All posts by Colin Purdon

Colin Purdon is a member of Crowthorne and Camberley Chess Clubs and plays for 4NCL Crowthorne.

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.

Conclusion

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

Candidates Tournament 2020 : Part 1 Yekaterinburg

Candidates Tournament 2020 Part 1 Yekaterinburg
Candidates Tournament 2020 Part 1 Yekaterinburg

From the rear cover :

“Vladimir Tukmakov, born in Odessa 1946, was one of the strongest Ukrainian grandmasters. He was the winner of several strong tournaments, including the Ukrainian Championship in 1970, and he came second in three Soviet championships in 1970,72 and 83. After his successful period as active player, he became a coach, trainer and author. This is his second book for Thinkers Publishing, after his major success in 2019 with ‘Coaching the Chess Stars’.”

GM Vladimir Tukmakov
GM Vladimir Tukmakov

Also from the rear cover

“The official story of the 2020 Candidates Tournament began on November the 11th, 2019 with the signing of a contract between FIDE and the Russian Chess Federation detailing the hosting duties of said tournament in Ekaterinburg from the 15th of March to the 5th of April, 2020. At that point no one could have even imagined how difficult the road to that tournament would be nor how unexpected the outcome. Yet the significance of the actual numbers in this dramatic epic is hard to overestimate which is why the author will attempt to play the role of chronicler and try to describe as accurately as possible the key moments of this historic event. Vladimir Tukmakov was our close observer, author and wrote a historically important book on the first part of the Candidates 2020.”

Tournament books, once a staple of chess literature, have been rare in recent years and books about half a tournament have always, naturally, been rarer still. This book by GM Vladimir Tukmakov is just such a book – and in my opinion it is a very welcome one.

Of course, 2020 has been an exceptional year (in a bad sense of exceptional) and the Candidates Tournament stands out as the exceptional (in a good sense of exceptional) over-the-board elite event of the year. It is unfortunate that Covid-related reasons forced the tournament to be suspended before its conclusion. (Or was the suspension necessary? The author’s comments on the decision are interesting.)

Although the tournament started on schedule in March, it was already in somewhat controversial circumstances because Teimour Radjabov had withdrawn – citing the rapid spread of the pandemic – and had been replaced by Maxime Vachier-Lagrave.  The tournament was suspended exactly half way through following an announcement by the Russian government that all international air travel had been suspended indefinitely. The eight Candidates had been due to play each other twice, and seven of the fourteen rounds had been completed.

The author of this book, now aged 74, has been pretty much inactive as a player in recent years but he was a top player for a number of years, coming second in the Soviet Championship on three occasions, and reaching number 12 in the world rankings. This quality is reflected in his game annotations even if they are – as he modestly admits – sometimes helped by his “Iron Friend” (as he refers to chess engines).

The book consists of the following sections:

Introduction: Three pages of he author’s reflections on why he chose to write this book.

Prelude: Nine pages which describe the tournament itself, its participants and its occurrence in the time when the pandemic was developing.

The Play: 121 pages of games, with each of the 28 games annotated by the author and with a summary of the situation after each round.

Unexpected Conclusion: A brief two page description of the suspension.

Interim Results: An eight page summary of the tournament (so far!) including general observations of the players and their prospects for the remainder of the tournament, whenever that will be.

The Prelude and Interim Results chapters are informative and are engagingly written. They include a number of personal reflections by the author.  The annotations in The Play chapter are, I think, superb, with both textual comments and given variations always hitting the spot in their relevance. An example of this is taken from his notes to the Ding-Caruana game:

12 d5!?
Another complicated decision. The position demanded 12.e3 in the hope of completing development after 12… Bb3 which was like the game. Also, worth considering was 12… Bg6!? 13.Bc4 (Although 13.Nd3 led to an even more complicated struggle. For instance, 13…Na6 14.Nxb4 Nxb4 15.dxc5 Nc2 16.Rb1 Qa5) 13… Bxc4 14.Nxc4 cxd4 15.exd4 (15.Qxd4 Qe7) 15… Nc6 with enough compensation for the pawn.
It is very revealing, that having found himself in a difficult psychological situation, the Chinese grandmaster does not rush towards simplification instead choosing a more difficult and principled continuation each time.

(The book actually uses figurines for the pieces.)

Tukmakov is generally very respectful of the great players who are taking part in the tournament (indeed he writes that the book “bears witness to my solidarity with my younger colleagues” in view of their bravery in playing under the circumstances of the pandemic), but this doesn’t stop him from criticising them. For example, their clock handling occasionally comes in for comment. On one occasion he writes:

It is difficult to understand what Giri thought about for 25 minutes.

As may perhaps be expected, Grischuk receives sterner criticism in this area – but criticism that is well reasoned (and somewhat humorous).

In summary, I really like this book. I look forward to the second instalment which I hope arises as and when the second half of the tournament is complete. Who knows, perhaps tournament books are not a thing of the past after all?

Colin Purdon, Crowthorne, Berkshire, November 11th 2020

Colin Purdon
Colin Purdon

Book Details :

  • Flexicover : 160 pages
  • Publisher: Thinkers Publishing; 1 edition (8 Dec 2020)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 9492510928
  • ISBN-13: 978-9492510921

Official web site of Thinkers Publishing

GM Vladimir Tukmakov
GM Vladimir Tukmakov
Candidates Tournament 2020 Part 1 Yekaterinburg
Candidates Tournament 2020 Part 1 Yekaterinburg

The Modernized Grünfeld Defense

The Modernized Grünfeld Defense
The Modernized Grünfeld Defense

From the rear cover :

“Yaroslav Zherebukh was born in July 1993 in Lviv, Ukraine. He earned the Grandmaster title in January of 2009 at 15.5 years of age. In 2011 Yaro participated in the World Cup where he was seeded 97 th out of 128 contestants. He won his first three matches against Pavel Eljanov, Ruben Felgaer and Shakhriyar Mamedyarov before losing to David Navara. In 2013 he moved to the United States shifting his focus to coaching and academics. In 2017 he competed in the US Championship in 2017 where he scored a spectacular win over world #2 Fabiano Caruana and qualified to the 2017 World Cup! He has coached a plethora of talented American youths including world class GM Jeffery Xiong. Besides his chess activities, Yaro holds an MA in financial economics from Saint Louis University and has experience working for private equity firms in New York City.”

GM Yaroslav Zherebukh
GM Yaroslav Zherebukh

Also from the rear cover

“The Modernized Grünfeld Defense will be extremely helpful for any chess player looking for a reliable lifetime repertoire against White’s 1.d4. It will benefit current Grünfeld players as Yaro unveils his analysis and numerous novelties waiting to be played over the board.”

This new book on the Grünfeld, a welcome addition to Thinkers Publishing’s “Modernized” series, is written by a 2600+ GM who plays the defence himself. It is a repertoire book,  with the author recommending which variation (and sometimes a choice of variations) to play against each system that White may employ.

The book is arranged into five parts (Exchange Variation, 4Nf3, other 4th moves etc) each containing several chapters for the main sub-variations. There is no overall index of variations, but the reader can quite easily navigate to a particular line by using the Table of Contents and then the Guide at the beginning of each chapter.

The book is very up-to-date (one chapter is devoted to 5 h4) and includes much of Zherebukh’s own analysis and many of his novelties. He typically recommends combative lines which have been much tested in practice. When he does recommend an ambitious sideline (such as 5 …dxc4 in the 5 Bg5 variation) he also provides analysis of the less ambitious “main” line (5 …Ne4 in that example).

This excerpt from the book is, I think, quite typical of Zherebukh’s style. It arises from a rare line in the 7 Bb5+ variation:

Position after: 9…b5

10. Bb3
10 Bc2 b4N A cute novelty, although not terribly important as only 6 games have reached this position according to the ChessBase online database. Still, let’s enjoy the underlying idea. 11. cxb4 a5!

Position after: 11…a5!

A) 12. bxa5 c5=+ The last three pawn moves remind me of checkers: Black is begging White to take all of the pawns to get to the grand prize, the d-pawn.

B) 12. Bd2 axb4 13. Bxb4 c5! And yet one more pretty pawn sacrifice.

Position afer 13… c5!

14. Bxc5 [14.dxc5 Bxa1 15.Qxa1 Ba6 -+] 14 …Na6 The bishop on c5 suddenly doesn’t have any good squares. Note that it cannot retreat to a3 because we would win it after the devastating … Qa5+ followed by …Qxa3. If 15.Rb1 Nxc5 16.dxc5 Qa5+ 17.Qd2 Qxc5 18.Bd3 Be6 -/+ we are about to capture the extra pawn White currently enjoys and then our bishop pair would be vastly superior to White’s knight and bishop.

The material is well-presented and the repertoire suggestions are both aggressive and sound.

The book has some interesting features which I believe add value to the actual chess content. For example, it contains a “Conclusion” in which the author describes, in one or two paragraphs, what was covered in each of the 16 chapters with a couple of additional insights about the variation the chapter covers. For example, about the 4,e3 variation he writes:

While this system is not the most ambitious and is commonly played to avoid the major theoretical battles, I still recommend memorising the precise move orders for Black. In my opinion, White may have some venom in the 5.Nf3 6.b4 system which I suggest studying in detail.

Also, Zherebukh gives some tips on how to learn openings and how to memorise them, including some specifics on how to use software or web sites to achieve this and how he himself prepares to use a newly-learnt opening. (I should point out that the book itself does not rely on software or online content.)

As someone who has been playing the Grünfeld recently, I very much like this book and I can recommend it it to anyone who is seeking to take up the Grünfeld, or who is already playing it.

Colin Purdon, August 23rd 2020

Colin Purdon
Colin Purdon

Book Details :

  • Flexicover : 302 pages
  • Publisher: Thinkers Publishing; 1 edition (14 July 2020)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 9492510790
  • ISBN-13: 978-9492510792
  • Product Dimensions: 17 x 23.5 cm

Official web site of Thinkers Publishing

The Modernized Grünfeld Defense
The Modernized Grünfeld Defense

Opening Repertoire : The Modern Benoni

Opening Repertoire : The Modern Benoni
Opening Repertoire : The Modern Benoni

John Doknjas is a FIDE Master from Canada who has enjoyed success competing internationally. He has won seven national titles for his age and tied for 1st in the 2019 U18 North American Youth Chess Championship. This is his third book for Everyman Chess.

From the book’s rear cover we have :

“The Modern Benoni is just about the most aggressive method that Black can choose to counter White’s 1 d4. In the main line variations Black allows White to have a preponderance of central pawns which, traditionally, grants the first player the advantage. However, in return, Black gains the opportunity for tremendously dynamic counterplay. This places White and under immediate pressure as any inaccurate moves can prove to be disastrous.

In this book, FIDE Master John Doknjas examines all aspects of this highly complex opening and provides the reader with well-researched, fresh, and innovative analysis. Each annotated game has valuable lessons on how to play the opening and contains instructive commentary on typical middlegame plans. With thorough variations and explanations on pawn structures and piece placement, this book provides insight for both strong masters and less experienced players alike. The format is ideal for the chessplayer keen to improve their game. While reading you are continually challenged to answer probing questions – a method that greatly encourages the learning and practising of vital skills just as much as the traditional assimilation of chess knowledge.”

The Modern Benoni, by John Doknjas, is another book in Everyman’s “Opening Repertoire” series. As that implies, the book aims to provide Black with a repertoire against all lines that White can employ against the Modern Benoni, rather than an exhaustive analysis of all lines by both sides.

The Benoni has long been a choice of aggressive players who are willing to take a bit of a risk as Black in order to get a complex fight against White’s 1 d4 (and 2 c4). The resulting middlegame positions are usually double-edged and can be complex both positionally and tactically.

The theory is contained in 31 complete games broken down into nine chapters for the major systems, such as the Flick-Knife attack (aka the Taimanov variation), The Fianchetto Variation, the Knight’s Tour and so on. Major variations within each system are given new games, and (usually) minor variations within those are handled within the notes. Occasionally there are a lot of variations in the notes and this can make it a bit awkward to follow where you are in the main game, but this is probably an unavoidable feature of the complete game approach and I do not mention this as a criticism of the author or the book. Indeed, the book mitigates greatly against this by providing an excellent Index of Variations which tells you if a variation is covered in a main game, or within the notes to one, which makes future reference to a line much easier. The advantages of the complete game approach are that the annotations tell the reader the middlegame plans, and the reader gets to see how masters play out the positions.

The book also contains a nice introductory chapter in which Doknjas provides an excellent overview of plans and piece placement ideas from the perspective of both White and Black. Each chapter also includes a short introductory section, and a summary section, in which the differences between the systems covered by the various games in the chapter are explained.

The repertoire in the book steers Black to positions which appear theoretically sound, and provide Black at least a position with balanced counterplay. There aren’t many lines which offer safe equality, but this of course is the nature of the opening and is to be expected.

I have to say that I regard this as an excellent opening book.
Doknjas provides excellent explanations, both wordy and in concrete lines, and his Q&A and Exercises are always relevant to the material. When he feels appropriate, he is not afraid to recommend lesser-played lines and he backs up his choices with solid analysis and reasoning. His recommendations appear sound and those lines I have tested with an engine do not fall foul of computer analysis.

As an example of his style, here is an excerpt from the game in which he recommends 12 …Rd8 in the Mikenas Attack:

Question: What are some of this moves pluses?

Answer: 12 …Rd8 has only been chosen around 4% of the time OTB, but I really like it for a few reasons:
1. Black threatens to round up the d5-pawn with …Nb6. This doesn’t give White time to attack effectively with f4-f5.
2. The rook could prove very useful on d6, where it will control the f6-square. If black plays …f6 then the pawn will enjoy support, and in some lines Black could even use the rook for direct defence with with …Rf6. Another purpose for the rook being on d6 is to blockade the d5-pawn, which could be important if White’s light-squared bishop comes to c4.
3. The move has a fair amount of surprise value and its subtleties aren’t immediately obvious.
12 …Re8 is the main move but 13 f5! may give White strong play along the f-file (Ng5, Bc4, Qf3, 0-0 etc). The game remain objectively equal but it seems like Black is the one who has to be more careful. Se Feller-C Marzolo continued 13 …Kf8 14 Ng5 e4 15 fxg6 hxg6 16 Be2 Bd4 17 Rf1 with a messy position.
13  fxe5
Others:
a) Be2?! Nb6 14 fxe5 Rxd5 15 Qb3 Kf8 16 Be3 Kg8 gives Black an advantage.
b) …etc
(The book actually uses figurine pieces rather than letters.)

I recommend this book to anyone who is already playing the Modern Benoni or who is looking to take it up. Even players who face the Benoni from the White side will get benefit from this book, at least an idea of the current state of theory of this opening, but obviously bear in mind that it is a repertoire book from Black’s viewpoint.

John Doknjas was not known to me before reading this book, I look forward to future books by him.

Colin Purdon, Crowthorne, Berkshire, 13th July, 2020

Colin Purdon
Colin Purdon

Book Details :

  • Paperback : 450 pages
  • Publisher:Everyman Chess (1 May 2020)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10:1781945268
  • ISBN-13: 978-1781945261
  • Product Dimensions: 17.2 x 2.5 x 24.2 cm

Official web site of Everyman Chess

Opening Repertoire : Modern Benoni
Opening Repertoire : Modern Benoni

Learn from Michal Krasenkow

Learn from Michal Krasenkow : Michal Krasenkow

Learn from Michal Krasenkow
Learn from Michal Krasenkow

In Learn from Michal Krasenkow the author annotates 54 of his complete games and, additionally, he analyses 12 of his endgames. Also, he provides just over 20 pages of interesting biographical information, which is mainly about his chess life although it includes personal details.

GM Michal Kransekow
GM Michal Kransekow

Michal Krasenkow is a top GM who has been in the worlds top 10, and in 2002 his rating was just over 2700 (which was even more impressive then than it is now). Currently 55 years years of age he has been on the chess scene for a long time, and indeed he entitles his biographical chapter “Five Decades in Chess”. As well as describing his own progress at chess, he also describes the difficulties he had making further progress within the (then) Soviet Union and he describes why he changed his name to Krasenkow, and how and why he later left the Soviet Union to become a Polish citizen. Interesting stuff…

The main body of this book contains his annotated games, which Krasenkow refers to as “Memorable Games”. Around 370 of the 408 pages are devoted to this, of which nearly 300 are for the complete games and the remainder for the endgames. The games are arranged into chapters with different themes, such as

  • “Combinations & Tactics”,
  • “Attack on the Uncastled King”,
  • “Flank attack on the King”,
  • “Positional Play”,
  • “Defence” and so on.

He also includes a “Various” chapter for games that can’t easily be categorised. Similarly, the endings are separated into chapters for Pawn, Rook and Bishop endings. I guess that this structure helps with the “Learn” part of the book’s title.

The book does have a flaw: the Index of Games is nothing other than a list of the games with numbers, players and tournament – there is no page number given ! To make it worse, the games themselves do not include the game number in the header. This means that to find a game from the index the reader has to leaf through the pages and look to see if a page has a game that is before or after the one being looked for. To be fair, the reader needs only search the relevant chapter, not the whole book, but it is still rather tedious. This is a shame, because the author uses the game numbers in his introduction and the production values of the book are otherwise excellent. It is also fair to say that an index is not so important in a games collection as it is in other types of chess book, so I will leave it there. (Ed: having reviewed several titles from Thinkers Publishing BCN is of the opinion that the publisher has a policy of no index.)

The compelling star feature of the book is the high quality of the annotations themselves. Krasenkow provides clear explanations of many of the moves, and supplements this with concrete (sometimes quite deep!) lines when the position requires it. In my opinion he gets the balance just right, and it is easy to see why Krasenkow is a top coach as well as a strong player. Players of widely differing strengths will be able to enjoy and benefit from the author’s annotations.

Here is an example of Krasenkow’s clarity of thought, when discussing a position from a game against Sveshnikov :

“16. Nxf6+?!
A) I didn’t want to play 16. f3, fearing 16… Nh5, but then White can keep an edge by means of 17. g3 [rather than 17. Nc2 Nf4! 18 Nxf4 exf4 followed by …Bg5-f6].
B) Besides, Qd3 was possible. After the exchange on f6 Black gets control of the d4-square.”

This sort of commentary is quite typical of his style, although he can and does give lengthy lines where he feels this is appropriate.

In summary: I highly recommend this book. It can be read for enjoyment by those who simply like going through well-annotated chess games, and there is little doubt that more serious study will benefit those looking to improve.

Colin Purdon, July 20th 2019

Colin Purdon
Colin Purdon

Book Details :

  • Hardcover : 408 pages
  • Publisher: Thinkers Publishing (28 April 2019)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 9492510464
  • ISBN-13: 978-9492510464
  • Product Dimensions: 17.1 x 2.5 x 24.1 cm

Official web site of Thinkers Publishing

Learn from Michal Krasenkow
Learn from Michal Krasenkow

The Modernized Caro-Kann

The Modernized Caro-Kann : Daniel Fernandez

The Modernized Caro-Kann
The Modernized Caro-Kann

This book, written by the young English GM Daniel Fernandez and published by Thinkers Publishing, is (as the sub-title suggests) a repertoire book for Black players of the Caro-Kann defence. As such, Fernandez does not cover all possible black lines, but instead he recommends lines against each of the systems that White can employ against the Caro-Kann – and in many instances he recommends more than one line so that the reader can choose according to preference.

GM Daniel Fernandez
GM Daniel Fernandez

His repertoire consists of one or two solid (but not sterile) lines against each system, but additionally he throws in the occasional not-so-sound line (and always warns that he is doing this) that can be tried as a surprise weapon, or perhaps at faster time controls.

This is an excellent book, Fernandez manages to mix detailed analysis, explanations and personal opinion in a way which makes the book readable and enjoyable to go through (and believe me, some of the analysis is very detailed). The book is well produced and organised, and quite substantial at 416 pages. There is no detailed Index of Variations (usually a bugbear of mine!), but it is easy to find the line you’re looking for from the Table of Contents and the beginning of the book and a mini-Table of Contents page at the beginning of each chapter for the sub-variations.

I would highly recommend this book for anyone thinking about taking up the Caro-Kann, and for that matter to anyone who already plays it – it is one of the best opening books I have seen.

It is difficult to discuss this book without comparing it to Jovanka Houska’s book “The Caro-Kann” produced by Everyman Chess. Both books are recent (Houska 2015, Fernandez 2018) repertoire books by top English players who play the Caro themselves. (It is the Houska book that I used when I started using the Caro a couple of years ago.) In my opinion, both books are top-notch and provide the prospective Caro player with a good repertoire. If asked which book I would recommend this prospective Caro player to buy I would answer “both of them” – despite the overlap there are substantial differences in some lines (for example Houska recommends 4 …Bf5 after 1 e4 c6 2 d4 d5 3 Nc3 dxe4 4 Nxe4 whereas Fernandez recommends 4 …Nd7 here) and this gives players more choice over the lines they select. Of course, if budget does not permit buying both books then either one will do the job. I would be reluctant to choose only one of these excellent books, so I will not do so.

In summary: The Modernized Caro-Kann is an excellent choice for prospective Caro-Kann players, or indeed for those who already play the Caro-Kann and are looking to update their repertoire.

Colin Purdon, March 4th 2019

Colin Purdon
Colin Purdon

Book Details :

  • Hardcover : 416 pages
  • Publisher: Thinkers Publishing (8 Sept. 2018)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 9492510251
  • ISBN-13: 978-9492510259
  • Product Dimensions: 17.1 x 2.5 x 24.1 cm

Official web site of Thinkers Publishing

available

The content of the book is available as a training course as part of ChessAble