Category Archives: Opening Theory

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.


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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
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1.e4! The Chess Bible: The Chess Bible – Volume 1

1.e4! The Chess Bible: The Chess Bible - Volume 1, Justin Tam, Thinker's Publishing, 13th April 2021, ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-9464201123
1.e4! The Chess Bible: The Chess Bible – Volume 1, Justin Tam, Thinker’s Publishing, 13th April 2021, ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-9464201123

Justin Tan is an International Grandmaster who has represented Australia in numerous international events. He is currently based in the UK and was previously British under-21 champion, British blitz champion and joint second runner-up at the British Championship. Justin has been a 1.e4 specialist throughout his playing career and is recognised for his deep opening preparation, especially in the open games. He is a monthly columnist for ChessPublishing’s section on 1.e4, where he publishes his analyses of key 1.e4 games and the latest trends.”

GM Christian Bauer
GM Christian Bauer

From the publisher via Amazon we have this blurb:

“‘1.e4! The Chess Bible’ (in three volumes) is a complete and authoritative repertoire for White based on sound main lines and the latest cutting-edge analysis. Existing theory is revisited and expanded with several fresh ideas, novelties and refutations which will appeal to dedicated 1.e4 players and theoreticians alike. However, each section is also carefully designed to be easily digested by players of all standards, with an opening overview, illustrated diagrams of key concepts, and instructive and annotated games.This book is an essential practical resource for any 1.e4 player and will greatly reward those who are looking to master their understanding of the open games.The openings covered in this volume are: The Scandinavian Defence, The Alekhine’s Defence, The Nimzowitsch Defence, The Pirc & Modern Defences and The Philidor Defence. ”

End of blurb…

and IM John Donaldson provided this review:

“Judging from the first volume of GM Justin Tan’s intended trilogy, there will be no such omissions in his 1.e4! The Chess Bible series. This massive 460-page volume covers the Alekhine, Nimzowitsch, Scandinavian, Pirc, Modern and Philidor in detail from White’s perspective.

While this is a big and detailed book there is plenty of prose to accompany the analysis, making this it accessible to players 2000 on up. Do note the suggested lines run the gamut from positional to aggressive, from the Classical variation versus the Pirc (1.e4 d6 2.d4 Nf6 3.Nc3 g6 4.Nf3 Bg7 5.Be2) to the Four Pawns Attack against the Alekhine (1.e4 Nf6 2.e5 Nd5 3.d4 d6 4.c4 Nb6 5.f4).

Tan has used all the existing tools to him, including strong engines, but his voice is always front and centre. This leads to advocacy for a number of previously unknown ideas. One example is his recommendation that 1.e4 Nc6 be met by 2.Nf3. One might think this purely a practical suggestion to sidestep learning extra theory, but they would be wrong. Tan believes 2.Nf3 to be the most principled to meet the Nimzowitsch as he is of the opinion that 1.e4 Nc6 2.d4 d5 3.e5 Bf5 4.c3 e6 5.f4 f6 6.Nd2 g5! leads to astounding complications not unfavourable for the second player.

The main line of the Classical Pirc (1.e4 d6 2.d4 Nf6 3.Nc3 g6 4.Nf3 Bg7 5.Be2 0-0 6.0-0 Bg4 7.Be3 Nc6 8.Qd2 e5) has always enjoyed a reputation as a solid equalizer after 9.d5 and 9.dxe5. Tan proposes to sidestep this variation with 7.h3 Bxf3 8.Bxf3 e5 9.d5 Nbd7 10.g3!? with his main line continuing 10…Ne8 11.Kg2 f5 12.h4 f4 13.h5 g5 14.Rh1 Bh6 15.g4 with a slight but very pleasant edge as White has long-term prospects on the queenside and Black limited counterplay.

1.e4! The Chess Bible is a first-rate effort that even titled players will find of interest and can be recommended without reservation for players of expert strength and above.”

end of JD review

Justin in an Australian Grandmaster who is an 1.e4 specialist and known for his deep opening preparation. In this large book he looks at six popular defences to 1.e4 viz:

  1. The Alekhine
  2. The Nimzowitsch
  3. The Scandinavian
  4. The Pirc
  5. The Modern
  6. The Philidor

with 1…e5, 1…c5, 1..c6 and 1…e6 all being deferred for (a) separate volume(s).

Each chapter starts with an overview which serves to give the reader some basic foundations and highlights the general concepts of each of the above.

We will examine his choices one at a time.

Against the Alekhine Defence the author prefers the dangerous Four pawns attack 1 e4 Nf6 2 e5 Nd5 3 d4 d6 4 c4 Nb6 5 f4

Several model games are given such as Kotronias v Short, Gibraltar, 2003. It is not often that Nigel has played the Alekhine as he usually plays 1…e5 or 1…e6 and here he is the runner-up.

Since this book is written from the White side the choice of these games is naturally designed to show how to play the White side.

The lines looked at in the Alekhine include the Fianchetto Variation 5…g6 The Alekhine Benoni 5…de5 6.fe5 c5 and the Main Line 6…Nc6.

Against the rarely played but interesting Nimzowitsch Defence 1…Nc6 Justin suggests 2.Nf3 when Black can go into the open game with 2…e5 (but, of course, this is not really in the spirit of this defence) which is not shown in this volume but will I expect to be covered in a subsequent volume.

Justin takes a look at the unusual move 2…f5 which has been played against myself on a few online occasions.

In Tony Miles favourite(!) openings book, author FM Eric Schiller dubs 2…f5 the Lean Variation or Colorado Counter: as Maurice Micklewhite famously never said: “And not many people know that!

The two main moves are, of course, 2…d5 which leads to a tricky line in the Scandinavian and the Main Line of 2…d6.

(Keen students of this web site will know I reviewed a specialist monograph on 1…Nc6 recently.)

Moving to colder climes we examine The Scandinavian Defence and Justin kicks-off by looking at 1.e4 d5 2.ed5 Nf6 3.d4 Bg4 which is the interesting Portuguese Variation but 4.f3 is the suggested test of Black’s play.

Justin is not impressed with this line showing that White remains in command. He then looks at the main line 3…Nd5 but 4.c4 Nb6 5.Nf3 is good for White.

The more popular 2…Qd5 3.Nc3 has analysis on 3…Qd8 considered inferior by Justin and then the popular Pytel-Wade (3…Qd6) Variation often played by Magnus Carlsen in banter blitz. It seems that Black is worse after 5…Bg4 6.h3

or 5…g6 6.Nb5 Qb6 7.a4.

More common is 5…c6 or 5…a6 but 6.g3 is a tricky line where both players need to know their theory in detail.

Justin next considers the Mieses Variation (3…Qa5) and best after 4.d4 Nf6 is 5.Bd2 which is a move that will make Black players think as it is unusual.

If the game continues 5…c6 6.Bc4 Bf5 7.Nf3 e6 8.Nd5 which has been played by Shirov.

If 5…Bg4 White can play 6.f3 where we see why Nf3 has been delayed.

The Modern 1..g6 2.d4 Bg7 3.Nf3 here the Gurgenidze System is Black’s most interesting reply of 3…c6 4.Nc3 d5 5.h3.

David Navara shows how to play if 5 de4 is played.

The Pribyl or Czech System 1..d6 2.d4 Nf6 3.Nc3 c6 4.f4 Qa5 where 5.Bd3 the move I play leads to interesting play.

I once beat John Hickman in a game at Paignton in this line in 1998 and was surprised to win the best game prize.

In the Pirc 1…d6 2.d4 Nf6 3.Nc3 g6 4.Nf3 bg7 a move that was popular with Anatoly Karpov is given.

After 5.Be2 00 6.00

and now 6…c6 6…a6 6…bg4 and 6…Nc6 are all analysed but White has a space advantage making life more easy for him to play.

Finally, the modern Philidor is examined. I was surprised to note that Justin does not look at the “old” Philidor 1…e5 2.Nf3 d6 but I expect this will appear in a later volume when he considers 1…e5 lines. The Modern Philidor is 1…d6 2.d4 Nf6 3.Nc3 e5 when Black does not mind an exchange of pawns on e5 and a Queen exchange. It is now seen as better to try 4.Nf3 Nbd7 5.Bc4 when 5…Be7 is analysed. Now 6.a4 is regarded as best.

White is likely to follow-up with 00, h3 and Re1.

In summary, an interesting book for 1.e4 players with many original ideas. I’m looking to future volumes to learn what Justin recommends against Blacks two most popular moves 1…e5 and 1…c5 plus the Caro-Kann and the French.

Colin Lyne, Farnborough, Hampshire, 19th July, 2021

Colin Lyne
Colin Lyne

Book Details :

  • Paperback : 464 pages
  • Publisher: Thinkers Publishing; 1st edition (13 April 2021)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 9464201126
  • ISBN-13: 978-9464201123
  • Product Dimensions: 17.02 x 2.79 x 23.37 cm

Official web site of Thinkers Publishing

1.e4! The Chess Bible: The Chess Bible - Volume 1, Justin Tam, Thinker's Publishing, 13th April 2021, ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-9464201123
1.e4! The Chess Bible: The Chess Bible – Volume 1, Justin Tam, Thinker’s Publishing, 13th April 2021, ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-9464201123
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The Modernized Anti-Sicilians : Volume 1, Rossolimo Variation

The Modernized Anti-Sicilians - Volume 1: Rossolimo Variation, Ravi Haria, Thinker's Publishing, 2021, SBN-13 : 978-9464201055
The Modernized Anti-Sicilians – Volume 1: Rossolimo Variation, Ravi Haria, Thinker’s Publishing, 2021, SBN-13 : 978-9464201055

From the publisher:

“For too long, Anti-Sicilian rhetoric has centred on the logic of simplicity, geared towards reaching playable positions with easy plans while simultaneously avoiding depths of theory. The danger of this logic is the ease with which we can fall into the trap of inactivity; of mindlessly playing an opening without striving to trouble Black; of solely playing an Anti-Sicilian to avoid theory. In contrast, throughout the volumes I will advocate an active approach – with continuous underlying themes of achieving rapid development, dynamic piece play and dominant central control, with an important focus on denying Black the counterplay that he seeks when choosing the Sicilian Defence.”

IM Ravi Haria, 2019 British Championships, Torquay, courtesy of John Upham Photography
IM Ravi Haria, 2019 British Championships, Torquay, courtesy of John Upham Photography

Ravi Haria (born 1999) is one of England’s youngest International Masters, and the current holder of the British U21 title. Alongside his career as a chess player and trainer, Ravi reads History at University College London. This is his first book for Thinkers Publishing and his first book ever.”

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 detailed.

After

Rossolimo starting position
Rossolimo starting position

the main content is divided into five Parts viz:

  1. Sidelines
  2. 3…Nf6
  3. 3…d6
  4. 3…e6
  5. 3…g6

In the BCN office we have on our shelves

Sicilian Defence 9, Rossolimo Variation, LM Picket, The Chess Player,`1977, ISBN-13 : 978-0900928918
Sicilian Defence 9, Rossolimo Variation, LM Picket, The Chess Player,`1977, ISBN-13 : 978-0900928918

from 1977 and to spend 77 pages covering a third move minor alternative to the Open Sicilian (3.d4) was unusual for this time.

In 2021 we have the first book from IM Ravi Hari impressively weighing in at just under 1 kg and covering 520 densely packed pages.

Rossolimo ponders his move at a simultaneous exhibition, 1951.
Rossolimo ponders his move at a simultaneous exhibition, 1951.

In 2021 3.Bb5 is easily the second most popular alternative to Morphy’s 3.d4 Open Sicilian. Megabase 2020 (with updates) records 67354 games as against 246585 games for the “main line” so the market for a comprehensive treatise is overwhelmingly compelling.

Here is the detailed Table of Contents:

Table of Contents for The Modernized Anti-Sicilians - Volume 1: Rossolimo Variation, Ravi Haria, Thinker's Publishing, 2021, SBN-13 : 978-9464201055
Table of Contents for The Modernized Anti-Sicilians – Volume 1: Rossolimo Variation, Ravi Haria, Thinker’s Publishing, 2021, SBN-13 : 978-9464201055

and here is an excerpt of the content.

Before we delve into the meat and potatoes here is a game from the author himself in this very line:

This superb book is suitable for anyone wishing to play a sound, dynamic system against 2…Nc6 in the Sicilian. The author stresses that the aim of the publication is to provide active lines to make black’s life difficult and stifle the counterplay that Sicilian players crave. Many of the world’s top players play this system including the current world champion, Magnus Carlsen.

I wouldn’t describe the book as a pure narrow repertoire book of the type “white to play and win against a particular opening” as it’s coverage of the opening is extensive and suggests alternative white systems against all of the main lines. As the author points out, this variation of opening preparation is vital to avoid being too predictable. Nevertheless, the title is targeted more towards the white side.

It is perfectly suitable for any club player who wishes to learn this system from scratch or any old hand of the the Rossolimo who wishes to refresh their opening knowledge. Despite my comment above, the volume is also extremely useful for a black player preparing against the Rossolimo.

One of the great strengths of the tome is the textual clarification of the ideas and plans; there is some dense analysis where necessary but it is accompanied with erudite explanation.

Part 1 covers the sidelines.

In the Queen’s Gambit series, Beth Harmon plays 3…Qb6?! against Vassily Borgov at their first over the board encounter.

Sideline Qb6
Sideline 3…Qb6

Borgov replies 4.a4 and wins a good game.

However, the author recommends the more natural 4.Nc3

Position after 4.Nc3
Position after 4.Nc3

4…e6 4…g6 5.d4!

Position after 5.d4!
Position after 5.d4!

4…Nf6 5.e5 Ng4 6. Bxc6

Position after 6.Bxc6
Position after 6.Bxc6

6…bxc6 (6…dxc6 7.0-0 g6 8.Re1 Bg7 9.h3 Nh6 10.Ne4 0-0 11.d3 with a huge edge) 7.h3 Nh6 8.0-0 Nf5 9.Na4 Qa5 10.b3 followed by 11.Ba3 with a massive advantage.

5.Bxc6! Qxc6 6.d4 cxd4 7.Nxd4

Position after 7.Nxd4
Position after 7.Nxd4

White has a significant lead in development which is definitely more important than the bishop pair.

7…Qc7 8.0-0 a6 9.Re1

Position after 9.Re1
Position after 9.Re1

White has a healthy lead in development. Now there are ideas of Nd5 and Nf5

9…d6 10.Bf4!

Position after 10.Bf4!
Position after 10.Bf4!

10…e5 11.Nd5 Qd8

Position after 11...Qd8
Position after 11…Qd8

12.Nf5!?

12.Be3 is the positional continuation which is also good, a possible continuation is 12…Nf6 (12…exd4? 13.Bxd4 followed by Bb6 and Nc7+ exploiting the weak dark squares) 13.Ne2 Nxd5 14.Qxd5

Position after 14.Qxd5
Position after 14.Qxd5

14…Qc7 15.Qd2 Be7 16.Nc3 Be6 17.Nd5! Bxd5 18.Qxd5 and white has a pleasant  positional edge.

12…exf4 13.Qd4!

Position after 13.Qxd4!
Position after 13.Qxd4!

13…Ne7 (13…Nf6 14.Nb6 Be6 15.Nxa8 Qxa8 16.e5 dxe5 17.Qxe5 Rg8 18.Rad1 winning) 14.Nxg7+ (Stockfish prefers 14.Nf6+ gxf6 15.Nxd6+ Qxd6 16.Qxd6 Ng6 17.Qxf6 Be6 18.Rad1 Be7 19.Qg7 Rc8 White has a queen and 2 pawns for two bishops and knight but black is solid.)

 14…Bxg7 15.Qxg7 Kd7 16.Qxf7 Qf8 17.Qxf8 Rxf8 18.Nb6+ Kc6 19.Nxa8 Be6 20.Rad1 Rxa8 21.Rd3 With a superior endgame but black can fight.

Position after 21.Rd3
Position after 21.Rd3

Part 2 covers 3…Nf6

After 4.Nc3 this position is reached:

Position after 4.Nc3
Position after 4.Nc3

Here we are going to cover 4…e5? which has been played by both Carlsen and Kramnik. The bust is shown by Ravi.

5.Bxc6 dxc6 (5…bxc6 6.Nxe5 Qe7 7.Nf3! Nxe4 8.0-0 winning) 6.Nxe5

Position after 6.Nxe5
Position after 6.Nxe5

Nxe4 (6…Qe7 7.f4 wins a pawn) 7.Nxe4 Qd4 8.Qe2! Qxe5 9.f4!

Position after 9.f4!
Position after 9.f4!

9…Qxf4 10.d4 Qh4+ 11.g3 Qe7 12.Bg5!

Position after 12.Bg5!
Position after 12.Bg5!

12…Qe6 13,0-0 h6 14.Rae1! hxg5 15.Rxf7!

Position after 15.Rxf7!
Position after 15.Rxf7!

With a winning attack. One possible continuation is 15…Be7 16.Qf2 Qg6 17.Nxg5 Qxg5 18.h4 Qd5 19.Rfxe7+ Kd8 20.dxc5 Bd7 21.R7e5! Qaz2 22.Rd1 winning

Position after 22.Rd1!
Position after 22.Rd1!

For example 22…Re8 fails to 23.Rxd7+

Section 3 covers 3…d6

After these moves:

1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 d6 3.Bb5+ Nc6 4.0-0 Bd7 5.Re1 Nf6 6.c3 a6 7.Bf1 Bg4 8.d4 cxd4 9.cxd4

Here is one of the important positions in this line. Black has a key choice here about which pawn to push to challenge white’s pawn duo in the centre 9…e5 or 9…e5. The two moves lead to significantly different type of positions.

Pospisil-Rodriguez ICCF email 2017 Move 9
Pospisil-Rodriguez ICCF email 2017 Move 9 Black to move

I shall show a variation from 9…d5 10.e5

Pospisil-Rodriguez ICCF email 2017 Move 10
Pospisil-Rodriguez ICCF email 2017 Move 10

Black has three knight moves here 10…Ne4, 10…Nd7 and 10…Ng8

After 10…Nd7 white has an interesting pawn sacrifice to disrupt black’s position. 11.e6!

Pospisil-Rodriguez ICCF email 2017 Move 11
Pospisil-Rodriguez ICCF email 2017 Move 11

Black can recapture with the bishop or the pawn, after 11…Bxe6 this short line shows the typical dangers for black 12.Nc3 Nf6? A natural move that leads to big problems for black. 13.Rxe6! fxe6 14.g3! How does black defend the e6 pawn and develop?

Pospisil-Rodriguez ICCF email 2017 Variation 1 Move 14
Pospisil-Rodriguez ICCF email 2017 Variation 1 Move 14

A typical line could be 14…g6 15.Bh3 Bg7 16.Ng5 0-0 17.Nxe6 Qc8 18.Kg2 with a big plus for white who can improve his position further before taking back the exchange.

Pospisil-Rodriguez ICCF email 2017 Variation 1 Move 18
Pospisil-Rodriguez ICCF email 2017 Variation 1 Move 18

After 11…fxe6

Pospisil-Rodriguez ICCF email 2017 Move 12
Pospisil-Rodriguez ICCF email 2017 Move 12

12.Nc3 the game continued 12…e5?! A desperate freeing move, 12…g6 is much better

Pospisil-Rodriguez ICCF email 2017 Move 13
Pospisil-Rodriguez ICCF email 2017 Move 13

This is decisively refuted by 13.Nxd5 Qa5 

A pretty line is 13…Nxd4 14.Nxd4! A lovely queen sacrifice, the horses trample over black

Pospisil-Rodriguez ICCF email 2017 Variation 2 Move 14
Pospisil-Rodriguez ICCF email 2017 Variation 2 Move 14

14…Bxd1 15.Ne6 Qc8 16.Ndc7+ Kf7 17.Ng5+

Pospisil-Rodriguez ICCF email 2017 Variation 2 Move 17
Pospisil-Rodriguez ICCF email 2017 Variation 2 Move 17

17…Kf6 (17…Kg6 18.Bd3+ e4 19.Bxe4+ Kh5 20.Nxa8 winning)18.Nd5+ Kg6 19.Bd3+ Kh5 20.Rxd1 winning

Pospisil-Rodriguez ICCF email 2017 Variation 2 Move 20
Pospisil-Rodriguez ICCF email 2017 Variation 2 Move 20

The king will be mated after h3 and g4 whilst black’s sleeping army looks on.

Back to the game: 14.Bc4 Bxf4 15.gxf3 e6 16.Bd2 Qd8 17.Nf4! with a huge attack.

Pospisil-Rodriguez ICCF email 2017 Move 17
Pospisil-Rodriguez ICCF email 2017 Move 17

Section 4 covers 3…e6  which is one of the main continuations. The author gives two distinct variations here: 4.0-0 followed by d4 or the slower 4.0-0 followed by 5.Re1.

Here is a smooth game by Magnus Carlsen against Boris Gelfand in the second system suggested.

Magnus Carlsen (2872) – Boris Gelfand  (2740)
FIDE Candidates London (10)  27.03.2013

1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5 e6 4.0-0 Nge7 5.Re1 a6
6.Bf1 d5 7.exd5 Nxd5 8.d4 Nf6 9.Be3

Carlsen-Gelfand London 2013 Move 9
Carlsen-Gelfand London 2013 Move 9

9…cxd4 (9…Nd5 has been tried 10.Bg5! The critical move 10…f6 11.Bc1! (11.c4!? is also slightly better for white) 10.Nxd4

Carlsen-Gelfand London 2013 Move 10
Carlsen-Gelfand London 2013 Move 10

10…Bd7 (10…Nxd4 11.Bxd4 Be7 12.a4!?)

Carlsen-Gelfand London 2013 Variation 2 Move 12
Carlsen-Gelfand London 2013 Variation 2 Move 12

With the idea of Na3  and Nc4 leading to a slight edge for white.

11.c4

Carlsen-Gelfand London 2013 Move 11
Carlsen-Gelfand London 2013 Move 11

This is the idea. White has a bit more space and a queenside majority. Black of course has a healthy and solid position though. 11…Nxd4 (11…Be7 12.Nc3 0-0 13.Nf3!? White has been quite successful with this move, and this is an argument for Gelfand’s choice, securing relieving exchanges before it is too late.;
11…Bb4!? is simply wrong: 12.Nc3

Carlsen-Gelfand London 2013 Variation 1 Move 12
Carlsen-Gelfand London 2013 Variation 1 Move 12

Bxc3 13.bxc3 0-0 14.Nb3 White’s activity and powerful dark squared bishop more than compensates for the structural weaknesses. 12.Bxd4 Bc6 13.Nc3 Be7 14.a3!?

Carlsen-Gelfand London 2013 Move 14
Carlsen-Gelfand London 2013 Move 14

a5!? (14…0-0 15.b4 is what White wants, but as usual only a slight edge.) 15.Qd3 0-0 (15…a4?! is an ambitious attempt, but after 16.Rad1 0-0 17.Qg3 White’s initiative is powerful)

Carlsen-Gelfand London 2013 Move 16
Carlsen-Gelfand London 2013 Move 16

16.Rad1 The author likes 16.Nb5! exploiting the hole, after 16…Bxb5 17.cxb5 white has the bishop pair but black has d5 for the knight.

Carlsen-Gelfand London 2013 Move 16 Black To Move
Carlsen-Gelfand London 2013 Move 16 Black To Move

16…Qc7 16…a4 17. Qg3! Qb8 18.Nd5!

Carlsen-Gelfand London 2013 Variation Move 18
Carlsen-Gelfand London 2013 Variation 3 Move 18

 17.Be5 Qb6 18.Qg3 Rfd8 19.Rxd8+ Qxd8 20.Rd1

Carlsen-Gelfand London 2013 Variation Move 20
Carlsen-Gelfand London 2013 Variation Move 20

Qb6 [20…Qf8!? this defensive move is better, after 21.Bd3!? White remains comfortably placed.] 21.Bd4 Qb3 22.Rd3 22…Qc2 23.b4! axb4 24.axb4 Nh5 25.Qe5 Bf6 26.Qxh5 Bxd4 27.Rxd4 Qxc3 28.Qa5! The point behind 23.b4, without this, White wouldn’t even be better. But now with this intermezzo, White just manages to coordinate in time, and thus his queenside majority secures a huge edge. 28…Rf8 29.Qb6 White went on to win a nice game.

Carlsen-Gelfand London 2013 Move 29
Carlsen-Gelfand London 2013 Move 29

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.

Here is an instructive game using the first suggested system which is a superb win by Michael Adams over Vladimir Kramnik in 2000, which was played just before Kramnik defeated Garry Kasparov for the Classical World Chess Championship.

Michael Adams (2755) – Vladimir Kramnik (2770)
Dortmund Super GM  (4), 10.07.2000

1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5 g6 4.Bxc6

Adams-Kramnik Dortmund 2000 Move 4
Adams-Kramnik Dortmund 2000 Move 4

Black’s has a major decision here on which way to recapture the bishop. The recapture with the b-pawn is more aggressive.

4…dxc6 5.d3 Bg7 6.h3 Nf6 7.Nc3

Adams-Kramnik Dortmund 2000 Move 7
Adams-Kramnik Dortmund 2000 Move 7

A key early position in this line.  Black normally arranges to play e5 here to increase his share of the centre. There are essentially three different ways to do this. Kramnik chooses the direct route with a standard knight manoeuvre  to d7 to support the e5 advance. This knight is then often routed round to d4 via f8 & e6.

7…Nd7 8.0-0 e5 Preventing d4 for the time being 9.Be3 0-0

Adams-Kramnik Dortmund 2000 Move 10
Adams-Kramnik Dortmund 2000 Move 10

A tabiya in this line.

Ravi accompanies this diagram with some typical erudite advice about white’s plans here:

“It’s worth taking a step back and understanding what we’re playing for. As Black has castled quickly, he’s signalled that he doesn’t mind us playing Be3, Qd2 and Bh6 – in an attempt to exchange off the dark-squared bishops. The resulting positions will always be slightly better for White, but Black will maintain that he’s very solid. As there are often a great deal of possibilities, I’ve elected to show some model games rather than analyse endless variations- but the model games are excellent in demonstrating key ideas in these lines. Our plan usually remains the same – exchange off dark-squared bishops, attempt to create a queenside weakness with a2-a4, and at the right moment push f2-f4, possibly entering into an endgame if circumstances are favourable.”

10.Qd2 Re8 11.Nh2

Adams-Kramnik Dortmund 2000 Move 11
Adams-Kramnik Dortmund 2000 Move 11

White’s position is harmonious and certainly easier to play. He has a lead in development as black has yet to activate his queenside. The bishop pair is not really an advantage in this type of position, but black is hoping that the bishop pair will be a long term factor. White has three minor pieces to exploit the weakened black squares on black’s kingside whereas black has only two to defend them.

11…Qe7 (11…b6 has been played in many correspondence games 12. Bh6 Bh8 13. Rae1 a5!? 14.Nd1!

Adams-Kramnik Dortmund 2000 Variation 1 Move 14
Adams-Kramnik Dortmund 2000 Variation 1 Move 14

An excellent repositioning suggested by the author to improve the horse, followed by Ne3 and f2-f4) 12.Bh6 Bh8

Black keeps this bishop, 12…Nf8 is an alternative but the author demonstrates with two example games how quickly black can succumb with his weakened kingside. The reviewer will showcase one of these games. 13. Bxg7 Kxg7

Adams-Kramnik Dortmund 2000 Variation 2 Move 14
Adams-Kramnik Dortmund 2000 Variation 2 Move 14

The obvious move 14.f4 is good here, as well as Robin  Van Kampen’s 14.Ne2. Stockfish  prefers 14.f4 and gives 14…gxf4 15.Rxf4 Ne6 16.Rff1! avoiding the queen exchange after 16…Qg5 17.Qf2! as pointed out by Ravi. After 14.Ne2 Ne6 15.Kh1 b6 16.a4! Classy play creating queenside weaknesses.

Adams-Kramnik Dortmund 2000 Variation 2 Move 16
Van Kampen-Ribera Bazan Tromso 2014 Move 16

16…a5 17.b3 Ra7 18.f4! exf4 19.Nxf4 Nxf4 (19…Nd4 looks better retaining the good knight) 20.Rxf4

Adams-Kramnik Dortmund 2000 Variation 2 Move 20
Van Kampen-Ribera Bazan Tromso 2014 Move 20

This position is much better for white as black’s dark squares are weak and his bishop is snuffed out by white’s superb pawn structure. White’s rooks will also be very active on the half open f-file. It’s not surprising that black collapsed quickly. 20…Qe5 (20…f6 21. Raf1 Rf8 22. Qc3 white is clearly better: 23. Nf3 followed by e5 looks good) 21.Raf1 Kg8 22.Rf6!Be6 23.Qh6 Qd6 24.Nf3 Qf8 25.Qf4 Rd7 26.Ne5 winning

Adams-Kramnik Dortmund 2000 Variation 2 Move 26
Van Kampen-Ribera Bazan Tromso 2014 Move 26

13.Ng4

Adams-Kramnik Dortmund 2000 Move 13
Adams-Kramnik Dortmund 2000 Move 13

13…Nf8 (13…Nf6 14.f3! Nh5 15.Ne2! Nf4 16.Nxf4 exf4 17.c3 g5 18.h4 f6 19. g3!)

Adams-Kramnik Dortmund 2000 Variation 3 Move 19
Adams-Kramnik Dortmund 2000 Variation 3 Move 19

Black’s position is crumbling on the dark squares.

 14.Bg5! A typical probing move

Adams-Kramnik Dortmund 2000 Move 14
Adams-Kramnik Dortmund 2000 Move 14

14…f6 15.Nh6+ Kg7 16.Be3 Ne6

Adams-Kramnik Dortmund 2000 Move 17
Adams-Kramnik Dortmund 2000 Move 17

The author suggests 17.Rae1 as an improvement athough Stockfish likes 17.Kh1 as well.

17.Ne2 Ng5

Adams-Kramnik Dortmund 2000 Move 18
Adams-Kramnik Dortmund 2000 Move 18

18.Ng4 (18.f4! also leads to a white advantage 18…exf4 19.Bxf4 Kxh6 20,h4) 18h5 (18…Bxg4? is a positional mistake, see Leko-Van Wely Monte Carlo 2003) 19.Nh2

Adams-Kramnik Dortmund 2000 Move 19
Adams-Kramnik Dortmund 2000 Move 19

Although white’s knight has been pushed back, black has had to weaken his kingside to do this. This is exploited neatly by Adams. As Arnie says, “I’ll be back”.

19…Rd8 20.Qc3 Ne6 (Finally completing the manoeuvre started on move 7) 21.f4 Nd4 22.Rae1 Kh7 23.Nf3 Be6 24.fxe5 fxe5 25.Ng5+ I’m back! White is more comfortable here but black can hold. His super knight on d4 is the pride of his position.

Adams-Kramnik Dortmund 2000 Move 25
Adams-Kramnik Dortmund 2000 Move 25

25…Kg8 26.Nxe6 removing the better bishop 26…Nxe6  White has a definite edge here, but black is solid. Adams went on to outplay Kramnik in this position.

In summary, this is an excellent book which will give any white player a very good grounding in the Rossolimo Variation. All the major variations are covered with a significant number of original suggestions and analysis. Buy this book !

The reviewer is looking forward with great interest to the next volumes in Ravi Haria’s Anti-Sicilian series. I am guessing that he will cover the Moscow Variation 3.Bb5+ against 2…d6. I am intrigued as to what the author will suggest against 2…e6.

FM Richard Webb
FM Richard Webb

FM Richard Webb, Basingstoke, Hampshire, 18th July 2021

Book Details :

  • Hardcover : 280 pages
  • Publisher:Thinkers Publishing; 1st edition (28 Jan. 2021)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 9464201053
  • ISBN-13: 978-9464201055
  • Product Dimensions: 17.02 x 23.5 cm

Official web site of Thinkers Publishing

The Modernized Anti-Sicilians - Volume 1: Rossolimo Variation, Ravi Haria, Thinker's Publishing, 2021, SBN-13 : 978-9464201055
The Modernized Anti-Sicilians – Volume 1: Rossolimo Variation, Ravi Haria, Thinker’s Publishing, 2021, SBN-13 : 978-9464201055
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The Modernized Nimzovich Defense 1.e4 Nc6!: A Complete Repertoire for Black

The Modernized Nimzovich Defense 1.e4 Nc6!: A Complete Repertoire for Black, Christian Bauer, Thinker's Publishing, 19th November 2020, ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-9492510969
The Modernized Nimzovich Defense 1.e4 Nc6!: A Complete Repertoire for Black, Christian Bauer, Thinker’s Publishing, 19th November 2020, ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-9492510969

“French Grandmaster Christian Bauer is one of his country’s leading players. He is a former national champion and has represented France in numerous international team events. He has written many articles and books for several publishing houses: ‘Play 1…b6’ and ‘The Philidor Files’ for Everyman Chess and ‘Play the Scandinavian’ for Quality Chess. Many of his books have been translated into other languages. This is his fourth book and his second book for Thinkers Publishing after his master piece ‘Move Candidates’.”

GM Christian Bauer
GM Christian Bauer

From the publisher via Amazon we have this blurb:

“There is no doubt that the Nimzowitsch Defence is one of Black’s most inspiring openings after 1.e4. Black strives to unbalance the position by creating new problems for White from move two, giving himself every opportunity to fight for the initiative from the outset. It is no surprise that 1…Nc6 appeals to ambitious players who relish a complicated battle.

In this book, GM Christian Bauer explains how to use this powerful weapon drawing from his own successful experiences. He is not shy to show you the fundamental ideas, the traps, the pitfalls and naturally the move order subtleties which play such an important role in our modern game of chess. We are convinced this book will give you plenty of confidence and make your opponent think more than twice.”

End of blurb…

Christian Bauer is a strong French Grandmaster with a current FIDE rating of 2639 and has won the French Championship three times and has already authored several books. Previously we reviewed Candidate Moves : A Grandmaster’s Method.

In this 2020 book he takes a look at the rarely played but respectable Nimzowitsch Defence (1…Nc6, B00) as a reply to 1.e4.
For those who do not want to retain large quantities of opening theory this move seems to be attractive choice and will set most White players thinking at a very early stage and therefore be a wise ploy for shorter time control games.

Bauer’s first Megabase 2020 recorded outing for 1…Nc6 was in 1992 in the World Under-16 Championship and since then he has played it seventy-six times. His score with it is a mightily impressive 63.5% so we can be confident that he knows what he is writing about.

The earliest game recorded in Megabase 2020 was from an 1846 Bristol Chess Club encounter between John Withers and Elijah Williams which black won.

In Chapter 1 the author examines unusual moves such as 2.f4 and 2. Bb5. 2.f4 is a move that King’s Gambit players might like to try but 2…d5 is a strong reply leaving black with easy equality from the outset. 2.Bb5 is also given but either 2…Nf6 or 2…d5 are replies often played by black and are both good. In many of these lines black fianchettos his dark squared bishop. In general, the author often gives more than one line for black.

Chapter 2 gives 2.Nc3 the move possibly preferred by lovers of the Vienna Game. This is the 3rd most commonly played move by White and Black may well consider 2…e5 having avoided the Ruy Lopez.
Recommended for Black is 2…Nf6 3.d4 and 3…d5 is deeply analysed however black can instead try 3…e5 transposing into a Four Knights Game.

One of the attractions of 1…Nc6 is that black can often go into open game (1.e4 e5) lines where he has avoided the Ruy Lopez.

The next part of the book moves on to the substantially more critical 2.d4 when black has two credible responses. The first is the thematic 2…e5 allowing White to answer with 3.Nf3 transposing into a Scotch Game. Black will therefore need to know the theory to that opening also.

More in line with achieving original Nimzowitsch style positions is 2…d5 which most engines give as the best move. Obviously, the assessment of an engine at move two can be taken with a large pinch of salt.

In my opinion if White replies 3.e5 the 3…Bf5 gives black an easy game.

3.e4xd5 leads to Centre Counter type positions but White’s d-pawn can come under early attack as black intends to castle queenside.

The most popular move is 3.Nc3 when the main line is 3…d5xe4 4.d5 when the Breyer-like 4…Nb8 planning c6 or e6 is recommended.

Christian also looks at 3…Nf6 when the main line is 4.e5 Nd7. The fact that White has played fifteen(!) different moves here shows that is it not clear what the “best” move is.

THE most popular reply to 1…Nc6 is by far 2.Nf3 when the Nimzowitsch move is 2…d6. Black often plays g6 and Bg7 in these lines with similar play to the Pirc Defence but having ruled out the dangerous Austrian attack option. Black can also try …Bg4 lines and these are also looked at in some detail. White can try c3 or Nc3 lines and must decide putting the light squared bishop on either e2 or b5.

In summary, if you are bored with opponents who hit you with loads of theory this may be the opening just for you and, reassuringly, it appears to be quite sound.

Finally, here is one of the author’s game with this defence:

Colin Lyne, Farnborough, Hampshire, 16th July, 2021

Colin Lyne
Colin Lyne

Book Details :

  • Paperback : 264 pages
  • Publisher: Thinkers Publishing; 1st edition (19 Nov. 2020)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 9492510960
  • ISBN-13: 978-9492510969
  • Product Dimensions: 17.15 x 1.27 x 22.86 cm

Official web site of Thinkers Publishing

The Modernized Nimzovich Defense 1.e4 Nc6!: A Complete Repertoire for Black, Christian Bauer, Thinker's Publishing, 19th November 2020, ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-9492510969
The Modernized Nimzovich Defense 1.e4 Nc6!: A Complete Repertoire for Black, Christian Bauer, Thinker’s Publishing, 19th November 2020, ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-9492510969
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Beat the Najdorf & Taimanov Sicilians: A Fighters Repertoire Against the Famous Sicilians

Beat the Najdorf & Taimanov Sicilians: A Fighters Repertoire Against the Famous Sicilians, S.P. Sethuraman, Thinker's Publishing, 22nd Sept 2020, ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-9492510822
Beat the Najdorf & Taimanov Sicilians: A Fighters Repertoire Against the Famous Sicilians, S.P. Sethuraman, Thinker’s Publishing, 22nd Sept 2020, ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-9492510822

“Sethuraman Panayappan Sethuraman is an Indian born chess grandmaster. Among his many successes we remember him winning the national championship in 2014 and becoming Asian champion in 2016. For his country, he played in several team competitions achieving countless successes: Bronze Medal Chess Olympiad 2014, Gold Medal Asian Teams 2016, Gold Medal Asian Teams 2016 & Silver Medal Asian Teams 2018. He is currently one of the leading grandmasters of the new Indian chess generation and a very renowned opening specialist. This is his first book for Thinkers Publishing.”

GM S.P. Sethuraman at Gibraltar 2019 photographed by John Saunders
GM S.P. Sethuraman at Gibraltar 2019 photographed by John Saunders

From the publisher  we have this brief blurb:

“The book you hold is the first work of GM Sethuraman and contains his efforts to find new paths and fresh perspectives on these two variations of these famous Sicilians. We hope you gain from information in this book as well as simply enjoy the games themselves.”

End of blurb…

The author is Indian Grandmaster S P Sethuraman who was born in 1993 and very much a child prodigy. In 2004 he won the under-12 Asian Championships and in 2009 the World under-16 Championship and in the same year he qualified for the Grandmaster title.

In his first book the authors starts-off by looking at the Sicilian Najdorf recommending that white should play the modest move 6.h3.

The earliest appearance for this move would appear to be in 1949 at the US Open played by Weaver Adams versus Max Pavey. 6.h3 was subsequently made popular in the 1960s by Bobby Fischer and features three times in his book My 60 Memorable Games in games 35, 40 and 43.

My 60 Memorable Games by Bobby Fischer, Simon & Schuster, 1964
My 60 Memorable Games by Bobby Fischer, Simon & Schuster, 1964

In 1962 Fischer used 6.h3 to first beat Julio Bolbochan at Stockholm then Miguel Najdorf at the Varna Olympiad and finally Samuel Reshevsky in the 1962 – 63 US championship.

It is worthy of note that the author has played 6.h3 himself on eleven occasions scoring an impressive 77.3%. Here is a swift example:

Amongst current elite players 6.h3 has been chosen by Hikaru Nakamura. Following 6.h3 White will put his dark square Bishop on e3 and castle Queen side. He also intends to play g4 and then g5.
Chapter 1 looks first at 6…Nc6 which was the move Bolbochan played and after 7.g4 h6 8.Be3 e6 9.f4! White intends to play Bg2, the most normal square for the bishop in this line, then Qf3 and OOO.

White will then start pushing black back with g5 when he will be very much on the offensive. Possibly a better try for black is to play 7…g6 where the GM admits that if black knows his theory then he should be able to achieve equality. 7…Qb6 (the most popular database move) is also considered but White will play Nb3 and at a later stage Be3 attacking the Queen.

In Fischer v Najdorf the move 6…b5 was played and the author suggests responding 7.a4 answering b4 with 8.Nd5 with best play White appears to retain an advantage.

7.Nd5 was played in the Fischer v Najdorf game and that also seems promising for White. Fischer reveals that Reshevsky’s choice of 6…g6, treating the game as if it were a type of dragon position, was a sensible one and since White generally follows up with Be3, Qd2 and 000 the American GM seems to make a fair point. However, there are some differences with a conventional Yugoslav Attack as white has not yet played his Bishop to c4 and in some lines he will play Bg2 followed by f4.

In Chapter 3 6…e6 is examined. After 7 g4 d5 the somewhat surprising 8.Nde2! may shock players of the black pieces.

Black can instead try 7…h6, a natural reaction to g4, but if he intends to castle king side this can be a dangerous weakening move to play. In the so-called main line of 7…Be7 we have 8.g5 and White will carry out the standard plan of Be3, Qd2, 000 and, at the right time, h4 when his attack seems more dangerous than blacks.

Interestingly, the favourite / thematic Najdorf move of 6…e5 is not as effective as it is against the English attack it would appear when
White plays Nb3, Be3 and then f4!

In summary, since 6.h3 is less often played than either 6.Be3 or 6.Bg5 it could well be a wise choice and therefore a good repertoire suggestion.

The second part of this book deals with the Sicilian Taimanov variation.

By far the most popular fifth move for white these days is 5.Nc3 which is in preference to Fischer’s 5.Nb5.

Again, the author practices what he preaches with 19 games and a hit rate of 68.4%. In this encounter from 2019 his hapless opponent tries the unpopular and offbeat 5…Be7 and gets things very wrong indeed:

After the more main stream 5…Qc7 6.Be3 a6 the author recommends 7.Qf3

and both Black responses of 7…Bb4 and 7…Nge7 are examined in detail. I was somewhat surprised that after 7…Bb4 8.000 is recommend daring black to play the “ruinous” 8…Bxc3 as White’s dark squared bishop tends to be very strong in these structures.

Black can also try 7…b5 but 8.Qg3 led to a pleasant end game for White in Motylev v Aravindh 2017 and the actual game result was not the fault of the opening:

If White prefers then 8.Nxc6 is also quite a promising line.

Black moves such as 7…Bd6 and the hedgehog-like 7…d6 where White will often respond to black castling King side with launching his g and h pawn up the board. Finally the knight moves 7…Ne5 and 7…Nf6 are analysed.

In summary, this is a new book from a new author with a generous quantity of analysis given but unlike many modern opening books it is not centered around illustrative games. It will appeal to players who are confident in their abilities to learn and recall more analysis than their opponent.

Colin Lyne, Farnborough, Hampshire, 14th July, 2021

Colin Lyne
Colin Lyne

Book Details :

  • Paperback : 240 pages
  • Publisher: Thinkers Publishing; 1st edition (22 Sept. 2020)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 9492510820
  • ISBN-13: 978-9492510822
  • Product Dimensions: 16.51 x 1.52 x 22.86 cm

Official web site of Thinkers Publishing

Beat the Najdorf & Taimanov Sicilians: A Fighters Repertoire Against the Famous Sicilians, S.P. Sethuraman, Thinker's Publishing, 22nd Sept 2020, ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-9492510822
Beat the Najdorf & Taimanov Sicilians: A Fighters Repertoire Against the Famous Sicilians, S.P. Sethuraman, Thinker’s Publishing, 22nd Sept 2020, ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-9492510822
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Beat the French Defense with 3.Nc3

Beat the French Defense with 3.Nc3, Pentala Harikrishna, Thinker's Publishing, 2021, ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-9492510976
Beat the French Defense with 3.Nc3, Pentala Harikrishna, Thinker’s Publishing, 2021, ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-9492510976

“GM Pentala Harikrishna is an established elite player who has been in India’s Olympiad team for over two decades. Since November 2016 Harikrishna has often entered the top 10 of the world rankings, and has consistently stayed in the top 20.

His peak rating is 2770 and he is well known for his exceptional endgame skills as well as for the ability to convert positions with a slight or even no advantage. Harikrishna learned chess from his grandfather at the age of 4, and swiftly progressed up through age-group tournaments until he became a grandmaster at age 14.

He has been World Junior Champion (2004) and Asian Individual Champion (2011). As part of the Indian national team, he has won bronze medals at the World Team Chess Championship, gold and bronze at the Asian Games, and silver (twice) at the Asian Team Championship. He has also won many major open and invitational tournaments, including the Marx Gyorgy Memorial (2006), Tata Steel Group B (2012), Biel MTO (2013), Edmonton International (2015) and Poker Stars Isle of Man (2015).”

GM Pentala Harikrishna
GM Pentala Harikrishna

From the publisher  we have this extensive blurb:

“The French Defence was my main opening with Black while I was striving towards the GM title at the turn of the century. Quite often, I was able to use it to drag my opponent into a complicated maze of deep analysis, so I have intimate knowledge of the tricks used on the other side of the ‘barricades’. This helped me craft a solid base for our present repertoire, and many of the ideas presented in the book have brought me fine victories against some of the strongest French exponents as well.”

“At times, this means suggesting the 2nd or 3rd choice of the engine. He builds on the material from his earlier French course (Chessable, May 2019) and has expanded it with new analysis in all the lines, especially the 3…Nf6 4.e5 Nfd7 5.f4 variation. Harikrishna analyses both 5.Nce2 and 5.f4, so that the reader may make an informed choice about their personal preference. The driving force throughout is to keep the book clear-cut and practical. A good example of a practical weapon is the deceptively simple 3…Bb4 4.exd5 line. There are also fresh and interesting suggestions against the side lines you are likely to encounter, especially at shorter time controls. The entire Thinkers Publishing team joins with the author in wishing you enjoyment and success from this exceptional book”

End of blurb…

It is rare that one of the  World’s top ten players would write a book on opening theory but here Hari, as he is commonly called,  obliges. He has had a peak rating  of 2770 and has been a member of India’s very strong Olympiad team for around two decades .

So, the starting position of this rather large (456 pages) tome is

and this book is written from the perspective of the first player striving to take on the French Defence with 3.Nc3. Of course it will also be of considerable interest to the second player.

Chapter 1 is entitled “Odds and Ends” in which Hari examines  unusual Black 3rd moves .

He kicks off with 3…c5 which is a good move in a Tarrasch (3.Nd2) context  but a clear mistake against 3.Nc3 as White trivially wins a pawn after White takes on d5 and c5 ending up with a 4 to 2 queen side majority and the d4 square in his control  with the following position after 8.Ne4:

Next comes 3…a6 where both 4.Nf3 and 4.Bd3 are discussed . The most critical line here would appear to be 4.Nf3 Nf6; 5.e5 where in the main line Whites Q eventually comes to g4 putting black under pressure on the K side.

3…h6 is a curious third move alternative, but, as Hari points out it stops Black from getting in the Nimzowitschian style …f6 break as now g6 is horribly weakened.

Finally, 3…Be7 is covered but after 4.e5 c5; 5 Qg4 then puts black under pressure.

Both Chapters 2 and 3 look at the black reply 3…Nc6 (a idea of Aron Nimzowitsch) which has always seemed an illogical move to me in the French by blocking …c5.

After 3…Nc6 Hari first looks at 4.Nf3 then in the Chapter 3 4.e5 when 4…f6 is given as the black’s main line usually followed by 5.Nf3 Bd7; 6.Bd3 fxe5; 7.dxe5 Nb4; 8.Ng5 turns out to be good for white according to the author:

In this line black can play 5…fxe5 immediately but after 6.dxe5 Nh6 7.Bg5! again leaves White with advantage.

Chapter 4 brings the reader to the Rubinstein Variation (also ECO code C10) where black plays 3…dxe4 when after 4.Nxe4 options such as 4…Nf6 4…Qd5 and 4…Bd7 attract attention.

According to the author none of these achieve equality but 4…Bd7 is given the most analysis since it is not easy to show an advantage for white. Furthermore, 5.Nf3 Bc6; 6.Bd3 alternatives such as 6…Be4; 6…Nf6 and 6…Nd7 are all interesting tries. White usually plays ideas including c3 and Ne5 to maintain an edge.

Chapter 5 continues to look at the Rubinstein when 4…Nd7 is considered to be the main line. Hari recommends an usual approach for white which we will not reveal here: buy the book!

Chapter 6 progresses to more classical territory with the hugely popular 3…Nf6 (ECO C11 – C14) when 4.e5 Nfd7 and now 5.Nce2 is analysed in considerable depth through to the end of chapter 9.

Club French players will be expecting (and hoping for no doubt) 5.f4 or 5.Nf3 and therefore 5.Nce2 could well throw them off their stride. 5.Nce2 scores well at the highest levels (56%) and is in the armoury of Carlsen, Grischuk, Anand and Nepomniachtchi and consequently deserves much respect.

In this line White intends the usual c3 following …c5 and often will relocate his N from e2 to f4.

Having said all of that 5.f4, which Hari starts to look at in Chapter 10, seems (to me at least) to be the “best” move. Clearly it is the most popular continuation.

The “main line” continues 5…c5; 6.Nf3 where 6…Be7; 7.Be3 b6; 8.Qd2 00; 9.Nd1 is given.

Although this line leads to a white advantage the more aggressive “Williamsesque” 9.h4 which features in some of the other lines should be considered by white players, especially those who love to attack.

Chapter 11 consider 6…Nc6; 7.Be3 Be7; 8.Qd2 is looked at and Black can play …a6 and …b5 here but Whites plan here is Be2 and 00 as Q side castling is somewhat playing into blacks hand.

Instead Black can try 8…00 instead when White is best capturing on c5.

The older line 5.f4 c5; 6.Nf3 Nc6; 7.Be3 Qb6 has always been regarded as slightly suspect and Hari takes a look at this in Chapter 14.

Usually White plays b4 and black sacrifices a piece and although it leads to exciting chess the verdict remains the same. A well prepared white player should be delighted to see this line. The key word in all of this is, of course, “well”

Better perhaps is 7…cxd4 and Chapter 15 examines this: probably much tougher for white to crack. After 8.Nxd4 Qb6 the author provides a large quantity of analysis in this poisoned pawn style line where White sacrifices a pawn with 9.Qd2 and black rightly accepts the challenge with 9…Qxb2.

Finally(!) Hari leads us to the Winawer Variation but here he shocks the white player with his suggestion. To find out what this is you will need to buy the book!

I generally play the Tarrasch but my next bunch of email and postal games will definitely feature 3.Nc3 ! I’m keen to try out the authors suggestions and so should you be!

Colin Lyne, Farnborough, Hampshire, 19th June, 2021

Colin Lyne
Colin Lyne

Book Details :

  • Paperback : 456 pages
  • Publisher: Thinkers Publishing; 1st edition (28 Jan. 2021)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 9492510979
  • ISBN-13: 978-9492510976
  • Product Dimensions: 16.51 x 2.54 x 22.86 cm

Official web site of Thinkers Publishing

Beat the French Defense with 3.Nc3, Pentala Harikrishna, Thinker's Publishing, 2021, ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-9492510976
Beat the French Defense with 3.Nc3, Pentala Harikrishna, Thinker’s Publishing, 2021, ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-9492510976
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Carlsen’s Neo-Møller : A Complete and Surprising Repertoire Against the Ruy Lopez

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

Carlsen's Neo-Møller, Ioannis Simeonidis, New In Chess, 2020, ISBN 9789056919375
Carlsen’s Neo-Møller, Ioannis Simeonidis, New In Chess, 2020, ISBN 9789056919375

From the book’s rear cover :

“White players will thoroughly dislike the Neo-Møller!

The Ruy Lopez is one of the most important chess openings, hugely popular with amateurs and masters alike. Black players allowing the Ruy Lopez main lines are usually condemned to passivity, defending a slightly worse (though solid) position for as long as White chooses this situation to continue.

World Champion Magnus Carlsen doesn’t like passivity. He likes unconventional and active systems that allow him to take command and put pressure on his opponent from early on.

That’s why Magnus Carlsen revolutionized the old Møller Attack, one of the sharpest and most uncompromising variations against the Ruy Lopez. As yet largely disregarded and unexplored by the majority of players, Carlsen’s new approach allows Black to break free early and start giving White a hard time.

FIDE Master Ioannis Simeonidis is the first to investigate this system, cover it in detail, and make it easy to grasp for club players. He has called it the Neo-Møller. Simeonidis has made lots of exciting discoveries, presents many new ideas and shows that it is a reliable and playable system.

Since the Neo-Møller is a very early deviation from the main lines, it’s easy for Black to actually get it on the board and take opponents out of their comfort zone. Simeonidis has created a compact, accessible and inspirational book. One thing looks certain: White players of the Ruy Lopez are going to thoroughly dislike the Neo-Møller!”

FM Ioannis Simeonidis, photo by Jovan Petronic
FM Ioannis Simeonidis, photo by Jovan Petronic

“Ioannis Simeonidis (1975) is a Greek FIDE Master and FIDE Trainer. He is a contributor to New In Chess Yearbook, the world’s leading publication on chess opening news. Simeonidis is the inventor of a recent new system in the Sicilian (the line 2.Nc3 d6 3.d4!?), also played by Magnus Carlsen.”

End of blurb…

FM Ioannis Simeonidis recommends meeting the venerable Ruy Lopez with 3…a6; 4.Ba4 Nf6; 5.00 Bc5

which is rather an unusual choice. In fact, it is the fifth most popular option and, according to an updated version of Megabase 2020, we have the following ranking of popularity:

  1. 5…Be7 : 83439 games
  2. 5…b5 : 27907 games
  3. 5…Nxe4 : 13462 games
  4. 5…d6 : 3378 games
  5. 5…Bc5 : 3248 games
  6. 5…Bd6 : 67 games

and therefore, it is the least popular of the decent alternatives to 5…Be7. For that reason players with the white pieces may be caught unawares facing a sound line.

Its adherents include a fairly reasonable (!) selection of players such as Caruana, Kramnik and Anand and the most frequent of these are Onischuk, Stefanova, Anand and Gareyev. They would certainly make at least our B team! In fact, Alexander Onischuk has played this line 55 times up to 2020.

Carlsen himself has played 5…Bc5 versus players such as Wesley So, Hikaru Nakamura, Maxime Vachier Lagrave, Francisco Vallejo Pons and Sergey Karjakin hence the title of the book rather than say, the more obvious, but less eye catching,  Onischuk’s Neo-Møller!

GM Alexander Onischuk, 5...Bc5's most popular adherent.
GM Alexander Onischuk, 5…Bc5’s most popular adherent.

The full list of Contents is

List of Contents of Carlsen's Neo-Møller
List of Contents of Carlsen’s Neo-Møller

and we recommend that you  inspect sample pages for yourself.

Although the bulk of the book analyses the above  position it also examines earlier deviations,  For example 4.Bxc6, the Exchange variation is considered.

This has been relatively rarely essayed by the top players in recent years but it retains its popularity at club level. I have played several 5th move options as black so I was interested to see what was the author recommended.

And, perhaps predictably, 5…Bg4 immediately pinning the knight and preparing to answer 6.h3 with 6…h5 !! is the preference.

is not an unsurprising choice recommendation as it is the choice of many chess engines and seems to equalise quite easily. A well-known pair of sisters have used this line to draw their tournament games several times.

After 4.0-0 Nf6 many 5th moves such as 5.d3, 5.Qe2, 5.Nc3, 5.d4 and 5.Bxc6 (The Delayed Exchange variation) are all examined.

Against the first three of these moves the recommendation is 5…Bc5 when play will sometimes transpose to main lines.

The Centre Attack (5.d4) is an interesting choice which may catch some black players out but 5…exd4; 6.e5 Ne4; 7.0-0 Nc5

or 6.0-0 Be7; 7.e5 Ne4; 8.Nd4 00; 9.Nf5 d5!

should allow black to equalise satisfactorily.

The rest of the book, as you would expect,  mainly concentrates on the main line starting 6.c3 but many other 6th moves are completely playable the most interesting being the knight sacrifice 6.Nxe5!? when 6…Nxe5 7.d4 b5; 8.Bb3 Bxd4; 9.Qxd4 d6

where black’s position is comfortable or 8.dxe5 Ne4 when black must know the theory after the tricky move 9.Qd5 which black can refute with 9…Bb7! when after 10.Qxb7 c6 trapping the Queen seems good for black .

The main line 6.c3

has 7 chapters of analysis with 6…0-0 ;7.d4 Ba7; when 8.Bg5 was originally thought to refute the Møller but the game Anton Smirnov v Tamir Nabaty in 2016 won by black seems to have changed the assessment:

Since black has not committed to …b5 he does not have to worry about a possible a4 by White but taking on c6 and Ne5 has to be watched for so black will sometimes play exd4 as in the line 6.c3 00; 7.d4 Ba7; 8 Bg5 exd4; 9.e5 h6; 10.Bh4 g5; 11.Bc6 dxc6 12.Nxg5!? with a scary looking position for both players where black seems to be doing well.

Far more popular has been 5…b5; 6.Bb3 Bc5 played by both Shirov and Kamsky but Carlsen’s line seems to stand up to computer analysis and will make a lot of White players think early in the game.

The Møller can lead to a variety of sharp and hairy positions which are not for the faint hearted but, will appeal to black players with a tactical mind that want to fight hard to win with the black peices.

It is already catching on with Shirov, Stefanova and Gustafsson giving it a go and this could hopefully spice up world chess that is already bored with the Berlin!

Colin Lyne, Farnborough, Hampshire, 7th June, 2021

Colin Lyne
Colin Lyne

Book Details :

  • Paperback : 160 pages
  • Publisher: New in Chess (15th December, 2020)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10:9056919377
  • ISBN-13:978-9056919375
  • Product Dimensions: 17.53 x 1.09 x 23.55 cm

Official web site of New in Chess

Carlsen's Neo-Møller, Ioannis Simeonidis, New In Chess, 2020, ISBN 9789056919375
Carlsen’s Neo-Møller, Ioannis Simeonidis, New In Chess, 2020, ISBN 9789056919375
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