GM Nikola Sedlak is a former Serbian Champion who has won both the EU Individual Open Championship and an Olympiad gold medal.
From the publisher:
“The Dutch Defense is one of Black’s most combative responses to 1.d4, and the Stonewall is the boldest version of this opening. Black immediately seizes space in the center and clamps down on the e4-square, laying the foundations for a complicated strategic battle. Many players believe the Stonewall to be a substandard opening, naively assuming that the e5-outpost and bad light-squared bishop must give White the advantage.
GM Nikola Sedlak disagrees, and in Playing the Stonewall Dutch he shares the insights that have helped him to rack up a healthy plus score from Black’s side. In addition to providing a complete repertoire in the main lines of the Stonewall, this book also offers useful guidance on dealing with Anti-Dutch variations and various move-order subtleties.”
End of blurb…
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 a full games index which is most welcome. This title is part of the Quality Chess Grandmaster Guide series.
The main content is divided into eleven chapters viz:
Avoiding the Fianchetto
Fianchetto with Bf4
7.Nbd2 & 7.Ne5
The Flexible Stonewall
The Aggressive Stonewall
1.c4 and 1.Nf3
Before we continue it is confession time…
Prior to reading this book I had little knowledge of the Stonewall Dutch from Black’s perspective although I did look at it briefly when studying the Triangle Variation and the Abrahams (Noteboom) Variation of the Semi-Slav. There are lines where Semi-Slav players have the option of transposing into a Stonewall Dutch and Gerald Abrahams did play this way on occasion. I am more familiar from White’s perspective but, nonetheless, to my chagrin, insufficiently so.
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.
and therefore comparison with this other book will be beneficial to the student.
The authors recommended move order of 1.d4 e6 clearly requires Black to be familiar with the French Defence (or the Franco-Sicilian as a matter of taste.) and is a very common mechanism among practitioners of the Classic / Stonewall Dutch. Lenningrad Dutch players have less flexibility at their disposal. 1…e6 has the virtue of avoiding some of White’s pesky so-called Anti-Dutch ideas such as 2. Bg5, 2.Nc3 and the Staunton Gambit (2.e4).
However, for completeness, the author provides ideas for Black to combat the above (and more) white tries after 1.d4 f5 in Chapter 9. In fact, the coverage of these move two tries is more comprehensive than most books on any line of the Dutch Defence.
Consulting Megabase 2020 we find that the author, Nikola Sedlak has recorded 2102 games which ranks him as one of the most active players. We find that against 1. d4 nowadays he plays both 1…f5 and 1…e6 with the latter being the modern move order choice. The Stonewall features in many of these games.
Apart from the move two alternatives I was curious to see the recommendations for dealing with the overly ubiquitous London System. Indeed, against the Stonewall and Classical Dutch is one of the rare occasions where I would consider playing
and 3.Bf4 is only eclipsed (as you’d expect) by 3.c4 or 3.g3 in popularity. There is extensive coverage in Chapter 9 of this club player favourite.
Before delving deeper it is worth knowing that Quality Chess have provided a pdf excerpt of the Preface and and the first twenty or so pages of Chapter 5 on 7.b3. This will give you an excellent feel for the style of presentation so please take a look!
The Introduction chapter is 13 pages of invaluable discussion of the overall strategy of the Stonewall structure interspersed with plans, strategic ideas, themes and motifs. Re-reading until you fully understand these ideas will be time well spent.
Each main content chapter comprises of a schematic of variations followed by a detailed introduction to the ideas and then a number of high quality model games many of which have the author playing the black pieces.
The analysis and recommendations are generous with explanations not spoilt by reams of tedious engine dumps. On average each page contains 3-4 diagrams giving the content a user friendly feel. It is clear that the author does his best to keep the reader engaged and “on-side”: this is not always easy for opening books which are generally harder work to stay with than say games collections or tactics primers.
As I mentioned earlier, my knowledge of the “main” lines (those where white plays g3) is superficial so I decided to conduct a “gedanken” experiment and use MegaBase 2020. Using the “most games” style of lookup I arrived at the following position to have been played the most up to 2020:
giving white a range of 7th move choices. Note that Black has opted for the more active …d6 development of the bishop as against the more conservative …e7. There is a considerable body of theory for both options.
By a considerably large margin the most popular move here is 7.b3:
and MegaBase 2020 has roughly 4,500 games between players of any strength and 1,000 games if you use the “Top Games” option. The author dedicates Chapter 5 and a full 40 pages to 7.b3. (The Pavlovic book also dedicates substantial space to this line.)
So having arrived here I asked Megabase 2020 to show me the most popular direction of travel from here :
7…Qe7; 8.Bb2, 0-0;9.Nbd2,b6;10.Ne5, Bb7;11.Rc1,a5; (various move orders are available as the saying goes) and then White is less clear about the next most popular move although 12.e3 is the standard recommendation.
Consulting the author we find ourselves in Chapter 5, variation B2), page 134 and the variation is considered over six pages in considerable depth. (Pavlovic also covers this position as you would expect.)
The first model game of this chapter to enjoy is this gem:
which is analysed in depth.
Unlike some reviewers I will not be revealing a list of spoilers of what the author recommends in positions x, y and z. Usually I like to point out important lines that have been missed out but I get the impression that coverage is comprehensive and devoid of such omissions.
The overall impression is of a superbly produced book suitable for someone considering adding the Stonewall Dutch to their repertoire as well as an excellent booster for someone who is experienced with it.
“The fifth volume of the Grandmaster Repertoire – 1.e4 series provides a top-class repertoire against the Alekhine, Scandinavian, Pirc and Modern Defenses, plus various offbeat alternatives Black may try. Negi’s latest work continues the winning formula of his previous books: the 1.e4 repertoire is founded on established main lines and turbo-charged with the innovative ideas of a world-class theoretician, making this an essential addition to the library of every ambitious chess player.”
I suspect that some of the keen proponents of these openings would strongly disagree that their pet opening is a minor defence to e4. Indeed, the popularity of some of these defences, in particular, the Scandinavian, would suggest that these openings are not easy for white to meet and the first player has to work hard to gain an advantage out of the opening. The sheer size of this volume shows that these so called lesser defences are pretty resilient.
This is where this book comes in, the quality of the analysis is impressive and there are plenty of original suggestions backed up by concrete lines and analysis which will arm the white player with much material. There is plenty of explanatory text that elucidates the main positional ideas in each chapter. The author pays particular attention to move order considerations which are particularly pertinent in the Pirc/Modern complex of openings.
As the title suggests, this is a book written from a 1.e4 white player’s point of view but there are many instances where Negi gives alternative variations for the first player to try. The suggested repertoire is generally dynamic and attacking but there are plenty of lines where white nurses a space advantage and positional pressure.
The book is divided into four sections:
Each section in then partitioned into logical chapters covering the major variations. The author skillfully manages transpositions with good cross references.
The first section on the Alekhine recommends the solid, Modern Variation with 4.Nf3 which is usually played at GM level. One particular line that has fascinated me for years is the variation 1.e4 Nf6 2.e5 Nd5 3. d4 d6 4.Nf3 dxe5 5.Nf3 Nd7 where black goads white into the tempting 6.Nf7. Bent Larsen tried this against Bobby Fischer in a blitz game in 1966 and was duly crushed. This line has been in the repertoire of some decent players and white, even when handled by an IM, has gone wrong and not pressed home the attack. The following game demonstrates this, but in the notes gives the refutation to this provocative fifth move. The author acknowledges that some of the analysis is taken from a book by John Shaw.
Eric Prie – Igor Alexandre Nataf Andorra op 15th 1997
1. e4 Nf6 2. e5 Nd5 3. d4 d6 4. Nf3 dxe5 5. Nxe5 Nd7? A provocative move, Bent Larsen famously played this in a blitz game v Bobby Fischer in 1966 and was crushed. 6. Nxf7
An engine discovery, winning stylishly 16… Bh6 17. Rb7! Bd7 (17… Bxf4 18. Qxf6+ exf6 19. Ne4# Is the pretty point!
or17… Bxb7 18. Qe6+ Kc7 19. Bxe5+ Wins trivially) 18. Bg3 Rb8 19. Rxb8 Qxb8 20. O-O Qf8 21. Re1 Nfg4 22. Qf3!! Qxf3 23. gxf3 Rf8 24. Ne4+ Kc7 25. fxg4 Bf4 26. Be2 White has a winning endgame but some technique is still required to convert the extra pawn.)
14. Rc1 g6 15. Be2 Qc7
16. Na4? This is poor (16. bxc5+! Winning but care is still required. Qxc5 17. Bxe5+! Kxe5 18. O-O White a winning attack: Intending a combination of Rfe1, Na4, Bf3 and c4-c5, an example variation is given: Bh6 19. Na4 Qa3 20. Rc3 Qxa4 21. Qxe7+ Kd4 22. Rd3+ wins) 16… Bh6 ! 17. bxc5+? The final mistake (17. Bxe5+ Kxe5 18. f4+ Bxf4 19. Rd1 Bf5 20. g3 Raf8 21. gxf4+ Kd6 22. Qg7 b6 Black is probably better, but white can still fight) 17… Kd7
Now white is dead, the queens’s come off and he is left a piece down.} 18. Qe6+ Ke8 19. Qxe5 Bxf4 20. Qxc7 Bxc7 21. Nb6 Rb8 22. Bf3 Nd7 23. Nxd7 Ba5+ 24. Ke2 Bxd7 25. Kd3 Bb4 26. c6 bxc6 27. dxc6 Bf5+ 28. Ke2 Bc5 0-1
The second section deals with the Scandinavian. The Pytel variation 3…Qd6 is very trendy and this is one of the first chapters that I turned to. Here is an entertaining win by white in the 5…Bg4 line.
c6 ( 7… Nc6 8. Bf4 is good for white) 8. Bf4 Qd8 (8… Qxd4 9. Nb5! Is more or less winning)
9. d5! A crushing blow opening up the position for the better developed side
Nxd5 (9… cxd5 10. Bxb8 Followed by Bb5+
leads to major problems for black) 10. O-O-O e6 11. Nxd5 cxd5 (11… exd5 12.Qg3! Black finds it impossible to develop)
12. Bxb8 Qxb8 13. Bb5+ Ke7 14. Rhe1
a6 (14… g6 Is too slow 15. Rxd5 Bh6+ 16. Kb1 Rd8 17. Rxd8 Qxd8 18. Rd1 winning) 15. Qxd5! The play is now totally forcing. White has a forced mate or win of queen. axb5 16. Qg5+ Ke8 17. Qxb5+ Ke7 18. Qg5+ Ke8 19. Qb5+ Ke7 20. Rd7+ Kf6 21. Rxf7+!
Kxf7 22. Qd7+ Be7 23. Qxe6+ Kf8 24. Qxe7+ Kg8 25. Qe6+ Kf8 26. Qf5+ Kg8 27. Qd5+ Kf8 28. Qf5+ Kg8 29. Re7 Qe8 30. Qd5+ Kf8 31. Rxe8+ Rxe8 32. Qxb7 Black should have resigned here
The third sections deals with the Pirc/Modern complex. The repertoire suggested is the 150 Attack but is far more subtle than that, as white varies his setup according to the myriad black setups available. Below, is an instructive, thematic win by the editor, Andrew Greet.
7…a6 (7… Qd6 8. Bf4 Is horrid for black) 8. Ba4 b5? (8…
Rb8 9. Bg5!Qd6 10. f4! b5 11. Bb3 Nc8?! (11… h6 Black can stay
in the game albeit with a lousy position) 12. Bxe7 Nxe7 13. O-O
Simple development leaves white with a big plus, or 13.g4) 9. Nxb5 axb5 10. Bxb5 Qd6 11. c3 Ra6 12. Bf4! Rb613. Qa4
13…Bc2 14. b3 g5 15. Bxg5 Rg8 16. Bxe7 Bxe7 17. Bxc6+ Kf8 18. O-O Black struggled on until move 37 but could have resigned here
“Alexey Kovalchuk is a Russian player whose rating reached 2445 in recent years. In additional to winning the Rostov Championship and numerous other tournaments, he is a theoretician who works as a second for strong chess grandmasters.”
Also from the rear cover
“The Grünfeld Defence is well known to be one of Black’s best and most challenging responses to 1.d4, and has long been a favorite choice of elite players including Kasparov, Svidler, Caruana, Vachier-Lagrave and many more. As with many chess openings, however, it can be difficult to navigate the ever-expanding jungle of games and theory. Playing the Grünfeld offers an ideal solution for practical chess players. Alexey Kovalchuk is a young Russian talent with expert knowledge of the Grünfeld, and in this book he shares his best ideas to form a complete, coherent and combative repertoire for Black. In addition to theoretical soundness, efforts have been made to avoid variations leading to early forced draws, as well as those in which Black allows his king to be attacked at an early stage.”
This book, published by Quality Chess, is a substantive addition to the literature covering the Grünfeld Defence. I write “substantive” partly to refer to its 500 pages, which is rather a lot for a repertoire book. Of course, a major opening like the Grünfeld deserves a large number of pages.
The book is nicely presented and has high production values. For example, each of the 16 chapters of opening content has its own mini Index of Variations, and there is a detailed Index of Variations at the end of the book. The subject matter is up to date, with many references to games played up to 2019.
Content of the Book
The Grünfeld is covered in some detail, both in the breadth and depth of variations. As mentioned above, game references are up to date, and the author supplements known theory with his own suggestions and analysis. (For example, he mentions a very intriguing piece sac in a side-line of the Fianchetto Variation – sorry, no spoilers here!) The author’s “scientific approach to chess” and the fact that he is a “diligent worker” (both quotes from GM Petrov’s foreword) do come across in this work.
One nice feature is that for the major variations the author gives a paragraph or two about the background of the move. For example he says who played it first, which books recommend it, which top GMs currently include it in their repertoire and so on. I think this is a nice touch which adds interest to the opening.
The he goes into detail, covering the lines he recommends with a good mixture of variations and wordy (but not over verbose) explanations. This obviously constitutes the bulk of the book, and I give an example of his style below.
Also, each chapter is given a Conclusion, usually half a page or so, in which Kovalchuk gives a broad brush reminder of the material covered, and puts the lines into perspective (eg pointing out the dangerous lines, the common lines, or the positional lines). Another nice touch which I believe helps the reader to make sense of the material, which can be difficult after playing through a number of variations.
The following excerpt shows the author’s attention to detail, and his willingness to share his own analysis. It is taken from the chapter on the 3 f3 variation:
With the typical Benoni plan of …Nc7, …Rb8 and …b5.
The reader may be wondering why we don’t play 11 …h5 here. The trick is revealed, showing why White waited so long to to develop his dark-squared bishop: 12 Bg5! Qe8 13 Qd2 Nh7 14 Bh6 Rb8 15 Bxg7 Kxg7 16 Nf1 Qe7 17 Ne3 += The royal knight is perfectly employed.
12 Be3 Rb8 leaves White nothing better than 13 0-0 transposing.
12 Bf4!? deserves further attention; I only found one game with this move, Boehme – Bochev, email 2014. I recommend 12 …Bd4!?N with the possible continuation: 13 Qd2 f5 14 exf5 (14 h4 fxe4 15 Ngxe4 Ndf6 16 Bg5 Qa5∞) 14 …gxf5 15 Bc4 Ne5∞ There arises a complex position with mutual chances.
(The book actually uses figurines.)
Comparison with The Modernized Grunfeld Defense
Having reviewed Yaroslav Zherebukh’s The Modernized Grunfeld Defense recently, and both books published in 2020, it is hard not to compare the two books.
First, let me say that I think that these are both very good books which will serve Grünfeld players well, whether they are new to the defence or more experienced.
For brevity, I will refer to the books as PtG and TMG.
PtG at 500 pages is somewhat larger than TMG‘s 300 pages and so we can expect the former to cover more lines. (Zherebukh’s style is more terse and to-the-point, but that doesn’t account for 200 pages.)
Both books go into some depth, but PtG goes into more detail with the side-lines. For example, there is little on an early Qa4+ in TMG whereas Kovalchuk gives this idea a chapter in PtG. It is true that TMG does have advice on how to play anti-Grünfeld’s which is not covered by PtG, but generally Kovalchuk’s book does have broader coverage.
As mentioned above, this book (PtG) does have production values and features which make it more accessible, which is not to say that TMG is bad in this regard.
Which one would I recommend? As above, I am sure that all Grünfeld players would benefit from either book, but it is possible that PtG‘s presentation and coverage of side-lines would make it more attractive to players starting with this opening. TMG, however, does have some good advice on how to learn an opening, which is a nice feature of that book.
It is interesting that the repertoires recommended by the two books are substantially different, and it could be that which book is “better” could just mean which book recommends lines that suit particular players.
Playing the Grünfeld is an excellent book, which I can recommend to any player of this opening.
Decision Making In Major Piece Endings : Boris Gelfand
From the Publisher’s Foreword:
“This is the fourth book in the Decision Making In Chess series. It was written over the last couple of years. A lot of work has gone into this book and the accompanying volume Technical Decision Making In Chess, which deals with a wider range of technical topics, whereas this book focuses on positions without minor pieces.
It has been four years since the publication of Dynamic Decision Making in Chess and certainly there will be one person out there wondering what happened to us and why the third volume was taking so long to complete. I hope that the content alone of these two books will answer that question.”
From the back cover:
“In Decision Making in Major Piece Endings former World Championship Challenger Boris Gelfand discusses his path to decision making in endgames involving rooks or queens, as well as the neglected “4th phase”. Countless games are decided by good or bad technique in such endgames, so readers are certain to benefit from the insights of a word-class Grandmaster on this vital topic.
Grandmaster Boris Gelfand has been an elite player for over 30 years, winning the World Cup, Olympiad Gold, the Candidates and many other top tournaments. Grandmaster Jacob Aagaard is the only chess writer to have won all the major awards for chess writing. ”
Reaction to previous volumes in the series:
In 2015 Positional Decision Making In Chess won the ECF Book of the Year award.
“The most interesting chess book I have read in the last quarter-century.” Mikhail Shereshevsky on Positional Decision Making in Chess.
This new Quality Chess publication Decision Making In Major Piece Endings uses high quality paper 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 major diagram has a “to move” indicator. Where a “to move” indicator is not present, it is obvious which colour is to move from the accompanying moves in a variation.
Each chapter is introduced with a contemporary photograph of a player or players or a tournament scene which launches each chapter in a engaging manner. This is followed by a Diagram Preview page which shows the critical analytical diagrams in the following chapter and invites the reader to practise their analysis and decision making! If you can work out most of the variations you are a world champion.
The introduction of this book makes it clear that this book is not an endgame primer or manual on basic major piece endgames as there are plenty of these theoretical works already in existence. Knowledge of very basic rook and pawn endgames such as the Lucena and Vancura positions is assumed. This book is “about decision making at the board and learning from your games – and those of others. In this book I will discuss topics that have arisen in some of the most interesting games without minor pieces during my career. We will encounter rook endings, queen endgames and games in what Romanovsky called the fourth phase, which is essentially later middlegames/early endings where only major pieces remain.”
The introduction also guides the reader on how to study the endgame: 1. knowledge of basic positions and their key variations and ideas must be known; 2. improving deep analytical skills; 3. development of intuition. This book concentrates on improving items 2 & 3 above. The author suggests how to best use the book by first analysing the endgames without a chess engine and/or tablebases to prevent lazy thinking by relying too heavily on engine assessments without understanding.
Despite the fact that the introduction claims that this book is not an endgame primer, there are a couple of excellent chapters on theoretical endgames. They are covered from a practical point of view and Gelfand draws out the key defensive ideas by concentrating on patterns and key positions. More on these chapters later. There are other basic endgame positions interspersed in other chapters which are reached from long variations but are nevertheless didactic as the theoretical endgames are shown in context within the whole endgame and the reader is clearly shown how these positions can be reached in practice.
Here is an critical position from the game Julian Hodgson – Boris Gelfand played at Groningen 1996. Both players misevaluated this ending as they both thought that black was easily winning. At the time, endgame theory agreed with them. Modern tablebases give this as a clear draw as black cannot hide his king from the checks with accurate defensive play from white.
The game continued 86.Qe8+? The losing mistake. The black king escapes the checks by stepping in front of the pawns. 86.Qe6!, the most natural waiting move was still drawing. (86.Qd7! also draws). 86…Qf8 87. Qe2+ g4 88. Qe5+ Kh6 89. Qe6+ Kg5 90. Qe5+ Qf5 91.Qg7+ Kf4 92. Qc7+ Qe5 93. Qf7+ with a draw. 86… Kg4 87. Qe6+ Qf5 88.Qc4+ Kg3 89. Qc7+ Qf4 0-1
The author makes the point that if white had known that the endgame was a draw, and knew a few general ideas, he would have probably drawn the game. But when you think it is lost, psychologically it is impossible to hold it, particularly in an increment finish. A lot of the top players do not think in terms of lost or not: they concentrate on looking for ideas (to make life difficult for the opponent).
Chapter 1 – The Importance of Analysis
The title of the chapter is self explanatory and Gelfand stresses the need to study complicated endgames in depth and understand all the nuances. There are some superb examples of brilliant analysis. Here is one such position where Gelfand did not discover the right idea until 2018:
It is black to play, clearly 60…d1=Q 61. Rxd1 Kxd1 62. Kf3 is not good enough to win. Black to play can win with 60…Rc4!! 61. Rb1 Rc1 62. Rb2 Rf1!! cutting the king off from the e-file (62…Ke3? 63. Rxd2 Kxd2 64.Kf4 draws shouldering the black king) 63. Kg4 Ke3 64. Rxd2 Kxd2 65. Kg5 Ke3 wins as black’s king is now available to hunt the pawns down.
Chapter 2 Do Not Hurry
The “Do not hurry” concept is a key concept that I first encountered in Shereshevsky’s classic Endgame Strategy. In the position below, this principle can be demonstrated aptly.
Converting this position is covered in detail with a key discussion on exchanges which is enlightening.
This rook ending could have occurred and black’s winning’s manoeuvre is instructive:
63…Rc5 64. Rc7 Rc3+ 65. Kf2 Rc4 66.Kg3 Now the black rook has been optimally placed, it is time to improve the king to the maximum, while keeping the best possible pawn structure, which is to keep the pawn on g7 and play …f6, so that White does not have Rc8 followed by c6-c7. If the pawn would be on g6 in that position, Rg8 would eventually come and save a draw. The best black would achieve is f- and h- pawns, but not in favourable circumstances. With the pawn on g7, …Rxc7 will always come as a response to Rg8 and black wins trivially. 66…Kf6 67.Kh3 Kg6 68.Kg3 f6 And black wins after either 69.Kh3 Kh6! followed by the advance of the g-pawn, or 69.Rc8 Kf5! and the advance of the king.
Chapter 3 – Three Surprisingly Complicated Rook Endgames
This is a variation from an interesting rook and pawn endgame Boris Gelfand – Lars Bo Hansen Wijk aan Zee 1993:
White wins with the instructive 64.Rc7!! preparing to cut black’s king off along the fifth rank 64…Rh1 65.Rc5! and if 65…Kd6 66.Rc6+, white can then simply queen the b pawn winning black’s rook whilst black’s king is unable to support his own pawn.
Here is another common type of position taken from a variation in the game Gelfand-Vladimir Kramnik Zurich 2017. White is clearly much better as his king supports his pawn and black’s king is not in the game. But how does white win?
The answer is simple once you see it. 48.Rc3!! Kf6 49. Rc2! and wins
Chapter 4 Two Defensive Methods in Rook Endings
This chapter is one of the theoretical chapters which covers rook and four against three all on one side and rook against three connected passed pawns. This section is well constructed with coverage of all the major positions and ideas in the 4 v 3 ending.
Some famous games are included which must be present in every treatise on rook endings. Here is one such ending from: Mikhail Botvinnik v Miguel Najdorf Moscow 1956:
White is winning here because he can create a passed e-pawn and he has fixed the pawn structure with h5 leaving an entry point for the king on g6. The game continued 61…Kf7 62. Ra5 Rc7 63. Rd5 Ra7 64. e5 fxe5 65. fxe5 Ke7 66.e6 Ra4 67. g5! providing cover for the king 67…hxg5 68.Rd7+ Kf8 69.Rf7+ Kg8 70.Kg6 g4 71.h6! gxh6 72.e7 Ra8 73.Rf6 There is no defence to Rd6 and Rd8 with mate.
The celebrated endgame Capablanca-Yates Hastings 1930 is of course covered in great detail. The analysis of the famous position is covered in great depth showing the defender’s best defence which is tricky to crack. It is revealing to note that even the great Cuban World Champion let the win slip at one point. I suggest that the reader buys the book to study this superb analysis.
The position below is the celebrated game Piket-Kasparov Internet 2000 because Kasparov misplayed a drawn endgame so badly. We must not be too hard on the former World Champion as it was a rapid game and Kasparov is a superb endgame player.
The game continued: 42.Kh3 Re3 43.Kh4 Kg7?! Black does not have to let the white king into g5. 43…Kh6! 44.Rc7 Re2! 45h3
Now, 45…Rxe5! 46.Rxf7 Re4 47.g4 Rxf4! forces a quick draw.
The game continued: 44.Kg5 Re1? (The final mistake: black can hold with 44…Ra3 45.Rc7 Ra5 and white is stymied) 45.Rc7 Re2 46.Re7 Ra2 The following variation is the key to why white is winning: 46…Re1
47.e6! Rxe6 48.Rxe6 fxe6 49.h3 Despite material equality, black is lost as he is in zugzwang. 49…Kf7 50.Kh6 Kf6 51.g4 h4 52.g5+ Kf5 53.Kg7 Kxf4 54.Kxg6 e5 55.Kf6 e4 56.g6 e3 57.g7 e2 58.g8=Q e1=Q 59.Qg4+ Ke3 60.Qe6+ exchanging queens and winning
In the game, black lost in a similar manner to Botvinnik-Najdorf:
47.f5! gxf5 48.e6 h4 49.Rxf7+ Kg8 50. Kf6 1-0
The final two positions in this chapter concern Rook v 3 connected passed pawns.
White to move wins with 1.Rf8, black to move draws only with 1…Kg7! preventing the rook from moving behind the base of the chain.
Similarly in the mirror position, white to move wins with 1.Rh8, black to move draws with 1…Kg7!
The core of the book (chapters 5 to 8) is a series of four chapters deeply analysing three rook and pawn endgames of Gelfand’s against world class opposition. The games are shown in their entirety which is the modern way to study endgames in relation to the opening and middlegame.
This position from a variation in the game Gelfand-Kasimdzhanov from Baku 2014 caught my eye. Black to play – what should he do? 59…Kf5!! The obvious move is to push the pawns with 59…g4. Let’s see what happens: 60.Rc6! f5 61.Rxa6 Kg5 62.Rb6 h3 63.Kg3 f4+ 64.Kh2 Kf4 65.Rh6+ Kg5
66.Rh8! Kf5 67. Rg8! Black is in zugzwang and loses all the pawns.
60.Rc6 a5 61. Rc5+ Kg6 62.Rxa5 f5 and black prevents the rook from reaching f8. This is obvious when one has knowledge of the basic endgame rook v 3 connected pawns shown above! The author has shown an excellent example of knowing your basics being applied to a real live game.
Chapter 9 Queen Endings with a g- or h- pawn
This is one of the reviewer’s favourite chapters as it combines endgame theory with practical examples showing that even strong GMs do not know how to defend these endings correctly. Even when players know where to put their defending king, choosing the correct check to draw is not obvious!
Here is a position from Gelfand-Jobava from Dortmund 2006.
The reviewer loves this endgame.
This king and pawn ending is clearly drawn but white is pressing with a more advanced king. White played 50.h4 setting a subtle trap. 50…h5?? losing, incredible to believe but it is true. 50…Kd7 draws, for example 51.g4 f6+ 52.Kd5 e6+ 53.Kc5 h6 54. e5 fxe5 55.fxe5 Kc7 seizing the opposition and drawing 51.f5! f6+ 52.Ke6 gxf5
Now white played 53. e5!! which had been completed missed by black (automatic recapture syndrome) fxe5 54.Kxe5 Kd7 55.Kxf5 Kd6 56.Kg5 Ke5 57.Kxh5 Kf4
Now white can enter a winning queen endgame with 58.Kg6!
White did not play the endgame perfectly, and after many adventures this position was reached at move 87. Black is drawing here if he places his king in the drawing zone which is the far corner diagonally opposite where the g pawn is hoping to queen i.e. a1.
87… Ka5? was played which loses. I am surprised that a strong GM moved his king the wrong way. 87…Ka3 draws but the draw is not simple. 88.g7 and now black can draw with an accurate sequence of moves that are not obvious. 87… Qe5+ (the obvious 87… Qg3+ loses in 41 moves) 89.Kg6 Qe6+ 90.Kh7 reaching the drawn position below.
90…Qf5+ 91.Kg8 Qf4! (only move) draws, 90…Qh3+ 91.Kg8 Qf5! (91…Qe6+ loses) also draws
The game continued 88.g7 Qe5+ 89.Kg6 Qe6+ 90.Kh7 Qf5+ 91.Kg8 Ka4 92. Qh1 Qc8+ 93. Kh7 Qf5+ 94. Kh8 Qe5 reaching the position below:
Now 95.Qh3! wins cutting off he black king from the drawing zone. Gelfand won the game easily after another 18 moves. The best defence involves white winning by transitioning through the two diagrams below exploiting black’s king position to misplace the black queen. Absolutely fascinating stuff.
Chapter 10 – Multiple Queens
This section is entertaining with some really exciting and amusing positions. Here is one such position:
This looks like a fairly standard queen and pawn ending. Black is a pawn down but is to play and played the obvious capture 55…Qxb2? which is simply too slow. 55…b4! was the drawing move. White has two tries: 56.axb4 is the only real winning attempt but falls short: 56…Qxb2 57. Qh7+ Ke6 58. Qxh6 a3 59. Qg6 a2 60.h6 a1=Q 61.h7 Qe2! forcing white to take a perpetual. Or 56. Qh7+ Ke6 57. Qxh6 Qxe4+ 58. Kh2 Qe2 with sufficient counterplay against the white king to draw. The game continued: 56.Qh7+ Ke6 57. Qxh6 b4 58. Qg6 bxa3 59. h6 a2 60. h7 a1=Q reaching the position below.
61. Qf5+? Driving the king towards safety: 61.h8=Q wins instantly, with a quick mate.) Kd6 62. h8=Q Kc5! 63. Qf8+ Kc4 64. Qe6+ Kd3 65. Qfxf6 Qd4 66.Qf3+ Kd2 67. Qh6+ Kc2 68.Qc6+ (the computer prefers 68.Qe2+ Kc3 69.Qc6+ Kb4 70. Qb7+ Ka3 71. Qe7+ Kb3 72. Qf7+ Kb4 73.g4 and white is winning) Kb1 69. g4 Qab2 70.g5 a3 71. g6 a2 72. g7 a1=Q 73. g8=Q Qaa3 74. Qgg3 ? (74. Qcf6 keeps the advantage) reaching this position:
This is the beautiful but sad moment of the game. Black played 74…Qxf3+? and went on to lose quickly. 74…Qdxf2+!! draws by sacrificing all three queens for stalemate, for example 75. Qfxf2 Qxg3+ 76. Kxg3 Qc3+ 77. Qxc3 stalemate. Fantastic! Who says there is no humour in chess ?
Chapter 11 – Full Circle
This chapter covers the famous game Botvinnik-Minev Amsterdam 1954 which goes into a celebrated Q + g pawn v Q ending which Botvinnik won from a drawn position. As Boris Gelfand points out, once we know that an article written by Paul Keres in the 1947-1949 Soviet Yearbook recommended that black place the king on a4, black’s moves become completely understandable.
56.Qg4+ Ka5? This is still a draw but modern knowledge recommends Ka3 heading towards the opposite corner. 57.Qxe6 Qh8+ 58.Kg6 Qc3 59.g4 Qd2 60.g5 Qd4? Centralisation looks good, but in fact loses. 60…Ka4! was best, several other moves also draw.
Now 61. Qf5+? allowing black to draw. 61. Kh7! Qh4+ 62.Qh6 followed by g6, the black king is too far from the a1 corner 61…Ka4 62. Kh5 Qh8+ 63. Kg4 Qh1? The final mistake, after this Botvinnik wins with no slip-ups. Buy the book to find out how. 63…Ka3! was correct.
Chapter 12 – Conversion in the 4th Phase
This chapter covers a complex Q and double rook late middlegame which reveals the complexities of such positions. The game clearly shows that a sustained initiative is so potent.
This is a critical position from the game Gelfand-Edouard. Black is under the cosh but can defend with 35…Qxe5! 36. Qxa7 Rg6! 35.Qb7 Rxg3+! 36.fxg3 Qe3+! 37. Kh2 Qh6+ with a perpetual check.
The penultimate chapter is a series of studies which are elegant and instructive. There is a particularly beautiful study by Darko Hlebec. Buy the book to appreciate the beauty of chess.
The final chapter is a series of rook exercises which are extremely didactic. If you can solve all of these, you are a World Champion.
I heartily recommend this superb book on major piece endgames which is a labour of love and hard work. It combines practical examples with coverage of basic endgame positions.
FM Richard Webb, Chineham, Hampshire, 16th November 2020
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(2000). Easy Guide to the Sveshnikov Sicilian. Everyman Chess. ISBN 978-1-85744-280-9.
(2001). Dutch Stonewall. Everyman Chess. ISBN 978-1-85744-252-6.
(2001). Excelling at Chess. Everyman Chess. ISBN 978-1-85744-273-1.
(2002). Queen’s Indian Defence. Everyman Chess. ISBN 978-1-85744-300-4.
and Esben Land (2002). Meeting 1.d4. Everyman Chess. ISBN 978-1-85744-224-3.
(2003). Excelling at Positional Chess. Everyman Chess. ISBN 978-1-85744-325-7.
(2004). Excelling at Chess Calculation. Everyman Chess. ISBN 978-1-85744-360-8.
(2004). Excelling at Combinational Play. Everyman Chess. ISBN 978-1-85744-345-5.
(2004). Excelling at Technical Chess. Everyman Chess. ISBN 978-1-85744-364-6.
(2004). Starting Out: The Grunfeld. Everyman Chess. ISBN 978-1-85744-350-9.
(2004). Inside the Chess Mind. Everyman Chess. ISBN 978-1857443578.
(2006). Practical Chess Defence. Quality Chess. ISBN 978-91-975244-4-5.
(2008). The Attacking Manual: Basic Principles. Quality Chess. ISBN 978-91-976004-0-8.
(2008). The Attacking Manual 2: Technique and Praxis. Quality Chess. ISBN 978-91-976004-1-5.
(2012). Grandmaster Preparation – Calculation. Quality Chess. ISBN 978-1-907982-31-6.
(2012). Grandmaster Preparation – Positional Play. Quality Chess. ISBN 978-1-907982-27-9.
(2013). Grandmaster Preparation – Strategic Play. Quality Chess. ISBN 978-1-907982-29-3.
(2013). Grandmaster Preparation – Attack & Defence. Quality Chess. ISBN 978-1-907982-70-5.
(2014). Grandmaster Preparation – Endgame Play. Quality Chess. ISBN 978-1-907982-27-9.
(2017). Grandmaster Preparation – Thinking Inside the Box. Quality Chess. ISBN 978-1-907982-35-4.
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