Tag Archives: Thinkers Publishing

Beat the Anti-Sicilians

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

From the publisher:

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

IM Robert Ris
IM Robert Ris

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

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

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

End of blurb.

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

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

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

Each diagram is clear and the instructional text is typeset in two column format, which, we find, enables the reader to maintain their place easily. Figurine algebraic notation is used throughout and the diagrams are placed adjacent to the relevant text. The diagram captions have returned.

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

Here are the main Parts:

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

and here is an excerpt in pdf format.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(from the aforementioned title:

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

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

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

is subdivided into three chapters viz:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Enjoy!

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

John Upham
John Upham

Book Details :

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

Official web site of Thinkers Publishing

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

Your Jungle Guide to 1.d4!: Aggressive Enterprise – QGA and Minors

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

From the publisher:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

End of blurb.

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

Each diagram is clear and the instructional text is typeset in two column format, which, we find, enables the reader to maintain their place easily. Figurine algebraic notation is used throughout and the diagrams are placed adjacent to the relevant text.

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

Here are the main chapters:

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

and here is an excerpt in pdf format.

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

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

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

dive into new waters

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

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

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

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

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

boiling down to the eternal motif of

Which rook?

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

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

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

and we get to the tabiya of

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

and the full game was:

 

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

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

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

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

John Upham
John Upham

Book Details :

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

Official web site of Thinkers Publishing

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

The Comfort Zone: Keys to Your Chess Success

The Comfort Zone: Keys to Your Chess Success, Daniel Gormally, Thinkers Publishing, 19 July 2021, ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-9464201222
The Comfort Zone: Keys to Your Chess Success, Daniel Gormally, Thinkers Publishing, 19 July 2021, ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-9464201222

 

GM Danny Gormally
GM Danny Gormally

“Born 04/05/1976

Currently living in Alnwick, Northumberland, England.

Daniel has been a chess professional for over twenty years, in which time he has played in many tournaments both in the U.K. and abroad. He has represented England in the European team championships and the Olympiad. Daniel has taken high placing in the British chess championships and on several occasions has placed in a tie for second. He is also the two times winner of the English rapid play championships.

In 2005 he scored his final Grandmaster norm in a tournament in Gibraltar, where he scored a 2693 performance. In that tournament he played against several world-class grandmasters, including Nakamura, Aronian, Sutovsky and Dreev, and only lost one game.

He is also the author of several well-received chess books, including A Year in the Chess World and Mating the Castled King, one of the few western chess books in recent years to be translated into Chinese.

As a writer he is known for his laid-back and humorous style.”

 

From the author’s introduction:

I’ve become increasingly convinced of this comfort zone theory to the degree where I’ve started to apply it to chess. To use the same logic, I believe a chess player is more comfortable in an opening that they have played since childhood. They’ll be less likely to make mistakes in that opening. You can also apply it to tournaments as well.

During the course of the book, I’ll talk about the tournaments that I felt comfortable in, and by the same token the opponents that I felt comfortable facing and the ones that I didn’t feel so happy to play.

 

Well, yes. I guess we’re all more comfortable in openings we know well than in openings we’ve never played before. I guess the Pope’s Catholic as well.

What Daniel Gormally offers his readers is twelve chapters covering different aspects of chess, with the concept of the Comfort Zone being discussed in the first chapter and, perhaps, a very loose connecting link with the rest of the book. His points are illustrated both by his own games and games from a wide range of other players.

If you’re familiar with his writings you won’t be surprised that he is at times brutally honest about his anxieties and phobias, and about the often tragi-comic life of a chess professional. You also won’t be surprised that the book is addictively readable, with nuggets of wisdom on almost every page which will benefit players of all levels.

In Chapter 1 Gormally introduces his theory, explaining that younger players are more likely than older players to be comfortable playing online because they’ve grown up with it.

He relates how he grew up solving Leonard Barden’s tactical puzzles in the Evening Standard, and, as a result is more comfortable in tactical situations.

I never had a chess coach who took me aside and taught the finer points of chess strategy. In fact, I never had any coaching full stop, and am probably the walking advert for the pointlessness of chess coaching. Or perhaps you could argue, I could have gone even further with the right sort of guidance.

White most authors are eager to demonstrate their best games, Gormally, typically, also likes to show us his worst games.

I found this position instructive.

In this position (Stevenage 2019) he was black against one of his regular opponents, Mark Hebden, and chose 19… Qb6?!. Let’s take it forward with some of the author’s notes.

In a practical sense this probably isn’t that bad – I step out of the threat of Nc6. The problem is I miss something much stronger.

When putting this game onto Stockfish 12 it suggested that 19… Bxd4! 20. exd4 Ne4 gave Black a huge advantage. I must admit I was quite surprised by this, probably because I hardly considered the capture on d4 at all during the game. I was fixated by the idea of hacking away on the kingside, so the idea of exchanging the dark-squared bishop didn’t really occur to me at all. 

This is one of the greatest weapons that a chess player has available – the ability to change ships midstream, to transform the position with a strategic idea or exchange. Bobby Fischer was a master at this, for example. I think the main idea is that by taking on d4 and exchanging pieces, Black magnifies the poor position of the knight on a2. The more exchanges that take place – the more a poor piece will be exposed.

The game continued 20. Rfd1 Bg4 21. f3 Bh5?

And this is a serious mistake and betrays a lack of understanding. I leave the queenside to its own fate, and underestimate just how bad my position can become.

22. Rc6!

Now White takes over the initiative. I think I wasn’t helped by the fact that I’ve found Mark an awkward opponent recently, particularly with the black pieces. During the game he gave off this impression of being bored, like he was impatient when he was waiting for my moves. That fed into my anxiety and made me even more jumpy. I was beginning to regret those extra couple of pints I had sneaked in at the bar the night before.

22.. Qb8 23. g3?! Bg6 24. Nc1 h5 25 Ncb3 h4? 26. g4+-

White is now winning because he has a simple plan of pushing his pawns on the kingside, and it turns out the minor pieces on that side of the board are just targets for that strategy.

These notes typify Gormally’s combination of lucid verbal explanations and self-deprecating humour. If you like his style you’ll enjoy this book.

Chapter 2 is relatively brief, about how even the best players sometimes make superficial decisions.

In Chapter 3, Gormally talks about preparing for the 1999 British Championship. This seems to have been written partly as a tribute to his friend John Naylor, who died last year. He demonstrates one of John’s games from the tournament.

Chapter 4 introduces us to the concept of ‘competitive conditioning’: being mentally tough and confident like Magnus Carlsen, or the golfer Brooks Koepka. Here, we start off at the 2000 British before moving onto the 2020 Online British Championship and back to the 2017 British.

In Chapter 5, Gormally explains why computers are narrowing opening theory. This is certainly true at the top level, but is it true at club level? I suspect not – and perhaps the opposite is even the case.

He shows us this game, where his 7th move gave him something very close to a winning advantage. This was in part computer preparation, because he was expecting his opponent to play that line, but he’d already met it in an earlier game against Lawrence Trent, where, playing Black, he’d managed to scramble a draw.

Chapter 6 starts off with some banter blitz games between the Vietnamese player Le Quang Liem and Lawrence Trent before going off onto a different subject.

Hang on a minute: I’m not sure that I should bother to explain each chapter in this way. The book doesn’t really work like that. It’s more a stream of consciousness, jumping fairly randomly from one topic to another, which has been broken down into chapters because, well, that’s how books work.

This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, though. Because it covers a wide range of topics in a fairly general way, it’s suitable for a wide range of players: regardless of your rating you may well enjoy and benefit from this book.

Here’s an interesting position from a game Keith Arkell played against Aurelio Colmenares in a 2008 Swiss (in more ways than one) tournament. Keith was black, to move, in this position and continued with the natural Rc2. How would you assess it?

It was around about this time that Simon (Williams) and myself went to view the game. Simon thought that White was better, because of the a-pawn. When we told Keith about this conversation later, he was adamant that Black was better, because in his view the White a-pawn can be easily restrained and the black kingside has unlimited potential. So, if Black does have a winning strategy, it’s as follows; when White goes a4, put the rook on a2. Eventually White can put the rook on a8 and the pawn on a7, but he can’t make any progress after that. If he moves the rook, he loses the a-pawn.

So, with White’s trump card stymied, Black’s plan is to gradually advance on the kingside, suffocating White. Keith manages to carry out this strategic plan to perfection.

In Chapter 8, Gormally looks at his games from the online Hastings tournament last January, discussing how to play against specific types of opponent such as the Tactical Genius (Gawain Jones) and the Perfectionist (David Howell), while characterising himself as the Wimpy Draw Lover (that makes two of us, then).

Chapter 9 is about patience: Gormally quotes Garry Kasparov, over dinner with IM (and RJCC alumnus) Ali Mortazavi, saying that to be a super grandmaster you need to have the ability to play twelve strengthening moves in a row. IMs and weaker GMs will perhaps play six strengthening moves and then lose patience and go for an attack that isn’t there.

On the other hand, the following chapter discusses the Madman Theory. Play like Alireza Firouzja: randomise the position and then out-calculate your opponent. A very different approach: putting the two chapters together is certainly thought provoking.

If you’re looking for a logical, well-structured book on a specific aspect of chess, this isn’t it. I found the contents fairly arbitrary, often digressive, very personal and sometimes rather contradictory. Now I don’t think that’s a bad thing at all: many readers (including this reviewer) will enjoy it for precisely these reasons, and I’m sure there’s a market for books of this nature. What you do get is a lot of chess: games played by Gormally himself, his friends, colleagues and students, and top grandmasters from Tal through to Carlsen. The annotations are, I thought, excellent, with clear and insightful explanations rather than reams of improbable computer-generated tactics. You get a lot of very useful general advice about the nature of chess and how best to improve your play. You get a lot of stories and anecdotes about life on the tournament circuit, often concerning smoking, drinking and clubbing, which you might find highly entertaining, extremely depressing, or perhaps both. If you like the sound of this book, you won’t be disappointed.

There’s something for everyone here, and this compulsively readable book is recommended for anyone rated between about 1500 and 2500.

As usual with Thinkers Publishing, production standards are generally high, but the proofing is well below the standards you might expect from books on other subjects. Yes, I’m well aware this takes time and money, and requires a wide range of knowledge and skills, but there are some of us out there who care about this sort of thing.

Richard James, Twickenham 13th December 2021

Richard James
. Richard James

Book Details :

  • Softcover: 264 pages
  • Publisher: Thinkers Publishing; 1st edition (19 July 2021)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10:9464201223
  • ISBN-13: 978-9464201222
  • Product Dimensions: 16.79 x 1.19 x 23.19 cm

Official web site of Thinkers Publishing

The Comfort Zone: Keys to Your Chess Success, Daniel Gormally, Thinkers Publishing, 19 July 2021, ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-9464201222
The Comfort Zone: Keys to Your Chess Success, Daniel Gormally, Thinkers Publishing, 19 July 2021, ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-9464201222

Genna Remembers

Genna Remembers, Genna Sosonko, Thinkers Publishing, 5th July 2021, ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-9464201192
Genna Remembers, Genna Sosonko, Thinkers Publishing, 5th July 2021, ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-9464201192

From the author’s lengthy introduction:

Half a century ago I left a country, the red color of which dominated a large portion of the world map. One way or another, the fate of almost every single person described in this book is forever linked with that now none-existent empire. Many of them ended up beyond its borders too. Cultures and traditions, and certainly not least of all a Soviet mentality, couldn’t have just left them without a trace. Having been transplanted into a different environment, they had to play the role of themselves apart from certain corrections with regard to the tastes and customs of a new society. Nevertheless, every one of them, both those who left the Soviet Union, and those who stayed behind, were forever linked by one common united phenomenon: they all belonged to the Soviet school of chess.

This school of chess was born in the 20’s, but only began to count its true years starting in 1945, when the representatives of the Soviet Union dominated an American squad in a team match. Led by Mikhail Botvinnik, Soviet Grandmasters conquered and ruled the world, save for a short Fischer period, over the course of that same half century. In chess as well as ballet, or music, the word “Soviet” was actually a synonym for the highest quality interpretation of the discipline.

The Soviet Union provided unheard of conditions for their players, which were the sort of which their colleagues in the West dare not even dream. Grandmasters and even Masters received a regular salary just for their professional qualifications, thereby raising the prestige of a chess player to what were unbelievable heights.

It was a time when any finish in an international tournament, aside from first, was almost considered a failure when it came to Soviet players, and upon their return to Moscow they had to write an official explanation to the Chess Federation or the Sports Committee.

The isolation of the country, separated from the rest of the world by an Iron Curtain, was another reason why, talent and energy often manifested themselves in relatively neutral fields.

Still if with music, cinematography, philosophy, or history, the Soviet people were raised on a strict diet, that contained multiple restrictions, this did not apply to chess. Grandmasters, and Masters, all varied in terms of their upbringing, education, and mentality and were judged solely on their talent and mastery at the end of the day. Maybe that’s why the Soviet school of chess was full of such improbable variety not only in terms of the style of play of its representatives, but also their different personality types.

Built was a gigantic chess pyramid, at the base of which were school championships, which were closely followed by district ones. Later city championships, regions, republics, and finally-the ultimate cherry on top-the national event itself. The Championships of the Soviet Union were in no way inferior to the strongest international tournaments, and collections of the games played there came out as separate publications in the West.

That huge brotherhood of chess contained its very own hierarchy within. Among the millions, and multitudes of parishioners-fans of the game-there were the priests-candidate masters. Highly respected were the cardinals-masters. As for Grandmasters though well…they were true Gods. Every person in the USSR knew their names, and those names sounded with just as much adoration, and admiration as those of the nation’s other darlings-the country’s best hockey players. In those days the coming of the American genius only served to strengthen the interest and attention of society towards chess, never mind the fact that by that point it had already been fully saturated by it.

The presence of tons of spectators at a chess tournament in Moscow as shown in the series “The Queen’s Gambit” is in no way an exaggeration. That there truly was the golden age of chess.

Under the constant eye, and control of the government, chess in the USSR was closely interwoven with politics, much like everything else in that vanished country. Concurrently, the closed, and isolated society in which it was born only served to enable its development, creating its very own type of culture-the giant world of Soviet chess.

I was never indifferent to the past. Today, when there is that much more of it then the future, this feeling has become all the sharper. The faster the twentieth century sprints away from us, and the thicker the grass of forgetting grows, soon enough, and under the verified power of the most powerful engines that world of chess will be gone as well.

It was an intriguing, and colorful world, and I saw it as my duty to not let it disappear into that empty abyss. Genna Sosonko – May 2021

Gennadi Borisovich Sosonko
Gennadi Borisovich Sosonko

“Gennadi Sosonko was born in Troitsk in the Chelyabinsk region and learned to play chess at the age of ten in Leningrad, to which his family returned after the war. He trained in the Pioneers’ Palace, where he was mentored by Vladimir Zak, Vladimir Kirillov, Vasily Byvshev and Alexander Cherepov. Later he was taught by Semyon Furman in the Chigorin Chess Club. Genna emigrated from the USSR in 1972 and settled in the Netherlands. Genna became an international master in 1974 and a grandmaster in1976. He played for the Netherlands from 1974; in eleven Olympiads he had the superb overall score of +28 -4 =64. In the 1990s and 2000s, he was the Dutch team captain. Genna Sosonko is a two-time Dutch champion (1973 and 1978), a two-time winner of the tournament at Wijk aan Zee (1978 and 1981), winner of tournaments in Barcelona and Lugano in 1976, Nijmegen in 1978 and Polanica-Zdrój in 1993, and a prizewinner in Tilburg, New York, Bad Lauterberg, São Paulo, London and Reykjavik. From 1975 to 1982 he was one of the top twenty players in the world, achieving his highest rating of 2595 in January 1981. He has made a significant contribution to opening theory, especially to his favourite Catalan. In 2004 he stopped competing to focus on journalism and literature. He is the author of wonderful memoirs which were published in several languages. In recent years he has often worked as a commentator on tournaments featuring the world’s leading grandmasters, describing their battles in English, Dutch and Russian.”

 

Anyone with an interest in chess culture will be aware that Genna Sosonko has published a number of collections of essays on a variety of chess topics over the years.

More recently, he’s written three books of memoirs concerning Smyslov, Bronstein and Korchnoi, which received mixed reviews here and elsewhere. Now, published for the first time by Thinkers Publishing, Sosonko returns with another essay collection.

A look at the topics covered will give you a pretty good idea as to whether or not this book is for you.

The first five chapters are broadly historical. Chapter 1 is about the history of pre-arranged draws. Chapter 2 takes as its starting point a recent discovery from the KGB archives: a 1950 review by Vasily Panov of a Keres book on open games.

P. Keres couldn’t handle this task. What’s worse is that he used the platform offered for the purposes of unbridled glorification of foreign theoreticians, up to and including Nazi hirelings and those greatest of traitors of the Soviet people, the theoretical efforts of which don’t present any value whatsoever.

And so on, for two pages. Sosonko puts this into historical perspective and tells us a lot more about Panov.

Chapter 3 concerns, in general, the difficulties Soviet players faced in travelling abroad. Chapter 4 is about Sosonko’s experiences seconding Korchnoi in his 1971 Candidates match against Petrosian. In Chapter 5 he recalls buying a collection of Korchnoi’s possessions at an auction because he particularly wanted an unused plane ticket from 1976: unused because Viktor decided to remain in the West rather than return from the Netherlands to the Soviet Union.

The rest of the book is mostly devoted to pen pictures of a variety of players, mostly well known to Sosonko.

Chapter 6 is about Igor Ivanov (1947-2005), a Soviet émigré who defected to Canada and then moved to the United States. Ivanov was an exceptionally talented player whose life was blighted by his addiction to alcohol. There are some great stories here. In 1985 he won the Canadian Closed and Open Championship at the same time. They were taking place in different rooms in the same venue and he’d make a move in one tournament, then run to the other room to make another move. Sosonko clearly liked Ivanov and treats his problems with sympathy here, although you might find his tendency to psychoanalyse his subjects (something he does in all his books) rather annoying.

Sosonko also demonstrates a few of Ivanov’s games, such as this.

Another Soviet émigré, Leonid Shamkovich (1923-2005), is featured in Chapter 7. This is a rather shorter chapter: perhaps Sosonko knew him less well than Ivanov, and we don’t get to see any of his games.

Chapter 8 is very different indeed: Everyone’s Favourite Uncle, Arnfried Pagel. Unlike Sosonko’s other subjects, he wasn’t a strong player, but his story is rather remarkable and one that I was unaware of, so I was very interested to find out more.

Pagel was a German born concrete magnate and rather weak amateur chess player who moved to the Netherlands where he sponsored a very strong chess team, the King’s Club, in the early 1980s, recruiting a lot of grandmasters, many of whom were Soviet émigrés, to play for him. After a few years the Dutch Tax and Customs Administration became suspicious of his financial dealings: Pagel ended up bankrupt and in prison. He later spent seven years in prison in England after one of his shipments there was found to contain drugs.

This is a highly entertaining chapter, and one with some salutary lessons concerning chess sponsorship. You might consider the book worth buying for this alone.

Chapter 9 is the longest – and saddest – chapter of the book. It tells the story of Yakut IM Sergey Nikolaev, who was born in 1961, and was murdered in 2007 by a gang of teenage neo-Nazi thugs because of his Asian appearance. This is a fine tribute to a much-loved man with a complex personality, at the same time both reclusive and searching for recognition. It’s also a savage indictment of racism and bigotry in today’s Russia. Again, you may well think this chapter is worth the price of the book.

And yet, as so often in Sosonko’s works, it would have been enlivened by a few games so that we could see how he played chess as well as learning about him as a person.

Here’s one example of his play.

Chapters 10 and 11 are short chapters about GMs Yuri Razuvaev (1945-2012) and Viktor Kupreichik (1949-2017). We do get to see a few of the latter’s games, such as this.

Chapter 12 is a brief look at Mark Taimanov, which brings us on to the last three chapters, which give the impression they might have been added to sell the book. Their subjects: Karpov, Kasparov and Carlsen.

There’s a lot to admire here. Sosonko, as always, writes beautifully and knows how to manipulate his readers’ emotions. He’s at his best when writing about lesser-known players, and, for me, the highlights are the chapters on Pagel and Nikolaev. The book is well illustrated with many, often poignant, photographs which add to the book enormously. If you’ve read and enjoyed this author’s previous collections of essays you’ll want to add this to your bookshelves.

At the same time, I’d have liked some more games. It seems rather arbitrary that only two of the chapters include examples of their subjects’ play. Apart from adding value to the book, they’d help to flesh out the personalities of the players involved.

A casual reader might, understandably, see it as a rather random collection of articles with no very obvious coherent theme. To appreciate it fully you need to put it within the context of Sosonko’s other writings.

If you’re only looking for books which will improve your rating, this isn’t the book for you, but if you have a genuine interest in chess culture you might want to give it a try, and then move on to the author’s previous essay collections.

There’s a very strange mistake at the start of the book. The games, few as they are, use figurine notation and the publishers decided to print a table of piece letters and their equivalent figurine. However, the letters, rather than the figurines, appear in both columns. There are also a few typos but, by and large, the production values are good.

Not for everyone, then, but if the content appeals, you’ll enjoy this book.

Richard James, Twickenham 12th November 2021

Richard James
. Richard James

Book Details :

  • Softcover: 260 pages
  • Publisher: Thinkers Publishing; 1st edition (5 July 2021)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10:9464201193
  • ISBN-13: 978-9464201192
  • Product Dimensions: 16.99 x 2.21 x 23.6 cm

Official web site of Thinkers Publishing

Genna Remembers, Genna Sosonko, Thinkers Publishing, 5th July 2021, ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-9464201192
Genna Remembers, Genna Sosonko, Thinkers Publishing, 5th July 2021, ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-9464201192

The Modernized Philidor Defense

The Modernized Philidor Defense, Sergio Trigo Urquijo, Thinker's Press, September 20th, 2021, ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-9464201208
The Modernized Philidor Defense, Sergio Trigo Urquijo, Thinker’s Press, September 20th, 2021, ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-9464201208

From the publisher:

“Pawns are the soul of chess.” We have all heard this phrase more than once in our chess life and we owe it to the great French player François-André Danican, so-called Philidor, considered one of the best chess players of the 18th century.

It’s not surprising that with this way of thinking, he revolutionized chess, which until then was almost all about direct attacks on the king. With this, he also changed the way of understanding and playing openings, in which he introduced a new concept for the time – that the pawns should be ahead of the pieces.

Bearing this in mind, the defense he created can be much better understood, in which all these rules are fulfilled and the importance of the pawn structure is maximal.”

Sergio Trigo Urquijo
Sergio Trigo Urquijo

“Sergio Trigo Urquijo was born in the Basque Country (Spain) in 1989. He learned to play chess at age of six. As a junior he won local many championships from u-12 to u-18. He performed successfully as a player and captain of the Sestao Chess Club winning the national team Championship in 2012, 2013, 2016, 2017 and 2018, including 9 times Basque Team Champion.

He won the silver medal in the Portugal Club Cup in 2015 and has played in the European Club Cup in 2014. He is known as being a second of several grandmasters during many important evens.”

End of blurb.

As with every recent Thinkers Publishing publication high quality paper is used and the printing is clear. We were hoping that the excellent glossy paper of previous titles would be used for this one but never mind.

Each diagram is clear and the instructional text is typeset in two column format, which, we find, enables the reader to maintain their place easily. Figurine algebraic notation is used throughout and the diagrams are placed adjacent to the relevant text and each diagram has a “to move” indicator and a “position after: x move” type caption.

There is no Index or Index of Variations but, despite that, content navigation is relatively straightforward as the Table of Contents is clear enough.

This is the author’s first chess book and he is an active player of the Modern Philidor with the black pieces and has a healthy score of 70.6% with it.

Here is the detailed Table of Contents:

Table of Contents : The Modernized Philidor Defense
Table of Contents : The Modernized Philidor Defense

and here is an excerpt in pdf format.

It is strange to think that the “Modern Philidor” has more or less stepped into the main stream of defences to 1.e4 from a time of relative obscurity. This 2021 tome from Sergio Trigo Urquijo is the latest on 1…d6 since around 2016. One of the first questions I wanted to answer was “Does this work cover the off-shoot Lion Defence?” The characteristic of the Lion variant is that Black plays an early h6,g5 and re-routes the d7 knight to f8 and then g6 and maybe f4. This book does not cover this variant.

The critical lines appear in chapters 15, 14, 12 and 10 since I don’t regard the queenless middlegames as particularly critical, they are simply at least equal for Black.

The core start position is

and Chapter 15 examines the tabiya

emphasizing that a4 is almost always going to happen these days compared with 7.Re1 (chapter 14) of previous times.

Somewhat surprisingly the author recommends the capture 7…exd4 rather than more expected and popular 7…c6 in order to activate the d7 knight. He suggests using the c6 square for a knight rather than the usual gradual queenside pawn push from Black. Interesting. From either White recapture the author provides a great deal of detailed analysis suggesting that the move seven capture is a sensible alternative to 7…c6.

Various seventh move alternatives are discussed in Chapter 13 of which 7.dxe5 might be the most popular.

A significant chapter is 12 covering the various important sacrifices on f7. Again, new analysis is introduced demonstrating that Black emerges with better chances after any of the f7 tries. This gives me an excuse to include:

which is probably one of the most well-known and entertaining games in this line.

Chapter 10 considers Alexi Shirov’s attempt to blow Black off the board with one of his signature g4 ideas:

Any player of the Modern Philidor must take this line seriously and the author provides a great deal of fresh ideas and analysis of how to combat 5.g4.

At lower levels the early exchange of queens following 4.dxe5 has to be respected despite its rare appearance at the elite level and at 59 pages Chapter 8 is the largest chapter.

Curiously, after the easily most popular 6.Bg5 the author eschews the common wisdom to play 6…Be6 (which scores best for Black and is easily the most popular) and recommends the curious 6…Nbd7 allowing 7.Bc4

I find it odd that the author does not discuss the reasons for recommending 6…Nbd7 over 6…Be6. 6.Bg5 then gets a mere seven pages of treatment in little detail. I have to say that I am not convinced and that this section deserves more work.

Moving on to the runner-up in the popularity stakes, 6.Bc4, there is greater depth and here 6…Be6 is selected rather than the increasingly popular 6…Ke8 of Zurab Azmaiparashvili which is entirely playable and the choice of the elite players.

Remaining chapters cover such important ideas for White as 4.Nge2, 3.f3 so that nothing important is left out.

In summary this work is a comprehensive repertoire book for Black for those players  wishing to employ the trendy Modern Philidor (but not the Lion variant).

I very much like the treatment of 7.a4 and 7. Re1 with new ideas for Black avoiding the conventional slow …c6 and queenside expansion strategy using active piece play as an alternative. The 5.g4 treatment is detailed as is the sacrifices on f7 chapter.

I’m slightly less convinced of the queenless middlegame ideas and it seems to me that the the author is attempting to be novel for the sake of it: this might not be the way forward.

However, the title of the book includes “Modernized” and therefore the book “does what it says on the tin” and cannot be criticised for that reason. As a player of 1…d6 I would definitely buy and enjoy this book.

John Upham, Cove, Hampshire, 10th November, 2021

John Upham
John Upham

Book Details :

  • Hardcover : 410 pages
  • Publisher:Thinkers Publishing; 1st edition (20 September 2021)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 9464201207
  • ISBN-13: 978-9464201208
  • Product Dimensions: 17.15 x 2 x 23.5 cm

Official web site of Thinkers Publishing

The Modernized Philidor Defense, Sergio Trigo Urquijo, Thinker's Press, September 20th, 2021, ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-9464201208
The Modernized Philidor Defense, Sergio Trigo Urquijo, Thinker’s Press, September 20th, 2021, ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-9464201208

Miguel Najdorf – ‘El Viejo’ – Life, Games and Stories

Miguel Najdorf - 'El Viejo' - Life, Games and Stories, Zenon Ocampos, Thinker's Publishing, 2 September 2021, ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-9464201130
Miguel Najdorf – ‘El Viejo’ – Life, Games and Stories, Zenon Ocampos, Thinker’s Publishing, 2 September 2021, ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-9464201130

From the author’s introduction:

I was lucky enough to play against six world champions and several top players in my modest chess career, but the greatest player I feel privileged to have known, to have spent time with him, was Miguel Najdorf, “El Viejo”.

This is a chess book, with 275 commented games, it covers all his chess career, but it has also many stories. Najdorf was the most important Argentinean chess player, and he was an exceptional person. Oscar Panno said that Najdorf reminded him of Don Quixote, in the part of the book where he tells Sancho Panza, “Wherever I am, that is where the head of the table is going to be”. He successfully overcame the most terrible setbacks, as few are capable of doing. Writing about Miguel Najdorf is one of my greatest pleasures as a chess journalist and writer!

Zenon Franco Ocampos, April 2021.”

GM Zenon Franco
GM Zenon Franco

“Zenon Franco Ocampos was born in Asuncion, Paraguay, May 12, 1956. From there he moved to Buenos Aires until 1990. Since 1990 he has lived in Spain. Zenon authored 28 chess books which have been published in six languages. In addition to his books, he has served as a chess columnist for the Paraguayan newspapers ‘Hoy’ and ‘ABC Color’ for 17 years. He has written a chess column for magazines from Argentina, Italy, and Spain. Zenon is most respected Grandmaster and FIDE Senior Trainer. He has participated in 11 chess Olympiads and will now captain the Paraguay team during the Moscow Olympiad 2021. His greatest achievements winning gold medals at the Olympiads of Luzern, 1982 and Novi Sad, 1990. His most successful students were GM F. Vallejo Pons and IM David Martinez Martin, Spanish editor of Chess24.com.”

Miguel Najdorf
Miguel Najdorf

If you hear the name Najdorf, what immediately comes to mind? The Najdorf Variation of the Sicilian Defence, I’d guess.

Something like this, perhaps, although it transposes into a Scheveningen.

It wasn’t Najdorf who originated the idea, though. He’d been playing it since the mid 1930s, perhaps having been shown it by the Czech master Karel Opocensky

In this important game, from the last round of the 1948 Interzonal, he was playing black against Dr Petar Trifunovic, who was considered almost unbeatable with the white pieces, but who needed a win to have any chance of qualifying for the Candidates Tournament.

Here’s Najdorf on his choice of 5th move:

In those days the line had scarcely been investigated and I emphasise that Dr Trifunovic was famous for his theoretical knowledge.

And after the game:

I was pleased with this game against Trifunovic, because it was a battle of ideas and plans to bring about a balanced game.

His attempt to attack is not successful and with an extremely audacious manoeuvre he exposes his queen, granting me a very tiny chance. Maybe he didn’t foresee the consequences. What is certain is that, from that moment on, Black takes control and forces and forces, until resignation.

But there was a lot more to Najdorf than his variation. He was a colourful personality who had a long and eventful life, and a chess career lasting 70 years: from 1926 to 1996, playing everyone from Capablanca, Alekhine and Rubinstein through to Fischer, Karpov and Kasparov. Jeff Sonas (Chessmetrics) puts him in the world top 10 for the decade or so after World War 2, and at number 2, with a highest rating of 2797, for most of the period between 1946 and 1949.

If you’re from my generation you may know quite a lot already, but younger readers may not.

Here’s your opportunity to put that right: Zenon Franco Ocampos and Thinkers Publishing offer you 720 pages on the life and games of El Viejo (the old man, as he was often known, especially by himself), with 275 annotated games and extracts, along with much historical information and a wealth of hilarious anecdotes.

We start with an unfinished book written by Najdorf himself, with thirteen annotated games, before moving onto an account of his early life.

Najdorf was born in 1910 in Warsaw, named Moishe Mendel, although the Polish version, Mieczyslaw, was also used, but when he settled in Argentina, he became Miguel. He learnt the moves at the relatively late age of 14 from a friend’s father, but his parents were unhappy with his chess obsession.

He soon gained a reputation as a highly talented but erratic player, capable of producing brilliancies such as the much anthologised ‘Polish  Immortal’ against Gluksberg, where he sacrificed all his minor pieces, but Najdorf himself preferred this game (the date, venue and name of his opponent are all uncertain).

Najdorf was playing for Poland in the 1939 Buenos Aires Olympiad when World War 2 broke out, and, like a number of other European Masters, decided to stay there.

This was a decision that saved his life: his wife, daughter, parents and four brothers were all murdered in the Holocaust. You won’t read a lot about this here, though. As Franco points out, this is a games collection rather than a biography, and he directs you to Najdorf’s daughter Liliana’s book for further information.

Further chapters look at the war years, when he settled in Argentina, the decade or so after the war when he was a world championship candidate, the years up to 1982 when he was still competing regularly at the top level, and the last phase of his career, up to his death in 1997.

You might be disappointed if you’re expecting a lot of Sicilian Najdorfs. There aren’t very many – and he didn’t play it all that often. A large proportion of the games have Najdorf playing White, where he usually opened 1. d4, so you’ll get a lot of queen’s pawn games. Before the war he often adopted a Colle-Zukertort set-up, but later preferred more critical variations. He was particularly impressive playing positions with an isolated queen’s pawn: study of these games will be beneficial if you enjoy this pawn formation yourself.

This position is from Najdorf – Kotov (Mar del Plata 1957), where our hero chose 21. Bd1!

An unusual move, very imaginative, which brings White a quick victory. This is strong, but not the most forceful.

Many years later, Igor Zaitsev indicated that the strongest move was 21. Bc2!!, with a potential fork on f7 after Rxc2.

After 21. Bd1 Qa5, Najdorf won quickly, but after 21… Rc7, Franco points out the computer move 22. a5, freeing a4 for the bishop.

Here’s the complete game.

Najdorf was also renowned for his prowess on both sides of the King’s Indian Defence.

This game, the first brilliancy prize winner at the 1953 Candidates’ Tournament, is of considerable historical importance, played at a time when players like Bronstein and Najdorf were developing the King’s Indian Defence into a dangerous counter-attacking weapon.

Franco sensibly combines Bronstein’s and Najdorf’s annotations from their tournament books.

If you have a particular interest in the King’s Indian Defence, either as a player or from a historical perspective, you’ll enjoy a lot of the games here.

So what you get in this book is a lot of great chess, many of the games annotated by Franco, but others with annotations from a variety of sources, including, in many cases, Najdorf himself. He also adds modern engine improvements where appropriate. As you’d expect from such an experienced author, the notes are pitched at just the right level: approachable for anyone from 1500 to 2500 strength.

Then you have the anecdotes. Najdorf was an ebullient character, who barely seemed to stop talking, even during his games. Kotov famously asked the (rhetorical) question: should you imitate Botvinnik or Najdorf? He was one of the most popular figures in chess, extrovert, charming, passionate about both chess and people, but sometimes also annoying.

Back in 1937, during the Polish Championship, another player allegedly asked him what the time was. On the first two occasions, lost in thought, he made no reply. On the third occasion he consulted his watch and replied, after some consideration, “d2-d4”.

On a long chartered train journey in Argentina in 1957, Najdorf constantly walked up and down the carriage, talking to all the other players, who wanted to get some rest, and not taking any hints. At length Keres shouted to Kotov at the other end (in English so that everyone would understand) “Alexander, how long have you known Najdorf?” “I think I have known him since 1946.” Keres congratulated his colleague on his good fortune: “I have known him since the Warsaw Olympiad in 1935.”

Pal Benko told the story of how he adjourned a pawn up in a rook ending against Najdorf. He didn’t have time to analyse it, but Najdorf insisted it was a draw and not worth playing out. He wouldn’t stop talking so eventually agreed to shut him up. He then went back to his room and saw that the position was in fact easily winning for him. Outraged, he confronted his opponent:

“Why did you lie to me like that? What the hell’s wrong with you? Why didn’t you let me think?” He just smiled, put his arms round me and said, “Don’t worry about it. Come on, I’ll take you to a nice nightclub.” How could you stay mad at a guy like this?

All entirely believable for anyone who knew Najdorf, but Franco looked at the game, and found it really didn’t match the story. He’s very good at checking out anecdotes like this.

So what we have, then, is 720 pages about an important figure in the chess life of the mid 20th century: great games expertly annotated, a lot of chess history, and a lot to make you laugh as well. Good use is made of various sources, and these are always credited so we know where to go if we want more information about Najdorf. What’s not to like?

Unfortunately, there are problems regarding the production. The book almost seems to be in two halves. The first part of the book provides tournament tables (sometimes with unnecessary errors), but by the time he starts playing in top level tournaments these disappear without explanation. Yes, I know they’re readily available elsewhere but I find the inconsistency rather annoying. We get group photographs, which is great, but the players are often not identified. There’s a lack of proper indexing as well: there’s a list of games in the order in which they appear in the book, but no indexes of players or openings. A summary of Najdorf’s tournament and match results at the end of the book is also something I’d expect from a chess biography of this nature.

To take just one example of a careless factual error, we’re told that Franciszek Sulik was champion of Australia nine time (sic). If he had been, I’d have heard of him. In fact he was champion of South Australia nine times. The typo again is only too typical. There are far too many to be acceptable for a book of this nature. Like so many chess books published these days, it really needed someone else to check it through one more time.

Perhaps the book would have been better as two volumes, or maybe just as a games collection without the historical background. I can’t help feeling the publishers, skilled as they are in producing other types of chess book, were slightly out of their comfort zone here.

It’s an important book, an entertaining book, and in many ways an excellent book which will be enjoyed by readers of all levels, especially those with an interest in chess history. My reservations about the production values, though, preclude a wholehearted recommendation.

Richard James, Twickenham 19th October 2021

Richard James
. Richard James

Book Details :

  • Softcover: 720 pages
  • Publisher: Thinkers Publishing; 1st edition (2 September 2021)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10:9464201134
  • ISBN-13:978-9464201130
  • Product Dimensions: 16.51 x 1.27 x 23.5 cm

Official web site of Thinkers Publishing

Miguel Najdorf - 'El Viejo' - Life, Games and Stories, Zenon Ocampos, Thinker's Publishing, 2 September 2021, ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-9464201130
Miguel Najdorf – ‘El Viejo’ – Life, Games and Stories, Zenon Ocampos, Thinker’s Publishing, 2 September 2021, ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-9464201130

Forgotten Genius – The Life and Games of Grandmaster Albin Planinc

Forgotten Genius - The Life and Games of Grandmaster Albin Planinc, Georg Mohr & Adrian Mikhalchishin, Thinker's Publishing, 20th September 2021, ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-9464201291
Forgotten Genius – The Life and Games of Grandmaster Albin Planinc, Georg Mohr & Adrian Mikhalchishin, Thinker’s Publishing, 20th September 2021, ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-9464201291

From the publisher we have:

“Albin Planinc was born in the middle of the Second World War, on 18th April 1944, in the little village of Briše, near the small town of Zagorje ob Savi, approximately 30 kilometers from Ljubljana, the capital of Slovenia. He spent his childhood with his mother Ljudmila (unofficially Milka), a simple, uneducated woman who earned money from various unskilled jobs’.

This fascinating biography of over eighty-five annotated games and stories are being presented by grandmasters Georg Mohr and Adrian Mikhalchishin. It covers Planinc’ entire life and chess career, including his most fascinating games. This fitting tribute of a forgotten chess genius should be found in anyone’s chess library. Thanks to this colorful book Albin Planinc will continue to inspire us all and will keep his spirit alive.”

GM Albin Planinc, circa 1973
GM Albin Planinc, circa 1973

About the authors we have:

“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 second book for ‘Thinkers Publishing’.

FIDE Senior Trainer Georg Mohr
FIDE Senior Trainer Georg Mohr

Adrian Bohdanovych Mikhalchishin was born in Lvov, Ukraine in 1954 and became a Grandmaster in 1978. In 1995 he took Slovenian citizenship and became a FIDE Senior Trainer from 2002 and was chairman of FIDE Trainers Commission from 2009. Adrian was a trainer of many famous chess players. Amongst others he was in Anatoly Karpov’s team during matches with Garry Kasparov. He has worked with Maja Chiburdanidze, Nana Aleksandria, the Polgar sisters, Alisa Maric and Nana Dzagnidze. He was coach and captain of the national teams of Slovenia and the Netherlands. In recent years he has been coach of the Turkish woman team. He has written many chess books and thousands of articles for many chess magazines. This is his second book for ‘Thinkers Publishing’.”

FIDE Senior Trainer GM Adrian Mikhalchishin
FIDE Senior Trainer GM Adrian Mikhalchishin

Albin Planinc (1944-2008), the late Slovenian grandmaster, was an extraordinary chess player and so the title ‘Forgotten Genius’ is not hyperbole.

Planinc’s games are characterised by enormous energy and by creative, daring sacrificial play. Mohr and Mikhalchishin have selected eighty-six of his best games for this volume.

They assert rightly on page 9 that ‘the reader of this book will soon discover that these games are not commonplace. They are imbued with incredible energy, interwoven with so many imaginary climaxes, with so much of what most people think of as beautiful in chess’.

It is very much a labour of love as Mohr, himself a Slovenian grandmaster, sees Planinc as the player who inspired him to dedicate his life to chess. However the book is not only games; plenty of biographical material is provided.

Indeed, the book starts with a brief synopsis of Albin’s childhood positing that Albin’s unidentified father may well have been a German soldier. Hence it is reasonable to speculate that Albin’s childhood was clouded by shame and stigma as well as being marred by the evolving mental illness of his mother, Ljudmila.

Parallels with a certain Robert James Fischer are suggested. Both players nursed their troubled childhoods with a love of chess. However the authors suggest on page 27 that ‘there was an important difference between him [Planinc] and Fischer. While the American was content with victories, Planinc was never content with victory itself. It needed an accessory, an aesthetic input, preferably one that would turn chess games into works of art’.

The next sections of the book offer a year by year selection of games from 1961-1979 interspersed with further biographical material. All the classics are there (v Bogdanovic 1965, v Matulovic 1965, v Ljubojevic 1971,

and Minic 1975)

and most notably his game with Vaganian from Hastings 1974/75 which involves the charming manoeuvre Na1 followed by a crisp Queen sacrifice.

The games are annotated with plenty of explanation. It should also be noted that the book is sumptuously produced with plenty of photographs and a typeface and layout pleasing to the eye. However more diagrams would have been appreciated. Furthermore an index of players would have been most useful.

The book ends with the revelation that Albin spent the last 20 years of his life in and out of institutions playing very little chess. This part of the book is handled sensitively and compels me to dig deeper into the creative genius of Albin Planinc. This tome is hence a welcome addition to chess literature.

FM Julian Way, Kingston, 2nd October, 2021

FM Julian Way
FM Julian Way

Book Details :

  • Softcover : 407 pages
  • Publisher:Thinkers Publishing; 1st edition (20 Sept. 2021)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 9464201290
  • ISBN-13: 978-9464201291
  • Product Dimensions: 17.15 x 1.27 x 23.5 cm

Official web site of Thinkers Publishing

Forgotten Genius - The Life and Games of Grandmaster Albin Planinc, Georg Mohr & Adrian Mikhalchishin, Thinker's Publishing, 20th September 2021, ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-9464201291
Forgotten Genius – The Life and Games of Grandmaster Albin Planinc, Georg Mohr & Adrian Mikhalchishin, Thinker’s Publishing, 20th September 2021, ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-9464201291

The Modernized Modern Benoni

The Modernized Modern Benoni, Alexey Kovalchuk, Thinker's Publishing, 2021, ISBN-13 : 978-9464201048
The Modernized Modern Benoni, Alexey Kovalchuk, Thinker’s Publishing, 2021, ISBN-13 : 978-9464201048

From the publisher:

“The Modern Benoni is one of the most controversial but also dynamic answers to 1.d4. This opening remained the favourite of famous attacking players as Tal, Kasparov, Gashimov and Topalov. From the outset, Black creates a new pawn structure and deploying his active piece play against White’s central majority.

In his book Alexey Kovalchuk focuses on a set of new ideas and deep analyses supported by his silicon friends. His book supplies all Black needs to know to fight for the initiative from move two!”

FM Alexey Kovalchuk
FM Alexey Kovalchuk

“Alexey Kovalchuk was born in 1994 in Russia and learned to play chess at the “late” age of 12. In November of 2017 he reached his highest Elo yet of 2445 and is considered an IM without the norms. Alexey has never had a coach having studied with the aid of books and other materials.

His tournament successes include winning the Rostov Championship in both classical and rapid. He is a three-time winner of the Taganrog Championship and has won prizes in many events including Taganrog, Togliatti, Astrakhan, Lipetsk, Kharkov and Donetsk. His reputation as a theoretician is well known and he has previously published a book on the Grünfeld Defense. Currently Alexey serves as a second for several grandmasters as well as coach for several aspiring students.”

End of blurb.

As with every recent Thinkers Publishing publication high quality paper is used and the printing is clear. We were hoping that the excellent glossy paper of previous titles would be used for this one but never mind.

Each diagram is clear and the instructional text is typeset in two column format, which, we find, enables the reader to maintain their place easily. Figurine algebraic notation is used throughout and the diagrams are placed adjacent to the relevant text and each diagram has a “to move” indicator and a “position after: x move” type caption.

There is no Index or Index of Variations but, despite that, content navigation is relatively straightforward as the Table of Contents is clear enough.

This is the author’s second book, we reviewed Playing the Grünfeld : A Combative Repertoire previously.

Here is the detailed Table of Contents:

  1. Classical Main Line
  2. Knight’s Tour Variation
  3. Modern Main Line
  4. Kapengut Variation
  5. Nge2 Systems
  6. Bg5 & Bb5 Systems
  7. f4 System
  8. Fianchetto Variation
  9. Bf4 Variation
  10. Sidelines
  11. Anti-Benoni Systems

Before we continue we will declare an interest.  We only play a couple of these positions from the White side and none from the Black side.

The Preface provides a couple of tremendous Tal games in which White is crushed in short order. The Introduction nicely provides an overview of the coverage of each of the main chapters.

Chapter 1 kicks-off with the so-called “Classical Main Line” which  is initially reached via:

ending up at

as the tabiya position for this chapter. The author looks at various move 11 alternatives for White  concluding that 11. Bf4 is the most troublesome for Black which scores 56.4% for White and features in 260 MegaBase 2020 games.

The approach is typically that of working through the moves of a variation in detail making reference to played games which is a Thinker’s Publishing “house style”.

Chapter 2 examines a favourite idea of Vladimir Kramnik for White namely the, at one time,  incredibly popular 7.Nd2 i.e.

ending up at

which is discussed in detail.

The third chapter is dubbed the Modern Main Line  (as labelled by Richard Palliser in his excellent Modern Benoni tome) and has White playing h3 instead of Be2 and placing the f1 bishop on d3 instead leading to

which may be arrived at in several different ways at which point Kovalchuk strong advocates the immediate 9…b5!? instead of the more familiar and less violent 9…a6.

Clearly this is a critical line for the Benoni and is given much detailed analysis. 9…b5!? has featured in 2123 MegaBase 2020 games  and of these 727 are designated as “Top Games”.

Chapter Four brings the joys of the Kapengut Variation which was analysed in detail by Albert Kapengut in 1996:

and appears 1037 times in MegaBase 2020 with a white success rate of 57%.

After 7…Bg7 various ideas for White are examined.

As the Chapter Five’s title suggests various move orders are covered in  which develops the King’s knight to e2 rather than f3 without playing f3 quickly.

For example:

Chapter 6 covers ideas for white involving an early pin with Bg5 or an early check with Bb5+ (but without f4) . The author considers neither of these to be dangerous for Black and provides analysis of his antidotes.

However, much more exacting is the daunting Taimanov Attack (dubbed by David Norwood as the Flick-Knife Attack such was its ferocity) which is examined in Chapter 7.

This famous line made popular in the 1980s begins

and there are 38 pages on this line alone. 9.a4 is given detailed treatment with the main line reaching:

which is then analysed thoroughly.

In the same chapter is the more modern treatment of 9.Nf3 (omitting a4) continuing to

where both 14.f5 and 14.Qe1 are looked at in considerable detail with the latter having the highest database hit rate.

Chapter 8 explores the somewhat innocuous Fianchetto Variation of 7.g3:

and this is given 19 pages of discussion.

The somewhat rare 7.Bf4 system is covered in Chapter 9 with 15 pages of text.

Chapter 10 “tidies up” with coverage of some rarer third and fourth move sidelines which as 3.dxc5 and 4.dxe6 whilst the final Chapter (11) looks at some White Anti-Benoni systems including where c4 is omitted or delayed.

All in all the author provides comprehensive coverage of all of White’s reasonable tries focusing on the critical main lines such as the fearsome Flick-Knife and Modern Main Lines.

This book surely is a must for any player of the Modern Benoni with the black pieces and will be invaluable for the White player who wishes to take Black on in the main lines.

It might have been helpful to sequence the chapters in some kind of order of precedence with perhaps the least significant ones first and then build-up to the most important ones. It is not clear to us that the sequence chosen has any significance since Chapters 1, 3 and 7 perhaps are the most critical variations and 8, 10 and 11 the least.

Any tournament player that either plays the Benoni or who faces it will benefit from this modernised approach.

John Upham, Cove, Hampshire, 31st August, 2021

John Upham
John Upham

Book Details :

  • Hardcover : 280 pages
  • Publisher:Thinkers Publishing; 1st edition (28 Jan. 2021)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 9464201045
  • ISBN-13: 978-9464201048
  • Product Dimensions: 17.15 x 1.27 x 23.5 cm

Official web site of Thinkers Publishing

The Modernized Modern Benoni, Alexey Kovalchuk, Thinker's Publishing, 2021, ISBN-13 : 978-9464201048
The Modernized Modern Benoni, Alexey Kovalchuk, Thinker’s Publishing, 2021, ISBN-13 : 978-9464201048

The Modernized Sveshnikov

The Modernized Sveshnikov, Robert Ris, Thinker's Publishing, 22nd September 2020, ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-9492510839
The Modernized Sveshnikov, Robert Ris, Thinker’s Publishing, 22nd September 2020, ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-9492510839

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

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

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

IM Robert Ris
IM Robert Ris

From the publisher via Amazon we have this blurb:

“The Sveshnikov is undeniably one of the most dynamic and aggressive Sicilians available these days. Most recently, it was made popular again by World Champion Magnus Carlsen in his match against Fabiano Caruana at the end of 2018.

The main lines lead to complex positions, and a deep knowledge and understanding of the opening is a real necessity for any player who wishes to enter this battlefield. Our author, Robert Ris, focuses on all the current developments, highlighting the most important and instructive games from recent years, using his own over-the board experiences.

Ris is well known for his theoretical knowledge and overall opening expertise. And we are quite convinced that he provides Sicilian players with an up-to date arsenal for playing the Sveshnikov. ”

End of blurb…

The author has had considerable experience with 5…e5 and here is one of his wins:

The Sveshnikov variation is described as one of the most aggressive and dynamic openings in the Sicilian defence.

The traditional “Lasker-Pelikan” starting position is:

and it does not seem that long ago that

Sicilian:...e5 by TD Harding & PR Markland, Batsford, 1976, ISBN 0 7134 3209 8
Sicilian:…e5 by TD Harding & PR Markland, Batsford, 1976, ISBN 0 7134 3209 8

was published followed by

Sicilian Lasker-Pelikan, 1978, Batsford, Wade, Speelman, Povah and Blackstock
Sicilian Lasker-Pelikan, 1978, Batsford, Wade, Speelman, Povah and Blackstock

Of the modern, elite players both Peter Leko and Vladimir Kramnik (to name but a few) have played the black side.

One of the consistent themes of the Sveshnikov is that White often doubles black’s pawns on the f-file and then tries to control d5 and make use of his queenside pawn majority. Also, Black often pushes his pawn to e4 and then uses the e5 square for a minor piece.

Following substantial work by Evgenny Sveshnikov and Gennadi Timoschenko we start the bulk of the analysis from the usual tabiya position:

In Part 1, Chapter 1 the author examines the dynamic line 9.Bxf6 gxf6 10.Nd5 f5 11.Bd3 Be6 12.Qh5

and this is looked at via a series of games where the players are generally very highly rated. Ris suggests that the queen move is probably premature and after 12…Rg8! black has a comfortable enough game. This judgement is demonstrated in the example email game Kele vs Fritsche, 2011 where black eventually wins:

The stronger 12.00 (the move I play) is given in Chapter 2 where play centers on 12…Bxd5 which in recent times have proved more popular than 12…Bg7 after which 13.exd5 Ne7 14.Nxb5!? winning a pawn is given. I played this line in a game vs Nigel Povah in 2015 which ended in a draw. Black plays 14…Bg7! and in the game we had 15.Nc3 e4 16.Bc4 00 when black has sufficient compensation for the pawn.

On move 14.c4 was played against Michael Krasenkow in his 2004 game v Gilberto Milos:

Again, Black is willing to sacrifice a queenside pawn but obtained strong play on the kingside.

However, 14.c3 remains the most popular move and White choses a more positional approach where his queen goes to h5 and his knight comes to c2. Alex Shirov chose this method in a game with Alexander Grischuk from Wijk aan Zee, 2003.

Since this book is written from Black’s point of view Black again wins.

Currently 14.Re1 is gaining in popularity and this is examined in Chapter 3.

The idea is to drop the bishop back to f1 and take some of the sting out of Black’s attack.

Part 2 discusses lines where White does not play 11.Bd3.

The famous knight sacrifice 11.Nxb5 is given as dubious whilst in the alternative bishop sacrifice 11.Bxb5 Black can play 11…axb5 12.Nb5 Bb7 sacrificing the exchange. This line is not for the faint hearted and they may prefer the older Ra4 treatment.

In chapter 7 the calmer 11.g3 is discussed: an interesting idea that is worth exploring and yet another approach in Chapter 8 is 11.exf5 Bf5 12.c3 and the knight will escape via c2.

Part 2 investigates 9.Nd5 the move Gary Kasparov preferred liked. After 9…Be7 and Black does not end up with doubled pawns.
Chapter 9 looks at 9…Be7 10.Nxe7 and the next chapter gives 10.Bxf6 which was the move Gary selected.
After 10…gxf6 11.c3 then Ne7 can be played followed by either 12.Nc2 or 12.Nf6+.

Chapter 12 looks at the earlier alternatives and the move 7.Nd5 is examined which is a line that has been far less popular than 7.Bg5 but with recent outings from Fabiano Caruana playing it several times against Magnus Carlsen I expect it to gain in popularity.

In Van Foreest v Carlsen the aggressive line 7 Nd5 8 ed5 Ne7 9 c4 Ng6 10 Qa4 Bd7 11 Qb4 Qb8 12 h4 black played 12…h5 and eventually won:

The book ends with some White choice oddities such as 6.Nf5 when 6…d5 is a strong reply and also 7.a4 but these moves do not seem to be a serious test of 5…e5.

I expect the Sveshnikov to increase in popularity in the next few years and this book should be a serious read for both White and Black players of the interesting positions.

Colin Lyne, Farnborough, Hampshire, 29th July, 2021

Colin Lyne
Colin Lyne

Book Details :

  • Paperback : 336 pages
  • Publisher: Thinkers Publishing; 1st edition (22 Sept. 2020)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 9492510839
  • ISBN-13: 978-9492510839
  • Product Dimensions: 16.51 x 2.03 x 22.86 cm

Official web site of Thinkers Publishing

The Modernized Sveshnikov, Robert Ris, Thinker's Publishing, 22nd September 2020, ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-9492510839
The Modernized Sveshnikov, Robert Ris, Thinker’s Publishing, 22nd September 2020, ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-9492510839

The Tactics Bible – Magnum Opus

The Tactics Bible - Magnum Opus, Efstratios Grivas, Thinker's Publishing, 1st March 2019, ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-9492510433
The Tactics Bible – Magnum Opus, Efstratios Grivas, Thinker’s Publishing, 1st March 2019, ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-9492510433

From the publisher:

“Grandmaster Grivas presents the reader an unique and massive amount of amazing puzzles including their historical background. All the most famous and rare tactical themes are covered, promising the read of the year!”

GM Efstratios Grivas
GM Efstratios Grivas

“Efstratios Grivas (30.03.1966) is a highly experienced chess trainer and chess author. He has been awarded by the International Chess Federation (FIDE) the titles of International Chess Grandmaster, FIDE Senior Trainer, International Chess Arbiter and International Chess Organiser.

His main successes over the board are the Silver Medal Olympiad 1998 (3rd Board), the Gold Medal European Team Championship 1989 (3rd Board) and the 4th Position World Junior Championship U.20 1985. He has also won 5 Balkan Medals (2 Gold – 1 Silver – 2 Bronze) and he was 3 times Winner of the International ‘Acropolis’ Tournament. He has also in his credit the 28 times first position in Greek Individual & Team Championships and he has won various international tournaments as well.

He was also been awarded five FIDE Meals in the Annual FIDE Awards (Winner of the FIDE Boleslavsky Medal 2009 & 2015 (best author) – Winner of the FIDE Euwe Medal 2011 & 2012 (best junior trainer) – Winner of the FIDE Razuvaev Medal 2014 (Trainers’ education) and has been a professional Lecturer at FIDE Seminars for Training & Certifying Trainers.

He has written 95 Books in Arabic, English, Greek, Italian, Spanish & Turkish. Since 2009 he is the Secretary of the FIDE Trainers’ Commission and since 2012 the Director of the FIDE Grivas Chess International Academy (Athens).”

This is second book of the author’s I have reviewed. Previously I reviewed “Your Jungle Guide to Rook Endings

This large tactical tome is action packed full of great tactics and some exciting, instructive games. It is an ideal companion for trainers and players who seek to develop their recognition of dozens of mating patterns. All these mating motifs are shown in constructed cut down  diagrams followed by many different examples from real games with the checkmating ideas demonstrated with  both colours and rotated to aid practising recognising them in different forms thus helping to form a kind of brain muscle memory for these crucial motifs.

The tactics are taken from a mixture of old classics and modern games.

I expect that most older players can remember going through many tactics/ puzzle books on their road to learning the game and this book is another excellent addition to this genre.

The book is divided into five parts:

  • Part 1 A Tactical World
  • Part 2 Tactical Play
  • Part 3 Basic Mates
  • Part 4 Combinative Mates (Queen & Rook)
  • Part 5 Combinative Mates (Bishop, Knight and Pawn)

Part 1 A Tactical World is a thoughtful introduction into the world of tactics with thoughts on Tactical Education and a brief history of  the  development of chess schools of thought.

Four very famous and brilliant games are then presented with objective modern analysis which points out not only the exciting attacking opportunities but also the defensive possibilities. The author is mindful of the fact that tactical patterns help defensive prowess as well as attacking acumen.

The four games are a mixture of old and new:

  • The Immortal Game Adolf Anderssen v Lionel Kieseritzky London 1851 (Offhand game)
  • The EverGreen Game Adolf Anderssen v Jean Dufresne Berlin 1852 (Offhand game)
  • The Rainbow Game Gregory Serper v Ioannis Nikolaisis St Petersburg 1993
  • The Chess Game Garry Kasparov v Veselin Topalov Wijk aan Zee 1999

I can remember playing through the two Adolf Anderssen games as a novice and being really impressed by the beautiful combinations and of the course the queen sacrifices. They are a must for any book on tactics.

The two modern games are also superb and are obviously of a much higher defensive standard than the games played in the 1850s.

Garry Kasparov’s win over Veselin Topalov is regarded by many people as his finest game.

The reviewer will not showcase these well known games here as experienced  players will be well aware of them and new players should buy the book for a treat. However, I will whet your appetite by showing one position from the Rainbow Game:

Serper-Nikolaidis St Petersburg 1993
Serper-Nikolaidis St Petersburg 1993 Move 30

White has sacrificed two pieces for a long term attack and two dangerous passed pawns. Black has just played 29…Qe8. How does white continue the attack?

Part 2 Tactical Play

This chapter examines various aspects of attacking play by presenting examples from real play:

  • Attack Via The Edged Files
  • Blocking the F6-Square
  • Fierce Queen
  • King In The Box
  • The King Hunt
  • The Novotny Interference
  • Defence & Counter-Attack

The section Attack Via The Edged Files discusses the opening of lines around the opponent’s king, typically the rook file and tactics associated therein.

Palo-Nielsen Skanderborg 2003 Move 33
Palo-Nielsen Skanderborg 2003 Move 33

Here is a nice tactic that could easily be missed in practice.

33…Ra3+! 34.Kxa3 Qa7+ 0-1 35.Kb3 Qa4#

The Blocking The F6 section has some entertaining attacking finishes. Here is a vintage Kasparov finish against his old rival Karpov:

Kasparov-Karpov Valencia rapid match (2) Move 22
Kasparov-Karpov Valencia rapid match (2) Move 22

22.Nf6+! Opening up the king (22…Kh8 23.Rh5! mates quickly) 22…gxf6 23.Qxh6 f5 24.Qg5+ Kh8 25.Qf6+ Kg8 26.Rxf5 Ne4

Kasparov-Karpov Valencia rapid match (2) Move 27
Kasparov-Karpov Valencia rapid match (2) Move 27

27.Qh4! Re8 28.Rh5 f5 (29.Rh8+ Kf7 30.Qh7+ Kf6 31.Qh6+ Ke5 32.Rd1 and mates soon) 1-0

In the Fierce Queen section, there is an amusing modern mirror of Marshall’s famous 23…Qg3 against Levitsky at Breslau 1912:

Athens 2018
Athens 2018

White played 1.Qg6!! Qxg6 (1…fxg6 2. Ne7+ Kh8 3.Rxf8#; 1…hxg6 2.Ne7#; 1…h6 2.Nf6+ Kh8 3.Qh7#) 2.Ne7+ Kh8 3.Nxg6+ Kg8 4.Ne7+ Kh8 5.Rxh7+ Kxh7 6.Rh3+ Rh4 7.Rxh4#

The king in the box section includes a brilliant study by Kasparian which is worth revisiting:

Kasparian Study Yerevan 1935
Kasparian Study Yerevan 1935

1,Ne8! Kg6 2.h5+! Rxh5 3.f5+! Rx5 4.g4! Re5 5.Bf5+! Rxf5 6.Ng7!

Kasparian Study Yerevan 1936 End
Kasparian Study Yerevan 1936 End

The King Hunt section reminds me of one of my favourite books as a junior player: The King Hunt by W.H. Cozens. Some of the games from that book are included here. I shall show one example here from Lodewijk Prins v Lawrence Day Lugano 1968:

Prins-Day Lugano 1968 Move 23
Prins-Day Lugano 1968 Move 23

White played the greedy 23.Ne1?? The punishment was a humiliating long, lonely walk to the scaffold for the white king. (23. Kf2 gxf3 24. Bxf3 is about equal) Rh1+ 24.Kf2 g3+! 25.Kxg3 Rxe1! 26.Qxe1 Qxg2+ 27.Kf4 g5+ 28.Ke5 Qe4+ 29.Kf6 (29.Kd6 Rc8 30. b4 Rc6#) Qf5+ 30.Kg7 Qg6+ 31.Kh8 0-0-0# 0-1

A Novotny interference is when the attacking side sacrifices a piece on a square where it can be taken by two different opponent’s pieces – whichever piece captures interferes with the other. Here is a Novotony example that  was new to me:

Carlos Torre Repetto-Frank Parker New York 1924 Move 30
Carlos Torre Repetto-Frank Parker New York 1924 Move 30

White resigned here as he could not see any defence to 30…Rc1+ 31.Ke2 and 31…d1Q+ winning easily. What did he miss?

He could have won with 30.Rd6!! Rxd6 (30…cxd6 32.f7 wins) 31.g8=Q+ Kd7 32.Qf7+ Kc6 33.Qe8+ Kb6 34.Qe3! pinning the dangerous rook followed by taking it and f7 winning.

The section on the counterattack is didactic and shows some good examples. Here is a game Fischer-Gligoric from Varna 1962.

Fischer-Gligoric Varna 1962 Move 27
Fischer-Gligoric Varna 1962 Move 27

White clearly has had an initiative with active pieces but his attack has been halted and white’s exposed king will become a factor. His knight is also not really contributing much.

27…h6! (Stockfish prefers 27…Bb4 but also likes the move played) 28.Re3 Bb4 29.gxh6 Qxc2 30.Rg1 Kh7

Fischer-Gligoric Varna 1962 Move 31
Fischer-Gligoric Varna 1962 Move 31

31.Qg3 (31.Rxg6 does not work because white’s king is too exposed: 31…Kxg6 32. Rg3+ Kh7 33. Rg7+ Rxg7 34.hxg7 Qc1+ 35. Kg2 Qd2+ 36.Kf1 Kg6! wins) Rg8 32.e5

Fischer-Gligoric Varna 1962 Move 32
Fischer-Gligoric Varna 1962 Move 32

Bxc3! (stopping the knight from getting to g5) 33.Rxc3 Qe4+ 34.Rg2 Rd8! (Very strong, the counterattack is rolling) 35.Re3 Rd1+ 36.Kh2 Qb1 37.Qg4 (37.Rg1 Qxa2+ 38. Kh3 Rxg1 39.Qxg1 a4) Rh1+ 38.Kg3

Fischer-Gligoric Varna 1962 Move 38
Fischer-Gligoric Varna 1962 Move 38

Qc1? (38…Rh5! is more murderous 39.Qe4 Qc1 40.Rf3 Rd7 activating the other rook kills white) 39.Re4? (39.Qd4 is better) Rd7! Bringing up the reserves 40.Qe2 Qg5+ (40…Qxh6 is even more accurate but the game line is good enough) 41.Qg4 Rd3+ 42.Kf2 Rd2+ 43.Kg3 Rxg2+ 44.Kxg2 Qc1 0-1

Part 3 Basic Mates

As the title suggests, it covers basic checkmates. The chapter is divided into two sections covering the fundamental endgame mates with the pieces and common checkmates occurring at the beginning of the game.

A more experienced reader may think this section is too basic but you would be wrong as the author covers some pretty complex stuff in the endgame such as two knights against a pawn.

Grivas has an excellent section on the Bishop & Knight mate which is not trivial by any means. GM Vladimir Epishin failed to win this ending! I will confess that I had never heard of Delétang’s triangles although I am aware of the techniques to confine the king using triangles. I take my hat off the author for explaining the bishop and knight mate so clearly.

This is a surprising stalemate trap not mentioned in endgame manuals:

BishopAndKnight Mate
Bishop & Knight Mate

1…Nb6+? 2.Kd8! Oops black can only save his bishop by inflicting stalemate on white! A quick win was to be had: 1…Na5 2.Kd8 Ba4 3.Kc8 Bd7+ 4.Kb8 Kc6 5.Ka7 Bc8 6.Kb8 Kd7 7.Ka8 Kc7 8.Ka7 Nc6+ 9.Ka8 Bb7#

Some basic mates at the beginning of the game are covered such as Fool’s Mate, Scholar’s Mate and similar ideas. Importantly, the author considers the defences to Scholar’s mate. Some GM games are included!

Here is an example from a Greco game which is an offshoot of a foolhardy variation of Owen’s Defence.
Greco – NN
Europe 1620

1.e4 b6 2.d4 Bb7 3.Bd3 f5?

Greco-NN Europe 1621 Move 4
Greco-NN Europe 1620 Move 4

4.exf5! Bxg2 5.Qh5+ g6 6.fxg6 Nf6

6…Bg7 is better, but there are two busts to this silly line:

Greco-NN Europe 1621 Move 7
Greco-NN Europe 1620 Move 7

7.gxh7+ Kf8 8.Qg6 or even better 7.Qf5! Nf6 8.Bh6!! Bxh6 9.gxh7 Bxh1 10.Qg6+ Kf8 11.Qxh6+ Kf7 12.Nh3! Qf8 13.Qg6+ Ke6 14.Nc3 d5 15.0-0-0 with a winning position

Greco-NN Europe 1621 Variation Move 15
Greco-NN Europe 1620 Variation Move 15

7.gxh7+! Nxh5 8.Bg6#

Greco-NN Europe 1620 End
Greco-NN Europe 1620 End

Part 4 Combinative Mates (Queen & Rook)

Although the author states in the introduction that knowing the names of the mates does not matter, I tend to disagree as a name gives some poetry. There are about 24 different types of mates in this chapter. The reviewer will show a few positions to give the reader a taste:

Here is a famous opening trap with Anastasia’s Mate:

Bukowska – Kopec
MK Cafe Cup Koszalin (7) 1997

1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5 a6 4.Ba4 Nf6 5.0-0 Nxe4 6.Re1 Nc5 7.Nxe5 Nxe5 8.Rxe5+ Be7 9.Nc3 Nxa4 10.Nd5 0-0 11.Nxe7+ Kh8

Bukowska-Kopev Koszalin 1997 Move 12
Bukowska-Kopec Koszalin 1997 Move 12

12.Qh5! d5 (12…g6 13.Qh4 is nasty) 13.Qxh7!+ 1-0 (13…Kxh7 14.Rxh5#

The Arabian mate is a common mating motif:

Miguel Illescas Cordoba-Nigel Short Linares 1995 Move 37
Miguel Illescas Cordoba-Nigel Short Linares 1995 Move 37

Black’s a pawn is unstoppable, but white has seen further.

37.Qxf7! a1=Q+ 38.Kh2 and black’s extra queen cannot prevent the inevitable mate on h7! 38…Qxf7 39.Rxf7 b6 40,Rh7#

The back row mate (aka corridor mate) is probably one of the commonest tactical themes in chess:

Miguel Illescas Cordoba-Nigel Short Linares 1995 Move 37
Capablanca-Thomas, Hastings, 1919, move 29

Capablanca muffed the coup de grâce by playing 29.Qa8?? and black resigned obviously believing the future world champion. Black could have saved the game with 29…Rxa2!

White could have won with 29.Rxe8 or even simpler 29.Qb5! Rxb8 (29…c6 30.Rxe8 Qxe8 31.Qb8 Rc1+ 32.Kf2) 30.Qxb8 Kg8 31.Qb3+ or 31.Qa7

Here is another beautiful example of a back rate coupled with a self block mate:

Nunn-Plaskett London 1986 Move 21
Nunn-Plaskett London 1986 Move 21

White played 21.Qf5! (with a double threat on the black queen and h7) 21…Re6 (21…Qxf5 22.Rxe8#;Qa4 23.b3! Rxe4  24,bxa4 Re1+ 25.Bf1 wins;21…Qd8 22.Re7!! capturing the rook allows 23.Qxh7+ Kf8 24.Qh8#) 22.d5! Nxd3 23.dxe6 fxe6 24.Qxe6+ Qxe6 25.Rxe6 (25…Nxb2 26.Re7 wins by harvesting the black pawns)  Kf7 26.Re2 1-0

No anthology of tactics would be complete without the Opera Mate:

Paul Morphy- Carl Isoard Paris 1858
Paul Morphy – Carl Isoard Paris 1858

Probably one of the most famous finishes 16.Qb8!+ Nxb8 17.Rd8#

This is an instructive example of Cozio’s Mate:

Cozio Mate Queen Ending
Cozio Mate Queen Ending

White looks to be in trouble here. However after 1.Qe7+ Qg5 (1…g5 2.Qe1+ Qg3+ 3.Qxg3#) 2.Qe4+ Qg4 3.Qe3!! black is in zugzwang and will be mated.

Here is an example of Marshall’s mate from a modern game:

Wesley So-Anish Giri Wijk aan Zee 2010 Move 36
Wesley So-Anish Giri Wijk aan Zee 2010 Move 36

White played 36.Ne2?? (36.Qxd1 Rf2 37.Qf1 Rxf1 38.Rxf1 wins as a rook and three pieces will overcome a queen and 3 pawns) overlooking 36…Rf1+ 37.Kxf1 Qf2#

Part 5 Combinative Mates (Bishop, Knight & Pawn)

There are about 11 different types of mates in this chapter. The reviewer will show a few positions to give the reader a taste:

Here is the original Boden’s Mate:

Schulder-Boden London 1853 Move 13
Schulder-Boden London 1853 Move 13

13…d5! 14.Bxd5 Qxc3+ 15.bxc3 Ba3#

Here is an example of the Pony Express mate from Joseph Blackburne:

NN-Blackburne GB 1871 Move 20
NN-Blackburne GB 1871 Move 20

White appears to have plenty of pieces round his king, but 20…Qg2+! 21.Rxg2 Nh3# is a pretty mate

Here is a example of the Suffocation Mate deep in the ending:

Ivanchuk-Shirov Bazna 2009 Move 84
Ivanchuk-Shirov Bazna 2009 Move 84

White has just played 84.h7! and black resigned. After 84…Kg7 85.h8Q+! Kxh8 86.Bh6 the black king is trapped in the corner. White mates with the moves 87.Bf8 followed by 88.Kg5, 89.Kh6 and 90.Bg7#

In summary, I recommend this book as an excellent training manual for practising pattern recognition of common mating patterns.

To make the book even better, I would have added a short section on common tactical motifs such as forks, skewers & pins.

FM Richard Webb
FM Richard Webb

FM Richard Webb, Basingstoke, Hampshire, 20th July 2021

Book Details :

  • Hardcover : 450 pages
  • Publisher:Thinkers Publishing; 1st edition (1 Mar. 2019)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 949251043X
  • ISBN-13: 978-9464201055
  • Product Dimensions: 17.02 x 23.5 cm

Official web site of Thinkers Publishing

The Tactics Bible - Magnum Opus, Efstratios Grivas, Thinker's Publishing, 1st March 2019, ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-9492510433
The Tactics Bible – Magnum Opus, Efstratios Grivas, Thinker’s Publishing, 1st March 2019, ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-9492510433