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Unknown Weapons in the Grünfeld: Second revised and extended edition

From the Publisher, Thinkers Publishing:

“The Grunfeld Defence is one of the most dynamic openings for Black.

The opening was developed by two famous World Champions, namely Bobby Fischer and Garry Kasparov.

While theory is far from being exhausted and still developing, our author Grandmaster Milos Pavlovic made a strange case and found new alternatives to battle White’s setups. On top this book cuts through the dense theory that surrounds this opening and establishes a total new repertoire based around consistent strategies, concepts and novelties.

This is a fully revised and seriously extended edition of the original book published in 2017.”

About the Author:

“Grandmaster Milos Pavlovic was born in Belgrade in 1964. He has won many chess tournaments worldwide including becoming Yugoslav Champion in 1992. A well-known theoretician, he has published many well-received chess books and numerous articles in a variety of chess magazines. This is his 14th book for Thinkers Publishing.”

GM Milos Pavlovic
GM Milos Pavlovic

This is the fifth title from Milos Pavlovic that we have reviewed. Previously we have examined: The Modernized Marshall Attack, The Modernized Scotch Game: A Complete Repertoire for White and Black, The Modernized Stonewall Defence and The Modernized Colle-Zukertort Attack

This heavy theoretical book has 14 chapters:

Chapter 1 – Exchange Variation 7.Bc4 – with 11.Rc1
Chapter 2 – Exchange Variation 7.Bc4 – Sidelines
Chapter 3 – Modern Exchange Variation – 8.Rb1
Chapter 4 – Modern Exchange Variation – 7.Be3
Chapter 5 – Modern Exchange Variation – 7.Nf3 c5 – Sidelines
Chapter 6 – Exchange Variation – Alternatives on  move 7
Chapter 7 – Alternatives after 4.cxd5 Nxd5
Chapter 8 – 5.Qb3 – The Russian System
Chapter 9 – Early Qa4+
Chapter 10 – 4.Bf4
Chapter 11 – 5.Bg5 lines
Chapter 12 – 4.Nf3 Bg7 5.h4
Chapter 13 – 4.e3
Chapter 14 – Anti-Gruenfeld 3.f3

This theoretical tome is certainly a comprehensive guide to the contemporary opening theory of the Gruenfeld Defence from black’s point of view . It is certainly a repertoire book for black. There are pithy paragraphs that explain the ideas behind the moves but these are few and far between the dense variations. In my opinion, it is aimed at active 2000+ tournament players. This is in no way a criticism, but an inexperienced player wanting to learn the opening with just this book may be lost in a sea of variations without a mentor and/or a Gruenfeld primer book to explain the ideas.

In terms of layout, the book is easy to read, has sufficient accompanying text and plenty of diagrams  to be able to get a good grasp of the lines. The chapter structure is  logical with a strong bias toward the contemporary lines played at the top. This slant is perfectly reasonable as trendy lines trickle down to all levels.

This review will briefly summarise the suggested repertoire and highlight a few interesting variation choices from the author.

Chapter 1 covers the “old” Exchange after these moves:

1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 g6 3.Nc3 d5 4.cxd5 Nxd5 5.e4 Nxc3 6.bxc3 Bg7 7. Bc4 c5 8.Ne2 Nc6 9.Be3 0-0 10.0-0 b6 11.Rc1

Old Exchange 10...b6 11.Rc1
Diagram 1: Old Exchange Variation after10…b6 11.Rc1

The author has recommended the modern 10…b6 which is the key line now. This supersedes the old 10…Qc7 of Fischer-Spassky days.

The last line covered in this chapter is 11…Bb7 12.Bb3!?

Old Exchange After 12.Bb3
Diagram 2: Old Exchange after 10…b6 11.Rc1 Bb7 12.Bb3

The main move here is 12…cxd4 but the author suggests 12…Na5!? as an improvement. 13.d5 e6 14.c4 exd5 15.exd5 Re8

Old Exchange Suggestion
Diagram 3: After 15…Re8

The author gives 16.h3 (Stockfish suggests the irritating 16.Ba4 when 16…Re5 17.Qd3 17…a6 looks to equalise) 16…Bc8 a neat manoeuvre to rearrange black’s minor pieces to better posts 17.Ng3 Nb7 18.Qd2 Nd6 =
Back to the main line after 12…cxd4 13.cxd4 Na5 14.d5 reaching this position:

After 14.d5
Diagram 4: After 14.d5

I like the author’s didactic comment on this position, explaining white’s positional idea with 14.d5:
“That’s the idea. White doesn’t care about his bishop on b3; he wants to trade the dark-squared bishops on d4 and play a middlegame with a strong knight against a poor bishop on b7”
14…Qd6 15.Re1!?N (15.Bd4 Ba6! ridding black of his poor bishop by exploiting the pin on white’s e2 knight which equalises as played by Gruenfeld expert Grischuk)

After 15.Re1
Diagram 5: After 15.Re1

15…Rac8 16.Rxc8 (16.Qd2 Nxb3 17.axb3 f5! striking in the centre to equalise) 16…Rxc8 17.Bd4 Ba6 activating the prelate 18.Bxg7 Kxg7 19.Nd4!

After 19.Nd4
Diagram 6: After 19.Nd4

White has achieved his goal of centralising his horse although black has activated his bishop and rook. White’s plan is now to advance the h-pawn: black must not faff about. Hence 19…Qb4 20.h4 Qc3! 21.h5 Bd3 with equality.

Chapter 2 covers the “sidelines” other than 11.Rc1 from Diagram 1 above. Sidelines is a slight misnomer as these lines are all important.
The three moves covered are the solid 11.Qd2, the greedy 11.bxc5 and the aggressive 11.h4.

After 11.Qd2 a main line continuation with typical Gruenfeld moves is: 11…Bb7 12.Rad1 cxd4 13.cxd4 Rc8 14.Bh6 Na5! 15. Bxg7 Kxg7 16.Bd3 Nc4 17.Bxc4 Rxc4 reaching a balanced tabiya position where both sides have their trumps:

Navara - Ding Liren
Navara – Ding Prague 2019 after 17…Rxc4

The greedy 11.bxc5 is obviously critical as it wins a pawn but black has good positional compensation.

Old Exchange after 11.bxc5
Old Exchange after 10…b6 11.bxc5

After 11…Qc7! the obvious 12.cxb6 axb6 winning a pawn is dismissed briefly with a couple of variations. I do not disagree with the author that this line gives white no advantage, but black players should study this line in more detail, as it is common response from white players.

After 11…Qc7 12.Nd4  Ne5 13.Nb5 Qb8! reaches a key position:

11.bxc5 main line
11.bxc5 main line

There are two critical lines, the greedy 14.Bd5 and the more popular, solid 14.Be2
Both lines are covered in detail showing adequate play for black to equalise.

11.h4 is extremely interesting and in the author’s opinion, the critical test of 10…b6.

11.h4
Old Exchange Variation 10…b6 11.h4

Black should respond 11..e6 12.h5 Qh4

After 12...Qh4
After 12…Qh4

White has two main moves here, the reviewer will show a pretty line after the natural 13.hxg6 hxg6 14.f3 cxd4 15.cxd4 Rd8 16.Qd2

After 16.Qd2
After 16.Qd2

Black looks to be in trouble with 17.Bg5 threatened, however black calmly develops with 16…Bb7 offering a poisoned exchange, after 17.Bg5 17…Qh5 18.Bxd8 loses, after 18…Rxd8, the two bishops and white’s gapping black squares lead to defeat, for example 19.d5 Ne5 20.Rac1 Nxc4 21.Rxc4 Ba6 22.Ra4 Bh6 wins

13.Qc1 is much more dangerous, buy the book to find out how black neutralises this enterprising continuation.

Chapter 3 is all about the Modern Exchange variation with 8.Rb1.

As the author points out, this is a well-known weapon, and for a while, a few decades ago, created massive problems for the Gruenfeld opening.  Its fangs have now been drawn; at the moment there are at least two decent variations that equalise for black. Several recent Gruenfeld books such as those by Delchev and Kovalchuk recommend 8…0-0 9.Be2 Nc6 (with 13…Bc7!) which has been known for a while to be perfectly viable for equality. The reviewer thinks that line is perhaps simpler for black, but both that line and the author’s suggestion require a significant amount of theoretical knowledge.

After 1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 g6 3.Nc3 d5 4.cxd5 Nxd5 5.e4 Nxc3 6.bxc3 Bg7 7.Nf3 c5 8.Rb1 0-0 9.Be2 cxd4 10.cxd4 Qa5+

Pavlovic recommends the “old fashioned” Qa5+ taking the a2 pawn.

Modern Exchange after 10...Qa5
Modern Exchange after 10…Qa5+

11.Qd2 is rather anaemic, leading to an equal ending.

After 11.Bd2!? Qxa2 12.0-0 Bg4! Quick development to put pressure on the d4 pawn, not worrying about the b7 pawn.
13.Rxb7 leads to equality although black has to be careful.

Modern Exchange after 13.Rxb7
Modern Exchange after 13.Rxb7

Now 13…Bxf3 14.Bxf3 Bxd4 15.e5 Na6! 16.Rxe7 Rad8 is ok for black, the pressure on the d-file makes it hard for white to generate a serious initiative.

The last two sub-variations in this chapter are in a very sharp line:

Modern Exchange after 14.Bh4
Modern Exchange after 14.Bh4

The author gives two lines for black to achieve equality: 14..g5! and 14…a5! The fact there are two good lines indicates that the line is clearly satisfactory for black.

Chapter 4 covers 1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 g6 3.Nc3 d5 4.cxd5 Nxd5 5.e4 Nxc3 6.bxc3 Bg7 7.Be3 c5

This is a large chapter and one of the major white systems. There are many subtleties in  the placing of white’s rook on c1 or b1. The author has 15 principal lines.

This is the position in the 10.Rb1 line viz:

Modern Exchange after 10.Rb1
Modern Exchange after 10.Rb1

Pavlovic recommends two different variations for black here:

  • 10…cxd4 going into the queenless  middlegame
  • 10…a6 waiting and preventing Rb5

After 10…a6 white’s main move is 11.Rc1: white argues that 10…a6 has weakened black’s queenside.

Black again has two alternatives:

  • 11…cxd4 going into the queenless  middlegame
  • 11…Bg4 keeping the queens on

If instead of 10.Rb1 white plays 10.Rc1, Pavlovic unequivocally recommends 10…cxd4 11.cxd4 Qxd2+ as this ending is definitely ok for black.

White can play Be3 and Qd2 before Nf3:

Modern Exchange after 9.Rc1
Modern Exchange after 9.Rc1

In this, the recommended line is to exchange queens with 10…cxd4 11.cxd4 Qxd2+ which lead to an interesting ending where black is holding his own.

Chapter 5 covers 7.Nf3 c5 sidelines

These variations include:

  • 8.h3
  • 8.Be2
  • 8.Bb5+

I have never faced 8.h3 and have rarely met 8.Bb5+.
On the other hand, I have faced 8.Be2.

There is an exciting exchange sacrifice in this line viz:
1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 g6 3.Nc3 d5 4.cxd5 Nxd5 5.e4 Nxc3 6.bxc3 Bg7 7.Nf3 c5 8.Be2 Nc6 9.d5 (9.Be3 is inept 9…Bg4! and black is at least equal) 9…Bxc3+ 10.Bd2 Bxa1 11.Qxa1 Nd4 12.Nxd4 cxd4 13.Qxd4

Exchange Variation 8.Be2 after 13.Qxd4
Exchange Variation 8.Be2: main line after 13.Qxd4

Black has two moves, the obvious 13…f6 preserving the material advantage and the probably safer 13…0-0

After 13…f6, the author is of the opinion that 14.Bc4! is exciting and dangerous

After 13…0-0 white can regain the exchange with the obvious 14.Bh6 but loses time and forfeits castling rights after 14…Qa5+ 15.Kf1 f6 16.Bxf8 Rxf8 – this is equal

14.0-0 is more ambitious when 14…Qb6! 15.Qa1!? Bd7 16.Bh6 f6 17.Bxf8 Rxf8 18.Rb1 (18.Qb1 leads to a drawn bishop endgame) 18…Qc7 leads to approximate equality

Chapter 6 covers alternatives on move 7 in the Exchange Variation:

Exchange after 6...Bg7
Exchange after 6…Bg7

The book shows the following four alternatives:

  • 7.Ba3
  • 7. Bg5
  • 7.Bb5+
  • 7.Qa4+

These moves are rare: in full length games, the reviewer only recalls facing 7.Ba3 once, 7.Bg5 once and has never faced the other two.

Pavlovic handles these lines  well. It is interesting that his recommendation against Bb5+ is to play 7…c6 and then play for e5. Many books have suggested rapid queenside expansion for black.

Chapter 7 covers alternatives after 1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 g6 3.Nc3 d5 4.cxd5 Nxd5

The two lines covered are:

  • The exotic 5.Na4
  • The super trendy 5.Bd2 which is played at all levels

After 5.Na4

After 5.Na4 e5
After 5.Na4

Pavlovic recommends the dynamic 5…e5 striking in the centre which is the top engine suggestion. This draws the teeth of this extravagant knight move. (5…Nf6 6.Nc3 Nd5 7.Na4 has been played as a silly repetition draw).

5.Bd2 is a different kettle of fish, the idea is to recapture the knight on c3 with the bishop:

After 5.Bd2
After 5.Bd2

The author recommends a straightforward approach from black viz:
5…Bg7 6.e4 Bxc3 7.Bxc3 0-0 maintaining flexibility & waiting to see which setup white adopts.

After 7...0-0
After 7…0-0

The two main lines here are 8.Bc4 and 8.Qd2 which the author covers in great detail. Shirov’s idea of 8.h4!? is covered very briefly with a variation given that is far from best play for white.

In the reviewer’s opinion this is a very important chapter, as this variation is so popular to avoid main line theory. Ironically, this setup now has a large body of practice.

Chapter 8 covers the Russian System.  Pavlovic recommends the Prins Variation which is 7..Na6.

Prins Variation
Prins Variation

As the author points out, black can play this variation against many of white’s tricky move orders involving Qb3. The Prins Variation was often used by Garry Kasparov, so has an excellent pedigree. The reviewer loves this part of the repertoire as black avoids the Hungarian 7…a6 and 7…Nc6 which are both decent systems but very topical. Avoiding the most popular lines does have its advantages.

Chapter 9 covers Qa4+ ideas which is a short chapter. Qa4+ ideas are usually used as a move order trick to get black out of main line theory.

There are two really important positions in this chapter.

After 1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 g6 3.Nc3 d5 4.Nf3 Bg7 5.Qa4+ Bd7 6.Qb3 dxc4 7.Qxc4 0-0 8.Bf4

Early Qa4 with Bf4
Early Qa4 with Bf4

and after 1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 g6 3.Nc3 d5 4.Nf3 Bg7 5.Qa4+ Bd7 6.Qb3 dxc4 7.Qxc4 0-0 8.e4

Early Qa4 with e4
Early Qa4 with e4

White has played a move order to disrupt black’s development by giving him an extra move of Bd7. However, black can exploit the bishop on d7, to play 8…b5! in both positions gaining good play with this energic pawn sacrifice.

Chapter 10 covers the 4.Bf4 line which is very popular at club level and was played by Karpov against Kasparov.

The author gives three major sub-variations in the main line:

4.Bf4 main line
4.Bf4 main line
  • 14.g4
  • 14.Nxe4
  • 14.Nd5

All these lines are well known and black has equality with care.

Pavlovic suggests a really interesting idea early in one of the main lines which I had not seen before:

1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 g6 3.Nc3 d5 4.Bf4 Bg7 5.e3 c5 6.dxc5 Qa5 7.Rc1 Nbd7!?

4.Bf4 new move 7...Nbd7
4.Bf4 new move 7…Nbd7

Buy the book to find out about this excellent idea.

The idea is allied to another line:

1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 g6 3.Nc3 d5 4.Nf3 Bg7 5.Bf4 0-0 6.e3 c5 7.dxc5 Ne4! 8.Rc1 Nd7!

4.Bf4 another Nbd7 line
4.Bf4 an allied Nd7 line

Chapter 11 is all about Bg5 ideas which occur on move 4 or 5.

Against 1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 g6 3.Nc3 d5 4.Nf3 Bg7 5.Bg5, Pavlovic suggests the traditional 5…Ne4  and against 4.Bg5 he also approves of the knight move to e4.

The solid repertoire here is pretty well known and respectable.

Chapter 12 is a brief chapter on 1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 g6 3.Nc3 d5 4.Nf3 Bg7 5.h4!?

After 5.h4
After 5.h4

The author recommends 5…c6 which is solid and sensible. The author states this is an important new line: it has been around for decades.

After these sensible developing moves 6.cxd5 cxd5 7.Bf4 0-0 8.e3 Nc6 9.Be2 Bg4 resembles a Slav Defence.

Morozevich-Nepomniachtchi 2014
Morozevich-Nepomniachtchi 2014

White has absolutely nothing here. A draw was soon agreed.

Chapter 13 is about 4.e3 which is a solid continuation, not generally played by the top players. It covers a topical line:

1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 g6 3.Nc3 d5 4.e3 Bg7 5.cxd5 Nxd5

Quiet 4.e3
Quiet 4.e3

Now white draws the black queen into the centre with 6.Nxd5 Qxd5 only to manoeuvre his other knight to gain time 7.Ne2 0-0 8.Nc3 8…Qd6

After 8...Qd6
After 8…Qd6

But it’s all too slow really. After 9.Be2 black can play 9…c5! sacrificing a pawn for loads of play 10.Nxe4 (10.d5 is the main line but leads to nothing for white) 10…Qc7 11.Nxc5 e5 12.0-0 Rd8 13,Nb3 Nc6 reaching this position:

After 13...Nc6
After 13…Nc6

White can retain his extra pawn with 14.d5, but 14…e4! gains space and after 15.Qc2 Rxd5 16.Qe4 Be6 black has excellent play for a pawn.

The author fails to cover 6.Be2:

After 6.Be2
After 6.Be2

This is a solid line that can lead to a reversed Queen’s Gambit, Tarrasch after 6…c5 7.0-0 cxd4. I have faced this as black, against an an IM, so perhaps it should have been covered. Of course, the author has to make a decision on what to include: as this is not a fashionable line, I can understand why the line was omitted.

The final chapter covers 3.f3, a popular anti-Gruenfeld system.
The author recommends the “old” main line with 3…d5 which some authors have eschewed in favour of other systems such as 3…c5 transposing into a kind of Benoni or simply going into a King’s Indian Defence.

The key tabiya is this:

Ding-Gelfand Wenzhou 2015
Ding-Gelfand Wenzhou 2015

The analysis given by the author is an excellent coverage of all the critical lines from this position and happens to very largely agree with my own investigations.

Here is one fascinating endgame that results after 16.d6 e4! 17.fxe4 Ng4 18.Bg5 Qe8 19.Nf3 Rf7! 20.Qe1 Bxc3! 21.bxc3 Na4 22.Rc1 Nc5 23.Bc4 Be6 24.Bxe6 Qxe6 25.Be7 Nd3 26.Qd2 Nxc1 27.Ng5 Qxa2+ 28. Qxa2 Nxa2 29.Nxf7 Nxc3+ 30.Ka1  Kxf7 31.d7 Ra8 32.d8Q Rxd8 33.Bxd8 Nxe4 34.Rxb7 Ne3 35.Rb2 Kd5

3.f3 crazy forced line after 36...Kd5
3.f3 crazy forced line to 35…Kd5

This is a draw as white’s rook and king are passive. This occurred in a correspondence game and the reviewer has had it in an on-line blitz game: white allowed a perpetual with the two knights in a few moves.

The only major variation that has been missed from the book is the Fianchetto Variation which is pretty popular as a solid, positional line. In the reviewer’s last game with the Gruenfeld, he did indeed face a Fianchetto Variation. This is a significant omission but does not spoil an excellent publication on the Gruenfeld Defence.

The reviewer notes a fair few typos in the book.

FM Richard Webb, Basingstoke, Hampshire, 12th May 2024

FM Richard Webb
FM Richard Webb

Book Details :

  • Hardcover : 404 pages
  • Publisher:Thinkers Publishing; 2nd edition (2 May 2024)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 9464201967
  • ISBN-13:  978-9464201963
  • Product Dimensions: 17.78 x 3.81 x 24.77 cm

Official web site of Thinkers Publishing

Unknown Weapons in the Grünfeld: Second revised and extended edition, Thinkers Publishing, 978-9464201963, Milos Pavlovic
Unknown Weapons in the Grünfeld: Second revised and extended edition, Thinkers Publishing, 978-9464201963, Milos Pavlovic
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The Exchange Sacrifice Unleashed: Power of Middlegame Knowledge

From the Publisher, Thinkers Publishing:

“The book you have just started reading is about a very interesting and difficult concept: the exchange sacrifice. This is the moment in chess when basic mathematics breaks down, the moment when 3 counts equal to or even more than 5. So let us leave the mathematics aside and try to figure out why this simple calculation is so difficult to understand.

The answer is largely hidden in psychology, as the ninth World Champion, Tigran Petrosian, has often told us, as the man who brought this strategic-tactical chess concept to its first peak. Chess beginners were taught the value of pieces by their teachers (parents, grandparents, perhaps at school or even later in the beginners’ sections of chess clubs).

We explain the difference between piece values to children in the simplest way possible, with the help of a unit of measurement, and in chess those units are the pawns. They tell us that a rook is worth five pawns (units) and a knight and a bishop are worth about three each. They also tell us to always be careful, especially during exchanges, to ensure we take at least as much from our opponent as he or she took from us. So, one rook at a time, perhaps for a bishop and a knight next to two pawns. This “chess thinking” is done quickly and very strongly subconsciously in most, one could even say all. Therefore, when choosing moves, we will automatically reject unfavourable exchanges. But who trades a queen for a knight, a bishop for a pawn, and the like? We know from our own life experience that it is better to have ten coins in our pocket than three, and I prefer three to one!

This psychological barrier is the most difficult step in making the decision to sacrifice. And so it is with the sacrifice of an exchange. Five for three, that is! Even five for four, if we get a pawn for the rook along with the knight or the bishop. “I am not stupid,” you think. The Exchange Sacrifice Unleashed brings different games or coaches try to explain this and that to us, we see that a material advantage is not always something to celebrate about.”

About the Author:

“Georg Mohr was born in Maribor, Slovenia in 1965 becoming a Grandmaster in 1997. He joined as a member of the FIDE Trainers Commission from 2002, becoming a FIDE Senior Trainer in 2004 and a FIDE International Organizer in 2011. Georg has been a professional chess trainer for many years. He was coach and captain of Slovenian national team from 2003 – 2010 and since 2011 he has been Turkish national youth trainer. He is a chess writer and was editor of Slovenian chess magazine Šahovska Misel from 1999 and editor of Fide Trainers Commission trainers’ surveys. He is also an organiser of chess events acting as tournament director of the European Club Cup (Rogaška Slatina 2011), the World Youth Championship (Maribor 2012) and the World Senior Championship (Bled 2018). This is his third book for ‘Thinkers Publishing’.”

FIDE Senior Trainer Georg Mohr
FIDE Senior Trainer Georg Mohr

This is the third title from Georg Mohr that we have reviewed. Previously we have examined: Understanding Maroczy Structures and Forgotten Genius – The Life and Games of Grandmaster Albin Planinc.

This interesting book has seven chapters:

Chapter 1 – The Exchange Sacrifice for the Attack
Chapter 2 – Defence!
Chapter 3 – Ending
Chapter 4 – Exchange Sacrifice in the Opening
Chapter 5 – Critical Squares
Chapter 6 – The Positional Exchange Sacrifice
Chapter 7 – World Champions and the Exchange Sacrifice

Chapter 1 is divided into seven themed subsections, each with plenty of entertaining and didactic examples of exchange sacrifices for the attack.

Here is a splendid finish from the “King in the centre” segment:

Geller-Karpov Moscow 1976
Geller-Karpov Moscow 1976

Karpov, who was crowned World Champion, in 1975, had played a rather inept French Defence, Winawer variation. The great theoretician, Efim Geller finished him off neatly with a exchange sacrifice removing a key defender:

21.Rxb8+!  Qxb8 (21…Bxb8?? 22.Qxc6+ wins quickly) 22.Qxc6+ Kf8 23.Nf4  Ra7 24.Nh4 (The knights close in to stomp on Black) 24… Qe8?! (Allowing a lovely combination)

Geller-Karpov Moscow 1977
Geller-Karpov Moscow 1977

25.Qxe6! (winning) fxe6 26. Nhg6+ Qxg6 27.Nxg6+ Ke8 28.Nxh8 Ra4 29.Rd1 Ne7 30.Bxe7 Kxe7 31.Ng6+ Kf7 32.Nf4 Bxe5 33.dxe5 Rf4 34.Rc1! (getting the rook behind the passed pawn and Karpov soon resigned)

Here is a very famous defensive exchange sacrifice from Chapter 2.

Reshevsky-Petrosian Zurich 1953
Reshevsky – Petrosian Zurich 1953

Black, Petrosian is some trouble as White dominates the centre, has more space and good attacking chances on the kingside with h4, h5 etc.

Black played 25…Re6! If White takes the exchange straightaway with 26.Bxe6 fxe6, he cannot prevent Black’s knight moving to d5, a possible continuation is 27.Rf3 Ne7 28.Bc1 Nd5 29.Qg3 Rc8 30.Bd2 b4! reaching this position:

Reshevsky-Petrosian Zurich 1953 Variation
Reshevsky-Petrosian Zurich 1953 Variation

Black has plenty of play with very active pieces and White’s rooks defensively placed. This is a Petrosian blockade at its best. Modern analysis suggests 26.h4! as best.

The game continued 26.a4 Ne7! 27.Bxe6 fxe6 reaching this celebrated position:

Reshevsky-Petrosian Zurich 1953 after move 27
Reshevsky-Petrosian Zurich 1953 after move 27

Black is almost equal, Reshevsky bailed out with a draw on move 41.

Chapter 3 is an excellent chapter about exchange sacrifices in the ending.

Here is an instructive position with a pawn up in a rook and opposite colour bishop ending:

Isgandarova - Zimina Riga 2017
Isgandarova – Zimina Riga 2017

White has just played 79.Kh3 and at first glance appears to be holding. Black played 79…Rxc5! 80.bxc5 Kd5 winning another pawn: the passive rook dooms White and Black won by pushing the b-pawn supported by the king.

A famous Fischer finish is very instructive:

Lombardy-Fischer New York 1960
Lombardy-Fischer New York 1960

White has just played 30.Re1? which Fischer ruthlessly exploited with a neat simplification:

30…Rxc3+! 31.bxc3 Rxe5+ 32.Kd2 Rxe1 33.Kxe1 Kd5 34.Kd2 Kc4 35.h5 b6! creating an outside passed pawn which won easily:

Lombardy-Fischer New York 1961 after move 35
Lombardy-Fischer New York 1961 after move 35

Chapter 4 covers some exchange sacrifices in the opening. I shall give two examples, one of which I fell into as a junior player:

Dieks - Van der Sterren After 13.Qf3
Dieks – Van der Sterren After 13.Qf3?

White has just played 13.Qf3? winning material which was met with the excellent 13…Nd4! 14.Nc7+ Qxc7 15.Qxa8+ Ke7 with a nasty threat of b4! 16.c3 b4! 17cxb4 Qb6 18.Bxa6 Qb4 19.Kf1

Dieks - Van der Sterren After 19.Kf1
Dieks – Van der Sterren After 19.Kf1

Now, the engine gives 19…Bh6! which wins prettily. The game continued with the tempting 19…Qd2 20.h3 (20.h4! limits White disadvantage, 20.Re1?? is a gross blunder as played by the reviewer, losing to 20…Bd3+ followed by a smothered mate) 20…Bd3+ 21.Bxd3 Qxd3+ 22. Kg1 Bh6! 23. Qb7 (23.Qxh8 Ne2+ 24.Kf1 Ng3+ 25.Kg1 Bf4! winning)23…Kf6 and Black won

There is a special section on some Gruenfeld exchange sacrifices:

Gruenfeld Bronsteins Exchange Sacrifice
Gruenfeld Bronstein’s Exchange Sacrifice
Gruenfeld Modern Exchange
Gruenfeld Modern Exchange Sacrifice

Buy the book to see a couple of exciting Gruenfeld games.

There are of course, plenty of Sicilian Rxc3 examples which is the most famous and important exchange sacrifice. Here is an example from the Dragon Variation in an old variation which is rare nowadays:

Kasparov-Piket Tilburg 1989
Kasparov-Piket Tilburg 1989 After 16.Bh6!?

White’s attack looks powerful, but the well-known sequence starting with 16…Nxe4! leads to equality which modern engines confirm. 17.Qe3! Rxc3! removing the key attacker 18.bxc3  Nf6! Although Kasparov won, Black’s opening was a success.

A pretty example from a Sicilian Paulsen is given  showing an offering for black square domination:

Giri-Vitiugov Reggio Emilia 2012
Giri-Vitiugov Reggio Emilia 2012

Black has just played the risky 6…Bb4 against one of the best theoreticians

Gipslis-Simagin Sverdlovsk 1957
Gipslis-Simagin Sverdlovsk 1957

which is ruthlessly punished: 7.e5! Nd5 8.0-0! Nxc3 9.bxc3 Bxc3 10.Ba3!

Giri-Vitiugov Reggio Emilia 2012 10.Ba3

Throwing in an exchange as well, Black is now in real trouble as his king is trapped in the with a weak colour complex on the black squares.

Chapter 5 Critical Squares has plenty of traditional Sicilian exchange sacrifices on c3.

Here is an example from the Sicilian Defence, Sozin Variation:

Gipslis-Simagin Sverdlovsk 1957
Gipslis – Simagin Sverdlovsk 1957 After 16.Rad1

Black played the natural 16…Rxc3! and won a nice game. The reviewer has played Rxc3 is a very similar position and also won a good game.

Chapter 6 – The Positional Exchange Sacrifice is really the heart of the book with 22 themes.

Here is a good example from the Exchange sacrifice to dominate the black squares section:

Adams – Khalifman Las Palmas 1993

Adams has played a rather insipid Classical Variation against the Dragon. Black played 17…Rxd4! 18.Rxd4 Rb8! (activating the black rook, also preventing white from playing Rb4) 19.f4?!  (19.Rb1 with equality according to the engines, but black is having all the fun) 19…exf3 20.Bxf3 Bxe5 and Black won a lovely game.

The final chapter shows many didactic examples from the World Champions.

I would suggest that the book is aimed at 1750+ players. The book is well produced in an easy to read style with plenty of diagrams and themes to learn from.

However, there are more than a few typographical errors/grammatical errors and the reviewer has spotted an incorrect diagram at the top of page 31. Although this does not detract from the many merits of the book, perhaps future publications should address this.

FM Richard Webb, Basingstoke, Hampshire, 10th May 2024

FM Richard Webb
FM Richard Webb

Book Details :

  • Hardcover : 496 pages
  • Publisher:Thinkers Publishing; 1st edition (20 Jun. 2023)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 946420186X
  • ISBN-13:  978-9464201864
  • Product Dimensions: 17.78 x 3.81 x 24.77 cm

Official web site of Thinkers Publishing

The Exchange Sacrifice Unleashed: Power of Middlegame Knowledge, Georg Mohr, Thinker's Publishing, ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-9464201864
The Exchange Sacrifice Unleashed: Power of Middlegame Knowledge, Georg Mohr, Thinker’s Publishing, ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-9464201864
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The Modernized Trojan Knight 1.Nc3: A Complete Repertoire for White

From the Publisher, Thinkers Publishing:

The idea of the move 1. Nc3 is to confuse the second player, as White plays a supposedly unambitious move to mislead Black. This is why we found the name “Trojan Horse” very appropriate for the move 1. Nc3, just as the gift from Ulysses to the Trojans appeared to be a tricky and poisoned gift. The appropriate term for chess will, therefore, be the Trojan Knight to refer to the Trojan Horse.

1. Nc3 became popular among professional players, and many grandmasters have added it to their repertoire or played it occasionally in official games: Nakamura, Morozevich, Rapport, Bauer, Vallejo Pons… However, it is especially in rapid games that it has reached the world elite, and the very best players in the world have tried it: Carlsen, Mamedyarov, Andreikin and Firouzja for example. I truly hope that seeing the very best players in the world playing it will convince even the most sceptical critics.

About the Author:

The author Bruno Dieu is a FIDE Master and became French Correspondence Chess Champion in 2000. He has a rich experience in chess, having participated in various chess tournaments, both over the board and in correspondence. It’s fascinating that he has competed with notable experts and writers on the 1 Nc3, such as Dick Van Geet, Anker Aasum, and Harald Keilhack. The mention of a book being a token of his experience suggests that he has documented his insights and knowledge about this opening.

FM Bruno Dieu
FM Bruno Dieu

This absorbing and well-thought tome is a delight and covers a wealth of material after White’s opening salvo with 1.Nc3.

First encounters

As a junior, the reviewer knew this opening as the Dunst opening. I first met the Dunst on 18 January 1975 in a simul in London against the late and great Tony Miles, a year before he became the first UK-born, over-the-board chess GM.  The game transposed into the Four Knights opening  and I was inevitably steadily outplayed by Miles, who won a pawn with a neat back rank combination in a major piece middlegame. Unexpectedly, Miles faltered in a winning rook and pawn endgame at move 47, wasting a vital tempo, allowing an excited junior to escape with a draw. My next encounter with the Dunst was a few months later against another strong Birmingham player. This time, booked up, I played the so called refutation with 1…d5 reaching this position:

Ball-Webb10.Nh4
Ball-Webb After10.Nh4

The inexperienced junior, as Black, came up with the positional howler 10…f5? but managed to draw again when my opponent blundered by opting to exchange into an optically good, but drawn king and pawn endgame. This line is covered in the book, 10…f6 is certainly a better move, although the author prefers 10.Nd2 for White.

A callow player as Black may regard the Trojan Knight as just another unusual opening move which aims to avoid main line theory. On the contrary, as the author points out, 1.Nc3 is a cunning move full of transpositional possibilities whereby the second player can end up in an unfamiliar opening.

I have faced the Trojan Knight on 15 occasions replying 1…e5 in my first game, 1…d5 in my second outing and 1…c5 in subsequent encounters.

The reviewer has opted for the Trojan Knight as White in a total of 15 games; the transposition statistics are of interest:

  • Sicilian (4 games)
  • French (2 games)
  • Caro-Kann (1 game)
  • Vienna (1 game)
  • Czech Pirc  (1 game)
  • Irregular queen’s pawn (1 game)
  • 1…b6 1 (game)
  • Trojan Knight main line 1…d5 2.e4 d4 (1 game)
  • Trojan Knight main line 1…e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.d4 (3 games)

This small sample  shows the variety of branches available.

The book is logically divided into 6 parts:

PART I – 1…e5

PART II – 1…d5 2.e4 d4

PART III – 1…d5 2.e4 dxe4

PART IV – 1…d5 – Caro-Kann, French & Alekhine Style

PART V – 1…c5 – Sicilian Style

PART VI – Other First Moves

PART I – 1…e5

This is the natural response which was the move played by the reviewer on first meeting 1.Nc3.

After the following natural moves 1.Nc3 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.d4 exd4 4.Nxd4 this position is reached:

1...e5 Main Line
1…e 5 Main Line

This position obviously has affinities with the Scotch Game and of course can transpose if both players acquiesce. Black can can get into difficulties very quickly here with a sloppy move. A few examples given are:

4…Qf6? (played in some lines of the Scotch) 5. Ndb5! winning as c7 collapses.

4… Qh4? 5.Ndb5! (winning)

4…g6? (looks natural to fianchetto, akin to Larsen’s fianchetto variation of the Philidor Defence) 5.Nd5! a6 (5…Bg7 6. Nb5  Be5 7.f4 wins) 6.Bg5! (6.Bf4 is also excellent) 6…f6 7.Bf4 d6 8.e4 Bg7 9.h4 with a clear advantage

4…d5?! (looks natural) 5.Bf4! a6 (5…Bb4 6.Nxc6 Bxc3+ 7.bxc3 bxc6 8.Qd4! with a big plus) 6. e4 with a definite edge

4…Bb4!? is interesting, White can gain an edge with the Scotch like move 5.Nxc6! bxc6 (5…dxc6 is obviously weaker) 6. Qd4! winning the bishop pair or forcing the horrid 6…Bf8?!

Black should interject the capture on c3 in the last line, after 4…Bb4!? 5.Nxc6 Bxc3+ 6. bxc3 bxc6 7.Qd4! Nf6 8.Bg5

PositionAfter8.Qd4
PositionAfter8.Qd4

White has a small edge. A typical continuation could be 8…h6 9.Bxf6 Qxf6 10.Qxf6 gxf6 11. g3 Rb8 12.Bg2 Ke7 13.Kd2 Ba6

Larsen-Christiansen Denmark 2000
Larsen-Christiansen Denmark 2000

Now 14.Rhb1! with a slight edge to White in a complex endgame.

4…Bc5 is the best move along with 4…Nf6.

4...Bc5
4…Bc5

The author offers three decent alternatives for white:

  • 5.Be3
  • 5.Nxc6
  • 5.Nf5

5.Nb3 Bb6 6.e4 transposes a Scotch Game main line.

After 5.Nf5 Qf6, the author offers two interesting alternatives 6.g4 and 6.e4. He claims that 6.g4 is very strong, but the author’s analysis has a significant hole.  After 6.g4 Bb4 7.Bd2 Nge7 8.e4:

8.e4
8.e4

The author offers the anaemic 8…Nxf5 for Black, after 9.gxf5 Qh4 10.Qf3 Black is in real trouble. The reviewer smelt a rat here as Nxf5 looks too compliant: a quick check with Stockfish reveals 8…d5! equalising. This is a rare significant oversight by the author. Clearly the reviewer has not checked 450+ pages of dense variations but intuition has to be used to choose the positions to use the engine.

6.e4! is better as the author points out leading to Scotch positions where White has a space advantage and although the position is only fractionally better for White, it is easier to play for the first player.

4…Nf6 seems to be the most natural developing move. 5.Bg5! keeps the game in lesser known channels and is better than 5.e4.

5.Bg5
5.Bg5

Black has to be careful here, not to slip into an inferior position.

The passive 5…Be7 allows 6.Nf5! and White has a definite advantage.

The natural 5…d5? allows 6.Bxf6! and White has a distinct edge.

The natural 5…Bc5! is ok setting up veiled threats against f2. 6.e3! Nxd4 (6…0-0 7.Nd5! and white is a little better) 7.exd4 Be7 Now 8.Qd2 is an improvement on the author’s 8.Qf3 leading to a small advantage to White.

The pin 5…Bb4 is certainly playable, 6.Nxc6 leads to a small White edge.

PART II – 1…d5 2.e4 d4

If there is a problem with 1.Nc3, it is definitely this variation which is critical as Black gains space and time.  One of the crucial lines is 1.Nc3 d5 2.e4 d4 3. Nce2 (3.Nb1 Nf6!)  3…e5 4.Ng3 (4.f4 Nc6! 5.Nf3 Bg4!) Be6! 5.Nf3 (5.c3 Nc6!) 5…f6!

Best 5...f6
Best 5…f6

This line is the reason that the reviewer gave up on 1.Nc3.
White can try 6.Bb5+ c6 7.Be2!? (7.Ba4 Na6! 8.Bb3 Bxb3! 9.axb3 d3! 10.0-0 Nb4 11.cxd3 Nxb4 12.Ne1 Nh6 and Black has an edge.) 7…g6 (keeping the knight out of f5) 8.0-0 Qd7 9.b4!? Nh6 (9…Bxb4 10.c3! dxc3 11.d4 is better for White as Black’s development is lacking.) and Black is slightly better.

I hope that this short review gives the reader a glimpse into the complexities of this opening. My only small criticism of the book is that the author sometimes puts the best moves in an editorial side line but I realise this is to keep the featured game as the main line.

In summary, this is an excellent book.

FM Richard Webb, Basingstoke, Hampshire, 28th April 2024

FM Richard Webb
FM Richard Webb

Book Details :

  • Hardcover : 475 pages
  • Publisher:Thinkers Publishing; 1st edition (1 Mar. 2024)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 9464787546
  • ISBN-13:  978-9464787542
  • Product Dimensions: 16.61 x 3.4 x 23.6 cm

Official web site of Thinkers Publishing

The Modernized Trojan Knight 1.Nc3: A Complete Repertoire for White, Bruno Dieu, Thinkers Publishing, 1st March 2024, ISBN-10 ‏ : ‎ 9464787546
The Modernized Trojan Knight 1.Nc3: A Complete Repertoire for White, Bruno Dieu, Thinkers Publishing, 1st March 2024, ISBN-10 ‏ : ‎ 9464787546
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Dragon Masters – The Life and Times of The Fiercest Opening in Chess Volume 1

From the Publisher, Thinkers Publishing:

DragonMasters volume 1 charts the history of the most exciting and dangerous opening known to chess – the Dragon Variation of the Sicilian Defense.

Unlike almost all other books on the Dragon, the focus is not purely on theoretical development. Instead, the author has combined the most historically important games, the famous players who chose to fight either side (sometimes both sides!) of the opening, and the most unexpected and interesting stories featuring the Dragon. World Champions, contenders of the crown, code-breakers, revolutionaries in every sense of the world – all feature in this remarkable and entirely unique look into the history of an opening variation. as the ancient may say: Here be Dragons!

About the Author:

Andrew Burnett is a Scottish FM who represented his country on several occasions. He is the author of cult classic Streetfighting Chess and his love of the Dragon opening stretches back to his teenage years when he was looking to escape 1.e4 e5! He is currently working on the second volume of DragonMasters.

This book is volume 1 of a labour of love devoted to the history, praxis, and famous players who have unleashed the fury of the Dragon Variation or fought to quench the fire of the wyvern.

Volume 1 covers the origin of the Dragon to 1973.

The front and back cover is an engaging, colourful picture.

This publication is not a theoretical treatise on the latest developments in the Sicilian Dragon, although it does give theoretical analyses in relation to historical variations and famous clashes with some references to modern variations and theory.

Many great players have had the Dragon in their regular repertoire, although the reviewer was surprised to find a game of Mikhail Tal’s on the black side, as I had the impression that Tal always preferred the white side.  Perhaps the result of the game in this book influenced Tal’s choice: he got crushed. The reviewer will show this amusing brevity later.

The author, Andrew Burnett has a sub-variation in the Modern Variation 12.Kb1 named after him viz:

  1. e4 c5 2.Nf3 d6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 Nf6 5.Nc3 g6 6.Be3 Bg7 7.f3 0-0 8.Qd2 Nc6 9.Bc4 Bd7 10.0-0-0 Rc8 11.Bb3 Ne5 12. Kb1! Nc4 13.Bxc4 Rxc4 14.g4! b5 15.b3! b4!?
Burnett_Variation
Burnett Variation

The work is divided into fifteen chapters:

Chapter 1 – In the beginning
Chapter 2 – Bird’s Folly
Chapter 3 – The World’s Finest Discover The Dragon
Chapter 4 – DragonMasters and DragonAmateurs
Chapter 5 – Hypermodernism and beyond
Chapter 6 – Botvinnik’s Trilogy
Chapter 7 – The War Years
Chapter 8 – The Post-War Years
Chapter 9 – When Giants take sides
Chapter 10 – Revolution in the 60s?
Chapter 11 – The Yugoslav Attack
Chapter 12 – DragonMasters and DragonWriters
Chapter 13 – Candidates and Contenders
Chapter 14 – The English Connection
Chapter 15 – The Dragon is Dead! Long Live the Dragon?

In the preface, Andrew Burnett shows a famous Dragon game which inspired the author to take up the Dragon; it also happens to be one of my favourites viz. Plaskett – Watson from Brighton 1983:

  1. e4 c5 2.Nf3 d6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 Nf6 5.Nc3 g6 6.Be3 Bg7 7.f3 0-0 8.Qd2 Nc6 9.g4 Be6 10.O-O-O Nxd4 11.Bxd4 Qa5 12. a3 Rfc8 13.h4 Rab8 14.h5 b5 15.h6  b4! 16. hxg7 bxa3 17. Qh6 axb2+ 18.Kd2 reaching this super sharp scenario:
Plaskett - Watson Brighton 1983
Plaskett – Watson Brighton 1983

This position had been included in some theoretical treatises of the time with the +- symbol as White’s threat of Bxf6 and Qxh7# looks unstoppable. Jonathon Mestel had looked further and spotted 18…Bxg4! which muddies the waters. (As an aside, Stockfish 16 gives 18…Bxg4! as a draw and 18…Nh5! as a draw. This just shows the richness of chess and amazing hidden resources.)

19.Bxf6 Bh5!  Simply blocking the h-file, giving Black time to continue with his attack. Jim Plaskett now goes wrong which is unsurprising as he must have been shocked by Black’s revelation.

20. Bd4? losing but only 20.Rxh5! equalises

Plaskett-Watson20.Rxh5
Plaskett-Watson 20.Rxh5!

Best play after 20.Rxh5! leads to an unexpected repetition draw viz:

20…gxh5 21. Bh3 exf6 22. Bxc8 (22.Bf5? Qxc3+ 23.Ke2 Qxc2!+ 24. Rd2 Qc4+ 25.Kf2 Qc5+ 26. Kg2 Qxf5 27. exf5 b1=Q winning for Black). 22…Rxc8 23.Qxf6 Qb4! 24.Rb1 a5 threatening a4-a3-a2 25.Kd3 (threatening Nd5) Qc4+ 26.Kd2 Qb4 27.Kd3 with a draw!

Plaskett-Watson Variation
Plaskett-Watson Variation

As is so often the case in these double edged lines, the game fizzles out to an exciting draw. Brilliant stuff.

The game continuation was a massacre 20…e5! 21.Rxh5 gxh5 22. Qg5 Qb4 23.Bd3 Qxd4 24. Nd5 Qf2+ 25. Be2 Rxc2+ 26.Kxc2 Qxe2+ 27.Kc3 Qxf3+ 28.Kc4 Qb3#

Plaskett-Watson End
Plaskett-Watson End

Chapter 1 introduces the first games featuring a Sicilian with a black, kingside fianchetto.

The reviewer was under the false impression that Louis Paulsen was the first to play a Sicilian with a kingside fianchetto. Although Paulsen did play some Dragons including beating Steinitz in London in 1862, it was Marmaduke Wyvill who played the first recorded “high-level Dragon” in 1851 at the celebrated London International tournament. We all remember Adolf Anderssen winning that tournament but do we recall whom he defeated in the final? It was Wyvill.

Some of these first Sicilian fianchetto games don’t resemble the modern Sicilian Dragon move orders and are full of basic strategic mistakes but do give insights into the development of the variation and the Sicilian defence in general. Game 3 of the book demonstrates Paulsen’s win over Steinitz with an hyper accelerated Dragon although he was lost out of the opening!

Louis Paulsen was one of the great pioneers of the Sicilian Defence, not just developing the variation named after him.

Chapter 2 concentrates on Henry Bird’s contribution to early Dragon Praxis.

He was the first player to play the modern Dragon move order:
1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 d6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 Nf6 5.Nc3 g6

As the author points out, his score with the Dragon was 16 losses, 10 wins and 9 draws which is not brilliant, but taking into account he was playing against the world’s best, it is a respectable Dragon legacy.

Game 7 shows a titanic struggle with Joseph Blackburne. This is the position after the opening:

Blackburne-Bird
Blackburne-Bird

This could be a modern game with white playing a fairly inept Classical Variation, but making sensible developing moves leaving the main struggle to the middlegame. Bird played the somewhat dubious 14…Qh5?! (better is the natural 14…Nd7 which is clearly equal). Blackburne responded with the impatient move 15.Bxf6 (Simply 15.Qf2 or 15.Rd3 leaves white with a slightly more comfortable position) 15…Bxf5 16.Nd5 Qe5 is equal. The players fought out a exciting draw to move 77. Buy the book to the see the game.

Chapter 3 introduces some of the first games with top players riding the Dragon such as Emmanuel Lasker.

This chapter features some greats such as Tarrasch, Pillsbury and Emmanuel Lasker playing the Dragon at the end of the 19th century and the beginning of the 20th century. The game below shows a typical Dragon trap.

Brody – Pillsbury Paris 1900

1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Nc3 Nf6 4.d4 cxd4 5.Nxd4 d6 6.Be2  g6 7.Be3 Bg7 8.0-0 Bd7 9. h3 Qa5

Brody-Pillsbury
Brody-Pillsbury

White now played a natural looking move  that loses 10.Qd2?? Ne4! 11.Nc6 Qxc3! (Easy to overlook) 12.Qxc3 Nxc3 13. bxc3 Bxc6 (Black is completely winning, a pawn up with a much better pawn structure)

Brody-Pillsbury-11...Qxc3
Brody-Pillsbury-11…Qxc3

Chapter 4 shows some early games with masters v amateurs.

The first game in this chapter is famous tussle Lasker – Napier at Cambridge Springs 1904. This game is an extremely tactical queenless middlegame and is well worth a look.

Another game covered is a loss by Lasker to a modern idea of an exchange sacrifice on c3 in a simultaneous display. This idea had been seen before but this version is so thematic, it must be shown:

Emmanuel Lasker – Donald MacKay Hampstead 1908

1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Nc3 g6 4.d4 cxd4 5.Nxd4 Bg7 6.Be3 d6 7.Be2 Nf6 8.h3 0-0 9.0-0 Bd7 10.f4 a6 11.g4 Rc8 12.f5 Ne5 13.g5

Lasker-MacKay
Lasker-MacKay

13…Rxc3! (Winning as White’s position falls apart) 14. bxc3 Nxe4 15.Bd3 Nxc3 16.Qe1 Nxd3 17.Qd3 Nc5 18.f6!? (A desperate try)

Lasker-MacKay-18.f6
Lasker-MacKay-18.f6

18…exf6 19.gxf6 Ne4 (19…Bxf6 wins as well) and Black won on move 34.

Chapter 5 features the introduction of two major Dragon lines.

They are 10…Qc8 in the Classical Variation and the DragonDorf played by another great Sicilian pioneer Miguel Najdorf.

The first variation is shown with a famous game Reti -Tartakower

Dragon-Classical-Tartakower-Var
Dragon-Classical-Tartakower-Var

The game continued 11.h3 Ne8 ?! (A modern master would shudder at this move, the natural 11…Rd8 is better, Reti won a good positional game)

The game Reissner – Najdorf from Warsaw 1934 introduces the Dragadorf which Simon Williams reintroduced many decades later.

The game began 1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 d6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 Nf6 5.Nc3 g6 6.Be3 Bg7 7.f3 0-0 8.Qd2 a6? (Black cannot play this slowly after castling, if Black wishes to play this way, he must not castle early).

Dragadorf-Castle-Too-Early
Dragadorf Castling too early

Stockfish already gives White a big advantage. Najdorf did win this game as White did not play incisively enough. See the book to look at these two interesting games.

Chapter 6 features the famous Alekhine-Botvinnik melee from Nottingham 1936 resulting in an exciting short draw.

1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 d6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 Nf6 5.Nc3 g6 6.Be2 Bg7 7.Be3 Nc6 8.Nb3 0-0 9.f4 Be6 10.g4!? (The Rabinovich Attack)

Rabinovich-Attack
Rabinovich-Attack

10…d5!? (The modern preference is for 10…Rc8 when Black may already be better) 11.f5 Bc8 12.exd5 Nb4

Rabinovich-Attack-12.Nb4
Rabinovich-Attack-12…Nb4

A critical position 13.d6!? (13.Bf3! is much stronger leading to a significant White advantage) 13…Qxd6 (leading to a forced perpetual) 14. Bc5 Qf4! 15.Rf1 Qxh2 16.Bxb4 Nxg4 17.Bxg4 Qg3+ 18. Rf2 (Any winning attempt is suicidal) Qg1+ 19.Rf1 Qg3+ 20.Rf2 Qg1+ Draw agreed

Chapter 7 introduces the Levenfish Variation with Mikhail Tal falling victim.

Game 31 showcases the game that introduced the Levenfish Variation at the highest level: Levenfish – Rabinovich Leningrad 1939. The author’s commentary on this game is full of excellent analysis showing many of the traps in the Levenfish and some brilliant white victories. Two of the greatest attacking players have games in this variation  including  a crushing win by Nezhmetdinov and a crushing loss for Tal. First the Tal miniature:

Janis Klavins – Mikhail Tal Riga 1954

1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 d6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 Nf6 5.Nc3 g6 6.f4

Levenfish-Variation
Levenfish-Variation

6…Nc6! (6…Bg7!? is dangerous for Black, but just about playable with care, but 6…Nc6 equalises easily, so why play an inferior risky move?)

7.Nxc6 bxc6 8. e5 (This looks dangerous but is a paper tiger) Nd7! 9.exd6 exd6 10.Be3

Levenfish-Variation-10.Be3
Levenfish-Variation-10.Be3

10…Qe7?! (10…Be7 is slightly better for black already, the pawn on f4 weakens White’s position) 11.Qd4! Nf6?! (11…Bg7 is hardly better: 12.Qxg7 Qxe3+ 13.Be2 Rf8 14.Rf1 Nb6 15.Rd1 is better for white despite white’s king on e1 as Black is behind in development and has a weaker pawn structure with black squared weaknesses.) 12.0-0-0 Bg7

Levenfish-Variation-Start-of-Crushing-Attack
Levenfish-Variation-Start-of-Crushing-Attack

White has a significant lead in development which he exploits ruthlessly in the style of his opponent:

13.Qxd6! (sacrificing a piece with check) Qxe3+ 14.Kb1 Bd7? (14…Qb6! makes it harder for White but his attack is just too strong) 15.Bb5! (A classic clearance: 15…cxb5 16.Rhe1 wins the queen and although Black has a rook and two bishops for the queen and pawn, his lack of development is fatal) 15…Qb6 16.Rhe1+ Kd8 17.Bxc6 Rb8 (threatening mate but too late) 18. Qe7+ Kc7 19.Rxd7+ Kc8

Mate-in-4
Mate-in-4

20.Bb5 (20.Nb5! is quicker mating in four moves, Klavins chooses a prosaic win going into a trivially won endgame) Rb7 21.Rxb7 Qxb7 22.Qxb7+ 1-0

Now the Nezhmetdinov game:

1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 d6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 Nf6 5.Nc3 g6 6.f4 Bg7?! (Risky) 7.e5!  dxe5? (The only decent move here is the surprising 7…Nh5 with the idea 8.g4? Nxf4 9.Bxf4 dxe5 regaining the piece with interest, better for White is 8.Bb5+ Bd7 9.Qe2! with an edge as Black still has to solve the problem of the h5 knight, 9.e6!? looks good but 9…fxe6 10.Nxe6 Bxc3+ 11.bxc3 Qc8! is a mess but dynamically equal) 8.fxe5 (This is a very dangerous position for the unwary)

Levenfish Danger
Levenfish after 8.fxe5

8…Nd5? (8…Ng4?? 9.Bb5+ wins 9…Bd7 10.Qxg4 wins a piece or 9…Kf8 10.Ne6+ wins the queen. 8…Nfd7 is relatively best 9.e6! Ne5! 10.exf7+ gives a White a pleasant edge but Black can fight) 9.Bb5+ Kf8 10. 0-0 (Black is totally lost) Bxe5 (accelerating the inevitable defeat, and allowing an attractive finish, 10…Nc6 lasts longer) 11.Bh6+ Kg8 12. Nxd5 Qxd5 13.Nf5! Qc5+ 14.Be3 Qc7 15.Nh6+ 1-0

Levenfish-13.Nf5
Levenfish-13.Nf5!

Chapter 8 features a famous victory by a British player, William Winter over David Bronstein in the England – USSR radio match in 1946.

1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 d6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 Nf6 5.Nc3 g6 6.Be3 Bg7 7.f3 Nc6 8.Qd2 0-0 9.Nb3!? (Not the most challenging line) 9…Be6 10.Nd5 Bxe6 (Stockfish also likes 10…Rc8 with both moves giving Black a slight edge, but removing the pesky knight now is understandable) 11.exd5 Ne5

Bronstein-Winter-11...Ne5
Bronstein-Winter-11…Ne5

12. Be2? (12.0-0-0 is better but Black is at least equal) Qc7 13.0-0 (13…a5! is also good but the move played is an obvious thematic Sicilian move) Nc4 14.Bxc4 Qxc4 15. Rad1?! (The wrong rook, White needs the queen’s rook on the queenside for defence, showing how badly the game is going)  15…Rfc8! 16.Rf2 Nd7 (16…a5! increases Black’s advantage to decisive proportions) 17.Bg5!? (Trying to mix things up, but 17.c3 is better, then Black has 17…a5 with a typical Sicilian initiative and advantage) 17..Bxb2 18.Bxe7 Nb6? (Bronstein’s gamble with Bg5 has paid off as Black goes wrong, much better is 18…Bc3! 19.Qd3 Qb4 maintains a big Black advantage) 19.Bxd6 Rd8

Bronstein-Winter-20.Na5
Bronstein-Winter-20.Na5

20. Na5?? (A horrible move losing the game, 20.Qb4 or 20.Qf4 holds the balance) 20…Qa6! 21.Qf4 Rxd6 22.c4 Bg7 23.Rfd2 Bh6 24. Rd3 Rad8 25.a4 Bf6 26.Qb5 Qxb5 27.axb5 R6d7 0-1

Chapter 9 introduces some giants into the mix with players such as the great Soviet theoretician Efim Geller who played the Dragon with both colours, and the great Bobby Fischer who was a veritable St George. Fischer famously lost against Cesar Munoz, a Ecuadorean National Master: this game is definitely worth a look.

This chapter also includes the famous Fischer – Larsen clash from Portoroz 1958.  The game is in a line that has become topical recently:

1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 d6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 Nf6 5.Nc3 g6 6.Be3 Bg7 7.f3 0-0 8.Qd2 Nc6 9.Bc4 Nxd4 10.Bxd4 Be6 11.Bb3 Qa5 12.0-0-0 b5 13.Kb1 b4 14.Nd5 14…Bxd5

Fischer-Larsen-Portoroz
Fischer-Larsen Portoroz 1958

15.Bxd5 (Not best, better is15.exd5! Qb5 16.Rhe1 a5 17.Qe2! Tal, M-Larsen, B Zürich 1959)

Tal-Larsen-Zurich-1959
Tal-Larsen 17.Qe2 Zurich-1959

This position used to be thought to be slightly better for White with the bishop pair and pressure along the e-file. Modern engines dispute this and reckon Black is more or less equal viz:

17… Qxe2 18.Rxe2 a4 19.Bc4 Rfc8 20.b3 (20Bb5?! Ra5=) Rc7= 21.Bb5 axb3 22.cxb3 Ra5 23.Bc4 Rb7 = (Stockfish gives White a tiny advantage)

Now back to the main game.

15…Rac8?! (Much better is 15…Nxd5 16.Bxg7 Nc3!!+ 17.Bxc3 bxc3 18.Qxc3 Qxc3 19.bxc3 Rfc8 20.Rd3 Rc5 =, or 17.bxc3 Rab8! 18.cxb4 Qxb4+ 19.Qxb4 Rxb4+ 20.Bb2 Rfb8=)

16.Bb3! and Fischer won a great game.

Chapter 10 introduces the famous Soltis Variation.

It may not be widely known, but in 1963  Heikki Westerinen introduced the Dragon Soltis Variation to the world, 8 years before Andrew Soltis popularised the variation named after him. This is the stem position:

Soltis-Variation
Soltis-Variation

Westerinen played this line against Bent Larsen, who was one of the protagonists who played the Dragon with both colours. He lost the game, but his opening and early middlegame were fine as he achieved a winning position by move 20: he was outplayed later by a world class player. Buy the book to see analysis of this ground breaking game.

Chapter 11 introduces  Geller on the Black side and Anatoly Karpov as a chief Dragon slayer. His game against Gik in the Moscow University championship in 1968 is one of Karpov’s best games.

1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 d6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 Nf6 5.Nc3 g6 6.Be3 Bg7 7.f3 0-0 8.Bc4 Nc6 9.Qd2 Qa5 10.0-0-0 Bd7 11.h4 Ne5 12.Bb3 Rfc8 13.h5 Nxh5 14.Bh6 Bxh6 15.Qxh6 Rxc3 16.bxc3

Karpov-Gik-Moscow-1968
Karpov-Gik-Moscow-1968

In this position below Gik made a fatal mistake: 16…Qxc3 no doubt expecting 17.Kb1, so 17.Ne2 came as a rude awakening gaining a crucial tempo, both 16…Nf6 and 16…Rc8 equalise comfortably.

The book analyses this theoretical scuffle in detail.

Chapter 12 is devoted mainly to famous Dragon writers: David Levy and Andrew Soltis.

David Levy, the Scottish IM famously wrote two editions of the Batsford books The Sicilian Dragon. Here Levy faces the former World Champion, Boris Spassky who is in devastating form:

1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 d6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 Nf6 5.Nc3 g6 6.Be3 Bg7 7.f3 Nc6 8.Qd2 0-0 9.Bc4 Bd7 10.0-0-0 Qb8?! (A trendy line at the time, which is almost certainly unsound, Stockfish does not rate it.)

Spassky-Levy
Spassky-Levy

11.h4! a5? (This is a horrible move, it loses quickly, Stockfish recommends 11..Ne5 12.Bb3 h5 trying to slow down the attack in Soltis style, but Black’s misplaced queen renders this fruitless) 12.Bh6!? (Not the very best, the simple 12.h5 is even stronger winning quickly) 12…Nxe4? (Black pushes his luck with a flawed combination, better was 12…Nxd4 13.h5! Be6 14.Bxg7 Kxg7 14.Qxd4 with a big plus for White) 13. Nxe4 Bxd4 14.h5! (With a huge winning attack)

Spassky-Levy-14.h5
Spassky-Levy-14.h5

14…d5 (Desperation, trying to get the queen into the defence) 15.Bxd5 Qxe5 16.Bxf8! (Simple and effective) 16…Qxd5 17.Qh6! Nb4 18.Rxd4! (Removing the last defender) Qxd4 19.Bxe7 1-0

An opening experiment crushed by an attacking great!

Chapter 13 is mainly devoted to two fascinating clashes between Efim Geller and Viktor Korchnoi in their Candidates match in 1971 in Moscow. It also reintroduces Anatoly Karpov who is undoubtedly one of the greatest Dragon slayers, shown in action in a famous tussle with Juergen Dueball at Skopje in 1972.  It was Karpov’s endgame skill that won him that game.

The first Geller – Korchnoi shows the good old exchange sacrifice on c3 in all its glory.

Geller-Korchnoi-Moscow-1971
Geller-Korchnoi-Moscow-1971

White played the poor 12.Bh6?! provoking Black. 12…Bxh6! 13.Qxh6 Rxc3! 14.bxc3  a5! (14…Qc7 is fine as well)

Black is equal here and has a position that is easier and more fun to play. The game was eventually drawn, but Black achieved a winning game but threw it away in mutual time trouble.

Chapter 14 introduces one of the great Dragon specialists, the late and great Tony Miles.

Here is a exciting scrap with another future GM, Michael Stean.

Michael Stean – Tony Miles Hastings 73/74

1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 d6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 Nf6 5.Nc3 g6 6.Be3 Bg7 7.f3 0-0 8.Bc4 Nc6 9.Qd2 Bd7 10.h4 h5 11.0-0-0 Rc8 12.Bb3 Ne5 13.Kb1 Nc4 14.Bxc4 Rxc4 15.Nde2 Qc7 !? (An attempt to avoid the main line theory, 15…b5 is the main line which equalises comfortably as played by Kasparov against Anand 16.Bh6 Qa5 =)

Stean-Miles-15.Qc7
Stean-Miles-15.Qc7

16.Bh6 Be6 17.Bxg7 Kxg7 18.Nf4 Qa5 (This position is equal, but Stean comes up with a faulty plan) 19.Nxe6+ (19.Nce2 is equal) fxe6 20.Rh3?! (20.Ne2 is still equal) Rfc8 21.Rg3?

Rxc3! (Now Black is better) 22.bxc3 Rc6 23.Rg5 e5! (Cutting the rook off)

Stean-Miles-23...e5
Stean-Miles-23…e5

Now Black is slightly better, somehow Miles contrived to lose this game.

Chapter 15 is devoted to one of the most famous gladiatorial contests in the Sicilian Dragon: Anatoly Karpov v Viktor Korchnoi Moscow 1974 game 2 of the Candidates final. The winner was to play Bobby Fischer.

1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 d6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 Nf6 5.Nc3 g6 6.Be3 Bg7 7.f3 Nc6 8.Qd2 0-0 9.Bc4 Bd7 10.h4 Rc8 11.Bb3 Ne5 12.0-0-0 Nc4 13.Bxc4 Rxc4 14.h5 Nxh5 15.g4 Nf6 16.Nde2 !?

Karpov-Korchnoi-16.Nde2
Karpov-Korchnoi-16.Nde2

At the time, the position before 16.Nde2 was a topical Dragon tabiya. Korchnoi played the natural reply which is already a mistake.

16…Qa5 (16…Re8 is much better and about equal) 17.Bh6 Bxh6 (17…Bh8 18.Bxf8 Kxf8 19.Qe3 is clearly better for White) 18.Qxh6 Rfc8 19.Rd3 R4c5? (The final mistake, 19…Be6 20. 20.g5 Nxh5 21. Nf4 Qe5 22.Nxh5 gxh5 23. Qxh5 Qg7 24.f4 with a clear advantage to White) 20.g5! (Winning) Rxg5 21.Rd5! Rxd5 22.Nxd5 Re8 23.Nef4 Bc6 24.e5!+- Bxd5 25.exf6 exf6 26.Qxh7+ Kf8 27.Qh8+ 1-0 (27… Ke7 28.Nxd5+ Qxd5 29.Re1+)

It is quite possible that the whole game was prepared analysis.

This game really knocked the Dragon for six, but the Dragoneers soon came up with an antidote 16…Re8.

In summary, this is a well thought out book and an enjoyable read with plenty of exciting, fighting chess. Although it is a history of the Dragon, that story is really a microcosm of the development of modern chess from 1850 onwards.

FM Richard Webb, Basingstoke, Hampshire, 1st April 2024

FM Richard Webb
FM Richard Webb

Book Details :

  • Hardcover : 385 pages
  • Publisher:Thinkers Publishing; 1st edition (5 Mar. 2024)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 9464201959
  • ISBN-13:  978-9464201956
  • Product Dimensions: 17.78 x 3.18 x 24.77 cm

Official web site of Thinkers Publishing

Dragon Masters - The Life and Times of The Fiercest Opening in Chess Volume 1, Andrew Burnett, Thinkers Publishing, ISBN-10 ‏ : ‎ 9464201959
Dragon Masters – The Life and Times of The Fiercest Opening in Chess Volume 1, Andrew Burnett, Thinkers Publishing, ISBN-10 ‏ : ‎ 9464201959
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The Life and Games of Carlos Torre – 2nd revised and extended edition- Gabriel Velasco & Taylor Kingston

From the publishers’ blurb:

“This is what’s new in this edition: More accurate and more extensive annotations, computer-assisted. Every game has been examined under Stockfish 14, probably the best analytical engine available for home computers at this time. For the first edition we had only Fritz 4 and 5, which compare to Stockfish like a Model T Ford to a Ferrari, and many games were given no computer examination at all. Thus owners of the first edition will find most annotations here substantially different (and substantially better). However, many general assessments and heuristic notes proved valid and have been retained. ·

Torre’s own annotations to several games have been unearthed and added. These come from several sources: the American Chess Bulletin, his book of the 1926 Mexican Championship tournament, and his instructional booklet Development of Chess Ability. ·

Several games have been added. Some, frankly, are Torre losses, which we give in the interest of presenting a more complete, balanced picture of his play. The first edition, to some extent, looked at Torre through rose-colored glasses; here we aim only for untinted clarity. Also added are the six games between players other than Torre that he annotated for the Mexican Championship tournament book (see Chapter VIII). ·

There are many more diagrams and photographs than in the first edition. Also more thumbnail bios of Torre’s opponents. ·

More ancillary material about Torre’s life and career: pictures, anecdotes, interesting facts, opinions, bits of trivia etc., drawn from the ACB, the Wiener Schachzeitung, the film Torre x Torre, and other sources. ·

A 1927 interview with Torre, published in the Yucatán magazine Anahuac, in Chapter III. ·

Chapter IV, excerpts from the book 64 Variaciones Sobre un Tema de Torre by his friend Germán de la Cruz.”

About the Authors

Taylor Kingston (born 1949) has been a chess enthusiast since his teens. He holds a Class A over-the-board USCF rating, and was a correspondence master in the 1980s, but his greatest love is the game’s history. His historical articles have appeared in Chess Life, New In Chess, Inside Chess, Kingpin, and the web-site www.ChessCafe.com. He has edited and/or co-authored dozens of chess books, and translated three from Spanish, including the original Mexican edition of Vida y Partidas de Carlos Torre. He lives with his wife Emily in Paso Robles, California.

Taylor Kingston
Taylor Kingston

Gabriel Velasco (born 1949 in Mexico City) is a a professor of mathematics and author of over twenty books on mathematics. He has been a chess enthusiast since age 15. Besides Vida y Partidas de Carlos Torre, he is the author of Masterpieces of Attack (Chess Digest, 1990), presenting the best games of the late GM Marcel Sisniega Campbell. Velasco lived in Kiev 1985-1987 and shared 1st-3rd prize in a tournament of Candidate Masters and First Category players, earning thereby a norm of Candidate Master of the Soviet Union. Back in Mexico, he won the championship of the state of Guanajuato. He is now retired and lives in Mexico City with his wife and his son Richard, who was was given that name in honor of Richard Réti.

 

You probably know a few things about Carlos Torre. (In the interests of cultural sensitivity we now refer to people from some Spanish speaking countries by their first name, father’s surname and mother’s surname, so he’s now Carlos Torre Repetto, although I’ll refer to him just as Torre in the rest of this review.)

You may know he lost a Famous Game against the otherwise unknown EZ Adams. As always, click on any move for a pop-up window.

A beautiful game, to be sure, and one which is great if you want to teach combinations based on back rank mates. But it almost certainly wasn’t lost by Torre. As explained here on pp484-485, it was quite likely to be analysis which Torre published as a loss against his first teacher, Edwin Ziegler Adams, for whom he had great affection.

The next thing you probably know about Torre is that he won a Famous Game against the not at all unknown Emanuel Lasker.

Again, the finish is a great example of a windmill combination which everyone should know. But it wasn’t, as is demonstrated here (pp356-361) a very good game. Lasker, perhaps distracted by the receipt of a telegram, could have won material with 22… f6 and 23… Qd5 was a losing error.

The third thing you might know about Torre is that he invented the Torre Attack (1. d4, 2. Nf3, 3. Bg5), as he played in this game. The opening bears his name because of his usage here and in other games, but it had been played many times before.

Carlos Torre Repetto played some much better games than this in his very short international career. If you’re eager to find out more, you’ll want to read this book.

Vida y Partidas de Carlos Torre, written by Gabriel Velasco, was published in 1993. Taylor Kingston, working with Velasco, translated and expanded this book, which was then published in 2000. I think I may have a copy somewhere, so perhaps you do as well.

Now we have a Second Edition, expanded further by Kingston.

All the games have been re-annotated using Stockfish 14, some more games have been added, we have more diagrams, photographs and biographical details of Torre’s opponents, as well as a wealth of fascinating supplementary material.

Carlos Torre Repetto was born in the Yucatán province of Mexico on 29 November 1904, and, in 1916, the family moved to New Orleans where, under the mentorship of Edwin Ziegler Adams, he made rapid progress in chess.

In 1924 he travelled to New York in search of stronger opposition. After achieving some local successes he travelled to Detroit, representing New York in the Western Chess Association Championship. Here he scored a spectacular success, finishing unbeaten on 14/16, 2½ points ahead of his nearest rivals and 3 points ahead of the even younger Sammy Reshevsky.

The following spring, Torre crossed the Atlantic to take part in the Baden-Baden congress, where, crossing swords with the likes of Alekhine and Rubinstein, he scored a creditable 10½/20. The authors comment that Carlos Torre played somewhat nervously in his international debut. While attaining a respectable 10th place (out of 21), he clearly was more concerned with not losing rather than trying to win.

He then continued, with only a few days in between the two events, to Marienbad, where he played with more confidence, sharing third place with Marshall on 10/15, half a point behind the winners Nimzovich and Rubinstein.

That autumn he took part in his third international tournament of the year, in Moscow. A score of 12/20 left him sharing 5th-6th places with Tartakower, behind Bogoljubow (his greatest tournament result), Lasker (whom he beat in the above game), Capablanca and Marshall. Here, he started strongly but faded in the last few rounds.

However, his game from the penultimate round was one of his best: a delightful minor masterpiece, according to the authors.

He stayed on in the Soviet Union over the New Year, playing in a small quadrangular tournament in Leningrad, where, still tired from his exertions in Moscow, he only managed 50%.

He then returned to Mexico for the first time in more than a decade, winning their national championship with a 100% score. His next tournament was the Western Masters in Chicago, which, as well as most of the top American players, was given an international flavour by the participation of Maroczy. With one round to go, Torre was half a point ahead of the field, facing Edward Lasker, who was in the bottom half of the field, with white in the last round. He was unable to cope with the pressure, played badly and lost. Marshall came out on top with 8½/12, half a point ahead of Torre and Maroczy.

The final thing you might know about Torre is that he once took his clothes off on a bus. Sadly, it’s true. After this tournament he returned to New York where he suffered a psychotic episode which put an end to his brief tournament chess career. He was also suffering from some sort of eating disorder, perhaps brought on by anxiety. He had always had an immoderate fondness for sweets, sometimes eating a dozen pineapple sundaes in a day, but those who knew him in New York at this time report that he was eating almost nothing but candies and fudge. He then returned to Mexico, living there quietly until his death in 1978 at the age of 73, and retaining his interest in chess to the end.

A sad story, then. Here was a young player of exceptional talent who lacked the temperament for competitive chess. Torre comes across as a sensitive soul who, on the one hand was more interested in the beauty of his games than the result, but, on the other hand, was hampered by anxiety which caused him on some occasions to play too cautiously, and, on other occasions, to tire easily and make mistakes.

If you’re interested in chess in the 1920s you’ll certainly want to read this excellent book. You won’t be disappointed with the production qualities either: it’s a good-looking hardback (also available in paperback) of 588 pages. The Games Section covers most of the book: here you have 110 games annotated using the latest (at the time of writing) engines to ensure accuracy.

One of Torre’s most impressive performances was his draw with the black pieces against Capablanca (Moscow 1925). Not many players were able to hold an inferior ending against the World Champion, but he was able (with one exception which Capa failed to take advantage of) to find a string of ‘only moves’.

The annotations to this game demonstrate the improvements from the first edition.

The first edition of the book offered analysis claiming that White could still win if Black played 37… b6! here, but, with the help of Stockfish, this edition demonstrates that Torre could have drawn by following a very narrow path. After the game continuation 37… Kf5?? 38. Nxb7 Ke6 39. Kd3? (Nc5+ was winning), Torre was – just about – holding.

A few moves later, this position was reached.

The game continued 41. Na6+ Kb6 with an eventual draw. Capablanca claimed after the game that 41. Kc3 was winning, but Bogoljubov, writing in the tournament book, disagreed. The first edition sided with Capa, but now, in the second edition, we learn that it was Bogo who was correct.

Here’s the complete game.

The last 100 pages or so offer a wealth of other material including articles and annotations  by Torre himself. The games included here bring the total up to 128. Anyone with an interest in chess history will relish this part of the book.

If you already have the first English language edition, then, you’ll want to know whether or not to buy this version. If you want more accurate annotations, the answer is clearly ‘yes’. If you want the fascinating additional material, the answer is again ‘yes’. If you just want Torre’s best games, or if you’re of the opinion that historical games shouldn’t be subjected to computer analysis, the answer may well be ‘no’.

Instead of the familiar Informator symbols you instead get assessments such as (+0.61/25), indicating that Stockfish 14, at 25 ply, considers that White has an advantage of .61 of a pawn. I find this interesting, but I’m sure there will be those who disagree.

There are other production issues which might divide opinion. If you’re a completist you’d expect every traceable game played by Torre, which isn’t what you get here. White spaces in the book are filled with cute little cartoons. You might like this, but here I think I prefer the white space.

If you have any interest at all in chess history, chess culture or the psychology of chess players, you shouldn’t hesitate.

Gabriel Velasco, Taylor Kingston and the team at Thinkers Publishing should be congratulated on doing an outstanding job to preserve the memory of Carlos Torre Repetto’s life and all too short chess career.

Richard James, Twickenham 12th January 2024

Richard James
. Richard James

Book Details :

  • Softcover: 588 pages
  • Publisher: Thinkers Publishing; 2nd edition (21 Mar. 2023)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10:‎ 9464201762
  • ISBN-13:978-9464201765
  • Product Dimensions: 23.88 x 4.06 x 17.27 cm

Official web site of Thinkers Publishing

The Life and Games of Carlos Torre – 2nd revised and extended edition- Gabriel Velasco & Taylor Kingston, Thinkers Publishing, March 21st 2023, ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-9464201765
The Life and Games of Carlos Torre – 2nd revised and extended edition- Gabriel Velasco & Taylor Kingston, Thinkers Publishing, March 21st 2023, ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-9464201765
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Tata Steel Chess Tournament 2021

Tata Steel Chess Tournament 2021, Daniel Fernandez, Thinker's Publishing, 14 Feb. 2022, ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-9464201420
Tata Steel Chess Tournament 2021, Daniel Fernandez, Thinker’s Publishing, 14 Feb. 2022, ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-9464201420

From the publishers’ blurb:

“That such a fine achievement should be immortalized, is beyond dispute. But who will pick up the gauntlet? We live in a volatile world where the Internet is dominant and when a tournament is over, the next one is already at the door. No time for reflection and historical awareness? Yet there was someone who had followed the tournament with great interest. The English grandmaster Daniel Fernandez, who also publishes for ChessPublishing came up with the idea of thoroughly examining all the games from this tournament. He did not take any chances in doing so. In addition to the various sources he found on the Internet, he of course used the strongest engines available at the moment. He also had engines in the cloud patiently calculate various positions. Together with his source research and his own insights, he has created a unique compilation of chess-technical material that is unprecedented.

In doing so, Fernandez has painted a fantastic picture of the opening variants that were on the board in this tournament. He has done a thorough research of the ins and outs of the various variants and placed them in a broader perspective. And it must be said that the organization was kind to him by providing an interesting field of players who gave it their all every round. This resulted in many nice confrontations with extremely interesting opening theory! That Fernandez did not get away with the middle game and the many fascinating endgames was clear from a first estimate of the amount of material when it had to be converted to the format of this book. Initially, we ended up with almost 900 pages! That is far too much and therefore drastic cuts had to be made. Hundreds of (analysis) diagrams have been dropped, small side notes are no longer in the book and sometimes – pain in the heart – the trees of variations had to be cut back. That only happened, by the way, when the ingenious structure became so extensive that it would be hard to follow for “mere mortals”. It is being considered whether this can be made available digitally at a later date, and the moment that it is, we will of course put Fernandez’s entire analytical work on offer! IM Herman Grooten, December 2021 ”

 

GM Daniel Fernandez (born 1995) is an English grandmaster with a slightly unusual approach to chess: at once mischievous and hardworking, and equally comfortable in tactical positions or dry endgames. His style fits the Modern perfectly and he has played it with success for almost a decade. He is a past holder of the British under-18 and under-21 titles, and the winner (or joint winner) of many open tournaments, such as Paracin 2017, Pula 2018, Ghent 2019 and the New Zealand Open 2020. Daniel also writes and commentates frequently, and is a columnist of the 1.e4 section on ChessPublishing.com. This is his third book for Thinkers Publishing, the Modernized Caro-Kann and Modern Defense were his first two and world wide acclaimed as the best you can get.

GM Daniel Fernandez, 2019 British Championships, Torquay. Courtesy of John Upham Photography
GM Daniel Fernandez, 2019 British Championships, Torquay. Courtesy of John Upham Photography

Chess book collectors will look back with fondness on the days when competitions between leading players were often commemorated by tournament books. Hastings 1895. New York 1924. The 1953  Candidates’ Tournament. Everyone with a passion for chess literature will have books such as these on their shelves. From time to time they’ll open them again, not just to admire the games but to relive the excitement of the event. Like me, they’ll regret that this tradition seems to have gone out of fashion.

Is this book a worthy addition to an almost forgotten genre of chess literature?

With 750 pages, trimmed down from an original almost 900, one can only admire Daniel Fernandez’s industry in compiling the book, in producing several pages of detailed analysis, often focused on modern opening theory, for almost every one of the 91, invariably hard-fought games produced by some of today’s leading Grandmasters.

The author has made an unexpected and seemingly unexplained decision in ordering the games by the player of the white pieces. So we start with all the White games of Alexander Donchenko, who eventually brought up the rear, through to those of Jorden van Foreest, the rather unexpected tournament winner.

I guess this makes sense if the main reason you’re reading the book is to study you heroes’ opening repertoires, but  from my perspective as a humble club player it seems rather eccentric. Why not group the games by the player of the black pieces instead? Or, better still, why not group them by opening so that we can see all the Sicilian Defence, for example, games together? If, like me, you’re not especially interested in opening theory, you’d probably prefer a more conventional format, especially given that the book also includes the round summaries taken from a Dutch chess news website. So we get a Round 1 report, Donchenko’s white games, a Round 2 report, MVL’s white games and so on, which creates, at least for me, a rather disjoined effect.

The opening analysis is, for many games, extremely detailed. Take, for example, Esipenko’s win over Carlsen in round 8. We get five pages of notes about the latest trends in the Sicilian Najdorf, which I’m sure is deeply fascinating to anyone playing that opening with either colour at master level, but of only passing interest to someone like me who finds the opening far too difficult for comfort.

Esipenko sacrificed a pawn in the opening, reaching this position where he gained a winning advantage: 18. Ncxb5+ axb5 19. Nxc6 Qxc6 20. Qc3: a familiar enough sacrifice but with an unusual follow-up. The queen fork regains the piece and the World Champion eventually succumbed.

50 or more years ago, when I was young and innocent enough to look at opening theory, the Sicilian Najdorf was all the rage. It’s still popular now, although most of it looks very different from the days when we eagerly awaited the news of Bobby’s latest games. One line that’s still popular, and hasn’t changed all that much, is the Poisoned Pawn variation. To the best of my knowledge it’s still, in general, standing up well for Black, but it’s very easy to go wrong and lose quickly, as MVL found out against Caruana.

Black plumped for the wrong pawn capture on d5, and now White continued 14. e6!! A crushing breakthrough. After 14 moves Black is essentially lost against good play!, according to Fernandez, who provides some beautiful variations against various Black tries here.

As you’d expect, the tournament produced its fair share of fascinating endings. I found this position, from Wojtaszek – Anton Guijarro, particularly instructive.

Here Black played 58… Rg1!. Fernandez comments: Black shows alertness and does not allow the half-point to slip away. There are only a few dangers for Black in this position, and foremost among them would be allowing the enemy king into f6. Hence 58… Ra2?? loses, because Black now has to go very passive to prevent the infiltration.

He then goes on to give a lot of analysis demonstrating how White can always, at worst, reach the Lucena position.

The analysis of the remaining moves (59. Rb7 f6 60. e6 and so on) is also informative as to how this very typical position should be played.

At one level this is a magnificent, monumental book. You get 91 top level games, all deeply annotated, all hard fought, with profound opening play, often exciting middlegames and sometimes intricate endings. Fernandez has put in an enormous amount of work to ensure that readers are informed about the latest opening theory in lines currently popular at top GM level (although I guess it’s all 18 months out of date now!), and that all the analysis has been thoroughly checked for accuracy using the most powerful engines. The production values are high, with many excellent photographs and lots of interesting background material. I spotted a few typos, but not enough to spoil the book.

And yet, writing as a fairly strong club player, it’s sadly not a book for me. It’s just much too heavy, in more ways than one. Picking it up made my arms hurt and reading it made my brain hurt.

Give me a 250-300 page tournament book rather than 750 pages, and I’d be happy. I’d want the games in round order, annotated in a user-friendly (but not patronising) way, with opening theory and computer-generated variations only included where necessary, with helpful tips on how I could learn and improve my game and perhaps some reader interaction such as quiz questions. Indexes of openings and endings would also be welcome.

If you’re an ambitious 2200+ player, this book will, I’m sure, be ideal for you. If, like me, you’re an unambitious under 2000 player, you may well think it’s too much of a good thing.

I sometimes get the impression that there are a number of grandmasters who write books for themselves and their friends rather than considering the nature of their target market. For me this book, praiseworthy and outstanding though it undoubtedly is, falls into that category.

I’d advise you to make up your own mind whether this is a book for you. If you click here you’ll be able to download a teaser.

Richard James, Twickenham 28th June 2022

Richard James
. Richard James

Book Details :

  • Softcover: 750 pages
  • Publisher: Thinkers Publishing; 1st edition (14 Feb. 2022)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10:‎ 9464201428
  • ISBN-13:978-9464201420
  • Product Dimensions: 17.02 x 4.57 x 23.62 cm

Official web site of Thinkers Publishing

Tata Steel Chess Tournament 2021, Daniel Fernandez, Thinker's Publishing, 14 Feb. 2022, ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-9464201420
Tata Steel Chess Tournament 2021, Daniel Fernandez, Thinker’s Publishing, 14 Feb. 2022, ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-9464201420
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Unbeatable!: The Art of Defense

Unbeatable!: The Art of Defense, Jan Werle, Thinkers Publishing, 11th January 2022, ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-9464201413
Unbeatable!: The Art of Defense, Jan Werle, Thinkers Publishing, 11th January 2022, ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-9464201413

From the publishers’ blurb:

“GM Jan Werle is a professional chess trainer, coach and author. In 2008 he became EU Champion in Liverpool and reached his peak rating of 2607. Afterwards he finished his law studies, obtaining Master’s degrees in Civil and Commercial Law, and embarked on a career as a lawyer. However his main passion, chess prevailed, and led to a comeback. He gives chess lessons to pupils worldwide, individually and in groups. He enjoys teaching and helping his students and watching them improve. He combines teaching with playing in tournaments, keeping up his own level. Jan likes to meet new people and see new places and has been travelling to tournaments across the globe since an early age. He has played in all age categories in the World and European Championships finishing 3rd in the U-16 Championship in 2000 and 2nd in the U-18 in 2001. In 2004 he beat FIDE World Champion Rustam Kasimdzhanov and has won several strong international opens such as the Essent Open in Hogeveen in 2007, the Oslo Open and 8th place in the Gibraltar Masters in 2020, the strongest open in the world, with a score of 7/10 and a tournament performance of 2743. ”

 

Defence is a difficult subject to write about. What do we mean by defence, anyway? We have to defend if we have the worse position, but we also have to defend if our opponent is creating threats. If our opponent has made an unsound sacrifice for an attack, we might have to defend when in a winning position.

For these reasons there have been relatively few books written about this important aspect of chess, so it’s good to be able to welcome this new volume. Let’s take a look inside.

Chapter 1 doubles as the Introduction.

In this book I try to shed light on how to put up tenacious resistance, as well as why most defenders aren’t able to do so. There are so many books written about the attack and the initiative, not to mention opening books. But isn’t the hardest discipline in chess the defense of a weak position?

Technically speaking, one of the reasons why defense is such a difficult discipline, is that the attacker has several good moves at his disposal to choose from, whereas the defender is bound to pick one single move which enables him to ‘survive’. 

Werle also discusses chess psychology, and, in general, sports psychology, subjects of particular interest to him, and with which he has personal experience.

There is an increasing understanding of the role psychology plays in chess, and, when your opponent is putting you under pressure, this is especially important. As you’ll see, this is discussed at length here.

Chapter 2 is again relatively short, looking at two forms of ‘inaccurate defence’: being too passive (and gradually getting crushed) and being too active in positions where you need to sit tight. It’s no coincidence that Werle’s examples of undue passivity come from older games: we know a lot more now about the virtues of active defence and the need to create counterplay, even at the cost of material.

Chapters 3, 4 and 5 constitute the heart of the book, each providing an in-depth look at defence in very different ways.

Chapter 3 offers The rise of defense in chess history, taking us all the way from Greco to Carlsen, with many instructive examples along the way.  The author is particularly interesting when writing about Steinitz and Lasker, both of whom had much to say on the subject as well as demonstrating defensive skills in many of their games.

He then moves onto Botvinnik and Smyslov, both also giants of defensive play. I was taken by this example from a fairly well known Botvinnik (black v Liublinsky Moscow 1943/44) game.

Here, Botvinnik played what has now become a stock exchange sacrifice.

25… Rd4!?

Botvinnik gives this move an exclamation mark, citing the advantages of the repaired pawn chain and the passed pawn, as the closed nature of the position deprives the white Rooks of any activity. However, in the ensuing lines there occur many concrete ‘computerish’ breaks which gives the Rooks a (perhaps better than) level playing field compared to the minor pieces.

26. Ne2

Lyubinsky (sic) prefers to take the Rook with his Knight and to retain his Bishop. A questionable decision, since the Knight would have been well placed on the blockading square d3, according to Botvinnik.

After 26… Bc8 27. Bxd4 cxd4 28. Nc1! he would have kept a large advantage, but for the same reason after keeping the Bishop instead of the Knight on the board. In essence, White has to open the files on the queenside.

26… Bc8 27. Nxd4 cxd4 28. Bf2?

When Botvinnik mentions that his opponent is saddled with a dark squared Bishop (instead of the Knight) and thus completely without counterplay, Botvinnik missed several potential interesting and dynamic ideas to open the queenside files, assuming White was just obliged to await further developments.

White could have refuted this notion by, for example, 28. Bd2! with the idea of b3-b4. 28… c5 29. Rab1 f5 30. a3 Be6 31. Rb2! Now there is no way to stop the b3-b4 pawn break, when the files and ranks are opened, and the Rooks become ‘monsters’. 31… f4 32. b4! axb4 33. axxb4 cxb4 24. Rdb1 when White has a winning advantage.

Chapter 4, Emotions in Chess, looks at defence through the lens of sports psychology. Comparisons are made with other sports, notably tennis, with players such as McEnroe, Agassi and Federer discussed. We learn about debilitating emotions: anxiety, anger, relief and pride, how emotions might be triggered and how to cope with them.

Examples demonstrate how our emotions might affect how we play: particularly being too cautious or not sufficiently decisive.

Then Werle explains how we can control emotions by relaxation or a variety of cognitive techniques.

Any serious competitive player will find this chapter, concerning an increasingly important aspect of chess, very helpful.

Chapter 5 takes us back to the chessboard, looking at Defensive Strategies. Sometimes we can use prophylaxis: preventing our opponents from carrying out their plans. Sometimes we just have to wait to see how our opponents are going to improve their position. On other occasions, though, we need to be proactive, looking for counter-attacking moves which will turn the tide.

Back in Chapter 3, Werle discussed Korchnoi’s massive plus score with the black pieces against Tal to demonstrate what can happen when a brilliant attacker comes up against a brilliant defender. There are several examples scattered throughout the book.

Here is a striking example, from Moscow 1971.

In this position Korchnoi played:

16… Kh8!!

Fantastic prophylaxis against h4-h5! Black can take now on e5 as the discovered check on h7 is out of the question. Not good was 16… Rfd8?, as after 17. h5 Nf8 18. h6 g6 19. Qxc4 Black would have been left with weakened black squares around the King and an isolated c-pawn.

Werle goes on to demonstrate the remainder of the game, which Korchnoi won on move 40.

(Checking this with Stockfish 15, though, the engine claims that 16… Rfd8 17. h5 Nf8 18. h6 Ng6 19. hxg7 Bc6 is fine for Black.)

Alekhine was a pioneer of risk-taking in defence, as Werle demonstrates in this example (Lasker – Alekhine Moscow 1914).

13… O-O-O!!

This unexpected, brutal move must have come as a shock to Lasker. White might have expected something like 13… Ne5 instead. White keeps an advantage with 14. Qc3 protecting f3. Black faces real issues completing his development. Or 13… Qe6 for the sake of bringing the Bishop out. 14. Re1! Bxc5 Who tricks who? 15. Qxd7+! Apparently, White tricks Black. Either way, there follows a Knight fork on f6 or c5.

14. Qa4

As storm clouds gather above Black’s position, Alekhine finds a creative solution for the problem of his king’s position. He could have played 14… Kb8 here to defend the pawn on a7, but then the game wouldn’t last for long after White plays simple developing moves: Bf4, Rd1-d3-b3/a3.

14… Ne5

This move is not approved by the commentators, but nonetheless it achieves its intended effect in the game. The point is that Alekhine places his knight as actively as possible, directed towards the enemy’s king.

15. Kg2 Qe6

16. Qa7?!

And here is the mistake: White is seduced into taking the pawn. Annotators, starting with the players’ contemporary Siegbert Tarrasch, indicated that a much safer move was 16. Bf4 initiating a strong positional idea. 16… Kb7 17. Bxe5 – after taking the strong knight on e5 White will develop a quick attack against black’s King with Re1 (threatening Nd6+) – Re3-Rb3, meanwhile Black has issues developing his bishop on f8.

16… Qf5!!

The ‘standard’ 16… Qg6+ fails without a fight after 17. Bg5! White will prevent the King’s escape via d7 on the next move. 17… f6 18. Rad1 And there is not much to do against the mating threat on a8.

 With this beautiful queen move, Alekhine is not only threatening to take on f3, but also at the same time vacating the escape route c8-d7-e6 for his King!

The game resulted in a draw by perpetual check a few moves later.

This extract (I’ve omitted another three diagrams) gives you some idea of the flavour of the annotations here.

Chapter 6 offers what is these days the almost obligatory quiz to test your defensive skills, with 22 questions where the defender has to make a critical decision.

All in all, this is an excellent book which will interest all serious competitive players. If you have an interest in sports psychology you may well consider it an essential read. The book is exceptionally well researched and the examples are well chosen, although, as they’re mostly taken from grandmaster practice you might consider them more suitable for stronger players. The book itself looks good. It’s illustrated with many photographs, some of only tangential relevance, and important sentences and quotes are highlighted in callout boxes.

My one problem – and this might not annoy you as it does me – is that, as with so many chess books, the proofreading is well below the standard I’d expect from books on other subjects. You can perhaps tell from some of the extracts above that the text isn’t always fluent and sometimes the meaning isn’t entirely clear at first reading. But beyond that there are many other minor issues: inconsistent spellings (Tal is Mikhail and Mihail on the same page), inconsistent use of capitalisation of names of chess pieces, even in the same sentence, and so on. I appreciate (in part from being on the other end at the moment) that this process takes time and costs money: perhaps omitting it is a necessary sacrifice to make books like this economically viable.

If you don’t find this an insurmountable problem, I’d recommend this book as a brave and original take on a complex and difficult aspect of chess.

Richard James, Twickenham 25th May 2022

Richard James
. Richard James

Book Details :

  • Softcover: 340 pages
  • Publisher: Thinkers Publishing; 1st edition (11 Jan. 2022)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10:946420141X
  • ISBN-13:978-9464201413
  • Product Dimensions: 16.76 x 2.03 x 23.37 cm

Official web site of Thinkers Publishing

Unbeatable!: The Art of Defense, Jan Werle, Thinkers Publishing, 11th January 2022, ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-9464201413
Unbeatable!: The Art of Defense, Jan Werle, Thinkers Publishing, 11th January 2022, ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-9464201413
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Modern Chess– From Steinitz to the 21st Century

Modern Chess– From Steinitz to the 21st Century, Craig Pritchett, Thinker's Publishing, 15th February 2022, ISBN-10 ‏ : ‎ 9464201436
Modern Chess– From Steinitz to the 21st Century, Craig Pritchett, Thinker’s Publishing, 15th February 2022, ISBN-10 ‏ : ‎ 9464201436

From the publishers’ blurb:

“The revolutionary Wilhelm Steinitz (1836-1900) considered himself to be in the vanguard of an emerging, late-19th century ‘Modern’ school, which embraced a new, essentially scientific vitality in its methods of research, analysis, evaluation, planning, experiment and even belligerent fight. Steinitz, who dominated the chess world in the shadow of a more directly attacking, openly tactical and combinative, so-called ‘romantic’ age, established a much firmer positional basis to chess. A pivotal change! This book follows that story, both before and beyond Steinitz’s early ‘modern’ era, focusing closely on the subtly varied ways in which the world’s greatest players in the last two centuries have thought about and played the game, moving it forward. The author reflects on all sixteen ‘classical’ world champions and others, notably: C-L. M. de la Bourdonnais, Adolf Anderssen, Paul Morphy, Siegbert Tarrasch, Aron Nimzowitsch, Richard Réti, Judit Polgar and the contemporary Artificial Intelligence phenomenon, AlphaZero. Be inspired by this exploration of the ‘modern’ game’s roots and trajectory!”

IM Craig William Pritchett, Courtesy of John Upham Photography
IM Craig William Pritchett, Courtesy of John Upham Photography

Craig Pritchett (b 1949) is a former national champion and international master (1976), who represented Scotland in nine Chess Olympiads (1966-1990), including four times on top board (1974-1980). Gold medal winner on top board for Scotland at the European Seniors (60+) Team Championship in 2011, he continues to compete regularly at Senior and Open events. Chess Correspondent for the Scottish newspaper The Herald (1972-2006) and East Lothian Life (since 2005), he has taught and written widely on chess, specialising latterly on the historical development of chess thought and the fascinatingly wide differences in players’ chess styles. A University of Glasgow graduate in Modern History and Politics and a Chartered Public Finance Accountant, he also worked for many years in UK central government audit. President of his local Dunbar Chess Club, he has also long been associated with three major chess clubs: Edinburgh West, Barbican 4NCL and SK Berlin-Zehlendorf.”

From the author’s introduction:

This book takes the reader on a journey from early 19th century developments in the game up to the present-day. 

And:

Today’s top players still borrow from the best games and ideas of past generations. Do join them!

I wrote this book primarily to explore, confirm and convey my own understanding of this grand sweep of chess history. 

What we’re offered here, then is a brief history of top level chess from 1834 to the present day, looking at both the development of chess ideas and the world championship itself. As you’d expect, the text is illustrated with games, annotated in a refreshingly straightforward fashion, and there are also a few photographs of the book’s heroes. An ambitious project, following in the footsteps of many other authors from Réti onwards. Not the first book of this type I’ve reviewed here either: but I wasn’t particularly impressed with this offering from two years ago.

We start then with Bourdonnais and McDonnell from 1834. Pritchett is impressed with their ‘calculating powers and creative imaginations’, and you will be too.

Most readers will have seen the extraordinary 62nd game before. I decided to ask Stockfish 14 to have a look. The notoriously hard to please engine was also impressed, but had one issue.

Here, Bourdonnais played 25… Qe3+, when 26. Rf2 would have held, according to both Pritchett and Stockfish. Pritchett also mentions that 25… Ba6 27. Qxa6 favours White: Stockfish 14 thinks Black’s winning after 27… e4!. A remarkable position which you might want to look at yourself. Perhaps Craig was using an older engine.

The theme of tactical brilliance continues with Anderssen, and, inevitably, we see the Immortal and Evergreen Games. Of course most readers will have seen them many times before, but there will always be those new to chess history who will relish witnessing them for the first time.

We then move onto Morphy and Steinitz, which is where the story becomes more complex and therefore more interesting. Pritchett is good at outlining Steinitz’s professionalism, opening research and patience at accumulating small advantages.

Pritchett describes this game as an early ‘hypermodern’ masterpiece, created decades before the term itself even existed, of a most insightful and visionary kind. (Click on any move of any game in this review for a pop-up board. I’ve used Stockfish 14 to annotate the games: readers might like to compare them with the author’s annotations in the book.)

This takes us into what, for me, is the strongest part of the book, covering the last few decades of the 19th and the first few decades of the 20th century. It’s excellent that Pritchett includes sections on Tarrasch and the Hypermoderns along with Lasker and the other world champions. Readers of Ray Keene’s masterpiece Aron Nimzowitsch: A Reappraisal will be aware that he wrote insightfully about the feud between these two players who had very different views about how chess should be played.

Almost half a century on, Keene’s contemporary Pritchett, takes a rather different approach, seeking to find a synthesis between the two. He quite rightly praises Tarrasch’s books Dreihundert Schachpartien and Die Moderne Schachpartie, although accepting that he could at times be over-dogmatic.

If you’ve never studied the games of the 1893 Tarrasch – Chigorin match do yourself a favour and have a look. One of the greatest matches in chess history, in my opinion.

Pritchett offers us the 4th game, although his annotations fail to point out Chigorin’s missed wins at moves 29 and 32.

Moving on from Tarrasch, via Lasker, to Nimzowitsch, Pritchett is just as complimentary about My System and Chess Praxis as he is about Tarrasch’s books, telling us that together they offer a wealth of insightful exposition of the new paths that the game was beginning to take in a post-classical era.

The contrasting champions Capablanca and Alekhine then follow, as stylistically different as Tarrasch and Nimzowitsch were in terms of their ideas and both interpreting their teachings in different ways.

Euwe only merits a very short chapter, and, as you might expect, the Pearl of Zandvoort, the Dutch champion’s most famous game, is demonstrated.

Botvinnik then takes us beyond the Second World War and into the latter half of the 20th century, at which point the tone of the book seems to undergo a gradual change.

As FIDE took over the organising the World Championship (with a break between 1993 and 2006) Pritchett’s narrative becomes more a list of world championship matches than a study of the development of ideas. We meet Smyslov, Tal, Petrosian and Spassky, four players with very different styles. Then, of course, Fischer, Karpov, Kasparov, Kramnik, Anand and Carlsen.

The book ends with chapters on Judit Polgar, understandable in these days where representation is considered so important, and Alpha Zero, whose games add a totally new dimension to the development of chess ideas.

Pritchett quotes this Petrosian game, along with a 1966 interview from Sovetsky Sport, in which Petrosian, when asked what he valued most in chess, replied with the word Logic. I like only those games where I have played in accordance with the demands of the position … logical “correct” play. Botvinnik and Smyslov might both have agreed, but Tal? Probably not.

A different approach might have been to consider the period from 1948 onwards through looking at openings rather than players. You could discuss, for instance, the increasing popularity and development of dynamic openings such as the Sicilian and King’s Indian Defences in the post-war years, followed by the effects brought about by computer usage from, say, 1990 onwards. You’d be looking at the world champions, but also players such as Bronstein and Larsen who also, like Tarrasch and Nimzowitsch in their day, had an impact on the development of chess.

It strikes me that the history of the world championship and the development of chess ideas are two very different, but obviously interconnected subjects. From my perspective as a student of chess history, this book rather falls between two stools. The first half is written more from the latter perspective and the second half more from the former perspective. Inevitably so, perhaps, given the difficulty of telling a long and complex story within the confines of a relatively slim book.

If you’re knowledgeable about chess history, you’ll be familiar with the stories and have seen most of the games before. But if you’re new to the subject, this book, which will appeal to players of all strengths, would be a good place to start. It’s accessible, well researched and written, with well annotated games and well produced, although with a few typos and errors which might have been picked up at proof stage. Not all the analysis stands up to the scrutiny of Stockfish 14 but for most readers that won’t matter. Recommended for those unfamiliar with the subject matter, but perhaps superfluous for those who will have seen most of it before.

Richard James, Twickenham 31st March 2022

Richard James
. Richard James

Book Details :

  • Softcover: 328 pages
  • Publisher: Thinkers Publishing; 1st edition (15 Feb. 2022)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10:9464201436
  • ISBN-13: 978-9464201437
  • Product Dimensions: 17.02 x 2.29 x 23.37 cm

Official web site of Thinkers Publishing

Modern Chess– From Steinitz to the 21st Century, Craig Pritchett, Thinker's Publishing, 15th February 2022, ISBN-10 ‏ : ‎ 9464201436
Modern Chess– From Steinitz to the 21st Century, Craig Pritchett, Thinker’s Publishing, 15th February 2022, ISBN-10 ‏ : ‎ 9464201436
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Beat the Anti-Sicilians

Beat the Anti-Sicilians, Robert Ris, Thinker's Publishing, 11th Jan 2022, ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-9464201369
Beat the Anti-Sicilians, Robert Ris, Thinker’s Publishing, 11th Jan 2022, ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-9464201369

From the publisher:

“I have aimed to find a good balance of verbal explanations without ignoring the hardcore variations you have to know. In case you find some of the analyses a bit too long, don’t be discouraged! They have been included mainly to illustrate the thematic ideas and show in which direction the game develops once the theoretical paths have been left. That’s why I have actually decided to cover 37 games in their entirety, rather than cutting off my analysis with an evaluation. I believe that model games help you to better understand an opening, but certainly also the ensuing middle- and endgames.”

IM Robert Ris
IM Robert Ris

“Robert Ris (1988) is an International Master from Amsterdam. He has represented The Netherlands in various international youth events, but lately his playing activities are limited to league games.

Nowadays he is a full-time chess professional, focusing on teaching in primary schools, coaching talented youngsters and giving online lessons to students all around the world. He has recorded several well received DVDs for ChessBase.

Since 2015 he has been the organizer of the Dutch Rapid Championships. This is his fourth book for Thinkers Publishing, his first two on general chess improvement ‘Crucial Chess Skills for the Club Player‘, being widely appraised by the press and his audience.”

End of blurb.

In July 2021 we reviewed The Modern Sveshnikov by the same author and publisher. Robert sees his new book as a companion volume to the Sveshnikov volume. Indeed these two volumes taken together form a Black repertoire against 1.e4 using the Sicilian Sveshnikov.

This of course raised an issue with the book’s title. When we first received this book we were puzzled that only 2…Nc6 was considered (and why not 2…e6, 2…d6 etc.) which would be odd for a book suggesting it was for the second player dealing with the non-open Sicilian lines. The Preface clarified our confusion.

As with every recent Thinkers Publishing publication high quality paper is used and the printing is clear. With this title we return to the matt paper of previous titles. (You might have noticed from previous reviews that we encourage the use of the more satisfying glossy paper!)

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. The diagram captions have returned.

There is no full Index or Index of Variations (standard practise for Thinker’s Publishing) but, despite that, content navigation is relatively straightforward as the Table of Contents is clear enough.  However, we welcome an Index of Games.

Here are the main Parts:

  1. Rossolimo Variation
  2. Alapin Variation
  3. Anti-Sveshnikov Systems
  4. Odds and Ends

and here is an excerpt in pdf format.

A small  plea to the publishers: Please consider adding an Index of Variations! We say this because of highly detailed level of analysis.

So, the first thing to bear in mind is that Black wishes to play the Sveshnikov Variation and therefore will play 2..Nc6 if possible. Chapter 1 therefore starts with:

which is the most popular and critical black choice in the Rossolimo. Part I is then subdivided into four chapters:

  1. 4.Bxc6
  2. 4.0-0 Bg7 5.Re1
  3. 4.0-0 Bg7 5.-
  4. 4.c3

We note an error in the above entry in the Table of Contents which has 4…g6 instead of 4…Bg7 and the publishers acknowledge this error. 4.0-0 is the most popular alternative and then the capture and 4.c3 trails in third place.

The treatment of the material (for all Parts and Chapters) is by way of 36 (the Preface states 37) complete model games analysed in depth until around move 20 – 25 at which point the remainder of the moves are given without comment. This pattern is repeated throughout and is a successful one.

It might have been entertaining to pitch these chapters against the recent Rossolimo work by Ravi Haria but you will have to buy both books to amuse yourself in this way!

(from the aforementioned title:

Section 5 covers 3…g6 which is arguably the critical continuation. The author offers two different systems against this line: either capturing on c6 immediately or playing 4.0-0 and 5.c3.

so clearly both authors agree and identify 3…g6 4.bxc6 and 4.0-0 as the lines for student study.

Having examined the Rossolimo, which occupies the bulk of the content, we move onto the perhaps less critical but popular Alapin variation in Part II which, following,

is subdivided into three chapters viz:

  1. 4.Nf3 Nc6 5.d4
  2. 4.Nf3 Nc6 5.Bc4
  3. Other Systems

The “Other Systems” include a) d4 cxd4 5.Qxd4 and 5.Bc4 plus
b) 4.g3

Curiously the third most popular fourth move of 4.Bc4 (a favourite of Mamedyarov) is not given independent treatment but this omission is probably not too troublesome.

Part III, Anti-Sveshnikov Systems consists of four chapters:

  1. Various Anti-Sveshnikov
  2. Grand Prix Attack
  3. 2.Nc3 Nc6 and 3. Bb5
  4. Closed Sicilian

with Chapter 8, Various Anti-Sveshnikov breaking down into:

  1. a) 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.d3
  2. b) 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Nc3
  3. c) 2.Nc3 Nc6 3.Nge2

of which a), The King’s Indian Attack is more likely to be seen at club level.

Again, an interesting exercise would be to take some of content of this book and put it up against the suggestions of Gawain Jones in his Coffeehouse Repertoire 1.e4 Volume 1. An exercise for the student! We’ve always imagined a tournament based on books ‘playing’ each other could have some academic merit.

Finally, we find ourselves in Part IV, Odds and Ends which covers exotic 2nd move (after 1.e4 c5) alternatives for White namely:

  1. 2.g3
  2. 2.b3
  3. 2.b4
  4. 2.a3
  5. 2.Be2

with a model game each. One could be picky and ask about 2.Ne2, 2.d3 but these are fairly transpositional.

However, for a repertoire book arguably there is at least one glaring omission and that is 2.d4, The Morra Gambit.  We looked in the Alapin section for potential transpositions but without luck.

This book is a welcome addition to the author’s companion volume and provides a fine repertoire based around the Sveshnikov. As a bonus players of the Accelerated Dragon and Kalashnikov variants will also find material of benefit.  More than that players of any flavour of Sicilian will find useful material in Part IV.

Enjoy!

John Upham, Cove, Hampshire, 26th January, 2022

John Upham
John Upham

Book Details :

  • Hardcover : 248 pages
  • Publisher: Thinkers Publishing; 1st edition (11 Jan. 2022)
  • Language:English
  • ISBN-10:9464201363
  • ISBN-13:978-9464201369
  • Product Dimensions: 17.15 x 2 x 23.5 cm

Official web site of Thinkers Publishing

Beat the Anti-Sicilians, Robert Ris, Thinker's Publishing, 11th Jan 2022, ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-9464201369
Beat the Anti-Sicilians, Robert Ris, Thinker’s Publishing, 11th Jan 2022, ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-9464201369
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Your Jungle Guide to 1.d4!: Aggressive Enterprise – QGA and Minors

Your Jungle Guide to 1.d4! - Volume 1A: Aggressive Enterprise - QGA and Minors, Vassilios Kotronias and Mikhail Ivanov, Thinkers Publishing, 21 Dec. 2021, ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-9464201239
Your Jungle Guide to 1.d4! – Volume 1A: Aggressive Enterprise – QGA and Minors, Vassilios Kotronias and Mikhail Ivanov, Thinkers Publishing, 21 Dec. 2021, ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-9464201239

From the publisher:

“Grandmasters Kotronias and Ivanov are renowned as leading theoreticians and chess trainers. They offer a unique and world-class repertoire based on 1.d4! They advocate an ambitious approach for White, with the aim to fight for an advantage in any position. This is their first joint effort; they tackle the ever-popular Queen’s Gambit Accepted and their sidelines in Volume 1A and 1B.

We at Thinkers believe their job could not have been done any better.”

 Flickr Vasilios Kotronias | Photo by Niki Riga | Gibraltar International Chess Festival | Flickr

Flickr
Vasilios Kotronias | Photo by Niki Riga | Gibraltar International Chess Festival | Flickr

“Vassilios Kotronias was born in 1964 and is the first Greek Grandmaster. He is a former top-50 player and has represented both Greece and Cyprus in many chess Olympiads, mostly on the 1st board. He has also authored several chess books, his most notable work being a 5-Volume work on the King’s Indian Defense.

He has been extraordinarily successful in individual competitions overall, winning prestigious events such as Gibraltar, Hastings, Capelle la Grande (in a tie) and numerous other closed and open tournaments. He did qualify several times for FIDE’s knock-out World Cup tournament and participated often in European Individual Championships, as well as club events. He won trophies with prestigious chess clubs in the leagues of Greece, Serbia, Italy, Sweden, Hungary etc.

As a trainer he has coached the Greek National team and strong world class players like Alexei Shirov, Veselin Topalov and Nigel Short. ”

Mikhail Ivanov, was born in 1969, Bryansk, Russia.

He earned his Grandmaster title in 1993 and won countless chess events in the European chess circuits. We remember him being among the winners of one the largest opens in Europe (the Neckar Open, now better known as the Grenke Chess Open), 2002 with L.Aronian and winning this event in 1998. He played for several different European clubs in the Bundesliga, Austria, Iceland, Finland, France, Belgium, Luxemburg, Czech Republic, etc. During the European Club Championship in Ohrid (2009), he took 3rd place on the 2nd board. He mainly focused now on coaching and writing.”

End of blurb.

As with every recent Thinkers Publishing publication high quality paper is used and the printing is clear. With this title we return to the excellent glossy paper of previous titles.

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.

There is no Index or Index of Variations (standard practise for Thinker’s Publishing) but, despite that, content navigation is relatively straightforward as the Table of Contents is clear enough.

Here are the main chapters:

  1. Chigorin
  2. Albin Gambit
  3. Baltic Ultimate
  4. Mamedyarov System
  5. Queen’s Gambit Accepted 3.e4 c5
  6. Queen’s Gambit Accepted 3.e4 b5

and here is an excerpt in pdf format.

The first thing to notice is that this is a repertoire book from the perspective of the first player and that it is designated Volume 1A. Volume 1B will treat the remainder of the QGA repertoire for White and later to be published volumes 2-5 will cover the other lines for White. Eventually there will be six volumes (1A, 1B, 2, 3, 4 and 5) in total.

So, clearly this is part of an ambitious project going into immense detail suited to the active tournament player and the project is to provide an active repertoire for White based around 1. d4 and 2. c4 where possible. Reviewing the repertoire based around one out of six volumes is, of course, not possible.

Interestingly Kotronias is usually a 1.e4 player and declares that he was motivated to

dive into new waters

for this project whereas Ivanov is almost the opposite with 616 games starting 1.d4, 447 with 1.Nf3 and 78 with 1.c4 which makes for an unusual collaboration.

Chapter 1 kicks-off with the Chigorin Defence with 3.Nf3! being recommended:

which fits in nicely also with someone who plays a 2.Nf3 or even 1.Nf3 move order. 3.Nf3 is the most popular move in Megabase 2022 with 4704 games just edging out 3. Nc3 and 3. cxd5.

Of course 3…Bg4 IS the main line but for the sake of completeness we would have included 3…e5 (as played by Morozevich) with at least a mention as it is very much in the spirit of the Chigorin.

The most interesting point in this line is what should White play here:

boiling down to the eternal motif of

Which rook?

and the authors spend considerable effort looking at these two (plus the curious 10.Bg2!?) options. In the main the early analysis is verbose and rich with explanation. To find out if 10.Rg1 or 10.Rb1 receives the ultimate seal of approval you will need to purchase the book. The analysis at say move 10 onwards is highly detailed but also with helpful explanation.

So, if you are new to the Chigorin (or not) with White the depth is excellent.

Chapter 2 visits that club player favourite, the Albin Counter-Gambit:

and we get to the tabiya of

where all of Black’s sensible options are discussed in depth.

The Baltic (or Grau) Defence is the next subject of discussion and this time the authors put the proverbial cat amongst the pigeons with the off-the-wall suggestion of 3.Qb3!?

which certainly wastes no time in hitting the Baltic’s Achilles heel, the b7 pawn. 3.Qb3!? scores 61.4% over 243 games and is preferred by Sokolov and Novikov. The authors follow 3.Qb3!? with the more main stream 3.cxd5! as the main repertoire recommendation.

It is not often we encounter a new opening name and the Mamedyarov System meant nothing to us before we looked it up. This would appear to be their new name for what chess.com classifies as the Austrian Defence:

which Shakhriyar Mamedyarov has essayed 51 times scoring a noteworthy 63.7% with the Black pieces, The authors utilise 18 pages on this unusual choice so that White players will not be caught unawares.

The remaining chapters cover 1. d4 d5; 2.c4 dxc4; 3.e4 with either 3…c5 or 3..b5 from pages 126 – 319 which is a stunning amount of analysis and detail.

Noteworthy is that Duda used one of the authors TNs in his 2022 game with Sergei Karjakin at Wijk aan Zee to good effect:

 

and the full game was:

 

Seeing as this is merely part 1 of a projected 6 parts we have a feeling this could easily be described as an epic series of tomes. It remains to be seen what is included and what, if any, lines are omitted. The level of coverage is unusually flexible in that it caters for players new to lines and then provides a huge level of detail.

We very much look forward to receiving the rest of the series.

A small  plea to the publishers: Please consider adding an Index of Variations! We say this because of highly detailed level of analysis. A minor observation is the enthusiastic sprinkling of !s after moves: clearly this is a matter of taste.

John Upham, Cove, Hampshire, 22nd January, 2022

John Upham
John Upham

Book Details :

  • Hardcover : 430 pages
  • Publisher: Thinkers Publishing; 1st edition (21 Dec. 2021)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 9464201231
  • ISBN-13: 978-9464201239
  • Product Dimensions: 17.15 x 2 x 23.5 cm

Official web site of Thinkers Publishing

Your Jungle Guide to 1.d4! - Volume 1A: Aggressive Enterprise - QGA and Minors, Vassilios Kotronias and Mikhail Ivanov, Thinkers Publishing, 21 Dec. 2021, ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-9464201239
Your Jungle Guide to 1.d4! – Volume 1A: Aggressive Enterprise – QGA and Minors, Vassilios Kotronias and Mikhail Ivanov, Thinkers Publishing, 21 Dec. 2021, ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-9464201239
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