Cyrus Lakdawala is an IM and former US Open Champion who teaches chess and has written over 25 books on chess openings.
This book is a comprehensive review of all the main continuations after White has played d4 and c4 as his first two moves. It covers the Nimzo-Indian Defence, King’s Indian Defence, Benko Gambit, Grunfeld Defence , Slav Defence , Semi-Slav Defence and so on. The book is highly instructive and contains detailed reviews of 72 games including many modern examples from Carlsen, Kramnik and Mamedyarov as well as classics from the likes of Kasparov and Korchnoi. It also includes a handful of the author’s games.
A notable feature of the book is the author’s writing style which is often effusive, sardonic and humorous. The purists may find this annoying but I quite enjoyed it. Take this example from the Introduction as he explains why he switched to d4, c4. ‘… my openings lacked arable land in which to be creative. For decades my choices had been kissing simplicity’s butt, in a naked display of sycophancy, not seen in the world since Henry VIII’s wives.’
The book is clear and easy to read. Despite its 448 pages, some of the lines are not covered in great depth. The Dutch Defence gets four illustrative games and just 18 pages. So there is probably not enough detail for the GM preparing for his or her next tournament. However if you are a club player this book is an invaluable and enjoyable resource which will definitely improve your handling of all Black’s main responses to this opening.
The author of this book Herman Grooten is an International master and has taught players such as Loek van Wely.
At the start of the book Grooten emphasises that many chess players memorise lots of opening theory but it does not improve their results as they do not understand the position when their opponent deviates from theory.
He explores the various pawn structures in variations of openings in the Ruy Lopez (Spanish Game) and (Giuoco Piano) Italian game.
The first variation he looks at is the so-called Berlin wall (Berlin Defence) which was used very successfully by Vladimir Kramnik in his World Championship match vs Gary Kasparov.
Knowing Kasparov was a great attacking player Kramnik chose a variation which leads to a Queenless middle game.
Although Black ends up with doubled pawns on the Queenside (as in the Ruy Lopez, Exchange Variation) his bishop pair is good compensation and his doubled pawns are not weak and easily exploited.
Grooten then shows what each side should be trying to achieve to progress their position.
In the Open Lopez the pawn structure is very different : White has a four to three pawn majority on the kingside and with a pawn on e5 and good use of the d4 he has good chances for an advantage and it is well known that Viktor Korchnoi played the Open Lopez in his famous match with Anatoly Karpov. Black has a four to three majority on the queenside but his c7 pawn is backwards and weak. If Black can play c5 then he will probably equalise but he normally cannot afford to play Nxd4 as after cxd4 his c7 pawn is very weak.
Next Grooten examines variations of the Closed Lopez where play typically goes 5 Be7 6 Re1 b5 7 Bb3 00 8 c3 d6 9 h3. Here the Zaitzev 9…Bb7 Chigorin 9…Na5 and Breyer 9…Nb8 are explored in detail. In all three of these famous lines the pawn structure is the same White pawns on c3 d4 and e4 Black pawns on c5 d6 and e5.
White normally can decide the structure by either playing d5 or d4xc5 or maintain tension with Nbd2 when Black can change the structure with c5xd4,
Paul Keres often did this in the Chigorin Variation.
Grooten looks in depth at the theory of the Two Knights where White plays 4 Ng5 including some variations in the main line 5 Na5 which I have not seen before and maybe are unusual and interesting.
Finally, He also looks at some interesting world class games the best of which is a win by Paul Keres over Mikhail Tal as Black in the Chigorin Variation.
In summary, this excellent book will appeal to club players who know these openings but are not sure what plan(s) to adopt in the consequent middle game.
The Chigorin defence to the Ruy Lopez comes about when black plays the closed 5…Be7 variation and play continues 6.Re1 b5 7.Bb3 d6 8.c3 00 9.h3 now black unleashes 9…Na5.
The opening is named after the Russian player Mikhail Ivanovich Chigorin (1850 to 1908) who twice played Wilhelm Steinitz for the world title, losing on both occasions.
The authors of the book are Dutch Grandmaster Ivan Sokolov and Spanish (appropriately enough !) Grandmaster Ivan Salgado Lopez.
Anyone playing the black side of 1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 has to face the problem of how to get equality after 3.Bb5 undoubtedly the most challenging move. White’s normal strategy will often be to play for a kingside attack and therefore black needs to find a good defence that gives him equal chances and the opportunity to take over the initiative if white goes astray. The two Ivans offer a defence to the Ruy Lopez that seems to do that and one which is a lot more interesting than the (in my opinion) boring (according to many!) Berlin Defence.
Firstly, I was surprised to learn that this opening variation was first played by (1910 World Championship Challenger) Carl Schlechter in 1902 and his opponent was Dr. Siegbert Tarrasch. Chigorin himself played the defence twice but it was Akiba Rubinstein who made the opening popular playing it many times against world class opponents. Later on Capablanca, Lasker, Botvinnik, Euwe, Reshevsky and particularly Paul Keres all helped to make it a popular response to the Spanish Opening.
The book starts out by discussing early games and detailing middle game plans for Black. The first variation to be discussed in detail is 10.Bc2 c5 11.d4 Qc7 12.Nbd2 citing the stem game Lasker vs Tarrasch giving an excellent example of how black should play the position. A whole chapter then looks at the games of Paul Keres (most of which he won) however it does not include his famous game v Robert James Fischer (Zurich 1959) which is nevertheless analysed in another chapter : Fischer won that historic encounter.
An attractive (and unusual ) feature of this book is that it also points out best lines for White to play rather than simply evangelizing the Chigorin Variation from Black’s perspective. An example of this is when black chooses 11…Bb7 over 11…Qc7 and after 12.d5! it is difficult for black to activate the bishop or the knight on a5.
A better 11th move for Black is Nd7 which features in several games. Here again the author’s point out that 12.d5 is playing into blacks’ hand as he plays Nb6 intending f5. A better try is 12.a4 as a number of high level games demonstrate.
The latter part of the book discusses much theory and sums up which lines are promising for each player and which are to be avoided.
Summing up, I would say that this is an excellent book and any player studying it is likely to be better prepared than their opponent for sure.
Colin Lyne, Farnborough, Hampshire, April 16th, 2019
FIDE Master Graham Burgess needs no introduction to readers of English language chess books ! Minnesota, USA based, Graham has authored more than twenty five books and edited at least 250 and is editorial director of Gambit Publications Ltd. In 1994 Graham set a world record for marathon blitz playing and has been champion of the Danish region of Funen !
Readers may remember “101 Chess Opening Surprises” published in 1998, also by Gambit Publications, was well received and added to GKBs reputation for originality, accuracy and encyclopedic knowledge of openings.
Chess Opening Traps for Kids is the fifth in a series of “for Kids” books and is robustly (!) hardbound in a convenient size such that weights are not need to keep it propped open (unlike some A5 paperbacks) meaning studying with this book is more convenient than with many books. The layout and printing is clear (as you would expect with Gambit) with numerous diagrams at key moments in each, relatively short, game. In essence, players under 18 (for whom this book is intended) will find it easy to dip in out of and it can be used without a board (although BCN would always recommend following each game on a “proper” board).
As you would expect with Gambit, the notation is English short form algebraic using figurines for pieces. One slight criticism is that the diagrams do not have “whose move it is” indicator. We know that many readers like to see this on all diagrams. However, each diagram does have coordinates; welcome for the junior readership.
Graham has identified and described 100 unique themes (usually tactical) that lead to relatively short wins out of the opening, many of which could be termed “miniatures”. An example theme is “Drag the King Out with Nxf7” : “Sometimes players leave f7 so weak that a knight sacrifice on that square wins by force. The signs to look out for are a queen that can invade on e6 and other pieces ready to support the raid.” Under this theme the author presents three examples (typical for each theme) from different openings plus supporting analysis and explanation.
A range of openings are demonstrated that yield a similar trap. For example, The Siberian Trap is shown from the usual perspective of the Sicilian Defence and the Queen’s Gambit Accepted. In the main, the author does not get bogged down giving details of who were the players of the games and when and where they were played but does in a few cases where the players are especially well known.
The author’s explanations and language are clear, concise and presented with a friendly and engaging style. There are numerous cross references to other themes when an idea uses a previously mentioned one. All of this contributes to the learning experience and the pattern recognition aspects of chess that are especially important for young players in their formative years. Thankfully, there is no recourse to engine evaluations and the emphasis is to use one’s personal brain engine in making an assessment. (One of our bugbears as chess teachers and coaches is juniors increasingly relying on engine assessments rather than their own brains).
Having worked through the 100 themes the student is presented with 48 exercises (with solutions) that test the students understanding (not memory) of what they hopefully have learnt.
Finally there are useful tips on further improvement and how to make progress.
In summary, this is an excellent book with much original material presented in a clear and friendly way and therefore to be recommended.
One negative comment we would make concerns the cover. “Never judge a book by its cover” we are told and you might look at this book cover and think it was suitable for say primary aged children. I would say not but I would suggest it suitable from secondary aged children. I would say strong juniors from 12 upwards would read this book and enjoy it.
Apart from the “move indicator” we would like to see an index of openings from which the theme examples were obtained.
The title and cover might, perhaps, put off the adult club player market. However, the content is totally suitable for adult club players upto say 180 ECF or 2000 Elo.
John Upham, Cove, Hampshire, April 5th 2019
Book Details :
Hardcover : 128 pages
Publisher: Gambit Publications Ltd. (1st February 2019)
This book, written by the young English GM Daniel Fernandez and published by Thinkers Publishing, is (as the sub-title suggests) a repertoire book for Black players of the Caro-Kann defence. As such, Fernandez does not cover all possible black lines, but instead he recommends lines against each of the systems that White can employ against the Caro-Kann – and in many instances he recommends more than one line so that the reader can choose according to preference.
His repertoire consists of one or two solid (but not sterile) lines against each system, but additionally he throws in the occasional not-so-sound line (and always warns that he is doing this) that can be tried as a surprise weapon, or perhaps at faster time controls.
This is an excellent book, Fernandez manages to mix detailed analysis, explanations and personal opinion in a way which makes the book readable and enjoyable to go through (and believe me, some of the analysis is very detailed). The book is well produced and organised, and quite substantial at 416 pages. There is no detailed Index of Variations (usually a bugbear of mine!), but it is easy to find the line you’re looking for from the Table of Contents and the beginning of the book and a mini-Table of Contents page at the beginning of each chapter for the sub-variations.
I would highly recommend this book for anyone thinking about taking up the Caro-Kann, and for that matter to anyone who already plays it – it is one of the best opening books I have seen.
It is difficult to discuss this book without comparing it to Jovanka Houska’s book “The Caro-Kann” produced by Everyman Chess. Both books are recent (Houska 2015, Fernandez 2018) repertoire books by top English players who play the Caro themselves. (It is the Houska book that I used when I started using the Caro a couple of years ago.) In my opinion, both books are top-notch and provide the prospective Caro player with a good repertoire. If asked which book I would recommend this prospective Caro player to buy I would answer “both of them” – despite the overlap there are substantial differences in some lines (for example Houska recommends 4 …Bf5 after 1 e4 c6 2 d4 d5 3 Nc3 dxe4 4 Nxe4 whereas Fernandez recommends 4 …Nd7 here) and this gives players more choice over the lines they select. Of course, if budget does not permit buying both books then either one will do the job. I would be reluctant to choose only one of these excellent books, so I will not do so.
In summary: The Modernized Caro-Kann is an excellent choice for prospective Caro-Kann players, or indeed for those who already play the Caro-Kann and are looking to update their repertoire.
Ivan Salgado Lopez was born in Spain June 29th 1991 and learned to play chess at the age of seven thanks to his brother Oscar and became a Grandmaster at the age of 16.
Amongst the best results in his chess career Ivan has twice been Spanish Champion and has won many international tournaments. He was the second of ex-world champions Topalov and Ponomariov amongst other strong Grandmasters.
Spanish grandmaster Ivan Salgado Lopez has taken a close look at a variety of gambit lines that can arise after 1. d4 and the main chapters are as follows: Budapest Gambit 34 pages Blumenfeld Gambit 30 pages, Tarrasch and Marshall Gambits 8 pages, Von Henning Shara Gambit 36 pages, Slav Gambits 12 pages, Dutch Gambits 20 pages, Easily Refuted Gambits 4 pages, Albin Gambit 10 pages and finally a chapter containing model games and exercises.
The book covers these gambits in sufficient detail to enable you to sit down and play them with confidence and equips the reader with the main tactical ideas behind the gambit together with a detailed understanding of the typical middlegame positions that may arise.
The author strikes a good balance between analysis and explanations, and, has a very engaging writing style
One thing that became clear to me when I started reading this book is that this is not a complete guide to all d4 gambits. There are a number of omissions from this book that I would expect to see, for example there is no mention of the Marshall Gambit in the Semi Slav, which is an essential to know if you are playing that opening. Also the coverage of gambits against the Dutch defence is not complete. While the Staunton Gambit (2. e4) is covered well together with the Krejecik Gambit (2. g4) the variations after 2 h3 (an idea of Korchnoi’s : Ed) followed by 3 g4 are not covered.
Another issue that I would like to point out is that the book does not contain any index of games or opening variations, something that I would normally expect to find in an opening book.
Does this book ‘kill’ the gambits? Well, not exactly ! It provides a refutation for the more dubious and unsound lines and neutralises the dangerous but playable lines. A lot of the gambits covered in the book are completely playable but risky and may be met head on provided that you are suitably prepared. Some of the gambits are recommended for blitz and rapid play games!
However, overall this is a good book despite reservations regarding the scope of the coverage.