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Understanding Pawn Endgames

Understanding Pawn Endgames: Valentin Bogdanov

From the publisher, Gambit Publications “Understanding the endgame is fundamental to playing good chess, and at its heart lie positions where just kings and pawns remain on the board.

Even when a pawn ending is not actually reached, the players must often assess ones that could arise from an exchange of pieces. And an error calculating a pawn ending is normally fatal. Questions of pawn-structure, and thus decisions made early in the game, can be fully understood only when we appreciate how they impact the possible pawn endings.

This book takes a practical angle, so is the perfect complement to Secrets of Pawn Endings, which examines their theory in detail. Experienced trainer Bogdanov examines a wealth of pawn endings where strong players made significant errors, and draws lessons and rules of thumb from them.

While we are enjoying the entertaining material in this book, we are painlessly absorbing endgame principles and improving our intuitive decision-making skills. We learn how to calculate and identify key positional elements, and appreciate the beautiful tactics and paradoxical ideas that are unique to the world of pawns.

The Nunn Convention is used throughout the book, and all the material has been checked in detail with modern NNUE-based engines with access to seven-man tablebases.”

International Master Valentin Bogdanov has vast experience as a chess trainer, and is from Ukraine. His pupils include grandmasters Moskalenko, Savchenko and Drozdovsky, and he has acted as a second for the well-known grandmaster and theoretician Viacheslav Eingorn since the late 1970s.

For 50 years he has been a teacher at the chess school in Odesa (Ukraine), and in 2016 won the European Over-65 Championship. In the same year he also qualified as an International Arbiter and has since then officiated over a great many chess events in his country.

This is his fourth book for Gambit.

IM Valentin Bogdanov (UKR)
IM Valentin Bogdanov (UKR)

Before we start our review it is worth watching this video preview from John Nunn and Gambit Publications:

This is a excellent book that has an emphasis on practical king and pawn endgames. All the examples are taken from 1981 onwards which means that the reader will see novel positions rather than a rehash of old favourites. The other fresh approach is the structure of the ten chapters based on themes rather than the number of pawns. This book is not for beginners or very inexperienced club players as it assumes a basic knowledge of elementary pawn endgames. It is aimed at 1750+ chess enthusiasts but ambitious lower rated readers will benefit from some of the easier examples. The more difficult positions will tax GMs. This book would be ideal material for a coach for training purposes to give the students a toolkit of ideas.

The chapter structure is as follows:

Chapter 1: Obvious Errors
Chapter 2: Breakthrough
Chapter 3: Zugzwang
Chapter 4: Opposition and Corresponding Squares
Chapter 5:Spare Tempi
Chapter 6: The Fight To Promote
Chapter 7: Changing the Pawn-Structure
Chapter 8: Calculation
Chapter 9: Evaluating the Resulting Queen Endings
Chapter 10: Positional Play

The reviewer will  show examples distributed from all the chapters to give the reader a flavour of this instructional idyll.

Chapter 1: Obvious Errors

Position 21

Movsesian-Sadvakasov Calvia Olympiad 2004
Movsesian-Sadvakasov Calvia Olympiad 2004              White to play

White, Movsesian, a 2600+ GM played the dreadful blunder 59.Kc6? (throwing away a totally winning pawn endgame. 59.Kc5! wins as the threat is to play Kb4 which will preserve white’s remaining pawn as a b-pawn with the king in front and a reserve tempo move of b3, if 59…a3 60.bxa3! Ke7 61. Kc6 Kd8 62.Kb7! and the a-pawn promotes) 59…Ke6 60.Kb5 reaching this position:

Movsesian-Sadvakasov Move 60 Calvia Olympiad 2004
Movsesian-Sadvakasov Calvia Olympiad 2004 Move 60 Black to play

Now, black drew with a common, but nevertheless neat idea:
60…a3! (transforming white’s pawn into a now useless a-pawn, as black’s king is just close enough to draw) 61.bxa3! Kd7! 62.Kb6 Kc8! reaching c8 with an elementary draw

Position 22

Forcen Esteban - Lagarde
Forcen Esteban – Lagarde Internet rapid 2019 Move 83 Black to play

This position is simpler than the last one.
Both players are rated well over 2500!
Black is to play here and after the obvious 83..b3, it is crystal clear to a novice player that both sides are going to promote with a draw, even though white promotes first. If 83…Kb7 trying to impede the advance of the d-pawn, white can play 84.Kf6 making sure that the d-pawn does promote with a stone cold draw.
Black played 83…Kb8? (Placing the king on the back rank presumably in the mistaken belief that he could stop the white pawn from promoting. 84.Kf6! b3 85.d7! followed by promoting with check, winning the game, thanks to black’s foolish Kb8 move!

Chapter 2: Breakthrough

This is a key topic in pawn endings and there are many beautiful examples. Sometimes, the threat of a breakthrough can limit the opponent’s king manoeuvres, thus winning the game indirectly.
Once a player has seen some pretty examples of this theme, they are never forgotten.

Position 33

Nikolic-Lautier Reykjavik rapid 2004
Nikolic-Lautier Reykjavik rapid 2004                                   White to play

White missed a chance for a standard breakthrough against black’s mangled pawns viz: 35.h5 Kd7 36.g5 reaching this key position:

Nikolic-Lautier Reykjavik rapid 2005 Move 36
Nikolic-Lautier Reykjavik rapid 2005 Move 36                 Black to move

Now there are two main variations:

A) 36…Ke8 37.gxh6! Kf8 38.Kc2 Kg8 39.Kb3

Nikolic-Lautier Reykjavik rapid 2005 variation A
Nikolic-Lautier Reykjavik rapid 2005 variation A

and white wins the race to get a new queen for example: 39… Kh7 (39…a5 40.a4 breaks through) 40.Kb4 Kxh6 41.Kc5 Kxh5 42.Kxd5 Kg4 43.Kc6 Kxf4 44.d5 wins easily

B) 36…fxg5 37.fxg5! Ke8 38.gxh6! Kf8 39.Ke3

Nikolic-Lautier Reykjavik rapid 2005 variation B
Nikolic-Lautier Reykjavik rapid 2005 variation B

39…Kg8 40.Kf4 Kh7 41.Kg5 winning

Back to the original position: white played 35.Kc2? f5! 36.g5 h5! 37. Kb3 draw agreed

Position 36

Gashimov-Anastasian Dubai 2003 Move 53
Gashimov-Anastasian Dubai 2003 Move 53                     White to play

White has an outside passed a-pawn and was probably dreaming of swapping his a-pawn for black’s c-pawn, leaving black to deal with an outside passed b-pawn, while white’s king mops up the king side pawns winning the game, hence his next move 53.Kc3?

A more alert white player would have spotted the danger of black’s advanced kingside pawns. It might look as though black can only create a passed e-pawn as his extra kingside pawn is on the e-file, but this an illusion: black can now breakthrough creating a pawn configuration that ties down the white king permanently, thus allowing black to win on the queenside. Once seen never forgotten!
53…e4! would have won threatening e3 or f3 winning, if 54.Kd2 f3! 55.gxf3 exf3 reaching a position similar to the game

53…Kd5? 54.a4? Pursing his faulty plan, 54.Kd2! would have drawn 54…e4! 55.Kd2 (55.gxf4 allows an immediate breakthrough 55…e3! 56.fxe3 h4! and the h-pawn queens) 55…f3! 56.gxf3 exf3! reaching this position:

Gashimov-Anastasian Dubai 2003 Move 56
Gashimov-Anastasian Dubai 2003 Move 56                    White to play

White’s king is tied down and cannot cross to the c-file as this allows a decisive breakthrough of h4! Therefore black’s king can invade on the queenside with decisive gains viz: 57.Ke3 Kc5 58.Ke4 Kb4 59.Kd4 Kxa4 60.Kxc4 h4 61.b3+ Ka3 62.gxh4 g3! 63.Kd4 0-1

Position 38

Mamedyarov-Sokolov Hoogeveen 2006
Mamedyarov-Sokolov Hoogeveen 2006                             White to play

White missed the elegant 59.f5! b3 60.Kc3! Kd5 61.e6 fxe6 62.f6 62…gxf6 63.h5! and the h-pawn queens.

White played 59.Kc4? and still won after black missed a draw.

Chapter 3: Zugzwang

Here is a subtle example, but nevertheless didactic:

Position 56

Grabarczyk - Rustemov
Grabarczyk – Rustemov Koszalin 1997                                 Black to play

This ending looks like an easy win for black with a extra passed pawn. But be careful!
Black played the natural 52…Kg5? which throws away the win. This won’t become clear for a few moves. 52…Kg6! wins
53.f4+ exf3 54.Kxf3! h5 55.Kg3! reaching a position of mutual zugzwang:

Grabarczyk-Rustemov Mutual Zugzwang
Grabarczyk-Rustemov Mutual Zugzwang

If black had played 52…Kg6, white would be on move here and would be lost as 56.Kh3 or 56.Kf3 would be met by 56…h4 and any other king move would allow 56…Kg4 winning easily.

The game continued 55…h4+ 56.Kf3! Kh5 57.Kf4! Kh6 58.e4! h3 59.Kg3 drawn

Chapter 4: Opposition and Corresponding Squares

The introduction to this chapter is excellent explaining the concept of the opposition, the distant opposition, corresponding squares and triangulation.

Here is a simple example from a game between players rated in the 2400s:

Position 70

Heim - Helmers Reykjavik 1981
Heim – Helmers Reykjavik 1981                                               White to play

White played the “active” 55.Ke4? (55.Kf2! maintaining the distant opposition draws a textbook ending) 55…Ke6! winning the opposition 56. Kf3 Kd5 bypassing 57.Ke3 Ke5! 58.Kf3 Kd4 (another bypass) 59.Kf2 Kd3 60.Kf3 g4+ and white threw in the towel

Chapter 5: Spare Tempi

Position 105

Siugirov - Lupulescu Jerusalem 2015
Siugirov – Lupulescu Jerusalem 2015                                     Black to Play

The author’s explanation of black’s defensive plan here is pithy and pedagogical:

“Black’s defensive plan is to let White  take the a7-pawn and then block the king in permanently in front of his own a-pawn. For this idea to work, Black needs a spare tempo on the kingside, as otherwise he will be forced to release the white king from its a-file prison. Immediately fixing the kingside pawns by 43…g5!? secures two such tempi and is the simplest path to a draw viz: 44.Kc6 Ke5 45.Kb7 Kd6! 46.Kxa7 Kc7! 47.h3 h6 48.a6 h5!”

Siugirov - Lupulescu Jerusalem 2016 Trapped king
Siugirov – Lupulescu Jerusalem 2016 Trapped king

White does not enough tempi to release his imprisoned king.

In practice Black played 43…Kd7 which retains the draw but mis-defended on the next move and lost.

Interestingly, I had a similar position in a game many decades ago with reversed flanks. I won the game and proudly showed the endgame to a friend, who promptly demonstrated a drawing plan for my opponent identical to this game.

Chapter 6: The Fight To Promote

Mchedlishvili - Jankovic
Mchedlishvili – Jankovic Dubai 2009                                     White to move

White totally mis-assessed the resulting king and pawn endgame after the exchange of queens here. He probably thought that his connected passed pawns on the kingside were at least a match for black’s queenside majority. 

34.Qxf7+? Kxf7 35.g4 a5 36.Kf2 c5 37.Ke3 d5 38.Kd3 a5 reaching this position:

Mchedlishvili - Jankovic Winning queenside majority
Mchedlishvili – Jankovic Winning queenside majority

What white missed was that black can create a passed a-pawn and a passed d-pawn (separated by two files) and these pawns can reach the fifth rank safely which means they are unstoppable.

White played the desperate 39.c4 dxc4+ (39…bxc4+ also wins) 40.Kc3 a3 41.h4 Kg6 42.g5 h5 43.Kd2 b4 44.Kc2 c3 white resigned

7: Changing the Pawn-Structure

This is one of the most complex chapters and the hardest to evaluate in practice.

The reviewer will show an excellent example to show a typical idea:

Position 153

Kasparov - Azmaiparashvili Geropotamos rapid 2003
Kasparov – Azmaiparashvili Geropotamos rapid 2003  Black to play

Black played the automatic 46…Kc6? White won with a well known technique exploiting the fact that his king is one move ahead in the race to the kingside 47.h4! f5 48.g3! Kc5 (48…Kc7 49.Ka7 Kc6 50.Kb8 wins) 49.Kb7! and black resigned because of this variation: 49…b5 50.axb5 Kxb5 51.Kc7 Kc4 52.Kd6 Kd3 53.Ke6 Ke3 54.Kf6 Kf3 55.Kxg6! Kxg3

Kasparov - Azmaiparashvili Geropotamos rapid 2004 possible continuation
Kasparov – Azmaiparashvili Geropotamos rapid 2004 possible continuation White to play

56.Kg5! winning

Going back to the original position:

Kasparov - Azmaiparashvili Geropotamos rapid 2003
Kasparov – Azmaiparashvili Geropotamos rapid 2003  Black to play

Instead of the passive 46…Kc6? black can actively rearrange the kingside pawn structure to draw as follows:

46…h4! 47.Ka7 f5 48.h3

Kasparov - Azmaiparashvili Geropotamos rapid 2004 variation in missed draw
Kasparov – Azmaiparashvili Geropotamos rapid 2004 variation in missed draw Black to play

48…Kc6! 49.Kb8 Kc5 50.Kc7 Kb4 51.Kxb6 Kxa4 52.Kc5 Kb3! 53.Kd4 Kc2! 54. Ke5 Kd3 55.Kf6 Ke4 56.Kxg6 Kxf4! 57.Kf6!

Kasparov - Azmaiparashvili Geropotamos rapid 2004 variation in missed move 57
Kasparov – Azmaiparashvili Geropotamos rapid 2004 variation in missed draw move 57 Black to play

Black draws here with 57…Ke4! 58.Kg5 Ke5! 59.Kxh4 Kf4! 60.g4 (60.g3 Ke3 draws) 60…Ke5! 61.g5 f4! 62.Kg4 Ke4! leads to a drawn Q + h-pawn v Q endgame

Kasparov - Azmaiparashvili Geropotamos rapid 2004 variation in missed move 62
Kasparov – Azmaiparashvili Geropotamos rapid 2004 variation in missed draw move 62 White to play

Position 158

The reviewer loves this endgame.

Gelfand-Jobava (Move 50)
Gelfand-Jobava (Move 50)

This king and pawn ending is clearly drawn but white is pressing with a more advanced king. White played 50.h4 setting a subtle trap. 50…h5? losing, incredible to believe but it is true. 50…Kd7 draws, for example 51.g4 f6+ 52.Kd5 e6+ 53.Kc5 h6 54. e5 fxe5 55.fxe5 Kc7 seizing the opposition and drawing 51.f5! f6+ 52.Ke6! gxf5

Gelfand-Jobava (Move 53)
Gelfand-Jobava (Move 53)

Now white played 53. e5! which had been completed missed by black (automatic recapture syndrome) 53… fxe5 54.Kxe5! Kd7 55.Kxf5! Kd6 56.Kg5 Ke5 57.Kxh5! Kf4

Gelfand-Jobava (Move 57)
Gelfand-Jobava (Move 57)

Now white can enter a winning queen endgame with 58.Kg6! e5 59.h5! e4 60.h6! e3 61.h7! e2! 62.h8Q e1Q 

Gelfand - Jobava Dortmund 2006 Queen Ending
Gelfand – Jobava Dortmund 2006 Queen Ending            White to play

This looks drawn as the white g-pawn is only on the second rank and the black king is close to it. However, white has a series of checks to exploit the poor position of the black pieces viz:

63. Qb8+ Kg4 64. Qc8+ Kf4 (64…Kg3 65.Qh3! is the same as the game) 65. Qf5+ Kg3 66.Qh3+ Ke5 67.g4!

Gelfand - Jobava Dortmund 2006 Queen Ending Tablebase win
Gelfand – Jobava Dortmund 2006 Queen Ending Tablebase win

Surprisingly this is a tablebase win even though the g-pawn is only on the fourth rank. Looking more closely at the position, black’s pieces are badly placed with the king interfering with the queen. If the black king was in the south west corner, he would draw.

Gelfand did win this game about 50 moves later after mistakes by both sides.

Chapter 8: Calculation

Clearly this is absolutely critical in king and pawn endings.
Here is a relatively simple example:

Position 172

Ikonnikov - Liogky Paris 1998
Ikonnikov – Liogky Paris 1998 Black to play

Black played the obvious exchange 47…hxg5? which loses trivially 48.hxg5! Kf1 49.Kf3! Kg1 50.Kg3 (50.g6 Kh2 51.Kg4! also wins) 50…Kg1 51.g6! Black resigned as white’s king travels to f7 and black’s cannot get to h6 in time.

Ikonnikov - Liogky Paris 1999 End
Ikonnikov – Liogky Paris 1999 Final Position Black to play

Going back to the start:

Ikonnikov - Liogky Paris 1998
Ikonnikov – Liogky Paris 1998

Black can draw with 47…h5! After 48.g6 viz:

Ikonnikov - Liogky Paris 1999 Drawing Line
Ikonnikov – Liogky Paris 1999 Drawing Line

As soon as white plays Kxh5, black will answer Kf4 stalemate!
If white goes after the g-pawn, black draws by going after the h-pawn, for example 48…Kf1 49.Kf4 Kg2 50.Ke5 Kh3 51.Ke6 Kxh4 52.Kf7 Kg3 53.Kg7 h4 54.Kf6 h3 55.g7 h2 56.g8Q+ Kf2 drawing

Chapter 9: Evaluating the Resulting Queen Endings

The introduction to this chapter by the author is a superb summary of the intricacies of these transitions. The reviewer has already given an example from Chapter 7 (position 158), so I will leave the reader to buy the book to sample this chapter.

Chapter 10: Positional Play

Position 259

Radjabov - Ding Liren Internet rapid 2021
Radjabov – Ding Liren Internet rapid 2021 Black to play

This looks very difficult for black as not only does white have a potential outside passed pawn but also a better king. He played 52…Kc6? and lost. Buy the book to find out how black can draw or work it for yourself!

In summary, this is a really good book and close study will reap rewards.  The book is very well laid out and is easy to read with lots of diagrams. Thoroughly recommended.

FM Richard Webb, Chineham, Hampshire, 30th May 2021

FM Richard Webb
FM Richard Webb

Here is a pdf extract from Everyman

Book Details :

  • Hardcover : 192 pages
  • Publisher: Gambit Publications Ltd (16 Sept. 2020)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1911465597
  • ISBN-13: 978-1911465591
  • Product Dimensions: 17.15 x 1.52 x 24.77 cm

Official web site of Gambit Publications Ltd.

Understanding Pawn Endgames, Valentin Bogdanov, Gambit Publications, ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-1915328854
Understanding Pawn Endgames, Valentin Bogdanov, Gambit Publications, ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-1915328854

Thinkers Chess Academy Volume 3 – Test your chess knowledge – Crucial exercises to sharpen your understanding

Grandmaster Thomas Luther, born in 1969, is the first player with a disability to have entered the FIDE Top 100 rating list. In 2001 he was ranked 80th in the world. He has won the German Championship three times and is well known as an experienced and successful coach. In 2014 his achievements were recognised by being granted the title of FIDE Senior Trainer. In his career to-date he has published several books and DVDs. This is his fourth book for Thinkers’ Publishing, after a co-production with Jugend Schach Verlag entitled ‘Chess Coaching for Kids – the U10 Project‘ and the current series

GM Thomas Luther
GM Thomas Luther

This is the third volume in Thinkers’ Chess Academy (TCA), an ever-growing series written by Grandmaster and FIDE Senior Trainer Thomas Luther intended for beginners through to club standard players.

John Upham has previously reviewed the first volume, First Steps in Tactics, although I note a negative review on Amazon which considered the examples were too hard for the target market. Volume 2, From Tactics to Strategy – Winning Knowledge, which, I believe, hasn’t been submitted for review by BCN, covers more advanced tactics along with an introduction to strategy.

Volume 3 is designed as a workbook for readers of the two previous volumes, while also providing more challenging exercises for ambitious students.

From the author’s introduction (it’s also on the publisher’s website):

Not every reader is ambitious enough or has enough time to work very hard on his chess. That’s quite understandable and nothing to be ashamed of. You can enjoy chess very well without being a strong tournament player. You could just entertain yourself by playing through interesting combinations. In this case don’t try too hard to solve the Advanced Lessons or Master Class exercises. Have a look to make yourself familiar with the position, than look at the solution and enjoy the surprising combinations. You won’t learn as much as you would by racking your brain to crack the hard nuts. But some knowledge and experience will certainly rub off and increase your understanding of chess. I hope this book will help you to work towards your goals and let have you fun with chess.

The book has an unusual structure. We have 20 chapters alternately easier and harder, with the answers at the end of each chapter. Less experienced players are advised to work through the odd numbered chapters first before tackling the odd numbered chapters, while stronger players could work through the book in order, using the odd numbered chapters as ward-up exercises.

An interesting concept, but does it work? Let’s take a look inside. All the odd numbered chapters are billed simply as ‘Quick Test’, although their specific themes are discussed in the chapter introductions.  The first Quick Test, which corresponds to Chapter 7 of TCA1, features mates in up to 2 moves. Other tests involve winning material in various ways. There is a gradual increase in length and complexity, until, by Chapter 19 you’ll be able to find wins (material or mate) in up to 5 moves.

I enjoyed Chapter 9 (Quick Test 5): From The Good Old Times!

Can you find this mate in 3 (Napier – Amateur 1904)?

Ng5+ is only a mate in 4: it’s quicker and more spectacular to play 1. Qg6+ Bxg6 2. Ng5+ hxg5 3. hxg6#

This, for example is Q12 in Chapter 19.

If you can solve this within a few seconds you’re a pretty good tactician: quite a jump forward from the simple positions in Chapter 1.

In case you haven’t spotted it yet: 1. Bxf6 Bxf6 2. Qxe6+ Kg7 3. Qxf6+ Kxf6 4. Nxd5+ followed by 5. Nxb6.

The even numbered chapters, apart from Chapter 2, have more specific titles, Chapters 4-12 being Advanced Lessons and Chapters 14-20 being Master Classes. We have (from 4 in steps of 2): Easy Tactics in the Endgame, Chess History, Checkmate in Up to 5 Moves, Advantage or Mate in Up to 5 Moves, All Kinds of Draws, Advantage in 5 or More Moves, The Classics, Studies and finally The Long Way to Checkmate. Yes, of course some two move combinations can be much harder to spot than some five move combinations, but the author has been very careful in his choice of material.

This is from Chapter 10: Mohammad Fahad – Vatsal Mumbai 2018.

White won by continuing 17. fxe6 fxe6 18. Nxe5 dxe5 19. Nxe6 Bxe6 20. Bb5+ Kf7 21. Qf2+ Bf6 22. Rxd8. A nice example of a clearance; very difficult to see, according to Luther.

Like many leading chess teachers these days, Thomas Luther is very keen on endgame studies. “Don’t be frightened or repulsed by the studies”, he says in the introduction to Chapter 4. “They are not like problem chess but very practical and instructive. You can learn a lot by trying to solve them.”

Here, from Chapter 18, is an 1851 study by Horwitz and Kling.

The solution runs like this: 1. Ra4+ Ke5 2. Ra5 c5 3. Rxc5 Qxc5 4. d4+ Qxd4 5. Nc6+ Kd5 6. Nxd4 Kxd4 7. Kf3

Instructive, I think, because you need to know basic KP v K theory as well as being able to spot knight forks.

The book is beautifully produced and the author has clearly put a lot of thought into both the selection of the puzzles and the structure of the chapters.

If you’re following the Thinkers’ Chess Academy series you’ll definitely want this book. If you’re looking for a book, with puzzles you probably haven’t seen before, this book would also be an excellent choice. I would place this volume high up in my list of recommended puzzle books for club standard players.

Of course many players these days prefer to solve puzzles online, but there’s also much to be said for the old-fashioned method of using a book. Although I’d guess the main target market would be roughly 1250-1750 rated players, anyone between, say, 1000 and 2000 strength would find this book both instructive and enjoyable. Lower rated players should work through the odd numbered chapters first, while higher rated players will prefer to start at the beginning and work through sequentially.

If you want to make sure the book’s for you, you can read the first three chapters here.

Richard James, Twickenham 3rd June 2024

Richard James
. Richard James

Book Details:

  • Softcover : 362 pages
  • Publisher: Thinkers Publishing; 1st edition (20 Dec. 2022)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 9464201673
  • ISBN-13: 978-9464201673
  • Product Dimensions: 17.02 x 2.54 x 23.37 cm

Official web site of Thinkers Publishing

Thinkers Chess Academy Volume 3 – Test your chess knowledge – Crucial exercises to sharpen your understanding, Thomas Luther, Thinker's Publishing, Thinkers Publishing; 1st edition (20 Dec. 2022)
Thinkers Chess Academy Volume 3 – Test your chess knowledge – Crucial exercises to sharpen your understanding, Thomas Luther, Thinker’s Publishing, Thinkers Publishing; 1st edition (20 Dec. 2022)

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

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

Re-Engineering The Chess Classics: A Silicon Reappraisal of Thirty-Five Classic Games

From the publisher:

“Matthew Sadler is the world’s greatest expert in computer chess – and what it brings to us humans in new insights. In this book, the authors have unleashed the collective power of Leela, Komodo and Stockfish to look at 35 classic games played by fan favourites such as Boris Spassky, Mikhail Tal, Bent Larsen and Bobby Fischer. The authors have re-engineered a wonderful collection of classic games. Their findings illustrate the richness and beauty of chess. But they have also generated dozens of positional chess lessons that will help every club player and expert to improve their game.”

From the back cover:

“Are you ready for new strategic insights about thirty-five of the most fascinating and complex chess games ever played by World Champions and other top grandmasters? Grandmaster Matthew Sadler and renowned chess writer Steve Giddins take a fresh look at some classic games ranging from Anderssen-Dufresne, played in 1852, to Botvinnik-Bronstein (1951) and Geller-Euwe (1953). They unleashed the collective power of Leela, Komodo and Stockfish to help us humans understand what happened in games of fan favourites such as Boris Spassky, Mikhail Tal, Bent Larsen and Bobby Fischer.

“The first chess engines improved our appreciation of the classic games by pointing out the tactical mistakes in the original, contemporary game notes, But the expertise of Matthew Sadler is to uncover the positional course of a game with the help of the second generation of chess engines that emerged after 2018.

“This book will change your perception of these games’ strategic and technical patterns. You will, for example, learn to appreciate and understand a classic Capablanca endgame. And a classic Petrosian exchange sacrifice. And a winning, and then losing, king-hunt endgame between Spassky and Tal. You will see how Larsen already understood the strength of the h-pawn march far before AlphaZero’s revelation. The engines offer new strategic ideas and plans that human players have yet to consider. Even ‘the best even anti-King’s Indian player’, Viktor Korchnoi, would be amazed by the engine’s unique ideas about White’s breakthroughs on the queenside.

The most instructive games are often those which are more strategic and technical. Using modern engines, the authors have re-engineered a wonderful collection of classic games, generating dozens of positional chess lessons that will help every club player and expert improve their game.”

About the authors:
Matthew Sadler (1974) is a Grandmaster and a former British Champion. He has been writing the famous Sadler on Books column for New In Chess magazine for many years. With his co-author Natasha Regan, Sadler twice won the prestigious English Chess Federation Book of the Year Award. In 2016 for Chess for Life and in 2019 for their worldwide bestseller Game Changer: AlphaZero’s Groundbreaking Chess Strategies and the Promise of AI.

GM Matthew Sadler
GM Matthew Sadler

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

FM Steve Giddins
FM Steve Giddins

What we have here is a collection of 35 games annotated in depth using the latest technology. In their introduction the authors mention 40 games, and Matthew, in his technical note, refers to Korchnoi – Van Wely (Game 34) as Game 39. It seems, then, that five games were removed at the last minute to save space and keep the cost of the book down.

The games all predate the modern computer age, dating from Anderssen – Dufresne (the Evergreen Game) in 1852 to Portisch – Chiburdanidze in 1998. All the World Champions up to Karpov with the exception of Smyslov are featured. It’s noticeable that five of the games feature at least one female player.

It’s a lovely (to use Matthew’s favourite word) collection as well. We have some wild tactical games as well as strategic and technical masterpieces, and many games with both elements. While some will be perhaps over-familiar there will be others you probably haven’t seen before.

What the authors have done is subjected their chosen games to extensive computer analysis, playing engine v engine matches (mostly involving versions of Stockfish, Leela and Komodo) from critical positions in an attempt to discover the objective truth about at what point the winner reached a decisive advantage. Some of these games have been included in the notes, indicated by a vertical line to the left of the column, so that you can easily skip them if you don’t want to play them through. You can see how this works by referring to the sample pages here.

One game that interested me was Znosko-Borovsky – Alekhine (Paris 1933).

Ever since the days of Capablanca, there has been a tendency to assume that a small advantage somehow automatically leads to a win, in the hands of a great technical master such as Capablanca or Karpov.

If you’re familiar (as you should be) with Alekhine’s best games collections, you may recall that in this position he formed a six-point plan which would by force lead to a winning position.

By this point Alekhine had completed his plan, reaching a position where his king is more active and his rook can infiltrate via the open a-file. Znosko-Borovsky erred here by playing 33. c4?, after which he was definitely losing, but the engine games where White remained passive with something like Be1 were all drawn.

Of course you have to factor in the human element as well. The position was easier for Black to play, and the black pieces were handled by a player of extraordinary ability, but one of the lessons you learn from this book is how many positions that appear bad can be defended successfully.

A game I really enjoyed was that between two future World Champions, Spassky and Tal, from the final round of the 1958 Soviet Championship. Spassky, playing white, had to win to guarantee qualification for the Interzonal later that year. A rook ending was reached in which both players promoted. Spassky started chasing Tal’s king round the board, but, tragically for him, blundered away first the win and then the draw, and found himself out of the world championship cycle. As you know, Tal went on to win first the Interzonal, and then the Candidates before taking the title off Botvinnik (the 6th game from this match also features here).

The analysis of the queen and rook ending provided by the authors here is some of the most extraordinary I’ve seen. If, like me, you find positions with major pieces on the board and both kings in danger extremely scary you’ll want to see this.

Here’s the complete game, without annotations. Click on any move to play it through.

The Korchnoi-Van Wely game mentioned above (Antwerp 1997) reached this typical Mar del Plata King’s Indian position.

Korchnoi played 17. a6, and suggested that, instead of the game continuation of bxa6, 17… b6 18. cxb6 cxb6 should have been played.

The engines disagree, thinking that White is a lot better in that variation, and continuing 19. Nb4, Nc6, Na4, with Nxa7 and Nxb6 to follow.

“So many things about this game were new, unexpected and instructive for me, and so many things are now memorable for me too”,  says Matthew in his technical note.

It’s a fascinating book, I think you’ll appreciate, which will be of interest to most chess players. Stronger players in particular will find a lot to learn from the games demonstrated here as well. The names of the authors, along with that of the publisher, are a guarantee of excellence, and the production is up to their customary high standards.

If, like one prominent UK chess book reviewer, you think pre-computer games should be left as they are rather than taken apart like this, you should perhaps turn away. I’m also not sure how many readers will actually play through the engine v engine games. I certainly haven’t done so, and, from a purely personal perspective, would have preferred rather fewer of them in the book, with perhaps a download available so that I could play through them on my computer at my leisure. This might have made room for the mysteriously missing five games.

I do have one other problem, which probably won’t matter to you, but does to me, but the authors fail the Yates test. His first name was plain Fred, not Frederick as given in the book.

The short final chapter sums up what you can learn from the engines:

1. Avoid passive pieces!
2. Grab space!
3. Use your rook’s pawns!
4. Small advantages don’t always win!
5. Use the whole board!
6. Be an absolute tactical genius, who never misses anything!!

Read this book, learn these lessons, and perhaps you too will be able to play as well as Stockfish!

Highly recommended if you like the concept of the book (I’d suggest you look at the sample page first). I’d be more than happy to see a second volume.

Richard James, Twickenham 2nd May 2024

Richard James
. Richard James

Book Details:

  • Paperback: 440 pages
  • Publisher: New In Chess (31 May 2023)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10:9083311260
  • ISBN-13:978-9083311265
  • Product Dimensions: 17.12 x 2.64 x 22.83 cm

Official web site of New in Chess.

Re-Engineering The Chess Classics: A Silicon Reappraisal of Thirty-Five Classic Games, FM Steve Giddins, New in Chess (31 May 2023), ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-9083311265.
Re-Engineering The Chess Classics: A Silicon Reappraisal of Thirty-Five Classic Games, FM Steve Giddins, New in Chess (31 May 2023), ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-9083311265.

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

The Caro-Kann the Easy Way

From the Batsford web site:

“An informative guide to understanding and implementing the fundamentals of the Caro-Kann, the easy way.

The Caro-Kann defence, named after the German chess players Horatio Caro and Marcus Kann, is notorious for its simple solidity and is a popular chess opening that players of all levels benefit from having in their arsenal. It is a firm favourite of grand masters past and present, including Karpov, Petrosian, Capablanca and Anand.

This is the fifth book from International Master Thomas Engqvist, and it avoids overcomplicated details and endless computer variations, focusing instead on key variations of the Caro-Kann that can be committed to memory. Examining classic games to demonstrate key moves in action, Engqvist brings the defence to life and provides you with the knowledge you need to put strategy into practice.”

International Master Thomas Engqvist has travelled the world teaching and coaching chess to a very high level for decades – and with this book, he can be your coach too.”

About the Author (from the publisher’s website):

“Thomas Engqvist is an International Master from Sweden. He has over 30 years’ experience as a chess coach and teacher. He has worked with players at world championship level in both junior and correspondence chess. He is the author of 300 Most Important Chess Positions and 300 Most Important Tactical Chess Positions, both published by Batsford.”

IM Thomas Engqvist (SWE)
IM Thomas Engqvist (SWE)

Previously we have reviewed 300 Most Important Chess Exercises and Chess Lessons from a Champion Coach making this November 2023 title the first of the authors opening books examined in this place. We were keen to take a look especially as our reviewer has a fondness for c6 & d5 structures.

Material is divided into an Introduction and eight chapters covering all of White’s possible options.

The author kicks-off with a contemporary look at four historically instructive games putting anyone new to the CK at ease straight away. “The Easy Way” is a repertoire book from Black’s perspective rather than an encyclopaedic academic tome about the entire CK defence. Each chapter also contains model games examined in detail of which there are 43 in total.

Thomas commences his “theoretical” material with the Classical Variation from White selecting Capablanca’s 4…Bf5 for Black as the first significant repertoire suggestion.

Engqvist makes zero assumptions about the reader’s knowledge of the CK apart from wanting to learn the defence from scratch. Explanations are clear without getting bogged down in reams of variations making the text easy to follow.

For each of his suggestions there is discussion of statistics in term of what move options get played, their order of significance, order of success and what standards of players employ them. These details are quite a novel approach and long way from the lists of variations of older publications TE goes on to write:

There are five variations the second player should know about, even though strictly speaking some of them are not so good and you will probably never encounter them, at least not in a serious game.

This perspective gives one confidence that plausible opponent choices are considered rather than the rather boring modern approach  (of some other authors) to only consider “top engine choices”.  This helps to reinforce our suggestion (to students) to study the so-called side-lines first and then progress to the main dish afterwards.

For example, 5.Bd3!?

is considered but experienced CK players might turn their nose up at even reading about this. The student new to the CK will meet this try many times online and Over-the-Board (OTB). Not only that but 5.Bd3!? was suggested by no less than Siegbert Tarrasch (the “Jolly Doctor”).

Another feature that endears one to the authors approach is his liberal sprinkling of significant and interesting quotations from yesteryear. For example, after

TE quotes renowned theoretician Max Euwe as follows:

Many masters of the opinion that the 6 h4 move merely denotes a weakening and would be better left out

There are a number of novel suggestions throughout the text and many spring from the authors long time experience with the Caro-Kann.

In summary, The Caro-Kann the Easy Way is an excellent primer for any second player starting out or refreshing their knowledge of this venerable and reliable defence to the King’s pawn.

Highly recommended!

John Upham, Cove, Hampshire 25th April 2024

Book Details :

  • Paperback: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Batsford; 1st edition (9 Nov. 2023)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10:184994816X
  • ISBN-13:978-1849948166
  • Product Dimensions: 15.29 x 2.54 x 23.37 cm

Official web site of Batsford Chess

The Caro-Kann the Easy Way, Thomas Engqvist, Batsford Chess, Batsford; 1st edition (9 Nov. 2023), ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-1849948166
The Caro-Kann the Easy Way, Thomas Engqvist, Batsford Chess, Batsford; 1st edition (9 Nov. 2023), ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-1849948166

The Essential Sosonko: Collected Portraits and Tales of a Bygone Chess Era

From the publisher:

“Genna Sosonko is widely acclaimed as the most prominent chronicler of a unique era in chess history. In the Soviet Union chess was developed into an ideological weapon that was actively promoted by the country’s leadership during the Cold War. Starting with Mikhail Botvinnik, their best chess players grew into symbols of socialist excellence. Sosonko writes from a privileged dual perspective, combining an insider’s nostalgia with the detachment of a critical observer. He grew up with legendary champions such as Mikhail Tal and Viktor Korchnoi and spent countless hours with most of the other greats and lesser chess mortals he portrays.

In the late 1980s he began to write about the champions he knew and their remarkable lives in New In Chess magazine. First, he wrote primarily about Soviet players and personalities, and later, he also began to portray other chess celebrities with whom he had crossed paths. They all vividly come to life as the reader is transported to their time and world. Once you’ve read Sosonko, you will feel you know Capablanca, Max Euwe and Tony Miles. And you will never forget Sergey Nikolaev.

This monumental book is a collection of the portraits and profiles Genna Sosonko wrote for New in Chess magazine. The stories have been published in his books: Russian Silhouettes, The Reliable Past, Smart Chip From St. Petersburg and The World Champions I Knew. They are supplemented with further writings on legends such as David Bronstein, Garry Kasparov and Boris Spassky. They paint an enthralling and unforgettable picture of a largely vanished age and, indirectly, a portrait of one of the greatest writers on the world of chess.

Genna Sosonko (1943) was born in Leningrad, where he was a leading chess trainer. Following his emigration from the Soviet Union in 1972, he settled in The Netherlands. He won numerous tournaments, including Wijk aan Zee in 1977 (with Geller) and 1981 (with Timman) and an individual gold medal at the Olympiad in Haifa 1976. After his active career, Sosonko discovered a passion for writing.

GM Gennadi Borisovich Sosonko
GM Gennadi Borisovich Sosonko

‘Each new story of Genna Sosonko is the preservation of grains of our chess life’ — from the foreword by Garry Kasparov”

Gennadi Borisovich Sosonko
Gennadi Borisovich Sosonko

 

If you’re a lover of chess culture and literature you’ll be familiar with the writings of Genna Sosonko, whose essays chronicle, in particular, chess life in the former Soviet Union in the post-war period.

What we have here is a compendium of his biographical essays: 58 of them plus a short foreword by Kasparov. Most of them have appeared twice before, in New in Chess magazine, and in previous collections of his essays. In addition to the books mentioned above, some of them appeared, in some cases with different titles, in Genna Remembers, published by Thinkers Publishing and previously reviewed here. One of the essays is based on extracts from Sosonko’s book on Bronstein, published by Elk and Ruby. But, in the case of the books, you only get the biographies, not everything.

If you’re a Sosonko fan you’ll have read it all before. If not, and you’re attracted to the subject matter, this might be a good place to start.

You don’t just get Soviet players, though. English readers will be drawn to the chapter on Tony Miles, billed as The Cat That Walked By Himself, whose mental health problems are treated sympathetically.

But, for me, the lesser known figures are of the most interest. Take, for instance, the stories of two players whose lives both ended in tragic circumstances in 1997.

The brilliant Latvian theorist and tactician Alvis Vitolins was born in 1946. ‘Naïve, unusual and absorbed in himself’, had he been born a few decades later, he would undoubtedly have been diagnosed with Asperger Syndrome, or, today, with ASD, and later developed schizophrenia. “He did not have any close friends. He avoided other people, especially strangers, especially those who were not chess players.” He never fulfilled his potential, his mental health declined and, in 1997, he threw himself from a railway bridge onto the ice of a frozen river.

Then there was Evgeny Ruban, from what is now Belarus, born in 1941. A positional player with a classical style who excelled with the white pieces, but another man with his own demons. Ruban was an alcoholic, permanently broke, and also gay, living in a small apartment with his elderly mother. Like Vitolins he also had problems with his mental health. In autumn 1997, in a state of inebriation, he was hit by a car, dying as a result of his injuries. His mother couldn’t afford the cost of his funeral, which was paid for by the car driver.

Two poignant stories which serve as a salutary reminder that, as well as the grandmasters and champions, we need to hear about those who had the talent but not the good fortune, those who fell through the cracks. You might wonder whether chess was a cause of their problems or provided solace in difficult times. It would have been good if their chapters had included a few of their games, but this wouldn’t have fitted into the format of the book.

On the other hand you may well be inspired by the life of Abram Khasin ((1923-2022): he played at Hastings in 1963-64), who lost both legs in the Battle of Stalingrad, but lived to within ten days of his 99th birthday, playing chess right until the end.

There’s also the exotically named Lidia Barbot-de-Marny (1930-2021), born in Shanghai but with French, German and Russian family roots. She eventually settled in Estonia, where she became one of their leading woman players. “Chess has given me a colossal amount of good things, everything you could say.” Although she never became a master, she was a much loved chess teacher, working with young children in the Tallinn House of Chess.

There are always stories, some happy, others sad, all of which need to be told. The stories of the failures are as important as those of the successes, the stories of the lesser players as important as those of the world champions.

Much of the book is, as you’d expect, concerned with the great Soviet players of that era, but, for me, the real value of Sosonko’s work is in his writing about those you don’t read about elsewhere.

He writes beautifully as well, and the translations, mostly by Ken Neat, Steve Giddins and Sarah Hurst, are exemplary. But at some point you start to realise that Sosonko is, up to a point, playing on your emotions. There are no sources or references, just his memory, which is undoubtedly extraordinary, but perhaps, like everyone’s, fallible. At the start of his essay on Ludek Pachman, he writes about visiting London for the first time to play in the 1972 Islington Congress. He took the ferry from Hook of Holland and then, apparently, had his papers checked in Brighton. If you take the ferry from Hook of Holland now you’d end up in Harwich, on the east coast, nowhere near Brighton, on the south coast, and, as far as I can tell, it was the same in 1972. Once I find something I don’t believe, I start to question everything else.

If you’re looking for a book which will improve your rating, this isn’t for you as there are no games at all. But, if you’re attracted to human interest stories, Sosonko is essential reading. You might want to invest in all his essay collections, and, if you do so, you probably won’t need this volume. If your interest is mostly in his biographical essays, and you haven’t read them elsewhere, this will be the book for you.

As a hefty 840-page hardback it’s more suited for weight training than for putting in your pocket to read between rounds of your next tournament, so you might opt for the eBook instead. I’d have liked some games, and ideally more photographs than the 32 glossy pages we get here, but this would clearly have been impractical.

A strong recommendation, then, for anyone who’s interested in this aspect of chess and hasn’t read it all before. You can find out more and read sample pages on the publisher’s website here.

 

Richard James, Twickenham 12th April 2024

Richard James
. Richard James

Book Details:

  • Hardcover: 840 pages
  • Publisher: New In Chess (31 May 2023)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10:9083311287
  • ISBN-13:978-9083311289
  • Product Dimensions: 18.06 x 6.32 x 23.5 cm

Official web site of New in Chess.

The Essential Sosonko: Collected Portraits and Tales of a Bygone Chess Era, Genna Sosonko, New in Chess, June 17th 2023, ISBN-10 ‏ : ‎ 9083311287
The Essential Sosonko: Collected Portraits and Tales of a Bygone Chess Era, Genna Sosonko, New in Chess, June 17th 2023, ISBN-10 ‏ : ‎ 9083311287

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

Chess Lessons from a Champion Coach

From the Batsford web site:

Lessons, motivation and coaching to make you a better chess player.

In an ideal world, any aspiring chess player, at almost any level, would get better with a coach. If that’s not possible, having chess champion coach Thomas Engqvist’s book at your side is the next best thing.

In his series of lessons, Engqvist guides you through not only the most important elements of chess to master but also the psychology, how to marry knowledge with imagination, and how to stay motivated.

Suitable for older children through to adults, the lessons are drawn from chess games through history, from the 16th century to Magnus Carlsen and latest Alpha Zero computer chess. (Reviewer’s note: it doesn’t actually include Alpha Zero, stopping at Carlsen.) It features a range of key players, including Steinitz, Lasker, Nimzowistch, Botvinnik (Soviet chess school), and Fischer. With clear and accessible annotations to give clarity, the games highlight the most important lessons to learn and, just as importantly, how to ‘practise’ chess.

International Master Thomas Engqvist has travelled the world teaching and coaching chess to a very high level for decades – and with this book, he can be your coach too.”

About the Author (updated from the publisher’s website):

“Thomas Engqvist is an International Master from Sweden. He has 45 years’ experience as a chess coach and teacher. He has worked with players at world championship level in both junior and correspondence chess. He is the author of 300 Most Important Chess Positions, 300 Most Important Tactical Chess Positions and 300 Most Important Chess Exercises, all published by Batsford.

IM Thomas Engqvist (SWE)
IM Thomas Engqvist (SWE)

From the back cover:

Chess Lessons from a Champion Coach gives you the opportunity to assimilate the most important chess principles and concepts by following a study plan based on key encounters by over 30 great players.

With lessons from more than 60 instructive games in chronologically arranged chapters, this is the perfect guide for players who want to gain a broad knowledge of chess history and its evolution, but don’t have time to spend hours in what can be unproductive reading.

Featured in each chapter is a highly influential grandmaster who has played his part in developing chess into what it is today. There can be no more enjoyable way to improve your own play than to absorb your personal coach’s explanatory commentaries to exemplary games of past and present chess heroes, including Magnus Carlsen. In this way centuries of accumulated understanding of chess can be learned in just a few weeks.

By adopting the same tactics and strategies as demonstrated by these champions, you can also keep track of your own chess development by comparing it with the overall historical development of chess – and climb the ladder to success.

Swedish International Master Thomas Engqvist has approximately 45 years experience as a chess coach, teacher, writer and player. He has successfully worked with players at world championship level in both junior and correspondence chess.

 

What we have here is a book covering the history of chess ideas in chronological fashion, starting with Ruy Lopez and finishing with Magnus Carlsen. It’s hardly an original idea: the first book of this type was Richard Réti’s Masters of the Chessboard, and there have been quite a few others since then: off the top of my head I’ve reviewed a couple of them here myself. The second Chess Heroes: Games book will take a similar approach (using some of the games from Move Two!), but pitched at a much lower level.

I’d say from the outset is that if you’re knowledgeable about the subject, and have read similar books before, you’re probably already familiar with many of the games displayed by Engqvist here.

But if you’re a club standard player with little knowledge of the history of your favourite game you should certainly read on.

Most of the subjects are represented by just one game, so we quickly whizz through the likes of Greco (‘the first tactical player’), Philidor (‘the first positional player’) and even Morphy until we reach Steinitz (‘the scientific player’), the first of four players to be considered in rather more detail.

According to Engqvist:

The basis of Steinitz’s teachings is to construct a plan which is in accordance with the requirements of the position. These requirements could be an advantage in development, a strong centre, open files etc. One should gather such advantages, one by one, as preparation for an attack. This is the so-called theory of accumulation.

This theory is demonstrated by the following game. As always, click on any move for a pop-up window.

Engqvist adds after the game:

This is why such classic games are much more instructive than modern games. Steinitz’s opponents didn’t realise or didn’t want to realise what he was doing, whereas today’s more knowledgeable players do know – because they have studied such “one-sided” but very instructive classic games.

You might disagree – but I don’t.

Lasker (‘pragmatism and psychology’), the star of the next chapter, also receives special treatment.

In this instructive game, where he defeats Rubinstein’s IQP, he uses the ‘pivot square’ d5 in a variety of ways.

It is indeed a game to be understood in depth and learned by heart, because the idea of a pivot being a source of energy can be used in an untold number of situations.

Engqvist quotes Nimzowitsch’s comments on this game with approval, and makes it very clear throughout the  book that Nimzo is one of his chess heroes.

Although he only gets one game (yes, it’s the Immortal Zugzwang game), the author has this to say:

Nimzowitsch is just as important as Steinitz, since his principles do complement those of his predecessor, However, to appreciate Nimzowitsch’s precepts in depth one needs to also properly understand Steinitz’s classical principles, otherwise the true meaning of Nimzowitsch’s theories will be lost.

and:

In my opinion (reading Nimzowitsch) is much more important than learning from computers, which are very bad teachers indeed, and sometimes incomprehensible. Nimzowitsch must be regarded as one of the greatest, if not the greatest ever, teachers…

Controversial, perhaps, and you might well think he’s overstating his case.

The other two subjects awarded more extensive treatment are, predictably, Capablanca (‘The Chess Machine’) and Alekhine (‘The Complete Chess Artist’).

From then on it’s just one game each, even for giants such as Botvinnik, Fischer, Karpov and Kasparov. right the way through to Carlsen.

Here’s the game used to illustrate Fischer (‘The Aggressive Classical Player’).

Engqvist:

This game is one of Fischer’s best and it is remarkable that he was only 16 years old when it was played. It proves that he was a genius. The good news is that Fischer’s style is possible to emulate,  because it it largely based on positional technique à la Capablanca,  which to a high degree can be learned.

It’s clear from this book, as well as from the author’s earlier volumes, that Thomas Engqvist is an exceptional writer, teacher and annotator. He has also made extensive use of a wide range of secondary sources (but, sadly, he fails the Yates test: he was Fred (Dewhirst), not Frederick Dewhurst). Each chapter is prefaced by a series of quotes by or about its subject, which in itself makes fascinating reading. Computer analysis has been used to correct analytical errors made by earlier authors, but this is done judiciously: he doesn’t go over the top in providing reams of engine generated variations. You might, I suppose, disagree with some of his views, especially on Nimzowitsch, but that’s part of the enjoyment you’ll get from the book. You might also think there’s some simplification and generalisation, but that’s inevitable in a book of this nature.

The production values are, of their type, excellent. The book, like others from this publisher, has a reassuringly old-fashioned look about it. While younger readers may well prefer something glossier and glitzier, it’s not likely to be a problem for those, like me, of the Batsford generation.

Many publishers these days prefer more interactivity, with puzzles at the start of each chapter, or, with annotated games, stopping every few moves to ask you a question. There’s none of that here, just solid, accurate and instructive comments. Different readers will prefer different styles of annotation. The one concession to interactivity is a couple of quizzes with questions like What was Ponziani’s opinion of the theories of Philidor and del Rio?, which I could really do without as they’re testing memory rather than understanding.

I had two other thoughts when reading this book. I often wonder whether chess authors are writing the book they wanted to write or the book the publishers thought would sell. Perhaps I’m mistaken, but my impression was that Engqvist really wanted to write something like The 60 Most Instructive Positional Games rather than a book with a historical perspective offering, for the most part, one game per star player.

I also wonder what exactly the market is for this book. Younger readers, if they want a book at all, might prefer something with a more modern feel, while older readers might have seen many of the games before.

But, if you’re, say, 1500-2000 strength, you’re serious about improving your chess and you’re happy with the style and contents, you won’t go wrong with this excellent book from one of the best authors and teachers around.

Richard James, Twickenham 14th February 2024

Richard James
Richard James

Book Details :

  • Paperback: 312 pages
  • Publisher: Batsford; 1st edition (13 April 2023)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10:1849947511
  • ISBN-13:978-1849948043
  • Product Dimensions: 15.04 x 2.01 x 23.04 cm

Official web site of Batsford

Chess Lessons from a Champion Coach, Thomas Engqvist, Batsford, 13th April 2023, ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-1849948043
Chess Lessons from a Champion Coach, Thomas Engqvist, Batsford, 13th April 2023, ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-1849948043