. Each diagram has coordinates and a “whose move it is indicator” (thank-you Gambit !); welcome for the intended junior readership.

This book follows on from the highly regarded (2018) Chess Opening Traps for Kids from the same author and reviewed here

The author divides the material into 11 chapters titled as follows :

  1. Warm-Ups
  2. Mate
  3. Double Attack
  4. Trapped Pieces
  5. General Tactics
  6. Hunting the King
  7. Development and the Centre
  8. Castling
  9. Does Bxh7+ Work?
  10. Advanced Exercises
  11. Tests

This is not a book about openings per se. It focuses more on tactics and traps and tactical ideas that happen very early in many games. It is not organised on a per opening variation basis and neither is there an index of openings. If that is what you want then this is not the right book for you.

However, this is much, much more than a book about openings…

Chapters 2 – 9 each kick-off with an introduction to the chapter’s theme followed by (in some cases) 60 example test positions where the theme can be exploited by an accurate move sequence : the student is invited to work-out this sequence. The chapter ends with detailed solutions to each test position.

Chapter 10 are exercises using any of the themes in the previous chapters but randomised and without any clue as to what the theme is. In general these are more challenging and serve as a test of what should have been learnt so far !

Chapter 11 contains 40 test positions some according to theme and rest without a clue. Following the solutions the student is invited to assess their strength at these exercises using a simple score table.

Here is an example from Chapter 3, Double Attack :

Example #5


White has just played 6c4?? Why was that a blunder ?

See the foot of this review for the solution should you need to.

For further insight you may use the “Look Inside” feature from Amazon here. Of course there are many worthy book retailers to be your supplier !

In summary, this is an excellent book with much original material presented in a clear and friendly way and therefore to be recommended. It is an ideal follow-up to Chess Opening Traps for Kids and we would advise studying Chess Opening Traps for Kids first and then move on to this workbook.

One negative comment we would make concerns the cover. “Never judge a book by its cover” we are told and you might look at this book cover and think it was suitable for say primary aged children. I would say not but I would suggest it suitable from secondary aged children. I would say strong juniors from 12 upwards would read this book and enjoy it.

We would like to see an index of openings from which the theme examples were obtained.

The title and cover might, perhaps, put off the adult club player market. However, the content is totally suitable for adult club players upto say 180 ECF or 2000 Elo.

John Upham, Cove, Hampshire, March 30th 2020

John Upham
John Upham

Book Details :

  • Hardcover : 128 pages
  • Publisher: Gambit Publications Ltd. (15th November 2019)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1911465376
  • ISBN-13: 978-1911465379
  • Product Dimensions: 17.8 x 1.3 x 22.9 cm

Official web site of Gambit Publications Ltd.

Chess Opening Workbook for Kids
Chess Opening Workbook for Kids

Solution to Example#5
The problem is similar to the Cambridge Springs Trap : 6…dxc4! wins a piece. After 7 Bxc4 Qa5+ the queen check picks up the loose bishop. This has even cropped up at super grandmaster level. The other key point is that White can’t unload his bishop with 7 Bxf6 because 7…cxd3 leaves two white pieces attacked.

Remembering Gerald Abrahams (15-iii-1980)

Gerald Abrahams by Lafayette (Lafayette Ltd), whole-plate film negative, 21 August 1933
by Lafayette (Lafayette Ltd), whole-plate film negative, 21 August 1933

Death Anniversary of Gerald Abrahams (15-iii-1980)

Here is his Wikipedia entry

See his games at Chessgames.com

Technique in Chess
Technique in Chess
Not Only Chess
Not Only Chess
The Chess Mind
The Chess Mind
Test Your  Chess
Test Your Chess

Gerald Abrahams contributed to opening theory in the Queen’s Gambit Declined / Semi-Slav Defence with his creation of the Abrahams-Noteboom Defence as discussed in the following video :

Remembering John Cochrane, (04-ii-1798 02-iii-1878)

John Cochrane
John Cochrane

Death Anniversary of John Cochrane, (04-ii-1798 02-iii-1878)

Here is his Wikipedia entry

From The Oxford Companion to Chess by Hooper & Whyld :

Scottish player, barrister, called to the bar in 1822. If the so-called romantic style existed then Cochrane has a claim to be regarded as its founder. A dashing player, he attacked at all costs often sacrificing pieces with abandon, a style that was successful in the England of the 1820s; but when in 1821 he went to Paris, then the world’s chess centre, he was beaten by both Deschapelles and Bourdonnais. Subsequently he studied the game but he did not change his style. In 1822 he published A Treatise on the Game of Chess, a popular book largely based on Traite des Amateurs (see Verdoni) and Lolli but with a few contributions of his own.

Although Cochrane came from an old Scottish family he led the London team in the famous correspondence match against Edinburgh, 1824-8. He persuaded his team to play the Scotch Gambit, but when London had obtained a fine position Cochrane left for India. Although the Londoners, led by Lewis, failed to carry the attack, the Scotch Gambit became fashionable for more than 15 years, and other lively attacking openings were developed.

Cochrane stayed in India until his retirement in 1869 except for one visit to England, 1841-3, when he played hundreds of friendly games against Staunton, who began by winning a large majority, Wilhelm Steinitz knew both contestants and states that their last encounter was a match of 12 games. Staunton conceding pawn and move for the first six- and that Cochrane made an even score when receiving odds but won (-1-3—2— !) when playing on even terms, John Cochrane should not be confused with James Cochrane (c, 1770-1830), co-author of a book on the Muzio gambit.

The Cochrane Gambit is :

and the Cochrane Variation in the King’s Gambit is :

The Sicilian Defence, Staunton-Cochrane Variation is :

and the Scotch Gambit, Cochrane Variation is :

The Cochrane Defence is a drawing method for in the rook, bishop & king vs rook & king ending.

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 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

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

The Modernised Dutch Defense

The Modernised Dutch Defense : Adrien Demuth

The Modernised Dutch Defence by Adrien Demuth
The Modernised Dutch Defence by Adrien Demuth

Adrien Demuth is a French chess grandmaster. Born in 1991, Demuth earned his international master title in 2011 and his grandmaster title in 2015. He is the No. 14 ranked French player as of March 2018.

GM Adrien Demuth
GM Adrien Demuth

This is his second title in the “Modernized” series from Thinkers Publishing, and like his previous book The Modernized Reti, this is a complete repertoire book providing a complete repertoire for black based around the Leningrad variation (2 …g6) against 1.d4 but also against 1.c4 & 1.Nf3.  The Dutch Defence leads to dynamic and unbalanced positions which is ideally suited to players who want to play for a win with the black pieces.

The author is a recent convert to the Dutch defence and he describes how he took up the opening and had the confidence to use it in crucial games. And although the author now days prefers to play more positional openings he still retains the Dutch Defence in his repertoire.

The material is presented in three sections:

Part 1 – Early Sidelines after 1.d4 f5 (184 pages)

  1. The Staunton Gambit
  2. The System with 2.Nc3
  3. The Goring Attack 2.Bg5
  4. Minor Lines on the Second Move
  5. Systems including an early c3 and or Nh3

Part 2 – Classical Systems (210 pages)

  1. Sidelines for White on Move Three
  2. Lines with an early b4
  3. Systems with b3
  4. The aggressive 2.c4 Nf6 3.Nc3
  5. The Classical Leningrad

Part 3 – Reti and English Move Orders (69 pages)

  1. The Leningrad Dutch versus the Reti
  2. The Leningrad Dutch versus the Engish

Like all the previous Thinkers Publishing books I have reviewed the production quality is excellent. The layout of this book reminds me of the Batsford Series of opening books that many older readers will remember as the material is presented as a series of variations without any illustrative games. The focus is exclusively on the opening phase with no mention of middlegame plans or typical pawn structures. All the games referenced in the book recent, within the last 5 years and the author provides a lot of interesting  novelties backed up by his own analysis.

In part 1 the author provided a very detailed coverage of all the varied sidelines and gambits  where black opts to play the Leningrad with 2..g6 rather than the Classical move order 2…e6. This is an important consideration in Chapter 3 as the author recommends the lines with 2…g6 rather than the topical 2….h6 against 2.Bg5. Also there are a number of tricky lines in chapter 5 where white plays c3 & Qb3 to prevent black from castling or where white plays an early h4.

Part 2 contains the main lines of the Leningrad Dutch and covers all of whites main options as well as the various lines where white plays the plays Bf4 which is very popular nowdays.  One criticism that I do have in this section concerns the layout for Chapter 10 on p336 which doesn’t follow previous  layout of chapters and perhaps the material should have been be split into two chapters covering the main lines and sidelines separately. Also there are several move order transpositions that can occur where white plays b3 or b4 in the main lines. However this does not detract from the content but the book would have benefitted from some more thorough proof reading.

Part 3 covers the reply 1…f5 against 1.Nf3 and 1.c4. The second chapter covers blacks responses to all of whites options where white omits playing d4,

One of the problems black players have when  facing 1.d4 is that in most openings  that white can play have a number of safe drawing lines that make it very difficult to play for a win against or unambitious lines where white can easily play for a small edge. However those options are not available against the Dutch defence. There are of course a number of gambits and aggressive lines that are available to white however if you are well prepared then you can enter these lines with confidence.

The bibliography is up to date and the oldest reference is 2014.

In summary this is an excellent book providing a complete repertoire for black against 1.d4, 1.Nf3 & 1.c4 It contains a lot of original analysis and sound recommendations.  Although this opening may not be considered to be totally sound at GM level it is perfectly playable at Club level.  I do have a number of (minor) criticisms of this book, perhaps the author could have provided a better explanation of the move order transpositions that can occur in the main lines and there are no illustrative games in the book. Also as with all Thinkers Publishing books I have reviewed there is no index of variations.  But overall this would not stop me recommending the book if you want to take up the opening or of you already play the Dutch and wanted to add it to your library.

Tony Williams, January 5 2020

Tony Williams
Tony Williams

Book Details :

  • Paperback : 347 pages
  • Publisher: Thinkers Publishing; 1 edition (22 Sept. 2019)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 9492510553
  • ISBN-13: 978-9492510556
  • Product Dimensions: 17.1 x 3.2 x 23.5 cm

Official web site of Thinkers Publishing

The Modernised Dutch Defence by Adrien Demuth
The Modernised Dutch Defence by Adrien Demuth