Category Archives: Opening Theory

110 Instructive Chess Annotations

From the back cover:

Senior International Master Mike Read competed 115 times for the England and Great Britain teams at correspondence chess, including playing on board one for England in the 13th Olympiad.

In this, his fourth book, he aims to instruct his readers by dissecting 110 games played by local players at all levels of chess. In doing so, he isolates typical mistakes and explains the methods of taking advantage of them.

Philidor wrote that pawns are the soul of chess. In one sense, yes, but in another sense  the soul of chess is the mass of club and tournament players, without whom the chess world wouldn’t function.  Yes, it might be inspirational to look at games played by top grandmasters, but it’s always been my view that club standard players will learn more from games played at their level than from GM games.

Mike Read shares my opinion. Here’s how he starts his introduction.

One of the surest ways for a club player to improve his playing ability is to study annotated games featuring players of similar strength to themselves. The mistakes, and the instructive methods of taking advantage of them, will be familiar to them from similar happenings in their own games. Meanwhile the notes to such moves will educate the aspiring player in both how to avoid typical errors, and also how to take advantage of them when it is his opponent who is unfortunate enough to err.

Mike was a strong junior in the 1970s who graduated to correspondence chess which he played with great success up to the year 2000, playing on top board for England and obtaining the title of Senior International Master. You don’t get to that level without being an excellent analyst.

He continues:

It is reasonable for the reader to enquire as to why my correspondence chess career ended at a time when I was still being reasonably successful. The truth is that, during the 1990s, I suffered three nervous breakdowns. I managed to continue to keep on competing during the first two of these and, in fact, had my most successful chess years during the second of them, even though I was barely capable of coping with even the simplest aspects of day to day life. However my third breakdown, which occurred in the period 1999 to 2000 was too much for me to deal with and I was forced to abruptly retire from the game that I love at the beginning of the new millennium.

I was in an absolutely desperate situation at this time, but chess was to prove to be a major factor in my eventual recovery. A number of local players, recognising the severity of the predicament that I was in, made a great effort to assist me and get me out of the house where I had been languishing alone for several months. I do not feel I would ever have recovered, had it not been for the support of the Norfolk chess community.

And again:

Contained within these pages are 110 games, played by Norfolk players of all strengths from superstars of local chess such as John Emms, Owen Hindle and Robert Bellin down to some of the county’s lower graded (but still very talented as you will see!) enthusiasts. All of the games I have included feature top quality opportunities for the aspiring player to learn a lot, and all also feature some very fine chess!

The book is published through Amazon: Mike Read is selling it as cost price as he has no interest in collecting royalties from its sales.

The games are presented, unusually, in ECO code order, so you get all the Sicilian Defence games, for example, together. The annotations, which were produced without computer assistance, are excellent, scoring highly for both clarity and accuracy as well as instructive value. Many readers will, like me, appreciate the human touch. If you look at the sample pages on Amazon you’ll get some idea of their flavour.

Most of them are tactical, often involving spectacular sacrifices, which will delight anyone (and that probably means all of us) who enjoys combinative play.

This was the first game Mike analysed. He witnessed it taking place and decided to annotate it to thank his friend Grant Turner, who had helped and supported him during his breakdown. (If you click on any move you’ll be able to play through the games in this review on a pop-up board.)

Another of Mike’s friends, Brian Cunningham, was responsible for the production of this book. In this game he demonstrates that the Stonewall Attack can be a potent weapon at lower club level.

At the other end of the spectrum, here’s a game played by Norfolk born GM John Emms.

I know many readers enjoy collections of games played at amateur level, finding them both more entertaining and more instructive than higher level encounters. If you’re one of these you’ll be entranced by this book.

There are also many readers who like to support authors who prefer to self-publish their books. An admirable sentiment, I think, and if you fall into this category, again you certainly won’t be disappointed.

The word that first comes to my mind when considering this book is ‘generous’. Mike Read generously offers this book at cost price. The size is generous, his tributes to his friends who saved his life after his third breakdown, scattered within the introductions to these games, are also generous. The annotations are also generous in every respect. Mike is generous in his comments about the winners’ play, and also, very often, about the losers’ play as well. You might think that a more critical approach might have made the annotations even more instructive, but this would have been out of place given that they were originally written for a local chess magazine.

Anyone rated between, say, 1000 and 2000 will certainly learn a lot from this book, but stronger players will also benefit. And anyone who just enjoys playing through entertaining games will, like me, fall in love with this book. Don’t be put off by the title, which makes it sound rather dull and didactic (didactic, perhaps, but certainly never dull), or the lack of an illustration on the front cover. It’s what’s inside the book that really matters.

At another level, the book is also a wonderful tribute to all Mike Read’s friends within the Norfolk chess community (a few of whom, sadly, are no longer with us), who helped him when he was going through a very difficult time. Many will find Mike’s story inspirational, and that, again, is a powerful reason why you should buy this book.

It’s my view, and I’m sure Mike, even though he was a chess champion himself, would agree, that, ultimately, chess is less about prodigies, champions and grandmasters, but about forging friendships and building communities of like-minded people who enjoy the excitement, beauty and cerebral challenge of chess.

I’d urge all readers of this review to do themselves a favour, and do Mike a favour as well, by buying a copy.  I really enjoyed this book, and I’m sure you will too. The Amazon link is here.

From https://mikereadsim.weebly.com/photos.html

 

 Richard James, Twickenham 11th May 2022

Richard James
. Richard James

Book Details:

  • ASIN ‏ : ‎ B09M791556
  • Publisher ‏ : ‎ Independently published (25 Nov. 2021)
  • Language ‏ : ‎ English
  • Paperback ‏ : ‎ 551 pages
  • ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 979-8466415964
  • Dimensions ‏ : ‎ 12.85 x 3.18 x 19.84 cm

Official web site of Amazon Publishing

110 Instructive Chess Annotations, SIM Mike Read, Independently published (25 Jan. 2020), ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-1708364748
110 Instructive Chess Annotations, SIM Mike Read, Independently published (25 Jan. 2020), ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-1708364748
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A Disreputable Opening Repertoire

A Disreputable Opening Repertoire, Jonathan Tait, Everyman Chess, 14 Jan. 2022, ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-1781946060
A Disreputable Opening Repertoire, Jonathan Tait, Everyman Chess, 14 Jan. 2022, ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-1781946060

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 :

An ancient image of SIM Jonathan Tait, courtesy of ChessBase
An ancient image of SIM Jonathan Tait, courtesy of ChessBase

“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:

Table of Contents
Table of Contents

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:

  1. A Startling Opening Repertoire
  2. An Attacking Repertoire
  3. A Surprising Repertoire
  4. A Killer Chess Opening Repertoire
  5. A Busy Person’s Opening Repertoire
  6. A Cunning Opening Repertoire
  7. An Idiot Proof Opening Repertoire
  8. A Simple Opening Repertoire
  9. A Gambit Opening Repertoire
  10. A Modern Opening Repertoire
  11. A Blitz Opening Repertoire
  12. An Explosive Opening Repertoire
  13. 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:

János Wagenbach, courtesy of the BBC.
János Wagenbach, courtesy of the BBC.

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

for Black.

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!

John Upham, Cove, Hampshire, 10th February, 2022

John Upham
John Upham

Book Details :

  • Paperback : 360 pages
  • Publisher:  Everyman Chess (14 Jan. 2022)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10:178194606X
  • ISBN-13:978-1781946060
  • Product Dimensions: 17.3 x 1.7 x 23.8 cm

Official web site of Everyman Chess

A Disreputable Opening Repertoire, Jonathan Tait, Everyman Chess, 14 Jan. 2022, ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-1781946060
A Disreputable Opening Repertoire, Jonathan Tait, Everyman Chess, 14 Jan. 2022, ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-1781946060
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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
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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
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The Exchange French Comes to Life: Fresh Strategies to Play for a Win

The Exchange French Comes to Life: Fresh Strategies to Play for a Win, Alex Fishbein, 27th April 2021, ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-1949859294
The Exchange French Comes to Life: Fresh Strategies to Play for a Win, Alex Fishbein, 27th April 2021, ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-1949859294
From the publisher:

“The Vibrant Exchange French – No Longer Your Dull Draw! In the first book ever exclusively devoted to the Exchange French Variation, American grandmaster Alex Fishbein recognizes that the Exchange French is an opening for a player who likes active piece play, fights for the initiative, excels in positions with possibilities on both sides of the board, and finds strategic and tactical nuances that arise out of almost nothing. And if you play the French as Black, then this book will help you deal with White’s 3.exd5.

Authors of French Defence books from the black perspective have recognized for a while that there is no draw here at all and have proposed lines where Black can create interesting play. Indeed, both sides can create complications. The author shows that playing “boring” moves is actually risky with both White and Black.

The Exchange French is a vibrant opening, just like any other, and yet there has been very little literature showing how to play it from the white side. That void is filled with this book. “While the main point of this book is to build a White repertoire, any player of the Black side of the French will benefit by reading it. A good number of the sample games end well for Black, whereas in the games in which White gains the upper hand, Fishbein is careful to note improvements for the second player. I have been playing and writing about the French Defense, including this variation, for many years, but I came across a lot that I hadn’t known in nearly every sub-variation.”

“Alex Fishbein is an American grandmaster. He has been competitive in each of his four U.S. Championship appearances, including in 2004 when he won the Bent Larsen prize for the most uncompromising chess. 2018, the year Alex turned 50, was perhaps his most successful year in chess so far. That year, Alex won the first Senior Tournament of Champions, modelled after the Denker tournament of which he was also the inaugural winner 33 years earlier. He also tied for second in the US Open and finished in the top 10 in the USCF Grand Prix for the first time.”

GM Alex Fishbein and his wife by David Llada on October 29th 2016
GM Alex Fishbein and his wife by David Llada on October 29th 2016

As a player of the Exchange French from the white side, I was interested to see what fresh ideas this book contains, especially given the paucity of books specifically covering this opening.

The first important point to note is that this book does not cover the entirety of the Exchange French opening, nor is that its intent. It provides a repertoire for white based on playing 4.Nf3. Currently I employ the Exchange French with 4.Bd3, so this was a good opportunity to revisit the latest 4.Nf3 theory to determine if I should incorporate it into my repertoire or learn new ideas relevant to other lines as well.

The book is well structured and easy to follow, in particular the focus early in the book (chapter 2) on the difference between the standard Isolated Queen Pawn position and the IQP position
arising from many lines of the Exchange French is excellent. This chapter is probably the most important and valuable for any player of the Exchange French, regardless of which specific line one plays, and warrants thorough study. The book covers, in detail, all reasonable plans that black could employ against 4.Nf3 and briefly discusses a
variety of rarer moves.

In particular there are up to date ideas against the Uhlmann Gambit with 6.c5 and then Be3 (see diagram)

and a new suggestion in the 5…c5 variation involving an exchange sacrifice (Rxe7 in the diagram position) that shows the Exchange French is not at all dull!

However, two chapters (9 and 10) appear to be inconsistent with the intent of the book, as they do not fit with the 4.Nf3 repertoire.

Overall, an enjoyable and informative book that achieves its aim of providing white with an Exchange French repertoire based on 4.Nf3. Will I be changing from 4.Bd3 to 4.Nf3, maybe, but
that is for my future opponents to find out.

Peter Tart
Peter Tart

Peter Tart, Farnborough, Hampshire, 26th November 2021

Book Details :

  • Hardcover : 240 pages
  • Publisher:Russell Enterprises (27 April 2021)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10:1949859290
  • ISBN-13:978-1949859294
  • Product Dimensions: ‎15.24 x 1.27 x 22.86 cm

Official web site of Russell Enterprises

The Exchange French Comes to Life: Fresh Strategies to Play for a Win, Alex Fishbein, 27th April 2021, ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-1949859294
The Exchange French Comes to Life: Fresh Strategies to Play for a Win, Alex Fishbein, 27th April 2021, ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-1949859294
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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
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Caruana’s Ruy Lopez: A White Repertoire for Club Players

Caruana’s Ruy Lopez: A White Repertoire for Club Players : GM Fabiano Caruana

Caruana's Ruy Lopez: A White Repertoire for Club Players, Fabiano Caruana, New in Chess, 29th June 2021, ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-9056919443
Caruana’s Ruy Lopez: A White Repertoire for Club Players, Fabiano Caruana, New in Chess, 29th June 2021, ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-9056919443

From the book’s rear cover :

“The Ruy Lopez is arguably the most classic of chess openings. White immediately starts the battle for the centre, fighting for the initiative. This strategic clarity has made the Ruy Lopez, or Spanish Opening, an eternal favourite with chess players at all levels.

Inevitably, this popularity has also led to a wealth of opening theory. In this book, Fabiano Caruana takes you by the hand and lays out a complete and practical White repertoire for club players. He avoids complicated chaotic lines, but doesn’t shy away from sharp battles. Caruana loves to find and use the tactics to punish Black for risky choices.

This one-volume and crystal-clear repertoire covers fifteen main variations, from the classical lines to the anti-Marshall (8.a4), and from the Schliemann (3…f5) to the Modern Steinitz. In an easy-to-grasp manner Caruana explains general characteristics, such as permanent weaknesses long-term goals, and is always looking for an advantage for White. The insights of the World #2 in this classic opening, will not only greatly improve your results in the Ruy Lopez, but also sharpen your general chess knowledge.”

GM Fabiano Caruana, London Chess Classic 2014, courtesy of John Upham Photography
GM Fabiano Caruana, London Chess Classic 2014, courtesy of John Upham Photography

“Fabiano Caruana became a grandmaster at the age of 14. Ever since his majestic tournament win at the 2014 Sinquefield Cup, he has been the undisputed #2 in the Chess world. In 2018 he earned the right to challenge Magnus Carlsen in a match for the World Championship and only narrowly lost in the play-off.”

Before we proceed further it is worth inspecting the sample pages in pdf format provided by the publisher.

Fabiano Caruana became a Grandmaster aged 14 and challenged Magnus Carlsen for the World title in 2018.

and here we have the Table of Contents:

Table of Contents for Caruana's Ruy Lopez: A White Repertoire for Club Players
Table of Contents for Caruana’s Ruy Lopez: A White Repertoire for Club Players

Caruana kicks-off by looking at the Anti-Marshall line which starts with the closed Lopez 5…Be7 6.Re1 b5 7.Bb3 00. Now fearing the Marshall Gambit, which has scored very highly for black, he avoids it with 8.a4.

This was Gary Kasparov’s choice in Game 1 of his 1993 match with Nigel Short and it would seem to be a sensible choice.

The two Black main replies discussed are 8…Bb7

and 8…b4.

In similar vein Chapter 2 covers Black playing 7…d6 instead of 7…00 and interestingly 8 a4 is again recommended as opposed to the vastly more popular 8.c3 thus:

Black has to be careful in these lines not to lose his b pawn!

The next few chapters look at the so-called main line of 7…d6 8.c3

giving White another choice than 8 a4. After 8…00 9.h3 Na5 we have the Chigorin variation which is covered in Chapter 3. After 10. Bc2 c5 11.d4 Qc7 12.d5 ! is a move the computers like and does seem to give white a space advantage.


\
Now White plans a Kingside attack with g4 and moving his f3 knight to f5. This line does not seem to be much fun for black.

Chapter 4 covers the Breyer variation, 9…Nb8

planning to reposition a knight to d7. White combines a plan of a4 attacking the Black’s Queen-side along with a King-side attack.

Chapter 5 examines Karpov’s favourite of the Zaitzev variation (9…Bb7). White will almost always play 10.d4 Re8 followed a knight coming round from b1 to f5 ensures an advantage. Black will need to get in f5 in to avoid being crushed.

Often more than one line is given for white as this book is written from a white perspective.

Chapter 6 switches tack to the Open variation where Black plays 5…Ne4

which was a favourite with Viktor Korchnoi who employed in his various matches with Anatoly Karpov. The main line is 6.d4 b5 7.Bb3 when the dubious 7…ed4? (7…is much better) played in Fischer – Trjfunovic (Bled, 1961) is analysed.

Better is the main line of 6…b5 7.Bb3 d5 8.de5 Be6 when White has several decent moves. Both Karpov and Kasparov have played 9.Nbd2 which is the move I always considered strongest in this line.

Surprisingly, the move given by Caruana is 9.Qe2 planning Rd1 and c4.

Black can play 9…Nc5 but the main line is 9…Be7 10.Rd1 00 11.c4 bc4 12.Bc4 Bc5 which seems to me to give clear equality . However both Caruana and Giri have played the white side of this position so maybe this line needs looking at more carefully.

Possibly the chapter many will turn to first is Chapter 7 covering the Berlin defence of 3…Nf6 which seems to have taken the terror out of the Lopez is discussed. Caruana prefers 4.00 leading to a middlegame without queens.

Players who, perhaps, have more confidence in their middle game abilities (with queens) than the previous line should probably try 4.d3 and I am surprised that Kasparov never tried this in his match with Vladimir Kramnik. Fabiano believes that this queenless middlegame is still more pleasant in practical play for White and Maxime Vachier-Lagrave regularly plays it with white.

Ian Nepomniachtchi won a miniature against Hikaru Nakamura quite recently as follows:

Chapter 8 discusses the Modern Archangelsk which is 3…a6 4.Ba4 Nf6 5.00 b5 6.Bb3 Bc5

which is really rather popular at present. Caruana, Magnus Carlsen, Gata Kamsky and Alexei Shirov all seem to like this line.

Following this we have 7.c3 d6 8.d4 Bb6 9.Be3

when the consequences of white next playing 9… 10.de5 need to be carefully considered. Black players playing for a win should consider this line seriously as it is a lot more interesting than the Berlin!

It is surprising that the old move 6…Bb7 (the Archangelsk of old) is not covered by the author as I have played many internet games with this line.

The last few chapters cover a collection rarely played moves such as 3…Bc5 (the Classical defence). White should play 4 c3 and d4 but black has the interesting f5 on move 4 mixing things up somewhat.

Other unusual moves are the Smyslov variation, 3…g6, the Bird’s defence, 3…Nd4 and the Cozio defence, 3…Nge7 which is aimed against Lopez exchange advocates.

However, two of the most interesting chapters look at the Schliemann defence (3…f5) and the Steinitz defence of 3…d6.

Caruana recommends 4.d3 against the Schliemann and only this or 4.Nc3 can give white a plus. After 4.d3 fe4 5.de4 Nf6 6.00 now black normally plays 6…Bc5 when white can win a pawn with 7.Bc6 and 8 Ne5.

Black can, of course, avoid this with 6…d6 but suffers the same problem as in the closed variation, that is a passive dark square bishop.

Finally, the Steinitz and Steinitz deferred are looked at in the last two chapters. After 3…d6 the line 4.d4 ed4 5.Nd4 Bd7 is examined. After 6.00 White has a space advantage a common feature in a number of variations chosen leaving white with the more pleasant positions to play.

Overall, from black’s point of the Modern Archangelsk seems one of the most interesting and sound lines to play if he is looking to play for a win.

There are a few omissions  that are curious. As mentioned previously 6…Bb7 is not covered but most surprisingly there is no coverage of the so-called Neo-Møller which was recently covered, in depth, by FM Ioannis Simeonidis also for New in Chess  in

Carlsen’s Neo-Møller : A Complete and Surprising Repertoire Against the Ruy Lopez

It might have been amusing to pit the two publications against each other!

In summary, Caruana’s first venture into writing yields a comprehensive repertoire for the white side of the Ruy Lopez with much material for anyone playing the black side.

Colin Lyne, North Camp, Farnborough, Hampshire, 30th September, 2021

Colin Lyne
Colin Lyne

Book Details :

  • Paperback : 240 pages
  • Publisher: New in Chess (29th June, 2021)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10:905691944X
  • ISBN-13:905691944X
  • Product Dimensions: 17.53 x 1.09 x 23.55 cm

Official web site of New in Chess

Caruana's Ruy Lopez: A White Repertoire for Club Players, Fabiano Caruana, New in Chess, 29th June 2021, ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-9056919443
Caruana’s Ruy Lopez: A White Repertoire for Club Players, Fabiano Caruana, New in Chess, 29th June 2021, ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-9056919443
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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
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Coffeehouse Repertoire 1.e4 Volume 1

Coffeehouse Repertoire 1.e4 Volume 1, Gawain Jones, Quality Chess, 7 July 2021, ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-1784831455
Coffeehouse Repertoire 1.e4 Volume 1, Gawain Jones, Quality Chess, 7 July 2021, ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-1784831455

Gawain Jones is an English grandmaster, twice British Champion and winner of the 2020 European Blitz Championship.

GM Gawain Jones at the 2013 London Chess Classic courtesy of John Upham Photography
GM Gawain Jones at the 2013 London Chess Classic courtesy of John Upham Photography

From the publisher:

“Coffeehouse Repertoire is a 1.e4 player’s dream: an arsenal of ideas from a world-class grandmaster to surprise and confound your opponents, combining coffeehouse trickery with complete theoretical soundness.

In Volume 1, GM Gawain Jones shows how to put pressure on the Sicilian, Caro-Kann, Scandinavian and Alekhine’s Defences, using lines which feature a potent combination of surprise value, objective soundness and practical effectiveness.

The Coffeehouse 1.e4 Repertoire will be completed in Volume 2, which covers 1…e5, plus the French, Pirc, Modern, Philidor and other miscellaneous Defences.

Gawain Jones is an English grandmaster, twice British Champion and winner of the 2020 European Blitz Championship. He has defeated some of the world’s best players using the ideas recommended in this book.”

End of blurb…

Quality Chess live up to their name by being one of the few publishers who offer a hardback as well as softback version of all of their titles.

The production values are superb with a “McFarland-like” feel. Of course, you could save a few pence and go for the paperback version but we would definitely treat ourselves with an early Christmas present and savour the hardback. In addition, high quality paper is used and the printing is clear: excellent glossy paper has been used. The weight of this paper gives the book an even better feel to it!

The book can easily be laid flat next to the board and does not require weights to prevent it from “self-closing” (a particular bugbear of ours). 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.

A small (but insignificant) quibble: the diagrams do not have a “to move” indicator (but they do have coordinates). There is an Index of the Main Games section which is most welcome.

Before we take our first sip of coffee Quality Chess have provided a pdf excerpt.

As before, we are examining Volume 1 which provides a repertoire for White starting 1.e4 against the Sicilian, Caro-Kann, Scandinavian and Alekhine defences. Volume 2 is expected in September 2021 and will cover other replies to 1.e4

Gawain is a consistent 1.e4 player and has scored 67.1% according to MegaBase 2020. Having said that he has scored even more convincingly with other first moves!

This is his fifth book having written four previous volumes on the Sicilian Dragon and Grand Prix Attack.

The books main content is divided into two main sections, Sicilian Defence and Other Defences and these sections are further divided into eight chapters viz:

  1. Carlsen Variation (of the Sicilian)
  2. 2…Nc6 3.Bb5
  3. 2…Nc6 3.Nge2
  4. 2…e6 3.Nf3
  5. Move 2 Alternatives
  6. Caro-Kann
  7. Scandinavian
  8. Alekhine

followed by a useful Index of Variations.

Before we continue further we have a warning. If, for you, the book title suggests a feast of dodgy gambits, tricks and cheapos to take to the chess club and online platforms then look away now. You will be disappointed.

Most space in Volume 1 is dedicated to ideas for White versus the Sicilian Defence and no doubt most would predict a Grand Prix Attack based repertoire from the author. Well, not quite.

Gawain recommends

and against 2…d6 we have the interesting

as favoured by Magnus Carlsen and Chapter 1 examines the less common positions that arise from this.

Here is an example:

Should Black prefer 2…Nc6 then the author provides both the Rossolimo Variation, 3.Bb5 (also examined by IM Ravi Haria) and the clever move-order Chameleon, 3.Nge2:

3.Nge2 is also an annoying move order nuance against Najdorf and Dragon experts.

Against 2…e6 Gawain advocates the flexible 3.Nf3 followed by f1 bishop development to either b5 or g2 dependant on what Black plays. For example:

For completeness Gawain devotes Chapter 5 to second move alternatives such as 2…a6, 2…g6 and even 2…b6.

Moving on to the Caro-Kann Gawain recommends the Exchange Variation but in really quite a novel way with an early jump of the f3 knight to e5. This is quite unusual and tricky to meet and CK players almost certainly will be quite surprised. He presents two related move orders:

and the more (according to GCBJ) outlandish:

breaking the “not moving the same piece twice in the opening guideline”.

An example game presented in the book is:

Next up is the Scandinavian Defence which quickly branches into 2…Qxd5 and 2…Nf6.

Against the former the author proposes the line in which White plays 3.Nf3 instead of 3.Nc3 and, at the right time, plays c4.

Here is a tough game in this variation:

For some time Scandinavian experts have realised that the c4 idea is tough to meet and probably therefore fear 3.Nf3 more than the routine 3.Nc3 getting in the way of the c-pawn.

Against 2…Nf6 Gawain recommends the “Modern Treatment” as dubbed by 2…Nf6 expert David Smerdon in his Smerdon’s Scandinavian from 2015 and the detailed analysis commences after:

Finally, we turn to the hyper-modern Alekhine Defence in which a more conventional approach based on the Four Pawns Attack is discussed.

Here is a significant stem game that Jones considers:

For each of Black’s move one replies Gawain presents an overview of the ideas including a “What We’re Hoping for” section. This is the followed by detailed theory with a few illustrative games sprinkled in. The discussion and explanations are friendly, clear and pragmatic talking about the responses one is likely to face rather than a torrent of engine analysis and “best move” labelling.

It is not clear who chose to use the word “Coffeehouse” in the book’s title. The repertoire choices are most definitely not speculative or bordering on unsound. This is a extremely playable set of recommendations and most are used by elite players in the current decade.

Our overall impression can perhaps be best conveyed by likening the repertoire to a collection of choices from the well-known “Dangerous Weapons” series from Everyman brought together under one roof.

We are convinced that, despite the title, this book will be found to be extremely useful by the strongest and club players alike. If you are a Blackmar-Diemer or Latvian Gambit fan then this, perhaps, it not the book for you.

We look forward to Volume 2 in September 2021 when Gawain gets to grips with 1…e5, 1…e6, 1…d6, 1…g6 amongst the remainders.

An excellent fifth book from Gawain.

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

John Upham
John Upham

Book Details :

  • Paperback : 432 pages
  • Publisher: Quality Chess UK LLP (7 July 2021)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10:178483145X
  • ISBN-13: 978-1784831455
  • Product Dimensions: 17 x 2 x 24 cm

Official web site of Quality Chess

Coffeehouse Repertoire 1.e4 Volume 1, Gawain Jones, Quality Chess, 7 July 2021, ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-1784831455
Coffeehouse Repertoire 1.e4 Volume 1, Gawain Jones, Quality Chess, 7 July 2021, ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-1784831455
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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
 Save as PDF