“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!”
“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:
Classical Main Line
Knight’s Tour Variation
Modern Main Line
Bg5 & Bb5 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.
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.
“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.”
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
was published followed by
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
“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.”
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:
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.
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
Book Details :
Paperback : 464 pages
Publisher: Thinkers Publishing; 1st edition (13 April 2021)
“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.”
“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.
the main content is divided into five Parts viz:
In the BCN office we have on our shelves
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.
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.
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.
Borgov replies 4.a4 and wins a good game.
However, the author recommends the more natural 4.Nc3
4…e6 4…g6 5.d4!
4…Nf6 5.e5 Ng4 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
White has a significant lead in development which is definitely more important than the bishop pair.
7…Qc7 8.0-0 a6 9.Re1
White has a healthy lead in development. Now there are ideas of Nd5 and Nf5
10…e5 11.Nd5 Qd8
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
14…Qc7 15.Qd2 Be7 16.Nc3 Be6 17.Nd5! Bxd5 18.Qxd5 and white has a pleasant positional edge.
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.
Part 2 covers 3…Nf6
After 4.Nc3 this position is reached:
Here we are going to cover 4…e5? which has been played by both Carlsen and Kramnik. The bust is shown by Ravi.
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.
I shall show a variation from 9…d5 10.e5
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!
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?
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.
12.Nc3 the game continued 12…e5?! A desperate freeing move, 12…g6 is much better
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
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
10…Bd7 (10…Nxd4 11.Bxd4 Be7 12.a4!?)
With the idea of Na3 and Nc4 leading to a slight edge for white.
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
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!?
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)
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.
16…Qc7 16…a4 17. Qg3! Qb8 18.Nd5!
17.Be5 Qb6 18.Qg3 Rfd819.Rxd8+ Qxd8 20.Rd1
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.Qe5Bf6 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.
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
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
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
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
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!
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
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.
16…a5 17.b3 Ra7 18.f4! exf4 19.Nxf4 Nxf4 (19…Nd4 looks better retaining the good knight) 20.Rxf4
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
Black’s position is crumbling on the dark squares.
14.Bg5! A typical probing move
14…f6 15.Nh6+ Kg7 16.Be3 Ne6
The author suggests 17.Rae1 as an improvement athough Stockfish likes 17.Kh1 as well.
18.Ng4 (18.f4! also leads to a white advantage 18…exf4 19.Bxf4 Kxh6 20,h4) 18…h5 (18…Bxg4? is a positional mistake, see Leko-Van Wely Monte Carlo 2003) 19.Nh2
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.
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, Basingstoke, Hampshire, 18th July 2021
“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’.”
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
“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.”
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.
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
“After his first two most successful volumes of Chess Middlegame Strategies, Ivan Solokov explores in his final volume ideas related to the symbiosis of the strategic and dynamic elements of chess. He combined the most exceptional ideas, strategies and positional play essentials. These three volumes will give you a serious head start when studying and playing a middlegame. A book and series that cannot be missed in any serious chess library!”
“Grandmaster Ivan Sokolov is considered one of the best chess authors winning many chess tournaments and writing many bestselling chess books. At the moment he is coaching worldwide the most chess talented youngsters.”
This interesting book has seven diverse chapters on middlegame strategies:
Karpov’s king in the centre
Geller/Tolush gambit plans & ideas
Anti-Moscow Typical plans and ideas
Space versus flexibility
Positional exchange sacrifice
Chapters two and three do cover two sets of related positions and are rather specialised in terms of the opening. The other chapters are rather more generic in nature.
It is well known that opening preparation these days is very deep with the use of chess engines. Many variations of sharp openings played at the top level are effectively analysed to the end of the game now, for example resulting in a perpetual or an equal ending. Although this book does cover some games in sharp tactical openings, it does not make the mistake of providing a sea of complex variations with little explanation: Sokolov has made a good effort to extract out some of the key ideas in these dynamic battles.
Chapter 1 Karpov’s king in the centre
Karpov employed the “king in the centre” idea in his favourite Caro-Kann defence. The celebrated game Kamsky – Karpov Dortmund 1993 shows this idea.
In the position white has more space and an intention to attack on the kingside, so white played 11.Qh4?! Black looks to have a problem with his king as castling kingside will be “castling into it” with white’s bishops and queen ready for action there. Karpov came up with an ingenious solution: 11…Ke7!
Suddenly black threatens 12…g5! and the white aggressively placed queen becomes a liability.
The idea only works because white’s queen is misplaced on h4 and is vulnerable to attack. In the famous game against Kamsky, white is really forced to sacrifice a pawn with 12.Ne5! Bxe5 13.dxe5 Qa5+ 14.c3 Qxe5+ when white has sufficient compensation but no more. 12.Bf4 is pretty insipid, after 12…Bb4+ 13.Bd2 Bxd2 14.Kxd2 Qa5+ 15.c3 c5 with equal chances.
The reviewer is not going to cover this game in detail in his review as this is a well known game. If the reader is not familiar with this game, then buy the book to get good coverage of an instructive struggle.
In subsequent games in this variation, white played 10.Qe2! keeping the queen centralised.
The reviewer was particularly impressed with the following game by Vishy Anand against Vladimir Kramnik in the World Championship match in Bonn 2008. Anand’s preparation and superior play in the Meran variation effectively won him the match. The book covers one of Anand’s wins in this variation using the “king in the centre” strategy.
Kramnik, Vladimir – Anand, Viswanathan
World Championship Bonn (5) 2008
This is a key position in just one of the main lines in the Meran variation.
14…Bb7 (The main line, 14…b4 is interesting) 15.Bxb5 Rg8!? (Anand is the first to deviate from Game 3 which he won, and present Kramnik with a new surprise instead of 15…Bd6. Kramnik’s choice in the previous game was the natural 16.Rd1 Rg8 17.g3 Rg4 18.Bf4 Bxf4 19.Nxd4 At this moment Anand was an hour(!) up on the clock, but now he had his first long think 19…h5!? 20.Nxe6 fxe6 21.Rxd7 Kf8 22.Qd3 Rg7! 23.Rxg7 Kxg7 24.gxf4 Rd8 Kramnik – Anand WCh Bonn (3) 2008) 16.Bf4Bd6 17.Bg3 Black has good counterplay on the g-file f5 (Anand continues to harass the Bg3) 18.Rfc1!?f4 19.Bh4
19…Be7! The bishop’s role on d6 is over, so it returns to free the e7-square for Black’s king 20.a4 Bxh4 21.Nxh4
Ke7! The possible threat to g2 again enters the equation. 22.Ra3
White boosts his third rank, but on the other hand disconnects his rooks and Black can turn his attention to the c-pawn. The radical 22.g3!? should be considered. This weakens the long diagonal, but removing the pawn from g2 enables White to play more actively, a possible line is 22…fxg3 23.hxg3 Rg5 24.Bxd7
24…Rag8! 25. a5 (25.Bb5?? loses to 25…d3 followed by Rxg3+) Qd6 26.Ra3
Black will pick up the dangerous a-pawn with Qc7+ or Qg5+ leading to an unbalanced but roughly level ending.
Back to the game.
22…Rac8 23.Rxc8 Rxc8 24.Ra1 Qc5 25.Qg4
Black intuitively keeps his queen closer to his king. Another interesting computer alternative is 25…Qc2!? to support the d4-pawn 26.Qxf4 d3!
and it’s already reasonable to bail out with 27.Nf5+ exf5 28.Re1+ Kf8 (28…Be4 leads to an equal ending) 29.Bxd7 d2 30.Qh6+ Kg8 31.Qg5+ with a draw by perpetual
26.Nf3 Qf6 This move is also connected with a hidden trap.
27.Re1 [27.Nxd4? Qxd4 28.Rd1 Nf6 29.Rxd4 Nxg4 30.Rd7+ Kf6 31.Rxb7 Rc1+ 32.Bf1 Ne3!-+ Surprisingly enough, this motif occurs later in the game!; harmless is 27.Bxd7 Kxd7 28.Nxd4 Ke7 29.Rd1 Rc4= Best is 27.Ne1! improving the knight. Kramnik still wants more and keeps the tension.] 27…Rc5!? 28.b4 Rc3 Setting a beautiful trap.
29.Nxd4?? (Black’s forces already exert unpleasant pressure, but the text-move is an unforced and decisive tactical miscalculation. 29.Nd2!? still leads to a murky position and the outcome of the game remains open.) 29…Qxd4 30.Rd1 Nf6! 31.Rxd4
A previous Kasparov game went 12.Nxh7? (a well known blunder nowadays) 12…Nc6! Black leads in development and the tactics work for him as well. White is probably lost already!
13.Nxf8 Qxd4! leads to a huge advantage to black
Kasparov’s opponent missed 13…Qxd4!, played 13…Rxh5? and Kasparov went on to win
13.Nf6+? gxf6 14.Qxh8 also loses
14…Nxd4! 15.cxd4 Qxd4 16.Ra2 0-0-0 winning
Back to the main game
Nc6 (13…g6 weakens black’s kingside, after 14.Qh3 Nc6 15.Ne4 0-0-0 16.Be3! leads a white advantage)14.0-0 Nd8 Black is defending his weaknesses and avoiding the weakening g6 but his development is lacking 15.Ne4 a5
16.Bg5 (16.Qg4! was more accurate, 16…Rh7 17.Re1 and black has problems developing) Bd5 17.Rfe1 Nc6 18.Bh4 Ra7 19.Qg4
Rh7 20.Nd6+! Bxd6
21.Bxd5 (21.exd6 is very strong as well) Be7 22.Be4 g6 23.Bf6 Black’s rooks are horribly disconnected
Kf8 24.Qf3 Nd8 25.d5! Opening up files for white’s better placed rooks: black crumbles quickly exd5 26.Bxd5 Qf5 27.Qe3
White declines the exchange of queens again. Black can now force a queen exchange, but should he? White won the game without black making an obvious mistake. So this suggests that black should keep the queens on.
11…Qe4 12.Qxe4 Nxe4 13.Re1 g6 14.d4 Bg7 15.Bf3
15…Nf6 (15…Nd6 is another idea to hamper d5 from white 16.Bf4 Rd8 17.Rad1 Bf6 18.b3 Nf5 19.c3 h5 white can still play g4 with an edge)16.c4 White’s plan is straightforward, push d5
16…Rd8 17.Be3 0-0 18.Rad1 e6
19.g4! A typical space gaining move with the intention of kicking black’s knight away with g5 h6 20.h4?! (20.Kg2! was more accurate, see below) 20…Rfe8?!
20…h5!? would have given black better chances than the game, but white still retains good winning chances 21.g5 Ng4 22.Bxg4 hxg4 Black’s g-pawn will fall, but black has time to counterattack the d-pawn 23.Kg2 Rd7 24.Rd2 Rfd8 25.Red1 c5!
26.d5! (26.dxc5? leads to a clear draw Rxd2 27.Rxd2 Rxd2 28.Bxd2 Bxb2 29.Kg3 Kg7 30.Kxg4 f5+ Black draws as white’s extra doubled isolated pawn is not enough to win the bishop ending: see below)
26…exd5 27.Bxc5! b6 28.Be3 d4 29.Kg3 and white is winning the g-pawn with good winning chances, but there is work to do.
Back to the game.
21.Kg2 Do not hurry: improve the king, although 21.g5 also gains an advantage 21…Nd7 22.d5! At last the breakthrough
22…Ne5 23.dxc6 Nxf3 24.Kxf3 bxc6
White transforms his advantages: the bishop pair has gone but his better pawn structure and more active pieces prove decisive: first he grabs the d-file because of black’s weak a7-pawn
25.b3! a5 26.g5 (26.Bb6 is also good, but do not hurry: fix black’s kingside first limiting black’s kingside counterplay which is good technique) hxg5 27.hxg5 Ra8 28.Rd7 Bf8 29.Red1 a4 Hoping for play down the a-file 30.Rc7
axb3 31.axb3 Rec8 32.Rdd7 Rxc7 33.Rxc7 Rb8 34.Rxc6 Rxb3 35.Rc8 Winning a second pawn
This chapter covers positional exchange sacrifices which is one of the key chapters in this book.
The most famous positional exchange sacrifice is probably Rxc3! in the Sicilian Defence. This is not covered in this book as it is so well known.
The following game covers an interesting exchange sacrifice in one of the old main lines of the Sicilian Richter-Rauzer variation. Kramnik’s concept in this game effectively killed off this line for white.
14…Ng4!? A new move at the time, and a very interesting idea, black sacrifices an exchange in order to get a strong initiative, when white loses many tempi with his queen (14…Qa5 is a sound alternative) 15.Qf3 15…Nxe5 16.Qxa8 (16.fxe5 Bb7 is better for black) 16…Nd7
Black has plenty of compensation for the exchange: a powerful pair of bishops and white will lose time with his queen.
17.g3? (17.Qe4 is probably best 17…Bb7 18.Qd4 Nf6 when black definitely has sufficient compensation with his great bishops) 17…Nb618.Qf3 18…Bb7 19.Ne4
19…f5!! (19…0-0 is good, but the move played whips up a powerful attack even more quickly) 20.Qh5+ 20…Kf8 21.Nf2 Bf6!
White has a dearth of pieces defending his king. Black now has a typical winning Sicilian attack against the poorly defended white king. Look at white’s pieces stuck on the kingside. Regaining the exchange by 21…Bxh1 was not necessary: play for mate!
22.Bd3 Na4 23.Rhe1 23…Bxb2+!
24.Kb124…Bd5! Bringing in the other bishop into the attack with decisive effect 25.Bxb5! (25.Bxf5 25…Bxa2+! 26.Kxa2 Qc4+ 27.Kb1 Nc3+ 28.Kxb2 Qb4+ 29.Kc1 Na2#)
A superb exchange sacrifice comfortably equalising. White could have held but defending a virulent attack over the board is nigh impossible.
Chapter 6 Open File
This section covers the topic of the open file. Many different types of position are demonstrated including pure attacking chess sacrificing a pawn or two or a piece to open files against an uncastled king.
Subtle positional struggles are also covered. In this latter vein, the reviewer was particularly impressed with a smooth win by Michael Adams shown below.
This is a main line in the Petroff Defence. White now exchanges some minor pieces to gain control of the e-file. White sometimes executes this strategy in the Ruy Lopez anti-Berlin variation.
9.Re1 Nxd2 10.Qxd2 Bxd3 11.Qxd3 0-0
This position looks pretty equal which is undoubtedly the case, however, white has a slight lead in development and control of the e-file which make white’s position easier to play. Recently Carlsen and other top players have played these types of positions to win with success. Black must defend very precisely as shown by this game.
12.Bf4 White chooses a plan that involves the exchange of bishops and retaining control of the e-file. An alternative plan is 12.c3 followed by queenside expansion with b4 12…Bd6 13.Bg3 Bxg3 14.hxg3 Qd7
15.Re3 Rfe8 16.Rae1 Rxe3 17.Rxe3 h6 (17…Re8?? runs into 18.Qf5! winning a pawn and the game, exploiting the weak bank rank)
19.Ne5 White exchanges knights to dominate the e-file Qd6 20.Nxc6 Qxc6 21.c3 a5 22.Qa3 b6 23.Qe7 White now dominates the e-file. What does white do next? The logical plan is to attack on the kingside by advancing the kingside pawns to expose black’s king and use white’s more active pieces to mate black. Black decides to pre-empt this plan by correctly creating counterplay on the queenside.
b5! 24.a3 b4 25.axb4 axb4 26.cxb4
Black is closer to the draw, but must be very precise to exchange off the queenside pawns.
Qc1+? (A natural check but this probably loses, 26…Qb6! was the exact move required: 27.Rf3 f6 28.Rc3 Qxd4! 29. Rxc7 Qd1+ 30.Kh2 Qh5+ with a draw by perpetual check) 27.Kh2 Qxb2
28.Rf3? (Gifting black a chance to save the game, 28.Qxc7 Qxb4 29. Re5! wins a pawn under favourable circumstances, although white must display some technique to convert) Rf8? (28…f6! draws viz. 29. Qxc7 Qxb4 30.Rf5 Qb6! forcing a queen trade 31. Qxb6 Rxb6 32. Rxd5 Rb2 33.f3 Rd2 with a drawn rook ending but black will have to demonstrate sound technique to hold this ending a pawn down) 29.Qc5 c6 30.Qxc6
So white has won a pawn: black may be lost even with best play, but he can make things difficult for white.
Qxd4? (31…Qxb4! 32. Qxd5 offers black chances to draw but the presence of queens makes things much harder for the defending side. With the queens off and black’s rook on d2, black would be drawing) 31.b5 This pawn runs very fast, the d-pawn offers no real counterplay Qe5 32.b6 Re8 Black threatens mate in two
33.Rf4 Qe6 34.Qb7?!
blocking the passed pawn doesn’t look right. More accurate for white was 34.Qc7! After 34…Qe7 we reach:
35.Qa7! wins nicely, for example 35…Qxa7 36.bxa7 Ra8 37.Ra4 White’s king is in the square of the d-pawn, so black is totally lost.
34…g5 35.Ra4 Qe2? (35…Kg7 getting the king off the back rank was the only hope to fight on) 36.f3 d4
An instructive win with white elegantly exploiting a very small advantage. Notice how one mistake on move 26 loses black the game. It is surprising that black is already in the “zone of one mistake” from a seemingly innocuous opening.
Chapter 7 G-Pawn Strategies
This section covers the early aggressive push of the g-pawn against a castled king. This occurs in many different openings.
The Neo-Steinitz is not popular in modern GM praxis although Keres and Portisch did play this opening. Mamedyarov is a very aggressive player who plays the Neo-Steinitz. The following game is a slugfest.
Grischuk – Mamedyarov
1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5 a6 4.Ba4 d6
5.0-0 Bd7 6.Re1 (6.d4, c3 or c4 are more common) g5! This idea is perfectly sound, it was introduced by Portisch in 1968 against Kortschnoi.
7.Bxc6 (7.d4 is possible but will probably transpose into the game) bxc6! 8.d4 g4 9.Nfd2 exd4 10.Nb3
10…Ne7 (10…c5 is too greedy, after 11.c3 white has plenty of compensation for the pawn) 11.Nxd4 Bg7 12.Nc3 0-0 13.Bg5 f6 14.Be3 Qe8
Black will move his queen over to the kingside and push his pawns for a direct attack
15.Qd3? This move and the next just lose time, clearly white was unsure of his correct plan 15…Qf7 16.Qd2 Qg6 (16…c5! 17.Nde2 Bc6 followed by f5 looks great for black) 17.Bf4 h5
18.b4 h4 19.a4 Qh5 20.Be3
h3 (20…f5! was perhaps even stronger: 21.exf5 h3! 22.Ne4 hxg2 23.Ng3 Qh3 the main threat is to move a rook to the h-file) 21.Nce2! (21.g3 fails to 21…f5 22.Bf4 fxe4 23. Rxe4 Qf7 with 24…Ng6 to follow and white crumbles) hxg2
22.Nf4 Qh7!? An exchange sacrifice, 22…Qf7 was also very good for black 23.Nfe6 Bxe6 24.Nxe6
Ng6! The knight is heading to f3 25.Nxf8 Rxf8 26.Bf4! (26.Ra3 f5! 27.Bd4 f4 and black’s attack is crashing through) f5 (26…Nh4 is answered by 27.Ra3) 27.exf5 Nh4
The final mistake, 28.Qd3! was essential and white can just save the game, one line is 28…Bxa1 29. Rxa1 Rxf5! 30.Bg3 Nf3+ 31. Kxg2 Qh3+ 32.Kh1 Rf6! Threatening Rh6
32.Qc1 (32.Qe3! gives white some hope) Bc3 33.Re3 (33.Rd1 also loses Qh5 34. Rd3 Be5 35.Qg5+ Qxg5 36.Bxg5 Rf5 37.Bh4 Kf7 winning) Bd4 34.Rd3 Re8
35.Be3 leads to a lost queen ending 35…Bxe3 36.Rxe3 Rxe3 37.fxe3 Qc4
The threat of 38…Qe2 is decisive.
35… Bxf2+ 36.Kxf2 Re2+
The checks run out after 37.Kg1 Qxd3 38.Qg5+ Kf7 39.Qg7+ Ke8 40.Qf8+ Kd7 and the black king escapes to b7 0-1
This book is aimed at grades 160+ players although aspiring players with lower ratings would benefit from reading this book.
To summarise, this is an good read with lots of educational games demonstrating the themes in each chapter. My only minor criticism is chapters 2 & 3 are very specialised handling middlegames from two particular opening systems. The other chapters handle more generic themes.
FM Richard Webb, Basingstoke, Hampshire, 5th July 2021
“Using carefully selected examples, the authors want to make you familiar with the strategic ideas behind the famous Maroczy bind. These plans arising from both colours, are a must for your arsenal of chess knowledge and understanding.”
“Adrian Bohdanovych Mikhalchishin was born in Lvov, Ukraine in 1954 and became a Grandmaster in 1978. In 1995 he took Slovenian citizenship and became a FIDE Senior Trainer from 2002 and was chairman of FIDE Trainers Commission from 2009. Adrian was a trainer of many famous chess players. Amongst others he was in Anatoly Karpov’s team during matches with Garry Kasparov. He has worked with Maja Chiburdanidze, Nana Aleksandria, the Polgar sisters, Alisa Maric and Nana Dzagnidze. He was coach and captain of the national teams of Slovenia and the Netherlands. In recent years he has been coach of the Turkish woman team. He has written many chess books and thousands of articles for many chess magazines.”
“Georg Mohr was born in Maribor, Slovenia in 1965 becoming a Grandmaster in 1997. He joined as a member of the FIDE Trainers Commission from 2002, becoming a FIDE Senior Trainer in 2004 and a FIDE International Organizer in 2011. Georg has been a professional chess trainer for many years. He was coach and captain of Slovenian national team from 2003 – 2010 and since 2011 he has been Turkish national youth trainer. He is a chess writer and was editor of Slovenian chess magazine Šahovska Misel from 1999 and editor of Fide Trainers Commission trainers’ surveys. He is also an organiser of chess events acting as tournament director of the European Club Cup (Rogaška Slatina 2011), the World Youth Championship (Maribor 2012) and the World Senior Championship (Bled 2018).”
Looking at the title of this book, Understanding Maroczy Structures, it appears to be an abstruse book on a specialised middlegame structure which many club players will know by name. They will be able to describe the tusks on c4 and e4 and probably have lost a game horribly against a stronger player who squeezed the life out of them like a hungry reticulated python. Chess like a reticulated python has beautiful patterns: this book covers all the major ideas and patterns in the Maroczy structures. The reader may be thinking: I don’t play these systems for either colour, it’s of no relevance to me. The reviewer begs to differ: many general, important middlegame themes are demonstrated in this book such as:
Avoiding exchanges to keep the opponent cramped
Exchanging pieces to relieve cramp
Use of knight outposts
Using a space advantage to attack on the queenside
Using a space advantage to attack the king
Using the bishop pair
Pawn levers to attack the opponent’s pawn structure & relieve cramp
Opening up the position to exploit a space advantage and better placed pieces
Bad bishops and weak colour complexes
This book is not a repertoire bible for playing the Maroczy bind; it is a examination of the typical middlegame strategies for both sides in these complex and interesting positions. It is definitely harder to play for the side playing against the Maroczy structures.
The book is structured into five sections and sixteen chapters.
Section 1 Introduction to the Maroczy is divided into three logical foundation chapters:
Chapter 1 What is the Maroczy Structure?
This chapter covers the typical move orders to reach Maroczy bind structures including the Rubinstein variation of the Symmetrical English opening which is a reversed Maroczy.
Here is the most well known incarnation of the Maroczy bind arising from an Accelerated Dragon.
Here is the reversed Maroczy mentioned above:
This chapter enumerates the possible ways that a Maroczy structure can be reached which is usually through the Sicilian Defence (many different ways), English Opening and King’s Indian Defences.
Chapter 2 Typical Positions
This short chapter shows typical positions concentrating mainly on some key decisions & strategies:
White’s decision whether to defend his knight on d4 or retreat it to c2
White’s white squared bishop development to e2, d3 or more rarely g2
Defending the e-pawn with f3 or Bd3
Black’s dark square strategy
Recapturing on d5 with the e-pawn, c-pawn or a piece
The potential weakness of the d4 square
All these topics are covered in subsequent chapters.
Chapter 3 History
Akiba Rubinstein was one of the first players to master Maroczy structures; Mikhail Botvinnik stated that he learnt how to play these positions by studying Rubinstein’s games.
Here is a masterclass by the first Soviet World Champion in his younger days:
Lisitsin – Botvinnik
Leningrad Championship 1932
1.Nf3 c5 2.c4 Nf6 3.g3 d5 4.cxd5 Nxd5 5.Bg2 Nc6 6.0-0 e5 reaching the Rubinstein variation of the Symmetrical English. White now embarks on a slow development scheme which is too passive and not played by modern masters.
7.d3 Be7 8.Nbd2 0-0 9.Nc4 f6 10.Be3 Be6 11.a4 The trouble with this move and white’s plan is that the b4 break is now never available. The other two possible breaks to achieve counterplay in Maroczy structures are f4 or e3/d4, both of which are impossible to achieve in a satisfactory manner with white’s slow, flawed development scheme.
11…Qd7 12.Qd2 b6 13.Rfc1 Rac8 both sides have developed their pieces but black already has a distinct edge and a far easier position to play. White’s next seven moves are pure faffing and he clearly does not know what to do.
14.Qd1 Kh8 15.Bd2 Rfd8 16.Qb3 Nc7 17.Bc3 Rb8 18.Qc2 Nd5 19.Nfd2 Rbc8 20.Nf1 After several moves of shadow boxing, black has a distinct advantage and now acts.
20…Nd4 21.Qd1 Bg4! A typical idea pressuring the e-pawn. White must remove the powerful knight or play the equally unpalatable f3
22.Bxd4 exd4 The recapture with the e-pawn exposes white’s e2- pawn to potential pressure from black’s rooks. Notice how Botvinnik skilfully manoeuvres to arrange this.
23.Qd2 Bf8 24.Re1 Re8 25.h4 Bh3 26.Bf3 Re7 27.Nh2 Rce8 28.Kh1 Be6! White has no counterplay and must simply wait for the reticulated python to tighten its coils.
29.b3 Nb4 (not 29…Nc3? when white has 30.e4!) 30.Bg2 Bd5 Attempting to exchange a key defender of the king 31.Nf3 Rf7! Further masterful manoeuvring points more black pieces at white’s kingside 32.Kh2 Bd6 33.Bh3 Qd8 34.Rab1 Rfe7 35.Ng1 Bc7 36.Na3 Bb7 Compare the respective activity of each side’s pieces. It is not surprising that white collapses quickly.
The follower encounter shows an ideal strategic white win.
Knaak – Walter
East German Championship Erfurt, 1973
1.c4 c5 2.Nf3 g6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 Bg7 5.e4 Nc6 6.Be3 Nf6 7.Nc3 By transposition, an Accelerated Sicilian Dragon has been reached. Black plays a popular variation to exchange a pair of knights.
Ng4 8.Qxg4 Nxd4 9.Qd1
9…Nc6 Black normally retreats the knight to e6 here. 9…e5 is an interesting try. 10.Qd2 Qa5 11.Rc1! (Black was threatening Bxc3, another key strategy) d6 12.Be2 Be6 13.0-0 Rc8 14.a3 0-0
15.Rc2! (White effects a smart manoeuvre to prepare b2-b4) Rfe8 16.Rb1! a6 17.b4!
Qd8 (Black cannot take the a3 pawn: after 17…Qxa3 18. Nd1! followed by 19.Ra2 wins the queen) 18.Rbc1 Ne5 Black looks to have play against the c4 pawn, but white’s next move squashes any black hopes of counterplay.
19.Nd5! Bxd5 The knight has to be removed 20.cxd5 (As white’s rooks are already doubled opening the c-file is very strong 20…Qd721.h3! (Stopping any ideas of Ng4) 21… f5 Desperately seeking some play 22.f4! A typical reaction pushing the knight back 22…Nf7 23.exf5 gxf5 24.Bb6! (Another thematic idea dominating the c7 square)
Bf6 25.Rc7 Rxc7 26.Rxc7 The rook penetrates with decisive attack. The black king is soon on the menu. Qa4 27.Qd3 Bb2 28.Qxf5 (The attack is soon decisive)
Chapter 5 covers white’s attacking options on the kingside.
The game below shows a Maroczy Bind position being reached from a transposition into a Symmetrical English with an exemplary attacking display from a former World Champion.
Smyslov – Timman
1.d4 Nf6 2.Nf3 g6 3.g3 c5 4.Bg2 cxd4 5.Nxd4 Bg7 6.c4 Nc6 7.Nc3 Nxd4 8.Qxd4 0-0 9.0-0 d6 10.Qd3 This position is a well known variation of the English Symmetrical which is definitely better for white.
Bf5?! (This idea is now known to be inaccurate. Better is 10…Rb8, 10…a6 or 10…Ng4 but white retains an advantage in all cases) 11.e4 Be6 12.b312…a6 13.Bb2 Nd7 14.Qd2!14…Nc5 (14…Qa5 15.Rfd1 Rfc8 16.Nd5!±)
15.f4! Rc8? (Careless, underestimating white’s attacking chances, better is 15…f5 16.exf5 Bxf5 17.Nd5 when white has a clear advantage, but black can fight on) 16.f5 Bd7 17.f6!± (Obviously missed by Timman)
exf6 (17…Bxf6 18.Rxf6! exf6 19.Nd5±) 18.Nd5 f5 19.exf5 Bxf5 (19…gxf5!? 20.Bxg7 Kxg7 21.Qd4+ f6±) 20.Bxg7 Kxg7 21.Qd4+ f6 22.g4! Be6 (22…Ne6 23.Qd1!+- as the bishop is trapped )
This chapter covers the white’s knight leap to d5 and white’s three possible responses to its capture:
Taking with a piece x d5
Lev Polugaevsky was considered an expert on the white side of the Maroczy bind. Here is a didactic game of his demonstrating the power of cxd5 and the use of the bishop pair. This is a common type of win in the Maroczy bind, so this game is worth studying carefully.
This game also demonstrates that entering a vastly inferior endgame with no chance of counterplay is poor judgement particularly against a very strong technical player: the speculative 12…Qxa2 keeping the queens on had to be tried.
12.Nd5! Qxd2+? (Black should have tried the complicated 12…Qxa2 13.Nxe7+ Kh8 14.Be2 with a white edge)13.Kxd2 Bxd5 (13…Nxd5 14. cxd5 Bd7 15.Rc7+- a decisive penetration to the seventh rank) 14.cxd5 Rfc8 15.Rxc8+ Rxc8
16.g3! (A typical move activating the white squared bishop) Rc7 (16…b6 17.Bh3 Rc7 18.Rc1 Ne8 19.b4 Rxc1 20.Kxc1 Nc7 21.Bd7! wins as in Gheorghiu – Szilagyi Varna 1971 – another game well worth studying in this book) 17.Bh3 Nd7 18.Rc1! (Exchanging rooks enables white to carve up the black queenside) Rxc1 19.Kxc1Nb6 20.Kc2 Kf8 21.b3 The simple plan of a4-a5 is unstoppable
Recapturing with exd5 is also a common strategy which has already been showcased with a Botvinnik win earlier in the review. Here is a more modern example between two 2700+ players with a crisp finish.
Notice that the white squared bishops are exchanged very early. It is not clear which side this favours. White gets rid of his potential bad bishop, but his c-pawn can be vulnerable. Black has exchanged a minor piece relieving his cramp.
Bacrot – Giri
1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 d6 3.Bb5+ Bd7 4.c4!? Nf6 5.Nc3 g6 6.0-0 Bg7 7.d4 cxd4 8.Nxd4 0-0 9.Bxd7 Qxd7 Reaching a standard position from the Moscow Variation.
10.b3 (10.f3 preparing Be3 allows the clever 10…Rc8 11.b3 d5!! equalising 12.exd5 Nxd5! 13.Nxd5 e6=) Nc6 11.Bb2 a6 (11…e6 followed by Rfd8 and d5 should be considered and is another standard idea to break up the Maroczy bind) 12.Nxc6
Qxc6?! (12…bxc6 13. Re1 Qc7 is better as black has a better share of the centre controlling d5 with his c-pawn) 13.Nd5! Nxd5?! (Better was 13…Rfe8 14.Nxf6 Bxf6 15.Bxf6 exf6 followed by Re6 when white has a slight edge) 14.exd5 Qc5 15.Bxg7 Kxg7 16.Re1 With heavy pieces the pressure on e7 is very uncomfortable, Black’s play with b5 turns out to be illusory. White’s space advantage spearheaded by the d5-pawn effectively splits black’s position into two compartments, thus facilitating a direct attack on black’s king. It is very difficult for black to funnel his pieces across to defend his kingside.
Rfe8 (Black had to play 16…e5 allowing 17.dxe6 fxe6 when white has very easy play against the e6 and d6 pawns, but at least black gains breathing space, opens the f-file for his rook and he can defend his king 17.Qd2! (White has a host of ideas after this multi-purpose queen move: Rac1 & b4, c5 or Re4, Rae1 and Rh4) b5? (Again 17…e5 had to be played) 18.Rac1! (Compare the activity of each side’s rooks, white prepares b4 and c5 creating a dangerous passed pawn)
Qa7?! (18…b4 is probably better, but white will turn his attention to the kingside) 19.b4! bxc4 20.Rxc4 h5 (20…Rac8 21.Qc3+ is a neat fork) 21.Qc3+ Kg8 22.Rc7 Qb6 23.a4! (Stopping any play with a5, because white replies b5!)
Rab8 24.Re4 f6 25.g4 Rb7? Desperation
26.Qxf6! A lovely combination to finish 1-0
Taking with a piece on d5 is demonstrated with another famous Botvinnik victory.
Botvinnik to move continued 22.Rxd5! The strategical idea is simple: utilise the pawn level e4-e5 to smash up black’s pawn structure and penetrate with the more active rooks.
22…Rc6?! (Better is 22…Rc7 defending the 7th rank 23.e5 dxe5 24.fxe5 f5 25.Red1 Rgc8 with chances to hold, but white is for choice) 23.e5 dxe5 24.fxe5 Re6 25.Kf2 Rf8 26.Rd7! fxe5+ 27.Ke3 Rb8 28.Ke4 Kg8 29.Kd5 Kf7 30.Rxe5 White has an enormous advantage
Chapter 7 covers the retreat of the white knight from d4 to avoid freeing exchanges for black. Here is a thematic game played by Nigel Short.
Short – Felgaer
Buenos Aires 2001
1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 g6 5.c4 Bg7 6.Be3 Nf6 7.Nc3 0-0 8.Be2 d6 9.0-0 Bd7 10.Nc2 (White withdraws the knight to prevent black exchanging)
a6 (10…Qa5? just encourages white expansion viz: 11. f4 Rac8 12.Rb1! a5 13.b4 Qd8 14. Qd3 and white has a big advantage) 11.f3 A typical move to shore up the e4-pawn allowing the c3-knight to eye up b5 preventing b5 by black Rc8 12.Rc1 Re8 13.Qd2 Qa5
14.Rfd1! Ne5 [14…Red8 15.b4!
A typical tactic based on the undefended e7-pawn, if 15…Nxb4? 16.Nd5! Nc6 17.Qxa5 Nxa5 18.Nxe7+ and 19.Nxc8 winning, so 15…Qh5 is forced when 16.Nd5 leaves white better.
15.b4 (15.c5! is even better: dxc5 16.f4 Neg4 17.e5 winning) 15…Qd8 16.Na3
Short enjoys a solid space advantage, but his pawns will require full piece support. 16…a5 [16…Bc6 17.b5 axb5 18.cxb5 Bd7 19.b6 white is better] 17.b5 Be6 17…b6?
9.exf5 [9.Bxh6!? is playable: 9…Bxh6 10. exf5 Nxd4 11. Qxd4 Rxf5 (11…gxf5 12.0-0 Bg7 13.Qd2 and black has problems with the c8 bishop) 12. 0-0 Bg7 13.Qd3 white has an initiative] 9…Bxd4!10. Bxd4?! (10.Bxh6 is probably better 10…Rxf5 11.0-0 d6 12.Qd2 and black again has problems with the c8 bishop) 10.Bxd4 Nxf5 11.Bc5 The bishop is driven to an awkward place d6 12.Ba3 Nfd4! (Making way for the white squared bishop) 13.0-0 Bf5 14.Rc1 Qd7 Intending to double on the f-file with his rooks
15.Nd5?! White should have improved his bishop on a3 viz: 15.b3 Rf7 16.Bb2 Raf8
17.Nb5! Exchanging off the powerful knight 17…Nxe2+ 18.Qe2 and white is slightly better owing to the great bishop on b2
Rf7 16.b3 Raf8 17.Bb2 e5! Cementing the wonderful steed
18.b4 (The prophylactic 18.f3 is better) Be6! 19.Bd3 Bg4!!
a6 The usual plan here is to exchange knights, play the bishop to c6 and attempt to exchange dark squared bishops with Nd7 11.Qd2?! (11.f3! had to be played to overprotect the e-pawn) b5! Of course 12.cxb5 Nxd4 13.Bxd4 axb5 A massive change has occurred, black has plenty of space on the queenside, he has equalised.
14.a3 Qa5 (Threatening 15…Nxe4!) 15.Rc2 Bc6
16.Qe3?! (16.Nd5 Bxd5 17.exd5 Qxd2 18.Rxd2 is approximately equal) Rfb8! Threatening to trap white’s bishop with e5 17.e5 dxe5 18.Bxe5 Rd8 19.Bf3 Rac8 20.Rd1 Bxf3 21.Qxf3
b4! A typical minority attack 22.Bxf6 b3! A superb Zwischenzug 23.Rcc1 Bxf6 Black has huge pressure on the white queenside with a dragon bishop breathing fire, white is busted
7.e4 (7.Bd2 is less double edged) Bxc3+ !? (The enterprising exchange of black’s fianchettoed bishop for a knight to smash up white’s queenside) 8.bxc3 Nf6 9.f3 Qa5 (Attacking the weak pawns: black’s king is safer in the middle for now. It is imperative for black to attack the weak c-pawns as soon as possible)
10.Bd2 Bd7! Getting the queenside pieces into play quickly 11.Be2 Rc8 12.Ne3 Be6! Now the bishop can safely move to e6 without being harassed by the knight 13.Nd5 Nd7! (An excellent manoeuvre to hold the c5 and e5 squares and target the c4-pawn) 14.0-0 Nce5 15.Be3 White gives up the front c-pawn hoping to benefit from increased scope for his white squared bishop. White cannot attack on the kingside as black has not put his king there.
Nxc4 16.Qd4 Nde5!
17.Bf2 (17.f4 is met by 17..Nxe3 18.Nxe3 Qxc3) g5! Blockading the dark squares 18.a4 Rc5 19.Rfd1 Rg8 20.Rdb1 b6 21.Nb4 f5 22.Qd1
f4! Black has been offering his rook for the dark squared bishop as this bishop holds white’s dark squares together 23.Bxc5 Qxc5+ 24.Qd4 Kf7 25.Nd5 Na5 26.Rb5 Qc8 Black retains the queens as 26..Qxd4 is clearly a blunder
Chapter 14 Play for the bishop pair covers white’s strategy of gaining the bishop pair by playing Nd5 forcing Bxd5. The reviewer has already covered one game demonstrating this idea Polugaevsky-Ostojic. This chapter covers further instructive examples.
Chapter 15 Playing without the light-squared bishop gives another game in the Moscow Variation of the Sicilian Variation. The reviewer has already shown some typical ideas in this line with some of Garry Kasparov’s games.
Chapter 16 shows some typical tactical strikes in the Maroczy. Buy the book to find out about these lightning strikes.
The final section 5 covers games by the world champions in the Maroczy. This is a great way to round off the book showcasing efforts by the great champions.
In summary this is an excellent book on Maroczy structures covering all the major strategies for both sides with some exemplary games showcasing the ideas.
FM Richard Webb, Basingstoke, Hampshire, 1st July 2021
Book Details :
Hardcover : 296 pages
Publisher: Thinkers Publishing; 1st edition (1st July 2019)
“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).”
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
“Dariusz Swiercz was born in 1994 in Tarnowskie Gory, Poland. His grandfather taught him to play chess at the age of three. During his junior career he won numerous National Championships as well as several European and World Championship medals. His highest successes include the bronze medal in 2010 at the World U20 Championship (Chotowa, Poland), gold medal in 2011 at the World U20 Championship (Chennai, India) and another gold medal in 2012 at the World U18 Championship (Maribor, Slovenia). He is one of the youngest to receive the Grandmaster title at the age of 14 years and 7 months. In 2016 he won the third edition of the “Millionaire Chess” held in Las Vegas, USA. Since 2018 he has represented the United States. Dariusz currently resides in Saint Louis, Missouri.”
From the book’s rear cover we have this extensive blurb:
“I would like to thank you for purchasing this book, I really appreciate it. It also means that you found an interest in my work of trying to crack the Ruy Lopez. As I said in the introduction to the first volume, I had no idea what I was signing up for when deciding to write a book on Ruy Lopez. This opening has such a rich history and good reputation that proving advantages in many lines is nearly impossible.
Writing the first volume on this opening was a Herculean effort and I thought “it cannot be more difficult”. After all, I was covering such solid variations as the Berlin and the Open Spanish. Well, I got surprised again! I am not exaggerating when I say that writing the second volume was at least as hard as writing the first one. This second volume on the Ruy Lopez consists of two parts. In the first part I focus on modern systems with …Bc5, attempting to dissect both the Archangelsk and Moller Variations. These two variations have quite a rich history but in 2020 there have been several developments. If I had to name one person that contributed the most to the developments in those lines it is, without a doubt, Fabiano Caruana. His encounters in the Candidates Tournament in Ekaterinburg, then his theoretical discussion in those lines with Leinier Dominguez, revised my opinion on many of those lines and led to interesting discoveries that I analyse in this book.
In the subsequent part I discuss the Closed Ruy Lopez. It is easily one of the most popular openings throughout the history of chess with many games occurring as early as the 1800s. I suggest going for 9.h3 which usually leads to a positional battle. I present new trends and find new paths and ideas in such evergreen variations as the Zaitsev, Breyer, Chigorin and others. Additionally, I attempt to crack the Marshall Attack by suggesting the Anti-Marshall lines with 8.a4. I must admit that I thought that it would be a pretty easy task to analyse those openings having some prior analysis and experience with both colours. However, time after time I was encountering new challenges and new ideas from both sides that I had to resolve. My conclusions, based on careful analysis with the most powerful engines currently available is presented in this book.
This book completes my series on the Ruy Lopez. I would like to take a moment and recall what I said in the introduction to the first volume. When both sides play very good and sound chess, it is normal that games end in a draw. It is especially true for such sound openings as Ruy Lopez. I do not attempt to dismiss one line or another because somewhere with best play Black can make a draw by force on move number 30, playing sometimes ridiculous moves that are only found during the analytical work. Over the board the reality is way different – practical aspect plays an important role in chess. Some positions are easier to play, some harder. Similarly to what I did in the first volume, I try to offer the most playable positions.
I do not mind if the positions are equal, provided it is easier to play with White or the chance of an error by Black is quite large. Sometimes I go into forced variations (e.g. in Moller Defense or Archangelsk Defense), sometimes into more positional battles (like in the Zaitsev) but I truly believe that the positions I aim to reach have potential and are tricky for Black. With proper knowledge I think White can put pressure on Black in the Ruy Lopez. I hope that you will find my approach to tackling the Ruy Lopez interesting. I am aware that there is only so much I can analyse and someone may say that I did not analyse some positions deeply enough but that is the nature of chess – possibilities are pretty much unlimited and there will always be theoretical debate!
Finally, I wish you, dear Reader, good luck and I hope you can successfully use the ideas that I present in this book in your games. Dariusz Swiercz February 2021.”
In Volume 2 the author looks at the major lines against the Lopez and he breaks the content down into three parts.
Before continuing it would be worth looking at this 19 page excerpt from the book.
Part 1 starts with systems with …Bc5 including the Møller defence.
After 1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5 a6 4.Ba4 Nf6 5.00 Bc5 a move played by World Champion Magnus Carlsen in a few games but more regularly championed by Alexander Onischuk. White continues with 6.c3 which is the most popular move according to my database.
In the game Nepomniachtchi v Caruana the game went 6…0-0 7.d4 Ba7 8.Re1
and White plans to bring his bishop to e3. He can also try 8.Bg5 as Lev Aronian did in a game vs Magnus. White is trying to pressurise e5 and get black to exchange on d4. After 8…d6 9 h3 b5 10 Bc2 when Be3 is coming and White usually tries to play his Knight to f5 with king side pressure.
On 6…b5 7.Bc2 d5 8.a4 will surprise black players. After 8…Rb8 9.ab5 ab5 10.d4 de4 11.dc5 Qd1 12.Bd1 ef3 13.Bf3 e4 14.Be2 when Stockfish gives White as much better since he retains the bishop pair.
Black can try 8…de4 9.ab5 00 but 10 Ng5 ! seems to leave White better. As in many lines analysis is given up to move 25 !
This whole line is very tricky and both players need to know it well. The Archangelsk with 5…b5 6 Bb3 completes Part 1 with the older move 6…Bb7 being looked at first and then 7 Re1 is given first. Having played this in many online games I as black I believe this is Whites best move now and ….Be7 is rather condemned. White can just play as he does against the Closed but he can save a tempo on h3 as there is no Bg4 move.
The modern 6…Bc5 played by Fabio Caruana and Gata Kamsky is given when 7 a4 should set black thinking. First 7…b4 is dismissed as an error as 8 Ne5! Ne5 9 d4 is good for White. Better are both 7…Bb7 and …Rb8 though White will continue his plan of building a big pawn centre with c3 and d4. In many of these lines white follows up with Bg5 when h6 Bh4 g5 can often be met with Nxg5 ideas.
Part 2 comprises the so-called main line of 5…Be7 6 Re1 b5 7 Bb3 d6 8 c3 00 9 h3
when 9…a5 is the Keres variation, 9…Be6 the Kholmov variation, 9…Nd7 the Karpov and both 9…Qd7 and 9…h6 credited to Smyslov.
For the first three variations 10.d4 followed by d5 attempting to cramp black are investigated but 9…Qd7 10 d4 Re8 11 Bg5 and 9…h6 10 d4 Re8 11 Nbd2 Bf8 12 Nf1 are both given as gaining an advantage for White .
Against the Zaitzev variation (9…Bb7) white has a plan of d4 combined with a3 and Bc2 followed by b3. He must be well prepared for black to play d5 here .
The Chigorin variation (9…Na5) was a favourite of Paul Keres and following 10 Bc2 c5 11 d4
both …Qc7 and …Nd7 are looked at in detail with 12 d5 recommended against both, again trying to cramp black.
12.d5 seems better than 12 Nbd2 when black can exchange on d4 and play for pressure on e4.
The Breyer variation (9…Nb8 ) as essayed by Anatoly Karpov sees 10 d4 Nbd7 11 c4 !? a move that will probably surprise Black.
For recommendations to deal with the Marshall Attack you will need to buy the book!
The book winds up in Part 3 by looking at 5…Be7 6.d3 for players who don’t want to get involved in too much opening theory.
Generally this is a book for those who take chess very seriously and are not frightened of learning large quantities of opening theory. The book is written from White’s perspective and therefore does not include a treatment of the exchange variation.
It is also good for postal /correspondence chess as White usually ends up with an edge so can torture his opponent for some time.
Colin Lyne, Farnborough, Hampshire, 26th May, 2021
Book Details :
Paperback : 336 pages
Publisher:Thinkers Publishing; 1st edition (13 April 2021)
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