Category Archives: Opening Theory

Openings for Amateurs – Next Steps

Openings for Amateurs - Next Steps
Openings for Amateurs – Next Steps

‘Openings for Amateurs – Next Steps’ – Pete Tamburro (Mongoose Press 2020). 5 sections. Amusing cartoon cover. Rabars.

This is the sequel to Openings For Amateurs ~ see below ~ which was written by the same author and published by the same publisher in 2014.

Openings for Amateurs
Openings for Amateurs

Since that time British Chess Magazine has published many monthly columns by Pete Tamburro, a US writer of vast experience and understanding with, I might add, a reference library as large as any ocean. He is a brilliant teacher, respectful of his material, his many students and of the past, in which he revels. The book has been favourably reviewed on Amazon.

Pete Tamburro
Pete Tamburro

He divides his material according to openings:

Open Games, Semi-Open Games, Closed Games, Isolated Queen’s Pawn games and Queen’s Pawn Majority Openings. Some (random) examples: Smith-Morra Gambit, Missed opportunities to play … d5, the Two Knights Defense (“Let’s look at the Ng5 matter first”), Petroff’s (” .. equal positions do not mean drawn positions .. “), the Wormald and Worrall Attack with George Thomas at the controls and so on.

He asks ‘How many games have you played when you made the right move one or two turns too late?.’ So there is philosophy here too and humour is not forgotten: though never intrudes.

Sixty-nine games are presented featuring encounters from almost every available decade including several visitors from the Nineteenth Century: Blackburne, Anderssen, Steinitz, Paulsen, Kieseritzky prowl these pages along with, for example, Adams, McShane and Hawkins. Is anybody forgotten? Not that I spotted. Is it necessary to have studied the first (2014) volume beforehand? For the stronger – Elo 1850+ – player, I would think not. Clearly it wouldn’t hurt, especially for the inexperienced or junior player. A pleasant checklist, a mere closing page, offers 20 tips to improve your rating by 100 points. Useful, useful.

A closing chapter, ‘Final Thoughts’ sees the author lapsing into autobiography, his lessons from Gulko, his bucket list and colleagues and so on. In sum, a sympathetic book. I hope it sells well.

The author is a veteran American chess man like no other. And he has written for the Kasparov Chess Foundation.

James Pratt
James Pratt

James Pratt, Basingstoke, Hampshire, September 10th, 2020

  • Paperback 280 pages
  • Publisher Mongoose Press, 1005 Boylston St., Suite 324, Newton Highlands, MA 02461, USA. (04/20)
  • Language English
  • ISBN-10 1936277948
  • ISBN=13 978-1936277940
  • Product Dimensions: 15.24 x 1.91 x 22.86 cm
  • Kindle £11.35   Paper £18.89.
Openings for Amateurs - Next Steps
Openings for Amateurs – Next Steps

An Idiot-Proof Chess Opening Repertoire

An Idiot-Proof Chess Opening Repertoire : Graham Burgess

An Idiot-Proof Chess Opening Repertoire
An Idiot-Proof Chess Opening Repertoire

FIDE Master Graham Burgess needs no introduction to readers of English language chess books ! Minnesota, USA based, Graham has authored more than twenty five books and edited at least 250 and is editorial director of Gambit Publications Ltd. In 1994 Graham set a world record for marathon blitz playing and has been champion of the Danish region of Funen !

We previously reviewed Chess Opening Traps for Kids also by Graham Burgess and, more recently we reviewed (and enjoyed) A Startling Chess Opening Repertoire (New Edition)

FM Graham Burgess
FM Graham Burgess

We searched the BCN office and, as the most obvious idiot, it was decided that John should evaluate the repertoire to test the title’s ambitious claim…

Burgess has provided a comprehensive repertoire aimed at the club player for both colours. Here are the chapters :

Repertoire for Black

  1. Scandinavian
  2. Queen’s Gambit Accepted
  3. Slav
  4. Queen’s Pawn
  5. Flank Openings (as Black)

Repertoire for White

  1. Closed English
  2. Other Reversed Sicilians
  3. Symmetrical English (as White)
  4. English : Other 1st Moves

So, Burgess recommends the Scandinavian (Centre Counter) Defence against 1.e4 and specifically the relatively modern Pytel-Wade Variation as championed by GM Sergei Tiviakov and others :

Of course this is a very reasonable alternative to the (arguably) more mainstream 3…Qa5 and is well supported in the literature and with DVD and online resources. In other words, if you adopt this line and want to delve deeper then the resources are out there.

As the second player versus 1.d4 Burgess offers an interesting hybrid of the Queen’s Gambit Accepted and the Slav Defence :

popularised by David Navara, Igor Khenkin, Christian Bauer and Matthew Sadler to name but a few : clearly a respectable line. The “idea” is that after 4. e3 Black will attempt to hang on to the pawn with 4…Be6 :

and an interesting struggle will ensue more or less on Black’s terms. If you had to name this line then The Khenkin Variation is most likely.

Against the various queen pawn openings (where White does not play an immediate c4) then Burgess champions concrete lines against the London System (Modern and with 2.Nf3), Torre Attack, Veresov Attack, Colle System, Pseudo-Trompovsky and even the amusing Blackmar-Diemar Gambit! Missing (for some reason) is the Stonewall Attack : not sure why?

Burgess provides recommendations for Black against the most common and sensible Flank openings.

For White we are offered the English Opening with a quick “Kosten style” g3 with most material covering 1…e5 but also good coverage of 1..c5, 1…Nf6 and others. In fact, you could buy this book simply to learn the English Opening as Burgess provides an excellent introduction and not worry about the Black repertoire.

For amusement we pitted the book’s white repertoire against its black repertoire and came up with this fabricated game :

which has been seen in just under 900 games in MegaBase 2020.

In summary, this is a coherent and well-thought out repertoire devoid of cheap tricks or dodgy gambits. I’m not entirely convinced that someone who enjoys the English Opening would also champion the Pytel-Wade Variation of the Scandinavian but who knows ! Clearly the first player opening is solid and “positional” (whatever that means). The second players lines are active and interesting and may even allow our player to dictate terms with The Khenkin Variation.

So, is the title accurate?

With careful study and practice (online for the time being!) you can learn this repertoire without fuss. So, the answer must be Yes!

As with every Gambit publication the typesetting is excellent and the use of diagrams generous. The book is available in physical form and, for around half the price, in Kindle format. In usual fashion you may “Look Inside” before purchasing. At $22.95 (physical) this is a lot of material for your money and represents good value.

As a bonus we decided to play a game where the “Idiot-Proof” repertoire plays the “Startling” repertoire. Here is what happened :

Gambit Publications have recently started their own YouTube channel to publicise their products. Here we have GM John Nunn introducing this book :

Enjoy and good luck !

John Upham, Cove, Hampshire, August 31st 2020

John Upham
John Upham

Book Details :

  • Hardcover : 192 pages
  • Publisher: Gambit Publications Ltd (11 Jun. 2020)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1911465422
  • ISBN-13: 978-1911465423
  • Product Dimensions: 17.15 x 1.52 x 24.77 cm

Official web site of Gambit Publications Ltd.

An Idiot-Proof Chess Opening Repertoire
An Idiot-Proof Chess Opening Repertoire

Book Review ‘The Hippopotamus Defence’ – Alessio De Santis

16 Chapters, Bibliography, Explanation of Symbols, Contents, 3 page Index.

This is too detailed a book for what amounts to a very trivial system, an opening pattern obviously popular in bullet or blitz chess.

The Hippopotamus Defence: A Deceptively Dangerous Universal Chess Opening System for Black

A booklet would have done. I don’t give it the thumbs down here because the author has made a sincere and enthusiastic stab at a difficult topic, divided his text into well classified sections and annotated with great guts and gusto. A glance at the Index also shows that he has the courage of his convictions and, by this I mean, lots of games by him. Keene and Botterill wrote about this sort of thing 40+ years ago and I would still refer interested parties to an elderly Batsford rather than this newly issued effort, pleasant and imaginative read though it is.

In case you are wondering, such as  … e6 … d6 … a6 … h6 … Bg7 … Bb7 is the sort of thing this River Horse begins as, labelled on its cover as ‘A Deceptively Dangerous Universal Chess Opening System for Black’. I begin to wonder whether the author may very well have argued his case so well that GMs throughout the known world will sign-up. The cover price of $32.95 looks too expensive to this Old Scrooge.

The author is an FM from Italy.

  • Flexicover : 320 pages
  • Publisher: New in Chess 2019
  • Language: English
  • ISBN 978-90-5691-831-6
  • Product Dimensions: 23.5 x 17 x 2 cm

James Pratt

Basingstoke

 

The Modernized Grünfeld Defense

The Modernized Grünfeld Defense
The Modernized Grünfeld Defense

From the rear cover :

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

GM Yaroslav Zherebukh
GM Yaroslav Zherebukh

Also from the rear cover

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

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

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

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

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

Position after: 9…b5

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

Position after: 11…a5!

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

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

Position afer 13… c5!

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

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

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

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

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

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

Colin Purdon, August 23rd 2020

Colin Purdon
Colin Purdon

Book Details :

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

Official web site of Thinkers Publishing

The Modernized Grünfeld Defense
The Modernized Grünfeld Defense

Opening Repertoire : The Sveshnikov

Opening Repertoire : The Sveshnikov
Opening Repertoire : The Sveshnikov

Cyrus Lakdawala is an IM and former US Open Champion who teaches chess and has written over 25 books on chess openings.

IM Cyrus Lakdawala
IM Cyrus Lakdawala

Writing a modern repertoire book on the Sveshnikov and keeping it below 500 pages is an achievement, but Cyrus Lakdawala has managed it.

One of his latest books, Opening Repertoire – the Sveshnikov, is only 320 pages long, retailing at £18.99 in the UK and published by Everyman Chess (2020).

I say one of his latest books, as Cyrus regularly manages to write 3/4 books a year, all of good quality and they come thick and fast off the press. I can honestly say that I don’t know how he does it. His output is staggering and clearly the product of incredible self-discipline. As a fellow author, nowhere near his league, I salute him.

The Sveshnikov is a current Magnus Carlsen favourite and so if the book is any good at all, it should sell well.

One of my first ports of call was to check out what Cyrus recommended against 7 Nd5, which featured in the Carlsen-Caruana World Championship match.

The problem with repertoire books is that they can become outdated very quickly under the gaze of the silicon genius. Having said that, the chapter on
7 Nd5 is very well written ,with a wealth of interesting suggestions.

I guess the biggest challenge that the Sveshnikov presents is the vast amount of theory that has accumulated. You have to know a lot to begin with and work very hard to keep up to date. This is not everyone’s cup of tea. For me, the Sveshnikov is great for strong players, but I am not so sure about club players. Some of the main line positions are very complex and tactical, where Black is relying on accurate move sequences to see him through. Having said that, when you do get this
opening right as Black, I imagine it can be very satisfying.

I enjoyed Lakdawala’s book and I think you will too. You will need time and energy to absorb it properly. There are extra chapters on the Anti-Sveshnikov, 3 Nc3 and an opening line Lakdawala calls ‘ the Mamba’, where Black substitutes 6…Bc5!? for 6 …d6.

I rate this book excellent, 4.5/5 stars.

Four and Half out of Five Stars
Four and Half out of Five Stars

Andrew Martin, Bramley, Surrey, 5th August, 2020

IM Andrew Martin
IM Andrew Martin

Book Details :

  • Paperback : 322 pages
  • Publisher:Everyman Chess (1 Mar. 2020)
  • Language:English
  • ISBN-10:1781945632
  • ISBN-13:978-1781945636
  • Product Dimensions: 17.3 x 1.8 x 24.2 cm

The book is available as a physical book and as a Kindle version.

Official web site of Everyman Chess

Opening Repertoire : The Sveshnikov
Opening Repertoire : The Sveshnikov

The Modernized Delayed Benoni

The Modernized Delayed Benoni
The Modernized Delayed Benoni

Ivan Ivanisevic, born in 1977, started playing chess when he was 5 years old, while watching his grandfather and father play. At the age of 10 he started working with IM Petar Smederevac, the coach of the national team of former Yugoslavia, who is probably the real reason why he started playing professionally. Before he reached the age of 20 years old, he shared 1st place in the Championship of the former Yugoslavia. In 1999 he won the title of Grandmaster. Since 1998 he is a member of the national team, and since 2007 continually playing on the first board. Four times he was the Champion of Serbia. He won many tournaments, from which we remember mostly following: Saint Petersburg 2014, Skopje 2015, sharing 1-5 place in Dubai 2015, Vršac, the Bora Kostić Memorial, 2006, Nova Gorica 2007, Bergamo 2014, Kavala 2007, Podgorica, 2011 becoming the Balkan champion and Kozloduy, the rapid championship of Danube 2012. He was also participant of the World Cup in 2011. This this second book for Thinkers Published, after he co-authored the most acclaimed ‘Taimanov Bible’ from 2017.

GM Ivan Ivanisevic
GM Ivan Ivanisevic

From the rear cover :

“The Modernized Delayed Benoni is much more than the title makes you think! I like the author’s approach very much: it is a mixture of a personal journey and a theoretical manual. The author has been probably the main exponent of this line for the past ten years and he uses many of his games to illustrate the variations he has recommended. Although the book is again extremely detailed, there is careful attention to move orders and enough passages of explanations to make much of it understandable for non-experts. An excellent effort. GM Matthew Sadler, NIC Magazine 2020/4.

My aim in this book is to show that the Delayed Benoni is equally as attractive as its cousin, the Modern Benoni. For some reason – perhaps because “Modern” sounds more exciting than “Delayed”? – my favorite Benoni has been neglected for years, receiving scant coverage in chess publications.”

As with every recent Thinkers Publishing publication high quality paper is used and the printing is clear. 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 and each diagram has a “to move” indicator.

There is no index which, unfortunately, is a standard omission of Thinkers Publishing books. Also missing is a bibliography.

The Modernized Delayed Benoni is written by Grandmaster Ivan Ivanisevic, with an important contribution by GM Ivan Sokolov. It is an excellent 240 page book, produced by Thinkers Publishing.

There is a lot of detailed analysis here, complimented by plenty of relevant text. The book revives a system in the Benoni which has not been given the respect it deserves over the years.

This is not a beginner’s manual and strong players will get the most out of it.

The book focuses on the move order 1 d4 Nf6 2 c4 c5 3 d5 g6!

as a way of getting to positions which are dynamic, relatively unexplored and suitable for playing for the win as Black.

Let’s take a look at some of these ideas…

Having digested a lot of this book, I’ve been trying the Black system online. Virtually all strong players meet it in the same way :

IM Andrew Martin, Bramley, Surrey 21st July 2020

IM Andrew Martin
IM Andrew Martin

Book Details :

  • Hardcover : 236 pages
  • Publisher:  Thinkers Publishing; 01 edition (30 Jan. 2020)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 9492510650
  • ISBN-13: 978-9492510655
  • Product Dimensions: 17 x 23.5 cm

Official web site of Thinkers Publishing

The Modernized Delayed Benoni
The Modernized Delayed Benoni

Opening Repertoire : The Modern Benoni

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

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

From the book’s rear cover we have :

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Question: What are some of this moves pluses?

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

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

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

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

Colin Purdon
Colin Purdon

Book Details :

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

Official web site of Everyman Chess

Opening Repertoire : Modern Benoni
Opening Repertoire : Modern Benoni

The Caro-Kann Revisited : A Complete Repertoire for Black

The Caro-Kann Revisited : A Complete Repertoire for Black
The Caro-Kann Revisited : A Complete Repertoire for Black

From the rear cover we have :

“Francesco Rambaldi is an Italian Grandmaster who currently lives in St. Louis (USA) and plays for the Saint Louis University Chess Team. Shortly after graduating from high school, Francesco was awarded the Grandmaster title after winning the Wien International Open when he was 16 years old. Throughout his career, he found success at a national level both in youth championships, becoming Italian champion in the U10 (2009), U12 (2011) and U14 (2013) categories, and in open championships, becoming Italian Champion for Rapid and Blitz in 2016. Francesco also won numerous international opens including the previously mentioned Wien International Open (August 2015), the Bergamo International Open (July 2016), the Capo d’Orso International Chess Festival (June 2017) and the Panama Chess Rumble (November 2017).”

GM Francesco Rambaldi, photograph by David Lada
GM Francesco Rambaldi, photograph by David Lada

and also

“This book presents a comprehensive, ready-to-use, and high-quality repertoire for Black against 1.e4. With meticulous analysis and in-depth explanations, the author demonstrates how the Caro-Kann Defense can be used successfully by players of any level. He also draws on his experience and on his trove of novel ideas to present a new take on the Caro-Kann: one that emphasizes Black’s dynamic options while maintaining a solid and flexible setup.”

As with every recent Thinkers Publishing publication high quality paper is used and the printing is clear. We had got used to glossy paper in previous titles but this one reverts to matt. Bring back glossy!

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 welcome addition is a bibliography which is normally absent from TP publications.

However, there is no index which, unfortunately, is a standard omission of Thinkers Publishing books. Some readers will be disappointed.

This first book from GM Francesco Rambaldi provides a more or less complete repertoire for Black versus 1.e4

In the BCN office we have examined books on the Caro-Kann that use various adjectives in their title :

First Steps, Move by Move, Dangerous Weapons, Main Line, Classical, Novelties, Dynamic, Understanding, Easy Guide, Grandmaster Secrets, Training, In Black & White, Krusher, Play the, Starting Out, Grandmaster Repertoire, Beating, New Ideas and finally Modernised. Revisited is a welcome addition!

Previously from Thinkers Publishing we had “The Modernized Caro-Kann” from GM Daniel Fernandez which focused on the Smyslov variation.

The main content is divided into seventeen chapters distributed amongst six parts as follows :

  1. Advance Caro-Kann
  2. Open Caro-Kann
  3. Two Knights Caro-Kann
  4. Panov Variation
  5. Exchange Caro-Kann
  6. Miscellaneous

Each chapter’s content is treated in familiar Thinker’s Publishing style : variations are analysed in detail move by move with game references liberally sprinkled into the text. The explanations and discussion are detailed presenting the ideas in the position.

We kick-off with a thorough discussion of the third most popular line for White : the Advance variation.

Every Caro-Kann player should know that 3.e5 deserves much respect and accurate play from Black to avoid a painful experience : we quite agree that this should be the first chapter therefore. Rambaldi recommends the trendy 3…c5 which scores slightly better than the conventional 3…Bf5. There are 157 pages on 3…c5 alone with most emphasis on the critical 4. dxc5 including the very topical 5.a3 :

which is treated in great depth with new ideas for Black in a line that White in increasingly turning to.

We then turn to the main “meat and potatoes” of this book : the Korchnoi Variation. We have seen this line referred to as the Tartakower Variation in “Understanding the Caro-Kann Defence” by Keene, Soltis, Mednis, Peters and Kaplan (Pitman, 1980). Rambaldi dedicates 70 pages including more explanation of the ideas than for the other parts.

as the main line after

5…exf6 has hitherto largely been ignored in the Caro-Kann literature in favour of the Bronstein-Larsen variation, 5…gxf6, the Capablanca / Classical Variation of 4…Bf5 and Smyslov’s Variation of 4…Nd7. One might have to employ the Tardis and visit (from 1989) Jeremy Silman’s “The Dynamic Caro-Kann” to find any appreciable treatment. JS dubs 5…exf6 the Original Caro-Kann for those who are keen on labels. Rambaldi calls this the Open Caro-Kann, presumably after 3…dxe4.

The popular Two Knights Variation is treated with the reliable 3…Bg4 line and the Panov via Bg4 and Be6 ideas depending on White’s tries. Even the (in)famous double rook endgame (that rarely gets an outing these days at the highest levels) is given a detailed treatment. All of White’s ideas are covered in detail with appropriate recommendations for Black.

The so-called Pseudo-Panov

and the Fantasy Variations

are covered in adequate depth providing almost complete coverage from Black’s perspective.

The coverage of the King’s Indian Attack is disappointingly thin, almost superficial. OK, so 2.d3 is rather uncommon but, nonetheless, a better treatment would have been welcome.

In summary, we have roughly 400 pages of quality analysis with in-depth explanations and new ideas for Black. There is a fresh (and not before time) treatment of the Korchnoi Variation and excellent coverage of the Advance, Two Knights, Panov and Exchange Variations. Of course, these are the lines you will face day-to-day.

Rambaldi recommends the unusual 4…Nf6!? move order in the Exchange Variation :

rather than the more common 4…Nc6 (and 5…Qc7) with the idea to develop the c8 bishop more quickly : interesting!

Rambaldi is a welcome new writer with a friendly style. He is not afraid to disagree with previous authors and present his own ideas.

We would recommend this book as a stand-alone treatment of the Caro-Kann. If you have played 4…Bf5 and / or 4…Nd7 and want to freshen up repertoire then why not consider 4…Nf6 ? It is less drawish and more ambitious if you need to play for the full point with Black.

John Upham, Cove, Hampshire, 5th June, 2020

John Upham
John Upham

Book Details :

  • Hardcover : 406 pages
  • Publisher:Thinkers Publishing; 1 edition (14 July 2020)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 9492510766
  • ISBN-13: 978-9492510761
  • Product Dimensions: 17 x 23.5 cm

Official web site of Thinkers Publishing

The Caro-Kann Revisited A : A Complete Repertoire for Black
The Caro-Kann Revisited A : A Complete Repertoire for Black

The Richter-Rauzer Reborn : The Kozul Variation

The Richter - Rauzer Reborn : The Kozul Variation
The Richter – Rauzer Reborn : The Kozul Variation

From the books rear cover :

“The Richter-Rauzer is one of the most complex and rich battlegrounds in the Open Sicilian. This book is the distillation of the authors’ decades-long experience in this variation, offering a practical approach based on understanding and knowledge of typical ideas. Do you wish to explore something double-edged and sharp, this book will leave you confident and fully armed to play for a win. For this second revised edition, Grandmasters Kozul and Jankovic teamed up to present you a way to even throw your most experienced opponent off balance!”

“Zdenko Kozul is a Croatian Grandmaster and the winner of the 2006 European Individual Championship. He has represented his country at Olympiads, European and World Championships for almost twenty five years. His peak FIDE-rating he achieved in 2004, being 2640. Zdenko combines now successfully playing individual an team competitions with working as a trainer for the Croatian Chess Federation.”

“Alojzije Jankovic is a Grandmaster and FIDE trainer from Croatia. In 2010 he shared first place in the Croatian National Championships and played for the Croatian team et the Olympiad. He won several international tournaments and completed his degree at the faculty of Economics and Business at the University of Zagreb Croatia.”

At 400 pages The Richter-Rauzer Reborn (second edition) is, indeed, a weighty, almost massive tome ! The first edition was published in September 2014 at a mere 315 pages.

If you are curious (as we were) about the naming of this variation then there is an interesting article (albeit from 2015) on chess.com.

Here are sample pages from the publisher

For those unfamiliar with Sicilian Defence naming schemes, the Richter-Rauzer is one of the sharper open sicilians which starts here :

in which …d6 and …Nc6 are interchangeable to get here.

The Kozul Variation continues from the above position to reach :

MegaBase 2020 lists around 9,000 games with 8…Bd7 with 8…h6 as the runner-up alternative. If we turn on the “Top Games” option we find almost 4,000 games so clearly a popular line at the top level.

Fairly obviously this is a highly theoretical variation (which is not unusual for the open sicilians) with many transpositional possibilities mixed in with sharp and hairy lines : buyer beware !

As with every recent Thinkers Publishing publication high quality paper is used and the printing is clear. 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 and each diagram has a “to move” indicator.

There is no index which, unfortunately, is a standard omission of Thinkers Publishing books. Also missing is a bibliography.

The main content is divided into ten chapters :

  1. 9.f3
  2. 10th move sidelines
  3. 10.Nxc6
  4. 11th move sidelines
  5. 12.Nce2
  6. 12.Nf5
  7. 12.Nf3
  8. 13.f5
  9. 13.Qe1 & 15.–
  10. 13.Qe1 & 15.Bd3

In each of these chapters there is an immense amount of detailed analysis to work through and therefore we have 400 pages of material on a position starting at move nine ! An incredible tour de force of an opening book that will take some beating for depth and detail. Probably invaluable to the devotees of the open sicilian and certainly not for feint hearted. Almost certainly this audience for this book will consist of 2000+ Elo rated players who have the motivation to investigate the fine detail and ideas of this hyper sharp line.

Clearly we have not checked the analysis (and why we would we do that anyway?) but if you play open sicilian with either colour and you want to everything there is to know about the Richter-Rauzer then this book is for you.

John Upham, Cove, Hampshire, 8th May, 2020

John Upham
John Upham

Book Details :

  • Hardcover : 400 pages
  • Publisher: Thinkers Publishing; 2 edition (17 Dec. 2019)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 9492510626
  • ISBN-13: 978-9492510624
  • Product Dimensions: 17 x 1.5 x 23.4 cm

Official web site of Thinkers Publishing

The Richter - Rauzer Reborn : The Kozul Variation
The Richter – Rauzer Reborn : The Kozul Variation

The Modernised Stonewall Defence

The Modernised Stonewall Defence
The Modernised Stonewall Defence

Grandmaster Milos Pavlovic was born in Belgrade in 1964 and was Yugoslav Champion in 2002. He is a well known theoretician specialising in opening theory and has written many chess books and magazine articles.

GM Milos Pavlovic
GM Milos Pavlovic

This is his fifth title in the “Modernized” series from Thinkers Publishing with a fourth on the Scotch Game having being published on November 17th. We first reviewed a title in this series with The Modernized Caro-Kann from GM Daniel Fernandez and then we reviewed The Modernised Colle-Zuckertort from Pavlovic.

As with every recent Thinkers Publishing publication high quality paper is used and the printing is clear. 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 and each diagram has a “to move” indicator.

There is no index which, unfortunately, is a standard omission of Thinkers Publishing books. Also missing is a bibliography.

The main content is divided into eleven chapters organised into four parts :

  • Part I -Systems with g3 and Nh3
    • Chapter 1 – 5.Nh3
  • Part II – Systems with g3 and Nf3 (Classicial approach with …Be7
    • Chapter 2 – 7.Nc3
    • Chapter 3 – 7.b3
    • Chapter 4 – The Surprising 6…Ne4!?
  • Part III – Systems with g3 and Nf3 (Modern approach with Bd6
    • Chapter 5 7.Qc2
    • Chapter 6 7.b3
    • Chapter 7 7.Nbd2
  • Part IV – Other White setups
    • Chapter 8 – White plays d4, c4 and Nc3
    • Chapter 9 – White plays d4, Nf3 and e3
    • Chapter 10 – London System
    • Chapyter 11 – Irregular 3rd moves

The Stonewall Dutch has not hitherto had many books published about it. Popularised by Botvinnik it has found most support by club players rather than by elite Grandmasters. The well known structure for Black is typically :

arrived at by numerous move orders. In his Introduction the author emphasises the strategical nature of games played in this structure and its legendary reliability : perhaps viewed as a system to avoid losing rather than playing for a win. He goes on to layout the material covered.

The “Modernized” refers to an emphasis in which there is a more active set-up for Black :

rather than the older development on e7 :

As you can infer from the chapter titles the bulk of the book covers lines for White in which the f1 bishop is fianchettoed.

The approach of each chapter is to examine a variation move by move citing example games in sidenotes and the analysis is reinforced by an engine.

This is not a complete repertoire book on how to play the Dutch in general. The student will need to study and learn all of White’s popular second move alternatives such as

and

and, of course

to name but a few. However, there is a stand-alone chapter on

no doubt because of the London System’s huge popularity at club level in the last few years.

This book is ideal perhaps for someone who plays the Classical Dutch (or even the Lenningrad Dutch) who wishes to add the Stonewall to their repertoire. The treatment of the main lines in the Bd6 and Be7 Stonewalls is detailed and up-to-date as of 2020.

If you have never played the Dutch before (as Black) then this book forms the basis of your study with perhaps another Dutch book which covers the pesky second move alternatives. A common trick by Stonewall and Classical Dutch players (to circumvent some of these ideas) is to play 1…e6 rather than 1…f5 but, you will need to be happy playing the Black side of a French Defence after 2.e4.

Playing the Stonewall Dutch will add to your understanding of positional chess and strategy and, of course, Black has won many games with this weapon using a King side attack especially with the g pawn !

We like this book and so will you.

John Upham, Cove, Hampshire, 7th May, 2020

John Upham
John Upham

Book Details :

  • Hardcover : 198 pages
  • Publisher:  Thinkers Publishing; 01 edition (19 May 2020)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 9492510731
  • ISBN-13: 978-9492510730
  • Product Dimensions: 17 x 23.5 cm

Official web site of Thinkers Publishing

The Modernised Stonewall Defence
The Modernised Stonewall Defence