Category Archives: Opening Theory

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

Harry’s Game : 2020 Vision

Round 5 of the Caplin Hastings International Chess Congress featured the board 10 clash between one of England’s stronger Grandmasters, Danny Gormally (2508) and FM Harry Grieve (2299).

FM Harry Grieve
FM Harry Grieve
GM Danny Gormally
GM Danny Gormally

Harry is studying mathematics at St. Catherine’s College, Cambridge having previously been a pupil and member of the very strong chess team of Royal Grammar School, Guildford. He started his league chess with Fleet & Farnborough Chess Club (same as Simon Williams !) and then transferred his allegiance to the very strong Farnham chess club playing top board in many matches.

Harry has the possibility of making an International Master norm at the Hastings Masters and a win with the black pieces versus Danny Gormally will certainly help !

Here is their game :

Following this game Harry needs 2.5/4 to obtain his first IM norm : Good luck !

Harry Grieve, 2014 Terafinal
Harry Grieve, 2014 Terafinal

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)

The Modernized Colle-Zukertort Attack

The Modernized Colle-Zukertort Attack
The Modernized Colle-Zukertort Attack

Grandmaster Milos Pavlovic was born in Belgrade in 1964 and was Yugoslav Champion in 2002. He is a well known theoretician specialising in opening theory and has written many chess books and magazine articles.

GM Milos Pavlovic
GM Milos Pavlovic

This is his third title in the “Modernized” series from Thinkers Publishing with a fourth on the Scotch Game being published on November 17th. We first reviewed a title in this series with The Modernized Caro-Kann from GM Daniel Fernandez.

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.

The main content is divided into ten chapters of which the first six concern lines in which Black plays an early d5 (usually 1.d4 d5) and the remainder where Black does not (usually playing 1.d4 Nf6).

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

This is a repertoire book for the White player utilizing the undeservedly less popular Zukertort flavour of the Colle System. In the “CZ” System the c1 (Queen’s for the more mature reader !) bishop is developed to b2 rather than the c1 – h6 diagonal as in the Koltanowski flavour of the Colle System. Typically therefore White attempts to establish a structure of the sort :

and play for ideas such as Ne5, f4 Rf3, Rg3 and checkmating attacks involving the bishop pair. These are often similar to the famous Lasker – Bauer game of 1889.

On the other hand we have the possibly more familiar Colle-Koltanowski structure of :

and the main idea of the latter is to advance e4, e5 and the launch a fairly clockwork attack against Black’s kingside.

Both of these approaches have been served by books, videos and instructional DVDs of the “Winning with the X” sort with the most well known players of the Colle-Zukertort being Aaron Summerscale, Artur Yusupow, Susan Polgar and Vladimir Kramnik.

We have no intention of “spilling the beans” on all of the many and varied ideas presented by Pavlovic : you should buy the book and find out for yourself. However, as past players of the CZ ourselves we noticed interesting advice on the move order advised. The traditional move order in possibly the most challenging main line has (more or less) been :

1.d4 d5 2.Nf3 Nf6 3.e3 e6 4.Bd3 c5 5.b3 Nc6 6.0-0 Bd6 7.Bb2 0-0 8.Nbd2 leading to the following well-known, traditional position :

and David Rudel in his various evangelistic style CZ books advocated 8.Ne5 instead. In The Modernized Colle-Zuckertort we have this new move order :

1.d4 d5 2.Nf3 Nf6 3.e3 e6 4.Bd3 c5 followed by the provocative 5.0-0 ! giving us this position

which appears (well, it does!) to allow 5…c4!? This early castles move order is, in itself, modernizing and advocated by none other than the fourteenth World Champion, Vladimir Kramnik ! Other adherents of this move order include Artemiev, Vaganian and Romain Edouard, Editor of Thinkers Publishing.

To give you a feel for the book here is a sample

One idea that caught our eye was a recommendation of how to meet the Classical Dutch when played via

1.d4 e6 2.Nf3 f5

and you might expect a line to of the CZ to be recommended but you’d be quite wrong. We won’t spoil the surprise by telling you here ! Suffice to say this is not a formulaic “Play the CZ against everything and win” style of approach. You’d be disappointed if it was !

This book contain a veritable potpourri of new ideas and material plus strategical concepts for the White player in the CZ System. It offers much more than one of the cheesy “Play this Opening and you will win” style books that we are all familiar with. Having owned all (English Language) books and DVDs we would suggest that this is the most academic and the most appealing to players wanting to make the CZ a serious weapon of theirs. In the “club player opening book wars” this book redresses the balance with the recent splurge of London System books and videos.

Get this book and you will learn about middlegame, plans of attack and a wealth of other themes : highly recommended !

John Upham, Cove, Hampshire, 17th November, 2019

John Upham
John Upham

Book Details :

  • Hardcover : 208 pages
  • Publisher:  Thinkers Publishing; 1 edition (July 29, 2019)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 9492510529
  • ISBN-13: 978-9492510525
  • Product Dimensions: 6.8 x 0.8 x 9.2 inches

Official web site of Thinkers Publishing

The Modernized Colle-Zukertort Attack
The Modernized Colle-Zukertort Attack

Opening Repertoire : the Queen’s Gambit

Opening Repertoire : the Queen's Gambit
Opening Repertoire : the Queen’s Gambit

GM Damian Lemos (FIDE : 2479) was born in 1990 and hails from Argentina. He is a former Pan-American Junior Champion and he achieved the FIDE Master title at 14 years old, International Master at 15, and Grandmaster at 18 and is well known on many chess web sites for providing recorded and real time instructional videos on all aspects (but mainly opening theory) of chess. This is his second book for Everyman Chess.

GM Damian Lemos
GM Damian Lemos

The book is divided into seven main chapters as follows :

  1. The Queen’s Gambit Declined (55 pages, 15 games)
  2. The Tarrasch Defence (24 pages, 6 games)
  3. The Slav Defence (45 pages, 9 games)
  4. The Queen’s Gambit Accepted (56 pages, 13 games)
  5. The Chigorin Defence (17 pages 3 games)
  6. The Albin Counter Gambit (19 pages, 4 games)
  7. Other Defences (17 pages, 4 games)

Damian Lemos presents a repertoire for White based around the best regarded flavour of the QGD, Exchange Variation or QGE : this is the version in which White delays Nf3 allowing the central push f3 followed by e4 and the typical resultant structure is :

The alternative version of the QGE in which White plays an early Nf3 and follows with a minority attack on the queenside is not treated in this book.

Strong grandmasters generally do not like being on the Black side of the QGE since counter-play is minimal so by selecting the QGE you should have a small edge that can be worked with.

White’s move order in most lines therefore is 1.d4 d5 2.c4 something and then 3.Nc3 so if you already play the Queen’s Gambit but with a 1.d4 d5 2.Nf3 something 3.c4 move order then this repertoire will be a substantial change for you.

Chapter 1 is presented via the now familiar and reliable method of a number (15) of high quality and recent instructive games analysed in depth.

Taking on the Tarrasch Defence Lemos goes down the road of the classical Rubinstein (fianchetto) approach showing how White can retain a nagging edge against the Black IQP.

The Slav Defence is approached using an active piece placement strategy based around the seemingly innocuous Exchange Variation : underestimate this line at your peril if you play the Slav !

The Queen’s Gambit Accepted is faced with the direct 3.e4 with in-depth coverage including all of Black ideas especially the most combative of 3…e5. The QGA receives the most comprehensive treatment in terms of pages (56) and with thirteen games analysed in detail.

The Chigorin Defence merits only three games reflecting its rarity at club and more exalted levels. Again, ignore the Chigorin at your peril !

Club players favourite, the Albin Counter-Gambit is examined via four games.

Rounding off in the “Other Defences” bargain basement section we find lines for White to deal with The (solid) Stonewall Variation of the Dutch, The somewhat discredited Marshall Defence, The (early) Tarrasch with 2…c5 and finally, The Baltic Defence which is common at club level.

A couple of small gripes with the production are : the diagrams do not have a “to move” indicator. secondly, some Everyman books (but not this one) have an extra folding part to the front and rear covers. These we find protect the book from damage and also can be used as an emergency book mark ! Also, chapters 3-5 all have the same page heading of the Chigorin Defence which confused us! We suspect that this error will be fixed.

Overall, this book provides a welcome repertoire based on exchanging on d5 that is fairly easy to learn and sound with decent winning chances for White. The QGE chapter is possibly the most interesting from the strategic perspective and gives White a clear plan to follow.

It is also fair to say that players of the Black pieces who employ the Chigorin, Tarrasch and particularly the QGA will also benefit from this book : they can see the authors suggested lines for the White and Black’s corresponding ideas.

John Upham, Cove, Hampshire, 12th November, 2019

John Upham
John Upham

Book Details :

  • Paperback : 256 pages
  • Publisher: Everyman Chess (1 Aug. 2019)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1781942609
  • ISBN-13: 978-1781942604
  • Product Dimensions: 16.9 x 1.5 x 23.9 cm

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

Official web site of Everyman Chess

Opening Repertoire : the Queen's Gambit
Opening Repertoire : the Queen’s Gambit

Opening Repertoire : the Petroff Defence

Opening repertoire : the Petroff Defence
Opening repertoire : the Petroff 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

The Petroff (or Petrov or Russian) Defence has long been regarded as one of the most solid replies to 1.e4. The most prolific player of the Petroff is Artur Yusupov, a Russian Grandmaster who had played it in around 200 games according to MegaBase 2019.
Vladimir Kramnik , Anatoly Karpov and Boris Gelfand have also used the Petroff many times whilst recently Fabiano Caruana has made it one of his most important and reliable defences.

Alexander Dmitrievich Petrov
Alexander Dmitrievich Petrov

This is a repertoire book from the Black perspective and therefore does not include all possible black variations but it does provide clear recommendations for dealing with the White variations.

Following the Introduction we have six in-depth chapters as follows :

  1. The Cochrane Gambit
  2. The Scotch Petroff
  3. The Main Line Petroff
  4. The Main Line Sidelines (!?)
  5. The New Main Line (2019)
  6. The Three Knights Petroff

Each and every chapter starts with a summary of the variation to put the reader into the right frame of mind.
The author kicks-off in detail by examining the somewhat swashbuckling Cochrane Gambit where, after the moves 1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nf6 3.Nxe5 d6 White boldly sacrifices a knight with 4 Nxf7?!. The author concludes that the Cochrane Gambit is dubious and Black has excellent winning chances (which you would expect no doubt).
He backs this up by showing how Black should play after 4…Kxf7 when White has three sensible moves 5.d4 5.Bc4+ and latterly 5.Nc3 (which was played in a rapid game by Vasily Ivanchuk) : all 3 games were won by Black who wins a piece for 2 pawns. According to MegaBase 2019, the gambit scores an amazing 58.8% for white over 910 games so in practise (as opposed to theory) it does pretty well !

Next, we turn to the Scotch Petroff in which White plays 3.d4 when 3…Nxe4 is recommended.
Two main lines are given, the first being 4.d4xe5 d5 5.Nbd2 where, in the game Vitiugov v Caruana 2018, Black played 5…Qd7 and excellent annotations are given as to why this move equalises fully.

The more popular 5 Nc5 is also examined in detail and,
more often than not, more than one playable line is given for the reader to choose from.

Following the examination of 3.d4 Nxe4 4.Bd3 d5 5.Nxe5 Nd7 Laznicka v Shirov 2006 is discussed in detail and this is an interesting game in which Black was able to win from a lost position.

The opening however was again fine for black.

In Chapter three the author pitches into, what most would consider as THE main line i.e. 3. Nxe5 which is played in 53% of games in MegaBase 2019.
Cyrus recommends 3…d6 4.Nf3 Nxe4 5 d4 d5 6 Bd3 Be7 7 00 Nc6 as most promising for Black.
The main line here is 8.c4 and ten games are annotated in detail. The most prominent players of the black pieces include Vishy Anand and Anatoly Karpov. The following game is annotated in detail :

Other popular moves (8. Re1 and 8.Nc3) are also considered in the same lengthy main chapter.

So called off-beat or side lines are covered in Chapter Four the most important of which is 3.Nxe5 d6 4.Nf3 Nxe4 5.Qe2 which the author labels “The Dull Variation” but, as Cyrus points out, it is a likely choice for the White player if he or she is greatly outgraded and happy to halve the point. However, as in the game Luke McShane v Ba Jobava, Black managed to out dull the dullness by winning!

The so-called “New Main Line” is considered in Chapter Five and this is 3.Nxe5 d6 4.Nf3 Nxe4 5.Nc3 which, somewhat famously, is the usual choice of Magnus Carlsen (and Alexei Shirov) when battling the Petroff. The usual consequence of adoption of a line by the World Champion is that the variation becomes popular at “club level”. (Editor : This also happened to the currently trendy new main line of the London System : 1.d4 d5 2.Bf4 Nf6 3.e3 c5 4.c3 Nc6 5.Nd2).
The chapter launches by detailing a recent (2018) Carlsen v Caruana game where again, black equalises and draws the game.

The final chapter covers the Three Knights Variation in which White essays 3.Nc3 and Black usually replies 3…Bb4 : of course, he or she could also try 3…Nc6 transposing to a Four Knights Game.

From the BCN Editor :
As with every recent Everyman Chess publication high quality paper is used and the printing is clear. Each diagram is clear as is the instructional text. Figurine algebraic notation is used throughout and the diagrams are placed adjacent to the relevant text.

A couple of small gripes with the production are : the diagrams do not have a “to move” indicator. secondly, some Everyman books (but not this one) have an extra folding part to the front and rear covers. These we find protect the book from damage and also can be used as an emergency book mark !

So, what do we think ?
This is an excellent book with 58 games often by world class players given lots of analysis and discussion of ideas.The author sets many exercises (tactical and strategic) for the reader to work through making the book more interactive than many.
Of course, it is mainly written from the Black perspective as most presented games are won by Black perhaps making the reader wonder why 2…Nf6 is not as popular as 2…Nc6 : maybe it soon will be !

Colin Lyne, Farnborough, Hampshire, October 22nd, 2019

Colin Lyne
Colin Lyne

Book Details :

  • Paperback : 322 pages
  • Publisher: Everyman Chess (1 June 2019)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 178194539X
  • ISBN-13: 978-1781945391
  • Product Dimensions: 17 x 1.9 x 24.2 cm

Official web site of Everyman Chess

Opening repertoire : the Petroff defence
Opening repertoire : the Petroff defence