Playing the Grünfeld : A Combative Repertoire

Playing the Grünfeld: A Combative Repertoire Book by Alexey Kovalchuk, Quality Chess, 2020
Playing the Grünfeld: A Combative Repertoire Book by Alexey Kovalchuk, Quality Chess, 2020

From the rear cover :

“Alexey Kovalchuk is a Russian player whose rating reached 2445 in recent years. In additional to winning the Rostov Championship and numerous other tournaments, he is a theoretician who works as a second for strong chess grandmasters.”

Also from the rear cover

“The Grünfeld Defence is well known to be one of Black’s best and most challenging responses to 1.d4, and has long been a favorite choice of elite players including Kasparov, Svidler, Caruana, Vachier-Lagrave and many more. As with many chess openings, however, it can be difficult to navigate the ever-expanding jungle of games and theory. Playing the Grünfeld offers an ideal solution for practical chess players. Alexey Kovalchuk is a young Russian talent with expert knowledge of the Grünfeld, and in this book he shares his best ideas to form a complete, coherent and combative repertoire for Black. In addition to theoretical soundness, efforts have been made to avoid variations leading to early forced draws, as well as those in which Black allows his king to be attacked at an early stage.”

This book, published by Quality Chess, is a substantive addition to the literature covering the Grünfeld Defence. I write “substantive” partly to refer to its 500 pages, which is rather a lot for a repertoire book. Of course, a major opening like the Grünfeld  deserves a large number of pages.

The book is nicely presented and has high production values. For example, each of the 16 chapters of opening content has its own mini Index of Variations, and there is a detailed Index of Variations at the end of the book. The subject matter is up to date, with many references to games played up to 2019.

Content of the Book

The Grünfeld is covered in some detail, both in the breadth and depth of variations. As mentioned above, game references are up to date, and the author supplements known theory with his own suggestions and analysis. (For example, he mentions a very intriguing piece sac in a side-line of the Fianchetto Variation – sorry, no spoilers here!) The author’s “scientific approach to chess” and the fact that he is a “diligent worker” (both quotes from GM Petrov’s foreword) do come across in this work.

One nice feature is that for the major variations the author gives a paragraph or two about the background of the move. For example he says who played it first, which books recommend it, which top GMs currently include it in their repertoire and so on. I think this is a nice touch which adds interest to the opening.

The he goes into detail, covering the lines he recommends with a good mixture of variations and wordy (but not over verbose) explanations. This obviously constitutes the bulk of the book, and I give an example of his style below.

Also, each chapter is given a Conclusion, usually half a page or so, in which Kovalchuk gives a broad brush reminder of the material covered, and puts the lines into perspective (eg pointing out the dangerous lines, the common lines, or the positional lines). Another nice touch which I believe helps the reader to make sense of the material, which can be difficult after playing through a number of variations.

Example Content

The following excerpt shows the author’s attention to detail, and his willingness to share his own analysis. It is taken from the chapter on the 3 f3 variation:

11 …Ne8!?
With the typical Benoni plan of …Nc7, …Rb8 and …b5.
The reader may be wondering why we don’t play 11 …h5 here. The trick is revealed, showing why White waited so long to to develop his dark-squared bishop: 12 Bg5! Qe8 13 Qd2 Nh7 14 Bh6 Rb8 15 Bxg7 Kxg7 16 Nf1 Qe7 17 Ne3 +=  The royal knight is perfectly employed.

12 0-0
12 Be3 Rb8 leaves White nothing better than 13 0-0 transposing.
12 Bf4!? deserves further attention; I only found one game with this move, Boehme – Bochev, email 2014. I recommend 12 …Bd4!?N with the possible continuation: 13 Qd2 f5 14 exf5 (14 h4 fxe4 15 Ngxe4 Ndf6 16 Bg5 Qa5∞) 14 …gxf5 15 Bc4 Ne5∞ There arises a complex position with mutual chances.

(The book actually uses figurines.)

Comparison with The Modernized Grunfeld Defense

Having reviewed Yaroslav Zherebukh’s The Modernized Grunfeld Defense recently, and both books published in 2020, it is hard not to compare the two books.

First, let me say that I think that these are both very good books which will serve Grünfeld players well, whether they are new to the defence or more experienced.

For brevity, I will refer to the books as PtG and TMG.

PtG at 500 pages is somewhat larger than TMG‘s 300 pages and so we can expect the former to cover more lines. (Zherebukh’s style is more terse and to-the-point, but that doesn’t account for 200 pages.)

Both books go into some depth, but PtG goes into more detail with the side-lines. For example, there is little on an early Qa4+ in TMG whereas Kovalchuk gives this idea a chapter in PtG.  It is true that TMG does have advice on how to play anti-Grünfeld’s which is not covered by PtG, but generally Kovalchuk’s book does have broader coverage.

As mentioned above, this book (PtG) does have production values and features which make it more accessible, which is not to say that TMG is bad in this regard.

Which one would I recommend? As above, I am sure that all Grünfeld players would benefit from either book, but it is possible that PtG‘s presentation and coverage of side-lines would make it more attractive to players starting with this opening. TMG, however, does have some good advice on how to learn an opening, which is a nice feature of that book.

It is interesting that the repertoires recommended by the two books are substantially different, and it could be that which book is “better” could just mean which book recommends lines that suit particular players.


Playing the Grünfeld is an excellent book, which I can recommend to any player of this opening.

Colin Purdon, December 15th 2020

Colin Purdon
Colin Purdon

Book Details :

  • Flexicover : 504 pages
  • Publisher: Quality Chess UK LLP (15 July 2020)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 178483095X
  • ISBN-13: 978-1784830953
  • Product Dimensions: 17.09 x 2.24 x 24.16 cm

Official web site of Quality Chess

Playing the Grünfeld: A Combative Repertoire Book by Alexey Kovalchuk, Quality Chess, 2020
Playing the Grünfeld: A Combative Repertoire Book by Alexey Kovalchuk, Quality Chess, 2020

Remembering Horatio Caro (05-vii-1862 15-xii-1920)

Horatio Caro
Horatio Caro

We remember Horatio Caro who passed away on Wednesday, December 15th, 1920.

Horatio Caro was born on Saturday, July 5th 1862. On the same day Heinrich Georg Bronn, German geologist and paleontologist passed away.

His parents were (in the 1861 census) Jacob and Mathilda Caro (née Lüpschütz, possibly Lipschütz) living at 4, Warwick Place, Jesmond, Newcastle upon Tyne.

Horatio’s birth was recorded at Lombard Street, Newcastle upon Tyne.

Jacob and Horatio moved to Berlin to live at 2, Winterfeld Strasse. They both had joint German/British citizenship.

In 1896 Jacob passed away and his affairs were handled by family solicitors, Daggett and Grey of 3 Dean Street, Newcastle-upon-Tyne:

The London Gazette, 1896
The London Gazette, 1896

On December 15th 1920 JHD Reid, Master of the Institution of South Grove (a workhouse) recorded the discharge of Horatio. The reason stated was “dead”.

His death was registered in Mile End Old Town and he is buried in the East Ham Jewish cemetery, London Borough of Newham, Greater London located at Section E Row 18 Plot 14.

Grave marker for Horatio Caro. Photograph from Gordon Cadden to Ken Whyld Assocation
Grave marker for Horatio Caro. Photograph from Gordon Cadden to Ken Whyld Assocation

According to Wolfgang Heidenfeld in The Encyclopedia of Chess (Batsford, 1977), Harry Golombek OBE :

“A minor English master who spent most of his chess life in Berlin. Though he had indifferent tournament not much better match results (he lost to Mieses, and Winawer, drew twice with Von Bardeleben and beat Lewitt), his name has become immortal through the Caro-Kann Defence, which he expounded in his own journal, Brüderschaft, in 1886.”

The Caro-Kann Defence is characterised by

(as an alternative to the French Defence) in which the c8 bishop may be active from an early stage.

Caro famously was able to overcome Emanuel Lasker in just 14 moves in 1890 :

There is also the Caro Variation of the Ponziani Defence which was known since the 1850s and recommended by Caro in Deutsches Wochenschach, 1893:

From Chess, Facts and Fables (McFarland and Company, Inc., 2006), page 12, Chess Note 3096, Edward Winter :

“We can now add a tenth specimen to the collection (of ‘Rare queen sacrifices’), having noted the following position on page 81 of Brüderschaft, 10 March 1888 :

The magazine (see also page 155 of the 12 May 1888 issue) stated that in this game, played in February 1888 (in Berlin?), Horatio Caro mated his unidentified opponent in five moves as above.”

In another place we are grateful to Brian Denman who mentioned that  Caro made an  appearance for the Great Britain team in the 1898 cable match against America. He lost on board 3 against John Barry.

Richard James replied : “He also represented Berlin in a cable match against New York in 1905. EdoChess has his highest rating as 2545 (11th in the world) in 1892.”

In a Comment to this post Tim Harding asks : “Caro was one of the British invitees to the London 1899 international but he withdrew before the start because of illness. Does anyone know what was wrong with him?”

Also, according to Richard James :

“He spent most of his life in Germany. Page 353 of the Jubiläums-Ausgabe (1926) of Kagans Neueste Schachnachrichten (yes, I also read Edward Winter’s Chess Notes) claims that he lived in Frankfurt up to his 22nd year and in Berlin from 1882 onwards (arithmetic fail). Some sources claim, incorrectly, that he died in Berlin.

His death was registered in Mile End Old Town. In the 1911 census there are a lot of Caros in St George in the East, just the other side of the Commercial Road from Mile End Old Town, from their first names clearly Jewish. There’s also Blanche Caro, a 65-year-old Polish born widow, described as a furrier, in hospital in Mile End Old Town.”

There is extensive discussion from the same above source.

From Wikipedia :

“Horatio Caro (5 July 1862 – 15 December 1920) was an English chess master.

Caro was born in Newcastle upon Tyne, England,[1] but spent most of his chess career in Berlin, Germany. He played several matches. In 1892, he drew with Curt von Bardeleben (+2 –2 =2), lost to Szymon Winawer (+2 –3 =1). In 1897, he lost to Jacques Mieses (+3 –4 =3). In 1903, he drew with Bardeleben (+4 –4 =0). In 1905, he won against Moritz Lewitt (+4 –3 =5).

In tournaments, he won in Berlin (1888, 1891, 1894, 1898 (jointly), and 1903). He also took 10th at Berlin 1883, took 4th at Berlin 1887, tied for 2nd-3rd at Nuremberg 1888, took 3rd at Berlin 1889, took 2nd at Berlin 1890.

He took 3rd at Berlin 1894, took 9th at Berlin 1897, took 17th at Vienna 1898, took 4th at Berlin 1899, tied for 6-7th at Berlin 1902, tied for 11-12th at Coburg 1904, tied for 7-8th at Barmen 1905, took 9th at Berlin 1907, tied for 3-5th at Berlin 1908, and took 4th at Berlin 1911.

Caro died in London at age 58.

His claim to fame is linked to the opening Caro-Kann Defence (B12), which he analysed along with Marcus Kann and jointly published about on the German journal Bruederschaft in 1886.”