He was born into a world that flowed along very differently from our own. Kaluga was his city, but don’t reach for that atlas, just follow the River Oka setting your clock to a time when, as Trotsky was to write, Lenin, despite the efforts of his medics, was a hopelessly sick man. Averbakh bore some little German and Jewish blood, grew to be a tall and scholarly man (headmasterly?) but played chess under the banner of hammer and sickle.
Yury (Yuri) Lvovich Averbakh was born one hundred years ago today and, as such, is the oldest holder of the International Grandmaster title ever, that chess title formalised after World War II. Already – he got the title of national master in 1943 – he was looking at chess not so much as life substitute, as a Tal or Fischer might have done, but more as a career from which possibilities would spring, in the manner (say) of his contemporary, Smyslov. He played in Soviet Championships 1948-70, winning the title in Kiev in 1954 and tying for first place at Leningrad, 1956.
5th= in the 1952 Interzonal and, a year later, just failed to finish on 50% in the celebrated Candidates of ’53. He drew a training match with Botvinnik himself in 1957. International success was obviously his too. Averbakh became known for his endgame books but he wrote on all aspects of the game, maybe twenty books flowing from his pen. Wade called him ‘prodding organiser’ and there is no doubt he touched so many areas of the game, as author, arbiter, diplomat, much in the manner of Euwe.
Though he was largely retired, here is a game to enjoy from his last playing years:
Here is the publishers blurb from the rear cover :
“A highly adventurous repertoire designed to meet 1 e4 with 1…e5 and take the initiative! The main problem Black faces in answering 1 e4 with 1…e5 is the plethora of opening systems available to White: the Ruy Lopez, Giuoco Piano, Scotch, Ponziani, King’s Gambit, Vienna, Bishop’s Opening and so on.
Each is likely to be White’s pet line, which usually means conducting the chess battle on the opponent’s turf. One solution is to study the main lines of all these openings and hope to remember what to do if they appear on the board. Another, more enterprising approach is to turn the tables and make White fight on your territory.
Adopting the latter course, CC-SIM Jonathan Tait shares their investigations into a myriad of disregarded, “disreputable” responses, which can set White thinking as early as move three. These lines are greatly under-estimated by contemporary theory and include weird and wonderful variations such as the Calabrese Counter-Gambit (1 e4 e5 2 Bc4 f5), the Wagenbach Defence to the King’s Gambit (1 e4 e5 2 f4 exf4 3 Nf3 h5), the Romanishin Three Knights (1 e4 e5 2 Nf3 Nc6 3 Nc3 Bc5), the Two Knights Ulvestad Variation (1 e4 e5 2 Nf3 Nc6 3 Bc4 Nf6 4 Ng5 d5 5 exd5 b5) and ultra-sharp lines of the Jaenisch Gambit (1 e4 e5 2 Nf3 Nc6 3 Bb5 f5).
The theory of the variations in this book is generally poorly understood. This has made them successful at all forms of play, including against online computer-assisted assault.”
About the author :
“Jonathan Tait is a Senior International Correspondence Chess Master (2002) and editor for Everyman Chess. He has been investigating and writing about opening theory for over 30 years.”
As with every recent Everyman Chess publication high quality paper is used and the printing is clear. Each diagram is clear as is the instructional text. Figurine algebraic notation is used throughout. The usual and reliable formatting from Brighton-based typesetter IM Byron Jacobs is employed.
The diagrams do not have a “to move” indicator or any kind of caption so you will need to work out for yourself how they relate to the text that they are embedded in. However, this is fairly obvious.
There is a helpful Index of Variations but no Index of completed games.
The table of contents is:
Before we continue it is worth taking a look at the pdf extract which includes the Contents, Preface and pages 242 – 259.
As the years have rolled by repertoire books have struggled to use attractive and eye-catching adjectives to entice readers. In the early days we have had
An Opening Repertoire for Black, for White, for Club Players and variations thereof.
Publishers became more adventurous, for example:
A Startling Opening Repertoire
An Attacking Repertoire
A Surprising Repertoire
A Killer Chess Opening Repertoire
A Busy Person’s Opening Repertoire
A Cunning Opening Repertoire
An Idiot Proof Opening Repertoire
A Simple Opening Repertoire
A Gambit Opening Repertoire
A Modern Opening Repertoire
A Blitz Opening Repertoire
An Explosive Opening Repertoire
A Rock-Solid Opening Repertoire
but never a dull, tedious or boring or even totally unsound Opening repertoire which we’d say is a matter of regret(!)
Recently, in a search for uniqueness publishers have been venturing in the opposite direction with Coffeehouse Repertoire 1.e4, Volume 1, However, this was anything but coffeehouse and really rather excellent.
So, Everyman has gone all in with “A Disreputable Opening Repertoire” which cannot help but thinking it will stand out(!) at the tournament bookstall: so, what is not to like?
This is a repertoire for the player of Black pieces who wishes to play 1…e5 against the King’s pawn and wishes to allow White to chose their poison. Black is hoping to reply with something yet more toxic.
We kick-off with with the Centre Game (and miscellaneous second moves for White including Nakamura’s 2.Qh5) but it was Chapter Two which caught our eye since we like opening names hitherto unfamiliar. The Calabrese Counter Gambit (apparently named after Greco, “Il Calabrese”) is:
and this, optically at least, fits the description “disreputable” to a tee. Curiosity almost killed the cat and we consulted page 68 of Tony Miles’s favourite opening book by Eric Schiller, Unorthodox Chess Openings who recommends 3.d3! Sadly ES does not provide one of his animal or exotic names for 2..f5.
Scoring 50.6% for Black and being listed as Black’s 7th most popular move (2…Nf6 is the top choice) it has been endorsed by Ivanesivic and 7 “top games” (according to Megabase 2022) have adopted this line. We’d probably outght to ask Bishop’s Opening guru Gary Lane what he thinks of this. There is 22 pages of analysis should you need something unusual against the Bishop’s Opening.
Next up is the Vienna Game and Tait moves away from the “Disreputable” approach and goes Captain Sensible with
and then after 3.Bc4 returns to disreputable form with
which is at least consistent with the previous chapter. Statistically (based on only eight games) this line scores 62% for White OTB and has zero adherents more than once. 3…Nf6 is the reputable move of course.
Here is an unconvincing win by Black in a game when all of Black’s choices from move 4 onwards were the engine’s top choice. It was an ICCF event after all so don’t be surprised by that. There was a recent ICCF all-play-all event populated by ICCF GMs in which every single game was drawn. Of course, in reality, it was an engine vs engine tournament for the middle game onwards once the humans had selected the opening.
Moving on to Chapter Four and Five we reach the good old King’s Gambit, and, we think we know what you are thinking… Does the author recommend
as you might expect?
Well, not exactly..
Against the King’s Bishop’s Gambit the author punts
which makes 76 appearences in MegaBase 2022 versus the 1000 odd each of 3…Nf6 and 3…Qh4+. Quite unexpectedly we find that 3…f5?! has scored 62.5% for Black with two of the four “top” games coming from 1875 and 1876 between James Mason and Henry Bird. It has not been examined at exalted levels.
Chapter Five brings us up to the King’s Knights Gambit and possibly the most disreputable suggestion of the book via the Williams-esque and wonderfully named Wagenbach Defence. If you were thinking of reaching for Korchnoi and Zak (well, mostly Zak) then we can save you the trouble of looking. The Wagenbach Defence is so-named after BBC featured Mansfield amateur player (JT team mate) János Wagenbach:
and we are treated to 47 pages of original analysis mostly based on online games from various servers. One of our favourite positions of this detailed work is:
which we hope you also will appreciate and enjoy.
Arriving at Chapter Six we enter territory after
and potentially more reputable lines in which Tait recommends 3…d5 versus the Ponziani, 4…d5 versus the Goring Gambit and 3…Bc5!? against the Three Knights Game. All very sensible.
The chapter on the Scotch game revolves around
with 29 pages of analysis.
Removing one knight we move on to the Two Knight’s Defence
in Chapters eight and nine with 47 pages of analysis recommending the Ulvestad Variation in lieu of the Traxler Counter Attack which has apparently fallen on hard times in the exalted world of correspondence and engine chess.
For those unfamiliar with the Ulvestad this we have this position
which has had 1775 outings in Megabase 2022 compared with a whopping 12063 for 5…Na5. 5…b5 scores an encouraging 51.3% for Black whereas 5…Na5 scores 51.3% for White and has an army of highly rated exponents as you’d expect being the mainstream reply.
The books encore lies in Chapters 10 and 11 in which the author gives his recommended treatment of the Ruy Lopez by predictably promoting the Schliemann Defence or Jaenisch Gambit as JT refers.
After examining White’s lesser four move alternatives in Chapter 10 we come to Chapter 11 and 4.Nc3 in which everything is really rather mainstream and, dare we say it, reputable. Tait recommends that Black steers by way of 5…d5 and 9.f4 to the following Tabiya for 3…f5 followers and fans:
in which White has tried many 16th move alternatives with varying degrees of success.
Jonathan has amassed a massive body of games to source the material for his book. The bulk of them it would seem are from the worlds of online chess and correspondence games and a huge number are of his own making under the handle of tsmenace. The analysis is thorough and makes much use of engine analysis as well as human.
JTs prose is chatty and amusing and certainly keeps the reader engaged. We learnt a fair bit about the history and development of these lines many of which has not found its way into the mainstream literature.
The repertoire is highly pragmatic and provocative and ideal for use against opponents who become “emotional” when their opponent plays something that they consider to be “unsound”, whatever that means.
In many ways the books title would have been more accurately titled “A Coffeehouse Opening Repertoire” as used by John Shaw for the books by Gawain Jones but they were published somewhat earlier.
If the second player studies the author’s recommendations well and is of the mindset that enjoys these kinds of positions then some amusing games will result and no doubt some unexpected scalps collected. After all, at club level chess must be fun and this book certainly encourages the second player to pump up the excitement levels. Most definitely a strong repertoire for blitz and rapid play time controls.
If you do play 1…e5 versus the King’s pawn then you could easily freshen up your repertoire with at least some of the books recommendations. Make it a late New Years resolution!
Here’s a match from 1892 between Twickenham Chess Club and the National Liberal Club Chess Club (sounds a bit like Battersea Power Station Station, doesn’t it?).
There are some familiar names among Twickenham’s successful players, but you’ll also see that their strongest player Mr G E Wainwright, an amateur champion of the British Chess Association, was absent.
A name we haven’t seen in other matches, but a very significant one. Players like Ryan, Britten and Fox were strong club players (round about 2000-2200 by today’s standards, I guess, but George Edward Wainwright was a genuine master standard player.
Here he is, from a few years later. Very few photographs seem to have survived.
George Edward Wainwright was born in Redcar, a seaside resort in North Yorkshire, on 2 November 1861. His father, David, was originally a chemist but later became an independent minister of religion. David sadly died before young George reached his first birthday, and the family moved to Bradford, where his mother Annie (Ann Eliza Tetley) worked as a schoolteacher. At some point before the 1891 census they moved north to the spa town of Ilkley, whose Moor is famous in song. (Ilkley is also famous for its splendid new chess centre, one of whose instigators is Andrew Wainwright. I have no idea at present whether or not he’s related.)
George was a pupil at Bradford Grammar School, where, I’d assume, he learnt chess. In June 1880 he represented his school in a match against the Old Boys. He won an exhibition to University College Oxford later that year, and, the following year was awarded a Classical Scholarship involving five years of study.
He was the Treasurer, and later President, of the chess club there and played five times in Varsity matches: on board 6 in 1881 and on board 2 in the subsequent four years. It looks like he improved very rapidly in his first year at Oxford. In March 1882, the University team played a series of matches in which he scored 8½/9, including two wins on top board against the Rev Charles Ranken in a match against former Oxford students.
This game comes from the 1883 Varsity Match. The analysis of all games in this article was produced using Stockfish 14 in ChessBase. Click on any move to display a pop-up board.
After Oxford, it was time for George to find a job – and a wife. On 7 September 1886 he married Alice Margaret Pictor, from the village of Box, in Wiltshire, six miles or so from the city of Bath. The young couple settled in Chiswick, where their first two children, George Edward junior (1887) and Philip Francis (1889) were born.
Here, from shortly before his marriage, is a game from a club match.
George had obtained a clerical job in the Civil Service, working for the Local Government Board, which supervised public health, poor relief and local government, and was also responsible for the registration of births, marriages and deaths. There’s a suggestion in an obituary that he was working on Births, Marriages and Deaths at Somerset House for at least part of his career. I’d assume that some LGB employees would have been based within local government throughout the country, and, if we follow his movements, this might have been the case with George Edward Wainwright.
At some point round about 1890 the family moved to Teddington, and it’s there we find them in the 1891 census. They’re living in a house called St Ronan’s in Kingston Road. This seems to have been next door to the Catholic church close to the junction with Fairfax Road and opposite Normansfield Hospital. (The wonderful theatre is often used as a venue for operas and concerts, and the Museum of Learning Difficulties, well worth a visit, features an information board about Reginald Saunderson.)
As you’d expect, George junior and Philip are there, along with George’s mother Ann, a retired schoolmistress, a 21-year-old cousin named Nelly Fenton and two young servants, Annie Beauchamp and Emily Riley. Although he’s just described as a clerk, he’d already, because of his academic qualifications, be pretty high up and doing well for himself. Alice, of course, was also at home, heavily pregnant with the couple’s only daughter, who would be born that May and given the names Constance Margaret. A third son, David, would be born in 1894.
If George walked back up Kingston Road towards Teddington, he’d soon have what would later become Bushy Park Road on his left (an OS map from a few years later shows it under construction), where, some 40 years later, the Misses Ada and Louisa Padbury would sell ham and beef. A turning on the right a bit further up named Cornelius Road was not at that point built up, but in the 1900s would acquire houses and a new name in honour of the reigning monarch: King Edward’s Grove. It was there that, in the 1920s, one of his future opponents, Edward Guthlac Sergeant, would briefly make his home, and also where the Misses Padbury would move after retiring from their Ham and Beef Stores. Their great nephew would spend the first two years of his life there as well, but that’s another story for another time and place.
George had been very active in chess circles through the later 1880s, most notably winning the British Amateur Championship in 1889. On moving to Teddington, he would have wasted no time joining Twickenham Chess Club. But with a growing family, and, you would imagine, increasing responsibility at work, he played less often during the 1890s, contenting himself with club and county matches.
On 7 April 1894, for example, he was on Board 19 in a 108-board match between the South and North of England, where he drew his game against our old friend (and possibly my distant relation by marriage) Edwin Marriott.
Lots of great names there on both sides, some of whom will be featured later in this series, but Wainwright’s position on board 19 suggests that he wasn’t regarded as any more than a strong amateur at that point. He was still, in 1894, representing Middlesex, but he was soon to move, and to leave Twickenham Chess Club.
By 1895 he was living in Guildford, joining the local club and now representing Surrey in county chess.
This game from a county match demonstrates that George was a player with an enterprising style and considerable tactical ability.
The administrative headquarters of Surrey County Council moved from Newington (Southwark) to the newly built County Hall in Kingston in 1893: perhaps he was involved in some way. It’s also possible his job might have then taken him to Guildford, which would explain the move. Perhaps, though, he was commuting to the capital from nearby London Road station, which had opened in 1885. A train would have taken him directly to Waterloo, from where Somerset House was a short walk across the bridge.
With his family now growing he seems to have had more time for chess, and in 1898, as a result of games like the one below, he had come to the attention of the national selectors, being picked as a reserve for the Great Britain team in their third annual cable match against the United States of America.
The following year, he was in the team facing a promising young tactician named Frank Marshall.
A long and exciting game ensued, in which our man was perhaps fortunate to escape into a fortress-like draw.
It seems that, by now in his late 30s, George Edward Wainwright was approaching the peak of his powers over the chessboard.
The 1901 census located the family in the parish of Stoke next Guildford. George, described as a Principal for the Local Government Board, and Alice were at home, along with their three youngest children, George’s mother, a governess to help look after the youngsters, a cook and a housemaid. George junior, meanwhile, was boarding at Pilgrim House School, Westerham, Kent.
We’ll leave him there for the time being, a senior civil servant working for the Local Government Board, a family man, and an English international chess player renowned for his dashing attacks.
The story of George Edward Wainwright’s life and chess career will be continued in the next Minor Piece.
If you want more, and, if you enjoy attacking chess or British chess history you certainly should, historian Gerard Killoran, who lives in Wainwright’s home town, Ilkley, is currently working on a biography. I can’t wait to read it.
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