Category Archives: Thinkers Publishing

Publications from Thinkers Publishing

Cheparinov’s 1.d4!

Cheparinov's 1.d4!, Volume 1 : King's Indian & Grünfeld
Cheparinov’s 1.d4!, Volume 1 : King’s Indian & Grünfeld

Here is the author’s Wikipedia entry

GM Ivan Cheparinov
GM Ivan Cheparinov

From the rear cover :

“This book marks the start of a series of four on 1.d4 in which Ivan will share the secrets from two decades spent analyzing and playing it at the pinnacle of world chess. This volume in particular deals with two of the most popular replies Black can play after 1.d4: the King’s Indian Defense and Grünfeld Defense. Ivan presents the cutting-edge theory with his personal refinements as well as explanations of the deep strategical nuances that arise after his recommendations.”

Courtesy of New in Chess we have a sample of the content

The author has divided the content into four chapters as follows :

  1. Early Sidelines
  2. Benoni Structures
  3. The Grünfeld
  4. The King’s Indian Sämisch

As mentioned previously, this book is Volume 1 of a four volume series for White to play 1.d4 and 2.c4. Volume 1 presents a repertoire for White to play against the Kings’s Indian, Grünfeld and Benoni defences based around 3.f3, building (or attempting to) a strong centre as follows

The Early Sidelines chapter covers reasonable third move alternatives for Black such as a Benko Gambit style attempt, 3…e6, 3…Nc6 and some lesser alternatives. The author then spends some time on Benoni (but not Benko) type structures suggesting that this approach is one of the best for Black.

The main meat and potatoes of this book is naturally taken up with the Grünfeld and King’s Indian type responses from Black. Each of these are analysed exhaustively using a discursive style that compels the reader to look further into these interesting ideas.

This book will be of considerable interest not only to the White player but also to Grünfeld and King’s Indian players who are keen to stay on top of attempts to stop them doing their thing.

As with every recent Thinkers Publishing publication high quality paper is used and the printing is clear. The book can easily be laid flat next to the board and does not require weights to prevent it from “self-closing” (a particular bugbear of ours !). Each diagram is clear and the instructional text is typeset in two column format, which, we find, enables the reader to maintain their place easily. Figurine algebraic notation is used throughout and the diagrams are placed adjacent to the relevant text and each diagram has a “to move” indicator.

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

However, despite these shortcomings this is an excellent addition to White’s armoury and Black players should take note. We look forward to volumes 2,3 and 4 in this series from Cheparinov !

John Upham, Cove, Hampshire, 4th April, 2020

John Upham
John Upham

Book Details :

  • Hardcover : 192 pages
  • Publisher:  Thinkers Publishing; 1 edition (19 Mar. 2020)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 9492510707
  • ISBN-13: 978-9492510709
  • Product Dimensions: 17 x 1 x 23.4 cm

Official web site of Thinkers Publishing

Cheparinov's 1.d4!, Volume 1 : King's Indian & Grünfeld
Cheparinov’s 1.d4!, Volume 1 : King’s Indian & Grünfeld

Coaching the Chess Stars

Coaching the Chess Stars
Coaching the Chess Stars

“Vladimir Tukmakov, born in Odessa 1946, was one of the strongest Ukranian grandmasters. He was the winner of several strong tournaments, including the Ukranian Championship in 1970, and he came second in three Soviet championships in 1970,72 and 83. After his successful period as active player, he became a coach, trainer and author.”

Vladimir Tukmakov
Vladimir Tukmakov

Perhaps, especially if you’re in the UK where evening league chess is still relatively popular, you’ve found yourself captaining a team.

It’s not too demanding as long as you have a pool of reliable and communicative players to choose from.

Maybe you’ve wondered what it would be like to captain a team in the Chess Olympiad: a really strong team such as Ukraine, Azerbaijan or the Netherlands. Or perhaps a star-studded team like SOCAR in the European Club Championship.

It’s a very different experience from captaining Ambridge C in Division 5 of the Borsetshire League, where all you have to do is get the right number of players to the right place at the right time and report the result, these days probably through the league website.

If you’re captaining a top international team, you’re probably dealing with large egos as well as large Elos. You have to decide on your board order, who to rest in each round, how to get everyone working well together and playing in the interests of the team. You really need to excel at interpersonal as well as chess skills.

This, then, is the subject of the first half of Vladimir Tukmakov’s new book. You’ll read about the triumphs, disasters, and, sadly, tragedies behind the teams he captained.

There’s a lot of chess as well: 37 games or extracts with fairly light annotations, which, by and large, seem to stand up well to modern engine analysis.

Here, for example, is what happens when two of the most imaginative players in 21st century chess meet. The opening, and indeed the whole game, seems to come from another planet.

It’s from the match between Ukraine and Georgia from the 2010 Chess Olympiad (Khanty-Mansiysk)

Vassily Ivanchuk (2754) – Baadur Jobava (2710)

1. e4 c6 2. d4 d5 3. f3 Qb6 4. a3 e5 5. exd5 Nf6 6. dxe5 Bc5 7. exf6 Bf2+ 8. Ke2 O-O 9. Qd2 Re8+ 10. Kd1 Re1+ 11. Qxe1 Bxe1 12. Kxe1 Bf5

Tukmakov comments here: “Formally, White has a big material advantage, but the remaining Black pieces are tremendously active. In addition, don’t forget that even though the white king is standing on its original square, White has lost the right to castle.”.

13. Be2 Nd7 14. dxc6 bxc6 15. Bd1 Re8+ 16. Ne2 Nxf6 17. Nbc3 Bc8 18. a4 a5 19. Rf1 Ba6 20. Rf2 h5 21. Ra3 h4 22. g3 h3 23. g4 Rd8 24. Nf4 Nd7 25. Rb3 Qd4 26. Nfe2 Re8 27. Ne4 Qxa4 28. Bd2 Qa1 29. Bc3 Ne5 30. Ra3 Qb1 31. Nd2 Qc1 32. Rxa5 Ng6 33. Rxa6 Nf4
34. Ra8! 1-0

Tukmakov awards ‘?!’ to Black’s 13th and 17th moves: Stockfish 11 is happy with 13… Nd7 but agrees that Black should have preferred 17… Nd5.

It’s the second half, though, which gives the book its title. Coaching a world class grandmaster who plays even better than you do is very different from giving an occasional lesson to the top board from your local primary school.

Here, Tukmakov relates his experiences of one-off collaborations with Geller, Tseshkovsky, Korchnoi (Wijk aan Zee & Brussels 1991) and Karpov (match with Anand, 1998). More recently, he’s acted as coach to Anish Giri (2014-2016) and Wesley So (2016-2017).

In this section of the book you’ll find another 46 games or extracts, so you get a lot of interesting chess for your money.

In complete contrast to the previous game, here you can see an example of impressively deep opening preparation.

Anish Giri (2768) – Alexei Shirov (2691) Hoogeveen (6) 2014

1. e4 c5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. d4 cxd4 4. Nxd4 Nf6 5. Nc3 e5 6. Ndb5 d6 7. Bg5 a6 8. Na3 b5 9. Nd5 Be7 10. Bxf6 Bxf6 11. c3 Bg5 12. Nc2 O-O 13. a4 bxa4 14. Rxa4 a5 15. Bc4 Rb8 16. b3 Kh8 17. Nce3 g6 18. h4 Bxh4 19. g3 Bg5 20. f4 exf4 21. gxf4 Bh4+ 22. Kf1 f5 23. Ra2 fxe4 24. Rah2 g5 25. Qh5 Rb7 26. Ke2 Be6 27. Qh6 Bg8 28. Rg2 Rbf7 29. Rxh4 gxh4 30. Nf5 h3 31. Nh4 Qxh4 32. Rxg8+ Rxg8 33. Qxh4

“Only here did our home analysis end. A triumph for modern methods of preparation!”

33… Rg2+ 34. Kf1 Rh2 35. Ne3 Rg7 36. Qf6 Rh1+ 37. Kf2 Rh2+ 38. Ke1 Rh1+ 39. Kd2 Rh2+ 40. Kc1 Ne7 41. Nf5 Rhg2 42. Nxg7 Rxg7 43. Qf8+ Ng8 44. Bxg8 Rxg8 45. Qf6+ Rg7 46. Qh4 1-0

Shirov had reached the position after 21… Bh4+ before, but had met Kd2 rather than Kf1. Tukmakov claims that 25. Qh5 was a novelty: in fact it had been played twice before, with Black replying Ne5 and, although standing worse, scoring 1½/2.

An excellent book, then, fascinating and, at times, brutally honest. Tukmakov offers a different insight into top level chess from two perspectives: a captain and a coach.

If your main aim is improving your chess you might not consider it an essential purchase, but if the subject matter appeals, don’t hesitate. You won’t be disappointed.

Richard James, Twickenham, 29th February 2020

Richard James
Richard James

Book Details :

  • Paperback : 352 pages
  • Publisher: Thinkers Publishing; 01 edition (2 April 2019)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 9492510502
  • ISBN-13:  978-9492510501
  • Product Dimensions: 17 x 1.5 x 23.4 cm

Official web site of Thinkers Publishing

Coaching the Chess Stars
Coaching the Chess Stars

Gata Kamsky – Chess Gamer, Volume 2: Return 2004-2013

Gata Kamsky - Chess Gamer, Volume 2: Return 2004-2013
Gata Kamsky – Chess Gamer, Volume 2: Return 2004-2013
GM Gata Kamsky
GM Gata Kamsky

“Grandmaster Gata Kamsky, five times US champion, has one of the most extraordinary career trajectories of any chess player. In 1989 he arrived in New York, at the age of 15, with his father from his home country Russia. Just two years later he became for the first time US champion. He reached the top 10 at the very young age of 16 and played a World Championship match at the age of 22, losing to the reigning World Champion Anatoli Karpov. He then decided to stop playing chess for 8 years, studying Medicine and Law. In 2004 he reappeared as a full-time player, became again a world-elite player winning many international tournaments and supporting the US team for many successes.”

GM Gata Kamsky
GM Gata Kamsky

What we have here is 22 annotated games (mostly wins, but there are a few draws as well) played by Gata Kamsky between 2004 and 2013, during which period he harboured aspirations towards the world championship.

Kamsky had White in 18 of the 22 games: perhaps it would have been good to learn more about his approach to playing the black pieces. His opponents included the likes of Carlsen, Anand, Aronian, Topalov, Karjakin and Grischuk.

22 games in 450 pages? Yes, that’s an average of about 20 pages per game, often with two or three pages devoted to just one move. There are annotations almost every move: lots of words, and lots of variations as well. Bobby Fischer managed to cram 60 Memorable Games into a lot less space, but then he didn’t have computers to help him.

To give you some idea of what to expect, let’s take a fairly random example: this is Kamsky-Carlsen from the 2007 World Cup in Khanty-Mansiysk.

In this position Carlsen played 17… Re6?

Kamsky comments:

“Probably Black’s only big mistake, but one that costs him the game. The rook is not the best blockader, and once I have figured out how to remove it (by re-routing the knight from g3 to h5, it will only help White accelerate his initiative on the kingside.

“17… Qb3! was perhaps the only move to stop White’s ambitious plans. Black gives up his weak d-pawn in order to open up the position for the rest of his pieces, especially the blocked-in f8-bishop, thus making the rest of his pieces much more effective.”

He then goes on to explain that he was planning to meet 17… Qb3! with 18. Qd2! We then have three pages of notes on this position, with one line ending up with White a pawn ahead on move 42 and another where White wins with a queen sacrifice on move 33.

Eventually returning to the game, we reach this position.

Carlsen has just given up the exchange hoping to set up a fortress. Kamsky explains:

“Black is down a whole exchange, but his structure looks very solid, and if he somehow manages to re-route his knight to f5, while building a strong pawn blockade on the queenside, he might stand a chance. However, White is an exchange up, which means he only needs to open one file for his rooks to infiltrate to win the game. And that is something that Black cannot prevent.”

Kamsky eventually managed, with some help from his opponent, to open the h-file for his rooks, winning on move 46.

The verbal explanations of positions and plans are, as you can tell, models of clarity but you might well think there are too many variations. You’re going to need at least two, more likely three chess sets to find your way through some of the thickets.

The games are not all you get for your money, though. Each game is put into context, and, Kamsky warns us in the introduction: “I must also caution that some of the views and comments expressed on subjects other than chess will sometimes be found to be quite controversial and not ‘correct’, in which case I would invite the reader to draw his or her own conclusions.”.

We are, perhaps fortunately, spared Kamsky’s views on Donald Trump and Brexit, but we do get his opinions of his opponents along with some flashbacks to his childhood.

You may well be aware of the reputation of his father, Rustam Kamsky. Gata’s descriptions of their relationship doesn’t make comfortable reading:

“… I had no education and was under the complete domination, in both body and soul, of my father. He literally threatened to kill me many times, including chasing me with a knife on numerous occasions after a terrible tournament…

“When I came home from the one and only occasion I went to the authorities for help, my father burned my hand to the bone and told me that if I told the authorities about him again, he would kill me. Being physically beaten was an everyday occurrence; it was the psychological attack with his words that made me feel very old and not want to live.”

Given this background it’s perhaps understandable that he has a jaundiced view of some of his fellow grandmasters, even including the universally respected Vishy Anand. He has the rather strange habit of referring to some of them, particularly, it seems, those with whom he has come into conflict in the past, as, for example, Mr Topalov.

In some respects, then, this is a very personal book: much more than just a games collection.

Every one of the games is fascinating, the annotations are superb, but you probably need to be round about 2200 strength to gain full benefit from following all the variations. Below that level, you might find yourself shouting “too much information, Mr Kamsky” and perhaps prefer to spend your money on something with more games and fewer variations.

The production standards, as usual from this publisher, are excellent. I noticed very few typos (a redundant check sign and Jeffrey rather than Jeffery Xiong). If you’re looking for a collection of grandmaster games with exceptionally detailed annotations, along with some very personal insights into the world of top level chess, this is the book for you.

 

Richard James, Twickenham, 26th February 2020

Richard James
Richard James

Book Details :

  • Paperback : 454 pages
  • Publisher: Thinkers Publishing; 1 edition (7 Nov. 2019)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 9492510588
  • ISBN-13:  978-9492510587
  • Product Dimensions: 16.5 x 1.9 x 23.5 cm

Official web site of Thinkers Publishing

Gata Kamsky - Chess Gamer, Volume 2: Return 2004-2013
Gata Kamsky – Chess Gamer, Volume 2: Return 2004-2013

Kings of the Chessboard

Kings of the Chessboard
Kings of the Chessboard

“Grandmaster Paul van der Sterren (1956 ), was one of the strongest chess players of the Netherlands. He became twice national champion and represented his country eight times during the Chess Olympiads. In 2001 he retired from being an active player and focused on writing books drawn from his rich chess experience. This is his first English chess book written for Thinkers Publishing.”

Paul van der Sterren
Paul van der Sterren

Many chess players are strikingly ignorant of their game’s heritage, so there’s always a place for a new book offering readers a quick spin through chess history.

There are, broadly speaking, several ways this could be approached: a selection of Famous Games for those who haven’t seen them before, a history of the world championship itself, or an essay on the development of chess style and opening theory over the centuries.

Van der Sterren’s book seems to combine all three approaches. How does it fare?

As I have a particular interest in pre-20th century chess history I decided to dive in at the beginning.

We start, not unreasonably, with Philidor. After some biographical information we might be looking forward to seeing how he played.

Alas, not. The author makes the extraordinary claim that “It is true that some fragments of his games have made it into today’s databases, but their authenticity is doubtful and it is likely that these are mostly fictitious games invented by him for the purpose of teaching or demonstrating a particular point he wanted to make.”.

Really? Is van der Sterren confusing Philidor with Greco, perhaps? While it’s true that the games in his books, and there were only a few, were fictitious, my database has one piece of analysis from 1749 along with 60 complete and 5 partial games against named and known opponents from between 1780 and 1795, all but the first played in London. They were collected by Philidor’s friend George Atwood and many of them were published by George Walker in 1835. There is no doubt at all of their authenticity.

We then move onto the match(es) between La Bourdonnais and McDonnell in 1834.  A complete game would have been good but all we get is the Famous Position where the Frenchman forced resignation with three pawns on the seventh rank, without any explanation as to how the position arose.

Then comes the first international tournament: London 1851. We meet Staunton and Anderssen, and, guess what, we see the finales of the Evergreen and Immortal Games. Again, if you really want to publish them because your readers might not have seen them before, why not give the complete games?

According to van der Sterren, “Now Black has to play the defensive move 20… Na6.”. Historians disagree about whether or not Kieseritzky resigned before playing this move (he claimed he did), or whether he played the move and Anderssen announced mate, but why not mention the much better, but still insufficient, defence 20… Ba6?

Come to think of it, why not mention that both the Immortal and Evergreen games were casual encounters in which Anderssen could afford to take risks?

Moving on, inevitably, to Morphy, by this point I started to play a game with myself, guessing what I’d find in each chapter.  Opera House game? Tick! Queen sac v Paulsen? Surprisingly not.

On to Steinitz. Bardeleben at Hastings? Tick! Van der Sterren talks about Steinitz’s advocacy of positional chess, and then aims to justify the inclusion of this tactical game atypical of his late style by incorporating some callout boxes labelled ‘Misunderstandings’ in a rather ugly childish font: something not repeated elsewhere in the book.

Lasker? Exchange Lopez ending v Capa? Tick! Then, on p49, in a moment of carelessness, we meet ‘Dawid Janowksi’,

On the same page we see a Famous Pawn Ending between Lasker and Tarrasch:

We’re told that “By looking at the position in a concrete way instead of relying on general considerations, it is possible to find a concrete path to salvation for Black.”. It’s White, not Black, who finds a concrete path to salvation by playing, after 40. h4 Kg4, 41. Kg6  rather than the losing Kf6. Although the annotations throughout the book are mostly verbal we do get a variation which demonstrates why Kf6 loses.

Capablanca? Qb2 v Bernstein? Tick! Rook ending v Tartakower? Tick! But not full games.

Alekhine? v Réti in 1925? Tick!  Bogo in 1922? Tick! Again, only the closing stages so we don’t get to see how he reached those positions.

To be fair, the book improves as it approaches the 21st century, and we start meeting players the author knew or knows well.

Here, for instance, is a position from a game I must have seen at the time, but had forgotten about.

This is Anand-Karpov Las Palmas 1996. Here, Vishy played Bxh7+!.

“Anand must have felt there is bigger game to be hunted than just a pawn. Still, to forego a perfectly reasonable option with an extra pawn and a draw in the bag, in favour of a piece sacrifice with unpredictable consequences, is not a decision many players would have made. It is a sign of self-confidence, great powers of calculation and bravery; in other words the hallmark of the most pure, sparkling talent.”

This is typical of van der Sterren’s style of annotation: words rather than variations and a tendency towards hero-worship.

Anand himself is, typically, more modest: “Here, I spent a few seconds checking 21. Rxd5 which leaves White with an extra pawn, but as I mentioned earlier I couldn’t be bothered. I saw Bxh7+ and didn’t waste any more time on Rxd5. I then spent some time analysing Bxh7+, and didn’t see a defence for Black. I then realized that I was too excited to analyse and decided to get it over with. He had hardly any time left already and I was sure that he wouldn’t find a defence.”

Does the book succeed? Although I don’t like being negative in my reviews, I’m afraid not. It suffers from trying to do too much in too short a space, and from a lack of historical knowledge and awareness. If you know anything at all about the history of our beautiful games you’ll have seen almost everything before, and you’ll be frustrated by the broad brushstrokes.

Back in 1987, Mike Fox and I were criticised by some reviewers for including a chapter of Greatest Games in The Complete Chess Addict, but they failed to understand that our target market was social players who wouldn’t have seen them before. By the same token, there may still be a market for a collection of Famous Games, Famous Combinations and Famous Endgame Studies. There are several other histories of the world championship, and treatises on the development of chess style and opening theory, but books that are up to date and whose authors have something new to say are always welcome. This book doesn’t really do any of these things very well, and there is very little original content or thought. If you try to be everything to everyone you end up being nothing to nobody.

However, the book is, for the most part, nicely produced, with a lot of attractive photographs. For someone just starting out in competitive chess who would like to know more about the game’s history, this could be just what they want to pique their interest and encourage them to study this fascinating aspect of chess in more detail.

Richard James, Twickenham, 18th February 2020

Richard James
Richard James

Book Details :

  • Paperback : 264 pages
  • Publisher: Thinkers Publishing; 1 edition (20 May 2019)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 9492510537
  • ISBN-13:  978-9492510532
  • Product Dimensions: 17.1 x 1.9 x 23.5 cm

Official web site of Thinkers Publishing

Kings of the Chessboard
Kings of the Chessboard

Crucial Chess Skills for the Club Player – Volume 2

Crucial Chess Skills for the Club Player - Volume 2
Crucial Chess Skills for the Club Player – Volume 2

Robert Ris is an IM from the Netherlands who spends a lot of his time training other players, and it shows in the clarity of explanation in this book, in which the material is split into eleven chapters, followed by forty exercises, then their solutions.

IM Robert Ris
IM Robert Ris

The first six chapters cover the roles of pieces, primarily using endgame positions to bring out ideas in sharpest relief, although some chapters require middlegame positions.  The next five chapters cover various types of material imbalance. These chapter titles are:-

  1. The role of the king in the ending
  2. Same-coloured bishop endings
  3. Opposite-coloured bishop endings
  4. Initiative in opposite-coloured bishop endings
  5. Bishop v knight
  6. The power of major pieces
  7. Queen vs. two rooks
  8. Two minor pieces vs. rook
  9. Worth of a queen
  10. Exchange sacrifice
  11. Piece vs. pawns

The material covered here can be found in many other books, but what differentiates  the coverage in this book, in addition to the aforementioned clarity of explanation, is the analysis of sidelines. There  is a difficult balance to strike here. Too many sidelines, too much detail and you lose the reader’s attention. To  few sidelines, too little detail and you aren’t answering the reader’s questions. In my opinion Ris gets the balance exactly right.

Here is example to illustrate Ris’ style. It’s from Chapter 6 (The power of major pieces) and illustrates the idea of combining files and ranks:

The occupation of an open file is not a goal in itself, but rather a first step in strengthening your own position. In the previous example we have seen the impact of major pieces controlling the only open file. From there they were enabled to infiltrate the seventh rank with devastating effect. The following game nicely shows that with one extra pair of rooks the side with the initiative is able to pose even more problems. By employing the other rook laterally White creates extra threats against the king.

Bacrot, Etienne (2730) v Giri, Anish (2749), Germany 2013

19.b4!

White makes use of the unfortunate placement of the black king on g7 to prepare the advance of the c-pawn. Clearly inferior is 19.cxb5? axb5 when Black becomes active on the a-file.

19…bxc4

This is practically forced, because after 19…Rac8 White plays 20.c5! dxc5 21.bxc5, and Black can’t now take on c5 in view of Qd4+, while after other moves the pawns on c5 and d5 are very powerful, dominating Black’s major pieces.

20.Rxc4 h5

A) First of all, Black is unable to start disputing control over the c-file, as 20…Rac8? fails to 21.Qc3 winning the rook.

B) With the text Black admits that the possible rook lift to h4 is very dangerous for him. The alternative 20…f6 is not much fun to play either. White has the luxury of being able to choose between playing for an attack on the kingside, pressurizing the backward pawn on the e-file or simply mobilizing his queenside majority. The latter is a good option and moves like a4, Qc3 and Rc6 are very useful. The black pieces have been paralyzed and even though there is no immediate way for White to break down the barricades, Black’s task of avoiding any concessions seems to be much harder.

21.Qc3+ Kg8

21…f6 is met by 22.Rc7 followed by taking on e7.

22.Rc7 Qb6

23.a4!

Superb technical play by Bacrot, who doesn’t get tempted into winning a pawn with 23.Rcxe7? Rxe7 24. Rxe7, because after 24…a5 Black obtains reasonable counterplay and drawing chances despite the minus pawn.

23…Rab8 24.Re4!

The point of White’s play. His queenside majority is well supported by the major pieces and Black doesn’t get a single chance to create counterplay. After the text White is ready to expose the black weaknesses on the kingside with the powerful break g2-g4.

24…f6

A) They say that in bad positions mistakes are easily made, but what else should Black do? The attempt to simplify the position with 24…Qxc7 25.Qxc7 Rbc8 backfires in view of 26.Qc6! Rxc6 27.dxc6 and the white pawns are too strong.

B) Trying to reduce the pressure on the seventh rank with 24…Rb7 is strongly met by 25.Rexe7! Rxe7 26.Rc8+ and mate on h8.

C) 24,,,a5 will always be met by 25.b5! The only conclusion we can draw is that Black is in zugzwang!

25.g4! Rb7

Giri overlooks a nice tactical shot and can resign immediately, but his position was already impossible to defend. A great illustration of White’s dominance is seen in the following variation where Black is attacked from all sides: 25…hxg4 26.Rxg4 Kf7 (Black also collapses after 26…Kg7 27.Qc2 g5 28.h4) 27.Rh4

(27.Qc2 f5 is less convincing) 27…Rh8 (27…g5 leads to mate after 28.Rh7+ Kg6 29.Qd3+ f5 30.Qh3 Kf6 31.Qc3+ Kg6 32.Qg7#) 28.a5 Qb5 29.Qe3 Rhe8 (29…Rxh4 30.Qxe7+ Kg8 31.Qg7#) 30.Rh7+ Kg8 31.Qh6 and mate on g7.

26.Qxf6!

Black resigned, in view of 26…Qxc7 (26…exf6 27.Rxe8#) 27.Qxg6+ Kh8 (27…Kf8 28.Rf4#) 28.Re6! Qc1+ 29.Kg2 and there is nothing Black can do against Qxh5, Rg6 and Qf5 mate.

1-0

So what do you think? For me this is just the right amount of description and analysis. For you it may be too little or too much, but this is broadly what you’re going to get from Ris in this book (there are some exceptions where more analytical detail is given, but only when it’s unavoidable.)

Moving on to the next five chapters on material imbalances, Ris himself remarks in the Preface: “Of course these topics have been discussed in other works as well, but I can offer you a lot of fresh examples from the highest level as well as quite a number of games from my own practice.” Modesty inhibits him from saying that he explains these imbalances as well as anyone and better than almost all.

Here is an example from Chapter 10 (Exchange sacrifice) subtitled “Knight v rook: the octopus

Ris, Robert (2419) v Beliavsky, Alexander (2597), Reykjavik 2017

Everything had gone wrong for me in the early middlegame. I had lost an exchange, was down one hour on the clock and was basically hoping not to lose in 25 moves. With a bit of fortune on my side, I have managed to avoid an immediate disaster and still reach some sort of playable position. The main reason for that is my knight on d6 (in chess terminology called thge octopus!), which restricts the mobility of the black rooks. The only open file has been kept closed by the knight (and the very important pawn on e5!), so there is no immmediate way to activate the rooks and exploit the material advantage.

24.e4 b5

It looks very logical to mobilize the queenside majority, aiming to create a passed pawn and open the  files for the black rooks, either to invade White’s position or just to liquidate into a winning endgame thanks to the material plus. We will see that this plan of advancing the pawn majority simply takes too much time and is therefore unrealistic to carry out. Opening the files  for the rooks is the right plan, though, but it needs to be carried out in a different way.

Correct is 24…f6! which is a move I considered at various moments during the game, but I also thought that weakening the kingside would give me reasonable practical chances with three powerful pieces standing ready to attack the black king. Well, that’s what I was thinking during the game with only a few minutes left on the clock, no time to calculate concrete variations.

After the intended 25.exf6? (centralizing the queen with 25.Qc3 might have been a better idea, though after 25…Rad8 Black is clearly better, and soon will try increasing the pressure on White’s centre) 25…Rxf6 26.Qe3 Raf8 White is losing his grip on the position. That’s mainly because the knight has lost the support from the pawn on e5, while the black rooks are now exerting pressure on the f-file and simply threaten to take on f4.

25.Qe3

25…Qb6

A) In case of 25…b4 it had been my intention to follow up with 26.f5 and Black has to watch out for White’s mating threats with Qh6 and f6.

B) 25…f6! would still have been a very reasonable option.

26.Qg3 Qa5 27.Rf2 b4 28.f5 c3 29.bxc3 bxc3 30.Qf4!

30.f6? would have been a serious mistake, as it allows Black to close the kingside with 30…h6! 31.Qh4 Kh7 and there is no convenient way for White to continue the attack, as his own king is too exposed.

30…c2?

During the game I was very optimistic about my chances here, but it turns out that there is still a way to stop White’s attack.

A) Correct is 30…exf5 31.gxf5 f6

and the position is still quite balanced, e.g., 32.exf6 Rxf6 33.e5 Qd5+ 34.Qf3 Qxf3+ 35.Rxf3 Rff8 36.Rxc3 gxf5 37.Rg3+ Kh8 38.e6 and soon White will win back the exchange, resulting in a drawn rook ending.

B) It’s worth pointing out that the immediate 30…f6? is inferior, in view of 31.exf6 Rxf6 32.e5 Rff8 33.f6 ansd White retains a very dangerous attack.

For example, 33…Kh8 34.Qh6 Qc7 35.Rf3 c2 36.Rc3! and after White picks up the c-pawn, Black remains very passive as he still can’t activate the rook while the queen needs to cover  the seventh rank.

31.f6! Qxe5

31…Kh8 32.Qh6 Rg8 33,Nxf7#.

32.Qh6!

Black resigned, as the only way to avoid mate is 32…Qxf6 33.Rxf6 but then my queen is still guarding the c1 square and White enjoys a huge material advantage.

1-0

In summary then, this book covers familiar ground, but it does so very impressively, with plenty of diagrams, lucid explanations and  appropriate levels of analyis. In my opinion Ris’ book becomes the leader of the pack in a relatively crowded field. I commend it unreservedly.

Mark Taylor, Windsor, Berkshire, 1st February 2020

Mark Taylor
Mark Taylor

Book Details :

  • Paperback : 390 pages
  • Publisher: Thinkers Publishing; 1 edition (15 Feb. 2019)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 9492510456
  • ISBN-13: 978-9492510457
  • Product Dimensions: 17.3 x 2.3 x 23.4 cm

Official web site of Thinkers Publishing

Crucial Chess Skills for the Club Player - Volume 2
Crucial Chess Skills for the Club Player – Volume 2

Improve Your Practical Play in the Endgame

Improve Your Practical Play in the Endgame : Alexey Dreev

Improve Your Practical Play in the Endgame
Improve Your Practical Play in the Endgame

“After a bad opening, there is hope for the middle game. After a bad middle game, there is hope for the endgame. But once you are in the endgame, the moment of truth has arrived.” – Edmar Mednis

GM Alexey Dreev
GM Alexey Dreev

From Wikipedia :

Alexey Sergeyevich Dreev (Russian: Алексей Сергеевич Дреев; born 30 January 1969[1]) is a Russian chess player. He was awarded the title Grandmaster by FIDE in 1989.

While being a promising young chess talent, he was for a period coached by the world-class chess trainer Mark Dvoretsky.

As with every recent Thinkers Publishing publication high quality paper is used and the printing is clear. The book can easily be laid flat next to the board and does not require weights to prevent it from “self-closing” (a particular bugbear of ours !). Each diagram is clear and the instructional text is typeset in two column format, which, we find, enables the reader to maintain their place easily. Figurine algebraic notation is used throughout and the diagrams are placed adjacent to the relevant text and each diagram has a “to move” indicator.

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

This author of this book is Alexey Dreev, super GM who reached the quarter finals of the candidates in 1991.

This excellent book is packed full of instructive, exciting endgames, taken from top level games, including many of Dreev’s own games
extensively analysed with short pithy didactic comments.

Many of the examples are complex and require serious study to really gain the understanding of practical endgames.

This book is a pleasure to read with an excellent layout and plenty of diagrams making it easy to peruse anywhere.

The book is divided up into six chapters, but not on piece configurations (except for chapter 5) but on aspects of play:

  1. Particular Endgames,
  2. Defence,
  3. Hidden Resources,
  4. Prophylaxis,
  5. Pawn Endgames and Transitioning into Pawn Endgames,
  6. Converting

Each chapter has eight or nine examples analysed in depth followed by a similar number of exercises which will really test the reader;
I did get a few right without moving any pieces.

One of favourite chapters is Particular Endgames which mostly covers positions with material imbalance such as Q v pieces
which the vast majority of players would find fascinating. There is an excellent example no 3 showing the use of a space advantage in B+2Ns endgame.

Following is the first example in the Chapter on Defence and a new perspective on a famous game.

My other favourite chapter is Pawn Endgames and Transitioning into Pawn Endgames which shows the rich complexity of king and pawn endgames
and the crucial importance of this topic.

In my experience, this transition is commonly mishandled by players of all standards: I have spoiled winning endgames in this area and I have seen countless games spoiled by poor play in pawn endgames, so study of this chapter will reap rich rewards for a reader.

FM Richard Webb, Chineham, Hampshire, 17th January 2020

FM Richard Webb
FM Richard Webb

Book Details :

  • Paperback : 248 pages
  • Publisher: Thinkers Publishing; 1 edition (5 Oct. 2019)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 9492510596
  • ISBN-13: 978-9492510594
  • Product Dimensions: 16.5 x 1.9 x 22.9 cm

Official web site of Thinkers Publishing

Improve Your Practical Play in the Endgame
Improve Your Practical Play in the Endgame

The Modernised Dutch Defense

The Modernised Dutch Defense : Adrien Demuth

The Modernised Dutch Defence by Adrien Demuth
The Modernised Dutch Defence by Adrien Demuth

Adrien Demuth is a French chess grandmaster. Born in 1991, Demuth earned his international master title in 2011 and his grandmaster title in 2015. He is the No. 14 ranked French player as of March 2018.

GM Adrien Demuth
GM Adrien Demuth

This is his second title in the “Modernized” series from Thinkers Publishing, and like his previous book The Modernized Reti, this is a complete repertoire book providing a complete repertoire for black based around the Leningrad variation (2 …g6) against 1.d4 but also against 1.c4 & 1.Nf3.  The Dutch Defence leads to dynamic and unbalanced positions which is ideally suited to players who want to play for a win with the black pieces.

The author is a recent convert to the Dutch defence and he describes how he took up the opening and had the confidence to use it in crucial games. And although the author now days prefers to play more positional openings he still retains the Dutch Defence in his repertoire.

The material is presented in three sections:

Part 1 – Early Sidelines after 1.d4 f5 (184 pages)

  1. The Staunton Gambit
  2. The System with 2.Nc3
  3. The Goring Attack 2.Bg5
  4. Minor Lines on the Second Move
  5. Systems including an early c3 and or Nh3

Part 2 – Classical Systems (210 pages)

  1. Sidelines for White on Move Three
  2. Lines with an early b4
  3. Systems with b3
  4. The aggressive 2.c4 Nf6 3.Nc3
  5. The Classical Leningrad

Part 3 – Reti and English Move Orders (69 pages)

  1. The Leningrad Dutch versus the Reti
  2. The Leningrad Dutch versus the Engish

Like all the previous Thinkers Publishing books I have reviewed the production quality is excellent. The layout of this book reminds me of the Batsford Series of opening books that many older readers will remember as the material is presented as a series of variations without any illustrative games. The focus is exclusively on the opening phase with no mention of middlegame plans or typical pawn structures. All the games referenced in the book recent, within the last 5 years and the author provides a lot of interesting  novelties backed up by his own analysis.

In part 1 the author provided a very detailed coverage of all the varied sidelines and gambits  where black opts to play the Leningrad with 2..g6 rather than the Classical move order 2…e6. This is an important consideration in Chapter 3 as the author recommends the lines with 2…g6 rather than the topical 2….h6 against 2.Bg5. Also there are a number of tricky lines in chapter 5 where white plays c3 & Qb3 to prevent black from castling or where white plays an early h4.

Part 2 contains the main lines of the Leningrad Dutch and covers all of whites main options as well as the various lines where white plays the plays Bf4 which is very popular nowdays.  One criticism that I do have in this section concerns the layout for Chapter 10 on p336 which doesn’t follow previous  layout of chapters and perhaps the material should have been be split into two chapters covering the main lines and sidelines separately. Also there are several move order transpositions that can occur where white plays b3 or b4 in the main lines. However this does not detract from the content but the book would have benefitted from some more thorough proof reading.

Part 3 covers the reply 1…f5 against 1.Nf3 and 1.c4. The second chapter covers blacks responses to all of whites options where white omits playing d4,

One of the problems black players have when  facing 1.d4 is that in most openings  that white can play have a number of safe drawing lines that make it very difficult to play for a win against or unambitious lines where white can easily play for a small edge. However those options are not available against the Dutch defence. There are of course a number of gambits and aggressive lines that are available to white however if you are well prepared then you can enter these lines with confidence.

The bibliography is up to date and the oldest reference is 2014.

In summary this is an excellent book providing a complete repertoire for black against 1.d4, 1.Nf3 & 1.c4 It contains a lot of original analysis and sound recommendations.  Although this opening may not be considered to be totally sound at GM level it is perfectly playable at Club level.  I do have a number of (minor) criticisms of this book, perhaps the author could have provided a better explanation of the move order transpositions that can occur in the main lines and there are no illustrative games in the book. Also as with all Thinkers Publishing books I have reviewed there is no index of variations.  But overall this would not stop me recommending the book if you want to take up the opening or of you already play the Dutch and wanted to add it to your library.

Tony Williams, January 5 2020

Tony Williams
Tony Williams

Book Details :

  • Paperback : 347 pages
  • Publisher: Thinkers Publishing; 1 edition (22 Sept. 2019)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 9492510553
  • ISBN-13: 978-9492510556
  • Product Dimensions: 17.1 x 3.2 x 23.5 cm

Official web site of Thinkers Publishing

The Modernised Dutch Defence by Adrien Demuth
The Modernised Dutch Defence by Adrien Demuth

The Modernized Colle-Zukertort Attack

The Modernized Colle-Zukertort Attack
The Modernized Colle-Zukertort Attack

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

GM Milos Pavlovic
GM Milos Pavlovic

This is his third title in the “Modernized” series from Thinkers Publishing with a fourth on the Scotch Game being published on November 17th. We first reviewed a title in this series with The Modernized Caro-Kann from GM Daniel Fernandez.

As with every recent Thinkers Publishing publication high quality paper is used and the printing is clear. The book can easily be laid flat next to the board and does not require weights to prevent it from “self-closing” (a particular bugbear of ours !). Each diagram is clear and the instructional text is typeset in two column format, which, we find, enables the reader to maintain their place easily. Figurine algebraic notation is used throughout and the diagrams are placed adjacent to the relevant text and each diagram has a “to move” indicator.

The main content is divided into ten chapters of which the first six concern lines in which Black plays an early d5 (usually 1.d4 d5) and the remainder where Black does not (usually playing 1.d4 Nf6).

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

This is a repertoire book for the White player utilizing the undeservedly less popular Zukertort flavour of the Colle System. In the “CZ” System the c1 (Queen’s for the more mature reader !) bishop is developed to b2 rather than the c1 – h6 diagonal as in the Koltanowski flavour of the Colle System. Typically therefore White attempts to establish a structure of the sort :

and play for ideas such as Ne5, f4 Rf3, Rg3 and checkmating attacks involving the bishop pair. These are often similar to the famous Lasker – Bauer game of 1889.

On the other hand we have the possibly more familiar Colle-Koltanowski structure of :

and the main idea of the latter is to advance e4, e5 and the launch a fairly clockwork attack against Black’s kingside.

Both of these approaches have been served by books, videos and instructional DVDs of the “Winning with the X” sort with the most well known players of the Colle-Zukertort being Aaron Summerscale, Artur Yusupow, Susan Polgar and Vladimir Kramnik.

We have no intention of “spilling the beans” on all of the many and varied ideas presented by Pavlovic : you should buy the book and find out for yourself. However, as past players of the CZ ourselves we noticed interesting advice on the move order advised. The traditional move order in possibly the most challenging main line has (more or less) been :

1.d4 d5 2.Nf3 Nf6 3.e3 e6 4.Bd3 c5 5.b3 Nc6 6.0-0 Bd6 7.Bb2 0-0 8.Nbd2 leading to the following well-known, traditional position :

and David Rudel in his various evangelistic style CZ books advocated 8.Ne5 instead. In The Modernized Colle-Zuckertort we have this new move order :

1.d4 d5 2.Nf3 Nf6 3.e3 e6 4.Bd3 c5 followed by the provocative 5.0-0 ! giving us this position

which appears (well, it does!) to allow 5…c4!? This early castles move order is, in itself, modernizing and advocated by none other than the fourteenth World Champion, Vladimir Kramnik ! Other adherents of this move order include Artemiev, Vaganian and Romain Edouard, Editor of Thinkers Publishing.

To give you a feel for the book here is a sample

One idea that caught our eye was a recommendation of how to meet the Classical Dutch when played via

1.d4 e6 2.Nf3 f5

and you might expect a line to of the CZ to be recommended but you’d be quite wrong. We won’t spoil the surprise by telling you here ! Suffice to say this is not a formulaic “Play the CZ against everything and win” style of approach. You’d be disappointed if it was !

This book contain a veritable potpourri of new ideas and material plus strategical concepts for the White player in the CZ System. It offers much more than one of the cheesy “Play this Opening and you will win” style books that we are all familiar with. Having owned all (English Language) books and DVDs we would suggest that this is the most academic and the most appealing to players wanting to make the CZ a serious weapon of theirs. In the “club player opening book wars” this book redresses the balance with the recent splurge of London System books and videos.

Get this book and you will learn about middlegame, plans of attack and a wealth of other themes : highly recommended !

John Upham, Cove, Hampshire, 17th November, 2019

John Upham
John Upham

Book Details :

  • Hardcover : 208 pages
  • Publisher:  Thinkers Publishing; 1 edition (July 29, 2019)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 9492510529
  • ISBN-13: 978-9492510525
  • Product Dimensions: 6.8 x 0.8 x 9.2 inches

Official web site of Thinkers Publishing

The Modernized Colle-Zukertort Attack
The Modernized Colle-Zukertort Attack

Understanding Before Moving 2 : Queen’s Gambit Structures

Understanding Before Moving 2 : Queen's Gambit Structures
Understanding Before Moving 2 : Queen’s Gambit Structures

Herman Grooten is an International master, a professional coach for over thirty-five years and has taught players such as Loek van Wely, Jan Werle and Benjamin Bok.

IM Herman Grooten (photograph : Harry Gielen)
IM Herman Grooten (photograph : Harry Gielen)

The is the author’s second volume in the Understanding Before Moving series previously having written Understanding before Moving 1 : Ruy Lopez – Italian Structures

As with every recent Thinkers Publishing publication high quality paper is used and the printing is clear. The book can easily be laid flat next to the board and does not require weights to prevent it from “self-closing” (a particular bugbear of ours !). Each diagram is clear and the instructional text is typeset in two column format, which, we find, enables the reader to maintain their place easily. Figurine algebraic notation is used throughout and the diagrams are placed adjacent to the relevant text and each diagram has a “to move” indicator.

The main content is divided into eight chapters :

  1. Studying of Openings
  2. Background of Openings
  3. Pawn Structures and Practical Examples
  4. Discussing the Variations
  5. Model Games
  6. Exercises
  7. Solutions
  8. Instructive Games

followed by a collection of 44 unannotated instructive games. There is no index but there is a liberal sprinkling of black & white photographs throughout the instructional text.

The books kicks off by providing the motivation to the reader of the purpose of taking on-board the approach that Grooten adopts. It is clear that he strongly believes studying the typical pawn structures that result from the variations of the Queen’s Gambit the student will gain greater understanding of the correct plans based on those structures. He goes to some trouble to warn students of the modern lazy tendency (younger players take careful note!) to read too much into assessments from modern engines (especially in the opening and transition to the middle game). He, quite correctly, wants the students to use their own eyes and brain to discover ideas and typical themes rather attempting to memorize so-called best moves which change anyway when the engine version is updated.

The advice continues with tips on preparation before and during a tournament which are entirely pragmatic and help the students confidence going into games against both weaker, similar and stronger opponents.

Chapter 3 is where the heavy action starts. We focus on the Carlsbad pawn structure, arising from many variations of the Queen’s Gambit :

and the author details three main plans implied by the above structure followed by twelve high quality instructive examples of these plans from the world’s best players.

For example :

Plan C : Opposite-side castling, 3.10 Pawn Storms on both sides


Position after 12…Rc8

In a position with opposite castling it’s of great importance to get one’s attack off the ground as soon as possible. It helps greatly if there is already some weakness in the enemy’s king position , and if it isn’t there – well, the first priority is to force its creation.

13.Ng5

For 13.g4 see the game Petrosian – Ilivitky, Moscow 1965.

13…b5?

In this case it was best to retreat to d7.

14.Be5!

Thus Timman forces Black to weaken himself.

The Pawn Structures chapter essentially provide the ethos of the book putting the student in the right frame of mind for the specific discussion of the variations of interest. As far as I can tell these variations are :

  1. The Tartakower Variation of the Queen’s Gambit Declined
  2. The Lasker Variation of the QGD
  3. The Tarrasch Variation (including the Hennig-Schara Gambit)
  4. The Noteboom (or Abrahams) Variation
  5. The Ragozin Variation
  6. The Cambridge Springs Variation
  7. The Exchange (Carlsbad) Variation
  8. The Rubinstein Variation
  9. The Vienna Variation

and all of these are treated via a 1.d4 d5 2.c4 e6 3.Nc3 move order.

Some of the above could (arguably if you enjoy this sort of thing!) be said to arise from a Semi-Slav Defence or even Triangle Variation move order (for example the Noteboom / Abrahams and Cambridge Springs variations) so there is more to this book than first meets the eye. The Vienna section is most welcome since it has not hitherto received much attention in the literature and can, of course, become sharp early on.

There is no coverage of the Queen’s Gambit Accepted (the Vienna Variation comes close of course) or of the lines (typically 5. Bf4) where White puts the c1 bishop on f4 rather than g5 : some (including myself) might dub this the Blackburne Variation. There is a brief treatment of the Alartortsev or Cahrousek Variation (3…Be7) included in the Carlsbad section.

For each of the above variations the author highlights the main ideas for white, and to give you some idea here is an example from the Ragozin section :


Position after 10…Kf8

in the Interpolistoernooi in Tilburg in 1981 :

11.dxc5!!

Behind this lies a brilliant concept,

11…Nxc3 12.bxc3 Bxc3+ 13.Ke2 Bxa1 14.Qxa1 f6

It’s time to take stock of the position. White has sacrificed the exchange, but has obtained an abundance of compensation in various forms :

  • Development and activity
  • Bishop pair in an open position
  • Unsafe Black king
  • Better pawn structure
  • Control over d6, which can be used as an outpost by several of White’s pieces
  • A position in which “diagonals are more important than files”

All of this then prepares the reader for Chapter 5 : Model Games. There are 15 model games of which 7 cover the Carlsbad, 4 the Tartakower and then one each for the rest except for the Lasker and Vienna Variations.

The reader is then encouraged to test their understanding with 16 exercises of the “White to play and find the best continuation” type. Each of these exercises is analysed in detail in the Solutions chapter.

In summary, this book will be invaluable to any serious student of the Queen’s Gambit, particularly the Exchange Variation and Carlsbad structures. Any player who plays d4 but does not play a quick c4 follow-up (for example, the currently trendy London System followers) may well be sufficiently enthused to “upgrade” their Queen’s Pawn opening to a Queen’s Gambit. The emphasis on understanding via pawn structure analysis will help any student of chess even if do not play 1.d4. Highly recommended !

John Upham, Cove, Hampshire, 22nd August, 2019

John Upham
John Upham

Book Details :

  • Hardcover : 238 pages
  • Publisher: Thinkers Publishing; 1 edition (15 Feb. 2019)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 9492510421
  • ISBN-13: 978-9492510426
  • Product Dimensions: 17 x 1.5 x 23.4 cm

Official web site of Thinkers Publishing

Understanding Before Moving 2 : Queen's Gambit Structures
Understanding Before Moving 2 : Queen’s Gambit Structures

Learn from Michal Krasenkow

Learn from Michal Krasenkow : Michal Krasenkow

Learn from Michal Krasenkow
Learn from Michal Krasenkow

In Learn from Michal Krasenkow the author annotates 54 of his complete games and, additionally, he analyses 12 of his endgames. Also, he provides just over 20 pages of interesting biographical information, which is mainly about his chess life although it includes personal details.

GM Michal Kransekow
GM Michal Kransekow

Michal Krasenkow is a top GM who has been in the worlds top 10, and in 2002 his rating was just over 2700 (which was even more impressive then than it is now). Currently 55 years years of age he has been on the chess scene for a long time, and indeed he entitles his biographical chapter “Five Decades in Chess”. As well as describing his own progress at chess, he also describes the difficulties he had making further progress within the (then) Soviet Union and he describes why he changed his name to Krasenkow, and how and why he later left the Soviet Union to become a Polish citizen. Interesting stuff…

The main body of this book contains his annotated games, which Krasenkow refers to as “Memorable Games”. Around 370 of the 408 pages are devoted to this, of which nearly 300 are for the complete games and the remainder for the endgames. The games are arranged into chapters with different themes, such as

  • “Combinations & Tactics”,
  • “Attack on the Uncastled King”,
  • “Flank attack on the King”,
  • “Positional Play”,
  • “Defence” and so on.

He also includes a “Various” chapter for games that can’t easily be categorised. Similarly, the endings are separated into chapters for Pawn, Rook and Bishop endings. I guess that this structure helps with the “Learn” part of the book’s title.

The book does have a flaw: the Index of Games is nothing other than a list of the games with numbers, players and tournament – there is no page number given ! To make it worse, the games themselves do not include the game number in the header. This means that to find a game from the index the reader has to leaf through the pages and look to see if a page has a game that is before or after the one being looked for. To be fair, the reader needs only search the relevant chapter, not the whole book, but it is still rather tedious. This is a shame, because the author uses the game numbers in his introduction and the production values of the book are otherwise excellent. It is also fair to say that an index is not so important in a games collection as it is in other types of chess book, so I will leave it there. (Ed: having reviewed several titles from Thinkers Publishing BCN is of the opinion that the publisher has a policy of no index.)

The compelling star feature of the book is the high quality of the annotations themselves. Krasenkow provides clear explanations of many of the moves, and supplements this with concrete (sometimes quite deep!) lines when the position requires it. In my opinion he gets the balance just right, and it is easy to see why Krasenkow is a top coach as well as a strong player. Players of widely differing strengths will be able to enjoy and benefit from the author’s annotations.

Here is an example of Krasenkow’s clarity of thought, when discussing a position from a game against Sveshnikov :

“16. Nxf6+?!
A) I didn’t want to play 16. f3, fearing 16… Nh5, but then White can keep an edge by means of 17. g3 [rather than 17. Nc2 Nf4! 18 Nxf4 exf4 followed by …Bg5-f6].
B) Besides, Qd3 was possible. After the exchange on f6 Black gets control of the d4-square.”

This sort of commentary is quite typical of his style, although he can and does give lengthy lines where he feels this is appropriate.

In summary: I highly recommend this book. It can be read for enjoyment by those who simply like going through well-annotated chess games, and there is little doubt that more serious study will benefit those looking to improve.

Colin Purdon, July 20th 2019

Colin Purdon
Colin Purdon

Book Details :

  • Hardcover : 408 pages
  • Publisher: Thinkers Publishing (28 April 2019)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 9492510464
  • ISBN-13: 978-9492510464
  • Product Dimensions: 17.1 x 2.5 x 24.1 cm

Official web site of Thinkers Publishing

Learn from Michal Krasenkow
Learn from Michal Krasenkow