The Modernized Ruy Lopez – Volume 1 – A Complete Repertoire for White

The Modernized Ruy Lopez – Volume 1 – A Complete Repertoire for White, Dariusz Swiercz, Thinkers Publishing, ISBN 9789464201031
The Modernized Ruy Lopez – Volume 1 – A Complete Repertoire for White, Dariusz Swiercz, Thinkers Publishing, ISBN 9789464201031

“Dariusz Swiercz was born in 1994 in Tarnowskie Gory, Poland. His grandfather taught him to play chess at the age of three. During his junior career he won numerous National Championships as well as several European and World Championship medals. His highest successes include the bronze medal in 2010 at the World U20 Championship (Chotowa, Poland), gold medal in 2011 at the World U20 Championship (Chennai, India) and another gold medal in 2012 at the World U18 Championship (Maribor, Slovenia). He is one of the youngest to receive the Grandmaster title at the age of 14 years and 7 months. In 2016 he won the third edition of the “Millionaire Chess” held in Las Vegas, USA. Since 2018 he has represented the United States. Dariusz currently resides in Saint Louis, Missouri.”

GM Dariusz Świercz
GM Dariusz Świercz

From the book’s rear cover we have :

“The Ruy Lopez is one of the most popular openings of all time. It is a frequent guest in the games of players around the world from novice to Grandmaster. As a result of the increased power of analysis engines the theory of the Ruy Lopez has greatly expanded. Lines that did not exist years ago have been fully developed, supported with extensive analysis, and incorporated into the repertories of top players. Despite this exponential growth in theory, I believe that when armed with sound knowledge it is possible to pose certain practical problems for Black. The purpose of this book is to provide you with detailed and clear explanations of the intricacies of the Ruy Lopez.”

In this series (this is Volume 1) the author takes an in-depth look via 513 pages of how to play the Ruy Lopez (Spanish Opening) from Whites perspective giving many lines that he believes will leave White with some advantage after the opening .

Part 1 looks at opening lines that are slightly unusual and “off-beat” such as the Bird’s defence;

the Schliemann defence;

the Cozio defence;

the Smyslov defence;

the Classical defence;

the Steinitz defence;

the Norwegian defence (ed. the Taimanov defence for those with long memories!);

and Averbakh variations;

Unlike many recent opening books, unusually Dariusz does not analyse complete games but does provide copious amounts of analysis as to how to play against many different tries by black.

Having played the Schliemann a great deal both OTB and online I was interested to see what his recommendation was:

and 4. d3 fe4; 5. de4 Nf6; 6. 00 was his choice here

with both 6…d6 and the main line 6…Bc5 discussed in detail.

Against 6…Bc5 it is recommended that White goes pawn grabbing with 7.Bxc6 bxc6; 8.Ne5 00 9 Nc3 d6 10 Na4 with analysis that goes as far as move 25 showing that White has a clear advantage.

The delayed Schliemann 3…a6; 4. Ba4 f5 is also discussed but this has, for many years, been regarded as suspect concluding that 5.d4! is considered the “refutation”.

Part 2 deals solely with Kramnik’s favourite (and Kasparov’s anti-favourite!) the Berlin Defence 3…Nf6 which has caused even some of the top players in the world to switch (albeit temporarily) further south from the Spanish Opening to the Italian Game, 3.Bc4.

Both 4.00 and 4.d3 are examined closely and in the castles line he prefers variations for White that keep the Queens on: after 4…Ne4; 5.Re1 Nd6; 6.Ne5 Be7; 7.Bf1 Nf5; 8.Nf3 d5

both 9.d4 00; 10.c3 and 9 Nc3 are considered as alternatives.

The depth of Berlin analysis runs to nearly 100 pages and is aimed at players who are willing to look at openings well over 20 moves deep.

4.d3 is also studied when both 4…d6 and 4…Bc5 are looked at with much analysis again going to over 20 moves and showing that usually white has an advantage and can continue putting pressure on black .

Part 3 features the Open 5…Ne4 line when after 6 d4 b5 7 Bb3 d5 now both 8 Ne5 and the more popular 8 de5 Be6 9 Nbd2 the move that Karpov employed in his games against Korchnoi is discussed:

I played this variation for at least 30 years and came to the conclusion that White is always a bit better.

Essentially this is the coverage of Volume 1. To learn about the Closed Ruy Lopez we will be looking at Volume 2 in a future review.

In summary, this book is for players who are not frightened of looking at an opening in considerable depth that is sure to happen in a significant number of their games. It is a handy tool for “correspondence” players and I will, no doubt, be consulting it for good use in my future games!

Colin Lyne, Farnborough, Hampshire, 9th April, 2021

Colin Lyne
Colin Lyne

Book Details :

  • Paperback : 520 pages
  • Publisher:Thinkers Publishing; 1st edition (28 Jan. 2021)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10:9464201037
  • ISBN-13:978-9464201031
  • Product Dimensions: 16.51 x 3.18 x 22.86 cm

Official web site of Thinkers Publishing

The Modernized Ruy Lopez – Volume 1 – A Complete Repertoire for White, Dariusz Swiercz, Thinkers Publishing, ISBN 9789464201031
The Modernized Ruy Lopez – Volume 1 – A Complete Repertoire for White, Dariusz Swiercz, Thinkers Publishing, ISBN 9789464201031

Chess Duels 1921 – 1924 : 127 Games Annotated by Alexander Alekhine

Chess Duels 1921 – 1924 : 127 Games Annotated by Alexander Alekhine

Chess Duels 1921 - 1924 : 127 Games Annotated by Alexander Alekhine, Vlastimil Fiala & Ken Neat, Moravian Chess, 2020, ISBN 978-80-7189-021-8
Chess Duels 1921 – 1924 : 127 Games Annotated by Alexander Alekhine, Vlastimil Fiala & Ken Neat, Moravian Chess, 2020, ISBN 978-80-7189-021-8

From the publisher:

The publication is a continuation of the project to publish all the available games annotated by the Fourth world chess champion Alexander Alekhine. These are not only his own games but also games played by other players for which he contributed notes in various publications. Covered here are several international tournaments in Europe from 1921-1923, as well as exhibition games in Britain and North America from 1923 and early 1924. An additional chapter gives a few early game annotations which were not included in the first volume. 312 pp. Researched by Vlastimil Fiala, translated and edited by Ken Neat.

Vlastimil Fiala is a professor of Political Science and distinguished academic and the main driving force behind the publishing house, Moravian Chess based in Olomouc in the Czech Republic. Fiala’s second love is chess history which he treats as a science. His publication portfolio is impressive : the web site of Moravian Chess provides a listing.

Vlastimil Fiala
Vlastimil Fiala

Durham based Dr. Kenneth P. Neat (an expert on cosmic rays which he studied whilst at Moscow State University between 1968 and 1970) is one of the most experienced chess translators with a back-catalogue extending to almost fifty years. His earliest work was for BT Batsford and, by a pleasurable coincidence, was “Alexander Alekhine” by Alexander Kotov published in 1973. Ken translated many titles for Batsford and then became the in-house translator for Robert Maxwell and Pergamon Publishing with many works to his credit. Since then Ken has translated further titles for Moravian Chess.

This is the second book in a series (“Chess Duels”) to collect together all games annotated by Alekhine regardless of who the players were. The first book by this team covered the period 1893 – 1920 and this book continues by covering the years 1921 – 1924.

Chess Duels 1893 - 1920, Moravian Press
Chess Duels 1893 – 1920, Moravian Press

The book is produced as a hardback of almost exactly A5 dimensions. The binding appears to be well executed and the cover hard wearing. There is a generous quantity of diagrams per game using figurine algebraic notation throughout. The book requires no weights to keep it open and the pages are printed in a double column format. The book even has a charming aroma and feel when flicking through the pages!

For each game we are given the original source of the annotations plus the details of the players, the event type and name and a basic modern description of the opening and its Rabar Index / ECO code.

The content of the book is divided into four parts, one for each year. Each Part is then further subdivided, for example:

  1. Part One : Games Played in Europe I (1921)
    • Games played in Germany
    • Budapest 1921
    • The Hague 1921
    • Two Knights Opening
    • Staunton Gambit
  2. Part Two : Games Played in Europe II (1922)
    • Bad Pistyan 1922
    • London 1922
    • Hastings 1922
    • Vienna 1922
    • Other Games 1922
  3. Part Three : Games Played in Europe III (1923)
    • Karlsbad 1923
    • Margate and Portsmouth
    • Other Games 1923
  4. Part Four : Games Played in Canada and USA (November 1923 – February 1924)
  5. Supplement to First Volume, Early Games (1861 – 1920)
  6. Appendices
    • Translator’s notes
    • Index of Sources
    • Index of Alekhine’s Opponents
    • Index of other Players
    • Index of Openings

So, the layout of material is clear and logical with a strong academic approach. One gets an impression of rigour and attention to detail. One detail missing that could have easily have been included was the exact date (where known) for each of the games. We found it interesting to compare the notes for games from a variety of sources and annotators and the date would have made these comparisons easier.

As stated, we have 127 complete games all with annotations from Alekhine himself. Of these 22 do not feature Alekhine but they are all top players of the period such such Rubinstein, Tarrasch, Yates, Thomas, Mieses etc.

One of the games that caught our eye was this lively encounter between Alekhine and Yates from Hastings in 1922:

The items titled “Two Knights Opening” and “Staunton Gambit” are theoretical articles written by Alekhine from the tournament book.

Of course, most (if not all) of the Alekhine games feature in previous games collections (nobody should be surprised by this). We compared the translation of the original annotations and the “feel” of the annotation has been retained. For example, from the well-known brilliancy prize winning game Tarrasch – Alekhine, Bad Pistyan, 1922, round one we have this translation by Julius du Mont and M. E. Goldstein (“My Best Games of Chess 1908 – 1923“, Alexander Alekhine, George Bell and Sons Ltd., London, 1927) of the note to after 1. d4 Nf6;2.Nf3 e6;3.c4 c5;

With the intention of investigating, on the next move, the gambit discovered by the Moscow amateur, Blumenfeld. Since then it has been shown that this Gambit is not favourable for Black if White should decline it

and our review book has

With the intention of introducing into international practise an interesting gambit, suggested by V.M. Blumenfeld. However it has now been shown that this continuation is more advantageous to White, if he does not accept the pawn sacrifice.

You might be worried that his book has been ruined with pages of modern analysis dumps from BabelFish XX (substitute the current, trendy engine of your choice). Have no fear : this book is choc full of pearls of wisdom from one of the greatest players to annotate games. No doubt there will be unfortunate souls who lives are brightened when “their engine” is able pick holes in analysis from a legend. Perhaps this is not the right book for them.

However…any serious student of chess will be delighted with this work and be able to relive these games through Alekhine’s eyes with much pleasure. The games annotated by Alekhine but not played by him are probably the icing on the cake.

We strongly recommend this and look forward to the next in the series.

John Upham, Cove, Hampshire, 7th April, 2021

John Upham
John Upham

Book Details :

  • Hardback : 312 pages
  • Publisher: Publishing House Moravian Chess; 1st edition (1 Jan. 2020)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 8071890219
  • ISBN-13: 978-8071890218
  • Product Mass : 1.5 pounds

Official web site of Moravian Chess

Chess Duels 1921 - 1924 : 127 Games Annotated by Alexander Alekhine, Vlastimil Fiala & Ken Neat, Moravian Chess, 2020, ISBN 978-80-7189-021-8
Chess Duels 1921 – 1924 : 127 Games Annotated by Alexander Alekhine, Vlastimil Fiala & Ken Neat, Moravian Chess, 2020, ISBN 978-80-7189-021-8

Chess Rivals of the 19th Century : With 300 Annotated Games

Chess Rivals of the 19th Century : With 300 Annotated Games, Tony Cullen, McFarland Publishing, March 2020
Chess Rivals of the 19th Century : With 300 Annotated Games, Tony Cullen, McFarland Publishing, March 2020

Chess Rivals of the 19th Century : With 300 Annotated Games : Tony Cullen

From the publisher’s blurb :

“Many historical chess books focus on individual 19th century masters and tournaments yet little is written covering the full scope of competitive chess through the era. This volume provides a comprehensive overview, with 300 annotated games analyzed by past masters and checked by powerful engines.

Players such as Max Lange and Cochrane, known to the chess public only by the name given to a fierce attack or gambit, are brought to life. Fifty masters are each given their own chapter, with brief biographies, results and anecdotes and an endgame section for most chapters.

Tony Cullen played chess for the strong London Central YMCA Chess Club and organized tours playing team matches against strong opposition in various European cities. He lives in London.”

 

I guess I should start with a declaration of interest. Tony Cullen’s son was, fairly briefly, a member of Richmond Junior Chess Club about 30 years ago, so I got to know him quite well at that time. We also faced each other over the board in an inter-club match in 2009.

From the introduction:

This book aims to give the reader an overview of competitive chess throughout the 19th century. The battle for supremacy amongst the elite 19th century chess masters is a theme running throughout the book, but the second-rank masters also produced great chess at times, even against the top players, and so their games and their contributions to chess in general are given more attention in these pages than is normally the case. The bulk of the book is naturally concentrated on the second half of the century, since there were no international tournaments before then and not too many players of the first rank either.

There is a chapter devoted to each of the 50 masters: brief biographies, best games, results and anecdotes sprinkled throughout. Many of the games are annotated by 19th century masters, but any significant errors in their analysis of critical positions have been corrected using powerful chess engines. All 300 games are annotated. Although several of the players featured continued their careers well into the 20th century, the selected games are restricted to those played in the 19th century in order to retain the flavor of the period.

Philidor, who, although mentioned in the first chapter, just missed out on this book, famously said that pawns were the soul of chess. In one sense, yes, but you might also think of the soul of chess as its history and heritage, its literature and personalities.

This book takes you on a journey through the world of 19th century chess, from the coffee houses and cafés of London, Paris and Berlin through to the great international tournaments of the 1890s, from McDonnell and la Bourdonnais through to Pillsbury and Lasker. From players born in the closing years of the 18th century, to those who, like Maroczy and Mieses, lived on into the second half of the twentieth century, overlapping with the lives of both your author and your reviewer. The players are introduced in roughly chronological order.

The biographical sections often start with an obituary, taken perhaps from the British Chess Magazine, or from another contemporary source. Contemporary pen pictures are also included, along with entertaining anecdotes which tell us more about their lives and personalities. The author has used both Chessmetrics and Edochess to detail their match and tournament performances.

The annotations are taken from a wide range of contemporary sources. As well as magazines and tournament books, Cullen has used some fairly obscure books such as Examples of Chess Master-Play 2nd and 3rd series by CT Blanshard, Chess Sparks by JH Ellis and Modern Chess Brilliancies by GHD Gossip.

These were the days of old, when knights were bold and openings such as the King’s Gambit and Evans Gambit, usually accepted as a matter of principle, ruled the day. Today, Stockfish will laugh in your face if you essay the Kings Gambit, and will have no trouble equalising against the Evans Gambit, but Morphy and Anderssen didn’t have computer assistance, defensive skills were not well honed, and opening theory, although it went surprisingly far in some lines of the Evans, for example, was nothing like it is today.

Cullen clearly enjoys games with dashing sacrificial attacks, so you’ll be entertained with a feast of exciting and brilliant, although not always either subtle or sound, chess if you read this book.

You’ll meet a few familiar, over-anthologised, friends, it’s true, but, by and large, the author has avoided the obvious and included games which will be unfamiliar to many readers.

Anyone with a knowledge of chess history will know a lot about the likes of Morphy, Steinitz and Lasker, but they may well be less familiar with some of the lesser lights of their period.

The Pleiades, for example, were a group of seven strong players active in Berlin in the 1830s and 1840s. They played an important part in the development of chess theory, but are mostly forgotten today. The one who is remembered is Bernard Horwitz, who would later move to London, competing in the great 1851 tournament.

Another of the Pleiades was Ludwig Erdmann Bledow, a professor of mathematics noted for his aggressive and brilliant play. In this game from 1839 he’s playing Paul Rudolf von Bilguer, a failed army officer who died shortly before his 25th birthday, but whose name is immortalised in the famous Bilguer’s Handbook, a precursor of the likes of MCO which, for the best part of a century, would provide instruction for generations of German speaking chess players.

Emil Schallopp is one of those names you see, if you read about 19th century chess, in the middle or lower reaches of tournament cross-tables, but he was still, in Cullen’s estimation, ‘an outstanding tactician who produced many beautiful games’. This was a brilliancy prize winning game from towards the end of his career. The notes in the book are taken from two sources: Gossip and The Chess-Monthly, with further authorial comments.

Another German player, Miksa (Max) Weiss, was possibly one of the strongest players you’ve never heard of. He had a short career at the top level in the 1880s, finishing 2nd= with Blackburne at Frankfurt in 1887 behind Mackenzie and 1st= with Chigorin at New York in 1889 before retiring to concentrate on a career in banking. He ‘preferred a positional approach to the game and never played gambits’ but, at the same time, was ‘a fine tactician who was not at all afraid of combinations’. His favourite opening was the Ruy Lopez, but he was equally adept on the other side of the board, as here against a strong American opponent. Cullen publishes the game with Steinitz’s notes from the tournament book.

The one feature which somewhat confused me was the ‘endings’ at the end of most chapters. Many of them are indeed endgames, and fascinating they are as well, but some of them are game finishes with plenty of pieces still on the board, while a few serve as a basis for anecdotes.

It is, as Cullen says, ‘unbelievable’ that Johann Berger, a renowned Austrian endgame theorist as well as being of Sonneborn-Berger tiebreak system fame, should have played the losing Ke4?? rather than the drawing Ke3 in this position. If you haven’t seen the idea before, play it out for yourself!

This book is particularly strong on German and Austrian players: good news for me as I knew little about many of them. On the other hand, there were plenty of English players who might have been included: Buckle, Wyvill, Williams, Boden, Owen and others off the top of my head. I’m not sure whether or not this was a deliberate policy. Anyway, there’s certainly plenty of material for a second volume, perhaps taking us up to the outbreak of the First World War in 1914. I, for one, would certainly welcome this.

Although it makes extensive use of contemporary secondary sources, this may not be a book for the serious chess historian. Many of the recent excellent biographies of Cullen’s subjects are missing from the bibliography. I’m also not sure what to make of this: ‘Steinitz and Anderssen went into their London match of 1866 unaware that they were effectively playing for the vacant world championship title.’ and ‘However, there is a consensus among chess historians that Steinitz’s lengthy reign as world champion really began with his match victory against Anderssen in 1866.’ Is there? Yes, he was certainly considered the strongest active player in the world from 1866, but was he, or anyone else, really thought of as World Champion before 1886? Wikipedia thinks not: There is some debate over whether to date Steinitz’ reign as world champion from his win over Anderssen in 1866, or from his win over Zukertort in 1886. The 1886 match was clearly agreed to be for the world championship, but there is no indication that Steinitz was regarded as the defending champion. There is also no known evidence of Steinitz being called world champion after defeating Anderssen in 1866.

I’m not the first reviewer to say that this book is clearly a labour of love. Tony Cullen has a passion for 19th century chess history and literature, and for the romantic style of chess popular in those days, and this passion is evident in every page. The annotations, whether from contemporary sources or written by the author, are pitched at the right level for a book of this nature, only giving the most important lines rather than long, engine-generated variations.  Playing through the games won’t help your openings very much. Nor will it teach you a lot about modern middle-game strategy. On the other hand, it might just take your tactical play to a new level. It will also increase your knowledge and enjoyment of chess, which may then lead to better results.

The production is, as one would expect from McFarland, of a high standard. As this is more a popular work than an academic history book it comes in paperback rather than hardback. The layout is, inevitably, I suppose, given the amount of information contained, somewhat cluttered, with diagrams not always appearing adjacent to the correct position, and sometimes not even on the same page. I also noticed a few typos, notwithstanding the proofreading efforts of the late Steve Berry, to whom, along with the author’s wife and son, the book is dedicated.

I really enjoyed this book, and, whatever your rating, if you love, or would like to find out more about, chess history, I’m sure you will too. If we make the mistake of only thinking about chess in terms of its extrinsic benefits, or in terms of the likes of Carlsen and Caruana, we’re missing out on its true soul. Every time we play a game, whether it’s in a match or tournament, an online blitz game, or a friendly game in the pub, we’re part of the same continuum. Here, for instance, is Mieses, continuing to play as a refugee from Nazi Germany into my lifetime, and sharing at least one opponent (Leonard Barden) with me. We can follow him back into the 19th century, and then follow chess back to Philidor, Greco, Ruy Lopez and beyond. This is the golden braid that binds us all together, whether woodpushers or grandmasters, and, at a deeper level, what chess is all about.

Richard James, Twickenham 1st April 2021

Richard James
Richard James

Book Details :

  • Format: softcover (7 x 10)
  • Pages: 477
  • Bibliographic Info: 54 photos, diagrams, games, bibliography, indexes
  • Copyright Date: 2021
  • pISBN: 978-1-4766-8072-9
  • eISBN: 978-1-4766-3924-6
  • Imprint: McFarland

Official web site of McFarland

Chess Rivals of the 19th Century : With 300 Annotated Games, Tony Cullen, McFarland Publishing, March 2020
Chess Rivals of the 19th Century : With 300 Annotated Games, Tony Cullen, McFarland Publishing, March 2020

Postscript : Tony Cullen was kind enough to provide his feedback on this review which may be found here:

Tony Cullen Response to Book Review