Category Archives: Sahovski Chess

The Power of Defence and the Art of Counterattack in 64 Pictures

The Power of Defence and the Art of Counterattack in 64 Pictures : Nikola Nestorović and Dejan Nestorović

The Power of Defence and the Art of Counterattack in 64 Pictures, Nestor Nestorovic and Dejan Nestorovic
The Power of Defence and the Art of Counterattack in 64 Pictures, Nestor Nestorovic and Dejan Nestorovic

From Nikola’s web site :

“My name is Nikola Nestorović and I have been playing chess for more than 20 years. During that time I managed to accomplish most of my playing career goals. The most important fact is that I became a Grandmaster at the end of 2015 and officially I became FIDE Chess Trainer in 2018. As I was growing up I realized that I really enjoy teaching so I decided that I am going to pursue that kind of a profession. Whether at school or at home I was always in the mood for teaching others and that feeling was very important in my chess coaching career. The connection between teacher and student need to be professional but friendly because only with this trust student can improve in a special way. So first, I want to make a special connection with my student – and then, chess will be very easy to learn! For years I worked on my special chess materials, so I can adjust my lessons to any type of player! And one very important thing – your age is not important, you can ALWAYS improve your chess play! So, If you love chess and you want to learn and improve in this beautiful game – I am sure that together – we can achieve your (our) goals! I am waiting for you! Cheers! Nikola”

From the publisher’s website :

“A tale of 64 magical squares in 64 shrewdly created pictures. Many a book delved deep into the vast oceans of tactics, positional play and strategy, but very few dared to enter and master a notoriously elusive realm of defence in chess.

In this highly instructive tome the authors tried to accomplish several demanding goals. To uncover many of the secrets that remain hidden so very often, to tackle the most difficult area of chess skill – defence, and finally to teach a great number of ambitious chess-players helping them to improve their knowledge in this important area of chess expertise.

We present you the book by GM Nikola Nestorović, and his father IM Dejan Nestorović with firm belief that you will appreciate many hours of their hard work and devotion to this intriguing topic. The games presented in this tome are both recent and older ones, played by the chess elite and their lower rated peers, but without exception instructive, deeply and diligently analysed for your reading and learning pleasure.

You learned to attack – now it is time to sharpen your defensive tools!”


The first thing to notice is that this is a handsome hardback, complete with a bookmark, and enhanced by photographs of some of the players featured within. Unlike the previous book I reviewed from this publisher, it uses orthodox fonts for both text and diagrams.

When turning to the first game you’ll see a game from a tournament that is still, at the time of writing this review, unfinished. This is Grischuk – Alekseenko from the 2020 Candidates Tournament. The first section, Modern gladiators, features 19 games or positions from recent tournaments, working backwards from 2020 to 2017, featuring many of today’s leading players.

Knights of XXI century takes us back from 2016 to 2007 with another 19 examples. Then, Pearls don’t lose their luster offers ten more positions going back to Savon – Tal in 1971. A moment of glory gives us seven specimens from slightly less celebrated players, and finally, From the maker’s mind treats us to nine games from the authors themselves.

This is an advanced book covering a difficult topic, that of defence and counterattack, and probably most suitable for players above, say, 2200 strength. You’ll find a lot of exciting, double-edged games, demonstrating all that is best in contemporary chess. Many of the games feature positional sacrifices, so if you’ve read and enjoyed Merijn van Delft’s recent book, this might be a useful follow-up. But the analysis here is much denser: lots of presumably computer generated tactical variations for you to work your way through.

Let’s look at one of the shorter and simpler examples.

We join the game Kožul – Stević (Nova Gorica 2007) with White about to play his 31st move. (Informator’s house style is to omit capture and check signs: I’m following that here, but using letters for pieces instead of the book’s figurines.)

31. g3

“Kožul is resigned to the fact that he has to wait for his opponent’s mistake in the realisation because Black’s extra pawn on b4 along with excellent placement of his pieces don’t bode well for White.”

31… Rd3?!

“A mistake that wouldn’t have needed to drastically affect assessment and events in the game had the danger alarm made a sound in good time.

“31… Qd3!? After simple exchange of queens Black would have only minor technical problems in the realisation of his material advantage. 32. Qd3 Rd3 33. Rc6 Ba5 34. Rc8 Kh7 35. Kg2 g5 With further strengthening of the position.”

32. Rc8

“The only way to create a chance, of course. White is still waiting for his opponent’s help.”

32… Kh7?

“After Rd3 one could surmise that Stević overlooked his opponent’s threat and that he only expected a passive defence. 32… Rd8! after the rook returned to the eighth rank, the chance for salvation disappeared, at least at this moment.”

33. Ng5!

“A nice tactical stroke which immediately changed the situation on the board. This was an absolute shock for Stević! All of a sudden he had to deal with concrete problems. And as it is usually the case, one mistake follows another.”

33… Kg6

“33… hxg5?? 34. Qh5#”

34. Qe4

“After Qe4 good defence is required in order not to lose the game.”

34… f5?

“Now a fatal error which brings White closer to victory. Black has two responses after which his opponent would be forced to draw.”

(Now there’s some analysis of Black’s drawing moves Kg5! and Kh5!, along with a diagram after Kh5, which I’ll omit here.)

35. ef6 Kg5 36. fg7!?

“36. Qe5! The safest path to victory. 36… Kg4 37. Qf4 Kh5 38. fg7+-”

36… Bf2

“A good attempt to create a counter-chance. 36… Qb1! The best practical chance. 37. Kg2 Rg3! 38. hg3 Qe4 39. Kh2 Qh7 40. g8Q Qg8 41. Rg8 Kf6 42. f4 There would still be some play here, although it can be said that White only needs to resolve some technical problems in the realisation of his material advantage.”

37. Kg2!

(There’s another diagram here: rather redundant as we’re only two half moves away from the previous one.)

“The game can still be lost for White: 37. Kf2?? Rd2 38. Kf1 Qd1 39. Qe1 Qf3 40. Kg1 Qg2#”

37. Rg3 38. Kf2 1:0

“Dangerous checks have disappeared. Black resigns due to the simple capture of the rook followed by promotion of the pawn to queen. Certainly, the key moments happened in time-trouble which is the period of the game when the side experiencing problems in the position should be concentrated and should seek its chance carefully.

“Kožul seized his chance while for Stević it can be said that he first missed a huge opportunity to win and then when he had to calculate where to go with his king and how o do it, he made incorrigible mistakes and suffered defeat.”

Here’s one of the authors in action in a very recent game: Todorović – N Nestorović (Smederevska Palanka (rapid) 2020).

“The position on the board shows us the moment when White has the opportunity to prevent a counterattack with a simple bc3 or enter calculations by playing tactical Ne8 where, at first glance, he wins material and easily promotes the e-pawn to queen.”

29. Ne8?

“29. bc3! (I’ve omitted the diagram) The simplest move! Now White is threatening to capture the rook on e8 and create the best defensive setup. 29… Qc4! 30. R4e3! After two simple defensive moves, Black’s hope vanishes. 30… Rc7 (30… Re7 31. Qa8! Capturing material.) 31. Qc7 And Black doesn’t have any possibility to create threats. 31… Qa2 32. cd4 Qa1 33. Kd2 Qb2 34. Kd1 Qb1 35. Ke2+-

“The king goes to the part of the board where there are no more checks and so the last threats will disappear.”

29… Qc4!!

(There’s another diagram here.) “The only way to create threats and shift the focus of play to the other side of the board.”

30. Qb8

“The most logical way to defend the white castling.”

(There’s a long note here demonstrating that 30. Nd6!? and 30. Qa5!? both lead to perpetual check, and again there’s a diagram after each of these moves.)

30… cb2 31. Kb2 Qc2 32. Ka1 Qc3

33. Qb2?

“Our desire to win sometimes gets us off the right path. 33. Kb1=

33… Nc2 34. Kb1

(Surely this diagram should be after, rather than before Black’s next move.)

34… Rb6!!

“A phenomenal way to end a counterattack!

“White resigns due to his inability to defend from checkmate!”

35. Qb6 Na3# 0:1


These extracts should give you some idea of the strengths and weaknesses of this book. There’s a lot of great chess here: exciting, creative and imaginative, as well as, as you’d expect in games of this nature, even at the highest level, a lot of mistakes as well. You certainly get a feeling of the inexhaustible riches of our beloved game. The subject of defence and counter-attack is not an easy one to teach, but the main point is well made. If you’re under attack you must meet immediate threats, but, beyond that, you should, if possible, avoid passive defence and look for opportunities to create active counterplay, even if this involves taking risks. Don’t be afraid to consider moves which may not be objectively best but will put your opponent under pressure.

The authors clearly have a keen eye for games of this nature and all readers will enjoy playing through and studying them.

However, you can probably also see some negatives. The translation, while mostly making sense, is a long way below professional standards. The layout of the book is poor and makes the games difficult to follow. You’d certainly need two boards and even then it wouldn’t be easy. There are lots of long tactical variations with embedded diagrams the same size as those in the main text. In some cases the game continuation is in the annotations while the book follows a more interesting line that wasn’t played. It all gets rather confusing, and the translation, along with the lack of capture and check signs, doesn’t help. It’s especially confusing when the actual game continuation is in the notes, while another variation, which would have led to a different result, is given as the main line.

Speaking as a 1900 strength player, I thought the book was pitched rather above me. I’d have preferred annotations with fewer computer generated variations and less verbose prose, and perhaps a puzzle section at the end to reinforce the lessons learnt from the examples, along with an improved layout and a better translation. The van Delft book mentioned above handles a similar subject in a much more appropriate way for players of my level, in terms of a more logical structure and more helpful annotations.

A qualified recommendation, then, for lovers of thrilling tactical games with vacillating fortunes played, mostly, at the highest level.


Richard James, Twickenham 22nd November 2020

Richard James
. Richard James

Book Details :

  • Hardback : 352 pages
  • Publisher: Sahovski Chess (aka Chess Informant or Informator) 2020
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: ?
  • ISBN-13: ?
  • Product Mass : ?

Official web site of Sahovski Chess

The Power of Defence and the Art of Counterattack in 64 Pictures, Nestor Nestorovic and Dejan Nestorovic
The Power of Defence and the Art of Counterattack in 64 Pictures, Nestor Nestorovic and Dejan Nestorovic
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The Match of the Century USSR vs. World : 50th Anniversary Edition

The Match of the Century USSR vs. World : 50th Anniversary Edition

The Match of the Century USSR vs. World : 50th Anniversary Edition
The Match of the Century USSR vs. World : 50th Anniversary Edition
by Douglas Griffin and Igor Žveglić.

“The match between the USSR and the Rest of the World was an epoch-defining event that featured many of the greatest names in the history of chess. Five World Champions, and all of the world’s highest-rated players – without exception – took part. Not for nothing was it billed as the “Match of the Century”.

On the 50th anniversary of that great event in the Serbian capital, we invite the reader to take a step back to those years and to re-live the match as it was experienced at the time, in the words of its participants and some of the leading journalists of the day…

This edition is revised, extended, and compiled by Douglas Griffin, chess historian and connoisseur and Igor Žveglić, Chess Informant commissioning editor.”

Chess history and book enthusiasts will doubtless know that the first edition of this book (SSSR – SVET Soviet Union vs. World) was written by Tigran Petrosian and Alexander Matanovic and published in 1970 by Chess Informant :

SSSR - SVET, SSSR - Sbornaya Mira, Soviet Union Vs World
SSSR – SVET, SSSR – Sbornaya Mira, Soviet Union Vs World
SSSR - SVET, SSSR - Sbornaya Mira, Soviet Union Vs World
SSSR – SVET, SSSR – Sbornaya Mira, Soviet Union Vs World

and commands reasonably high prices on the second hand book market.

Possibly more famous is the version written by Serbian FM, Dimitrije Bjelica (Димитрије Бјелица) together? with Bobby Fischer.

Chess Meets of the Century
Chess Meets of the Century

commanding even higher prices. Did Bobby contribute anything to this book? Another discussion for another time and another place perhaps…

The 50th Anniversary Edition is a rare thing in modern chess publishing : it is a hardback and a well-produced one. Chess Informant (along with McFarland Books and some Quality Chess titles) is known for publishing in hard back and, of course, the cover price reflects that. The book has a rather charming silk-style bookmark which is another endearing touch.

Internationally renowned chess historian Douglas Griffin and Igor ŽvegliĆ (both members of the Editorial Board) have taken the original Petrosian and Matanovic text, refreshed it and added new content not available at the time of the 1st editions publication. They have expanded the previously brief player biographies and the original Russian-language annotations have been translated.

Also, we have translations of contemporary articles from the Soviet chess press and subsequent recollections from some of the players and officials involved in the 1970 match.

Here is an article about the book from Douglas Griffin.

Initial impressions were somewhat soured by reading the Foreword to the 1st Edition : it contained typographical errors (not in the 1st edition : I checked) such as “developmet”, “chapions”. Hopefully these were not a portent of things to come!*

*It turns out my concerns were unfounded.

I conducted a careful comparison of the 1st and 2nd editions and drew several conclusions in favour of the 2nd edition. The paper and print quality is far superior, there are many more photographs and those photographs all have detailed attributions.

The player biographies are vastly more detailed and improved (and in English!). The annotations of the games appear to be the same except that all of the text is in English rather than just the comments of the World team player. Of course, the player annotations are delightful and deep and free of engine analysis : hurrah!

Here is one of the top board games annotated for ChessBase (rather than Informator) :

It is pleasing that the book was not spoilt by modern engine analysis and the players thoughts are a pleasure to study. There are additional diagrams for the 2nd edition annotations reducing the need for a board to follow the game : a board is a good idea anyway of course!. Each of the games are classified by ECO code (for example [E30]) whereas you might imagine the 1st edition would use a Rabar Index but it did not. Most people will know that Informant abandoned the use of the Rabar Index in 1981 in favour of ECO codes.

Following the annotated games we have a new section – “Reactions to the Match” Any chess enthusiast will find this fascinating and this section is followed by a Postscript which discusses the match in the context of the modern game. Enthralling stuff!

As a bonus feature there is an extensive list of References at the rear. Since Douglas Griffin was the main writer of this 50th Anniversary Edition you would his expect superb attention to detail and historical accuracy and that is what you are given.

In summary, this is a delightful book both from the visual perspective and from its content. You will not be disappointed – even the other books on your shelf will be pleased by this new edition.

If you would like to get an idea of the book before purchasing (and please do!) then try these sample pages. Personally, I’d rather read the words from the book than a screen.

John Upham, Cove, Hampshire, 15th October, 2020

John Upham
John Upham

Book Details :

  • Hardback : 255 pages
  • Publisher: Sahovski Chess (aka Chess Informant or Informator) (December 27, 2019)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 8672971086
  • ISBN-13: 978-8672971088
  • Product Mass : 1.5 pounds

Official web site of Sahovski Chess

The Match of the Century USSR vs. World : 50th Anniversary Edition
The Match of the Century USSR vs. World : 50th Anniversary Edition
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Old Wine In New Bottles

Old Wine In New Bottles : Mihail Marin

Old Wine in New Bottles by Mihail Marin
Old Wine in New Bottles by Mihail Marin
GM Mihail Marin
GM Mihail Marin

From Wikipedia :

“Mihail Marin (born 21 April 1965) is a Romanian chess player and writer. He was awarded the title of Grandmaster by FIDE. Marin’s first major success in international chess was in qualifying for the Interzonal in 1987. He has won three Romanian Championships and has played in the Chess Olympiads ten times, winning a bronze individual medal in 1988. For several years he was editor of the magazine Chess Extrapress.”

From the book’s rear cover :

“I may be old-fashioned, but I keep using for my inspiration the treasure of the past. It does not make sense to speculate whether, for instance, Carlsen is stronger than Fischer or Korchnoi, as matches between players separated in time by so many decades are impossible. But this book aims to prove that some of the basic aspects of our game did not change over the generations. The same kind of brilliant ideas and mistakes are played again and again in specific situations.

I actually launch an invitation to examine the games of the classics, featuring ideas thought over only by human brains, and by no means less deep than those used today. We all use computer assistance when preparing or writing, but at the chess board we are all alone with our opponent, so educating our mind to work along the classical values is essential.It is virtually impossible to write a “complete” chess course, as the general themes and examples to each of them are practically inexhaustible. But I hope that after studying the book the reader will feel enriched, technically and aesthetically.

I remember my enthusiasm when receiving my first original copy of the Chess informant in 1987 (number 43) after having annotated some of my games from the Warsaw zonal tournament, ending in my first qualification to the Interzonal. Almost a third of a century has passed since then, but I am looking forward to hold this new book in my hands with no less excitement.”


You probably know how it is when your favourite singer releases a Greatest Hits compilation.  As a big fan you have them all already, but there are always a couple of new songs, so, not wanting to miss out, you have to pay for the full album.

It’s been many years since I last read an Informant, but for some time now GM Mihail Marin, one of the best annotators around, has been publishing articles under the title Old Wine in New Bottles, in which he takes a recent game and compares it with games from the past which resemble it in some way. This might be, for example, a similar opening, a similar tactical idea, the same pawn formation, a comparable ending. Sometimes the comparison is very precise, but, on other occasions, rather tenuous.

What we have here is a collection of his articles, with some new ones added to tempt regular readers who will have seen most of the material before, along with some introductory comments.

There are 25 articles, or rather chapters, in total, grouped according to the general theme: Basic Principles, Tactics, Strategy, The Attack, Middlegame Plans of Specific Openings, and, finally, The Individual and Joined Abilities of the Pieces (some, but not all of which, feature endings).

You might assume from this, and you’d be correct, that the translation into English isn’t always idiomatic. There’s also an unacceptably large number of typos.

The publishers have also made some rather strange production decisions.  They’ve chosen a non-standard diagram font with a defective symbol for a black rook on a white square, which makes a rather ugly impression. They’ve also chosen to use a sans-serif font throughout.

This is a handsome hardback, complete with a useful bookmark, which will look good on your bookshelf: it’s a pity that, internally, it doesn’t make such a good impression.

The text is punctuated by a lot of chess art, reproduced in black and white, from the Hereford Chess Club in 1814 up to the present day.  All very attractive, if not especially relevant, but I can’t find any copyright information anywhere.

None of this may bother you, as long as the content is good, and, with reservations, it is.

To give you some idea, let’s take a fairly random chapter. Chapter 4 in the section on Attack deals with sacrificial attacks beginning with the move e5xf6, taking as its starting point this game from the 2017 Sinquefield Cup, where you will observe Vishy’s 22nd move. Marin doesn’t give us the first 21 moves, which presumably appeared elsewhere.

This game brought to mind a brilliant Tal victory from the 1962 Olympiad, where the sacrificial attack started on move 19.

Tal admitted that his 19th move was inspired by a Famous Game which observant readers will have seen before.

It’s, of course, a very well known game, but observant readers will recall encountering it with different annotations in an earlier chapter on positional queen sacrifices to obtain a passed pawn. Here, the annotations are in part based on Lilienthal’s autobiography, which are, along with Hecht’s comments on his loss to Tal, readily found on MegaBase. (It’s always fun to try to identify an author’s sources!)

There are three more games in this chapter, including another Tal brilliancy, but the repetition of the Lilienthal game confirms the impression that it’s really a collection of articles rather than a particularly coherent book.

Not all the annotations are by Marin himself: in many cases they are largely taken from earlier Informants, with occasional authorial interjections. You might not mind this, but I guess you might also feel you’ve been cheated.

Nevertheless, the concept of comparing contemporary games with those from the past is a great idea. If the idea attracts you, or if you’re an admirer of Marin’s books and haven’t seen most of the articles before, you’ll find a lot to interest, inform and stimulate. As the book covers all aspects of the game, there are lessons to be learnt here about both tactics and strategy, about openings and endings.

Although I have significant reservations about various aspects of the book, there is still much of value here, and anything Marin writes is always worth reading.  Recommended,  especially for serious students of the game of, say, 1800+ strength.


Richard James, Twickenham 7th October 2020

Richard James
. Richard James

Book Details :

  • Hardback : 384 pages
  • Publisher: Sahovski Chess (aka Chess Informant or Informator) (December 27, 2019)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 8672971043
  • ISBN-13: 978-8672971040
  • Product Mass : 1.7 pounds

Official web site of Sahovski Chess

Old Wine in New Bottles by Mihail Marin
Old Wine in New Bottles by Mihail Marin
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